“Deck The Halls”

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la!” Lulu cried as she wrapped the tinsel around the tall, green tree. 

Cruise cringed as her high pitched screech over powered the music throbbing from the speakers, pumping Christmas carols through the air as the animals worked on getting the house ready for Christmas.

Carefully lining up the last strand of Christmas lights, Cruise stepped back and frowned at the haphazard way Lulu had hung the tinsel on the tree and Zulu had placed the small Santa and ball decorations, sighing to himself in frustration. Sometimes his sisters were just too messy for their own good.

As he scrutinised the tree and planned what needed to be changed and how, he felt a giant weight slam into his side. Sliding across the room, he frantically fought to dig his claws into the smooth wooden floors to prevent himself from crashing into the wall.

Sliding to a halt, he whipped himself around with a hiss to face a laughing Zulu. Rolling around the floor in peals of laughter, Zulu cried “Lighten up will you! It’s Christmas, a time to be jolly and happy! Who cares about a stupid tree anyway, I only care about what’s under it!”

Shaking his head, Cruise took in Zulu’s new attire she had donned for the day. A giant Santa coat covered her sleek, ebony fur, her ears flopping through two holes carelessly ripped in the side of a Santa hat. Her collar had been transformed into a blinding circle of red and silver tinsel and Lulu had even worked to attach a grey beard to the end of her snout; “it looks more authentic”, she’d said. Because a female Santa dog was authentic in the first place, Cruise thought rolling his eyes.

“Up the ladder Cruise!” Lulu cried, “you need to do the top of the tree!” Making his way closer to the tree, Cruise climbed the rungs carefully and observed the decoration for the top of the tree. Smiling in all his glory was a hand drawn Chilli Dog head. A brother they had never known, but been told so much about. It seemed natural that his head, also adorned with a hat and tinsel, should top their family tree. After all, he was the reason the humans had sought out the love and affection of Cruise, Lulu and Zulu.

“Sing with us Ruisey!” Lulu cried out from where she stood, perched atop the buffet along the side of the room, her small, grey head adorned with exaggerated elf ears and a small Santa hat, her chin lifted high in the air as she warbled along with the Carols from the stereo.  

Placing Chilli Dog with precision in his spot overlooking the family he so adored, Cruise smiled and turned to his brother and sister, letting out a loud and garbled “fa la la la la, la la la LA!” 

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“It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”

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Lulu bounded down the street, heedlessly splashing through puddles and drenching fellow Christmas shoppers with droplets of muddy, melted snow. Her nose, pointed high to the sky, was focused on sniffing out one thing and one thing only – the perfect gift for her fellow feline brother, Cruise, and canine sister, Zulu.

Her small, nimble body meandered through the hordes of crowds moving from one shop to the next, and her eyes were wide with wonder as she observed the twinkling stars of light hanging from shop windows and the glow of red button noses peeking through layers of scarves, jackets and beanies to ward off the chill of the snow. The sweet aroma of freshly baked cookies, nutmeg and coffee wafted from the warm, cosy coffee shops lining the street and made her small mouth water; although she would rather find a large piece of fish to chew on. Though the heavy, snow filled clouds hung low over Lulu’s head and her grey fur was soaked through to the bone, she didn’t mind. Christmas was her favourite time of the year – especially since Christmas day marked the bright, shining moment five years ago that she had come into the world 

People fought, pushed and shoved as they made their way into the Five and Dime store, seeking out the perfect item to tick off their lists as quickly and cheaply as they could. Lulu could understand this, it had been a tough year. Standing back out the front of the shop, she crinkled her nose as the scent of plastic and paper assaulted her senses every time the electronic doors whooshed open with a blast of hot air. Thinking this shop might hold her perfect gift for Cruise and Zulu since it was obviously so popular, Lulu made her way inside when a big, human body set off the sensor once more and the doors flew open. Walking inside, Lulu felt as through she’d walked into a Christmas paradise. Her small head swivelled back and forth as she took in the rows and rows of candy canes and silver lanes aglow. It was almost too much for her, as the bright lights, sweet smells and cheap aromas assaulted her senses and overwhelmed her.

Deciding to start at the beginning, Lulu began weaving through the legs of the shoppers to seek out the perfect gift for her loved ones.

Spying a set of boots that would look perfect on her Great Uncle Bonny, Lulu rushed for the shelf and threw the right size in her trolley. Looking at her own list, she crossed off the first name. Now to find the next gift… Aisle after aisle seemed to be filled with not only people, but hordes and hordes of junk and cheap toys and household items. To Lulu’s eyes however, the shop looked like a treasure cove. The cheap plastic of the police kit glittered like real silver under the Christmas lights, and the princess outfits so carelessly jumbled and picked through gleamed with the shine of wealth and royalty. So much so that Lulu couldn’t resist grabbing a Cinderella dress for herself to wear on Christmas day. As she walked down aisle after aisle after aisle she started to get disheartened. She’d found Great Uncle Bonny’s present, and a few bits and pieces for her human but nothing perfect for her brother and sister.

Then she saw it. Sitting at the end of the aisle, illuminated as if from heaven by a large, iridescent fluoro light stood a display of pistol guns. Lulu rushed to the display to claim her own prize; the most perfect gift to help Cruise protect his fortress so painstakingly built under the bed to protect them from the visitors their humans always had over.

Rejuvenated after finding one gift, Lulu bounced down the next row marvelling at the displays and displays of dolls that could talk and walk – eventually settling on a grey kitten replica that moved and purred when you stroked its back. Just so Zulu would always have a part of Lulu with her wherever she was! Hopefully school would go back soon so the human children they lived with wouldn’t play with all their new toys and they could have them all to themselves!

Satisfied with her purchases, Lulu moved to the checkout, grumbling with all the other shoppers about how long the lines were and how slow the checkout people were going. Laughing to herself, Lulu realised she didn’t mind at all how slow they were going. By now her fur had dried and her insides were toasty warm from the heat. She sure didn’t relish going back outside into the cold weather again now!

Eventually emerging with her purchases, Lulu skipped down the street on her way home. Stopping to gaze through the windows of the Grand Hotel she stood star struck as she took in the tier upon tier of glittering lights, glimmering tinsel and gleaming baubles. The magnificent beauty of it all hypnotised Lulu, and it was only when her paws started to go numb from the ice of the snow seeping through her feet that she reluctantly moved on to continue her long trek home through the park – stopping at every magical tree where small fairy lights climbed trunks and embraced branches and where snow seemed to transform into magical fairies as it moved with the slight breeze against the glittery backdrop of dazzling lights.

Finally reaching home after a lot of Christmas light looking, impromptu shopping and posting her letter to Santa Claus, Lulu walked through the front door to hear sound of bells chiming and the dulcet tones of Christmas carols warbling through the air as Cruise prepared to erect their own magnificent tree and start baking their own Christmas goodies for Santa. Humming to herself as she quickly hid her purchases and shook the excess snow off her fur she laughed and said to herself, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”

 

 

Surviving Is All

“Get me out of here!” Cindy mumbled as she threw open the heavy door and tore outside. “That was possibly the worst class we’ve had yet! Now – don’t get me wrong, Mr Fitz is extremely sexy in all ways – but did you see how intense he was?”

“See how intense he was?” Drew replied. “I felt it in the way he slapped my upside the head – I didn’t think teachers were even allowed to do that these days!”

 Frowning, I looked back at our group. “He was a little off today.” I admitted.

“Personally, I just think he needs to get some.” Holly said matter of factly. “It must be hard teaching girls like me everyday and not being able to do anything about it.”

A collective groan ran through our group, as the odd spell that had hovered over us as we left the lecture room was broken. Laughing, Holly and Cindy linked arms and started gushing over Holly’s latest beau, while Drew and Caleb started chucking a football back and forth; their passes getting longer and more dangerous as they got more confident with their throwing skills. Walking slowly behind them all, I kept musing about Mr Fitz’s behaviour today. It wasn’t just the unusual way he had snapped and slapped Drew, but the way he beared down on all of us – his eyes squinty and bloodshot, his mouth so close to my face at one time I could smell the coffee and chocolate on his breath as he whispered my name. “Eva…” Usually having his mouth so close to my face and whispering my name with such passion would have done funny things to my stomach, but there was something definitely off about him today that made me feel sick rather than anything else.

“What the –“ Drew stopped short at the front of our procession and stared in shock at the sight before him.

“Dude, come on!” Caleb called, coming up behind him and scooping up the football where it laid abandoned at his feet. “You can’t just keep dropping the ball, man!” You’ve already lost like five of our – whoa!” He exclaimed, his rant cut short as he moved in next to Drew and stared.

Frowning, I shuffled forward nervously. There was something about this whole day that just felt off. And moving up beside Drew to see the spectacle taking place in Mr Fitz’s office only served to intensify this feeling. 

My eyes seemed glued to the scene of their own accord. I wanted to look away but I just couldn’t. There were uniformed guards ripping the office apart. Papers floated on the soft breeze whispering through the open window, while pens and pencils slowly rolled onto the ground; their nibs leaving small stains as they hit the carpet below. The guards, dissatisfied with what they were; or more precisely weren’t finding, were throwing Mr Fitz’s belongings in frustration. My eyes widened in shock as I watched his coffee mug hit the wall first, leaving a splattered, watercolour like artwork across the wall. The coffee mug was closely followed by the computer monitor that fell to the floor with a resounding crash and tinkle of glass. Drew grabbed my arm and started tugging me away as two of the guards each lifted an end of the desk and prepared to throw it against the window.

“Eva, we need to go.” He said urgently, pulling me away. Stumbling over my feet, I turned and let him lead me away. Cindy and Holly were already powering ahead, their arms linked and heads close as they most likely gossiped about what was going on. Caleb stood behind Drew and myself, his face white as a ghost as he shakily grabbed my hand and started pulling me down the hall as well.

Quickly, the five of us made our way towards the front of the building. My nerves felt increasingly jangled as I took in the growing number of guards running past us, shouting orders and responding to the constant crackle of static emitting from their radios.

“What is going on?” I hissed to Drew as he pulled us quickly and determinedly towards the exit.

 “I’ve got no idea.” He replied, checking over his shoulder as the sound of footsteps beared down on us. “But we need to get out of here now.”

All of a sudden in front of us Cindy and Holly stopped short, with Caleb holding up not far behind them. Turning around to look at us, their faces drained of colour, they gestured frantically for us to break off and go to the right. Looking past them, I took in the flock of guards standing over the staircase and blocking anyone from moving down into the main foyer and exit of the building.

Drew pulled me to the right, and headed over towards the large, bay windows that lined the hallway. “Stay here.” He ordered, sitting me down and turning away. Cindy and Holly came over and flopped down next to me, their eyes wide and bodies shaking as they took in the scene before them. My eyes, however, remained trained on Drew as he moved towards the toilet.

The attack came out of nowhere. I flew to my feet and strangled my scream as Drew’s head snapped back against the doorframe. The guard who threw the first punch stood poised for action, and I cringed as Drew removed something from his belt and went on the offensive. The guard never stood a chance as Drew’s punch threw him against the wall and his arm hooked his neck in a strangle hold. My eyes bulged as I watched the first spurt of blood fly from the guards stomach as Drew’s hand pulled back again and again, stabbing the guard until he fell at his feet motionless.

Bile rose in my throat as I watch Drew drop the knife at his feet and run his bloodied hands through his hair in disbelief. Running for the female toilet next to him, I threw up the seat up and heaved until my stomach was empty, then retched some more.

Falling back against the wall, I closed my eyes and savoured the harsh chill that penetrated my pores from the ceramic tiles on the wall. Surely none of this is real. It had to all be a dream. Drawing myself shakily to me feet, I moved over to the sink and splashed cold water on my face again and again, revelling in the shock it gave my system. Gripping the edge of the sink, I stared at the girl looking back at me. My brown hair, so neatly styled in a ponytail this morning, stuck out and flew crazily around my face. My mousy brown eyes glowed with fear, adrenaline and instinct making them seem almost a luminescent green. My cheeks were streaked with black runs of forgotten mascara; making it look like I had put on some form of bad tribal war paint. Sighing, I smoothed my hair down and splashed my face one more time in an attempt to make myself look slightly more human before I turned and walked back out into the hall.

Amazed, I took in the people who now lined the top of the hall, the people who were clumped below in the foyer and the guards who stood stationed attentively every few meters. Meeting my friends’ eyes, I read their relief that I was ok and saw the fear etched firmly across all their features. Moving over to stand with them, I looked down as the announcer starts his spiel.

 “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here today.” Someone behind me snorted and mumbled, “Like we had a choice.”

“These people down here have volunteered themselves as an example to you all. As you may or may not be aware, the people in the south islands of the pacific have been all but eradicated over recent days due to the modern day plague that has swept through their populations. Unfortunately, this plague has also hit us here on the East Coast of Australia.” Pausing for dramatic effect, the announcer looked around the room, his stare seeming to penetrate each and every one of us to our core.

“If you’ve been listening to the news, you will be aware that this plague leaves no survivors. In fact, thanks to these people standing down here with me, you’ve all now been exposed and infected.”

Worried murmurs, desperate shrieks and unrestrained sobbing filled the room as people frantically tried to escape. Ignoring it all, I focused on the announcer. This had to be some kind of joke.

“The guards will collect you all now.” He said, raising his voice to be heard over the din. “We can’t let this spread any further.” With that, the first shot rang through the room as the first victim was taken down. I felt the bile rise in my stomach again as Cindy and Drew tried to pull me away.

“Eva, we have to get out of here NOW.” Cindy said, her eyes wide and frightened. 

“No.” I said softly. “I’m really sorry, guys. But we can’t leave.”

“What are you talking about?” Holly shrieked, looking at me like I’d gone mad.

“Guards!” I called out, motioning over the group standing closest to us. “These people are ready to be taken too.”

“What!?!” Cindy screamed as a guard grabbed her arm and started pulling her away.

“What the hell is going on Eva?” Drew yelled as three guards attacked him and fought to get him under control.

Sighing, I reached over and accepted my gun and radio from another guard. “Mr Fitz was a little strange this morning, wasn’t he?” I mused.

“What!?!” They all gaped at me.

“I’m so sorry, guys. I’ll always remember you.” I said, trying to hold back the tears that pooled at the corners of my eyes as I turned and walked away, blocking out their desperate screams and sobs for their life.

Looking towards the stairs, I saw Mr Fitz staring up at me. Winking, at me, he turned and walked away. Sighing, I rubbed my arm where he’d jabbed me with the antidote halfway through class today. I did what I had to do survive. I just hoped it wasn’t for nothing.

 

Riding High

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The box beckoned to me, itching to be opened. I wiped the dust off the top of it, sneezing as it tickled the inside of my nostrils. Pulling off the lid, I smiled as the photo sitting on the top of the pile beckoned to me. The large, green mountains sprawled in the backdrop of the photo, their beauty only surpassed by the crystal, aquamarine water flowing softly in front of them. That wasn’t what caught my attention though. It was the figures in foreground who captivated me. To the right stood Nancy; her back tall and proud, her skin kissed pink from the sun and a beer clasped firmly in her grasp. Her arm wound around my neck, and mine around her waist as we grinned happily at the camera. Next to me stood Rosie, her eyes sparking with laughter and her mouth partway open in a huge belly laugh. I couldn’t help but giggle as I remembered what was going on in this photo. Next to Rosie stood Lila, her golden hair sparking under the beaming sunlight. Unaware of Rosie’s ‘trick’, she stared straight down the camera, beaming with exhilaration. Throughout her hair, courtesy of Rosie, lay small particles of hay; a ‘surprise’ Rosie had bought back from the farm we’d visited that day. In front of us all crouched Amy. Her mouth was opened in a half smile, half shriek as she’d fumbled to keep her balance atop the small rock she’d found to perch herself on for the photo. The only word that came to mind when I looked at this photo was happiness. Sighing, I put it aside and tried to push back the memories of what happened next…

 

“My back is still aching!” Nancy complained as she plopped onto the seat next to me. “Those rides were so totally worth it though!” She exclaimed, taking a big slurp of her beer. 

“For you maybe,” I said with a shudder. “I still can’t believe you guys conned me into going on every single one! Never again.” I added determinedly. 

Laughing, Rosie headed over and topped up my glass of champagne. “If I remember correctly, you were the one who insisted we go on the biggest ride in the park five times in a row!” She insisted.

“Nope.” I shook my head, “wasn’t me. They really kinked my neck out though. Every time it moved I was thrown against the supports. Makes me highly envious of your substantial padding, Rosie!” I called as she moved towards the barbeque again.

“Well, I was given these beauties for a reason!” She called back as she flipped the steaks.

Laughing, I got up and stretched, heading inside to go to the toilet.

“Grab some insect repellent while you’re in there will you!” Amy called out as I walked towards the door, “the mozzies are eating me alive tonight!”

“Will do!” I called back. She’d been attacked the whole time we’d been here… They’d left me alone though so I wasn’t too upset about it.

It was our last night in the cabin. I sighed wistfully as I looked around the front room where the old, tattered lounge sat longingly awaiting some TLC. It’s back was adorned with Lila and Rosie’s clothing – mainly the dresses and clothes that were highly inappropriate for a week spent out in a log cabin at the lake. The room seemed to hold the heat of the day inside its walls, though as we’d come to realise, it also held the creatures of the night pretty darn well too!  

Smiling, I looked around and grabbed my camera to take some last minute photos of all of us together, noticing I only had a few shots left. This had been one of the most amazing weeks of my life with just us girls. I didn’t want to go home.

***

 Chaos would be the only way to describe what I opened my eyes to the next morning.

The room swirled with stirred up dust and heated, stuffy air, clogging up my airways. Sitting up, I eased out of my sleeping bag on top of the old, creaky bed and looked around blearily. Rosie was throwing clothes onto her bed, trying in earnest to get them squished back into the suitcase. Lila was sitting on top of her bag, grunting in her effort to get it closed. Watching her progress, I debated whether or not I should tell her she’d forgotten to put her toiletries bag in or not.

Hmm… Not. I decided sitting back against my pillow grinning. This was just too entertaining!

“Uh, Lila?” Nancy called tentatively from her bed.

“What?” Lila growled, glaring at her half closed suitcase.

“Forgetting something?” She asked, smothering a laugh.

Looking around, Lila spotted the abandoned toiletries bag. “Ugh!” She screamed in frustration. “I give up! These are going in your bag!” She said, throwing a bunch of clothes on Nancy’s feet.

Laughing, Nancy, Amy and I crawled out of bed and headed into the bathroom to get ready for the long trip home today.

***

 “This town is simply adorable!” Rosie exclaimed as she took in the idealistic, old-fashioned town surrounding us. 

It truly was beautiful – the streets not clogged with congestion and traffic but patient, slow paced weekend drivers. The streets were lined with small, boutique shops and the people wandering around seemed relaxed and content. It was hard to wipe the smile off my face as we melted in with the crowd and explored before our flight left later that night.

“STOP RIGHT THERE! HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!” A voice boomed through the air, cutting through the daze of happiness and silencing the streets.

Confused, I turned around to see what was going on. Behind us stood a beefy, burly policeman, his gun trained straight at Amy’s chest. Shock filled her face as she slowly raised her hands, her eyes watering and chin trembling in fear.

“What the hell is this about?” Lila demanded as we took in the approaching guard coming up behind the officer.

“I think you girls know.” He said quietly, motioning for four other officers to come forward with handcuffs at the ready.

 Bewildered, we looked at each other, searching for a sign of awareness in anyone’s face. There was none. This was completely unexpected. 

“HEY!” Yelled a voice from behind the policeman, “Over here!”

Looking beyond the line of local law enforcement that boarded us in, I saw a young woman, waving her arms frantically above her head. Clutched in her hand was a large machete, its blade glinting manically in the beaming sun. The police turned, and started forming a line against her, giving up a split second window of escape.

And we took it. Piling into our rental car, Nancy grabbed the wheel and spun off the curb and down the street at a rip roaring pace, hightailing us out of there. Dodging traffic, she swerved, weaved and cut off other motorists, eventually merging in with the heavy traffic headed towards the airport.

“That was close.” She said, gripping the steering wheel tightly. “But I think we’re in the clear now. No one followed us.”

Letting out a collective breath, we settled back and laughed nervously about what we had just escaped, wondering what in the world would happen; why they targeted us.

 

Fighting for control of my pounding heart, I placed the photo back on the top of the heap in the box. Maybe today wasn’t the best time to relive those memories again. Especially considering what happened after that… 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.youwall.com/index.php?ver=MjQxNQ==

Time Stands Still

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The tram hasn’t even rolled to a complete stop before I leap out the door onto the asphalt; squealing as it burns through the soles of my thin, dainty sandals in its quest to slowly release the scorching heat of the sun. The lights, sounds and smells of the city assault my senses and I fling my arms out, raise my face to the sky and twirl in a circle letting the place, once again, accost me; overwhelm me; take me. As my skirt flies out around me, I breathe in deeply smelling the sweet scent of jasmine and roses on the breeze mixed with the putrid odour of manure caked into the road. Laughing, I lower my arms and smooth my skirt, taking in the sights and sounds of the French Quarter once again. People jostle past me, chattering loudly and aimlessly as they go about their business. No one minds the quiet girl standing alone in the middle of the street laughing and rejoicing alone. That doesn’t bother me – I’m just so happy to be back in New Orleans once again.

The blast of a horn startles me from my trance, reminding me that I’m standing in the middle of a road. Hurrying to the footpath, I try to gather my thoughts, taking in the unfamiliar shop fronts and buildings with new eyes. Where am I anyway? I muse to myself, feeling the familiar panic starting to rise in my chest. People continue to pass me by; their shoulders brushing against me, their eyes averted as they hurry along. Reaching out, I try and grab some attention, hoping someone will tell me where I am. One by one they shrug me off, avoiding meeting my desperate gaze or responding to my pleading tone. My gaze darts furtively around, seeking a familiar landmark to no avail.

Sweeping the streetscape I take in the old, faded buildings around me; their rickety balconies littered with people enjoying the warm night air. The streets are full of people – businessmen and women, children, families, tourists – all chattering away and ignoring my frantic search. The streetlights have turned on in the increasingly encroaching darkness of night; their small glass panels emitting a weak, warm glow that gets lost in the bright spotlights of the restaurants, voodoo shops and chic boutiques that line the road. All except one… My attention focuses on one streetlight in particular whose light is luminous, brilliant and enticing. Making an unconscious decision, my feet begin to move towards the light; my eyes fixated on what it reveals

She sits there, hunched over. The bright light does nothing to hide the harsh lines of age that weather her face. Her body is encased in a dark aubergine shawl; it’s girth hiding away any form or feature of the human body that lies beneath it. But none of that is particularly shocking. What captivates me is her eyes – a bright, piercing blue that seemed to scorch right through me. Hypnotised by her gaze I move slowly forward, unable to break the stare, unable to look away. She seems to beckon me; call to me. I move through the crowd silently and seamlessly; their bodies parting naturally to allow me through.

As I get closer and closer to her I start to make out more features – the dark smattering of freckles that adorn her nose, the small hunchback that stoops her posture, the aged assortment of rings and jewellery that embellish her hands, wrists and neck. Slowly, she reaches her gnarled hand out to me. Without a question I take it; surprised at the softness of her old, wrinkled, calloused hands. Turning on her heel, she starts to pull me along behind her.

I know I should break away; I know this is wrong. I’m so far from home in a place I’ve only been once before. But I can’t seem to break away. It’s as if she’s held me under some sort of spell. Ducking through an alleyway, she drags me under an old, faded fascia and inside a bleak, dusty room.

“I will give you tonight to dance.” She says softly, her heavily accented voice croaky with age. “Do not waste it.” With that, she was gone.

Confused, I look around me. Where had I let her take me? What in the world was I thinking? The room looked like it had been shut up for eons – the furniture was draped in dusty white sheets; the heavy drapes faded and crusted with age and neglect. A large candle provided a soft glow to my surroundings as it flickered and flared as the dust I stirred up reached its tip. Despite my apprehension, I couldn’t help wondering what had happened here to erode such beauty. Beside the candle lay a dress bag. As I unzipped it, I gasped in amazement as the red, silky layers of the dress emerged. It fell to the ground; its bodice laced tightly at the back and embodied with tiny little flowers and gems that looked suspiciously like diamonds. As I struggled into it, I reached down to the large box that lay on the table beside the bag, tying the red, feathered mask tightly behind my head.

Time to go.

The skirt swished softly through my legs, its soft folds melting into my skin and becoming a part of me. I felt beautiful, mysterious and wise all at once. I felt like I was a part of this place. Walking out of the alley back into the street I was amazed at the transformation. No longer did families, tourists, locals traverse the street. Now the road was filled with masked suitors and belles. The tinkling laughter of the women floated on the warm evening breeze and became one with the deep, throbbing timbre of the men. The clink of champagne glasses resounded through the air and accentuated the soft, dulcet tones of the jazz music being played from a makeshift stage.

“May I have this dance?” The voice cut through my consciousness, it’s deep tenor sending thrills down my spine.

“Of course.” I replied, breathlessly, placing my hand in his and letting me lead me into the middle of the road. Looking up into his face, I took in the deep, chocolate brown eyes behind his black mask. His jaw was strong and chiselled, yet too be etched with the lines of age. I furrowed my brow in confusion. I almost felt as if I knew this handsome stranger.

“Welcome home.” He whispered as he whisked me away into a waltz.

Looking around, I realised I was home. The little old lady stood on the sidewalk and smiled at me, nodding as she watched the realisation dawn on my face.

I was never leaving here. This had been the last night of my life 98 years ago. And I was doomed to repeat it again and again; never moving on.

Sighing, I relaxed into my partner. At least I’d forget in the morning and experience the fun and excitement anew.

Photo Credit: http://desirablenightmare.deviantart.com/art/Masquerade-73296194

Walking Away

The gears of the train ground to a screeching holt jolting me from the light slumber I was just settling into. Gazing out the window, the small lights of the train station formed large yellow blurry fireworks against the inky darkness of the night in my sleep-hazed eyes. Wiping away the small pool of drool that had begun to crust at the side of my mouth, I swallowed the harsh dryness of sleep away and stretched my arms above my head stifling a yawn.

Looking around me, I noticed the carriage had emptied considerably since I had drifted off. Glancing at my watch, I was surprised to see it was 4am. I’d slept for close to seven hours and I was only a few hours from home. This trip was going much faster than expected! Reaching into my bag, I grabbed the worn paperback I was currently immersed in and settled back into the seat, pulling my legs up underneath me and resting my head against the cold glass of the window. The raindrops smeared across the glass and down the train, as if they were in a frantic race to see who could reach the ground first and become a part of nature once again. The area where I rested my head quickly fogged up as my body heat combated the frosty chill of the rain, restricting my view of the dark countryside flashing by completely.

Sliding my bookmark out, I began reading; my heart and mind ready and eager to continue on the tumultuous and traumatic journey the characters of my book had taken me on so far.

“Well well well look what the cat dragged in.” A snide comment ripped through the air to my right. Looking up, I saw the sneering, ugly face of Emily, my ex boyfriends new whore. Behind her stood Freddie, looking appropriately abashed and embarrassed to be in the situation. Avoiding eye contact with me, he mumbled a comment to Emily about sitting down.

“Sit down?” She screeched. “In the same cabin as this filthy mole? I’ll catch diseases just from breathing the same air as her! I cannot believe you ever, ever went there.” Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and counted to ten. Maybe if I ignored her long enough she’d go away.

“I know you can hear me bitch.” She snapped. Nope, not going away. Sighing I opened my eyes and looked at Freddie standing behind her.

“Control your woman Freddie.” I snapped, “And get her the hell out of my face. I shouldn’t have to deal with this when you’re the lying, cheating bastard who fucked up.” Relishing the shocked look on Emily’s face as if I’d slapped her, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my earphones. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to continue getting on with my life – the one I put back together better than ever after you two destroyed it.” I said pointedly and determinedly, shoving my earplugs in my ears roughly, closing my eyes and pumping out some loud, angry music.

Blocking out the world, I kept my eyes closed for a long time after that; hoping Freddie and Emily didn’t notice how white my knuckles were as I clenched my fists or the sheen of liquid that had sprung up over my pupils as I let her words – and his lack of words – affect me just a little bit too much once again. I’d worked so hard over the past three months to pull myself together after what they did to me – after Freddie ripped out my heart and fed it to Emily for fun. I couldn’t let them bring me down now. I was so close to being over it forever.

Regaining control of myself, I let my fists relax and settled back into the chair, opening my eyes to check my watch once more. Only an hour left thank god. Reaching for my book I had carelessly dropped to the ground, I shut off the music and tried to relax into the storyline and get lost in the world of fiction once more.

Until her screech interrupted my escape once again. Just hearing her voice made me cringe; it sounded like someone was dragging their nails down a chalkboard. I don’t know what Freddie saw in her with her dirty blonde hair, tattooed arms, whore red lipstick and ready-for-desert combat makeup. It honestly baffled me how he could go from sweet, pure little old me to… that.

My breathing shortened in frustration and anger as I caught wisps of her shrill shriek through the cabin. “Bitch”, “slut”, “ugly mole”, “wish she was dead”. The insults just kept coming, thick and fast. Looking out the window I saw the sun was finally starting to rise through the thinning rain in a brilliant red haze; its rays still held captive like my anger by the curve of the earth. I could see the next stop coming up quickly, it’s hard, brick exterior still shrouded in the shadows of night. I had no idea where we were or where to go from here but making a split second decision, I grabbed my bags and headed towards the exit door at the opposite end of the train. I just had to get away.

Watching out the window as the train ground to a stop I longed for the outside. The icy slap of the cold morning air grabbed me as the doors whooshed open and pulled me outside onto the old platform where I stood and looked around, taking my first, real breath in the past few hours since they got on. Studying the signs on the walls, I realised I was still a fair ways from home. But that was ok, I was sure there was a bus I could catch at some point in the day. Anything was worth it to be out of that carriage.

“Holly!” I stopped and turned as I heard my name being called behind me and saw Freddie running down the platform frantically trying to catch up to me. “I’m so sorry,” he huffed as he reached me, slightly out of breath, “she shouldn’t have said those things to you. You don’t deserve it.”

“You’re damn right I don’t deserve it!” I responded, my anger slowly building back up inside of me. “How dare she insult me when you’re the one who fucked everything up? You’re the one in the wrong here.” Shaking my head, I turned away from him. “Just leave me alone Freddie. I’ve had enough, I’m so tired of all this. It done. Over. Enough.” I started walking away.

“I love you.” Freddie said desperately behind me, reaching forward and grabbing my wrist. “I should never have let you go,” he said, his voice cracking.

Not bothering to turn around, I looked to the ground. A month, hell even a week ago I would have crumbled at those words. But not anymore.

“Let me go Freddie.” I said quietly. “You made your choice. I don’t deserve any more heartache. Goodbye.” Pulling my wrist from his grip, I looked forward. The road was long and straight before me, the sun rising at the end. It still rained lightly on me, dampening my hair, leaving small drops glistening on my eyelashes and cheeks. But for once my tears were not mine – they were mother natures. Tipping my head back, I let her waves of rain wash over me, cleanse me of the past before I looked forward and walked towards the brilliant rising sun and the start of my new life.

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Friday the 13th

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“I thought they were expecting us” I turned to my friend, Andrea, and frowned.

“Knock again” she urged me, biting her lip and darting to the side of the porch to try and peek in the dark, shuttered window.

Raising my hand once more, I raped my knuckles hard against the closed, red door, wincing as the unrelenting wooden barrier grazed the soft skin of my hand.

Stepping back, Andrea and I waited a few more minutes in silence. An ominous buzz filled the dark night, and I shivered as a roll of thunder echoed in the distance.

“I think I know where the spare key is.” I said, turning and walking around the side of the house. “I still can’t understand why they’re not home or answering their phones – they knew we were coming!” Scooping up a small pot plant to the side of the house, I prised an old, slightly rusted key from the ground.

“Got it!” I sung out to Andrea, who was still staring nervously up at the house.

“Something just feels off.” She murmured to me as I walked back over. “The fact that they weren’t at the station to pick us up and that we can hear their phones ringing in there… It just doesn’t feel right.” Another roll of thunder clapped across the sky, closer to us this time. Jumping we looked at each other in worry.

“Yeah, I know.” I said quietly, pausing for a moment before putting the key in the lock and turning it softly. A sense of forbidding filled me inextricably as I felt every gear grind and click in the lock. I breathed in deeply as I twisted the knob slowly in my hand and pushed the door open, scared for what I’d find inside.

Taking a step inside the threshold, I immediately became engulfed in thick, stifling darkness. The closed shutters blocked out any sliver of natural light the night offered, and the air smelt stale… and almost metallic. Wrinkling my nose, I reached out and edged along the wall, feeling for the light switch I knew was there somewhere.

Click.

Finally finding the switch, I flicked it. A sharp burst of bright light flooded the room and with a bang, disappeared, the bulb still glowing faintly after blowing out and tainting the room in a dark, hazy, residual glow. Adrenaline flooded my veins as I squinted my eyes and tried to make out my surroundings in the small glow that was left, my breathing increasing as I got more and more worried.

I could just make out a small shape at the end of the hall; something big and hunched. A person? “H-h-hello?” I stammered out, my heart beating frantically against my ribcage. Forcing my legs to move forward even though my instincts were screaming at me to run in the opposition direction, I inched forward. “Kate? Mike? Is anyone there?” I called out again, my voice a little stronger this time.

“AHHHHH!!!!” I screamed, as a hand grabbed my arm and yanked me back.

“Shhh, it’s just me.” Andrea whispered as she came up behind me and pressed against me. “This is all just plain creepy.” She said.

Breathing hard, I struggled to get my heart rate under control as Andrea pulled out her phone and opened up her flashlight app. I closed my eyes to blink, scared to reopen them for what I’d see at the end of the hallway. Don’t be silly, I told myself, there’s nothing there.

“Oh my god” Andrea mumbled behind me, backing away.

“What?” I asked sharply as I opened my eyes, looking towards the end of the hallway. “Oh my god.” I repeated, feeling sick. At the bottom of the staircase lay a slumped figure in a dark pool of liquid. It couldn’t be blood. Those things just didn’t happen.

My legs seemed to have a mind of their own as they made their way slowly towards the body. Shakily I bent down, taking in Kate’s small, slumped form. Her auburn hair fanned across her face covering her features. Reaching out, I lowered my hand to her neck and felt for a pulse. Nothing. Pulling my hand back, I recoiled as I felt a sticky, wet warmth between my fingers where I’d touched Katie’s body.

“Ohhh” I moaned as I looked back down at her laying in the puddle on the floor. Slowly lifting the curtain of hair away from her face I recoiled in horror and screamed, falling down in my haste to stand up and run away. Her once pure, beautiful face was marred with gashes, smears of blood. Her eyes were frozen open in a look of horror and upon closer inspection I took in the unnatural angle of her arms and legs, the shredded clothing barely covering her body, the stains and gashes spilling her insides onto the floor in a puddle I was now sitting in. Someone had done this to her. Someone sick and terrifying. Crying out, I turned and ran from the house, stopping just outside the door to heave up the contents of my stomach. This couldn’t be happening.

“Andrea” I called back into the house. “Andrea, we have to go. We have to call the police, lets get out of here!” I cried.

Scrambling to get the use of my body back after the shock, I turned to grab Andrea from just inside the house. As I moved back inside I realised something was different. The deep darkness was back. The silence was deafening. There was no other living person standing in that room except for me.

“Oh my god!” I cried, “Andrea! Where are you!?” I yelled into the house, fighting my urge to turn and run out the front door; to run far far away. I couldn’t run, I had to help her. Where was she? Had the killer taken her? The tears streamed down my face in fear, sadness, frustration and I willed myself to summon the courage to find her. I couldn’t let him take her.

One step.

Two steps.

I paused close to Kate’s body, taking a deep breath and quickly walked around her into the kitchen. Screaming I fought to turn and run the other way as I took in the sight of Mike’s body spreadeagled across the kitchen floor, his blood streaming through the grout in the tiled floor and forming a grotesque mosaic. My stomach churned again as I dropped to my knees and dry retched on the floor. Crying, I looked around the room, taking in the fallen curtain rod someone had grabbed in their struggles, the broken china hurled from the cabinet and smashed against the wall behind the killer. The kitchen door swung wide open, and sitting beside it on the counter was Andrea’s phone, silently vibrating.

Lunging for the phone, I took in the ‘blocked’ caller i.d. and tentatively answered the call.

“Hello?” I answered.

“SUSIE!!!” Andrea screamed in the background, “HELP ME!!!” Sobbing, I looked out the kitchen door. I could hear her voice echoing through the yard, bouncing off the trees that fenced in the property. She was close.

“I’m coming Andrea!” I cried, running out the door into the night. I reached the smooth, cold colour bond fence cutting off the yard at the back of the property and scrambled to get myself over it. She’d sounded so close, somewhere in those woods. I just had to find her!

BOOOOMMMM. I shrieked as another roll of thunder crashed above my head, and a flash of lightning lit up the yard. Looking back towards the house I saw him. A shadowed figure, carrying a large knife in his hand. It was still too dark to see who it was, but those eyes… They drilled across the yard straight into me as he determinedly made his way down the back steps and across the yard towards me.

I flung myself off the fence and rolled onto the ground below me, barely feeling the sharp impact on my shoulder. Jumping to my feet I took off in a run as he began scrambling up the fence behind me, hoping that if I was going to die, I could at least I could lead him away from Andrea.

I ran through the trees, breaking into the next-door neighbours yard and using the darkness as my cover. I knew this yard; Kate and I had played in it as kids. There was a small entry to an old underground cellar that we used to sneak into. It was connected to the house, but well hidden from anyone who didn’t know it was there. I could hear him behind me, but he wasn’t close enough to see what I was going to do. I slid under the back veranda and shimmied into the small crawl space, its opening tight around my body. The hard packed, dirt walls pressed against my sides and I could only wriggle forwards or backwards in there. I knew the cellar was behind me, but I was scared to push back. Claustrophobia strangled me and tried to surmount my fear of the killer coming towards me. This hole seemed a lot smaller when we were kids. Frantically fighting for control of my breathing, I urged myself to stay quiet. I could hear his footsteps cracking the small twigs on the ground, crushing the fallen leaves into dust. As I peered through the small opening between the deck and the yard I took in his old, steel capped boots, stained with Kate and Mike’s blood. The large knife swung methodically back and forth in his hand as he walked past.

And past again.

And again.

He was pacing. He knew I was here. I had to get into the house and make a run for it before he figured it out. Fighting my fear, I began to inch backwards down the hole, praying the cellar hadn’t caved it or been covered up after all these years.

TO BE CONTINUED… 

Photo credit: http://www.badhaven.com/film/film-features/dans-meanderings-why-dont-they-remake-movies-that-need-to-be-remade/attachment/jasonvorheesfridaythe13thremake/

“I’ve Got This”

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“I really don’t think we thought this through” I said, staring nervously at the wide expanse of open ocean stretching out to the misty horizon in front of us.

“It’ll be fine,” Kristy said, pulling the small seatbelt across her waist and buckling it at the front. “Just make sure you’re all strapped in and there won’t be any worries. Jace showed me how to drive it a million times, I’ve got this.” She boasted, playing idly with the controls in front of her.

I bit my bottom lip worriedly, my shaky hands once again pulling the small suicide seatbelt even tighter across my lap. Kristy’s partner Jace had come up with the bright idea of constructing this open roofed airplane. The front (except for Kristy’s controls) was completely open and vulnerable. The four of us girls sat side by side, strapped in only by a small seatbelt, ready to face to the great unknown for Kristy’s first solo flight.

I took a deep breath as she started the engine, my lungs becoming clogged with petrol as the back propellers thrust a surge of polluted air around us. Coughing and spluttering, I gripped the side of my chair so tightly I couldn’t feel my fingers and squeezed my eyes shut. I couldn’t stand to watch the take off when everything was so open.

My hair, ripped from its ponytail, lashed at my face in the fierce windstorm surrounding us. I could feel my stomach falling as we began to lift slowly into the air. Clutching the chair arms even tighter, I prayed I wouldn’t loose my stomach there and then on the floor. Kristy’s loud whoops and Stacey’s light, tinkling laughter filled the air as we sprung forward, released from the land and free to roam the seas from incredible heights. Small drops of water fought through my waves of hair to moisten my face; their droplets merging with my nervous beads of perspiration and serving as an ever constant reminder of where I was – which honestly, was front and centre of a death trap.

Moaning, I fought to keep control of my stomach as we began to level out. Stacey and Carly were talking excitedly beside me, exclaiming with delight at all they could see. I tried to no avail to open my eyes. Nope. My body just refused to let me behold the wide expanse of ocean that was surely to become my deathbed. Forcing myself to peek through, I managed to pry one eye partially open, quickly squeezing it closed again as I saw how high we were. Just a few more hours… I just had to make it through a few more hours and we’d arrive at the island for our girls weekend – which would be amazing. Then I would catch a boat back to shore. No way in hell was I getting back on this deadly contraption!

Relaxing my eyelids, I let myself ease back in the seat slightly, never letting go of the armrest. I focused on the suns rays as they caressed my skin and marveled at how quickly it dried the small spots of water on my face into small deposits of salt. I breathed deeply, the odour of petrol now mixed with the fresh, salty aroma of the ocean. I could almost imagine I was just sitting in the bow of a boat and perfectly safe.

I felt the engine slow beneath my feet and prised my eyes open to see what as happening. We were only a few meters from the water now and looming ahead of us was a crack between two large boulders jutting from the depths of the ocean.

“This will take us through to the river” Kristy called out over the wind, “we’ll be at the campsite soon.” Exhaling in relief, I started to actually relax a little more knowing I was a little closer to the ocean and had less chance of dying if we fell from the sky. I glanced over at Kristy; her brow scrunched in concentration as she slowly and carefully meandered the contraption between the cliffs. Stacey, Carly and myself all exclaimed at delight as we flew through. The walls of the boulders stretched high above us, letting only a sliver of sunlight penetrate the water far below. The walls were rough and covered in small green vines and deep aubergine flowers which seemed luminescent in the shadows. The water below us flowed clear and green, and from our vantage point we could see small, colourful fish swimming and jumping. It truly was spectacular and definitely made up for the initial horror of the trip.

Kristy gunned the engine once more as we reached the end of the pass, yelling out to us all to hold on. Frantically I yelled to her to stop what she was doing, it was too fast, too high. Laughing, she looked over at me and replied, “live a little! It’s just one flip, I’ve got this!”

Flip? FLIP!? “ARE YOU INSANE?” I screamed as she took us higher and higher, tilting us until we were staring straight at the sky.

And then it happened. The engine stalled. Squeezing my eyes shut, I screamed in horror as we fell faster and faster towards the water below us. The first shock of water wasn’t too bad, the bottom of the vehicle took most of the brunt. I struggled to get my seatbelt undone and fought against the tugging of the water as it fought to suck me down into its dark, murky depths of death. Finally pulling my seatbelt loose, I thrashed through the current to make it to the surface. Small, white dots blurred my vision, my lungs burnt to breaking point.

And then there was air. I gasped in the fresh, crisp air of life, sobbing in relief I was alive. I knew I never should have come. Splashing around, I looked for the others. Kristy and Carly were both meters from me, but Stacey was nowhere to be seen.

“STACEY?” I called, looking around frantically. “Stacey?” Kristy and Carly joined in looking for her. Taking a deep breath, I dived back under. Spotting her bright red hair still linked to the vehicle, I dove into the depths I had been so scared of only moments before. Her face was relaxed and peaceful, her body limp, still held tight to her chair by that stupid suicide belt. Grasping the belt, I yanked it off her lap and pulled her to the surface with me praying frantically I had gotten to her quick enough to save her.

Swimming towards the shore of the river blindly, I pulled Stacey along. My tears were mixed with the salt water and I couldn’t tell if the rivulets of water streaming down my face were mine or the rivers. It didn’t matter. Hands pulled us out of the water, and I found myself laying next to Stacey, panting for breath as someone administered CPR. Hearing her cough and splutter, I rolled over laughing in relief that we were all ok. It was only then I got a look at our saviours.

Long, dark hair trailed down her back in a messy mass of curls. Her clothing was old and tattered, her feet bare and dirty. Behind her stood a group of people – all the same.

“I guess you’re not here to save us.” She said.

Laying back down, I started at the clear, blue sky. We didn’t die. But it looked like we would never be found again.

Photo credit: Norm Shockley Sr www.normshockley.com

Devil’s Spawn

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Gasping for breath, I stopped and leaned against the wall. Closing my eyes I started to sink back, imagining how nice it would be just to stop and sleep right here and now against this hard, cosy wall. 

“WAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”

The piercing wail of the baby threw me back down to earth with a thud. I mentally ticked off what I needed to do to get the rascals I was babysitting into order so I could stop running for just 5 minutes. Change the baby’s nappy. Change the 2 year olds nappy. Give the 2 and 4 year old food laced with sedatives – no, I corrected  myself, no sedatives, no sugar. Just wholesome warm milk and sleep inspiring foods. Put the baby to bed, chase the 2 year old around the house in some twisted ‘game’ she came up with before putting her to bed. Put the 4 year old to bed way too late after the 2 year olds shenanigans. Fall down and die.

Sighing, I reluctantly pushed myself off the wall and headed back into the nursery. No time to waste, time is money and sanity people! Smiling ruefully, I walked back through the open doorway and headed over to pick up little Jamie from his cot. Screaming his lungs out, I managed to get him onto the change table where he proceeded to twist and squirm and almost roll off the table were it not for my firm hand across his abdomen. Sighing, I attempted to get the nappy off with no success. He was moving too much for it to even be possible. I didn’t know what to do, the smell coming from him was horrendous, and I couldn’t put him to bed in a wet nappy for his parents to come home to. I’d never work again!

The delighted shrieks of the other two children floated through the air to my ears. I stiffened. Delighted shrieks are never good with those two rugrats, I thought worriedly. Still holding Jamie, I almost passed out in relief as the imposing, dark figure of my best friend Luke darkened the doorway.

“Oh thank god” I breathed. “You don’t know how much I need your help right now!” I cried.

Laughing, he made his way over to me and took Jamie in his arms who, miraculously, stopped crying. “I’ll take care of this one if you want to get the other two ready for bed?” He asked, chuckling at the horrified expression that crossed my features. “I’ll be there in a moment, to help” he added.

* * *

Two hours, three nappies, four toilet trips and five glasses of water later Luke and I finally collapsed onto the couch in exhaustion. Looking over at him, I saw a smear of mashed potato from dinnertime still adorning his brow, the lines of fatigue firmly etched across his face. Laughing, I reached across to wipe the potato away, wondering ruefully what sight of beauty I portrayed at the moment.

Gently I ran my thumb across his forehand and into his hairline. I’d never noticed before how soft his skin was. He turned his head to look at me, his face all of a sudden so close to mine. I felt my stomach flutter and the breath whoosh out of my body and I looked into his eyes and felt his nearness to me. This was a strange feeling, it was Luke. Just Luke. I’d never felt this way about him before. I slowly lowered my hand from his forehead, but before I could place it back in my lap he grabbed it in his rough, large hand, softly holding on and stroking the inside of my palm. My breathing stilled as his head moved slowly towards mine, his eyes darkening with lust. As his lips met mine, my stomach gave birth to a herd of stampeding cattle. I felt the softness of his lips against mine as he pressed small kisses to my mouth at first, slowly intensifying the pressure as my body responded. As the kisses became more intense and hungry I marveled at how amazing this felt. All along it had been right here in front of me. 

Paparazzi

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The sun had just lowered below the horizon, blanketing the city in a sheet of darkness. My arms were overloaded from the successful shopping trip I had just taken into the city and starting to strain and hurt from the weight after the long train trip back into the suburbs where we were staying.

Fumbling for my key in my handbag amidst the crinkling bags, I struggled through the door and finally unceremoniously dumped my loot on the lounge. Seeing the bags flop and fan out in a circle symbolising a hard days work, I smiled satisfactorily. A job well done!

Looking around me, I realised the apartment was quiet for once. When there were ten people staying together, one never expects quiet! Finally I spotted them all having drinks out on the far corner of the balcony before heading out for the night. Turning, I headed back into the kitchen to grab my own concoction and join the party; ready to regale everyone with the successful expedition of my shopping trip and solo navigation of the city’s public transport routes.

Click.

I froze at the intrusive sound behind me. What was that? I sounded like a camera flash.

Click click click click click.

As I turned around the investigate, the sound became more frantic. Looking towards the corner of the room I saw an older man with a camera raised to his face, capturing my every move. Uneasy, I stared at him as he continued to shoot away.

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked, trying to keep the tremor out of my voice that threatened to break through.

Mute and unwavering in his incessant clicking, the man continued on.

“Stop it!” I cried, the shrill tone of my voice starting to betray the fear I was feeling.

Unwavering, his pudgy finger continued to depress the wretched camera button.

“STOP IT!” I screamed this time, making my way towards him quickly as he continued to shoot shots of my face as it came closer and closer towards him. Grabbing the camera from his hands I threw it against the wall, taking delight at the audible crack that rang through the air. Visible rage filled the mans eyes, and I shrunk back, all of a sudden second guessing my ability to take him on alone.

Pondering my next move as this deceivingly small man towered over me, I breathed a sigh of relief as the sliding door to the balcony slid open and Ryan’s voice boomed behind me.

“Who the fuck are you?” He yelled, making his way across the room in a few short strides. Grabbing the man by the scruff of his collar, Ryan shoved him violently against the wall. Watching intently, I waited to see what would happen.

Before he could throw the first punch, Rebecca came through the door screaming for Ryan to put him down. As the others made flocked into the room, the man managed to sneak out. Screaming in frustration, I sank to the floor as what had just happened started to sink in.

Ryan made his way over to where the offending camera lay still and quiet against the beige carpet. As he flicked through the images, scowling in displeasure, I realised my proud throw hadn’t been such a big shining moment that I’d thought it was.

Shaking as Ryan put his arms around me, I started crying. “Shhh” he murmured into my hair. “It’ll be ok now. Let’s just get out of here for now, get you away for the night.”

Nodding in acquiesce, I let him lift me and lead me out of the room.

After three train trips, a bus ride and a fair walk, we finally reached Ryan’s place. Moving into the lounge room, he settled me into the couch and told me he would be right back. Still reeling from what had happened at the apartment, I sat back and closed my eyes, hoping some form of relaxation or sleep would grab me and help calm my frayed nerves.

Light as a feather, fingertips whispered across my thigh.

“Stop Ryan, that’s not funny.” I mumbled through the encroaching darkness of sleep.

More determined and incessant in their strokes, the fingertips moved up and across my thigh.

Shooting up, I opened my eyes to see the seedy camera man hunched on top of me.

Screaming, I struggled with my life as he lay on top of me and attempted to hold me down as his hands roamed my body.

Racing into the room, Ryan grabbed him, throwing clean across the room in a fit of rage. I cowered as I watched him beat, kick and disparage the man, taking some form of reverence in the arc of crimson blood that had sprayed clean across the white wall.

Leaving the unconscious, bloody mess of the man on the floor, Ryan made his way back over to me quickly, pulling me into his arms once again.

“This time he’ll be gone.” He promised.

Photo credit: http://www.photobizcoach.com/wp-content/uploads/bigstock-Press-Paparazzi-holding-camera-25171373.jpg