Hair Down

Long ago, they say, there once was a fair maiden, whose shining black hair flowed from atop her crown past her soles below. Long it spread, far and wide, covering all the land; trees and rivers, mountains and valleys, every hovel of every village, every square of every city. Even their capital lay under its silk-smooth cover. Men, women, children and beasts were tangled in its supple touch. One by one they drifted into that sweet oblivion that is sleep. A scent of fresh flowers filled the air. Bliss, o bliss! Soon, the land was quiet under the endless mane. Now, she stands alone, amid a sea as black as a starless night; she combs it gently, slowly. A lover’s caress every night. Dreaming, yearning, of growing her hair just a little bit more. Just a bit more. A bit more. More. More. More.

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Job Interview

“Hey, there you are!”

“Hey…”

“Sorry I’m late, but now I’m here, so…ta-daaa!”

“Yeah. You’re here.”

“Aw, c’mon. I’m not -that- late. Right?”

“…”

“I mean…ok, guess I am, but…you don’t need to get mad about it. Well, maybe a bit, but just a–”

“They didn’t hire me.”

“Oh? Oh, shit…I’m sorry. Damn. But you’re more than qualified for it!”

“I know. They made a point to mention how impressed they were at my resume, over the entire interview.”

“Ok, but did they at least give a reason? Anything?”

“They didn’t have to. From the moment I walked in there and made eye contact, I knew they’d dug up dirt on me. My little trip to the hospital.”

“Those assholes! Isn’t that shit, like, illegal or something?”

“Even if it was, I can’t prove they did it. I just smiled and thanked them for their time.”

“That fucking sucks so much, man. But hey, you always land on your feet, c’mon, I’ll buy you a beer!”

“What’s going on here? Who are you talking to?”

“Oh, sorry officer. I was just talking to myself…”

A Shot of Espresso

The aroma of roasted coffee beans and baked pastries hung in the air like a sweet and extravagant perfume at ‘Moi Noir Paris’ cafe. Patrons sipped lattes, cold-press coffees, and other overpriced caffeinated drinks over the sound of tapping keyboards and mellow jazz.

A tall man and a short man, both wearing long trench coats the color of wet earth, sat in a remote corner, away from prying ears.

“It hadda be done Lou, right? No two ways about it. We get a call from the office, they say a name, boom. That’s that. Nothing else to discuss, right?” Fingers drummed over the table.

“Right, Sal.” Lou had both hands laid flat over the table around a tiny espresso cup.

“‘Course I’m right, Lou! Chrissake…If it hadn’t been us, they would have given it to some fucking animal! We had to take this job, we owed Franccetti that much.”

“May he rest in peace.” Lou rapped softly on the table with his knuckles.

Si…may he rest in peace. Well, better him than us, right? In the end it’s all about respect. Rispetto, see? Now, we’ll get paid and go our separate ways; ciao bella and all that.”, Sal said, scratching his chin with the back of his fingers.

“Respect. Sure.” Lou slowly bent his right thumb until an audible crack rose above the chorus of tapping keystrokes. He repeated the gesture with the rest of his fingers, slowly, without breaking eye contact. Sal only winced at this three times.

“I mean…our fee for this contract’s double the usual rate! Like my ma always used to tell me, ‘Sal, honey, always look on the bright side and good things will come’”

“Mine died when I was four.” Lou said softly. He picked a sugar packet, tore it open and poured its contents in his mouth before crumbling the packet in his hand. Lou loved sugar, but never on his coffee.

“Er…In any case, I’m probably going to buy a sail boat, like the one old Francetti used to have! A beat up one, mind you. Keep myself busy fixing it. Heh, what a swell guy, right? Made a couple of nobodies like us into somebodies.” Sal’s grin almost looked wistful.

Lou simply nodded, his knuckles had turned slightly white. For a second, Sal thought he saw Lou’s hand tremble, but then he opened it, dropping the crumpled bits of paper before resting his hand flat over the table again.

Sal’s eyes went to the crumpled paper then to Lou’s face. “Still…we would have been small fry if we’d stayed with him. Now we’re on to bigger and better things!” Sal’s grin now looked like a monkey’s, all teeth bared, eager to pick a fight.

“Bullshit.”, Lou said flatly.

Sal had slipped his right hand under the table and into his trench coat’s side pocket. “What’s your problem, asshole?”

In reply Lou picked up the small cup in front of him, looking at it, as if trying to ingrain every detail into memory. Giving the tiniest of nods, as if approving something unseen, he slurped the black liquid in the cup and set it back down again with an audible clink.

“You fixing something up. Bullshit” Lou repeated in the same tone.

“Hey, fuck you, alright? Fuck you. I’m good at fixing things.” Sal’s voice had gone up an octave.

“Except a decent cup of coffee back at the office.” Lou split his thin lips into a crooked grin.

Sal’s eyes opened wide before he burst out laughing, uncoiling himself. A few of the younger patrons swiveled their heads in their direction, eyebrows raised. “Idiota. Of all the lousy, shitty jokes to make…” Sal pulled out his hand from the trench coat, using it to give Lou the finger before reaching out to punch him gently on the shoulder.

“It was Franccetti’s. I liked the old guy.” Lou said, still flashing his crooked grin, but his eyes looked away from Sal.

“Me too… Anyways, you want to call it in or should I?” Sal drummed his fingers on the table, trying to recall a song he once heard, but wasn’t hitting the notes right.

“Be my guest.” Lou shrugged, as if it was none of his business. “You tapped him. They’ll probably give you a bonus.”

“Thems the breaks, man. I was always a lucky shot!” Sal said with some false modesty.

“Bang.” Lou winked, making a gun gesture with his hand towards Sal.

“Ok then,” Sal tucked his hand on his left trench coat’s side pocket and pulled out a small black flip cellphone. “I’ll give’em a call on the burner. Just gonna be a block away from here; safer that way. Back in five.”

“Right.”

Sal gulped down the rest of his latte, quickly squeezing Lou’s shoulder on his way out. Lou sat alone with the sound of keyboards and jazz filling his head. He pulled out two black leather gloves from his trench coat and put them on, counted a minute, stood up and headed towards the entrance; his left hand tucked into his trench coat’s side pocket. The sun hung low, making his shadow stretch far and wide as he walked down the street.

And Then, There Were None.

“The Lord giveth…”, the words, they were not right. They were lies. Lies, and yet Roland had repeated them over and over, for all of his life -he knew them by heart, they were his shield. The corpse of a young woman, the miller’s daughter, was still warm, his blade had pierced her flesh as easy as when he tore his bread when he broke fast each morning. She looked so small, crumpled there on the earthen floor of the hut, eyes closed. A red stain spread under her body, soiling her simple cotton dress. Roland’s tongue felt heavy, thick, with the Devil’s nonsense. Gripping the hilt of his sword, Roland slowly staggered towards the door, like a man heavy in his cups. Fresh air.

“The Lord also taketh away. Over and over and over. What a capricious fellow, wouldn’t you agree, Roland?” It was the smallest of whispers, probably one that no one would have heard, and yet each word reached the knight’s ears clearly.

Roland stopped, feeling the air escape his lungs. A taste of copper on his mouth made him realized he was biting his lip rather vigorously. The knight took a step forward, as if unsure if the ground could hold his weight.

“Ah, ah…one should take the time to admire their handiwork. Gives us pause for…reflection.” The whisper tittered.

He had killed her, and now regret showed its head all too late. “Forgive me, Father.” A sob shook Roland. The sword leaned dangerously forward, trying to hold on to his master’s weight. From the corner of his eye, barely at the edge of his vision, he saw someone…tall, dressed in red, smiling. He could not tell if they were man or woman. The knight had faced death countless times in his life. A soldier of God, he was used to it, but this…”Get behind me, Satan!” With a growl, Roland straightened up, holding his sword in both hands.

More tittering. The hut started to feel cold, as if the snows of early Autumn were just falling out on the countryside, draping everything in white. “Brave knight, gallant knight. Serving God and country; no sin is too big for thee.”

With a roar, Roland swung his sword around, slashing at air, only to find himself staring at the young woman’s corpse looking back at him from the floor. Where did they go? Was he losing his mind?

“Just your soul.” The whisper breathed softly on the nape of Roland’s neck, a chill pierced it. Then darkness.