Black Petals Issue #86, Winter, 2019

The Sump
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Napper's Holler-Chapter 9-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Not This Time-Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
Our Neighbors, The Zombies-Fiction by Jon A. Park
The Art of Dream-napping-Fiction by Mark J. Kevlock
The Night Side of Eden-Fiction by George Rosas
The Sump-Fiction by Anthony Lukas
Tingles-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Winter's Gnome-Poem by Janet C. Ro
Saucer, Schmosser-Four Poems by Richard Stevenson

sumpcartwright.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2019

The Sump

 

By Anthony Lukas
The power of a wish

  

 

It had been an easy job for Staark—money owed, money not paid, a conversation, money received. Her green eyes had flashed at the fat little man’s whimpering lies. She had only needed a bit of minor magic: a couple of his thugs incapacitated, and the debtor convinced to pay by manifested fire slowly crawling up his legs. He had remembered where he had enough cash stashed before the fire had reached his knees. It would be a while until he could walk again, but the debt had been honored.

Staark strode down the main street of the Sump. The Sump was a section of the city near the port down-slope from the prosperous city center and into which many lives had sunk. Its streets were filthy, its buildings neglected, its people the denizens of the city’s underbelly. Saloons and dives lined this street among other businesses clawing out a miserable living there.

Staark entered a saloon, ordered a drink, and sat at a corner table near the door. She scanned the people in the room. She sensed moderate magic abilities at best, thugs with just enough power to intimate the Plains, the non-magical. She noticed some with magic amulets, rings, and related paraphernalia, and shook her head at such amateur trappings. What next, she thought, magic wands? These fools probably still have to utter spells aloud.

Staark could best any of them, and, even collectively, could probably defeat them, such was her power. But there seemed to be no reason to ponder that possibility; everyone was just drinking and murmuring among themselves, with only occasional loud outbursts.

Almost no reason. Staark saw a few women hanging on the men at the bar and at the table with the card game. A couple were young, very young. But they clearly had been here for a while; they had hard eyes and held their own against the comments and gropes of the men. Long past saving.

Still, Staark felt an urge to get these girls away from this cesspool. She remembered the hands and alcoholic breath on her in what seemed like ages ago. She remembered fear and panic and revulsion, and then acceptance. She suppressed the urge because it was too late; these girls had sunk into the pit and there was no going back.

A door opened behind the bar, and a large brassy woman led another young girl into the saloon. She resisted a little, pulling back a bit with the beginning of tears in her large brown eyes.

“Not again,” she was pleading. “I don’t want to,” tugging against the grip of the large woman.

“Got to pay for your keep,” the big woman said. “These gentlemen just want to get to know you.”

Some of the men grinned, the other girls sneered, one laughing.

“Come on, Sweetness, time to get plucked,” said the laugher.

The girl with the crying brown eyes kept trying to pull away, and the big woman swore at her.

Two of the men stepped forward. “Give her here, Deidre,” the taller of the two said, “we like them spirited.” His short, round companion laughed.

Deidre began to push the girl to the reaching men, but they all froze at the abrupt sound of a scraping chair and the bang as it fell back onto the floor. They all turned toward Staark.

Staark stood behind her table staring down the room. “Leave her be,” she said.

Everyone was staring at Staark. Then one of the men that had been reaching for the girl said, “This is none of your business.”  

Staark could feel the man starting to Tap, bringing up his magic. She could sense others in the room doing the same. Staark sent a pulse across the saloon. It rolled across the room, shifting tables, rattling bottles, and rocking back the people. It hit Deidre and she stumbled, losing her grip on the girl, who bolted around the bar and down a hallway. Deidre screeched and thumped after her.

The taller of the two men stared after them and said, “We paid for our amusement. Now I guess we’re going to have to get our entertainment from you,” rounding on Staark. There was a murmur of agreement around the room. Men shifted and stood, readying their magic. Some actually did pull out wands. Staark snorted in disgust.

“Now then,” said big man, and drew in a breath to utter what Staark sensed would be an immobilizing spell. Staark froze the air in his lungs. The man looked puzzled for a split moment, then sank to his knees, his mouth agape. His fat companion uttered a spell which Staark redirected onto another man, who broke out into boils. Biblical, thought Staark, as she shot a pulse at the fat man, sending him flying across the room.

Another rushed from the side, a dagger upraised. Old school, thought Staark, and thought the man’s arm into a swing that plunged the dagger into his own chest.

Some damned fool aimed fire from his silly little wand at Staark, who curved it aside and fanned the bar with it. The bar erupted into flames.

Deidre had come back into the room, dragging the girl. She screamed when she saw the fire, threw the girl to the floor, and started beating at the flames with a bar rag. The short fat man that Staark had tossed across the room was up again and lurching toward the girl, arms outstretched, pudgy hands reaching for her.

Emeralds flashed and he burst into flames, screaming as the fire burned brighter. Must be the fat, thought Staark. She looked for the girl, who had disappeared.

Staark moved towards the door to the street, shield spells she had erected fending off the stream of curses and magic directed at her back. She left the saloon, was halfway across the street when Deidre erupted from the saloon screeching, and Staark turned to face her. Some of Deidre’s girls had followed her out, staring hard at Staark as had some of the customers, though they were hanging back, looking a little reluctant to be there.

“What have you done with her?” yelled Deidre.  

Staark was about to reply when the girl bolted from the alley next to the saloon, ran up to Staark and clung to her coat. Staark put her arm protectively around her.

“She’s mine!” yelled Deidre, “Give her back!”

“No,” said Staark. No, they’ll not have this little one, she thought. I will save this innocent from the Sump, from this cesspool that would turn her hard to survive.  

The girl tugged at Staark’s coat. Staark looked down at her, and she looked up at Staark with those big round eyes and whispered something. Staark bent down to hear her and the girl put her mouth close to Staark’s ear.

“Kill them,” she whispered, “kill them all.”

                                                                    

The End

 

 

Anthony Lukas, iamrocky237@yahoo.com, of Petaluma, California, who wrote BP #86’s “The Sump” (+ BP #82’s “Scream” & BP #77’s “Smith’s Emporium”), is a retired attorney and chocolatier, now spending time working part-time in a national park and writing a story or two. He has previously been published in overmydeadbody.com, bewilderingstories.com, and Yellow Mama.




It's well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so our pal Steve Cartwright is typing his bio with one hand while pummeling his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop, Steve! Death by mackerel is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection of spooky toons, Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com.    He's done art for several magazines, newspapers, websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling - on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright . And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.

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