Time of the Season – Scott Russek

“Those things will kill you ya know…”

Xander looked up as he lit his cigarette. The comment came from the young brunette bartender that stood before him. She was about 5’7” with the build of a runner or swimmer. Lean but powerful. She possessed a pair of hazel eyes that seemed to thoroughly analyze everything in their line of sight. She was running a cloth over the counter to the right of him, cleaning up a small spill left by the customers that had just made their way to the door.

“Yep, and so will half the other things found daily in this world, what’s one more going hurt?” Just that day he had seen a news report stating that an additive found in many prescription drugs had been shown to cause serious health issues. “At least I know what I’m doing when it comes to smoking. It’s not going to take me out by surprise.” Xander said.

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Wake Up Call – Scott Russek

Watching the auburn leaves being ripped from the trees by the wind of the storm was destructively relaxing. The Fall thunderstorm was Mother Nature’s way of speeding up the process of the season, cooling the air and removing the leaves, bringing both to late season levels though it wasn’t even Halloween yet. An especially bright flash of lightning illuminated my bedroom, bringing my attention to the bedside clock. 1:57 am. I needed to head to bed if I wanted to get any semblance of sleep before driving to my 8 am course.

Going to college so close to home was great because I didn’t have to pay for living on campus but it sucked because, well, I was still living at home. But it wasn’t all bad.

Living at home in your childhood room brought a degree of comfort to what was otherwise an incredibly chaotic and stressful life of a 21 year old college girl. Sure, I couldn’t bring any guys back to my place but I did get to come home to my paintings and posters on the yellow walls, childhood stuffed animals on the old rocking chair in the corner, (once owned by my Great-Grandmother, now destined to be used to rock her Great-Great Grandchildren to sleep somewhere down the road) and the odd comfort of
the creak that came from the wooden floors. It wasn’t a college student’s dream but it was home.

I washed my face and changed into my old high school volleyball t-shirt (Go Tigers!) and fleece pj pants because who doesn’t love the ultimate combination of comfort and warmth? As I turned out the light there was a bang on my bedroom window loud enough to make me yelp and my beagle Ginger laying on the floor under the window, lift her head from the floor and muster a sleepy woof before succumbing to sleep once again. I wrote it off as debris being blown around from the storm, until it happened again. This time with enough force to crack the window.

Hesitantly, I approached the window. The rain poured in as I opened the window and peered my head out. On the ground below the window were two enormous ravens, both looked to have broken necks.

“Poor birds. Knock and the door shall be opened to you” I thought, laughing at my own lame joke. The impact must have knocked the window off its track because it refused to shut.

“Ugh, this is going to suck in the morning.” I shut the curtains and grabbed a couple of towels to throw on the floor.

Ginger had already retreated to the foot of my bed to get away from the rain. As I began to doze the storm took an odd turn. Outside had become completely still but the rain still fell through the open window while the curtains fluttered. The eeriness of the situation sent a chill down my spine but I ignored the feeling. Until Ginger began to growl from the foot of my bed. I told her to shut up and go back to sleep but she only got louder.

Finally, it was time to just kick her out of my room. It was just a storm, no reason to throw a fit. While making myself comfortable in bed again I noticed something in the window; a shadow. There wasn’t even time to react before it was at the foot of my bed. She was at the foot of my bed. Every flash of thunder from outside illuminated her features. She was gorgeous. She had midback length hair that was blended in with the leather jacket she was wearing. Thin with sharp, defined features on her face. The only thing that separated her from a fresh marble statue was her eyes. They were the brightest blue I had ever seen. Sharp and penetrating like she was looking through you rather than at you. But they were oddly comforting.

Although I had a terrifyingly beautiful stranger in my room, there was no fear. Only a desire to study her features further. My attempt to speak was met by her putting her finger to her lips as she walked around the bed towards me. I nodded in understanding and laid my head back down on my pillow. Her hand caressed my leg while she approached. She reached her hand behind my head and leaned in to kiss me… I woke up to my Mother pounding on the bedroom door.

“Get up! You’re already late. I’m going to come in there and get your ass up myself”, she calls from the hallway.

The room was dark, the blackout curtains doing their job keeping the morning sun out. The clock read 8:47 am. So much for going to class. Head throbbing, I rolled out of bed to open the door for her.

“Yeesh, you look like a ghost. You really ought to try getting more sleep”, she scolded me as she walked towards the window.

“Yes, well, such is the life of a college student”, I replied while brushing my hair behind my ear. There was a sharp pain in the side of my neck so I glanced at the mirror to investigate the cause. But when I looked, there was nothing. Not just nothing on my neck, but no reflection of myself at all. Terrified, I stumbled back and fell into my mother as she threw open the curtains.

My screams of pain as the light hit my skin were soon drowned out by the shrieks from  my mother as she watched the rays of sun hit my skin and reduce me to a pile of ash.

Scott is originally from Delano and now lives in Buffalo with his wife and three children. He is a graduate student studying criminal justice and works a restaurant manager. During his undergrad education he was a few credits shy from a Creative Writing minor and continues to hold an interest in writing.