The Enchanted Villa

Prompt: should be Competition, but isn’t.

1964-cadillac-deville-convertible

Cassandra and I were late, we knew it, but she had a kind of wardrobe malfunction when the lace on her wedding gown got caught on the long back zipper, so frail and delicately sewn that it detached from the dress when I tried to fix it. My maid of honour duties were filled erratically that day.

To be fair (to me) Cassie only unzipped her etherial lacy gown because she said she needed an unholy back scratch, so perhaps it was more her fault than mine. She told me, as we rushed through the hotel towards the Enchanted Villa, that all the stress about the gown was worth the conquering of the itch in her back, which was located precisely in the middle spot between her shoulder blades, entirely unreachable by her, and satisfied fairly orgasmically by my sharp and newly manicured lacquered fingernails.

The Enchanted Villa was reached through a set of nondescript doors at the end of a long, wide hotel corridor, which opened into a double height entryway to a massive stone, or faux stone, facade representing the entrance to a castle of sorts, but a castle festooned with coloured lights which sparkled and, well, enchanted all visitors to the dimly lit foyer. Inside the Enchanted Villa we were to find the rest of the celebratory wedding party: the groom, four other bridesmaids, and five groomsmen. All of us were primed for the flutes of champagne and expensive nibbles on the terrace while we watched fireworks burst garishly over the water in the twilight and stole french kisses behind potted plants and generally revelled in our youth and privilege free from parents and tediously obligatory wedding guests.

But the arched doorway to the Enchanted Villa was locked.

“Are we that late?” asked Cassie. We both thought we could hear fireworks, somewhere. Had the group carried on without the bride? I did the compulsory rattling of the door and pounded a few times, before I suggested we contact a suitable member of the hotel staff.

Our liaison, Mr Carmichael, was no longer on the premises, a young man at the reception desk informed us; nor could he be reached even to cope with dire wedding mishaps.

Cassandra had adopted the helpless attitude of a bride without her groom (even though I knew she was far from helpless), looked at me like a Bambi and was, I’m sure, about to bleat, so I fortified my backbone and told the reception desk person that this was UNACCEPTABLE. Not only that, I said, but the bride and I had not eaten since the early morning and were weak with hunger and had counted on the delicacies promised at the Enchanted Villa to stave off fainting spells.

He seemed startled, as if he had never in his twenty years ever been confronted or criticized, which was entirely possible, and retreated behind a door marked “Manager”. When he returned he had a large smirk and a glossy box the size of a cat kennel.

“For the bride,” he said, placing it on the counter and opening the lid. Cassie and I were already half drooling and expected a box of chocolate delights, maybe some shortbread biscuits, or perhaps the ultimate jackpot, a few slabs of exotic cheeses and chunks of charcuterie.

What we saw was soap. Beautifully wrapped soap adorned with red plastic berries and polyester poinsettias, an apparent survivor of the long past Christmas season. When the young man lifted off the first soap layer of the surprise package, he revealed a second, similarly shrink-wrapped trove of lotions and potions and a tub of perfumed bath salts. Normally the sweet aroma of these would wash over you like an attack of vertigo, but there was no smell at all. Age had dimmed the Christmas spirit.

Cassie and I looked at each other. “These are made in India, very rare,” said the young man, lying.

Cassie took each of the the contents of the box out and stuffed them into what I thought was a tiny silk purse but turned out to be an expandable silk tote in lace that matched her gown.

“OK,” I said to the twenty-something. “After the Enchanted Villa reception, we were all supposed to sail, together, to Paradise Island for the night. The rest of our party might be there. How do we get to the island?”

Paradise Island was a compact 10-room condo development on a tiny offshore man-made island belonging to the hotel, a leisurely five minute journey by boat. It was Paradise because the hotel did not underestimate the idyllic ambience that strings of white fairy lights bestowed on the exterior of a building, and because each room boasted a jacuzzi tub and a mini fridge stocked with mini bottles of sparkling wine, vodka, and fruit juices, included in the tariff.

“It’s finished,” said the older gentleman in the ticket booth, once Cassie and I had trekked the length of the hotel to reach the boat launch, which was in the same wing as the Seafood and Eat It cafe.

“Finished?”

“Last sailing was half an hour ago,” he said. “Good night.”

“Wait,” I said, and physically stopped him from slamming the booth shutter down. “Look at me. I don’t normally wear green velvet. I hate green, I hate velvet. Then look at my dear friend, the bride, Cassandra, in her lace wedding gown, separated from the man she just married, heartbroken, lost…”

Cassie was concentrating on trying to scratch her back with a tube of Indian body scrub.

“Send out an SOS,” I pleaded. The man stared at me as if I was a two-headed fish. “We need food, first. We can’t think. We are hungry. We are owed food and need food and want a hot meal now.”

After five minutes, Mr Leo appeared. I turned to thank the boat launch booth man, but the booth was shuttered and he was gone.

“Ladies, allow me to apologize for the mixup regarding the sailing to the most luxurious and exotic Paradise Island,” said Mr Leo.

“The Enchanted Villa was also closed,” I reminded him. “And the wedding party is missing. No one knows where they are. Doesn’t the hotel have phones?”

“We pride ourselves on a uniquely romantic wedding experience,” said Mr Leo.

“Huh?” said Cassie, as she moisturized her hands.

Mr Leo continued. “Our associate informed me of your request and of course we can accommodate your dining needs, even at this late hour. Can I interest you in a grilled steak? We are home to a fine red meat establishment.”

I noticed there were no clocks in the hotel. I wasn’t wearing one. I guess it was late, but had no idea at all of the time. By this stage, time had no meaning or relevance.

“Follow me,” said Mr Leo, and he led us down down down into what seemed the bowels of the hotel resort, perhaps as a way to expedite our journey? We travelled through tunnels with an insufficient number of flickering wall-mounted lamps, emerging into what looked like a food court of the kind you would find at a mall, but abandoned, and we breezed past the empty taco and pizza and Chinese platter joints and then almost past what looked like the hotel’s main grill restaurant, an expansive mahoganyish clad set of rooms with tablecloth-less tables surrounding a central hub, occupied by a lone woman with a headset.

Cassandra was lagging behind the energetic Mr Leo, who was no doubt well-fed and rested and not alienated from his newly wed spouse. I took her silk purse and slung it over my shoulder, as it was both a burden and a distraction to Cassie, who had completely abandoned any sense of independence and relied entirely on me, as if I was her platoon sergeant in a war jungle.

Mr Leo approached the woman with the headphones and said, “Hello my dear, um, do you still, you know, honour the you know what, for hotel guests, if you get my meaning.”

I was astonished at his deference. She however, was not. “We are closed, and anyway need a voucher,” she said. I heard for the first time the clatter of dishes— somewhere nearby was a working kitchen. I started to salivate. I mentally urged Mr Leo to advocate for us more aggressively.

“We can eat here at this table right here,” I said helpfully, indicating the table at which Cassie had just seated herself and was rubbing her feet.

“Sorry,” said the woman. “We are not serving.”

Mr Leo looked forlorn, so I said, “I hear people in the kitchen. Just bring us whatever they are making, please, as soon as possible, right Mr Leo?”

“Come on,” said Mr Leo, “I’m sure that voucher thing can be arranged, you know, if necessary.”

The woman frowned. She turned her back on Mr Leo and said something unintelligible into her headset. Then she swung around again and said, “We can do room service.”

Cassie said, “Oh fuck” as if she had been following the conversation so far, which she hadn’t.

“Right,” said Mr Leo briskly, let’s just get you to a room!”

“I think my luggage is on Paradise Island,” Cassie said. Mr Leo didn’t hear her, as he was barrelling down the tunnel in the direction from which we had come, at marathon speed.

We crossed the main lobby of the hotel, for possibly the sixth time that day, and there was a newly parked gold Cadillac convertible in the area between the reception desk and the broad bank of windows onto the street, as part of a promotion. In it, at this apparently late hour, a porter was stretched out in the back seat, snoring. How I envied him. Cassie paused to stare, and I had to drag her away so we could catch up to Mr Leo, who was waiting impatiently by the elevators.

By this time Cassie was carrying her white sandals which so perfectly matched her wedding dress, and proclaimed to me that her feet were dead and she was too tired to go on, which I relayed to Mr Leo, who was standing right there anyway. He got a chrome luggage rack and invited Cassandra to sit on the inside platform and be transported, no problem.

We took the elevator up with Cassie perched in the luggage rack, but when we exited and tried to navigate the carpeted hallway, Cassie’s dress was too wide and long to travel without getting trampled by the wheels of the rack, so she leaned back, spread her knees, and tucked the dress between her legs. There was still enough of the stiff fabric to make a whooshing sound against the walls and room doors as we made our way down the hallway, Mr Leo seemingly telepathic about which rooms might be available, since he paused at a few, and used a key on one, much to the consternation of the occupants, a blonde man and woman who swore at him in a language I’d never heard before.

“There’s nothing!” Mr Leo finally cried when, after an interminably long time, we reached the end of yet another hallway. “I don’t know! I give up!”

“You can’t give up, Mr Leo,” I said. Cassandra’s head had dropped between her knees. She was, I assume, asleep.

My stomach had stopped growling. My feet were numb. I was so tired I couldn’t blink, lest my eyes close forever more. I stared at Mr Leo, who said he was going down to the basement to lament his failures— that there was nothing for us there. He said Cassandra made a beautiful bride, and wished the unconscious lady a happy married life. He said there were comment cards on the reception counter, and to be kind as he had tried his best.

I wheeled Cassie to the main reception area. The porter still dozed in the Cadillac convertible. The smirky young man who’d given Cassie the box of Indian toiletries was nowhere to be seen, but there was a neat box of comment cards. I took two, one each for Cassie and I, and put them in my pocket.

The front door to the street was locked, and I could see no taxis waiting at the stand in any case, so I awakened Cassie, who seemed somewhat refreshed after her nap. She put on her shoes and at my request, hot-wired the Cadillac, even though she had no driver’s licence. I took the wheel with Cassie riding shotgun and the porter napping in the back seat. I drove straight through the paned glass windows of the hotel facade and onto a nearly empty street. If there were alarm bells, I didn’t hear them.

The fresh night air was glorious, and we met no traffic nor impediments of any kind, and the porter did not wake up.


  • This story was based on an anxiety dream I had last night! I have no idea of its interpretation, and know it is not necessarily a good read, but I had to write it down just to get it out of my head.
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Terror

Prompt: Nightmare

shadowy-figure

The terrorists were successful. They created an atmosphere of abject horror and fear which was exacerbated by the fact that no one knew their agenda. They made no political, social, or personal claims or aired any such grievances. They seemed to have one goal, which they accomplished efficiently. One of their kind had been pursued and killed but there were no clues, no leads, no trails to follow—just a tall, unkempt figure with half his head blown away.

The terrorists murdered one young blonde woman every night, and left her beheaded body on the lawn outside the homes of innocent people.

The bodies were collected and stored in a repository as identification procedures were set in motion and evidence was gathered. While the external investigation continued, the repository was fitted with audio and video monitoring. Why? It was believed no one, not even the staunchest or bravest, could stomach duty in a building that housed such a number of dead young women.

So when sounds began emanating from the repository one night, those tasked with monitoring the site were alarmed. What were these sounds? Muffled, but human. Were they calls for help? Cries of pain or despair? The live video was blurred and only fixed on the entryway, not inside where the dead lay in rows.

The first moving figure on the video monitor was a hazy figure that emerged from the locked room. An intruder? Impossible. The alternative was equally impossible.

So possibilities were set aside, with no reasonable impossibilities to take their place. Those tasked with monitoring stood and stared at the monitor, immobile, in a void empty of ideas or consequence.

Another unidentifiable figure appeared behind the first.

It was a tall man, unkempt, bloody, his pupils surrounded by whites, emitting primitive howls of rage directed explicitly at the camera lens as he approached it. Women, whole but blood-soaked, appeared like an army behind and around him.

An army of the dead, recruited by their murderers, and as full of rage.

Nightmare.



Yes, that was a dream I had last night. I honestly have no stomach for gore in movies (or in the world) but somehow there was a dream logic that allowed horrifying images to direct whatever narrative there was in this story.

Tiny Umbrella

Prompt: None

freddie

Hello Wednesday!

In a departure from tradition, this post is not related to a prompt, nor is the post meaningfully related to the images that accompany it. (Just call me crazy and wild!) It’s just that the following has rattled around in my head for over a day now, so it’s time to let it loose:

Your family’s home
They wanna be fed
But you are confused and tired and stressed 
And would rather be dead!

We are the caterers, my friends
And we’ll keep on cooking ’til the end
We are the caterers
We are the caterers
No time for stress dreams
‘Cause we are the caterers of the world!

Who knows what it means
It’s only a dream
But when it’s night after night after night
You just wanna scream!

We are the caterers, my friends
And we’ll keep on cooking ’til the end
We are the caterers
We are the caterers
No time for stress dreams
‘Cause we are the caterers of the world!

Do you have recurring, repetitive anxiety dreams? I do, and they get so frustrating— and so boring— that I am trying new strategies to keep them at bay.

The kitchen/ cooking dream had almost faded away, once I conjured up detailed images of a singing catering crew who would pop into the middle of the stress dream as soon as I saw the dreaded big kitchen. Now my dreams are getting sneaky. The big cookpots are only slowly revealed. The ingredients and guest list keep changing…

I suppose if I dealt with the cause of this particular recurring dream it would go away for good. But for the life of me, I can’t figure it out.

Apropos of nothing, may I present, since it’s Wednesday, a few of my favourite cartoons?

cartoon nice wave

cartoon leo-cullum-may-i-have-a-tiny-umbrella-in-this-ernie-i-m-on-vacation-new-yorker-cartoon_a-G-9184361-8419447

cartoon bliss-are-you-as-excited-as-i-am-new-yorker-cartoon_a-l-9269896-8419449


Wishing you an excitement-filled week—

~~FP

Hot

Prompt: Memory

woman damaged_Fotor

Leep awoke, feeling too hot. He’d had that dream again. The too hot dream.

It was more a memory than a dream because Leep did remember it, it was real, that sharp fragment from a life he had mostly forgotten. But he couldn’t understand why it played on a loop in his dreams, over and over.

He was a boy, sitting on a chair behind a floor to ceiling plastic curtain. The curtain was white with a pattern of solid red circles struck through by solid red lines. The pattern made Leep uneasy— it felt unfinished, wrong, hostile, and it was all he had to look at.

But the coffee finished percolating. He heard the silence. So he stood, pulled the curtain aside and went to the counter where he unplugged the pot.

A woman sat at a formica-topped table. The table was edged with shiny, ridged chrome, and the pattern on the top was sky blue with white starbursts. She wore a starched white dress with sensible white shoes, badly scuffed and starting to wear at the heel.

The pot was heavy for a boy, but Leep was careful. He poured steaming coffee into the white porcelain cup set before the woman. She took a sip.

“Too hot,” she said.

And Leep awakened in the dark. He got out of bed, took his gun out of the side table drawer, and went into the hallway. He put his navy blue nylon jacket with the hood over his black pyjamas, pulled on his boots, and stuffed a dark woollen scarf into a pocket.

And he walked, in that perfect deep abandoned silence, through streets and alleyways and across parks, until his legs ached and he found himself in the parking lot of the hospital. He wrapped the scarf around his mouth and nose so only his eyes showed, and waited until a lone nurse, in a pink pantsuit with navy blue piping, emerged from the glowing light of the hospital’s east entrance and approached the row of parked cars.

He crept out from the shadows as she reached into her handbag for the keys to her car, a grey Toyota.

“Give me your wallet,” he said, as usual. “I have a gun.”

She was in her forties, plump, with frizzy ash blonde hair. She was Theresa, Anthony’s daughter, and Leep had helped her get her father home one day when he’d passed out on the bus stop bench. He hadn’t known she was a nurse.

She looked startled, but they all did.

She said, “Leep, is that you?”

Leep took the gun out of his pocket and pointed it at her. “No,” he said. What was he going to say? “Hey, how’s the old man?”

She had forty-five dollars in her wallet, and in the clear plastic slot for a driver’s licence she instead had a picture of a boy, about twelve years old, staring out from under a red baseball cap.

Leep threw the wallet as hard as he could, towards the hospital entrance.

“Go get it,” he said.

When Theresa turned, Leep ran. He took the back alleys, crossed parks now damp with dew, through shadows of dim unlit streets until he reached his house.

He felt sweat trickle down his torso and prick the back of his neck.

Too hot.

The Night of the Planets [Repost]

Prompt: Faith
Original Prompt: Awe, June 23, 2016

saturn

Some people think that I dreamed the whole thing, but I know it really happened.

I live in Arizona, U.S.A., in a suburb way south of a city called Scottsdale. Houses in this “community” are small and cheap, and many of them still lie empty, with dead palm trees glued to the soil in front of the door. In the winter, a few more neighbors appear, but not many, and they leave again in spring.

My abode has two small bedrooms and a small wall-enclosed garden. Beyond the low walls are other small gardens belonging to other house dwellers. The project was originally gated; now the gate stands permanently open. I put a splash pool in the middle of the garden, which has no plants, for my dog, Poopy. That is a play on words, of the famous dog, “Snoopy”. My garden gets morning sun, so the water is too warm for Poopy to play in until early afternoon. I bring out a pitcher of ice cubes to help cool it down. Poopy splashes around in it like a toddler. It is strange to watch.

The kitchen has a fancy fridge that makes ice cubes. The fridge came with the house. All I really needed to buy was a TV set, which I got at Walmart, a ninety minute drive south-east. It is a Samsung 30″ flat screen and I mounted it on the wall.

There are no grocery stores, restaurants, or shops of any kind within an hour’s drive. There is a Texaco gas station, though, which stocks Lay’s Potato Chips and Pepsi, if I ever get desperate.

I was born in Wisconsin, so I am technically a “cheesehead”. My father still lives there, at least he used to; I believe he is on the road, looking for me.

Yes, I am a taker of drugs. I have some pain without them. I also enjoy recreational drugs. In the community of empty box houses in the desert south of Scottsdale, there is not much else to do. I take my medication, smoke a little weed, sometimes talk to Facebook friends on the Internet. They are not real friends, since I call myself Jody Marx, which is not my real name, and in Facebook I live in California. But it is fun to talk to other people. It could be that their Facebook feed is false too. Who knows?

I walk Poopy early in the morning and late at night. If I drive to Scottsdale or Walmart, he comes with me in the car. The car has air-conditioning.

Poopy and I decided to drive south and take a few detours, just to see what we would find. I always pack a cooler of water, just in case, and sometimes some beer. I have a cell phone, but no guarantees that I will have reception.

On our exploration drive, we ended up in a place that was so empty it could have been the far side of the moon. Flat and utterly barren in all directions, there was something breathtakingly beautiful about it. I let Poopy loose, and he went a little crazy, running around with his nose to the ground. There was not even a tree or shrub to pee on.

As nightfall approached and it started to cool off, I set up a lawn chair so I could relax and watch the sun set on a perfectly flat horizon. I was hungry, and so was Poopy, so I was going to drive the hour and a half back right after the sun went down.

The stars were out, of course, and there was a winking red light low in the sky that I thought might be Mars. I don’t know much about the planets, just that there are nine of them, and they include Mars, Saturn, and Earth. Sometimes a star fell, and I made a wish. Poopy was curled up beside me on the hard-packed dirt, moody because he hadn’t been fed.

I had to get my jacket out of the trunk of the car, as it gets cold at night sometimes, in the desert.

I must have dozed off just as the sun disappeared. The lawn chair was uncomfortable, but the air was soft and perfectly cool, and the silence was as deep as the silence in the well at my Grandfather’s house, which I fell down when I was nine. That was quiet. This was quiet.

When Poopy barked I opened my eyes and there she was. I don’t know why I call the planet Saturn a “she”. I think actual Saturn might have been a god? And probably male. But “it” was not right and “he” sounded crazy.

She filled the sky with her plump perfect roundness and wide shimmering bands. I thought I was dreaming, sure I did, but I poked Poopy, who was staring too, he stopped barking, and I stood up and walked around a bit, not taking my eyes off the sky, off the beautiful she-planet.

I took my phone out and took a picture. I went to the trunk of the car and got out a beer. I sat in the lawn chair again and stared at her.

The thing with me is, I believe my eyes. I believe I saw the planet in the Western sky, Poopy and I both did. I didn’t have anyone to share this information with, not really, so when we got home, after I fed Poopy, I put the news on. There was no mention of it. I called the local TV station and told them what I saw. They listened carefully and thanked me, but they did not put it in their news broadcast. I posted the picture to my Facebook page without comment. It just looked like a blurry planet. I should have included the lawn chair and Poopy in the photo.

I know there are scientific laws, laws of physics and astronomy. I understand that. I also understand that when you stare at a night sky so immense as the one that hangs over our heads all the time, every second, you have to come to realize that there are things beyond our knowledge, beyond explaining, beyond faith or religion, beyond science, beyond our comprehension.

Some people think I was dreaming, but I know what I saw to be true. I wonder if anyone else sees the unseeable sometimes. Who was dreaming that night, who saw what was real, and who refused to see what was in front of their faces?


 

The Sharing Wall

Prompt: Distant

number_4_instructions

She honestly couldn’t remember how she got into this workshop, full of brilliant and motivated people. She didn’t remember applying for it, exactly, yet here she was, whisked away to a rather luxurious camp— an isolated, densely wooded, deeply focused retreat.

The Nobel Prize for Innovative Thought was not necessarily handed out to eminent physicists or established scientific wizards, but to anyone who presented a unique and understudied idea in a reasonably cognizant manner. Two years ago, for example, a teenage art student was granted the $200,000 prize for their Theory of Exhaustion, which explored new techniques for neutralizing aggressive white blood cells in the body. An elderly woman was a runner-up last year for her presentation, called Randomness in Nature and Art, and How it Affects Radical Pathfinding.

So, what exactly was Naomi’s reason for being here? She had no ideas, none at all, and it was all anyone talked about in the cafeteria, which was crowded and noisy and boisterous and was the heart of the camp. “Who have you teamed up with?” one young man shouted at her, in between bites of a cheese and banana sandwich. She had teamed up with exactly no one, but answered, “Oh the girls at the end of the table, I forget their names, what about you?” Then she pretended to be summoned from across the room and left the cafeteria by the side door.

Not before she saw the Sharing Wall, where the tradition was that camp participants scribbled their ideas and progress so far. Some were simply mystifying and unfathomable, equations and biological diagrams. Some were just strange, like the person who was examining the historical significance of the points in the written number “4”.

She was expected to scribble her ideas at some stage. The pressure was intense. But her head was empty of any thought but: “How can I come up with an idea? Where do ideas come from? Where can I find inspiration?”

There were no answers. She knew no one at the retreat by name. She was the only one who was an impostor, a fraud, participating in an exclusive workshop in the place of someone worthy and truly talented.

It was twilight, and she walked to the shore of the lake. There were not many others about, since most chose to spark innovative thoughts by brainstorming with others and not by sitting alone in an aluminum lawn chair on a rocky beach. Naomi looked at the sky, a gradient of deep blue above to a white light at the horizon, soft and calming. There was one bright star in the sky, no others. Below, the surface of the lake was tossed by an inconstant wind.

None of her cabin mates returned that night. She awoke alone, very early, and made her way to the cafeteria.

At the Sharing Wall, she took out a stick of charcoal and wrote: “Gradient Inspiration, Discontent, and the Incompatibility of Sandwich Ingredients”.

She was either a genius and the next winner of the Nobel Prize for Innovative Thought, or she was in a dream, and would wake up to a life of gradient, inconstant inspiration.

Dream Sequence

Prompt: Acceptance


My dear Wednesday,

Since I am having a problem accepting the fact that I am not posting something every day, even though that is precisely the tagline for this site (“Let’s write something every day”), I will indeed try harder to write something every day. The problem is, my heart lies with my little flash fiction pieces, about Leep and Lily-Rose and Envy and Radical, and they need time. It has always felt odd to write about myself. I enjoy blathering on about ME, honestly, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read it. So, I may make some shit up about my life, in future, just so you know.

Meanwhile, I have some favourite cartoons to share, the first one tenuously connected to today’s prompt, Acceptance:

cartoon accept no freedom


Guys, it’s never acceptable to catcall, unless…

cartoon effective cat calls


It’s always acceptable to make a little fun of Hollywood types:

cartoon dream sequence


Accept the things you… oh, never mind. Just have a good week!

~~FP