Sunday, September 30, 2012

Jeffrey Hollar Week 14: Scrutineers

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Jeffrey Hollar’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Scrutineers

Gwyneth shivered as an errant breeze blew a light dusting of snowflakes through the woods. Perhaps, she should have dressed more warmly but her wardrobe had been a distant concern to her as she’d left the city that morning. She wasn’t sure it had been wise to come here at all. Whomever she would be meeting here, presumably, had information concerning what had happened to Jack.

Whether the police chose to believe it or not, she knew, with a certainty she could never explain, that his death had not been the unfortunate result of a botched mugging. No mugger would have had any reason whatsoever to expend the time and energy to beat a man to death so savagely that the positive identification of his body had only been possible by means of dental records and fingerprints.

While the detectives had, initially, been very solicitous and understanding, their entire demeanor had changed to something very different with astonishing speed. Within days, they were “too busy to continue returning her calls” and while they assured her Jack’s case was being pursued with “all due diligence and vigor” she could tell when she was being given a brush-off. If the circumstances of Jack’s fate were to ever come to light, it would certainly not be as a result of the efforts of the NYPD.

On a whim, she’d gone to his job and spoken to his editor, Sol Greene. She had no reason to think he’d been involved in anything at the paper that could have led to something like this but she had to be sure, didn’t she? “Gwynnie”, Sol always called her that, “I know Jack fancied himself the next Woodward or Bernstein or some such but I’m afraid I got nothin’ to tell you. I had him workin’ the metro beat over at city hall…doin’ some pieces on the aldermen elections but that’s about it. Kid, you know as well as I do this is a lousy place to live sometimes. You know some poor schmuck is gettin’ knifed or shot or somethin’ every hour of every day. It’s part of the charm of life in the Big Apple. I can make some calls, if you want, but I got a feelin’ this is nothin’ more than just a raw deal and that’s it. Go home. Get some rest. Try to put this behind you and, for God’s sake, move some place bright and sunny and far, far away from this shithole city once and for all. Two years to Boca is my credo these days.”

She had to give it to Sol for his common sense, gritty outlook on things. Maybe he was right. There wasn’t anything keeping her here and her college friends were all on the other coast. Maybe…just maybe…it was time to get out, to get away. Could she run far enough away or fast enough to leave the memories of Jack and their two years together behind? She supposed there was really only one way to find out. By the time the taxi had dropped her at her building, her mind was made up…maybe. She would grab something to eat, get a hot shower and in the morning she’d begin making plans to move on with her life. Then, she’d found the note on the coffee table.

It sat there as if it had always been there…as if there were no more proper place for it to be than on the coffee table of her apartment accessible only through the single door and its three sturdy locks. Yet, there it sat in its simple, unassuming tan envelope waiting for her to arrive home. It remained there while she and her NY Mets commemorative baseball bat did a slow circuit of her apartment in search of the source of the note. She found no one and nothing untoward at all. What the hell?

Stowing the bat back in the umbrella stand, she plopped down on the couch and stared at the envelope for what seemed like an eternity. Was she expecting it to suddenly burst into flames or to jump up and dance across the table like Michigan J. Frog in his heyday? It was an envelope. Within it was? Obviously, she chided herself; it’s not going to read itself.

The envelope was heavy, high-quality stationery stock that was rare to find anymore. Within was a single piece of crème-colored bond paper, folded with a single, meticulous crease so sharp she imagined she might cut herself on it. She unfolded it slowly; unsure of what it might be and less sure she wanted to know. It had been written in a strong flowing script with a heavy pen that had made a firm imprint on the paper. She paused to reflect on how beautiful it was, so old-world and artistic. Shaking her head she focused on the contents.

In life there is much mystery and confusion and uncertainty. It is in the nature of man to seek answers to matters which puzzle them and this is, in general, a thing to be admired. There are, most unfortunately, some mysteries which it is best remain so, some confusion which must be accepted and dismissed and a certain degree of uncertainty which will always remain. If you would seek answers to matters which have, most recently, come to puzzle you then come tomorrow at nine of the morning to the Riverside Park gazebo. There mysteries may be discussed, confusion assuaged and some uncertainty dispelled. For all to be best resolved, it would be most unwise for you to bring anyone else with you.

There was no signature on the note only a curious stylized symbol of a dark keyhole surrounded by a golden border.

So Gwyneth stood in clear view of the gazebo…waiting. She still the urge to check her watch, yet again, and instead tugged at a handful of her long, blond hair. It was a nervous habit she’d had since she was a girl and she smiled at the thought of how Jack used to always ride her about it. He’d told her, if not once a thousand times, that sooner or later she’d snatch herself bald if she kept at it. As if on cue, a voice spoke from behind her.

“Calmness, Miss Sinclaire, calmness. There is already so much unrest and disorder in the world without one inflicting more upon oneself. And your hair is far too fragile to bear the burden of dispelling such in any event.” Gwyneth whipped about to behold a man standing scarcely two feet behind her. She’d heard no sound of his approach and his black boots showed no signs of even the tiniest snowflake having touched their polished black luster. He was, she noted, a most unusual looking man.

Of medium height, he radiated an aura of contained strength and solidity that was, at once, reassuring and at the same time mildly intimidating. He was bald as an egg without so much as eyebrows. His skin was a burnished golden color and offered no suggestion of any ethnic or racial origin. While she, at first, took him to be quite young she decided, instead, that his smooth, unblemished flesh instead spoke more of an ageless quality than of youth. His eyes were a particularly intense shade of jade green and looking into them she sensed a depth of experience, a worldliness that belied any impression that he had ever been young.

Dressed in a simple but well-tailored dark suit and overcoat he defied categorization or description beyond that. He was, quite obviously, both solid and real and yet she found it very difficult to fixate on him, as if there were an ephemeral, otherworldly aspect to him.

“I apologize if I startled you. I find myself, at once, quite pleased but also unaccountably distressed you chose to come. I find my actions may have been a bit…precipitous and it would have been best for us both had you simply proceeded with your plans to put recent events behind you and relocate to California.” Before Gwyneth could voice her confusion he continued.

“We are, perhaps, placing ourselves at significant risk by meeting thusly but I find myself unable to pursue other…endeavors until certain matters have been laid to rest. Walk with me, please. I find it…disconcerting…to be so exposed at this juncture and would suggest a but lower profile venue for our discussion.” He extended a hand, beckoning her along as he turned, without further ado and walked to the tenuous shelter of the gazebo. Silent, Gwyneth found herself drawn along.

She stood facing him as he removed his overcoat, placing it delicately on a bench. He removed his suit coat as well and rolled back one shirt sleeve. She gasped, involuntarily, as she saw the symbol that had appeared at the end of the note imprinted upon the man’s forearm. The edges of the tattoo had a red, inflamed appearance as if it were newly-inked.

“I know you have seen this symbol before in my note but I sense no indication it holds any significance to you other than that. Such does not surprise me. It is the symbol of an order at once far older than you could possibly imagine and yet quite new and most unknown to you. Is not the inherent dichotomy of such a thing…fascinating?”

She, at last, found her voice, “Look, I don’t know who you are or what that symbol means or what this has to do with Jack but you better start making sense pretty quickly or I am so out of here. How did you get in to my –“

He held a finger to his lips and his expression hardened, “Shush. Silence is called for now, Miss Sinclaire. Questions, when asked, should serve to elicit needful information and required facts and not, merely, be voiced for the sake of speaking. I will explain to you what I wish, when I wish and in the manner I deem most expedient. This is a statement of fact which can not be disputed and will not be repeated.”

“This symbol is the hallmark of a society known as the Scrutineers. We reside in the domain of shadow and silence, of secrecy and subterfuge. Our gaze is at once everywhere and anywhere it is deemed of importance for it to be. We see, we chronicle and we safeguard. It is not for you or for others not of our order to know our purpose, our objectives or our motives. Your…Jack did not take my assertions of this as fully to heart as I might have wished and for that he paid a most terrible price, yes?”

“And…so…you nutjob secrecy whackos KILLED him? What the freak kinda sick game are you people up to that you KILLED Jack to cover it up. I don’t care how freaky-deaky super scary you pricks think you are I’ll see every last one of you wind up with a needle in your fucking arm for this! I can not fucking believe this! You…bastard!!” She rushed at him with every intention of clawing out his smoldering jade-green eyes. Instead, she found herself sitting on the bench, groggy and confused.

“Most regrettable you should choose to throw reason to the wind and make foolish assumptions. It is even more regrettable that you forced me to…dissuade you from your intent to wreak havoc upon myself. I did not, in any wise, say my brothers or I caused any harm to Jack. It is true his unwise curiosity regarding us was a key factor in his undoing but we did not harm him. That is also a statement of fact which should not be disputed but I will warrant you have no means to be sure of that and make allowance.”

“We have been here far too long. You were, sadly, unconscious for far longer than was anticipated. I know of a place we can continue to speak with less risk of discovery from…others. We will leave your vehicle here as it is far too well known to too many interested parties to be safe. Come, we must leave now if we are to prevail. Speed, Miss Sinclaire, speed is most assuredly called for.”

Without another word, he donned his garments and walked away from the gazebo at a brisk, determined pace. Stifling the urge to scream in frustration, Gwyneth followed.


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


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cara Michaels Week 14: Miss Me, -Kait, Part Nine

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1

Title: Miss Me, -Kait

Part Nine: Sacrifices

Part Nine: Sacrifices

If I had a bucket list somewhere in the back of my mind, said list did not include riding in a makeshift harness down a well. Wells and buckets. Ha. I might laugh for real about it when Murray got me the hell back out. Or have a drink or three. Or swear never to answer the door when the police came calling again.

I shivered. Cold, fear, some combo of the two. Didn’t matter as I watched the circle of light above me get a little smaller as Murray lowered me down.

“You see the bottom yet, Riley?”

“You want me to look down?” I yelled. “Don’t they always tell you not to look down?”

“Ye-es.” I heard the patience he added in the extra syllable. “But we know Kait isn’t up here, remember?”

I flipped him the bird, bumping the wall in the process.

“Holy fuck.” I snapped my arm against my body, jolting myself in the other direction. By the time I stopped swaying back and forth against the walls, I had my hands tight around the rope above me, my head buried against my arms, and I’d gotten three-fourths of the way through the only prayer I knew.

“And lead us not into temptation—”

“Riley?” Murray’s voice broke through my panic. “Tell me what’s going on, babe. I can’t see you anymore.”

“Not helping, Murray,” I said. I kept an image of the bench I’d spied about twenty feet from the well in my mind. When I got topside, I’d sit right there and hyperventilate properly.

“I’ve got you,” he said. “Don’t worry. Just turn on the flashlight, find Kait, and I’ll get you out, okay?”

“Yeah.” I squeezed my eyes tight, breathing deep through my nose. Ugh, the water didn’t smell too fresh. Maybe the well had been locked up for more than just safety.

The beam from the flashlight reflected back in shimmery waves about fifteen feet below me, the first positive sign in this journey.

“Almost there, Murray.” I ran the beam around the bottom, spotting—oh, God. “Hurry, Adam. Hurry!” I squirmed in the harness, trying to get down faster. “C’mon, c’mon.”

My feet touched down and I tore at the rope.

“She’s here!” I screamed.

“Is she alive?”

The shouted question froze me in place, my eyes locked on Kait’s painfully still form just inches from my feet. Six inches of water or so soaked through my shoes and blue jeans. Kait slumped sideways, face partially submerged.

I’d never dealt with the potentially dead. This…not knowing what I would find when I touched her…I didn’t like this at all.

I crouched down, flashlight gripped between my knees, hands shaking as I reached out and dragged her upright. Taller and heavier than me, I could barely move her. With one hand, I steadied her. Her skin held the memory of warmth, but I could see the cool blue of death in her lips, beneath her eyes.

“It doesn’t have to be death, Riley,” I told myself. “Get a grip. This water is fucking cold, so maybe she’s just fucking cold, too.”

The shakes gripped my whole body now, and it hurt to breath. I forced my fingers to her throat, seeking her pulse.

“Please, please, please.” I willed her to be alive. “Give me a beat, Kait, please.”


“Talk to me, babe,” Murray said.

“I—I can’t find a pulse.”

Murray started swearing, too fast for me to keep up. I ignored him. Tears stung my eyes, but I stopped trembling. Calm, numb maybe, I faced the truth I’d known all along.

The living never talked to me.

I’d never told anyone as much. Part of me needed the hope, and Kait had been so urgent. So vital. I touched a hand to her cheek.

“I’m going to see you home, Kait,” I whispered.

Dead or alive, Kait would leave this hole. I propped her so she wouldn’t fall over and freed myself from the harness, securing her in my place.

“Murray,” I called, backing clear, the flashlight clutched in my hands. “Pull her up.”

Slow and steady, Kait rose up the shaft. Above me, I could see just a scrap of darkening sky. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Kait nudged the side of the well and jarring something loose from her hand. It plunked into the water beside me. Turning the light down, I found a plastic bag bobbing on the surface. I snatched it up, staring at the tiny purple drive sheltered inside.


She’d had it with her all along.

“Murray!” I tried to spot him. “Can you hear me? I’ve got it!”

He didn’t answer. Probably couldn’t hear me over the effort to haul Kait out. I stuffed the bag in my hip pocket. The evidence didn’t make up for Kait’s death, but damn if I didn’t feel better knowing we’d get Carson.

“We’ve got him, Kait,” I said. “All thanks to you.”

Murray got Kait clear of the well and two minutes later, the rope dropped down again. I hurriedly fastened it in place, giving a tug when I finished.

Ten feet up, a huge boom reverberated around me. I slammed into the water almost before I recognized the sound. Not thunder. No, no, no. Gun shot.

Rolling to my back, I tried to catch my breath. Warm liquid stung my eyes. I swiped it away, finding a gash on my forehead. I must have hit the wall. Pain rioted through me, in some places more than others. I tried to call out, but Adam’s name sounded as little more than a gasp.

“You see anyone down there?” an unfamiliar voice yelled.

“Doesn’t matter,” another said. “They’re not going anywhere without help from up here and we’ve just removed that possibility. Load the bodies and let’s go.”


“Adam?” My voice didn’t carry beyond the hand I clamped over my mouth.

“Boss isn’t going to be happy about a dead cop,” the first man said.

Dead? Oh God, no.

I could just make out their heads peering down as I quietly climbed to my feet, favoring my left ankle. I wanted to scream, wanted to plead with them to pull me up. But then what? Join Kait and Adam in the afterlife?

“Just another sacrifice along the road to the White House,” the second said. “Ambition is a terrible burden.”

“Well, if he ever makes it there, he’s going to pave the way with bodies.”

“Best cut the rope,” said the second. “And get rid of the gun.”

I barely spotted the speck of black hurtling my way. I backed hard against the wall, covering my head. Murky water splashed all over me, first the gun, then the rope. I fished a useless 9mm out and stared up.

Kait and Adam both dead, me at the bottom of a well, bruised, broken, and cut with the evidence, a bunch of rope, and a gun to keep me company as I died.


Thunder, much closer now, rumbled. I blinked away the first drops of rain from my eyes and wondered what the hell happened next.


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


Friday, September 28, 2012

M L Gammella Week 14: Another When Part 1

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Another When Part 1

The book teased and cajoled me with the mystery of its contents. The modest brown cover mocked me with its seemingly innocent contents. What harm was there in a book? In the knowledge it could bring? Didn't that old PSA tout "The more you know, the more you grow?"

I reached out and caressed the soft, leather cover. The edges were a little worn but the gold foil lettering was still glossy. I wondered how many others had touched the cover of the book with such reverence.

"The Philosophy of Time Travel. What could you possibly tell me that could give me any guidance on what I'm about to do?"

The book didn't answer, not that I expected to get one.

There wasn't anything in the book that could dissuade me from what I planned to do. No mere words could stop the ache in my heart, the emptiness of my soul without her. The only thing that could stop my long suffering was her, to see her, to touch her, to talk to her. It was all her. It was always about her.

“I miss you,” I whispered to the photo that rested on my worn desk.

Gently, I slipped it out of the frame and held it between my papery fingers. The picture of Margaret had started to fade with age. It could fade to nothing and I would still remember what she looked like. The last image of her would remain burned into my retinas and into my mind until my last breath.

I was there when the photo was taken. I was the one behind the lens. We were in the field behind her house, talking about our future. Her shirt shone like fire in the setting sunlight with strands of her soft blonde hair stirring gently in the wind. Every so often, a bit of wild, winter wheat would brush her cheek, making her giggle.

I loved her giggle. I loved her. I love her still.

I miss her so much.

My hands shook, the picture trembling so much it looked like her hair was blowing in the wind once again. I put the picture back in its frame before I ruined it.

I took another moment to examine what my life had become, the old, worn desk, the dimly lit room, various papers and books stacked about. My life lacked the warmth it once had. It died when she did.

But, in another time, she wasn’t truly dead, was she? She lives on, in another place, in another when … and I will find her.


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, September 27, 2012

Sydney Logan Week 14: First Impressions

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Sydney Logan’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: First Impressions

The teacher displayed the picture for the class to see.

“What’s that?” Blake, an inquisitive blonde, asked the teacher.

“What do you think it is?”

“A road?”

The teacher nodded. “Where does the road lead?”

The students narrowed their eyes as they appraised the black and white photograph.

“We can’t tell,” Gaby, a student sitting in the front row, replied. “It’s all foggy and gloomy.”

“And the fences are weird,” Jake noted.

Creative writing was a challenge to teach, especially in high school.

How can you teach creativity?

The teacher asked some leading questions to encourage them to think. Does the picture seem old or modern? Does it appear to be taken in a particular area of the country? Does the picture make you feel happy? Sad?

“Sad,” Gaby muttered. “Definitely sad.”

“Why?” the teacher asked.

“Because it’s creepy.”

“Because it’s in black and white?”

The class nodded.

“Probably leads to a haunted house . . .” Blake said.

“Where a family of serial killers live,” Gaby concluded.

“Interesting.” The teacher walked around her desk and pointed toward the picture. “What if I told you this road leads to a beautiful southern plantation in Georgia? What if I told you at the end of the road lives a couple who have been married for more than fifty years? They have four children and six grandchildren and are blissfully happy.”

“I wouldn’t believe you,” Gaby said. “People who live at the end of that road couldn’t be happy.”

The teacher smiled.

“Your opinion . . . your perception . . . is influenced by the black and white photograph,” she explained. “I can confirm the story about the plantation and happy couple, because the happy couple is my grandparents. This picture was taken in the winter, so naturally, the trees would be bare. Georgia doesn’t get much snow, but you’ll notice the dusting on the road as it leads toward the house.”

The class murmured their fascination.

“People say first impressions are everything, and in many cases, that’s true. But often, we don’t take the time to look beyond that first glimpse. We judge people by their clothes. We judge books by their covers. We judge people who live at the end of dirt roads. Maybe if we took the time to look a little deeper, we’d learn more and be a little less judgmental. Maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to assume . . . or to think the worst.”

The teacher displayed another picture – the same picture, but in color. The trees were in full bloom and the lush green field was visible along each side of the fence.

“Wow,” Gaby breathed softly. “It really is pretty.”

The teacher nodded at the girl.

“Yes, it really is.”


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


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kimberly Gould Week 14: The Volunteer

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: The Volunteer

“I think this is a terrible idea.”

Helen ignored her agent. She watched the makeup artist instead, holding perfectly still.

Finally she said, “I don’t really care what you think. I have this afternoon off, and I’m doing what I like with it.” She would do this photo shoot, and then she was going to the hospital. She wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“Fine,” Gina said with a loud sigh, turning and taking her place behind the photographer.

The shoot wasn’t supposed to take long, and three hours later, Helen sat across from Mrs. Gimmel, pouring tea. “Tell me more about your granddaughter. She sounds remarkable.”

Mrs. Gimmel was proud to go on and Helen tried not to think about her own grandmother, in a room just like this one, too far away for her to visit. She could only pray someone as kind as her lived in Tucson.


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


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Samantha Lee Week 14: A Matter of Time

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: A Matter of Time

Vivian frowned, her fingers tracing along my jaw line. “What's the matter, Tru?”

My demon roared, its anguish evident but unshared. The demon had made the mistake of growing attached. I had remained more aloof, more distant; I felt nothing, nothing but rage. “You left,” I told her icily, taking a step back, away from her reach.

“Are you very angry with me?” she asked. She cocked her head to one side like a curious puppy, her frown deepening. “I had to leave, at least for a little while, to take care of some things – a whole slew of the kind of things you have to do on your own - but...but I'm back now. Well, sort of. I can't get back into the compound, obviously, but I'm...I'm nearby. Are...are you very angry with me?”

“Angry? Why would I be angry? You only snuck out like a shadow against the light while I slept with only two words scrawled on a scrap of paper to remember you by.”

A note. Three weeks we spent together, five murder attempts we thwarted together, one would-be coup we derailed together, four conspirators we unmasked together, countless kisses we shared together and all of it boils down to one scrap of paper – cut into the shape of a heart no less – and two hastily scribbled words: Au Revoir. That's it. After all we had done and felt together, to know I merited nothing more than that...

Vivian blinked. “Oh.” Edging closer to me, she bit down on her lower lip and sighed out through her teeth. “Do you know what I like about 'au revoir'? It's not really...not really a good bye - it''s an 'I'll see you later,' a promise that a shared story will be continued sooner or later, like those three little dots at the end of a sentence.” She stopped, thought, then shook her head, causing her dark ruby red hair to fall forward over her shoulder to veil her face. “Do you have any pears? I’ve been craving a pear for like a week now but there was some sort of problem with the fruit harvest where I was – a frost or something – so no pears. Did you know that pears were used as a natural remedy against nausea in ancient Greece? I could do with that about now.”

I sighed.

In all honesty, it was hard. Vivian was a beautiful little sprite of a woman who was off-her-rocker insane but, screwed up as I was, I found it endearing. She had a habit of saying her thoughts aloud as she worked them out and of humming classical scores while she cooked and of touching those around her in a hundred little ways as if to reassure herself they were really, truly there. However, hands down, the most appealing thing about her was her unconditional acceptance of everyone and anyone, regardless of their species or heritage or, shall we say, natural inclinations. There was something indescribably captivating about a woman willing to march up to an angry Questing Beast and swat it on the nose like a misbehaving puppy. She had amused me, she had intrigued me, she had annoyed the hell out of me, but it was nothing more, nothing deeper than that.

Two years past. Vivian had disappeared. I admit I searched for her, but Vivian was exceptionally adept at covering her tracks. It no doubt helped that she had no need of conventional means of transportation and a half dozen invisible warriors to clean up all trace of her in her wake. And now, here she was, talking to me like nothing had happened and asking for pears.

“That is not enough, Vivian.”

Vivian scrunched up her nose. “Pears being a natural remedy for nausea? I agree. I mean, sure, they're low in acidity but, personally, I think crackers and ginger ale are the better remedy.”

“Your explanation regarding your absence,” I clarified, grounding the words out from between clenched teeth. “It’s been two years, Vivian. I need more.”

“Oh.” She winced and began to pace back and forth across the room. “I'm not human, Tru,” she finally said, still moving.

“Nor am I,” I countered.

“No, but you are submerged in them; their culture, their mannerisms, their standards. It's part of what you are, your survival depends on blending in with them. My whole life, meanwhile, I've either been with my own kind or alone more or less. I understand the dead. I understand the Fae. I understand the werewolves. I do not understand humans; I have no frame of reference for what it means to be mortal.”

“What's your point?”

“My point, love, is that I am six hundred and sixty-five years old with all of eternity spread out before me. Everyone I know - friends, family, acquaintances, rivals, enemies - all of them are just as long lived as I am and if one of them does die...well, you've met the wraiths.”

“Your parents are dead,” I reminded her.

She snorted, shaking her head. “Tru, my mother may have been human, but she died giving birth to me; I never knew her to grief her. And my father was a Faerie King; my existence put a...a countdown on his life from the moment of my birth. But, Tru, what you have to understand here is that everything in my life - everyone I know, everything I feel, absolutely, positively everything - is eternal. So, yes, I left, and, yes, it’s been two years, and for a mortal, with less than a century of time to their life, that’s a long time, but for us, who are looking at centuries, if not millennia, of living ahead of us it’s not even a blink.”

“I am not a toy, Vivian,” I growled, “to be put down and picked up at will.”

“No, you’re right, you’re not, and if, by my actions or words, I made you think I felt otherwise, I’m sorry.” She came back to me, stopping just in front of me, her smile wicked. “However, if you’re planning on holding this over my head for the rest of our relationship, I’m surprisingly okay with that.”

“We have no relationship,” I told her. “You threw whatever we may have had away when you left.”

Her smile sharpened. “Romantically, you may be correct. Professionally, however, I’m afraid we’re only just beginning. One of those things I mentioned having to do solo? It was visiting your mother, negotiating a contract for a bodyguard.”

I blinked, caught off guard. I had not been expecting that. “Why in the world would you of all people need to hire a bodyguard? You have the wraiths.”

“Well, I don’t, not really, but originally I was just trying to simplify things for us. I didn’t think your mother would be in favour of one of her children, halfbreed or not, mating with the likes of me so I wanted to have a legitimate reason for the two of us to be together.”


“Hm, well, now it forces us to spend the next century together and gives us the chance to…explore one another.”

Anger flooded me. “I will not –”

“You have no choice. The contract is already settled and signed. Hate me all you want, Tru, be angry all you want, but this is a done deal.”

“And I am supposed to just accept this?”

Vivian shrugged, her expression a mixture of weariness and regret. “This is our world, Tru. We have so much magic and power and strength and time that we need the boundaries of the rules we set upon ourselves to maintain order, to maintain balance. Those who rule are those who know best how to play the game. Everyone else follows.”

“You do not rule,” I snapped angrily. “You lost your crown when you gave it away to Aoife in exchange for a lie.”

I did not receive the anger I had been seeking. Instead Vivian just shrugged again. “Not a lie, but that has nothing to do with this. There’s more to ruling than a glorified chair and a fancy hat, Tru. Stick with me long enough and you’ll see that soon enough.”

“I have no wish to be sticking with you at all. This is not my choice. I wish none of it.”

“Give it time,” was all she said.


You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at


Monday, September 24, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 14: A Work of Art

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2

Title: A Work of Art

He pulled the fishing line and its wrist arched. A bit of glue, a minor adjustment, and it was perfect.

He stood back to admire, to let his eyes roam over his masterpiece. Finally, he’d gotten the form perfect, down to the cast of fear in its eyes.

A quiver of movement dislodged a strand of hair and he cursed under his breath. Bound as the subject was, she couldn’t move when he brought the poisoned rag to her mouth. She died silently, the only sign that she’d gone were some beads of sweat glistening on her forehead.

He wiped them away and rearranged the hair.

“Perfect,” he breathed.

He pulled out his camera. It was finally time for him to preserve his work of art.


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, September 23, 2012

Ruth Long Week 13: Feathered Things

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Feathered Things

Peering through the slot in the door, the portly one said, “I can’t see a blinkin’ thing for all those feathers.”

The tall one’s mouth thinned in disapproval. “So, what? We’re going to tell them that she ate her breakfast like a good girl - again? How long you think we can get away with that, genius? She hasn’t eaten for a week. When she dies of emaciation, our heads won’t stay atop our shoulders for long.”

“Every day we keep our skulls attached to our bodies is one day longer than we thought possible. Isn’t that so, my friend? Now, let’s get down to more important matters. Would you like her eggs or shall I save your girlish figure by slopping ‘em onto my plate?”

When the voice outside the door faded away, the crow flew into the open window and curled his talons around the captive girl’s slender fingers. “Seven days of purification have brought us to this moment. Today you will fly or fail.”

Lenny scowled at him. “Judging by the flurry of feathers, I’d say fail.”

Poe dug his jagged claws into her tender skin. “You need to focus.”

She shook him off her hand. “What I need to do is face reality. I listened to your stories and starved myself for the promise of wings. But guess what? I’m still trapped in this room, so all you and your magic mumbo jumbo managed to do was turn me into a featherbrain.”

He perched on the iron footboard. “Somewhere out there is a boy who loves you. Are you going to turn your back on him?”

“There is no lovesick boy, anymore than there is true love or magic.”

His bright beady eyes fixed on her. “Are you sure about that?”

She nodded.

“So, that’s it? You’re done with hope and possibility?”

“Yes,” she said, voice petulant, arms crossed.

His dark eyes flickered. “Very well.”

The morning breeze ruffled his glossy black feathers. One drifted to the floor. Another followed. And another, until so many feathers swirled around him that he was obscured from her sight.

When the tornado of feathers died down, a young man stood before her, ebony hair falling about his shoulders, midnight eyes peering at her from an elegant face.

He opened his mouth to speak but her scream drown out his words, though the noise tapered off as her body shrank into the form of a white dove.

The sound of clambering boots echoed down the hall.

The young man shooed her with his hands. “Hurry. The window.”

She tried but her wings wouldn’t cooperate.

He scooped her up with gentle hands, pushed her beyond the curtain and set her on the outer sill.

When the door flung open moments later, the guards found him lounging on the bed, alone.

The tall one said, “The queen will be most distressed to find you here, boy. Possessing the Princess Lenore solidified her hold on the kingdoms. She will not take this betrayal lightly.”

The portly one grabbed the young man by the scruff of his neck, yanked him off the bed and dragged him out of the room.

Out on the sill, Lenny clung to the brick ledge, tiny heart beating wildly beneath her white feathered breast.

The crow had been telling the truth. Magic did exist. Perhaps everything else was true too, but she couldn’t think about those things at the moment, because somewhere in the castle, someone was torturing her crow.

Her crow. He’d flown into her window every morning since she’d been locked up in the tower, and stayed until she fell asleep every evening. He’d kept her entertained with stories, brought her news from outside the castle and told her the legends of the land. He’d explained the rites of the feathered …

His shriek pierced her ears. Her wings fluttered in response. She tried moving them again, and they lifted in a concert of feathers, in harmony with each other.

If she could manage to fly, she could get to him, but that would mean leaving the safety of the ledge. She wouldn’t have the luxury of a test flight or safe and easy flight conditions.

Today, she would indeed fly or fail.

How did one move from the tangible to the intangible? Getting her talons to retract from the brick ledge and her body to launch into an invisible air stream took all her willpower.

Fortunately, her wings did their job as instinctively as she drew breath, and she found herself in a lazy spiral around the castle.

When next she heard his voice, she’d made three passes around the structure, contemplating how to accomplish landing. Her talons skid along the brick and she smashed her beak into the glass, but that turned out to be fortunate, since it cracked the window.

Inside the room, her crow was fastened to a metal bed and the queen was alternately admonishing and whipping him. “Not only am I your queen, I am your mother! How dare you interfere in my plans, boy!”

Anger burned through her and she pecked at the crack in the glass until the piece shattered. She flew into the room, beak poised, claws unsheathed, and every ounce of raw fury focused on the queen’s face.

When the queen lay whimpering and bleeding on the stone floor, Lenny regained her human form and retrieved the keys from the royal chatelaine.

She sat beside her crow as she freed him from the wrist locks. “Are you strong enough to change?”

His eyes met hers. “I haven’t the heart.”

“You’re all heart, my prince.”

He turned away. “You only believed after I changed.”

She kissed his cheek. “That’s where you’re wrong. I always believed in you. It was myself that I doubted. Forgive me, my crow.”

A feather floated into her lap, lustrous and dark as his midnight eyes.

A second feather joined it, fair and silky as the pale waterfall of her hair.

Together, they vanished in a torrent of raven and flaxen feathers …


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, joining my creative community or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cara Michaels Week 13: Miss Me, -Kait, Part Eight

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1

Title: Miss Me, -Kait

Part Eight: Surfacing

“C’mon, Riley,” I said, tapping her cheek.

She tipped her head back, mouth open, breaths too shallow for comfort.

“Please, babe.” The tapping approached slapping. “You’re scaring the bat shit out of me here.”

Fuck, nothing.

Beneath her eyelids, her eyes darted back and forth like a dreamer’s.

I contemplated slapping her for half a second, even had my hand half cocked. Then she opened her eyes.

“Shit!” I slammed back against my door, sharp pain exploding along my side as I hit the arm rest at full speed.

Inky black swallowed the normal amber brown color of her eyes as I stared. The darkness expanded until no color or white remained.


“Start the car,” she said in a voice not entirely hers.

“Where are we going?”

“Start the car, Adam.” A growling edge underscored her voice.

“Yeah, um…” I fumbled the keys into the ignition. “Who am I talking to here?”

“Adam, go.” This time only Riley spoke, but she sounded like she hurt. “Hurry. Need to… find her.”

“Where?” I cranked the engine and pulled out of the lake park. “I need a direction.”

She muttered softly, nothing I could make out. Then, “Southwest. Clermont.”


I didn’t talk along the way. Riley gave me precise directions in the scary voice and I followed them, hoping like hell her psychic guide could be trusted. We eventually turned onto an isolated property. Remote enough to stash Kait, though the drive showed recent use. From a resident? From Kait’s kidnapper?

“The well,” Riley said, pointing left.

The cement well rose up about four feet from the ground. A wire mesh grating padlocked in place over the opening kept foreign debris and curious children out of the water. From here, it the well looked easily wide enough to accommodate an adult, not one of those tiny jobs that would require hours, maybe days, to free someone from.

I parked the car and popped the trunk.

Riley sucked in a huge breath, arms flailing out, grasping. I caught one hand before she cracked me in the face.

“Whoa, whoa,” I said. “Easy, babe. Come back now, Riley.”

She panted for breath, her head tipped back. Like a swimmer out of breath and breaking the surface of the water just in time.

“I’m okay,” she said. “I’m okay.”

“You’re back?” I touched her cheek, urged her to look at me. Warm brown eyes focused on me. “Thank God,” I murmured.

I hauled her close, kissing her hard and fast.

“No more out of body demonic possession things, okay?”

Riley looked—exhausted. We’d been going since the wee hours of the morning and the sun had crested and started its descent. We had several hours until sunset still, but Riley looked like she hadn’t slept in days.

“I can’t promise anything until we get Kait out,” she said. “When we connect, she’s very strong. It’s like a hostile takeover.”

“Let’s check this well out, then.” I released my seatbelt and opened the door. “If she’s here, we’ll get EMS out here and have her out in no time.”

“No.” Riley’s hand locked around my wrist. “We can’t.”

“The fuck you say.”

“We can’t risk the news breaking.”

“Riley.” I pulled free of her hold but stayed put. “Kait has theoretically been stuck in this well for two or three days. She’s going to be dehydrated, hungry—”

“Carson is keeping her alive,” she said.

Okay. That set my thought process back.

“He’s not trying to kill her. He’s trying to get the drive. Kait is his insurance policy.”

I backtracked to our conversation with Hannah at the lake. “Meaning Hannah needs to deliver the drive or else?”


“What the hell is on this drive?” I rubbed my temples with my thumbs. “Carson is risking his entire career here.”

“Kait is a bigger risk,” she said. “She’s his daughter.”

“Ohhh, fuck,” I groaned. I wanted to be surprised, but really… power and public attention turned people into idiots who thought they could get away with anything. And Roger Carson had spent nearly three decades getting his brain melted by that warm glow. “What is it with these dickwads who can’t keep it zipped?”

“How did Kait find out?”

Riley’s face clouded over. “She’s sick.”

My gaze snapped from Riley to the well.

“Dying sick?” I asked. “The sort that maybe some compatible DNA could fix?”

“And Dad’s didn’t match. Not even a little bit.” Riley unbuckled her seatbelt. “She overheard the doctor talking to her mom.”

“We have to get her out now.” I pushed myself out of the car and damn near ran for the trunk. Every minute seemed more precious. If Carson stopped by to check on her before we had any proof, I’d never get the powerful bastard nailed for this. The anxiety Hannah had expressed at the lake made a lot more sense now.

Fuck that mother fucking fucker. Hey, listen, I just found out you’re my Dad and I’m dying. Mind donating a little DNA to maybe save my life? Nah, he’d stow her in a well and get whatever proof of paternity existed instead.

I’d kill him myself before he could hurt Kait more.

Flashlight, bolt cutters, first aid kit, and fifty feet of rope. The well had a sturdy looking crank, but I’d bring my rope as backup. I hoped like hell the well didn’t go deeper than forty feet. We were in high country for Florida though. We could be well and truly fucked if Kait sat at the bottom of a hundred foot well and the crank couldn’t support her weight.

Riley stumbled after me, struggling to match my pace. I cut the locks holding the screen in place.

“Help me here,” I said.

With her help, we got the well open. I picked up the flashlight and shone it down the shaft.

“Kait?” I hollered. “Kait, can you hear me?”

No answer and the beam didn’t penetrate far enough for me to see her. Which meant the well went deeper than fifty feet. Mouth going drier than a Florida December.

“I need to call EMS here, Riley.”

I looked up to see Riley using my bolt cutters to cut the well bucket away. She pulled, unwinding several feet of rope.

“No,” I said. “No fucking way.”

Riley grabbed me by the shirt front, yanking me nose to nose.

“Lower me down and let’s be quick about it,” she said. “There’s no way to hide we’ve been here and we both know we have no case without Kait and the drive. The word of a psychic and a teenager ain’t gonna cut it, Murray.”


She cut me off with her lips and my brain shorted out again.

“We can keep her safe. But we have to get her out of there. Let’s get her back to the surface,” she said against my mouth, “and nail Carson to the wall.”

Cursing myself, I nodded.


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


Friday, September 21, 2012

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 13: Redemption or Bust - If You Want Blood (You Got It)

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Redemption or Bust - If You Want Blood (You Got It)

Part 6

The sun was hanging real low in the sky as Sheriff Jones and I rolled towards the police station.

He drove with a heavy right foot and seemed to enjoy the twists and curves of the county roads.

“He really was a cop, eh?” I asked him.

“That he was. State trooper. Detective Vernon Stroud.”

“Know him?”

“Just by reputation. He was involved in a big bust 'round here. Before my time on this job.”

He took his eyes off the road long enough to glare at me.

“I get the feeling you already know that, Jake.”

I didn't answer him. Didn't need to.

“We got a little ways to go still. What we talk about here in the car is off the record. When we get to my office it's official business. Follow?”

“I read you, Sheriff. There's just not that much I can tell you.”

“Can tell me or will tell me? There's a difference.”

“It's like I told your dispatcher on the phone. I can give you the what and the where. I don't know from the why.”

“You're not working here?”

“I'll tell you the same thing I told Vern. I'm on vacation here. I met a girl on the beach and we got friendly.”

“This girl have a name?”

“Marisa, Sheriff. Marisa Reubens.”

He took it well. I could hear the profanity bouncing around in his cranium but he kept it in.

“Didn't find out who she was 'til after the fact,” I said. “It was all going great until Vern busted in on us, knocked me out, and dragged her out to Bog Island.”

“And you went chasing after them.”

“Yeah, but when you put it that way it sounds even dumber than it actually was.”

He made a left turn onto a long, straight road. I could see the station house coming up fast.

“You're on vacation,” said Sheriff Jones.

“That's right.”

“Funny,” he said. “According to the State Police, so was Vern.”


The station house was a low brick building, square and new enough for the paint to smell fresh.

The lobby featured a long wooden bench and a Coke machine.

The young officer behind the front desk looked up as Sheriff Jones and I walked in the door. Jones nodded in greeting and received a nod in return.

Sheriff Jones' office was a small, spartan chamber.

There was a fine mahogany desk with a black leather chair behind it and two cheap folding chairs in front of it. A framed photograph stood on the corner of the desk, next to the telephone. There was nothing else on the desktop. Nothing.

A calender and a pair of green metal file cabinets covered the wall behind the desk. Bulletin boards took up the other walls.

The window was wide open and a ceiling fan made slow revolutions overhead.

He dropped into his chair and waved me over to one of the folding chairs.

I sat down and we stared at each other for a while.

He took his hat off and placed it down in front of him and then picked up the phone.

“You can send Mr. Miller in now.”

“Who's Mr. Miller?”

The office door opened before he could answer me. I stood up and turned around.

Mr. Miller was a tall, lanky man, with leathered pink skin and dirty blond hair that was going gray at the temples. He wore a pair of denim overalls over a white t-shirt. His hands crumpled and released a battered blue baseball cap.

“Evening, Sheriff,” he said.

“Thanks for waiting, Will.” He got out of his chair and walked around the desk to stand beside me. “Is this the man you saw leaving your cornfield in a black Mustang, Will?”

Will Miller took a couple of steps towards me. There was anger in his eyes and his whiskered chin shook with pent-up rage.

“Yeah, Sheriff. This is the guy. This is the guy who ruined my cornfield.”

I turned so Will could get a better look at me. I wasn't planning to deny anything.

“This is the guy.”

Sheriff Jones placed a hand on Will's shoulder and pulled him back.

“Thank you, Will,” he said. “You go on home. I'll take it from here.”

The irate farmer spun to face the sheriff but Jones pre-empted any commentary.

“Mr. Tunner and I are going to have a talk, Will. You know how I operate. I'm a gentleman and as far as I can tell so is Mr. Tunner, so we're going to sit down and talk and he's gonna tell me just what happened out on your farm.” He looked Will in the face. “Could be there's a perfectly good explanation for what happened today.” He switched off to me. “And it could be there isn't and if that's the case I'll deal with it in a way that's fair to everyone involved.”

Will wasn't mollified but he crushed his cap onto his head and left the office.

Sheriff Jones let his breath out and sat back down.

I followed suit.

“Tell me a story, Jake. And make it good.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Answering my questions with questions is not the way to get on my good side. You don't know me, so I'll give you that first one. But that's all you get.”

I nodded my understanding.

“What happened out on Will's farm today?” He regarded me with a seasoned lawman's eyes.

He already knew what went down out there, or at least what it looked like, and made no attempt to disguise that knowledge so I returned the favor.

I gave it to him straight, more or less.

Sheriff Jones was a good listener and he didn't blink as I piled it on.

“When I left the cornfield,” I told him, “one guy was unconscious and the other was down with two bullets in him-- leg and shoulder. They helped wreck Vern's SUV so I took the Mustang and got out of there.”

“After you called it in.”

“Yeah. That was me. I used the round guy's cell.”

“You don't still have that phone, do you?”

“Nope. Tossed it into the corn. Along with their guns and ammo, including the rifle I'd bet killed Vern. Dig around a little. You'll find 'em.”

“I intend to, Jake. I intend to.” He looked down at his desk and shook his head.

I didn't envy the man. He should've been free and clear, with another tourist season behind him, looking forward to a couple of months of relative peace and quiet.

“Trouble is,” he said, “we didn't find anyone out there other than Vern.” He put a big hand out to cut off my retort. “We did find some blood out there and more footprints than you could possibly make, but no body. No unconscious hitmen either.”

I crossed my arms and sat back in the uncomfortable folding chair.

“Find the Mustang?”

“We did. It's over at Impound as we speak.”

“Then you have the murder weapon.”

“I'm not gonna find your prints on it, am I, Jake?”

“You shouldn't. I only touched the barrel when I moved it off the back seat and tossed it in the trunk.”

“All right, then. Brass tacks, Jake. You're tellin' me that, through a series of events I don't want think about just yet, you happened to be riding shotgun in Vern's SUV when he got shot and then fought your way out of Miller's cornfield and took off in the alleged shooter's car?”

“That's what I'm telling you, Sheriff.”

Sheriff Jones rubbed his temples. “I have to admit your story does have the ring of truth about it.”

“There's a good reason for that.”

He chewed on it for a while, worked it like that last fatty bit of bacon you can't quite get your teeth through.

“You said you're here on vacation?” he asked.

“That was the idea.”

“I don't need to tell you your vacation's been extended. Indefinitely.”

“I'm with you, sheriff.”

“Good on you. Glad to know I've got a reasonable man to deal with.”

I felt myself flinch at the word, 'reasonable', and fought off the urge to hit the deck.

“You feeling okey, Jake?”

“Yeah, I'm all right. Last thing Vern said before he got shot was some crack about what a reasonable guy I was.”

Sheriff Jones let that go right by him. He called the desk officer into his office so I could give detailed descriptions of the two men I'd encountered in the cornfield.

Up close the young officer was even younger than I first thought. He was pale and kind of soft around the middle and had the hairline of a man three times his age.

“Want me to look for your car while I'm at it?” asked the sheriff.

“Don't sweat it. It'll turn up. Always does.”

“What are you driving again?”

“'74 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Metallic Mint Green.”

He thought about it for half a second. “You're right. It'll turn up.”

Sheriff Jones got up out of his chair so I got up out of mine.

“Mitch,” he said, “did I see Deputy Riggs hanging around here earlier?”

“Yes, boss,” replied the younger cop. “Not much going on tonight.”

“Go rattle his cage and let him know he's gonna drive Mr. Tunner here back over to the Sunshade Motel.”

When Mitch was gone the sheriff walked around the desk and stood in front of me.

“You're on vacation, Jake, which means the beach and the bar. And when I say the beach and the bar I mean that stretch of beach near Evangeline's place and the bar I picked you up in. I don't know what I'm into here. I should be sticking you in a holding cell for the time being but Evangeline seems to have taken to you so I'm gonna send you back to her. Still, I don't want you roaming around anywhere else until I have a handle on things. Got it?”

“Loud and clear, Sheriff.”

“All right then.” He walked me to his office door. “One more thing. You're off the case.”

“I was never on it, Sheriff.”

“Regardless, if I catch you anywhere near this investigation you're gonna need a colostomy to get my boot out of your ass.”

“No thanks,” I said. “Colostomy's not my bag.”

Sheriff Orion P. Jones wanted to laugh. He just couldn't bring himself to do it.

“Gonna have to remember that one,” he said as he ordered me out of his office.


I didn't much like Deputy Riggs.

Fifteen minutes in a car with him didn't do a thing to improve the vibe I got off of him.

Deputy Riggs was a bit older than me and was about my height. The man was thin to the point of sickliness and his face and hands looked like they were made of pale gray beef jerky.

He greeted me with a grunt when Mitch introduced us and hadn't spoken a word to me since we got into his cruiser and hit the road.

I didn't recognize anything we passed along the way.

Two turns and three unfamiliar roads later I popped the question.

“We're not going back to the Sunshade, are we?” I had no idea where we were.

Deputy Riggs didn't take his eyes off the road. “That kinda depends on you.”

His voice was deep and low, without a scratch or a rasp. It didn't track with a face that looked like it'd been used to smooth blacktop on the highway.

“We know you're a tough guy,” he continued. “That's why they sent me.”

“Badass cop, eh?”

He fired up an unfiltered cigarette and savored the first drag.

“Hell no, son. Them days are way, way behind me. You get to be my age you got to get by with... other skills.”

“Such as? I kinda feel like I'm coming up on that age.”

He chuckled. It was an ugly, throaty sound not unlike the sound a stubborn chainsaw motor makes when you're trying to start it up.

“You ain't there yet. You'll know it when you get there and that's for shit sure.”

“Sprinkle some pearls of wisdom my way.”

“Brains and leverage, pal. Brains and leverage. And since I'm running a little short of brains these days it's mostly leverage, if you catch my meaning.”

I stared straight ahead at the darkness out in front of the car.

“Evangeline,” I said.

“Brawn and brains. Man, you got it all, don't you?”

I shrugged. “Apparently not.”

Riggs looked at me and cackled. It didn't sound any prettier than his chuckle.

“Works like this, son. I'm takin' you to see the boss. You tell him what he needs to know you got no problems. Jerk us around and things are gonna go very, very badly for Evangeline.”

He took a last drag on his cigarette and flicked the butt out the window.

“And your job is to convince me to talk?”

“Something like that.”

“How 'bout I kick your ass and hightail it to Evangeline's myself?”

He nodded. “You'd be within your rights, I'll give you that. But when I don't show up with you a phone call gets made and I think you can guess what happens next.”

“Evangeline can take care of herself.” I wasn't sure if I said that for the deputy's benefit or my own.

“Don't I know it? You seen them shoulders? Shit, who am I talkin' to? Of course you've seen them. But they're not gonna help her much against a couple of hard-hitters she doesn't know about yet.”

I took a deep breath and let it out. The man was right.

“Suppose I don't know what your boss thinks I know?”

“Then we're all in for a long night, pal.”


After a while the corn and wheat I'd become so used to seeing gave way to industrial complexes. Warehouses, self-storage facilities, and a power plant took up the landscape on both sides of the road.

I should have been paying close attention, mapping the route in my head as we went, but I was too busy replaying every minute I'd spent with Marisa. I started on the beach and took it all the way up to Bog Island. There had to be something there, something that explained the mess I was in, but if there was I couldn't dig it up.

Riggs broke my concentration by making a hard right turn onto a gravel road. We rattled and rumbled for almost a mile before the road let out into a parking lot.

The lot was lit up by a line of floodlights mounted along the roof of a one-story brick building. There was no signage of any kind. I could see two closed garage doors and a set of double-doors in front of us.

My Olds was parked next to a big black Caddy in front of one of the garage doors.

The only sounds were the hum of those spotlights and the crunch of our footsteps as Riggs led me toward the double-doors.

He didn't say anything as we walked. He didn't need to.

He rang the bell and we waited.

I heard heavy footsteps testing the floor inside and then the door swung open.

Roundboy stood in the doorway. He was still wearing his aloha shirt and added a neck brace to his ensemble. There was a nice egg on the left side of his jaw.

He had a mean stare for me but couldn't muster up any words. He looked twenty years older than when I saw him in the cornfield. Getting his ass handed to him had him thinking.

“No hard feelings, bud,” I said.

He looked away and stepped aside so I could walk into the building.

Riggs left.

Roundboy closed the door and conducted me down a dim gray corridor. Florescent lighting flickered overhead and the air smelled stale and musty.

The corridor teed off after twenty yards or so. Roundboy nudged me to the right so I looked left.

Rosario was standing in the hallway in front of an open door. She was wearing a gray sleeveless top and black slacks with black leather sandals and was close enough for me to read the word, 'Ruthless', on her foot.

We locked eyes and stayed that way until Roundboy got impatient and shoved me to the right. He moved me along until we faced an open doorway to an unlit room.

“I thought I was gonna talk to the boss,” I said.

“What's your rush?”

A lot of things jumped to mind and how little I wanted to go into that dark room was on top of the heap.

I tensed up, ready to object, but Roundboy put his paws into my back and shoved me into the room.

I sprawled in the darkness, knocking over something light and metallic on my way to the floor.

Roundboy was on me before I could recover. His fist connected with the back of my head and when I tried to push myself back up I took a boot to the gut hard enough to flip me over. He leaned down and lifted me up by the front of my shirt.

“No hard feelings, bud,” he said.

Then he headbutted me into the arms of Morpheus.


I woke up with the headache of the century.

It was like having a steel ball bearing inside my skull that clunked and rolled around every time I moved.

I'd felt better coming off a four day bender.

The room was still dark, which was both good and bad at the same time, and I couldn't move my arms or legs because I was lashed to a metal folding chair.

My arms were secured behind my back. From the blazing tingles that ran from elbows to fingertips they had been that way for some time.

I shook off some of the dumb but didn't waste time thinking about my next move. There was no next move. Not for me. The next move was theirs. All I could do was hope somebody screwed up.

They made their move soon after I came to.

The door burst open and the lights came on.

I squeezed my eyes shut and after a couple of seconds I started blinking until the blindness wore off.

Roundboy was standing in front of me but I was more interested in the guy lurking in the doorway.

He was tall and well-built, with slicked-back black hair and a Fu Manchu mustache. He pulled off the look.

The high-end gray suit helped with that.

I didn't recognize the man but his eyes were familiar to me. I saw them in a photograph earlier that day. He had Reubens' eyes.

Roundboy welcomed me back to the land of the living with a couple of bracing open-handed slaps. The last one bloodied my nose.

“What did Marisa give you?” asked the man in the doorway. He had a good voice, cultured and even.

Roundboy slapped me again.

The other man walked all the way into the room.

“I think that's enough of that, Wayne. After all, Deputy Riggs assured me you'd be... reasonable.”

“Reubens,” I muttered.

“That's right, Mr. Tunner. It's the eyes, isn't it? All Reubens men have them.”

He let that sink in.

“I'll repeat my question. What did Marisa give you?”

“She didn't give me anything.”

Reubens sighed. “Deputy Riggs explained the cost of non-cooperation, did he not?”

“He did.”

“And so?”

“Look. The only thing Marisa gave me was her time. Nothing changed hands. Unless you count the shirt and shorts she was wearing when your boy grabbed her at the motel.”

“My boy? You mean my brother's boy. And not a very well chosen one as it turns out.” He smirked. “An undercover police detective.”

“How'd you find out about that?”

Reubens smiled and looked back at the doorway.

Rosario stepped into the room. “I told him. I still have contacts in the law enforcement community.”

She walked right up to me in the chair and put her hands on my shoulders.

“I know my sister gave you something. Where is it?”

I didn't answer fast enough to suit Roundboy. He bodied Rosario out of the way and let his hand fly free.

She turned to Reubens. “Marko, would you please get this animal out of here? I don't think he's helping.”

Marko Reubens indicated the door with a nod of his head.

Roundboy glared at Rosario and stomped out of the room.

“If I didn't know better,” I said, “I'd think the big guy has it in for me.”

“You killed his partner.”

“His partner didn't give me much choice.”

“What did Marisa give you?”

“You can get as many people to ask me that as you want and the answer's not gonna change.”

For a second I thought she was going to slap me too.

“Where is it?” she demanded.

“Where's what?”

“You care that little for Evangeline's safety?”

“What do you want me to tell you? I don't know what it is. I don't know where it is. If I can't answer your questions you're gonna go after her. If I give you a bullshit answer you're gonna check it out, find out I'm full of it, and go after her. I don't see a win here for me. Or her.”

Reubens chuckled and went back to stand in the doorway.

“Where is it, Jake?” asked Rosario. There was a strident tone in her voice that wasn't there before.

“I can't tell you what I don't know.”

Rosario leaned in and brushed some blood off of my cheek with her thumb.

“You must know. She gave you something. I'm sure of it.”

I shook my head. “We didn't make it to the gift-giving stage, Rosario. It didn't happen.”

“She said she left something in your care, Jake. I need to know where it is.”

Her eyes bored into mine and that's when it hit me. She wasn't asking. She was telling me something.

I tried the ropes binding my arms to the chair. They were well-tied but there was some give. More than there should have been. I had to keep this thing going long enough to get loose.

“She say that?” I asked.

Rosario broke off eye contact and stood up.

“Where is she, Rosario?”

The light behind her shifted and when I looked at the doorway Reubens was standing there with his arms crossed.

“Let me guess,” he said. “He says he doesn't know where it is.”

Rosario nodded her head.

“That's what he's telling me.”

The two of them continued to talk but I wasn't listening. I had something going and I knocked it around in my brain until it made sense.

Marisa did leave something for me.


The note.

Rosario stepped away from Reubens and leaned down to work me with her eyes again.

“You're sure, Jake? She gave you nothing at all?”

“Nothing. She gave me nothing.” I should have been shaking my head but I gave her just the slightest hint of a nod instead. I had to hope it got the job done. Subtlety's never been my game.

Rosario sighed and turned back to Reubens.

“Do you believe him?” he asked her.

“I think he's telling the truth,” she replied.

“All right.”

He drew a handgun and fired in one motion.

Rosario fell to the floor and lay still.

For the second time in twenty-four hours someone's blood and brains decorated my face.

Reubens holstered his piece and walked over to me.

“I'm sorry you had to see that,” he said. “I'm afraid I've made you a criminal. Witnessing the murder of a federal agent is a crime.”

I didn't even try to cover up my surprise.

“You didn't know that, did you?”

I counted my heartbeat down from crazy and kept quiet until I could speak without warbling.

“I heard she was ex-Bureau.”

He nodded. “Disgraced by her sister's connection to my brother. Not bad as far a cover stories go.”

I sat there and sucked wind.

“I don't know who she was playing harder just then. You or me.”

He put a hand on my shoulder.

“But none of that matters now. I believe that you told her the truth.”

“You gonna lay off Evangeline then?”

“Would that please you? The only reason I have to cause her... further harm... is personal amusement and I have to admit that that sort of thing doesn't really amuse me.”

I smoldered over the word, 'further', and made a mental note to add kicking the shit out of him to my bucket list.

“You could've just called,” I said. “Been a lot less mess that way.” The ropes felt looser.

“I could have, perhaps, but I had to know what you know and to do that I had to look you in the eye. Besides, I've grown curious about you.”

“Curious? There's not much to be curious about.”

“Your actions say otherwise. Your presence beside the policeman, for instance.”

“Dumb luck,” I said.

“You killed one of my best and disabled another.”

“It's amazing what a guy can do when he thinks he's gonna die.”

“It is, isn't it?” He drew his gun and pointed it at my chest. “What are you going to do now?”

I flexed my upper body and pushed up off of the seat at the same time-- and went nowhere. The ropes were still just tight enough.

My ass dropped back down on the seat.

Reubens' eyes went wide before he started laughing.

My heart was pounding again and my mind was racing in more directions than I could keep track of. There was nothing else to do but laugh. I couldn't help it. It was either that or suffer the kind of complete emotional breakdown I couldn't afford.

We laughed like a couple of idiots for a good long while. By the time it ran out Reubens had tears streaming out of the corners of his eyes.

“That's perfect,” he said.

My head was clear when laughing jag was over. I made a silent apology to Rosario.

“Where's Marisa?” I demanded.

He wiped his face before answering me. “You seem to have grown quite fond of my brother's wife, Mr. Tunner.”


He waved that away. “When one marries a Reubens it's forever, no matter what the court says.”

“What can I tell you? She's a nice girl.”

Reubens strolled back toward the doorway.

“Yes. Yes she was.”

It took me a second to get what he was telling me. When it sank all the way in I growled and made another go at breaking free.

The ropes snapped.

Reubens was faster. He swung hard and clocked me in the jaw with his gun hand.

I rolled with it but all I could do was slump back down in the chair. I tried to get my arms up to defend myself but they weren't taking orders from the likes of me.

A snap kick to my chest sent me crashing over backwards. The back of my head connected with the concrete floor.

I heard heavy footsteps running into the room as I lay there contemplating the florescent lights on the ceiling.

“I believe this is adieu, Mr. Tunner. I think you'll appreciate what we've cooked up for your disposal. You should never have fucked around with my brother's wife. I hope she was worth it.”

I had something snazzy to say but the words got jumbled up on the way out. Didn't matter. Reubens didn't stick around to hear it.

Something huge blotted out the lights and I found myself looking up at Roundboy standing over me.

The last thing I saw before they went out entirely was his right arm drawing back.


I woke up in the dark.

There wasn't a part of me that didn't hurt to some degree and I was bathed in sweat.

I was sweating because it was hot. Real hot. And I smelled gasoline. The smell was stronger than you ever want it to be.

When I tried to sit up I smacked my aching head against something hard and metallic and when I opened my mouth to holler I started hacking and coughing because of all the smoke.

I started doing the math. Small space. Metal overhead. Heat. Smoke. Lots of junk all around me. Lots of junk all around me that felt familiar somehow. I added it all up and came up with the trunk of a car.

My car.

The bastard dumped me in the trunk of my own car and set it on fire. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Reubens wasn't as smart as he thought he was.

I worked my way around until my feet were pressed against the back of the back seat, a back seat I destroyed when I tried to force an old bookcase into the trunk. The whole seat popped right off the base and I never did get around to having the thing reattached.

I wedged myself back and brought my legs as tight into my body as I could and drove both feet into the back of the seat.

The heat and the gas fumes had me coughing and spitting with each breath but I kept kicking until the seat shook loose.

Dim light from the cabin sneaked into the trunk but smoke came in with it, taking visibility right back down to zero.

I wriggled out of my shirt and used it to reach out and grab the metal bar that ran across the back seat for stability.

It was going to be a tight squeeze.

I wasted a few seconds cursing and then flipped onto my back and started working my way under the crossbar.

In the end it was the sweat that saved me. My torso got just slick enough for me to suck it in and force myself out of the trunk. I left a lot of skin on the jagged edges of broken coils and damned near left a kidney behind too but I made it through and landed in the footwell behind the driver's seat.

There was a tiny pocket of clean air down by the floor. I sucked it all in in one huge breath and opened the door.

I heaved myself out of the footwell to get clear of the fire and hit the ground hard, bounced, and then face-planted in the dirt, which was fine by me. I expected to get shot at any second so I stayed low and rested my battered face against the hard-packed earth.

After a dozen or so deep, even breaths I willed myself up to a crouch and took a step away from the Olds.

I was in an big dirt lot. The shells of other ruined cars sat rotting in various corners. None of them looked burnt out. Mine was the only one put to the torch. It was hard not to take that personally.

An abandoned brick building stood to my left, on the other side of the Olds. The handful of windows still in place were broken and filthy and a heavy metal door hung by one rusty hinge.

To my right was at least fifty yards of open, flat ground bordered by thick line of trees.

I counted to three and stood up. I didn't get shot so I took a step away from the burning car.

Something moved in the building's open doorway, just a shadow and a glint of metal I thought I saw for all of one second through a sheet of dark smoke. It was probably nothing but I couldn't think of any reason to stick around and find out so I tore ass across that open field the way only a battered man with lungs full of smoke who just regained consciousness can tear ass.

I staggered, fell, and crawled until I could get my legs to do what I wanted them to and broke into a run. Such as it was.

By the time I hit the trees it occurred to me that not only was I still bullet-free but no one was chasing me. I thought it over for a split second and kept right on running.

The woods were thicker than they looked from out in the lot. High limbs lush with green and yellow leaves blocked most of the sunlight. It was flat out dumb luck that steered me clear of any big, fat tree trunks as I stumbled and through the undergrowth.

I was still running hard when everything around me got bright. I was out of the woods and running through a field of pink flowers. It looked like a field of poppies.

When I got to the middle of the field I stopped and puked before collapsing to the ground.

There was nothing but silence around me. My heart was still pounding in my ears but it quieted and slowed as I lay there amid the flowers.

I didn't mean to fall asleep there but that's what happened.

And if I was lucky, very lucky, some flying monkeys would come and take me away.


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, September 20, 2012

Michela Walters Week 13: Price of Beauty

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Price of Beauty

“Chin down just a bit, Elena,” Herb shouted from where he stood, camera poised in front of his face.

She’d been standing in these stiletto heels for the last three hours, wearing barely any clothes to try and get the shot for next month’s Vogue spread. Elena knew she was the most sought after supermodel this year, and understanding the relative short life-cycle of one, she was focused on capitalizing on her fame now while she could.

The assistant came over to fluff her hair and touch up her lips, giving Elena a chance to rest, even if it was for but a moment. She knew how people saw her profession. They were constantly saying things like, “So what, you have to stand there for a few hours and have your picture taken? How hard could it be?” What they didn’t know or usually wait around for her reply was that it actually was strenuous work. She was expected in hair and make-up some days hours before the sun would rise. Her work required her to be in peak physical condition, even if that meant eating fewer calories in a day than most people consume in one meal. She often had to be photographed in skimpy gowns in near frigid weather or in bikini’s taken while she was rolling around in chilly water, all the while plastering whatever expression the photographer or client expected at the time. No, being a model wasn’t easy, no matter what people thought.

Granted, she had always enjoyed her work. She loved feeling beautiful and seeing her face in magazines and on billboards, yet Elena also understood that her beauty would fade and eventually people wouldn’t be paying to see her in anything but the JC Penny catalog, if she was lucky. While many of her model friends and acquaintances lived the party life, enjoying the perks that came with the job, Elena only went out to parties if it was something she felt would further her brand, or a client she was currently working with. She would limit herself to one drink, sipping on it casually through the evening to give everyone the impression that she was as ‘fun’ as the rest of them. In reality, she took these opportunities to scope out key people in the industry. Contacts that she could use when her modeling career was over, people who could give her a hand should she ever need it. Elena wanted to be considered as savvy and successful as Heidi Klum in her post modeling life.

“I think that’s it,” Herb shouted, wandering toward her with a wide toothy smile.

Elena knew what would come next. Even though she was teetering at the top echelon of her profession, she was still often required to make sacrifices to stay there.

Wrapping a warm hand around her slim waist, he lecherously whispered, “See you in my studio in about an hour. And wear those heels.”

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:


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sarah Aisling Week 13: The Workshop

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: The Workshop

Rasp . . . Rasp . . .

A thin curl of wood flutters to the workbench. Another, then another.

Whittling calms me like nothing else ever has. Steadies the hands. Quiets the voices in between. Gives me a place to pour my creativity while I wait for the next soul to speak to me.

I glance around my workshop. It’s too neat and tidy, really, but I need things this way. A place for everything and everything in its place. The small, square shack has windows overlooking the woods. The glass is divided into many panes, like the many facets of a personality—each shows a slightly different view of what makes up the whole. My supplies are neatly stored inside cabinets and drawers, and after I finish whittling, I’ll clean up the bits of offending wood marring the top of my pristine work surface.

The more I caress the wood with my knife, chipping away at the roughness until it transforms into something beautiful, the steadier my hands become. Finishing the carving of a friendly little woodchuck—incredibly life-like if I do say so myself—I swipe the filings into the garbage pail then soak a soft rag with Murphy’s Oil and swirl it over the top of my workbench until it gleams. I clean the blade of my knife and set it down in the top drawer, all the way to the right.

After washing my hands thoroughly, I move to the stainless steel table in the corner. My heart beats faster as I approach.

A soft rustle distracts me. The newspaper sitting on the counter—it has an article I must save or it wouldn’t be here at all—shifts, popping up in the center. The small gray head of Mitzy peeks out from beneath the tented periodical, her slightly crossed eyes wide with surprise. She puts her disturbed nap behind her, slinking out from beneath her paper blanket and prancing along the counter with her tail a’twitch, mewing her demand for sustenance.

“Are you hungry, Miss Mitzy? Well, let’s remedy that.” A rare smile crosses my face as I change trajectory and open her cabinet to get a can of food.

A few weeks ago, Mitzy was waiting by the door when I arrived. She sat stoically on the concrete pad outside the door with her tail swishing to and fro. When I approached, she rubbed against my legs, weaving her way in, out, and around. The moment I unlocked the door, she darted inside and has been with me ever since. I never considered getting rid of her; no living being has ever willingly shown me affection.

Once my pushy little tabby is devouring her food, I wash my hands again and return to the corner. Glossy dark hair pours over the edge of the stainless table creating an intriguing nightfall. The dips and waves beckon to my fingers, begging them to comb through the silken strands. Perfect pale skin cries out for my touch, in competition. I slide my fingers through the slick darkness and press my lips to her brow, silently apologizing because I know once her lids rise and her mouth opens and she gives me all the wrong answers . . . well, let’s just say, I’ll have to return to my quest for the perfect woman.

Her eyelids flutter. Excitement courses through my veins. Who needs drugs to get high?


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:


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

J M Blackman Week 13: Masquerade/ “May I?”

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: Masquerade/ “May I?”

Early in the evening, when twilight still had its rosy mouth open, offering supplication, offering the ability of change, she had stared at herself in the mirror for long minutes. These minutes were questioning: minutes of reconsideration, of doubt, of guilt.

She had turned from one side to the other, tilting her head up and then down, trying to see who she could be.

Because the mask made her different. The mask made her someone else.

And it was this someone else who would attend the masquerade.

She wore black lace to cover her tattoos, to make them (and herself) demure. But the septum ring stayed, a pinprick of herself in the swath of alienness.

There was much that was alien to her, though. Like the masquerade. It wasn’t a ball, but more like a party. One where you had to have a friend who knew a friend who knew a guy. And this guy had liked the way she looked and invited her to have an experience...if she dared.

She did, heart beating a techno tattoo within the ribbed corset that encased even her elephant-sized anxiety, smashing it into an atom sized flutter. She concentrated on that palpitation as she circled the hotel’s state room, let it anchor her to the floor among the palpable tension in the air, a pressure that rubber-banded between each masked face.

The-guy-who-liked-the-way-she-looked-found-her, but his playfulness had disappeared behind his mask.

Now, the only thing that remained was hot brushes of his fingertips and scalding gazes. She couldn’t help but be spellbound.

She swayed under his guiding hands, even followed him to a room upstairs. The world was a watercolor blur, a vibrant splash of light that trembled with every breath. She questioned what had been in her drink, though only momentarily.

Because she couldn’t think past his hands, his lips, that hard press against her thigh. That is, until she heard the hotel door open again.The man who entered was almost the twin of the one behind her: black suit, black mask, endless eyes.

She asked him who he was. He asked her what the fun was of a masquerade if they introduced themselves. ‘ He unbuttoned one bucket in his suit jacket, and asked only one more thing: “May I?”

And she said, “yes.”

Because the mask made her different. The mask made her someone else.


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, September 17, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 13: Dark Sails

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2

Title: Dark Sails

The silhouette stood out as though it had been painted on the sky. Hikram peeked a dirty hand out through the slats of his hiding spot. He’d never seen so many lights, or such a large city.

“What the fuck is that?”

The owner of the voice moved quickly beside Hikram speaking words he didn’t understand. He kept his eyes focused on the dark sails of the building. He wondered what it housed, what wonders might be found beneath it’s whimsical roof. He hadn’t eaten anything in what seemed like days, so he imagined the building might be a market full of food.

He breathed in deeply. Above his own stink, he could almost smell the sweet decadence of warm baklava. He heard the crunch, his mouth salivating at the thought of the flaky layers melting on his tongue.

“Shit! Get out of the way”

Men were running beside his hiding place, their heavy boots pounding against the wooden floor at a frenzied pace. Hikram knew the boat must be close to the dock. He could see the strange ship building in the distance looming ever closer. He’d have to hide for a few hours, until it would be safe to sneak ashore. Perhaps at dawn he would be able to approach the building and taste the day’s first bread.

“God dammit, abandon! We’re gonna fucking hit!”

Hikram heard the splashes off to the other side of the ship and wondered what was being tossed overboard. He didn’t dare peek his head above the rim. If someone saw him, he knew he’d be shot on sight.

The ocean liner struck the container ship at an angle, slicing it unevenly. The prow moved like butter through the tiny ship, and the two halves, with all of their contents, sank in the wake of the great ship.


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.