Smooth move

Day 11: Vegan
No Novel November 2020

“You want to come back to my place for a smoothie?”

A tingle of excitement shoots up my spine and a few other places. Ivan joined our night-running club last month, and although the other women stare as hard at him as I do, I’m the only one he’s stared back at.

I play it cool. “Just a quick one. Gotta get up early tomorrow—board meeting.”

He nods. “Same. We’re on a crunch to finish a company-wide analysis of—” He stops with a chuckle. “Sorry. That’s even boring to me.”

It’s a short walk to his condo near the park. Inside, he tosses his keys on a table and bustles into the kitchen, grabbing produce and hauling a blender onto the countertop. I take a seat at the island.

When his back is turned, I stealthily raise my phone to snap a picture. Brandy will never believe I went home with Ivan without proof.

But there’s nothing on the screen except a handful of spinach floating through the air.

I look up to see Ivan smirking at me. Tiny tips of ivory peek through his lips. My heart pounds as icicles form in my veins, which I am suddenly extremely aware of.

“Don’t worry,” he says, accent thicker than ever. He grabs an apple and takes a giant bite, the juice running down his chin. “After three hundred years, I figured I can decide what kind of blood I want to drink.”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

More than one way

Day 10: Slink
No Novel November 2020

A silhouette of a cat walking along a fence at night under a full moon - blood moon 2018 cat by steffchep via Deviant Art

I saunter by the dumpster where Murray hangs out, making sure he catches my scent as I pass through. I resist the urge to rub against the corner and mark it for myself. That would be going too far. I just want to make him miss me, not follow me home.

Around the corner, I tiptoe across the ledge of the picture window at Wong’s. The diners on the other side notice me eyeballing their late-night crabfest and offer me tasty morsels, but I can’t stop. I hop down and pick up the pace.

Block after block rolls past as I pad across the city. Alleys, parks, thoroughfares. Each landmark an opportunity for adventure, each smell a new story. Another time. I’m cutting it too close as it is.

I’m scuttling beneath cars in a parking lot when the tingling starts. Why did I stray so far tonight? Stealth abandoned, I race along the sidewalk under streetlights. I can make it.

I think.

I barrel through the tiny doorway as the tingling turns to burning. Wet crunching noises quickly follow. I manage to heave my growing, stretching body all the way inside before the change is complete.

Made it.

Beyond exhausted, I climb onto the couch and fall immediately to sleep in full view of the rising sun, only twitching once when my collar slips onto the floor. Next full moon, I’ll make sure to add a watch.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Probable cause

You think it’s a standard B&E gone wrong, except the perp didn’t take anything. Or did he?

Blue LED light strip light trail slow motion

“Wait ‘til tomorrow if you want to see the place for yourself. Forensics just left, so the evidence is headed your way, but the smell isn’t quite as past as the victim.”

You hang up without saying goodbye. Eight years working homicide has squeezed all the niceties out of you to make room for other skills. The kind that catch killers.

Whatever happened here happened quick. Started as a B&E. Ended in blood. The guy must’ve had bad intel. He didn’t expect to be met at the door with a bat. You tiptoe around two dotted brown lines into the kitchen where the victim’s knifeblock turned against him. Struggle over, the perp’s trail heads right past a couple grand in electronics and doodads and out the fire escape window. Pretty straightforward.

What you can’t get out of your head is why. What was this guy after that he’d kill for, then leave without? Seems pointless.

Your heart shrivels up and drops into your colon.

Unless whatever it was was on the victim.

Unless those wounds were intentional.

Unless this wasn’t a break-in gone wrong.

You close your eyes and replay the crime. You open your eyes. You open them again.

The third trail accuses you with its brightness. The glittering blue of a severed magical soul slides from the door to the kitchen, skips a few feet, then bleeds over the windowsill. You don’t know why you didn’t turn on your second sight right away. Overconfident.

You follow the trail to the fire escape, down the alley, into the bustling city beyond where it pools and disappears at the curb.

You stare down 59th Street headed towards the goblin farmer’s market. A thin smile creases your face. It’s been a while since you’ve been Down-Downtown.

How do you like them apples

Day 28: Rotten
No Novel November 2019

Johnny surveyed the orchard full of naked trees and sighed. Every year, the harvest was less, the waste more. The apples of belief bloomed each spring, swelled in summer, ripened in fall, and hit the ground to rot before the first frost. Months of back-breaking work for nothing.

He spent the day clearing the ground the old-fashioned way. For their anniversary, Demeter had bought him a fancy cart off Amazon that sucked them up automatically as he walked, but it stayed in the garage. Some things needed doing by hand. Besides, ten acres was nothing compared to what he used to work.

As the sun dipped below the branches, Johnny threw the last bag of mealy brown apples into the barn and himself into the armchair in front of the fire. He reached for his phone and the red-labeled bottle on the end table, opening both.

“Yeah, D, I think this is it for me. Nobody quests anymore, especially not for enchanted produce.” He took a swig from the bottle and grimaced. “Time to retire to the big orchard in the sky. Two hundred years is a good run, right?”

He paused for another pull. “Good gods, this is terrible,” he coughed. “Why do people like it?”

As Dionysus expounded on the wonders of scotch, Johnny’s attention faded. Something about the red label and the burning in his sinuses stirred up an idea.

“Hey, D,” he interrupted. “What do you think about Johnny Appleseed’s Hard Cider—‘So Good, It’s Magic’?”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Sealed with a curse

Day 21: Dear
No Novel November 2019

A single gold going with a skull - how to draw coin by sephiroth art via Deviant Art

“Dear You! It’s your lucky day! You have been sent the Lucky Coin of Antioch! Guaranteed to grant your wishes! NO TRICKS OR CATCHES! Just make a copy of this letter and send the coin to the first person in your contacts list IMMEDIATELY after you make your third wish! Do this and your life will be good FOREVER! Follow the rules or YOU WILL DIE!”

With shaking hands, I drop the tarnished silver coin into the envelope. The address on the front is barely legible, but I’ve got to believe it’ll make it.

A violent coughing fit forces me to stop on the way to the mailbox, and the blood on my hands draws stares from passersby. Let them stare. All that matters is this letter—my only chance at redemption.

I stumble turning to go back into my apartment. A stranger catches me, flinching at the icy chill of my hands. “You alright, mister?” he asks.

I clutch him tightly, my dry eyes wild, wishing for the pain to end, for death to come with its sweet release, but knowing it won’t. Not until that letter is delivered.

My voice comes out in a hiss dry as paper. “Don’t…break…the chain….”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.