Maison Triste

Santa is drunk. Not a useless, cherub-cheeked man in a silly stupor stumbling on your doorstep, but rather an aggressive maniac wielding a reindeer sinew whip and threatening to slice off your nose.

Ever heard of the angry drunk? If there was a course on how to ruin the Christmas mood, Santa would get top marks.

Sarah doesn’t believe me.

I point towards the double-pane windows overlooking the backyard commons. “He’s outside right now. On the walkway. Can you see him?”

Sarah peers into the darkness. “I see a shadow. Is he—is he peeing on the roses?”

A sudden flare roars into existence, and the roses turn to ashes.

She turns to me. “His pee is flammable?” Suddenly my earlier fears aren’t so silly.

We watch in horror, nay, fascination, as he cackles his way through the deaths of every rose bush in sight. “Oh, no,” Sarah whispers. “Not the Duchess of Portland! I planted that one last year. That bastard!”

Little fire balls dance in Sarah’s own eyes. She grasps the door handle, feels the click. She’s out on the landing before I can stop her.

“Go home, you dirty man!” She screeches into the smokey air. “Leave my roses alone!”

Santa doesn’t hesitate. Doesn’t even tuck himself in. He unties his reindeer sinew whip from his reindeer hide belt and flicks his wrist. Sarah screams, covers her face. I scream and cover my face. Bloody speckles now scatter the path and the stone steps of this house.

“Ho ‘o ‘o!” Santa says. “Tha-a-t’ll teach ‘er to mess wit me.” He glances at his pocket watch. “Oh, I gotta git to dee… dee…” He blinks twice. “Damn, where’d my sled-thingy go?”

Fresh snow dances down from the star-filled sky as Santa takes another swig of his magic sauce. He tosses the bottle; for a drunk, his aim is surprisingly good. It lands near my feet, rolling slightly on the incline. I catch sight of the label. ‘Maison Triste. North Pole Whiskey for the Broken Heart.’

Broken heart? Is there trouble at home?

Santa isn’t on a rampage. He’s lashing out in despair!

I put in a quick call to the sleepy security guard at the post office on Hollyhock Way. “You guys are often in contact with the North Pole this time of year. Find a way to reach Mrs. Claus!”

I run after Santa, my heart racing at the thought of all the damage he might have already caused. Sure enough, a few noses litter the path. Judging from the congealed blood on the road, this was an earlier attack.

My pocket buzzes. Incoming call! “Hello?”

A sweet yet strained voice reaches through the line. “This is Mrs. Claus. Betty. Is something the matter?”

“Thank you for calling me! Your husband is drunk. He’s hurting people.”

“Oh, Nick,” she mutters. “What a fool. How bad is it?”

“It’s bad. My friend. Neighbours. Noses. Roses.”

“Oh, no. Not the roses. Were they the Duchess of Portland variety?”

“Yes… How’d you know?”

“Those are my favourite. Nick can be a spiteful man.”

“I saw the bottle he tossed. I’m sorry about home troubles, but we need you. Please! Come talk to him.”

I hear nothing but silence. “Betty?”

Deep sighs. “All right. Let me use the portal. What are your coordinates?”

Two minutes later I see a puff of smoke in the shop nearby. A plump yet attractive woman tumbles from the door in her night attire, ignoring the fancy lights and festive music. She wraps the housecoat tighter, pulls the kerchief down, and marches towards me.

“Right then,” she says in a huff. “Take me to that man.”

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Ink After Dark:
https://inkafterdark.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/tipsy-santa-2015/#comment-57

Cerise

You lost ’cause I lied. I stole, and you died. I watched the life trickle, watched your breath slow and your glow fade. You looked at me once with understanding, like you knew this was how it had to end.

It was the promise that drew me to the flame. The beast I discovered too late.

I was selfish. I admit it. A true swindler. Just a few faked signatures, a few false rumours, and the land was mine.

I never thought you’d get in the way of the bullet, the one aimed for my heart that wound up in yours.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash!Friday:
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/flash-friday-vol-3-49/#comment-44066
Honourable Mention!
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The Bloodless

She bleeds life, like a dying flame, like a city starved, and as the drops fall on the dusty cool ground beneath the diseased oak, her naïvety veined and fleshed, she knows the time has come. To end it all.

But the end requires the beginning, for the Worms of Darkness feed only on memories of completion.

A fresh slice across her wrists scents the tainted air. Two more ruby drops fall, soaking the sand with a savoury metallic splash. The red bubbles and churns. The red deepens and hisses. The red morphs black, as black as her eyes and as jaded as her soul. She never should have come back. Maybe he’d still be hers.

The sands ripple. They like that.

The Worms of Darkness goad her on. More. Send us more.

They’re in control. They feed off suffering, off memories of pain. They’ve been known to keep the suicidal in suspended states until their appetites were sated. No quick deaths allowed. Long. Drawn-out. Sinister. Those were the nightmares of worth. Those were the nightmares demanding release.

She pulls memories one by one, once fresh, now rancid with spite.

We were happy. He loved me. We laughed. We danced. We dined on love. On that last night, he said he’d wait for me. Said there was no one else for him. That bastard. He lied to me. Fed me what I wanted to hear. Told me he was holding out for me. How long had he strayed? Pleased another? Laughed and smiled and danced with someone other than me?

She draws another crimson line across her skin.

The Worms of Darkness are writhing now. They rise from the soil, hot sand trembling in their wake. Long, fat black bodies glimmer on the moonlit surface, leaving sticky secretions and an odour of loss.

We will take you now, they hiss. We are satisfied. They latch onto her wrist, sucking the life, the memories, the pain.

She feels cold as the poisonous secretions swim through her veins. Sleep comes, her eyelids grow heavy. Shadows engulf the oak as her body becomes just another corpse for the soil.

The Worms of Darkness sink below the ground, belching pain into their lair, nearly full with the nightmares of life and the pulsing release of death.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash Mob:
https://flashmobwrites.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/flashmobwrites-1×36/comment-page-1/#comment-1685
3rd Place Winner!
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Softly They Scream

He slumped in the bowels of the ship. The air was dank and stagnant, and it smelled of soured apples mixed with the swill of the Arctic sea. The lump in the corner stank of urine.

He was Professor Ballard, expert in botanical poisons, brilliant man of the world plucked from prestigious research. Why was he chained?

The lump stirred. Lucas Carlotti, his devoted assistant, let out a sigh not unlike the groan of the oaken hull.

“Wake up, Carlotti!”

Carlotti opened a crusty eye. The other was swollen shut. “We’re doomed, sir,” he mumbled.

“Get up!” Ballard yelled. “We don’t belunn…” The slur in his voice bled into his vision. He tugged the chains, feeling them shred layers from his aching wrists.

It was then he noticed his collecting trunk contents strewn across the stinking boards. The Zigadenus from Alaska. His famous find. Where was the bulb?

His blurry eyes fell to the metal bowl someone had tossed his way.

The water with the tang. His heart fluttered as it failed. The water laced with death camas, his parting gift to the world.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash!Friday:
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/flash-friday-vol-3-47/#comment-43789

Honey Highlights in C Minor

I can stop this. Today. I won’t end up like my old man.

Brave words, kiddo, but we both know you’ll never burn off your daddy’s genes. Give in. Let us take control. We’re bursting with song, a rich arpeggio guaranteed to ignite.

I shake my head, fending off the rumbling tones sinking heady chords into my eardrum. My trembling fingers curl up towards my scalp, seeking threads of chestnut. Honey highlights.

Steady pulses heighten, shifting into glissando. The notes turn staccato, and they…won’t…back…down.

Thumb and index latch on, gripping, ripping free.

Mirror reflects bare patches. Flaking skin.

Another piece of hair flutters groundward. Worthless, like my daddy before me. I kick the gravestone. Just look where his obsession took him.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash!Friday:
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/flash-friday-vol-3-45/#comment-43443

Lavender Blossoms but Once

“Is she…dead?” I bent over Auntie Zarah. Her pudgy eyes remained shut, as is she couldn’t bear to be stuck in this hovel.

Not hovel. Home. Complete with herb garden and 15 egg-laying marvels.

“Good. The old bag’s had it.” Rupert’s sweet-as-honey voice drizzled its charm into my naive ear.

I giggled nervously at the sight of Auntie Zarah flopped like swollen spaghetti noodles amongst the lavender blooms.

It was nice though. The silence. And yet I could hear her still. “If he winks, reel him in. You might never get another chance.”

Was I uncomely? Well. I had Rupert. Although, he was rather dashing.

Suspicions snaked up my back.

I scanned the house, the garden shed, the pink enclosure.

That snake wanted our chickens!

I thrashed from his milk-softened hands, kicking Auntie’s head in my haste. She grunted, struggled upright.

“He wants our hens!”

Auntie Zarah turned a furious eye. “You’re taking Sophia, not my prized hens.”

Slap.

The sting of a verbal strike as love slipped from trembling fingers.

It was a nightmare I’d been too naive to notice. Afternoon sun peeked through the cloud layer, and for once, I saw this place for what it was. A hovel.

I ran from the garden to the dusty road ahead. I had a cousin by the seashore.

Yes.

I’ve always dreamt of the sea.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash!Friday:
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/flash-friday-vol-3-44/#comment-43226

The Day of the Kaleidoscope Dish

He sat before me, munching away on his second plate of Frosted Kolu Delight, lips curved at the corners as he struggled to swallow the red sauce. I knew he was thinking about something stupid.

“What is it this time?”

“At times like these I’m glad I got that pet rhinoceros. Now I don’t have to fear the radiation surges from Saturn.”

See what I told you? Stupid. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

He just howled in return, cackling away like a drunken hyena about to explode into tiny fragrant fragments. “That’s what makes it so delicious! Oh, that was great. I need to come up with more sayings.”

“Please don’t.”

“Oh, waiter!” He waved at the burly server with the two heads and thick purple-scaled arms. “More Frosted Kolu, please.”

I ran after the server. “What’s the flavouring in that dish?”

He just grinned. “Agoti leaves. Highly mind-changing.”

Ah. It all made sense now.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash!Friday:
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/flash-friday-vol-3-42/#comment-42771

Tumbleweed Believers

I met him on the steps of the old church, watching the sky for some sign, some hope for a better tomorrow that didn’t reek of stagnant sludge, didn’t shove grit down the lungs of the innocent.

He looked with bleary eyes, wiping the tears with the back of his grimy hand, flexing his weathered arms beneath his tattered grey sleeves. I could see the limp muscles fold in upon themselves. Hear them weeping from hunger, starved, used to the limit, like everything else in this place.

I was a stranger in these lands. I watched the old man’s resolve stiffen as he noticed it too.

“What do you want, young man?”

“I just—”

“Came to laugh at us? Take us away? We don’t need your help. God will provide.”

His strong words didn’t match the fear seeping through his milk chocolate eyes. Loud, hacking coughs knocked him down. Down to the ground as tumbleweeds bounced by, the nearby stones smoothed by erratic winds.

He declined my arm. Shook his head, his clothing, his reality. “My community is waiting.”

I watched him stride through the rotted doors, to the darkened interior where waited the rodents and the bats.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash!Friday:
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/flash-friday-vol-3-41/#comment-42513

The Gateway

They say if you love something, you should let it fly free. I grabbed my avian ally, opened the windows, and let it soar. It hovered for one moment, then flapped to freedom on the coattails of those gloomy grey clouds.

Circling back, I grabbed my woollen blanket and my thick winter cloak. I loved their warmth. Time to fly. They fluttered in the chill air, drifting on the mist that snaked its way into my heart. A blast ricocheted, and soaring fabric screamed. Garments of companionship plummeted towards crimson sand marred by the patter of frantic feet.

The cries around me, the city in flames, went unnoticed.

My glassy eyes spotted Carina cowering in the corner. “Sweet friend,” I said with a slur. “We must be free.” I grabbed her slender wrist and let her fly.

She may have screamed, but I was already searching for the next symbol.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash!Friday:
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/flash-friday-vol-3-39/#comment-41997

The Whiskers, the Beaks, and the Plants of the Forest

The door was locked, and the lights were out. Odostemon Owl was not at home.

Ruellia Raccoon tossed a fearful glance at Verbena Vole. “It’s getting dark. We’ll never find our way home now.” Although Ruellia was a raccoon, she was ever so fearful of the dark.

Deinandra Duck fanned her tail feathers and quacked. “Is that why you brought us to the woods? To scare us? Fat lot you know. I’m not afraid of the dark.”

Verbena stamped her tiny foot. “No! Yes.”

“Well, which is it?” Deinandra loved the way the air hissed through her beak and echoed in the evening lull.

“He’s away,” Verbena said. “I brought you here to help me.”

“An adventure! Oh, I love those. Will it involve swords and death howls?” Deinandra’s head bobbed with excitement.

“Or handsome heroes at a castle? Indoors, safe from harm?”

Deinandra snorted. “Don’t be daft, Ruellia. Too many fairy stories.”

Verbena pulled a bobby pin from her smock and fiddled with the door. It clicked and swung open. “After you, ladies.”

Pitter patter on the packed earth floor. Verbena shone the light around. Clocks stood packed against the walls, some ticking, some broken.

“We need to find my grandfather’s watch,” Verbena said. “Gold. Short chain. He took it.”

Deinandra grabbed a jewelled dagger. “Ha! Got my sword!”

They searched through the piles, pushing aside anything larger than a thimble.

Gold, on a short chain. Verbena reached out, feeling the cool kiss on her brown velvet paw. “Success!”

Lights flooded the hall. “Whoooo’s there?”

“Quick, girls!” Deinandra said. “Make a run for it!”

In a flurry of feathers, fur, and ringed tails, the three friends bolted for the door. Deinandra swung her dagger, quacking and hissing with all her might.

Odostemon Owl couldn’t guess the identity of his evening visitors, but he kept the bobby pin, making it part of a scary tale to frighten the young owlets pretending to sleep upstairs.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash!Friday:
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/flash-friday-vol-3-38/#comment-41801