Word of the Day – Phlegethon

“Welcome. Here you are. We have waited for you, a long while. Ever since that night of December 1969, to be precise. You do remember, don’t you?” King Minos spoke softly, his eyes twinkling with malice. The soul before him quivered from fear. In the earthly realm, she was a famous and influential writer. Her claim to fame was writing sub – par romance/horror novels involving underaged protagonists and supernatural creatures. “Please, My Lord… It came to me in a dream. I did not do it consciously.” She pleaded before him, hoping that there might be some compassion lurking in his heart still. “TAKE HER AWAY AT ONCE!” He bellowed. The denizens of the Phlegethon rose steadily, their shrivelled, ghostly fingers grabbing her by the ankle and began dragging her downwards into the circles of Hell. They cackled and chanted in a way that made her hair stand on end, she tried to free herself but she couldn’t seem to.

She woke up sweating and panting hard. She looked at the clock on her bedside table. 4:42 A.M. What a nightmare, that one! She shivered, drawing her sheets closer. There was a movement beside her, and a minute later… she heard her husband ask her groggily “Steph? You alright?” She nodded absently and thought back to the red eyed soulless creatures. She stayed with that image, and a new book began to take shape. She hurriedly slipped on her house slippers and quietly padded down to the study, where she began writing.

Meanwhile, somewhere outside their multi million dollar home, lurked a shadowy figure with his huge, dark powerful wings folded quietly. “You do not heed your guardian angels. Your time too shall come, Stephanie” he sang softly, as a sinister promise to himself and also to Minos.

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A small price for love

(The word of the day, incorporated in the following story: Apple polishing)

“Jonathan, you obstreperous child! Come back here. I will tell your mother what you have done! My joints aren’t quite what they used to be, boy! Manipulating your old aunt into making those Snickerdoodles, gambling and stealing money for a corsage, just you wait till I catch you” the old woman gave chase to the young boy, breathing heavily. The boy and the family dog, Coco ran around enthusiastically. Being a worldly and self-aware young man, Jon was quite aware of his failings. His weakness was the ladies, and his auntie’s Snickerdoodles. The two had inexplicably combined when on a hot Wednesday in May, Miss Lucy walked in to Grade 6 and introduced Katie, the new girl who had been smart enough to skip fifth grade and be promoted straight to the sixth grade. Jon felt a not entirely unpleasant swooping feeling in his gut, when Katie looked at him and gave him a smile. “This must be love” the young man decided and began to develop a strategy of courting her so he could ask her to be his partner for the Estival Formal, two weeks from the day. He looked around and noted with dismay that those insidious devils, formerly best mates of his – Tom, Nate and Henry were making similar plans too, looking at the love light that appeared to have kindled in their eyes, also. They seemed to have adopted a strategy of apple polishing to gain her attention, and let her sit next to them. She was looking doubtfully at the cheerful, earnest faces. Jon schooled his face into an expression of nonchalance, but his heart threatened to explode all over the place when she laid down her beautiful pink and white backpack with flowers on them, on the seat next to his. As she settled in to her seat, he mouthed ” How about that?” to his now rivals for the hand of Miss Katie. They shook hands, and by God! He was smitten! Cupid had aimed his arrow deftly at young Jon, who fell hard.

Jon walked up to her with a playful swagger and said, “I bet you have never tasted anything as good as that of my Auntie Liz’s Snickerdoodles.” She smiled and said “Mummy makes very good Snickerdoodles too. Challenge accepted. Same time, next week?” He solemnly accepted, adding “If I win, you will accompany me to the Estival Ball.” She looked a bit surprised, let out a delightful peal of laughter that had him and the boys around them, hanging on to her every word feeling mildly disoriented as she seemed to float away from him, back to class with her newly acquired gaggle of female friends.

The next couple of days went by in a haze as he convinced his Auntie Liz that he missed his parents very much, but especially Mummy and her Snickerdoodles. He brooded in a manly fashion, and sighed when his Auntie suggested that she make her famous Snickerdoodles for him, and it would be the same since it was a family recipe that had been passed down to both sisters by great Nana herself. “That might alleviate the suffering, some” he said with the air of one giving up something great. She looked at him with pity and affectionately ruffled his hair, drew him up a list to go get the ingredients to make the Snickerdoodles.

Next Wednesday came and he had been baked quite an alarmingly large batch, so he managed to give some to Katie, wrapped in a neat ribbon he found in Aunt Liz’s desk. He also distributed the rest to his classmates and Miss Lucy. The class opined that his batch was indeed the finest. That’s how Jon found himself on a date with the most beautiful young woman in all the universes ever. Katie Corden. He slipped on the corsage he had purchased with the money he had stealthily purloined from the farm’s cash register he manned during the weekends. Katie beamed widely, took his arm and walked inside the school hall that had been decorated to appear like a shindig of the Roaring Twenties. He doffed his imaginary hat to his brothers – in – arms, and walked past them with a supercilious smirk plastered firmly upon his face. The night passed in blissful oblivion, even as the moon shone down brightly upon those two hearts beginning to beat in unison while Cole Porter played on, in the background.

One jealous young ex – suitor, hurt and rebuffed worked out that with the allowance Jon got, and the number of chores he had pawned off on others, he could not have afforded the corsage. He cycled to Merry Farms, and told on his formerly bosom pal. And that is the story of how Jon found himself in the present predicament. He worked out a compromise where he promised to do chores for the next two weeks and skip the school field trip to the zoo, that he had been looking forward to from weeks. He vowed to himself to find out who had sabotaged him, and get even at the person, even while he nursed elaborate fantasies of him and Katie dancing in the moonlight, as they once did before. Hands fitting perfectly, laughing, dancing a little too close for him to be able to smell her warm, intoxicating cherry flavoured scent.

“Two weeks of chores isn’t a bad price to pay for love” he surmised, as he picked up the shovel and went to work in the farm, while the hot sun beat down on his bony back.

 

Goddess – Is She?

“It is not my fault that I am having to do this. I blame my parents, uncles, aunts, and anyone else who does not have the guts to speak up against what is to happen today. You are all equally guilty.” I write with trembling hands, the delicate glass bangles clatter as the pen moves up and down in a hypnotic rhythm, all its own. I was a class topper, I was going to have a fine future. I wanted to be a doctor, and make affordable healthcare accessible to the hundreds of women in my village like Didi who died, giving birth to her fourth child.

I looked at the ornate mirror. I had half a dozen green coloured bangles made of glass, along with a pair of gold ones, that weighed my dainty wrists down. Kohl rimmed eyes, the apples of my cheeks dusted with a hint of colour, lips stained crimson; long, elegant chandelier earrings hung from my ears, accompanied by a matching choker set and an ornamental forehead piece, or maatha – patti completing the look. I wore a forest green coloured sharara suit, the veil carefully pinned to cover every inch of my head. I looked every inch the embodiment of an estival Goddess even though I was just a tool brought in to this world to fulfill the requirements of a demonic, broken down system. The greater my fury grew, the words bled on to paper, as if they were being transferred straight from the recesses of my brain, on to the rich cream coloured paper I had at my desk. Let me tell you, I have never wanted for anything in my life. I go to an English medium school, and get to wear the finest of frocks and dresses that we get from the city. I am popular in my school, admired by teachers and peers alike. I have never thus far had even a minor setback or inconvenience that my father did not take care of, or mysteriously make disappear. So, imagine my shock when I received the horrifying news that turned my life upside down on my 13th birthday. I cried, I stomped my feet and yelled but to no avail. My parents wouldn’t budge from their stance, my father and I had stopped all communication, once or twice I thought my mother looked at me contritely… Like she wanted to say something, but she would sigh and shake her head as was her wont and walk away. She was a firm proponent of our family’s belief that women ought to be seen, and not heard. She had married my father at a young age and completed her schooling with the encouragement of my grandfather. Despite much societal opposition at the time, he even encouraged my mother to pursue and complete B. Com via distance education mode. She now handled the accounts for our business. It seemed as if my fate was fixed. “But, here is the thing about me you don’t know. I push back harder when you push me. I firmly believe that I am the captain of my destiny. Therefore, I am leaving, do not attempt to find me.” I sign my name with a sort of flourish, dotting my I’s in an almost vicious fashion, taking savage pleasure imagining the uproar that would undoubtedly ensue once the wedding party would discover that the bride had gone missing.

 

Lonia

(I am attempting to write a story daily, usually veering towards short fiction with a plot prompt or word of the day given by a friend. The word prompts for this story were: Obstreperous, and pernicious.)

Little Lonia was a very knowledgeable six-year-old. There was a heady mix of bleakness and optimism about her, her knowledge and air of superciliousness, which made her a loner. The Sisters at Good Hope Orphanage worried about her. Each time, one of her “friends” was chosen for a home, a Sister would pat her hand and mistakenly offer comfort. She didn’t need them, as long as she had Max, the old English sheep dog that bounded joyfully around her. He was quite an obstreperous boy, that one. He came with shaggy, matted fur, he smelled funny at times and his energy was really out of control. But he calmed down around her. They were good for each other, the Sisters observed and let the unique bond be. They knew it could be pernicious to take away Max from a child who had already lost so much. Her mother, her father and her legs in 1939, when the Nazis had bombed her home. A network of refugees had found the girl crying clutching her deceased mother’s blown off head and a piece of her own, bloody stump. At great risk to her own life, Sister Agatha had brought the child out of Poland; to the home and began caring for the girl as one of their own. There was a strange, unholy light in the girl’s eyes. One she hoped could be beat out figuratively with a mix of service, prayer, love and compassion. The girl was unresponsive at first, but perked up when she first heard that old, almost blind sheep dog. They had very nearly opted to put Max to sleep, but after seeing how much it helped the poor child, they decided to let them be. After all, they were family. And family meant never letting go of the ones we love. Besides, nobody would suspect a physically handicapped child of having a ton of explosives strapped to her chest, and she would get easy access through Parliament. Mother Superior smiled coldly and began to put the plan into action to shake up the system and make themselves heard, and eventually have a representative of their own in office. Insidious, yet ingenious.