Blue (Part 1)

It started out as a burning chunk exploded from a dying world. Not that it was the burning chunk exactly, it was inside the burning chunk, hiding, tucked in and sleeping. When the fire was quenched by the lack of oxygen in space, it evolved into a comet, it’s tail all full of dead dreams. Space was icy and inky and indifferent to it, buffeting it with other chunks of dead worlds and tossing it into gaseous belts before expelling it again. It was also indifferent to space, asleep and dreaming its way across the universe. Hundreds of years gone traveling.

Scientists took note of it in the night sky. They talked to one another about its approach. They calculated it’s impact and quickly became bored, labeling it NOT A THREAT in green. It would burn up in the atmosphere and meet its death as a harmless shooting star. The Astronomer named it Lucky Strike in a fit of humor and put a sticky note up to show where it would cross the night sky just in case anyone wanted to make a wish.

Penny, dressed in leggings and NASA tee, saw it. She was outside staring up, trying to remember a few more constellations. It was her first day in her VERY FIRST apartment and she could see the stars above the nearby woods twinkling. It was an improvement over her old view of skyscrapers and electrical lines. She was a bit lonely having never lived alone before and she wished on the bright shiny streak.

The atmosphere ate the dead planet, burned it screaming away into gasses, leaving the seed. Naked and light, it didn’t have the velocity to fall properly. Caught on the night breeze, the seed was buffeted around for hours before “crashing” into Penny’s flower pot.

Not being a gardener, Penny paid no attention to the outside. She spent her time at work and inside her home unpacking boxes of books and pillows and things she should have thrown out ages ago but didn’t feel like going through just yet. She hung pictures. She cooked dinners. She ordered pizza so friends would paint her bedroom a lovely apple green. She would go to her job without sparing a look for the pot and the strange green shoot pressing it’s way up between the clover and dead zinnias. She would come home from work carrying a bag of groceries and completely miss how the shoot was now a foot high and sporting some impressive blue leaves.

Time passed. The weather grew cold. The impressive blue leaves turned black and that would have been that if the pot hadn’t been so toasty and warm up against the brick house. It went to work growing under the surface. Roots, tendrils, tubers, lines of communication, lines for food and nutrients, water traps, all snaking around inside the pot. Months of darkness spent growing stronger. It lived on rainwater than snowmelt, then rainwater again as the sun warmed the earth. It sent up branches and unfurled them into leaves.

Penny had stopped for a pizza. She juggled it and a bag of french fries. She needed the keys and they were in her pocket. The pizza tilted dangerously. Sighing, she placed it on the ground and with a harsh word for any ants that were hanging around, she dug into her coat for the keys. They came loose and dropped right in front of her pot.

“Whoa,” Penny exclaimed.

She was eye level with greenhouse size cobalt blue leaves with lovely lilac veins. The alien plant rustled its leaves in greeting. Penny took a picture of her social media. Smiling she patted the leaves gently, telling the plant, “You are beautiful.”

No one could identify the plant. Penny’s friend Sam was a gardener. She had never seen anything so blue! The internet accused her of putting blue dye in the soil. Her mother said it was probably global warming. Penny got it a bigger pot. She fed it carefully with plant food. She watered it for good measure when it was dry. And after Sam noticed the plant looked a bit sad, Penny started talking to it.

Penny liked to think she and her plant which she named Blue, she didn’t have the best imagination, were friends and her wish had come true.

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Take a Deep Breath

DeShaun reluctantly climbed into the raft. He unnecessarily tightened the straps on his life jacket as he settled into his seat. He hooked his feet under the seat in front of him and grit his teeth. A skinny white guy in long black Bermudas, black long sleeve tee, black aviators and a black life jack hopped in next to him. He flashed DeShaun a smile. “Wow, we are like total opposites,” the kid said waving between them awkwardly, “What with your skin tone and your white clothing. Like you’re a photograph and I’m your negative.” The kid chuckled.

“Yeah, not with your hair,” he argued and touched his gravity-defying natural hair.

The kid looked away and self consciously ruffled his dark brown hair to make it poofier. “Well, yeah this isn’t a photograph anyhow, this is real life. And, real life has real consequences.” He pointed a bony thumb at the people loading into the raft behind them. “For them. Not you. You’ll be alright. Just when it happens, take a deep breath. Okay, DeShaun? Big breath.”

The kid mimed several deep breaths. DeShaun rolled his eyes even as a cold shiver ran down his spine. The idea to get off the raft and go home was growing. Not that he could, Talia Elkin had suggested the white water rafting trip. He couldn’t let her see he was nervous. He offered her his best smile. She caught his gaze and winked. A spray of water hit her. Everyone laughed, except the goth kid. He just stared at DeShaun. His eyes could barely be seen behind his sunglasses and DeShaun was glad of it. Kid was weird.

Goth kid leaned back and said, “Hey guys, why don’t we skip the class five rapids today? I ate a big lunch. Might puke.”

Giggles erupted. A chorus of ‘no’s escaped the group.

“I tried,” Goth kid said with a shrug, “Remember that…after, yeah?”

DeShaun thought he might puke.

The guide ran through safety measures. “Grip with your feet. We are going to hit some gnarly rapids. If you are thrown out of the boat, get into the ‘down river swimmer’s position.’”

“Hey man, you should pay attention,” the Goth kid said as he put on his helmet.

The guide explained the commands. DeShaun found himself intently listening. The guide said the waters were rough but not terrible. He schooled them in how to hold the paddles. The kids behind him, Talia, Ram, and Alison were shoving each other and knocking helmets. The Goth kid ignored them, gripping his paddle.

And they were off. Paddles dropped with hard smacks into the water. The water was calm-ish. The sun was shining. The air smelled like water, plastic, and sunscreen with a hint of fish. DeShaun began to relax. The Goth kid was whistling merrily as he paddled. It sounded like a pirate song DeShaun had heard in a video online. Ten minutes in, and he had relaxed enough to enjoy himself. The water spray kept him cold. He looked cool in front of Talia. The weird kid was keeping his weird to himself. It was all good. He was one with Nature or some crap.

“We’re going to his some class two rapids. Should be a little bumpy. Nothing to worry about,” the guide shouted. “Remember to listen to me.”

The Goth kid sang out, “Fight, flee or surrender!”

Talia tittered.

“Dude, shut up.” DeShaun hissed.

“Defeat you can’t deny,” he warbled, “Better give up in the first place…”

“Sing it, Goth kid,” Talia shouted.

DeShaun’s eyes flipped to the guide as the boat hit the rapids. It was bouncy but bearable. He gritted his teeth against the spray. He choked on it, half blinded. The boat started to list then tip heavily to the left.

“High-side!” the guide shouted.

DeShaun through his weight right. The Goth kid didn’t. He reached out to grab him but the movement knocked the aviators off his face. His black eyes glowed red. DeShaun recoiled. The guide shouted instructions. The raft dissolved into chaos. The kids behind them were screaming.

“Or drown in the blink of an eye,” the Goth kid sang calmly as the boat capsized.

DeShaun took a deep breath.

 

The End.

Lyrics from Running Wild – Pirate Song

Fudge Pop

Death sat on a rock in the middle of the Delaware River. Inky black robes shed in favor of a black tee, blacker swim trunks and bare feet the color of slightly spoiled milk. Running a hand through his shaggy gray locks, he put a foot in the water and frowned when a school of fish bobbed to the surface, going belly up just for him. He huffed and removed his foot.

A pretty Living Girl sat on the rock beside him. She hadn’t noticed him yet. She was too busy changing the playlist on her phone to something summery and light much like the camisole and short jean shorts she had chosen for the summer heat. Once the light pop sounds matched her tapping toes, she leaned back on her elbows and noticed him. He smiled, showing straight white teeth. She raised dark eyebrows and cautiously smiled back.

Death mimicked the girl’s pose, careful to keep his feet free of the water. He didn’t want to kill everything that lived in the water, drank it, or flew over it by accident. That would be rude. It was frustrating however because it was a nice day with a soft breeze bringing a little relief from the heat but not as much as the cold water would do. Still, a day off was a day off, even if it wasn’t strictly allowed.

Glancing back at his company, he saw the girl holding up a fudge pop. He blinked. She mimed tossing it to him. Nodding eagerly, he reached out his elegantly long and decidedly not too skeletal hands to catch the confection and frowned when he accidentally touched a bird. The bird, a bluejay, dropped stone dead into the water. Distracted, he missed the softball lob and the fudge pop plopped into the water and drifted away lazily in the current. He huffed.

When he turned back to the girl, her eyes were sad. She pulled an earbud loose and called out, “Sorry, that was my last one. Bad luck with that bird. That was weird, right?” she asked.

“Not really,” he murmured and when she frowns he said, “I mean, thanks for trying and all but my life isn’t exactly made for fudge pops if you get my meaning.” He frowned. That was the longest sentence he has ever said to a Living Being.

“I do have a few cookies? Want one? They’re not cold but they are chocolate. I could even hop on over there. Your rock is big enough for two to sunbathe.”

“No!” he shouted. Visions of her warm body turning cold and dropping into the water because she accidentally bumped him, rushed through him, chilling him more effectively than the river could. But now he’s done it because her big eyes flashed with hurt. “No,” he said softly. “I mean that’s fine. I’m fine. Thank you for being kind,” he told her and gave her a brittle smile.

She turned her back and he vanished. It was a stupid idea anyhow. He pulled his list and headed up to Manayunk to take out a few musicians who thought it would be a great idea to play a set in a thunderstorm. Moody, he didn’t bother to loom or menace, he just clapped slowly when one by one the electrocuted idiots dropped to the tarmac, splashing down forever. It was fine. Their music was derivative.

Work continued unabated for twenty years. He didn’t try to take another sunny day off. His milky skin had no melanin to tan and he wasn’t human so he got no benefits from extra vitamin D, and it wasn’t exactly a beneficial thing to do. Still, killing day in and day out got to him. Especially when he had to take out a young kid, or an old dog. Those were the bad ones. Today he had a twofer; Four-year-old boy chasing a fourteen-year-old dog into oncoming traffic. Bummer.

He turned up at Grant and Academy. It was one of the best spots to die in the United States. There were forests in other countries and huge icy patches where he picked off loads of people and sometimes this big ol’ intersection seemed so mundane but it was no less deadly.

He spotted the dog first. It was a Siberian husky with one bright blue eye. His leash was an expandable number that Death was incredibly familiar with and it rubbed on an old wooden telephone pole. The snap startled the dog into the street. Death sighed. Now would come the boy, right on time. The scamp was in jeans and a rainbow tee. Behind the child, came the mother.

Death grimaced and huffed. This was not going to be a fun day. The light changed. The dog barked. The kid yelled. The mother shouted and Death whipped around to see the mother, really see her. He waved a hand and everything froze. Lifting his thick heavy robes up, he approached her.

He unfroze the woman and she stumbled forward. Death did not steady her. She glanced up at him.

“What kind of an idiot gets an extendable leash?” Death shouted.

She raced into the street and tried to grab her frozen scion. Death snorted.

“Everything is frozen. I’ve stopped time.”

“To call me an idiot?” the woman asked.

“No,” he told her firmly.

Something like hope crossed her face. “Are you going to save my Jamie? And Tanner?”

“No,” he repeated. “I’m Death. I can’t just stop killing people because you tried to give me a fudge pop once. That’s not how this works.”

“I gave you-” the woman stared hard at him. “You’re the ‘cute goth’ kid from the river?” she asked and glanced off into the past. “Wait, the ‘cute goth kid from the river’ is DEATH? I don’t believe this.”

Death sputtered and if he had blood in his veins instead of murder, he might have blushed. “Goth? Cute?”

The mother sat down in the street with her child and hugged the frozen thing. Death sighed and went as close as he could without killing her too. She reached out a hand to him. “Do it. I want to die with them.”

“So run out into the street with them,” Death said, indignant, crossing his arms over his chest.

She stares at him with her wide, sad eyes, and he remembers how her smile had felt when directed at him. No one ever loved Death. She hadn’t either, not really, but she had offered him normal human affection. Glancing up at the sky, he lets out a breath and scans the street. There are too many cars for the child to avoid death without intervention, not to mention the dog because if he was saving one the other had to live too, he supposed.

“Please,” the mother said, begging for her own death, unaware that for the moment she had it. That woman had Death as her own. “Please.”

“Fine, but when this is over, I get my fudge pop,” Death grumbled. “And you never, ever, never, ever, ever, tell a single living soul about this.”

“Deal? I’d shake your hand-” she began.

He rolled his eyes. “-and you would drop stone dead,” he reminded her.

Death stretched, cracked his neck, his knuckles, and his back as he surveyed the glowing souls all around him. He would have to trade one for one for the child but the dog…well he could fudge the records on the dog and find some roadkill to make up the deficit.

“Get out of the street,” he advised the mother. She hesitated, of course, she did and he tried not to regret this before he was even done doing it. “Seriously, get out of the street. I’m not going back on our deal.”

She climbed out of the street and stood beside him, careful not to touch. He waved his hand and time moved. The child ran forward after the dog. He closed his eyes and controlled the souls. A biker went left instead of right. A sedan slammed on its brakes just in time to become a barricade as the kid made it to the median where a brave uncontrolled soul stopped the dog and grabbed the kid around the waist. One last thing to do, the swap. Death sighed, reached out and tossed a rock. The rock smashed into the hood of a Kia Soul and that car hopped onto the median and killed a man in a suit, Jericho Sampson who had murdered his first wife. He was probably accidentally saving the second wife but since she wasn’t on today’s list, he wasn’t bothered.

The entire nightmare was over in less than ten seconds. He stepped to the side to avoid any accidental hugs by the grateful mother. But she was clever and had just dropped to the ground in a dead faint. He huffed and vanished.

Twenty-five years later, he approached a grandmother at an ice cream truck. Death tapped her on the shoulder. As her aneurysm burst, he caught the fudge pop before it hit the ground. He grinned down at his friend from the river and winked.

Fin.

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