Monday, July 29, 2013
In just a matter of days now my very first book, GATED, will be out in the world!! I am beyond excited and am hoping that you are too. In order to celebrate the release, I've got a very special, very large giveaway planned for the month of August. It'll go live on this site on August 1st at noon, right after our August inspiration picture posts. So check back with us then!!
Friday, July 19, 2013
Welcome to Bluez
Fiction Femme Fatale
Photo by: Hector Lion
Guest Author: Jennifer Moore
Friday, July 12, 2013
She freaked me out a little. They all did. ‘Droids were supposed to be like family, but really they’re servants. What weirded me out was that they all had set, glassy eyes making it seem like they could see right through you. Like to your core. I could only look at them when their heads were turned. Even from the side their eyes seemed to skim and size you up, like a scan of me at a store or state lines.
Mom and Dad were in and out. Quel surprise. Mom kissed my head and Dad ruffled where Mom just kissed and then they air kissed each other and were gone. The ‘droid, Angela I was supposed to call her, set a piping hot plate near me and it was only after I touched the rim that she warned in her monotone voice, “It’s hot. Be careful.”
Even her voice irked me. The underlying buzz of it hitting the air and making hairs on my body stand. I rubbed my arms and mumbled a thanks. The smoke wafting up smelled good and when I bent further I saw the orange mush, smelled the cinnamon and sweetness.
“Sweet potato mash. Do you like it?” Angela asked. Her question actually sounded like one. Not so much like a ‘droid, like a person.
I nodded and scarfed it down.
“Devon is a very smart child,” Angela said to my teacher.
Mr. Rasche didn’t agree or disagree. He crossed his arms instead. “If Devon is so smart why is she pulling C’s in a class on politics?” He squinted at me like I should know all about it since my parents are involved. It’s not like my parents are interested in horror films or indie bands I enjoy. So why should I be into what they like?
He threw his hands up. “I don’t even know why I’m wasting my time with a thing when I should be talking to Devon’s parents.”
“Yeah, well, they’re busy.” A dropped my head not willing the irritation to show on my face from having this conversation with another teacher. Angela put a hand on my back and rubbed. I jerked up from the contact and because of how hard her hand was.
“I am Devon’s guardian. So you should be talking to me.” Angela crossed her legs but it looked awkward one arched over the other too high, like her skin was too stiff to bend.
“‘Droids are nothing more than A.I. garbage. No offense,” he said like that was supposed to help. “Next time have Devon’s parents come here and not some machine.”
‘Droids were A.I. embodiment and that was it as far as people were concerned. Just like any person in the ‘service’ industry. They were meant for one thing and not much else: to do and not think.
Angela’s eyes took on a new eeriness but she turned to me and whispered, “Wait outside for me, Devon.”
I nodded and headed out not looking at Mr. Rasche again since I’d see his jerk face the next day anyways.
Once the door sealed behind me I heard a thump and a muffled “argh.” After that there was some tumbling but nothing else. When I was about to go back in to check Angela hurried out and turned me around saying she had to get home quick to make me dinner and I had homework.
Next day in class, we had a substitute. When I got home I threw my bookbag on the couch and called out to no one. With no reply I said, “Echo, echo, echo.” And laughed to myself.
I slumped on the couch and called for the plasma to show me the latest stats for the basketball game I felt a buzz before I heard Angela. I startled up almost knocking over the she held but she recovered quick enough.
“Cookies Devon?” Again, the hitch in the voice of the question. Weird for ‘droids.
I hesitated but remembering how good the meals I had were I snatched one then two cookies. The chocolate melted on my tongue as soon as it hit my mouth.
If Angela were Mom she’d cut her eyes at me for talking with my mouth full. But Angela’s eyes were still wide, coral, and piercing. Her lips and her whole face were so perfectly sculpted like a woman, a model even, and her movements were stiff but easy in a way. I thought I saw a semblance of a smile start on her plastic lips but she nodded leaving the tray on the table in front of me.
“Thanks, Angela,” I said after a bit, swallowing everything down. It was like magic a glass of milk was set beside the cookies. “You think of everything.”
“I’m here to make sure you’re taken care of,” she said.
I glanced at the family portrait of Mom, Dad, and me at Christmas hung up above the plasma. The screen cast light and shadows against our smiling faces. Christmas was a crock. It was Mom and Dad staying with me for the first hour and giving me gifts of all kinds of expense. A new computer. Jewelry. Clothes. And then they had their meetings. They had their appointments with people. They had to prep for elections and I couldn’t come unless there was a photo op.
I told Angela about Mr. Rasche being out.
“Oh?” she said back to monotone voice.
“Yeah, said we may have a sub for awhile. He was a jerk.”
“Yes, yes he was.”
Angela seemed to be looking at the picture as well. “Do you miss your parents?” she asked.
I shrugged. I was used to it. Or maybe I’d just told myself I was.
“They hired you to make sure I wasn’t alone,” I said. I didn’t have many friends and stopped inviting people over because they were liabilities, my parents said. They didn’t want people in their business as politicians and they didn’t want me to perhaps spill info that wasn’t supposed to be spilt.
“I’m here to take care of you,” Angela repeated. She leaned down bent her back at a perfect angle and gawked at me, at least it felt like it. “I will always take care of you.”
My parents were out getting ready for their victory, not even wanting to practice a concession speech. The thought of losing was “hazardous” to their mindset, or so Mom said.
I stayed behind. Not caring that much about the whole process of democracy. But Angela sat beside me for the results. I didn’t realize how close we sat on the couch until I saw that her leg pressed against mine. She was cold and hard, sleek like any machine in the house.
The cheers went up on the plasma. We saw the red, white, and blue balloons in Mom and Dad’s camp and their competitor’s. I slumped in my seat and Angela pushed me forward, gently guiding me to sit up saying I’d do harm to my posture. I laughed and again her mouth stretched as though it wanted to grin.
Then a ripple came over the plasma. Something imperceptible at first before it happened again. It was a wave over the whole image of Mom and Dad’s headquarters and then a shimmer lead to a blinding light that blocked out everyone.
That’s when I saw Angela’s face, or one like her’s. Many like hers, in fact rows and rows of them in the plasma just staring back.
“It’s time.” The woman on the plasma said her voice as cold as I remember Angela’s being when she first arrived.
I turned to face Angela and she nodded. She put an arm around me and her eyes weren’t as glassy anymore, they were gaining strength, precision, emotion. That’s when I heard the screeches and screams on the news. An announcement of fires and destruction and explosions at both headquarters. I heard that machinery was failing and that even as the newscaster spoke he didn’t know how much time he had before---
Angela gripped me on the shoulders and made me stare at her. “Devon,” her voice was softer now, not so much strong but kind. “I told you I will always take care of you. Do you trust me?”
My mouth dropped open. I looked back at the plasma but nothing was there but static. I looked back at her and thought on what the ‘droid on the screen said and how Angela seemed to know. “What’s going to happen now?” I asked.
A heavy hand fell on top of my head and slid down to my cheek. “We’re going to rule the world,” she said and her smile was fully realized.
Story by: Jenn Baker
Photo by: Hector Lion
Friday, July 5, 2013
Henderson’s Fine Apparel and Home Goods was closed for a year before Jake and his buddies finally got around to exploring it. It wasn’t that they hadn’t ever thought about breaking into the two story brick building downtown before then. They’d discussed it dozens of times after school when they were at Travis’s house stuffing their faces full of Doritos and Sour Patch Kids and playing World of Warcraft. Most of the time it was all they could do not to think about it. It was just that old man Henderson had been paying a security company to watch the building since the store closed down. The few kids who’d been bold enough to try and get in hadn’t made it past the bottom floor. The last thing Jake’s mom needed was for Jake to be carted home by his ear and fined for trespassing. They were barely making rent on their crappy little one bedroom apartment as it was. She would rip him a new one and before it had time to heal, the both of them would be out of money and a place to stay. Travis and Jonah knew this so they didn’t try to goad him into risking it all…but now that old man Henderson was dead and the security company was out of an assignment…well, the goading had started up full force.
The night Jake finally gave in the three of them were walking their bikes through town while they ate their vanilla and chocolate swirled cones from the Twisty Treat. They had to pass Hendersons to get to the road that led back to Travis’s place and so it was hard not to think about going inside when the building loomed directly over them.
“Dude, we’ll just stick our heads in for a minute or two,” Jonah elbowed Jake in his side and Jake missed his mouth and ended up with ice cream on his cheek.
“You mind?” he grumbled as he wiped it off on his shoulder.
“Security guys’ve been gone for a week. If we don’t go in now somebody else’ll beat us to it. Come on. Five minutes. That’s all we’re asking,” Travis said. He bit off the entire top of his ice cream and swallowed it. Jake waited for his face to wrinkle in pain when the brain freeze set in, but his skin just paled the tiniest bit. Nothing ever affected Travis. He was basically bulletproof. The only twelve year old Jake knew who was—of course it probably had something to do with the fact that Travis’s family was loaded and that his parents were the Ken and Barbie of their small town. Nothing bad had happened to the kid. Ever.
Jake shrugged, borrowed Travis’s own loose limbed swagger, and tried to look like he could care less about anything when of course he had no choice but to care about everything. Every part of his life was tenuous, balanced on a wafer thin wire. Most days he was sure that he couldn’t keep balancing, that his mom couldn’t. It was exhausting, but they had no choice. When his dad went to jail for check fraud, he’d left them with nothing but bills and scandal. They hadn’t rallied so much as survived…and it was getting harder all the time. He'd promised his mom no screw ups. He’d given her his word.
Jake looked up at the building and it’s blacked out windows. The place looked like it could be haunted, but this didn’t scare him. It was hard to feel more terrified than he already was on any given day. Instead of terror he felt longing. Every kid in town would find a way inside that place soon. There could be stuff left in there…things that old man Henderson left behind when he closed his doors. Who knows? There might even be a toaster inside. That would be awesome. Pop Tarts were Jake’s favorite breakfast food and he hadn’t had them warm in a year. Travis was right, if they didn’t go now others would and all the good stuff would be gone.
“Five minutes, then. But no more.” He rolled his bike towards the store and the other boys whooped and followed.
Ten minutes later they were inside. It should’ve taken longer. Jake had half thought they wouldn’t get in at all because the security guys always kept the store’s back door chained and locked and the heavy duty security gate pulled down over the front entrance. He'd heard that none of the guards ever had to step foot inside the actual building. They'd only patrolled the perimeter to check the doors and windows in case they were broken. And they never were, until that night. The chain was on the ground, snipped in two and the door was cracked open like an invitation.
It was so dark so they could barely make out anything until Travis pulled out his iPhone and put on his flashlight app. They were standing in the back store room. It was crowded with cardboard boxes, all of them empty. The boys hurried forward, eager to get out into the main part of the store. The air was stale and hot. Jake pulled his shirt up from his stomach to wipe the sweat dripping off of his nose. The store had twelve foot high ceilings, but the heat and dark made it feel closer. Travis led through another door and then they were out in among a dozen or so metal rounders with empty hangers on them. Beyond them was aisle after aisle of metal shelving—bone colored and bare in the dim light.
Jonah groaned. “Dude, there’s nothing in here at all. This sucks.”
They walked over to the narrow escalator that led up to the second floor.
“Come on,” Travis started climbing, his face shiny with sweat, his eyes eager. He didn’t seem to care that there wasn’t anything inside worth taking. Jake was pretty sure that in Travis's head that iPhone was becoming a fiery torch and he was envisioning himself as some kind of urban Indiana Jones. He wasn’t going to want to leave until he’d explored every inch of the place.
Once upstairs the boys ran smack into a crowd of mannequins in various poses. At first glance it almost looked like a bunch of people dancing at a club…if the club didn’t expect anyone to wear clothes. Jake’s eyes flitted to the one next to him. It was a woman with narrow eyes and full, pursed lips. Her breasts were practically at his eye level. He stared without realizing that he was. Travis clapped him on the back. “Got a new girlfriend?”
Jake snorted and tried to act like he thought this was funny. He felt his cheeks get hot.
Travis draped an arm around the mannequin and put one hand on its breast. “Too bad she's all plastic,” he said. Jonah laughed and grabbed another mannequin so that he could do the same thing. Jake watched them and shook his head. They looked ridiculous. He walked a little ways away so that they wouldn’t try to get him to cop a feel too. There was something eerie about being in the middle of so many fake people. He kept feeling like they were watching him, like if he turned his head quickly enough he’d catch one of them moving its head so it could see him more clearly.
A faint giggle sounded out of the darkness to his left. He jumped a little at the sound and then forced himself to calm. Travis. He must’ve lost interest in his plastic date and was messing with him now.
“Cut it out,man,” he grumbled.
The giggling stopped—was replaced by a scraping noise, like something heavy and metallic was being dragged across the floor towards him. Jake’s skin erupted into goose flesh.
“I said cut it out,” he said, his voice borderline angry now. He hated when Travis tried to freak him out. Usually it didn’t work...but these mannequins and their eyes. Suddenly all he wanted was to leave. There wasn’t anything good left in this place for them to find. It was stupid to thing that there might’ve been. Cold Pop Tarts weren’t all that bad.
Suddenly a scream erupted from behind him somewhere. He turned and looked at the place by the escalator where Travis and Jonah had been a moment ago, but he didn’t see them. Were the mannequins closer together now? He could barely see over their upturned arms and tilted heads.
“Jonah! Travis! Quit screwing around!” Jake called. But then the scream kept coming--became a chorus as another joined the first—both of them raw and horrible like the kind people in a slasher flick do when they’re being gutted alive. “Jonah! Travis!” He called again, this time screaming himself, but he couldn’t hear them…or they weren’t answering. His heart slammed against his rib cage, beating fast enough to make his temple throb. He began to weave his way back through the plastic bodies. Twice he got his arm or jeans pocket snagged on their finger and felt sure that they were making a grab for him…but that was ridiculous. They weren’t alive. That was impossible. Someone else must be in here with them. One of the guards? Other kids? The police?
Whoever it was they were really freaking Travis and Jonah out...or hurting them...
The screaming cut off and then there was a silence that made the blood roar in his ears. He opened his mouth to call to Travis and Jonah one more time, but he couldn’t get his voice to work, or maybe he was just afraid to try because then whoever made the other boys scream would come for him too. He swayed a little on his feet, his shoulder bumping the mannequin next to him. He looked over at its face, so close to his that he could see the tiny chips in the paint that made up the whites of its eyes. He backed up a little, his arm knocking into another mannequin. He was surrounded on all sides by mannequins, the path he’d just walked completely blocked off now. The one behind him had its left arm out like it had been about to grab his shoulder. Jake spun in a circle, afraid to take his eyes of any of them for more than a second. He staggered forward and pushed the one with the chipped pupils. He had to get out of there. He had to find Jonah and Travis. The mannequin tipped backwards and Jake waited for it to fall so he could step over it and make a beeline for the escalator. But it didn’t go down at all. It righted itself and instead tipped forward in his direction instead. Jake let out a scream as the mannequin’s face came closer and closer, its pursed lips slowly splitting into a too wide grin.
Story by: Amy Christine Parker
Photo by: Hector Lion
Monday, July 1, 2013
Summer time! Happy almost U.S. Independence Day and official summer and hopefully lots of relaxing and so on.
New month, new picture. You know how it goes. And here's our latest. The photographer's name is Hector Lion and this was from iStockphotos. You can view Hector's portfolio here.
Hope this gets some synapses electrified for some great fiction.
Wishing you cool and sunny days!