Short Story

A Reluctant Queen; Part 4


As the music started, Wentelen stood and moved to meet her Father still seated at the head table, still enjoying the guests, the dancing, and the meal.

Bending over to him; "Father,". She whispered to him after kissing his cheek with a smirk disguised as a smile to not be obvious

"How can anyone so mistreat his servants as this?"

She was looking at and referring to Sir Alfred as she watched the scene in front of them.

A young boy no more than ten winters, hunched over at the shoulders with his head down. A cup-bearer in rags for clothes and of no weight and form for a child of his proper age. Showing marks from the abuse given him. She shuddered as she spoke to her father.

The child was a mosaic of abuse and neglect; "See how he treats the child?", she whispered to her father. "and, yet you ask me to marry him Father?"

"How would he treat me, Father?..."How?"

"It is chosen, Wentelen, the word was given", her father whispered

"Not by me Father", she told him. "I am of age and I do not agree!"

"I shall suffer the life with and burden of a Husband of my choice, and nothing more!"

The Duke a bit angered at her and her speech. "This choice Wentelen, is not given to you alone as my Daughter",

"It unites two lands, brings peace and harmony to us by agreement". "You are to become the next Queen of Saxony, you were chosen by "God", and King". Her father continued...

.."The choice was pre-destined for you at your birth. It was foretold, that You will marry and unite the lands. And that your sons will rule in the north. King Cwichelm, has already decreed this!".

"You will full-fill your "God" given right as Queen and marry the Son, the heir to the Anglo-Saxon King of the Gewisse, and live in the kingdom of Wessex"...without hesitancy my child"

"It is decided my Daughter, Rejoice in the life you have been given my child.", "it is your destiny in "God"....The Duke smiling at her.

"Now go and dance for me like you enjoy to, and make merry my daughter, this night is for you as well as I", he told her.

"God", "Has Blessed us both"...

Wentelen righted herself, turning away to enter the center floor with Frances. Joining the dance procession and began to promenade to the music in steps. She offered no resistance to her Fathers talk but would speak to her Uncle at first chance.

"Are you ok?", Frances asked her. "Quite", was her answer

As Alfred joined them in opposition to her position in the line to promenade.

Alfred, walking towards her, joining her in the dance. Reaching gently for her hand after the Duke signaled him to approach her.

"You honor me in this dance my Lady", he told her.

Wentelen holding a polite smile as she accepted his hand as they moved in line with the others in time to the music.

"I much prefer this dance with you to watching the servants", he told her. "I prefer that they stay away from the table"

"Perhaps", she answered him. "It would serve you better to feed them then starve them, they may respect you more!", Wentelen told him in softer voice to keep the conversation private and civil between them

'That is not your mind nor consideration!" he told her.

"They are my servants"

"Why do you allow yours to eat with you?"

"As you!", "That is my choice to make!", She told him as they turned and crossed hands to re-position and continue the promenade in the opposite direction, keeping step to the music.

"In time my Lady, you will come to know me and understand my way" He was explaining to her in a softer voice.

"I understand you now my Lord", "But I will not cower in fear nor place", " If I am to be a Queen I will not hold contempt for any husband unless it is made for me to be this", she said softly to him and without hesitation. "Our ways are but both ours to be known if this is to be true"

As the promenade opened crossing the floor. The women moving to the inside side- men to the outside, as the women touched palms and circled then returning to their partners once again in time to the music...

"At least you are talking!" Fracases told her

"Aye", "For this moment!", Wentelen told her in whisper. Fracases with a slight shake of the head towards her and a quick smirk of a smile between them...

Wentelen had seen Alfred several times before. At a younger age, in Dormangen in Wessex in the North. She knew him from their youth and had spend times together in chaperone.

She had not seen him in a couple of winters do to the Campaigns against the Norsemen. He was a striking man, always young in attitude and quite unfinished as any warrior in circumstance; Muscular with broad shoulders. Well formed in the legs with a face chiseled out of marble. Well matched to wearing the King's armor. With Curled long blond hair and blue eyes. Now a bit more weathered from battles and with a bit more age in his eyes than she remembered of him.

As she stepped to rejoin him, hand to hand, she was looking over at the young boy with the cup near Alfred's table trying to take a bit of food for himself...

"The poor child" she whispered...

Alfred immediately broke their hand hold moving quickly towards the Lad and away from the dance, with Wentelen following right behind him. He raised his arm to strike the child and she caught it stopping his hand.

"No!", she told him

"He is just a boy"..."He is only hungry"

"You have no right", Alfred snapped at her. :That is my Property not yours", "I can not bear to see them eat like beasts"

"This is not your concern", He snapped at her again in anger.

Wentelen, seeing his anger turn towards her immediately, she loosened a hidden fold in her gown bring forward a fine pointed sterling dagger as he lowered his hand to her, looking at her holding the dagger in hand.

"This is my servant", he shouted. His breath smelling hot of too much wine.

"You have no right to defy me", speaking in anger as he reached for her arm

"Release me!", she screamed at him.

The dagger looking lethal in her free hand, immediately ready to let fly and strike him. As both Gawain and his second stepped in to side with Wentelen against  Alfred, and stop any further trouble that was happening between them. While two of the servants immediately grabbed the boy ushering him away to the kitchen and out of sight of the trouble.

Alfred gathering himself looking at both her protectors, taking the measure of them both and the meaning of what just happened

"Discipline! My Lady", he told her. Smiling as he released his grip.

"No!" she told him. "You were about to strike me for feeding an innocent, a starving child", "I hate you!" she screamed at him.

"God gives a man the right to discipline a wife", he told her;

as she shoved him back and away from her.

Gawain, looking fiercely at Alfred, "you have no right to it, no claim to her" he told him.

"You have no say to it!" Alfred told him, "she is mine, my property!", As Gawain tightened his grip on the Clay-more still held in his sheath, not drawing it but waiting...

"I am not your wife", ", She told Alfred

" And He is the answer to my Prayer", Wentelen screaming it out loud for all in the hall to hear her.

" God", "Has not joined us Alfred", "and he never will"...

Wentelen, strong, defiant of Alfred as her Mother and Father moved up to be between them. The grand hall a buzz in whispers and some talk as to all that was happening...

"This viper has stuck himself in the middle of a matter of discipline between Wentelen and Myself" Alfred told the Duke.

"Stand down!" the Duke told Alfred

'She is not yours yet!" looking over at Wentelen.

"Take her away", he told the Duchess...

The Duchess looking at Frances. "Take her back to her chambers" she told Frances, she must rest of this matter".

Wentelen, looking back at her Gawain as both woman exited the grand Hall. The three men in conversation away from the other Guests near the hearth as the music resumed...

~Byrn BrynhilRus


@Daniella Nikolayeva; Short Story; Posted 1/21/2020

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A Blaze of Glory

“I think it got smaller today too.” The owl said.

“As the day before that.” The fox answered, “And tomorrow it will happen again”

No one remembers how long ago it started. The Sun started getting smaller each day, out of nowhere. The humans were scared the first time they noticed. Even some of their scientists went into bunkers, saying the world would freeze and that everyone would die. Others were in denial; telling people that while this was real, it would take a long time for the sun to die out and that everything would be fine. After a few months of everyone living in fear, not much changed. Well, not for the humans anyway. But we could feel it. We could feel in different parts of the world, how they began getting colder and colder. Our families, the other animals, were slowly dying. The humans thought they were so smart, they built special burrows to protect some of their kind. It is impressive really, how they can adapt to survive. But even more impressive the way they think that just by ignoring a problem, it will go away.

“What if it doesn’t?” The owl asked frightened, “what if it just disappears and everything ends?”

“Then that was the way it was intended” The fox responded.

“The humans think it won’t come to an end.”

“They never see an end to anything.”

“How is that possible?”

“They think that they know everything. That they are superior. Even when a disaster is their fault, they try to get rid of the blame, saying that it their actions were ‘necessary’ for the greater good.”

“Do they even care what happens to the planet?”

“No, as long as they are comfortable, they don’t even care what happens outside their own burrows.”

The owl got silent for a moment. He turned his head backwards to a human city. Some buildings new and shiny, higher than the older, destroyed ones. Even they don’t care about their old homes.

“What will happen to them?” the owl asked.

“The same thing that will happen to us”

“You think they won’t survive?”

“No one will” The fox answered her “even they have to understand that. Their cities won’t save them when the planet freezes and all life goes away.”

“It could happen tomorrow.”

“It could.” Said the fox, laying down while he started to close his eyes “If it doesn’t, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” said the owl, who shivered a little, looked at the starless sky and then closed her eyes as well. “see you tomorrow.”

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Lady Creole

I never drink on a Sunday, the Lord’s day, but for some inexplicable reason, today I take a swig from the amber bottle as soon as I leave the bed. Maybe it’s the passing of time, or the cracking bones, but today I feel the wig so heavy in my head, the makeup and fake lashes so corrosive, burning. Yet, even with all my hurts, I manage to brave the bright sunlight and blistering heat of the Crescent City. Pierced by the Mississippi, the town welcomes me like an old friend —familiar sights of city boys and girls wearing their Sunday’s best and the smell of beignets from the shops. I can see the young and old looking at me —the same funny look every day: pity, disgust, but with my head held high I make my way into St. Louis. Even in the good Lord’s house I can see them staring. They watch as I kiss His merciful feet and sit in the benches on my Sunday pink dress and pillbox hat.  They watch as I onto my bony knees and pray for forgiveness. But I wear my faith like a shawl, protective and strong against any evil eye —but not all are unkind. Some nod politely as I walk past their benches, and others even whisper a “Good morning Miss Dauphine” as I walk to the front of the church.
My bench rests in the middle of the parish, right under His glorious gaze as he hangs in the cross. At this hour of the day, if the summer sun shines right, the stained windows will colour his face into a million different tones, majestic and glowing. I can see the whole altar from this place, burning white with the priest in the center. Our light of holy guidance.
At night everything changes, everything becomes like burning incense, hazy, nauseating, suffocating. The bars, the clubs in Bourbon street, the dancing and drinking. I was made for this life but I don’t want it, I don’t remember who I was before today. I burned through it all, as I see the end so near, staring at me right in the face. But I know, next week it will all be the same, over and over again until the last fire inside these wrinkled, painted eyes, dies. I stare at myself one night in the mirror, and don’t recognize whatever it is that is staring back at me.

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A minute to remember

A minute to remember

By Pedro Gómez de la Garza

I was reading the newspaper, Nicholai Tibets (Russian) had won again. That would be his 49th fight and his 49th consecutive victory, he had been born to fight, or that´s what everyone says. He was the sensation at the time, everyone would talk about him. At just the age of 19 he had become the best boxer in the world. He had beaten all of his foes in the first round by knockout. No one could survive his ferocious fighting style.

I remember the first time I read about him, he had been boxing for just three years, but still he was at the top. How? Everyone was wondering, how could he beat all the professionals who had started fighting since they can remember? How? There was no answer, not even he knew the secret of his inhumane strength. Once in an interview, he said that every day since he set his goal, he had done 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats along running 10 miles each day. But that alone could not be. That simple exercise routine could not possibly be the secret of his strength. How could it be? Any normal teen could do it. So was he really born to fight? was he really meant to be the best in the world?

“Don´t waste too much time reading the newspaper Thomas,” my brother interrupted my thinking, “only three more pianists and it´s your turn.”

He was right, I needed to clear my mind, I had prepared myself for this moment, and it finally came. Hours and hours sitting next to the piano and now the time had come for me to show the results of my sweat and sacrifices. But I knew it was useless, there were too many extraordinary pianists in the competition; I could never be at their level. I was just and average pianist maybe even a mediocre one. After listening to the first participant I decided to get out of the hall, calm my nerves think about something else until my turn to play comes.

I left the newspaper on the chair I was sitting on and went out for a smoke. It was freezing outside, I knew I shouldn´t be smoking minutes before my turn but I needed it, although my hands would freeze and I wouldn´t be able to play. I started thinking again about Nicholai. I needed to think of something else than the perfect interpretation of the first pianist I heard. I was nervous, even with the cold, my hands were sweating; I could not play that way. After I finished the cigarette I went to the restroom so I could wet my hand in hot water and then dry them with that brown recycled paper they always use.

My parents always tell me how talented I am, and how gifted, but I know those words are not true, those words are just because I´m their son. “This is not a competition with others” I remembered my teacher saying those words, “this is a competition with yourself, just do your best and the results will come along.” Some loads of bullshit, if I´m not here for the first place, then what for?

I remembered when I understood Nicholai´s words in the interview. What he really wanted to say is that perseverance is the key to success. And so I started to play for two to three hours every day. But, could that be enough? I know the other pianists would play for eight hours every day, but I just could not do that. Was I lacking will force? Motivation? What?

“Michael! It is your turn,” my brother had always been there to support me. My parents had made so much effort to afford my private piano lessons, to buy me a new piano; I needed to reward them, but against so strong foes, how?

I entered the hall, and glanced at my teacher, she was excited. I walked to the piano, it was a Steinway for concerts, beautiful. With my left hand I touched the piano and bowed to the public and to the judges. There were four of them, two Russians, one Chinese and one American. I sat on the piano and concentrated. I felt hot, the hall was like an oven. I started playing.

I began with a prelude and fugue from Bach, one of the easiest, certainly not at the level of my fellow competitors. I went through it perfectly, better than always, I felt great. Then, it was time for my Beethoven sonata, I could feel the sweat of my forehead dropping to the piano and to my fingers making it more difficult to play, but finally I played my third and last piece and the most difficult one, a polonaise by Chopin.

I heard the clapping of the public and stand up, and I looked at the judges, the two Russians had a cold feelingless look in their eyes but the Chinese had a smile, I knew he had approved my Chopin.

The time for the judges to declare the winners came, I was so sure I was not in the first two, but I hoped for the third place or at least an honorable mention. They gave away the honorable mention, the third and the second place. It was all over.

“And the first place,” started the American judge is for, “… young pianist Ana Fedorova …” not me. I cannot describe what I felt, sorrow, regret, desperation, I don´t know. But the judged continued “and Michael Hall!”


What I felt that minute was worth remembering.

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Ridiculous riddle

An astonishing adventure of...

A band of brotherly bugs


"Creepy crawlers" the crowd called


Disheartened, dishonored deemed the disheveled.

Everyone eked as they exited the entryway.

For they were fearless fighting for freedom.


"Go! Get  out! Be gone!" they all gasped.


"How did this happen?"


It was instantaneously indeed.


"Just to jump" the critters jokingly jested.


"Kill the king!" the kid cackled.


Loudly laughing, luring them to the lake, to make him a meal for the mammoth big mouthed monster.


"Never!" Near our end, in our nautical nightmare.


Our orphaned oily selves, oh is our fate.

Plunged into the pleasantly cool pond to ponder.

Question? "Question what I ask"

Rid of our reality, it is our reality to reveal.

Snatched up by a snag of a sapling root.

Taken, tortured, torn into two.

Unearthed creatures with one purpose.

Valiantly trying to wiggle..wiggle..wiggle...

X marks the spot they yelled.


"Young one reel it in, we got one"


And that is what  I was, simply a worm with no real purpose.  

Only to be fish food for fun.

For the worm was no more..ZZZZ.

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The writer that had nothing to write about.

The writer that had nothing to write about.



There is this guy who calls himself a writer. He had never write about anything specifically. He usually took his pen and wrote, wrote, wrote. He wrote sentences or paragraph, on the bad times he would just write nonsense words.


Once he came by to a newspaper editor to request a job as a reporter and he was accepted, not because this was a good writer but because it was a not good newspaper.  He was there no for money, no for fame, just because he liked “writing” as he called it.


He wrote senseless pieces, as the report on a seagull crash, or the note on some poker player at a bar. Papers were printed once a week, and week after week he looked for the column he had been writing. He read it; he read it again, and again. Once he told a friend about his job but in special the reading part of his note. His work was writing, not reading.


If he was asked why he liked more reading than writing he answer that because as much as he read more he learned about himself. While he was fine with that nobody bothered him.


As the time went, the writer was a happy reader of himself. Maybe some other person that maybe used to buy all the newspaper on town and read them had maybe come to read his columns. But if he had readers or not he continued to write.


He once told his friend that writing is not to reading, as if they had some kind of proportion. Writing is to make things happen, he continued telling his friend, and reading is to learn what happened.


He never kept the paper, he would just read and dump it. He had no money, barely a bed, a piece of bread in his pocket. But he was a writer that was important enough to him.


The writer wrote about all he could, all he could imagine to happen. That was his magic and charm. He was crating a whole different view of things. The editor was happy to read his note, the light notes as he called them. Maybe is not worth telling that the newspaper was more like a scandal sheet.


There were other writers, real ones, writers that got a lot of money, had sport cars, went to Cancun for vacation and a lot of fancy things, he admired them but did not dare to be like them. He was happy with his situation.


The mystery about this man was how he made his living. As he said, by writing he made things happen. So in some incredible way he was able to live with that. He was a powerful writing magician.


I do not mean that he was an actual magician or that he workout magic, no way. But certain things did happen because he wrote about them.


Apparently a wealthy man read a news in which the writer was proposing an investment in some special bank account. The investor got 15% in profits out of that investment. The wealthy man was so happy to he decided to give the writer part of the money.


Another time he wrote a senseless article about ten reason why to buy a 1983 thunderbird, someone read it and buy the car. The seller asked the buyer who told him about the car, he told him he was convince by an article in the newspaper. The seller went to the writers office an offered him part of the revenue.


This was his way of leaving until newspaper was sold and the new owner just did not accept him. He told the writer that it was about time for him to go along to write somewhere else. So there he was, sitting next to me, pen on hand and thinking what to write about. He did not have something to write about.



 This story was written by Juan Pablo Estrada




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the light

The last thing Jim remembers is being hit in the back of the head, as he was walking down Arizona rd. last night as he was walking home. Now he’s in some kind of dessert, he feels his body really heavy, Jim is almost naked and has an incredible headache. Let’s think logic Jim thought, probably I was assaulted they take all my stuff and leave me here in the middle of nowhere, I better look for help. So Jim started walking through the dessert feeling how the heat touched his skin and feeling how he was getting more tired as every minute passed, when finally a highway appeared and didn’t seem much transited but a big truck appeared as Jim was giving the thumb up signal for a ride, the truck parked immediately in front of him. The driver of the truck was a tall white man, Jim asked for water as the driver took out a little bottle of fresh water down his seat, then Jim asked for his name he simply said “My friends call me Doc”,  apparently Doc was not much as a talker he didn’t answered the consequent questions that Jim popped out, and also seemed strange that he didn’t ask anything about the almost naked man he had just picked up in the middle of the dessert, maybe it’s more common that what I think Jim said. Jimmy was staring at the view outside the window, he didn’t know where he was nor where he was going but he felt kind of safe with Doc, he seemed like a good person an anything was better than dying in the dessert. Suddenly in the distance Jim sees a tunnel that cross a mountain down the middle, something happened, the sky turned black as they were approaching the tunnel, lightings and heavy rain started falling down the sky and he could not see anything beside the highway they were and the tunnel approaching, Doc started stepping on the gas, as he started screaming “Come on! Come on!”, the black color that was covering the sides of the highway started moving like they were chasing the truck, and at the same time the tunnel started seemed to be getting smaller and smaller, Doc was screaming louder every time, and Jimmy had never been so scared in his life, he covered his eyes even though he wanted to see if they would make it or not into the tunnel, then complete darkness. Jim though he was dead but when he opened his eyes he saw he was inside of the tunnel and Doc was saying “We are good, we are good”, then he saw a light at the end of the tunnel, what a cliché he thought and then as they get out of the tunnel something changes, Jim is still seeing a bright light but now he realizes he’s lay down and that bright light comes from a lamp, the kind is used in hospital surgery  rooms, he cannot move his arms neither his legs, it seems like are tied up, he feels something inside his throat and nose,  he starts feeling panic he wants to scape,  but then he hears a familiar voice, Doc’s voice saying  “Calm down kid, everything is all right, you did it”.

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And Your Veins, They're Not Fables

Short Stories

   I look up at the sun; I can feel my face turn bright red.  I wipe my sweaty hair away from my forehead with my arm; it’s too hairy for a girl. I step away. I look at the dog house I made. I didn't need to make it; we don’t even have a dog. My ma made me go outside because she doesn't want me to see how much she drinks.

   I walk to the middle of the yard and sit down. I take my hammer and a left over nail and hammer it into the dirt. That's all we have in our yard. Dirt. Most people have grass and a garden and a fence to keep all their childrens in. All we have is dirt and dust and a metal gate that stabs your hands and legs if you try and climb over it. I run my thumb over a scar on my leg. I keep hammering the nail into the ground, taking it out and startin’ over. I hit my thumb with the hammer.

     "Damn," I throw it away from me and spit at it; it lands near the gate. A man is standing there. His skin is dark.

     "You alright?" He says to me. "I saw you hit your thumb with that hammer, there."

     "I'm fine," I say.

   He pushes the gate open and walks towards me.

     "Are you sure?" He says. He squats in front of me and takes my hand in his.

   I nod and take my hand away from him. He smiles at me.

  I hear the screen door with no screen in it open up.  It's my ma, in her dressing gown with a glass of something.

     "Hiya," the man says.

     "Hello there," my ma says. She loosens the tie on her dress and presses the glass up to her neck.

     "How old are ya, boy?"

     "20." He stands up. "How old are you?"

   I laugh once. He looks down at me.

   My ma raises her drawn on eyebrows and closes the collar of her dress.

   He holds his big hand out for me to take. I take it. I get up.

     "I'm Heathcliffe," he says.

     "What kind of nigga has the name Heathcliffe?" I ask him.

He shrugs. "I do." He turns away from me and walks back towards the gate.

     "I'm Lowery," I say to Heathcliffe as he closes the gate.

     "Nice to meet you ma'am." He tips his hat. I walk inside.

     "What did he say to you?" My ma asks.




   I crawl inside the dog house I made. My dress snags on a nail I didn’t hammer in all the way. I see a pair of legs walk in front of the dog house hole. They’re a man’s legs.


     “It’s me, Heathcliffe.”

   I crawl out from the doghouse. Heathcliffe is holdin’ paint cans.

     “I got you some paint for that there dog house.” He holds the two cans out to me.

     “Set ‘em down over there.” I say and point my tool box.  I put my hair back over my ears. I don’t want him to see how red they are. My back is facin’ the house. I hear behind me the door open and slam shut.

     “Yoohoo! Heathcliffe, is that you?”

     “Yes ma’am it’s me.” He tips his hat.

     “Heathcliffe dear, I was wondrin’ if you know how to fix a broken sofa. The leg on ours’ come off.” She leans up against the doorway.

     “Why yes I do ma’am. I can fix that no trouble.” He looks at me and then walks for the house, taking off his dirty hat.

I get into the house last.

     “Heathcliffe sweat heart, could you fix the sofa outside?”

     “Outside, Miss? It’s awfully hot.”

     “You’ll be fine. I’ll even make you some lemonade.” She smiles at him.

     “Alright ma’am.” He nods and drags the sofa out the door.

   My ma sits down by the kitchen window to watch Heathcliffe.

     “Make him some lemonade, will ya?”

     “He’s got tattoos, sweet mercy.” I hear my ma say.

I walk over to the window and look. Sure as Hell he does. They’re nice ones too.

     “I hate tattoos.” She sips her drink.

I smile.


Ma keeps findin’ odd jobs for him to do around the house, mostly outside.

   I go outside to Heathecliffe to take him a cup of lemonade.

     “You don’t have to do this ya know.” I say.  I thrust the cup at him.

     “I know, but I wanna.”


He doesn’t answer me but I see him smiling.

     “Hey, you know, I’ve been thinkin…since I first met you.” I cross my arms.

     “What about?” He says without looking at me.

     “Your tattoos.”

He straightens up. He turns around and smiles at me.

     “I want some.”

     “Do ya?”

I nod. I know he’s gonna laugh at me and tell me girls shouldn’t get tattoos. My mama always says you can’t catch a man if you got tattoos.

     “You got any money?”

     “Yeah, I got some. Not much. I could take some from my ma.”

     “You get a holda’ that money, and I’ll take you to a man; the same one who done this mess to me.” He moves his hand all over the places with tattoos.

     “I like ‘em.”

     “Thank you. So whad’ya say?”

I nod.

     “I’ll come by your place first and we can walk togetha’” he says to me as I walk away.

     “No, I can’t be seen with a nigga in public. Just tell me where it’s at.”

     “Sure thing ma’am.” He usually smiles when he calls me ma’am. He didn’t. I feel sick. I frown at myself.

As I walk inside I see my ma standing at the window, stirin’ her drink.


   I hear the radio announcer’s voice ramblin’ on. I keep lookin through the crack in the door to make sure ma isn’t coming this way. I finally find my ma’s emergency money. It’s not a big wad but it’s enough.  I leave her room.

     “I’ll be at Christine’s,” I say. I walk out the door, slamming the screen.

 I walk into town and I see Heathcliffe sittin’ on the sidewalk edge.

     “Hiya,” I say. I smile.

     “Ready?” He gets up, pattin’ his thighs. I nod. “Where you gon get it?” He looks me up ‘n’ down.

     “My side.” I start walkin’ towards the building.

     “Whatd’ya want?” He opens the door.

     “Virgin Mary shavin’ off all her hair.” I walk inside. Heathcliffe laughs hard.

     “Where in the hell did you get that idea?”

I shrug. “I had a dream ‘bout it.”

He laughs again.

     “Does it hurt much?” I feel sick.

    “Yes,” he says.

     “Oh.” I sit down.

A man walks out from the back.


Nothin’. I don’t feel a damned thing. Heathcliffe walks up from behind me and slaps me on my back.

     “That hurt.”


We walk home. I’m holding his hand. I don’t care who sees me with a nigger. My ma sees us through the window. She walks out the door and walks up to him and I. She never leaves the house.

     “What were you two doin’ might I ask?”

     “I got a tattoo.” I walk right on past her.

     “You did what?”

I lift my dress up. Heathcliffe can see my panties.

     “Put your dress down, child!” She slaps me. She grabs my wrist and drags me to the house. “I knew being friends with a nigga was a bad idea. Go home,” she says to Heathcliffe.

     “No ma’am.”

    “Excuse me?”


I turn ‘round.


     “Wanna eat with my folks?”

     “Sure.” I shrug.

     “You’re not goin’ nowhere, Lowery.” She digs into my shoulder with her fingernails.

     “Yes I am and you can’t do a damn thing about it.”

  I walk away from her. I grab Heathcliffe’s hand and walk out the gate; it doesn’t close behind me because it’s too rusted. 

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Spirit Whale


From nothing there came to be a whale made of light at my open palm. The furthest tip of his great, glowing fin followed the shaky rising and falling of my forearm. I stood, poised in some absurd pose; my free hand dangling at level with my thigh. For a moment, thought eluded me.



He was disinterested in moving, though he whined all the same. A sound bellowed from him that was like a thousand trains braking simultaneously. It washed over me, and my hearing failed. My vision blurred but my legs retained their strength. I closed my eyes.



Releasing all the breath I had been holding back these last moments; I sighed and pulled my arm from the air. Before my first backward step touched down I was blasted by a sudden and massive gust of air. As I tumbled down, I caught brief sight of the whale's back end – his fin rising and falling with an unexpected and vibrant ferocity.



I twisted my body as best I could while airborne and landed with a jarring thud on the grass, rolling side-over-side before settling gracelessly in a fetal position at the base of the hill. Pain flared in my chest and upper back, and I waited for the air to return to my lungs. The ground shook and quaked beneath me. From over the crest of the hill I could see a wavering blue light, fading slowly with each passing moment. The whale gave its shrill cry, but its distance gave it a shimmering, almost ethereal quality.






I coughed, throat both dry and hoarse. No serious pain. I could walk, I was sure of it. So I tried.


I lifted my right arm and planted my hand on the ground, pressing into my knee and forcing my body upright. Each exertion brought additional aches, but none of them felt debilitating. Once at my feet, I began a slow, trudging march up the sloping hillside. Its peak overlooked a small canyon; thin at its middle but stretching for miles in both directions. The floor of this canyon was riddled with the bones of wayward men and wandering creatures.



On the other side of this treacherous rift in the land, there stood an altar to a legendary dark lord. Though said to only be a fairly tale, some believe the dark lord once existed, and that his spirit will still commune with worthy disciples. Some, like the nefarious priest Izak'Yami, even wished to summon the spirit and give him physical form, so that he may rule over the planet – and so that darkness may reign over light, forever. He was said to be crazy, and was cast out of his village for preaching the word of his blasphemous deity.



In front of the altar, Izak'Yami chanted with the whites of his eyes flaring from beneath his ceremonial hood. A ring of swirling gray clouds had formed over the chiseled obelisk as the haggard priest threw his hands towards the sky, uttering words unknown to humankind, save for Izak'Yami himself. Thunder rolled from the halo of storm clouds growing fatter and blacker over his head.



All seemed lost.



Each clumsy step I made shook my vision as I clambered towards the cliff's edge. I felt tired, hungry, empty; running on fumes and absentminded determination to see what would transpire across the canyon way. A silky, singsong voice unfolded in my head and spoke;


“Fear not, Ken. This is what I was meant to do. This is the only thing I can do.”



I felt tears sting my eyes, and I replied, my thoughts quickly spilling into frantic words;



“Spirit Whale, NO! You don't have to do this! We can find you something else! I know we can!” I cried out to him, feeling his presence shrinking away. I tried to increase my pace, but my body was giving in to exhaustion. If I pushed myself too hard, my legs might give out – leaving me stranded to helplessly look on as the world became ruled by shadows. Forever.



“There's nothing else, Ken – let's not kid each other. I've looked and looked; online, in person, even dialing random numbers from the yellow pages like some kind of stalker with short-term memory loss. I'm a Spirit Whale, Ken. I don't even have any hands.”



I felt the corners of my mouth draw down. I tried to sound concerned instead of annoyed;



“You didn't even contact the lady from that temp. office I told you about last month! She got me my job at the office, and you didn't even call her! YOU DIDN'T CALL HER, SPIRIT WHALE!”



I sobbed and snorted, at last coming level with the crest of the hill. Far into the distance I spotted a flickering blue light, gliding at high speed as its massive tail fin rose and fell in steady, glacial sweeps. I heard the echo of its cry bounding against the cliff sides that spanned between us.



Its husky and thunderous voice exploded into my thoughts;



“I DON'T HAVE ANY GOD DAMN HANDS, KEEEEEN. WHAT WOULD THEY NEED ME FOR AT AN OFFICE, KEEEEEEEEN? KEEEEEEEEEEEEEE....” The droning of the Spirit Whale's inner voice was like a loose propeller blade in my skull. I gritted my teeth and squinted against its simpering excuses as it rushed to meet the horizon, valiantly seeking to prevent eternal suffering for all of mankind. Forever.



A great and poisonous storm was gathering in the sky over the dark lord's altar. Even at my distance, I could see it growing and undulating and piling over top of itself. If Spirit Whale could not carry himself to the dark lord's altar in time, all would be lost.


All would be lost. Forever.



“Is that why, Spirit Whale? Is that why you NEVER did anything in return for all the time I let you stay in my tub? I STUCK UP FOR YOU! When Claire tried to get me to kick you out, I said 'Hell no!' I said it for you, Spirit Whale! I SAID IT FOR YOU!”



A column of white light erupted from the ground at the base of the altar.



Faintly, I could hear a frightening sound, steadily growing in volume. It grew to a terrifying clatter as the ground beneath me rumbled and pulsed violently. A shockwave of force passed over and through me, flattening my damaged body and pressing me into the shifting, gurgling dirt below. I felt the flesh on my cheeks ripple comically, as if I had been sat in front of a giant fan and strapped to a folding chair. My eyelids seemed to flutter with each wave of pressure.






I saw the sky in uproar over me. Colors ran through it like living segments of a rainbow, straying away from their formation. Lights of every perceivable color flared and dimmed spontaneously, while entire sections of the stratosphere erupted into intricate, swirling patterns that upon second glance were not actually patterns at all. There seemed to be a million new forms of life interacting with each other between earth and heaven, and now they danced as if celebrating their liberation from whatever had concealed them.



But I could not marvel, for my thoughts stayed with the Spirit Whale, as he made his noble bid for man's continued survival.






The ground ceased its shuddering. I my felt torso inflating with a hundred bruised and inflamed muscles. My face was wet with tears and smeared with uprooted dirt.



A strange warmth settled over me like an invisible blanket. I forced my eyes to open and saw the chaos unfolding just over my sprawled frame. The streaking colors bled and left swathes of themselves behind, the lights grew chaotic and searing in their brightness, and the mystifying shapes shattered apart, throwing pointed shards in all directions. I felt a sweeping sense of awe instill itself in me. My eyes grew wide, glossy, and unfocused.



Through my trance-like state, I heard Spirit Whale call out in his final moments;



“KEEEEEEEEN. ALL THIS TIME TOGETHER – ALL THE ADVENTURES WE WENT ON AS A DUO... I THOUGHT YOU WOULD LEARN TO UNDERSTAND, KEEEEEEEEEN...” The Spirit Whale cried forlornly. His inner voice was growing softer – it seemed to swirl inside of my consciousness, as if trying desperately to grab hold somewhere. I shook my head from left to right.



“What, Spirit Whale? What did you think I would understand!?”



I felt his presence in my mind weaken and dim; heard his hoarse inner breathing, and was given pause, wondering why he would need to br-






A bubble of light and warmth broke inside of me, flooding from my gut into my extremities. I let the last of my tears drip from the corners of my eyes. I sighed dejectedly, feeling stale dirt exit from my nostrils. With what remained of my strength, I cried out to my oldest companion and friend;






Through my fading vision I could see the sky becoming clear and returning to its typical, boring shade of blue. There were no clouds to block my ailing view of it.



Darkness had been quashed by the Spirit Whale, who cried out, as he faded into oblivion;







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