Monday, December 31, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 28: What Lies Within

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: Both

Title: What Lies Within

“Shh.” Cristobel put a finger to her lips as she beckoned me forward. “Step carefully.”

We wound our way down a narrow trail. Strange, luminescent lanterns lit the overgrown path. The dim, orange light played strangely in Cristobel’s blue hair and I followed closely behind her, eager to see what might be waiting for us.

She’d enchanted me from the moment I met her. She wore her weirdness like a badge of honor, and I loved the way she laughed in the face of those who might mock her. None of it ever bothered her. Her devil-may-care attitude earned her some strange looks, but it also earned her many friends. People were drawn to her honesty.

“We’re close,” she whispered.

I smiled and hurried to follow in her sure steps. What secret could Cristobel have to hide? What treasures would they be that no one but me was worthy to see?

The lanterns led to a small hut, tucked neatly into the green forest and almost completely hidden. The walls were covered in moss and climbing ivy. I couldn’t see a door through the tangle of foliage.

Cristobel turned to me and smiled through the blue-green waves of her hair. She held out a hand and a light radiated from behind the cover of green. The light ran up and around, outlining a door. With a muffled sound, the door cracked open and Cristobel hurried forward. She wrapped her small hand around a tarnished knob and encouraged me to follow her.

With a secret smile, she disappeared within the dilapidated house and I followed, my eyes already adjusting to the magical light within. Cristobel’s secrets were just beginning to unfold.


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, December 30, 2012

Ruth Long Week 27: Auld Lang Syne

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Auld Lang Syne

Outside, flakes of snow fell like feathers, settling over streets and sidewalks like an enveloping mantle of ivory lace. Strings of tiny white lights fell in swags over every window and doorway of the city's most elegant hotel, the historic Starre. Inside, roses, lilacs, orchids, hyacinths, narcissus, and lilies spilled from vases, bowls and flutes of crystal. Into this bower of opulence came a far lovelier flower. Poised beside a spray of peonies, she paused, drinking in the sights and smells of the historic Starre Hotel.

The maitre`d was immediately at her elbow, carving a path through the melee for her. "Miss Moira, I have your table. Please, follow me."

"Thank you, Roberto. Any news?"

He stopped at a table and held the chair for her. "Whispers and rumors. No one will tell us who bought her. You are as radiant as ever. Your father would have been proud to see you come through the door as if the Starre still belonged to you."

“She will always belong to me, Roberto, if only in my heart. I'm happy to see that the new owner adhered to the traditional white for New Year's."

He nodded. "One could say it became almost an obsession. I’ll let the staff know you’re here. Several of them want to say their goodbyes before you go."

Roberto’s departure gave way to the arrival of an old acquaintance, who drew a chair for himself at her table.

"This is a private party, George." She smiled to take the sting from the words.

"This is the owner's table, isn’t it?"

Trying to fathom his meaning, she said. "Yes, but my family no longer has a claim to the Starre."

"Perhaps not, but I do. I signed the papers this morning."

"You?! You bought the Starre?"

"Why not? Perhaps it's a sign of maturity."

"You've never wrestled with that particular affliction."

"Then let’s pretend I've taken it up as a hobby."

"I don't know what to say. How could you have outbid me?"

"You'd never have been able to buy her outright. Your father didn't have that kind of money."

"No, but I could have brought in a partner."

"Who would you have gone to for financial backing?"

"I don't know - I never got that far."

"Would you have come to me?"

"Of course not."


"I don't know you well enough."

"We went to school together all twelve years."

"We were classmates and high school we were lab partners. That's all."

"True, but we made pretty good partners, don’t you think?”

“So we didn't argue over frogs in the biology lab. Hardly monumental.”

His stood up, his eyes narrowing until she could scarcely see the blue at all. "I realize I have a certain reputation but I expected you to remember what happened that last year of high school. I apologize for interrupting your meal."

She watched him walk away. He’d grown a beard to mask the scars of his youthful recklessness. She knew better than anyone else the history of those scars. It was not improbable that he should expect her to feel connected to him in some way. Yet in her melancholy over the loss of her father and the Starre, she treated him as if he’d been gum on her shoe.

She'd come tonight to say 'goodbye' to the Starre, to put its memory behind her and make a fresh start. Her bags were packed and she had a one-way ticket to Woodbine on the ten o’clock. train. But if she left without clearing things up with George, she’d forever taint her memories of this place and her final moments here.

She pushed through the kitchen door, nearly bumping into George. She grabbed his sleeve and said, "George … can we start over? Please?"

Roberto handed George a basket containing a pair of crystal glasses and a bottle of champagne. "Sir, perhaps you'll have use for this after all."

George pushed the kitchen door open and strode down the hall to his office. He held the door for Moira, following her with an inscrutable countenance.

They sat across from each other at a large oak desk, staring at each other until she said, "Are you going to offer me a drink?"

He scowled at her. "Do you really want one?"

"I need something to settle my nerves."

The scowl didn’t lessen but he poured a glass, which she emptied immediately and returned to his desk with a clatter.

"All right, let’s go back the frogs and the bankers. What was it you were going to tell me?" She leaned across the desk to give him her undivided attention.

"I want you as my partner in the Starre.”


The hawk-like eyes narrowed until they were mere slits. "Never mind. Go home. The storm has let up for a bit."

She moved to his side of the desk. "Talk to me. Why would you want me as a partner?”

He looked past her to the door. "Because no one knows the Starre as well as you do."

"Is that the truth?"

He kept his eyes shut and his hands formed into fists. "No one knows me like you do ... I bought the Starre to draw you to me."

It wasn’t the revelation she'd expected. Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Your need scares me."

A choking noise came from deep in his chest. "You have no idea how much it scares me ... you really should go. Now. Before it’s too late. I invited the county's most upstanding citizens to witness my successful acquisition of the Starre but when I saw you tonight, I wished we had been alone together, just you and I."

Now it was she who shielded herself against the startling blaze of his eyes.

"Go home, Moria. Go home before I taint you with my need."

"It’s too late for that."

"Yes," he agreed pensively, "far too late."

Her mouth swallowed his words.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When the clock struck midnight, the Starre's guests found themselves without a host.

Roberto met their inquiries with a polite but mysterious answer: "Mr. Pallin is indisposed with a blessedly infectious case of 'auld lang syne'."


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.


JB Lacaden Week 27: Hex 2 - Lion, Ape, and Dog

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JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Hex 2 - Lion, Ape, and Dog

Val-Kara was the largest of the neutral cities. Its main source of income was from the selling of weaponry. A third of the city was filled with nothing but blacksmith shops. The other two thirds were a mixture of houses and shops dedicated to other things. Hex was currently dragging himself in one of the many alleyways of those two thirds.

His mind was a mess. He forced himself to remember but it felt like there was a brick wall blocking him from his memories. Hex kept on walking.

The alley was wide enough for other beggars like him to set up small shanties. The place smelled of piss and hopelessness. No matter where he looked, Hex’s eyes would land on a person on the edge of death. Shirtless children with dark skin would be seated on the ground; their eyes met Hex’s but their stares were blank. They had huge heads supported by very skinny bodies. Hex tore his gaze from them. Five nights he’d been in the city and he still wasn’t used to the poverty.

Val-Kara was indeed the largest and the richest of the cities, but it also contained the most number of beggars. Every alleyway, every thoroughfare, one would not fail to see someone seated on the ground begging for coins or for some food. Hex was now a part of them.

His aimless walk landed him in a square. On the north side, there was a charcoal colored wall filled with ivy. 

The other three sides contained shanties bigger than the ones he just passed in the alley. Hex made his way to the center and sat on one of the three wooden benches. Unknown to him, three men had their eyes on him ever since he emerged out of the alley. The three were now walking towards Hex.

“Well, well, what have we got here?” One of the men said.

Surprised, Hex stood up and turned towards the men. Fear started to balloon inside of him.

“Haven’t seen you ‘round these parts.” The man continued; his right eye was made of glass.

Hex started to back away. The other two went to their positions—one on Hex’s left, the other one on his right. The third man, the one with the glass eye, advanced.

“What’s your name, newcomer?” The man with the glass eye asked.

“I’m sorry if I’ve intruded in your place. I—I’ll be leaving,” Hex said.

Hex turned around but the one on his left grabbed his arm.

“You’ll go when I say you can go,” The glass eyed man said.

Then the man who had him in a vice grip said: “Answer his question. What’s your name?”

“He—Hex,” Hex replied.

“Nice to meet you, Hex. My name is Lion. The man on your left is Ape and this one’s Dog,” the glass eyed man said. “Now, we’ve got a rule here. Rule says that every newcomer must pay a fee if he wants to stay in our part of the city. Dog, explain to Hex how much the fee is.”

Dog had the eyes of a man who enjoyed seeing others in pain. He was a small and skinny man with sharp features. He smiled and put up five fingers. “Five silver coins for each night.”

“I don’t have any coins,” said Hex. He tried to pull his arm away but Ape’s grip was strong.

“Well, we’re sorry to hear that,” Lion said. “But that’s the rule. We can’t just excuse you from it. Why make up rules in the first place then, right?” Lion’s eyes shifted to Ape. “The man has no coins Ape. Remove a finger for each coin he owes us.”

At that, Hex screamed and thrashed and tried to get away. Dog dug his fist in Hex’s belly and he fell down on his knees. Dog then grabbed his other arm.

Lion pulled his hair up to lift his face. “I’m not a bad man. I really am not. But there are rules we need to follow.”

Using his other hand, Ape took out a knife tucked in his boot. Dried blood was still pasted on the blade. Ape looked at Lion.

“Start with the thumb,” Lion said, smiling.

The cool blade kissed Hex’s skin. The skin crack and blood started to seep out. That was when a rock went flying towards Ape’s head. It hit him on his temple which made him let go of Hex’s arm.

Lion, Dog, and Hex all searched for the rock thrower. There, standing by the ivy covered wall, a woman in a white dress with another rock in her hand. She was breathing heavily and her face reflected fear—fear for realizing what she just did. She lifted the rock over her head, unsure at whom to aim it at.

“You…uhm…” she had curly, brown hair that fell down her waist. Her eyes, round and huge, were just as brown. “You let him go,” she finished.

By this time, Ape had recovered from the blow. The man stood up with knife in hand. Blood flowed down the side of his head.

“Another new face,” Lion said. “Is this your boyfriend, here?”

The girl’s hand, the one with the rock, shook. She was crying now, Hex saw. She shook her head in reply.

“She pretty girl, boss,” Dog said. “Dog want pretty girl.”

“I want myself some pretty girl, too,” Lion rubbed his palms together. “All three of us can share.”

Hex noticed that his three assailant’s attention were no longer on him. Dog still had his other arm but the man’s grip had loosened up. Lying on the ground, beside Ape’s feet, was the rock the girl just threw. Hex pushed down the fear. He forced his hand to move. He grabbed the rock and before Dog could react, Hex smashed it on his head. The man fell unconscious to the ground. Lion and Ape turned to him but he was already on the move.

“Run!” Hex shouted at the girl as he ran towards her.

The girl, confused and scared, remained glued in her place. Behind Hex, he heard Lion’s shouts. Hex dared not to turn around. He reached the girl, grabbed his arm, and pulled him away. The two reached the ivy covered wall. Hex jumped and grabbed the top and climbed. But Lion and Ape had reached them. Lion grabbed the girl by the waist and Ape grabbed Hex’s wrist. Ape pulled hard. Hex fell hard on the ground.

The world seemed to sway and Hex could taste blood in his mouth. He lay on the ground and watched. Lion held both of the girl’s arms. The girl was saying something but all Hex heard was a buzzing sound in his ears. Ape started cutting the girl’s dress with his knife.

“Stop,” Hex said but no one seemed to hear him. He lifted his hand, palm out, and repeated: “Stop.”

The girl’s dress lay by her feet. She was naked now. She kept on crying and crying but Lion and Ape won’t stop.

Hex felt anger, pure anger, burning within him. He forced himself to a kneeling position. He watched as Lion drew his face close to the girl’s. A memory flashed in Hex’s head—a memory of a similar event but involved different people. “Stop!” He shouted. And with that, a spiral of flame shot forth from his palm and towards Lion.

The flame enveloped the man as he screamed in pain. Ape and the girl watched in horror. Lion fell to the ground, curled up in a fetal position, as he was devoured by fire. The air smelled of burning flesh. Ape looked at Hex, thought about attacking, but then turned and run.

The girl, arms covering her breasts, continued to cry. “Do—don’t hurt me, please, don’t.”

Hex remained on his knees, stunned. He looked at his palm and saw a spell tattooed on the skin.


JB Lacaden dreams of someday being a published writer. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines. He's a lover of comic books, science fiction, and high fantasy. Check out some of his works at and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 27: Redemption or Bust - Make It Rain Pt 13

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Redemption or Bust - Make It Rain

Part Thirteen

It rained all day.

Come evening it took a dinner break, started up again, and kept on raining through the night.

Things dried up by morning.

All of that water hitting land still warm from the summer sun birthed a fog thick enough to blanket everything in a fifty mile radius.

Santo drove more by feel than by sight but he kept his eyes focused in front of us when he wasn't throwing me more of the disapproving looks he'd been throwing my way since I asked him to drive me out to Bog Island.

“You remember what happened last time you saw her, right?” he asked me.

“Yeah. I remember.”


“She's not gonna shoot anyone, Santo. Not this time.”

“You sure about that?”

I shrugged.

“She's fresh out of Reubens brothers.”

I was deep into the third week of my convalescence at the Sunshade Motel and by then I could walk on my own, kind of. Driving was still a few weeks off.

Marisa's note came in the mail late in the second week, a few familiar words, with two additions, written on the back of a picture postcard.


Evangeline didn't want me to go.

I didn't want to go either but she and I both knew I was going to. This was the end. I needed to be there to see it.

Santo also didn't want me to go but he agreed to drive me out there. Evangeline didn't speak to either of us for the rest of the day and most of the next.

“Gonna want me to come out with you?” asked Santo.

We'd found our way through the fog to the edge of Bog Island. I had Santo stop about fifty yards out from the cabins so I could walk in alone. It was going to be a big test for the wounded leg. I used to be a fast healer. Wasn't so sure I still was.

“It's all right, Santo. You just hang back here. I'm not planning to spend the day out here.”

“You so sure she's not gonna shoot you, why'd you borrow that piece from me?”

He pointed at the .357 Magnum sitting in my shoulder rig where my Browning should have been. My gun was in an evidence locker at Nate's station house.

I couldn't come up with a retort for Santo worth the breath so I ignored him.

He dismissed me with a grunt and threw the El Camino into park.

Even the fog on Bog Island looked pretty.

It lounged atop the water, moving in wisps and plumes to reveal random snatches of wooded landscape around the lake.


I wished I had something to associate with the place other than a murdered woman and getting punched in the face.

The ground didn't slope much either way so the walking was easy. I followed the edge of a grey brick retaining wall around the lake toward the cabins and took my time about it.

“Hey there, Jake.”

Marisa stepped out of the fog. She had a long orange skirt on and still looked better in my t-shirt than I did. The blue paint on her toes matched the color of the ink in the tattoo.


If she was armed the concealment was very creative.


“How's the leg?”

“Seems to work. You hear us coming?”

“The El Camino's not the quietest car on the market.”

“This is your meeting. What do you want?”

“I'm leaving, Jake.”

“I was under the impression you already had. Even without Jed Reubens' money.”

She nodded.

“You cracked Jed's code.”

“Not me. I can't finish the acrostic in the Sunday paper. The sheriff's guy figured it out.”

She nodded again.

“Want to come up to the cabin, Jake?”

“I'm fine right here, Marisa.”

“Look. I'm sorry I shot you.”

“Yeah. Well, if it's any consolation Marko's bullet caused more problems than yours. Your shot was a through and through. Clean wound and you didn't hit anything important. His skipped off the ground. Dirty wound and it got infected.”

“I'm sorry anyway.”

“I got lucky. Sheriff Jones is still laid up. Marko really ripped him up. That all you wanted?”

I turned to leave.

“I knew you'd find me,” she said.

I stopped and turned back.

“I told you I'd help you out.”

“No, you didn't. You never got the chance.”

“It's the thought that counts.”

She laughed a little.

We lapsed into silence. I wouldn't call it a comfortable one.

She slipped the tattooed foot out of her sandal and flexed it against the hard surface of the path.

“You broke Jed's code, which means most of Jed's accounts have been seized by now.” She smiled at me. “Most of 'em. Even Vern didn't know about these.”

“That what he was out here looking for?”

“Gonna narc on me?” she asked.

“What for? Gonna shoot me again?”

“What for?”

Another silence. The last one.

“I think you've earned a little traveling money out of the Reubens clan.” I said.

A headache was gathering strength in the back of my head.

She started to ask another question. I saved her the trouble.

“Goodbye, Marisa.”

If she answered me I didn't hear it.

The walk back to Santo's car was harder than the walk out to the lake.



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, December 27, 2012

Michela Walters Week 27: Heroism Isn’t Just For Heroes

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Heroism Isn’t Just For Heroes

The sun rose, just like every other day.
Brilliant and warm, a soothing force in a busy world.
A young man, incapable of rational thought, grew angry at his mother’s love.
Not just her love reserved for him, but for her occupation, and those few under her tutelage.
He barged into a school, blasting his way into infamy.
This Christmas, twenty-six people are in the heavens watching over their families instead of celebrating with them.
And a town mourns the heroes that kept some of their young, safe from a madman.

In the dead of night, a blaze was lit.
A madman decided to raze his community, wanting to see the block engulfed in flames.
His shots rang out among the screaming sirens. Soon two lay bleeding on the frozen ground.
A patrolman driving by stopped to offer assistance, but not before half of the block was leveled to ash.
He thought of the fallen men first, and did his duty to serve and protect.
Yet another hero in this winter of discontent.

It doesn’t matter if they wear a badge or a gun.
What matters is the goodness in their heart.
Their knee-jerk reaction to stay and fight, rather than flee and take cover.
Hearts overflowing with the abundance of love for mankind.
Throwing themselves into harm’s way, rather than let others suffer.

Today, please look around and thank those unsung heroes for all they do for our world.
Without them, it would be a tragic and depressing place to be.

Godspeed to everyone who lost their lives this year because of senseless violence.
May the New Year be filled with thoughtful reflection on how we can all help our neighbors.
Cheers to all the heroes out there, for you make each of our lives better.

Note: The Webster, New York shooting of two firefighters hit particularly close to home for me, being that it occurred near my hometown. I hope you will allow me some leeway in my photo prompt this week, but I needed to get some of my emotions out through words. Wishing you and your family a safe and peaceful 2013.


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, December 26, 2012

Sarah Aisling Week 27: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Five)

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Five)

Ciel walked the halls at school feeling like a stranger in her own skin. She may not have been part of the popular crowd, but she did have friends. The secrets Ciel was keeping, the mystery she was trying to solve, and the tightrope she was traversing by attempting to determine what might help find Janice versus what would be considered a betrayal of trust left her noticeably conflicted.

Her best friend Joanie looked at her askance. “What's up with you lately, Ci? You always seem to be in a mood.”

“I'm fine.” Ciel lifted one shoulder and kept trudging along beside her petite, dark-haired friend.

Joanie was so thin and bony she appeared to be swallowed up by the huge tobacco colored backpack she always carried around. Her patience was at an end with Ciel's recent mood swings. She stopped dead in the hall, causing a number of students to swerve around them, turned her pale face Ciel's way, and gave her “the look.” It was one that Ciel recognized immediately—her “I call bullshit” look.

Ciel grabbed Joanie's arm and led her into a side hallway, out of the stream of students. She leaned against the putty metal lockers, thankful for the iciness of cold metal against her bare arm. “Okay . . . there's something, but I can't talk about it.”

“Even with your bestie?” Joanie's dark eyes exuded hurt.

“It's not my secret to tell. If I told anyone, it would be you, Jo.” Ciel shifted uncomfortably, staring down at her grungy pink Converse.

Joanie stared back at her for a moment before relenting. “I'm here if you need me.”

“I know.”

The warning bell sounded and Joanie's eye widened. “Shit! I can't be late for Scara's class again or I'll get detention.”

“Go then! I just have Study Hall.” Ciel waved a hand. “Catch ya later.”

After Joanie scurried off, Ciel leaned her back against the lockers and closed her eyes. She hated keeping secrets, hated lying to everyone—even if they were lies of omission. Janice had come to mean a lot to Ciel over the past few months, and she tried not to think about why she'd hidden that knowledge from Joanie and her other friends. Now that Janice was missing, she felt it would be a betrayal to start discussing their unorthodox friendship with people who probably wouldn't understand.

The final bell trilled, echoing through the empty halls. She lowered her head, letting out a slow breath. Unconsciously, Ciel started rubbing her index finger over the zodiac symbols on Janice's silver bracelet—a way of soothing her nerves. She'd taken to wearing it recently because it made her feel closer to Janice, and in some weird way, she'd hoped it might act as a talisman and bring her friend home safe.

The scuff of shoes and a harsh intake of breath caused Ciel's eyes to fly open. Professor Jeffries stood there glaring at her. “Young lady, where did you get this?” His hand wrapped around her wrist like a manacle, and he held it up between them.

“Wh-What?” she gasped.

“Are you simple? Where . Did. You. Get. This?” His fingers tightened, causing the bones in her wrist to grind together.

Ciel yelped and attempted to wrestle her arm out of Professor Jeffries' hold. “Let go!”

He didn't respond to her plea but simply turned and strode across the hall, dragging Ciel along with him. Ducking into an empty classroom, he slammed the door shut behind them and released Ciel's wrist. She collapsed into the first available desk and rubbed at her bruised flesh, glaring up at the handsome teacher.

“Where did you get that bracelet?” He persisted.

“You can't manhandle me like that! Teacher's aren't allowed to put their hands on students.” Ciel almost laughed out loud when the irony of her statement sank in.

Professor Jeffries slammed his palms down on the desk she was sitting in and leaned his face so close to Ciel's she could see minuscule flecks of green in his angry brown eyes. She leaned back in her chair, but there was nowhere to go, no escaping this very angry, out of control teacher.

“You can report me to the principal later. Right now, I need to know where you got the bracelet. Did you steal it?”

“No!” The anger that surged through Ciel at his insulting question overshadowed her fear, and she leaned forward until their noses were almost touching. “I'm not a thief!”

“Does it belong to you?”

“No. I'm holding it for a friend.”


Ciel was fed up with the way he was treating her. After all, he was the one who stood to lose. “You know damn well who, you pervert. Maybe I should be asking what you know!”

Professor Jeffries stumbled back from the desk and turned away, placing his forehead against the chalkboard, his shoulders slumped. “I'm not a pervert.” He sounded years older than moments before. “I don't expect you to . . . understand, but I assure you, I've been out of my mind with worry.”

“Worried the police are going to be knocking at your door?” Ciel's tone was pure acid.

“Look, I don't really know you, uh . . .” Professor Jeffries turned from the board and gestured at her uncertainly.


He tried to smile but it fell flat. “Ciel. Trust me when I tell you the police would be wasting their time talking to me. I'm anxious to find out something—anything. The waiting is . . . unbearable.”

Ciel eyed him up for a moment. His earnest gaze, openly full of pain, convinced her he was telling the truth. “I used to hold onto the bracelet for her . . . outside of school. Lately I've been wearing it because it makes me feel closer to her.”

“That's understandable, Ciel. I apologize for the way I reacted to you—it's just . . . seeing the bracelet was upsetting and stirred up all kinds of emotions.”

“That's okay.”

“Does anyone else know . . . ?” He ducked his head awkwardly.

“No, and I have no intention of telling anyone unless it would help find her.”

“You're a good friend to her, Ciel. She doesn't have many friends like you.”

Ciel couldn't wait to be away from Professor Jeffries and their awkward encounter. It was obvious to her that the man was devastated by Janice's disappearance, but she also couldn't forget what she'd read in Janice's journal about how he broke his own rules to sneak around on school property to get off when Janice was grounded.

She hurried through the silent halls, thankful for the quiet. As she passed through the corridor that connected to Building A, she had a view of the football field below. Normally the field would be deserted at this time of day, but the football team was hosting a Medieval Times themed dance. The players were dressed up as knights, some of them play-jousting while others cheered from the sidelines.

Ciel had a sudden urge to be in the presence of the one person who knew some of what she was going through. She rushed down the next stairway and out into the brisk air. It was impossible to recognize anyone behind the shiny armor, and Ciel had no desire to make a spectacle of herself, so she perched on the bleachers and watched.

A few minutes later, one of the knights knelt down before her and bowed his head. “Good day, fair maiden.” Jason Greene's voice greeted her.

Ciel blushed. “Good day, brave knight.”

Jason flipped up the visor of his helmet and wiggled his eyebrows. “Do you need saving?”

Ciel hesitated. “Kind of.”

The amused gleam in Jason's eyes was replaced by concern. “I'll meet you at your locker after school.”

“Okay.” She smiled shyly.

“Greene! You're up!” the coach bellowed.

“Gotta go! Later.” Jason put his hand on her knee for a moment. With a wink, he flipped his visor back down and trotted out onto the field.

Butterflies of anticipation erupted in Ciel's stomach.


Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing 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, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook: Website:


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

J M Blackman Week 27: The End of the World (As We Know It)

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The End of the World (As We Know It)

Throughout the years, throughout the worlds,
He had seen many a’thing:
gods, destroyers, Martians that loved to sing.
Universes of water, worlds of fire, hell on Earth,
Even peace for mankind. But of all the things he had seen,
Nothing had ever swayed his decision to end it all,
No, nothing even caused him to lean,
Until he found a young woman, a Fate,
With a library to shame all others.

She let him have a seat, for an old man’s sake,
Gave him a glass of water, navigating the towers with ease
her blind eyes at home in her literary catacomb.
He asked her why she did this, what was the point
If she’d seen the truth? She told him it was the right thing to do,
That he had wounds as big as the universe to soothe.

No, black holes, no brown dwarves could eliminate
The pain; he had lives and lives of it,
Enough to open his own dedicated plane.
Life as we know it would end, she concluded, patting his shoulder,
But it would start anew in the morning, like it always did.

Because as insignificant as humans are, she concluded,
Wandering off in the wobbling stacks,
They have the miraculous ability to hope. And they’ll hope
For more, even as others burn the world around them.

So burn it, her soft voice whispered, they’ll rise
From the ashes still.

And the man let go of the things that he’d seen,
The places he’d been; he let go of horror and tragedy,
Despondency and ill. The towers of book shimmered and shook
And took on a light all their own. The glow was nearly unbearable.
But he would sit the world, observe the seeds he had sown.

The ceiling opened up and the universe gave a great crack:
It would demolish and wither, shrivel and die,
But sometime the next morning, it would come right back.


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, December 24, 2012

Jen DeSanatis Week 27: Sugar Plum Dreams

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2

Title: Sugar Plum Dreams

I looked in on him last night: his plump, toddler cheeks cherry red against his white pillow and his chubby hand wrapped tightly around his stuffed mouse. I couldn’t help myself. I curled myself around his sleep-warm body and cradled him in my arms the way I had when he was an infant.

Perfect, bow-tie lips made a little ‘o’ in sleep and I imagined that I could see his dreams. Sugared apples and fairy wings, silver knights and fiery dragons. I held him as he slept, felt his little body twitch rise and fall with each breath, and sighed in contentment.

My darling, my little boy. He could put even the most sparkling sugar plum dream to shame.


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.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cara Michaels Week 26: Snow Globe

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 2

Title: Snow Globe

Author’s Note: This is an original story featuring characters from my Christmas short, Their First Noelle, available now from Evernight Publishing and on Amazon.

“December is the time for ho, ho, ho.” A little girl skipped down the street ahead of her mother, singing at the top of her lungs. “December is the time for loooove. December is the time for lots of snow…”

Kris’ face twisted into a what-the-hell grimace.

“That’s no Christmas carol. What is she singing?”

“Don’t be a Scrooge, Kris,” Nick said. He nudged his partner in the ribs. “It’s cute. She probably learned it at school.”

“Sounds like something you’d hear at the mall.”

“Good thing you hate the mall.” Nick shook his head. “Dodged a serious bullet there.”

“Yet here we are,” Kris said with a sigh, “shopping two days before Christmas. Main Street or the mall, we’re still going to find a share of crazy. Who did you neglect until the last minute?”

They walked along said Main Street, browsing the shop windows with a lazy eye. Kris—Mr. Organization—had finished his Christmas shopping a month ago. Nick still had his mind set on a trinket or two before the big day arrived.

Nick’s clandestine reason for the outing came into view. He spied the snow globe sitting in the window of Annabelle’s Attic, a little shop filled with curios and knickknacks. Loads of pretty little dust catchers, Kris would say.

The glass globe gleamed in the midday sun. Glittering white ‘snowflakes’ coated the bottom, surrounding a golden Ferris wheel capped with brilliant red cars.

Kris caught the direction of his stare and his expression changed. Softened.

“What?” Nick asked, wary of the shift. “What is it?”

“Nothing.” He seemed to laugh at himself. “The snow globe. I just thought of someone who might like it. I don’t know why. It’s not the sort of gift I give.”

Nick’s eyes narrowed. “Well, you can’t have it. I already asked Clary to hold it for me.”

“And who are you giving it to?”

“No one. I mean, no one important,” Nick hedged.

“If it isn’t important, you won’t mind if I get it, then.”

“Um, yes, I will.”

“Then tell me who it’s for, Nick.” The smug expression on Kris’ face could incite a lesser man to violence. “Because I know damn well the winter wonderland there isn’t for me. So who’s got you feeling sentimental?”

He blamed the cold weather on his reddening cheeks. Damn the man. As stubborn as a mule, and he kicked like one, too. In the verbal sense at least. Nick faced the window, eyes locked on the Ferris wheel, the red and gold blurring together. Slender hands wrapped around the base of the globe and lifted it. With a quick shake, the snow inside swirled into a blizzard. Nick’s gaze trailed from the hands, up the coat-covered arm, to long, fire-engine red hair.


Nick coughed on a quick breath.

She didn’t see them. Didn’t see him staring like a child at what he wanted most for Christmas. Noelle looked over her shoulder, toward the counter. Clary smiled and shook her head, saying something along the lines of, Sorry, it’s taken. With visible reluctance, Noelle returned the globe to the shelf, her fingers lingering over the glass before falling away.

“She’s who I would get it for, too,” Kris said. “And she did tell you she’d be here for Christmas.”

The spell of the moment broken, Nick shot a quick peek at him. “What do you mean?”

He gave Nick a don’t-play-stupid look.

“Fine. I know. It just—it reminds me of her. Forget it.”

“Clary just told her she can’t have it. You have to get it for her now.”

“It’s a dumb idea.”

“And sweet.” Kris threw an arm around Nick’s shoulder and squeezed him close, a rare public display of affection. “As long as we agree to keep the Christmas ‘dumb’ to just giving a gift to a woman we hardly know.”

We. One word gave Nick hope. Their twosome would one day be a threesome. And for all his reserve, Kris wasn’t entirely opposed to Noelle being the one to join them.

“She’ll probably think we’re crazy.”

“Maybe.” Kris shrugged. “But at least you know she’ll like it.”


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


Friday, December 21, 2012

M L Gammella Week 26: Celebration

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Celebration

Fall was her favorite time of year. There was just something about it. The weather started to change, the leaves began to color. There was a crispness to the air that summer never had.

Sure, spring and summer were awash in a glory of colors, from pale and delicate daisies to vibrant and bold roses, but it was nothing in comparison to the richness of fall. The reds, golds, browns, and purples

All her friends thought she was crazy. They loved to be as unencumbered by clothes as much possible and lived for the heat and sun of summer where the uniform was tiny shorts and itty bitty tank tops. Those things didn’t matter to her. She didn’t care for the heat and she burned easily.

Kate didn’t mind spring or summer totally, she did enjoy watching the plants grow and picking fresh fruit and vegetables. It was awe-inspiring actually, to plant a tiny little speck, nothing more than what looks like a bit of rock, in the ground and watch what happens in the days following. A delicate, pale shoot reaching for the sun and sky, declaring that it lived and would thrive.

Still, Kate preferred the fall, after all the plants had grown and produced all that they could.

When her friends groaned at that first gust of crisp, fall air, Kate cheered and eagerly ran for her soft fleece jacket or her warm wool coat. While her friends huffed and fussed in their homes, too chilled in their summer clothes to venture out, Kate happily strolled through the trees, gathering handfuls of fallen leaves and tossing them in the air like confetti.

It was like nature was celebrating the completion of another season, another plentiful harvest. So why shouldn’t she celebrate too?

All too soon, the leaves will be gone and the world will be purified by a blanket of snow. The bitter cold of the dead of winter was a little much for Kate, but she knew that it was necessary. Even nature needed a moment of rest, and after the last of the snow melted, it would all start again.

And Kate would be waiting for those leaves to fall, to celebrate again, another year of life.


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, December 20, 2012

Nicole Wolverton Week 26: The Red Queen

We have a special guest on the blog today, Nicole Wolverton, who graciously agreed to fill in today's spot. Starting January 3rd, we will have a new permanent author in the Thursday spot, alternating with Michela Walters. Find out more about Nicole Wolverton below her prompt, including information about her must have debut novel.

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Nicole Wolverton’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Red Queen

Delilah Barbour stared at the wallpaper. Perhaps the roses were meant to be soothing, but her retinas flamed. In the corner lurked a face, a broad pink nose topped by a narrowed eye, lids swollen. The other eye was gone, plucked out and dark as a forest. The mouth—that terrible mouth—lips puffy, beaten.

“Sweetheart,” called Mother. “It’s time for lunch.”

It was always time for lunch.

Into the room Mother sprinted, bearing a metal tray. Delilah avoided looking her square in the face for fear of what lay there, what loathing she might find. Still, the ends of the hair tickled the blue housedress just below beefy shoulders. The smell of talc underlaid with sweat crusted the air. The crimson slip peeked out, like the Red Queen.

The clink of the tray on wood pressed Delilah’s bones into petrified trees, knees aching as though she’d run for miles.

“Just eat a few bites of soup, won’t you?”

“Yes, Mother.” Delilah’s voice was hoarse. The cabbage roses in the wallpaper had mouths for centers. Great hungry gaping lips ringed with tiny teeth.

“That’s my good girl.”

The door. Opened. Closed. Footsteps on stairs. Delilah bolted from her chair to inspect lunch. The white plate with blue flowers under three slices of dry white toast. A coddled egg in a pink ceramic cup just the color of the wallpaper maw. Scallion rings floating in chicken broth, great globs of fat gleaming on the surface. The bowl with the chipped rim, Alice—sweet Alice—drowning in the bottom.

Off with her head.

Clear glass of something orange. She sniffed at the glass, nose hung over the edge. Just juice, sweet and sour. She pocketed the fork.

Delilah gobbled eggs and toast, eggs and toast, all the while noticing the arrows in the paper pointing toward the door. There was no use in refusing the suggestion. Even the flowers shouted approval in the squeakiest, hungriest of voices.

The door knob chilled the hand, but it turned nice enough. Quiet enough.

One after the other, her feet ate up the carpet. So loud, the pattern—down the cranberry twirl to the plum border, blueberry ribbon down the stairs. Delilah followed the shine-burnished banister to the sitting room and stopped at the wide window, fringed in gold brocade and burgundy velvet. Thin white fingers played the fabric: sticky sticky.

Into the hallway she crept only to spy Mother at the kitchen counter pounding bread with full-grown fists. On the sideboard Delilah counted cups. White teacup with pink roses, just like the wallpaper in her room. Celery-green, crack in the rim. Creamy gray, missing the handle. Shiny sharp on the plank with the bread. She pocketed the knife.

“Mother.” Voice low and gruff, like the grumble of a dog. No matter.

“Naughty Delilah. What are you doing out of bed?” Mother was smiling with her face, but Delilah could see the Red Queen beneath the skin.

“Nothing, Mother. I’ve come for more toast. May I have more toast?”

“You go back to bed, and I shall bring you another slice.”

Delilah nodded, just once. Hard enough to shake loose the curls from her barrette.

Out the door she went. Behind the door she hid.

The rose wallpaper was here, too, mouths screaming with those big, beaten lips. Delilah clasped the knife to her chest.

Mother backed out of the kitchen only moments later. The crimson slip hung beneath the blue housedress.


A high-pitched screech warbled, and Delilah sprung.

Off with her head.


Nicole Wolverton is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. Her short fiction has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and Penduline, among others. Her debut novel, a psychological thrilled titled The Trajectory of Dreams, is due out in March 2013 from Bitingduck Press. She also moderates 5 Minute Fiction, a weekly flash fiction challenge. For more information, visit her website at


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kimberly Gould Week 26: Wingless Angel

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Wingless Angel

I stood on the curb watching traffic fly by. I kept meaning to flag one of the cabs, but something in me wanted to walk, to take in the busy streets that surrounded me. Bright lights and loud noises followed me for a few blocks, then things became quieter, darker. There were still streetlamps, and the sky was still painted orange, but there weren’t any more signs lighting up the night around me. I walked further, aimlessly, trying to find something I didn’t know I’d lost.

I stopped at a familiar sound, water rushing.

My mind flashed back to that day. I remembered bobbing in the ice cold water. My mouth and nose were covered then not, then covered again. I choked and struggled, trying to fight the current sending all of us over the precipice. I couldn’t stop it. Thankfully, it had been long enough since we’d called for help that I could see a helicopter on the horizon. It looked like any of the dragonflies buzzing around, except it was large and becoming larger.

I screamed as I went over the edge. I gasped for air, knowing I’d go under when I hit the bottom. Water was everything, everywhere. Bubbles and water, white and grey, I couldn’t make out anything.

Thankfully my life jacket jerked me up. I coughed while gripping it, trying to expel what had been forced into my lungs. That was when I saw him, an angel without wings.

Water splashes me again, less cold and less violent than that day. A car splashing through a puddle has soaked my shoes and socks. Cursing, I shake my foot and step back. The rushing water was just the rain being drawn down a storm grate. I’m too shaken though, too lost in my memory to walk further. I lean against a power converter box instead, grey and cold. My face feels too hot and I rest my cheek on the metal, watching more cars speed by.


I straighten, surprised to hear my name.

It’s him, my hero. What is he doing here? “Brian?”

His smile is warm and different from the cross expression of determination as he pulled me out of the water. “Yeah. How are you?”

I put a hand to my head. “Been better.”

“Get you a coffee?” he asks, his elbow extending to me. I loop my arm through it and lean on him, just as I did in the chopper once we were both hauled up. He smells different. He smelled salty, sweaty that day. Today he smells musky. It’s familiar enough though, and I let his presence stabilize me in the middle of the remembered fear and panic.

“I gotta stop running into you,” I tell him. “You’re going to think I’m stalking you.”

He laughs. “Nah. I’m pretty sure I’m following you.” His smile fades just a little as he opens the door to the coffee house. “Would that be all right?” His eyes fill with concern and a little fear of his own.

I smile broadly. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have watching over me.”


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, December 18, 2012

Samantha Lee Week 26: Witch in a Bottle

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Witch in a Bottle

Truth be told, I don't like witches. Well, that's not fair. I don't like witches as a general rule but if I ever met one that wasn't a soul-trading, demon-dealing, moral-lacking harlot I'd be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm still open to the possibility.

Take the last witch I encountered. Had I gone off past experience, I would have ripped her heart out of her chest the moment she came within reach. But I didn't. She had her daughter with her and with witchcraft being an hereditary gift passed through the maternal line I just didn't feel like putting up with a vendetta twenty or thirty years down the road. I had enough to worry about, thank you very much.

Her name was Annabeth Laurie, which sounds like it would belong to a nice enough woman and, honestly, she had the looks to match. You look at her, and you see a semi-plump strawberry blonde with blue eyes and freckles; doesn't exactly scream "human-sacrificing, dark-arts-practicing psychopath," now does it? And her daughter, who share her colouring if little else, was just the most adorable little ten year old you could imagine. Bare note here, ladies and gentlemen, if it's got even the smallest bit of magic to it and seems even remotely pleasing to the eye, it's very unlikely to sweet and harmless.

Now, to be clear here, Annabeth found me. She and her daughter showed up on the doorstep of a house I was staying at and tried to play the "Oh, woe be us, we're a struggling mother and her child, woe, woe, woe!" card. I'm a centuries old Fae, a warrior and prince of my people; I was more than a little insulted she actually expected me to fall for such a ploy and responded accordingly; I slammed the door in her face.

Three days later, she tried again, this time coming to me in public as I perused a market and telling me a sob story about needing the help of a powerful warrior to get her and her daughter out of some tragic predicament. I abhor playing the white knight and could not care less for the petty problems of mortals; I turned my back on her and went on about my business. The next day she set on me with her curses and spells, make a right real nuisance of herself with her own little set of plagues and calamities. I actually found it rather amusing at first and probably would have let her go on until she had exhausted herself and moved on. My heritage allowed me both immortality and immunity to magic; all that she set on me was indirect and broad-scaled, like poisoning my gardens and caving in sections of the house. Annoying but tolerable.

Unfortunately, at about the time Annabeth had taken to striking out at some of my more vulnerable staff members - which was something I viewed as culling the herd, so to speak, and more or less permitted - my sister came to visit.

Cat is not a forgiving creature; she never has been. When we were younger and freer, her acts of vengeance were legendary. She had a tendency to be merciless and ruthless, even by our standards, although her thoroughness was usually balanced by a great deal of patience and understanding. In fact, there was essentially only one crime, as it were, that got her hackles up; harming her loved ones. She was a little...crazy about it. You could do what you wanted to her, do the horror movies proud - she wouldn't care, but her sanity tended to vacate the premises if you so much as bruised someone she cared about. Since her escape, she's only gotten worse - or better, depending on your outlook.

Cat didn't visit often. My mother - her stepmother - was hunting her and it made family reunions complicated, to put it mildly. Usually we met in various cities around the world where the crush of mortal life was dense enough to conceal our presence in their midst. This was different though. This was our seven hundredth birthday. Cat insisted on taking the risk and coming home.

Cat arrived with her entourage; an accompaniment of cats and ghosts and her vampire lover. She was at my home a mere two hours when the witches arrived and set about their cursing and what have you.

"Witches, Rav?" she asked, amused. "You run afoul of witches? What did you do - refuse to play the sacrifice in their ritual?"

"Something like that," I griped. "It's cost me two brownies and a hobgoblin to date, but I'd prefer to avoid the blood feud killing them would incite."

Cat snorted and shook her head. "Well, at least they're mortal. If they don't tire themselves out, they'll be sure to die sooner or...Oh." Cat tipped her head and rose to her feet. She went to the window and carefully peeled back the curtain to peek outside. "I think I'd like to meet your witches, Rav. Let's go outside and introduce me, shall we?"

It was not a good idea. Cat was a lot more tolerant of witches than I was - she'd even befriended a few over the centuries - but I knew that tone of voice, recognized it as the portent it was. Unfortunately, before I could object, Cat was walking briskly from the room and down the hall for the door. Sighing, I followed in her wake.

Cat was already perched atop the top rail of my fence, only a few feet from Annabeth, the very picture of the good-old farm girl. She'd even donned a pink checkered halter top and cut-off denim shorts and tied her hair in long braided pigtails.

I arrived just in time to hear her chirp hello. "I'm Cat," she told Annabeth. "I'm Fiachra's sister. Younger sister by a whole two minutes. What do you want?"

That's my sister folks, blunt to a fault. Annabeth stared, her daughter stared, Cat smiled, I sighed.

Finally, Annabeth began her oh-please-pity-me spiel but Cat cut her off after the first half dozen words. "Yes, yes, whatever. I don't want to know why; I want to know what. Now spill. What EXACTLY do you want from my brother?"

"There's a ritual. I need blood. Old blood. Powerful blood. Princes of the Fae top the food chain."

"Uh-huh. My brother won't give you his blood. Or any other fluid for that matter. You're a witch; there are about a dozen dozen spells that could have devastating results in a whole slew of ways if fuelled by his blood. So, nope, not happening. Now, would you kindly get on with your life? Mortality is a fleeting flame and all that."

Cat smiled again and hopped down from the fence. She offered an exaggerated courtesy and turned to leave. That would have been the end of it, or at least it could have been, but the witch would not let it go. She threw a potion, a pearl-hued concoction in one of those old fashioned glass bottles. The witch should have thrown the potion at Cat, it would have been safer for her, but instead she targeted me. Big mistake.

Cat moved faster than sight and snatched the bottle from the air. She held it in her hand, her fury a palpable force that vibrated around her. With a flex of her hand, the glass shattered and the potion bled out from between her fingers. Cat fed off energy; she devoured the magic inherent in the potion as if it were popcorn.

"I know what you planned, little witch. It's a pain, isn't it, having all that power, all that potential inside such a fragile mortal shell. I bet you envy us something fierce, don't you? We're your ideal, your perfection, and you can only ever be what you are, unless that is you're prepared to offer some sort of extreme sacrifice to shift your status. And you were more than willing to do so, weren't you? You should have quit while you were ahead and left when I gave you the chance."

The witch threw some spells, some potions, some curses. Cat absorbed the energy like a sponge and then conjured a bottle of her own. "Don't fret, little witch. I'm granting your wish; I'm granting you immortality."

Annabeth hissed. "You lie. No Fae has that power."

It was my turn to snort. "Are you serious? Who did your research? The kid? I'm Fiachra, Prince of Serpents, son of the Winter you have any idea who my sister is?" Cat frowned. "Do mortals even still remember, Rav? In any case, it doesn't matter. I'm hungry. Let's get this over with."

What happened next is difficult to explain. Cat let loose her power, wrapping it around the witch and proceeding to rip her apart. It was like a twisting maelstrom of energy and molecules and magic. The witch's screams rent the air. Cat held out her bottle in the palm of her hand and watch impassively as the power funnelled into it, dragging the witch with it.

"Keeley," Cat said, addressing one of her henchmen, "wipe the child's memory, bind her powers and deposit her somewhere where she won't be a problem anymore."

A moment later, the child vanished.

"What did you do to the witch?" I asked, giving the bottle a dubious look.

"I'm...not entirely sure. I was going for a sort of hybrid genie thing but I think I may have done more of a stasis thing, I'm not sure. And there's no way to be really sure unless we open the bottle and, um, I'd rather not. Like, ever."

I nodded and plucked the bottle from her hand. She smiled and slipped in close beside me, looping her arm around my waist. "Happy birthday, Rav."

I sighed. "Happy birthday, Cat."


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


Monday, December 17, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 26: Tick Tock

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2

Title: Tick Tock

Its face was beautiful. Stainless steel findings with gold embellishments adorned the inner workings. It shone in the cool, bright autumn light as it hung from the bedpost in front of my eyes. I shifted and the glass winked in the sunbeam.

My eyes flitted to the window. A chill crept in from the open pane and I shivered. A sweater would have been nice, or perhaps a blanket. But I sat on the bed in only a thin nightgown watching the clock.

My fingers were numb and pain shot up my arms as I twisted my wrists. The coarse rope bit at the tender skin at the base of my palm, but I couldn’t revive my fingers. They’d been without blood-flow for hours.

I closed my eyes for five ticks, but they flashed open and my heart began to race violently. At first, I didn’t know what had caused my panic, but my eyes soon fell on the face of the watch. Its hands were frozen on the four and the eight.

The door to my room slowly swung open.

As a shadow crossed the threshold, my eyes remained rapt upon the watch. Its face was beautiful and its workings were dead. The metaphor was not lost on me.


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, December 16, 2012

Ruth Long Week 25: Kaleidoscope

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Kaleidoscope

The world shrieks and sinks talons into our hearts.
This we call memory.
~Tim O'Brien~

Robyn’s hand shook as she snapped the cell phone shut. Too late now to take it back, sweep it under the rug or hide it in the attic. You didn’t phone someone from your past and invite them into your screwed up present, only to call it off thirty seconds later. It probably happened all the time, but not to men like Shen Lei and not by women like her.

She put on a fresh pot of coffee and went out to the terrace. The city was in shadows, that cool beautiful indigo of dawn kissing the evening goodbye. Lights winked like old friends with secrets. Sounds rose from street, ten stories below, a symphony of snoring, cab brakes and street sweepers.

Soon, people would be waking and gearing up for another day of business as usual. How she wished she could join in that marvelous monotony but today was the last she’d see of ‘normal’ unless Lei could straighten things out.

Straighten things out. Like a rug had been skewed or a car parked catty-wampus. If what had happened in the warehouse tonight was irreversible, it would completely alter her existence.

Though she hadn’t eaten all day, something in her stomach churned at the possibility of having to live such a guarded life. As she mulled over the implications, day chased night across the horizon on stealthy paws.

The buzzer startled her and she went to the door, peering through the peephole to be sure she knew who was on the other side. Lei stood in the hall, broad shoulders filling the doorway, thick brows furrowed and dark eyes wary.

Forgetting herself for a moment, she opened the door and stepped towards him. Soon as his hand caught hers, she came to her senses and stepped beyond his reach, breaking their physical connection.

He tipped his head and eyed her. “Hang on. I remember ringing the bell but not the door opening or you coming into the hall.”

She nodded. “I’m sorry about that. It’s been going on for about seven hours now. That’s why Keckler didn’t want to wait for office hours. Thanks for coming out here in the middle of the night. You still take your coffee black?”

He followed her into the apartment, noting how the lean lines of youth had become gentle curves.

“Here,” she said, ushering him to a comfortable stool at the gray granite bar. “Let me get you a mug and then we can talk.”

“It’s good to see you,” he said into the quiet as she puttered in the kitchen.

She brought his coffee and settled on the stool beside him. “I apologize for interrupting your weekend -”

He interrupted her. “You didn’t. Lijuan left a couple years ago, and my sons are starting families of their own, so the only thing on my calendar is work engagements and deadlines.”

“Oh.” She started to touch his arm in empathy but caught herself in time.

He drank down half the cup before setting it aside. “You ready to talk now? I want to hear it from the beginning.”

She ducked her head, her auburn hair closing around her face while she collected her thoughts.

“My department was called out to search a warehouse tonight – or last night – but all we turned up were a couple squatters.”

“So, standard routine? Nothing out of the ordinary?”

“Right, until I went back to get the witness’s official statement and he didn’t remember me or talking to me or what he’d said.”

His eyes narrowed. “Like what just happened to me in the hall?”

“Yes. It happened again when my sergeant asked me to drive the squatters to the shelter. Thing is, he’d given me that same order just a couple minutes before.”

“What did those interactions have in common?”

She caught his gaze. “I touched them. I shook the squatter’s hand and took the report from my sergeant’s hands.”

“So that’s why you dropped my hand earlier? You were afraid your touch would affect my memory?”

“Exactly. And it did. You have any idea what would cause something like this?”

He shook his head. “No, nothing comes to mind. Are you aware of any memories that aren’t your own?”

“No. I thought about that too. That maybe whatever this is, maybe it absorbed those memories but I’m not conscious of anything like that.”

“Do you have internet access? I’d like to log into Keckler Corp and skim a research paper I’ve been working on with a colleague. It’s a piece for the National Alzheimer’s Association but there are a couple bits of memory specific data that I’d like to review in respect to your situation.”

She stood up. “Are you okay with this, Shen? Being here with me? You know how Keckler is. He didn’t stop to ask for particulars or think about history. He just said you’d be best suited to deal with this. But if you’re uncomfortable, I’ll -”

“Keckler is right. I’m the logical choice for this situation. He’s granted us carte blanche to the facility. Anything we need to figure this out is at our disposal. Personnel. Lab equipment. Finances.”

“He’s always been a little overzealous,” she said with a smile that didn’t touch her blue-green eyes. “Come on. The living room is just through here. My laptop is on the coffee table. You’ll have a laugh at all the memory websites I’ve pulled up in the last few hours.”

He snatched her sleeve, careful not to touch her skin. “So we’re clear, blossom, I’m very uncomfortable being here with you. I have a belly full of regret where you’re concerned. Twenty-five years worth. Never been one for weighty conversations but before this is finished, there are some things I want to say to you.”

Her eyes glittered. “I’d like that. Now let’s get you set up on the computer. If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a little catnap while you read. It’s been a long day.”

She got him settled in and curled up on the far end of the couch, watching him for a few moments as her body sank into the comfort of the soft cushions. The long untamed black hair she remembered was now close cut, the proud slope of his brow and cheeks was stronger, more defined, and the rich warm bronze skin was firm and clear but for some stubble on his chin and upper lip.

The shattered glass cylinder lay beneath a window, its wet stain seeping into the concrete. The detective was going to be a nice fit in the unit. The woman always ordered the same thing, coffee, cream, two sugars. The years have only made her more beautiful.

She came awake with a start. “Shen!”

He was across the room at her desk, writing in a notebook. “What? Are you okay? What happened?”

Taking a deep breath, she said, “I found them. The memories. They came in a dream. All of them.”

“Tell me,” he said, coming to sit beside her.

“It was like a kaleidoscope at first. I saw all these different pieces but I didn’t know how they fit. Not at first. But then they came into focus. The squatter saw a broken cylinder with some kind of dark ooze on the glass and cement around it. And the sergeant -”

He put a hand on her knee. “Wait. Go back to the liquid. Did you touch it?”

“No. Hang on. Maybe I did. While I was in the warehouse, I stepped in something slick and brushed my shoe with my hand, thinking maybe it was blood.”

“What other memories came to you?”

“That was it for the warehouse. But I know what my sergeant was thinking when I took the clipboard from him. And the girl who gave me change at the coffee shop on the way back to the precinct.”

“And what I was thinking in the hall when you opened the door?”

“Yes. That too.”

“You going to tell me what it was?”

“No,” she said, feeling the flush spread across her cheeks.

“It’s okay. I have a pretty good idea,” he said, standing up and smiling at her. “Let’s get your shoes and drive out to the lab. I want to start with an MRI and go from there. We’re going to get this figured out, Robyn. You have my word.”

“I’ll get my things and meet you in the kitchen,” she said, getting up and going to her room.

When she came back into the living room, he was still there. “That didn’t take you long. About five minutes, right? Five long boring minutes in which nothing monumental transpired, right?”

She shrugged into her coat. “I’m not sure what you’re getting at.”

“That I won’t lose anything that will jeopardize solving your situation by doing this,” he said, leaning in and kissing her cheek.


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, December 15, 2012

JB Lacaden Week 25: Hex 1 - Memories and Dreams

Picture 1

Picture 2

JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Hex 1 - Memories and Dreams

The dream came to Hex again. He was in his usual starting point—standing in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by tall pine trees. In his dream, it was always night. There were no stars and the moon was huge and ghostly white. In his dreams, he would always find himself holding a weapon—one night it was a dagger, the following night had him clutching a spear, the night after he would have a crossbow. This night, he was holding a type of sword he had never seen before. It had a wide, curved blade and it had no guard.

Hex’s dreams were always vivid. He smelled clearly the scent of pine and the earth beneath him. His ears picked up sounds of the nocturnal animals lurking behind the cloak of darkness. He felt the cool breeze kiss his skin every now and then. He could also clearly hear her crying and, just like always in his dreams, Hex would start off by shouting: “Who’s there?!” only to be answered by silence. This time though, this night, the dream was different. There was no crying. Instead, Hex heard someone calling out his name. It was a woman’s voice—soft, almost a whisper, but strangely, loud enough for Hex to hear.

Hex. Hex. Hex.

“Who’s there?” Hex picked out the direction of the sound and started walking. The sword in his hand felt heavy.

Hex. Hex. Hex.

He stepped out of the clearing and into the woods. Light spilled from the gaps between the leaves from above. Spots of moonlight lay scattered on the ground. Hex carefully made his way to the woman’s voice. He walked and walked and walked but he never seemed to get any closer to his destination. Sweat rolled down his face and his breathing grew labored. But right at the moment that Hex would give up his search, he would come across a massive, stone tower.

It was wide as it was tall. The tower had a smooth, black surface as if it was placed there as a whole. Black colored vines with scarlet leaves crept all around it. It had neither windows nor any other openings but a flight of stairs ran around it going upwards to the tower’s very top. Like always, in Hex’s dream, he would approach the tower and walk up the stairs. This dream was no exception.

The moon watched him as he ascended the tower. The voice kept on whispering his name.

Hex. Hex. Hex.

Finally, Hex reached the top.

Hex was surprised to see the top, even though he had seen it numerous times in his past dreams. The floor was carpeted with scarlet colored grass and in front of him stood a wooden cross. The moon hung directly behind the cross. Someone was chained, spread-eagle, on the cross. That someone was a woman. Hex took a step closer. The woman lifted her face and smiled and whispered: “Hex. You came.”

The face touched something in Hex’s memory. He knew who she was but something was blocking his mind from remembering. The woman called Hex to come closer. The woman on the cross was wearing a white, silk dress—light enough to see the skin beneath. She had white colored hair that fell down on her breasts. Her eyes were red and they held Hex with such power that the young man couldn’t pull himself away from her gaze. She had a pointed chin and high cheekbones—a face of royalty. Hex continued on walking closer and closer. He heard something move behind him but he paid it no mind. His mind was clouded with nothing but the woman’s voice. Closer Hex. Come closer. “Such power you possess,” the bound woman said.

Hex was a foot away from her. She smelled of smoke and fire. “Who are you?” He asked.

The woman laughed. “Oh Hex. My poor, poor Hex.”

Hex saw the chains that bound her. They were filled with inscriptions and throbbed with a faint light.

“You really don’t remember?”

“I—I know you, but,”

“Sshh…Looks like it wasn’t just your magic we were able to take away.”


The woman gave a nod and she shifted her gaze. She was looking at something behind Hex. He turned around and saw a hooded man holding a dagger. Hex didn’t have time to evade. The man drove the dagger deep into Hex’s chest. Surprisingly though, Hex felt no pain.

“The great and powerful Hex. Who knew a beautiful face would be your downfall?”

Hex opened his mouth to say something when the dagger in his chest started to glow bright. Hex felt as though his insides were being burned. He screamed. The woman kept on laughing…


Hex woke up at the second kick to his shoulder. The fat baker, red faced and hot tempered, was shouting at him.

“Go be a beggar someplace else,” the fat man said, “you’re ruining my business here. Your stench’s driving my customers away. Get up!” He gave Hex another kick. This time it was at the side of his head.

The kicks weren’t painful—more like taps rather than kicks—but they were annoying. Hex sat up and looked at the man. He extended his hand, palm facing the baker, and concentrated hard.

The baker took a step back and looked at him warily. When the man decided that nothing would happen, he gave Hex another kick. This latest one hurt.

Hex fell to his side, crutching at his rib. “I’ll get up. Stop.”

The fat baker harrumphed and made his way back to his shop.

Hex slowly got to his feet. He looked through the glass window of the bakery and saw the fat man loading pastries into metal trays. Helping him was a little girl, probably his daughter. The sight of food made resurfaced the hunger within Hex’s belly. He hadn’t eaten anything for three days. Hex pulled his eyes away from the food and started walking.

The city of Val-Kara slowly woke up—roosters were crowing one after the other, various shops were being opened, mine workers were kissing their wives goodbye, and beggars like Hex were packing up their things to back into the alleys, away from the eyes of others.

Hex dragged himself across the streets of Val-Kara. He arrived in the city five nights ago. He remembered nothing but his name and every night since his arrival he would always dream the same dream. Unknowingly, he touched his chest, right where his heart is. He could still recall the burning feeling, the laughter of the bound woman, the smell of her skin. Hex had an itching feeling that he was a powerful man once. He wasn’t born a beggar. He knew what he needed to do—retrieve his memories. The only problem was he didn’t know where to start looking.


JB Lacaden dreams of someday being a published writer. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines. He's a lover of comic books, science fiction, and high fantasy. Check out some of his works at and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.