A Handful of Stars

If you could

hold a handful

of

stars

what would you do with them?

puff them away

like

dandelions fluff

and make

random wishes?

toss & scatter them

like

silver coins

into the

sea?

make clusters of them

spin

like

pinwheels?

or let them

slowly slip

through your

fingers

spilling them

back into

the sky?

If you could

hold a handful

of

stars

what would you do with them?

© Alfred W. Smith Jr

Lights in the Windows of the Soul

Candles

wink playfully

flirting

with my retina

hiding

what I would

see

The Sun

is a saucier creature

who will

blind you

if you

stare her down

Give me the

steady

patient

starlight.

© Alfred W. Smith Jr

2015

Knight’s Watch (2)

Markis gave no thought to himself, and bolted from his room down to his father’s.

He kept the door closed but never locked it, in case he had to get to Markis, or Markis had to get to him.

Markis dreaded the latter circumstance, but it was here now.

There were no lights on; his father slept in total darkness, and Markis knew he would be at a disadvantage if she attacked.

Cautious, straining to listen, he cracked it just a little, and gave his vision time to adjust to all the familiar shapes of furniture the room contained.

Nothing seemed amiss; nothing was disturbed.

He allowed himself a brief smile of relief, but she’d been sitting in his father’s reading chair, watching him.

Her eyes flashed that serpentine yellow again, and Markis found an edge of anger fueling his fright.He opened the door all the way, opening himself first if she were of a mind to do anything, if she hadn’t already…

“Come in, Markis. We’ll chat awhile.”

He understood the threat under the pleasantry, and Markis closed the door behind him, still in the dark.

“My dad…?”

“Won’t hear us. He’s asleep, and I haven’t hurt him. Cross my…well, he’s asleep. I won’t hurt you either, sweetheart. Come. ”

Soft light flared from her, and suffused the room, and she beckoned him.

He was wary, but glad he could at least see her now.

“What do you want from me?”

“It’s not a small thing. Since you saw me, us, do what we did, I’m obligated to ‘request’ that you keep silent.”

“Who would I tell? He disappeared, along with whoever was helping you set him up.”

“True, but the people I work for have reason to take more precautions these days, and they’re not the type to trust promises. In addition to your silence, I have to ask for your assistance.”

He barked a laugh. “Why would I help you?

She looked pointedly at the sleeping figure, snoring softly under his comforter, at peace in spite of his pain, then back at Markis.

“Don’t threaten him!”

“Calm down, Markis. The threat isn’t coming from me.”

He calmed, but it took a moment.

“What do you need me to do?”

She got up, came toward him, strong, supple body beneath her clothes, the air around her engulfing him, heady with a scent he couldn’t identify, and something in her eyes that locked him in tight.

Her hand on his chest was warm, but sent shivers through him.

Her other hand on his stomach as she lifted his shirt warmed him elsewhere.

Slipping behind him, she raked her nails lightly, and steam rose from his flesh, but he wasn’t burning.

Her lips brushed his earlobe, her voice husky with her own desire.

“I don’t know yet, darling, but I know where we can start.”

It seemed to him he melted to the floor as she pressed him down, and time was no longer of the essence.

*********************

He woke in a dimly lit room, a storage room of some kind, full of cases and casks, and he realized he was in the bar across the street from his place, underground. He’d come down here with his dad sometime when the owner would ask him to help with a restock before the place opened.

Markis realized they’d bound his arms and ankles, but they didn’t gag him, and he didn’t hurt anywhere. Testing his limbs in his bonds as surreptitiously as he could, he was satisfied nothing was broken or gone.

“Ah, Markis, you’re awake.” A man’s voice, sonorous, quietly forceful, used to getting his way.

“And this is how you say good morning?”

To his surprise, laughter rippled around the room.

“Remarkable,” the man said, but what he meant by it, Markis didn’t know. “Forgive our primitive precautions.”

The ropes fell off, crumbled to fibers as if old and desiccated, and Markus rubbed his wrists.

“I’ll get to the point: I’m asking for your help. The man you saw so hastily, mysteriously dispatched was in fact looking for us. We found him first. His people want to destroy us.”

“And there’s a reason you shouldn’t be destroyed?”

“Who wants to be destroyed? Who really desires destruction?”

He had no answer.

The man continued. “We took advantage of his drunkenness. He was a fool to let his guard down.”

“So what’s my part?”

“Help us locate them.”

“How?”

“I won’t tell you unless you agree, and though you might want to agree now, I’m not going to accept it now. I’m going to give you some time to think about it.

“Your father, and the rest of your family, will be safe.”

“Unless I say no?”

The man gave no answer, and Markis couldn’t read his face.

“Well, given what I’ve seen, I guess if you wanted us dead, we’d be dead.”

The man arched his brows in approval, a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth.

“We’ll not detain you further.”

Markis blinked, and found himself outside on the sidewalk with his paranormal seductress, who helped him get his balance when he stumbled against her.

The rain had stopped, and the pale light of dawn was blotting at the black night sky.

Steam rose from the manhole covers, and the morning wind was high.

Her hair blew about her face, and she draped it over her fingers as she watched him; she said nothing as he got himself together,

“I’ll walk with you.”

“It’s right here.”

I’ll walk anyway.”

The crossed the iridescent street, still puddle, still oiled, but the edges drying in the wind.

“I’m sorry, Markis. I got you involved.”

“And I don’t really have a choice, do I?”

“You do, just not if you want to save your dad.”

“What are you, that you can do these things to people. To me?”

“We’re a roomful of monsters, Markis. Hybrids of the spirit world, with many powers gained over many lives. We’ve been chased across the world; some want to study us, others to kill us outright and feed our souls to hellfire.”

“And you?”

“Part succubus, part demon, part witch.”

“That explains…” his face heated.

“Well, I do like you, Markis.”

They laughed.

“Better get upstairs. Your dad’s going to be up soon, and he’s going to want pancakes for breakfast.”

“How do you–?”

“Part clairvoyant, too.”Again the smile: how could it be so dazzling, and pretty, and feral? He supposed it was a gift, of sorts, that she could make it so.

She placed a hand on his forearm. “Take care of yourself, Markis.”

As she walked away, he called out. “You too…uh…I don’t know your name!

“Better for now, you don’t!” she called over her shoulder, as she faded away, instead of suddenly vanishing, as she did so dramatically the last time.

Markis looked on, incredulous: there were people on the street, not many, but some, in plain view of them talking, and she was fading away, and nobody saw her, no one stopped to look.

Better get upstairs.

He smiled, shook his head; the memory of her heated his face again.

“Turns out I had a crazy night out after all.”

But a man is dead, Markis. Dead, and no trace of him left on the earth, anywhere.

  Best not forget that, Markis.

  Don’t forget that at all…

Knight’s Watch

Markis was in bed with his headphones on, looking out the window on the wet streets of the Lower East Side.
He lived on the third floor, and his bed was by the window, which was dangerous because bullets were known to fly suddenly and randomly, one could have his name on it.
But tonight, he needed to see outside, and the rain normally kept men who could bench press four hundred pounds or more inside, so there was little chance of anything happening tonight.
It was nine thirty on a Friday. He’d gone to school that day, and there were parties going on, but Markis was tired, and as much as he liked to dance and the attention of girls, his body said no, so no it was.

There was a soft knock on the door.
“Markis?”
“Come in, Dad.”
His father left the door open behind him.
“Are you all right?”
Markis smiled. “Yeah, Dad, just tired.”
He sat up and took off his headphones.
His father sat in the chair at Markis’ desk.
“Not like you to stay in.”
“But you don’t mind,” Markis grinned.
His father chuckled. “Not gonna lie, I breathe easier. I’d breathe easier still if you moved that bed from the window.:
“I will; just needed to look out for a bit.”
“Anything interesting?”
“Just rain, and watching the traffic lights change.”
“Good.”
They both laughed, then his father grew serious.
“I know it’s been hard without your mom, hard for both of us, but you’re all I have left, Markis, and I want you to listen to me: there’s nothing you can’t tell me, y’hear?
“We can talk about anything, for as long as you need to, and I’ll listen.”
He said it again, “Y’hear?”
Markis looked at his dad in the striated street light: tee shirt, slacks, black socks with no shoes, one foot on the toes, digging into the cheap, clean carpet; he was still strong, but a little more stooped these days, more rounded in the shoulders.
The death of his bride had deeply shaken him, taken something out that was vital to his very being. It was almost an aura, vibrating on the verge of a breakdown, but his dad was a fighter.

Markis almost wished he wasn’t, but he knew his dad wanted to be strong for both of them.

He understood his father needed him now as much as he needed his father.
Maybe he cried where Markis couldn’t see him.
“I know, Dad. And I promise to come to you.”
His father was visibly relieved, and trusted Markis to keep his word.
They talked about school for a bit; it was a universal truth that parents liked to hear about school. Markis and his friends could never figure out why, but he appreciated that his Dad asked in spite of how mundane school always seemed to be.
His dad finally yawned, sat on the edge of the bed, gave Markis a hug and a dry kiss on the ear.
“I love you, son.”
“Love you too, Dad.”
His dad left, closing the door behind him, to go to his own bed, now emptier by one.

*******************
Markis was about to put his earbuds back in, when a movement across the street grabbed his attention.
Part of his view included a bar that his parents used to frequent when they wanted to go out, and didn’t want to go far.

It was a neighborhood fixture, and his dad would take him there when he was younger to watch games on the large screen, and the men would give Markis team hats, buy him sodas or juices, and mock argue with him about the players and teams he liked. 
Markis would laugh and his dad would put his arm around his shoulders and say, “Ya’ll better leave my son alone, ‘fore I hurt you.”
Markis loved those days, but as the neighborhood got older, it slipped away, and the men left in various ways: some through crime, some through disease, some through violence, and some through alcohol.

The bar had fallen into disuse, and got boarded up. In a month it was open with a banner that said “Under New Management,” but he and his Dad never went back.

************************

A man came out of the bar, not too steady on his feet, but not stumbling.
He lit a cigarette, giving himself time to get adjusted to the cool autumn air, clear his head, get his bearings before heading home, when a woman in a short black skirt and leather jacket walked up to him.
The man smiled, looked her up and down, interested in what she had to say. Then his face changed, and he began to back up, when a hand came around and covered his mouth, and a knife slit his throat.
The streetlamp that lit the front of the bar flickered and went out, and when it came back on, the man and whoever cut his throat were gone; there was no blood in the street, no body, no weapon, and only the first woman remained, checking up and down the street.
Oh hell! Now I’m a witness, he thought.
The woman was crossing the street, coming toward his building.
He was on the third floor, but he was getting ambient light, and he pushed himself into a shadowed corner.
The woman stopped just before his window, and looked up, right into it, as if he were completely exposed. Her eyes flashed a serpentine yellow for an instant, her full lipped smile was feral.
Are you, Markis? her voice was low and purring, as if she was sitting by his side. Are you sure you want to be a… witness?
She lifted her hand, waggled her fingers at him in a girlish greeting.
You should’ve gone out tonight, baby.

She vanished, leaving a trace of black vapor slowly dissipating in the cool night air.