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 Sleeping Hare

This is a rough opening for a work in progress. A short story set in the world of The Three Billy Goats Gruff for an anthology. I think it’s off to a good start. Perspective needs to shift slightly but a good start.

*****

Don’t expect to find dignity in an old bar. Not here. Not at “The Sleeping Hare.”
The sallow light of street-lamps trickled into the darkened room through diamonds of lead panes. The smoke twisted in an artistic way, forming curls in the gloom, illuminated only by the age-speckled bar lights.
The smell has changed over the years. Once it was of cigarette smoke only, the bouquet clung to clothing, skin and furniture alike. Now it is joined by the miasma of stale beer, cheap hooch, body odor and cheaper perfume from the quiff trying to make a buck.
“The Sleeping Hare” was always a den of debauchery, alcoholism and the great unwashed of the town. It still is. No-one comes here with anything wholesome in mind. Probably why the small mountain of a goat sat on the stool by the door. Black, with tufts of grey in his beard, a tight T-shirt highlighted bulging muscles. If he did not look menacing enough, flexing those muscles was often deterrent enough for the occasional trouble maker.
Once upon a time, the place might have had a classy, old world feel. Now nicotine-stained walls, which might have been white, the darkened wood and stained reddish carpet only hinted at what might have been. There are establishments that are more like restaurants now – all clean with waiting staff. Not at “The Sleeping Hare.” Here, you still bellied up to the bar, where along the wall was every hue of amber liquid in their inverted bottles, and caught the barkeeps eye to place your order. Bring your patience though, tortoises are not known for their speed and Tabor is not as fast as he used to be, but he will take care of you.
The thunk of darts and clack of pool balls came from the back of the joint. An addition to the old building the plaster and wood gave way to cinder block walls painted black. Four red felt pool tables commanded the center of the room. They and the dart board lanes in the back of the room brought in almost as the cheap hooch Tabor stocked.
Only one table was in use tonight, a young brown goat crisp white shirt with sleeve holders, thin black tie tossed over his shoulder as he lined up a shot while nearby a ferret in a beret watched, anxiously hoping for a scratch.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

WIP – Excerpt from Starshine in Storyville

Good afternoon everyone,

Almost finished with this piece and will begin editing  tomorrow. So if you can stomach an unedited bit, read on McDuff.

“…The night air was cool and moist; the light breeze carried the tang of the Mississippi, as Benny walked aimlessly considering all that happened these past months. When he had found Erich and agreed to apprentice with him, Benny thought he was learning new saxophone techniques. The joke was on him, Erich explained to him there was magic and the sounds he produced were magical energies he could shape to his will. Benny thought of it only as ways to please a crowd, perhaps inducing more tips. The things Erich taught him about magic is very few could produce it at will. For that he was special, seems Erich, and now Benny had a hyperpineal gland which allowed them to sense and control magical energies. Others, without a hyperpineal, could practice magic but must use spells, gestures and rituals. Erich explained he had waited long for another to come along with the gland. For Erich had stood Guardian for over two centuries and looked forward to being able to share, and eventually pass on the Guardianship of New Orleans.

Benny had laughed it off as the rambling and fantasy of an old man. Until the night of the Grunch, that night after their practice, Erich had looked at him.

“Benny, you are good, maybe one of the best ever, I have never heard make love to a sax or play like you. And I’ve known them all. Tonight, it’s time you learned the difference between ballads and battles. Pack up and I’ll explain what you will face on the way.”

Benny shuddered and rubbed his arm as he remembered that night. It had all seemed a dream until tonight. He watched a man weave shadows of darkness around himself, warding Benny’s magic. Then he disappeared under Benny’s scrutiny. Just as he thought the world was setting back to normal, it was shaken.

The bell Victory, in St. Louis Cathedral shook him out of the reverie as it chimed midnight. Lost in thought, he had not realized how far down Chartres he had walked. The artists and psychics along Jackson Square were long gone. Or so he thought, as he approached he saw one of the psychics tables still up.

Curious he approached, looking around the area in front of the cathedral, but the pools of light revealed no one. The table belonged to Psychic Mary, an Irish redhead with legs that’d make you dizzy. Even at her age she could make a man’s head spin with her seduction through the very air. She would not have left her table with crystals displayed and cards unprotected.

As the last stroke of the clock faded, Benny paused. Uncertain if he what he heard had been an echo of the bells last stroke, Benny listened more closely. There it was again, a muffled cry and from the direction of Pirates Alley. Benny took off at a sprint for the nearby alley. Upon entering his eyes could not pierce the gloom having adjusted to the well lit court. Reflexively, Benny began to hum and immediately calling upon his magic to see. At the midway point, three figures struggled. One had flaming red hair against two hooded figures that were pulling her toward a swirling circle of shadow. “

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

Foray into Noir

Noir, what is it?

Noir fiction (or roman noir) is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre with a distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator.

My first foray into the genre is with Once Upon a Mystery. The challenge of it was to create a 1920’s – 1930’s story using fairy tales as a base. I chose a setting comparable to 1929, just before and as the stock market crashed.

I drew the “Three Billy Goats Gruff”. I was almost dismayed when I began researching the story. Of all the uninteresting, straightforward stories, but I decided it was a challenge. There are some interesting points to the story. There were several themes in the story. Greed, patience, cunning, and a few others if you look for them. To incorporate these into the time period was not as difficult as feared once the story was laid out. Adding layers of intrigue to this straightforward story while maintaining its core was the trick.

Following is an excerpt from “Three Billy Goats Gruff: A Noir Fairy Tale”

“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.”