Cherry Blossoms

Crane

She drew in a deep breath, held it, and released. The subtle movement of the autumn air had a quiet strength behind it – as if the potential energy of the day to come could be felt. How dark the night is before the sunrise! Akiko thought as she made her way along the path. The forest began to come alive with songbirds as she reached the end of the trail, where it opened up into a meadow. She traversed the border of the meadow and wood, moving with calm purpose toward the stately home on the other side. Nobody else seemed to be awake at this hour, and she basked in the moment of solitude.

Akiko paused at the koi pond in the gardens of the estate, the reflection of the rising sun mimicked the blaze of red, gold, and orange fish beneath the water surface. She was taken back to her childhood, when she spent time alone in the woods if her chores were complete and her father pretended not to noticed her slipping away. “When you are married, you will serve your husband from inside your home, not from inside the forest,” he would sometimes scold her when she did not return in a timely fashion. But she was drawn to the spot where she found turtles, fish, and countless other creatures. She recalled once watching a crane hunt on a morning not unlike the present one. It was waiting among the reeds – poised to strike – which it eventually did with a speed one could only hope to match. The water’s mirror-like surface parted in an instant and the bird’s head emerged, its beak piercing straight through a silver minnow lulled into complacence by the unseen hunter.

She slid the door open carefully and without a sound and entered the alcove. A jade buddha greeted her with a kind smile, and perhaps a knowing twinkle in its eye. Akiko gave a barely perceptible bow to the figure as she passed, and glided past the wood carved panels in the hallway depicting a hunting party cornering a boar, spears and arrows poised to make the kill, past the translucent shjoi doors of the now empty tea room. A most harmonious home, she noted to herself.

The daimyo, a landed nobleman who owned the country home, was snoring in his bedroom. This was the man she was sent for. Moving like a cat, Akiko slipped into the chamber without waking the occupant, who was fast asleep. His deep slumber was in spite of the fact that his samurai, on this morning, were poised to do battle with those of a rival lord. She unsheathed a curved dagger from its hidden pouch in her kimono. With one swift motion, the man’s throat was deeply slashed by the razor-sharp blade; crimson drops of blood spattered onto the bed like cherry blossoms against a spring snow.

Akiko then placed a black shuriken on the pillow beside her victim as a calling card, for soon all would know the deadly Kunoichi clan was responsible for carrying out this brazen assassination!

Doubt

There’s no happily

ever after;

Just hours of drawn

out tedium

Stretched like solstice shadows,

Swallowed screams muted

Muffled by pillows,

And rusty shackles

Emblazoned with

A single

word

Getting Carded

If you’ve ever read anything of mine, you won’t be surprised to hear that writing isn’t my day job. I’d be more surprised that I have return readers. Anyway, at work we have several reference guides for authenticating ID’s from far and wide. I felt a few of the samples were worth sharing, so without further ado:

 

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“Surprise!” Or maybe the photographer captured the moment she was told her sample name would be Happy H. Zzzviisagedlover.

 

 

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Mr. Clean: A good guy to have on your side in a prison riot. More importantly, what do they mean by “Experimental, Full-privileged?”

 

 

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“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to take off the motorcycle helmet for the – ohh.”

 

 

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Organ donor: No
Chin donor: Hell Yes

 

 

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 Jessica Rabbit? (Young people reading this are all “wtf.”)

 

 

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Tina Yothers?? (Again with an 80’s reference! #WhenHashTagsWerePoundsigns)

Ghosts of Chicago

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset
photograph by @coco_liu

 

When Morton awoke, he couldn’t recall what his profoundly dark and airless dream had been about, but the panic lingered. Sunlight streamed through the window of his dingy hotel room in Chicago, where he sat upright in bed, covered in sweat, and gasping for air like a newborn.

He continued to lie there for a while, trying to calm his shaken nerves. To focus, he sent his mind back to why he was there in the first place. He was hired by a man named Edgar Marks. The job was simple, he was told: Morton would tail a man whom Marks suspected of having an affair with his wife, send a report each day, and at the end of the week an envelope containing a pre-arranged sum of cash would be left in Morton’s P.O. Box. Something about Marks’ demeanor raised his sense of suspicion, which in his experience, is a feeling worthy of attention. He felt that the wife wasn’t the real story, it was too generic, possibly a red herring, and that Marks had some other agenda. But a job was a job, and so he didn’t press the issue.

After getting a description of the man, Morton was told he worked on Michigan Ave. The hotel where Morton eventually selected to stay was where the man supposedly would rendezvous with his mistress, making it a logical base for operations.

Morton took no notes during this meeting as he had an excellent memory. Names, numbers, places – he always had a talent for recall. And this came in very hand in his line of work as a private investigator. He didn’t waste valuable time writing down notes in the field and could aptly think on his feet, almost like his memories were tangible objects spread out across a table. He need only pick one up and turn it around in his head, examining all facets and angles. It was just how his mind worked.

He left his room and walked the hallway before rounding a corner. To his surprise, there was a group of about 10 people and a tour guide, a young man who walked backwards in front of the group. Morton noticed his jacket, a black satin affair with “Ghosts of Chicago Tours” embroidered in blood red.

“And like I said earlier, here on the 7th floor is where most of the encounters are reported,” he told the rapt audience. They were so focused that they barely gave Morton enough room to slide by.

“There’s several types of hauntings, ok? The most common are residual hauntings. Those spirits don’t really interact with us; they basically just repeat the same actions like a tape that gets played over and over. Well, nobody uses tapes anymore, so think of it like hitting ‘replay’ on the YouTube video!” The group laughed politely.

“Fucking tourists,” he thought to himself. As he stepped onto the elevator at the end of the corridor he could hear more canned laughter at another of the guide’s jokes, probably told on every single tour, as recycled and threadbare as the shabby carpet underfoot.

“I like literally felt a cold draft a few seconds ago!” on excited guest exclaimed enthusiastically.

“Yeah, that was your money being ripped from your wallet, idiot,” Morton muttered as the elevator doors shut.

If the hotel rooms and halls had seen better days, nobody had bothered to tell the lobby, which was immaculately kept up in its original art deco style: marble floors and columns, gold light fixtures, and high-backed red leather chairs for weary travelers. No sign of his target however.

Still foggy from a troubled sleep, Morton spaced out and stared at the floor; the silver train car he boarded after leaving the hotel rattled along elevated tracks, suspended above the city streets. His trance was broken by a young child and her mother seated across and to the left from him. The mother was tending to a missed button on the girl’s shirt, while the girl squirmed restlessly.

“What’s the name of this train?”

“It’s called the loop, honey.”

“Why’s it called that?”

“Because it just goes round and round the center of the city.”

“What happens if we don’t get off? Do we go round and round forever?”

“Hold still please, we’re getting off at the next stop so let’s get ready,” said her mother with a touch of impatience.

Morton liked how the girl thought, even if it wasn’t technically how the trains ran. Being able to look ahead like that seemed advanced for her age. He smiled kindly, trying to appear as non-threatening as he could, but the girl did not notice him at all. He had no children but perhaps someday he told himself.

Soon he arrived at the Randolph/Wabash station where he transferred to the ‘heel-toe express’ and walked the short distance to Michigan Ave., a wide boulevard with the city on one side and the lake on the other. It was a weekday morning, and the nearly cloudless sky was cobalt blue. Cool, dry, air paired nicely with the early autumn sun. Facing south, the buildings on his right stretched right off into the distance like a giant, imposing, wall. To his left was just sky above Lake Michigan which, for practical purpose of size, might as well be the ocean. It was like being caught between two worlds: the expanse of open, Midwestern space and the claustrophobic density of the city.

Then he saw him – the man he was hired to tail. His back was to Morton and he was dressed in a black overcoat over a suit and wore a dark, wide-brimmed hat. He did not seem to notice he had been spotted.

For several blocks the man strolled casually until he came to the intersection with Jackson, where the man turned right and dramatically picked up his pace as he rounded the corner and out of view.

“Shit,” thought Morton. “Has he seen me?”

Faster now, he rounded the corner to see the just tails of the man’s coat slink into an alley. Morton pursued, intent on getting more tangible info for his daily report before the man disappeared completely.

Stepping into the alley, the drone of the traffic was muted, creating an unusual sense of stillness. There was no sign of the man, but a door about 50 feet away slowly swung shut, betraying the man’s escape route.

“Let’s see where you’re running to,” he thought as he cautiously approached the rusted metal door. There was a buzzer next to the door but no sign or anything indicating what was inside. The noise of the city was gone from Morton’s ears. All he heard was the rush of blood in his ears and his pounding heartbeat as he surveyed the door. Something about it felt oddly familiar. But there was no time for that now. He stepped inside.

Morton’s eyes had barely adjusted to the dim light of the stairwell inside when he saw the glint of a silver revolver. A flash blinded him, or maybe it was the pain in his chest as the bullet punched through him. He heard the echoes of the gunshot long after crumpling to the floor as breath and blood escaped his body. He did not, however, hear the final crack of the gun before all went black.

When Morton awoke, he couldn’t recall what his profoundly dark and airless dream had been about, but the panic lingered. Sunlight streamed through the window of his dingy hotel room in Chicago, where he sat upright in bed, covered in sweat, and gasping for air like a newborn.

###

 

#flashfiction

“I see we meet again,” he told a stranger in a strange land. But the old man just stared impassively at the horizon while the desert sky faded orange pink indigo black. In the hazy, distant hills a light flicked, and the creatures of the night began to stir.

Number 43

His footfalls echoed down dark marble corridors as the gilded elevator doors shut behind him. “Good luck…” the elevator man had said with a tinge of sarcasm as they arrived at the 41st floor. Now he was at the massive oak doors, and he paused before taking an apprehensive breath and stepping inside.

His father was seated behind a large black desk, staring out the window at the view across the icy river. “Sit,” he commanded.

“It’s time you lived up to your promise. All the best schooling, the family name, wealth and influence,” he said in a deadpan voice, “and still…here you are.”

“Hello, Father,” he began but his greeting was not returned.

His father spun around in his chair. “Yet another company run into the ground by your ineptitude,” he said with disgust. “Do you know how embarrassing this is? Do you think this is the legacy I intended to leave?”

“But I gave –“

“What do you know about giving? You know about getting. Yes, you certainly know that. You never knew what it is to give all you have to a commitment, to your family, to your country. Never knew the sacrifice I gave by going to war. You were given a ticket out of that quandary, or perhaps you have forgotten?”

“My brother –“

Your ineffectual brother is not the issue!!” he bellowed, slamming a clenched fist down on his desk, rattling the dagger-like letter opener, emblazoned with the insignia of the secret fraternal order known as the Skull and Bones.

“We have something greater planned for you. You will not fail like you have countless times before. Prominence is in our blood, it is our birthright. You will lead, you will do as you are told, and you will become part of history. Is this clear?”

“Yes,” he said, trying to sound as confident and stoic as he could muster.

“You may go now.”

He paused for a second as if considering saying something, but instead he rose obediently from the large, red, leather chair. Just as his hand grasped the knob on the door to make his exit he heard his father say:

“Oh, and George?”

“Yes?”

“Send Jeb in next. I have something in mind for him as well. That will be all.”


 

Written in response to the Daily Prompt on the topic of: Legacy