An Unexpected Visitor

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Source: Andrew Fleming Florist

Rachael stood behind the small sales cabinet; sweat beads trickled down from her brow. No customers again!

Her hands were hooked in her belt, as though she could prevent them wanting to roam.

Do something, silly!

Rachael grabbed a pair of pruning sheers. Rows of flowers needed daily care in the shop. For a week, though, business had been slow, and as Friday crept closer, she had neglected her little beauties more with each passing day.

The mundane task did little to settle her growing anxiety. Vic had insisted, “Friday, or else.”

* * * * *

Rachael turned the car down her street and saw a Buick parked in front of her house. A tightness covered her throat. Lilli should be home by now!

The lawn chair beside her screen door was occupied. Rachael let out a strangled yelp. Lilli was sitting on Vic’s leg. His smile was warm, but his eyes were focused. He didn’t need to say a thing; she knew the question, “Where’s my money?”

“Mommy!” Lilli said as Rachael stepped out of the car. “Lookie! Uncle Vic’s here! I told him all about my birthday last week.”

“Sounded expensive,” he said with a whistle.

Rachael gave a forced smile. “Hi, Vic.”

He put two hands on Lilli’s shoulders. “I saw Lilli here when she was gettin’ out of school and thought I’d give ‘er ride home instead of ‘er catchin’ tha smelly bus.”

He pinched his nose and made a duck face.

“Eww!” Lilli said. She gave an innocent giggle. “Mommy, can I watch a movie?”

“Yes, dear. I’ll get it for ya.”

Lilli jumped off his lap. Rachael passed Vic. His hand reached out and grabbed her arm. “I’ll join ya.”

His grip tightened; Rachael flinched and opened the front door.

“Here you go, baby,” Rachael said in a shrill voice once she had turned on the TV.

“Why do you sound so funny?”

“No reason, baby. Sit close to the TV, m’kay? Uncle Vic and Mommy hafta talk.”

“Okay, Mommy!”

* * * * *

Rachael walked back to the bench and unlocked the sales cabinet. Without looking, she reached into the top shelf, hand grazing filled plastic bags, and clutched an envelope labelled “TIPS.” Rachael counted, 100, 120…280. I just need $20.

Rachael placed it back inside just in time to hear the entrance bell ding.

A man in his twenties stood there, eyes wide with terror. With a sigh, Rachael dusted her apron. She knew that look. It was the same when a man walked into a lingerie store. Too many options, too many chances to mess up, it was all a little overwhelming for some. Rachael prepared herself. “Good afterno-on,” she said, voice cracking. Ugh. Great start, Rach.

“Hi,” he said, with a smile. “I hadda fight with my lady. What flower says I’m sorry but also says I want sex and cake.”

A pinkness rose in his cheeks, and Rachael smiled with triumph. Cake. Oh, thank goodness!

After some discussion, she put six long-stem roses into a box.

Rachael opened her cabinet and pulled out a bag filled with a green herb and placed it into the box under the wrapping. She smiled at the young man, and he winked back at her.

“That’s $150,” she announced.

He hesitated. “More than I expected.”

“I gave you the extra nice roses,” she admitted.

With a raised brow, the young man thought for a moment. “Better be good.”

“Guaranteed to knock her socks off,” she said.

He paid and left. With a wide smile, Rachael placed a fifty in the envelope and put the lot in her purse with a chuckle. Charged extra all week for the same product, and they all fell for it!

She grabbed one of the lilies off the shelf to take home and decided to close up shop for the day. Vic would receive this week’s and last weeks’ earnings within the hour.

We square? Good. I’m ready to stop dealing, Vic. How do I get out? Her internal monologue continued. She wouldn’t see the shadow outside at the edge of the storefront.

“Lying cunt!” she heard as a flowerpot collided with her temple.

Rachael crashed onto the pavement. Blood trickled into her eyes. Delirious, she stared at the lilies. Tiny bubbles of crimson freckled the pristine white flower until they were soaked up, turning into misshapen circles. She wanted to apologize but had no idea why, so instead, she closed her eyes and let the darkness take her.


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The Spirit Warrior

Obsidian goblins – faces tortured and motionless – watched our trek. As a young one, I swore I heard their chatter in the catacombs. Their ghosts would give me night terrors until my father took me to the Ritual of Spirits.

The sound of water trickled from the stalactites above us. The sulfuric scent in the cavern was masked only by the amber crystal I carried in my hand.

I stopped at a fork in the cave and turned to the young ones behind me. For our yearly pilgrimage, we all would take the path to the right, warning: “never take the left.” Every few years, one would dare it and not return. It was a lesson that none forget.

I smiled and turned toward the left corridor. Their faces bespoke no fear, but their posture became rigid. My mate nodded to me at the end of the group and ushered the young ones towards me.

Trista ugar nabulosum. Trista ugar nabulosum,” my mate and I chanted.

Our crystals lit up showering light upon the spirits surrounding our party. We had entered their land. Without the chant, without the amber, we would be lost here.

A shriek echoed through the cave, and the spirits shrank away. The eyes of the young ones widened.

“Tavykha,” I heard my name called. I looked back upon Tav’i, but she shook her head.

I followed the path as I always had until we reached the throne room. Here the spirits did not enter. With the young ones inside, Tav’i closed the door and we circled the perimeter – our chants lighting the chamber. The group gasped at the remnants of the Troll Dynasty before them. Beast-skulls lined the walls; our sigil hung over the throne. In the centre of the circular room was a raised platform bearing a large fountain.

The door to the chamber rattled. I heard my name, but it was best I ignored it. Spirits were not allowed to speak with the living.

I ushered the young to sit down in front of the fountain and placed my hand inside it. I drank from my cupped hand.

“Long ago our troll ancestors lived in this cave,” I began.

“One Winter, the Obsidian Basilisk could see our people dying and invited us into the cave to live until summer returned,” Tav’i said.

“The basilisk protected us from our enemies, the goblins, and turned any that entered into obsidian. The troll dynasty built this throne room for our Troll-king. But after a whole winter in here, the Troll-king started to show signs of madness. The basilisk realized that we could not see what she could see and fed one of us her milk.”

“That’s when the first Spirit Warrior was born. He saw what the basilisk saw.”

“The cave was touching the underworld,” I said. “And the spirits were maddening the king. The basilisk and the first spirit warrior made a pact. The Spirit Warrior would protect all peoples from the spirits, and the basilisk would stop any spirits from speaking to the living. If ever they did, she would turn their spirit to obsidian.”

“And thus we have remained protected since. The amber and the chant stop us from losing our way during the ritual.”

The door rattled once more. Voices echoed within.

“Tavykha!” I heard.

“The basilisk is dead!” another cried.

Suddenly the door swung open.

Jumping over the fountain and the young ones, I swung my weapon at the spirits pouring in with Tav’i at my side. We swung at foe after foe, but spirits kept coming in. Unable to stop the onslaught, I watched in horror as our group met the spirits’ touches. Defenceless, their souls were snatched from their bodies.

“Run!” I cried as I pushed through the door, grabbing Tav’i’s hand. We had to warn the others. Tav’i and I hacked our way through the mob, but still they pulled on our souls.

Tav’i shrieked, her hand going limp. I dared not look back, but I knew the truth. My mate was gone.

I kept running towards the obsidian goblin entrance. If I could reach it, I could protect my clan.

The amber crystal glowed bright as I reached the goblins. The spirits grabbed hold of me.

I slammed the amber crystal into a stalagmite. The igneous stone exploded. Stalagtites crashed down, trapping us inside. As my soul was pulled from my body, I smiled. The crystal’s magic had worked. The spirits could not escape here today.


The Warehouse Mob

IMG_20170822_121016.jpgThe small group huddled in the corner of the postal warehouse. Undelivered packages lay open on the floor alongside blankets, eaten food packages, and flies.

The last of the afternoon light dwindled.

“I can’t spend another night in the dark,” Sarah said with a tremble in her voice.

She wrapped her arms around her legs and wept into her knees. Around her, married couple Lance and Glen put their hands on her shoulders. On the other side, Priyanka and her son, Ashwin, reached up to touch the fading light.

The warning sirens started their nightly ritual, “Woo-woo-woo.” For five straight minutes, it would continue until the timer turned off – a relic of those first few days. It didn’t cover the sound of the agonies of the living, the half-living, outside the tin walls that protected them.

“Make it stop, Mommy,” Ash cried. Priyanka pulled the toddler close and hummed a sweet lullaby. Her gentle rocking settled his tears for a moment.

“Don’t you worry, Ashwin,” Glen said with a slight gruff. “We’ll be saved soon. The army will be here any day now.”

“No, they won’t,” the boy said. “The monsters will get them too. Just like Daddy.”

“Shh, shh,” Priyanka said, covering Ashwin’s ears. “Don’t fill his head with such nonsense. We know we will have to make our own luck if we’re going to survive.”

She picked up her son and laid him down on one of the blankets. She continued to sing a song until the boy’s breathing became steady and slow.

Priyanka inched back to her side of the makeshift bedroom and sighed.

“Dads?” Sarah whispered.

“Yes, sweetie?” Lance and Glen said.

“Can we try the radio again?”

“Only if you keep it down,” Priyanka said with a hiss.

“Yes, yes, of course,” Lance answered.

The teenager fumbled in the dark for a moment before the sound of static filled the room.

She moved the dial, the frequency of the static changed with each turn. She moved it fast and slow from one end to the next for several minutes.

“Don’t leave it on too long, hun,” Glen said. “Conserve the batteries.”

“Okay,” she turned one last time and heard a voice on the other end.

“Repeat, if there are any survivors out there, you are not alone.”

The group gasped in varying states of surprise. Survivors!

They listened intent on the transmission and the words said: their names and their location – an abandoned army base and a laundry list of ways to survive on the outside.

“The key is light. They hate light.”

The transmission ended and Sarah turned the radio off. The group sat in silence for a moment.

“How are we going to get all those items?” Sarah asked.

“I know where some batteries are,” Glen said. “Mr Saunders – ”

“The man with the little dog?” Lance asked.

“The very same… He used to keep a jar of batteries… for the apocalypse.”

“But Dads… he was one of the first to turn.”

“Then he’s long gone now,” Glen said.

For the first time they ignored the cries, the gurgles, and the bangs around the warehouse. They had hope.

It wasn’t until they all stood, like a giant mob, at Mr. Saunders’s door the next morning that they realized the truth. Overgrown grass and weeds covered the once immaculate lawn.

He greeted them from under the front porch. Batteries and a tiny dog head stuck out of the bulbous form.

Their screams were hushed as they became one with the host.

The Carriage

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He sat on the train with the trolley sitting across his leg and on the seat beside him. So far he’d been able to avoid the judgmental eyes of the nosy older women, but he couldn’t ignore their snide remarks. At this hour of the day, they seemed to be the only passengers, so he wasn’t even able to leave the carriage for greener pastures.

“Why isn’t he at school?”

“How old is he anyway? He looks like he just started high school.”

He cast his eyes down to his knees. I’m fifteen! – he wanted to shout.

His tattered shoes stared back at him – a reminder of his current predicament. If it hadn’t been for his best friend, he wouldn’t even have clean clothes.

He heard his stop on the speakers and made his move to leave.

“Go to school!” a voice screamed from inside the carriage.

He balled his hands up around the trolley handles until the whites of his knuckles were exposed. Taking a deep breath, he exited the train and pushed back his tears. As the door closed, he stood still to watch the train speed off to its next destination.

He sniffed the moisture back before starting his descent from the platform to the street.

He wouldn’t have to walk for long; she lived right by the station. In fact, her whole apartment space shook every 20 minutes.

He stood at her door, smile spread puffing out his cheeks and revealing the dimples that she used to love. He’d prove to her today that he should be in her life.

Cries echoed from the other side of the door. The sound pierced the walls of the complex, and he wondered if any neighbors had complained yet. The baby had some lungs.

He knocked and waited and waited some more.

When the door opened, a disheveled girl stared back at him. The baby continued to scream in the crib on the other side of the room.

“Are you going to help her?” he asked, worried.

“No,” she answered. “What are you doing here?”

“I… bought you a gift,” he said. “For our daughter.”

“Your dad kicked you out. You’re homeless,” she said with no hint of concern, “How could you afford a stroller?”

“I busked,” he admitted. “Then I sold my guitar.”

“So you think this means you’re a Dad now?”

He bowed his head, “I am a Dad.”

She gave a derisive sniff, “Good for you.”

She snatched the stroller from his hands without a word of thanks and disappeared around the corner. He stood in the doorway, chatting between long silences while she ducked in and out of the room. “Maybe we can go for walks together.” “I’m almost old enough to work. I’ll get a job.” “My friends think they can get me another guitar.”

She ignored him, but when she put the baby into the carriage and grabbed the diaper bag, his spirits rose.

She pushed the carriage to the door. Laden with toys and clothes and bags, it moved slowly.

“Here, Daddy. You can have her.”

There was a wildness in her eyes – a flicker of mania.

“For the afternoon?”

“Forever. I’m done.”

She pushed the carriage out the door. He scrambled to get in front of it to stop her from falling out.

“What are you doing?” he cried.

A slammed door was his only answer.

As his daughter wailed, he looked at her. Her tiny hands, her black hair, and dark skin reminded him of his mother. She was perfect. He lifted her out of the carriage and held her head as he had seen in the movies. With water filling his eyes, he cradled his daughter.

“What now?” he sighed.


The Tree

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Whispers and the occasional shh outside woke Charmaine from her slumber.

With a sigh, she stepped out of bed, slid on her slippers, and wrapped a robe around her tired shoulders. Wrinkled hands stared back from under the long sleeves, and Charmaine muttered under her breath.

It hadn’t always been like this. She was young once, and things had been so much better back then. There used to be a time when no one would dare trespass on her property. When did kids become so disrespectful?

The gate to her garden rattled just outside her bedroom, and she contemplated how best to punish the children. The two boys, she thought, from the squish of their shoes and the slight baritone of their voices, were becoming more brazen with every passing minute. They weren’t even trying to be quiet anymore.

The tiny thieves would learn their lesson.

Charmaine considered her options: skewered, baked, barbecued. But it all seemed like too much work now. She was no spring chicken after all, and her days of roasting children were long gone. No. She needed to teach them a lesson that all their friends would hear about. It was time they feared her again.

She threw open her balcony doors. On the garden path, just by her favorite tree, the boys stood, pockets bulging from their pilfer.

“Thieves!” Charmaine screamed.

Her voice was raspy – foil-crackled rough -, and she reminded herself to have some tea with honey later to soothe it.

The boys turned toward her, mirthful eyes changed to panic-stricken, and they began to run towards the gate.

She glared at the pair for all of a second before snapping her fingers. A puff of smoke consumed the space around them. As it faded, two toads stood where the boys had been. Clothes and gummy bears were scattered on the garden path around them.

Charmaine floated down to stand in front of them. They croaked and hopped around, unsure of how to do either. It continued until they knocked into each other and fell onto their backs. Their legs kicked and kicked, but they weren’t going anywhere.

She picked them up and walked them out onto the street.

Charmaine grumbled and thought out-loud, “I really ought to get rid of that gummy bear tree.”

“Ribbit!” they agreed.

She placed the pair on the ground and stepped away. “And stay out!” she cried.

As everyone on the street turned to look, Charmaine snapped her fingers again. The townspeople gasped as the toads transformed back into little boys, only this time minus their clothes. They both made tiny yelps, jumped, and covered their privates before running away screaming.

The crowd laughed and mocked the pair, ignoring her. She chuckled as she walked back to her manor. Maybe keeping the gummy bear tree would be a good idea, after all. That was the most fun she’d had in a while.