Unto The Night

Unto The Night
Amazon.com/ron koppelberger

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Horror Express,Surreal Dreams,Surreal Dreams Two all available at Amazon.com/Ron Koppelberger

A Stray Strawberry

Ron Koppelberger
A Stray Strawberry
An antique possession, hunters delighting in the welcomed myth of unrestrained temptations. A bartered bewilderment in dovetail yesterdays and sated thirsty dawns, in the reflection of a polished metal trigger. They rumbled and grumbled in belching declarations of fraternity and in vision of unfurled freedom. They had placed the net in the center of the beasts run. Clandestined, entwined with a rush of wild strawberries and briar scrub the trap availed the promise of a grand trophy.
Glistening marshland bog wavered in waves of mist and ethereal smoke around them. Khaki shorn boot laced encampments of scandal and bloodlust followed the tides the hunters swam in. They hid unshackled and in clever contempt for the beast and it’s wild domain. They embraced the crush of primitive power and hoarded anger, anger that drove them to make an example of the hunt. “An arrow in the heart of the beast!” one of them whispered. Devised by measures of desolate glee they waited in blind hatred for their prey. “Absconder!” another one whispered. “Strength!” one of them muttered.
In sure order the beast obliged the hunt and an age of seconds and still hours halted as the beast tore the first one’s head off with razor sharp claws and gnashing teeth. “Strength!” he had muttered. The second one screamed and flailed as the beast eviscerated him in a flash of knifelike fangs. “Absconder!” he had whispered. The third one stood his ground shaking and waving a sharp blade. The beast contemplated this moment and disappeared after gulping up a few stray strawberries. The third had whispered the word, “Harmony.” in rebuke and fear, the arrow forgotten and the beast placated.

The Builder's Prayer

Ron Koppelberger
The Builders Prayer
He anchored the steel beam into the sacred stone face of the mountain. Faded, worn and bothered by desert sand, washed smooth by warm rains, the giant stone face howled in defiant regard unto the distant twilight horizon. A wolf preserved by the ancient hands of time, the desert said selfish, reclaiming the stone bit by bit.
The builder applauded his ingenuity and determination, his wont for the soul of a dream, to touch the great spirit and take passion with steel girders, pulleys and the rough hewn hands of fate, a set of carved granite steps to heaven and beyond, to the precipice of the wolfs head, by the way of constructed peeks and divine assurance. The first rays of morning sunshine would meet the crisscross construction of steel and stone steps, cut by hammers and chisels, by the force of a mans will to achieve the secret of gods and old castes. In prayer to the purveyor, the builder, the perfect pulpit to the giant wolf, he saw the shadow of the spirit, all and all through dusty sore eyes and bleeding chapped hands.
The builder climbed to the summit, surveying his work and the vast desert plains. He sat near the top between keen stone ears and unseen by giant eyes of wind blown granite. The leather bag fit neatly into the palm of his weather worn hand, the leather softer less worn than his palm, sculpted and tested by sand and stone. The builder pulled the small soapstone holder from the bag and laid it to his right against the sand worn surface of the wolfs head. He took out a tiny cone of incense, lighting it and placing its smoldering candence into the holder. The builder prayed and closing his eyes he found the wont of ancient spirits. The incense drifted in lazy tendrils of mist against the hot air, he exhaled and whispered in smoke, dust and warm acquiescent breaths; the builder whispered his exclamation, his eyes alight by the setting sun,
“All for the soul of a dream, the spirit of holy
Enclaves and sacred wilds, a stride to evanescent
Means , ethereal union between then and now,
Here and after, today and tomorrows promise, a
Moment in time told by the agreement between
Man and stone, spirits in passions untold by the
Builder of man.”
He slept near the edge of an indigo sky, the ashes of the incense still, cold and used. When he awoke the narrow bridge between what is and what will be had been crossed. The builder wore the wolf, by eyes of bidden knowledge, by gray fury coats laden with the fresh breath of a dawning existence and paw pad passage. He howled to the skies and made his way toward the desert rose and the promise of commune between desert and new borne desert dwellers.

Little Tyke

Ron Koppelberger
Little Tyke
“How’s my little tyke?” the tall farmer said to the tiny clown staring up at him. “Kiss my butt!” the clown replied with a sneer and a quick wave of his hands. “I can see that this little devil needs some learnin Margie.” the farmer said to his lanky wife. The tiny clown coughed and lit a cigar, puffing on the fat brown smoke he said, “ What comes with tall water farmer Zeek?”
“Well little man I’m sure I don’t know, what comes with tall water?” the farmer replied.
“Boogers and crap, that’s what farmer Zeek!” he yelled up at his questioning face. The small clown stepped closer and stomped on the farmers foot. The blue-jeaned man stood back and whooped as pain shot through his leg and up into his stomach. “Ye eeeeeeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhaaaaaaa!” he hollered. The clown laughed and pinched Margret on the rump.
“Yer a sweet lookin thang lady!” he said as he exhaled a cloud of smoke. Margeret grabbed her howling husband by the hand and stormed off toward the main tent. The clown chuckled and looked at the bottom of his tiny shoes. There were razor barbs runing the length of his tiny black loafers and a spring loaded nail near the tips of both shoes. “That’ll teach those no good sons a guns!” The tiny clown guffawed again and scratched his head, maybe he had been a litle bit rash with the bean poles he thought. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a pocket mirror and smoothed back his colored hair. A cherubic face stared back at him, stripes of grease paint ran beneath his eyes similar to a football player and his lips were bright red. “Perfect for the show.” he whispered to the mirror.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Genuis Tiger

Ron Koppelberger
The Genius Tiger
In evolutionary terms the tiger was an anomaly, a genius. He shared a motley adornment of orange fire and coal black striped fur with the other tigers, Fanged, carnivorous yet sly in an apostate leadership of higher function. The tigers abode, his sanctuary was a cozy rock cave hidden by saplings and bramble scrub.
Food, he thought one day, I need food. He had seen and bypassed a myriad of pits designed to capture the large beasts of the jungle. On the sly he had seen his brothers and sisters captured and killed by the coalition of man. Thinking of food and the dark skinned men he layed a trap.
Using his front paws he dug a three foot shallow and filled it with loose twigs and logs. It was designed to ensnare a mans ankle long enough for him to pounce in confident attack.
The man came a week later, seven nights the tiger thought purring gently in expectation. In graceful thanksgiving his stomach grumbled with half-caste expressive anticipation. The precious quarry stumbled and fell face first into the makeshift trap. The tiger growled and leapt killing the man with a single bite. He was quick and effective treading the tether of life and death expertly.
The tiger slept with sated satisfaction, safely confined in the sanctity of his hidden shelter. He thought, I’ll never be hungry again as he devised another trap in blissful ecstasies of revolving evolution.


Ron Koppelberger
The poise of chance and suspicions of blood, he was pale and in cunning contention for the cardboard house. The cosmopolitan delta of priceless abodes lined the alley with desperate conviction. Niches of cardboard and makeshift tents constructed from discarded conveniences defined the resolute pledge to survive.
He had sojourned from cultivated boulevards to the remnant purchase of a cardboard shelter. Cleveland Vern grinned at the vagabond haven. The box read,
“Sugar Mill Appliances, South Hammock Blvd..”
Cleveland had an indulgent fantasy extracted by the cause of time and fate. He had once owned Sugar Mill Appliances and the confusion of bounty that came with it. This was his inheritance, his legacy, a cardboard box. The stubborn rebel in him dreamed of burning the appliance warehouse to the ground and killing the bankers reproach with a fat insurance check. Foregoing reason, Cleveland gave the man in the box his tie clip, fourteen carrot gold. The box was his. The man gave a pointed sputtering thanks as he coughed a thick flemy cough and moved out of the box, The fortune of a relevant provocation, the tides of truth and time.
Cleveland sat on the smooth surface of the appliance box floor; he stared at the gray granite and cement walls of the building across the alley. He had rank now, status in the cardboard town. He would rise to the challenge. He shifted in his makeshift home.
His face contorted in anger as the first trickle of rain leaked through the roof of the box. The others had plastic sheets covering their houses. He shifted in his three piece suit wondering what he would have to trade for a piece of plastic.


Ron Koppelberger
The trio turned and seized the care of wellsprings in shadow and inheritance. The summons to dreams and amber convocations in wolf lore and silhouette. An ebb flow galaxy of ministry, they sang and searched the deserts of promise for lands and savannahs of sunshine advantage.
They howled and the fur bristled on their backs as they drew closer to the fray, the edge between desert and palm scrub, palm scrub and vistas of eternal saffron, chaste in rampages of summons they followed the shimmer of carnivals in cause and the footfalls of man and wolf, angel and demon. They wagged their tails , fortune, flow and sway, in the4 forbearance of shadowy dreams and portents that entitle the earth and absolute elegance of passion and romantic relevance, the scandal in scruff, the champion in respected dream transit, unto thine own the trio true to the fray, to quell the riot, to deter the blood of innocence in bosoms of safeguard and reward.
The wolves moved in shoulder to shoulder, hours of fate and means, “YEEEEEEOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW.” in wise vouchers of maw, they howled as the sun shone against the dark cloak of satiny fur that defined them as shadows and saints.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Possum Desperation

Ron Koppelberger
Possum Desperation
Trace Merchant had driven the same eighty mile track for the last three years, from Hammock Orange to Orlando and back. The route wasn’t simple, nevertheless Trace found it to be the most expedient way to point B. He had to travel the back road passage between blossom preserve and East Orlando, fifty of the eighty miles through tangles of ancient oak, mossy swamp lands full of alligators and snakes; through the mystery of ancient drama, through vistas uninhabited and he had chanced to wonder what would happen if he broke down somewhere in the midst of the morass? It was a passing thought, not really meriting further consideration, besides this was the shortest route between the Hammock and Orlando.
The Impala was black with fat silver trim and she ran like a top. Trace was nearly twenty miles into the lush jungle terrain, nearly half way there he thought as the speedometer pushed eighty around one of the meandering curves.
The possum scraped at the loose soil with it’s front paws, looking for beetles and grubs, she was hungry. She lifted her head for a second at the sound of the approaching car; in that moment she decided to cross the concrete path.
The car sped closer and the possum scrabbled into the road near the yellow painted divider. She watched as the car, a huge black silhouette roared around a blind curve. She remained still in fear, it won’t see me she thought crouching down in the center of the road.
For Trace the moment hung suspended in a flash. He saw the crouching possum and jerked the wheel hard to the left. The car leaned on two wheels and flipped over into the rushing shadow of palm scrub and cattail filled ditch. The car careened off the soft mossy embankment and into a pine tree; there it came to rest on it’s side wheels turning and motor revving for purchase.
Trace groaned and reached for the key, turning it he cut the engine. For a moment of hypnotic divorce, divorce from the reality of the moment, in a breath of seconds he saw himself lying against the drivers side door. There was a deep gash on his right hand, the patter of dripping blood filled the silence. He tried to move and a sharp grinding pain blossomed in his left leg. Was it broken? He wasn’t sure but it hurt like hell.
Trace inhaled deeply and unbuckled the seatbelt. At least he had worn the belt, it had probably saved him from flying through the windshield. He had to work at it and the pain in his leg was nearly overwhelming, but he managed to move into a sitting position. Looking upward at the passenger door he realized he’d have to climb through the window. The glass was shattered and it lay in piles around his bottom.
The sky went from a shadowy azure and piercing yellow to a burnt orange twilight as the hours passed silently. A flock of seagulls flew east toward the distant ocean and Trace saw them through the shattered passenger glass; they were flying in a triangle heading toward warm seas and inland perch.
He maneuvered himself into a crouch, his leg hurt and he determined it wasn’t broken but sprained, nevertheless the pain was a terrific pulsing heartbeat in his hip and knee. Reaching upward he pulled himself into a standing position. His head poked through the passenger window. Orange twilight reflected in his tired eyes and the gentle whisper of a warm wind ruffled the bloody strands of hair against his forehead.
Trace pressed his good leg against the side of the drivers seat and began climbing through the window. After struggling for a few moments he found himself sitting atop the door, feet dangling down into the smashed Impala.
Trace sat there looking at the curve in the road, there were skid marks and a dirty slash in the embankment. He was lucky, no major injuries or at least he didn’t think so. He tapped out a cigarette from his breast pocket and lit it. The cool mentholated burn of the smoke filled his lungs as he leaned back and blew a cloud of smoke into the bloody twilight above.
The bleeding on his right hand had stopped, drying into a thick maroon scab. He wouldn’t bleed to death anyway. Swinging his injured leg over the side of the car he prepared to jump down to the mossy embankment. He had his good leg pointed down as he dropped down to the weedy ditch. A sharp stinging jolt traveled through his leg as he hobbled to the side of the road.
The shadows were a reflection of it’s eyes, it’s demeanor of ancient embrace, it’s silhouette in awe of the hammock, it’s eternal end and it’s place of secret, in wrath by degrees of hunt. Up until now it had been sated with small deer, and last week a coyote, separated from it’s companion travelers. It had been tough, stringy and unsatisfying. This was the promise, it’s time of imprisonment would come to an end. The promise, it’s destiny to purvey the wants of a greater ascension, he would have the man, for his promise for the future of his need, in blood, in triumph in the dark caress that would bring the others from the ethereal prison that bound them to the dreadful primitive substance of exile and isolation; the man would be his and the promise would come on the heals of dark stars and bleeding passions of flame. It waited and watched as the man stepped into the road. The two lane pass stretched into the distant swamp. Trace looked both ways’ left then right. He realized the odds of another car courting the back ally trail was unlikely. There were patches of grass and cracked unused pavement for another thirty or so miles. He would head south. Remembering the route he knew there was a service station near the end of the secondary passage. Thirty miles on a bad leg he thought. He began limping toward the frayed indigo line of darkness opposite the bloated orange sun.
The possum sat still, silent watching the man, smelling blood, his blood and something else, something dark waiting for the man or maybe the small scrabbling purchase it held on life. It was old and grown black with the despair of a hundred monsters; it had an eye for the hunt. The possum crept along the shaded wood following the man south. The possum would leave the security of it’s home, a hollow stump in the forest edge for the pilgrimage south. The possum followed the man and the glimmer of nightmares in desire, in wont of unbidden passion, of dreams in unleashed fury and freedom. A freedom of dark secret ambition in the abodes of man, in stealth and eternal hunt, it would peruse; it knew the others would come. The shadows and bent angles of egress birthing freedom from the captive alliance of the swamp. All in all the beast thought about it’s pain and how to slake it’s thirst with the blood of the man.
Trace watched the sky go from a sapphire glow to pinpoints of starlight and a crescent moon giving only a small sliver of pale light. He was wearing whit tennis shoes and he quietly thanked god for Fridays; Friday was casual dress day at the office. He was wearing a gray t-shirt, blue jeans and the white tennis shoes. On any other day he would have been wearing patent leather loafers, black thin soled bad for walking long distances, and a three piece suit.
He worked at mortgage Estates Inc., he was an estate distributor and an agent for the dearly departed. The long track to work had been worth it, his first year he had grossed Three hundred and fifty thousand and now he was earning over a million a year. The god’s had been very good to Trace Merchant.
Trace thought about the Dryer account as he limped forward. He had fudged the receipts, Eleanor Dryer had left Four million in bearer bonds behind. Trace had access to the safety deposit box they were carefully stored in. A key, a secret key to greener vistas; he had taken the bonds never mentioning them to his partners or Eleanor’s family. Four Mill free and clear. He wasn’t really greedy nevertheless he had taken advantage of the opportunity. He knew he had worked the option to the max, the grand plot and the key to a diamond bonus.
His eyes wandered to the tall pines on either side of the road, whispers of guilt, He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Hard crusted blood scratched his dry lips.
Trace hobbled along in the darkness for an hour or so. The enchanting trail marked by moss laden trees and scrabbling sounds that emanated by the woods set him on edge a cautious trepidation in a strange dream. He looked into the shadows ahead and the narrow line of concrete stretched forward to an eternity of crickets and croaking toads. He worried about snakes, alligators from the swampy prayers of ethereal smoke and hanging hammocks. Pausing, he moved to the side of the road, he would need a crutch to walk with, something to balance his aching hip and sprained knee. The ditch line was half full of swampy green water and cattails in bloom.
He moved to the edge of the water line and tried to jump to the opposite bank. He’d find a tree branch to support his aching sprain. His good leg propelled him about half way across the ditch as he landed knee deep in water and weed. Pin wheeling he fell backward to the edge of the ditch. His eyes squinted reflexively at the cool rush of water that soaked his legs and back. “Dammit!” he gasped. He pulled himself across the channel and into the grassy overgrowth. Laying there, soaked warmth from his body gluing his shirt to his back, he listened to the cascade of chirping insects and something a heavy crashing sound.
He thought of the black bears that were native to the area, huge paws and sharp crushing teeth. He was silent, controlling his exhalations as he lay in the secret of a drama told in sashes of evening tide dreams, maybe it’s a nightmare he thought as he pictured the bear and it’s hungry maw, the wild passage and the nighttime mists were surreal almost like a cloak of otherworldly illusion, maybe a dream he thought as well.
He watched from a distance in the pine and gnarled oaken root. The man was moving slow, it would have plenty of time to take him, to make his substance his own in chance and fated fathers of darkness, darkness from distant vistas in the sky and the endless cycle of travelers in wont. It would wait for the right moment, the second the stars told their song of shadow and embracing desire for freedoms unbound, by the fetters of ancient prisons and the shaped lines of rebuke. It would wait.
The possum crouched still near the man away from the hunter, away from the odor of decay and swamp gas silhouettes. She was in rare wonder of his journey, seeking the destiny of possums and man in instinct. She dug into the soft soil finding a mole cricket, she swallowed it in one gulp satisfying her hunger.
Trace looked at the wan paper machet sliver of light the moon gave. He lay there damp, chilled in a humid brackish adornment. Gathering his will he climbed the weedy embankment to the line of trees. After searching for a few moments he found a branch. “Perfect.” he said aloud. The branch would act as a crutch.
Trace followed the tree line opposite the ditch until he came to a yielding stretch, a pine tree declared the promise of the opposite bank as it weighed cradles of fallen leaves, pine needles in thick morass against the small stream. Trace used the fallen pine and it’s sprawl to cross the murky ditch.
Calm, casually compliant he sat down on the warm pavement of the two lane passage. He wondered, overtures of greed he thought in quiet devotions of conscious guilt. “What the hell is it to you? It’s only four friggen million.” he said to the rolling clouds overhead, to the darker enticement of night skies and wild swamp. Prickling heat coursed through his sprained leg as he changed position on the concrete. Reflex, it had been reflex and utility; he had proclaimed the shores of bearer bond worship at alters green, four million green, and here he sat soggy, wounded and crowned king shit by the way of a friggen possum, a shade of punishment made for a wayward bastard.
Trace rubbed his eyes and listened to the crashing sound moving closer from within the forest, closer to the edge of the ditch. It sounded heavy, maybe hungry, hunting for food, maybe an alligator or a bear, A panther on the yeowl.
It moved slowly through the Lilly pads and brackish muck, belonging to the cognate flow of shadow and dark substance, closer to the man. It paused as it listened to the mans breath, warm distantly beseeching the call of towers in stone, the rustle of human existence. It moved closer, arguing force purpose and bond, the bond of pursuer and prey, for the will of the silhouettes waiting by patient shores, by the sufferance of prisons in rhythm with the ebony night horizons of elder pass, of ancient captive waiting; it moved closer in anticipation of a new way, the way of men, bent unto the wont it was destined to fulfill.
It watched, closer now, near the edge of the ditch, hidden in secret by the fronds and cattail evanescence of its terrain, holding its exhalations it’s green moss laden back rippling in power, the power of ageless embrace. It opened its mouth prefacing it’s need for the mans blood; lichens and black soil fell from its awakening maw closer, closer to the second it would find liberation from the realms of damp earth to stony trespass along the child of humanity and its perseverance.
The man shimmered in auras of unseen remedy, first red then pale blue. Its eyes perceived those moments and the thirst it felt was staggering. It hummed in a low growl and the man moved to a standing position, seeing him, in fear, in horror of its presence, its terrible visage.
Trace heard the crashing in the palm metto scrub and cattails move closer. Thoughts of wild wolves, bears and panthers on the hunt filled his mind and tempered his nerves to the point of fear. He turned, catching a glimpse of something in the shadow, huge, dark and growling in hungry instinct. Trace stood ready to run, bad leg to hell he thought. He watched the cattails separate and listened to the heavy rhythm of giant unbidden footfalls, animal, wicked smashing closer across the bank into view. The sliver of moon glow shone in vivid appeal to the terror of a thousand demons, a backwoods visage of hell lured by the smell of freedom and blood, nightmares wrought to heights of fiendish revolt, monsters by nameless horrible beyond, careening insanity and the core of secret existence.
The creature exuded the cloying odor of swamp decay, moss moldy bread and molasses sweetness. It stood nearly two feet taller than traces six feet, and it was in a crouch hunched forward as it moved toward him yellow eyed and rippling in damp soils of ancient mystery. It screamed and the sound disturbed the sleeping thrush as they sang and flew upward in unison, sensing the beast and its desire.
Trace watched as sharp edged talons, spears of deadly grasp…..long he thought they looked like yellow ivory knives on it muscled hands. Its teeth ground together in a loud sandpapery dance back and forth, they were dirty moss covered in need in yearning wont for him.
Trace held his crutch like a spear in front warding off the dark countenance of the aged aberration. In a moment of insane revelation he saw the stack of bearer bonds in bloom, blowing in the wind, crisp and brittle like fallen leaves, an autumn death and the beast devouring him, his blood spraying across the stack of bearer bonds.
The possum moved in an uncomplicated arc behind and around the beast, dashing to the front, near its enormous mud laden feet. Traces leg gave in that moment and a symphony of coincidence occurred. The beast stumbled a second later, tripping over the scrambling possum. Trace held his crutch like a sword as he lay on the warm gritty concrete. The creature tottered for an instant screaming and flailing clumsily then fell forward onto Trace, impaled by the crutch. Its shadow covered Trace in an assembly of moss and swamp silt. Trace expelled a mouthful of dirt and clawed at the moldering pile of moss that covered him in heaps and soggy piles. In an infantile effort he rolled out of the damp pile of decaying leaves, pine needles, moss and swamp mud.
Gathering his will he overcame the storm, the tempest swollen by the reverie and worship of demons and legends in darkness. Once again he saw the lie, the sin in his tempered world of finance and quick cash. He discovered his spirit in that moment of contemplation. “Monsters and men.” he whispered as he hobbled away from the remains of the demon and the approach of sin. He realized he didn’t really need the cash, the experience heeded the birth of innocence, the basic awakening of what was possible in a world wrought with the weight of blind horizons and beggars in play.

The Bleeding Edge

Ron Koppelberger
The Bleeding Edge
Stifling, the sweat poured in slow trickling waves from Pray Blinds furrowed brow. He looked up and down the corridor from the entranceway to the vault. There were sentries on either side of the safe, floor to ceiling, secure with thick steel walls, the safe was a prelude to the baron beige carpeted hall.
Escaping from the written desire of a petty thief, by warrants and county jails, by stolen pencils and free meals at the Salvation Army and by the starved passions of a gambler in a losers palace, he saw the great vault shimmer in the down draft of the ceiling heater vent.
Pray had it all figured out, “A prayer for Pray.” he whispered out aloud. He’d crack the box, “YYYYYYYEEEEEEEHHHHHAAAAAWWWWW!” the top of the hill, the star at the top of the tree and the brass ring, only thing was his ring was gold, 21 carrot and as smooth as glass.
Pray moved down the hall as the heavy tool bag weighed taunt in the muscles of his wrist. “ Gonna break that witch, gonna break that witch!” he sang as he approached the sentries laser beam. The card had a bar code and a brail embossed number on it. He had paid 300 dollars for the dupe at crazy Al’s.
“It’ll work like a clock, tick-tock and yer in!” Al had exclaimed as he handed him the duplicate pass. Pray had put the original back into the bank managers wallet without capture or keep, no one had been the wiser. He had gone back to his tellers booth smiling and humming a tune from Oklahoma.
Pray swiped the card in the tele-max sentry and the crimson colored laser beams disappeared.
A breath, the space of a scream, the moment of decisive capture and wonting delirium came to a precise perfect conclusion as the giant iron cage descended around Pray; the hall went dim and the recessed lighting went dark violet. Pray stood there in shock as a high pitched hum filled the air around him.
Submissively, Pray fell to the floor. The endurance of a wilting rose, the pale horse in full gallop against ebony shadows and moments of winter sleep, Pray simply gave up. He had wagered his dream against the wall, the impossible garner, the harvest in evanescent rhythms of fate. He lay there, just barely touching the cool polished metal bars with the tips of his fingers. He sighed in resignation and closed his eyes. Moments later he died and when he awoke he was in a steamy aura of candent light, the blessed light he thought. The enchantments of another world, a parallel existence, he stood and looked around the mist laden dew of a neon cloak, a brilliant shine in the glow of ethereal passion. Was he dead? He must be he thought. The wings of a greater forward, a beginning for a safe cracker in Eden he thought. “Damn……..yeah!” he said out loud. The sound of his voice echoed in hollow reverberations around him, filling his ears with a cool crisp slice of sound. Rebirth he thought, I’m reborn into the final stretch. Black Beauty is in the lead and Flicka is a close second he thought, the friggin horse in race to the gate. He was home free. Stepping forward, he bumped into the clear bars of the nearly invisible cell. Had he died? He was still in the cage.
There were squawks from the end of the hall, he watched as a fluttering flock of crows moved down the hall toward the cage, “caw, caw,” came the first few in neon silhouette, crimson black, tiny eyes tilted upward as the patter of wings thumped and pounded the air around the cage.
He moved to the center of the cage as a thick roiling mist cloaked the floor with it’s damp tendrils, snaking in from all four sides and dancing in puffs of cool ether and mystery. The light went from violet neon to a dull indigo haze permeating the fog in small sips, tincturing the tips of his fingers with the glowing luster of black light. The crows cawed in unison then went silent. The sound of their wings shifting in the dark shadows betraying their presence to the soul ensnared by the great steel bars of a prison in consuming endeavor; endeavoring the ozone and the breath of an eternal darkness, bought by a petty thief for the price of a spirit, for the wont of a blueprint to ever after, for the pale ghost in dark corners and the second after death.
Pray fell to his knees and closed his eyes in worship. The Smokey arms of a dew laden mist and a newly moss laden floor padded his knees and smoothed over the wrinkles in his fifty-three year old features. His heart pounded rhythmically in his ears and fluttered like a moth in his chest.
His prayer was simple, spoken by the lost, the desperate, the inhabitants of countless disasters and near death survivors. “Dear god if only….I’ll change…..I’ll follow the narrow road…….!” he promised as the outer door near the end of the hall thumped open, bouncing against the rubber stopper mounted on the wall behind it. It was a thickly viscous shadow, large red eyes breathing gouts of blue flame and charcoal soot.
From his end the light flickered dark then dull indigo, on and off, on and off. The air was heavy with a cloying perfume, the essence of a thousand dandelions in fresh green cut, sappy, leaking the pungent milky lifeblood of a child’s dream.
The figure at the end of the hall paused and a swirling eddy of haze descended from the ceiling flittering in the moaning gasps of a hundred tortured souls. The sound hummed and labored the breath of a nightmare, a whisper of sinful fright, a measure of fear, in muffled currents of confessed desperation and desolate terror.
Pray tilted his eyes to the ceiling and shivered; so this is what I’ve come to he thought. The gaping maw of a bloody secret, a scarlet beast in perfect desires of human stew, the salivating greed of a precious peril, the bleeding edge of oblivion.
He remembered in that moment, the remnants of a distant transaction, the day the dreadlock crow had nodded it’s head in his direction.
The day had been uneventful, he counted his cash, fifties, hundreds and neat sheathes of quarters, all in the unchanging exchange between customer and teller. It was the stuff of his undying wont, wont for money, and he had dreamed of, and of, and of the safe and it’s contents. In the midst of his reverie a man had walked through the double glass doors across the lobby. The velvet ropes separated the few customers in the bank from the line of teller booths. The man stood behind Nate Johns and Gretta Burg. He was dressed in a black trench coat, dark ebony eyed with a full head of dreadlocks tied by gray yarn and blood red elastic.
Nate and Gretta made their transactions and the dreadlocks ended up at Pray’s window. He slid a piece of notebook paper toward Pray and glanced upward toward the video cameras, past them and to the sky beyond the distant horizon, eyes rolling with clouds of roiling smoke, billowing from his mouth in waves and tenebrous spider silken snare. He sighed and the whites of his eyes filled with blood from top to bottom, sliding in slick eyed magic. He opened his mouth wider and rows of razor sharp teeth glistened and glimmered like the pointed maw of a Great White. The note said,
“Azalea in the Scream!”
He remembered, the other tellers had seen nothing as the man’s mouth echoed a curing, causing “Caw, caw!” a black mamba with feathered exclamations of fate. No one saw and in the end, in the space of a few seconds he turned and spun on his heels, dreadlocks spinning in a circus fan about his head, he turned and left leaving the piece of paper and a hazy veil of delirium. He had called Mary Simms over to his cage explaining to her that he was feeling ill. He went to the employee lounge with the piece of paper clutched in his sweating fist.
“Azalea in the scream!”
The beast in the hall, the approaching ends of a frayed bloody edge, the bloom of a race from birth to old age and to moments in the afterlife belched and wavered in steamy coils of mist before him. The memory of the dreadlock crow fell in sync with the beast, the dreadful conclusion of his life, his essence, his bond with existence.
He stiffened and slowly edged to the rear of the cage, unprepared, naive’ like an inexperienced toddler avoiding a scolding. Pray trailed his hands across his eyes wanting to rub away the vision of approaching hell, the great rambling demon in hunt. The beast pressed it’s face or what passed as a face, it was all misshapen and fleshy, against the clear bars opposite him. The bars separated with the tongue of a hissing black flame prefaced by screams and roars of rage.
Summoned by chance and the trifles of interlaced fortune, the decision to sin and the promise to fulfill the destiny of a sainted life, the promise to forgo the life of a petty thief for the wonts of the straight and narrow path, inspired Pray to fall to the moss covered floor. He cried as the beast opened it’s maw covering his mouth and pushing hot flame, fetid breath into his lungs.
Passing out in a dream, a nightmare descried by a nightmare, Pray dreamed within the dream. He saw the piece of notebook paper.
“Azalea in the scream!”
Tiny unfolding lines of light spread their warmth and daydream cloud across his features and he saw the Azaleas in bloom, the bursting blossoms done in violet, in alabaster crème and bright scarlet tears. The gentle rolling twilight in orange spears of flame touched his brow and illuminated the Azalea’s with somber light. The rare, bold bid for realms named safe, secure and in reveries of absolution, the stupor of a petty thief, the lyric answer to his prayers and screaming promise, in all he heard the scream the tenor of full born rage and screaming panic. The Azaleas wept blood as the veil disappeared from his eyes.
She was screaming and blowing air into his mouth, filling his lungs he gasped and coughed choking on the wheezy inhalation of breath. Susan Lance, his girlfriend, a fellow teller at the bank, shook him and cradled him in her arms as she called his name , “Pray, Pray!”
He remembered the trench coat crow again, all dreadlocks and fire eyed want. He had hit him, hard, with the dull side of a claw toothed hammer. He had fallen behind the counter unconscious, dead, dead to the world and in hell. Susan had saved him.
His head hurt as he remembered the promise, the moment of decision and forgiveness. He looked up into Susan’s eyes and smiled as best he could. Some things were worth waking up to he thought as he hugged her.
A Week Later
The alarm clock sang 6:00 A.M., he had to shake out the cobwebs and get going, his shift at the bank began in an hour. He glanced at the security card on the bedside table; it lay untouched next to his pain medication and a bottle of ibuprofen. Pray paused for a moment uncertain, wondering, wondering about Susan. What did she need from him, Jewelry, a house………and what, the good life? He pushed those thoughts aside for a moment and looked out the small apartment window. The rows of Azaleas wavered and swam in the cool autumn air. Turning away from the window he dressed, ran a comb through his thinning hair and put his red and white tie on. He picked his dad’s old tie clip and cufflinks. He looked good.
The bag of tools lay in a leather satchel next to the dresser. He listened to the silent tick of the clock for a moment as he grabbed the bank managers identification card and slipped it into his breast pocket.
Outside the wind howled and an earsplitting scream filled the air near the Azalea bushes. Pray looked out the window again fear swelling in his bosom. The sky was blood red and the demon stood howling in the midst of the Azalea bushes, in the midst of a petty thief’s fate.