Summer Siren–Blog Hop July 2018

I think I cut this one just a little too close for comfort. As of Monday afternoon, I had no story and no ideas. So I picked a title which became my prompt. Here’s the product of my last-minute, mad dash to complete a story.

I hope you like it.

Summer Siren

Halia scowled as dark clouds gathered over her island home. It was summer, and she wanted to be on the cliffs, watching as beautiful men on their beautiful sailing vessels skirted the reefs that ran below the surface of the deep blue water. In her dreams a sailor with golden hair, ruddy skin, and deep blue eyes beckoned to her. He sang songs of the sea and told tales of distant lands.

Halia watched for him.

Longed for him.

She knew he would come to her. She knew.

Neso did not approve. The matters of men are their own affair. The love of men leads only to despair. The rhyme was her sister’s mantra. Halia didn’t care. She saw the ships and their sailors and she was drawn to them, certain that their journeys would take them to exotic destinations far away. She liked to imagine what it would be like to go on an adventure across the sea.

“Maybe,” she had mused to herself on more than one occasion, “my blue-eyed sailor might some day come share tales from across the water. Maybe I could go with him. Maybe he could love me.” Desire bordering on desperation filled her soul.

She knew it was an empty wish.

Still, she watched the waves.

This day, what she saw surprised her.

It was not a sailing ship large enough to carry cargoes of silks and spices and wine. It was a smaller boat, a mere skiff by the looks of it. Not a vessel fit to be traveling this far out to sea.

Halia ran along the strand of sandy soil to a rocky outcropping. From that vantage point she would be able to see the boat more clearly.

More importantly, anyone on the boat would be more likely to see her. With the wind beginning to whip, she knew the tumbled boulders of her shoreline would be all but invisible. A ship large enough for fifty men would easily be grounded on those rocks. This tiny boat could be smashed to kindling.

She climbed until she could haul herself onto a broad, flat ledge. The heat of the stone soaked into her bare skin in spite of the storm that now threatened. A wall of grey rain loomed in the distance.

And there it was. A tiny white boat bobbed between waves that revealed and hid it in turn.

On its deck a single man worked to control the bobbing vessel. She could see his golden hair and his ruddy skin. And despite the wind, she could hear a deep, baritone voice ringing out clear and piercing.

Come to me, my bonnie lass
Come across the sea
For though I sail ten thousand leagues
Ever I’ll return to thee, my love
Ever I’ll return to thee

She knew in her heart that, could she see his face, she would fall right into his deep blue eyes.

Her toes curled against warm granite as the rain began. “I’m coming, my love. You have found me!” Her heart leapt and Halia followed.

***

“Halia? Halia!” Neso cried out for her sister as she picked her way along the rocky beach. Tears welled in her eyes as she chased a faint hope that her foolish sibling might have taken shelter in a grotto against the morning’s storm. She’d heard the song herself, so she knew. Her sister was lost forever.

Halia had answered the call of the siren.

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note, if you find links that don’t work, try again later. Sometimes it takes a little time to get the gremlins worked out.

    1. Summer Siren, by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
    2. The Birch Tree, by Juneta Key
    3. The Zoning Zone, by Vanessa Wells
    4. Secrets, by Elizabeth Winfield
    5. Team Building Exercise, by Samantha Bryant
    6. Another Time, by J. Q. Rose
    7. Suds and Sclaes, by Eileen Mueller
    8. Beginning Again, by Karen Lynn
    9. Under the Bridge, by Katharina Gerlach
    10. Black and White, by Bill Bush

Hare–Blog Hop April 2018

Welcome, once again, to the Story Time Blog Hop. I hope you enjoy this round’s offering. Don’t forget to check out the links to the additional stories below!

Hare

Clementine changed as quickly as she could and slipped out the back of her hut. It wasn’t the best night to be out, what with the rain and all. A definite chill hung in the air despite the coming of Spring. Fortunately, the fur that now cloaked her would protect from the elements. Besides, the Elemental that sought her, a vengeful wood sprite, would never recognize her as a hare.

She honestly didn’t even know what that sprite was so upset about. There were plenty of trees. How was she to know that particular tree was so important? Sprites don’t hang out shingles to announce their presence. All Clementine knew was that it was old and gnarled and looked like it would make fine firewood.

It had, too. She was right about that.

She supposed her own home might as well be firewood now, too. That sprite, nasty fairy, had called on the wind to circle her house. Near enough knocked the blessed thing down. Near enough destroyed or swept away all her notes and papers. Near enough dashed Clementine’s hopes of ever being more than a simple shape shifter.

At least she was still that. The angry sprite had surely meant to kill her. There was fire in her eyes—never a good sign on a wood sprite, touchy as they could be about fire near their trees. So before the sprite’s wind could catch her scent, Clementine had shifted to a jackrabbit. Low and fast, she’d slipped out and watched from nearby bushes as her house collapsed and was torn apart.

She nibbled on a sprig of ivy and pondered what to do.

A rustle in the nearby underbrush caught her attention, putting her on high alert. She paused only long enough to sense movement before she began to run for her life. A fox darted after her and was close on her heals.

Bare moments passed before Clementine started to feel the fatigue of the chase. Taking the form of a rabbit didn’t give her the speed or stamina of the creature. She’d been a hare numerous times, but never for long enough to build the proper muscles.

Lucky for her, she had enough of her own human wits about her to head for a nearby clearing. As soon as the open sky hung above her, she leapt. Strong, feathered wings spread to her sides and she flapped moonward.

Her transformation happened none too soon; she felt the fox’s breath on her feet as her eagle’s body lifted into the sky.

Strong.

Free.

And vengeful. In this guise, she resented the fox that wanted to eat her. She looked down and saw it with her enhanced vision, still skulking warily at the edges of the thicket. It probably wondered where it’s meal went.

With another screech, she dove toward the little fox that had seemed so large just moments before. She got closer and reached, but her talons just missed catching her hunter-turned-prey. She climbed toward the moon again as the russet fox disappeared back into the shadows. No fresh meat for this eagle. Not this night.

She rose above the trees, now, enjoying her flight. It was easy, as a bird, to forget the troubles below.

Before long, though, she needed to return to the ground. Human life called back to her and she knew if she didn’t answer soon, human sense would escape her and she’d be left in this form. Clementine circled once again, closing in on the location of her own secluded homestead. She spotted an opening in the trees and descended, alighting with surprising grace beside a fallen log.

As she began to change back to human form, recognition came. Not a fallen log, after all. Cut. A tree she herself had felled.

The tree belonging to…

Oh no!

She felt the magic a moment too late to avoid the wood sprite’s trap.

“You!” The sprite, appearing from the surrounding darkness, approached her frozen form. “Witch! You destroyed my home!”

Clementine struggled against invisible bonds, to no avail. “And you, Sprite, have surely returned the favor. Let me go!”

“It’s my duty to protect these woods, witch.” A dark smile spread across the wood sprite’s pale face as she stepped closer. “Today, they are protected from you.”

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note, if you find links that don’t work, try again later. Sometimes it takes a little time to get the gremlins worked out.

Hare, by Elizabeth McCleary YOU ARE HERE
The Widow, by Vanessa Wells
A Snow White Morning, by Katharina Gerlach
The Letter, by Juneta Key
Trick or Treacle, by Angela Wooldridge
Sugar in the Raw, by Karen Lynn
Inferno, by Fanni Soto
Tae, by Barbara Lund
Interstellar Student Exchange, by Raven O’Fiernan
The Ghost Fighter, by Bill Bush

Grandma’s Legacy–Blog Hop January 2018

Grandma’s Legacy

I pull down the garland from over the door and coil it into a box. Sighing, I glance around the old shop. That seems to be the last of the Christmas decorations.

I’d been counting on a holiday boost to get caught up on the bills. Unfortunately between the online deals people were getting and the blizzard that shut down the city the last three days before Christmas… well, let’s just say that I didn’t have my happiest holiday.

I flip to door sign to open and turn the brass lock with a click. Tuesdays aren’t big sales days, but I can’t afford to miss out on even one potential customer. Not if I’m going to keep Grandma’s Legacy, the antique shop I’d inherited from my grandmother, alive for another year. No crowds come rushing in to greet me.

Then I pick up the box of decorations, same ones grandma used when this was her shop, and head for the store room. I’ll get it up to the storage loft later. For now I just need to have it out of the way. As I’m tucking it into a corner, the bell out front jangles. Probably a tourist still here from Christmas. Maybe they’re looking for a souvenir.

“Hello?” I hurry back out to the front of the store and don’t see anyone at first.

“Mornin’, lass!” The voice comes from near the door and as I approach I realize there’s a man standing there. He can’t be more than three feet tall. A holdover elf, maybe?

I almost giggle, then falter and catch myself. I wouldn’t want him to think I was laughing at him. “Can I help you find something? We have some great memorabilia from good ole Walter Falls.”

He takes a step closer and looks around the shop, then leans to look past me towards the back. “Actually, I was hoping to find Edna. Is she around?”

Grandma.

“Oh. I’m so sorry to tell you this. She passed away a couple of years ago.” I thought I was over the loss, but the disappointment on his face makes my breath hitch. “I guess you knew her?”

He took a deep breath before talking. “A bit. I promised her I’d be back one day. I guess I’m too late.”

“I really am sorry. Can I get you some tea? Grandma always taught me to keep the water hot.” I motioned to an antique armchair where he could sit, though he had to climb up to settle himself. “Constant Comment or Irish Breakfast?”

“Irish, if you please. Milk and sugar if you have it.”

I nodded and stepped to the side board where I kept an electric kettle on. He continued talking.

“I met Edna fifty years ago. Mistook me for an elf, almost.” He chuckled and I relaxed a little. “I suppose I can’t blame her, allowing for my short stature. And it was Christmas, after all.”

I brought over my best English Rose tea service and set it on a small table. The man paused to put three lumps of sugar in his cup which I then filled with tea. When he put up a hand I stopped pouring and he topped it off with milk.

“Thank you, young lady. So many these days forget the niceties of life.” He sipped at the cup and smiled. “Perfect.”

“Where did you meet Grandma?” Not a suitor. She’d have been long married to Grandpa by then.

“Why, right here in this shop. It looked a shade different then. Just bobbins and noggins, of course. Folks didn’t bother much with collecting antiques back then.” He waved his hand as if to clear his thoughts. “That doesn’t matter though,” he said. “What matters is that she saw me and, bright lass that she was, recognized the difference right away. No, not my size. I’m telling you, Edna had the rare gift of really knowing folks. Folks of all kinds.

“Though many call me elf, she saw the right of it straight away. Had me dead to rights, she did. But me? I tricked her. Wicked as I am, I did. Told her I’d be back with what I owed. Gave me word. People always forget to ask the time up front.” He seemed to be staring right into the past as he tipped back the last of his tea.

“I’m confused,” I said, squatting next to the chair so we could talk at eye level. “If you’d just met, what could you have owed her? Did you break something in the shop? I’m sure that was forgiven long ….”

He waved his hand. “No, lass. This is a deeper kind of owing.”He looked right in my eyes and nodded as if that made sense. “Most disappear in fifty years, but she’s still here.”

I frown at that. Did he forget?

“I don’t forget, girl,” he said as if he heard my thoughts. “None of the details nor my obligations.” He scooted off the chair and looked up, again catching my eyes. “Edna is right here in the heart and hands of her rightful heir. Consider my debt now paid.”

He handed me his empty cup. I smiled back. Paid his obligation by drinking my best tea. I put the cup on its tray. When I turned back, the man was gone.

“Sir?” I stood from squatting and walked around the shop, looking. He can’t have left. The bell didn’t chime. And yet… I walked all the way around the counter and when I got back where I started I noticed a small chest on the floor by the chair.

That definitely wasn’t one of mine. Something that beautiful would have sold right away, no matter how slow business was.

I tried to lift it, but it felt nailed to the floor so I lifted the lid instead. My knees buckled and I sat hard on the floor when I saw the gold coins inside. A note lay across the treasure.

Lass,
I gave my word and a Leprechaun always keeps his word.
My apologies for the delay in fulfillment, but it seems to me that these things always happen just when they should. Pardon the lack of a pot. Chests are a mite more convenient.
Blessings be yours, and may the luck of the Irish follow all your days.

I guess Grandma’s legacy is safe after all.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note, if you find links that don’t work, try again later. Sometimes it takes a little time to get the gremlins worked out.

  1. Grandma’s Legacy by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Dragonslayer by Barbara Lund
  3. Megan’s Virus by Karen Lynn
  4. Studenting by Chris Makowski
  5. I, The Magician by Raven O’Fiernan
  6. Growth Spurt by Bill Bush
  7. Mystical Manatee Park by J. Q. Rose
  8. Phased Out by Kami Bataya
  9. Snow White (17) MURDERED by K. M. Flint
  10. A Character Profile by Juneta Key
  11. Monstrous Monday by Fanni Soto

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Sanctuary–Blog Hop October 2017

I actually wrote this story a couple of years ago. I had intended to find somewhere to submit it, but never did. So here it is for your creepy enjoyment.

Fair warning… it is considerably darker than my usual fare and some may find it unpleasant or offensive. It’s horror, after all. Sue me. 😉

Sanctuary

He pushed through the entryway, his face hot with exertion and fear. Dear God, he was getting too old for this. Already exhausted, he blinked sweat from his eyes as he struggled to swing the heavy oaken door closed behind him. The grate of the hinges belied the frequency with which the door’s mass was moved. When he finally turned the lock, he allowed himself to collapse against its reassuring, worn surface. His breath came in ragged gasps.

The dark of the night is when the affliction of this city was illuminated most clearly, the unholy dead rising from their graves. And he—he alone—must hold them at bay.

“Bishop?” His heart raced at the voice. He hadn’t realized he wasn’t alone. “Father, is something wrong?” The Abbess had always unsettled him, more so since the creatures had come. He wished he understood why.

He took a moment to compose himself; tugged his frock into place, wiped at his forehead before noticing the grime on his sleeve. “All is well.” He couldn’t bring himself to say more. Despite his unnatural dislike for the woman, he had no intention of subjecting her to his terrors. God gave him this burden. The visitation. The instruction. He would continue to bear it alone. He knew in his heart the dead could not harm him. Surely God would protect his chosen? He only wished his experience… well…. He shook his head. These past months had been a nightly trial.

And yet he stood. That was something.

She rose, gliding toward him across the ancient stones of the floor. “Come,” she said. “I will bear you up.” She maneuvered to his side. “My lord has strengthened me.” She gave him her arm which he accepted without thought, relaxing slightly onto her surprisingly sturdy form. She smelled of soap and orange blossoms, but that was overlaid with something more foul. The creatures, he thought. Have they followed me here? But, no. It had always been safe here.

The linen of her sleeve was rough against his fingertips—his long years had calloused neither heart nor hands. She brushed his hand with her own—he was glad to note he was not trembling overmuch as she guided him into the Nave, tracing steps he had taken countless times before. She guided him toward one of the long, hard pews that would be filled with supplicants come morning.

Discomfort pricked at him. Has God not set me apart? A voice full of certainty whispered in his mind, insisting that he must not acquiesce to this woman, no matter how slight the circumstances.

She grimaced as he dropped her hand and took a step back. “Not here!” he said too forcefully. He saw something in her eyes then that increased his disquiet. Frustration? Anger? His own anger flared then. After all his years of sacrifice, he would not be judged so casually. He pulled back his shoulders and stepped aside. If he could face the non-living, he could face this lone woman. “Give me the strength, Lord.” He whispered it quietly, not wanting her to hear his weakness.

A chill ran through him. The Presence. I still walk in favor. But what kind of favor leaves me battling the dead?

She smiled at him, but he did not return it. Was there falsehood in her meekness? His own uncertainty rankled as much as anything. He drew a breath, flinching at the fetid scent that still lingered, and walked past her toward the front of the cathedral. Her footsteps echoed a few paces behind. Reaching the dais, he paused, not trusting his strength, but unwilling to be weak. He did manage the stairs, albeit slowly.

He trailed a finger along the edge of  the altar—the place he’d sacrificed so much. Finally he turned, leaning on the cold marble, and stared at the Abbess. She climbed toward him until she, too, leaned on his sacred table.

“Woman!” He gasped at her brazenness. “You presume too much.”

The corners of her mouth played into a cold smile. “You,” she said, “have no idea what you are dealing with.”

He growled. “You are the one who doesn’t know!”

“I know dead men walk.” She leaned closer. “I know not every resurrection is sacred.”

His head spun as realization crashed in on him. How long had she known? His prayers were what was important. His dedication. His authority. He would not tolerate her insolence.

“I WILL NOT BE OVERCOME!” he shouted. Spittle foamed at the corners of his mouth; his eyes wide. Wild. Staring.

He felt every one of his endless years in that moment. Tearing his eyes from her, he let his vision stray to the image of Adam holding an apple, the serpent coiled at the feet of his temptress.

He knew, then, the truth of it.

“You.” He jabbed a finger toward her even as his voice lowered. “You caused this. You brought in this evil.” The bitter taste of bile rose in his throat. Oh, God! Why did you not reveal your path sooner? A single bark of laughter escaped him, the sound entirely without mirth. “I will send you to settle your own kind.”

“Good.” The smile the Abbess showed him chilled him to the bone, even as he rounded the altar to settle his hands at her throat. “My Master will be happy to see us both.”

Insensate, he tightened his grip around her slender neck. Choked laughter rolled out of her.

The Bishop’s screams echoed in what was once his sanctuary.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note, if you find links that don’t work, try again later. Sometimes it takes a little time to get the gremlins worked out.

  1. Sanctuary by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Till Death Us by Fanni Sütő
  3. The Cloud by Karen Lynn
  4. Data Corruption by Barbara Lund
  5. Wish Granted by Kami Bataya
  6. The Witch of Wall Street by J. Q. Rose
  7. Grim Reapers on a Field Trip by J Lenni Dorner
  8. Unwelcome Vistors by Bill Bush
  9. A Writer’s Morning by Katharina Gerlach
  10. Unverified by Erica Damon
  11. Tito’s to the Max by Chris Makowski
  12. The Boon by Juneta Key
  13. Recommended Reading @ Raven O’Fiernan

 

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Freeman–Blog Hop July 2017

It’s that time again! I hope you enjoy not just my story, but the stories of the other writers involved in the hop!

Freeman

Martin sat peeling the jenfruit, silently waiting for whatever would come next. People he didn’t know had been coming and going. He heard the commotion elsewhere in the house. He was told to wait.

He’d only been a freeman for a short time, but it was enough to know how these things worked. He wouldn’t interfere. He would only wait.

“Go outside. Take a walk.” Charel’s voice sounded stern, but her face held traces of a smile. “You do no good just sitting here. Your nerves may as well be poison in the air. Go. Go…”

Martin stood, gathered the sections of purple jenfruit, and went without a word. He knew better than to argue with Charel, even though he had no place to go.

Outside, Martin paused in front of the building. Charel told him to go, but as a bondman he’d never had the right to simply wander. Finally he chose a direction and began to walk, eating wedges of fruit as he did.

As he passed the park he heard children laughing. The sound drew him closer. He’d never been around children—not since the collective anyway, and that was not the same. It was so strange to see these little ones running and playing, their mothers watching close by.

A little one in a red romper ran up to him and squealed. At a nod from his mother, Martin handed over the last of his jenfruit. The boy stuck it in his mouth as he ran off, purple juices dripping down his chin.

They live their freedom not having earned it. I paid for mine, yet still I’m bound.

He started walking again, so caught in his own thoughts that he didn’t realize where he was until he looked up.

His bond yard looked as it always had. Bondmen lifted and worked and hurried. Some he recognized, but none paid him any attention. No bondman would look at a freeman unbidden. Certainly not during a laboring day.

Martin was surprised to feel emotion rising in his chest. He did not miss this labor. Those men were no longer his brothers. And yet…

He leaned forward, hands on the fence, as he watched a pair of grimy hands cutting a board held in place by strong arms dripping with sweat. Martin had known who he was in the bond yard.

He turned and walked quickly back the way he had come. He no longer belonged in this place. He suddenly wanted to be no place but back in that kitchen Charel had shooed him from.

He didn’t run. Freemen don’t run. But he wasted no time. If he was told to go again, he would refuse—that was his right, now.

The door opened to a silent room. It surprised him considering the earlier activity. Is something wrong, he wondered. He stood frozen, not knowing what to do.

Then Charel was there, tugging at his sleeve. “Where have you been, Martin? Gemma is asking for you.” The woman smiled now, showing every crease in her worn face. “It’s time for you to go in.”

Martin let himself be led to his wife and freeborn son.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note, if you find links that don’t work, try again later. Sometimes it takes a little time to get the gremlins worked out.

  1. Freeman by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Hell’s Play by Juneta Key
  3. The Token by Eli Winfield
  4. Moshe by Chris Makowski
  5. To The Moon And Beyond by Fanni Sütő
  6. Surprise by Katharinia Gerlach
  7. In A Picture by Erica Damon
  8. The Past Tastes Better by Karen Lynn
  9. Revealing Space by Barbara Lund
  10. The Rose Tender by Raven O’Fiernan
  11. The Last Sleeping Beauty by Tamara Ruth

Enjoying this post? Join my mailing list to get content as a weekly digest in your email, plus extras that you won't find on my blog!

 

 

A to Z 2017–Z is for Zamboni

[Edit: September 21, 2017. This story didn’t make the cut for my collection, Flashes of Splashes, so I’m leaving it here in its original form.]

 

In just barely under the wire. This was a fun month and I even like most of the stories I got. Woot! I hope you enjoy this final installment in the 2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Z is for Zamboni

Clean smooth ice is a thing of beauty. Nothing finer in all the world.

And there was no finer machine to properly groom a sheet of ice than a Zamboni Ice Resurfacer.

That’s what Frank knew. His daddy not only passed down the family trade of Professional Zamboni Ice Technician, he also named his only son after the man who invented the machine that bore his name—Frank J. Zamboni.

The world never knew a prouder Professional Zamboni Ice Technician than Frank Zamboni Ignazio.

Frank arrived well in advance of the day’s activities at the Smith Valley Ice Rink. There was no finer time to resurface ice than at the crack of dawn. No finer place than Smith Valley.

Well, maybe the Johnsonville Ice Arena. Calvin Bigalow did not deserve such a prestigious ice grooming position. The man didn’t understand the true beauty and importance of the job.

Frank shook off the thought. He didn’t need to get himself upset over things he couldn’t control. Today marked his 3rd year as the sole Ice Technician for Smith Valley, and he planned to celebrate with an extra lap around the rink and maybe a Slurpee later in the afternoon.

A few minutes before 5:30 AM, Frank let himself in through the back entrance of the rink. After switching on the overhead lighting he opened the storage room that held his beloved Zamboni.

After filling the ice making tank with clean water, he started the machine and headed toward the main ice.

Normally, he would have started an immediate counter-clockwise circuit of ice resurfacing. This morning, however, he found his way blocked. A small man in a red suit with a black vest and red bowler hat was standing on the ice in black and white wing-tipped shoes.

“Excuse me,” Frank said. “Sir? You can’t be in here. The rink doesn’t open until Nine. And you can’t be on the ice with street shoes. Only proper ice skates are allowed.”

“Son of fire,” the man in red intoned. “You have violated your calling.”

Frank huffed. The man wasn’t moving off his ice. “Sir? I really need you to step aside.”

The man didn’t move. “Frank Ignazio,” he said, “crystalline water maker. Your true identity lies elsewhere.”

Frank started to get irritated. Checking that his Zamboni was properly braked, he climbed down to confront the man directly. “Mr. Uh… do you have a name?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “You have to go. I have a job to do and you are in my way.”

“Frank Zamboni Ignazio.”

It finally dawned on Frank that this guy knew his name. “Do I know you?” he asked.

“You are the chosen. The son of fire.” The man’s voice seemed to resonate over the ice. “Come with me and meet your destiny.”

“My destiny? I’m living that already,” Frank said, his voice emphatic. “Since I was six-years-old I never wanted nothing but to drive this here rig and make the ice as smooth as glass. Now, step aside before I decide to call law enforcement.”

Frank swung his arm towards the man in a dismissive fashion. He was shocked and dismayed when the man in the red suit seemed to flare into flame before melting into the ice, leaving a deep, uneven hole in the rink’s otherwise uniform surface.

“Well, damn,” he said, staring at the hole. “Now I’m gonna have to patch that.” He shook his head. “You’d think those demons would learn to leave me alone by now. I can’t think of one single thing that would make me want to go somewhere as hot as they want to take me.”

Frank Zamboni Ignazio, the Son of Fire, climbed onto his Zamboni and set to grooming his ice.

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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A to Z 2017–N is for Noria

[Edit: September 21, 2017. This story (and its partner, A is for Aqueduct) didn’t make the cut for my collection, Flashes of Splashes, so I’m leaving it here in its original form.]

 

I’ll admit it – this is not close to the best story I’ve written this month. It’s a takeoff on the incomplete A is for Aqueduct story, it continues to be incomplete, and it’s based on a device few actually know the name of. The Noria is a water wheel run by water power (as opposed to animal power), usually for the purpose of raising water to a higher level. Here’s a video showing one working. Cool tech, actually. But this is a fairly weak story in spite of that.

I guess they can’t all be home runs. Especially when there are all too few words relating to water starting with certain letters of the alphabet. sigh

Onward!

N is for Noria

As the wheel dipped and circled, water filled the attached earthen pots and emptied them into a stone channel. The water diverted from the river flowed into the aqueduct that watered the vineyard in the vale on the other side of the ridge.

“I don’t understand,” said Sineta. “It’s so little water compared to the river. I don’t understand why such a small thing is a problem.”

Zaida shook her head. “It is not the amount of water that is the problem. It is the taking. This wheel, this noria…” she scrunched her face, measuring her words before continuing. “My people, we are the water. We give life to the water and it gives life to us. This machine, it takes the life and we are less because of it.”

Sineta frowned, trying to understand. “But we have taken water from this river forever.”

“Not forever,” countered Zaida. “For a long time, yes. But not forever.”

“But why are your people suddenly angry? What have they done with my father?” Her voice broke as tears welled in her eyes.

“When you were taking the water a little at a time, it was different. But the Noria, it takes the water faster than we can compensate for. We are made weak because it takes more life than we can afford to lose.” The fairy turned from the wheel toward Sineta. “I was with my sister trying to stop it, but we have no direct control over the things of men. I was washed down this channel to your farm.” She dropped her eyes. “My sister was less fortunate.”

Sineta’s eyes opened wide as she struggled for words. “I wasn’t… I don’t… Was she killed?” The last came out as a whisper.

“Not killed, no. But her life magic, so much of it was scooped out of her.”

“Can she be healed?”

“She can be restored,” said the fairy. “But none has the strength to do so while the noria is disrupting our flow.”

“Then we have to stop it.” Sineta’s voice was firm, even as her face drooped. “Except I don’t know how. With my father gone…”

“It is settled, then.” Zaida clapped her tiny hands as a grin crossed her face. “I will help you recover your father. You will help me restore my sister.”

“And then maybe,” said Sineta, “we can find a way to get water to the vineyard that won’t hurt your people.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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A to Z 2017–A is for Aqueduct

[Edit: September 21, 2017. This story (and its partner, N is for Noria) didn’t make the cut for my collection, Flashes of Splashes, so I’m leaving it here in its original form.]

 

Welcome to my first post for the A to Z blogging challenge for 2017.

Those of you who have played along with me before probably have some clue of what I’m trying to do here. For those of you who haven’t, you can check out my post where I talk about it, or check out the A to Z website for full details. And if you are interested, you can participate too… it’s not too late to jump into the fray!

Those who have followed my blog the last two years know that I’m trying to write flash fictions corresponding to the letters of the alphabet. And to add to my level of difficulty this year, I decided I want to try to make all my stories somehow fit with a water-related theme.

You might also recognize that, in grand form, I have a bad habit of writing scenes or story starters instead of true flash fiction. But because I’m on a schedule, it is what it is. The stories that spark something for me will probably get revisited at some point. Some may never get completed. Some probably need to be cannibalized and completely rewritten from the ground up. Just, ya know, don’t hold your breath. Although, I do love feedback. So if there’s a flash fiction (or story fragment) that you particularly like, let me know. I might tag it to get looked at again sooner rather than later. 😀

And now, without further ado, today’s installment.

A Is For Aqueduct

“Idiot girl! Can’t you do anything right?”Sineta hung her head and let the tirade flow over her. She knew her mother would apologize in the morning, but that didn’t change the hurt from her words tonight.

Sineta hung her head and let the tirade flow over her. She knew her mother would apologize in the morning, but that didn’t change the hurt from her words tonight.

She wanted to explain, to describe the being she had seen. The thing that startled her and made her drop the basket.  The thing that seemed to giggle and hide as soon as anyone else came near. But she knew her mother would not listen. Her mother never listened, especially when her mother had been drinking her father’s strong, fortified wine. So Sineta kept her head down and her mouth closed.

The wine had been disappearing faster than usual lately. Her father had gone down the mountain to the coast with a cartful of barrels. He was supposed to return before the spring pruning. That was six weeks ago and father still hadn’t returned. The vineyard looked wild and unkempt. Their laborers had been ready to work, but mother would not let them touch the vines without father’s assessment. So the vines were unruly, the laborers had gone by ones and twos to find employment elsewhere, and Sineta was left alone to be shouted at by her drunken mother.

Sineta didn’t notice that her mother was done yelling until she heard the bedroom door slam. That meant peace, at least for the rest of the evening.

She stooped to retrieve the basket she dropped earlier, picking up the produce that had scattered across the kitchen’s plank floor.

As she placed it in the center of their round table where it could not fall again, she froze. Though the window was closed and latched against the evening breeze, the bright blue curtain rippled distinctly in the corner of her vision.

Heart thudding, Sineta turned. “Is someone there?” Her voice was barely audible in the still evening.

Had she still been holding the basket it surely would have fallen again when a tiny face with delicate features peeked out from behind the rough-spun cloth. When a voice like tiny bells spoke, Sineta’s own legs could not hold her and she sat down hard on the floor.

* * *

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” the voice said as Sineta opened her eyes. Small brown eyes surrounded by a wild cascade of black hair inserted themselves into her view of the ceiling. “I’m sorry you fell.” Tiny hands tugged with surprising strength to help Sineta back to sitting instead of sprawled, haphazard, across the age-worn planks of the floor.

“Who are you? I saw you before, didn’t I?”

The tiny woman—not a child, Sineta could tell that much—nodded. “I’m what you might call a water fairy,” she said. “I wouldn’t call me that, but you couldn’t pronounce what I would call me, so that will have to do.”

Sineta blinked. A fairy?

“I need your help,” the fairy continued. “I was accidentally brought here by the aqueduct that supplies your vineyard.”

“Oh no. I’m so sorry!” Sineta was genuinely concerned for her.

The fairy shook her head. “I’m alright,” she said. “But my people are not pleased.” A frown marred the smooth skin of her forehead.

“I fear that they may have disrupted your father’s return.”

**Find a followup to this story in N is for Noria.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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Reflected – Blog Hop January 2017

“I want this. I can do this. Nobody can stop me.” She stared at unblinking eyes. Hard eyes. Dark eyes. She focused so intently on those eyes that everything else seemed to fade.

The effect was ruined as a grin crept across that face.

Alice leaned toward her own reflection. “You’ve got this,” she reassured herself one more time.

She’d always known if she played her cards right she’d be in a position to make changes. Now here she was.

She squared her shoulders as she turned from the mirror, then flicked off the light and left.

rainy womanAlice took the number 10 cross-town bus and walked the remaining six blocks to her destination. She was glad for a few minutes in the rain-washed air—her confidence had slipped a little as she bounced along on the less-than-pristine city bus. Staring at her own bulbous reflection in the driver’s security mirror had her questioning reality.

Her thoughts tumbled end over end as she walked, and she wished she didn’t feel like shrinking. But fear didn’t stop her. Her glossy Oxfords swung out rhythmically, followed closely by the pin stripes of her trousers. The slight reflection in the wet pavement of the sidewalk followed her precisely, clicking along at an identical energetic gait.

When she reached 1832 Duchess Avenue, she paused to again check her image in the wide brass trim beside the door. She looked warped around the edges, but not overly flushed from her walk. Good.

Alice tugged at the heavy glass entry and stepped inside. Mr. White nodded absently from behind the security desk as he tucked away his pocket watch. The affectation didn’t seem out of place considering the man’s tidy whiskers.

A green light dinged on, and she took a deep breath as she boarded the elevator. She counted the floors as they passed like a school girl reciting her lessons.

The plush carpeting of the 14th floor absorbed the sound of her footfalls when she stepped out toward T & T Enterprises. The silence tried to make her feel insubstantial, but she shook off the sensation as she approached the receptionist.

“He’s expecting me.” She didn’t wait for an answer from the mousy woman, merely turned toward the gilt-framed mirror on the wall.

She swallowed her nervousness as she eyed her reflection. There would be no going back. She turned when the door opened.

“Alice,” Lewis greeted her with a warm handshake. “You’re early.”

“I’ve made my decision,” she said as he led her past the heavy walnut door into his office.

Once they were alone she spoke in a rush, fearing that any delay might cause her to lose her nerve. “Tell Mr. Hatter I’m going, Lewis,” she said. “Through the Looking Glass. Into Wonderland. I can’t just see the other side and not act.”

From the corner of her eye, she thought she saw him smile.

“I won’t let that woman win. I need to take down the Red Queen.”

 

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

  1. Reflected by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Veronica by Jessica Kruppa
  3. Last Stop by Erica Damon
  4. Jesse and Tyler by Bill Bush
  5. The Poisoner of Time by Karen Lynn
  6. New Stork Inc. by Katharina Gerlach
  7. Pocket Heart by Juneta Key
  8. Oh Baby! by J. Q. Rose

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Flowers in the Winter

I first published this flash fiction on my blog as part of the 2015 A-Z challenge. All those stories came down when my 2016 stories started going up. But when my friend Katharina Gerlach invited me to participate in her annual Advent Calendar again, which has a winter theme this year, I immediately remembered this story and decided to write something related. I’m reposting this here to give that one some context. For those who want to know what happens next in this tale, be sure to sign up for Advent Calendar alerts (the link is on the upper right) so you won’t miss any of the stories! Cat doesn’t send spam, and the list for this calendar only gets notifications about this calendar.

You can start opening your surprises on December 1st.

 

Flowers in the Winter

“Georgie, come inside.”

The red-haired girl frowned as her sister tugged on her arm. “Don’t wanna,” she said. “I want frowers!” She pulled her away and crossed her arms with a defiant harrumph.

“Flowers,” Beatrice corrected. “And you can’t have flowers right now. It’s winter. No flowers ’til spring. Nothing green. No colors. Just snow. That’s just the way it has to be.” The older girl’s voice had a tone of finality that Georgie knew meant business. “Remember what happened last time?”

Georgie didn’t want to remember, but she did. The Wardens came and there was lots of yelling. The men in their bright red coats almost took away father. Mother made Beatrice take her upstairs to hide. And it seemed a lot darker than it should have, like being in the wardrobe with a blanket over her head. The memory scared her, especially the words they used—magic and witch and evil. That’s what finally made her decide.

She frowned at her sister’s offered hand for a minute longer, just for good measure. Then she took it with her own and the two walked together down the snowy path and entered the solarium.

“Now,” said Beatrice, “if you’ll behave and just stay inside, I’ll go to the kitchen and get us some cookies.”

Georgie frowned a bit harder before she finally gave in. “Ok. But I want four,” she was emphatic. “The lemon ones. They’re the best.”

“If mother made them then that’s what I’ll bring. If not,” Beatrice shrugged, “it might have to be shortbread.” She tousled her sister’s hair. “Either way, I’ll also bring milk.”

Georgie sat on a bench in the sunroom that overlooked the back garden and pouted. She hated all the cold and ick of winter. She wanted pretty things. But father made her promise, no more flowers. No more colors. Nothing green… at least not until green started happening on its own. Just snow. Cold and wet and boring and ugly.

Swinging her feet impatiently as she waited for cookies, Georgie wondered if flowers were really the problem. Maybe it was just the colors. What had Beatrice said? Just snow.

“Just snow,” she said to herself as she jumped off the bench to smoosh her nose against the glass. “Nothing pink or purple or yellow. Just snow.”

iceflowersGeorgie was still standing with her face pressed against the window and her fingers tapping lightly on the pane when Beatrice came back with cookies and milk.

Beatrice put the tray down with a clink. “Lemon cookies, as requested,” she said. “And also some lavender short bread. And… Oh, Georgie! What have you done?”

“I didn’t make any colors,” said Georgie. “Nothing green. No frowers. Just pretty.”

“More than pretty,” said Beatrice, shaking her head. “It’s beautiful. But if the Wardens find out, we’ll all be in trouble.”

The girls stood side by side, staring at snow and ice that Georgie had transformed into delicate floral sculptures more detailed than any garden.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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