Doll (50 word story)

I really love doing prompts and challenges. Sometimes I just want to push myself to try and write something that is more strict and confined in its guidelines. I’m so used to stretching stories out that when 50 word challenges come along it can be quite daunting. Though the following little story wasn’t brought on by a challenge from another blog or source, I gave myself this one word prompt while working in the basement and coming across the doll illustrating this post. It belonged to my mother and I snapped up a quick shot and fed it through my photo editor. Taking a look at it later, the 50 word story began. Hope you enjoy! Feel free to post your own 50 word story  in the comments if the pic inspires you to write. Have a great Saturday and stay away from dolls, lol….
The old porcelain doll looked at me from the dresser. Her cracked amber eyes seemed to harbor evil and malice. Her tiny mouth sneered. My wife slept peacefully beside me, so I ignored the thing and tried to get some rest too. I didn’t even know we had a doll. 

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Re-introducing Vampire Boys Of Summer

It’s been a good five or six months since I’ve worked on my manga/anime inspired YA paranormal novel, Vampire Boys Of Summer, and I seem to have lost where I was going, lol. But hey, this is a story that is begging to be finished or turned into something bigger, so before I kick back into it blindly I thought I would just read through what I have already and create a new edit in the process. I don’t plan on removing any of the Story arc, plot devices, or characters, but my intention here is to flesh out a few scenes I felt were rushed or to add some minor details that may have gotten left out first time around. But most of what I will be doing is related to story mechanics: working on long sentences that would work better broken up, punctuation errors, and hopefully dropping a ton of adverbs which I tend to overuse.

For those who have already invested time in reading the original twenty some chapters I apologize. Your dedication and time and comments were very invaluable as the story evolved, so please don’t feel in my doing this I am disregarding any loyal readers. In the end, I hope I will end up with a better, tighter version of this story, and I also hope you’ll take the time to check out the new edits and let me know what you think. I have updated the prologue and first 9 chapters so far.

To new readers and visitors, the original chapters will remain on the blog while I’m working on this. You can access them through the vampire boys page which can be found under the menu heading Vampire Boys Of Summer. The new edits will also appear there and will be marked as such. If you like teen vampires, manga, or anime, hopefully you’ll find something interesting in the tale as I throw a few twists into vampire lore, add some manga style outrageousness, and just have fun with my characters.

Thanks for reading and keep writing with boldness of pen and spirit,

Paul D Aronson.

Vampire Boys Of Summer Main Page

Nomi (short story under 500 words)

One of my first memories is that of a garden. Not an ordinary garden mind you, but one of many vibrant colors. To my newly opened eyes it was as if the colors of the rainbow had burst forth like rain to paint the flowers that rose from the earthen bed. At first it was like a painter’s palette with no discernible shapes, and then as my eyes came into focus things became clearer: stems, blossoms, petals, blooms, and a tiny pair of hands reaching for me. She was a child, much like myself, but instead of four tiny paws, she only had two, and they were hairless with claws that were soft flesh. I made a noise as these paws touched me and took me into her embrace. It was a cooing kind of purr that came from within me and it was the only way I knew to articulate I liked this. There was something about being cradled close to her that was soothing.

My eyes found her face and I thought what a beautiful child she was. The sound from her throat and lips was like a lilting song designed to make me feel less afraid. But I wasn’t afraid of her, nor of the garden. Her face almost glowed looking into mine and as her big brown eyes dripped water I realized she was not that small but merely had been behaving that way for my benefit. Now with her watery eyes and pursed lips I saw she was not of innocence as I was, but her short life had been hard and of a sorrow that had not yet left her.

“Has your mother left you, too?” she asked.

I tried to tell her I couldn’t remember, but the only thing that came out was a soft purr that made her smile.

“Purr to you, too,” she said.

I let the girl clutch me to her and I felt an instant sense of companionship between us, as if we were long lost sisters or something.

“What should we name you?” she asked. She put one hand on her chin as if it might help her think. Finally she smiled. “I know. We’ll call you Nomi.” She lifted me up to her face and looked into my eyes. My whiskers twitched. “What do you think of that?” she asked.

“Purr,” I said, giving her a kiss on the nose. It wasn’t exactly a kiss, but more of a tap of my nose against hers, to which she giggled.

“Great! Nomi it is.”

She sat me back down on the ground. I rolled over on my back trying to scratch an itch I couldn’t reach. The girl laughed and lay down on her back in the garden too, mimicking my actions so we looked like two siblings from different mothers playing in the garden of life.
“Nomi” 2017 Paul D Aronson.

Blood Pupil (Hand Over The Girl new edit)

“Hand over the girl.”

I looked at the suit holding the gun and knew he was used to getting what he wanted. I sighed. “Its not going to happen.”

“Are you crazy? We have you outnumbered.”

“And your point is?..”

He looked me dead in the eye. “We can take her by force if we have to.”

“That’s not a good idea.”

He threw his head back. “Ha! And why not?”

“For every action there is a reaction. You are a ripple in the pond. Don’t turn it into a wave.”

“I hated school teachers as a kid. I hate them even worse now, so just give us the girl.”

“You can learn nothing from her. Leave her alone.”

“We just want to talk to her about what she saw.”

I looked at the thugs before me. There were three of them. Either they weren’t that worried over what she saw or they didn’t think they’d have any trouble out of a little girl and her runaway school teacher. “She didn’t see anything. Nobody called the cops. Live and let live.”

The leader of the three shook his head. “I’m sorry, the boss wants to see her just the same. Just to make sure.”

“I can’t let you take her.”

“Come on, teach. Be smart. Don’t make me shoot you.”

The gun in his hand, pointing directly at me, was starting to make me nervous. “You don’t understand.”

“So make me understand and maybe I’ll let you live.”

I noticed the other two suits laughed under their breath. Yeah, I didn’t believe it either.

“She can’t go outside,” I said. “Not yet anyway.”

“What? Is she grounded or something? Teacher, giving her after school lessons in the dark? Ha-ha!”

“No, she just likes it here in the dark.”

“Freaking perv. How many little girls you bring down here in this dark, damp basement?”

“I’m not a perv. I’m her teacher.”

“Not for long, you ain’t. Now, one last time, hand..over…the …girl.”

I sighed. We were never going to get through this unless I did as they asked. I glanced over my shoulder towards the darkness in the corner. Not even shadows invaded that space, but I knew that’s where she was.

“I’m sorry Elena. These men want to talk to you. I tried my best. I guess I’m not much good at being a protector.”

The lead suit grinned. “That’s better, teach. Now get her out of that corner.”

“Elena, it’s alright. You can come out and go with them. But just this one time, okay?”

“That’s right girly, come out and go with us.”

I tried to peer into the dark, wondering if she was coming or not. Nothing moved there, but I knew she waiting for further instruction.

“Remember what I taught you. Never for pleasure, always for survival, okay?”

The thug leader rolled his eyes. “Whatever, teach. Come on girl, we ain’t got all day. Earl, go over there and get her.”

One of the other gangsters, Earl I assume, took a quick, purposeful stride towards the corner. “Right, boss. I’m on it….Hey, what’s up with her eyes? Why is she freaking smiling like that…..Aaaaaaaa!”

His screams pierced the silence of the basement. There was a crunching sound as he vanished into the pitch black corner. A guttural growl issued from the dark and Earl’s screams seemed to rise a moment before being replaced by something that sounded like he was drowning. We could hear the gurgling in his throat.

“What the hell? Get her off of him!”

The leader shoved his other gun toting cronie towards the corner. The guy hesitat d, seriously afraid, but knew he had no choice. He bounded into the dark, his gun blazing.

“I told you she wants to stay in the dark,” I said.

The gunfire suddenly stopped. “Oh my god, boss! She has…. Aaaaaa!”

In anger the leader cracked me against the head with the butt of the gun. I knew it would draw blood, but I didn’t go down. I stood my ground as he charged to the rescue of his guys.

“I’m coming , hold on! I’m going to pump you full of lead, you little bitch!”

He came up short, raised his gun at the target he could barely see. He pulled the trigger firing off several rounds until there was nothing but clicks.

“What the shit? What..what the hell are you? I just emptied all my bullets into you!”

He tried to take a step back, all the while his finger still pulling the trigger of the now empty gun. A small hand reached out of the darkness. Long, thin fingers bent at odd angles, as if the bones had all grown out in different directions. They grasped his gun arm, wrapping around his biceps and pulled him back into the horrible dark, where even I could not witness his fate.

“No, get away from me! Why are you looking at me like that? Oh Mary, holy mother of Jesus, is that blood on your teeth? No, no, no!…… AaaaaAAA!”

I took a short step forward. Pulling out my handkerchief, I wiped the blood off my forehead where the gun handle had whacked me.

“Elena, don’t turn them. Survival only, remember?”

I approached the dark corner and held my hand out. There were unsettling noises coming from within. Cracking bones. Hungry slurping. Animalistic growls overshadowing the moans of the dying. There was a final crunch like someone setting a broken leg on the field of battle and then her hand reached out to grasp mine gently. It was a normal child hand. No long, thin fingers bent outwards in opposite ways. And as she emerged from the darkness, her dusty brown hair covering half her face, I smiled.

“That’s a good girl,” I said.

She squinted her dark eyes against the light from the basement bulbs. Small slices of sunlight filtered through boarded up casement windows, and I maneuvered her small frame around them.

“Come on, let’s get you away from the light.”

She held her arms up to me and I picked her up.

“Whoa, you sure are heavy after you’ve had breakfast….”

She lay her head over on my shoulder. I could smell the blood in her hair and on her clothes. Her little arms tightened around me and I thought to myself, one day I was going to miss this. Caring about someone. Protecting the innocent. Perhaps you wouldn’t understand, but she’s my blood pupil, not yours. I dare you to come between us…

2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Read the original dialogue only version here: Hand Over The Girl: Dialogue Prompt for Sunday 12 Feb

Halfway House (short story 4K)

When I walk in my building, she is huddled in the back of the hallway, naked. Beaten and discarded, like a rag doll that nobody wants. I spy her right away, there in the darkness in the furthest corner, away from where the other tenants can see her. But I know she’s there. I can even smell her. My senses have become fine tuned over the years and there’s no mistaking the scent of brimstone and a fiery temperament.  I walk over to her and take the sweater off my shoulders, wrapping it around her. She looks up at me with eyes red tinged from the crying. Her pupils seem to implore me to help her. I take her hand and look at the wrist. She has the mark. And she has no one to turn to because of it.

“Mordecai said you’d help,” she barely manages to whisper.

Mordecai, an old friend, always sending me strays. What a guy.

“Come on,” I sigh and lift her up. I help her around to the staircase where I barely manage to navigate her to the third floor, apartment six. We probably look like a pair of junkies stumbling down the hallway. She is weak and her dead weight causes us to shuffle and stumble, but we finally make it into the safety of my apartment.

I sit her on the couch in the living room and go to turn up the thermostat. I casually glance out the window, and that’s when I see them standing in the shadows on the other side of the street. Two men in white-breasted suits. I have often wondered why they dress in such noticeable outfits if they expect not to be seen. But I guess maybe they want you to see them. They want you to be afraid. But I’m not afraid of them. I close the curtains and turn back to my new charge.

I take my sweater back and grab a blanket from the closet, which I promptly wrap around her. I notice her breathing is labored and her skin is quite pale. She’s going to need a doctor soon. The shock is just too great for her. It’s always like this for the new ones. The trauma of real life sets in quickly it seems.

“What’s your name?” I ask her.

“Sky,” she manages to whisper.

“Short name.”

“You wouldn’t be able to pronounce my real name.”

“You’d be surprised. But for now Sky will do. So…. you hungry?”

She looks at me strangely as if I’ve just asked her if her mom’s name is Bill.

“Food?” she asks.

I nod and get up to go to the kitchen. I open up a cabinet. Cans of soup, peaches, apple sauce… yes, that’s it, applesauce. I take a can down and open it. I grab a spoon and carry her very light dinner into the living room for her. She is still on the couch, has hardly moved an inch.

“Here you go.” I hand her the can and spoon. She looks at both as if she doesn’t know which one she wants to eat. Finally, she dips the spoon into the can and brings some of it out. She tastes it cautiously and then swallows it down.

I smile. The new ones always like applesauce. But she eats it too quickly. Soon she begins to cough and choke on the mixture. I pat her on the back and that seems to help a little. But I notice her back is unusually warm. I remove the blanket from her shoulders and take a closer look at her back. She is bleeding, and pretty badly too. I don’t know why I didn’t notice it earlier.

“I’m going to have to get you a doctor.” I pull out my cell and speed dial my friend Carl. He’s a good doctor and doesn’t ask questions.

As I wait for him to pick up the line, the girl drops the can of applesauce and slumps over, sliding off the couch and to the floor.

“Shit,” I exclaim, just as Carl’s voice comes on the line.

“Hello,” his voice says somewhat sleepily though it’s early afternoon.

I get straight to the point. “Carl, I have another one I need you to look at.”

“I’m on the way,” he replies and I hang up on him, already moving to the prone figure of Sky on the floor.

I don’t touch her. I just leave her there in the floor. I don’t even so much as check for a pulse. Healing is not my area of expertise. I am more into the adjustment end of things. I should have an ADJUSTMENT DEPT sign hanging on my door.

The girl shudders, a quick spasm. It startles me and I really want to help, but I know the rules. Wait for the doc. I leave her in the floor and busy myself with the task of preparing the spare bedroom. She is going to need a place to sleep and recuperate.

I finish changing the bed sheets when the knock comes at the door. One knock, then three, and one again. It is the doctor’s code. I go back to the living room and to the front door. When I open it Carl doesn’t say a word in greeting and neither do I. We are beyond such casual formalities.

“That the one?” he asks, looking at the motionless half naked figure on my floor.

“Yeah. She has some serious back lacerations, who knows what else.”

“I’ll need you to make me a cold compress,” he says, as if I’d just told him she has a simple fever. But I do as I’m told and go into the kitchen to prepare what he needs. It doesn’t take me long and soon I’m back in the living room with doctor and patient.

Carl hasn’t wasted much time in the short period I’ve been out of the room. The girl is back on the couch, lying on her stomach and he’s already begun examining her naked, bloody back. I notice her bare skin is of a perfect complexion and unblemished by beauty marks of any kind. The only marks are the wounds just below her shoulder blades. It looks like someone has tried to cut the bones right out of her back.

“Damn,” I exclaim quietly.

Carl looks up at me, a look of worry on his face. “Yeah, this one is pretty bad. It’s been some time since I’ve seen one like this.”

“She must have been out there by herself a long time,” I suggest.

He nods in agreement before returning to his examination. He reaches in his medicine bag and pulls out a small jar. He opens it up and applies a salve like substance to her wounds.

“Generally, this works pretty good,” he explains, “but I think she’s going to need a little more time to heal and rest.” He puts the lid on and closes up the jar, putting it back in his bag. “Are you going to be able to care for her?”

“I don’t know, Carl. This is a halfway house, not a hospital.”

He nods. “Well, if we have to move her we will, but I’d rather she be stabilized and healed before she’s out there with the dogs.”

“She’s already been out there with the dogs,” I reason.

“That’s true, but she didn’t know what the dogs were then. We want her to know what’s out there before we put her out on her own.”

“Okay, I’ll do the best I can. She can stay here however long it takes.”

“You can always call Nicodemus if you need to,” Carl suggests warily. “He’ll take care of her.”

“Nicodemus is a lecher. He would use her and then throw her back out there.”

“True, but she would be out of your hands and not your responsibility.”

“I don’t think I’ll be calling Nicodemus.”

“Good,” he smiles. “Well, I think that’s it for her back wounds there, let’s get her in the bedroom so she can rest.”

I go to the hall closet and get a new blanket, which we lay out beside the couch. Ever so gently we lift and move her onto it. For the most part she is unconscious, but I believe I hear her whisper “no”. I don’t think it is directed towards us though. I imagine she is in the throes of a bad dream. Hell, she doesn’t even know the half of it.

For hours she doesn’t stir in the bed. She just lies there naked, curled up in a fetal position, as if she’s a child resting in the womb. In a way that isn’t too far off the mark. I step in and check on her every so often, but I know she’ll rest for some time. The salve Carl uses seems to heal well enough, but it sometimes makes you sleep for days on end.

My doctor friend waits around for several hours just to make sure she is going to be okay, and then he too leaves. He doesn’t say goodbye. He knows he’ll be hearing from me again soon. No need saying goodbye when you are just going to say hello again.

I watch television as she sleeps. Surfing through the channels I am always surprised there really isn’t anything worth watching. Between “Nobody Has Any Frigging Talent” and reality shows that look remarkably like plastic supermodels masquerading as real people, I am stupefied over what passes as entertainment. If we are going to have reality TV, why not show us the way it truly is? Pre-teen boys shooting their neighbor for those new Nikes he saw him wearing; a young woman prostituting herself because her boyfriend is too lazy to get a real job; a man OD’s when in a drug induced stupor he accidentally shoots an air pocket into his veins. Another young woman shows up naked and bleeding at an apartment complex and no one notices. This is real life, not who is sleeping with who in a fully furnished house none of the occupants had to work their fingers to the bone to afford. This is why I don’t watch TV.

That and the fact the white suits use it to ask for money to further their cause. They think they have us fooled, standing there in their pulpit, quoting scriptures between pleas for donations. They would like us to think the money is for His work, but they aren’t really affiliated with Him at all. It all goes to hunting us down.

I turn it to the religious channel just to see what they have to say today. There is a man preaching. What he says makes sense. Forgiveness. Redemption. All the good stuff, and then a static flare spreads across the screen. The picture goes away replaced by swirling images of bodies entwined. Not in ecstasy but agony. They writhe and twist as if tortured, mouths open trying to scream but nothing comes out. It doesn’t take one of the prophets to tell me it’s a transmission from someone’s perception of hell. Then the screen blanks out again and returns focused on the street outside the apartment. The two white suits who were there earlier are now joined by a third. The third one grins from the TV screen.

“Why don’t you just send her on down, Rachel? We won’t hurt her, promise.”

He reminds me of a used car salesman, or some guy in a bar who looks my way and sees a big flashing neon sign that says TITS AVAILABLE HERE.

“Yeah right, pervert,” I reply.

“You know we’ll get her eventually. We always do,” he says with a lecherous gleam in his eye. “You know as well I do she can’t stay there forever. Eventually you’ll put her out and we’ll be there to get her. You could save yourself some trouble and just put her out now.”

“Why do you want her so bad? Did you run out of altar boys this week?”

“Oh that was funny. Remind me to laugh when I peel the flesh off your bones and…”

“Oh save it for the bleeding choir indivisible, why don’t you?”

Click! I turn off the television. I know this will go nowhere – just insults after insults hurled at each other. And you think the battle of the sexes is bad.

I get up and go to the window. Yes, all three of them are out there leaning against a storefront wall across the street. They all wave as if signaling a long lost friend. I give them the finger. They always hate the “damn you” connotation that applies.

I head for the bedroom to check on my charge and she still sleeps peacefully. She doesn’t even know anyone has been fighting over her. In fact she doesn’t know much at all. I’m going to have to teach her, and fast.

I am distracted by a knock at the door. I know who it is before I even answer it. Nicholas, the boy from the apartment down the hall. He stops by at least once a day whenever I’m home. I think he must watch my door to see if I come and go. Most people would find this creepy, but if you knew the boy you would find it endearing. I mean it’s no secret he has a crush. I saw it in his eyes the first I met him, and though this may sound bad of me, I sometimes use that to my advantage.

I open the door. “Hi Nicky,” I say. He likes the pet name I’ve given him, makes him blush every time.

“Hi Rach,” he grins. His baby blue eyes are wide and innocent. He is much like the girl recuperating in my bed, so far untouched by the madness of the world we live. He’s only sixteen, but his good looks are already a hit with the girls I’m sure. If I was younger and of a different preference I would be tempted to be smitten with him myself. But I have this thing with dating guys. I don’t. Maybe it’s the fact I can always tell what the male of the species is thinking. It kind of takes the mystery out of the evening when you know all they are working for is to find out if you wear panties or thong, or if that’s your natural hair color. Nicky isn’t like that though, thank heavens or whoever. Once, about two weeks ago I caught him thinking of kissing me. I guess that wouldn’t be too unpleasant, but I don’t want him getting anymore attached to me than he already is.

“Hey, I was heading out to the store,” he says. “Can I get you anything?”

“I was thinking of doing that myself, Nicky. Must have read my mind.”

“Cool! We could go together!”

“Well, actually I have company and don’t want to leave them by themselves.”

His smile fades for a minute. I know what he thinks. That I have a man over. But then he grins again. “One of them wild nights, huh?”

“No, it’s not like that,” I laugh. “Just a friend.”

“Ahhh,” he says, giving me a wink. “Well, hey I can pick some stuff up for ya at the store. What do you want?”

“Just some milk and applesauce.”

“I should have known. What do you do with all that applesauce anyway, take a bath in it?”

“Now that’s an idea,” I tease, and for a brief moment I catch an image from his head of me naked in a tub of applesauce. So much for innocence.

I watch Nicky from the window as he heads down the street. I notice the men in white are watching him too. One of them detaches himself from the others and begins to follow the boy discretely. In the old days I would have panicked, thinking they were going to hurt him, but I know better now. They have no real interest in anyone other than those in the halfway house. They know Nick is harmless and no threat to them. Still, they like to keep tabs on people I come in contact with. Maybe they think I will secretly call out for reinforcements.

I turn from the window and go to check out my guest. She has managed to kick off the covers and I gently put them back over her, tucking her in. She stirs lightly and murmurs something that sounds like “Father.”

I touch my hand to her cheek. Her skin is so soft and I find myself wishing to lie beside her. To just curl up next to her and forget the world outside. Would she understand? Or would she recoil in shock or shame, already jaded by this world to believe such intimacy was purely a flawed human thing? My fingers linger on her skin a little longer and I find myself bending over top of her sleeping form, drawing myself down to kiss her cheek.

My thoughts are interrupted by the squeal of tires. No not yet, I think. Please not yet. I forget my impossible dreams of affection and jump to my feet. Returning to the living room I take a look out the window. A car is stopped in the middle of the road. The careless driver almost hit a little old lady pushing a grocery cart across the road. I breathe a sigh of relief. There for a minute I believed it was time’s up for Nicky. One of the hardest parts of being who I am is knowing how someone is going to die. I don’t know when. He could very well live to a ripe old age before it happens, or his end could come tomorrow for all we know. It is a shame that my foresight doesn’t extend far enough out of the shadows to give me all the details.

Nicky arrives with the milk and applesauce fifteen minutes later. I let him in and he stands in the living room as I go to get him some money.

“Whoa, did you spill some ketchup?” he exclaims.

I return with the money and see he is looking at a spot on the couch that I missed while cleaning up after my guest. “Yes, dropped the whole bottle,” I lie.

“I get sloppy with my hamburgers too. Mom won’t even let me eat on the couch anymore.”

I smile and hand him the money for my groceries. He looks at it for a moment, and then hands it back. “You know what? Just keep it,” he says.

“No Nicky, I can’t let you buy my stuff for me. You probably work hard for your allowance.”

“Allowance? Did you know how many rocks I had to sell to get that?”

I know he is playing. He doesn’t do that kind of thing, still I act shocked so he will not know I can read his every thought. “Nicky!”

He grins real big and points his finger at me. “Ha, gotcha!”

“You shouldn’t joke about such things,” I mildly admonish him.

“Yeah I know, but it’s good to see that look on your face every now and then. Hey, could I use your bathroom?”

“Sure go ahead.”

As he heads off down the hall, I take a peek into his own grocery bag. Sodas, bread, his mother’s medicine. I drop the money down in there. He can fuss at me later.

I am cleaning the spot on the couch when he screams. It is not a cry of terror, but one of shocked surprise. I run towards the restroom and come to a complete stop in the hallway. “Oh no,” I whisper.

Nicky is standing there in the bathroom doorway his jaw hanging open. In front of him stands my guest, completely naked. She has obviously awakened and healed enough to start exploring her surroundings. This however is not a good time.

I open the hall closet and pull down a sheet to wrap around her. As I approach them, Nicky turns his eyes from her perfectly alluring form to look at me. “Why didn’t you tell me it was this kind of company?” he stammers.

“Because I knew your tongue would fall out of your head,” I explain, wrapping her in the sheet and steering her back into the bedroom. “Go wait in the living room while I put my sister back to bed. She’s sick.”

“Your sister?”

“Yes, now go in the living room. I’ll only be a minute.”

He grudgingly obeys, and I close the bedroom door behind me, so he won’t try to ogle my guest any further.

“We really need to get you some clothes before you go wandering around too much,” I tell her.

She sits down on the edge of the bed and is looking at me with admiration. “You healed me.”

“No, not me. A friend.”

“You’re not my friend?”

“No, I’m not. I’m just here to help you make the transition.”

“Transition from what?”

“All in good time. You will remember gradually. Until then we have to get you prepared.”

“Prepared for what?”

“Survival.”

I open up the bedroom closet and start rifling through my clothes. “You are a little smaller than me, but hopefully I can find something that won’t swallow you up too much.”

She gets up and comes up behind me. I can feel her breath on my neck. Her close proximity is intoxicating. I hate this. Why does she have to be so beautiful?

“Here, you find something you like,” I stammer. “I have to go explain you to Nicky.”

She is unaware of the effect she has on me. She’ll soon discover she will have that affect on everyone until she learns to hide what she’s been blessed with. These new ones just seem to drip sexuality so much you want to dip them in mud to remove some of that glamour. Problem is I happen to like mud, too.

I leave her to browse my wardrobe while I go to tell Nicky some lie to get him to go home.

“I didn’t know you had a sister,” Nicky says when I tell him she’ll be visiting for a few days. “And she’s hot too!”

“Down boy,” I tell him. “She’s not ready for anyone to be pawing all over her. She had an accident.”

“What happened?”

“She fell.”

“From where?”

“A great height. But I think she’ll be okay.”

“She looks fine to me,” he grins.

“Come on Nicky, please don’t turn out like every other guy I know.”

“I’m sorry, Rach. It’s just ..well…it’s not every day you see a naked girl standing in front of you. It does something to you.”

Tell me about it.

 “Well, she’s not acting like herself. I think the fall dazed her.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “So please behave.”

He sits up straight. I’m not sure if its from what I’ve said or the fact I actually touched him. “No problem,” he says.

“Nicky, you’re going to have to leave us girls to talk, but you can come back tomorrow and visit.”

“Yeah, maybe your sister will be feeling better.”

“Yes, I’m sure she will be.”

He reluctantly gets up, grabs his grocery bag, and walks slowly for the door. He looks almost dejected that he can’t stay. Boys will be boys, I guess.

“Nicky,” I say and he stops. “Thank you for getting my groceries for me.”

This brightens him up a little and he smiles brightly. “Anything for you. Rachel.”

As he leaves, with the door closing behind him, an image comes to me. Nicky hit by a car, his body doing somersaults before crashing down on the vehicle’s windshield. I want to yank back open the door and take him into my arms to protect him somehow. But I know it’s not going to happen today. Still it will happen eventually and that makes me mourn the frailties of mortality.

I feel something stir behind me. My guest has come into the room. “Did he leave?” she asks.

“Yes, he’s gone.”

“He’s going to die, isn’t he?”

“They all do eventually,” I tell her.

“But we don’t?”

“No.”

“Why is that?”

I hesitate for a moment not sure of how much to tell her. “Because we’re angels,” I finally say.

She seems to think on this a moment, and the look on her face tells me she doesn’t find that idea as preposterous as it seems. I know in time she will remember things I would just as soon forget. But for now she appears to accept the one basic truth: We were in heaven, now we’re in hell.

“Halfway House” 2017 Paul D Aronson. 

All That And A Cup Of Sugar Too (short story)

A/N: Usually when I complete a novel, I am done with the characters. Mission accomplished, I move on. But something about the character in the following short story is trying to tell me he isn’t done yet, lol. So, here we go revisiting a friend of mine. Hope you enjoy . 🙂

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“All That And A Cup Of Sugar, Too”

I wonder how many relationships have begun with a cup of sugar? You know the old icebreaker. Show up at your neighbor’s house on the pretense of borrowing the confectionary when all you want to do is meet who’s behind that door. My experience with sugar was just that, though I wasn’t the one initiating things. In fact, I was just getting ready to go out and get the mail when I saw her there on my doorstep. I just opened the door and there she was, hand paused in mid air and ready to knock. Smiling a bit shyly she said, “I was just getting ready to knock.”

“I see you were.” I thought about holding my hand out but seeing how frail she looked, I was a little afraid I might find her touch intoxicating. She was a beautiful woman, white porcelain skin, dark auburn hair, and a shape that I’m sure had turned many men’s heads in her experience. In these minds I imagine she was what was considered as “all that.”

“I’m Tina,” she said. “Your new neighbor.” She glanced across my lawn to the house next door. I knew someone had moved in several weeks ago but as of yet I hadn’t taken time to introduce myself. The grief over the loss of my wife a year ago had me preoccupied. I had seen a man coming and going, and I think maybe once I had seen a woman in the garden out back, but she had looked nothing like this. You’d be surprised the difference a dress can make on a woman.

The dress in question seemed more suited for a debutante ball than knocking on a neighbor’s door. It was sleeveless and black silk, the front of it cut low in a V. Under different circumstances I imagine the typical male would be dreaming of getting her out of it, but it was my anniversary I had other things to think about.

“I know this is going to sound awkward,” she smiled. “But do you have a cup of sugar I could borrow?”

I almost laughed. You couldn’t get anymore cliché than that. If this were a movie, I guess I would say ‘yeah come on in and we’ll give you some sugar’ to which she would fall into my arms in a maddening embrace. But this wasn’t a movie. It was me standing on my porch just wanting to get my mail and have the world leave me alone with my memories.

“I was just on my way to get my mail,” I replied, stepping around her to go down the steps. She turned to watch me pass, and to be honest I didn’t really care if she found me rude or not.

“Just one cup would do,” she said, following me, as I went down the walk towards my mailbox and the road. “I know we have some, but I just can’t seem to find it.”

I opened my mailbox and pulled a stack of envelopes out. I hadn’t gotten my mail in three days. There was no real reason to check it every day. It’s not like I was awaiting a sweepstakes check or a letter from my late wife saying she was sorry she had to go. I knew for damn sure I wouldn’t be hearing from her again. Well at least not until we meet in heaven, if I’m allowed to go there.

I flipped through the mail as my neighbor stood there patiently waiting for me to say something. Most women would have walked away if a guy were ignoring her the way I was, but this lady was persistent. I could almost hear her toe tapping on the sidewalk, as if her sheer force of will was trying to compel me to say something to her.

I sighed. “Listen Tina,” I finally said, trying to find the right way to approach this. “Maybe you could come back later when your husband is home. Maybe I can find you folks a cup of sugar then.”

“Oh, he will be home soon. He just stepped out for a minute.”

“Well, send him over when he gets back,” I told her, as I headed back up the walk to the house. I really didn’t want her following me and I thought this would end our conversation.

She stepped up alongside me. “It will be too late then. I wanted to surprise him with something.”

I didn’t know what her surprise was, but I knew I didn’t want it to be her in the house of another man. I went up the porch steps, and noticed that she wasn’t following me. She stayed on the sidewalk just looking up at me with sad eyes, and though I felt like she had used that doe eyed look on men before, it still seemed to melt the coldness of my heart.

“Okay look, you wait here, and I’ll see if I can find you a cup of sugar.”

She smiled brightly. “Thank you.”

I went inside to see what I could find for her.

When I came back out, she had moved back up on the porch and was standing at the door. Maybe she had been looking inside the whole time, trying to catch a glimpse of me, I don’t know, but when I opened the screen door she backed up as if maybe she thought I was going to take a swing at her for being nosy. I would never hit a woman though, and certainly not for being curious.

“Here’s your sugar,” I said, handing a coffee mug towards her that I had filled to the brim with the confectionary. She didn’t take it, but instead gave me that look that said she wanted something more from me.

“Um, I was wondering, if maybe you’d like to um..Come over.”

There it was. Finally. I knew she didn’t need sugar. She was just a lonely housewife looking for a single man to while away the afternoon with. I knew from her revealing dress and manner she wasn’t getting ready to bake a cake.

“Tina,” I said. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I do not think your husband..”

“To hell with him,” she interrupted. “He’s upset with me anyway.”

There it was again. The truth. The couple had had a fight, so to strike back at angry hubby, she figured she’d go flirt with the neighbor.

“Well, let me put this another way,” I said. “Today is the wedding anniversary of me and the wife. And though she’s no longer here, I still love her. And when you came up on my porch I was preparing to go to the cemetery and take her some flowers.”

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I wouldn’t have come over here if I didn’t think you could help me.”

I was near exasperation and just wanted her to take the cup of sugar and get off my porch. “And just what is it you want my help with?”

“I just want you to come over. I have something I want to show you. I promise it’s right up your alley.”

How in the world she thought she knew what was ‘up my alley’ was beyond me, and she was pouring on the seductiveness thick, playing to that more animal side of man. I found it hard to refuse. In hindsight, I’d say it was simple curiosity that allowed myself to follow her off my porch, but maybe I’m just fooling myself. Maybe I did find myself attracted to her in ways I shouldn’t have been thinking of.

“Come on,” she cooed, and started across the lawn to her yard. I looked at the cup of sugar in my hand, shook my head, and quietly followed.

All the houses on my street are pretty much the same. It’s like the developer built one house and then used a replicator ray to build the rest. Not that such things exist, but I’m just saying that to let you know the outside of her house was almost the same as my own. The only difference with hers was a big welcome wreath hung on her front door. Hell, if I would have had a wreath on my door it would have said ‘go away.’

She opened the door and stepped over the threshold. She made sure to cast me a ‘come hither’ look over her shoulder, and I looked around to make sure no one was watching, and followed her in. I closed the door quietly behind me and checked to make sure it was locked. I didn’t want any surprises.

“This is home sweet home,” she said with a sarcastic tone, waiting for me in the foyer. I noticed the interior of her house was much like mine: foyer, living room, dining room / kitchen, back door. At least I would know where the exit was. I looked towards a staircase at my right. I knew it led upstairs where there were two bedrooms and a bath, a carbon copy layout of my own house.

“So what was it you wanted to show me?’ I asked.

She licked her lips. “I want to make sure you’re prepared first.”

I smiled a little shyly and looked at the cup in my hand. “I did bring my own sugar.”

She laughed. “Well it did take some coaxing to get you over here.” She winked. “I knew based on your reputation it wouldn’t be easy.”

I raised an eyebrow. “And what is my reputation supposed to be?”

She wagged her finger back and forth. “No fair, I can’t tell you that. But you’re just what I need to surprise my husband with.”

“Look Tina, I won’t mince words here. I don’t want to get in the middle of whatever is going on with you and your husband. If you are having problems, another man is not the solution. Trust me, only communication and understanding can heal a broken marriage.”

“Oh the marriage is beyond broken,” she confessed. “There will be no more communicating, and any understanding we had went out the window two hours ago when I discovered the name of his mistress.”

I couldn’t believe anyone would cheat on this beautiful woman, and I told her so. She laughed. “Well thank you, but the bitch is loaded. Money seems to matter more to a man than genuine affection.”

“With some men, I imagine so.”

“But you aren’t like that, are you?”

“No, I’m not.”

“You appreciate a woman for who she is and what simple pleasures she can bring you.”

“Yes, mam,” I agreed.

“And if you saw that someone had hurt a woman you would do something about it, right?”

“Well, I guess it depends on the hurt.”

She smiled. “Of course.”

We stood there looking at each other a few minutes, as if neither of us knew what to do next. The stillness of the house was only interrupted by the sound of my breathing.

Finally she broke the silence. “Would you like to take the sugar into the kitchen? I want to slip into something more…comfortable.”

I couldn’t imagine what could be more comfortable than what she was wearing, but I had come this far, so there was no point turning back now. What was going to happen would happen, and neither of us could stop it.

“Sure, no problem,” I said, as I watched her start up the stairs, her dress already starting to come off her shoulders. My breath caught in my throat. “I’ll be in the kitchen.”

“Thank you,” I heard her say as she reached the top of the landing. “I know you will treat me respectfully.”

I shook my head and headed towards the kitchen. Here she was worrying about being respected after inviting a man she didn’t even know into her house. Sometimes I can’t figure out people.

The kitchen had two saloon type swinging doors and I pushed them open. I don’t know what hit me first, the sight or the smell. Any policeman will tell you the smell of blood and death can be overwhelming, but things like that didn’t faze me anymore. Still the smell was strong. I came around a Formica counter and stopped in my tracks. The cup of sugar dropped from my hand to shatter on the floor. A body lay there on the kitchen tile, still and lifeless. The victim had pale skin and her red hair was splayed across the floor. Her black silk dress was made even darker by the kitchen knife that protruded from her stomach. She had been stabbed several times as if rage had been the killer’s sole motivation. The victim’s eyes were open and as I leaned over her, I realized the doe eyed look was gone forever. I touched my fingers to her eyelids and quietly closed them.

I noticed a phone on the wall, and I went to it, immediately dialing 911.

I waited for the dispatcher to answer and then spoke. “I’m at 5311 Leslie Drive. A woman has been murdered. I think her name is Tina.”

“I’ll send a life saving crew and a squad car. Can you stay on the line?”

“Yeah sure.”

“What is your relationship to the woman?”

“I’m her next door neighbor.”

“Are you sure she is dead? Can you tell me what happened?”

“I think her husband was having an affair. She found out and confronted him. He stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife.”

“Is he there now?”

“No I don’t think so.”

“How do you know that is what happened, sir? Were you there when it happened?”

“No, it’s just when she came to me, she said..”

“Wait a minute sir. You say she came to you? When was this?”

“After she died.”

“After she died? …Uh, what is your name, sir?”

“Winter. Cole Winter.”

“I’ve heard that name before.”

“Yeah, I heard I had a reputation.”

“What do you do, sir?”

“I’m an advocate for the dead.”

She was silent for a minute, and I imagine she was trying to decide whether I was serious or not. “Well thank you for calling us immediately, Mr. Winter,” she finally said.

“No problem.” I could hear the ambulance and police siren approaching. There was no need to stay on the line. “I’m going to go now. I have another spirit to pay my respects to.”

“Wait sir…”

I hung up. The police knew where they could find me if they needed to ask me anything. I went to the back door and opened it, stepping out into the sunshine. I really needed to get those flowers to my wife. If I was late though, I’m sure she’d understand, considering the situation. As I headed across the lawn, I looked back to my neighbor’s house. Tina stood in an upper window looking down at me. She smiled and silently mouthed the words, “thank you.”

I nodded my head and kept going. I knew soon she would go to.

 
2017 Paul D Aronson.

If this is your first time experiencing Cole Winter, Advocate For The Dead, you can check out the complete novel chronicling his paranormal investigations here:

Advocate For The Dead

Hand Over The Girl: Dialogue Prompt for Sunday 12 Feb

Alright, here we go with yet another prompt. I really enjoy doing these, and I hope you don’t mind me passing the challenge over to you. I just find prompts a great warm up to get those creative juices going. So today, we have a slice of dialogue to inspire your flash fiction or short story. The object is to use this in its exact form somewhere within your text. In case you missed it in the image for this post, the dialogue to use is as follows:

“Hand over the girl.”

“Not going to happen.”

Again, Put this anywhere within your story. I did take it a step further personally by adding a further rule for myself: My flash fiction had to be told completely with dialogue. You don’t have to do yours this way if you don’t want to. I was just trying to challenge myself further. Okay , well here we go….

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One Morning Before Breakfast


“Hand over the girl.”

“Not going to happen.” 

“Are you crazy? We have you outnumbered.” 

“And your point is?..” 

“We can take her by force if we have to.” 

“That’s not a good idea.” 

“Ha! And why not?” 

“For every action there is a reaction. You are a ripple in the pond. Don’t turn it into a wave.” 

“I hated school teachers as a kid. I hate them even worse now, so just give us the girl.” 

“You can learn nothing from her. Leave her alone.” 

“We just want to talk to her about what she saw.” 

“She didn’t see anything. Nobody called the cops. Live and let live.” 

“I’m sorry, the boss wants to see her just the same. Just to make sure.” 

“I can’t let you take her.” 

“Come on, teach. Be smart. Don’t make me shoot you.” 

“You don’t understand.” 

“So make me understand and maybe I’ll let you live.” 

“She can’t go outside. Not yet anyway.” 

“What? Is she grounded or something? Teacher, giving her after school lessons in the dark? Ha-ha!” 

“No, she just likes it here in the dark.” 

“Freaking perv. How many little girls you bring down here in this dark, damp basement?” 

“I’m not a perv. I’m her teacher.” 

“Not for long, you ain’t. Now, one last time, hand..over…the …girl.” 

“I’m sorry Elena. These men want to talk to you. I tried my best. I guess I’m not much good at being a protector.” 

“That’s better, teach. Now get her out of that corner.” 

“Elena, it’s alright. You can come out and go with them. But just this one time, okay?” 

“That’s right girly, come out and go with us.” 

“Elena, remember what I taught you. Never for pleasure, always for survival, okay?” 

“Whatever, teach. Come on girl, we ain’t got all day. Earl, go over there and get her.” 

“Right, boss. I’m on it….hey, what’s up with her eyes? Why is she freaking smiling like that…..Aaaaaaaa!” 

“What the hell? Get her off of him guys!” 

“I told you she wants to stay in the dark.” 

“Oh my god, boss! She has…. Aaaaaa!” 

“I’m coming , hold on! I’m going to pump you full of lead, you little bitch!…What the shit? What..what the hell are you? I just emptied all my bullets into you!…No, get away from me! Why are you looking at me like that? Oh Mary, holy mother of Jesus, is that blood on your teeth? No, no, no!…… AaaaaAAA!” 

“Elena, don’t turn them. Survival only, remember? That’s a good girl. Come on, let’s get you away from the light. Whoa, you sure are heavy after you’ve had breakfast….” 

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2017 Paul D Aronson.