Cardinal Sin

It lay in the street like a puddle of blood. A soft liquid, downy, not right, I approached this small death with tentative steps. The blood shifted as if to pour away.

Startled, I recoiled.

Though detested by this fear of something so small, this unexpected disturbance, I regathered. My breaths steadied to a pulsing fog in the cold winter morning.

The scarlet pool appeared unbothered, too, resettling like an agitated baby rocked to sleep.

If the frost was finer, the dawn warmer, the effect would’ve lessened, but red on white like a Crusader’s bold announcement of the purging victory to come, gleamed. How dare it! How dare it ruin my morning?

I made to walk around the thing but life intervened. A city fox so alive as to dismiss extinction ran out of a hawthorn bush. The creature lowered its head as if to lap at the pool.

It was wrong, this I knew. Nothing could’ve turned my stomach more.

So what did I do this disenchanted morning when one of God’s creatures required my aid? What did I do when the devil in a fox fur coat came to finish what nature had started?

I let it.

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There are many kinds of sin but none so great as indifference. One might say it the cardinal sin, yet we bask in its crimson illumination gladly.

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Swallowed

It was not her perfume, exquisite though it was
Neither was it her hair, the colour of a waking dream
Nor her lithe and slender body, mesmerising as a nymph
It was her eyes, always her eyes
Those light-consumptive orbs of splendour
Darker than the abyss and deeper than the pit
Blacker than black, as ink pooled in the night
In obsidian she saw me, and swallowed me whole

Nocturnal was her way, that of bat and fox
Ever cunning was she, crafty even
For their was no escaping her personal radar
Her wiles nor her will nor her want, if she wanted
In darkness she entrapped, constricted and constrained
Till my free will cried, Adieu
And my essence begged her for more
If it was mine, for doubt had manifested

Was I her plaything, her simple marionette
A puppet with its strings slashed, limping, lurching
Into a lightless, lifeless heap, gone unseen
Just a man in a mystery, though never his own
Staring into ebon midnights and praying for redemption
But never from the one he should have
Only ever from the one who willed it
Prepared to sacrifice his eyes, if still possessed

But when she came; what can I say
Those eyes shining through the aether
Like onyx moths to a heart once gold and gleaming
But not any more, never any more
And everything I’d ever thought or known
Everything I’d ever felt or imagined
Gave way in slack-jawed anticipation
Of being delivered, devoured, destroyed

And here it’s was, or is, or remains
The simple undiluted truth of her feasting
The reality she made, maintained and perfected
For me, just for me, or so she reminded
As there was a truth, my salient undoing
That demoness though she was, unruly child of Beelzebub
All she asked for was nothing, not a thing
The truth: I begged she take my soul

The Babe Magnet (In Dialogue)

“Call me old-fashioned but I like my pants clean, pressed and swishing.”

“You’re old-fashioned.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re very welcome, gramps.”

“There’s nothing wrong with looking and feeling smart.”

“And there wasn’t in the seventies, either, eh?”

“Cheeky sod.”

“Look, I’m telling you this as your friend, purple velour pants and an orange crinoline shirt’s only gonna get you one thing.”

“A date?”

“A beating.”

“So you’re saying I should compromise.”

“I’m saying you should change, it’s different.”

“But this is me.”

“I refer you to my previous statement.”

“You said you liked them.”

“On a muppet.”

“Goddamn it!”

“No need for that. We can soon sort you out. I’ll lend you something fabulous. Something of mine. Top draw stuff.”

“But I don’t want to look like you. And stop winking.”

“Kid, you’ll never look like me.”

“I’m a year older than you.”

“Potato potahto. You leave it to me.”

Fifteen minutes later

“I love it.”

“Black leather never fails. The bright red Nikes set them off, the gold chain finishing the ensemble. You’re a babe magnet.”

“You think so?”

“Sure do. Where’re you going, anyway?”

“Seventies disco.”

Once Upon Too Many (A Dark Fairytale)

There once was a boy who lived in a hole. There in the warm, musty darkness where roots embraced him, he hid from the bright world outside. He hid from the loud, the violent and crude. He hid from the harm they’d done.

They found him cringing that meekest of creatures, pushed in a corner like old fruit in a shopping bag. He mouldered. It was their duty to save him. Everyone wanted saving, didn’t they?

The men with their silver badges glittering, their colleagues in white all wide smiles and soft words, tore the boy from the roots he clung to; he screamed for them to stop. They carted him away like a stray dog to a pound and placed him in the knowledgable care of strangers. But they had no knowledge of him, this child from deeper regions.

He woke to crimson, some his, most theirs. Its stickiness reminded him of tree sap back when there were trees to weep. And he remembered. And he wept. The memory of those lost forests stung like the syringes thrown in his hole. His nice safe hole. He ran. They ran, too, those who still could.

Out in the savage daylight, he made a decision. The little lost boy with pain in his eyes made a promise. He’d dig deeper. He’d burrow like a mole. No one would find him again. Once upon a time was one once too many, his mother used to say. Before they took her and all that was green and blue, too.

50 Word Stories: The Game

Celeste radiated something akin to love, a certain lukewarm appreciation.

Mama called this cunning — Celeste prickled behind her eyes.

Papa said it smarts — Celeste upset his oversensitive gut.

Me?

Celeste melted my heart.

Was I suspicious?

Never! Celeste could have bought and sold us. Our secret, until after the wedding.

The Arrangement

She kept a bowl of flowers on the sideboard I never once saw wilt. Regardless of the time of year, weather, or the close attentions of her ginger cat named — unsurprisingly — Ginger, the flowers thrived. They were pink, pretty even, but never worth more than a cursory glance.

I passed those flowers every day for the three years we lived together. Not once did I water or maintain them, and to my knowledge, neither did she. I prayed they’d keel over just to prove they weren’t plastic, or, at least, not as false as me. Once, I even tugged their petals, but we’ll keep that to ourselves. Obstinate flowers still didn’t fall.

The day I left, I paused at the door. “At least tell me their bloody name, I’ve looked at them all this time and still have no idea what they’re called!”

“Same name as me,” she replied, her eyes wet and weeping.

So, I still don’t know.

50 Word Stories: Concrete Dawn

We waddled to the lakeside like two overstuffed penguins, laughing and joking, discussing the past. There we watched the sunset, a tangerine moment that made us cry. We looked at each other like once lovers, then jumped, or, rather, plunged. Our concrete filled boots did their job. It was bliss.

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Sometimes

A Writer’s Dream

Is it wrong to wish to write for writing’s sake? Is it wrong to feel the need to write a disclaimer only I’ll ever see?

I sometimes think I was born to the wrong era, that before computers and watches knew your name, I might have been happy. I’d have sat in my room as others scampered about living their lives and smiled at the view beyond the window, written down what I saw without forethought or fear. The clouds would’ve drifted across cerulean fields like mythical beasts and birds would’ve tweeted the minutes. With a quill for a sword and a wooden chair for a colt, I’d have lived out my days as a warrior of words and others would’ve been happy I did. But it isn’t days of yore, and there’s no time for idealism in today’s world of exactitudes and uncompromising rapport. We are. We will. We do as we’re told.

I sometimes wish the curtains to close and never open. Here wrapped in my private night, I’ll live in peace with these hundreds of thousands of words scattered all around; most long forgotten and stashed away in burrows of rabbited nonsenses. The songs I love will play in endless loops through ears with no wish to hear the spouted obscenities and harsh realities — or so they claim — of this, that and the other. Darkness will fold around me like a lover’s kiss, all-encompassing, and I won’t even know if I’m dead, nor care. But then the words will come, white on black, and I’ll feel more alive than ever.

Sometimes a voice calls from deep within that I presume my own but still doubt. This — let’s call it soul — knows my name, my home, my life, wife and circumstance, but even this supposed virgin self is dubious to my needs. What are my needs?

I have absolutely no wish for anyone to read what I write. I have absolutely no desire to be famous. If people happen upon these reams of written words and enjoy them, feel them, I’ll smile and thank them, and expect no thanks in return. If a child picks up one of my books and their eyes light up with wonder, I shouldn’t care if their parent commands them to put it back — not if the spark’s already lit. If? Such a little word. Such a pertinent package. But the cold hard reality, is something has to pay for a coffin and good intentions won’t.

Sometimes I think I’m free. Sometimes, but not often.

Thank you for reading

Richard

August Author Update

August! Really?

Another month has come around the summer almost lost. The prospect of cooler days and darkening nights only entices me further into a world of typed words. A bit of snow is now less of a dream.

I have had a busy couple of months applying dramatic touches to Nimbus — The Theatre of the Moon: Book 1. Coupled with a rewrite of my first foray into novel work, The Snow Lily, which is progressing nicely, I’ve had a lot on my plate. I’m glad to have. There is nothing gives me greater pleasure than writing and I’m doing it all day long, so who am I to complain.

I read somewhere that paperback books are now reasserting themselves over ebooks, which was good to hear. You can’t beat the smell and feel of a good book, luxuriating over its details, deliberating over how it will end at the turn of every page. Perhaps the world isn’t completely digital just yet.

On a different note, (for those of you who are aspiring to write but don’t know where to start,) here are two writing sites/applications I have recently stumbled across. I can’t vouch for either, but they’re free, so it might help you in checking them out. Here are the links.

Penstra

MyStory

I hope the above are of some use.

As regards the next few months? Well, it’ll be a steady balance between hard editing, rewriting and new work. Much as I would love to have a steady line of books appearing on the shelves, I have a gut feeling I’m going to give birth to two or three at once!

Onwards and upwards.

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series