My Serial Novella: The Judgment Store, part 1
I’ll be releasing my novella, The Judgment Store, which is an urban fantasy piece, in six parts, illustrating each part with some appropriate images. Hope you enjoy. Comments are welcome! Enjoy!
The Judgment Store
After her father’s death, Uriel gets a job at a store that is much more than it seems.
Sometimes I get that itchy feeling on the soles of my feet and tips of my fingers like when you put your hands on one of those static electricity globes. The itching feels like that, but worse. I have come to the somewhat scientific conclusion that I get these annoying itches whenever I feel a strong, usually negative, emotion. I’m itching right now, in the middle of my dad’s funeral. It’s sort of distracting, but at this point I don’t mind being distracted from the gnawing depression.
I’ve been depressed for months, ever since dad was diagnosed. But I’ve been bored, too: bored of having to help mom take care of him as he lingered in our converted dining room on his hospital bed. I’m angry at mom for choosing red carnations to decorate dad’s casket. His least favorite flower in the whole world, and she blankets his entire casket with them. But would she listen to me when I told her to use roses? . . . But sitting here thinking about it, I guess the emotion I feel strongest is guilt – guilt over the sense of relief I’d felt three days before, when he finally died. And it’s the guilt, I think, that’s causing today’s itch.
I squirm my feet inside my one-size-too-small dress sandals, and rub my hands on the borrowed black crepe skirt Mom made me wear: up down, up down, trying to relieve the awful itch, until I see two little sparks fly in the dim light of St. Christina’s small side chapel. That’s weird: I was just thinking about static electricity.
All of a sudden the blanket of red carnations Mom had arranged, slides off and falls to the floor with a tremendous swish-thump. Mom and I, and probably everyone behind us, squeak backwards – startled – in our folding chairs. The priest pauses his monotonous lecture on the valley of the shadow of death or whatever, and two gray suit funeral home lackeys make a mad scramble to gather up the wayward floral arrangement and hang it back over the casket. One of the carnations is left behind on the floor; so gray suit number two hands it to me.
As I take the loathsome flower in my itchy fingertips, it’s as if I have a split-second daydream: I see Mom’s greenhouse – her flower and herb shop – boarded up, with a permanent “Closed” sign on the door.
The itching stops.
Mom looks over, frowns, and squints accusingly at me as if I had somehow made the flowers fall. I don’t look in her eyes, though, because for an instant during that split second daydream, I had felt genuinely happy. I hate that greenhouse as much as I hate the red carnations.
The priest resumes his boring sermon as if nothing had happened.
After the service, and after all the heavily-iced Bundt-cake-bearers leave, mom and I depart to our separate sides of the house. She to her stupid greenhouse off the enclosed side porch; me to my room.
The itching returns. I pace around my tiny cave, restacking books and teddy bears, shelving three knotty sweaters I’d picked up at the thrift store last week, but none of this activity relieves the itching any more than smearing over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream would. Yes, I’ve tried creams; no effect. I need something to get my mind off Dad being gone. To get my mind off having no money for a car, or college, or even a dress to the homecoming dance that I won’t get asked to anyway. To get my mind off the rest of my crap life. I need something quick. So I channel myself into homework, of all things – thank God I had gotten my Faust paper done in the computer lab Thursday . . . and fall asleep, still in my funeral clothes.
“You’re gonna be late for school,” Mom says from my doorway. I look at her through bleary eyes, hunched over the mess spread out on my lap. Mom looks like hell, dressed for a day of work in her money pit greenhouse – worn blue jeans, dad’s worn flannel shirt over a holey t-shirt, raccoon circles under her eyes, hair pulled back in a circa-1988 scrunchie. Even so, I’m sure she looks better than I do. I throw my homework into dad’s old Army-Navy surplus backpack, and then rush past her without a word, jumping into the shower.
“You’ll be back in time for your shift so I can get to the supplier?” she asks me when I head out the door.
It’s all I can do not to groan at her. Most kids in high school have after school jobs. Most of them also get paychecks for these jobs. I don’t. Mom won’t pay me right now; finance’s are tight. Finances are always tight. I glance back at her. “I may be a little late.”
“Not too late,” she frowns. I shrug my shoulders and walk away.
I need a job that pays. I need money to pay my tab at the thrift store – those old, sorry – “vintage” – sweaters aren’t going to pay for themselves, and Mrs. O’Mooney has threatened, only half-jokingly, to send her nephew to break my kneecaps if I don’t pay her by next week. What Mom doesn’t know is that after school I intend to stop by that funky-looking new store, The R&P, that’s opening uptown. It had a help-wanted sign last time I walked by.
Most people would stay home on the day after their dad’s funeral, but for me staying home and moping would be worse.
The football team has its own special P.E. class first period, and it’s like shouldering through a brick wall to get through them as they high-kick-jog in formation down the driveway and back up. They look like something out of an old Nazi newsreel. Coach Adamson, gym teacher/football coach/neo-Nazi-Commandant hands me a blue tardy slip. I don’t bother looking into his diabolic eyes; instead I focus on the looming Homecoming Dance poster above his head. “Fifteen tardies, Uriel,” he pronounces. I grunt; I may have been wrong about school being better than staying home moping.
There’s still a traffic jam at the lockers. “Hey, Uriel,” Ella Maloney says – with a tone of pure snark. “Who did your hair today? The dog groomer?” Almost everyone in the locker crowd laughs, except for Sam Wiseman, the one tolerable boy in the entire school.
“Shut up,” he says. “Can’t you be nice to her even for one day? Especially today?” He looks at me in apology. I shrug it off but feel my face heat up. I give him a little smile for sticking up for me.
“Oh,” Ella stammers, then: “Oh yeah, right.” It has only just now occurred to her that I buried my dad yesterday. “Sorry.” I’ve gotten rather good at ignoring Ella Maloney, even though I’ve pretty much hated her since kindergarten. It is a sign of pure evil that the school district insists on placing her in every single one of my classes, every single year.
“You okay?” Sam asks me. My answering nod is a lie, of course. Oh yeah, I’m fantastic. I just put my dad in the ground; my life is in the crapper; and I still have to deal with Ella Spray-Tan Maloney, but I’m amazing!
There’s another gaudy homecoming poster right above my locker. Its glitter has sprinkled down onto the tiny ledge and around the floor. I manage to work my way through my lock combination as the crowd around us disperses, leaving only me and him. After the padlock pops, my glittery locker door won’t open. I try pushing up on the handle, but the upper left edge keeps getting caught in the frame. I throw as much of my weight into shoving it up and out, but my hand slips and scrapes along a sharp edge, slicing into the soft skin from my pinky down to my wrist.
I gasp, drop my backpack into the pool of glitter on the floor, and notice blood seeping down onto the cream white sleeve of my cheap vintage sweater. Groan.
“You okay?” Sam asks again, this time more urgently.
“I’m fine. You’re late for class,” I gesture with my uninjured hand for him to go, but he doesn’t. Instead, he opens his own locker again and roots around for a while, pulling out a long-sleeved t-shirt and an Ace bandage box. “Here,” he hands me the shirt. “It’s clean. I brought it for soccer; you can put it on after you get that cleaned up. And keep the bandage. Mom got me a whole crate of them since I’m always injuring myself.” He hands me the box. Then, like a knight in shining armor, opens my locker door. Grasping the shirt, bandage, and my backpack, I pick myself up and turn away quickly because I don’t want him to see my tears.
I didn’t cry all day yesterday during or after my dad’s funeral, but Sam coming to my rescue like that just defeats me.
I rush off to the bathroom to clean up, forgetting to thank him, but as I wash the blood off my hand and wrap the bandage around the cut, I feel my palms, then my fingers, and finally my feet itch again. I ignore it. I can barely see my blotchy face reflected in the stainless steel mirror. To be honest, I don’t even want to see myself; I know I’m hideous as tears pour maddeningly down my cheeks, and my nose runs.
Somehow I manage to change out of the blood-stained sweater and into Sam’s shirt and thrust my ruined sweater into my pack, but I’m so late for English it’s ridiculous.
I wipe away every last tear with my itchy fingers. Zaaaaap. An electric spark leaps right out of my right index finger and crackles into the air. I blink quickly – having seen this happen so fast in the mirror that I’m not sure it really happened. But then I have another split-second daydream, like the one I had yesterday, and I witness Sam in his pickup, deafeningly blindsided by a gigantic blue Hummer crashing point blank into the driver’s side door. There’s no way Sam could survive something like that; he’d be pancaked. I shake my head quickly, pushing this vision away, and the already-weak fluorescent lights in the bathroom flicker twice before going out completely, leaving me in pitch blackness.
That was awful . . . and weird. My heart pounds in my chest, but the itch is gone.
I manage to feel my way out of the bathroom and head down the hall to class.
“So lovely of you to join us, Uriel,” my least favorite English teacher in the history of all the English teachers I’ve ever had – Mr. Frank – says. Instead of bothering to explain my tardiness, I just fall into my seat and exhale, ignoring the various looks of my classmates. “Faust paper?” he demands from right in front of my desk, hand outstretched like a collection agent. I pull it out of my bag for him, and he strides away, flipping through it as the rest of the class chit-chats.
I watch Mr. Frank speed read through my paper. That’s his thing: skims through them right as they’re handed in, grades them promptly and hands them right back, while the class just sits and entertains itself. That’s how he teaches, too. He never lectures, doesn’t allow discussion, doesn’t actually “instruct.” He just gives us reading assignments, paper assignments and tests – like it’s a bother to interact with us. Thankfully, English is my best subject. Unthankfully, it’s my most boring class.
“Sorry I didn’t make it yesterday,” says Gabby from the chair beside me.
“It’s okay, Gabs,” I cut her off. I don’t want to talk about the funeral right now.
“No, it’s not. I’m really sorry,” she insists.
“You’ve been sick.” She has been out a lot lately. This thought just now occurs to me. I look more closely at her.
Gabby Mitchell is, if anybody could be, my best friend. I’ve known her since kindergarten, too. We’ve weathered Ella Maloney together. I look at Gabby now and feel reality shift like an earthquake under my feet. Gabby’s so pale, but her skin is an unnatural yellow. Even her eyes, where they’re supposed to be white, are yellow, like there’s something very, very wrong with the fluorescent lights above us.
“Okay, class. Finished. Not happy, but finished,” Mr. Frank says in an even more annoyed voice than usual. “I’ll pass these back to you, along with your next assignment . . . and I’ll need to see Ella and Uriel after class . . . ” but I barely hear him, because I am too busy staring at Gabby and considering how familiar her coloring is. Familiar because I last saw that exact shade of jaundice yellow on my dad’s face, now dead from liver cancer.
“Uriel? Did you hear me? Stay after class,” Mr. Frank repeats.
“Wha . . . okay,” I say. He hands me my paper, which doesn’t actually have a grade on it. Instead, there are a series of question marks, then exclamation points throughout, and a note on the last page saying simply: “Do you think I’m stupid, Uriel?”
I look up in confusion, but he’s already turned his back on me.
Posted on February 19, 2014, in Science Fiction & Fantasy, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged fantasy, fate, fiction, greek mythology, high school, judgment, novella, original fiction, original prose, precognition, Rebecca Lane Beittel, science fiction, short story, story, the fates, the judgment store, urban fantasy, writing, YA, YA literature, young adult, young adult literature. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.