Sunday, May 6, 2012

Issue Nineteen, Volume Three

From the Desk of the Editor;
Hello and welcome to this exciting special Monday edition of Larks Fiction Magazine! In this issue we have two masters of action adventure at the creative helm. A warning however—today’s content is intended for mature audiences. Please be advised for violence and some gore.
March’s Smashwords Edition will be out very soon. We have had a few problems that has backed us up but we will be back on top soon!
05/08/12--the March Edition is now online at Smashwords!
Daniel J. Pool
LFM Editor

The Meat Wagon
By Ron Koppelberger

A reckoning in intimate mixtures, the meat wagon in hurried transport. The bluster of the students demeanor was in the realms of foresight, a chance in visions of climate. He watched the wild tempest snowflake envelope the meat wagon and its contents. He was determined with a christened expectation. The Meat wagon revolt he thought. A secret world of immanent decay and dark conveyance. The meat wagon proposed the final adventure in the folly of life’s pretense.
It was a home habited by the unsettling press of mystery and distant horizons. An apocalyptic renaissance in savannahs of icy cold, crystal parley in a season of passing.
Shuddering, he watched from a distance as the meat wagon negotiated snow drifts and a sheen of clear ice. Slippery, drunken and cold it was balanced by infinite insight. A tutor in the school of persuasive misty voyage. It was interposed between the primordial vestiges of day and twilight, certainty and ethereal vapors of division. A measure of power for a measure of everlasting hullabaloo. He watched as the meat wagon pretended animate fantasy for an ambush of bartered inventory.
The meat wagon, fickle ghostly and foreboding in lost junctures of mortality promising the undefined revolution of spirits in transit.


About the author;
Ron is a poet, a short story writer and an artist. He has written 103 books of poetry over the past several years and 18 novels. He has been published in England, Australia, Canada, Japan, India, Mauritius, Italy, France, Germany, China, Spain and Thailand. He has been Published in The Stray Branch, The Fringe, Write On!!! (Poetry Magazette) Static Movement, Necrology Shorts and Record Magazine. He is a member of The Poet’s society, The Fiction Guild as well as The Isles Poetry Association and The Dark Fiction Guild.

Those Who Trespass Against Us
By Brian Gowdy

You look at your feet. You know it’s a game. The Twisted Roses love mind games.
It’s pouring.
You hold your breath. They’re onto you. They’re like hairs on the back of your neck.
The night’s tinted in red. It’s always tinted in red.
The air is hot and the rain is hot. There’s eight others around you—the rest of the midnight’s crowd is under a roof that’s not leaking.
Three people: two guys and a girl join you. Now it’s crowded.
The wet seeps through the roof’s splits, dripping itself back into raindrops. The girl’s watching you.
Your blood is beating. You can’t swallow. You waited eight years for this.
You ignore her. She takes the bait.
Her bleach-blonde hair is dulled by its drench. She’s short for a Rose.
She steps up to you—straight onto your toes. Her boots are sharp and shelled with steel. Yours aren’t.
Lightning splits the skies. She’s young. Maybe as young as you. In that second you see her scheme—it’s all etched around her grey eyes. The lightning sucks back into itself and she’s nothing but a shadow.
One hand’s on your hair, her other’s in your belt. You’re very aware of the knife that’s not in your pocket.
She strokes her chest across your heart. You shut your eyes. You see Sarah.
You take in the heavy air, dragging it up your nostrils. Thunder growls down your eardrums.
The Rose is still touching you. Her fingertips trace your shoulders until they taste your scars—she snaps back.
You look. She’s shrunken. She’s strangled in the scene.
The night’s a stain on your facade. She’s a silhouette, rouged in red. Your blood’s still stirring.
She recovers her eye contact. She’s trying to tame you. The wind wraps you in its wetness.
She tears the tension, trapping her girly laugh in her girly hand.
She takes you by the wrist. You feel the shivers starting.
You’ve been chosen.
*     *     *
You’re in a cell. The dungeons are a prison, that much hasn’t changed. Though, there’s a wakeful lack of torturous tools. Their absence isn’t as soothing as it should be.
Overnight, the girl escorted you to the castle—or the fortress, as it’s known now. It looked smaller than you remembered.
Upon entering, the Roses had searched you in hopes of stripping you of whatever you’d brought with you. You’d brought nothing with you.
You’re in a cell. You can see six others. Everyone else is obscured by their bars.
You’re waiting. The dungeon’s a drain for darkness.
Fire fumes from cauldrons, flicking the others’ faces in its rosy flutter. They’re staring at you.
“What happened to you?” one of them says. He’s wearing a silken shirt.
You trap your tongue in your teeth. You’ve heard that before.
“Okay…” he says, relieving himself, “just trying to get to know you guys before—”
“You don’t know where you are, do you,” the girl across from you says. She has a dangerous demeanor about her, like she were sculpted with knives.
“Yes I know where I am… Though, I am wondering why they had to lock us up.”
You snicker at his stupidity. So does she.
A brutish snort blows out of the guy in the cell next to yours. “So you just know everything.” His voice is malice.
“I clearly know more than you do,” the dangerous girl says.
“You’ll wanna tame that tongue around me!” He spits the words out like a snapping turtle.
“Or what—you gonna cut it out? You inbred,” she says, snarling her smile.
The hot-headed guy spasms. Sounds throttled by his throat taint the prison’s air. He thrashes himself against his gate, thrusting his hands through his bars.
“Oh I’m in trouble now.” The words lick off the dangerous girl’s tongue like they would a lady. She cocks against her gate—her dark hair draping over her dark face.
Blood blooms the hot-headed guy’s bulbous head like a flower. His locks are rattling.
“Cool it guys!” the boy in the silken shirt says. “We shouldn’t turn on each other!”
Your smile scrunches your cheeks. Two cells down, a blubbery bald man gushes in giggles. He looks like a big baby.
“Is this funny?” the boy in the silken shirt says. “Is this some kind of game to you, you beached whale!”
The dangerous girl’s cackles clash against the baby man’s giggles. It sounds like a circus.
“Why?” the dangerous girl says. “Are you having fun?”
The laughter’s contagious.
“Really guys, what’s going on?”
The woman beside the dangerous girl breaks her stone-sour expression. “I think you belong with them.” She gestures to the cells across the dungeon. Locked inside are those that look like they’ve been down there a while. Any confusion’s been starved off their faces.
“Are they here to become Roses too?” the boy in the silken shirt says.
The stone-sour girl rolls her eyes.
“They’re here to play with us,” the dangerous girl says, licking her lips at the hot-headed guy.
“Someone—please—just tell me what’s going on!” He’s resorted to shouting.
You’re still biting your tongue.
“I—I wouldn’t call it a—a game,” you say.
He turns to you, like a baby to its mother’s milk.
“So what then?”
You suck in the air. It soothes nothing.
“It—it’s more like… tryouts.”
*     *     *
They sound asleep.
The fires flare through the jail’s bars, shooting shadows on the walls like webs. You stand up. You strip off the belt they should’ve confiscated. The pins have been pricking you for hours.
You look at the lock. It’s junk. It’s part of their ploy.
You stab it with your make-shift lock-pick. It pops prematurely, stripping your satisfaction.
You slide your door open. It doesn’t creak.
You step softly towards the stairs. There’s more of you than you’d thought.
You know what the Twisted Roses want. You know what the Twisted Roses expect. But you have something up your sleeve. Something besides the scars.
*     *     *
You wake up and your feet are sore—which is what happens when you sleep in steel boots.
You’re back in your cell. The others are still sleeping. You weren’t the only one who broke out last night.
You shift your feet. The Twisted Roses’ steel-plated boots are as heavy as they look. Crafted for killing rather than comfort, their toes triangle into blades and their heels horseshoe into hammers. Stealing the sword would’ve just been excessive.
Across from you, the dangerous girl’s wearing a new skirt. It’s silver and sharp and made out of knives. She’s asleep in the fetal position.
Stone-sour girl’s sitting up with her scythe. Her arms are plated, like yours—only her armor’s from the armory.
You lie to your back and wait for them to come. They come.
You’re squired out of your cell by the Rose wearing your old shoes. You return his look.
The dungeon drains in a single-filed manner. Your escort slaps his sword upon your spine. It’s time to go.
You’re the rear of the line. The dangerous girl’s in front of you. Your eyes are on her skirt. Hanging from her hips, her skirt of knives scrape and sear themselves in their harmony. Their silver shines red.
It’s a two-mile trek to the mountain’s top. Not everyone makes it.
Its summit exploded some years ago. Your heels are getting heavy.
There’s a hole high in the mountain’s side. They shepherd you through it in pairs of two.
The cave cuts off, spilling you in sunlight. You shut your eyes. You see red.
The sound ruptures. The cheers clash your calm. Your whole world’s watching.
You’re shivering—in the good way. You hate it.
“And they’re here! Finally!”
You open your eyes. You’re in the colosseum. The stands are sculpted out of the crater’s cleft cliffs. They stretch to the skies, circling you like a carnivorous crown.
“Ladies and gentlemen, contestants and call-girls, crapshooters, charlatans, and most of all—cowards! I welcome you to The Colosseum! And to The Games!”
The crowd cannons into a crying uproar at the announcer’s words.
“First off, I would like to thank our beloved shitsplints for serving us the past few months. We can only hope it was as much of a pleasure for us… as it was for you!”
The few surviving skin-and-bone slaves groan.
“Next! To those of you without weapons or armor—You may want to come better prepared tomorrow!”
You can’t shake your smile.
Standing beside you, someone’s strapped inside an entire suit of armor. They don’t make a sound.
The Roses line you up and split the line six ways. You contain your eye contact.
You’re assigned team Rainbow. It’s all guys. You’re stuck with the hot-headed guy, the boy in the silken shirt, another confused guy, a young boy scared to shivers, an old man missing half his arm and half his face, and some shitsplint. So much for strategy.
“Well then, it’s time to play!” the announcer says.
The air thickens.
“Come forth, RAINBOW!”
Cackles kill the cheers as you strut from the sidelines.
Boo’s! bleach the cackles as two girls: a brunette and a blonde with a pony’s tail, take the far side of the field. They’re followed by a burly guy, a slender guy, a shitsplint, and the dangerous girl. Your shoes and her skirt are the only visible weaponry.
Your legs spread to a wide-set stance. Standing shoulder to shoulder, your hot-headed teammate snarls his salivation.
“Alright!” The ecstasy in the announcer’s voice sucks the sounds out of the stands. “I understand that some of you contestants still don’t understand what you’re doing here… So instead of just telling you, I figured we’d show you!”
“Oh thank God,” the boy in the silken shirt says.
You drag the air through your nose. Your arm guards slip down the sweat of your wrists. The skies are stains of blood.
Your entire team twitches into a brainless bolt. You stay still.
You’re left in their dust. You watch as the two teams split apart, spitting aggression into their offense. The fools and the fierce stampede towards the center like wind towards a tornado. Your blood counts the beats. And like two tidal waves, they clash.
Your ears suffer a snap!
You watch as the ponytailed girl crashes out of her frontwards flip, slinging the boy in the silken shirt from her lock-legged noose. His head rolls with him like a rag doll.
She doesn’t waste a second. The ponytailed girl springs her legs up, stomps the confused guy in his jaw, and lands with her heel on his throat. You wish you’d stolen that sword.
Nobody’s near you.
Behind the ponytailed girl, the brunette girl harrows in on the scared boy. He looks scared. With nobody to his rescue, the brunette girl pounces. And out of nowhere—like a shock to your spine—the scared boy slaps a knife through her neck.
The ponytailed girl’s got a new target. Between you and her is the old man with half his arm and hand and half his face. He’s waving. She takes off at him like a bull would blood.
She does her frontwards flip. Her noose-notched knee strikes at his throat’s absence. With his one hand, the agile old man latches onto her leg, whirls her in a vortex, and heaves her across the air and into the burly guy. The old man laughs like a pirate.
The scared boy sprints into their sandstorm and starts stabbing like a psychopath. The ponytailed girl kicks back to life and whips her heel into the scared boy’s face. His sky-strewn knife spangles off the sunlight as your peripherals steal the show.
It’s the slender guy. He thinks he’s caught you off guard. You humor him.
You watch through the acutes of your eyes. He’s taking you from the side. You breathe. He’s twenty feet out.
You look at your feet. He spurs into a sprint. You sip on your hate. He’s ten feet out. You draw your face and follow with your eyes. He’s red.
He stutters. He skips some footwork. He’s trying to distract you. You’re flattered.
He’s closing in. Your weight shifts. He fakes left. He fakes right. He fakes—crack! Your steel boot buckles his knee backwards. He crumbles. You finish.
You don’t look at the damage. You breathe. All his air is yours.
There’s four others left. The dangerous girl’s taunting the hot-headed guy. He looks like an eruption. Both shitsplints seem dead. The ponytailed girl’s engaged again.
She charges. The old man knows the drill.
Like last time, she kicks off into a frontwards flip—but this time her legs stay tucked, twirling her faster and further.
Like last time, the old man holds his hand out. Her arm unfurls—her hand flashes—and like a fang, the scared boy’s knife gores his palm. He doesn’t have time to scream.
Your throat constricts. Your heart sucks your blood. “Sarah,” you say to yourself.
She sees you. You hide under your hatred. She’s already covered in blood.
You’re sixty feet apart. You know what she’s gonna do.
She might be smiling. You might be too. She kicks off. You do too.
Your feet are heavy. They’ve always been heavy.
You thrust your knees high. You pump your braced wrists. Your boots can barely keep up.
She’s close. Her sprint slings her pony’s tail like a comet’s tail. Her eyes are wicked.
Your teeth are bared. Your momentum’s a monster.
The clash is coming.
You anchor your arms to the ground and catapult your legs into a cartwheel. Your boots blur through their upwards arc.
You don’t see it. You hardly feel it. Your heels hammer dents through the dirt.
You crawl out of your dust cloud. The ponytailed girl’s twenty feet away, piled with the rest of her bodies. She’s a mess.
The crowd’s cheers chisel into your conscious. You’d been tuning them out.
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you end a life!” the announcer says. “Nobody and I mean nobody, is gonna be topping that tonight!”
You snub their excitement. There’s still two left.
From across the field, you see the hot-headed guy charging towards you—or towards the scared boy’s knife. The dangerous girl’s dashing behind him. She’s swifter than anyone you’ve ever seen.
She’s on his heels in heartbeats. She pounces.
Your jaw drops. The teeth of her skirt trace the bald of his head—she’s leaping over him.
He has no room to react. The dangerous girl ducks into a headfirst dive. She snatches him by the ankles as she rolls off her tucked neck into a somersault. Screaming and stumbling, the hot-headed guy buckles. His chest plants perfectly onto the dangerous girl’s constricting heels. Like a cannon, she kicks him at the sky, sending him spinning backflips and spraying blood like some sort of sinister pinwheel.
You watch as the dangerous girl sinks two knives into him as he flails over the air. He hits the dirt with a splat!
The announcer starts to speak but is smothered by the stands. The awe is overwhelming. You can’t close your mouth.
This was a bad idea. You’re gonna die here.
The dangerous girl looks up. Her smile slits her cheeks.
You spread your feet. The air tastes terrible.
The dangerous girl draws more knives. You see the scared boy’s blade—it’s lying right where the ponytailed girl dropped it.
She stays still. It’s your move.
“Enough!” the announcer says. “Congratulations! You two get to sleep tonight… Now clear the field for BLOODBATH and SPOON!”
*     *     *
The second day is one-on-one death matches. Twelve wake up. Five fall asleep.
*     *     *
You’re told the third day is the last day. By now everybody’s broken out of their cell. The Twisted Roses had said if any of you wake up dead, you all wake up dead.
You wake up. There’s blood on your boots.
You’re marched up the mountain. It’s pouring.
Five of you are still alive. There’s the dangerous girl and her skirt of knives. There’s the stone-sour girl and her scythe. There’s the suit of armor and his suit of armor. And the baby man who, as you’ve seen, has no need for weaponry.
The colosseum’s conquered by cloud cover; its skies churn in claustrophobia. You always liked watching the weather.
The stands are sold out. You wonder if any bets are on you.
You’re marching single-file through the entrance as the announcer starts speaking, “WELCOME EVERYONE TO THE FINAL ROUND!”
The stands are already screaming.
You shudder at the spontaneous start. Your instinct sees the scythe soaring at your skull—you block it with your braced arm. In that same second you slash the sword you’d gone back and stolen—it tears her throat.
There’s not a second to breathe. You’re all in five feet of each other.
You take off towards the open and something bashes your back. It sends you sloshing through the mud-slop—your hands are swordless. You hear giggling.
You spin to your shoulder blades. You see the baby man. His blubber billows as he sprints. The mud’s molded around you—you’re stuck.
You’re as tense as a bear’s trap. He dives.
You kick your heels high and deflect him over your eyesight. His momentum backflips you to your feet. You snap the scared boy’s knife off your belt and start stabbing.
You turn around.
The dangerous girl’s dancing around the suit of armor’s offense. He has your sword.
You trot towards them. The dangerous girl sees you. She smiles.
You spur your speed. He won’t see a thing through that helm.
Your toes stab through the mud. You’d slip if you weren’t wearing steel boots.
You blitz him from behind. Harnessing your hatred, you kick your heels as high as they’ll go. He drops.
His stolen armor’s inferior to your stolen boots.
You remember where you are. The dangerous girl’s waiting behind you. You’d forgotten valor had ever existed.
Your hand hardens around your sword. You step back. The suit of armor’s face guard is hitched to your heel.
She’s staring. She’s smiling.
You stand stiff. You’re made of stone.
She pitches into a predator’s pose. Her fingers feel upon her skirt.
You’re on balls of your feet. The skies are swollen. You suck the air through your jaw-tight teeth.
You’re tilting like metal towards a magnet. She twitches. You snap.
Your arm’s the crack of a whip. You drill the scared boy’s knife down your line of sight.
She dips under your dart. Your blood bites your heart. She snarls.
Her fingers fold her two knives into fangs—ready to stab rather than scrape.
You’re about to fall over your feet. Momentum’s your last asset left. You take off.
Your metallic toes cleave cavities through the mud. She stays still.
Your wrists are wrung around your weapon. She smiles.
Her hands lurch. Instinct swats your sword to the clang! of clashing metal. The second blade she throws bites your knuckles. She’s ten feet out.
You can’t feel your fingers. Her hands are on her belt. The rain’s red.
You leap. Your sword’s a stinger.
She lashes her arm—unleashing her skirt. You—
*     *     *
Your eyes are open. It hurts.
You’re back. You’ve been back for eight years.
You look at your feet. They’re strapped in steel.
You’re sewn up. You’ve been sewn up for eight years.
You sit up. Your hand won’t move.
Your shirt is red. It’s always been red.
You stand up. You shouldn’t be walking.
You don’t get far before they find you. They greet you with roses.
They take you to the party—to your party.
You’re a Twisted Rose now.
The dangerous girl’s there. She’s wearing her skirt.
They sit you by her.
“Hi,” she says.
“Hi,” you say. You voice is hardly there.
You’re poked in the back—right on your scars. You turn.
It’s her. The girl Rose with the grey eyes—the one that chose you.
“Hello,” she says. She’s primped in precious stones.
“Hello,” you say. You speak through your eyes.
Her smile dimples her cheeks. She holds you by the arm.
You fall into her femininity. She blushes. You remember why you’re here.
“I need you to help me,” you say.
She’s all ears.
“I need you to take me to The Thorn.”
“The Thorn? We haven’t had a Thorn in two years.”
You’re on the edge of your eyes.
“It’s The Rose.” She covers her giggles. “She’s a girl.”
*     *     *
You knock. The walls are darker on the top floor.
“Come in.” The words are lifeless.
Your boots are loud on the hardwood.
The Rose is tall and wears a dark dress. Her hair is blonde. It cascades over her countenance as she stares at the stars.
“Hello Miss Rose,” you say.
“Hello Shitsplint.” Her voice is beautiful, like bells.
“You’re sweet,” you say.
“No, I’m not,” she says.
She bows her head under the night stained sky.
“I’d like to see The Thorn, the one from eight years ago.”
“Vonvayne was our Thorn for twenty-two years.” She speaks softly and slowly.
“Vonvayne.” You taste the word on your tongue. “Where is he?”
“He’s dead.”
The Rose turns for a heartbeat, showing you a sliver of her moonlit face. She’s young. Maybe as young as you.
“I pushed him off this balcony,” she says.
You kill the king, you become the king. You knew this.
“Vonvayne was the reason I joined the Twisted Roses.” Her words sound starry.
“We have something in common,” you say.
She ignores you.
“I met him eight years ago… when I was twelve,” she says.
Your pulse picks up.
“He came here. To the castle,” she says.
“You were here when he—”
She cuts you off, “I grew up here. A lot of us did.”
Your heart blares in your blood.
“I watched it all happen, eight years ago. I watched them all die, the guards, the lords, the ladies, the gardeners, the chefs, the story tellers, the s-stablemen.” Her voice dies, “Even the other children.”
Your eyes are blurring.
“They—the Roses even lit someone I… knew on fire, right in front of my eyes.”
You stare at the red scars spidering down your ruined skin.

The End for Now

About the author;
Brian Gowdy is a recent graduate of Clemson University. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina with a married couple and their lovely bulldog. He loves thunderstorms and sunny days and hates everything in between. After two years, he is finally in the revision stage of his first novel, Covetous, in which "Those Who Trespass Against Us" is loosely based upon.

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