Thursday, March 18, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: Always a Bridesmaid, Part VII

The writing community on Twitter is incredibly supportive and fun. On Fridays, a group of them posts "flash fiction," stories of 1000 words or less, for critique and commentary. This is part seven of my serial flash Always a Bridesmaid, also featured at The Penny Dreadful, a website for flash fiction. For the first parts, check out the More Fiction section on my web site. For more flash fiction, search the #fridayflash hashtag on Twitter.

Always a Bridesmaid, Part 7: …To Dream

Dream sequences were way more interesting in the movies. Having to stay out of Lydia's awareness already put distance between Tiffany and the action, but the dreams in earlier stages of sleep – an image here, a sound there – never were exciting. But it didn't hurt to look at them. Something had made an impression on Lydia's dreams to the point that she would marry that prick Trent.

Finally, the images became more clear and sequenced. Lydia taking her wedding dress out of a trunk, trying it on, and crying in an attic-like room. Lydia talking to a woman who looked like an older version of her, but stern and sadder, who crossed her arms and turned away from Lydia's pleading. Her mother, maybe? Lydia and Trent arguing, back in the attic. Tiffany could hear snatches of the conversation and knew it revolved around whether she should still be invited to come to the wedding. She tried to insert herself into the dream. An invisible but elastic layer separated her and the dream actors, like they were in a bubble. Tiffany could see, hear, and feel everything in the dream through the material – sadness and frustration predominated – but she couldn't get in. And that meant Lydia couldn't get out.

But where had the barrier come from? Who had made it? Was it Lydia, trapped by her curse? Or something else? Tiffany retreated and watched.

The dream-Trent disappeared, and Lydia was left alone in the attic. She closed and sat on the trunk and picked at the wedding dress, which came apart like tissue paper that floated to the floor and disappeared.

"I can't go through with this," Lydia said.

Tiffany jumped – was the girl talking to her?

The shadows gathered in the corner, built on themselves, and coalesced into the silhouette of a man. He stepped out of the shadow cocoon, tall, square-jawed with black shoulder-length hair and sparkling ebony eyes. He wore a tuxedo and white evening gloves, and he trailed a long finger along the battered dresser behind Lydia. The bubble that surrounded the scene shimmered and pulsed with power, and Tiffany felt every hair on her body stand.

"But you must. Or the curse will not be broken."

Lydia straightened and turned. The man ran a finger along her cheek and cupped her chin in his hand, tilting her head to look up at him.

"But I'm scared! What if Trent's not the one? He could die! I won't survive another funeral."

"Ah, but he is the demon-slayer. Or demon-binder." The man laughed. "You found a smart little witch."

"Amber found her. I didn't want to go."

The man's fingers tightened on Lydia's chin, and she sucked air through her teeth.

"Yet she will be coming to the wedding."

"I'm sorry! I can uninvite her."

The man let go, and Lydia fell backward, barely catching herself before tumbling off the trunk. She rubbed her jaw.

"No," he said. "She knows too much. In fact…" He pointed toward Tiffany, and she was sucked through the bubble into the dream like a cherry through a giant straw. "Here she is right now."

"It's just a dream," said Lydia.

"Or is it?" The man held Tiffany's arm just above her elbow. She tried to wriggle free, but each movement only tightened his fingers until they bit into her flesh like icy picks.

"Let me go," Tiffany hissed. She tried saying a release spell to escape back to her reality, but she couldn't. If her dream projection had one, her heart would be beating in her throat. As it was, she felt dizzy, like he eroded her tether to the waking world.

"Oh, I'll let you go, little witch." And he did, but she still couldn't get back. "Right to the afterlife."

"Lydia!" Tiffany pleaded. "Tell him to release me."

"What's the point?" asked Lydia. "You're not real. I'm not real. None of this is real. I'll wake up Wednesday morning, a widow again. No one will love me."

Before Tiffany could say anything, the man's fingers gripped her neck.

"Say goodbye, witch!" he said. She struggled to breathe.

Something large and hard knocked her out of the man's grasp, and she landed hard on the wooden floor. Tiffany gasped for air and saw a young man with sandy brown hair, striking blue eyes, and flannel shirt grappling with the tuxedo guy. Even stranger, a catfish floated in the air by him and gave instructions.

"That's it, Toby! Even demons have groins! Put a burning in his balls he'll never forget!"

The tuxedoed man disappeared, and Toby sat on the floor, panting. Tiffany staggered to his side and held out a hand.

"Thank you," she said.

"You're welcome, I think." He stood without her help, then shook her hand.

"Toby!" Lydia stood, happy surprise on her face.

"Lydia! I hear you're getting married."

The cousins hugged, and Tiffany started to say something, but the image disappeared in a poof! of candle smoke. She blinked at Amber, who waved a hand in front of Tiffany's face.

"Oh! Oh, good! You're okay! You are okay, aren't you?"

"I'm fine," Tiffany said. She nearly knocked Amber out of the way to get to the table, where she'd set a pad of paper and a pen. She wrote down everything she could remember. When she finished, she looked up at the other girl, who still stared at her. "What?"

"Your neck."

Tiffany walked to the dresser that Tizz was attached to and looked in the mirror. Sure enough, a handprint with clearly defined finger marks was bruised into her throat, another on her left arm.

"Told you to stay out of it," the Brownie mumbled from somewhere Tiffany couldn't see.

"Yeah. This has gotten bigger than I can handle," Tiffany agreed. She blew out the candles and lavender incense burner. "Much bigger. The demon set up Lydia and Trent."


Marisa Birns said...

Betrayal always is a big blow.

Am really enjoying this series. Loved the dreamy images. Oh, and the floating catfish! Giving instructions, heh.

Wonderfully creative and it makes for a very satisfying read.

John Wiswell said...

As advertised, it does stand alone very well thanks to the dream sequence intro and the rhetorical questions. That helps people like me who get intimidated by serials.

peggy said...

Thanks for the peek into your imagination. This one shines.

Eric J. Krause said...

Another very cool installment of this series. The dream sequence worked great, especially since it had real world implications for your characters.

ganymeder said...

You had me with the 'floating catfish.' LOL
Well done.

mazzz in Leeds said...

I like the concept of "spying" through dreams