Beyond the Divide: Part 8

Mark backed into the room and turned the door handle to draw in the latch as he closed the door. He eased himself around and faced the room. The light from the window was tinted pink by the curtains. It smelled stale and dusty. His mother said it was the guest bedroom now, but it didn’t look like it had changed much since Liz moved out.

Mark sat on the bed and ran a hand over the colourful comforter. He looked at the posters on the wall, and the dolls leaning up against each other on the bookshelf. He wondered if it was all over the news yet, and if in some way it might be true. That Liz was capable of murder and stealing almost three quarters of a million dollars. Mark shook his head. Of course not.

A lot of years had passed since Mark last saw the book, but he was confident that he would recognize it when he saw it. He always thought it was Liz’s journal, but it turned out to be more than that. She would take it everywhere. The binder held her stories, her plans for world domination, and the odd sketch. It was the kind with the flap that was held shut with a dot of velcro. It had a cartoon character on the cover, Mark couldn’t remember its name. The dead space had been filled with stickers and words scratched in blue pen.

Mark walked to the back corner of the room. He opened the folding closet door, stepped into the closet, and then half closed the door on himself. On the back of the door was a sheet of cardboard. It helped to deaden the metallic sound when the doors moved, but it also made a pretty decent hiding spot. He pulled the cardboard up and away from the door panel. Mark stared at the empty space. He dropped the cardboard on the floor of the closet and walked out into the room.

The binder wasn’t anywhere in sight. Not on the bookshelf or small desk. The dresser and nightstand were empty. He even checked under the bed, and between the mattress and the frame.

Mark ran a hand through his hair and pushed his glasses up his nose. He heard his name being called, and turned toward the door. “Damn it.” He closed the closet and slipped out of the room.

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 7

Liz crossed her arms and leaned back on the bench. “So how does that affect things, what energy people bring with them?”

“It’s like in life. At least, I think it is. It means the difference between moving on quickly, or staying in a place you aren’t meant to be. Being comfortable with what is to come, or not. Being someone who is open to being helped,” Evie shrugged, “or not.”

“What happens to the ones that get stuck here?”

“Nothing that can be considered good. It tends to wear people down, take them along dark pathways. The longer they stay around, the more likely you want to avoid them.”

“So, what? They all get cranky and haunt people?”

“Sometimes. It can also be much worse than that. They can change. The human parts get forgotten.”

“What does that say about you, then?”

Evie leaned in and smiled. “I’m not sure.”

“The others, what does it make them do?”

“They fight to gain power, they take pleasure in hurting people.”

“That doesn’t sound much different than normal life either.”

“Perhaps. People can be a funny bunch.”

“You can say that again.”

Evie looked up the road and her lip turned down on one side. “I’m sorry, I would have liked to spend more time with you tonight, but I have an errand to run.”

“Okay.”

Evie stood and clasped her hands behind her back. “It is best if you stay here tonight. You will be safe enough. Avoid the temptation to go back to the river. Staying where you first crossed over, at times, can make the situation more permanent than most prefer. Plus, it will be the first place to look should someone want to try and find you.”

“Why would someone want to find me?”

Evie looked at Liz and smiled. “Unfinished business, and all that.”

Liz looked away.

“You’ll be fine.” Evie narrowed her eyes and looked back across the park. “Don’t interact with the locals though, just to be safe. Especially Charlie. He’s harmless, but you won’t be able to get rid of him if you’re too friendly.”

Liz rubbed a thumb over her closed fist. “Okay.”

“I’ll be back soon.”

Liz watched Evie skip up the sidewalk. She disappeared when she passed through the glow of a distant street light.

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 6

“Hi, Mom.”

“Mark, is it really you?”

“It is. Listen, Mom…”

“Mark, the police called. They said that…”

“Mom. I know. I… they called me too.”

“They said other things. That she took money from her boss. That she… they said…”

“Mom, it’s okay. It will be okay.”

“My baby. My baby is gone.”

“I know, Mom.”

“Why…” Mark’s mother broke down. She sobbed and fought for words. Mark felt cold. None of it seemed real. Even if it was, he didn’t think he was in a place to know the difference.

“Mom, listen. Maybe I should come over. It would, I don’t know, be good to talk.”

“Oh, Mark. I’m so sorry about everything. I can’t believe this could happen. She was so young. We’re all so young.”

“Mom, why don’t I come over? Would that be alright?”

“Of course, of course. I have to call Grandma. Oh, she’s going to be heartbroken. My baby…”

“Mom, I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”

“What are we going to do, Mark?”

“We can talk in the morning. We’ll figure it out.”

Mark’s mother started to cry. “Okay.”

“Alright, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Mark? I love you.”

“Bye, Mom.”

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 5

Liz and Evie walked along broken pavement, in and out of the yellow glow of the streetlights.

“Who’s him, by the way?”

“My brother.”

“Oh.” Evie nodded. “It must have been important, what you needed to tell him.”

“Yes, it was.”

Evie watched Liz with expectant eyes.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Liz said.

Evie frowned and turned forward. “Your choice, I suppose.”

They came around a corner onto a concrete sidewalk. A small car pulled out of the intersection ahead of them and turned the other way. They crossed the street and walked along a line of dark windows. A man stumbled out of the shadows in front of them. His hair was greasy and uncombed, and his face unshaven. His clothes were dingy and worn through in spots.

Liz froze as he approached. Evie stepped aside and watched Liz’s face. The man dragged his feet and his arms were loose at his side. He moved right toward Liz, but at the last second drifted around and past her. Liz looked back at the man as he wandered away.

“Could he see us?”

“No. Most can’t, unless you want them to.”

“So was it by chance that he didn’t run into me?”

“Again, no. While they may not be able to see with their eyes, there are other senses that come in to play.”

“Oh.”

Evie smiled and held out a hand. “Shall we?”

Liz looked along the sidewalk. “Sure.”

Three blocks later, Evie took them up a side street and stopped at a narrow greenspace. Along the road there was a metal bench surrounded by flowering bushes. Near the back were more benches and an old, rusty merry-go-round. Liz sat on the bench facing the road. Evie sat on the opposite end with her back straight and her hands on her lap. They watched cars and the odd pedestrian go by.

“Why do you run around looking like a little girl if you’re not?”

Evie shrugged. “Why do people go around looking like bankers or prostitutes? It is a way for me to get what I want. There’s not much more to it than that.”

Liz nodded. “You’re not wrong, I guess.” She brushed her hand down her leg to her knee. The sensation was as muted as her colour. “What is your story anyway?”

Evie pondered for a moment. “I’ve told a lot of stories. So many for so long that I’ve forgotten what is true. I was a princess, sent to the Americas to hide my father’s shame. I was a slave, murdered for looking at a white man’s wife. I was the young bride of a man who cut off my head with an axe. He buried it in the coat of a Confederate soldier, and then fed my body to the pigs. It changes depending on the situation.” Evie looked to Liz. “I don’t normally share so much. Maybe I’ve been around too long. Maybe I have a soft spot for those that have been done wrong.”

“You can tell that?”

Evie nodded. “It’s your energy. It would be different if the reason you died was natural, or if it was by your own hand. Your light burns stronger, brighter.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

Evie smiled and shrugged. “I guess you will.”

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 4

Mark sat at the kitchen table, leaning forward with his head in his hands. His glasses were upside down on the tabletop beside a note pad and pen. His phone was sitting on its face across from him. He let out a long breath and then ran his hands through his stiff, brown hair. His eyes were red and damp. His body was shaking. He couldn’t make it stop.

He looked up to the room. The curtains in the living room were drawn tight. Every door, except for the entrance, was open. Every light in the apartment was on.

The conversation kept playing in his mind. Over and over, again and again. He questioned what had been said. He questioned what he had seen even more so. The interaction started to morph, to change shape. He wasn’t sure what was real, what had happened, and what he had created.

Mark stared at his hand written note. He wasn’t sure where to start, or if he should start at all. How did you bring up in conversation that your older sister was dead, when he wasn’t sure if anyone else knew?

He reached across the table for his phone. He hesitated, but then snatched it up and stared at the lit screen. He didn’t see anything at all out of the ordinary, It was just his phone. He let out a breath and pressed down on the button. He typed in his password, and then searched through the contacts for his mother’s phone number.

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 3

Liz turned her head when she realized that she was not alone. Shapes moved around her, hazy and inconsistent. She heard noises, like a pack of predators hunting in the night. Someone screamed incoherent warnings off in the dark.

Liz stood and started walking, slow at first. By the time she passed the chain link fence she was at speed. Soon she was standing in the soft glow of the exterior lights of the nearest building. She looked left, and right. She moved to the nearest corner and leaned out to see along the side.

The space between the buildings formed a natural alleyway. It was lit, but vacant as far as Liz could see. She saw man-doors along the length, but they were barred or had stacks of blue pallets in front of them. About twenty paces in there was a tall wooden fence. In front of it was a beat-up green dumpster.

Liz checked behind her, worried that something or someone had followed her. She didn’t see anything so slipped up the alleyway, and then sank back into the corner behind the dumpster. She crouched down and wrapped her arms around herself. She was tired, but it felt different. It wasn’t a physical sensation; it was more like losing the ability to keep her consciousness in one piece. Liz lowered her head and closed her eyes. She wanted to cry, but there were no tears. She wanted to scream, but there was no breath.

Liz looked up when she heard footsteps. They stopped and for a moment and she only heard the breeze and gentle moving water. Then came a small voice.

“Hello?”

Liz tightened her grip on herself.

“It’s okay, I know you’re there. I wanted to see if you’re alright.”

Liz frowned and looked at the ground, then she unwrapped herself and stood. She put a hand on the dumpster as she came out from the shadows and into the dim moonlight.

A girl was standing a few steps away with her hands clasped behind her back. Her head had a slight tilt and her lips formed the beginning of a smile.

“Hello, my name’s Evelyn and I’m six. You can call me Evie though.”

Liz looked the girl up and down. Her straight, dark hair was held in place with a plain ribbon over her head. A similar ribbon was fashioned as a belt around her grey dress. She wore off-white leggings and shiny black shoes. “Hi, Evie.”

Evie straightened her head and tucked her chin. “What’s your name?”

“It’s Liz. My name is Liz.”

Evie smiled. “Very nice to meet you, Liz.” She brought her hands forward, wrapped the fingers of her right hand around the thumb of her left, and let them hang in front of her. “I saw what you did back there, when you were talking to the living. Very clever.”

“You… you saw that?”

“Can you teach me how? I think it would be fun.”

Liz tucked a stray wisp of blonde hair behind her ear. “I don’t know how I did it. I just needed it to work. I needed to get his attention.”

Evie shrugged and looked away. “You have to find the way that works best for you, use what you understand.”

Liz squinted and nodded. She thought to herself, you’re not really six years old, are you?

Evie looked to Liz and gave a toothy grin. “No. Not really.”

Liz’s eyes went wide and her jaw slack.

“Oh, don’t be shocked,” Evie said. “This,” she motioned around her mouth, “is a formality. You’re new, I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable from word go.”

Liz held her arms straight by her side. She scratched at the right palm of her hand with her middle finger. “Okay. Thank you?”

Evie’s smile faltered and she shrugged again. “You’re welcome.” She turned to look up the alleyway. “Do you want to go for a walk? It’s a nice night for a walk.”

Liz looked back and forth, and then dropped her shoulders. “Yeah, sure.”

“Good.” Evie smiled and brushed her hands down the front of her dress. “It will give us a chance to talk.”

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 2

The door clicked shut and the room was pitch black. Mark fumbled with his free hand for the light switch. He squinted as his eyes adjusted to the crisp light from the fixture above his head. He turned the latch on the deadbolt and hooked the chain. He released the ring of keys from between his teeth to his open hand, and then tossed them onto the counter.

Mark was walking through the kitchen when he felt the buzzing in his pocket. He pulled his phone out. The display name was blank. He hesitated for a moment but pressed the green button and held the phone to his ear.

“Hello?”

“Mark.”

Mark stopped in front of the dining room table. The voice was quiet. It sounded like it was echoing down a long corridor. “Liz?”

“Mark, I…”

“Liz, where are you? I think we’ve got a bad connection.”

Mark set the grocery bags down on the table. A can of tuna dropped down and rolled off onto the floor and toward the living room. Mark watched as it arced and settled in front of the TV stand. His eyes raised to a figure standing in the shadows of the far corner.

Mark stared at the woman. Ice water ran through his body. The woman’s mouth was closed tight and her eyes pinched. Her hair was damp and hanging straight, her clothes sticking to her body. She looked like she was concentrating. There was hurt in her eyes.

Mark pulled the phone away from his ear. “Liz?”

The voice came through the phone, but the woman’s lips moved in time. “Mark, I didn’t do it. What they’re going to say about me.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Find my journal, Mark. It will lead you to the truth.”

The phone fell silent and Mark lowered his arm. The woman began to shake her head back and forth, slowly at first. Her mouth moved like she was trying to talk. Her face went flush, and her eyes inked over to black. She let out a scream like she was dying.

When Mark pulled his hands away from his ears and opened his eyes, she was gone. He looked around the room. The windows were closed, not that there was anywhere to go. He turned to the front door. The deadbolt was locked, and the chain still fastened.

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 1

Liz looked back over her shoulder to the river. The sensation of bitter cold and her breath being taken away were fresh in her mind. She held her arms out and looked down at her body. She was dry and in one piece.

The sky was dark. Stars were hidden by clouds and drowned out by the lights of the city. Liz looked up the narrow service road that led away from where she was standing. She saw a chain link fence and a gate with a cut lock. Beyond, were industrial buildings. Plain structured made of brick and corrugated steel, lined with loading docks, and massive roll up doors.

Liz could hear traffic somewhere off in the distance, but she seemed to be alone. She looked along the riverbank and up the road. She crossed and uncrossed her arms, then turned downstream.

An uprooted tree was an arm’s reach from the edge of the water. It looked like it had been black and twisted even before it had fallen. Liz sat on a low section. Her feet were spread wide and her knees tight together. She laid her hands flat on the top of her legs. Her skin was washed and grey. She raised one hand, turned her palm up, then down, and put it back on her leg.

Liz watched the ripples of the water as it flowed past. She knew that she had to do something but wasn’t sure what or how. The world felt different. That meant challenges, but it also meant there was new ways to get things done. Liz closed her eyes and focused her mind on the picture that she kept on her fireplace mantle.

It was a moment in time. A simpler time. If she closed her eyes, Liz could feel the sun on her face. She could smell the sweetness of sunscreen, and hear her little brother’s cackling laugh. That summer had meant a lot to her. It was the last they had spent together as a family.

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

99 Words #32 – Strawberries and Mint

I swipe the sliver of tomato across the grains of salt and pepper on the plate and then pop it in my mouth. I lift up the glass but there’s only a drop of sweet liquid left under the crushed strawberry and browning mint leaf. It’s not worth the sip so I set it back down.

I sit back and interlace my fingers over my satiated belly. The sun is deep orange as it prepares to say goodnight. Off in the distance birds are chittering and singing. I close my eyes and smile, grateful for one last perfect day.

 

***

Photo by Hassan Maayiz on Unsplash

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This was written in response to the May 30, 2019 flash fiction prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes strawberries and mint. You can learn more here – May 30, 20119 Flash Fiction Prompt