Lucia Ventures Out From Stepford

zombie girl and art

part one

Weeks and months had passed. The weather was hot and humid which made the stench around the zombies even more foul. The uninfected were miserable and bored. There was no real leadership among them, just a lot of talk and finger-pointing. It took too much energy to destroy the walking dead; they were ineffective anyway so a sort of tolerance had built up.

Lucia’s strategy was to avoid or outrun them and only fight in self-defense. She began to roam in gradually widening circles from her home in Stepford. Carrying a backpack which held a water bottle, hand mirror, sandwich, chips and a few old cell phones she headed out with a knife at her belt and one of her ex-husbands expensive golf clubs in her hand.

Whacking a zombie with the golf club was the last line of defense, one she rarely had to resort to. The second-to-last defense was to hold the mirror up to the zombie in question who usually became mesmerized with it’s reflection and began to make awkward grooming motions.

The old useless cell phones were very effective in occupying the poor creatures for hours as they would mimic movements buried in what was left of their synapses. They would gaze down at the device, poking at it with rotting fingers while making low grunting and moaning sounds.

Lucia wasn’t at all up for skateboarding but she was great on a bike, making day trips from Stepford to forage for supplies. She often stalked small groups of the afflicted since they were great at rooting out objects that were valuable to her new way of life.  As with time and anything done often enough, she had fallen into a routine.

One balmy day in May, she’d been on an extended bike trip, rode over a steep ridge and found herself looking down at what appeared to be a small village. It looked odd and unusual. Before the catastrophe, she’d taken pride in being a world traveler and was also regarded as being knowledgeable of the region in which she lived.

The structures didn’t seem to have suffered much damage and there were no bodies laying about as far as she could tell. The afflicted woman she’d been following for days was bumping about before plopping down on the stool in front of an easel.

Lucia recognized her because she seemed more curious than most of the infected and because of the paint on her arms and around her mouth.

As Lucia watched, the creature dipped a bony hand into a small opened paint bucket and gathered a handful of the now viscous substance and brought it to her mouth which was soon covered with an azure color. Next she began roughly splattering blobs of paint onto the canvas panel in front of her.

Taking a long swig from the water bottle, Lucia looked around for any signage and noticed a small marker that said LEA 23. Nearby was a wooden post with worded arrows pointing in different directions. The names meant nothing to her.

She looked at the sky; she’d have to turn back soon if she was to make it home before dark.

Estelle’s Solution

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Estelle slapped her hand at the stinging on the back of her damp neck. The humidity was awful and while the screen doors in the farmhouse were good, what with all the coming and going, some tiny, flying insects were bound to get in.

Letting out a deep sigh, she collapsed into the big chair, her mind drifting into the chronic ruminating on the state of her life. The life that wasn’t even close to the one of her dreams.

The house was quiet; the kitchen and dining room cleaned just to an acceptable standard and she was weary.  She gave a slight shake of her head, quickly adjusted one of her hair curlers, and considered the amount of food the day laborers had put away. With their sun browned faces and tired eyes they’d eaten the noon meal on their best indoor manners. Heads bowed, they’d looked intently at the food on the plates in front of them instead of looking at Estelle.

All of them were useless.  Still, she and her sister-in-law June were dependent on them to help keep the place running since Estelle’s husband Earl had gone missing the year before.

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June, now she was annoying, relentlessly optimistic in the face of never ending work and the tedium of a small community. There was definitely something wrong with that girl, behaving as if every new day held the possibility of a grand adventure. If she kept up with the whistling and singing in the house, Estelle swore to herself she’d whack her upside the head with a rolling pin or skillet.

It had been much slower with Earl. What a waste that whole situation had been. He’d been so dashing in high school. Estelle hadn’t been much interested in boys; most of her attention had been on escaping here. She’d suspected she was destined to become a notable film star, spending any free time and cash she could acquire to sneak away to the local cinema in the afternoons. Earl had a nice car, easy-going nature and leading man good looks if you squinted just right. He made her laugh once upon a time.

They married just out of high school. He’d been just wild enough and she had him wrapped around her finger. He was supposed to help her get to California.

Then his mom and daddy were killed when a semi plowed into them and he was left in charge of the small farm. He refused to consider leaving June with all the work and within a summer began acting and looking like an old man. Estelle had become more frustrated and unhappy.

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Life was then hopeless until Patty came back to town. Her dad had the local café, where Patty had worked behind the counter all through high school. She’d gotten out for a while, going to Hollywood and returning with grand tales, airs and a funny way of moving her hands while talking loudly.

Estelle pretended to believe the stories so she could mine her for information. She’d go to the café almost every other afternoon and walk out irritably if Patty wasn’t working. Otherwise, she’d sit at the counter and have a milk shake and they’d talk if it wasn’t too busy.

Soon the talk and complaining got old; they were both miserable. Patty began lowering her voice to a whisper and dropping hints about some old recipes her granny had, recipes that aided in taking care of some of life’s more stubborn problems. Over time a plan was hatched.

Earl just kept on working and smiled less. June kept whistling and singing. Then Earl began to weaken and have a grayish cast to his face. Then he disappeared one rainy weekend. Efforts were made to locate him but there were no leads and as life went grinding on the talk eventually turned to other things.

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Things became worse for Estelle. Now she was expected to pitch in with even more of the work and she feared her pretty looks were fast fading. The cherry on top of all this was some nosy lady from Little Rock had been snooping around. She was at the café too often, always alone with no known business.  A few people had told of rumors that she was a lady detective. Estelle didn’t believe that. She’d never heard of a lady detective.

She brushed at the bite on her left forearm and looked at the clock. June was late coming in from her afternoon break. She’d usually pour a glass of iced tea and bang away at the piano for half an hour or so. Where did she get all that energy, instead of wilting like a normal person?

Estelle stood and plodded out into the back yard to look for her sister-in-law. A flash of alarm jolted her as she saw June standing in the doorway of the cow shed. What had she needed to look for in there anyway? Estelle found herself unable to look away as June gazed at her with questioning eyes, the questioning mingled with mild hostility and suspicion.

Adding More Detail to Character Sketch

We’re to be keeping a small notebook or other device to jot ideas and observations down and that’s something I’ve been forgetting to do.

Here’s my more detailed character sketch from the class exercise I did last week and posted recently.

She took a deep breath and paused with a manicured hand on the door knob before cautiously stepping out of her upscale-address condo looking immaculate and put together, head held high. Too distracted and nervous to drive, she walked briskly in designer heels with a stern, aloof expression on her way to the crowded little convenience store.
Tall, athletic, slender with shiny, long brown hair expertly blown out, she could sense the variety of glances cast her way.
Her jaw clenched as she felt as though walking a gauntlet, her eyes narrowing on this most recent foray into the world. It was still preferable to admitting she needed help.
A casual observer would never guess by looking at her that the home she’d recently stepped out of was a disorganized, cluttered mess. Some might perceive her as a neurotic, lazy woman with lousy priorities. Others might see her classically beautiful looks, apparent vibrant health, designer wardrobe and professional demeanor as a privileged human to be envied or resented. She saw herself as merely overwhelmed, confused and inadequate as she narrowed her focus to the next task at hand.

Writing Exercise ~ Character

The online writing class I’m taking is focused on developing characters in fiction. Last week we were to write a paragraph about a character. It will be developed more later.

Here’s my paragraph:

She stepped out of her condo looking immaculate and put together, head held high. Too nervous to drive, she walked briskly to the convenience store. Tall, slender, attractive with long brown hair, she could sense the usual glances cast her way although she avoided eye contact. It was a hellish ordeal for her, these brief forays into the world, but easier than admitting she needed help. No one would guess by looking at her that that the home she just stepped out of was a cluttered mess. Some might perceive her as a broken victim; others might see her as privileged, someone to envy. She saw herself as inadequate and confused as she narrowed her focus to the task at hand.

 

Writing Exercises

The online writing course I’m taking asked us to write a paragraph about an ideal writing situation and another about  a bad writing environment.

Here are my paragraphs:

1) The urban sounds faded into the background as a comfortable hum as Susan sat in the recliner and wrote rapidly in her notebook. On the table beside her was a glass of cool lemonade and a small dish of nuts and the cheese she’d bothered to put little toothpicks in. This was to reassure the distractable part of her mind that might nag her that she was thirsty and hungry and must get up NOW. The room was clean and tidy, the temperature had been adjusted. The spacious calm opened up and all she had to do was write.

2. Laura turned the corners of her mouth down as she hastily shoved her notebook aside to reach for her bag to retrieve a tissue. She dabbed at the sweat around her eyes and then her brow as she noticed her pen had rolled off the picnic table. Putting her shades back on she paused for a moment listening to the rush of traffic, the teeth-gritting noise of construction and other city sounds intruding on the great outdoors. There were chemtrails in the blue sky and ample evidence of geese all over the ground. The first twinges of drowsiness were coming in like waves and her mind went blank. She wished she could teleport home.

Diary of Miss Pearl Grey ~ January 17, 1891

January 17, 1891

The winter season is upon us and my moods often match the dark and frosty depths of it. There are random bursts of bright flames and a low but steady fire to comfort me as I retreat to gather strength. For company I have my books, my beginning relationships with the lavender, mint and ginger and the welfare and training of my adopted raven whom I’ve named Lucas.

One of the brilliant sparks of flame appeared as I was sitting in Underhill with Miss Winter and she made mention of the Goddess. A flood of warmth and recognition washed over me–she is the same as the Lady who watched over me as a gypsy child, playing in the outdoors–I was known to her as her “little otter” then. Feeling abandoned during the drudgery of the orphanage years, I now realize she is with me always, if sometime in very subtle ways.

My comfort and happiness are also replenished by my inclusion in the Wardark Clan. I care not for the misunderstandings and opinions of that freely made choice nor do I care for the details about females sniffing about him. The man is a Devil after all and my eyes are open.

With relief, I’ve resigned two of my employment positions–the ones serving the public–at Underhill Social Club and the restaurant and bar area of Adra’s Emporium. What a grand waste of my time attempting to get to know members of the public has been. Sunday evening was the last straw. IMPORTANT PEOPLE came in and the male seemed to be making a bit of a fuss. As usual, this flustered me but inside I was screaming–“Oh for fuck’s sake use your brain as I’ve had to do as a newcomer to London, in need of care at the hospital or assistance from the Constables. Everything was a struggle–have you really become so pompous and lazy?”

The evening became even more unpleasant as a bizarre couple from the other end of the spectrum arrived. Babbling insanely, they proceeded to become offended at nearly everything. Without bothering to learn that I’m actually from the Roma peoples in Southern France and Miss Pandora is from—I forget where at the moment–they were venting about the treatment of the Irish by the English. No matter how graciously I attempted to assist them, they appeared steeped in paranoia and confusion. Odd terms like “babe” and racist tramp” the likes of which I’ve never heard were thrown about. Feeling compassion for their social ineptness, I remained tolerant in manner long past what I felt was acceptable. Then it dawned on me–they were totally unaware of who I was, standing before them, so deep were their minds into their own excrement.

After crossing off “serving the public” as acceptable activity for London, I soon crossed “involvement in politics” off the list. On Sunday, my dear Adra, was called away for matters of responsibility and was unable to attend the announcement of the election results. This was called out to attention in a newspaper inclusion by another candidate. I’ve now begun to doubt the suitability of this candidate, someone whom I’ve admired and liked. This, after a public calling out last week of the Doctor–being called a coward for choosing her own matters of responsibility over the demands of someone to meet. Just who are these people to publicly criticize those who obviously have other duties they aspire to attend to? I fear politics in this city is so much horse dung and brings out lower qualities in people. I attempt to appear interested when Adra passionately goes on about it and while admiring his enthusiasm it hurts my heart to suspect he’ll find disappointment. This Mayorial position is surely somewhat like a sow’s ear and not at all as a silk purse.

I’ve received several remarks to my face, from a few who seem to notice me, that I have wisdom and poise beyond my young, human years. Hah! If they could only see some of the moments I’ve had. It’s true that I have this one human life, but I also have flashes of understanding from my soul—the soul who has put fragments of us into many lifeforms on many planes in many timelines. The fact that much of the purpose of this particular life is to insert vibrations of possibilities from the future shall remain unknown as rarely does anyone delve deeper than the surface with me. It also helps me avoid the likely questioning as to the fashions, foods, dances, states of magic and implements of machinery of the future–as though the transitory flash and form is what is of importance.

The Lady communes with me by my hearth and I’ve advanced from “little otter” to “poppy flower.”
She’s shown me the balance of the poppy–between delicacy and hardiness–and also it’s vibrant display.. Like the poppy seed, I’ve endured drought and freezing, seasons of change in order to even sprout. And like the poppy I can bloom with nurturing, sunlight, patience and time. This I can provide from her and my own self, in spite of the dearth of such conditions in London. My free spirit is my blessing, not my curse.

Opening Day

This is my story for a collection of stories written for opening day in the region of Dankoville in Nara’s Nook grid.

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Opening day was glorious. The weather was perfect and a few days before I’d gotten caught up on a backlog of work that had accumulated during my travels.  Our team won, which was best of all, putting everyone in a great mood.

I don’t recall the point where I’d come to think of “the” team as “our” team but it’s happened. Maybe it was the excitement in the air and the feeling of inclusion. Mostly it had to do with Great Uncle Sam who’d been an avid fan for years.  People had gradually stopped mentioning him and seemed used to the idea that I’m living in the house now.  During the weeks leading up to the first game, they began speaking of him again, telling me funny and fond anecdotes, giving me more of an understanding of this relative I’d barely known.

I wouldn’t have thought him a sports fan, what with his odd collection of books and his science gadgets out in the barn. Elon, his executor, had overseen the removal of many of the tech items and such from the basement. But Sam had quietly loved his community and for decades had gone all out participating in its rite of spring, opening day.

My gallery had been tastefully decorated in Cornstalkers colors for almost two weeks. The high school student I’d hired got class credit for painting the windows and some cash for scattering around decorative team items inside.  She filled me in on what the day would be like and I half listened to her chatter as I did paperwork, not as much paperwork as I’d have liked.

I was still getting paid well by the agency but it stung a little that my business was limping along. So I smiled at the enthusiasm of her youth and made note of her suggestions.

I’d ridden my bike into New Teasdale early on game day and placed it in the gallery’s back room. There were already lots of people out and traffic was heavy for around here. After brunch at Linda’s, with a rather exuberant crowd, I walked over to watch the parade which had already started. It felt good to be recognized by some folks who didn’t seem to notice that I was alone.

It was the sort of event that I usually don’t look forward to and often endure stoically but somehow that day felt like magic. It was nothing I could my finger on, but all my troubles and concerns slipped away and I felt truly in the moment.  Even The Corn Rangers sounded much better than usual.

The only odd thing was running into a local business man, a Mr. Wilmer, who asked me about Sam’s Cornstalker Memorabilia collection. Wilmer had talked to me before and I’d passed him on to Elon. I wasn’t sure what kind of business he was in and felt uncomfortable with him prying into Sam’s affairs. I told him that just about everything had been cleared from the basement except for some tools. It turned out he was actually inquiring about the contents of the bankers boxes in the armoire in the living room.

The armoire had been fitted with shelves which held old photo albums and boxes of letters, papers, old programs and ticket stubs. Everything was of a personal nature with little to no value and I’d planned to leave it for Pearl of this timeline to sort through when she returned. It was part of her family history.

A quick look through the boxes had been done when I first moved in and since I didn’t need the space for my things, I’d let everything be. The armoire was a beautiful antique and I felt a sense of comfort having it around.

Wilmer was a little too emphatic about the old baseball programs in one of the boxes. I’d actually seen them. With my eye for art, they’d been aesthetically pleasing in the way that vintage papers can be. I took his card and made a hasty escape through the crowd.opening day 1During the game I looked appropriately attentive. The sun felt good, warming the area of the bleachers where I sat and I confess that I was overly pleased at letting go of my healthy diet for one day, indulging in the ballpark food and beer. Several times I thought I heard someone calling my name but when I looked around the bleachers, I couldn’t see anyone it might be.  Even though I became drowsy later on, I didn’t want the day to end.

But end it did. After the game I made my way over to Ted’s and had a few more beers. It didn’t seem like a good idea to ride my bike home and I was considering sleeping upstairs over the gallery when I heard one of my neighbors mention going to the gas station in Butlerville to pick something up. Sure I could get a ride home, he told me.

I was a good kind of tired when I got home. I unlocked the back door and went into the kitchen, suddenly alert. Someone had been here and very recently. I grabbed a knife from the kitchen block and went to search the house. It would be a bad evening to have to report a break-in.

After a quick look around, I determined that no one was hiding in the house and nothing seemed to be missing. All the doors and windows were locked. The sense of someone having been there was dissipating and I thought a soak in the tub might be in order.

That’s when I noticed the door to the armoire wasn’t quite shut all the way. When I looked inside, none of the albums and boxes were missing. One box had the lid slightly skewed. When I looked inside I saw a program and ticket stub for the days game on top. opening day 2It didn’t feel like I was missing any time and I immediately went to check my bag. Indeed, my program and stub were still in it.