Tell Me Where It Hurts

Tell me where it hurts. Tell me every little pain that haunts you and makes you weak.

Loving you isn’t the rotten work you make it out to be. To drown in the ecstasy of your notice is all I long for. Let me die in your arms.

Tell me in no uncertain terms who did this to you. I will make them sorry they ever touched a hair on your precious head. I will make them hurt.

Tell me where it hurts. Tell me when and where and who injured you.

The act of loving you doesn’t end at your rough and broken edges. I want to hold you tight and squeeze all my love into you so that it glues your parts back together and you are whole again.

Tell me you love me, too, so I can die in peace. I want to rest eternally in the bosom of kindness and reconciliation.

Tell me I’m not the one who did this to you; I couldn’t bear it if I had. I would rather fall on poignard than hurt you. I would rather call to the old gods and the new and draw down their notice than be the reason your smile falters.

I want my love to be as gentle as a lamb, as fierce as a lion, and as all-encompassing as the sea. I want to gather you up into my arms and never let you go.

Tell me where it hurts.

Mother Warned Me About You

My mother warned me about you. She told me you were dangerous. She told me you would hurt me.

When I met you the first time, it was in a dream. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt like I’d met you before. I don’t know why, but you felt like home.

I tried my best to put you out of my mind. I told myself you were dangerous. I told myself you would hurt me.

The second time I met you, it was a fleeting glimpse in a shop window as I passed by in the pouring rain. I didn’t get a good look at you, but I knew you in an instant.

You were all the things I was warned about. You were dangerous. You would hurt me.

The third time I met you, you were following me on the sidewalk on a sunny day. My breath caught in my throat as I glimpsed you; the monster just behind me.

I heard my mother’s voice in my mind. You are dangerous. You will hurt me.

Today, I see you in my mirror. I knew it was you; I knew it was me. I’ve known all along, I just didn’t want to know.

I am the creature in the night. I am the shadow that follows you on a sunny day. I am the monster half-glimpsed in the rain. But my mother was only half right.

I am dangerous, don’t make me hurt you.

A Sea of Silken Flowers

This is part two of the Embroidery story.

I watched Townsend make his way across the graveyard, delighting in the confusion blooming across his face. Absentmindedly, he touched each headstone as he passed; draped across each one was a small scrap of fabric painstakingly embroidered with a flower in silk thread.

I flinched when he saw me. I was still holding my basket of flowers, and for a moment I thought of running. He scowled and cut across the grey grass to me.

I froze. Not a good look for an assassin, let me tell you.

“What are you doing?”

“What do you think?” My voice was defensive, maybe more than it needed to be. I softened myself. “I’m just paying my respects.”

“To every new grave?” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Brock says you’re turning down jobs.”

“Only some of them.”

“Why? Is this about Larrissa?” He said my sister’s name like it was nothing; like she was nothing.

“Don’t you say her name!” I shoved him and he stumbled back a few steps. “Don’t you ever say her name!”

“What is this?”

“He told me I would save us from a civil war, that by doing my job I would save lives.”

Townsend looked confused.

“Look around! Does this look like I saved anyone?” I resisted the urge to let out a scream. “They built a new graveyard because the bodies were stacking up in the street!”

Townsend shrugged and opened his mouth to rebut, but the fierceness in my eyes stopped him cold. I shook my head and looked in my basket. There were still a dozen flowers to pass out.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Don’t say that to me, say it to them,” I muttered as I laid another flower on a freshly turned grave. This one wasn’t marked yet. Perhaps it wouldn’t be.

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

“I want out!” I screamed. I imagined that windows opened so their owners could get a better view of the crazy woman screaming in a graveyard. “I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, and I’m done.”

“I don’t-“

“No women, no kids. That was the only rule I ever had.” I stomped back to him. “How many of these belong to women and kids? How many times has the water rippled and someone else gotten hurt even though I have my rule?”

“We can’t know that,” he protested.

“I know.” I pulled out my favorite dagger and plunged it into his breast, pumping it twice. “I quit.”

He crumpled to the cold, grey ground, his face was a mask of shock. I rooted around in my basket until I found his flower.

A black dahlia for death and betrayal.

Embroidery

Ouch! Damn it!

I stuck my finger in my mouth and sucked on it as I inspected the scrap of fabric in my hands. Good, there was no blood on it. I pulled my finger out of my mouth; it wasn’t bleeding either.

I took up my needle and pulled another satin stitch across the bleached muslin. Sometimes you just needed to stab something a few hundred dozen times to feel better.

“What are you doing?” asked a familiar voice.

“Hey, Brock,” is all I said in answer. I didn’t lift my eyes from my work.

“No, seriously, what are you doing?” he asked.

“What does it look like?” I didn’t even try to hide the annoyance from my voice. “I’m practicing the womanly art of embroidery.”

“You’re an assassin!”

“I like to sew.”

I swear I could feel him roll his eyes as he sat down across from me. Still, I didn’t look at him.

“You’re needed, standard wet work.”

“How much?”

“50% above the usual rate.”

I opened my mouth to say no, but he cut me off.

“That’s after my cut.”

“No women, no kids, right?”

“Never.”

I shrugged but set down my project. He handed me an envelope which I opened. I finally looked at him when I read the target. His face was bruised and I could tell it had been bloodied recently.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Nope, this is real, and it’ll happen with or without you.” He smiled but winced instead. “Either you take out the prince or an angry mob will and we’ll be plunged into civil war.”

“Who takes over after the overgrown brat?”

“Dunno, above my pay grade.”

“Fine.” I picked up my project and pulled another satin stitch across the taught fabric.

“What is it anyway?”

“A flower. It’s for my sister.”

“I thought she-“

“For her grave,” I corrected.

Brock nodded and left me alone in my room- my candle wavered when he shut the door. I waited until I heard his heavy footsteps thunder down the stairs before I allowed the tears to fall.

“You shall be avenged, dearheart,” I whispered when I was done with my work. “Soon.”

The prince was an easy target. Possibly too easy. I didn’t even have to rush while I washed the blood off of my hands. I was already in the graveyard when the alarm bells sounded across the still sleeping city.

I laid the embroidered forget-me-not down carefully across the top of the headstone. I crossed myself and made my way home. I sat down in front of my unlit fireplace and pulled out another fabric scrap.

I stretched it taught across the hoop and tightened the screw. The first stab is always the most satisfying. This one would be for the poor sap who would take the fall for the prince. His grave would be unmarked, but Brock would make sure I know where it was.

A white orchid on a white fabric scrap would be enough to help him reach the heavens.

Mother Moon

Standing sky-clad in the dark of the New Moon, Artemis rolled her shoulders back and willed herself to shine.

Night and darkness were her domain. The owls and shadow-cats were her faithful subjects. Night lent reverence to all things, and this was most deserving.

What is done by dark will always be revealed by light. Truth crows in the light and illuminates all.

Artemis opened her eyes and sang new life into existence.

Her belly grew and grew until it was Time. She dropped to her knees and birthed a fox and a hare into the wooded glen.

She cried tears of joy and wrapped them in her pale willowy arms. She glowed in the lack of moonlight.

Animals gathered all around the Huntress in the dark. These were her children. She kissed her palms and gave them each a blessing.

“Blessed be,” she sang as she shone in the night.

The Winner

Chelsea sat on her little stool by the front window and waited less than patiently. It was quarter past three and the post should have been her by now.

She tapped her watch, checking that the mechanism was still working.

It was.

She sighed and was about to go and make a cup of tea when the familiar blue and white mini box-truck rumbled into view.

“At last!” she gasped.

Chelsea longed to run out and meet the postman, but she’d been warned the last time she’d done so. They threatened to stop bringing the post to her. She’d have to make an appointment to go and get it.

Well, that wouldn’t do.

She hopped from foot to foot, watching excitedly as they thin man stuffed her mailbox with letters. She he was done, he tipped his hat and hurried back to his truck.

Chelsea ran out the door and across her front garden. She leaned over the privet and retrieved her treasures.

Gloom stormed over her as she thumbed through them. The letter she was waiting for was not among them.

Sullenly, she went back inside and dropped the bills and correspondence into the bin.

She knew she was already a winner, she just needed the letter to prove it.

The Spy

I wish I’d paid more attention when I went to spy school.

I wish I’d graduated from spy school.

I kind of wish I had actually enrolled when I’d had the chance.

I looked over at my captive and tried to remember the last question I’d asked. Was it, “Who do you work for?” Was that too cliche?

My captive looked up at me with large cow eyes.

“Please,” he begged. “Just let me live. I’ve told you everything I know.”

“Yeah, alright,” I said as I moved to untie him. He came clattering face first onto my brown carpet. “I guess I’ll let live, or whatever.”

“Thank you!” My captive scrambled to his feet and ran to the front door. He yanked and yanked, but the door would not budge.

“Dude!” I called over my shoulder. “I didn’t say you could leave. I said you could live.”

My captive sunk to his knees and began to sob. “Please, I’m just the pizza guy.”

“I didn’t order a pizza,” I said, regretting my decision to let him down.

“I must be at the wrong house!”

“Oh, you’re at the wrong house, alright,” I said as I walked over to him. “Even if I had ordered a pizza, it would have been with extra pineapple, not espionage.”

I laugh at my little quip. Maybe I didn’t need spy school after all.

The Fear of Falling

Jules stepped onto the platform and resisted the urge to scream. She was a long way up and the people down below were urging her to jump.

If she jumped and fell, she would surely die. But, if she didn’t jump, she would live to regret it.

JUMP! JUMP! the crowd screamed up at her.

Jules closed her eyes and willed her hands to stop shaking. She stepped up to the edge of the platform and jumped.

For too many moments, the ground rushed up at her and she kicked herself for working without a net. She always worked with a net.

Jules opened her mouth to scream, but before she could draw the breath, her partner caught her by the wrists and swung her up into the air.

She caught her swing easily and allowed herself to beam as the crowd cheered.

Welcome to Hell

She put her hand out and Malphus shook it. The negotiations had been difficult. Angie kept going on about peanut butter and hairnet sauce, whatever that was.

Malphus let go and he and Angie were standing at the gates of hell in an instant. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, trying to figure out if she was still dreaming. This couldn’t be real, she had to still be dreaming.

“When can you start?” the demon asked, flexing his wings.

“Start what?”

“Your new job, silly!” Malphus chuckled. “Looks like we have a new office prankster. Satan’s gonna love that!”

Horror clouded Angie’s features. “How? Why?” She racked her brains trying to figure out what was happening. Then, she remembered the weird dreams she’d been having lately.

“You interviewed me in my sleep!?”

“We find that’s the best approach when hiring new demons.” He paused. “Usually, there’s less screaming.”

The black gate swung open and Malphus walked through it backward, like a campus tour guide. Angie had no choice but to follow.

“So, to the left,” he said gesturing. “We have employee housing and the cafeteria. There’s also a jogging trail and a gym. To our right is your new office building!”

“What exactly will I be doing? I won’t torture people.”

“Of course not, silly-billy. That’s the lower executives. You’ll mostly be doing data entry so R and D can implement new programs. If you ever want to torture sinners, you can always work you way up- you’ve got a billion year contract.”

“A billion years?”

“Yup,” Malphus said. “But remember, time moves differently down here. Up there, it’ll only be about two weeks.”

“I can’t miss work for two weeks while I’m in hell.” Angie said flatly.

“Of course you can! We put in for vacation on your behalf and back-dated the request. It’s all taken care of!”

Angie opened her mouth to utter another protestation, but Malphus cut her off.

“Also, your salary is in the eighteen point five trillion dollar range for the length of your contract, after taxes of course. It will be deposited into your account when you get back.”

Angie’s world swirled before her eyes, and Malphus blew a puff of sulfur in her face to keep her from passing out. She closed her eyes and shook her head, but when she opened them, she was still in hell.

“So? What do you say?” Malphus asked.

“Yes,” she said after a moment. “I mean, it’s only a billion years, right?”

Malphus smiled and held out his hand again. This time, Angie took it confidently and shook it twice.

Demons and Dinner

The chef in the video is blathering on about how important it is to measure your ingredients for consistent results.

I roll my eyes. Some things, like garlic, you have to measure with your heart. I flatten the garlic clove with the broad side of my knife and peel away the papery skin. My knife makes quick work of it and soon I’ve lost count of how much I’ve added. Instead, I just taste it every few minutes.

I shake in some white pepper and the room fills with smoke and the stench of sulfer.

Great, maybe I should have been measuring.

I fling open the doors and windows before I scramble up on the counter to reach my screaming smoke detector. It takes a few tries, but finally, I silence it.

I take my soup off the good burner and set it on the star and crescent cast iron trivet, a hand-me-down from a dizzy aunt. I dipped a clean spoon in and raised it to my lips.

It tasted amazing- nothing like the now dissipating stench from a few moments ago. I shrug and reach for a stoneware bowl.

Someone behind me cleared their throat, and I drop the bowl. It explodes into a million tiny pieces. I live alone.

Slowly, I turn, fighting the urge to scream when I see him.

He’s over eight feet tall, hunched against my ceiling. His skin is the deep red of drying blood and his eyes glow with yellow flames. What really sets me off though, are the horns protruding from his creased forehead. There’s a scar on the ceiling above him where he’s scraped off the popcorn.

He’s tapping his foot and looking annoyed. “You summoned me,” he says with a sigh. His voice booms like thunder and rattles my dishes. Dogs bark somewhere down the block.

I try to speak, but all I can manage is a tight squeak.

The demon rolls his eyes and strides forward on his cloven hooves. He opens the right drawer on the first try and pulls out a spoon. He dips it in and tastes the soup.

That’s a summoning spell.” He smacked his lips. “It’s delicious, just the right amount of garlic, but it’s still a summoning spell.”

“No!” I seem to have found my voice at last. “It’s Italian tomato soup.”

“Is that tomato? All I taste is garlic.”

“I like garlic,” I hiss, taking back my spoon a little to forcefully.

“As do I.” He smiled, revealing his fangs. “Hence, how you managed to summon me.”

“No,” I whisper. “I was making soup.”

“You can eat it, but I’ll still be here.”

“You’ll never leave?” I asked in a wail.

“Not until you give me a task,” he said simply.

“Task?” I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.

“Yeah,” he began, scratching his chin. “I was summoned, by you, and now I can’t leave until I do your bidding.”

“But I don’t want you to do anything. I don’t have any bidding. I’m a good person.”

“Hey! Just because I’m a demon doesn’t mean I want to do evil things. No one ever asks, they just assume, and I am mighty tired of it!”

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

“I forgive you.” He sighed. “I just get so tired of the demon equals evil equation.”

“What would you like to do?”

The demon in front of me looked genuinely surprised. “In 10,000 years, no one has ever asked.”

“Well?” I asked.

The demon screwed up his face and there was a sound that I can only describe as a rock and roll record being played backwards. I watched as my soup pooled together and jumped back into the stoneware bowl that had somehow mended itself. The bowl bounced back into my hands and the spoon plopped in.

I looked up at the demon and smiled. “Thank you,” I said. “Would you like a bowl?”

The demon smiled back and nodded.

“I think I know what I want,” I said as I handed him a bowl.

The demon quirked his brows in question.

“I want a friend,” I began. “I want a friend who likes garlic as much as I do.”

“Done,” said the demon as his body shifted into that of thirty-something hipster. He looked just like the sort of friend that you would expect me to have.

“Perfect.”