Betrayal by the Things we Love Most

This is a dreamy short story.


 

The boundless ocean stretches ahead. Its jagged, mirror-like surface reflects back the pale orange sun. The boat moves at speed through gently rolling waves sending up a spray of fine mist. On every conceivable surface the salted droplets land, a coating of flaky, crumbly mineral grows. The salt covers my lips and arms with crystalline layers. My grip on the railing provides purchase against the cool wind and damp. The sun helps too. Water maids accompany me on this journey, swimming in the wake and ahead of the bow in the form of dolphins.

I peer to the upper deck, flying high above, well over the worst of the spray and wind. Perched upon this, my constant companion whom I couldn’t do without. She gazes out past the local scenery with the aid of binoculars, to some far off wonder beyond my grasp. From that outlook, another horizon is visible a bit farther than my own. She takes a more pedestrian view by carrying the eagle-eyed tool off to her side. Her other hand forms a shade visor over gleaming eyes. A shift in the oncoming rays turns Claire’s body into a silhouette of a goddess on the harsh radiating light of our life bringing sun.

She comes down from her heavenly perch, nestled upon the higher deck. The ease and grace with which she moves in nothing short of perfection. Claire is down at the deck to exchange words with me. The sweet sounds of her irresistible intonation wash over me. I hear her words, but that’s not everything. This exchange has the surprising quality to put me at ease.

Claire leads me to the deck cabin by her usual mannerisms — consisting of feather light touches on the inside of my palm and arm — knowing exactly how. The deck cabin bolsters a pendulum sort of door, swinging back and forth with the lightest of breezes. Claire pushes the door aside as I miss her contact for a brief moment, moving through the filter screen of a doorway. The door swings through on its pendulum arc.

In that instant, Claire disappears into the body of the ship. I push through the door expecting the truth of Claire behind, yet she is not to be seen in the darkened chamber. I walk through the room looking for her only to be disappointed. Claire is nowhere below or above decks. A looming dread comes over me. The rhythmic slapping of the door ends with a loud bang. I look back to see nothing — an empty wall in place of the door.

I look for an escape route from the dark, desolate chamber entombed within the ship. The transom windows are inches beyond my outstretched fingers. The blackness is held at bay by late evening light coming in. Chalk markings of an indecipherable and crude tongue graffiti the walls. Paper underfoot crumples and crunches with each step. I sink to the ground in a state befitting my current desolation.

Wetness encroaches my battlements from every front. A deep red sludge, a curse adding to my sad state. With each passing breath and moment, my heart fills with revulsion. The impending creep of the fluid sends me up and away. The red concoction comes higher, soaking into more of the paper under footing, turning it into a blood red mush. I end up tasting the fluid to verify my suspicion that this is blood from some massive creature.

The transoms let in something else, filling my prison just a bit faster. The golden amber liquid comes in by waterfall. The intense smell of liquor wafts up into my nose. The liquid flows in with the goal of drowning me as sewer rat. The onslaught goes on without a sign of relenting, intent on my destruction. There must be a method escaping my thoughts that can rid me of impending doom.

The transom is my salvation. I get myself soaked through and through grasping desperately at the window inches above my attempts. Wandering from light to light, I find a step where there is none to reach my salvation. I pull myself up with as much strength as my frame can manage, up to the deck. Halfway up, a tug on my leg slides me back. The next so forceful, my head reels up into glass transom. This, my end.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Finding the Things You Want: Middle School

This is a short story about making friends.


 

I was daydreaming, sitting there at my desk, watching the other students, and imagining what their words meant beyond the words themselves. That was my typical day in middle school. I was the odd one out, because I wasn’t the same as everybody else — a social in-adept — a stranger in the ways of my age.

That’s when I saw her. It wasn’t like she was the most beautiful or the most popular. It felt like I knew her from across the room though. We had gone to the same schools for years. There wasn’t any back and forth — we’d never talked.  I wanted to be right there, in the thick of that conversation. It should’ve been easy, but they were talking about baseball.

I was out of place. I never fit in anywhere, because I was scared to be myself. That ruined me from the start. And it would take years of course correcting to change things.

That was the first of many encounters. In hallways, across the cafeteria, at football games, and the one class we had together — memories that haunted me and missed opportunities I’d never have back. If I wasn’t anti-social to the extreme, I had an in. I was smart — not study group smart. I was still a weirdo that couldn’t meet muster. The sidelines was where I would remain years on down the line.

Then things started to change. See, I had a few friends. I joined their study group. The hand of fate smiled on me, and I was in the study group with that girl the week after next.

Leaving things to fate was how I survived being my own man in a sea of conformity.

THE TRUTH:

I hid from the world, never allowing even those I knew best backstage passes.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Finding Love Again on a Rooftop

This is a short love story.


 

It was a party in the City. Some miracle got me invited. It was one of those rooftop affairs, not that I’d ever been. Strings of mini-lights hung overhead. Music tickled our ears like the cool night. It was me and a few girlfriends in the middle of the roving throng.

That’s when he came over. Tina knew him. He smiled like a dozen stars, and I was seeing spots. Brad. Somehow the minutes ticked by, and we were alone surrounded by strangers.

“You look sexy as hell. Megan was it?”

A splash of heat rose to my face with my laugh and how he made me feel. His words would’ve been awkward, if I didn’t like him already. There I was, alone with the honest, handsome fellow. My yes was meek as a field mouse in the general din.

“Want to dance?”

“Anytime.” We laughed. Everyone was dancing, so why shouldn’t we?

How did I know Tina? What a wonderful party? What a night? It was quite something.

My girlfriends were absent or giggling at our flirtations. But it wasn’t bad in the hands of handsome Brad. It was something great.

We danced and danced, then drinks on the rooftop. It was the perfect night up there, above the bustling street. Our hands met after signaling back and forth. We turned to each other minutes later and tilted our heads. As our lips met, possibilities flashed before my eyes.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Finding Love in the Chill of Winter

This is a short love story.


 

The snow drifted down — mini lanterns adrift on the wind, falling all around them until a fateful landing on the ice below. Glowing electricity cast light as well as shadow into the night where they stood on a frozen pond.

Her laughter filled the silent night muffled around them. Ronnie made her laugh like so few could. She could see it. A life filled with joy at every moment. But that wasn’t them yet. They were gliding along, holding hands, but apart — minutes away instead of a reach most nights.

The wind tore at them like the expectations of others — the pressure of ticking towards a happy life. Everything was chaos except the world created between them. Everything was simple inside their bubble of ebullient, jubilant love.

The darkness didn’t matter as they provided the light.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Annie Niemaszyk on Unsplash

The Rhyme and Meter of Love

This is a short love/loss story.


 

We used to be friends, but then we were together. Best friends knew each other like few others ever could. Crossing the line from friendship to love is a dangerous journey. But it worked. The fireworks of us together sparkled and shined bright like no other.

It wasn’t the same as it once was, now that the novelty of buried treasure was dug away. Being together is more than loving. Then the day when the truth fell from heaven — secrets that made love cleaven.

We once loved the other, but pursuing it a step further, ended in heartbreak ever after.

 

Gk

 

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Image credit: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The Trouble with Unwelcome Guests

This is a short story that turns out how you least expect.


 

Everything ends up reflected on the waxed hood lying outside the tinted windshield. The deep green of the thing itself colors everything that it shows me, any small groove showing black in the pure white vista and the reflections of the trees slipping across, bending and distorting to every curve and contour. The white snow hangs on the drooping branches of evergreens, immobile in the gently blowing winds. The freshly fallen snow stretches out ahead waiting for the oncoming wheels of car. The edge of the road just melts into the landscape under the white covering of snows past.

The two of us, Claire and I, reside within the confines, our means of conveyance, safely away from the cold outside. The warmth of the air resonates with the materials in easy grasp of both of us. The dark, rich woods accompanied by a trim of honed steel does nothing more than feed our senses. My hands firmly in hold of the soft leather intricately woven into the round steering wheel. The car eases through every twist, not once losing traction, until reaching our destination, my mother’s house.

We stop in the circular drive amidst a collection of four other’s such vehicles set upon this house for the same reason. I withdraw the keys and our gift from within the confines of this now sleeping car. Entering into the cutting chill from beyond these doors, my wool jacket provides a suitable battlement against the undeniably cold winds. The onslaught targets any points of weakness, hitting my face and hands with the biting cold that dominates the winter season. I move around the car admiring its quality and the fact that my black and burgundy choices are just skin deep, as the car’s looks. The belt line slopes up adding an aggressive look that means nothing more than that.

I go to Claire’s door, just a few steps from the house, and hold it open for her. Claire wears a long coat with a white scarf that keeps the warmth in. The lightest of touches shut the car doors. We proceed hand in hand up to the grand double door of beech framed by plaster columns. Mother greets us with Father not far behind. I remember her wearing the same thing last Christmas, a maroon dress with a matching scarf. Dad is in a forest green sweater with brown slacks. They seem happy to see us, if not a little relieved.

Claire attended many other occasions here in the familial home hence the memories of other, more innocent times. I rid myself of the jacket, now turned burden by the sudden warmth of inside. Claire takes off her scarf and coat revealing the comfortable but beautiful dress for this evening meal, a close resemblance to something found outside, a lily. It features two shades of the color orange, one dark and one bright, each of the two constructed into elongated/stretched out petals, making up the entire thing. The embroidered center crease from a reflective, almost metallic, light orange. The petals wrap around her body from her knees up in such a way that it just works. The upper extreme of two petals transform into the straps that lunge over her shoulders. She hides her hands inside the pockets at either side. I proffer up my hand that she then accepts. We enter into the dining room stuffed with guests and a bloated table of ornaments. I recognize everyone there to some degree, from people I know well to others I just know. Everyone is dressed for it.

The two empty seats at the other end of the table remain the only in pristine quality. We pass by every chair, not by convenience or choice, but by necessity to meet up again on the other side.

Irena, Claire’s absurdly young aunt sits in the first seat, across from her husband Gary, and next to my mother. The head of the table needs to stay empty for some reason I can’t think of. Irena models a dress inspired by rain with the embossed velvet and tear shape cutouts. A striking midnight blue almost as black as night itself highlights the embossed sections of a rich blue as processed indigo leaves. She looks happy and animated with the group conversation. Gary is in a black suit covering up a shirt, aquamarine as the shallow waters of a warm tropical sea.

I’m surprised to see Morris, Claire mysterious cousin in somber black like from a funeral party celebrating the life of someone no longer with us. Jenna, Claire’s twin sister dresses up in something strapless that I don’t even glance at. Rachael, an aunt of mine  ventured here in a white suit and black shirt. I pull a chair out for Claire, and seat myself next to Morris and across from Rachael. I look down the table at everything set up in all our names. A runner of leather lines the length of table and then some. The table dresses with candlesticks of silver holding nothing more than sand. Each place setting, a bowl housed over a silver charger.

We expatiate upon something incoherent but somehow understanding that it means something good. My mother leaves to get the meal out to all the visiting people and family. Her return is accompanied by a cessation, the complete body of idle conversation taking place. The green soup is passed around from person to person, each one scooping an amount into their bowls.

The meal is underway with the consumption of this blended concoction of leeks, potato, tomato, and pepper. The pleasing taste — reminding me of even better days — lulls me into a feeling of security besides the relatives I’m trying to impress. Everything around me lurches left then suddenly right. This turns into shifts in every direction that doesn’t make sense unless this is an earthquake table, which this house clearly isn’t. I feel myself lurching forward, commands to my body useless. I can’t stop myself with my arms or even my neck. I fall, headlong into the soup bowl. Luckily my head lands sideways, rendering just one eye and nostril useless. Someone comes up behind me. They lift up my head as if saving me from this loss of control, far from the aim of drowning me in soup. Soup drowning it is. My head is completely submerged in this heavenly soup despite my struggles against it. I can’t move anything except my face and breathing. I can’t get out, better to just accept it. I do.

Reading about Writing

 

I read another book about writing as part of my DIY MFA. It’s Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon. He’s one of the authors I enjoy reading. I’ve only read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay so far. His writing was the third adult book I’ve ever read.

 

Maps and Legends in an anthology of roughly two dozen essays by Chabon. It’s about his thoughts and how he wrote his works. Throughout a few thesis ideas emerge. I’ll do my best to summarize those points. There’s a lot packed in 274 pages.

 

Successful writers bring new ideas that fit together well. Examples were the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the series His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the first to write about the detective with a series to characters giving their takes on event. All in the direction of unraveling the central mystery. Those nested story didn’t explore, distract, or rephrase that said before; they added information. That’s basically the difference between literary and the beginning of genre fiction.

 

In His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman a few key ideas combine to make a great story. Those plot elements, rules of the world, character traits all have to combine to enhance the story. Just serving as a wall the character faces and changes to overcome isn’t enough. That’s what happens so much in fiction. The cowardly face the obstacles that most challenges them. Feats of courage. Like how Froto has to leave the only home he has ever known. How Sam wants to be a good person so he goes. Every character is designed to be a foil to the things they face. Like Ethan’s struggle in Pines, Book 1 of Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch. His time in the military makes the resistance he faces in the small town that much worse. Or how Harry feels alone until he finds a community in the Wizarding World. I always thought my plots were good enough, but I’m missing a huge part. The resonance achieved by plot elements, character traits, and the rules of the world must play each off the other. I’ve been missing that key consideration so far.

 

The idea that ghost stories are the beginning of short stories. I would argue that a little bit. Sure they were around in the beginning. But previous stories aren’t always a direct blueprint for what comes after. Hauntings from sight unseen seems an obscure place for short stories to begin with. But isn’t something hanging in your thoughts like that in a literary story? Things lurk in your head from defining moments. Until you deal with them, they hang around haunting you. I agree that ghost stories could be the precursor to literary short stories. That connection could help when I get stuck. Maybe I’ll use it.

 

Fiction is the bridge between things imagined and things real. Fiction has fictitious parts. It’s in the name after all. But some things connect it with reality. That’s always something. How real the characters feel in fantasy. How some science still works how we think in science fiction. How the sky and the environment is normal in thrillers. But characters are the big things that make something real. Those bits of real are required for the reader to believe that somewhere out in the multi-verse the story is actually possible. In other words, fiction must always be relatable.

 

Something you’re exposed to serves as inspiration. It doesn’t have to be the most obvious things. If you look hard enough, ruminate hard enough inspiration strikes. Some things work better than others. It’s the writer’s purview to decide what stories to go after. Choosing could very well determine success or failure.

 

Maps and Legends fills me with hope for the future in writing. There’s a long way to go before I can’t progress further in writing. Writing and reading will never end up on the dust heaps of history. There’s more. Humble roots and inexperience don’t matter. Get your head down and write.

 

GK

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