Crimson Eyes

The day his daughter asked him for colored contacts was the day that Johnathan finally decided put his foot down.

Or, at least, it was the day he tried to. After all, teenage girls can be incredibly intimidating, especially when it happens to be your only daughter.

And especially when she happens to be a vampire.

“Is there any particular reason you want blue eyes all of a sudden?” The middle aged man cocked a graying eyebrow in suspicion as he pushed away his plate, suddenly finding the steak and mashed potatoes to be less than appetizing.

“I just do.” Vanessa snapped defensively. Her ivory hands nervously ran through her hair, silver locks becoming trapped between the crooks of her long, skinny fingers. Then, as abruptly as the conversation began, she stood from her chair and left, mumbling something under her breath about an algebra worksheet.

When he heard the heavy slam of the door to her bedroom, Johnathan let out the sigh of apprehension that had been swelling inside of his chest all evening. He was never good at these kind of things, and it was on days like this that he acutely notices Sharon’s empty seat.

It was not the first time that Johnathan's daughter had been startlingly…explosive. In fact, Johnathan traced this unusual behavior back to when Vanessa walked through the doorway of their apartment after her first day of high school. She had tried to slink back up to her bedroom without attracting the attention of her father. Unfortunately for her, however, nothing escaped those omniscient green eyes, especially when it came to his child. He turned around to ask her how her day was and immediately his gaze was drawn to his daughter's skin. Once a beautiful shade of alabaster that often reminded Johnathan of the marble columns of Rome, it was now scarlet and scorched.

"Honey, what on Earth happened!?" he demanded as he rushed over to his little girl with the aloe vera pump at the ready.

Vanessa struggled to squirm out of her father's burly arms. "Dad, Dad, stop it! I'm fine, I swear!"

Johnathan did not listen to her request and refused to quit until he was sure that every inch of her skin was covered in the cooling gel before barraging her with questions so rapidly that the young vampire barely had time to comprehend them, let alone respond.

"Did you gym teachers make you run outside? I told the principal about your condition, and he said everything would be fine! The school said they were welcoming of all, human or not. What a load of bulls—"

"It wasn't the coach! No one made me go outside; I went of my own accord."

"Vanessa, you know how dangerous it is for you to be out in direct sunlight! Why did you do something so stupid?"

She brought their argument to an end the by allowing those five, merciless words that every father loathed to hear fell from her lips mercilessly.

"You just don't understand, Dad!"

Though she truly believed that her middle aged, human father could never possibly fathom or empathize with the plights of his adolescent, vampire daughter, the fact was that Johnathan observant than he let on. He had noticed the receipt for the spray tan found behind the garbage can, as if someone had haphazardly thrown it without realizing that the wind had led it astray. And the hair dye tube that was hidden behind the mountains of his unfinished architectural sketches that she insisted was for a theatre class.

While he may not have understood how Vanessa was feeling and why, he knew one thing for sure.

His daughter wanted to change the way she looked.

 

 

Although Johnathan said that the colored contacts would be the final straw for him to finally delve deeper into the mysteries of Vanessa, the fact was that he was lacking a certain, vital element to go through with his plan.

A spine.

Johnathan knew it was pathetic, knew he was the adult in their relationship and therefore had the authority to kick down the door to his daughter's room, barge in with confident strides, and demand to know why Vanessa suddenly decided to reinvent herself.

But then he meets her crimson eyes and sees the glare.

That soul piercing gaze that petrifies his body with the power of all the serpents of Medusa's head combine until all he has the strength left to do is shudder pitifully in place. While it had been many years since he made the grave mistake of denying a certain five year old mint chocolate chip ice cream at three in the morning and had been on the receiving end of terrorizing glower, he still has not forgotten the unadulterated dread that his rampaging heart had pumped through his veins on the frigid, moonless night.

He still wakes up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder with cold sweat trailing down his back.

So rather than pretending to be some renegade he knew very well he was not, Johnathan instead decided to read a book on architectural trends in the late 1800s, and it was only a matter of minutes before the words of the page pulled him out of his conscious mind and into a marvelous memory. It was the time when had managed to put his timidity aside for a brief, brave moment to ask out the beautiful vampire sitting across the library, elegantly flipping through the pages of the exact same book that had lulled him into this slumber. The image gradually faded out into their first date, where they had spent the beautiful summer day inside in a dimmed room to shield her delicate skin from the harsh rays of the sun. Then the scene shifted to their marriage, him standing at the altar, admiring the way the black lace contrasted against her ivory skin. Then to their countless dinners, countless movie marathons, countless embraces. Then to childbirth, where he could still hear those horrific screams and could only squeeze her hand and watch as the life faded from her crimson eyes as she—

A whimper of pain broke him out of his nightmare.

Rolling over to the side of the bed while releasing a shaky breath and reminding himself that “It was all just a dream. A horrifically real dream.” he tried to tune out the hammering beat pulsating through his ears and instead tune them into the strange sound.

When he heard it again, he wasted no time getting up as his gigantic feet struck the floorboards, resonating with a clamorous thud. He all but sprinted to Vanessa's room and, without knocking, slammed the door open.

"Dad!?" Vanessa shrieked in shock, fumbling with something before hastily throwing it in her garbage bin. “What are you doing!? Do you realize what time it is; you should be—”

Johnathan ignored her scoldings and walked over to the trash, before unceremoniously turning it upside down, the contents scattering across the pale pink carpet.

He paid no mind to the tissues and the cans, the pizza crusts and failed tests, even though Vanessa swore she had been studying harder. Rather, his eyes focused on the long, gray nail filer.

He abruptly turned towards the teenager, who gave a startled squeak in surprise.

“Vanessa, let me see your fangs.”

“Dad, I’m really tired. I’m sorry for staying up this late, but right now—”

“Vanessa.”

The girl hesitated, doubt filling the same crimson eyes he saw but mere moments ago, before she opened her mouth.

He gasped.

“Oh, my darling Vanessa, why would you do this?”

Her two fangs, which used to protrude gloriously from her gums, were now chipped, with blood beginning to ooze from the cracks.

“Don’t worry. They heal really quickly. Last time it only took two days before they mended themselves.”

“Last time?” Johnathan stressed, cradling his head in his hands as he felt the beginnings of a migraine throb in his temples. “You’ve done this before, Vanessa!?”

“Only once or twice…maybe a bit more…” She trailed off, her gaze intently fixated on an old burger wrapper, her expression contorting into one of shame.

Johnathan let out a heavy sigh before plopping down onto her floral printed bedsheets, patting the space next to him. Vanessa cautiously sat down, unconsciously locking her jaw and keeping her shoulders stiff with tension, sneaking glances at her father’s expression as if she was gauging his anger.

All her stress evaporated as Jonathan's warms hand guided her head to his shoulder and stroked her hair, ignoring how it became stained with black streaks from old dye.

The sat there for seconds that seemed to expand into eternities before Jonathan's voice cracked the silence.

“Why would you do this, Vanessa?” His voice wavered as he tried holding back the tears welling in his eyes.

She gently closed her heavy eyelids, and her father noted how large the dark rings circling them have become. “I don’t think I belong here.”

“And where is here?”

“It’s hard to explain. I guess it’s just society in general.”

“And why do you believe that?”

“People think I’m weird, dad. At school, everyone stares at me like I’m some sort of freak. I can hear them whisper about how my hair makes me look like an old hag and how my skin makes me look like a ghoul and how my eyes make me look creepy as if I’m going to steal their soul and how my fangs make me look like I’m going to bite them and just how everything about me makes me look like I don’t belong.”

Vanessa inhales shakily, her chest heaving heavily as she tries to recover after spilling her guts.

“So I thought that if I could make myself look like them, they would treat me like them. So I dyed my hair, got a spray tan, put in blue contacts, and file down my fangs. And do you know what Dad?” She turned to face her father and for the first time, Johnathan wondered if this had started long before her first day of highschool.

“It worked. People started talking to me normally, as if I were just another classmate. They talked to me about homework, invited me to come to study groups and sports games, actually wanted to be my friend. It was the most amazing feeling in the entire world, but it also hurt me more than anything because it confirmed that I was just a monster.”

Johnathan inhaled before speaking, bracing himself before he revealed the cruel truth. “I’m going to say something kind of harsh, but those people you said started talking to you after you changed? It wasn’t you that they like; it was your appearance. If they liked you, they would have wanted to get to know the real you, fangs and all. Because, despite what you think, you can’t change who you are.”

Although she gave Johnathan a weak smile, he could still see something akin to sorrow flash from behind her crimson eyes.

“When I first laid eyes on Sharon,” He hesitated for a moment, observing the way his daughter’s eyebrows quirked upwards in surprise at the mention of her mother. “I didn’t think she was a monster. In fact, I couldn’t think all. Though your mother would argue that I didn’t have much up here,” He tapped a finger against his temples. “Like she had any room to talk. She hardly passed her ARE, and I made sure she never lived it down. Every time she tried to brag about something I would always say ‘Well, I wasn’t the one who hardly became an architect.’ The look on her face every time was priceless, but I soon came to eat my words. She decided that I would sleep much nicer in a dumpster than our bed. Even after I apologized, she said she wouldn’t let me sleep anywhere near her for another month, saying that I smelt like crap. But she eventually lowered her deal after she saw how miserable I was, trying to sleep without her. It still wasn’t in our bed though; there was absolutely no way I was getting close to her fancy schmancy sheets. She just pulled out the mattress and place her pillow beside mine. And that night was the best I’ve slept ever.”

Johnathan paused and cleared his throat, trying to mask the smile that had worked its way onto his face during his ramblings.

“The point I’m trying to make, Vanessa, is that whether it be a significant other or a best friend, you will meet someone who will find you absolutely amazing for simply being you. And I’m one of them. Because to me, you will always be my beautiful, teenage, vampire daughter.

“Now please promise me that you will never, ever, do something like this again.”

“I promise,” She paused before flashing her father the exact same smile Sharon used to.

“I love you, Dad.”

“I love you too, darling.”

Johnathan gave Vanessa a gigantic hug, and with it managed to squeeze out all of his daughter’s insecurities.

 

 

Although Vanessa no longer was ashamed to display her vampiric traits, that did not stop her heart from leaping into her throat as she entered her first period class room.

When she sat down at her desk, she could already hear them gossiping under their breaths, quiet enough so that the teacher could not hear but loud enough for the insults to echo in her ears.

“Just look at those eyes.”

“She’s so freaky.”

“She looks like she was ripped straight out of a horror film”

“What a freak.”

She made sure to keep her stare keenly fixated onto her desk, pretending that she found the graffiti more interesting than their conversations.

“Um, hi.”

She whipped her head up in shock to see a boy standing before her, fiddling with his baseball cap.

“Hi, Jeremy.”

His brown eyes widened. “You know my name?”

“Of course. We do have a lot of classes together, after all.”

“Right, that makes sense. I just didn’t think someone like you would remember me.”

She felt her shoulders stiffen as she braced herself for the impact of the insult. “Someone like me?”

“You know…you’re like…cool and stuff.”

“You think I’m…cool?” She was certain that her flush would be obvious on her pasty cheeks.

“Yeah. You’re always wearing all of these awesome band merch,” He gestured to her Liquid Lagoon hoodie, which depicted a sea monster reminiscent of the one in Loch Ness peering out from a swamp. “And you just have this vibe, you know? Like you eat epic for breakfast. So I was wondering if you would like to eat lunch with me and some of my friends. We’re ditching the frozen ‘chicken’ nuggets and going to get some tacos. You in?”

She could feel herself begin to grin. “Yeah, I’m in.”

Mr. Lawyer

The second the heel of his shoe came in contact with the concrete in a resounding click, all eyes flew to catch a glimpse of him.

The man had anticipated this. He stood out among the crowd like a gold coin would in a pile of drab, lackluster pennies. While the women around him wore faded, orange jumpsuits, he was adorned in a three piece suit that was the color of the stormy clouds hanging ominously in the sky. While their bare, grimy feet remained unsheltered to the harsh elements, his were encased in expensive dark leather. And while their faces exhibited a distrustful glower, his held a professional smile.

It was fortunate for the man that their had been cell bars between him and the females, or he might find himself in a morgue by the end of the day.

An elderly woman with a golden badge perched on her shoulder hobbled over to him.

“Are you Michelle Anderson’s attorney?”
The man did not even bother verbally responding to her inquiry. Instead, he simply flashed the tiny emblem pinned to his collar. The guard, noting the set of scales etched into the metal, unlocked the fortified door into the interrogation room. As the man entered, he swore her heard the woman mumbling under her raspy breath, though he could only catch the words “audacity” and “whippersnapper”.

As he entered the room composed of four stony slabs of concrete, he heard a perpetual, mechanical ticking. Glancing up at the wall, he noticed that the analog clock on the wall displayed the time 6:30 PM. Normally, when the hands of the clock were in this position, he would be setting the table, greedily awaiting his wife’s cooking.

It was a shame he had to be here when he could be at home with her, but it would be over soon enough.

The man then turned to the woman sitting at the table, eyes flickering to the shiny cuffs on her wrists, connecting her to the table.

Pasty skin framed by wrinkles and furious brown eyes circled by dark rings, she held the atmosphere of a caged predator who was itching for the chance to dig her claws into fresh meat. The way she analyzed his every move with a distasteful glower plastered on her face made him think that he was her next prey.

Though the man did not tremble at this thought, nor did his masterful mask falter. He slid with ease into the chair, noting the way the table wobbled on the shortest leg as he placed his briefcase on the unsteady surface.

“Hello, Mrs. Anderson. Your father had contacted me and requested for me to represent you in court.” He began, his cheery voice not missing a beat as he opened his briefcase and fiddled with its contents. “Now, what were your charges again? Second-degree murder?

“Voluntary manslaughter.”

The man gave an apologetic smile. “Thats right; it slipped my memory. I apologize for my blunder.”

The woman ignored his polite attempts to converse. “Just get me out of this mess.”

He pulled out a ream of pristine, white paper with her name printed at the top in bolded, black letters.

“Of course, of course, Mrs. Anderson, but I do need to know the circumstances around the crime. I have skimmed through the case files, but,” The lawyer leaned in, resting his chin on his palm.

“I would rather hear the details from you.”

“Well, that sucks for you, Mr. Lawyer,” Michelle sneered, as if she could not think of something more horrendous or slanderous than calling someone an attorney. “Because I just can’t seem to remember.”

The man appeared outwardly unfazed by the prisoner’s ill-mannered comment.

“Well then, I’ll just have to jog your memory, will I not?”

His eyes began skimming through the case files.

“At 6:00 A. M. on a Sunday, a thirty-five year old woman was killed in her apartment building. From the autopsy report, the forensic scientists at the precinct determined that it was blunt trauma from the back of the head that ended her life. I believe the woman name was Katherine? Katrina?”

“Katerina.”

“Oh, yes. I remember now. Katerina Goodman. I believe in the report it stated that she was recently married?”

The woman rolled her eyes. “Why should I care?”

The man’s demeanor faltered slightly. “Well it always sad when something like‒”

Michelle glared at him.

“Look here Mr. Lawyer. You are supposed to be worrying about me, defending me, not some dead tramp. Got it?

The lawyer’s smile returned, but it seemed almost forced now.

“Yes, of course. I apologize, Mrs. Anderson.”

Michelle scoffed. “How many more question do you got?”

“Just one more, Mrs. Anderson.”

She let out a weary sigh. “Just get on with it.”

“Did you murder Katerina Goodman?”

Michelle facial expression did not change. “I don’t feel like telling you that.”

“Mrs. Anderson, I know this must be difficult for you, but I need for you to tell me the truth. No matter how you respond, I give you my most sincere word that I will be with you in court. So I will repeat my question: Did you murder Katerina Goodman?”

Now, Michelle Anderson has never been a particularly trusting person. She did not trust her father, her mother, her sister. No one. But there was something in the way the lawyer spoke that compelled her to spill everything to him.

But she didn’t. Or at least, not all the gritty details.

“Yes.”

At that’s where everying thing changed.

The warmth in the man’s face went cold and the friendliness went hostile.

“That’s all I needed to hear.”

Opening his briefcase, the lawyer pulled out a small, black device.

It was a recorder.

Michelle felt the rage burning up in her as he hit a button, turning off the machine.

“You were recording this?”

The man did bother responding as he slipped the recorder back into his case and swiftly made for the door.

“Wait, wait! What are you doing?”

The man did not even bother turning around. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m going to present this to the police.”

“But you promised. You promised that you would defend me! You promised that you would get me a ‘not guilty’ verdict!”

“I remember no such thing. I said that I would stand by you in court. And I will. On the witness stand.”

The woman felt her body tremble in a mixture of fury and fear. “You’re a liar, Mr. Lawyer. A terrible, filthy liar!”

This time, when the man responded, he whipped around to face her.

“I would rather be branded a liar rather than a defender of a cold-blooded killer.”

Michelle recoiled. There was no love in his eyes; only pure hatred.

The following words passed through her lips without her mind’s consent.

“I trusted you, Mr. Lawyer, so why? Why would you do this?”

The man’s professional smile returned, but, rather than comforting her, it sent chills down Michelle’s spine.

“Mr. Lawyer? Oh, how rude of me! I never introduced myself, did I?”

He extended his hand spitefully, as if taunting her and her restrictions. She had not noticed it before, but there was a gold band resting on his left ring finger.

“My name is Randy Goodman. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Eggplant

“What do you mean you’re cutting me off!?”

An outraged roar echoed through the living room as a man hastily jumped to his feet. He was either so absorbed in his anger that he did not notice, or so absorbed in his anger that he did not care, but as he rose, he had knocked over a photo of a man offering a elegant golden band to a woman overwhelmed with joyful tears, causing a jagged crack to abruptly split the couple apart.

Jacqueline cautiously placed her delicate hand over his, and he could feel her hand trembling like a sole leaf in a hurricane of horror.

“Kale, sweetheart, I know how hard it will be to quit, but we can’t afford to keep doing this anymore. If you’ll just consider rehab, I know that‒‒”

Kale let out a cacophonous wail as her forcibly thrusted Jacqueline away from him, not even sparing a glance as she let out a yelp of pain.

“No, no! You can’t do this to me, Jacqueline! You can’t, you can’t, you can’t!”

His eyes, filled with the hysterics of addiction and outlined with the dark rings of insomnia, captured hers as her seized her by her shoulders and hauled her to her feet.

“Honey, baby, you can’t do this to me!”

“Kale, you’re hurting me. Please stop.”

“Please, baby, don’t do this to me! You can’t do this to me.”

Kale’s unrelenting pleads consisting of the words “Can’t,” “Don’t,” and “Baby” slurred together in a dissonance of despair as his grip on her loosened somewhat, exposing dark, purple discoloration on her gaunt skin, dubiously in the shape of a handprint.

“Kale…” The discordant uproar was silenced by her words, trailing off with on a tender, harmonious note.

“Kale, we really can’t do this anymore. Look at the state were living in! Shambles of what could have been and still could be a brilliant life. We just need to pick the pieces up together. After all…” She inhaled a breath of courage before continuing. “We want the best for our little Junior, right?”

The silence that hung in the air threatened to suffocate her. Her knees trembled more than before and threatened to collapse under the constant pounding of her heart beat.

“You’re pregnant?

Her throat was too parched to respond, so instead she gave a slight nod of her head.

“I don’t understand why that means I have to quit.”

It took a long time before the meaning of his words finally registered in her mind.

“What do you mean you don’t understand?” She croaked, forcing the words through her constricted throat.

“I shouldn’t have to stop smoking just because you’re having a child.”

Something inside of Jacqueline snapped. She wasn’t sure what it was, desperation, hormones, parental instincts. Maybe a combination of a three. Nevertheless, nothing at that moment could stop the tsunami of thoughts from flooding out of her mouth.

“This isn’t just my child! This is our child; this is your child! Does that not mean anything to you? We should be discussing names or education plans now, not about your addiction! I know you had a rocky start with awful parents, Kale. We both did. But this is a chance to succeed where our parents failed. Don’t you want to give this child an opportunity, a chance?

“Of course I do! But that doesn’t mean—”

“Yes it does, Kale! It means you have to quit! I’m not going to support your habit anymore!”

Bang

Kale’s fingers trembled around the trigger of the gun as Jacqueline’s, and her unborn child’s, lifeless body unceremoniously hit the floor. Since the floorboards were rotten and long since warped, all of her blood pooled into a vicious crimson puddle and they splashed all over his boots as her walked over to the corpse. His fingers still trembled was he searched her person, though it was neither from remorse or despair. They trembled out of relief. For finally, finally, he would be able to get his fix: eggplant.

Influenza

Mary Ellen was just a little over twelve years old when she drew her final breath.

Even before the nurse had proclaimed her dead, a suffocating atmosphere hung amidst the hospital room, smothering the people trapped within. The only sound that could be heard was a continual ringing emanating from the electrocardiogram. No one spoke; no one wept. Not the doctor, not the father, not even the mother. The disturbing manner of it all had rendered their vocal chords ineffective.

For the corpse that laid in front of them was not one of a young girl but that of a old woman. Her hair, grayed but a month ago, was now sprawled out against her pillow, forming a monochromatic halo. Her pasty skin had warped under the immense force of time; each wrinkle forming a fragment of the story she maintained within. Beyond inquiry, she truly seemed like an individual who had intimately experienced life.

But she hadn’t. She was barely twelve, after all.

The silence was shattered by shrill screaming from Mrs. Carson.

“What happened to my baby? What happened to Mary Ellen?”

The shock of hearing another being speak stunned the room out of their silence.

Although the doctor attempted to address the situation articulately, his voice could not help but quaver a bit in despair and guilt. “Your daughter simply had the flu. It is nothing to ‒”

The father could no longer hold his tongue.“The flu? That’s a bald-faced lie!  Plenty of people have had the flu before and this didn’t happened to them!”

“Not this kind of flu.” The nurse solemnly muttered.

“What do you mean ‘this kind’?”

The doctor shot the nurse a particularly nasty look, mumbling under his breath about loose-lipped practitioners.

“The influenza virus has adapted symptoms that have eluded even the most esteemed scientists. Nonetheless, the government assures us that those scientist are diligently working towards a cure. The hospital can and will reserve the right to keep the body for observation. Furthermore, I am not at liberty to disclose the particular circumstances of your daughter’s death, so I ask for you to cease any further questioning.” Despite his best efforts, the doctor’s polite and professional demeanor seemed to crumble underneath their inquiries.

“Like hell we will! I don’t think you understand doctor,” Mr. Carson added in sarcastic emphasis. “But this isn’t your little science experiment. This is our lives you are dealing with. I don’t care about what rights your hospital has or doesn’t have. As a father, I can and will reserve the right to know what happened to my little girl. And if all I have to go through is some scrawny kid abusing his authority,” Mr. Carson sized up to the doctor, his eyes posing a silent challenge. “I will.”

The doctor seemed outwardly unfazed. “Have you just threatened me, Mr. Carson?”

“And what if I have?”

The doctor let out a weary sigh before reaching for the briefcase at the foot of the bed.

“These are the TH-7 files; the files for the variation of influenza your daughter had.”

He looked into the doctor’s steely eyes suspiciously, an unspoken question surging through his veins. Why the sudden change in heart? He began to open his mouth to request further answers, but the doctor had heard every silent word he left unspoken.

“Do you want to see these documents or not, Mr. Carson?”

The man didn’t seem to know himself anymore.

Grabbing the manilla folder with trembling fingers, the parents hastily scanned the documents within.

Mrs. Carson’s voice trembled in disbelief. “This…is impossible, right? This is chemically impossible!”

“You’ve seen the evidence with your own eyes, yet you will still deny the truth?” The masterful facade the doctor had put on earlier has completely faded away. Now the only thing that was put upfront what exhaustion

Mr. Carson’s eyes involuntarily flickered to where his daughter slept in eternal slumber.

“Is my daughter the only one?”

“Unfortunately, no. In the past years, there has been several cases of this variation internationally. To keep from global hysteria, it has been…swept under the rug, in a manner of speaking.”

“But surely some people have taken notice,” Mr. Carson interjected. “The symptoms are so distinct, it’s impossible to hide this fact from the entire world, isn’t it?”

The doctor averted his eyes, and for fleeting second, Mr. Carson could have sworn he saw guilt flare up in them.

“Indeed, you are correct, Mr. Carson. Although at first only select individuals were chosen to sustain this secret, certain people have unearthed this burden of theirs. Whether they set out to discover this or stumbled upon it in an unfortunate accident, they have figured out the hard way that curiosity eradicated the cat.”

It felt as if a serpent had slithered up Mr. Carson’s back and was now spiraled around his trachea, effectively cutting off his air supply. Terror caused his throat to become parched and he struggled to find his words.

“What do you mean?”

The doctor now refused to meet his gaze altogether. Instead, he turned to locked eyes with his nurse.

“Nurse Johnson, please inform the special operation agents that Mr. and Mrs. Carson have been snooping through our filing cabinet and have uncovered the TH-7 files. They will need to be eradicated posthaste.”

The nurse kept her poise as she vocalized her affirmative and hastily scurried towards the door.

Although Mrs. Carson still remained thoroughly baffled throughout the entirety of this affair, Mr. Carson had of relative comprehension of what was transpiring here and  understood that no amount of brawns would allow for him  to escape from here with his life intact.

Kneeling down beside her bed, Mr. Carson gently seized Mary Ellen’s now shrivelled hand. Although he had never been an exceptionally religious man, at the present moment he couldn’t help but close his eyes in prayer.

Lowering his voice Mr. Carson whispered soothingly to Mary Ellen.

“I’ll see you soon, my little girl.”

My Prince Must Come on a White Horse

There was a legend; a tale as old as time itself.

About a beautiful princess kidnapped from her kingdom by a dastardly dragon and locked away in a tower and a knight in shining armor, who rode up to the her prison on top of his white horse and called out before her open window.

“Hark, princess! My name is Ascot Brickenden, and I am here to return you to the kingdom.”

A girl no older than nineteen years of age peered down from the balcony, her fair locks brushing against her shoulders. The knight’s eyes locked with her own azure ones and he his muscles strained under the tension.

Alice’s pink lips parted and her melodious voice fell out.

“Too tall.”

Ascot’s face fell under the weight of his disappointment.

“Milady, please‒”

“I said too tall! Guards, take him away!”

Two burly men wearing full body armor with the emblem of the royal family ingrained into their breastplate seized the young knight by his arm and escorted him off into the forest.

“Next!”

The lengthy line of knights in sterling armor moved forwards, and the next man on his white mare came forwards.

Ever since she had been kidnapped by that ophidian beast five years ago, Alice Albray had gone through the same routine day in and day out. There had been several knights who came to rescue her, but she had rejected each and every one of them. The situation had become so prolonged that the dragon holding her hostage had long since perished. She could have returned to her home at any time, but she refused to leave without her hero. Thus, the king sent guards to speed up the process of his daughter’s daring demands.

You see, Alice Albray had a certain criteria that need to be met before she would allow a knight to rescue her. Her hero would be handsome, herculean man with sterling silver armor, riding upon a milky mare so white that it would blind her.

It had become common knowledge among the potential suitors that Princess Alice Albray would not accept anybody who fell even an inch short of her standards. So one could imagine her bafflement when someone came to her in rusted chain mail and riding on top of soot-stained a brown mule.

She could not help but laugh.

“And who might you be?” She greeted in a condescending manner.

The scrawny man attempted to remove his helmet, but it was so rusted that it snagged his frizzy, ginger hair.

“My name is Arthur Nash, and I am here to return you to the kingdom, Princess Alice.”

Alice cackled when his voice cracked in the middle of his sentence.

“Just leave.”

Arthur’s eyes widened in bewilderment.

“But why?”

Alice shot him a disgusted look.

“To simply name one? Your acne.”

She pointed to the inflamed pores.

Arthur’s pasty hands timidly brushed his cheeks, as if confirming that her statement was, indeed, true.

“You are nothing more than a lame commoner who does not know their place. Guards, take him away!”

As Arthur was dragged by his elbows into the forest, Alice could not help but notice that his gaze was not broken like the others who have failed before him.

Rather, they did not break eye contact until he was disappeared by the forestry.

Arthur Nash was only person Alice had rejected to return the next day.

His armor was still rusted and his mule was still filthy, but as he took of his helmet, Alice could discern small scabs littering his sallow skin.

He had tried to forcibly remove his blemishes.

Alice found her voice stolen by her shock as Arthur began to recite his monologue.

“My name is Arthur Nash, and I am here to return you to the kingdom, Princess Alice.”

As her disbelief began to ebb away and as she came to the realization that this was indeed reality and not some horrifying nightmare, she became appalled.

“I rejected you yesterday! How dare you return to me today!”

“You rejected me for my acne, and I have fixed the problem.”

She scoffed.

“I rejected you for many reason; acne was simply one of them. If you truly want me to name another one…”

She paused for a moment before a sinister smile stretched on her face.

“Too pale.”

“Pale?” Arthur stuttered out. “How am I supposed to fix that?”

“That is none of my concern,” she declared. “Guards, take him away!”

As she observed Arthur being removed from the premises, Alice could not help but praise herself for her ingenious idea. She had purposely chosen something that the fool could not change to demolish what little hope he though he had with her.

And though she was completely confident in her plan, she squirmed in discomfort as a little seed of uneasiness was planted in her heart. For when she stared into Arthur’s glare, his brown eyes flared with determination.

It was midday when he came again.

And had it not been for his filthy mule, she would not had been able to identify him.

With each movement Arthur made to hoist himself off of his steed, his face contorted in agony and he waddled underneath her balcony.

“My name is Arthur Nash, and I am here to return you to the kingdom, Princess Alice.”

“Wha…what on Earth happened to you!?”

Before her eyes stood an inflamed Arthur whose skin was now reminiscent to that of a cherry’s and flaked off of him with every motion made.

“I spent the remainder of the day sweltering under the intense heat of the sun. Though my skin is slight sun kissed,” He winced as he craned his neck up to lock eyes with her. “I am no longer pasty, am I not?”

“There…there are still other problems with you!” Alice hastily blurted out, unnerved with his persistence.

“What do you have in mind?”

Arthur visited her every single day for the next three months. No matter what she said, no matter what she did, the next morning the man was standing underneath her windowsill, reciting the same line.

“My name is Arthur Nash, and I am here to return you to the kingdom, Princess Alice.”

She had dived into the depth of her imagination for reasons to reject him, but for each and every one he had response.

“You are too short.”

Arthur stumbled about, wearing boots with five inch heels.

“You are too scrawny.”

Arthur shoved wool into his sleeves to inflate his arms.

“You are too pubescent.”

Arthur had stuck locks of hair to his upper lip.

It had gotten to the point where Alice could no longer pay attention to the knight before her. Rather, she would seek out Arthur in the line, estimating the time she had left until her impending doom.

That fool was keeping her from her future husband!

Grumbling to herself, she watched with a mixture of hatred and dread sunk into her stomach as the man in question approached.

“My name is Arthur Nash, and I am here to return you to the kingdom, Princess Alice.”

She cried out in exasperation as she cradled her head in her arms.

“Just go away!”

“Not until you give me a response.”

“No! Never! I will never accept you!”

“Why?”

“Because I said so!”

“I will not leave here without a valid reason.”

She let out a scream of agony.

“It is because of your mule!”

For once, Arthur faltered in his response.

“M-my mule?”

Alice spared a glance downwards and noticed that Arthur was unnerved.

A smirk stretched across of her face.

“Yes, your mule! It is the most horrendous creature I have ever laid my eyes on!”

Arthur opened his mouth in an effort to speak, but Alice would not allow him retort.

“Just look at it! Yellowing teeth, matted fur the color of feces; it is truly disgusting!”

The princess ordered for her guards to escort him and the flea-ridden beast off of the premises. However, she could not help but notice that Arthur no longer held her gaze like he did when he was rejected before. Rather, his eyes were casted to the ground, as she could have sworn she saw a drop descend from his face and onto the dirt.

Arthur Nash did not come to her tower the the next day.

Or for the rest of the week.

Or for the remainder of the month.

And Alice was furious.

How dare that wretched plebeian have the audacity to leave her, the one and only Princess Alice, waiting? Just who did he think he was?

Alice mumbled the phrases under her breath as she searched for the rusty tin in the sea of shining sea of silver.

She was so eager to see him (Not because she liked him, heavens no! She just wanted to chew him out and see the pitiful face he made when she denied him for the fifty-fifth time) that she no longer bothered to listen to the speeches of the other men. She spurned them immediately without so much as a second glance.

However, one man whom she had instantly declined was offended at her rude rejection. Little did she know, but this man was an extremely prideful prince from a powerful country in the East.

And he did not like being told “no”.

“You wretched tramp.”

The chattering amongst the crowd fell to absolute silence at this prince’s slanderous comment.

Alice eyes widened. Never before had anyone ever insulted her.

“Excuse me?”

“I do not believe I faltered.” He glared at her, and the normally defiant princess who would not stand to be ridiculed found herself paralyzed under his vipery glare.

“You are a wretched tramp who cannot see a good husband even when he was standing before you. You have been trapped in that tower for how long, rejecting how many decent men? It is truly pathetic. You are not even that pretty.”

The mass of people before her murmured in agreement, and one lone voice amidst the crowd cried out “Alice the tramp!”

Another voice joined in the jeering, and another, until even the wind seemed to be chanting “Alice the tramp.”

She opened her mouth to demand them to stop, but her throat tightened and all that could be let out was an unassertive squeak.

She tilted her head down, unable to find the pride or dignity to look over the crowd.

“Alice the tramp!”

“Alice the tramp!”

“Alice the tra‒”

“SHUT YOUR VILE MOUTHS!”

Alice whipped her head up and scoured the crowd. It could not be possible. Could it really be him?

A scrawny, pale man with an acne scarred face rode forwards on his filthy, flea-ridden mule. And for a reason Alice could not put into words, she was overwhelmed with joy.

“The lot of you are the most barbaric people I have ever met! No wonder she does not wish to return with you if this is how you treat her when she says ‘no.’

The Eastern prince scoffed. “And who might you be?”

“My name is Arthur Nash and I am here to return Princess Alice to the kingdom.”

“You? You are nothing more than a lame commoner who does not know their place.”

“Do not dare call him that!”

Everyone, including Alice, were utterly dumbfounded by the princess’ outburst. Though she did not know what to make of the emotions brewing in her stomach, she did not risk stopping the words that flowed from her lips.

“Only I can call him that! Only I can ridicule him, and insult him, and put him down. Only I can tell him that he’s scrawny, or pale, or ugly. Only I can send him away, day after day. Only I can do that because I know he will return to me the next day!”

Everything and everyone was silent. The wind stopped roaring, the leaves stopped rustling, and the men stopped chanting. Except for one man. One man who came to Alice a commoner riding a mule in rusted armor.

“My name is Arthur Nash, and I am here to return you to the kingdom, Princess Alice.”

Alice gave her first sincere smile since she had been locked in her tower. “I would love to return with you, Arthur Nash.”

And as her fingers interlocked with his and they rode into a sunset where the orange flushed faded into an indigo hue, she could not help feel that, although it was not a prince in sterling armor or a white horse, that this was her happily every after.  

Parallelism

A British teenager sat at a school desk, absentmindedly twirling a mechanical pencil between her fingers, noting how the light reflected off the neon pink plastic.

“I really hope I passed.” She whispered under her breath to the blonde student sitting next to her.

Her classmate offered a grin of reassurance before turning back to his math assignment.

“Student number twenty-eight, please approach the front desk.”

The girl casually sauntered over to the instructor, the sound of her high-heeled boots drowned out by the trivial chatter of her classmates.

The man behind the counter, adorned in thick, horn rimmed glasses, handed over a manilla envelope.

The girl took a moment to inhale before she tore it open.

“No, this can’t be!” The girl exclaimed, disappointment tinting her tone. “How could I have failed?”

The student turned to the instructor with doleful eyes. “Surely you must’ve made some sort of mistake?”

The instructor gave an apologetic grin. “I am sorry, student number twenty-eight, but it appears that you failed your exam.”

“But you don’t understand,” the girl whined. “I really needed to pass.”

“You may sit down now, student number twenty-eight.”

Stomping her foot in defiance, the girl turned on her heel and stormed back to her seat.

“My parents are going to kill me.”

A Russian teenager sat at a mahogany desk, anxiously twirling a stiletto between her fingers, noting how the light reflected off of the edge of the blade.

“I really hope I passed.” She whispered under her breath to a blonde assassin sitting next to her.

Her classmate offered her a cold glare before returning back to his victim’s autopsy report.

“Hitman number twenty-eight, please approach the front desk.”

The girl stiffly traipsed over to the instructor, the sound of her knife-heeled boots echoed in the silence of her classmates.

The man behind the counter, adorned in opaque, black shades, handed over a manilla envelope.

The girl took a moment to inhale before she tore it open.

“No, this can’t be!” The girl exclaimed, desperation tinting her tone. “How could I have failed?”

The assassin turned to the instructor with hysterical eyes. “Surely you must’ve made some sort of mistake?”

The instructor face show no sympathy. “I am sorry, hitman number twenty-eight, but it appears that you failed your exam.

“You don’t understand!” The girl pleaded. “I really needed to pass.”

“You may sit down now, hitman number twenty-eight.

Letting out an involuntary sob, the girl turned around and staggered back to her seat.

“My parents are going to kill me.”

A Fated Encounter

I snickered knowingly when I feel his eyes burn into my back yet again. I whipped my head around to meet his gaze; fiery amber eyes clashing with startled brown ones. He was definitely not expecting me to notice him and was quite embarrassed. It was painfully evident by him hurriedly casting his gaze to the ground, suddenly more interested in the trash littering the area than in me.

I was still in awe that I was even at this concert. Liquid Lagoon performances almost always sell out the moment they go on sale. It seemed fate was on my side though; a radio show was giving away a ticket to their concert here, and I happened to be lucky caller number seven. Unfortunately, with only a single ticket, I was unable to attend this concert with Russell. However, I now wonder if that was what people would call a ‘blessing in disguise’. After all, this attractive guy was checking me out, and no one was here to stop me.

I quickly finished off the rest of my drink and started to walk towards him, my bright red hair swishing in its long ponytail. He was still gazing intently at the ever-so-fascinating plastic bottles and burger wrappers that littered the dull concrete flooring, so when I went to introduce myself, he practically fainted in shock.

“Wow, I didn’t know I looked that bad,” I said teasingly.

“No!” He blurted out in a flustered frenzy as he tried to recollect himself in vain. “Not at all! You’re beautiful!” The instant those words left his mouth, his blush brightened tenfold.

I gave him the most charming smile that I could manage. “You think I’m beautiful? That’s so sweet.” I slid into the seat next to him as I extended my hand.

“My name’s Anna.”

He ogled at my perfectly manicured, crimson nails, his mouth gaping open in a stupidly adorable manner. I giggled flirtatiously as I asked him what his name was.

“Oh! M-my name is Shawn,” he stutters out hastily and awkwardly shakes my hand. I take this moment to scan over him myself.  My eyes were immediately drawn to a glint of gold that flickered under the stage lights and I noticed a rolex watch sitting elegantly on his wrist, signifying that must have a decent bit of cash. I couldn’t help the thrill rushing through my veins with the knowledge of this fact. He has black, unkempt hair that looked strikingly dark against his pale complexion. He possessed a rather sinewy physique that normally would not fit into the criteria I had with men, but I contemplated making an exception for him, just this once. Besides, Russell was a huge muscle head and to be honest, that got quite boring very quickly. I think the most distinguishing feature about him, however, had to be his eyes. It was difficult to get a long, hard look at them, with them darting all over the place as he refused to meet my gaze. However, when the strobe lights from the stage hit them in a certain manner, I could see tints of amber flare up in his rich, chestnut eyes.

Disturbed by the silence that hung in the air between us, Shawn began to ask me questions about myself. Like what my favorite food was, where I was from, if I had a boyfriend (which I said ‘no’, and it’s technically not a lie; Russell and I are engaged to be married this summer).

After he was through with his trivial interrogation, Shawn offered to buy me a drink, which surprised me. After all, I had just met him and the beverages at this concert were outrageously expensive. Nonetheless, I eagerly accepted his offer.

He gave me endearing, affectionate smile and promised me he’d be right back. After he walked off I began to wonder how lonesome my paramour must be right about now. Not that I actually cared. Russell and I had been dating for only six months before he proposed, and I couldn’t help but pity the fool.

To be honest, I never really even liked him. I liked his face. I mean, who wouldn’t. He had long, dirty blonde hair that brushed his shoulders. That coupled with his icy blue eyes and muscle-bound body; it was enough to make any girl swoon.  I was never serious about him, and I didn’t think he was serious about me, up until the day he proposed. I told myself I would never get married, never get tied down to a single man, but then I took a look at the ring he was offering me. Several sparkling diamonds were elegantly placed to form a single, stunning rose. It looked glamorous. It looked expensive.

I said yes.

“Anna…? Anna!”

I was ripped out of my thoughts by a gentle voice calling out my name in a fluster. I looked up to see Shawn, holding two unopened cans, with his eyebrows furrowed in concern.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah, just…thinking.”

He then looked at me with a sincere look in his sepia eyes that made my heart pound erratically in my chest

“You wanna talk about it?”

The look on his face was so real, so genuine that I almost felt guilty about deceiving him. Almost.

“The only thing I want to talk about is you, Shawn.”

Shawn then gave me a sheepish smile as a light pink shade dusted across his pastel cheeks. And as our conversation progressed onwards, both he and I began to forget about the insignificant thoughts that had previously pestered me.

As we chatted away about trivial things, I couldn’t help but realize that this was the best I’ve felt in a long time. Shawn just had this aura around him. I felt I could tell him anything and he would listen to every word I said, no matter how obscure or insignificant they might seem. Countless times that night I find myself wanting to tell him about my predicament with Russell, but managed to halt myself before the words would spill out of my mouth. I was never this undisciplined before and it slightly disturbed me that my guard had somehow lowered without my acknowledgement.  It was as if I was getting more and more intoxicated with each and every enticing word that was spoken with his alluring voice.

As the sun set even further into the indigo sky, Shawn decided to vocalize his inquiry about my profession.

“Yeah I do make a lot of money,” I blurt out elegantly and a little too loudly. I guess I might have drank a little too much, but right now I couldn’t care less “My job is so stressful, and this is the first day off I had in such a long time.”

“Really? Where do you work?” Shawn asks, intrigued.

“I’m a marketing manager at Holland Incorporated,” I lie as I reached for my drink.

In reality, I didn’t work at all. Russell was the marketing manager at Holland. But even if I was a slightly out of my right mind this evening, I still possessed enough common sense not to tell him about that little factoid.

“Gosh,” he says incredulously. “IA job like that must pay really well.”

“It does,” I declare arrogantly. “And I’m a pretty big deal there, too.”

After a moment in silence, I decided to turn the tables, “So where do you work?”

He timidly casts his gaze to the ground as he mumbles, “Nowhere special.”

“Really? Well that Rolex watch says otherwise.”

He keeps his head down as he muttered a single word: “Bag boy.”

It took all my concentration not to show my utter repulsion. He worked at a grocery store. That simply means this wasn’t going to last as long as I would have liked.

After the concert finished, he offered to accompany me to my hotel. He said he just didn’t feel right letting a young woman go home alone at 1:00 am, especially since I was inebriate. So we got into his truck and drove to the hotel I was staying at. The entire car drive back was just me trying not to regurgitate all over his seats, not that it would make much of a difference. His truck was completely filthy and not the kind of car I was used to driving in.

When we arrived at the luxurious, 5-star hotel, he helped me out like a perfect gentleman. I began to walk towards the revolving front doors when Shawn gently grabbed my wrist to stop me.

“Um, Anna?”

I turn around to face him. “What is it?”

“Could I give you a hug good-bye? I mean, if it makes you uncomfortable then you don’t-”

I cut off his incoherent rambling as I whisper, “I would like that.”

It was so like him to give such an innocent request, and I just couldn’t stop myself. When our embrace ended, I ended up giving him a peck on the cheek. After that, he quickly stumbled into his truck and drove off. I, on the other hand, quickly stumbled into my hotel room and fell into a state of unconsciousness.

I was woken up by a pounding throb in my head, pulsating in a constant rhythm. I groaned as I hauled myself out of bed and forced myself to pack up my bags. I then trudged my way down to the receptionist’s desk, and was repulsed by her gleeful tone.

“How was your stay here ma’am?” I grunted in response.

She then asked for my payment. I lazily looked in my purse for my wallet, eyes widening to the size of saucers  when I couldn’t find it. I checked and checked until eventually I panicked and dumped out my purse all over the front desk. In sheer horror I discovered that not only was my wallet missing, but my car keys as well.

The receptionist addressed me again, only this time, a lot less pleased. “Your payment ma’am?”

Without even bothering with a response, I ran to the parking lot, only to freeze in absolute horror. There, in the parking lot, was Shawn, gold Rolex watch shining on his wrist, elegant like always, chatting with a brunette, in a bright red mustang convertible. My car.

When Shawn spotted me, I noticed that his warm, sincere eyes were nowhere to be found. Instead, they were full with sarcastic sympathy, as if to say “Sucks to be you.” Then he put his arm over the brunette and sped off.

As I stood there dumbstruck, one thought echoed throughout my mind, starting of in a silent sorrowful whisper, and gradually growing louder and louder until it could no longer be contained by my mouth as I let a single phrase pass through the confinement of my lips.

‘What will Russell say?’