MicroFiction #10

Afterwards...AFTERWARDS (100 words)

Hunter blew smoke rings and glanced at Jude lying beside him. She looked beautiful, the firelight glinting off her sweat darkened skin, breasts rising and falling in time with her ragged breathing. She watched him, legs in a tangle, eyes dark and smoky; a picture of satiated abandonment. Reaching over, he put the cigarette between her lips. Nuzzling her shoulder gently, he stroked his fingers down her flank, watching her skin indent and spring back. She squirmed and laughed softly, putting her hand over his.
“That tickles,” she said, leaning over to kiss him.
She tasted like tobacco and sex.

Rusalka

RusalkaRUSALKA

And mark, the dark and lonely tarn
A limpid eye on some craggy heath
Where forlorn willows do drunkenly list
To sip at waters veiled in mist
A shroud for she who dwells beneath

In the deep of night, the witching hour
She walks upon the unlit bank
To dance upon the grasses bare
Until the morning bright doth dare
To force her to her bower rank

All night she twirls, scarce touching the ground
And sings a melody hauntingly fair
To snare the unwary man who strays
Unwitting, unknowing of her ways
Into the gossamer skein of her lair

Then she leads them, dancing still
Into the tarn, under waters dark
Where they see at last her dread true grace
Those fiery green eyes in a wan pale face
Translucent and beautifully stark

Rusalka is the name she whispers
In the ear of those unfortunate swain
Who follow the nymph with golden hair
Whose comb conjures the water where
She dwells eternal. Rusalka.

Bryan Knower 2013

Short short story post-

And The Day PassesAND THE DAY PASSES

The noonday sun scorched his bare head and perspiration trickled across Leon’s scalp, crawling inexorably towards his hairline. He scrubbed his sleeve across his forehead, catching beads of sweat just before they tumbled off his brow and fell into the bottom of his boat. The breeze was out of the northwest and the canvas shelter he had rigged to the cabin provided no shade. He looked at the meager catch in the bottom of his boat, trying to push down the feeling of despair creeping up over him. It was the third day with no major catch now, and he urgently needed something substantial to keep Martha going for the rest of the week
He tried not to think of Martha, lying sick in the little seaside cottage they called home. Even if he got back by early evening, it was an hour’s drive in the old Ford pickup to Puerto Vallejo, where he could sell his catch. The fancy restaurants there paid good money for the big table fish, but those fish were getting harder to find, especially for a lone operator like himself. The developers mushrooming along the once pristine beaches had polluted the bay, driving the big fish out into deeper waters. The ones he caught nowadays were scrawny and undersized. Not worth much on the market, and he was struggling.
In spite of the hardship, Leon liked the life. Lonely, but that suited him. He had come here with Martha twenty years ago to get away from city life and never regretted one moment of it until six months ago, until Martha’s illness. It was scary how she deteriorated before his eyes.
They went to the city to see the doctors, many of them. None of them could provide much comfort. Cancer, they said, and ordered all sorts of tests, keeping Martha confined to a small room, sedated and comatose. She hated the whole process, when she was aware of it, and soon she refused to continue. He agreed.
Six months, the doctors said. Maybe longer if they were allowed to treat her. But for what? A few more months of misery and pain?
So they loaded up on narcotics and drove back to Caravinho, Martha squeezing his hand all the way and the first month had been good again. The narcotics helped and Martha was pain free and full of laughter, like she had always been. But in the past few weeks, the pain came back, and with it the cramps. Leon hated it when he had to leave her in the mornings, motoring out gently past the moorings to head out past the bay looking for those elusive fish. One or two good days might let him stay home the rest of the week but the catch lining the bottom were nearly worthless. Not worth driving into Puerto Vallejo to sell. The restaurants were only interested in prize catch. This stuff was only good for the neighborhood diners, who did not pay. Also, he was not the only fisherman in the area feeling the pinch.
A sudden unreasoning rage swept through him and he kicked savagely at the glittering pile at his feet. Even the contact was insubstantial. They were too slippery to provide much of a target. A beep from his navigation unit caught his attention. He had reached the end of his daily circuit. Time to pull up the nets and see what he had caught. He throttled back and cut the power, turning the small boat into the swells so she would not swamp. Then he walked over to the winch, activating the mechanism that would raise the net, gather it and swing it aboard. The motor whined ground and brought up the gray skeins of nylon from the deep, the bottom bulging slightly with the fruit of his current efforts. Nothing looked substantial there, just more of the same he had brought up all morning.
Swinging the net into the boat, he lowered it to the floor, opening the beams of the winch so he could look into the net. Something bulky and brown, bigger that the rest of the struggling silvery mass caught his attention and he leaned over, hooking it out. It was an old battered suitcase, waterlogged and rotten, nearly falling apart in his hands. Intrigued, he placed it on the floor and pried the lid open. It came up easily, the locks tearing away from the rotted leather panels holding them. Inside was a small package wrapped in plastic, about the size of a paperback book and sealed with tape. It appeared watertight in spite of the state of its enclosure. Curious, he cut the sealing tape and stripped away the wrapping, revealing a small intricately carved box inlaid with many kinds of wood and shell.
Very pretty, he thought, as he stuck the tip of his knife under the lid and levered the box open.
Taken aback by what he saw, he nearly dropped the box. Putting it down carefully on the deck of the boat, he stared again. The contents glittered back at him, catching the refracted rays of the sun and throwing them back into his eyes; all the colors of the rainbow flashing in a prismatic kaleidoscope that dazzled him and made him blink. They were a small handful of beautiful scintillating stones, crystals that flared in the light and tumbled around gently in their bed of crumbling black velvet. All were cut and polished, radiant and glittering; a king’s ransom in the palm of his hand, delivered to him in his need. He looked at the gems for a long time, trying to discern their story, but they glimmered on inscrutably, bright and hard in the sunlight, their secrets trapped like the rays of light imprisoned in their faceted bodies.
He did not wait to roll up the nets as he normally did. Stuffing the gems into his pocket, he swung the boat around, gunning the motor as he sped back to the shore. He felt filled to the bursting with excitement, anticipating breaking this wonderful news to Martha. They could afford all those experimental treatments now; the one the specialist doctors offered; the ones costing so much money. In fifteen minutes, he was back at the little jetty in front of their house, scarcely aware of navigating the shoals at the head of the bay. Leaping out onto the wooden dock, he ran towards the front door, calling out Martha’s name.
It was only a few hundred yards to the door, but long before he reached it, Leon felt something amiss. He felt it in his bones, in the oppressive stillness that seemed to surround the little cottage. The door was open, as it always was, and he pushed through, blinking as his eyes adjusted from the bright sunlight outside to the dimness of the interior. Martha lay in her usual spot, stretched out on the cot under the window where she could watch the seagulls swoop down as they scavenged for food. She always turned to greet him, no matter how weak she was but now she did not move. Leon hurried to her side, his heart growing heavier as he approached.
Martha looked asleep, her face turned towards the sunlight. All the lines had disappeared from her features, as if the care and pain of the past weeks had suddenly left her body. As indeed, they had. She was not breathing. He took her hand in his, fumbling for her pulse, feeling her skin still warm under his touch. There was not even a flutter, although Leon stood there for long minutes, concentrating. Martha had left him. Gone while he was out on the water. Alone at her passing.
Leon broke down then, weeping and wailing in his grief. Then he lashed out with his fists and feet at everything in the cottage, venting his grief in anger. He raged for hours, pacing around the little room, screaming at everything and nothing, until the westering sun began to redden the interior of the room, giving Martha’s pale cheeks a last lingering blush. He paused then, drained and spent, and walked out of the cottage, back towards the beach and the water, which a short time ago had held out so much promise.
He stood at the water’s edge a long time, staring at the water as the sun sank in a flaming ball below the horizon and the afterglow painted infinite reflecting pathways on the darkening billows. The waves rolled endlessly towards him, breaking on the submerged rock mounts inside the mouth of the bay and marching with diminishing intensity to dissipate in froth at his feet. He could feel his former life slipping away with the eddies of the breakers, the shell of his world falling aside like a peeled plum, leaving him raw and bleeding, exposed to the universe. He groped in his pocket and brought out the handful of gems that had seemed the panacea to all his ills a few hours ago. In the fading twilight, the stones had lost much of their luster. They lay dull and quiescent in his palm, their inner fire extinguished.
He should go back inside, prepare for tomorrow, but he lingered. If he stayed where he was, stayed still, time might stand still too. Tomorrow could wait; a small delay in the inevitable of the darkening present.

Who?

Who?

WHO?

Who has heard the song the rainbow sings
When it spans the azure sky?
The wind has.

Who has seen cotton clouds shaped like beings
Both fantastic and bizarre?
The sun has.

Who has watched the monarchs on gossamer wings
Flit from milkweed twig to branch?
The summer has.

Who has been to the water’s edge when the tide brings
Both treasure and flotsam to the light?
The sand has.

Who has marked the splendor of the courts of kings
Puffed up with pomp and bloated with intrigue?
The rumor has.

Who has heard the tune the church bell rings
When it clangs the faithful to their ease?
The old oak has.

Who has felt the bite when the scorpion stings
Swift and deadly under sun warmed rocks?
The desert has.

Who knows why the lizard on the wall clings
Like a cellophane ornament on a windowpane?
The poet has.

Who has heard the tune the soaring lark sings
Offering a divine melody to the sublime?
The morning has.

Who has seen the beginning and end of all things
The alpha and the omega, future and past?
Who has?

Bryan Knower 2013

MicroFiction #09

MicroFictionBAD ENDING (96 words)

Eddie only saw the bag because he sat on the park bench. He was alone, so he nudged the bag out with his foot and opened it.
The stacks of currency inside made him giddy. Savoring his fortune he dug deeper, feeling something under the bills. A gun!
This changed everything. Scared, he closed the bag just as two men turned the corner in the distance. They saw him, saw the bag in his hand and began to run towards him, making no sound. One drew a weapon.
Eddie ran, knowing it was already too late.

Facets

River BendFACETS

Walk with me just a little while
Said Sorrow to her friend
Nay, replied Melancholy, I’d rather go
To the riverbank where the willows grow
Though I may come with you in the end.

Then may I come with you instead
To the river where the pools are deep
For there, perhaps I’ll catch a thought
That the waters dark have lured and caught
Though I promise her secrets I’ll keep.

Come then friend, Melancholy said
And spend some time with me
I’ll show you delights unbeknown
Hidden, but for your eyes alone
For I know you want to see.

And off they went, both hand in hand
Sorrow and Melancholy
To the water’s edge in search dreams
To the deep pools with silent schemes
The desperate fruits of folly.

And when they had both drunk their fill
Of the dark passions hidden there
Melancholy discovered in Sorrow
A kindred bond pierced to the marrow
Of loneliness laid bare.

For in the final scheme of things
Those two are just the same
Not peas in a pod, but closer still
Both determined to bend to their will
All those who dare play their game.

And to the riverbank they both go still
For each is the others shade
And no lack of material do they there find
For the river hoards emotions of the secret kind
Of which these two are surely made.

Bryan Knower 2013

Short short story post-

shortstory2WHITE ROOM

A man in a white lab coat pushes a steel cart down a white painted corridor, his feet making no sound on the dark grey industrial carpeting. The cart has two large trays. One of them holds covered steel containers that steam gently. The other tray is open, filled an assortment of medications, syringes and bottles of all sizes. Doors, painted white, stand closed at regular intervals. The man passes them all, going down to the end of the corridor, which ends in another door, also white and also closed. On the door a small metal frame holds a cardboard tag that reads Holmes, David. The man pauses at the door and fumbles in the pocket of his coat, fitting a large key into the lock.

***

David Holmes squeezes the white pebbled stone parapet hard, his grip so tight that the muscles under his skin ripple with the tension. He has powerful athletic arms; the muscles defined and curved under sunburned skin. He looks out over the low balustrade towards white flecked breakers flopping over lazily on the shore below. A vagrant breeze lifts a lock of his hair and whips it across his face. Absently he raises one hand and pushes the errant strand back into place, keeping his eyes fixed on the surf below. A single wisp of cloud hovers overhead in an otherwise azure sky and he smiles as his eye catches the glitter of the noonday sun on the rising crest of a breaker. It’s a perfect day on Hidden Cove Bay. Perfect for sailing. He relishes the prospect, imagining the feel of the wind whipping his hair into a tangle and hear the crack of the canvas sails as they gather the breeze.
Sailing is David’s passion, the only time he really feels alive. He loves the motion of the waves rocking the planks beneath his feet, the salty taste of spray on his lips, yelling nonsensical pirate phrases into the wind knowing no one can hear him. Sometimes he drops anchor in the middle of the bay, strips of his clothes and lies naked on the deck, luxuriating in the warmth of the sun on his skin, feeling the sweat pop out on his brow, the red haze hot against his eyelids as his upturned face catches the sun’s oblique rays.
Maybe today he’ll go swimming instead. The water looks inviting; deep turquoise blue, sprinkled with shimmering translucent wavelets that break up and catch the sunlight in endless tiny fragments. The motion of the waves is hypnotic, lulling him into a trance. His mind reels in a well worn memory.
Once, floating on his back a hundred yards from his boat, a flying sailfish, Parexocoetus brachypterus, flew right over him, fins spread, leaping over him like an inconsequential hurdle, the diamond like shards of its watery wake creating a rainbow of refracted colors through his half closed eyelids. He turned over then, rolling on the surface, trying to follow the path of the fish as it re-entered the water, but it was too fast for him. All he saw were the shadows of the wave ripples on the sea floor. It was August, the water so clear he could to see all the way to the bottom, almost forty five feet below; everything enhanced and clarified by the light, making the water so transparent he felt as if he was lying on a pane of glass.
Right now, his mouth feels dry. His body is sticky, remembering the liquid coolness; the sensuous embrace, like a lover, like being in a warm fluid cocoon, welcoming him in, arousing his lust, stroking him with the feathery touch of vagrant breezes on his skin. The water calls him with an indefinable urge, a visceral yearning his body responds to on a molecular level.
Today he must stay longer. He is tired of this place, trapped in this building even though it affords him a daily view of the sea he loves.

***

The sound of a key grating in the lock intrudes upon the stillness of the room, and a stark white door swings inwards to rest against an equally stark white wall. The room’s decor is Spartan, almost minimalist. Everything is white, from the linens to the furniture, unrelieved by even a picture on the wall. The man in the white lab coat enters, wheeling a steel cart loaded with two trays. One of them holds covered steel containers that steam gently. The other tray is open, filled an assortment of medications, syringes and bottles of all sizes.
Sunlight streams in through open French doors, the intensity of the light washing out any color in the room. The French doors open out onto a broad uncovered balcony where a hunched form is visible, leaning forward in a wheelchair, hands gripping the balustrade. A blanket covers the occupant’s thighs but beneath the edge of the fabric a pair of withered uncovered legs are visible. A flicker of sympathy crosses the lab coated man’s face as he notices the faraway expression on the patient’s face. David Holmes was a champion sailor once, but he will never walk again.
“Hello David,” he says, gently breaking into the others reverie. “Thinking of the sea again? It’s time for your medicine, you know.”

Gaia Dreaming

Gaia DreamingGAIA DREAMING

The river instinctively seeks the bay.
The bay has worn many faces.
Faces altered over eons by the relentless water.
Water that was not always here either.
Either it whispered in subterranean tunnels.
Or tunneled into vast still reservoirs.
The reservoirs are older; they were here before the bay and the river.
And the river doesn’t remember its form in different times.
Time is both its friend and its enemy.
An enemy that will eventually break its liquid heart.
For the heart of the river is also the Earth’s.
And the Earth’s heart does not beat forever.

Bryan Knower 2013

Farewell To A Hero

FAREWELL TO A HERO

Bright burns the hero’s flaming pyre
A beacon fair on the twilight sea
Whose darkling waters reflect there
The pinpoint sparks of embers free

Each mote of light a badge that bears
The high honor of help in need
That helped those taken unawares
And in that noble cause did bleed

For in the face of overwhelming odds
Did uphold the unspoken pact
To defend hearth and home and gods
With visage grim and honor intact

On torch-lit shore stand those who mourn
Yet joyfully praise the hero’s path
For freedom they still hold their own
Is this warrior’s due in no small part

So farewell brave brother in arms
Who held life dear but honor more
That those who stand do so in hope
Of reunion on Elysium’s distant shore

Bryan Knower 2013

MicroFiction #01

microfiction2Read a post somewhere about microfiction and twitfic, and I wanted to try my hand at the form. For me, Twitfic, being limited to 140 characters, felt extremely restrictive and I found it difficult  to convey a discrete emotional event adequately. Of course, that’s just me and others have tried it with varying degrees of success.

I much preferred the slightly longer forms with word limits rather than character limits. I set myself an arbitrary goal of one hundred words or less, and took a stab at it. It seems possible to convey the sense of a scene (though not the details) within this framework.

I found the task invigorating. It’s extremely easy to write 150 to 200 words off the top of your head in a few minutes, but editing and polishing to meet the requirement is much harder. I get the feeling that these little vignettes could be ideal starting points for fresh plots and other story ideas.

I’m going to try and post two or three items a week on this blog, calling them microfiction items. If you find them interesting, let me know. If you find them boring, let me know also. I’m curious to know find out many of these you can produce before running into a wall. I can’t believe there are endless possibilities within a 100 word framework.

MicroFiction # 01 DARKTIME (100 words)

In the strange half light before darktime, shadows play tricks on the mind. In spite of her mind shield, Merith stayed in the middle of the path, which seemed to get steeper as she walked downhill. Her two mile trek from Tarryn to Commune had started in the bright of middle lighttime, but a hidden root and a twisted ankle meant she was still hobbling homewards with a half mile left to go. It was nearly darktime, and darktime belonged to the Aenids. The Aenids were a complete mystery to Merith’s kind because no-one had survived an encounter with them.