Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jenn Monty Week 62: The Letter

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Jenn Monty’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: The Letter

“P.S. I Love You”,
She said into the wind
As the clouds floated by
And a tear went to her chin.

“The world’s your oyster”
She read the line aloud.
The letter slowly fluttered
As she melted to the ground.

“Be strong, unwavering.”
The next line made her grin,
Her mother knew her best
“Always carry your pen.”

“Remember when I’m not there,”
She choked the next words out
“That I’ll love you more than ever.”
As if there was any doubt.

“Don’t let the cancer beat you,
Just because it has beaten me.
This is just a body;
My soul is happy and free.”

“P.S. I Love You.”
She read the line again.
Today she’d lost her mother;
Today she’d lost her friend.

She folded up the paper
That her mom had left behind
A last little present
That was only hers to find.


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Jenn Monty, also known as Brewed Bohemian, is a lover of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror and anything with "Punk" in the name. She is an avid reader and writes flash fiction at


Friday, August 30, 2013

Samantha Redstreake Geary Week 62: Heartache

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Samantha Redstreake Geary’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Heartache

Seven-year-old Joseph Martin waited patiently on a cold, metal bench just outside the doors of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, watching his breath send smoky tendrils out across the dusky sky. A biting breeze carried tempting aromas of fried food, making his stomach growl. He hasn't eaten in awhile, not since they arrived here in a rush to find Grandpa sleeping, buried beneath a blanket of tubes and beeping machines.

The doctors said his heart isn’t working like it should. Grandma said it was like a stomach ache, but in his heart. But, Grandma also said it’s from all those years of pumping him full of hot-air. Joseph thinks Grandma could learn a thing or two from the doctors.

Joseph peers at the face on the black metal clock clutched to his chest. It was almost 4 o’clock. Grandpa had taught him to tell time, in the space between going to the movies and licking ice cream. Grandpa had handed the shiny foil wrapped package to Joseph and said, “It’s a slippery thing, time...have to make sure you keep a close eye on it, cuz before you know it, you’ll be all grown up and wondering where the time went.”

Joseph was afraid Grandpa’s time was more slippery than most.

Joseph's Daddy said when he was a boy growing up in Germantown, Grandpa would take him, twice a month, to see a real-live human heart, the biggest, best heart in all of Philadelphia. It was so impressive, they called it “The Engine of Life”.

Joseph’s cousin said he saw the giant heart just last week and it was “ahhhmazing”.

Out of nowhere, a taxi materialized, startling Joseph to his feet. He cautiously approached the illuminated driver.

“I need to go to the corner of 20th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, as fast as you can please, it’s urgent,” he implored, handing over his allowance money.

“The Franklin Institute closes in an hour, son. I don’t think you’ll have time to see everything,” the cabbie replied.

With renewed determination, Joseph declared, “My Grandpa needs a new heart right away sir, and I’m going to bring him the biggest, strongest heart in all of Philadelphia.”


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My world is populated with all manner of speculative fiction, novel excerpts and groundbreaking collaborations with artists and composers. Unlock your imagination and step into a realm of possibility at WriterlySam.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Jenn Baker Week 62: The Big Day

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Jenn Baker’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Big Day

She stood in the middle of the room, waiting. Her hair and makeup were done; it was time to put on her gown.

"Melissa, I'm ready for my gown." Liz heard her best friend move to where the gown was hanging.

"Liz, do you want to redo your hair? It's not perfect."

"No mom, I want it like it is." Liz heard her mother let out a sigh. Her mom was always perfect from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. But she wasn't her mom.

"Time to put on your chemise, Liz." Monica stood in front of her holding the off white fabric in front of her.

Liz started unbuttoning her sleeveless shirt. Her gown was multiple layers, styled after a renaissance gown. The first layer was the chemise, then the under skirt, and finally the over dress with the built in corset. Liz pulled the chemise over her head with help from Monica, to keep it from catching on the flower head band. Once the chemise was settled around her thighs, Monica grabbed the off white under skirt.

Placing her hands on Monica's shoulders, Liz stepped in the skirt. Once the waist band was tightened and the chemise was back in place, Melissa walked over with the red over dress. The over dress went on like a coat, with the corset lacing in the front. Melissa laced the corset with gold lacing, pulling it tight.

"Okay, you are ready." Melissa said as she stepped back. "Don't let anyone near you with any food other than water. I'm going to go put on my dress, and I'll be back."

Liz walked over to the mirror. The red over dress had gold Celtic knot work along the edge of the split front of the skirt and around the bottom of the skirt. The bottom of the off white under skirt had red knot work around the bottom. There was also knot work around the collar of the chemise.

"You look beautiful." Liz's mom whispered as she stood next to her. "Your dad is going to cry when he sees you." Liz smiled. She didn't think he would actually cry, but knew that he would get misty eyed.

"Liz, it's time." Melissa said from the door.

"Are you ready for this?" Liz's mom asked. Liz looked at her mom and smiled.

"I'm more than ready for this." Liz looked at her friends. "Let's go get married."


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


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kimberly Gould Week 62: 2

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: 2

“Cassy, I know Converse are in, but really?”

I slipped on the soft shoe and flexed my toes, happy with the fit. “Really, Julie. I’m done with heels.” Standing, I jumped up and down a few times. They were springy, too. Nothing quite like a pair of new shoes.

Julie just sighed and tossed her head. “Fine. It’s your reputation.”

I couldn’t help it, I snorted. That got me a shocked expression. “I highly doubt a pair of shoes are going to ruin my reputation.” I could think of a few things in my past that would, but probably for the better. I carried my old shoes up to the till, planning to wear the new ones out of the store. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. “Heph!” I shouted without thinking.

The pimply faced boy turned to me and blinked before lifting a hand to wave. He didn’t stop walking away. I briefly considered sprinting after him but changed my mind. He didn’t know me like I knew him.

“Who is that? Charity case?” Julie asked looking at Heph’s back. He didn’t have friends with him, walking alone but purposefully through the mall.

“No, just, someone I knew.”

Julie shrugged. “Whatever. Hurry up, I want to get my nails done before you go to work tonight.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered, finishing the transaction with the clerk. “Thanks,” I told her, taking a bag with my old shoes in it.

I walked Julie to the day spa, but didn’t stay. “Oh! I forgot. I need to get a new skirt for work. I’ll catch up,” I lied. I did need a new black skirt to work at the ice cream shop, but that wasn’t why I was ditching my friend. Trotting through the mall, I found him. My converse made a great squeak as I skidded to a halt outside the electronics store. He was looking over gaming keyboards, the kind with easily programed keys. I walked in casually and picked up one of the many tablets, pretending to check the weight.

“That’s pretty hardcore,” I murmured, nodding to the panel in his hands.

“Yeah, well, I like to play.”

“Me, too,” I said, putting down the tablet. “What do you play?”

“Nothing you’d have heard of,” he muttered.

“Try me,” I urged.

“It’s a shooter.”

“I play some shooters. What’s your handle? Maybe I’ve run into you.” I had run into him. I was one of his favorite people and he had friended me on every game I knew he played.


“No way!” I gushed. “I’m Seeress2016.”

He dropped the keyboard. “You’re Seeress?” he asked looking me up and down and settling on my shoes as red filled his cheeks.

I wiggled my toes. “Like them? They’re new.”

“Yeah, they suit you.” They clashed horribly with the sequined top and jeggings I had on. “I mean, they...oh man.”

“Don’t worry about it, KnightRider. My real name is Cassy, by the way.”

“I’m Heph,” he said offering me his hand.

“I know,” I whispered. He was Heph, the man of my future, of my survival, my hero. Or he could have been, once upon a time.

This is written as a follow up to my latest release, Never Say Die. If you’d like to read about those other futures, find out why Cassy is ditching her ‘cool’ friend to hang out with a pimple-faced geek, check out the novel and the excerpt on my website:


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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


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Samantha Lee Week 62: Knowledge

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Knowledge

I stand in the middle of a huge cavern long ago carved into a theatre. The ascending rows are filled sparingly with the few dozen Ancients that remain bound to this world, the lot of them glaring at me balefully. I just love having that effect on people.

A large, ornate throne sits on a dais in front of me, flanked by two smaller thrones on either side. In keeping with the cliche theme, five hooded figures sit there, the central one in white, the other four in black. Now, me, I'm no stranger to thrones, but usually I sit sideways with my legs over one arm and half-dozen pillows cushioning my back against the other arm. And Oz or one of my other cats sprawls either in my lap or by my side. It drives my steward bonkers; he says it's unprofessional and inappropriate and about a dozen other adjectives denoting his deep and total disapproval. Which is just totally unfair, in my opinion. I mean, hell, I'd like to see him try sitting perfectly straight and rigid for eight hours a day, every day; it's about as far from pleasant as you can get. But I digress.

Now, you might be asking what a Queen of Faerie is doing standing before someone else's throne and, hey, if you are, that's a pretty good question. Props. Like any good system worth its upkeep, that of the Faerie Courts has a multitude of checks and balances in place to keep us...I want to say "in line" but that's not exactly true. You ever wonder why you never hear about the Fae taking over the world or going on conquests? We certainly have the power and the ego to support such endeavours. Or, hey, how about why the Winter and Summer continue to swap back and forth from Faerie to the mortal realm and back again? We're stronger in Faerie, after all, and don't have to share it with prejudiced and trigger-happy mortals. Oh! How about the classic, and ever popular, why do the Fae allow people to die? Or suffer disease? Or starvation? Or whatever bad thing you want to name? Well, to put it simply, we have the Ancients stopping us. They're really, really, really old Fae who have ascended beyond the Courts to what we'll call a higher plain for simplicity's sake.

Usually, you only stand before the Ancients when you've done something to get yourself in big trouble. Like oops-you-caught-me-trying-to-take-over-the-world trouble. Except I didn't try to take over the world; I have enough headaches ruling my Court as it is, thank you very much, with the added bonus of everyone else tossed in. Nope, I'm here because, due a series of unfortunate events I'd rather not get into too deeply, one of my wraiths is in trouble for messing around where he shouldn't have.

"Cadeyrn knowingly absorbed the knowledge of Alexandria," the mouthpiece of the Ancients summarizes helpfully. He stands at the corner of the dais, his arms folded in front of him, his eyeless face expressionless. Yup, eyeless. Because when you're the mouthpiece for a bunch of Ancient Fae, why would you need eyes?

"London was trying to preserve the knowledge of Alexandria," I argue. "The mortals had discovered its sanctuary and were working to break its seals. He had mere moments to act and deemed that thousands of years of knowledge should not be lost simply because the mortals cannot contain their curiosity."

"It was not the warrior's place to make such a decision. To have a single entity possess so much knowledge, especially one so young, breaks more laws than can possibly be counted."

I barely resist the urge to roll my eyes. It's never a good policy, after all, for queens to come across as rude to those in positions of even greater authority. I look over to where they have London held. They have him dressed in white medical scrubs. Steel encircles his neck, wrists, and ankles with heavy chains attached and bolted to the floor, keeping him held in place. He's been beaten, his skin showing the evidence with dozens of yellow-tinged purple bruises. I'm pretty sure more than one of his ribs is cracked. The rules dictate I can't go to him - a black circle rings an area around him, showing where his cage is, so to speak - but I wish I could. He's glaring at the Ancients, his expression defiant and proud with just a glint of mischief shining through. I sigh. I'm such a sucker for that look.

Most monarchs, most Fae, find themselves standing before the Ancients maybe once in their lifetime, if ever. This is my third visit since the fifteenth century. That's one visit every two and a half centuries, give or take a decade or ten. I bet you anything I hold the record for most visits. I'd ask, but I'm pretty sure that falls into the inappropriate column.

It probably doesn't bode well that all three visits were on London's account. The first time was in 1578. I'd accidentally transitioned London shortly after escaping Aoife's prison the first time and...well, let's just say it wasn't the bubonic plague that ravaged Venice. The second time was in 1889 after London - how to phrase this delicately? - drew too much attention cleaning up a mess in London, England. And now, it's third time's the charm. Mortals had stumbled upon Alexandria's Library. Yes, yes, I know, Julius Caesar, 48 BC, fire, brimstone, destruction, blah, blah, blah. The building went, sure, but its contents, which included several spell books and magical texts my ancestors wanted lost but not destroyed, were shifted someplace else and shielded. A few weeks ago...well, I've already said what happened.

"Entering the Library is forbidden," the mouthpiece reminds me. "The knowledge within the volumes contained within the Library is forbidden. Absorbing the written word is forbidden. Exposing such magic to mortals is forbidden. Cadeyrn has broken our laws, Fionnuala. Again. As your wraith, he may be beyond the laws of the Fae, but he is not beyond ours."

I resist the urge to groan. My cousin - he's the King of the Summer Court - told me once that my life would be a lot easier without London around constantly causing trouble to one degree or another. Never mind that his life is tied to mine, that he can't die again so long as I breathe; there are ways, if I truly wanted, truly desired, to make him go away and stay away. Immortality, after all, leaves a lot of leeway in the actual condition of living attached. I mean, hell, we've all seen the movies where the idiot asks for eternal life and ends up as a tree or a statue or sealed up in coffins dropped into impossible-to-reach-again places. Magic's full of loopholes that way. As my cousin helpfully pointed out, I have eight other wraiths, all of whom manage to keep themselves out of trouble.

Unfortunately, London isn't just trouble. He's also...he's curious, always asking questions and exploring and trying to figure things out. He can be so patient and calm at times, surprisingly so given how hot tempered and restless he can be at others. He has this charming perfect gentleman act he can pull out to impress, but his natural state has him more laid back and sarcastic, with a healthy dash of irreverence thrown in for flavour. After I'd transitioned him, even before the others had found him and managed to calm him, he would come to me with the corniest of gifts - hand-picked wild flowers, dog-eared used books, worn old stuffed animals - and sit with me, sometimes talking of himself, sometimes telling me the legends and stories of his youth, and sometimes just sitting silently. He would braid my hair and ask me questions, never minding when I didn't answer. He was gentle and sweet and compassionate. I won't let the Ancients - or anyone else - take that from me.

"The Library had been discovered by the mortals," I point out, working hard to keep my displeasure and frustration from leaking into my voice. "It's also forbidden, last I checked, for that information to fall into mortal hands. The expedition party was funded by Merlin, an organization that, as you know, is not exactly friendly to the Fae. London acted to protect our people in the one way available to him. Now, because of what he did, the mortals will find a tomb of blank books."

"That does not change that he used forbidden magic in a forbidden place," the mouthpiece declares.

"Forbidden only because it was decided the risks of performing such magic and being in those places carried heavier consequences than they were worth. Specific situations and circumstances, however, would call that into question, wouldn't you agree? The preservation of the Library's knowledge and protection of the Fae Courts certainly count as ample justification."

"Laws were broken, regardless of the excuses for doing so. Your wraith is guilty, Fionnuala and punishment cannot be escaped this time. Take comfort in the knowledge that you have other wraiths to serve you."

My temper snaps. "Why do people keep saying that? My wraiths are not interchangeable; it's not like I'm playing chess and they're just pieces to move about and sacrifice at will. You say London broke laws, fine, he broke laws. But in breaking those laws he - what is that expression the movies use? - neutralized a potential threat. You may not approve of his methods, but, frankly, I don't give a shit. I fully support London's actions, and so far as punishments go, the only authority that matters where London is concerned is MINE! So, yes, we're very sorry to inconvenience you or whatever. London will not have the knowledge of Alexandria for long; he's going to be getting rid of it just as soon as he can find something else suitable to hold it all. So, give me back my wraith. Now. Please."

For a moment, there's nothing but silence in the cavern. London is staring at me with a mix of fear and admiration. He's afraid for me, the silly dolt, rather than himself.

"Fionnuala, you have brok-" the mouthpiece begins.

"Oh, shut up, Nedronial," I snap. "Everyone and their dog's pup knows this whole spectacle is only a pretext. I mean, am I actually supposed to believe that temporarily absorbing the knowledge of Alexandria is a bigger deal than when he killed fifty thousand people in Venice or accidentally created Jack the Ripper?" I snap my fingers and London vanishes, reappearing at my side, fear, confusion and concern emanating from him like heat from an inferno. "This is the last time I'm coming here at your summons. You want to see me again, make an appointment like everyone else and in the meantime, leaves my wraiths alone. They need punishing, I'll do it myself."

And then I leave.

I am totally going to regret this later.


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Monday, August 26, 2013

Lizzie Koch Week 62: The Charm

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Charm

The sapphire waters of the Red Sea broke into a turquoise blue where the coral reefs lay just off the barren island. Other boats had already moored with their occupants already jumping into the shallow, warm waters. Ben readied his snorkelling equipment, sweat running down his tanned back despite the early start. He waited patiently as others dropped into a shimmering adventure below, taking a deep breath, he stepped off the boat.

The water was as clear as that in a glass and Ben wasted no time in exploring. Quickly, he left the congestion of the organised group and immersed himself in the wonders of the reefs where he was inches away from shoals of tiny purple fish swimming directly beneath him. His eyes darted in all directions so not to miss a thing, camera ready, capturing a secret life of beauty, not limiting himself to the surface as he dived down holding his breath as he skimmed along the sandy bottom. Just as he began to turn up, something caught his eye, something shiny. But his lungs felt like they were in a vice. He broke the surface, the sun blinding him momentarily as he took deep breaths, spying the group in the distance before diving back down.

He knew where to head and there it was; the shiny object nestled on the sand. Taking photos first, he then picked up the charm, examining it carefully; the studded D shimmering in his hand as unsuspectingly, a strong current began to sweep Ben towards the drop off. Thrashing his legs, Ben fought against the current but his lungs were about to burst from his chest. Nothing but deep, blue sea faced him as the reef lay behind him. He realised he was out of his depth.

A hand reached out, grabbing him, pulling him up and with thrashing legs, Ben burst through the waves, gasping, filling up his lungs with air. He couldn’t see clearly through his misted goggles but saw the delicate string of pearls on a wrist that held onto his arm. Together, they swam back to the shallows and safety where the group were still exploring.

“Thank you,” Ben panted. “I’m usually a strong swimmer.”

“The currents here can catch you out. You shouldn’t have left the group.” Her voice was mellow despite the firmness of her message.

“I was distracted. Treasure,” he joked, opening up his hand.

“That’s mine.” She didn’t wait for Ben to offer the charm and clipped it onto her bracelet. “Thanks for finding it.” She smiled.

“What does the D stand for?”


“Hey!” The group leader shouted, times up!” The group started to swim back, flippers and arms splashing in the water, disrupting the quiet ripples into white froth. Ben lost sight of Deanna but he was last to climb onto the boat where he was handed a towel and a drink before climbing up on deck, looking for Deanna as the group leader took a final headcount.

The boat started back for the mainland as Ben asked around for Deanna, searching the decks, bathroom and kitchen. She was nowhere. “We have to go back!” he demanded. “You’ve counted wrong.”

“No, we’re all present and correct Ben,” the group leader said. “Did you say Deanna?”

“Yes. She was out by the drop off, we swam back together. She should be here.”

“My friend”, began the group leader, “you have not heard the legend of Deanna?”

“What do you mean legend?”

“Ten years ago, a ship very much like this one with tourists like you, came out here to dive, like you. There was a girl called Deanna. She was a good diver, swimmer, like a fish in the water. She always came out here. But one day, she lost a charm to her bracelet and was so consumed in finding it that she ran out of air and the current was too strong for her. She didn’t make it.”

The boat fell silent.

“Legend says she now swims these waters, looking for her charm and saving those who find themselves in difficulty. You, my friend, have met the legend!” He slapped Ben on his back as Ben stared out across the clear blue waters, straining for another glimpse of Deanna, before his attention was drawn to his camera and the last photo he took; the charm. Excitedly, he looked through the pictures again and again but all they revealed was sand.


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


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ruth Long Week 61: Blue Jean Regime (Part Two)

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Blue Jean Regime (Part Two)

Don’t get bit. Crush their skulls. Find our baby.

Sounded simple enough until Jonas opened the door and they had to step over Connolly and Fitzgerald’s bodies. They'd been her security detail for two years, efficiently escorting her to and from necessary functions and safeguarding her when her mother was away from home, as she so often was. And now they lay decomposing on the blue tiled floor instead of standing at attention and greeting her with crisp military nods.

She swiped at the tears. Was she crying because she was sad about their deaths or because she was angry they’d been the ones who kept her locked in her room? Crud! Was she going to cry over every corpse? Maybe just the ones she’d known in life. And maybe just until the pregnancy hormones wore off. They were going to wear off, weren’t they?

Jonas touched her arm. “You okay? I know you cared for them. They were good to you, probably felt like part of your family, but this is just a glimpse of what's out there, what we're facing now. I want to tell you about everything, girl, but there's so much I don't know where to begin."

"How fast does it happen? I mean, if you get bit, how long do you have before -"

He shrugged. "About five minutes. Give or take a couple minutes on either side."

"Not time to say goodbye or get far enough away from the ones you loved to keep from turning on them, huh? I have so much to catch up on. Feels like we're in school again and I should be taking notes."

"How about you ask whatever questions come time to mind as we're heading for the nursery?! Seems like that might work better than me trying to figure out what to tell you and where to start.”

She nodded. "Okay, why are we moving so slowly when we're in such a hurry to find the baby?"

"See, that's good," he said, moving past the empty nurses station. "Didn't think to spell it out. Just kinda went through the motions like I was on autopilot. See, we got to clear the area as we move through it, make sure it's empty, so that nobody, living or dead, gets the jump on us."

"Like in cop shows, where they clear each room in a house as they look for a suspect?"

"Exactly! You got it. That way, we protect ourselves and also the folks who come through here after us."

She couldn't imagine who would come in here on purpose. Not now, when the lights were flickering, the hall was littered with corpses, and the air was still as death.

He motioned to the door at his left. "Okay, so sticking with that cop scenario, for now, we're partners. I'll take lead. You stay on my tail and protect my back. As time goes along and you pick up some skills, you can take point if you want."

Somehow, she'd forgotten how calm and rational he was. So easy to talk to. So quick to include her in things. So conscious of her needs and wants. "Do they try to stop you from killing them?"

"Who? The zeds?"

"The what? Zeds?"

He grinned and his dark eyes lit up. "Oh, well, that's what Donovan started calling them. Mix 'zombie' with 'undead' and you get 'zed.' Kinda catchy, huh? No, they don't seem to have any awareness other than the drive to bite you. Okay, now we're going to go into this room, slow and quiet. I'll take care of occupants. You close the door and stay behind me."

Act as partners. Clear the area. Watch his back.

She could totally do that. Back up her man. Okay, maybe he wasn't exactly hers but he'd come to her aid in the middle of a full blown zombie take over. And he did seem as invested in her well-being as the baby's. That had to mean something, right? Like maybe he still cared, hopefully.

For a moment, as the door swung open, she felt a jolt of relief that it was empty and then her chest froze and her teeth slammed into her lip as a misshapen body turned from the window, its distorted face scenting the air and then turning towards them.

Jonas raised his rifle and shot the zed in the center of its decaying forehead. It tottered, as though its body was slow to recognize it was finally dead, and then fell against the wall and slid to the floor.

Her stomach lurched and her eyes squinched closed. Get a grip. It was already dead. Stop acting like such a baby. Take a memo. This is life now. Get it figured out or your daughter is going to suffer for it.

She heard her name and looked up. "What? Didn't hear what you said. Was too busy berating myself."

He crouched beside her. "Well if you're done, cupcake, we got three more rooms before we can get to that nursery."

"Sorry. This is just ... "

He patted her hair. "Hey, I didn't mean for that to sound so harsh. I never wanted you to see shit like this. Damn it, that's not the whole truth. I didn't count on how much I didn't want you to see me kill someone. That woman over there on the floor, she was a new mom, same as you. I didn't feel any joy or pride in taking her out. It wasn't like scoring points in the video game. The only thought in my head was keeping us alive."

She scooted closer, so that their thighs and shoulders touched. "I spent a lot of nights watching you, Jay, and Donovan play that stupid game. And yeah, I cheered you on. Pushed you to get the higher score. And I don't know, but in some strange way, maybe it paid off and that's why you're alive, why we're alive. But I know you and I know you didn't feel any pleasure in doing what had to be done."

He put his cheek against her shoulder for a brief moment. "Thank you for that, because what you think about me, well, it matters."

She pushed his head off her shoulder, gently, and got to her feet. "Come on, partner. We've got more ground to cover. Maybe I can't make sense of all the things I feel about you but I trust you. If you say killing zeds is the safest way to go about protecting ourselves and our territory, that's what we'll do."

He stood up, headed for the door, and held the door open for her. "You better be careful talking like that. Might get a man to thinking you're sweet on him."

The hallway was still clear, as were the next three rooms, but the nursery was occupied and by the kind of occupant they were most hoping to avoid. Through the half shuttered windows, they could see a nurse moving from crib to crib, rotting jaw exposing gray decaying teeth that clicked and chattered, skeletal fingers clawing at the acrylic bassinets.

In quick purposeful strides, Jonas pushed into the room, and shot the nurse. Haley hurried past him, searching the cribs, scanning for a pink tag that read 'Baby Buchanan.' Should have said 'Baby Kiddrick' but mama had negated that right off.

All the cribs were empty, blankets rumpled and booties left behind. No baby girls and no cribs with the pink tag. Voice high and tight, she said, “My mom must have her, right?"

Jonas ran a hand through his hair and turned away from her. "I’m telling you right now, if your mom took our baby, I’m going to .... Give me a minute, okay? I need to get myself under control before I say something that hurts you."

While he did so, she started shuffling through charts, drawers, and papers. “Look, one of the babies was transferred here after he gained enough weight to leave the intensive care nursery. Maybe that’s where our baby is – next door in the NICU. Makes no sense but it's possible, right?”

They took the hall at a run, skidding to a stop when they saw a pair of zeds roaming among the raised cribs.

"It's okay," Jonas said, breathing hard. "I'll lead, you follow. We got this."

Partners. Trust. Order. All of those concepts dissipated in the face of her terror when one of the zeds bumped a button that raised the protective cover of the nearest incubator. Smashing her hand into the emergency fire box, Haley grabbed the axe and rushed the putrefying nurse, slamming the axe into her skull and knocking her to the floor.

She heard the shot Jonas fired, the thud as the second zed crashed into frame of the incubator, and the sound of crying though it took her a moment to realize she was the one crying.

Jonas was instantly beside her. "Are you hurt? Aw shit, Haley! Tell me you didn't get bit! Talk to me!"

Stupid hormones were gonna keep screwing with her, weren't they? "I'm okay. I'm fine. Really. Just mad because that stupid zombie, zed, whatever you call it, got blood on my slippers."

"The world has gone to hell and you're crying over bloody bunny slippers? Oh, here now. I'll stop teasing you if you stop crying, okay? I'll get you new slippers, girl. I promise. Now, come on. Let's take a look in the incubator."

She reached for the armband and lined it up with her own. “They don’t match, Jonas, but I know it's her.” She stopped talking, turned the baby over and peered at her left heel. “It is! See this mark? I was looking at her toes last night and accidentally scratched her heel. See the little boo-boo right there? Oh my god, I was thinking what a terrible mom I was, scratching my baby, but it just saved her, saved us.”

"I don't need an armband or barcode to tell me this is our daughter. She has your face. Well, that's my nose, isn't it, but the rest, that's all you. I don't know why she's in here but let's take her chart with us and have somebody with medical training look at it. My sis, or somebody else you're more comfortable with."

She lifted the baby out of the crib and held her close. “It’s okay, sweetpea. We’re here. Look, daddy’s here too. We’re all together now.”

Jonas drew his girls into a hug.

Into his shoulder, Haley said, “Elizabeth.”

He kissed the baby’s forehead. “What?”

“That’s the name I was thinking of. It was your mother’s, right?”

“Yes. I love that you'd choose it for that reason, but I'd rather it was her middle name.”

“I'm okay with that. What do you have in mind for her first name?”

He kissed her temple. “You’ll laugh, but from the moment you said she was a girl, I started thinking about the very first man and woman, and how they found themselves occupying a strange new world, and how they invested themselves in that garden, how they cared for the garden and the garden cared for them.”


You want to name our daughter Eden?”

“Yes, I do. I mean, if it’s too weird, we can make it her middle name, or you can tell me there's no way in hell you'd agree to it, but it just seems perfect. Look at her. Beautiful like you. Going to be smart like you too.”

She stroked the child's soft chubby cheek. "Sweet, strong, and funny like her daddy, too."

"What about charming and irresistible?"

She brushed a quick kiss along his jaw. "Yes, that too, but how about we continue this conversation in the safety of my room?"

"Good idea. You get Eden wrapped up nice and secure, in case we bump into company on the way back and I'll gather up all the supplies I can find. We're going to need diapers, blankets, that kind of stuff, right?"

All of those things awaited them back home at the nursery her mother had designed but none of it would be put to use now. She and Jonas would have to start from scratch, build a life for themselves and Eden, moment by moment, day by day. Maybe that was the way it was supposed to be.

She tore a crib sheet into strips, knotted them together, and used the improvised rope to secure the baby to her chest. Not as fancy as the top-of-the-line baby carrier she'd been eyeing in the swank baby catalogs her mama didn't know she'd stashed in her nightstand drawer, but it would work just as well for now.

"If you ladies are ready," Jonas said, pushing past them with a laundry cart piled high with baby supplies, "we should get settled in before sunset. Nightlife is a bit dicier to deal with so let's hunker down for the night and get a fresh start in the morning. And look what I found! A little bottle of bubbly to celebrate Eden's birth!"

Damn if that didn't make her burst into giggles. She'd spent months crying over the situation and hiding from her mother's furious disappointment, the rampant rumors at school about her pregnancy, and the horror and helplessness she felt when she learned how her mother had retaliated against Jonas.

He'd been stripped of his wrestling records and awards, expelled from school for the remainder of the year, and barred from the graduation ceremony. She'd been so sure he'd spent every moment since then hating her, planning how to get even, maybe even going so far as to take their baby away from her, just for spite. But here he was, as affectionate, confident, and energetic as ever.

Maybe her guilt, heartache, and imagination had gotten the best of her. Maybe her mama's lectures about slutty girls, horny boys, and illegitimate babies was out-of-date propaganda. Maybe Jonas wasn't the angry vengeful boy she'd pictured all these long lonely weeks. So many maybes flitting through her mind. Maybe it was time to open the window and chase them out.

Yes. That's exactly what she was going to do. Tonight, she was going start growing up. Curl up, drink up, and make up with Jonas Kiddrick. Tomorrow, they could figure out the logistics, together. But tonight, she was going to tell her brain to shut up and let her heart speak up.

Smart tough guy. Safe sleeping baby. Soft tender feelings.

In spite of it's uncertainties, life was awfully sweet at the moment.


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


Saturday, August 24, 2013

JB Lacaden Week 61: Numbers

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JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Numbers

She got down on her knees and held Saber's head in her hands. The wolf looked at her with its knowing eyes and raised its head to give her cheek a lick. Tears welled up in her eyes. 39 gave Saber an embrace.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I just can't take you with me."

She let go, got on her feet, and pulled her hood up. The wolf followed her with its gaze--not once did Saber made a sound. 39 brought two fingers to her lips and then touched them to the wolf's forehead. "I promise this will not be the last we'll see each other."

39 slipped out of her room and melded with the darkness of the hallway.


Alarms blared behind her. 39 did not once stopped and looked back. She continued running deeper into the forest, guided by what little light that was able to penetrate through the thick cluster of branches and leaves. She knew the Company would come looking for her. She knew it wouldn’t be long before the wolves along with the other Numbers would be on her trail. 39 fought against the pain in her sides, against the darkness of the night, against the protest of her muscles. 39 kept on running. She didn't know where she was headed, she didn't know how long she'd have to go, but one thing she did know was behind her was a prison and she had no plans of going back.


39 woke up lying on the sunlight carpeted forest floor. Her robe had tears and holes and her bare feet were filled with scratches. She couldn't recall whether she had fallen asleep or had collapsed from exhaustion. But she didn't care. The only thing that mattered to her was she didn't wake up surrounded by the four white walls of her room inside the Company.

Her body ached all over but the most prominent pain was the one she felt in her stomach. The small window she had to escape wasn't enough for her to get anything aside from the tattered robe she was wearing and her bow and two arrows.

39 accessed the hunter/gatherer skillset in her database of skills implanted in her mind. She felt her muscles and her bones adapting the change. Her hearing and her eyesight sharpened. 39 smiled. She hated what The Company did to her but she'd have to admit - they did have their upsides too.


The bow felt like an extension of her arm. She made it when she first acquired her bowyer/fletcher skillsets. The bow was made of elm and had elaborate carvings running up and down its body. 39 never went anywhere without it.

The animal in front of her was feeding on the plants. She searched her database and found a match. The beast was called a deer. Herbivores of the family cervidae. It was completely unaware of 39's presence.

She nocked the arrow in place and pulled it all the way to her lips. All sound was hushed as if the entire forest waited with bated breath as to what will happen next. The only movement came from the deer. 39 released the arrow. It pierced the air and eventually the deer's neck. The animal fell to the ground.

39 walked over to it to find it still alive. She got down on her knees and finished the job. Cleaning the animal would be next. She pulled out the arrow from the deer's neck when she heard a sound somewhere behind her. 39's hunter reflexes kicked in. In less than three seconds she had her bow loaded with the bloody arrow and had it directed towards the sound - a girl with a very familiar face.

"Hello, 39," the girl said. Her torso was covered with white armor with The Company's insignia printed on the armor's chest. A gun was holstered in her belt and a baton was in her right hand. 39 knew the armor to be bulletproof, the gun to be loaded with tranquilizers, and the baton to be electrified. Standard gear for a manhunt. But the most prominent feature of the girl was her face. She looked exactly like 39.

"So, which one of you found me?" 39 asked.

The girl raised her left hand and the number 23 was tattooed on her palm. "Many have tried to escape but you're the only to ever get out of the compound. The Makers are impressed," 23 said.

39 eyed her clone. If one of them was here then at least one other Number wasn't too far. It was standard procedure to always go in pairs. 23 guessed what she was thinking.

"I'm paired up with 15. She's not far." 23 raised her other hand to show a small device with. "I press this button and she'll come running here. I suggest you lower down the weapon and come with us."

"I won't return back to that...prison," 39 answered back.

"It's your home. The Company takes care of us. They made us! That's where we belong."

"No! No. That...that place, the people there, they don't care what happens to us. We are just objects to them. We're weapons."

"And where will you go?" 23 countered. "You've heard the stories, you've seen the images. There's nothing out there. The world outside the compound is just filled with wildlands, mutants, and chaos. The Company made us and yes, you can say we're made to be weapons, but we're weapons that will be used to protect the remaining survivors of this dying planet. We're the future. We can make things right again."

39 smiled bitterly. "You think we're the future? You have no idea what we really are to them. I've seen their plans. It's why I ran away. They're planning to--"

"Good job, 23. You've found her."

39 took one quick glance and she saw another Number. 15 she assumed. Every Numbers were all created equally in terms of intelligence and skills. 39 knew if she fought hard enough she could beat 23 but fighting two Numbers at the same time would be impossible. She knew she was in trouble.

But she'd already made up her mind. If they do bring her back to The Company, it would be as a corpse.

"Lower your weapon, sister," 15 commanded.

39 heard the cocking of a gun behind her. She caught 23 steal a glance at 15. 39 knew she had to act fast. She raised her bow and made a quick release and then she dove to the side without bothering to check whether her arrow struck the target or not. The tranquilizer dart barely got her; it zipped past her leg and into the forest.

39 rolled on her knees but was quickly met with 15’s electric baton. It caught her right on the chest, which sent her on her back. Her body convulsed as the electricity coursed through within her and for a moment 39 felt nothing but pain.

Then she felt nothing at all.

She tried moving but her body refused to listen. Above her, thin strands of white clouds slowly rolled by. She felt her eyes water up.

No. This can’t be the end. I don’t want to go back. I want to live...

Her view of the sky was blocked with the faces of her clones looking down at her. She saw an arrow sprouting from 23’s right shoulder. The clone’s face though was free of pain.

“You really didn’t think you’d be able to win against two Numbers?” 15 said.

I. Refuse!

39 did not know where she got the strength to break out of the paralysis or to do what she did next but she was thankful for it. Her hand moved like a viper. She grabbed 15 by the wrist, the one that held the baton, and she pulled the clone down. 39 then raised her legs and held 15’s neck between them. Using her other hand, 39 snatched 15’s baton, turned the power on with a press of a button, and struck 23’s knees with it. 23 screamed in pain from the electrocution and her body folded to the ground.

39 could feel 15 struggling with the hold she had on her.

“You’ve no chance of escaping The Company, sister,” 15 said with a maniacal smile on her face.

“Watch me,” 39 answered as she tightened and twisted her legs until she felt 15’s neck broke. The clone’s body went limp.

39 got on her feet and surveyed the scene. Two Numbers lay dead in front of her. A stroke of luck? There was no way a single Number could out duel two. 39 went over to 23 and she pulled out the arrow sticking out from her fellow clone’s arm.

39 ran away without looking back.


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


Friday, August 23, 2013

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 61: Lawyers, Guns, and Money - Epilogue

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money - Epilogue

La Cantina Dos Hermanos sits at the end of the dock.
It's run out of a white clapboard house with an inviting front porch no one ever uses.
The front door is perfectly serviceable but most people-- meaning everyone who'd been to the Los Hermanos more than once-- go in through the dockside entrance.
Inside, the walls are covered with framed photographs of locals and other random folks. Black and white photos, all of 'em showing life, just as it is.
They keep the biggest one behind the bar, hung high on the wall, next to a shelf with a small angel carved out of stone and what looks like a piece of white-painted scrap metal from a car or truck on it.
The photograph shows two men-- brothers-- with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, leaning against an old pickup truck. If you ask the cantina's owners about the men in that photograph they'll tell you they were a couple of guys who did 'em a good turn in the past.
A sturdy bar made from local knotty pine takes up most of one wall. Each of the other three walls has a rail of the same pine built into it. Three ceiling fans do what they can with the hot, smoke-filled air.
El Dos Hermanos serves beer and rum. You can get other liquors if you ask for 'em. If you've had too much you can get something they call, “Cafe Antonio”. Don't know what's in it but it'll get you right. Fast.
For grub, you can get a plate of good rice and beans with a hunk of grilled chorizo if you want it, but the specialty of the house is some kind of seared steak with peppercorns stuck in it.
The husband and wife team that owns and operates the Dos Hermanos-- a wiry gringo, long since gone native, and a dangerous beauty from somewhere up country-- are as welcoming as any barkeep you'll find down here.
Just don't ask 'em about the scars. Little round scars, six or seven on each of 'em. Don't ask him how he got that limp. Don't ask her how she ended up with a glass eye.
Just don't.
You won't find a more affable pair than those two but they'll go stony on you if you start in with the questions.
And if you're in the Dos Hermanos to cause trouble? That's not such a smoking hot idea.
The place is far from stuffy and it's not exactly genteel, but there's a line. If you cross that line you're gonna get carried out feet first and deposited on the dock. Or the canal, depending on what you did.
By her. You don't want that.
No one knows how she got that tough, but barflies talk and there's always someone who thinks he knows something.
There are stories-- wild stories-- about some big shootout with the Federales. Stories about fugitives and chases. Everybody's got a theory.
No one's had the balls to ask the owners about it.

Probably best if it stays that way.


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


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pablo Michaels Week 61: Marooned

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Pablo Michaels’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Marooned

By late afternoon Brian and Joseph realized they were stranded.

“If you hadn’t run into that ditch, we wouldn’t be stuck here. And going to this castle. Why did we come this late? Shit! It’s almost dark.” Brian tossed his head in disgust.

“There have been no cars in an hour. Besides you’re the one who forgot our cell phones. Look at that bright star.” Joseph pointed above the turret of the castle in the distance.

They stepped side by side along the rural road, ascending the barren rocky landscape. They crossed over the moat of the castle’s drawbridge.

“Isn’t this great!” Joseph wrapped his arm around Brian’s shoulders tightly. “We’re going into a medieval castle at night.”

“I suppose you’re going to make this a romantic adventure. Just because we’re in France. What’d you expect- Nottingham? I suppose you want to go and see if someone’s in there?”

“That’s the point. The door is open.”

Walking through the raised portcullis, they entered the bailey.

“There doesn’t appear to be anyone here.” Brian listened for audible sounds.

“Nothing is lit either.”

“What are we supposed to do now genius?”

“We can’t walk back. Let’s go exploring. We might find someplace comfortable for the night.” Joseph leaped ahead in search of somewhere sheltered.

“What a way to spend our honeymoon. I wish we were back in our hotel eating dinner.” Brian followed Joseph’s lead.

A grinding clank echoed behind them.

“Oh no!”

“We’re trapped.” Brian scoffed, as they watched the portcullis lower.

“There must have been a timer set for closing it. Come on. We have to hurry to find a place for the night. We have only that bright star above for light.” Joseph led them into an enclosed room deeper in the bailey. “This must have been the lord’s chamber.” He looked inside the dark room. “Do you have your lighter?” Brian reached into his jacket pocket, retrieving the item. He flicked the flame on. “Are we going to spend the night in here?”

“Well, yeah. It doesn’t seem that bad. We could cuddle together.”

“What about rats and bats? It smells damp and rancid, like death.”

“It does have a bad odor. We’ll find somewhere else, maybe up the wall.”

“It’s called a curtain wall.” Brian corrected his partner. “At least up there we’ll see if anyone passes. What’s that?”

“I heard it too.”

“Sounded like someone moaning. I’m getting of this room.”

“It’s probably just the wind blowing.” Joseph followed Brian’s exit into the main bailey.

After scaling the keep, they gazed at the dark landscape below through a murder-hole, waiting for the arrival of dawn and a rescue.

“Let’s snuggle together and keep warm. Joseph pulled Brian close to him.

“Once a romantic, always a romantic.” Brian relented. He kissed him.

“Hey, you up there.” A voice called out down below the drawbridge.

“Just when I was about to make love to you.” Joseph removed his hand from its clasp on Brian’s butt.

“We’re trapped in here.” Brian shouted loudly to the person below, ignoring Joseph’s remark.

“I saw your car. I’ll call the gatekeeper.”


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


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sarah Aisling Week 61: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Eighteen)

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 1

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

Ciel shrieked at the sight of Melinda's ruined face, unable to look away.

Melinda stumbled back, turning her face away from Ciel's shocked expression. Already off-balance from Janice's dead weight draped over her shoulder, Melinda's feet went out from under her when the heel of her shoe came down on a pile of the slick playing cards.

Ciel lunged forward and caught Janice's ankle as Melinda went down hard, slamming the back of her head on the concrete floor. It was close, but Ciel managed to tug Janice out of harm's way. Janice landed on top of her aunt, both of them out cold.

“Shit!” Ciel breathed hard, her heart rate rocketing until her pulse throbbed at her temples and throat. She shot to her feet and rolled Janice's limp body off Melinda, then looked around the room. Rope wasn't among the myriad items available on the shelves in the bunker, so Ciel settled for stripping the sheets from the cot and using them to bind Melinda's hands and feet. Ciel studiously avoided looking at Melinda's ruined face while she worked.

Propping the heavy metal door open with a chair, she went back and struggled to lift Janice's slack body from the floor. By the time she finally made it into a hunched-over crouch with Janice's arm pulled tight around her neck, sweat dripped along Ciel's hairline and trickled down her spine. Despite the exertion, she shivered from a chill that emanated from within.

Ciel managed to half-drag, half-carry Janice across the bunker. She was determined not to take a break until they were safely outside with Melinda locked inside.

With one final mighty heave, Ciel propelled the two of them through the door and propped Janice against the wall just outside. Ciel slammed the heavy door shut and rammed the bolt home, reveling in the finality of the tumbler snapping into place. With a cry of relief, she rested her forehead against the cool metal and panted.

Janice slept on peacefully beside the door with no idea of what had transpired. Ciel smiled and shook her head. Her breathing finally normalized, and she lifted her head to take in their surroundings. The hallway outside the bunker was dim; the only visibility came from a weak light bulb located at a bend.

Feeling more secure with Melinda tied and locked up, Ciel decided to locate the exit before attempting to carry Janice any farther. To the left of the door, the shadows morphed into complete darkness, but to the right was the bend in the hall. Ciel made her way to the corner and peeked around cautiously—another short hall with another light at the end. She followed it to the next bend and entered a small, dark room. The shadows concealed another door, which Ciel pulled open once she came across it. Before her was a steep stairway reaching up into complete darkness. Ciel wailed in frustration. How would she ever get Janice up all those stairs? And where did they go?

Behind her, Ciel heard muffled thumping and yelling. Her heart raced, and she had to remind herself Melinda was tied up and the door bolted shut.

She decided to climb up alone first. The damp stone steps seemed to go on forever. Once the darkness surrounded her, Ciel used the metal railing along the wall to keep her balance and anchor her to orientation. Eventually, the top of her head bumped against something solid, and she realized it was a trapdoor.

The slab of metal was heavy, but Ciel managed to open it after a few tries. It flipped open with a metallic bang! A light powdering of dust sifted down from the edges of the opening, and she shielded her eyes. Ciel climbed out, squinting against the murky light. When her eyes adjusted, she glanced around. The trapdoor led Ciel to the middle of a pile of charred wooden beams, powdery bits of plaster, and remnants of broken and burned furniture. One outside wall still stood, the only clue that this was once a small stone cottage.

Ciel picked her way through the rubble until she reached the perimeter, happy to step onto solid ground. The destroyed cottage was in the center of a huge rolling field of grass surrounded by trees. She ran around the ruins, looking in every direction. A nondescript blue sedan was parked on the other side of the stone wall—probably how Melinda had arrived. Ciel circled the car, trying all the doors, but they were locked.

It seemed she was in the middle of nowhere, and the keys to the only method of transportation were likely locked in the bunker with Janice's crazy, pissed off aunt.


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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

J M Blackman Week 61: Aim and Shoot with a Chance of Sandy Shores: The Rabbit Hole Part 7

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Aim and Shoot with a Chance of Sandy Shores: The Rabbit Hole Part 7

“Tell me one more time.”

For once, Samir didn’t give me that look. He didn’t sigh, or roll his eyes. He took my hands in his, and once again, I had that sinking feeling that I was going to die. “I wish we have time for me to tell you one more time…” I was smiling before he finished what he was saying, and I wasn’t sure when he started to have that effect. “But we don’t. They’re coming. And I need to get going. So do you. This will only work if we both can do what we need to.”

“I am really bad at high pressure situations,” I gulped.

“You used to be. You were when I first met you. But you’re the fastest learner I’ve ever known and, you’ve gotten really good quite quickly.”

“You’re just saying that.”

“Truly not,” he said, shaking his head. “I can explain in great detail later if this works.”

“If it doesn’t?”

He let go of my hands. “I’ll see you in 22 minutes.” He tapped the band on my wrist. It was like a bracelet--a metal bracelet, but it was oddly flexible. It could do all sorts of neat things like tell Sam right where I was, or lead us straight to each other, or set a countdown for when I should be in an exact place at an exact time to shoot a not-so-exact weapon. That was what it was going now.

“22 minutes,” I confirmed, surprised my voice wasn’t shaking since everything else was. He turned and jerked the door open, leaving it ajar as he jogged off. I tapped the gun, light as a toy, similar in appearance against my leg before I realized if it accidentally went off I could very well kills us where we stood. Because I wouldn’t be able to get to where I needed to be, and we would fail. And though, Sam hadn’t said it, I knew that’s what failure meant. Death. For both of us.

I peeked my head out into the hall. It was clear. It should have been. The other agents wouldn’t show up for another three minutes if Sam had timed it correctly. He knew how long it took to track someone. He knew how many people were after him. He knew the protocol, the plans, the weapons. And he had constructed a plan that considered how long it would take all of us to end up in the same place.

They would shoot for him first. Flank him and follow him to an open space that they will realize is a trap only seconds before I shot them. Or that was how it was supposed to go. That was the plan. I trusted Sam’s calculations, his expertise, but that didn’t stop me from quaking in my newly broken in boots.

After all, I wasn’t an agent of anything. I would never want to be so important. I refused to be my high school’s secretary--running uncontested--because I didn’t want the responsibility. What if I took terrible minutes? What if I missed out on notifying someone of...something? I didn’t want to owe anything to anyone if I could help it.

And right now I owed Sam a quick jog to a very specified location and survival. I had to not die to keep us both from dying. And it was possible that an agent might leave the group for me. More than likely not were Sam’s words. But there was still a chance. And I would have to be ready to defend myself. Or run and hide. Probably run and hide.

My wrist beeped to tell me to hurry the hell up, and I started running, trying to breathe through my nose, trying not to let my feet hit the ground too loudly. I neared a corner and the band gave a scream--the loudest, shrillest noise I’ve ever heard. I automatically dropped to the ground as I came to the opening and a whoosh of air brushed my head. The small whoosh was misleading, as a roar of dust accompanied it. I lifted my gun and pulled without even really seeing where I was aiming, or who at. I realized I might have hit Sam as the dust began to settle and I slid against the wall toward whoever it was, gun still raised.

A form began to take shape, and it definitely wasn’t Sam. This man was a few inches taller, with linebacker shoulders in a snug suit. And he was really, really angry. His face was twisted, eyes crinkled like a snarl and his mouth was simply a flat, shaking line; his nostrils were flared like a bull’s. But he stood absolutely still. Frozen. At least, in time. His body would still be warm. I wondered if he still breathed and took a step closer. His eyes didn’t move. He couldn’t see, or at least couldn’t move his eyes.

My wrist band trilled. We were going to be late. I slid back down the wall, hoping he couldn’t see my face. I went racing down the hall, now relying on the watch to warn me, because I couldn’t be even a second late. Or it all fell apart.

A stitch began to burn into my side and I was panting air like I’d run a marathon. I could see where I needed to be. It was the beginning of a lifted walkway--it overlooked that great space that Sam was going to lead the other agents to. The band was oddly silent as I skidded into place right as Sam rolled into sight on the floor below me. A gash was open over his right eye and trailing down his cheek. He gave me a thumbs up, but then he crumpled to the ground.

I couldn’t help. I screamed. In the next heartbeat, two agents ran into view. I took a quick breath and as Rambo as you can go with a time-freezing gun, I did. I’m pretty sure I hit them within the first four to five shots, but I kept firing until I saw Sam stand up.

“What are you doing?” he called. I just stared at him. “What’s wrong?” My eyes started to water, and I think he realized what was wrong. “Come down here, Aniyah.” I did, but I took my time. When I was standing beside him, he pried the gun from my hand and put it into his bag, and then held me by my shoulders, at arm’s length. “I’m sorry. I had planned on being out of the way, but when they split up, there was no way for me to get them both within your shot without being right in the middle of it.” I tried to stop my lip from shaking. I did a terrible job and wished for the billionth time that I was a stronger woman, a stronger person. I just couldn’t stop the burning in my eyes, no matter how much I tried.

“I’m sorry,” he said again. “There was no way to warn you.” He hugged me, and I finally let out a long, shuddering breath. Only a few tears fell. “Now, we’ve got to get back to work.”

We had to store all the bodies in one room. Moving them made me want to throw up. They were their own weights, but still...absolutely still, like tables. Samir assured me they were not aware of anything--frozen in that exact moment until released. I asked him why they hadn’t used the same weapon on us. He said because it was his prototype and no one knew about it. No one could. He would have to figure out how to make sure they didn’t remember.

I asked how they wouldn’t be traced and discovered. He set down a tiny triangle in a corner.

“That meant nothing to me,” I said. “I don’t know what that triangle thing means.”

“It means that there will be no trace that there has been any recent travel to this area.”


“It…” He seemed to search for the words. “Would block the tracer’s signal.”

“Are you explaining it to me like I’m five?”

“Very close.”

“Cool,” I nodded. “Can we go now?”

“I think we should.” He turned away from me and threw his arms apart. A hole appeared.

“What about your face?”

“It can wait until we’re settled. Arms in,” he said, tucking his arms to his side. I followed suit and then followed him in.

When we stepped out, he tried to catch me, but I wasn’t ready for sand and fell onto my hands and knees, covering myself in moist sand.

“Sam,” I sputtered.

“I thought a little beach time might help calm our nerves,” he shrugged. I looked up at him and hand to hold my hand up against the sun. It had been evening where we last were.

“I’m going to need sunglasses,” I grumbled.

“We can take care of that.” He held his hand down and I let him tug me out of my self-dug pit. Maybe beach time wouldn’t be terrible.


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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, August 19, 2013

SJ Maylee Week 61: The Empty Bench

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: 1

Title: The Empty Bench

Roxanne stood at the gate, kicking her shoe against the wood. The need to see Jonathon again had burrowed deep. Missing him had become one with each breath and it was burning a hole in her heart. She didn’t know when he’d come back, but he had to. She couldn’t imagine a future that didn’t have Jonathon right by her side.

I’ll meet you at the bench …

She replayed his last words again and again. It had been a week since the wind took him away. Since that dreadful night, she’d been replaying the scene. There had to have been words left unsaid. After replaying all their conversations, she couldn’t figure out what she was missing. Instead, she stood at the gate. Waiting.

He’ll come back. He has to come back.

A tear tumbled off her cheek and splashed her hand. She pushed the gate open and ran. With each foot fall she got closer to the bench.

The empty bench.


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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,


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Miranda Kate Week 60: Changing the Rules

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Changing the Rules

When Michael opened his eyes he couldn’t see anything. He also realised he couldn’t move. He tried shifting his body round, but realised that he was in an enclosed space. He tried to stifle feelings of panic and thumped hard on the walls around him. All were brick except one, which was wooden. The more he hit it the more it rattled; he wondered if it was a door. He found a horizontal seam and ran his fingers along it until he found a lock of some kind. He fiddled with it, trying to picture it in his mind, and then he heard a click.

As the door swung open he fell out onto the floor. He realised he must have been on a shelf of some sort, maybe inside a cupboard, but as there was no light in the area he’d fallen into, he still didn’t know. He stumbled to his feet and searched the walls with his hands.

Finally his hand rested on something and he pushed. The corridor filled with light. He had indeed been inside a cupboard, a linen cupboard by the look of the towels and sheets in it. The corridor had a thick carpet with a window at one end, while the other disappeared round a corner.

“Rob?” He called out hoping to get a reply, but no sound came back. He took a walk to the corner and found it led to another corridor, this time with rooms leading off it and a stairwell at the end.

The stairs were wide and went down in a curling sweep, again covered in plush carpet. He could see light downstairs, but still no sound.

He took his time, having no idea what to expect. He was in a house of some sort – a rather stately one by the look of the expensive furnishings and fine landscape paintings hanging at intervals along the stairwell.

He arrived in an entrance hallway; everything was oak and brass. Then a voice came to him.

“Michael, I’m in here.”

Initially he thought it was in his head, where he was used to hearing that voice, but realised it had come from one of the downstairs rooms; the soft furnishing making it sound flat and distant.

Two rooms went off the hallway, and he picked the one he thought it had come from. When he arrived at the doorway he saw he’d chosen correctly.

Sitting facing him, in a large high-backed armchair next to the fireplace, was the Jester. He looked like a rather haggard Vincent Price, ready to tell a very scary story.

Michael remained at the door, not quite believing what he was seeing.

“Michael, come in, come in, sit, sit.” He gestured to the armchair opposite him.

Michael took careful steps into the room. “Where’s Rob?”

The Jester giggled a little. “Yes, where indeed. Let’s talk.”

Michael didn’t like the sound of that, but wanted to hear more. He took the proffered seat and waited.

“Michael, we meet at last. I’m astounded by your game playing and your ingenuity; getting a friend to help. Wonderful, I hadn’t anticipated that. It was an interesting way to be caught.”

“If I caught you, how come I’m not home?”

“You don’t like the house, Michael? I always find it rather comfortable, it meets all my needs. You must embrace all the good places, they’re far and few between on your travels.”

“I don’t expect there to be anymore, I caught you.”

“Yes you did, but humour me a little Michael, because in fact you cheated.”

“What?” Michael was flabbergasted.

“Only YOU were meant to catch me; you weren’t supposed to bring in other players. Although I’m not knocking it, it’s good for me to have a new challenge.”

Michael felt like the Jester was talking in riddles. “New challenge? What are you talking about?”

“You don’t expect to pull a stunt like that and get away with it, surely?”

Michael opened his mouth, but no words came; he was speechless.

“I can’t have all of you trying that now, can I? No. So I have to devise a new strategy, a new game if you will, and now with two players.”

Michael was confused. “I don’t follow?”

“You want to know where Rob is Michael? Then you have to find him. That will get you, your ticket home.”

“What? Is he here somewhere? In this time?”

The Jester shrugged. “Who knows? He probably doesn’t.”

And then the Jester laughed, his cackle escalating towards its crescendo. Michael feared for the glass in the windows, along with his ears drums. He clamped his hands over his ears, and shut his eyes until it stopped.

When he opened them the Jester was gone.


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Friday, August 16, 2013

Samantha Redstreake Geary Week 60: Jinn & Tonic

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Samantha Redstreake Geary’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Jinn & Tonic

I twirl the heavy ring between my fingers, the ancient etchings casting eerie reflections on the polished bar’s sticky surface.

Disappointment didn’t mix well with the seven or so drinks I drowned my sorrows in. I felt certain I had made the biggest discovery of the all I’m certain of is a nasty morning ahead and an embarrassing end to a promising career.

“That is an interesting trinket. Might I have a look?” a voice behind me purrs, laced with an appealing accent I can’t identify.

I swivel my chair around to meet the voice and almost topple to the floor amongst the remnants of peanut shells and spilled promises. My head stops spinning long enough to focus on the spectre that towered over me, her form shrouded in inky cloth that moved like living smoke.

She cocks her head, studying me intensely with striking violet eyes, their smoldering edges crinkle with hidden amusement.

My mind refuses to communicate with my mouth, which hangs open in disbelief.

“Your ring, it looks... familiar.” she whispers, edging closer to me. A current of sweet honeysuckle clings to the air around us, an impressive perfume considering the competing smells of the overcrowded bar.

It’s intoxicating...or maybe I’m just intoxicated...I should probably say something, I look like an idiot.

Before I can respond, she snakes a milky white hand towards me and gingerly removes the ring from my sweaty palm. She holds the glinting gold up to her face, a melodic tune pours from her lips.

“From ages long and secrets deep,
the hopes and dreams of life do keep,
until one finds the truth they reap.”

“That’s beautiful...did you write it?” I ask, mesmerized.

“Not I,” she replied, her voice hoarse with emotion. “It’s engraved into the walls of this prison with the blood of a powerful sorcerer.”

I stumble out of my chair and snatch the ring from her grasp, excitement and confusion wrestling in my gut. “You can read these symbols? That’s amazing! I mean, I’ve taken this to the top archaeologists in the world and not one could decipher it.”

“It’s an extinct script not used for more than 2,500 years.”

“But, how do you know it? Are you a language expert, because, I gotta tell ya, that would be stupendous! You could really save my a--”

“Aladdin. He bore the ring, among others.”

“I’m sorry, did you just say this is the ring of Aladdin? Are you serious? I mean, I knew it was ancient and my instincts screamed this was a career altering find, but Aladdin’s infamous’s unbelievable! Could you write that down--the translation?”

She pins me with a searing glare.

“My apologies. I’m Dr. Galland. And you are?” I ask, hand outstretched.

“Jinn.” she offers, leaving my palm hanging empty in the fragrant air.

“Jinn, that’s interesting, sounds Arabic. May I ask how you came about this information--the ancient script and where you derived your sources?”

“My sources?” she asks, amusement lighting up her startling gaze. “I’ve been trapped inside the belly of that beast for eons. I am the only source.”

My mind struggles to wrap itself around the idea of this exotic creature, the possibilities kicking up a tempest that threatened to short-circuit all rational thought. “Whoa...I’m gonna need another gin and tonic.”

“As you wish.”


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My world is populated with all manner of speculative fiction, novel excerpts and groundbreaking collaborations with artists and composers. Unlock your imagination and step into a realm of possibility at WriterlySam.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kimberly Gould Week 60: Truth in Lies

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Truth in Lies

“Helen, would you come in a minute.”

Helen saved the file she was working on, grabbed her notepad and pencil, and entered Leonard’s office.

“Yes, sir?” she asked, flipping to a new page.

“Close the door, please.”

Helen frowned very slightly and pulled the heavy door closed. She had noticed him draw the curtains early and assumed he was recovering from a late night meeting the night before. She knew he had taken the dry cleaned shirt that she kept on her coat rack this morning.

It wasn’t that he wanted privacy. She had dealt with a number of sensitive requests before, but never had he so completely closed them off. It was dim, which made the office seem smaller when usually it struck her as spacious. She moved to take the chair opposite his desk, but he rose and blocked her path.

“What is it, Leo?” she asked, using his name in a way she very rarely did. “Something’s wrong.”

He sighed, his forehead dropping to nearly touch hers. They had worked together for fifteen years and she had only seen him this weary once, after his wife spent thirty-six hours in labour with their third child and nearly died during the C-section that concluded the nightmarish event. He had come in, despite his obvious fatigue, and closed himself in the office like this, calling her to bring him a blanket and pillow. He’d stayed in the office for two days before going home. She’d never asked about it, and when she got to meet Willow, their new daughter, Denise seemed so proud and happy, Helen assumed everything was fine. He just needed a couple days to recover before going back and being the husband and father their family needed.

His shoulders sagged, as they had then, and she could smell the morning breath that hadn’t been scrubbed away. His chin bore stubble that was normally shaved away.

“Denise...would rather I didn’t go home.”

“Oh, Leo,” Helen murmured, touching her throat and then his shoulder. “I’m so sorry. Do you need a place to stay?”

He chuckled. “I can afford the hotel until I arrange something permanent.”

She nodded. Of course he could. “I can go and buy you a set of toiletries. Pick up your dry cleaning? Do you need anything else?”

“Yes,” he said, leaning closer again. “I need the reason she punted me to be real.” His lips brushed Helen’s and she felt a shock run down her spine.

“Leo, I-”

He wrapped his arms around her, seizing her, and planted his lips on hers again. Rather than fight, she gave in to the attraction that had been there for years. She had worked so closely with him, cared so much for him, but kept things entirely platonic, as professional as possible. Even so, she couldn’t deny she had eyed him when he walked through the office building, his stride proud and tall. She admired the stubble on his jaw when he let it grow.

However, she didn’t want to capitulate entirely. “Leo, you and Denise might work this out. Don’t ruin your chance to fix it.” She leaned back slightly, opening a space so he could pull away if he wished.

He didn’t. He turned his head and held his lips a breath away from hers. “She thinks we’ve been doing this all along, and I’ve been wanting to do it for years. I’m done hiding it, Helen. If you don’t want me, that’s fine, but-” He closed his mouth on hers once more and she dropped her notepad to cling to him, trembling with the emotions finally releasing from her.

“I want you, Leo,” she told him, catching her breath. “I always have.”

His sigh was content. “I was hoping you’d say that.”


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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