Eight to Twelve Word Stories.

Prompt: Self Destruction in love.

Loving her left me with a journal, xanax, and whiskey.

Drugs and rock n’ roll were kids stuff or stupid, but not Sex

Best friends ate together, laughed together, and fought over cocaine.

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Daily Prompt: Banned

via Daily Prompt: Banned *Unedited as of 10/26 2016 11:46pm est.

It wasn’t the taste of blood in my mouth or the way I watched Markus crumple back onto the floor that convinced me how much he cared, but the way he refused to look at me did. For a man way older than me he seemed dreadfully uncertain of every decision and this one was no different. He glanced towards me, but quickly shied away, clutching his bleeding wrist. I turned my head towards the ceiling of the dark cave tunnel, watch the way the light poured in and cast shadows over every wall until the shadows grew large and simply became darkness. I should have been dead. I should have simply been another missing woman somewhere in the world, but this vampire chose to save me. This whole mess would have been easy to run from without me, but there I was. I wiped my hand across my mouth leaving a dark red smear over my skin before a wave of weakness came back over me.

“Crap.”

“How do you feel?” he asked softly. I heard a ripping noise, and when I looked closely at him I saw he’d begun to tie the ends of his shirt around his wrist to halt the bleeding.

“Well, I won’t be running a marathon any time soon. Not that I…I ever planned on it.” As I spoke my skin began to tingle and I suddenly became acutely aware of the blood flowing through my body. The bruises on my neck and waist throbbed in time with the deep cut on my abdomen and along my spine. Pulsing. Pulsing. Every centimeter of myself began to sing with a rush of overwhelming and awe-inspiring energy that made my heart bound so fast I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My lungs ached as though someone had beaten my chest in, and the struggle for air got more difficult. Was I turning? Was I losing the battle for life? I did not know as my hands shook and I began to squirm on that cold hard ground. As quickly as this all began Markus loomed over me. His usual cool affect evaporated as he pulled me onto his lap, cradling me as though all he wished to do was help me.

“Shh…it’ll be over soon.”

I tried to get out words, but the sounds didn’t even reach my throat as panic made me paw at my own chest. It needed to work. I needed to know what he did. I managed to mouth Did you?’ and that was enough to get him to shake his head sternly.

“No. I didn’t turn you. I…I wouldn’t do that unless you asked. You need to relax, slow your breathing, and let the blood do what it must.”He began stroking my hair, and I tried to do as he said. One breath seemed to half way work  but then it felt squeezed out of my lungs by force like someone pressed on a juice box until only air came out. “Shh, keep trying. Slowly…come on.” And I did again…and again and again. With every attempted breath that feeling hit me. Dark clouds peppered with rainbow stars began to pop before my eyes. The pain in my lungs intensified my wounds felt as though the flesh was being pulled together again. The sensation was like straining a muscle and then having someone grab onto the wounded flesh and tightly pulling it taunt until it gave a little…then a little bit more. It hurt like a mother fucker and the adrenaline rushing through me seemed to be running a race through my blood, causing my head to throb. Never in my life had I imagined such feelings to be possible all together. I once read of a condition where people could hear their internal organs and all. It was apparently a very painful and distracting thing. This was a distant cousin, but it made me understand how too much awareness didn’t just swamp your brain. It made every single thing you felt louder, more angry, and more suffocating.

“Don’t black out on me now. You can’t. Not yet,” he begged. I’d never heard him beg in the near year I’d known him. Markus had more pride than anything else and this certainly took the cake. If I died I at least got to hear something remarkable first. The heaviness of my body deepened. For a moment I imagined sinking through the wound on my back and all of me melting through the cave floor down into the warm embrace of the abyss. “Serene! You’re stubborn as hell so don’t disappoint me now.”

Another failed breath. Pressure. Pain. So tired. I did not want to die, but life had never been about what I wanted though sometimes life lined up with that. Life had been about living through pain and sorrow with all the baggage those things brought. That didn’t diminish the promise of joy! Oh I’d had such laughs with family and friends. I’d loved things with such vigor, and so much remained uneaten or untasted. Markus had been tasted, but how I wanted to love him. Just to try…just to see.

He slapped my cheeks lightly a few times sending a sting through my face.I grimaced, tossing my head, trying to grab onto his voice through the encroaching dark.

“No. You do not get to leave me now. You and I have things to work out…I want to figure us out so you damn well better stay with me!” He pressed his lips to my forehead and a small smile came on my face. “I want more of those cupcakes, I want more time, and I want more of you and I trying to figure this out ok?”

One more breath. The air rushed my lungs and I felt them fill as though all the crud and gunk in my slightly asthmatic self was obliterated. My eyes widened as every single ache and pain climaxed into this magnificent yet horrid pop, forcing my back to arch and every muscle to tense until they hurt. After what felt like all too long the sensation left and my body plopped prone onto him as I began to gasp for air. Markus began to laugh running his fingers through his dark hair with a grin that I’d never seen.

“Don’t scare me like that!” he said with a relieved laugh.

“Don’t scare you like that? I thought I was done!” I tried to sit forward, and he took my hand to help keep me steady. As he did the thuds of many feet filled my ears and I heard pebbles being kicked around. Markus’s attention turned toward the tunnel as he scowled, and I tried to stand only to fall down. My wounds may have healed, but somewhere between them and the healing I got a nasty case of vertigo that left me a bit weak and nauseous. He looked down quickly, shaking his head before standing in front me as though he planned to protect me.

“Those must be her guards,” he said.

“Why don’t they just give up and let us leave!?”

Markus pulled his switchblade from his pocket and with a slight movement of his thumb the sharp blade sprung to life. That was all we had left besides ourselves. It wouldn’t end well. I couldn’t stand needless to say throw a punch, and he half drained himself feeding me his blood to save my life. Most wouldn’t have noticed how it affected him. The slight stagger, the slight unease in his stance, and the tiredness in his eyes were subtle things, but undeniable. We couldn’t fight, but we sure as hell would try.

But as the footsteps grew closer they grew softer and less numerous.We may have had a bit more of a fighting chance than I thought. I sat forward, cracking my knuckles, and told myself that shit would be just fine. I didn’t believe it, but I tried. The long shadows of the case drew towards us turning into approaching figures. They stopped in the shadows, whispering far too quiet for me to hear. One tall figure stepped forward, motioning for the others to remain still. The light was just enough that I could see his eyes reflected a dull glow almost like a panthers or a cat at night. He stepped forward again and Markus raised his knife to attack

“Show yourself!”

“It is I.”

That voice must have been familiar, and I had a small guess as to who it was when Markus lowered his hands. The figures drew forward again and the leader instantly reminded me of the man I saw in the portrait hung in Malika’s private office. She, Desaad, Markus, and their Sire. The older man with the silver hair dressed in the latest fashions of 1879. That man whose eyes told of tremendous horrors and wisdom I’d love to pull apart stood there, tall and smiling at us. His trousers were more than bloody, his undershirt torn in several places, and his shoes were as scuffed and dirty as his skin. How long had this man been a prisoner? Still he looked remarkably aged and remarkably as powerful as he looked in that portrait.

“Master…I thought you were-”

“Malika’s goons? Yes, I figured. I’m glad you escaped with your life.” He looked down at me and gave an almost grandfatherly smile. It made me like him a bit more than I probably should have. “And I am glad you escaped with your friend as well. I know how terribly attached you can get.”

“Don’t speak of my relationships like they’re child’s toys or my friends and…her as though they were pets.”

“Ha we’re all someone’s pet something.” The man laughed, nodding his head as he tucked his hands behind his back. He glanced towards a bronze skinned handsome gentlemen that had moved close behind him. “So she is the stranger?”

“What?” Markus said.

I looked up at Markus and nodded.

“That was an old name for what some called…what I am.” It didn’t shock me that their Sire already knew what I was…what I could do. Things like that were juicy if not important details when it came to this strange situation. The elder vampire was kidnapped, tortured, used to take every ounce of rage he inspired in his once treasured adoptive daughter, Malika. He probably asked for an update before he’d even been unchained.

“So you are one of The Empty?”

“Yes, and may I say it is a pleasure to finally meet you, sir.” I had always been taught to respect my elders. Didn’t see why I should stop there. I rose to my feet slowly, doing my best to shake off the vertigo lingering in my mind.

“Ah!” He beamed as though thoroughly pleased with this development. “It is so rare to find a young person with good proper manners! It is nice to meet you as well. However, I wish it were under normal circumstances…and that I must not give such bad news.”

“News?” Markus said. He looked as though something sour had fallen into his mouth, and his brow furrowed.

“You are, so long as you remain with this girl and unaffiliated with any known coven you are hereby banned from doing any significant business with those under my protection.”

The nerve of this man! After all we did to save his triphlin’ ass the first thing he spits out was that garbage. Exiled? “Banned”? For me? Markus never got too into details about how much influence his Sire wielded, but from what she recalled from their interviews the man had considerable power among those who made being an immortal creature in the world of Social Security Numbers, open public records, and google a hell of a lot easier. He protected many, and plenty who Markus on occasion admitted he called friends. They were loyal, or tried to be…and more than that something told me that the man could be far more fierce than he initially seemed. Hell what Malika told me…the murders, the burning, the tortures…all pointed to him being far more cruel than he appeared.

I had to ask. I needed to know. “Why? Because of me-”

“Oh no. Trust me you are not that important though you are most curious,” Their Sire ignored my scowl and just kept going. Yeah, I liked him a bit too soon. “It is you in conjunction with the fact that he has no allegiance. Not to me. Malika shows I can’t trust that now.”

“That is paranoia at its finest,” I said.

“Do you know who you’re speaking to, girl?” The bronze vampire growled, but their Sire just raised a hand to signal him to back down. The handsome asshole did as told, adjusting his coat and looking away.

“What do you mean by significant?” Markus asked. Not a hint of shock or malice hung on his voice. Did he expect that to happen? He remained as still as stone, unmoved by everything, and meanwhile everything he and I did got thrown out the goddamn window. Moments ago I was bleeding out and preparing to meet my maker, and now this? Vampire crap. No. Human crap enhanced like vampirism enhanced everything else.I crossed my arms wishing Markus would just say something, protest, but he said nothing else.

“Well…it is whatever I decide, yeah?” The man laughed and Markus just bobbed his head a slow smirk came on his lips that said he had expected this somewhere in the back of his mind. “We will gladly assist you for the remainder of the week before you leave”

“We need a change of clothes. One or two meals, and then a nice plane ride back home. I’m done with all this.” Markus sighed, looking around the caves slowly. “I’m done with Istanbul…Desaad and Malika loved it here, but…well it is appropriate they are here now.”

“They always deserved each other. He was too afraid to return and she was too afraid to leave. They were rather pathetic really.”

A silence far colder than the caves around us settled over me. Once upon a time Malika called him her father and far more recent than that…Desaad fought tooth and nail to rescue him. Within the grey storm of that man’s eyes none of that mattered. Worse, I sensed he appreciated it all very deeply. He respected their choices, their loyalty, and enjoyed their service whole heartedly. Something about how he said their names told me that much, but none of that changed how he felt or affected him in the slightest. Maybe the elder vampire needed to act that heartless in order to cope, but all I heard was sincere feeling. In his ancient eyes, in the eyes of their creator, they were truly pathetic in ways I could not understand. It made me feel sick again as though a stranger tied a knot in my stomach.

From the corner of my eye I saw Markus ball his hand into a tight fist. “We will leave the day after tomorrow.” His voice did not waver or shift. Not a single note of anger clung to it. “Banished…yes, I can make that work.” He sounded almost hopeful in some twisted way. That made a light bulb go off in my head. Malika did horrendous things in the name of putting the past behind her. But Markus? No, he did a good and loyal thing…and the result ended up the same way. Banned from those who most reminded him of his past. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and I could see the gear turning away in his mind.

“Well, shall we go?” The elder vampire cheerfully asked.

We followed those seven vampires out along the hillside and down the cliffs to their cars. Markus held my hand for the whole way, but besides asking me how I felt he remained lost in the web of his mind. As we sat in a jet black SUV behind two vampires who preferred not to acknowledge us at all a gruesome thought crossed my mind. What if…Markus had some how foresaw all of this in the beginning? What if this was his ultimate plan? What if he had learned far more from his Sire than Desaad or Malika, or even the vampires that followed the man now? How would I know? The answer did not exist as I knew it. It troubled me and followed me through that whole long drive. As much as it did I could not bring myself to truly justify how much it mattered. I could only say…there was far more to learn from my das vampyre…and I hope banishment treated him far better than his Sire.

 

 

*This is based on my vampire action+romance series that has yet to be titled starring Serene and Markus.

Just Write

If you do not write now when will you?

Relax, meditate, and take a breath
Write words that come to your mind.
Write lines that pop into your head.
Don’t worry about spelling or perfection.
Just start writing and don’t stop for five minutes.
Even if you just have random words on the page don’t stop.

30 Minute Writing Prompt #1

Here’s the deal I’m going to give you a word, a line, and situation. Pick one, two or all of them get to writing for thirty minutes straight. You can write different stories, poetry, free verse, raps, ads, whatever, just write for 30 minutes. If you accept this mission then you either in the comments or on your own pages will post your own stories. This is a fun game and a great way to get everyone writing. Make sure to tag me in them so I can read them. This isn’t just for erotica or romance either. This is for every writer under the sun. Feel free to deconstruct these prompts anyway you like, but please give credit to me in terms of lines.

Word: Ginger
Line: “If you had only listened to me I could have saved us the trouble.”
Situation: Your trying to explain sexuality to someone who is inherently asexual…because someone has propositioned them for sex for the very first time. Maybe the person always thought sexuality was a joke people made up. Maybe they just realized one day that they never really felt how other people seemed to. Maybe they understand it perfectly but want to know how it is for you. This is entirely up to you. I ask you to be respectful, go outside your comfort zone, and for my asexual followers to see this not as a gimmick. I’m not using it as a gimmick. This happened fairly recently in my life. No details needed. Just know that.

Have fun kiddos!
#asexuality #writelife, #writing #prompts

Beating Back the Tide: Or my summer poetry.

Beating back the tide.
A child with wet open palms laughs.
Another quietly hums her way through playing architect in the sand.
And I am here,
Wet and warm and open like a half healed wound.
I shall never be closed again.
The humor is lost on me,
But I am here.

Beating back the tide.
Someone somewhere asks if I’ve had enough.
“Child with dark skin and kinky hair.
When will you stop being angry?”
When you stop saying my passion,
Is anger.
The humor is not lost on me.
But I am here.
Alive.

Beating back the tide.
Someone somewhere asks if I’ve ever tried harder.
The onslaught of rejections is smaller than,
The mountain of passive hurtful silence.
Words on a page run like old coffee down a drain,
Staining the sink in heart shapes,
in teddy bears and barbie dolls,
in blood splatter and sweat stains.
More art there, I wonder, then inside.
The humor is just irony.
But I am here.
I hope I am alive.

Beating back the tide.
My tight neatly trimmed lines blur into,
Uneven screams of terror that are quickly dismissed as,
Selfishness for wanting and pleading to not be as poor as,
Those who came before with their beauty and their lessons drilled into,
My head, disrupting old familiar patterns on quilted brain,
Synapses digging into tangled thread caverns,
Empty prayers to gods no one else believes in,
about a god everyone believes in.
A tricky silence.
Quiet sobs.
Am I?

Beating back the tide.
He quietly laughs plopping in sharp cheeses.
Ooey gooey garlic blends with favorite butters and love.
Carefree dog sits on the sofa, staring out at things only he notices.
The squirrels run away even if he doesn’t bark.
I like that about him, & whisper “good dog”.
Hands get tangled in clothes and hair.
Lines get trimmed with kisses.
A moment of forgetfulness.
A moment of peace.
I am here.

Today’s Speed Story

Speed Stories are unedited, not proofread, quick pieces of fiction by me that may or may not be unprompted. Leave a comment if you do want to suggest a prompt or subject.

What did I listen to as I wrote this?

Meat is Murder (album) by The Smiths.

Prompt: Fire

Genre: Horror

Thick black smoke clouded Shari’s lungs as she moved through the pitch black of her bedroom. Her mind was still dazed by sleep and she coughed out a yelp as she slammed her foot against the corner of her dresser drawer hard enough that she felt like she rattled the bone. She began to utter a curse, but the lungs wrapped their way into her throat forcing her into a fit of coughs. This wasn’t good. No. She bent down like the hobbled over old women and men she saw making their way through the local mall on weekday mornings. The lower she was the farther the smoke would be. Didn’t Smokey the Bear always say smoke rose? Maybe that was just something she heard. She didn’t know. She reached for her door knob and as she wrapped her hand around it she let out a small gasp. The metal didn’t burn, but it was already getting hot. Her time was running out, so without anymore hesitation she swung open the door dashing into the hallway.

Pillars to yellow and orange flame sparked towards from down the hall to the back staircase. It almost looked like some sort of abstract painting against the black clouds Not like Pollock, but like something she probably thought about buying at the county fair. It was such an odd thought, but it just popped in her head and for a moment she wanted to laugh until a great and powerful dread weighed her shoulders down. Her tiny little house, proudly bought after ten years of saving, was going up in smoke. Was it electrical from all the work that pissy contractor did? Did she forget to blow out a candle on the kitchen table? Either way something had gone terribly wrong. She pulled her nightgown neck over her mouth, and began to turn towards the main staircase. There in the corner of her eye amidst the flames she saw a strange and imposing black shadow. She whipped her head around but there was only the smoke, which seemed to be smothering all the air on the second floor. There was no time to do anything. It was a trick of the light. She quickly began speed walking towards the stairs.

‘Goddamn long ass hallway’ she thought, picking up her pace to a run. As she jogged past her guest bedroom a light splash hit her ears and her feet felt wet. Confused she shot a look towards the wood floor. Somehow she stepped wrong and the floor went out from under her. With a resounding and thud her body smacked the floor. Her chin rattled up against her teeth, her sinuses tingled angrily, her knees and stomach throbbed as her breasts ached. With a grunt she scrambled towards her knees. It was then a sickeningly sour chemical smell permeated her nose, making her briefly wish for the smoke. She looked down at herself and across her night gown was covered in some strange liquid. She pulled the night gown down from her face, taking a quick strong wiff of the stuff. ‘Gasoline? Oh god!’. With disgust and fright she scrambled to pull her night gown from her body as the heat of the fire drew ever closer. She tossed the gown to the ground as though it took every ounce of gas with it, but far too much stuck to her bare legs for her to truly be safe from going up in flames like a piece of wood. Everything in her turned to terror and she jumped to her feet. She looked down the hallway and saw long dotted lines and random splashes of glistening wet peppered her floor like some some dog had pissed on every surface in some bizarre act of dominance. This certainly wasn’t home anymore, and who would do such a thing.

A loud roar of something giving way followed by loud unending fire crackling reminded her to stop thinking and go. Her whole body was shaking, but she began to cling to the left wall avoiding the trails of gasoline that hadn’t yet sparked. As she neared the stairs she threw herself against the other wall. She descended, clinging to the railing with shaking hand as though it were her only life line.She looked at the stairs and saw more glistening splashes. It was everywhere from the portraits on the walls down to the stair’s brand new beige carpeting. Someone knew what they were doing. What had she done? Who had she offended? She glanced back towards the quickly approaching fire, and adrenaline pumped through her veins. With loud, but careful, thumps Shari jogged down the stairs. What could she do? Her mind ran through everything as she got further from the heaviest smoke down to the middle landing of the stairs. ‘My phones off by the door. My keys. My wallet. My jacket-‘

Once more in the barest corner of her eye she saw that same figure looming in the kitchen hallway where the dry heat seemed to thickest. The figure appeared as though wearing a long, thick coat like she’d seen construction workers, police, or even firemen wearing. She whipped her head around, but all only grey and black smoke illuminated by yellow dancing flames was there. She was paranoid and running on adrenaline. She ran her fingers through her hair and then kept going forward towards the foyer. She grabbed a long raincoat from her rack and hastily threw it on. What would people think if they saw a naked woman on the front lawn regardless? She shoved the keys from the silver trey on the table by the door into her pocket along with her wallet, and then turned to grab her phone. As she picked it up and began to reach for the door handle, hearing the laps of flame approaching  a sudden realization occurred to her. Why the hell wasn’t her fire alarm going off?  From where she stood she peaked into her living room where her fire alarm remained silent. The light was lit. It looked exactly like it had since it was installed four months ago. She had another alarm just like it upstairs and yet there was not a single alarm. Having to pee woke her up not any odd sounds. She’d heard nothing and no one the whole night despite being a notoriously light sleeper.

It simply was not possible, but there she was, losing her house without any warning. It really could happen to anyone. With a heavy heart thumping like a drum she looked around one last time then ducked out of her house like she truly had caught fire.

Outside in the chill of the night she saw her neighbors had gathered on the road in front of her lawn. Some stood on porches with faces aghast with horror with phones pressed to their ears. Some didn’t even notice her exit, but a few ran towards her with faces full of worry. It was then the weight of it all truly descended. Faces came and went, questions were asked and answered. Blue and red sirens lit up the street, but they barely registered in her mind. She thought she did everything right. She thought she had lived a good life and done right by as many people as could. She said as much to the fire fighters and the police officer who first arrived.

“Well ma’am sometimes bad things happen to good people…I know we always say that and it’s more than little shitty.” He put a firm hand on her shoulder, but what happened in the next hour became a blur. Television cameras showed up. More police. More fire fighters. Questions became interrogations. Her lawn became a cold interrogation room even yards from a blazing inferno. Did she have insurance? What did she mean by she smelled gasoline? Did anyone see any strange cars? “No” was her neighbors consensus. Well did anyone have a grudge against you? “No” was her conclusion “at least not one to kill over”. Shari hid nothing. Shari felt nothing and yet this felt like something she’d never experienced. If she had her head on straight then she would have hated how much it showed on her face. The EMT said it was a case of intense shock. That sounded about right. Who was she to argue and why would she. After a while all she could do was watch in vein as firefighters pointlessly aimed their impotent hoses at her home. By then the roof caught light and the smoke rose high enough to block out the stars in the horizon. It was then she heard a shrill male voice shout “SOMEONE’S STILL INSIDE!”

Collectively everyone followed her neighbor’s point to a window in what would have been Shari’s bedroom. Her heart jumped into her throat and the adrenaline in her veins slowed into some strange frightening calm, as her lips fell open. There against the glass stood that same black  bulky figure and then, with almost methodical slowness her curtains fell obscuring the figure. Within seconds the curtains were ash and the figure was no where in sight.

“Do you live with anyone!?” A firefighter barked. A dozen faces watched her, but Shari shook her head “Was anyone staying with you?” He repeated.

“Not a soul.” Shari said, but her face must have said it all because before she even finished the police and firefighers had turned around and a disquiet fell over the entire scene. Even as those brave men and women fought on that feeling seemed to eclipse them. Even as sympathetic neighbors laid hands on Shari’s shoulders, and offered her a place to stay for the night they gradually would look over their shoulder, just out of the corner of their eye, as though something unnatural lurked there.

She lived alone. Everyone confirmed it. She lived alone and didn’t usually have guests after midnight. Besides Miss Crawford and her grandsons were on their porch drinking across the street late that night, and they saw nothing until they looked out to see why so much light was pouring in their windows. No, to Shari none of this made a damn bit of sense.

After 15 minutes that first officer insisted she go in the ambulance where an EMT carefully began wiping gasoline from sore bruises and scrapes on her legs and arms.

“Did you breathe in a lot of smoke?” The EMT, Gladis according to her uniform asked.

“A fair bit, but I’m fine.” She didn’t mention the fact that she was more horse than normal.

Gladis nodded, but the look in her eye told Shari that the older woman didn’t believe her. “I’m gonna listen to your heart and lungs, James take her vitals. Is it ok if we take the jacket off.”

“Yeah I guess.”  The moments passed in fast forward again after pulling off her coat.

Her home, her favorite books, her paintings, that photo of her grandfather in his WWII uniform, and even that fancy cheese she was excited to try were all consumed by something beyond her control, by primal destructive energy. Shari liked fire. She liked the smell of burning wood and clean smoke. She liked the warmth of fire on a cold winter’s night. She loved the way it danced on the tips of candle wicks. Even the sound was nice, pleasant, familiar. It reminded her of jack lanterns and Christmas, and spas. Fire betrayed her, and she always knew it could, but to see it and feel it? To know someone somewhere used it against her, violated her home with fire felt…mortifying.

It was then Shari burst into loud heaving sobs that turned into almost wretch-causing coughs due to the smoke still lingering in her lungs. She held onto her knees, and Gladis simply put her hand over Shari’s as James put a hand on her shoulder. There was nothing they could do. Everything she worked for was gone and she couldn’t explain why. And Shari did not really stop crying until hours later.

When the EMT’s mentioned this to the police, mentioned how every few minutes she went from shocked to raw heartbreaking tears, they decided it may not be best to tell her that when the last flames had finally been put out the wall of her charred ruined kitchen had one thing they could not explain. There on the beige wall was one large  grey shadow with burn trails sprawling outward like great reaching arms that grasped and explored. Almost ,vaguely, the gas and shadow reminded the officers and fire fighters of a human octopus. It was best Shari did not know, they reasoned, when she had already lost so much.