Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Samantha Lee Week 144: Locks on a Gate

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Locks on a Gate


My best friends lied to me. Surprise, surprise. I should have seen it coming. Should have expected it. People, whatever form they might take, are liars at their core, pure and simple, and you'd think that by this point, I'd have learned that lesson well enough.

And yet.

And yet here I am, screwed over so thoroughly I've made an appointment at the medical clinic for an STD test.

Ugh, I feel like such an idiot. You'd think I'd know better, that past experience had some sort of impression, but, nope, here I am, betrayed, my heart crushed, my life in ribbons at my feet. I should have known better. Gods be damned, I should have known better.

It started...it started with one lie. One of my friends - she wasn't who I thought she was. No, turns out she's someone else entirely, a long lost princess in fact. Oh my gods, she's freaking ROYALTY, and for years - YEARS - she's slumming it with us, pretending, lying. She used us as a smokescreen, hiding in my house. Paid rent in cash. Didn't need to have her name on any bills. Didn't even have her name on the lease. Used us...used me...as camouflage, like a mask or a Halloween costume she pulled on while it served her purposes. I thought she was my friend, thought she cared about me. I used to talk to her, like REALLY talk to her. I told her about my dad. Told her about the boarding schools. Told her about...everything. I trusted her, LOVED her, and so I let her in and told her...told her everything. All of my secrets, all my dreams, everything. And all that time, she didn't even bother to tell me her real name. Hell, I didn't even know she and her boyfriend were actually MARRIED until he let slip about them eloping in Vegas. Over a century ago.

My other friend...turns out she's weak. Bad things happened - impossible, horrendous things - and what did she do? First she watched, then she ACCEPTED them and moved on. Moved. On. My life was RUINED - my friend's little masquerade fell apart and it me - ME - who paid the fucking price and what does my other friend do? My other friend whose own life got spun around by those needless, stupid lies? SHE ACCEPTED THEM AND MOVED ON! Like it didn't matter, like it was no big deal, like...c'est la vie, hakuna matata, que sera sera. My whole world was a crumbled ruin, and she tells me, she looks at me and she tells me, "We can't change the past, Ro; what's happened...well, it happened, and there's no changing that. But, Ro, when your life catches fire you can either let it burn you to ash, or forge you into something stronger."

Platitudes. Everything's gone to hell because of one friend's lies and what does the other offer me? Solidarity? Support? Strength? Nope. She sides with that lying witch and offers empty platitudes.

You want a platitude? Here's a platitude for you: secrets are like locks on a metal gate; but enough up there and sooner or later the gate's going to fall. My friend...she thinks she can lie, can manipulate, can do whatever it is she wants so long as it serves her warped idea of a greater good...well, she's wrong. Dead wrong. And, sooner or later, she's going to find that out.

Is it too cliché to say I'm going to make sure of it?


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Monday, March 30, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 144: The Miracle Room

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: The Miracle Room

“And here,” continued the tour guide,” is the Miracle Room.” Noah followed the group in. “This is where Orenda came up with her magical routines that wowed audiences for decades. You may look around but please, don’t touch.”

Disinterested in the mass of props, old, leather bound books and various bottles fighting for shelf space, Noah sat at the back of the room on the threadbare carpet. He was more interested in Danielle. He watched her as she stood giggling with her small group of friends, pointing her polished, slender finger at something of interest on a small wooden table. She brushed her long blonde hair back off her face. Every move she made was elegant, exaggerated to attract attention.

Well she had his.

“I keep telling you she’s way out of your league,” Cameron said, sitting next to Noah. “You’ve got more chance of snow in August than Danielle even looking at you.”

“She might notice me if her meathead of a boyfriend wasn’t around.”

“If Daryl wasn’t around, she’d go out with another meathead. You know the cliques, the unspoken rules.” Cameron ignored the ‘no food’ rule and pulled out a chocolate bar from his rucksack. “However, this is the Miracle Room,” he laughed. “I’m guessing your one miracle would be you asking Danielle to the prom and her saying yes?”


“No, wait, you’re miracle would be something gruesome happening to Daryl and the other meatheads. You’d be the only one left. She’d go to prom with you then,” laughed Cameron.

Noah didn’t respond. He was used to Cameron winding him up about Danielle. But he liked the idea of something gruesome befalling the perfect football stars. Maybe one of those swords hanging on the wall would accidentally fall . . .

There was Daryl, siding up to Danielle. He slipped his arm around her shoulders, showing everyone he owned her. Noah knew he would never treat Danielle like property. It annoyed him that Danielle, as intelligent as she was, allowed herself to be portrayed like that, like some trophy. She just needed to notice him. That would be a miracle.

The tour guide began to usher people out. Noah stood, throwing his rucksack on his back.

“She’s looking at you,” Cameron said, “Danielle is looking at you.” Noah looked up and met Danielles’ gaze. She smiled and walked over.

“You’re Noah right?” she said, still smiling.

“Yeah, hi.”

“I’ve seen you around, “ she continued. “What do you think of this miracle room?”

Noah shrugged. “Just a gimmick.”

“You don’t believe in miracles?” she asked, “because me talking to you is one.” She giggled as Daryl walked over, draping his arm around her again. “Yeah, like snow in August,” Daryl laughed. Flushed with anger, Noah tensed up. Being teased by Cameron was one thing. Being teased by a meathead and his perfect girlfriend was another. If they loved miracles so much, maybe he should make it a miracle to have the strength to hurt them both, like they hurt him. His eyes gazed upon the swords, his mind followed.

“Come on Noah,” Cameron said, pulling him away. “A miracle would be finding a brain in theirs,” he said over his shoulder to Daryl. “We’d have to dig pretty deep to find it.”

Without warning, Daryl lunged at Cameron, grabbing him by the neck as he pushed him against the wall. “Maybe the miracle is you walking out of here alive,” he hissed.

“Stop,” Danielle shouted. “Is it snowing?” she asked Noah. Surrounding the four of them was thick, white flakes of snow, tumbling from the ceiling, carpeting the floor. “Is it real?”

Noah, scraped up a handful of snow, moulding it into a ball. “Yeah, it’s real,” he said, throwing it at Daryl.

“Snow in August,” Cameron said. “So this is the miracle room.”

“We need to leave,” Noah said, walking towards the the door, ignoring the snowball fight going on behind him. He reached out a hand, turning the handle but it didn’t move, He pushed the door but it didn’t budge. “Guys!” he shouted. The snowballs stopped flying. “We’re locked in.”

“I’m sure someone will be along shortly,” Danielle replied, throwing a snowball playfully at Noah. She smiled, a smile that would have melted his heart any other time.

“It’s snowing. In the Miracle Room. Like we said. It’s come true. You’re talking to me,” he said, pointing to Danielle. “All the miracles are coming true.” He let the words hang in the air as he stared at Daryl. “If we don’t get out of here, those swords are going to get busy.” Rattling and clanking filled the room. Noah looked at the display of swords, trying to break free. “I’m sorry,” Noah whispered.


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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 http://40somethingundomesticateddevil.blogspot.co.uk/ for more. Thank you. Love Lizzie x


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Laura James Week 143: The Collector (part 5)

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Collector (part 5)

Hector had frantically collected several more family pets and stored them in his brothers room and with each new acquisition, he felt more alive. He watched as the animals slowly grew weaker, as if realising that there was no hope. Even his grandfather had long given up trying to talk him into letting him go, had given up on life and was a weak shell of his former self. It was a huge disappointment for Hector as he had hoped that the old man would continue to beg for his life but then, seeing him slowly deteriorate before his eyes gave him some mild satisfaction.

He was in the process of filling up various water bottles and dishes when he heard a car pull into the driveway. Cursing at his parents early return Hector quickly removed himself from the room, carefully locking it behind him and made his way to the kitchen where he was confronted with his parents.

"Oh Hector, I'm so glad your home." His mother marched across the kitchen floor and grabbed him in a large bear hug. "Our time away has let us understand how awful we have been to you," Hector struggled in her arms, unused to the unwanted contact. She pushed him out at arms length, "things will be different from now on." She pulled him back into her embrace.

His father carried the luggage into the hall, "Where's your Grandparents?"

"They went home yesterday, something about a break-in at their house." Hector mumbled still trying to extricate himself from his mothers arms.

"Oh, I hope it wasn't too bad. I'll just take these upstairs and then phone them." Hector finally removed himself from his mother "I'm of to my room." He muttered then ran for the stairs taking them two at a time.

Once in his room Hector sat on his bed with his head in his hands. He didn't like the way his mother was affectionate, nor the way his father seemed to be relaxed, this was wrong. His plans would only work if his parents went back to the way they had been after Stephen's death, ignoring him and wallowing in their grief. He got up and paced the room, an idea slowly forming in his mind. If his parents were out of the picture then he would have all the time and money to do what he wished.

It was time to increase his collection by two more specimens.


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Based in Dunfermline, Scotland, Laura is obsessed with all things horror and spends her time writing flash fiction which she hopes, on occasion, really scares her readers. Feel free to stalk her on twitter, @lejamez


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Aleea Davidson Week 143: Light The Dark

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Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Light The Dark

Cara stares at the framed photograph and sips her chilled complimentary wine. She's viewed all of the photography showing in the gallery tonight, but only this one has drawn her back. The crowd has finally thinned, and she should be in her office tallying sales she expects will far exceed any other showing this year, but something about this work speaks to her on a visceral level.

"Like it?"

The voice has a warm male timbre, easily recognizable with its Scottish burr. She didn't hear his approach, yet she's somehow not surprised he's there. Her intense scrutiny probably pulled him in.

Connor Malcolm. Famed photographer. Handsome, powerful, kind, driven; everything she's ever wanted and more. It's his work she can't drag her eyes from, perhaps hoping to learn more about the enigmatic man behind the camera that captured this scene. Procuring his work for the gallery was a career coup, certainly, but she never expected to develop these feelings in the process. At twenty-eight she feels too old to harbor a schoolgirl crush, getting weak in the knees every time he pays her the slightest bit of attention. It's embarrassing really.

"I don't know," she answers truthfully, then blushes slightly. "I mean of course I like it. That goes without saying, Connor. I'm just unsure my level of perception is up to the task of defining your work. You're exceptionally talented you know." She chances a peek over her shoulder, steeling herself to remain professional regardless of how handsome he is. It should be illegal for a man to have eyes like his - stormy blue and sexy as hell.

He laughs softly. "You've been staring at it for nearly twenty minutes, Cara." The humor in his expression is teasing though not condescending. His accent drags the syllables of her name through coarse silk.

She startles at the realization of how much time has escaped her. A nervous laugh slips from her throat as she self-consciously glances around the room, wondering if she's made a spectacle of herself, gawking so long at one picture. "Really?"

He hums a decidedly amused and classically Scottish sound of affirmation as her gaze returns to the photograph.

"What do you see that draws you so?" he asks.

She swallows past a sudden emotional lump in her throat. "The way you captured the light filtering through the clouds is beautiful yet also surreal." She shrugs, words failing her. Unnerved by his close proximity and her inability to offer an opinion that doesn't sound banal, she finds herself blurting her secret thought. "It's haunting. It conveys such loneliness."

The second the opinion is voiced, she wishes she censored herself. She doesn't want to insult him, finding melancholy where none may exist. Still, the photograph makes her yearn, as if she's there in the picture, staring up at a cold moon, searching for connection.

She feels Connor move closer. The heat of his body mingling with the all too appealing musk of his cologne makes her head swim. She's tired. It's been a very long month. She's worked ridiculous hours since she moved to London and accepted this job. She hasn't dated in over a year, that's why her heart suddenly beats so hard. Sexual deprivation will do that to a girl, she tells herself. And certainly his hand settling on her hip isn't flirtatious. . .is it?

"Would you be surprised if I told you this piece is a last minute addition? I took it less than a week ago, only steps outside the front door of this very gallery."

The heat of his palm works its way through the fabric of her dress, sizzling and electric. She feels certain her skin beneath is being branded, leaving a perfect, delicious imprint. Her heartbeat trips over itself, and the remnant of her wine shivers against the sides of the glass that is no longer steady in her grasp.

"When I captured that image, I was thinking of a beautiful woman who doesn't seem to know how desirable she is. I was longing for her to be by my side, sharing the magic of a dark night and a full moon."

Cara exhales an unsteady breath, fighting a smile. The insinuation the woman is her is both flattering and nerve wracking. She wonders how she missed the signs the attraction wasn't one-sided. Was she oblivious or simply too chicken to believe his attention wasn't based solely on manners and budding friendship? "Why didn't you invite her out?"

"Ah, well, she's a skittish thing, you see. I fear she's been hurt, and so she hides her feelings. It's a bit wounding to a man's ego, ya ken?"

A frisson of anxiety dances down her spine. He's right. She has been hurt. He's asking her to take a chance and suddenly she's unsure, no matter the fact she's been lusting after him for weeks. Fantasy is one thing, reality something else. Can she trust him?

A sip of her now flat wine does little to alleviate the dry mouth that comes from pure anxiety.

"What would you have said to her if she was there with you, staring up at that moon, fearful she might always be alone?" she dares to ask. Trepidation has her nearly whispering.

"I'd have told her she was only looking in the wrong direction," he answers as quietly as she asked, his voice a caress to her nerves. "I'd think she doesn't see what's right behind her or she'd know she wasn't the least bit alone."

His fingers skim across skin bared where her dress dips, making her shiver and wish she was brave.

"It's never that simple, Connor," she replies, but she's already starting to doubt her own words.

"It is, lass. All you have to do is turn around."

She shivers when he drops his hand, no longer touching her, merely waiting. She senses he'd respect her choice if she chose not to move, walk away as silently as he came and let her go. He's not the kind of man who plays games. His cards are on the table, open-faced for her to see.

Cara takes a deep breath and then...she turns around.


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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)


Friday, March 27, 2015

Nick Johns Week 143: Charles the Last

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Nick John’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Charles the Last

I viewed the man along the smooth ash shaft.

My arm muscle twitched as I held the tension in the string.

The Captain peered up into the Sun’s dappled rays as they played among the leaves.

His hand, cupped to his mouth, shook as he shouted.

“Come down, face the people’s justice, now or later..”

“Would you harm me and break God’s law? Leave me in peace and save your soul.”

“Enough talk, Tyrant. Take him – Now!”

The arrow flew true, staggering him as it buried to the fletching in his chest. He pitched forward, like a string cut marionette, but his fine blue cloak snagged on a broken branch leaving him swinging, showering the grass with vermillion raindrops.

“Cut him down. Send a rider to inform the Lord Protector that Charles Stuart has been executed; and fell this for firewood – there’ll be no Royal Oaks in this Commonwealth.”


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Despite his Mother telling him not to, Nick continues to make things up.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Michela Walters Week 143: Rebirth

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Rebirth

Winter’s frozen tundra, stubbornly gives way.
Leaving renewed life pushing through the melting snow.
Surrounded by rebirth, the sparrow seeks


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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: michelawalters.wordpress.com


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sarah Aisling Week 143: A Measure of Grace (Part 27): The Wheat and the Chaff

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 27): The Wheat and the Chaff

The woman startles, sending a tray of specimen tubes crashing to the floor. She whirls to face me, one hand pressed to her chest. “I told you to wait out there.”

I glare at her. “And I asked what the hell you people are doing.” A small cloud of vapor appears in front of my mouth, reminding me we're in a refrigerator.

I walk toward her, maintaining eye contact. She's at the back of an icebox with nowhere to go, and I have no problem employing a bit of intimidation. Her eyes widen with fear above the surgical mask.

“Listen, Ms. Merlo, I don't know—”

I raise an arm to interrupt her. “Let me guess—you don't know any details about what's going on here. You're simply a lab tech running tests, and anything further is beyond your pay grade. How am I doing?”

She takes a step to one side and slides a gloved hand along the edge of the table behind her. “Accurate. I can't tell you anything.”

“Can't or won't?”

Her panic morphs into something resembling relief. “Does it matter?”

“Of course it matters! What's wrong with you? Have you seen what happens to the immune that are brought here?”

A flash of guilt passes over her face. “I don't work with the immune. We should go back to the lab.”

“No.” The knowledge I could easily take her down gives me added confidence. “I'm tired of getting the runaround.” I move closer to the table. There are stacks of specimen tubes, solutions, and logbooks. The chart affixed to the wall catches my attention, and I try to make sense of the symbols and notations.

“You called, Ms Bender?” A man's voice comes from behind us.

“Yes. Ms. Merlo seems to have a problem respecting her position here.”

I face the newcomer and realize there are two of them—two burly guards, armed with guns and tasers. I shoot Miss Bender a look. “My position? I have a problem respecting people who suck survivors in with promises of safety only to treat them like lab rats!”

She gasps, managing to look stricken. “We're saving lives here! The work is vital to our survival!”

“Whatever you have to tell yourself so you can sleep at night.”

“That's enough.” The guard to my right steps forward, one hand resting on his taser. “Dr. Kasabian wants to speak with you, Ms. Merlo.”

“That's great because I'd like to talk to him, too.” I glare at Miss Bender and mutter, “Lemming.”

A spark of amusement lights in the guard's eyes. I see it just before he turns around and walks out with his partner, obviously expecting me to follow. And I do because I want answers.

The guards escort me to Garth's office, shutting the door and leaving once I'm inside. Classical music permeates the room from hidden speakers. With his Montblanc, Garth scrawls on papers in a folder and hums along to the music. By all appearances, it could just be another day.

Anger starts to bubble beneath the surface.


Garth holds a hand up. “Wait . . . this is the best part.” With eyes closed, he sways his head, moves a hand in the air, and sounds out parts of the piece as it swells to a crescendo then softens. He finally glances up at me. “Do you like Rachmaninoff?”

My mouth gapes. “You’re asking if I like your taste in music?”

“One must appreciate many things, especially when the world ends.”

“Your world isn’t ending though, is it? Just the poor suckers you people draw in with promises of food, water, and safety.”

Garth tsks, annoyance and challenge in the depths of his sharp gaze. “I always thought you were the smart, docile one, but you remind me very much of your sister—always bucking authority and reducing things to the most simplistic terms.”

I stalk forward and slam my palms on the top of the desk, maintaining eye contact. “Maybe some things are best kept simplistic. It’s a great honor that you think I’m like Katie—she knew what really mattered in life.” I watch him closely, eager to see his reaction to what I’m about to ask. “Does my mother know the true nature of the treatment that’s saving her life? How about the rest of the Kool-Aid-drinking sheeple?”

Garth rises, towering over me, a sudden hot anger radiating from him. His face twists into an ugly mask of rage for a split second before reverting back to his typical benevolent façade. “Why don’t you sit so we can have a civilized conversation?”

I smile benignly. “You want to pretend everything’s all right, that the monster’s in the closet where it belongs? Okay.” Pulling a chair over, I sit facing him across the desk.

Garth sighs, shaking his head and muttering to himself, but he sits and smooths a hand over the front of his dress shirt. There’s a pronounced weariness in his tired-looking eyes I haven’t noticed before. “Marie, ask your questions. I’ll answer what I can, but there are limits to what I’m able to share with you.”

“Does Mom know about the treatments?”

Garth passes a palm over his cropped hair. “No, and please . . . don’t tell her.”

“You’re in luck—Mom and I don’t talk much, and it’s not likely that will change.” My leg bounces up and down, and I take a deep breath before coming out with my next question. “How did this happen?”

“Stick with the easy ones, why don’t you?” He grunts out a humorless laugh and looks to the ceiling.

“Nothing’s easy any more. It probably won’t be for a long, long time.”

His dark eyes meet mine again. “You’re right. Okay . . . well . . . the short answer is we did this to ourselves—not directly or on purpose, of course, but it’s all semantics. I was on the team tasked with creating a biological weapon. We also worked on a cure, but some industrious asshole sold the virus to a terrorist organization before the vaccine was fully tested. The cretins had no idea how to properly handle such a weapon, and it ended up released on foreign soil. Before the CDC and WHO realized what happened, the virus had already reached the United States.

“The CDC began systematically tracking down every known person exposed in order to administer the cure. Reports of confirmed cases over an ever-widening area continued to pour in. We thought it was simply a matter of creating massive amounts of vaccine to inoculate our citizens. We went into full production and finally seemed to be getting a handle on the outbreak . . . and then the first patients inoculated started to relapse. A cluster of them died before we realized what was happening.” He pauses, fiddling with his Montblanc.

My heart hammers. All of this was a terrorist plot gone wrong?

Garth watches the movement of the pen as he continues. “You can only imagine the panic that ensued. After all, we designed the weapon that was loosed upon us. The president and his top advisers went into seclusion, and plans were set in motion to sequester key people and their families in top-secret underground facilities around the country. My team was sent here, and we began working around the clock on a cure.” He shakes his head. “We started taking in immune citizens, offering shelter in exchange for permission to conduct research. Nobody refused. They were terrified by the conditions of our crumbling society.”

“Jesus.” I lean forward, hanging on Garth's every word, each muscle in my body strung tight. “How did it all go so wrong?”

“The research is promising, but time is not on our side. More of our people developed a resistance to the vaccine. Some died, and panic started to set in. Fewer immune were coming in on their own by that point, and search parties were formed to gather more. A colleague discovered an anomaly in the blood of the immune, heralding the creation of a new treatment.”

Though I want and need to know the details about the new treatment threatening the lives of the immune, part of me balks at asking the necessary questions. Familiar panic squeezes my chest. I draw long, deep breaths. Katie is gone, and Max isn't here to talk me down.


Garth sounds far away as my vision tunnels. I clench and unclench my fists and try to regain control. This is not the time for a panic attack. This is not the world for a panic attack.

It's okay, Ro. I'm with you, right here beside you. Always. Katie's voice, even if it only exists in my head, has an instant calming effect. I shake off the crushing fear and take more deep breaths.

“I'm good.” I blink until my sight clears.

Garth sits back in his chair and regards me carefully. “Panic disorder?”


“You handle yourself well.”

I laugh. “Not really, but sometimes there isn't much choice, you know?”

Garth taps a hand on the desk blotter. “I suppose not.”

“Does the president know . . . everything?” This is another question I dread the answer to. How high does the corruption go?

He stares at me for a long moment. “Of course he does. This would be treason otherwise.”

“Selective genocide, anyone?” I laugh humorlessly. “Who gets to decide which people deserve to survive and who has to die to pay for them?”

Garth blanches but recovers quickly, sidestepping my comment. “The sooner we have a cure, the sooner societal healing can begin.”

“’Societal healing’ . . . that has quite a ring to it. More palatable than collateral damage, isn't it?” I ignore his sour look. “How close are you to a cure?”

“Close. So close I'm haunted each day that goes by without a solution. Do you think I wanted to be part of this . . . that I'm not affected by every casualty? If I don't work on this, someone else will—someone who doesn't understand the virus the way I do.” Garth's expression is earnest, and his sorrow appears genuine through the small crack in his façade. “I had a hand in designing her and understand how she dances. I'm certain we can solve the puzzle.”

“God, I hope you're right.” I rub the heels of my hands over my burning eyes and steel myself for the next question. “What is this new treatment, Garth?” The words are spoken so softly, I'm not sure he'll hear me, but I can't bear to say them any louder. The suspicions swirling in my mind might be given life at any moment. I both need to know the truth and dread it in equal measure.

Something happens to Garth as he stares at me across the desk. Outwardly, nothing changes, but a part of him visible in the depths of his eyes goes dead. “Marie . . .” He shakes his head and grabs the Montblanc again, twirling it between his fingers. “Do you really want to know this?”

“No, but I need to.”

“I'm only doing this because you're Nina's daughter, but I don't need to tell you how imperative it is that you keep this to yourself, right?”


“The newest form of the vaccine seems to work in conjunction with blood transfusions from an immune donor. A type and cross-match is necessary beforehand to ensure compatibility. We then combine the appropriate blood with the corresponding version of the vaccine. So far, we've had great success with patients who no longer respond to the initial vaccine.”

I take in his words and replay them a few times. Nothing seems obviously awful. “Okay . . . you take blood from the immune and transfuse it into the sick patients along with the vaccine. Is that all there is to the treatment?”

“The recipient is given a phlebotomy to offset the additional pints of blood received.” Garth watches the ever-twirling pen.

“Is there anything else you need from the immune?”


“What aren't you telling me? Blood donation isn't so awful, is it? I'm sure most people would be happy to give.”

Garth shifts uncomfortably in his chair. “Do you know anything about transfusions?”


“The human body contains approximately ten pints of blood. If you donated before the virus, they would extract one pint and the required recovery time between transfusions would be eight weeks.”

“Okay . . .”

“Our needs far exceed those guidelines.”

My mind flies to the vivid image of Eric with a half-dead Andrea draped over his shoulder. He brought blood with him to give her transfusions. Her skin was pale, arms littered with bruises and needle marks.

Eric's words from that day whirl through my mind. These bastards keep taking blood from the immune until there's not enough left to sustain life.

“Dear God.” I rise from the chair, tears welling in my eyes. “You're sucking them dry so your people can have their blood.”

“Certain blood types are in great demand. We do our best.”

“Do your best? Do you hear yourself?” I drag clawed fingers through my hair, reveling in the pain when my nail snags a few strands. My heart pounds, pain radiating in the center of my chest as shock and anger wage war inside.

My mother lives because others were divested of their lifeblood.

“No!” The chair overturns as I rush past it toward the door.

Knowledge awakens inside me, ugly and bitter. Maybe I've been deluding myself or maybe I had too much faith in humanity, but there's no denying the truth any longer.

I'm not immune.

The only way to save my own life is to steal someone else's.


A light breeze stirs, and wheat fronds whisper around me. I strain to hear their music, praying there's a message, something, to direct me.

I'm all cried out. My eyes are red, raw, and burning.

“Marie . . .” James comes up behind me, his boots crunching over flattened stalks. He rests his hands on my shoulders. “You've been sitting here for hours.”

I'm curled in a ball in the middle of the wheat. It reminds me of hiding out in the sunflowers on my trek across Maine. I was searching for answers then, too—wondering what would become of the world. I'm still looking for answers though I'm not feeling very optimistic at the moment.

I ignore James.

“Marie.” He strokes my hair gently.

It's Max's hand, Max's touch I need.

“Go away.”

“Will you at least tell me what's wrong? You flew out of Garth's office like a madwoman. I brought you here, gave you privacy . . . I just want to help. Let me.” His voice is earnest, pleading.

I lower my head, pressing my hands tight to my skull as if that might keep it from exploding. For the first time, I notice the stiffness in my limbs and numbness beneath my dampened backside. “You can't help.”

“Try me.” James plunks down beside me, more stems snapping to make way for his large frame. He places a hand on my knee. “Please.”

“I'm going to die.”

“We're all going to die someday.”

“I'm going to die sooner than most.”


I breathe deeply, the scent of damp earth reminding me of Mamie's garden. Soon, I'll be with the rest of my family where I should have been to begin with. “I'm not immune.”

“Perhaps not, but that no longer has to be a death sentence. The new treatment—”

I interrupt him. “I'm not having the treatment.”

James' hand tightens on my knee. There's a long pause during which the only sound is the wheat shifting and murmuring around us.

“May I ask why?”

“Garth told me how they’re curing people, and it doesn't even come close to passing my standard of ethics.”

“You'd rather perish?”

“Are you receiving the treatment?” I ask, snapping at him, a challenge in my tone.

“I'm immune.”

I lift my head and stare at James, incredulous. “You're what?”

Redness blooms across his cheeks, and his gaze flicks away from mine. “Immune, Marie.”

“Why haven't they harvested you, then? Not the right blood type?” I can't hold back the snipe.

“There are others . . . in positions of importance.” He sounds embarrassed, as he should.

“Jesus Christ. This just keeps getting better.”

“You do realize the treatments will continue even if you refuse to receive them.”

“Of course I do! It's a matter of being able to live with myself. How could I go on—breathe, laugh, love, have fun, face myself in the mirror—knowing someone was put in the ground to make it happen?”

Now James regards me with fire. “You’re a remarkable woman. Brave and selfless. The world needs more of you.” He cups my cheek. “Promise you’ll think about it.”

I look into his eyes and see Max. When I die, I’ll be leaving him behind. The thought causes a jagged pain to split me in two, and I gasp from the sudden violence of it. Innocent faces float before me—Ali, Tek, Andrea, Grace, Max—and I know my sacrifice is justified even if they have to mourn me.

“I promise.”

The immediate relief that comes over James’ face confirms I’ve done the right thing. If he fears I’ll tell others about the treatment or that there’s no chance of me receiving it myself, he might feel the need to intervene. I trace the metal collar around my neck with a finger, its cool hardness reminding me I’m a prisoner . . . for now.

“Good. I’ll try not to pressure you too much.” James stands and offers me his hand, helping me up. He slings an arm around my shoulders. “Beautiful here, isn’t it?”

I look out over the lush, green valley. Thick mists of fog obscure its middle, clinging close to the ground and creating a ghostly shroud around bushes and vegetation. Subtle watercolors stain the horizon in the palest blues, pinks, and yellows. The sky is often at its most breathtaking after a storm, and this one is no exception.

“It is.”

“Shall we head back?”


The wheat to my left rustles and snaps. James draws his gun and pushes me behind him. “Who’s there? Show yourself!”

And just when I think this life and its choices can’t be any more painful or difficult, my knees go weak as a familiar figure emerges.


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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, March 24, 2015

Kimberly Gould Week 143: Brick By Brick

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Brick By Brick

I took the same route every day. I usually passed this point at 10:36. It was near the middle of our run and the dogs would want water or to dump, or something else. I’d been taking this same group out since Mimi joined two years ago. Dogwalker and dogsitter was a pretty cushy gig if you didn’t mind bagging poop and occasionally clipping nails that scratched you. Oh, and wet tongues to the face. No matter how many times I used my Alpha voice to make them stop, within a couple days, someone was on my lap licking my nose.

I knew it was 10:36 because I would checked my watch when he showed up. He would jog in the other direction, his blond hair flopping with his pace. When he got here, he would stop, drink from his hip holster bottle and pet one of the dogs. Usually Max. He liked Max. He also liked the house behind the bench.

It had seemed strange the first handful of times I watched him pull a loose brick from the crumbling wall. After two dozen my curiosity got the better of me.

“Why are you doing that?”

He looked at the stone in his hand, at the pile he dropped it on. “This was my grandpapa’s house. He was told to demolish it, but couldn’t bring himself to do it all in one go. The town was adamant that it was a safety hazard, that the walls could fall in on someone. Look at them. If they were going to fall, wouldn’t they have done it already?”

“I guess so.”

“But the town wouldn’t leave him alone, so he said, ‘Fine. If I start will that make you happy?’ and they agreed that as long as he started, and continued, they wouldn’t bother him anymore about it. So he took a sledgehammer to the wall, here.” He made a circle in one of the holes at the bottom. “And he pulled out one brick.”

I could feel the grin on my face. “And he kept taking out one brick at a time to prove he was still working on it.”

“Bingo,” he said , making a gun with his fingers.

We chatted many times after that, and even had a date or two. Shortly after I met him, though, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. I didn’t really get to talk to him much after that.

When I stopped to water the dogs a week after his obituary appeared in the paper, I realized the pile of bricks wasn’t growing anymore. There was also the appearance of traffic cones.

I kicked those away, climbing the slight slope to the derelict house and pulling out a stone. I dropped it atop the pile. The cones were gone the next day.


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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 Kimmydonn.com


Monday, March 23, 2015

SJ Maylee Week 143: Things She Never Knew

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: Both

Title: Things She Never Knew

Gina sat down on her bed and stared out the window. Her husband would no doubt come looking for her if she didn’t come down soon. Emotions were coming at her from unsuspecting things and none of it made any sense. However, most of her life she didn’t recognize anymore. Living with the love of her live was just the tip of the iceberg. The life of a newlywed was easy and messy all at the same time.

She slipped off her heels and fell back. All week she’d been exhausted, but it was the smells in the restaurant that almost did her in. She rubbed her belly and rolled onto her side.

A flutter of panic froze her movement.

“I can’t be.”

She counted back the days and knew immediately it was a possibility.


She looked down at her belly, holding it gently as a rush of emotions turned her life in a new direction.

An uncomfortable rumble of nausea sent her to the bathroom.


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SJ Maylee believes hearts are meant to come together and find love. As a writer she has a tendency to break hearts, but she always glues them back together. You can follow her at @SJMaylee,


Monday, March 16, 2015


Hey all of our faithful readers!

The Daily Picspiration Blog and the awesome writers will be back on Monday, March 23rd! We are all taking a much needed spring break (and boy do I wish I was where this picture is!).

Make sure to come back on Monday, March 23rd for the next great story!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Miranda Kate Week 142: Into the Mountains

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Into the Mountains

They left the town and pushed deep into the mountains, getting further than Daniels thought they would before hitting their first road block. It looked like there’d been a small avalanche, and it looked reasonably fresh.

Daniels got out of the truck and surveyed it. Roderick joined him.

“Do you think we can dig through?”

Daniels sighed. “We’re gonna have to try.” He looked up at the side of the mountain. “But I don’t want to start digging if more is gonna fall, what do you reckon?”

Roderick following his gaze. “I can’t see where this lot came from to be honest. The mountain slopes back quite far, I don’t see much overhang. Are they common up here?”

Daniels pulled a face. “They’re not unheard of, it all depends on how the snow falls, and what type of snow, get the wrong type of layering with powder and wet and it can slide easy enough. Just usually goes on over.”

They both turned to the drop off, which was a few meters from the trucks. It was reasonably sheer.

“Maybe it was a slow build, not just one fall.” Roderick observed.

“Maybe…” Daniels wasn’t sure. He hadn’t seen a road block like this before, not on this side of the mountain, but then it had been a while since he’d tried to reach the cabin in snow. Plus no one had travelled through this way for months, so no one had been clearing what had fallen. Maybe Roderick was right.

Hanson and Harris had joined them by this point.

“Do ya reckon there’s more than just snow under that lot?” Harris voiced what had been whispering at the back of Daniels’ mind.

Roderick looked at Daniels. “Hadn’t thought of that, what do you reckon Wes?”

“Thought crossed my mind, but we won’t know till we start digging.”

They returned to the trucks and pulled out shovels. The rest of the group joined them, except for the children who stayed warm in the trucks under Pansy’s watchful eye.

They worked in a line shovelling almost in unison. There wasn’t enough energy for conversation as well, so the only sounds were the winter wildlife. At one point they were being observed by a group of foxes. Daniels kept them in check, but they made no attempt to approach. Maybe the lack of human movement over the last few months had returned them to their feral state causing them to be wary. But it reassured Daniels there’d be plenty to hunt once they got settled up in the cabin.

After almost two hours a scraping sound coming from Steve’s shovel indicated Harris’ suspicions were correct. Daniels expected to find rock, but this had a metallic ring to it. They all joined Steve and started digging round the area until Hanson’s blade hit something softer – rubber – a tyre.

Then they heard it; a shuffling sound.

They could see the snow shake and fall a little in response to the movement from inside the vehicle. The group unconsciously took a step back, looking at each other with a mixture of surprise and fear. There was no voice either; no one shouting for help or making any calling sounds, a sure indicator of something they all feared encountering – an infected person.

“Shall we dig any further?” Steve was the closest to the vehicle.

“We’ve got to, we don’t know for sure.” Abby was standing next to him.

“‘Course we do, no one living would last this long out in these temperatures.” Harris spoke the truth none of them wanted to voice.

“We’ve got to, because we’ve gotta move it out of our way anyways.” Daniels was the voice of reason as usual.

They all stepped forward again as one, circling the mound that they now could see was a vehicle and started digging it out. It was a small sedan not built for mountain driving, but someone had been keen to get out of town.

The snow fell away from the frost encrusted windows, which only revealed a dark shape inside the car. Once more light filtered in, it started to strike the windows at the movement outside, eventually pushing its face up against the glass. The bright iridescent blue of the infected eyes shone through, confirming that there was no one to be saved inside.

“Let’s clear the snow by the drop off, so we can push it over,” Daniels called out.

They had all paused in their shovelling, mesmerised by the glow of the eyes inside the car, but his words brought them back and they started to clear the road next to the car and by the drop off. With ten of them working it took no more than half an hour, and soon they were all lined up against the mountain side of the car ready to push.

Daniels counted them in and together they shoved hard. The car took a while to gain momentum but when it did it seemed to glide, and rushed over the edge of the drop off as though it had been driven.

They all stood for a moment catching their breath, watching it fall and bump and crash against the rocks, until it collapsed into a heap of snow so far down it was barely visible.

Not a word was spoken as they returned to the trucks and climbed in, keen to get underway again.


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You can read more of my writing on my blog - Finding Clarity - at http://purplequeennl.blogspot.nl/ or join me on Twitter @PurpleQueenNL


Friday, March 13, 2015

Mark Ethridge Week 142: If It’s Just A Dream, Let Me Dream (Part 5)

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: If It’s Just A Dream, Let Me Dream (Part 5)

Blue woke me, “It’s time.”

I pulled on the armored suit and connected an extra power pack to the back. “Ready?”

Blue and three other of the blue humans nodded, “Yes, general!”

It was best to make such ventures during the flares, when my humans couldn’t be outside without armor such as mine. The ultraviolet radiation levels were something our anatomy wasn’t designed to handle, but Blue’s people were impervious to it. One of those evolutionary things.

We moved as a group, at some stupid speed, far beyond what my humans could run. It was another natural gift Blue’s people had. The exoskeletal nature of the suit allowed me to keep up with them. We crossed a flat plain, several miles wide, then entered a forest of purple and black trees, with leaves that never fell. The leaves grew, and grew, to staggering sizes.

Another couple of miles, and we reached a road, built by my people. Pavement, paint, curbs and all, right through the trees, with no consideration for the trees, or how long they’d been there, the lives that depended on them, the flow of chemicals and minerals between the trees. No understanding of, and no care for nature.

It was an ugly scar on an otherwise stunning landscape.

We paralleled the road for three miles until we arrived at the edge of a clearing filled with buildings. Buildings from my world. Rows of factory-made houses, the ever-present stores and shops of the corporations of my people. And the ever-present military compounds. Cameras were everywhere. So were drones.

“Your people take security seriously.”

“My people live in terror of their own shadows.”

“We’ll be visible on their surveillance systems.”

Ah, the things Blue’s people didn’t know. “We’ve been visible to them since we reached their road.” It was true. My people lined their roads with sensors, both to control the flow of traffic on those roads and to monitor all access to those roads. Any vehicle, any footprint, any road kill. Anything would be identified.

I was content in letting Blue and her friends know my people didn’t build automatic defense mechanisms into their roads. We’d tried that in the past. It never ended well, usually resulting in roads filled with dead people. But, eventually, we’d figure that out, after we’d killed off enough of ourselves, and we’d arm the roads. Until then, we depended on sensor systems to tell us what was happening on the roads, so we could respond appropriately.

“Next, we will encounter the dogs.” I hated how my people used dogs. Cannon fodder. We’d made them smart enough to carry weapons, and perform basic military actions. We’d turned them into an almost endless supply of Marines, doing our dirty work for us, so no humans lives were risked. We didn’t care if a zillion dogs died in the process.

The dogs would reach us soon. It was time to move.

“Everyone know the plan?”

All Blue’s people nodded. We all split up, Blue and two of her people went left, along the edge of the settlement. The other three went right. I marched in like I owned the place, and used the armor’s lasers to fry every camera and drone I could find. It was more than I could see, the armor’s sensor systems found them for me, it’s aiming systems never missed.

I moved toward the closest retail site. It was time to cause chaos, panic. and despair. For my people, the best way to get their attention was to attack their economic infrastructure. That’s what I proceeded to do.

The dogs would arrive soon. But I’d be ready for them. I had a few surprises in the arsenal of my armor. It wouldn’t be long before my people learned that.


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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, March 11, 2015

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 142: The Gun That Won the West

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: One

Title: The Gun That Won the West

“There's this great speech in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.

It takes place early in the film, when Butch and Sundance go to visit a veteran lawman they've come to know and trust.

'You should have let yourselves get killed a long time go,' says the lawman to our heroes. 'You may be the biggest thing to hit this area, but you're still two-bit outlaws. It's over, don't you get that? Your times is over and you're gonna die bloody. All you can do is choose where.'”

I sat back in the hard kitchen chair and stared at the revolver in front of me on the table.

Colt .45. The gun that won the west.

“That lawman was pretty smart, wasn't he?”

Marco, seated across the table from me, didn't answer. A sucking chest wound'll do that to a guy. His eyes darted from my Colt to my face, like he couldn't decide whether to eyeball the gun or the man who killed him.

“He could've been talking about us, Marco.”

He blinked. His thinning black hair sat matted to his sweaty head and his little mustache had blood in it.

“Well, you, anyway,” I continued. “For now. I'll give you that.”

The small room still stank of gunfire, gunfire and blood.

Marco sat across the kitchen table from me, dying and taking his time about it.

Two shots to the midsection had made him docile. He'd dropped his own gun to hold his guts in. When I told him to have a seat he had a seat.

I didn't have to worry about the three guys he'd brought with him.

A man packing a Colt, who knows how to use it, is a hell of an enemy. Marco's clowns got off one shot between them before they died, seconds after kicking down my mother-in-law's kitchen door.

Marco had come in fast behind them and he came in firing.

He got me too, creasing the right side of my ribcage before I could put two shots into him, center mass.

The fourth guy ran.

It didn't have to come to this.

Marco had his piece of things. I had mine. There was plenty for everyone. But that wasn't good enough for Marco. No, not for Marco.

Six years we'd been after each other, strike and counterstrike. I think between the two of us we kept the local undertakers in business.

“I'll tell you Marco,” I said, picking up my Colt to reload, “all the crap we've put each other through, the fighting and everything, I never took any of it personally.”

His eyes fluttered open but I don't think he was seeing much of anything. I waved my hand at him. His eyes didn't track it.

He slumped a little lower in the chair. His wiry body maintained the same posture. Rigor mortis was setting in. He just didn't know it.

I finished loading the revolver, then placed it back on the table.

He didn't stir.

“I never took that shit personally,” I continued, “until you came after my family.”

That got me a chuckle from him. It wasn't much, more like a strangled burp, but was enough.

“Even at our worst, Marco, I always thought there was a certain... honor... in the way we went about it. But then you had to go after my family. You set my fucking house on fire, Marco. My fucking house. With my wife and kid in it.”

I shut up for a second and listened.

The clock ticked. Floorboards settled. Crickets chirped outside.

“They're all right,” I went on, “but you know that. My wife got burned, but she's tough. Two skin grafts and she's pretty much good to go. My daughter still has nightmares about that night. We got her in therapy.”

I, picked up the Colt, then stood and paced around.

My mother-in-law's kitchen used to be a nice room, with good hardwood floors, a simple off-white paint job, with an antique table and chairs, and framed family photographs on the walls.

Now it was covered in blood and brains and had holes in the wall. And a kicked-in door.

My mother-in-law had passed almost a decade before. We kept the house because we liked it. It reminded us of her.

We'd moved in after the fire and we were pretty happy there. My wife and daughter didn't want to go when I told them they had to. I'd worked hard luring Marco to the house. Last thing I wanted was my family in a crossfire.

I heard the grumble of my pal Moe's engine in the distance. Only one van complained the way Moe's van did.

Moe drove a piece-of-crap van but he was the best cleaner in the business.

I leaned down to look Marco in the face. His jaw had gone slack and his eyes no longer had any of the shine they usually held. His breathing was ragged and irregular.

He'd be dead by the time Moe was ready to do his job.

“I wanted you to know why this happened, Marco,” I said, “to make sure you understood you had it coming. You're gonna die now and I'm gonna leave you to it. If your boys have a beef with me about this... well, I'll burn that bridge when I get to it.”

I stuck the Colt in my belt and headed for the door.

“See you around, Marco.”


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


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 142: The Truth Hurts

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Truth Hurts

Joel stepped back, admiring his carving in the bark of the old oak. Caitlin slowly traced the lopsided heart encasing their names.

“I love it,” she said. “People will see it for years to come, we can visit here all the time. Something permanent, of us,” she said wistfully.”

“Well, it’s as permanent as nature allows.” He fumbled in his jean pocket. “I thought this might be a little more lasting.” He knelt down, raising the little blue velvet box, prising open the lid. “Caitlin, will you marry me?” The sun glinted on the small diamond, shining like a star. “Say something Caitlin, please,” he said, his heart thumping inside his chest, a slither of doubt creeping in, feeding on the silence.

“Yes!” she squealed as Joel took the ring and slipped it on her finger. She flung her arms around him smothering his face in tiny kisses.

They strolled through the woodland, hand in hand, Caitlin admiring her ring. “How long have you been planning this?” she asked.

“I’ve had the ring stuffed in my pocket for a few days and that moment felt so right, I decided to just go for it. No planning,” he shrugged. “Planning’s overrated. I just said what was in my head. You should try it sometime.” Caitlin stopped and looked at him. “I see you deep in thought and I wonder what goes on in that head, the little conversations you have in there, that whisk you away from me.” He combed her dark hair though with his fingers. Goosebumps burst on her skin. “I love you.”

“I slept with Carl.” The words burst from her lips like bullets, fast and furious, hitting Joel in the chest. “It was a long time ago. I’ve wanted to tell you so many times but I could never find the words. But I can’t lie anymore. Not with this.” She fiddled nervously with the ring, waiting for him to speak. “Say something Joel.” She looked into his chocolate brown eyes, now dark, almost black as his face paled.

“You slept with Carl.” He could barely utter the words, not wanting to hear them again.

“It was just once. A silly, stupid moment of madness.” She waited for Joel to say something more but he stood in silence, his face etched in pain. “Aren’t you going to say something? Tell me we’re going to be okay, please?”

“I don’t think we will be.” Tears sprang from Caitlin’s eyes, running freely down her cheeks as Joel slumped down, leaning against a fence post.

“I need to be alone,” he said, his voice calm but cold.

Caitlin ran over the little wooden bridge, across the stream as a thick mist swirled it’s tendrils of vapour, snaring anything and everything in its path, leaving a coat of tiny water droplets on everything it touched as it suffocated and devoured in silence.

Joel stared at the mist. He saw Caitlin run into it. She didn’t know it was there or what it was. It was a good job the mist muffled sound. He didn’t fancy listening to shrieking panic and screaming. But then Caitlin had already said too much, her words piercing his soul. What else could he do?

He pulled himself up and walked over the bridge as the mist dissipated. The clear blue, cloudless afternoon continued. Something glinted in the sun, shining like a star. Joel stooped to pick it up, extinguishing the light as he shoved it back in the box and into his pocket.


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

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 http://40somethingundomesticateddevil.blogspot.co.uk/ for more. Thank you. Love Lizzie x


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Laura James Week 141: The Collector (part 4)

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: One

Title: The Collector (part 4)

Without his grandparents keeping an eye on him, Hector soon had the room ready. Cages of various sizes were stacked against one wall, large ones at the base supporting the smaller ones as they reached the ceiling. He only had a few days before his parents returned but he felt sure that there was enough time to obtain his first few animals.

Hector had decided to avoid pet shops for two reasons. The first he didn't want people to start recognising him as a collector of animals and secondly, he wanted animals used to freedom. There was no point on keeping animals in a cage unless they knew what it was like to be free and he could watch them slowly suffer as that freedom was taken away.

He took the car to the far side of town and started his search. Mid afternoon meant most people were at work so any pets they had would be either roaming free if a cat or tethered in their back gardens if a dog. It wasn't long before he had found exactly what he was looking for. A small brown and white pup raced down a garden path towards him, yapping with its tail going nineteen to the dozen.

Hector lent over the gate, "Hey there boy. What you doing out?" The pup stood on his hind legs, trying to reach Hector's hands with its tongue. "Oh you can't stay here can you boy, wanna come home with me?" He reached in and soon the wriggling pup was in his arms and licking his face clean. "God stop that!" The temptation to simply snap the dog's neck to stop its incessant licking and yapping was at the forefront of Hector's mind, yet he managed to control himself and squeeze just enough to cause the dog to pass out.

By the time he had returned home the dog was beginning to stir and it was a struggling puppy he put in a cage. He watched as the pup tried to move around but the cage was too small for much movement. Soon yelps and barks of frustration filled the room. It didn't take long for the dog to realise that it was trapped and began to sniff and paw at the cage floor trying to find a way out.

"Whatcha found there huh?" Hector lent in front of the cage door as the dog scrambled at the matted hair that was poking through the metal. The figure beneath started to moan as short sharp nails bit into flesh. Hector smiled as he watched his Granddad slowly come too. "What's happened? Where am I?" The old man lifted his hands to his head and felt the top of the cage, "What the hell?" Hector laughed as his Grandfather realised where he was and started to struggle, causing the small dog to begin a fresh round of barking and even more frantic scratching. Soon the dog started to nip at the fingers that were poked through the cage at its feet and the old man howled in pain.

Hector was whistling as he left the room, this was so much better than a zoo. Here he was in control.


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Based in Dunfermline, Scotland, Laura is obsessed with all things horror and spends her time writing flash fiction which she hopes, on occasion, really scares her readers. Feel free to stalk her on twitter, @lejamez


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Aleea Davidson Week 141: Little Joys

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Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Little Joys

A/N Taking a short break from Wither this week. Mara and Glen will return next time. Thank you to those who may be reading. I'm humbled any of you would take the time to read my words.

. . . . . .

According to the calendar hanging on her kitchen wall it was supposed to be the first day of spring. As the soles of her boots broke through the icy crust that covered layers of snow caked three inches thick in her driveway, Kate thought Mother Nature had a warped sense of humour.

Pulling her hood up against a wind that felt like it had teeth hungry for nips of her skin, she shuffled her way to her car, mindful of the ever-present ball of weight settled like a warm lump of coal in her midsection. At seven months, the waddle her friends had promised would affect her every movement had set in with a vengeance. At eight months, Kate felt she had the awkward duck walking perfected, but there was no such thing as perfection when navigating the treacherous feet of ground between her and the car only days away from her due date. Especially considering she was feeling as big as a house.

She let out a sigh when she reached the vehicle without slipping, congratulating herself silently. The baby she carried was precious. He would've been precious no matter what twists and turns life had in store, but the fact he was all she had left of her husband Tom, made him infinitely more so.

Kate allowed herself a second of sadness as she opened the car door, then pushed the emotion away. Bending carefully, she grabbed the ice-scraper and moved to attack the thin layer of frost on her windshield. Baby Thomas stirred and delivered a solid little kick to her ribs, as if to say hurry up, mom. It made her smile even as she winced.

She was on the road only moments later, driving with caution, the memory of Tom's voice in her mind reminding her to go easy with the brakes in the slippery conditions. She wished he was here, the pain of his loss still sharp, yet found herself smiling past the emptiness solely because of her destination.

It was time to choose a puppy from the litter of adorable babies born to her friend Joan's Golden Lab, Molly. Something her and Tom had decided to do after learning they were expecting their first child. In the weeks since his death, Kate's determination to carry through with the idea never waned. Tom had been right. Every child should have a dog. The idea this puppy would grow and flourish alongside her son, be his companion and guardian, felt more important than ever with Tom gone. Her son would grow up without a father, but she was determined he wouldn't go through it without every ounce of love and happiness she could provide.

As she parked the car and carefully made her way to the front door of Joan's house, the sound of whimpering and tiny barks squeaked through the door. She took a moment to take a deep breath, then cradled her baby bump through her thick coat. Tears prickled behind her closed eyelids as she whispered to her son. "Do you hear that, Thomas? Daddy can't be here with us, but right behind this door, is his present to you so you won't alone."

As if he heard and understood, her little boy stirred within her once more, gentler this time, and Kate wiped away her tears and raised her hand to knock.

Life goes on, she thought, and little joys were the most amazing things.


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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)


Friday, March 6, 2015

Nick Johns Week 141: Let Us Prey

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Nick John’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Let Us Prey

‘Dad! Dad! Come quick and look!’

‘Calm Down, Junior... Hold your horses!’

‘OK Dad, this is no time for lame jokes.’

‘Ha! ‘lame’ I see what you did there, Junior... You are a bit of a dark horse!’

‘Dad! This is serious! It’s Uncle Ed!’

‘Ed? What’s he gone and done now?...He’s a horse’s ass!’

‘Well, we were with the herd, grazing out on the savannah...’

‘...he is too stupid to swat flies with his tail...No horse sense, you see!’

‘... anyway, the others got restless and then started stampeding, so I ran with them...’

‘...and don’t tell me, Ed just stood there,... like a vaulting horse!’


‘... I said to your Mother, ‘that brother of yours, he couldn’t hide in front of a stripey tree’...Ed’s ideas were all horse feathers!’

‘... Dad!, there was this Lion...’

‘Oh. Ok, now we come to it. Ed has this theory about Lions. He was always sounding off at the waterhole, saying Lions were all show, that if we left them alone, they would leave us alone, that all you needed was to be firm with them… it was sort of his hobby horse!’

‘Well, Dad, Uncle Ed looked right at the Lion until it stopped stalking him, stared at it for a few minutes, and then slowly turned his back on it and trotted away.’

‘What did the Lion do, Junior? ...Look the gift horse in the mouth?’

‘No, He ran up behind him and started biting Uncle Ed’s hind leg. Dad! You’ve got to come and look...’

‘There’s no point, Son.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, once you’ve seen one Lion eating a Zebra, you’ve seen a maul…!’


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Despite his Mother telling him not to, Nick continues to make things up.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sarah Aisling Week 141: A Measure of Grace (Part 26): The Edge

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 26): The Edge

“I love you, China.”

Everything inside me freezes—including my lungs, which refuse to contract and expand. Max let me know in his own strange, roundabout way that he loves me, but to hear the words spoken against my skin is indescribable because I know how difficult it is for him to let anyone in.

Max bands his arms around my waist and rests his head on my shoulder. “You don’t have to say anything. It was hard for me to acknowledge this to myself, let alone tell you, because I’ve never been in love before. Never even understood what it meant until you.”

“Oh, Max.” I run my fingers through the soft strands of his hair. “I love you, too.”

“You do?”

“Why do you sound so surprised?”

He shrugs but keeps his cheek pressed to my shoulder, leaving me unable to see his expression. “I didn’t think anyone could love me, that I wasn’t worthy.”

Tears fill my eyes. “You are so worthy. Everything you do is directed by passion and loyalty. I’m lucky to be part of your inner circle.” Mike springs to mind and so do Katie’s words about the effect the love of one’s life should have. It pains me to realize I agreed to marry a man who didn’t stir my soul the way Max does. “I’ve never been in love before either.”

“You were engaged.”

“I shouldn’t have been.”

Max finally looks at me. “Why?”

“Because Mike didn’t take my breath away or challenge me . . .” I incline my head, staring intently at Max, and reach around to grab one of his arms, bringing it between us. I clasp my hand over the back of his, dragging it up my stomach beneath my shirt until my breast fills his palm. “His touch never burned my skin . . . never like this.”

Max’s eyes darken, and his lips part, his breath quickening. The arm still around my waist tightens, pressing us closer, and he kneads my breast. “Never?”

“I didn’t even know if the kind of love Katie described existed—until I found you.”

Max’s gaze drops to my lips. His breath hitches, and then he leans in, bringing our mouths together. The kiss starts slow and gentle, reaching all the way to my soul, and swells, filling me with love and desire and heat and belonging. He pulls away to raise the shirt over my head, tossing it aside and stripping off his own as well. Warm, slightly rough hands capable of both violence and tenderness roam my bare back, bringing our chests together. Max’s lips find mine again, and I skim my fingers over the powerful muscles of his arms and shoulders, anchoring them in his hair.

Max stands up with me in his arms and turns, depositing me on my back on the bed. Remaining connected, he rests one knee on the mattress and rears over me. His darkly intense eyes focus on mine, and a blush rises to my skin. “I want you,” he whispers. “I know we’re embroiled in the cluster fuck of all time, but—”

“Yes.” I put pressure on the back of his neck, tugging him closer, and ignore his surprised expression. I wrap my legs around him and grind my pelvis against his. “Yes, yes, yes.”

Max doesn’t need further encouragement. He peppers kisses across my clavicle, breastbone, and then he moves lower, sucking a nipple into his mouth and nipping it between his teeth. I cry out—it’s almost too painful—and then the warmth of his tongue laves away the bite, sending a rush of heat through me. He drags his tongue along my side, tugging my yoga pants down a few inches to suck at the tender skin of my hipbone, releasing a soft groan as he does. And then Max growls, yanking my pants and underwear off. He struggles with his own, cursing when his feet get tangled in his clothes.

Callused hands ghost up my legs to grip my hips, and he kneels between my knees, gazing down at me with a heated look. “You’re beautiful.” He moves to lower himself, but I press a palm against his flat stomach.

Reaching out with trembling fingers, I trace the vines of roses inked across his sculpted chest, stopping at the one over his heart. “Tell me about these?”

Max grasps my wrist and brings it to his lips, kissing the sensitive underside. “It’s a timeline of sorts, chronicling pivotal events that shaped my life. Going through them would stir up a shitstorm. Can we leave it at that for now?” He stares down at himself, jaw flexing.

“Yeah, we can leave it at that.”

He leans in to swirl his tongue over the tender skin beneath my wrist, his eyes closing, and continues a path up my arm, across my shoulder and clavicle to the hollow of my throat. “I love this little dip here.” Max’s traces the indentation with the tip of his tongue, then flicks it lightly.

The action is far sexier than I could have imagined, and tiny flames of desire ignite and spread low. I grab his shoulders, guiding him over me. “I need to feel you—all of you.”

“China . . .” Max groans out my nickname and brings his lips down on mine, sliding his tongue against my own, lingering and sensuous. He kisses along my jaw to whisper against my ear. “Are you sure?”

I dig my nails in. “I’ve been waiting, dreaming of being with you again.”

He settles between my legs and runs a hand beneath my thigh, grasping my knee and hitching it around his hip as he fills me. I gasp, locking eyes with Max. We move together, the tide of our desire rising and falling. He sinks into me over and over, kissing me and whispering sweet things against my lips. Sensations gather inside me, letting loose a tempest, the strength of which I’ve never experienced.

Max lifts his head and gazes at me with hooded eyes. He rubs a thumb across my bottom lip. “So beautiful.”

Our bodies are in sync, as if we’ve done this dance many times. Max feels like my forever, and I want to be his. My release sneaks up on me, arriving much too soon. Helpless, I throw my head back and hang on for dear life, listening to Max lose himself in me.

Sometime later, I wake up to Max spooning me with one hand up my shirt, cupping a breast. We're both fully dressed with the exception of shoes. He said it was the wise thing to do even though he'd much rather have free access to my body.

I stare into the bluish glow of the alarm clock. Three thirty, and it's not likely I'll fall asleep again. I'm not sure what disturbed my sleep. Behind me, Max's breaths are long and even, peaceful. Knowing he's comfortable enough to let his guard down makes me feel good. I close my eyes and try to relax, but sleep continues to evade me.

Close to five, Max starts mumbling and shifting his legs. His hand slid from my chest a while ago but still remains inside my shirt. When the thrashing continues, I twist in his embrace and touch his sweaty forehead lightly.

“Max . . .”

“You can't.” He turns his head sharply, eyes still closed. “I won't let you take her!”

“Max, wake up.” I caress his smooth cheek, missing the scratch of his stubble.

His lids fly open, and he looks directly at me. “China? What's wrong?”

I marvel at how coherent he is in a matter of seconds. “You were agitated, muttering in your sleep.”

He grasps my hand and places a kiss in the palm. “Sorry. Did I wake you?”

“No, I've been up for a while. Can't sleep. Do you remember your dream?”

Max lifts up on one elbow, stroking his fingers through my hair. “No. Are you okay?” His sea-glass eyes emanate concern, which brings a smile to my face.

“I'm as fine as I can be, considering where we are.” I lean forward and plant a kiss on his mouth. “You make all this bearable.”

Max lifts an eyebrow, slipping an arm around my waist and sliding his hand into my panties. “I hope I make it more than bearable, China.” He buries his face in my neck.

“I'm not sure . . . maybe I need a little convincing.”

“Convincing, huh?”

Max flips me on my back and proceeds to do just that without removing any clothing.

At seven, Max does a series of jumping jacks, followed by walking around the bedroom on his hands. I watch with fascination as I do sit ups and push ups—there's no way I'm doing jumping jacks in front of Max.

When his feet touch the floor again, he's barely broken a sweat. He gazes around the room. “Damn. I need a gym.” He eyes me craftily. “How much do you weigh?”

“No, no. You're not bench pressing me.”

Max laughs. “How'd you know what I was thinking?”

“I had body-builder cousins who liked to show off.”

Max stalks toward me, and I back away. “Down, boy.”

“It could be fun . . .”


A sharp knock on the door brings reality crashing around my ears.

“Marie? It's James.”

“Just a sec!”

Max and I freeze in place for a few seconds before rushing around the room and picking up anything that doesn't belong. Max grabs it all in a bundle and climbs into the vent. I straighten the bed and grab a towel, mopping the sweat from my neck.

Taking several deep breaths, I pull the chair from under the knob and place it against the wall before unlocking and opening the door. James stands before me in full uniform, his eyes bloodshot. “Good morning, Marie. I hope it's not too early.”

“Come on in. I was doing some sit ups and wanted to grab a towel—I'm all sweaty.”

James leans in to kiss my cheek. “You look lovely with your face flushed that way.” He takes my hand and leads me to the couch to sit. “We need to talk.”

A jolt of fear shoots through me. “Is everything all right?”

“We have to head over to the other facility. Your mother would like to see you, and the lab needs to draw some of your blood.”

“My blood? Why?”

“For the new treatment. You may not need it yet, but the treatments are very patient specific.”

“What does that mean?”

James smiles, but it doesn't reach his tired eyes. “I'm a soldier, Marie, not a scientist. I only know the treatment is mixed special for each individual.” He pats my knee. “Why don't you pack a bag with enough stuff for a few days. I'll wait.”


“We leave in a few minutes.” Cool blue eyes seem to catalog my every reaction.

“But the storm . . .”

“Storm's over. They'll be making the announcement shortly.”

“This trip is a bit fast, don't you think? Celine is expecting me in the kitchen.”

“Already cleared it with her.” James tilts his head and regards me. “Is there some other reason you don't want to go?”

“No, you took me by surprise is all.” I place a hand on his arm and rub back and forth slowly. “Do I have time for a quick shower?”

He glances at his watch. “Sure. I'll be back to get you in fifteen.”

“Great.” I walk him to the door.

James cups my cheek and presses a lingering kiss to my mouth. His eyes rake over me slowly. “Enjoy your shower.”

I close and lock the door, breathing heavy.

Max saunters out of the bedroom. “Enjoy your shower,” he says, mocking James. “Tool.” He glares at the door then grabs me by the shoulders, pulling me close and kissing me hungrily. His tongue slides against mine, and his hands roam down my back to squeeze my ass.

When he finally lets me go, I stare up at him wide-eyed. “Whoa.”

Max stares down at me, his eyes glittering. “He touched you.”

“Marking your territory?”

“Hell, yes.” Max draws me close. “We may have to play this game right now, but for the record, I have the urge to break his hands.”

“Just his hands?”

Max's lips twitch. “His pretty-boy face, too.”

“Did you hear what he said?”

“Yeah. I don't like it, but you have no choice. I'll contact Eric, keep in the loop.” Max smoothes my hair and kisses me softly. “Be careful, China. I love you.”

I smile because the declaration seemed to come easier this time. “I love you, too.”


When we emerge aboveground, the first thing I notice is the change in atmosphere. There's a definite chill in the air, heralding the emergence of colder weather. A flame of color creates a mosaic throughout the trees though some green is still visible. Leaves blown off during the storm carpet the ground, colorful and green alike, but I don't see any other obvious damage.

James doesn't bother with the blindfold this time, not that I'd have a chance in hell of remembering the route between facilities. If asked to describe it, I could only say we drove through miles of dirt-packed, wooded roads and made several turns. A few times, my nose detects the brine of the sea, leading me to believe we remain close to the coast.

James is pensive during the start of our trip, which I don't mind. I try to keep my own mind blank, afraid if I think too much, something I want to keep hidden might show in my expression.

He has to stop once to remove debris from the road. When he climbs back into the truck, he glances over at me. “How are you adapting to alliance life? Do you enjoy your job in the kitchen?”

“Very much so. Celine's great. I admit, it's strange living here after being outside and accepting life . . . might never be the same.”

James rubs the back of his neck and stares straight ahead. “Is there anything you don't like about living here?”

“Gibbs.” The name is out before I have time to consider if it's wise to name names.

James bangs his fist on the steering wheel and curses under his breath. “What’s he done?” His voice is tight, and I’m not sure if he thinks I might be overreacting.

“Nothing specific. That’s part of the problem.” I tell him about the recent incidents and the provocative remarks Gibbs has made.

“Marie, I’m sorry about this. I can’t always be around to keep him in line, but I’ll talk to him, see what I can do.”

“You’re not angry with me?”

James looks at me askance. “What on earth for?”

I shrug and stare at my lap. “He’s a fellow soldier. I figured you guys might stick together.”

“If I had my way, Gibbs would be cleaning toilets.” His fingers tighten on the wheel. “The guy’s a fucking loose cannon.”

The truck emerges from the woods, the road flanked on both sides by grassy fields. The iron-gray sky rises above us, purplish-black clouds the color of bruises hovering in the distance.

“Don’t you outrank him?”

An ugly laugh issues from James. “Technically, yes, but he must have friends in high places. I’ve been instructed to keep him in line from a distance.”

This information makes my stomach curdle. Gibbs must know James doesn’t have the authority to take him down, and that makes him even more dangerous. I draw in a deep breath and let it out slowly as I stare out the side window.

James lays a hand on my arm. “Hey, maybe I can’t toss him in the stockade, but if he touches you, I’ll break his fucking face. Nobody’s immune from everything.”

“Thanks.” I try to smile, but a sinking feeling steals it away. Gibbs may have to be dealt with. I just hope it can be done without screwing up everything else.

When we finally arrive, James leads me to Garth’s empty office. He takes my bag with him, offering to put it in my room. My eyes must show concern because James assures me I won’t be in the glorified cell I was in last time. I’m grateful.

I sit on the couch in Garth’s office and close my eyes. A headache pounds in my temples and forehead, and a pulse thumps in my neck. I breathe in and out, rubbing sweaty hands on my pants.

What is this new treatment, and why is it individualized? I have no medical or biology background, but something feels off.

The door opens, and Garth leads my mother in. She’s thinner, frail, but her coloring looks healthy. She leans on his arm and stares at the floor.

“Marie, good to see you again.” Garth nods, assisting my mother to sit on the couch beside me. He leans over to kiss her forehead. “Ring me when you’re finished, my dear. I’ll be in my lab.”

She grasps his hand and presses it to her cheek. “Thank you.”

I sit silent and uncomfortable even after Garth leaves us and shuts the door behind him.

My mother finally looks at me, her hazel eyes unsure and pleading. “Marie, honey, thank you for coming.”

I shrug. “As if I had a choice.” My words are matter-of-fact rather than scathing. “How are you?”

Her lips curve in a faint smile. “Wasn’t sure you cared. I had a relapse—a bad one. The vaccine stopped working, and the new treatment was the only option left. There were some difficult moments—a rash and vomiting—but it seems to be working.”

“I’m glad, and of course I care. Just because I hate the things you’ve done doesn’t mean I wish ill on you.”

“I suppose that’s a start.” My mother stares at her hands.

“Why am I here, Mom?”

“Did you get the photo?”

“Yes. One of the girls was obviously you. Who was the other?”

“My sissy, Caroline.”

My eyes widen. “You have a sister?”

“Had.” A sheen of tears coats her eyes. “Caro had leukemia. She needed a bone marrow transplant. I wanted to donate, but my father wouldn’t let me.”


“He wasn’t her biological father. He forbid my mother to consider it, threatened to take me and leave. My mother had an affair . . . Caro was the result. Father said he wasn’t risking his only daughter to save her love child.”

“What happened?”

My mother’s lids scrunch closed. “She didn’t make it.”

I stare at her in horror.

She covers her eyes. “The sins of the father are laid upon the children. I wasn’t cut out to be a mother. When I had twins . . . you girls were my life at the beginning, but the pressure was too great—the thought that one of you might come down with an illness and I might have to make a decision like my father.” A plaintive sob hiccups out of her, and she grabs my arm. “I became like the man I hated in spite of myself. Marie, I’m so sorry. It was never that I didn’t love you girls—I loved you so much it paralyzed me. I tried therapy, antidepressants. In the end, I couldn’t do it.”

My heart twists painfully. “Wow. I don’t even know what to say. Am I supposed to fall at your feet and forgive you? What do you want from me?”

“No, of course not! I want you to understand even if you never forgive me for being so weak.”

It’s an awful story, certainly one that might garner sympathy, but I’m just numb. I feel nothing for the woman beside me. I don’t wish her ill; I’m glad she’s recovering from the virus, but I can’t imagine having her in my life. She let Katie die even after going through a similar loss with her own sister. Somehow, that lowers my opinion of her even more.

“I’m sorry you lost your sister. What your father did was awful.” I stop there, leaving many words unsaid, but I can tell by the pain in her eyes that she gets the message.

A knock on the door interrupts the awkward moment. There’s a woman standing in the hall, wearing scrubs and a lab coat with a mask covering her nose and mouth.



“Dr. Kasabian sent me to fetch you.”

I hesitate a moment. The only thing waiting for me here is more awkward conversation. I may as well get these tests over with. “All right.” I look back at my mother. “See you.”

My mother’s only answer is to lower her head into her hands.

The woman leads me through the maze of halls, never bothering to introduce herself. I’ve been through here before and see people through the windows, poring over microscopes or working at computers. We stop in front of a door, and she slides a key card, admitting us.

There are four workstations in the smallish room, only one in obvious use. She leads me to a chair beside the desk. “Have a seat. Do you know your blood type?”


“We’ll check. Wait here.” She strides to the other side of the room and disappears through a doorway.

I’m curious and follow her into an alcove containing a walk-in refrigerator or freezer. I yank on the handle and step inside. One wall is covered by shelving with glass bottles filled with various vibrantly colored fluids. They’re segregated by color and marked with a series of letters and numbers that mean nothing to me. A few shelves on the opposite wall hold clear bins stacked with bags of blood. Blood types are written in black marker on the front of each bin.

I find the woman in the back of the walk-in, bent over a metal table. There’s a chart on the wall, listing blood types and corresponding codes from the colored bottles.

Panic seizes me. I don’t quite understand what’s happening, but I know it isn’t good.

“What the hell are you people doing?”


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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