Pumpkin Pie

by Angela Kempe

“That looks good!”

“It’s gluten free!”

“I won’t eat it!” Savanah said.

“Come on! I spent hours baking. You have to try!”

Savanah’s mother placed the pie on the table and walked away. Savanah stared at it. It smelled ordinary enough and had an ordinary color. Placed on a fancy white plate at the center of the table between a poinsettia and two white candles. Savanah rest her head on her palms as Grandpa walked by.

“You have to wait,” he smiled.

“I don’t want it!” Savanah sulked.

But Grandpa was already gone.

Just then, the pie wiggled.

“Mommy!” Savanah yelled, staring suspiciously.

There were too many people for her voice to be heard. She got on her tippy toes and leaned towards the pie. Tiny bubbles were forming on the smooth orange surface. Then, the center cracked and split down the middle. Savanah cowered behind the table, but gathered up her courage, leaned in closer and stared unflinchingly as a line of tiny bugs crawled out.

They formed a line like black ants across the table. Crawled all the way up to an inch away from her chin. Savanah squinted hard at the creatures. They looked like tiny men and were trying to say something to her, but she couldn’t understand.

“You better not get into that pie!” said her mother.

“Mommy! Mommy! There’s something in the pie! Aliens! Mommy, Look!”

Her mother laughed. Took up her knife in her hand and pushed passed Savanah.

“Oh, Savvy! Such a wild imagination!”

Savanah searched the table, but the creatures were gone. The pie was smooth as if just out of the oven. Savanah’s eyes were wide as her mother cut through the middle of the pie, cut out a large piece, and put it on a plate.

“Sure you don’t want a piece?”

Savanah cringed.

“No, thank you, Mama.”

“Suit yourself,” she said, and gave it to Grandpa.

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The Fading World

by Angela Kempe

Veronica was born different and she was three when she realized it. There was something different as her mother held her up to the mirror.
“Mama, gone!” she said.
“Yes, V, and Mommy comes back again.”
“Peek-a-boo?”
“Peek-a-boo.”

And so, she walked through life. All of her friends fading in and out. Grandpa and Grandma never came back and Mother called it “dead.” Sometimes her friends disappeared for months or even years. Then, after years something else had also faded that she couldn’t quite place. She could barely recognize the edges of their face. Conversations seemed distant. Strained. She’d wait for them to return, but they wouldn’t. So, V made new friends. Each time with the same result.
Mother was always there. Each time her face emerged, like joy born from a thick fog, V rushed in to embrace her.
“Your face has changed, Mother,” she said, feeling her soft worn cheeks.
“And so has yours,” she smiled.

As V sat in her rocking chair, she looked out at her faded world.
Why must I be here if everything fades?
No matter how many years had passed, and she counted ninety-two. She still remained constant in this fading world. And each time a loved one went, her heart felt broken and her eyes wet, but still she remained. Even as her hair turned gray and her skin wrinkled.
V watched a horse from her porch in the pasture weave in and out of existence. She tried to remember its details when it was gone before it formed again minutes later. She rested her head against the rickety chair and enjoyed the brilliant colors of the sunset as it faded away, too.
I’m glad I enjoyed it, she thought, closing her eyes. While it was here.

Danika

by Angela Kempe

Marlene felt her skin stretch and pain shoot through her stomach into her groin. She shut her eyes and forced another breath before bearing down hard. The distinct feeling of her skin tearing sent her into a panic.

“My skin is tearing! My skin is tearing!”

“Breathe!”

A sudden fog surrounded her. Was it the pain or the lack of oxygen? She wasn’t sure, but she new there was only one way to end this misery.

“Give her oxygen.”

A nurse placed a plastic mask over her face. She struggled to open her eyes. Struggled to sip one last breath before fainting.

“Don’t faint. Breathe, Marlene!”

Feeling someone squeeze her hand, she screamed a horrific cry. A strange hard thing crowned. She imagined its head at the edge of light and could not hear her own voice filling the room any longer. There was only time, paused like a dream. She could see her connection with it like a band of light as it slipped from her body. And all was over.

When Marlene came to, the doctor brought her baby close to her face. She could smell the blood on it. Smell its innocence. She reached to take off her oxygen mask and give the young flesh its first kiss.

Smiling, she touched the fat little arms and kissed her.

“Danika,” she announced.

The doctor repeated, “Danika,” to the nurse who recorded the name as Danika Lee. Then the doctor carried the baby to a large machine and nestled the child tightly in its grasp. Strapped the little arms and legs. Brought down the lid over the baby. Marlene had fought against tears, but her baby’s cries were too much.

Marlene felt her first pang of maternal instinct. She told herself this was necessary as she listened to the shrill sound of a saw blade spinning. Her baby stopped crying. Marlene closed her eyes. This pain was even more intense than the first.

“Body is severed.”

Marlene felt a numbness come over her as she realized it was too late to stop. She waited for an answer and the seconds moved like years. It was too much for her to take, so she struggled herself up from the bed, fighting against the nurses and her husband, and stumbled across the room. The staff held her back as she stood before the machine that held her baby prisoner, tears rolling down her eyes as she waited.

“It’s okay,” her husband said, placing a gentle hand over her arm.

She discovered a new hatred for him. The wait seemed like hours. It was only seconds.

“Spinal connection is successful!” the tech said.

Slowly, the lid opened and there was her baby sleeping soundly.

“Now Danika will lead a healthy life,” the doctor smiled.

Marlene reached into the incubator. The fat little arms were gone. She touched the soft new artificial limbs. It felt similar to the original but lacked of something. Realizing Marlene’s own fingers were in fact not original, she found a new bond between mother and child. Something she would now be able to enjoy for several hundred years.

Under the Bed

by Angela Kempe

David climbed out of bed and swung his door wide open, standing defiantly in the bright light of the hall in his cotton Pokemon pjs.

“Go back to bed!” his mother shouted from the living room.

David was sure his mommy had a superhero ability to see through walls. He turned apprehensively toward his room. His duvet was jumbled into a mess at the foot of the bed and the folds were casting menacing shadows resembling long monster faces. David had stuffed his dirty clothes and some toys under the bed in a mad rush to watch TV and some of their colors and edges were poking out of the darkness in unsettling shapes. It was hard to make out what they were, but he knew not to be afraid. So, he watched the shapes closely as he inched himself back into the dark.

Standing at his mattress, his thoughts drifted momentarily to drawing pictures on the floor, when suddenly he felt something grab at his foot. David screamed, falling back in horror.

“Mommy! Mommy!” he said, running to the living room.

Tears streamed down his red face.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”

She wiped the wet hair away from his sweaty brow.

“There’s a monster under my bed!”

At that, she laughed and squeezed him tight.

“Don’t worry, baby! There’s no such thing as monsters.”

She picked his small body up and he tangled his arms around her neck as they walked back to his room. Then, she lay him in his bed and pulled the covers up snug to his neck.

“See,” she said, gazing into his glassy eyes. “Everything is safe.”

David wanted to tell her otherwise, but was lulled by the full tones of her voice and the soft touch of her fingers combing through his hair. He let her walk out the door, but not a minute later, remembered he was alone again in the dark. So, he shook away his sleepiness and kicked off the covers, sitting cross-legged on his mattress.

David peered over the edge of the bed. Everything was eerie quiet. A gentle moonlight cast a dim light across the room, but the floor lay in deep shadows. The space under his bed was hard to see from above. So, David jumped off and got down on his hands and knees, peering into the dark. He could see his ball and the edge of a dirty shirt. Maybe the monster was hiding. He pressed his cheek against the cold hard wood. He choked down his fear and stretched his hand under the bed.

When David could see through to the other side, he began feeling a little more at ease. Then, suddenly the ground shook. David screamed and pressed his body against the floor. He tried to grip as it shook, but he couldn’t get his small hands to stop himself and hit his back against the steel bed frame.

When the house stopped shaking, David began to sob. But, just as he was about to run to his mother, he was stopped by a strange movement above the mattress. He held his breath and squeezed his eyes shut. He listened to the door swing open once again. He listened to his heart pounding in his ears and held his breath until he felt faint. Then, he listened to the steps coming towards him.

David fought with himself until he decided to look. Decide that he was still alive. He opened his eyes and began to analyze the strange white toes, small and delicate, wiggling before him. Curious, he reached out to touch the small feet, brushing his hand across cotton Pokemon pajama bottoms.

The Dead Book

by Angela Kempe

The first time I foresaw someone’s death was in 30022. It was my Grandpa Bennett’s death and I didn’t know the exact date, but knew when. I foresaw the exact celestial events that aligned themselves. I saw my life and his life and their lives converging like an intersection on a brick road out in the vast plains of Talunda. And when our lives came together, I knew he’d soon depart.

When I got word from my family he was gone, I recalled my premonition, and its curse etched death into my skin like thick black ink. There was a sense of relief it had finally come to pass. And as my family mourned, I found myself a little more at ease. I read at his funeral. I tossed the golden wheat into the fire that spewed up his remains into a billowing cloud of smoke. And life continued.

The next time someone died in my immediate circle, I was a little better at knowing. I bought a leather bound book and wrote his name at the top of its blank page. Then waited for time to pass. Waiting is the hardest part. Sometimes I think it’s a curse to know. But when I got the call he had suddenly died in a crash with his new Mazura 500, I have to say I felt a little relieved. I wrote the date of his death next to his name and consoled my suffering friends.

Thirteen names were written in the pages of the Dead Book over the years and thirteen dates of their unfortunate deaths were penned solemnly beside them. Over the years, I faced each event more confidently as fate unfolded itself inevitably and assuredly. And so it went like this and many years passed. And my talent focused to a small point, so even as I walked through life, I could see death written on each stranger as easily as the color of their skin. Until I was not more than seventy-eight and looking back on the pages of my book. Pages filled with loved ones. Only one name to be written that never was. A name I dreaded but knew must one day be; my own.

I enclosed myself in the holy prayer room and lit a candle for each loved one I had lost. I focused my heart on the great energy that flowed through my body and asked if it could really be true. Then in the flickering light it became clear. Like a loud voice shouting in my ears. Like a feeling of knowing as sure as my existence. The voice said, “You have always had the power to wield death, Salina. Now in your hands is your own. It is only for you to believe and it will be done.”

The Dream

by Angela Kempe

When the dream came into existence. When it sprouted from the mind like a sprawling vine, unwinding from one small seed, one thought. No longer the whimsical fantasy placed in a secret place. Like on a dusty shelf, left to fade away as life envelopes us with its pertinence. When those furtive thoughts weaved themselves from the silky strands of emptiness floating in dimensions beyond harm’s reach. When they wound together, binding and glinting with consciousness. When they drew that first breath and stretched and flexed and became strong. The dream became real to him, settled in the pit of his stomach like a heavy brick, and he unwrapped his hands from her flaccid throat.

Kites

by Angela Kempe

Some loves are lost,

 Like kites in the wind.

You see colors fading,

And know it will end.

 

You pull the string tighter,

 But still it unwinds.

You try to hold on,

But the wind is unkind.

 

The kite bends,

And tail streamers swirl.

It circles around,

In a perilous twirl.

 

You hold the line tight,

Yet it comes to its end,

The kite becomes heavy,

And starts to descend.

 

So you let it loose.

Letting go felt so natural.

It was what the wind wanted.

The idea seemed admirable.

 

The kite tumbles downhill,

Slamming against dirt and grass,

Cracking at the spine.

You run to it,

Your hair trailing behind.

 

Is it still beautiful?

Will it fly?

Can it ever be what once was?

 

When you find it,

The kite is mangled.

Love is lost,

 Broken,

Pieces that fit poorly in the trash.

 

So you call it a friendship,

And refrain from all that was.

Passion, color, beauty, love.

All the things that come with that simple memory

of flight.