You Don’t Bring Me Dead Things Anymore

So this weeks flash fiction challenge is a continuation from last weeks title challenge.

Chuck has picked 13 titles from the more than 300 entries, and the challenge is to pick one and write a story to go with the title.

I picked ‘You Don’t Bring Me Dead Things Anymore’ by Chantal Nair, and the resulting… story?… monologue?… clocked in around 640 words.

You Don’t Bring Me Dead Things Anymore

By Trine Toft Schmidt

Once you adorned my brow in gold, painted my eyes black and bathed my hands in blood. Once you sacrificed on my altar.

You came to me, your guilt as plain to see as the moon in the sky. You knelt before me, brought me your sacrifices, a lamb, a goat, the carcass of a chicken if you had no more, the tear bathed corpses of your children if you had even less.

You worshiped what I was, even though you never gave me a name. I was the cow you stole, the wife you beat, the child you raped or the man you murdered. You came to me with your sins and bathed my hands in your blood. You gave me the power that still flutters inside of me. Your guilt and shame was my air. Your blood, my food. All you wanted in return was the cathartic release as you kissed my cold lips, and sucked the black air from my stony lungs.

But you let new gods in to take my place. Gods of light and forgiving. Gods that demand no blood. Gods that were strangers in our lands, grew and grew, and you built them temples and altars.

You pulled down my beautiful dark temple when you needed stone for those altars. And when you needed to fill the howling holes in your children’s stomachs, you didn’t come to lay the fattened calf before me any longer. When your guilt grew too large to hold, you turned to your new light gods and thought yourselves blessed.

You have left me forgotten in a sprawl of haphazardly built clay, shit and straw buildings. Nowhere is the gold of my brow, nowhere is the black of my eyes and the red of my hands. I thirst for blood, but am forced live off the dead that casually falls to me, the leaves, the rotten garbage that collects around my feet, the hollow corpses of mice that die in the hole in my chest where you once lit the black light.

You’ve forgotten the things you once did in my honor. The slaves that you bled on the Festival of Night, the mewling babes you slaughtered for your release. I see it in the carefree tilt of your heads when you pass, and the laughter that is not silenced in respect, when you touch upon the blackened earth around me. You have forgotten me. I am just another relic of the times before civilization, before order was restored and peace fell on these lands. You claim to have forgotten what I am. Once you took my powers for granted, now you doubt them. You shake your head and think yourself foolish for your old savagery. You swallow your sins instead of giving them to me. You turn your head up instead of down.

But I know you.

I see the guilt and shame that festers inside of you. You still paint the black eyes on your forehead on the Festival of Night, you still kneel before each animal you carelessly slaughter. You wash your hands in blood. You may think nothing of these rituals, but you have forgotten that they were once done in my honor. They feed my power, the black, fierce, terrible power that once led you to my altar.

The power flutters in my fingers, like the wings of ravens and in the darkened hole where you once placed the black light, an ember burns, small but steadily. I will make you remember me once more. I will cast off my mantle of stone and I will rise above you, I will take the lives you owe, and absolve the pain you have forgotten to feel.

You don’t bring me dead things anymore. So I will bring them to you.

 

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Being a good girl

And how I hate it!

I don’t think my parents set out to produce a shy introverted doormat daughter, with self-esteem issues, but that is how I turned out. I emerged from my childhood, a good girl. I was always nice to people, I never said no. I was a living doormat for bullies and friends alike.

My father had quite a temper, and I was actually pretty scared of him. It probably didn’t make things better that my mother used him as a scare tactic if we misbehaved. “Just you wait until dad comes home.”

One thing that got my dad in the red zone was if my sister and I fought, and being sisters, close in age, room mates and very different people, we fought a lot. Loud shouting matches that escalated in pitch and fervor. If you have siblings you probably know what I am talking about. Dad would come storming into our room, his large body taking up the doorway, his eyes half-wild with frustrated rage, movements harsh and rough and he would shout us down, threatening all sorts of punishments if we didn’t stop immidiately, I learned to be afraid of a raised voice. To this day I shut down when people yell at me.

Another one of my dad’s legacies is that I don’t know how to express my anger very well. I get mad at people. I suck it up and turn it inward. For years and years I let people convince me I was wrong. All they had to do was say, you are wrong, because bla bla bla, I would nod my head, think: OK, that is probably true. And that was it. I offered no resistance. I never stood up for myself, I was convinced that they were right, I was wrong.

Over the last few years I have worked to teach myself, that being me does not equal TOTAL SUCKINESS. I have gotten better. My first “victory”, was telling a dude to mind his own business when he made a rather rude comment at a McDonalds. Not exactly me going ape-shit, but it still sticks in my mind. Speaking out, to defend myself, to show my anger in even the smallest way, in public, is worse than dying. It draws attention I very much need to be diverted elsewhere. So giving in to my anger was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

It still takes a lot to push me so far, that I will actually tell you that you have angered me in some way. But I do manage now and again. Preferably in an email.

Then a few weeks ago, I realized that yes, while I am slowly getting better at letting people know they’ve angered or hurt me, there are other things to learn besides getting angry and stand up for myself.

There was a thing with the evening shift leaving their crap lying around for the day shift to clean up. I got mad enough about it and took to the computer to a little letter for the guy in charge of the evening shift. I attached three or four pictures showing what I thought they’d done wrong according to our safety regulations and told him to take it up with his people. I hit send and dealt with my stomach that is the all time receptacle for all my insecurities and anxieties.

Next day there was a reply waiting for me. A few half-assed explanations and probably 10-12 pictures attached to it. The guy I had “told off” had taken time off from his duties to walk to our department to snap pictures here and there of things we hadn’t done very well. I could feel his smug self righteousness all over those images. They were the pixelated equivalent of a huge royal FUCK YOU BITCH.

I read the email and felt chastised. I internalized and regretted. Why had I sent off an email like that when we as a shift were no better? I discussed it with myself a lot that day, I still pick up the thought and try and get my head around it. This is the way I always react, I get mad, I react, I start to doubt myself.

While I saw the reply as a lifted finger of reproach, my boss and co-workers saw it differently.

“Pfft,” one said, “how childish can you get?”

Another one just shook her head in an Yeah-what’d-you-expect kind of way. And my boss just laughed at the reply, not looking too surprised. None of them took the reply serious, in fact they did the opposite, they rolled their eyes and hmmphed, they laughed him off, they got a little angry.

And it astounds me. That you can actually take a finger pointed at you and then laugh it off. That you can actually hold on to your anger/disapproval and not turn it inward. How can you be so sure that you are right that a pointed finger does not sway you in the least?

I really need to learn how to do that, I need to learn to take off the good girl cloak I am hiding under and start to accept that I have an side to me that get angry, and that I might actually be right in being angry.

 

Blackbirds…

…is the name of a book by Chuck Wendig that I just finished yesterday. I cannot recommend it enough. I’ve spent every spare minute I could carve out of these past few days, immersed in the story of Miriam who is many kinds of fucked up, and who just happens to know when and how you will die, if your skin touches hers.

The beautiful cover of Blackbirds
The beautiful cover of Blackbirds

 

Blackbirds is like a gritty roadmovie on steriods, with Miriam as the atypical swearing, drinking and chain smoking heroine. When she has two chance meetings, one with Louis the truckdriver and one with Ashley the con-man, things get even more fucked up, and Miriam is mixed up in things, terrible things that are even worse than watching people die so she can steal their cash.

Blackbirds does not blink, flinch or back down. It is relentless, fastpaced and dark. And it is extremely entertaining and hilarious. Even the bits that are wince-inducingly violent.

So run along. Go to amazon, kobo, your local book pusher, whereever. Just go plonk down your hard earned cash and strap in.

Enjoy the ride..

 

Flash Fiction # 4

Revenge

By Trine Toft Schmidt

 

Max sat amongst the dead, whistling to herself. Blue and orange clad bodies littered the road, the smell of blood was heavy in the air and flies were already buzzing around her.

But Max minded none of it. She was busy cleaning the bloodstained handle of her battle axe, using the torn cape of a young soldier, who had lost his head in a rather unfortunate run-in with the same axe. Her ear was still ringing with the sounds of clashing metal and the death cries of the men around her, but her heart had stopped racing.

She smiled and lithely unfolded from her cross-legged position and slipped the axe into its holster on her back. She made sure she still had the satchel with her and then she stepped over the headless soldier and started to walk away. Her job was done, her bulging satchel would soon be empty and she would be one debt poorer.

She cast a last look back. The queen was still alive, her chest was rising shallowly with breath. Her gray silk dress was black with blood, but she would live. On Commander Alax’s orders. But she had left her mark.  The queen could well live with only one ear but it made wearing a crown difficult. Max rubbed the ridge of skin where her left ear had once been and smiled again. Killing two birds with one stone. Paying her debt to King Davion and getting her revenge.

The sky was tinged with gold and birds were calling out in the chill morning air when the pillars of Lancashire Pass came into view. Max was exhausted, her feet sore and her knee burning where she fallen on a stone, diving for cover when a messenger had barreled past her on a wheezing horse. But she would not slow down, not until she was on the other side of the pass, and had found suitable cover. The road was empty, but it would soon change, now that the sun was rising. On the other side of the pass King Davion’s army would be waiting, holding its breath for the war that until now had seemed inescapable. There was no need to be seen by them, when they marched down this road toward the Queen Catiana’s army. Being alone on the road meant speed and stealth, but it also made you vulnerable to the battle hungry men even if you could fend very well for yourself. She picked up her pace and kept her eyes on the pillars growing taller and taller ahead of her.

The sun had cleared the horizon and far below her soldiers were kicking dust clouds into the still air, already on the march up the western rim road, when she spotted a crevice in the dark brown rock. A spearhead shaped stone tilted in front of a dark hole twenty feet above her. A narrow path, barely visible in the rubble, lead up to the crevice. The cave was probably home to a mountain cat, but with all the traffic on the road it had surely retreated temporarily to other hunting grounds. Without hesitation she turned off the road and made her way upwards.

The cave was indeed empty and Max fell asleep with the reek of rotting flesh and the musky spray of mountain cat in her nose. Her hand was clenched around her knife and her axe lay right by her head. The satchel was tucked under her head as a pillow, the cube cutting into the back of her neck. It was not comfortable, but it would suffice.

When she woke the road below her was ringing with the feet of hundreds of men. Some were singing and talking, but most were grunting with effort and nerves. The Middle Kingdom had not been to war in five hundred passes and the army was barely more than a gathering of farm boys. The only practical experience a Middle Kingdom soldier was likely to get was if he was stationed in the border towns along the rims. And with five hundred years of peace even that amounted to less than nothing when the experienced army of Queen Catiana decided to beat down upon you.

Max massaged the nub of her ear absentmindedly. Having been a slave soldier for the queen had given her skills not many Middle Kingdom men had, the loss of half her hearing only a small part of the price it had cost. Being rescued from the queen’s clutches had given her freedom, but had also presented her with another price to pay,  to commander Alax, but also to King Davion. A price she was well on her way to repay with what was in her satchel.

She pulled the satchel closer and looked inside. She had not allowed herself time to think about the cube before, she had just twisted it from the queen’s hands and stowed it away, but now she pulled it out and examined it, holding her breath. But it was nothing special. Just a piece of black rock. The slumbering stone dragons of the Middle Kingdom had been enough to deter the rim kings and queens for years beyond count, and that this little black thing was enough to tip the scales enough to favor anyone seemed impossible.

Max held the rock up toward the sliver of light that cut in from the cave opening. Nothing shined from within. She held it to her ear, but nothing hummed or sang within it either. It was just a cube of stone. And for this she had slain a dozen men? She shook her head and stuffed the cube back into the satchel. But then she allowed a grin to break through her frown. She had killed a dozen men AND cut off the queen’s ear. Who cared about the power of objects when the power of revenge was so satisfying?

Delta Machine

So the new Depeche Mode album Delta Machine (I am talking about the Deluxe Version) has been out for a couple of weeks and it has been on heavy rotation on the Iphone. The final verdict is not in yet, I am still getting used to the songs, but  this is the first impression on the songs.

Generally the electronics are less playful and experimental than on Sounds of the Universe which is OK. Got an overall 80’ies feel to it.

Welcome To My World: an unexpected* instant hit. I was sold before the intro was over. Deep slow beats and minimal keyboard interference start off the song, but slowly builds up speed and complexity.

Angel: Like the melody, not quite sure about  the vocals yet, even though Dave’s vocals are deep and gritty, which I normally like.

Heaven: I have had a few words to say on Heaven here. Like it well enough, probably a bit better than I did when I wrote that post.

Secret To the End: I am interested, especially the chorus has potential, but could have used a little more.. Umph.

My Little Universe: Boring. Long vapid intro. Subdued vocals. There’s a build up to a chorus that’s almost interesting, but then it fades into more toned down Gahan. Not a song that I will seek out.

Slow:  Interesting riffs. Not sold on it yet.

Broken: Love the vocals on this. Electronics are simple harmonies. Like the chorus a lot. Slow song, but not really a contender for the ballad slot.

The Child Inside: Not impressed. Martin Gore does the vocals on this, and since I prefer Gahan this is not going to be a favorite. It is too slow and it sounds like they’ve turned down the volume on the vocals, giving the electronics the upper hand, which just seems weird to me.

Soft Touch/Raw Nerve: 80’ies keyboard, again those toned down vocals, but this time from Gahan, and his voice is at the deep levels that I love. Still on the fence though.

Should Be Higher:  This song is amazing. It pulls me in, creates a bubble around me. It’s got potential favorite written all over it.   The chorus… WOW! Dave’s doing something new with his vocals. Love, love love it.  The beat makes it hard to sit still.

Alone: again deep tones, which are my favorites, classic Depeche Mode. So much classic, that it feels a little familiar. Its like listening to a song, and not quite being able to tag it to a certain album.

Soothe My Soul: Fast rhythms, love the background electronics and the speed.

Goodbye: Like it very much. The steel guitar riffs, the electronics, Dave.

Happens All The Time: Like it, but it doesn’t stick out much.

Long Time Lie, Always and All That’s Mine: Need to listen to it more.

 

Very few songs are instant hits with me. I need time to reflect and disappear into the songs. They need to time to create a mood and … I don’t know how to explain it. Lets just say that I am a slow listener. Welcome To My World is perfect though.