Sunday, March 31, 2013

Corina Fiore Week 40: She Thirsts

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Corina Fiore’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: She Thirsts

She thirsts
She hungers
She craves
Her fingernails pull at her skin
Clawing at the crawling sensation just below the surface
Lips parched, skin cracked
Twitching from the DT’s
Unable to cope, the pull to great
She reaches for the only thing that can satisfy her need
Her insatiable need for more
She raids the Earth
Gorges herself
Drinks from Gaia’s teat until the milk runs dry
Sucking air
She thirsts
She hungers
She craves
She leaves destruction in her wake
And cries


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Corina Fiore is passionate about learning and considers herself an education advocate. She currently writes textbooks and voice-overs for science software. When not blogging to evoke change in educational policies and women’s rights issues, she trains for her black belt.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cara Michaels Week 40: Standard Agreement

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1

Title: Standard Agreement

“The show was good.” My drumsticks rattled the bar as I replayed my solo.

“I think so.” Jack took a long pull on his water bottle. “Crowd seemed to really dig our sound.”

“Amazing how everything came together so fast, huh?”

“Must be fate.” Swerve bounced on the balls of his feet. “I mean—holy shit! Diamond Records wants us!”

Glass bottles crashed in the garbage cans as servers and bartenders cleared the remains of last call. The low tones of an amplified bass guitar echoed across the club. The sporadic notes and the young woman plucking the strings drew curious stares.

“Think she knows the show is over yet?”

Our bassist, Charlotte, stood in a beam of orange stars, the club’s signature stage lighting. Her eyes rolled up, showing more white than iris. Her hands moved along the bass.

“Hell if I know, man.” Even in the shitty lighting, the hot pink strap supporting the guitar on her left shoulder stood out. “She played a great set, but she’s on something.” She slowed, like a wind-up toy running out of energy. “She must be on something, right?”

We laughed, a nervous, sick sort of sound.

“Hope the exec from Diamond Records doesn’t catch an eyeful of her like this.” Jack dragged a hand through his sweat-soaked hair. “They’ll drop us before they sign us.”

“Hey, fellas.” The club manager approached. “Killer job tonight, but listen. I need you to get Miss Crazypants off the stage. She’s creeping out the staff and we’re ready to lock up in five.”

“Dude.” Swerve nudged my shoulder. “She’s your girl.”

“My ex girl.”

“Same difference when it comes to dealing with—” He swirled his hand in Charlotte’s direction. “Did you really have to break up with her right before this gig?”

“I’ll take care of this, gentlemen.” A man in a stark white suit walked by us, right up the stage steps.

“Whoa. What the hell?” I followed after him. “Who the hell are you?”

He took the bass from Charlotte’s unresisting grip, ignoring my question. She didn’t respond until he stroked her cheek. She blinked, her honey eyes focusing on the man. Those eyes I knew so well widened, spurring a need to protect her. I shoved the urge away. Charlotte could do whatever—whoever—she wanted. I’d just make sure she was okay.

“You were brilliant tonight.” With gentle fingers, he tucked her damp hair behind her ear. “They’ll all remember this show. The world will know Avalon Fire.”

“So soon?” She frowned, the corners of her mouth trembling.

The man shrugged. “You didn’t specify a timeline, darling, only a result.”

The main lights went dark, leaving us with only the orange-red glow of the star spotlights. Someone hollered, “Let’s go, people!”

“It’s done then?” Charlotte eyes shifted my way. “I never imagined—”

“They will be wildly successful. With just a dash of pathos. All the best bands have it.” He framed her face with his hands. “Now. A deal is a deal.”

“Charlotte?” This conversation sounded all wrong. “What is this? What did you do?”

“Stay where you are.” The man held up one hand and my body froze in mid-step. “Time to pay, darling.”

He wrapped his arms around Charlotte. Her gaze found me as he kissed her. She gasped. Her mouth opened on a choking sound as their lips parted, and glowing red smoke flowed out of her and into him. She didn’t look away from me as the life faded from her eyes and her body sank to the stage.

“What did you do?” I whispered the words, but he heard me. With a wave of his hand, I could move again. I ran for Charlotte, stumbling and crawling the last steps, pulling her into my arms. So warm. The scent of her perfume mixed with sweat from the show. “What did you do, baby?”

“What happened to her?” Footsteps pounded up next to us—Jack and Swerve. “What’s going on?”

“Standard agreement,” the man said in answer. He licked his lips as though savoring something tasty. “One soul in exchange for fame, fortune, blah, blah, blah. The usual shtick. I’m a man of my word. The doors will all be open to you now.” He suit smiled down at me, a spark of something wistful in his dark eyes. “You know, she wanted this for you. I think she truly loved you.” He clucked his tongue. “Never ceases to amaze me what mortals will do for love.”

I gathered her close, burying my face against her throat.

“Don’t waste her sacrifice, boyo.”


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


Friday, March 29, 2013

M L Gammella Week 40: Tracing a Revolution

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Tracing a Revolution

Trace stood on the edge of the building and looked down at her target. The tips of her black hair moved slightly as the air swirled gently around her. This high up, the wind should’ve been whipping around her, threatening to push her off the edge. It was like the world knew that change was about to happen.

She adjusted the orange case that hung from her shoulder, the small size of the case deceptive in its weight. The contents of the case were very light but were extremely fragile. The protective case made up most of the weight. If the chip inside broke or became damaged, then the whole mission, the years of training, the entire rebellion would be all for nothing.

Failure was not an option.

The Corporation’s goons circled around the base of the building, the lights from their vehicles glowing with warning. The rebellion knew better than to attack Corporation from the ground. That would be too obvious. An attack from above was why Trace was standing hundreds of feet in the air, her toes mere inches from the edge of the concrete building.

A nearby air-conditioning unit shut off, quiet pings filling the air as the unit cooled. Provided the temperature stayed somewhat the same over the next several hours, the unit would kick on in another fifteen minutes, run for ten minutes, then cycle all over again. The timing really didn’t matter to Trace, but the slow pinging of the unit would help her focus until it was time to strike.

With the sun overhead, Trace pulled out a spool of aramid floss from her pocket. The micro-thin but super strong fiber would carry her across the street far below to the Corporation’s building. And if she found trouble when she made it across, the fiber could be used to garrote someone quite effectively. She quickly patted her other unassuming looking weapons where they rested in the pockets of her cargo pants. It may look like she was completely defenseless, and anyone who assumed that would find out the truth rather quickly.

Trace attached the end of the floss to a line-fly, her term for the small projectile tool that would take the wire and attach it to any surface that the projectile struck. The tool resembled old-fashioned projectile weapons, and in a pinch, she could shoot one of the cartridges of the line-fly at someone. However, she had better weapons at her disposal than to use the line-fly like that.

With a smirk at the patrolling Corporation security officers circling below, Trace triggered the line-fly. A sibilant whirling sound was barely heard over the pings of the air-conditioner. The spool in her hand shook when the line-fly hit home and imbedded itself into the steel structure. She fastened her end of the wire to the air conditioning unit behind her and tugged on the wire just to be sure it was secure. Although the line-fly had never failed her, there was always a first time and she didn’t feel like being on the losing end of Murphy’s Law … especially not from 200 feet above the ground.

Satisfied, Trace clipped her runners to the barely there aramid floss and counted down, following the gentle pings behind her. This was her favorite part of any mission. It was the next best thing to flying. When her internal countdown zeroed out, corresponding with the last ping of the air-conditioning unit, she took a deep breath and jumped.

(Yes, I’m sure you are wondering if I am going to continue the serial ‘Another When’ – I have not forgotten it, the pictures just haven’t been calling to that story. I hope to pick it up again soon)


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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, March 28, 2013

Jenn Baker Week 40: Destined for the Dark

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Jenn Baker’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Destined for the Dark

The old asylum stood silent and watching in the moonlight. The bright full moon was occasionally hidden by the thick dark clouds, adding foreboding shadows to the grounds. Shadows big enough to hide the creatures that was said to live in the asylum. Melanie had heard the stories and finally gotten permission from the land owner to visit the asylum. Stepping from her car, she stood staring up at the dark stone building.

As the clouds passed, the courtyard became visible. Out of the darkness, an old water fountain covered in gnarled white roots made its presence known. Melanie’s eyes followed the roots and discovered the entire courtyard was covered in them. They spread across the ground toward the building, but never climbing. They claimed everything but the asylum. As if it they knew the dangers of touching the something so dark and evil.

The massive structure had originally been the home of a wealthy inventor. The stories told that he had built it for his new bride. She had wanted a home that looked like the estate homes in her native England. It took almost ten years to build, but she only lived in it for two short years. His precious wife died during childbirth, and the child passed a few days later. Grief stricken, the inventor never left his home again. Eventually his staff moved on to other employment, telling tales of his insanity and of his Frankenstein style experiments. Many people ignored the stories of his experiments, until a villager mutated and killed his family after being bit by a wild dog while hunting. Soon after, more stories of shape shifting and murder came out of the small village.

Tired of the violence, the village attacked the inventor’s home with the intention of bringing him to justice. They never found him. The entire property was empty. Not one living soul was found, not even a bird in the trees. After being abandoned for over fifty years, the new local government decided they needed an asylum. Choosing to ignore the stories of the old manor, they modified it in to the needed institution. The asylum ran normally for the first few years, and then suddenly it changed. Residents started attacking each other and the staff. People would be found dead with no explanation as to why. Eventually the asylum was closed. Almost fifty years later, the building still sat empty. No one was brave enough to ignore its past and attempt to make it in to something.

Melanie didn’t ignore the building’s past history. She wanted to discover how true the old stories were and if there was any information as to what happened to the original owner. She reached back into her car to grab her bag and flashlight. As she walked away from the car, the clouds danced in front of the moon plunging the area in to shadow. She turned on her flashlight and looked back toward the building. To her surprise, she noticed that there were lights on in a few of the windows. They looked like candles in the window, as if people watched from inside of the house. The largest concentration was in the window near the front door. The lights disappeared when the clouds moved again. Convinced she imagined the lights; Melanie shook her head and started toward the building.

As she passed the fountain, she saw a shadow lying on the ground near some benches. She quickened to her pace toward the shadow. As she drew near, she realized it was a person. Melanie kneeled next to the body and as she reached to check for a pulse, the person rolled over. Melanie was staring at herself. But she knew it couldn’t be. The woman grabbed Melanie’s hand hard.

“You must save him.” The doppelganger whispered. “You are the only one who can.”

“Who must I save?” Melanie whispered back.

“You know who. It is your destiny, Melanie.” As the moonlight disappeared behind the clouds, the doppelganger faded from view and existence. “Do not be afraid, Melanie. He won’t hurt you.”

Shaken to her core, Melanie sat back on her ankles and started at the spot where the woman had been. Melanie quickly pulled out her notebook and wrote down everything the woman said and what she had looked like. After putting away the notebook, Melanie looked around the courtyard again. Convinced she was alone, she stood and walked to the front door. She was there for answers and she wasn’t going to leave until she had them.


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Jenn lives in central Florida with her best friend and husband, Andy. When not reviewing books on her book blog, PonyTails Book Reviews, she writes her own Contemporary Western Romance and Scottish Historicals. Jenn is hoping to have her first novel, The Prodigal Cowboy, published in the fall of 2013.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kimberly Gould Week 40: The Florist

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Florist

“Daniel, would you please come here?”

He spun the lily one more time, making Marla’s skirt twirl, then dropped the flower back in it’s vase. “Coming.”

“Honestly, what have you been doing?” she asked as she hung the clean clothes. “We need to go in a few minutes and you aren’t even dressed.

He shrugged his shoulders and began removing his shirt. “It doesn’t take me long to get ready.” She sighed. “I wish I could say that.” Her brilliant dress was one of his favourites, one that fit perfectly with the tiger lily he imagined her wearing. He plucked at her real skirt, pretending it was still petals and tepals and he could pull them off.

“Enough,” she said, giggling. “Get dressed.” And she left to the washroom.

The party was almost as painful as Daniel expected. The staff of Marla’s office were polite, even friendly, but he had never been good with people. He waited until everyone was conversing and pulled the rose from his lapel, holding it up to the various women around the room.

“What do you, Daniel?”

He dropped the rose in surprise and it landed in his wine glass. The flute was empty and it superimposed the rose on a woman across the room, turning her simple frock into natural beauty. He smiled and took strength from it.

“I’m a florist.”

As usually happened, people stared at Marla, wondering if Daniel was gay. He ignored them, lifting the glass to toast the woman who had risen to move around the room.

“I thought only I got to wear your flowers,” she whispered, taking his free hand and pulling it into her lap.

He brought the glass down and leaned his head into hers, imagining they were the only two people in the room. “I have lots of flowers, for lots of women, but my heart is only yours.” She stroked his chin and kissed his nose. “I know. Thank you for coming. I know this isn’t easy for you.”

He straightened and turned the glass on the table, looking at the women around. None fit the bloom now. It wasn’t easy. He worked alone because that was how he felt safe. His business had plateaued. He could have kept growing if he would take Marla’s advice and hire an assistant, but especially in his shop, he didn’t want to have extra people.

“You wanted me here. I can do it for you.” he said, not meeting any of the eyes in the room, even Marla’s.

“I know you can. I’m so happy.” She stood and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging tight. “I need the washroom,” she said very quietly releasing her hold.

Daniel yanked a bloom from the centerpiece and turned to watch Marla leave. She stopped and turned just as he got the bloom perfectly aligned. She twirled for him and he spun the flower. Then she raised her hand in a little wave and continued to the bathroom.

He had an eye for flowers, but not for women. He had no idea what made one more attractive than another. He only knew he had picked the best, longest lasting, most beautiful flower in the garden, and he would never let her go.


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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, March 26, 2013

Samantha Lee Week 40: Love Mortal and Immortal

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Love Mortal and Immortal

Even before divorce became the world's second most popular social activity after weddings, I've thought it rather amusing when mortals go on about loving their chosen mates forever. For one thing, I'm not entirely certain mortals actually grasp the concept. Sure, they have the pretty words and the grand gestures and the rather fixed ideas. They build monuments and write stories and sing ballads, all exulting in the power and beauty and enduring nature of love. They perform elaborate ceremonies and spout declarations of everlasting love almost at the drop of a hat, which I personally think has more to do with a desire not to live out their lives alone than any true concept of devotion or, you know, that whole love thing. Putting aside the fact that I'm pretty sure they go on about "eternity" and "forever" when what they really mean is the smattering of decades they're assigned in life, I'm convinced that what mortals feel, what they claim as love, is but a pale imitation of the love of immortals.

That makes me sound prejudiced, doesn't it? Or, at the very least, it makes me seem rather snobbish and elitist. It's not that I don't like mortals nor is it that I don't recognize their worth; I do on both counts. I've read the books and seen the films where the immortals character romanticize the brevity of mortal lives, waxing poetic about the urgency that accompanies such limited time frames. Mortals are fireworks, they say, like fireflies, like candle flames, like lightning strikes; they explode brightly and beautifully in quick and sudden bursts before fading away forever. Ultimately, this only tells me that I should always choose the mortal sacrifice over the immortal; the swiftness of their passing gives them less to lose by dying before their time. Should a Fae give up centuries, possibly millennia, to grant a mortal but a few decades more? I have yet to hear a convincing argument in their favour.

When it comes to love, however, I fail to understand how a love with a built-in expiration date can compare to one that spans centuries. Mortals tell of couples that overcome obstacles and odds and all manner of things in order to be together. They tell of years filled with happiness and joy, tragedy and sorrow, arguments and compromise. Sometimes, they breed and raise children. Sometimes, they work side by side, day after day. Sometimes, they are volatile. Sometimes, they are calm. Always, always, always they are together until, finally, eventually, ultimately, Death claims them and their bonds are broken. Provided, that is, the fickleness of human hearts doesn't break them sooner.

Immortals are not the same. Well, alright, there are similarities. We date and court potential mates, for instance, just as mortals do. There is no mystical pull, no predetermined signs, no I-see-you-and-it-clicks phenomenon; we have to develop our relationships and emotions just the same as mortals, with all the drama and potential heartache that goes along with it. The difference is what comes later, once the tale is through and the blessedly wedded couple rides off into the sunset to live happily ever after.

Fae, vampires, and werewolves are creatures that live for a very, very, very long time and we have evolved to cope with the years in our lives in a myriad of ways but none so effective as how we feel. Our emotions are deeper, fiercer, brighter than any mortal's. When we are joyful, we blaze with the warmth and glory of a dozen suns. When we are saddened, we wither and waste like a seedling left in the dark and cold. When we are angered, we explode with such ire and wrath that the gods themselves quake. And so on, and so on. We exist as power and wrath made flesh, the perfect soldiers of nature herself, gliding gracefully through our lives like dreams in the mist until finally we find our match, our mate.

When immortals love, we are consumed by it. The joining of a mated pair in true marriage creates a bond that opens a connection, a link that's truly meant to stand the tests of time and all its ravages. We share everything; our emotions, our thoughts, our souls. We calm each other's anger, sooth each other's grief, enhance each other's joy, strengthen each other's courage. I know, I know - it sounds a lot like mortal love, doesn't it? And you're right; it does. It's difficult to explain, like finding the words to describe colours to the blind, or birdsong to the deaf. There's a depth to immortal love, an added facet if you will, that puts a whole other level to it. This isn't a love you grow out of or fades with time or can change to bitterness. This is an all-consuming, all-enduring love that is brand into our hearts and minds at the moment of our mating.

I am mated to a vampire/Fae hybrid. We met while he was trying to kill me and things went downhill from there. It's been almost three centuries now since that, week, misadventure - whatever you care to call it. There are times we argue like cats and dogs, where we physically fight and turn our surroundings into demolished battle zones. There are times where we tear the world down and rebuild it anew just to make each other smile. There is a warm presence at the back of my mind, different from the others, that pulses and glows with love and amusement. I see him and ice thaws, lights brightens, fear vanishes. He touches me and I am anchored, my presence in the world assured. He speaks to me and I am realized, my existence confirmed. I can see through his eyes, hear through his ears, know his thoughts as my own. It's the same for him; that's how mating works for the immortal. It's not just a matter of being together, it's a matter of being joined, of having that one person who in all the world knows you fully and completely and not only accepts you, but revels in you, not for years or decades, but for centuries and millennia.

Not even death can sever these ties. Should I die before my mate, or he before me, we wait, separate by only the thinnest of veils and still able to be together in dreams and moonlight, waiting forever if that's what it takes. In the meanwhile, the living mate, though living, grieves until death, unable to take other lovers or find others loves; that role has already been filled, after all. Days, years, centuries, however long the surviving mate might live, the claim of their passed on beloved continues. Once reunited, the pair spend what time is given to them in the summer lands and then pass again into life to find each other once more and begin anew. If you're lucky.

You only have one mate. My father never found his.

Mortals meanwhile go on about their love, about its quality and beauty and endurance. They claim they'll love their mates forever and then divorce. They claim they'll be loyal forever, and then cheat. They claim they'll be devoted forever, and then move on. In the end, mortal love seems to be more about the words than the emotions, although, yes, it's true that some pairs do indeed spend the rest of their lives together. Until death do them part.

I don't think a mortal could ever comprehend, ever relate to what immortals consider love. But it is rather amusing to see them try.


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Monday, March 25, 2013

J. Whitworth Hazzard Week 40: Musings of an Evil Henchman

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J Whitworth Hazzard’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Musings of an Evil Henchman

(Born From The Center Of A Storm Series)

The smell was always the dead giveaway. It was impossible to describe accurately with the limited senses of this body, but it never failed to locate the perfect spot. It was a combination of decay, stagnation, and ancient copper of blood spilled and spoiled. With his own eyes, Tau would have been able to see the signature of genetic perversions in the living things surrounding the trail and the whorled lines of force emanating from the tree. But these eyes were fogged with cataracts and dimmed by age.

It was a primitive form of magic that marked the sepulcher, but the stain of evil deeds was clear. The primitives chose the same path that led him here to this place, sensing the same violations of nature and marked it as their own.

He wondered how close the long-dead murderers must have come to discovering the truth; how close they came in their rituals to opening doors that lay in the shadows of existence. They must have sensed the boundless power that lay just out of reach. They simply didn’t take their conviction far enough. It was only at the very fringes of light and dark, good and evil, matter and energy, that the rules binding others fell away into so much vapor and allowed one to be truly free.

He could have dug around and exhumed the corpses that were littered around the tree to study how far these people had progressed, but this body had its limitations. He had to conserve what little life it had left.

The crows cawed and flapped wildly at his approach, but they didn’t flee. They could sense his purpose and settled in to watch their new master expectantly. The old man’s hunched and rheumatic body hobbled along the road. He stopped and admired the strong wooden poles and tapped his gnarled cane against the nearest frame.

“These will do nicely,” Tau said. A crow cocked its head and cawed, questioning.

Tau waved his canes at the old telegraph poles and explained to the bird, “For the bodies. They’re perfect for hanging bodies.”

The crow squawked and flew to Tau’s shoulder, the first to do his bidding, the crow would get the first pick of the meat.

“We’ll find her, my pet. Make no mistake. Soon the screams of the tortured ones will fill her dreams. She’ll have no choice but to show herself.”


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Trained in science and critical thinking, J. Whitworth spends his leisure time writing fiction that would make his former professors cringe. Dr. Hazzard’s PhD in molecular biophysics is used to figure out how to scientifically justify the existence of mythical creatures. Follow him at Twitter @Zombiemechanics Facebook Blog Zombie Mechanics


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ruth Long Week 39: The Devil You Know

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: The Devil You Know

He didn’t look any different than the dozens of scientists I’d retrieved for the company. Maybe a little more dressed down but this was the middle of the jungle, so comfortable clothes made sense.

It was the smile that threw me off.

None of my retrievals had ever been jocular. I chalked it up to the rumors. Underground chatter had it that when your number came up, you got a generous severance package

The retrieval held out his hand. “Name’s Richardson. What’s yours?”

First the smile. Now introductions. Guy was starting to creep me out. I ignored the greeting, tossed his bags into the back of the jeep and hopped back into the driver’s seat.

Figured that the first time I was uncomfortable with a retrieval my usual transport was in the shop. Now, instead of having the plexiglas shield between us as I chauffeured him, he’d be riding shotgun with free conversational access.

He came to the open passenger’s window, put his arms on the rubber and looked at me. “I know talking is against protocol but we have a two hour ride ahead of us. Might as well enjoy it.

I started the engine. “I’ve been doing this job close to two years without a hitch. No sense messing with a good record. Now, let’s go.”

It surprised me when he got in and buckled up without further discussion.

He waited three miles before trying again. “Look, I know the drill, as much as any of us do, but how about if I do all the talking and you just listen?”

I shrugged. “What are you going to say in five minutes that will change anything?”

He thought that over a bit before answering. “Five minutes just might change everything.”

Let’s face it. My job is boring. And I know there are some shady dealings going down at company HQ. So it wasn’t really surprising that my curiosity was piqued.

I mean, hey, I have three kids at home and a husband who is sweet as a box of peaches and strong as an ox but a little short-changed in the smarts department. And I’m okay with that, but it means that it’s my duty to evaluate all our options because lord knows the whole boat is on my shoulders.

“Five minutes and then you’ll shut your yap for the rest of the ride?”

He nodded. “If those are your terms, I’ll take them.”

I fussed with the timer on my watch to let him know I intended to stick to our agreement.

“You have kids, miss?”

“My private life is just that – private. Are you really going to waste your five minutes on inane chit-chat?”

“Look, I figure I got to make a bit of a personal connection or what I say won’t matter. If it will make you feel better, soon as you drop me off, they’re gonna scrub my memory, so I won’t remember anything you tell me right now.”

I downshifted and looked over at him. “That sounds pretty science fiction, Richardson.”

“So is the weapon I just spent two years of my life designing for the company.”

“I was wrong. I think I’d like to go back to the pointless chatter.”

He sighed. “Too late for that now. Believe me, if I thought ignorance was bliss, I’d have kept my mouth shut when you pulled up. But I have a wife and two kids. Even if I don’t make it out of this alive, you can make sure they do. And your own family too, if you have one.”

I punched the dashboard. “Damn you and your five minutes.”

He closed his eyes and was quiet.

“Husband and three kids. Name’s Kylie Wilkes. We been scraping by out on Kettleman’s Canyon since the reconstruction.”

Eyes still closed, he said, “Sorry it’s under these circumstances but I’m glad to meet you, Wilkes. My family was in the Pearson Quarter last I heard. Just south of Kettleman’s.”

“And you’re telling me this why?”

“Because I need you to get to them, warn them, give them a head start. Thing is, after I get scrubbed, how do I know the company doesn’t just knock me off. Maybe they even do that instead of the scrub. That’s why I need your help. But I’m not asking a favor. I’ll trade for it. And believe me, what I got is better than gold.”

Things were playing out so fast I thought, for a moment, that maybe I was going to be sick. Course it could be that I was pregnant again and my old nemesis, morning sickness, was dropping in for a visit. Dayde would be so friggin’ pleased with himself if that were true.

“Look, Richardson. I’ll send my husband out to Pearson and see if he can locate your family. But whatever it is you’re offering as compensation, I don’t want no part of it.”

He turned, opened his eyes and stared at me. “It’s non-negotiable, lady. If you don’t take it, we are all doomed. I’m not talking the usual skirmishes or little civil wars we’ve become used to. It will be complete and total annihilation of this planet.”

I pulled the jeep into a turnout, flung open the door and puked in the dirt. Damn Dayde and his potent seed. Damn Richardson and his doomsday talk. And damn the company and their mother-loving war industry. Damn. Damn. Damn.

“Wilkes? You okay?”

“Yeah,” I said, wiping my mouth on my sleeve. “Hand me one of those water bottles, will you?”

He grabbed one, loosened the lid and passed it to me. “I don’t mean to be inconsiderate but my five minutes are almost up and there are still several salient points to discuss.”

I yanked an elastic band out of my vest pocket, stuffed my hair into a ponytail and drank down the whole bottle. “Way I see it, Richardson, if I help you, it may get me or my family killed. But if I don’t help you, we’re going to be dead anyway. That right?”

“That’s a rather fatalistic frame, but yes, that’s right. The company plans to have the weapon online in two months. When they find out I swapped out the detonation trigger specs, that will hang them up another month or so.”

“So, what you’re saying is that you’re probably not going to make it through debriefing alive?”

“Not likely. But if I can entrust the safety of my family to you, and know that I bought our families another handful of weeks to get somewhere safe, it will be worth the sacrifice.”

Dayde would have liked Richardson. He thought nothing was more important than a man’s love for his family. If he were sitting here beside me, he’d pat my thigh and with those pretty blue eyes all lit up, he’d say, ‘He’s good people, Kylie. You know he is. Trust your heart, sunshine.”

I thought about how Dayde would do whatever it took to protect me and the kids. He’d proved that to me over and over again. His back was a maze of scars from saving our firstborn from the harvesters. The nights I made it home, I’d trace those scars like they were the map to my salvation – and they were.

What if I was the last person Richardson ever talked to? What if I really was his only hope of saving his family? Could I live with myself if I shut him up and turned him down? Could Dayde live me knowing that I’d passed up an opportunity to save our family?

I pulled the jeep back onto the road. “We have the better part of two hours, Richardson, so get to talking. Tell me all of it and I’ll try to get it straight in my head as best as I can. And I give you my word that I will do everything in my power to keep your family safe.”


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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, March 23, 2013

JB Lacaden Week 39: The Ravagers

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JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice:

Title: The Ravagers

The sink was the only thing holding me up. It kept me from crumpling into a pile of mess, which I am, to the ground. The bathroom was filled with the sound of rushing water from the faucet and down into the drain. My eyes remained glued on the mirror, on myself. Behind me, the window showed the millions of stars we slowly passed by.

I ran a hand through my salt and pepper hair as a sigh departed from my lips. Martin's voice still rang loud in my ears mixed with the ceaseless sobbing of Joan. I bent down and splashed my face with the cold water. The water felt good on my skin.

I heard the door slide open followed by the sound of leather shoes clicking on the tiled floor. By the corner of my eye I saw Timothy walking towards me.

"I bet none of you were expecting that," were the first words out of his mouth.

I quickly grabbed the small sachet of Velocity and smoothly pocketed it.

Timothy looked at me from the mirror. He smiled and said: "You were the first one to walk out. Didn't have the stomach for it as well, yeah?"

I looked at him, not at his reflection, but right at him. The man was young, approximately twenty years my junior. He had jet black hair that he'd always tuck behind his ears, sky blue eyes, and a million dollar smile. Embroidered on the left breast of his shirt was the insignia of his family—the Longharts.

"I doubt any sane man would be able to tolerate what Martin just proposed," I said, fighting hard to keep myself steady. The Velocity hadn't yet completely settled in.

"But you have to give it to the old man, there are truths in what he just said. His plan is our best hope of survival."

"There is another way," I countered.

"Another way? The Savior has been floating in space for twenty years looking for another way. There is no another way," Timothy laughed. "Every single family head, they were disgusted of the old man's idea. But, sooner or later, they'll realize there's no other alternative. They'll give in eventually. You will give in."

I let go of the sink. My head felt lighter all of a sudden. Everything seemed to be toned down. Time seemed slower than usual. The Velocity's kicking in. I gave Timothy no reply. I just simply walked away.


I felt the full effects of the drug while I was lying down in my room. Above me, the stars blinked and winked. I relished at the rush the drug gave. The problems, Earth, Timothy's smug smile, Martin's proposed solution, everything seemed to not matter anymore.

I was like that for two straight hours. The Velocity went away and I puked my guts out.

I slept on my own vomit.


I just turned twenty the day it happened. I saw a huge shadow blanket the entire land. Dark clouds hovered above and sounds of explosions could be heard from the sky. Then I saw them...everyone on Earth saw them. The front of their ships pierced through the clouds and appeared before us--long, narrow ships shaped like baseball bats with wings. They descended one by one. One crashed into the baseball park we used to play when we were kids.

The aliens poured out of the ships by the hundreds. Earth was caught completely off guard. By the end of the month, major cities were all turned into prison camps and the minor ones were completely wiped out. Approximately a quarter of the planet's population were killed. Ninety percent of the remaining humans lived as slaves and the other ten percent are us--the rebels, forced underground, always on the move.

Ravagers, that was the name given to the aliens; an apt name, really.

Our major base of operations was hidden in the heart of Mount Everest. The United States of America, unknown to the rest of the world, was building a base in the mountains in preparation for the third world war, if there ever came a time that it happens. As we all saw, World War III did happen except we were fighting an enemy we didn't expect.

We fought, as hard as we could. We started freeing up the smaller towns. We won some battles, but lost most of them. Their technology was simply much more advanced than ours. Their bodies were sturdier, stronger, and much more suitable for war than ours.

Eventually, we knew we would never win.

The war effort shifted from battling the Ravagers head-on to building a ship large enough to transport the remaining survivors to space. Live to fight another day as the famous proverb says. That was how the Savior came to be.

We boarded the ship after its completion and departed into the blackness of space.


My stomach grumbled in protest as I marched down the hallway and into the meeting room.

My knees felt like jelly and I still felt a bit of residual effect from the Velocity. The doors slid open in front of me and I walked in.

The room was composed of a long, oval table surrounded by nine chairs. Seated at the head of the table was a very rotund, old man with milky white eyes. He was dressed in all white and had a steel, walking stick in hand. Standing behind him was Timothy. Timothy bent down and whispered something to the old man in the chair. The old man gave a nod and cleared his throat.

“Seems like we are finally all here,” he had a voice belied his years; clear, strong, and whole. “To those who…were unable to finish my small presentation yesterday, I gave you all twenty four hours to ponder on whether or not my proposed solution would be our solution. I hope by now you all have come to a decision. I would just like to say that every minute we waste, is a minute we could have used in making the Earth better again.”

I remained standing on the doorway. Timothy’s eyes landed on me for a brief second before they went back to the other seven around the table. I, too, studied the faces of my fellow leaders. Old, they were all old, and scared, very easy to be bullied by Martin’s strong words and terrifying visuals. I saw Pirou Neeve, head of the food and water supply, having a quiet conversation with Kate Parker, the head of R&D. I saw the fear in George Brother’s usually stoic face. They knew they had no other way than to give in to Martin’s solution.

I made my way to my place and took my seat. Martin was just finishing his little speech.

“You have seen and heard the science many times now. My son, Timothy, have already sent you the documentations. This is a foolproof plan, ladies and gentlemen. The Ravagers wouldn’t know what hit them.”

No, they won’t, the Ravagers as well as the other humans still stuck on Earth. The thought came unbidden. I gritted my teeth to fight the words from coming out of my lips. An outburst wouldn’t help.

In front of me, Nora Waiters, raised her hand. Her face told me everything I needed to know. It told me what she was about to say even before she said the words. “I approve of the plan,” she said.

My eyes jumped to the father and son duo at the head of the table. A small smile appeared on Martin’s wrinkled lips. One down. Martin needed the majority of the leaders to give their approval before his plans would come to realization.

I raised my hand. “I firmly believe there is another way to drive the Ravagers out. I say no to the plan.”

I could feel all of their eyes on me.

“Jasper,” Martin said, “you’re the captain of this ship. You’ve been with us since the beginning. You know there’s no other way.”

“I say no,” I repeated. “Replacing the Earth’s atmosphere with a toxic gas would kill the Ravagers, but that would kill the other humans too. That’s not a plan. That’s genocide. I refuse to be part of that.”

Timothy laid a hand on his father’s shoulder before the old man could say anything more. Timothy smiled and said: “We run a democratic system here. The Hartmans respect your vote, Captain.”

I gave a nod though I knew things were only beginning. I watched Timothy whisper something in his father’s ear. I didn’t why, but I felt like I’m about to fight another war…this time against my fellow humans.


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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, March 22, 2013

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 39: Lawyers, Guns, and Money - Part Five

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money - Part Five

Even if you're used to the stuff one glass of chicha will make you happy. Two will make you sloppy. Six will probably kill you.

My good friend Antonio cut me off halfway through my third cup.

Don Gerardo, Antonio, and myself were back at the card table in the corner of the cantina. Pilar, dressed in a black shirt and black pants, stood by the bar, watching the door.

The room careened all around me so I held onto the edge of the table with both hands and tried to keep my ass centered on my uncomfortable wooden crate.

“So Senor Blaylock knows who you are,” said Don Gerardo. “This is excellent.”

“You and I have very different definitions of that word,” I replied. I got the words out just ahead of a respectable chicha belch.

“He will believe you are in his power.”

“I am in his power.”

“You are under my protection.”

“I don't get the feeling that worries him.”

“Then he is a fool,” growled Antonio.

Don Gerardo let that go right by him.

“What do you want me to do now?” I asked him.

“The plan is unchanged. He instructed you to go to him. Go to him. There is no better place to learn about this man than by his side.”

He stared at me and told me without a word that he was done humoring me.

I sat up straight with drunken indignation.

“Fine,” I said. “I'll go see him tomorrow.”

“Why not tonight?”

I looked Don Gerardo dead in the face.

“'Cause I drank too much damn chicha. I don't even know if I can walk.”

He leaned back from the table and shook his head. Antonio started to laugh. Don Gerardo, after a very long ten seconds, cracked a smile. It wasn't much of a smile but it was enough.

“Tomorrow will be fine,” he said. “I, however, am leaving on business tonight. But I leave Pilar here to help you.”

I raised an eyebrow.

She looked over in our direction at the mention of her name. I shrugged at her. She shrugged back.

“You underestimate my daughter at your peril, Mateo.”

There was nothing I could say to that so I just nodded.

Don Gerardo stood up.

“The man's not stupid,” I said. “What if he figures out I'm spying on him?”

“You worry too much, cabron,” growled Antonio.

“Yeah? It's not your ass on the line, pal. I think he's a bad guy. What am I supposed to do if he tries to kill me?”

“Mateo,” said Don Gerardo, “surely, you of all people do not need me to tell you what to do in that event.”

Antonio let me finish that third cup of chicha after Don Gerardo left.

Pilar saw her father home and then returned to the cantina to check on me.

I hadn't moved from my crate at the table. I sat there, as hammered as I'd ever been in my life, and stared at Antonio's ugly wall. I could see rectangular patches that were less faded than the rest of the wall, edged with the remnants of tape and the occasional scrap of paper. I found it all fascinating in a disorienting kind of way.

Antonio let me be and worked the bar in my stead.

I didn't notice Pilar's return until she sat down on the crate nearest mine.

She took the empty cup from me and placed her cool, dry palm against my forehead.

“I told you chicha was strong,” she said.

“Yes. Yes you did.”

Her hand moved down from my face to cover one of mine on the table.

I looked at her and she held my stare. The smile in her eyes did not reach her lips.

“Would your father really sell me out if I don't scope out Beau Blaylock for him?”

She hesitated before answering me. It was the barest of hesitations but it was there.

“Father will do what he must,” she replied.

“Met Beau yet?”

“Only to say hello when he entered the house. We didn't stay long once he and Enrique settled in.”

“The guy with the shades.”


“What do you think of him? Beau, I mean?”

There was no hesitation this time.

“I think he is a dangerous man.”

Antonio came over to the table and deposited a bowl of steaming black coffee.

“Drink this,” he ordered. “You'll feel a little less like dying in a short while.”

He didn't go back to the bar until I'd had a good gulp of the stuff. It was strong and spicy and might just have been the finest liquid I'd ever poured down my throat. But that might also have been the chicha talking.

“Your father thinks I killed my wife,” I said, more or less out loud.

She squeezed my hand.

“My father doesn't care.”

She had more to say on the subject so I waited for it.

“He believes that a man's past is between him and God. A man is not his past. A man is what he does today.”

It was too much for me to think about. I grunted and stared into my coffee. The oils on the surface swirled in muted orange and purple reflections off the dull yellow cantina light. I looked away from the bowl and soon found myself mesmerized by the blood red polish on Pilar's toes as she moved her foot in time with the Vicente Fernandez tune playing on the radio.

A good half hour ticked away like that, sipping and staring, and by the time I polished off my coffee I knew that Antonio was a genius. I was still plenty hammered but I had energy and full use of my extremities.

“I want to go for a walk,” I announced.

I looked at Pilar who smiled at me in a way I couldn't read but wanted to spend some time studying.


We had a perfect Abandonados night for a walk.

The humidity was down to around eighty percent and a teasing breeze stirred the ninety-degree air around in the moonlight. Like I said. Perfect.

Pilar and I hadn't done any talking since we left the cantina. We walked all the way out Diego Street, up and over the arroyo, and down a wooded path that led I had no idea where.

“We are now on part of my family's land,” she said. “I spent many, many days in these woods as a girl.”

The moonlight filtered through the treetops, casting everything in a warm blue glow. When I looked up I saw a sky full of stars.

“What do you see?” asked Pilar.

“Where I'm from you don't see a lot of stars. Everything's always lit up. Even looking out over the river there's so much light coming out of the city. I've been down here a long time and I'm still amazed at the night sky.”

It took me a second to realize she wasn't listening anymore.

I looked at her and she shook her head.

We stopped walking and listened.

I opened my mouth to whisper but she shook her head again and peered out into the trees. I thought about Antonio's coyotes and swore a solemn oath never to go walking in the Abandonados woods ever again.

I thought about trying to whisper again. Pilar clamped her hand over my mouth and held still, listening. I couldn't hear a thing out there but blinked to tell her I got the message.

“Stay here,” she said. She took her hand away and headed for the trees.

I pulled the revolver and got ready to follow her in.

She stopped.

“I said, stay here. And put that away. Estupido.”

I did as I was told, paralyzed by a combination plate of confusion, fear, and machismo. The gun went back into my pocket, still in hand.

Pilar vanished into the woods.

I still heard nothing but the insects and the grinding of my teeth.

I gave her about thirty seconds and then made for the trees.

The unmistakable sounds of fighting cut the silence. I picked up the pace.

Someone's scream of pain ripped through the woods before I got halfway there.

It wasn't Pilar.

I froze.

Pilar crashed out of the woods, dragging five-foot-five worth of Napoleonic frustration in a red bandanna by the scruff of its neck.

She let go of Mirebeau Lamar Blaylock's native guide and turned to me.

“I told you to put that away,” she growled.

I looked down at the revolver in my hand. I did not recall taking it out of my pocket.

Pilar didn't waste any more time on me. She helped the little guy to his feet and started talking.

Even in the dark I could see his face scrunched up in pain as he tried to argue. His right arm dangled from the shoulder in a way that shoulders in their sockets don't dangle.

The exchange was short and hard and I didn't understand a word of it. That kind of Spanish wasn't for Gringo ears.

Beau's man didn't get many words in. Before long he quit trying to. When they were done he glared at me. His bandanna had slipped to tilt at an angle I'd have called rakish if I thought he'd done it on purpose.

I refused to get into a staring match and after a few seconds he turned and walked away down the path, good arm holding up the bad one.

“You broke his arm?” I asked.

“Dislocated his shoulder. Enrique will be fine.”

“What was that little conversation about?”

“About you. Senor Blaylock told him to watch you, to make sure you didn't run. I assured him that you would not.”

“Beau said running would be a bad idea. I believe him.”

She took another minute to listen to the woods and then took my hand.

“Let's go back to Antonio's.”


I gave myself most of the next day to shake off the chicha hangover I had. Imagine waking up feeling like someone dropped a cinder block on your head while you were sleeping and then fed you molten lava. That's a chicha hangover.

It was late afternoon when I peeled myself off of my cot.

Pilar was gone. I remembered her sitting on the floor, singing softly, before I passed out.

I had no idea how I got out of my clothes.

I got dressed and then scarfed down the bread and avocado she set out for me before heading out to see Beau.


He was waiting for me on the porch of the big red house, looking comfortable in a rocking chair.

A bucket of beers on ice sat next to him.

“Evening, Matty,” he said as I approached the porch. “I was beginning to wonder when I was gonna see you. Gotta say though, you're not lookin' so good.”

“Chicha hangover,” I replied.

He chuckled. “Say no more. Here. Have a little cerveza. It'll take the hair off it some.”

I settled into the other rocking chair. Beau handed me a bottle of beer. It felt wonderful going down.

“So what are we gonna talk about?” I asked.

“Just like a New Yorker,” he said. “Always in a rush. Relax, friend. Drink your beer. We got all the time in the world to talk.”

It was his show so I drank my beer and tried to relax.

It was hard not to stare at him as he watched the people of Abandonados as they went about their business up and down Diego Street. His hard gray eyes missed nothing.

I was almost finished with it when the beer got chewy.

“Weird,” I said. “This beer's got texture.”

“Is that right? I suppose that'd be the sleeping pills.”

I dropped the bottle and wanted to get up but it wasn't happening.

“Been takin' 'em for so many years now they've got no effect on me but I'd imagine you're feeling a little out of it right now. On top of a chicha hangover I'd bet you feel like twenty pounds of shit in a five pound sack.”

“What?” It was all I could get out.

Beau grinned at me and put a big hand on my shoulder.

“What's that? Didn't quite catch that.”

I dug deep and repeated myself.

“Well, Matty,” he said. “We're gonna talk.”


“I want a little sugar in my bowl... I want a little sweetness down in my soul...”

The words bounced off the walls in the small, dimly lit room I came to in.

Nina Simone? Here?

My arms hurt. My wrists hurt too. The handcuffs had a lot to do with that. I had to look up to see my wrists because my arms were raised up over my head. The cuffs were draped over a thick metal hook hanging from the ceiling, right next to the fixture holding the single bare bulb that lit the room.

If I stretched my feet all the way out the tips of my toes brushed the cool tile floor.

I had no idea how much time had passed. It could have been an hour. It could have been a day.

Other than me on a hook, a cheap metal folding chair, and a matching card table with an old cassette player on it the room was empty. There were no windows and only one doorway. No door.

My shirt was gone but I was still wearing pants, which I found more reassuring than I should have.

And I still didn't know what Nina Simone was doing in the room with me.

“Whatsa matter, daddy? Come on, save my soul... Drop a little sugar in my bowl...”

“I do love this song,” said Beau.

He lingered in the open doorway for a second and then walked into the room. He was still wearing jeans and the denim shirt. The hat was nowhere in sight but the Peacemaker was still on his hip. He slid it out of the holster and put it down next to the tape player.

“You know what she's talkin' about in this song, don't you, Matty? A little sugar in her bowl?”

I spun the wheel of responses. It came up 'Bravado'.

“Wouldn't have taken you for a Nina Simone man, Beau,” I said.

He smiled. “Is that right? You got me down as another West Texas shit-kicker, don't you? Just another dumb cowboy with a big hat and a belt buckle.”

“What can I tell you? I'm a man of limited imagination.”

He shook his head and punched me in the mouth.

“You like to think you've gone native but you still got a lot of city slicker lip left in you.”

He leaned in close and stared me down.

“Don't get me wrong,” he continued, “I love my Hank Williams and Johnny Cash as much as the next guy but there's somethin' about that Nina Simone. I get her, know what I mean, friend?”

I hesitated. Beau kept rolling.

“Would it make you feel better if I put some Hank on? Make it feel more right to you?”

He left the room and came back with a tape a few seconds later. He stared me down while he made the switch.

“This'll put you right, Matty,” he said as fiddle music filled the space Nina Simone vacated. “Right as rain.”

“Now you're lookin' at a man that's getting kind of mad... I had lots of luck but it's all been bad... No matter how I struggle and strive, I'll never get out of this world alive...”

Beau had a knife in his hand when he turned back to me. It wasn't anything more than an ordinary pocketknife but even in the bad light I could see the marks the sharpening stone had left on the blade.

“All right now, Matty,” he said. “I'm sorry about all this. Normally, my man Enrique would be doing this for me but he's laid up with a bad shoulder. You might know a little something about that. Anyway, he's a whole mess better at this than I am so you're gonna have to bear with me.”

“Who the hell are you, man?” I asked him. My voice sounded a little more hysterical than I meant it to.

He chuckled.

“When I'm hangin' from a hook in your basement you can ask the questions.”

He ran the tip of the knife across the right side of my ribcage.

I sucked in my breath as the sting set into the cut.

“That one means nothing. Just did it to make sure you had the whole picture. I don't believe in ruining a man 'less I have to and I'm hopin' that you don't make me have to 'cause I kinda like you. This ain't a lot of fun for me but a man says different things hangin' from a hook than he does sittin' on the front porch.”

I growled at him through my teeth.

“There is no company, is there? That's a load of shit.”

“Now there you go with the questions again, Matty. But you know what? I'm gonna give you that one. There is a company, just not the kind I described to you back in the bar.”

I caught the next question before it got out.

“Good boy,” he said. “You're learnin'. As a reward I'll answer that question you didn't ask. I'm not down here for you, Matty. Finding you is what they call, 'slop', back home. A bank shot. Some tenderfoot who stepped into my sights while I was aiming at bigger game.”

I kept my trap shut.

Beau went on.

“So I got a choice. I can haul your ass back to the States and collect both the reward and the bounty-- you're worth a lot of dough, amigo-- or I can give you a chance to help yourself by helping me. Now, you're pretty much living in the open here in Abandonados. Any fool can see that. That means you've got backing, and around here that means one man.”

He let me think about that for a second and then started up again. He moved in and held the knife against my abdomen.

“Now,” he said, “We can do this easy or we can do this hard. That much is up to you, Matty, but make no mistake. We're gonna do it.”

The tip of the knife bit into my side.

“Matty, why don't you go ahead and tell me everything you know about Don Gerardo.”


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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, March 21, 2013

Michela Walters Week 39: Hope Blooms

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Hope Blooms

He’d asked me to wait for him at the top of the old clock tower that overlooked the river. On one side sat the town square, on the other, the expensive homes that housed only the wealthiest of citizens. I was, unfortunately, not one of those few.

I’d grown up on the dirt path that was a few miles outside the city. My bike was my only mode of transportation and I worked in the large laundry facility of one of the high rise hotels that faced the ocean It was laborious work and the pay wasn’t great, but I made enough money to feed my family which comprised of my mother and two sisters. My dad had passed on from a heart attack three years ago. I’d had to drop out of school and get a job in order to help make up the difference my father’s absence hit to our pocketbooks. His death also left my mother heartbroken and depressed. I’d stepped up to the maternal role my younger sisters needed and now found myself feeling twice as old as my actual twenty years.

But tonight. Tonight I was leaving the heavy burden of my life behind for a night of fantasy. Jorge was one of those few who lived on the other side of the river. He was handsome with blue black hair, deep-set, smouldering brown eyes and a dimple that was so deep when he smiled, I swore I could drown in it. He was built stocky, sturdy and strong. He managed the front of the house, ensuring all the guests were happy and freely spending money at the resort. We’d bumped into each other when I was carrying a load of towels up to a room and he’d been busy checking his phone for messages. He was sweet and picked up the stack of fluffy white linens that had fallen in a flourish to the ground. We’d been coy, sharing shy smiles and brief conversations in dark corners when we had a spare moment at work, but tonight he’d asked me to come to the tower with the promise of a few stolen hours.

Since taking over the care of my family, I hadn’t done much in the way of dating. I’d barely had time to sleep more than a few hours most nights, working as many double shifts as I could get my hands on to try and make ends meet. Even though my father was a simple mason, his salary had been twice what mine now was. But we were surviving, and at the moment, it was all I could really ask for. Tonight, I’d told my mother I’d had to work late, a lie for this evening, but usually that wasn’t the case.

I needed this more that even I realized. The stress and burden had been building up, especially for the last few months. The weight of the world fell mightily across my shoulders and the mere shirking of my responsibilities even for one night was beginning to guiltily creep into my consciousness.

My worry must have been easily identifiable as I felt Jorge’s warm arms encircle my waist at the same moment he teasingly scolded that I deserved one night to myself.

I spun in his arms, feeling the weight of his affectionate stare as it ignited a flame deep in my belly that roared to life. “I can’t help it. You know I don’t relax.” I admitted, leaving out the dirty thoughts that were slowly pushing any guilt I had to the recesses of my mind.

“I brought you something.” He grabbed a bag from the ground, setting it up on the ledge to unzip it “I figured you probably didn’t eat before leaving.” Jorge placed a few plates on the wide wooden beam, carefully setting out a spread of cheese, hard sausages and crusty bread. It was more decadent than anything I’d eaten in years. My eyes welled up with his thoughtfulness, bringing to light how neglected I’d been. Not just by others, but I’d been the worst offender of all, putting everyone in front of my own needs. Of course that had to happen the majority of time, but I was realizing as Jorge placed a small bite of cheese and meat on my tongue, there had to be a happy medium somewhere. I wasn’t naive enough to believe I was living in a fairy tale and Jorge was going to be my prince charming, but I had to wonder if perhaps I could still have something all my own.

“Why are you sad? I thought this would make you smile?”

My hand drifted up, running my fingers through his soft, thick hair. “You did. I haven’t eaten something so delicious in ages.” I coyly kissed his cheek, not really knowing if he would be receptive to such a forward gesture by a woman, especially one of my lowly stature.

He lifted my hand to his lips, kissing it softly with a whisper of a promise to change that. “You should be pampered by a thousand handmaids and fed only the ripest of fruit.” His fingertips grazed across my forearm, sending shivers through me. His deep tenor voice tried to soothe me by telling me that someday things would be different. “You’re mother will get better and your sisters will grow up. Life won’t always be this hard.”

I allowed my body to sink into his embrace, feeling safe, secure and most of all, relaxed. His touch was bordering on reverence and I tried to cling to this feeling of being cherished, not wanting to forget it as soon as we left the little cocoon of flirtation. We eventually sat down on a blanket I recognized as one from the resort we worked at. We talked and ate, learning more about each other while exploring the tentative dance around actually kissing.

When the clock finally rang out at the top of the hour, I actually felt a little bit like Cinderella. My sadness and disappointment over having to go home crushed my spirit. I could already feel the burden of my life pressing down on my shoulders. My demeanor flipped in an instant and I stood stoically, trying to help fold the blanket and pack Jorge’s treats away. His hand stilled my jerked movements, trying to quiet my angry hands.

“Hey,” he whispered, tilting my face up to look at his. “Have faith, we’ll figure out a way. I promise we’ll figure out a way.”

Staring up into his expressive eyes, I tried to give him a reassuring smile, but even I could tell it was forced and disingenuous. “Sure we will,” I lied.

Just as I was about to turn and go down the steps, he captured my arm and spun me into his embrace. “If you think I’m letting you go without a kiss, you are even more disillusioned than I thought."

His lips softly brushed against my own, pressing forward in a progressively urgent way. I opened my lips, tentatively brushing my tongue against his. And in this moment of quiet longing, our kiss resurrected a feeling I had completely forgotten existed.



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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, March 20, 2013

Sarah Aisling Week 39: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Eleven)

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 1

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

Ciel's phone vibrated against her hip, sending her heart into overdrive. She thanked God her cell was still on vibrate—school rules. Shifting carefully beneath the scratchy old blanket in the cargo hold of Professor Jeffries' Explorer, she tugged the phone from the pocket of her jeans and looked at the display.


Scrolling through the settings, Ciel set her phone on “silent” and slipped it back in her pocket. A sudden jostle caused her to bump her head into something hard. She bit her lip, fighting not to cry out and alert Professor Jeffries he had a stowaway.

It was uncomfortable riding in the trunk of the SUV. The ridged mat dug into Ciel's hip, and every bump in the road rattled her teeth. Turns were precarious, since there was nothing to keep her from sliding from side to side. A mustiness redolent of turpentine clung to the fibers of the blanket, making breathing unpleasant.

Up front Professor Jeffries sang along to a rock station. He had a surprisingly nice singing voice, and Ciel's racing heart calmed a bit. The Explorer entered a smooth road with rolling hills, which led her to believe they were heading away from town.

Ciel had no idea what she'd hoped to accomplish when she jumped into the SUV. It was an impulsive move that she now regretted. Stupid, stupid, stupid! How are you going to get yourself out of this one, Ci?

Tears stung Ciel's eyes. She wanted her mom.

The car slowed, tires crunching over gravel, and came to a stop. The passenger door opened allowing a gust of cool air to whoosh through the car, rippling the edges of Ciel's blanket.

“Hi. I need your car.” The woman's voice was soft and sultry.

“Hello to you, too, hon. My day was great, thanks, how about yours?” Professor Jeffries' tone was acerbic as he threw the SUV in park.

Melinda Jeffries sighed softly. “I'm sorry, Paul. I've had a shitful day. My car won't start, and I really need . . . I'm going out to the farmhouse.”

“Do you want some company?”


“C'mon, Mel. It's been a while. We could open a bottle of wine . . .” Professor Jeffries' tone turned soft and seductive.

“Why couldn't you have offered this a few months ago?” Melinda Jeffries' voice was tight with frustration. “Do you know how many nights I lay next to you praying you'd touch me? See me? Give a fuck about me?”

Professor Jeffries slammed his hand on the steering wheel. “Damn it, Mel! You always manage to turn this around on me. I tried to coax you out of your depression. You turned me down so many times—I didn't feel like a man anymore.”

You still have a pretty face, Paul! You still have teenagers creaming their panties over you!” Pain and betrayal saturated her words.

“Did I ever give you a reason to feel I didn't love you?” His tone was low and hurt.

“I don't feel loved.” A sob hiccuped out of Melinda Jeffries. “Please, I just need to be alone, okay? Give me some time.”

“All right.” He hesitated. “Will you think about us while you're gone?”

“It's all I think about. Maybe soon . . . maybe we can try again.”

“I do love you, Mel.”

“I love you, too. You'll never know how much.”

“Do you have your things packed?”

“I left some clothes there. I've got my cosmetic bag and some groceries on the front porch.”

Ciel feared her heart would explode when the hatchback opened and Professor Jeffries put his wife's bags in the cargo area with her. She held her breath, afraid of being discovered. Their voices rose and fell just outside the car for a few more minutes and then Melinda Jeffries got behind the wheel and backed out of the drive.

Ciel felt trapped. Who knew how far away this farmhouse was? “Farm” suggested rural, and that meant no buses or taxis.

The ride turned out to be just over an hour. By the time they arrived, Ciel's arms and legs were numb from being cramped in the same position so long. She held her breath when Melinda Jeffries removed her things from the trunk.

Nearby, a door creaked open and then slammed shut. Ciel poked her head out from under the blanket and peeked out the side window. The dim form of a dilapidated red and white barn loomed in the growing darkness. A split rail fence enclosed part of the property, opening up to an expanse of rolling hills of grass edged by trees. From this vantage point, no neighbors were visible.

The driver's door opened abruptly, and Ciel dove for cover under the blanket. The SUV moved a short distance then stopped. This time when Melinda Jeffries exited the car, the sounds of the outdoors were muffled. A prolonged creak was followed by a dull slam then silence.

It took Ciel twenty minutes to muster up the courage to peek out the window again. To her dismay, the SUV was parked in a garage. This new development would make a stealthy escape difficult. First, the Explorer had an alarm that would surely go off when Ciel opened the door, and second, she now had to find her way out of a dark garage.

Ciel decided to get a look at her surroundings. To the front right, a few steps led to a beat-up white door that most likely led inside the house. Behind the SUV were two wide doors. A glance around the rest of the garage showed a packed dirt floor, shelves and peg boards with old, rusted tools, and a door in the middle of the left side wall. Ciel decided this door was her best bet.

She climbed into the back seat and prepared to make a run for it. Once she was away from the house and into the trees, she'd use her cell phone to call for help. The cool metal handle felt slippery in her sweaty palm.

“One, two, three!”

Ciel pulled the door handle. The bleating of the alarm was deafening in the close space, but Ciel ignored it and made a run for the door. The knob stuck, and her palm kept sliding off it. Panic welled inside her. Any moment, Melinda Jeffries would come to investigate.

Footsteps drew close to the door coming from the house, and Ciel looked around wildly, praying desperately for something to save her. She spied a pile of crates in the corner and crouched behind them. Her plan was to wait until Melinda Jeffries returned to the house and then she'd get that door open.

Yellow light spilled into the garage as the wooden steps creaked under Melinda Jeffries' feet.

“Come on out.”

A metallic shick-shick reverberated around the small space.

“I said, come on out!”

Ciel slapped a hand over her mouth to hold back a scream.


Like what you just read? Have a question or concern? Leave a note for the author! We appreciate your feedback!

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

J M Blackman Week 39: I’ve Never Had Much In Common With My Father

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: I’ve Never Had Much In Common With My Father

Title: 2

I’ve never had much in common with my father.

We were both tall. We both were dark. We both had tight, black curls. And we both kept our heads shaved so low you couldn’t tell.

I think that’s the entire list.

We could hardly agree on anything else, and sometimes he argues about the height.

But when I started building boats to sail, he took interest.

At first, he just cruised around my workspace. Just checking in. No, no, I don’t want to get involved. Just checking in.

But then he would hand me a piece, would hold the mast as I attached it, helped set the sail in correctly. Then, he was joining practice sails, recording times, suggesting changes to increase speed, or decrease wobble.

The sturdier the boat grew, the less we argued. He still doesn’t agree that we’re the same height, but I figure he doesn’t really have to.


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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, March 18, 2013

Jen DeSantis Week 39: Into the Darkness (Part 1)

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2

Title: Into the Darkness (Part 1)

“It looks so … ordinary,” she said, shaking her head. “Are you sure we’re in the right place?”

“Yeah. This is the address.”

I stubbed out my cigarette and slammed the car door. I cringed, again wondering just when the old rust bucket would fall apart. Lani was right; the old building didn’t look like much; but according to my sources, this was the address of one of the most haunted buildings in the city.

“So we just go in? Is there some sort of key or something?”

Lani was here to interpret. Her skills as a psychic investigator were unparalleled. I was along this time mostly for muscle, but also to document her findings. Lani didn’t remember the information she collected when she was in the zone. She needed me, and that was OK by me.

“Well, that’s sort of up to you,” I said, smiling. “My contact didn’t give me any information about how to get in. I guess that’s part of whole mystique of the place.”

Lani rolled her eyes and walked up to the place. She gave a visible shiver as she approached the gate.

“Lots of energy already,” she said.

I pulled out the recorder and turned it on. This was when she she shined. Her fingers hovered over the lock mechanism and she pulled quickly away.

“Danger,” Lani whispered. “I sense danger here, Ryan.”

I cocked my head to the side. “Not Ryan, babe. Still Kevin...”

“Ryan … don’t go in there, Ryan. Don’t make me go in there.”

Her voice was high and and unfamiliar. I stepped forward and almost broke one of the cardinal rules. I almost grabbed her away from that place.

I could feel it too, wafting off the orange brick and invading the warm Spring day with cold evil. The place was full of it and I didn’t want Lani anywhere near it.

She straightened her shoulders and pushed firmly on the gate. It moved without any trouble at all. Lani seemed to shake her head, coming out of her trance.

“Weird, huh, Kev? Not even locked.”

“Yeah … maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe we should call this off.”

“Right,” Lani scoffed. “You’ve wanted this place for months. You gonna let a little shiver turn us back now?”

I chuckled nervously. “Of course not. You’re right.”

She walked through the gate and screamed.


I haven’t seen or heard her since.


Damn the rules. I know now that I should have followed the rules.

If I had, maybe Lani wouldn’t be gone and I wouldn’t be stuck here, locked on the other side of that wall, cut off from the outside world in a house of horrors. Locked in the darkness with no way out.


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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, March 16, 2013

Cara Michaels Week 38: Dream Catcher

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice:

Title: Dream Catcher

“Claire Jennings!” The strident call barely pierced the roar of the Gulf tide. “Claire? Where are you girl?”

Nowhere you’ll find me.

Well, short of stepping on me in the dark. Always a possibility, given my mother’s stubborn streak. I smiled at the starry sky above me. Yes, I’d come by my pigheadedness naturally.

I stayed silent, feeling the water slide up to play with my toes. Footsteps pounded over the sand, maybe ten feet farther ashore from where my head rested. I didn’t see her and she didn’t see me. I had nowhere I wanted to be, so I waited for her to give up. She had demands to satisfy. Dad would be making dinner for our rowdy family unit, and he expected Mom to put aside her latest world-saving cause for an hour to join. Her shouts faded, the occasional muttered curses drifting to me. Then those were gone, too.

I’d hear about missing dinner when I got home. Didn’t matter if I lived in the garage apartment Dad had made for me—complete with my own kitchen and stash of food. She’d still be pissed at me for skipping out on her first night home in three months. Not that she didn’t have anger to spare. She’d come home around midnight and I’d heard her and Dad yelling into the wee hours. I’d gone to a meeting with my grad advisor, Dr. Winslow, with an emotional hangover. If I didn’t start making progress on my thesis and exhibition soon, I wouldn’t get my Master’s this year.

I couldn’t bring myself to blame my lack of advancement on Mom and Dad. I’d sucked up Dr. Winslow’s tutting disapproval and watched my photography dream slipping through my fingers.

The tide crept farther in, licking along my calves. More stars appeared in the sky. The sky was so clear tonight, promising a spectacular view of the Milky Way at some point. Maybe I should have brought the tripod out, done some time lapse work. Winslow loved that kind of crap. As with every day, I toyed with the idea of showing him a portfolio of work I hadn’t shared with anyone. The real reason behind my lagging grad school progress.

“Hey, Claire-bear.” Fourteen-year old Ronnie dropped onto his butt right by my head.

“Fucking shit!” I bolted up with a gasp, setting my baby brother to laughing like a loon. His changing voice cracked, rising and falling like a broken soundtrack. He rolled around in the sand, hands clutched around his abdomen.

“How the hell did you see me, you little shit?” I gasped, hand over my heart, the Leica M6 camera hanging from my neck swinging. I shoved him in the back with my foot.

“Uh, because I don’t have Mom’s dinosaur vision?”

I thought about how I hadn’t seen Mom—and made a mental note to see the optometrist.

“Besides, Sis,” he said, “this is your spot.”

“My spot.” I crossed my arms.

“Four hundred steps south of the pier. Your east to west position depends on the tide.”

“You counted my steps?”

“Phssht.” He rolled to his knees. “I read your journal.”

“I—you—” Flummoxed anger rippled through me. “I’m gonna kill you, Ronald Jr.”

“Brotherly obligation and all. Oh, relax.” He waved a ‘calm down’ hand at me. “I keep your secrets.” In the low light, I could just make out the serious expression he leveled at me. “All your secrets.”

I understood his meaning.

“Did you find the pictures, too?” I asked.

“No. I didn’t look.” He shrugged. “The journal was a happy accident when Dad had me helping with laundry one day. I waited to see if you’d tell us.” His forehead bunched up as he frowned. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

“I can’t explain it,” I said.


“You know, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is,” I said. “If I point my camera at the right spot… it’s always there.”

“You don’t know what it is?”

“I have no idea, Bro.” I lifted my camera, searching the horizon for the glimmer—there. I snapped three quick shots. “Maybe my camera’s just broken.”

Maybe all my cameras were broken.

“And maybe we could be kajillionaires if you sold the pictures.”

“What, and have Mom’s little slice of heaven swarmed with tourists, scientists, and who knows how many government agencies coming to investigate?” I imagined this place overrun with people. “No way.”

“Why do you even care what Mom thinks? She doesn’t give two shits about us.” Ronnie kicked the sand as he stood. Eight years younger than me, and already half a foot taller than me.

“Watch your mouth,” I said.


“This is our home too, Ronnie.” I rubbed a hand over his back, felt him lean in a fraction. “No matter what Mom says or does.”

“Or doesn’t say or do,” he muttered. He looked over his shoulder at me. “What does it look like?”

I took a deep breath, considering.

“You know when you close your eyes? And sometimes it’s like you see stars—universes or nebulae or whatever—moving right there behind your eyelids?”

“Uh-huh.” His teeth flashed in a grin as he covered his eyes. “Like who needs a Hubble telescope, right? I got a show right here.”

“Something like that, yeah.” I gave a quick laugh. “It’s a dream come to life. And all I do is point and click and it’s captured for anyone to see.” I snagged my camera bag from the sand and fished out my cell phone. Opening the photo gallery, I pulled up the very first picture I’d taken here. One button pushed wrong, and I’d snapped a pictured of the dark sea. But instead of a black screen, I saw an explosion of light, color, and stars. “Here.”

Ronnie crowded next to me, sucking in a breath as he saw the screen. His head snapped eastward, eyes wide on the vast black.

That’s what your cameras see out there?”



A familiar yearning rose inside me. A longing to see inside the dream, to know its secrets.

“I wonder what it’s like inside,” he said. He turned bright eyes on me. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to see it with our own eyes?”

“Damn it, there you are.”

Mom’s voice broke the bubble of conspiratorial goodwill. Ronnie drew away, every inch the moody teenager. I stuffed my phone and camera in my bag.

“Here we are,” I said.

“Not Ronnie.” She bit off the words. “I saw your brother at dinner. A dinner you missed.”

I shouldered my bag and stepped toward home. “I didn’t miss it, Mother,” I said. “I promise.”

I cast one last glance at the Gulf, then left the dreams my little brother now shared behind for another night.


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


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jenn Baker Week 38: Note from the Heart

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Jenn Baker’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Note from the Heart

The heart is a complicated and fragile organ. How can it continue beating when completely shattered? But most amazingly, the heart is capable of healing and loving again.

When we met, my heart was shattered. The person I had entrusted it to did not cherish it like I thought he would. I was afraid to open up to someone knew. I didn’t think my heart would ever heal. But you proved me wrong. Your generous heart and love provided a safe shelter for my heart to heal and love again.

You are my best friend and the love of my life. I am very lucky.

Becky laid her pen aside and looked at the page in front of her. The two hearts with you and me labels under them, along with her note, made her smile. The Fates had an interesting way of showing people who they are destined to be with. After re-reading the note, Becky slowly folded the page and slipped it into an envelope. Getting up, Becky took the note to the kitchen and slipped it into Ben’s lunch box. She knew that he will call her when he finds the note. He always did when she gave him a note. With a small smile, she went back to the bedroom to wake him up for work.


Like what you just read? Have a question or concern? Leave a note for the author! We appreciate your feedback!

Jenn lives in central Florida with her best friend and husband, Andy. When not reviewing books on her book blog, PonyTails Book Reviews, she writes her own Contemporary Western Romance and Scottish Historicals. Jenn is hoping to have her first novel, The Prodigal Cowboy, published in the fall of 2013.