Monthly Archives: April 2013

Flash Fiction Friday: Preparing For An Heir

The countess felt the call to the tower before the servants came looking for her. An urgency filled her and she picked up her skirts and ran, not caring who saw her in what she knew was going to be her last dash to see her lover.

He was working frantically in his laboratory, murmuring his incantations as he marked on the walls and the floor. His hand was shaking as he drew the last ones directly around himself and sat down. With a shaky breath, he composed himself and looked out of the circle.

“Oh, good,” he said. “You came.”

“I couldn’t ignore- is it time? Now?” Her breath came out hard and tears had started streaming down her cheeks.

“It’s time,” he nodded.

“It’s too soon,” she said, sinking to her knees outside of the circles. “There’s not a potential heir old enough to even consider claiming the throne. I’m not ready.”

“You’ve been trained for this your entire life, my love. You can do this.”

“I’ve been ruling for years, I can handle that. You can’t go yet.”

“My magic will be even greater once my body has expired,” the wizard said. “I do not regret leaving this life behind except for you. The joy of my old age and the administrator I had hoped for. With this spell, I will continue holding to my vow of keeping this kingdom safe until the proper heir could be found. You will keep to your vow and run the kingdom until that time comes.”

She nodded and they sat, separated by the chalk and gold that so physically represented their duty. The physical separation pained her in ways she couldn’t describe. It hadn’t always been easy being the wizard’s mistress but she’d always had the hope that she could be with him to the end. The last king had been surrounded by his loved ones, grieved over by both his wife and mistress, as he died. It struck her as unfair that her lover would die alone in his tower, denied even the comforting touch of a familiar hand as his body expired. She suspected that, more than wanting to comfort him, she wanted him to comfort her.

“I won’t really be gone,” the wizard said kindly. “The soul glass has been in place for months and I can travel even faster around the kingdom than the swiftest horse could carry me. And you know how these old bones have ached from travel these last few years.”

“I know, my love,” she sniffed. “And I do not begrudge you the end of your pain, as much as I wish to keep you here for my comfort.”

“There is one more thing I would ask of you,” he said. “Not a vow I wish to extract but a hope.”

“The cats,” she said. “You want me to watch over the cats.”

“They are my children,” he nodded. “Moreso than any I would have had physically. They did not ask to become what they are but the world will not be kind to them.”

Her mouth thinned thinking about the experiments he had carried out years earlier, trying to master changing one creature into another. The cats had actually worked relatively well as humans and it wasn’t as difficult as one would have thought to breed them with real humans enough for true intelligence. Few people realized what the wizard had done but there was a whole system among the servants to determine who was human and who was a hybrid.

“I’ll watch after them,” she said.

“Then my last concern is laid to rest. Thank you, my dear, for being here, at the end.” The wizard said and the breath sighed out of his body. She watched the lines on the floor and walls begin to glow as his soul was caught by the spell he’d woven. It all led to a glass in a locket on his work table. It shone brightly for a brief moment then was gone.

The countess rose and walked into the laboratory, laying a hand briefly on her lovers body, and picked up the locket. The slipped the chain over her head and the locket nestled directly between her breasts. She smiled ruefully at what she was sure was not a coincidence then called for the servants to prepare the body for burial.

She made her way to the throne room, already making lists in her head of the moves she would have to make to solidify her rule until a proper heir could be found. Her only desire was to lead the country smoothly through the transition to a new king without civil war. It wasn’t until she sat down in the throne that she realized how much of the castle had been covered with the soul glass. Even the floor of the throne room had been repaved in the glass that would allow her wizard lover to move effortlessly around the kingdom. The throne itself looked as though the glass had been poured over it to harden.

As she sat, the countess felt the throne move around her, parts of it caressing her, and a voice whispered into her ear, “The glass moves when I tell it to. This may have distinct possibilities.”

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Coming Soon: Copper Visions

I swear, I’m going to start calling this the bathtub book. I’ve gotten my most productive writing on it done while in the tub. Anyway, there’s not much to update here except to say that the book is coming along nicely, chapters are being edited so I’ll have a couple weeks of buffer when I start putting them up and I anticipate doing that… soon. Yes, yes, I’ve been saying “soon” for a while now but I really do mean it this time *grin*.

I’m also working on some artwork to put up when I put up the chapters. I’ll see how that goes and if I can get it done before the first chapter goes up. I will add that, should anybody become inspired by Copper Visions and want to create some fan art, I would be more than happy to feature it on the blog.

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Flash Fiction Friday: Old Rituals

They sent people west to die.
Oh, the doctor’s would recommend getting to a warmer climate or away from the city for the patients health but what it really meant was that they had no way to help them and didn’t want to be responsible for the patients death. Mostly, it was the nuns who took in the patients who were supposed to die.

It was quite a shock to the doctor’s back east when their hopeless cases recovered. The sisters claimed prayer and a change of scenery as the cause for their recovery. Doctors in the area claimed it was the dry air. It didn’t work in all cases but it worked in enough that towns began attracting a specific type of doctor.

If people with consumption could make it out to Denver, some of the best doctors in the country would be there to study and take care of them. They had to pass through some very scary country to get there, though, and there was a certain type of predator that came to follow the stage lines and railroads to prey on their hope.

He wore priestly vestments and met the trains at the little towns along the way to Denver. If there was somebody on the train who wasn’t going to make it, he offered to take them in at the sanitarium run by the local convent that it was his blessed duty to watch over. Often enough, there was somebody on the train who was grateful for the respite or who was too ill to protest being put off the train days early.

All concern for the patients comfort was shown until the patient was taken to the sanitarium. The sisters lived in a city that was abandoned by the natives centuries earlier. Rumored to be haunted by the spirits of the people who had lived there, the nuns had made the ruins useful to their purposes and set it up as a convent until they could begin to build their own. All they were waiting for was the priest who would be coming with the supplies to build a more permanent place.

When the priest showed up, he’d only brought enough to build a single one-room house. The sisters went to work and sent word to their communities back east of their need. It was the priest who took the missives to be sent on the trains when they stopped in the town that had sprung up.

The stream of patients that came to them was slow but steady. They were a community dedicated to taking care of the sick and the hopeless and they knew their patients had been sent to them to die.

It was Sister Teresa who discovered that things were not what they seemed. A seasoned nun, long past her novitiate, Sister Teresa had felt called to go with her sisters to the west to help where she was needed. Many of the towns didn’t have a regular doctor and homesteaders could go for years without seeing one. It struck her as a very lonely, dangerous existence. When the call for sisters to found a new community in Colorado called, Sister Teresa joined with a sense of excitement and joy.

When they were forced to use the native ruins, something felt off to many of the sisters. The evidence that the ruins had been used for ancient, evil rituals surrounded them. From paintings on the walls to some of the instruments that were cleaned out of the dwellings, everything they found pointed to the natives using this as a place for ritual sacrifice.

The sisters had asked the priest to consecrate the land and the homes but he simply shushed them and had them get to work on the business he’d been sent to do. The single room house for their patients was in use almost constantly and the sisters took it in turns to care for the people in their care, riding out in pairs to visit the people on farms and see to people in the area who were ill.

The patients in the house were always too far gone for the sisters to do much for them aside from comfort them in their last days. Most of them died coughing on their own blood, screaming from the hallucinations that plagued them in their last days.

It was while she was holding a patient during a particularly awful vision that she saw the symbols on the underside of the wooden ledge of the window. Symbols that were eerily reminiscent of the ones found in the darkest of the rooms in the ruins. Once the patient was calmed enough to lay down, Sister Teresa began looking for more of the troubling marks.

She found them. On the undersides of tables and chairs, etched into the very foundation of the house, were the symbols of sacrifice and power that had adorned the ruins. When she touched the carved symbols, it was as though scales fell from her eyes. When she turned around, the priest who was supposed to be their spiritual guide was behind her, except he no longer looked like a Catholic priest.

Standing before her was a priest from the wall paintings, glowing with his power, blood dripping from his hands.

“You cannot have this man,” she told him.

“He’s dead anyway,” the priest told her. “You can’t possibly hope to keep me from my due. I’ve kept my priestesses safe while you live in my rooms of power.”

“You cannot have him,” she said again.
“Any power you claim is but an illusion.”

“Then you will be the next sacrifice. Unpleasant and unattractive as you are, your blood will bathe my hands and fill me with power.” The priest grabbed at the nun but she began to glow. Everywhere he touched, he began to burn. Screaming with an impotent rage, the priest used all of his power to try to break through her glow until he burned himself up.

A storm began to gather above the sick house. Sister Teresa heard a voice tell her “Get the others and run to the town. There’s a storm coming.”

Sister Teresa ran to the rest of the nuns and told them to run, leave their things and get to the town before the storm hit. She went to the patient in the sick house and carried him on her back with a strength she’d never before known. A tornado hit the house and the ruins moments after they left. While the sisters were buffeted by the winds, they made it to the town unharmed.

They sent word to their communities back east, only to discover their priest had died en route. A new one was being sent immediately, along with more supplies for building a proper convent. By the time the new priest arrived, the townspeople had already started the foundation for the convent as a gesture of thanks for the care the sisters had given them.

fin

I’ve been told that my brain is a bit of a scary place to visit. That’s a compliment, I think. Either way, I am what I am and there’s really no sense in apologizing for it. Today’s story was inspired by a lot of things, least of which is visiting an old castle, with attached convent and tuberculosis shack… that was built on an indian burial ground. I really love Colorado. If you enjoyed today’s story, please hit the tip jar if you’re able or share it with your friends so they can enjoy it to.

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Flash Fiction Friday: Teenagers: 2035

Emma and Chloe were uploading their shopping lists as they waited for their turns at the doc in a box at the local grocery store. This particular store hadn’t been fully updated yet and they were watching the older women walking around the store with their self-scanner programs running. Every now and then a light would turn on and a harried looking clerk would hurry over to an aisle to help fix whatever problem the shopper had created.

“I don’t know why they still do their shopping this way,” Emma said, hearing an angry voice coming from one of the aisles. “It’s so much easier to have the auto’s do it.”

“My dad says some of them like walking through the store, that it’s the only exercise some of them get.” Chloe told her.

“Well, I’d believe that, at least. Just don’t know why they’re still insisting on using outdated tech. I mean, I’ll bet some of them still use Pinterest.”

“And Facebook,” Chloe tittered.

“They’re still teaching that in the Emerging Tech class my dad runs,” Emma said. “And did you hear, they’re making the classes mandatory now?”

“No,” Chloe gasped. “For who?”

“Anyone over fifty, though it’s offered for the over thirties.”

“Well, that makes sense then. Can your dad afford to take on so many students, though? I mean, I know you guys are already near the seventy percent.”

Emma sighed. “Well, to compensate for making them mandatory, they’re making them free, too.”

“Oh no,” Chloe said. “Oh, Emma, I’m so sorry. Has your mom found work yet?”

“Hasn’t been any point in looking, really. She wouldn’t make enough to pay the extra taxes. I think she’s gonna start to look soon, though.”

The people ahead of them came out of the booths and the girls went in, checked in with their phones and stepped on the scales. They answered the questions posed through the automated systems and presented their arms for the blood tests. At the end, they were released out into the lobby and given the option of ordering any prescriptions they were going to need.

Both girls were given the mandated birth control, Emma got more of the attention medication she’d been prescribed in kindergarten that she was required to take, though she didn’t need it and hadn’t for years. When it was Chloe’s turn, she ran into a problem.

“Shoot,” she said, frustrated. “I’m out of med creds.”

“What do you need?” Emma asked. “I can give you some of mine, I think.”

“Not for this,” Chloe said.

“Oh, no,” Emma said. “You’re out for that? Can’t you get more?”

“My grades aren’t high enough,” Chloe said, looking despondent. “And my parents aren’t important enough that me being sick would cause any disruptions in the city.”

“They can’t just let you get sick,” Emma said. “There’s laws against that.”

“Yeah, I can pick some more up in another week or so. I’ll just have to ration out what I’ve got until then.”

“How many have you got left?”

“Four.”

“Look, I’ll ask around, see if there’s anybody willing to trade for your dosage.”

“Emma, that’s illegal,” Chloe protested.

“Hey, I’ve got stuff people want, there are people out there who’ve been misdiagnosed with what you’ve got, we just have to find them.”

“You’ll get in trouble,” Chloe said, not wanting to put her friends bright future in danger for her worthless one. She didn’t think she’d make it must past high school, anyway. Without a job, med creds for adults were hard to qualify for and she’d be an expensive employee to have. The only real question was how she would go.

“My dad can get me out of it, if I get caught. He’s a professor and he teaches the emerging tech classes, they need him.”

Chloe sniffed slightly then took out her phone to check the important message she’d just gotten the alert for. “Oh, no,” she said, biting her lip. “Oh, Emma, I’m so sorry.”

“What?” Emma pulled out her own phone then sat down hard on one of the chairs in the pharmacy.

“How did you get the ‘h’?” Chloe asked?

“How does anybody get the ‘h’?” Emma snapped at her friend. “I can’t believe the test results went over the net before I saw them. They can’t do that, can they?”

“New law,” Chloe said. “STI’s are rampant and a lot of them are resistant. Tests that come up positive are required to be shared with a person’s social network immediately so that other members of that network can avoid contracting it from that person.”

“But it’s not my fault,” Emma said, her eyes welling up with tears. “I don’t even know who gave it to me.”

Chloe sat down next to her friend and held her. “I know, Emma. But look on the bright side, your case might be treatable.”

 

fin

 

There are times when inspiration just strikes and this was one of them. I have to thank Sarah Hoyt for her blog post The Past is a Story for this story. Or maybe I should blame her? Either way, a gauntlet was thrown down and I tripped on it so I figured I’d give this a try. I hope people enjoy the story and use it to think about what direction we’re heading. As always, if you liked it, hit the tip jar at the top of the page and/or share it with your friends. 

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Midweek check in

Apparently, I’ve been on a flash fiction kick lately. This is a good thing because I’ve found that writing short, complete stories helps me focus my mind and get working on other things as well.

Unless I’m sick. When I’m sick, all I can do is focus on the short stuff and boy, have I been sick! I’m finally pulling out of it enough to function beyond whining for somebody to get me another cup of tea (mostly through texting because I lost my voice for a while there) and I’m back on track for getting enough of Copper Visions done to actually have the fiction I want to have posted every Wednesday.

Oh, and I also had a birthday this weekend. 

 

So, there it is, I have some wonderful things to post for the next few Fridays and there should be chapters going up on Wednesdays very soon.

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Flash Fiction Friday: Urban Fae: The Informant

Troian looked at the doors before her and the ominous feeling that had started in the car began to gather around her again. Something wasn’t right about the place they were going but they had to be there. Her future depended on it.

“It’ll be alright,” Sean said, coming up beside her.

“So you’ve said,” she said, shivering. “I hate that we have to do this.”

“He’s on our side.”

“No, he’s not.”

“He’s not against us, at least, and that’s a good place to start. He also has more informants than anybody else who would be willing to help us, in the places we need information from.”

“He’s evil.”

“Not overtly so.”

Troian shook her head. They had to go in and deal with the monster. She knew that but she didn’t have to like it.

Sean knocked at the door and stood back slightly. A young man with a badly scarred face and hunched back opened the door. “Can I help you?”

“We have an appointment with Jeremiah,” Sean told him.

“You’re early,” the young man said. “Only by a few minutes.”

“Doesn’t matter,” the young man said. “He’s ready for you now. Follow me.” While the home was a classic cookie-cutter suburban home on the outside, the opulence the young man led them through was breathtaking.

They were led to an office in the back of the house with glass doors and a view of the garden in the back yard. They could see a series of couches and the man they were presumably there to see sitting on one of them. The young man opened the doors and bowed them into the room. The man on the couch rose to greet them. There was a girl sitting beside the couch on the floor who did not move.

“Sean, welcome to my home. It’s so good of you to finally visit me.”

“Thank you, Jeremiah. I appreciate you taking the time to see us on such short notice in your beautiful home.”

“For you, my boy, anything. Will you introduce me to your lovely companion?”

Sean put his arm around Troian’s back and propelled her forward slightly. “Jeremiah, may I introduce you to Troian? Troian, this is Jeremiah, the most powerful man amongst the dead in town.”

“You flatter me, dear boy, though everything you say is true. And your companion truly is lovely. It’s a pleasure to meet you, my dear.” Jeremiah took her limply offered hand, turned it over and raised his wrist to his nose. He made a show of inhaling and laid a gentle kiss on her pulse.

Dread roared through her and the desire to flee as fast as she could. Sean kept hold of her and pulled her close when he felt her tense. Controlling herself, Troian pulled her hand back gently and felt the strength in his hand when he almost didn’t let her.

“Have a seat, please,” he gestured to the sofas. “And tell me how I may help you, in my own humble way.”

Sean kept Troian hard against his side as they sat and he could feel her discomfort radiating from her. “We need information,” he started. “As you probably know, there has been a bounty put on Troian. Normally, I would be the first person called about capturing an extraordinary human but, as I understand it, my handlers believe I have been compromised in this instance.”

“An assumption that would seem to be true,” Jeremiah smiled at them, exposing his teeth. “Not that I blame you. She smells delicious.”

“Well, being declared compromised, my sources have dried up. I can’t even find out how much the bounty is for and whether or not they’re sending somebody specific to collect her or if it’s a free for all.”

“And so you come to me. You are absolutely right to do so, by the way. I am one of the few people who would not be tempted by the bounty they’ve placed. Right now, it’s a free for all, but you’re not safer for that. There will be very powerful people coming for her, all hoping to get the bounty that has been promised.”

“What is it?” Sean leaned forward.

“If she’s brought to the elders unharmed, with no open wounds that the hunter could have drunk from, they will receive the right to be the first to hunt the fae.”

“That would be war!” Troian said. “It would destroy the earth.”

“Maybe,” Jeremiah said. “Or maybe not. With you as not only lunch but also a bargaining chip, your grandfather may agree to a sort of hunting season with the vampires. I agree it may be unlikely but your grandfather does have a sentimental attachment to the humans. He may be willing to give up a few fae to save them, provided the fae had a chance to defend themselves.”

Troian sat contemplating the implications of what he’d said. It was chilling.

“Do either of you mind if I indulge a bit?” Jeremiah said, indicating the girl sitting next to him. “You were a bit early.”

“Fine,” Troian said, distracted by her thoughts, and a wave of horror swept over her. The girl had stood up, presented their host with a small whip and removed her robe. She was a mass of scars and recently healed cuts. 

“We should leave,” Sean said, picking Troian up as she began to collapse into a vision.

“If you’re sure,” Jeremiah said. “The pain adds an exquisite flavor that you just don’t get from a regular feeding.

“I’m sure,” Sean said. “Thank you for the information.”

He moved as quickly as he could through the house to find the boy waiting for them at the front door. Sean thanked him as he opened the door but the boy called after them.

“He’ll turn her,” the boy said. “If she lives through the beatings, he’ll make her beautiful like him.”

When Troian came back to her surroundings, she looked at Sean with tears in her eyes. “She’s mad,” she said. “And he likes it. He knows what he’s doing but he can’t control her. She’ll live and she’s coming for something precious.”

“What is she coming for?” Sean asked her, worry creasing his brow.

“I don’t know, but it hurts me here to think about it.” Troian placed a trembling hand over her womb.

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Flash Fiction: The Door to Death

The door under the stairs had been there for as long as anybody could remember. While the building itself had been remodeled and refurbished multiple times, the foundation had been there since long before the town was founded. When the self-styled ‘chronicler of urban decay’ started asking around about what it was, people told him stories about underground gay clubs, speakeasies and opium dens. Things would be lively for a while and then the club would disappear. Nobody knew if the door was locked.

It was overcast the day he went to take pictures of the brick-work around the door. He was hoping to get a softbox, deserted feel to the story he was planning to tell; the sadness of urban decay that had been infecting the city longer than anyone wanted to admit. The shots of the different types of brick joining, with some of the seams flaking off were artistic, the shadow of the doorway creating the ominous feeling he was looking for.

The bricks the door was set into were larger, more like natural stones shaped to fit together and there was no sign of mortar. Faded graffiti was painted on the walls and closer to the door it was etched into the bricks. The oldest marks on the lintel couldn’t even be read, though someone had worked their way to the top of the arch to etch a well-preserved skull. It looked like something that would have decorated a punk club but there hadn’t been one here that anybody had known about.

On a whim, he tested the antique latch on the door and it opened without making a sound. Smiling, he pulls the flashlight be brought from his belt and heads through the door.

It’s cleaner inside than he anticipated, as though someone had been through recently with a broom, the tables and chairs look almost new, as does the bar along the back wall. Disappointed, he snaps a few pictures and heads to the door behind the bar. Instead of a stock room, there’s a set of stairs leading down. The bar area had the cool, damp feeling of an underground room but heat wafted up from wherever the stairs led to. Determined to get the story he’d anticipated, he headed down the stairs, feeling stream brushing against his face.

Though he considered himself a rational, bordering on cynical, adult, childhood fears surfaced in his mind and he couldn’t fight the feeling that he was descending into hell. The stairs became rougher the further down he went until they spilled out into a large cavern. It was the largest natural cave he’d ever seen and a shock to find below one of the oldest cities on the continent. A glow to his left turned his attention to the first pool, which radiated a bioluminescent light that he could only recognize from movies.

This place was a much better story than some abandoned opium den, he decided, and turned his flashlight on his camera to change the settings. There had to be a way to document this cave, complete with the natural lighting that he was beginning to see on walls further in. With the camera ready, he turned off his flashlight and began snapping pictures. The first pool was smaller than he’d thought and the light he’d seen earlier was a series of pools leading deeper into the cave system. The water steamed and glowed and some of the pools bubbled in the middle. The light from the pools illuminated parts of the walls, displaying graffiti that was reminiscent of the symbols carved around the door leading to the outside world.

He wondered if this was the real secret of the clubs that had been there. The bar was the cover that could be raided but the real excitement took place down here. Lighting in the water would make a good ambiance for people who wanted privacy but there should be more fixtures, probably higher up. Reaching for his flashlight, he though he saw something out of the corner of his eye. The thought that somebody was readying the club for opening again flashed through his mind, along with the realization that he was trespassing. Preparing his apology, he turned the light on where he’d seen the movement and came face to face with… he wasn’t sure.

The girl had dark hair and a greenish tint to her skin that he was certain wasn’t due to the reflected glow from the pools. She tilted her head to the side and spoke to him in a strange, liquid sounding language. When he shook his head in confusion, she quickly sliced him across the belly with a stone knife he hadn’t realized she was carrying. His mouth opened and closed like a fish as he grabbed at the wound then looked back at the girl in confusion. She pushed him back into the boiling water and watched to make sure he cooked properly.

The camera was taken to a pile of strange artifacts that the people had collected over the years. It looked like technology had taken another leap forward since the last time they’d opened the door. She wondered why people kept coming; the door was clearly marked with death.

 

So, this whole thing was inspired by a deeply creepy (true?) story about 2 children found in a cave. They had green skin and spoke a language nobody recognized. Then, I went through The Secret Door and was taken to what looked like an abandoned tunnel with a cafe area in it. Yep, I totally creeped myself out writing this but it was fun. If you liked the story and are so inclined, hit the tip jar and/or one of the share buttons at the bottom of the post. 

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