Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Short and Not-so-Sweet

Cover Art for Emily's Heart,
Book 3 of the Akasha Chronicles
Arrives February 1, 2014

Art copyright PhatPuppy Art
Until recently, I hadn't written short stories since I was in high school. Don't ask me how long ago that was. Suffice it to say, more than a few years.

Instead, my fiction writing has been devoted solely to long works - novels. I have been known to say, "I don't know how to write short stories. I can only write long ones."

I hope that isn't true. I hope that I can write short stories as well as long. I better be able to because my next release, Emily's Heart, contains short stories.

I hadn't planned to include short stories within the telling of the last installment of Emily's tale. But when I began to write Emily's Heart, I felt I needed to get a grip on the Apocalyptic World that was unfolding around Emily and crew. The only way I knew how to "see" her world was to write it.

What came out was a series of short stories that act as short vignettes showing the world in which Emily lives in Emily's Heart. And by writing them, I have discovered that I can indeed write short stories. I hope . . . 

Here is one of the stories. Fair warning: All of these "Apocalyptic World" scenes are dark. Blood is shed. People die. Alot. 

Happy Reading ;-)

.     .     .

The Apocalyptic World


Sophie cracked her gum and tapped her left foot in time to the music blaring from her car’s speakers. I’m going to be late for work again.
She’d used the traffic excuse one time too many. “Leave ten minutes earlier,” her manager had said.
He wants me to look like a model to sell his clothes and be on time. Dude’s trippin’.
The L.A. freeway was a parking lot. Sophie didn’t mind too much. It gave her time to text her boyfriend Rob then her best friend Hayleigh. She looked up occasionally to see if she could move her car a few feet forward. She’d let her foot off of the brake, let her car coast a car length or so, then brake and go back to her phone.
Barely audible over the sound of her gum cracking and music, Sophie heard a car horn. She glanced up and out of the corner of her eye she saw the driver in the car behind her flipping her off. Though she couldn’t hear him, she could see that he was red-faced and yelling at her.
What the hell?
Sophie looked forward and noticed that traffic had advanced at least two to three car lengths ahead of her.
“Whatever, dude. It’s not like moving a hundred feet matters.” She knew the red-faced man in the car behind her couldn’t hear her, but she said it out loud anyway. Sophie let her foot off of the brake to ease forward. Her car didn’t move. She pressed her foot lightly on the gas pedal, but the car still didn’t move.
Stalled. Shit!
She shoved the gear into park, turned the key first to the off position, then back to on. Nothing.
Dammit!
Sophie turned the volume down and this time when she turned the key, she heard the engine turning over, trying to catch and start. With the volume down, Sophie could also hear the chorus of car horns blasting behind her.
Traffic in the lanes on either side of her had started to creep along slowly around her, but it was still bumper to bumper, no one leaving room for the cars piled up behind her to cut into a new lane. Sophie cranked the engine again and it whined in revolt.
“Come on you son-of-a-bitch! Come on!”
While Sophie worked the key and gas pedal, she glanced into her rear view mirror. The man behind her was red in the face with anger. He pounded his fists on the steering wheel and gestured wildly at her.
Sophie decided to change her tactic with her car. Yelling at it hadn’t worked. Maybe sweet talking is what it needed.
“Come on, start, please. Just start up now so this guy behind us doesn’t ram into you. ‘Kay?”
Beads of sweat had broken out on her temples and above her lip. She felt the sweat pull the perfect face that had taken her over an hour to put on melt down her cheeks.
She turned the key and mashed the pedal, but still the car whined but didn’t start. Sweet talking didn’t work either.
Time for a threat. “Start, bitch, or I’ll sell you for scrap!” she screamed.
She turned the key again and the engine purred in response.
“Good girl,” Sophie said. She moved the gear shift to D and pressed on the gas. She hadn’t gone but a few car lengths when she saw a blur of red in front of her.
Before she had time to register that it was a red Fiat, instinct caused her to slam her foot onto the brake. But it was too little too late. She couldn’t stop her forward momentum. She heard the crash before she felt the impact as her car slammed into the little red Fiat. Sophie felt her head whip forward then snap back as her air bag swelled and pressed against her chest. The seat belt dug into her shoulder making her wince in pain.
Before she could take stock of her injuries, she was once again whipped forward then back as she heard metal crunching against metal. She looked in her rear view mirror and saw that the man behind her was already getting out of his car.
Sophie fumbled with the latch of her seat belt. She heard someone pounding on her window.
“Get out here, stupid bitch!” a man’s voice said.
Sophie’s hands trembled and shook so much that she could barely operate the button to roll down the window.
“I’m sorry,” she said. Her throat was so try that her voice came out like a frog croak. “The guy ahead, in the Fiat. He cut me off. I couldn’t stop in time.”
The angry man shifted his attention to the red car. Sophie watched as the man marched ahead to the driver's side of the Fiat. With her window still down, she heard the angry man banging on the window of the Fiat.
“Get out of your fuckin’ car you fuckin’ faggot,” the man yelled. He continued to bang and yell obscenities, but the driver of the Fiat neither got out nor looked in the angry man’s direction. The driver of the Fiat sat still as stone.
Sophie rolled up her window. It did little to drown out the sounds of the angry man or the car horns blaring, but she felt a bit safer with the window between her and the threat of violence that loomed outside.
Sophie felt tears well in her eyes. What should she do? What had my dad said? Why hadn’t I paid closer attention? There was something about getting the driver’s insurance information. But that would require her to get out of the car. Fat chance!
Call the cops. Yes, she was supposed to make a report. That she could do. She didn’t need to leave the safety of her car to dial.
Her fingers shook as she pressed the three numbers, 911. She put the phone to her ear and heard it ring three times, then five, six. Isn’t anyone going to pick up? I have an emergency here!
Finally an operator came on the line.
“911, what’s your emergency,” he said. The operator sounded as bored with his job as she was with folding clothes at her job.
“I was just in a car wreck,” she said.
“You and half of L.A. Welcome to the club,” he said.
Sophie didn’t know what to say to that. He doesn’t even seem to care!
“Okay,” she finally said. “That’s great, but I really need a cop to come here and help.”
“What’s your location?” the operator asked.
“Ummm . . .” What’s my location? She hadn’t been paying attention to street signs as she texted and listened to music and otherwise tried as best she could to pass the time in the traffic jam without being bored out of her skull. She looked up and around for exit signs or other markers, but she was in a spot without any signs. Shit, I don’t know where I am.
“I’m not sure exactly. I’m on the 405 between Culver Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard.”
“How the hell am I supposed to dispatch someone to you when you don’t even know where the hell you are?”
The tears that had pooled in her eyes spilled over the dam. She’d never had to call 911 before. She’d never been in a car accident before. She was scared and the man on the other end of the phone berated her.
“I’m sorry,” she said. Her voice cracked as she talked and cried at the same time. “This is my first accident, and there’s this angry man beating on the car in front of me, and . . .”
Sophie stopped talking when she realized that the small, red-faced man was walking by her car and back to his. Maybe he’ll stay in his car now.
“Are you still on the line?” she hard the nasally-voiced operator say.
“Yeah. I’m here.”
“Is anyone injured?”
“No. At least I don’t think so. But the guy in the car ahead of me hasn’t gotten out of his car, so I don’t know if he’s okay.”
As she spoke, the red-faced man again walked by her car, this time gripping a tire iron in his hand. Sophie saw that he had rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and his forearm bulged as he stomped back to the Fiat. He screamed, “Get outta da fuckin’ car!” When the driver did not oblige, the red-faced man pulled back the tire iron and began to wail on the Fiat’s driver’s-side mirror. Sophie heard glass crash to the pavement.
“This guy is going ape shit,” she said. She almost forgotten that the 911 operator was still on the other end of her phone line.
“What?” he asked.
“This guy – from the car behind me – he’s out of his car and he’s beating a tire iron against the car in front of me. He’s trying to get the other driver to get out, but the other driver is just sitting there. He’s . . .”
Over the sound of the crashing glass, Sophie heard the loud crack of a gun shot. Then another and a third. Sophie jumped, her heart thumped hard in her chest.
She watched as the red-faced man fell face-first against the door of the Fiat, then his body slid down the door to the ground. It was only then that she saw that the driver of the Fiat had moved. She watched as he pushed his door open, get out and step over the body of the red-faced man. The Fiat driver still held the gun in his hand. He was walking toward her.
Sophie’s hand dropped her phone but she didn’t hear it fall to the floor of her car. She heard only the sound of her blood rush in her ears. She didn’t hear the 911 operator’s voice ask, “What happened? Were those gunshots? Are you still there?”
“Please don’t hurt me. Please don’t kill me,” she whispered.
A young man, no more than twenty, sauntered toward her. His dark hair hung to his shoulders, his face so pale that the afternoon sun shone off of it. He was thin and fit and dressed in black from head to toe. He stopped at her door, bent down to look inside and removed his dark sunglasses revealing large, black eyes.
What . . . what is he?
He gestured for her to roll down her window. Every instinct inside her screamed, “Don’t!” But despite all sensible thoughts, she felt her hand push the button and roll down the window.
The black-eyed man’s lips curled into a small smirky smile. “You scuffed up my car,” he said.
Sophie knew that the accident wasn’t her fault. But she also knew that it was best to keep that to herself seeing as how the man was holding a gun.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t see you. My dad has good insurance. He’ll pay to repair the damage, I swear he will.”
Sophie didn’t want to look into the man’s eyes. They were creepy. And looking at him made her feel cold. So cold. She shivered.
Even though she did not look him in the eye, she felt him staring at her. It was the kind of look she was used to. Young guys, older men. She frequently felt them look at her as she walked away from them. Sometime she’d look back and see them staring at her butt. Some even blatantly looked her up and down. And then there were the nasty creepers, middle-aged men that came into the store she worked in. They lied and said they were looking for clothes for their daughter. But she and the other girls who worked there knew they came in just to stare lustily at the pretty, teen girls.
But this guy was no middle-aged creeper. If she hadn’t just seen him blow a guy away, she might think he was hot.
She didn’t want to look in his eyes again, but something made her look again. When she did, she shivered again and goose bumps broke out on her arms.
This dude’s not right.
“Come with me,” he said at last.
Without thinking, she blurted out, “No thanks.” She wished she had taken the time to compose a more diplomatic way of saying that.
“It was not a request, but a command,” he said. His voice had become more firm and deeper. “Come with me.”
“Why?”
He looked her up and down. “You will be my bitch. The master will like you. I know that he will,” the man said.
Master? What the hell is he talking about? I bet he’s in some bat-shit-crazy cult or something. Then a horrid thought came to her mind. They want to rape me. Master. I’ll be a sex slave. Fresh, hot tears streamed down her face and fell into her lap.
“Thanks, but no. I . . . I have a boyfriend,” she said. “And, I’m only seventeen. You know, jail bait.”
The black-eyed man let out a throaty laugh, but his eyes didn’t laugh. They remained cold and hard and black.
“Come with me, or die,” he said. To illustrate the choice, he pulled the gun up and pointed it to her head.
“Help!” Sophie screamed. “Help, he’s going to kill me!” Doesn’t anyone see this maniac with a gun? Doesn’t anyone care? Sophie glanced to her right and saw a car right next to her. But the driver’s eyes were fixed forward, seemingly oblivious to her plight. Sophie suddenly felt wholly alone in the world, as if there existed only her and the black-eyed maniac with a gun to her head.
“Help me!” she screamed again as loudly as she could. But the driver in the car next to her didn’t even flinch.
“Last chance. You’re one hot bitch, but I haven’t got all day. Come with me, or die.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because I can.”
“But the police are on their way. And where are you going to take me? You’re car is gridlocked. You’ll go to jail.”
He answered with laughter.
“You’ve got a nice rack. You would have been fun,” he said.
The black-eyed man walked back to his car, stepped over the red-faced man’s lifeless body, closed the car door, put his gun under the seat and drove off into the now free-flowing traffic. Away from the sound of sirens. Away from Sophie’s car. Away from her still-warm body, slumped over the steering wheel.


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