Formerly Badass Horrible Poetry

This isn't just a poetry blog. Let's be honest, a lot of what I post is poetry but there are more often than not also postings about short stories. I do try to keep this blog separate from my others and post strictly creative work here. Some of it will be better than others, and much of it is in first or second draft stage when posted. These are raw works, and there will be spelling and grammar troubles at times because I use this blog to gauge what works and what doesn't. I use it as a place to get feedback. That's the reason it is "horrible". Because it's not finished-- And why should it be? We all want feedback but most of us are too afraid to put ourselves out there.

Welcome to my word.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Unfinished - Leave comments for where you think it should go next!


That was the day I died. The sky was haunted with the refuse of jet planes. The summer breeze was withering and I could almost feel the pale breath of frost on the wind, much too early for a late August evening. I smothered my hands in my armpits. And still, my pores puckered each time the blackened bows of the trees rustled with the refrigerated air. Squinting above me, as if by straining my eyes, half blocked by thick black lashes, I could see the first dusky stars, my eyes searched for where I knew Venus to be, uncaring of the lazy and familiar path. I think I saw it.
The hum of the woods had not settled down just yet. Birds stuffed themselves, hidden, amidst latticed branches and spider web foliage and even the people, holed up in their lakeside cottages below could be heard faintly. They were the sounds of screeching tires. They were the taste of distant laughter. A few screaming pixie children yipped and skipped far off in the distance, and I knew if I had half a mind to, I could climb a tree and maybe catch their bobbing silhouettes bouncing along the pier in the setting sun.
The ridge-line was not far from the grove. I don’t know why Dastan named it that. Far from a grove, it was a half moon of tall Cyprus trees. We had no idea who had planted them there, nor who took care of them, but they sprouted tall and clean and we had claimed that spot as ours. What was most special about the grove was the view: It sat, cloistered along a cliff face. It was near enough to the winding trail that leads to the observatory that, as children, my parents would let Dastan and I go up there on our own. It helped that they believed we would spend our evenings inside the great astrolabe at the zenith of the hill. In a way we weren’t lying. We did, indeed, watch the stars and pick out pinprick constellations and roll the names of stars off our tongues, watching the heavens dim and the stars flare. 
Bellatrix. Andromeda. Dabih. Achernar. Cor Hydrae: I loved the sounds of these as they rolled from my tongue. To annoy me, Dastan would memorize the translated names: “Zozma” became “Loincloth” or worse, he would call them numerically. 27 Tauri. HR 2948.
That night, I walked alone up the path, the beers I had in my canvas backpack clinking as I climbed over protrusions of rock that had been exhumed by the rains earlier in the season. By the time the metal husk of the observatory loomed in the distance, I the plateau near the grove. A cool sweat had misted on my back, and my limp camisole clung to my skin. The trek had warmed me some, but as soon as I stopped, I would be cold again. As I approached the trees, yellow lights started blinking on and off. The fireflies were awakening, and soon the entire grove would be filled with their heat, and an Aeolian hum of unexhausted mating would energize this small world.
When I came upon the trees, I forced my way through, leaving behind me a den of holy vice flashing its neon lights in sparkling brilliance. Sitting down, I opened my bag and popped the cap from one of the two beers. The walls of my mouth were parched, and there was no sense in waiting. I got through maybe half the bottle in one go. The hoppy thickness and bitter taste did little to quench my thirst, and my teeth scraped the thick residue from my tongue. My throat was coated but, if anything, the drink had made my thirst greater. Dastan would get here soon, and he always carried a weighty water bottle of red plastic on him at all times.
The beer and the walk had made me tired and, involuntarily, my eyelids slumped. In spite of the view I found myself forcing each lid, one after the other, to blink wide-awake. Suppressing a yawn, I lay back against the rough tree trunk, clutching my drink in my lap. It was just so relaxing up here, away from my opinionated mother, who, despite watching hours and hours of television never seemed to lack for a project to get me involved in, or from my father who had a habit of guilting me into singing for him when he pulled his guitar out in the evenings. It was especially nice to be free from my brothers, who’s tone deaf choruses clashed dissonantly with my fathers flat singing as well as his flawless guitar picks. I would only close my eyes until Dastan came. Then we would lie on our backs, knees dangling over the cliff face, hidden from the path by the trees and the distracting sparkle of fireflies.

“What are you doing you idiot?”
My eyes didn’t open right away but I knew something was off. This voice was not one I recognized, although at first hearing, my mind had immediately jumped to Dastan. But this gruff sound was well aged, speaking in sandpaper tones and accompanied by an answering voice.
“If you don’t wanna come down and get your pretty little wingtips in this filth, then shut the fuck up, would ya, Mic?”
“Hey, your mess. You cover it up. How much did he even owe you?”
“Kid was up one-k in the all American. Damn punk was all lit up when I found him, too.”
“What did you expect?”
I hadn’t moved an inch but I was wide-awake now. The sky was wrong. Scorpio had traversed along the edge of my vision and the sky’s inky blackness was perforated only by pinpricks. The moon had already set, and going through my moon chart in my mind, I calculated that it was at least after 1am. Where was Dastan?
            “I expected the son of a bitch to pay up. He knew I’d been on him. Sent him a warning two weeks ago. When the punk didn’t think I was serious I put a brick through his window.”
            “And a bullet through his brain? Trap, did you think, you big oaf? How the fuck are you getting the cash now??
            Trap grunted and a sound thumped through the ground. It was only then that I realized that since I had woken up the knotty sounds of the earth being ripped apart had created a rhythmic beat. As quietly as I could, I shifted myself so that if I tilted my head back I could see the shadows of the men.
            From my vantage, they clung to the earth upside down, Mic, the shorter of the two, standing, arms folded at the edge of a growing pit a flashlight in one hand and something I couldn’t make out in the other. The grove, now barren of lightening bugs, lay motionless and deaf in the umbra; the only sound the thump of the shovel slicing into rocky soil. Trap’s body seemed cut off at the knees, and although he was built in thicker lines than Mic, he struggled to lift each shovel-full of dirt. His hands trembled in the dark, and when the light hit his face for a moment, his eyes were wide with frenetic intensity.
            “Get that light out of my face!”
            “Oops, sorry—”
It was only then that I noticed the flash of T-shirt. Only when Mic’s flashlight swept over the ground that I saw the inert, broken figure lying on the ground. I knew that T-shirt, white with the Aperture Science logo, and from the ephemeral glimpse the flashlight beam gave, calico crimson splotches where I had never seen any.
            If I gasped audibly, the two men, intent on widening their sepulchral hole, never noticed. I stared at the sky, unable to keep watching. I wanted to be anywhere else, somewhere I could inhale sharply and pant and tense each muscle and scream. My fingernails wound around the grass shards at my sides, clenching them into a matted carpet. Inhaling on a count of four, I stopped, held my breath, and released.
            But on the digging went. The two men bickered as if they were doing nothing more than arguing over the Sox or the Yankees and sometimes Mic even had the audacity to chuckle. I was petrified wood, anchored to the ground, unmoving by the will of gravity and nothing more. Increment by increment I rolled myself over, keeping on my hands and knees. I became a soldier, crawling arm over leg under a barrier of barbwire tree limbs. I edged around the tree I had been hidden behind, gaging their response to the rustling I was creating at all times. They seemed to take no notice so I quickened my pace.
            The tinkling sound of the beer bottle, still inside my bag, was not very loud, as one of the straps hooked itself around my foot and was dragged over the shale it had rested upon. Immediately the searchlight bolted in my direction and I found myself blinded by the beam in Mic’s hand. I heard a thump as Tramp tripped over the edge of the hole as he scrambled over to Mic, but I ignored him and tried to camouflage myself in with the dense foliage. It was impossible to tell if they had seen me; their bodies stood silhouetted behind the sunspot of flashlight and, although their bodies never moved, they also had not come straight for me.
            Trap’s voice quivered. “Mic- Mic- MIC!”
“Shush- I’m trying to hear.”
“Give it to me, Mic! Give me my piece back!”
Mic said nothing but took a few tentative steps towards where I was hiding. Next to the flashlight his other hand was holding something I couldn’t place at first.
“Come on, man,” Trap said, clutching the wooden shaft of the shovel closer to his chest. “Its probably just a woodchuck or raccoon or something”
“What if its not?” Mic asked. He moved his hand and a funny clicking sound emanated from the object in it. My breathing stopped and it felt like my veins shut down circulation. A chilled horror swept through my chest. Mic cocked the gun in his hand again.
Had the watch on my wrist not been drowned earlier that day, the ticking hands would have measured time slowing down in front of us. Each breath I drew was ice.
Mic took a step closer.
“Dude, it could be a bobcat or cougar or something! Leave it alone”
Mic was close enough that I could make out the basic features of his face: a long slender nose with a neck to match, wide spaced sunken eye sockets and a scruffy dark haired face. Some of the light was bouncing back upon him and his skin appeared to be spotted and sunburnt. His face was hard now but neither angular nor entirely rounded in shape.
“Still, best to find out”
Mic pulled the trigger and there was a deafening sound.

©2014 Lex Vex

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sinner's Halo: Book 1 Weaver of Snares - Chapter 2


I'm not a slut, I just love love
                                                                        - Pink’s Slut like You
Chapter 2: Questionable Morals

            † Once the novelty of brightly colored math decorations had worn off, I found myself just as bored in math as I always was. The comfy armchairs someone had placed in the room (“to make it homey” my aging Math teacher, Mrs. Pufferman had said) only seemed to make falling asleep more likely. Fortunately there wasn’t any learning going on today. An hour later, the loud voice boomed over the speaker once more and we were released for different torture.
            Latin was taught in the language building, which, for reasons unknown to Liv, was shaped like a tape recorder and headphones. The teacher, Magister Dominic, was a funny little man in his late 30s who liked to add a joke to everything he said. Leaving the room after class, I was content that there was at least one class I would not completely dread attending.
            Liv had been with me every step of the way, but I had clung to her a bit as classes went along. I was polite to those she introduced me to, but I was too distracted by my surroundings to pay attention to who was in any of my classes. I know the Luke and his brother had been in at least one each; Zack’s limp had grown in the past few weeks, and while it wasn’t obvious as he sat, I could tell he was in pain. I was glad to see him without a walker, but wished he would use the cane instead of leaving it idle for Luke to carry when he refused to bring it with him. When we reached the beaker shaped building Liv turned to face me.
“Ok, Jenna, you’ve done really well in all of the other classes, so I think you can do this. Ill bring you to your classroom, but… I’m not in your science class, and seeing as I my own class three stories up, I’m sure you can sit through it on your own.”
I must have blanched, because she quickly added, “Don’t worry! Wait in your classroom when you’re done and Ill come and get you and we can go to lunch together, ok?” I nodded, embarrassed that she’d seen my nervousness. I was the ‘tough one’, but I guess even ‘tough ones’ have first days. Being out of my element had given me a disadvantage.
            Not unkindly, Liv grabbed my arm and pulled me through the building. Past classrooms and poster boards alike, Liv steered me through the maze of hallways until we turned a corner and an immense Aquarium, filling up a two-story stairwell, top to bottom, filled my view. I stared in wonder at the coral polyps glistening an aqueous rainbow of gritty terrain as a clownfish appeared between an anemone’s tendrils like a magician from behind a curtain. I wanted to study it more, but even as I spied the iridescent eyes of an eel from inside a gaping cavern, Liv grabbed my collar and dragged me across the hall to a door jutting out from an opposing identically structured Stairwell.
Unlike the one across from it, this one had shelves and shelves of brass and steal gears and motors all moving and whirring away like a clockmaker’s shop. The whole stairwell, encased a door, and the walls below the instruments were lit along the bottom by gas fires contained within a glass wall. Clear ducts ran from these fires to a mechanism at the top, just below an upper arboretum. A humongous knotted tree, situated one floor above, rose up through the mouth of the building’s beaker-like construct, and I wondered for a moment how everything stayed dry when it rained, with an open vent like that. Other smaller trees cascaded down what must have been an artificial hillside creating a waterfall of foliage. Some of the trees had begun to change colors. A metallic sign posted near the classroom door announced that the carbon dioxide let off from the fires in the glass were controlled and used as a resource to promote plant respiration, while also heating the entire campus. I’d seen a green building before, but nothing like this.
            All of this I took in in only a few seconds, as I was pulled through the doors lined with fire walls. While I continued to study the various moving machines from inside the classroom (the walls were glass on both sides, it turned out), Liv looked around for a seat, and having chosen one, plopped me down into it, before sprinting to her own class.
            Feeling a little dazed and embarrassingly in awe, I studied the human components of the room. The teacher, while absent, made a large presence, and despite the room having limited wall space, Posters covered every available surface. Two mottos were hung at the front of the classroom from pipes in the ceiling. The first was the school motto, “Nobis in Sapientia Pascat” which I had translated one day when the summer had taken an uncharacteristically wet and cold turn. Brochures had assured me that it translated to “We feed on knowledge”, but when declensions and verb forms were taken into account, I had found it mistranslated: It actually said, “Knowledge feeds on us”. The second motto, for I could only guess that a motto was what it was, concerned me a bit, and I questioned for a moment the sanity of my teacher. For Mr. Helvawitz, as his nameplate on the desk proclaimed him, had strung to the ceiling a lengthy swath of black fabric, which read in a bright red, spiky font, “WHEN YOU BURN, YOU LEARN”.
            I blinked then shook my head. What kind of place was this?
            I began scanning the room for people I recognized from previous classes. A few rows in front, I saw that girl named Trisha talking animatedly to an Asian boy with brown hair, who’s named I believed was Kevin Collins. He’d been in my Latin class before this. Scanning the rows behind, I didn’t seem to know anyone back there. Gracing my own row, there was a mousy boy twitching as he swung his feet in a desk too tall for him, and on my right sat a boy I had seen in pictures but never actually met.
“Oh, its you!”
             It was only after I said it that I realized that Asher had probably never even seen me. I was notorious for dodging out of pictures or at least covering my face during them. He raised an eyebrow but smiled lightly as he replied, only slightly awkwardly:
 “Its me…? Have we… met?”
             More crimson welled up in my cheeks. I had no plan for this and lying would only seem stupid later.
            “My name’s Jenna—uh, Jenna Doloramor. You know my friends—unless you aren’t Asher?”
            The boy nodded and relaxed back into his seat. When he chuckled it was easy and breathy. His hair was short, ashy blonde, and he had a cowlick that gave his hair a natural edge. He wasn’t bearded, but several patches of scruff were visible where he had missed shaving. Like Luke he wore a black button down shirt and belt. His tie was plain blue grey and some wear was evident as if it had been well taken care of but well used. His pants were dark, and it took me a moment to realize they were made of black denim.
            “You can get away with those?” I asked, gesturing at his legs.
            “Not a fan of the royal garbs, princess?”
            I couldn’t think of any quick comebacks, so I settled for ignoring his comment.
            “Black jeans—they’re Kosher around here?” I asked again.
            “Sure on me, but that’s cause none of the teachers want to steal a glance at my legs. I have a flat ass, you see.”
            I glanced at his butt for just a moment in spite of myself. It seemed pretty average to me, but I wanted Asher to like me. Liv had said he could be kind of rude, but so could Zack and Luke, and I wanted him to be my friend so I could integrate into my friend’s social group without drama. He seemed the type to enjoy a good fight.
            “Really? I was going to ask you if Sir-Mix-A-Lot had used your bubble butt as inspiration.” That caused him to snort into a smile.
            “How old are you? That song’s got to be almost twenty years aged.”
            “No way—” I said. “I used to hear it played at middle school dances—it’s only a few years old, right?”
            Asher gently cupped my hands in his and leaned closer to me. He gazed at me and I noticed his green eyes were flecked with red-brown stippling.
            “I’m sorry Jenna, but that song couldn’t be about me, and it couldn’t be about you—” For a second I was incredulous—my curves were plenty kickin’. “—because that album was produced in May of 1992, before we were born.” He looked at the wall with the whirring gears. “However, from the second I popped out of the womb a month later, it has been my anthem. Because I do, Jenna, I do. I like big butts, and I cannot lie—”
            “QUIET GUYS AND GALS!”
            My lips curled into a smile as I turned to face the front. I was still shaking my head at Asher, but I had to admit I liked the guy. It hadn’t been lost on me what Asher had said about his birthday. 1992… So he was a little bit under two years older than me, but still in high school. Despite my curiosity, I vowed not to ask him about it, or even snoop information out of Liv or the twins. His past was his own. If we were ever close enough, I’d let him choose to tell me.  
            The progression of this class was the most bizarre yet. Mr. Helvawitz exuberantly explained to us what we would study in the coming year, and that’s about where all relevant things left off.  Upon finishing the syllabus, he immediately started in on a lecture of the proper way to peel an orange. I tried to follow along, but none of it seemed important so I passed the time doodling in my notebook and occasionally chancing a look at Asher. To my satisfaction, he was writing in his own notebook, paying less attention than I was. Listening was a lost cause. When he noticed me looking at him, I shrugged it off, hoping I had looked love stricken and not like I had been wondering about his age difference. By the end of the lesson, I saw that he seemed interested in what I was drawing, and I looked down at my paper myself. I’d been absent-mindedly drawing a chicken.
            Just before the bell, I felt a slight bump on my right elbow. Looking up, I saw a note had landed on the floor next to my converse. Picking it up, hoping Helvawitz wasn’t a teacher prone to reading notes aloud when they were passed, I carefully opened it. Seeing Helvawitz had moved on from orange peels to talking about the safety concerns of electric can openers, I figured it was a safe time to read it.
            In excited scratchy handwriting Asher had written, “I have to leave straight after class for a needs meeting at the front office. I assume you’ll be sitting with us at lunch?” A needs meeting? I wondered. Liv had said there weren’t many kids here with scholarships. How did she not know her friend was one of them? The note ended with a smiley face. He was watching me when I looked up. So I smiled at him, and folded up the chicken doodle into a paper crane which I passed to him. He gestured, asking me if it was the chicken, using charades language instead of words. When I nodded, he pumped a fist and put it in his pocket without folding it.
            After that we doodled chickens, separate but now together as friends, pretending to listen to Mr. Helvawitz talk about the possibility of fey folk in Ireland until the bell for class sounded. Asher, true to his word, sprinted off directly after, but stopped long enough to send me a wave. Meanwhile, I sat around, waiting patiently for Liv to reappear and take me to the cafeteria. I was starving. However, Liv had a habit of getting distracted. Gossip fueled her, and while I’d only ever heard her gossip during the summer, when I was her main outlet for discussion, I had to bet that in a school setting she could find plenty of people to discuss the latest news. I stood up, hoisting my bag on my shoulder, about to go out and wait in the foyer, where, at the least, I would be able to check out more of the arboretum, but before I could, Mr. Helvawitz had pounced.
“So, Jenny,” he asked in a loud voice as if he were still addressing the class.  
            “It’s Jenna sir.” I corrected.
            “Oh, right, right, right. My mistake. It was just the way Professor Lyre wrote it down—my mistake. Anyway, Jenna,” Continued Mr. Helvawitz. “Where is it that you are transferring from?”
            I was relieved at how normal that question was. “Westhawk Regional.”
            “Local, ah, I see, I see. And, well, you must know the answer to this question Jenna: How exactly do under-privileged students feel about the use of the Spork over a separate fork and spoon, given the option?”
            I literally had no words for that.
            “JENNA!” Liv ran into the classroom. I dodged that bullet, I thought still a little shocked.
 “Sorry Mr. H, we’ve got to run. Jenna still needs to take some brain efficiency tests. I was just running off the paperwork just now. We’ve got to go.”
            Smiling broadly, Mr. Helvawitz shook his head and replied in a sincerely happy voice, “That’s perfectly fine Olivia. Take young Jennifer and have fun filling out those Brain efficiency tests. See you tomorrow, Gals.”
            “We will!” Liv said, and I nodded, forcing a smile onto my face.
 It was only after we’d left the building and made our way through a quad that I was no longer sure if the Brain Efficiency Tests had been a joke or not. Liv giggled when I brought it up.
“But who would believe that?” I said.
 “Apparently Mr. Helvawitz would. And you by the sound of it.” I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to wipe the smirk off of her face as she said that. I’d vowed to take the higher road though, and it didn’t require much effort to let it go.
            “Where is this lunch anyway? I’m starving.” Food and I had a love affair not even my mother could prevent.
            “Where do you think we’re headed? Girl, maybe you do need a brain test.”
            “You will not let that go, will you.”
            “Ha. You wish.”
            “Is that what took you so long? Getting yours?”
            “Oh, that.” She rolled her eyes. “I was just preparing my bio teacher. I wanted to know if I could get extra credit for reading some book on amebas over the summer. Turns out that we were supposed to read it anyway, so all I ended up doing was telling my teacher that I’d only done the homework by accident. Not quite the stuff I’d need to impress him.” I tried not to judge Liv for what or who she did, but since the summer, she’d talked about one thing: getting with an older man. She’d picked her bio teacher, a man I’d never met but who’s russet, flowing locks and Heath Ledger good looks I had heard about in far too much detail. Liv may have had some game with boys and girls our age, but I seriously doubted her chances with a teacher as stoic as Zack had told me Mr. Angues.
            “Ew, what’s with you and old men, Liv?”
            “40 isn’t old- 50 is the new 40, so 40 is the new thirty and thirty year olds are hot.”
            “I’m not sure that’s how that works.”
            “Well he sure looks thirty.” She said, folding her arms and sneering at me.
            It was a giant apple, the dining hall, with a large worm sticking out of the top as a turret with a table and students eating their meals, a view of the campus at their feet. Liv and I walked towards it, Liv still reciting the wonders of Mr. Angues
            “Appetizing,” I said, gesturing at the butt of the worm that came around to make a handicap ramp to the door of the cafeteria.
            The food was just as bad as the building’s entrance. The pasta was crunchy on one end, and falling apart on the other. I watched as the lunch lady slopped a hunk of mashed potatoes on my plate: the outside edge had a tough, leathery skin and when I poked it to determine texture, found the insides icy cold. I tried not to think about it while I waited for Liv to show me where our table met.
            Following closely behind Liv as she wove in and out between tables, I was relieved to see that I knew everyone sitting at the table.
            “Zachary Frederick Cane, how are Ya!” I boomed, as I reached the table to give him a hug before he could stand up. I didn’t want to watch him struggle, but I also didn’t want him to think I was worried, so I gave him a light punch on the arm which he returned affectionately. I sat down next to Zack and Luke sat down next to me, ruffling my hair a little. Liv trotted along behind us and set her things down between Asher and an empty seat. I had pretty much known from the get go she didn’t think of Mr. Angues as her soul mate, like she sometimes said, so I wasn’t surprised to see her trying to grab Asher’s attention. She’d flirt but she knew she never went far with anyone before she got bored and moved onto the next.
            “You treated our girl, Jenna, nice and well is Helvawitz’s class today right, Asher?” She asked, pinching his cheek.
            “Of course, don’t sweat it. I gave her the full run down.” Asher said, rubbing down Liv’s arm with his hand before pinching her in the side and making her squeak. I was a little surprised for a moment. Then again, I knew Liv had always been the flirty type, and I’d already pegged Asher as the same. This just made it look like they were together.
            “Honey-boo-boo-bear-muffin-face” Zack said, turning to me, wildly gesturing to look like the cover of a romance novel. I played along.
            “Suger-baby-lip-rose-kiss-nummer-farts!” I said as he pulled me onto his lap. I tried to support most of my weight on the bench without it being obvious to Zack. We brought our faces close together and his eyes merged together into one out of focus pool of grey. To sell it, I wrapped my arms around his neck, weaving my fingers through the short soft hairs on the back of his head. We rubbed our noses together for half a second then looked up. Luke looked genuinely amused, as he lay back, unaffected by the closeness. I turned to Liv who had an odd expression on her face I couldn’t quite identify before switching to disgruntled. Asher’s features were distorted into a look of amused disgust.
            Liv tried to get his attention again but he put his hand over her face.
            “That was the greatest use of the wibly-wumbly-gross-cute-couple dialogue I have heard in a long time. Congratulations, children, I will have to talk to the academy, but you may have earned yourself a Grossy nomination,”
            “Oh come on,” Liv scoffed. She grabbed Asher’s head between her hands and turned his face towards hers. I felt Zack’s muscles constrict where I was touching him and heard Luke sigh, exasperatedly “here we go…” as Liv brought their mouths together, going in tongue first. Asher looked genuinely shocked but went along with the kiss until she pulled away and said, satisfied,
            “Now that’s how you earn a Grossy.”†



©2007-2014 Lex Vex 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sinner's Halo: Book 1 Weaver of Snares - Chapter 1



Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.
-       Semisonic, Closing Time

Chapter 1: Wake up Call

            † “Don’t make me drag you out of bed, Jenna. It’s only the first day- If you start sleeping in now…” Two seconds later, the old digital alarm clock’s red sectional numbers switched to glow a blazing 6:45 and the garbled sounds of an off-tuned radio grinded through the room.  
            In response, my eyes still closed, I rolled off the edge of the bed onto the floor with a loud thud. From the hallway, my mother, Christina, knocked again with weak tapping sounds – her bones were thin and with her delicate figure it was the best she could do against my brain muffling in and out of sleep. Where I was strongly built, she was all bones. Where I was willowy, she was brittle.  
            “Are you alright in there honey? Did you roll off the bed again?” I threw my pillow as hard as I could against the door and groaned in a voice hoarse from the night’s restless sleep.
“I’m fine, just practicing for my career as the ‘Duck and Cover’ mascot...”
            I could tell she was only half convinced when her muffled voice said through the door, “ Ok, well, don’t be long, or you’ll have no time to eat breakfast.” I’d stopped wondering why mom bothered to say this, and saw that I had been lazy when I went to bed: a shot-glass still sat on my desk in plain sight.
“Come on—Food!” She shouted, sounding annoyed.  I hadn’t eaten breakfast since 5th grade, something my mom always seemed to forget. It wasn’t like I had a vendetta against eggs, bacon or muffins or anything. I simply hadn’t eaten breakfast in six years because I never seemed to have time after haphazardly throwing on whatever clean things lay at the bottom of my closet and running to catch the bus.
 After taking the dirty shot-glass off my desk and shoving it into a clean woolen tube sock of a particularly lurid yellow in my drawer, I threw on a pair of jeans before remembering about the dress code. No denim. Ok. No T-shirts with words. Fine. Those were pretty standard private school rules as far as I knew, but I remembered Liv had told me about a couple more that weren’t so vanilla. Checking the clock, I estimated that I had about fifteen minutes left, as the bus would be running late with parents sending their beloved children off to dormitories for the first time. Not that I was bitter or anything.  
Sometimes it was a blessing and a curse to live in town. My dad had put his foot down about me living in the dorms; we would see if I did any better at this school before I was given the freedom of dorm living. It was ok though. Most people I knew lived in town, and those that did live in dorms always complained about off campus privileges and the lack of gender diversity in common rooms.  Not to mention dorm students tended to stick more closely to each other anyway. A few of the Covenfeld kids had the grades for Spledidus Stultus, but their codependency was understandable, and they dwelled in neither the realm of the townies nor the dormers.
            I pulled open a cluttered drawer on my desk and after some digging pulled out a crumpled piece of heavy orange paper, with official looking writing and a school seal emblazoned on the top.
By Declaration of the
Most High and Glorious Master Proffesor Concert Master Manfred Lyre  
The following Rules shall be follow-ed at all times.

1.  All forms of Starcheth must be consum-ed. Any perpetrator with starch (especially potatoes) left uneaten upon thouest plate shall recieveth detention for one month.
2.  No cats be-eth allow-ed on campus as they be a signeth of bad luck. Any one who disobeys wilt recieveth detention for one weeketh.
3.  Any man who be unpresent for the Most High and Glorious Master Proffesor Concert Master Manfred Lyre ‘s monthly artism lectures shalt be expell-ed immediately
4.  Shoes shalt not be worneth in thou yonder locker rooms as the Japanese tradition of not wearing shoes in bath-ed houses must be-eth observ-ed. Punishment shalt be to clean the locker rooms for three months.
5.  The colors puce and orange must be-eth worn on all Friday the 13ths, to prevent malifluent luck. Anyone not wearing the colors shall haveth detention that afternoon.  

At first I had thought the piece of paper had to be a joke by my sister, Hope, who had been jealous that I was being switched to a prestigious private institution. When Liv had tried to tell me that it was legitimate school literature, I had thought she was pulling my leg. It wasn’t until I had visited orientation that I began to rethink the matter. Despite all of the time wasting campfire tales we had been told, it was a good experience for learning my new enemy, Splendidus Stultus. Teachers had seemed reasonable, and the freshmen around me gullible but likable enough. However, everyone had been sure to dress in a disgusting color of light brownish pink with orange accessories, including my friend Luke, who, being a guide, would have told me if it was all a big orientation joke. I had yet to figure out how legitimate all these rules were, but I wasn’t ready to test them quite yet. Settled that the date was listed as the 9th, I grimaced and put on the last resort outfit that my mother had come in and painstakingly picked out for me the night before.
 “You don’t want to come on too strongly—at least for the first week.” Mom had cautioned. “I know that you are a perfectly normal girl, and your friends know that, but I think… I think you should tone it down and let the other kids get to know you before you go back to dressing… like you used to.”
            And I did understand. Some people felt uncomfortable when I wore my normal lace and corseted look. Even back at Westhawk High, I knew how much my clothing had stood out, and while different was now becoming mainstream, it would be a while before I could dye my hair magenta again without drawing at least a few withering looks.
            I glanced at my watch and unplugged the straight iron I’d been using to melt away the frizzing waves my coppery hair was prone to. No time to curl it today. Seeing my bangs at least had a decent sidepart going for them, I slung my bag across my shoulders and tried (and failed) to slide down the banister. I don’t know how they make that look so easy in movies.  
            Running past the kitchen table I saw my dad, Jim Doloramor, reading the paper and eating a slice of toast. Before he could notice me, I gave him a kiss on the cheek, turned, and waved him goodbye as he chuckled after me.
 “Work hard this time, Jenna- your Ma will kill me if you get in any fights here. Stick to your schoolwork.”
“Would it kill you to let me have a little fun, Pops?”
“Since when is a punch to the face, a suspension and a grounding fun?”
“Never said the last two were—”
“Well, do me a favor; next time you stick up for the weak, don’t get caught, alright?”
“No… You won’t have to worry about that...” My eventual expulsion from Westhawk had little to do with academic performance and all to do with my exemplary skill at beating up on bullies: Not something I was much proud of anymore.
Shaking off the moment, I opened the front door with a loud whooshing sound. This was the cue for Silena and Hope to come charging from their respective rooms, down the stairs and out the door ahead of me.
As Silena passed, she shouted, “Come on slow poke! The bus will be here any minute!”
Hope dropped back to add, “Anyway, aren’t you excited?”
No I’m not excited. Relieved, maybe, for a fresh start, but no. I wouldn’t go as far as excited. I bit my lip and ran after them. I reached the curb just seconds ahead of the youngest, Selina, who pouted her lip, believing I should have let her win. Hope arrived last, looking winded despite the short run. She was a little bit on the frumpy side of fourteen years old, but Pops and I figured that her figure would tighten up when she started soccer in the fall. It was my mother who was currently stunting Hope’s self-esteem and her motivation to work out, as she nitpicked my sister’s look in what she assumed was a caring and not ‘entirely unhelpful” way. She had done something similar to me, and it was thanks to her approach that despite my healthy weight, I still carried a calorie counting app on my phone.
“Well, Jen, aren’t you?” Said Hope, breathlessly.
“Aren’t I what?”
“Excited!”
“Not really. It’s just school.”
            The eighth grader gaped up at me like I was crazy.
“It’s more than just school.” Said Hope, a dreamy look coming into her eyes. “This is your chance to change around your image completely! You can be anyone you want! You could be a cheerleader, or an artist, or a theater person or a slut.”
            “HOPE!”
            Hope looked at me, unsure. “A bigger slut?”
“Silena’s standing right there!” I said, not bothering to correct her opinion. It was true that the past summers activities might have led to my middle school age sister to assume certain things, but it seemed as if she had little concept of what a slut actually did. In a few years, she herself might regret slut shaming. I hadn’t slept with anyone, and I certainly hadn’t been sleeping around. However, she had walked in on my friends and I after we’d had a few too many beers, and I’d had to give her a list of every person I’d ever kissed to keep her quiet from Mom and Dad about the drinking. So far she had used the knowledge as an excuse to talk about adult subjects, something I was thankful for, considering that someday I knew she’d realize the blackmail potential.
“You don’t say those kinds of things in front of a first grader!” I said as Hope grinned slyly, but I already could see that it was too late. Silena was giggling and looking up at us with eyes that read all too clear what she would be discussing in the confines of first grade recess. Knowing the damage was already done, I sighed and turned back to Hope.
“I don’t want to be any of those things. I just want to be me, and trust me, being a slut is not on that list.” Silena giggled again as a canary yellow bus emblazoned with the words, Corner’s Wreath Elementary pulled up to the curb.
            Pointing to the words on the side of the bus, I said, “See that Silena? This is your bus. It says so right on the—”
            “I’m not stupid, Jenna, I can read. Now if you’ll excuse me, Ill be getting on my ride and showing off Princess Chainsaw and Lady Saberskates to everyone. Later gators!” I still had no idea how to feel about the latest line of fad horror-romance children’s toys to come onto the market. What ever happened to Pokemon and Polly Pocket? Despite the noise as the door opened, I could hear the groan of “Oh Lordy… those damn toys…” from the bus driver as my little sister skipped up the steps in a yellow jumper, an iceskating warrior woman and a fashionable zombified chainsaw enthusiast in hand.
            “When did she get so fresh?” Hope asked.
            “I think this all goes back to that time you left HBO on and she watched seven straight hours of True Blood.” I shot her a look. “Not that I think I’m even old enough to watch that yet.”
             Hope shrugged her shoulders and muttered, “I watch it for the plot…” Another bus approached the sidewalk, and Hope added in a fake girly voice, “Now if you’ll excuse me, Ill be getting on my ride and showing off my new ‘Chthulhu-the-Cannibalizing-Mecha-Jesus-Promqueen’ to everyone. Later gator!” Even I had to laugh at her made-up doll that in this day and age could, quite possibly, sell pretty well.
            It was only after the doors closed and the bus rounded the corner that I dropped whatever fake excitement I had mustered. Leaning against the bus post, I grumbled aloud, thinking I was alone:
 “Why can’t the summer just last forever?”
             “That IS the eternal question, isn’t it?”
             Embarrassingly, I jumped. I hadn’t been expecting an answer. To my left, I saw a boy of about my age holding a black book bag covered in iron-on band logos smirking a familiar smile. Even without seeing the chipped left-most canine, I knew it was Luke right away. His gait as he walked over was strong, and there was no trace of the hitching limp that Zack tried so hard to keep hidden.
            I could feel my face relax when I saw that he was wearing black pants and a button down shirt with a red tie: contemporary, appropriate, but still chic and a little bad-ass. His dark hair was tousled and just long enough to cover the back of his neck; his laughing eyes a clear, crystal, grey.
            “Finally joining the gang, then.” He smiled and the chip in his tooth was plainly visible. “It’s about damn time, Jennamor.”
            “You know, if you keep calling me that, it’ll look to people like we’re together.”
            “LET THEM LOOK!” He cried to the heavens above, making me snort with laughter. Recently Luke had seemed a little downcast, and tired. It was good seeing him make a ham of himself.  
            “Nice frills,” he said, looking me up and down. I grimaced. Mom hadn’t picked the dark lace I would have chosen but gone for a style straight out of Stepford Suburbia.
            “You look like you’ll fit right in. If it were the 50s. Wish I had time to drag you inside and get those clothes off you…” I stared at him, shaking my head. He could get so fresh sometimes. “-and get you some cooler duds! That did not come our right-  I’m-” I couldn’t keep my face straight any longer, though I loved watching him squirm. I cracked a smile, for which he was less than amused.
 “I try to be a gentleman but no… we should get on board the bus before it leaves, don’t you think?” I’d been so preoccupied poking fun at Luke that I hadn’t noticed our bus pull up. Unlike the others it was a bright shade of green, and I wasn’t used to the new stop yet. As I boarded I wistfully looked back on the marked bench where my old bus would be pulling up shortly.  
            “Oh, right.” Sighing, I walked up the last step and glanced down the aisle. There weren’t two seats left next to each other.
            “Looks like, we’ll have to part ways for now. Ill see you at school, Jennamor.”
            I rolled my eyes, but he didn’t even look back. After a moment of searching the nearest faces, I realized that I hardly knew anyone on the bus, and by the time Liv caught my eye, her seat was taken- by non other than Luke. He smirked at me, raising both eyebrows, knowing that I would have to sit with someone I didn’t know. Asshole.
I remained standing as the bus lurched forward until a small nerdy looking girl grudgingly moved her backpack and suitcase aside. I swear I tried to make conversation with this mousy girl, but no matter what subjects I brought up, from videogames to anime, the most I forced out of this girl were one-word answers. Trisha, as her named turned out to be, had given me the window seat, and at the final stop before the school, her friend had taken the seat across the aisle. They had begun discussing the latest boy-band concert. The girl was a true Belieber. I swear I had this Trisha Evans pegged for a Nerdfighter. So much for me expanding my horizon.
            By the time I grabbed my things that had gone flying when the bus stopped, everyone was already off it. Shoving what I’d found back in my bag, which had burst open, I exited and looked around. A small brunette girl was waiting for me by the curb, holding a piece of orange paper. Smiling, the copper skinned girl, dressed in a blue T-shirt and capris, walked over and said, “Hi, my name is Olivia Canto but my friends call me Liv. Is there anything I can help you with, Jennifer?”
            “You can help me get the stick out of your ass, Liv.”
            “Hey, if I’m in a damn formal skirt doing a damn formal job that I’m getting paid almost nothing for, the least I can do is follow the damn script.”
            “Don’t bust a vessel now, Liv.”
            “I ain’t got time to improv. I don’t even understand why we need to do these curb-side pick ups for transfers. By Junior year you think they’d expect you newbies to know how to find the admissions office.”
            “Well thanks all the same. I’m glad it was you that got me though. Some of the, uh, guides, look a little too friendly.” The one I was looking at in particular was a boy, wearing an identical shirt to Liv’s, who’s overlarge smile never faltered as he grabbed everything an older girl was carrying up the stairs. The gesture was more creepy than helpful.
            “Yeah… No one really gets Brent anyway…” She directed her next words at the boy, who’s smile still never faltered. “Let the girl carry her own stuff, Brent! She’s practically gonna hit you if you keep picking up the things that fall from her purse. It’s upsidown, moron!”
Indeed, Brent had begun picking up what he must not have known were tampons and holding them in his mouth so he could shove what remained on the ground into other bags.
            “For the love of…” Liv turned to me and gestured towards an oddly shaped building. “Just keep walking that way till you get to the giant beaker. I need to deal with this—Brent, NO! We do not put other peoples tampons in our mouth!-- Mr. Felis is coming in late today- our advisor- you’ll meet him in your history class—which reminds me. Here’s your schedule,” she quickly grabbed a piece of paper from the messenger bag dangling at her side and held it out to me. I put it carefully in my bag and promptly lost it to the depths. “Skadaddle- I’ll catch up.”
            And so I walk up the long, winding staircase towards Splendidus Stultus Academy alone. Looking around my first impression was that I had been transported to a giant’s supply closet. Every single building I passed was shaped like a different object.
            I whistled and thought to myself, Liv, you weren’t kidding… giant beaker… It has a door? What is this place? When they had brought us to orientation it had been dark, and the building with the theatre had had brick architecture straight out of the 70s.  
            “It was Crazy Lyre’s idea—excuse me, Professor Lyre’s idea. He seemed to think that all the buildings should be shaped like what they taught.” Liv said as she caught up to me. I must have been walking slower than I thought, taking in my surroundings.
            “So the giant books?” I indicated the structure we were currently passing which was shaped like a stack of three oversized books with an open book awning over a sliding glass door.
            “That would be the English building. The history building’s where we’re headed. Its that one over there shaped like a globe.” Said Liv, pointing at something round with a Geodesic glass dome donning its top. The rest was obscured by several deciduous trees.
            “Where’d they get all the money to make sculptures out of the buildings?”
Liv laughed darkly. “Donations intended for scholarship kids I’d bet, or else they wouldn’t be so rare. 2000 students in the whole school and there are three tops.”
“How do you know that?” I asked; it was unlike Liv to know about things that didn’t involve social gossip. Academic gossip usually bored her. Then again, we’d never gone to school together. Our relationship had mainly focused around summer and weekend parties and most recently around improving our knowledge of low-level alcohol. I’d stopped minding the taste or the buzz that followed, but I hadn’t found the same solace in being wasted she had. I wasn’t a fan of being out of control. Freedom, she called it.
             “Well, I only know of three scholarship kids, and I guess they all know each other. They’re all from that orphanage.”
            Covenfeld, the Foster Home, I thought. I didn’t know much about it, and Liv probably knew more than I did. She had a friend who was from there. Must have been one of the scholarship kids.
            “I know one, and he says that at the PR photo-ops –the school does those for its generous image—they hire actors to help thicken the pictures. Says you can tell who’s a real scholarship kid by which ones wouldn’t look perfect in a chip and dale uniform … Anyway, here we are!”
            Liv held open the door for me and we walked inside with the stragglers who had moved in only that morning.
            The inside of the history building was just as curious as the outside. When I entered, I immediately came face to face with a wall plastered in old articles, posters and what appeared to be ripped out pages of old textbooks. I didn’t get a chance to examine them though, because Liv immediately pulled me down a hallway to my left unexpectedly.
“What time is it?” Liv asked as she whisked me past various classrooms, all decorated according to their occupants taste.
 “7:59 am.” I replied.
            “Good. It’s just a little further. We should be able to make it in time—shit.” Just as we rounded a doorway marked 415 an obnoxious voice boomed over an unseen loudspeaker, “GET TO CLASS LITTLE DOVES” except because of the strange lisp in the speakers voice, it wasn’t clear at first that it was a sentence let alone English.
            The young teacher inside the room looked from Liv to me and, deciding to be lenient, check marked our names off the attendance sheet as the rest of the class rose from their various desks and exited the classroom. The teacher, a fashionably dressed woman with dark hair and sharp green eyes, walked over to us with purpose.
 “I heard you would be touring a transfer around today Liv, so I’m not going to write you up. But as you know, not all of the teachers in this school will be as… normal. So please get yourself and Miss Doloramor to your classes in succinct fashion. See you girls in a few hours.” †
© 2014 Lex Vex

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sinner's Halo: Book 1 Weaver of Snares - Prologue


Who are you and who am I to say we know the reason why?
Some are born;
Some men die beneath one infinite sky.
There’ll be war, there’ll be peace.
But everything one day will cease.
All the iron turned to rust;
All the proud men turned to dust.
And so all things, time will mend.
So this song will end.
- Pink Floyd, Childhood’s End
Prologue

            † The end of childhood has an unpredictable threshold. For most, the exact moment when responsibility overshadows the comfortable light of youth is a transition that takes years and is still never fully realized. Not for me.
“Shit!” I caught myself before I skinned my knee on the jagged broken sidewalk block. Once again the strums of the guitar and fast paced rhythms on my iPod consumed me, and, not bothering to watch where I stepped, the thick edge of raised cement snuck up on me.
“Damnit! Every single time!” Sighing, I brushed off my pants with the back of my hand and glanced up at the wrought iron gate in front of me.
By day, the gate towered above: the entrance to an imposing mansion of desperate, decaying beauty. But by night, its cold, swirling bars felt like a prison to the outside world. Each piercing spire pointed dramatically towards the heavens, creating a monstrous jaw line that zigzagged across the summer night. I wanted inside. Badly. Glancing along the line of iron above me, I counted the number of small gargoyles perched gleefully on top of each of the wider posts. Thirteen posts in all, counting the one I stood in front of now, but only 11 gargoyles. Two of them had been demolished down to the base. Each one clearly depicted a half human chimera.
            I had never walked this route alone before tonight. Walking the route after school with my brother or a bunch of friends was one thing, but going at dusk all alone was different. I couldn’t help twisting around to look behind me before I cautiously made my way foreword once again.
            This gate encircled a grand estate, colossal by the scale of the other mansions of the area. From the outside, I could see past the towering pine trees just enough to catch a glimpse of the columned entrance of white marble. The last occupants had vacated the mansion many years ago and for the last hundred the townspeople said it was haunted. I shivered again at the thought.
            The teachers had thought it would be a fun way to fill the end of orientation for the new freshmen, ghost stories at a campfire on the back lawn, and I, being a sophomore, had volunteered to work the grill. School wouldn’t start for another month., but now I had to walk past the mansion the three blocks it would take to reach Uncle Monty’s house with all those damn fables running through my head. I should’ve taken that shot before I left the house.  
            Most of the teachers stories sucked, and weren’t worth remembering at all. Others though... One caught my attention in particular. It told the legend of the very house I crept past, through the narrative abilities of my history teacher, William Felis.
            Not being too much older than us, ten years at the most, Mr. Felis started in a low gravelly voice uncharacteristic of his normal chipper one:
 “230 years ago, there lived a man more happy than any man can be, for he had just married the sweetest, kindest, most trusting woman alive. They lived in their mansion, the first and last occupants it would ever house. The couple would give shelter to any who needed it. A token gesture, but very foolish. One day, a traveller came to the mansion, wishing to spend the night. Noticing her poise and striking beauty, the man immediately welcomed her in. The wife, although unnerved by the way the woman gazed hungrily at her husband, trusted his judgment and said nothing as they showed the girl to her room. That night, while the wife bathed in the brass footed tub of the master bath, the woman left a note for the man sticking out of the chest of the grandfather clock in the main hall, just beneath the staircase. Lured by her note, which claimed a reward for the couple’s generosity and honesty, the husband went to the guest room. She opened before he knocked and she stood before him, wearing nothing but a red rose in her hair.”
            He paused to gaze slowly around taking in the wide-eyed faces of the freshmen. Fixating back on the ground, he continued in almost a whisper: “When the wife came from the bath, she began to search the house for her husband. She looked through all of his normal spots—loveseat in the back garden, the window seat in the library. But it wasn’t until the entrance hall that she found a clue: dead rose petals wafted down the stairs on a breeze. Like breadcrumbs on a trail, the wife picked them up one by one. As she approached, with an ever-deepening pit in her stomach, the petals became more and more red and filled with life. She…” a strange look flashed across Mr. Felis’s features but he covered his lapse with a cough. He finished quickly with a breeze to his voice that had not been there before, “Behind the door, she found them together. Shocked, she started to run from the door, but as she did so, the woman’s form changed into a scowling beast and using one sharpened fingernail, she slit the poor wife’s throat on the spot.” Once again Mr. Felis had paused long enough for one of the boys in the front row to ask loudly, “Well, what happened?” Mr. Felis gazed sadly down at him and finished,
            “The man came to his senses and ran from the house carrying his wife’s body. The woman chased after him and, not wanting to be captured, killed him as well. She claimed the grounds as her own and lives there still, not dead but not alive. On some nights, she comes out of the building and stalks the land, waiting to kill any who venture on to her property. Their possessions still haunt the place. Peer through the bars, and you will see the bench in the back of the house and loveseat window in which the couple used to read each other stories and think up dreams. If you peer into the foyer, you will even see the grandfather clock, stopped at the exact time the wife was killed. With all the spirits that haunt the place, angry, violent, betrayed, evil, it may be the last thing you will ever do. Think on it wisely.” With that, he had stood up and relinquished the spotlight.
            I shivered as I recalled the details, repositioning the bag of clothes for my uncle’s house to a more comfortable position. I wished again that my brother hadn’t had an episode; despite the irregular limp he’d begun to develop, he simply refused to use the cane my mother had spent her most recent paycheck buying. The most recent fall and the coughing fit that followed had required more professional nursing than I wanted to be around to witness. But I also hated staying alone with Monty, whose TV-less house led so easily to boredom. The expression of abandonment on my brother’s face, so much like my own, had done nothing to ease my conscious as I walked out with my backpack and overnight bag. I left just as his nurse arrived.
            Just as I shuddered, remembering the gleam of sweat on Zack’s face and the buckling of his body that had little to do with his wheezing, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. Something large. Luckily, it seemed to have moved on the other side of the fence. Quickening my step, despite the lingering pain in my knee, I walked along the farthest edge of the sidewalk away from the gate. There were only three more posts to pass before Monty’s street. I forced myself to ignore the sounds of rustling in the trees from the behind the iron. Soon I was unwillingly able to distinguish a purr-like sound emanating from the nearest brush. Breaking into a sprint, I overtook the second to last post, one empty of a gargoyle, but hearing another growl to my right I finally had to peer into the murky trees. I almost tripped again from shock. A tufted tail had flicked like a whip just above the brush line before disappearing into the greenery. Mid-stride, and not looking where I ran, I tripped over some upturned cement for the second time that night.
            I tumbled over the sidewalk before skidding to a stop a few feet from a telephone pole. Forcing myself to stand up, I tried a step but the cuts all over my body stabbed heat and knives everywhere exposed to the air. Leaning back against the utility pole, I slid down into a crouching position. Involuntarily, my eyes began to water.
“Shit!” I issued a few even more colorful words as I opened my eyes for self-triage. The skin on my knees was red, torn and grimy, as if it had been blasted by a high-powered-sander. One of the scrapes was bleeding steadily. A pool had formed on the ground already.  
             Groaning, I leaned my head back against the post. I gazed up into the dark, cloudless sky.
            “I’ll rest here for a minute.” I said to no one. I reached for my overnight bag, which had dropped a few feet away, and felt something hot trickle down my elbow. Another scrape. I choked out an expletive I’m sure my mother would have grounded me for, had she heard it.
            Reaching into my bag I felt around for the old T-shirt I’d brought to sleep in. I sighed as I pulled it out, and heard another growl. My eyes shot up, but when I saw nothing, I resumed pulling out the shirt. It tore deftly into three long strips I could use as makeshift bandages.
            I started with my elbows, tying the strips into messy but effective knots. I had begun to tie a strip around my knee when the snarl sounded again, only closer this time. The dark foliage in front of me rustled, but nothing could be seen. A feeling of dread over me, I tied the strip I’d been working on in a knot and moved on to my other knee. The rustling and growling became more pronounced as I scrambled to finish, my fumbling completely undoing what I had achieved. Grabbing the ends once more, I tried to tie it hastily, stopping only to wipe some accumulated sweat from my forehead. A further sounds caused me to jump, but I finished in seconds anyway. Grabbing and re-zipping the bag, I stood and found the gate with my eyes.
            The sack hit the ground with a dull thud. I stared petrified at the iron bars. Or, more accurately I stared petrified at what was behind the iron bars. A white lion with glowing red eyes glared at me, the only thing between us the iron gate, which, at the moment, appeared far too small for my taste. The glowing animal took one step towards the gate then another, and another. It approached slowly, growling like a low and dissonant chord on an untuned piano. Another sound rustled leaves from somewhere next to me, but petrified by the lion, I wasn’t too concerned. As the rustling grew closer, the lion’s growl escalated into a full roar. Raising its haunches the lion rushed at the gate with tremendous force causing the entire fence to reverberate on the dull and silent street.
            Coming to my senses at last, I sprang to my feet as the lion was knocked backwards and tumbled over itself. Rising up, it rushed again at me, roaring while it sprinted. I had barely taken one step when a sudden pain pierced my leg. Another thunderous clash of beast and metal sounded as I stared down to see a black serpent attached by the mouth to my ankle. The pain that had seeped into my left foot replaced itself with a numbness that seemed to travel up my leg at an impossible rate.
“That’s a snake…” I thought dumbly as reptile twitched with shivering delight.
            The lion snarled, and the snake, in answer, extracted its fangs from my ankle. Following the snake’s progress with dazed eyes, I could only barely stay awake in a world gone woozy as it rubbed itself against the fresh bite marks before slithering back through the gate. My eyes were losing focus. Everything that had been in focus was blurry. Falling to my knees, not even feeling the pain of landing on my already beat up kneecaps, I looked through the useless spears of gate again to watch the lion saunter away through the trees, going in and out of focus. When it had finally disappeared into the thicket, I blinked a few times, trying to keep the landscape clear. Somewhere, a bell tolled eight. My eyes involuntarily closed and my head hit the pavement with a loud thud as my mind faded into darkness. † 
©2014 Lex Vex

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