Writing Prompt “There was a sudden chill in the air…”
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17 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “There was a sudden chill in the air…””
“It can’t be, it’s not time yet….”
It was at that moment that Clive took a good look at the sky and realized it was a good deal later than he thought.
“Have to get there before he does.” he thought and began trudging more quickly through the knee-deep snow. His cabin was still almost a mile away along the deeply blanketed trail and he’d have to go more quickly than was prudent or even possible to reach it in time. The thought of getting there too late was totally out of the question so he pushed himself past his normal limits as he slogged through the cold, powdery snow.
“Why didn’t I watch? How did I let it get so late?”
The cold air was drying out his mouth and nostrils as the breath burned in his lungs. His legs got progressively heavier with each few yards of distance he covered but he was determined not to slow down and clamped down mercilessly on his own pain to keep up the pace. He could not allow himself to be late.
The sound of something moving in the distance, sounding as if it were getting closer spurred him on even more strongly. He could see the front door of the cabin in the light of the full moon as he broke through the underbrush into the clearing around it. He was going to make it. With a last burst that took every bit of energy he could muster he sprinted across the open ground and through the door. Closing it behind him and securing it with the heavy bar, he began to throw off the snow-covered furs he was wearing. He was quickly down to his flannel underwear and he ran through the door into his small bedroom and threw himself under the covers, closing his eyes and trying to control his breathing.
A sound on the roof told him he was in time. He listened intently for the sounds of something dropping down the raw stone chimney, moving around in the main room, and moving back up. More sounds on the roof and then silence. Yes, he’d made it. He hoped he’d find those snowshoes he needed under the small spruce tree in the corner when He got up in the morning….
© Emmanuel Malho, 2015
There was a sudden chill in the air. It was dark. Only the moonlight guided Rosemary’s way by the swamp margin. She was running. The soft, humid soil stained her feet and her white, bloody dress. A red light kept flashing in the palm of her hand. Rosemary quickly crouched behind the pine tree. Her whole dress was drenched in her blood. The shallow cuts in her face, in her breasts and in her belly were hurting. But she couldn’t stop. Not now. She had to escape somehow.
– I can smell your bloody dress! Come out, come out, wherever you are! – Cale screamed.
Rosemary couldn’t help but let out a faint, hysteric laugh. She started running again when she heard him approach. A hook scraped her leg, more blood was coming out of it. She was lucky it didn’t hang. She could see her predator, Cale, drawing closer. In his black hooded sweater and his black trousers, she could just barely see his face illuminated by the moonlight. He was smiling.
She tried to run, stimulated by the pain in her body. The cut from the hook wasn’t deep, but she fell. She looked up ahead and saw darker woods. Cale was staring at her. She made a last ditched effort to run and hide in those woods.
It was Cale’s turn to laugh. He took his phone out of his pocket, tracking his pray, approaching slowly.
His phone was beeping, more frequently as he drew closer to his prey. The beep was continuous now. She should be 2 meters away, maximum. He looked around. He turned his face back just in time to be hit by the heavy branch Rosemary swung with all her might. Cale felt his nose break with the hit. He was about to curse but the blood flooding out of his nose made him keep his mouth shut. “You’ll pay for that, you stupid wench.” He thought as she kept running. Disfigured, he lurked back into darkness.
She saw a sharp stone while she was escaping and grabbed it. It would come in handy. She back tracked and began searching for him. They couldn’t be too far apart. The problem was, she knew the locating device planted in her hand would notify him of her presence. She stabbed her own hand and dug out the locating device. She ripped a piece of her dress and covered her hand to slow the bleeding. She’d have to find Cale fast.
Rosemary had picked the place where it would end. She threw the locating device to the ground and waited, hidden in the shadows.
There he was.
He came for her.
He found the locating device and grumbled. Cale knew she was stepping up her game, this wasn’t their first time. Darkness would hold her off, but not for long. He had to come up quickly with a plan to take her out. Her body had been ripped several times this night, and she couldn’t go far with that previous blow. “Well ain’t vengeance a cold dish.” He thought, heading back and picking up the branch that shattered his face.
Rosemary approached silently and stabbed him in the back with the rock. He screamed in agony feeling the warm blood drip down his back. To her surprise, he dropped the branch and hit her with a swing of his arm. He ripped her lips in the process and she hit her head in a nearby rock. Her last sight was the red flashing light of the locating device, a few meters ahead of her. Then everything went black.
The sun was shining through the opened window. Rosemary felt Cale’s arms wrapping her. She felt the warmth of the sunbeams and of Cale’s chest against her bare back, and she felt grateful for it. The red light was no longer flashing in her wrist. An alarm started ringing by Cale’s side. He snored and hit the “snooze” on his phone. Five minutes after, the alarm rang again and Cale repeated his previous movement. Rosemary laughed secretly and got up very slowly, so Cale wouldn’t notice.
– Don’t think I didn’t notice you left me here all alone. – Cale said, still half asleep.
She waltzed to his bedside and gave him a kiss in his forehead.
– I’m baking toasts, orange juice and coffee. Do you want some?
– It’s… – Cale turned off the alarm. – Six in the morning! I’ll be late again!
Cale gets up and puts on his pants. He looks everywhere for his shirt. He suddenly looks back at Rosemary. She’s wearing it. She’s only wearing it. He draws closer to her, slowly.
– You know I need to take that with me, don’t you? – He starts to unbutton his shirt.
– But it looks so well on me, don’t you think? – Rosemary took a step back and flashed his shirt.
– How are you feeling? You’re good for today? – He kissed her cheek.
– Well… – she took a spin in front of him. – I feel good. Yesterday’s regeneration session was OK. How do I look?
All cuts were gone. It seemed nothing happened. No flesh harmed. There wasn’t one scar in her body. These encounters were their little secret. Once a week, they would go and hunt each other. The regenerating machine would heal them after.
– Dazzling – Cale smiled.
Rosemary got in the kitchen. Lights went on.
– Good morning, Rosemary. What’s it going to be today? – A robotic voice said.
– Toasts, orange juice and coffee for two. Mine is creamy, his is black. – She said, pithily.
– Cale will have his breakfast now, too?
She looked back at Cale. He was searching for his shoes.
– Well, give him a couple of minutes.
Cale rushed in the kitchen. Kylie, the automated kitchen assistant, had his breakfast ready.
– Good morning Kylie. Thanks for breakfast! I’m late again.
He ate his breakfast quickly. He grabbed his bag and kissed Rosemary’s forehead.
– Would you leave me? – She asked, holding him for a few seconds.
– Over my dead body – he smiled.
There was a sudden chill in the air, but it had nothing to do with the minus-15-degree night outside the well-sealed windows. In fact the room was stuffy – there was a log fire raging in the fireplace – and Natalia began sweating. The chill came from something her ‘husband-to-be’ had just said.
Raymond had seemed a sweet old man, and she’d believed herself to be very lucky; there were many horror stories from others who’d gone down the same path but had taken a wrong turning.
Just a few months before, she’d been stuck in a city where unemployment was nudging 30%, and wages, in a hirers’ market, were so low that many people needed two jobs just to pay the basic bills. She was in her 30s and attractive – the blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin that were typical of her nationality – but she wasn’t getting any younger.
So she signed up for the agency, and after a number of false starts – it turned out that some of the agency’s clients owned brothels in the main cities of Western Europe – they put her in touch with Raymond.
The first few months were spent exchanging correspondence. Raymond said that he wasn’t up-to-date, technologically-speaking, so he sent her letters, written in an elegant hand and full of elegant compliments, which Natalia found quaint and endearing.
When he sent her photographs of himself, however, she took a step back and seriously considered dropping the idea altogether; he looked a good 30 or 40 years older than her and had obviously lied on the application form.
She confided in her best friend Valeriya; she was one of those who’d taken a wrong turning and had ended up in a brothel in Berlin. She’d managed to escape and was now resigned to working as a cleaner in the morning and in a post office sorting room in the afternoon. It was a hard life, but at least she was safe.
Natalia showed Valeriya the letters from Raymond – she couldn’t speak English, but Natalia translated for her. Valeriya told her friend that she was lucky, that Raymond seemed charming and harmless. Natalia said she was concerned about the age difference, but Valeriya said that as long as he treated her right, it wouldn’t matter, and that anyway, he’d probably be gone sooner rather than later. If they got married – and Valeriya suggested that this was obviously Raymond’s intention – Natalia would inherit his estate, which, by the looks of the photographs he’d sent her of his house, would be worth quite a tidy sum.
Natalia found the idea of marrying for the sake of a quick inheritance quite morbid, but she had to admit that if she could give Raymond some happiness in the winter of his life, then the inevitable payday upon his death would be a bonus that she would have earned.
The normal procedure for arrangements such as the one between Natalia and Raymond would be for her to visit him first in London. However, when she suggested this after feeling that the introductory phase of corresponding had run its course, he countered with an alternative idea. He would come to her city and take a room in a hotel, so that she wouldn’t feel he was pushing it too much by wanting to stay in her apartment. Then they could meet, go out, have dinner, and see how they got on face to face.
Valeriya was consulted again, and her friend said the arrangement seemed sound. Natalia began to get very excited about the prospect of an escape from the dead-end that would be her life in this, her home city. She began to tell all her family and friends about it, and while her parents were a little cautious, most of the others were supportive and encouraging.
Natalia wrote to Raymond and ten days later, she was sitting opposite him in one of the best restaurants in town, at a table next to a roaring fire.
They had a marvellous dinner that would normally be way out of Natalia’s league: blinchik, kulebiaka and beluga, accompanied by champagne. Natalia was impressed with Raymond’s knowledge of her city and his seemingly genuine interest in her and her life. She found that she was getting to like him very much already, despite having confirmation, first hand, of the huge age difference between them.
The bill came and Raymond settled it.
“Thank you for the lovely dinner, Raymond.” Natalia was glowing with the warmth of the food, the fire and the company.
“Call it a down-payment.”
Natalia smiled politely, believing it to be a joke. She tried to make one herself.
“What? Are you going to buy the restaurant?”
Raymond laughed, but it was a laugh that made Natalia uneasy.
“No, my dear. You.”
Natalia was confused and let out a nervous little giggle. She tried to maintain a jokey tone to the conversation.
“Buy me? You don’t have to ‘buy me’ to get married to me, you know.”
“Married?” scoffed Raymond, leering at her across the table. “Oh, I don’t think my wife would like that very much.”
There was a sudden chill in the air. In that same instant the large room fell into darkness.
The dissipating light turned the walls, painted a light ash gray, into deepened shades of battleship gray. Any hint of warmth was sucked out through the room’s single doorway.
The windows, which had been closed just after lunch time in a futile attempt to block the frigid draughts, were now fogged over as if attempting to block any hint of sunlight that may have been fingering its way into the room.
One would swear the room itself seemed to be shutting down, becoming increasingly gloomy and withdrawn.
As the light disappeared and the air became chillier something was stirring; something sinister and menacing, dark and threatening.
The children sensed it and immediately began to whimper and wail, drawing their thin blankets up and over their heads, instinctively rolling into curled balls as if hiding themselves from imminent danger.
Little Mei stopped dead. Yanking her thumb from her mouth she clutched each side of her thin stinking mattress in her bony little hands to keep her deformed body balanced as she whipped her head about looking for Cee Cee.
Cee Cee was nowhere to be seen.
‘She has gone.’ Mei panicked and began to scream, the sound piercing through the gloom and reaching high above the wailing of the other children.
Her screams ripped the spell of gloom apart, the room erupting into a cacophony of crying, howling and sobbing.
Little Mei squealed, lost balance and fell onto her back, wetting her already soggy pants. Another crack and she squealed in agony raising her skinny arm to shield her head from the Monster looming over her, at the same time desperately trying to clamber in under her thin cotton blanket.
She lay sideways unable to stop her tiny body from heaving in uncontrollable sobs, her back in agony from being suddenly twisted as she sought escape from the Monster. She endured two more beatings and much more yelling, her blanket a futile shield against such a cruel attack.
‘Where is Cee Cee?’ Mei huddled and hid as best she could; trying to keep silent out of fear of more beatings.
In that silence the tears continued to roll down her cheeks and drip onto her thin tatty mattress.
She lay shivering, her wet pants clinging and freezing her skin, her back wracked with pain and her mind tormented by the realisation that Cee Cee was gone.
Little Mei kept her blanket pulled over her head and resumed sucking her thumb, afraid and alone.
Amid the howling and crying of the other children she could hear the yelling of the workers. Eventually the noise lowered into whimpering and eventual silence brought about by the general fear of further beatings.
With the room now silenced the Monster and her workers withdrew shouldering their menacing dark moods eager to sit huddled in the shadowy recesses and continue with their interrupted gossiping.
The oppressive gloom resumed its place once more, enveloping itself around the children freezing in their beds, their only covering being the one thin blanket, useless against the frigid cold of the unheated room and the long night that lay ahead.
Winter in this part of China can be brutal.
Next morning in another part of the city Charlotte awoke early with many things on her mind.
It would be another hectic day with more than a few hurdles to be crossed.
She rolled over, propping herself up on one elbow and looked at Tim lying on his back next to her. In sleep he looked relaxed, breathing quietly and rhythmically.
It was Tim’s work that brought them to China and her need to contribute to their local community that took her to the orphanage.
Tim is her enduring rock, her strength when she feels torn and miserable, or her emotions stretched to breaking point.
He is so patient, loving and understanding when she feels frazzled and angry.
As Charlotte gazed on her man she felt a sudden surge of love and desire. She reached out and in response he opened one eye, looked at her and smiled.
They embraced and very soon the chores of the day became secondary to their hunger for each other.
Sometimes it was too difficult to face the awful situations at the orphanage. Then Charlotte would wonder if the children would miss her and think, Hang yes, they would miss me!
With that thought in mind Charlotte got her bum into gear, dressed putting on three layers of jumpers and adding wool tights under her jeans. Her coat managed to cover it all and still button up quite easily. She knew that she would not be removing any of those layers today.
Despite being busy bathing babies and tending to nappy changes and feeds she would never warm up enough to remove her coat.
Shopping was done yesterday and Charlotte rummaged through the bags until she found the necessary items of sanitary wipes, gloves and disposable nappies for today.
Next were the treats of cookies and potato chips.
Having everything in hand she headed out the door…
In the orphanage room there was a sudden burst of light.
The battleship gray walls lightened back to their ash gray as light filtered through the windows now cleared from their fogginess of the previous afternoon.
There was renewed warmth that entered through the door and suffused the room.
Little Mei felt it seep into her blanket and she inched it back enough to tentatively peer over and look out.
Her face erupted into smiles as she eagerly stretched out her thin bony arms in the sure knowledge that she will be gathered up and cuddled before getting her usual packet of chips.
The chill had quietly left the room, replaced by the warmth of Cee Cee’s love.
For Mei and all the other orphaned children the world was righted again while Cee Cee stayed nearby.
There was a sudden chill in the air, as the mood in the room turned dark. I swallowed involuntarily. The prosecuting attorney’s presentation was short but brilliant, even I was convinced of my clients guilt. Hell, we all knew he was guilty, that was a given, what we were here to decide was the manner of his death.
I stood up, slid the chair under the desk, and cleared my throat. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, your Honor, distinguished guests and fellow citizens: I stand before you in abject humility, to ask you to look deep into your individual hearts, and find within them, the generosity to forgive my client for his ignorance and stupidity.”
My client glared at me, but I acted indifferent. For him I had little sympathy. His wife however, was completely blameless. It was for her sake that I represented Mr. Burg. Her name was Cindy and she wasn’t even allowed to attend the proceedings. But I’m his attorney, not hers, and I’m the only one in the complex willing to defend him, even half-heartedly.
I continued. “In his zeal to obtain more status, money and power, he neglected to give more credence to the overwhelming volume of evidence that supported the theory of global warming.”
“While it’s seems obvious to all now, there once was a time when the subject was debatable.” A murmur of dissent rose from the throng of assembled onlookers. “Though there was considerable evidence that the atmosphere was warming, we have to admit that early on it was far from conclusive and there were many notable figures of power and influence who disavowed the theory entirely.”
The jury emitted a collective groan.
“It’s understandable,” I continued, “to seek out those responsible for acts of greed, or stupidity, and treat their transgressions like crimes against humanity, and to make them suffer, and pay. But what’s the point?” I pleaded. “What satisfaction can be gained by slaughtering yet another lamb on the alter of futility?”
I gestured toward the window dramatically. “What purpose does it serve, to take this man, and his fair wife, and put them out into that courtyard? What does that change?” Dozens of people in the courtroom turned their heads to look out the window.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, your Honor, esteemed guests: Have mercy on this misguided man, and his innocent wife. Take them into the gymnasium, take them into the very bosom of our cloistered sanctuary, feed them, give them drink, and then hang them until they’re dead.”
The courtroom erupted into a flurry of verbal pandemonium. As I returned to my desk, slid the chair out and sat down next to my client, he gave me a sidelong glance. Amidst the din of the courtroom I could see him mouth the words, “Is that the best you can do?”
I winked at him and nodded.
The judge called for order, and the courtroom spectators settled down. The judge then addressed the jury. “Do you need to retire to reach a verdict?”
The jurors exchanged glances for a few moments. Their jury foreman shook his head. “No, your Honor, that won’t be necessary.”
My client’s head slumped forward as he raised his hands to his face and began to weep quietly. I attempted to console him and patted him on the shoulder. “I believe this is a lenient jury, Mr Burg. I’m sure they’ll go easy on you.”
The judge intoned, “What’s the jury’s verdict?”
The foreman set his jaw. “Freedom, Your Honor. The jury grants freedom.”
My clients sobbing ceased abruptly. He looked at the jury through narrowed eyes, then launched himself at me and tried to get his hands around my neck. The bailiffs restrained him and he was only able to hurl insults at me. At me, the only sympathetic soul in the room! He was that kind of guy. My attempt to infuriate the jury had failed, so it seemed.
“Bailiffs, remove the defendant and reunite him with his wife.” The judge ordered.
We live in strange times. The effects of global warming are widespread, severe and irreversible. The hand wringing is over. There’s very little left for humanity to do. The ‘lucky’ ones migrated toward the poles, the rest of humanity had no choice but to huddle into sealed structures of steel and concrete, served by massive air conditioning systems that work day and night to mitigate the intolerable outside heat. Food is a chemical substance rationed out in meager amounts. Water is recycled. Essentially, we’re drinking our own urine and eating our own shit. Mechanics and engineers live like kings, their skill and knowledge provide the margin between life and death.
For the rest of us, there is little else to do but look among us and find those who were to blame for this disaster. Their elimination means so many less mouths to feed. It has become a cruel and deviant pastime.
It was time for Mr. Burg and his wife to serve their sentence, so we gathered around TV screens and monitors to watch them meet their fate. As they were summarily escorted out of the building, the man and his wife didn’t scurry towards the false safety of the shadows, but walked resolutely, then stumbled out to the center of the courtyard, where they embraced one another, then slumped to the ground, the unbearable heat rendering them unconscious in less than a minute. The searing furnace of the sun evaporated their sweat and bodily fluids, turning it into a visible steam. We could almost imagine their clothes beginning to smolder.
They had faced death with more dignity than anticipated. As I turned from the window and looked around the room, no one could manage to look me in the eye.
© 2015 Anika Madison
There was a sudden chill in the air as David walked out onto the deck located in the back of the cabin on the night of Christmas Eve. It was winter in Colorado, but the chill wasn’t only from the cold winter’s wind and David knew it.
Since Christmas was on Friday this year, Darryl, Billy, Carmen, Lorraine and David were staying in Carmen and Billy Williams’ cabin for the long holiday weekend. Lorraine and Darryl were celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary so Carmen invited them to celebrate it in their luxury cabin. Billy comes from old money and Carmen is a best-selling novelist. David was invited by the Williams’, but Darryl couldn’t understand why.
If looks could kill David would have been dead from Darryl’s death stare. Why would David come this weekend? The spacious cabin allows for two couples to have their own space and Darryl was planning on some alone time with his bride.
Lorraine could feel the tension when David joined the group and took the only available seat next to her on the deck. When Lorraine saw the look on Darryl’s face she decided against sharing the blanket she had draped across her. It was clear that Darryl wanted to ask why David was intruding on their weekend.
Lorraine tried to change the unspoken subject. “Carmen I just want to thank you for inviting us to celebrate our anniversary in your gorgeous cabin. The forest green and silver decorations are just beautiful.”
Carmen smiled, “I wanted to celebrate your silver anniversary and then add your favorite color. Since you both love green, I thought it would be a nice touch. I am so glad you like it.”
The forced conversation had already taken place when Lorraine and Darryl first arrived. The ladies were just looking for a way out of the unspoken conversation that Darryl was having with David’s profile. David was afraid to look anywhere but straight ahead. Carmen started a conversation about New Year’s resolutions. Everyone else was relieved.
Christmas morning everyone began opening gifts around the beautifully decorated tree. Then Billy put his camera on a tripod for group pictures. Everyone was enjoying themselves as long as Carmen and Lorraine kept David and Darryl apart from each other. The day was perfect and the perfection continued into Saturday night. Then came Sunday afternoon.
The group sat around a beautiful fire pit, enjoying hot apple cider while making s’mores. Darryl went into the cabin. Lorraine followed Darryl into their designated bedroom.
Darryl was furious, “Why is he here? Why would Carmen and Billy invite a man that we all know still loves you? It’s our wedding anniversary!!! Is your gift to me that you are leaving me for him? What is this?”
Lorraine assured Darryl that nothing was going on and told him what had to be a fictional story about the reason David was there. Lorraine rejoined the group, leaving Darryl in their room. The look on her face let everyone know that she told Darryl the truth about David.
That night Darryl asked David to join him in the cabin’s study. As Darryl perused the book shelves came across one of Carmen’s best-selling books about two families forced to come together when the truth about their connection comes out. Because he read it before, Darryl quickly went to the book’s climatic page.
He read it out loud, “So all of this time, I thought you were my rival for Sarah’s heart. Instead I find out that you were just trying to develop a close friendship with her so that she would help you get back into our family.”
Darryl moved closer to David. Then he said the next few sentences as if he was an actor delivering his memorized lines. “You are the brother I have been searching for the last twenty of my forty-five years of life. Our mother had to give you up as a baby because you were born out of wedlock. The family never spoke of you again, but I just had to find you. Now here you stand and I just don’t know what to think.”
Darryl put the book down on the table next to him. Then as if the wind was knocked out of him, he leans forward and puts his head in his hands. He is trying his best not to cry.
Darryl looks up at David, “You and I had just became friends before Lorraine and I started dating 28 years ago! When Lorraine and I got serious, I thought you were getting close to her so you can take her from me. But now…”
David sat down in a chair next to Darryl, “I never meant to hurt you. I was afraid. It was made very clear to me that our family did not want anything to do with the child mom had as a result of a yearlong affair. I have honored their wishes, but when I found out you were looking for me, I had to do what I could to become a part of your life. I never wanted to be with Lorraine. I wanted to be closer to my big brother.”
Darryl looked at David with tears in his eyes, “Why did you wait until this weekend to tell me?”
David paused for a moment and then said, “I know about your life-saving surgery on Tuesday. The family will keep me away, so I want to be with you now.”
Darryl clutched the arm handles on his wheel chair. Fighting back tears, he said, “You come to the hospital. I want the family to meet the good man you have become.”
Then a weak voice asks, “How does this story end?”
Carmen looks at her sister who is just about to have surgery and says, “It ends the way our story will. With a reconnected family and a successful surgery.”
There was sudden chill in the air when Mr. Verma told his wife he wanted to divorce her.
She was shocked and angry; boiling with hatred.
Mr. Verma felt Mrs. Verma wasn’t perfect for him. He had sympathy for her, but he had met a pretty young thing and he wanted to marry her. Plus, he was fed up of his wife, he believed it was very rare that one really meets the prefect soul mate, and he had. He didn’t want to lose his new found love. And, Rita had told him in no uncertain terms that it was marriage or nothing.
Rita was rich, spoilt and pampered, but she loved him immensely. They met at her house and she did his laundry, cooked his meals, was perfect in bed too. And he felt when things weren’t of equal equation with the wife; there was only one option – divorce. For hatred turned you sour and the very fact of seeing that face in bed was repugnant to Mr. Verma. But she refused to divorce him.
Mrs. Verma had cancer and she was fighting it bravely. She was firm that she wouldn’t give him divorce and his freedom, while she suffered. So Mr. Verma had to wait, but he knew he couldn’t put it off for long. He felt nothing for her and considered her a pain …!.
Her temperament too wasn’t kindly. She screamed at him, pouring her frustrations, and he was fed up. Only the fact that society would criticize him that he bade his time. Sometimes he had the urge to murder her and put himself out of this misery.
The huge alimony would kill him and he knew she would extract her pound of flesh, she would never agree to mutual divorce – so the only way was to get rid of her in a way that no one would doubt it was anything but suicide.
Mrs. Verma didn’t trust anyone and did everything herself, except when she was in chemo. Then she stayed with her mother and there was no chance for any action of the kind he was planning.
His mind was working overtime and he had reached an idea how to do it, but he wouldn’t whisper it even to himself. He just rubbed his head and let the idea chill within.
Mrs. Verma despised him as much as he did her, and one would think her illness would have made her more peaceful and accepting, but she was just the opposite and maybe you could understand the helplessness in her condition, her husband’s hatred and ill-treatment, and knowing he would outlive her killed her from within. She wished him dead as he did her, but she knew she was in a better situation. It would be difficult for him to leave her. She had everyone’s sympathies.
Her doctor encouraged her to take the trip to Ireland with her husband, for his export deal. The doc gave her the address of an oncologist over there. She met her counselor before she made plans.
“It would do you a world of good.”
The hotel was close to the sea with the wild sweeping mountains offering them the best view.
One leap and she would be in the sea tumbling down the rocks, Mr.Verma thought. They decided to go for a stroll the next day to see the view that was unparalleled, but quite scary – one wrong step and… so the guards warned them. The guards frustrated Mr. Verma, but he would find a way.
In Ireland’s magnificent Skellig Islands was the popular Ring of Kerry, a tourist trail, a pair of rocky mounds that rose up from the sea off the coast of Portmagee. Perched on the 230-meter high cliff top, where birds like Black Guillemots, Cormorants, Razorbills and Herring Gulls flew regally, as the couple climbed the hair-raisingly steep 600-step climb.
He challenged Mrs. Verma by saying, “You don’t have to come; it s not for you,”
She said immediately, “You would think I’m weak hearted, but I’m not.”
“Remember the climb isn’t easy, and the distance is tiring.”
“Perfect, I can handle it. I was a trekker in college.”
Mr. Verma smiled to himself. Today he would have hisFREEDOM. He knew he had to be convincing when he returned alone. He waited for the right time when he could push her as soon as the guard’s attention went elsewhere. He would pretend to save her then leave her hand. The guard would be his witness only he had to be convincing and the timing – perfect.
All of a sudden she asked him, “Have you ever thought of murder?”
“Murder; what are you talking about? Why would I think of it?”
“Because I know that’s on your mind, I have been watching you planning and plotting, you thought I didn’t notice. He turned back to look at her from the narrow area in the ledge. He’d been checking it – the perfect spot, and now he was trapped as she stood like a boulder with her hands on her hips blocking his way. She was an amazon. One step back and he’d be in death’s arms. But why was she behaving crazily. What did she have on her mind?
Then she continued, “…but you don’t know, that I have told the hotel manager to inform the police if I didn’t return, and I also confided to my counselor that you could try to murder me. So if I don’t return you would be charged for my murder.”
“God, you are the height of cunning!”
“Thanks,” she said. He knew he had lost. He looked at her, her eyes were round and glowing bright she looked as if she was mad.
Then he knew it was his end; for in a trice, she pushed him hard and he fell; head along into the rocks. The birds, the high peaks were witness to this heinous act. A revenge; she had planned like he had. The guards had gone behind the rocks and she chose that moment to commit her crime.
Then she let her scarf slip off and cried out, “ ”HELP! HELP! MY HUSBAND SLIPPED AND FELL! I TRIED TO PULL HIM BUT HIS HAND SLIPPED.” she screamed breathlessly.
The guard shouted out,”MAAM, I’M REACHING HIM, DON’T WORRY !THE OTHER GUARD IS COMING TO ESCORT YOU!” JUST STAY WHERE YOU ARE!
And for a moment before he reached her, she laughed a victorious laugh. The winds howled – the icy winds that chilled to the bone.
But she was warm from within, for her hatred burnt bright within her.
She called her counselor and whispered something…
“Excellent! “was the reply.
There was a sudden chill in the air. Crystal pulled the duvet covers up to her neck and rolled over to continue sleeping. Once woken, she found it impossible to go back to sleep. She pulled the covers up over her head and then flicked it off her as she decided to get up. She smiled at the mirror reflecting her image of her dishevelled mass of hair, panda eyes where the black eyeshadow had spread over her eye lids and under her eyes. She had a great night at the pub, celebrating.
“Ugh,” she pulled her shoulders up and wrapped her arms around her and rubbed her arms. “Why is so cold?” She wondered, “Didn’t the heating come on?”
While she was checking the boiler she heard a sound like something tumbling down in the spare bedroom. She pricked her ears to listen. Other scuffling noise came over and made her heart jump She looked around her and found that her kitchen window was slightly ajar.
“Oh, my God, someone is in the flat.” She grabbed her keys and handbag and spun outside.
She knocked at the flat opposite to hers and nobody responded, then she flew upstairs to the flat above hers.
“There’s someone in my flat.” She screeched as Paul, with Glenis behind him, opened the door.
“My kitchen window, backing from the main road, is opened. Someone is in my flat, in the spare room.” She stuttered.
“Come in?” They moved out of the way as Paul invited shivering Crystal in.
“I’m calling the police. I thought there were some unusual noises coming from your flat.” Paul remarked.
Glenis looked at Crystal from top to bottom and at her barefeet.
“I was out in the pub last night, celebrating a birthday with friends. I was back home very late. This morning I woke up with this sudden chill on my back. and did not think much of it until …” Crystal explained why she was barefeet and still in her evening dress with a smudged face.
“Oh, dear! I’m disturbing their weekend.” Crystal thought.
“The Police will be here soon. Just calm down whilst I make you a hot drink.” Paul offered.
“There has been a spate of burglaries in this road lately. Many of these converted houses of 2 up and 2 down flats, along this road, have been broken into. ” Crystal explained her troubled behaviour.
She felt the warmth of the hot coffee as it ran along her insides when she blew over then sipped it.
“I’m sorry to bother you so early in the morning.” Crystal apologized.
“That’s no trouble. That is what neighbours are for.” Paul answered.
“It’s bad enough when you are burgled when you’re not in. It’s worse when the burglary happens when you’re in.” Crystal cupped the partly drunk coffee.
They could hear the commotion coming from her flat. “I have noticed some strange cars along the road lately but did not think much of it. These people watch you, you know, before they break in.”
“ There are so many crazy nutcases out there who carry guns and knives. I think you did the right thing by coming here. Let the police deal with it.”
On cue, the police car pulled in. Crystal and Paul shot down the short flight of stairs to open the main door for them
“They’re still in there. We can hear them from upstairs.” Crystal told the officers. Paul nodded affirming.
As the officers kicked the door opened and went in, Crystal and Paul ran up a few steps of the stairs and looked down. They shot back into Paul’s flat when they heard more scuffling going on.
“Thank God they didn’t come into my room whilst I was fast asleep. My blood is running cold as I think of what could have happened to me. I’m sure I’ve been targeted and they know I go out in the weekends and come back in the early hours of the morning.” Crystal’s teeth were chattering as she spoke. She sat on the sofa with Paul and Glenis looking down on her.
“There are no burglars in your flat! A female and a Tom cat were messing about in the spare bedroom. They were as frightened as you’re when we tried to manhandle them. They scampered out of the opened window from where they came in. The opened can of tuna fish on your kitchen board obviously attracted them.”
“I never leave my windows opened!” Crystal turned to Paul to seek confirmation.
“Never unless you were in and cooking which is very rare.”Paul confirmed. He knew Crystal’s habits despite hardly meeting one another.
“We require a statement from you.” Crystal got up immediately and followed the officers into her flat.
“I’m here if you need any help!” Paul offered his support.
Crystal closed and locked her window and glanced at the empty can of fish. She had never done anything that stupid before.
Later on, One of the officers asked her, “How much did you drink last night?”
“I can smell stale cannabis.” The officers sniffed the air. “Perhaps you need to sort out your consumption of these substances. You have been arrested for this offence in the past. These recreation drugs make you hallucinate and paranoid. I’ve seen enough people spiralling downwards. So, get help before it’s too late.” The officers advised Crystal as they walked out, and bumped into Paul who was hovering around in the main landing.
“I can stay with you whilst you get over this terrible, traumatic incident.” Paul said.
“If you don’t mind.” Crystal was happy to bond with her neighbour.“But, I don’t want to rob your time with your visitor.”
“Glenis is my sister. She’s visiting and will leave presently.”
The Angel they never knew
There was a sudden chill in the air, even though the temperature was 95 degrees and the sun was shinning brightly. One of those foreboding chills that run all the way down your spine, like ice water. It was gone in a split second, as quickly as it came, but seemed to last forever at the same time.
Five minutes later the call came.
On a beautiful march morning, the sun shinning bright, the flowers were in full bloom with their faces turned upward, drinking in the warmth of His day. The pains hit her suddenly and with such force. If only she could just finish up these few dishes and lie down, they might go away. As she stood there with the last dish in her hand, yet another one came. It was as if someone had punched her hard in the stomach. She struggled to get the last dish in place, then call her husband.
The drive was long and slow though he hurried the best he cold. The sun was very bright and the pain so strong all she could do was close her eyes against it all. By the time they arrived she sensed something was wrong but being her first she wasn’t sure.
The Doctors seemed to be everywhere and there seemed to be so many of them, they wheeled her to a room and tried to make her comfortable. Her husband left standing in the hall, not knowing what to do or what was happening.
The storm clouds appeared out of no where. She woke to gray sky in a dark room. It was the next morning, she struggled to open her eyes and saw his face. He just sat there staring out the window, no words could he find to say to his wife, so shocked was he.
The Doctor came, their beautiful girl had come in the night but had been hurried away, she’d needed surgery immediately. She was holding her own but no, no they couldn’t see her, not just now. They should all just rest. “Rest, how can one rest at a time like this?” Something was wrong, terribly wrong. She could feel it, she was so weak, so empty.
The beautiful baby girl, with her dark hair and perfect face, struggled for every breath. It hurt so much and was such work. Then suddenly she relaxed to a sound sleep. When she awoke again the fight for life began, each breath was such effort and stung so much. The pain in her chest was unbearable. What was wrong why was everything so hard? To sleep again, only to wake to more pain, she must fight on, she must, but how? Then came the peace, the perfect peace.
“What happened down there? Will she be alright? Will he? Why have I come back?”
“The body was imperfect, it didn’t develop like it should have. They will be fine, it will take time, a long time, but you will help.”
“How? When I am here.”
“You will be given special jobs, you will see, your only beginning, there is much for you to do yet.”
“Rose, she needs you! She is expecting again and you must help watch over her. You must deliver this message.”It won’t happen again.”
The forth of July, a scorcher of a day and suddenly there was a chill in the air, the pain came with out warning, the fear came as well, but suddenly a chill ran down her back and she felt at peace. This time at the hospital, a kind nurse named Rose, assured her all would be well. All went as planed and they had a boy.
“You did your job well she’s happy now, that little boy won’t be alone for long. You’ll need to go back for she is expecting again. This time it will be a girl. Your job is to protect the girl, keep her mine. She will need to know your story, she ‘ll need a friend that can be like a sister because she will miss you.’
“LORD, the girl has her brother, she doesn’t need me.”
“She will, Patience Rose, patience.”
The girl grew and became a young lady, often through out her life she would get a sudden chill and Then feel a sense of peace. Until today, she seemed so all alone and lost, in such doubt of herself. The day was freezing inside and out and yet, there was a sudden chill in the air beyond the cold temperature.
“The day is here Rose, once again the girl needs you. She needs you now! The sister she never knew and has spent a life time looking for. Go to her now Rose, tell her I love her and need her to be strong to struggle on. Tell her to find your strength and fight on. Tell her she is not alone. We are here to help. Tell her how much she is loved, yet, her work is not yet finished there. She can’t come home just yet.
Yes, Rose, hurry she needs you she needs you now.”
There was a knock at the door, “Hi, I just moved in next door, My name is Rose.”
A girl much like her stood there, a girl she felt she had known all her life, yet, this was the first they had ever met. They seemed to know so much about each other, things they had never told each other. They become life long friends.
There was a sudden chill in the air.
Mehta was summoned into his boss’s cabin as soon as he had stepped inside the office. He had prayed hard the night before for his dismal sales figures to have miraculously improved or that his boss had suddenly announced relaxation in sales targets for the executives. Though, deep down he knew that it was all farfetched. Squaring his drooping shoulders, Mehta went inside. Speaking into the phone, the boss did not even acknowledge him. Mehta approached his desk slowly. He felt sweat trickling down his back even though the airconditioner had kept the temperature to a chilling degree. Mehta waited and kept shuffling his feet or toyed with his tie. The nerves on his balding forehead stood out with tension. He tried to remember the reasons for his lack luster performance. For one, the clients were proving tough nuts to crack. His colleagues were doing far better than he. Today, Mehta knew that his report will be full of remarks in red from his boss.
Hanging up the phone, Mehta’s boss turned to him looking angry and started shouting at him “What do you mean by this, Mehta? Answer me.”
In an attempt to buy some time, Mehta stuttered, “Sir, what is wrong?”
There was a sudden chill in the air.
Seven year old Vicky scrambled out of his bed that morning to see that the sun was coming up. He shivered remembering that he had to get his father to sign his report card. He had prayed the night before for his report card to have vanished or at least, that the marks would change to double digits. He opened the card to see if that had happened. No, of course not!
Mehta woke up to find Vicky standing by his bed holding a pink coloured card. Report card, he recognized. He ignored the card and went into the bathroom to freshen up. Coming back, he saw Vicky still standing holding the card. Yelling to his wife to bring him his morning tea, Mehta took the card from Vicky. Instantly, Vicky went to stand near the door… the farthest point from Mehta’s bed where he sat. Vicky pulled up his shorts with one hand and wiped his nose with the other, though his shorts were secured tightly with safety pins in the front and for some reason, his nose had suddenly become quite itchy.
Mehta was stunned to see the morse code against each subject. The zeros and ones were not what he expected from Vicky. The saving grace was that his son had scored A++ grade in music.
Getting angry looking at the marks, Mehta started shouting at Vicky, “What is the meaning of this, Vicky? Speak to me.”
Vicky remained silent and stood shuffling his feet. He was suddenly engrossed in studying the patterns that he had gouged in the cemented floor with his compass only last month.
Mehta yelled at his son once again and Vicky looked up and asked, “What happened, Papa?”
Mehta’s boss was now insulting him. He tried to explain to his boss that no matter how hard he tried, he just could not do better than this.
The boss got even more angry if that were possible, “Mehta, you are a goner now.”
Waving the quarterly report in his face, the boss shouted, “I took you on thinking that you knew how to do your job. If you can’t even do that, why do I have to keep you? Look at Raj, how smart he is and look at his targets.”
Mehta tried to diffuse the situation by saying that he would try to do better in the next quarter. The boss shook his head and threw the report at Mehta’s face, “And what have you done with the Trending Tyre deal? I had put in a word with Mr. Sondhi. It was a done deal but you messed up even that. Listen carefully Mehta, unless you get it on board you are fired. Now, get out.”
Mehta collected the loose sheets of his report that had fallen all over the cabin floor mumbling, “Yes Sir, I will Sir, sure Sir” and fumbled out of his boss’s office. Flustered, he dumped the report on his desk and went straight to the pantry to make a cup of strong, hot and sweet tea for himself.
Reprieve, at last!
Vicky hated waiting. Moreover, he could smell the delicious hot pooris (deep fried Indian flat bread) and potato curry – his favourite food – which his mother was making in the kitchen. He so longed to run to the kitchen and cuddle up to his mother to give him extra pooris. But he knew that his father was not done with him yet.
Mehta’s bellowing voice startled Vicky out of his aromatic reverie, “I am still waiting, Vicky. Why have you got zeros and ones in all subjects? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
Vicky mumbled, “But Papa I tried very hard. Other kids did better than me. How can I help that?”
Mehta got angrier if that was possible and shouted, “You will be a useless man when you grow up if you don’t study now. Look at Sunil. He is so good at studies. Learn from him.”
Waving the report card in Vicky’s face, Mehta yelled at him once more, “Vicky, listen carefully. If you don’t score better in your final exams, I will pull you out of school and make you sit at home. Now get out. Go to school.”
Vicky quickly collected the report card that had fallen on the floor and fled to the kitchen.
Reprieve, at last!
By Alice Nelson ©2015
There was a sudden chill in the air, not surprising considering the Rialto is over 30 years old. Today it’s the last of a dying breed; the only theater in town where you can watch 35 mm films, while listening to the whirring sound of the projectors. To Francis Imogene Pickles, this is the only way to watch movies on the big screen, and The Rialto is one of her most favorite places in all the world.
Besides Frankie there are a few young hipster loyalists in the mostly empty movie house, they coolly eschew the newer multiplexes for a more classic movie going experience. Also scattered about are an older crowd, those who hate the coldness of digital presentations, and prefer watching movies on film, the way they used to when they were kids.
Today the small crowd is awaiting the screening of The Shawshank Redemption, and Frankie happily nibbles on her popcorn as music plays lightly over the sound system. Mr. Shirley was late, and it worried her a bit; at 54, he wasn’t exactly in the best of health. When he finally arrived, his cheeks were flushed and he was out of breath. “Wonderful, made it just in time,” he said with that soft English lilt that gave away his Northumberland upbringing. He was weighed down by his usual monster sized popcorn and bucket full of Pepsi. But if anyone could look dignified with something so ridiculously large, it was Mr. Shirley.
“Hello Mr. Shirley, glad you could make it.” Frankie said with a smile. The two unlikely friends met a little over a year before while guests at the Happy Valley State Mental Facility. Mr. Shirley, because of his penchant for starting fires, and Frankie because…well because she’s Frankie Pickles, and her life was on a downward trajectory since birth. So it was no surprise she ended up having a very public breakdown at the Southside Mall.
Frankie grew up in the New Haven Orphanage from age 3, until she was unceremoniously given the boot at 18. She has a fuzzy recollection of her parents, but quite honestly, Frankie isn’t sure if those memories are real or merely wishful thinking. On the bright side, her psychotic break from reality resulted in her finding the only real friend she’s ever had. Frankie felt God hadn’t shown her much mercy in 35 years, but he more than made up for it when she met Mr. Shirley. He had become not only a friend, but the father she never knew.
“Did you call him?” Mr. Shirley asked.
Frankie knew he would bring it up, she just hoped the movie would start before he could ask any questions. She tried ignoring Mr. Shirley, praying the film would start —it didn’t.
“No Mr. Shirley, I did not.” Frankie stared straight ahead, hoping her cool demeanor and clipped answer would discourage him from continuing —it didn’t
“He’s your brother my dear, you should call him.” Even the unreasonable sounded reasonable with that English accent.
Frankie received a letter the week before from a Finn Easton of Poughkeepsie New York. She had no idea who the hell he was, and regretted opening the letter after reading the very first line. “I’m you’re biological brother,” it said, and after that beginning, Frankie’s anxieties kicked into high gear. “Our parents had to give us up for adoption,” this Finn person continued. “I hired a private detective to find you,” he wrote. “Can we meet and talk?” He asked. ‘No,’ is what Frankie thought. All of it sounded like shit she didn’t want to deal with, so of course she ran to Mr. Shirley for advice. But Frankie was disappointed when he recommended she meet this Finn in person.
Frankie could feel Mr. Shirley looking at her, but she simply stared straight ahead at the stark white screen where she’d soon see Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the Stephen King classic.
Without looking at him Frankie said, “I don’t want to Mr. Shirley, I just don’t want to…” her voice trailed off.
“Fear isn’t a reason not to do something, my dear Frankie.” Mr. Shirley said simply.
Sometimes Frankie thought the man could read her mind, but she didn’t respond.
The truth was, Frankie was afraid, but what Mr. Shirley didn’t know, is that she had reason to be. Mr. Shirley had a tendency to worry about her too much, even though he tried to disguise it. But Frankie didn’t want to burden her friend with the last thing Finn wrote in his letter. “It’s important we meet soon Frankie,” he said, “There are things about our parents that you need to know.”
What did that mean? But Frankie really didn’t want to know; and she was certain that if Mr. Shirley was aware of it, he’d urge her to go —so she kept it from him.
She and Mr. Shirley sat in silence for a few moments, then he spoke. “I don’t want you to feel as if I’m pressuring you Frankie, but you are like a daughter to me, and I just want you to be happy.” Now it was his turn to stare at the stark white screen.
Finally, the theater lights dimmed, and the small audience settled in their seats, ready for the film to begin. Frankie wondered if she were overreacting to Finn’s letter; maybe Mr. Shirley was right, she was using her fear as an excuse.
As the unmistakable voice of Morgan Freeman lulled the small but faithful audience, a tall man in the back row kept a keen eye on Francis Pickles.
He stepped out just after the film started, to make a phone call. “She’s here, what would you like me to do?”
“Keep an eye on her,” the voice said on the other end. “He’s contacted her, and I want to find out everything Finn told this Francis Pickles.”
There was a sudden chill in the air at dawn when Buddhu came out of the Dharamshala (a place for Hindu pilgrims to spend the night) with his sixty-five-year-old mother. Buddha nearing fifty was strongly built with tanned skin. His mom strolled beside him, her spine bent from age. Both were covered in layers of woolen clothes.
The cold is understandable at Gaurikund, at an altitude above six-thousand feet and so close to the Kedardome, Himalayas. Buddhu wondered how a hot spring could exist in such a cold place. Maybe god wants his followers clean before they enter his house. People believe thousands of years ago, the Goddess Gauri bathed in the water of the spring before she got married to Kedarnath.
The start of the fourteen-kilometer walking trail was dirty and slippery from all the urine and feces of the hundreds of ponies, waiting to be hired by pilgrims who cannot walk the mountain trail. Buddhu gazed at the steep road that spiraled up the hill, “Mom will you be able to walk this steep road or shall I hire a pony for you?”
She glanced at the road, “If the Lord wants me to visit, he will give me the strength to walk.”
Buddhu hailed from the Gaya district in Bihar. His Dad worked as a day labor in the farms of the landowners, with seasonal earnings not enough to feed a family of five.
Dad was a dark complexioned, hardworking, honest man and mom was a soft spoken caring woman who worked hard for the family.
One day he heard dad say, “I cannot maintain my family working here. Friends who have gone to Calcutta earn and live a better life.”
“What will you do there?” Mom said.
“I am strong and can work hard, there is work throughout the year and the pay better.”
In the trembling light of the kerosene lamp, tears rolled down mom’s anxious face. Dad wiped her tears, “I am going there to give all of us a better life, and I promise to work hard and send money every month. You have to be brave and take care of the house and children.”
Soon dad left for Calcutta. Buddhu stayed home with his mom, brother and sister.
Every month the postman came to their village to deliver cash his father sent. Buddhu, his brother, and sister went to the village school. Father returned home twice a year and told stories about Calcutta’s sea of people, the cars and buses. In his mind, Buddhu created a world of fantasy for the city, “Dad will you take me there? I will work with you.”
“You are too young to work now but once you finish school I will,” Dad smiled.
With his Dad’s earnings, they remodeled their thatched hut to a brick house and purchased their own piece of farmland where they worked hard with mom to grow vegetables.
A few years later Buddhu completed school and Dad took him to Calcutta. As their train arrived at the station Buddhu was perplexed by the sea of people that lived in Calcutta. There must be few hundred times that of their village. Outside the station, he saw the biggest steel bridge of his life. The roads were smooth and wider, the houses big, and he lost count of the numerous cars and buses.
In the tropical heat, he saw his dad carried people in a hand-pulled cart. During the day, dad ate ground chickpeas, at night cooked a simple meal of rice and pulses, and slept under the shed outside a shop. All the hardship to send money home to support their family. That night Buddhu rubbed his dad’s hands and legs, “I did not know how much you struggled to give us a better life.”
“Money is earned with intellect and labor. I am illiterate and can only do hard work. That is why I sent you to school.”
“I want to earn and see you rest at home.”
Dad smiled and put his hand on Buddhu’s head.
The few years he spent in Calcutta he waited tables in a local restaurant and in the mornings went to a driving school. After getting his driver’s license, he worked as a cab driver and saved money. He went back home with his savings and bought an old jeep to start Buddhu Transport. He carried passengers from remote villages to the nearby towns and the bus stops miles away on the highway. His jeep could reach the remote villages and became an instant hit. He was married and soon became the father of two kids. His brother too joined him in the business.
“Dad we want you to retire and stay at home with the family,”
“Buddhu, another year, after that I and your mom will go on a long pilgrimage we have long desired.”
That winter Buddhu and his brother rushed to Calcutta after receiving an urgent telegram. Dad was in the hospital in critical condition after a road accident. Buddhu felt dizzy after seeing Dad’s body in bandages and attached to many machines.
“Doctor, will our Dad be all right?” they said with folded hands.
“His brain is severely wounded, we are trying our best,” the doctor said.
Dad never spoke or opened his eyes again. Three days later they returned home with Dad’s body. A day of mourning. Mom cried aloud, “You promised to take me to Kedarnath. How will I go now?”
“I will take you there, I promise,” Buddhu embraced mom with tears in his eyes.
A year later he took his mom on a pilgrimage to many holy places and now they were ascending the Kedarnath. Mom had to rest after walking every few hundred yards. They sat on a stone by the roadside. It was quiet and chilly, Buddhu watched the hills on the other side of Mandakini covered in snow. Nature is so beautiful he thought.
Amidst the monotony of the swift flowing Mandakini he heard a whisper, “My blessings son for taking care of my unfinished work.”
Buddhu turned around, a group of pilgrims walked past them chanting, “Jai Kedarnath.”
One of them turned back and smiled at him. He looked like Dad.
Mama was confused. She had been used to ongoing cold for quite a while, but lately her life had improved drastically. There was a new sense of buoyancy that filled her spirit.
She felt sunshine again! She heard children laughing as she observed them running through fresh new grass in bare feet. She noticed the trees with their new leaves and small blooms promising fruit for the upcoming seasonal harvest. She found herself smiling more often and completing her daily tasks easily with much less effort now.
Mama stopped in her footsteps and took inventory of her own heart, also contemplating the attitudes and actions of her children and husband. Nothing at all seemed askew. No bitterness, no tension seemed obvious above or below the surface of the demeanor of any of her precious family members. She simply could not account for the undesirable chill.
It was then that she saw it.
An open freezer door
Ann WJ White
There was a sudden chill in the air, that morning. Unexpected because chills had become uncommon of the east coast of the United States. But this morning, there was frost. The geraniums in my front yard were holding up their leaves at the scandal that they had survived the attack by Jack Frost. The petunias laid down their flowers and collapsed on a small heap of frosted leaves, lavender petals, and delicate roots. Falls flowers now making way for spring to come. Winter had arrived.
Hot chocolate steamed up in my mug as I watched the neighboring children try to slide on frost. They were having an interesting lesson in friction. I laughed, waved and remembered when I was a mom and my two sped down the hills with more of less success. The door to my kitchen opened and my husband wandered down from bed.
“It is cold in here. Aren’t you chilly?”
But I wasn’t that morning, not chilly, not even remotely. I had sat at my desk with my fingers tapping out cryptic messages to customers who needed my input on their writing. Editing wasn’t easy. I got distracted too easily during the winter. My work pace had slowed and then dribbled through the afternoons. No one really wanted me to hurry, as most agents wouldn’t ramp up their efforts to place manuscripts until after the spring flowers were blooming again. They were more interested in vacations in the Caribbean, roasted beaches filled with shining surfaces of oiled flesh, and non-stop sunshine that walked hand in hand with water shortages. I preferred chilly air, snow mounds, pure tracks of deer and wolf.
“We should really take a vacation together this winter, love.”
“I’d love some warm air. I’m tired of being cold.” I gave him the evil I I kept ready for just such statements.
“I want to feel winter, dear. I want to see swans coming from the north, deer in their thickets, and buffalo huffing their breath in diffidence to The Gods of the North. I want to roam when others are cuddled in their blankets, sipping ciders, hugging in fear of the heat failing. I want to meet the Goddess who trails snowflake behind her. I want to be alive.”
He shuddered with dread. He was my dragon, a rock hugging, geothermic entity that wished for a permanent place in the sun to read.
“Honey, you know we don’t have the funds this winter. We have to be normal sane adults who pays bills, works hard and dreams of retirement.”
I sighed, “Retirement? Will we become bus riding, shopping addicts with long faces if we miss the 9 am specials at the wholesale malls? Will the price mean more than the trip? Will my mother’s “cheap” mantra become ours as well?”
We had a simple story together. One story, boring in nature, but we were the epitome of a normal couple. We worked hard, helped each other, and sent help out to our loved ones when they needed it. A short, simple story that was our story. No one would buy it, wait for the sequel, or send it out to friends as a Christmas letter.
He laughed. “If you turn into your mother, or my mother, I’ll leave you in the driveway. You have to remember that as hard as things are for the family these days, they are coming to their end. Our time is ahead of us, but sun roasting warm rocks and Patagonia in the winter or summer. Get back to writing your book, and finish those poor authors’ works. If you make us a fortune, we can drop all of this normalcy and become recklessly chilled, cold and ready to decant.”
My fingers started paging through the manuscripts.
“Well?’ He leaned back in his chair and thrust his hips forward. ‘I gets me a lawyer, I guess. Free. Courtesy of Mista and Missus Good Citizen? Huh.’ He grinned showing broken teeth and a white fuzzed tongue. ‘Maaybee, jest maybe, I am nuts.’ He giggled inanely, his prominent Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. Then he twirled a forefinger round several times inches from his ear and laughed again.
Rae resisted the urge to leap across the table and bring her standard issue heavy duty truncheon torch down on this animal’s head. ‘No’, she thought, ‘He’s not an animal. He is a monster. The bogey man of every child and parents’ worst nightmares. Keeping her voice even and calm, she read him his rights after she clicked on the small voice recorder and activated the interview room cameras.
‘Senior Detective Rae Johnston of Frankston CID conducting this interview on the 5rd of January, 2016 at the Frankston Branch with William John Duffy aka Billy Bluffe aka Bill Boots aka John Duffield aka Will Duffs anything you say during this interview can and will be taken and used as evidence in a court of law. I am now activating the recording and for the interview record of the above mentioned William John Duffy who resides at 2802 Skye Road, Frankston. Senior Constable John Frank and Constable Mark Thompson in attendance.
‘William John Duffy is your original name? You were born on the 23rd April, 1983 in Melbourne Victoria?’
‘Suppose so.’ Duffy leaned back on his chair and leered.
‘Just answer the question. Yes or no?’ Detective Johnston moved forward in her seat. Her eyes bored holes in Duffy’s forehead. She would not have trusted herself with a gun facing this being across the table. Having seen his handiwork, coupled with the lack of remorse and his obvious enjoyment of the police officers and personnel dealing with him, it was almost impossible to find something likeable or humane about this creature.
‘Yeah. I guess.’
‘Where were you on Friday night, first of January 2016 around the hours of 11pm to 5am Saturday morning?’ Detective Rae shuffled through some documents as she questioned him, afraid the dislike she felt for this man would be revealed in her eyes. She struggled to keep a dispassionate and impersonal tone.
Duffy leaned forward.
‘Me and me mate Rotto, short fer Rotten Bum on account of him fartin’ all the time.’ He sniggered. ‘Bad drugs, ye see. (snigger, giggle, snigger) We jest had ourselves a pipe or two. An…’
The two uniform police in the room and Detective Rae exchanged looks and Rae interrupted him.
‘Pipe? Crack? Meth?’
Duffy giggled again. ‘Ice. And we were looking for the women. They musta gone out. Than saw Rotto’s woman’s kid. A girl. You’d neva knowed she was twelve. More like sixteen or seventeen. Knockers like a movie star. Long blonde ‘air down to ‘er butt. She’s a looker, all right. She’s feedin the three littler kids..and…’ Again Rae interrupted. ‘At 11 pm at night?’
‘Yeah, why not?’ Duffy looked momentarily puzzled that anyone would find this odd; feeding children at 11 pm at night and a twelve year old should be up at such an hour, let alone a two year old, a four year old and an eight year old.
Detective Rae was trying not to let her frustration show. ‘Go on.’
‘Well Rotto ordered her to fix us sump thing. Eggs and unyun mebe.’
‘Naw. She told ‘im, he weren’t ‘er father and to git it ‘imself. Rotto got pissed big time. ‘e grabbed ‘er by ‘er ‘air and ‘e told ‘er, “I is gunna teach ya to be a propa woman, eh. When I tell ya ta fix me and me mate sumthing to eat, ya does it.Right.” Then tha little cow, she tries to kick ‘im in tha nuts. That did it. Rotto told me ‘e was gunna teach ‘er a lesson she would not fergit. Told me it was time she was broke in. Time she were taught some manners, like.’
One of the male officers leans forward and asks, ‘So, what happened then?’ Duffy settles into the chair.
‘Could I ‘ave me a cuppa coffee, like? Been a long time ‘ere. Damn tired I is.’ One of the officers leaves the room to bring him a coffee from the machine in the foyer of the station. They wait for his return and then when he returns with a two steaming cups which he places before Duffy. After slurping the hot liquid noisily, Duffy continues.
‘Well, ‘e takes ‘er inta ‘er mother’s bedroom room like. ‘e ruffs ‘er up a bit. Like I weren’t there. I was in the kitchen. Just ‘eard tha little bitch screamin’ ‘er head off. After a while, maybe ‘alf ‘our, Rotto comes out and tells me, “your turn mate! She’s broke in. Might as well ‘ave yerself a go.’ He paused and looked at the three police officers expectantly.
Rae’s gut clenched. She was holding the autopsy report which she had read several times. Mechanically she scanned the details once again – familiarity with them did not make it any easier. She flattened the file with her spread fingers and looked up at Duffy.
‘So what did you do then?’
‘Well not like she’s been a virgin any more. I thoughts, yeah give her a good goin’ so I went in. She’s lyin’on tha bed, face down, cryin’. So took ‘er doggy style, from behind. She keeps cryin’ I tells ‘er to stop an’ jest relax an’ enjoy it.’
There was a sudden chill to the air. Rae leaned forward and tapped her pen rather more savagely than she intended on the table. Duffy stopped mid-narrative.
‘Did you think at any time what you were doing was wrong?’ Rae’s jaw clenched with the effort. One of the male officers, father of two daughters in their early teens, excused himself and left the room hastily. The other male officer looked at Duffy with ill-concealed incredulity. Duffy appeared puzzled by the question.
‘Well, it ain’t like she was a virgin or anything. Rotto broke ‘er in. Anyway, she were on ‘er rags so she was ready for it, ye know, matured like.’
Rae was calm, but her voice was glacial when she spoke.
‘She was not actually menstruating or on her rags as you put it. She was bleeding from internal injuries. Internal injuries caused by penetration. The DNA samples are positive for you and her step-father. Did you not think just once, that this little girl is a child and not a woman? And did you not think once, that I should not be doing this to her, having sex with her? Even if she were a woman, isn’t consent required? Did she at any time consent to what you were doing? And even if she did consent, let’s just say she did consent, how old is she Billy? Is she, sorry, was she over the age of consent? She’s twelve Billy and how old are you? Billy you are thirty-two years old. You are old enough to be her father.’
Rae stopped and spun around to face the wall. The young policeman let out an audible breath. Billy sensing that all was not going his way, burst into tears.
‘I didna mean to kill ‘er. Thought she were enjoyin’ it.’
At that point the second officer returned. His eyes glinted. He sat down.
‘Mr Duffy I have a question for you. If you were faced with this situation again, what would you do differently?’
William Duffy looked confused for a few seconds. He glanced at both male officers and Rae. Rae ran both hands through her cropped dark hair. She gave him no clues and neither did they. Duffy brightened.
‘In tha same situation?’ Rae nodded.
‘I’d ask ‘er if she wanted to con..consent, you know agree to do it with me?’ At his answer, the temperature of the room went to -15C in a split second.
By: Randall Lemon
There was a sudden chill in the air and I could hear the coughing drone of the aircraft as it cascaded out of its rightful place in the sky and plunged straight toward me and my little family
It seemed impossible that with an entire world to choose from for a crash site, the pilot had apparently chosen my two story farmhouse parked in the middle of an otherwise empty prairie. There wasn’t time to get my wife and recently adopted son out of its path.
Stray thoughts wormed their way into my mind. Could it be that this was some sort of suicide attack specifically planned to destroy me and my house? Had my past come back to haunt me? At one time, I had been an air traffic controller at one of the busiest airports in the world, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.
As with so many others, the pressure of my job finally got to me. I lasted longer than most. After three years, I was starting to entertain thoughts of suicide and decided for my own mental health to quit and move far away. I vowed to completely change my lifestyle. I had saved enough money from my job to purchase land out in the middle of Kansas. My place was located just twenty miles south of the striving metropolis of Osborne, population: 1,416. I had begun growing wheat like all the farms around mine but had gradually begun to switch over to growing sorghum. I had taken the old dilapidated farmhouse and made numerous improvements, modernizing it and adding some luxuries like a hot tub and even a separate sauna located near the house where there had once been an old chicken coop.
Most of the airplanes I had seen over the last few years were cropdusters that flew out of Osborne Municipal Airport. Once in awhile a Piper Cub or Beechcraft Bonanza wandered across the horizon but these were few and far between.
But what was plummeting toward my renovated farmhouse now was no little two-seater private plane. From what I could see, this was a small private jet. The ex-Air Traffic Controller in me took only a few moments to identify it as a Gulfstream G280. It was probably Corporation owned and black smoke was pouring from its left tail engine.
So much for the suicide pilot bent on revenge theory. This jet was in big trouble and so was I. I could now make out flames in the tail section. Even if the jet missed my house, the resulting explosion abetted by the remaining fuel in its tanks would take out everything I owned.
I turned to my wife, Martha and our young son, Clark. “What’s the matter with that pilot? Can’t he see all of the empty fields around this place? He could aim for my irrigation pond. That would make for a softer, safer landing. It might give the plane’s occupants a small chance of surviving the crash.”
“Jonathan, what can we do?”
I began to wonder if the pilot was even conscious. “If he’s knocked out and no one else up there knows how to fly that bird, the passengers and we are all cooked!”
The irony of the tragedy that seemed certain to befall us, didn’t escape me. Airplanes and air traffic had been killing me and so I had given them up. Yet now it seemed an airplane would be the death of me after all.
Martha had begun to pray and I reached out and placed one arm around her. He streched with my remaining arm seeking to shield the small boy we had so recently found and adopted but my hand grasped empty air. The toddler streaked into the sky and grasped the underbelly of the jet with its tiny hands.
To the complete amazement of both Martha and I, our son slowed the descent of the small plane and guided it into the shallow irrigation pond which helped to extinguish the flames.
This was the first of many disasters that would be averted due to the amazing abilities of our little boy. It was at that moment that we realized what a special boy we had welcomed into the Kent family.
Thanks to everyone who participated, and for those who would like to enter next week’s contest, check back here tomorrow after 9am PST to find the links for the new story thread.
Now it’s Voting Time!!
Please submit your 1st – 5th place vote (In order), for this week’s Writers Hangout Short Story Contest to LIFlashFiction (at) gmail (dot) com no later than 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT on Thursday/ 4:00am AEDT (Friday).
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