Halloween – A Date With Dismemberment

Thunk. Marcus grunted as his knife sank into flesh with a solid thud, jerking him forwards as the hilt rested flush with skin.

Sawing sideways, he opened the wound further, grinning ferally as flesh gave way under the sharp blade. Pleased with the clean, precise lines of the first fleshy wound, he yanked the knife out of the body and eyed it, lining up the next cut.

Plunging the knife into the body again, Marcus thanked God that the specimen hadn’t been alive for this; he shuddered to think of the mess. Much better this way, after they’ve had a chance to…dry up a bit.

Glancing at the first wound for reference, he carved another precise shape, careful to match it to the first. Symmetry was important. Such dismemberment required precision, and an aesthetic eye. He didn’t often get an opportunity to practice; after all, it became a little odd if he had carved carcasses littering the house year round.

The second wound complete, he again yanked the knife out with a fleshy squelch.

Just one more. This one required all of his attention, and Marcus thrust his tongue between his lips as he sank the knife in one last time. Traditional shape, I think. No need to ignore what has worked so well in the past.

Sliding the knife through skin and pulpy flesh, Marcus carved the final shape, hands sticky but sure as he copied a pattern he’d long grown fond of.

Satisfied, he pulled the knife out and wiped the slick, sticky blade on a towel, before stepping back to admire the artfully dismembered body on his kitchen table.

The finished Jack o Lantern grinned back, jagged mouth dark with satisfaction.

Rainbow Drinking Lessons

Two rows of brightly coloured shots lined the bar. Amber looked dubiously from the drinks to her older sister.

“So I just – what? Drink one after the other?”

Her sister rolled her eyes, lifting the red shot to her lips. “Just drink them already!”, she urged, knocking back the drink with a single swallow and a wince.

“Right. Can I sip a bit from each one? Seems like a waste just to swallow them in one mouthful.” Amber asked anxiously, new to this whole ‘shots’ business. Or. Well…drinking at all really. Even legally allowed to drink, she’d never had much use for alcohol.

Setting the empty shot glass on the bar with a soft clink, her sister picked up the orange shot, eyebrow raised. “Are you serious? Pick it up, one mouthful, pick up the next one and repeat. It’s not rocket science, Amber.”

“But – my mouth is small! See?” Amber opened her mouth to demonstrate. The eyebrow arched further as the orange shot disappeared as fast as the red.

“Don’t give me that crap, Amber. Do it, before I ask for tequila and some lemons. Tequila is nasty, evil stuff. Drink your rainbow instead.” Another clink, followed shortly by another; the yellow shot gone before Amber had even started.

“Fine. I’m doing it.” She lifted the first shot to her lips, only to see her sister staring at her. “Don’t look at me! I can’t do it if you’re looking at me; I can feel you judging me.”

Her sister looked away studiously, and Amber steeled herself. She could do this; it was just a mouthful. Not hard at all.

“Oh for god sake, woman! Just do it!” her sister exclaimed, apparently unable to help herself. “Here. We’ll do it together.”

She lifted the green one, tipping her head back as the glass tilted. Amber tried to mimic her – and succeed partially; the minute the sharp alcohol hit her tongue she flinched, nearly stopping. Pouring the rest of the shot into her mouth quickly and swallowing, she closed her eyes and shuddered at the burn of alcohol in her throat.

“See? Not hard. Now, again.”

Slightly flushed, her sister picked up her final shot; blue this time. Without waiting for Amber to follow suit, she tipped the azure liquid into her mouth, swallowing as she put the shot glass on the bar with a triumphant tap.

Amber eyed her four remaining shots in trepidation. This could take a while.

Reviewing – how effective is it?

I struck upon an interesting question the other day; how much of your reading/viewing is actually affected by reading reviews?

I mean to say – if you read a review on a novel or a movie, does it affect whether or not you read/see it? For myself; not at all. Despite writing my own reviews on this blog, I don’t actually read many reviews at all, and generally only once I’ve seen/read the item in question. When I do read reviews, it’s generally afterwards, when I’m looking for corresponding views to my own; nothing much can convince me otherwise once I’ve made my decision on a book or movie.

When Cloud Atlas was released in cinemas – I completely missed it. No idea it existed. When I did hear about it, I read a few reviews, which were split 50/50 on love/hate. Some hated it, didn’t understand it, and said it was over-long and lacking coherency. Others adored it, admired the complexity of the unfolding plot and the skill of the actors in juggling multiple roles that crossed gender, sexuality and race boundaries across multiple timelines. I figured ‘what the hell’, and bought it on DVD, setting aside a morning to watch it. Yes, it was long. Yes, the initial lack of a central plot was a bit disconcerting. But at the end of three hours, I was a weeping, snotty mess on the floor of my living room, mind blank as I tried to comprehend the enormity of what I’d just witnessed.

If I’d read only the negative reviews and dismissed my gut feeling that this movie might be special – what might I have missed?

Of course, this is not to say that those who didn’t like it are uncouth plebeians not fit to breathe my air – although I might secretly think that in the privacy of my own brain ;)

What then, is the point of reviewing? Sure, they provide commentary on subjects you might not have noticed while you were crying your eyes out over the death of a character, or gibbering excitedly over an epic fight scene – but if the point of a review is to provide an insight into the quality of any given book, movie or television show – does it matter if people love/hate it despite its flaws?

Clearly not, if the popularity of websites like GoodReads, IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes is any indication.

Salvation

Without bothering to see who was watching, Therese snapped her fingers. Behind her, her childhood home imploded, crumpling inward with an anticlimactic whine and crunch of wood. Number 43, Pinegrove Road ceased to exist, a concrete foundation and a letterbox the only thing standing between 41 and 45.

Therese felt instantly lighter, a bitter smile quirking her painted lips as she climbed into a waiting car. There were things that needed attending to, retribution chief among them. Once her small personal vendetta was finished – the real work would begin.

As the silent, faceless driver pulled away, Therese glanced back at the empty block where she’d grown up. Frankly, she’d done the neighbours a service. The pervasive sense of wrongness had clung to the abandoned house for years, manifestation of the pain she’d endured in the name of ‘salvation’, of a cure from her abnormality.

Today, she had returned the favour. She didn’t think her parents had been particularly appreciative of it, if the dogmatic shrieking was any indication. Her father, particularly, had clung to his sick dogma as she’d killed him, thickening the blood in his veins until it stopped his heart.

She hadn’t needed saving. She’d saved herself.

“Everything alright, ma’am?” asked the driver as they left Pinegrove Road behind.

Therese smiled slowly. “Perfect, everything is perfect.”

Superman

The door swings inward, and the man I know only as Superman shambles in, doffing his Hannah Montana cap at the nearest cashier. “Hello, darling; I like your hair today,” he says, a greeting he offers to any number of passing women on a daily basis. I’ve learnt to just smile and thank him; he doesn’t mean anything by it.

His black facial hair is carefully trimmed today, no pervasive smells cling to his raggedy Superman costume or the scruffy sneakers on his feet. Someone at home must have convinced him to shower; though there is never any parent or carer present whenever he traipses about the local area.

As I continue tidying shelves, I watch as he wanders over to the books and videos; secondhand media seems to be a favourite of his, and each time he visits, this is always his first stop. He talks to himself, then to others as he pulls out Power Rangers and Pokemon videos, tucking them into his wheelie basket.

A small child approaches the wall of videos as Superman browses, picking out a Pokemon video. Seeing this, Superman turns and says, “That’s Ash. Do you know what he says? ‘Pikachu, I choose you!’ Do you like Pikachu? Charizard is my favourite – he breathes fire. Like a dragon.” He grins, eyes unfocused and teeth crooked and yellow – but the child he has spoken to sees a kindred spirit and gabbles excitedly about Pokemon before his mother hustles him away, glancing nervously at the colourful figure of Superman, with his costume, his Hannah Montana hat, pirate sword belted to his skinny waist.

Unfazed, Superman moves on, shuffling lopsidedly towards the secondhand housewares, picking up toy trucks and making engine sounds to the delight of the children standing nearby, sorting through the cameras and other small electrical items before approaching me as I stand by a cart of new stock to be added to the shelves.

“Rowr – I like the colour of your hair today, miss,” he begins, and I smile indulgently. Despite facing in my general direction, his eyes are crossed and unfocused as he speaks, sweeping his cap off his head in a slight bow. “I need a camera for some photos I’m taking tomorrow, but this one is broken. See? The cap where – where the batteries go, it’s gone! That’s a bit silly – the batteries won’t work now. Do you know what size batteries I need for this one? This one is silver, it matches my pirate sword, see? Arrrrr! You land lubbers!”

Struggling to follow along with his monologue, and uncertain where to look since his eyes aren’t focused on me, I smile and take the broken camera, before looking at the other one in his hand. “Looks like AA batteries to me, just two of them. You’ll need some film too, don’t forget. Have you seen the Bumblebee helmet on the shelf, today? It makes sounds and everything; here, let me show you.”

Leading him back over to the toy shelves, I let him pick up the Transformers helmet and press the buttons, before saying goodbye and returning to work.

Half an hour later, I spot him at the register, counting out silver coins to the long-suffering cashier. She is patiently trying to tell him he doesn’t have enough money for the bag of toys, the Power Rangers videos and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpack. Eventually, she gives up, taking his pile of silver and gold coins and giving him a receipt in return. He gathers his treasures and, curling a flirty wave in her direction, shuffles to the door, holding it for a departing woman before disappearing to wherever his daily adventures were taking him next.

Forces of nature

The sky is mottled purple and grey; storm clouds from horizon to horizon. Air charged and humid in the early evening, Alice lay beneath the glass ceiling as the breeze picked up, dancing over her heated skin.

Lightning ripples in a sharp flash across the sky, thunder rumbling through her very bones. The neighbourhood dogs howl and rage at the noise, sirens wailing in the distance.

“Enjoying the show, babe?”

Alice glanced away from the angrily lit sky to grin at her boyfriend leaning on the doorjamb.

“Yup, just need popcorn. How bout you? I can hear the screamo from here; trying to drown out the scary storm?”

He affected a look of outrage. “Hey! It’s a legitimate fear! Your cat is hiding under the bed; you gonna mock her, too?”

The room brightened briefly as fork lightning split the sky, the house shuddering with a loud crack of thunder.

“Don’t be silly, Megs can’t help it. Come on, the storm’s moving away over the beach now, sit and watch the rest with me.”

He grimaced. “Uh, no thanks. IPod needs syncing, busy busy.”

Snorting as her partner disappeared back down the hallway, Alice turned back to the dark, roiling sky. As the thunder moved further away, the heavens opened, cool rain pouring in heavy droplets onto the glass ceiling, distorting the sheets of light that rippled across the purplish sky.

Suppose it’s a bit late for popcorn, she thought idly, breathing in the scent of ozone as the rain continued to fall, drowning out the sound of the fading thunder. God I love a good thunderstorm. 

Inferno

Up to her shoulders in the muddy water of the dam, Claire shields her face from the falling ash; all that remains of her bushland home. The sky is grey with smoke, glowing red at the horizon where the flames are roaring with the prevailing wind; the same wind that wreaked devastation on her beloved home.

The house is gone; she can see the remains – glowing and charred – from the safety of the water. The horses are gone; they bolted as the flames roared down the hillside toward the property, right on top of them before Claire had the chance to do much more than grab the dog and dive head first into the dam. She sat in the shallows now, streaked with dirt and ash as she hugged Baz to her as he panted and struggled.

Everything, her whole life – gone in a rush of heat and crackling flames. Baz was all she had left; Baz and the smoking, black remains of her house.

Think I’ll just sit here a while longer, she thought blankly,  eyes still taking in the devastation. Me’n Baz will just sit here til someone finds us. Or until the flames burn what’s left of the place…

Eighteen – An Open Letter to the Birthday Girl

Eighteen years ago, I gained a sister.

A brat who stole my teddies, tried to give me a concussion, and once as a toddler, refused to walk for two weeks because of a grazed knee. A sister that followed me around in primary school, her and her little posse of five year olds. Who tormented my cat got away with it. Who stole my love of Disney and Harry Potter and took it for her own. Who was, and remains to this day, incredibly gullible. Up until this morning, she was convinced I hadn’t bought her a birthday present. That I wasn’t going to buy one at all.

Eighteen years ago, I gained a sister, and a lifelong friend.

I beamed with pride as she put on a school uniform for the first time, protected her from the torment of our teasing brother. Stayed up chatting and giving advice late into the night, rewrote her English essays and held her together before she left overseas for the first time. Teased her mercilessly over boys and her unending gullibility. Laughed until I cried and my ribs ached at her impressions, her accents and her dance moves. My sister is a weirdo, but maybe that’s why we get along – like attracts like, doesn’t it?

Today, that weirdo turns eighteen. So, Happy Birthday, bitch – you’re a pain in the arse but I promise I don’t hold it against you!

Fictional Homicide

‘As Anna watched, flattened beneath the sorting table, her coworkers body shuddered once more before falling still. The slick, ferrous tang of blood filled the air, and the horror of her situation dimmed somewhat as the footsteps of the homicidal customer moved away from Anna’s hiding place.

Averting her eyes from the horribly bloodied body of her coworker, Anna tried listened desperately for signs that the killer was returning. She had no idea where anybody else was, whether they were even still alive. It was possible that Bec was the only casualty. Guess if it had to happen to anyone -‘

The clack of keys paused.

“Can I write that? I mean, she’s an idiot, sure. But do I really need to off her in fiction?” mused the writer to herself.

She snorted, fingers tapping away on the keyboard once more. “Of course I can!”

***

Anybody else guilty of this?