Outstretched Fingers

Inspiration Monday XVI

* * * * *

The warrior shoots another glance at me. This time, he doesn’t look away. If his aim with a weapon is as pointed, as determined, he will return undefeated. This ceremony is his, but as the night slips along, with each glance, he seems to make it more about me.

His skin is the darkest of my generation, several shades darker than babies born this season. Our sun dissolves into the indigo sky more each day. Sky of periwinkle when I was a child. Now indigo, soon to black. What color will our babies’ skin be when our sun has abandoned us? Will we lighten into nothingness?

He coasts through the crowd without breaking our gaze. He stops in front of me. The celebration around us muffles, like a giant has clamped a shell over the two of us.

He touches my shoulder. “Ing-nikg-ah.” His name, a name my tongue could never pronounce.

I touch his shoulder. “Shee-ylan-bsh.” My name, as foreign to his tongue as his name is to mine. Sounds only heard among women. Unknown to men as his language is unknown to me.

Bodies silhouetted against flame dance in his dark eyes. His skin shows through the symbol of protection carved into the fuzz on his cheeks, the hair on his newly shaved head. The symbol inked on his arms and down his back hours ago. Inked on my belly the day I became a woman.

He trails his fingers across my collarbone, then along my shoulders as he walks around me. His touch on my skin is hotter than the embers from the fire, tracing an invisible rope. A snare. He wants me on his last night here.

When he returns to his position facing me, he lowers his hand. He smiles. He waits. I wish I could say his name, vocalize a response his ears would understand. The only language between man and woman is that of the body.

My outstretched fingers give him my answer.

Mindstorm

Inspiration Monday XV!

* * * * *

“There’s an obstruction in the main exhaust!” Cyd’s voice echoed down the chamber to her, reminding her of the empty expanse on either side of her.

She checked the clips on her harness for the fiftieth time. The lack of gravity was now her friend. If the engine suddenly powered back on, it would be her worst enemy. Without the harness, she’d be sucked straight out of the ship. In pieces. The grates were designed to keep metal and rock out. To a soft human body, they were vacuum-powered meat grinders. She’d seen it happen.

“I can see it, but I can’t reach it. Send Banj up.”

“He’s not with me.” She switched on her radio. “Banj, do you copy?”

Fingers clutched her arm. She unholstered her weapon and spun. Her helmet light illuminated Banj’s face, and she kicked him backwards with both feet. “Nice one, kid. Sometimes I forget I gotta keep an eye on you.”

Banj’s helmet light flicked on. “Easy prey, sweetheart.” He’d just had his thirteenth birthday. Now he thought he was a man, thought he could get away with calling her sweetheart. Even though he’d been calling her that since he was nine.

“Climb up with me.” Banj tossed his line up a few sections. His light got smaller and smaller.

She slid the cover over the control panel. Nothing she could do here would fix an obstruction. It was all up to Banj. Pretty soon he’d be too big for this job, and they’d have to find another kid.

She followed Banj’s light up the chamber. Cyd hooked her line to the wall next to his and Banj’s, then helped Banj into the exhaust opening. When Banj was out of reach, Cyd caught her eye. She knew what he was thinking. This is no job for a kid. She was thinking the same thing. Especially after what happened to Banj’s predecessor.

Shock waves rippled down the chamber as Banj worked the obstruction free. The air shuddered with each strike, releasing pressure that would kill them all if the engine powered on. Mindstorm creaked and groaned around her. She looked at Cyd. The ship should be silent. All systems should be down.

Cyd went for his radio, and she scrambled up her line to Banj.

Wait For My Signal

Here’s this week’s Inspiration Monday.

* * * * *

His lips taste like the dust of the desert when he wakes me in the mornin’. The night before, they flavored mine with whiskey and cinnamon. I ain’t never known a better combination. The next time I bake cinnamon cookies I’m fittin’ to add a splash of whiskey.

“Darlin’, you better git before that papa of yours finds yer bed missin’ its sleeper.” He raises himself on one elbow and squints in the morning sun, one eye closed tighter than the other.

I gather my skirts, but he pulls me against him. The muscles of the man movin’ under me and I about lose my knickers all over again.

“I ain’t fibbin’ what I said,” he says, his lips grazing mine. His horse whinnies, and he lets me go.

I hightail it all the way home. I plum fall through my window when I get there, right at Mama’s boots.

“Couldn’ta picked better timin’. I’m fresh outta lies for your papa. Now get out there before he loses his head again.”

I stand and brush off my fanny. “Sorry, Mama.”

“Ain’t it just like my girl to fall for the first stranger who rides into town.”

“He ain’t no stranger. He’s from Lexy. An’ he wants to take me there and marry me.”

She puts her hands on her hips. “Trustin’ strangers ain’t no good. No good at all.”

“I spent the night with him, Mama.”

“Better let him marry you then. Oh Lord. Papa’s gonna lose his head.”

“If I ain’t by the waterin’ hole at sundown, he’s comin’ to call on Papa.”

“Lord oh lord. That shotgun’s gonna find us all tonight.”

The sun wanders the sky all day while I work my chores. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was slidin’ backwards. Mama slips a bag of gold in my hand when Papa ain’t lookin’, then hugs me ’til I cry for mercy.

“My lil girl, off to have lil girls of her own. You stay out here an’ wait ’til I get Papa inside. When it’s clear, I’ll come out back an’ wave my apron. You run like the devil’s chasin’ you and don’t look back.”

“I’ll come visit, Mama. I promise.”

“Scoot.”

The sun’s about touched the farthest trees when Mama comes outside. She waves her apron, and I turn and run. My skirts kick the dust all the way to the hill where I see his gang waitin’ on horseback. He’s dead center, his smile brighter than my heart, which ain’t no easy feat.

Another cowboy in his gang whoops and throws his hat in the air. I stop at my fella’s horse. He sweeps me up, behind him. The horses buck and charge away. I hold his waist tight as our horse takes off. First stop, I gotta ask my fella his name.

How To Make a Mask

I’m back to my usual style for this Inspiration Monday post.

* * * * *

Six two. One hundred and eighty pounds. Black suit, blue shirt, silver tie.

The door opens. Black suit, but the height is wrong. Leftover drops from the brief but consuming rain splatter against the hood of the car, reminding me of the fire escape above me. My own escape if things get messy.

My phone dances in the cup holder. I pick it up and open the text message.

You pick up. Stuck w boss til late.

Crap. Not today. A change in plan means I make a change in plan. I take a quick look, then step out of the car and go to the trunk. Swap the SIG for the Beretta. Screw on the silencer. Another look around. Slam the trunk.

The door opens. Black suit. Blue shirt. Tie could be silver. Height and weight spot on. He lights a cigarette and takes a drag. Looks at me. The cigarette spins on its fall and I’m up on him before it hits the ground. One in the chest, one in the head.

I get back in the car and drive until I’m out from under the cover of rain clouds. A brown sign alerts me of Gold Mountain State Park. That will do. When I reach the park, I follow the signs to a trail head and park. I put away the Beretta. Strip off all my clothes, replace them with sweatpants, a hoodie, and walking shoes.

Three trails available. I choose the longest one. The forest hums with life. The ground is spongy under my shoes and the squirrels are partying in the trees. I take off my sunglasses to enjoy the luminance of green. I could walk off this trail right now and be lost. So lost I’d never find my way back.

Three point five miles later I’m back at the car. I drive back into town with the windows down, and when I reach the parking lot, it’s almost empty. I hope he’s not upset.

He’s the last one, but he’s not upset. He shows me a watercolor he painted. I get his backpack, and walk him to the car.

“Is mommy going to be late today?” he asks as I’m strapping him into the car.

“Yep. But you and I are going to play some video games and eat some junk food.”

I see my grin reflected in the window when I slam his door. Another success. Let’s hope it holds until he’s in bed.

One Man’s Trash

Here’s my attempt at this week’s Inspiration Monday. I’m not too happy with this one but I’ll post it anyway. Go easy on me. I suck at third person.

*****

He chased her up the escalator. When they reached the top, they were both out of breath, as anyone would be after sprinting up a long flight of stairs while laughing so hard.

“You know there’s cameras everywhere,” she said. “It’s only a matter of time.”

He raised his eyebrow and stifled a grin. “Maybe I turned them off.”

She studied him. “Are you as good at turning things off as you are at turning them on?”

An open door. A “Welcome, Please Come In” sign. He took a step forward.

She retreated one step into a rack of Calvin Klein. “What kind of girl would I be if I let you kiss me that easily?”

He felt his eyes get wide before he looked down. Coward. He looked straight into her eyes. “Guess you’d be easy.”

“Guess so.”

“Want to climb the elevator cable?”

“You turned that off too?”

“No, but I could.” He slipped his backpack to his front and went for the zipper. His laptop battery was about to die. If he was going to do it, he’d better do it now.

Her gaze slid along the wall behind him, obviously searching for the elevator sign in the dim light. “Race you.” She took off, in the wrong direction.

He threw his backpack to his back and ducked between the racks. He could beat her there. If he kept down she wouldn’t see where he was headed. Something ripped his backpack off his shoulder and he spun around. Darn clothing rack. He jerked himself free only to hook the other strap on another rack. He’d never beat her now.

He crept toward the elevator, head low. Cold air blasted over him. The air conditioner shouldn’t be running after hours. She was hunched down in the light of the elevator sign, holding her ankle. Her face turned to him. Lips parted. Frozen. Blood seeped through the fingers gripping her ankle.

“Meg? What happened?” He dropped to his knees next to her.

“I don’t know,” she whispered. Blood puddled around her foot, sticky and reflective. “It was like something slapped me. God, it hurts. I think it’s cut through. My Achilles tendon. I can’t walk on it.”

He took off his jacket because that’s what people do in movies when someone’s bleeding. She moaned as he tied it around. Then she grabbed his shoulder, her eyes wide and staring past him.

“Something. Over there.”

He jerked his head toward a light screeching. Metal on metal. Hangers, sliding on racks. He spun to face the sound. Quiet settled on them, hung in the air. He looked at her. “Maybe we should-”

A black length whipped out of nowhere and he shoved backward, out of the way. She cried out, grabbing her other ankle. Metal screeched, the racks swayed, and he got around her and slid his arms under hers and dragged her around the elevator behind a plastic dumpster.

Her eyes were watery, but she looked too afraid to cry. “What is that? My god what is that!”

“I don’t know.” He pulled her hand away from her ankle. Her second tendon was severed just like the first. He wiped the blood on his jeans. If she could barely walk before, now she couldn’t at all.

He stood and yanked the broken arm of a metal clothing rack out of the dumpster. One man’s trash is another man’s weapon.

The Other Me

Another round of BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday.

*****

Casual footsteps sound on the dock behind me. If I turn around too fast, she’ll think I’m afraid. The ducks take flight, their white bellies stained orange from the water. I’m glad it doesn’t kill them anymore.

“Don’t pretend you don’t hear me.”

I wait a few seconds before responding. “I heard you. I was watching the ducks. They can swim in the water now.”

“Good for them.”

I spin on my butt and look up at her. It’s dangerous on the end of the dock with my back to the water. But I don’t move. I’m not afraid of her. Not anymore.

Mona-Thena appears at the corner of the house. I know what she’s thinking. Keep her talking.

I open my mouth, but my heart has climbed into my throat. Words can’t squeeze by.

Mona-Thena places both palms on her temples like she’s about to bend some spoons. Snapping wood cracks the air. I shove to my feet and leap over the hole in the dock. Don’t look down. Close your ears.

I stiffen my legs to keep them from running me to the house. All I hear is that squirrel, high up in the tree. Not the splashing. Not those screams.

“Don’t look so guilty, you’ll give us away,” Mona-Thena says. “She can swim.”

“Not in that water.”

A gust of wind burns my skin. Mona-Thena sucks air through her teeth and pulls her sleeves down. The acid content of the air must be high today.

“Just remember. She can’t hurt the baby anymore. She can’t hurt momma anymore.”

“She can’t hurt us anymore.” That’s the new me talking. The other me is still sitting on the end of that dock, watching the ducks.

You Don’t Think of It as Murder

This week’s attempt at Inspiration Monday. This is the quickest I’ve written and it’s going up unedited. Yikes! But what fun!

*****

He turned around and looked at me even though we were supposed to be reading the exercise to ourselves. He picked up one of my freshly sharpened pencils and smiled.

That’s when the bombs started going off. One. Two. Three four five. The wall to my right collapsed. Six. Seven. He grabbed my hand, and we were running. Eight. And then I stopped counting. The screams so close to my ears spread out, thinned, dampened by the heavy air around us. Air too heavy to breathe. We fell to our knees in the grass. He pulled me up, and we were running again. Dodging bodies. People I should know, but I couldn’t recognize. Some upright, running like us. Some not.

You don’t think of it as murder when it’s happening to you. It’s survival.

His Revenge Was Different Than I Expected

Another attempt at BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday. I’m quickly getting addicted.

*****

His revenge was different than I expected.

Most guys would assemble his buddies. Find you in a bar alone. Watch you. Follow you outside. They’d trash you then trash your car, and you’d forgive it, because you felt it was justified. You break the code, you get what’s coming to you. You could go home, relieved. It would be over. You could move on.

Not this time. He’s still my best friend, as if nothing happened. As if I didn’t do what I did.

His hand pauses midair. A high-five on the cusp, daring me to refuse. I meet it. I’m too afraid not to.

“You in for tonight?”

“Course.” I just want to lay low, not provoke any questions. I go over the confrontation in my head for the hundredth time. Did I dream it? Did I hallucinate? Does he have amnesia?

“What’s so fuckin’ funny?”

My fists ball. I stiffen out of reflex. But someone shoves him instead, and I see it’s a game. Just someone passing by, giving him shit about something else. They don’t know. If they did, they’d be all over it. I pick up my gym bag before I do something stupid.

“How ’bout if I give you a hand with that oil pan beforehand?”

I shrug. It’s the last thing I want.

But he’s going to carry on. He’s going to be my best friend, rubbing my face in my own excrement until we both die.

Why Is the Sky Black?

My first attempt at Inspiration Monday. I’ll be brave and post this unedited. (Eek.)

*****

I didn’t see you that day. You had gone off on a mission, and who was I to judge? I tried to take your advice and not think about it. But something about cleaning your cabin always put my mind on the runway, shooting out the side of the ship, searching the depth of space for you.

I remember the blood on your pillow. I remember the clean pillowcase I put on it. I remember collecting my sponge and pail. Closing and locking your door. Then I let myself in next door and walked in on Jax removing his combat suit. I didn’t expect the two of you back so soon.

He wasn’t mad. He just hugged me to him, sponge and pail and all.

“We won,” he said. He had blood all over him. I knew it couldn’t be his.

I stared past him, out the little porthole window, knowing you weren’t with him like you should be.

“Why is the sky black?”