Afloat (A Pilna Dezigner story)

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Pilna Designer (prounced Dez ig nir) was named by her Great Aunt Ginnie, who said that she would never be anything but a plain child no matter how her mother showered her with precious gems and designer clothes. Her mother had said “you can’t name a child “Plain”!” So they agreed that her name would be an anagram, symbolic of the child rather than descriptive. Having a last name spelled like designer didn’t make matters much better. As Pilna grew older people realized that ‘plain mixed up’ described Pilna to a tee. Content to sit and wonder what to do about situations rather than attempting to solve them, often left her in circumstances that bordered on bizarre.

One Monday morning Pilna woke to realize her alarm clock had not gone off. While she sat wondering why the almost nearly regular chimes had not sounded, her phone rang.

“Pilna, it’s not like you to miss our morning coffee,” said her girlfriend Sherry from work.

“I can’t talk now, I’ll be late for work!” said Pilna.

She ran into the bathroom and turned on the water in the shower. While she searched through the clothes in her closet, she wondered what she would do now that she didn’t have time to stop for her regular morning coffee. While she stood wondering in the closet, the water in the bathroom began to run over the edge of the tub spilling onto the floor and soaking the bathroom floor before spilling out onto the bedroom carpet.

As she stepped out of the closet, she splashed into the 1 inch deep puddle that was steadily becoming wider. While she stood wondering where the water had come from, her bathroom was becoming a steamy river which now began to flood into other areas of her small two story cottage.

“I don’t know what to do!” she said spinning in circles, “I have to go to work.”

Suddenly aware that the water levels were still rising, Pilna returned to the bathroom to locate the source of the stream. A washrag left from yesterdays cleaning spree had blocked the drain and was not allowing the water to escape. As she reached into the tub to remove the rag from the blocked drain, she wondered how she had forgotten the rag in the tub. So tidy, it was not like Pilna to leave cleaning supplies lying around when she was done. Everything went back to its usual place.

While she sat wondering the phone rang again. Her girlfriend had called back to see if she needed a ride.

“I’m in the middle of a small crisis.” said Pilna.

Her girlfriend knew what that meant. When Pilna was like this, strange things usually happened.

“I’m coming right over,” answered Sherry.

On the way to Pilna’s cottage, her girlfriend noticed a number of blaring sirens. Her heart jumped as if it were attempting to leave her chest. “Why were there so many sirens?” She thought aloud to herself.

When she arrived at Pilna’s, the door which opened into her backyard was open and Pilna stood half naked, half drenched still in her bathrobe wringing water from various items of clothing.

“Why aren’t you dressed, and why are you wet?” asked her friend.

“I was surrounded by all this water and as I sat and wondered how I would get it cleaned up my yummy new terrycloth robe had been soaking up water from the floor.” Next to tears, she sat and she wondered how she would get finished in time to make it to work.

“Never mind about work,” said Sherry as she began to pile wet clothing and linens into a laundry basket.

Pilna suddenly smiled. Her Great Aunt Ginnie always told her no matter how disastrous a thing may seem it always turned out better when you were prepared. As she sat and pondered her Aunt’s words she suddenly remembered an impromptu purchase that she had made several months ago while shopping with her mother.

“What do you need with that?” her mother had asked about the small portable carpet shampoo/vacuum cleaner she had suddenly felt compelled to by, “You hardly have any carpet in your house.”

“It just feels like something I should have” had been Pilna’s answer.

Her mother had learned in the past not to argue when Pilna’s response was similar to this. Somehow the reason for a thing would appear eventually.

As she sat and wondered at her mother’s agreeable nature a loud explosion disrupted her train of thought. It was far away enough not to have been deafening, but loud enough not to have been very far away. Pilna sat and wondered what could have happened.

“Let’s get this water up,” Sherry said interrupting her musing once more,”We’ll have time to investigate the source of that sound when we have resolved our present dilemma.

Pilna liked how Sherry had taken partial ownership of her difficulty and wondered as she knelt and vacuumed warm water from her carpet how she had managed to acquire such a wonderful friend.

When they had put all the wet clothes in the washer and all the wet shoes in the warm laundry room to dry, Pilna emptied the vaccuum and dressed. As she dressed she wondered if it might be prudent to call her employer and let him know she would not be in to day. As she thought of this the phone rang several times.

When she answered her mother responded quickly out of breath, “thank goodness you’re still at home. I thought I had lost you.”

While Pilna sat and pondered what her mother had meant, Sherry watched a television report about an explosion in the building that housed the company in which they worked.  The explosion had ruptured water mains, caused electrical and fire damage and injured several people. Debris was floating down the street on a stream created by the broken main.

Pilna burst into uncontrolled laughter. Her mother waited at the other end of the phone, and Sherry too waited.

When she could control her laughter Pilna said,”I have saved us both from injury, and we are no worse for wear but it seems no matter where we planned to go today we were destined to end up afloat.”

Sherry looked at her and they both resumed laughing. Her mother cradled the phone happy to still have her strange wonderful girl, but as she sat and watched the television report she wondered what exactly the girl meant.

 

Afloat (A Pilna Dezigner story) © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights 

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A Drink and a Smile

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A tale of Clifford Engram, Paranormal Investigator

“Two fingers, Gin, neat.”

I hate Gin. I never drink the stuff unless I am going to talk to a Dweller-in-the-Darkness. They hate it more. I discovered this quite by accident, but I never let it get far from my thoughts when I am about to make a deal with the devil.

The pub he wanted me to meet him in was just shy of a complete dive. You know the place, a redneck bar where everyone is wearing plaid shirts, blue jeans, shit-kicker boots and every third person shaves their head close, wears white tee-shirts and swastika tattoos. A place I wouldn’t normally want to be caught dead in.

Considering my Black face, it’s the kind of place I might only be caught dead in.

There are fifteen people in the place. The bartender called it a slow night when I got here an hour ago. The people seem amiable enough, they drink their drinks, they hit on the waitresses, they flirt with the local girls who are here trying too find someone to spirit them from this one horse town called Desolation, Oklahoma.

Why does he want to meet here, you ask? Something about a nexus of pure evil that runs through this town making it easier for him to manifest. Whatever. The sooner I get out of here the sooner I get back on my case.

I get up from the bar and stretch, noting the quick but covert glances from at least three of the biker types who came in earlier. My cane is propped against the bar, but I don’t actually need it anymore. My injuries were completely recovered. I could move my right hand and left leg easily. I could still feel the enhanced strength in the binding sigils in my right hand and left leg. With them running down my back, my strength was twice what it had been in the past.

If he didn’t get here soon, a fight was liable to break out just because it would improve their evening.

I could see the patterns. They were circling me, sizing me up. Two of them had already walked behind me to see if I would respond to their presence. The third was coordinating two others who were “smoking” out front.

I feigned being overheated and took off my long coat draping it across my seat. No need to get blood on everything I was wearing.

I make eye contact with the barkeep. “Another, and keep ’em coming.”

The gin slid down the bar and down my throat with equal facility. I stretched in preparation. I was looking forward to this.

We were all poised to begin our dance when a woman wearing a skin-tight red dress walked into the bar. She looked and smelled like every sexual dream you’ve ever had. Her movement was fluid, rhythmic, her eyes, green and luminous, lit up even darkest corners of the room. Everyone turned to see her.

Every eye that met hers felt the come hither electrical attraction. Until she got to me. I got nothing. No energy, no electricity. Only the stench of the grave. She walked up to me and kissed me on both cheeks before waiting for me to pull her stool out for her. I obliged, noting her arrival seemed to, at least for a moment defuse what was surely going to be a brawl to remember.

“Scratch.”

“Ingram. Are you going to buy me a drink?” Her voice was a breathy contralto, with a soft country burr. She might have been from around here, but not for a long time.

“You know that’s not my name.” I noticed the intonation on the “i” instead of the “e”.

“I know you don’t like me to use it.” She batted her eyelashes as if to say make me stop.

“Bartender, a gin for the lady. Neat.”

“No need to be rude, Clifford.”

“Tell me what you know and I may find it in my heart to buy you something more palatable.”

“How about that tall one over there, with the swastika on his forehead?

“Once I’m gone. Knock yourself out.”

“Why so hush-hush? You know you can trust me…”

Only as far as I could throw her…

“Nicolas, less flirting, more talking. Or I may forget our arrangement.”

She pouted. A lovely turning out of that luscious lower lip. “In this body, please call me Natasha. As for your inquiry, They’ve been here. They’ve been through town time several times. Each time to take on a small group of renegades and their human flunkies and disappear before sunrise.”

“Renegades?”

“You know all of us are not created equal. Some of us are naturally beautiful, like moi, others of us are gifted with other capabilities. Renegades have a gift for…violence, shall we say. They also have a knack for not following orders, so no one wants to work with them. They are beyond the standard level of violence for my kind, branding themselves renegades from The Cause.”

“Your people are still trying to take over the world? Have you learned nothing from the beat-downs the Agency have delivered on you decade after decade?”

“We are ever hopeful, ever watchful and know you’re all quite mortal. Where you have been diligent, your descendants might not be. Probing the defenses from time to time is how our operatives maintain their edge.”

“And how you get rid of the chaff and undesirables you don’t want or need to be feeding.”

A quick hair flip, she turns and leans in. “You have been quite rude this evening. What’s come over you? We used to be so good together. I remember when you were so friendly a decade or two ago. Now you treat me like a spurned mistress. What could have changed you that much?”

She leans in and sniffs my neckline. “Clifford, is that a woman, a human woman, I smell on you?” Another sniff. I don’t bother to push her away, if she doesn’t want to go, I would have to get supernatural to move her. “Hmmm. I smell nature and plants, she’s older than you. Magical, too. Strong magic. Voudoun, I am guessing. Is that a thigh I smell on your cheek?”

She smiles and leans back into her drink, taking the poison in one strong gulp. “And to think I went out of my way to find something special for you.”

“Where are they, Natasha?”

“They haven’t gone far. They would have come here tonight to deal with this group, but I decided I would handle them myself. They are waiting for you in town. Be careful, Clifford. Demonic cars don’t escape Repossession for long, but while they are free, they raise Hell on Earth. He also has a young man working with him.”

“Have they already made a Pact?” A blood pact would make them only about ten times more dangerous than a lone demon car.

She leaned forward onto the bar, breaking the final bonds with her human host. A pool of inky darkness formed beneath her chair. It undulated barely perceptible to the human eye.

“Yes, but I wouldn’t be too hasty. I think you might be able to turn them, if you’re nice enough. Like you used to be. Now go. I will take care of the riff-raff here.”

“No waitresses, no bartender, I know they’re clean.”

“But they have murder in their hearts.”

I looked at the bartender and his two waitresses. What she said was true. They were capable of murder and considered it on more than one occasion. Working in Desolation, Oklahoma, who wouldn’t? “Thinking of murder and being a murderer are two different things. Do what you want with the rest, but if I come back and find anything but a happy establishment, there will be hell to pay. Got it.”

“Party-pooper.” The inky darkness started to spread.

“What’s wrong with her,” the bartender asked, curious.

I reach into her purse and pull out a roll of cash, nothing but hundreds. I throw it to the barkeep. “Get out and take your girls with you. Don’t come back till sunrise. As a matter of fact, don’t even look back now. OUT!” The waitresses run to the bar and the barkeep grabs a shotgun on the way out. I like a prudent man.

I stand up and put on my jacket. “They’re all yours.”

“Bye, Clifford, come around more often. I miss you.”

I walked past the pool table and the large fellow with the swastika on forehead swung his pool cue with lethal force. I put up my right arm and let my connection to Fenrir loose. The cue shatters into toothpicks, some of which fly back into his face penetrating his flesh deeply. Unpleasantly.

He screamed and jelly from his eyes, along with copious amounts of blood splashed behind his hands. He never saw the spear of darkness that penetrated his upper torso and pinned him to the wall. Spears of darkness whirled around chair legs chasing the rest of the less savory fellows who weren’t quite sure what was happening yet. The more aggressive drew weapons, knives and the poorly cared for things they called guns. One fellow even got off a shot missing due to his terror of the black tendril coming right at him.

I didn’t even have to bother deflecting his bullet. The two from outside rushed in and before I could do anything stepped right into Natasha’s shadows. One fellow, he was a bit quicker on the draw than the other managed to get a cross out his pocket.

Unfortunately for him, he fumbled and dropped it. It landed on the ground and the darkness spread around it without touching it, like a drop of soap in a oily sink of water. Dwellers hate those things.

It was the closest anyone came to a victory tonight. I hope he enjoyed it. Because when Natasha’s done, he’ll wish I had just snapped his neck.

Now I have two problems to contend with in this town. Renegades and a demon car already in Pact mode. Normally I would let them take care of each other but that isn’t possible without a lot of collateral damage. While Desolation is a nexus of unrepentant evil, there are still plenty of good people caught in the crossfire.

That is, besides Natasha and her clan. They’re an evil I can manage.

I’m so glad I stopped dating her.

A Drink and a Smile – Fenrir and Phoenix © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved

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