The Recruit

For the first time in her life, Miss Turple found herself at a loss for words.

It wasn’t like she’d known what to expect when the invitation was slipped under her door. That was suspicious in itself because she hadn’t even got around to unpacking all her shoes yet, let alone socialising with people who could afford gold trimmed envelopes. There was no name or address mentioned that she could write back to either. Just the time she would be picked up. The presumptuousness didn’t sit right with her but curiosity won. It was the first time she was living away from Mrs Turple’s hawk eyes, and the key to the case of the secret invite would be at the party.

So she’d put aside all reservations, put on her new dress and had waited by the river front as told. She hadn’t asked any questions either when Mr Top Hat showed up in a boat and gestured for her to step in. She even bared the eternity long boat ride quietly without letting loose the thousand and one unladylike quips hanging off the tip of her tongue. But when Mr Alarmingly-Silent-Top-Hat-Man led her to her destination, she couldn’t stay mum any longer.

Except she didn’t know what to say.

“I loved your piece in the press. The poem about the little animals. It warmed my heart.” Mrs Exotic-Feathers-Number-2 said before she drifted off to listen to Mr Burgundy Ascot’s caterwauling.

“It was about children, not animals.” Miss Turple mumbled to nobody in particular. At least that explained how they found her. The press had demanded she skip out on the pseudonym. In retrospect, she should’ve insisted on the confidentiality, but she quite enjoyed the flattering recognition she was receiving now. The chatter of the guests had momentarily died when she stepped into the… she couldn’t find a word to describe the place. Whispers had started up in that fraction that conversation had taken to regain traction. Clearly this was a crowd who knew of her writing.

Another Mr Top Hat came up to her to congratulate her on the marvelous work she’d done on Itsy Bitsy.

“It was a splendid plot. It’s such a shame that the production house cancelled on it.”

“Yes, they couldn’t find the right actor for the little girl.”

Mrs Pince-nez and Mr Pinstripe stopped to gush all over the Pansy True.

“What a bright, powerful, empowered character you’ve created. It would be heart-breaking if anything ever happened to her.” So Miss Turple safely excused herself without mentioning the climax of her sequel Her Witness. She looked around the open air, reader’s ball or ORB as she decided to call it. The people present were downright outlandish. She didn’t get the memo about the fancy dress theme, but it seemed like everybody else did. There was a man in a ruff collar, a woman in mourning robes and a man in what looked suspiciously like a bed sheet trying to be a toga.

She continued to look around the ORB trying to ignore the prickling on the back of her neck. Someone was watching her every move. She tried to appear casual in her actions as she raised her glass to her lips and subtly tracked the source of the intense stare. Her gaze fell on the man in the bow-tie by the pier who looked away almost immediately. The perpetrator was found. Miss Turple picked up another glass of gin from a passing waiter and made her way to Mr Bow-Tie.

“You should not have come.” He said bluntly as he accepted the gin.

“Excuse me?”

“There’s still time,” he said looking around, “you can make a run for it. Take the boat and scamper.”

“Why would I do that?” she demanded. The sun hadn’t even begun to set. Even by Mrs Turple’s standards, it was far too early.

“Because,” he said, turning away from the gathering to face her, “they want you to join the society.”

Miss Turple looked at him like he’d gone mad, but the look on his face suggested that she was the crazy one.

“What society? Why shouldn’t I join?” Mr Bow-Tie cocked his head to a side, assessing her fully.

“Well, Miss Turple, this is the Dead Poets’ Society and for your contribution to literature, you’re being recruited. Naturally, dying is the only way of joining.”

His Bride in the Sky

She knew it was trouble when her boy fell in love with the sun.

 

He was nine, and she was picking flowers when he rushed into her garden, red in the face.

‘Mama!’, he began, as he pointed to the sky, ‘ I found my bride!’ She had a good lot to say to her husband that night. Crown prince or not, nine year old boys should never be allowed to plan their own marriage. They should also never be led to believe that the Gods would fall in love with them. They would be struck down for such blasphemy. Her husband reminded her that it was she who’d said that during her regular doting session and she still hadn’t made an offering at the shrine to atone for that mistake. She sighed and blew out the candle by her bed. Somehow, she’d have find a way to tell her son that the sun could not be his.

 

And as the good mother she was, she sat him down next evening and told him the truth.

‘You can’t marry her unless you ask her. And look, she lives so far beyond the mountains, it’ll be a very long journey to make for just a question. Why not the princess from the valley? That’s only a day on horseback. And she has such lovely hair…’ But the prince was no longer listening. His eyes were set on the mountains to the west, and a single wish was etched into his heart. He was the crown prince after all. He would find a way to get what he wants.

 

Ten years later, she watched from the heavens as her son left with an army to bring home his bride.

 

She watched him enter the kingdom of the moon and destroy the people who dared kneel at the altar of a goddess besides his. She watched as he rode into the kingdom of the sun and slaughtered everybody who dared look up to his beloved, for she was his and his alone. She watched him every day – rise at first light, kill under the gaze of the high noon sun, and ride on towards the deity he so longed for, painted red, just like she was. The desire consumed him, till the light in his eyes was replaced with the fire of his madness and he was left with nothing but the thought of reaching his elusive bride.

 

Three years without their king, the kingdom suffered. It’s glory and splendour snuffed out like a candle in the morn. The late queen watched tearfully as her home was ravaged and plundered by both men and nature. Her people were forgotten and left to perish. She watched helplessly as her boy turned his tainted blade on his own men and offered them up as sacrifice in answer to their pleas to return home. Nothing would keep him from his love. He would not rest till he held her in his arms.

 

And so he rode on till the end of the world, leaving in his wake a trail of blood. He stood on the edge before the setting sun and her celestial court, his hands bloody and sore, his horse grimy and dead, and offered up every life he’d stolen to his lovely wife-to-be.

 

The sun, needless to say, was not impressed.

 

She sent down dowry of her own. A great ball of fire, straight into his arms. She left him there, a pile of cinders, and started her daily journey to breathe life anew into the world he razed. With one detour of course. There was a prayer she had to respond to.

 

‘I’m sending you that stupid son of yours. Make sure you give him the telling off he deserves.’

 

Creatures of the Night

Moving to the big city was the worst. Idea. Ever.

Charlie tossed and turned for the hundredth time, shoving his head under the pillow to make the noise go away. As if his day hadn’t been long enough. Eight coffee runs in the pouring rain was plenty to sour anybody’s mood, but life just had to throw stupid, scavenging rodents into the mix. He wished they’d go find some other back alley to upturn, he really wanted his sleep.

Another loud bang sounded through the window. Charlie swore silently under his breath. He hated this stupid city. It was cold, wet, filthy. He wrapped the blanket tighter round himself as another bang echoed from the alley.

He should’ve just gone to college like his mum wanted.

*

“Did he finally fall asleep?”

“Yeah. It took a while. Had to convince him that it wasn’t monsters feeding on little kids.”

“Ha! That kid can be real dumb.”

“It’s your fault for letting him watch that horror movie. He’s only five.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault we got raccoons in the alley.”

“We should’ve bought that apartment on 12th. No raccoons and had a good view too.”

“Yeah, yeah. Now go to sleep. There’s enough of a racket already.”

Lucy closed her eyes trying to ignore the slob beside her.

If only she’d married Greg instead.

*

Simon leaned back in his chair rubbing his eyes.

Starfire vs Batgirl discussions did tend to drag on for hours. It was only his grumbling stomach that reminded him he’d forgotten about dinner. He took off his headphones and went looking for a snack. He came back with a pack of crisps and another RedBull. He still had five episodes of Daredevil to go. It was going to be a long night. He put his headphones back on, completely ignoring the crash resounding from four floors below.

*

“Is it always this noisy in your neighborhood?” she mumbled as she snuggled further into him, trying to ignore a crash that suspiciously sounded like tumbling garbage cans.

“Raccoon problem,” he yawned, “go to sleep, Suzy.”

“Stacy.”

His snore was the only reply as another can fell.

*

Mrs Sanchez hummed to herself as she settled into bed and stirred her cup of tea. With spot of vanilla just like her mother, bless her soul, used to make it. She continued to hum as she slowly sipped on her tea while reading a book. Out of the corner of her eye she could see old Mr Sanchez grumbling. Probably about the rain, she figured, as he viciously waved his fist at the window. Or retired life, it was another one of his favorites. She finished her cup of tea and smiled contently. Nothing like her mother’s recipe to ensure a good night’s sleep. She leaned across to turn the light off. Mr Sanchez was still grumbling.

The hearing aid still lay on the table where she left it.

*

“I told yer, pest control’ll be ‘ere in the morning. Nobody’s gonna brave rain in the night to deal with a few rats!”

The landlord slammed the receiver down and trudged back to bed. The fifth call that night. He didn’t charge enough rent to put up with this. Pest control better come for those bloody ring tailed rodents tomorrow, or he’d pick up his old shotgun and deal with them himself.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when a trash can hit the side door. If it weren’t for the bloody rain he’d be out there right now. But it was pouring and there wasn’t a missus to look after him when he caught the flu.

His head had just touched the pillow when the phone rang again. He swore out loud but the phone brazenly rang on.

He needed another glass of whiskey.

*

Phyllis was having a good day. The weather had finally cleared, her hair looked good, nobody spilled coffee on her. Yep, definitely a good day. She’d just reached her seat when her phone rang.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“Hi, I got a call about some stray raccoon tearing up a back alley and I just got here to check it out and well…”

“Yes sir?”

“Well there’s six strange men lying here, and I’m not sure it was a rodent that tore them up.”

Ghost of Cyclops Past

The big dark eye flashing at him was all he remembered.

 

He’d long forgotten the final run, the victory celebration and the last dance. The King and Queen were buried and lost, their legacy rolling on to those who came next. He wasn’t there when the curtain rose and didn’t recollect what the dragon looked like. He’d been there when the curtain fell, though he didn’t remember that last battle either. It was all ages ago. Those adventures were over and long gone.

 

But he never forgot the gaze of that wide eye, standing on the sidelines, closely watching. He never forgot how he watched it everyday, watched as the big dark eye captured all those it saw and immortalised them in their moments of glory. He never forgot how it had blinked at him, destined to remember him as the wicked wiry haired wizard forevermore.

 

Time ticked away the teens, twenties and thirties till all he was left with was wiry grey hair and faded memories of the world the eye saw, tucked away in a box at the back of his garage.

 

His search was futile.

He shut the yearbook with a sigh. He wasn’t going to find her in there.

She was always the one clicking the pictures. Made sense she never showed up in them.