Short Story: The Dance

Anna danced in the snow, her heart as light as the footsteps of her partner. Round and round the stones she went, their path weaving in loops and curves. Snow fell, but she barely felt the cold. She was buoyed on delight and a song only she and her partner could hear.

They danced on and on, faster then slower, to no discernible style. Some steps wafted like a waltz, others more sharply akin to the tango. Featherlight snowflakes dusted her skin and settled on her eyelashes, highlighting the growing ruddiness of her cheeks.

She didn’t feel the burn of the growing chill, or pay attention to the growing fuzziness of her thoughts. Her eyes were fixed on her suitor, her mind on the dance that swept away everything else in the world beyond the glorious moment she was in.

They found her huddled body the next morning at the foot of the fallen stone called the long man. Her eyes were still open, twinkling in the frost that glazed her. Her bare feet were raw, blood staining the snows where her feet had passed in intricate delicate swirls that suggested a pattern maddeningly just beyond perception. No one knew where she’d come from, or why she was there, and the locals didn’t comment on how there was only one set of footprints that led up to and around the stones.

Fiction Fragment – Meltdown

We watched through sound-proof toughened glass at the prisoner while the speakers inside the cell played. By the third iteration of the Cassilda-Zahn melodic progressions his internal skin structures were already starting to rupture and break down in hazy overlapping layers that obscured his features the more he struggled with the restraints. The Hyadic interludes that came shortly after acted as a mild paralytic that made the prisoner’s dissolution into undifferentiated plasma and slime laced with bony spheres all the more disturbing.

The sluices came on shortly after to wash the sludge away, and the bony remnants rolled into gulleys at the edges of the room like billiard balls. The implied threat wasn’t even particularly implied as we were marched on our way past the gallery with its rows and rows of bone decorations on shelves.

Short story: Valentine’s Card

“A heart on a card is traditional.” She offered almost apologetically.

“A picture of a stylised one is more generally expected and acceptable than an actual organ dripping on the floor. I only just cleaned that too!” I adopted a mock stern expression to hide the sheer panic bubbling behind my voice.

She advanced on me, carrying the card like a platter. The heart looked fresh, blood still dripping from the openings. I hoped it was a sheep’s heart from the local butcher or something and I wasn’t going to find the remains of a burglar at the bottom of the stairs again.

This is the problem with trying to integrate ethically-divergent entities from exo-valued dimensional spaces into the general populace. They don’t have the social contexts we’ve grown to assume, and adopt a frighteningly literal interpretation of events around them.

Take ‘Alyssa’, who had startled me in my own kitchen with what I assumed was a valentine’s offering. In less enlightened times she would have been banished or burned by ecclesiastical cohorts as a succubus of some description. The horns and tail are generally a good giveaway.

Ever since a small accident with a summoning circle, a backwards-played Cliff Richard single, and a chicken that died unexpectedly of a heart attack while the candles were still being lit, she’s been stuck here and we’ve been trying to pass her off as an au pair from Belgium.

Why Belgium? I panicked when the police came round to investigate the noise complaint. It seemed a good idea at the time, and pretending it was a BDSM session was an easier way of explaining her penchant for calling me Master than identifying her as a denizen of hell.

The local constabulary may look down their noses at kink, but it does stop them asking questions. I might even have saved their lives and possibly immortal souls into the bargain. I’m considerate like that you know.

I reached out and took her somewhat gory tribute from her. My smile softened at how pleased she looked. I was probably safe to sleep in my own bed tonight.

Probably.

Short Story: The Watcher On The Bridge

I was always warned against looking too closely or asking questions about the man on the bridge. He always seemed to be there whenever we drove over it, and I got used to looking out for his silhouette on those occasions when we took a route on the motorway that passes beneath it.

My parents would pale and try to change the subject, which worked when I was younger, or resorted to angry exhortation when I was older and more prone to worry at the question like the scrappy terrier at our local pub. I was told in no uncertain terms that I shouldn’t concern myself with him. Sometimes I was told that no good would come of asking questions, or that it was none of my business.

I do wonder, even now, why my parents just never came up with a boring convenient lie that my scrappy little brain would just mull over and then discard when I went in search of something new and shiny. I can say instead that the very vehemence with which my inquisitive mind was opposed just served to confirm that there was something worth digging at in the story behind the lonely figure.

I once asked if he was a ghost, because he never seemed to move from his spot, and even the response to that was confusing. My mother had paled and left the room. My father had replied, eventually, that no he wasn’t a ghost – at least, not yet.

He’d refused to be drawn on the subject, and being by then nearly an adult I’d realised the futility of trying any more when his hand had begun to shake with suppressed rage.

As I grew old enough to visit on my own, I came to memorise his haunted features. The man never spoke, or reacted to his surroundings, though I was sure he knew I was there. If he was an illusion, he was convincing enough to appear to be solid and breathing. His clothing was indeterminately grey and shapeless – a shirt, trousers, shoes and a coat – that could suit any reasonably modern time period.

I never dared touch him. You’d think it was the obvious way to tell if was real, but something seemed to repel my hand on the one attempt I made to touch his coat. He appeared to be not that much older than me at that point.

Life and studies led me away for a time, and a few years later I returned to find him still there, but looking somehow paler and more attenuated, if such a word fits. Intrigued by this, I began to come back more often. Such was my growing obsession that friends began to tease me about my increasingly drab appearance. With my long-established stubbornness I ignored their jibes and continued what became daily pilgrimages to see the man.

Change had come at last, and I was determined to witness and record it. Eventually I detected what felt like a crack in the illusion when I noticed rain falling through him and a look of despair that I had never seen before.

I stepped closer to inspect him, and had a sudden shock of recognition at the realisation that the experience felt like standing in front of a mirror. We wore the same grey and faded clothes, and his face looked just like mine had when I’d shaved this morning. I reached out, heedless of the strangeness, and he was gone.

I stood there, numb with confusion for quite some time. Indeed I quite lost track of it, consumed in my reverie. It’s only been recently that I’ve noticed something very strange in my vigil on the bridge.

The clothing of people and the vehicles passing by all seem to resemble the fashions and shapes of times gone by. Childhood memories of garish clothing now clothe the people who parade past, and I’m beginning to wonder if the small child that I’ve been seeing in the corner of my eye might not prove to be terrifyingly familiar if only he came close enough.