Go ahead, jump

“I found myself on the other side of the door and at the top of a precipice.

Now I find myself at the beginning of the story. The destruction is all I can see. The destruction would be the end of the story, but in reality, it’s just the beginning.

Here’s the rest of my story…”

Mark Gardner, September 26, 2014

The Beginnings ProjectHow the story started

The Beginnings Project came about from Mark Gardner’s desire to try his hand at stream of consciousness writing, not with ink on paper as Laurence Sterne did in the 1700’s, but with an old typewriter, as James Joyce and other modernist novelists have done using that narrative mode.

Using an old typewriter can mean everything from simply connecting with a writing device of old—and any number of connotations that may accompany—to attributing mystical properties to it that allow for the release of stories pent up within it.

Yes, Gardner’s got a great voice and style but what if it was the typing of “Beginnings” on an old 1949 Remington Quiet-Riter that made it everything from merely special to something akin to Aladdin’s lamp?

What it is

A collaborative writing project that began fortuitously and is perpetuated haphazardly.

How it works, currently

It’s a baton-passing event: if you read Gardner’s “Beginnings” and it moves you to want to participate, just leave a comment on the last chapter posted that you’d like to write the next chapter.

Give all existing chapters a read and see what they say to you collectively, then write your chapter to advance the plot however you see fit.

With a view toward the end goal of this project, use a typewriter to generate your chapter if you can. But really, the only essential thing is getting your vision down and having a ball doing it.

Post it, link it to the previous chapter post and also to the original “Beginnings” post.  Advertise it, and whoever wants to pick it up next, has only to leave a comment with you, saying so, and around it goes again…

The end goal

A novella eBook with the story first and the typewritten pages as an appendix.

(And this would mean splitting the proceeds quarterly or something to be determined.)

So you might as well grab the badge and jump…

 


Sacred Threads and Marigolds (4 of 4)

WHITE_640x426_mirror photo WHITE_640x426about-last-night_images.jpg

Click to read Part 3 of 4

In Part 1, our narrator, Skinner, witnesses the killing of a young girl by a serial-killing street preacher. Skinner runs off to the Trinity River to receive her gurgling council and emerges with a plan to kill the preacher. The preacher outsmarts Skinner and in Part 2 Skinner runs for his life, changes course for the safety of the Trinity but is arrested by the police. In Part 3, the police call in a psychiatrist part way through their interrogation of Skinner and he spills the beans then attempts suicide. Here’s a long lead-in starting from the introduction of the psychiatrist followed by Part 4 of 4:

They introduced a new person to the room, a pretty woman who wore T.J. Eckleburg spectacles, and before they even introduced her I knew she was a psychiatrist. I can feel the sickness coming off them. Brinson was her name. She watched me intently with her ice blue eyes while the cops made me watch CCTV footage of the preacher caught in various locations doing untoward things.

“Who is that man, Mr. Skinner?” Brinson asked.

“You know who it is,” I told her.

“It looks like you, Mr. Skinner. Is it?”

“No, it is not,” I said as politely as I could manage.

“Who is it then?” Brinson said.

“Oh for crissakes, that’s the preacher, The New Prophet, everybody knows who he is!”

“Do you know him?”

“I know of him,” I said, and I added, “I know he’s the killer, not me.”

“How do you know that?”

“I saw him kill!” I yelled.

“When?”

“Last night.”

“Where?”

“An alley off South Griffin Street.”

“Why didn’t you do anything?”

“There was nothing I could do. The preacher had already sewn her mouth shut.”

“With what?”

“Gold thread.”

“Like this?” a cop said as he motioned to the 2-mirror and an investigator walked in with a clear plastic bag containing the screaming marigolds and gilt thread.

He shouldn’t have done that. I felt queasy. “Maybe,” I said, and I turned my head far away from the bag but I could still hear them. “You did it,” they screamed.

“I did not!” I yelled.

“What’s that, Mr. Skinner?” Brinson said.

“Nothing. Can I go now?”

A blast of laughter came from one of the cops. “Oh no,” the cop said, “We haven’t even started yet!”

Brinson frowned at the cop and looked back at me.

“Just a few more questions is all it should take, Mr. Skinner. Now going back to the alley, why didn’t you go to the police?”

“Because I went to the girl and felt for a pulse and I knew the cops would think I did it so I ran away.”

“You did it,” the marigolds said.

“You should have used your mind to stop it,” the thread said.

“Shut up!” I yelled.

“Excuse me, Mr. Skinner?”

“Nothing.”

“Why did you touch her, Mr. Skinner?”

“I thought maybe she was still alive.”

“Really? Couldn’t you see that her throat was slashed to the neck bone and that her midsection had been slashed from sternum to crotch and from left to right just under the rib cage and that all her organs lay about on the ground around her?

I squirmed. “Well you never know. Medicine today is amazing.”

“Yes, it is. Tell me, Mr. Skinner, was she a pretty girl?”

“Stop her from getting in! You have to take control!” the preacher said.

I ignored him.

“Mr. Skinner?”

“Yes, she was very pretty.”

“Oh, that’s nice, Brinson said.”

“What kind of thing is that to say?” I looked very carefully at Brinson. She was up to something…

“It’s so nice to be pretty in this world of ugliness, don’t you think?”

This was blasphemous! “No!” I jumped up from my chair. I looked around and saw the cops had risen, too, poised to put me out of commission. I know I was making a mistake but I couldn’t let it ride. I sat down. “No,” I said calmly. “It’s not nice.”

“Squash her,” the preacher yelled, and the marigolds tittered in the background. “We told you,” the thread said.

“Why don’t you think that?”

“What?”

“That it’s good to be pretty in this world? Don’t you think it could help balance the ugliness?”

“NO!” I couldn’t stand it any longer. “No I don’t! Nothing can balance it! Ugliness is all-pervasive!”

“But if you remove the beauty from the world it for sure doesn’t have a chance.”

“It’s too late, better that beauty leave here and go back to nothingness, to pool with other beauties and make their own world.”

“Traitor!” the preacher yelled at me.

I laughed. “I told you I was the New Jesus!” I yelled.

“The new Jesus?” Brinson said.

“I just want to touch them before they go,” I said.

“Why the marigolds?”

“They are the flower of the dead.”

“Why the gold thread?”

“It’s their sacred initiation to the joyous afterlife.”

“Why are you in a position to usher them out of this world?”

“For the love of God, save us both,” the preacher boomed.

“The task was given to me.”

“By whom?”

“By the spirit of the one that said…,” and I looked about the room, made sure all were seated and reverent, “‘It is not true, it is not true; That we came to live here; We came only to sleep, only to dream.’”

The preacher screamed, “Murderer!” and he raked down through my insides with his unholy claws, gutting me like he cleans out his young girls and while I still could, I sprang to the desktop and bit with all my worth into the long cord of the ghastly blazing light and went out in full glory.

# # # # #

I woke to whiteness and screaming. The preacher was duking it out with some well-meaning psychologist sicko. The preacher had him backed against the wall and still the well-meaning sod was giving hand signals to the two white burly guys to stay back and I thought, “You should have asked me first about the preacher.” And finally, when the preacher, for lack of a knife, had the psychologist in a stranglehold so he couldn’t speak, let alone gesture, the burly white guys tackled him to the ground and stuck a syringe into him.

The trees of the Great Trinity Forest bent down and lifted me up, took me to the blessed river. I could hear the rush of her, and in one of her playful moments and she tickled me with her froth. I laughed and said, “Welcome to your new life, preacher.”

Fini

 

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Sacred Threads and Marigolds (3 of 4)

INTERROGATION_640x427

Click to read Part 2 of 4

In a nutshell, in Part 1, our narrator, Skinner, has witnessed the killing of a young girl by a serial killing street preacher. He’s vowed to kill the preacher so he won’t kill again, but the preacher outsmarts him and in Part 2, Skinner ends up running for his life only to be downed by a massive, unidentified force. Here’s a lead-in followed by Part 3 of 4:

“You’ve done it now,” the preacher said. “You hear those sirens? They’re headed this way.”

I gritted my teeth and tried to summon some power. I thought of the Trinity River. How could I have forgotten the blessed Trinity? I could wash the preacher’s vileness from me there, get another bottle from Elmer’s and drink him clean away…

“The police are getting out of their cruisers, coming for you, and it’s all your fault,” the preacher said.

I could hear yelling. I changed course for the river.

“You should have used your mind to stop them,” the preacher said.

I was flattened to the ground by a massive force.

“Stop them! You have to take control,” the preacher yelled.

I fought like a rabid dog, snapping at flying limbs and biting at faces that got too close and I spat and kicked through the yelling and pinning and the steel grips until everything went black.

# # # # #

I woke on a dirty, smooth and stinking floor. I was lying flat out on my stomach, the right side of my face in fresh vomit. I could feel my hands bound behind me. I didn’t move, just rolled my eyes around to check my whereabouts. I saw feet, shins, two guys on a bench with handcuffed wrists resting on their knees.

“Someone get the fuck in here and clean this shit up!” one of the guys yelled.

I heard more than one set of footsteps coming, then a rattling of a lock on a steel cage.

“Stay where you are!” came a booming voice.

A guard came through with a hose, sprayed my head and chased the rest of the vomit down a iron grate in the floor with a stream of water. He backed out and a cop came in and yanked me to my feet. He pulled me out of there and he and another cop dragged me down the hall, pushed me through a gray door and slammed me into a gray metal desk then jammed a chair under me.

I sat there shivering, leaning into the warmth of the blazing light hanging down from the ceiling on a long cord, while the cops banged on about some killings been going on, threatening me with being able to produce fingerprints, trying to get me to admit to things I had no part of. I knew who they wanted, but after the treatment I’d got, I wasn’t exactly in a helpful mood.

But then, I didn’t know how much longer I could last like that with my hair all dripping with cold water, chilling me anew with each drop, and I could feel that feeling I get before the voices start and my muscles grab and jerk me around until I black out.

The answer came quickly enough when the cops upped their game. They introduced a new person to the room, a pretty woman who wore T.J. Eckleburg spectacles, and before they even introduced her I knew she was a psychiatrist. I can feel the sickness coming off them. Brinson was her name. She watched me intently with her ice blue eyes while the cops made me watch CCTV footage of the preacher caught in various locations doing untoward things.

“Who is that man, Mr. Skinner?” Brinson asked.

“You know who it is,” I told her.

“It looks like you, Mr. Skinner. Is it?”

“No, it is not,” I said as politely as I could manage.

“Who is it then?” Brinson said.

“Oh for crissakes, that’s the preacher, The New Prophet, everybody knows who he is!”

“Do you know him?”

“I know of him,” I said, and I added, “I know he’s the killer, not me.”

“How do you know that?”

“I saw him kill!” I yelled.

“When?”

“Last night.”

“Where?”

“An alley off South Griffin Street.”

“Why didn’t you do anything?” Brinson asked.

“There was nothing I could do. The preacher had already sewn her mouth shut.”

“With what?”

“Gold thread,” I said.

“Like this?” a cop said as he motioned to the 2-way mirror and an investigator walked in with a clear plastic bag containing the screaming marigolds and gilt thread.

He shouldn’t have done that. I felt queasy. “Maybe,” I said, and I turned my head far away from the bag but I could still hear them. “You did it,” they screamed.

“I did not!” I yelled.

“What’s that, Mr. Skinner?” Brinson said.

“Nothing. Can I go now?”

A blast of laughter came from the cops. “Oh no,” one cop said, “We haven’t even started yet!”

Brinson frowned at the cop and looked back at me.

“Just a few more questions is all it should take, Mr. Skinner. Now going back to the alley, why didn’t you go to the police?”

“Because I went to the girl and felt for a pulse and I knew the cops would think I did it so I ran away.”

“You did it,” the marigolds said.

“You should have used your mind to stop it,” the thread said.

“Shut up!” I yelled.

“Excuse me, Mr. Skinner?” Brinson said.

“Nothing.”

“Why did you touch her, Mr. Skinner?”

“I thought maybe she was still alive.”

“Really?” Brinson said. “Couldn’t you see that her throat was slashed to the neck bone and that her midsection had been slashed from sternum to crotch and from left to right just under the rib cage and that all her organs lay about on the ground around her?”

I squirmed. “Well you never know. Medicine today is amazing.”

“Yes, it is. Tell me, Mr. Skinner, was she a pretty girl?”

“Stop her from getting in! You have to take control!” the preacher said.

I ignored him.

“Mr. Skinner?”

“Yes, she was very pretty.”

“Oh, that’s nice, Brinson said.”

“What kind of thing is that to say?” I looked very carefully at Brinson. She was up to something…

“It’s so nice to be pretty in this world of ugliness, don’t you think?”

This was blasphemous! “No!” I jumped up from my chair. I looked around and saw the cops had risen, too, poised to put me out of commission. I know I was making a mistake but I couldn’t let it ride. I sat down. “No,” I said calmly. “It’s not nice.”

“Squash her,” the preacher yelled, and the marigolds tittered in the background. “We told you,” the thread said.

“Why don’t you think that?” Brinson asked.

“What?”

“That it’s good to be pretty in this world? Don’t you think it could help balance the ugliness?”

No!” I couldn’t stand it any longer. “No I don’t. Nothing can balance it. Ugliness is all-pervasive!”

“But if you remove the beauty from the world it for sure doesn’t have a chance.”

“It’s too late,” I said. “Better that beauty leave here and go back to nothingness, to pool with other beauties and make their own world.”

“Traitor!” the preacher yelled at me.

I laughed. “I told you I was the New Jesus,” I yelled.

“The new Jesus?” Brinson said.

“I just want to touch them before they go,” I said.

“Why the marigolds?”

“They are the flower of the dead.”

“Why the gold thread?”

“It’s their sacred initiation to the joyous afterlife.”

“Why are you in a position to usher them out of this world?” Brinson said.

“For the love of God, save us both,” the preacher boomed.

“The task was given to me,” I said.

“By whom?” Brinson asked.

“By the spirit of the one that said…,” and I looked about the room, made sure all were seated and reverent, “‘It is not true, it is not true; That we came to live here; We came only to sleep, only to dream.’”

The preacher screamed, “Murderer!” and he raked down through my insides with his unholy claws, gutting me like he does his young girls and while I still could, I sprang to the desktop and bit with all my worth into the long cord of the ghastly blazing light.

Click to read Part Four of Four →

 

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Beginnings Chapter 3 – The Transference

Zebedee_640x409Green note: Mark Gardner started it on a 1949 Remington quiet-riter, D. Paul Angel picked it up and ran with it, and now that I’ve added my bit, the next chapter’s up for grabs. Any takers? Just leave a comment.

 

Gardner-Beginnings-3 photo Gardner-Beginnings-3.pngThe old man James was at the helm of the Zebedee, a scowl of command on his face. He squinted across the sea reading the water.

I kept my eyes on him.

He didn’t look like much, leathery and shrunken, one suspender keeping his oilskin pants up. But he was half predator, half fish, as old as the ocean, and as fierce.

Suddenly he stiffened, his eyes locked on a far off patch of water and he changed the trawler’s course for it.

I waited at the drum winch.

Down went the old man’s hand and I let the giant trawl net unreel from the stern, guided it out, and placed the doors in the water.

The old salt cut the power to 2 knots.

I had forty minutes to prep for the second haul of the day.

It’d been three years since I fell into the drink that first year, and all of this was clockwork now.

I looked at the old man, the sun glinting off beads of sea spray in his mess of white hair, an unlit cigar clenched between his teeth. He turned and gave me a quick nod of approval then away again to light up.

By now I didn’t need more than that. I knew how much I’d gained and grown, didn’t need anyone patting me on the back for it.

My muscles are adapted to moving heavy loads on a heaving deck as fast as possible, keeping the rhythm of the operation tight, and my mind is geared to tapping into reserves of strength I didn’t know I had.

It’s a primitive sense of survival that drives me, being at the mercy of the sea, knowing Death lurks at the elbow of every fisherman.

I fingered the coin in my pocket, the one the old salt had tossed me when I first signed on to this fateful tour of duty. He needed me for more than just my youth. What that was exactly, I couldn’t tell you, but I could feel it.

# # #

We cruised into Haifa Bay and docked at Joint Acre. I hauled our iced crates from the fish hold onto the deck and the cranes lifted them onto the dock.

Once paid and the Zebedee serviced and refueled, we headed to Marine Services to replenish our supplies.

Amidst the the noise of the dockyard, a man bellowed, “Zedekiah!”

I looked in the direction of the voice, saw another ancient soul like the old man James waving majestically from a table outside a pub on the promenade.

The old man shouted back, “Josiah!” and he ran to the man and hugged him like a long lost friend.

Zedekiah? I followed, confused as hell, stood a ways back from them like a third wheel.

Finally, the old man came to himself.

“Sorry,” he said. “Josiah, this strapping lad is my first mate, Steve.”

I cocked an eyebrow and shook hands with him.

“’James’ and I go way, way back, lad,” Josiah said.

I looked at the old man. He nodded.

“Pleased to meet you,” I said, still confused, defensive.

“Will you join me for a pint?” Josiah said.

“That would be splendid,” the old man said.

Splendid? What is with the old geezer I wondered.

The old man took me aside, said, “Lad, you go on to the marine supply and order everything we need to set sail tomorrow.”

This didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t begrudge my captain a good catching up with an old friend.

“Alright,” I said.

“Meet me back here when you’re done,” the old man said.

“Will do,” I said, and I took off.

I walked a ways and looked back. The two old men were on fire, talking back and forth, jovial at points, but mostly serious.

I walked on and stopped short of Marine Services and turned back, went up the hill off the path and down to the pub, and I found a place in the shadows where I could listen to their conversation.

“It’s the age-old quest, isn’t it?” the old man said. “To avert the destruction of a mindless people who couldn’t possibly make a right choice if it was written in the sky for all to see.”

“I suppose you could put it like that,” Josiah said.

“In our day,” the old man said, “The stakes were mere nations, the Master having three times destroyed the depraved generations of his peoples, and here we are, round four, seemingly the final round, the stakes being an entire world.

“True enough,” Josiah said. “But the prophets are spread thickly across the world and surely have found fertile ground among the needy and thinking peoples alike.”

“Ah but it won’t be enough, will it, Josiah? It never has been. The peoples are ever as whales that beach themselves, their radar has gone kaput. They were doomed then, they are doomed now.”

“It appears so, Zedekiah, but have you not received good reports from the other kings?”

“I wouldn’t call them good,” the old man said.

“Not even from Augustus?”

“No.”

“Cyrus?”

“Listen, Josiah, I fish the world’s seas, I’ve been to every viable port, communed with every king and prophet, and I’ve come away from it all with only an ounce of hope.”

“Even that is something, Zedekiah,” Josiah said. “We must keep our minds open to the possibility that the Master ultimately seeks to reverse his decision to damn the world.”

“The Master will not change his mind,” the old man said, heatedly. “It would be against his nature which has held true since the beginning of time.”

“Aye, but what of the lad?” Josiah said. “Is he not the chosen one?”

The old man looked away to the sea. “The kid?” he said.

“Yes, the lad Steve,” Josiah said impatiently. “Is he not being made ready to sacrifice?”

I drew a sharp breath. I wanted to bolt but made the wiser choice to stay put, hear them out, then do whatever might be called for.

“Aye,” the old man said. “But he is as a son to me…” He took a shaky breath in and sighed, long and labored. “I knew it would be that way when I first laid eyes on him…”

Josiah put a hand on the old man’s shoulder. He had a twinkle in his eyes. “Which is why you tossed him one of your kingdom’s coins, am I right, Zedekiah?”

The old man’s face flushed.

Josiah gave way to a hearty belly laugh.

“So, you sly fox,” Josiah said, “What your ‘ounce of hope’ for humanity really amounts to is all the hope in the world!”

Josiah shook with laughter again and the old man patiently endured it.

“Presumably the lad recognized your likeness on the coin?” Josiah said.

“Aye, he saw it right away.”

“Then he has but to receive the Ultimate Invincibility.”

“He is making quick progress.”

“But will he be ready in time?”

“He’ll be ready,” the old man said.

The coin began to get warm in my pocket of its own accord.  I touched it and felt tenfold the pull I’d felt the day the old man tossed it to me.  And now I knew why, knew what I had to do.

To be continued by the next destiny-writer…

 

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Sacred Threads and Marigolds (2 of 4)

STAIRWELL_640x

Click to read Part 1 of 4

In a nutshell, Part 1 sees our narrator, Skinner, witness the killing of a young girl by a street preacher who’s also a serial killer. To end the madness, Skinner follows the preacher with a plan to torture and kill him like he does his victims, but he ends up being led by the preacher to a confrontation in an abandoned apartment building. Here’s a lead-in followed by Part 2 of 4:

…“So, Skinner, our paths converge,” he yelled.

“What, not raping and killing today, ‘preacher’?” I yelled back.

“That’s your form of entertainment, not mine.”

“You lie! I saw what you did.”

“Of course you saw. You were the one doing it.”

“Deceiver!” I screamed at him. “You filthy, False Prophet, behold me, the New Jesus come to kill you and rule the New Day.”

The preacher roared with amusement. Nothing could be said or heard above it and I was forced to wait, to listen to what sounded like three or more tracks of the preacher’s laughter playing in my head at once.

“Fool!” the preacher thundered. “Compared to the False Prophet, your New Jesus construct is a pantywaist. The False Prophet is so deeply rooted in your mind that to kill him would be to kill yourself.”

I couldn’t think with the preacher circling round and round me with his sticky words, trying to bind me in a cocoon of confusion. I grasped at the first voice I heard in my head and blurted out, “I will subdue you then, cast you to the dungeon and reign supreme.”

“It makes no difference if I go from clocktower to dungeon,” the preacher countered. “You know I can get at you from wherever I am.”

“No you can’t.”

“Watch me.”

“I am the New Jesus, I will prevail,” I yelled.

“Come down and pick up this thread,” the preacher countered.

“What?”

“You heard me. Do it.”

“I don’t need it,” I said.

“You need to hide the evidence.”

“It isn’t mine.”

“You know it is.”

“No! I didn’t do anything.”

“You did, and they know about it.”

“You’re trying to trick me.”

“They know about you.”

“No.”

“They know what you did.”

“No, you did it.”

“They’re coming for you, you know that.”

“You killed them all,” I shouted.

“That’s a lie, and they’ll know if you lie.”

Suddenly it rose up in me like locusts out of the Abyss: the preacher was one of them!

“They’re coming to get you,” the preacher said. “And what are you going do about it?”

I wanted to escape my skin, to fly up the stairs, to find a way out, a fire escape, skylight, anything…

“I know what you’re thinking,” the preacher said.

Tapeworms were moving downward inside my legs.

“Are you just going stand there like an idiot and do nothing?

I looked down at my feet. The worms were spilling out my shoes.

“You must pick up this thread and run. Destroy it before they find you with it,” the preacher bellowed.

I half ran, half tripped down the stairs and snatched up the gilt thread. It screamed to be put down but I couldn’t and it burned in my hand until I jammed in into the pocket with the marigolds.

“Good,” the preacher said. “Now go.” And he stepped into the shadows.

I froze. I couldn’t go downstairs, not with him lurking there. He’d jump me, take me to the dungeon where he kills his victims… And then I felt a sick heat from above. Sweating and cringing, I leaned into the stairwell and looked up and there he was, several flights high, looking down at me.

He bellowed, “Go in peace,” then laughed hysterically, the echo of the highest notes stabbing down through the tunnel of stairs at me.

I nearly fell the rest of the way down the stairs but when my feet hit solid ground I dug in, just blasted through the door and ran for my life, down the first alley, then over and down entire blocks, zig-zagging willy-nilly like that until I ran out of breath in the back lot of a 7-11.

I bent over, hands on my knees, heaving for air.

“You can’t afford to stop, they’ll catch up with you,” I heard the preacher say.

My body jerked upright like the reflexive movement of a dead person. I spun around. The preacher was nowhere.

“It’s too late, Skinner, I’m in the clocktower.”

“Damn you,” I screamed at him and I ran for the 7-11 dumpster, fumbling inside my jacket for the marigolds and thread. They were burning my hand as I lifted the dumpster lid.

“No! Not there, you idiot,” the preacher shouted.

I lost my grip on the lid and it slammed back down. I froze, shaking like a jackhammer. As if I were being electrocuted, I couldn’t let go of the marigolds and thread and they were melting the skin of my hand. When it stopped, I just threw the whole smoldering mess down on the ground and I ran willy-nilly again.

“You worthless idiot,” the preacher yelled at me. “You’ve just condemned yourself.”

I could feel what was left of my power swirling round, picking up speed like water toward a drain.

“You’ve done it now,” the preacher said. “You hear those sirens? They’re headed this way.”

I gritted my teeth and tried to summon some power. I thought of the Trinity River. How could I have forgotten the blessed Trinity? I could wash the preacher’s vileness from me there, get another bottle from Elmer’s and drink him clean away…

“The police are getting out of their cruisers, coming for you, and it’s all your fault,” the preacher said.

I could hear yelling. I changed course for the river.

“You should have used your mind to stop them,” the preacher said.

I was flattened to the ground by a massive force.

“Stop them! You have to take control,” the preacher yelled.

I fought like a rabid dog, snapping at flying limbs and biting at faces that got too close and I spat and kicked through the yelling and pinning and the steel grips until everything went black.

Click to read Part Three of Four →

 

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Sacred Threads and Marigolds (1 of 4)

JTRT_640x_DarkYellowAlley

Green note, 10/10/14 : A glut of work like a gaggle of geese, organized chaos, sixty days and sixty nights, and what is there left to do but pretend everything is as it should be?  This story was composed in slashes of time to the tune of nearly 4000 words and is now chopped into four pieces so I can hang with the cool FF crowd again for a time.  Part One of Four follows:

I watched the preacher kill in the dull yellow light of an alley. A young girl, it was, in her teens, looked like. I got there too late. I watched him put a marigold in her mouth and walk away down the street. The mist that rose up from the pavement after the rain hid his feet like the picture I have in my mind of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee.

When the preacher faded away, I went to the girl. She was all mangled but I felt her neck for a pulse anyway. It was a crazy thing to do. As if I couldn’t help myself, to touch her still-warm skin, to look into her vacant eyes for an account of her life, to smell death on the marigold stitched in place by gold thread.

I rose, saddened. This was not the first time the preacher had killed a young girl and I’m largely to blame, having that knowledge and turning a blind eye, denying it again and again. But denials hide nothing in the end. The truth lies in the catacombs of the mind and the constant drip, drip, drip of it will eat a person alive.

I hurried away, down to the Trinity, and I washed off any associative sins in the rush of its Gulf-bound water. Dirty and wise, the Trinity, and I lay on the bank to dry, glad of her gurgling council. I dozed off for a time and awoke with a clear vision: the preacher would have to die.

I had no energy to leave the river but I needed a drink, so I walked up to Elmer’s on Riverfront for a fifth of whiskey and back down to the river. I sat on the bank and drank from the bottle until the shaking stopped and I could see every detail of the killing plan.

Tomorrow, after the preacher had finished evangelizing, I’d track him down, drag him to the dungeon and torture and kill him like he does his young girls. I would be the New Jesus and kill the False Prophet.

I poured the rest of the whiskey from the bottle into my flask, and I went into the Great Trinity Forest to imbibe the night and its sounds and prepare myself for the task.

The next afternoon I watched the preacher from my usual vantage point. He strode to the corner of North Lamar and San Jacinto wearing his game show face as a mask, swinging his iniquitous hands as if they were clean.

His hat and suit looked respectable, but they were sheep’s clothing. The gray, fresco fabric belied his falsehood, and pride and violence strained at the top button of his single-breasted jacket.

He planted himself in view of the movie house up the street and commenced to preaching a changed life. “Listen to me, peoples of the Earth, I am the New Prophet and I bring to you a chance to redeem the rest of the days of your lives!”

You are the ultimate deceiver, I thought, and I squinted at the unforgiving southern sun, praying for something as true as rain.

All that came was a stream of people from the 1p.m. matinee, the preacher’s daily bread. He beseeched them, “Brother, let me show you the saving light. Sister, do you want more out of life?”

A small crowd gathered quickly, same as yesterday and all the days before that, for this was a city ripe with desire for the infusion of a higher power it could bend to its will.

The preacher plied his crowd, began working them up to desperation for healing like a lynch mob for makeshift justice.

“Your sins are blocks to receiving good things, Brothers and Sisters. God can’t give if you can’t receive. If you’ve confessed your sins and are still blocked, I can unblock you, that’s the gift of the Spirit that I was given.”

When the crowd was at the height of holy frustration, he bellowed, “Now, I can only take one of y’all. It’s all I got in me, one healing per day. Who’s it gonna be?”

The crowd surged forward, a pool of menace suddenly, and amidst the pushing, I could see it was trying to purge itself of a young man in a business suit. He popped out before the preacher bawling for the Midas touch.

The preacher circled round and round him, incantating, and when he’d lulled the young man into complaisance, he clapped his huge hands once behind his head, like a gunshot, and the man dropped to the ground convulsing and blithering.

I waited for the rest of the routine to unfold, for the preacher to act spent, the man to rise anew, the benediction to be spoken, the money to be collected, and the preacher to go off for coffee and fellowship with an admiring young girl.

This time he went off by himself, a suspect deviation. He must be reading my mind, I thought. He knew I would follow him, that I plan to kill him. Fear scraped down the inside of me, left me pallid.

I watched the distance grow between me and the preacher. I guzzled some whiskey, wiped my shaky mouth. And in that perilous moment, I saw clearly that the preacher had merely parried with his best guess. It was an invitation to take this to the higher realm of mind power, a game the New Jesus would win.

I hightailed it after him down North Lamar and saw the gray tails of his suit jacket disappear onto Elm Street. I ran to take the turn myself just in time to see him jag left down North Market, then right on Main, left on Houston, and when I saw him cut onto Jackson Street I knew he was taking me to the dungeon.

I stopped just shy of the corner of Houston and Jackson and took a swig off my flask. So be it, I thought, and I sprang around the corner, saw the preacher disappear through a hole in the boarded-up door of the abandoned apartments where he takes his victims.

Seven seconds later I was through the hole and into the familiar, foul-smelling square space with rows of vandalized mailboxes and an open well staircase directly ahead. I could hear the preacher’s steps on the second flight of stairs.

I started up the first flight and midway heard something soft and rustling drop onto a landing above. I climbed until I saw it, a handful of marigolds secured with waxed STAIRWELLaban_320x_spiral-square-interior-staircasetissue paper and mossing twine.

I listened for the preacher. He was still climbing. I stashed the marigolds in my pocket and hurried on.

When I got to the second floor landing something hard dropped onto the landing just above me. It rolled and came to a stop.

I kept climbing and saw that it was a wooden spool of gilt thread. The False Prophet deserves thread as black as the pit of hell, I thought, not this. I stepped over it and at once became aware of silence.

I paused. Still no sound. I braced myself and pushed upward into the eerie quiet.

When I’d got to the fourth floor landing, I stopped again to listen: not a sound.

I leaned into the stairwell and looked up through the tunnel of stairs. Nothing.

And then it hit me. Sweat flooded my pores and froze on my skin, and I slowly turned to look down through the stairs and there he was, standing in the lobby in the center of the stairwell pointing a gun at me.

The adrenaline rush was incredible. I was thrown outside myself, watched in slow motion as I leapt back from the handrail, pressed my back to the stairwell wall, and slid down it like thick oil.

I lay pooled on the floor thinking I was alive, although I had no real idea how I was, but I was aware of an urgency to re-enter slow motion, to go back and alter fate.

“You left the thread untouched,” the preacher bellowed.

A rush of nausea swept through me. I felt clammy and on the verge of shitting or vomiting, I didn’t know which.

“Do you hear it?” the preacher hollered, “Your marigolds are crying for their sacred thread.”

A sick sweat came on fast and my and stomach heaved what little was in it out onto the landing. Strings of slime hung from my lips and I prayed to God to take this cup of suffering from me.

“Come to the rail where I can see you,” the preacher yelled.

I dragged the sleeve of my jacket across my lips and struggled to unscrew the lid from my flask. I took a desperate, long drink and tried to get myself together. Am I not the New Jesus come to kill this False Prophet?

“Show yourself,” the preacher shouted.

I got my knees under me and crawled to the handrail, pulled myself up. The preacher still had the gun trained on me. I trembled, waiting for the gunshot blackout, or worse, the burning wounding and bleeding-out of life.

“So, Skinner, our paths converge,” he yelled.

“What, not raping and killing today, ‘preacher’?” I yelled back.

“That’s your form of entertainment, not mine.”

“You lie! I saw what you did,” I said.

“Of course you saw. You were the one doing it.”

“Deceiver!” I screamed at him. “You filthy False Prophet, behold me, the New Jesus come to kill you and rule the New Day.”

The preacher roared with amusement. Nothing could be said or heard above it and I was forced to wait, to listen to what sounded like three or more tracks of the preacher’s laughter playing in my head at once.

“Fool!” the preacher thundered. “Compared to the False Prophet, your New Jesus construct is a pantywaist. The False Prophet is so deeply rooted in your mind that to kill him would be to kill yourself.”

I couldn’t think with the preacher circling round and round me with his sticky words, trying to bind me in a cocoon of confusion. I grasped at the first voice I heard in my head and blurted out, “I will subdue you then, cast you to the dungeon and reign supreme.”

“It makes no difference if I go from clocktower to dungeon,” the preacher countered. “You know I can get at you from wherever I am.”

“No you can’t.”

“Watch me.”

Click to read Part Two of Four →

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Wild West BS

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Image credit goes to Santa Fe Ghost and History Tours

Green note: this here’s for SS2 and FF. It’s one of the silliest things you’ll ever read. Its trifling existence is predicated on the avoidance of pressing on with a writing project involving an idea so good that I’ve become scared of it. Makes perfect sense…

 

It all went down at Persy’s Place. The regulars had been enjoying their usual late Saturday breakfasts and lunches that blended and didn’t end until happy hour. And at Persy’s, happy hour was set at 5pm and folks didn’t tamper with it, unless there was some dire need to start it up a tad early, but it was never late.

This particular Saturday, at 2:43pm, in the middle of some’s breakfasts and others’ lunches, a short man in a black fedora and trench coat busted in through the side door on the blaring rays of a hot Eldorado day. Everyone stopped chewing and watched the man.

The first thing he did was to set down a giant black briefcase that’d been tiring his right arm. Then he leaned back against the door, his chest heaving for lack of air and his eyes looking this way and that until they adjusted to the atmospheric light of Persy’s.

When his eyes found the bar, he yanked his briefcase up off the floor and made a beeline for the bartender, slapped some money down and ordered a shot of whiskey. Folks gasped and a buzz commenced.

The bartender stopped his glass-polishing and regarded the stranger. “Mighty early, ain’t it, mister?”

“Not today, it’s not,” the man said, “And please be quick about it.”

“See here now, happy hour technically don’t start ‘til 5.”

“Listen, sir, I’ll be on my way soon as I get that shot.”

“You ain’t no alcoholic is ya?”

“Look, I need the fortitude, I think I’m being followed, I picked up the wrong briefcase and—”

“Save it, brother, I gotcha covered,” the bartender said. He poured the man his shot and pushed it toward him, winked and said real low, “Sometimes I sneak me a little pick-me-up, too.”

No sooner than the man had downed his shot, the front door blasted open and the patrons sprang back in their seats as six, black-masked marauders rushed in. Their capes fluttering back behind them made them look like crows landing in a corn field.

The man dropped his shot glass and reached for the briefcase. One of the marauders shot the man’s hand and he snatched it to his chest and held it there, blood oozing onto his white shirt.

The patrons held their breath as the gears turned in the man’s head, torn as he was on risking his other hand trying to pick up the case and run with it or just plain running for his life. He chose the latter and ran for the side door with half the marauders after him.

The other half lunged for the briefcase and ended up shooting the lock off it, and there it was, the gleaming consignment of gold they’d been hired to collect for Narsis, master of the dark country.

Amidst the marauders’ cries of triumph came a round of gunshots from outside. The patrons jumped, some screamed, certain that the shots signaled the demise of the poor fedora man, and the swift return of the absent marauders confirmed it in their minds.

Two of the marauders quickly secured the case for travel and in the doing, a handful of the patrons were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the shining bars of gold. They oohed and ahhed as all six marauders made for the door in the same manner as they’d arrived, their capes flapping like skyward-sweeping crows mocking the landlocked with their caws.

Just as they’d reached the door it exploded inward knocking the first two marauders back and mowing down the others like Dominoes, and four gigantic Texas Rangers swept into Persy’s dressed in white hats, boots, dusters, and gloves.

The patrons watched the Rangers tear the marauders to pieces like great white gryphons and regain the treasure of gold that rightfully belonged to Eiron, king of the domain of light.

Three of the Rangers heaved two marauder bodies each around their thick necks and their commander took up the black briefcase. Then they marched in step toward the front door apologizing to the patrons who nodded impatiently.

Just as the patrons started to take stock of all that had happened, the front door was flung open again, and the white Rangers, now mostly red with marauder blood, backed into Persy’s as if they were on slow re-wind.

Some of the still-curious folks waited to see what was driving the Rangers back, but most of them were looking for a chance to leave uneventfully. Their food was an hour cold, it was too early for happy hour, and the predominant thought was to get out and redeem the Saturday.

The third Ranger was all in and the back of the commander could now be seen, then his arms, one of which still had the briefcase full of gold dangling from it. When he’d backed all the way in, the snarling chops of an enormous orange tiger came into view, its fangs dripping with drool. The patrons that had stood to leave, sat back down.

The tiger advanced low to the floor on monstrous paws, the great bones of its shoulders shifting stealthily, slowly, slowly until it sprang for the commander’s neck. The other three Rangers instantly ditched the dead marauders from their shoulders and went for their guns but couldn’t get a clear shot into the spinning ball of white flailing and orange mauling.

Once there was no life left in the commander, the tiger, desiring to take his kill to a secluded spot, dragged the commander’s body this way and that in frustration.

The bartender hollered from behind the bar, “Someone open a door for crissakes!”

“I got it,” Joe Beasley said since he was nearest the side door. He jumped up, propped the door open and hurried back to his table.

The tiger went toward the light with his kill and the three remaining Rangers, all in shock, picked up the dead marauders and the briefcase and followed after the tiger like zombies, mumbling apologies.

Joe got up, shut the door and just stood there wondering what to do.

“Well,” the bartender said, “It ain’t but 4:08pm, but I reckon an early happy hour is warranted.” He looked about the room, at the state of the patrons and hollered, “All drinks half-price!”

Anyone who was planning to leave shrugged, figured the day was shot anyway, and bellied up to the bar.

The bartender yelled, “Someone bolt the doors!” and flew into action.

“I got it,” Joe said.

Fin

 

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