Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Sand Palace

This entry goes hand in hand with last week’s entry. It doesn't exactly explain the situation, but it helps to an extent. 

Rhi sighed, brushing a strand of long purple hair out of her face. She and Al had been driving for what seemed like weeks, having stopped only a few times to barter for food and petrol.

Out in the Zones, that was all there really was to do for two drifters. With no rebel group to call their own, it was near impossible to make any real sort of impact in the fight against The Leader. Granted, they were quite good at fighting off the Exterminators that were sent their way; the best according to some of the rebels. However, in the grand scheme of things, a few dead Exterminators hardly mattered.

Over the roar of the engine, Rhi heard the distinct sound of raygun shots.

"Shit," she cursed. "Exterminators!"

 Al slammed on the brakes, sending the supped up El Camino drifting across the sand.

“I think it’s a raid,” Al warned, violet locks twirling as she spun to look out the back window.

A group of Exterminators were closing in on them. Through the window, Rhi could see the the outline of the lead Exterminator, the Scarecrow, glowering at them. 

“Shit,” Al muttered, throwing the car into reverse and spinning around.

Al’s driving motto was something along the lines of “if the Exterminators find you, go the other way as fast as possible.” Granted, it often got them out of trouble. However, Al’s driving tended to leave something to be desired when they were under attack, and though Rhi was a good shot, she found it quite impossible to shoot accurately while getting bounced around in the little El Camino.

Firing a few shots out the window, Rhi did her best to stay balanced as the car drifted sideways down a sand hill.

“Hanging in there?” Al asked.

“Barely,” Rhi admitted through gritted teeth.

The Exterminators seemed to be trailing behind now, though not as much as Rhi would find comfortable. A few more shots and she ducked back into the car.

At the peak of on of the hills, Rhi noticed something looming in the distance. A great structure made entirely out of, what appeared to be, sand.

“Do you see that?” she yelled, straining to be heard over the roar of the motor.

“The big sand castle?” Al replied. "Yeah. Do you think there is anyone there?" 

“I would imagine. I mean, it’s a castle.”

“I don’t know if it’s possible to live in a sandcastle.” 

“Does it really matter? It's big and it will get us out of sight." 

Anxiously, Rhi glanced over her shoulder, seeing no sign of the Exterminators that had been tailing them. Though they may have lost them, Rhi felt it best to not get her hopes up.

The car didn’t slow until they were absurdly close to the castle. Al slammed on the breaks and slid up to gates.

As far as the girls could tell, the place appeared to be abandoned. It wasn’t unusual for rebel groups to leave their places of residence behind, but this was a rarity, abandoned or otherwise. It was absolutely huge, easily the size of an actual stone castle. It looked completely livable, if it weren’t for the gates being closed.

Cautiously, the girls got out of the car, holding their guns in plain sight to show that they were armed, but did not intend to use their weapons.

“Halt!” came a voice from above them.

Squinting against the sun, Rhi looked up at a man standing just above the gate. She wasn't sure how she had missed him when she first saw the castle.

“Who goes there?” the man demanded.

“This guy takes his job way too seriously,” Rhi muttered.

“We’re travelers,” Al replied. “We’ve been running the Zones and just had a clap with some Exterminators.”

“Exterminators?” repeated the guard in disbelief. “They never come this far out here. How do I know you aren’t lying?”

“Because,” Rhi shouted back. “I’m Rhiannon Cambridge and this is my partner Alarice Jones; we are the Destroyer.”

“Now I know you're lying. The Destroyer is just a myth.”

Rolling her eyes, Rhi removed her coat, motioning for Al to do the same. They stood side to side, allowing their dragon tattoos to morph into the image of one angry fire breather.

The guard gaped at them a moment before motioning for the gates to be lifted.

That was, in Rhi’s opinion, the one good thing about being a well known Zone drifter; she and Al were both allowed anywhere that the rebels ran. They were honored to have them as guests, and all because the two of them had rather fantastic aim. So fantastic, in fact, that they were legendary. Some rebels didn't even believe they existed.

Despite appearing to be made out of sand, the gates lifted easily.

A guard came to meet them in the causeway and in his wake followed a man dressed in a leather coat. He wore a smug expression behind his stick straight raven hair.

“Greetings,” he smirked. “I hear tell that the Destroyer has come to my…humble abode.”

“Real humble,” Rhi whispered to Al. The man didn’t seem to notice.

“What is this beautiful place?” Al asked, not trusting Rhi to be so polite in her inquiries.

“This,” announced the man. “Is the Great Sand Palace. I am Jacoby and this is home to me and my little group of rebels.”

The girls looked around, sensing that this man’s so-called “little group” was about as little as this palace was humble.

“And what group do we have the honor of meeting?” Al prompted.

“We are the Rock n Rollers.”

Rhi raised an eyebrow. The Rock n Rollers were about as well known in the Zones as the Destroyer. They were one of the largest groups around. Even The Leader was a bit intimidated by them.

“I guess we could stay a while,” she shrugged, winking at Al and following Jacoby into the palace.

Destroya, We're All Waiting For Ya

Note: This entry takes place in the same alternate reality (or a very similar one) to my Snow Cabin entry. (Actually, all my flash fiction entries from here on out will likely take place in this universe seeing as I’m going to make a short story collection out of the various “Tales From the Zones”.)

This entry goes along with another short story. It's late, it's a bit of a confusing cliff hanger. But it will make sense down the road.

The smell of incense hit him full force as he pulled back the tent flap and entered the Gypsy woman’s “office”, as she had called it.

He looked about the small space, from the brightly colored scarves and beads that hung about the room, to the large table in the center and the crystal ball that resided in the center.

“I’ve been waiting for you for a long time, Frank,” she said, looking over her shoulder at him as she pulled out a large pillow for him to sit on.

It took a lot of will power for him to admit that he had been dreading this for a long time. Honestly, he didn’t even believe in any of the fortune telling mumbo-jumbo. To him, this was just an inconvenience, a trivial visit that Doctor D required all his rebels to make.

The Oracle, as the woman was called, was well known throughout the Zones. She had somehow escaped the notice of The Exterminators and stayed holed up in an abandoned amusement park.

She motioned for Frank to take a seat, which he hesitantly did, sinking into the pillow a bit as he got settled.

“Shall we look into the ball?” she prompted, wasting no time.

“Shouldn’t we get acquainted?” Frank asked, trying to avoid any fortune telling for as long as possible.

“You know who I am,” the Oracle scoffed. “And I know you. We need no introductions. Let’s do business.”

Frank opened his mouth to object, but closed it just as quickly when the woman shot him a pointed look.

“I know you don’t think this is necessary,” she smirked, her eyes now focused on the crystal ball. “But you have such a great future ahead of you.”

“I bet you tell that to everyone.”

“Perhaps. But you’re special. You thought your life ended in the city. You’re only here fighting because you are convinced one of these days the Exterminators will ghost you.”

Frank said nothing, knowing the gypsy’s words were true.

“Look into the ball,” she prompted. “Maybe you will find that your life isn’t over just yet.”

Hesitantly, Frank did as he was told. The murky fog within swirled eerily, entrancing him as he stared into the crystal ball. Though he felt it may have been a trick of the eye, the fog seemed to swirl more rapidly the longer he stared.

And then it began to disappear, morphing into the shape of two figures; two women, he realized. One was tall and thin, with a pair of glasses resting on the bridge of her nose. Her clothing was covered in dust and sand, and her eyes held a certain wisdom that was very uncommon throughout the Zones. She reminded Frank of a female version the rebel that led his small group.

However, it was the second figure that really caught his attention. She was younger than the first, likely by a year or two, but there was a ferocity about her that made her stand out. Tattoos covered her skin, which was quite exposed underneath her sleeveless midrift top.

The mist that still swirled within the ball became sand colored and the two of them drew their ray guns. Frank realized they were being attacked.

A group of Exterminators appeared vaguely in the background, and the two girls stood back to back, firing brightly colored lasers at them. The sand began to swirl as they began to spin in a hypnotic fighting style that reminded him of a dance. A few steps to the side, a few steps back, left, right, spin, cross; it never seemed to end. As he watched, unable to tear his eyes away, one word echoed through his mind.

“Destroyers,” a voice seemed to whisper. “The Children of the Gun.”

As the two spun, Frank noticed that they each had half of a dragon tattooed on them. It seemed to come to life as they spun, its eyes glowing red with fire.

A pile of carnage was now all that was left of the exterminators as the two blew to smoke from their guns.

The image began to fade and Frank looked up at the gypsy, who was smirking knowingly at him.

“What did you see?” the gypsy asked, already seeming to know the answer.

“A dragon,” Frank replied, not quite realizing that his mouth was forming words.  “The Destroyer.”

Honestly, the image that he had seen in the ball was becoming quite fuzzy in his mind. It had seemed like something more than that.

“What is it?” he inquired.

‘It’ didn’t seem like quite the right word. ‘They’ seemed more fitting, though he was unsure as to why. It had only been one dragon, as far as he remembered.

“Your future,” the gypsy replied.

“But what does that have to do with me? I don’t know any dragons. Dragons don’t even exist.”

“Everything. It has everything to do with you. You will find that dragons appear in more forms than just mythical creatures.”

Frank bit his lip, trying to hold back his frustration.

“This is bullshit,” he found himself saying. “I thought you were supposed to show me my future.”

“I did,” the gypsy replied. “You’ll thank me someday.”

Shaking his head disapprovingly, Frank got up and left.

Stupid gypsy, stupid crystal ball; why couldn’t he remember what he had seen in that crystal ball?

And yet, as he walked through the abandoned theme park in which the gypsy resided, one familiar question rang through his brain.

Where are you, Destroyer?

Monday, January 2, 2012

For Bill

Last night, a boy I went to school with took his own life. This is for him.
Death was sick of collecting memories. The little bottles collected on the shelf were full of stupid, meaningless moments in the lives of the dead. Worst of all, only the favorites actually got placed on the shelf, the rest went into the river. It seemed that memories began to lose their meaning as eternity coursed on.

And yet, it felt as though this was owed to those recently deceased. Everyone deserved to keep at least one memory. So, when Death came for the souls of the dying, he brought a pen and paper with him. Each person was allowed to record their happiest life memory and throw it into the River Styx.

Unfortunately, memories had begun to get more and more cliché over time. It was as if everyone was beginning to live the same lives, which Death really was not okay with. The River was filling with bottles full of stupid, meaningless moments. Granted, to the person who experienced them, the moments were priceless.

However, to Death, they all were beginning to blur together. Winning the big game, a first kiss, receiving an unexpected gift, the fairytale wedding day, etc. It was all so dull. No one really lived anymore. No one went out and experienced the world. They simply lived the boring little lives that their given societies told them to. And they did without question.

As the boat moored at the edge of the River, Death spotted his newest victim; a young man, not more than twenty with a ghastly bruise around his neck.

A suicide.

Death hated suicides. Death was supposed to take people when Death damn well pleased, not when that person decided they were sick of living. Having never lived himself, Death assumed life must have been really terrible, given the number of suicides he’d been taking across the River as of late.

As always, he removed the pen and paper from his robes and beckoned for the young man to come aboard.

It was the boy’s eyes that struck him first; radiant, topaz blue framed by a navy ring. They were the sweetest eyes Death had ever seen.

“Hop aboard, kiddo,” Death greeted.

“Aren’t you supposed to be scary or something?” the boy snarkily commented, wandering over to the boat.

Death wanted to reply with a snarky comment himself, but his superiors looked down on that sort of behavior.

“Nah,” he shrugged instead. “People just always are afraid of me on principle.”
The boy nodded his understand. It was a passive gesture that made his blonde hair fall into his eyes.

Feeling this was going to be a long ride, Death made quick work of pushing the boat back into the River, where it caught the current and they began to cross the water.

“So,” Death sighed, really not looking forward to this part. “What’s your best memory?”

Looking confused, the boy shrugged silently.

“Come on!” Death urged. “There has to be something that really stands out to you.”

“I’m a fucking suicide,” the boy spat. “I really don’t have too many ‘happy memories’.”

Death gritted his teeth as he looked upon the boy. He was sitting there with this distant look on his face, seeming completely unphased by what was going on. Most people flipped shit about crossing the River Styx. But not this kid, he was calm and content as a cucumber.

For a while they sailed in silence. By the time the boy spoke again, the Other Side was in sight.

“I think I’ve got one,” the boy finally said. “It’s really not all that happy.”

With a silent shrug, Death handed him the pen and paper. As the boy scribbled down the memory, Death’s mind was filled with the memory.

It was his Freshman year of high school at a school dance. There was a girl standing before him; she was asking him to dance. He recognized her from their passings in the hall, though he had never actually spoken to her. From the rumors he had heard around school, she had a verbally abusive boyfriend who had dumped her for a girl who was far less pretty.

With a shrug, he agreed. He didn’t really like to dance and he had told her that. But she had been insistent, so he agreed.

When they got onto the dance floor she blushed a little, apologizing for making him dance.

“You just looked so lonely,” she almost laughed, though it was hard to hear her over the music. “I just figured I had to quit being a wall flower at some point tonight. And you were an easy target.”

He smiled and laughed too.

To his surprise, her somewhat plump hips were actually quite bony feeling through the fabric of her vibrant polka dotted dress.

“I’m sorry you had to dance with me,” she said when the song began to draw to an end. “I know I’m really ugly.”

Her eyes showed that she meant every word of it and it broke his heart a little.

Another slow song started up and he began to sway with her again.

“Really,” she insisted. “You don’t have to dance with me anymore. You can go back to sitting at your table.”

“No,” he smiled. “It’s okay. We can dance some more.”

Blushing, her face lit up in a smile as she agreed.

“And you’re not ugly,” he assured her. “You look really pretty tonight.”

The boy handed the paper to Death, who took it in stunned silence. This moment was nothing like most of the cliché moments he dealt with usually. By the feeling the memory gave him, the boy had no further dealing with the girl, other than occasionally seeing her at parties.

“Who was she?” Death asked as the boy climbed out of the boat.

“I don’t really remember,” the boy admitted. “But she danced really well.”

Nodding, Death waved goodbye to the boy and took the memory bottle from him.

This one was going on the shelf.