Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Samantha Lee Week 6: Beauty Above the Truth

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Beauty Above the Truth

This is the truth: the Summer Court of the Fae is beautiful. It is a lush and vibrant garden with soft mosses and grass underfoot and a canopy of blossomed vines and arching branches overhead. The gurgles and babbles of running water and the chatter and chirps of wildlife fill the air almost constantly and a pervasive sense of peace seems to hold the whole kingdom in its thrall. The power of the Summer Court resides at its heart, in a clearing encircled by towering white stone guardians and draped in perpetually dappled light. This is where its noble Fae gather to dance and frolic, this is where the Queen sits on a gleaming pink quartz throne to be seen and admired. With sweetened smiles and practiced glances, the Summer Nobles mingle and mix like an elegant menagerie. There is power in this Court, there is…influence there in spades. With a cry, they raise up new gods, with a whisper, they down empires. One smile, well timed, can inflict madness, a wink incite war. Do you know what the Summer Court is? What it truly is beneath its polished veneer? Do you know what lies and truths it masks behind its well rehearsed smiles and glances? The Summer Court of the Fae is beautiful and, oh, how I loathe it.

I was born and raised in this Court, instilled with its ways from infancy, versed in its deceits from the womb. Once, long ago, my mother had ambition for me, had plans. I was to be her greatest accomplishment, her legacy, her creation. Unfortunately for all concerned, I was a disappointment from my first cry and probably would have been sooner had my mother known the truth of my paternity any earlier than that moment. I really can’t blame her, however; I imagine I would be equally dismayed to learn my son and heir was half moon elf instead of partially divine as I had planned and bartered for. Incidentally, I also imagine that I would have the foresight to ensure there wasn’t already a child conceived before bartering myself into a god’s bed. Oh, and I would not bed every eligible partner that caught my fancy as though I were an incubus in heat while simultaneously planning to play stud to a god. Needless to say my mother’s antics in this matter has spawned more than one cautionary tale, pun intended. More to the point, however, once my decidedly ordinary heritage was revealed, my mother opted to place the blame for my paternity where she felt it belonged – on me. Before I’d drawn my second breath I had been recast in her eyes from masterpiece to mistake and so ended the maternal inclinations of Emer, Queen of the Summer Court.

When I was a child, I was sent to the Winter Court to observe and learn for the whole of each and every February. My cousin, Fionnuala, princess of the Winter Court, would spend every August at the Summer Court for the same purpose. In a rare moment of consensus, the Summer Queen and Winter King chose these months because they are the last full month of each Court’s dominion over the mortal realm and represent a time when the ruling Court’s power is well progressed in its decline. They thought such a measure would protect the heirs while still ensuring that confidence remained the property of the monarch. The Winter King further insisted that each heir be allowed the company of an entourage and escort from their home Court. The first time Fionnuala came to the Summer Court, she came with her stepbrother, Fiachra, her cousin, Donnovan, her uncle, Ruadhrí, five Elite Guards, a handful of Low Fae and a pair of cats. The second time and every time thereafter she had twice as many Guards.

The Winter Court is not like the Summer. Hosted within a temperamental warren, there is a darker edge to Winter, like the sharp side of a blade that cannot help but cut with every glide. Within the warren’s walls, any who claim the protection of the Winter King may gather, regardless of caste, appearance or power, and Lyr encourages and incites a certain breed of frankness I cannot find the words to describe. Truth be told, I actually enjoyed the time I spent at the Winter Court. Less enjoyable was the time Fionnuala spent at the Summer.

The first time I met Fionnuala, she was dressed in a dark green gown with her scarlet hued hair braided in two long pigtails. She was five years old, a pretty little thing, hiding behind her uncle’s leg and clutching tight to her stepbrother’s hand. Her entire visit she kept to her entourage, rarely venturing beyond their company save for one or two conversations at her uncle’s prompting. She was the perfect princess; polite, demure, elegant, graceful. She delighted my mother, charmed the nobles, even enchanted the servants. When she actually deigned to speak, she was never at a loss for words and always knew exactly how to set her expression, pitch her tone, and choose her words to maximum effect. At her own Court, I witnessed her being a child, running wild, her laughter ringing through the warren as she played with her cats, cousin and stepbrother. Away from her father’s protection, Fionnuala reigned herself in and portrayed herself as a sweetheart, her personal take on body armour.

Our exchange of visits stopped the year we turned fifty. Old by mortal standard, perhaps, but barely out of infancy for an immortal. Fittingly, it was a scandal that ended the arrangement and, of course, it occurred within the Summer Court while Fionnuala was in the middle of her visit. It began when one of the Low Fae accompanying her was found dead. The creature – I believe it was some sort of goblin – had been brutally beaten by a group of Summer noblemen. When the thing was found, it was little more than a blob of bone, flesh, blood and breath that pitifully tried to drag itself across the clearing to Fionnuala’s feet. My mother laughed when she noticed, lamenting the sad state of Low Fae who didn’t know their place. Fionnuala ignored her and went to the creature’s side, kneeling down to take it into her lap in comfort. The creature died choking on its own blood in its princess’ arms.

The following night, Fionnuala walked into the Summer Court alone but for her cats. She stood before my mother’s throne her anger an almost palpable force around her. My mother, of course, misunderstood the situation and expressed her pleasure that the Low Fae’s bloodstains had been easily purged from the gardens.

“His name was Orin,” Fionnuala said coldly, “and Orin was mine. Your Fae have taken him from me, Emer, and a debt is owed. I demand it be paid. Now.”

My mother refused.

“The Summer Court of the Fae is beautiful,” Fionnuala observed, glancing pointedly about at the vibrant gardens and carefully made up Nobles. “You have much to be proud of, Emer; I doubt very much if the Winter Court could ever claim such beauty.”

Laughter. “It is only because of the monsters your father allows too close to his throne that such beauty is elusive, my dear.”

“Is that how you saw Orin? As a monster?” Fionnuala snorted and began to move, casually circulating through the room like a prowling cat. “Orin was my friend. He was an inventor who would have put Daedalus to shame ten times over. He loved caramel popcorn, hated crowds and was practically phobic about public speaking. What exactly was it about him that made him monstrous? Monsters are the decay and destruction that bask beneath a sunny sky invisible to the eye yet ever encroaching. My friend was a goblin; he was bumpy and lumpy and nowhere near fitting your definition of beauty. Your people beat him beyond what he could ever possibly heal and left him to spend his last pain-filled hours dragging himself to me like a dog. Orin did not deserve that.”

Fionnuala paused just behind Sabin, a son of one of the Lords and my mother’s current lover. A pompous ass if ever there was one, but a work in progress as well; he had potential, that is to say, and if he ever bothered to get around to using it he’d be quite the man. Or else, he would have been.

Fionnuala smiled and met my mother’s gaze over Sabin’s shoulder. “The beauty of the Summer Court is glitter and smiles. The Winter Court, I’m afraid, went another route. Oh, we can do the smiles and glitter just as well as anyone when we need to – I think I’ve proven that – but our strength, our beauty that comes from a different place entirely."

Without hesitation, Fionnuala, princess of the Winter Court of the Fae, punched her fist through Sabin’s back and with a sickening slurp ripped his heart from his chest. Unsurprisingly, Sabin promptly crumpled dead at Fionnuala’s feet. She held the bloody muscle in her hand, inspecting it with mild interest as she watched it beat its last few thumps. “Savagery,” she said casually. “The Winter Court looks to savagery rather than appearances for its beauty, Emer. You might do well to remember that. Consider your debt paid.” She carelessly tossed the heart in the direction of my mother’s throne and smiled. “The Summer Court of the Fae is beautiful, your majesty.”

Fionnuala never returned to the Summer Court after that and I never again visited the Winter.

The Summer Court of the Fae is beautiful…in its appearances. Look beneath and it is boasts a decayed and tainted pit. The Winter Court of the Fae is beautiful…in its brutality. From Nobility to Low, every caste, every Fae, dons propriety only as a mask; there is no truth to it.

The Courts of the Fae are majestic clouds drifting in a sunny sky above a cold, harsh truth no one cares to know. As substantial as wisps of condensed air, we parade our images as truth and are careful to conceal our lies, our deceits, our constructs.

The Fae are beautiful, the Fae are savage, but more than anything else, the Fae are monstrous.

And that’s the truth.


You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at calliopedomain.blogspot.ca


Monday, July 30, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 6: Faulty Knots

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 1

Title: Faulty Knots

My mouth felt full of cotton, sticky and slow from the drug. I opened my eyes to an instant, blinding headache. I squinted and tried to block the light from my eyes with my hands, but they stubbornly remained together.


A shadowy figure in the distance chuckled and I recognized the tenor.

“Hello, Malloy,” I said.

My voice was thick and slow, repeating dully in my head as the last of the drugs wore out of my system.

“Shell,” he said.

He pushed himself away from the wall and his footsteps thudded angrily in my head. I winced in spite of myself. I hated chloroform headaches.

“Why am I still alive?” I asked, pleased that my voice was evening out. He didn’t need to hear my fear.

“I’m a sentimental fool.”

“That I already knew. Still, I’m a mark. What are you doing?”

“You’re mine,” he replied. “I just needed some time.”

Self-righteous, cocky bastard. He was playing with me. I’d heard this was his style before, the play with his victims before killing them. I certainly hadn’t guessed I’d one day be on the receiving end of his deadly game.

I twisted my wrist within the rope and felt a give. I had a little to work with and I hoped it would be enough. To my great surprise, I found that Malloy had left my feet free. Did he really underestimate me that much, or was he hoping I’d make this interesting?

I chatted him up as I wiggled my arms within his childish knots. They were tied expertly, but I knew them inside and out. Malloy walked round me in circles, making it easy for me to work the knots. I felt them give and nearly wept with joy. Unlike Malloy, I didn’t play games. If I walked out of this room, it would be over Malloy’s dead body.

I sat still as he made his satellite around me, waiting for him to come to the front. His voice in my ear surprised me and I jumped.

“You’ve been naughty, Shell,” he hissed.

I felt him draw in a breath before reaching for me, but I didn’t give him the chance. I clutched my hands together and locked them behind his head. Malloy tucked his head against my shoulder, but the rope gave me an advantage. I yanked him hard, pulling him off of his feet and rolling him up and over my shoulders. I stood as I threw him to the ground, pulling my hands out of the ropes and throwing them to the side.

I shook my head to dispel the lingering fog from the drugs as I planted my foot on Malloy’s neck.

“You underestimated me,” I whispered, leaning down and cutting off his air.

He shook his head and I eased up. “No,” he wheezed. “Never.” “Then why?”

I crouched low, careful not to crush his trachea but not giving him an inch of leeway.

“Can’t kill you.”

“What? Why?”

“You know.”

I blinked, a million memories of our trysts flitting through my mind. I knew it always meant more to him than to me, but could it have meant everything to him?

I let my guard down for only second, but Malloy didn’t waste any time. He grabbed my calf and twisted. I felt something pop in my knee and I bit my lip to keep from screaming. He flipped me over, the back of my head hitting the concrete hard enough to send stars across my vision. When I opened my eyes, Malloy was standing over top of me.

“Gotcha,” he murmured, bending down toward me.

I heard his gun click as I closed my eyes. It had all been part of his game.


Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ruth Long Week 5: Surfacing

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Surfacing

She spent the first week closeted in her apartment, windows closed, shades drawn, front door barricaded with boxes, trying to convince herself that this was a normal reaction to living alone for the first time, but the truth of it was that the smell of the salt air unsettled her, inviting and repulsing her by turns and giving her no peace.

The weekend arrived with the same nameless trepidation but the sharp edge of self-possession sliced through it, so she shrugged on jeans, t-shirt and sandals, and made a path through the boxes to the front door. When she stepped out into the courtyard, the sea beyond the rock wall seemed to rise up and greet her, its scent clinging to her skin and curling her long dark hair, and she wondered again why she had accepted the scholarship to Seaside, in spite of her aversion to the ocean.

Keeping the nausea and anxiety at bay, she clutched the little map and headed downtown. She found the shop without much trouble and pushing through the door, her soul found its solace. Every inch of wall space and most of the floor was occupied by music albums, the kind sandwiched between cardboard sleeves and meant to spin on a turntable so that the needle sinks into the vinyl’s waveform mirror and produces the truest, clearest, purest sound possible. Unbidden, a tune echoed in her throat.

Fingers dancing over the worn spines, she skimmed through the shelves and racks, lost in her own musical world, until a sound vibrated in her ears and she looked down the row, in search of its origin, and found it in the form of dark curls and a blue t-shirt. Tobias Coleman was in Seaside, probably settling in for the fall semester, same as she was. She could wait until they bumped into each other on campus, but she’d promised herself that she’d take the first opportunity to clear the air between them, and this was it.

She walked down the row to where he was bent over a lower rack, engaged in a discussion with a group of companions. “Tobias?”

He looked up, sea-green eyes peering through long lashes. “Hey.”

“You have a minute?”

He nodded. “Sure.”

Conscious of his companions, yet determined to be honest, she said, “I just want you to know that I’m sorry.”

He stood up, his companions rising with him. “Thank you, Sophie.”

Into the following silence, one of the girls in the group held out her hand and said, “Hi, I’m Callie.”

Tobias waved off Callie’s hand, preventing Sophie from clasping it, and said, “I’m glad you chose Seaside.”

“Their scholarship offered some perks that the rest didn’t. Little things, that maybe wouldn’t have mattered to anyone else, but that made me think that I could feel at home here.”

A murmur skittered through the group but Tobias shushed them with a look. “Have you been to the water yet?”

“No,” she said, color creeping into her cheeks. “I didn’t know you were here.”

He smiled, the warmth in it intensifying the color of his eyes. “Not the pool, Sophie. The sea.”

“Oh, I thought you meant … no, I haven’t been to the sea. Don’t know that I want to. It troubles me.”

“We can help with that, if you’ll let us,” he said, pulling Callie forward.

Sophie began humming, an involuntary response to anxiety.

“Put your palm in mine for ten seconds and you won’t be troubled anymore,” said Callie, moving closer and holding out her hand.

Sophie backed away, her humming becoming a flood of unearthly notes.

“I won’t hurt you, Sophia. On Poseidon’s honor.”

Sophie reached out, grabbed Callie’s hand, and her voice fell quiet. Her eyes were open but what she was seeing wasn’t the inside of a music store.

She was standing along a stretch of sand, in a puddle of sun with the sea rushing over her toes, and voices reverberating in her skull. Fish and birds and sea creatures, all of them talking and she understood every beautiful word.

She let go of Callie’s hand and reached past her, to Tobias, but he was just beyond her grasp. He held still, and for a moment, she thought that he was going to retaliate for the way she’d rebuffed his interest in her earlier in the year, but when he leaned out to connect his hand with hers, she realized just how wrong she’d been.

She saw through his eyes, back to that moment he’d spotted her in the stands at the swim meets, and how he looked for her at every meet from then on, how he swam harder, dove deeper, and pushed himself to win every meet with her smile in mind as his prize.

She felt his confusion when he’d touched her shoulder the day he’d asked her out, the surprise in finding that she was his kind and the shock that she had no idea what she was.

She watched him pour out his heart to his father, work to discover her orphaned heritage, and then work with their kind to design a university scholarship that would foster her musical gift as well as provide a safe place to acclimate herself to her true nature.

She shook out of the vision and looked at him. “What just happened?”

“It’s called collective memory. When we touch another of our kind, we can access memories they want to share with us.”

Lacing fingers with him, she said, “Will you take me to the sea and show me what we are, Tobias?”

“I’ve been waiting all summer to hear those words, beautiful,” he said, bringing her hand to his lips.

His companions erupted in joyous harmony. “The sirens are surfacing!”


A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog bullishink.com, joining my creative community sweetbananaink.com or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cara Michaels Week 5: A Different Path

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 2

Title: A Different Path

Some say fates aren’t written in the stars. While long before we walk the earth our paths are laid out, it’s our mortal decisions determining the ultimate outcome. Sometimes we learn from the histories our souls build, sometimes we don’t. They go on about God, rebirth, free will, faith; insubstantial things that pale in the face of science and the tangible trail of history.

The rest know we can’t change who and what we are. Those who think otherwise are smart to keep such ideas silent and move unnoticed through the world. Most of the time, it’s easy enough to go with the flow. Then abruptly I feel like a salmon fighting the current to make my way upstream.

And likely to get eaten by a bear.

I fight the hardest each summer. I tag along when we go to the carnival, keeping my peace as they mock the gypsy fortune teller. Every year I see her, and every year I wonder if she truly sees anything or just bilks the willing with false prophecy.

Deep down, a part of me feels her dark, knowing gaze… and believes.

This time, when those lovely gypsy eyes lock on me, when her finger crooks and beckons me forward, I shuffle into her tent. I laugh with the others, but the façade falls away behind the safety of thick canvas walls. The summer heat should make the space oppressive, but somehow her haven is cool and welcoming. The aroma of smoldering incense tickles my nose.

“Why do you walk with them?” she asks me. “The ones with no thoughts in their head and no eyes to see the potential surrounding them.”

I can pretend I don’t know what she means, but the way she stares at me—I don’t want to lie, yet I don’t know how to answer. Every thought I have seems weak. Something they would expect me to say.

“They are sheep,” she says, “knowing nothing more than to follow the flock to the next meal or slaughter.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” I say.

“You’re different, you know.”

I roll my eyes. “Everybody says that. I’m normal. Just like everyone else.”

She laughs. “And everyone is normal? If such a thing can be defined?”

“They seem to think it can be,” I mutter.

“And there is always a ‘they.’ No matter which side of the coin you’re standing on.”

“I seem to be the only one standing on the other side around here.”

“And you’re the quiet one, aren’t you, girl?” She smiles, her painted red lips curving at the corners. Eyes as black as her hair shine with gentle humor. “Never rocking the boat?”

“I guess.” I stub my toe against the dirt floor, grooving the surface covered in shoe prints. “Maybe.”

“I can always spot them,” she says, seeming pleased. “It’s there in your eyes, carefully banked so the average onlooker won’t spot it. But you’re curious, yes? You want to know about the world, about your place in it.”

“It’s silly, I know.” I shrug. “I know you can’t really tell me.”

“Are you certain? Or are you afraid to hope?”

I blush, embarrassed and uncertain.

“Hope is a powerful thing, I know.”

“What if there’s nothing to hope for?” I ask.

“I can only show you the path,” she says. “It’s up to you what to do with the knowledge.”

I know every boring, lifeless step of the rest of my existence if I follow the stream; an endless winter with no hope for spring.

“Sit now. And see.” She gestures to a round table covered in aged velvet. On the table, a glass ball sits. “If you can.”

“Aren’t you supposed to do the looking and prognosticating here?” I frown. She’s suggesting I can see something in the glass? “What if I can’t see anything?”

She purses her lips. “Then you can go back to your friends and feel you truly belong.”

Swallowing hard, I take the seat opposite her. She lifts the glass into my line of sight.

“And if I can?”

“Look, child,” she says. “Just tell me what you see and then decide. The choice is and always will be yours.”


Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 5: Redemption or Bust - Let’s Get Ready to Rumble...

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Redemption or Bust - Let’s Get Ready to Rumble...

Part Two

I lay still and quiet and waited for the rest of the story but Marisa didn't say another word.

She pulled herself in closer to me and nestled her head against my shoulder. Her fingers continued to glide up and down my side.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. She smelled of the beach, of salt and sweat and suntan lotion. The ocean wind was still in her hair. I never smelled anything better.

I was still waiting for her to spill it when her fingers stopped moving and her breaths started coming slow and easy.

A truck rumbled by the motel and shook the lamp on the night table and the pictures on the wall. The Harley that followed shook them some more.

By the time the chopper's lean, mean growl faded out I'd made up my mind to let Marisa sleep for the both of us. I wanted her refreshed and alert when she told me what the hell I was getting into.

It wasn't drugs. I saw no obvious track marks anywhere on her body, no shakes or shivers, and she'd been in my continuous sight for longer than your average addict can go without a fix.

She wasn't bruised and I noticed no signs of recent healing.

Her ring finger was as tanned and smooth as the other nine and the only ring she wore was on the second toe of her left foot.

I added it all up and came up with not enough. The sum total of what I didn't know about her would fill an airplane hangar.

What I did know was that my shoulder and entire arm was dead asleep beneath her body and I didn't care. I was happy to take the pain and tingling to have her there with me. This was right up there with comfortable silences.

The warmth of her body next to mine put the kibosh on my critical thinking abilities and I fell asleep a happy man.


I was alone in the bed when I woke up some time later. Marisa's spot was still warm and I could still smell her scent on the sheets but she wasn't there. She was not sitting at the table and the bathroom light was not on. Her swimsuit was still on the floor right where she left it.

I called out her name and got out of bed. I grumbled and cursed as I stubbed my toe on the table and shuffled over to the window to let some morning light into the room.

It didn't get any brighter when I drew the blinds because it was still night.

People were talking right outside the door.

I moved off to the side of the window and took a peek.

Marisa was standing with her back to the door. She looked good in my shorts and t-shirt. From my angle at the window I couldn't see who she was talking to but I heard a man's voice and it didn't sound like they were old pals remembering the good times.

I went to my duffel bag and hunted up a pair of jeans and formed a plan of action as I wriggled into them. I left the gun in the bag but grabbed my blackjack before turning back to the door.

When my bare toes crashed into the table leg --again-- I couldn't squelch the profanity. The air went blue with involuntary invective. I hobbled over to the door.

I heard Marisa shout, “No!” and then there was quiet.

I yanked the door open, blackjack at the ready.

The fist that smashed into my face seemed as big as a bowling ball. The force of the blow jacked me up and sent me hurtling backwards into my pal the table.

The table resisted but I got the last laugh by shattering it on my way to the floor.

Marisa started hollering, a little in English and a lot in Spanish, as I lay there in the wreckage trying to spot the Big Dipper in the sea of stars floating around my head.

She yelped and then went silent.

I was up and back out the door in seconds.

The target was bald, big, and wide. I was seeing too much red to process much else. I missed with a hard right but a left uppercut hit the mark. Teeth clattered on impact but the big guy shook it off and rabbit punched me back to the ground.

“Stay down, hero,” he growled.

I made a manful effort to disobey but my legs wouldn't play ball.

“Good boy,” he said as he leaned in close enough for me to feel his breath hot on my face.

He tossed me into the room and shut the door.


The pressure of something hard and icy against my face woke me up. The cold was a burning center of white hot pain surrounded by itchy numbness.

I flinched and tried to sit up on the bed but a pair of strong hands had a hold of my shoulders and kept me down.

I croaked out Marisa's name.

“Relax, tough guy,” said a familiar voice. “This is for your own good.”

I opened my eye-- the one I could get to open-- and took a look around.

Marisa was nowhere in sight.

The woman with the dreadlocks from the motel office was standing over me with her hands on my shoulders.

She shushed me before I could get the question out.

“Relax, man. You wanna see out of that eye later today? Suck it up and let this man work.

This man's work involved some kind of very cold device being held against my face, high up on the cheek. The hand holding the device was brown and gnarled and skeletal.

“This is Santo, said the woman. “He used to be my cut man. Best in the business.”

“Your cut man?”

“Spent half my life in the ring. Don't look so surprised. There's more women in the fight game than anyone thinks.”

“Got any pointers for next time?”

“Yeah, hon. Don't lead with your face. Now shut up and let Santo help you.”

I shut up and did as I was told.

The ice cold device made sense now. It was an enswell --a metal weight boxing trainers kept on ice to keep the swelling down. I like to watch the fights as much as the next guy and I always thought that thing looked like it'd hurt when some guy jammed it against your battered face. I wasn't wrong.

“You're all right, champ,” said Santo. He sounded like someone used his vocal chords to plow a rocky field. “You got good bones.” He removed the enswell and probed my cheek, just under the eye, with his fingers. “Should be in pieces but it's not. Good bones.”


Santo laughed and reapplied the enswell. “Don't you worry. You're gonna be as pretty as ever once this heals up.”

The woman laughed too. It was turning into a real party.

After a while Santo took the enswell off of me again and slipped an arm beneath my shoulders.

“Okey,” he croaked. “Sit your ass up for me. Give us a hand, willya, Evangeline?”

The dreadlocked woman came back to the bed and the two of them got me sitting up.

“I appreciate you fixing me up, Santo,” I said as he stood and began to collect his things.

He was as skinny as I thought he'd be. The red bowling shirt he had on had room for two more of him in it. He wore a big handlebar mustache and knew how to carry it off.

“Not a problem,” he said. He pushed his glasses up off of his nose and nodded.

“Concussion?” asked Evangeline.

Santo leaned down and peered into my eyes, both of which were open. I had to hand it to him. The man was good at his job.

“I'm thinking no,” he said. “Got a headache, champ?”

I did, but not enough to mention it.

“See more than one me or Evangeline in here?”

“I see one of each of you, Santo.”

“Good,” he said. He handed me a plastic baggie with some ice in it. “Keep icing that cheek. Ten minutes on, ten minutes off. Got it?”

Santo gathered up his equipment, dropped it all into a black leather valise that went out of style in the '50s. “Good bones,” he said and with that he made his exit.

When I looked up Evangeline was standing next to the bed with my open wallet in her hand.

“You could've told me you were a detective, Mr. Jacob Tunner.”

“It's Jake. And you didn't ask.”

She shot me a look and leafed through the rest of my wallet.

“I don't suppose anyone called the police?”

“Right,” I said. I hopped off the bed and managed to stand straight and only teetered a little bit.

“Where do you think you're going?” asked Evangeline. She dropped my wallet on the bed. “Gonna go chase that girl? Marisa?”

“You know her?”

She laughed and started for the door. “I know everybody 'round here, man.”

“You know who grabbed her then?”

Evangeline stopped just outside the room. “You get yourself cleaned up and come to the office. We'll talk there.”

I fished a tee-shirt out of my duffel bag and shrugged into it. Easier said than done. I hurt in a dozen places between knees and shoulders and my face was a pounding mass of ache.

“No time to talk,” I said. I pulled my gun and holster out of my bag. Getting into the shoulder rig was almost as much fun as putting on that shirt.

Evangeline didn't blink as I checked the clip and holstered the weapon.

“You're out of your territory, man,” she argued. “Do you even know where to start?”

“I'm going to do what I do best. Detect. Detective, remember?”

She got real quiet.

“By the way,” I said, “you didn't answer my question. “You know who grabbed her, don't you?”

She stared at me for what felt like two weeks. When she spoke it was in a hushed tone that didn't sound like it got a lot of use.

“You sure you wanna do this?”

It was a fair question.

“She passed the dead arm test,” I muttered as I stepped into my shoes and knelt to tie them.

“You're a God damn fool.”

“Most likely. Now tell me who has her.”

“You're the detective. Detect.” She looked around the room. “Maybe she left you a note.” She put a hand out to head off my retort. “You know where I'll be if you decide to come and talk.”

I stood and listened as her footsteps faded away.

I pulled on a denim button-down shirt to cover the shoulder rig and was about to swagger out of the room when I happened to look over at the desk.

The complementary motel note pad was in plain sight, right on the desktop, and there was writing on the top sheet.


Marisa must have scribbled it down while I was asleep.

I have three variants in my sleep repertoire. There's regular sleep, which means I'm more or less up between catnaps until morning. Drunk Sleep is even more fitful and unsatisfying. The third sleep, though, Drunk and Just Got Laid Sleep, is the king of all sleep. There could be a New Orleans funeral band in the room with me and I wouldn't yawn and turn over.


I snatched the pad off of the desk and stormed out the door.


Evangeline was sitting in one of the wicker chairs in the rain forest when I thundered into the office.

A pair of shot glasses sat ready and waiting on a little table next to her.

“You could have just told me there was a note,” I growled.

“You didn't ask.”

She gestured to an empty chair. I took a load off.

The office smelled of clove cigarettes and old coffee. A small metal fan on the corner of the desk circulated the stale air around the room.

“Where the hell is Bog Island?”

She retrieved an unmarked bottle of of something clear from under the table and grinned at me as she poured two shots.

We toasted with silence and drank. Licorice-flavored liquid ran like Greek fire down my throat and into my belly.

“Aguardiente, my friend,” she said. “Fire water.”

I grimaced and put my glass down. “Good name.”

She nodded and we sat there in silence. The first birds of the morning were up and at it outside the windows.

“Bog Island?” I asked.

We went to the desk and she dug a dog-eared road atlas out of the drawer.

“It's not really an island,” she explained as she opened the atlas to the right page. She pointed to the peninsula on the far right side of the page. “We're here in Caravan Bay, on the east coast of the peninsula.” She moved her finger to the west side. “Bog Island is here, on the lake side of the panhandle, jutting out and surrounded by water on three sides. Bog Island. A bad name for a beautiful place.”

I studied the map. Bog Island seemed easy enough to get to. Forty minutes by car.

“Here,” she said. She plucked a picture postcard out of a rack on the desk and slid it in front of me.

It looked like a nice place. Big lake. Trees. Hills out in the distance.

“There's a bunch of cabins out there. No streets, no real addresses, just letters on the cabins.”

“Who owns Cabin D?”

I repeated my question and got the same answer.

Evangeline toyed with the pages of the atlas and refused to meet my stare.

She cut me off while I was asking a third time.

“I've already told you too much,” she said.

I put the postcard back in the rack and thanked her for the hooch. “I guess I'm gonna find out the hard way.”

I was almost out the door when she gave me the name.

“Reubens,” she said. “His name is Reubens.”


Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Michela Walters Week 5: Bait and Switch

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Bait and Switch

The sun beamed down, illuminating the statue from behind and casting shadows into the fountain below.

Staring at the warrior on the horse, I wondered what had happened to all the good men? The ones who were strong and true? Brave and fearless? In my life I seemed to have only attracted those with less than redeeming qualities. After my most recent breakup, I decided to splurge and send myself on a journey through Europe. A little trip to try and figure out who I was, or rather, who I wanted to be.

I’d finally realized after a string of failed relationships, that I had a tendency to mold myself into whomever I thought my current lover wanted me to be. When I couldn’t live up to this idealized vision, the relationship would end, and I was left even further away from my true self with each passing fancy.

With Matt, I was fun, easy going and pretended to really like roller coasters. With Brandon, I was studious and well read and pretended to like going to art museums. With Mark, I was sultry, super confident and pretended I enjoyed being spanked. With David, I was outdoorsy, and pretended I enjoyed vegan cuisine and hemp clothing.

The list went on and on. I’d gone through twelve men in two years and I was tired. So tired of pretending to be someone, yet after all this time, I wasn’t sure who I actually was.

Sitting on the side of this ancient fountain, I wondered how I’d gotten so off track and began making a mental list of things I knew, without a doubt, I liked to do.

Travel. I liked to visit new and exotic places. It would have been a tad more amusing to travel with someone, but I decided not to dwell too long on that fact. I was here to rediscover myself, not on a romantic rendezvous.

Reading. I loved to sit curled up in a sunny nook and spend hours and hours entranced in a good tale. My tastes were varied, but after a brief stint trying to impress Noel that I really was interested in science fiction novels, I knew I absolutely abhorred the genre.

Writing. I had enjoyed journaling my travels so far and thought perhaps I could one day publish a short book based on what I was sure would be many mishaps along the three week trip.

Feeling somewhat refreshed about uncovering some of my lost loves, I took a deep cleansing breath, and stood up, resolute about figuring out what else I was all about. Unfortunately my attempt at being proactive ended with me falling head over tea kettle and directly into the shallow water of the fountain.

Sputtering to the surface, I was stunned. Mostly from the freezing cold water that was a complete shock to my system, but also the handsome man offering me his hand.

“Mademoiselle? Are you alright?”

I took his hand and allowed him to pull me out of the water. Embarrassed, and not knowing how much English the gentleman before me spoke, I nodded and offered a simple thank you before sitting back on the side of the fountain. Thankfully my bag didn’t end up in the water too, but I wasn’t close to my hotel and was a bit lost as to what I should do now, with soaked clothes and soggy shoes.

“Errr... pardon moi? You look like you could use a cafe. May I buy one for you?” My knight in dark jeans asked, his thick accent curling around the words in a way that made me shiver.

I wanted to accept his offer, even if I looked a mess and we probably wouldn’t be able to communicate much past hello and thank you, but I paused. I was supposed to be figuring out who I was, not picking up another man who, gauging by his long dark lashes and thick wavy hair, would only distract me from my goal.

“Merci,” I replied using one of the only words I remembered from high school French. “I should probably go back to my hotel to change clothes, but thank you.”

He cocked his head to the side, perhaps trying to translate when he smiled and shrugged, “It is only a cafe. Join me?” He asked again, but his tone wasn’t demanding, rather encouraging.

I reluctantly accepted, figuring it was only one coffee, and I’d only be in the country for another couple of days. Not even I could change my entire personality around in a day, right? I rationalized that I would start my self-actualization exercises tomorrow, and allowed him to lead me towards a small bistro with tables for two lined up outside the shop under colorful umbrellas that kept the diners cool.

We sat down and he ordered two cafe au laits before asking me questions about where I was from and how I was liking this part of France.

Our conversation was stilted, the way it is when you are trying to communicate in broken and simplified sentences. Even with our language barrier, I could tell Marcelle was charming. He was suave and sophisticated, and It took a lot of willpower on my part not to jump into his lap and ask him to recite just about anything in French for me. The way his deep voice smoothly caressed each word, I would have even listened to him read through the phone book.

About half way through our coffee, he excused himself to use the restroom, telling me he would return in a few moments.

One minute became five and soon I was sitting at my table wondering how I’d managed to scare Marcelle away in less than thirty minutes. Cradling my head in my hands, I called for the waiter to bring the check, figuring I should cut my losses and lick my wounds in the privacy of my hotel room.

Reaching behind my chair I realized my bag was gone. In a panic, I look around, trying to see if it had fallen off my chair or if I left it by the fountain.

It was gone. My bag, my passport, my money. All gone.

Could this day get any worse? Of course I began berating myself over and over about how I should have just returned to my hotel and not accepted ‘Marcelle’s’ invitation for coffee.

My mind suddenly stopped, bringing an abrupt halt to my disorganized thoughts. I remembered that I’d decided to only take a few travelers checks and about ten euros with me this morning. My bag didn’t even have my camera. I had forgotten it and didn’t feel like going back to my hotel once I realized it when I was on the metro.

Throwing my head back, I laughed. A deep, heavy and boisterous laugh that I’m sure the French probably considered uncouth.

It felt like fate had stepped in to remind me what my trip was truly about.


After speaking with the bistro’s manager for a few moments, he apologized for my misfortune and waved off my attempt to reassure him I’d be back to pay for the coffees.

“It was only a coffee. Come back and have dinner. It would be good to have a better image of my restaurant for you.”

I smiled at the manager’s kind words. After a hot shower and a change of clothes, I might just return.

And this time, I would come alone.


Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog: michelawalters.wordpress.com


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sarah Aisling Week 5: Fire’s Legacy

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Fire’s Legacy

The heavy brass lock sticks. It takes three tries, and I nearly break the key off inside before I finally coax the lock open. The thick wooden door creaks on hinges in desperate need of oil. The lettering on the glass inlay says Emerald’s, but everyone in Blythe Creek knows what this place was for.

It’s musty inside, and a coating of dust layers the weathered wooden floor, glass cases, small round tables covered with jewel-toned fabrics, and the shelves behind the counter filled with dozens of colored glass bottles of liquids and powders. Strands of faux jewels hang from the ceiling in strategic positions; the recessed lighting used to glint off of them, shooting prisms of light around the room, lending it a certain mystique. Now their brilliance is dulled by years of dust.

I never expected to be here again.

After Gran’s funeral last week, a call from her lawyer alerted me that she’d left the apothecary and the adjacent property to me. Gran had closed the door to her shop when she became too ill to continue her life’s work and had checked herself into the local rest home.

I come from a line of powerful witches. As far back as I can trace, each female in our family has been named after a gem. My grandma was Emerald, my mother’s name is Amethyst, and mom named me Sapphire. There’s been an Opaline, Onyx, and Ruby, as well. Mom is dead set against “that witchy shit” but continued the tradition just the same. She left Blythe Creek as soon as she was of legal age. Being brought up in a small town by a witch didn’t increase her popularity at school; others feared or despised her.

Gran’s little shop of spells and tinctures was considered a necessary evil, one the residents studiously ignored until they were in need. They called her sorceress and shunned her in town, but no one dared to make a move against her. She’d saved their lives and the lives of their children many times over the years, yet they would all deny making the trip to Emerald’s and following her instructions to the letter.

Mom raised me three hours away from here. I didn’t meet Gran until the summer I was thirteen and demanded to go for a visit. Before that, I’d spoken to her on the phone, and she’d sent me presents, but Mom refused to step foot anywhere near Blythe Creek. Dad dropped me off, rolling his eyes good-naturedly over my mother’s stubbornness.

I spent a month with Gran, and she told me all about our descendants. When I asked why she stayed here, treated like a pariah, she smiled softly and said, “Someday you will understand, Fire. Your mother turned away from her heritage and ignores the magic all around her every day. It’s sad, my dear.” She leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Yes, it’s sadder than me staying in Blythe Creek where nobody wants me.”

I wondered how she knew what question was on the tip of my outspoken tongue.

Gran stroked my cheek. “People tend to fear and hate what they don’t understand, sweet girl. It’s their fear of what might happen if they dispatch with a witch that ensures I’m safe here. Besides, who would cure their ills? Old Dr. Clausen? Oh my, no.” She tittered with a hand over her mouth, eyes wide with mirth.

That summer, I watched people slink into her shop to ask for spells, favors, or tinctures. There was no bell above the door; Gran always knew when she had a customer coming, even when we were up at the house. She’d say, “Time to go down to the shop, Fire. Someone needs us.”

She was right every time.

I close my eyes; the echo of Gran’s laughter and gentle voice alongside the faint spice of sandalwood surrounds me. Even though the shop closed several years ago, her presence still permeates this space.

Placing my suitcase on the floor, I make my way behind the counter, running my index finger over some of the colorful bottles on the shelves. Each one is meticulously labeled with the contents: Absinthe, Alfalfa, Cat’s Claw, Cinnamon, Devil’s Claw, Hawthorne, on down through Wormwood, Yarrow, and Yucca.

Guilt sizzles through me when I consider how easily I forgot about Blythe Creek and my heritage once I was back in the city and my mom started in on “that old bat and her foolishness.” School started, and the magic I’d felt in this place, the excitement that coursed through my veins when Gran would teach me about the herbs and tinctures, evaporated. The wide-eyed way I’d hung on every word she uttered faded into the background buzz of a teen girl’s life.

Cheerleading, girlfriends, shopping, and hanging out.

Dating Hal Martin, losing my virginity in the back seat of his car for our two month anniversary, and crying when the popular quarterback ignored me the following day.

College, pledging for sorority, making more mistakes with guys.

Graduating from college, getting a job, moving into my first apartment.

The list grew longer, and the time I made for Gran grew shorter. Months turned to years, and before I knew it, contact with Gran had been reduced to a holiday card or a five-minute phone call while I was distracted by other things.

She never judged and was always happy to hear from me, even though I didn’t deserve it. The tears I shed at her funeral had less to do with her death and more to do with a burning shame that consumed me from the inside.

When I received the call about Gran, I was well on my way to getting hammered. I’d just been laid off from my job and was wallowing in self-pity at the bottom of a bottle of Zinfandel.

Gran’s lawyer contacted me about the will after the funeral, and I started to roll my eyes before I realized I had no job, nowhere to be. Why not visit the old place, relive a few teen memories, and try to assuage some of my guilt?

I decide to check out the garden before heading up to the main house. Gran grew most of her own herbs here, tending them with love and patience. I shudder to think about the snarl of overgrown vines and weeds that must be fighting for space out back. When I force open the moisture-swollen door, my momentum sends me flailing onto the back porch and I just miss taking a tumble down the stairs.

My jaw drops as I gaze around at the yard.

It’s exactly as I remember. Lush grass surrounds a well-tended garden. In the back corner of the yard is a beautiful ash tree. Its limbs are bare even though it’s spring; Gran told me no leaves have grown on the tree since my mom left Blythe Creek and denounced her heritage.

Who has taken care of the garden and mowed the grass? Beyond the white picket fence, the vegetation is an overgrown tangle, and I realize the only way into this yard is the way I just came—through a door that hasn’t been opened for years.

A sense of giddiness fills me, and I slip my shoes off, dancing across the yard barefoot. The soft grass tickles my toes, coaxing a rare giggle from me. The sun glints off the plants, flowers, and grass, creating a fairytale-like intensity to it all, yet beyond the brilliant white picket fence everything looks overgrown, dreary, or dead.

I race toward the ash tree and a memory niggles at the corner of my mind. Standing before the elegant tree, beautiful despite its bareness, I spy a miniature door in the bottom of its trunk. My mouth drops open, and the memory comes flooding back.

“Fire, this ash tree is special. Someday, you will be ready to receive its magic.” We were standing out by the tree, and Gran was stroking its rough bark with reverence.

“How will I know when? What kind of magic?”

“You’ll know, my dear. Trust me.” She patted me on the hand. “All will be revealed in its own time. You must be ready, Fire, and that means taking responsibility for the magic.”

The memory of Gran’s endearing face brings tears to my eyes as I recall her standing by the tree in her white nightdress with her wild tangle of iron gray hair.

“Oh, Gran,” I whisper, “I’m so sorry I let you down.”

Lowering myself to the ground, I scoot forward on my stomach and contemplate the door in the tree. It reminds me of childhood stories of garden gnomes and fairies. I try to peek inside the tiny window, half-expecting to see magical creatures at work. I reach out and pull the tiny metal handle, but nothing happens. Her words echo in my mind, “That means taking responsibility for the magic.”

Could I agree to that without knowing what it meant for the future? Yes, I thought I could.

“I accept.”

Another tug, and the door swings open easily. There’s no visible locking mechanism. Inside the hollowed out tree is a small satchel, a leather-bound journal, and an envelope. I draw out the envelope first, instinctively knowing it’s a letter from Gran.

Dearest Fire,

We all must live in our own time, in our own way. I don’t regret a moment of my life, and I’m not upset with you for living the way a teen and young woman should. How else would you know what you really want? What has true meaning?

If you’re reading this, then I’m dead and you’re of age. I believe you’d be thirty about now, right? If you look at the date of this letter, you will see it was written when you were sixteen.

I’m sure by now you’re wondering about my yard. It’s magic, of course! The grass never grows longer than it should, and the flowers and herbs always produce just enough for my needs and no more. Inside the tree is my medicinal journal and a starter set with all the implements you’ll need to start on your own journey.

Blythe Creek is a tough town, but you’ll do just fine. Best of all, you aren’t destined to be alone like your grandma. When he comes, you’ll recognize him right off. Try not to give him too hard of a time. He’ll bring you and your daughter happiness in my old house. I suppose I could tell you their names, but that would ruin the fun for all of you.

Fire, I love you with all my heart. The road may not be easy, but it will be well worth it.

All my love,


My face is wet with tears. I turned thirty last month, and this tingle deep inside tells me it’s all true. I’m meant to be here.

Gathering together the satchel and Gran’s journal, I head back into the shop to grab my suitcase. I reach the main house in the waning light, and it’s still as imposing and beautiful as ever. Somehow I know everything will be in order when I go inside.

I sit in the rocker on the front porch and smile to myself. The love of my life is due to appear in six months, four days, and nine hours. There’s much to be done before then. Much to learn.

My journey begins now.


Sarah Aisling hails from New Jersey and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and awesomely precocious daughter. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SarahAislingAuthor


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

J. M. Blackman Week 5: We Met in a Bookstore Pt. 2

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: We Met in a Bookstore Pt. 2

He crashed into me and I drowned.

When I surfaced, lungs full of love, sputtering devotion, his hand was waiting, outstretched. What could I do but take it?

The day we met I refused to give him my number, though I did give him my name. He found my blog. And my email address. He courted me. My reply was always simple: "And how does your wife feel about that?" He insisted they were separated. The insistence came with flowers. Roses, always roses. White--as if there was innocence to our acts. But he was persistent. He insisted so much that I began to believe it. And once I believed it, my fate was sealed. He knew this, of course and stuck my sealed fate in a drawer in his apartment. A locked drawer. I desperately wanted my destiny back, so I saw him more. I became hungry to own it again. I starved. But he fed me only bits of him.

I became addicted.

Until his wife called me and I found out they weren't as separated as he'd said. I should have apologized. But she didn't own him. And I had already fallen in love. That blindness chained me to him and when I hung on the precipice, anticipating a steep fall and a messy landing, he joined me on the ledge.

They filed for divorce. It was too good to be true and somehow, trust had wiggled out of my heart. It took me over a year to find it again, but he helped me: stooped to look beneath the bed, parted clothes in the closet until it was revealed.

We'd made a mistake. We'd broken a heart. But we'd found each other. In a book store.


J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher, author rep'd by Gina Panettieri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 5: Secrets

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2

Title: Secrets

“Momma says we don’t go in there anymore.” Rebecca twirled her pigtail around her pudgy finger and popped her gum. “She said it was a bad place.”

“Well, that’s just dumb.” Grace rolled her eyes. “Places can’t be bad. Only people can.”

“That’s definitely not what Momma said.”

“Look,” Grace said, pointing at the door. “It looks so old and full of secrets. Let’s just take a look, okay?”

“She didn’t say anything about looking.” Rebecca didn’t look as sure of herself. She looked more curious than anything.

The girls inched closer to the door. Grace placed her palm against the center of the wood panel, but yanked it back with a hiss.


She gave her sister a toothy grin and shook her head. “You’re so easy. I was playing with you.”

Rebecca punched Grace in the shoulder and called her a rude name. “I swallowed my gum I was so scared!”

Grace chuckled again. She pointed at the keyhole and both girls grew silent. They pushed each other back and forth as they tried to decide who would look first. Rebecca, being the largest, won out and she placed her small, round face against the old door and peered within.

Her back grew stiff and straight as she stared silently. Grace tapped at her shoulder, trying to get her sister out of the way, but it had no effect on Rebecca. She continued to peer through the hole, wordlessly.

“Come on, you big brat! Move!”

Rebecca’s shoulders began to quiver and her hands slapped violently against the wood on either side of her face.

“Stop it,” Grace said, pushing at Rebecca’s shoulder. “It’s not funny. Just let me see.”

Her voice gave way as the shudders moved down her sister’s back, undulating through her body. Still, her face remained plastered at the keyhole.

“Sissy?” she asked.

With a shrill cry, Rebecca stood up. She turned slowly toward her sister and Grace shrank backwards in fear. Rebecca looked the same, but there was something vacant in her eyes. Something was missing. Instead of looking into Grace’s eyes, Rebecca looked out into the distance, her brown eyes wide and dilated.

“Becca? What’s wrong?”

Rebecca’s eyes flicked over to Grace’s face and something flashed within their depths. Grace shrank back another two steps.

“Nothing, Grace,” she replied in a voice not her own. “Nothing at all.”

Rebecca took a step forward and Grace whimpered.

“There’s no such thing as a bad place, right, Grace?”

“Only people,” she whispered.


Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jeffrey Hollar Week 4: Brushstrokes And Brontes

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Jeffrey Hollar’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Brushstrokes And Brontes

Anton set his bag down in the dimly-lit hallway and fumbled for his keys. The flight had been interminably long and the complimentary drinks all too easily obtained. He knew he shouldn’t have indulged himself so heavily, but he was on the cusp of achieving what he had dreamt of for years and so a bit of liquid celebration had seemed called for. He only hoped Sheila would be more inclined to focus on his news than on his inebriation. She could be funny that way.

Finally focusing his attention on the pesky keyhole, he let himself into her apartment. Closing the door behind him, he thought something was odd but shrugged it off as a combination of fatigue and airline scotch. But walking down the short hallway to the apartment proper, he knew something was, most definitely, wrong. The small watercolor of Battery Park he’d given her for her birthday was missing from its spot on the wall. He frowned, realizing the crystal candle sconces that had been her mother’s were absent from the hallway as well. Had she been robbed? If so, then what strange things to take.

Emerging into the main living area of the apartment, his jaw dropped as did his travel bag. The place had been stripped down to the floorboards. Other than some discarded cardboard holders from packing tape, some loose newspaper and an errant box, every single item in the apartment was gone. My God, he thought to himself, she did it…she really, really honest-to-fuck did it!

As apartments went on the lower East Side, hers was not an especially large one, but it still took him a few minutes of going room to room to confirm, indeed, all of her things were gone. The last room he came to was the spare bedroom she’d dubbed his “gallery away from home”. She’d been at him for the last two years to just break down and move in with her but he’d always balked. He kept a drafty old loft down by the Hudson where he’d lived since his college days. It wasn’t a comfortable or a lavish place but it suited his needs. It had a wonderful view for when he felt the need to paint cityscapes and, more importantly, it offered solitude and a pleasing lack of distractions. Other than a small bookshelf stereo he had none of the electronic doodads that robbed one’s focus. He could lose himself in his scotch and his work and he could simply…create. It was a tribute to solitude he was unwilling to abandon.

Standing before the door, he found himself reluctant to open it. He’d had some canvases and some finished works there, nothing irreplaceable and hardly masterpieces, but he could not bear the thought she might have either discarded or destroyed them. He believed he understood her well enough to hope she would not sink to that. Steeling his resolve, he finally turned the knob and pushed the door open.

He looked into the room and saw what almost seemed to be a staged tableau entirely for his benefit. In the far corner his battered easel stood. Stacked about it and on it were a half dozen of his paintings and an assortment of blank canvases. A small side table held a neat arrangement of brushes, a palette knife, tubes and jars of paints and various other supplies. His eyes were drawn back to the easel where he noticed a squat bottle. It was scotch…his appraising eyes noting it was the good stuff, expensive enough he seldom indulged himself with it.

On the opposite side of the room were a single wooden chair and the companion pair of the two side tables. On this table, Anton saw a book he immediately recognized. It was the first-edition collection of the works of the Bronte’s he’d given Sheila that Christmas. He had searched all over the city for it and spent more than he was comfortable with on it but he knew how much it would mean to her. It did not, apparently, mean enough to be taken along. Atop the book was a small crème-colored envelope. Beside these items was a Wexford tumbler. Ah Sheila, she knew him too well.

Retrieving the bottle of scotch, he poured a generous amount into the tumbler and knocked it back. Refilling it with a more modest quantity, he opened the envelope and removed the folded sheets from within. He steadied his hands with another drink before beginning to read.

My Dearest,
In the five years we have been together, I have always known your three greatest passions were your art, your scotch and me. I had always hoped to, in time, earn a position higher than third of those passions but I know now that is never destined to be. I have always admired your single-minded determination to garner the acclaim you feel you so rightly deserve for your work. I do not mean to say such acclaim would be either undeserved or unearned.

What I cannot live with is your determination to have that acclaim at the cost of all else. I have long known how ardent you were to return to Paris and all of its attendant opportunities for you. I sat listening to you regale me on many a night of its wonders when all I truly wanted, at that moment, was to be held by you, to melt in to you, to become one with you in the way you are one with your art. It has taken me some time, far more than it should have, to see beyond that dream.

You told me of the offer you’d received from Jean Pierre. You told me of the new gallery, the lodgings, and the stipend; of the unfettered opportunity to not only create but to have a ready showcase for your works in the heart of the Paris Artists’ Enclave. You told me of all of these things with such fervor in your voice. Yes, my love, you told me and I listened. Sadly, it seems you were not listening when, at length, you grew tired of speaking and I had my turn.

I told you my career, my work, my life were here and not in Paris. I begged you to stay with me, to make a life here we both could share. I admit I knew such was unfair and so I begged you to give me time to work things out so I could still retain some of what was me when we flew away to your new world. I begged you for just three months to give me time to completely uproot all I had and all I knew to follow you and your dreams. Did you listen, my love? I think not.

I warned you if you flew away to begin making the arrangements I would not, could not be here when you returned. I warned you this was a path that, once taken, would not be one you could ever come back from. I warned you taking that flight would be dooming what we had to fail and the burden of blame would fall squarely on you for all of the rest of our lives. I warned you, Anton. Did you listen? I think not.

I leave you this note in the hope that, as years go by, you are drawn to read it again and again and perhaps, eventually, come to realize what you sacrificed in your quest for fame. I leave you the book, though I did love it, with a bookmark placed upon a particular page of Wuthering Heights. I pray the future be kind to you and you never become the sad, pathetic Heathcliff forever hearing the voice of his Cathy from the windswept moors. I pray you shall someday come to understand the full meaning of the passage: ‘I have not broken your heart – you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.’ That is most surely and most unfortunately the only truth left to us. Be well, Anton. Go forth and make your mark upon this world and I shall do as I must for that to be possible.

He sat for a very long time staring at the letter. He continued drinking the fine scotch, staring at but not really reading the book. At length, the scotch was nearly gone and he’d conceived and discarded a dozen plans to win her back. He reached into his pocket, retrieved his phone and typed a simple three word text: I miss you. He did not hit send but neither did he erase it…at first.

Tossing back the last of the bottle though, he did take the phone and cleared the screen with a swipe of his thumb. He got up from the chair and walked out of the room. His paintings, his easel, even the note and the book were all left behind. He left the door to the apartment open, not caring in the least. The things within, like its former occupant, were no longer a part of his world and thus of no concern. Riding the elevator down, he glanced at his watch; wondering how difficult it might be to get a taxi at this hour. He needed to get back to his loft and catch a bit of sleep before he began packing for the trip back to Paris.


Jeffrey Hollar is half Klingon, half Ferengi, visiting Earth in an attempt to negotiate a merger. He is currently working on a novella and a collection of zombie stories with his wife, Lisa McCourt Hollar. Jeff writes almost daily for his blog, The Latinum Vault, found at http://www.jeffreyhollar.com.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cara Michaels Week 4: Entwined

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1

Title: Entwined

Wrap around me love, and I will want no more
For ‘tis in your arms my faith is reborn
My heart beats only for your touch
Pounding, straining, reaching
I believe the heavens themselves within my grasp
Then fall from the sky, cradled in your arms

Let me tumble to Earth, a fallen star captured
The heat of your breath stroking my skin
Finding pleasure in coarse threads
The silken slide of cotton and flesh
A base divinity that sends us soaring ever higher
To realms even gods cannot touch

Think not what comes next, but feel only now
The bliss of joining made bittersweet
We will part and we know it
But the night is still young
Wrap around me love, ever again
And entwined, I will want no more


Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.


Friday, July 20, 2012

M L Gammella Week 4: Dream House

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Dream House

They had finally done it. After saving every extra penny and dollar they could, they finally bought their dream house. It was an older home, one of the oldest on the block, with narrow stairs, built in cabinets, and shelves that weren’t found in modern homes anymore. It was one of the many things that drew them to the house.

Emily especially loved the pocket doors that separated the formal dinning room from the living room and foyer. Sure, they didn’t really need a formal dinning room but the house had such charm, she couldn’t say no. Craig felt the same. He loved the large backyard and imagined all the barbecues they could have and their future kids running around playing with the family dog.

So it was a no-brainer for them when they put an offer down. They heard the stories about the house, about things that had happened years before, but they didn’t put any weight on them. They even laughed over it -- the irony that a ghost that allegedly haunted the house was named Emilia. People had lived happily in the house since then without incident. The stories were just that, stories ... the kind of tales told to kids at Halloween to scare them.

The first week they were in the house, they eagerly kept an eye out for anything supernatural, curious to see if their ghost would ever materialize. It became a game for the happy couple, with every bump or odd noise that they heard, they giggled and mouthed ‘Emilia.’ When nothing appeared, they shrugged their shoulders and went on with their life.


A few months after they moved in, they were in their favorite spot of the house, the narrow stairwell connecting the first floor and the second floor. The stairway proved to be quite a pain when moving furniture, but it was a perfect spot for them to unwind and relax with a cup of tea.

Emily sat with her legs tucked over top Craig’s lap and her hair was piled loosely on her head. Craig looked tired, the day had been long and frustrating, plus he hadn’t slept well. The warmth from the teacups was soothing for both of them.

“So what’s the plan?”

Craig signed and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m not sure. John said that the implementation needs to be completely revamped and so now we need redo what took us six months to create in a matter of weeks.”

“Oh jeez, that sounds horrible.”

“It’s a part of the job. Stuff like this happens; it’s not desireable but it happens. We’ll get through it one way or another.”

Emily sipped her tea cup, swirling the remaining contents gently around. “That’s a good way to look at it. Certainly more productive than what Roger tends to do.”

Craig chucked as he drank the last of his tea. “Yeah, he’d rather complain about the problem to everyone and anyone who will listen instead of just doing something about it. That’s why he’s still just a tech and hasn’t been promoted.”

Emily laughed as she started to unwind herself from Craig. They both jumped when a loud crack reverberated from somewhere on the second floor.

“Jesus, what the hell was that?” she asked, clutching her teacup tightly.

“I’m sure it was just the wind or maybe Emilia blowing a door shut. I think the upstairs windows were open,” Craig said lightly, putting the incident behind him.

Emily smiled and continued downstairs to the kitchen to clean up before bed. While she was washing their teacups, she heard the shower start. An idea popped in her head, making her blush and finish up as quickly as possible.

With a spring in her step, Emily hurried up the steps, pulling her sweater over her head. She had just tossed it to the side when she thought she heard someone, someone other than her husband.

“Hello? Craig?”

No one answered her although she could hear Craig singing badly in the shower. Feeling uneasy and her amorous mood broken, she continued up the steps and grabbed her sweater from the floor.

When she walked into their bedroom, she noticed that the windows were closed. Emily shrugged and put her clothes in the hamper and changed for bed. She had just slipped her robe on when the doorknob from the bathroom jiggled several times.

“Em, are you in the bedroom?” Craig’s voice called out from the other side of the door.

“Yes, Craig. What is it?” she called over her shoulder, running a bristle brush through her hair.

“The door isn’t opening. Is it locked on your end?”

“No, I don’t think so, but let me check.”

Emily put her brush down and walked to the bathroom door. As she reached out to try the knob, the bedroom curtains billowed out fiercely, yet the window was closed.

“What the ...”

She stepped back from the door as the curtains continued to whip around the room. Craig continued to try to open the door but it was not working.

“Emily, is it locked? Can you open it from your side?”

She turned to answer him and didn’t see what was approaching her until it was too late.

A pale apparition appeared before her, the edges of the phantom woman’s dress swirling around as the curtains danced. The woman did not look happy.

“Wh-who are you?” Emily whispered as she took a step away from the approaching specter. “Are you Emilia?”

The ghost did not respond. Her face twisted into a snarl and the wind continued to build, blowing small items off of Emily’s dresser. Emily was too frozen in fear to do anything but watch the perfume bottles and eye shadow compacts fall to the floor and shatter. She couldn’t believe this was happening.

Emily’s heart was pounding so hard, she was afraid she might have a heart attack. She didn’t know if she should run or fight, or if she could even fight a ghost. Then there was Craig. Emily couldn’t run and abandon Craig to fend for himself.

Craig’s voice cut through the racket in the room as he tried the door again. The ghost’s eyes flicked over past Emily’s shoulder to the door behind her. Her expression melted from hate to longing. Emily’s blood ran cold.

“No! You stay away from him!” Emily hissed, drawing the ghost’s attention back to her.

The apparition’s face twisted in fury and the temperature in the room dropped about twenty degrees in a matter of seconds.

“Go! I don’t know why you are here, but go! Leave this place!’ Emily shouted, feeling emboldened by her success in distracting the female ghost from her husband.

The ghost smiled, her expression saccharine while her eyes glittered. She raised her hands and the curtains tore from their rods and began flying across the room. Emily ducked as one flew by her head. She stood, looking to confront the horror that was destroying her bedroom.

With a howl, the ghost flew straight at her. Emily screamed and covered her face before everything went dark.


“Wow, Emily, that door is certainly tricky. I’ll have to find our WD-40 and oil that before one of us gets stuck in there again,” Craig said as he walked out of the bathroom, scrubbing a towel across his wet head.

“I’m sure it’s in the garage.”

“You coming to bed, sweetheart?”

“Yes, dear, just finishing with my hair.” She looked in the mirror and fluffed her hair, so different than what she was used to dealing with.

“It looks great, it always does.”

“Thank you,” Emilia said, as she climbed into bed and ran her hands over Craig’s chest. This body would serve its purpose indeed. She couldn’t wait to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh again. It had been far too long.


M L Gammella lives in Ohio with her husband and their three pets. She is currently working on her first novel, a paranormal suspense based in Maine. Please follow her at @MLGammella and visit her website at Onward to the Written Word.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sydney Logan Week 4: The Woods Are Lovely

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Sydney Logan’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Woods Are Lovely

Leaves crunch and crackle beneath my feet as I walk along the trail. Everything is still green, but autumn is coming. I can feel it in the air.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep . . .

How many times did we read that poem? We’d been forced to memorize it in sophomore English, and you laughed at me because I just didn’t get it. Frost’s language was simple, you always said, but to me, it was poetry, and guys typically hate poetry.

My feet carry me to the clearing. Our clearing. Our tiny sanctuary in the woods where we’d hide whenever we needed time alone. Your dad was watchful--certain that I was, indeed, a typical guy. The kind that only wanted one thing from a pretty girl like you.

He’d been wrong.

That wasn’t all I’d wanted with you.

I’d loved you, and I was seventeen, so yeah . . . my hormones had ruled my emotions, but that didn’t mean I loved you any less. That didn’t mean I didn’t want you forever. That didn’t mean I didn’t want to put a ring on your finger.

I wanted so much more with you.

I stand in the clearing, and I wait.

You never keep me waiting long.

Some might call it nothing more than the sun shining through the trees. My therapist calls it a figment of my imagination.

But I know it’s you.

The light shimmers and swirls. I blink rapidly as you begin to take shape. And then you do.

You’re beautiful. While I’ve aged a hundred years since the day you died, you still look like the seventeen year old girl I fell in love with. Your blonde hair is still long and wavy, and your brown eyes still sparkle with love for me.

I step closer, wrapping you in my arms.

I shouldn’t feel you, but I do.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep,” you whisper.

I close my eyes, letting your warmth and light and love envelop me.

You’ve always kept your promise.

You’ve always come back to me.

“And miles to go before I sleep,” I reply.

Quotes taken from “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost


Sydney Logan lives in Tennessee with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat. Her debut novel, Lessons Learned, will be released in September. Please visit her website at www.sydneylogan.com.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kimberly Gould Week 4: Strength in Small Packages

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Strength in Small Packages

She is leaving me. Her tiny feet move quickly, almost running through the grass toward the children playing ahead. She doesn’t look back. She’s so excited about being free to play. I watch her go, knowing this is the first of many partings. Next will be pre-school, then kindergarten. I almost kept her at length even as a baby, tried using formula instead of breast milk so it wouldn’t hurt as badly when she left. It didn’t work. It’s such a small parting, just a few minutes, half an hour, but my heart breaks to watch her go. I feel like I’m trapped in my mind and heart, beating against the glass to get out.

My chest is tight and my heart in my throat when she stops and turns back. She does run, straight for me. She hugs my legs and smiles up at me.

“Love you, Mama. Play now.”

Choking back tears, I nod and she hurries off to make new friends. She keeps glancing back and, even when playing, stops to wave once in a while, just as my heart begins to move into my throat again.

So much strength in such a little person.


Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege and the upcoming Thickness of Blood. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including Kimmydonn.com


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Samantha Lee Week 4: Girl with the Red Umbrella

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Girl with the Red Umbrella

She was the girl dancing in the rain with the red umbrella. She was the girl dancing in the rain with the red umbrella tripping over the curb and falling in a puddle. She was the girl sprawled in a puddle with the red umbrella splashing like a toddler and laughing drunkenly at her own antics. Snorting, I leaned back deeper into the shadows of the alley’s mouth and shook my head derisively. For three weeks I had been watching her, following her when I could, but more often than not her bouncing about like a five year old on a sugar rush left me to track after her in more ways than one. And, hey, don’t give me that look; I know how that sounded but, no, I am not some crazy stalker. Incidentally, I’m not a private detective or guardian angel either, although I was keeping an eye on her, per my, shall we say, boss’ instructions.

Are you confused? I’ve confused you, haven’t I? Sigh. Okay, let me start from the beginning. My name is Darien Adams and I’m a werewolf. I feel like I should pause here for a chorus of “Hi, Darien,” so consider pause duly inserted. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a werewolf. Provided I don’t get myself killed, I’m going to live for freaking ever – heck, I’ve already got three centuries behind me. I’m better, stronger, faster with no need for technology, thank you very much. I can turn into a wolf which is, hands down, my favourite part of the package. Second best part? Unlike all my other wolfish brethren, I don’t need to be bound to a Pack or, more to the point, leashed to an Alpha. I am a free man, yes, sir. It’s one of the perks of being an Omega.

…You have no idea what an Omega is, do you? Excuse me a moment while I lament the sorry state of today’s education system. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll just skip the crash course on werewolf Packs and hit the highlights. There are thirteen Packs. Seven belong to the Winter Fae Court, six to the Summer, no I’m not explaining why. Each Pack has an Alpha who is connected to the Royal of their respective Court, but each Royal only has one Omega. In essence, I represent the Winter Queen of the Fae and the job comes with a lot of nifty perks. Like being able to host more than one wolf soul and being answerable to my Queen alone, so no Alphas for me.

As an extra bonus, I had the added bonus of serving a pretty swell Queen. Granted she’s outcast from her Court at the moment and just a little too far on the wrong side of insane, but that’s just circumstance. You can’t help circumstance. Blaze has all the characteristics you want in a Queen in spades and firm grasp on the fun concept; what more could you want in a boss?

Which brings us to my current situation, standing in the shadows of an alley watching as my Queen’s roommate, Rochelle Newberry, aka the girl dancing in the rain with the red umbrella, sat in a puddle and drunkenly splashed about. The “drunkenly” part would be the reason for my presence. Ro was Magic Born – a human from a bloodline whose latent Magical abilities had woken with the return of Magic. Her ability was psychometry; she touched inanimate objects and saw flashes of its past. Unfortunately, since she had no control, she got to enjoy the fun of being almost constantly bombarded by semi-comprehensible visions. Needless to say, she had decided to find escape in the tradition of rich girls everywhere; she drank hard, she was heavy into the party scene, she was big on serial one night stands, and occasionally she even indulged in popping and snorting. In other words, she was a train wreck just waiting to happen.

Small wonder Blaze was worried. She had asked me to keep an eye on Ro, make sure she stayed alive and out of as much trouble as possible. Unfortunately, train wrecks aren’t so easy to prevent as you might think. In the twenty-one days I’d been tailing Ro, Blaze had had to send her mate to collect Ro’s unconscious, danger prone ass nineteen times. It’s how this worked. Ro went out, Ro imploded, Ro got collected. In a perfect world, Ro would have gone to rehab months – if not years – ago but, as Blaze put it, free will was a pesky, pesky little bugger and intervention wouldn’t tell Ro anything she wasn’t already aware of.

Thus, Ro got followed and saved from herself whenever possible.

My cell suddenly sprang to life, emitting a series of high pitch beeps only my sensitive wolf ears could hear. I answered without bothering to check the ID; I already knew who it was. “She’s in a puddle, but still conscious. Make of it what you will.”

Blaze sighed, relieved. “Thank the gods. Listen, I think I have an idea. A better one than our current plan which, let’s face it, sucks.”

I snorted. “You think? I mean, hell, Blaze this girl needs a babysitter not a shadow.”

I could almost hear her wincing. “I know, I know, hence my new idea. I think I might…suggest…that she check out the Fox tomorrow night.”

“Oh, hell, no!” The Fox and the Hound was my bar, my pride and joy, my escape. No way was I turning it into a daycare centre.

“D, please. I know what I’m asking – you know I do – and if I had another choice…but I don’t and Ro…D, Reapers have started to lurk about and...and I’m starting to get scared. Please?”

One day, someone will come up with a way for men to resist tearful pleas and damsels in distress. This was not that day. Sigh.

Moments later, my phone tucked away, I watched as the girl with the red umbrella lurched to her feet and, miracle of miracles, managed to hail a cab. As I watched the car pull away, I sighed again. Tomorrow was going to be a very difficult day.


You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at calliopedomain.blogspot.ca


Monday, July 16, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 4: The Hunted

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 1

Title: The Hunted

The fading sun slanted through windows, crossing her back in a zebra pattern of light and dark. I watched her on the small screen, the surveillance camera I’d set up bringing me into the room with her. I felt uneasy, however. Shell was nothing if not thorough and smart. I watched her for signs that she’d found my camera.

She glanced nervously over her shoulder as a sound from outside her third story window startled her. I leaned forward, waiting. Shell’s lips parted as she listened. Her chest paused in mid-breath and my eyes darted down to the tips of her breasts: still just as perky as the last time I’d had her in my bed.

Shell’s shoulders rose and fell in a silent sigh and she turned back toward the wall. Her fingers grazed the brim of a baseball cap and she picked it up. From the drawer, she pulled a wedge of sandpaper and began roughing up the edges. She must have gotten a new assignment and had begun creating her disguise.

Her head bent over her lap in concentration, elongating the lean line of her back as she worked on the cap and I licked my lips in spite of myself. I wiped my hand across my face to clear my head; it wouldn’t do to remember how attached I once was to Shell. Not now that I had to kill her.

When I looked back up, Shell’s position on the bed had changed. She’d turned around and was now facing my camera. In her hand, she held her signature pink Cobra Derringer steady in front of her, pointed directly at my camera. Her eyes were locked on mine, or so it seemed through the TV screen. I blinked and she winked, her lips parted in a half smile.

“Bang,” she mouthed to the camera.

In seconds, I’d packed up the sparse contents of my surveillance operation into a duffel bag and fled the room I’d rented. Shell was on the hunt.


Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja. #DailyPicspiration