A Little Less Feeling

Xalthus looked down perturbedly from the branch he perched on. He stared at the smoking crater, and tried to figure out if his situation could be worse. When this got too depressing he instead considered ways his life could be improved. Maybe if he were some other animal?

He had put some thought into this before and, on the whole he enjoyed being an owl. He had sometimes thought about what his existence might be like as some other creature Maybe a cat, they had the advantages of stealth and grace. Perhaps a bear, good hardy creatures, strong, intimidating. Bears, like owls were also seen as fonts of wisdom, in certain cultures anyway.

He often had reason to review a long list of other things he could have been. In the end he was usually grateful that he was not Guillaume.

Guillaume was the young man lying in the crater, looking slightly bewildered, heavily singed and smelling mostly of ozone. He was nice enough fellow, Xalthus supposed, hard working, friendly, eager. Just perhaps a bit too timid and nervous in ways that spoke to something in Xalthus’s owlishness and reminded of a mouse. At times Xalthus found himself fighting the urge to swoop down on the boy and snare him in his talons. All in all though, he was a decent sort, if you were into the whole consorting with mortals thing. He could take it or leave it himself, except having been forced to take it and forbidden to leave. Guillaume’s major fault was that he was a bit too uncertain of himself. Yes, that was it, under confidence. Also he lacked sufficient concentration for his given profession.

Given was the operative word, Xalthus conceded. Guillaume was not offered a real choice in the matter. Rupert needed an apprentice and Guillaume’s parents needed one less mouth to feed so a bargain had been struck. The boy was too honest to run away. Not Rupert that was cruel master, he was just easily frustrated. Rupert wasn’t a particularly patient teacher either. Eventually their combined shortcomings made the the boy’s training untenable.So, the old wizard summoned Xalthus, and bound him him to the form of an owl, which again was not overall an unpleasant experience, and essentially said, “You there. Show him the ropes and, make sure he doesn’t get in too much trouble.”

Xalthus sighed, he supposed neither one of them really wanted to be here. Still neither had much of a choice. He let himself ponder this for a bit longer, then stretched his wings.

“Alright lad, “ he tried with an encouraging tone, “let’s try it again. Once more, from the top. This time with, perhaps, a little less feeling.”

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there.
The random photo I received as a prompt for the challenge can be viewed here, and I hope I did it some justice.
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Shame About the Roses

Edna sat in her study listening to the wind howl. She peered out at the garden with disappointment. The flowers had just started to bloom when the weather suddenly changed. She watched with dismay as the snow and sleet beat down the plants. They had just gotten the levels in the soil right, and finally solved all the problems with the CO2 saturation. Everything looked perfect for their first planned spring. Then the blizzard happened.

What a waste, she thought.

There was a nervous cough behind her.

“Well, what happened?”

“Faulty regulator in the climate system, ma’am.” The ensign replied nervously. “Engineering can get it sorted out in a day or two. Lieutenant Carlson says he will be able to roll back the cycle once that is done and we’ll be able to replant right away.”

“I hope so. I really am looking forward to eating something other than nutrient paste at some point this year. Have them send me their full report.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Edna ignored the young man until he decided to leave on his own.

She got up and walked to the window and placed her hand on the thick glass. The roses were really the biggest disappointment. The colony had plenty of seed stock for food stuffs. The roses though, she would have to requisition new bushes from command back on Earth. That was sure to be just like pulling teeth.

It was such a shame. She really thought the roses would have finally make the place feel like home.

This scene was written in response to a prompt by Today’s Author

The Porcelain Cat

It was recess. I was standing under the sycamore tree, feeling woozy. I’d spent too long hanging upside down on the monkey bars. I was just about sure I wasn’t going to ralph when she walked by.

New kid, I didn’t know her name. Parents just moved here from out-of-state. Seemed a friendly, girl. Today she was all sniffles and tears. I hated seeing a girl cry, it took the fun out of recess

“What’s wrong, kid?”

“I lost my cat.”

“It ran away?”

“No,” she sobbed, “not a real cat. A statue, made of porcelain. All white with a little pink bow, playing with a ball of yarn. It was my grandma’s. My parents told me I couldn’t bring it to school but I did anyway ‘cause I wanted to show someone. Only now it’s gone.”

That’s when the water works really got going. I didn’t know what to do, so I tried to sound helpful. “Hold on now… what’s your name anyway?”

“Matilda.”

“Alright Matilda, I know my way around the schoolyard. Where’d you see it last?”

“Miss Marshall’s class, she made me put it in my cubby. I was gonna get it out to bring it to recess to show it to Jenny. I told her about how cute it was and she begged me to bring it in so she could see it.” She wiped her nose with a sleeve and snorted hard trying to get a hold of herself.

“Which Jenny are you talking about?” There were three Jenny’s in our grade but I was pretty sure I knew which one she was going to say.

***

Jenny Billings. Everyone in our grade called her Miss Kitty, and she didn’t mind it either. Everything she owned had cats on it. From her Hello Kitty back pack to the homework folder printed with glossy pictures of kittens all over it. Kids said she even brought her own bandaids from home. So she didn’t have to wear the plain ones the nurse handed out when she scraped a knee. We never really got to be friends, mostly because I liked dogs.

I found her by the slide. She got all snooty when I asked he about the cat.

“Matilda told me about her kitty statue. It sounded so cute. I asked her to bring it in for me to see. She never showed it to me though. She said she couldn’t find it, that it got lost or something. I couldn’t tell she was too busy crying. I don’t even think she really brought it in. Maybe she just made it up so I’d be friends with her,. New kids are always telling lies so people will like them, but I don’t make friends with just anyone you know. They have to love kitties as much as I do.”

“C’mon Jenny, you sure you ain’t seen it. I bet you’d do anything to get your hands on a thing like that. Matilda says you begged her to bring it in.”

“I never begged.” she put her fists on her hips and huffed. “She said she’d show it to me and that’s all. Besides, I haven’t been anywhere near Miss Marshall’s class today.”

***

I could tell I wasn’t getting anywhere with Miss Kitty, so I headed off back to the shade tree where Matilda was waiting. She looked so hopeful when she saw me coming. That look went away when I told her that Jenny was a dead end. I even check with my friend Jimmy, the hall monitor. He hadn’t seen Jenny on that side of the school all morning.

“So it’s gone, forever?” The tears welled up again and she started to wail.

I never could stand to watch another kid go all rubbery. So, I made faces at her till she couldn’t help but laugh, and she slugged me in the arm to get me to stop.

“Look, Matty, it that bad yet. Think, when did you check on it last?”

“Just before reading.”

“Do you stay in Miss Marshall’s for that?”

“No, I have reading in Mrs. Dillard’s room.”

“And, that’s right before lunch right? So now all we got to do is think of someone who stays in Miss Marshall’s for reading. They might have seen if someone took it.”

“You really think someone stole my porcelain cat?”

“I doubt it walked away. Now who do you think might have seen something?”

“Jeremy,” she said excitedly, “and his desk is towards the back. You can see the cubbies from there.”

***

Jeremy Reynolds, was the type of kid that would eat just about anything if you promised him whatever you had lying around in your pocket. Especially if it meant grossing out a few of the other kids. He always drew a crowd. I waited for him to stop chewing before I walked up.

“You’ve got reading with Miss Marshall. You see anyone messing around over by the cubbies today?”

“Why should I tell you?” A smile crept across his face “I mean, what’s it worth?”

I didn’t like some schoolyard sideshow trying to get smart, so I got mean with him.

“Listen doofus, I ain’t got all recess. If you know something helpful, there’s a couple of Garbage Pail Kid cards in it. But, if you keep messin’ around the next thing this playground is gonna watch you eat is a knuckle sandwich.”

Jeremy swallowed hard. “Mickey, Mickey Donnelly. I don’t know about cubbies but, he kept getting up to sharpen his pencil, three or four times. Teacher fussed at him.”

“That’s it? That’s all you saw?” I turned to walk away, “Thanks for nothing.”

“What about those cards.”

“I said two cards if you could help, and you can’t. You’re lucky I don’t give you a wedgie for wasting my time. Tell you what here’s one for your trouble, now scram.”

***

I found Matilda over by the merry-go-round. Poor thing, she thought that if she got dizzy enough her problems would just fly away. I couldn’t blame her. We’ve all taken a few extra spins when the chips were down. I sat on the edge of it with her as it spun to a stop, and told her that Jeremy didn’t know anything.

“Maybe he took it?”

“Nah, he might be a greedy, bug-eating creep but, he’s too much of a fraidy cat to steal something.”

“So, there’s nothing else we can do?”

“We can not use the same pencils as Mickey Donnelly.”

“What?”

“Jeremy said he kept getting up to sharpen his.” That’s when it hit me. The thing that didn’t add up. “Wait a minute who needs to sharpen a pencil three times when you’re just reading?”

“My cubby is right under the pencil sharpener” Her eyes widened with hope.

“Come on Matty, Recess is almost over.”

***

We bolted across the playground. Mickey was the tallest kid in our grade, it wasn’t had to spot him at the sandpit, hanging out with his knuckle head friends. They liked to act like they owned that place. Jenny Billings was there too. The sandbox seemed a rough place for little Miss Kitty .

“Fancy seeing you here Jenny”

Jenny stuck her nose in the air and looked away. “Mickey and I are old friends.”

“Friends? Sure, you both like cats. Maybe porcelain ones?”

“Go away before I pound you runt” Mickey slammed his fist into his own open hand.

“You’re not pounding anyone. Give me the cat. We can all walk away. No one gets in trouble. You don’t want to get into trouble do you Mickey?”

Mickey lunged forward swinging. I was used to dealing with angry oafs from being punched on by older brothers. I stepped aside and stuck my foot out. Mickey tripped and fell over catching a mouthful of sand.

Something white tumbled out of his pocket, the soft ground breaking its fall.

Jenny grabbed it and started to back away..

“Give it here Jenny, we can all just go back to class.”

“No,” She screamed. “The kitty is mine now.”

I started to move towards her but Mickey had got back to his feet. He grabbed me, throwing me to the ground. I tried to roll away but he landed his knee on top of me. This is where I get clobbered, I thought, shutting my eyes.

There was a shrill sound and everything stopped. Hall monitor Jimmy came running up with Coach Davis waddling behind him tweeting on his whistle. Mickey got off me and just sat in the sand. He knew the drill. Jenny didn’t, she turned and ran.

Straight into Miss Marshall.

First they tried to blame me. When they couldn’t keep the story straight they blamed each other. It didn’t matter.

Jimmy already told the teachers what was going on, like I asked him.

When the day was over, Matty got her porcelain cat, and the two of them got a trip to the principal’s office.

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Lost Letter

 

bottle

“Dammit!” he hissed, hopping on one foot, looking for what he banged his toe on.

An old bottle lay there. Inside was a scrap of paper.

He thought back to summer of his fifth grade year. Pirates were his fascination then. He’d read about marooned sailors sending messages off in bottles in hopes of rescue.

All summer he’d write notes, stuff them in empty soda bottles, screw the caps tight, and set them adrift. Not out of need for rescue. Just in hopes they might reach some distant shore. That someone might send back a reply in some exotic bottle from parts unknown. He would chase every bit of detritus that glinted as it bobbed in the surf just in case.

It never was.

Later he grew up and learned about ocean currents, weather patterns and how unlikely that his messages ended up further than a few miles down the shoreline. He also learned about global marketing. That anyone in parts unknown probably had the same boring coke bottles that he did.

He grabbed the bottle by the neck, and hurled it back into the Atlantic, once again off to parts unknown.

He hoped the weather was nice there.

 

This story was written in response to a photo prompt at Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner

Not Tonight, Honey

I should be cold, he thought lying there on the pavement as the rain fell lightly around him. Instead he felt a warmth creeping along his back as blood oozed from where the bullet had gone through him. He felt that he should be scared, he was. The terror of the moment had stricken him so completely it overwhelmed him, leaving an odd stat that seemed to be a horrifying mockery of calm and clarity. He couldn’t see, not with that security guard shining his damned flashlight in his eyes. He opened his mouth to shout at him it to get it out of his face, but he couldn’t catch his breath. So instead he just laid there listening to sound of his friends footsteps running away on the wet pavement and the sirens in the distance.

He started thinking about her.

He had only met her a couple of weeks ago. They had only gone out a few times, she was always busy. He thought she had promise, though. She was smart and funny, he didn’t know if he’d call he gorgeous though. He remembered the first time he got her to smile, it was a great smile, but he couldn’t help notice her teeth were just a little bit crooked. Her nose was slightly misshapen too. She had told him once, maybe cause he was staring, that she had broken it a bunch of times dancing at shows back in her punk rock days. That she’d always wind up, later on in the night, drunk in the bathroom of some bar looking in the mirror trying to set it back into place.

He liked that image of her though. Some tough girl in a mosh pit. How it didn’t quite match up with the woman he knew. The one that had to stop and make baby talk at every dog they passed by. They always fell for it too. He had seen her walk right up to some mean ass dogs that roamed around the neighborhood and, after a minute or two they’d be on their backs getting belly rubs. Then she would say some nonsense about how they had always been a good dog, they just needed someone to come along and remind them. He wondered if she felt the same way about him.

So yeah, maybe not gorgeous but she was definitely beautiful which was a lot better.

He had known some gorgeous women in his life and somehow, after a while, the polish would wear off and there would always be this filthy, petty, mean spirited person underneath it all. Not her though, she shined all the way down to the bone. Yeah, he’d take beautiful over gorgeous any day.

He was sorry when he had to disappoint her. They were supposed to have dinner to night. She had made reservations. Someplace nice, she’d gotten that promotion she’d been chasing, and wanted to celebrate. He had just gotten off the phone with her when Nicky had shown up at the shop and told him about the job.

He didn’t want to do it. He was trying to be done with all of that stupid bullshit. He owed Nicky though, owed him big. More importantly, as Nicky was kind enough to point out, he owed someone else. The kind of person you didn’t just say no to.

So he had sat there at his workbench for a bit. Trying to figure a way around it. Until he finally called her back to cancel.

“Not tonight, honey,” he told her. “Something important came up.”

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Night Watching

Delores lay in bed, listening to sounds of the sleeping house. She was thinking. Thinking about all the little ways that they controlled her. How their rules and expectations seemed so unfair. She was thinking it was time to do something about it. About how she had been planning this all day. She glanced over at her clock. It was time.

Her bare feet slid down and touched the icy wooden floor. In long slow steps she padded her way down the hall, stopping at their room. She held her breath for a moment, listening at the door. Once she was sure she heard two different types of snores she slowly moved on. Down through the kitchen.

Jazz, the family dog snuffed awake and picked its head up at her approach. The old mutt wasn’t likely to start barking, but he could be such a spazz sometimes. She fished out the biscuit she had hidden in her pajama pocket before bed, and held it up. Jazz instinctively sat and waited for his treat. She patted him on the head and dropped the biscuit in his mouth. He wagged his tail expectantly as she crept away, and when he was reasonably certain that there were no more treats in his future, he cocked his head, stretched, then walked around in a circle three times and laid back down.

She was almost to the living room when a thought occurred to her. If just getting caught was going to be bad enough, why not make the most of it? She crept back into the kitchen. From the fridge she poured herself a large glass of soda. She took a small sip, smacked her lips and let out a quiet satisfied sigh. She put the bottle back and carefully and quietly she snuck out through the doorway into the living room.

She walked around the sofa and took another dainty sip from her glass before setting it on the coffee table. Thinking better of the action she lifted it back up and slid a coaster under it, one shouldn’t tempt fate. Being caught out of bed might not go particularly well but, she was fairly sure she didn’t want to go through the whole, “water rings on the furniture speech,” again. She cautiously picked up the remote and gently pressed the power button. Her hands flew to the volume control to start turning it down before the television had a chance to make a sound, she’d made that mistake before. She smiled and dropped herself on the sofa and brought feet up onto the armrest. She wiggled he shoulders against the throw pillows and settled in for a night of “grown up” TV shows.

No one was going to tell Delores when she should go to sleep. Bedtimes were for suckers.

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Prisoner

Gabriel paced the length of the dark cell. The same grim worry on his mind as the day he was first walked past the long hallway of doors.

They always said that the innocent have nothing to fear but, that night, when they came bursting into his apartment, he had run. Everyone in the building had run. No one seemed innocent enough to be fearless these days. He was one of the ones that they had chased after specifically. He hadn’t been fast enough. Each of those doors, he now assumed were cells like his. Each another life much like his. That first night as he glanced nervously at each closed door, was when he began to wonder. if they were here as well. Eventually they stopped him at one door, just like all the others, opened it and pushed him inside. The door shut. He began to pace, and worry.

In some hours, unable to sleep, he got to know about the cell. The walls were cinder block, and cold. The bed was a pallet on the floor in one of the back corners. A toilet, or what passed for one, and basin. There was dim light, barely enough to see by, coming from a fixture set recessed into the ceiling. That was all. Just himself, the chilly gloom and the silence.

After a time the door opened and a guard came in. He was relieved for a moment to see it was Michael. That soon faded as he looked into the hardened eyes of the man he had once known, and had spent a childhood with. Still he had to hope. Just maybe there was a chance that he knew, or cared.

“Have you any news of…”

“You must follow me.”

That was it. They walked silently through the long hall of doors. Stopping at one identical to the rest. Maybe they were here, Gabriel thought. Again his hopes fell as the door opened and instead of a cell there was a large room, with a table and with chairs on either side of it. A man in a suit was smiling at him from across the room. A small nudge from Michael urged him into the room. As he stepped in the smiling man motioned to one of the chairs.

“Please sit. I only have a few questions.”

“Please? If you…”

There was a brief flicker to the smile, but it was just long enough to show there was a second way things could be done. “I only have a few questions. With your cooperation I can have my answers. Then we can be done here very soon, and you can go home.”

The smiling man asked for the names of certain individuals, and locations where those individuals met. Gabriel did not have the answers the smiling man was looking for. The smiling man sighed and told him how very disappointing it was that he was unable to cooperate. He was brought back to the cell down the long hall of doors. When he was inside he turned again to Michael and pleaded.

“Please I’ve done nothing wrong. I just want to know if…”

“I can not help you.” Michael stared through him. “Just cooperate and all will be well.”
“Michael it is me, you know…”

The guard left the room.

The door closed.

In the darkness time stretched and dilated. Days, hours, and minutes didn’t truly exist for him here. The only punctuations to his life here were when trays of cold broth and bread were brought to him through a slot in the door, or when Michael or another guard would collect him from the darkness. And take him to the room with the smiling man and his questions. Sometimes there were other men in the room too. They didn’t smile. They didn’t ask the questions. They were the other way things could be done.

None of it seemed to happen at regular intervals. There was once an unimaginably long period where no one came. No guards, no smiling man, no tray of broth and bread. During this time he discovered his cell was one and a half steps longer than it was wide. It’s longest dimension was parallel with the door. Which itself wasn’t quite centered. It was a full third of a step closer to one wall than the other. After a while, when his hunger began to grow unbearable, he feared they had forgotten about him. That he had been left to waste away in the cool dark of this room. Then he hoped that they had. He felt for a time free of the menace of the unanswerable questions of the smiling man and his assistants. That was lost when the door finally opened, and he looked at the lighted hall beyond once again. This time it was a priest that cast his shadow into the room.

The priest entered the cell and sat chair that Michael brought in for him. He looked down at Gabriel lying weakly curled up on the floor and implored him to do the right thing. To look into his heart and see that it for the good of all. That God would forgive him his tresspasses if only he would unburden himself. Gabriel just lay there and wept quietly.

From then on the priest was added to the irregular rotation of events. There were so many days , after unkown hours, of questions and coercions, and of yelling and threats, he thought of just giving them the answers they wanted. Just giving them a name or two. He could, or so they promised, exchange his freedom for that of others. Surely, he thought, he could come forward with a name. Just a name. Someone distasteful, someone who deserved this. There were so many people he knew who had done something wrong, committed some petty offense against the state. He knew he couldn’t do it. There was too much uncertainty about who was working with them, and who, like him, they already had taken. Besides, it would only be a lie. He thought about this every time he walked back from the smiling man’s room.

Each time he made the long walk down the hall of doors, as he passed each one he wondered. Who was behind them. Which ones remained empty waiting for a name to be given. Behind which of these doors was the person who had given them his. Who, in desperation and in the false hope of freedom, betrayed him, or another innocent soul. He knew they had no intention of releasing him. No one who had ever been taken had come back. That was why he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t be part of the broken gearwork of this place, of the system of fear and hatred and lies that created it. Even if he did it. Even if he agreed to give a name. Even if that was the end of it. If they let him go, if they kept their word and released him, how could he go back? How could he look people in the eye knowing that it could have been their name that he had given in that lie, their lives he traded for his. That could hardly be considered freedom. If he gave them what they wanted he would always be their prisoner. He and his family would never be free again.

He wondered about them, all the time.

Every trip through this hall, he always wondered and worried if they were here. If they were behind one of those heavy black doors. Every time that Michael was the one walking him back he would ask. Michael had ceased to respond to the question long ago. So, he paced on in the constant doubt and worry that had been plaguing him for what must have been months.

The heavy door swung open once more. This time they all stood out there in the hallway. The priest, the smiling man and Michael. In seeing all three Gabriel knew that this would be the last time that he would be taken from the cell. The priest was the first to step in, making the final plea that he confess, that there was still time to save himself. When he had been silent for long enough for it to be acknowledged as a refusal They walked him down the hall of doors one last time. Michael and another guard behind him and the two other men leading the way. He counted the doors out of habit, noting to himself when they passed the room where the smiling man would ask his questions. They walked a longer distance than he had in all the time he was imprisoned. They stopped at yet another identical door.

The door opened and the light of the sun poured in. Gabriel’s heart pounded at the sight of it. His eyes were blinded by it for a moment as he was led outside for the first time in ages. He lifted his hand to shield his eyes, but Michael grabbed his arm and brought it behind his back. He felt his wrists being bound together. Gabriel squinted to see. In the brightness he walked past the other guards, each holding a rifle at the ready. He could hear the priest speaking something, words that he hadn’t heard since he was a small boy. His familiarity with the scriptures faded along with his church attendance in adulthood. He was led to the far wall of the courtyard. Gabriel fought against the panic and dread. He knew this was where it was ending, nothing could prevent that now. Still, as the blindfold was tied around his head he couldn’t help thinking of all the names he could of given. All of the people that could have been here in his place. Maybe there was still time. A name welled up in his throat begging to be spoken. Just one name. The name of a foul man, whom he had always suspected beat his wife. He could say his name and then maybe magically he would take his place. The name reached up behind his teeth. As it was about to escape, Michael whispered in his ear.

“There has been news. Your wife and son have made it across the border. They are safe.”

Tears welled up in the darkness of the strip of cloth covering his eyes. He swallowed deeply. He could die with at least an ounce of hope.

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Iron Circle

It had been quiet day so far, he thought as he pulled up to the former pizza joint to see Aunt Bea.

The old witch had opened the place years ago, no one knew back then.  Gray hair, flowing skirts, Lennon glasses, and healing crystals, everyone just pegged her as some aging flower child when she moved here. She made good pizza though. No one really believed she was a witch except for a few kids who listened to her stories. The ones she told when she’d sit outside the store like she was holding court, over her tall glasses of overly sweetened tea. No one understood the day she changed the sign of her shop.

CBsH823W8AEwt0V

 

Soon after her “sisters” moved to town. After that the rumors started, then news reports, then the blackouts. No one wanted to believe, but now they had to. The Fey had returned to earth.

The hear Aunt Bea and her sisterhood tell it, those modern Wiccan types got it wrong. The root of witchcraft wasn’t so much the worship of nature or the fairies and their kind. The spells, the charms, the herbs all of it meant to placate the their king and to keep them sedated and pacified, safely away from our world. Centuries of inquisition, and witch trials decimated the keepers of that part of the lore. Time  and the frailty of human memory did the rest. When she would get in one of her moods she would mutter about blood. How girls these days were too squeamish about the blood. According to Bea, it always came to the blood sooner or later.

The news brought by the thin, steady trickle of refugees fleeing from the cities and towns sounded like mad tales, invented by trauma stricken minds. No one wanted to believe their stories of chaos and bloodshed. Now, Oberon led his armies across the world. They wanted their blood and would take it as they liked. Those who stood against them were cut down by ancient eldritch weaponry. Those who ran were left for the huntsmen, most every night you could hear their packs howling with savage glee.

When the fairy king finally turned his armies in their direction people on the outskirts of town took the worst of it. Even after hearing the horror stories of survivors, after Aunt Bea called for everyone to move to the center of town; some fools stood both in defiance and disbelief as waves of goblins and boogeymen were driven forward and over them by beautifully radiant men and women who rode upon gaunt specter like horses. Panic soon took over as bullets and weapons seemed to do little to stop the marching host. The Fey continued  forward, setting buildings ablaze, strange grey men in red coats would prowl the carnage feasting on the bone and blood, of both living and dead. People fled to the sisters, begging for help. The three women stood in the center of town, hands joined, eyes closed. At their feet was a brass bowl. It was filled with blood.

They lifted their heads and screamed.

The Fey screamed. They howled, as they piled up behind one another unable to stop their advance as they seemed to march into an invisible wall. They roared and shrieked as if they we burned. There was a great flash of light, then silence.

The brass bowl was empty. The Fey had retreated, vanished.

The lucky ones, who made it into the town were saved.

The sisters had picked that little town because back in the eighteen hundreds, right after the civil war a would be rail baron decided to make it his home, there was a silver mine, a boom, then a bust. After that there wasn’t much left to see. But, the old baron’s legacy remained a wide circle of railroad track, wrought iron was still there, buried under the streets and building foundations. The Fey found it nearly unbearable to cross such a line. The sisters workings kept them further at bay most days.  Aunt Bea says there’s more than likely others who found away to get by, to drive back some. Others who knew how to hurt them. One day we might find out for sure.

When they asked her where the armies were, where the nukes were. How did the government let this happen? Why didn’t the sisters do anything to stop it?

She tells them that their leaders were probably the first to go, replaced by changelings months before it all started, the sidhe aren’t stupid. The armies used lead and steel and fire, they weren’t any real use, not without iron and magic. Bea said, they should just count themselves grateful that Oberon is too stubborn and too bloodthirsty to use them; besides he wants this world for himself. And, as for doing something? What could be done, their warnings fell on deaf ears. Best could be done was saving who they could.

She never bothered to change the sign.

Not like things were about to change anytime soon. The old wood ovens still fired but they hadn’t produced a pizza in months. Now the days are filled with tending to little rooftop gardens or sneaking out of their small iron ring of safety to find food and other supplies. Their nights are spent huddled together telling old stories and, marking runes on rifle slugs or filling shotgun shells with shrapnel made from what scrap iron they could scrounge. In the space in between they tried to live.

As he reached for the door the old hand cranked siren on engine company number two began to moan it’s sad warning. Letting all know to prepare themselves. Fey had been spotted off to the east. He turned back to his car and drove to the clock tower to take his perch with the others. The rest of the afternoon would most likely spent looking through a rifle scope, waiting.

And it had been such a quiet day.

This was written for a Flash Fiction Challenge, hosted by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terribleminds. You can find some damn fine stories over there.

Professional Discourse

This week I am once again participating in Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge. This time he has asked for us to write as profanely as possible. Well that’s not exactly what he asked for but that’s what he’s getting from me. Sufficed to say some people may wish to read something else.

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Smell the Witch

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He woke slowly, letting the pain going on inside his skull take its own sweet time to register. The aromas of cigarette smoke and scotch hung in the air, while the smell of sweat clung to the sheets of the empty bed.  I can still smell the witch, Jerry thought grimly as the perfumes of last night swirled around him; it was the scent of the woman whose enchantments he could never seem to break free of. The late afternoon sunlight filtered through the blinds, as he sat up on the corner of the bed and held his head in his hands.  He groaned and began to rub his temples. It was like this every time.

Nights with her always started out full of excitement and promises and concluded with him falling into slumber in her embrace. When the sun came up, she would always be gone leaving him hung over and tangled in the sheets; drained of everything but anger, shame, and regret. He rose and staggered out into the kitchen, there was coffee waiting in the pot, the warmer still turned on.

He poured a cup and made a silent vow this would be the last time, he knew from experience that it was a futile gesture, but he felt compelled to swear it anyway. In a few days, or weeks, or whenever the whim would strike her, she would show up out of nowhere and he would fall under her spell again.

He stood there staring out the window of the cramped apartment, sipping from his mug, mulling his thoughts. She was trouble, a dangerous liability he needed to be free of. After all, he still had a job to do.

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This story was written in response to the Song Title Challenge hosted at If all else fails…use a hammer.