I have two new books coming out soon, both with Solstice Publishing!
The first is Vagabond, a story about the homeless and the people surrounding them. This story was inspired by a single experience, and in that same moment, everything unfolded for me--every last detail. I went into work one day, and in the underground parking lot, a man and woman had been taking refuge from the bitter winter, in the corner. They never bothered anyone, got up and left before 8am, and cleaned up after themselves. Yet the people in the building reported the, and every morning the police would be there to escort them out. The severity of their situation, and the lack of respect for them "inspired" (this word in context sounds crass, however I can't think of another word that covered that morning for me) to write a story about a man who'd seen both sides of the fence: rich and destitute. This isn't a warm and comforting story, and in a lot of ways, it doesn't have a happy ending. But I hope Harris' story make someone think a new view, or perhaps have a little more insight into their lives.
Author: Kayden McLeod
Genre: Literary Tragedy
Length: Short Story
The story of Harris Kennedy is a tale about a man who fell from grace. After his wife’s suicide and financial decline, Harris finds himself a homeless wanderer. His guilt over his past keeps him running in place, with no desire to move forward. His reasons for his life choices are his own, filled with complexity he rarely, if ever voices. Until one day, Harris finds out a simple decision can change your fate quicker than a blink of an eye.
Harris walked into his darkened apartment, wondering where Helena could be at this hour.
He double checked the time on his phone. One a.m.. His wife couldn’t still be out with her friends. Then again, he suspected she was upset with him. She’d ignored his phone called all day. She’d been quieter lately.
Harris tried to be patient with her. But his stress level had hit the ceiling, and his calm demeanor was breaking—and she knew it. His beloved wife spent twice the amount of money he had, if not more. His stocks had taken a major hit, giving him no cushion to fall back on. He struggled with this penthouse’s mortgage.
This put them so deep into debt, until he’d been forced to up his credit a month ago, or risk them not being able to put food on the table. Then last week he’d found out she’d gone through the credit increase as well.
Somewhere during all of this, he’d sat Helena down to discuss this, she’s nodded where expected, agreed where she had to. Obviously, he hadn’t been grim enough to impress upon her just what had happened to their bank account.
Helena came from a rich family who’d never told her no. Naturally, Harris had assured her Father he was capable of providing Helena with the life she was accustomed. He’d believed Harris then, and blessed the marriage. But Harris had never anticipated this brick wall his checkbook had collided with. How could he tell Helena they were approaching the poorhouse’s door?
Harris dropped his keys on the kitchen island. The jangle disrupted the silence.
“Helena, baby, are you here?” He frowned. Was the tap on in the bathroom?
He stood still for a moment, then nodded. She was in the bath, and she couldn’t hear him with the door closed.
He crossed the kitchen to grab a beer. Once he disposed of the top, he entered the living room. Harris lost his too brief moment of contentment when he spied a pile of bills on the coffee table. With a sigh, he seated himself on the Italian leather sofa, placed his beer on the coaster Helena insisted he use, and picked up the pile of envelopes. Strange enough, they were already opened.
Why would Helena open his mail? She never had before, especially anything from the bank. With each paper he pulled out, his heart grew heavier. This latest analysis of his finances showed they were broke. Worse than broke. Harris owed creditors three-quarters of a million dollars between the mortgage and cards, including those overpriced specialty cards at department stores.
Harris’ nose wrinkled, and it took a long minute for him to figure out the air fresheners Helena placed in every available crevice, so she could smell French Vanilla all day long, didn’t work to par. A foul stench rent the penthouse.
With a sense of dread Harris couldn’t comprehend, he was on his feet, beer in hand. The liquor case on the far wall was left open. With a quick check, he took inventory. He didn’t drink anything short of beer, so his assortment was limited. Yet he was compulsive about everything being in its place. Instantly, he noticed the bottle of thirty-year old scotch was missing: a gift from a client several years ago, and he had never opened.
He went into the hallway and frowned. His shoes sunk into the deep blue carpet. He flipped the switch to find the entire floor soaked. More water rushed out from under the bathroom door.
His heart thudded in his breast. Fear spiked. He sprinted the ten feet, grabbing for the door. The knob was locked.
He slammed his palm onto the wall. “Helena! Baby, are you in there?”
Maybe she’s listening to her MP3 player.
The drive to see for her welfare made him rattle the knob. “Baby?”
Desperation licked through his mind. His hand gripped his beer to the point of breaking.
Harris took a step back, then ploughed his shoulder into the door, feeling the frame give a little. He ignored the throb of pain in his deltoid, and tried again. Water rushed around his feet. He looked down first. The liquid had an overall pink tinge that got darker in the middle.
His eyes followed the reddish line across the floor, to the Jacuzzi tub his Helena had adored so much. A grey arm, the hand palm down, was draped over the tub’s rim that created a break in the waterfall. Harris swallowed, aware of the sickly sweet scent of decay as he stepped forward, to see what lay inside of the overflowing tub.
Helena was under the water, her opaque eyes staring at the ceiling. Her hair floated around her, spurred to movement by the tap that still ran at capacity. The cherry tinged water encased her. His gaze traveled over her other arm. Plain as day, the gaping wound on her wrist told a story no words could adequately convey. On the ledge meant for a bar of soap, a paring knife sat covered in coagulated blood, the plasma drier on the edges. The bottle of scotch was right next to it.
He closed his eyes and turned away. He couldn’t look anymore, even if this image would be what he saw when his closed his eyes, for the rest of his life. With the intention of phoning the police, he went to leave, but the steamed up mirror froze him.
Written in crimson colored lipstick was Helena’s suicide note: It’s your fault. You failed me.
His brain stopped working. Surely she hadn’t meant that, did she? Harris saw the corpse in his peripheral. The lipstick she’d chosen to use sat upright on the counter, the product mushed into the container.
He whirled on his feet, and almost slipped in the water. He threw his beer water against the mosaic wall formed of polished granite pieces with inserts of twenty-four caret gold. The bottle smashed, and sprays of beer mingled with the blood tinged water.
He fell to his knees in the centre of bathroom, and cried for the first time in over ten years. The length of his marriage to Helena, who up until today had been his savoir in every way. His light. His life. The reason he existed at all, and fought so hard for every promotion, just to give her everything she’d ever wanted.
Helena was right. He felt damned guilty.
The next, is Tarnished Halo, which used to be part of a free series with two other authors, Cindy and Kristin, where we wrote different story lines, placed in the same City of Erosity. But Tarnished Halo is rewritten and expanded. I hope to continue Liwet's story. There is much to be told about this half breed mongrel who can't find a place in any soceity, and long ago stopped caring.
Title: Dark Angel, Tarnished Halo
Author: Kayden McLeod
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: Short Story
Liwet is a less-than-lily-white angel, who has a chip on her shoulder just begging for someone to knock it off. She refuses to come to heel, yet the time for Liwet to play by her own rules has come to an end. Oriax comes back to his old flame, with a proposition he doesn’t want to pursue, and has no choice but to make. Dark, chilling forces beyond Liwet and Oriax’s control drag them back together and down into a rabbit hole so deep, escape is futile. The prince of the underworld wants them in his court; a request never to be taken lightly. Can the couple overcome their pasts, and find each other once more, before it’s too late to save either of them?
A scream sounded from down one of the alleys I’d crossed, but paid no mind while I set my course to where I’d been bid.
Let the humans rot this night, I thought bitterly. Or any other.
What had they done for me? Nothing. Yet I had been borne to be their humble servant, directed by rules I’d never had a say in. Screw it. Screw them. Fuck the world.
I walked down the darkened streets of this forsaken town of lust, greed and sloth, an hour past the twilight settling upon the horizon. I had been a beautiful sunset this eve, with deep hues of violet, crushed orange and vivid blood red. Though I hadn’t enjoyed it.
I didn’t take such pleasures in simple things. I didn’t delight in much anymore—hadn’t in many a year.
The human screamed for help again, and my hand flew up in an unconscious rude gesture in the direction from where it’d come. Another, farther ahead—a painter no less—babbled about needing an idea for a new project.
I rolled my eyes. Fat chance.
That would be my department.
My name is Liwet, the “angel” of inventions, inspirations. A muse. However, I wasn’t pristine as most thought me. I’d been shunned from the normal crowds of my realms, who knew what I was on sight.
I am a demon and an angel, a dirty half-breed, to be pushed to the shadows and forgotten.
But I had long since come to terms with all of this. I tended to stay at the edges of all societies, and took part of none and looking in. Life shopping, I called it. Sort of like window shopping, but I didn’t get to gaze at things I wanted to buy. I just wished it went both ways.
The angels shunned me, but the demons…They wanted me, badly. The supreme notch on their bedposts, to be screwed and discarded, the perfect conquest compared like the women who trolled these streets, ignorant of us.
Most of them were arrogant assholes I could never stand to be near enough to talk to, let alone see naked. Though some were acceptable to be around for short periods of platonic time.
I headed into the darkened back entrance of the Red Corkscrew a bar that fronted the ocean cliffs. It had been named this, because this was the nickname of the Salix matsudana, trees imported from China and planted around the bar. The stems twisted at sharp angles, their color a vivid shade of orangey scarlet, a startling shade to the eye this far into winter. The owner had been quite insistent on these trees be planted everywhere on the one-acre property.
The man had always been strange like that. He was also my half brother.
The moment I’d passed the threshold into the building, I knew he was there, but not a second before he let me.
“Li,” Mastema greeted from the empty back of the kitchen. I could hear the sounds of food being cooked and clinking plates from around the corner, made by demon hands. We weren’t alone, and no doubt brother dear planned this meeting that way.
Mastema was a full demon, one who kept the underworld from interference of his life, by staying quiet. This surprised me, since his life’s purpose was to tempt men toward sin. Even more ironic, he rarely partook in any himself. Mastema denied his most basic principles and instincts, to stay out of hell. And unlike his dangers of damnation, I was exempt, unless I broke the sacred laws applied to being one of the Guides to humanity. Hadn’t happened yet, but I rode the line often, never actually crossing it. Always could, I supposed.
“Why have you called me here?”
“I need you to work tonight. We are unusually busy, and I do not like so many humans mixing with my people, without proper balance in case something happens.”
In other words; he needed someone to kick ass and take names if his brethren stepped out of line. Someone who wasn’t him. Great. Gotta love diplomacy.
“Why me, Mastema?” I asked, determined to be purposely “dumb.” Even though he didn’t let it show, it pissed him off. Good.
And I was just in that kind of mood. Tha\nkfully, half of my status put me almost on his playing field—almost. He had a millennia or two on me. Did wonders for someone’s power.
I made up for it in the pure-pissed-off-bitch factor. I’d had to from square one. The higher powers had decided I wasn’t allowed to learn about certain capabilities I’d been born with, from either side. This, in effect made my best attributes dormant and useless to me. They wanted me this way. Couldn’t have an “angel” running about with demon super-powers. Or some crap like that.
Mastema took on my expression. “You’re being unreasonably pissy tonight.” He crossed his arms over the black material stretching over his wide chest. His thick, muscular body was covered in ritual blue-jeans and a t-shirt, just tight enough to show he was ripped. He’d once told me women liked it. I didn’t know. Being his sister didn’t allow me an opinion on it. “In fact, a lot lately.”
I didn’t reply to the statement. I wanted to turn and leave, though if I did, Mastema would only talk me into staying. Had I left in his time of need, one of my few sanctuaries would be lost to me, until my brother had unruffled his feathers. That could be decades. Immortality wrecked havoc one’s conception of time.
“What do you need?”
“You, on the bar,” Mastema muttered. “Nicor heard about a thunderstorm near to coast and…”
“Decided to go play in it?”
My brother nodded, but never with disgust. Full-blood demons that chose to stay on earth for long periods very rarely had the chance to act or be who they really were. When the chance presented itself, they took it.
“I allowed him to go—it has been too long for him to touch base with himself. Acting human so much does things to a demon’s mind.”
I winced. In a backward way, the barb had been intended for me, not Nicor.
“Of course,” I relented.
“I suspect the rush will only get worse the later it gets. But I do have to warn you… Oriax is here tonight, with his friends.”
My mind stilled from hearing that damned name! “What?” This time, I didn’t act stupid for any petty impulse. The sheer memory of the man did one of two things; froze me solid, or made my blood boil. “You expect me not to throw something at him in the course of an entire evening? Fifteen minutes in pushing it.”
Mastema rolled his eyes, then pushed off of the counter’s edge, with a sleek roll of threatening sinew. “Behave.”
The warning didn’t go unheeded, though my eyes darkened and burned when he turned from me and began walking further into the kitchen. I followed only somewhat dutifully. We cut around the corner, emerging into the timeless art and war of fast-paced cooking. Ten or so bodies moved with methodical energy and flow.
Not a human in the bunch.
None of the minor or half-blood demons looked up from what they were doing. Their movements would be blurry to an untrained eye, with too quick dexterity they didn’t bother to hide in the safety of the enclosed kitchen.
The smell of grilled beef and frying oil for the fries wafted to me, making my stomach rumble. Though I wouldn’t eat most of what these demons served. The demonic clientele didn’t care for their meat cooked. The staff would just barely sear it on the outside, so the humans who ventured in here couldn’t tell the difference at first glance. Happy mediums.
I snagged a fry as I passed, bringing it half-way to my mouth when Mastema whirled, with a nasty scowl on his face.
“What? Did you want me to put it back?”
Mastema shook his head. “You know you may eat anything you want.” He stared behind me so hard, I turned my head to see what was there. “But we have a problem.”
“You always have a problem—whatever could it be this time?”
He growled at my impertinence. “Have you fallen so low that you walk in this realm with your wings exposed, and making no move to hide them? Are you looking to get thrown into the hell realms?”
“Humans cannot see them whether I conceal my wings or not,” I replied coldly.
The fry cook looked up from his station with shining black eyes. Our gazes connected, and I knew then he approved of my refusal to act as if I were the other race.
“Those are the rules. You risk a great deal to break them. We are granted very limited access to this world, and you are part demon. You have the obligation to keep your nose clean—you never know when you just might mess it up for the rest of us.”
“I tire of living in secret,” I argued. “If I had the same benefits the rest of you do…”
Mastema snarled, raking a hand through his hair. “I might have more power and ability to use them, I will give you that. However, I am not permitted to do anything with them, anymore than you can. Just by being here on earth, we have to act like we don’t even exist. Every wrong move you make, tightens the collar around the necks of the rest of us.”
I hated it when he made sense! My stubborn nature reared its head nonetheless. “I will no longer be spurred under someone else’s terms. Only full-bloods can see these black-feathered contraptions and the otherworldly glow those angels gave me, the same combination that condemned me from birth. So now, I will be upfront about it. At least then I can see their sneers upfront, know what they think, before they even say a word.” My chin went up. “I am sorry if it causes you danger, I really am.” I spoke to the kitchen as a whole, who had stopped around me. Had my words been so very shocking? My brother’s eyes had softened, causing a similar reaction in the very small part of my heart holding affection for him. “I have to feel like I’ve done something to be an outcast. Mastema, don’t take that from me.”
“You risk much.”
“And you’re a coward,” I whispered. They all were. “Just because I cannot see your wings nor horns, does not mean they are not there. You have modified the color of your skin, so it looks more tanned than burnt red, but it is only a secondary appearance to what you really look like.”
“And your point?”
I swore every set of lungs around us stopped breathing, awaiting my answer. “This is what I look like.”
With a curt nod, Mastema’s falsely blue eyes hardened into ice-chips. Really, they were a pitiless black. The absence of color stretched from lid to lid—like the fry cook’s. My brother didn’t care for my assessment. He couldn’t deny it either.
“So be it, sister. But if the powers that be come down on your head…”
“It’s on me, Mastema. Promise.”
“Let’s go then. We have quite the crowd to keep happy tonight.”
More to come soon!