Wednesday, February 4, 2009

...If he tells her a thing, she's ours." Dundee licked his pointed teeth with his pointed tongue, his eyes looking off into a distance neither of the men could see. "That's the thing about contracts," he said. "they cut both ways." Dundee laughed gleefully.

The men shivered, inching away from the dead man on the floor and followed the black wind that was Dundee out the door and into the bright day light.

Birdie was enthralled with her steps. The tensile strength in the seemingly delicate lily pads. The flowers that arose here and there through the steps.

Images flashed through her mind as she continued climbing, bits of memories or something else. Her sister and her brown eyes glaring back at her like an angry mirror. The taste of white tea and lace cookies. The smell of old books and rotting leather bindings in her grandmother's house in Connecticut. A place she hadn't been in 10 years since grandma died.

She was always drawn to the light

The words were in her mother's voice. Lily. Lost at sea with Birdie's father. It was only an afternoon sail celebrating their anniversary, and everything had fallen apart when the squall appeared from out of nowhere and left their little boat broken and overturned, with no sign of her parents.

The money they'd left paid for art school and more. Maggie had taken her share and run to the other side of the world, doing who knew what. But what did money mean when she was left all alone in the world? Left with only her uncle Samuel who popped in now and again to check in on her and borrow some cash when he'd lost too much gambling.

Birdie shook her head as if to clear her mind and found herself standing improbably high, so high the land below her shimmered with distance.

Why was she not afraid? Why was she not in shock?

She stood and looked around the landscape.

Ah yes. Because she knew this place. She had dreamed it. Sometimes, the dreams had seemed more real than reality. She knew that if she looked in just the right spot, from just the right angle it would be there. She spun around on the lily pad, the warm breeze rising from below and lifting her hair, lifting, almost, her. And there it was.

The door.

It was nothing but a hole, really. If seen from the wrong angle it would be invisible, but from the right spot, high in the air, left of the sun, it should be here. She took another step on the pads and she rose higher. If she had wings, this would be so much easier, she thought with a laugh.

And then there it was. A shimmering disc just waiting for her to step through, just like in her dreams.

And just like in her dreams she knew who would be waiting for her on the other side. There was no reason to wait, really. What else was there to lose? She was balancing a hundred feet up on lily pads that were taller than the highest trees. There was no one waiting for her at home but her cat, who seemed to be able to take care of herself, her boss, who while he couldn't take care of himself, could hire someone else to take care of him, and her uncle, who really should stop betting, anyway. Her life was gone, it seemed, why bother holding on to it? Why hold on to the sanity she had always worked so hard to protect?

Why not just go with the dream?

She laughed then, and couldn't stop laughing, and it was with that light in her chest that she stepped through the hole.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Getting Rid of the Garbage

. . . needs to clean up a bit.” A slim, dark figure stepped forth, wrapped in a long black coat. “And I think I’ll start by taking out the trash”, he said, withdrawing a curious looking knife from his sleeve. The blade was short, curved back on itself; the handgrip ebony, inlaid with ivory skulls. The metal seemed to glow with a cool blue malevolent shine.

Weasel’s eyes maxed out in panic-stricken fear. “Whoa, wait a minute, Juno, I was just foolin’ around. I didn’t mean to, I mean,” his words suddenly cut off as the knife, arcing through the space between them, ended it’s trajectory in the stubbly flesh of his throat. He staggered backwards from the impact, colliding with the table and then folded together into a writhing bloody heap. Max and Dundee were on their feet, chairs over-ended, stunned and backing off. Weasel tried to speak but merely gulped up mouthfuls of blood, his carotid artery severed and windpipe sliced open.

“Leave him be,” Juno said, moving menacingly towards them. “He’s already done his fair share of talking. In fact I’d say he topped his limit. I was just having a chat with Mr. Bossman. Tells me he caught this little piece of shit jawing it up with a Djemba over in Cantones. The little greaseball was too stupid to find a proper meeting place. Cantones; can you fuckin’ believe it? He probably wanted a pizza. Why not take out an ad in a newspaper, while you’re at it?
Anyhow - if it wasn’t for Weasel’s flappin’ lips we’d all be dining on Birdie stew right now instead of mucking about in this piece-of-crap garage.” He walked over and looked contemptuously down at Weasel, who, with a convulsive choking rattle, finally lay still. “Well, looks like those lips won’t be spilling any more secrets,” he said, nudging the body with his foot. He reached down and withdrew his knife, wiping it clean on Weasel’s jacket sleeve. “See, like they say, crime don’t pay. Not when it’s against me, it don’t,” he said, finishing off with a nasty excuse for a laugh. “Anybody got a problem with this?” he asked, still waving the knife about.

Max and Dundee looked at each other and then back at Juno. They both demonstratively shook their heads in unison, like two cartoon characters.

“Hell, nobody likes a sell-out, Juno.” Max said. “I got no problems with him. He was a just a creep anyway. But what’re we gonna do now? If he told a Djemba, like you’re sayin’, that Bird probably knows everything by now. She could be half way to the Portal, for all we know.”

Dundee came forward, not wanting to be left out. Left out meant keeping company with Weasel. “Yeah, for all we know she might even be through the goddamned Portal by now. Then that’s us, over and out. Shit, if that’s the case, we might as well join him,” he said, motioning towards the body.

“Cool your fuckin’ jets, the both of you," Juno said. "The Djemba’s not telling her nothing. Not yet. He can’t, see. If he does . . .