The Face in the Water – Basilike Pappa

On Free Verse Revolution again, with a re-telling of Snow White.

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

I am a lake.

I lay myself in the heart of this land where the snow falls soft, the rain sings gray, and the dark is trimmed with the song of the nightingale. I am smooth in serenity or ripple in mirth. The world around is mirrored in me – the traveling clouds, the austerity of the woods, the hills, and on one of them a castle of gleaming stone. I am water, that out of which everything is born. I have a million memories.

She was a queen – tall and sinuous, with black eyes, opal skin and a voice sweet like deceit. She touched me and smiled at the way droplets hung from her fingertips like liquid diamonds. She looked into me, saw her face, and said: ‘How beautiful I am! Surely this lake hasn’t seen a face

like mine. Nor should it ever see.’

I rippled in…

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Take my heart into deep water – Basilike Pappa

On Free Verse Revolution again. Love, grill restaurants and deep waters.

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

You’d think it would be the fragrance of flowers, the symbolism of doves, or the euphoriaof spice, but it wasa grill restaurant that made me think of us this morning as I was waiting to cross the street. There was nothing special about it except for the hen that proudly posed as its emblem, presenting the world with a platter of roasted chicken. ‘Here is someone who would offer themselves to be eaten,’ I thought. And then I imagined myself being eaten by you. My body torn by your teeth, my blood dripping from your chin, streaming down the marble falls of your flesh. 

Last night the air in my room had been heavy with the carnal scent of our new knowledge. You fell asleep in my bed. But sleep wouldn’t come to me; it stayed away from my clenched teeth. Behind my closed eyelids, tails and scales…

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A Picnic in Oblivion – Basilike Pappa

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

It was fluffy and green as far as the eye could see, with the bluest sky above. Maro said it smelled like cotton candy.

She had to argue a little about it with Pandora, who was sure it smelled like cream pie. Thea said it wasn’t that important. To her it was honey cookies; the place smelled different to everyone.

In any case, all three agreed it was a beautiful day for a picnic. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the stream sounded like harps, Pandora said. Or Venetian lutes, Maro said. Or flutes, said Thea, tilting her face back to meet the golden caress of the sun.

‘Do you think it ever rains?’

‘I really hope it doesn’t,’ Maro said, taking some fruit out of the picnic basket. Fruit was all that was allowed – every kind except apples. They were a touchy subject.

‘Did it…

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SD Short Story Contest Finalist: No More Than You Can Salt – Basilike Pappa

Sudden Denouement Collective

salt b & w

Show me someone who doesn’t want to make their parents proud and I’ll show you a liar. Or, worse, I’ll show you a weakling who shies from hardship. Or, even worse, a heartless, ungrateful bastard. For it is a truth secretly whispered that, when parents bring a baby into their home for the first time, and the sleepless nights start, and the crying turns to howling for hours on end, one question keeps gnawing at their minds: Why did we do this to ourselves?

Strange as it may sound, no one puts someone else before themselves without expecting something in return. And what better way to make it up to one’s parents  than to say one day: ‘Parents, your sacrifices were not for naught. I’ll make you proud.’

Such is the case with me. I can’t deny the fact that from an early age I had been burning with desire…

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Blush

blush

 

Rowena was hiding behind the rosebush in her garden, watching Julian through his window. He was having his morning cup of coffee. Rowena was jealous of that cup. She was jealous of anything he touched and anyone not too timid to be close to him.

Rowena had been watching Julian since the first day he came to the neighborhood, about six months ago. It was his fault; he had such magnetism it was criminal. He lived opposite her, and she had caught many precious glimpses of him doing this or that. Tableaux of Julian, she called them.

Julian didn’t know she existed, and that had to change. Speaking to him was out of the question, though. She would blush; the very thought made her feel a hot flash. She had to find a way to be seen and remain unseen at the same time. She locked herself in the house for a week, to think.

*

Julian gaped at the duchess strolling up and down his street one Monday morning, dressed in Dangerous Liaisons’ fashion. He looked around to see the rest of some film crew. He saw no one. The duchess passed by him. Behind her heavy face powder he guessed delicate features, and a petite body under her grand dress. The duchess smiled and then walked past him with an air of pride and dignity. Julian watched her disappear around the corner. Then he got in his car and drove to work. There, among files and phone calls, he never gave her a second thought.

But in the evening, when he got home, an old witch was standing outside his door. She was crooked and gray, and looked as if she was waiting for him. Julian’s hands started to tremble. ‘What do you want?’ he snapped. The witch said nothing, but kept staring. And then she smiled all black teeth. Before he could say another word, she pivoted and ran away, disappearing around the corner. That night Julian had trouble sleeping.

*

Rowena was having a great time renting costumes and watching online tutorials on theatrical makeup. She stalked Julian dressed as a pimply pirate, a gleaming ghost, a flaxen fairy, a cloaked monk. Her greatest success was when she dressed as Death. Julian really noticed her. He was adorable.

Soon Rowena couldn’t tell whether she was motivated by her attraction to Julian or by her freshly dug up talent for disguise. She thought about it when she stayed in bed for a few days; she had dressed as a harlequin on stilts and sprained her ankle. She reached no conclusion, but it didn’t really matter.

*

Julian got a new job. He paid his bills, packed his things and moved out of his house – and out of the city. As his plane to nights of peaceful sleep was taking off, he smiled happily to the passenger sitting next to him. It was a woman, a little younger than Julian, somewhere in her early twenties. She was petite, with a delicate face, and her cheeks were tinted by the rosiest blush.

 

***

BLUSH was originally published on Life & Art Magazine, 10/29/2015

 

Basilike Pappa

 

(Image: Pinterest)

Dyserotica-Basilike Pappa

Playing dead today on Sudden Denouement.

Sudden Denouement Collective

He wants me to play dead in a clearing on Hymettos, under the open sky. I lie down on a flat rock surrounded by anemones and chamomile, and he spreads my hair in a fan shape.You are so pale,’ he says, as if he sees me for the first time. He arranges my limbs in different positions, and I can assure you his touch is clearly academic. He walks around the rock to look at me from different angles, talking all the time about aesthetics. His vowels are precise, his sigmas soft and his nus ring of the best education money can buy.

He drags a finger over the childhood scar on my knee, asks how I got it. I could invent a heroic story; but the rock is smooth, the sun gracious, the breeze carries the scent of thyme, so I just tell him the truth: I…

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Incredible Eyes

eye

It was a night like many others. It involved me and an old book of fairytales I wanted to be alone with. The book wanted to be with me too; its leather-clad spine fit perfectly in my hand. I curled with it on the sofa and soon forgot everything else in the world.

After a couple of hours, I looked up and out of the balcony. I only wanted to give my eyes some rest and to get a glimpse of the night outside. The moon looked back at me and I smiled. It was actually a streetlamp, but I liked to think of it as a full moon.

And then I saw him: a midnight-black rooster, with blood-red comb and wattles, and eyes fixed on me. He was standing still in the middle of my balcony, with something of the dandy in his stance. He obviously has a way with hens, I thought. Indeed, the more I looked at him, the more I knew that, had I been a hen, I would love to have him jump on me and peck on my neck. Our chicks would be midnight-black, with blood-red comb and wattles. But I would like them to have my eyes. I have incredible eyes.

Still, I had to wonder what a rooster was doing in the center of the city and of my balcony, where no crops grow and coops don’t come for free. Then it dawned on me that when there is no natural explanation, there must be a supernatural one. This was Mistulet, the evil rooster from the book! He was real and had come to bargain with me!

I started thinking how to play this out. I knew Mistulet could grant me a wish, on the condition that, the next time he visited me, I would be able to greet him by his name. If I failed, he would eat my heart out.

Fair enough, I thought. I’ll accept the bargain. But I’ll be provident. I’ll write his name on a large piece of paper, the larger the better, and pin it on my notice board. I won’t have it as bad as stupid Mariette. Besides, I already know his name.

Feeling confident that I could outsmart an evil spirit, I started to think what to ask for. At the same time, I was surprised by his ability to remain absolutely still for such a long time. And then I saw that his beak was hanging open; his eyes were staring somewhere beyond me, with a lack of luster that could only signify a lack of intelligence.

A prince!’ I exclaimed. ‘An enchanted prince! Who says a prince always comes as a frog? If I kiss him, he will turn human. He will marry me, and life will be all wine, roses and golf, and Olga from work will be so jealous!’

Only a balcony door stood between me and my excellent fortune. I rushed to open it. But, alas! When I did, all I found waiting for me was my black watering pot with its red spout. With spirits low, I took a vow: to see my oculist and check my astigmatism. Incredible eyes can be tricky you know.

***

© Basilike Pappa, 2018

(Image: Pinterest)

The Face in the Water: A Snow White re-telling

I am delighted, glowing and overjoyed that my story The Face in the Water was picked for the 10th issue of Timeless Tales, a wonderful magazine of fairytale and myth re-tellings. This issue’s theme is Snow White, and the writers it features have taken my breath away with their imagination and writing skills.

If you find the time to read, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Timeless Tales Magazine

 

 

Death will Tear us Apart

Alexia

I thought there would be tears in Vicky’s eyes; the only thing that gleamed on her face was her red lipstick. I thought she’d bend to kiss Cleon’s cheek; she just stood over him and gave him a long look. I thought she’d say something; she smiled. And in the end the handful of dirt she threw at him was more like spitting on his face than saying goodbye. Then she found a quiet corner and smoked a cigarette.

Everyone we knew from school came to the funeral. Cleon had been so popular. Everyone had wanted to hang out with him. They were all shocked when they heard about the car accident. They drove here from all corners of the country to bid farewell to their classmate and companion. So did Vicky. But she didn’t seem to realize that we hadn’t lost only Cleon; a part of our youth had died. She didn’t speak too much with anyone, not even with me. I was the one who called to tell her about the accident. ‘I’ ll be there,’ she said and hung up before I could give her the details of what had happened.

Vicky had always been the silent type. There is something pretentious about silent types.

I went up to her as she was lighting another cigarette, her back turned to the graveyard, her gaze fixed on the hills.

‘Remember how we used to go up there and be crazy?’ I said.

She turned around slowly. Her eyes were still dry and her lipstick still juicy.

‘Sure,’ she said, and turned her gaze back to the hills.

‘And the parties we had?

‘Yes,’ she said.

‘We had so much fun. And Cleon… most of it we owed to him.’

‘Yes. Cleon always knew how to have fun,’ she said.

‘He was so full of life. Always up to something. And so gorgeous. He looked like an angel. Every girl was in love with him.’

‘Shows how clever they were,’ she said. She took a small mirror out of her purse and checked her lipstick. Then she checked the geometry of her bob and must have found it perfect, because she smiled.

‘I can’t believe I’ll never see him again… never hear his voice again–’

‘And I can’t believe he’s finally shut the fuck up,’ Vicky cut in. She tossed the mirror back in her purse and snapped it close, the sound of the clasp as dry as her eyes, her voice. Then, without another word or look at me, she turned away and left.

I stood there gaping after her, wondering since when is red lipstick appropriate for a funeral.

Vicky

He was an angel alright: an angel of vengeance.

He and I had become lovers that roaring summer after school had ended and college was to come with autumn.

It would be pleasure without pressure: we had agreed on that.

I kept the deal. He didn’t.

One day, as we were rolling naked on the scorched grass of the hills, he said the words that were not to be said. He said ‘I love you.’

He couldn’t accept the fact that I didn’t love him back. He persisted. He pleaded, he begged, he promised.

When none of it worked, he finally spoke the truth. He said ‘I hate you.’

I thought that was the end of it.

 

I never got used to the sound of the phone ringing in the middle of the night. One does not easily get used to that sort of shrillness.

‘I know you still wear red lipstick. Who do you wear it for now? Do you suck him with that lipstick on? Like you sucked me?’

The voice was hoarse and whispering, but his.

Hanging up on him did not discourage him. Changing my phone number didn’t stop him. I don’t know how he did it, but he was always able to find me. Not only me. People I dated had received night calls. He had told them to leave me alone, or else. A couple of them had listened.

But then came a night when the phone rang and it wasn’t him. It was Alexia.

‘Can you believe it? So young, so young…’ she sobbed and sobbed, and loved it that she was the messenger of bad news.

‘I’ll be there,’ I said and hung up, saving myself from her chirping bird monologue.

I caught the sideways glances she gave me at the funeral. But then she was always giving me sideways glances, even while we spoke, as if she was trying to see a face behind a mask.

I didn’t care. I came here to see Cleon dead and buried. To throw dirt on his face. To flaunt my red lipstick at him and disappear into the sunset.

And that is what I did.

 

***

Basilike Pappa 2017

 

Kitchen Crash

‘It made my hair turn white,’ Dimitris said.

‘It formed stalactites in my mouth,’ Vassia said.

‘Seriously now, guys, it cannot be that bad.’ Christos mildly defended his cooking, fork in hand.

‘Go on, have a bite,’ Vassia urged, smiling.

‘A big one,’ Dimitris added, reaching for water.

Christos bravely thrust his fork into the omelette. He cut a piece thick with triple cheese. He brought it to his mouth and chewed.

Dimitris and Vassia watched attentively for his reaction. They saw every twitch that touched his face. Finally, the chewing came to a grateful stop.

‘Well?’ they said, their voices united in amusement.

‘You were right, too much salt,’ Christos admitted. ‘Like a sea wave crushing against my tongue.’

His elbow brushed against the bottle of wine. It pirouetted awkwardly and shattered on the floor. Christos’ face fell, exactly like his spirit had. Laughing, Vassia got up and brought the mop.

‘I have had enough,’ Christos declared, burnt out. ‘Why don’t we just go somewhere to eat?’

It was the best thing to do, obviously. Who needs a growling stomach when discussing economy? It would give the subject another unpleasant aspect.

***

KITCHEN CRASH was written mostly for fun, and to see how a word constraint works. Each sentence contains eight words, after the number of letters in omelette.

Basilike Pappa