you have the power
to leave me breathless.
You are always able to see me
as I truly am and you love me,
even when I cannot.
You love the parts of me
that I hide in shadow
and you pull them out into the light
so that I can see myself completely.
You have taught me a language
that doesn’t need words
that I share only with you.
Just as you see all of me,
I see all of you and love you completely.
When I look at you,
I can see only light.
You have no idea
how the light of your love
has changed my life
and made it better.
My love for you deepens
with each passing day,
and every passing minute.
Throughout the journey
that we’ve been on,
we’ve done it together,
always walking beside one another,
supporting each other.
Every day with you is a gift
and all the moments in between,
the waking and sleeping
that links all those days together.
When I close my eyes,
I can see both of our hearts
beating as one.
There is a light that comes from them
and I can see that light
every time I look at you.
We were friendly with the dark.
I had come to terms with it a long time ago. There was little light that filtered into the labyrinth, but even those small rays of sun were fleeting. Our eyes had become so used to seeing in the dark but there were things I missed. I missed the colour blue and a particular shade of purple. I missed wide open spaces and the feeling of freedom.
It was a very quiet life. We had to be, lest we wake the minotaur. We would hear it roaring in the distance and could feel the ground rumble when it walked. When it did so, we all knew to remain silent and not move. It could sense our movement and hear our voices. We were raised to enjoy the quiet and learn to speak through signing and hand motions and whispers that sounded like the wind. Some days, I forgot the sound of my own voice.
I was born inside the walls of the labyrinth. I had never been outside of its walls, so I knew its pathways well. I have lived here all of my seventeen years and was as familiar with it’s walls as I was with the dark. I knew how to find the market, which steps to take to see the oracle and the best hiding spots to run to if we were hiding from the minotaur.
Often, my friends and I would go looking for the spots deep in the labyrinth where the light came through the cracks, where we could smell the air of the outside world. We would take guesses as to what was outside the walls, each guess getting bigger and grander than the last. One of my treasured possessions was a carnelian stone that the oracle gave me. I liked to pretend that it gave off a soft orange light that reminded me of the sun. I would take the stone to those places where the sun shone in and let it sit in the rays for a bit so that I could recharge its warmth.
The darkness offered many places to hide things. For instance, it was not possible to know what another person was thinking by looking at their face; you had to get really good at listening to what people were saying or at how they moved their hands when signing to really know how the person felt. You had to trust you gut in the darkness. The oracle always said that intuition was a gift. We had to use it if we wanted it to grow.
There were things that you could not do in the dark. We couldn’t grow a lot of foods in the shadows. Potatoes grew really well as did a variety of root vegetables and a variety of different greens. Mushrooms and rhubarb grew in abundance and didn’t need light. Rhubarb made the most wonderful pies, though they were bitter without sugar. Beansprouts and chicory grew well without sunlight. Sometimes we were able to grow carrots in some of the spots that received direct sunlight. There were small streams and tiny little lakes to be found in certain areas of the labyrinth, so we were always able to find some water for our gardens. There were sometimes fish and crustaceans that we could eat. They would find their way down from wherever the water came from.
You learned a lot about yourself by spending so much time in the darkness. I learned to confront my fears a long time ago. I’m still afraid, but I’ve acknowledged. I know who they are now and where they came from. It doesn’t mean that they’ve gone away, only that I’ve shed light on the darker parts of myself and can see my fears for what they are.
Today, I am afraid of death.
My mother has made sure that I’m wearing my best coat. I know that it’s supposed to be a deep red colour, but in the darkness, it looks like a deep black velvet. The fabric has stitches in it that make it look as if the coat is covered in stars. I only wear this coat for important occasions. I know why mother has pulled the coat out today and part of me is glad that she is trying to make me feel good, even if it has the opposite effect.
We are going to a mourning. They were a celebration of life. I know that death is a part of life and that people are born to die, but when the life is taken from you too soon, it seems unfair to celebrate your life when you hardly had a chance to live it. We are going to mourn Persephone, the daughter of Ms. and Mr. Carmichael. Persephone was only six years old and had never been very strong. She had had a difficult childhood that was plagued with sickness. It is hard to thrive in darkness. Though people were sad about her passing, I was glad for her. It meant that she was no longer in pain. She had not been made for the dark.
My mother whispered to me. “Cheer up, poppet. It’s not as bad as all that.”
I let out a small breath, a release of pressure. “Why do we have to celebrate her life when she hardly lived one?” I whispered back.
“Because that is what is done, Roanne. She must be celebrated and remembered.” My mother said.
I have forgotten what my mothers voice really sounds like. I think I remember bits of soft song when I was younger and if I concentrate hard enough, I can hear the ghost of that voice, but it has been so long since I have heard what it sounds like that I don’t know if I’m making up the timbre of her voice in my head or not.
We didn’t often gather together as one group but reserved those times for weddings and funerals. Part of me liked the balance of it, that we gathered to celebrate life and honour death, but part of me wondered if there was ever a time when you gathered for no reason at all. There were often quite a few people in the market, but not the whole town, not all at once.
It was difficult when we all got together like this. We had to be careful to be extra quiet and move slowly so as not to make any noise. We didn’t want to attract the attention of the minotaur. This happened once when we were having a celebration and the children had been playing a little too loudly, despite their parents attempts to quiet them down. That was a day that ended in blood. I can still remember the sounds the children made that day.
Each of the villagers have claimed a spot for themselves within the labyrinth, a spot to call their own and to give us privacy. It gives us the semblance of having a home even though none of us really do. Mother lucked out and we have a large section of nearly three hundred square feet. Some of the walls within this section have fallen down over time and we’ve used these as shelves cubbyholes in which to keep our belongings, few as they are.
Each area that belongs to a family is marked with a symbol on the walls closest to where they sleep. Ours is marked with the symbol of a phoenix. Mother says that they are mythical birds that used to burn themselves up and then would be reborn from their ashes. She often says that we will be reborn one day and that we will be able to move out of the dark and into the light. I don’t have the heart to tell her that this will never happen. I was born here. The labyrinth is all that I have ever known.
As we are leaving our part of the labyrinth, my mother hands me a jar. “Roanne, come here.” She whispers. She reaches into a wooden box and pulls out another jar. That jar seems like it is full of light, but it is actually full of glow worms. They glow a soft but brilliant blue. My mother reaches into the jar with deft fingers and selects a worm and places it within the jar. It slides around the jar glowing happily. She takes another jar for herself and replaces the main one in the wooden box and puts it aside. We take the glow worms in their jars with us. Each person that lives within the labyrinth carries a jar. It’s easier to see where we are going this way and it’s supposed to symbolize the departed soul finding their way out of the labyrinth by following the light. I can’t help but think that’s some kind of cruel sentiment as we can never leave the labyrinth.
We make our way down the long twist and turns of the labyrinth walls and we’re soon joined by other families making their way to the centre of the maze where the rowan tree grew. My mother told me that it was planted back when she was a little girl, and it was supposed to symbolize the strength and fortitude of the people that lived within these walls. I think that’s a load of nonsense. While it does take a certain amount of strength to live within the walls, it would be better to have a tree that symbolizes fear because that is the force that primarily governs our lives.
I see a few friends amongst the growing crowd as we quietly move forward. There is Kyles with Riley, they are always together. They are like brothers. Riley was taken in by Kyles family when Riley’s parents were killed during the last rampage. Kyles has done something to his hair again for it sparkles softly in the softly lit dark. Riley gives me a goofy grin and puts his fist out and opens it so that all five fingers are spread wide while holding his jar with his other hand. It is our gesture to say hello. I return the gesture as does my mother.
Janice and Hugo walk by not making any motion to me, but Janice does spare me a glance. I see the pain in her eyes for an instant and then it is gone, replaced by the coolness that her and I now share towards each other. There are some things that the heart can’t forgive, it seems. Janice pulls on Hugo’s arm and clutches it, almost making him trip and fall. He stops himself just in time. His jar almost falls from his grasp, but Hugo rights it at the last second, the glow worms inside his jar flickering for a moment and then shining brightly again.
Everyone around them glares at them. We all know what would have happened if the jar had fallen and shattered. It would have brought havoc down upon us. One person makes a gesture that is still used today and is well known. The woman holds out her arm and raises a middle finger at them. A few other people repeat the gesture. Even without words, their displeasure is evident. Janice merely nods and casts her eyes down. She still holds on to Hugo, but not as tightly as before.
We all continue walking, our footsteps as silent as possible. All that can be heard is the occasional footstep and the sound of the wind passing through the maze. There is the occasional sound of a bird that has somehow found its way into the labyrinth but the birds don’t rouse the minotaur. Only we have that privilege.
Moving through the labyrinth, we all find our way quietly to the centre of the maze. Some people wear worried looks on their faces. These are the people that don’t like to congregate in case it draws too much attention. The other people wear looks of frank curiosity. They may not have ever seen the girl who is laid out on the altar before the rowan tree.
There is no way of knowing how many people live within these walls. Sure, someone tried to do a census once and tried to canvas the entire labyrinth, but it’s too vast. One would think that it goes on forever, but I know that there’s an ending to it. Our part of the maze is close to one of the outside walls. I know this because I can feel the wind through the wind when I am walking in the corridors that are nearby. There are sometimes when the air smells so sweet, it makes me think of what summer would smell like.
There are about one hundred and fifty people here, gathered closely together. I can see Suze and Ekral. They are standing with their youngest daughter Chayle who looks frightened, her eyes huge and haunted in the glowing light that now fills the air. I offer them a smile and they nod and offer me a smile. Suze points at me and Chayle looks, her face breaking out into a smile.
The oracle stands by Persephone’s body. She raises her hand in the air in a gesture that clearly says “Stop”. There is no chatter to quiet down as we are all terrified of making any noise, so there is little for us to stop. The oracle nods as if she has spoken. What happens now is a series of hand gestures that take the place of words. We watch the oracle as she signs, and it looks as if her hands are singing.
“We have lost one of our own. She was taken from us by the labyrinth too soon. Now we send her home, back to the sky from which she came.”
She puts both of her hands to the sky and we know that this is our cue. We all unscrew our lids of our jars. I watch as my glow worm thinks about it for a moment and then flies out of the jar, glowing a phosphorescent blue. Hundreds of glow worms fly toward the sky and then they move as one towards the tree. It looks as if the leaves themselves are glowing. This is supposed to symbolize Persephone’s journey into the sky. The glow worms are the representation of her spirit while her body remains here. I’ve always loved the symbolism behind this part of the ritual. It’s like poetry in motion.
We all say our own individual prayers to the deceased. I didn’t know Persephone well, but I did know her. She was a friend of a sort, someone that I would say hello to if I ran into her while I was at the market. I try to send her the sound of laughter so that she won’t be afraid on her journey, wherever it may take her. Though no one makes a sound, I can hear the internal sigh from all that are here. They are glad the service is over, they can go home.
Except as people start to move away, the air is split open with the most horrible sound. Even though I’ve lived in the labyrinth for seventeen years, that sound still sends a chill down my spine. It is the same for everyone else. I see fear in everyone’s gazes and those that were already sporting a look of worry are now wearing a look of terror. It sounds like metal teeth eating tin foil and screaming at the same time. When the ground begins to shake around us, I know that we only have a few moments. The minotaur has woken.
Soon, the carnage will begin.
I’ve forgotten who I am.
I seem to exist in this constant haze,
never sure if I’m living or if I’m merely existing.
omnipotent and omnipresent,
fills my mind.
I try to see past the fog,
slipping my fingers into it,
trying to part it as if the fog were a curtain.
I am successful.
Beyond the fog there is a river and,
even when I can’t see the cool and crystalline water,
I can hear it as it rushes over the rocks.
If I listen to the water closely,
it sounds like someone is singing.
I try to look further through the fog so that I can see who the voice belongs to,
but the fog closes in,
becoming a wall that I cannot see past,
even as I try to dig my fingers into it,
trying to pull it open once more.
In the fog,
there are voices,
those of people from my past or from people I used to be,
the ones that never thought I was good enough,
that I am not deserving of what I have.
I cover my ears,
trying to stop the voices from getting in,
and yet there is still sound.
It’s the singing I’ve heard upon the crystalline waters,
the voice I’ve heard beyond the fog.
As it’s voice soars,
I hear it from within me and I realize that the voice is mine,
that the song I heard was my own.
As I stand there,
the fog whispering around me,
I close my eyes and watch as the song lights a flame within me.
It comes to light and grows stronger as the voice continues to sing.
I am the river and the fog,
the light within my body and my physical self.
I know that I will have to keep this flame alight,
that I must somehow see it across the river.
This gives me focus,
that I will find my way through.
Clare Marie Bleecker is just like every other sixteen-year-old girl, full of hope and dreams and thoughts of boys…also, she’s a serial killer.
Living with her grandparents, Clare goes to the local Catholic school and she only kills those who deserve it. Men who would drive by and try to pick up young girls, for instance. She’s good at heart, she’s a vegan, loves animals and kills people. Hey, everyone has their own problems, right?
Except Clare’s problems are just beginning. Pickman Flats is a small town known for its wineries. Dead bodies tend to stick out. When the body of a man is found, a witness says that they saw a young girl in a DeFeo Catholic High School uniform walking away from the car and that young girl matches Clare’s description. Just because she killed the guy doesn’t make her guilty, though.
Soon, the police are everywhere she is. They question Clare and her friends at school, but Clare keeps cool. She knows that it was really other Clare that took over so she feels no guilt over what she did. Clare has other things to worry about. She has auditions for a play, has to avoid the popular bitch brigade, spend time with her friend Julie and wonder if anything will ever happen with Wade or Truman. She’s just a regular high school girl, except for the fact that she kills people.
Then her world gets turned upside down. She spots a guy who looks exactly like the man she killed earlier and he’s driving the same car. She follows him to his house and knows that it holds secrets she needs answers to. Clare has no idea that her problems are about to get so much worse.
She must remember the cardinal rule: slay responsibly…
I loved everything about this book. When I picked it up, I thought I would read about a typical sixteen-year-old girl, but there is nothing typical about Clare. The serial killing aside, she is surprisingly deep and so reasonable when she’s talking to you. This is not a Hannibal Lector psycho who shows no remorse. This is a girl with deep feelings and deep emotions. I was so impressed by Don Roff’s writing. I started the book expecting not to like her, but I actually rooted for her and wanted her to get away with what she was done. She’s a killer with a conscience.
Don Roff is also skilled at creating characters that are so real. You’d think that Clare at Sixteen would hold all the stereotypical characters like the jocks and the dorky best friend and the popular girls. It does…but not in the way you think. Roff gives everyone enough screen time so that they defy the stereotypes and become their own people. I really admire that skill in a novel that’s set in and around a high school. The world that Roff created around Clare came alive. I grew up in suburbia and he’s brought it to life brilliantly.
Told in rapid fire chapters, Calre at Sixteen just pulls you in and doesn’t let go. I think what is so wonderful about Clare at Sixteen is the humanness about it. Clare is a killer that I actually cared for. She is a character and a killer with undeniable depth and wonderful taste in music. I wanted her to succeed and perhaps even to thrive. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I am waiting eagerly for the next book in the series.
Until then, slay responsibly…
This is my first flash fiction using The Story Engine, created by Peter Chiykowski. It had to include a curious Explorer wants to stop being haunted by a necklace but they will have to learn something difficult. I set myself a limit of 1,000 words. Check out The Story Engine here: https://storyenginedeck.myshopify.com/
Cedric knew that he was in trouble when he began to dream of the fucking thing.
He saw the dammed necklace every night when he closed his eyes. He would be having a really good naughty dream with some naked guy and they were getting all horned up and then Cedric would turn to look at the man he was with and the fucker would be wearing the necklace. Cedric wished he had never seen the fucking thing.
“I still don’t see why you’re upset about this.” Jonathan said. “Why are you going on about a stupid necklace. You have your next job lined up, don’t you? You’re supposed to scour the jungle to find some elusive statue or something, right?”
“Then we should go and do that, and you can stop moaning about a necklace.”
Cedric gave Jonathan an eye roll. “What will you be doing while I’m up to my neck in jungle leaves?”
“I’ll be keeping the bed warm and taste testing the locally made mai tais of course.” Jonathan blew Cedric a kiss. “Why can’t you let this go?”
“I don’t know.” Cedric shook his head, but it didn’t make things any clearer. “I have no fucking idea. I had it in m hands and I just let it go.”
He really had no idea why it haunted him so much, only that he had to have it. Why would he want lapis lazuli necklace? What was the call it had over him? He shook his head again and it still didn’t help.
“Honey, you gotta chill.” Jonathan said, running his fingers through his curling dark hair to get it off of his face. Cedric loved it when Jonathan did this because his bright green eyes were even more visible. “If this necklace is bothering you so much, you have to go find it.”
“I already know where it is.”
“Of course you do, fancy explorer man. So, go and find it and bring it home.” A look crossed over Jonathan’s face and his eyes darkened form jade to agate. “Wait, why are you wearing that look on your face? That’s the one you usually wear when you’ve woken up next to someone you don’t remember.”
“How do you know what that look is?”
“Because it was the first time you woke up next to me and had no idea who the fuck I was. Good thing I stayed around, huh? Hard to believe that was three years ago.”
“Hard to believe?”
“I wondered if you’d pick up on that. What’s the big deal? Go find this trick that you fucked and then get the necklace. I don’t really see what the big deal is.”
Cedric nodded and pulled on a pair of pants and a t-shirt and a pair of sneakers. “I’ll be gone for a bit.”
“Oh no honey, you can’t just head off into the mysterious unknown. I’m coming with you. Besides, I’m the one that has the car. What you want to go exploring on the subway?” Jonathan snorted. “Good luck with that.” He threw on a t-shirt of his own and a pair of khaki pants. “Just let me get my wallet and then we can go.”
“You really don’t have to do this.” Cedric said. “You won’t enjoy this.”
“I’ll be the judge of that. Come on explorer boy, let’s go.”
When they were ready, they went to the garage and got into Jonathan’s car. It was a subdued little black hatchback. When Cedric had commented on the relative plainness of Jonathan’s, Jonathan had just smiled. “Honey, I sparkle brightly enough for five cars!” Cedric had to admit that he had a point.
“Where are we going?”
They didn’t talk as they made their way to the subway. Cedric knew exactly which one they had to go to; hadn’t location sprung to mind every time he thought of the necklace? They went down the stairs and paid their ticket to get in. Jonathan followed Cedric who knew exactly where to go. Cedric only hoped that the woman was still there.
They went down even further where the trains went that took you to the west, further away from the city. It wasn’t very busy as there wasn’t much out in the west side, just industrial factories and business parks. You only went there if you had business there.
“Where are we going?” Jonathan asked.
“We’re almost there.” Cedric said.
He led Jonathan down one hallway and then another. They were heading deep into the subterrain levels of the subway station. Hardly anyone ever came down here. The air in this place was stale and the only sound around them were the far-off trains heading west. Then they began to hear music and Cedric knew that they were close.
As they walked further into the empty hallways, the music increased until it was all around them, the voice echoing off of the walls and the high ceilings. Before Cedric was ready, they were standing in front of a woman who sat on the tiled ground. Her head was arched to the ceiling and her eyes were closed. She looked as if she were singing in prayer. Her voice echoed off of the tiles around them and Cedric knew that though the song had no words, this was a song of pain and suffering. He knew that he had been the one to cause that pain. Around her neck was the lapis lazuli necklace, looking as it had all those years ago.
When she was done, there was silence, broken only by her deep breathing and the echo that remained of her song. Cedric took a deep breath of his own and let it out. He repeated this twice more and then cleared his throat.
The woman opened her eyes and they were just as blue as he remembered them, a colour that was reflected in the stone of the necklace.
He took another deep breath. “Hello, Mother.” Cedric said.