Image Credit Pixabay.com
Before meeting Annushka we knew nothing about the Ukraine. She told us about the hardships she faced under Russian occupation. Unfortunately, she disappeared with no trace in the war zone.
With a feeling of grief these short stories were written for contests on Steemit.com. Most of them are available in the book Steemit Blog: Contests, please see the link below.
With the national news recently focusing on the Ukraine because of President Trump and former Vice President Biden, we thought it would be fun to release these short stories for the first time ever as one continuous short story.
Enjoy . . .
The Ukrainian Affair
As he closed the notebook, the weight of the cover pushed the air raising dust. He coughed, and then took a drink of some rotting wine to sooth his throat.
The only light in the room poured in from large smoke stained windows. Ancient city views all around. He couldn’t remember moving here. He had always just lived in this place. Like waking up with a hangover after a big party the night before that had changed his life or something.
He exhaled smoke into the shadows of antiques sitting on shelves, rugs and wood floors, stone walls, a tapestry of a foreign war before guns.
He inhaled smoke into his lungs, the action lifting him from his chair that creaked with the effort of movement. He walked to a large window looking toward the East and Moldova. Mercedes lived there. He still loved her thinking of the mist from the gray gothic city as the steam from her warmth on a snowy train platform; her blonde hair curling over the fur coat with eyes like melting ice. On that day he decided to marry her in order to keep her at his side forever.
He continued to smoke his cigarette letting these thoughts engulf his mind. One thought from many different lives.
He turned around. And began to pace to the other side of the room along the Persian rug. Once again, only the stained sunlight lit the room in the shape of the windows, like a Dali painting. The light, square boxes that extended to the wall or the floor cutting shapes in the furniture, the contrast made the shadows empty voids.
He passed his writing desk wondering where this story would lead him. He had wanted to find inspiration in this penthouse. The kestrel helped. That bird hid a metaphor. Only for what or for whom in the story he still had not decided. He would need to finish it first and hash it all out in the editing process.
He took another drag from the cigarette.
He passed the fireplace still clean from the summer of disservice. Wood stacked for a change in temperature. Global warming, or what Americans called an “Indian Summer”? Still warm for September. He liked that he wrote the story to go along with the current date in which he lived, only the year didn’t match.
He continued to the window looking toward the West and Amsterdam. The cigarette half smoked, he knocked off some ash in the ashtray, most of the ash already on the floor somewhere.
Amsterdam, that’s where he’d lost Mercedes in a drug filled haze of a disco-tech. They’d each gone somewhere else with different people. They’re paths not meant to cross again. If only they’d been simple village people instead of world travelers.
Orange and red leaves dappled the ground in the cemetery. A black cat moved through the brush invisible, its yellow eyes peering through a pumpkin patch where ravens perched on a scarecrow. The birds cawed announcing the transition of the season from summer to fall.
A little ways down the mountain music pounded with the electro beat of the DJ. A drone flew around the outdoor rave of the ski lodge recording everything for a future YouTube video.
The DJ stood at one end of the massive deck with awe inspiring 360 degree views of the Swiss Alps. Some snow from years past still remained in the shadows of the rocks.
The deck spanned a couple of hundred meters to the lodge where drinks were served. A parked Gondola on the other side of the lodge had brought most of them here. However, on the DJ side of the lodge a path climbed to the haunted house above for anyone looking to get scared.
And everyone danced to the rhythm of the beats. Pulsing electronic music radiating from the turn table where the DJ spun records, adjusted volumes, pushed buttons, and smiled to greet VIPs at the Boiler Room sponsored event.
The blue sky faded through the dusk into a magical cool clearing of stars; the dance floor illuminated by the full moon caressed in a mist of clouds.
Champagne and Mercedes rubbed the latex of each others’ sexy cat women costumes. Only Champagne wore white while Mercedes wore black.
The two were Candyflipping, and enjoying themselves, when a drunk man wearing a latex Venom custom tried to get in on the action grinding against Mercedes. She pushed him back.
“Get away from us jerk!” Yelled Champagne.
The people around them moved into a small circle. The man raised his arms in surrender and walked away. The conflict resolved with everyone going back to dancing.
And the beat continued under the full moon light.
Only Champagne and Mercedes gradually made their way to the bar where they each drank a Back Draft: one shot Grand Marnier, one shot Courvoisier, both poured into a tumbler glass, and lit on fire.
As they took pleasure in the heated liquid moving down their throats Champagne pointed to the path entrance and said, “there’s an abandoned house and a graveyard a little ways up that path. We should go and smoke cigarettes and make out.”
“Yeah, these Nazi’s won’t let you smoke cigarettes on the deck. And what’s with that guy in the Venom costume, like what a freak. Let’s go!” Said Mercedes
The two held each others hands, and ran away in their high heels to the path, and the abandoned house above where wind rushed through the tombstones.
“Like O my God! How’d you find out about this place Champagne?” Asked Mercedes lighting her cigarette as they walked around on the broken wood floor of the house built with stone, all the windows were missing, and the moonlight poured in from all directions creating optical illusions with the effects of the drugs.
“It’s on the internet. When I bought the tickets to the rave I looked up information about this location. One of the links talked about this place.
There used to be a goldmine here. Everyone lived in this house. Only one day someone came up here to bring supplies and didn’t make it back to the village. So they sent another person and the same thing happened!
Eventually they sent a search party.
The owner of the goldmine had gone mad, and started killing everyone with a pitch fork, they had to kill him!
He’s buried with all the miners in the graveyard. The people from the village were taken back home.” Said Champagne.
“No way! Why did you tell me that! Now I’m scared. Let’s go back to the party,” said Mercedes stomping out her cigarette in her black latex cat women costume.
“Ha, ha, I got you!” Laughed Champagne before she took another drag from her smoke. Her white latex cat women costume glowing in the moon rays cutting across the dark room. And then a pitchfork pierced her stomach. Blood ran down from the four holes in her belly.
Mercedes screamed, then turned to catch a glimpse of the man in the Venom costume ducking behind a stone wall.
Mercedes moved into the shadows scanning around with tears in her eyes, only her attention remained fixed on her friend Champagne, dying from the pitchfork protruding from her mid region. Champagne tried to speak garbled words, obviously in shock, and the emotion amplified from the effects of the Candyflipping.
An arm wrapped around Mercedes neck. Self defense training took over like an instinct. She grabbed the arm flipping the man over her shoulder. She then stomped down puncturing his throat with her stiletto heeled boot.
Mercedes then broke down in the cold night. Pitch black shadows and sparkling moonlight. Red blood turned gray as the last movements of life danced away into the night in sync with electronic drum beats.
Champagne poisoned by Venom, now both deceased in the dawn of a new day, Mercedes life changed forever.
“Mercedes.” Jim said aloud to the empty room as he looked at the Russian mail order bride website on his laptop. Her name matched his class and the car in the garage.
Only she didn’t live in Russia; she lived in the Ukraine. And while her face smiled, with blonde locks of hair shining in the sunny country side of a small Eastern European village, her eyes looked dimmed from night clubbing.
Jim sipped his Almond Milk waiting for the quiche to cook. He looked at a couple of more pictures of Mercedes. The pictures were only of her in different locations around the Ukraine. He glossed over her biography, everything you’d hope for in a healthy young woman looking for opportunity in America.
Jim decided to send her an Email.
After many months of exchanging Emails, and talking on camera with each other, Jim made the decision to ask Mercedes to marry him and move to America.
He finished making his hot chocolate in the kitchen then walked to his home office decorated for Christmas, in order to make the historic video call to his soon to be fiancée.
Before he made the connection, he took a moment to look at himself on his computer to make sure he looked alright. He wore the pajamas she said she liked. The room sparkled in Christmas lights. And even though Marge said Mercedes would never survive an engagement with the Russian occupation of Ukraine, her gold plated bulb hung overhead.
Satisfied he clicked the connection on his computer.
Mercedes sat in front of him as she had many times before. Only her face looked indignant with tear stained mascara.
“What’s wrong Mercedes?” Asked Jim.
“I killed Venom once for poisoning Champagne.” She said in a shrewd Ukrainian accent with her eyebrow raised.
“Champagne?” Jim said confused and worried.
“I watched her bleed out all night under the full moon light. Only that doesn’t compare to what I see here.” Her eyes piercing his soul like daggers.
“Mercedes! What’s going on? I wanted to ask you to join me in America . . .” Jim said now crying.
A fist filled the screen as Mercedes raced to the floor and out of view. Then a masked man sat in her place pointing a gun at the camera on her end of the line. He said something in Russian or Ukrainian. Then the connection ended.
Months had passed with no communication with Mercedes. Distressed, Jim had joined an online support group where he met through a miracle, someone connected to the Ukrainian resistance.
This person would tell him things about the violence before the news reported it. And on occasions when the news ignored major gun battles the videos of the skirmishes would appear online. Once the person had even Emailed footage from a first person shooter perspective.
Then one day Jim got Emailed a video of a DJ performing at a night club. She looked almost like Mercedes; almost, only she had more polish with a marketing company supporting her career. The Email included a date and a location in Western Europe not far from the Ukrainian border.
Jim knew he should go if he ever wanted to see Mercedes again.
And so he did . . .
Jim stood on a hot summer Mediterranean night at the ticket box office in front of the expensive trendy night club.
He thought of himself as being cool, only the young people surrounding him rivaled the Harajuku Girls of Japan.
“DJ Mystery.” Jim said to the ticket box office attendant who returned a blank stare. “DJ Mystery!”
“American?” Answered the attendant with the question.
“Yes. Jim for DJ Mystery.”
“Like Jim Morrison,” laughed the attendant.
“Yeah, I guess so . . .” Jim said, realizing this moment to be the first time in his life someone had called him Jim Morrison.
The attendant slid him a ticket that said “VIP Backstage”.
“Jim,” said DJ Mystery standing in front of him topless, she looked just as gorgeous as she did on the cryptic Emailed video, and on her website and social media pages.
“Yes, how is this happening?” Asked Jim.
“We have a mutual friend in the Ukrainian resistance movement. I’m Ukrainian, and I know of your Mercedes,” answered DJ Mystery.
“You know my Mercedes?”
“Of your Mercedes. I’m sure you know enough about me to know that I travel the world performing as a DJ. There’s one place on the circuit that’s preferred in the Swiss Alps. Mercedes’ story there reads like a tragic folk tale.”
“Does my Mercedes star in a real life horror story with someone named Champagne?”
“Yes, someone there meant them real harm, a man dressed in a Venom suit impaled Champagne with a pitchfork. Mercedes killed him slowly, and spent the night watching them both die,” DJ Mystery said like a gypsy.
“This story gives me a headache,” complained Jim.
“Take this.” DJ Mystery replied handing him a pill.
“Thanks,” Jim said and then took the pill. “What is it Tylenol or something?”
“No. They call it Candyflipping. It’s a mix of LCD and Ecstacy.” DJ Mystery said rather coolly.
“What . . . ?” Jim said dismayed.
“If you want to know Mercedes then join me on stage. She and Champagne were Candyflipping on that fateful night. No longer can you play that venue without the story being retold and the moans of Champagne howling through the valleys of the mountains.”
DJ Mystery’s voice put Jim into a trance.
She turned her attention to her wardrobe mirror and put on a pushup bra, then threw on a fashionable blouse shirt thing. She turned confidently back toward Jim, grabbing his hand as she marched out the makeup room door to the stage and the chants of over 10,000 adoring fans.
“Just stand there and dance.” DJ Mystery told Jim putting him in the shadows to the side of the stage. She then raised her hands to a raucous exclamation in the theater.
Laser lights cut through the smoke as arms were raised into the darkness. DJ Mystery put on her headphones and started spinning records. The loudest beats filled the room. Jim danced to the pulse of this gigantic heartbeat.
The military grade personnel carrier jumped on the unpaved road. Jim sat sandwiched between some rough men carrying guns. They were friends of DJ Mystery, a security attachment to escort her to her show in the Ukraine that the Russians were allowing to take place.
“Mercedes,” said the soldier in recognition. He then said something in their native tongue to the others in the carrier. They all nodded and laughed a little.
“What?” Asked Jim to the soldier.
“She’s a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance movement. People who are willing to risk their lives for freedom say, ‘I will kill a Russian to marry Mercedes’”, said the soldier. All the others nodded in agreement, and Jim realized only now that he must compete for Mercedes’ hand in marriage.
“Have you ever used an AK-47?” Asked the soldier handing him the assault rifle.
“Just in video games,” answered Jim.
“Oh good, so you have some tactical experience. Here’s the safety. This releases the clip to reload. Here’s more bullets.”
“Thanks for the training,” said Jim still recovering from Candyflipping the night before.
“You’ll need it. We’re going to sneak out during the show and visit a Russian stronghold where we think Mercedes is being kept.”
“Sounds good,” Jim gulped looking up at the canvas of the armed personnel carrier wishing he had body armor or something.
A cooler Ukrainian summer night compared to the one the night before.
Jim crouched in the shadows of twilight as DJ Mystery’s beats sounded in the distance behind him. All of the natives were there.
The music signaled the men in Jim’s party to storm the barracks where the Russian soldiers slept in an abandoned night club at the center of town.
The soldier kicked in the front door and starting firing inside, then the others including Jim, filed inside like a SWAT team.
Shots were being fired all around as silver bullets ricocheted.
Only Jim’s attention got attracted to the stripper pole dancing in the middle of the room, she looked like Mercedes. Then he ducked for cover before being killed by a professional.
He held his gun behind a table afraid to move. He hadn’t spent much time around people in the last couple of years. He worked at a computer and even did most of that from home. His immediate family lived in different parts of the country. And his one chance at romance took him here to this far away tavern.
The hail of gunfire stopped, and the soldier picked Jim up by the shoulder triumphantly.
“We won Jim,” the soldier said, and the survivors from their party moved toward the pole dancer, stepping over the corpses of Russian comrades.
Mercedes looked Jim in the eyes as he approached her soft naked body.
“Jim, have you come all this way to recue me,” Mercedes said smiling with sharp white teeth.
“Yes, I want to take you back to America and marry you.”
Diamonds of mist sparkled high in Mercedes eyes. In this dazzling moment anything seemed possible.
That’s when the soldier covered her body in a fur coat, and said, “it’s time for us to leave. Mercedes, I’m taking you to a safe place nearby that I know of . . . Jim, we must split up. Give me your gun. If anyone asks, you’re just a tourist from the concert. If they think your involved in this you might get life in prison for murder, or for being a terrorist.”
“Goodbye Jim,” Mercedes said and walked out of his life forever.
Jim gave up the AK-47, and went back to the concert that remained undisturbed. He pleaded with the box office ticket attendant to be allowed back inside. Only the staff at the venue refused to let him regain admittance after leaving.
A Russian tank approached from the direction of the makeshift barracks. The soldier at the machine gun on top took a long look at Jim before turning his head to continue scanning for threats.
Jim left the concert in the small Ukrainian village unarmed. He’d even lost his cell phone. He really had no idea where in the world he might be. He just walked forward into the forest of trees along the dirt road as if he were the last person on Earth.
Alone, he only wished this were the apocalypse, and that he were closer to home.
Jim had lost his cell phone, yet still had his wallet, and room key to the hotel where he remained checked in for another week.
Even so, he didn’t feel well after what he had been through with DJ Mystery, and his search for Mercedes. Not to mention, two sleepless nights wandering through the Ukrainian countryside evading military patrols.
Jim walked through the hotel lobby noticing the woman that had checked him in with a warm greeting to her country. Now her cold staring eyes cut through him knowing of the many things that could happen in places where tourists should never tread.
He continued boldly to the elevator where a soon-to-be Ukrainian bride argued with an Australian groom from the sound of his accent.
She cried, pleading to her interpreter. “She doesn’t want get married now. She needs time in her room. You’ve been drinking,” said the older female interpreter.
“Let’s put another shrimp on the bar-bee,” the large drunk Australian man said laughing while trying to put a big arm around her.
Jim slid past them as the elevator door opened. He held his hand up to the tearstained bride and told her calmly, “you’ll have to wait for the next elevator.”
He hit the close door button twice before realizing he actually pressed the Penthouse floor button.
He then hit the close door button, noticing that the Penthouse floor button never illuminated. As the elevator door shut with Jim alone inside, and the fighting wedding party outside, he hit the Penthouse floor button again and it lit up.
Jim shook his head as the lift began to rise. He then hit the 28th floor button for his room. Only the light did not illuminate. He began to press the 28th floor button many times, and other buttons as well, only none would alight.
He had a one way ticket to the Penthouse floor in the hotel now; the hotel, a skyscraper that dominated the Kiev skyline.
The elevator continued to go up, and Jim with it. Outside, he could see the city through the glass descending before him, the effect giving him vertigo.
Finally, the elevator stopped and the door opened to the Penthouse. Jim made the dash to safe ground.
Unexpectedly, he found himself in a vaulted scientific laboratory with electrical currents jumping off the ceiling, and a thin strong woman with all the characteristics of a North Korean, playing the role of mad scientist while prevailing above the scene at a control panel.
In front of Jim, and below the North Korean woman, sat the center of all this attention; two metal discs connected to wires, one contained a banana, and the other a fish.
The elevator door closed behind Jim.
Just then the North Korean woman lifted a lever that sent electricity pulsating toward the two metal discs. An arc of spark formed in front of Jim’s eyes that connected the two discs. The power began to fade, as it dissipated entirely it revealed a living breathing bananafish that began tap dancing as it bellowed out the lyrics to an old jazz era song:
“Hello my honey! Hello my baby! Hello my ragtime gal . . .”
“It’s alive!” The North Korean woman exclaimed in triumph to the Bananafish.
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