Category Archives: flash fiction

Flash Fiction Friday: Frozen Flames

Frozen Flames

Everything in the cave was covered in ice.

Even the ice had a fine coating of frost, evidence of the moisture that had entered with the two thieves.

The magic fairly shimmered around them, the heat spell on the heavy clothes the only thing that had allowed them to get this far.

“I’m still freezing,” the bigger of the two said.

“I told you it’d be cold,” the smaller one hissed, his voice low.

“You didn’t say it would be this cold.”

“Because nobody knows how cold it gets here. Because nobody has ever made it this far. Because the only thing that can handle this strong of a cold spell is an even stronger heat spell which cost everything we both own and calling in every debt we’ve ever been owed and going into more. So stop complaining about the cold and help me find the hoard.”

Turning the corner brought them to the resident of the cave.

Cold radiated off the dragon, creating a wind where none should exist and chilling the two thieves to the bone.

Around her feet lay the frozen corpses of dozens of men, their armor all showing the best heat spells money could buy, the designs going back hundreds of years.

A thick layer of ice coated the dragon, cracks showing in layers where she grew or stretched and allowed the ice to grow over her again.

“You said the dragon wasn’t here,” the bigger thief bellowed.

“No, I said the dragon wasn’t all there. She’s gone dreaming and can’t be woken. It’s the cold that put her to sleep.”

“I see. And all these people have come to do what we must,” the bigger one drew his axe from across his back and rushed the ice-covered dragon. As the metal struck, it crumbled to dust, joining the fine layer between her toes.

The big thief dropped the axe as if it had bit him and checked his hands quickly.

“No, all these people are here to do what you just tried. We are not here for that and I swear by the darkness, if you do it again, I’ll take what’s left of your spell and let you join the other fools.”

“I thought you said we were here for the hoard?” the big thief said, stamping his feet to get the blood flowing through them.

“Does she look like she’s going to stop us taking it?”

“Not yet.”

“Not ever. She’s gone. Ain’t coming back until the gold is spent and melted and the mountains crumble around her.”

“Yeah, okay,” the big thief said. “But we don’t have long to get it, right?”

“Just stick to the plan and we’ll get enough to be long gone before anybody realizes we’ve left.”

The thieves crept around the frozen dragon, making sure not to touch her or anything close to her. On the other side was a mountain of gold covered in frost, gems winking beneath the chill and glimpses of other treasures peeking coyly out from the pile.

“Get the ropes as far around it as you can,” the little one said. “The heat should hold long enough to get them loose.”

A chill ran down their arms as they lost the ambient heat from the ropes they were carrying, their muscles stiffening from the sudden cold. Moving as quickly as they could, they surrounded most of the pile of gold with the ropes and waited for the spell to work.

Dripping water was the first sound they heard and they started reaching across, filling bottomless bags with the gold and gems. Slowly, the heat spread up the metal and the coins started sliding down the pile towards them.

Moving faster and faster, it finally broke through the circle of rope, only to cool in the air of the cave once more. The first time one of them moved to pick up one of the cooled coins, their fingers burned like fire.

“Shit, the spell’s wearing off. Get the gems!” The little one said, panic in his voice.

“Grab the pearls,” the big one said. “Those ones. They’re bigger than my head!”

The pearls began to roll towards them and they grabbed them, stuffing them in the bags before they got out of the range of the spell.

The ropes began to glow and the thieves backed away, watching in awe as the ropes caught fire and the flames froze, faces of stricken fire elementals staring at them as though through glass.

By mutual decision, they closed the bags as best they could and started running, their careful pace around the dragon forgotten in an effort to make it out of the cave before the spell died.

A chill wind rose behind them and swept through the cave, down the passage.

The breath froze in their lungs and they fell, their bodies breaking like falling statues.

The bags that fell beside them began to lift and float to the entrance of the cave.

A tall man, cloaked in fur and darkness, coaxed them forward, his wand acting like a fishing rod.

The bags shrank as he touched them and he put them in his pocket, satisfied.

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Flash Fiction Friday: Wild Sparks

Wild Sparks

The lightning struck and flowed down the rabbit hole.

There were no rabbit’s down this hole nor an endless tunnel. Instead, it landed in the camp of unformed fairy elementals.

When fairy elementals are born, they’re made of magic and air and very little else. Until they find the element that calls to them, they remain in their rawest, purest form.

The fire sparked and jumped into the closest of the elementals. As the power flowed through them, they began to glow with white hot light and electricity arced off their fingers. When some of their companions touched them, the lightning jumped to them, bowing their bodies with pain until they too filled with the white hot light.

Intrigued, the elementals flowed out of the rabbit hole, following the break between worlds caused by the lightning, and came out surrounded by fire.

Rain poured from the sky, sizzling in the flames that surrounded them. Fingers of flame reached out and pulled the closest elementals in, grabbing them as they flowed up behind their brethren who sought out the source of the lightning.

As they noticed the flames grabbing them, they huddled together and flew into the sky, only to be hit by the rain drops. Water flowed through them, giving their shapes form and they could see the others gathering in the trees, taking great delight in the flames that consumed the wood that supported them.

The new water elementals flowed into the clouds, increasing the rain that dropped onto the forest.

The only elementals left unchanged were the ones filled with the arcing, white light. When they touched the clouds, great bolts of lightning flew from their fingers. Some arced harmlessly through the clouds. Others went crashing through the trees, knocking down branches and setting ablaze to the underbrush.

While the fire and lightning elementals played in the forest, the water elementals rushed away from the heat. They overflowed rivers to bring relief to the land, the earth elementals calling out for help.

Then they say them.

The humans.

Dressed in heavy material, they brought water to bear on the edge of the fire and the elementals joined them.

Pleading with their brothers to ease back, to not attack the humans, they made it possible for the humans to bring the flames under control.

Not everybody liked this, though.

Just as they were pushed back, the fire elementals who were losing their playthings to the humans water and machines leaped forward, catching them in their flames.

But the humans fought on, their heavy clothing protecting them long enough to get at the heart of the flames. The water elementals joined the humans, using their weapons to propel through the forest and soothe the burning trees.

The dryads caught them and shook the soot from their leaves, thanking the water elementals for the relief. The water elementals dripped through the trees and cuddled at the roots, taking shelter and giving aid after the cleansing fire.

One of the firefighters, exhausted from the fight, saw the faces in the trees and rubbed his eyes. They started to water and he felt a splash against his hand.

His own face looked up at him and smiled. It’s spindly arms reached up and pushed through the dirt and ash on his face.

“What are you, buddy? The start of heat stroke?”

The water shook its head and looked around. It saw the nearly empty water cannon and reached for it.

“You want inside?” the firefighter asked. The elemental nodded.

Other elementals came to watch as the water elemental shimmied itself into the tank and splashed around. It started to overflow and the firefighter had to dump some of the water out into the trees.

Water flowed down the firefighters hands, onto the ground and through the trees until the water hiding deep underground from the fire sprang up to join it.

The other firefighters saw the spring and came over to wipe their faces, the cool liquid welcome after the fire.

The water stopped flowing out of the cannon and the firefighter looked down. There was still a face in the tank and it waved happily at him.

“You’re coming home with me?” he asked, hoping the others didn’t notice him talking to his water cannon.

The water elemental nodded happily.

“Alright, but I have to put the cap on to keep from splashing, okay?”

With another nod, the elemental waved and the eyes blinked shut.

Shaking his head, the firefighter put the cap back on the tank to his water cannon.

Faces stared at him from the forest and he waved. “I promise to keep him safe if you promise not to let any more fires loose for a while, okay?”

The dryads nodded and the earth elementals waved.

Anybody else would have thought they were crazy but he knew what was happening. Knew there was more than most people saw.

With the water elemental in tow, Professor Alexander called out to the men that it was time to head back. His water cannons were a success, his lightning machine proven though in need of several improvements.

The mechanical horses pulling the fire wagon snorted steam and the sound of machinery echoed through the forest.

A wild spark had taken up residence in his eyes.

Yes, today had been an unqualified success.

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Flash Fiction Friday: Retail Edition

Dead On Her Feet

“I really appreciate you understanding,” Jane said over the phone. “I promise to make it up to you as soon as I’m feeling better.”

“Sure,” I croak out. The sound of a crowd in the background makes me doubt her claim of being sick but I’m not high enough on the totem pole to demand a doctor’s note and the store manager is out with pneumonia.

“Ah, don’t tell me you’re catching whatever is going around, too,” she laughs.

“Sounds like it,” I say, flipping over my box of cold medicine. It’s only been six hours since I’ve taken it and it stopped working an hour ago. I wonder if two hours would make that much of a difference.

“Well, feel better and call someone if you need to go home sick.”

She hung up before I could ask her to not have me cover her shift tonight.

Fuck it, I decide. I’m taking another dose. I can sleep it off when I’m off in a few more hours.

I throw the pills back with the last of my water and wait for the inevitable cough that comes with the cold. It never comes and I’m grateful for the reprieve.

The rattling cough had been persistent for the last few days but it seemed to have past. My lungs feeling like lead probably meant it wasn’t a good thing but I was willing to not think about it for the rest of my shift.

Everything ached, including my hair and eyelashes. Blinking had become an effort of will as had thinking beyond the next few minutes.

I shuffled back onto the floor and my cashier huffed at me.

“It’s about time. And before you ask, no, I can’t stay. I have plans tonight.”

“That’s fine. It’s slow tonight, anyway. Enjoy your plans.”

She paused and looked at me. “You look like death.”

“Do I look bad enough to make you stay?” I ask.

The indecision flashed across her face and I shook my head. “Go home, Lauren. Enjoy your plans. I’ll be here.”

“If I didn’t already have plans,” she started and I waved her away.

“I understand. I’m the only one here without a life. Go on.”

Lauren didn’t need anymore nudging. She bolted to the back and came out a minute later with her purse. “It’s not fair for you,” she said as I walked her to the door. “You deserve a life, too.”

“Yeah, yeah, I croaked. I’ll go get one when I have the chance.”

She laughed and ran out the door to the only car in the parking lot with it’s headlights on. When she climbed into the passenger seat, I could see her lean across and kiss the driver.

New boyfriend, I thought to myself. Guess she has those kinds of plans tonight.

The store is dead, the only sounds the inappropriately upbeat pop music, the rattle of the air conditioning and my shuffling feet as I move around straightening shelves and stocking product.

I sit down for a moment in the chairs by the fitting rooms and feel my last breath gust out of me. The achiness in my limbs disappears and I look around.

It’s still hard to move and think but there’s not much to do so I just keep working.

A customer comes in and tells me she’s just looking when I mumble a greeting. A handful of clothes later, she calls me to the register and I get there as fast as I can.

My movements are slow and deliberate as I ring up her purchase and I can see her checking her phone distractedly. I tell her the total and she hands me cash.

I have to put the amount in twice, my fingers barely activating the touch screen and the drawer startles me when it pops open.

“Here’s your change,” I groan, trying to get her attention.

“What?” She snaps, finally looking up at me.

Anger flashes in her eyes and I’m suddenly hungry.

“Chaaaange,” I moan, trying desperately not to lick my lips.

“It’s about damn time,” she says, taking the money I hand her.

I watch in horror as I reach out and grab her. I pull her across the counter by her arm and ignore her screams. Each blow of her fists thuds against my arms but do nothing to stop me.

A wet cracking noise draws my attention to where I’ve grabbed her head, the red, sticky fluid running down my palms.

She looks like a watermelon and makes me think of steak as I take a bite of the first thing I’ve wanted to eat in months.

When I’m finished, I throw what’s left in the trash and grab the disinfectant. There’s a procedure for dealing with spilled fluids and I’m moving better after my snack.

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Flash Fiction Friday: Evening Edition

The subject of this story refused to come out before dark. Enjoy!

Working Prick

Honey, the vampire’s here.

I chuckle at the joke and the woman on the bed turns to look at me.

Hey, you look just like that horror author. The one who’s in all of his movies. Are you working here to research your next book?

Nope, just an unfortunate coincidence. I tell her, rolling my cart up to her bed. I’m a working vampire.

I thought vampires were supposed to be rich and glamorous.

Only if they start that way, I say, focusing on the vein in her arm.

Well, watch your investments and maybe you’ll manage the rich part.

Are you saying I’ve already managed the looks part? I look up at her and smile, the vials of blood slipping easily into their holders.

Honey, you have a face for radio.

Thank you for the compliment, Mrs. Sanders. The last person who noticed said I was a two-bagger.

Mr Sanders laughed and his wife giggled. They’d been keeping me company for the last week while they waited for her hip to heal. A feisty older couple, they looked like they could have been my grandparents.

In truth, they could have been my grandchildren.

I wave as I head out to finish my rounds, the vials clinking gently as I roll my cart through the hallways.

Everything is hushed in the hospital at night, even the machines take a quiet tone, as though unsure they want to wake the bodies they monitor. I wave to the nurse who’s working the desk and she waves back, her eyes focused on her paperwork.

The next room has no visitors, just an angry old man who snores in his sleep. A long list of contacts runs down the board on the wall with relationships next to them. Some have been smudged and moved around, as though there’s a pecking order in the old man’s health decisions.

Melanie Holmes is the last name on the list and the only person I’d met. She’d been in the night before, the smell of fries clinging to her uniform, just sitting by the old man’s side. I knew the old man was completely oblivious to her presence and told her so.

I  know, she’d said. I’m here for me. For a few minutes of peace before I have to go back out there.

She was so sweet, her face just showing the lines of stress two jobs and a crazy mess of a family can make. My heart had thumped hard in my chest as she watched me do my job and it made me envy the elders of my kind.

Ages ago, I would have scooped her up in my arms and taken her away, made her my bride before the end of the week.

Of course, ages ago, it was unlikely that we would ever have crossed paths. Rich and glamorous vampires didn’t meet a whole lot of waitresses unless they were skulking down back alleys looking for victims. And she likely wouldn’t have been missed.

Now, though, I have to at least attempt some form of seduction. Wooing her away from her normal life is the least I can do and far safer than abduction. And hey, as popular as vampires have been lately, she might even be interested.

For now, though, her grandfather was having blood drawn. A couple vials more than strictly necessary but he wouldn’t miss them. A couple patients like this every night was enough to curb the hunger. And the graveyard shift paid better than the day light ones because nobody wanted them.

It took only a moment to apply the bandage and put the vials in the cart. On the way out, I snapped a picture of his contact board.

Normally I would say it was too late to call but Melanie struck me as the kind of girl who liked to stay up late.

Besides, who calls anymore?

Taking a break in the lab, I pop open a vial and drink it, my fingers moving quickly over my phone’s screen.

Hey beautiful, missed you at the hospital tonight.

Had to work late. Who is this?

Just your friendly neighborhood vampire. I send with a chuckle.

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Flash Fiction Friday, Spooky Edition

Hangery

 

I could feel my skin beginning to crawl as I waited in the drive thru. Drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, I could have kicked myself for letting myself get this hungry.

The day before I disappear for three days always seems to be filled with errands to run. No matter how diligent I am about staying caught up, there’s something I’ve left until the last minute and it ends up taking longer than it should.

Today, it was a trip to the post office and the bank. Mundane little things that wouldn’t have taken an hour between them any other time of the month but conspired together to take up my entire afternoon.

Instead of the late lunch I’d planned, I ended up in the drive-thru, waiting for the burger and fries that would tide me over until I made it out to the cabin.

Acres of empty space and elk to hunt would wash the rush hour traffic out of my soul for a few days and I’d come back human.

Until then, though, I was sitting in the world’s slowest drive through. Feeling the sun sinking over the horizon, teasing at dusk and sunset. The white moon taunts me from the sky, making my skin prickle with anticipation.

Finally, I make it to the window.

The girl with the headset is young and pretty. When she opens her mouth, I can tell that’s all she really has going for her.

“That’ll be fifteen seventy-five,” she chirps, holding her hand out.

“No it won’t,” I tell her.

“What? Oh! Right. Eight fifty,” she says, handing me a bag.

I hand her the card and sniff the bag. Something doesn’t smell right.

Absently reaching for the card, I open the bag with my food with one and and see my burger and a box for a pastry.

“Um, this isn’t what I ordered?” I hand the girl the box that says ‘pie’ in a funny script.

“Of course it is,” she smiles.

The sugary smell of pie permeates the bag, making me wrinkle my nose. “No, it’s really not. I ordered a burger and fries.”

“I gave you a burger and a pie,” she says, her pleasant face devoid of understanding.

“I ordered fries,” I tell her.

“Oh, but don’t you like pie? It’s one of our best menu items.”

I rub my hand across my face, half-expecting to feel hair sprouting. My stomach is prodding the back of my spine, reminding me that I haven’t eaten all day.

“I’m sure it’s delicious but all I wanted was the burger and fries.”

“So you actually want the fries?” She asks, her smile finally gone. “Everybody else has wanted the pies.”

“You’re really pretty,” I say, feeling my voice getting lower.

“Thank you,” she beams.

“You’re, what, fifteen? Sixteen?” I’m trying to convince myself that she’s not worth it. I have a rule against harming kids which basically boils down to ‘Don’t’.

“Nope, I’m nineteen.”

I can feel my eyes change, the hair start to grow on my arms. “Is that so,” I say, my mouth widening until my teeth start to show. “All grown up.”

“Yep,” she says, handing me back the pie.

Snarling, I grab her arm and pull her forward. The indignant look on her face changes to fear as I take hold of her pretty neck and pull her into the truck.

She’s skinnier than I’d like with about as much actual meat as a chicken nugget but she smells better than the charred flesh in the take out bag.

I’m out of the drive thru before anybody can react, the girl in the seat next to me passed out in terror.

Weak, I think, shaking my head.

I promise myself to only have a snack.

Because she is pretty.

And if she survives tonight, she can join me for the next full moon.

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The Post in Which I Consider Begging For Reviews…

I’ve done a little writing today, a little writing last night, but mostly I’ve been working on promo stuff for alternate penname and reading. While I was reading and getting the promo stuff ready, I realized how few reviews I had on a lot of my stories and books. So, I’m going to do an offer for the rest of the week. In exchange for an honest review, I’m giving away copies of all of my books published so far. I also promise to finish Copper Visions in a timely fashion (as in, finished writing by the end of May and published on the blog consistently every week).

Anybody interested? Let me know using the contact form.

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Flash Fiction Friday: Torch Song

I knew what the kid was there for the minute he walked into the club. There’s been enough come through with that look on their face, a look of blind desperation and devotion, that dealing with them had become a routine.

“What are ya drinkin’?” I asked, moments before be stumbled over a bar stool.

He startled and looked at me. It was a good sign; if he’d been too far gone, he wouldn’t have even heard me until he’d taken a nose-dive into the floor.

“Drinking?” he repeated back to me. “Is this a bar?”

“Jazz club,” I told him. “No cover tonight but a two drink minimum. What are you having?”

“Oh,” he said and appeared to think about it. “What does she drink?”

He was gone. While he didn’t appear to be the sharpest tool in the shed in the best of circumstances, he’d been rolled good and it hadn’t helped him any in the brains department. I grinned at him. “The blood of the innocent but I’m afraid we’re out.”

“Um.” I could see the braincells trying to fire. “A beer?”

I decided not to force him to think any harder than necessary so I asked for his ID and handed him a bottled domestic. He fumbled for his wallet and handed me some cash then turned and made his way to the tables next to the stage.

If I hadn’t known what was going on, I would have been a little offended that he hadn’t stayed at the bar to chat and flirt a little like most men do. I’m a bit tall for a woman, with blonde hair down to my waist and a body that’s driven more than one artist to tears. The look on his face as he stared at the empty stage told me he’d already been claimed, though, and being mad at him for not noticing me would be like being mad at the ocean for being wet.

The club was dead, even for a Tuesday, and I had little to do beyond watching the young man and contemplating his fate. I checked the clock and made a call back to the dressing room.

“Hello?” The dusky voice on the other end said.

“Hey, Rena, you’ve hooked one. You’re scheduled for a set in thirty but he’s the only one here if you want to do it early.”

“Thanks, Posey. I’m almost ready. Play me an intro in ten?”

“Will do, darlin’” I said and hung up. On the weekends, Rena sings with an all female jazz ensemble dressed to look like classy mermaids. The Sailor’s Lantern wasn’t the only place on the wharf with a maritime theme but it was the only place where the music was more than ‘loud’ and had a reputation for being a classy joint, even if the main act had a thing for sailors. During the week, the band was canned and I controlled the lights and music from behind the bar. We could run the whole place, her and I, with a laptop and an apron if we had to, though we hadn’t needed to since the first week we opened. There had been more flips to switch back then but the locals had liked the music and appreciated the booze. We didn’t start with an all-girl band, of course, but the necessity quickly became apparent when the men in the band started looking like the young man sitting by the stage. Slavish, unthinking devotion might be a good quality in a boyfriend, at least the kinds of boyfriends Rena preferred, but it tended to interfere with a musician’s talents.

I started the program for the show; the lights faded with the ambient music and I could see the only person in the club lean forward in anticipation as the intro music started. The spotlight came on slowly, started at the floor by her feet, and Rena started singing. When it illuminated her face, her eyes were closed as though in exquisite pain. I took a moment to appreciate the artistry she’d put into her appearance. Her black velvet dress blended into the dark so that her bare white shoulders seemed to glow, her dark red lipstick was the color of old blood and her hair was just barely contained, as though it just needed a hand through it to send it and her inhibitions tumbling.

The music always made me chuckle. Rena had long ago mastered all the old standards and she included her own songs between them. Her voice was so seductive, most people didn’t even listen to the lyrics.

You’ve whet my desire

made me want your fire.

I want to take you in

make you part of me.

It may be a sin

but I’m in ecstasy

You’ve set me on fire

let me do the same to you.

Pretty standard, really, unless you knew who Rena really was. The lounge singer act was a good gig for her and I didn’t mind tagging along to help. I probably could have set myself up in a similar situation but my needs were much simpler, more easily satisfied, and Rena needed somebody to watch her back. We’d moved west after one too many mistakes on the east coast and we wouldn’t have had the chance to do the runner in the first place if I hadn’t been watching.

Picture by Marcus Ranum

Picture by Marcus Ranum

Half-way through the set, a group of teenagers stumbled in and made their way to the stage, caught by the magic in Rena’s voice. Drop-ins like this were the reason I pumped the music into the street outside the door. The young ones were much easier to catch, especially the ones who thought they were tough.

When the last song was over, Rena disappeared into the darkness of the stage and I watched the first young man stumble to his feet and follow her. The group that had come in sat staring at the stage as the ambient music came back up. I went to check ID’s and turned a blind eye to the obviously fake ones. I bought a round of beers and stayed to chat, asking about their lives and school. Half of them were in high school and the other half should have been. I sent them back out into the world with the admonishment to stay in school and maybe learn a trade. They were too young to keep but would be easy pickings when they got older.

The club was empty for the second set and we decided to close early. Rena fairly glowed on the drive home. Silently, she handed me a bag as I cut the engine in front of our house on the rocks. I watched her sway her hips to the song she was humming as she walked into the house. I wouldn’t be joining her for a while; the ocean and my father were calling me. I stripped quickly, enjoying the salty ocean spray on my skin, then ran into the water with the bag. The wallet in the bag would make its way to shore eventually but the clothes would disintegrate long before that happened. There was rarely anything else left of Rena’s victims. She was efficient like that.

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