Black Petals Issue #83 Spring, 2018

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Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Door #2-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Inmate's Asylum-Fiction by Mark Joseph Kevlock
Nature Verses Nurture-Fiction by Donna J. W. Munro
Strange Music Follows Her Everywhere-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Surviving Montezuma, Conclusion-Serialized Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Corpse Grinder-Poem by Alexis Child
El Cuero-Four Poems by Richard Stevenson

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Door #2

 

By Roy Dorman

 

Out of the frying pan…

 

 

  Sitting in the shade of a boulder, unable to walk due to her injuries, Elizabeth Woods, a.k.a. Nowhere Woman, has begrudgingly consented to a temporary truce with Edward Alderson and has agreed to tell him how her leg came to look like a cat’s scratching post. After all, Edward has saved her life. 

  She’s been in Nowhere Land for two weeks, he only three days, so she has the advantage of experience and is willing to share some of it. Whether she’ll travel with him after she has healed, she hasn’t yet decided.

 

  “I was just drifting off after settling in a little later than usual,” she said. “I thought I should stay up for a bit to make sure you didn’t follow me and attack me in my sleep. You were the last person I saw—”

  “I didn’t follow you that night—”

  “But you did the next day—”

  “….and I would never attack you.”

  “Anyhow, I was almost asleep, drifting in that weird in-between state, when I heard a quiet shuffling sound that seemed to be heading in my direction. I put my pistol in my hand and pretended to be asleep, thinking whoever or whatever it was might pass me by.”

  “You’re braver than I am,” said Edward. “I would’ve probably fired off a few shots in the general direction of the sounds and took off running.”

  “Yeah, well, we were only allowed to bring in a certain amount of ammunition, and, until I find a way to get more, I’m conserving mine as best I can.

  “It was pretty dark; the moons had just barely come up over the horizon. The shuffling stopped and there was a sniffing noise in its place. I figured it was an animal of some sort—though I hadn’t seen any up to that point—and was hoping it would decide I wasn’t worth a closer look.

  “It must have been able to walk quietly if it chose to, because all of a sudden it was standing over me—towering over me. It was all shadowy, but from what I could see, it was huge and hairy. Kind of like those faked pictures of the Sasquatch they run in the supermarket tabloids.

  “I aimed my pistol at its chest, but it slapped it out of my hand and hissed at me like a goddamn snake! When I went to kick at it, it scratched me with its paw and hissed again. It then turned away and shuffled off mumbling to itself…like it was disappointed or something.”

  “That’s an odd tale,” said Edward. “So, in addition to the assorted characters that come through Marcovici’s doorway, we might also have to deal with monsters. I don’t even want to think too long about what animals that size use for a food supply.”

  Elizabeth was a tough one, but telling that story had taken a lot out of her. She was obviously more shaken by the experience than she had thought. 

  Sensing her discomfort, Edward decided to change the subject for now and find out a little more about her.

  “So I told you I came to Marcovici for his help because I had the mob after me for gambling debts,” he said. “Since we’re gonna be traveling companions, how about telling me about yourself. Why did you need to disappear?”

  “It has not yet been established that we’re going to be traveling companions,” said Elizabeth, “but since I won’t be able to walk very far today, I guess I could use this time to give you the gory details. My husband, Eric, was a real gem—”

 “Was a gem?”

 “Was. He’s dead. After ten years of a pretty good marriage, Eric became addicted to prostitutes, not high-end call girls, mind you, but whores he’d pick up off the street. We were both attorneys, so money wasn’t the problem. Besides, the hookers he picked up only cost a hundred bucks, sometimes even less. Respect was the issue. Eric didn’t respect women as people. At least he didn’t respect me enough to stop his disgusting behavior.”

 “Gee, I’m sorry, Elizabeth,” said Edward. “If this is too hard for you, we could just rest until the suns are a little lower and then maybe walk a bit.”

 “No, you were honest with me about why you ended up here; I should probably be honest with you… We argued all the time. He said he’d stop, and then he’d start up again. We went to a marriage counselor and she suggested I dress up like a cheap whore and let Eric pick me up on a street corner and take me to a sleazy hotel. She and Eric both thought it was a great idea. I fired her and then started planning how I would kill Eric.”

 “Why didn’t you just divorce him?” asked Edward. “It sounds like you didn’t need his financial support; you could’ve just dumped him.”

“If we’re going to be traveling companions—”

“Are we?”

“Get rid of that puppy dog look,” said Elizabeth. “We might be traveling companions. What I was going to say is that you should know that I don’t take rejection easily. Or dishonesty. Or any kind of disrespect. And those are just three of my pet peeves. I don’t turn the other cheek; I get revenge.”

“Got it,” said Edward. “I step out of line, you just slap me upside the head and tell me to straighten out and fly right.” Edward decided it was time to change the subject again. He could wait to learn how Eric died. He figured he already knew who did it.

“Did you hear those shots this morning?” he asked. “What do you think that was all about?”

“After my encounter with that monster, I decided that since I probably wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep I would get an early start on the day. So yeah, I was awake and heard them. They came from back where you and I had spoken on your first day here.

“I figure two people who were already established here got into a turf war about which one of them would stake out the area around Marcovici’s doorway.” 

“Ambushing disoriented newcomers must be pretty common,” said Edward. “I wasn’t here ten minutes and one of them had me spotted. They probably just look at it as trying to make a living.”

“Well,” said Elizabeth, “I’m still hoping to find something in this world that will help me survive other than killing somebody else and taking their stuff. Hey, ya know, I think I could walk some before it gets dark.”

“Marcovici told me that if I was careful, I could live here for a very long time,” said Edward, standing up and gathering their gear. “He must have known there was a food source somewhere or he wouldn’t have said that.”

 

Edward and Elizabeth had walked for about an hour when their path was blocked by a dry creek bed. If they wanted to continue in the direction they were going, away from the doorway, they would have to climb down into the bed, clamber over the rocky debris at its bottom, and then climb up the other side. With her leg throbbing, Elizabeth wasn’t sure she was up for that.

“We could go down now, I could clear the stones from an area, and we could spend the night there,” said Edward. “That way we’d have some protection after dark and only have to make it back up tomorrow.”

“I don’t know if I can get down there, Edward,” said Elizabeth. “I’m feeling pretty bushed.”

“Here, put your arm around my shoulder,” said Edward. “I’ll be careful not to jar your bad leg.”

Putting her arm around Edward, Elizabeth smiled to herself. “You’re a real peach, ya know, Edward. If Marcovici could see us now, he’d probably bust a gut laughing.”

After they were down, Edward cleared a spot for them. They set their firearms close by and took dinner out of their backpacks.

Edward had just finished his energy bar when he suddenly stood up.

“There’s something shimmering about forty feet down the bed,” he said. “See it? I’m gonna go check it out before we turn in.”

“Well, be careful, Edward. We can’t afford to have both us limping around.”

When Edward got to the shimmering spot, he called back to Elizabeth.

“It’s about six feet tall and three feet wide,” he said, “kinda shaped like a door.”

He stuck a hand into the shimmering brightness and felt a curious tingling. He checked his hand out carefully when he pulled it back out. Seeing that it looked okay, he decided to stick his head in and see what he could see.

What he saw made him gasp and pull back out quickly. “Elizabeth!” he shouted. “You’ve got to—”

“Edward, get back here! We’ve got company!”

Edward looked back toward Elizabeth to see half a dozen huge scorpions skittering down the creek bed from the opposite direction. Elizabeth fired off six quick shots and killed or wounded four of them. By then Edward was there. Picking up his pistol, he dispatched the other two just as they were about to spear him with their poisonous barbed tails.

“They probably heard or felt me clearing out the rocks and came to investigate,” said Edward, shaking from the exertion. “I suppose if they’re primarily nocturnal and keep to the creek beds, we normally would never run into them.”

“There’s nothing normal about this place, Edward. Anyway, what did you find over there that got you all excited?”

“Come on; you’ll have to see it to believe it,” said Edward. “As brown and barren as this land is, the land on the other side of that door is just as green and overrun with plant life.”

“Do you think it’s wise to just step through that door not knowing what could be waiting for us on the other side?” asked Elizabeth.

“Well, we already know what this side offers, don’t we? I’ve got enough food for another two or three weeks and… Grab your stuff, Elizabeth! Look what’s coming down the gorge!”

Elizabeth looked back to see a tall hairy beast shambling down the gorge. “These damn creek beds must be frickin’ thoroughfares for all the fauna of this world,” she yelled as she struggled after Edward to the doorway.

When they reached the doorway, Edward, always the gentleman, stepped aside to let Elizabeth go first. “Not a chance, Edward. I haven’t completely dropped the ‘Don’t Trust Anyone’ shtick yet. I’ll follow you.”

Edward shrugged and stepped through the doorway. His third step was into a leg snare trap that triggered, sending him eight feet into the air, hanging by one leg.

Elizabeth stepped through with her pistol drawn and took a quick look around for whoever had set the trap. Seeing no one, she hurried over to Edward with knife in hand.

“Well, I guess we know what’s behind door number two,” she said.

 

More to Come

 

Roy Dorman, roydorman@yahoo.com, of Madison, WI, who wrote BP #83’s “Door #2” (+ 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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