The Ugly Man in the MIst sneers. 
is a Flash Fiction story based on "Lightning in a Jar" TAROT DRACONIS: Ace of Swords

Lightning in a Jar

The lightning bolt snaked down from the sky, and Cassie wished she could catch it in a glass jar and tighten the lid. It would play and swirl in the jar, then it would bend and twist to the whims of Cassie’s fingers against the glass. Cassie recalled the day Mom took her to the science museum. They had an electricity display where tendrils of lightning danced in a glass orb at the touch of her hands.

Cassie clutched Ethur’s tiny, obsidian body, now stiff and dormant on his long silver chain, and choked back the hot tears threatening to overflow. They did it again, the bullies. They hurt her in the most vicious manner: they ripped her dress. The last dress Mom had cut and sewn for her. Cassie recalled the bright red scarf wrapped around Mom’s bald head, as the sewing machine whirred slurping fabric, then spitting out the dress. The scarf was Mom’s favorite, and the lively and cheery pattern contrasted with her sallow, waning face. Mom had faded away before their eyes, and this dress had been her last gift to her daughter.

Cassie glanced down at the beautiful paisley pattern and regretted wearing it today. But it was school picture day, and she wanted to look lovely for Dad. She wanted him to smile at the picture. But now the bullies had ruined her dress, and Cassie wished she could catch the lightning bolt and spin it into thread and mend the shoulder and the ripped fabric Mom had chosen with so much love.

Cassie glared at Becky, the major culprit, and the big cheese of all the bullies. The last time Cassie had felt the anger rise, Becky had pissed in her pants in front of the teacher and the entire class. But the incident now lay at the bottom of oblivion; the class had forgotten it. Cassie clenched her fist and gnashed her teeth. They forgot Becky’s “accident”, but they still remembered every detail, every mistake, and every faux pas Cassie ever made.

The storm was blowing away; sun rays fell in buttery rags on the playground, and the fleeting dream of catching lightning faded away, like Mom, when the teacher announced it was time for the school pictures. Cassie ran a hand over her shoulder and felt the tattered dress; a single tear rolled down her cheek. The class was already filing out of the classroom towards the playground, and the teacher’s impatient and annoyed glare cut Cassie’s heart; she hurried out of the room.

The photographer had set up the camera in front of the jungle gym and was directing students to arrange themselves within it. As Cassie neared, a chill slithered down her spine. The photographer’s voice hissed in her ears, and when he turned towards her, Cassie recognized The Ugly Man in the Mist. Here was the man with the top hat who had oozed down the street, shrouded by a black mist, the day she met Adrian, and who had accosted at her at recess that time the bullies had thrown Ethur over the fence.

Ethur awoke and kicked his hooves against her abdomen. Fear paralyzed Cassie, and she stood, locking eyes with the man whose ugly face contorted into a snaky leer.

Adrian, help me!

But Adrian was at his own school, and The Ugly Man in the Mist had found Cassie again.

“If you please,” the Ugly Man’s voice oozed honey, and he pointed towards the jungle gym, “Cassiopeia.”

Cassie froze; The Ugly Man in the Mist knew her name! She trembled, her heart pumped in her ears and the fear sweated through her palms. How she wished she could catch lightning, but the Black Mist was now engulfing them, and no one noticed it. It surrounded Cassie, and its powerful tentacles crawled up her legs, winding themselves around her neck and torso. Ethur was fighting and kicking and neighing, but Cassie could not breathe; no air entered her constricted chest, and black spots sparkled before her eyes. 

She wished she could catch lightning and hurl it at The Ugly Man in the Mist, but he had immobilized her. She tried to jump away, to teleport herself to the Grove of Ever-Blooming Trees, but The Black Mist blocked her and kept her rooted to the ground.


The Ugly Man’s lustful sneer disappeared in a flash of light when a thunderous boom exploded from Cassie’s hands. Her palms tingled with electricity and filaments of light crackled and weaved between her fingers. 

The Ugly Man growled, clutching his chest as crimson blood spattered his teeth. Then, a fist appeared from inside The Black Mist and punched The Ugly Man to the ground, who twisted and writhed and slithered away.

“I’ll kill you both,” he hissed, and vanished in a puff of smoke.

Adrian stood with his fists raised. The Black Mist dissipated, and the sun shone on Cassie’s strawberry curls as she ran into Adrian’s arms.

The photographer—a short and chubby man—still directed kids on the jungle gym, who joked and giggled while the teacher instructed them to obey. No one noticed Adrian and Cassie embracing.

“You called me here,” Adrian whispered.


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