The Other Side of the Storm

malestrom

© Annija Veldre

Alise Egan’s scarlet gown fluttered behind her like a great cape as she faced the maelstrom. When she’d first seen the painting in Keyne Harlan’s private collection, she recognized herself immediately, even though she had never met the anonymous artist. But she assumed that whatever the woman was confronting was an ocean wave. Now she knew that the plasma field was the conduit between her world and another.

Long, slender legs walked forward with surprising confidence as her blonde hair, like her dress, billowed behind her, blown backward by an unseen discharge from the phenomenon just three meters in front of her. One moment, she had been admiring her billionaire benefactor’s painting and listening to him recite the legend and the curse attached to the artwork, and the next, the mystic tale had come to life, and she was inside living it.

“I’m here, Alise.” The familiar voice echoed out of the swirling energy ripples.

“Daddy?”

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Húxiān

fox goddess

from Google Images – found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

Henry Dore ate lunch at the Hong Kong Clay Pot Restaurant in Chinatown everyday just to be near her. He didn’t know her name, and in fact, she was a complete stranger to him, but she was captivating in a way he couldn’t articulate, even to himself.

He had first seen her when he was having lunch with a visiting museum curator from Finland. As the Marketing Manager for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, one of his duties was to entertain VIPs, and he wanted to impress Inari Rinnetmäki, thinking that no Chinese restaurant in Helsinki could match up to the Clay Pot.

Now he couldn’t even remember Rinnetmäki’s response, and he couldn’t care less if she loved the cuisine here or hated it. Just as he and Inari had finished their meal, she walked in and was seated alone at a small table near theirs, which he had since learned was reserved for her every day at one. So today, he was passively sipping spoonfuls of Hot and Sour Soup, not noticing the flavor as he stole clandestine glances in her direction.

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Averie

woman in red

© Anka Zhuravleva

Averie lived in her own little world. I mean, a lot of people are introspective and seem to exist in their personal bubbles, but for Averie, it was the literal truth.

Everyone could see her, but the ordinary human brain couldn’t process her specialness, so they didn’t notice her that much. Averie didn’t often notice other people because, well…they were ordinary.

She didn’t really need a bicycle to get around, but occasionally she indulged herself. A bicycle here, the underground there, a bus, a trolley, it was all the same to her.

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The Purpose of Descent

fallen angel

– ezorenier @ deviantart

A descent for the purpose of an ascent.

-attributed to the Frierkiker Rebbe

“Get up. What do you think you’re doing?” Michael Taylor rushed into the tiny clearing in the forest hoping he’d avoided the men chasing him. “The world is going to Hell in a hand basket, and you’re sitting there clutching your head like you’re coming off of the two-day drunk.”

He skidded to a halt, not knowing how the angel would react to his impulsive words. She took her hand away from her face and looked up at the middle-aged father of four. “If it were only that simple.”

“A woman? I thought all angels were men. In my visions, you were…I mean, in the Bible…”

“The translation from my realm to yours is a difficult one to explain, Michael, and what you call visions were my attempt to communicate across the chasm between our realities.”

“But you are an angel, right? I mean, I really want you to be an angel.”

“I am whatever you need me to be.”

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Dark Carnival

carnival

Image credit Grace Ho via Unsplash

“Oneida, I wish you wouldn’t torture yourself this way. Come back with me.” Del held out long, skeletal fingers toward the diaphanous waif that he loved with all his heart, that is, if he still had one.

“Just a few more minutes. I like to hear their laughter.”

“We have laughter, too. It just takes a bit of adjustment.”

“I know.” She continued to stare wistfully at the people being whisked about on the rides. “You’ve told me before.” She turned towards him, a quizzical look on what was once her face. “How long has it been?”

“Since you arrived? Barely a decade, my love.”

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The Gathering Stone

stone

© Sue Vincent

Malcolm Potter was desperate enough to finally make the pilgrimage. He once thought it was all silly nonsense, but things had gone too far. The monster in the White House had made an incredible mess over the past two years, rolling back environmental protections so that his rich buddies could clear cut and strip mine, even in national parks, chipping away at abortion rights, healthcare, protections for all marginalized populations across the board, and having a religious fanatic as his Vice President. The nation was spinning out of control.

He had been a staunch atheist for most of his five decades of life, and couldn’t understand why religions were still tolerated since they were one of the major causes of war, oppression, persecution, and colonialism. Yet, even though his last hope was firmly grounded in superstition and belief in the occult, it was still a hope. Only the stone could restore the correct orientation of the world, and return it to a course that ultimately would lead to utopia.

“Who are you?” Malcolm thought he’d be the only one here, but a woman was standing on the other side of the stone.

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The Lady in Black

woman in pool

Image credit Mari Lezhava via Unsplash

The lady in black, as the tabloids dubbed her, had drowned in Victor Fountain’s swimming pool five years ago and now she was back. Marcela Saenz was twenty-eight when she died. Mr. Fountain, CEO and President of one of the top software engineering companies in the world, was on holiday with his family at the time and had no knowledge about how the personal assistant for his company’s Marketing director had gotten onto his property.

The coroner declared the case death by misadventure. Based on the contusion on the back of Ms. Saenz’s head, and the amount of water in her lungs, he determined that she must have fallen into the pool, struck her head against the side, rendering her unconscious, and subsequently drowned.

Her body was found by Johnny Morales, an employee of a pool cleaning service, some forty-eight hours after she died. The nineteen-year-old quit his job the next day.

Marcela Saenz drowned in Victor Fountain’s swimming pool five years ago today. The pool had temporarily been drained to repair a cracked drainage pipe.

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Going Up

swing

Image credit Gamze Bozkaya via Unsplash

“Get back here, Deric! Do it now!”

The minute Enoch Fischer noticed the boy was missing, he knew there’d be trouble, but he didn’t suspect that not only had some fool strung up a swing at the edge of the cliff, but that the fifteen-year-old would use it.

“Relax. I’m fine. Can’t I have some fun once in a while?” The boy turned his head around as far as he could, but Enoch still could hardly hear him.

“That’s not fun, it’s suicide. Get off this instant.”

“Poor choice of words on your part, Dad.” He was laughing, taunting his adoptive father the way he had since he was able to walk. At the apex of the arc out into empty air, Deric pulled himself up by the ropes, twisted, and then falling, grabbed the seat with both hands. On the return swing, his legs were low enough to drag on the dirt and grass pulling him to a stop.

“You should have seen the look on your face.” He stood and swatted dust off of his pant legs, still laughing at the effect his stunt had on the older man.

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The Other Side of the Fence

fence

Image credit: Mattias Milos via Unsplash

Gabriel peered though the tear in the chain link fence that separated Lucia from the foothills. The foothills used to be part of a State Park before the west coast cities separated from the rest of California. They kept enough land to go on hikes or walk their dogs, but except for a few community gardens, they had all their food flown in.

He was only sixteen and had been born after “The Schism,” the separation of what his Grandpa called “The Left Coast” from the more rural and conservative parts of the state. He said that other big cities had done the same thing, not just in the U.S., but in Canada and Europe, too. The state capitol had been moved from Sacramento to Los Angeles, and people in the “rightist” coastal areas, like Orange County, had chosen to sell their houses at a premium, and move to mid-sized cities here or in other states such as Idaho, which was a pretty popular destination.

“What makes you so special?”

In spite of his Grandpa, his parents, and most other people he knew, including the kids he’d grown up with, he was curious. What did the coast cities have that the rest of California didn’t? They had video games, but so did he, though not from the same manufacturers, and “coastie” products were deliberately overpriced for what they called “hicks” and “deplorables”or just plain not sold outside the cities.

Same thing with movies, music, and most of the other stuff produced in the big population centers. Yeah, the central part of the state had their own tech and entertainment products, but not the same ones. He’d never see the latest superhero movies or TV shows made by Marvel or DC unless they were pirated, and he suspected that what he and the other kids saw, listened to, and played weren’t quite as good.

“Hello.”

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Pushing Back Darkness

light and darkness

© Silvia Grav

“A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness.” -Jewish proverb

Racquel always felt nauseous when she tasted darkness. Other people think the dark is quiet, serene, and cool, like a summer’s evening, but it was really bitter, hot, and moist like a swamp, and tiny, beastly things swarmed unseen in the ebony abyss. If she wasn’t careful, she could swallow them, and even one would torment her for days before being eliminated into the toilet.

She wasn’t always like this. It used to be that light was light and dark was dark. The sun rose, she turned on a lamp, she walked into her office building, there was always light. Then the sun set, she left work, went home, went to bed, and turned off the lamp on her night stand. Then it was dark. There was no good or bad to it.

But then things changed.

“If you don’t learn to turn off the lights, our power bill will be through the roof.”

“Shut up, Jason. Shut up, shut up, shut up!” She wanted to scream at him but she never did. Racquel passively nodded her head, and holding back her tears, she’d turn off the lights, one by one, and go to bed. She hadn’t been afraid of the dark since she was very little. Why was she afraid of it now?

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