Friday, June 6, 2014

A Terrible Creature and Poorly Drawn

*** Ok - here's a little flash fiction and an opportunity given over at Chuck Wendig's. He's always good for a read and a few though-provoking things. Enjoy and, as always, honest feedback is always welcome. ***

The morning brought five or six shades of blue to the hills surrounding the old quarry. But the growing day burned that away and turned it mostly to the colors of white oatmeal and clay. The word that came to Randall, as he followed the gravel road around to where he could see things, was immense. A great white square in the earth where trees and soil had been ripped away by some previous generation's earth-movers met his eyes. And, in the center of that, sat a second square; one holding water of an old green stagnation. Large rocks, some the size of cars and others fittingly looking like coffins sat tumbled around the old water. On the ground were smaller slices of stone, sharp like knives or bumpy like small fists.

He dismounted the bicycle and walked it towards the edge of the pool. The quarry was of the legendary type; a place where teenagers were supposed to swim and party in the summers. But, they didn't. There were no old char-pits or cans or squiggled condoms reclining in the soil. Maybe, Randall thought, it had all been forgotten. Maybe something else kept the kids away. Whatever the reason, it was a good place for some of the things Randall liked to do.

Nearing the water, he laid the bike on its side the way he might ease a friend to the ground. Another three steps brought him to the slimy edge of the pool. He always admired the lines and how box-like and definite the digging had been. What were they looking for, he wondered, granite or shale? And why had they stopped working here? He guessed it didn't matter and reached into his pocket.

In the plastic baggie he'd kept the final piece of Elise; something about an eye for an eye. He wondered if there were fish in the water and how the keepsake might fare. There was something funny about the idea of a zip-lock and he smirked and pulled the lips of the bag apart. He reached in and didn't mind holding it. It had dried out some but was still moist and like an old scratched marble, the colors had dimmed.

"Just remember," he said, "you started this."

The water received its gift with a silly and noncommittal little plop and before Randall returned to his bike he admired the openness of where he stood. Atop the bluffs the alders moved in a wind too removed to feel and the sun stared down at him in an unexpected moment of heat. Beyond his sight some bird sang a three-note warble. There was a repetition to all this that Randall failed to notice. Only, he felt like he had something to work out. He just didn't know quite know what it was. He shrugged and guessed then it was finished.

But the thing he'd thrown in the water wouldn't settle. It moved in little starts and dashes through the dark algae and tiny bubbles where the snails and other forgotten creatures of the pool lived beyond sight. By the time Randall made the blacktop it had already begun seeking its own.

The tall grasses along the sides of the road slid by and soon he was back among the houses. The ride gave him time to think. The other parts of Elise were far away and there was no fear of being caught. His legs worked the bike and he wondered about what she'd been looking for. Some sort of thrill, he supposed, remembering how, if not possessive, then pensive she'd been. And, he had given her the show of a lifetime.

Randall always went for the pretty ones. But unlike the others, there was intuitiveness about Elise and only after he'd picked her up the first time did he appreciate how she seemed to know what was going on. Right away, she'd wanted in on the next one. That's how she said it. Like she knew what Randall did with them and what she didn't think he would do to her.

By the time he leaned his bike against the garage, his shirt was soaked. The sun had stared down at him with no clouds. It wasn't supposed to be this hot today. But he shrugged at it, punched the code into the door, and let himself into the house where the air was on. He sat in front of the television and pinched a button on the remote. He watched nothing in particular for a while and then thought he could use a shower.

In the tub he found a conglomeration of red mess and hair had backed up the drain. Randall knew he'd cleaned it before he'd left; his hobby necessitated a certain level of care. Impossible, he thought. He swore at this and dug around under the sink for the snake. When he had it he reached into the drain hole with the little wire on the end and worked it around for a while but whatever plugged the pipe wouldn't give. This didn't make sense. It was only blood. The solid pieces were elsewhere.

He walked to the basement door with a pipe-wrench. The raw-wood steps thudded under his feet. Just like her, he thought. Elise had done nothing but get in the way. She said she'd wanted to help but when he did it in front of her, to that girl whose name he'd never even learned, she'd only stared.

"Stupid," he said, "and never again."

He reached for the string and clicked on the light. The old bulb swung and the shadows of the white plastic drain jerked above him. He sighed, adjusted the wrench, reached up, and gave a hard pull on the nut. There was a relief when it gave and he knew he hadn't broken anything.

With his hand he reached up and unscrewed it the rest of the way, and had only a moment to consider whether or not he'd gone insane.

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