[Reality being what it is, I’m going to write one a week, rather than one a day. As Ray Bradbury apparently said: “write a short story a week, you can’ possibly have 52 terrible stories.” I’m sure it was Bradbury in his Zen of writing book. I know he also said to write four pages a day. Another teacher said that one would find the time – could find the time in any day. However, I’m fighting with a lot of things right now, not the least of which is my own self. So I’m starting with one thing a week – which I may or may not post here depending on their horridness. I know I can do that. I have a goal!]
Prompt from Writing Prompts that Don’t Suck.
Write about a door-to-door salesman who sells souls to demons in hell. (As opposed to demons who live in Hawaii.)
Frank closed his laptop with a sigh. His numbers were really down and he couldn’t put his finger on why. It wasn’t like his product was crap. Far from it, in fact he had gained notoriety for having the purest product ten years running. Thing was, his sales were still down. Way down. This time last year he had a third again what he had now. He needed to pick it up or he’d never be able to afford his trip to Nunavut this year. (When you worked a large portion of your time in hell, you liked to get away to a chiller climate.)
Frank tossed back the last of his drink and prepared for his evening’s work. Today he was in Undervegas, which was usually the best place to sell his product. Pristine souls like the ones he collected were hard to come by in a shifty place like this. He exited the motel, looking dapper in his lime green leisure suit. Gold winked at throat and on his fingers. He headed down main and into one of the hotels that oozed glitterati and demonic funk. At the concierge he smiled at the stick thin hostess behind the counter, who smiled at him with rows of filed teeth.
“Evening Frank, Zel told me he was expecting you. You can go on up. He’s in the penthouse this time.”
“Thanks, Roz,” Frank said an tossed a glittery little rock towards her. She caught it in a taloned hand. “On the house.”
“Thanks, doll,” he heard as he stepped into the elevator.
Strictly speaking, Frank was not a demon. However, being the enterprising soul he was, he was as close as a human could ever get. His extended stays in the underworld had altered his perception of heat, so he did no perspire too much in his lime green suit. However, his client might make him sweat a little. He knocked on the door of the penthouse and entered when he heard Zel bellow for him to do so.
“Frank! My man, how are you doing in this fetid armpit of a city?”
“You know me, Zel. I’m always fantastic.”
“Drink?” The creature before him asked, raising a glass in one tentacle. At Frank’s nod, two more tentacles picked up the decanter and another glass. There was no ice, but Frank welcomed the wetness in his parched mouth.
“So how are things, Zel?”
“Not as fabulous as you might think. Please tell me you have something for me to cheer an old demon up, eh?”
“Only the best!” Frank said and laid his briefcase on the smoked glass coffee table. He forced himself to not look at the faces trapped inside the glass. Inside his briefcase were eight little packages, each filled with a handful of many faceted crystals; concentrated souls of the freshly damned. The demon bent over the briefcase and took a deep breath.
“However do you find such tasty little morsels?” Frank shrugged. It was no accident that he moonlighted as a “movie producer’ on the side.
“How much for the whole lot?” Frank was surprised.
“Seriously? Zel, that’s got to be at least four weeks worth. It ain’t gonna be cheap!”
“Seriously. All my cronies have been complaining that the fresh souls are getting harder and harder to find. It’s like there’s a drought,” Zel said. “You sell all of these to me, I’ll see you get a cut of my profit.”
“You know the standard per soul Zel, you take em all I’ll give you a 5% discount.”
“You drive a hard bargain,” Zel said and offered his one human hand for Frank to shake. Frank closed the briefcase. Zel rang a bell and Frank heard the clatter of insectoid feet on the hardwood floor as the accountant entered, the tie looking ridiculous on the segmented neck. Frank eyeballed the neatly bundled banknotes, initialled the transfer paper and nodded to the accountant who scuttled off.
“So have you heard any rumours about this drought?” Frank asked, getting to his feet.
“Indeed I have,” Zel said, slamming his tumbler down. “It seems the man upstairs has sent one of those meddling winged things to curb our business. Frank nearly choked on his bourbon and coughed for a few moments before he could regain his composure. Zel nodded all of his heads. This explained everything and this would also mark the end of what had been a lucrative business for Frank. If he were ever to hope to miss out on eternity in Zel’s home domain that meant he had to use this opportunity.
“That’s terrible news. This is going to effect my supply.”
“And demand. Most critters around here are afraid to make a purchase else they get caught in the act.”
“Thanks for the info Zel, I owe you one. But right now, I think you’ll agree, I had better get going. If I’m going to keep the channels open I’ve got to do some rearranging.”
“You do that,” Zel said.
Frank didn’t bother to say anything to Roz on his exit. He was sweating in earnest now. If the angel; be it seraphim or nephilim, found him first, he was a goner. He could forget eternity anywhere and he intended to live. But how best to do that? How best to thwart them both? Confess.
Yes, that was it. If he confessed, if he sold out Zel and the others he could trade the info for an afterlife. He didn’t even care where at this point. Oblivion was no choice at all. His palms sweated all over the steering wheel of the trans am as he drove and as he pulled into the driveway of his little bungalow he felt his heart plummet into his feet. He hadn’t left his lights on and light was now spilling from every window and across the shadowed lawn. The Messenger had found him already.
He trudged up the steps. Inside, the angel was seated in his favourite recliner. Honey Boo Boo was on the screen and the creature was chucking to itself.
“Humans are such odd creatures, are they not?”
Frank swallowed as the angel turned his gaze towards him. The angel’s entire body glowed and Frank’s eyes watered. He undid the button on his shirt and waited.
“You’re nervous,” the angel observed. “You must know why I am here.”
Frank gave a little nod.
“I will give you a choice.”
Again Frank nodded.
“You will give up all your connections and schemes. If you do this, I will put in a recommendation with the almighty provided that you change your ways. If you do not, then I will have no choice but to offer the nether regions of hell for your eternity.”
“Oblivion. It is the best I can do, under the circumstances. Most would prefer that over eternity in torment.”
“I’d prefer hell I think, to non existence.”
The angel stared at the little man in the lime green suit.
“Pity,” it said and suddenly the light brightened and then went out. The house was empty except for Frank and the TV. He took a shaky breath and then stepped forward and fell.
“Morning, Frank,” a familiar voice said and Frank cracked his eyes open to see the many heads of Zel all peering at him. All he could smell was sulphur and char. He sat up. Iron bars blocked he and Zel off from other cells full of other creatures.
“What is this place?”
“Central processing. Looks like we all lost our surface permits.”
“Yeah, don’tcha know? The man downstairs gave you full demonship when you didn’t sell me out. Course, now you need the proper paperwork to be upside, but we can work all that out in a few centuries, eh?”
Frank looked down only to realise he wasn’t wearing his suit anymore. But he was still lime green. He sighed and damned his fashion sense. Zel only laughed.
Prompt from Writing Prompts that don’t Suck
Write a story using these three things: a paper clip, a hospital, an exotic dancer
Laynie was pissed. The last thing she wanted to be doing late on a Saturday night was sitting in the emergency room of the busiest hospital in the city. Not only that, she didn’t want to be here because a customer thought he had more coming to him than he did. It was embarrassing, really. How did you explain to a doctor how you came by your wounds in a way they’d believe when the real story was as bizarre as it got?
You see, Laynie had started Saturday night the way she had for three years now; in the dressing room of the Katty Klub, one of the city’s more classy strip joints – if only because the girls never got completely naked. One of the other dancers, Janina called the place a burlesque theatre, a term which made Laynie snort a little with laughter. Janina always scowled at her when she did this, but to Laynie it was like calling a stripper an exotic dancer. Dressing things up to be what they weren’t. Regardless, ‘exotic dancer’ was what it said on Laynie’s resume but she never had to take her rhinestone panties off on stage – just everything else. Those were the rules at Katty Klub: you didn’t cater to sleaze, you danced to tease.
And Laynie was good at it. She earned some pretty good money from the regular patrons and came home early in the morning covered in glitter and smelling of liquor to the apartment she shared with another dancer and a black cat named Charles. Her roommate, an Amazonian woman called Carlotta with skin the colour of bitter dark chocolate, didn’t dance at the Katty Klub, instead serving the tastes of a more eclectic nature at an underground club a few blocks farther away.
This Saturday, Laynie had had to leave the Katty Klub’s stage early, when one of the newer patrons to the establishment got exceedingly drunk and obnoxious. After demanding that Laynie disrobe completely and shouting obscenities he clambered up onto the stage and had to be tackled by a couple of the other patrons to prevent him from grabbing Laynie, who had dashed off stage as fast as she could in hot pink stilettos. The man was escorted firmly from the Klub by Kevin, a strapping bouncer from Mumbai who spoke English better than some of the people born to it, even with his lilting accent.
Laynie hadn’t thought anything of the incident, because things like that happened now and then. Some guys just didn’t understand the allure of the Katty Klub and they rarely returned. This Saturday, Laynie had been excused from her later set in spite of her protests. Emilio batted his mascara’d eyelashes at her.
“Sweetheart, you have been traumatized. It would be horrible of me to make you dance again after that animal nearly savaged you on stage!”
“Alright, alright. I’ll just head on home then. Me and Charles will catch up on our shows or something,” she replied. Secretly she was glad of the night off. School during the week was draining when you spent your weekends shaking your hiney for horny men.
“Do you want Kevin to walk with you?” Emilio asked, pointing his manicured finger at the bearded man by the door. His muscular arms were folded across an equally muscular chest. Laynie thought about the bourbon-soaked customer and shook her head.
“Nah, dude’s probably gone off and passed out somewhere, or ended up in La Parisienne,” she replied, referencing Carlotta’s workplace. Emilio wrinkled his nose.
Laynie let herself into her apartment with a sense of relief. She hadn’t realized that she has actually been scared to walk home alone, but she had. Charles greeted her enthusiastically, purring madly as he rubbed his sleek body against her legs. She kicked off her shoes and placed them next to Carlotta’s favourite boots and turned on lights. She opened the window in the kitchen to let out the muggy air of the day and made herself a drink, settled herself and Charlie on the couch and turned on the TV. She was absorbed in the show when she heard a sound in the kitchen.
“Hello?” she called out, wondering if Carlotta had snuck in without her noticing. She turned on the couch just in time to see someone rushing at her. She sprang out of the couch, spilling Charlie onto the floor. A sharp pain flared across her upper arm and she cried out. It was the man from the Klub.
But he didn’t have a knife.
He had a paperclip. It was one of the oversized ones bent so its ends were pointing out at her and with this he slashed at her again. She dodged but she didn’t escape his backswing and got another slash on her other arm. It amazed her how they bled.
“You little slut!” he raged. “I paid good money-“ Charlie launched himself at the man’s face and whatever else he had been about to say, was choked off in a scream as Charlie dug all four sets of claws, and his teeth into his face. Charlie leaped away before he was swatted, and landed, fur on end and back arched, hissing not too far away.
Laynie fumbled for her phone,
“You better leave,” she said. Charlie charged the man again but he bolted before the cat could claw him again. He charged out the front door.
“Hello 911,” said a voice from the phone.
“Hi,” Laynie said too stunned to form a sentence right away.
“What is the nature of your emergency,” the voice asked.
“Someone just attacked me in my own house,” she said.
A couple of hours later, Carlotta arrived home to a police cruiser outside and a mascara smeared Laynie sitting on the couch clutching towels to her arm. Carlotta convinced Laynie to let her take her to the hospital to at least get a tetanus shot after she heard the story.
Across the waiting room Carlotta chuckled again, making Laynie frown even more. The more she should about it the stupider the whole thing seemed and that just made Laynie feel even more idiotic than upset.
“Well the only thing that we can say or sure,” Carlotta said. “Is that Charlie’s a hero.”
Laynie started to laugh.
Word Count: 1051
drinking: iced tea
eating: far too much pasta
reading: Dare – Philip Jose Farmer
listening to: birds and the wind
It’s not the big things that get her, not always. It’s the build up of all the little things. Voices around her, things she should be paying attention to; usually can pay attention to are too much for her today. She has to shut them out to concentrate on completing the things she needs to complete today, but even this is impossible. She shuts her eyes for a moment; covers her ears.
Her inner voices are louder, more insistent.
She has always had these voices; an inner narrator, or a chorus of them, characters of her life demonstrating the things she should have said. Could have said or done to make things different. Scenes playing out in her head that are different than where she is now. If only she had… what if he had… Most of the time she can shove them away. Most of the time she can tell them to shut up.
She paused on the way to the post office, face up to the sky and watched the rain fall into her face, arrowing down into her eyes and for seconds there was nothing; no traffic, no pedestrians no responsibilities, no voices, no shadows. But she blinked and it all returned. She did not drop everything from her hands, did not let everything slough away, though the impulse was there.
Drop the umbrella, the handful of envelopes into the water, turn and just go. Away. Anywhere. How tempting.
She wonders how people do it.
She knows it has a name: disassociative fugue – when people just vanish from their lives and start a new one; walk across a border, real or imagined and leave everything behind, even their identity. Is it like an amnesia? A simple forgetting of one identity and a creation of another, or is that secondary identity there already there, hidden away – like one of her voices allowed to come to the surface? She knows also that there is always something that happens before; a trauma, a trigger. She isn’t sure she’s had anything that would quantify as a trauma – not recently. But then, she never really recovered did she? She still wakes in the night, struggling to breathe, spitting dirt from her mouth, still feels the blood hot on her skin and the sharp crystalline quality of remembered pain. It is the only time when all the voices in her head agree on anything.
Run. Start over. Tempting to forget it all, to just go.
She doesn’t think she could do it, but isn’t sure if she’d know if she did. How do you remember that you forgot? If she did run, where would she go? All the little details of living, eating and being threaten to overwhelm her. She will not run; she can’t.
She doesn’t have the knack of letting go and this; this is why the voices linger. No, it’s because you’re a coward, but she knows even as the voice speaks, that it isn’t true.
She puts the letters in the mailbox, wished – not for the first time – that she could be one of them.
Listening to: Jann Arden – Where No One Knows Me
Reading: Will Self – The Book of Dave
Words Today: 2690