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When my friend Emily came to visit me, I wasn’t sure she’d enjoy the place. There’s no TV, no video games, no junk food. Well, except those cookies in the pantry. But Emily liked it, and each day she got a little more daring.

Then one day she went for a walk. She took the camera, but although I saw the pictures, and listened to her story, I still can’t believe it.

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The words they don’t flow anymore O. the words they tripfallstumblecrash and burn as they swirl around in a mess of chaos and broken misery in my head and then I feel the words leaking like an itch from my pen and onto the harsh unforgiving whiteness of the paper.

I need to put everything down on paper, so that people will read it, and mourn for her along with me, but the incoherency that washes over me is as relentless as the ocean, and everyday a little more of the shore of my mind is eaten up by the hungry waves.

She died, you know, my twin: the other half of me.
The other half of me that makes me one whole. My twin.

How can I still eat? Why am I still breathing? living? She’s under the earth suffocating right now she has claustrophobia- being claustrophobic is when she feels tight and unable cannot breathe properly so now even when I’m in the open air taking in all that freshness I hear her screaming keening gasping in the back of my head and her panic it drowns me in a frigid winter sea of vastness and nothingness.

I drop to my knees in the park, keening aloud in all the agony that she breathes in, writhes in- I can feel people staring at me avidly (‘Mommy mommy what is that man over there doing?’) but I’m helpless to control my body why can’t I do anything about what my body is doing how much deeper can her panic rise how much more control can I lose over my body in the face of the pure blinding whiteness of her terror. The weight of the treesearthground crashing in on me is too much for me to support and all I can do is to resist who said resistance is futile – at the very least, I know I have resisted, which is more than I can say for them, the weak ones who submitted meekly to their darker side.

I need to write about how she ended up on the wrong side of the ground.

And so as I crouch down hyperventilating the words lose and are lost in me its not funny so why are people crying nothing makes sense! but if you look at me closely I’m still me and myself not you not her most especially in particular and not anybody else and I’m still me, maybe just the slightest bit unwell…

It’s late at night I should be sleeping I should be resting- how foreign and laughable that word now sounds. Ever since she was buried I’ve never been able to sleep – the night claws at my mind, overwhelming all rationality, yet I never sleep; I merely pass from one troubled landscape of twisted stark ugliness to another state of consciousness.

I sink into the mushy swamplands of my mind every night; through the first layer of moist wet icky-ness that clings to the body and threatens to clog up my nostrils so all I breathe in is the thick mud, then through a more solid layer of dirt and through the stretching tendrils of the strange distorted plants that are able to grow for some reason under the swamp, and then I feel every pore of my body screaming out for release, as the queer little bugs and worms in the stinking swamp mud burrow their way into my shell of a body and in my brain?

Right about then, then, I finally drop all the way through, my heart threatening to surge out of my throat for a brief crazy flight before the darkness outside me claims it;

I am dislodged from this nightmare like a piece of food from between the yellowness of somebody’s teeth, and unceremoniously dumped into the garbage of yet another nightmare of shattering craziness.

You know what’s the weirdest thing?

It’s somehow snowing in those nightmares (such beauty in such craziness), but the whiteness never blankets nothing out – right now, I’m still thinking of the next line to write about her, and that maybe this’ll take me the rest of my life.

 

———————

hm. while I was writing this, I was toying with the idea that his twin is still, in a sense, alive in the coffin transmitting her own sense of terror and unease to him (since they’re twins). The idea too of writing as therapy, which would then translate the last line into him grieving for his lifetime/for his entire life.

Inspired by the prompt, The Black Madonna

When the foreshock hit, Marilyn barely noticed. She felt a brief rolling sensation and for a moment she had the recollection of being on a gently rocking boat. She steadied herself by reaching for the elevator’s railing, and she gave it no further thought. Her attention was focused on the illuminated numbers as she sped downward to the P-3 parking level deep beneath her office complex.

To the rest of the story…..

Rat

We were sitting around, killing time, and waiting for the usual stragglers. Bert had been bragging how he had just missed the cut for the Fear Factor TV competition by a mouthful of rat even after he’d successfully downed blenderized raw fish! While the other fellows commiserated, the females just let out a collective “Ewwww”! All the females that is, except for Grang — a post-war refugee  from Viet Nam. 

 

She whispered in my ear, “You want me tell you how cook rat?” Her eyes then searched my face for an answer.

 

“Sure, Grang, tell us how to cook rat,”  I replied then sat back and watched the faces of the others raster through a myriad of expressions: amusement, incredulity, realization, sympathy, and finally curiosity. 

 

Grang quickly glanced around the table, then back with uncertainly so I nodded and gestured for her to begin. She spoke hesitantly at first and then gained confidence as she, and we were transported through the process.

 

“If there is a choice, it is better to trap rats in the field as almost always, when their stomachs are opened, they are found full of grain and plant seed and their meat is more nutritious and less likely to be diseased or parasite laden. Unlike rabbits, the skin of the rat adheres tightly to the muscle. The best way to remove hair and skin is to build a small fire of straw or dried grass and lay the body directly on it, turning rapidly until all the hair is singed. That will also loosen the skin from the meat so it peels off easily once the head, legs and tail have been removed.”

 

“Dress the carcass by carefully removing the entrails and then splitting it much as one would split a chicken. The meat and bones are then hacked cross-wise into chunks, and the pieces placed in a container to be well mixed with coarse salt, garlic, onion, curry powder and lemon grass. Allow them to remain so for an hour or more, being careful to stir periodically to make sure all the pieces are well covered.”

 

“When following that method, it is unnecessary to wash the meat if it has been carefully wiped with a damp cloth before hacking into chunks. The meat can then be pan fried or grilled.”

 

“Another recipe is to put chunks into a pot, cover them with coconut milk and water, add dry mushrooms or other vegetable material that may be available as well as desired seasonings, then simmering until tender. If noodles are added, do so towards the end of the cooking time or serve with rice. Almost any recipe for chicken or other game works well. It is just a matter of getting the meat while still fresh. A live trap is best to use as the animal can be kept alive until meal preparation.”

 

***

 

I opened the storage shed then paused a moment and stared at the shelf before pulling down the smaller of the two cage-traps….

 

Bird flu had spread so rapidly it caught most of us off-guard. We were secure for the time being, as yet un-pillaged by our neighbors. Still, the food stocks are dwindling and soon they would be gone. There was no sign that services would soon resume; hundreds were sick and many more are dead. The entire infrastructure had been disrupted; no deliveries were being made because no one was willing to take the risk — everyone was too frightened to leave home,  to make contact with others.  We were all hunkered low. When the grid failed it was not sabotage, just desertion from duty … predictable under the circumstances.

 

So now, it is time to test my skills. 

 

 

~Pollygraph

by anita marie moscoso

Inspired by the Soul Food Cafe Prompt

“M” is for Myth

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Alstona Kamacho’s clock is an Armageddon clock-that’s what she told everyone at her office.

She also told them on the first day she brought it in that if the clock stops the world will end. So for the past 20 years everyone she works with goes out of their way to make sure  Alstona’s  Tacky Ticker doesn’t wind down. 

At first it was fun to find a way to make it first to avocado green clock with the pink feet and the silver mushroom bells sitting sideways against face so that you could be the one turn the little silver key  and save the entire world

Then it got to be serious.

When Alstona’ s six co-workers heard the little gears slowing down and just before second hand made this pop sound when it skipped past the glow in the dark five they’d already be pushing and shoving, tripping towards Alstona’s desk.

One year Barnell Bloss fractured right arm when he tried- and failed to clear Fales Digby’s desk to get to Alstona’ s Armageddon clock.

Of course he didn’t clear Fales’ desk because Fales was sitting at it and when Barnell raced by it was more the Fales could stand.

He’d reached up and slammed Barnell down and Fales had been the one to save the world that day.

In any other office on the face of the Earth that stunt would probably have ended in some sort of legal action.

But Lonsdale and Mead’s wasn’t  like anyplace on the face of the Earth- it didn’t have an Armageddon clock sitting on an employee’s desk.

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Delia Wing was a Courier from All City Express, she had won the Lonsdale and Mead stop in a lunch time card game at All City.

 But that was nothing new- drivers at All City had been known to pay each other cold hard cash just for one trip because everyone in the city of Mayweed knew the L & M staff were a bunch of whack jobs.

What can you say? Nothing broke up the day like getting the chance to see a bunch of desk jockeys beat the snot out of each other to get to this cheap and nasty windup clock first. 

As you’ve probably guessed by now Mayweed was short on entertainment venues.

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Delia’ first trip into L & M was on a Friday and there they were- all seven of them sitting at their desks, working on the phones and doing data entry and the entire time they all had at least one eye on the Receptionist’s Desk.

At least that one eye looked alive and alert because the faces they were housed in were pale and all of the worker’s hands were twitching and shaking.

Delia decided right then and there she didn’t want to go back to L & M- all of those people looked like they already had one foot in the grave and she was afraid whatever they had might be something you could catch.

But first Delia had a job to do.

She went over to the receptionist’s desk where the clock was sitting and cleared her throat, ” Package for you. “

Alstona looked up and reached for small box a in Delia’s hand.

” So that’s the clock. ” Delia said.

” That’s the clock. “

” So, if you’re sitting there how come they….” Delia pointed to the rows of desks behind Alstona ” race to wind it up?  Why don’t you do it yourself?”

Someone said from the back of the office, ” because she doesn’t care anymore…she wants the world to end.”

From a little closer to where Delia and Alstona were another voice said, ” she’s nuts “

And everyone agreed.

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Delia never actually saw the L & M people racing to the clock but on some days she thought they looked more nervous and pale then on other days and she figured that must have been at about the time the clock was probably starting to wind down.

Then one day, even though she had nothing to drop off and no one had called in a pickup Delia went into the Office.

” Nothing to pick up? ” she asked Alstona.

” No. ” the Receptionist said.

Delia didn’t want to leave and she didn’t want to be there but for several nights Delia would wake up to the sound of ticking and she’d have to bite down hard on her lip to keep from screaming out loud.

So she decided to get this over with.

” It’s a joke…right? ” Delia asked.

” It certainly is ” a woman who sat directly behind Alstona said. She had heavy dark circles under her eyes and her blouse was inside out. ” It’s the funniest joke anyone could have ever come up with and I’m sick to death of it.”

Then a man said, ” I say we let it go…we just let go.”

Alstona turned around and she said, ” didn’t I say it would come to this?”

The six staffers nodded and Alstona looked up at Delia and nodded, ” it’s a joke and I’m going to end it. “

Then Alstona reached over picked up the clock and smashed it against her desk over and over until her hands were cut and bleeding and the clock was mashed flat.

” It’s over, right? ” Delia asked. ” The joke is over. “

Alstona said quiet as a Cemetery at Midnight, ” it certainly is.”

Outside a dark cloud crossed in front of the Sun then the ground shook just a little…

And that was

The End

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by Anita Marie Moscoso

Just a little tale about a simple hard working woman- a tale I think Sibyl will appreciate-

amm

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Abney Hawkweed taught music for 25 years in the Caswell School District and those were the best years of her life.

Not that she liked teaching; in fact Abney didn’t even like kids.

But the hours were good, she got the Summers off and at the end of the day not many people go out of their way to pay attention to plain looking women with wire rimmed glasses who know how to play the violin and trumpet and the saxophone.

Which suited Miss Abney Hawkweed just fine.

In the old days, after school was over and Abney was on her way home she used to roll the windows of her fuel-efficient little car down and she use to turn the radio off just so she could hear the honking horns and screeching tires. Sometimes she even got an earful and eyeful of some road raging driver screaming their lungs out and waving their fingers around in nasty gestures.

People were great and when they were driving and when they were ugly they were even better to watch.

Just for the fun of it Abney would go out of her way on certain days just so that she could drive passed the Great Mall of Felton Hills.

She just loved to watch people dodge buses and trucks and cars and then no matter how many cars were behind her honking their horns she’d drive slow just so she could see the same people sprint, jog or run across the parking lots with baby strollers and shopping carts- all so that they could get into the shops and the food court and consume anything they could lay their hands on.

It all seemed so trivial and innocent and final.

There was no mystery to life in the suburbs.

You worked, you shopped, you watched TV and then you got to die.

Some people, Abney thought, don’t know how good they have it and that’s a fact.

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Abney’s day job paid the rent; what she did at night was who Abney Hawkweed was. She could always find another day job, but there was only one Abney and when the Sunset came she couldn’t be anything else.

So just after dinner she would gather her tools into a little black leather medical bag- the one she inherited from her Grandfather and she turn the little gold clasps counter clockwise to lock it.

Then for luck, just like Grandpa taught her, she would touch the little brass plate that said, ” Post Mortem Case ” three times.

The luck thing was important because she usually needed it.

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Like with most family businesses you could either take up the reigns and do the family proud or you could skate by and make them wish they could at least say you were adopted or ‘from the other side of the family’.

The worst you could be neither, the worst thing you could be is mediocre.

And know it.

Abney figured she could get the job done and that pretty much described Abney’s job performance. She wasn’t as glamorous and thin and blond as her cousin Inez and she wasn’t as smart or athletic as her Father Dr Setwell Hawkweed had been.

They were impressive figures at work and well respected.

No doubt, Abney could dig up a coffin, pop it open and hammer a stake into the bloated red face of a vampire before it could open it’s mouth and spit blood all over her face-which is what they did when they were about to attack.

If they got you it was bad news because that mess could make you blind.

That’s how they brought you down.

Anyway…

The problem was it was just plain old Abney Hawkweed in some old decrepit church or over grown cemetery carrying on the family trade.

There was no sense of style about how Abney did her work so she did it quietly and efficiently as possible and then she’d go home feed her cat, listen to a little Mozart and then she’d turn in for what was left of the evening.

She did that for 25 years and she never complained.

She didn’t even complain when she had to go into a house on Halloween (of all nights) and take out a family of Vampires who had been sleeping in their basement and then had taken to hanging from the rafters like water logged Piñatas-dripping blood and purge from their hardly working bowels onto the floor.

All Abney figured when she slipped in the gunk and broke her wrist was that they had done that on purpose.

It wasn’t like the books and comics and video games you know.

Abney learned the hard way that oxygen deprivation at death and then waking up to find you had been turned into a mosquito was enough to make anyone crazy.

Very Crazy.

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On the day Abney retired- both from the Day Job and the Family Trade, her work friends had taken her out for lunch and given her some neat gifts and they had promised to keep in touch.

She doubted they would.

And of course they didn’t.

Her family same to celebrate her retirement and of course they promised to stay in touch too- and Abney figured they’d make good on that and of course they did.

Especially when they needed a night off.

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As time went by Abney started to play the Violin again for the simple pleasure of it. She never got calls to lend a hand at this Graveyard or that Morgue because the Vampire Problem was a Problem Solved and Abney decided to take up the guitar.

It was at Inez’s birthday part last winter that Inez had told Abney, ” You know in the old days we could never have all gotten together like this. It’d have been too dangerous. I mean, a couple of nutty blood suckers and a can of gasoline and before you know it we’re crispy critters and people are dropping like flies from ‘ the plague’ again.”

” You had a lot to do with that Abney. Thank you.”

And Abney decided right then and there that she may not have been the sleekest of models to hit the showroom floor but she had made a difference all the same.

That was when Abney really felt it for the first time- her life; her simple quiet life was all she ever was.

And she missed it.

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When Spring came Abney had decided to take up sketching. She was pretty awful at it, but she had nothing but time on her hands and if this didn’t work she could always try something else.

So one day she’s at her favorite park sketching her favorite tree when four teenagers went walking by.

Shoulder to shoulder they looked like a little black thundercloud rolling along on the cobble stone pathway.

Their faces were pale, their lips were black and they smelled like the perfume counter at the Bay Side Department store.

Abney watched them for a moment and then she called out, ” You there…are you suppose to be Vampires? “

There was a chorus of snorts and chuckles and someone tried to growl ” suppose to be ” but his his voice cracked.

One of the little black clouds broke away from the rest and she tried to glide up towards the middle-aged woman with salt and pepper hair ” We’re Goth ” she said slowly with her jaw clenched tight and her black hair falling into her face.

” Is that a new type of Vampire?” Abney asked cheerfully.

” I guess you could say that.” the girl with the pointed white teeth said. Then she tried to stare the old woman down. ” Why do you want to know? “

Abney shrugged, ” just checking. “

And as the little black cloud drifted down the path Abney got up, reached for the black bag under her chair and touched the little brass plate three times.

Then she went to work.

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by anita marie moscoso

Inspired by

The  Lumuria Sanctuary Project

The Solitary Reaper

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Outside the town of Dewhurst is a little Country Cottage House sitting all by itself up off of a long dusty road. There’s  a rusty mailbox out front leaning over a ditch and a low stone fence that runs for miles around the the Cottage’s property.

The stone wall also surrounds a small white cottage with potted plants on the porch and at each lace covered window there are window boxes full of purple and white and yellow Pansies.That’s where Mrs. Beenettle lives.

People who drive by Mrs. Beenettle’ s House always comment on the old fashioned looking elderly lady with the straw hat and the basket of flowers on her arm.

” I wonder how old Mrs. Beenettle is, ” they’ll say ” she’s been out working on that garden of hers since I was a kid and that was over 20 years ago. ”

Then they forget all about her until the next time they drive by.

You see, Dewhurst is an up and coming town with streets full of houses called ” Mini-Mansions ” and streets with names like ” Glen  Road ” this and ” View Ridge” that and the people who live in those developments aren’t the sort of people who slow down their cars or themselves for anything.

That includes sweet old ladies who tend Old English Cottage Gardens in the suburbs of Seattle.

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Last spring, after years and years of waving to people somebody actually took the time to stop and drive up to Mrs. Beenettle’ s Cottage.

That somebody was named Betsy Ware.

Betsy Ware swears too much and drives to fast and when her kids moved out and left Betsy and her husband with an empty nest Betsy filled their old bedrooms with boxes full of their books and old furniture and outdated clothes and broken toys.

” If they want to move back in they’re going to have to haul all this crap away. ”

A fool is a woman who doesn’t know her own children and Betsy knew her kids would rather live in a dumpster then to be responsible for their own messes so they never did come back-not even for visits.

Betsy was either one step ahead of you or maybe a half a step behind. But she was never far off the mark. That’s what made Betsy such a hard person to mess with.

It was a gift she guessed.

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One day Betsy just got it into her head to make the drive up to Mrs. Beenettle’s. She wasn’t sure where the idea came from; it just seemed like the right thing to do on that nice cool Spring morning.

She got out of her jeep wearing a faded black t-shirt and her hair tied back in a braid and Mrs. Beenettle came from the side of her house with her basket full of flowers.

Mrs. Beenettle smiled her roadside smile. ” Well Good Morning!” she said bright as a daisy.

Betsy stood there and smiled back and the thought came from nowhere and locked Betsy’s smile into place…” I have no idea why I’m here…none at all.

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Mrs. Beenettle was pleasant enough, she knew all about plants.

What she said was not exactly what you would read in The Lady Gardener’s Companion Books.

 ” Flowers are just cool and cunning as any gambler or card shark” Mrs. Beenettle said in her soft warm voice. ” They will wine and dine and seduce anything they have to in order to get what they want.”

” What is it they want Mrs. Beenettle ” Betsy asked because Betsy had the feeling this was going to be a whopper.

” Why, they want to take over dear- simple it truly is as simple as that. I mean, if you think about it the only thing that consumes and reproduces with such blind determination are humans. We’re a lot alike, plants and humans.”

And Betsy found she couldn’t really disagree with that.

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They chatted about plants that ate bugs and flowers that smelled like cigarette smoke and Betsy asked, ” are there really such things as plants that eat people?”

Mrs. Beenettle laughed and so did Betsy and at that moment they both knew what the answer was-which only made them both laugh more.

The sun was starting to set and it was getting cooler when Mrs. Beenettle said, ” All kidding aside Betsy- if you’re interested in Man Eating plants this may tickle your funny bone-follow me.”

Behind Mrs. Beenettle’ s Cottage there was a grove of Hazel Nut trees. The trees had long thin spidery limbs and they were covered with moss and the bark on the trees was leather like and dark brown.

That surprised Betsy, she thought it would be more fitting if they were  bone white, but she was far to interested in what was growing beneath the little trees to wonder why the bark was the color it was.

Under each tree was a large flower.

The petals were black and purple and red and the flowers themselves were as large as the trees themselves.

And they smelled bad; they smelled very, very bad.

” Whoa ” Betsy said.

The sound of awe in Bety’s voice seemed to please Mrs. Beenettle a lot. In fact Mrs Beenettle smiled wider then ever and then  she put a Motherly arm around Betsy’s shoulders.

” I am curious about the smell Mrs. Beenettle.”

” These beauties are called Corpse Flowers Betsy. In order to thrive they attract blow-flies, and in order to attract Blow-Flies they have to give the flies what they desire which of course is the scent of death.”

” Is that all they attract Mrs. Beenettle?  The Blow- Flies?

Mrs. Beenettle held her arm out and Betsy took it. ” Plants always seem to find the perfect environment to survive  in- they’re very cunning in that respect.”

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Towards Sunset Betsy left Mrs. Beenettle’s Garden.

Tucked into the back of Bety’s Jeep was a flat box filled with tiny compartments. In each little square were tiny shoots that were coiled  and spiraled upwards and each little shoot was tinted black and red purple at their edges.

Next to the flat, wrapped in oiled paper were her shotguns and in a little plastic envelope under the guns were tags from sweaters and jackets and shirts.

Like Mrs. Beenettle said, plants always seem to find the best enviorment to survive in- they’re very cunning in that respect.

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The Soul Food Cafe is an international group of writers and artists whose global mission is to promote writing and art-making as a daily practice through the use of interactive web-based technologies such as blogging and e-mail groups.

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Lemuria is the fantasy construct where the participants of the Soul Food Cafe post their work, andThe Taverna di Muse is one of many places and realms within Lemuria. To see some other Lemurian destinations, select one below and start your journey:

Riversleigh Manor
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On the Road with Enchanteur
The Digital Atelier The Cave of the Ancients
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Halloween Party, 2006
The Heroine's Journey
Aboard the Calabar Felonway
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Isle of the Temple People
Isle of Ancestors
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Grand Tour
Lemurian Tour
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