Tuesday, May 21, 2013

18th Birthday Prayers by Jeremiah Walton

the bed
TV silence,
and backs
leaning chairs
The dry anniversary
of my birth.
Happy birthday kid
you're 18
no college notions
nor answers
Stare at the ceiling
because when you pray
your whispers are caught
pounding the roof
you spot a crack
and pray harder.

Garden in Decay

Credited to our dear friend, Russel Streur. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Salutations by David A. Frazier

It is said
No one comes back from the dead
This isn't true
Look at you.

Dead as can be
Colder than ice
Pale and white
All through the night.

Written off
Thrown away
Burnt to ashes
Pages blank.

Blown by the wind
To another Twilight Zone
In an electronic world
Of ozone smells.

Sparks fly like fireflies
You came back to life
On a dark ebony night
Erected a tent.

Submitted your work
Cursed your fate
Welcome back
Circus of the Damned.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Playtime by Airon Gallegos

Diane Jenkins and her daughter, Mallory, drove to their new house in a California suburb. Mallory stared blankly out of the passenger window with her deep blue eyes.
“This is going to be fun,” Diane said. “See, honey? There’s a public pool, and a playground.”
Her daughter sighed and continued to gaze out the window.
Poor kid, Diane thought. Not only does she have to get over the divorce, but I had to go and uproot her life as well.
They had spent most of the trip in silence, when they turned to the last street. Then Diane noticed something, and she thought, Where are the kids? The sidewalks are clean, streets are empty, and there’s no bikes or toys strewn around on the lawns. She’d grown up in a place just like this, so it seemed strange, but she dismissed the feeling.  I’ll bet they’re all used to playing inside.
Diane pulled into the driveway of their new house. “Here we are! Come on, let’s see your new room.”
She hopped out of the rental truck and bounded over to the front door, while Mallory trailed behind. They both got in and stomped up the stairs to the master bedroom.
“This is my bedroom,” Diane explained. “Yours is right over here.”
Mallory turned to find a smaller bedroom with striped, pink wallpaper.
“It’s your favorite color!” Diane’s words sang a cheerful tune.
Mallory sighed. Pink wasn’t her favorite anymore. She hadn’t told her mom about the boy she shared her new favorite color with. Solemnly, she trudged back down the steps, wishing that at the very least, the room could be blue.
Diane frowned. She had hoped for a different reaction.

Mallory got home from a walk to introduce herself to the neighborhood kids. Mom pushed her to do it, and sadly, there weren’t many girls. The boys didn’t seem to like her, either, and they all played baseball during the day. One of girls was a five-year-old autistic, who seemed to be more interested in coloring than anything else, and the other was a ten-year-old named Bianca, who had bunch of handmade dolls and a neat little dollhouse. Mallory was a little old to be playing with dolls, though.
“Is that you, Mallory?”
“Yeah, mom.”
Mallory could smell dinner: something with hamburger meat in it. She walked into the living room and threw herself backwards over the armrest of the couch. She looked to the television, annoyed that her mother had yet to set it up.
“Did you meet anyone new?”
“Just the girl two houses down. There aren’t a lot of other girls here.”
“That’s a shame. Is this girl nice?”
“Kinda, but she still plays with dolls.”
“Well, it wasn’t that long ago that you were playing with dolls.”
“Yeah, when I was in the third grade.”
“Maybe she’ll grow out of them soon. At least give her a chance.”
“Okay,” Mallory said with an exasperated sigh.

The next day, when Mallory knocked on the door, Bianca’s mother, Joyce, invited her inside.
“Would you like anything? Juice? Lemonade? Anything to eat?” Joyce offered.
“Um, no thank you.”
“Well, okay. Bianca’s in the den. Just holler if you need anything.”
Mallory was slightly uncomfortable with Joyce’s generosity. She strolled to the end of a hallway, past the living room and the kitchen, glancing into a couple of other rooms. When she reached the den, Mallory saw a few dolls and a dollhouse.
Mallory walked further down the hall. “Bianca?”
She looked through a door to the right, and found a room that looked similar to her mom’s, which she guessed belonged to Joyce. Then Mallory opened another door down the hall to reveal a trio of dolls sitting together looking up at her.
That’s weird, Mallory thought.
“Mallory?” Bianca stood at the doorway to the den. “Is that you?”
“Yeah, I came over because I thought…” The idea of playing with dolls just seemed so boring. “I thought I’d play with you.”
“Come on, I’m playing in the den. I just had to go find Veronica. She was trying to make a break for it. See?” The yellow-haired, blue eyed girl held up a red-headed, frowny-faced doll in a purple dress. “But she didn’t quite make it.”
“Yeah, sounds like fun,” Mallory lied, following her into the den.
“Let’s see. I have Veronica, and here’s Sarah, Allie, Terra, and Monica. The other four are in my room.”
“Yeah, why?”
“When I was looking for you, I only saw three in your room.”
“Well, I might be wrong. Maybe it’s under the—”
Bianca bolted to her room, and Mallory heard slamming doors and drawers. Then, Bianca rushed back into the den.
“I know where she is,” Bianca fumed, stomping past and into a door at the far side of the den. “Aha! There you are, Carrie!” She walked out with another doll in hand. “She always hides in there. Thinks it’s her room, but I’ve got her.”
“Um, great,” Mallory mumbled.
Bianca sat by the dollhouse and placed Carrie inside. “Here,” she said, handing Mallory a doll, “You can play with Monica, and I’ll play with Carrie.”
Mallory didn’t expect the chill that she got when she held Monica in her hand. Monica’s hair was black felt, her eyes were pepper-grey beads, and she had peach-colored cloth for skin. Touching the doll unnerved Mallory, but she didn’t give it much more thought.

Bianca placed Carrie on a chair in the dollhouse and pointed to a seat across the table. “That’s where Monica sits. We’re getting ready for a special party.” She placed her hand on her doll and spoke, “That’s right. We’re going to welcome the new girl!”
Mallory quickly rolled her eyes before Bianca looked back at her, smiling. Placing Monica in her chair, Mallory spoke for her. “Ooh, is there going to be cake at the party?”
Bianca took her hand off of her doll. “You know there’s going to be cake. I always make a cake.” She touched Carrie again, shaking her. “And we can hang out together while Bianca makes it. We’ll have the real fun before she gets back.”
That was mean, Mallory thought, before speaking for Monica. “Oh, Carrie, you don’t mean that.”
Bianca spoke again. “Monica, please. We always have more fun without Bianca. She’s a weirdo, you know that.”
Mallory didn’t say anything. Why is Bianca being so mean to herself?
“It’s okay, Monica. She’s just teasing me.” Bianca looked back to Mallory. “Carrie always says that.”

Diane reached Bianca’s house, and Joyce showed her to the den.
 “Hey,” she said. “How’s it going?”
Mallory frowned and held up a doll.
Leaning in to Mallory’s ear, Diane whispered. “Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it. We’re going home after I talk to Bianca’s mother. Okay?”
She walked over to the living room where Joyce was sitting.
Joyce looked up. “Thank you. Bianca’s been playing by herself since…” her voice trailed off.
“Since when?”
“There’s been a number of disappearances here over the last couple of years. All girls.”
“Oh, my. Were any of the girls her friend?”
“All of them were.”
Diane’s eyes widened. “What? Are you serious?”
Joyce turned her head away, but nodded.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. It must be tough on you.”
“It’s okay. It’s okay, really. Just promise me that you’ll let Mallory continue to come over and play here. Bianca’s been lonely. She’s torn up about the girls. I just know it. She’s been hiding it, and I don’t want her to be alone. Besides, it’s not safe outside.”
“I understand, but why not move away from here? If there’s a chance Bianca might disappear like the others, why wouldn’t
“I watch her during the day. I work from the home so I’m always here.”
“But what about the disappearances?”
“I keep a really good eye on Bianca, just like I will with Mallory.”
“Well, I have been meaning to make arrangements for her during the day, but—
Joyce’s eyes lit up. “Perfect. She can stay here.”
“I don’t want to put you out or anything.”
“No, it’s fine. Please. For Bianca.”
“I have to think about it.”

“She didn’t seem that sad to me,” Mallory said, forking at her dinner.
Diane took a sip of coffee. “Some people have different ways of dealing with sadness.”
“So this means I’m going to be spending a lot more time with Bianca, then,” Mallory’s voice oozed sarcasm. “Yippee.”
“Look at the bright side, Mal. This means more time to get her off the dolls.”
“Nothing’s going to pull her away from those dolls, mom. Seriously, there’s something weird about her. She has to know where they’re at, at all times. If one of them goes missing, she looks around until she finds it. And she loses her dolls a lot. It’s like they move around or something.”
Diane smiled. “Well, you know how it is to lose something. Like your CD player, for instance. That was the first thing you unpacked.”
“That’s different. I only have one CD player.” Mallory held up a finger. “She has nine dolls. If I had nine of one thing, it wouldn’t matter to me if one went missing.”
“She has that many?”
“Yeah and she obsesses over them. I know almost all of their names, she talks about them so much.”
“Well, maybe she’ll burn out, soon.” Diane shrugged.
“Burn out?”
“Yeah, you know, get too much of her dolls at once. Get sick of them.”

The next day, since Mallory had met the neighborhood, Diane decided to do the same. Starting with her next door neighbors, she introduced herself to an Italian couple, hoping soon to have children of their own; and a single father with two sons.
Diane intended to get to Bianca’s house to pick up Mallory, but she planned on making her way around the block first. So she knocked on the door to the next house, and met an older woman named Katherine. They sat out on her porch for a small chat.
“I met your daughter earlier,” Katherine said. “She seems like a nice girl.”
Diane sat in a rocking chair. “She really is. Do you have children?”
“Two boys and a girl,” she said, pouring Diane and herself glasses of iced tea. “But as I told Mallory, they’ve grown up and moved away.”
“Thank you,” Diane took a sip from her glass. “A girl, huh? One of the few, in this neighborhood.”
“Well, that wasn’t the case until about three or four years ago.”
“Oh, yeah. I heard about that.”
“From whom?”
“Um, from Joyce Karrington.”
Katherine sighed. “Ah, Karrington. She told you about the disappearances?”
“Yeah. What exactly happened?”
“Some went missing elsewhere, but most of them were here, in this neighborhood. Then there’s Monica Jordan, the one who disappeared at the beach. Most of the adults think she got pulled away by a riptide, but they still haven’t found her body. And Terra Louis, she—”
“Wait, how do you know these things?”
“My son’s a police officer, and my husband, Bill, was a detective. They were vexed over it.”
Diane was confused. “Well, then, where did they go?”
“There’s no telling. They arrested some suspects, but Bill never turned up any hard evidence, and the girls kept going missing.”
“What about the other girls?”
“I’ve seen your daughter walking around. Did she tell you about the girls? Little Julie Morris doesn’t leave the house and Bianca Karrington… she gives me a bad feeling. I wouldn’t let her around your daughter, if I were you.”
Diane choked on her tea. “Why would you say that?”
“I’m just a bit suspicious of her.”
“She’s a little girl!”
Diane stared at Katherine, confused over the logic presented to her.
Katherine continued, “Nine girls, and they were all exactly like her. Why didn’t she go missing? What’s so different about her?”
“Can you hear yourself? Do you know what you’re saying?”
The old woman could see that Diane didn’t believe her. She put on a smile and laughed. “Oh, I’m sorry, what am I thinking, scaring you like this? I’m just being paranoid.”
“Oh, that’s all right, I suppose it does sort of make sense, in a weird way,” Diane said, finishing her tea. “But I have to go, gotta meet the rest of the neighborhood.”
“Yes, of course,” Katherine replied. “It was nice meeting you.”

The next day, mom had to go to work, and Mallory was to go to Bianca’s house, again. She passed Katherine’s porch, where Katherine sat, drinking a glass of iced tea. Katherine knew that Mallory was going to Bianca’s, and she didn’t like it. She had watched at least six girls walking the same path as Mallory. Something had to be done.
“Young lady!” Katherine shouted, “Young lady, can I ask you for a favor?”
Mallory stopped short of Bianca’s driveway. “Um, sure, uh, Missus?”
“Norris. Just call me Katherine, though.”
“Okay, Katherine, what do you need me to do?”
“Just sit up here with me for a bit. Do you want some cookies?”
Katherine had baked dozens of cookies and arranged them on a platter. She’d make an ideal grandmother, if only her children would get to settling down anytime soon. Mallory was wooed by this offer of cookies and time away from Bianca. She grabbed three and sat down, and Katherine introduced herself.

“Look what I made!” Bianca showed off a new doll that bore a cute resemblance to Mallory, with brown hair and deep blue eyes, along with jeans and the t-shirt from yesterday. The doll sat on the floor, staring at Mallory, who was put off by a strange smell.
“Um, Bianca?”
“It’s you!”
“No, well I mean I know it’s me, but it’s, um… Do I smell like that all the time?”
“Oh, I had—”
A poster of Justin Bieber swished off the wall.
Bianca quickly spoke up, “Rusty tacks. I was drinking cherry Kool-aid when I was making the doll, and I spilled my drink on it. I needed something to keep it from staining, and my mom told me that if I put it in a box of garlic cloves, it would—”
A shelf suddenly fell from a nearby bookcase, along with a number of books, three dolls, and the box of garlic cloves, which also spilled out and revealed that there were purple flowers inside as well.
“—take the stain out.”
“What’s with the flowers?”
“I was hoping they’d make it smell better.”
“It didn’t work very well.”
“I know, but I asked my mom and all we need to do is air it out. Let’s take it outside.”
“Oh, okay,” Mallory said, reaching for the doll, “Let’s do tha—”
A loud crash made her stop short. Shards from a shattered floor-length mirror were all over the ground. The top of the frame leaned against the bedpost it hit, and Monica, the doll that Mallory had played with the day before laid on the bed, looking like it somehow caused it. Mallory then looked at the collapsed shelf, remembering the three dolls that lay there, and then to the poster. One of the corners had torn, with the tack still stuck in the wall, while the other tack slipped free and was in the poster, draped over yet another doll, which had one green eye peeking out from under it.
This room is too weird, Mallory thought. I’d rather not be here.
Bianca hadn’t taken in the scene, as she was intently watching Mallory’s fingers outstretched and about to clutch at her present.
When she took the doll, Mallory had a slight tingling sensation where they had touched. She thought, Did I feel something?
“C’mon!” Bianca exclaimed, “Let’s go outside.”
Mallory followed Bianca out of the room, as the glass crunched beneath their feet, and Joyce met them at the doorway to see what was going on. And even if Mallory wasn’t exactly sure what happened, she knew one thing for sure. The doll didn’t smell bad to her anymore.

As Diane was leaving for work the next morning, she noticed Bianca playing outside by herself. Diane stopped near Bianca and rolled her window down.
“Hey, there,” Diane yelled out the window.
Bianca looked toward her.
“What are you doing out here by yourself? Isn’t it dangerous?”
“Mallory hasn’t come outside, yet. I don’t think she’s awake.”
Mal’s been fighting me to let her stay home, Diane thought. I didn’t think she’d sleep in to get more time away from Bianca, though.
Diane got out of the car. “C’mon. I’ll let you into the house. You go in there and wake her up.”

Bianca didn’t try to wake Mallory. The girl hoped to take what she needed from Mallory when she came over that day, but this was better, since she could get it faster. She guessed that Mallory had trouble sleeping the night before. The first stage made the others uneasy in the same way. It wasn’t the first time Bianca would be stealing from a sleeping girl’s room.
She looked around for the doll. The floors were clean, and it wasn’t sitting on the desk or dresser. The girl turned to Mallory and realized that Mallory had slept with it. Bianca smiled, but that didn’t stop her from taking the doll and a well-used hairbrush from her nightstand.
Bianca went through the ritual in her head, as she left the house and walked in front of Katherine’s porch, where Katherine sat, frozen in mid-drink of iced tea, staring at the items Bianca carried. Setting her glass down, Katherine couldn’t shake the dreadful feeling that she may be too late. She saw Bianca enter Mallory’s house empty-handed, and though Katherine hadn’t figured out what Bianca was up to, she could only assume that the two things that she held were Mallory’s and that Bianca had stolen them.

At noon Mallory awoke to a splitting headache and the same garlic odor from before, along with a burning smell. She stumbled out of bed and through her doorway. Her sight narrowed to a tiny sliver. Afraid, she felt her way through the hallway and stood, hoping to look for the cordless phone. Mallory took a step, but she didn’t feel her leg. She leaned onto her other leg to keep balance, but that one was also numb. When she fell forward, she rolled down the stairs, hitting her head on the wall. Mallory felt it, but she didn’t feel the pain. Everything stopped as the light went away.
“Hey, there, Mallory. Don’t be scared, now. It’s okay.”
The room was dark, and Mallory couldn’t move.
“We’re going to be best friends forever. I know a lot of girls say that, but we’re really going to be.”
Mallory got used to the low light. She sat up to see that she was wearing a different shirt, which she straightened out to see the pattern. It was the same shirt she wore two days ago. Then she noticed her hands, knobby with stubs for fingers. She held them out in front of her face, wiggled her fingers, and rubbed her skin, but with no result; the feeling hadn’t returned.
She panicked, trying to figure out where she was. Mallory couldn’t breathe or blink her eyes. She distinguished that same poster on the wall, taped where it was ripped before, the bookcase, once again holding all of its shelves, and the frame of the broken mirror, standing empty.
“What’s the matter, Mal?”
Bianca’s face looked warped like a fun house mirror, and absolutely gigantic. With one big hand, she scooped Mallory up and carried her off. Mallory’s sight swung and bounced with Bianca’s footsteps. Rolling and jumping, until Bianca held her back up.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “It won’t just be us two…”
In a fraction of a second, Mallory noticed her reflection in Bianca’s humongous eyes, as her hand turned to show Mallory the dollhouse. Inside, nine frowning dolls were engaged in a tea party, topped with a cupcake in the middle. Bianca placed Mallory in an empty chair, between Monica and Carrie. Mallory looked around, recognizing each doll by name, and spotting a hand-written banner on the wall that said, “Welcome Home, Mallory!”