Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guest Post 22: Emma Ennis

Because I'm such a kind hearted soul, I'd like to share two pieces with you today. One is from my second, hopefully soon to be published, short story collection – a sneak peak if you will. The other was written for a competition recently that was cancelled due to lack of interest. Let's start with that.

The prompt for the competition was 'Memento,' the premise to begin at the end and end at the beginning. I'd never attempted anything like this before, so needless to say, I jumped to the challenge. It is however, an experiment into areas I've never delved before, so be gentle...


* * First Composition * *
“Sweetheart, I'm home.”
My voice sounded weak and not near as chipper as I'd intended. I felt weak. My knees knocked each other like a Newton's cradle and it was an effort to move my arms. I had a blinding headache that stretched all the way around the base of my skull and my throat was as dry as a desert camel's hoof.
It dawned on me that I should have stopped by some kind of discount clothing place before coming home, changed and cleaned up a little. I smelled like sweat and blood, and there were evidences of both on my t-shirt. That was not the homecoming I'd envisioned, but to be honest, I hadn't the energy for anything more, let alone the brain capacity to plan.
Weariness caused me to stagger. Black spots danced before my eyes. My eyes! I almost laughed aloud, but was disrupted by a swell of nausea like a lazy fish swimming in my stomach. Taking a deep breath, I promised myself that it was just a little while longer. All I had to do was see her, and then I could rest.
I took great care in the placement of each step as I moved down the hall. About halfway along was a full length mirror, gilded and gigantic, and I stopped for a moment to glance at my new reflection.
That fish swam a little faster, stirring my stomach contents and mixing it with the shock that coursed through me. What a sight. What a difference. What a monster I looked. Regardless, I smiled – a bitter sweet thing. There was a streak of blood caked on my cheek and it cracked with the movement. I licked my thumb and wiped it away before continuing on.
She appeared in the doorway at the end of the hall. The light from the room created a halo around her, making her hair shine like gold. In her white chiffon dress she looked like an angel as she gasped at the sight of me. Dainty hands flew up to meet pretty mouth. Slowly she came towards me and I collapsed in her arms.
* * Second Composition * *
This was the kind of place you didn't bring your fairer half, the place you'd warn your children to stay away from if you had any. The stench of garbage wafted from the spewing bins and skips and torn rubbish bags that flanked the walls beneath rusting fire escapes. The gutters ran with all manner of slop and muck, and I avoided them like the plague they surely carried. There was no escaping the stink.
Steam and stuff belched from building vents. There were suspicious hissing and scurrying sounds coming from places unknown and which I did not dare endeavour to know. I cast a wary eye around me at all times, behind, ahead, above.
My footsteps changed tune as I passed the mouth of a short alleyway and they rushed down, trying to find escape. Scarcely had I entered before a dark car pulled up at the opposite end, the windows blacked out so I could not see inside.
The back door opened and a set of eyes peered out at me. The other half of the face was obscured by a scarf.
“Get in,” a gruff voice demanded, the order muffled somewhat by the thick material but nonetheless menacing for it.
My stomach plummeted. Another door opened and a face appeared over the far side of the car – a mean face with a scar running the full length of one cheek. Tattoos dressed every inch of skin I could see, spiked piercings added nettle to his already dangerous dial. This guy meant business.
I glanced behind me, thinking to run, but back there was only a long stretch of straight alley with nowhere to dodge the bullets that would surely fly from the weapons concealed inside the vehicle. I was out of options.
I took a tentative step forward. The tattooed man came around to meet me. He held a band of black material between his hands and when I was close enough, he secured this over my eyes so I was blinded. Then I was shoved into the car. Doors slammed shut, the engine roared, tyres squealed and I was pasted to the back of the seat as we took off.
Shoulders bumped and heads knocked as I was pitched about like a rag doll, being driven in every which way imaginable. Despite my lack of vision, I was rendered dizzy by the time the car finally came to a halt.
Rough hands pulled me out and the blindfold was removed. I found myself standing in a scrubby clearing before a ramshackle building. It looked like one of those fancy institutions where rich folk sent their embarrassing progeny. Well, where they had at least; one end was now just a pile of rubble. What glass remained in the windows would not have made up one full pane if combined. Everywhere red brick was persecuted by emerald vegetation, the latter winning the battle for domination.
I was led inside and we crunched our way through the decaying halls and rooms. Somewhere around the back of the building we came to a place that had been cleared out and tidied up. We entered through a large sheet of plastic that was hung over the gaping doorway. The inside orifices were shielded with the same.
In the centre of the room was a surgery table, and all manner of machines and instruments surrounded it. Electrical wires created a web about a foot off the floor, held aloft from the damp concrete. In the corner waited a scrubbed individual, his face obscured by a surgical mask.
I felt nervous, scared. I cast about for a way out but was propelled forward from behind. Time sped up. I was assisted onto the table and held down while a needle was inserted into the tender flesh of my inner elbow. Whatever they pumped into me wasn't long in taking effect because already I was having trouble distinguishing reality from dream.
Someone was instructed to clamp my head and I felt cold metal encase my temples, chin and eye sockets. My gaze was force-fixed on the ceiling which was wavering behind more sheets of plastic.
Suddenly this view was interrupted by the arrival of a long, sharp instrument.
I started to struggle, tried to shout, but clamps and leathers held everything quiet. A searing pain, barely dulled by the anesthetic, rendered me senseless. My muscles let go, and I slipped into the darkness.
* * Third Composition * *
All day I'd been plagued by an incessant feeling of frustration, of helplessness. It made my hands clumsy and my work shoddy. I had this sick feeling right down in the pit of my stomach. I felt lacking as a man. I felt useless.
“Andy,” I called to my workmate. “If I was looking to get a procedure done, say, off the record, but done properly, where would I go?”
Andy put down the level he'd been working with and looked at me with eyebrows askew.
“What kind of procedure?”
“Something insurance wouldn't cover,” I replied. “Something I can't call the family doctor for.”
He looked suspicious, but also thoughtful, which I liked to see.
“I don't know offhand, man. Leave it with me.”
We got back to work and said no more about it. It was not until after lunch that we broached the subject again, when Andy came into the room and pulled me aside.
“Tell me I'm not going to be sorry for this,” he begged, holding a piece of paper with a line of numbers written on it between us.
I grabbed the note and smiled at him. “No man, don't worry about it. Cover for me.”
I went outside to my car and closed myself in with the quiet. My finger shook ever so slightly as I dialled, but my mind had never been more solid or certain. My gut was serene; it knew I was on the right track.
The call was answered straight away, but I got no greeting.
“I have a strange request.”
The voice on the other end laughed. “Believe me,” he said, “there's not much can surprise me.”
Yet when I told him what I wanted I definitely heard a sharp intake of breath.
“When it comes to it,” I continued, “I may try to change my mind. Do not let me. I must go through with this.”
“You're one crazy son of a bitch,” the man said. “Be in the alley at the back of Smithson Street. A black car will come get you.”
Smithson Street – the dodgy side of town.
“I'll be wearing a white t-shirt and navy work pants,” I said, but the line was already dead.
* * Fourth Composition * *
I switched off the television, bored by the mind-numbing repetition. I groped for something else to entertain myself with, and wondered what my beloved was doing; she would certainly be more interesting to watch.
Heaving myself out of the couch, I walked through the house. Correction – home. And it was a beautiful home – sprawling levels of luxuriance and comfort. I had given it all to her, everything she wanted and more, because, bless her heart, she'd never asked for anything. That's why I adored her so; she loved me with such ferocity that she'd live anywhere, in any shack or slum, just to be by my side. But I would not allow that to happen. My princess would have her castle.
I found her in our bedroom, standing in the doorway to the ensuite in front of the mirror. Her long blonde hair tumbled between her shoulder blades, curling up at the small of her back. Her tiny waist called to my arms, her buttocks screamed out for my hips. I watched her with an equal mix of love and lust.
Answering the call, I slipped my arms around her waist and rested my chin on her shoulder.
“Hey gorgeous.”
“Don't call me gorgeous,” she screamed, yanking herself free of my arms and spinning around to face me.
“Mel, what's the matter?” I asked, beginning to panic.
I reached out for her, but her beautiful face twisted and she evaded my hands.
“What's the matter?” she spat.
She picked up a box of tissues and flung them at me. It must have felt good, because all manner of projectiles were suddenly hurled in my direction. I blocked them as best I could and tried to advance on her.
“Look at me,” she yelled. “How can you let me go out like this? It's easy for you. You're whole, perfect.”
My gaze fell on a glossy magazine that lay open on the sink. A dark-haired beauty stared out from the pages, all airbrushed and flawless. The eyes were impossibly large, impossibly blue. The eyes were impossibly beautiful.
I picked up the booklet.
“It this what's gotten you upset baby?”
She didn't answer.
“This isn't real, Melody. You're more beautiful than any of the women in here,” I said, and it was the truth.
She was crying now, all the fight gone from her lovely little frame. Her shoulders shook with sobs, and I could swear my heart was bleeding tears of its own. I took her in my arms and kissed her cheek.
“You're beautiful,” I whispered, kissing her other cheek now. “You're real.”
I placed my lips over the puckered eye socket where a sapphire iris should have shone, then moved over to kiss the tears from her one existing eye.
“You're perfect, just as you are.”

So there you have it – my back to front story. The next example is also an experiment, this time with 'drabble' which is a short piece of one hundred words or less. This was also for a competition, but many words had to be hacked out of the competition version. The one below is a little fleshier around the middle. The following story will be included in my second short story collection, 'High Heels and Elegies' (working title.)

They were back. 'The legs in the light' I called them.
By some oversight in planning, or perhaps shoddy workmanship, my bedroom door ended inches short of its saddle, and lately, in black night, I had begun to see figures passing by outside. They made no sound – no key turned in the front door, the timbers did not protest the way they did when I crossed over them.
There were times when I sensed them enter the room, and I would close my eyes tight, pretending to be asleep, hardly daring to move while every morsel of my body wanted to scream or cry, or both.
The cat saw them first this time, bolted upright, silver-sheen eyes riveted on the doorway. I watched her, heart pounding. Who were they? What did they want?
Slowly I turned my head, and closed my eyes.

~Thanks again for stopping by today to read some of Emma’s beautifully thrilling words. Don’t forget to return Friday for my interview with Emma. It’s the perfect finale for this wonderful blog visit.
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