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Marigold Tea House

Marigold took a deep, steadying breath, closed her eyes, and pictured Comfort. She held the image of being at ease and soothed in her mind: wrapped in warm blankets on cold winter nights, settling into the soft curves of a caring lover amidst the steady sound of rain pattering on the window pane, watching fireflies from her porch in evening twilight while cicadas sang, the smell of freshly poured tea mixing with old spices and herbs in her mother’s kitchen and workshop. Some memories were much, much older than others, but they were still fresh in her mind even all these decades later.

Opening her eyes, Marigold observed her tea bags, prepared and almost ready to be set out for sale. Inside the handcrafted bags she’d mixed Chamomile and Skullcap herbs, spiced with her own blend of seasonings and marketed as a heavy duty stress reliever. Now Marigold set to adding the final and most secret ingredient. Memories held firmly in her mind, she took a small pen loaded with a dark, non-toxic ink. With a steady and practiced hand, Marigold drew the sigil for Communication on each bag. With her memories clear and present at the forefront of her mind while she wrote, the message was clear. A small taste of power glowed from the sygills, shining in the early morning light for a glorious moment before fading into the background hum of everyday magic.

Marigold placed the pen back in its carefully crafted and well-loved case on her kitchen table and allowed herself a moment to lean back in her chair and regather herself.

“A simple spell like that wearing me out…” she said to herself. “Aging is certainly no task for the weak.” Marigold smiled.

The peace of early morning reflection was nudged away by the soft and quietly insistent chime of Marigold’s smartphone. Glancing over to the counter where her phone charged overnight, Marigold caught sight of the time on her hanging wall clock. It was a well-crafted wooden piece, a gift from an old friend. The handsome face informed her eyes what the phone had informed her ears; it was half past seven and time to open her store front.

Marigold stood and gathered her things from the small wooden table. The kitchen around her was still, lit a warm yellow by sunlight peeking in through the eastern facing window. A brass tea kettle sat cooling on the stovetop from her breakfast cup, shining bright against the dull practicality of the old stove. Her sink was much more modern, shiny and chrome from when Marigold had been forced to replace the original the space had been built with. A vital pipe had finally rusted beyond the point of no return.

Her Council had been baffled by her choice to replace it the old fashioned way, she remembered. ‘Marigold, a simple sygill for Remembering and the pipe will be good as new! Why bother with hiring a plumber and tearing out the whole sink?’ Marigold remembered what she’d placated them with – something about the landlord knowing the pipe had been troubling her and the problem suddenly vanishing would have cast eyes where they shouldn’t be, easily understood and entirely logical caution for the sake of cover.

teapot
“A brass tea kettle sat cooling on the stovetop from her breakfast cup, shining bright against the dull practicality of the old stove.” Photo from: www.thetearoom.typepad.com

Marigold’s actual reason was significantly more complicated and close to her heart. If she’d been forced to put into words, Marigold might describe it as the same reason she had purchased a smartphone and tried to keep on top of how it worked. A desire to have common ground, perhaps.

But that was entirely too melancholy a train of thought for such a fine, bright morning. Placing the box of tea carefully under one arm and her phone in her apron pocket, Marigold left her kitchen and walked through the tight, light green hallway of the flat. Past her tiny bedroom and the cozy sitting room were the steep stairs to her shop below, which Marigold descended with practiced ease even at her age. Once at the bottom, Marigold reached up with her right hand and felt for the sygill precisely carved into the doorframe. The feeling of Protection and Alarm at the Ready still rang in her mind as strong as ever. No ne’er-do-well was getting in without Marigold’s knowledge and swift retribution.

Marigold opened the door. Her shop greeted her nose first, tea leaves and herbs from the world over mixing into an intoxicating aroma entirely unique to her space. Marigold Tea House was the official name, though most of her customers couldn’t help tacking a possessive ‘s’ onto it. Marigold’s Tea House really wasn’t that different at the end of the day, so she rarely bothered correcting it. She smiled as her eyes swept over the space, cleaned and prepped for facing another day of thirsty customers.

Unfortunately, Marigold’s gaze caught onto her most hated enemy. How she despised it, how she loathed it, how even the look of the thing threatened to sour her mood. It crouched on her countertop like a giant cockroach. Marigold frowned at the offending black menace while laying out the basket of tea bags.

“Now,” she calmly said to the pest. “Are you going to be cooperative this morning, or are we going to have issues?”

The cash register said nothing. Marigold wasn’t expecting it to; it was only a cash register. She calmly and steadily marched to her spot behind the counter and confidently keyed in the sequence for opening the store. The register paused for a moment, thinking over Marigold’s simple request as though it was a monumental task.

Beep Beep! The register chirped. Marigold sighed through her nose and looked at the display with a slow curl of dread.

Err//Op Not Valid

“Ah. This again. I admit it has been a long while since your opening volley has been the literal opening.” Marigold keyed in the sequence again, more slowly this time and carefully ensuring that each button press was inputted correctly.

Err//Op Not Valid

“What pray tell is not valid about the sequence that has opened your drawer for customers every single day for the past 35 years?!” Marigold tried again, more forcefully that necessary.

Err//Op Not Valid

“Technical support isn’t taking my morning calls anymore, you beast. I am going to enter this code one final time, and if you do not cooperate I swear on all the sygils known and not that I will end you. Most likely with a baseball bat.”

The register mulled things over for a while, and though Marigold knew it could not have actually heard or understood anything she said, it was very satisfying to see it finally accept her code. The cash drawer popped open with a merry ching! Battle won but war far from over, Marigold quickly counted the cash and noted the sum in the books. As she removed the various piles of bills, sygils were revealed. Smooth Workings and Sensitivity and Clean were the most obvious ones, but countless attempts at enacting her will on the stubborn machine were visible if you knew how to look for them. Marigold hardly remembered what problem she had initially been trying to fix after all this time, and she had a sneaking suspicion her continued attempts were only making it worse.

“One of these days,” Marigold muttered to herself, “one of these days I will finally grow sick enough to replace you entirely, and what a fine day that will be!”

The cash register said nothing, but Marigold knew the fiend was being smug again.

 

The New Zero

*** This is a short story that will be published in this years Exit 109. The arts and literary magazine will be up for grabs at The Octopus Garden Premier on April 18 at Heth Plaza from 4:00-6:00pm! Come see us and grab your own copy to read this short story and view many other pieces! ***

Bethany clicked “Send” and her message posted to the forum. She had been sending messages back and forth with Matt for a little less than three months now. When she had first been contacted by Matt’s screen name, “USNavalstud”, she figured that he was some loser. She had him pegged as a sad, bored, married man in his early thirties who resented his family, career, and life; and, for the most, she was right. He was a frightened little man who only flirted with a sexual identity online.

He was fun to flirt with. They would chat about risque subject matters; various sexual scenarios they dreamed of, fantasies which he never dared share with his wife. One night, she snapped a photo of herself in just her bra and panties; he fell silent for a few minutes, and then asked if she wanted a picture of him in return. Playing the part of a good tease, she said that she could wait as she had to go to bed.

Bethany had not been lying on that account, she was a freshman in the local community college and she had Intro to Statistics at 8am. She knew that Matt would be practically chewing on his keyboard until he could send her a picture of what would most likely be his erect penis. He would have to wait. After Intro to Statistics, Bethany was meeting her best friend and partner in crime, Emma, for lunch and a study date. After which, she had Composition at 2pm and then US History at 4pm.

Emma gabbed at her about the new Hollywood Undead album on iTunes around mouthfuls of a flat-bread salad wrap. Bethany couldn’t help but think about Matt. She had all but figured out exactly how she would seduce, and then have, this new guy. Emma had to throw a ring of sliced onion at her to get her attention.

“You’re playing with fire,” Emma said, “Meeting guys for sex on the Internet? Are you stupid or just tired of life on this planet?”

“Whatever. They’re all alike – they think with their dicks.” Bethany waved off Emma’s chiding by pointing out that in the past two years she had become quite the man eater. It was true. From her first encounter at 16 to her recent foray into BDSM; men were but playthings to her and they all thought with their dicks.  She always came out satisfied, glutted, and repleted. Only one had ever escaped her, Jason; a 36 year old welder. Jason was an odd one. Aside from having a strange obsession about salt in his food, he had a knack for avoiding messy situations and a kind of luck that was just uncanny.

“Ever see that movie, ‘Strange Land?’” asked Emma around a half-chewed mouthful of what seemed to be chicken salad. “Where Dee Snyder plays a psycho and meets girls online and then tortures them?”

Bethany laughed. “No one is going to want to torture me when they see tits like this.” She grabbed her bosoms and squeezed for emphasis. “Besides, all of that stuff about serial killers online is urban legend.”

“So, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and New Orleans John were all legend? Try reading a book sometime.”

Before she was able to offer up any more on the subject, she was cut off loudly by Bethany. “Tits!” Not only was she squeezing her breasts, but now she had hopped up and was trying to hit Emma in the head with them. Emma did her best to glower as she almost lost the last of her salad but quickly gave in and laughed with her best friend.

He looked at the pegboard on the wall of his workshop. Refusing to become a creature of habit, he perused the selection before him. One must not grow stagnant and remain with the same instrument for too long, after all. Systematically he went over every tool which hung before him. After several long moments, he selected the three-pound sledge hammer, lifted it from its pegs on the board and placed it into a brown leather duffel bag.

Bethany had been driving for over three hours now and was beginning to merge onto I-40 W when the psychic i-Pod began playing “Still Remains” by The Stone Temple Pilots. This was her most recent “favorite” song, having discovered it about two months ago on the local classic rock radio station. She adjusted the volume slightly inside of her white Escort and began to sing along with Scott Weiland. She hoped that she and Matt would be able to make love while this song played.

Slightly annoyed that Emma had bowed out of acting as safety net and travel companion, Bethany cracked open a Red Bull with one hand and sipped tentatively. As the song ended, she grunted her disapproval in her choice of energy drinks. “This lone wolf shit is for the birds. How any guy does it is beyond me.” Emma’s alleged excuse for bailing on her this weekend was studying. More likely that Emma was jonesing for some Black Ops and the PlayStation Network was hosting a double experience point weekend.

Bethany refused to allow the lack of Emma to turn the weekend into a total wash. However, if Matt was a no show or even worse — a sissy, a troll, ten years older than his pictures suggested or some gimp – she would simply excuse herself outside of his hotel room because she forgot her bag of toys in the car. Then, she would run like hell.

Of course, once freed of the undesirable, she had a weekend to kill in Nashville. Jason had once mentioned a place called Jack’s World Famous Barbecue. With a guy like Jason, this place was most likely worth checking out. Saturday would be leisurely sightseeing.  If she was in no rush to come home early on Sunday, the Titans were hosting the Carolina Panthers.

First things first, she decided; don’t put the cart before the horse. She would first find out if she was getting laid tonight.  Then, she would have a bite to eat.

 


 

It was just slightly past 8 when she finally arrived at the hotel. The sun had fully set, and the sounds of a Nashville night were beginning to stir. Even before she set foot out of her white Escort, she had made up her mind that she loved this city.  She sent a text to Emma letting her know that she had arrived. Three minutes later, with no answer from Emma, Bethany checked her makeup in the rear view, grabbed her overnight bag and got out of the car.

After the final set of texts with Matt confirming the room number, Bethany knocked on door 214. As she watched the shadows move across the small peep hole, she immediately snapped herself into something that most would consider to be good posture. The door slowly opened, revealing a tall man with short cropped brown hair, large brown eyes, and a spattering of freckles. He was of an average build wearing a green and black rugby polo and khakis. He smiled shyly at her. If this was indeed “Matt”, then he was even more of a loser than she had imagined.

Awkward, she noticed a slight twinge in her stomach. Not butterflies or the anticipation of a new lover’s first kiss. Something different.

“Why do these guys always look better in their pictures,” she wondered to herself. “Matt?” she said, giving a beaming smile.

He smiled a little more widely. “Yeah…”

“Oh. My. God! It is so good to meet you!” She hopped up and threw her arms around his neck, kissing him on the cheek.

A whiff of the fragrance he was wearing made her frown slightly against his neck. It was light, not too overpowering, Notes of sugar, vanilla and something fruity.

She drew back and looked up at him, fluttering her eyelashes and then breathlessly whispered “Are you going to invite me in, baby?”

He blushed despite himself and smiled. It was quite genuine, and she was suddenly glad for her smoldering display. He stepped back and to the left and allowed her to come inside. As he was closing the door, he slipped the “Do Not Disturb” sign onto the outer handle.

She sat down on the edge of the bed, crossing her legs at the knees and smiled at him. He regarded her briefly and looked down at his lap in which his hands were folded. “How was your drive?”

Bethany was now beginning to lose her patience and decided to take the bull by the horns right there and then. She slipped off her sandals, and stood up, stretching as she did so.

“Well, I have been on the road for the better part of six hours…” she began as she pulled her top off over her head and dropped it on the floor. She reached behind herself, unclasping her bra and sliding it off of her shoulders and down her arms allowing her breasts to spill out. “… and I am all sorts of tense”. She walked slowly towards him and without waiting for any nod of approval, sat down in his lap and kissed him fully on the mouth. “Do you know where a girl like me can relieve some tension?”

It was not long at all before he had her tied to the bed. In fact, Bethany could have sworn that Matt broke some sort of speed record for getting a woman’s hands secured to a headboard. Her hands had been tied with nylon cord that went around the back of the headboard and hung across the bed knobs which adorned the corners. Her legs were spread eagle by means of nylon cord around her ankles which ran down and between the mattress and box springs. He had allowed her a few moments to get her panties off before he tied her in place, but aside from removing his shirt, he remained dressed. He had placed a brown leather duffel bag on the dresser and was rummaging through it, probably for toys.

Growing slightly bored, she closed her eyes and concentrated on the sultriest voice she could muster. “Come on baby, get out of those pants and show me what you have for me.” She became aware of his heavy breathing and that he must be standing near her now. She smiled, opened her eyes and looked up at him.

Over his head was a sort of sack, a pillowcase perhaps . . .  his eyes shining at her through two holes which had been encircled by black streaks of what was perhaps shoe polish. A horizontal line which must have been there to represent a mouth was several inches below the eyes. The sack was off white, dirty with sweat stains, dark smears and fingerprints of sienna, onyx, and viscera. She also became very aware of the large hammer which he held in his right hand over his head.

She had enough time to blurt out a rather surprised “Oh shit,”. Then the hammer plummeted towards her face.

 


 

He washed himself in the shower. The cold water sprayed over his body, and he felt calm. Lathering, rinsing, and repeating would have to wait until he got home. He did not want to leave them too much evidence, after all. As for the body, he would be taking it with him and disposing of it somewhere far away from this hotel.

He turned off the shower, stepped out and toweled himself dry. He began to dress and smugly looked at his reflection in the mirror. It was at that moment that he noticed something was terribly wrong. The mirror also held the bed in its reflection. The bed, with its gore-soaked pillow and stains; the nylon cords were still looped around the bed knobs and across the mattress. However, there was no girl. The girl, whose face was obliterated, smashed into nothingness, was not on the bed where he left her.

He took four deliberate, bold strides out of the bathroom and into the main room, stopping just before the foot of the bed. That was when something heavy, most likely his hammer, struck him in the back of the head.

He first became aware of the pain in his head and neck. Not only from the blow which had incapacitated him, but also in which the way he was sitting. He was tied to the bed, but in an upright position with his back against the headboard. He then became aware of the dryness in his mouth as well as the particular aroma of the gag in his mouth. Viewing himself in the mirror which was on the wall, it appeared that whoever had restrained him had used the girl’s panties to fashion a makeshift gag. His eyes then settled on the woman sitting in the chair by the door. Only the nude lower half of her body was visible in the low light of the room.

“And to top it off, you just had to cum in my eye, didn’t you?” Image from Molly Mattox.

“A gentleman would make sure that a lady was satisfied before he finished up, you know. . . .” This was the girl’s voice, but the woman in the chair could not be her. Her legs were much longer, more muscular, and had not been shaved in weeks. The hands and forearms which rested upon the arm rests were far more rugged than the girl’s, but that was her voice, soft, sweet and mocking. The person in the chair leaned forward, her breasts considerably shrunken against the muscles of her chest and two rows of nipples running down her abdomen. “And to top it off, you just had to cum in my eye, didn’t you?” The face looking at him was hamburger. “That stings worse than anything, you know.” The face, pulling itself together resembled Bethany’s, but it was flattened, hairy, and fierce. She stood up out of the chair and walked- padded- towards the bed. What should be a five-foot-one girl was now a hunched-over Amazon of nearly eight feet. “Is this what guys like you are into?” Her voice was becoming deep, raspy, and guttural; almost as if she were beginning to growl her words rather than speak them. “I mean, is hurting a little girl what it takes to make you happy?” Her ears, pointed and broad, began to poke out of the mane of hair that was completely covering her face. Her tongue lolled out of her mouth for a long moment. “You’ve really cramped my plans for the weekend.” She looked at him one more time and then her blue eyes faded to complete black. “On the plus side, though. . .” The werewolf began to salivate. ”I won’t need to call out for dinner tonight.”

Read the book before you see the movie

 

 

When a new movie comes out that’s based on a book people start to think about reading it before they see the movie. Some may actually read the book while others might forget or not have enough time in their schedule to read it before they have time to see the movie. However, there is an imperative reason why you should make a point to read that book before you watch the movie version of the story.

 

The book is better than the movie! Graphic from Galley Cat
The book is better than the movie! Graphic from Galley Cat

Movies are great, they bring to life a story that was once just a thought in someone’s head. They show detail and put faces to names and give us the director’s point of view or how he saw the story in his own mind. What about your own mind, though? Have you ever read a book and then a movie was made based off of it and you went to see the movie but were quietly disappointed with the actors or scenes?

You pictured it one way in your head while you were reading the story and you liked it that way. Now that it has been portrayed to everyone differently, it doesn’t seem like it’s right to you. This is why reading the book before the movie is important.

Sure, watching the movie is fun and if you didn’t read the book then you probably thought it was great. You got to see what the director envisioned and now that’s your vision of the story too. If you were to read the book first, you would have seen it your way and not just how the director filmed it. It’s important to create your own images and scenes about a story in your head. You will most likely enjoy it more because it’s specifically your own version of the story that no one else will understand or experience.

You will feel like you enjoyed the story more than anyone because of the way you saw it first.  Also, comparing the movie to the book is always fun and interesting too. Don’t forget about your own imagination, read the book before you see the movie.

 

Minnie Part Two

Minnie was one of the smartest girls in the school.

Minnie raising her hand. Graphic by Katie Gibson.
Minnie raising her hand. Graphic by Katie Gibson.

Those of us who paid any attention knew she was the one to ask for help. She was always the first to raise her hand and always got better test scores than everyone else in class. You could even see her intelligence in her eyes, in the way she stared at you like she was trying to figure out what to think of the person who currently had her attention.

Continue reading Minnie Part Two

Weekly Time Wasters: Cybersex and other strange things

Well guys, we’re in the home stretch. One more week to go and then the dreaded finals. I hope you’ve had as much fun watching the Time Wasters every week as I’ve had making them. This will be the last installment of the Wasters of the year and unless one of my fantastic writers picks it up in the fall, the last one ever. I’m leaving my section in the very capable hands of my second in command, Brandon Leatherland, who will also be taking the reigns of Radcentric. I wish you all best and luck on your exams–make sure you come back in the fall for more exciting articles, reviews and exclusive content that will rock your socks off. Cheers. Continue reading Weekly Time Wasters: Cybersex and other strange things

A goodbye love letter to yoga pants

Dear yoga pants,
Goodbye and thank you my dear friend. You will surely be missed. As the winter comes to an end I often fear I’ll never see you in your glory again. These past few months have made life a joy for everyone. Both men and women loved you. I’ll always remember the good times, like the time you walked by me and I stared. Or that other time you walked by me and I stared. Or that time when you walked by me and I super stared. The memories will forever replay in my mind. Continue reading A goodbye love letter to yoga pants

Journalism’s Justification

Journalism is defined as, “Writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, journalism is a collection of facts, “without an attempt at interpretation.” This means that a reporter should simply state the facts of a given situation or circumstance without assumption, opinion or any form of prejudice or partiality. Said reporter would merely read into a camera what news was written on the teleprompter, and the information written on the teleprompter would be utterly transparent.

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USA Today is one of the more reliable news sources. Photo from Creative Commons.

For those of you thinking, “Well, duh, that’s how it’s always been,” I’m going to have to stop you right there. Journalism has traveled far from its initial presentation. It’s fallen into every hole, stumbled over every rock and tumbled down countless cliffs of ethical systems and professional dignity along the way. What was once considered a noble career has turned into a 24-hour gossip engine. Continue reading Journalism’s Justification

Snowball fight

The field was buried in a white hue. One by one the soldiers, bundled in their puffy jackets and mismatched wool gloves, stared at their ammunition busily crafting more. Their faces flushed from the cold; they paid no attention to their breath as it stayed suspended in the air. Clouds covered the sun and painted our skin grey. I looked around at our army. Everyone was so young. Some of us weren’t even six yet. Others barely in the double digits. Many people will try and glorify this war, but I assure you, there is nothing more horrifying than a snowball fight. Continue reading Snowball fight

Journey to my dream

“Believe in your dreams, believe in the beauty of your dreams.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt

Cynthia Flanagan playing the Piano.

The words echoed in my mind as I accompanied the beautiful voices of the Women’s Chorale in the fall Choral Concert. “Believe in your dreams.” A chill ran down my spine as I realized that I was on the path to reaching my dream: obtaining a music degree. Here I was on stage at Covington, playing on a Steinway concert grand piano! Continue reading Journey to my dream

More like No-Vacancy

As if Radford University students don’t have enough to read with homework, studying and other assignments given to them, a new book has swept through the campus taking everyone by storm. The book has students running to the bookstore with excitement and high hopes as readers are swept off their feet by every word. Does it really live up to the hype, or does it fall short of expectation? Continue reading More like No-Vacancy