Thriller

All posts in the Thriller category

On horrible realizations.

Published September 7, 2014 by mandileighbean

A new academic year has started, but I am mostly unsure as to how this makes me feel.  I’m excited for the return to normalcy and to see coworkers and students on a regular basis.  However, I am sure I will miss lounging and will soon loathe the stress the school year inevitably brings.  However, my friend is reading a book all about mind set, which emphasizes the axiom that life is 10% what happens to an individual, and 90% how the individual reacts to events and circumstances and whatnot.  I’ve been a notoriously awful “over-reactor.”  Perhaps a resolution for the academic year should be to stay positive and patient.

 

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WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #18: “A lawyer discovers that his client is guilty of the horrible crime for which he was just found innocent.”

 

Eliot Edwards (there was always something inherently to be respected about a man with two first names) rose beside his client as the honorable judge had instructed, as both men prepared for the verdict.  Eliot was cool, calm, and collected; his breath did not hitch as it entered and exited the two air sacks called lungs.  His hands did not tremble as he loosely clasped them in front.  He looked poised and professional, just as he always did.  Remarkably, the same could be said of the man beside, the supposed delinquent known as Harvey Miller.  For just about a month, Eliot and Harvey had been seated behind an elongated wooden table, listening to eyewitness testimony, and the coroner’s findings, and statements from detectives that seemed to prove that Harvey had brutally raped and then murdered four-year-old Lindsey Morris.  The state would have a member of the jury believe that Harvey pulled alongside the little girl’s front yard in his work van, casually rolled down the window, and called out her.  Merrily, happily, the beautiful, innocent girl skipped over and politely listened as Harvey explained that he was lost, and that his poor, poor puppy in the back was sick and needed a doctor and special medicine.  In her opening statement, the prosecutor took care to meticulously describe the way the little girl’s face most likely trembled with concern for the puppy and was consumed with an overwhelming – and irresponsible – desire to help.  Willingly, with minimal coercing because Lindsey came from a nice neighborhood with respectable, hard-working families living and loving in modest ranch-style homes, she would have climbed inside.  Most likely, she jabbered somewhat incoherently to Harvey, asking about the puppy and what was wrong and where he was from and what kind of car she was in.  As a result, Lindsey would have been woefully unprepared when she was led into the woods, holding onto a hand for comfort and reassurance and safety, knocked down, stripped and violated.

It was an unspeakable crime, and thinking over the lurid details often turned Eliot’s stomach.  He would look at Harvey, try to bore into the other man’s soul, to evaluate whether or not he was truly guilty.  Eliot didn’t think any human being could be capable of such apathy, of such inhumanity, but these things happened.  Harvey wasn’t overly altruistic, but he wasn’t irrational or unkempt or anything like a madman.  He seemed normal and even-keeled.  Sure, he had some dark moments in his past – an aggressive and physical altercation with his high school principal, and questionable accusations from several ex-girlfriends – but nothing that would precede such monstrosity as the rape and murder of an innocent child.  Eliot would not invite Harvey out for drinks or into his home, but a slightly uneasy feeling did not make someone guilty of murder.

As Harvey and Eliot stood, awaiting Harvey’s fate, Eliot felt fairly confident the jury would agree.  Most of the evidence had been circumstantial and there was no DNA evidence to speak of.  Granted Harvey had not been able to provide an airtight alibi for afternoon and evening in question, but the defense readily admitted Harvey was no saint and liked to tip the bottle back more of than not.  As such, memory lapses were common.  The jury foreman began reading the verdict sheet and Eliot knew his mind should be in the present, willing the juror to say “not guilty,” but he was troubled by a fact which had troubled just about everyone else involved in the case, cop and victim and lawyer alike.  Despite a thorough canvas of the crime scene and sweep of Harvey’s van and essentially ransacking Lindsey’s home, no one had been able to find her beloved turtle pin.  Lindsey had received the pin from her oldest brother, and he had bought it especially for Lindsey from the zoo during a class trip.  Lindsey was never without the pin – even wore it to bed when her mother’s typically watchful eye missed it.  Everyone believed whoever had the pin now must be the murderer, keeping it as a sick memento.  The pin seemed to be the key to the case and –

“…find the defendant not guilty,” the foreman read.  Eliot snapped to attention as Harvey clapped him heartily on the shoulder.  Eliot smiled and turned to shake Harvey’s hand.  Those behind them, and on the other side of the courtroom, dissolved into weeping and wailing.  They were family members of Lindsey, devastated by the outcome because they had all been so sure of Harvey’s guilt.  Eliot felt for them and his eyes ran over their downturned faces, their red-rimmed eyes, and their expressions of misery.  Eliot’s smile diminished.  He released Harvey’s hand so he could turn to hug his mother, the only supporter of Harvey’s, present for every single day of testimony.  She threw her beefy arms around her boy and Harvey was nearly being pulled over the wooden, glossy barricade that separated the audience from the members of the judicial process.  Harvey was pulled onto his tippy toes and with his body elongated, and bent at a rather awkward angle, the pocket of his button-down Oxford shirt hung low so that the tiny metallic object that had been residing within clamored to the tile floor.

Eliot saw it fall out of the corner of his eye.  He did not know what it was, but bent to retrieve it.  As he did so, he noticed it was a pin in the shape of the turtle.

All the wind seemed to be knocked from him.  Eliot dropped to his knees, breathing deeply through his nose to keep from vomiting.  He could feel eyes upon him, knew instinctively the eyes belonged to Harvey, and was suddenly terrified.

Eliot Edwards had sent a depraved lunatic free.

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On nasty surprises.

Published July 12, 2014 by mandileighbean

It has been just about two months since I last posted.  I am ashamed to admit that I let life get in the way.  The school year got the best of me – a clear indication my priorities were shuffled and rearranged about a thousand times.  I thought I fell in love, but thinking about it only makes me feel small, sad, and stupid, so I’ve now come to the realization that it wasn’t love.  I have yet to determine what it was, but it’s over now, and I don’t think I’m a better person because of it.

But I have been writing.  I am three chapters into the new novel.  I have a short story to share with you all as part of my “weekly” writing prompts.  My contract with Martin Sisters Publishing will expire next year, so I have begun the search for a literary agent.

I am hoping to close on a home of my own at the end of this month.

There is good, and there has been bad, and in this exact moment, I find it difficult to describe exactly how I feel, but maybe that’s okay.  We’re all entitled to feel numb and completely apathetic now and again, aren’t we?  I think it’s a coping mechanism or, even worse, a defense mechanism of sorts.  I don’t know why I’m feeling so pensive or cynical.  Maybe I’m simply hormonal?  Maybe it has something to do with the heartache I alluded to?  Maybe it’s the dark direction I steered my short story in?  Maybe I simply spend too much time alone?  Whatever the reason, I apologize.  And I also sincerely hope you enjoy this week’s writing prompt.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #15: “A mother discovers a feminine collection while cleaning her son’s bedroom.”

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            “What an idiot!  How could that not have sent up a red flag?” Kelly McCarthy asked no one in particular.  The question had to be rhetorical since she was sitting alone on the slightly worn – but still perfectly comfortable – couch in the living room of the home she shared with her small, loving family.  She was mindlessly eating some low fat, low calorie, low carb potato chips (but all the health benefits meant nothing when she was likely to eat the whole damn bag in one sitting) while watching her favorite true crime documentary channel.  Currently, the channel was airing some cleverly named show – with an alliterative title, most likely – about handsome boyfriends and husbands who were not who they said they were.  This lady had married this good-looking fella after only a few months and found herself bruised and abandoned and robbed.  Sympathy was hard to come by, however, because if this female had thought clearly and not been blinded by a strong jawline, she would have seen through the obvious fabrications and been alarmed by some universally troubling behavior.  These women were not like the sudden rash of young girls that were missing – some had been found but all who had been found were already dead – in a city farther north than the one she called home.  Those girls were too young to be anything other than naïve and innocent.  How could someone who had not even graduated high school know better, let alone really know anything about anything?  No, these women, these suckers, had no one but themselves to blame.  Kelly was shaking her head, feeling pity but mostly disbelief and borderline disdain, when the dryer’s buzzer sounded loudly throughout the one-story, ranch-style home.

            Reluctantly, Kelly peeled herself from the overstuffed cushions and shuffled her slipper-covered feet through the kitchen and into the cramped laundry room.  She listened to the textured bottom of the slippers scuff against the vinyl tiles that floored the kitchen, and she listened to the buzzing of the dryer now only a step away, but other than the low and constant humming of the television, there were no other sounds.  Kelly found herself home alone, as she usually did in the middle of the day throughout the week.  Her husband, Charlie, battled a sizeable commute to the northern part of the state and her son, Joey, was a sophomore at the high school, and though he was scheduled to come home early in the afternoons, around 2:00 PM, Joey never usually showed up until dinner time.  He was always busy with some kind of extracurricular activity and Kelly couldn’t be any prouder.  He was so popular and studious.  Over dinner, Joey always regaled his parents with stories of the humorous antics of juveniles and how Joey was truly an asset to the school community.  A smile formed on Kelly’s lips of her own accord as she thought of her son, her only child, her pride and joy.

            It was a load of his clothes that had just been dried and were now patiently waiting to be folded and placed back in the drawers, or hung in the closet.  Typically, Kelly did not do her son’s laundry – he was nearly sixteen years old – but she had felt particularly generous this idle, random day and for no reason that she would ever be able to articulate.  Later on, Kelly would wish she hadn’t felt so – she would even raise red-rimmed eyes to heaven and demand of whatever God resided beyond the clouds why He had blindsided her with such terror and tragedy.  But before that moment, everything was normal and just as it should be. 

            She shoveled the random assortment of shirts and pants and socks and underwear into an empty laundry basket and trudged down the long hallway to her son’s bedroom.  It was the last bedroom on the right and its door was marked by a single poster, perfectly centered.  The poster advertised a poetry festival in a metropolis near her husband’s work in the northern part of the state.  Joey was such an intelligent, well-mannered boy.  He wasn’t like all those other boys his age, who were loud and aggressive and obnoxious and obsessed with their penises.  He was quiet and patient and obedient and enjoyed females, but not to the point where it consumed him.  He was balanced and healthy and beautiful and whole.  Again, Kelly caught herself nearly beaming when thinking of her baby boy.  She balanced the laundry basket on her particularly bony hip and turned the doorknob.

            The door was locked.  That was odd.  Joey’s door was never locked.

            Kelly placed the laundry basket on the floor and ran her hand along the molding that ran along the top of the doorway.  She was waiting to feel cool metal beneath her fingertips; the key to her son’s room.  She found it and unlocked the door, and pushed it wide open so she could traverse through the doorway with the laundry basket.  Her slippers shushed against the plush carpet and she gladly tossed the laundry basket on the bed, careful not to upend it of its contents.  It bounced jovially once or twice before rocking itself right.  Kelly walked to the dresser directly opposite the meticulously made bed.  She had developed the tactical plan of putting away the socks and underwear first because that would be easiest – Joey just tossed them in the top drawer of the dresser.  The pants and shirts would be decidedly more difficult as Joey had a system in place that Kelly had yet to decode.  A giggle tumbled from her mouth; how funny for Joey to be so organized.  She wondered where in his lineage she could attribute the trait, as both her and Charlie were both hopelessly sloppy.

            When she pulled open the uppermost drawer, a sound she had not been expecting met her ears.  Kelly distinctly heard something substantial sliding forward with the movement of the drawer.  It wasn’t the soft whisper of fabric, but something heavier.  Kelly pulled the drawer out as far as it could go without making it tumble to floor.  She looked within and she found a rather extensive collection of jewelry.  There were necklaces and bracelets and long, dangling earrings that younger girls would wear – colorful, gaudy, attention-getting.  Icy apprehension flooded Kelly’s stomach like the waters would a sinking ship because Joey did not have a girlfriend – not one that he ever mentioned, anyway.  Besides, there were too many pieces for one girl and there was no consistency in taste or style.  Kelly was under the impression that the jewelry had belonged to many different girls with unique and wonderful personalities, just as varied as the necklaces and bracelets and earrings.  Why would Joey have such things hidden among his undergarments?  And why was his door locked?  And if he had a girlfriend, why didn’t she know anything about it?  Why would Joey be keeping secrets?

            Whoa – Kelly stopped herself.  She stepped back from the drawer and shook her head, but still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, terribly wrong.  Maybe it was all the reality crime television she had been ingesting lately.  That was all – she had simply seen too many shows about serial killers who were meticulous, guarded, and kept mementos of their poor, tortured victims, such as jewelry.  She brought a trembling hand to her mouth and slowly shook her head back and forth again.  Joey wouldn’t do anything wrong.  Joey wouldn’t harm a fly, not Joey, no, no, no.

            Her eyes slipped to the closet.  Snooping would only end in heartbreak and pain, as did it for all mothers who found more than they bargained for in the bedrooms of their children (pornography, cigarettes, marijuana, naked selfies, etc.).  But Kelly now needed to snoop for exoneration.  She needed to clear her son whom she had already condemned.  She moved to the closet door and slide the nearest door open.  It creaked unsteadily along the track, and Kelly’s eyes fell to the floor.  Joey’s shoes – so clean, so clean – were in neat and even rows.  Sneakers, boots, shoes for church; there was a place for everything and everything was in its place.

            So what was the deal with the duffle bag thrown carelessly into the corner and out of sight?  Unless, of course, someone was looking for just such a suspicious detail as Kelly was.  Slowly, shaking, she dropped to her knees and reached into the dark recess of the closet.  She pulled the bag, scratching the vinyl with her nails and sending chills up and down her spine.  Breath moved in and out of its own volition, but it did not seem to be all that willing.  The necessary oxygen came in jerky spurts and Kelly feared she would hyperventilate and pass out.  What if Joey came home and found her like this?  What would he think?  What would she say?  Kelly inhaled, exhaled, and unzipped the bag.

            There were dark colored sweatpants with a dark colored sweatshirt, rope, gloves, and the light reflecting off of something metallic and sharp – a knife.  Kelly screamed and threw the bag from her.  She scrambled back against the bed and slumped into a seated position.  This didn’t make sense, couldn’t add up to what she was assuming.  No, those girls were missing from up north, from where Charlie worked.  Why would Joey ….

            Joey had taken an interest lately, hadn’t he?  Joey traveled up to work with his father whenever he could, whenever Charlie offered.  That wasn’t often enough, though.  Not to commit murder – surely not!  Joey would have to go up after school, take public transportation, and he couldn’t.  Well, Kelly supposed he could, but he wouldn’t.  After all, he had all those obligations which he never gave specific details about and which never culminated into something tangible, even something as simple as a telephone call from a club advisor or certificate of participation with the principal’s rubber stamp.

            What the hell was going on here?

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On paranoia and vindication.

Published February 3, 2014 by mandileighbean

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! I was rooting for Denver because I adore the Manning family, but alas; it seems neither brother can finish the job this season.

If you’re in the Toms River area on Tuesday, February 18th, please stop by the Toms River Library for a discussion and book signing with me!  It’s begins at 7:00PM and will last until 8:00PM!

I also just want to add that I believe the most romantic notion(? idea? not entirely sure which word I want to use) is two people thinking about one another without the other knowing.  It’s nice to think another is thinking of you in that unique way.  It’s beautiful when it’s organic and not manufactured or fished for, but the kicker is the object of attention may never know.  It is within that beautiful frustration the romance lies, in my humble opinion.  Just throwing that out there, I guess.  Forgive me, but it had been some time since I was random.

Enjoy this week’s prompt!

 

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #12: “A man sneezes painfully.  He looks in his handkerchief and finds something that looks like a microchip.”

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ACHOO!  The sneeze rocked Baxter’s body, sending him backwards before he aggressively shot forward, trying to right himself.  It was a vicious and unrelenting sneeze.  He kept his eyes closed for a moment or two, as if it would help steady his breathing and help his bodily functions return to normal.  “Wow,” he said, and opened his eyes wide to ensure the world had neither stopped nor drastically changed while he had been rendered incapacitated by the sneeze.  He shook his head to clear it.  He pulled the handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit and blew his nose.  “Damn,” Baxter said.  “That really hurt.”

 

“The sneeze?  Man up,” Alex smiled.  The smile wasn’t entirely genuine.  It was more queasy and nervous than anything else.  In fact, Alex’s normally bright and expressive eyes were clouded over and shifty.  Baxter had just been about to comment on the physical change which also seemed to alter Alex’s winning personality.  He was sweaty and trying to look everywhere all at once.  Baxter was just about to comment on the paranoid behavior when the sneeze had interrupted and completely knocked him flat.  He couldn’t remember what he had been thinking, or what he had been discussing with Alex.  He finished blowing his nose with a flourish, but did not return the handkerchief to the breast pocket.  He leaned closer to Alex and lifted his chin so his friend would be able to peer deep within Baxter’s nasal cavities.  “Is it bleeding?”

 

Alex pretended to look for about a second.  “No, dude, you’re fine; hey, do you know how long that van’s been there?”

 

“What van?”

 

“The dark blue one without windows; behind me and to the left, on the corner.”

 

Baxter shrugged.  He was more concerned with his aching nose.  He crossed his eyes to see the blurred bridge of it, and was rubbing it tenderly with the tips of his fingers.  “I didn’t see anything.  Did you see anything fly out of my nose?  I feel all cut up inside; I’ve never sneezed like that before.”

 

Alex stole a glance behind him.  “I’m sorry.  I guess … Baxter, I think that van is following me.”

 

Baxter nodded, but was intently focused on the handkerchief gripped in his hand.  Would Alex care if he opened it up and inspected whatever had been so readily rejected by his body?  It was a less than savory habit, admittedly, but Baxter really swore something had come shooting out.  How else could he explain the pain?  He was completely convinced that the sneeze had not been normal and had half a mind to march himself to the emergency room for a professional opinion.  “What makes you think you’re being followed?”  Baxter continued the odd conversation to be polite to one of his oldest friends, and to distract him so he could inspect the handkerchief.

 

“I’ve been seeing it everywhere, Baxter.  When I go to work, it’s always a car or two behind me.  When I go to the gym, it’s always parked on the opposite side of the lot.  When I’m in my apartment, I catch a glimpse of it from the window, down in the street.  It’s been going on for weeks.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Baxter asked, encouraging his friend to continue.  He had discreetly placed the handkerchief on the table and was slowly peeling back the corner that was folded over.

 

“And,” Alex licked his lips and found that his mouth had gone dry, “I think my phone’s been tapped.  There’s all this weird clicking and buzzing when I’m on the phone.  Sometimes the phone rings and there’s no one there, just silence, but they won’t hang up until I do.”

 

“They don’t hang up?” Alex repeated lamely, to prove he was listening despite the fact that he was not paying attention.  With the one corner unfolded, he only had to stretch it out to get a good look at the specimen, which was probably only snot, but why had it been so painful?

 

Alex sighed and covered his face with tremulous, pale hands.  “I haven’t been sleeping well,” he admitted, feeling stupid and weak.  “It’s really starting to get to me, man.  I don’t know what to do or who to talk to.”

 

“What is that?” Baxter breathed.  He had indeed pulled the handkerchief taught and found an undeniable but incredibly small metallic-looking square.  He grimaced as he reached out to pinch it between his fingers because it was slimy.  He held it up to the afternoon sunlight and examined it more closely with squinted eyes.  Along the one edge were spaces in the hard, plastic covering, like it was missing piece from some kind of motherboard.

 

“What?  What do you see?”  Alex was turning every which way in his seat but always returning to lock his gaze upon the van.

 

“I think it’s a microchip.”  Baxter placed the item back on the handkerchief.  “Doesn’t that look like a microchip?  How the hell did that get up my nose?”

 

Alex stood up suddenly.  “They’ve gotten to you.”

 

Baxter had leaned down over what had come flying from his nose.  “Who?  Microsoft?  Apple?” he laughed.

 

Alex took two halting steps backwards.  “Oh God, it’s happening.  I knew it would.  I told them I wouldn’t say anything but they didn’t believe me.”

 

Baxter looked up, finally alerted by his friend’s panicked tone and nonsensical rambling.  “Alex, sit down, man.  You’re making me nervous.”

 

“We need to go,” Alex insisted, shaking his head.  “We need to leave.”

 

“Are you high?” Baxter asked, making light of what was rapidly becoming a bizarre and terrifying situation.  “Why don’t –“

 

At that moment, the van came speeding towards them only to skid to a halt beside them along the curb.  The world then seemed to slow down to an impossible lack of speed; Alex turned to Baxter and braced himself, like he was about to sprint and make a mad dash for freedom.  As the tails of his jacket fanned out, the van door slid open and two masked men, dressed all in black, scrambled out.  If Baxter had been able to move, he would have had time to get a decent lead, would most likely have been able to escape, but he was nothing more than a laughable cartoon character; his lower half moved frantically but no real progress was made.  The men descended upon him, knocking over the table the men had been seated at and sending Baxter to the floor, the chair coming with him.  In the time it took Baxter to fling the chair from him and sit up, there was only squealing tires and nothing more.

 

Alex was gone.  Baxter looked around and only saw wide-eyed, open-mouthed and deep breathing witnesses.

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On boys on bicycles.

Published February 16, 2013 by mandileighbean

Hello all!

I present to you a short story I started writing while on vacation in Florida at the beginning of last month.  I am trying to work on being creepy in a subtle way.  Please comment to let me know what you think, and I hope you enjoy it!

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BOYS ON BICYCLES

Mandi Bean

 

By all accounts, the vacation was desperately needed by the Smith family, so the uncooperative weather was especially frustrating and almost painfully disappointing.  Amber felt the sting of missed expectations most keenly as she had deemed the trek to the Sunshine State a necessity because she absolutely needed to feel the baking rays of a fat, sweltering sun fall heavily upon her as she squished cooled, clumped sand between her toes while standing at a meandering shoreline, watching breaking waves.  The sudden, nearly physical yearning for a sandy shore had surprised Amber, but in hindsight, it made perfect sense.  Amber and the rest of the Smith family hailed from the Great Garden State, which had recently been brutally ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.  With rollercoasters claimed by the Atlantic, enacted martial law, and missing pieces of the famous and beloved boardwalk, the Jersey Shore was no longer a place to escape to.  Indeed, many of its inhabitants were escaping from the coastal communities up and down the shore.  The Smiths were no exceptions and for reasons Amber could not explain, she needed a beach.

This inexplicable need did not grasp anyone else and Amber had difficulty rounding up family members to head to the beach.  In the end, only three others decided to pile in the Hyundai with Amber; her twin sister Susan, her young cousin Adam, and her aunt Kim, at whose home they were vacationing.  Adam was a restless kid looking to get out of the house and, being his godmother, Kim wanted to please Adam and her devotion compelled her to come along (Amber believed Kim’s unconditional love and devotion knew no bounds and that Kim would follow Adam to the ends of the earth were it ever asked of her).  Susan’s motivations were not as obvious, and Amber could only surmise that her twin simply wanted to drive.

With Susan at the wheel and with Kim as the co-pilot, Amber and Adam claimed the backseat of the car and thus began the fifteen minute drive east to the ocean.  There was superficial, intermittent chatter but starting, let alone maintaining, a conversation became more trouble than it was worth over the wind roaring in and out of the open windows.  Amber was happy to stick her arm out of the window and flatten her palm so that her hand rode the waves of air; it was worth the annoyance of having to squint against the powerful gales and to constantly and continuously tuck bothersome strands of hair behind ears to keep them from sticking in the corners of her lips and eyes.  It did not matter to her that it was cold (for Florida, anyway), nor did it seem to matter to anyone else.  The windows stayed down for the duration of the drive.

When the Hyundai came to a rest in a slanted parking space, Adam bounded from the car, excited for room to run in a way that only a child can be excited.  The adults hurried after him, up a flight of wooden stairs to a sparse boardwalk, and then down another flight of wooden stairs to the beach.  The beach was essentially deserted aside from a few other small groups of more obvious tourists and some die hard fitness fanatics reaping the cardiac benefits of running in the sand.  Amber, before making it all the way to the chilly sand, sat upon a wooden stair to roll her jeans over her calves and above her knees.  She also removed her flip flops and held them firmly in hand when she joined the others near the water.  Adam raced Kim along the shoreline as Amber and Susan chased the water back to the ocean and then promptly fled from the icy liquid as it traveled back over the sand.  Amber and Susan also wrote “New Jersey” in big, capital letters in the sand, using their feet and toes.  Then, for a change of pace, Adam raced Susan as Kim and Amber observed, occasionally interfering with either runner by playfully using physical restraint to impede progress.  Short of being tackled to the ground, the runners were breathless, laughing and spinning to a halt in the sand as their loved ones hung about their shoulders and waists.

Though everyone was having fun, it really was too chilly for the beach.  The four resolved to pack it in, call it a day, and head on home.  Amber paused at the top of the stairs leading from the beach to the boardwalk to take one – just one – longing backward glance at the sand and the rough waters of the Atlantic.  Sullenly, she unrolled the legs of her jeans and wiggled her feet and toes back into her flip flops.  There was only sea as far as she could see, and the landscape made her feel limitless and full of endless possibilities.  It was intoxicating and she offered up a silent prayer to Whomever Might Be Listening for warmer weather and longer trips to the beach.

But perhaps Amber wasn’t the only one longing for scenic escapes – no matter how brief – because once everyone was safely back inside the car, Kim made a suggestion.  “Turn right at the end of this street instead of left,” she instructed.  “I’ll show you guys where the really nice houses are.”  Susan dutifully obeyed and with all the windows down, the foursome traveled northwest along Ocean Drive.  There was nothing remarkable to be seen at first, but eventually the sprawling hotels and quaint seaside shops gave way to exotic looking vegetation that concealed starts of cobblestone driveways that led to grand mansions, which, at times, could not be seen from the road.  Those homes in view were certainly impressive.

There were stone staircases with wide steps leading up to double front doors from either side, and the doors were made of rich, sturdy mahogany.  There were balconies with thin, delicate-looking iron railings.  There were terracotta roof tiles covering wide, sloping roofs that turned houses into haciendas, complete with cement archways, an overabundances of hues of orange, and which betrayed the historical Spanish influence on the entire state.  The accompanying guest houses were all substantially larger than the Smith family home and truly dwarfed the house of the surrounding residential communities.

Susan was only barely rolling along, operating the vehicle at a snail’s pace.  Open-mouthed, she craned her neck from left to right and back again, incredulously observing the excess of wealth on either side.  Her scan was panoramic so that, at the very least, the driver was conscientious enough not to slam into anything.  That being said, Susan did neglect to look into her rearview mirror as she was so wholly taken by the new and exciting scenery.  As a matter of fact, it was not until Amber made an announcement from the backseat that Susan gave any kind of thought to the rear.

“There’s a car behind us,” Amber said, her neck twisted gracefully over her right shoulder.  She turned forward after a beat and added, “He looks pissed.”

“So what?” Susan grunted dismissively, clearly annoyed at having been interrupted.  She stuck her pale, toned arm out of the open window and waved the following car around, indicating the driver should pass the four-door filled with unabashed looky-loos.  He passed, after shooting Susan a murderous look, and everyone relaxed, as if a useless, creeping anxiety had been relieved.

But that was only because the rear faded from their minds and no one turned to see the bicycle following so closely that the rubber tread of the front wheel nearly grazed the bumper.  It would have been an unsettling sight indeed, especially when the rider’s face came into clear view.  His young face was not innocent as it should have been, but was instead so blank and vacant and devoid of emotion that irrational as it may seem, the boy seemed sinister and cold.  His youth and carefree activity did nothing to dispel the image of evil that lingered about his person, just beneath the surface.

Adam, upon being confined to the car, became restless once more and fidgeted in the seat.  He looked all around for excitement, even for some trouble, and was successful when he looked behind him and saw the young boy.  Adam knew the boy was about his age, but also knew instinctively that the boy was somehow much older.  There was experience and wisdom running through the odd lines of his face.  Adam believed the young boy knew things that young boys shouldn’t know, had seen things young boys shouldn’t see, and had done things no one should ever do, regardless of age and gender.  His tiny body shook uncontrollably and he scooted to the end of the seat so he could whisper in Kim’s ear, “There’s someone else behind us.”

“What?” Kim asked as a reflex, because she had clearly heard Adam and required no further explanation.  She turned around in her seat to look out the back window.  She saw what Adam had seen and then some, because her advanced age allowed her to comprehend and articulate the oddity of the scene.  Laughing without much humor to keep her own fears at bay and to assuage the unspoken ones belonging to Adam, Kim said to Susan, “Wave this kid around.  He’s tailgating you on a bike.”

Susan laughed with genuine humor.  “That’s ridiculous,” she smiled and once more sticking her pale, toned arm out of the window, she waved to the boy.  She quickly wondered if he would know what the provincial gesture meant, and she was about to yell out instructions in an annoyed tone when he sped past the car.  He was moving so quickly and so close to the window that Susan had to pull her hand in speedily, as if she had been dangling it before the open mouth of a hungry alligator.  “What the hell, man!” she roared.  Angry and in need of validation for her visceral, intense reaction, she turned to Kim.  “Did you see that?”

Kim shrugged, merely imitating a cool indifference.  Her voice betrayed her as it trembled ever so slightly.  “Kids can be just as rude or as creepy as anyone else.”  Though it had been chilly, the weather would have been described as downright frigid by Kim, the longtime Florida native, and she rolled up her window fast.  “Let’s just keep going.”

Amber laughed.  “You’re not afraid of an elementary school kid, are you?”  She shook her head slowly, still smiling.

“There’s more,” Adam whispered.  An intense silence filled the already cluttered interior of the car, and their eyes followed two more boys, older than the first, cycling by at an almost impossibly slow pace; it was as if they were not even moving.  The eyes of the boys were just as intently focused as those of the passengers in the car, each party staring the other down.  Kim, Amber, Adam and Susan observed with wide eyes, betraying their fearful emotion without much thought.  The boys on bikes gazed back with a curious detachment that hinted at a complete lack of empathy and as a result, also hinted at a complete ability to terrorize.  Adam started softly crying.  Amber unbuckled her seat belt, slid close to him and wrapped her arms around him.

“Let’s get out of here, Sue.  This place is weird.  I don’t like it.”

“Okay, okay,” Susan responded, slightly agitated by fear.  She made to increase the pressure her foot was placing on the gas pedal, but found that she could not because the three boys on the bicycles had parked themselves directly in front of the car, so close that the boy who appeared the oldest, trailed his fingers along the edge of the hood.

“Back up, back up,” Kim chanted.

Susan shifted the car into reverse and lifted her eyes to the rearview mirror and had to stifle a scream.  More boys on more bicycles were now barricading any possibility of escaping from the rear.  “Roll up your windows!  I’m locking the doors!” Susan commanded, her voice cracking as it reached a level of hysteria never before reached.  For a brief moment, she wondered if she was being silly; they were children on bicycles.  Where was the threat?  What reason was there for the sweat accumulating, or for the increased pace of her heart, or for the tears pricking at the back of her eyes?

Amber, still holding tightly to Adam, had locked the doors and was waiting for the window on her side to complete its infuriatingly slow progress upwards.  She stared through the windows for a pair of sympathetic eyes, for someone who looked as if they might care.  All she could see were these mini monsters, these children with stone faces who were intentionally scaring them.  It did not make any sense and for Amber, that was the worst part about it.  It had been chilly, yes, but it was still sunny.  They were on vacation in Florida, observing how the other half lived.  It was not dark and ominous and they were doing nothing illegal or harmful, nothing to justify such a turn of events.  Her eyes frantically and desperately scanned the surrounding lawns for adult eyes, aged eyes, eyes with wrinkles that belonged to someone who could rush over and demand the absurdity cease and desist in an authoritative tone.  Amber’s eyes only met statues that may have once been human, but could not possibly be human now.  They were adults on lawns, pushing mowers or chatting idly with neighbors, and they were observing the harassment and intimidation occurring before them, but there were no passing looks of disgust or pity.  Their faces were blank and their eyes were pointed in the right direction, but it did not seem as if they were really seeing.

Kim, Susan, Amber and Adam were helpless and all alone.

Only Adam’s soft and horrible moans penetrated the suffocating silence.  Agonizing minutes passed where the aggressors remained absolutely still and the victims only breathed in and out.

Then, suddenly, the boys on the bicycles descended.

On nasty surprises.

Published September 5, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was the Staff Orientation at the high school for the entire district and man, it was a long day.  When I walked out of my classroom at 5:30PM, the lights in the hallway were literally off.  I practically shut the place down.  I’m proud of all that I got done today, but it was really unnecessary to be there so late.  I wasted some time lollygagging with colleagues, but I managed to work some good karma, helping others shuffle textbooks in and out of their rooms and find their portfolios.

I came home and ran.  It felt good; it helped me to work out some of my stress and I had forgotten how good it felt to be sore, to have blisters and to have tangible evidence that you are making a difference.  I weigh in on September 16th.  The goal is at least five pounds lost.  Hopefully, I’ll have good news.

I heard back from my editor.  My gallery pages are scheduled to be completed this week.  I am so excited!

I’m trying to keep this short and sweet because tomorrow is the first day of school and while I feel prepared, I am confident it will be a restless night.

PROMPT: While digging in a cereal box for the toy surprise, a child makes a grizzly discovery.

PIECE: Mikey had his father teach him how to set the alarm on his wristwatch the night before.  Thankfully, Dad didn’t ask too many questions or wonder at Mikey’s sudden interest in the somewhat more complicated features of his watch.  Mikey set his alarm for 6:00AM, a whole hour before he had to be up and getting ready for school.  He figured that sixty minutes would be more than enough time to slink out of bed, to pad noiselessly in bare feet down the hallway and down the stairs, to creep into the kitchen, to hunch before a low-mounted cabinet and open it slowly so the joint didn’t creak too loudly, to retrieve the new cereal box and the surprise toy within.

He had seen Mom removed the box of cereal from one of the yellow, plastic shopping bags after returning home from the grocery store.  He had been irritated by the way she handled it so carelessly, just tossing it into the cabinet, not seeming to care if it tilted and fell against the others.  Did Mom not know about the prize inside or the intense satisfaction of being the first to find said prize?  Immediately, his eyes flicked to his older brother, Jimmy.  Jimmy was currently elbow-deep in a bag of Doritos and Mikey didn’t think he’d seen the cereal box, but he couldn’t be sure.  Jimmy was sneaky.  Jimmy thought that because he was older, everything was his.  Those two inclinations proved to make life difficult for Mikey.  But this time, just this one time, he would be hailed the victor.

The alarm clocked beeped at a truly annoying high pitch three times before Mikey slammed down on a small, metal button on the side of the clock face.  His eyes shot to Jimmy, who seemed to be asleep.  Was he faking?  Mikey hypothesized that if Jimmy were feigning slumber, then Jimmy would move when Mikey moved.  As soon as Mikey’s feet hit the floor and the board creaked beneath his weight, Jimmy would sit up and demand to know what he was doing.  Then again, Jimmy might really be fast asleep and besides, Mikey hadn’t woken up so early for nothing.

He pulled the covers back very, very slowly – inch by inch – so as not to make a sound and so he was able to make his movements as slow as possible.  After what seemed like an eternity, Mikey was free of the burdensome covers.  Keeping his movements lethargic, he sat up in bed like a zombie from one of the movies he wasn’t allowed to watch but that Jimmy could.  Jimmy would tell him all about the gruesome, violent parts and then tease Mikey when he asked for the light to be left on.  He didn’t need light now – it would definitely wake Jimmy up.  Barely breathing, Mikey twisted his body around, swinging his legs softly against the sheets.  Though the mattress creaked as he slid for his feet to touch the floor, Jimmy remained motionless.  Mikey said a little prayer and tiptoed across the room, nimbly avoiding the toy cars and playing cards left out from a few nights before.  The moonlight that stole in through the window illuminated the landscape just enough for Mikey to make out dangerous shadows.

Once he was out of the bedroom and in the hallway, he could breathe easier.  Mikey kept an even pace – to break into a run would be foolish and loud – and took the stairs one at a time, placing his weight as evenly as possible.  He was proud for the amount of physical restraint he was displaying, but it completely dissipated when he reached the landing.  Jubilation filling his veins, Mikey tore through an archway to his left and slid to a seat before the cabinet, his pajama bottoms navigating easily across the linoleum floor.  He wrenched the cabinet open, retrieved the cereal box, and slid a slightly shaking finger beneath the cardboard flap.  Eagerly, he slid his finger across the edge of the box – a paper cut be damned – and crudely ripped at the other flap.  He never thought he’d be so thankful for cheap glue.

Mikey lifted the plastic bag containing the sugar-coated corn flakes and struggled for a moment or two before the thicker plastic gave way and ripped satisfactorily.  His fingers were sweaty and had trouble gripping the edge but once they did – boy; that was all she wrote.  Mikey let the plastic bag fall back into the box and he plunged his innocent, little fist inside, feeling around for the prize.  His fingers brushed against something that was firmer than corn flakes, and he seized it.  He brought it triumphantly out from the box, a few corn flakes falling to the floor.

It was a human toe, bloodied around the end from which it was removed from the body it, until recently, belonged to.

Mikey screamed and screamed and screamed.

On archetypes and assumptions.

Published September 4, 2012 by mandileighbean

I have to be at the high school around 7:30AM tomorrow.  I really am excited for the school year and to be teaching full-time.  The only aspect I’m currently apprehensive about is waking up before 9:30AM, as has been my habit the last month.  Also, I’ve been suffering from insomnia lately, tossing and turning for at least an hour before falling asleep that is restless and broken.  More often than not, I pop an irritated open to see the neon green lights of my alarm clock glowing an absurdly early time.  I know I will be exhausted, but I’ll just have to power through it; no big deal.

Well, I say it’s no big deal but that is easier said than done.  I know my anxiety comes from the upcoming academic year and I have yet to figure out how to master my own emotions.  Does that come with age, or does that elude us all for forever and ever, amen?

I finished reading Divergent by Veronica Roth today.  It was highly entertaining and there were times where I had to physically force myself to put it down.  The characters were well-developed and I admired the allegorical aspect of the novel, as well as the adult themes that were presented and successfully tackled, despite the novel’s Young Adult label.  I’m not sure if I’ll read the others in the series, and I’m not sure if that fact detracts from my glowing review.

I started running again.  My goal is to be able to go to where the pavement ends, and then back again.  I was able to do it about a year ago, and I remember how amazing it felt to be sore, to try on clothes and have them fit, and to feel pretty.  I did gain back some of the weight I lost, but the trick is to not let it get me down, and to stop the bleeding; start losing instead of continuing to gain.  My mantra this time around is “I want to look the way I want to feel when the man I love takes me in his arms.”  I know my friends will say that I shouldn’t lose weight to impress the opposite sex, and that it is a personal decision I should make for myself, and they are right.  But I am also a realist; how will anyone find me attractive if I don’t even find myself attractive?  There is a certain kind of confidence and appeal that goes along with looking good and feeling good.  That is what I’m truly after.

I haven’t heard anything about the editing process for my novel, so I sent an e-mail politely asking for an updated.  In turn, I will keep you all updated.  I’m anxious to hold a copy in my hand, to begin marketing myself and my dream and my passion.

I love when I walk into my bedroom and “Thunder Road” is playing.

PROMPT: “I’ll have an egg-white omelet and a side of sausage.  And a beer, if you’ve got one.”

PIECE: I watched the man in the paint-splattered jeans mosey on up to the counter, his flannel shirt stretched tight across a pronounced belly.  His trucker hat sported greasy thumbprints along the brim, and he could use a good shave.  I smiled brightly enough, always keeping tips in mind, even though I had dismissed him as a vagrant, as just another truck driver passing through.  Their faces seldom repeated, though their stories were eerily similar.  They’d been on the road for months and were either running back home, or running from their loneliness.  The trick to handling such customers, and how to get awesome tips, was to listen patiently with a sad, but understanding smile.  These guys ate it up every time.  Oozing confidence in my pheromones – or at least, I felt like I was – I walked in front of the man who had just entered the diner, immediately pouring him a cup of coffee.  Not yet meeting his eyes, I smiled wide and asked, “What can I get for you today, buddy?”  Buddy was an excellent moniker; truckers used it among themselves regularly, so it helped me give the impression that I was an insider, almost one of them.

“I’ll have an egg-white omelet and a side of sausage.  And a beer, if you’ve got one.”

I stopped pouring, even though the cup was nowhere near full.  Wide-eyed and bearing an incredulous smile, I met the trucker’s eyes and let a small laugh escape me.  He had to be kidding.  It wasn’t even nine o’clock yet.  “A beer?” I asked, repeating his order so he could hear it back and recognize the insanity within.

“Yeah, if you’ve got one,” he said, cool as could be, like it was the most normal thing in the world to order at the breakfast counter in a diner in a small town before the hour of nine.

“Um,” I say, trying to be careful with my words and being unable to stop myself, “it’s not even nine o’clock, yet.”

The trucker smiled and dropped his gaze.  It wasn’t an act of submission; it seemed to me like he was feigning humility, like he was finally acknowledging the social taboo he was committing.  “Darling, if you knew the night I’d had, you wouldn’t begrudge me a beer.”  His eyes rose to meet mine, and at the utter sadness that tinged the edges, I felt my heart ache.  Whatever had happened to this man was terrible, and he believed it warranted a beer.  Who was I to argue?  Besides, I was looking to cash in on the tip and the first rule of customer service is that the customer is always right.

“Let me see what I can do,” I offered.  Before I hurried to the back, I finished pouring his coffee, set out the creamers and sugar, and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.  I asked Rick, the manager, if it’d be okay and Rick poked his head out from the swinging doors of the kitchen, scanning the counter.  His assessment of the man must have been that he seemed harmless enough, because Rick nodded and then promptly continued shouting at the kitchen staff.  I left to the sanctuary that was the fridge and grabbed an amber bottle.  Lucky for me, we only carried one brand.  I returned before the customer with the odd request, opened the bottle using the hem of my uniform and handed it to him.  “Here you are,” I smiled.

“Thanks, darling; this is greatly appreciated.”  The man drank from the bottle like he had never done so before and never would again; like that beer in that diner was all that mattered.  I watched him with growing fascination and growing curiosity.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what was it that gave you such a thirst so early in the morning?”  I lean against the counter casually, so it looks like I’m talking to a friend with genuine concern, rather than humoring a customer.

His eyes roam over me, but not in a creepy, perverted way.  He was measuring me up, trying to make sense of me.  His brows furrowed for a moment before he said, “How about you run and put my order in and then I’ll tell you all about it?”

I blush deeply – what a rookie mistake – and quickly scrawl a ticket, running it back to the line.  When I return, the customer who has so consumed me is drinking again, drinking deeply from the beer bottle.  The coffee remains untouched.  I grin, perhaps admittedly somewhat impressed by such a display of manly tolerance, and resume my lean.  “Okay; I’m all ears.”

He set the bottle down and preferred to tear at the already peeling label, soaked from condensation, rather than make eye contact.  “Well, darling, if I am to be perfectly honest – and that is something I pride myself on – then I was on a romantic date with a pretty young thing, not unlike yourself.”  I smiled and bowed my head in recognition, just like I was expected to.  I’m not sure if he saw it because he was so preoccupied with getting the entire label off cleanly, in one long, exaggerated rip.  “I got myself all dolled up.  I bought new cologne and everything, had the flowers and the candy all ready and raring to go, and would you believe it?  She never showed.”

I gasped dramatically.  “You’re kidding,” I said.

“I wish I was, darling; I wish I was.”  He paused a moment, maybe to collect his thoughts or to let the weight of his sentiment settle properly over the conversation.  “I was hurt, like any man would be.  I felt I deserved an explanation.  So I drive over there and I’m going to knock on her door when I notice the curtains for the front window are wide open and that I can see into her living room.  I look – I couldn’t help it – and there she is, sucking on the neck of some guy I had never seen before.”

I frowned, offering up my sympathies.  I asked, “Had you been together long?”

“We had been closing in on a year.  I thought I was going to marry that woman and have a beautiful family.  But she had other plans, and boy, did I feel like a fool.  I needed to give her and him a piece of my mind, so I banged on the door.”  The label came off in a loud, aggressive tear and I jumped, startled by the sound.  He didn’t look to me.  He kept staring at the bottle and when he spoke next, it was in a dead sounding tone.  “She let me in and I was screaming loud enough to wake the dead- I mean, loud enough to wake the neighbors.  I grabbed her shoulders but I didn’t do it hard, just so I knew I had her full attention, and that’s when the guy came up behind me and started choking me, pulling me back.”  He looked to me and he must have seen something in my eyes and in my expression that verified the authenticity of my attention.  He leaned forward.  “Do you know what I did next, darling?”

I shook my head.

“I killed them both.”

I leaned back from him, terrified.  Rationale and logic returned soon, and I smiled, though it was most certainly skeptical and didn’t quite meet my eyes.  “You’re putting me on,” I accused, though I did my best to keep my tone playful.  His expression didn’t change – it was still intense and terrifying – but I threw my head back and laughed.  There was no way he was a murderer.  There was no way I was in any danger.  Those things only happened in melodramas created for the television, cinema and literary scene.  “Oh boy,” I said, laughter subsiding, “you had me going there.”  I slapped the counter with my palm.  “I’ll go check on your omelet and sausage.  I’ll be right back.”  I offered him a wink and departed.

As soon as I was out of his sight, my knees buckled and I had to grip the nearest counter edge for support.  Rick heard the metallic clatter and turned.  He nearly ran to my side and grabbed my elbows, raising me to my feet and offering support.  “What happened, Angel?  Are you okay?”

“That guy,” I said, suddenly breathless and feeling like I could wail, “that guy who ordered the beer, just confessed to killing two people.”

I expected Rick to do what I did; to laugh and dismiss it as insanity, but something about my appearance must have scared him.  “Where is he?” he asked.

“He’s sitting at the counter – he’s the only one there.”

Rick left me momentarily and when he returned, he looked confused.  I could understand – the guy looked like any other driver, weary from the road and looking for a meal.  He slipped his fingers under my chin and raised it, ensuring we were making full eye contact.  He licked his lips, like his mouth had suddenly gone dry, and he said, “Angel, there isn’t anyone at the counter.”

On storms and stories.

Published July 19, 2012 by mandileighbean

Currently, I am anxiously awating the arrival of what is supposed to be one hell of a summer storm. I can hear thunder rumbling low in the distance, like the growl of a frightened dog that begins back in its throat as it backs up and straightens the hair on its haunches to stand at attention. The skies are gray, but the dying sunlight is somehow still managing to poke through here and there so that above looks more like a worn, thin sheet with a bald light bulb shining behind it, like the side of a child’s hand-crafted fort. The oppressive heat that plagued us yesterday and for the vast majority of today has finally started to abate and I am considering taking Jane Eyre out onto the back porch so I can simultaneously read one of my favorite books of all time, and have a front row seat for the storm.

Normally, I like to read one book at a time, but there is so little time and so much to be read, that I’ve decided I can manage two books at a time. I read a chapter a day from Glenn Beck’s Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure and as much as I want from Jane Eyre. This way, I can broaden my literary repetoire and still adhere to my beloved favorites. A major benefit will be feeling inspired – reading other creative work to fuel the dying fire of my own.

Let’s hope it works and I can break free of my slump.

PROMPT: “Time out!  Time out!  We can call that, right?”

PIECE: Jacob bounced the quarter against the laminate countertop of the bar which jutted out from the wall, but despite all his athleticism and silent prayers, the coin did not go into the shot glass.  Instead, it bounced wildly away from him, rolled off the other side and just beneath the humming fridge.  The fridge was surrounded by a crowd of partygoers who seemed to quite enjoy their prime location – near the drinking games and the fun times while having liquor and beer close at hand and easily accessible.  It could take Jacob quite some time to maneuver through the bodies to the coin, and then return and get the quarter into the glass.  During that retrieval time, his adversary across the bar could easily get his quarter into the shot glass and play would continue on, and Jacob’s team would lose and it would be all his fault.  He would have to endure friendly teasing that would, in time, become annoying and he’d be forced to chug beers as a consequence and normally he wouldn’t mind one bit, but at the present moment, he was already quite intoxicated and vomiting was a possibility.  He couldn’t puke, not tonight, not when Rebecca was standing by the window, making idle chatter with a female companion who seemed utterly bored and boring.  Trying to think quick but the alcohol did slow him down some, Jacob called out, “Time out!  Time out!  We can call that, right?”

The two teams broke out into riotous laughter, but seemed to acquiesce to Jacob’s request.  The metallic dings of the coins against the counter were silenced and the volume level of conversation increased.  Pleased with himself and smiling, Jacob scrambled over to the fridge and dropped down to his hands and knees.  He turned his head to peer underneath the fridge and his coin should have been right there at the end, bisected by the fridge, half concealed and half revealed.  It was not there, however, and Jacob was baffled.  Where could it have gone?  Did some tightwad, some poor college student, pick it up, not realizing it was a vital component for the intense and competitive game underway?  Jacob rose to kneeling and rested on his heels.  He looked around again, but found neither coin nor culprit.  Sighing heavily, Jacob called out, “Does anyone have a quarter?”

“I do,” called Rebecca from the window.  Mouth agape, Jacob slowly turned his head, so slowly he was sure those around him could hear it creaking.  He turned his head as if he were in a horror movie, turning slowly to try and comprehend the illogical and all too real monster behind him, waiting and ready to pounce.  That’s not what Rebecca was; she was a dream, a beauty, an intellect, a vision.  Hurriedly, he rose to his feet and did his best to walk over to her without weaving and swerving, and thereby revealing just how intoxicated he really was.  Jacob assumed he pulled it off because Rebecca’s smile did not fade as he neared.

“Hey Rebecca, thanks, “ Jacob said as he took the quarter from her outstretched hand and halted to stand beside her.  “Why don’t you come on over and join in the fun?”

“Jake, have you seen these lights?” Rebecca asked, sounding distracted and far away.

Moving closer to the window, Jacob paused a moment to gaze out of the window and into the night sky.  He saw few stars, their brilliance muted by the city lights, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Then suddenly, there was a giant orange flash across the middle of the sky.  It happened again shortly thereafter, and Jacob was near breathless when he said, “I saw that just now.  That’s crazy; how long has that been going on?”

“Since I got here,” Rebecca answered.  “I think they’re getting closer.”

Together, Jacob and Rebecca watched open-mouthed.  The lights were indeed getting closer.  They did not speak, but only stared.

In the morning, both were dead.

P.S. – That storm I was waiting on never arrived; such is life.

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