SepSceneWriMo #29

Clods of frozen earth littered Vasily’s fields, he expected the weather would break them apart by spring. All the sugar beets had been yanked from the ground and piled into two grey-wood sheds. The Ural winds would continue to dry them, concentrating the sugars.

“Zima won’t marry you without land.” Vasily stood above the mouth of the grinder, dropping in head-sized sugar beets. The machine groaned with the effort.

Luka grabbed a handful of shredded beet. He squeezed the liquid into his hand and tasted it. “Mmm. Will be a good batch, this time.”

“I can sell you a small plot for your share of what we make.” He dropped in another five-kilo root. “You won’t get a deal like that from anyone else.”

“I don’t need land. I’m happy living as a worker.”

“Zima needs a proper home.”

“Zima loves me. We only need each other.” Luka swapped in another fermenting tank. “With the money we’ve saved, we’re going to Georgia, on the sea.”

“Until you run out of money.”

“She knows English and Arabic. We’ll live off of her teaching.”

Vasily pointed at the prior vat. “Water and yeast.”

“Besides, I know how to make vodka. I’ll find work at a distillery.” Luka poured in a cup-full of mother they’d nurtured for years. He capped the metal container and sloshed it about. It made a sound like a commode. He filled it to the top with water and added the bubbler.

“So, goodbye to the motherland?”

“We’ll come back to visit.”

Vasily’s youngest daughter rapped at the door of the barn. “Papa, men in dark hats and black boots are pounding at the door.” She shrieked and they heard her run to the beet shacks.

“Vasily Yakanov? Open up. It’s cold out here and we must talk.”

Vasily lifted his chin at the door and Luka unlocked the inside latch. Two men strutted in and stationed themselves protecting the exit. “A new batch, yes? Better than the last one?” The first man, squat, made rounder by the heavy woolen coat, let his question hang from his lips.

Luka went to the cupboard over the tool bench and returned with an unmarked bottle and a pair of short glasses. He filled each with two fingers and handed them out.

“Yes, let’s hope it’s better than this batch.” Dark and round downed his glass. “What is your estimate for this run? And don’t play shy.”

“Forty…”

“What?”

“Fifty cases. If we’re lucky. And the wild hogs stay away.”

“Ready, when?”

After the two men left, Vasily grumbled and fed the machine more beets. He overloaded it and had to unclog it with a crowbar. Freed, it started back up. “How can anyone get ahead?” he said. He hefted a cleaver and halved a beet the size of a pumpkin. He cautiously dropped in each half.

Luka rinsed the glasses thoroughly. He spit in them and rinsed again. He poured them both fresh vodka. “Zima will marry me, and we will leave this place.”

“Perhaps she will. Perhaps she will. Nostrovia.”

SepSceneWriMo #28

You weren’t looking where you were going. You had your nose pressed into a new, engrossing app on your phone, like a child at a Macy’s Christmas display window. Scrolling, tapping, swiping, following the instructions being whispered into your Bluetooth ear-buds.

When you step off into the woods, the darkness doesn’t register, nor the silence.

The images on the screen come faster, tints of gory crimson, royal blue and black, always black. Your finger flicks in a blur. The voice begins to screech. The ground turns to gravel, then leaves, dry like the crepe-paper skin of an old woman. Then soft loam cushions your footfalls. Vines trail across your shoulders, uncurling tendrils reach for your ears and lips. Still you wander, enraptured. Until…

You’re physically halted. You push forward, the voice compels you to struggle on, its piercing commands, so loud that they burst your eardrums. Trickles of blood loosen the buds’ grip and they fall to the dirt and are swallowed by squirming larvae seething at your feet.

You look up and find you’ve stumbled into the web of some vast malignant weaver. Cloying silk binds your eyes open, your mouth open, your hands, still gripping your phone, try to clutch at your face to tear away the threads. Your arms reach only half way, they too are bound and are now being draw to your sides. Your cherry red phone falls face up to the earth and pulsates there, whether from loved ones trying to reach you, or from fetid creatures tasting the plastic case, you no longer care.

For the children of the monster that has encased you in her undying tomb, her woven cocoon of preservation, now dangle by the millions. They dance at the end of invisible threads, all anxious to encrypt your juice-filled corpulence so that they might dine for days, years.

Round and round they spin, entwining your once rosy glow now faded to an ashen hue. You watch their tiny black bodies scuttle across your vision, never patching your sight. They leave two slits to serve as witness. For what, you wonder?

For her, you realize.

She descends with a jerking motion within your mummified view. She’s covered by bristles that glimmer as if vinyl.  Through your silken mask you smell her, corpse flower nectar. She twirls at the end of her own sticky rope until her black dead eyes, arranged like fist-sized marbles, come to regard you, her host.

You fear the fangs that she clacks together, hard as ivory, but she rotates further and from the end of her bulbous abdomen you see her ovipositor, a syringe the size of a dagger, lift and strike toward your belly. The pain explodes in your chest and spreads, napalm oozing through your veins… Which subsides until you sense a new motion within your gut. You feel your self being pumped full. Full of eggs.

As your consciousness pinches to a distant shrinking point of light you hear your phone ring, and ring, and ring.

SepSceneWriMo #27

Ravena sinks her teeth into the thigh of her adversary and tears the flesh from his body. She swallows the chunk in one gulp and dives in for more. “It’s been weeks since I dined so well,” she says, licking her swollen lips, her canines like stalactites in the cave of her gaping maw.

Chook lifts his blade high and swings it down onto the neck of the beast that growls, drooling acid onto Chook’s calfskin boots. The creature’s head tumbles down the stone steps, bouncing at the end to join the growing pile. “So far ’tis been just a drop. My blade thirsts for more.”

Above them both, on the landing that opens up within the ruined manor, Oosric wraps his fist in the filthy hair of the slave-girl, spreads his shrouds wide and forces the girl’s face onto his revealed…

“That’s bullshit, Ronnie. You can’t have a slave blow your character in the middle of a battle.”

“Why the hell not? The sight of blood arouses him.”

“Him or you?”

“Shut up, Bessie. Your female werewolf sure sounds like she’s enjoying her lunch. Maybe it’s you who has suppressed feelings of, I don’t know, cannibalism?”

“Gross, Ronnie. Take it back!”

Dungeon Master, Jerick, steepled his fingers, his mischievous grin grown wider with the row. He glanced to see how Chuck was reacting to the tiff. The other boy, whose character Chook, rarely deviated from a vanilla script, stared vacant-eyed across the basement, captured by some shadow behind the water-heater.

Jerick snapped his fingers at Chuck’s nose. “What’s with you tonight? ‘Your blade thirsts for more’, that’s all your blade ever does. Can’t you come up with something new?”

Bessie and Ronnie stopped arguing to listen to Chuck’s reply.

“Like what?” Chuck said, blinking.

“Hell, I don’t know. Punch the next one with your pommel. Or dodge ’em and kick ’em in the ass.” Jerick grabbed the twenty-sided die, shook it in his hand. “And Ron, can you quit trying to fuck every female NPC you find during the campaign?”

“Why? Oosric is a sexually repressed cleric. That’s who he is.”

“That’s who you are, you mean,” Bessie said. She and Jerick had been friends ever since she’d crippled a German Shepard that had cornered Jerick near their school bus stop. She’d been wearing her favorite riding boots, walked up behind the dog and kicked it in the ribs. It cried a pathetic howl and ran from sight.

“We’re all like that,” Ronnie told them. “Well, boys are. Girls, I read, don’t sexually mature until their twenties.”

Chuck came out of his daze. “Penthouse says that some have to wait until they’re forty.”

“Shit. Forty?” Ronnie said, shaking his head. “Sorry, Bess. We’ll all be old by the time…”

Jerick let the die drop and spin. “Will the three of you shut up and play?”

The die rolled to 6. “Six,” Jerick continued. “The battle resumes with six more denizens swarming in from the surrounding forest. They scramble up the stairs where… [tetrahedron roll to 3] Oosric has to combat the first one. And Oosric?”

“I know, I know, just kill ’em, don’t fuck ’em.”

“Well,” Bessie said, smiling, “unless your dick shoots silver bullets.”

SepSceneWriMo #26

He asked me if I had any bandages in my pack. I said, “Sure do, if you count a couple ratty t-shirts.” He pulled open his coat to reveal a map of Russia, dark red and spreading. I said, “If you can still feel the pain, then maybe it’s not too late.” He nodded and tucked back up tight, pulled in his knees and asked me for something to drink. I told him, “I been saving this for when I get to Savannah. But I think I could spare a drop.” I tipped the bottle of homemade plum brandy into his mouth. “They call that slivovitz in the Balkans. I just call it dragon’s breath.” He coughed but smiled. That’s harsh, he said. I replied, “You should have tasted it six months ago when I distilled it. It’s illegal, you know, making spirits.” He said he hadn’t known that. He went on to tell me the temperature, cold. I corrected him, “It’s mid-August. If you think it’s cold that means you’re prolly dying.” He nodded. I mentioned, “I’ve got some beef jerky, store-bought, but it might take your mind off, you know, that.” I pointed toward his belly. He shrugged, but I tore him off a piece and he opened his mouth for it. While we chewed, I contemplated his predicament. We were stranded, at least fifty miles from anywhere, on a long route of BNSF’s line down from Yellowknife. I was headed back to the States, back to Georgia to bury my grandma. I knew I’d miss the funeral. But I needed to say goodbye. He’d been fighting with a company-man, took a broken bat, snapped to the shape of a Bowie, right in the gut. Left for dead. There wouldn’t be another train along for days. Riding a few cars up, I’d seen him fall, so I jumped from my car and watched the train vanish. A belly wound like that… “I’ll drag you someplace comfortable.” He groaned like a zombie while I moved him. “Wolves will prolly find you, but, here, you can have the bottle.” He received it and wrapped himself around it. “I get to Clifford-town, I’ll let someone know you’re up here.” He murmured his thanks. “Sorry I couldn’t help.” He shrugged again. I told him, “You should drink a bit at a time, until you feel numb. Then I suggest you finish it off.” He nodded one last time. I straightened and walked down the track. I didn’t look back. I imagine a bunch of folks have died with a belly full of slivovitz.

SepSceneWriMo #25

The exclusive room at Christie’s Auction House vibrated with anticipation. Each of the twenty participants had to have placed in escrow, a minimum of ten million dollars. Many had promised many times that, just in case.

Identification was checked against Christie’s database as each person entered, bodyguards and agents were not allowed. The unique items on display represented a first in Human history, just being in the room was a privilege.

The auctioneer approached the podium. The richly paneled room hushed to silence. He pulled out a pair of half-round spectacles, blew imaginary lint from the lenses and placed them on his nose. To his right, through a dark archway, he motioned for a steward to approach pushing a trolley.

“As we are all aware, this exclusive, available only through Christie’s auction, represents a first for London, England and the world.” He chuckled to himself. “And I suppose the solar system.” A few of the participants tittered in support.

He went on to speak of the history, effort and expense involved with bringing the items on auction to this revered establishment. As he spoke waiters swarmed between the chairs carrying trays of champagne. At a look they all vanished behind cleverly designed blinds.

“First up, may I introduce the sponsor of this particular offering, Charles “Charlie” Krug the Fifth. Charlie, do join me here. Yes, just to the side. Excellent. The room is yours.”

Charles Krug, descendant from the venerable California winery, gave the room a once over. “Enough delay, yeah?” Charlie grabbed the top of the linen sheet draped over the trolley, yanked it off and tossed it behind him. “Get a load of this. Martian Merlot.”

The men in the room gripped their flutes between their legs and gave Charlie an enthusiastic round of applause. The few women clinked rings against their glass. One, a severe looking woman with close-cropped hair, wearing a grey suit, her white blouse open nearly to her navel, gave Charlie a skeptical gaze.

Charlie continued, “This wine comes to you all the way from Valles Marineris. Even the bottles are made from Martian sand.” The case, larger than normal, built to insulate the bottles from light and shock, sat on top of the trolley. “We’ve brought this case, a sample really, as our first inaugural sale.”

He went on to explain how the wine came to be. Pulling a bottle from the case, he walked the room displaying the unique reddish tint of the glass. He spoke of the trip to and from, the site selection, the ten years of experimentation in soil cleansing—Martian regolith contains toxic salts, the aerogel domes they used to trap the heat and pressurize the atmosphere. It ended up being too much information for most.

Charlie could have spoken all afternoon. But the auctioneer had a time schedule. “That’s a wonderful story, Mr. Krug. What do you say we start the bidding?”

With nods all around, he consulted his tablet and began. “Valles Marineris Winery has placed a reserve price of five-hundred thousand per bottle. A more than fair price, I would say, given the rarity of this vintage. Let’s start the bidding at…”

“How do we know it’s any good?” The dubious woman in the front said. “I’d hate to buy a case of this stuff and find out it tastes like shit.”

The auctioneer peered over his glasses at Charlie who’d just settled the bottle back in its cubby-hole. Charlie said, “It’s got woody, blackberry notes. A bit sweet as it’s got Malvasia and Merlot heritage. I sampled this very batch before bottling and catching the ride back to Earth.”

“I’ll put up a hundred K for a sip.” The woman stood and pointed at someone she apparently knew. “Sam, you in? What about you Dorothy?” She canted her head toward the stage. “We all put in a hundred, we all get a sip, yeah?”

Charlie worked the math. “I’m good with that.”

The room agreed.

Aperitif glasses were found and arrayed on a tray. Charlie unscrewed the cap—Earthly cork would have ruined the other-worldliness—and dribbled a finger’s worth in each glass. He seized the honor of offering a glass to each guest and when all had received their sample, he lifted his own and made a toast.

“To viticulture of the future.”

The woman, standing next to Charlie, spit hers all over his shoes. “That’s some expensive vinegar.”

Charlie choked his down. “Who are you?”

“Elania Musk. I bid fifteen mil for the case. What’s left of it.”

“But why?”

“It was bound to go bad. This way, we keep the good stuff on Mars. And I keep your reputation intact. Martian goods are for Martians. Or so my grandfather would insist.”