Diamond’s Tuition

sketch-of-camera-vector-22498498

The photographs looked nothing like her.

Snap!

The creeper photographer began snapping from lower angles.

She fixed her hair in one of several smudged mirrors surrounding the half-empty loft.

The photos looked nothing like her. Which was a good thing. She never gives photographers or agents her real name. To them, she’s Diamond. In case she ever ran for political office. In case she married a megachurch pastor. Everyone everywhere had a doppleganger somewhere in the world. Her’s was Diamond.

She straightened her back. “This good?”

The photographer lowered his camera towards her thighs.

“What now?” She asked.

“Nothing.” He Glared at her over the camera lens.

“Yes?” She snapped. “I’m getting tired.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, be faster please.”

The money he offered was going to pay off her tuition for the semester. And, though he was inches shorter than she was in flats, he was three times her size in girth. She needed to watch her tone.

The photographer approached her.

She forced a smile. “Done?”

“Yeah….” The photographer nodded. “Almost finished.”

The photographer’s wore an aromatic musk was something she expected from a tall, coco flavored Wall street hottie with muscles and a full head of hair. His aroma created conflict between her eyes and nose. A stout, balding man with a stretched out wife beater should smell the opposite.

The photographer reached for her vest.

She immediately pulled away. “Excuse me!”

“It’s classy…”

“You mean pornographic?”

“Nothing like that.”

Creep…

“These will all be tasteful shots.”

She left her stool. “Yeah… right.”

Slimeball.

“I didn’t mean to alarm you.” The photographer put his camera aside.

She scooped her clothes from the photographer’s unfolded futon and marched towards the door.

I’m an idiot.

She didn’t deserve a doctorate. Nobody in their right mind would agree to enter a strange man’s warehouse apartment to take semi-nude photographs for a blog she’d never heard of.

“Five thousand extra.” The photographer offered.

She turned to see two columns of dollar bills on his kitchenette counter

“Towards your college debt, Ms. Thompson.” The Photographer smiled.

The stack was tall. Thick. Greener than green.

“How many shots?” She asked.

“A dozen,” He replied.

“Too many.”

For too little…

“Only need three to publish.”

“The other nine?”

“I’ll delete.”

She returned to her stool.

“Panties remain.”  She opened her vest. “Hurry up.”

“Okay…” Photographer waved his hand. “Just need you to move your-”

She moved her arms to expose her breasts.

He snapped several photos. “That’s great.”

Doesn’t feel great. 

He lowered his camera.

She covered her chest. “What now?”

“One sec.” The photographer took off towards his room.

He could be back there gathering rope and electrical tape.

“I don’t have a sec,” She called.

The photographer returned. “Batteries died”

“Five minutes, I’m gone… I’m serious.”

“Got it.” He set his camera. “You ready?”

She exposed her breasts. “Yes, sir.”

“You’re doing wonderful.” Photographer inched closer.

She side-eyed the camera.

Wait… He called me Ms. Thompson… I never told him my name… 

The end

Rockstar’s Rent I

77408001-guitar-sketch-

Goddam apartment. Can’t stand it. 

Putrescence in the atmosphere. Emanating from the mold crusted vents and the endless cracks in his one bedroom death-trap. Stagnant, like the rotting sphincter of a weeks old rat corpse but worse.

Damn.

He taped his guitar neck.

He may have cracked the guitar across the spine of a moron who interrupted his music set. Idiot. Damaged his instrument more than he damaged the disruptive moron.

Strings popped. Pegs missing. Freaking guitar neck was one hard strum away from swinging like a wooden guillotine.

Mental gaps flooding… Recalling the night.

Head pulsating.

He caught a glimpse of himself in his cracked mirror. His sickly- pale frame and sunken eyes.

Tape. He needed tape.

He searched.

Not a single piece of tape below the sea of empty bottles and ripped pages.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

“Open up!’ Landlord roared through the keyhole.

Rent day? Crap. Losing whole days now. 

“Hold on!” He abandoned his tape search to find booze.

Thoom! Thoom! Landlord pounded with something heavy.

He found a half empty marble flask. This’ll do. 

He opened his door. “What?!”

A gelatinous, cane-carrying gimp with a kickable face, piss-colored eyes and teeth like rotting toenails was at his door.

“We want you out,” Landlord said. “Tonight.”

He smirked.  “I’m all paid up, bitch.”

Landlord narrowed his eyes.

“Gold watch I handed you was collateral,” He said.

“What gold watch?”

He laughed. “Don’t play stupid.”

The watch worth more than your shitty existence. 

“I’ll pawn the watch. Get you cash,” He said.

“Bullshit.” Landlord popped two cupcake sized pills. “Pay what you owe then hit the sidewalk, deadbeat.”

I shrugged. “And my watch?”

“Ain’t no watch, shithead,” Landlord jabbed him with his cane. “Get out or get your kneecaps split.”

He balled his fists. “A threat?”

“A vow. ” Landlord poked.

Each syllable of Landlord’s threats and lies echoed in his mind.

Pak!

He smacked Landlord’s cane from his hand. Backhanded Landlord across the face.

Landlord staggered. Rubbed his jaw. Wiped tears. Rushed him swinging like a blind swordsman on steroids.

He snatched the cane out of the air.

Cane was heavy. Denser than it looked. Nearly broke his hand when he caught it.

“Wait!” Landlord pleaded.

He beat landlord bloody with the cane. Kicked him and his cane down the jagged stairwell.

Landlord screamed. “Has-been prick… You’re finished!”

He slammed the door.

Tried to be peaceful. Fuckin landlord wanted this. 

He walked to the window. Stared longingly at Rose City’s skyline.

Fucking city… Just die already.

He took a swig from his marble flask.

Forget the watch… not worth it.

Boom! A blast through the door caused a hole as big as his torso. Dust cleared and two piss yellow eyes were peering through the hole. Landlord pumped his cane. Aimed.

A pump action cane… interesting.

He grabbed his guitar. Escaped through window and onto the fire escape. Flashed Landlord his middle finger.

Fire escape gave way. He and the rickety structure crashed four stories onto the sidewalk.

Fifty Fifty

maxres2

He heard a chorus of whistles. Familiar tunes. Old slave spirituals he sang in Sunday School.

He paused. Considered turning back. Kept walking.

Something about suffering and Christ and finding salvation in heaven. Lyrics he didn’t believe… Not until Lucifer offered him free, fluorescent bottles of Moonshine. Money. Love. Promises of salvation. The catch… meet him in the alley.

He stepped through puddles.

Blood. Warm to the touch.

Money. Respect. Fame. Every desire. For something intangible. Illogical. Something he didn’t believe in…until the Devil offered him everything he desired. For a price. His most valuable asset.

Tightness in his stomach as he turned the corner. Into the alley.

The smell of sulfur was at its peak. Nausea.

He gripped his pistol in his pocket with one hand. Crucifix around his neck with the next.

Tink! Tink! The coin flips echoed through the alley. Pap! Pap! Spotlights exploded around him.

The sulfur. The nausea in his stomach. The impure thoughts.

He was getting closer.

The sharply dressed boy awaited him under the remaining spotlight.

Last time it was a woman. A woman who resembled his childhood sweetheart. The Devil loved to play games.

Smack!

The boy snatched coin out of the air. Pointed a fist in his direction.

“Play?” The boy asked.

He shook his head.

“Heads or tails?” The Boy inquired.

“I don’t-”

“Fifty fifty chance.” The boy insisted. “Heads for salvation… Tails for…”

For… Damnation?

A lava red glow burned behind the boy’s jagged smile. “Fifty… Fifty.”

 

 

The Upside I

drawn-hot-air-balloon-steampunk-20

Zay promised to never look back. Or down. Only up. At the perfectly capsized city in the clouds.

Clearest skies on record since the mirror world –The Upside– emerged from the smogosphere, according to Templar meteorologists. Its the divine sign he’d been praying for. Do what’s necessary. Take flight. For Shalewa.

He pumped the burners.

Balloon ascending. Turbulence. Thinning oxygen.

Flying a hastily built helium-craft composed of antiquated parts from abandoned shipyards was high-risk. Highly illegal. Suicidal. Still… far safer than returning to the Seminary.

Shalewa tiptoed to peer over the edge. “Is that heaven?”

He gently pulled Shalewa back. “Just another city.”

“Mommy and daddy there?”

“Possibly.”

Mirror versions, but their parents nonetheless.

Shalewa smiled. “Great.”

His sister was smart for her age. Much brighter than he was.

Chilly. Temperature dipping.

“Will we feel upside down?” Shalewa asked.

“It’ll feel like normal.”

Or so he’d heard from Solomonic diplomats who’ve visited the Upside.

“But then, our city will be the one upside down,” Shalewa said.

“Correct,” He replied.

“Interesting…”

Rising doubts… They’re breaking laws and risking lives to meet strangers. A selfish, dangerous plot. But… Shalewa deserves better. She needed parents, even if they’re doppelgangers of the ones they lost.

“Are versions of us there?” Shalewa asked.

“Maybe,” He answered.

Shalewa bit her fingernails. “What if they hate us?”

“They wont…”

“But what if?”

Zay felt for the pistol with the disintegration rounds hidden in his belt.

Then we’ll have to replace them…

He pinched Shalewa’s nose. “Don’t worry.”

Too Early

spilled-coffee-eps10-vector-1072189

She’s more interested in war than peace. And by now… So. Am. I.

She’s in the living room. Morning exercise. Smirking like our disagreement is her improv skit.

Too early…

“Sure… you’re above it all.” I climb the stairs.

“Your tone,” She snipes.

Riiight. Play innocent.

I return. “Don’t dictate how I respond.”

She snickers. “Wow.”

“Laughter?”

“Wipe your mouth before you argue.”

I scrape my lip-corners. “Always agitating.”

“Nope…”

“Name-calling, shit-talking…”

“Wrong again.”

She judges. Points fingers. Ignites conflict like an emotional arsonist. Never concedes or compromises! Yet… my tone?!

“I’m done,” I ascend the stairs.

“Fine…”

“Perfection…”

Baby Tongue

hot-bowl-ii-e1542298204919.jpg

It scorched layers off his Lingual Papillae.

A mere thirty seconds for the microwave to bubble his mac and cheese into molten lava.

He gulped water.

Efforts… futile. Tongue screaming.

“You okay?” She smirked.

“Hot,” He replied.

“Seriously?”

“Yes….”

“Baby tongue.”

“Hush.”

“Want milk, baby tongue?”

“No…”

He had warm cranberry juice. No need for milk, ice, or her debilitating jabs.

He blew on his bowl before eating another forkful of her macaroni.

“Tasty?” She asked.

Nicely crusted…. perfectly seasoned parade of cheeses. Brilliance in a bowl.

Spectacular.

The best he’d ever tasted.

“Its okay,” He answered. “I’ve had better.”

 

 

 

 

Joshua’s Moon

crescent-moon-watercolor-painting-silver-blue-gray-abstract-half-moon-art-print-joanna-szmerdt

I approached Joshua with caution.

We were in a twenty floor high rise overlooking the FDR Drive. Joshua was having an intense episode and dangerously near an open window.

“Where’s Joshua?” I discreetly pulled the syringe from its case.  “Can you get Joshua for me?”

“He’s resting,” Joshua calmly answered.

“Wake him.”

Joshua faced me. “No.”

My son’s illness had returned with a vengeance. The prescribed medicines were useless. Ineffective.

“Why not?” I asked.

“It hurts him to say goodbye.”

My stomach turned. “Goodbye?”

“He perceives what’s at stake.” Joshua sat on the window sill.

“Slow down, honey.”

“He understands sacrifice.” Joshua pointed to the moon, revealing cuts on his forearms. “I must take his body.”

Not this again, I thought.

“What happens if you take it?”

“Joshua goes wherever things go when they cease to exist.”

“He’ll die?”

“I’m unsure if nothingness is akin to dying.”

Now’s my chance.

I snatched Joshua from the window and pinned him to the ground.

“The earth is in peril.” Joshua didn’t struggle. “I’m the planets only hope.”

Nothing behind his eyes. The boy talking was not my Joshua.

I injected the needle into his arm.

Warmth immediately returned to Joshua’s eyes.

“Mom?” Josh whimpered.

I squeezed him tight.

“No!” He ripped away from me and rushed the window.

“Joshua!” I chased Joshua to the window.

The view of the sky weakened my knees. Impossible.

The moon. Crumbling to pieces.

“Why didn’t you let me go?” Josh asked with tears in his eyes.

Scale Lord’s Victory

Scale lord

She stomped on the demon’s chest. Used the leverage to dislodge the divine spear of E’lees from its belly.

The Demon’s breaths were shallow. Its crushed rib cage slowly rising and sinking beneath her heels. Its long, shattered wings flapping wildly as if trying to escape its broken body.

The Demon spat in her face. “Finish me, insect!”

She plunged the consecrated spear through the Demon’s left eye. Twisted. Drilled it into the back of its skull. No regeneration this time. 

Swooooosh! Escaped souls fired from the Demon’s socket. Ricocheted through the room like vexed lightning.

One more. 

She raised the glowing spear to deliver the finishing thrust.

“Prophecy always prevails,” The Demon whispered.

Not this time. 

She spent her childhood training to combat her so-called prophecy. Awaiting battle against the fate, clerics and superstitious townspeople claimed was inescapable. One strike to its remaining eye and none of it comes to pass. One more strike and she’s free.

The Demon cackled. “See ya.”

She plunged the spear into the Demon’s remaining eye.

Shrieking souls exploded from its skull. Destroyed her remaining dark magic artifacts and sigils in the room. Shattered the towering stain-glass windows.

She withdrew the spear. Wiped demon’s bile from her eyes. Lowered from its corpse before collapsing to a knee upon landing.

Victory. 

“E’lees,” She praised.

She couldn’t free every abducted soul.  The souls used for sustenance and to power the Demon’s machines… Gone forever.

“E’lees, forgive me.”

Movement!

She trained the spear on the quivering Demon.

Hiss… The Demon’s form disintegrated to ash. The ash quickly dissolved in the breeze.

She exhaled.

Relief. Exhaustion.

Its done. The goddess E’lees granted her strength. The will. The arsenal. All she needed to defeat the Demon. To defeat prophecy. To prove mortals weren’t slaves to destiny.

Iku… I’m coming home. 

She shuffled to a shattered window to bathe in the the sunlight. To inhale the sweet scent of grass on the breeze. To take in the sound of caroling birds.

Hell’s ice was thawing. Life was returning to the region. She was going home where there were endless hills, waterfalls and flowers.

To see Iku… To disembowl every thing you love. 

She gasped.

I didn-

Murderous thoughts increasing. Defeaning. Consciousness being crushed. Replaced by another.

Kill them all. Destroy everything… you… I care about.

“I defeated you!” She took an attack position. “You’re-”

Forearm burning…

“Ach!” She rolled up her sleeve.

Black scales formed on her arms and across her collar bone. Organs rapidly shifting. Expanding. Growing.

“Iku, I-”

She’s dying. But she’d never felt stronger. More alive.

“I’m sorry.” She released the spear.

She jerked forward. Landed on all fours.

They tore through her flesh. Her shoulder blades. Her prickly black wings whooshed angrily.

She cried. Tears of pain. Tears of sadness. Tears of laughter.

Prophecy prevailed as it should. She gleefully embraced what she’s meant to become… The Scale Lord. World devourer. Her true self. Fate.

She smirked. “I’m coming for you, Iku.”

She took flight.

Cold Dinner

 

maxresdefault-1-e1539616030554.jpg

He vehemently stared at the screen.

Technopathy failed. Nothing creative or profound had materialized in his thoughts or Word Processor. His muse was an unsurprising no-show. Why waste inspiration on atrocious writers like him? Right?

“What’s up?” She asked.

“Suffering.” He typed a paragraph.

“Food’s getting cold.”

“Cool.” He deleted everything.

“Hurry… Eat.” She rested a full plate between them. “You’re probably hungry.”

“Probably am…”  He reached for the plate.

Stomach’s tight. Extremely lethargic.

He hadn’t eaten sinc-

Pap!

She slapped the biscuit out of his hand. “Food’s on the stove.”

Seriously?” He asked.

“Grab yourself a plate.”

Well, damn.

“The Principles”

Sketch Wing Chun

The impact of my thunderous kicks to his shins crumpled him. Nearly brought him to his knees.

He shifted his stance. Switched his lead leg. Shocked his horse.

Didn’t matter.

Still on the offensive, I sank lower and pushed forward– in my horse.

Crack! The sound of my foot connecting with his fresh shin echoed through the Kwoon. I swore the impact shook the weapons and photos on the wall.

I’m flexible but I’d never go for a taller opponents head. I’m short so I prefer low kicks. More efficient. Chop a bigger opponent down to size. 

He thought of reaching for his aching leg. I saw it in his eyes. But he retreated into Full Gan Sau instead.

I smiled. “Good… get away.”

He Lurched his shoulders.

I could tell he was frustrated. I saw it in his posture. Training this art would do that to you.

“Simultaneous offense and defense,” I said as I stalked him around the sparring mat. “Both hands.”

He lunged.

I zigged zagged, covering myself at every angle. Batted (pak sau) his hand out of the air. Palm striked him in the jaw. To stun. Not to knock out.

He took a knee.

“Constant forward pressure.” I said. “Coverage. Horse.”

I kept changing angles to keep him busy.

He’s bigger. Wouldn’t dare facing him head on. That’s suicide. 

“Always on guard,” I said.

He went for the shoot, but I managed to sink into front horse and spread my legs wide so he couldn’t take my hips, all while dropping elbow and all of my body weight into the back of his neck.

He stumbled.

I struck him on his way down to ensure he wouldn’t recover quickly. He’s overly aggressive.

Was he getting angry? He needed to calm himself. Breathe… The impatience of youth. 

“Flow with the power,” I said as I backed off of him. “Maintain center-”

He interrupted with a swing to my head.

I weaved back, allowing his punch to fly over me while simultaneously covering and catching him with a low kick he never saw coming.

He groaned.

I’d stabbed him below the belly button with the point of my toes. Pressure point. Couldn’t have felt good.

I wasn’t done. Only the first half of the move.

“We are smaller.” I sprung forward and caught him with a savage Arrow Punch.

My fist and his face collided.

It was ugly. I felt terrible. He should’ve covered.

The impact sent him somersaulting backwards. The impact sent a painful shock up my wrist and into my shoulder.

“Less skilled.” I relaxed my guard and offered him a hand.  “Am I missing anything?”

He smiled. Took my hand and allowed me to help him to his feet.

“You okay?” I asked.

He bowed several times. I could tell he was grateful for the lesson. Its why I chose him as a private student. As the one who will continue the legacy.

“Lets go for tea,” I suggested. “Its on me.”

He nodded.