(Editor’s note: My first monostich. Special thanks to Proletaria for inspiring this humble attempt)
“The hero of Waterloo was last seen riding away, in the wrong direction.”
(Editor’s note: My first monostich. Special thanks to Proletaria for inspiring this humble attempt)
“The hero of Waterloo was last seen riding away, in the wrong direction.”
450 words –
The dim glow of a quarter moon filtered through the curtains and cast shadows on the walls. Walter’s eyes struggled to make out the shifting shapes that pranced across them in a creepy parade.
Were they scenes from his past? Was waiting to die a way to suddenly come into contact with that mystical part of the brain scientists and poets write about? Do revelations reveal themselves before you’re executed?
The promise of a sure death was a blow to Walter’s soul and very being. He knew only hours separated him from the firing squad and eternity. This last night wasn’t for sleep. It was a time to pray. A time to accept one’s fate bravely. It was a time to fight the growing panic that comes when a body is not ready to die.
The idea of being tied to a stake and shot like a target didn’t register with his reality. How could this be? He wasn’t a deserter! They were wrong! The reason he was the only soldier left alive was because he never stopped fighting and the enemy drifted away after two days of fierce fighting. He didn’t run away, and come back to the fort after the battle was over like the tribunal claimed.
It was a case of universal injustice.
The rising sun went from blood red, to orange, to yellow, and finally burst into an azure blue. Not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful day to die.
When he heard gunfire coming from the walls he stopped pacing back and forth in the tiny room they locked him in next to the captain’s quarters. Screams of surprise and pain! A sustained rate of gunfire told him there was an all-out assault on the fort.
The battle lasted all day, finally slowing down at dusk. Walter looked out his shattered window and saw fires burning in some of the buildings across the courtyard. Bodies were everywhere. Legionnaires and Arabs. He could see the front gate were breeched.
He took a chance and climbed through the window. Taking a rifle from the dead legionnaire who was once his guard, he moved cautiously through the courtyard – rifle at the ready. After hours of searching he discovered he was the only survivor. Before disappearing into the desert the Arabs sacked the fort and spiked the two cannons. He scavenged bodies for rations.
Why no one looked in his room during the fighting was a mystery. It looked like his luck had changed.
Two days later a relief regiment arrived and discovered Walter. He told them his story. After a 25-minute trial the captain said “Arrest this deserter! We’ll make an example of him!”
100 words –
Hail brave warrior!
The entrance to the labyrinth is open, waiting for you to explore the inner earth and it’s dark denizens. The Dark Lord awaits you eagerly. Fight bravely one more time and there will be a special place for you in hell – where heroes go to brag about their savagery and great deeds until the sands of time run out.
That’s the price you pay to play the Dark Lord’s game of war.
Go forth now and slay a demon to get the Dark Lord’s attention, or spend eternity with the souls of the people you’ve slain.
100 words –
I’ve heard last words that sear my soul. Cries from dying comrades calling for their mother, as their lifeblood soaked a jungle floor in a meaningless war.
In the movies the hero always says something brave and fine with their last words before closing their eyes and meeting eternity and inspiring the viewer in spite of their grief, that their death wasn’t in vain.
Such noble sentiment seldom occurs in the real world where last words are more likely to be “No!” or, “Too soon!” But to be fair, there is a fair share that say, “I love you too.“
1865 Milford, Ohio
When Aaron was born, one of the midwives ran out of the room screaming.
The other women in attendance looked at each other grimly as they wrapped up the howling infant. The mother, Betsy Livingstone, was so weak, and had lost so much blood during the birthing ordeal, the women were worried she would die. She held on for three days. Long enough to see her deformed son’s face. She touched his cleft palate tenderly and ran her fingers over the smear of a nose (two holes actually) and traced the deep creases on the left side of his face that stretched his eye into a slit. He didn’t have ears, just holes where they should have been.
On the last day of her life she dictated a letter to her sister giving her all of her possessions and tasking her with raising the baby boy (she named him Charles after his father who was away fighting Confederates). In the event the baby’s father never returned, she would also get the deed to the three-story house built-in grand Italianate Victorian style. It was the biggest and grandest house in the county. In addition, it had a special tower that rose 5 stories from the basement to the observation room at the top.
Charles was raised away from prying eyes. Only family, friends, and servants ever saw him. As a young boy he wandered through the great house with its lavish furnishings and rooms full of paintings, playing secret little games and living in an alternate world. One where he was accepted despite his terrible appearance, and could play with other children…and things, without censor.
Private tutors taught him to read and write at an early age. He was a fast learner and quickly graduated to math, physics, the social sciences, and chemistry. His aunt Loretta saw to it that Charles always had the best she could provide for him. His father never came home from the war. One of his comrades came by one day and said he was with him when he died at Gettysburg, and gave Loretta his few belongings. She, in turn, made out a will giving everything to Charles when she died. She never considered getting married. She knew what suitors would think when they saw Charles. They’d treat him like a freak.
As the year’s rambled on in a slow but livable pace, Loretta and Charles were inseparable. She was the one person in the world who didn’t cringe when she looked at him. He always saw love in her eyes. Unlike the fear, loathing, and suspicion he noticed in others. Doctors. Tutors. Servants. They all stared at him when they thought he wasn’t looking. He’d caught them all numerous times, and it made him feel like an exotic creature that should be displayed in a zoo.
Charles’ world almost came to an end when Loretta died from the consumption. He refused to eat and had her body displayed in a coffin in the parlor for a week. Never leaving her side. When the family stepped in and took care of the burial arrangements he sat in the top of the tower until the funeral was over, and everyone went home. All but one of his servants elected to leave. Old John lived in the house when Betsy gave birth to Charles and was content to stay with him as long as he lived. Grief became a constant companion, and after a while it descended into anger and bitterness with the world that rejected him because of his looks. He still managed to find a place in his heart for his aging servant who made him meals and did light cleanup. When Old John was too weak to walk up the twisting staircase to the top of the tower where Charles spent most of his time, he came up with a dumb-waiter system that spared him from dutifully hobbling up it everyday. When the day came that Old John couldn’t get out of his bed, Charles stayed by his side and nursed him until he took his last breath. Because he had no known relatives, Charles buried him in a plot in the back of the house where Loretta, and his mother and father were resting. Only a priest attended the funeral. Two young men Charles paid to dig the grave and cover it up afterwards, stood nearby sweating in the heat of the hot Ohio afternoon.
After that, it was just Charles. He paid a nearby farmer’s 11-years-old son to go into town and get him supplies once a month. Money was one thing Charles didn’t have to worry about. The family safe contained the savings from two generations of Livingstone’s who had invested wisely and never trusted a bank. Gold bars. Assorted Bank notes. Golden Certificates backed by the government, cash, and heirloom jewelry was his insurance against poverty. And from going out into a hostile world.
The only time he left the house was at dusk when he would wander through the nearby forest for hours. Long into the night. He grew use to the animal sounds and they to him as he walked through the forest like an apparition. When the weather was too bad to go out, he sat at the top of his tower and watched the wind and rain batter the large glass panels in elemental fury. On some nights he studied the stars through his telescope and dreamed of other worlds. It was a lonely life.
It was a normal quiet day in downtown Milford when the outlaws rode into town. All three had long black dusters on and were carrying Winchester rifles. They rode their horses up to the bank and casually dismounted. After tying them up on the wooden railing they all strolled inside, still carrying their rifles. A keen-eyed deputy sitting outside the barber shop spotted the men and suspected them of being outlaws. He passed the word around to the townspeople.
By the time the outlaws came outside every able man in Milford had a rifle trained on the front of the bank. The sheriff shouted out for the men to surrender and then he saw the little girl in the arms of one of the outlaws.
“Hold your fire!” he screamed. A few shots rang out and then stopped. One of the shots hit an outlaw and he slumped in his saddle as another one pulled up alongside him on his horse and steadied him. The whole town watched them ride out of sight into the dense forest nearby. The sheriff put a posse together, but it was getting dark and impossible to track the outlaws in the night. The girl’s name was Judy and she was blind. Her parents were grief-stricken. Members of the community stayed up with them all night.
Instead of putting distance between the town and themselves, the outlaws chose to stay close and circled around in the forest looking for a place to hide out. Then they saw a light that appeared to be hovering high in the distance. On the outskirts of the forest they stumbled across the Livingstone house. None of the men had ever seen a house that big and were awed by the tower. They could plainly see someone in it. Taking their horses to a nearby barn, the outlaws lowered their comrade to the ground on a pile of straw. He’d been bleeding profusely and lost a lot of blood on the trail. One of the men stayed in the barn with the wounded man. The other, holding Judy tightly by her arm, went over to the house. The outlaw had his pistol out as they walked up the steps of the porch to the front door. It was dark inside. The only light inside came from the top of the tower and filtered down the winding stairs to a faint glow.
The outlaw, who went by Cherokee Pete, stepped inside the dark entryway, pulling the reluctant little girl along with him. There didn’t appear to be anyone else home. He looked at the grand stairway, took a better hold of Judy’s hand, and began ascending the marble stairs. Charles heard them of course. His hearing was very good, despite having no outer ears. He listened to a little girl’s whimper of fear. A man’s low guttural grunt hushing her up. Step, by step.
Charles was unarmed. He sensed whoever was coming up the stairs was armed and was going to make short work of him. All he had was a small element of surprise and the cane he used when his bad leg acted up. He stood up beside the door so when it opened he’d have a clear shot with his cane. He barely had time to react before the door was flung open and a gun, followed by a hand and arm appeared. In that instant he brought the cane down with all of his strength and heard a satisfying crack as the gun fell to the floor! Cherokee Pete howled in pain and let go of Judy to grab his broken wrist. At the same time he looked over at his attacker…and screamed! Ignoring his injury he ran towards one of the glass panels and plunged through the window, his body tumbling down until he made contact with the ground three stories below. Charles turned towards Judy to see if she was all right. He prepared himself for the inevitable scream. As he looked closer he realized she was blind.
“Are you okay?” he gently asked.
“Yes…thanks to you kind sir. My name is Judy and that bad man and his friends kidnapped me.”
“Yes. Outside in your barn. There’s two men, and I think one is seriously wounded.”
Charles bent over and picked up Cherokee Pete’s pistol. “You stay here. I’ll be back.”
“Wait! What’s your name?”
“Thank you, Charles…”
He heard her innocent voice all the way downstairs and out to the barn where he peeked through the partly open door and saw the two men. One was lying down and not moving. The other sat next to him and was drinking from a bottle of whiskey. His rifle lay across his lap.
Charles watched him for a few minutes, pondering on what to do next. He never fired a gun before. He was aware the hammer had to be pulled back before firing, but that was it. Finally, as the man tossed his empty whiskey bottle aside, Charles made his move and charged through the door firing the pistol wildly at the outlaw whose eyes opened wide in terror when he saw him. Then he went for his own pistol and fired once, before one of Charles’ wild shots hit him in the head killing him instantly. The lone shot found its mark and Charles sank to his knees clutching his chest. After the initial shock he got up and slowly made his way into the house. Once inside, he called out Judy’s name and passed out in the parlor.
“Thank you, Charles…”
He opened his bad eye and saw Judy and a woman standing next to her. It was Judy’s mother. He was in a strange house. In a strange bed. And people weren’t turning from him in terror and loathing. As he lay recovering for the next two weeks Judy stayed by his side and chatted gaily about life and it’s wonders.
After a while, she convinced Charles that his life could be wonderful too.
As It Stands, it doesn’t matter how you look, it only matters how you act.
Wayne Dancer had the uncanny ability to know what people were thinking.
This gift (or curse, depending on how you look at it) became apparent when Wayne was in second grade and asked his teacher why she was always thinking about someone named Dennis? This was an awkward question, because her husband’s name was Bob. She tried to cover up his accuracy at reading her thoughts by laughing at him, and complimenting him on his imagination. She never realized he saw straight through her feeble efforts.
One of the strange things, and there were many, was that he didn’t always have the ability to hear people’s thoughts. It usually came unexpectedly, and went away after a short period of time. Another bizarre aspect to his mind-reading ability was it only happened when he was in school. He was never able to read his parents, or other family members, minds.
The one thing he did learn was not to talk about his strange ability. At first, out of fear people would think he was crazy. But as he got older it dawned on him there were advantages to reading people’s random thoughts. Especially during tests. It helped him get a passing grade more than once.
When he became a freshman his interest in girls was a driving force, powered by raging hormones, and a healthy imagination. He wasn’t a very social person and only had a few friends, that like him, were on the fringes of the high school social set. They existed in a gray area between the popular kids and the outcasts. They could be seen at school events like football games, but never participated in sports.
The new school janitor, Paul Kettles, put a sign out in front of the girl’s bathroom warning people he was inside cleaning. He performed this duty while most kids were in class to avoid embarrassing incidents.
On this day however, he was installing a hidden camera with split views of stalls and the sink area. He done this before at all three of his prior janitorial jobs, in three different states. He never stayed too long, always disappearing before any kind of investigation was launched. His collection of teen girl porn was his pride and joy. He often traded videos with other perverts online, who always praised the quality of his work.
He was finished before the bell rang. Students poured out of their classes into the hallways on campus. Wayne was walking with two friends, a boy and a girl, as they passed the janitor who picked up the sign outside of the girls bathroom, and was wheeling his mop bucket to the storage room, when he heard something in his head that troubled him.
“I wonder what she’ll look like without her pants? I can’t wait to check the camera tomorrow.”
Those words rolled around Wayne’s head like rocks, slamming from one side to the other with jarring implications. He looked back at the janitor who was now at the end of the hallway and unlocking a door. It was harder than usual to stay focused in his English class as his thoughts kept turning back to what he heard.
“What are the names of the two families in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Wayne?” his teacher, Mr. Beltramo, asked.
He struggled with the answer and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “The Hamiltons and the Turners,” he answered hopefully.
“Half right. the Hamiltons and the Trasks. You better pay closer attention young man, there will be a test on this,” his teacher warned.
It was the last class of the day for Wayne, who walked home with his buddy Dewey. He thought about telling Dewey what he suspected, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. The last thing he wanted was for his friend to think he was crazy or something.
The next day at school Wayne saw the janitor pushing a cleaning cart of supplies in the hallway and he slowed down, hoping to hear what he was thinking. He only made out one word in passing, camera.
Logical deduction told Wayne that the janitor had planted a hidden camera in the girl’s bathroom. His problem was how could he expose what he did without an explanation of how he knew about it? It was a thorny issue, but he knew he had to take some action. He couldn’t just stand by and let the pervert peek at his classmates.
Later that day at lunch he approached a girl he knew since grade school. They were good friends. Not lovers. She was an honor student, involved in student government, and who sometimes worked in the front office as part of a work experience program. Her name was Linda Goleta.
“Working in the office today?” Wayne asked conversationally, as they ate their lunch in the freshman quad.
“I am. Right after lunch actually,” she replied.
“Would you do me a favor?
“Sure. What is it?”
“I know this is going to sound odd, but could you check the new janitor’s personnel file and see where he worked before coming here?”
“What on earth for?”
“I can’t tell you why right now, but I’ll explain everything later. Please. Trust me. You don’t have to take anything. Just write down the names of his prior employers.”
“If anyone else asked me to do that, I’d tell them to take a hike. But since it’s you…I’ll see what I can do,” she said with a smile.
The next day Wayne saw Linda in their math class. She passed him a piece of folded up paper without a word, as they took their seats. The class seemed like it went on forever for Wayne, who was eager to carry out the next part of his plan.
During study hour at the school library he went through the section with maps and phone books for all 50 states. He used the information Linda provided to track down the high schools the janitor worked at. Instead of calling the first high school he looked up, he got the phone number of the local sheriff’s office. He had to call back twice before he got to talk with someone, a bored information officer.
Wayne told her that he was a reporter for his towns local newspaper, The Altooni Monitor, and he wanted to know if she had any peeping tom scandals that might have happened in the local high school in the last five years? He was put on hold for nearly ten minutes before the officer called back and said there were no cases like that in the high school, or anywhere else in town.
It took the third, and final call before he hit paydirt. A detective took his call and said he had a cold case involving a peeping tom at their high school. Wayne asked the detective not to reveal him as a tipster because he thought he knew a man that was doing that right now in his high school. He gave the detective the information – Paul Kettles employment record – with a request that he wouldn’t have to be involved in the bust. The detective was eager to solve his cold case and catch the perp, agreeing to Wayne’s conditions.
It took a week before anything happened. Wayne was in his Science class when students heard a loud popping sound. The teacher told them to get on the ground under their desks. They waited for a long time until someone came into the classroom and said everything was all right. Class was dismissed.
Like the other students, Wayne stopped to stare at the yellow tape stretched out around a small perimeter in front of the storage room. There were still cops and plain clothes detectives milling around. The word was a peeping tom had a camera in the girl’s bathroom and got caught by authorities.
As Wayne stood there staring, Linda came up alongside of him.
“I don’t even want to know how you knew about this,” she whispered in his ear.
As It Stands, silent heroes are still heroes, even if no one knows who they are.
I grew up seeing colors when people spoke.
It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. I also see emotions in color. When I was little, I saw my mom in shades of blue when she talked with me. Blue is the color of truth, by the way.
If she was mad at me she didn’t have to say a thing. I could see the red glow and avoided her. I quit talking about colors to my mom and dad when I went into First Grade. They fluffed off what I was telling them about colors so I kept – what I then thought was a super power – to myself.
Little did I realize what that power would mean to me, and others, when I got older.
By the time I was out of high school, I was seeing brighter colors and more variations. For example, I knew when a person was depressed because they’d be surrounded with a gray highlight.
Sadness is purple. Anger is red. Green means someone is untrustworthy. Yellow is hope. Orange is love. Lies are black. Only I see these colors. No one else sees anything them. I’m cursed, or blessed, depending on how you look at it.
Here’s the kicker: when I’m around a lot of people it’s like tripping on some good LSD. The colors are fantastic! They blend into subtle tones that any artist would envy. Going through high school I seriously considered art as a career, but didn’t do anything about it when I graduated.
I briefly studied law at a local junior college thinking that with my ability to see truth or lies it would come in handy for a job – say as a judge. Being a cop, or detective, was another consideration, but frankly I preferred to avoid violence if possible.
In the end, I got a degree and became a 7th grade history teacher. I found the experience oddly satisfying even though it meant sometimes dealing with kids who were jerks. I admit to sometimes amusing myself with the smart guys in class by calling them on every lie they told. Pinning them like butterfly’s to a board, was a humbling experience for bullies too.
Overall, I had a good bond with most of my class. Students knew I was fair and that I didn’t believe in homework. There were always a select few who thought it was their duty to disrupt my class however.
There were two ring-leaders in particular who challenged me from the first day of the semester. Robbie McGinn, and Mike Hunter. Neither showed any interest in learning. They were aloof from other students, preferring their own company, and sitting apart from other students in the cafeteria.
I saw a green glow on both of them that seemed to grow fainter as the weeks went by, morphing into a new color – somewhere between green and black. I also noticed that their colors shifted rapidly at times. I started seeing brilliant flashes of red on both of the boys that would come and go in minutes.
One afternoon, after class let out, one of my students asked to speak with me. He heard a conversation between Robbie and Mike that disturbed him.
“They were talking about killing people here at the school,” the student, whose name was Paul, said. “I was in a toilet stall and heard Mike say they were going to have a kill count higher than any other shooting in the nation!”
I watched Paul speak and noted the color blue engulfing him before taking him to the principal to repeat his story.
Tom Blount, the principal, listened politely as Paul told him what he heard. I sat next to him in front of the principal’s desk. He thanked Paul for coming in and dismissed him, asking me to stay.
I noticed a green glow surrounded Blount. I was surprised and disappointed when he basically wrote off Paul’s warning.
“These kids,” he said condescendingly, “They’ll say anything. He probably had a gripe with one or both of the boys. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
I told him that wasn’t the way I saw it, but he brushed me off too. But I couldn’t let go of it. Not in this day and age. So I called the boy’s parents in for a conference. I talked with Mike’s parents first. That was a fiasco.
Instead of being concerned that their son might be plotting a massacre, they turned on me like rabid dogs! Both were glowing red, like two twin fires, as they accused me of bad-mouthing their kid.
Robbie’s parents were calmer. After repeating the bathroom conversation to them the father spoke up.
“You know, of course, that you’re slandering my son with this tale of yours?”
He suddenly was bathed in a luminescent green. Once again, I found myself surprised and shocked by a parental reaction.
“I’m a lawyer Mr. Smith, and won’t allow anyone to speak badly about any member of my family. Robbie is a good boy, perhaps spirited, but that’s totally normal for a boy his age. I trust he won’t have a problem in your class now after this accusation?”
As they got up, I tried to say something, but they were both reflecting red flashes intertwined with a protective orange glow. It was useless. I sighed and gathered up a stack of papers to correct, and put them in my briefcase. I left the light on because the janitor was next door and my room was his next stop.
A week later, Robbie and Mike jumped Paul during recess on the playground, and beat him up. I happened to be the teacher on duty at the time and was distracted while arbitrating a verbal argument between two girls.
I did see the two culprits appear from behind the handball wall, walking fast with their heads down. They were both bathed in a brown light that I’d never seen before. I instantly knew that it meant mean and menacing.
By the time I got to the other side of the handball wall Paul was trying to sit up. His nose was bleeding and one eye was already swollen shut. I helped him stand up and offered to take him to the school nurse.
“No! I’ll go alone,” he said, and I saw him covered in a purple glow as he walked away. When I reported the beating to the principal he agreed to call the parents in and talk with them about their sons.
The next day I stopped by the principal’s office to hear about the result of the meaning. I was stunned when he said the parents told him their boys did not beat anyone up! And, that when he questioned Paul, he denied it was them who hit him.
I noticed he looked down guiltily when he told me that one of the fathers was on the verge of suing me for harassing his son. It was a direct warning coming from a cowed school official.
As I mentioned before, I don’t like violence. The only gun in my house belonged to my great-great grandfather, a Smith and Wesson revolver in remarkable condition. When I went home that night I pulled it out of the little safe I had under my bed and found a box of .38 shorts inside too.
I never had a premonition before. It was scary. Something urged me to bring my gun to class in my briefcase. I popped it open and looked down the barrel. It looked squeaky clean. The pearl handle was weathered with time and had a thin crack on one side. I fired it once when my dad and I went up to a small firing range in the hills and tested it. He said the barrel was a little warped, but could be compensated for. I was twelve years-old at the time.
I felt nervous and uneasy the next day when I got to school. I kept looking down at my briefcase underneath the desk and thinking about the revolver. As the day wore on I forgot about it.
After taking the revolver to work with me for a month, I began to doubt my instincts and considered putting it back into the safe. When class started I made a mental note to leave it at home tomorrow.
Ten minutes into the study plan, Mike and Robbie burst through the door, each carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The students screamed and dropped down to the floor as they sprayed a hail of bullets just over their heads.
I dropped down behind my desk as they stitched a deadly pattern in the chalk board behind me. I opened my brief case, grabbed the loaded revolver and took a deep breath. The firing stopped and I heard empty loaders drop to the ground as they reached for replacements.
I looked under the desk and saw their legs. Without thinking I fired twice! There was an angry curse as Robbie fell down, dropping his weapon, and grabbed his bloody ankle. Mike fired a burst into the desk hoping to hit me, but I was already scooting out from underneath.
I stood up and saw Mike point his weapon in my direction as I fired the first shot! Something spun me around and my shirt was suddenly soaked in blood! As I collapsed in slow motion, I fired the last three shots in Mike’s direction before passing out.
When I woke up in a hospital three days later my elderly parents were at my bedside. A guard standing outside the door to my room looked in and saw that I was awake, he began talking into a radio on his shoulder.
Minutes later two police detectives arrived and asked my parents for some time alone with me. I repeated everything I could remember twice, before they were satisfied and left. They informed me that I killed Mike, and wounded Robbie…and that all of my students were safe because of my heroic action!
Then, as they walked out the door, a stream of my students filled the room with a brilliant combination of orange and yellow! I felt weak from my wound, but happier than I’d ever felt before.
Then a bright white light caught my eyes, and I became one with the universe.
As It Stands, some of us are gifted with the power to see beyond words through means that remain a mystery to the rest.
Flash Fiction / Musings Of Darnell Cureton
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