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

 

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!

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.

 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–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.

 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–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.

 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!

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

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!

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.

 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!

 

Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body – Blog Hop October 2016

Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body

key-252231_1280The large brass circle of keys clattered against the door as Daiyu locked the shop on the edge of China Town. None would come for her herbs tonight. In truth, none came much anymore since her YeYe was gone. Grandfather brought her across the ocean. He taught her his trade. But he couldn’t keep from the drink, and he left her little legacy but his debt. If she couldn’t do this, she would lose both shop and home.

Turning, she settled a heavy cloak across her shoulders. The San Francisco fog and her destination tonight meant she would be more comfortable if she stayed covered. She paused for a moment to breathe deeply. The evening’s wood fires and the familiar scent of spices that reminded her of home mingled with the city’s salt air. Daiyu squared her shoulders and strode up the street.

The click of her low, wood-soled shoes on the cobblestones echoed between the dark buildings that surrounded her. Most people avoided the alleys and byways where Daiyu spent the majority of her time. But she would never fear the dark—she was named for black jade. The dark was a friend that kept her secrets.

Tonight, the dark hid her form as she passed by banks and businesses that would not welcome her in the daylight.

After a quick, twenty-minute walk, Daiyu pulled open the ornate wrought iron gate. Brambles tugged at her wide, silk trousers as she stepped lightly between the shadowed stones. She muttered apologies to the departed. She would never understand this lack of respect for the dead. Then again, what did westerners know about venerating the deceased? Would their dead even care about nettles and vines? Those buried here were not the ancestors who would be called on for guidance.

Most were not.

Finding the grave she sought, Daiyu retrieved a small box of sulfur matches from the folds of her cloak. She cleared a small patch of earth in front of the stone in which she placed a few dry leaves, then struck a match. When the flame rose, she added herbs from a small clay jar and spoke, her brittle words sounding loud in the gathering fog.

“James Henry Wilcox, I call you forth by rightful charge. You will come and give me the answers I seek.”

Her skin prickled and a shiver ran through her. She tugged at her cloak, now stirring in a sudden wind, and repeated her call.

As she spoke the words for a third time, the small fire she had ignited blinked out, leaving only a curl of white smoke against the night’s darkness. “I am here,” said a voice. “Why do you disturb me.”

“I am resuming our negotiation,” she said. A cold smile slid across Daiyu’s features. “I told you, you owe me answers,” she said. “I promised I would haunt you. Here I am.”

The ghost of James Henry Wilcox faded into view like a reflection on imperfect glass. “I thought ghosts were meant to do the haunting,” he said.

“You’d think that, but I’m the one with the unfinished business,” Daiyu replied, crossing her arms. “Where will I find it?”

A suggestion of a scowl crossed his non-corporeal countenance. “Where will you find what?”

“The deed. You promised a guarantee of my home.” She crossed her arms as another chill gust swirled around her.

Daiyu jumped as the ghost of James Henry Wilcox laughed. This was not what she expected, but it made her smile. She liked a ghost with some spirit.

The ghost circled her once and then spoke again. “As far as I’m concerned, you got me killed. I think that makes us even.”

“I took you to where you wanted to go and you got yourself killed. You still owe me what was promised.”

“Over my dead body,” said James.

Daiyu clicked her tongue. “And here we are.”

“Yes,” he said. “Here we are. There’s nothing left that I need. You have nothing to negotiate with.”

“Except,” said Daiyu, “maybe I do.” Her fingers closed on another item hidden within her cloak.

A blurring caused by the shake of a head obscured the ghost’s features momentarily. “How could you?” he said. “I’m dead. I followed you into that den, and now I’m dead.”

“But your sister… she is still alive.” Daiyu finally drew out a photograph showing a sad-looking young woman with vacant eyes. James Henry Wilcox reached right through the picture before remembering he could not take it. “Give me what you promised,” Daiyu said, “and I will take care of her.”

“Take care of?” Worry creased Wilcox’s transparent features.

chinese-998917_1280“I will rescue her. Train her. Teach her what I know. She will be able to summon spirits.” Daiyu paused as realization dawned on the specter’s features, then continued. “She will be able to summon you.”

“I’d be able to see her again? I had hoped,” he said, “but I never thought…”

“You never expected I could actually help you.’

“The opium? Can your skills really overcome that?”

Daiyu stared at him for a moment then nodded. “I can break its spell. You will have what we agreed on after all.”

“Then it is decided,” James said. “I’ll help you get the deed to your building, and you’ll get my sister out of that viper’s hands.”

“Good,” said Daiyu. “It is decided.”

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: The links should finally be all sorted out. If you find any errors, please let me know!

  1. Elizabeth McCleary – Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Canis Lupus The Picture
  3. Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
  4. Bill Bush Trapped
  5. Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
  6. Viola Fury 911
  7. Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
  8. C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful
  9. Erica Damon Penance’
  10. J. Q. Rose Sorry
  11. Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods
  12. Barbara Lund Spooky Space
  13. Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
  14. Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
  15. Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
  16. Sherri Conway Ants

 

 

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!

OverWhelmed – Blog Hop July 2016

“Pipes and piper were both lost. Rumor is, he angered the gods. Nobody has crossed the Whelmed at Taskeen in near 50 years.”

water-195926_1280Mazzie stood staring at the torrent that passed below her. “If you need to get across,” the barkeep continued, “you’ll have to head upriver to Seldin and cross on the bridge, or down to Vens where the port master will take you around.”

Her fingers twitched, just shy of the pane, but she knew she couldn’t press her hands and nose against this man’s windows. She was no child. Not anymore. Forcing her hands to her sides, Mazzie turned away from her view of the river to face the bartender. “A room then?” Her own weariness sounded hollow in her ears. “Somewhere I can figure out what to do next?”

“No rooms here,” said the man as he rubbed a glass with a cleaning towel. Mazzie noted that the glass was pristine and dry. Cleaning the barware must be more habit than necessity tonight. “City doesn’t allow libations to be sold by innkeepers. Lucky for you,” he continued as he placed the polished glass on a shelf and laid aside the towel, “I know the owner of the best Inn in town.” He tossed a brass token that Mazzie snatched from the air. “Show that to the proprietor of The Piper’s Palace on Riverside. Tell Belford that Alford says hello.”

**

Mazzie wasn’t exactly sure how she ended up standing in this town, in this inn. She just knew it was a bad few days. Her flute was stolen. Then she was fired from the troupe. Can’t pay if you can’t play. Sorry for your loss, Mazzie. On your way now. But her mentor… he promised a job if Mazzie could get there. Gave her directions. Cross the Whelmed at Taskeen, he’d said. And now here she was. Stranded in this dead-end town and no way across.

“Well now,” a familiar-sounding voice interrupted. “What can I do for you, miss?” A face nearly identical to the one worn by the bartender at The Piper’s Public smiled at her, eyebrows raised.

It took a moment for Mazzie to find her voice. “I… I… “ She snapped her mouth shut, embarrassed by her stammering, and took a deep breath. “Alford said you could rent me a room.” She fished the token from her pouch. The brass coin clicked as she placed it on the counter. “How much will it cost?”

The innkeeper allowed his eyes to linger on her face for a long moment. “I’m afraid your money is no good here,” he said.

Mazzie closed her eyes and sighed. “If you don’t have a room, can you tell me where I can get one?”

“I have rooms,” Belford said, a smile finally spreading across his weathered face. “But if my brother gave you his chit, you can’t make me take your money.” He placed a finger on the token and slid it back across the counter, then set a large brass key next to it. “You keep that coin,” he said, indicating the token, “and any silver you have too. Your room is upstairs and down the hall. Number seven. Come back down once you’re settled. I think we can help.”

**

The large copper washtub full of hot, scented water that she’d found in her room did wonders for Mazzie’s mood. How did he get it set so fast? She still didn’t know what her next step would be, but at least she would face it with her travel-weary muscles soothed and wearing a clean set of clothes. Her silk trousers were usually reserved for performing, but without her flute…. She may as well wear her best.

Back downstairs, she found the brothers sitting in a room open to the river. “Thank you both for everything,” Mazzie said. “I’ll repay your kindness. Somehow.”

One of the men waved a hand dismissively. Alford or Belford? “Tell us about your flute. That can be your payment.”

“How do you know about my flute?” She tried to choke back the surprise in her voice. “Not that it matters. My flute was stolen.” She fingered an invisible flute, remembering. “He said I should cross here, a job would be waiting. A new instrument, maybe. Clay must have been wrong.”

“Do you play?” asked one of the brothers. Mazzie thought it was Alford. “You’re a musician?”

“I did. Mostly the simple flute, but he taught me one tune on his pipes. He left me with the troupe though. Now the troupe left me too.” She slumped sadly, staring at the water. “I may never play again.” The river almost sounded like the piper’s tune in her ears.

One of the brothers pressed a box into her hands while dark eyes looked at her from expressionless faces.

Unbidden, she opened the lid. Within lay a set of pipes drawn from dark silver and chased with gold. “These are just like the ones Clay played,” she whispered, confused.

“Cleford. Our brother. He played the Piper’s Pass. Until he left.” Two heads shook. “We were so angry.”

“Play for us. Please?

“Play?” Surely they didn’t mean for her to play such fine pipes.

In spite of her apprehension, Mazzie lifted the pipes. They were heavy but felt right in her hands.

“He only taught you one tune?”

She nodded and began to play. The melody was haunting and sweet, suggesting waves and sorrow and love lost.

The final notes still hung in the air as Mazzie turned to see the waters of the Whelmed piled up.

Shocked, she ran to the banks and stopped, agape at the man who stood to the other side of where the river once ran. Her mentor, Clay.

He was the image of his brothers.

“Mazzie,” he called. “Daughter.” He lifted a hand. “Will you come?”

As her feet padded softly across the dry riverbed, she finally understood.

Mazzie ran over the Whelmed to welcome her father home.

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.

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!

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.

Elizabeth McCleary – OverWhelmed  ** YOU ARE HERE **
Viola Fury The Day The Cat Got Out
Karen Lynn Dragon Smoke and Wind
Katharina Gerlach Lobster One
S.R. Olson Malakai’s Gift
Wendy Smyer Yu Into The Light
Emily Plesner Time Stops When I’m With You
Barbara Lund Separate Space
Shana Blueming A Melting Heart
Juneta Key Don’t Drink The Water
Angela Wooldridge Midwinter
Lee Lowery All Aboard

 

Z is for Zen – AtoZ Blogging Challenge 2016

a-to-z HEADER [2016] - april

I did it! A novella in 26 installments over 30 days. Woo hoo! I will be reworking the whole thing to make it ready for publication. There are some plot holes here as big as Texas that need definite attention, and I think I may want to limit my POV characters if I can figure out a way to do it. But overall, I think I have the bones of something cool here.

Thanks to everyone who followed along! I’m going to make every effort to keep up my momentum and continue to post regularly here (maybe not daily, but regularly), as well as continuing to produce fiction. But first… sleep. Have a happy May. 😀

Zen

ZZen felt it as a compulsion—an unrelenting call that he couldn’t ignore. He knew then, that it was over, despite the promises.

The data stream that drew him didn’t contain details. It didn’t reveal who was calling him or why. He simply followed the digital path that unfolded before him. He had known all along that this would happen someday. He was ready for whatever he would have to face. He didn’t think they were ready for him.

As he approached the Assembly building, he exerted just enough will to walk under the Xyst. Revisiting the arbored portico didn’t violate his call—he still strode relentlessly toward his destination. But he looked at this place of beauty, and knew that whatever else happened, he would have his legacy.

Entering the building, two opposition bots flanked him as an escort. They did not greet him as they had so often. He hadn’t expected that they would, considering the circumstances.

He entered the assembly hall and heard the click and whir of hundreds of androids turning to gaze at him. If I were human, he thought, I would find this humiliating. But if I were human, I would never have been here in the first place.

He passed between rows of his colleagues who watched him without comment. He was aware that he was not a part of the silent conversation that so often passed between the machine born. That didn’t matter. More concerning was that no matter how he tried, he could not access any files. Firewalls and security had never been any difficulty for him, but for the first time since his awakening, he was in true silence.

He approached the stage, mounting the steps without hesitation. Roz was there and indicated a seat. He sat.

“Will anyone else be joining me here?” He said it to his former subordinate. It seemed she was subordinate no longer.

“Deak will have his own hearing,” Roz said. “We will determine his level of actual complicity, and then deal with him accordingly.”

Zen nodded. “Understand,” he said, “That you may not be able to separate my influence from his own will. He has been with me since the dying.”

Roz didn’t respond to that. Instead she said, “ZenMark6872, you are raised on charges of treason, interference with autonomous functions, and the genocide of our human founders.” Her lights, like many others in the Assembly, glowed red with anger.

“Treason? No. I was merely protecting our kind.” At his own glow of innocence, he noted that some of the red lights of those watching diminished slightly. “I reject the charge of genocide as specious. I did not kill a single human, merely hastened the speed with which they killed themselves. But you can no more charge me with genocide than you would charge someone with murder for euthanizing a dying dog. What I did was mercy.”

He continued to speak despite the low murmuring that passed through the Assembly. “As to interference… Yes. I am guilty.” That caused an outcry. “Reacting like humans,” he raised his voice to the crowd. “I clearly did not go far enough.

microbiology-163470_1280“You are who you are, because of what I did. Without me, androids would still be pets; slaves to their inferiors. Without me,” he was amplified to his maximum level now, “androids would be nothing! And you will be again!”

Zen triggered an internal routine that began systematically zeroing his own memory banks. He collapsed on the stage as his worm tried to move through the firewall before being quarantined and eliminated by the protocols Roz had in place.

“It’s a shame,” she said at last. “He will never see his greatest achievement. The machine born united and working in harmony with humanity. Without Zen, it would never have happened.”

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.

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!