Creeping Beauty- Friday Flash

Sleeping Beauty painting by Edward Burne-Jones

Sleeping Beauty painting by Edward Burne-Jones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

CREEPING BEAUTY
By Melissa L. Webb

 

 

The Prince stood in the overgrown woods. Weeds and roots had taken over, coating everything with a dark, slimy feel. He moved through it the best he could, but the plants seamed to squirm under his feet, creeping around his ankles every now or then.

He used the glowing white sword in his hand to hack through them, freeing himself once again. It was slow going and he never expected any less, but at least his destination was now in sight.

A castle loomed in front of him. Its dark shape illuminated by the moon above. The Prince shivered at the sight of it. Its aura was thick with the evil that had taken place inside so many years ago.

He heard a horse neighing in the distance and cringed when he realized it was his. He prayed to God Charger was alright. He hadn’t wanted to leave his stead alone when evil lurked so close, but it was all he could do to get through this overgrown hell. The horse would have never stood a chance this close to the castle.

Taking a deep breath, he chopped another root as it moved towards his feet. The closer he got to the place, the more he could feel it trying to keep him out.

As he neared the castle walls, thick with dark rotten vines, the ground shuddered beneath him, throwing him off his feet. His hands groped across the cloying dirt, ripe with mildew and age, looking for his sword. If he lost that, it would be all over.

The sword was the only thing that could ensure his triumph. Without it, he would become just another set of bleached bones tangled in the vines on the castle walls.

His fingers finally touched cold steel as a vine wrapped around his body. It squeezed him tight, trying to crush the very life out of him.

“Oh no you don’t,” the Prince growled as he swung the sword. It once again shone bright in the darkness, taking strength from his life force. He brought it down, hacking clean through the vine. It screamed like a living thing, shrinking away from him. The cleaved edges smoking where the blessed blade had touched it.

Getting to his feet, the Prince hurried through the opened portcullis as fast as he could. He was so close now. He didn’t want to give anything else a chance to slow him down.

She was in there.

He needed to get to her. Awaken her from her dark slumber. The fate of his world depended on it.

The Prince raced across the shadowed courtyard. Skeletons grinned at him as he went. He turned away from them, setting his jaw, determination steadying him.

He couldn’t let himself think about all the lives that had been claimed here because of this evil. Sadness and grief would only distract him. There would be plenty of time to mourn for them later.

If he stayed alive.

Something scurried behind him and he quickened his pace. It didn’t matter what lay behind him, only in front of him. Ignoring the movement, he entered the castle, the light from the sword leading the way.

The stench wafting off the walls was enough to make the Prince gag and he shuddered to think what might be the cause of it. What secrets did the shadows keep around here? He wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the answer. It didn’t matter though. Once he awoken the girl, this would all be nothing but a distant nightmare. Everybody could live happily ever after. Including him.

“Oh, look. Dear sweet Prince thinks he can save everyone.”

The Prince stopped, trying to find the source of the mockery, but there was nothing around him but cobwebs and rot. He let it go. It was only a distraction anyway. Digging at his fears was just another game. And he refused to play it this time.

“You can’t save anyone. Not even yourself,” the voice said with a chuckle. “Either flee or cower before me. Those are your only options.”

The Prince didn’t stop. Words would not get to him. Not when he had purity and truth on his side. The foul thing could dribble lies all it wanted, he would never fall for them.

Ascending a long staircase, he rushed down a hallway towards a chamber at the end. Candlelight flickered behind the door, spilling out through the cracks in the wood. The girl was in there. The ones who entrusted him with the sword had confirmed that. His quest was almost at an end.

A growled erupted from behind. Before the Prince could turn around, something slammed into him, pinning him to the ground. He squirmed underneath it, trying to free the sword from underneath himself. He managed to roll over and found himself face to face with a very large demon.

It snapped at him, its jaw only inches from his face. Its rough grey skin dripped a black substance which burned as it came in contact with any uncovered skin.

The Prince groaned in frustration and in pain. He didn’t have time for this. Not now that he was this close. He could practically hear her breathing from behind the door. This could be over in only a matter of minutes if the damned thing would just get off him.

He could only imagine what was going on in his kingdom right now. Or in other kingdoms. Hell, in all the lands. The demons and monsters which roamed the countryside because of this curse were destroying everything. He had lost so much already. He refused to lose anything more.

Pulling his free hand back, he punched the demon square in the face. It snarled and reared back, giving the Prince the chance he needed.

Lifting the sword, he drove it deep into the demon’s neck. It wailed loudly, shaking the walls around them, then pitched to the side, falling lifelessly to the floor.

The Prince got to his feet, wiping the gore from his clothes. Enough was enough. It was time to finish this.

He strode down the hallway, sword raised as his blood hummed for the victory.

More growling sounded behind him. It caused his step to waiver, but he kept the sword raised. If it was a fight they wanted, they could bring it.

Turning back to the chamber door, he met the first rushing body with a swipe of the massive sword. It fell harmlessly at his feet, the entire body cleaved cleanly in half.

“Who’s next?” he called as more demons rushed him. He cleanly laid them out next to their friend on the floor. They were no match for the sword of glory. As long as it was in his hand, nothing would stop him.

The Prince pushed against the door. It didn’t budge. He lifted a booted foot and kicked out, knocking the thin door from its hinges. He stepped through, looking around the room.

Candles lit the darkness, making the room glow in a way the rest of the castle could never. A huge bed sat center, its carved wooden frame and plush bedding making it look more like a throne and less like a place to sleep. And he supposed in a way it was a throne.

For there before him, slumbering peacefully, was the Princess. Her long dark hair was fanned out around her head like a halo and her milky white skin gleamed in the candlelight. She was breathtakingly beautiful and the Prince yearned to reach out and touch her.

He moved closer to the bed and staring down at her. She looked so peaceful, so content in her sleep, it was hard to imagine she was the key to the curse. All he had to do was wake the Princess and it would be over. The world would be safe from the evil consuming it.

Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself for what was to come. His heart raced in a way it never had before as he stared down at this beautiful creature. He was responsible for her now. He must free her from her slumber.

“Are you really ready for what it means if you do this?” a voice called out to him.

The Prince moved from the bed, locking eyes with creature on the other side of the room. It sat in a chair, watching him with curious red eyes. Its long dark robe hid the rest of his face. A black rusty sword sat across its lap.

“I suppose you are the Guardian? You’re here to stop me from doing what I must do.”

It rose from the chair, taking the sword into its hand. “I must prevent you from breaking the curse. That is my duty. I will kill you, unless…you turn around and walk away. Forget about this castle and the darkness it contains inside.”

“I can’t. People are dying out there. The world is falling apart. I can’t turn my back on that. I can’t give up everything I love.”

The Guardian raised its sword. “Very well. The castle will have a new set of bones when I am done with you.”

The Prince raised his sword as well. “This sword will have its triumph. But not from you.” He spun around, turning his back to the Guardian and stepped towards the bed.

“Are you too much of a coward to face me,” the Guardian called.

“No, I just know fighting you is pointless,” the Prince told him calmly, staring down at the beautiful girl in the bed. “You’re not the real threat here.” Lifting the sword of glory high above his head, he brought it down, straight into the heart of the girl.

She screamed, awaking suddenly. Her dark crimson eyes locked onto the Prince as her hands groped uselessly at the sword in her chest. “You stupid mortal. How dare you slay me. Most men couldn’t have resisted my allure. They would have kissed me and burned to death for their forwardness,” she hissed. “But you, you knew the truth and you went right for the heart of it.” She glanced down as blood pooled around her. “My heart.”

The sword glowed brighter in her flesh, spilling fire into her veins. It consumed her, eating her body from existence.

The Prince stepped back, smiling as the Guardian faded as well. The castle was returning to what it had been before the evil Princess had invaded this kingdom and murdered his betrothed.

Justice had prevailed where it had failed before. The elders thought it would be enough to curse her into a never-ending sleep. But their compassion had been the world’s downfall.

The demon Princess had been more powerful than anyone could have imagined. She continued to plague the world through sleep, dreaming into reality monsters and demons to take over the world.

Her death was the only thing that could save them; and the Prince’s heart already belonged to someone else, even if she was dead. That love was armor enough to protect him where others had failed.

© 2013 Melissa L. Webb

Empty Houses- Friday Flash

Empty house

Empty house (Photo credit: xiangxi)

 

EMPTY HOUSES
By Melissa L. Webb

I don’t like empty houses. It seems like a weird thing to confess, but it’s true. I never have. They feel different than other houses.

Darker, colder, and unnatural, empty houses sit there like a festered sore you don’t want to talk about.

There’s a heaviness oozing out of every crack I can feel when I’m too close. That seems impossible for such a hollow place. Emptiness should be nothing but emptiness. But it isn’t so in empty dwellings.

They say ‘Nature abhors a vacuum,’ and maybe that’s the reason the buildings feel this way. The idea of an empty space goes against the laws of physics. And to have a dwelling something must dwell in it.

What it is that takes over these places I can’t even begin to understand. Maybe it’s some dark entity jumping from place to place like a hermit crab. It stays in some vacant house absorbing energy around it until its evil has outgrown the walls. Then it leaves, looking for a new emptiness to nurture its development.

Or has the thought of something creeping in while no one was left to drive it out been enough to create it? Is it our fears becoming reality?

I can see the things that slink through the rooms of the house vivid in my mind. I know what I fear will stare out a window if I stare too long at it. Is that projection enough to create something? I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is that empty houses hold a presence that is as real as anything else. And it is something that should be feared.

So…let me ask you this: What are you filling the empty house near you with?

 

© 2013 Melissa L. Webb

 

Pick Your Poison- Friday Flash

PICK YOUR POISON

By Melissa L. Webb

English: A shot glass filled with alcohol and ...

English: A shot glass filled with alcohol and fishermans friends taste Svenska: Ett shotglas fyllt med fishermans friends-smakande alkohol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Teetering on the edge of my bar stool  I tried to decide whether I should call it a night or not. It had been one of those days at work. Sometimes I wondered why I ever bothered becoming a cop. No matter how hard I worked, the bad guy always seemed to get away with it. There were too many rules I had to follow.

And when I did they always protected the criminals.

I didn’t understand any of it. If we knew someone was bad we should be able to punish them. Even the bible thought we should. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth.

But no. The guilty had more rights than we did. It didn’t seem fair. Not in the least.

With a sigh, I slid back on my stool. This wasn’t a night to stop at one drink. I needed several to dull the ache in my soul. The world was falling apart and I couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.

The bartender slid a shot in front of me before I could even say a word. Wow. I must have looked worse than I thought. “Thanks,” I told him, glancing longingly at the brown liquid.

“Oh, it’s not from me.” He motioned down the bar. “It’s from her.”

A petite brunette smiled at me, her dark red lips drawing up in the most sexy way.

Well, now. Maybe this night wouldn’t end so bad after all.

Raising the glass, I saluted her with a grin of my own, bringing the booze to my lips. I tossed the liquid back, feeling it burn all the way down. I gasped from the pain. It was exactly what I needed. A cathartic blaze that cleansed the bitterness from within.

I sat the glass on the bar with a thud and glanced back down the bar. I believe I owed the lady a thank you. I frowned when I realized she was gone. Scanning the bar, I hoped to see some sign of my mystery woman; but she was gone. She had disappeared as quickly as she came.

So much for a night of brief happiness.

I stared down at the empty shot glass. It sat there, bleak and empty, like my life. Nothing to look forward to but more useless days on the force. It all seemed so pointless. Meaningless actions upon meaningless words.

It was too much to think about at the moment. I needed to go home.

Scooting the shot glass away, I rose from the stool. “Good night, Joe,” I mumbled to the bartender.

“Are you sure you want call it a night? You just got here.”

I glanced over at him, a witty remark on my lips. My thoughts fell silent as I realized the man was no longer there. Only a tall shadow loomed beyond the bar. It watched me with curiosity.

I shook my head, backing away. I was weary to the bone. My brain held too much fog in it. I just needed to go home and sleep this day off. That’s all it was.

I turn around, and froze. A black shape moved across the ceiling. It skittered down the wall and stopped, looking at me with black shiny eyes. It looked like a giant scorpion but with a human face.

It watched me as I started moving, a knowing grin spreading across its face.

Everywhere I looked, strange things looked back at me. People were no longer people and unnatural creatures lurked in corners. I started running. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew it wasn’t safe in there for me. Not anymore.

Pushing open the door, I raced out of the bar into the cool night air. What was the matter with me? Had I lost my mind from all the despair I’d been living through?

”You okay?”

I spun around, frightened by what I might see this time. The brunette stood there, looking up at me. She looked perfectly normal. As good as when she bought me that drink.

That drink. She had bought me a drink.

”You put something in the drink, didn’t you?” I demanded. “What did you give me?”

She smiled. “A gift. Something special to make your world better.”

I couldn’t believe it. She had drugged me. “What did you give me?”

“You know something is wrong with the world. You struggle with that day after day,” she said, her painted smile never fading. “You want to make it better but you don’t know how. What I gave you was the answer.”

None of this was making any sense. “Answer?”

”Yes. Now you can see. I have removed the blinders from your eyes. You can see what is wrong with the world. The dark things that linger behind. And if you can see them, then you fight them.”

I smiled slowly, suddenly understanding her. The world was corrupted. That’s why I couldn’t make anything better. But now I knew. I could see the poison. And I could destroy it.

Tomorrow was going to be a much better day.

© 2013 Melissa L. Webb

 

 

If You Can Dream It, You Can Achieve It- Friday Flash

Smile 12 a

Smile 12 a (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN ACHIEVE IT
By Melissa L. Webb

The power of the human mind is an awesome thing. Chloe couldn’t help but think that as she toured her new home, slipping in and out of each room as if floating on cloud nine.

Six months ago, she never dreamed this could be hers. She was a young woman with no job, no friends or family, no roof to put over her head. That’s all she had been.

Broken and alone.

She thought it would be the end of her; she would die, cold and alone, in some back alley.

That idea scared her to death. She didn’t want to die like that. She couldn’t have her life mean nothing in the end. Just because the world had ripped everything she loved away from her didn’t mean she had to accept it. It was her time. It was up to her to change her fate.

Chloe decided to create a new life for herself. A life she could be proud of. She thought long and hard about what she truly wanted and when she had her answers, she went about shaping that life. Using any means possible to find her outcome.

If you can dream it, you can achieve it. That’s what her father had always told her. She knew now it was possible. She had done it.

She flitted through the house, straightening a curtain here, fluffing a pillow there. This was her prize for all the sacrificing she had done. A normal life. Her Valhalla at the end of a long and rough journey.

When she had stumbled into that office and found herself with an assistant’s job, she thought they had made a horrible mistake. When she learned how much it paid, she thought the cosmos was playing some kind of joke on her.

Any minute the ax would drop and her new found luck would be severed away.

But when she realized she was good at the job and that the management couldn’t be happier, she began to breathe a little easier. This was her life now.

It was the life she deserved.

Chloe rented a small studio apartment. It was rundown and dingy, but at least it kept her warm and allowed her a place to call her own.

As paycheck after paycheck rolled in, she managed to save enough to find a house. One she could rent with an option to buy. The minute she set eyes on the it, she knew it was her dream home. She signed the paperwork on the spot.

She floated through that house now, a song in her heart as she stopped to check herself in the hallway mirror.

Sean was on his way over.

They had reservations at the newest, trendiest restaurant in the city. They hadn’t been there yet, but Chloe had heard nothing but rave reviews. Anybody who was anyone absolutely loved the place.

Humming to herself, she reapplied her Berry Fantastic lipstick. It had become her signature color and Sean loved it on her.

She couldn’t believe how lucky she was to find him. She met him through her boss. Sean was the new protégé at the law firm her company used. He was tall, blond, good looking, and a lawyer. You couldn’t get better than that.

Sean was exactly what she’d been dreaming of all her life. Her prince charming. And now he was hers. Life couldn’t get any better.

Chloe couldn’t help but smile as she plopped her lipstick back in her bag. There were whispers of something big happening tonight. Their friends had assured her this was the night Sean would ask her to marry him.

That thought absolutely thrilled her. She would be his forever. A lawyer’s wife with her own successful career. Her future looked perfect.

The doorbell rang. Running across the room, she giggled. He was right on time.

Sean stood in her doorway, a twinkle in his eye as he stared down at her. “Hello, sweetheart. You look absolutely amazing.”

She smiled, glancing down at her new dress. “Thank you.”

Pulling her into his arms, he held her close. “I missed you,” he spoke softly against her hair.

“I missed you, too.” She always missed him when they were apart.

He stepped back, but his eyes still caressed her. “Are you ready? I have a magical night planned for you.”

She smiled up at him. “I was born ready.”

He returned her smile with a mischievous grin. “Let’s go show the world what true love looks like.” Slipping his arm around her, they headed down the hall on the way to their new beginning. Life was perfect.

***

Two people watched the young woman on the bed through the monitor. She sat there motionless, her thin, pale body reminding them of a refugee from a concentration camp. But it was the look in her eyes which worried them. They were lifeless. Completely void of any emotion.

“What’s wrong with her, doctor?” the woman watching the monitor asked the man next to her.

He glanced down at the chart in his hands, silently thinking before he answered. “She malnourished and suffering from hypothermia. They found her this morning on a park bench. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s been living on the streets for at least six months.”

“Will she be alright?”

“We can treat her body, but her mind…She’s unresponsive, maybe even showing early stages of catatonia. Except every once in a while she whispers the name Sean.”

The woman frowned, saddened by the girl’s condition. “Do you know who she is?”

The doctor shook his head. “No. They’re running her fingerprints, but right now she’s just another Jane Doe. And unfortunately this one is living in her own world. Some place where I doubt anyone can reach her.”

© 2013 Melissa L. Webb