Sunday, October 31, 2010

Short Story Contest Entry

So I entered a Contest - and my favourite kind, too! I got to write a super short story with only a headline for inspiration - my oh my, though, what inspiration it was!

Below is my entry - what do you think? :P

*Disclaimer: I suck at Shorts. *

Human hearts with couples’ photos pinned to them found in Colma cemetry.


She read the caption with mixed feelings, and scanned the rest of the page. Santeria. They thought it was a practitioner of Santeria? She scoffed and her eyes narrowed, her thoughts suddenly angry and tired all at once. Angry for the assumption and tired with the realization that she would have to continue her work all over again - once her clients found out that their jars had been removed.

Shifting her rotund figure to her feet, she waddled towards the door of the cafe, her skirt swishing softly against her bare ankles. The air was sticky with sweat and heat, and she knew this brought out the crazies. Moving into the night air, she absorbed the sounds around her, the chatter of people on the patios with their beers, the whispers of lovers, shrouded in the shade of the alley while the world spun around them.

She grunted and pushed open the door of her shop, the jingling of the bell above her eerie in the silence of the interior. Flipping on a light, she glanced around, made sure everything was in its proper place, and made her way to the back, where the magic happened.

How many hearts were buried there? She thought as she counted in her mind. 6? No ... more. Her old mind faded in and out of her own memories and she became lost in her own musings, her hands on a jar of salt, the room closed around her.

Of a sudden there was a wind where no wind should be - the gale bursting forward from the center of the room to tickle her greying scalp and carry the aroma of dirt to her. Her skin prickled and her eyes widened, her fingers clutching to jar for protection. Holding her breath, the smell of the earth overpowering her, she whirled to face whatever threat manifested itself.

But there was nothing.

She studied the room, the stillness of it and reviewed the sensations she had felt: no longer was there a wind, no longer was the smell of earth in her nostrils.

She shook her head, willing herself to believe she had imagined it all, and brought the jar of salt to the table. Opening it, she scooped out the grainy chunks of sea salt and stared at it. The mound felt heavy in her palm - a heaviness that came from something sure and protected. All was still for a moment more, then just as she brought her hand up to throw the salt at the four corners of the earth, the wind came again, knocking her to the floor with its strength.

She yelped and scrambled to her knees, her eyes searching the room for whatever force had pushed her - but the world stayed calm. She stared at the spilled salt on the floor with dread. How was she supposed to protect herself when her shield from danger lay vulnerable on the ground?

Quickly, with sudden choppy movements her stubbed fingers gathered the salt grinds, her lips whispering the prayers of her ancestors, prayers of protection - no longer could she convince herself that nothing was amiss - they were after her; the hearts. They knew they had been disturbed and now they were after her.

She felt the wind again a moment before the smell of earth pressed in on her. She bent her head down against the wind, her fingers busy gathering, her lips praying, until a shadow slanted across her. She stilled and watched the shadow as it was joined by other shadows. She caught her breath, her whole body tense and unmoving, feeling the wind at her back, the smell of earth - the pressure of the glares of the Hearts as they penetrated her.

Slowly, she raised her head, her eyes wanting to close but kept stubbornly open all the way until she met the unseeing eyes of the Dead around her. They stared back with empty sockets, their corpses swaying in the wind of their own arrival. ribs and bones poked through insect eaten clothes and clumps of dirt and she bit back a strangled cry as she realized what they wanted from her.

Her, who sought to help - her who tried to ease the pain of the ones left behind by burying the hearts of the Dead in jars with recipes for freedom and letting go. Now, she would pay for her own actions.

She thought of the work she had performed and the life she had lived, and slowly stood, their stench overwhelming, the saliva filling her mouth. "I am ready." she whispered.

And they reached for her.