Light Up!

Another piece of flash fiction for your consumption.  I borrowed the notion from a new(ish) restaurant in SF called Opaque.


The Daily Chronicles – Light Up

by Matthew T Maenpaa

There was the sound of shuffling feet followed by stumbling and a loud crash. A voice groaned, a flat and reedy female voice, issuing a stream of imaginative curses. Another crash accompanied by the sound of plates breaking. “Why is it so damn dark in here?”

Another voice, a man’s slightly nasal, lisping voice. “That’s what the owners want. Goes with the theme.”

“But in the kitchen? How do you even cook?”

“Night-vision goggles. At least they didn’t hire blind cooks. Order up, Lacey.”

Lacey shuffled her feet along the tiled floor, her hands tapping along the warm stainless steel counter until she found the plates. “What are we cooking today anyways?”

“Eel curry with grilled polenta.”

Lacey felt her stomach clench at the thought, the strange spicey, fishy smell penetrating her nostrils. Was there such a thing as smell-rape? Her second night on shift, she already hated the restaurant. No menus, just one dish per night. No lights, and they told everyone that the servers and hosts were blind. The host was blind, but Lacey was the only server that night and the only reason she was blind was that there weren’t any damn lights in the restaurant. The owners said it was because they wanted everybody to appreciate the experience of blindness. What it was was bullshit, Lacey thought bitterly as she shuffled along, arms laden with plates. They had runner strips on the pathways through the restaurant to help guide their feet, and at least all the tables were booths. If there had been chairs, Lacey would probably have killed herself by now.

She could make out the hint of a profile as her eyes absorbed the pure blackness. The murmur of whispers was the only sound in the dining room, except for the clatter of cutlery on plates and the sound of chewing. It was as if people were afraid to talk in the dark, not being able to see their conversation partners. Lacey banged her knee into the side of a booth, setting the plates down carefully and very nearly dumping the eel curry over the poor patron. Not that she felt bad. If you could afford to eat in a place like this, you weren’t interested in the food anyways. Oddest thing. Lacey had worked in quite a few upscale restaurants, and most of the clientele went there to be seen. The restaurant felt like a big joke, only Lacey wasn’t laughing.

After setting the plates down, she carefully treaded back to the kitchen. The faint glow of the stove’s burners gave her enough light to see the cook. Horace was hunched over the flame, dropping pieces of eel carefully into the saute pan. Lacey sighed loudly to let him know he had company. “Got any more eel plates ready?”

“Fifteen minutes, Lacey.”

“This place sucks, you know.”

“Yeah, but who else is going to pay us this well?”

Lacey frowned. “True. Do you have a lighter?”

“What are we smoking?”

“Does it matter? I just want to light up so that I know I’m not blind.”


Operation Snowicane

My sympathies go out to those under the onslaught of Operation Snowicane 2011.  The weather in the midwest is brutal right now, and Chicago is having its worst blizzard in quite some years.

I however enjoyed a balmy 60 degrees in San Francisco, with clear blue skies and a lot of sun.  I’m not rubbing it in.  That’s a nice day this time of year.

I was inspired by the blizzard and my memories of snowfall in Chicago.  So I give to you another iteration of the Daily Chronicles


The Daily Chronicles – Silenced

by Matthew T Maenpaa

Snow fell in heavy, wet flakes from an ash gray sky. Standing on my front lawn, the snow already up to my ankles, I had to squint to protect my eyes from the wind. They were calling it the Blizzard of the Century, though it struck me as a misnomer. It was barely even the beginning of the second decade of the century. But the media, they do love hyperbole.

I would have been holed up safe inside the house, only the dogs don’t care if its a blizzard when they need to do their business. I could faintly hear them barking over the roar of the forty miles-per-hour wind that swept northwestern Chicago. I lit a cigarette, watching the vague shape of dogs run amok in the park next to my house. Indoors, safe and warm, my wife tended to our child. She was two years old, old enough to be amazed by snow, and I could see her tiny face pressed against the windowpane. She waved to me and I waved back.

I closed my eyes, feeling the snow settling in small drifts on my shoulders. Traffic had slowed, most people getting home by the time the first six inches stuck. Living on the outskirts of the city, we didn’t get a lot of traffic but you could still here I-94 rush by. Now all you could hear were the wind and the dogs, the occasional shriek of terrified delight from a child that got pegged by a snowball.

The roar of the wind grew, whistling and battering the window panes long after I’d gone inside, long after the dogs had curled in a pile by the fireplace. We went to sleep early, bundled under blankets, kept warm by a small child and three dogs. I woke first, extracting myself from the tangle of limbs and finding my slippers. The dogs followed me, eager for breakfast and to go for a run.

I put on the pot of coffee, listening to the choking cough of the percolator, the wheeze of steam that let me know it was done. The sounds of the morning ritual, only something was missing. I peered out the kitchen window but it was too frosted over to see through. After refilling the dogs’ water and food, I poured the coffee and went to the front door to fetch the paper. The sense of oddness stuck with me, only drawing a realization as I opened the door. Snow had banked up past the outer door, up to the pane of glass. A blanket of snow four feet deep had covered the city, and that was the odd thing.

There was no roar of wind, no honk of horns. The distant rumble and rush of the highway was not muted, but gone entirely. The sun bloomed on the horizon, igniting a crystalline blue sky. Only a few prints of wildlife dotted the deep snow. The blizzard silenced the noise of the city, buried it under the snow. I stood for a moment, my breath steaming the air along with the tight curls that spiraled upward from the coffee mug in my hand. The peace and the stillness, that was what had struck me. For that moment, however long it would last, we were the only people in the city. The only sound of life were the birds, and the sound of the dogs devouring their breakfast. When I let them out to run, the stillness would be done. The snow would be marred.

I breathed deep, the cold air filling my lungs, a satisfying shock better than any rush of nicotine. The moment was forever bound in the prism of memory, the beauty of winter along with its brutality. The clatter of claws on hardwood brought me back to the world as three dogs pushed past me to bound through the snow, forgetting that they’d ever seen snow in their lives. I sighed and smiled, donning my snow gear to go after them.

Angry Witches

Hello loyal readers.  Zoe and I are hopping on a plane to go to Colorado at 6am PST, to go on a nice little vacation to Boulder.  As such, my computer is staying home.  A vacation from the computer.  Yes, very nice for me.  Right?

So I thought I’d leave you with a nice present before I left, another piece of short fiction of dubious quality.  Another entry into The Daily Chronicles, this one deserves some background.  A couple weeks ago there was a story floating around the newsfeeds about some witches in Romania that attempted to curse their government officials for raising taxes.  How could we pass up this real-life opportunity to write about witches?  What follows is a rough-cut, as it were, that may grow into something slightly larger.

The Daily Chronicles: Angry Witches

by Matthew Thomas Maenpaa

“Have you looked out the window recently?”

Maggie looked up from her computer to see her coworker leaning over the wall of her cubicle. She glanced around at the cubicle farm that surrounded them, gesturing idly with her hands. “Do you see any windows nearby?”

Dave shook his head. “You’ve got to see this.”

He walked to the office across from the hall, its window looking out over the company parking lot. Maggie followed, fidgeting with the rings she wore on each finger. Dave raised the blinds and Maggie followed his gaze to see a massive circle of women, dancing and chanting around a bonfire. Most of the women wore robes in various shades of blue and green, but some wore nothing whatsoever. Skyclad, as they say. Maggie felt her mouth twist. On the 8th Floor they were too high to hear the chanting, but Maggie had a guess. The bracelets around her wrist clattered as she reached for the pentacle that hung under her blouse. Dave gave her a curious look. “Maggie, shouldn’t you be down there?”

She shook her head. “Not my coven.”

“Why do you think they’re here?”

“The new law passed yesterday.”

Dave smirked. “And they think that protesting us will change that?”

Maggie shook her head. “They aren’t protesting.”

Clusters of naked women stood on top of cars, forming the five points of a star around the circle. In the center of the dancing ring, a white-robed priestess led a black goat by a rope. Maggie could just make out the gleam of the silver athame in the priestess’s other hand. She thought about the large number of witches that had gathered to join in the curse, but found it odd that they would only use one goat. The curse would be weak with such a small death. It would have been better if every woman had sacrificed a chicken or rabbit, but they probably didn’t want to dirty their robes.

Maggie looked at Dave. “What is security doing about this?”

Dave shrugged. “Probably just watching.”

“I’m going to call Mr. Stevens.”

“Maggie, you probably shouldn’t bother him with this.”

She ignored him though, returning to her desk to dial Mr. Stevens’ extension. He answered after the second ring. “Stevens.”

“Mr. Stevens, its Maggie Riley down in Hexes.”

“Mz Riley, what can I do for you?”

“Well, Mr. Stevens, there are a lot of angry witches in the parking lot.”

“Shit. Really?” She could hear him drawing the blinds from his 15th floor office, looking down to the parking lot. “Well damn. Has security done anything?”

“I don’t think so, sir. Think we should bring out the warlocks?”

“That would be like trying to put out a fire with gasoline, Mz Riley. No no, I’ll have the Protection Division enhance the wards. We’ll see how this plays out.”

“As you like, sir. Anything you’d like me to do?”

“How is that crop dessication hex coming along?”

“Nearly finished the last map overlay, just waiting to get coordinates from Deployment.”

“Very good, Mz Riley. Thank you for calling.” The line went dead with a click.

Maggie returned to the window, where she could see the priestess bring the knife across the black goat’s neck. The witches stopped dancing, raising their arms to the sky and screaming like banshees. Maggie thought she could hear the horrible bleating of the dying goat, but it could have just been a memory. Blood spilled out on the pavement, looking like a tiny oil slick from far off. A ripple of color shimmered in front of the window where she and Dave stood watching, the curse bouncing off the building’s wards. In the parking lot, two hundred angry witches suddenly turned into two hundred very confused frogs. Maggie sighed, then returned to her desk and sat down. The phone rang. “Magitek Designs, Maggie Riley speaking.”