Tuesday, April 30, 2013

J M Blackman Week 45: Stairs

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Stairs

I. Stairs separate us,
stone and dust and hard distance:
two families split.

II. Sometimes the distance
Is nothing. Mere inches now.
We meet across it.

III. Quick touches, kisses,
And flittering embraces.
Now: stone is nothing.

IV. Nothing? The stone bleeds.
No, it is bled upon. No,
Love bleeds. Fast. Free. Gone.


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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacheri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Jen DeSantis Week 45: Into the Darkness (Part 4)

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 1

Title: Into the Darkness (Part 4)

I walked past the room with the heart locked in a jar and stumbled through the rest of the house. It seemed to go on forever, impossibly big. I felt as though I’d been walking for an entire city block. But on the outside, the house was no bigger than any other row home.

Time seemed to move strangely within the walls as well. The light shifted from dark to light and then back to dark again, almost as if the sun had sped up in it’s rotation around the earth. But it had only been about an hour since I’d stumbled in blindly behind Lani. Hadn’t it?

I tripped twice going up a rickety set of steps, but was surprised to see a soft glow of light underneath one of the doors along the corridor. I moved quickly, eager to get within the light that looked both warm and welcoming. I pushed the door too hard and it banged noisily against the wall. Inside, what I saw stopped me dead in my tracks.

A little boy, no more than seven or eight, stood on ladder in front of a wall of books. He never even turned when I opened the door, just kept looking intently at the books in front of him.

“Hey, little guy,” I said, my voice barely a whisper. “Whatcha doing in here?”

“Obviously looking at books,” he muttered without turning. “Did the house send you?”

“‘Scuse me?”

He shook his small head, the auburn locks moving back and forth, but he still didn’t look at me.

“I said, did the house send you? Or are you stuck like I am?”

“My friend...” I felt my knees buckle, but I struggled to remain on my feet. “My friend got lost. I’m looking for her.”

The little boy snapped the book he was reading closed and turned his head slowly. He had pale blue eyes, so light they almost looked white. His skin was almost translucent and he bore a look of weariness no other child could even begin to match.

“So,” he whispered, “the house took someone else. Come on.” He gestured for me to come closer. “We might get some answers in here.”

“Answers to what?”

“Where it took them. I’m Ryan, and I’m looking for my sister Lily. Who are you?”

“Kevin.” I moved to reach out my hand and then froze. “Wait, did you say Ryan?”

He nodded.

“Lani called me by that name when she was reading this place.”

“Lani is the woman you lost?”

“Yeah. She can tell things about places just by feeling it. She’s kind of psychic.”

Ryan laughed. It was a cold, feelingless sound. “So was Lily. Is. So is Lily. Anyway, they’re somewhere deep inside the house, I think. And we need to find them. I hear her sometimes … sighing and calling my name. I just don’t know where it took her, or why. Better get to work.”

He turned back to the books and I shook my head in confusion. So many questions raced through my mind. Instead of bothering the young boy, I turned the books with resolution. Maybe, as he said, some answers might be found within the old, dusty pages.

As I opened the first book, somewhere below me a little girl sighed.


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Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Interested in Joining the Daily Picspiration?

Have you enjoyed reading your Daily Picspiration? Have you wanted to try it yourself? Now is your opportunity! We have one opening in our regular posting schedule (every other week) and two floater positions (fill ins when someone is sick).

Please email me at burntcore@gmail.com if interested and to get more information.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cara Michaels Week 44: Discarded

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice:

Title: Discarded

An open door in a city apartment didn’t have to be a bad sign. The resident could have just arrived home with arms full. Maybe company was on the way up. Or perhaps a transplanted suburbanite hadn’t embraced the paranoia of city life. Whatever the case, this door had been pushed to, but not closed.

“Aw, man.” At my shoulder, my partner, Dina, unsnapped the holster at her right hip. “Rosie knows better than to let just anyone in.”

“Rose Zimmer?” I rapped my knuckles on the door. “Tampa P.D.”

Five seconds, then ten, passed without a response.

“Rosie? It’s Detectives Angeles and Bailey.” I eased my Sig from its holster. In my mind, the case we’d spent six months building, vanished in a puff of smoke.

“Not good.” Dina shifted from foot to foot, restless. We hadn’t made contact with Rosie in a few days. “This is so not good.”

Another knock and announce went unanswered.

“Looks clean.” Dina inspected the lock and door frame. “If it’s forced entry, they knew what they were doing. Forensics will have to take it apart to know for sure.”

“You ready?”

I pushed the door wide, coughing as the stale air stirred and hit my nose.

Death’s bouquet smothered the small apartment. The stench suggested decomposition at least two to three days underway. Rosie’s cat strolled by, well-fed enough to have Dina groaning.

“Shit. I forgot she had a damn cat.” She holstered her gun with a disgusted snort. “C’mon, Puss. Show me to the buffet.” She followed the gray and black tabby down a short hall.

I walked the living and kitchen areas, eyes sharp. A scattering of junk mail covered the pass-through from kitchen to dining room. An opened bottle of cheap red wine, two-thirds full, sat next to an almost full glass. Up close, the print of glossed lips marred the edge of the balloon style glass.

On the side table next to an ancient, olive green recliner, the reading glasses Rosie always wore perched on the end of her long nose, filmy with dust and fingerprints, rested atop a generic bible. From the look of the spine, it didn’t get much use; more set decoration than soul searching. Or perhaps a last minute attempt to reconcile with the universal powers that be.

“Jae.” Dina stood by the door to the bedroom, her face pale. Her knuckles turned white around the grip of her gun, arms stiff and close to her body. She gave a sideways nod. “She’s in here.”

Ten quick steps closed the distance between us.

“What the fuck?” She lay next to a narrow bed, the covers neat, in a broken pool of flesh and bone, little blood evident beyond the cat’s snacking. She looked more like a discarded human suit than a person. Postmortem predation aside, I found no classier words to describe Rose Zimmer in death.

“A human can’t do this to another human.” Dina’s wide eyes met mine.

If humans had drawstrings, we might be able to look like this; bunched up, folded, bent in ways human bodies couldn’t manage with our pesky bones getting in the way. What could destroy the internal structure of a body, yet leave the outside intact?

“Maybe—” The thought stalled, no brilliant follow through surfacing to shed some understanding.

I wanted to promise Rosie we’d find her murderer, but I couldn’t even be sure the M.E. would explain how, much less give us some direction toward a who… or what.

“Let’s call it in,” Dina said. “All we can do is hope the investigation turns up a lead.”

I nodded, remembering the bible on the table, wondering if Rosie had prayed for salvation.

Wondering if she’d understood what Dina and I could make no sense of yet.

Wondering if we’d even recognize a lead if we saw one.


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


Friday, April 26, 2013

M L Gammella Week 44: Tracing a Revolution - Part 2

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Tracing a Revolution - Part 2

Trace hurtled through the sky towards the Corporation building. The air whistled past her ears, her hair plastered against her head. Within seconds, she smacked up against the imposing structure.

She was prepared for this. Trace had adjusted her body to absorb the impact so she remained unhurt. With a slight bounce, her body repelled from the wall. Trace carefully moved along the seams of the building, her fingers and toes digging into the tenuous holds.

She shuffled until she arrived at a small, private balcony. The advantages of being the big shot, Trace thought to herself as she laughed without humor.

Once over the edge of the railing of the balcony, her feet landed with a soft thud. Trace retracted the amarid floss and pocketed her tools.

The door to the balcony wasn’t locked at all. Who’d expect someone to walk in from the outside, this far up? Trace was almost disappointed. She enjoyed lock-picking, especially high-end electronic locking mechanisms. However, the open door saved her several minutes of valuable time.

She scanned the door to make sure there wasn’t any other kind of security features that weren’t readily seen. Nothing came up on her equipment. The President of the Corporation was apparently very confident in the safety of his office.

Trace gently opened the door and slipped inside. The door didn’t make a sound as it shut. Perfect. She needed access to the mainframe to plant her chip, and she would need to start here. The actual system was much farther down in the depths of the building but she needed his security clearance.

It would have been easier to steal the security clearance of one of the mainframe techs, but their low level clearance wouldn’t give her the access she needed. Only the President had that. So she went right for the top.

The President’s office was large, the main room was nearly half of the whole floor. His massive desk dominated one part of the room, flanked by touchpads, computer screens, and other electronics. There was also a more informal part of the room that had a chaise lounge and a beverage service with a large crystal decanter. There were three doors, two were on each side of his desk area and one was more central to the room. That was the elevator door, disguised to look like the other wooden doors. Very clever.

Trace didn’t waste any more time looking around the room and ran over to the President’s desk to his main computer interface. She began typing rapidly on the screen as she searched for the information she needed.

Trace almost found it when she heard the swoosh of the elevator car approaching and the ding as it came to a stop. She looked around wildly to find a place to hide. The room was just far too open and the balcony was all glass, so no hiding outside. She’d have to take a chance with one of the nearby doors and hope that she wouldn’t get caught.

Before making a break for it, she slipped an eavesdropping microchip under the desktop and cleared her search query from the computer. Trace opened her connection to the microchip and ran for the door. Trace had just pulled the door shut to the adjoining room when the elevator door slid open.

“I want the latest report on the activity in Sector C right away,” the President demanded, his steps powerful and unwavering.

“Yes, sir,” a timid voice said, whose steps paralleled the voice. This person, maybe an assistant, was clearly intimidated by the President.

“After that, send Joanie up here when you leave. I am also not to be disturbed for the rest of the day. Understood?”

Trace listened to a clink of glass and splash of liquid. The President must’ve been pouring himself a drink. Afterward, his steps increased in volume, Trace assumed that he was approaching the desk..

“Yes, sir,” the same voice repeated, squeaking out the phrase. “The report is spooling now. It will be on your desk in less than a minute.”

“Great. Now, why are you still here?”

“Oh! Ah, yes, sir. I’m going now, sir. Thank you, sir.” Hurried footsteps scurried away toward the elevator. An answering chime, swish of the door, and the assistant was gone.

The microphone in the planted microchip was very good. Trace could hear every movement the President made, every sigh.

The elevator dinged again, and the president sighed happily this time, his clothes rustling. “Bout damn time,” he muttered.

Women’s heels clicked across the floor without hesitation, unlike the timid assistant.

“You wanted to see me sir?”

This must be Joanie.

“Yes, I did.” The President paused in his speech. His voice dropped when he spoke again. “I’m glad you came dressed appropriately.”

When the woman spoke again, her voice was much closer, like she was on the immediate other side of the desk. “Well, I remembered last time how frustrated you were over the amount of layers you had to deal with. I certainly wouldn’t want to do that again,” she said.

“Yes,” he agreed. “I wouldn’t want that either. Give me a moment to finish reading this.”

“Mmm, why don’t I just start without you?” Snaps popped, a zipper opened. “Encourage you to hurry up.”

“You never wanted me to hurry before,” he commented.

“I think you know what I mean.” The whisper of clothes sliding to the floor was the only sound.

Trace wished the pick-up on the microchip wasn't as good as it was, or that she could turn it off without permanently disabling it. The slurpy sounds of sucking and the occasional moan came through into her ear crystal clear, like she was right there. She nearly gagged over some of the things the President said as he rammed his dick down Joanie's eager throat.

After a final, satisfied grunt, the President commented, "You certainly know how to take the edge off."

"My pleasure, sir," Joanie purred. Fabric rustled.

"Hmm, don't get dressed. I'm not done with you yet."

"Oh?" she asked.


The President stood, the sound of his chair sliding back a gentle sound compared to the other things Trace had heard.

"As great as your mouth feels, your pussy will feel much better."

"Anything you want sir," she replied, excitement in her voice.

The man laughed, but it seemed without much humor. "What I truly want, you can't give me. But, in the meantime, I'll satisfy myself by taking you over and over again."

Footsteps increased in volume. The President and Joanie were moving toward where Trace was hiding.

Shit, she thought. Trace was in a bedroom, perfect place to hide provided the President wasn't going to use it for some daytime stress relief. Looking around quickly, Trace was running out of options. There wasn't a closet in the room, but there looked to be enough room under the mattress. The frame was raised from the floor, like old-fashioned beds were made. She quickly darted underneath the bed, knowing full well what she was about to subjugate herself to while she was trapped in there. The door burst open, just as she completely slid under the bed. The President and Joanie were all over one another, kissing and rapidly removing their remaining articles of clothing.

Trace had to admit that while the President may have been a corrupt man with no real redeeming qualities but he kept himself in shape. She surmised that his physically attractiveness must've been a part of his lure, how was able to do the horrible things he was able to do.

The two tumbled on the bed, where the President quickly positioned Joanie where he wanted. Not that it took much effort. Joanie was quite willing, and even offered suggestions. Before much time had passed, the rhythmic sounds of skin slapping skin as he pounded into her resounded across the room. Just when Trace thought he might be done, he got his second wind and kept going. Joanie wasn't complaining one bit. The President had an impressive stamina for his age.

As impressive as it was, it was all Trace could do to keep from screaming. It was a horrible kind of torture to have to listen to the President get his jollies off with his secretary, when all she wanted to do was run into the next room and get the information she needed.

Finally, much to Trace’s relief, the President was finally sated and fell asleep, snoring loudly. When she didn’t hear any movement from the secretary, Trace slowly crawled out of her hiding spot under the bed. She stayed low to the floor as she inched her way to the door. THe last thing she needed as for one of them to wake up and see her in the room.

With a final glance at the bed, Trace reached up and quietly opened the door. The soft hiss of the door opening, that was normally barely noticable, sounded like a roar in the stillness of the room When no movement or sound came from the bed, Trace scurried through the door and back into business.

Trace disconnected the eavesdropping chip and downloaded the data to her wrist cuff. Most of the information she would need soon would be from the chip. She needed to know how the President interfaced with his computer.

As it downloaded and her pre-programmed algorithms began processing the information, she clicked away at the computer. Occasionally she referenced the data gathering on her cuff. The Corporation’s system was tricky and it took all of her concentration to work through the levels of security. Normally, she didn’t allow herself to be so soley focused but this was too important.

“What do you think you are doing?”

Trace’s head whipped around. The secretary, dressed in a soft, black robe, walked toward her as the bedroom door whispered shut behind her.

“It’s probably best that you don’t know,” Trace replied as she slid her hand into her pocket, wrapping her fingers around her weapon.

“If you’ve blown my cover, I will kill you,” Joanie seethed.

Trace stopped short, looking at the woman with suspicion. “What cover?”

“You idiot. I’m a part of the rebellion. I’m assuming based on what you are trying to do that you are a part of the same.”

Trace blinked, completely caught off guard ... which didn’t happen often. “I don’t believe you. You are trying to trap me.”

The woman that Trace knew as Joanie laughed. “Why? I just admitted to being a part of the rebellion. What benefit would I have for making that up?”

“To give me a false sense of security, so you can stop me.”

Joanie shook her head. “Not this time. I want the same things you do, I just have a different method.”

Trace tapped a few more times on the computer, not wanting to comment on what she thought of the other woman’s methods.

“Why would they send me in if you were already inside?”

Joanie shrugged as she picked at a fingernail. “My methods, while effective, are time consuming. They probably got tired of waiting for me to bring them some hard facts.”

“Looks like you were getting it pretty hard earlier,” Trace mumbled under her breathe, but not quietly enough.

Joanie’s nostrils flared as her brow furrowed. “I don’t question what you do. You don’t get to question mine. They are both effective, just in different ways.”

“Yours is not a way I’d choose.”

Joanie shrugged. “Doesn’t make a difference to me. Like I said, we are on the same team.”

Trace nodded as something blinked on her cuff, trying to get her attention. She still didn’t believe Joanie but now was not the time to argue with her.

“My time is up. I have to leave,” she said, wiping her access into the President’s computer.

“Did you get what you sought?”

Trace didn’t reply, only quickly walked out of the room and onto the balcony. Her amarid floss was flying through the air before she stopped at the edge. With a final backward glance at the other woman, Trace jumped off the balcony, hanging onto the floss as it guided her to a nearby building.

Dusk was beginning to settle in the city. Trace found a perch along the water where she could think about everything that happened. Her superiors would want her report soon, but she wasn’t quite ready to file that report. There were too many questions and not enough answers.


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

M L Gammella lives in Ohio with her husband and their three pets. She is currently working on her first novel, a paranormal suspense based in Maine. Please follow her at @MLGammella and visit her website at Onward to the Written Word.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jenn Baker Week 44: The Hidden Me

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Jenn Baker’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Hidden Me

I have an invisible side, one that is hidden from everyone. Raven is the dark side to my normal light hearted, carefree side. She has been around for as long as I can remember. She is lurking in the background, waiting for me to be distracted, so she can come out to play. She isn’t evil, just dark.

Raven has to be controlled. She is capable of causing chaos and destruction. When she is in control, all I can do is watch. We both have unique abilities and they seem to be opposite of each other, just like we are opposites. I am able to communicate with most mammals, while Raven can only communicate with snakes, bats, and some birds. I am able to cross the barrier to the realm of the fey and learn the healing arts from them. She crosses over to Tartarus and watches the tortures the evil endure for eternity.

I’ve been fighting for so long to keep her from escaping, but it will inevitably happen. When it does, I don’t know what chaos and destruction she will cause. Last time, she blew up an abandoned warehouse. She danced near the flames enjoying the destruction. I’m afraid of what she will do. I keep hoping that my goodness will keep her from ever venturing in to the realm of evil but I don’t know if I’m strong enough to prevent it.

I must stay on my guard. I can’t let my control slip. The second it does, Raven will pounce.


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

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


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kimberly Gould Week 44: Drawn to Love

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Drawn to Love

Her pencil flew across the paper. Rushing to get her idea down, the result was a sloppy, smudged mess. Justin could make out the scarecrow, the scythe and that was about it.

“What is it?” he asked.

“You’ll see,” she promised. “Did you want to go?” she asked, closing her sketchbook.

“I’m not in a hurry,” he said, taking her hand. He chuckled at the graphite smears on the side of it.

Donna pulled her hand back, her face colouring behind her thick framed tortoiseshell glasses. They were as off-fashion as the rest of her—spiky hair, rough and worn cardigan. Justin’s friends complained she was trying to be Hipster. Justin had been her friend long enough to know it wasn’t the case. She honestly didn’t know what was in fashion and didn’t care if it was. There was no one like Donna and that was exactly how it should be. A Hipster would be trying to stand out. Donna didn’t care if she fit in or not.

A year ago, he wouldn’t be here with his neighbourhood friend. He’d be chasing the cheerleaders with his friends. Since dating one, however, he realized how infinitely more interesting his old friend was.

“Well, go on. Show me what it is,” Justin complained, pointing to her notebook. “I’ll get us more coffee.” He waited at the counter while she pulled out coloured pencils and turned the page, flipping back and forth between new and old images. He couldn’t see what she drew, but Justin could see the concentration on her face.

He set the coffee cup carefully in the middle of the table, nowhere near her hands. She didn’t notice him as she switched pencils, adding more colour to the new picture. Justin couldn’t see it, only the first rough draft.

At last, she spied the steaming cup and started in surprise. She shook her head and took the handle in her agile fingers, sipping. “Thank you,” she told him.

“No problem. Can I see it yet?”

“Um, it’s not finished.” She blushed and he thought he might have to lean across the table and kiss her if she kept it up. He hadn’t made any bold moves yet, afraid of scaring her away. She’d had a couple of brutal boyfriends, mean guys that expected her to keep up with them and ditched her when she couldn’t. One who thought she was an easy piece of tail and spread rumors when she didn’t put out. That one had been in Justin’s circle of friends, but Justin refused to be anywhere near him after that happened. Douchebag.

“I don’t mind,” he told her, brushing the back of her hand. He tried to pull it down to the table, release her grip on the sketchbook.

Looking down, she finally did as he indicated and showed him the drawing. A beautiful dark-haired woman held the scythe and the scarecrow with his feathered companions looked like an omen of what she would do next.

“Wow, Donna. That looks great.”

“You think so?” she asked, picking up one of the coloured pencils and adding a little more detail to the woman.

“Who is she?” he asked.

Donna shrugged. “I had a dream about her. It just came back to me. Thanks for waiting while I did this. I know you wanted to get home in time for the game.”

Justin couldn’t care less about basketball now. “I’m happy to spend time with you.”

She stuck her hands in her lap and looked away. “You wouldn’t rather be with someone else?”

Justin reached across the small table and touched her cheek. “No, Donna. I wouldn’t rather be with anyone else.”

Her eyes went wide behind her glasses, shocked. What the hell, why not shock her a little more? Justin leaned forward and brushed her lips with his own, the barest of kisses. He sat back down and sipped his coffee.

Donna’s hand came to her lips, covering her mouth. When she dropped it, a smile was prominent, one she usually saved for their trips to the Gallery district. She turned the page and started a new sketch. A couple.


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

Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege and the upcoming Thickness of Blood. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including Kimmydonn.com


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Samantha Lee Week 44: Lover Scorned

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Lover Scorned

The vase hits the wall just beside my head and shatters into a hundred pieces and setting off an explosion of treated water and three-week old flowers. I have to admit, it is not my most welcoming homecoming.

Vivienne stands in the middle of the room, her hands fisted at her sides, her anger so fierce that it lifts her hair like an invisible breeze and sets her eyes aglow like two captured suns. Despite being well below five feet tall and possessing a lithe and slender figure, my former lady love can pull off intimidating quite well when she sets her mind to it. I sigh and consider walking back out; perhaps if I try again later I will find my home as I wish it - empty.

Vivienne's gaze narrows, her anger changing to fury between heartbeats. "You sent me a Dear Jane letter. You didn't even have the decency to face me after everything we've been through together! Did you honestly, truly believe that I would just read your letter, shed a few tears, shrug, and move on?"

Well, when she puts it like that, it does seem rather unlikely. I sigh again and close the door; there is no need for the neighbours to hear what's coming.

"My brother is dead," I remind her, keeping my tone cold and indifferent; I do not want for her to read more into my emotions that there is. "He was not a good man, not by any stretch, I know, but he was my brother and, in our own way, we loved each others as brothers ought, despite everything else. And now he is dead, turned to ash and by your hand. You killed him."

"I'm sorry. No, what am I saying? I'm not sorry - not at all. That man, and I use the term loosely at best, was a bastard, I'm glad I killed him, good riddance. I hereby revoke my 'I'm sorry'...except that I am sorry I upset you so, um, maybe 'never mind' is what I'm going for here."

I scrub my hands over my face and walk away from her. I go into my kitchen and get a glass of water in the vain hope that when I turn back around, she will have understood and left.

My glass explodes in my hand, shattered by the knicknack Vivienne throws hard enough to dent my stainless steel refrigerator. I never did possess much luck.

"Did you mean what you said?" she demands. Already she is holding a lamp in her hands, preparing for her next assault. I wish I had fallen for someone a slight more sane; it would be easier on the decor if nothing else.

"That would be depend," I tell her tiredly, "on what specific thing I said you are asking after."

She rolls her eyes as though it should be obvious. "Before your brother, before that ball, before this adventure's stupid climax, when you said you loved me, did you mean that?"

"At the time, I thought I did." Am I evading? I do not know, perhaps. Right now, my emotions are too raw and entangled with grief to be clear. I know...I remember how I felt that morning. I remember waking up and feeling the weight of her pressed close against my side, her head on my chest, and the flush of happiness, of pure contentment, that filled me at that moment. It was unlike anything else I have ever experienced. But then Vivienne stirred, nuzzling closer and murmuring my name and suddenly I recognized the depth of trust Vivienne had in me and my earlier happiness was nothing compared to what had filled me then and so I had voiced the words that gave those feelings shape, not realizing until she responded in kind that she had been as asleep as I had thought.

I meant the words then, in that moment, but that was then, when my brother was alive and I still held a place in a mother's heart.

Now...now was the dawning of the light and restoration of logic; what place and value did words said in a moment of passion hold now?

"You're an idiot, Tru, and do you know why?"

I close my eyes and rub at the bridge of my nose. "I am certain you intend to enlighten me."

"I'm a Queen of Faerie, Tru. I know already that I'm going to go on and accomplish something great. Heck, my stepmother killed my father and stole my throne, just try and tell me that's not the stuff of legend! No, I'm going to have the sort of life that will be passed on in stories and talked about for eons to come, the sort of life full of tropes and cliches and corny monologues that always seem to go on three minutes too long. I'm going to have villains and battles and politics galore. I'm going to be take on and abandon titles the way supermodels go through clothes; queen, martyr, savior, sadist, schemer, warrior, bitch...they won't always be pretty. I'll be loved, I'll be hated, I'll be ridiculed, I'll be praised - hell, I'll probably be the topic of more than a few terms papers somewhere in all of that to boot."

I blink, not following her argument. "I am an idiot because you are destined to be legendary?"

Exasperated, Vivienne throws up her hands and lets loose a string of Celtic expletives. "Gah, no! You're an idiot because, newsflash, I don't freaking care how history remembers me or how the future judges my actions, past or present. There's only one thing I care about when it comes to my story, and do you know what that is, you big blockhead?"

I glare at her but hold my tongue, shaking my head to avoid the temptation to strangle her.

"The only thing I want history to know, only thing I want the world to know, is that when I go about all the great things I'll one day do, that I wasn't alone, that I had you."

I frown. "I do not understand."

Tears slip free to flow down her cheeks and Vivienne lets out a hollow laugh. "No, you wouldn't, would you? Tru, what I'm trying to say here is that I want to share my story with you. I want to be with you, wake up with you, live with you, grow with you, fight with you, and everything else you could ever even conceive of ever doing - I want to do it all with you. I want to make you smile and laugh because you're way too serious and I want you to have fun and be you without worrying about, well, anything. I want you and me to be an us. I want us to go down in history as one of those super couples like Lancelot and Guenivere, Victoria and Albert, Wesley and Buttercup."

"You want to be with me because it will spice up your autobiography?" I asked, infuriated and insulted by the very thought.

Vivienne growls and paces the room once before answering. "I'm explaining this horribly, Tru, but in the end, I can dress this up with all the pretty words you want or I can just tell you that I love you, Tru, in the fierce, passionate, all-consuming, makes-you-act-stupid sort of way that you never expect until it's already too late to turn back because you're already lost. I love you, Tru, and I'm sorry that I've hurt you."

It is now my turn to roll my eyes and toss my hands in exasperation. "Love, Vivienne? LOVE?! You are a Queen of Faerie, I am a prince of vampires, as incompatible as fire and gasoline, and you wish up to Mate? We are immortal; forever is not just an abstract for us, it is a legitimate possibility."

Looking annoyed, Vivienne tosses her hair and fixes me one of her more lethal glares. "Darling, don't be afraid I have loved you for a thousand years. I'll love you for a thousand more. And a thousand more after that. And after that. And so on, until time itself runs out and the world at long last comes to its last breath and I stand there witnessing it all in your arms. Where I'm meant to be, where I belong. Simple as that."

"Given your track record, I doubt that."

"Where's your faith and trust, Peter Pan? We'll start with today, strive for forever, and worry about the in-between parts later. So, what do you say? Are you...with me?"

That was the question now, wasn't it?


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You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at calliopedomain.blogspot.ca


Monday, April 22, 2013

M L Gammella Week 44: Spring

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Spring


Spring meant walks along the gravel path, dotted with heavy-headed Brown-Eyed Susans.

I looked forward to those warm days, when I would run my hands across the blooms, relishing the velvety texture of the petals.

Bees buzzed, crickets chirped, and birds sang, all a song for me as I walked in the midst of their kingdom.

I think of those walks now, when the warm breeze of spring caresses my cheek. I long to run my fingers along those petals, but my body is no longer capable of going on those walks. My memory has to be enough, as even if I could walk along that path, my fading eyesight would only tease me with blurry glimpses of such happy sights.

Spring meant rebirth and new life, the world in a tizzy to grow again.

But for me, it was another reminder of what has passed me by. The world is made for the young, for the old can’t keep up.

So I shall wait until the world catches up, to collect me. So I can be reborn in the Spring, and take those walks along the Brown-Eyed Susans again.


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M L Gammella lives in Ohio with her husband and their three pets. She is currently working on her first novel, a paranormal suspense based in Maine. Please follow her at @MLGammella and visit her website at Onward to the Written Word.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ruth Long Week 43: The Devil's Adversary

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Devil's Adversary

I took a long drag off the oxygen tank as I looked across the table. Pretty face, sweet curves and shameless expectation. Some folks just couldn’t be content. No matter how good their fortune, they always wanted more. And that’s how they ended up sitting in this back alley dive with me.

A wrinkled waitress with eyes beady as a rat’s shuffled over and slopped some coffee into my chipped cup. The amber liquid looked toxic and smelled burnt but since I knew it wasn’t going to kill me, that road having been long ago mapped out for me, I slogged the down the sludge and waited for it to knot up my gut real good before getting down to business.

I cleared my throat and leaned back in the chair. “So, you want to be an actress, that right? And you come to me ‘cause you heard I can make things happen.”

She nodded, blonde curls dancing down her spine, peachy mouth fashioned into a picture perfect smile. “Yes, ma’am, I do. Name your price and I’ll pay it.”

They all said that, every last one of them, their faces full of hope and hearts empty as a government brain trust. A howl of laughter tore its way up my esophagus and out my thin blue lizard lips, winding me like I’d run a marathon, and I had to take a couple more hits off the blasted tank.

Scowling at the source of my discomfort, I said, “You’ll pay, girl, but not the way you think.”

The smile slipped for a moment. “You want something other than money for your services?”

“That, I do. Seems only fair, seeing how I can provide you what no one else can.”

Reality always brought them up short, like a pimple in the crevice of an ear or nose, hideous and unsettling but mesmerizing in its own grotesque way.

I could see she was thinking it over, well, much as a spineless nitwit could think. Wasn’t nice to characterize her like a wart on the frog of life. Not much humanity left in my old bones this late in the day. Better move fast if I wanted to get this last soul in the hopper.

I gave her a bitter taste of what was to come. “You want to see your name in lights, my pretty, the price is the death of your parents.”

A startled cry fell from her beautifully botoxed lips.

“You want to upgrade to the A-List celebrity rating, that’ll cost you your health. You’ll still be completely gorgeous on the outside. Your insides, however, will be rotten as trichinosis riddled pork. Won’t kill you, just keep you in excruciating pain, but hey, public accolades make a comely nursemaid.”

She sat there twisting peroxided locks round her spray-tanned hands and mulling it over, like we were discussing the merits of higher education or social activism, and all the while, my blood was becoming dusty chalk in my veins, parched and merciless as sand in an hourglass. But in spite of the agony, I would fight for her with my last …

… I floated to the ceiling, weightless and boneless, and folks gathered around my body but blondie backed towards the exit. Smart girl, for moments later an ambulance arrived and a paramedic strode in.

He pushed through the crowd, gruff and heavy-handed, grasped the collar of my coat and hauled me out into the alley. As appalled onlookers watched, he stripped off his gloves, grasped my throat with his red right hand, and turned my corpse to ash.

The crowd gasped in surprise and horror, but I smiled, well as much as was possible without skin, because incineration was the punishment meted out to those who stole souls out of the devil’s pocket, and it was a price I gladly paid, day after day, in this fist fight called life.


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A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog bullishink.com, joining my creative community sweetbananaink.com or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

JB Lacaden Week 43: Hex 8 - Revelation

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JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Hex 8 - Revelation

The sound of metals clanking and voices shouting brought Hex back to his senses. He looked to his right and saw the fast approaching lights from torches carried by the city guards.

“Looks like we’ve company,” Merlon said with a smile.

“The guards,” Hex said.

“I came to fight you. I’ve no time for them,” Merlon said, jerking a thumb towards the direction of the guards. “Now, how about we leave before they get here, yes?”

Hex tried standing up but his body refused to cooperate. This got a laugh out of Merlon.

“Ah, right,” Merlon said, “the poison.” Merlon looked at Hex thoughtfully.

“They’re getting closer,” Hex pointed out.

“Right, well, I can’t carry you alone.” Merlon reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a small vial containing a dark green liquid. “Here’s the antidote but it’ll take time for the poison to be completely neutralized.”

Merlon got on one knee, uncorked the bottle, and brought it to Hex’s lips. Hex drunk the bottle’s entire content.

Hex coughed and gagged. He could feel the burning sensation of the liquid sliding down his throat and into his belly.

“Tastes like a pig’s ass, I know, but try to keep it down,” Merlon instructed. Hex felt the warmth from the liquid spread all throughout his body. It coursed through his veins—down his legs, to the tips of his fingers. With each beat of his heart, he felt the liquid fire burn away the poison.

Hex looked up and saw the guards. There were ten of them, at least, all armed with swords or axes or spears.

He forced his body to move but the poison wasn’t fully expelled yet. He saw Merlon smiling.

“The guards are here,” Hex said.

Merlon gave a nod and said: “I know. I guess I’ve no choice but to fight, yes?” Merlon stood up and removed his cloak.

The guards cautiously approached the two. One of them, the one standing in the middle, directed his sword at Merlon.

“You two are under arrest for disrupting the peace in our beloved city of Wellshard.” He was the only one wearing an iron helm with a large spike on top. He took another step forward. “Stand down and drop your weapons.”

“Hex?” Merlon said, “How goes the recovery?”

Hex tried moving again—he was able to raise his hands and move his upper body but his legs were still numb. “A couple more minutes.” He replied.

“A couple more minutes it is,” Merlon said. Then to the guards he said: “I guess you’ll have to keep me entertained until my friend here completely recovers.”

“Didn’t you just hear what the captain said?” One of the guards shouted, this one held an axe, “you two are under arrest.”

Merlon gave a laugh. He raised both of his hands slowly. Hex saw the guards tensed. He couldn’t help but smile. There were ten of them and yet they sensed that maybe their number offered little help to this man standing before them with a smile.

The captain of the guards raised a gloved hand. The men behind him formed a line. The captain made a fist with his raised hand and immediately his men raised their weapons at chest level.

“One last warning,” the captain said in a determined voice. “Surrender and no harm will fall upon you two.”

Hex started to have some feeling returning back to his legs. But he still couldn’t stand up. “A couple more,” he said to Merlon.

Merlon gave a nod. “I’m afraid we can’t surrender.”

Anger flashed in the captain’s face. He lowered his hand swiftly and the guards made their moves.

Merlon lowered both of his hands and out of the sleeves of his shirt Hex saw daggers appear. They slid into both of his hands and Merlon struck fast and hard.

Hex watched in admiration as he watched Merlon swiftly erase the distance between him and the guards. Merlon held the daggers with the blades facing the ground and he smashed the hilts on the heads of two of the guards, quickly knocking them down. Without giving the others the benefit of recovery, he bent down low and swept the feet of another guard with his leg. And as he rose, he planted an uppercut to the chin of one more guard. Merlon leapt back to his initial position. Before him, the guards were in a disarray.

The captain looked around him in disbelief. Four of his men were down just like that. His eyes darted back to Merlon. Anger turned to fury. He charged with his sword raised high and a battle cry escaping from his lips.

Before Merlon was able to do anything, a fireball the size of a man’s fist flew from behind him and struck the captain square on the chest. It sent the captain flying back towards the arms of his men. Merlon looked back and saw Hex on his feet, albeit on shaky knees.

“Finally,” Merlon said.

“Let’s get out of here.” Hex said, with his thumb pointing towards the city gate.

“Agreed,” Merlon replied.

The two ran into the darkness of the night and the guards did nothing but watch.


Hex and Merlon stopped at a ruins of an old church. Hex sat down on the stairs with elaborate carvings etched on the steps. His eyes were on Merlon. What he saw wasn’t the young Merlon who he fought but the regular one, the old one.

“Looks like your little magic trick has ended,” Hex said.

Merlon smiled, the wrinkles on his face deepening, and said: “And it’ll take a lot of time before I’ll be able to do it again.”

“Now, you’ll explain to me where you’ve been and why you attacked me.”

“Yes, of course, you want answers,” Merlon sat down cross-legged on the ground. “I’ll start by explaining who you really are, Hex.”

“Who…I am?”

Merlon gave a nod. “You’re the greatest sorcerer that ever lived,” Merlon simply said.


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


Friday, April 19, 2013

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 43: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 7

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 7

I'm standing on the edge of the arroyo, looking out in the heat over miles and miles of arid nothing. It's the middle of the day.

Dirt. Sky. That's all there is. Not even a cactus to break up the line.

I'm shirtless. Barefoot. Bleeding from cuts and gouges that cover most of my torso.

I've got a gun in my hand.

Single action service revolver.

How do I know that? I'm not a gun guy. But I do know it.

Single action service revolver.

The longer I stare out to the horizon the more I think I'm wrong. I am wrong. There is something out there-- a dark square. I can just make it out behind the wall of heat.

It's a house. No. A building, at least three stories high, and I gotta get there. I must get to that building. I must.

The heat is a physical barrier to forward movement, thick and cloying, but I push through it and set off.

I move at a crawl but I am moving. I can no longer see the building out in the dead offing though I know it's there. It calls to me.

Walking. Walking. Walking.

I'm out of the arroyo now. The ground has become an endless series of ridges and swales.

I'm cooking in the sun, my face sweat-begrimed and peeling, the cuts on my body dried and leathered.

I'm not going to make it, I think, but I stumble over the next rise and slide to the bottom.

Buzzards circle overhead.

I get off my ass. The fuckers can't have me. Not yet.

I try one step and then another and I'm moving again.

Eventually, I realize that the buzzards are well ahead of me. They're not coming for my flesh after all. They circle for a while longer and then swoop down to the earth and disappear from view.

I spot them on the ground when I get over the next ridge.

The carrion birds scatter as I approach.

It's Beau they've been munching on.

They've been at his eyes and his cheeks. The angry red wounds Pilar left on his neck and throat have gone black in the dry heat.

His Stetson sits on his chest.

I pick it up and put it on. Why the hell not? That's too much hat to waste and Beau doesn't need it.

Gracias, amigo. 

The buzzards return the second I shove off. Buffet's open, boys.

The hat brim cuts down on the glare. I can see better and farther.

The building is right in front of me, miles and miles away, but it looks so close that I find myself reaching out to touch it.

Miles and miles to go before... something?

Small rock outcroppings grow into full-blown mesas and hoodoos as I trudge on. The ochres-- reds and oranges and browns-- give the land depth and texture. And shade. 

Glorious shade.

The temperature drops twenty degrees and the air gets breathable.

I make faster time and barely notice when the ground gets harder. Rockier.

And now I'm running, running as fast as I can. Faster than that even.

I must get to that building.

I don't know how long I've been traveling but I've been gone long enough for the season to turn.

A cold wind slices into me as I run. The rain stings.

I'm back in Manhattan, running up Amsterdam Avenue. My bare feet slap on the wet pavement, just audible over the noise of the city. Traffic. Horns. Voices. I should be knocking people over as I barrel down the street but I'm not. I go right through the umbrella-wielding masses like they aren't even there. Nobody stops to gawk at the bare-chested, bleeding man with a cowboy hat and a handgun running up Amsterdam Avenue in the early evening.

Fucking New York.

Another two blocks and I know where I am and where I'm going. Somebody screams, a roaring, primal scream. It's me but it takes me another block to realize it.

Hard right at 78th Street, so hard that I leave skin on the pavement. I'm two-thirds of the way down the block and then I'm there. I'm standing in front of that building.

My building.

Our building.

The Upper West Side brownstone in which I share an apartment with my Roksana. 

My wife.

My soon-to-be ex-wife.


The rain stops. All is hushed. No traffic. No horns. No voices.

Only a fast, rhythmic pounding remains.

A heartbeat. It's not mine. I have no heart.

Roksana! Her heart races, ever faster, and faster still.

And then it slows.




It stops altogether.

Two men in matching black and red track suits and severe haircuts burst through the brownstone's front door.

Russians. I'm sure of it.

I married a Russian girl, into a huge Russian family. Half of my own family came to America to escape Stalin.

I know a Russian when I see one.

At that same moment two uniformed police officers round the corner and hustle down to my building. They pass the Russians on the steps and enter the brownstone.

I holler at the Russians as they walk right through me, heading for Columbus Avenue. I take aim and fire. Six shots, loud and fast.

Neither of them falls.

They don't even turn around to look.

I drop the revolver and rush into the building.

The lobby, drab granite and stucco, is empty.

I take the stairs two at a time up three floors and stagger out into our hallway.

Dead sconces hang moribund on the walls. All but one bulb is out.

The corridor is quiet, silent. This hallway has never been silent.

No television bleeding out from Mrs. Rosenberg's apartment. No jazz from the Hartman's place. The guy in 3C isn't vacuuming. No piano practice for eight year old Juanita Marquez.

Just a quiet that deepens with every step I take.

That one lit bulb-- mounted right next to our door-- burns brighter as I get close. I see the cobwebs and the dead flies caught up in the brass and glass fixture.

No keys. No problem.

I don't have to kick our door down. Somebody's already taken care of that.

All I have to do is step inside.

I already know what I'm going to see in there. Bookshelves. A red leather sectional sofa. An old-fashioned ceiling fan. Framed Hieronymous Bosch prints on the walls.

A neat stack of moving boxes in the middle of the hardwood floor. The boxes contain Roksana's belongings, packed up for when she's ready to move out. Move back to her father's place in Brighton Beach.

I know what I'm going to see in our apartment. I don't want to see it again.

But I must.

I step over the threshold with my eyes closed and when I open them I'm standing alone in the apartment.

Everything is exactly as I last saw it, down to the mail in the tray by the door and the green ceramic coffee mug on the end table next to the couch.

The police officers I saw enter the building are nowhere to be seen.

I walk past the moving boxes and head for the bedroom. My stomach churns but I keep moving, inching toward the room where I'll find my wife lying dead on the floor.

The room is dark. I look behind me but cannot see the doorway I just passed through.

A single candle flickers to life. One candle, spreading a dim, warm glow through the room.

This is not our bedroom. Nothing of ours is here. The room is empty except for an ornate gold-framed mirror on the back wall.

I stare into the mirror but see nothing in it. No reflection. Nothing.

The candlelight fades almost to full darkness and then recovers.

I go over and pick it up and that's when I feel her presence.

Roksana, standing behind me, close by the mirror.

I turn.

It's her. She's standing, facing me, in front of the mirror. Her long blonde hair is down. Her black nightgown hugs the curves I know so well.

She does not speak to me, does not move. She doesn't even look my way.

A sudden gust of wind blows out the candle.

But before the light is extinguished an image appears in the mirror.

A woman.

She's looking out from within, right hand reaching forward. Her bloody fingers leave red streaks on the glass.


And then I'm alone in the dark. The candle is gone. Roksana is gone. I stumble around, struggling to feel my way, but can find no walls. No door. There isn't even a floor.

My chest constricts with panic and my stomach drops.

I'm falling, falling in the darkness.

I scream and flail and scream some more.

It's all I can do.

I fail. Again.

Pilar shook me awake.

“Mateo,” she growled. “Mateo... Where are you, Mateo?”

I sat up in the bed.

She rested her hand on my bare shoulder and watched my face while my eyes adjusted to the clean, white light.

The bandages around her wrists brought it all back, all at once.

I took some deep breaths to bring my heart rate down.

The sunlight coming in from the open window next to the bed made the room glow.

I put my hand down over hers.

“I'm right here, Pilar. I'm right here.”

“You lost a day, Mateo. More than a day. Thirty-six hours.” It felt like it. I was sore, top to bottom, with a pounding headache and a case of dry mouth so bad it burned.

Pilar sat next to me on the bed, legs stretched out in front of her, in a simple off-white sun dress.

“What do you remember?”

I took a long drink of the horchata she had me mainlining and thought it over. The cinnamon-heavy drink felt wonderful on my throat.

“We were in your pal's shop-- the curandero?”


“Right. Aurelio. I remember lying down on his cot and him kneeling down to check out my wounds. Not much after that.”

She refilled my glass and stared at me until I drank some more.

“I remember looking for you but you weren't there.”

“Yes. There were things that needed to be done. People I needed to contact. We could not leave it as it was.”

I nodded and finished my horchata.

Pilar moved to pour me more.

“Give it a rest, okey? I drink any more of this stuff I'm gonna turn into a grain of rice. It is rice, isn't it?”

“Yes, Mateo. Rice, water, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.”

She took the glass from me and put it on the nightstand.

“That's all I've got,” I said. “Don't remember a thing between Aurelio's and waking up here.”

I laid back and got my first real look at the room, a good-sized bedroom with white walls, a white ceiling, and a stone floor covered in spots with off-white woven throw rugs.

Someone had pulled the white curtains back from the window to let the breeze in.

“Did you dream?” she asked.

“Yeah. Quite a trip.”

“Where did you go?”

“You don't wanna know.”

“If I did not want to know I would not have asked.”

I thought about it for a second.

“I went home.”

Pilar nodded and left it at that. I don't know if it was my voice or my face that did the trick.

“Some of your cuts were deeper than we thought they were. And they were very dirty. Aurelio knew how painful it was going to be to get them clean and cared for so he gave you something to... take you away from it while he worked. It affects some people more than others.”

“Just lucky I guess.”

“Here,” she said. “I'll show you.”

She drew the sheet down, baring my naked body down past my hip.

I grabbed onto the sheet and looked at her.

Her upper lip curled and she grinned.

“You Americans, always bragging about your free society, yet you're all so... delicate where the human body is concerned.”

The gauntlet had been thrown. I felt honor bound to pick it up.

I smiled and raised my hands in silent surrender.

She grinned some more and ran her fingertips across my ribcage.

“These were the worst,” she began. “Not a lot of protection. He nicked bone here. I'm afraid they're going to hurt for some time.”

I nodded, transfixed by the play of her fingers on my skin.

They danced down my abdomen.

“These are nothing. He meant to scare you with these.”

“It worked.”

She smiled at me.

“A strong man can admit to fear without shame.”

“I don't know about that. Fear doesn't even begin to cover it.”

She trailed the tip of one index finger down to my hip.

“This was one of the deepest,” she whispered. “It must have hurt a great deal.”

“It did.” I whispered back.

I watched her face, in profile, while her hands lingered over each of my wounds. The soft sunlight gave her dark hair highlights. I loved the way it fell over the side of her face as she leaned down to inspect Aurelio's stitch-work.

I got a good look at the bruise under her eye when she turned her head to look out the window.

“I saw your face when Enrique brought me in,” she said. “You would have killed Beau yourself if you were free to.”

“Any man would've.”

“I do not believe that is true.”

She turned back to face me.

I stroked her damaged cheek with the back of my hand. Our eyes met. Neither of us blinked.

She allowed me to draw her closer.

“Do you think this is wise?” she asked as she slid under the sheet.

“Wisdom's overrated, Pilar.”

She shot me a grin that made my heart seize up, then pushed me back against the headboard and straddled me.

“I warn you, Mateo,” she said. “In your present condition I might just kill you.”

She grabbed me by the shoulders and kissed me, a warrior's kiss. Savage. Nothing held back. We came together in a crush of lips and teeth and tongues, without any pretense of tenderness. This was release, raw and feral.

When we broke it off to breathe the look on her face said, 'no quarter'.

Didn't want any.


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

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


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Michela Walters Week 43: Hidden Passageways

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Hidden Passageways

She stared at the two doors wondering which path her lover had taken. It was always the same game of hide and seek. They’d been playing it for weeks now. After they’d found the old abandoned mansion on Hollybrook Lane, they’d discovered its hidden passages. Hallways leading to other parts of the house, bookshelves that spun on their axis. The house made her feel like she was constantly in a game of Clue, moving from one room into another just waiting to discover where her Professor Plum was hiding.

“Ready or not,” she shouted, knowing Chad would hear her no matter which hallway he chose.

Ally decided on the left door, remembering that it led into the maroon painted sitting room, with two huge bay windows.. This was their favorite spot to make love, laying beneath the warm sunshine billowing in. Hurrying through the dark passageway, she finally arrived into the expansive room only to find it empty.

Spinning around, she wondered what her next move should be. There was a hidden passage behind the staircase or she could make her way down the hall that led to the study. Pausing, she listened, hoping to hear some sort of clue as to where he was. The squeak of a floorboard directly above got her feet moving towards to door. Rushing up the stairs, she flung open the door to see Chad leaning against the window, his legs casually crossed with a smirk littering his face.

“Took you long enough.”

She didn’t reply, instead stalked forward until her lips captured his. The game had always turned her on, never knowing where she’d find him. He lifted her off the ground, grabbing her legs and wrapping them around his waist. He pressed her up against the wall beside the window, but instead of returning her urgent kiss, he pulled away and pointed outside.

“Do you see that?”

Her exasperation was evident, but she humored him, knowing he wouldn’t continue until she acknowledged his train of thought. Glancing out the window, she saw the for sale sign swinging in the wind by the driveway. “What about it?”

“I put in an offer,” he whispered, nibbling along the column of her neck.

Her head snapped up in an instant, “What?” Ally was shocked by his spontaneous and completely crazy idea. Shit, they weren’t even living together. Yet taking this huge step felt right. They’d all but been squatting in this beautiful, yet neglected home.

He waited for her to put all the pieces together, and lowered her slowly to the ground. A plethora of emotions flashed across her face as she pondered his suggestion. Chad waited patiently, knowing it wouldn’t be long before she finally got his message.

Ally finally turned her gaze back onto her love only to see him kneeling before her.

“So? What do you say? Marry me and we can play hide and seek in this old mansion forever?”

She had no words, instead she flung herself at him, causing him to fall back onto the dusty floor, his arms wrapped snuggly around her.

“I’ll take that as a yes?” he laughed, pulling out the ring that had been nestled securely in his pocket, knowing life would never be dull in this magical place filled with dark passageways and very soon, a lot of love.


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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, April 17, 2013

Sarah Aisling Week 43: It Comes Down to Days

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: It Comes Down to Days

It comes down to days.

Good days, when the meds work and my thoughts are clearer, simply hazed by gray but not obliterated. They're always heavy, floating through my mind like thick cotton batting. There's no remedy for that.

Bad days, when despite meds and therapy and hopes and dreams and cries to . . . someone up there, my thoughts, words, feelings, desires-memories-anger-rage-fear spin out of control. I spin out of control. Then the orderlies take me down, truss me like a turkey, and I spend the next few days in the white room of pain. It hurts to be alone. White slices through my retinas. And quiet is the Great Deceiver—did you know?

The days in between. These are the ones that lead to and from the others, a spider web of networked threads running in patterns. These are spent following a complex set of rules, eating meals, participating in group therapy, individual therapy, swallowing little pills, sleeping, socializing, wondering about the meaning of this existence. But don't be fooled into thinking less of these! They are also the Defining Days because one cannot get from one kind of day to another without them. Small moments, miniscule events on The Great Timeline have the propensity to tip scales, making or breaking.

“Are you still with me?”

I glance up into deep brown eyes that remind me of the beagle I had as a child—soulful and caring no matter what I look or smell like. I nod. The restraints tug, forcing me to hug myself. It's probably the only time it happens. It's guilt-free hugging, and that makes it safe.

“I'm Dr. Clausen. Would you like me to undo the restraints?”

Dr. Clausen of the liquid beagle puppy eyes. Do I want to stop my guilt-free hug?

“N-no.” I rock, the cheap springs beneath me groaning even though I weigh ninety pounds.

Dr. Beagle Puppy crouches beside me, tilting his head. “You feel more secure that way, huh?”


He's young and cute. In another life . . . if we were other people. Then again, he wants to work here with the crazies, so he must have some issues, too.

“Well, I have a bit of news for you.” He fidgets, straightening his tie, a sure sign of insecurity.

Yeah, even I know how to read people. I tense up, and now my self-hug feels like the restraint it was meant to be. News isn't something I welcome because it often leads to bad days.

“Oh, no. Oh, no.”

“I was kind of hoping you'd let me tell you the news before getting upset. We're going to be working together for the foreseeable future. I'm your new therapist.”

“No more Dr. Butt-face?”

Dr. Clausen snorts, pressing a hand to his mouth. “You mean Dr. Snyder?”

“Tomato, tomahto. Let's call this whole thing off and send me home, huh?”

“Dr. Snyder . . . has been replaced. He won't have any further patient contact.”

“Hallelujah and Amen! Good news.” Dr. Snyder rates his own padded room.

“So, you want to give me a try as your therapist?”

“Welcome to The Nutt Hut, Beagle Eyes.”

“Do you have a nickname for all the doctors?”

“Sure do.”

“Is 'Beagle Eyes' a good one?”

“I'll let you figure that one out. You're the one getting paid for this shit.” I smile for the first time in weeks.

Like I said—it comes down to days.


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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, April 16, 2013

J M Blackman Week 43: A Chesire's Haiku

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: A Chesire's Haiku

Wish carefully, dear,
and dream warily, as well.
Faint thoughts? Full danger.


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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Jen DeSantis Week 43: Into the Darkness (Part 3)

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2

Title: Into the Darkness (Part 3)

I woke up, my head pounding and my nose fully of the cloying smell of honeysuckle. I lay in a field tall grass, its swaying motion blocking my view of the sky.

But wait...

I brought my hand slowly to my forehead. This field was impossible. This wind as well. I’d just walked up to a new house, a stellar find that Kevin had wanted to explore for months. He was just behind me when I approached the gate.


Kevin’s voice ... so faint. So far away.

I scrambled to my feet, the stiff grass scratching at my face. The pounding in my head great worse as I tried to stand, but I fought through it, stumbling as I moved blindly through the high weeds. The sun, the impossible sun, sent a ringing pain through my head but I pressed on until I reached the end of the field.

A beach stretched out for only a few feet before a gently lapping grey lake spread out in front of me. Space doubled, tripled within my head. Was all of this but an illusion? Or was this strange place tucked away within the house?

“Kevin...” I murmured, dropping to my knees beneath the weight of my pounding head. “Kevin, where are you?”

“I don’t think they can hear us,” a small voice whispered to my right.

I snapped my head around and looked into the large, brown eyes of a little girl. She sat against a worn wooden post. Several more posts stretched out. Farther down the beach, I noticed a small boat tied to a post.

“Who are you?” I asked. “How did you get here?”

“Don’t know,” the little girl replied, shrugging. “I walked into the house a while ago and ended up here. You?”

I just shook my head, disoriented.

“Who are they?” I asked.

“Well, Ryan,” she said. “And whoever Kevin is.”

“How long have you been here?”

“A while,” she said again. “Time is strange here.”

The little girl sighed.

“What do we do now?”

“We wait.”

A shiver ran up my spine as I lowered myself down to the sand next to the girl.

“Help me,” I whispered. “Help me.”

I didn’t know who I was talking to, but the plea didn’t seem in vain.


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Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Corina Fiore Week 42: The Photo

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Corina Fiore’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Photo

Natalie shuffled through the volumes on her grandmothers shelf. Her grandmother was quite the bibliofile. Hundreds of books lined her shelves: some worn from love, some pristine first editions, some aged and yellowed.

Navigating the shelves brought back so many happy memories. Natalie recalled sitting at her Grammie Ruth’s feet, her lilting, dynamic voice reading a classic tale. Natalie’s relationship with her grandmother was built on those reading sessions, the love for the written word, the life connections found in the stories. They shared their own stories over tea, talked about how they could relate to characters, and how they might react differently. They often spoke in quotes that somehow captured the exact essence of the moment, whether it was funny, sad, poignant, celebratory, or insightful. It seemed only right that, as Natalie held her hand in her dying moments, Grammie Ruth whispered a final quote in Natalie’s ear. It was a quote from Dante’s Inferno, a text they had spent hours and hours on together.

“Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself. In dark woods, the right road lost.”

She took her last breath, and died. That last dying utterance caused Natalie much turmoil. What had she meant?

When Natalie came across Dante’s Inferno on the shelf, the draw was too powerful. Natalie pulled the book from the shelf, its leather soft and supple. The top and bottom of the spine was curled under and worn. She held the book close to her chest as she crossed the room. She grabbed an embroidered pillow and a knitted afgan off the chair. It still smelled like Grammie Ruth. She sat down on the couch, legs curled to the side, propped up on the pillow and covered herself in the blanket. Natalie felt safe, warm. She took a deep breath and cracked open the book. An old photograph fell into her lap.

It was a black and white photo of an old farm-type house. An old car resided in the driveway. The roof of the garage sagged. Linens hung on a line in the garage. Nine windows graced the front of the house. Most of them had the shades drawn. However, there were two windows on the upper floor that had the curtains drawn. A figure was shadowed in one of the windows but Natalie could not quite make it out.

She turned the photograph over. The words, “Never forget. Summer 1952.” were inscribed on the back in red ink. She turned to the page opened before her, the page the photo fell from. There was a single underlined passage in the same red ink.

“And after he laid his hand on mine,
With joyful mien, whence I was comforted,
He led me in among the secret things.
There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud
Resounded through the air without a star,
Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.”

Natalie blinked hard, and turned back to the photo. There was a story here, one that Grammie Ruth in her dying moments asked her to explore with that quote. Grammie Ruth never quoted something unless she wanted Natalie to think long and hard on it. She knew Natalie would turn to this text. She knew Natalie would find the photo. She knew Natalie would find the underlined passage. It was a message. But a message about what?

Natalie was curious and her curiosity always won out. On this day, she started her investigation into what Grammie Ruth meant with these clues. Little did she know how far this investigation would take her, the stories it would reveal. This one simple photograph and passage were about to change Natalie’s life forever.


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


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cara Michaels Week 42: Urban Jungle

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 2

Title: Urban Jungle

Family got me into the worst sorts of trouble in the worst sorts of places. But I kept driving, ‘cause that’s what you do for family. The rental car’s GPS nattered on, telling me where to go. The computerized female directed me to what she insisted was a parking garage. As I turned in, I traded the afternoon glare of the sun for the murky shadows of tons of concrete overhead.

“Vive la Detroit.” I took a parking validation from an attendant bored with his job, if not all of life, and drove on.

As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, the details of the garage disconcerted me. I parked and got out of the car, wanting a moment to just stare at the remnants of another world.

Maybe ten cars rested in the cavernous parking garage, some of the engines still warm and ticking. Nothing abnormal there. But the building itself… The tiered ceiling above, covered in fading paint and gilt, better belonged to a grand theatre or casino than this place. The passage of time and economic swings had gutted the building, leaving it haunted by the ghosts of former glory. Leaded windows in arches and domes, tattered hints of red curtain, the remains of a balcony, holes in the ceiling where chandeliers had once rained sparkling light over black tie patrons…

“Mr. Bryant?”

A tall, willowy woman approached. She wore amber colored Capri pants and fitted tank top, both made of some natural looking fiber. The wind caught her waist-length chestnut hair and tossed it about, dislodging—leaves? Autumn reds and browns floated to the asphalt where I noticed her bare feet. I lifted my startled gaze in time to see the pointed ear revealed as her hair shifted.

“Wait.” I pointed, without quite meaning to, in the general direction of her face. “Is this Detroit? Or Rivendell?”

She cocked her head. “Rivendell?”

“Yeah.” My mouth dried up. Her eyes sparkled. Not in the metaphorical, lust-at-first-sight euphoria way, but as though they held glitter. Or fairy dust. “Where the elves live.”

She gave a delicate shrug. “I am unfamiliar with your elves.”

“They aren’t real.” And maybe the parking pass had been laced with some hallucinogenic powder, because this woman couldn’t be real, either.

“Ah, well there you have it.” She seemed pleased to resolve the situation. “I am clearly real.” She beckoned me with a graceful hand, her sun kissed skin covered in pale tattoos. Leaves, flowers, and twisting vines ran along her arm, disappearing beneath her top. “Follow me, please.”

I looked at my arms, where I’d borne similar markings until the death of one sister and the disappearance of another. In less than a year I’d lost my entire family. I’d followed the trail here out of desperation, tracking rumor and hearsay. Living on the useless hope that just maybe…

“I’m just here to find out about my sister, ma’am.” I drew her worn photo from my wallet. “Circe Bryant. Do you know her? Is she—okay?” Stupid, inadequate word for what I needed to hear.

“I am here to escort you.” She smiled and I felt a little lightheaded. “The Summer Queen is eager to see you again.”

“The Summer—what?”

“Yes.” She nodded as though my question explained something. “She said you did not know your heritage.”

“My heritage?” I found myself following along as she led me across the garage. We turned a corner I hadn’t even noticed and stopped at a door. A security camera monitored all movement.

“This way,” my non-elf companion said. She pushed the door open, revealing an old staircase. It looked more inclined to collapse than bear any weight, but she climbed to the next level without even a creak of protest from the structure. Water damage had collapsed the ceiling in spots, coating the stairs in a mix of rotting wood remnants, paint, and plaster. The confined area reeked of mildew and decay. “Come. We must be quick now.”

“Hold up.” I reached the landing of what must have once led to the balconies. “A few explanations would not be unwelcome at this point.”

“The Summer Queen will explain all.” She stood just outside a narrow doorway and held her hand out to me. “Take my hand. We must be touching or only one of us will make it through.”

“Whoa, whoa.” I took one firm step backward. Did I stay and keep talking to an insane woman or run like hell? “Make it through what?” Damn you, Circe. What the hell did you get yourself into?

“You wish to see your sister, yes?”

I shook my head. “Not until you tell me what’s going on here.”

Her right eyebrow winged up, the corner of her mouth tilting. “She also said you’d be stubborn.”

“I think we’re going to part ways here.” Ten steps to the garage floor. “You keep your crazy cosplay self right there. I’m leaving.”

“You’re coming with me, Randall Clive Bryant.”

The use of my full name, reserved for Mom’s wrath, had me hesitating. The woman flung her hands out in my moment of uncertainty, as though scattering a handful of dust. Vines burst from her fingertips to snake around me and reel me in.

“What the fuck?” I shouted. I resisted the pull of the vines, knowing in my head I should be able to yank the woman off her feet. But the concrete beneath her cracked, thick roots coming from—her legs?—to stabilize her. “No way. No fucking way.”

She drew me in tight against her body.

“Lady, look.” I tried to pull my voice back to a reasonable volume. We could speak like rational adults. “You seem very nice for the first sentient nonhuman I’ve met, but I’m not really into this whole—interspecies—bondage—thing.” Was the vine crossing my butt moving? “I don’t even know your name.” My voice climbed the scale. “And I don’t have any secret kidnapping fantasies I’m itching to live out, so why don’t you just let me go and—”

She looked amused. Great. With a quick twist of her body, she moved us through the doorway…

And into sunshine filtered through towering trees. Urban Detroit remained only in the smell of my clothes, adding an unpleasant sour note to the fresh air.

“Holy shit.” The words escaped on a choked breath. “This isn’t Detroit.”

“Brother, this isn’t even Earth.”

Twenty feet away, my smirking smartass of a sister rocked back on one heel. She took in the woman wrapped around me like kudzu and chuckled. The woman released me and I stumbled closer to Circe.

Circe, bracketed by armed men and…

“Centaurs.” Easily seven feet tall from head to hoof. “Of course there are centaurs.”

I was going to need so much therapy after this.


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