By Your Hand

Imagine a woman. And not just in the abstract; see her in your mind. Her hair, the clothes she’s wearing, her jewellery and makeup, the colour of her eyes. But imagine more than her appearance, because people aren’t their features, not really. To do this properly, you have to ask the most important question: Who is she? What kind of person is she?

It helps to start nearer the beginning. First, imagine her childhood. Something ordinary, the type that’s sometimes happy and sometimes sad, that doesn’t have to lean heavily in either direction, at least at first glance. She had parents who were there for her, but not always. School friends and a pet turtle. There’s more to her story, of course, and we can make it interesting. Add some drama. That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it?

Perhaps she lost a relative when she was young. An uncle who started drinking after a crippling injury. Maybe that’s not enough, though. Spice that up with a dash of organized crime. He used to take her to the track as a little girl, let her lay a small bet on the prettiest horse. Put a smile on her face while he sold himself down the river.

The broken kneecaps lost him his job, but couldn’t stop him from hobbling to the edge of a railway overpass.

What kind of person is she now? Continue reading

Things That Used to be Safe

As a kid, Zero thought he hated dancing. Three times a week, during morning PE, he would have to line up with the rest of his class while the teacher played that same awful dancehall remix of “If I Were a Rich Man”–a joke at his expense that Zero didn’t understand until years later–and perform the steps exactly as dictated. Long, agonizing minutes during which the squeak of sneakers on hardwood overwhelmed drum and bass crackling from blown speakers, and all Zero could think about was how this cut into the time they could be spending on worthwhile activities like dodgeball and four square.

It wasn’t until near the end of middle school when Zero learned that dancing could be something more than the shuffling mimicry of line dancing. His first after-school dance also took place in the gym, the familiar space made nearly unrecognizable by disco lights and a rainbow cloud of balloons hanging overhead. When a classmate made the nervous trek to the usually off-limits boom box and placed his homemade CD in the tray, when the first driving chords of some boisterous pop song Zero didn’t recognize filled the room, he prepared himself for an evening of drudgery. But no teacher appeared to take the lead, and the other kids didn’t spread out to ensure they had enough distance between each other to prevent interference. Instead, they trickled onto the designated dance floor in small clumps of twos and threes and fours. Mostly the girls at first, but the boys followed. As Zero watched, they began to move in time to the music in ways he didn’t understand. There was no direction, only a rhythmic chaos, where nothing had a pattern yet everyone seemed to know what to do.

Milo, his best friend, grabbed Zero by the arm, pulling him away from the snack table. “Come on,” he said.

“I don’t know the steps,” shouted Zero. Continue reading

777

A flash-fiction piece for a tiny, last-minute contest. Entries were restricted to 777 words exactly, and had to be based on this prompt:

In accordance with the prophecy, everyone knew what to expect from the seventh son. What they failed to take into account was what the seventh daughter was capable of.

Predisposed to some classic genre tropes, which I usually try to resist, but I decided to give into that this time and put together a short scene. The basic premise of the knockout game comes from personal experience, as this was a real thing going around my school when I was younger. Lasted maybe a month at most, with the teachers eventually sitting us down and explaining the real risks involved in choking someone into unconsciousness. I’d like to think this was the dumbest thing we did, but kids will be kids.

Anyway, here it is. Continue reading

Living With It

The howl that woke Jules lingered in the cold stillness and empty shadows of his room like the fading echoes of the horns of the Apocalypse. Blinking, trying to hold the dream of emptiness as it fled through the haze of sleep, Jules sat up in the darkness. His mind remained caught on the source of the sound that woke him, focused now on the barks beating in through his closed window. It was the neighbour’s dog again. Sharp, red digits on his alarm clock told him it was hours after midnight and hours more till the sun rose. Three nights into this, he knew better than to hope the noise would stop anytime soon.

Pushing himself out of the overheated bed, Jules jabbed a clumsy hand toward his bedside lamp. A faint click and light spilled over the nearest corner of the room. Through squinting eyes, he saw the blank screen of his phone, the tiny white particles floating in the half-empty glass of water next to the bed, the broken spine of the book he’d fallen asleep to, and the uneven, moon-cast silhouette of the creature standing outside his window. Continue reading