When the Looking-Glass is No Longer a Friend

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As Alice exited Wonderland for the last time she scooped up some of the pills that made her taller and some pills that made her small.  They were mementoes, nothing more.

But when her husband used his fists against her she swallowed a “taller” pill and stomped his bones to powder.  When police arrived at the scene a “smaller” pill let her creep behind the walls, and escape.

Making contact with the white rabbit she found him lost in a fog of fornication.  Reality made her furiouser and furiouser.  So, gobbling up her store of “smaller” pills, she vanished in a blink.

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday.  Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is at the top of this post, copyright Marie Gail Stratford.  Also, taking a leaf out of Jen’s book and her wonderful posts at Blog It Or Lose It, here’s a groovy soundtrack for the story.

Kingdom of the Bronze Spider

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In the Kingdom of the Bronze Spider I marched among the king’s retinue and waited my chance.  As a visiting dignitary from a neighbouring land it was a simple matter to get so close as that, but no closer.  The cordon around his majesty bristled with the tips of ornamental spears.  Yet it was imperative I got closer.  I had a message to deliver.

Following the traditional route of the age-old procession, sanctioned by the footsteps of generations, we jostled together along the winding thoroughfares, wilting from the heat and claustrophobia.  Despite the forced proximity, I tried keeping my distance from the local politicians and commanders.  Although protocol made it seemly I should be invited to attend the festival I wasn’t an entirely welcome guest.  The political situation was seldom less than tense between our nations, even while diplomatic niceties were mostly still observed.  So, my invitation was doubtless sent reluctantly and I attended grudgingly.

Occasionally, as if by accident, the black standard with the glowing spider was left to dangle in my face.  And I overheard odd mutterings about “Waspers” and that “poisonous, stripy country where they can’t really talk, only buzz at each other.”  But I wore the insignia of the Colliding Swarms on my chest, with venomous dedication, as always.  The safety and prosperity of the land of my birth depended on the success with which my message was delivered, I was informed.  That consideration alone swayed me.  It motivated all that followed.  And I manoeuvred myself accordingly.

It was rumoured that the ruler of the Bronze Spider lands had become half a cripple now, that his powers waned and he stumbled to mouth the right words when discussing policy at court.  It was argued by his political enemies that this alteration only made him more of a threat, since the weakness that racked his limbs made him over-compensate through random bouts of savagery and hubris.  It was argued by his political allies that any alteration only made him more of a force, since the longevity that shook his limbs made him wise enough to apply surgical remedies and reprisals when needed.

I observed all the nuances of this as they played out around me in the huddled cliques and backbiting of the retinue.  I weighed options.  I guessed at the risks involved.  I bided my time.  The sun blistered down on us as the procession dragged on.  Sweaty condensation dripped from inside the bronze helmets of the guards and sprinkled down their backs.  I gagged on the stink of those people, whose unctuous foods gave off cloying odours that seeped from their pores.

Close by, I occasionally glimpsed that land’s queen, matching our progress amidst her own decorous retinue.  However, the traditional routes laid out for king and queen never crossed, so she remained a mysterious, shimmering mirage across the plain in that oppressive heat.  I forgot about her and resumed my focus on how best to deliver the message I was entrusted with.  I sought the proper platform, that slender opportunity which would offer me what I craved: a few seconds of direct access to the king, uninterrupted and brutally candid.

Finally, having weaved our way to the highest cliff top that overlooked the hallowed canyons, the heat and lack of shelter was too much even for the reeking locals.  So, a royal pavilion had been built there for the king to rest in its shade a while.  With only a few guards and the most notable dignitaries from abroad, I among them, the king retired inside.  Once the pavilion was sealed from prying eyes my fingers made discrete adjustments to the insignia I wore, unsealing the disguised locket.  Instantly, the narrow chamber filled with toxins: airborne agents that caused paralysis within seconds, to which I was immune.  I stepped across the prostrate bodies to where the king slumped on a makeshift throne, limbs twitching at ragdoll-ridiculous angles.  I pressed my face close to his and breathed in the royal fear.

“Listen closely, your majesty.  I have a message and an apology.  I apologise for how unseemly this is, but you must be made aware that certain interests within your court seek to overthrow you.  They seek to ally my government to their cause.  They believe that I am here as an executioner, but I am not; my government’s interests are not served by such upheaval in your kingdom.  So, heed me when I say…”

Abruptly, my speech ended.  The pavilion doors slid open and the queen marched in, unattended and undaunted, gliding by the spasming guards and politicians who littered the floor.  “Your majesty,” I made a brief bow in her direction, “I assure you that this scene is not how it appears, I am…”  Swiftly reaching her husband, she cradled his head in her hands and then sliced open his throat with a blade I hadn’t noticed.  A glut of blood vomited into his lap.  I staggered back, appalled and stupid.

Quicker than my numb mind could work, the queen sprang to close the distance between us; jamming the knife to its hilt between my ribs, she spat in my face, “It was I who hired you, fool.  There was no petty political intrigue.  This was a divorce.  We wives of this realm have a history of devouring our husbands.  Did you not believe the legends?  Ah I suppose you reasoned that all the guards with spears were for the benefit of you outlanders?  No, fool, they were organised in deference to the threat that springs from the marital bed.  Only within the confines of that bed was the ex-king truly safe, by virtue of commandments that sanctify the need to breed.  Otherwise he was forever ringed about by protectors in my presence.  Protectors you disabled.  See how sincerely the new ruler of this realm thanks you, in person, with no vestige of royal protocol setting barriers between us.”  The knife twisted deeper between my ribs as her kiss twisted on my mouth.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Wordle Challenge #27 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the wordle at the top of this post.  The rules are that at least 10 of the given words are to be used.  I missed out “Argyle” and “Upholstery”; I also adjusted “Locker” into “Locket”, which is hopefully ok.

Bugs Across the Pond

I have a pet pond skater who relies on the exploitation of extreme tension to get by.  Negotiating the borderline legalities between this world and that, between the fluidity of thought and solid little pincers, she hones her antennae and takes aim.  Nothing across the pond’s dim surface escapes her notice, as she races and skims passed objections, passed doubts.  Wiry limbs paddling, she focuses on the frantic rippling of soaked prey.  The trial of strength is swift, business-like and wrapped in silence; her suction-feeding mouth only pausing to peddle the sole, secret motto of the pond – “never secure anywhere.”

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is below, copyright Dawn Landau.

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Cinderella’s Bordello

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Glass slippers were a trap.  The silvery tinkle of the heels across the ballroom’s marble floor possessed a meticulous music I couldn’t shake; it jangled around in my head each time the waltz stopped, each time I stepped from one partner to the next.  I danced like the wind dances.  I danced like falling leaves.  It was so effortless, so natural, to swirl and cavort in those enchanting glass heels.  I could feel all eyes fixed on me, I could feel the yearning (that night I preferred to call it “yearning”).  Ah when you’ve had nothing, had to beg for the small patch of nothing you were allowed to call your own, then you enjoy the pleasant pang of others yearning in your stead.

So I revelled in their yearning, my bosom heaving with exertion and delight.  My skin flushed pink and I felt like I was blossoming.  The slippers’ music led me far more than the waltz did, far more than the men whose yearning hands held me close.

Then finally I caught the glance of the prince.  He was stouter than his portraits, his creased face looking sweaty from his own dancing efforts.  I curtsied.  He bowed, with some difficulty; his breeches pinched a little and made his face spasm in a grimace or a smirk, I don’t remember which.

It never occurred to me to wonder why the keen, old woman was so insistent I should add glass slippers to my attire that night, after she promised I’d attend the ball.  I supposed she simply had an obscurely elegant taste in shoes.  But no, she knew her market well.  The prince was sold on me at once.

Now I lie still and dangle a glass slipper behind my back, so the silvery shine contrasts against the nudity of my buttocks, exactly as he likes.  Utterly still, I listen to his breaths, try to gauge how much longer, as he begins grunting out the countdown to another climax.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Photo Challenge #26 “Silver,” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the painting at the top of this post, by Cesar Santos.

Motley Feudal Ties

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I’ve come to love the silence.  Sheer silence follows the baying and bloodshed of the hunt, which makes a trampled cacophony of what the forest was born for.  The inescapable baying and the riotous bloodshed follow a frantic chase into oblivion and delight.  The inexhaustible chase follows closely all the paths and dimensions of mockery, I feel, although I could be wrong.

But if mockery creeps in then it creeps alongside the procession and paraphernalia of horses and hounds.  The proud trotting of the horses and the salivating of the hounds follows the donning of red, tightly buttoned-up with gleaming brass.  The fashion statement follows the unfathomable rise of etiquette.  Etiquette follows education and the glorious stay at Eton.  The little masters’ rifling alma mater is carved from mucky stone identical to the teetering stately homes, stained by tall chimneys and shown-up by chandeliers.  Their glittery crystals follow the sparkling, slimy design of sugar, sailing in from plantations.  The planter aristocracy follows after the money and money follows slavery, like hounds chase a bitch in heat.

Slaves, like emperors, are the offspring of empires – they lay kicking in the colonial womb.  The rationale for those colonies of ours follows on from the discovery that “god is an Englishman.”  And god’s Englishness blooms, mysteriously, from the sleight-of-hand announcement that our creator was made in man’s image, or vice versa.

But I digress.

This unchartered silence I’ve come to love so much… it cloaks all that dense sense of history and progress under tall, majestic canopies of leaves; these slowly begin hissing insults from the side-lines.  I applaud.  I taught them those insults.

Then silence pervades the forest again as slaughtered stags are dragged off to have their antlers mounted as trophies or hat-racks on custodial walls.  Generations of atrophied heads nod an acknowledgement of the ornament and sport.  I watch them pass down the long corridors like mammalian germs in hard arteries.  Yes, gazing in, endlessly, through ornate windows, stood sentinel by the family mausoleum, I swear by my deep roots that I will suck dry their noxious entrails before long.

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This story was written in response to the yeah write challenge #179 – The following sentence must be the FIRST line in your submission: “I’ve come to love the silence.” You must also include a reference to the media prompt.  The other stories in the link-up can be read by clicking the image below.

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