Saturday, November 28, 2009
I hope some of you folks enjoy what you find here and stop by often...
Al Bruno III
He woke to the sound of engines and the flashing of lights. Was it the police again? It seemed they got called to this godforsaken neighborhood every night. Rolling out of bed Gabe walked to the front window and shifted the curtain aside just enough for him to peer outside.
The first thing he saw was the moving van, pulled right up onto the sidewalk, its motor coughed and belched, its hazard lights blinked mindlessly.
New neighbors, he realized. Of course, he didn't remember the previous residents moving out but that was a pretty common occurrence in this neighborhood too; along with drunken arguments, drug deals and missing children. The trash that had lived above Gabe had skipped out on their lease the day before Christmas. The speed and skill they'd employed to empty their belongings into the back of a pickup truck was almost dizzying.
The digital readout on the VCR told him it was a little after five in the morning. Who moves in at this hour on a Sunday? Gabe wondered as he tried to see what the new arrivals looked like. The vans back doors were almost flush with the house across the street so all he saw were shadows stepping from the back of the truck onto the darkened front porch.
Tomorrow was garbage day so Gabe dutifully dragged his two well-worn aluminum cans out to the curb. He hated those two dented husks of rusted metal but he knew better then to purchase new ones. They tended to disappear on him. It was just that kind of neighborhood. Gabe looked up and down the block, at the dirty children screaming and running from yard to yard, at the washed- out looking adults that sat out on their front steps smoking and drinking with their music turned up too loud. At the lawns that were either un-mowed or had half -junked cars parked on them.
It hadn't always been this way, he'd had a house in the suburbs, a wife and kids but they were long gone now and he was trapped here. Trapped here by child support and payments on a house he was no longer allowed to live in. All he could afford for himself now was this, the bottom floor of a run down two-story tenement.
Gabe shook his head trying to clear away the unpleasant thoughts, he knew where this would lead, where it always led- to him half-drunk at his kitchen table glaring at the sheaf of divorce papers and restraining orders. He looked up at the house across the street, his new neighbors were bringing out their trash as well; trash that included a ratty looking old couch, a bureau and a few armfuls of clothes.
They were a good-looking couple, with white-blond hair and striking features. They looked like movie stars, Gabe wondered what had landed them here on this dead end street. Had the Husbands drinking gotten him fired? Was the Wife spending her husband's cash as fast as he made it?
Maybe, he thought as he watched them maneuver a stained mattress out onto the curb. Maybe they just want to renovate the place. Maybe they think they can turn this neighborhood around. Good luck.
The Husband spied him watching them and offered a genial wave, "Afternoon."
"Afternoon." Gabe called from across the street.
The Wife came out carrying a pair of dripping garbage bags, her smile was dazzling. "We're remodeling." she said.
"Good for you." Gabe said with a wave. He headed back into the house, they seemed like nice people but a little too chipper for his tastes.
It was raining and miserable and Gabe had left his umbrella back at the office. Shivering and cold he walked the four blocks from the bus stop to his apartment. The sidewalks here were as run down as everything else, the cracked pavement fostered wide puddles. With every step his shoes and socks were more and more soaked, with every clammy he tried to calculate how long it would be before he could afford another car.
Two years for a junker, longer if I want something nice.
The bags and cans at the end of every walkway reminded him that it was garbage day. He groaned at the thought of dragging the two cans out from the back.
As if I'm not soaked enough.
The pounding noise told him that the morons that were into rap music had cranked up their stereo. Of course that meant that the half-wit that lived next door to those morons would soon be blasting the screeching speed metal they loved so dearly.
His pace slowed as he approached his house, the couple across the street had their garbage out already. It looked like they were cleaning out their basement, an old washing machine, a love seat, a waist high pile of books, a few broken chairs, a chest of drawers and a birdcage were out on the curb.
For a moment he stood there contemplating the washer, wondering if it still worked. If it did it would sure as hell save him his weekly trip to the laundromat.
Why would they throw it away if it wasn't broken? He chided himself and headed inside, the trash could wait till morning.
Another couch. Gabe stood there marveling at it, Another goddamn couch.
But it wasn't just a couch; there was also a cabinet, a lone snow tire and a box of melted-looking action figures. He glanced over to their mailbox, it was still blank save for the dull metal numbers. He wondered what their family name was, it must have been Rockefeller considering the amount of furniture they went through.
It wasn't that he cared what they did, but still it was a little odd. So much stuff. Well at least they picked a good neighborhood for it. He thought. Back in the suburbs there had only been one or two days a year set aside for heavy trash pickup but here the garbage men seemed willing to take away anything at all. Maybe, Gabe thought. Maybe they do it because they know that if they don't this crummy little town will start looking like the full-fledged junkyard it really is.
The front door swung open, Gabe quickly pretended to be adjusting his cans. It was the Wife, she was wearing a clingy top and a pair of white shorts. She bounded down the front steps, got into her minivan and drove away.
Damn but her husband's a lucky guy. Gabe thought.
"Whatchoo lookinat?" his boozy next door neighbor called at him.
"N-nothing." Gabe said. Blushing furiously he retreated back inside. When the door was safely barred and bolted behind him he allowed himself to whisper, "Nothing you scumbag."
From the first moment the blind date had been an unmitigated disaster. From his first look at the woman he'd known it was going to go badly. What had Homer been thinking?
Gabe sat in the back of the taxicab fuming. He was almost mad enough to call Homer right now. When he'd described her as having a wonderful personality that should have been warning enough but hed decided to try his luck anyway. He'd been away from the dating scene for too long.
The cab slowed before his house, Gabe paid the fare and strolled up the walk. He wanted to kick something. He couldn't believe the bitch turned him down. How could she afford to be discriminating? Of course she waited until after he'd picked up the tab from dinner before she dropped that little bombshell.
Speaking of bombshells. He thought as he paused on his front porch. His eyes strayed across the street, sometimes they stayed up late. He wasn't sure what they did, wither every light on in the house till all hours of the night, but whenever he peeked out the curtains he saw silhouettes flitting across the venetian blinds. It was almost like they were dancing. Sometimes watching them he imagined he was up there with the Wife and the Husband was living down here in this crappy tenement.
Embarrassed at the thoughts filling his head he turned to enter his front. His keys fumbling in the lock he took one last longing glance at the house next door and did a double take.
Was that another couch he saw sitting on the curb?
Gabe couldn't help himself, he crossed the street and gazed at the cigarette burned davenport sitting there, one of its cushions were missing, in its place sat an record player that looked to Gabe like an antique. A bureau with wobbly legs rounded out this weeks pile.
He paused a moment, thinking to himself This is nuts what if someone else sees? But the impulse was too crazy and too strong for him to deny it. He walked up to the bureau and pulled out one of the drawers.
It still had clothes in it, all neatly folded. Panties and socks, where they hers? How could that be? How could he not know she was tossing out all her undergarments? This was too weird. Gabe glanced up at their house, wondering if they had seen him out here. Wondering if they'd care the man from across the street was going through their garbage.
It was just their garbage after all, if they had really cared they wouldn't have put it out on the curb would they?
He pulled the second drawer out, more clothes, sweaters and ties, expensive looking by the feel of them. The kind he used to be able to afford.
Not certain what he was looking for he pulled the third drawer out. A gagging scream caught in his throat. He shoved the drawer closed again and he stumbled back across the street, tripping on the curb. Sobbing with fear he scrambled to his feet and ran into his house where he slumped to the floor and tried not to be sick.
"It was just a doll, just a doll…" He whispered to himself, "Dolls can't move…"
There was a knock at the door, a neighborly voice was calling Gabe's name.
Friday, November 27, 2009
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But you always tell me that you are okay, not to interfere, to let you forget it. You tell me you can handle it. You remind me you’ve lived with him for eighteen years, so yes, you can handle a few more months. I tell you that I understand, but I don’t. Not really. You don’t deserve this. You are a shining light and he, he is black death, plaguing you, plaguing me.
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I tell you this in the hope that you never use this knowledge. I tell you this in the hope that the world has changed enough that you never need to use this knowledge, that there will be no more pogroms or genocides. I tell you this so it will not be lost, because God has given us the gift of knowledge and learning and to let such things die is a sin.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009
The Nick Of Time
(and other Abrasions)
The Trailer Park Of Dracula
Al Bruno III
It was only a few months after her nineteenth birthday and just a few weeks after she had let the sad, ageless man called Jason Magwier take her on his adventures and into his bed. He had promised to show her things she would never learn in the Academy...
The only sound in the forest was the rhythmic chanting a steady counterpoint to the gentle gurgling of the stream. The Seven stood on the shore their arms crossed over their chests and gazed up at the crescent moon.
So this is the face of undeath... Lorelei mused as she crouched behind an dead tree; She was wearing jeans, clunky boots and a t-shirt with a filthy saying on it. She kept her hair from her eyes with a bandana and the cold from her skin with her lover's coat.
Magwier was right beside her his hand on her shoulder; his hair was dark and close cropped. He gave her a little smile but even when he was grinning his eyes had the aspect of frowning. Then she glanced over to her right, to where Zeth was standing half-concealed in the shadows. Lorelei didn’t think he’d moved a muscle since the ceremony had begun; he had this odd, almost cat-like expression on his face. Of all of Magwier's unnerving friends she found him to the the most unnevering.
But what a sight we make! she thought. The apprentice sorceress, the old soldier and the man of mystery.
The chanting stopped. Jason Magwier’s grip tightened on her shoulder. Seven shadows flew at them from the darkness.
She woke to find herself trussed up on the floor of a filthy double wide trailer. She glanced around from the stained velvet curtains to the blackened electric stove and finally to the pale skinned couple sitting at the breakfast nook and playing checkers. Lorelei muttered a prayer to the Goddess to not let her die in a place as cruddy as this.
“She's awake already Elizabeth,” the taller, more masculine of the pair glanced her way.
The other nodded and batted her false eyelashes, “Resilient. I can hardly wait Olwin.”
At moments like this Lorelei always went for the big cliché, “Hey! What's the big idea?”
Olwin moved his pieces listlessly around the board, “We might ask the same of you.”
“Spying.” Elizabeth shook a finger her way, “Wandering where you shouldn't be.”
Lengths of silk bound Lorelei's wrists together, she struggled to free them but they had been expertly, and expensively, tied. She moved the conversation from cliches to outright lies, “Is this some kind of private property? We didn't know.”
“Lie,” Olwin hissed over the board, “you came here with pockets full of wolfsbane and mandrake...”
“...for medicinal purposes only.” Lorelei said; actually there were spell components, nothing too fancy, nothing that could make a man fly or turn blood into fire.
“And one of you- the black man- he was carrying four handguns.”
“... well we did tell him to travel light.”
Elizabeth smiled, her teeth sharp and the color of moonlight, “And the other? He smells of eternity, of dust and rosepetals...”
“I'm not looking for trouble here, or sloppy metaphors.” Lorelei said.
But she had to wonder what Magwier had been up to; he never went anywhere without some kind of an agenda but he rarely ever told anyone what his plans were until it was too late to try and talk him out of it. Lorelei had just been excited at the prospect of seeing some real life vampires but she had to admit that if Magwier had intended to finish the evening hogtied in the trailer park of Dracula she would have preferred a little warning.
“I'm bored of this game,” Olwin gestured towards Lorelei. “Why don't you partake?”
“Oh...” Elizabeth fluttered her eyebrows, “ I couldn’t do that to you, I know how you much you like to play with them, to undress them and hear.”
“Only if they're virgins my dear and let me tell you this is no virgin.”
Thank you summer camp!
“Wait!” Lorelei said, “You don’t understand...”
“Don’t we now?” Olwin grinned, “It doesn’t matter if you’re assassins or hapless wanderers your blood will taste the same.”
Lorelei tried to keep her voice even, “I’m an Apprentice of the Greater Eastern Council, if you harm me...”
“Our leader was once a Dean of your council.” Olwin said, “And they have a saying there. One less Apprentice...”
“...is one less Apprentice.” Lorelei said with groan.
“Enough talking,” Elizabeth was a blur, knocking Lorelei back and straddling her in the space of a heartbeat.
“Bite her!” Olwin's eyebrows quivered with excitement, “Do it now!”
“If you say so.” Lorelei leaned forward and sank her teeth into the face leering over her; cold, rancid blood flooded into her mouth. The urge to retch was almost too much for her but Lorelei held it in check.
Olwin leapt to attack as Elizabeth reeled back in shock. Olwin's hands found Lorelei's throat but the magic was ready as she spit the contents of her mouth into his face- and blood became fire.
After that the hardest part of her escape was making her way through the cloud of greasy smoke to the trailer door. It was still dark outside and the moon was low in the horizon. This trailer was one of six that were arranged around a sickly looking central courtyard. Zeth was going from door to door calling for Magwier.
Lorelei's mouth tasted like blood and shit, she felt dizzy and she was bruised in a dozen places. And now it looked like she was going to have to rescue Magwer- again.
All things considered it still beat a spending another night in the dorm.
On the plains of a desert wasteland, a man known only as X is on the verge of death. Among a pile of dead bodies he awakens, with no memories of his past and hunted by an unknown enemy, he struggles to uncover the truth behind his identity; this is the beginning of his journey. Each episode uncovers some truth about who he is and sheds light on the strange world he finds himself in.
This collection of 13 stories transports you to a world where both dreams and monsters lurk in the shadows, where love and forgotten rituals fight for control of the human heart, and where the madness of eternity can be glimpsed in a single segmented eye. This anthology collects some of the best stories from Al Bruno III's website and includes the novellas 'Chad's Oracles', 'Fully Vested' and 'The Mask Collector', available for the first time anywhere.
To all outward appearances John Sig is just an old man living a quietly in an empty old house. His one pleasure is when he heads down to the local diner and visits with his favorite waitress Angie. When Angie disappears, John sets out to find her. For an ordinary old man that might seem like a foolish idea but John Sig isn't human, he's a monster living in the shadow of a nightmare thirty -five years old.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Apparently the sign wasn’t nearly big enough;
At 4 o’clock on the dot Mr. Streicher locked the doors to the main entrance and began overseeing the shutting down of a store that was ordinarily open 24 hours a day. Each cash register was running and there were four other bagboys aside from me. The store was like a well oiled machine and we were all confident we would be out of there by 4:30, 4:45 at the latest.
I was the first to notice customers streaming in through the exit. They got their carts and started shopping at a leisurely pace.
“Bruno!” Mr. Streicher called, “Go stand in the doorway and tell people we’re closed.”
The question whether our customers would take the word of a doughy teenager when they were ignoring a fancy laminated sign from the corporate office never occurred to me. It should have, it really should have.
I took my place at the exit ready to turn any new shoppers away. Unfortunately I was standing too close to the door and the first eager customer knocked me reeling. By the time by vision had cleared three other customers had gotten in behind her. I think Mr. Streicher was howling my name in outrage but it might have been the voices of my long dead relatives cursing that the noble Bruno bloodline, once the spawning ground of uncountable three-nippled strippers, politicians and circus midgets, could have come to this.
Groggily I resumed my place a safe distance from the exit and got back to my duties.
“Hey,” one of the customers said. “Your front door is broken or something.”
I was more than glad to explain, “Allow me to explain, Nice Shopper closes at 4 PM on Thanksgiving.”
“What?” the customer’s expression began to darken, “The sign says you’re open 24 hours a day!”
“Yes but the sign below that says we close so we can enjoy the holiday too.”
She pointed her finger at me, “You suck! You fucking suck.”
I was too stunned that my first grade teacher hadn’t recognized me to really take offense. The next customer was already trying to get in.
“I’m sorry sir,” I tried again, “but Nice Shopper closed for the Thanksgiving Holiday at 4 o’clock.”
He tried to push past me, “It isn’t 4 o’clock.”
I pointed to the clock, “Yes it is sir, it’s actually 4:12 now.”
“Not by my watch.”
“I don’t know what I can say about that, it is 4:12. Actually now it’s 4:13.”
The customer responded by waving his wrist in front of my face, “I don’t care what that damn clock says. This is a two hundred dollar watch!”
“It says Casio.”
He took a moment to tell me, “You suck! You friggin’ suck!” before he stormed off.
The next customer moved in to take his place, “I need cranberry sauce!”
“I…” I paused to blink back tears. “I’m sorry but Nice Shopper is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.”
“You’re gonna let me in that store you little pissant or I’ll spit on you...”
“…but this is a time of love and togetherness…”
After that no amount of tryptophan could rescue me from the nightmares that followed especially since my family preferred to serve prime rib for Thanksgiving...
“Who?” Jack was getting undressed for bed as well, stripping down to his boxer shorts and leaving the clothes on the floor. His body was taut and muscular, especially his legs, “You mean Magwier? Who knows what the Hell he’s talking about most of the time.”
“No. Not him.” She unsnapped her bra letting her heavy breasts fall free, “I mean Galen.”
“Galen?” Jack stared at her nudity with a boyish grin, “He’s harmless.”
When he came towards her she pushed him back and sat down on the bed to take off her pantyhose, “Oh no. His girlfriend and her brother, they’re harmless, and a little hopeless, but not Galen. That man is selfish to a fault. I know the type.”
“Do you now?” his boxers fell to the floor.
They were in Jack’s room- the Castellan’s room; the largest room Laurel House had to offer; a tall, windowless room, so large that it had its own library and its own fireplace. It had a big bed too, Roxanne liked that most of all. She had spent ever night of the last few years sharing it with him but she still insisted on keeping a place of her own in the guest wing. She felt it was a sign of her independence and it was a good place to store shoes.
There were times when Roxanne wondered about her own selfishness, if her relationship with Jack Waterford would have gone on like this if he was still living just off the Sepulcher. Her pantyhose were down to her ankles. She paused to watch him puttering around, trying to light a fire even though the room was warm enough.
“Come and help me.” She said. The box of matches clattered to the floor. Jack knelt before her slipping the soft fabric down over her feet and kissing each toe as it was revealed. She rolled her eyes, “I am trying to have a conversation with you.”
“About Galen.” She yanked her ankle from his grip and shifted around so she was lying on her belly, “Concentrate.”
“If you had wanted me to concentrate you would have kept your clothes on.”
“He’s trouble Jack, you know what he did.” She said.
Finally serious he sat down beside her, “I don’t think we have the right to judge besides if he wasn’t meant to find this place he wouldn’t have.”
Ever the fidgeter she raised herself to her knees and leaned on him, “How do we know it was him? All three of them showed up here at once and you don’t have to be an oracle to see that Warren is on the verge of a transformation.”
“Transformations aren’t a bad thing.”
“Not always good though.” Roxanne started to kiss his shoulder, “Don’t you ever worry? There are no promises here, not for any of us.”
“People live on fault lines and at the bases of volcanoes all over the world. They just live their days one day to the next.” He moved suddenly grabbing her wrists and pushing her back, “Now to pay you back for earlier.”
Roxanne’s girlish squeal was just loud enough to drown out the sound of windchimes as it drifted through the room.