Not Taking Myself Too Seriously…

Ode to the self-published writer

Well, probably not an ode, per se…

 

Writing on impulse

Dramatic events of life

Make it a book

You say

Why, that makes perfect sense.

 

Sending off letters

Unnatural optimism

It’ll be OK

You say

Why, everyone will love it.

 

Rejection in droves

Darkness, then research

Innovation and hope are good

You say

Why, what else but to keep on going

 

Moderate sales

Good reviews

Excellent advice

You say

Why, I’m so sick of advice

 

Web sites and blogs

Tweets and surfing

New ideas and zombies

You say

Why, what a great idea

 

Writing in an office

Taking oneself seriously

Bad idea

You say

Why, if you can’t laugh at yourself, what else is there?

 

Keep dreaming!

By Cristina Matta

May 21, 2013

Aside

 Hi everyone, sorry – Zoya and the Zombie

 Hi everyone, sorry – Zoya and the Zombie saga will be back soon.  I’ve been busy with end-of-semester work (I’m an ESL teacher at a local community college).  Meanwhile, here’s an op-ed piece that was published in the Chicago Tribune’s Spanish language magazine in late April.  Enjoy (and big THANK YOU to Jeff Lowenstein @ Hoy, and Nicole Cooper for converting the file).

 Opinión 17

Earthquake Relief: Now or Later?

In Chicago one of our favorite pastimes is complaining about the weather. Last week we certainly had justification for it. Rolls of soggy carpeting dotted the ends of driveways and waited for garbage collection, telling a silent story of widespread property loss.

BY CRISTINA MATTA

Luckily, in the 38 Illinois counties that Governor Quinn declared disaster areas, federal funds will help people recover from these losses. For some, the coverage will come with no fuss. Others may run into red tape. But in the end, federal disaster funds guarantee everyone who lost something the hope for moving on with normal life.

This assurance is rare globally, even in what we think of as developed countries. Thousands of people around the world experience natural disasters annually.

This year alone there have been over 500 earthquakes: one in Mexico, several in Peru, a mild one in Costa Rica, and loss of life in Iran, Pakistan and China. And we all remember the recent major earthquakes from Haiti, Japan, and Chile.

Many of the victims of these natural disasters never get back to apoint that they can consider normal. On August 15, 2007, an 8.0 strength earthquake struck in Peru. The small town I was visiting at the time, Guadalupe, was 95% destroyed. In the days and weeks following, governments pledged to help the victims. Assistance flowed in from all over the world. Food, money, and tents were sent to the area.

            It is the tents that I am particularly interested in. They are perhaps twenty square feet in area, white canvas walls and roofs supported by metal rods. In the aftermath of the disaster these tents, with US Aid logos plastered on their walls, were life-savers and were greatly appreciated. Their necessity at the time was clear. The town’s structures, mostly made from adobe bricks, had collapsed easily under the force of the earthquake. The month of August falls during Peruvian winter, so nighttime temperatures in the desert climate of Ica/Guadalupe descended to the fifties. The heavy canvas of the tents kept away cold winds well enough to make living in them tolerable.

                On a 2010 visit to the area I was shocked to see that about a third of the town of Guadalupe was still living in US Aid tents. My husband’s nephew wanted to give me an idea of what life was like for his aunt and gave me a tour of her house. The front room was being used as the bedroom. It had not been structurally damaged in the earthquake. The room in the middle of the house had been destroyed when the adjoining house’s second and third floors fell onto it. The rubble was gone, and in its place was a canvas tent. Her sofa and a couple of chairs made up the living area under the tent. The final room, made of brick, was the kitchen and bathroom area, a three wall-room open to the back yard.

                My tour was sobering. The nephew was visibly upset. His aunt, the occupant of this jumble of rooms, cried often. The well-intentioned, temporary tent was chilly on cold desert nights, and wind blowing the canvas kept her awake. So she chose to sleep in her front room. I checked with her sister last week, and her situation has not changed.

Relief efforts of international aid organizations funded by ordinary Americans are valuable and necessary in the immediate aftermaths of all kinds of disasters. But frequently provide only an emergency tourniquet for the gaping wound. Sometimes the local governments are unable to heal the wound properly and the tourniquet remains, choking off life to what had been a salvageable limb. So life goes on at a new, substandard normal for the survivors.

                A few organizations continue and extend the triage months and years after the rest of us have gone. Build Change is one such valuable sustainable earthquake relief organization. It not only builds earthquake-resistant structures, also it also educates the people in these areas to do the same. They have not been to Peru, unfortunately, and if they or someone like them do not go, even six years after the fact, the dismal situation that many find themselves in will continue. So if you feel inclined to donate after a major disaster, check out organizations like Build Change who will do so much good for long periods after the fact.

—Cristina Matta has written, translated and edited a collection of stories from earthquake survivors. Never Shaken: Tales of Survival is available on Amazon.

CHICAGO

LUNES29DEABRIL 2013

VIVELOHOY.COM

#17 The Tables Slowly Turn

The man sucked on the end of his pungent cigar uneasily.  Bokor’s attitude in their last meeting had unnerved him.  He hated the feeling.  She was normally so competent.  It worried him that she was not under complete control.

His secretary slid in.  He glanced at her appreciatively.  He didn’t know how she could flow so easily in those four inch heels, but the affect was pleasing.  She wore clothing that was sexy without being skanky. 

She glided over to him and with a whiff of some light, flowery scent, placed a mug of steaming coffee on his desk just at his left side. He looked up at her.  She did not make eye contact. Damn it! She should be falling all over him.  How many months had it been now?  All past secretaries had screwed him before their first month was over…

He slammed his hand down on the desk petulantly.  Coffee sloshed out of the mug.  Her attention was on him now – or more accurately, on his left hand which was normally covered with a sleeve perfectly tailored to be longer than the right hand one without looking like it was.

She stared at the grey fur and slightly pointed fingernails for a moment before looking up into his feverish eyes.  A slow smile showed her pearly white teeth.  She began unbuttoning her shirt.

 

Zoya breathed heavily and slumped down in her chair.   For the last hour her arms had been working furiously, slapping paint onto canvass with one hand while mixing and holding with the other – a technique she had been practicing before the change.  She got up and walked away, stretching.

Bokor was standing a little way off, behind Zoya’s chair.  She looked at the painting.  Her face was dark and her mouth was curled in a snarl of fright.  A great battle jumped off the canvass.  But it wasn’t what she had been anticipating.  There were no zombies there save one, who was smirking off at a distance.  The battle was between werewolves.

What did it mean?  And how could Bokor regain some power over this situation before she had to call the man back?  She spun around and walked briskly back toward the village.  She needed to think.

This time it was Zoya’s turn to smirk.  She watched the retreating figure with a huge sense of satisfaction.  When she was sure Bokor was gone, she took out a huge knife and slashed the painting to ribbons.

#16 Influence

                 They had discussed it in detail.  They had laughed about it after sex – how powerful they would become.  When they weren’t screwing they were plotting.  The plan was simple: choose a girl out of the moronic international student groups that visited the island.  Turn her.  Once turned, she would follow Bokor’s influence to attain the goal.  The man, Joel, smoked his cigars and fumed over the way the islanders had treated him.  He had been thrown off the island for reasons Bokor knew but never discussed with him.  She didn’t care.  He was her life.  And now he was the driving force behind what Bokor thought of as “The Goal” – the grand scheme that they had formulated.

                Bokor sat in the shade of a palm tree musing over memories.  Pain burned in her heart with a low, steady flame that had become part of her daily life.  He was using her.  And she knew it.  But she hadn’t cared.  And now she was stuck in between The Goal and the fact that Zoya had turned out to be willful and not completely compliant to Bokor’s spell.  She had been the wrong target.  But how could Bokor have known?  She was sick about it.  Why, just last night it looked like Zoya had shed her zombie characteristics and become human again.  Disaster!  Good thing Bokor had been there and caught the transformation just in time.

                She wouldn’t tell Joel about the little blip.  She had been quick to correct it.  And the gods only knew how he would react.  Their plan had only just begun.  There was so much more to do.  They needed Zoya.  And Bokor needed Joel.  She was going to get him back.

But it looked like Ralph may need Zoya as well.  Bokor shook her head in frustration.  She had heard about the werewolves from her great-grandmother.  But they were supposed to have been banished from the island over a hundred years ago after a great battle between them and Bokor’s tribe.  The tribe won and where the werewolf survivors had gone had been somewhat of a mystery.  And how this descendant, Ralph, had had found his way back was an even greater one.  Why now?

                Back to the problem of Zoya – Bokor trembled.  She was nervous.  It was not supposed to be possible for her to return to human form after Bokor’s spell.  What had Bokor done wrong?  Or was it possible that Zoya had powers that were as yet unknown to Bokor?  How was she to find out?  Her great-grandmother was dead, and Zoya had killed her grandparents – all part of the plan.  But with their deaths went the possibility of valuable information.  Bokor had thought she had all necessary knowledge.  Perhaps she had been wrong. 

                There was only one other person that she could consult.  But the journey to see the old woman would be fraught with peril.  And she would have to leave Zoya – a danger in itself now that she knew that her influence was not strong enough.

                She thought long and hard about what she would do.  The sun began painting a striped mural behind the palm trees.  In the distance, if she had bothered to look, the dark outline of a girl in front of a canvass painted an unknown subject. 

 

Next week: To journey or not to journey? Marilu and Maggie’s meeting with Bokor and Zoya continues her rampage.

#15 – But There Can Always Be Hope

     Zoya opened her eyes.  She lifted her head and looked around.  Vague rays of sunlight were beginning to pierce through the blinds on the window.  Blinking, she sat up and put her feet on the cool tile floor.  There was something wrong.  Her heart beat faster as she mentally checked her body.  No, there was nothing wrong – she felt normal.  She looked over to the mirror that hung above the small dresser across from the bed.  The deep purple shadows that had ringed her eyes were gone.  Her teeth were back to pearly white normalcy.  Her hair was still wild, but there was nothing unusual about that.

                A feeling of joy came over her and she sprang out of bed to get ready for the day.  She had been under some kind of spell but this morning she felt like Zoya: the girl, the painter, the college student on vacation.  She flung her door open, ready to spring down to the communal bathroom.  Even the limp that she had been walking with seemed to have remedied itself.

                Just in time she remembered her modesty.  She turned back to gather some garments.  Various clothing items flew out of her suitcase as she searched for clean underwear.  Her back was to the door so she did not notice the dark shadow that flitted past in the hallway.  The figure appeared to stand – just for a second – at the edge of Zoya’s doorway before moving on.

                Zoya stood.  The numbness was back.  She hardly dared to look in the mirror – but she did.  Her eyes were ringed with bruised skin and her crooked teeth set her mouth into a grimace.

 

                The wind carried a mournful howl to all parts of the island.

 

Thoughts and prayers to the victims of the bombing in Boston – and to the people of Iran and Pakistan who have suffered a powerful earthquake. – God Bless everyone.

While writing these zombie installments I’ve made it a point to stay away from self-marketing.  I write about Zoya to entertain, which I hope I’m doing.  But every time there is another earthquake I remember what I went through and what victims still suffer years after.  If you have time, please check out my author page – 10% of my profits go to BuildChange.org – an earthquake relief organization.  Thank you for reading Zombie Stories – and feel free to comment!!!  I’d love to hear from you! :-) 

http://www.amazon.com/Krystiana-Stacy-Kelly/e/B0046VR5PW/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

#14 – Attack in the Forest

                Maggie’s bare feet bled but she kept walking.  The air had inspissated as the sun went behind the trees and she occasionally gasped for breath.  Soon she couldn’t take it anymore and she sat on a tree trunk.  She felt the damp on her bottom, but the moss that covered the wood was soft. 

            She had woken up abruptly almost immediately after falling asleep. She had been cold.  Ralph was not there any longer.  They had made animal-like love earlier and she had had no inkling of anything being wrong. He must have gone to the bathroom.  But the longer she lay there, the Scarlett O’Hara smile on her face faded.  He had gone.

            Angry, she had gotten up and gone outside, nothing but her flimsy tank top and short pajama shorts on.  She had started walking.  Her determined stride took her through up one of the rainforest paths.  She had had no idea where she was going – but she knew that she was going to find him.  And when she did, Zoya had better not have been with him.

            But she had not found him.  Instead, her feet had encountered many sharp plants and rocks and the muscles in her arms ached with hours of pushing back foliage to advance up and down the paths.

            She sat for what seemed like more hours just listening to the chatter of nocturnal beasts.  She thought about how she and Ralph had met.  Their first encounters were with a large group of her friends and his.  They had shared much laughter and friendly banter before becoming lovers.  And that had been almost an accident.  But the night that they first had sex had been the most exciting of her life.  And she thought that it had meant something.  But now, far from home and with Ralph behaving so strangely unlike himself, she wasn’t so sure.

            Marilu’s warnings popped into her mind.  That woman was deathly afraid.  She had seen how frightened Marilu had been even as she had “rescued” Maggie from Zoya.  It was ridiculous.  Why was Marilu so afraid of Zoya?  Maggie was angry at the strange young lady with the newly acquired limp, but she wasn’t afraid of her.  She had jerked herself away from Marilu and had avoided her since.

            The wind picked up.  Maggie shivered, even though it was probably still in the low 80’s and steaming hot.  Perhaps she should go and talk to Marilu.  Maybe the woman could give her more information about the island – details on where Ralph could have gone.  She got up and started walking.  She had gone in a large loop through a section of forest, but was now fairly close to the edge – and from there only had a way to go before getting to the sugarcane field and labyrinth that led to the village.  She would stop by the house on the way for some shoes.

            She got up and almost fell down again, only stopping herself from doing so by grabbing on to a nearby tree and scratching her hands up pretty badly in the process.  Gingerly she started walking – or limping – down the path.  This part of the forest was more densely covered with trees and the ground was soft with decomposing matter so it cooled her feet and she was able to move a little quicker.

            A branch snapped behind her.  She stopped, her heart doing a fancy jig in her chest cavity.  Nothing.  She kept on walking, her ears perked.  There was a shuffling sound behind her.  She stopped again.  The noise stopped too.  Her blood marched faster through her veins and all the little hairs on her arm were standing to attention.  She walked faster.  The noise matched her pace.  Without stopping she turned and caught sight of a female figure behind her. The hair encircled the head like a wild, blonde fire – flames leaping in all directions.  The eyes of the creature were ringed with blue-black, but the red passion that burned inside the dark circles seemed like they were trying to burn a hole in Maggie’s face.  There was a white line of drool coming out of the creature’s mouth.  It bore down on Maggie at a faster speed than she could maneuver her injured feet. 

            Maggie screamed.  She tripped and fell on the soft ground.  Prisms of light that spoke of a pain she couldn’t yet feel flashed inside her closed eyelids.  She could feel the thick air whoosh around her as the horrible likeness of what Zoya used to be came rushing up to tower over her.  She felt the sharp nails of Zoya’s hand feeling around for her belly button and knew that this was it. 

            Then, in the distance, they both heard the plaintive howl of a wolf.  The wind picked up and the howl went on and on.  The two girls froze in their places.  Moments later the animal’s baying lowered to a growl and it couldn’t have been farther than twenty feet away.  Zoya jerked her hand away from Maggie, leaving deep, bleeding scratches along Maggie’s abdomen and right side.  She disappeared.  And so did the growling wolf.

 

            Bokor stood near the bleeding girl, her body shadowed next to a tree.  Her heart beat in time to Maggie’s, although neither of them knew it.  Bokor’s smug smile was not in attendance this time…

#13 – infection

            Flies swam like tadpoles through the humid, mid-day air.  A toucan clacked its beak on a branch overhead.  If she turned her head to the right she could see two monkeys lazily picking mites off of each other.  She was lying in the mud under the dappled canopy thinking about her next move.  If only she could stay away from Bokor – and Ralph…

            Her attention turned toward the wound on her ankle.  Little white worm-like creatures were setting up camp – busily darting in and out of her skin.  She watched as the round bite marks pulsed open and closed at the insects’ movements, spewing blood like tiny geysers in their wake.  Her eyes dilated and soon she couldn’t tell the worms from the puss that seeped out with the blood.

            Pain shot up through her leg making it impossible to think.  She lifted her hand out of the mud and grunted.  Her fingers shook.  She reached toward the infected ankle.  Shifting in the bushes froze her movement.  She looked up and her heart beat faster.  It wasn’t easy to see anything in her condition, but she thought she saw a gray pelt in the foliage.  She could have been imagining the four legged outline… 

Four legs – one horribly twisted – no, five legs.  Five legs?  She was hallucinating now.  She blinked to clear sweat from her eyes.  One leg was a lot shorter than the rest.  The outline sat suddenly and turned to scratch itself with its long muzzle.  Or was it licking at the shortest leg?

She turned away, disgusted.  The leaves kept rustling.  She ignored them and began crawling to her left.  She had been lying at the edge of a muddy pond.  Water would cleanse her ankle.  Incessant swishing seemed to follow her.  She turned back toward it, growling deep in her throat.

A child stood there.  The boy had a pail in his left hand and a crude bar of yellow soap in his right hand.  The two of them locked gazes for a moment.  Then his eyes went to her ankle and he dropped the items, making two dull thumps on the soft jungle floor.  He turned to run.  Pain was no longer an issue.  Forces she couldn’t quite control overtook her.  She struck – swift and fierce, her eyes unfocused.

 

Bokor lifted her head.  She had been sitting with her head between her knees.  Vomit coated the toilet underneath her.  She had successfully gotten the man out of her mind, only to have a violent image pop into her head, and she knew she would have to go deal with the problem. 

She got up slowly and walked outside.  It didn’t take her long to find him.  His body parts were in a neat line leading into the forest – one leg lead to an arm, which led to a stubby neck, another arm, the torso and another leg.  His head was nowhere to be seen.  Bokor turned her head and saw Zoya standing in the pond, her eyes clouded over.

 

The heat and almost unbearable build up in Ralph’s body was sated for the moment.  But he needed someone else to do it for him next time…

 

Coming soon: What does the man want

And 

Maggie’s team gets another player.

#12 – The Man

He was tall and dark with a clean-shaven face and big eyes.  When the long-lashed, giraffe-like eyes favored someone with their gaze, they hypnotized and imprisoned like an iPhone to a teenager.  He drew others to him with the sincerity that only the very charismatic possess.  He could make anyone feel at ease, man or woman.  More than that – he made people feel more wanted, attractive, and intelligent then they in fact were.  He seduced with his personality and only a few minutes after meeting him people fell over themselves in their haste to give him what he wanted.  Perhaps this was how he had achieved what he had – why he sat in the sleek, expensively decorated office with its simple décor with his custom-tailored, black wool suit that fit like a glove to his lean body.  He smoked Cuban cigars that never stained his teeth or fingers.

Bokor had fallen for him too.  There had been no other option.  And she thought that he had loved her.  But as is so often the case with people for whom things come so easily, his true character had revealed itself just as she had found herself too involved to get away.

“Well?” They had long ago stopped meeting in person and were communicating via Skype.

“There is a complication.”

He swiveled languidly in his leather chair and bit his lip with a perfectly white tooth.

“There are no such things as complications, Bokor.  Use the energy around you to your advantage.  There is much to be done and you have found the right one.  I congratulate you for that.  The plan can begin now.”

“But there is this boy… She is fighting him.  I don’t think I can –”

He stared at her.  It was the eyes.  It had always been the eyes – the pools of dark chocolate temptation.

“You will do as I say.”

And she knew she would – even if it meant disaster for her.

Spring Break Hiatus – come back in April for the next installment of Zombie Stories.  Peace!

# 11 – Deadly Danger

            Yellow eyes shone through the dark.  Hunter stalked prey.  Nocturnal animals prepared for nighttime rituals.  Thick canopy tried to block patches of light from the full moon.  Thin rays seeped through and fell in patterns toward the jungle floor.  Frogs chirped and birds called out.  Wild paws crunched on dry leaves and snapped sticks.  A lithe body was on the move.  Muscles rippled under grey fur.

            The victim limped in shadows but made good time, destination unknown.  Low grumbling vibrated through the animal’s entire body.  Stomach muscles contracted and growled in harmony.  But it wasn’t food he was stalking. 

            When he was thirty feet behind her he lowered his body until he was almost crawling on four legs.  A bird whistled.  A puma shrieked in the distance.  The scent of wet leaves and humidity mixed with sweet flowers.  Water dripped.  She stopped.  He lay down.  His ears perked up – alert – eyes blazing.  Her back was to him, shoulders slumped over, old-lady-like.  She was wearing the same sheer, white dress that he had seen her in many times.  There was a thin, triangular patch of red at the hem.

            She turned only her head until he could see her profile.  Long lashes fell on purple circles under the eyes.  And then her eyes popped open.  Her head turned further around, owl-like.  She stared at the ground just to his right.  She did not blink.

            “Come and get it if you want it, Ralph.” She croaked in a low voice.

            He snarled.  His hind legs pushed off and he pounced at her but his body cracked against the tree trunk that she had been standing in front of.  She was gone.  He was stunned for a moment.  Then the pain of ramming into a tree was overshadowed by the torment of something pulling him by the tail.

            Two pairs of steel eyes met; yellow fire against dark pools of soulless nothing.  He whipped his body around, claws out and scratched at her face.  She grunted and let go of his tail, wiping blood off of her face.  He sprang up, twisted around, pushing her to the ground pinning her there..  She looked up and spit at him.  A clot of blood landed on his snout and dripped back on her.  She laughed.

            “How are you going to do it, Ralph?  Not this way, surely…” She reached her hand around and pulled hard on the most sensitive area just below his hind quarters.  He howled.  She rolled away and stood up, her legs apart and her shoulders back in a warrior-like pose.

            They both panted hard as they stood facing each other – he with his hair standing on end, fangs showing; she melting back into the slumped posture that had become her nature.

            “You can’t have it both ways, my boy.” She said.  “And frankly, I doubt that you’ll ever have it.”

            She turned disdainfully and limped off.  Suddenly there was a sharp pain just above the ankle of her good leg.  His sharp teeth were clamped down hard.  She fell to the ground and fumbled for a stick.  He was still biting down hard.  He started to drag her away from the main path and toward a ditch when she swung her arm around and struck his leg with the stick.  A snapping sound crackled through the thick, humid air.  Zoya thought it was her stick.  She was just about to reach around for a thicker one when she heard a thump and saw a flash of white.

            Lifting her head up, she saw the man lying on the ground.  The wolf had disappeared and her leg was free.  The man’s clothes were ripped and he had blood and dirt all over him.  His eyes were closed, but she saw that his chest went up and down in small, shallow movements.  His arm was bent at a strange angle. 

She smirked and moved toward him, but stopped when she heard something coming.  The sound of voices approaching got louder.  Two people stepped off of the path.  The tour guide and Bokor knew that the rustling sounds had not come from any native animal, so they came to investigate.  The tour guide’s face blanched at the scene before them, making him look washed out in the rays of the moon. 

            Bokor assessed the situation and quickly glanced at her companion.  She knew without asking the danger that had just been averted.  In a loud voice she said, “Zoya, you’re bleeding.  Go back to the house immediately.  Sebastian and I will take care of Ralph.”      

“But surely the girl needs –”

            “Don’t worry about her, Sebastian.  She’ll be fine.” 

            The guide locked eyes with Zoya for a moment.  Horror met total blankness.  He looked away.  At that moment he realized what had been happening on the island and knew that he was in deadly danger…

            

#10 Maggie Rebels

            Ralph reclined back into the sofa and sighed.  All of Bokor’s planning had made him feel somewhat normal again.  The steak dinner had been perfect.  Candles glowed on various tables and the scent of lavender filled the room.  The radio played soft music.

He took a sip of wine and watched as Maggie got up from the dinner table and came up to him.  Slowly she untied her robe and let it flow open.  She was wearing the black lace negligee that she had brought down just in case she had an opportunity to be private with Ralph – and tonight was it.  Her full breasts overflowed out of the flimsy material, which came up to just above the areolas of her nipples.  She was moving languidly, taking her time to approach him.  Normally a secure and happy girl, she had been grappling with the unfamiliar feelings of insecurity for the last few days.  There had been an oppressive air pulling them all down.  But it was over now…

With supple movements began pulling down the string that comprised the underwear part of the outfit.  The negligee’s skirt was short, but still covered enough to leave a little to the imagination. 

            Not that he needed his imagination.  His eyes locked with hers as he reached long fingers down to his belt.  He felt a moment of pain as some hair on the back of his finger got caught in the buckle.  Damn it.  He hadn’t noticed his hair getting so long on his hands.  But there were more important sensations to be had in the immediate future and the pain was soon forgotten.

 

            Jon was bored.  Behind him, Bokor’s firm footsteps crunched on the leaves of the path, forcing him to continue forward.  He was not listening to the guide’s boring drone on the many and fascinating reasons why tree frogs came out at night.  They were on one of the many trails of the rainforest that abutted the beach.  This area was famous for its nighttime tours of nocturnal life.  But Jon had only come here to surf.  Unfortunately, his one attempt to surf at night had failed miserably.  So until now he had spent his nights talking to Ralph and Mike.  But Mike had gone home and Ralph was acting strangely.  And tonight Bokor was on a mission to keep him away from the house.  Jon sighed and looked back at her. 

            “Watch out for that spider’s web.”  Bokor said.  Jon screamed.

 

            Zoya opened the front door and stepped into the room.  The voiceless grunt that escaped her throat when she saw movement on the sofa startled the two lovers.  Maggie scrambled around for something to cover herself up.  Ralph pushed her the rest of the way off his lap and stood up. 

            “Zoya…” Maggie’s concern for her modesty was overridden by sharp anger at the plaintive tone in Ralph’s voice.  Her fury only increased as he stepped toward the door.  But Zoya was gone. 

            “Ralph!”  Maggie grabbed his arm.

            He looked at her, jerked his arm away, yawned and started walking back to their assigned bedroom.  The interruption had not allowed his physical desire to peak, but he was certain that Zoya had been drawn in by what he vaguely called ‘female jealousy’ and he was sure that she would soon come to him.

            Maggie got dressed, her face set in stone.  Without looking back at her lover, she went out the front door.  Once she was outside she looked for the slight figure of a girl with puffy blonde hair.  Her eyes strained in the dark and were rewarded for their efforts when they caught movement behind a palm tree to Maggie’s left.  She followed it, her chest heaving with angry indignation.

            “Zoya you bitch,” She called out, “stop hiding like a coward.  I want to talk to you.”

            Marilu heard the faint sound of Maggie calling out for Zoya.  She was tired and dirty after burying the students’ bodies.  She just wanted to go home, but she needed to talk to Bokor first.  She rounded the dirt path to the house just in time to see Zoya limp toward Maggie.  The hairs on Marilu’s arms stood on end.  Something about Zoya’s approach toward the other girl made Marilu feel fearful.  Marilu remembered the odd reaction that she and Maria had toward Zoya when she had come in to buy paints.  There was something not quite right about that girl…

 

            Maggie must have sensed it too.  She screamed.  Marilu ran.  She got to Maggie just as Zoya did. 

            “Stop,” Marilu called.

Zoya turned an empty gaze on the space above Marilu’s head.  Then she turned and ambled down the path toward the beach.

            “What is wrong with that girl?” Marilu said, going up to Maggie and putting her arm around her shoulders.

            Maggie pushed her away.  “Whatever.  I don’t need your help.  I will take care of Zoya myself.  She won’t get Ralph.”

            Marilu evaded the girl’s attempt to get away from her.  She grabbed Maggie’s arms so that their faces were close together.  “You don’t understand, girl.  I think that you are going to need my help more than you realize.”

 

            The little, deserted outhouse building with the half-moon on the door was the perfect place to store her paints now that she had a closet for a room in the new, much smaller house.  Zoya pulled out her supplies with uncharacteristically savage jerks of her arms.  Impulsively she threw the canvas away from her and it landed with a thump on the rocky edge of the beach, sliding onto the sand before it came to a stop.

 

            Half an hour later Jon took a hasty leave of Bokor with a quick, ungrateful ‘thank you for the tour’ at the entrance to the path leading toward the house.  Bokor turned and scanned the area.  She walked up behind Zoya quietly.  The canvas had a couple of holes in it.  Blended oil paints mixed together to portray a liquefied nude dripping into one of the holes.  Floating on top of the viscous, bloody puddle that had once been human was a man’s belt buckle.

            “Your art is improving all the time, Zoya.”  Bokor said, chuckling.

 

Next Week: Planning…