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A Girl Who Knows Her Rubies

By Donna L Greenwood

When the rubies come, mama tells her to sew them into her cloak, so others do not see their power. She wears her cloak to school even though mama warns her of the hyenas who prowl outside the gates looking for girls and their shiny jewels. She’s not afraid, she knows these streets well; she understands their steely greys and hard twisting ways. She walks past the graffiti-splattered half-houses and the spooling concrete giants, feeling the confidence of one who has only just discovered her rubies.

Lurking in the grim, granular morning is something with fur and teeth. It eyes her madly, drools and leaps in front of the girl who gleams with such obvious gems.

‘Let me walk you to school, cutie,’ says he.

‘Okay,’ says she and swishes her sparkle in front of his eyes.

The mist births more of these fang-toothed droolers, they slink in the fog, all cackle and gags, following the smell and the dazzle. The girl pays no attention, she is unafraid. She skips and trollops through the streets without a care.

‘Why don’t you jump in my car,’ says her companion, ‘We’ll get there quicker.’

‘Okay,’ says she and hops in his ride, not seeing the others already inside.

They drive away from the school to a place the girl does not recognise. It is a yard filled with rust and junk.

‘Why have you brought me here?’ she asks.

‘All the better to spend some time together,’ chuckles the hyena. His brothers are poised, ready to pounce. The girl smiles, ‘Good, I’m glad nobody can see us’ and jumps out of the car, laughing much louder than the hyenas.

They unfold their hairy legs and crawl out into the dusty yard, angry at the young girl’s insolence. They’ll teach her a lesson she’ll never forget. They form a snickering circle around her.

In the centre, the girl is still smiling. She twirls her red cloak and begins to spin. Around and around, she whirls, unfolding like a scarlet universe and one by one the rubies reveal themselves. They turn into a glorious, crimson liquid and gush from the girl. The sea of red pours into the eyes and ears of the monsters, clogs their nostrils and pulses into their throats until the red wet drenches their lungs and there is no more laughter.

The girl stops spinning and fastens up her cloak. She smiles and continues on her way to school. She hasn’t strayed too far from the path; she’ll soon find her way back. She skips along singing an old song about a bad wolf and doesn’t once look back at the pile of fluff and broken bones she’s left behind.

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Monsters

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Ask Grandma, her bones talk

 

Published in FormerCactus magazine 2017 and one of the winners of BR-Lit flash competition

by Donna L Greenwood

Lights out and the creeping starts.  She pulls the sheets over her head as the air begins to whisper its insanities.  From an unseen corner the wolf growls and she hears the clickety clack of its claws as it circles the room.   In the middle of the night its mouth can widen and swallow you up in one gulp.  Ask Grandma, her bones talk.  At the end of her bed, the goblins are yacking in a low dark tone.  Their bone white eyes shine in the murk as they look for her.  Their tongues loll with appetite.

She stills her breath, trying not to alert them to her presence.  Under the sheets, the witch sleeps beside her; crooked hands are entwined with the child’s hair and a hairy knee rests on her thigh.  The child lies as still as death but she is not afraid, for this child is a child of the times and she knows about monsters.  She closes her eyes and feels for her weapon, careful not to disturb the gnarly skin bag by her side.

Down her chimney climbs Blue with his sooty beard and bag full of bloody heads.  She knows he comes for her family tonight and her hands tighten around Mama’s scissors.  She must be brave; cry-babies die in the dark so she stifles her fear lest they smell it.  Familiar with fighting for her life, she acts quickly – snip snap – she cuts off the witch’s tongue, rendering her filthy spells useless.  Now she is just an old woman whom the child bucks off and pushes out of bed.

Next – stab stab – she pops out the goblins’ eyes; they writhe in pain and, like salted slugs, dissolve into muck.

Blue stands behind her.  She falls to the ground and tumbles backwards through his legs.  She has the advantage now.  When he turns, a sickening smile tearing through his skin, she holds the scissors steadily in her hands and points them towards his belly.  He raises his murderous axe ready to claim his prize but years of easy terrorising have made him fat. And slow.  The child is quicker; she lurches forward and stabs the scissors into the monster’s gut. Streams of intestines splatter to the ground and Blue follows them, a puzzled, cheated look fastened to his face.

A growl behind her and claws rake her back.  Even now she makes no noise though hot pain rips through her skin causing tears to erupt in her eyes.  She falls to the ground and the wolf pounces. Its breath is warm and salty on her face.  She brings the scissors up and through the jaws of the beast.  It falls and joins its blue-bearded cousin on the floor.

Lights on and Mama appears.

It’s late.  Go back to bed.

The child obeys.  The lights go out.

Mama and Papa are safe for one more night.  Beneath her sheets once more, the child licks her scissors like ice-cream.

Featured

The Innocent by Donna L Greenwood

People spoke of the witch in hurried whispers as though their words were spies all too willing to betray them.  Snatches of their gossip were woven into the wind and carelessly dropped by her ears. Of course, she paid them no heed because, but for want of a friend, the witch was happy.   The years had yawned a hole in her memory and she was no longer sure who she was but she knew that her cat’s name was Hecate and she remembered to water and feed her tomatoes most days.  Best of all, she still had one good eye with which to watch the rising of the sun each day.  She felt blessed and so the hard words of her neighbours did not take root in the softness of her heart.

One day, as often happens in these tales, a brave child walked past this garden that grew wild with tomatoes.  They looked so juicy and so ripe that the child could not help himself; he hopped over the fence and plucked one from its vine.

The witch was sitting on her porch when she spied the small child with her one working eye.  As quick as a snip-snap, she ran across her garden and yelled – for her ears were not what they used to be – Don’t eat the ones by the roadside, come and take one of the juicier ones further in.

Now this child had heard the tales carried by the wind and one look at this crooked crone with her sawn-up eye sent him running, all mouth and tears, to a neighbour’s house.  And the adults knew by his screams that there were far worse enemies of innocence than witches.

That night they came for her.  No mercy was shown.

‘Euphemia Rises’ by Donna L Greenwood

download Inspired by ‘Blood in the Cut’ by KFlay

Euphemia rises in a blood scream. Lying by her side is the mangled body of her husband. The night sky is where the ground should be; its shadows reach out and claw at her upturned body. Rage knits her bones back together; she swallows her blood and kicks through the windscreen.

The blast from the car illuminates the black clouds that surround Euphemia as she walks away from the crash. She twists and clicks her muscles back into place. Her face is screaming; her eyes spit out red fury. She sniffs the air, searching for the scent of that which she hates.

A road-side diner. Three solitary men stare at their coffees, thinking of wives and children they either love or hate. The lights flicker. The men barely acknowledge this; they are used to sub-standard; they are used to below par. The owner of the diner looks up at the lights and worries about money and bailiffs. He does not worry about Euphemia.

She’s outside looking through the window. She spits red onto the floor and walks into the diner. An unfeasible wind follows her; the threadbare curtains billow in the breeze; the men turn up the collars of their jackets, paying no attention to the woman walking through the diner with violence in her eyes.

The owner watches her as she makes her way to the wash room. He’s seen women like her before; women whose skin hangs loose on their bones; women whose noses and cheekbones are angular and wrong because of years of violence; women who married the wrong men.

Euphemia stares at her hollow face in the bathroom mirror and roars. The mirror cracks and falls from the wall; the sink shatters into a thousand porcelain splinters; the toilets overflow – blood pours from the basins and covers the cheap tiles.

The men in the diner are standing now, staring in the direction of the female noise. They each take a step back as Euphemia re-enters the diner. Her teeth have grown large and she smiles slyly at the men. They see that the woman is no longer walking; she is rising above them. As they back away, she throws a glance at the window and it bursts into lethal glass shards which strike the men in their cheeks and eyes. She snaps her head to the left and the owner is thrown against the wall. His back and neck break in unison. His body falls upon the stove and his flesh begins to cook. The others run towards the door which slams shut. Euphemia has only just started.

Limbs are twisted; eyes are gouged; each man becomes her husband and she exacts a terrible revenge. Eventually her blood lust diminishes and she drops the last body. It splashes to the ground like a rotten watermelon. The last man spits out his last breath.

Euphemia leaves the diner. Eyes searching; nose twitching. She is not satisfied; she is not satiated. Though she haunts, she too is haunted. She is tormented by the feel of her husband’s hands around her neck, between her legs. She still tastes the blood on her lips from his last punch. It is the taste of this blood that hurtles her through the night. She may have been a woman once but she has been tempered in the fires of violence. She heads towards the town, a bridal train of flames consuming everything in her path.
She burns the men she finds with her white-hot rage; eyeballs and bones melt in her heat. They shoot at her and try to run but she incinerates them as they flee. She howls at the moon and reality warps: tides eat themselves; the stars fall from the sky; babies froth in bloody wombs. As thunder cracks around her, she moves on, still searching, still wanting; tearing apart every man who stands in her way.

The women pray by the gravesides of two little angels once living now dead. They know what Euphemia wants. They close their eyes so they are not blinded by her white light shrieking through the cemetery. They bow their heads as she tears up the earth and frees her children; her babies whose lives were taken by the monster who took hers.

The smell of burning flesh mixes with ozone and Euphemia screams into the night. She holds her dead babies at each breast as furious fire pours from her eyes, from her nose, from her mouth.

The women below her raise their heads and howl at the moon. In the light of Euphemia’s fire, the women grow teeth of their own.

 

The Supreme Wisdom of Letting Go

By Donna L Greenwood

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Why Is She Here?

This is the prologue to a future novel entitled ‘Blood’ written by Candise Mitton and Donna L Greenwood, under the pseudonym ‘Donna Candy’.

****

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.   She forces herself to concentrate on each breath.  In. Out. She is lying on a hard floor; her eyes are closed.  All around her is motion whilst she is stasis. In her hands she holds a part of herself that should be in her stomach. The mass feels hot and slippery and she knows that she must keep pressing it back inside the hole in her abdomen or she will die. Why is she here?  A few moments ago she’d been drinking cocktails, but now the smell of tequila has mingled with a metallic, faecal stench.  The sound of screaming has diminished to a silver shrill; the noise of her own breath supersedes all else. In. Out.  A single thought is circling her mind. Tommy.  Tommy had been drinking Margaritas with her when the fireworks started – no, not fireworks, gunshots.  She concentrates on controlling her breathing.  In. Out. In. Out. She must open her eyes.  She must find Tommy. Her eyelids flicker open and she stares at the flashing red sign of Bunnies nightclub. All around her, the panicked survivors are twisting a lunatic dance, strobing in and out of existence. In. Out.  With a trance-like slowness, she turns her head and sees Tommy lying on the floor next to her. His head has opened up and he is lying in a red shallow pool.  His eyes are black and filled with blood.  She stares into the ragged hole blasted into the forehead of her husband of one day.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

She lets her hand fall away from her stomach.

Out.

Insomniac

By Donna L Greenwood

First published by Anti-Heroin Chic 2017phone pics 3 293

 

I awaken

Imperfect.

The night falls

Downward and spills onto

White flesh lying

On pillowed slab.

I sit up – bleak and unblinking

My

hO

hO

hOpe feathers

And shreds intO

White paper

Skin on wrOng bones.

The mOnstrous sky

Holes my mind and

Rips out a shrill lucidity

The terrible brightness of which

Sears my heart and

Shrieks it into flames

And tears apart the

Child InnOcence

And sucks out her sanity

And devOurs legs and eyes and lungs.

My mOuth twists into

O

O

O

But I

CannOt scream down

The spectacular hOrror

Of nOthing – rioting through

The night and gObbling up

The last remains

Of

Cer

tain

tY.

 

The Chattering

By Donna L Greenwood

Very honoured to have this short listed in the ‘Close But No Cigar’ category for Molotov Cocktail Magazine’s Shadow Award 2018.

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The Chattering

As the blissful unknowing rest weary, and sleep,

Dreaming of pointless and meaningless things,

From the edges of darkness, the Chattering creeps.

 

Shadowed and shapeless, it snickers and sneaks.

Into the minds of babies, it chatters and sings,

As the blissful unknowing rest weary, and sleep.

 

Its emptiness yawns, and milk-wet mothers weep

As their dreams unravel with the horrors it brings.

From the edges of darkness, the Chattering creeps.

 

It enters the innocent to sow what they’ll reap;

Nattering its promises of madness and sin,

As the blissful unknowing rest weary, and sleep.

 

The universe is pitiless; its secret it keeps,

But the abyss is opening; the end bell rings,

From the edges of darkness, the Chattering creeps.

 

The dark hallelujah of nothingness seeps

Into the splayed-out souls of the faithful and weak.

As the blissful unknowing rest weary, and sleep,

From the edges of darkness, the Chattering creeps.

Phantasmagoria by Donna L Greenwood

Winner of February’s Zero Flash Competition

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Art by Andrew Howell @Realmonstieur

The Walrus is snuffling in my ear and I am freaking out.  I need to get out of here. I want to lift my prone body off the bed and make like a tree and leave. Except the goddamned cobwebs are twisting spinny-like around my ankles, and my arms appear to have turned into mangos.  No, not mangos – I’m not insane – pineapples.  The Walrus is trying to speak to me; its words are fluttering in the air around my head. I lift my pineapple arm and grasp one. With a quick snip-snap, I gobble it up and then instantly regret my foolish spontaneity.  It was a lie and lies taste like metal and shit.  Why would the Walrus lie to me? I vomit up the lie and it slithers under the bed.

The Walrus looks suitably ashamed and pulls a string of shiny truths from its gaping maw.  The brightness of these little truth jewels blinds me for a moment.  And then I see. The jewels are angels and they fly around, luminous in this liminal world of bedtime talk.  But these angels of the Walrus have teeth and they fly into my face and nibble at my eyes and ears.  Their teeth are small but they draw blood.  I flap them away with my clunky fruits which are useless against the angels’ sprite-like agility.  Their gnawing is unbearable and I plead with the Walrus to stop.  It relents and the bedroom darkens as it eats up its sheeny-shiny angels one by one.

I turn my back on the Walrus and reach under the bed.  I grab the lie and swallow it whole. It doesn’t taste too bad second time around.

The Groom

No one can stop him tonight – not on his wedding night.

By Donna L Greenwood

The bride runs down the street, her wedding train glistening under the mad glare of the moon.  She stumbles forward, trying not to fall or cut her feet on the hard, cold stones.   Her mouth and eyes are wide with terror but another emotion is fastened to her face – anger.  The bride knows she will find no sanctuary in this place – though curtains twitch and candles flicker – nobody will open their doors for her tonight.

He glides behind her – all polish and poise.  His pale and delicate hands gesticulate in the night, conducting an orchestra only he can see.  The Groom does not hurry for he knows his bride has nowhere to hide.  He waves royally at the dark windows and smiles when huddled figures duck out of sight.  No one can stop him tonight – not on his wedding night – it is his right to pursue what has been bound to him by the laws of God and man.

“Please!” screams the bride at the faceless houses, “For God’s sake, somebody help me!”  A soft and distant echo of her own despair is the only answer to her plea.

Finally her strength bleeds out and she falls down defeated in the street.  The Groom is upon her like lichen.  He presses his face close to hers and he gulps down her breath and he licks off her skin and he drinks in her sweat and tears.  He burrows inside her and he devours and devours until there is nothing left but bones and a blood-wet wedding dress.

As the early morning sun laces its insipid yellow fingers around the street, the townsfolk find a single red rose lying in the gutter where the bride’s body had been.

It isn’t long before some foolish girl, with dreams of romance in her heart, skips by and claims the red rose for her very own.

Hideous Treasure

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There’s something unholy in the pond

“There’s something unholy in the pond,” he said, and then he grabbed me with his ancient claw, rolled his bone white eyes around his shrunken head and died.

He hadn’t been popular so few came to the funeral and even fewer stayed behind for the wake.  I drank cheap rum with his last three friends.

“He said there was something in the pond the last time I saw him,” said one.  They turned and looked at me.  I was the only remaining occupant of the house.  Had I seen anything in the pond?  I smiled and reassured them that the pond was cleaned every month and, as yet, there had been no discovery of any hidden treasures.

After they left, I unhooked my coat from behind the door and trudged down the garden path; curiosity had gotten the better of me.  Had he seen something?  He had been particularly agitated in his final weeks and he had been out there when he’d had his heart attack.

The pond was the size of a small pool and quite deep.  I bent over the side and gave the water a quick stir, shifting the water lilies to get a better view of the depths.  Beneath the green scum, on a ledge below the surface, just out of reach, I could see it.  It was a child’s hand.  The tattered skin around the bony fingers fluttered like white lace in the murky dark.  I looked around the sides of the pond and found a rock about the size of a baby’s head.  I dropped the rock into the pond. It quietly splashed through the dark water and fell as if through treacle upon the ledge.  I watched the tiny fingers delicately thrum a final tattoo before being pulled down to the bottomless-black of the pond by the gently settling stone.

We Are All Alone When The Dark Comes

devil

By D.L. Greenwood

In the dark it clicked. She knew from the sound it wasn’t human.  There was something insect-like about the way it skittered across the floor.  Sometimes it came so close to her that she could smell it.  It smelled like the drains when her mother needed to get a man round to fix them.  Mostly it kept its distance and just scuttled around the blackest corners of the dark which surrounded her.  She couldn’t find her feet or her fingers but she was free to walk around, avoiding the corners, of course.  She wasn’t frightened because most of the time she could hear the people talking and that made her feel safe.

There was a chink of light in her dark world and this also brought her comfort. The thing in the corner hated the light and so the girl huddled within this small bar of brightness, listening to the voices, smiling when she heard laughter, crying when the mood turned sorrowful.

She missed her mother’s face and sometimes tears would fall.  This excited the creature in the shadows and it would move closer to her, hissing and clicking and clattering.  One time, when her tears fell more heavily than usual, it came up close and she felt its hot and rotten breath upon her face.  And then with one spiteful hiss, it sliced her cheek with something sharp – A claw?  A talon?  Her blood had fallen as quickly as her tears.

She was lying within her small patch of light when she heard the voices talking once more.  Her mother was crying.  Yes, she was sure it was her mother.  She was pleading with someone,

“No, no, please, we need more time, we need more time.”

The girl frowned.  She had never been able to discern the words before.  Then a voice, male and authoritative,

“I’m sorry, Mrs Geddes, but we have done all we can.  Mary has been brain dead for some time now.  It is only the machine that is keeping her alive.”

The girl recalled that her name was Mary.  In the darkness, she heard the creature begin to stir.  From a distant world that was no longer her own, the sound of weeping was merging with the sound of a machine bleeping.

“Mary, my Mary!” howled the woman who was her mother.

And then the bleeping and the weeping stopped.

‘Mummy?’ whispered the girl in the silence, a solitary tear falling from her lash.

The light blinked out.

Behind her the thing in the dark grew large; the girl screwed up her eyes tightly and her face grew hard.  She wiped away her tears and turned to face her foe.  The darkness was her territory now, and she would fight for it.

 

The Bone Queen by Donna L Greenwood

 

vintage_bride_queen_mum_by_mementomori_stock-d5oiax1 (2)As published by ‘Occulum’ magazine and long-listed in the InkTears competition 2017

Dust and rot fill her mouth as she eats.  The food is cloying.  It does not sit well.  She is alone but for the sycophantic phantasmata who surround her, constantly back-combing her nerves.

In her palace of filthy black, her bony fingers strain the muck, searching for someone who will not cower when she smiles.  Her hands bring back nothing but detritus and her heart remains parched and un-whole.

“It has to be a prince,” she tells the fades as they clown and cartwheel around her.

And so they go in search of a prince who will break the spell.  Their mistress is all bone and cannot weep for lack of wet.  Her need is their greed so they hunt with teeth and lungs that scream down the night.

They find a lowly man sitting in an ordinary place, weeping over some poem.  He cannot understand the noise that the wind makes as it blows through his mouth and his mind but he knows that he must search for her.

He reaches her palace, dreaming of madness and art, and he begins to weep again, for the ground is hard and the air spikes his throat.

As she smells his tears, her shrunken heart rejoices.  Her skeletal hands lift her robes and she clicks and clacks through the murk, searching for his light.  Her body quickens, for a thousand years of dust have made her desire unfathomable.

He sees her through the gloom; her eyes are the sea and he sails and he sails.  He takes her bones and he holds them and he sings her flesh back and he sings her heart full.