Fairy Tale Noir

Sharing an excerpt from one of the stores from an anthology I am writing.  This is raw draft, no edits yet, hoping it polishes up well.

 

“My family and I arrived on the shores of Draisia in the dead of night. Life seemed simple to me then, life through the eyes of a child always does. Complexity is for the adults who knew this was a calm before the storm.  The eerie darkness of the night we landed will never escape my memory. The milky speckles twirled and danced along the river in various patterns, tugging at the corners of my lips in a way that almost made me smile.

 

The Canso was a veteran of the brine. The old planks retained the fetid odor of fish, though leaky had been seaworthy enough. Her nets had been removed to allow every inch of room and we filled it, many sitting with knees tucked to their chests. When her hull crunched into the mud of the river’s edge, one leg of our trek was complete.

 

Everyone awake. Everyone asleep. Many eyes were bleary, reactions slow, tiredness running in their veins just the same as their blood. Everyone who survived the crossing climbed up the grassy embankment in a mix of emotions. For some relief, some fear, some grieving for the place they left. Ahead is unknown, all we can do is pray for things to be better where they are heading for they cannot know what awaits them.

 

At the top of the embankment we all huddled into the shed. This is where we had been told to wait. On the floor near the front wall sits a woman and child, the kid relaxed into her arms so fully it was like they were one organism, melted together. He has a look of contentment on his face. Now that her son is drifting into sleep her face becomes grave. Without his timid gaze she has no reason to feign a confidence she may not have felt.

 

The tiny window in the shed has its view obscured behind swirls of dried mud. The dawn came with a musical silence. The soul hearing a melody ears could not. A new day had come, new possibilities, a fresh page yet to be written.

 

With it a funny feeling comes, not excitement, though at first it appears that way. Some cry, some look grim, and the children are held close and loved with all the strength they have left in their bodies. My parents gathered myself along with all my brothers and sisters into a circle, hugging us as the first rose tinted rays of dawn glowed through the dried mud of the window.

 

Soon, the sound of a coughing diesel engine came from beyond the levee. A pair of the braver ones peered out. Excitedly they tell the rest of us the bus is coming. We all pour out of the shed, waiting as the old bus trundles up the road, its grumbling old engine spitting smoke like a trail of breadcrumbs.

 

It rumbles to a stop just above us, on top of the levee. An older alligator in a vest and a beret wearing weasel climbed out and motions to us to board.

 

“C’mon, we ain’t got all day.” The weasel called as he pulled the ladder down to throw cargo on top of the bus.

 

“Youse three, help people load their gear. You climb up and move things forward, you get to the top of the ladder and hand stuff ovah, while you, my you are a tall one, hand things to the guy on ladder. You heard Cavan, now get a move on.” The alligator hissed at an Orangutan, a Mountain Goat and a black bear, who took the positions indicated. So we loaded the few belongings while the old diesel pinged and creaked as it cooled. The process did not take long. There were not many belongings among those who made the journey.

 

Soon, we were all aboard the old bus. Rusted and dirty it was but to our eyes, it was a chariot to our hopes and dreams for a better life. The seats were full and those of us who were too big to sit in the laps of others lined up along the floor. After a couple of sputtering failed attempts the old engine roared into life with a mighty belch of exhaust. The decrepit bus lurched forward along the levee road pitted and bumpy with rocks soon to kiss the smooth asphalt to their destination.

 

From my vantage point on the floor I began to see the roofs of houses. Vaughan drove while Cavan stood on a rail at the front. Sometimes staring back at us, sometimes punching the alligator pointing directions.  Then other taller buildings appeared as we passed through a city. The buildings gave way to houses and as two hours passed the houses gave way to barren road.

 

The squeal of brakes signaled our journeys end. In front of us a building stood with a curved roof and corrugated metal walls. There were other similar buildings in the area but the road we had traveled was littered with old machinery covered in dirt and long since scavenged into skeletons of whatever they once were, indicated this place was long abandoned.

 

Cavan had run to the top of the bus while were taking in our surroundings. He began throwing our belongings down.

 

“This is where we part company. Your future lies in there.”

 

As soon as the bus top was emptied Cavan swung inside where Vaughan had kept the temperamental engine idling. We picked up our belongings and shuffled into the structure.”

 

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

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The Billy Goats Gruff – A Crime Noir Fairy Tale – Part 1

Orland squinted as he tilted the bottle. Disappointed with how little remained, he downed it in a swallow; then held it upside down. Where were the answers that were supposed to hide at the bottom?
He knew why there were no answers. He already had them.
It was late and the office echoed. Still, he looked over his shoulder. Billy needed the new medastinum surgery to fix his lungs. Orland had lost his wife. He was not going to lose his son.
Before his last swallow of liquid nerve waned, he made a few quick pen strokes. There! It was finished. Tomorrow, as part of routine processing, a clerk would set up an ongoing transfer of funds to his secret account. He was an honest sort, but the company had refused to help. His salary was just not enough. The evidence was well-hidden and another clerk processing it was the final shield. Even the best auditors would be hard-pressed to track this back to him.
*****
Across town, splinters and dust flew as a stool attacked the wall. The wall won.
Detective Mikk Raud, enforcement services, had felt lucky his station was near home. He often stopped in for lunch. How could she? He never saw it coming. Knew she and the stoat had been friends. But he had been too trusting; it was a total shock coming home for lunch, maybe a little hanky-panky with the wife. Then he found all of her and their daughter’s things gone.
Numb from shock, he had gone on a toot. A few bottles of Ol’ Swamp Piss later and he’d woken to the landlord banging on the door. Stumbling over pieces of broken furniture, rubbing his sloped forehead, he’d answered the door. His landlord took a step back. “There’ve been complaints about the noise last night. I’m a nice guy, rented to you even though you’re trolls. Hope I don’t have cause to regret it.”
Mikk promised it would not happen again and shut the door. Then he’d crawled back into a bottle until, still on edge and hung over, he reported for his shift. He had thought routine might help. First call was a stupid teen goat. Had the kid just come peacefully he would have gotten a slap on the wrist. But no, he’d attacked and Mikk reacted. His natural trollish strength amplified by red rage, he let fly with all the pent anger at his wife. The kid was flung into a wall. With the crack of a homerun, his neck snapped, killing him.
Now, family gone, career ruined, Mikk perched on the skeleton of a chair, surveying the damage to his home.
Head falling into his hands, he wept.

Its a start…

The majority of my weekend has been spent packing. We just did this just over a year ago, so where did all this new stuff come from? Stuff, it really does multiply. In the midst of it all I have managed to get a start on a new book. Will be the same character as my last one.

“The sidewalk, which in a few short hours will bustle with the life pulse of the neighborhood is quiet now. The concrete oblivious to whether it is midday or midnight. The few scuffling this time of day, the strugglers for whom every waking minute is spent to pay the rent and buy food. Until this morning.

Deep in the belly in the earth, a terrible rumble rose along the street. People fell to their knees, clutching their ears as the pressure built. Three stories of a brick tenement collapsed on the corner a choking cloud of dust flushing the street. Crumbled into its own foundation, trapping the occupants to a grisly, crushing death.

For perhaps a split second there was silence, from the dust, anguished cries arose as the shock gave way to realization of the tragedy.”

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

Excerpt from WIP

“It felt good to lie down. Martin admitted frustration not to be going to the museum, he enjoyed the peace and quiet. Captain Hazzard checked in during his inspection of the Silver Bullet II. Though he designed the fuselage and its armor, he marveled at the engines Captain Hazzard built.
He was glad the frustration passed before Captain reached out. This mind-talking still unnerved him a little. The Captain would have worried if the irritation had shown in his thoughts.
When the hangar alarm blared next to his bed, he would sworn he just laid down. A quick glance at his wristwatch belied that. It was 1 a.m. In short order, Martin dressed quickly and pedaling the bicycle purchased for him. The guard at the gate was suspicious of him. Disheveled with the speed of dressing in the dark, and the exertion of a hard ride to the gate, Martin admitted he would be suspicious too. Anxiety mounted as he waited for the guard to decide he had clearance to proceed to the hangar.
His escort, required by Major Svetkov, panted behind him by time they reached the hangar. Martin motioned his escort to ready his rifle, then flung open the access door. He followed the soldier through, but saw nothing. The hangar had no electricity, and in his haste Martin forgot to grab his bag with one of the flashlights. By the ambient light, he located the lantern on the hook near the door.
The lantern held high, he began the search the hangar. Followed by the soldier, he felt foolish. No tampering of the Silver Bullet could be discerned as he performed a walk around. The craft nearly filled the small hangar. Truth be told, it took long enough to get here any panels opened could be easily closed at leisure. A rustling under one of the windows caused both he and his escort to jump slightly. His tension appeared to cross the language barrier with no problem.
Beady red eyes shone from under one of the windows. A rat. Breathing a sigh of relief, Martin began checking the magnetic security locks. The wires from one to its radio transmitter had been chewed. The effect was the same as if the magnets had been separated by opening the window. The circuit opened and set off the alarm. Martin pointed at the broken wire and the rat. It took a moment, but the nickel finally dropped and his guard laughed. A shake his head, Martin made short work repairing the broken wire.”

Excerpt from “Birds of a Feather”

Zeke scanned the area as he took a pull from the canteen. “Well, Maude, that ol’ mine town should be jest ahead. Hopin’ we find a few nuggets, least ‘nuff dust to buy us some supplies, else I’ll be fightin’ ya fer some o’ that wattle. Course, I know ya don’t mind the lighter pack, do ya, girl?” Maude nuzzled against his hand as he scratched behind the pack mule’s ear and led her away from the silver wattle, having used the pause for an opportunistic nibble.

As the afternoon wore on, Zeke could see Widdershins on the rise of the gorge. Below him was a river, little more than a stream in this dry season, and several ponds with a flock of birds going in and out of the rushes around the largest of them.

“Looks in pretty good shape, way better’n some places we been, eh, Maude? Might even be some fish in them ponds. Must be sumpin’ to draw all them birds.” As they approached the town, Zeke heard sounds like distant conversation. “Might have company, Maude, sure sound like folk chattin’ up a storm.”

The travel-worn pair arrived in town a bit before sunset. For an abandoned town it did look well preserved. Zeke peered into a few houses on the edge of town. When he stepped into some of the clapboard houses, Zeke realized they were still stocked. Yet, the thick dust blanket was undisturbed – mute testimony to the town’s desertion. Hitching Maude near some of that silver wattle she liked so much and getting her some water, Zeke set about unloading their gear into one of the houses. Making a meal out of the last of his bacon and potatoes with some coffee, Zeke surveyed his surroundings by the light of the moon. Hanging gibbous, it would be full in the next day or two. By its wan, yellow light, he could see the bony structure of the town’s long tom. It leaned crookedly against its sluice, likely the victim of a flash flood during one of the monsoons.

Zeke was surprised to see swans apparently still swimming down in one of the ponds. He would have expected them to be nested in by now. The thought of nesting in sounded like a good idea; it would be nice to sleep in a bed. After beating the old mattress to chase out any spiders or centipedes might have had the same idea, Zeke settled in for a deep sleep.