Friday, 28 April 2006


Alma moaned from the pain of being clumsy. Another bruise -- a giant green and purple kaleidoscope of misdirected blood.

She always had one somewhere. Not because her man beat her and not because she had a lack of coordination. Frustration makes for physical discomfort. Plain and simple.

Most days, she held back the urge to cry. An extra heavy sigh here, a shiver then, the hurt boiling within a breath of the surface. But the tears, they rarely escaped. Only sissies cry.

Wealth was a strange mistress. She crept up on Alma when she least expected, whispering in her ear, scratching at her palm. She seeps in the nooks and crannies, til she's established like an ant farm or roaches. Monthly spraying and mist-bombs won't have much effect.

Some people, maybe they're smarter, or maybe not, they play wealth's games, indulging in her tastes and smells til the well runs dry. They have two choices then -- work harder or walk away forever.

Alma, she didn't choose either. She fought wealth, with second-hand clothes and self-control. No weakness would ever get the best of her. Not ever.

She shoved at life so hard that it fell down and skinned its knee. No self-sacrifice was too grand. With her head down, and her nerves ablaze, she pressed on, cleaning, running, counting, whatever the moment demanded. But when you don't look where you're going, you're bound to walk into a wall.

It hurts.

And it doesn't stop. It's only replaced by a fresh wound. But the tears, they never come.

If only she could raise her chin and dodge. Find a strong hand to grab onto. Fight through to happiness.

But misery's always easier to unearth.

Tuesday, 25 April 2006


The Roses fell at her feet. Not the beautiful long-stemmed kind that lovers buy each other in the height of courtship. Not red or white or yellow or pink.

The dead ones. Black, naturally.

Herdalisha tried to kick them off the platform, but for each one she knocked away three more hurled down from the crowd. She wasn't a witch, and she sure as hell didn't deserve to be burned alive.

Then again, there was that incident with the butcher's wife. And the slaughtered dogs, but that one wasn't entirely her fault. The Gredgelys were hungry and the girls needed to eat or they'd never achieve their fourth level as seogglers.

Breqlando, a slimy unkempt slob and demon worshipper to boot, spit at her as the platform rolled past. Some thanks for the parts-of-a-woman lesson she'd given him for free at the age of nine. Memories in the town of Yvmozekk lapsed swifter than the currents of the Splux River.

"Die, you whore witch!" Arypnavia kicked at the platform.

"After you," said Herdalisha. She couldn't stand the skinny little pleaser. Arypnavia would sweet talk the shit right out of the dumphouse if she thought it would bring her praise or good fortune. If anyone in Yvmozekk mixed secret potions or cast spells on the unbelieving, it had to be Missy Ary.

When the platform slowed to a halt in front of the pyre, Herdalisha caught the gaze of the one person she'd hoped not to see her die. Locbil's reddish-brown hair glinted in the sunlight. His green eyes filled with tears at the sight of her. Then his lips formed the words she couldn't bear to see. The ones she'd longed for him to whisper in her ear after their lovemaking, but had never come.

"No!" Herdalisha found the core of her power. Deep within her chest, between her heart and her ribs, in the pocket of fluid where potent chemicals mixed, she called forth the lightning mélange.

The crowd covered their eyes in the blinding flash of force. The ropes binding Herdalisha's arms evaporated. The platform below her smashed into kindling. And the pyre scattered beyond the outskirts of Yvmozekk.

"Don't mess with a seoggler," she said. Grabbing Locbil's hand, she dashed from the dazed audience before anyone found the courage to stop them.