Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Wolves of Sorrow

 

The chalice rested on the stone plinth between them. She took a sip first. Once she’d placed it back down he picked it up and sipped. Some of it dribbled down his chin. As he caught the droplets on his newly smooth skin she caught the drop rolling down the side of the hammered pewter.

“Thanks,” he said, watching her check none had been spilled. She only nodded. She hadn’t spoken since they had entered. He wasn’t sure if it was some sort of reverence. There was no rule saying they couldn’t speak, he had asked. That had raised, well, it couldn’t raise eyebrows. The monks had none to raise. As supplicants neither did they anymore. His legs felt strange without any hair. Like his wife’s on their wedding night. Sweat beaded on his head. He knew it was going to roll into his eyes. He looked down at the long muslin tunic he had on.

“If you want to wipe your head with it you can.” He flinched when she spoke. “I’m sure the monks have seen much worse than sweat stains.” He pushed aside where that comment took his imagination and used the hem.

“I was more concerned with how you would feel.” She shrugged. He glanced at the entrance to their cavern. The byre was just inside, keeping them warm and able to see. He wondered if it was replenished during their vigil or if it was left to burn out. He checked the ceiling to see if any small creatures lived up there. She stood up and began to stroll around, stretching her arms out and rolling her shoulders. He sucked in a breath and glanced at the entrance again.

“Shouldn’t you sit down?”

“Hmmm?” She placed her hands on the wall, sliding them with fingers splayed, across the surface. She moved along the wall around the front of the cavern then came back towards him, her eyes closed.

“You’re going to trip over something. What if you hurt yourself? Will you have to start again? I don’t know the way out of here to get you help.” She smiled but continued back and forth.

“The only thing I could trip over is you.” He crossed his arms and shifted on his seat. A painful tingling began in his toes then moved to his heels, up to his ankle. Looking down he couldn’t see anything but would have sworn that it felt like insects biting him. He brushed his hands over his bare feet and winced as the pain was momentarily stronger. She opened her eyes at some noise he must have made and came to him, hands outstretched.

“Come over here.” He shook his head, hands holding the stone plinth rigidly.

“It’s better over here, I promise.” She prised the fingers of one hand off, then the other, slowly pulling him to his feet. He hissed at the pain in his legs and wondered if there were tiny insects they hadn’t been warned about. She pulled him closer to the byre. She twirled around like when she had danced as a young girl. The hem of her tunic swept closer to the byre. He reached for the hem, grabbing her to hold her still as he looked for flames catching the material. When he found no sparks, he checked for smoke marks.

“You shouldn’t dance so close to the fire.” He knelt, still checking. She stopped trying to dance and laid herself across his back.

“You always look out for me.”

“I have to,” he grunted. She was heavy on his back, he could feel the strain on his knees.

“That’s not true.” She sighed and it felt like she became heavier. “You didn’t have a very good example either.” As he tried to push her up movement from the entrance caught his attention. He was half grateful for some help and half expecting a reprimand, but it wasn’t one of the monks. It was a large grey wolf. It looked between the two of them. He couldn’t breathe. She whispered a soft “oh” and the wolf looked at her.

“Don’t move,” he replied but she was shifting and suddenly sliding off his back. As she landed she didn’t appear to try and break her fall. One hand was stretching out towards the wolf. The wolf dipped its head and stepped closer.

“No, no.” He grabbed her arm and dragged her up off the floor. She ended up kneeling but sank into a sitting position. He went to grab her under her arms and stumbled. He couldn’t feel his legs. The wolf was stepping closer. Another had entered the cavern behind the first. He put his arms around her, pulling her back and flipping them over. He realised as he did so that he couldn’t feel his fingers anymore. She was limp in his arms. He tried to drag his legs over hers and covered as much of her body with his own as possible.

The soft scuff of paws on the sandy floor came up on either side of them. He watched as the lead wolf snuffled at his face. It licked him with a tongue that was more rough and dry than he had expected. He felt pressure on his back. One had climbed on top of them. It kneaded his back, testing its weight. He sensed another behind his head, investigating them. The one at his face crouched down and shuffled closer to his sister. A noise erupted from his lips. It was meant to be a shout but he couldn’t move his mouth. The wolf pricked up its ears and flicked a glance at him. But it showed no more concern and its attention was soon back on her. The wolf on his back clambered down to join the lead wolf. Then he felt something on his waist. A nudging, then a scrape of something sharp. The belt around his tunic tightened. The last wolf was pulling him off his sister. He tried and failed to move, another noise coming from his throat. A fourth wolf had joined the group and was laying down along his sister’s side. Once he was several feet away the wolf who had removed him stepped over him, returning to the others. He screamed as best he could, a breathy noise that soon died as he lost control of himself. The wolves all glanced at him. The lead wolf snorted and as one they reached for her with their mouths open. His sight was dim, purple around the edges, getting tighter every second until nothing. The last sound he heard was a wet noise.

 

The next thing he heard was the rustle of material and soft murmuring. His body felt tired but his mind was suddenly clear. He tried to listen for his sister’s morning singing. She usually did it when she thought no-one was listening, so he always stayed in bed a little longer, so he wouldn’t disturb her. But this morning she wasn’t singing. The wolves!

He shot up in bed, gasping. He was in a white tent, the sides billowing gently in and out. He was on a cot high up off the ground. His sister was sitting on a similar cot next to him, feet hanging over the edge, a mug in her hand.

“Hello,” she said brightly. He leapt off his cot and aimed to embrace her but his knees couldn’t support him so instead he grabbed her upper arms and looked her all over. Then he shook her gently.

“Are you hurt?”

“Only from where you dropped me. The sand was only thin on the ground so now I have a bruise the size of a house on my hip.” She held up the mug. “Sweet tea. You need to drink.” Slowly he took it, continually glancing at her trying to see if there were any cuts or nicks on her skin. She was back in her travel clothes. They had been cleaned. “Sorry the tea’s cold. You didn’t wake up as soon as I thought you would.” He barely tasted the tea. Giving her back the empty mug he moved to sit back on his cot. She grabbed his hand and guided him to sit next to her. He realised he was still in his tunic. At his neck was a leather tie with a small remembrance on it of a polished stone wolf. He looked at her. She had a leather tie with two remembrances, one a polished stone wolf too. “They were a gift. I didn’t buy them.”

“Did you know about the wolves?” She shook her head.

“They aren’t what usually appear to help those grieving. The monks said they came for something else.” She gave a small smile. “We’re very lucky to have seen them.” He made a noise that disagreed but weighed the remembrance in his hand. He went to ruffle her hair but patted her instead. His arm draped around her shoulders.

“Would you have come if you had known?” She was playing with the other remembrance. It was some grey fur tied with a thin piece of leather. After a moment, he nodded.

“Yes. Did you get what you needed?” She gazed up at him.

“Yes.” They smiled at each other and it was like seeing her after a long absence. He had missed his older sister. He took her hand and pressed it to his heart.

“Good. Can we please go home now?”

 

 

This was written for the Flash Fiction chllenge Ten More Titles Round Two over on terribleminds.com. The picture is by Sandra Petersen and from Pixabay.com, used under Creative Commons Licence.

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One Fell Swoop

 

As Heather walked towards the office her fellow assistant Raif was making screeching noises.

“I can’t turn the key!” she cried as Heather reached her side.

“It’s the weather, the door swells sometimes.” Raif handed the keys over.

“I thought I had the wrong keys. I didn’t know how I could have got the wrong ones since I saw Neve lock up last night and she handed them straight to me…what are you doing?” Heather had put her bag down and perched on the slim doorstep. She tested her grip on the handle.

“When I say, turn the key.” With an indrawn breath, Heather threw herself backwards, one foot on the frame as leverage to help. “Now,” she grunted. Raif turned the key and the unmistakable pop of the lock sounded. Pulling herself up Heather went in.

“Aren’t you worried the handle will come off?” Raif handed Heather’s discarded bag over.

“Not really. It’s solid. I think in a place like this they like to make sure everything is in perfect condition.”

“Like a door that swells?” Raif said over her shoulder as she made her way out back. Heather began removing terminal covers and lifting screens. She listened for the comforting chime of the computer waking up. Stepping back, she waited longer. Then she felt along the edge of each one for the reset depression. Once she had tried every terminal she was back at the front row. No response.

She looked up at the security cameras. There was no blinking red light to indicate they were on. She moved quickly to the light switches. They didn’t work. Leaning closer she tried again. There wasn’t even the crackle of electricity.

The power was out.

She didn’t remember running to the back room but she crashed into Raif coming out, who was babbling.

“The outer door wasn’t working. I couldn’t get in. There was no air recycling, no noises! I was worried about the night guard but he wasn’t there. The door was open-”

“What? No!”

“I know!” Raif covered her face. “I heard a noise and ran. I think she’s loose.” Heather shoved Raif behind her and reached for the door. As she pulled it closed Heather thought a shadow moved in the murky corridor. The latch clicked and she gasped in relief. A scraping sound came through the door. Jumping back, she swallowed.

“That’s a metal door, it should hold her.”

“What about the rear exit?” Raif was stepping back and clutching at the edges of her jacket. Heather tried the office phone. There was no dialling tone.

“First we need to get Head Office on the phone.” Heather pulled at the fastenings on her bag, hands shaking, and rummaged inside.

“Where is it?” She hissed. Tipping the contents onto the floor and scrambling through the items frantically she remembered someone asking her why she carried these things with her. For emergencies, she had answered.

“Heather…” Raif whined quietly.

“Do you have your phone?” Heather started patting down her pockets. “Ah!” she cried, finding it in her side pocket. She unlocked the phone screen, finger shaking, making her attempt it three times before it opened. “C’mon, c’mon. Got it!” She pressed ring. Her speaker turned on as her fingers grabbed at the phone.

“PRISM GM.”

“This is site 43223, staff ID 195683 Hotel Mike. We have a power outage and containment breech. Asset is no longer secure.” There was a pause on the other end. Heather heard the buzz of the hold line then another voice spoke.

“A TEAM ARE ON THEIR WAY. CAN YOU GIVE ME MORE INFORMATION ON THE STATE OF THE ASSET?”

“Out of containment sector. Only regular doors securing it.”

“ARE YOU SAFE?”

“No,” came the answer from above where Heather was crouched. She looked up at Raif’s reply, the other woman was watching the ceiling. Following her colleagues gaze she saw the panels shifting up and down, the movement crossing the ceiling. Taking the phone off speaker Heather hissed into the mic, “negative.”

“GET OUT NOW, HEAD TO MAIN SECTION.” The line went dead.

Standing up Heather reached for Raif’s arm. Before they could move to the front door the panels shifted again and with a crash, shattered glass rained down outside, the window shaking from the impact. The asset landed on the street outside, shaking its head and beginning to turn towards them. They dived behind a terminal. There was another crash and Heather felt vibrations run through the floor, up her arms and into her shoulders. Heather slammed her hand over Raif’s mouth when she made a panicked noise. She pulled Raif in close and they clung to each other. The only sound she could hear was her breathing. Eventually Heather relaxed her hold. She signalled that she was going to look. Raif didn’t try to stop her. Creeping so slowly that she could feel her muscles quivering with the effort, Heather peeked out from behind the terminal and looked through the front window. The street was clear. Taking a calming breath, she crawled closer. Pain lanced up her arm but she ignored it.

“Heather!” Raif hissed.

“It’s ok.” Raif stood up slowly. “Careful,” Heather added whilst looking at her shredded hand, “there’s glass on the floor.”

“We need to make our way to Head Office for a debrief.” Heather looked for her keys, careful not to knock her hand.

“And get you some medical attention?”

“That too.”

Leaving by the front door, Heather tried the key. It still wouldn’t lock so, with an exasperated look at Raif, Heather perched on the doorstep and pulled on the handle again. As Raif reached to turn the key Heather felt herself falling. She landed hard, her head smacking on the concrete. Wincing and trying to take in a breath she brought her hand up, the handle still in it.

“Fu- ugh, we need to secure the door.”

“I think that’s a minor problem.” Raif was looking in through the window. It took Heather a moment to realise. The window was gone.

 

 

This was written as part of the Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge, Ten Titles From You, over at terribleminds.com. Also, the thing about the door handle might amuse my friend Laura.

Featured image from pixabay.com and used under Creative Commons.

Door Ways

brown-20831_1280Every time Dee heard the kitchen door crack against its frame she looked up expectantly. It was loose in it’s frame,  the draft pulling it back and forth. It was years since a Door had appeared to her but this morning….she shook her head. She must have dreamt about it and the leftover tension was wearing. Turning back to the fruit on her board she continued chopping. Laughter from the play area  across the road came through the open window. It sounded like her girl. A glance instead showed her Cosima was sitting on a swing leaning forward, watching the other children with a furrowed brow. She had been quiet all morning and repeated attempts to engage her had led to an abrupt announcement that she was going out to play. Dee had been so surprised she let her go with no more questions. Now she was finding reasons to stand at the kitchen window and watch. Looking down at all of the fruit and vegetables she had now chopped up Dee put the knife down. Cosima was probably just reacting to her. She’d been jumpy all day. Despite knowing it wasn’t going to happen she still had this…she could only describe it as somewhere between an itch and a headache. Every time she had touched a door handle today she had held her breath. Looking at the kitchen door a final time she turned back to the chopping board. She would make a fruit salad for dessert. That would use up all this fruit.

The chicken she put in an oven dish with the vegetables looked as pale as the chicken Cosimas father, Dorian, had been served in hospital. It was like it had been boiled. It fell apart easily enough but smelled like plastic. He had joked that he didn’t have a sense of taste anymore so what did it matter. She had laughed for his sake. Cosima had slept silently on her lap, the beeping machines lulling Dee to sleep as well. She had dreamed that Dorian had forgiven her. When she had asked what for he had shown her the first wedding ring she had ever worn. With the feeling of falling she had woken to find he had passed in his sleep. Instead of just grieving she had felt angry. She had no reason to feel guilty or be forgiven but on the day he was buried and Cosima had gripped her hand painfully she thought maybe there was.

Feeling tears coming she clamped her eyes shut until it passed. The counsellor had told her to think of happier times, good memories. The problem was all the good memories led to the final thought that he was dead. That didn’t bring her any comfort. Instead she had begun to think about life before him. When the Doors had appeared to her.

Her friends had been so jealous. But they couldn’t pass through. Adults couldn’t either. She remembered being so scared. There were stories of some never returning, being eaten by monsters or kidnapped by mercenaries on the other side. But her mother had dismissed those stories. Why would people make up such fibs, she would ask. And who exactly is bringing the stories back if they never return? With a Traveller’s survival pack her parents had purchased off the internet she had ventured alone through her first Door. Like many other people who went through the Doors, she didn’t tell much of what happened to her parents. It starts to fade for some after a while, especially the ones who went when very young. Too many memories for the brain to handle, doctors thought. And as you grow up again they get replaced with memories from your Stationary life.

There was a support group but Dee had stopped going. They spent so much time trying to keep hold of the memories. She hadn’t wanted to forget, precisely, but she didn’t fear it. Some memories she would be happy to  live without, just dumb luck which ones stayed.

She thought of the house she and Marl had lived in. She had chosen the wallpaper for the front room. And Marl had painted a mural on one wall. It had reminded her of the field near her parents house, when summer turned to autumn. The humidity changing to crisp decay and cool breezes. That had been the only time she had felt homesick. Marl had held her then, warm and safe. They continued to travel together, always returning to their house. Doors had stopped appearing. They got married.  She knew then why people made up awful stories about children who never returned. It hurt those left behind to think their children didn’t want to come back.

That was the real reason she couldn’t go to the support group anymore. Those Traveller’s had searched for a way home. Trying every door in every building in the hope one led back, sometimes years of searching. Dee had been happy in both worlds but deep inside her she had made the decision to stay. Marl had been her reason. He touched her as if she was actually alive. True she was only a child with her parents and first love is powerful, but the life they had built still felt like it was more real than the dream she had returned to.  She still wasn’t sure why. So while the others tried to remember their time away, feeling guilty for spending most of it trying to return, Dee felt guilty for wishing to stay and hoped to forget.

The front door slamming shut made her jump.

“Cosima?” she called.

“I’m going to the garden, Mum!” The back door slammed.

She thought of other children, her and Marl’s, slamming doors and running around the house. Marl would yell at them because he was more worried about the floor getting dirty than she was. It annoyed him when she laughed at their unruliness. But it reminded her of him when they first met. She had never told him but, after making the decision to remain, every door she opened she hesitated before going through. Even when Doors stopped, as she must have grown too old for it, still she would pause. That last day was sunny and hot. Her hair was wet and water droplets ran down the back of her shirt, Marl was yelling at the kids as they ran through the house still revved up from swimming outside. She was laughing, turning to look at him as she walked into the bedroom. The air felt cold and dry. Marls face changed. She looked around to find herself in her parents kitchen and realised she was back to the same height as when she left.  Looking up through the Doorway as Marl realised what was happening she reached her hand for him but the Door slammed closed.

Her mother heard her scream and found her crying on the floor. Her parents mistook her distress for some horrific event on the other side. They took her to the hospital to make sure she wasn’t injured. For years she saw psychologists and eventually ended up in group support. To her parents it had been merely days. It never occurred that the horror was seeing them.

Stationary life continued. Education, work, marriage and a child. Sickness and grief. This time she had something other than memories to live with. She heard the back door open.

“Mum?”

“In the kitchen.”

“Mum!”

A thrill of panic went through her. Clutching the knife she dashed into the hallway, Cosima stood at the other end and in between them were several Doorways that had not been there before. Dee held her hand up indicating for her daughter to wait. Trying hard not to let her hand tremble she opened the first Door. A damp heat rolled out and a cacophony of tropical birdsong. Eyeing her little girl who seemed on the verge of tears she shook her head. Closing the first Door, she continued down the hall, dripping knife in hand. A gust of frigid wind and the blast of salt water from the second had Dee slamming the Door before it was fully open. The third and last was nearest to Cosima.

“Third time lucky,” she reassured her. Cosima tried and failed to smile. Taking a deep breath Dee turned the handle. A warm golden glow emanated from it. Peeking inside Dee saw a study and heard the murmur of voices. As she opened the Door wider Cosima came closer, holding onto her mother’s leg like she had when she was younger. They waited. The voices stopped. Two men stepped into view. One was elderly with snowy, clean cut hair and a sprightly gait. The other was middle aged but slim. The twin looks of shock upon their faces were nothing she was sure to the look on hers.

“Ma?” the younger man said. Dee kept looking at the older man. Marls eyes were still that amazing pale blue but they had the same regret she saw in the mirror each day.

“Is that…you?” Looking at her eldest son she smiled.

“Yes, my darling. I’m so sorry I’ve been away for so long.”

“We’re…the same age?”

“I know.” She looked at Marl again. “This is Cosima. She’s my daughter.” He nodded in understanding and she wished she could explain further. His hand twitched and she saw a different wedding ring on his hand. She hiccoughed as laughter bubbled out along with her tears. Dee cleared her throat and knelt down to Cosima.

“This is Marl and his son. They are very, very special friends of mine. They’ll help you.”

“Ok.”

“And I want you to know something very important. They’ll remind you if you forget.” She looked at them and the men nodded. “If you need to stay, that’s alright, my darling. You be happy. Just be careful and always look before you step through. You understand?” Cosima nodded. Dee pulled her in and gave her a hard hug as she looked up at her other family. In that exchange of glances she realised how different their lives could have been. With a kiss to Cosima’s temple she smiled brightly at her daughter and let her step through. She watched as her children held hands. Cosima waved goodbye, a genuine smile creeping onto her face. Then she and Marl were left. He put his hand out but it was held back as if a pane of glass separated them. She placed her palm to his and imagined his warmth. He cried too. A creaking broke the silence and the Door began to close on her. Reluctantly she stepped away. She held his gaze as long as possible. Then the Door was gone.

Her ears rang in the silence. Then the sound of children playing filtered through the window. She looked down at the knife in her hand.

 

 

This story was part of the Pick Three Sentences challenge set by Chuck Wendig over at his blog terribleminds.com. Last week everyone had to write one sentence. This week we had to pick three that suggested a story to us. I chose the following:

1) He touched her as if she was actually alive. By Jezebel.

2) In that exchange of glances she realised how different their lives could have been. By Ita.

3) Closing the first door, she continued down the hall, dripping knife in hand. By Ila Turner.

The picture is used under Creative Commons, taken from pixabay.com

And I hope you enjoy the story.

The Chase

“But your Father refused?” Galen used the stick in his hand to hit at the long grass. His friend Jason made a noise. He looked over to see him shaking his head.
“He said it wasn’t honourable.” As Jason spat out the last word he tugged on his tunic as if hot. But Galen knew it wasn’t the clothing or the weather making him uncomfortable. He wanted to reach out and comfort his friend but held back. Lately Jason had been short tempered and impatient. His Father had been talking of sending him away for months but it seemed now that it was going to happen. He didn’t want to lose his friend but your Father’s word was law. Jason would return when he was grown. They would always be friends. Satisfied, Galen nodded to himself and continued hitting the grass as they walked.
He didn’t know this part of the wooded hills but a glance behind assured him the town was still in sight. The more angry Jason became the longer Jason liked to walk. They would eat berries they found up here. Sometimes on a long hike Galen would set snares and catch rabbits he then roasted over a fire. The dry weather had made the wood like tinder so they would have to be careful if they cooked today. Usually nobody hunted here so the animals were easy prey. Better quality and quantities of meat were bought by the townspeople from the sea merchants in exchange for their services as scholars. For such an educated place, it made Galen wonder why Jason’s Father wanted to send him away for his education. He sighed. Walks would be no fun without Jason.
Continuing in silence Galen noticed the ground becoming rockier. His town sandals had less grip on the smooth stone. He had to hold on to trees for balance but even they became sparse. He looked over at Jason who was continuing with determination. Gritting his own teeth Galen matched his pace. He was getting out of breath when a cave mouth appeared from behind an outcrop. Jason strode up to the entrance and stopped, looking inside. Galen lowered himself to the ground and leant back against the rocks. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths. The sun was warm on his face and did little to cool his sweat soaked skin. Once he had his breath back he grinned.
“Let me know if I should make a snare for lunch. I may have to go back down to catch anything.” There was no reply so Galen looked around. He was alone. Standing up he turned, looking for his friend, calling his name. He heard a faint whisper coming from the cave. It was dark but, licking his dry lips, Galen took a few steps inside. It grew cold in the shade and his skin prickled. He heard the faint voice again. It sounded like Jason. He couldn’t see, so with hands held out at face height, Galen moved forward cautiously. His fingertips met cold rock, what must have been the back of the cave. Another whisper came, to his right. Running his hands along and moving slowly Galen kept going until suddenly the cave mouth disappeared from view. Keeping one hand where it was the other explored what was blocking the light. More rock, it was a tunnel leading from the cave which was so dark he hadn’t been able to see it. He could hear the voice better, it definitely sounded like Jason but it was too low for him to make out any words. He called Jason again. Then once more. The whisper stopped. A low rumble sounded.
“Jason, is that you?” A bright yellow flash showed another turn in the tunnel further in. He took a step forward but then another flash silhouetted Jason running back towards him. Jason was screaming for him to run. He turned and ran for the cave mouth. He heard a roar like a wall crashing down. Jason caught up to him outside, overtaking him, grabbing his arm and dragging him down the hillside. Galen tried to keep his footing but he slipped on the stone. He tumbled down, arms and legs out to try and stop his fall. Smooth rocks and tree branches pummeled and sliced at him. He slammed into something. It stopped his fall but his head whipped back and forth and he couldn’t breath. Then air flowed in with a pained gasp. His eyes were watering and he ached. He scrabbled for purchase on the ground. Rough bark against his side told him he’d landed on a tree. The rock was covered in slippery moss and tufts of sharp razor grass bit into his hands. He heard another roar that echoed around him. He tried to look but his eyes were blurry and it felt like the world was still spinning. Two hands clamped down on his arms.
“This way, Galen!” Jason pulled him up and half carried him. They moved back up the hill. Galen could hear loud heavy breathing but it mingled with his own so he couldn’t tell where it was coming from. He heard a noise like pawing at the ground. Like a great hound ready to race. Galen saw the cave again but Jason dragged him past it. They moved round and over it, continuing up further. The land became nothing but stone, with nothing to pull themselves up. Galen pushed Jason off him and despite the pain in his side he climbed up and up until there was nowhere else to go.
Blood was pounding in his ears as he stopped and it felt like his heart was going to burst in his chest. He pushed on the stitch in his side but the skin was so tender it made him wince. Jason was looking back the way they had come. Galen followed his gaze. They were above the treeline and he could make out the town in the distance. Next to it was the sea, the large trade ships that came into port looking like toys. Jason made a strangled noise and gestured below them. Galen saw it, a creature pacing inside the shadow of the treeline. It was on all fours. It appeared to have a large shaggy head, a thin tail that whipped about it’s hind quarters and there was some sort of strange hump on it’s back. The hump erupted in a burst of flame lighting up the forest, igniting several trees. As they burned others caught light. The air crackled around them and the heat beat at their skin, the creature moving through the flame. Lit up Galen could see the hump on it’s back was the head of a goat. The tail had two glittering reptilian eyes.
“A Chimera. I thought it was only a myth,” Jason said in a high whine. He covered his mouth and coughed.
“Me too,” Galen agreed. He blinked furiously to clear the smoke from his eyes. He saw Jason’s mouth move but couldn’t hear him. “What?” he cried.
“I didn’t mean it!” His friend shouted back at him.
“You did believe?” Jason shook his head and they both coughed. Galen didn’t have time to think about what Jason was saying. They needed to escape or they would die from the smoke before the Chimera got them. Suddenly a gust of wind blew the smoke clear. Standing up from the huddle they had formed Jason cried out at the Chimera.
“I didn’t mean it!” The Chimera stopped pacing and all of its faces turned to look at them through the burning trees. The wind was at their backs, the smoke dissipating. With a growl the creature bolted away, straight down the hill towards town. Jason sat down, tears leaving tracks on his blackened face. Galen put his arm around the other boys shoulders.
“It’s gone. If we can avoid the smoke the fire will burn out and we can warn the town.” He gave an encouraging smile.
“No,” Jason replied. “It’s too late already.” Galen was about to answer when something caught his eye. The sun was glinting off a large white band out to sea. It seemed to hover above the water and was getting closer to land. The nearer it got Galen began to recognise it as a wave. An enormous wave that was churning the water it moved through. It was reaching higher than any building he had ever seen. Galen turned and called Jason’s name but his friend was frozen on the ground. He tried to think of how he might be able to warn the town but he knew if anyone had a high vantage point they would be looking up at the burning forest. No one would be looking out to sea. The wave reached the boats first, tossing them into the air carelessly, wood and sails strewn in it’s wake. Moments later it reached the town.

This story began with inspiration from Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/06/24/flash-fiction-challenge-five-random-story-seeds/

The seed I chose was number 5, an impossible animal arrives. I immediately thought about the Chimera and decided to research it’s classical origins. Thanks to Wikipedia (Chimera (mythology)) and reading that at one time the Chimera was an omen of natural disasters it inspired the climax of The Chase.

Featured image from pixabay.com and used under Creative Commons.

They Fight Crime

Selene barged through the doorway knocking Mags out of the way.
“Wait!” Was all that Mags could yell before Selene began throwing switches and pressing buttons. As her amazonian companion started the engine all Mags could think of was her own beloved. She was going to be parted from him forever if she didn’t find a way to stop Selene blasting them off into the time jump. She picked up one of the paper ornaments littered around the work stations, gifts she had made for Selene and now the way she was going to thwart her. She brought it behind her back and started refolding it. She kept her eyes on Selene, skin flushed red with anger slamming hands along the controls forcing the antique equipment to groan at the onslaught. Mags sidestepped around the panels to reach the dial controls. She toed open the hatch in the floor and stroked along the folds of the paper in her hand imbuing it with purpose. Releasing it over the fuel gauge it got straight to work. Flipping the hatch closed Mags moved closer to Selene. She could hear her muttering to herself. Mags’ own horror at what had happened made her sympathetic to her frenzy.
But she also knew that Selene wasn’t thinking. She was feeling and reacting on her first impulse and would regret it later. Mags had to stop her. Finally the lights flickered. Selene didn’t seem to notice but Mags made straight for the control panel.
“You haven’t got enough power,” she pointed at the dial. Selene’s head flew up and Mags felt certain the other woman had forgotten she was even there. Selene flew over to her side and she was pushed unceremoniously aside.
“There was loads of fuel earlier.” Selene grabbed her long hair at the roots scrunching her hands in frustration and making a strangled noise. Mags gently put her hands on Selene’s arms.
“We just have to refuel and while we do that you can tell me the plan and how I can help.” She gave a small smile but Selene whirled around her eyes wide.
“I’m going to go back to when that bitch is at her most vulnerable and…” Mags let her hands fall.
“And what, Selene?” She took a step back and pulled her face into what she hoped was a pained expression. She thought about losing her own love and the lock of hair disappearing from her locket as they changed the timeline. It worked because Selene’s breath caught at her friend’s expression.
“I just want…I want…”
“I know. At least I think I know what you want. But I’m worried about how you’re going to go about it.”
Selene let go of her breath and her hair and looked around the room. The walls were covered with pictures. Mostly of Selene in classic catalogue poses in her other life as a model. But there were other photos, artwork made possible by the catalogue pictures. The photographer was the same and displayed altogether Mags could see the similarities where the artist shone through in the catalogue pictures and where the professional came through in the pure art. A series of candid pieces of Selene in their shared home were next to each other. A first anniversary present. Mags wondered what that would be like, sharing that kind of life with someone. She knew it wasn’t what was in store for her future but it didn’t matter. You didn’t choose who you fell in love with. You just hope they’re worthy. And Selene had someone like that. But if they weren’t careful they could both lose.
She let herself sink to the floor. The fuel gauge was making beeping noises that reminded her of a heart monitor. It must have done the same to Selene because she turned it off the joined her on the floor. Mags took her hands and clasped them between both of hers.
“We need to be smart about this. And fix what won’t destroy…everything.” Selene nodded but kept her eyes on the floor. She was deflating. Mags considered for a moment. Sitting taller she shoved Selene’s shoulder.
“Hey, c’mon. Where’d you go?” Selene bit her lip. “Look, what do we have that the Stirling woman doesn’t?” She gestured around them. “A time machine. So we can find something, sometime, on her. Some dirt. And bring it back to the police. We can destroy her before she has the chance to hurt anyone.” Selene was shaking her head.
“We hadn’t seen her for weeks. It looked like she was going to leave us alone. What if that’s exactly what caused her to do this? She’s retaliating against our retaliation?”
“Hmmm, wouldn’t doing differently cause a paradox?”
“Yeah, this plan sucks.”
“And your lack of a plan was so great? Are you forgetting she introduced you to him?” Selene leaned away from mags.
“Of course I remember. But if she doesn’t exist then she also can’t hurt him.”
“Exist? What were you going to do? Kill her?” Selene’s silence confirmed it and Mags scoffed in disgust. “Stooping to her level, great plan.”
“Well, what do you suggest?” Selene voice dripped with disgust of her own.
“Well, maybe give me a few minutes,” Mags drawled sarcastically as she pushed herself up and began pacing. She wanted the movement but it didn’t actually help her concentrate. Instead she perched on the edge of a seat and imbued purpose into another paper ornament. As it fluttered in front of her and she lost herself in it’s movements she had the spark of an idea. Jumping up she tore open the fuel gauge hatch and removed the paper tool she had created. Power flowed into the engines again and the lights flared brighter. Selene scrambled off the floor.
“You?! What?!” she screeched. Mags held her hands up in front of her and grinned.
“Be mad at me later. I’ve figured out how to fix everything.”

Unravelling the clues that led them here to this room had taken several days. But this meeting was the reason Stirling had planned her attack. Selene clutched her hands together in front of her mouth as Mags placed the electronic bug inside a paper beetle she had folded and imbued with purpose. She let it loose to jump onto the room service trolley going to Stirling. In their room they waited mostly in silence, Mags folding and refolding a piece of paper.
“Will you stop that?” Selene hissed.
“Yes, once we have anything to listen to!” Eventually they heard a knock on the speaker and a door opening. The server was paid by an unknown woman and after another squeak of wheels the paper rustled as the beetle moved to hide closer to their target. Stirling’s voice came over loud and clear as she complained about there being too many cups for their tea. Mags could see equal confusion on Selene’s face as it became apparent the two women were having a stilted social call. But then the conversation turned. The other woman began describing shapes in the tea. Stirling was seeing a clairvoyant. They looked at each other in shock as their names came up. The clairvoyant was telling Stirling that letting them live the last time they had come close to her operations had been a misstep. One she needed to rectify immediately. The session ended soon after and Stirling left. Mags sat back in her chair
“So we didn’t do anything, yet.” Selene gave a little bark of laughter.
“Don’t you see though. She’s the cause of her own downfall. We would be leaving her alone if she hadn’t come after us and hurt someone I cared about.” Mags laughed as well.
“Wow. Time travel is actually quite funny.”
Suddenly there was a sound of rustling paper from the speaker and the clairvoyants voice came through.
“Could the pair of you please come to my room?” Five minutes later the clairvoyant was offering one of those extra cups to Selene who was glowering at her.
“Not really seeing why I shouldn’t smash it in your face since you just sent Stirling on an attack that puts my boyfriend in a coma.” Mags put a hand on Selene’s arm as the other woman waved her hand dismissively.
“He’ll be fine.” She replied. Mags frowned.
“How exactly do you know? You’re looking an awful like a charlatan to me.”
“Says the friend to a time traveller who can magically charm paper statues to life.” They froze at her statement. The woman leaned forward. “ My powers are real, as real as yours. I hate working for Stirling but she has leverage over me. If I help bring her down I want your promise to get that leverage back. I know which pieces of evidence will bring a conviction plus where and when to find them. Do we have a deal?” Mags and Selene looked at each other and by unspoken agreement rose, moving to the other side of the room.
“Think we can trust her?” Selene whispered.
“Not as far as we can throw her. But we can always keep her leverage for ourselves.” Selene looked down ather friend.
“And do what Stirling does? Tut tut.” Mags shrugged.
“I’m against killing someone. But I have no problem with blackmail.” Selene just pulled a face.
“Sure.” With a nod they both turned back and spoke.
“Deal.”

Another Flash Fiction challenge from http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/05/13/flash-fiction-challenge-they-fight-crime-2/

The challenge was to go here: http://theyfightcrime.net/ (possibly one of the most brilliant sites I’ve ever seen!) and refresh until a duo came up that you could write about. I got “a time travelling underwear model who’s aboutta open a can of whoop ass” and “a devious paper folder who is in love with the Honey Monster”. Together, they fight crime!!

Featured image from pixabay.com and used under Creative Commons.

Rite

Inspired by Over The Edge by Adrian Dudziak.
http://photo.net/photodb/similar-photo?photo_id=9378225

Ankle deep with dampness creeping up her dress where it skimmed the frigid river water Grace held her hands out in front her in the traditional pose of supplication. She couldn’t feel her feet anymore. At first the cold had been painful. The daytime had been moderately warm but the river was fed by the glacier further up the valley making it icy year round. The first snow melt was always going to be the coldest the river would get. She had travelled a full day north from the village to be as close to the head water as possible before it became the stream. Grace camped for four days as she fasted, drinking only river water and applying holy oil. Before putting on her robe she had scraped her skin clean with a strigil. She stepped barefoot into the rapidly moving water as the sun began to shine through the trees on the fifth day. The white wool of her dress was getting heavier. Her back and scalp were damp as she concentrated on standing still. She wondered if she stayed there during the night would she freeze to death. She had only told her betrothed where she was planning on going. Would he be able to guide them to her if she did not return? How would he react if he found her body? Or would she wash down towards the village and be found by the early morning washer women? But the suffering for the rite was required of all brides if they wished to be blessed with a glimpse of their future children.

As the dusk turned to night her knees began to shake but she renewed her resolve, palms down to the water. She thought of her mother describing her rite. She along with all the other women who were betrothed were taken to the priestess on the far edge of the village. In seclusion they fasted and applied the oil. Then on the longest day of the year they went out into the fields to stand and await their vision. She had heard variations of the rite from women who had married into the village. One woman had never done it as her father had forbidden it. He had decided that with her mother dead and no other children she was too valuable to risk the rite. No one was surprised when she was barren. The rite was performed during summer in high heat, their grim determination in the scorching sun blessing them with hardy children who could work the land from sunup to sundown. But during her rite, Grace’s mother had seen her daughter having a winter babe. A child who could handle lack of warmth and forge their own path. Grace had always wanted to be that child. The jealousy she felt was always there. Even now as she dared see her child’s future.

Her whole body began to shake. Eyes closing against the starry sky her vision turned inwards. Opening her eyes the light was so bright she had to squint. Looking around she found herself on a swaying platform surrounded by a field of glittering jewels. Grace looked down and didn’t recognise any of the clothing she wore. She did recognise a wedding band around her wrist. She stepped towards the rail and realised it wasn’t jewels out there but sunlight hitting the ripples on a vast expanse of water bigger than she had ever seen. It was just water and sky as far as she could see. The size of it frightened and thrilled her equally. Wind whipped around her pulling at her hair and clothing bringing with it a strong salt smell and something else warm and inviting. There was a call from above. She turned to it and saw clouds captured in webbing. Focusing she saw they were just enormous sheets, bleached white in the baking sun billowing out and pulling their vessel over the water. She ran along in the direction they raced. She leant forward over the rail almost to her tipping point, closing her eyes when the wind made her eyes water and it felt like she was flying. This was where her child was going to go and she felt that pang of jealousy. She sensed someone beside her and turned to find a man holding a child. She couldn’t see his face but the child had dark hair like the raven, like hers. The man was looking forward and pointing. A dark mass was looming over them now. Dark grey cliffs speckled with green and peaks so high they were hidden by dense white cloud. Suddenly Grace was on a small boat. She leapt out and helped pull it onto crisp golden sand. The water that soaked into her boots was warm. She moved away from the boat not caring that her clothing was getting soaked. The envy she felt at her own child’s future was a dull ache. She knew it could grow into rage and destroy her relationship with her daughter. She sighed and hung her head but the reflection in the crystal water by her feet wasn’t of her child.

It was her own face, older, weathered. She gasped but the air that entered her lungs was bitingly cold. She coughed it out and tried to hold onto the trance but the harder she tried to stay the faster she felt herself return to the river. Stumbling out of the water Grace made it to the bank as a sob escaped her. Laying back she saw the moon still hanging over her but pale dawn light beginning. Eventually her sobs lessened and she smiled up at the sky. She was going to see more sky, soon.

Two days later Graces betrothed found one of his camping bedrolls missing and their betrothal band sitting on his kitchen table. Muddy footprints led to the river’s edge. She must have travelled by night through the water. Which way she went they never discovered.

Today’s story has come about because of the random image inspiration Flash Fiction challenge over at http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/05/06/flash-fiction-challenge-inspiration-of-the-random-image/

The picture I chose is Over The Edge by Adrian Dudziak:
http://photo.net/photodb/similar-photo?photo_id=9378225

If it doesn’t show up you can search photo.net with the title and artists name.

Featured image from pixabay.com and used under Creative Commons.

Enjoy!

Two Skulls

Here is the first in what will hopefully be many flash fiction stories. You can find the challenge at http://www.terribleminds.com. Enjoy!

Dermot leapt over the summit edge and finally looked upon the two skulls that had previously been the heads of the King and Queen of the first ruling Royal family. He turned to Serena, pulling herself to the summit on hands and knees. He started unfurling the scroll that had led them here while he waited for her to recover on the ground.
“So,” she sighed. “Now all you have to do is pick one.”
“The correct one,” Dermot grinned as he waved the scroll in front of her face. Taking a deep breath she nodded and rubbed her side.
“You’re really not worried that anyone who has tried to pick …went mad?”
“That’s why you’re here. So come on.” He clapped his hands. “Shouldn’t you be looking for clues?”
“Give ‘er a chance!” said a distinctly female voice. Serena sat upright. They looked around but seeing no one else in the darkness looked at each other. “Ain’t you here looking for us?” The pair looked at the plinth that housed the skulls. “There we go, lovies,” said the voice. “I’m the one on the right.” Serena swallowed to stop the squeek that rose inside her as she realised she wasn’t hearing with her ears. It was as if the voice were speaking directly into her mind.
“Your right…or ours,” she asked breathlessly. Dermot narrowed his eyes at her. She bit her lip and shrugged. He frowned and turned to face the skulls.
“Oh, err…yours.”
“Does it really matter?” came a male voice. Serena got up and stood next to Dermot at the plinth. She leaned forward and gave a small delighted laugh.
“May I ask, are you the King and Queen?” Dermot put his hand on her arm and gave her a shake.
“Don’t speak to them. They’re cursed objects.”
“‘Scuse me, we’re magical,” replied the female skull. “And your girl’s not the first to giggle when she realises she’s talking to a bone.” The skull cackled as the other voice made a disgusted noise.
“You make that bloody joke all the time.”
“It’s always new to the people who come ‘ere.” she replied sniffily.
“It’s a bad joke.”
“Never ‘ad a problem with my jokes before. A few ‘undred years in a cave and you’re all ‘you’re not funny’ and ‘none of ‘em like your jokes’. Makes me wonder why I stay with you.”
“You don’t ‘ave a choice.”
Serena was grinning as she looked back over at Dermot who had moved to the edge of the summit. When she came over he gripped her upper arm and pulled her closer.
“It’s a trick,” he whispered. “Listen to how they speak, they can’t be the King and Queen. It’s some sort of…”
“Trick?” Dermot nodded. Serena shook her arm to loosen his hold. “There’s a reason you brought an expert on the first Royal family.” She pointed at the scroll. “That prophecy says whoever brings the bones of the first ruler to the citadel will become the next monarch. Now you told me you wanted my help to become that monarch. Let me do my job.” She marched the few steps back to the skulls who were still talking. “Your Majesties, could I ask you a few questions?” They stopped and Serena felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise.
“You may,” said the female voice.
“Where were you born?”
“I was born in the a village called Mosson in Carinda province. My husband ‘ere was from two towns away. We met when I was taken by slavers to the market there. He bought me.” Serena walked around the plinth as she listened.
“So how did he end up you husband?” Dermot made an impatient noise. Serena held up one finger.
“Romantic sod fell in love wi’ me.”
“You were a looker,” he joined in. “Why’d you think I bought you in the first place?” Both laughed.
“And whose idea was it to take the kingdom and become ruler?”
“Well it was somethin’ we sort of…had to do.” he replied. “I ‘ad the power to free a slave but not to marry one. Not by law. So I started gettin’ in fights with anyone who said I couldn’t do what I wanted. An’ it went from there.”
“Told you he was a romantic,” the Queen whispered. Serena chuckled, looking up just as Dermot strode toward the plinth and handed Serena the scroll.
“I’m ready to choose.”
“No, wait-!” She reached to stop him but Dermot had already set his hands on the skull of the King. His whole body went stiff, his face went slack and the focus left his eyes. She ran to catch him as he crumpled and they landed on the ground awkwardly. She called his name and checked if he was alive. She thought he was talking but when she listened he was uttering nonsense.
“Oh lovey, I’m so sorry.” The Queen said.
“Did the cave close behind you when you entered?” the King asked. Serena choked out a yes.
“You’ll have to choose then,” the Queen said. “It’s the only way out.”
“I know,” Serena said shakily. She stood and brushed herself off.
“Did you love him very much?”
“What?” Serena looked down at Dermot. “No. Not at all. But he was the first person who had listened to my theory. The only one willing to help me see if it was true.” She gave a bitter laugh. “Of course, he was hoping to get something out of it too.” She walked over to the skulls.
“Don’t be scared.” The Queen said. “We’ll talk to you. Keep you company.” Serena looked confused for a moment then smiled.
“What most people don’t do is look at the back of the plinth. It has an inscription,” she whispered.
“Does it now,” said the Queen but her tone didn’t seem surprised.
“‘As in life so shall they be in Death. As one.’” Serena placed her hands on the two skulls.

 

Featured image from pixabay.com and used under Creative Commons.