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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Short Fiction Based On Photo

Photo by Peter Morrow Photography, used with permission (2013)

Yet again this guy who is internet stalking me (not really), challenged me to a write-off—he would send me a photo he took, and I had to write a story based on that photo. 

Here it is:

Bricks and Mortar

The people of the town had insisted on giving Terrent to the architect, because they needed more red brick. Despite the fact that everyone in Mosswood knew what the brick meant during construction, there were still a few people on his side. Those citizens who thought that even a hunter like him didn't deserve to join his blood to the construction. But then again, if not the blood of those grifters, gypsies, and delinquents in town, then whose blood would it be?

A young man stood over Terrent's whip-thin body tied to the chair near the half-built wall. With bleary eyes crusted over from the mild foxglove-elixir they had pumped down his gullet, Terrent inhaled sharply the scent of the mortar the young man was mixing. Fine dust made a halo of refracted light in the shadow of the twisted building, and the dancing motes touched upon the young man's hair.

Terrent knew that even his body, used to the excesses of toxic substances, might not come back from the foxglove. He was a hunter, a nice name for a hired gun. Though he worked on the side of the law, his letter of mark was from the Marshalls of Northern Nevada, people still knew what he did.

"Mr. Darkham," Terrent said, the skin of his lips cracking like parched earth, "care to spare me a bit of water?"

"Sorry, Mr. Terrent," the young man said, mixing more dirty water into the mortar. His bright eyes would not meet with the hunter's. "I don't reckon it will matter soon for you anyhow."

Terrent snorted, but his throat seized with his dehydration. "You ready to kill a man, boy?"

Blue eyes snapped up, and Darkham glared. "It will not be my first."

As if in response, the dusty wind blew a tumbleweed through the unfinished brick wall, but the weed was rust colored, as if it had blown through something ancient and iron-colored. But Terrent didn't lie to himself. It had rolled through old blood. The red brick edifice was built twisted, as if the architect had been confused as to how gravity and the world truly worked. In fact, no one in town knew how it was still standing. But they believed in its power.  

"Why are you building this piece of shit, mister architect?"

"We need a shelter," Darkham said, almost as if to himself. "The end is near, and we need to survive. All of us here."

Doomsdayers. Wonderful. Terrent would've spat on the ground, if he had any moisture in his mouth. "This thing'll blow over the first rain. I don't care what you're puttin' in the mortar."

Again, the young man leveled his gaze on him. "It is more than just blood, Mr. Terrent. It's essence. It's sacrifice. It's your bloodied soul."

Terrent felt the brim of his hat slipping down his forehead. Though the townies had taken his weapons, he still had a pen knife in his Stetson. "So, this shelter thing will save you?"

The young man's eyes blazed fever bright. "It twists outside of reality. No one will find it. Not the wind. Not Death or God Himself."

Looking up at the nightmarish bowing of the brick, Terrent could almost believe it. Parts of the walls seemed to have fingers of stone protruding, and sections of it almost looked wet still, as if it were weeping crimson. The flooring seemed almost as if it were shiny as red glass, and pools of light refracted from the surface, making it gleam like a still pond against cool morning light. But like a distorted spiral staircase, a hellish perversion of up and down, the building slanted into itself at the same time as it protruded out beyond the edge of one's sight.

Darkham ignored him, mixing the mortar now with his hands.
Terrent flipped his hat into his hands tied in front of him, but the young man did not look up. He reached inside of the brim and found his knife.

"I can help you build, you know," the hunter said, covering the snick-sound of the knife with his words. "I've made brick before. And I'm not afraid to spill the blood of those who've escaped justice. That's what I do."

The dust in the air seemed to swirl as Darkham's brows lowered. "Your wandering, vengeful spirit will add to its strength. I don't need your help to kill evildoers."

With hands covered in grey mud, the young man came toward Terrent and leaned in close. Jabbing with the knife, Terrent felt the metal tip slide into flesh. But instead of hot blood spilling over his hands, there was only a cold breeze. The architect grinned at him, as Darkham came away with the knife protruding from his abdomen.

Darkham's voice burrowed into Terrent's brain, sweetly dark and thunderous as the roar of a shotgun. "I've given all my blood to the wall. I have no more to spare." The grin only widened. "But you do."

With wet mortared hands, Darkham tore the knife from his flesh and whipped it out in an arc. The edge of the blade sliced against Terrent's throat, and steaming blood poured from him, spurting as the architect hurried to bring the bucket of mortar over to the dying man. Terrent's entire body jerked, bubbling sounds escaping him as his heart thudded slower, the torrential fount mixing with the mortar.

As the light left the hunter's eyes, Darkham continued to mix his mortar. Then with careful consideration, he began to mix the dried dust of bone with the new steaming blood. It was the only way to build the shelter.

It was the only way to survive. The young man worked into the evening, ignoring the cooling body until such time as its parts were needed for the wall.

The Building would stand forever.               



At April 2, 2013 at 1:12 PM , Blogger Alice Knudsen said...

...I wonder if the building smells....


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