This is an unusual post, in that it has many authors. Yesterday in a writers’ group I’m in, we had a “Tantalizing Tuesday,” where we posted flash fiction (500 words or fewer) or poetry, using one of a set of photos, or one of four sentences as an inspiration point. Bonita Franks and I, with the authors’ permissions, of course, are posting the resulting fiction or poems to our blogs. Bonita has done half (a link to follow), and this is my half. They were all done using the same photo. Here it is. I’ll add similar images as we go.
Intriguing, isn’t it? Here are the submissions:
Yikes! Somehow I missed grabbing a submission! I’m so sorry! Here it is, in pride of place, to make up for my goof. (Forgive me, Kathy?)
The young man approached the narrow staircase with quite a bit of nervousness; this was the first time he’d even thought to explore his sexuality, and he was prepared. He patted the pocket of his coat where he had stuffed a few condoms. He heard soft sighs and grunts coming from the shadows.
Was he really ready for this?
He leaned against the cool brick, waiting his turn, sweating. In his peripheral vision, he saw a bear of a man fumbling with his zipper, tidying himself up before exchanging a few dollars, then moving on. Apparently, oral was the specialty here, and he wasn’t really ready for anything else anyway. He shuffled forward when the prostitute crooked his finger, and as he approached, seeing the man in the soft glow of the dirty lightbulb, his eyes grew wide and he gasped.
The atmosphere is too much. The smoke, the smell of cigars permeating the room, the raucous laughter and buzz of hundreds of conversations going on all at once. Coming here was a mistake, one Ben has to rectify.
He ducks out a back door into the rainy night, yanking loose his tie and the top button of his shirt. With a few heavy breaths to steady his nerves, he slouches back against the cool brick, gazing down the steps to the street below, studying the reflections of street lights off parked cars. Alexander brought him here to unwind with a few drinks, and here he was, running out on him. Hardly polite.
The door creaks open, momentarily allowing the chaos from inside to escape, and Alexander steps out, brows twitching into a frown. “There you are. Everything all right?”
Ben squares his shoulders and offers an apologetic smile. “Sorry. It was a bit much, is all.”
The taller man crams his hands into his pockets, coming down a step to stand before him. The door swings shut, plummeting them into near silence again. “We didn’t have to come here, you know.”
“You wanted to.”
“I didn’t care where we went, really. I just wanted to spend time with you.”
The confession makes Ben lift his startled gaze to Alexander’s face. “That’s… That’s a bit of a strange thing to say.”
Alexander shrugs, smiles, leans his shoulder into the wall beside Ben, putting them far closer than Ben ought to be comfortable with. “I suppose I’m a bit of a strange man.”
The proximity brings heat rushing to his cheeks. Were anyone to see them out here, like this, they’d never hear the end of it. And yet he can hardly muster a complaint when Alexander closes the remaining distance between them. Just like that, the rest of the world ceases to exist, no longer consisting of anything except them, an eager mouth against his in an empty stairwell.
He strained, pulling hard on the fabric of reality of the Victorian London alley around him. The warm, fluttering light of the oil lamp illuminating it, steadied into the cold lifeless glow of electrics. The carriages on the street below bled into the heartless steel automobiles of this century.
Gasping, he stepped through to this new place in time. Looking back, he smirked. Let’s see them follow him now.
Frenchmen Street, #103
You walk by it every morning, the rough cinderblock flanks of the building, the sleek channel of stairs between. A safe deposit box of memory to which you still hold the key. You stop and plant your feet as you have every day that came before this one, stiff rubber soles dimpled by cracking pavement that will never be strong enough to contain the wildly beating heart of the city beneath. The heat from your coffee bleeds beyond its paper sleeve and fills in the lines of your palm. That psychic who once traced them with the edge of her thumbnail, she knew nothing. She was dead wrong. So you stand there and close your eyes and turn the key:
After midnight in New Orleans, everyone is a ghost or demon.
Between the two of you, you were never sure which was which. The breath that passed hot over the back of your neck could have been a spectral breeze, but the lips that followed were pure devilry.
You held onto the railing, fingers twisted around wrought iron so cold and damp it felt like a fever breaking. His fingers curling on top of yours, sliding between skin, the jigsaw fit of hands and bodies. When he moved, you did also, helplessly attuned to the primacy of his need and the way it moved through you like a riptide, sucking you under in a grip so tight and relentless you thought your bones might be ground to powder he could sprinkle in the coffee of other lovers. And you wanted it, oh god, you wanted every ounce of that voodoo alchemy between you. Craved it so much that the places he fucked you became so many love bites pressed into the broad shoulders of the city.
But that psychic was dead wrong and now what do you have but a head full of unwanted keys to safe deposit boxes of ghosts spanning the city where you once loved him and he once loved you back.
Yohei stumbled, banging into the rough stone wall of the alley and he winced. His breaths came in ragged gasps as he allowed himself a moment to rest, confident he didn’t need to run anymore. The men chasing him far behind, lost hopefully.
He moved again, fingers digging into the cracked morter not wanting his descent to be hurried. Tumbling was still a possibility, his jellified-legs protesting loudly about the previous activity. Yohei stared ahead, cars whizzed past on the wide street below casting red and white light into the shadows illuminating each step still to be taken. It promised him crowds. People rushing from one pub to another, businessmen taking detours on the way home from work.
It promised him safety. A place to hide; to disappear. Yohei needed to disappear if he wanted to keep breathing.
The information he carried need to be delivered to the right hands, ones that would use it and not bury it beneath layers of corruption. But he could worry about that tomorrow. Tonight he needed to stay alive.
Yohei breathed deep, easier and the scent of food filled his lungs. His stomach grumbled, reminding Yohei he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Since he’d made the decision to take what he’d found and escape. Yohei ignored it, pushing on toward the promised safety. Too dangerous to stop and eat now. He couldn’t risk being found.
Two more steps.
He paused at the end of the alley and hesitantly peered at the bustling street. Carefully he took in the people passing by assessing them for danger and relaxed when he couldn’t see any. Danger might lurk in the shadows, but he couldnt see any sign that he’d been tracked down. Yohei took a breath calming his panicked nerves and stepped out.
“You had to run, didn’t you Yohei?” A sinister voice broke through teh shadows into the light and one Yohei knew well. He froze. “Lead my men on a merry chase.”
Yohei tried to step back and find another route to escape. His shoulders slumped as he collided with a wall of muscle. “I thought they could do with the exercise.”
He should have realised escape was not possible. Ever.
“Let’s go home, Yohei and I’ll forget that you tried to leave me. But I wont be so generous if you try it again.”
The City isn’t Safe at Night
Nick knew better than to walk home alone at night. His mother always warned him that the city isn’t safe at night. The walk from work was only five minutes, though. What was the harm?
The echo of footfalls behind him began three blocks back. He contemplated ducking into a restaurant or bar, but he passed into a residential neighborhood, so that wouldn’t work. He sped up, his footfalls clicking faster as he looked for refuge.
He knew not to glance back. His mother always said that was dangerous. But so was walking alone at night. Bad things can happen.
Up ahead he saw a group of people walking in his direction. Just act like you’re meeting them, then walk back toward the restaurants. Call for a ride.
Instead, he walked past the group, ducking into a dark alley up ahead. There was a single light at the bottom of a set of stairs, leading up into darkness. As he pondered if he should ascend, He felt a jolt, as he was pushed from behind..
his assailant was large. He was armed with a knife, and a snarl. “Listen up!” he growled. “Empty your bag, buddy.” Nick looked at him. “Open your bag. Empty it. Give me your money, jewelry, and wallet.”
“Please…” Nick said. “Please, sir. You don’t want to do this.”
“Oh yeah? Why not?” He asked.
“Because, it isn’t safe at night. You never know what bad things might happen.”
The man pointed the knife in his face. “Money. Wallet. Now.”
He paused. Nick stood in front of him, eyes closed. When he finally opened his eyes, they gleamed yellow. His face contorted into a monstrous grimace. his teeth became razors, his skin furred. The beast that once was NIck leapt forward, grabbing the brute by the throat, and dragged him up the stairs into the pitch black.
As he tore out the mugger’s throat, the beast that once was Nick had a strange, human thought. His mother was always right.
The City isn’t safe at night. For anyone.
All images credited to user hotblack at morguefile.com.
As promised, here’s the link to Bonita’s post.