Monday, September 10, 2012

Issue Thirteen, Volume Four

From the Desk of the Editor;
     Hello and welcome to another exciting edition of Larks Fiction Magazine! In this issue we are delving straight into what makes us human (even if the characters aren't). Thank you for joining us and I hope you like what you read.

     For an update on Fox House we are nearly ready to start rebuilding! We dug out most of the ancient sewer lines. On a side note--always know how to get out of any tiny space under a creepy house you crawl into.

     Make sure to follow us on Twitter @LarksMedia and me @Filozophy for all the latest news, gossip, and writing tips.

Daniel J. Pool
LFM Editor

The Monster
By L.G. Wyant
    Karl Skrog awoke to the sound of some infomercial spokesman hawking his wares with the jubilant zeal of the newly converted.
    The pounding in the back of his head was explained as his bleary eyes took in the empty beer cans surrounding his recliner. Karl looked around, confused for a moment, before remembering why he had drunk himself to sleep in the living room.
 He came home exhausted after work, and having a few at the bar to settle his nerves. Upon arriving home he hadn’t so much as gotten his boots off when he heard a whimpering moan, as if some scared soul was too frightened to even cry out.
Cursing softly under his breath Karl walked through the small trailer home to the room that belonged to the boy. Opening the door and flipping the light switch on revealed the boy huddling in his quilt, scrunched against the headboard as if he could crawl behind it.
Karl stood in shock for a second at how far the boy was taking the charade. “What in tarnation are ya doin”, he exclaimed at the boy. “If’n I told ya once, I told ya a thousand times, boy”. He then walked over to the closet across from the bed and threw open the closet’s sliding door while shouting at him, “There ain’t no such thing as monsters”!
The seven year old boy, enveloped in his quilt, quivered as a small head covered in mouse brown hair emerged, “It was there… I swear it was. Look,” he said as he pointed at the footboard, “it clawed the bed try’n ta get me”. 
Karl noticed the marks on the wooden footboard, “What did you do boy”? He rubbed at the gashes in the wood that must have been a quarter inch deep. “Forget fer a minute those good people at that church bought’cha brand new bed, but what ya think them social werkers gonna think when they see this? They gonna take away my state fundin’, then what we gonna eat? Ya gonna start a garden or sumpthin”?
The boy had covered up again and whimpered under the quilt. Karl almost lost it then, the boy was nothing but trouble.  Here he was proving he didn’t have anything to be frightened about, and the little brat wouldn’t shut up.
Finally fed up, Karl turned to leave the room. “Simmer down, ya better be in bed soon. You might not have school tomorra, but I gotta work.”
Karl turned the light back off and pulled the door closed. That was when he decided to have a few brews while watching the sports recap. A few had turned into many and he never did get back to his room to set the morning alarm.
    Staring through bleary eyes at the clock over the television, Karl blinked several times as he tried to bring the led numbers into focus. Upon seeing it did indeed say he was three hours late for work, he took a few moments to decide whether to call in late or just scrap the whole day.
    Prudence finally won out, and the fact that he wouldn’t be able to afford his weekly case of Milwaukee’s Best.  Karl got up from his stained recliner and stumbled over to the rotary phone hanging from the wall by the kitchen. It only took a few moments to remember the oft called number before he started dialing.
    “Hey Chuck”, Karl said when his boss picked up. “I’m gonna be a little late today, the dadgum truck wouldn’t start. Sounds like it might be tha starter.” He paused as he listened to the reply. “ Yeah I know it’s the third time this month, but I ain’t got enough money but to keep riggin’ it together”, and then after another short pause “ I’ll take the next bus in and work a couple hours late to make up for it. Yeah ok, see you then boss.”
    Karl hung up the phone and stamped his feet into his work boots, which stood to the left of his recliner. He didn’t need to do much else to get ready; he was still wearing yesterday’s work clothes. He looked at the clock and decided he had enough time for a little “hair of the dog” and made his way to the fridge and his last remaining can of beer.
    Standing there in the kitchen, slumped against the counter, Karl thought about the one time in his life he had been happy. He had just turned 21 and was in the local bar celebrating when he met the boy’s mother, Trishia.
    What started with a drink turned into a whirlwind romance that ended with them tying the knot in just under a month. Karl had been so happy he had cleaned up his act, sobered up and even got a job at the local saw mill. Then one day after work Tricia told him she was pregnant. It was the happiest seven months of his life.
    Then the child was born and Karl knew he wasn’t his son. The tramp had just duped him into marrying her so he’d take care of them both. She didn’t even have the decency to live through the birth so he could tell her off.
    Karl wouldn’t have kept the boy, but a nurse had asked him for the infants name so they could finish the financial-aid paperwork. Karl thought of the government money the child would bring, and he almost walked off anyway.
    “Trouble”, he told the nurse,” his name is Trouble”. Karl turned and walked to the smoking area outside. He sat on the concrete bench as he pulled out his Bugle cigarette case and selected one he had made earlier that morning. A smile spread across his face as he lit up. His job offered nine weeks paid leave for new parents. “Oh yeah,” Karl said under his breath as he exhaled, “things’r definitely look’n up”.
    Karl was brought out of his reverie by a thin line of ants that weaved their way through a crack in the kitchen window’s screen. Forcefully placing the shot-gunned beer on the counter, he felt an intense anger welling up inside. If there was anything on the planet he despised more than the boy, it was ants.
    They got into everything. Any food or surface not protected was susceptible to invasion. If he didn’t take care of the situation soon, they’d also be swarming his beer cans and recliner.
    Karl followed the ant’s meandering path, already knowing where it would lead, down the trailers little hallway and the last door on the right… Trouble’s room.
    Walking through the open doorway Karl was already in a state of rage, and then he saw the plate of cookies. Lying on a plate on the closet floor, they were the object of the ant’s obsession.
    “What the hell, Trouble”, Karl hollered at the boy,” first of all them’s MY damn cookies. Second, what in the sam hell are they doin on a plate IN the closet?”
    “The’re in thare cause I made a deal with the Monster, he ain’t gonna bother me no more” the boy replied with his head tilted to the side as he looked up at the man who raised him.
    Karl couldn’t control himself; the brat had taken it too far this time. In three quick strides Karl was in the closet. “I told you already boy,” his eyes were so red a vessel must have burst in his intense rage. Swooping down he scooped up the plate and flung it across the room.
    As the ceramic plate shattered against the wall sending plate fragments, bits of cookies, and ants to shower the floor Karl turned to face the boy. “I told you boy, THERE AIN’T NO SUCH THING’S AS MONSTERS”!
    At least that’s what he was trying to say, but just as he was shouting “NO”, a giant fur-covered arm swung down from the closet ceiling. The hand clamped on Karl’s head with terrifying force as the black fingernails pierced his skull.
    A small gurgle was all Karl could manage as the purple and black mottled arm pulled him into oblivion. The last thing he saw was Trouble, a small smile pulling at the edge of his mouth as he said, “see Karl, I told you we made a deal”.

The End for Now

About the Author;
      LG Wyant is a new author with submissions to many publications including Writer's Digest and Writer's of the Future.
     Currently living in southern California he works as a milker's assistant at the cat factory. His childhood dream is to finally open a porcupine petting zoo. 

 Photo Credit by Jessica Rowse

Hard Time
by R. Christophe Ryber


Apollyon shook his head as he considered the grotesque stone face, his unkempt brown locks slithering like snakes on his crimson tunic. It was obscene for piety to reside in such a form, obscene for such a diabolically beautiful creature to submit to this stone prison. The leering visage, with its protruding tongue and curved horns seemed more suited for lust than for prayer. A phallic tail snaked over one shoulder, and taloned hands, which might have once grasped the bare limbs of struggling virgins, now gripped the edge of the cathedral’s bell tower.

The bells stirred within the tower, their peals reverberating five times over the slumbering city. When the last of the bells fell silent, Apollyon furled his dark wings and dropped into the candlelit sanctuary to claim his prize.

A group of monks kept watch within the shadow-filled cathedral as they chanted the Liturgy of the Dead. The rows of candles flickered in their ruby votives before the altar, their light gleaming on the polished mahogany coffin. The monk’s coarse brown robes rustled as they shifted in the pews. Their prayer books hung limp in their gnarled hands, and their bald heads, ringed with hairy gray halos, nodded in sorrow. Their portly leader’s voice swelled toward a crescendo, pulling his comrades back to the task at hand. Their heads snapped up as his words echoed in the predawn darkness.

The monk’s chanting faltered at Apollyon’s unseen approach, his black wings unfurling over them like storm clouds. Apollyon studied their somber faces for a moment, then his smoky brown eyes blazed to life as he whirled and drew on the white winged intruder walking toward him between the rows of marble columns. He raised an eyebrow at the familiar face and lowered his sword.

The golden-haired newcomer touched a soft hand to the monk’s shoulder. The troubled look left his face and he repeated the antiphon with a stronger voice.

Apollyon followed her over to the casket. “You can’t have this one, Auriel.”

Auriel traced a finger on the polished wood.

“How long has it been, Apollyon, and that’s all you have to say to me?”

           Apollyon placed his hand next to Auriel’s on the casket, not so ostentatious compared to others that he had been sent to collect from. A lot of his clients had nice coffins. He glanced over at Auriel, his face burning in the red glow of the flickering votives.

           “Why are you here?” Apollyon’s voice was sharp as a brass horn. “This one is ours.”

           Auriel walked over to a statue of the Virgin. Sky blue candles burned at the marble feet of the Madonna, bathing Auriel’s white features in a cool blue light. She turned and extended her long elegant fingers toward him. Apollyon stretched out his hand, felt the divine wrath gathering as their fingertips came closer. Finally, he stepped back.

“I miss touching you.”

Auriel sighed. Apollyon read the pain in her serene features as she spoke, her words falling like sad bell-chimes on his ears.

“You chose this, Apollyon, not me.”

Apollyon crossed his arms. “The ones that stayed behind made a choice also. I’ve never been able to compete with your first love.”

Auriel’s sapphire eyes lifted toward the crucifix overshadowing the altar.

“Was that why you left? Because I loved Him more than you? Your pride rivals that of your Prince.”

Apollyon pointed an accusing finger at the twisted, bloody corpus. “That is exactly why I left. Choice. He chose that suffering for Himself. We were even given a choice. But what about them?” Apollyon looked down at the weeping monks. “Did He give them a choice?”

            Auriel waved her hand over the balding heads of the grieving men, and relief passed over their faces. Apollyon smiled in remembrance. Auriel had always been quick to ease the pain of others, had always been more compassionate than was required. 

“All of our kind are greatly perplexed at their suffering, Apollyon. Some of us chose to have faith. You and the others left.”

Apollyon shook his head. “You were never one of the trusting ones. You were of the highest rank, and one of the first to question the hierarchy.”

Auriel’s celestial eyes narrowed. “Do not compare me to your Prince. He doesn’t want to cast down the Throne; he wants to occupy it.”

            Apollyon nodded. “He knows you don’t like him. He even apologized to me after – when he noticed that you hadn’t come. He said that many of his rank stayed behind because the loss of the Light was too hard to bear.”

            Auriel’s face darkened and she turned away from the crucifix. “It is indeed painful.”

            Apollyon frowned. “How long has it been?”

            A tear trickled down Auriel’s cheek. “Since you left.”

            Apollyon glared up at the crucifix. “Punishment? For me?” He reached out a hand toward Auriel, then drew back.

            Auriel shook her head. “This is my Fall. I chose to stay away. I walk the earth, alleviate what suffering I can.” She looked at the monks. “I heard their weeping, came in, and found you.”

            Apollyon looked down at the casket. “Then you weren’t sent for him.” His eyes lit up. “Come back with me! We could be together again. Why keep an allegiance that you honor only in name?”

            Auriel shook her head. “Would your Prince be so free with my time, allow me to ease the suffering of the mortals he claims to champion?”

           “Auriel, we have to prepare. Michael has grown strong since the Fall.“

          “You will lose.” Auriel’s sapphire eyes flashed. “And I will never see you again. I don’t think I could bear that.” She looked up at him. “Has your grand adventure been everything your Prince promised it would be?”

          Apollyon dropped his gaze. He stood there, Auriel’s pain burning within him, burning even hotter than his hatred for the cold, enigmatic Light. He turned away and slammed his fist into the polished surface of a marble column. His eyes were twin embers as they followed the pillar up to the vaulted ceiling, then over to the stained glass windows and Gothic arches.

We are the pillars of Creation. We hold it up, keep it going. We make the sacrifices, not Him.

          Apollyon looked back at Auriel, the lonely caryatid, buckling under the weight of untold ages of service, alone, without the comfort of the Light. Because of him.

          “You won’t come?”

          “I am of the Light.” Auriel looked up at the stained glass behind the altar, the reds and blues brightening with the coming dawn. “I cannot bear the thought of an eternity of fire and darkness.”

          Apollyon walked back over to Auriel. The Light inside her shone through her sapphire eyes like the stained glass behind the altar. He could bear the Light like this, wrapped in the image of one he loved. Auriel had always done that for Apollyon, made the piercing Light tolerable, accessible, made it human. He approached as close as he could before the destructive energy threatened to envelope them. His lips hovered near hers. He could feel her breath on his cheek, heady as incense, as she sighed and closed her eyes.

          “I would give anything to kiss you again.”

          Auriel opened her eyes. “Anything, Apollyon?” She glanced up toward the bell tower. Apollyon followed her gaze. He shuddered inside. No, it was unthinkable, but one pleading look from Auriel cemented his decision.

          “Yes, anything.”

          “Apollyon –“

          “I can’t bear the thought of eternity without you.” Apollyon put his wrists together and held out his hands before him. Auriel slid the silver cord from around her waist.

“Are you sure?”

Apollyon glanced upwards toward the bell tower, then looked back at Auriel. “Just promise me you’ll go back to the Light. You’ve saved me. There’s nothing to keep you away now.”

Auriel wrapped the cord around Apollyon’s wrists. She spread her wings and they were standing on the roof of the bell tower. The golden horizon was afire with the approaching dawn. Apollyon smiled at her.

“See you at the end of the world.”

The dreaded disc slid over the rooftops. Apollyon grimaced as the rays struck his ethereal body, twisting and shaping his features, hardening his astral flesh. A moment later, another grotesque had joined the ranks of the penitent monsters that perched on the roof of the cathedral.

Auriel pressed her cheek to the leering visage, its granite features a mix of hope and despair.

“Sleep now, my love.”

Auriel brushed her lips against the stone monster’s before she rose, for the first time in ages, toward the heavens. She gazed back at the twisted face as she rose, until the clouds received her.

The blank stone eyes looked heavenward as the bells in the tower rang in the new day.
 The End

About the Author;
R. Christophe Ryber lives in Hardwick VT, where he writes and studies literature and poetry at a local college.

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