(Author’s note: Things are getting little better, and I’m likely getting more time to do writing work. You may see an uptick in original work soon. My job isn’t as tiring as it used to be. Enjoy today’s view!)
Marty looked at her picture. He sat on the park bench, tears slowly falling down his face.
He remembered the times they sat under that very bench. Holding, love flowing between both of them. He remembered just how much he loved her, and that he told her that it would be forever. He remembered the look on her face when she saw the ring, and when she wore the wedding dress that made her look so radiant.
He remembered those words he said, as she lay in that hospital bed.
Pia Nagala was incredible. No one who looked upon her would have doubted it.
Among the world of the urban man, she would have been called “on fleek”, or looking very fine. The air about her was captivating, and she held your gaze constantly. For any man, she would be considered as close to perfect as one could get.
The guy on her arm, however, would be another story.
Charles Trainor would not be considered “on fleek”. He was a good looking man, but unremarkable compared to Pia. A lot of people wondered why they ended up together, first in a touch-and-go relationship, then much more steady. Some even warned Charles to be careful, that he wouldn’t rush too far and be too focused.
“So, what do you plan to do now?”
The question from Darryl, one of Charles’s good friends, was pointed. It cut home quickly, without much of a fuss, and Charles shrinked down in his chair at it.
“Plan to do about what?” he responded.
“About Pia. You two have been dating for a while, and now there is full on, undisputed evidence that she’s been involved in some really nasty behaviors.”
“Yeah, but you’re the one who gave me that evidence.”
Darryl’s olive green eyes narrowed as he looked at Charles. He was correct, it was his investigation of Pia that brought up the evidence of her dalliances with tarot readers and illicit sex acts in places that Charles would never go to. He looked over at the manila envelope, sitting lazily on an end table, the contents of the package spilling out onto the floor.
The color photos that were visible had showed the chestnut haired woman with a blissful look on her face as she was leaving a tarot parlor. Another photo, laying on the floor and facing towards the ceiling, had the oblivious woman walking towards a warehouse door. She was wearing skintight clothing that showed off her endowments, uncharacteristic of the normally demure young lady commonly found on Charles’s arm.
“Pictures don’t lie, Chuck. She’s been playing you this whole time.”
“But, how can it be that she would do this? I mean, she was the one who helped get me straight with my father. She was the one who helped me get in touch with guys who were able to keep me accountable about my binge drinking. Heck, she was able to help me find you!”
Darryl’s face grew a slight bit more red, more from embarrassment than anger. Again, a true statement, as Pia introduced Darryl and Charles at a dinner party a few months back. They had become very close, due to their higher age and their similar tastes in music and food.
“C’mon, Chuck, you know me. You know my record, and you know that I wouldn’t lie about Pia.”
Charles ran his hands up his face and through his straight, thick black hair. The expression on his face was like a man who was about to crack up. His neck muscles tensed as the factoid bounced through his head like a small bouncy ball.
He sighed, his shoulders slumping down in defeat.
“You’re right. You wouldn’t lie about her.”
“I don’t like saying things like that, man. I know she was something very special and she made you feel really good.”
“You’re right. She did. But, I know that she has other…”
He stopped for a moment, shaking his head as he thought about the depravity of it all.
“Seriously? That warehouse was a sex club?”
“Yeah. The PI that went in there came back and showed me the video that was in there. I had to tell him to turn it off after the first minute…”
“Yeah, yeah. No need to recount those details.”
“So, as I asked, what now?”
“I am not sure what exactly to do about it.”
Charles looked around the beautiful living room that was part of his new place. He gazed at the crystal light that hung over the living room table, remarking in his mind about how beautiful it made the rest of the living room.
The new place was possible because of her help. A fact that Charles knew could be a big problem if things blew up.
“It might just be good to get it into the open and just break it off with her cleanly,” Darryl said, taking a sip of his dark Colombian roast coffee.
“But, that could mean trouble. Remember, she’s pretty influential among my friends.”
“Duh! I know that! Remember that most of them are my friends, too!”
As Charles started to stand, the screech of tires emanated into the house. Darryl looked at Charles for the briefest of moments, locking eyes with him, before he bolted from the chair to the pictures. As Darryl furiously scrambled to put all the evidence back into the envelope, Charles paced back and forth.
The slam of the car door lightly reverberated into the house. The wrinkles around Charles’s eyes became more pronounced with each second’s passing.
Charles’s heart panicked and quickened as he heard the keys slide into the door to the garage.
The door opened, and Pia walked in. As she closed the door, her green A-line skirt twirled around her, barely showing her knees. She turned around, her fuzzy white sweater covering her torso and arms, holding a bag of groceries.
She smiled as she looked at Charles.
“Charlie! You’re here! Can you help me with these groceries?”
Charles’s face froze in a look of petrified shock. He could not move, could not blink, could not do anything. When Pia looked him in the face, her infectious smile lessened.
“Charlie, are you okay?”
Charles blinked, then smiled bashfully.
“I’m sorry, Pia. I had some bad news come to me today that caused me some issues. I was just talking with Darryl about it when you came in.”
He walked over to her, picked up the bag from her hands, and started to unpack them. Pia just smiled and bit her lip as she walked back to the garage. After a few minutes, and putting the bags away, she put her hands around his waist. She pressed herself into his back.
“So, dear, what was the bad news?”
“Oh, you remember that job I applied for? The one at the newspaper?”
“Yeah, you were happy about that one.”
“I didn’t get it. They called me just before you got here, and told me that I had excellent references and information.”
“And other people were more what they were looking for, right?”
Pia turned Charles around with her hands and gazed into his caramel brown eyes. Her own deep, dark eyes showed sincerity.
“Don’t worry. God’s on your side, and you will get that job. He provides.”
“I know he does, Pia. I just hope that something comes soon. It’s really gonna be hard to deal with if I can’t find something here to provide for my living expenses.”
“He’s already come through for you before, right?”
“Yeah, he has. I just really wish there weren’t so many other issues to deal with.”
She laid her head against his chest, as Darryl carefully walked into the kitchen.
“Hey there, Pia.”
“Heya, Darryl. How’s everything been?”
“Eh, not much to say. Rita is doing alright, but she’s mostly home for now.”
Pia looked into his eyes, giving a solemn nod.
“I gotta run, Charlie,” he said, taking one last look at his friend. A friend who was locked in an embrace with a temptress.
He looked at Pia, sweet and innocent Pia, as the images of her in revealing clothing flashed past his eyes. His face became stony, and he quickly walked out of the kitchen. Neither Pia nor Charles did anything until the door slammed.
Pia was the first to break the silence.
“Is it just me, or did it seem like he had something wrong with him?” she asked, as she turned towards the stove.
“Nah. I think he’s just been under stress with the children at school.”
“I thought he liked his job.”
“They take a lot out of him and today was his first real day off.”
“That would explain it. So, what do you want for dinner?”
Charles was about to say something when she turned around and looked at him, with the usual and beautiful smile she always gave him. He worked his hardest not to show anything but an emotion of gratitude.
“Oh, whatever you wish. I am more interested in just resting than watching you cook tonight.”
“Aww,” she pouted, making herself look more enticing than before, “I was hoping you’d help me.”
Charles nervously laughed, looking everywhere for a way out.
“That news really took me hard. I think I’m just going to go into the living room and lie down.”
“Okay!” she beamed, “I’ll let you know when dinner is ready.”
As Charles left the room, he breathed a sigh of relief.
“I really don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up…”
Author’s note: Since classes will soon be starting up again, I will likely be updating with mostly Friday Fictioneers stuff and short writings that result from my “argle-bargle” sessions of getting frustrated with being a grad student. At the very least, enjoy today’s selection for Friday Fictioneers.
“Why did we travel an hour to this place for food?!”
Chandra Barker was not a happy person, and her fiancee, Mark, knew it. He sat her down on a bench and looked her in the eye.
“When I was 9, my teenaged sister and I came here for fun. We had these cinnamon flat disks for a snack, before we went onto the ice. It was the last thing that we ate together before the day she fell through the ice. Coming here is a reminder of what we used to do.”
She looked at him, and a tear fell.
“And you wanted to share this memory with me?”
She planted her lips firmly on his cheek, appreciating the gesture.
The Witch of Winter. Snow fairy. The Winter Wife. Yuki-Onna.
She was called many different names from the time of her youth, referred to in legends. She was one of many, but not as many as others. She wasn’t a monster,though, like what many people thought.
Her skin was a beautiful alabaster, her hair nearly crystalline in appearance. Out of the sun, it looked a beautiful strawberry blonde color. She was dressed in a shorter yukata that came down to the knees, colored white, with broad and wide sleeves, along with a salmon-colored sash across her waist. To the uninitiated eye, she would have been described as a young, teenaged beauty.
However, to quote Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.” With the internet, more people found out and knew about the legend of the Yuki-Onna. As a result, more people were scared, or were fascinated but didn’t do anything about it as human instinct is to avoid things that mean death.
She remembered hearing about the stories from her mother. While there were many who took to the traditional way of freezing their mates to death, and joining them in whatever afterlife there was, she wasn’t one who would do that. She was different, and to her kind, an outcast. She wanted what the humans had.
She sat on a cliff, overlooking a lake that was thawing. She sighed as she kept thinking about her love, whoever he was. She looked at the melting snow, a sign of the springtime that was to come and the summer that would be tough. She thought about leaving her native land, going to a new land where she may be more accepted. She heard about the Australian snow fairies, who make their homes in the highlands of the east coast; and even the Rocky Mountain Yuki-Onna, the rare and yet most striking of the snow fairies in the mountains of America and Canada.
She didn’t have the income to move, however. Because of this realization, she slid further into her reflections. She sighed as a slight chilly air flowed from her mouth into the air.
She heard a slight crunching behind her, and she immediately shifted around to see who was coming. She waited, patiently, hearing the slow movement of rock and the groaning of someone who sounded quite masculine. Waiting patiently, she sat placidly as the form of the newcomer came into view.
The man was brown-haired, young, and a slight bit overweight. He didn’t look unhealthy, but he could easily shed a few pounds if he so chose. He reached the overlook where she was and sat down.
“Hello there, love. Looks like…WHOA-!”
He looked over the lake, the beauty of it all flowing into his eyes and piercing his brain. The deep blue of the lake, contrasted with the grayish white of the melting sheets of ice, and the deep, dark green evergreen trees that blanketed the landscape. The sun shone in rays and peaks from around the needles of the trees, creating a near-kaleidoscope effect to a person’s eye.
In the young man’s eyes, this was intense beauty. He smiled broadly, as he pulled out his expensive camera and started taking shots. The young beauty sitting close to his feet was in awe at how engrossed he was in the scenery, many thoughts and questions running through her mind.
“You…like nature?” she asked him.
He looked down and grinned.
“Absolutely! I have never seen or experienced such beauty since I look out from Cape Blanco in Oregon, in the USA. This is the essence of Japan, and I now have a piece of it for my memories. Now, since I’m done gushing over nature’s beauty, how about you?”
She looked down, demurely, trying to hide the embarrassment of having this foreigner’s attention on her.
“The name’s Tom. Tom Bishop. Cairns, Australia.”
Her eyes lit up and she smiled, broadly.
“Australia?! Is Cairns anywhere close to snow?”
Tom looked at the young lady and smiled.
“Nah. Snow is farther south. Down in the hills around by Melbourne and Canberra. Cairns is tropical. Which is okay, because I don’t really like tropical places. What’s your name?”
The young yuki-onna bit her lip as she looked at him.
“My name would translate to Yukiri in this language. It’s hard to pronounce my actual name in your language.”
“Well, Yukiri, I am very glad to meet you. It’s not everyday you see someone who is beautiful surrounded by beautiful nature.”
She sighed, and a wan smile towards the compliment.
“If you know more about me, you may not think I’m so beautiful. Many times, people even think I’m a real monster.”
Tom looked at her, squinted for a few seconds, and gave a little chuckle.
“Everyone has a little bit of monster inside. The most pious of people have that, or there wouldn’t be something called “the human condition”,” he said, while looking out at the placid lake, “There are men and women out there who appear to be normal, but who are murderers and thieves deep down. They show kindness to the world and hatred reigns in their hearts. If you think you are a monster, then obviously you haven’t seen how some humans can be.”
Yukiri looked at him with wide eyes, not realizing that for even a moment that someone would state that some humans are worse than her. She quietly looked out at the lake, serenity perceived, and a tear started to fall down her face.
“Tom, what if someone told you that they were a real monster. Like a monster from legend, or someone who was unbelievably different that it would make you question everything you know?”
Tom looked down at her, and gave her a sideways smile. He crouched down and his smile broadened.
“Everyday, I question what I know. It’s not because I think God’s wrong, or that I’m wrong, but it helps me to realize that there are things I can’t explain out there. If you told me you were a real legendary monster, it’s likely I wouldn’t believe it. But, after a while, when I think about it and pray over the idea, I might change my mind.”
He sat down, dangling his legs over the edge of the cliff, and he reached over to touch her shoulder. Yukiri started to pull away, but then relaxed as the warm hand lightly gripped her shoulder.
“God has shown me many things in my life. He’s shown me the greatest highs and the greatest lows. He has shown me beauty unimaginable in nature, and he has shown me true ugliness. If you’re asking me whether real life monsters exist, then I could say yes. But again, the question we should be asking is, ‘What is the true definition of a monster?'”
Yukiri eyes started to tear up heavily as Tom continued to speak to her.
“Yukiri, beauty and monstrosity are in the eye of the beholder. I know of women back in Oz that are beautiful as can be in their looks, but their personality is absolutely horrific to the point of revolting. I also know of women who are not 10s in their looks, but have some of the warmest and most beautiful hearts imaginable. When you find a balance, that’s where perfection comes in.”
She launched herself at Tom and buried her head in his shoulder, cold tears soaking into the microfiber jacket that he wore. He looked down at her, and he didn’t know what to do.
Do I hug her? Do I ask her what’s wrong? What’s…does she really think she’s a monster?
After a minute of sobbing, the icy tears soaking through Tom’s jacket, she pulled away slowly and sniffled.
“You made me feel…like a human, Tom.”
Tom put up his hands and laughed nervously.
“Hey hey…I’m no saint here. I’m guilty of being a monster myself at times.”
Yukiri smiled at him as he attempted to deflect the compliment with self-deprecation. She put a finger on his lips and smiled.
“What I mean is this, that your words make me think that there is hope for someone like me.”
“What do you mean?”
She looked him in the eye, and took a deep breath.
“Well, what I’m going to say may be hard to believe. You’re talking to a real live legendary monster.”
Tom cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrows, as if he was saying, “Go on…”
She stood and revealed her true face, which was a little bit wider, with what looked to be sharp saw-like teeth. She raised her hands, which were now a deep ice blue, the fingers looking like sharp, razor claws.
“My family are snow fairies. We are Yuki-Onna. In legend, we are accused of leading men to their death.”
Tom’s eyes widened, but as Yukiri looked into his eyes, she didn’t see fear. She saw what she only could describe as amazement.
Tom blinked, and reached for her icy claws. She started to recoil from the touch, as if to cry out “Don’t touch me!”, but he was quick enough to put his hand into her claw.
“Your hands are ice cold. It’s like dipping my hand in a blast freezer. But…I can still feel a bit of your skin. It’s like grooved ice.”
Yukiri smiled, showing the razor teeth in her mouth. She wasn’t showing malice at all, and she felt like Tom was receiving that message in his mind.
“Yukiri, I want to know more. You’re a new being that I never knew existed, but a testament to the greatness of the God I serve.”
She morphed back to her human form and smiled, knowing that this was something she hoped for.
“I’d like to know more about you, Tom. And the God you talk so highly about…”
For as long as he could remember, the streets of the big city were his home. They were the bread and butter he would eat every morning, the cheesesteaks “wit wiz” that occupied his waistline during the afternoons, and the cool air of the night as he drove around the city.
He knew every crevice, every nook of the streets he traveled on. No matter what time it was, he could find a way to get to his destination without worrying about using the GPS in his car. He would take a shortcut if it took a little time off the clock. He grew up on these streets, knowing it was safe to drive at night, and which parts of the city were skeevy enough to avoid in the overnights.
The sound of the lines in the concrete filled his vehicle as he traveled. The staccato of the breaks keeping a steady beat to the music in his head. The interstate was the main way to get to a place, but he always liked to use the side and back roads if possible. This night, however, he needed to be on that stretch of concrete slabs. It was where he was required to be.
He looked up at the tall buildings along the downtown freeway front, of the big pink colored building that the locals called “The Flamingo”; the old Killer Kola factory, which at one time also helped make and store “Billy Beer”; even the double-decker bridge that everyone called “The Iroquois” was able to be seen from his seat. All of these things helped him to realize just how rooted in the city that he was.
The darkness that enveloped the city on this night was palpable. As he pulled off the freeway and onto one of the main surface thoroughfares, he looked around at the area he was about to enter: Old Koreatown. When he first started navigating the streets, Old Koreatown was a place no young man was to go. The area was a mess of dry cleaning shops, liquor stores, shik dangs, and brothels hidden as hair salons. Gangs would make their dough on those streets, and if one wasn’t careful, they could end up in a body bag the next day.
But that was the old Koreatown way.
The new image of Koreatown was the development of high-rise apartment lofts with Korean aesthetics, and trendy coffee shops, or patisseries. It was a gentrified area, lacking the charm of the old neighborhood while still trying to stick with it. Paul missed the old Koreatown, and knew that the new Koreatown was not as good as the old was.
He looked at the signs on the edge of Old Koreatown, and found where he needed to be. He pulled over to the side of the street, next to a stop sign and smiled. He looked to the east, as he saw the faintest glimpses of green and yellow start to tickle the horizon. He started to drift, looking at the beauty of a new dawn.
The rear passenger door opened. Paul looked back and smiled.
“Alright, lady. Where ya wanna go this morning?”
The lady, a striking beauty in the middle of the budding dawn, just sat back and sighed.
“Airport, Terminal H.”
“You got it, ma’am. You’re going to enjoy the dawn as we go.”
She just smiled and settled back in for the long drive.
Paul knew the streets, and this time, he wasn’t in a rush to get his passenger to the destination. He wouldn’t overcharge her for taking the long way and watching the sun rise.
The sands of the beach reminded Dennis of salt and pepper in his shakers at home. The fine and nearly bleached white of the sand mixed in contrast with the deep dark, almost charcoal-like black sand. Strewn in patterns like old growth tree rings, the sand was a testament to the changing of the tides.
Dennis had arrived at the beach a couple hours before sunset. He carefully laid his blanket atop the ebony and ivory sands, and pitched a bright, almost beanie-like umbrella next to him. A small, blue cooler lazed next to his arm, one side of the cooler open and displaying a tub full of nearly clear-blue ice and frosty bottles of his favorite beer. A cold bottle lay cradled in his left arm, like a newborn baby awaiting the full display of golden colored awesomeness inside it’s glass shell.
The hair on Dennis’s apple-shaped head was thinning. The years of work allowed the gray and white to start seeping in, dark wrinkles showing themselves like folds of clothing on his face. His face was leathery and aged, but he still showed the kindness in his eyes that he inherited from many generations of people. Capped off by a pair of dark blue wraparound sunglasses, his deep blue eyes pierced the skies and aimed straight for the sunset in the distance.
He shifted positions on his blanket, the white cotton of his t-shirt moving ever so slightly as he tried to relax.
The time was almost near, and as the warm trade winds came in from off the ocean, he focused on the gigantic orange orb of light and power in the far skies. Like a slow-motion play of a basketball as it approached the basket, the sun creeped towards the horizon. Dennis opened the top of the bottle of beer just as the bottom of the sun reached the horizon. He lifted the bottle upwards and flipped it, letting the light amber colored liquid flow from the bottle, into his mouth and the taste buds that awaited the moment. The sensation of cold quickly spread throughout his body as the sun continued to descend.
He looked out on the bay and saw a variety of different craft that , while playing many hours ago, were now focused on the spectacular display of light. The different colors of boats were no longer seen as the entirety of sky and sun were bathed in a deepening orange. By this time, the sun was already halfway below the horizon.
Dennis flipped the bottle again and took a long pull from it, letting the beer drain into his gullet. As he finished the bottle, he looked out at the sun. All but a sliver were gone. As the sun finally descended, he sat back and watched the last vestiges of sunlight disappear below the horizon. He sighed, knowing that the next one was merely 24 hours away.
He slowly packed up his things. Taking the bottle, he put it on the other side of his cooler and shut the lid. He picked up his blanket and folded it into very neat and tidy squares. He walked slowly up the path next to where he sat, and to his waiting car 25 feet away. Once he arrived at his car, he put everything into the trunk and pulled out a tuxedo. Attaching the tuxedo to the rear seat of his car, he got in and backed out. Taking one last look at the horizon, the orange color of the sky was starting to turn reddish and purplish.
He turned on his headlights, and didn’t look back for the rest of the night.
Sherry Makinami and Scott Schmidt looked out at the plants that grew outside of the Hamilton Dormitory Complex, while they each sipped on a cold drink. In the aftermath of the events from earlier that day, word had spread to parts that two girls had it out with each other, but without a punch thrown. While no one really knew what happened, Sherry knew. And she was still shedding tears.
Scott looked down at her, his arm wrapped around her shoulders. He leaned her head against the crook in his shoulder as he sipped on his soda.
“Think you can tell me now what happened?”
Sherry looked down at his hand, sighing.
“I don’t like talking about it, honestly.”
“And yet, to make sure I know what I’m getting into, I need to know.”
She sat up and looked him square in the eye. She took a breath in, readying herself for the story that she was about to tell.
“It started in high school. I was being picked on for many reasons, most of which were incredibly childish and petty. One day, it went too far. And I just got mad at this one girl. I just kept thinking about how she just needed to go away, to just shut up and leave me alone. I didn’t realize it until after her body hit the floor that I caused her to die. They called it a stroke, but I know that it was me who did it. With my mind.”
Scott looked into her eyes, piercing the veil and seeing the true feelings in her mind.
“And this thing you have, it only happens…when you’re stressed?”
“Not really. It’s more either when there’s a lot of danger happening, like with Delia wanting to have her goons beat you up; or it’s when someone really makes me angry. I’ve learned to control it so that it doesn’t hurt people who I love when they disappoint or cause me anger, but the limiters come off when something I love is threatened.”
Scott continued to look into her eyes.
“So that means my brains won’t go splat if we have an argument, right?”
Sherry’s face turned to horror, before she closed her eyes and breathed.
“No, Scott. I wouldn’t do that to you. If you executed my mother and father in cold blood, then yes. But I know you, and I know you wouldn’t do that.”
Scott smiled, and laid her head back down on his shoulder.
“Even with knowing what you can do, I wouldn’t leave you.”
She snuggled into his shoulder and sighed contently.
They spent the rest of the evening and late night looking out at the people, just holding each other and being content. As the evening wore on, they never noticed the peculiarly placed plumbing van on the other side of the street.
“Got eyes on the target, Vincent?”
“Yep. I think we’ll be able to get her this time. And this time, it won’t end up in fiction like ‘Firestarter’.”
The sound of Scott’s “meowing cat alarm clock ringtone” helped to rouse him from his sleep. He stretched his arms out, and looked at his bed. Noticing that no one was there, and breathing a sigh of relief, he sat up and went over to the window. He opened it and looked out on the sunny quad, overlooking Humpy Lumpy Lawn.
He noticed a pair of nice looking legs tanning in the mid-morning sun, reading a book. He looked at her and grinned, as he got himself dressed.
He walked out to the lawn in flip flops, a hawaiian shirt, and cargo shorts. He stopped just before, and took a look at the nice pair of legs, attached to a beautiful rest of a female form, and he plopped down next to her.
“You are the best sight to see in the morning,” he said to her.
Sherry looked up at him from her book and gave him a peck on the cheek.
“Very few people are talking about yesterday. I’m back to being largely anonymous.”
He brushed a strand of shoulder-length maroon hair out of her face. He admired her face for a few seconds.
“I don’t know how long that will be, though.”
Sherry looked up at him, puzzled.
“What if I became student union president and serenaded you in the middle of the amphitheatre?”
Immediately after the word “serenaded”, she started to blush a color that nearly matched her hair.
Scott looked at her and smiled. He finally found something that he could use for later.