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.

Ghoul’s Night Out

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She perused the menu of the expensive, five pentagram rated restaurant.

A posh, dark ages style torture room decor with stunning views of the unholiest realms.

Perfect for their Ghoul’s night out.

“Let’s see it,” Bestie demands.

She reaches her ring hand across the table.

Bestie closely examines the gem. “Two trapped souls?!”

“I know!” She shrieks.

“Lucky ghoul.”

“And… he loves children,” She adds. “Lightly seasoned… Well done.”

“Your fave.”

“Ahhh… bestie remembers!”

Fiery portals open above their tables. Flaming tentacles place two cauldrons of Boiling Hot primordial soup before them.

“Roanoake U Coven reunion tomorrow.” Bestie tastes the soup.

“The Black Lipstick slut sorority?”

Bestie squints. “Didn’t you pledge?”

“Yes… Before you sacrificed me to the demon, Bilquis.”

Bestie nods. “You’re welcome.”

“Whatever.” She laughs. “Hows dating life?”

Tentacles deliver blood champagne.

“Screwed one of the four,” Bestie answers.

“Horseman?”

Bestie smirks. “Famine.”

“Thought you’d prefer War.”

Too aggressive.”

“Wow… You’ve matured.”

“Two hundredth birthday just passed.”

“Happy belated.”

“I guess…” Bestie frowns.

“Your soulless mate exists. I promise.”

“Yeah, sure,” Bestie sighs.

Explore… Date warlocks.”

“Religious nuts? No thanks.”

“Zombies?”

“Followers. One track minds.”

“Oooh, Vampires? They’re romantic.”

“Total racists.” Bestie replies.  “Briefly dated a succubus.”

“When?

“That semester in Purgatory.”

“Hmmm…. Mummies?”

“Terrible dressers.”

“Wolves?”

“Wild in bed.” Bestie flashes missing finger. “Too wild.”

“Frankenstein.”

“Happily married.”

She groans.

“Ghoul, stop! I’m… fine.”

“You sure?”

Bestie nods and raises glass. “Tonights about you and your unholy union.”

“I guess,” She raises glass.

They share a toast.

 

Assassins Curse I: “…her frozen heart.”

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Assassins were bewitched by her smile. Her thickness. Her full, succulent lips. Her sharp glances, piercing him deep.

His hand trembled as he aimed.

His red dot. Between her bosoms. Inches left of her frozen heart. All he had to do was squeeze. Empty his clip and end it.

“Someone hired you?” She asked.

“Yes,” He replied.

“Who?”

“Someone who don’t like you much.”

“Shame.”

She stepped closer.

“What’s stopping you?”

“Nothing.” He didn’t know what else to reply.

Disoriented. Weak. Blind with desire. Consumed.

She disarmed him with a smirk.

That’s all it took. A smirk.

His grandmother forewarned him about her.

Son… Karma will come for you…  His grandmother would say.  And poison you with her smile…

He never took his grandmother seriously. An old southern woman with superstitions and stories of evil spirits and spells. And curses. She wasn’t one to take seriously.

She undressed him. Button by button.  Backed him slowly towards the pool.

He couldn’t help himself. Frozen. Immobile.

She circled him as she disrobed. Lassoed his neck with her nightwear. Lead him towards the bubbling Jacuzzi. Stripped him of everything he had.

Gun. Knife. Keys. His free will.

“Want to know something?” She asked.

“What?”

“I knew you’d come.” She pressed her warm body against his. “You have a possession of mine.”

“Your heart?” He answered.

“No,” she replied.

“Your love?”

“Getting colder.”

“Your body?”

“Keep guessing.”

She was calm. Unlike her heart. Her heart raced.

She pulled close. Fulfilled one desire. Fulfilled desires he was unaware of.

“You owe me something,” She said.

“I do?”  

She nodded.

“Want to know what?” She asked.

“Yes.”

She tiptoed to reach his ear.

“Life. You owe me a life.” She whispered. 

He staggered  back. Wiped his nose.

Leaking nostrils. Red covering his fingertips.

She kissed him on the cheek. “For all the lives you ruined.”

He heard his grandmother’s voice… Calling.

Come on home, son… face judgment. 

No… Not yet… Please. Not now.

He collapsed. Struggled to move. Breathe.

“Sleep well, my love.” She smiled. “Send the devil my deepest regards.”

Shit… 

Read Part II here.

The Penalty for honesty… at work.

What’s the penalty for honesty at work? I wondered as I pretended to work.

I stared out the window for a moment.

My heart skipped a beat when my boss entered the room. I froze.

Gotta look busy. Look valuable. 

She quietly entered her office and shut the door.

What’s the penalty for my honesty? I pondered at I scrolled desperately through my social media feed for good news, a motivational post, or photographs of the nieces, nephews, and godchildren I never get to see.

There’s a seemingly immovable forty hour a week boulder in the middle of my existence. Unshakable. Immovable. Virtually unbreakable. Boulder.

I yawned. I stretched. I checked my text messages as I stretched.

I wondered. If I revealed to them… I’m overwhelmed. Can’t seem to get a foothold on the work. Can’t seem to get it together. Can’t tell whether its boredom or incompetence on my part. 

My stomach hurt. Terrible gas.

I skipped breakfast. Late for work again. So much to think about. So much to do. So little time. Vacation was nothing more than the space between misery. Like work release or yard time. I was being melodramatic.

What if I revealed to them that they need not smile in my direction. I know you don’t like me. I know you think I’m incompetent– when I make a mistake– and beneath you. I know you think I was hired to work under you and serve you– which I probably was. 

I stood. Stretch my legs.

What if I was honest with them about myself? What if I admitted to myself and to them that I was equally as fake? I don’t like you either. But I return your illusion with one of my own. Because I understand my role is to make them comfortable. And how crucial it is to the job, and my livelihood, 

I sat. Powered the scanner.

Error.

I restarted the machine.

Same results.

I softly pounded my fist on the desk.

I’m the only tool in the office not allowed to malfunction. And, the easiest to replace.

I slumped in my chair.

Can they tell I dig my nails into my forearms when they dress me down in front of my peers? Can they read in my eyes how much sleep I lose thinking about all the stuff I have to do the next day? Or the people I have to deal with. Or, how I can’t handle the amount of work they are tossing my way Probably not.

“Good Morning,” One of my smiley supervisors greeted.

“Good Morning,” I replied with a smile bright enough to overload a solar powered city.

“How’s everything going?” Smiley Supervisor asked.

“Excellent!” I replied as my face started to get sore from smiling. “Working on this and then I’ll head back and work on your stuff.”

“Okay, great!” Smiley Supervisor said, returning to her office.

Couldn’t afford to be honest. No matter how hard I crunched the numbers, I just couldn’t afford it.

Addicted to Headphones

headphone sketch

INT. HOUSE – DAY

MAN seated at TABLE.  Listening to HEADPHONES. Drinking COFFEE from MUG.

Sound bleeds from MAN’s headphones. Indecipherable talking. Sound effects from headphones. Screams. Lasers. Swords.

WOMAN seated across from MAN. Staring intently at LAPTOP. Drinking COFFEE from MUG which has BRIDE boldly inscribed on its face.

 

WOMAN

You’re addicted to headphones.

 

WOMAN looks up. Intensely stares at man. Awaiting an answer. Slightly irritated expression.

MAN looks up. Matches eyes with WOMAN. Removes headphones.

 

MAN

(puzzled look)

Huh?

 

WOMAN stares for a beat.

 

WOMAN

Never mind.

 

MAN

Cool.

 

MAN smiles at WOMAN. Returns headphones to ears. Increases VOLUME.