You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
So here I am to try, and to fail, so I can learn.
Paul Fail. For The Win!

24 February 2011

#FridayFlash Smooth Revenge

Friday Flash
Smooth Revenge
© 2011 D. Paul Angel

Tony looked out from the passenger seat contemplating the clean brownstones that lined the Franklin Heights area of West Philly.  Gentrification did what all the arrests couldn't.  Made it to damn expensive for the thugs.  As for the thugs who inhereted from their crazy Uncle...

Gervasio drove the BMW 650 straigh into the tidy garage, closing the garage door behind them.  Tony let himself out and headed for the door at the back of the garage.  The closet shelves slid easily aside, and the stairwell down to the abandoned bomb shelter below lit up automatically.  Glad Uncle Heitor didn't even trust the neighbors, let alone the city.  The bomb shelter was not only wholly hidden from the outside, was well sound proofed, and had never been registered even with the Civil Defense.  Uncle Heitor never did like anybody, no sense in saving someone you don't like..

Tony always suspected his Uncle would actually approve of its current use; a killing room.

As expected the man was duct-taped to the only chair in the room.  It was dead center, bolted to the concrete, and just above a drain.  The concrete was stained with blood and other remnants, and the smell of foulness hung across the room.  Abilio and Berengar were waiting in the corner and nodded as Tony came down the stairs.  Proficient as always, they already had the man naked, bruised, and crying.  With Tony inside, Gervasio closed the steel lined door behind them.  Tony took off his long jacket and hung it on a simple wooden peg on the wall.  Next to it he hung his white fedora, his silk Jerry Garcia tie, and rolled up his sleeves.

Tony walked to the man, stood in front of him and quietly said, "Your name."

"What?" the man said between sobs.

"Your," Tony said once more authoritatively, "name."

"I, uh..."  The man trailed off.  Tony took two steps back and nodded to Berengar who came over and stood behind the man.  Tony regarded the man, waiting.  When he didn't answer he met Beregan's eye and dipped his head ever so slightly.  Beregan brought his fist down on the man's head like a hammer starting another bout of panicked shrieks.  In reply Berengar slapped him hard on the side of the head, stopping the shouts dead.

"Your. Name," Tony said firmly.

"Stan.  Stan Lemkowski.  My name, is Stan Lemkowski."

"I asked multiple times, Stanley, because you didn't answer.  Not because I needed to hear it three times."  He nodded again and Berengar hit Lemkowski open handed on the other side of his head.  Tony knew from experience just how much Berengar enjoyed this game.  Not quite as sharp and conniving as Abilio, nor as loyal as  Tony's right hand Gervasio, Berengar was simply an angry man of muscle who enjoyed nothing so much as exerting it upon his fellows.  Tony gave him considerable opportunities to use this talent.

"Do you know who I am? Stanley," he asked.

"You're... you're Smooth Tony," he gritted out between breathes.

"Very good." Tony began pacing in front of Lemkowski as he spoke, "And you, Stanley, well you are not.  So tell me, Stanley," he continued spitting on the name, "why did you think you could be me?"

"Because-" Lemkowski paused before finding some inner vigor, "because everyone knows you never do the work yourself.  You always get everyone else to do it for you."  The strength left almost as soon as it had arrived, withering under Tony's cold eyes.  He trailed off lamely, "It was... going to be... to be easy."

"Excuse me?" Tony asked with the full weight of the quiet menace he had spent a lifetime mastering.

Lemkowski's reserve evaporated, leaving him to plead with Tony, "Well, everyone says that you plan and everyone else does.  So I figure, If they said it... I can call and they'd do..."

"And you're gone before I find out?" Tony finished for him, "Just like that Stanley?"

"Just like, yeah.  That."

"He's got a point Mr. Noland," Abilio added suddenly.  "We ain't never seen you do nothing yourself."

So here it comes.  It was only a matter of time with Abilio.  Thinking he could sway the others and take over.  He knew from the hesitant looks that the point had been festering in them all for awhile.  You couldn't keep your hands clean forever.  Thugs are just too damn practical.  Without turning away from Lemkowski, or acknowledging Abilio with so much as a look, he said to Gervasio, "My gun."

Gervasio reached in his shoulder holster, took out a stainless steel Colt Python, and handed it to Tony handle first. "Mr. Noland," was all he said with guarded sincerity.  Hmm.  So even faithful Gervasio has some doubts.  Time to end that now.

Tony let the gun hang straight down.  The weight and heft were familiar, comfortable.  The others didn't need to know just how many hours he spent at the range perfecting his shot since that too was frowned upon by the culture.  Just one more thing they underestimated.

The gun felt heavier now than it ever had before.  In front of him was a dumb, stupid, moron of a punk.  The kid had to die of course, and he had no compunction against ordering it, but now it was clear he'd have to do it himself.  It felt different though.  Actually holding the gun in his hand.  Balancing a man's life on the sliver of steel against his finger.  It wasn't mere words this time that would direct it, it was him.  The tangible finality of it weighed on him more than any order he had ever given.  It was real. And necessary.

"You're wrong."  In a flash he shot Abilio square in the face, exploding his against the wall.  As his body collapsed in a crumpled heap Berengar and Gervasio looked at Smooth Tony with stunned awe and absolute loyalty in their eyes.  "Your turn. Stanley."

This is going to be fun...

17 February 2011

#FridayFlash The God Box

Friday Flash
The God Box
©2011 D. Paul Angel

Sullivan ambled across the dusty living room floor towards the door.  The knock had been brief, but insistent.  He walked past dozens of his dioramas along the way.  Next to a scratch built David slaying Goliath, in which he had managed to build the giant so he was just falling, was a more esoteric scene from Asimov's Foundation series.  One in several parts, showed Legolas and Gimli touring Middle Earth after the decisive battle in Tolkien's Return of the King.  They were all meticulously built, some over many years while he was still working, and others he was now building in under a week.  Yet every time he would walk by one he would see some new detail amiss.

He had stooped to quickly fix a crater's rim in a scene from Heinlein's Starship Troopers when the knock returned, and reminded him of his task. He opened the door until the chain was just taught and looked uncertainly at the man on the threshold.

"Good day Mr. Sullivan, may I enter?  My name is Michaelus and I have heard much of your dioramas and have something of my own that I'd like to share with you."

"I've never appreciated others work," Sullivan answered slowly, considering; "They never get it right.  It has to be right."

"And do you, Mr. Sullivan, do you, 'Get it right?'"

"Mostly, but not always."

"Well, I have something that I think is quite right, if I may?"

Sullivan noticed a large, square box on the threshold next to him.  Sullivan's deep introversion fought against his innate curiosity and lost.  Before he was quite aware of it, the chain was down, Michaelus was in his house, and the box was on his dining room table.  Michaelus looked appreciatively at the tattoos Sullivan was in the middle of applying to the Illustrated Man.

"Marvelous!" Michaelus said, "So many familiar scenes.  Dante's Inferno, one of each of the Canterbury Tale's tales... But what is this?  I don't recognize it."

Sullivan's heart shrunk.  It was the only diorama he had ever been tempted to outright destroy, but he couldn't.  It wouldn't have been right.  It was the only one he saw no imperfection in, but it was also his biggest hurt.  "It is of the Wilson's down the road.  The little girl on the swing, Sarah, drowned.  I made that to give the family as a memento, but... They called me sick.”

"Surely they are not the only ones you know to have a suffered a loss?"

"No, there have been others," Sullivan replied, feeling his various sadness's with downcast eyes.

"Where are their dioramas, I wonder?"

"I never made any.  I just... Never mind," Sullivan answered, withdrawing once again, "Just show me what you wanted to show me."

The man smiled enigmatically, "It is this.  I call it the God Box."

Sullivan came over and saw that there were brass wheels affixed to the side of the display.  As Michaelus turned them  the diorama's scene slowly shifted, as though from a slow moving airplane close to the ground.  Michaelus stopped at a scene that looked exactly like Sullivan's neighborhood.  The Wilsons were outside in their garden, and the grey, neighborhood tabby was cleaning itself by his mailbox.  He was stunned when he looked past his stained curtains to see exactly the same outside.

"When you say, 'God Box...'" Sullivan began.

"I mean it.  Quite."

Sullivan wasn't sure what possessed him, but he went to the Wilson's diorama and removed little Sarah.  He walked over to the God Box and met Michaelus' eyes.  Michaelus stepped back and opened his hand in acquiesce to Sullivan.

Sullivan placed her by her family than ran to the window.  The Wilson's sort of saw her but were more disturbed than relieved since she appeared as more of a phantasm than a little girl.  As Sullivan turned to go back to the God Box he tripped sending three of his dioramas to the floor.    Sullivan stood and when he looked out he saw that she was almost fully corporeal again.

"What was it about her?" Michaelus asked directly.

"She was... She was innocent.  An Angel.  She, she liked me.  Talked to me.  She was special."

He went to the shelf behind Michaelus and then paused.  Finally he took a diorama from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and smashed it on the floor.  She became almost real.  He smashed the obelisk from 2001 and the sacrifice of Aslan from C.S. Lewis' masterpiece, and her red sweatshirt was no longer translucent.

"How many?" he asked Michaelus desperately.  "I put my life into them.  How many do I have to destroy?"

"All of them," Michaelus answered severely, "You have put your life into them.  That is the life you give her now.  If you choose.  But, you must hurry or you will only restore her so much..."

Sullivan hesitated, then went through his house like a tornado.  He destroyed scenes throughout stories, books, movies, and television.  He had just smashed from Starship Troopers when he looked outside again.  She was with her family, but could not yet talk.  He looked at Michaelus and bolted into the garage.  In the back, packed in a box, was a tiny shoe-box with crude clay figures.  It was his first, Abraham, on the mountain, with Isaac, made 50 years earlier for Sunday school.

With a crash it hit the concrete of the garage, as a simultaneous shriek came from outside.  She was alive, again!  He ran through the house and was almost out the door before Michaelus coughed.  "Would they," he asked gently, "Believe you?"

Sullivan looked over the tattered remains of his little boxes, his little scenes, his little peoples; and wept.  He looked up through the tears to a knock at the door and the sudden entrance of Sarah and her bewildered.

She hugged him, looked up and said, "Thank you."

10 February 2011

#FridayFlash The Blue Versus The Grays

Friday Flash
The Blue Versus the Grays
©2011 D. Paul Angel

"Follow me men," Lieutenant Sutter shouted above the tumultuous roar of the battle. "To the left flank! Left! Before any of those Damned Rebs do!" A cannon ball whistled through the air and landed just past him, punctuating his words with a wet, "THUMMP." The staccato crack of rifles flowed and ebbed as volleys were exchanged a couple hundred yards apart from each other. Sutter and his men rode behind the entrenched lines, heading to shore up Major Daniel's Brigade. They had ended up lined opposite most of the South's artillery, and it had exacted a heavy toll.

They were just passing between the line and General McClellan's tent when a fireball, trailing oily, black smoke streaked from the sky. It landed just in front of the left flank, digging a huge swath of a crater into the churned soil before bouncing over the stunned ranks. The spray of dirt kicked up fell on them like a heavy cloud, crushing some, but just dirtying the rest

Everyone close by, Union and Confederate alike, stopped at the sudden crash. "Meteorite, you reckon?" Sutter, a science professor before the war, asked no one in particular. A man next to him answered slowly, "Better that than some Traitor tomfoolery. Another furlong and my entire left'd be gone. Take your men, Lieutenant, and find out what the hell it is."

Sutter turned and realized he was speaking with General McClellan himself, "Yessir!" Sutter shouted to McClellan's retreating back. "Into the crater!" Sutter heard the General exhorting, "Take it as cover!"

"Let's move!" Sutter shouted to his own men, "Might be a dirty Reb trick! And somebody grab the Doc's reins. We might need him."

"God help us if we do," one of the men said as he grabbed the reins. Even in the midst of the battle the Doc was slumped in his saddle, near passed out.

Sutter led his men away from the battlefield into the sparse forest. It was easy to follow the path the object wrecked through the woods, and they soon spotted a thin tendril of smoke coming from the deeper woods a mile or so away.

Sutter and his men dismounted, approaching it from all sides. Whatever it was, it wasn't a meteorite. He'd seen drawings of those before, and even seen a piece of one in a museum. This was a shiny, smooth metal sphere a couple yards across. As he walked around it he saw a hole in the side of it, but the inside was completely black. "I reckon it's got to be something them damn Rebs built, but I have no idea how," Sutter said into the heavy quietus that had descended around his men.

"LT!" the shout came from behind him, and Sutter ran to where one of his privates was standing; shaking, and pointing at two unbelievable creatures. They looked like gray children, with huge, hydrocephalic heads and giant, coal-black almond eyes. These looked at the men, but without any hint of emotion.

One was obviously hurt badly, and blood like green ichor was dripping steadily to the ground as the other held it in its arms.

"Doc!" Sutter shouted, "Get yer drunken arse over here." Doctor Martinson, originally of William and Mary, but more recently of Whiskey & Gin, was unceremoniously dumped from his horse to wake him. Duly roused, he shuffled over before stopping and trying to focus on the two creatures. The shock of their visage seemed to have a sobering effect on him as his swaying ceased.

As more and more of men began clustering around and talking amongst themselves, Sutter began to worry as to what they might talk themselves into. He knew it wasn't long before words like, "Cursed," "Devils," and "Evil," would start flowing all too freely, spreading panic amongst his men. "Well, Doc," asked Sutter impatiently, "you gonna help it or what?"

"These," the Doc began solemnly, drawing himself up tall, "are not of this Earth." He took his pistol from his belt and aimed. Before he could pull the trigger though, it seemed as though a wave or pulse passed through the air focused on the Doctor. It made the background behind it hazy as it passed with a purplish tinge more felt than seen. The doctor collapsed instantly. The gun fell harmlessly next to him, and drool slowly started leaking from his open mouth. He was still alive, but his intelligence was simply gone.

Sutter felt a cold, lonely panic wash over him. He knew it had spread to all of his men, and before he could stop them they were all firing at the two creatures. "Hold your fire!" Sutter shouted over the din, trying to restore order and save his men, "HOLD YOUR FIRE!"

He looked back to the two creatures and was shocked to see a curve of flattened mini-balls and shot hanging in the air around them like a curtain. "Get out of here, men! All of you! Tell the General it's a meteorite, but to stay away."

Stunned, half-asked questions followed as all the lead fell to the ground. "But... How.. I mean... can you..."

"Be sure?" Sutter finished for them. "They may be gray, but they ain't Confederates. Now git."

Sutter bent down and took his own meager dressings out. As the hoof steps of his men receded, he did what he could to stop the bleeding. The healthy one chirruped at him like a cross between a finch and whippoorwill nodding skywards. As Sutter looked up a light brighter than the Sun appeared. As he shielded his eyes, he felt himself paralyzed in that position. Out the corner of his eyes he saw the two beings get slowly enveloped by the light. It disappeared with a snap and they were simply gone, along with the sphere.

As his limbs slowly started unlocking, the only thing that reminded Sutter of his own sanity was a neat ring of flattened lead and a gibbering Doctor.