Posts Tagged August Writing Challenge

State of Gray

I froze on the sidewalk while Tyler kept his eyes glued to his phone, halfheartedly pulling me along. Out of a mixture of stubborn defiance and fear, I refused to move. I raised my arm and pointed but Tyler wouldn’t look up to see what I was pointing to. “There…Th” I pushed through my chattering teeth and shaking lips. A dark skinned man, puffy locks of hair covering his face, lay on the ground motionless. The air around him was cold. “Come on, it’s probably some passed out drunk” Tyler says in an annoyed tone and yanks me harder to make me follow him. Did Tyler really not think he was dead? Or did he not care?

Tyler was the type of man that didn’t like to be inconvenienced, so after working a 12 hour day, he wasn’t about to let some “passed out drunk” stop him from going home sooner. I knew this about him, hell, I even enabled this behavior, but something about it today disturbed me to my core.

I decided I wouldn’t say anything though, I never did. I knew how to behave, how to walk on eggshells, not to ask too many questions, not to express my feelings, not to ever cry out loud. I knew how to do all of this long before Tyler.

There was a night I will never be able to piece together because I was so young when it happened. Maybe 4 or 5? Screaming, yelling, broken glass, my sister and I being drug into our bedroom, door slamming shut.  I remember crawling into bed, arm screaming with pain, knowing I needed to cry but had to cry silently. I remember just wanting the darkness to swallow me whole so I didn’t have to feel this pain but instead I shook violently as I choked on sobs. “Shut up!” my older sister said in a harsh whisper. She was eight and already learned how to shut her emotions down. I let out another shake and felt a foot kick me hard in the back

“Owwww” I wailed, pain and sadness spilling over. Another hard kick “SHUT. UP!” and with that, I choked back everything.

Maybe that was the first time, I don’t know. But I do know that over the years I perfected the art of crying silently, just laying on my back, letting the tears fall into my ears, without even so much of a sniffle. So by the time I started dating Tyler, it was nothing new.

Except that night when I went to sleep, there was a new feeling in me. I tried to shake it off by numbly going through the motions once we got home. He took off his jacket, I followed him in the bedroom. He motioned for me to give him head, I obeyed. It was never anything I liked to do. But I could zone out a lot easier giving head than I could with sex. So I got on my knees, and entered that state of gray, a place with no emotions, a place of minimal existence. Suddenly, he aggressively pulls my head away from him. I look up and I can tell that he’s frustrated.

“Fuck it, I’ll do it myself. God, I could have gotten better head from that dead guy” He stomps off, pushing me aside, and I hear his laptop snap open.

He knew??? He knew that guy was dead? And he didn’t care?? Swirls of emotions I had constantly been pushing down came rushing back nearly knocking me back. Though I suspected this all along, this moment brought me crashing back to reality. This man was nothing more than a fucking jerk.

That night hit me hard as I went through the motion of a silent cry that was all too familiar. As soon as the tears hit my ears, I was done. As if a string was hastily pulling me upwards, I sprung up, threw off the covers and began to grab a suitcase and stuff my clothes in it

“What the fuck? What time is it?” Tyler said in a groggy, sleepy tone but I didn’t answer. I could only concentrate on what I needed. I didn’t give a shit about leaving some clothes behind. I could buy more clothes later. Cell phone, charger, pants, shoes, all sloppily thrown in the suitcase. I wrapped my laptop in a shirt and was off.

“Wait…what…Where Are?” He said, now springing out of bed. I was almost at the door when I felt a pull at my arm.

“Hey, hey, you gonna leave me?” He gave me this enraged look that normally I’d cower in fear of, but I’ve seen it so much that in this moment it didn’t phase me.

“Well fine, fuck you, go!”

I was used to this tactic as well.

There was something about knowing, about being able to predict his moves that helped me find solid ground. With one hand clutching my suitcase, I looked deep into his eyes, wishing I could burn these words into his skin.

“Tyler, you will never find anyone to treat you as well as I did.”

And as if sealing his fate, I spun around on my heels and slammed the door behind me.

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Storms over the Wildlands

Storms from the Magic Wastes were common, Mags and Edwin didn’t pay them any mind. Storms that dropped bodies at the house, that was different. Especially when the bodies were familiar. They were dead, of course, but not as dead as they should be. Edwin’s wife Anna had been nearing eighty when she died and had been buried five years ago. The body on the ground was young. The other was Edwin’s former employer, Lord of the Hills. He and his wife were interred decades ago, and yet here he was, fully intact.

“Well,” Edwin said, “this is strange.”

After the incident last year with a Mage summoning and capturing a god, the Magic Wastes had been much more active.

“Should we send for the Kings men?”

Mags shook her head. “Can you confirm they are who they appear to be?”

He pulled the man’s shirt up. There were several scars across his torso. “This is what killed him,” he said. “It appears to have healed quite well.”

Despite her advanced age, Mags made it down to Leah’s house in record time. “We need the god,” she said as she approached.

“He lives with Bruce, further south. What happened?”

“Bodies in the storm. Fresh ones. But we buried them years ago.”

Leah scribbled a note for her apprentice. “Can you keep going? Only another half hour.”

Mags nodded and they headed out again.

“These bodies, they were friends of yours?” the god asked.

“Of Edwin’s yes. His former master and his wife. Both dead for several years. The injuries that killed his Lord seemed to have scarred and healed, yet he doesn’t look a day older. Anna is decades younger than when she died.”

He sat in quiet thought. “Were they talented in the magical arts?”

Leah answered. “Anna was one of the strongest witches around. I don’t know about Howe. It was his son who trapped you here.”

Sev shuddered at the memory. He was exiled from his home and trapped in a body that ill suited him. “Let me try to speak to my father. If it is what I fear, this may be just the beginning.”

The heavens had opened and deposited another body outside Bruce’s home while Sev meditated. He came back from his hut pale. “It is as I feared,” he said, examining the body. “My home is falling apart.” He had lived in what these people called the Magic Wastes, the source of magic. His family had ruled there for eons. Many had died or disappeared, becoming enamored of this mortal world. By the time he had been trapped here, unable to return home, the realm was unstable. “Those with a strong connection to magic, when they die, come to my realm. They are given form according to their wishes. Many of them keep the forms they had in life, though often at their prime rather than with the infirmity of age.”

“Anna,” Mags said. Sev nodded. “So it truly was her?”

“Yes. But since I was trapped here and my brother exiled for his retribution the family cannot sustain it. Some of the dead from this realm feel they can return. Their bodies survive the journey but their souls are trapped. My family is trying to rein in the free souls and keep the magic under control. That takes more who are supposed to rule over the dead. More escape which destabilizes the system further.”

“Is there nothing we can do?” Mags asked.

“Unless you can find a way to relesase me from this form, no. I must return home to do any good.”

There was a squawk outside the door. Mags stepped outside. Her familiar was there, a raven. “What is it, Daniel?” He hopped around and croaked a few more times. “Alright. Did you hear our conversation?” The bird nodded. “Good. Go tell Edwin.” Daniel flew away and she went back inside. “Bodies are piling up. It’s all the birds are discussing.”

“You speak to birds?” Sev asked.

“I speak to Daniel. He speaks to the birds.”

Bruce invited them all to stay over for the night. It was too late to return to Leah’s safely.

There was an obvious solution to the problem, Leah could see it. She understood Daniel well enough to know that he had told Mags the same thing. It seemed heartless, but Sev was easily the strongest magic user in the entire world. If he were to die it would free him from this body and send him back to his family where he could help stabilize the realm.

Mags caught her eye and shook her head. Sev was here. He was doing well here. There was no call to murder him on a possibility.

The problem hung in the air. Sev could see the silent conversation between the women. He had come to the same conclusion they had. This body must die soon. He couldn’t arrange his death, those who did so weren’t allowed into the realm. “It is as you suspect,” he said to them. “I will take a potion and sleep well tonight. I trust you to do what must be done.” He headed to his own hut.

“What’s he talking about?” Bruce asked.

“He has to die,” Leah said. “Free him from this body, send him back to his home.”

“Not in my home.”

“He has his own hut,” Mags pointed out.

It was done quickly as Sev slept. A quick slit to the throat by Mags. Before dawn she slipped away for the long walk home.

Late that afternoon she saw a golden stag following her. She stopped. “Sev?”

It approached her, bowing its head and nuzzling her neck.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “Be well, Sev.”

The stag faded from existence as she continued along the path. There would be plenty to explain to Edwin when she got home.

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The Death of Harry “the Biter”

Jane trudged into her apartment with sore feet from a day of waitressing and headed straight for the bathroom. She wanted nothing more than a shower to rid her of the grease coating and to take her hair down. The dead gerbil lay in place of the soap, and its blood dried in the crease along the edge of the sink. Her scream filled the room and echoed off the shower tiles and rang in her head until it deafened her. She stopped because it hurt her ears and wouldn’t change poor dead Harry “the Biter” from being dead.

Three breaths later and a room away, her brain started to work. Someone killed her pet. Someone was in the apartment to kill Harry. She checked every window. All closed. She checked the front door. No damage. Someone with a key was in the apartment and killed Harry. It must have been her roommate.

Jane marched down the hallway and knocked on Chandra’s door. No one answered. She got out her cell phone and called her. No one picked up. She texted Chandra and watched the little bubble to see when the text was read, but even though she waited ten minutes, Chandra didn’t read the text or respond.

This was the last straw. Jane no longer cared that her and Chandra had been friends since elementary school. So Chandra stopped the school bullies from picking on her, that didn’t give Chandra the right to push her around. Who cared if Chandra got Jane her first job. She could have gotten the stupid dish washing job all on her own. And what had Chandra done for Jane lately. Nothing.

The free-loader roommate had to go. Chandra started it by killing Harry. Now Jane had to return the favor. Jane stomped down the hallway and slammed Chandra’s bedroom door open. She turned on the light and saw the collage wall of all their friends.

Their friends, right? Well, Jane never had a crush on Chris Hemsworth. She ripped the magazine page of actor off the wall. Katie hated her. The only things they had ever done together was hangout in the same room when Chandra was there. She stabbed Katie’s picture in the eye with a push pin. Grabbing a marker from the desk, Jane drew blobs over the faces of their best friends: Meg who stole the boy Jane crushed on, Christy who blamed Jane when their high school security found marijuana in her locker, Chrissy who only talked to Chandra, and Jessica who told Jane she was stupid and ugly any time Chandra wasn’t around.

Jane kept the picture of Tonito. Chandra was the one who stopped Tonito from hanging out with her, Tonito never did anything to hurt her. Even if Chandra bragged that Tonito and her had sex, that was Chandra’s fault. Tonito was hers. Chandra was the whore.

Jane ran back to the bedroom and grabbed the gerbil and dragged his body across the comforter tracking blood.

“Take that you stupid bitch. Whore.” Jane cleared off a big piece of wall directly across from the door and wrote “whore” in big bubble letters. She chopped up the pictures of their friends and glued them inside the letters. Using Chandra’s precious cheerleading poster supplies, she added glitter to the letters. It wasn’t enough, so she opened all Chandra’s drawers and pulled all her clothes out until she found a sparkly thong with a ribbon on front. With the push pin she stuck the underwear on the wall and then tied the gerbil up with the bow.

From the closet, Jane yanked out Chandra’s stash of weed and sprinkled it all over the floor. It still wasn’t enough. Jane stormed out of the apartment. She knew where Chandra worked. She’d find her and cut her open like a gerbil.

Chandra stopped outside her apartment. The door was open and she remembered closing it when she left. She’d checked twice. She always checked. It was part of her therapy. Mary Beth told her to make all her actions deliberate. So she checked the door twice before she left.

“Green County Sheriff’s, how may I help you?”

“Someone broke into my apartment,” she told the operator.

“Are they still there?”

“I don’t know. The door is open, so I haven’t gone in.”

“Can you see any damage or anything stolen from where you are at?”

Chandra peered around the door. “No.”

“What about the door? Is it broken? Does it look forced?”

Chandra stared at the normal door frame. “No.”

“Do you live with anyone?”

“No. I live alone.”

“Is there somewhere safe you can wait?”

Chandra glanced around. She could stay with the superintendent probably or in the complex office. “Yes.”

“We’ll send a car around.”

“Thank you.” Chandra ended the call and stepped into the apartment. Nothing looked out of place. She moved from the living room to the kitchen to her bedroom. From the hallway, she saw her room and sank down the wall. Her hand shook and her stomach heaved. Dialing the next number took more concentration and will than lifting a semi.

“Green County Mental Health. This is Angie.”

“Hi, Angie. This is Chandra Willman. Can I talk to Mary Beth?”

“Hi, Chandra. No she’s in with a patient. Can I take a message?”

“Tell her, Jane’s back, and she’s not happy.”

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