Flash Fiction #3 ~ The Dance

Jaime couldn’t wait to get home and go to sleep. She wasn’t tired, unfortunately, but that didn’t stop her from hearing things. She could have sworn a voice had cussed someone out quietly during her math lecture, but Rebecca claimed she didn’t hear anything. At lunch she’d heard oldie’s music clash with the contemporary pop that the dining hall was blasting through the speakers. Then on her way to women’s glee club she heard a man’s voice urgently pleading with someone named Lily, though no matter how many times she looked behind her she saw no one close enough to hear them as clearly as she did.

Things were a bit hazy in glee rehearsal. She was able to follow along and sing the right words and notes, but she had a weird feeling of déjà vu. Well, something a bit different, like she was remembering a rehearsal that was so similar to this one yet was dissonant enough to leave her with a headache, like the pitches of the memory and reality were a half step away from each other.

She was aware of Natalie asking if she was sick. Nearly half of glee club was, this time of year. Jaime shrugged.

When the choir turned to the piece Les Sirénes, Jaime stared at the first page. They’d sung it multiple times already, but the page seemed to be colored differently. Or, maybe the ink was a little lighter. Whatever it was, she was seeing it differently. Not like she was seeing it for the first time, more like she was finally seeing it the way it was meant to be seen.

When she and the other soprano two’s came in on their line, Jaime sang with renewed energy. The song had always grated against her ears, the strange chords and seemingly nonsensical melodic lines frustrating her, but this time the song really fell into place. Instead of air, she breathed in the music, and breathed out the siren’s call. When it came to the solo in the center of the piece, she felt the rest of the choir slip away and leave room for her to fill the room with her song. It wasn’t until she was shaken back into reality that she realized the entire choir had stopped singing and was staring at her.

“Is there something you want to tell us?” Natalie asked, arms crossed. Jaime studied the faces around the room. They seemed out of focus, but from what she could see they were not happy.

“What?” Jaime clutched her music.

“Why are you singing Nikita’s solo?”

Jaime frowned at her. “Her solo? You mean, my solo?”

No, not my solo. Nikita’s solo. She remembered that now, but it still seemed wrong. The director had picked Nikita for the part, she remembered this, but somehow she knew that the part was meant for her. She realized that she should be more frustrated, or upset, or something like that, but all she felt was confusion.

Natalie was speaking again (she knew this because her lips were moving) but all Jaime heard was a fit of giggles that erupted around her. She looked at the other girls standing next to her but they were still staring at her silently. As she watched, though, she thought she could see their faces change, replaced by completely different people, but still familiar somehow, maybe even more familiar. They were the ones who were giggling, and not at her. With her.

“Excuse me,” Jaime sighed to no one in particular before floating down the aisle towards the doors. She felt like muscle memory was taking over, carrying her through the doors and into the hallway. She turned to see a girl (Deborah, her name is Deborah, of course!) smiling and waving goodbye. “Good luck!” Deborah called before walking away, her footsteps making no sound, her figure fading into the shadows.

As she walked down the hall, Jaime began to feel giddy. She was anxious about something, but was sure it would end well. When she pushed open the doors to the outside and took a step out, she looked to her left, where she knew he would be.

“Bobby.”

The young man stood by the clock tower, wearing his stupid grin and his leather jacket. As she watched, he started towards her and took the jacket off, throwing it over one shoulder.

“How was practice tonight?”

She bit her bottom lip and smirked at him. “Fantastic. I did wonderfully on my solo, wish you could have been there to hear it.”

Bobby put a hand on the side of her face and stroked her cheek with his thumb. “I’m coming to the concert, babe, I’ll hear it then.”

Strange, all he was wearing was a plain T-shirt now. How could he stand to be out in the middle of winter without his jacket on? “Aren’t you cold?” she asked.

He let out a breathy laugh in response. “Cold? It’s the warmest day of the year, Lily. Even for April.”

“April?” She looked around. It was December, there were snow banks around her. At least, there should be. She’d jumped into one earlier that day. But now, there were none to be found. In fact, as she watched, the trees sprouted leaves and the entire block looked more alive. She became uncomfortably aware of the coat on her shoulders, its warmth causing her to break out into a sweat.

“Lily?”

Lily looked back at Bobby. “Yes. I’m here.” She dropped the coat, and the sweater underneath that, until she was wearing only her short-sleeved shirt and jeans. Even the jeans seemed too warm now. Without a second thought, she removed her shoes, socks, and jeans until she stood on the cement in her shirt and underwear. Smirking, she asked, “Wanna dance?”

Sizing her up, Bobby laughed. “Here?”

“No, in the plaza, right in the middle.” Lily grabbed his hand and, laughing, dragged him down the sidewalk and across the street. As she ran, she saw the grass on the lawns wriggle and grow, fireflies dancing in the dark. She stopped in the dead center of the crisscross network of sidewalks and turned to face her boyfriend.

Bobby hesitated. “You’re not still upset at me? For earlier, I mean.”

“Why should I be?” Lily placed her hands on Bobby’s chest and let her fingers walk up his body until she was cupping his face. “That was last week. The past should stay in the past, don’t you think?”

He slowly broke into a grin. “Yes. I think that’s a wonderful idea.”

Lily slowly pressed her lips to his. They were soft, familiar. She could feel his quickening heartbeat against her chest. Or was that her own?

They began swaying to a slow rhythm. Lily thought she heard music whispering through the trees, but even if she was just imagining it, she knew that she and Bobby both slow-danced to the same song, completely in sync. She rested her head against Bobby’s chest and sighed. “I could dance with you forever.”

Bobby gently kissed the top of her head. “I know.”

. . . . .

A student found Jaime’s body early the next morning. She was lying in the middle of the sidewalk covered with the inches of snow that had fallen the night before. That section of campus was quickly cordoned off, and when the police came, they suspected that cause of death was hypothermia. The poor girl wasn’t even wearing any winter clothes, stripped down to a short-sleeved shirt and her underwear. One police officer suspected drugs were involved, and the others concurred, but nothing would be proven until the body was examined.

An unfortunate accident. That’s what this death was. It most certainly didn’t have anything to do with the deaths of Lily and Bobby decades ago. That didn’t even cross anyone’s mind. Sure, Jaime had the same color hair, same eyes, similar weight and build as Lily. In women’s glee club she sat only a few seats over from where Lily had sat when she was a part of the club. Of course, no one made that connection. And no one thought that an unfortunate accident could have anything to do with a murder-suicide. That was an open and shut case from years ago. Lily had suspected that Bobby had cheated on her, though he actually hadn’t, and never would. During a heat wave near the end of April, Lily had taken him to the middle of the plaza, pretending to want to dance, then shot and killed him before shooting herself. Both were dead before anyone found them.

It was a shame that Bobby never did get his dance with the love of his life. And, of course, the presence of a small, wilting lily next to Jaime’s body was a pure coincidence.

Advertisements

Flash Fiction #2 ~ Crystal Calamities Tech Support

Martha Riggins started the day with burnt toast, a dead phone, and a surprise downpour without an umbrella, so when her crystal ball decided to freeze mid-vision, she was hardly shocked. It was unfortunate, as she had a high-paying customer at the time, but she had lots of practice in bull-crap and was able to use what she’d already seen to give the man a satisfactory answer. One worth 100 dollars, at least.

The only other readings she had that day were Tarot readings, so she stuffed her crystal ball into the corner of her room and put it out of her mind temporarily. After she closed shop, she took it back out and laid it on her table, sighing.

“User BX4503. Give me tech support.”

The ball was still frozen on a scene of a fence and a dog mid-run, but thankfully it responded predictably. It clouded over, glowing a dim green before revealing a smiling face and solid green uniform. “Welcome to the Crystal Calamities tech support center. My name is Kimberly. How may I assist you today?” She flashed her teeth at Martha, revealing her slightly crooked bottom tooth and distracting Martha for a second.

“Uh, hello, I’ve been a customer for a while, had the same crystal for years, and today it just pooped out on me.”

“Can you describe to me exactly what the problem may be?”

“Sure.” Martha waved her arms in front of her face. “It just froze during a vision. Like, everything was working perfectly normally and then all of a sudden it stopped on a scene and wouldn’t do anything past that. It’s a miracle it let me contact tech support, honestly.”

Kimberly smiled down at something on her desk (probably a folder of responses) and looked through it. “Does your crystal flicker?”

“No.”

The girl looked farther down her sheet. “Is it emitting a low-level humming noise?”

“No.”

“Strange and unearthly sounds?”

Martha sighed. “It’s not doing anything besides just not working. It just froze. That’s it. No flickering, no noises, nothing. Okay?”

“Hmm.” Kimberly’s smile didn’t waver. “What kind of reading were you performing at the time?”

She shrugged. “Just a normal one. Reading into their future. Easy stuff, what their married life would look like, how many kids, et cetera.”

Kimberly tapped her finger against the folder and pursed her lips, then remembered she had to keep smiling. “What was the last thing you saw before your crystal went kaput?”

There was the scene with the dog, and the fence. That was the domestic life of her client, a cute little house in a suburb with a dog, a wife, and probably a couple of kids, though she hadn’t been able to discern anything about that. She’d told him to expect a girl and a boy. That was always her go-to when she wasn’t able to actually see that aspect of their future, as it was most likely and it would be too late for them to come back and sue her if that turned out to be false.

“Just normal stuff. Their future place of residence and some aspects of that. Nothing out of the ordinary, if you’re thinking that had something to do with my crystal’s failure.”

“Well according to this…” the girl flipped through her folder and pointed to a line of text, “sudden failure of a crystal can be the result of an intense vision of magic overloading the system, or—” she looked up from the sheet quickly, “—a sign of the coming apocalypse.”

Martha snorted. “Uh huh.” She frowned when Kimberly’s facial expression didn’t change from its current emotionless state. “Wait…you actually think I just predicted the apocalypse with a mundane client reading?”

The Crystal Calamities worker looked back down at her folder. “It says here that if your crystal pauses with no other warning signs that it may mean the coming of the end times. If that is the case, the frozen vision will begin to curl in on itself until it disappears altogether. Have you noticed that?”

“Uh, no, I don’t think it’s done that. One sec, I’ll have to disconnect visual to check that.” Martha moved her hands over the crystal, and the image of the lady vanished. A swirl of green smoke cleared to show the same image that the crystal had frozen on. Except, the edges were starting to turn black. “Uhh…Kimberly? You still there?”

“Yes ma’am. What do you see?”

“The edges of the vision are turning black. That’s bad, right?”

“Umm…” Martha heard shuffling, then a clunk. She frowned and turned the visual back on with a wave of her hand. Kimberly was no longer in the picture. Probably ran off to get her manager.

As she waited, Martha whistled some elevator music. Or was it the Jeopardy! theme song? It was one of those things. Whatever. She just wanted to get done with this so she could go to dinner with her boyfriend. As it was, she was probably going to be late to picking him up, but then again she was always late. He’d understand that she was caught up because her crystal ball was displaying signs of the coming apocalypse. Hmm. That would make for interesting dinner conversation. “If the end times were coming, what would you do?” No, that was too cliché. She’d have to think of something better. Maybe—”

“Ms. Riggins?” a gruff voice cut into her thoughts. Her whistling sputtered out as the man (manager, probably) came into the image on her crystal. He was holding a red folder. They’re really taking this apocalypse thing seriously, aren’t they?

“Yes?” Martha ducked her head so she was eye level with the man’s image. “Did you figure out what’s wrong with it?”

The man thumbed the folder. “No ma’am. I have some more, specialized questions for you to answer. Firstly…” he opened it and looked at the first entry, “have you been experiencing nightmares lately?”

Martha scoffed. “Oh, sure, I have nightmares every night.”

“Do they involved…skulls, crows, wolves, rivers of blood—”

“Nah, mostly about showing up to an important event completely naked,” Martha cut in. “Oh, but there was this one time that I dreamt I was still in high school and I walked into my math class and there was a pop quiz. It was terrifying.”

Martha stifled a chuckle at the grimaces on the faces of the two tech support workers. They looked like they were decided between yelling and crying. “Ms. Riggins,” the man eventually said, “This is a serious matter. We need to make sure that what you have is just your run-of-the-mill crystal failure.”

Suddenly, the crystal ball started glowing a deep purple color in one spot. Martha watched as it spread across the screen like a virus. “Um. It’s starting to glow weird colors now. Is that part of a run-of-the-mill failure?”

“What color?” Another woman jumped into view.

Jeez, they just keep popping up. “Hi. It’s purple, and it started at the top and started spreading around. It’s actually getting a bit harder to see all of you now.”

“We need to prepare for a code black,” the new woman said, addressing the other people in view.

“Code black?” Kimberly’s eyes widened and she brought her hands up to her chest, wringing them like she was cold. The men and the new woman ran out of view, presumably to warn other people in the tech center, and Kimberly stared blankly as they left.

“Hello?” Martha waved frantically at the crystal. “What’s a code black? And why is everyone freaking out?” Her stomach rumbled, and she instantly remembered that all she’d had to eat so far was a salad and a piece of burnt toast. She checked her watch and tried to remember what time she and her boyfriend were supposed to go out to eat. “I’m kinda in a hurry here, could someone please talk to me?” Kimberly was still not responding, or even looking in her direction.

Martha banged her fist on the crystal and shouted, “HEY! Can anyone here me over there?”

Immediately, the purple fog dissipated, the image of the tech center disappeared, and the frozen vision returned. “Thank you for using Crystal Calamities tech support. Enjoy your day,” an automated voice said, and the vision unfroze. The dog ran into the house, and a man walked out and closed the door.

“It works.”

Martha stared at the crystal, which was completely back to normal now. “Great. Thanks for all the help,” Martha muttered to the air, then chuckled. She wondered if the tech center was still in code black, whatever that was, then decided she didn’t care. She packed the crystal into its cushioned box, locked up her shop, and went to pick up her boyfriend for dinner.

Arrow 4×18 Eleven-Fifty-Nine ~ Review

Warning: spoilers for Arrow up through episode 4×18 and The Flash through 1×23.

It’s amazing how obvious it’s been that Laurel would be the one to kick the bucket and yet somehow the writer’s managed to keep me second-guessing myself, even during the episode itself, and made her death more emotional than everything that’s happened on this show outside of Tommy’s death in season one.

This episode was introduced as the one that would finally reveal who was in the grave, so the entire viewing of the episode was colored by this expectation. Therefore, it was imperative that the writers keep the action engaging and the storyline moving to organically lead up to the inevitable death. They largely succeeded on this front, bringing the charismatic Damian Darkh back into the spotlight after the team’s brief encounter with Merlyn. Even the flashbacks were more interesting, as they showed fourth-year Oliver killing without a second thought, even burying three men alive. This entire episode was reminiscent of the golden age of this show, somewhere between seasons one and two, where stakes were high, villains were interesting, and the tone was much darker than that of shows like The Flash.

Season four was set up to be the lightest season yet, made evident by the stark contrast between the season three finale of Arrow (a lackluster episode that ended with Olicity driving off into the sunset) and the season one finale of The Flash (in which Eddie made the ultimate sacrifice, Barry went back in time and said goodbye to his dying mother, Jay Garrick’s flash helmet came flying through the wormhole, and a giant black hole threatening to destroy the city ended the episode on a cliffhanger). I understand why the Arrow writers wanted to lighten their show, as season three’s dark mediocrity (ironically) paled in comparison to The Flash’s light (er) and campy attitude. However, they made a mistake in assuming that it was this difference in tone that lead to Arrow suffering. What they seem not to have realized at the time is that The Flash in and of itself deserves to have its campy attitude, as it’s a show that deals with metahumans, time travel, giant man sharks, guns that shoot gold, and a multitude of other wacky stuff. Arrow needed to make room for some of this, but season two proved that the darker tone works for this show, and this season’s episodes with Constantine and Vixen proved they can integrate magic into the show without compromising the feel of the show itself.

This episode also proved that. Darkh uses magic, yet is interesting and menacing enough to raise the stakes and darken (heh, pun) the mood. With Andy’s betrayal, it wasn’t crystal clear that Laurel would die as John Diggle seemed a very logical candidate in the moment. Thea’s fight with Merlyn raised questions about how far Merlyn would go to support Darkh, and if he really had broken the ties with his daughter that would stop him from killing her. It turns out he still won’t kill her directly, but nonetheless the fight was intense.

There were a number of times during the episode where Laurel as the body in the grave crossed my mind. Most obvious to me was her line “one last time”, about being the Black Canary, though I figured the writers were trying to pull the wool over our eyes with that one. It seems unlikely and uncharacteristic that Sara would come back to Star City to replace her sister as the Black Canary, which made Laurel less obvious of a choice to kill off. Even after she was badly wounded by Darkh and taken to the hospital, the doctors claimed she was in stable condition and she told the rest of the team that she changed her mind about taking off the mask forever. At this point, I was ready for a fake-out, but the kind where the team were relieved to have Laurel safe and sound only to find out another member was killed, a la that one soap opera with the cancer patient and the bicycle guy (while they’re celebrating one character becoming cancer-free, they find out that another character was hit by a car and killed while riding his bicycle).

The final scene with Laurel was more emotional than I’d expected. I still figured the writers would do a fake-out (meaning Laurel was safe), but her quiet talk with Ollie (the only person in the main cast she’d been friends with since before the island) was well-written and brilliantly acted. I haven’t thought about them as a romantic couple since season two, but Laurel’s reserved confession that while she wasn’t the love of Oliver’s life, he was hers, really brought out the tears. That should have been a blatant tip-off that she would in fact be the one in the grave, but I still held on to whatever hope I had left that that wouldn’t be the case.

This episode in and of itself was great. The stakes were high, the plot moved forward, and the acting was superb. Everyone’s reaction to Laurel’s death, especially her father’s, was heartbreaking. However, I’m wary about what this means for the rest of this season and into the next.

As much as I hate to admit it, the Olicity drama during the second half of this season has really hurt the show. Emily Bett Rickards is a great actress, her character is interesting, and I even hold the unpopular opinion that Goth Felicity tormenting wheelchair-bound Felicity earlier this season was kinda great. However, it was refreshing this episode to see team Arrow not bogged down by the Olicity drama. It is because of this that I was hoping that, somehow, the person in the grave was Felicity and the “Felicity” we saw in the car was actually a hallucination caused by Oliver’s grief. Yes, a bit unrealistic, but at least that would have some interesting implications on the rest of the season and the next. Season two was arguably the best season so far, and that came straight after Tommy’s death. There will obviously be repercussions for Laurel’s passing, but losing the love of his life would have such an interesting impact on Oliver.

We’ll just have to wait to see the repercussions of this episode, if the Olicity drama will continue to be a problem, and what tone the writers will set for the upcoming fifth season of Arrow. Fingers crossed that we return to a darker version of the character and that we get to finally see how the fifth year on the island turned Oliver into the ruthless, murdering man we know from season one.

New Section: Superhero Musings

Back in the summer, I tried to make a superhero blog. I was going to dedicate it to reviews of superhero shows and movies. Unfortunately, I made all of two posts on that blog before abandoning it.
However, after last night’s Arrow episode, I have realized that I still have a lot to say about these shows, and since this blog is (relatively) active, I might as well add that content to this blog. I’m not sure what to call this section (everything clever I can think of is already taken), so for now I’ll label them as Superhero Musings.

The first entry in this new section will be posted later today.