Dark

The car slowly pulled up to a forlorn street. Papers fluttered against splintered sidewalks, brushing past abandoned store fronts with spiderweb cracks in the glass. The back-passenger doors opened, beckoning the two occupants outside with the sight ahead. Donavan and Yazmin stepped onto the street. In front of them a small cement staircase led down passed the sidewalk to a plain wood door. It was the best looking thing on the block. Donavan turned to the decrepit driver.

“What is this place?” He asked. The driver stared at him with cold dark eyes but didn’t respond. He sped off in the rusty hearse, leaving the two alone and confused.

“Well, nowhere else to go.” She shrugged and made a step towards the staircase. Suddenly, a sign neither of them seemed to notice flashed to life. ‘HELL’ in bold letters blinked a neon red, while an arrow above cascaded a similar color towards the stairs. The two looked at each other, hearts catching in their throats.

“We were sent here for a reason,” Donavan argued, trying to hide the shakiness in his voice. He climbed down to the door, with Yazmin following behind him, less confident. The teens stared at the large brass doorknob, marked with the star of Lucifer. Donavan twisted at it, a dull but stark burning sensation at his palm. He grimaced and forced the door open. The two were hit with blaring music and the strain of more neon red, glowing much brighter this time. The scene before them laid out less like a fiery pit of inferno and more reminiscent of a house party. At the bottom of more stairs kids their age talked and danced around a blood colored lit living room, booze and delicacies passed around like lifelines. A small stage sat in the corner. A girl in a black cocktail dress belts a scratchy rock song into an old microphone, accompanied by guitarists and a drummer. Her hair was a bright bundle of blue, contrasting with the hue around her. The band of misfits continued to play as she stepped off stage with the swing of her hips, walking towards the two once they reached the bottom

“Welcome.” The whole room was thunderous with sound, but she could be heard as clear as day. A tray with two bottles of beer and an abundance of candy and other sweets was shown before Donavan and Yazmin. The boy holding it, a young blonde with dark kohl around his eyes, winked at them, with a mischievous glint in his smile. Yazmin immediately went for a caramel square, only for Donavan to grab her wrist. He eyed the girl and the tray suspiciously. She smirked.

“Please, enjoy. We don’t bite here.” The kohl eyed boy nodded in agreement. The two hadn’t drank or eaten anything for a while. They were parched, and this was their only option. He grabbed a beer with her following and drinking it happily. He took a small, hesitant sip. It burned all the way down, much more potent than usual beer should be. This was straight up venom, but he already wanted another sip. And soon, he gulped down half. The blue haired girl snapped her fingers. A petite and busty brunette appeared at his side, clinging to Donovan’s arm. She held up a cigarette for him, which he took in his lips without a second thought.

‘The hell?’ he questioned to himself silently, a she lit it for him. He looked for Yazmin only to find her greedily pocketing candy, the kohl eyed boy at her side as well.

“Have fun you two,” the blue haired girl cooed, waving a flirty goodbye at them. She stepped back on stage. Donavan turned back to his friend once more only to find her already lost in the crowd. Another busty girl, a blonde this time, appeared on his other side, offering a strawberry. Loving the attention and feeling alcohol already creep into his system, he accepted, taking a bite.

The next minutes…or hours…damn it could even had been days. Donavan’s mind was lost to the haze of drum beats and cannabis smoke. He had planted himself onto the couch, the two girls still at his side, pampering him like he was some Adonis. Yazmin was nowhere to be found, or he couldn’t see her past the thick rimmed sunglasses he was wearing. He didn’t know how he got them, they were just on his face now. A familiar black dress and blueberry shade shifted into his vision, almost melting with the tinted lenses.

“Taking pleasure in everything I assume?” She chirped at him, clasping her hands together. He chuckled between being fed butterscotches and licorice. He sat up, sunglasses hanging off his nose as he looked up at her, a smirk on his face.

“It’s…different.” He gruffed, taking a new cigarette in his mouth, blowing out a ring of smoke. It was more than different. He wasn’t Donavan anymore. Something ate his mind, a sticky tar like shell forming around his soul. He was a husk, a beast, hearing no nagging voice when he partook in drugs, gluttony, womanizing, or other debaucheries.

“I hope you mean in a good way. I wouldn’t want any of my patrons to feel…left out.” She patted his knee and walked away. He smirked wider, letting out more puffs of smoke, flicking embers to the carpet. He sat back, gesturing for his girls to continue fawning over him.

“Drink?” Donovan looked up again. It was a man, gray haired and plump with soft wrinkles. He wore a dark suit with red embellishments, but it was awkward on him, hanging off in places. The man balanced a golden chalice on a tray. It shook slightly to match the tremor in his hands. Donavan peered at the man’s stern gaze in warm brown eyes. He was confused, as in a sea of teenagers this was the only person well over nineteen. But, with his new form not the one to decline a drink, shrugged and took the chalice. He shooed the bimbos off his arms, grabbing the cup. It was cold to the touch, a surprisingly welcomed difference to the humid atmosphere of dancing and huddled bodies. Donovan took a large drink, letting the honey yellow liquid run down his throat. It wasn’t like the sweeten and rich drinks he was receiving before. It was bitter, with a sharp cinnamon or spicy taste. It burned his nostrils, but his body wouldn’t let him stop.

When he finished drinking half, the cigarette fell from his lips. The room started spinning. His throat was on fire as the feeling of a screwdriver stabbing him in the brain hit all at once. The older man disappeared to the sound of wings flapping, leaving behind the tray and the loose-fitting clothes. Donavan shut his eyes tight trying to let the painful spell past. When he opened his eyes again, everything was wrong. The music that bumped through the walls was now off key and flat. A dark gray replaced the vibrant red. He looked around, panting heavily. The wild party was now a decaying room filled with…

Monsters.

What once were humans now eroding creatures grasping at clumps of dirt, not candy or liquor. Donavan looked down at his own hands, caked in rust and grime, pale to a chilling slate. He scrambled for the tray the chalice was perched on, looking at his reflection. Cracked bleeding scabs of corroded metal formed on his face. His cheeks and eyes were sunken in similar to a corpse. His dark hair now faded to a yellow straw and ghostly white, oily and frayed.

He had to leave, now, before he came a monster himself.

He had to grab Yazmin. He snatched the chalice, sloshing the liquid truth around inside it. The girls tried to snuggle up to him again, more scabbed and deformed than person anymore. Donavan shoved them off, almost tripping as he stood. He ran and stumbled between crumbling creatures finding Yazmin drinking sludge from a broken glass. She stood in a similar state to him, covered in soot and eroded pus marks. He grabbed her wrist.

“Yaz. Drink. Now.” He forced the chalice to her lips. She sputtered but drank the rest with no objection.

“Donnie what the f- “she suddenly grabbed a counter near her as she groaned, grabbing her head. A creature near the two noticed the chalice and screeched. Yazmin looked up again, the horror on her face confirming that the drink worked. Soon all the other monsters were screeching at them. The two fought the piercing noise and managed to push through the throng of decay and head to the stairs.

“Get them!” The blue haired girl bellowed, pointing a long claw at them, horns jutting from her forehead and eyes a black abyss. The two kicked and pushed at the groping monsters as they tugged and ripped at their clothes. They climbed the stairs as fast as their legs would allow, the corrosive beasts grabbing at anything they could wrap their mangled hands around. Yazmin managed to get to the top opening the door. Donavan tried to follow behind, but one monster gripped his ankle, pulling him down. He slipped slamming his arm and chin into the edge of the steps. He was dazed, vision fuzzy from the fall. More grabbed at his pant legs, sliding out of Yazmin’s reach. Thinking fast, she ran back downstairs to where Donavan was, slamming her heel into as many faces as she could. Rusty cracks split open on foreheads, sending green and red ooze sputtering out.

“Donnie!” She screamed, breaking through his cloudy head trauma. He managed to push off the remaining grips on his legs, climbing the stairs. Yazmin grabbed his shirt, pulling both of them onto the ground but on the other side of the door. Mangled hands clawed at them but would not, or could not, push past the frame. She kicked the door closed, sending of wave of deathly silence around them. The two were panting, gasping out air they didn’t realize they were holding. They were covered in scratch marks, bruises, and Donavan’s head and arm were still pulsating in pain. But as they looked at each other, the grime and soot and scabs were gone. Their skin was a healthy tone again. Yazmin coughed, raking a hand through her hair.

“You good?” she asked. He nodded, noticing the chalice still in his hands. He dropped it, letting the thing land on the street with a loud clank. It rolled slightly.

“You?” he asked.

“Good.” The two stood, Donavan needing some help. As he clutched his head the two struggled up the cement stairs. When both got back to the sidewalk they heard the rumble of an engine. A pastel pink Volkswagen sat in front of them, right where they were dropped off in the beginning. The front passenger window rolled down, revealing two women in white uniforms. The passenger looked down at a clipboard.

“Donavan Chester and Yazmin Gold?” she asked, reading their names off. The two nodded weakly.

“Sorry for the mix up. We’re here to pick you up.” She smiled at them. Yazmin looked at Donavan. He shrugged.

“Nowhere else to go,” he croaked, still aching everywhere. Helping him inside, the two piled into the back.

“Hope it wasn’t too bad down there,” The driver said. Yazmin looked at a damaged Donavan.

“Could’ve been worse,” She replied.

The car drove off.

 

Lost and Found

Move your butt!”

“I am moving it! How about you put your back into it!?”

“Don’t yell at me!”

“Don’t yell at ME!”

The number of things people lose in a year are staggering. It is usually never something that huge, a missing earring, a box of paperclips, and of course the matching sock that disappears in the dryer. On occasion it would be something important like a passport or tax document that ended up in a pile, but many times it is nothing but loose junk.

But somehow all of that can really pile up. Which is why I’m here, trudging down the street with a wagon full of shit people can’t keep track of, returning it to their owners. Alongside me is Bella, pulling as I push.

We finally stop, sweating and out of breath, in some small suburb within who the hell cares city from kiss my ass state.

“What’s the next one?” I ask. Bella pulls out her clipboard from the satchel around her shoulders.

“Jim Tanner. 47. Lost one of those medicine boxes with the days on them,” she replies still panting. I plunge my arm into the mass of stuff. She grabbed both sides.

“Careful! If we have to pick up all of this up again I’m going to lose my mind.”

“Don’t worry it’ll end up in here along with the one I lost two counties ago,” I say bitterly. I pull out the plastic rectangle, heading up to the porch. I shove it through the mail slot.

“You need to do it more covert- “

“I don’t fucking care!” I snap at her, stomping back down to the wagon. Bella scowls at me.

“If we are going to survive each other, we need to act calm.”

“If you haven’t noticed, I am drenched and red face pushing shit that really should be easy to keep track of and half of it cover in B.O.! Calm is not a part of the equation anymore!” I see her about to respond but she stops herself, taking a deep breath.

“The next lost thing is around the block. Can you do that? Can you push something literally a sidewalk away?” Her voice was soaked in honey covered snide. I cross my arms.

“I’m taking my break.” I walk ahead not touching anything as Bella is left to drag the wagon. It was much slower but if that means I get to stop doing grunt work and watch her suffer, than I can stroll at a snail pace.

We turn a corner, and the address became clear to us. A stark white building with a square structure. A sign in red letters sits outside.

‘Whitman’s Nursing Home’

“Probably dentures or something…” I mumble. Bella stares at her clipboard, lines etching into her forehead.

“What?” I ask. She shows me what the lost thing was. A patient inside finally was getting it back. I sigh and nod. Inside the pile my hand encounters a jar. I make my way to the side of the building, looking for them. Bella follows me. The two of us found the right room.

A sickly pale woman covered in wrinkles and sunken eyes lays on a single bed, any warmth that could radiate was now replaced with an icy chill. No one has found her yet. I look down at the jar, the label crudely made of duct tape and sharpie.

‘Motor Function’

I pop the lid and let the contents spill into the room. Bella huffs and makes her way back to the stuff. I follow. Without any words I start pushing the wagon again. She begins to pull.

“You can take your break,” I say.

“It’s fine. It’s easier with both of us,” She nods at me. I nod back.

We head down the street.

The Villain’s Bride

Accomplice.

That’s what I was, that’s what I had always been. But now that word held weight. The weight of treason, destruction, murder. I was an accomplice to that. And I knew it would happen, the moment he told me he wanted the crown I knew what that meant. The blood was on my hands as much as his own, and I was going to stand and face the consequences.

It was the least I could do.

The kingdom once stood tall, reaching the heavens as it glittered under the sun and moon, a beacon of hope. It stood now damaged and crumbling, the main hall in ruins, my feet placed on cracked floors and shredded velvet. My trial was to be in the very place I helped destroy. The double doors swung open, as two men from what was left of the guards dragged him in by the biceps. He kicked and screamed, spitting venomous words at the court, at the guards, and most importantly, me. This was to be his trial as well. The dark wizard and his servant. The master and his slave. The husband and his wife.

The court, made up of angry and black hearted subjects, were open to judging glances and harsh whispers once he was forced to his knees by the guards, keeping him still. I was left standing, only one guard at my side. I was too nervous to question the differential treatment, my eyes kept locked at the throne. The king and queen, in their rich and ripped gowns, stared down at us with cold glances. They, however, were nothing compared to Kaia. Poised, graceful, and could send a dragon cowering, she hailed over the magic of this land, ruling with a soft voice and an iron fist. With long delicate fingers she conjured a glass periwinkle ball. Trapped inside was a dark hole, as if God plucked away a part of the universe leaving behind nothing. The only ounce of life was the occasional inky tentacle that shot out, grabbing at only the ball, retreating back into its midnight cave. His magic in his purest form, the magic he used to try and snatch the kingdom, the magic of a dark wizard no longer inside its host. Kaia held the glass ball in her hand.

“Marconius Lock,” she turned to him, “You have been charged with treason against the kingdom, destruction of the city, and multiple counts of murder against the royal court. These are serious crimes that you have been found guilty of without question. Your powers have been stripped away and your fate will be decided shortly.”

Her gaze turned to me. I clutched my throat, where my heart had jumped to under her look of stone and brick. She stepped closer, and if I could I would have stepped back.

“Daphne Lock…”

I swallowed thickly and closed my eyes. This was it, my day of judgement. The day I was punished for following the man I foolishly fell for.

“For showing loyalty to the throne, even under dire pressure of enslavement to a dark master, you are going to be given a choice.”

I opened my eyes, eyebrows knitted in confusion. I must have heard her wrong, my imagination running wild against my senses.

“A choice?” I asked, trying to find my voice. She nodded curtly.

“If you wish to accept it.”

I turned to Marconius. His face was twisted in anger and shock, eyes darting between the two of us. The court seemed to have discussed this, nodding as well. Even the king and queen softened their looks once they turned to me. This is wrong, this is all wrong.

“I don’t deserve a choice. I was not loyal to the throne. I…” I looked to Marconius once more, “I was not enslaved by him.” I loved him. I could not admit that to the court, but I was in love with him. We are married for God sakes, how could I not love him at one point?

“Enslavement, my dear girl, does not always mean being bought to serve. Sometimes, it means someone you trust using deception on you.” I looked at the ring on my hand, the dark red jewel now heavy on my finger.

“Amongst your aide in hiding subjects from his wrath, as well as in his defeat.”

“I didn’t-”

“As well as willing to go against him and warn the king, successful or not.” She was right. Between leading families to a safer place I did try, and Marconius found me. I don’t remember much between his yelling and me waking up in rubble. I soothed my sore ribs as I went back to that dreadful moment.

“So, I will offer again. You have a choice,” Kaia stepped closer once more, ball in both hands.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Well, whichever you choose you will still be heavily watched by me and the kingdom, just to be safe that you are truly loyal, but the choice is this. You can decide that Marconius is placed in a cell never to see the outside world again…” I heard him growl underneath his breath, “I destroy his magic and the world moves on. Or, you take his magic, use it as your own, and to return the favor, he will become a personal servant to you.”

“This is outrageous!” He tries to stand only to be forced back to his knees. His voice made me jump, as I thought over the proposal.

“I…I’ve never handled magic before.”

“You’ll become comfortable with it soon enough, and be able to look over books and scrolls to hone your skill. But it is daunting, and a large responsibility. It still is up to you.”

I looked down, picking at my nails. I had been with him for so long. He wooed me with his romance and illusions when I was alone and without a home. He charmed me into his arms, into his life, into his bed. He slipped the ring on my finger bounding me to him. Not to each other, to him. I loved him, a part of me still does. The thought of owning him. To repay every moment he made me feel like I wasn’t a wife, or even a person. To every poisonous scheme I had to follow, no matter how evil. I might not be able to.

“Darling,” I turned to his pleading voice, “You couldn’t do that to me, would you?” He placed on a smile, pouted his lips, and let his eyes shine to warm my heart.

He was desperate, trying to use that same charm he used so many times to get what he wanted. He wanted to go to jail.

He was afraid of me.

I turned back to Kaia.

“Magic is overwhelming…” I could see him nod in encouragement at what he thought my decision was. I made eye contact with the confidence in his irises.

I smiled, a coy and almost cocky aura tight against my lip. His face dropped, panic etched in every frown line and creased brow.

“But a husband shouldn’t be so far away from his bride, should he?”

The Tea Party

“The people there,” my mother told me before I left, “Are high class. Educated. Good people. You need to be on your best behavior.” Best Behavior. That phrase was tarnished, empty, like a forgotten kettle. Best behavior meant being as good as the people around you. My mother said they were good people. Perfect people. “Educated”. But as I sat there, waist cinched in lace and metal, cheeks rouged, and hands wrapped in white silk, I saw the good people were not good. They weren’t monsters per say, or outwardly so. They didn’t scream or curse or spit dirty words. They didn’t eat like pigs or fought like scoundrels. Sins were hard to bury, however, and I noticed little things.

The woman who took one too many glasses of wine when people were looking, and about four more when no one was. The young man, two years my senior, who gushed about his lovely fiancé, but licked his lips whenever he glanced my way.

The father who gripped the back of his daughter’s neck, the way she jumped at it each time.

Not all sins were self-inflicted. I talked to the soldier who was home for good, but the battlefield was trapped in his shaking hands.

The woman on my left who sent longing gazes to the girl in the funny hat across the room. This is the best I need my behavior to be.

Cheats and drunks and perverts. The broken. The doomed. The lambs set up to slaughter. The souls that dread the day of God’s judgment.

Good people.

And I was left in a costume. A mask. A sheep pretending to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The butler poured me another cup of tea. I looked down at the brown liquid, sugar cubes bubbling to the surface as they slowly dissolved. ‘If I ever had a tea party’ I thought to myself ‘My only rule is that everyone is honest. Including me.’