Tony Graff vs. J.M. Payer


Please take a moment to look at both fighters, which one appeals to you more. The titles will link you to their story. Fighters names are removed to try and even out any odds and are reflected in no particular order. Feel free to add comments below for their improvement, as well as the improvement of WCFC. Don’t forget to tell us who won!

 


Closing Time


The Pain-Bearer


Copyright © 2014

All content in this blog created by the blog owner or participating guest writers is the property of the specific writer(s) in question and protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and cannot be stored on any retrieval system, reproduced, re-posted, displayed, modified or transmitted in any form, electronic or otherwise without written permission of the copyright owner. You may not use any content from this site to create derivative works.

 



The Pain-Bearer

“I know I’m going to die. I’ve accepted that.”

Dr. Arlyssa Koons sat across the desk from her most recent patient, Sarah Vance.

“I don’t know what you expect to gain by telling me there’s another treatment to try.” Mrs. Vance fidgeted with the scarf covering her head.

“I’m expecting to give you hope.” Dr. Koons massaged the bridge of her nose. “No matter how much you’ve accepted a premature death, my responsibility as a doctor doesn’t end until you’re cured or the pain has… otherwise ended.”

“Died, you mean.”

Dr. Koons pushed her hair off her forehead. “This treatment could cure you. I’ve had success with it in the past, and I think it could work in your case.”

“What is this treatment? Shouldn’t this be a little more public knowledge if it’s so successful?”

“Because there’s no way to ensure success, and each operation is unique, so there’s no way to even standardize the procedure.” Dr. Koons rose from her chair. “What we would do is a sort of rapid fire genetic breeding. We inject a heavy dose of healthy tissue around the tumors, and the growth of healthy tissue outraces the cancerous growth and starves it of fuel.”

Sarah Vance scrunched her face in confusion. “That all sounds too simple to be real.”

“But not too good to be true, I hope. It’s a quick, relatively painless procedure, but you would have to spend the day here in the hospital.”

The woman in the headscarf looked down at her hands.

Dr. Koons moved around the desk and placed her hand over her patient’s. “I know you’ve been without hope for a long time. I’ve watched you sacrifice almost everything for a chance at one more day. I wouldn’t offer this if I didn’t think you could be healed.”

Sarah Vance wiped tears from her eyes. “No, it’s not that. I’ve been hopeless for so long that I don’t remember what that felt like.”

“What what felt like?”

“Hope.”

Dr. Koons let out a sigh of relief. “Very well. I need to begin making preparations.” She rose from where she leaned against the desk. “Now, go catch some sunlight while there’s still some left. I’ll give you a call tonight and let you know when to come in.”

Without provocation, Sarah Vance stood, straightened her sweater, and embraced the doctor. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Dr. Koons held her patient by the shoulders, her own eyes brimming with tears.

With more expressions of gratitude, the doctor guided Sarah Vance out of the office and to her waiting husband. Dr. Koons let a deep breath slide between her clenched teeth before turning towards the double elevators at the end of the hall. Once inside, she plucked her phone from the pocket of her lab coat and pressed a number on speed dial.

“Yes, Dr. Koons here. I’d like to see Talmage Forrester. Yes, I understand. I’ll be there shortly.”

The rest of the elevator trip to the hospice ward remained silent. Dr. Koons chewed her bottom lip until the doors opened. Then her face became a mask of professionalism once again.

“Dr. Koons?” The nurse behind the reception desk set down a stack of records. “Mr. Forrester has just finished eating if you’d like to join him in the recreation hall.”

“Thank you.” Dr. Koons nodded. She turned on her heels and gazed out the section of the large room called the ‘recreation hall.’ A few people in wheelchairs sat around various TVs and the occasional video game console. Only one man sat at a table with a book held open by his one hand.

“You know, for calling it a recreation hall, there isn’t much of a hall or any recreating going on.” Talmage Forrester looked up from his book.

“Well, you know how those medical types are. If it makes sense, just stick around, it won’t.” Dr. Koons took the seat beside Mr. Forrester, who shifted a bookmark into the book with his thumb and remaining finger. “How’re you holding up?”

“Well, the only thing worse than being only half the man I was is knowing how much my family’s paying to keep the other half alive.” The old man raised his remaining portion of a hand to his lips and coughed.

“Have I told you about a patient of mine? Her name is Sarah Vance.”

The old man’s eyes lit up. “No, no you haven’t.”

“She’s a real sweetheart. She and her husband have two children.”

“That’s lovely.” Talmage leaned back in his wheelchair. “Young couple?”

“Younger than me.”

“And why is she seeing you, then?”

Dr. Koons shook her head. “She’s got months left to live.”

“Oh.” Talmage leaned his arm on the table. “That’s terrible to hear. Doesn’t it just break your heart to hear about that?”

“It does, almost as much as hearing that she’s accepted her death.” Dr. Koons set her elbows on the table.

Talmage’s face twisted in horror. “That’s for old people. Why’s she going and doing a thing like that?”

“Be careful, old man. I just might get the impression that you’re willing to help.”

Dr. Koons studied the man in front of her.

He seemed to be studying her just as intently. “You make it sound like there’s something I can do.”

Dr. Koons nodded once.

“Yeah? You’re serious?” Talmage scratched his beard with the back of his hand.

“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”

Talmage laughed. “Important.” He leaned back in his chair. “It always important, isn’t it? Like what happened to Shirley Davenport?”

“I approached her the same way I came to you today, the exact same circumstances.” Dr. Koons tapped the blade of her hand against the table.

“I know, I know.” Talmage shook off her response. “But it’ll be nice to know some young woman’s going to have that chance again.”

“Thank you, Talmage.” Dr. Koons reached to grasp the withered hand.

“Cou-could you sit here a spell?” Talmage forced himself to smile. “I’d sure like someone to just sit with me, like my wife and granddaughters used to.”

“Of course.”

Talmage spent half an hour without saying a word. Every few minutes or so, he squeezed Dr. Koons’s hand, as if to remind himself that she sat beside him.

“Thank you.” He released her hand and stretched his arm over his head. “You’re working wonders, Doc.”

Dr. Koons rose from her chair and embraced the elderly man. “I’m not the only one.” She cast Mr. Forrester one final glance over her shoulder as she returned to the elevators. Once the doors closed she called Sarah Vance and informed her of the appointment for the next morning.

In the dead silence of her office, Dr. Koons pulled two identification bracelets still connected by plastic perforations, not unlike the thousands in the supply closet, from a top drawer in her desk, and a tall bamboo brush and an empty bottle from the drawer beneath it. Holding the sleeve of her coat with her free hand, Dr. Koons dipped the brush in the empty bottle and made a series of strokes down the seam of the two bracelets. Lines and half-lines formed in an impossible black, like a calligrapher’s rendition a bar code.

When her preparations had been completed, Dr. Koons blew across the ink and watch the sheen dry and fade. She held the two bracelets up to the light and split them down the seam.

 

Talmage Forrester sat waiting for the doctor the following morning, dressed in a suit and a bow tie.

“The nurse helped me get ready.” Talmage adjusted the tie. “What do you think?”

“Very handsome.” Dr. Koons couldn’t look the man in the eye.

“Go ahead and sit down. Don’t want to draw too much attention right now.”

Dr. Koons nodded and took the seat beside Talmage, grasping his hand.

“And what’s going to happen to Mrs. Vance today? Some good news, I hope.” Mr. Forrester smiled.

“Yeah, good news. She’ll be put under anesthesia and she’ll receive a dose of vitamins. Nothing more. We’ll keep her here until we can confirm that… everything’s gone well, then we’ll send her out the doors to celebrate.”

Talmage’s eyebrows knit together in confusion. “You don’t sound so happy about that.”

“I never am.”

“Yet you still do it.”

Talmage released her hand, and shook his sleeve back to expose his wrist. Dr. Koons managed to make eye contact long enough to see what he meant, and pulled the ID bracelet from a pocket on her coat. In reverence, she wrapped the bracelet around his wrist, only pausing when it came time to snap it shut on him.

“Go ahead.” Talmage watched the doctor’s hands. “It’s what you came here to do.”

The two ends united and the dry ink rippled like water, just like the one on Sarah Vance’s wrist.

 


Copyright © 2014

All content in this blog created by the blog owner or participating guest writers is the property of the specific writer(s) in question and protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and cannot be stored on any retrieval system, reproduced, re-posted, displayed, modified or transmitted in any form, electronic or otherwise without written permission of the copyright owner.  You may not use any content from this site to create derivative works.



 

Closing Time

A chill passed through Riley as she stepped off the elevator onto the hospital’s General Care floor.  Her stomach clenched, goosebumps traced up her arms.  Her Grandmother used to tell her that feeling was someone walking over her grave.  Riley had never given much credence to the old saying but it felt somehow appropriate at the moment.

It had been a long day, Riley was exhausted when she’d been given one more task by the Pediatric Head Nurse.  Just pick up a file on the 5th floor, that’s it.  Quick and simple, yet precariously close to being the straw that broke the camel’s back.  With the busy days in the large building, far from sunlight, time seemed to pass differently.  A ten hour day felt like sixteen, a sixteen hour day felt like, well, more than the young nurse could handle.

The eerie feeling grew the further Riley walked, her footfalls echoing through the deserted halls.  It was surreal.  Poised just outside the tiny town of Sutton, St. Ann’s was the only comprehensive medical facility in a hundred miles, they rarely had a slow day.  This evening the seemingly empty 5th floor was giving her a carnival Haunted House vibe, as though a scary creature might pop out from an unexpected place at any moment.

Just get it done.

Riley rounded the corner to the 5th floor Nurse’s Station and almost walked into RN Nelson coming the other direction.  Both women jumped back, eyes wide, gasping.

“Jesus, Riley, you scared the shit out of me!”  The pudgy, middle-aged nurse was bent almost in half, hand to her chest, glaring at the younger nurse.  “You do that again and I’ll start making you wear a bell around your neck.”

The surprise on Nelson’s face turned suspicious.  “What are you even doing up here?”

Riley took a moment to let her heartbeat return to normal before explaining that she was just playing gopher, her Head Nurse had requested the Hatley file.

“It’s somewhere over there but I’m not even sure it’s been updated.”  Nelson gestured to a large stack of files on the corner of the station.  There were at least fifty folders in a haphazard pile that risked toppling at any moment.  “How quick do you need it?  Even finding it’s going to take a while.”

Riley shrugged.  “I’ll find out.”

She grabbed the hospital phone off the wall and dialed Pediatrics.  The Head Nurse had been getting ready for rounds when she sent Riley up but there was a chance she hadn’t left the station yet.

Nelson sat down at the desk, shifted half the pile of records onto her ample lap and started flipping through them.

The phone was ringing.

Riley was only five feet away from another human but for some reason she was still feeling a chill.  Maybe it was the exhaustion, or the strangely quiet floor, but it felt like a ghost was tracing a cool finger up her spine.  Someone, or something, continued to walk over her grave.

Over the sound of ringing in her right ear, Riley could hear footsteps approaching the station.

Riley turned her back to the counter, hunched over the phone.  She willed someone in Pediatrics to pick up the phone.  She glanced over at Nelson who was ignoring the approaching person as thoroughly as Riley was.  It was to be a battle of wills, was it?  Who can ignore or pass off the patient wins, loser has to actually be helpful.  Toward the end of the day this was a common game for tired nurses.

The footsteps stopped.  Riley could picture the person’s gaze flickering between her back and Nelson, waiting for acknowledgement.  Yeah, good luck with that, bub.

After a few moments a male voice spoke out.

“Excuse me, do either of you know if Dr. Huxley is around?”

Riley half turned, still not looking at the man, and saw Nelson glance up at him.  The older nurse gestured at the pile on her lap, giving him her best ‘I’m in the middle of something’ look, before going back to flipping folders.  The game wasn’t over yet.

Still no answer in Pediatrics.

Riley clung to the telephone receiver like it was her lifeline.  It was her protection, it was her good luck charm, it was her holy cross in a building full of vampires trying to suck out her energy, it was a force field generator that kept the irritating patients and family members at arm’s length.  This wasn’t even her department.  Talk to a patient?  Hell no, she was on the phone.  She turned a little to her left, putting the phone between her and the man.

A few moments later he spoke again, getting impatient.  “Is Dr. Huxley still in the building?  Has he gone home for the night?  Is he with a patient?  What?  Something?  Anything?  He was supposed to call with my mom’s test results today and never did.”

Nelson sighed and looked up at him over her reading glasses, a teacher interrupted by a rude student.  Her voice was flat.  “Which room is your mom in?”

“512.”

“Oh.”  Nelson’s face darkened.  She didn’t have to check, she knew exactly who his mother was.  Everyone on the floor knew her and gossip carried the stories around the rest of the hospital.  Even Riley recognized her name when Nelson said it.  “Mrs. Meyers.”

Judging from Nelson’s reaction, the stories weren’t as exaggerated as Riley had assumed.  Other nurses repeated tales of how Mrs. Shannon threw food at nurses, cussed at them and other patients, and generally made everyone around her miserable.  Maybe that was one of the reasons the floor was so vacant, no one wanted to be near her.

“Uh, yeah.”  The man looked down at his feet.  “I’m sorry about… uh… her.  Everything.  I know she’s a handful.”

Nelson made a sound, something between a chuckle and a snort.  “Sorry for us?  I feel sorry for you.  Hopefully she’ll be leaving us soon.”

The man made a startled squawk.  Riley had to smother a chuckle before Nurse Nelson realized her faux pas.

“Oh, dear.  Literally, not figuratively, Mr. Meyers.  What I meant was I’m sure she’ll recover quickly and be headed home soon.  Speaking of which, I think the doctor is still here.  Nurse Riley, can you page Dr. Huxley?”

Riley’s good luck charm had backfired.  She glared daggers at Nelson and her smug smile.

This isn’t even my floor!  But of course she couldn’t say that to a senior nurse, let alone in front of a patient’s family.  

Reluctantly, Riley glanced at the other side of the counter.

Between her graveyard feeling and the stories about the man’s mother, Riley was expecting a serial killer or a James Bond villain.  He looked like neither.  The cold chill in her gut dissolved into something closer to contempt.

She cringed and motioned with a finger for him to wait a minute.  He nodded.

The man was in his mid thirties and disgusting.  He obviously hadn’t shaved or changed in days.  Or showered.  His unwashed hair was slick and stuck out from his head in awkward angles.  There were layers of dirt and grease all over him and his clothes.  The sweat stains on his shirt had sweat stains, like tree rings.  He was filthy even by farming town standards, which was saying something.  He looked vaguely familiar, but then patients and their families tended to spend a lot of time around the hospital.

One more reason to leave Sutton, small town = small town guys.  Ugh.

The phone was still ringing.  Pediatrics was either busy or no one was at the station.

Riley glared at Nelson one more time before she hung up and paged Dr. Huxley on the hospital’s intercom.  If he were still in the hospital he’d either come up to the Nurse’s Station or call.

Riley cast a cool look at Nelson and the man.  “There you go.”

“And here you go.” Nelson held a red patient folder out to Riley.  Perfect timing.  “And it looks like Dr. Simpson got it up to date before leaving for the night.”

“Thanks.”  Riley snatched the folder out of the nurse’s hand, turned on her heel, and started back toward the elevator without another word.

A moment later Riley heard rapid foot steps behind her.  She didn’t bother to look back, she knew the man was following her.  Of course.  Just what she needed.

He reached her and walked just behind her right elbow, trying to keep up with her quick pace.  “Hey, I haven’t seen you up here before.”

This close she could smell him, like half spoiled meat and three day old beer.  There was even a faint whiff of what might have been marijuana.  Classy.

As an attractive, blond woman with a cute ass (if she did say so herself), Riley was quite familiar with attention from the male gender.  Most of the time she could handle it with casual indifference, but some days it just pissed her off.

Riley was curt.  “I don’t work this floor.”

“So, what floor do you work?”

Riley remained silent.  She came to a halt in front of the elevator and jabbed the down button.  Hard.

“Your name is Riley?”

She groaned, which he seemed to take as assent.  Fucking ID badge.  Hospital employees were required to wear them on a lanyard around their neck while on duty.  It had a thumbnail photo of her face and her last name in big letters above the bar-code.  He must have noticed it back at the station.

The elevator doors opened.  Riley stepped inside, turned and hit the button for the third floor.  She hoped that he cared about his mother enough to wait for Dr. Huxley instead of continuing to follow her.

He stopped just outside the elevator doors and gave her a weak grin, the dirt on his face accenting the thin wrinkles at the corners of his mouth.  “Well?”

The persistence was infuriating, she just wanted him to leave her the hell alone.  Riley was at the tail end of a 16 hour day.  She just wanted to go home, watch half an hour of bad TV, have a glass of wine and fall asleep on the couch.  Hopefully she’d dream of better times in a bigger town than Sutton or a nicer hospital than St. Ann’s.

“It doesn’t matter what my name is or what floor I usually work.”

The man squinted, confused.  “Why not?”

Riley gave him a plastic, fake smile and half wave as the doors started closing.  “Because I don’t work this floor and, if I have anything to say about it, you’re never going to see me again.  Good night.”

She saw the man’s face fall before the doors cut him off from view.  Harsh but clean, no ambiguity.  Riley dropped her hand to her side and let out a long breath.

God, I need to get out of this fucking town.

 


Copyright © 2014

All content in this blog created by the blog owner or participating guest writers is the property of the specific writer(s) in question and protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and cannot be stored on any retrieval system, reproduced, re-posted, displayed, modified or transmitted in any form, electronic or otherwise without written permission of the copyright owner.  You may not use any content from this site to create derivative works.



 

Tracy Cembor vs. Jonas Lee


Please take a moment to look at both fighters, which one appeals to you more. The titles will link you to their story. Fighters names are removed to try and even out any odds and are reflected in no particular order. Feel free to add comments below for their improvement, as well as the improvement of WCFC. Don’t forget to tell us who won!

 


Shadylawn Support Group for Witches and Warlocks


Outside of the Forever City


Copyright © 2014

All content in this blog created by the blog owner or participating guest writers is the property of the specific writer(s) in question and protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and cannot be stored on any retrieval system, reproduced, re-posted, displayed, modified or transmitted in any form, electronic or otherwise without written permission of the copyright owner. You may not use any content from this site to create derivative works.

 



Shadylawn Support Group for Witches and Warlocks

“Hi, my name is Shannon Odell, and I’ve been magic free for ninety days.”

“Hi Shannon,” the other members of the Shadylawn Support Group for Witches and Warlocks repeated.  There were twelve of us tonight in the musty basement of Holy Grove Fellowship Hall, and no one besides our sponsor Gigi seemed particularly happy to be sitting in the circle of metal folding chairs.

“As part of the program, I went to see one of the people whose life I changed with my magic,” I continued, staring at the old upright piano pushed into the back corner next to the outdated kitchenette.  “My college roommate had been depressed after her long-time boyfriend broke up with her.  She was lonely, and I was afraid she was going to kill herself, so I cast a true love spell.”

Rhonda, a soccer mom who dressed like she raided her teenage daughter’s closet, gasped at me.  I wasn’t surprised.  True love spells were notoriously tricky to cast, and only certain types of memories could be used to fuel them.

I flushed with embarrassment, turning as red as my unruly curls.  “I used all my memories of romantic love to cast the spell.  I lost my high school dances, which might not be so bad, but I forgot my first crush, my first boyfriend, my first kiss, my first…uh, my first time, too,” I said, blushing further.  Everyone in the circle giggled like schoolgirls.

“It’s okay,” Gigi said.  She adjusted her glasses to hide her smile, but I wasn’t fooled.  “Let me remind everyone that this is a safe and supportive place.  We don’t judge anyone here.  Please continue, Shannon.”

“It was supposed to be lunch, just the two of us at the cafe, but my old roommate invited along her new fiancé, which made everything worse.  She didn’t want to admit how depressed she had been in front of him.  He didn’t believe that my magic was the reason the two of them found each other.  When I explained what I had sacrificed to cast the spell, all those memories, they just didn’t get it.”

I closed my eyes, wishing I could get rid of this memory too, but I had been clean for three months and didn’t want to ruin it with a cheap fix.  The lunch had been terrible, and I had realized that my roommate was no longer my friend.  By the end of it, the lovebirds had been feeding each other flourless chocolate cake and I was chugging my scalding-hot coffee as fast as humanly possible.

I gave the group a wry grin as I opened my eyes.  “God, it was so awkward, but I feel better now that I’ve said my piece to her.  I’m sure they’ll send me an invitation to the wedding any day now.”

The group politely clapped as I sat down.  Gigi leaned over and squeezed my hand for support, her brown, Brazilian skin warm and soft against my knuckles.  She gave a second squeeze before leaning back, introducing Rhonda to stand up next.

Flustered, I put my palms on my knees.  The wale of my corduroys was coarse on my fingers after the smoothness of her skin. The trouble with losing all of my memories about love was that I couldn’t remember if I liked boys or girls.

It seemed like an easy thing to figure out, just go on the internet and see what got your engine revved, but I could never focus.  I would get a dry mouth and sweaty palms, overanalyzing every response of my body.  Was that excitement or just a leg cramp?  Did I find that person attractive, or did I just wish I had their abs?  I’d broken something in my brain and didn’t know how to fix it.

I’d dated boys in the past, but Gigi kept pinging on my radar.  I was so confused that I had avoided romance altogether for the past year.

I took a deep breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth, and shifted my attention to Rhonda, her too-tight blue jeans, and vibrant fuchsia lipstick.

“The husband and kids read me the riot act last week,” she said.  “They asked where I got the money for the mink coat and designer handbags.  I broke down and told them that I sold our vacation memories to that meme shop on Fairhope Street.  It’s back behind the county library.  They have really good rates for recent memories.”

Gigi cleared her throat.  Rhonda was puzzled for a moment before recalling that selling memories, like casting spells with memories, was a bad thing.  We didn’t tell the rest of the group where to score hot deals.

“So anyway,” Rhonda said as she moved her story along, “They made a really big deal out of it.  It was just a vacation.  We have the pictures and videos from it if I want to relive it.  Besides, the kids will forget all about it after they get to college and ruin their brains with four years of pot smoking and binge drinking.”

“And what learning experience can this give to the group?” Gigi asked, cocking her head to the side.  She knew that some members, like me, attended the support group voluntarily.  Others, like Rhonda, did it to avoid family fallout or long stints in rehab.

“Remember that every memory is precious,” Rhonda said, answering Gigi.  It was the support group motto and a cheap way to get out of the question, but the sponsor nodded and let her sit down.  I clapped along with everyone else.

“Franklin, do you feel like talking to the group this week?” Gigi asked.

The dark-skinned, white-haired man nodded and tried to smooth the wrinkles from his flannel shirt, but before he stood up, he cast a glance to the younger man sitting beside him.

Earlier, the younger man had introduced himself as Franklin’s nephew, but I thought that highly unlikely unless the rest of Franklin’s family had grown up using chopsticks.  Besides, this was the third “nephew” to drive Franklin to the support group meetings since I had started coming.

Franklin’s nephew was wearing the government spook uniform–dark suit, sunglasses, and a brooding expression.  He scanned the room, scrutinizing each of us with the same expression he reserved for the ancient coffeemaker and flaking plaster patches on the ceiling.  He tilted his chin, barely a nod, and resumed reading his paper.  I noticed he didn’t turn any pages.

Franklin pushed himself out of the chair, then grimaced.  “Arthritis is acting up again,” he said in a Southern baritone.  “As most of y’all know, I was a heavy user in my younger days.  I don’t recall much of anything from that time.  I got some medals from a few wars on the walls, and Uncle Sam takes care of me.”

The government man lowered the newspaper, raising an eyebrow at Franklin.  I wasn’t sure why he was so worried.  We all knew that Franklin had been a Special Forces warlock, even if he’d never said anything.  You didn’t use up a whole lifetime of memories and get a stipend unless there was a pretty good reason.

Waiving away his alleged nephew’s concern with a gnarled hand, the older man continued.  “Serving your country is a wonderful thing, but it don’t keep you warm on a cold night.  And more’n the nights, there’s the morning and afternoons when the house should be busy, full of comings and goings, work and school, errands to the supermarket and post office.”  He sighed.

“Did something happen last week?” Gigi gently prodded.

“It’s the silence that gets to me.  Sometimes I have to get out of the house, y’all know, when the itch gets real bad.  I went down to the community center.  It was bingo night, and not that I’m a fan like some of those blue-hairs, but I know how to lay the cards down in a row.”  Franklin’s voice trailed off, and I wondered if his memory was fading.  It happened with heavy users.

“Did you meet someone?” the sponsor asked.

Franklin nodded.  “Sweetest young thing I had chatted up in months, had a choir voice like the chiming of a silver bell.  Couldn’t have been a day over fifty-five.”

“But it didn’t work out?”

“Never does.  Get to talkin’, and I can remember the official story, growing up on the farm, getting drafted straight out of high school, things like that.  But it never holds up when she wants to compare pecan pie recipes or when the family got the color TV set.  There’s just too many gaps, and no amount of smooth talkin’ can gloss over those holes between JFK and Reagan.  Sometimes I wish…  Well, it don’t matter what I wish.  We can forget our past, but we can’t unmake it.”

Gigi gave him a sympathetic smile.  She was always so understanding.  “No, we can’t change the choices we made, only learn from them.”

“I’ll just say my last piece, then sit down.  If you got a shot a love, take it.  Even if it don’t last long, that kind of thing doesn’t happen every day.”  He focused his gaze on me.  “Girl, I don’t envy you.  College aged and not a single love story to show for it.  But you’re young yet, and it’s not too late.  When you get done here, head straight to the bar and find someone to go home with tonight.”

I blushed to my curly roots as Franklin sat down and everyone laughed and clapped for him.  I didn’t think I would ever be brave enough to do something like that.  Lost in thought and feeling anxious, I didn’t pay attention as Gigi made some final announcements and dismissed the group.

I hopped up and grabbed the carafe of coffee, dumping the pungent dregs into the chipped porcelain sink.  I ran the water and rinsed everything out.  I wanted to ask Gigi to go to the bar with me.  Maybe she could help me find someone, or maybe she could be that someone.  I didn’t know what I wanted anymore.  I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead on the refrigerator.

A warm hand touched my back, and I jumped like electricity had zinged along my spine.  “Are you alright, Shannon?” Gigi asked, her breath fanning my cheek and I nearly forgot my name.

“Just overwhelmed, I guess.”  I turned and gave her a rueful grin.

“It gets easier with time, I promise.  You’ve been doing really well these past months too.”

I nodded and watched the last members of the support group filtering out.  Rhonda was already checking her phone for messages, and Franklin winked at me as his nephew held the door.  I waved bye at them.  I didn’t want to be like Rhonda, heading home to a family that didn’t understand her, but I didn’t want to end up like Franklin, returning to an empty house every night.  I just wanted to find someone who might understand that our magic was a curse, not a blessing.

Swallowing deeply, I straightened my shoulders.  If this didn’t work out, I could always begin again with another support group.  I brightened my smile at Gigi, and opened my mouth, planning to ask her out, but instead I said, “Let me help you with the chairs.”

“Thanks, I really appreciate the help,” she said, folding up a squeaky chair and stacking it in the corner by the piano.

I grabbed two chairs and followed her over, hoping she didn’t notice my red-flushed face.  What was wrong with me?

“We had a great turnout tonight,” Gigi said.  “I’m glad that Franklin was here.  He’s really had a tough time lately.”

“He seems lonely,” I agreed.

Stacking up the last chair, Gigi turned.  “A lot of us are lonely.  People are either afraid of us, or want to use us for our powers.  Very few witches are lucky to find someone to understand what the cost of magic really means.”

I really wanted to ask her out.  I grabbed her hand, still warm and smooth, and held onto it.  I would not let myself wimp out a second time.  “You know, the coffee here is mediocre at best.  Why don’t turn off the lights and go find that bar Franklin was talking about?”

Gigi stared at me, and my stomach dropped all the way to my scuffed converse sneakers.  I leaned back and pulled my hand away.

“Crap, I’m sorry,” I said.  “All of Franklin’s talk put crazy ideas in my head, I guess.”

Gigi grabbed my wrist, and I froze.  She smiled, and it was like the morning sun peaking between my bedroom curtains, fresh and full of hope.

“Let’s not disappoint an old man, Shannon.  A drink would be nice.”


Copyright © 2014

All content in this blog created by the blog owner or participating guest writers is the property of the specific writer(s) in question and protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and cannot be stored on any retrieval system, reproduced, re-posted, displayed, modified or transmitted in any form, electronic or otherwise without written permission of the copyright owner.  You may not use any content from this site to create derivative works.



 

Outside of the Forever City

“So, you nervous?” The leaves crunched under Solomon’s boots as the two men walked, dry remnants from a dying summer.

“About patrol?” Desmond smirked without recognizing it. Drawing out his friend’s question has always been amusing, even when he knew the answer.

“You know what I’m talking about, Des. It’s been half a generation since the last time a guard from the Outer Ring has made it past the trials. I mean, in a week, you could be part of the King’s Guard for all we know.” Solomon’s eyes grew in excitement thinking of the adventures that lie past the inner wall. If nothing else, there were less people, classier stores and better food.

Desmond was fully aware of what it would mean to his friends and family, not to mention the Quadrant. Inner Guards are usually chosen after their Binding ceremony when their souls are finally and fully connected with their bodies. Memories flood back, but not all of them, just enough to recall their former profession. Personal memories trickle in over time, which in many cases is a blessing.

“I know what it means and yes, only a fool wouldn’t be nervous. I’m just trying to save it all up and focus that energy. It does no good to talk a fire out of burning.”

“Do you know what they’ll have you do?” Solomon was carrying his quarterstaff lazily. One hand off as he talked with his free hand. It’s full length still remained housed instead of engaged as they were trained to once outside the main wall.

“Not really.” Desmond motions to his friend showing both his hands grasping the staff, subtly reminding his fellow guard. “We’ve all heard the rumors of what’s past mid stage, but I know I can hold myself physically. I think I can outsmart whatever puzzle follows. The final stage, who knows?” Desmond lets his mind wander up to the vibrant moon christening a cloudless sky. “I can only hope,” he concludes as if throwing a wish up to the heavens.

“I’ll be wishing good things for you, even if I may never see you in this life again.”

“Same here.” Desmond ponders the strangeness, remembering this was the second life he’s shared with his friend. The first one’s memories seep in occasionally, but they are never more than a feeling, usually happiness.

Glancing over, Solomon had missed an upper button on his uniform. He was forgetful and at times careless, unlike Desmond who could not help himself for wanting perfection to reflect the Quadrant he represented. He cleared his throat and stopped in their patrol to eye the mistake.

“Des,” Solomon shook his head as he reached up the rigid front of his jacket to find the swaying lapel that crossed over, keeping the armored fabric held tightly to him. “You really need to loosen up.”

Desmond looked his friend from boots to shin plates up to the mid-cape they wore on colder nights. At least his uniform would look the part even if the disheveled look of a soldier who just crawled out of bed. “You’ll thank me if that lapel was the one mistake between you and the Captain seeing it.”

The Captain of the Heart Quadrant’s Outer Guard was one of the burliest men with a temperament fitting his enormous frame. Solomon had been in trouble for his respect for the uniform a few more times than could be overlooked. Anymore and the Captain might assign him to patrolling the roads leading in or be stationed at one of the farms out on the plains.

“When do you go?” Solomon returned to carrying his staff more like a cumbersome gardening tool he had to put away rather than the weapon he was trained to use for combat.

“Right after the Quadrant’s Binding ceremony is complete.” The need to correct Solomon again was an itch Desmond felt compelled to scratch. Instead he rubbed the back of his hand against the stubble of his chin. The coarse feel of sandpaper provided some relief.

“Dang, two weeks?”

“Shh.” Desmond perked his left ear out to the distance away from the wall. The section they were walking along was near the Black Hills and the thick amount of pine and birch trees made it difficult to see past even in the daylight. Brushes and overgrowth peppered the areas between making it easy to hide in, but also difficult for anyone to move through undetected.

“Wha-”

Desmond held his hand up carefully and slowly as he began looking out into the darkness. His eyes tried to hone in on where his ears indicated. In the distance, a shadowy movement caused both guards to grasp their staffs a little tighter. “Do you see that?”

Peering out into the eclipsed forest, Solomon’s eyes focused on the mound Desmond had spied. It was too fluid and unpredictable to be the wind rustling a bush. Slowly, the shape took hold and Solomon eased his grip on the quarterstaff while simultaneously extending it fully. “That’s the funniest looking coyote I’ve ever seen. Is it a mutie?”

“Mutants were hunted down in our first father’s age, even if it were; they’re too skittish to come this close to the wall.”

“A wolf maybe?” Solomon’s guesses were starting to take the form of a child’s guessing game.

“Too small, wolves are twice that size.” Desmond continued to peer outward scanning around the places away from the creature.

“Baby wolf?” Solomon kept guessing.

“Without the mother or pack close-by? Not likely.”

“I don’t know, should we try and capture it?”

Rolling his eyes, Desmond wondered what rational sense of mind his friend had. “Hold on, I think I know what that is? Remember our history lessons from grammar school?”

“Des, no matter if it’s this life or the one before it, that’s one class I really cared nothing about.”

That dropped loose another memory from Desmond’s first life. Solomon always needed help when it came to studying. History was his worst subject for in both lives. He smirked at Solomon, “I think it’s a dog.”

“A dog? Holy lord. My grandfather mentioned having a dog in his first life, but they’ve been gone for generations, haven’t they?”

“Around here.” Desmond’s look flattened as an almost inaudible chiming came from the dog’s direction.

“Around here?” Solomon stared through Desmond as if his words made him invisible. “Outlanders? We haven’t had trouble from them since our own Binding.”

“The thing about streaks, Sol, is they have to end sometime.”

“You think maybe the dog got lost from its owner then?”

A cold stare into the brisk night was Desmond’s only reply.

“We should send up a flare, y’think?” The electronic wrist communications were shelved a few years ago. They only went out with vehicle patrols since there had been no disturbances for over a decade. It was an effort to conserve power towards research and production of the geo-thermal conductor. Once that was online, electricity wouldn’t be an issue for the next ten generations.

Flares were used to alarm the other guards, but also any citizen with the sense to notice a bright pulsing mini-sun in the sky. It was crude, but the long standing peace around the kingdom the last decade had made it easy to not rely on the science age technology.

“I think we should continue on our route and get the next patrol to signal.”

“Why?” Desmond quietly responds by looking up with more emphasis than necessary. Above, a canopy of branches missing over half of their leaves rustled in the slight fall wind. A flare would go up, get stuck and ignite a good part of the southern forest. They’d have to walk another hundred meters to put one up safely. And truly, that wasn’t Desmond’s reasoning for not putting up a signal.

“Keep walking, Solomon.” Desmond gripped his staff with both hands, tightening in clockwise motion that released the catch housing the blade in its base. A sharp metallic clink and a six inch, double-sided blade immediately protrudes at the top of his staff. He eyes to Solomon to do the same.

“Des?”

“We’re not alone.”

To say either man was panicked would be a lie. They were trained for this kind of tension. Even though all of their combat experience from this life was done in training, memories from their lives before kick into play.

A bitter taste bites at the back of Solomon’s throat. Sound muffles through the increased beating of his heart and his eyes feel like they’re moving faster than needed. Oppositely, Desmond feels alert and all of his senses amplified. He hears the light movement of footsteps trying to ease through the shadows in the woods. The smell of them is blocked by a wind carrying toward them in their favor.

The two guards pass by the dog slowly. Its pointy ears stick straight up and there appears to be no violence in him. His mouth is agape and a tongue hangs out the side like a wet towel draped over a perch. Desmond makes no motion to directly stare at the dog, but he doesn’t let him out of his peripheral vision for as long as his walk allows. A part of him thinks there are just some spies trying to lurk in the dark, curious of the happenings around the kingdom of Haven Hill. The matter of reality was always different.

A sharp whizzing sound ends abruptly as a shaft collides into the back of Desmond’s shoulders. Not much can get through guard armor. Still the impact produced a small twinge of pain up his neck. While turning, Desmond calculated the sound of the arrow from the moment he heard it to the time it struck. Figuring that out, he knew roughly where and how far away his assailant was and he arched his arm and released his staff in an arching motion.

The staff flew through the air like a giant arrow; its bass-like sound reverberated in the rather still night. Desmond heard a similar treble whining heading toward him as his staff collided into the chest of an outlander. The impact knocked him squarely to the ground, writhing at the large protrusion impaling him.

In a full sprint, Desmond strides across the side path, eyeing the second and apparently last of the scouts taking shots at them. He’s crouched behind the base of a tall evergreen, giving no full view of his body. There was only the glint of the metal arrowhead as the outlander pulled back to aim again.

Another ringing whistle pierced the night as the arrow approached Desmond. Luck saved him this time as the arrow collided into the gauntlet on his right forearm, just before striking him in the neck, where there was no protection.

Adrenaline pumped Desmond’s legs for him as he narrowed his focus on his staff wiggling around in the air like a flagpole in the wind. Grasping the tapered handle, he retracted the spearhead from the first outlander. A wet crunch is followed by groaning moments of pain as the first archer bleeds out.

Using the tree as an obstacle, Desmond moved erratically from side to side forcing the outlander to constantly adjust and question his target’s path. When he was within ten feet, Desmond propped his arm back with his staff and feigned a release. The outlander fell for it and momentarily ducked behind the tree giving him shelter. It was long enough to try one move.

Desmond reached toward the base of his weapon and swung it around with both hands like a samurai warrior preparing to deliver a powerful blow. He released the staff and it rotated through the air like a boomerang the sand people used. The outlander poked around and drew back his line just as the staff hits the tree. The centrifugal force wraps it around the trunk as the edge hits the outlander in the back of the head. He releases the arrow into a catawampus fashion off target.

A few feet separated Desmond from his target and in one great stride he propelled himself forward, arching his back as he soared through the air, cape fluttering behind him. His knee prominently led his body and before the outlander could retract another arrow from his quiver, Desmond’s knee collided with the point of the outlander’s jaw. A deep popping could be heard behind the mask protecting the intruder’s face.

The outlander’s eyes rolled back into his head and his knees gave out, folding him like a tent whose support beam was knocked away. On the ground, the man looked dead, lying haphazardly like a broken cup void of original shape.

Desmond stood up tall and retrieved his quarterstaff lying on the ground. He glanced around the tree line and saw no other movement. His ears didn’t pick up on any scuttling feet or irregular brush movement. A pungent odor wafted across his back with the slight breeze. Outlanders carry a hefty smell of body odor and leather mixed together. Most likely they hadn’t bathed since the change in climate over a month ago.

Looking back down at the unconscious outlander, Desmond made a quick stab with the blade side of his staff into the man’s jugular artery. A small eruption of blood shot upward, followed by another less prominent one. In a few seconds, it spread around in a puddle beneath the man’s head.

Desmond shifted tracks in his mind from fighting to detecting and one thing flooded him with panic. His friend’s absent words quickly alert him and he turns to find Solomon on the ground where they were first attacked.

“Solomon.” He almost whispers it to himself and then Desmond’s ears feel like they’re full of cotton. The world closes off around as he loses track of time running to his friend’s side.

Reaching Solomon, an arrow is standing erect from his neck. The arrow that pierced the night sky as Desmond launched his staff at the outlander didn’t miss him. It hit its target and is now housed in his friend’s throat. If it were a few more inches down and he would have been safe. If they still wore their face masks instead of turning them in with their wrist communicators. Lots of ifs, but no satisfaction would come with the answers.

A familiar chiming from before broke Desmond’s concentration and a quick turn showed him that it was coming from the dog. It timidly came closer to him, stopping every few feet as if to assess his welcome.

Ignoring the dog for now, he turned back to Solomon. They had grown up together, twice. It would be another generation before he can see his friend again, but at least he takes comfort in knowing he will see him again. His time in this generation was cut short; he hadn’t even found a wife yet. Soldiers rarely did and guards even less so. Hopefully in his next life, they could both take pleasure knowing they will have a better life. The inner wall was meant for people reaching their third generation.

The chiming sound was more metallic and clinking louder as the dog approached. An arm’s reach away, the dog stopped. Desmond turned to the animal and the dog lowered its head.

“It’s okay,” he said. “We all have to die sooner or later, but it’s by no means an end.”

Still, as if to disregard his attempts to provide solace, the dog kept its head down.

Desmond looked back at his friend and removed the arrow. The sound to go along with it made Desmond’s stomach lurch for a few heartbeats. He placed the arrow on his friend’s chest and folded his arms over it. Placing his staff beside him, Desmond reaches into the pouch on his friend’s leg and produced the flare gun.

The dog whined softly in the back of its throat.

Eyeing the possible outcome of taking this dog in, Desmond decided if asked, the story would be that the dog alerted them to danger in woods. It had been what saved his life at least. Not a total lie, but truth enough to spare him from being taken away for god knows what purpose.

“C’mere, boy,” Desmond called to the dog while patting the side of his leg.

On cue, the dog lifted its head and approached the last few feet, turning into Desmond’s body in hopes of affection. The metallic tinkling sound was coming from around its neck. Inspecting more closely, they were tags. One displayed the dog’s name and the other, the name of his owner.

Jinx, eh?” Desmond announced. “Not quite a lucky name, is it?”

The dog panted as a reply, the happy tongue rolled out the side of its mouth again like before. Desmond removed the collar carefully and knew he’ll have to put a new collar back on later when he could get to a shop inside the wall.

Jinx winced slightly as the collar was removed. The inner lining had protruding metal barbs curving inward. This was how outlanders domesticated their animals, through pain. Desmond recalled feelings of disgust from his first life when thinking of the outlanders. Facing them before was different. They were brutal and had numbers. This attack, there were only two and they seemed to try and use the dog as a decoy.

Desmond rubbed Jinx on the top of his and the dog appeared to lean into the touch as if asking for more. The only thing Desmond could think of was the war the outlanders opened up again and what it could mean.

“Let’s go signal the others and tell them what happened.” Desmond stopped rubbing on Jinx and stood tall. Pike in hand, he started to make for the clearing ahead to send up a flare. Looking back, Jinx remained still as if waiting for a command.

“You coming?” Desmond asked as if the dog understood his language. Patting his leg again, the dog responded and quickly galloped to him.

Solomon’s body was almost peaceful looking, lying on the ground like he was waiting for someone to wake him. Sadly, his soul was returning to the ethereal chamber in the castle to await his next body in a generation. Desmond looked forward to meeting his friend again and will miss his company. Hopefully, Jinx can accompany him on patrol as a substitute until his trials.

Desmond smiled in sorrowful recognition of his friend’s passing. This life’s memories were cut short now for both of them. He planned on finding retribution for that if not answers.

“Goodbye, my friend. Until that day…” Desmond turned and with a pat of his leg, he and Jinx embarked again.


Copyright © 2014

All content in this blog created by the blog owner or participating guest writers is the property of the specific writer(s) in question and protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and cannot be stored on any retrieval system, reproduced, re-posted, displayed, modified or transmitted in any form, electronic or otherwise without written permission of the copyright owner.  You may not use any content from this site to create derivative works.



 

Fourth Round {Fight 2}

Watch out, front row, this bout could get pretty bloody. We have another fight set to take place this month just before the thankful season. Which one of these contestants will be thankful they stepped into the ring? We have a couple of veterans looking to grace the ring once again. In one corner we have J.M. Payer, a seasoned veteran in the WCFC. You may remember his initial battle for revenge “Mr. Jingles” or his most recent “Dreams and Reality.” Fighting out of the other corner, we have the equally seasoned and lean Tony Graff. He has donned the weighted gloves in his stories “Sewer Crawling ” and “The Convictions of Miss White.” We certainly have a rumble ahead of us

The combatants have decided on their own rules listed below. Have a look and mark your calendars for February 3rd, entertainment is coming.

Rules:

  1. No dialog tags (he said, she asks, etc). Dialog can only be followed by actions.
  2. Under 2500 words.
  3. Must work with the element of a talisman for either good luck or bad luck
  4. Protagonist must be a woman.


Write.Club@outlook.com