Wednesday, September 30, 2015

SJ Maylee Week 169: Fire & Ice

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: Both

Title: Fire & Ice

Sasha leaned forward over her leg. Her muscles, still warm from the brisk walk to the theatre, eased into the stretch. She had another ten minutes to prepare her body for the hour performance.

Normally, the muffled noise of the excited audience pushed her through the last minute jitters of opening night but she could no longer deny there was something different about the evening. The same eerie sense she was being watched crawled up her back. For weeks now, the feeling had invaded her thoughts.

Sasha. The same thick raspy voice from last year filled her head.

She pulled her leg from the barre and twirled around. Nothing but dancers surrounded her. She closed her eyes and braced her fists against her sides. With all her strength, she fought the urge to run. All she’d earned would disappear if she ran again.

Sasha. I have come.

She tripped over the dancer behind her and landed hard on her ass. Pain radiated down her leg. She grabbed her thigh.

Your fire is mine. This time, you will not escape me.

She clasped her chest. A fierce storm burned her from within. She searched her thoughts for that cold wet thing, the one image from her childhood she couldn’t erase, the chilly deep puddles that soaked her pant legs and left her shaking for hours. She filled her thoughts of being a little leaf sinking in one of those murky puddles.

The burning sizzled out and her world went black.


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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, September 28, 2015

Michael Wombat Week 169: Fallen

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Michael Wombat’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Fallen

The Gray School bell rang for the very last time, and opened its door to the late summer day the way Stacy had opened her heart to James the previous night. They had sat on the school bench out by the trees, shyly held hands, and he had fallen for her like the blue star that had fallen from the night sky above them. They had kissed; proper grown-up kissing, too. Stacy had tasted of strawberry. She had taken his hand and put it on her small breast, but he hadn’t known what to do next. Oh sure, Richie Chester had told him all about how men and women did it, but it all seemed a mite unlikely to James. Not to mention embarrassing, and not at all romantic.

Four sisters and three brothers had educated Stacy in the ways of the world far more extensively than he, but she had given him a stunningly beautiful smile, and told him not to worry. They were probably too young to do more than kiss, anyway. For now, at least. James was more than content, for kissing Stacy was the finest thing he could imagine in the whole wide universe.

As twilight deepened and fireflies commenced to doodle in light, Stacy had gone home as instructed by her father. Mr. Bennett kept a close eye on his daughter, as was only right, and he had told her to be home by nine. James had offered to walk her home, but she had reassured him that it was only a half mile through the trees, and James’ own father would begin to worry if his son stayed out too long after dark. He had watched her disappear into the trees, admiring the sway of her hips, then jumped on his bike and pedalled hard all the way home.

He had found it impossible to concentrate in class today. James had spent most of his time writing Stacy’s name all over his notebook, and thinking about her beguiling lopsided grin. Each minute had seemed like ten, each hour like a day, but now, finally, he was free. He would head over to Stacy’s house now, to see whether Mr. Bennett would allow him to take her out to Cheryl’s Shakes. His mind still spinning with the memory of Stacy’s hair sapphire-lit by the falling star, James stumbled outside with the rest of the students, squinting in the dazzling late-August sun. The hot air buzzed like a fat bee.

A colossal, gnarled hand grabbed his shoulder, the fingers digging painfully into his flesh through his thin checked shirt, and flung him hard against the old tree stump embedded in the school wall.

“What the hell did you do, boy?” Mr. Bennett thrust his furious face close to James’, flecks of spittle spraying from his twisted lips.

“Sir... sorry, sir, I don’t—”

“Shut the fuck up!” Mr. Bennett growled, thrusting the barrel of a shotgun up against James’ nose. “You’ll come with me. Now!”

“Yes, sir. I... of course. But what—” Mr. Bennett shot James a murderous look that stilled his voice, and pushed him towards the trees and the narrow dirt path that ran through the small wood to the Bennetts’ home. James’ stomach felt tight and flippy. He was baffled and terrified. Mr. Bennett was normally so calm, so in control. James had never heard him curse even mildly before, let alone say f... use that word. What could have happened to make him so angry? And what had it to do with James?

Oh God, Stacy. Maybe something had happened to Stacy. He turned to ask Mr. Bennett if she was OK, but the nearby tree trunks distracted him before he could speak. They were scorched, burned charcoal black, but only in a small section between about one and four feet off the ground. Further away from the path the trees were untouched, but those close by had all been subject to intense heat.

They emerged into sunlight once again by the Bennett house. Stacy was standing there, thank goodness, her back to him, her captivating hair lifting slightly in the breeze. James’ heart lifted. She was OK. Thank God she was OK. She turned as she heard them approach, and James’ mouth fell open as his world fell apart.

Stacy was pregnant – hugely pregnant – her distended belly pushing what was clearly one of her mother’s dresses far out in front of her. Her breasts seemed much larger than James remembered from, well, from last night. He gaped at her idiotically. When she saw him she ran to him and threw herself into his arms. He held her as close as he could, as she sobbed against his chest.

“Now boy,” barked Mr. Bennett, “Explain yourself. How’d you do this?”

“Papa, I’ve told you!” Stacy cried, “It wasn’t James! We’ve never... we’ve never...” She looked up into James’ eyes for help.

“We’ve never made love,” James said, trying to read her expression. All he saw was confusion and fear.

“Don’t give me that crap,” Mr. Bennett snarled. “I know boys like you. You’re only after one thing. You’re slaves to your dicks and your filthy thoughts. Now I don’t know how you managed to make this happen overnight – maybe it’s some modern thing you got out of those damned comic books or those god-awful movies you kids like about giant ants or Martian invasions. I don’t much care, frankly – but you will do right by my girl.”

“Papa, it wasn’t James. I left him last night at nine, like you’d said.”

“You got in at ten thirty,” her father told her. “Ninety minutes to walk half a mile? Then you went straight up without even coming through to apologise for your lateness! What’s this horny bastard been doing to you?”

“Papa, don’t. I told you, something crazy’s happening. I was walking home through the trees and then – Lord knows – then there was a bright blue light. The next thing I know I’m waking up in bed this morning like... like this.”

“Mr. Bennett, sir,” James faced the confused, angry man who was pointing a shotgun at him, and hoped that the honesty of his words would show in his face. “I’m sorry, but I have no idea what’s going on here. I’ve only ever treated Stacy with respect. Sir, please, I... I love her.” He looked Stacy in the eyes, those deep beautiful eyes. “I love you.”

She smiled and tears rimmed her eyes. Encouraged, he continued “and whatever this is – whatever is going on – I will stand with you and protect you and look after you and stuff.”

“Oh, James,” she sniffed. Her smile made his chest swell. His skin tingled where it touched hers, and his feet felt wet. Why were his feet wet?

“Oh James!” Stacy cried, “Lord, I think my waters broke!”

“Your what did what?” James squeaked, wide-eyed in panic.

“The baby’s coming! It’s coming now!”

“Nope! Stop that nonsense, girl. Babies never come that quick,” Mr. Bennett said firmly. “Well, except in bad movies and crap stories.”

“Then maybe this is a crap story, Papa, because I tell you it’s a-coming! It’s coming NOW! Aaaaaah!”

Stacy got down on the lawn on all fours, helped by James. Mr. Bennett flapped his hands, looking lost. He would be no help at all.

“What should I do?” he asked Stacy, though part of him was desperate to run and hide.

“James, you’re going to have to help the baby out,” Stacy gasped, trying to catch her breath.

“How? How does it happen?”

“Remember when your dog had puppies? Like that.”

“I closed my eyes! It was icky!”

“Well you’re going to have to keep them open now!” Stacy pulled up the dress, baring her backside and parted legs. Blue liquid ran down her thighs.

“Stacy Bennett!” roared her father.

“Papa, we ain’t got time for embarrassment. This baby’s a-coming fast. James, if you love me, keep your eyes open and DON’T DROP IT!”

“This can’t be happening,” wailed Mr. Bennett, dropping his shotgun on the ground.

James looked between Stacy’s legs, a thing he had never even dreamed have doing. From between her plump thighs a slippery round thing protruded. He put his hand gently under the head, and with the other prepared to catch the small body as it came out. The baby slid out of Stacy like eggs from a pan, then it was safe in James’ hands, covered in blue gunk, but breathing. He cradled it securely, supporting the ass and the head.

“James, you have to cut the cord,” Stacy panted.

“Um, there ain’t one,” he said. “Look.”

Stacy turned and sat on the grass. James sat beside her and laid her child in her arms. He put his own arm round her shoulders, protectively.

“Oh, look, Papa!” she laughed. “Isn’t it beautiful? Look at its tiny horns!” She stroked her new child’s wriggling tentacles and it gazed up at her with lidless red eyes. “I think we should call it Colin.”

Colin roared in approval, and reached up with his tail to stroke his mother’s hair.

Several Twitter chums all influenced this story. My thanks to @flcro, @rachaelkanute, @ekctafc, @landladycheryl, @captain_doodle, @SBennettwrites, @LEJamez and especially to my eternal muse @KJCollard.


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Michael Wombat has published several books - search for him on Amazon, or go talk to him on Twitter where he is @wombat37.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Denise Callaway Week 168: Archaic Practices

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Denise Callaway’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Archaic Practices

Sylvan skidded into the grass and embraced the sunlight. A day away from the compound was just what she needed. The brick and stone structures held fast, although they stood crumbling. She had read about them during her explorations courses.

Sylvan took pleasure in walking barefoot across the green grass, She explored the town with the stone arches leading into great places of worship and learning. A rusted gate leading into a yard for a large building had the word “school” across the top. It was hard to imagine everyone studying the same thing. How did they develop their gifts? How did they become experts in their field. The fluidity of learning now took place in context. Reading was taught by parents along with manners and behaviors. Numbers became a part of that process. Once the building blocks were in place, they began to explore areas of interest. She was a historian. She loved delving into the past and trying to understand how it shaped their current times. The maths, sciences, and other subjects fell into place as she explored her area of interest.

Her sister loved science and thus filled her time with sciences and maths so that she could work in research and development. The histories she studied tied directly to her interests. She studied the great thinkers and how they shaped the events around her. They learned through experiment, through doing the work with a mentor or group of mentors until they knew enough to stand on their own. They knew how to research their interest and develop what was needed to complete the tasks at hand.

Stumbling over the loose concrete of the steps, she landed hard. So hard and cold, like the studies that filled its hard. Free of passion. This remnant of a building, though, was a testament to another form of learning. Everyone was taught the same thing without regard to their gifts. It was good in the beginning. However, as new technologies started developing, the school didn’t grow with it. It held to ideas and methods from a century past. Development slowed and become stagnant. New ideas still popped up every so often but not at the rate they occurred now. How many people failed to reach their potential in this structure?

Dusting off her clothes, she examined her palms. A few scratches. They will heal soon enough. Sylvan added notes to her wristband. Cataloguing her finds was second nature. She loved her field of study and even pleasure coincided with work, always analyzing, studying, and comparing. Mounting the transport, she set it on manual. Turning toward the grassy plane, she blitzed across the field. Surfing gravity was much better than falling into it.


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Denise finds herself lost in a field of dandelions. With one blow, her dandelion dreams transform into the words on a page. Some of those dreams have found their way to her website:


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 168: The Promise

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Promise

It was the promise after the many miles trekking, the spilt blood, the loss of friends. Starting out as one of ten, ending with just me. I pondered the stairway. So many times I’d been told safety lay beyond that hill, a thriving community, civilisation. I needed that. Looking up the hill, I counted the minutes, hours and days where I hadn’t seen a soul, not heard a word uttered. I craved company. Loneliness was now my enemy more so than the virus that tore at every thread of society. It stole my family, ate away at my friends. They were the fabric of my life, and without them I was naked, starved and dare I admit, slowly going mad.

But the stairs lay in front of me. With the love of my family and the support of friends, I took the first step. With every buoyant step, I was closer to my new life. The thought of rejection never entered my mind. Why would they reject a fit, healthy, skilled human? Still. I ran through my skillset; some I’d never thought I’d ever have to do in my life but skills I learnt very quickly to survive. I had blood on my hands that no amount of washing would ever cleanse.

Halfway up, I took a quick break, swigging heartily now on the little water I had left, surveying the view. In my old life, this hike would have been a day out with the kids, maybe a bit of sketching, definitely some family pictures and flying a kite. A small smile crept across my face at those wonderful thoughts.

Thoughts that could never be.

Marching onward, I cursed my reverie. It was weak. Weakness was my enemy second to loneliness. Weakness was a distraction which would kill me. I had no idea what these new people were like but if they’d been through only half the hell I’d experienced, they’d not show me one ounce of respect for my weak and pathetic life.

The final step. My legs felt like lead but I allowed euphoria to swell within. To converse, to laugh at a bad joke, to be part of something with someone, anyone.

I took my time at the final step, stretching up, glancing back at what I’d overcome. It felt like crossing the threshold would leave everything behind, everyone behind. But this was my life now.

The fence was a good sign; tall and strong. I walked along it, my pounding heart the only sound until I reached a gate. An open gate. A thump, thump, thump sound filled my head but I couldn’t see anyone. I realised it was my heart, racing at what my eyes were seeing. Nothing.


No one.

I was alone . . .


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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


Monday, September 14, 2015

Laura James Week 138: The Fiddler

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: One

Title: The Fiddler

Marlon stood in the rain outside the house clutching his battered violin case. It had taken months of careful research but he had finally found the home of the once great violinist, Peter Strauss. Shaking he walked up the path only hoping that the man was home and would agree to see him.

Marlon didn't know how long he had stood at the front door unable to reach up and ring the bell, but it was no longer raining. He was soaked through and shaking yet could not bring himself to take the final step. What if Peter didn't live up to his expectations? Marlon had lived his life worshiping the great violinist, practicing all his works morning noon and night forsaking friends and family.

Just as he raised his hand to the bell the door opened, "I suppose you'd better come in."

"Mr Strauss, it's an honour. I..." Marlon stepped over the threshold, words catching in his throat. He was in the presence of greatness and all he wanted, all he needed to say had left him. He watched as the door was closed behind him and Peter shuffled past him further into the house. Marlon was surprised to see his hero so weak and old. Of course he knew that the violinist was in his eighties but he looked almost broken with age, his hands crippled with arthritis.

"Come through, come through." Peter lowered himself into a chair and waved for Marlon to do the same. "You have a violin case, I assume you play."

At the mention of his violin it was as if Marlon had been given permission to speak. The floodgates opened and he talked and talked. About his life, his love of violin, of the hours spent teaching himself how to play using a box and string. How he had saved enough to buy a real violin from a pawn shop, how he had found some of Peter's music and become addicted to the way Peter played.

Once Marlon had finished they sat in companionable silence until Peter lent forward and asked if Marlon would like to play him something.

"Really. But," Marlon fingered the latch on the violin case, "I'm not sure I'm good enough. I wouldn't want to disappoint you."

"I'd like to hear you play," Peter raised his own deformed hands "it's been a long time since there's been live music in my home."

Marlon opened the case, took out the instrument and got himself ready. Soon music filled the air and Marlon was lost in the moment. He came to the end but didn't stop, just moved straight onto a faster more complicated piece of work. Marlon was surprised at how fast his fingers were moving across the neck of the violin, he had never played as well as this before. He was aware that Peter had stood and shuffled across the room, picking up his own violin before returning to his seat.

"You're good, keep playing."

Marlon was tired but at his heroes request he played one more composition, ignoring the burning sensation in his fingers. As the music came to an end Marlon found he couldn't stop. He tried to lift the bow from the violin and is chin from the rest, but he was trapped. "I can't stop!"

"Don't worry. You're doing great, keep playing."

Marlon watched as Peter picked up his violin and started to play, his fingers were too crippled to do much but grip the neck yet he managed to produce some noise. As Marlon continued to play the heat from his fingers travelled up his hands and he started to make mistakes. Soon he felt as if his whole body was on fire and he was fused to the violin.

For every mistake Marlon made, Peter notes rang clearer. It didn't take long before Marlon could barely hold the violin, let alone run the bow across the string and Peter was playing as good as he had in his youth. Marlon finally dropped the instrument and sank back into the seat and listened as Peter continued to play. The music washed over him, calming the fire that burned through his body and he drifted along on a wave of peace.

When Marlon awoke all he felt was pain from head to toe, his fingers were clenched into claws and immobile on his lap. He blinked his eyes a few times but his vision was cloudy, out of focus. With every movement the pain got worse and he started to cough, spitting blood into his malformed hands. A sheet of paper had been tacked to his violin case and with great effort he snatched it up, concentrating on the words swimming in front of him.

Thank you for your gift of life. Your music will live on after you are gone.


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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


KendallJaye Collard Week 167: Death of the Small Town

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KendallJaye Collard’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Death of the Small Town

What’ll ya have, darlin’?”

I must have asked it a million times. Spent my entire life working this diner in this piece of trash town. Maybe served up five generations of folk by now. Of course, back then when I started here I was only thirteen. Everyone seemed so old to me. The regulars coming in for morning coffee. The middle agers bringing their families for dinner. I was convinced back then that I’d get out. You’re just so damn dumb when you’re thirteen.

Those folk and most their kids are dead now. Hell, I’m 83 and I don’t know how I’m still here.

“What’ll ya have, darlin’?”

And now it’s mostly old farming families tied to land that stop in on weekends for a meal they don’t have to cook. Young kids hang out in the parking lot and ride their skateboards and text each other from four foot away. Even the new wind turbines they put up on the edge of town act like sentinels for progress when farmers have been using windmills for ages.

It’s new, but it’s not.

It’s just different packaging.

“What’ll ya have, darlin’?”

Not as many travelers through here as much since the highway bypass goes around town now. Sometimes people pull off for gasoline, but they never stay. And why would they?

The door chimes just rang. A new young face on the way to the big city in his fancy truck. I hurry up and straighten my plates of homemade pie. The kid smiles until he sees my old, beaten face. I know what he’s thinking: Sad, old lady.

But I put on my best smile and head over to his booth.

“So, what’ll ya have, darlin’?”


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KendallJaye Collard gets her kicks above the waistline, Sunshine. Wine drinker, Cancer Survivor, and protected by rocksalt. Spread the love with her at @KJCollard.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sarah Aisling Week 167: A Measure of Grace (Part 38): Silent Witness

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice:  1

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 38): Silent Witness

I shiver, filled with a fear of being exposed so intense, I imagine Gibbs appearing through the sheet of rain like a determined avenger, his glacial gray eyes harboring a thirst for mayhem. I blink again, and the ghostly image is gone though not the sense of foreboding.

Max shakes me. “Hey! You okay? You see something?”

“Gibbs . . . thought I saw him.” I shake my head, trying to clear it.

Max tucks me under his arm protectively and turns us, striding toward the return path. “Let’s go. You coming, Eric?”

“I’ll walk down with you, but then I have to get back.”

I’m numb. I allow Max to lead me, barely able to traverse the rock-strewn, mud-slicked passage to the bottom of the cliff. My ankle goes over once, but I push through the throbbing pain and keep on. All the while, I remain silent, listening to the volley of commentary between Max and Eric.

Max echoes my thoughts from earlier. “ . . . you think his aim is? Is he trying to ferret us out or playing a game of cat and mouse while he heals up?”

“Don’t know, man. Never trusted the guy far as I could pitch him. Not close to anyone, definitely not a team player, but feared—even by those above him. General Smith said someone high up is protecting Gibbs. Maybe someone’s helping the fucker survive.”

“Yeah, well, his luck is running out. If I ever lay eyes on him again, he’s as good as dead. ”The icy growl in Max’s tone is both comforting and scary.

“Amen to that, bro! Between the stab wound and the fall down the stairs, he shouldn’t be hard to take out.”

“My question is how he got access to the key to Marie’s collar. And did he always have it, or is this a new development?”

“Can’t exactly ask.”

“Maybe we need to set a trap—let Gibbs think he found us.”

Max’s idea shoots a burst of adrenaline to shoot through my veins, and I grip his arm. “But—” Before I can voice my objection, he stops walking and cups my wet cheeks between his palms, planting a kiss on my protesting lips.

“Don’t worry, China. Like Eric said—he’s injured. And I’m careful.”

Even though rivulets of cool water drip down my face and neck to soak my shirt, heat blooms in my belly, which does a thrilling flip when I gaze into Max’s eyes. They’re the most colorful things in the barren landscape, transparent twin aquamarines. His effect on me is intense; maybe he’s even using that fact to his advantage. But I know I can’t stop him from following through with this plan any more than he could stop me if I were determined to set the trap. I swallow hard and nod. “Okay.”

“That’s my brave girl.” He kisses me again, deeper and longer, his lips warm against mine despite the squall surrounding us.

Eric clears his throat. “PDA alert! Fall down the damn hill alert!”

Max pulls his mouth from mine, steadying me by the shoulders, and lunges toward Eric. “Throat punch alert!”

Eric feints to the right, laughing.

We part ways at the base of the cliff, exchanging promises to get in touch soon and work out a plan.

The return trip to the power plant is without incident though I can’t stop myself from panning the area for anything unusual. Max does the same thing, taking us on a circuitous and, at times, repetitive route home.

Once we’re safely ensconced in our private haven, Max tells me to grab some fresh clothes then leads me to the shower room. He runs the water, allowing steam to gather while he undresses me and then himself.

Taking my hand, Max helps me into the stall and closes the door behind us. He pulls me into his strong embrace and holds me as the soothing water sluices over us, slowly easing some of the tension.

I close my eyes and sag against him. “I’m so exhausted.”

“I know.” He places a chaste kiss on my forehead. “Let’s turn in early tonight, okay? I just—I need to hold you.”

I smile against his pec. “I’d like that.”

Drowsy and sated from the shower, we make our excuses, wrap up in each other’s arms, and drift to sleep.

In my dreams, a couple strolls along a cobblestone sidewalk in a stormy deluge, steam hissing and rising as fat drops strike the pavement. I follow behind, unconcerned about the pouring rain because for some reason, I seem protected, walking the edge of the storm.

The man holds an umbrella, angling it so he can keep dry but leaves the woman exposed to the stinging rain. I hurry after them, compelled to catch up both to reprimand him for being ungentlemanly and to find out who they are. There’s something eerily familiar about them. The clothing they wear seems odd—him in a casual shirt and shorts, her in a flowered sheath with upswept hair. Although they walk arm in arm, they seem ill-matched.

And then I realize what’s really bothering me about the couple, other than his overt rudeness. She’s leaning away, exposing herself to the elements in order to avoid drawing close to him.

No matter how fast I walk, I always seem to be half a block behind. “Hey!” I call out in desperation, sure they won’t hear me over the storm.

The man stops, yanking back on the woman’s arm when she tries to keep going. They stand with their backs to me as I break into a run, stopping a few feet away, my heart booming like a kettle drum. The longer they remain frozen in place, the more certain I become that something is very wrong.

“Hey . . .” The word is barely a whisper.

The man grips the woman’s bare arm hard enough to leave bruises and leads her around until they both face me.

I’m held in thrall by calculating gray eyes laced with a tinge of amusement. It startles me to see Gibbs dressed in preppy street clothes, face clean-shaven.

A deliberate smile widens his mouth. “Sweet Marie.” He grips my jaw while holding onto the woman’s arm. This should be impossible, considering the umbrella, which now floats in mid-air, protecting him. “Did you really believe I’d let you win?”

I struggle, but he refuses to let go, forcing my face toward the woman. “Look.”

I stare into her desperate eyes. My eyes. A silken ribbon encircles her neck—a red ribbon with a gold key dangling from the center.

“No!” I struggle, wrenching my jaw from his grasp.

Gibbs fingers the key hung around her neck and laughs, a low, satisfied rumble. “See? I can get to you any time I choose.”

I sit up in bed, startled and breathing heavily. Max grumbles in his sleep and tugs me back to the bed, wrapping his arms around me again. He sighs when I try to wiggle away but doesn’t awaken.

Realizing there’s no way to extricate myself without disturbing his much-needed sleep, I lie wide awake for a long time, heart pounding, imaging all the ways Gibbs might derail our happiness.

In the morning, I wake up alone and bleary-eyed. Spending half the night contemplating the many ways Gibbs could hurt us did not have a restorative effect. I yawn widely, stretching both arms toward the ceiling. When I open the door, Grace is lying in the hall, guarding my room. She rises, nudging her wet nose into my hand.

I kneel and scratch her behind the ears. “Good morning, Grace! Are you watching over me?” She stares earnestly into my eyes, as if trying to convey the depth of her love, then licks me from chin to forehead with several long laps.

Wondering where everyone is, I check the usual places and find them deserted. Eventually, I head for Tek’s command center. Even if I don’t find anyone there, I’ll be able to check the camera feeds. Grace pads along beside me, meeting my eyes often, leaving me to wonder what’s going through her mind.

We step off the elevator and follow the now-familiar labyrinth. The control room door is open, the conversation between Max and Tek drifting into the hall.

“ . . . deferred to you because you’re her brother, but this? Hell, no!”

“Just listen!”

Tek interrupts, raising his voice. “No, you listen. I won’t be part of it. Do you intend to tell Marie?”

I pause, stepping into a darkened doorway so I won’t be seen on camera. Grace follows obediently and sits next to me. I’ve never been one for eavesdropping, but this is a conversation I need to hear.

“Fuck!” There’s a loud slam. “I don’t want to tell her either, but I have to! Ali’s fragile, though. She doesn’t go out much, so I don’t understand why we need to worry her unnecessarily.”

“She’s not as fragile as you think. Besides, she’ll sense if I’m not being honest—you’re a much better liar than I am.”

“Thanks,” Max answers, heavy on the sarcasm. “Just keep your mouth shut.”

I hear Tek say, “I can’t agree to that,” followed by a much louder, “Get your hands off me!”

Scuffling ensues, along with a bevy of muffled curses.

I break cover and rush into the room, Grace trailing behind. Max has Tek pinned against the wall. I place a hand on Max’s shoulder. “Hey!” When neither of them acknowledges me, continuing an intense stare-down, I tighten my grip. “Max! What the hell?”

Max glares at Tek a few seconds longer before stepping out of range and holding his hands up. He looks at the floor, jaw tight, muscles rigid, chest rising and falling rapidly.

Tek sighs and straightens his shirt. I can’t help but compare the two—Max broad shouldered and muscular, Tek lanky and about fifty pounds lighter—and be somewhat amazed by the way Tek stood up to Max.

“What’s going on here?”

They both look everywhere but at me. Grace sits in front of me and whines, clearly unhappy with the tense atmosphere.

Max cups the back of his neck and starts pacing. “Shit, shit, shit!”

I ball both fists on my hips. “If one of you doesn’t start talking, I’m going to get Ali in on this.”

Max levels an angry gaze at me, managing to be intimidating from across the room. I have the urge to take a step back but force myself to stand my ground.

A low warning growl rumbling in Grace’s chest interrupts Max’s fury, and he covers his face with both hands. “Shit, China, I’m sorry.” His body sags as some of the tension melts from his muscular frame. He lowers his hands and reaches for me. Grace rises to her feet and bares her teeth, the rumbling growing louder. Max sinks to his knees. “It’s okay, girl.”

Grace lowers her head and sniffs the air, eventually shuffling forward to lick his hand. She glances my way and whines as if torn. Max ruffles her fur and gazes up at me with repentance.

“You’re such a good girl, Grace.” I use a soothing voice, speaking to her while looking into Max’s eyes. “Everything will be all right.”

Grace relaxes, putting both paws on Max’s shoulders and lavishing him with wet kisses.

Max rises and reaches for me. This time, Grace doesn’t object, and I lace my fingers between his. He pulls me against his chest, wrapping an arm around me, and kisses my temple. “I’m sorry.”

I smile into his shirt. “You already said.”

The leather chair squeaks as Tek sits before the bank of monitors and opens a laptop sitting on the desk. “What’s it gonna be?”

Max releases me from his embrace, keeping our fingers linked. “Do it. Show her.”

We gather around the computer, and Tek taps the track pad, the screen flaring to life. With a few clicks, he starts a program that brings up a window split into quarters, each block containing a “play” symbol to start a video.

“These clips were captured by the cameras we placed at the industrial park.” Tek hovers the cursor over the upper right square and taps the pad. A new window opens, filling the entire screen.

My heart speeds even though the little blue circle is still whirling. If there’s footage to show, the existence of which nearly caused Max and Tek to come to blows, it can’t be good news.

A cavernous warehouse appears. The concrete floor is littered with broken-open, overturned crates and hulking construction machinery. Tek fast forwards until a dark shape appears at the edge of the screen. “It starts here.”

A tall figure in a black hoodie and pants skulks along the perimeter of the room. His face is hidden inside the hood, obscured in shadow, but something about the way he moves causes my pulse to race.

“Is that . . .?” I don't finish the question.

“Yeah.” Max's tone is grim. He lays a comforting arm around my shoulders and kisses my hair.

Gibbs makes a few passes by the camera, occasionally going out of view. Tek forwards through another section of unoccupied warehouse footage. When he stops, the lighting has changed in the room, perhaps heralding the end of the day.

Gibbs appears, head still covered, carrying a small lantern and bedroll in his arms, a backpack hanging off one shoulder. Putting his things down, he maneuvers some of the broken crates into a pile between two huge pieces of equipment, building himself a hideaway.

Tek skips ahead several hours. The warehouse is dark, the grainy image turning a greenish hue since the camera switched to infrared mode. A bobbing circle of light dances around the room. A scuff sounds nearby against the concrete, and I realize for the first time how careful Gibbs must have been—the sounds of his earlier activity never registered.

A soft metallic click precedes a shadowy figure being driven to its knees a few feet from the camera.

“Ooph! It's me, dumb-ass!”

Gibbs morphs into the frame, the barrel of his gun pointed at the back of the other man's head. “I'm sorry, who's the dumb-ass? You shuffled in like a herd of water buffalo—could have taken you out before you knew what happened.” He expels an ugly laugh. “They sure as fuck don't train 'em like they used to.”

“Put away the toy, eh?” The figure, also garbed in a dark hoodie, rises and turns to face Gibbs, shoving the gun to the side. “Asshole.”

“What do you want?”

“He's not happy. You basically fucked things up over a piece of ass.”

Gibbs lunges forward, bumping chests with the other man without using his hands. The hood slips from his head, the side of his face appearing like a specter. “What. Do. You. Want?

Even in the scant light, I can tell how angry he is. I can't control the lump of fear that lodges in my chest, evoking the urge to escape even though I know he's not really here. Reading my body cues, Max tightens his hold and strokes my hair.

“To put you down like the dog you are, but that's not my decision.”

Gibbs laughs off the insult. “No, it's not your decision, is it, Lee? State your business and get the fuck out.” He brushes past, slamming his shoulder hard into the other man.

Lee slips a backpack from his shoulder and unzips it, handing things to Gibbs one by one. “Antibiotics. Requested toiletries. MREs. Cell phone.”

Gibbs accepts the items, placing some of the packages on the floor. He slips the cell phone into his pants. “And my other request?”

“Denied.” Lee's tone is laced with barely concealed glee.

Gibbs lets off a colorful string of curses. “Why?”

“He said you need to focus on what's at stake, forget your petty revenge fantasies. You should be leading soldiers, not hiding out like a fugitive.”

Gibbs fumes for a moment, a muscle in his jaw twitching. “You give him a message for me. Tell him this goes much deeper than revenge. There's another group out there, and it's a lot bigger than we anticipated. Dangerous.”

“Whatever. Take your anti-Bs, and try not to die from sepsis while the rest of us are pulling your weight.”

“Get out, maggot.”

Lee starts walking away then turns back to Gibbs. “Oh, he wanted me to give you one more message.”


Lee slams a fist into Gibbs' face, sending him stumbling back a few feet. Without another word, Lee slips from view, leaving Gibbs to cradle his bloodied nose.

“You'll pay for that,” Gibbs mutters.

Tek stops the feed. “And that's about all there is to see on that one. He disappears for a while then returns and settles into his nest to sleep. He only spent one night there. We caught some footage of him sleeping in one of the other buildings in this video the next night, and I'm not sure where the hell he's staying now.” Tek's finger moves from the lower left square to hover over the lower right. “We didn't catch anything on this one.”

I nod slowly, still stunned by the sight of the man who tried to rape me. Echoes of that awful day tease at the edges of my mind, but I shove them away. The last square in the upper left, the one most people would have chosen first, remains unmentioned.

I point. “What about that one? Is it blank, too?” Even as the question leaves my mouth, I already know the answer.

This video is what Max and Tek were fighting about.

Tek looks to Max.

Max faces me and tips my chin up. “It’s not blank. I don’t want you to watch it.” He already knows my answer; the resignation is plain on his face. “Do what she says, Tek.” His lids flutter shut, and he waits.

“Play it.”

Tek taps the track pad, and the video fills the screen. The camera is on a shelf in a supply room that’s been pretty well picked over. There are ransacked boxes and garbage littering the floor, metal shelving pulled away from the wall at a haphazard angle, and overturned office chairs. A corner of the room has been cleared of debris and set up with a sleeping bag, lantern, and backpack. A few MREs are stacked next to the wall.

Gibbs saunters in and flops down cross-legged, pulling out his cell phone. He appears to be texting though I’m not sure. His nose is swollen, a rainbow of reds, blues, and purples decorating his face. I can’t help but feel a twinge of triumph and hope the pain keeps him awake at night.

He puts the phone back and rises, moving toward the camera. He rummages on one of the lower shelves and freezes when he stands up, staring directly into the lens. His intense gray eyes look even creepier than I remember, cold and cruel. A slow smile spreads across his bruised face, and he plucks the camera off the shelf, holding it in his palm.

“Is that you, Sweet Marie? Are you watching me? Because I’ve been watching you.” He lowers his voice, going for smooth and seductive. “Do you miss my touch? Think about me when you lie in bed at night?”

My heart stutters. I want to look away, tell Tek to stop the video, but it’s as if I’m hypnotized.

His gray eyes fill the screen, a glint of amusement and something much darker sparking in their depths. “I have something to tell you, Sweet Marie, something to hold close on all those lonely nights. There are things that need to be done, but I haven’t forgotten you—and I can reach out and touch you wherever you are whenever I want.”


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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

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kimberly Gould Week 167: Turning Leaf

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Turning Leaf

Verte felt her power waning. She was still able to roam the earth in her human disguise, but her fae qualities would be harder and harder to hide as the summer turned to autumn. This was the no-man’s land between the summer and winter realm. The leaves had just begun to turn and crops were being brought in from the fields.

The road was familiar but also strange. Straight lines were a thing of men. Her heart meandered like the brook, and following her instincts, she turned away from the human dwellings and into the world she belonged.

The water moved where it had before and would again, the result of beaver handiwork, not men’s fences and dams. The brown creatures froliced not far away, though their play had the underpinnings of industry, mending and gathering. Even they were turning to face the coming winter.

Verte let her facade go, her hair green and skin barklike. She would stay until her green was odd among the red and gold. Then she would sleep like the muskrats, squirrels and weasels, waiting for spring to come again.


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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, September 6, 2015

Michael Wombat Week 166: The Road Warrior

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Michael Wombat’s Picture Choice: One

Title: The Road Warrior

Dennis. Yep, that’s my name. Dennis; beagle-hound extraordinaire and proud warrior of the road, at your service. That’s me, right up front with the wind tossing my ears, stalwartly leading the way as usual. Of course my hat and scarf are more a muddy grey-brown these days rather than their original vivid colours, but such are the signs of a true road warrior. My being lashed up here in all weathers is bound to have an effect. My job is vital, however. Without me cable-tied to the front of their dustcart the team’s morale would soon plummet, and they’d be constantly dropping rubbish all over the road. I’m the essential glue that holds them together, really. So essential that the bin lorry even has my name in huge silver letters across the front. Quite how the team coped before they found me I just can’t imagine. Of course, before they managed to free me and adopted me I wasn’t called Dennis. Back then I was called...

Please No Duvets. Yes, yes, I know. It was a ridiculous name. You see, I’ve always tried to conduct myself according to what Mr. Kaczmarek said all those years ago, and that sign stuck to the side of the recycling skip was the only thing nearby that had words on it. So ‘Please No Duvets’ I became. I wasn’t there long, luckily, for it was a place of endless tedium and discomfort. It stank, for one thing. Inside the skip flies and other unseen crawly things moved over my bottom, and outside my face gazed out over a tedious dirt car park. The worst part was when people said bad words at me for blocking the opening and they had to throw their unwanted detritus onto an ever-growing pile on the ground. Some folk tried to pull me out, but Gwynedd, as angry as a thunder sky, had jammed me in there as tightly as the stuffing in my paws. In her incandescent rage, she had lost any love that she once had for her cuddly...

Bythie. Apparently Gwynedd’s name for me was short for ‘bytheiad’, which she had told Huw meant ‘hound’. This had been the second time that a human had named me, and I rather liked it. Life with Gwynedd and Huw was joyful. They loved and laughed together constantly in their little house on the hill, or at least they had until that last day when Huw had loved and laughed with Mrs. Probert from the corner shop instead. When Gwynedd found them together in the narrow bed everything cracked apart. I was devastated. I had held such a special place in their now-shattered hearts, having been part of their first evening together when they met at the fair. Huw had won despite all of Mr. Llewellyn’s sneaky tricks, such as weighting the hoops differently, and when he asked a delighted Gwynedd which prize she wanted she said “Can I have the ci hyll, please?” She had kissed Huw and he had kissed her back. Their future together seemed so bright when I first saw them, back when my name was...

Hoopla. In those days I dangled by my ears from a string at the back of the gaudy, flashy stall. Fairground music played every night and coloured lights dazzled my glass eyes. I looked down on an endless stream of people happy to give Mr. Llewellyn a pound for the chance to fling his oddly-weighted hoops at stubby candy-striped wooden pegs. Very few people managed to get even one hoop over a peg, still fewer two. I was a three-hoop prize, there more for decoration than for winning. The occasional person who did somehow manage to ring three pegs never wanted the ugly dog in the bright hat, and would choose a fairy or amusing hat instead. It had been just the same before Mr. Llewellyn found me, too. No-one wanted me then either, and I was stuffed into a wicker basket, half-forgotten, until that fateful day when I heard Mr. Llewellyn say “Got any cheap stuffed toys?”

“In the basket, cariad,” the shop-woman said, and I felt large hands rummaging through and around me before lifting me out into the light.

“You’ll do, boyo,” Mr. Llewelyn nodded, paying twenty pence for me and fifty for a fairy that he also pulled from the bric-a-brac in the basket. That was the moment my name changed from...

Oxfam, I’m pleased to say. Oh, I loved my life in the odd little shop full of people’s cast-away treasures. There was plenty of time for people-watching from my high shelf above the books, and on the whole the customers were kind people. My name had to be ‘Oxfam’, of course, even though to my mind it was an ugly name with its spiky ‘X’. The word was written all around me, and had even been painted in enormous letters above the door when Emily’s mum had brought me here. I had been so nervous at what to expect as she had carried me through the door. Emily’s mum had told the shop-woman that Emily had gone away to learn how to be something called a lawyer, and so she was taking the chance to have a bit of a clear out. That day was a tremendous shock to my system, I can tell you, after years of being...

Cuggly. Years of being hugged, years of being loved, years of having the bobble on my hat sucked by Emily when she was very young and very tired. Oh my, we had such a wonderful life together. We had tea-parties on the carpet in the front room. When she went off to school I was always there to welcome her home. When she cried because Danny Potts had ignored her, I was there to comfort her. I sat on her desk during exams, bringing her the luck that helped her to get into university. So many long years of friendship and love since that long-ago day that she had pointed at me in the toy shop and said “Cuggly!”

“Are you sure?” her mum asked, “There are far prettier cuddlies.”

“Cuggly!” Emily had insisted, and so I became hers, leaving behind my life as...

Ten shillings. There were four or five of us sitting above the sign that said that. We were surrounded by bright notices and shiny cellophane-wrapped boxes of vivid colour that contained new toys. The laughter of happy smiling children rang around the shop, competing with the musical box tinklings of ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ emerging from the display on the shelf below us. This gaudy, noisy world fascinated me. Its entertainment value had been apparent immediately I had arrived, and it helped me to get over the initial shock I had felt when I was taken out of the dark, stifling box after hours of being thrown around and jostled. The happy, lively toy shop lifted my spirits, easing my transition from my previous existence as...

Wyjście pożarowe. That was my name when I was born. Those words in white letters on a green sign were my first sight as my eyes were stitched into place. I was passed from hand to gnarled hand, having my head stuffed, my paws sewn on and my tail attached. Mr. Kaczmarek spread glue liberally around my head. Ever the poet, as he stuck the gaudy hat permanently to my scalp he said the words that have stuck with me through all of my eight lives.

“It is odd to think,” he mused, “how all of these identical fabrications of cloth and glass will eventually end up with different names depending each upon their circumstance. People, and I daresay even places themselves, will name them and give them character.” He looked straight into my glass eyes.

“I wonder what your name will be?”

NOTE: In the UK and across Europe, many/most dustcarts are made by Dennis Eagle, and have DENNIS writ large across the front. See here


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Michael Wombat has published several books - search for him on Amazon, or go talk to him on Twitter where he is @wombat37.


Mark Ethridge Week 166: Hunting

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: Hunting

The streets were empty. The houses abandoned. Doors open, or missing, windows shattered. I walked along the middle of what had once been a street. The pavement was broken, fragmented, filled with potholes, with grass growing out of the cracks. I’d walked such streets before, looking for anything useful. Books, tools, fabric. Anything to help us survive.

I remembered the winters, the snow, the cold. When there’s no heat, except for a fire. Sleeping at night was the worst. Going to sleep, teeth chattering, body shivering, wondering if you’d wake up in the morning, or freeze to death during the night. Wondering which one would be the best thing to happen.

I’d found blankets, sheets, quilts, pillows, sleeping bags, in dozens of places, I’d carried plenty of them to the camp. Valerie learned to wash them in creeks, how to clean them, how to patch them, so they could be used as long as possible.

On these walks, these journeys to find what we needed, I travelled light. I carried only what I needed. A little water. A little food. My one man tent. one blanket. Sometimes, the nights were brutal. The mornings I woke, shivering, the tent straining to hold the weight of the snow that fell overnight. Me, hiding under a blanket, wishing I didn’t have to pack, didn’t have to walk in the snow.

Small towns were a gold mine. My feet were proof, my toes wiggled in the warm socks I’d found, the soles on the new shoes were thick, and kept my feet dry. “Someday we’ll run out of everything. Then what?”

I tried not to think of such things. What would happen when the shoes and socks were gone. When all the underwear was gone. When there was no more fabric. Hannah had worked with a group of the others to learn how to weave cloth. Rough cloth. Nothing like the fabric stores had been filled with. It was a mystery to me, how to make thread, then weave thread into cloth.

Batteries. Who’d have ever thought batteries would run out? It had been years since the world imploded, and everything fell apart. I still found batteries. Mostly AA. Most of them were dead. Never got used. Batteries meant flashlights, and that meant light at night. But the batteries were all but gone. Everything was dark at night.

As I walked through the town, I reached it’s center. The sign still stood, “Main Street”. There were a few stores and offices there, abandoned, of course. I checked each building. A small grocery, a drug store, a clothing store, a general store with tools, toys, even a few tablet computers. Totally useless, of course. There was no electricity.

I picked out a couple of hunting and survival knives, a hammer, a couple of boxes of nails, and a saw. Things we could use to build huts to live in. I filled a bag with bras and panties for the girls at camp. I found a couple of hair brushes, and added them to the bag.

The sun would set soon. I needed to get clear of the town, into the forest, and set up my tent. I knew not to stay in the town. Yes, I could have slept in a bed, and slept well. But, towns were where other people slept. The kind of people I didn’t want to meet.

The bag was easy enough to move, and I ran out of town. I abandoned the streets, and headed into the trees. I walked for an hour after the sun set before I picked out a place to set up my tent. I didn’t hop right in, instead, I stood outside. I listened for noises, the sounds of people walking, talking, laughing, even hunting. I prayed for silence. Only the sounds of nature.

I still had my bow and arrow, and I knew how to use them. I practiced daily, to keep my skills sharp. They’d saved me countless times. They’d saved the camp too. And set free dozens of women trapped in sex camps. I’d done a lot of good with my bow and arrow.

I’d killed a lot of men with my bow and arrow.

Until I wound up going back to what I’d done before I killed anyone. Hunting for supplies. Taking care of Valerie, Hannah, Kellie, and all the others. We’d found a few guys. Mostly scared loners, hiding from everyone, terrified of what the world had become. We all lived outside the camp. It kept the women safe, made them feel safe.

After a couple of hours, I figured no one was going to find me, and it was safe to sleep, so I collapsed in the tent. It was a peaceful night, after a quiet day. I always hoped for such. Before I succumbed to sleep, I said a silent prayer to the universe, “May tomorrow be another quiet day.”

I curled up under my blanket, and tried not to shiver. “I wish I had Valerie to hug.” The sun would rise in a few hours. I would rise before it.


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


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Denise Callaway Week 166: Set in Stone

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Denise Callaway’s Picture Choice: 2nd

Title: Set in Stone

long went the battle
that led to this moment
long went the season
and still he held strong
as the smoke cleared
he strode from the field
long held the moment
set in stone


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Denise finds herself lost in a field of dandelions. With one blow, her dandelion dreams transform into the words on a page. Some of those dreams have found their way to her website:


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 166: Ramblings From a Macabre Mind

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Ramblings From a Macabre Mind

I couldn’t stand the way John kept tapping my head as he walked passed with his pen.

“Use your head,” he’d say. “Gotta reach those targets.” Or “Exercise your brain, don’t want a walnut rattling around in there.” Again with the tapping.

I hated him.

So I used my head. Exercised my brain.

Funny what you can come up with when you put your mind to it. John was right on that score. I expected his brain to be different to mine, some supersized brain swollen with ideas, but it looked like most pictures I’d seen, at least the bits hanging off the end of claw hammer did . . .

As well as laziness, I suffered an overactive imagination. Suffered wasn’t strictly true. I loved what my (sometimes warped) mind came up with. I was always conjuring up new and wonderfully gory ways to do John in. He was that kind of person. But that’s all it was, imagination which I wrote down. One day, my dream to write for a living would happen. But until then, I would suffer John’s idea that my head was a drum.

My ideas even spawned a game, over lunch where we would all come up with John’s gruesome and often bloody demise. But I won; every time. It was the way I delivered it where they could hear the skull crack, feel the blood splatter and see the stoved in head where flesh and bone used to be. It was my gift. Words.

Until I had none. No one uttered a word; the effect of shock did that when someone you knew had been brutally murdered as he slept soundly. John. Words escaped my muddled mind, disappearing into the ether as the news sunk in.

But I wasn’t silent at my arrest. Profanities flew wildly like birds in a storm. My notebooks were thrust in front of me as evidence. My colleagues witnesses to my thoughts because I foolishly paraded my talent.

But my alibi, my sweet, sweet alibi, Cassandra, who I’d only been seeing for a month, was there to meet me when the police had to accept my innocence, accept my notes and stories as nothing but the ramblings from a macabre mind.

And that was the perfect murder. The office weirdo, the lazy but creative one. The one who did take the hammer to John’s soft flesh after shattering his skull into fragments, just as I had written. The one who started dating Cassandra purposely as an alibi; plied with alcohol and a sneaky sleeping tablet, she was oblivious to my absence. I’d tried and tested it, planting the idea in her bubble head that she always forgot what we got up to and then slept like the dead because she couldn’t handle her drink.

I’m still with Cassandra. One never knows when one may need to rid the world of annoying people like John. And my ideas are growing.


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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


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Laura James Week 166: Parasites of the Death Industry

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Parasites of the Death Industry

Before you read my wee tale, I have to say a word of thanks to Ruth Long as it was a conversation with her that provided me with the title of my tale and gave it a purpose.

Malcolm watched, munching away on a Cheese and pickle sandwich as the cargo was loaded in the tanker. He knew the others despised his lack of respect but then he'd been doing this job for several months and no longer cared.

Malcolm signed a receipt for the load and jumped into the cab. "See you guys for the next run." Putting the truck into gear he sped off, a long day journey ahead of him. Tuning the radio to an oldies station he was soon in a world of his own singing along to old songs his mother had played when he was young.

His mind drifted back to the previous year when his life changed. The world was running out of oil and coal, renewable energy didn't produce enough power. A new source of energy had to be found whilst the world waited for nuclear power stations to be built. It was amazingly simple and Malcolm had always wondered why no one had thought of it before.

They started to burn the dead en masse. Factories were built, the dead were delivered around the clock and the lights stayed on.

The days travel passed in a blur of roads and protests. Not everyone was happy about this new process of producing power but no one had dared attack the haulage vehicles out of respect for the dead. Malcolm was the last haulier, the rest had either caved under religious pressure or had been unable to travel the country knowing what they carried behind them. Malcolm didn't care and planned to milk this opportunity for as long as he could. He was becoming a very rich man.

Driving through the gates of the factory Malcolm made his way to the unloading bay and reversed. It was a simple process to unload the bodies and within minutes he heard the thuds of the dead as they fell towards their fiery end. Soon billowing smoke from the chimneys let him know that his delivery had been accepted.

Malcolm checked his phone and found that the processing centre in Aberdeen had a collection for him. Whistling he set off.


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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