The invitation was hand written and wax sealed, slid under her door.
“The pleasure of your company is requested.”
The directions led her down a twisting, wet trail along the thick of the bayou. A late hurricane near the Keys bewitched the air, sent her hair flying all around, like one of the long-dead apparitions that appeared in the windows of the ruined hotels.
Tupelo Trees, standing knee-deep in in the brackish water, looked like skirted, gnarled, old women, sprouted from the underworld.
And the behemoth, orange moon seemed complicit.
Chills danced along her spine. A dark foreboding tinged her every thought.
But just as all seemed lost, she spotted a small cabin at the edge of the water.
She knocked on its metal doors.
No one answered.
She drew her velvet cape closer and knocked again.
“Who’s there?” Said a voice, low and smokey.
Instead of answering, she shuddered, imagining the beasts swimming under the dock. She banged again. The sound reverberated past her, into the wading trees, who swallowed it, zippered themselves shut, and now stood silent, watching and waiting.
The door slid open. Before her was a man with the blackest eyes she’d ever seen. Darker than the depths of the Mississippi.
His accent reminded her of the dock traders and the bearded pirates that sailed into the harbor, their tongues, a music of French and Cajun.
His teeth were brilliant, white and pointy. And while his smile was wide, his eyes were solemn, arresting.
She couldn’t find her voice.
Behind him, three other men sat at a table, holding cards. A haze of blue smoke hung above their heads.
“To what do I owe this pleasure?” he asked.
“I must be lost,” she stammered.
His house was dark, only a blazing fire in the hearth and candles, even at the card table.
“I must be at the wrong house. Are you…?”
His dark beauty,…she was unable to look away.
“Leopold Lessinger.” He bowed, and then stepped closer.
There was a razor nick just under his jawline, so beautifully placed, it seemed almost purposeful.
He raised a hand to cover it.
“Maybe I’ve made a mistake,” she said.
Electricity crawled across the sky, silhouetting the orchard of Spanish Moss hanging from the Cypress. Thunder rattled the glass.
“You must’ve received my invitation?” he asked.
“So it was you?” she said.
“I’ve been watching you for so long. I can’t believe you’re actually here.”
“Watching me?” She felt faint.
“I meant waiting for you…” he whispered and kissed her hand.
And she found herself unable to think of much of anything, except his beautiful mouth. She wanted to draw closer to this complete stranger. Wanted to inhale him.
Her mind raced with fear and an insatiable hunger, unknown to her before now.
“Oh, blackest night, what trickery have you played? What spell must have you allowed the moon, that I hunger for this madness, surrender to its will?”
Without any other word, he slipped his hand behind her neck.
And she did not try to stop him.
In the darkness, a Screech Owl’s desperate cry echoed across the water, disappeared into the night.
Find more spooky tales and other great writing at www.theironwriter.com
This challenge required the following elements: a cargo hold on a ship, a wheelchair and the genre is Historical Fiction
Charlie and Lou, 1969
She lay beneath a single bulb that hung from the ceiling. The nurse held the cup to her lips so she could swallow the pills. The smell of rubbing alcohol and salt air filled the room.
“Night, Louise,” she said and closed the door.
A whisper broke the silence.
“Lou. You awake?”
She searched the room with frightened eyes, thought the voices called her again.
His shaved head stuck through the open window.
“Hey, Lou,” his voice softened at the sight of her. She managed a half smile.
“I thought you were them again,” she said.
“No, Lou. It’s me. You know me,” he said and crawled inside.
“How’d you get out?” she asked, eyelids heavy.
“You know me, Lou. I have my ways.” He kissed her. “The only way we can make sure to leave this place for good, is if we leave this world.”
“I can’t go, Charlie,” she slurred.
“Why not?” He checked the hallway for nurses.
She wiggled her arms. “I’m tied.” Her eyes rolled back.
He pulled a pair of wire cutters from beneath his hospital gown.
“I got it,” he cut the cuff on her right wrist.
“What if we get caught, Charlie?”
“Shhhh-shh-shhhh, I ain’t letting nobody take you from me.You believe in me, Lou?” He whispered, jostling her to open her eyes. “You believe in me, girl?”
Footsteps slapped against the linoleum floor in the hall. He tucked the severed cuff together and slid under the hospital bed.
Shift change time.
The nurse entered, crossed the room, closed the window, checked Louise’s chart, and left. She’d be back in an hour. They’d have to make a lot of miles, fast. He cut the other wrist restraint.
“Ready, Baby?” He lifted her, threw her over his shoulder, opened the window and ducked out. Behind a row of shrubs, he changed into a stolen nurses uniform and lifted Louise into a waiting wheelchair.
After midnight the gates only opened once, for the sanitation department. He waited in the shadows. A spotlight swept the yard. The groaning truck arrived and the guard pushed open the barrier, took his clipboard to the driver and waited for his signature. Charlie had watched this scenario a thousand times from his third-floor bedroom. He knew exactly how many seconds the driver would risk away from his post. The rattle of the engine camouflaged the wheelchair crossing the lawn, traversing the driveway. He snuck alongside the truck and to its rear, into the shadow of pine trees lining the road.
“We did it, Lou,” he said, adrenaline overwhelming his heart, tears in his eyes. “My roommate told me all about it. First time ever, people are flying to the moon.”
She slumped over in the wheelchair as he pushed it along the rutted road.
“Won’t nobody be feeding us pills, no wrist ties, no razor blades.” He set her up again and kissed her wrist, the scar, like a little rubber fishing lure. “We just gotta make it to the cargo hold, right inside the main compartment. And I know we can, because I can get into anywhere if I set my mind to it. Right, Lou? Just a few more miles to Kennedy. I’m gonna carry you now, because of the sand,” he said. “Wheels and sand don’t mix. Sometimes I feel like that’s us, Lou. You know? Wheels and sand, always sinking. Until now. I guess every once in a while, it takes a rocket….”
At the end of the two-lane he waited. Cars sped past. He crossed the highway and ran into the swamp bordering the Space Center.
“I don’t like the dark,” she mumbled.
“It’s okay, Lou. We’re going to the moon. You and me. Nobody will tie you down, or call you crazy or lock you in a room, ever again. Guess what else, Lou? The sun shines all day for a month, on the moon.”
“Bring a gun?” she asked.
“Charlie, remember last time…?’
“Put me down, Charlie.” He stopped, stood her on the ground.
“Charlie, they’ll kill us…”
“Lou, first, I ain’t never gonna let anything happen to you. Never.” He cradled her face in his hands, pressed his lips to hers. “The way I see it, Lou, they already killed us.”
“You’re not on death row,” she slurred.
“Maybe I should’ve been.”
“Don’t…,” she whispered.
“I’d rather be dead than caged.” He crossed his hands behind his head, stared up at the almost full moon. “I ain’t crazy, Lou.”
She fainted and he caught her, threw her over his shoulder and ran deeper into the scrub brush, his feet slowed by the sandy soil.
Far off in the distance, sirens sounded, echoed all around him, he ran faster, until he reached the fence. He cut a hole and stepped through, still holding Louise.
In the clearing, the mammoth rocket stood, Apollo 11, positioned to launch the next day.
“Look, Lou,” he set her in the grass, held her face so she could see.
“Charlie…” she began.
But he put his mouth over hers. “Trust me, okay, Lou? Okay?” And she nodded. “Can you walk?” She nodded but couldn’t stand. He swept her up and ran, stumbling, toward the launch pad.
A spotlight swept over them. Charlie grabbed for his gun.
Sirens wailed. Louise screamed.Charlie threw her over his shoulder so he could run faster, up the steps that led to Apollo 11.
Ten police trained their guns on him.
But Charlie never looked back. “Lou, we did it! Just you and me.” He cradled her head in his hands.
Lou opened her eyes and was blinded by red lights. She called Charlie’s name, buried her head in his shoulder.
“You and me, Lou. We’re free….,”he whispered, bullets fired from every weapon pointed toward them.
And in the shadow of the space shuttle, 283,900 miles from the waxing crescent moon, they left forever, her head still cradled in his arms.