Sunday, August 31, 2014

Miranda Kate Week 114: Home

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Home

Sunlight hit the corridor just right, making it glow. It reflected how she felt about being here. It had taken her so long to get here, and sometimes she had wondered if she would ever make it. The amount of auditions she had come away from, feeling sick to her stomach, sure she had messed up and ruined her chances. The amount of jobs she had worked to try and keep the money coming, to keep a roof over her head and food in her belly, while all the time chipping away at the path to her dreams, tucking away as much as she could to pay for the opportunity to be here. And now she was.

The weeks before moving into the halls of residence had been dark, plagued with thoughts and nightmares of not fitting in, not finding her place among all the other artists and creative folk here, terrified they would see her as a fraud, and not up to scratch or worthy of sharing their space or class with her. But they had all been nothing but fears, and each day her confidence soared as they embraced her and made it clear they saw her as one of their own. She was constantly surprised by their openness to befriend her, and willingness to spend time in her company – sometimes even demanding it.

She smiled. Here she had found it all; the answer to what she had felt was missing inside all these years. She relished it - and cherished it. And every day she awoke she felt like she’d come home.


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Saturday, August 30, 2014

J M Blackman Week 114: Raging/love

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Raging/love

You ever think that we're just not meant to be?"

He turned his head a bit at that; he still didn't quite look at her. But that made him almost look. That was his way when they fought. He couldn't look at her. He took another pull of the joint between his fingers, then passed it to her.

She took two deep gulps, felt the buzz spread from her chest to her ass on the cold curb. She shifted her weight and leaned back against the sign behind her. "Do you?"

"No." He took the joint back. He took another drag.

"Why not? You think it's normal to fight like we do?" Her voice broke a little. Her throat was raw. From the screaming. And the smoking.

"I don't think we're normal. And I think everything worth having, you have to fight for."

"But like that?" She thought of they'd stood and yelled across the table. A glass had fallen to floor and shattered. They'd been asked to leave and she hardly remembered the face of the manager who'd asked. It was all swaths of red and tinkling glass and silence besides their screams. And now they sat a block away, on the curb, high.

"Sometimes." He took another drag. He looked at her then. Right in the eye. "I mean, if that guy behind you can still be happy, we should be able to find a way, right?"

"The guy behind..." She turned slowly, but no one was there. Then, she saw the sign she was leaning against. It was a Viagra advertisement. An old stickman with what had to be a raging boner was stationary with a walker. She stared at it for a minute and then burst into laughter that rolled down the street, up the building, through the alleys. Then, she turned back to her boyfriend. "I guess so."

"Right?" He handed her the joint and leaned his head on top of hers. She put one hand on his knee and took another puff.

"Right," she repeated.


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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacheri 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.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Mark Ethridge Week 114: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 14

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 14

How do you find someone without a GPS, a map, or a phone? I wanted to talk with Jessica, tell her of my plans, but I had to find her first, and I didn’t know where to look. I settled on South and East, the direction toward the stables Kelly and I’d found the others.

But I found no sign of Jessica. I did find what was left of the stables. The bodies were gone, but the burned out building remained. I didn’t waste time there, and headed more toward the south. I didn’t keep track of the days. I searched for books. Libraries. Homes. Anything I could find on guns. How to use them. How to clean them. How to make your own ammo. I didn’t expect to need ammo for a while, I’d found plenty on my walk, and knew I’d find more.

I stopped every day, and practiced. Just a couple of shots. As I studied how the guns worked, how to aim them, how to hit what I wanted to hit. Turned out, that’s how Jessica found me.

I woke up one morning, staring at a wolf. It growled, and barked at me. I got the message, grabbed my backpack, and followed it. I left everything else.

The wolf led me through the woods, over hills, across streams. I didn’t notice the scenery, until the wolf stopped, got behind me, and pushed me toward a waterfall. “What?” The wolf got impatient and snapped at me. Yeah. I headed for the fall.

As I got closer, I noticed a cave behind the fall, hidden. Jessica stepped out. “Frank.”

I didn’t like her tone. “Jessica.”

“Valerie misses you. Kelly too.” She looked at the wolf. It left. “Why?”

She didn’t have to ask what. “Beth.” I watched the waterfall, the unending splash it made in the pool of water at its foot. I didn’t know what else to say.

“Snakes die, you know.” She watched the fall, then stood next to me. “When it’s their time, they die.”

“But I have to do something!” I hadn’t realized how strong my emotions had become. My frustration. My anger. “I can’t go back, and let this happen again. And again.” I wanted to scream. I wanted to beat my fists on the rocks until they bled.

“Then do something. Find more stables. Find more people, more Beths to help.” I felt her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t run off and get yourself killed. Frank. I need you too much. Kelly needs you too much. Valerie…”

“Would be lost without you.” Her hand squeezed my shoulder. “She cries herself to sleep every night. And prays you will come back to her.”

“I miss her.”

“You don’t have to.”

“What should I do?”

She waved at the trees. “Live.”

The big wolf came out of the trees, four others came with him. Several hawks landed on a nearby tree limb. “Hunt the stables. Free the women. Like Beth.” There was an edge in her eyes I’d never seen. “I could use your help. There’s lots of them.” Her hand on my shoulder suddenly felt heavy. “The snake will die. It will starve to death.”

We talked. We ate nuts and berries. “Jessica. I think I miss food the most.”

We laughed, “Peaches. Oranges. Oh, how I’d love some of those.”

Jessica thumped my shoulder, “Chocolate.”

“Oh, God. Don’t go there.”

“And cheesecake.”

After a few hours, she waved at the animals, “They’ll go with you.”

I nodded, and spoke to the wolves and hawks, “Thank you.”

“You’ll have a lot to learn,” she poked me, “they’ll have to teach you to understand what they’re saying. And Frank. Be careful with the guns.”

“I will.”

The wolves led me back to my campsite. I spent the day there, and the night. It was my first solid nights sleep since I’d found Beth’s body. “I tried, Beth. I tried.” I closed my eyes to sleep, and saw her in my dreams.

“Frank. It’s OK.”

“No. It’s not. I wasn’t…”

“You were, Frank. You were.” She had a beautiful smile. “You freed me. You rescued me, and Gina, and the others.” She hugged me, “It wasn’t your fault.”

“I wasn’t there to stop you.”

“Frank,” Beth shook her head, “You made my last days happy. You and Kelly.”

I woke up as the sun rose. “You made my last days happy. You freed me.”

I packed my tent. I looked at the wolves. “Let’s go hunting, guys.”


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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pablo Michael Week 114: Villa Roma #4

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Pablo Michael’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Villa Roma #4

Without explanation Ignacio grabbed one of Anthony's bags, dragging him by a hand, still clutching another suitcase, up the stairs until they reached the next floor. “I hope you like your room. May not be what you expected” He stopped at an open door down the dark, tiled hallway. He set the bags down in the entry, his left arm open, guiding Anthony’s entrance.

Squeezing past Ignacio through the narrow passage, Anthony inspected a small, furnished, lived-in room which appeared to be the living room. Although initially speechless and suspicious, he glanced around, realizing Villa Roma #4 was Ignacio’s apartment. “I don’t know what to say?”

“Just say you like your accommodations for your visit in my city. I hope I’m not making you uncomfortable. But I’d like you to stay with me. While you’re in Florence.”

“But I might be an inconvenience.”

“Nonsense! We’ll get to know each other. Maybe a bit more intimately. If you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, but…” Flustered, Anthony attempted to find an excuse to accept Ignacio’s hospitality but wanted excitement, more than he ventured to imagine, when he had left Stuart in Rome. And even more, he would love to have a man like Ignacio in bed with him, like Stuart had with that hunk. He could erase the image of Giancarlo, naked, in the doorway after having sex with his partner.

“I could show you around the university?”


“Please,.., I won’t get in the way of your plans, when you need to take care of your business.”

“Okay.” Anthony relented, thinking his company would be more than welcome, and his knowledge of Florence would be an ideal answer for his itinerary.

“Bravisimo!” Ignacio wrapped his arms around Anthony, hugging and kissing him passionately, like a man reunited with his lover after a long separation.

Without hesitation, Ignacio’s kisses and hands graduated into seduction. Slowly and methodically, he undressed Anthony, leading him into the bedroom.

Numb-struck by his own plans to become acquainted, in a less aggressive manner, Anthony welcomed Ignacio’s overpowering, Italian passion, obviously less inhibited than any American gay man he had known.

Anthony lay with Ignacio next to him, admiring his dark, curly haired chest and his sleek, defined body.

Ignacio stared intently, like a frisky puppy anxious to play more.

“What about dinner? Is that a real restaurant or is it someplace you fictionalized?”

“No, it’s a very nice café, just a couple blocks down the street.” Ignacio clutched Anthony’s left hand and kissed his fingers. “But it’s much too early to eat. We have time to fool around more.” He grinned, his dark brown eyes sparkled, begging pretty please.

“I’m very exhausted and in need of a shower.”

“Oo-la la, that sounds good, showering together, where I can lather every inch of your body.” Anthony smiled in agreement, remembering the last time, many years before, when he and Stuart shared a playful time like this.

Anthony’s cell phone reminded him of the outside world. “I better answer that. It might be from the university.” Thinking the call might be about his appointment in the morning, he went to the entryway, Ignacio tagging, closely behind. Retrieving his phone from his trousers, he recognized Stuart’s number super imposed over the picture of the ocean on the screen. “It’s only Stuart. I’m not answering.

“Your boyfriend?” Ignacio stared at the screen on the phone. “Where is that beautiful place?” He admired the narrow crack between two steep cliffs, where waves crashed through from the ocean.

“Uh, it’s at a beach we usually go this time every year. We came to Italy this year instead. And yeah, that was my boyfriend.”

“It’s beautiful. Where is this beach?”

“It’s in Big Sur. Along the coast, north of Los Angeles. That cove was our special place.”

“Maybe I can show you my favorite place on the sea nearby. But now. What about that shower?” Ignacio ran his hands across Anthony’s hairy chest.

“First, let me call the university and confirm my appointment for tomorrow morning.” He tapped the screen on his cell. A different landscape photo popped up.

“Oh, that’s a nice picture too.” Anthony liked the wooded trail along a hillside.

“That’s the path to my secret hideaway. I go there to be by myself.”

“A beautiful place for a beautiful man.”

Anthony kissed him, pleasing Ignacio enough to bring a big smile to his mouth and sparkles in his eyes. “Those deep green eyes are gorgeous.”

Anthony blushed, while he tapped the numbers for his call.

Ignacio left to straighten the bedroom and prepare the bathroom for their shower.


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Pablo Michaels writes LGBT fiction and has published with Naughty Nights Press, You can follow him at @bell2mike


Monday, August 25, 2014

Lizzie Koch Week 114: Cross Country

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Cross Country

(from my WIP: The Sleepless)

After morning break, we changed for PE. I was raring to go but didn’t like the orange t shirt I had to wear. Despite the cool temperature, I omitted the trackies in favours of shorts. It suited my running style. However, my shorts didn’t suit my whiter than white British legs especially against everyone else who seemed to have a healthy glow. I wouldn’t care once we started. My legs would redden quickly and probably be covered in mud (which was the best part of any cross country).

After a few stretches, we were off. The boys had already gone but it wasn’t long before I overtook the stragglers. The terrain was bumpy and then into woodland with tree roots, bracken and small rivers. I’d never run a cross country course like it but it was a challenge and I loved it. Soon, I’d overtaken the bulk of the boys, a few cheers made me smile but didn’t distract me. Then I was on my own with only orange markers to guide me which was perfect as I welcomed the peacefulness and abundant bird song. The pounding of my feet, my steady breathing and my thumping heart accompanied the bird song; a cross country cacophony.

The glade thickened, preventing the sun’s autumn rays peeking through. It was like dusk which changed the atmosphere completely. I felt out of my depth and anxious. Which was silly but I couldn’t shake it. As long as I could see the orange markers, I would be fine and that’s all I focused on. I splashed into another cold shallow stream but didn’t care my feet were sodden.

Shadows started to move, gliding across in different directions. I kept running forward, my stride longer. Another shadow. A chill ran through me. I looked around. There was no one, not even orange shirts in the distance. My heart raced and my breathing lost its controlled rhythm. I started swearing to myself, talking to myself, trying to calm my nerves. I needed to escape the darkness. I felt I was being watched, forest eyes upon me. I shuddered, feeling isolated.

Spinning around, turning my head in all directions, disorientated and panting. Where were the markers? I didn’t see the vine sprawling across the forest floor until I was flying through the air with a scream and landing with a thump and roll. My knees grazed, pride dented and palms sore, I sat, gingerly brushing the debris from my bloodied knees before rising up, wincing with the pain. Something moved . . . in front of me . . . something black, in the shadows . . . moving swiftly. I strained my eyes but couldn’t see anything. I wanted to walk but I didn’t want to go on. I was sure something was there, waiting, watching. I stood still, listening, met only by a dark silence. I realised even the bird song had ceased. No orange shirts were coming up behind me. None were in front. I was alone in a wood. In the dark. A fear began to creep over me. There it was again, the shadows moving, creeping closer, like a blanket of darkness gliding closer and closer. I tried to scream but my throat dried up and closed. The cold shadow was going to swamp me . . .

The forest lit up, with a bluish tinge, like someone had opened the curtains or switched on a light. The shadows vanished. The birds began to sing their chirpy song. A faint smoulder travelled on the welcome breeze. And then I saw an orange shirt running towards me and I’d never been so glad to see someone in my life, even more so when I saw it was Ethan.

“You alright?”


“I heard a scream.” Ethan looked around him then back to me. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” I didn’t know how to answer that one. I didn’t know what I’d seen but I knew how I felt, empty and scared. “Can you walk?” he asked, spying my scuffed up knees, blood slowly trickling down my legs.

“Of course.” I wasn’t some needy-female-damsel- in- distress- type- person. “But I intend to run back.” I needed to get out of the woods, back to open spaces.

“Ok, I’ll run with you if you like.”

“With?” I eyed him, my competitive nature winning through my embarrassment and pain.

My knees stung, but I ignored it, as the cuts split open as I ran, keeping up with Ethan. It wasn’t long before we were out in the open, in natural daylight, bright and beautiful, feeling alive when I noticed what had caused the sudden light that banished the shadows.

“Did you notice the floodlights?” I panted as I saw them looming over the forest.

“Yeah.” Ethan was equally out of breath and there was the finish line and no orange shirts were back yet. I could do this.

Somewhere from deep inside, I found my reserves and picked up the pace . . . so did Ethan. His long stride matching mine and he had longer legs. I had to push and find some more. This was my thing. There was nothing else I was good at and Ethan was not going to take my running away from me. I took a deep breath and found a sudden burst. The finish line was getting closer. We were neck and neck. And with one massive lunge, I broke away and ran as fast as I could, ignoring my aching chest screaming for air, bursting through the finish line at least two seconds in front of Ethan where I collapsed on the soft grass.

“Where did that come from?” he asked as he pulled up next to me as I gulped from a bottle of cold water. I smiled and shrugged, looking over his shoulder at the forest as orange shirts could be seen dotted along the route, the floodlights still burning brightly despite the sun shining overhead.

My run was now the talk of the dorm and the canteen. Apparently, I set a new academy record, thrashing the boys too and even with my fall and slight injuries. But all I kept thinking about was the forest and how it made me feel, and why there were floodlights needed in broad daylight. I didn’t tell anyone about what I had seen or thought I’d seen, didn’t want to be seen as different especially when I seemed to be fitting in now.


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I dream of sharing my work with the big wide world one day as a published author. Right now, I share flash fiction with a wonderful community of writers and friends. If you liked this story, then why not visit my blog at for more. Thank you. Love Lizzie x


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ruth Long Week 113: August

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: August

Love envelops her

like the sand surrounds the sea

unmoored, ships sail free


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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, August 23, 2014

Aleea Davidson Week 113: Wither Part 9

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Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Wither Part 9

Glen plunged the room back into darkness by extinguishing the single candle he’d lit earlier. The room instantly felt colder and damper without the meager light, and Mara wondered how much of that prior weak glow had permeated the tiny, filth-encrusted window. The silhouette she’d seen vanished, but it was impossible to tell if the person had moved or if it was just too dark to see them any longer.

Mara’s heart felt like it was doing jumping jacks into her throat. Inanely she wondered how much stress she could take before she cracked like an egg. Images of her brothers appeared the instant she squeezed her eyelids shut, and anger peaked amid the panic as the door rattled noisily in its frame again. Imagining them at home, probably still sailing the paper boats she’d made them in the pretend lake they created in the kitchen sink, gave her much needed courage. She instantly began scanning the room in search of a weapon. She wasn’t about to crack, nor was she going to stand there and be a victim. Leaving her boys alone and defenseless wasn’t an option. Teddy and Jeremy needed her, she’d be damned if she let anyone take her away from them.

The candle on the milk crate table was perched in a tarnished silver holder that looked solid. Suspecting Glen had likely pilfered it from the altar upstairs, she lurched away from him and made a grab for it. In her haste she came close to tipping the crates. Glen stopped them from crashing to the floor, giving her an exasperated warning glare. She tossed the stub of a candle onto the cot, mouthing a silent sorry, before wrapping her hand around the base of the holder and wielding it like a club. His expression cleared, and he gave her a nod of approval.

The door to the room they inhabited was partway open. Glen moved, impressively silent, to the right of the jamb, gesturing for her to join him. He poked his head out carefully, his hand moving to his back and drawing out a gun she never knew he had. The sight of it made her bladder spasm with fear. For a nasty second she was once more watching the butcher put the barrel to his temple and pulling the trigger.

Luckily the flashback faded as quickly as it had come, and she didn’t pee herself. Her world reordered itself and time crashed back into the present. She’d never been a fan of guns, and she wasn’t about to start now, but Glen held it like he knew how to use it. She couldn’t deny a part of her felt relief. The heavy candlestick in her hands felt flimsy and silly in comparison, though she kept hold of it, more than ready to bludgeon whoever stepped through that door into a bloody pulp if necessary.

Glen held his hand out behind him, silently asking her to stay, then darted out into the empty room between them and the door that had stopped rattling. That whoever was out there had stopped trying to get in should have filled Mara with a sense of relief. It didn’t. The silence felt thick and ominous. With the absence of sound, a faint ringing in her ears began, distracting and annoying. Unable to keep still, she crept out behind Glen, trying to copy his cat-quiet steps and failing. One of her shoes scraped the bare concrete floor, rasping loudly, seeming to echo off the walls.

Glen spun, briefly lifting the gun her way before dropping it back to his side, his expression tight with tension. Mara mouthed a sorry, understanding why he looked pissed and hating her own clumsiness. Fear was making her feet feel like lead, and the candlestick kept slipping in her hold thanks to a slick dew of perspiration coating her palms.

She switched hands, wiping the sweat off on her skirt before switching again. Glen turned around and resumed his stealthy path to the door. This time Mara stayed put, feeling more inclined to do as she’d been told now that she wasn’t alone in that tiny room. Being able to see Glen and watch what he was doing was infinitely better, though a fine quaking started in the muscles of her calves from the tension it took to keep still. He had the gun, yet she felt oddly protective, every inch of space he gained away from her making it less likely she could help him if the person trying to get in was lurking and waiting. Glen reached the door, and Mara watched, a blizzard of malevolent butterflies in her stomach, as he leaned forward and put his ear against it, listening.

Her breath caught in her lungs. She could see how pale Glen’s complexion had become, but his hand that held the gun was steady. His gaze met hers, and she experienced a moment of intense connection. She didn’t know this man well, yet in that moment it felt as if she’d known him all her life. Her trust in him grew, something within whispering that he would protect her with his life if need be. Funny how she felt the same. She lifted the candlestick, holding it with both hands like a small, odd-shaped bat, and they both waited.

Seconds that felt like hours ticked by. Just when Mara felt sure whoever it was had left, the door knob turned and a series of knocks startled them both. Glen jumped and stepped back, lifted his arm and pointed the gun.

“Glen? Are you in there? It’s Ben, man. Come on, if you’re in there, open the door.”

Glen froze. For a moment, Mara feared he’d shoot. His finger looked so tight against that trigger it seemed inevitable; an action he wouldn’t be able to stop despite the fact whoever was outside seemed to be someone he knew. As she mentally attempted to prepare herself for the sound of gunfire, she also took a few quick steps, as if she could possibly prevent what might happen next. Instead of a shot, Glen swore, loud enough the vulgar word bounced off the walls and hurt her ears.

He wrenched the door open, and the man outside stumbled in. He must have been doing the same thing as Glen, leaning against it. Glen caught him then instantly shoved him back, his face no longer white, slashes of red high on his cheekbones, his mouth a tight hard line.

“Son of a bitch,” he growled. “I goddamn nearly killed you, you stupid ass.”

The man named Ben, dragged a hand over his face and glared back. “Yeah? Well you might want to stow that gun and give a listen. I’m taking considerable risk coming here to find you this close to damn daylight, in case you didn’t notice.”

Glen shoved the door closed. “I noticed.” He looked down at his watch. “This place isn’t going to protect you. By my time, you’ve got fifteen minutes. Better say what you need to in a hurry.”

The man named Ben looked at her for the first time, noting the candlestick. “Drop it, darlin’. I’m not here to hurt anyone.”

“It’s okay, Mara. I know him,” Glen said.

“I gathered that,” she said. She lowered the candlestick to her side, but kept hold of it. Glen didn’t seem particularly thrilled or happy to see the man. He might know him, but she doubted they considered each other friends, judging by the tension emanating from both.

“I got news you need to hear,” Ben said, looking away from her and back to Glen.

“Say it then.”

“You’re place was raided tonight. Government men. Jigs up, buddy. The way they ransacked the place, it’s pretty clear they’re on to you. If I was you, I wouldn’t go home. Big black fancy looking van, kitted out with UV resistant...everything...has been sitting down the street for hours. Educated guess would be they don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.”

Glen closed his eyes, and Ben stepped back. “You got somewhere you can stay?”

Glen shrugged.

“Not here,” Bed said. “Too many nosy people around these parts.”

“You can stay with me.” The words were out before Mara could really think about what she was offering. While Ben had been talking, Mara had closed the distance between her and Glen. She reached out and put her hand on his arm when he looked at her in surprise. “It’s safe. Hardly any neighbours.” She darted a look at Ben and chose to not say anymore. She wasn’t sure if he could be trusted or not. Better to stay vague.

Ben himself seemed uninterested. “Find somewhere and find it fast.” He looked behind them as if he could judge the light through the closed door. “Adios and good luck.” He started to turn around then stopped. “I’d say this makes us even, right?”

Glen’s eyes narrowed. A moment of silence followed before he grudgingly gave a slight nod. Ben grinned, a smile that did nothing to convey warmth or humour.

“Can’t anyone say I don’t pay my debts.” Ben tilted an imaginary hat in her direction, muttered something about it not being a pleasure, then he hurried out into the dwindling night.


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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Michela Walters Week 113: Lost in a Book

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Lost in a Book

Turning the pages, she’s captivated and taken to a far away place. With every new tale, it whisks her from her dismal life and into a fantasy world filled with love, heros and possibility. All things she thinks are outside of her tiny reach.

She slays dragons with ease while rescuing the damsel in distress. In these stories, she never worries about if her mom will come home after work with food, or if she’ll be able to have supplies for school this year. The library is her castle, the beanbag corner in the kids section, her protective dragon, keeping out all the warriors trying to break through her drawbridge and moat. In reality, it’s the one place of solace in her crazy, disorganized life.

So she comes, every day after school and stays well past dinner time, all to avoid the Projects and the chaos that comes no matter what the time of day it is. She dreams of one day writing a book that might grace the shelves of this very place, and maybe, just maybe, help another little girl through her darkest days.

For Tanisha believes the pen and the sword are equally as mighty, especially if you get to write about slaying the big bad wolf.


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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, August 20, 2014

Sarah Aisling Week 113: A Measure of Grace (Part 12): Alliance

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice:

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 12): Alliance

Max sets me on my feet, his hands resting on my hips. Grace is already standing at attention and growling low in her throat.

“Stay here.” He cups my cheek and waits for me to look at him. “I'm going to check things out.”

I trap his hand, holding it against my face. “No!”

Max pries my fingers loose, holding them in his own. “I'll be fine. I have a gun hidden in a tree on the edge of the property. I'll come back for you as soon as I can.” He leans in and kisses me hard, tracing his fingers along my hairline, then crouches in front of Grace. “Grace, stay.”

Before I have a chance to say anything else, he takes off.

The dying light of the sunset barely illuminates the lake now, the surface rippling purple and blue. In about ten minutes, darkness will creep in, blanketing the area. The thought of the unknown in the dark sends my heart into palpitations.

I turn my back to the lake, peering into the gloom at the steep and treacherous path before me. It's not going to get any lighter, and I want to be where Max is. I also suck at following directions.

“Come on, girl.” I pat my thigh with more confidence than I feel and start after Max.

It's cooler under the umbrella of thick foliage—and a great deal darker. I stand with my eyes closed for several seconds, allowing my pupils to dilate, then open them. My vision improves enough to find my way without tripping and falling, but it’s slow going. Every so often, I stop and listen to the sounds of the encroaching night. There are no more gunshots, and I don’t hear Max although he had a good head start and knows the area far better than I do.

Grace lopes along, her attention fully on me. She doesn’t stop to sniff anything or chase animals. I wonder what Grace did in her former life. Was she a police dog? She seems trained to protect and serve. Maybe she’s just special. Whatever the reason, I thank God she’s by my side—the world would be much scarier without her.

By the time I reach the edge of the yard, my vision has acclimated to the darkness. Grace paces herself by my steps, stopping when I stop, moving when I move. We creep along the perimeter of the yard, and I listen for signs of Max.

A booming voice yells out, “Jesus! Put that thing down!”

Another voice mutters something back, but I can’t make out the words. I follow the soft drone of conversation, picking my way carefully along the edge of the trees until I see them.

Max leans against the house talking to another man. The guy is built like a tank. The rolled up sleeves of his khaki shirt showcase massive biceps. The sheer size of his chest and shoulders dwarf Max’s by comparison. He has a cap of wavy, cropped hair that probably has a mind of its own when left to grow untamed.

“How did you end up out here, man?” Max asks. His arms are crossed over his broad chest, but his posture seems relaxed.

“Looking for you. Almost got my ass shot up doing it, trigger finger!” His good-natured laugh bellows through the air.

Max knits his eyebrows, and his demeanor changes slightly. “How’d you know where to look, Eric?”

Eric scrubs thick fingers through his short hair. “Tek sent me.”


“He said you should have been back already. Ali’s worried about you.”

Max groans. “There’s nothing to worry about. How did you get free to come here? Did Tek ask you to?”

Eric shakes his head. “Nah. I volunteered. Could you see Tek stumbling over the river and through the woods? Besides, I didn’t think it was a good idea to leave her alone. Max, she’s worse.”

Max’s jaw tightens, and he rakes his fingers through his short hair. “Shit. I hit the pharmacy, but they’re cleaned out.”

“Wish I could help with that.”

“You’ve done plenty.” Max slaps Eric on the arm. “I owe you. Won’t you be missed?”

“I’m entitled to leave time. Most guys don’t want it, but I’ve always enjoyed a good romp in the woods.”

“Was that you shooting before?”

Eric laughs. “Yeah. I saw a deer. Missed.”

“Listen . . . there’s someone else here with me.”


“She stumbled into town a few weeks ago, delirious with fever. I took care of her. She’s been living in one of the houses.”

“Max, are you crazy?”

“She knows what the deal is, and she’s been careful. You haven’t heard any reports, right?”

“No, but you know it’s only a matter of time.”

A short, uncomfortable silence descends between them.

“I left her in the woods. I have to go get her.”

Now what? I can’t go back to the ledge before Max gets there. Do I pretend I didn’t eavesdrop, or should I just come clean? A sinking feeling swirls in the pit of my stomach. There are things I don’t know. Until I do, it’s probably wise not to give too much away.

I backtrack into the woods a short way then come out, making enough noise that Max and his friend will hear me.

Max halts mid-stride. “Marie?”

“Sorry I didn’t listen to you. It was getting dark and creepy.”

When Grace sees Eric, she yips and scuttles over, jumping up on his legs.

“Hey, Nudge!” He ruffles her fur and lets her lick his face then digs in his pocket, bringing out a few dog treats. “Here you go, precious.”

I remain some distance away, nervous about Eric though he seems friendly enough.

Max strides over and grabs my hand. “You all right?”

“Yeah. Who’s he?”

“Come here.” Max tangles our fingers and pulls me along behind him. “Eric, I want you to meet Marie.”

The gargantuan man, still bent down playing with Grace, glances up. Despite his intimidating size, his expression is friendly and open. Grace seems to like him, which is quite an endorsement.

“Hey, Marie!” Eric steps forward, his big blue eyes widening when he notices Max's hold on me. “Oh, I get it now.”

Max follows Eric’s gaze. “It’s not like that, jerk.”

I smile and shake Eric’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”

When he leans down to pet Grace again, I notice a patch on his sleeve—half American flag, half Canadian with the inscription American-Canadian Alliance.

The smile freezes on my face, and I can’t stop the words from tumbling out. “What the hell is that?”

Max’s fingers tighten over mine. “Easy.”

Eric stands up, letting out a creepy laugh. “It means I’m one of them.”

I’m speechless, my heart stuttering and racing.

Max kicks Eric in the shin. “Stop it, asshole. You’ll scare her to death.”

“Ow!” Eric hops around on one leg, rubbing his shin. “Sorry.”

Max looks into my eyes. “Marie, listen to me. Eric is technically one of them, but he’s a good guy. I wouldn’t lie to you.”

“He’s the source of your inside information.”

“Yes, and a clown.” Max shoots Eric a withering look. “Eric has a heart of gold, but he was holding the door when common sense got handed out.”

“What’s he doing here?” I’m curious if Max will lie to me.

“He came looking for me. I’ve been gone longer than usual, and someone sent him to find me.”

“Oh, it’s my fault—because I got sick.”

Eric looks at me with interest. “Sick how?”

Max shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it. We’re leaving in the morning.”

Eric nods. “I’m heading out tonight. Told them I’d be in the woods nearby. They shouldn’t come looking, but just in case . . .”

“You sure about traveling at night?” Max asks.

“Nothing scares me—except them finding out I’m not where I’m supposed to be.” Eric pats Grace on the head and salutes us. “See you back at the ranch. Marie, it was a pleasure.”

The giant melts stealthily into the darkness, and a few minutes later, it’s almost as if he were never here. Max and I stand awkwardly while Grace wanders around the yard.

I rub my hands up and down the sleeves of my hoodie, looking everywhere but at Max. The evening isn’t that cold; the chill I feel is a knot of icy doubt on the inside, working its way out. Others sent Eric looking for Max, one of them female. Is that why Max kept me separated, like a dirty little secret? Tears sting my eyes.

Max tugs my hood. “I’m going to put this gun away, and then we can get ready for bed. We’ll head out early tomorrow, okay?”


The darkness is complete now, and I can’t read Max’s expression. I’m relieved he can’t see the tears in my eyes. It seemed like I was getting to know him, and now I wonder.

I find Grace in the yard and hug her neck, pressing my face into her fur for comfort while he's gone.

When Max returns, we use the light of a lantern to clean up the remains of our dinner then pack our things in preparation for the morning.

I can’t shake the disquieting feeling twisting inside me, but I don’t know what to say about it or even how much of a right I have to question Max. Loneliness casts a shadow over me. Tonight, more than any other, I want to pull my phone out and hear Katie’s voice.

Max lets me use the bathroom first. I brush my teeth, splash water on my face, and decide to sleep in the clothes I’m wearing.

A candle flickers on the nightstand in the bedroom. A picture on the wall draws my attention—a group of people on a small airplane pose together, holding drinks in the air. I lean closer to make out the details and realize they’re cast members from The Walking Dead. I wonder where those actors are now and if working on a post-apocalyptic show helped any of them to survive.

I kick off my boots and turn down the comforter, slipping under the sheet. Grace hops up and curls into a ball at my feet. When Max comes in, I don’t mention the photograph though I’m not sure why.

I stare at the ceiling, listening to Max getting ready. He’s in the bathroom for quite a while, and fatigue pulls me under.

The dip of the mattress startles me, and my lids fly open.

“It’s just me.” Max sits on the other side of the bed, also in his clothes, the candlelight playing across his features, leaving them in partial shadow. “Is it all right if I sleep next to you?”

Part of me wants to ask why he wants to sleep beside me when there are several bedrooms in the house, but I simply nod. He draws the sheet over himself and turns to face me, bending one arm to support his head. I wish his expression was discernible. I know he’s watching me but have no idea what he's thinking.

Eventually, Max reaches out and runs a finger across my eyebrow, over my temple, and down the side of my cheek, rubbing it back and forth along the edge of my jaw. “What are you thinking?” he asks.

“I’m not sure what to think . . . about anything.” Vague but true.

“Are you upset with me?” His finger continues its lazy pattern across my skin, causing a sudden warmth to melt some of the ice inside me.

“Should I be?”

“No. I don’t know.” Max looks down for a few seconds before moving closer and spreading his hand across my jaw, his thumb brushing lightly across my bottom lip. “Did I overstep? Out by the lake?”

Desire awakens inside me, the rapidly spreading heat consuming the ice at the memory of him kissing me earlier. The practical part of my brain cries out, warning that Max might be making a fool of me. There are things I don’t know. The war inside keeps me from answering.

“I’m not good at this, Marie. I never have been.” The pad of his thumb keeps up the gentle motion, sending more waves of heat rippling through my abdomen. Now that he’s closer, I can see sincerity and uncertainty in his eyes. “Please say something.” He lifts his thumb from my lip, sliding his hand further back until it cradles my head.

“I’m scared. Who was that guy, and how did he know where to find you? You said you wouldn’t lie to me.”

Max’s brow furrows, and his gaze roams my face. “I won’t lie to you.” He presses his forehead to mine and looks into my eyes. “Eric is part of the American-Canadian Alliance. The virus hit so fast and hard, it wiped out most of our government and Canada’s. A joint government was formed, dedicated to finding a cure in the name of preserving human life. The problem is their methods are cruel and unusual. They’re determined to find a cure as soon as possible, even if it means sucking the life out of the immune to do it.”

I tamp down the fear threatening to overtake me. “How do you know him?”

“He's a perimeter guard at their facility. He was investigating something and took a tumble on some rocks by the ocean. I saved his ass, and now he's helping save mine. Eric's a good guy. He doesn't agree with what they're doing.”

“Why's he with them, then?”

Max sighs and closes his eyes. “Sometimes we make compromises or do things we normally wouldn't consider moral. It's a different world now.” He places a kiss on my forehead. “I hope you never have to face a decision like that.”

We look into each other's eyes, his fingers massaging lightly in the hair at my nape. A shiver rolls through me, and I'm not sure if his touch or his words cause it—probably both.

“You didn't overstep before, unless . . .”


“Is there someone else? Is that why you tried to run me off and kept me on the outside?”

Max laughs, shaking his head. “There's no one.” He grows serious, intensity burning in his gaze. “I didn't want to care about you—I still don't. It complicates everything and puts us all in danger.”


“There are two other people with me. One of them, I'd do anything to protect. Anything.”

“Who are they?”

“My sister and the guy I found her with after the virus hit. He's in love with her and the only reason I can ever leave her alone.”

“She can't go on supply runs?”

“No. Ali's sickly. She has bad asthma. Eric snuck me some inhalers a while ago, but he doesn't have access anymore. The pharmacy here is cleaned out, so I'll have to search in another town farther away.”

“I might be able to help. My grandma had asthma, but she was into holistic remedies and refused to use an inhaler. I noticed an apothecary in town. We can check it out before we leave in the morning.”

“That would be great.”

“Can I meet Ali?” I look up at him shyly.

“Can't put the horse back in the barn now.” He grins. “When we first met . . . I didn't want to be cruel to you. I just didn't know how to deal—after Gary. I'm still worried about fucking things up and people I care about getting hurt.”

“I understand.” His actions make a lot more sense to me now.

“Thank you.” The look in Max's eyes sends a flash of heat to my nether regions.

“For what?”

“Not judging me. Being willing to help my sister. You're such a good person.”

“So are you.”

“No, I'm not.” His laugh is self-depreciating and ugly. “I've done shit.”

I reach out and caress his cheek. “Everyone's done things.”

Max's lips are suddenly on mine, hungry and devouring. No question. No seeking of permission. He exerts gentle pressure at the nape of my neck, drawing me closer as his mouth moves over mine.

Tingles race through my body, every cell responding. My fingers skim his chest, fisting around the soft cotton of his shirt. His hand leaves my neck, and he shifts, the weight of him pressing me to the mattress as he places hot, open-mouthed kisses down the side of my neck.

There’s a thump as Grace leaps to the floor. Dover never thought twice about staying on the bed while action was taking place.

Max holds himself above me, using his arms as support. The rest of his body comes in contact with mine, sending delicious zings everywhere. I lie helpless beneath him—scared of what I'm feeling, scared he'll disappear again once we get back to town, scared to be vulnerable in front of him.

Max returns to my mouth, his tongue sliding deep inside. He groans, flexing his hips when I dig my nails into his shoulders, his hardness jabbing me in the thigh through our jeans. One hot hand slides under the edge of my shirt, the calluses on his palm rasping along my side until encountering the black lace bra. Both nipples pebble, and the gentle kneading sends electric shocks between my legs.

I draw a long, shuddering breath when he breaks away again, heart drumming against my ribs.

Max's touch disappears from beneath my shirt, and he rolls off me, throwing an arm over his face. “Shit.”

“Did I do something wrong?”

Max's sea-glass eyes capture mine, and he cups my jaw. “No . . . no. I got carried away. Practically nailed you right here.” He skims his fingers through my hair and kisses me softly. “Told you I'm not good at this.”

I laugh and mutter, “Seem pretty good at it to me . . .”

“Oh, yeah?” Max smirks and leans his head on his arm, pulling me down to kiss him.

Our lips and tongues explore languidly, but it's no less intense than before—at least for me. He cups my face or wraps his arms around my back, careful to keep his hands above the clothes. Part of me feels disappointed; the other part realizes it's way too soon for more and appreciates the respect he’s showing me.

“We should get some rest. Long day tomorrow.” Max kisses the tip of my nose.

“We should.”

Max blows out the candle. We lie on our sides, kissing slowly and sharing gentle touches until we fall asleep in each other's arms.


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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, August 19, 2014

Kimberly Gould Week 113: Southern

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Southern

Diane looked at the paper again. It was old, but it shouldn’t be this difficult to read. Her grandfather had beautiful flowing script. If she’d lived a few decades earlier, she would be used to handwriting like this, but these days, everyone typed or printed. Cursive was a dying art, and as she squinted at the blue letters again, she wasn’t sad that it had.

The book had come to her in her grandfather’s will. Her cousins were all curious, and some a bit jealous. Although several of them did receive keepsakes, the youngest weren’t included. It made sense to her at twenty; he just hadn’t updated it in the last five years. And it wasn’t like the kids really knew what they were missing. They just saw everyone getting presents and wanted one too.

After flipping through the pages once, Diane had set the book aside, not really thinking about it again until one of her friends noticed it on the table.

“What’s this?”

Diane told Jen about her grandfather’s will.

“Cool.” She started flipping through the book as well. “Uh, Di, you might want to see this.”

Jen held open the last few pages, the blank leafs before the cover. Only one wasn’t blank.

Diane seized the book from her friend, trying to make out what it said. Jen had more luck. James Carter. That name wasn’t familiar. South Africa. That one made sense. Her grandfather had been stationed there as part of the British army before meeting Diane’s grandmother and moving to the States. Erasmus Farm. Di had no idea what that was. The certification made the book more valuable for certain, but what else did it mean? She could think of only one way to find out.

Which was how she found herself standing at the gates of a farmhouse, looking from the book to the door and hoping someone would come outside. A whistling broke her concentration like a buzzing insect. She turned and found a pair of men as well as several women, dressed in bright colours and celebrating something. The brilliance of the music, the dancers, the entire spectacle, drew her away from her mystery and into their circle.

She was welcomed immediately, something that probably wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago. A crown of flowers was placed on her head and the ladies tried to teach her their dance. It was intricate, so she only copied one part, but she bounced along with them anyway.

When the festivities died down, she asked one of the ladies. “Does anyone live at Erasmus Farm?”

“Not in years. Why?”

Diane opened the book and showed her the pages.

“This is old, older than me. I remember the last people to live at Erasmus Farm, but I don’t know a James Carter. Come. We will ask my mother.” The woman took Diane’s hand and tugged her along behind, still holding the book. The woman exchanged quick words with her mother in a language Diane didn’t know. Despite the speed of their speech, it took a few minutes for the woman to nod and turn back to Diane. She began by giving Diane the book back.

“James Carter was an old captain. He lived at Erasmus farm nearly fifty years ago. My mother remembers because she was little and he would give her sweets sometimes. But he was still a soldier and tasked with making sure we stayed in our reserves.” The woman’s voice turned hard and thick. She had lived through the end of apartheid and carried the resentment for it. “My mother wonders how you came by it.”

Diane apologized first. “I’m so sorry for what those soldiers did to you. My grandfather was one of them. He was probably an officer under James Carter.” Diane worried that the woman’s kindness would end with that pronouncement.

Instead, her mother asked. “His name?”

“My grandfather was Benjamin Ryan.”

The old woman’s face creased as she smiled. “I remember.”

“He died,” Diane told them. “He left me this.”

“And you came all the way here just to find out what you had?” the daughter asked.

Diane shrugged. “I was really curious, and this has made a fantastic vacation. I don’t suppose I could look inside the farmhouse?”

Daughter looked at mother, the older nodding.

“No one will argue with that.” She headed in the direction of the farm.

The woman left her at the stoop, waiting for Diane’s return. Inside she found dust and cobwebs. There wasn’t much left, everything packed away or scavenged by the natives. The writing desk was turned out, nearly empty, but a couple of pages remained. They were nearly as difficult to read as the book she had. She gathered them up and tucked them inside her book. She wandered through empty rooms, trying to imagine her grandfather living here. In one of the bedrooms she found a photo, stuck between the boards panelling the wall. It was a half dozen men in uniform. She pulled it out and tucked it with the pages.

The woman was still on the stoop when she returned. “You have a place to stay tonight?” she asked.

“Yes. I have to drive back to Queenstown.”

The woman nodded. “It was nice to meet you.”

Diane took her hand in return. “Likewise. My name is Diane. I don’t know that I caught yours.”

“Desi. I hope you have found what you were looking for.”

“I think I have,” she said, clutching the book to her chest.


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Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege, and it's sequel Duty and Sacrifice. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Miranda Kate Week 112: Wedding Twister

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Wedding Twister

Mariette gathered her wedding dress round her as she ran down the street. She was glad she’d gone for comfy wedding shoe or she wouldn’t have had a chance. The siren’s were still blasting out their urgent call, but she no longer heard them as her mind ran through the last moments of her life.

Tommy had grabbed her hand when he had seen the air kick up in the field over from paddock they were getting married in. He knew what it meant, and by the time they had come through the house, they could hear the crunching air as the twister hit the ground just a few feet away from their wedding alter. She could hear chairs hitting the roof as they sprinted down the road.

Tommy had let go of her hand to run on ahead and pull up the storm drain. It was their only hope, none of the homes round here had stone foundations, and no one had thought to put in a storm shelter, under that wonderful ideology ‘it’ll never happen here’.

“Come on Mariette, run!”

He called to her, hand outstretched ready to drop her down. She didn’t think twice about it until the stench of the sewer hit, but as the crunching got louder and her veil was whisked from her head she didn’t have time to react, only to jump.

The splash and squelch made her nose wrinkle and she hoiked her dress up further, knowing that it was probably too late to salvage it, but still hoped to keep it relatively unspoiled.

Tony climbed down the ladder, dragging the storm drain cover over as much as he could, before splashing down next to her.

“We’ve gotta go further in honey, it’s gonna pass right over us.”

He took her hand and led her down one of the tunnels, both of them hunched over. She kept close, trying to remain downwind of his musky body spray rather than the reek of human waste. He stopped in a little siding that had a tiny step up that allowed them to step out of the muck, although they were still crouched over.

They could hear the cacophony overhead get louder. Tommy squeezed Mariette’s hand.

“We’ll be good, you’ll see.”

She leaned into him, and buried her head in his shoulder.

They heard some of the storm drain covers lift off further along the tunnel, and the sewer water being sucked up where they had come down – the cover having been taken by the twister. A wind blast hit them, and Mariette felt her dress being pulled slightly. Tommy brought her further into him, wrapping an arm round her waist to make sure her had her, and whispered in her ear, “It ain’t having you, you’re mine.”

She lifted her head up and grinned. “You ain’t married me yet Tommy.”

He grinned back at her. “Cheeky lady. But you’re right, this has put a crimp in our plans, but we’ll right it soon enough.”

“A crimp? I would say a bit of a twist!” Mariette giggled.

Tommy laughed too. “I love about you Mariette, only you could find something funny about standing in a storm drain while a twister passes overhead.”

He pulled her in for a kiss, and she obliged. It was their wedding day afterall.


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Friday, August 15, 2014

J M Blackman Week 112: X Marks the Spot

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: X Marks the Spot

It was silent, save for the fire’s grumbling, the clink of dishes and glasses. That was until the growling. I looked at our hostess to ask if she had dogs, but when I looked up, she was already looking at me. Her eyes had changed colors, seemed larger. She asked if I’d like a drink with her in another room. I didn’t know what else I could say besides, “yes.”

Saying “yes” then would change my life beyond recognition.

It had set my path. And it was unalterable.

…in the other room, my head filled with a fog that had developed from the seething marsh between my ears; I swayed as if there was music on. And she was a lighthouse in that fog, shining in the firelight that glimmered off her lipstick. When she pressed her mouth to mine, I thought I was caught on an electric fence–no, wrapped in it. Until what felt like a dozen pinpricks stabbed me around my spine.

I jerked away and the pain seared up my back, sucking the air out of my lungs (or what air was left). I fell to my knees and the drink went tumbling. The glass didn’t shatter but rolled across the rug, a pool of dark whiskey under my hand. I tried to feel for the pain in my back, but my arm wasn’t long enough. I felt her behind me, and flopped over so I could meet her face. As if in slow motion, she drew a lean finger across my diagonally one way, then the other.

“X marks the spot,” she whispered. And it was like she’d broken the spell.

Now, the firelight was hell-light, for she was no longer an angel but a demon, with fingers too long, a mouth too wide and full of sharp teeth.

But the real thing that made her a demon was the fact that despite her appearance, she was still lovely to me.

And so I ran. As fast as I could, as hard as I’d ever, and as I stumbled through the dark halls, they filled with cracking bays and reverberating howls.

I was in the company of wolves.

I had known they weren’t quite right, but this? And what else could be the excuse? I was drunk, but no liquor made a hot girl’s face turn into a monster mask. But real.

I fell down the stone steps and when I got to my car, my keys weren’t in my pocket anymore. When the hell had that happened? I took a quick look at the door still open and decided the main road wasn’t too far back. I could make it running.

It may have been the stupidest thing I’ve ever thought.

My dress shoes didn’t make running in the wet grass easy. The floodlights from the house started to fade behind me as the woods began to close in. I’d barely made it 800 yards before I heard the howl that announced they’d broken free of the house.

I’d been marked. They would find me.


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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacheri 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.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mark Ethridge Week 112: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 13

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: One

Title: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 13

At dawn, I kissed Valerie, packed my backpack, and left camp. Everyone knew it would be a while before I returned.

I headed east, toward my old home town. It took two days to get there. I knew I was moving well, unencumbered by anyone else. I could set my pace, move when I wanted to, for as long as I wanted to. I didn’t have to take care of Beth, and her friends.

I needed to find Jessica, to speak with her, tell her my plan.

I didn’t sleep much at night. Too many nightmares. I kept dreaming of Beth. Of how I found her, dead, her dried blood all over the ground. She’d killed herself, cut her wrists, and let herself bleed to death.

The truth was more complicated. She’d escaped this world. A world that nearly killed her. That raped her endlessly. Used her. Violated her. Until she almost died. Kelly and I had tried to help her. We’d saved her and the others from the hell they’d been trapped in. But, the damage to her soul had already been done. We hadn’t been able to heal that.

Beth had screamed every night.

Every night.

She’d cried until she had no tears left.

Yeah. She’d escaped. I didn’t blame her. She’d done what she had to.

I blamed the people who’d done that to her. Who’d abused her. And I was going to stop them. They’d never hurt another soul like they’d hurt her.

Dad always said, “To kill a snake, cut off its head.” In the country, you learn why. Farming you learn lots of things. Snakes regrow missing parts. Cut a snake in half, and the part with the head grows into a whole snake again. Cut off the head, and nothing grows back. They can’t grow whole bodies. They die.

I was going to hunt down the head of the snake. And cut it off.

I needed supplies. Rifles. Especially the ones from the neighbor. He was ex Army. A trained sniper. He had guns. Lots of guns. Including the nastiest rifles I’d ever seen. “Boy, with this, and some practice, you can shoot the balls off a fly at a thousand feet.”

Or the head off a snake.

Best part? No one would mind if I took them. No one was left to mind. I found my dad’s best handguns. Two of them, each with two clips, and a box of ammo for each. The neighbors armory was hidden, In his cellar, behind the wine rack he had. Took hours to figure out how to get into the case, once I found it. It was the first time I’d ever had to pick a lock. I like to think I learned a lot about lock picking that day. But in truth, dumb luck struck, and the damn thing opened.

And I found my sniper rifles. And all the ammo I could use.

It was too late to continue my journey that night, so I returned to my family’s home. I planned to spend the night in my old bed, knowing I needed a good night’s sleep. I thought of the things I’d need. Books. I’d have to learn to make ammunition. Oil. Gun oil. To clean the guns. I already knew how to clean them. Dad had seen to that.

But, sleep never caught up with me. I kept waking up, begging Beth to stay.

Knowing she was gone.

Since I couldn’t sleep, I walked through the town and ended up at the farmers market we’d had. It was a mess of course, all the food was long gone, and there were weeds, and vines, and spiders, and mice everywhere.

I remembered the times I’d shopped there with Mom. She said I had to learn how to take care of myself, and find the right things to eat, so when I grew up, I could take care of myself. The market had always been full of fruits and vegetables. Oranges, apples, lettuce, eggplant, you name it. The place had it. The whole town shopped there, it was where we got our food. It even had a small butcher shop to one side. They had the best ground beef, and steaks. A steak, and a sweet potato, with cinnamon butter would have been good.

But it was all gone. The whole world had gone insane.

Sleep finally caught me and I passed out sitting on the floor, leaning against a column in the old marketplace. I’d say it was a good sleep, but I’d be lying. I had nightmares. I woke up screaming, “Die, you bastards! Die!” I knew, I’d hunt down the head of the snake, and chop it off.

It was time to join Jessica in the war to save what was left of our humanity. In a world that had gone insane. Time to find out who ran the company, or whatever it was, that ran all the stables like the one that killed Beth, and wounded the others. So no one else had to live through that kind of hell again.

I’d let Jessica fight the ground war. She could do that better than I could, with her animal friends helping her. While she fought, I’d become a sniper. I’d hunt down the people running things. I’d be sending them to hell. I’d take the head off the snake.

I didn’t care how long it took. Or if I survived. All that mattered was stopping them.

Once the snake was dead, maybe Beth could rest in peace.


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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pablo Michael's Week 112: Italian Affairs

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Pablo Michael’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Italian Affairs

Anthony stepped out of the taxi, paid the driver in American money, and looked toward the Rei Frumentariae. Stuart had booked their brief stay in this hotel in Rome before traveling to Florence. Stuart had arrived several days earlier, while Anthony stayed behind, tying up loose ends with their real estate agent to rent the house. Anthony was tired, needing a shower, and anxious to rest. He appreciated the eighteenth century, restored hotel as he walked through the front doors to the desk.

“Could you tell me what room Stuart Granger has booked?” Anthony asked the desk clerk, hoping he comprehended English.

The young Italian man looked on the computer. “Number 221.” He answered briskly but with good a command of English. His eyes perused Anthony’s modestly well-built frame, obviously flirting. “Take the stairs there.” He pointed to the left.

Anthony thanked him, too tired to acknowledge the sexual taunt. Climbing the stairs lethargically, he walked directly to his left and found the room a couple of doors to the left. He set his bags on the `marble floor.

He knocked a couple of times without a response, until he heard Stuart’s voice. “Who’s there?”

Anthony knocked without responding, hoping to surprise him.

A minute later, Stuart opened the door, a towel wrapped around his waist. “Anthony!” His sun-bleached blond hair was unkempt like he had been asleep, but his smooth, wiry torso was beaded with sweat. ” You’re a day early.”

“Yeah. Everything got settled earlier than planned. Are you going to let me in?”

“Who is it? Come back to bed,” a heavily accented, Italian voice with broken English called from behind the door.

Emerging behind Stuart, a handsome, young man interrupted their conversation, until Stuart narrowed the door opening to conceal his intrusion.

“You weren’t supposed to be here for two days.”

“Shit! How could you?” Vividly upset, Anthony kicked the wall. He picked up his bags and started to retreat back down the hallway.

“Wait. I can explain,” Stuart pleaded. He turned his head around. “Giancarlo, put some clothes on.” He attempted to speak privately to the man behind him while keeping Anthony’s attention.

But it was too late. Anthony had heard, and was already fleeing the hallway down the stairs and out the front door of the hotel. He hailed a taxi. “Roma Termini.”

Within what seemed like seconds Anthony boarded a train on Italiarail bound for Florence, the ultimate destination he and Stuart had planned after rendezvousing in Rome. How could he? Anthony’s disapproval for Stuart’s indiscretion made him angry, almost enough to fly back to Los Angeles But he wanted to check out the campus of the University of Human Sciences, even if it was by himself. I knew I couldn’t trust him to come ahead before me. First chance he gets, he picks up an Italian hunk…, a hustler, no doubt. Nothing has changed.

Anthony purchased a one way trip, stopping at Pisa. Even though he would not explore this city, like he had initially planned to do with Stuart, he dismissed that idea and get far away from Rome, Stuart, and what he recently saw. That meant changing everything associated with Stuart. I’m changing the itinerary now. I’m going to Florence today. I’ll find a different hotel there. Do what I want, when I want. Fuck him!

Anthony sat by himself. His exhaustion and the vibration of the train, streaming along the rails, eased him into a trance. He gazed at the passing vineyards, growing on the steep slopes outside his window seat. The symmetry of the rows of grape vines hypnotized him into the scene, imbedded in his mind of the naked Italian man, standing behind Stuart in the hotel room in Rome. Gradually Stuart’s image disappeared, replaced by his own body, being attended by this man of unquestionable sexual appeal.

He woke abruptly, when another more handsome man sat next to him, grinning, a smile something more indicative of a sexual nature than courtesy.

“I take it you’re missing someone important?” the man questioned, a hint of amusement in the tone of his accented voice. Anthony shook his head, to freshen his awareness. He realized he had been fantasizing, the expression on his face revealing embarrassment. “I must have been asleep. Was I mentioning anything?”

“Uh, yes, a Giancarlo, meaning a manly, God’s gracious gift of a man. He must be quite a man.” He chuckled.

Anthony’s pale face blushed, like a bright red tomato.

“Pardon me, but I’m Ignacio, meaning fiery. I shouldn’t have spoken with that much directness, but that’s my nature. You seemed to have enjoyed him. I envy him. You’re quite handsome and sexy.”

Anthony’s anger turned to regret. How could I be dreaming about the man who was with Stuart? Am I completely warped? “I don’t know anyone by that name. I must have overheard it mentioned in a conversation while I was asleep.”

“Oh, I see.” Ignacio’s answer indicated a polite understanding of Anthony’s little white lie, since there was no one nearby.

“I’m Anthony. You’ll have to excuse my appearance and state of mind. I flew out of Los Angeles sometime yesterday. And the reservation for my hotel room in Rome fell through.” The little white lie mushroomed into an outright fictional account of his visit in Italy since he arrived. “So I decided to go directly to Florence.”

“Do you have a reservation there? I certainly hope not.” Ignacio continued to flirt, hoping he could disrupt Anthony’s itinerary.

“No. I…”

“What brings you to my city?” Ignacio purposely interrupted, referring to Florence.

“I’m investigating the University of Human Sciences. I’m going to be studying there next session.”

“How interesting.” Ignacio inspected Anthony carefully, causing a few quiet minutes of sexual tension.

This man is beautiful but quite nosey. I can’t decide if I should like or mistrust him. Are all Italian men this appealing and outspoken? Anthony decided to smile and appreciate the compliments.

“I know a great affordable, small hotel you might like.”

“I’m interested. What’s it called?”

“Roma Villa. That’s the name of the street. 2436 Roma Villa Number 4. Just tell them Ignacio Ponti recommended you. I’m sure you’ll be accommodated.”

“What’s the name of the hotel?” Anthony appeared confused.

“Roma Villa. The sign is a bit disguised. You’ll have to rely on the address. I could show you, if you’d like?”

“No, but thank you. I’ll find it. I have something to do first.” I’ll get even with Stuart. I’ll cancel our reservations at the Montreal Hotel, in case he follows me. He won’t have a place to stay. “You’ve really helped me. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Hmm. I could think of a way.”

Anthony suddenly realized the sexual connotation of Ignacio’s wish and laughed, out of nervousness. Are all Italian gay men this sexually driven? “Maybe I could take you to dinner?” Maybe I should explore this man a little more.

“That’s not necessary.”

“No, I insist. If you could recommend a restaurant?”

“Okay. The Tivoli, a nice café, not far from my…, I mean your hotel.”

“I have to get settled in my room. I need a shower. And I’ve been in these same clothes for what seems like a week.” Anthony looked at his watch. It was half past eleven in the morning. “Why don’t we meet at the café at seven?”

“I can’t wait.” Ignacio glanced down at Anthony’s crotch and then looked into his eyes. He grinned.

The train’s speed decreased as it approached the Florence train terminal, interrupting their interaction. Disembarking their car, Ignacio reminded him of their dinner date. “See you at seven, sexy.”

“Yes.” Anthony smiled.

Ignacio hurried away, leaving Anthony to find a taxi.

After Anthony managed his affairs at the Montreal Hotel, a taxi driver dropped him at the main street crossing the narrow road, Roma Villa. The buildings were quaint, giving a true flavor of Italy. Walking downhill on the cobble stone pavement, he passed an Italian cypress tree, growing in front of a church. As he walked farther his eyes perused the buildings for the address, until he came to a two story building without a hotel sign. He verified the address, making sure it was correct. Unable to see a reception desk or clerk when he entered the building, he assumed it might be down the corridor. He turned a corner. He was beginning to think Ignacio had led him, deviously on a wild goose chase, as an unsuspecting tourist.

He continued on, until he approached a stairway.

Ignacio descended. “Surprise! Let me take you to your room.”


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Pablo Michaels writes LGBT fiction and has published with Naughty Nights Press, You can follow him at @bell2mike


Monday, August 11, 2014

Lizzie Koch Week 112: The Beach Hut

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Beach Hut

“And, lastly, to my great, great, granddaughter, Rosie, I leave my beloved beach hut. Follow your heart’s desire,” Mr Wilkins read, looking to the expectant faces before him as he handed Rosie a large, rusty looking key.

“I have a beach hut,” she muttered. “What am I supposed to do with a beach hut?”

“You drink cups of tea whilst enjoying the quintessential British summer, “ joked Ollie, her elder brother, “that means sheltering yourself in your beach hut from the lashing rain, freezing your arse off in the hope of a ray of sunshine.”

“Maybe you should sell it,” her cousin, Jacob, offered. “There’s beach huts going for 70k on some coastlines. Where is it?”

“Southwold, in Suffolk,” Mr Wilkins replied. “Very picturesque and in demand.”

“Isn’t that near a nuclear power station?” Jacob asked.

“About a mile or so down the coast.” Rosie groaned as Mr Wilkins gave a reassuring smile. “It’s a beautiful part of the world Rosie. Go see it before you make any decisions.”

Two weeks later, Rosie found herself standing in front of the wooden beach hut as the winter sea battered against the concrete sea defenses, covering her in a salty mist. She had thought of selling, and walking along the promenade, her hopes were raised as the cute little beach huts were all beautifully maintained, all standing in line like little rainbow soldiers. She’d researched the area and Jacob wasn’t wrong with his estimate. And she needed the money. A messy breakup had left her with a mountain of debt, and back home sharing a room with her sister. Funny how her ex started sniffing around now she had inherited what could be a small fortune.

Until she saw her inheritance.

Sandwiched between two palaces was her shack of a beach hut. Peeling paint, rotting wood, a broken step and mould growing up the sides. She wouldn’t even get seven quid for it let alone 70 grand.

Sighing heavily, Rosie stuck the key into the rusty lock, wondering what would greet her inside. It had been neglected for years by Ivy. She’d been in a home for ten years and hadn’t told anyone about it. Filled with curiosity, Rosie pushed open the fragile door, letting in light and fresh air in for the first time in years. Ignoring the musty smell, Rosie stepped in.

A beaten up old kettle sat on a tiny hob, a flask stood next to it on a dusty, wooden counter. Deckchairs and windbreaks sat, piled up against the wall, like they were holding it up. Rosie didn’t touch them just to be on the safe side. A corner of a brown, leather suitcase poked out behind a curtain under the counter. She pulled it out. The latches opened easily with two loud clicks. Butterflies danced as Rosie forgot about the cold, the smell and the distressed beach hut.

“Knock knock,” a voice said as he tapped against the wood. Rosie looked up from her mass of papers, photo albums, diaries and letters. “Hope you don’t mind me butting in. Curious to see who owns this. Haven’t seen it used before.”

“I’ve only just inherited it,” Rosie began.

“Well, if you need some help bringing her back to life. Hayden.”

“Rosie. Thanks, I think I need it. So you own a beach hut?” She wanted to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ but couldn’t without sounding sarcastic.

“Nah, my grandparents do. I guess one day it’ll be mine seeing as I’m the only one who uses it.”

“I’d imagine you’d get loads selling yours. I couldn’t give this away.”

“Sell? No chance. You should think twice too. Don’t want some rich, bored city type here.”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Rosie replied curtly. She wasn’t going to be told what to do by some stranger, even a good looking one like Hayden.

Hayden eyed her. Then left. She heard him next door, moving things around, heard the door close and then nothing. It was true. She hadn’t decided. Not just because the place was run down. There was so much history. Ivy had left all her past in the suitcase. Letters from her husband, sent from Italy during the war, black and white photos of her as a young woman with her husband in uniform. Photos of their children, drawings, poems. All packed away in a tatty suitcase. Rosie left the beach hut with the suitcase and made her way back to her hotel where she started to read the letters and diaries until the early hours of the morning.

The sun rise brought a crisp, bright day and Rosie felt alive, despite the lack of sleep. She walked down to the beach hut, seeing it with new eyes, through Ivy’s eyes. She knew Hayden would be there, donning a wetsuit for whatever water pursuit he did. She reckoned surfing going by the longish hair, beaded bracelets and all year tan. Seriously, who has a tan in winter from the North Sea?

She smiled. He nodded back.

“I’d like to take you up on your offer of renovating my beach hut,” she said tentatively.

He shrugged, pulling up his wetsuit.

“My great, great grandparents met here you know. During the war. He trained here before being shipped off to Italy. After the war, he stayed, they married and they came to this beach hut to enjoy the beach. In her will, Ivy told me to follow my heart’s desire. My desire is to restore this beach hut in their memory and to keep that memory alive.” She stopped, staring at him, this complete stranger whose approval she wanted.

“I’m off now, be back shortly,” he said, not looking at Rosie at all.”

“OK dear, be careful.” a voice said from his hut.

“My grandparents are sitting inside. I told them about you, asked if they knew Ivy. They’re here to talk to you,” Hayden said flatly. “See you when I get back.” He walked away, down the steps to the long stretch of sandy beach. Not sure why she wanted or needed his approval, she ran after him.

“I’m not going to sell.” she shouted as she caught up with Hayden. “I just wanted to tell you, before I speak to your grandparents, which is a lovely thing you’ve done by the way. I’m not selling. I decided last night.”

They stood on the deserted sand, the gentle rumble of the sea breaking the silence.

“You know,” began Rosie, her voice barely a whisper, “when they met, it was love at first sight.”

"I guess that doesn’t happen very often,” Hayden replied, not lifting his gaze from Rosie.

“I guess not. You’d be extremely lucky for that to happen, again, in the same place.”

“Very,” he murmured, taking a step closer, toe to toe, their hands almost touching in a feather like touch. “The sun is shining, the sea is calm. I’m feeling lucky today.”


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I dream of sharing my work with the big wide world one day as a published author. Right now, I share flash fiction with a wonderful community of writers and friends. If you liked this story, then why not visit my blog at for more. Thank you. Love Lizzie x


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ruth Long Week 111: Delicate Footwork

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: Delicate Footwork

Jack was pouring himself another pint when the door slammed in the jam and heels clicked on the tiled floor.

“We’re closed,” he called out without bothering to look over the rim of the mug tilted to his mouth.

“You’re making a lot of solo decisions today,” she said, sitting on a barstool. “Closing the bar early. Splitting the sheets with your lady friend.”

His empty mug hit the counter with a heavy thump. “That’s me. A real man of action once the blur kicks in.”

“May as well keep up the momentum and pour me a glass.”

His hand hovered over the tap handle. “Never known you to drink, Legs.”

“Getting dumped seems a fair enough reason to start.”

He pulled the handle and filled the mug.

“Course, I used to have this guy in my life and he used to say … Never mind that. Just pour, barkeep.”

He slid the mug to her. “Tell me what he said.”

She shrugged out of her jacket. “If you need a reason to drink, then it’s time to stop.”

“The son-of-a-bitch is out of your life now so forget the shit he said. Trust me. You’ll be better off.”

“Forget him, huh? You’re the bartender. Guess you’d know best,” she said, taking a tentative drink.

“There you go. Drink up, sleep it off, start fresh tomorrow. You work on emptying that mug while I lock up the place.”

He shut off the main lights, took out the trash, and locked the back door.

She was at the jukebox when he came back.

He grabbed her jacket from the stool and brought it to her. “Off you go.”

She reached out but lost her balance and bumped into him. “Oh!”

He steadied her. “You’re not going to make a drunken spectacle of yourself are you?”

She put her palm against his shoulder. “No, Jack. That’s your forte. That and selling yourself short.”

A song came to life on the jukebox and he cursed under his breath but didn’t move away when her arm slid around his waist. “You don’t fight fair, woman.”

Her feet danced between his. “I learned that from you.”

He sighed and pulled her close. “Brew in your belly, soft lights, and a good song aren’t going to change things. I’m still no good for you, Legs.”

She nestled her cheek against his chest. “You don’t get to make that decision.”

“Look, I’m proud of you. You deserve the promotion. But you stay with me and your career will eventually stall. Best if I opt out now.”

She pushed free of him. “Please don’t do this.”

He yanked the cord out of the wall and the music died mid-note. “We’re all played out, you and me. Nothing left but goodbyes so let’s not drag it out.”

She grabbed her jacket. “Wherever you put your head down to sleep tonight, Jack, remember this moment. Remember I didn’t want it. Remember this is on you.”

Damn her. Damn this. Damn it. He wanted another pint, another dance, another chance. But there was such a long line of screw-ups and self-destructs riding his heels. “I’m trying to do the right thing here.”

She paused at the door. “Right for who?”

“For you. I never should have brought you onto the task force. You were good enough, better than good enough, but what you saw while you were on it, that never stops weighing on me.”

She locked the door and came back to the counter. “We should carry it together. Isn’t that what we’ve been doing the last three years?”

He sat beside her. “I wanted better for you. You’re bright and beautiful. I’m bitter and broken down.”

“Don’t you get it? Maybe I don’t need you like I did when we met but I want you. I always want you, Jack. Doesn’t that count for something?”

“You’re too good for me, Legs, but I don’t have the strength to keep fighting you. How about we grab a bottle of champagne, go upstairs, and celebrate that promotion?”

“Screw the promotion, Jack. Let’s celebrate us,” she said, leaning in to kiss him.


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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, August 9, 2014

Aleea Davidson Week 111: Wither Part 8

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Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice:

Title: Wither Part 8

Mara lost track of how long Glen held her. The tears she cried were as bitter and angry as they were sad. She couldn’t grieve a man she’d never known, but the butcher’s violent suicide had opened a wellspring of emotion she felt ill-equipped to handle. She was furious that he’d forced her and Glen to be unwilling witnesses to the end of his life, and yet she was filled with a twisted sort of empathy. With the state of the world crumbling and death already knocking at his door, could she blame the poor man? In his position, would she act differently?

Panic trickled into the edges of her awareness, oily and insipid, trying to find purchase in the areas of her mind eroded and spongy from stress. The sounds the rioters made were dimmed by the solid walls around them, but they couldn’t block her newfound knowledge of the fragility of her world. All around them people raged, venting their helplessness and their pain, and there was no one to stop them.

Glen’s hands began to stroke a soothing, repetitive pattern across her back. The nylon shell of her jacket crinkled with each pass, further covering the sounds of destruction. She dragged in a big gulping breath and exhaled it slowly, trying to release the infection of misery that felt as though it had seeped into her pores and settled under her skin. Glen was deliciously warm and solid. Her full weight was leaning against him, and he bore it without complaint or any evidence of physical strain.

Finally, she pushed away and made herself move to the other side of the room. A crudely made wooden cross hung on the wall, the only adornment in the otherwise stark room save the cot and milk crate table. A spider had created an elaborate, silvery web across the form of Jesus carved upon the center, it’s brown, bloated body sitting obscenely on top of the depicted crown of thorns. Mara shivered as the spider twitched then scuttled into hiding beneath the vertical portion.

A part of her wondered if she should view the spider’s machinations as a desecration or simply part of God’s creation. As a child, she was raised Catholic, but never with any dedication. Her father preferred golf on Sundays over scripture, and her mother believed she could commune with the Lord by spending time tending her flower beds.

Right after she’d turned sixteen, her father had purchased an old, steel hulled sailboat that he christened The Lord’s Prayer, on account of the fact it would most likely take an answered prayer for a miracle to get it restored to it’s former glory. She wasn’t sure if he actually prayed or not. She only knew he put in a year’s worth of work, and more money than her mother thought appropriate, before losing interest and reselling it. Last she heard, The Lord’s Prayer was rusting on a secluded beach somewhere in Puerto Rico.

Point being, until recent years, Mara had given little thought or attention to religion, and the state of the world around her certainly didn’t help bolster her rather weak faith. Apparently not even the end of life as she knew it could make her embrace the concept of God with anything more than lukewarm indifference.

Glen spoke behind her. “It should be safe in an hour or so to get you home. The rioting will die down as soon as people start to realize how close it’s getting to daybreak.”

She heard the zip of his jacket slide down its ladder of metal teeth a moment before the fabric rustled and a soft whoomp indicated he’d tossed it onto the cot.

“Are you okay?”

His tone was concerned. Mara scrubbed her chilled palms over her face, rubbing at the stiff feeling tracks left from her tears. She was beginning to feel ashamed of her breakdown. She didn’t know him well enough to reveal all her cracks and weaknesses so blatantly.

“I’m fine. Sorry for the meltdown. You must think I’m quite the sissy.” She forced a laugh and made herself turn to face him, plastering on a grin that stretched her face oddly. “I’m not normally a cry-baby...”

“Mara, don’t.”

“No, really, I’m not. It’s just not every day someone blows their brains out in front of me. I wasn’t expecting it. And then that man in the town square, trying to steal my bag. He rattled me, you know?”

“Stop, nymph.”

Mara ignored him, hating the way he was looking at her, his eyes kind and bluer than a cloudless summer sky, a frown turning the corners of his mouth down. A mouth that less than an hour ago had been brushing against hers as he braced her against a cold brick wall, her legs wrapped around his waist, skirt bunched around her hips…

Could she consider that a kiss? She had nothing to compare it to… There was definitely dry humping, she knew that much. She’d never done that before, either.

“I still can’t believe all the craziness started over apples, can you?” She shook her head, knew she was babbling, yet couldn’t stop herself. Her cheeks were fiery from her thoughts, and it wasn’t helping her feel calm at all. “What’s wrong with people? I mean, now is not the time to fall apart and start attacking one another. If this town has any chance of surviving, people have to start working together! Though I guess I shouldn’t judge, seeing as how I’m doing nothing but blubbering all over you. Honestly, I don’t act like that usually. I’m sorry I made a mess of your jacket.” She bit down on her bottom lip, realizing her voice was rising in pitch, trying to stem the tide of words she knew verged on turning hysterical.

Glen closed the distance she’d put between them and reached for her hand. “Listen to me. You don’t need to apologize or explain. I’m not exactly feeling the most stable myself at the moment. I get it, trust me.” He grinned in a teasing way and chafed her cold fingers with his warmer ones. Both the action and the smile helped settle her tattered nerves. She took another deep breath and nodded, finding her emotional fortitude returning with each pass his thumb made against her palm.

Loud yelling outside made them both turn their heads to the small window. The pane of glass was filthy and offered no view. Glen tugged her into the darker corner of the room, but the disembodied voices floated away as quickly as they’d come.

Still, her heart pounded in her chest as she worried that the shelter of the church might appeal to someone out there the way it had appealed to them.

As if he read her mind, Glen whispered, “Don’t worry. This place wouldn’t make a good hideout for anyone wanting to avoid sunlight. Too many windows, no protection. Even the roof is full of holes.”

Through the grime of the window, darkness persisted, but Mara could see Glen’s point. It could only be an hour or more until dawn, and the old church would be a death trap for the UV Intolerant. Of course, there could be others out there like her and Glen. UV Tolerant people looking for a place to spend an hour of two before making their way back to their homes. More than ninety percent of the world’s population was believed to have developed the disease that made sunlight poison, but Glen was proof Mara wasn’t alone in the strange way her body rejected the gene mutating virus.

As if her thoughts might have conjured the very thing she feared, a shadow passed the window, then another. Glen tugged her close and put a hand over her mouth warningly. Through that tiny rectangle, Mara saw a form pause, eerily silhouetting the shape of legs. A muffled curse followed the sound of someone trying the door and finding it locked.

Her eyes wide, her breath coming out harsh and fast against Glen’s palm, Mara thought to herself, what now? What the ever-living-fuck now?


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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)