The Very Counterfeit of Death

This is a short story written for #BlogBattle over at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

The theme for this story is ‘Voice’ This is my fiction piece

 

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, 1923

Hans Kroeger strolled through the plain wooden door, its frosted glass guarding the outside world from seeing inside, and set his briefcase down heavily. He set about brewing a pot of coffee, from which he poured himself a large cup and stared out the window.

Thomas Todder, his business partner of five years, interrupted; slamming the door behind him and pointedly avoiding eye contact with his partner.

Thomas poured himself an equally large cup of coffee and added two fingers of whiskey. He sat at his desk and began to sweat under Hans’ nervous stare.

 

 

Though the two men departed from their office the night before and retired to their own homes, they found themselves reunited in a dream. It was a shared dream, impossible yes, but seemingly less impossible than the landscape around them. It was made of crimson reds, violets, oranges the color of the sunset and teals that flirted with indigo but never gave in. They stood in a desert, wavering cacti stretching for miles. It was night in their dream, daytime seemed a ridiculous notion, and under an oversize moon hung six or seven big dippers.

Death a voice repeated, simultaneously in Spanish and English.

Hans and Thomas found themselves tied together, back to back, palm trees sprouting all around them and dancing violently.

We know. We know and we will rinse your soul clean.

 

 

If you asked Hans Kroeger or Thomas Todder about their newspaper, The San Antonio Voice, they’d say it was the most popular paper in Texas, the National Paper, hard journalism, and the best read since The Declaration of Independence. It was the same paper that had unmasked the Cattle Killer as Carlos De Sueña, discovered the Texas Desert Ape and proved it was Ricardo Jimenez and his wife Maria, and had proved the corruption charges against Mayor Jonas Rodriguez true, running him out of office.

It was a three man operation with only enough glory for two. Matta Zoltón, the young man who ran the presses, cleaned and maintained the machines, and loaded the cars for delivery, was a shadow stuck behind the scenes.

This morning, Hans and Thomas found their hubris deflated, both wondering about the strange dream they had, unaware the other had dreamt the same nightmare.

They moved slowly, but by lunch both men had put the terror out of their minds and, by evening, felt jovial enough for a drive up to the Hill Country for a drink at the Beer Hall.

They left Matta with a full night’s work. Tomorrow’s headline read: SANTOS CERO: OFFICER OF THE LAW, OR KILLER OF LOCAL BATS; CHIROPTERA KILLER.

 

 

Hans’ crimson tie lay on the table next to Thomas’ teal and purple diamond print one as the two men readied themselves to leave the Beer Hall. It was not a large Hall with mostly outdoor seating, but the warm night air of the Texas summer kept patrons comfortable where walls and ceilings did not. The owner brewed his own Ale and kept a plethora of pretty daughters behind the bar, both contributing to the continuing success of the establishment.

It was dark and the moon had not yet risen when the two men decided to call a car and return home. Without the blanket of stars, the sprawling, open fields of the Hill Country remained seemingly unconquerable. Thomas grabbed both men’s ties and encouraged Hans to follow him on the short walk to the road where they could more easily meet their driver.

As they trudged through the wet grass, the moon rose violently, stars coming into view under a wavering orange band of light. Trumpets sounded around them, playing a dark melody in an incongruously snappy, crisp performance.

The sound of hooves snuck up on the two men until they spun around to find a glowing white figure atop a horse. It was clearly, even through the haze of a few pints of Ale, a skeleton wearing a General’s uniform, a tailored black and red coat with black pants that made the apparition resemble some sort of vampire if not for the unnerving, grinning skeleton face the two men could help but fixate upon.

The hands and head of the skeleton sucked the glow from the full moon and illuminated fully in the space around the men. Its face was adorned in the traditional Dia De Los Muertos Calavera Skull, flowers around the eyes, with smaller more decorative lines in oranges, teal and crimson all across the face. On the forehead a small sun faded to crescent moon and back again every few seconds. The Skeleton pulled the reins of the horse and jumped in an acrobatic spin, landing in front of the two men and knocking them to the ground.

Hola! It cried.

“Who are you?” Thomas demanded.

Oh, senior Todder, you do not recognize me? Is it perhaps because I am dead? It does alter the face a bit, no? the apparition laughed, drawing his face in close to Thomas’.

“I know that voice…” Hans murmured.

It is General Posata you odorous gringos!

“No, no you’re dead.” Hans retorted. He had only met the man a few times, but this did not sound like General Posata. Or did it? Perhaps having no vocal chords altered the voice?

I AM??  The General cried, looking back in forth, his features pulled into exaggerated surprise, like a glowing, undead tragedy mask. He laughed heartily, a meaty chuckle that sent shivers down the two men’s spines. Walk with me. He said, and set off.

“No. Leave us alone,” Thomas spat.

Wasn’t asking. Posata said, and Thomas realized his feet were moving independent of his brain. They were no longer in the Hill Country; the landscape had changed to that of the desert far west of San Antonio.

It is cold here at night, but not as cold as death. Did I mention I’m dead? Posata said lyrically. I believe that you two had something to do with that. And I believe you two have had something to do with a number of deaths, all which number among the Mexican men and women of San Antonio.

The desert was indeed cold. The Big Dipper fell from the sky, crashing to earth and revealing itself to be seven souls, each men and women The San Antonio Voice had proved guilty a crime that had sentenced them to death.

Posata circled the men. I am a blunt man, so let me say this; You have brought death upon too many who did not deserve it, including myself, all in the pursuit to prove a your so called truths. You are not journalists, but prejudice harbingers of death. Tonight, this ends, unless you can report from this desert, your new home Someday, you will feel the cold of death, but first ,you will burn in this place.

Hans and Thomas could not protest; their voices were stripped from them. The big dipper danced around in cold, fiery torment, and the coyotes of the desert laughed and laughed.

 

 

 

No one in San Antonio ever figured out where the two men who ran The San Antonio Voice had gone. The bar maids at the beer hall said they had wandered off and were captured by wolves. Others claimed the old Native American Gods who protected the land had taken them. Matta swore it was an Angel sent from hell to take them.

Matta took over the paper, proving swiftly that the previous management’s versions of the truth were both fabricated and dangerously askew. The Mexican community rejoiced at his ascension and fine work running the paper.

He was not only a fine journalist and well respected member of the community, but also the best horseman in all of San Antonio

And the coyotes laughed and laughed.

Six Feet Small

 

This is a short story written for #BlogBattle over at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

The theme for this story is ‘Float’ This is my fiction piece.

 

 

 

“Stop it,” she said tersely.

Daron raised his eyebrows. “What?” he asked, surprised.

“Floating. Stop it,”  She said.

“Oh. You noticed that?” Darron asked.

His date scoffed. “Yes.”

They stood at the bar of an upscale Italian Restaurant that was trying a little too hard not to be Italian. Darron liked to bring his dates here because the bar was impressive and the food sounded lavish. Darron touched his feet to the ground just as the host called his name for a table for two. His date looked like she was seriously entertaining the idea of leaving. Darron sighed.

 

_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_

 

 

He had been the first person to float in over three hundred years, all thanks to a blood-red, leather bound book he had found in the garbage room of his building. Under a precariously placed gold statue of Krishna and an old Ralph Nader button he noticed the book, which he promptly picked up and leafed through, skepticism swarming his face.

“Um,” he said to no one in particular, wondering very much if this was a joke.

He brought the book upstairs and never let it go.

It was without a doubt an old book of handwritten spells. A Witch, at least Darron had a strong sense she was a witch not only because of the spells but due to the large meticulously scrawled “I AM A WITCH, HA HA HA” written in the front cover, had spent considerable time gathering these spells together and making sure they were recorded.

They were mostly inane spells; how to make a stone fly or how to preserve beets without pickling them, but there were more complicated spells every now and then. It wasn’t just that they were complicated; to Darron they seemed unnecessary. Why would he ever need to turn a pig inside out? Or create a second moon?

All in all they were pretty helpful and, all things considered, Darron really liked beets, so he considered the finding of the book positive event. He found a spell permanatly removing dust and another to summon an obedient Cat, which he did late at night by candlelight. The cat was very friendly but not very obedient, which was fine with Darron because he needed the company and never really believed in such a thing as an obedient feline anyway.

But, for all the multiplying pennies or unlimited shade spells, Darron found the most useful to be the spell that made him float. All his life he’d been short, and Darron always felt that the only thing holding him back from meeting more women was a few inches.

Now, he could float himself to six feetntall. The only problem was, woman always noticed.

 

 

_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_

 

“She didn’t fall for it either, huh?” Darron’s sister asked, snickering.

Darron sat behind the counter of the Magazine shop he owned in Long Island City, a small but quickly growing part of Queens nestled under the shadow of the 59th street Bridge.

“I’m not trying to trick anyone, C.” Darron groaned, unpacking a box and extricating an invoice.

Catherine scoffed. Where Darron was short and squat, with a face like a boulder and dark features, she was light and energetic. She was like a sunrise; Darron was like a water buffalo.

“I don’t get you Darron. You’ve always tried to trick people into thinking you’re something you’re not. “

“I have not,” Darron said, counting a shipment of magazines.

“Yes, you have! Remember in High School when you tried to make Layla Riccoritti think you were Turkish?”

“Hey, we could be! Mom’s family doesn’t remember which Mediterranean Island they came from.”

Catherine laughed. A few customers poked their heads up from reading to try to locate the source. “Let’s review. You find a book of magic tircks-“

“Spells,” Darron muttered.

“Spells, fine, you find a book of spells which grants you powers-“

“C, it doesn’t grant them, I had to master them!”

“Like magic tricks?” Catherine smirked.

Darron fumed silently, typing commands into his computer.

“You find a book of spells and instead of, oh, I don’t know, conjuring piles of gold to get out of selling Hipsters lame magazines for the rest of your life, you use it to trick women.”

“My clients are not Hipsters and my magazines are not lame!” Darron said through gritted teeth. A man with gauges in his ears wearing a tank top with suspenders approached the counter. He handed Darron a copy of Integrated Clockworks. Darron rang him up with a smile, attempting to inject some warmth into the tension.

“I like your Elk tattoo,” Catherine said to the man. He blushed and muttered a thank you.

After he left, Darron rounded on his sister. “Don’t you have something better to do today?”

She laughed again, but more serious this time. She punched her brother’s shoulder and locked eyes with him.

“Stop trying to trick women. No one is ever going to fall for it.”

 

_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_

 

 

A few hours later, the Spring sky had darkened late, leaving the reflection of the Manhattan skyline in Darron’s window. He dropped a box down on the counter and stretched his shoulders, trying to get the knots out. No one was in the store as The Queen is Dead by The Smiths played from the store speakers.

A woman with shoulder length chestnut hair walked in. Darron greeted her with a hello and was struck by how pretty he found her. She nodded at his hello but did not smile; not in reaction to Darron but because she seemed like the sort of person who saved her smiles, perhaps for decrepit graveyards or a murder of crows closing in on a smaller, weaker bird.

Darron shook his head, trying to clear it of such bizarre images. While her back was turned, he floated a few feet, raising his height to what he judged was taller than she.

She spun on her heel so fast Darron doubted whether she had ever turned her back.

“What are you doing?” she demanded.

“Um,” said Darron.

She crossed her arms and glared at Darron. He smiled.

The woman snapped her fingers and turned Darron’s eyebrows into Seagulls which, Darron later reflected, was the most painful thing that had ever happened to him.

She returned him to normal, albeit sweating profusely.

Darron pointed at her and shot a small, violent tornado at her which she scooped up like a kitten and quelled very easily.

She smiled, making Darron feel very much like a small, weak bird.

“Would you like to go out for a drink?” she asked.

“Ought to Do Right By Me”

This is a short story written for #BlogBattle over at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

The theme for this story is ‘Ticket’ This is my fiction piece.

 

You could see the lake from outside the venue; a usually an ominous dark blue monster now rendered incongruously beautiful by the reflection of a sunset of pinks, oranges and reds. At the entrance to the music hall, a young man stepped up to a large, bearded ticket taker wearing a shirt that said ‘SECURITY’

“Ticket please.” the bearded man said.

“Here you go,” the young man said, handing him a ticket.

The bearded man examined it, and then scanned it.

“This is not a ticket.”

“Yeah it is.”

“It’s not a valid ticket.”

“What? Why not?”

“Well, it looks like you drew this ticket.”

“Yes.”

“Okay. So, that is not a valid ticket.”

“Yeah, it is. You need a ticket to get in, and I have a ticket.”

“No, see, hand-drawn tickets are not valid tickets.”

“That’s ridiculous. Where does it say that?”

“If you look on our website, you’ll see the rules and regulations for buying a ticket.”

The young man made a show of bristling. “I’m offended!”

“I don’t think you are,” the bearded man said.

“I am!!!”

“Nope.”

“Now I’m offended that you don’t think I’m offended.”

The bearded man raised his eyebrows. “I’ll live.”

“I demand to speak with your manager.”

“Don’t have one.”

“Your supervisor.”

“Don’t have one.”

“Your boss!”

“No.”

The young man stared pointedly at the man’s beard.

“I still don’t get why I can’t get in. Bermuda 467 is my favorite band and I have a ticket; this should be a simple transaction.”

“It’s a shame one of us is making it hard.”

“I agree.”

“I meant you.”

“And I mean you!”

“Listen, kid,” said the bearded man, brandishing the hand-drawn ticket. “This isn’t a valid ticket because you didn’t pay for it. You have to pay to get in.”

“Oh! Here, hold this,” the young man said, placing something in the large, bearded man’s hand. He took the ticket back. “There!” he said. The bearded man unfolded his hand and found a quarter.

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

“I’ve purchased my ticket, and here it is. Thank you!”

“Tickets are $55 plus tax.”

“I’m a college student who works to put himself through school; I don’t have $55 plus tax for a ticket I already paid for!”

“I’m not letting you in.”

“You will let me in!”

“I won’t.”

“You will!”

“I won’t.”

“You won’t!”

“You’re right.”

The young man snapped his fingers. “Bah! That usually works.”

“When?” the bearded man asked. “When does that usually work?”

By now, the bearded man’s boss, a thin, elderly man who resembled an oil painting of a crane, had wandered over.

“Is there something wrong  here?” he asked, lifting a pair of glasses on a chair to his eyes.

“No,” said the bearded man.

“Yes!” said the young man. “This,” he motioned vaguely to the bearded man, “man refuses to accept my ticket.”

“It’s not a ticket,” explained the bearded man.

The young man scoffed. “Who are you to say that!? What’s a ticket anyway? Just a piece of paper that grants you access to an event, right?”

“A ticket,” said the bearded man, “ is a piece of paper or small card that gives the holder a certain right, especially to enter a place, travel by public transport, or participate in an event.”

“Um,” said the young man.

“Further more,” continued the bearded man, “for this venue, a ticket is said piece of paper purchased from the venue or through a valid third party distributor. Not, and I can’t say this enough, something hand drawn.”

“Aha! By definition, the ticket is simply a piece of paper or card, regardless of its origin, as long as it’s a piece of paper that gives the right to participate in said event if purchased from the venue. The quarter in your hand is proof that I purchased this ticket from the venue. Therefore, I should be granted access!”

No one spoke.

“He’s got you there,” said the bearded man’s boss. “Come on in.”

“Thank you!”

“Wait,” said the bearded man. “He would have me there, except I am authorized only to take tickets and work security for the band. I am not an authorized ticket seller, rendering your proof of purchase invalid, rendering this ticket invalid.”
“Oh,” said the man’s boss.

The young man sighed.

The bearded man smiled. “The line for tickets is over there. You can purchase one for $55 plus tax.”

The young man walked away without saying anything.

It took about a half hour to make it through the line. By that time, the sun had set and the lake had returned to its inky color; an ever-watching behemoth in the distance.

The young man reached the ticket window and pulled out three crumpled twenty dollar bills.

The ticket seller eyed him. She checked a note someone had left for her and examined the young man.  “Your ticket has been paid for. Here you are.” She handed him a ticket.

The young man narrowed his eyes, but the ticket seemed to be valid. He approached the bearded man again.

“Ticket please,” The bearded man said.

“Here you go,” the young man said, handing him a ticket.

The bearded man examined it and then scanned it.

“I’m not letting you in.”

“You will let me in!”

“I won’t.”

“You will!”

“I won’t.”

“You won’t!”

“I will!” The bearded man blinked.  “Oh, that does work.”

The young man walked in, but turned back. He opened his mouth to say something to the bearded man, but stopped. The bearded man tossed him a lanyard. “Eddie, the bass player, he and I grew up next door to each other. I asked him for a VIP pass. Have fun kid, and tell him Rick sent you.”

“Thanks, Rick.”

Rick, his beard an inky color,he himself an ever-watching behemoth; smiled.

Invisible Sun

This is a short story written for #BlogBattle over at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

The theme for this story is ‘Indiscriminate’ This is my fiction piece.

 

 

Tomorrow is my birthday. Getting older is inevitable, I know, but does it have to be so boring? Maybe for other people getting older is some kind of journey, something they share with a loved one or friends, but  me? I’d rather eat sand.

 

Okay, stay with me because I’m about to tell you something very strange. I live in a desert wasteland. Plenty of people live in a desert wasteland, yes, but when I was fifteen years old, I slipped indiscriminately into a void occupied by said desert wasteland. Sand stretches infinitely in all directions and the sky is forever black. It’s not the black of night or a permanent marker; it’s the empty black of a cardboard box or an vacant theatre. The sky is empty, and I mean that both in the way that there is nothing in it and that there is no substance to it. It’s just black; just a void that hangs over sand.

I’ve been here for ten years. Happy Birthday to me.

 

I made a joke earlier. I actually do have to eat sand to stay alive. If anyone thinks that’s weird then I would gladly change places so they can experience the sand. It’s not bad, but it’s not good. Hey, people eat mushrooms and livers, why can’t I eat sand?

 

My mother and father were both Professors at Yale. One night, we were invited to a fundraiser on campus at an enormous mansion, a mahogany beast that had many previous owners; Mark Twain and Groucho Marx among them. That night, however, the Drama Department was auctioning items from the previous owner before they turned the mansion into a new campus library for yet-to-be translated Greek plays. The man who owned the house, famous filmmaker and Oscar winner Pytor Sansk, had died only a few weeks before. Sansk’s film career began with artsy, black and white films that explored death and loss before he moved to a focused, magically staged series of films in color that explored death and loss. Each piece was set in a different country, in a different area of history, but kept a through line of actors and story. As the auction crept into its fourth hour, I decided to explore. I slipped upstairs, where I found Pytor’s office; an enormous room with an oversized telescope, a skylight that stretched across the entire ceiling, and walls of storyboards.  I had found a piece of the man left behind, not valuable enough to sell for money but valuable enough not to touch. I poked around for close to an hour, sifting through old scripts and examining Pytor’s library. It was there I found the indiscriminate catastrophe that would doom me here: a door, marked with an upside down triangle with three vertical lines through it. It sat between two shelves of Shakespeare plays, old and grey; an incongruous post-it note attached that simply read: NO.

I didn’t listen to the post-it note. I walked through the door.

 

Mostly, I just keep walking. I have a playlist of songs in my head that I sing. Today, I’m going through all The Police albums I remember. My older brother, well, half brother, was a huge Police fan. He used to come over for dinner every Wednesday night and, after coffee with my parents, sit and listen to music with me, determined to make sure I did not succumb to the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears of the world. So today, it’s Ghosts in the Machine, and then maybe to Synchronicity from there. All the while, walk, walk, walk.

 

Is it healthy to daydream about your first crush for ten years straight? My answer is yes, but I’ve also been without human contact for ten years, so judge me all you want. I was in love with this girl, Maya, and maybe I still am, but is it love at 14? We dated for about half a year before she broke up with me because her family was going to move. She didn’t move, but after that we never really got back together. Actually, my favorite memory of her isn’t even from when we were together. It’s from later, about a week or two before I made my indiscriminate mistake of walking through that damn door. Don’t laugh at me, but we were on a band trip. On the bus ride back, my best friend Ryan ditched me for the cute blonde girl who played first trumpet, but Maya made a seat for me. We made some small talk in the afternoon sun that stretched across our laps before Ryan came to ask some advice. When he left, Maya had buried herself in a book, so I grabbed my CD player, A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay, and my headphones. The next thing I knew, my eyes pulled themselves down like divers into the sea, and I fell asleep. I woke up as the last song on the CD began and found my head had slipped onto Maya’s shoulder. My eyes flickered open but I immediately closed them. She wasn’t asleep, but nor was she reading, just staring out the window, a blur of green moving past her. A rush of old emotions came to me; the feel of her hand in mine, sitting next to her at the piano, how she smiled even when I didn’t say anything funny.  She hadn’t moved my head or tried to wake me up when it slipped there. Instead, she let me rest, let some part of me stay attached to her. She let us both slip into memories, just for a little while. It didn’t change anything between us, but it was a silent acknowledgement that we did have something, that we were right to feel how we felt, that in the quiet parts of the afternoon, she thought about me too.

I wish I could thank her for that.

 

 

This morning, I stopped walking. Why? Why today, of all days? Because I heard a voice. Someone else is here! Someone else among the empty black and the infinite sand! I’ve gone insane, at this point in time that is an inevitable destination, but I swear on every grain of sand below my feet that I recognize that voice.
I just have to find her.