Charles Dufour limped into the elevator still dripping from the rain soaked street. The girl at the front desk watched him with hollow eyes as he pulled shut the cage doors and pressed the button for the top floor. It began rising and his hand drifted absently to the bulge pushing at the stained fabric of his white button down shirt.
Outside thunder boomed and the elevator shuddered, lights flickering. A second later it resumed its climb and Charles breathed a sigh of relief then something dropped from the grating above onto his shoulder. He jerked his head to the side only to be met with the gaze of a huge white snake. Charles froze.
The snake regarded him for a moment, flicking out its tongue, then slipped down into his shirt. He trembled as it slid over his caved in ribs and through the tangle of intestines protruding from his gut. Emerging from his shirt it slithered down his leg pausing briefly where it was broken before continuing to the floor.
The elevator halted with a chime and the cage doors opened to reveal a hauntingly beautiful woman. Her skin was caramel rich, sprinkled with darker freckles, her honey frosted hair hanging in a thousand tiny braids. She wore the thinnest of silk blouses, the briefest of shorts, and the most vicious spiked heels. The snake wound up her body to lay across her shoulders.
Charles fell to his knees before her and she regarded him with pale green eyes as hard as diamonds.
“Baron here tells me you are quite damaged. I hope you at least retrieved what I sent you for?"
“No, Mistress. I couldn’t get to it, the guards were too fast."
She shakes her head and clucks her tongue. “Oh dear, it seems you have failed me."
“No! Mistress, please, just repair me I will try again!”
He reached towards her pleadingly, but she lashed out snake fast with her leg knocking him back.
“You have already proven yourself useless to me, yet you think I should waste my energy repairing your rotting corpse? I don’t believe you understand quite how this works."
On the ground, his back against the metal of the cage, he looked up at her, his face crumpled with terror. “Please, Mistress! Please!"
Her eyes narrowed and her mouth twisted with disgust. "Shut your mouth and remove your sleeve. I do not give second chances!"
Whimpering he ripped the fabric of his shirt away revealing a tightly woven band that glittered with teeth and bone. The woman flicked open a knife and stepped forward. Charles’s whimpering changed into a high, panicked keening and he tried to crawl away from her in the tight confines of the elevator cage.
Viciously she stomped down on his broken leg. The bone burst through his flesh and the fabric of his pants, though no blood flowed from the wound.
Charles, unable to defy her orders, ceased moving. The woman leaned forward to slice through the woven band and Charles’s flesh. The keening stopped abruptly and the dim light that had shined in his eyes faded away. Though the wound did not bleed the band did as the woman picked it up. It stained her hand and bright red droplets rained down onto the floor.
She slipped the knife back into her pocket and pressed the call button. Almost instantly the summon was answered.
“My guest will be leaving sooner than expected. Have the doorman meet him in the basement and show him to the incinerator."
She glanced down at the talisman and rolled her eyes briefly at it before lifting it to the snake’s eagerly flicking tongue. She pressed the basement button with her free hand and then stepped out of the elevator and closed the cage. Annoyed she watched it descend out of sight.
Now she would have to procure another servant, such a ridiculous hassle. At least the storm would ensure that the cemeteries would be empty and her summoning circle would bleed away with the rain. Coffee and beignets first though, then she would peruse the obituaries for someone suitable.
She glanced down at the snake as she began walking back to her apartment. “Maman was right, Baron. Good help is so hard to find."
On the day she'll die, Maya Ramirez lies in a hospital bed surrounded by drips and beeps and whirring sounds which emanate from the myriad instruments keeping her alive, if you can call it that. Bracketed in by the rails and blanketed over in pale blue velour she looks so tiny and crumpled, like an abandoned paper bag.
She had been full of life once, full of spice. She had danced under the sweltering Miami moon in a blue patterned dress with red lipstick on her lips. She had stolen her father's car and driven it to meet up with Hector. And Fernando. And even Thomas. She had been a Rosie in a factory during the war and after the men came home she juggled two jobs so she could get an apartment of her own in the city. She had been a beauty, always catching the men's eyes.
Maya's husband sits beside her in the hospital, holding her dry, withered hand as he has every day since she had been admitted. The florescent lights and pale green walls rob his flesh, now much creased, of it's beautiful bronze color. Behind thick glasses, his eyes which always glittered with a fierce intelligence seem sad and watery. He loves her, maybe too much. He always has.
They met when Maya was twenty-four. She had been living on her own since she was seventeen and taking care of herself even longer and had no intention of giving up her independence. He was thirty-seven then, so much older than her, but a successful engineer and sweet in an old fashioned way. She was vibrant and exciting and elusive and she caught his heart the second he laid eyes on her. He used a cane to help him walk after being injured in the war and he always wore a hat, but took it off when he spoke with her, crushing it in his slender hands. He always spoke softly and she had to lean in to hear him when he spoke, but it was always worth it, his mind so full of worldly knowledge. He never boasted like other men and she liked that, he just quietly told her of what he had seen, his words painting a picture in the air as clearly as if she had seen it herself.
She was twenty-seven and he forty by the time he got up the nerve to ask her to marry him. She had long ago stopped seeing other men in favor of his gentle company and couldn't stop smiling as he laboringly got down on one knee. Their wedding was a simple affair, her in a knee-length white lace dress, him in his nicest suit, and just a handful of friends. No family, but they were each other's family now and that was all they needed. They bought a small pink house in the suburbs and she tried to learn to cook and he tried to keep his clutter of books and papers to his office, neither with much success. After a year they decided to try for children, but were never able to conceive. The doctors said Maya couldn't have children, so he brought home a puppy for her and they tried to move on. They had a good life together, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but that's life and they were content in theirs.
There were a few other hospital visits over time, like when she had gotten into an accident with a drunk driver and had broken her arm, or when he had his heart attack, but nothing like this. The doctors said it had been a stroke. The doctors said she was in a vegetative state. The doctors said she would never wake up. And still he came every day. He limped in with his cane, took off his hat, sat down in the sad vinyl chair, and wrapped his slender hands around her tiny papery ones. She was cold and unresponsive.
One of the doctors comes in and places a hand on his shoulder. "Mr. Ramirez, I'm sorry, but it's time."
He squeezes her hands gently, just as he always has, and nods once without looking at the doctor. The doctor in turn nods to a nurse by the door and she comes in. Each move to one side of the head of the bed. The doctor nods again and they begin slowly flipping switches and turning off machines. With each click one of the sounds of the dripping or beeping or whirring dies and, as the sound dies, so too does Maya Ramirez.
The doctor's hand falls once again on his shoulder and the doctor and the nurse leave the room. He leans forward, pressing his forehead against her hands and tears begin to fall from his eyes and his body shakes.
"Maya," says a voice from the hall. "It's time to go."
I glance that way and just see the doorway filled with light. "I suppose you're right." I walk to my husband's side and lay my hand on his. Mine are smooth again now, the flesh golden-bronze as it was when I danced beneath the moon in my blue dress, as when I married him in the white dress. "You always loved me too much, my love. It breaks my heart to break yours this way." I place a kiss upon his brow and caress his face one last time. "I'll be waiting for you, but don't be too long." And with that I turn to the door and walk into the light.
"Don't be too long, my love."
- Morning Pages Everyday - Morning pages are basically my way of kick-starting my day and the idea is to get me writing everyday. I aim for around 750 words with these, but sometimes it is more and other times it is less and I'm okay with that.
- 10,000 Words Per Week - Still striving for the elusive weekly 10k word count. Included in the count are morning pages, posts, and story related writing. 10k is something I'm working towards and once I start consistently hitting it I will up the goal even more.
- 3 Posts Per Week - I'm very bad about maintaining my schedule here on my blog, I get distracted or forget, so like the 10k that is something I want to get better with. My schedule for now is Sundays with ROW80 check-ins, Wednesdays with writing prompts, and Fridays split between bi-weekly book reports and short stories.
- Camp NaNoWriMo - This camp I'm working with my writing group and doing something a little different. 31 days, 30 prompts, 50k words. We're each going to write 30 stories based off a list of prompts posted June 30th so we can all work at our own pace. The rules are that the prompts have to be done in order, each story must relate back to the others in some way, and the stories can be any length individually, but at the end of the month they must add up to 50k. We have a great group of people, so it will be fun and interesting to see what everyone comes up with.
- Writing Group Project - Our writing group has been thinking about working on a group writing project for some time now and we've finally decided that August will be the month to work on it. Coming off of Camp NaNo and that 50k words each will be a little hard, but since it is a group project we will all be responsible for a smaller portion and the count should be something more like 30k each. This project will probably carry over into September as well.
- Writing Group Project Continued
- 2 Week Trip - I'm going to be out of town for 2 weeks in September, so I just need to make sure that I schedule the posts during that time before I head out.
See what my fellow ROWers are resolving for this round here.