The Iron Writer Challenge
2015 Spring Equinox Open
The Kurt Vonnegut Bracket
A Moon Rock
In the blue wash of fluorescent light, she changed out of jeans and into a gold lame’ body suit. White silk wings sprung from the back of her costume. Even in the grey din of the Chevron restroom, she looked other-worldly.
Her purse was clinched between her front teeth while she dressed. No part of her clothing touched the filthy concrete floor. It was after all, mostly white..
Meanwhile, a man waiting on a gas pump watched her emerge from the restroom. Long blonde hair swung back and forth as she used her hips and elbows to open the door.”Artemis” was stitched across her chest. Feathery wings caught the wind, fluttered. She strutted across the cracked asphalt parking lot, stacked platform heels causing her knees to bend a little, invoking the appearance of a giant bumble bee.
The man, fascinated, stepped out of his car, ran his hands through his hair and made his way toward the freaky, waspish woman, now at the back of the parking lot.
“Excuse me,” he said. She was digging for something in the front floorboard of a conversion van.
“Ma’am?” he knocked on the window.
She slid backward and stood up, dusting off her knees and thighs.
“Yeah?” she said, hands on hips.
“I’m Jack,” he said.
She crossed her arms and said, “Artemis.”
“You live in this van or something?” he asked.
Piggly Wiggly bags were seat-belted like passengers into the back seats. Tupperware, Nilla Wafer boxes and Mountain Dew bottles poked out of their tops.
She slammed the door.
“Sometimes,” she said. Mascara was smudged under her blood-shot eyes.
He nodded.“I love a good road trip, too.”
Dogs barked inside the van.
“I’m on a cross-country Jello Wrestle-a-thon,” she said. She wiped at her face with her sleeve and looked away.
“Oh, yeah?” he said.
“Yeah,” she raised her chin. Her wings flattened as she leaned back against the van.
“I’m a professional Jello Wrestler, hence the outfit,” she checked his expression.”But I’ve lost my good-luck charm.”
“Really? Wow.” He let his eyes wash over her.”Pro, huh? I would’ve definitely taken you as a dilettante.”
“What exactly are you looking for?” he asked, glancing into the van.
“Moon rock,” she said,”about this big.” She held up her hands, made a circle about the size of an orange.
“You lose it in there?” he thumbed toward the van, where the dogs had worked themselves into a frenzy.
“You volunteering to go in after it?”
“Maybe,” he said.
“Because the last guy never made it out,” she warned.
He nodded, considered the challenge.
“Is there a particular flavor?” he asked.
“You know, for the jello wrestling,” he rolled up his sleeves, prepared to go in.
“Oh.Tangerine. Sometimes there are marshmallows.”
As he crawled over the front seat, she called, “Watch out. They bite.”
He wasn’t sure if she was mad or just a world-class heart breaker.
But there was only one way to find out.
I was her love, she was my queen…
Moon Rock Dream
While watching his favorite sports show, the WCJW, World Championship Jello Wrestling, Tommy got excited because his favorite competitor won and she retained her World Jello Heavyweight title belt. Her wrestling gimmick was Artemis, Goddess of the hunt. She would enter the arena carrying her bow and arrow and had a greyhound dog by her side. She was dressed in a white toga but took that off before she stepped into the ring of jello. Underneath her toga she wore her wrestling gear which consisted of white shorts and and a white sundress, in trying to keep with the theme of a Greek goddess or what a Greek goddess would wear if she was wrestling another Greek goddess.
Coming down off of the high of his favorite jello wrestler winning her match, Tommy turned of his television set and went into his moon rock room. It was a room where he kept the moon rocks he is collecting. He has no formal knowledge of moon rocks but he is considered a dilettante on the subject.
The rocks were in glass cases setting on lush black velvet and some of the cases had a black light in them as some of the minerals in the rocks glowed under the light. He was in awe of their majestic beauty.
Tommy finally got ready for bed and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face. His favorite jello wrestler won her match and the moon rocks also brought him joy. As he slept peacefully, Tommy was awakened suddenly and found himself floating in the air and looking down at his body on the bed.
“What is going on? Have I died? I can’t die. I am too young,” he thought to himself. Then he tried to “swim” back down to his body but it was all in vain. Like a shot from a rifle, he flew upwards out of his home and up, up, up into the darkness of deep space.
Tommy was unconscious as he fell to land from space. When he awoke, he looked around and saw complete darkness and tried to figure out where he was. Suddenly there was a bright light and in the light he saw the Greek Goddess Artemis. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Tommy rubbed his eyes and she was still there. Without saying a word, Artemis pointed off to her left and slowly Tommy looked in the direction that she was pointing. Then he saw it. A large rock that glowed and was encrusted with precious gems. It was the most beautiful moon rock that he ever laid his eyes on. He then realized that the Goddess of hunting was helping him hunt moon rocks. As he approached it, it grew even more beautiful. Tommy reached down to pick it up and as he grabbed it, he suddenly woke up in his bed as the alarm clock sounded. He got his bearings and realized the whole thing was a dream and was saddened.
When Tommy drove off to work, he never saw the moon rock that was sitting under the bushes, glowing brightly.
“Moon rock!” Grunt held his treasure high for Kara to see. She squinted at it skeptically.
“Is not, dum dum!”
“Da said so!” The boy turned up his face in consternation, grunting his frustration.
Grunt thought all his rocks were something special. He could tell you which one was crystal (a piece of broken bottle), which one was granite (obviously blacktop), and now his newest treasure, the moon rock, which suspiciously looked like a hunk of broken sidewalk from the other end of the block.
“He’s a liar; rocks don’t fall down from the moon!” Kara turned away angrily. She knew all about lying; she knew it too well.
She had learned about it the day she walked in to see her uncle watching jello wrestling on TV. He had told her the women had been playing nicely until one of them ruined the pool water. She had only half been paying attention. “Oh,” she replied, skipping off.
But she had accidentally walked in on him other times, too, and he always had a lie. She wished her mother had never let him come stay at her house. She didn’t like the way he looked at her or touched her, his hand resting on her shoulder in public, and other places in private. And she had never felt more alone. Only one she had to talk to was Grunt, and she didn’t think he really understood.
Not wanting to go home or be alone, Kara turned back to the neighbor boy. “Do you go to school? I never see you in class.”
“Special class. Not everyone gets in.” He turned his rock over and over in his hands.
“They teach you about mythology in your class? We’re learning mythology. I like Artemis.”
“Moon rock!” Grunt held the hunk of cement out to Kara again, beaming from ear to ear.
“Well Artemis was goddess of the moon.” Kara agreed, even though she knew Grunt would not understand. “I learned that in school. But I read other things at the library. Artemis protects girls and she protected herself. Once when she was bathing in a stream, someone tried to touch her. She turned him into a stag and he was killed by his own hunting dogs.”
Kara reached out to admire the chunk of cement, and Grunt made the noise that gave him his nickname among the neighborhood kids. He hugged the hunk of cement close to his chest. “Mine!”
Kara dropped her hands, not wanting to chase away the only person who would listen. “I like Artemis. “ she said with a mysterious smile. “I like dogs too. Momma’s going to get me a puppy, but I think he’ll grow up big. He’ll protect me, the same way Artemis was protected by dogs.”
Grunt shook his head, not understanding Kara’s words, or the strange gleam in her eye. His simple mind only interested in one thing. “Rocks!” he cried, holding up a piece of broken glass, worn smooth by time. “quartz!” he added proudly as Kara’s sly smile grew.
“That’s right, Grunty, I’m going to get a dog!”
E. Chris Garrison
“You have no idea how honored I am to be your guest,” I said to the tall, beautiful woman who met me at the airport.
She nodded at me without so much as a smile and snapped her fingers. Several hairy men stepped out of the crowd in unison and flanked us as we made our way to Baggage Claim.
Diana Archer walked a step ahead of me, the click of her heels like staccato hoof beats, audible even over the terminal’s din. “I trust your flight was comfortable?”
I did my best to keep up in my flats, trying not to scurry. “Well, you know O’Hare. I’m just glad to be here in Memphis. I see why you make it your home, ma’am.”
The wolfish men took my bags from the carousel, and soon we were all in the back of Ms. Hunter’s limousine, cruising along the highway toward her fabled resort residence. The tinted windows turned daylight to twilight.
Her dark gaze pierced me. “Dr. Sutton, we have spoken in brief already, but you know my interest in the Moon. I have, in my collection, the capsule from Apollo 18. It is my wish to travel there, and you claim to have a way. Explain.”
So intent was her stare that I had to catch my breath. “Well, yes, in theory…”
“In theory? Please, don’t waste my time like those amateurs in the Artemis Project.”
“N-no, not like those guys. I mean, they mean well…”
She interrupted me. “Yes, but so is the Starfleet Command club. I’d sooner back those lunatics lobbying to make Jello Wrestling an Olympic sport. I want results.”
“Allow me to show you something,” I said, and opened my purse. I reached within and drew out a small wooden jewelry box.
She took it from me and the hinges creaked as she looked inside. Her eyes flicked from the contents to me. “Is this?”
“Yes. Regolith,” I said, struggling to keep my smile from cracking into a grin.
“If real, this sample is worth… a quarter of a million dollars, I’d say.”
“At least that,” I said. “But since you have pledged such a generous amount to our Kickstarter, you may keep it.”
She snapped her fingers again, and one of the wolfish men handed her a loupe. Its light pierced the gloom of the limo’s interior. “Very generous for a project strapped for funds. How did you get it?”
“Our prototype quantum translocation device. We sent a modified Roomba through a portal to bring this back. It will need a lot more power and equipment to send humans through. Not to mention spacesuits.”
She snapped the box shut. “A portal? So there is no rocketry involved? Pity.”
“This is far safer, ma’am.”
She waved a hand. “Never mind. A portal has other symbolism that pleases me. That and your name.”
“Yes, it pleases me. You have my patronage, Dionne.”
We shook hands, and I had a desire to howl with joy.
When the ghost that lurked in her home was eaten by shadows, she began to doubt she had ever seen him at all.
The quiet old house became alien. She couldn’t make the finish on the second floor banister match and three posts had to be re-turned. She began to doubt herself; she was a dilettante. Her plaster work was uneven, and she couldn’t sand and smooth it properly. Maybe seeing him was mold-induced madness from this house. Weeks passed. In frustration she left off restoration and began cleaning out the attic. She daydreamed of a beach somewhere warm.
It was April when she saw him in the mirror above the fireplace, when the moonlight hit it from the plate glass window in the parlor. Her own reflection was missing. His pale face was pressed against the glass; his expression one of terror, body hidden behind the fireplace as though it were a wall. She touched his hand against the glass and felt it give. She could feel him for a moment, until the shadows in the room behind him came to life and dragged him away as they had that night in the kitchen. The next night the same thing happened, and every night until the moon waned. Her reflection reappeared.
In May she was ready. The jeweled pin he left behind had no reflection either. She pressed it through the wavering glass, and he took it, but he couldn’t use it to banish the shadows. They swallowed him up each night, until the moon waned.
In June she used mirrors to direct the moonlight and saw him for five days instead of three, but couldn’t save him. She found his trunk in the attic. An army uniform, a sword, a photo and papers. His name was Delias. His sword had a reflection in the mirror; he could not grasp it.
In July, she discovered a marble statue of Artemis from the attic had no twin on the other side. She placed a lunar meteorite in the parlor and the statue glowed an unearthly blue in the amplified light. She touched the huntress and fell inside her, and the statue grew and molded to her like armor. The air around her was thick, like wrestling through jello, but she forced her way to the mirror. Her face was unseeing stone. Catching up his sword, she heaved herself over the mantle and through into the mirror room beyond.
The shadows leapt forth immediately in response to her arrival. She stepped in front of him, brandishing his sword. A voice in her head said the weapon was wrong; Diana preferred a bow. But she did her best, cutting through the dark like fire. She banished the shadows back to where they belonged.
Danger past, she turned to him. “My darling!” he said, and put his hand to her face, but it passed through her skin. On this side of the mirror, she was the ghost.
“I’m afraid you’re trapped,” he said in sorrow.