International Embarrass Yourself As An Artist Day
Go ahead and post the awfullest, grottiest, ancientest piece of juvenilia you still have a word processor that will open. Then you can congratulate yourself on how far you've come.Oh, God. Do you remember in my quiz a week or two ago, how I mentioned my first story rejection from MZB? It was for this story, under the cut. It has never seen the light of day since, and is very very bad.
Reading: Lost Stories, by Dashiell Hammett, ironically enough.
Avert Your Eyes, I Beg Of You!
Turning Over A New Leaf
The doorbell rang, and she answered it. At the door was a tall good-looking man elegantly dressed. He smiled warmly at her. "Hi, pretty lady." They kissed.
"Hi, handsome. Have a seat, I'll be ready in a minute." She disappeared into the bedroom. He took a seat in the living room.
"How was your day?" Her voice came, distant down the hall.
He ran a hand through his dark hair. "Fine, fine. One more day for the closing arguments, then all we can do is wait."
"Does it look good?"
"Oh, yeah. Those treehuggers don't stand a chance."
"Really? How come?" She struggled with a zipper.
"Their attorney is a joke! He's some leftover hippie who just babbles on about Mother Earth and how we're all her children, and we should take care of her." He laughed sneeringly. "Totally dodged the issue. The fact remains that they broke into the plant and destroyed over three million dollars worth of equipment. They haven't got a leg to stand on."
"That's nice." She sounded polite but distracted. The doorbell rang again. "Get the door, would you?"
"No problem." He opened the door.
"Floral delivery." Before him was a small man, holding a flower in one outstretched hand. He wore a long robe of green with golden threads running over it in odd patterns.
"What's this?" He said.
"Floral delivery," repeated the deliveryman. "Sign here. Oh, wait, there's a card."
He signed automatically and looked back up. "Who's this from?..." he started to say, but the little man was gone. He shrugged and closed the door.
"Who was that, honey?" She called from the bathroom.
"Floral delivery....or so they said."
"What kind is it?"
He stared at the flower, confused. It was like no flower he had ever seen before. The petals were a bright green and the stem was a deep, deep purple. He stared at it until she called to him again and he answered absently. "A rose, I think.... Who would send this to you?"
She laughed. "It's probably from my husband. He's always doing that sort of thing."
He raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you were married."
"What's he do for a living?" He laid the flower on the coffee table, still staring at it.
"Oh....nothing, really. His family has a great deal of property off...somewhere and he lives off the rent. He's never worked a day in his life, really. He just sort of hangs around with those activist groups, the kind your firm is suing."
He frowned. "I still don't know what you do for a living. And this is our third date!"
"Nothing worth mentioning. Besides, he sends me a check every month or so."
He smiled. "So, I'm consorting with the enemy. What's his name?"
She leaned around the corner, smiling mysteriously. "Open the card and find out."
"Hold on." He ripped open the envelope and scanned the lines quickly. "That's funny," he muttered.
"Who's it from?"
"Doesn't say. It's a poem, or lines from a play....Say, how did you know there was a card?"
She laughed again, sounding somehow nervous. "Oh, isn't there always?"
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, fine, really." She brushed her hair, frowning. "Look, why don't you put that in something?"
"Hmm. Good idea." He walked in the kitchen, filled a glass with water. He placed the flower in it, but suddenly snatched his hand back with a cry. He set the glass down and sucked on his thumb.
"What's the matter?"
"Poked myself on a thorn...Jesus! They must be an inch long!"
"You better wash it, just in case. Need to watch out for germs."
He ran the water again, wincing as he eased his hand under the stream. Two blinking yellow eyes, sleepy, peered out from under the table. "Hey there, kitty. How are you?" A sudden hiss, dark fur moved through his legs like a shot. "Nice to see you, too," he muttered.
"What's with Othello?"
"Othello...the cat? Beats me." His hand felt warm.
"He's never done that before.... Are you all right?" She came down the hallway, a question on her face. Her yellow hair flowed over perfumed red silk. "How's this look?"
"You look great." He shook his head, feeling light-headed. "I'm starting to feel kind of dizzy. Let me sit down for a minute or two."
"Fine," she said. She sat, poised, elegant, every inch the lady.
He looked over at her and smiled faintly. He heard a faint buzzing in his ears. He shivered, suddenly chilled. He strove to maintain control. "Why won't you tell me what you do for a living?"
"Oh, come now. I thought you men of power love mysterious women that appear from nowhere and are irresistibly swept into your arms...."
He snorted. "Swept, my ass. You approached me." His stomach rolled slightly. He winced. "Oh God, I feel horrible. It was food poisoning. Has to be. That damned sushi bar."
She laughed. "No, it isn't."
He stared at her. Sweat beaded on his forehead. "What are you talking about?" His mouth felt full of cotton, stifling his words. His hand began to throb now, surging with his every breath.
She smiles at him, a cold, terrible smile. "You'll see, darling. This won't take long."
"What are you talking about?" He repeated. Then suddenly he stopped. He looked down at his hand, at his thumb where the thorn pricked it. He stared at it, at what was growing there. His eyes bulged slightly. He doubled over, trembling.
Then he screamed. And she sat there, calmly watching him. She continued to smile pleasantly, as though he was telling a joke and she was awaiting the punchline.
His body erupted off the sofa, twisting in agony. His skin grew dark and rough, clothes shredding as his body stretched and thickened. His head lengthed, twisting into a mockery of what it once was. His mouth opened to scream but did not, could not. And his eyes, his eyes sunk into what was no longer his face, becoming deep dark holes that stared at her still, stared at her joyously smiling face.
What was once a man trembled with hate, and it reached out a long branch-arm for her, to crush her, destroy her, destroy that smile. But lightly she moved away, laughing mockingly.
And then she raised her arms and threw back her head and cried aloud, a great shout. The floor surged beneath them and then the room disappeared.
They stood in a great clearing, surrounded by a forest of mighty trees. The air was crisp and clean, and the sun shone down, warm and bright and also clean, somehow. The sunlight struck the tree-man, warming it with its radiance. It reached its great branches towards the light, spreading its dark green leaves wide. The tree-man seemed to tremble, and then grew still.
"Aye, you'll do. You'll do indeed." The little man in the green robe stepped out of the air, nodding in satisfaction.
The tree-man bent slightly, bowing to the little man.
"Hear me well. Once you were a man and mortal, but no more. Now you are my subject bound to me and mine by my power. Go and join your fellows. Soon the signal will be given and we shall march and crush the nations of Man beneath us." He gestured to the forest, and the great treeman shambled forward and joined the other trees. They stood there, like soldiers waiting for a command to be given.
The little man turned back and smiled at the tall woman. The little man laughed with delight, and then changed, growing tall and sweet. The two embraced, kissing. The trees watched them silently.
Finally they separated, smiling still. "How many more, my lord Oberon?" whispered the lady.
The man laughed again. "Titania, my love, are you so anxious to begin our conquest?"
"Not so, my king. I merely want to be with you for a while, before I must take up with another of these rude mortals," she pretended to pout and he laughed again, silvery and ringing.
"Soon, my queen. There remain only a few before we can begin. A general, an ambassador, a head of state." Then the two of them laughed together and began to dance to distant elfin music. They whirled and spun to the swirling music, while the trees stood and stared at them. Waiting.