Black Petals Issue #82 Winter, 2018

Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A Nowhere Friend-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Broken Image-Fiction by Andrew Newall
Monster-Fiction by Paloma Palacios
Salvation_Fiction by Scott Dixon, Featured Author
Scream-Fiction by Anthony ('Tony') Lukas
Surviving Montezuma-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist, Chapters 13 & 14
The Foundling-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Girl Who Isn't Talked About-Fiction by James Gallagher
Wallie's Reflection-Fiction by Janet C. Ro
Beggar's Curse-Poem by Alexis Child
Marco-Three poems from Christopher Hivner
In Line at the Terminal-Four poems by Michael Keshigian
Ghost Poets-Four Poems by Jerry McGinley
Killer Clowns-Four Cryptid Poems by Richard Stevenson

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A Nowhere Friend

 

By Roy Dorman

 

Getting somewhere with someone

 

 

Yesterday Morning

 

 Edward Anderson looked up from the book he was reading at The Green Owl Cafe to find a four or five year-old girl staring at him. She had her hands on her hips and a look of challenge on her face. Edward peered over the top of her head to see a young woman sitting at a nearby table watching her—watching them both. He smiled at her and she gave him what appeared to be a suppressed smirk.

 “Hello, there,” said Edward.

 The little girl said nothing—didn’t bat an eyelash.

 Edward checked with the young woman again before saying, “You can say ‘Hello’ to people if there’s a grownup with you.”

 Still nothing.

 “Now, if you don’t have a grownup with you and some stranger talks to you, you should say, ‘Bug off, creepo,’ and quickly walk away.”

 The girl looked at Edward and said, “Bug off, creepo,” after which she broke into a fit of giggling.

 “That was pretty good,” said Edward. “But you can’t start laughing after you say it or the stranger won’t think you’re tough.”

  The girl stopped giggling and stared at Edward as if awaiting more instruction.

  “Let’s try it again…like this: ‘Bug off, CREEPO.’” Edward held a stern pose for a few seconds and then smiled at her.

  “That was pretty good,” she said, “except you kinda lost your toughness when you smiled at me.”

  Edward looked over at the woman and raised his eyebrows at her as if to say, You’re gonna have your hands full with this one.

  The woman rolled her eyes comically. Don’t I know it, her expression seemed to say.

  The girl walked back to her table, sat down, and then shyly waved to Edward as if to tell him that she really was just a little girl.

  Edward sighed, finished his coffee, and started for the door. He was going to miss little slices of life like this. It was nine-thirty. If he was going to get to Marcovici’s by ten, he’d have to hustle. He had a date to disappear.

 

Same Day, Early Evening (in the Middle of Nowhere)

 

  Edward had walked until it started to get dark. Now, sitting by himself without a fire in a world he had started to call “Nowhere Land,” he thought back to that interaction in the café. If he hadn’t had the mob looking for him, he could have struck up a conversation with the little girl’s mother. Maybe she was a single parent. Maybe they could have had a relationship. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

  Even before he had met Count Alphonse Marcovici, Edward’s life had been made up of “what ifs” and “maybes.” 

Now he was alone in an alternate universe populated by people as bad as, or worse than, himself. The only advice he had been given by Marcovici had been, “Don’t trust anyone.” Thinking about having been rebuked by a fellow traveler earlier in the day only made him feel all the more alone.   

Well, I’m going to have to have a little trust if I’m going to get any sleep, he thought, munching an energy bar.

He found a fairly rock-free spot on the ground. He took his .38 out of his backpack and arranged the backpack on the ground to use for a pillow. After squirming around for a bit, he finally got comfortable.

Holding the pistol in his hand and looking up at the three moons coming up over the horizon, he said, “This first night’s gonna be a long one.”

While thinking he would probably only have himself to talk to in this strange dimension, and how that might take a toll on his sanity, he drifted off to sleep. It had been a long, strange day. It would be a strange night too. 

The denizens of Nowhere Land walked on silent feet and took care not to be discovered by the visitors from what they considered to be an evil realm. They were strictly nocturnal. A few would stop to investigate him, but Edward would not be aware of their presence.

One of the larger ones sniffed Edward’s face, and then licked his cheek. It straightened up and seemed to be weighing the information it had gathered. Edward didn’t know it, but he had passed a test. His reward for passing was that he had not been torn apart and devoured.  

 

Today

 

Edward awoke to the sound of gunfire in the distance. Sitting up, he was surprised to have slept through the night. The three moons were gone and there was a reddish glow on the horizon to his left. The gunfire had come from behind him, and he had jumped up, pistol in hand, ready to defend himself. There were three more shots sounding like an exchange, and then it was quiet.

He stood and slowly turned around in a circle in an attempt to get his bearings. “I guess I’ll call that east because that’s where the sun is coming up,” he said, nodding in that direction. He’d have to watch today to see if the sun here travelled from east to west, or did something completely different.

As it got lighter, he rummaged in his backpack for an energy bar and a bottle of water.

“There must be food and water in this place,” he said. “If people just killed other people for the few supplies Marcovici allowed them to bring through the doorway, there’d have to be a lot of people coming through to support the population.”

Edward finished breakfast and packed up. The two reddish suns of Nowhere Land were now a bit above the horizon. 

 

Yesterday afternoon, he’d had hopes of catching up to the woman who had yelled to him after he had killed a man who had intended to rob and maybe kill him. Even though she had repeated Marcovici’s warning not to trust anybody, and had followed it up with a shot in his direction, he thought he could maybe convince her to join forces. They could protect each other and figure out how to survive this desolate world.

Now he was no longer sure which direction she had gone. But this morning’s shots may have come from near the doorway, the direction he had come from. Edward figured that if he walked in the direction away from the shots fired this morning, he might be heading in the direction she had gone. Edward decided he would call her Nowhere Woman until he found out what her name was.

“I suppose it’s a fantasy to think that she might want to hook up with me,” said Edward.  “It goes against Marcovici’s admonishment, and she might be doing okay on her own.” Edward knew wishful thinking like this had gotten him into trouble in the real world.  He shouldered his backpack and started walking. It was now full daylight, though the reddish suns made it less bright than traditional Earth light.

 

When the two suns were almost directly overhead, Edward decided to stop for a break. He felt he had only been walking for a couple of hours but figured the days might be shorter in Nowhere Land. 

 The landscape was fairly good for walking. The ground was level with few large rock formations and very little greenery. There were some ditches that appeared to be dry creek beds.

 “So, it must rain here sometimes,” he said. “I guess I should keep my empty water bottles and be ready to refill them if I get the chance.”

With the land being level and only creek beds and the occasional boulder for cover, Edward could see what lay ahead. That also meant he could easily be seen. He hadn’t heard any more gunshots since the morning’s exchange. He hadn’t seen anyone else either. He decided to put the energy bar wrappers in his back pack from now on; he didn’t want to leave a trail that could lead someone to him.

Calling an end to his break, he packed up his pack. He took his .38 out of the pack before he shouldered it. He suddenly felt that since he hadn’t seen or heard anybody for a while, that may be about to change. He was right.

“Don’t move.”

Even though Edward had been more careful when approaching creek beds or rocks large enough to hide someone, he had been rehearsing what he would say to the Nowhere Woman if and when he caught up to  her.

She was leaning against a boulder he had just passed with her pistol leveled at him.

“I was just thinking about you,” said Edward with a smile.

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Nowhere Woman answered. “Very slowly put your gun on the ground in front of you and then back up a few steps. Don’t try and rush me and don’t try to run. I will shoot you.”

“Well, I’m going to take it as a good sign you just didn’t shoot me in the back when I walked past,” said Edward. “It’s true what I said about thinking about you. I was hoping to catch up to you and offer to travel together, you know, for protection.”

“Weren’t you paying attention during Marcovici’s tutorial? You think I need your protection because I’m a woman? Didn’t it occur to you that you might need to be protected from me? I didn’t come here because I’d heard it was a great vacation spot, ya know.”

“Look, I’m not a threat to you,” said Edward. “I’m here because I embezzled money from my employer, lost it gambling, and then borrowed from the mob to try and fix things.”

“And I’ll bet you lost that borrowed money gambling too, right? If what you say is true, you would be a threat to me. You make poor choices and follow them up with more poor choices.”

“Your leg is bleeding,” said Edward.

During this conversation, Nowhere Woman had remained up against the rock. Now she took two steps forward, limping a little. Her right lower pant leg was shredded and soaked in blood.

“I’m not a hundred percent here, but I can still shoot straight,” she said before falling face down in the dirt.

“Oh, shit,” said Edward. He lifted the gun from her hand and set it aside. He then dragged her back behind the rock she had been using for her ambush.

Nowhere Woman groaned and went quiet. Edward scanned the horizon in all directions. Seeing no one, he bent to the task of examining her wound. Some very sharp claw marks started below her knee and dragged downward to near her ankle. The bleeding had stopped, but there was some swelling.

Marcovici’s list of things to bring did not include any medicinal supplies. Edward wondered whether this had been an oversight or intentional, since Marcovici seemed to know his business. Edward thought that maybe survival of the fittest was the rule in Nowhere Land and those who had an accident, even a minor one, didn’t make the cut.

“What caused those scratches?” he said. “With nothing to treat them, they’ll get infected and deadly.”

Edward rummaged through his backpack until he found the hunting knife and sheath. He attached the sheath to his belt. If there were animals in Nowhere Land he wanted to be as fully armed as Marcovici’s list allowed. He put his own .38 in his shoulder holster and put Nowhere Woman’s on the ground within easy reach. With the knife he cut Nowhere Woman’s pant leg off at the knee. 

“Damn, Nowhere Woman, I still don’t know your name,” he mumbled. If she had passed out from the scratches, there must have been some kind of poison in them. Edward remembered watching old westerns on TV as a kid where the hero would suck the venom from a snake bite to save his sidekick’s life. He wanted to be a hero. 

There were five scratches, all about eight to ten inches in length, and Edward began sucking them one by one, from knee to ankle. He knew he was drawing a mixture of both blood and venom, because when he was half way through the fourth one, he began to feel lightheaded. But, sucking and spitting, he pushed on.

 

 Nowhere Woman slept through the night and until what passed for noon the next day. Edward was watching her when her eyes popped open.

 “Where’s my gun?” she asked.

 “Right here,” said Edward. “See somethin’ ya wanna shoot?”

 “What happened to my leg?”

 Edward hadn’t dressed her wounds; there was nothing in the back pack to dress them with. 

 “I was gonna ask you that,” said Edward. “Looks like some kind of animal, a big one, scratched you.”

 “I know that,” she sighed. “I mean, who cut my pant leg?”

 “I thought it might heal better if that ragged lower part wasn’t chaffing against the wounds. I sucked the poison out….”

 “You did what?”

 “Well, it looked there was some swelling starting around the scratches, and you did pass out, so I figured…”

 “You don’t even know me and you sucked poison out of my leg?”

 “Yeah, I was going to get to that,” said Edward. “I yelled to you the other day—geez, was it only the other day—that my name was Edward. You fired a shot in my direction, but I didn’t catch your name.”

“That’s because I didn’t throw it.”

“What?”

“Just jerkin’ yer chain. It’s Elizabeth Woods—not Liz, not Beth—Elizabeth. And, hey, thanks for maybe saving my life.”

“You hungry? Thirsty? Yeah, probably both. Here, let me get you something…Elizabeth.”

“Slow down, Edward,” said Elizabeth. “I’ve seen that look in men’s eyes before. This is not a date. Thanks for saving my life and all, but we are not starting a relationship here.”

“Sure, sure,” said Edward as he handed Elizabeth an energy bar and a bottle of water. “Why don’t we do lunch and you can tell me how you got those scratches.”

“Do lunch?” Elizabeth laughed at Edward’s social awkwardness and drank heavily from the water bottle. “There are not only some really bad people in this land….”

“Nowhere Land,” said Edward. “I call it Nowhere Land. It’s from an old Beatles song…”

“Focus, Edward. In addition to people running away from all sorts of bad things they did and don’t want to pay the price for, there are also some bad animals—really bad, really big animals. Sit down and I’ll tell you all about these scratches. Hey, hey—not so close!”

 

More to Come

 

 

Roy Dorman, roydorman@yahoo.com, of Madison, WI, who wrote BP #82’s “A Nowhere Friend” & “Foundling”  (+ BP #81’s “Nowhere Man in Nowhere Land” & “The Box with Pearl Inlay”; BP #80’s “Andrew’s War” & “Down at the Hardware Store”; BP #79’s “Cellmates” & “Get Some Shelter,” BP #78’s “All Is as It Should Be,” BP #77’s “Essence of Andrew,” BP #76’s “Flirting with the Alley,” BP #75’s “The Enemy of My Enemy…” BP #74’s “Doesn’t Play Well with Others,” BP #73’s “A Journey Starts with a Flower,” BP #72’s “The Beach House,” BP #71’s “The Big Apple Bites,” BP #70’s “Borrowing Some Love” and BP #69’s “Back in Town” and “Finding Good Help…”), is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Birds Piled Loosely, Burningword Literary Journal, Cease Cows, Cheapjack Pulp, Crack The Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Fiction Press, Gap-Toothed Madness, Gravel, Lake City Lights, Near To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, The Creativity Webzine, Theme of Absence, The Screech Owl, The Story Shack, & Yellow Mama.

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