Dream A Dream – The Train

The train crept into the station. The purpose was to transport a body for identification. My family was waiting on deck and I was voluntold to identify the body. They gave me a picture. They knew the person but didn’t want to board the train. I called them cowards. In defiance, my youngest nephew who knew the meaning of the word, insisted on boarding the train with me. My family gasped in horror. They all agreed to board.

The conductor was menacing but I saw the wink he gave my nephew. I identified the body based on the picture that my family provided. We stepped back into the vestibule but I noticed that my family was gone. The conductor grabbed my arm and told my nephew to exit the train. The doors slammed shut. I begged the conductor to let me off, too. He obliged, but I had to crawl through a window. As my feet touched the ground, I saw my nephew hop back onto the train.

As the doors were closing, the conductor told me to enjoy the poison in the air.

My family waved goodbye from the train. My hands and lungs started to blister.

I wake up in a cold sweat.

Why Should I Believe

You claim to be omnipresent. You are a liar.

Where were you that night when she cried your name? You were nowhere to be found; at least you weren’t by her side. Where were you?

I hope your alternate selection for protection was a suitable one.

You allowed him to lay hand on the base of her neck and squeeze and utter those words so vile.

She lost her soul that night because of you, not him. She plaintively wailed and begged for your return, but you were off. At best case, you were saving countries and lives; at worst, you were answering a lothario’s prayer for a lay. You couldn’t even return to comfort her after the act. You were just too busy.

If anything positive arose, it was me. She finally closed her tear filled eyes. When she opened them, I appeared and she was happy to relinquish control. I have no soul. I promised to protect her. Unlike you, I kept that promise.

May the breath from your prayer return to your lungs in the form of acid.

May your hand sear as it touches my head, not hers. You can only wish to touch hers, but you can’t. You had your chance. You weren’t there. Why should she believe? Why should I believe?

ambushed again

“Even now I could kill you with a word,” she spat at him.

He shrugged his shoulders, sending a ripple down his flowing robes, and raised his eyebrows.  The movement stopped just above the ground, where he seemed to hover over the muddy earth, and enchantments kept the muck from contacting him.  With an emotionless voice, he responded, “Prove it.”

It had been an easy bluff to call.  If he had followed her movements and had witnessed the magnitude of the magic she had just finished unleashing, he would know exactly how weakened she would be.  And, the feat would have been draining with normal spells.  The druidic coercion had left her far more weakened and vulnerable than she would have been otherwise.  The sorceress had no recourse but to continue the bluff and hopefully buy herself enough time for a real solution to arise.

“Before I kill you,” she replied, matching his emotionless timbre, “I would love to know why you turned your back on our studies.  Did I not treat you like a peer?  Did I not open doorways for you that you wouldn’t have found studying under anyone else?”

“I know you are stalling,” he laughed.  The sound echoed bizarrely, warbling, in the empty river bed and his voice was returned octaves lower, a moaning ghost.  It fit the altered landscape and the feeling of being haunted caused chills to run down both their spines.

Before the sorceress could use the brief distraction to her advantage, four more magicians appeared next to her betrayer.  Their faces were hidden beneath shadowy hoods, but she was certain she recognized the features of at least one of them, her more recent betrayer: the wizard who had left her to die in the dragon’s den.

At her best, she would have liked her chances against the five magi that spread in front of her.  Her eyes tracked their progress, using an old trick where she focused beyond them so she could see them all rather than watching one at a time.  However, she was not at her best.  She was nowhere near her best.  As much as she wanted to stay, fight, and destroy her enemies, the prudent action was to flee.

A fire burned within her, though.  It was born of rage and fueled by years of torment.  It had once been tempered by ambition and a desire to make her way through the ranks of sorcery, but those governors had finally been scorched by the heat of her anger.  There was nothing within her left to hold her fire in check.

She heard the dragon’s laughter in her mind, howling with mirth.  The beast had been right to sense a kindred spirit in her.  She pushed herself out of the mud, and her eyes burned fiery orange and purple.  “I will kill you all.”

standing eye-to-eye with death

The mighty beast’s head snapped forward, its jaws poised to pierce the protection spells the sorceress had weaved around her.  She could feel the teeth sliding through the intricate magic, sliding through the toughest barriers she had ever wrapped herself in, and, yet, she refused to shrink away from the attack.  She held her ground and delved into reserves she wasn’t sure she had to amplify her spells and do everything she could to fight back, to survive.

“And yet…” the dragon paused in its assault, the volume and timbre of its voice softening slightly, and withdrawing its fangs from around the witch, “I can sense that there is a fire burning in your soul too.  It radiates off you in a way I’ve never felt from a human before. ”

The sorceress considered striking out while the dragon was preoccupied with its thoughts.  She considered trying to step into the pathways of magic and leave the cave behind her forever.  She considered speaking out to make a case for her continued survival.  However, she did none of these, and instead met the dragon’s gaze and held it steady.  The beast was obviously far more powerful than the magician had implied, or perhaps even known, and it could and would suss out her worthiness on its own.

“You are wise,” the dragon purred, its massive head angling lower to level off so beast and sorceress were eye-to-eye.  “I am far more powerful than that cowardly spell-caster gave me credit for.  I had grown complacent in the long years of my slumber here when last we met, and had not fully awoken when he attacked me unprovoked.  Obviously, I took measures to make sure that never happened again.

You are a fascinating creature, witch, to stand so bravely before me, knowing that I can read your thoughts, knowing that I could end your life with a quick snap of my jaws.  You, too, are powerful in your craft.  Your troubling years of study helped hone you into a fine weapon of magic.  It would be a waste to cast all that aside simply because you were deceived.

Yes, I can see it all clearly now, you are not the one to blame here, it is the wizard and those who hired him.  Interesting…  Interesting, indeed.  He so greatly feared fighting you himself that he brought you here hoping that I would do the job for him.”

As the dragon spoke, the sorceress could feel the intensity of its rage ebbing, and the pressure that had building against her protective spells weakened to a nearly undetectable level.  Wary of a trap, having learned to save herself from bullies and teachers as a student, and having so recently been betrayed, twice, she did not lessen the amount of energy she was directing towards the magical barrier around her.

The beast smiled then, razor sharp teeth gleaming red against the swirling darkness around them.  “Yes, you are wise, and you learn quickly, too.  Perhaps you have earned a reprieve.  But, first, you must do me a favor.  One small thing…”

Rickity Roller

Detective Carl Graff’s phone chimed, that damn tune his Captain had set as a joke and he was too technologically stupid to remove, and he answered before the first verse of “Wrecking Ball” finished.  If nothing else, the song had trained him to answer his Captain’s calls quickly.

“Yo,” he snarled into his phone.

“Carl, we need you to head over to the Rickity Roller.”

“Kids getting in trouble again?”

“No,” his Captain sighed, “there’s been an incident.  You’ll be doing more than keeping the peace, more than just strength in numbers.”

“On my way,” he clicked off, shoved the phone back into his pocket and headed for his car.  It was a department issued, unmarked, hunk of junk, but it hadn’t failed on him yet and he always felt better about heading towards a crime scene knowing he had his full arsenal of tricks and treats in the trunk.

…..

Carl honked his horn and flashed his high beams to get the throng of gawkers to move out of his way.  Amid some cursing and rude gestures, he managed to pull up to the entrance, which had been crisscrossed with yellow crime scene tape.  He flashed his badge to the uniform who stepped up to his window, and then surveyed the rest of The Boardwalk amusement park, or Rickity Roller as it was lovingly referred to not just in his department but throughout the town.

The locals hardly ever went, once they passed their teenage years and had grown tired of groping their significant others in the dark corners of the Clown’s Fun House and necking on the Seaward Ferris Wheel.  It was a tourist trap and a hub for unruly kids to blow off some steam.  Occasionally the youth gathered in greater numbers than the tiny park was equipped to handle and the police were called in to help keep the peace.

Carl hated those calls.  They always came on the hottest nights of summer, and he usually ended up having some punk kid throw a soda at him, or key his car, or worse.  Then he’d have to cuff them and haul them to the station for processing and a call to their parents for the lucky ones or a night in jail for the unlucky ones, stay late to complete the paperwork and generally rue the day the Rickity Roller was approved by the town council as a way to bolster the coffers.  Or whatever asinine excuse they had used at the time.

The only bonus, usually, was he got to see George Rawlings, his old partner when they both wore uniforms to work, before they had both made Detective, and probably the best friend he had.  But, Carl hadn’t seen George in over a week and, aside from being annoyed that he wouldn’t get to bum around with him for the next couple hours as they mopped up whatever the mess was, he was starting to worry.

Continuing his assessment of the scene, Carl began counting cars.  He noticed at least two other Detective junkers near the entrance, and a whole slew of black and whites.  That number of officers in one place was quite the party, which meant it was also quite the mess.  When his Captain’s car pulled up behind his a minute later, he started to worry more.

…..

“What brings you out of your dungeon?”  Carl met Captain Rickards between their  two vehicles, pulled out his pack of Reds and lit a fresh one.  The warm pull warded off the chill of the approaching evening and eased the nerves that had popped up when the car had pulled up behind his.

“I don’t want to be here anymore than you want me here, but I’m needed on this one.  It’s one of ours in there, in the Fun House.”  Captain Rickards flicked his gaze over the fence towards the glare of spinning lights fighting desperately to beat back the coming darkness.

Carl frowned, “Shit.”

“Exactly.  I don’t know who it is yet, but we do this one right the first time.  No slips.  No missteps.  No errors.  We owe it to them.  You got that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good, now let’s get in there.”

Carl took the last drag from his cigarette, dropped the spent butt to the dirt parking lot and stamped it out with his heel.  He knew he could get in trouble for littering like that, especially right in front of his Captain, but in that moment there were much bigger concerns.  A cop was down.  That took precedent over everything else.

…..

Later the autopsy would confirm what they all knew at the scene, cause of death was cardiac arrest and loss of blood from the single bullet that entered the officer’s back between his lower ribs, tore his insides to shit, and exited just above his sternum.  Detective George Rawlings hadn’t been wearing a vest at the time of the incident, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.  The gunshot residue on his clothes, along with the singed fibers, indicated his assailant had been standing too close for the kevlar to be effective.

After seeing his friend, outlined in blood, Carl lost the the contents of his stomach, a lovely pasta dish from Romero’s that he had finished moments before getting the call from his Captain, but had the training and scene presence to remove himself before he hurled on anything that could be remotely considered as evidence.  It was the first time he had ever lost it at a scene, but he took it in stride.  Sooner or later it happens to every cop.  He spat out as much of the flavor as he could and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

He looked up from his mess when a shadow passed over him to see Captain Rickards standing next to him.

“I’m sorry, Carl.  If I had known I wouldn’t have called you in.”

Carl waved him off, then spat and wiped his mouth again.

“Get out of here.  Go home.  I’ll put in so you get a couple days off on the Department’s dime.  Pack up and go fishing or something.”

Carl scowled.  That was the last thing he wanted to do.  He need to know what happened.  He needed to know what the investigation turned up.

He started to shake his head, but Captain Rickards firm tone stopped the rebuttal he had been forming. “You will not be working this case.  You will be taking some time off.”

“Fine,” he forced the word through his clenched teeth, fought back a second round of returning dinner, rose to his feet and marched back to his car.  The carnival speakers had been silenced, thank God, once the detectives arrived but their work lamps did little to diminish the incessant spiraling, twinkling, flashing lights that bounced through the dank alleys between the park’s buildings.

When he reached the comfort of his car, he slammed the door, lit a new cigarette and closed his eyes against the pain of the lights.  Even the sight of his dead friend that greeted his closed lids was a mercy compared to the brightness of the park.  But, only for a few seconds, then his stomach started rumbling again and he opened his eyes, fired his engine and peeled out of the parking lot.

Enough of the crowd had dispersed to allow such a maneuver, but he wasn’t sure he would have been able to calm his exit even if they hadn’t.  There was a bottle at home calling him and he couldn’t keep it waiting.

…..

The knock on his door came halfway through the bottle.  He wasn’t sloppy drunk yet, but he had moved well beyond where he should be trusted to do more than channel surf.  He ignored the door.  After the scene he had left, it could only be more bad news.  He wasn’t in the mood.  He didn’t want it.  He was on vacation and whatever it was could wait until he was allowed back on duty.

When the knock came again, Carl dragged himself off the couch and swayed to the door, cursing the whole way.  His right hand stayed close to his Glock which was tucked into the back of his jeans, as he opened the door with his left hand.  He was drunk, but he wasn’t stupid enough to answer the door unarmed.  He knew who might be out there, closing up loose ends.

He was more than a bit surprised to see Captain Rickards standing there, flanked by a couple of uniformed officers he didn’t recognize immediately.  “Yo, what brings you out to interrupt my vacation?”  His words slurred, and he tried to exaggerate his excessive body movement to make them think he was drunker than he was.  His gaze passed over the papers in the Captain’s hands to peer between the stoic expressions of the uniformed officers.  He knew then they were there to make sure he went peacefully.  They were enforcers.  The men called upon to back the issuing of a warrant for his arrest in the hopes that just by his presence, they wouldn’t be needed.

In that instant, Carl considered going for his gun.  He liked his chances.  They wouldn’t expect it of him.  They probably still held out some hope that he was innocent of whatever they were accusing him.  But, he was too curious how they had found him out, since he truly hadn’t had anything to do with George’s death.  He needed to know how his friend’s demise had led them to his door.  He stepped back and motioned them in from the dark hallway outside his apartment.

“We’ve got a warrant here,” Captain Rickards started but Carl cut him off before he could finish.

“I can see that,” he fired back.  “What are you looking for?  How on God’s blue marble can you think I had anything to do with George?  Okay, okay, I’ll let you finish,” he said seeing the mixture of sadness and anger in his Captain’s eyes.  “What’s the warrant for?”

“Warrants, actually.  One to search your apartment,” he deadpanned, “and one for your arrest.”

Carl licked his lips.  The liquor had given him a bad case of cotton mouth and his nerves were begging for a cigarette.  He would have lit one up to soothe them but he wanted to keep his hands free.  His palms were slick with sweat but his face was flushed with embarrassment and anger.

Captain Rickards cocked an eyebrow at his Detective, “Did you know that George had been tailing you for a couple weeks.  We’ve got you on video.”

“Damn,” tumbled from Carl’s mouth.  His lips loosened by the same liquor that had assuaged the grief in his heart.  His best friend had betrayed him.  As he went for his gun, he wished he had only had a quarter of the bottle instead of half of it.

…..

The nationwide man hunt for Carl Graff started the next day.  At first his fellow officers were loathe to believe the rumors being spread about him, but as the video and wire taps become general knowledge they quickly switched gears and started saying they had always suspected him of being a dirty cop, there was something that wasn’t quite right about him.

As the days turned into weeks turned into months, they assumed that he had used his drug running connections to find safe passage out of the country.  Internal Affairs and the FBI got involved and issued formal statements that the rest of the department had been reviewed and was found to be clean, restoring the public’s faith in their men and women in blue.  The official results of the investigation were, of course, classified, but John and Susie Public rarely concern themselves with such details.

A cellphone, placed under a chair, playing the “Wrecking Ball” ringtone at the Captain’s funeral, while considered a massive lead at the time, never amounted to anything.  The man hunt continues…

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Word Count: 2,000

The Who: Dirty Cop (4)
The Where: Amusement Park (2)
The Uh-Oh: Betrayal by best friend! (1)

I used the =randbetween excel function to come up with which prompt words to use.  Have no idea what I’m talking about?  That’s because I haven’t shown you the prompt yet!  This is another Flash Fiction Challange:

Anyway, this week, we’re back with another randomized challenge –
And, this week, I’m letting you have 2000 words instead of 1000.
The way forward is simple: pick (randomly or by hand) one element from each column below (Who, Where, Uh-oh) and smoosh those three together to concoct a single story. For bonus points, you can actually randomize the Who column twice — either to make a combination protagonist (PSYCHIC CELEBRITY! ASSASSIN ACCOUNTANT!) or to choose a second character to go into your tale, either as a supporting character or as an antagonist.
Post this story at your online space.
Link back here.
Due by Friday, the 24th, noon EST.
And the categories are…
The Who (Protagonist)
1. Detective
2. Ghost
3. Bartender
4. Dirty Cop
5. Psychic
6. Assassin
7. Accountant
8. Celebrity
9. Android
10. Waiter/Waitress
The Where (Setting)
1. Nuclear Wasteland
2. Amusement Park
3. Chinatown
4. Far-Flung Space Station
5. Mad Botanist’s Greenhouse
6. Virtual Reality
7. The Underworld
8. Trailer Park
9. Pirate Ship
10. Casino
The Uh-Oh (Problem)
1. Betrayal by best friend!
2. Left for dead, out for revenge!
3. Encounter with a nemesis!
4. Trapped!
5. Something precious, stolen!
6. Lovers, separated!
7. Warring against nature!
8. An unsolved murder!
9. A conspiracy, revealed!
10. Besieged by supernatural enemies!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I think this may have been my first attempt at writing a crime thriller, and while there isn’t much crime in it, and it probably isn’t that much of a thriller.  I’m pretty pleased with how much I crammed into 2,000 words.  What do you think?  Did you enjoy it?  What would you have done differently?

Or, better yet, roll the dice (pick a prompt word from each category) and play along.  Write it, link it, post it.