Sunday, November 18, 2012

like vines.

(as found in Offbeat: Volume 10: Noises from Typewriter Keys)
it was three am. her eyelashes fluttered into a suddenly-wide stare. a creak was heard beneath her feet.

slowly she moved out of and away from her room. one foot in front of the other, she conquered the ancient stairway and groaning floorboards masterfully. the house was nothing like she'd ever known: it was quiet, with intricate details and deliberate patterns twisting like vines about the walls, doors, and ceilings. the furniture was dusty and worn, there were no soft carpets to lay a foot on, and yet still, it was home.

peacefully he slept, a portrait of serenity with his soft brown hair that curled at the edges. one arm was thrust over his features - over his hidden eyes and sunburnt lips - and lay limp against the armrest of the old sofa.

she watched his chest rise and fall for a moment, her own breath stolen by the sight. it had been far too long since she'd touched that skin or tousled that hair or brushed those lips with her own and the urge overcame her like a violent wave.

soon she was at his side, kneeling, of course. her delicate fingers trembled as she reached to brush a tendril from his unknowing forehead. the face was so familiar - the asymmetrical wrinkle that graced his brow, the forty-something freckles that danced across the bridge of his nose, the dark eyebrows that peaked and arched midway to create a constantly amused expression.

as she lay her lips against his, he stirred, mumbling inaudible phrases from exhausted vocals. his own eyes revealed, he found his hands, found his strength, and found his voice, "who's there?"

but he found himself alone.


---

(a continuation not-yet-published)
"hello?" he said, to no one.

momentarily, he was frightened. he had been dreaming again. he sat up quickly, throwing both bare feet to the cold floor and shoving the ancient quilt to the opposite end of the couch. a warm breath escaped him as he struggled for balance and fought to stand.

as he walked the perimeter of the room, his senses caught a floral scent - faint, but familiar. there was warmth, excitement, intrigue flooding through him. the old house had character, he knew, but seldom was there life.

thomas knelt beside the banister of the old stairwell. his hand traced the aged wood - etched beautifully with subtle intricacies. he was searching for some sign of contact - something purely.. alive.. that he could grasp onto. his brow furrowed when he found nothing. outside, the wind whistled a deliberate tune.

autumn was both his favorite and loneliest time of the year. the colors that cascaded through the trees and the smell of dead leaves and wood-burning stoves brought him back to a less senseless time. things had been different so many autumns ago, and he missed her even now.

twisting.

Carol sat nestled into the worn synthetic cushion of aisle seat 3B. She flipped nonchalantly through August’s copy of Good Housekeeping, although it was already November. Every so often, she would adjust her bifocals, intent on gaining better insight into ‘Homes, Gnomes, and Garden D├ęcor.’ She sighed as the other passengers boarded around her.

Fifty-six years had been unkind to Carol’s body. Her face was weathered from the sun, and her skin bore liver spots she could not remember having in her youth. The lines beside her eyes tugged downward in a sad and deliberate sort of way, and when she smiled, her teeth were yellow from many years of coffee and tobacco.

She hadn’t always been this way. She married Sal when she was only nineteen. Thirty-seven long years later, she was boarding a plane from Cincinnati headed towards Detroit, while Sal basked in the sun down in Boca Raton. She absentmindedly twirled her wedding band between sandy, worn fingers.

He arrived suddenly and without warning, like a hurricane of wit and charm. His baseball cap was set high up above his brow, allowing the dim cabin lighting to dance across his twenty-something-year-old face. Around his neck was a worn silver piece in the shape of a cross, hanging haphazardly against his chest. Though it was merely fifty-seven degrees outside, he was dressed in green canvas shorts and ancient black flipflops, with only a thin white t-shirt to shield his torso. He glanced quickly around the snug interior of the tiny plane.

“I think I lucked out. I’ve got the window seat,” he said finally, addressing Carol with a smile.

Carol leaned forward impulsively to move into the aisleway, but she was stopped by the cool wave of a hand.

“I’ve got it. No need to move your pretty little feet,” he spoke brightly, surprising Carol with the lightness of his words.

Swiftly and with a grace Carol had never seen, he scooted over and past her, settling down into the faux-leather beside the window.

"Tell me about yourself," he said, twisting his body to face her. The smile he flashed was crooked and endearing, but the expression was honest and expectant. Carol chuckled aloud and as she opened her mouth to speak, she felt the deadness in her chest jumpstart to life.

---
(a little about Sal)
Sal was a good man.  A little gruff, often unshaven and without social graces, but he was a good man nonetheless.  Carol knew she had been lucky to find something so stable at such a young age.  He had never made her heart race or head spin, and she had never experienced “butterflies” – whatever those were, anyway.  But she knew that he would take care of her for all her life and that had been more than enough.  She had married him on a Sunday in June, not six months after they had met.
           

easy.

She watched him with tired eyes.

"Where are you going?"

His breath caught in his throat - she could tell. He straightened himself, running a cool hand through his pillow-stressed hair. Mouth open, gaze cast up into eyelids, he exhaled loudly.

"Out. I'm.. going out."

And with that, he picked up two mismatched, dirty socks off the floor and exited the bedroom.

They'd been seeing each other for several months now. Unwilling to categorize the relationship as anything official - friends or otherwise - they'd kept things casual for simplicity's sake. No strings attached... no answers to be given. It was easy.

At least, it was supposed to be.

Tangled in the bedsheets, Jessie hoisted herself off the bed and stepped towards the sheer-curtained window. Through it and just below, she watched him climb into his beat-up little Honda and start the engine. She lifted her left hand and, without his acknowledgment, gently waved him off. When he had finally driven out of sight, Jessie moved back to the disheveled nest they'd created and crawled in. She reset the sheets and smoothed the silken comforter back over her.

She wondered where he was going. Back to work, or out to lunch, or to the gym. But it didn't matter - it couldn't. Casual. Easy.

Jessie reached across her pillow and felt around the smooth surface of the bedside table. Sitting up, she found what she had been looking for and hesitantly brought it to her chest.

She slipped the ring back onto her finger as though it had never been gone.

rousseau.

(written december 7, 2007)
The sounds of city life bounced around inside her head as she moved down the busy street. She drew her chin to her neck, nestling into her scarf to fight the wind as it bit at her bare skin. Around her, snow whispered its metamorphosis from white to black, beneath the tired tracks of taxicabs. Weathered men and women sat huddled in between buildings and at doorframes clambering to the feeble hopes that someone, maybe even Nathalie, would ease their pain. But still she walked on.

She soon came to the large brick building she had been seeking. For a brief moment, she took in its looming physique, admiring the icicles that hung off its window ledges like sharp, frozen tears. Freeing a gloved hand from her right jacket pocket, Nathalie buzzed up to 36C like she so frequently would.

After a moment, a scratchy mumbling could be heard from the speaker beside the buzzer. The door clicked as it unlocked, and Nathalie let herself in. The stairs in the old building creaked as she moved up them, fingers trailing lightly along the railing as she ascended.

Three flights later, doorknob met fingers and there she was, breathless but triumphant. Warmth enveloped her as she entered the apartment. Her eyes skipped across the room, from the old suede sofa to the armchair it coupled to the cluttered coffee table between the two. Books were scattered across every surface and the stale air smelled like coffee. Nathalie found her voice.

“Bon soir,” she said. “Hello?”

Yet there was only stillness.

The lines across her forehead deepened as she turned to shed her coat. But before she could realize it, fingers not her own forcefully entwined themselves in her dark hair and stole place around her waist, and Nathalie found herself peering up into dark, cerulean eyes. There was no hesitation now, as there never had been. Her mouth found his as his shirt found the floor. In moments, the old books would share their homes with the fallen garments. They sat patiently.

When it was done, Nathalie settled up against the edge of the sofa. She twisted her body uncomfortably for a minute then pulled something bound in vinyl out from beneath her lower back.

"Oh, Christ,” she muttered, struggling to hold the book and get to her feet. Lachlan shoved a stack of papers to retrieve his boxers. He paused to glance at Nathalie.

“What?” he asked, giving the boxers one last tug. They were free.

“Huck Finn.”

“Oh man.”

“I feel bad.. you know, it’s the great American novel.”

“He doesn’t mind. Most action he’s gotten in what, 120 years?”

“Oh stop it.” Nathalie gently placed the novel back on the sofa before adding, “Are you hungry?”

Lachlan shrugged, now fully clothed. It was classic Lachlan, Nathalie thought, carefully observing his nonchalance, in both attitude and attire. He wore frayed, color-stained jeans and an old Motley Crue t-shirt. Dried paint concealed the true skin tone of his hands. Black– now sweat-soaked – tendrils fell haphazardly atop his head and over his eyes - evidence that his hair hadn’t been cut in months.

Yet there was something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. He was captivating as he crossed the room back to where Nathalie was sitting, still naked. His lips discovered the cavernous area between her neck and her collarbone and traveled upwards. She craned her neck as his mouth danced across her skin. Unable to control herself, she placed one hand against his chest and urged him backwards, away from her. Once again, Nathalie’s eyes locked on his and she labored to sit upright.

“I love you.”

Lachlan ran a tarnished hand through his mottled hair, looking momentarily pensive. He gave a little laugh before bending down to kiss Nathalie on her worried brow. Wind whistled against the dirty glass window.

“Then show me,” he said with a chuckle. And outside the snow stormed on.


---

(written march 6, 2009)
She had met him on the monkey bars twelve long years ago.

With knobby knees and knotted hair, Nathalie had patiently waited her turn while Tibby Upstyle glided from one side to the other at least ten times. When Tibby had finally begun to whine about the blisters forming on her fingers, Nathalie had clambered to the stoop beside the first bar and started to cross.

Four bars in, and she could remember this distinctly, her hand reached forward and caught warm skin where cool metal should have been. Intinctively she gasped and released, and in effect, lost her balance. The playground woodchips sought shelter beneath her clothes. Shocked and furious, embarrassed and incredulous, Nathalie glared upwards to where she had just been.

And there he was, still hanging - dark, untidy hair falling into the dirt-smudged forehead above those blue, blue eyes.

Immediately, her rage dissipated and was replaced by something unfamiliar. Her heart rattled against her ribcage, and she could feel all her blood rushing to her ears. Her vision blurred as she rolled onto her stomach to escape his piercing gaze.

Like a wild animal, she had thought, free and wild and beautiful.

She twisted around to look at the boy - still immobile - and her stomach wrenched. She thought she might vomit.

Then she did.

Without warning, he was there, holding her tangled hair in his gentle hands, guiding her away from the mess she had made. He touched her chin and tilted it so she faced him once more. Nathalie's heart pounded in her throat.

"Don't worry," he said sternly, "I'm a doctor."

They both laughed, and she had loved him ever since.

 

circa 2004.


Her ivory teeth flashed beneath curled lips.

"Be patient," she said coolly, scarcely more than whispering, "Be still."

The trees around her whooshed their concerns, chattering as the wind danced past them. It had been years since she'd felt a breeze against her skin.

A tremor skipped down her spine. The earth stopped, and there he was, as promised, emerging from the brush. His teeth were bared, eyes narrowed, sending an unspoken warning to the Two-Legged that stood before him. His grand paws landed softly as he crept closer. A low growl rumbled from behind his clenched jaw.

"I knew you'd come," she breathed finally, opening her arms in recognition. With a sour glare, she added, "Cool it, Skinwalker."

The bold move was enough for him to tear her to pieces, but he resisted, balancing steady on lithe limbs. Wait, wait, he repeated internally.

"There's trouble even we can't suppress anymore. We need your help."

The urgency in her voice calmed the carnal instincts screaming inside of him. Even the putrid scent of human flesh settling in his nostrils would not push him to attack until she'd made her case. He remained, coiled - ready, desperate to succumb to his most savage instincts once her pleading was decided unworthy. But that time did not come. Not this time.

Liam's snarl faded.

"They're back."

--
Liam's long, lithe limbs carried him gracefully through the dense wood. What little information he had been given was enough to send his most primal senses soaring. Without thinking - for in his animal form, he could scarcely reason - he let out a low growl - a threatening presence rippling through him. Barely skimming the ground as he moved, he made no sound. He was invisible amongst the trees.

When he reached the edge of the woods, he drew to a halt and sat back on his haunches. The fur along the scruff of his neck stood on edge as he gazed out into the open suburbs of his hometown.

Old rusty bikes lay strewn across carelessly overgrown lawns. The houses were small and close together, with few windows and poor paint jobs. A few driveways had cars in them, but not many.

After a moment of watching, listening, waiting, when he was convinced he was alone, Liam turned his back to the quiet street, and he Shifted.

Where wolf had been, boy now stood. He crept over to an old evergreen tree where his clothes hung, and he dressed quickly under it's immense branches. His fingers subconsciously reached for his throat. Knotted around his neck was a suede string with a single charm dangling down against his chest. He touched the tooth, just to check - to make sure it was still there.

Walking on two legs now and with half the grace, he ambled along the sidewalk towards a shanty gray house. The outside garden was rich with color, though you could hardly see it in the moonlight. The weathered burgundy door creaked eerily open, and Liam slipped into the darkness of the foyer.

"Mom? Alyssa? I'm home."

--
His mouth twisted into a wry smile. The crisp air around him carried with it a distinct scent of Man – of mortality. Perhaps it was his instincts – his heightened senses – the call of whatever it was he’d inherited – eating away at his humanity.

Liam was, by no means, a unique person. He was average at best, and ordinary in every attribute. But when he Shifted, he was strong; he was powerful, graceful and fierce. He became a Protector and a soldier as he became inhuman.

Months ago, he had been “normal.” He had been a mediocre student with no athletic capabilities and a handful of average-seeming friends. The Change had terrified him when it had come. He had awoken with a start as the clock had read 3:12 am and the city lay sleeping. Burning sought shelter in his throat as his vocal chords were shredded and regrown. His gums ached as teeth tore through the soft flesh. A shudder rippled through his body while his bones extended and warped, facilitating the shape of something unfamiliar and new. An animalistic strength surged through his veins, pulsated with the steady beating of his enlarged heart. After the pain had subsided, Liam found himself inexplicably canine, and inexplicably alive. Where fear had settled in the pit of his chest, relief now swept through. He felt peaceful – subdued.

Just as quickly as it had come, the metamorphosis dissipated. Exhaustion swept over him instantly, and he lay against the cool wooden floorboards drenched in his own sweat. Liam soon drifted off into a strange, dreamless sleep.

In the morning he had awoken to find his sister standing over him, screaming, mortified at the sight of his nakedness. Try as he might, he could not explain his peculiar state, or the shredded clothes around him, and so his mother, sister, and doctor attributed it to sleepwalking.

Friday, November 9, 2012

between.

and they would remember it again tomorrow. and the day after that. and the day after that. for all the time in the world could not change the memory of the twisted flannel bedsheets, the salt on their skin, the snow in the air, or the moment when they realized it was love that bounced between them.