Peeling Back

It’s been a while. My contribution to this week’s Inspiration Monday.

* * * * *

Peeling back the cover was the easy part. It was the thin sheet that concerned him. Cold air settling on bare flesh would be a wake-up call to the deepest sleeper on this ship, with everyone programmed to fear the cold like his kind were prone to fear the heat.

The ceiling ducts clicked, slowly at first, gaining tempo before the cabin heat blasted against his back. Now was his moment. He had to work fast or he’d melt before he got out of there.

Index finger and thumb of each hand pinched the top of the sheet. The sleeper shifted her legs. Her limp arm dropped from her side to the cot. She rolled onto her back, and he used the distraction of her motion to jerk the sheet down to her knees. And there it was. Not even strapped down. Waiting for him.

There was something else–a tension on his leg. His eyeballs burned in the sockets. That heat. It was shutting down his sight, his lungs. He’d discarded his suit outside the cabin to gain agility, but he’d underestimated how quickly their heat would affect him. He reached to free his leg but his fingers met the hot skin of an EF-19 human fist clutching his pant leg. One merciful moment of regained sight showed him her outstretched arm, her open eyes, her hardened glare. Just before he fell to his knees.

Infinity in Pieces

I didn’t intend to contribute to Inspiration Monday this week, but this one just popped in there without my consent. Can anyone find the word with the double meaning?

* * * * *

I was inspecting the puncture in my chest armor when something slammed me from behind. My body joined the others on the ground, and I rolled until I found the hard flat surface. I grabbed the side of my helmet–a reflex, to fling it off. To breathe free air.

Your world is your suit. Anything outside your suit will bring death until proven otherwise.

This air was not free, and I couldn’t afford what they were charging. On my back, through the dust on my helmet’s visor, I watched the largest moon’s moon, its visible spin, its tarnished brown surface rolling to brilliant pink. Moons of moons. I wanted to go home, to my single, unencumbered moon, my one reliable piece of the infinity of space.

My head swam when I braced my elbows against the ground and pushed up, and wet heat crawled down my arms and back. I moved my eyes to Suit.Status on my helmet’s control panel. Status normal. No breach. All strength left my arms and I fell back, into a slough inside my suit.

My training officer had warned of death outside my suit, never of one inside it.

How Did You Get in Here?

My contribution to this week’s Inspiration Monday.

* * * * *

I round the fender of the car and power on my scanner. Just a chick fumbling with her keys. Nothing to see here. The car chirps twice, disarmed. I get in and push the ignition button. The dash lights up all around me like a miniature city at night. The engine growls–a surprised grizzly woken early from deep slumber. Easy, boy. And all this in less than ten seconds from the bushes to the driver’s seat. I owe Shayd for his new program. How I’ll pay him? TBD.

Shove into first, and the car squeals out of there. Let them hear. At zero to sixty in three point five seconds, it’s far too late for them anyway. I check the rear view mirror, and that’s when I see it hunkering in the shadows surrounded by tinted glass. A bent form. A shoulder. Human hair. Buzzed short, like a man’s. I have no weapon, not even some lousy pepper spray. Be cool. If he was supposed to be here, he wouldn’t be hiding. If he was going to attack me, he already would’ve.

“How did you get in here?”

Clothes rustle against the seat. His eyes appear in the mirror. “Same way you did.”

“Yet I’m the one driving it away.”

“I thought you were the owner.”

“How do you know I’m not?”

He reaches to the front seat and picks up my scanner. “This doesn’t look like the factory key.”

I snatch it from him. “Where do you want me to drop you off?”

He laughs. “Not so fast. I was here first.” Arms, head, and torso shove between the headrests and into the front passenger seat, then legs, too long for such a maneuver but he does it anyway, all without kicking me in the face. “Seems there’s one thing we both want.”

“No, there’s something I have, and something you want.”

He doesn’t answer right away. He’s waiting for me to look at him. I shouldn’t, but I do.

He raises both eyebrows. Smiles. “Are we still talking about the car?”

Firebrand

Another continuation. Am I stuck in a rut? Maybe, but it’s a nice rut–the crickets sing to me at night and there’s a little puddle of water fed by some kind of underground spring.

To get the whole story, read Set Up then read Second Person.

This one is also my entry for this week’s Inspiration Monday. I used the prompt in a predictable way, but it fit so nicely I had to use it.

* * * * *

I’m sleeping off a late night when I get the message. Only that could have penetrated my dead man’s slumber. There must be something to the sixth sense. Add seven years of bloodlust and it’s a sixth sense on speed.

I untangle myself from Billy’s girlfriend and hunt for my clothes. Shit. Billy’s girlfriend. But what the fuck’s he gonna say to the guy who catapulted through the ranks as fast as I did? He answers to me now. He may not know that yet, but I do. That’s all that matters.

I take the train so I can think. A guy in my position would bring some help, but I don’t want to clue him in until I’m ready. Fingers is still there and probably has guys lined up at every exit. The Great Wall of China just went up outside Lucky China Buffet, and my big brother is tucked away inside, enjoying his last meal.

He shouldn’t have come back. He knows he’s an endangered species in this town. What he doesn’t know is now, I’m this town’s wealthiest poacher.

An Odd Thing to Steal

Inspiration Monday XXX – I planned to make this hotter in the spirit of the Roman numeral, but I ran out of time.

* * * * *

When I return to camp, there is a bare patch of ground in place of my bed. A bed is an odd thing to steal. It must have been moved for a reason.

My other belongings appear to be untouched. I drop my baskets to the ground and sit to remove my wet sandals. Leaning back on my elbows, I stretch my legs long, and look directly into the gaze of Singing Sun’s brother. Although he’s always smirking, tonight’s smirk crosses the distance between us and lands on me. I should have known he was a practical joker. If my bed has one speck of dirt on it, I’m going to make him scrub it ten times in the river tomorrow and then make him watch it dry while his chores go undone.

He rises from his spot, and I look away. Wind touches leaves high in the trees. I roll each vertebra against the ground, one by one, until the back of my head settles against earth still warm from the day. Footsteps close in. He appears above me.

He looks at my baskets. “Fever Berries? And what’s in the other one?”

“Empty,” I say to the trees. “I’m saving it for the testicles of the man who stole my bed.”

His knees hit the ground between my legs and I sit up in reflex. Not even a breeze could pass between his lips and mine. So much for playing aloof.

“Could you remove them in the morning?” he asks. “I might need them tonight.”

“I pity the poor girl.”

“Self-pity?” He clicks his tongue. “Not the best trait.”

“Neither is thievery. Where is it?”

He looks up. I follow his gaze. At once, I notice a swaying hunk of tan, dangling from a high branch. Had I noticed it before, I could have shot it down with a dart and avoided all this nonsense.

He sits back on his heels and smiles. Our civilization is struggling, the world is ending, and he’s playing games.

I pull my legs away from him and cross them under me. “Start climbing. You have two minutes.”

He doesn’t move. I imagine those thick arms and legs moving up that tree, him returning to me panting, sweating, and full of victory. The same way he’d look if…

“You have no bed. You share my bed. That is the plan.”

“Whose plan?”

He jabs his thumb into his chest. “My plan.”

My blood flushes, feverish and electrical, like I’ve polished off my whole basket of berries. It seems I wouldn’t mind being pressed against that chest myself. I push up and walk on my knees toward him. Here’s where I should slap his smug face. I kiss him hard. He’s a solid pillar – unsurprised, unflinching, and completely unguarded. Yet he barely responds.

He waits for me to pull away, then he says, “I only said I’d share my bed. Do you want to alter my plan?”

“Yes.” I stand. “Let’s move your bed far from camp. After all this, I’m going to make you perform.”

He catches me by the leg, takes a quick look around for spectators, then runs his tongue up the inside of my thigh before he stands next to me. “Yes, ma’am.”

The One Thing You Should Never Forget

Inspiration Monday XXIII

And here’s an exercise for all of you. As much as I love praise (bring it on! just kidding. okay maybe not), give me some criticism on this one. What do you hate? Come on. It will be fun. :D

* * * * *

I watch the raindrop crawl down his forehead, roll around his eyebrow and down the side of his nose. He exhales hard, then looks past my shoulder. She is standing there. That woman.

“What do you want me to do?” he asks.

“Kill her.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

How can he continue being the good one? After all she’s done to him. To us.

He leans toward me and looks into my eyes. “She’s my flesh and blood. In this world, after all we’ve lost, it’s the one thing you should never forget.”

It would be wrong of me to tell him, to load that weight on him, when he carries around so much already. I can’t tell him. “She killed your flesh and blood.” I cover my mouth with both hands. This sleep deprivation has stolen my restraint. This violence around us has silenced my good judgment. The rain penetrates the defenses of my suit, sliding down my back like tiny icy fingers.

He pulls his gun. It hovers in the air next to my ear, gleaming silver on black, aimed behind me. Everything about him stills, except for the rain running clean tracks through the dirt on his face.

She laughs, a sound that morphs the icy fingers on my back into razor blades. “Jason, I-“

His empty hand covers my ear as he fires.

You’re Still Here?

Inspiration Monday XXII

* * * * *

Uneven footsteps click against concrete and echo in my ears still hot and fuzzy from the loud music. There’s not a soul around. Oh yeah, there’s a girl on my arm. She’s hanging on, heavy like a bowling ball in my hand dragging me to the ground. I straighten to take my arm back. Jeez. That was my head. I look behind us. Did we run into that pole? I laugh and rub my temple. That’s going to hurt tomorrow.

Eureka it’s the car. Abrupt red in a maze of gray. All these levels look the same. They do it on purpose just to mess us up when all we want to do is go home. It’s so far away. We’ll never make it.

Two beeps greet us. I open her door, drop her into the seat. Her hair sprays across the head rest. Why did I pick the blonde? The brunette was cuter. I grab the door handle. Wait, that’s not right. I put her leg inside. Slam the door. Oh, seat belt. Open the door, wrestle her seat belt over her and click it. She tries to kiss me but misses, hits my ear instead. My feet drag through mud to my door. But there’s no mud here.

I push the ignition. What’s that sound? I squint at the blinking words in the dash. “Check tire pressure,” I say, but my lips won’t move. She giggles in her sleep.

My forehead hits the steering wheel, and I force myself back outside. Four flat tires shit this is the boss’s car. Shit shit shit. Two hundred fifty fucking thousand dollar supercar and some jerk has to flatten the tires because I have one and he doesn’t. Drive on the rims. Wouldn’t be the first time. I already owe him four tires why not throw in some rims.

It takes a year to get back in the car. I hit the button again. No engine. Again. Nothing. Something blinks at me, but it’s a cartoon. A picture of a foot. How am I supposed to know what that means?

A crash on the roof wakes me. I wipe the drool off my chin. Black wings span the hood. Red eyes stare. And fangs? I get out.

He leaps off the car. A demon of some sort. “You’re still here?” he asks.

“Can’t get the car started.”

He looks at his nails. Not nails. Talons. “Did you push in the clutch?”

Oh. Guess not. But he’s the asshole. I’m not stupid. I shove him. He hisses and spins, slicing my shirt in four places.

“What do you want?” I yell.

“I need a soul. You, or her. Your choice.”

I want to go home. And I would kill for some fish tacos. “That’s easy. Her.”

He grabs my throat. “Wrong answer.”

He’s almost dragged me to the elevator when the car’s other door opens. “You’re leaving? You pig!” Suddenly she’s wide awake. “I can’t drive in these shoes!”

The demon gives me a knowing look. “Okay. I’ll take her.”

Rearrange Me ‘Til I’m Sane

Inspiration Monday XX. One more X, and I would have had to have added much more detail. :O

“would have had to have”? Jeez. Is there a better way to say that? It’s painful.

* * * * *

The shade of night offers no relief from the heat. I swelter against him, boil in his arms, melt into the bed of dusty earth and dead grass. Any more of this, and he’ll have to reform my body in the morning. Rearrange me ’til I’m sane.

His mouth is dry and so is mine. We’ve sweated all our moisture out. We both know there’s no water for miles, but in this moment, we could both dehydrate and die and it would all be worth it. Our bodies would return to the earth together, fertilizing the soil, this union creating life in a different way.

He pushes up on straight, stiff arms to look at me. His chest heaves. The air floods between us, pushing him an ocean away from me. A vibration tickles the back of my head, and I turn my ear to the ground. It’s just a hint. It could be anything. He puts his ear against the ground beside me. His eyes are mirrors of mine. The vibration builds into something we both recognize and we sit up simultaneously. Orange twinkles through the forest toward us.

He takes my hand and we run. We’re too dehydrated. We’re too far from water. Sound laps at the backs of my legs, stealing my death in bliss and handing out a death in fear.

“No!” I stop so abruptly I fall to my knees. He stops a few yards ahead and turns. I sit back on my heels. “No.”

He puts his hands on his knees, bows his head. Breathes. When he looks up, all I see is a wicked smile. “We face it,” he says.

“Yes.”

“No one’s ever faced it.”

I stand. “We face it.”

He comes to my side. We watch it coming toward us. Our breath slows. Our hearts calm. And we welcome our death in freedom.

I’m The Only One Who Can’t

For this week’s Inspiration Monday, I’ve continued the story from last week. They each stand alone, but if you want the whole story, read last week’s “I Dreamed This” first.

* * * * *

This new room is all wrong. I want to go back home. Your pupils are still dilated, your eyes are still bloodshot. The glare of these lights make it so obvious. Don’t you know what will happen as soon as they put it all together?

My awareness is a shadow on the ceiling, anchored by the body in the bed. Witnessing everything, participating in nothing. Unable to be with you, yet unable to leave. You’re looking into eyes that aren’t attached to me anymore. You’re holding the hand I can no longer feel. I see your lips move, I hear your words, but my response steams the glass in front of my face and bounces around inside this prison.

This dream of ours stinks of reality. We did this together, but I know you will take the blame. And I’m the only one who can’t tell you I’ve forgiven you.

I Dreamed This

I missed a week of Inspiration Monday, but I’m back.

I’ve been busy writing draft one of my third book, which is actually the prequel in the series. I’m about one hundred pages in. My manuscripts usually end up being 500-600, but I have a lot of ground to cover in this prequel and I’m starting to wonder if it’s going to turn into two novels. Or three. I’m also procrastinating working on the synopsis for book one so I can start querying. It’s written, but needs major tweaking.

So here’s my attempt at this week’s Inspiration Monday.

* * * * *

I dreamed this. Wind so violent, tearing at my hair, my clothes. The ground rumbles underfoot, and the city falls before my eyes. The dust becomes a new entity, rising up, higher than the top of the once highest building, yet suddenly the wind cuts off and I’m shielded inside a clean, soundless space, like an insect caught in an upside down glass.

You dreamed this, from the other side. Your distance flavored your terror with helplessness. You didn’t know I was inside that glass.

And when I woke up, you were there, but I was not. I was still inside that glass, watching you try to wake me.