Friday, February 28, 2014

Samantha Redstreake Geary Week 88: Slipstream

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Samantha Redstreake Geary’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Slipstream

"Today we make history!” Dr. Wells broadcasts across the crowded amphitheater.

As chief researcher, Helena Gabaldon Wells was designated to address the media frenzy, a task akin to swimming with sharks. "I will make a brief presentation, but I’m afraid I can’t accept questions at this time, our experiment is on a strict schedule,” she announces with some satisfaction. This will allow her to escape the public eye and slip behind the curtain, where the real magic begins.

“The theories of relativity allow methods for forms of one-way travel into the future via time dilation. It is our goal to send a traveler approximately 200 years into the future, with monitors and specialized cameras to record and transmit data. As you already know, our test subject will be Lyra. She was born at our NA research facility here in Baltimore 18 years ago. Lyra has exhibited superior intellect over the years and was our first choice for the Time Dilation Project. After years of dedicated research by a highly trained team of scientists and world-renowned physicists, what was once thought to be science fiction is now a reality!” Dr. Wells pauses for the deafening applause, anticipation rippling through the crowd, as she motions towards the star of the show.

Lyra pokes her head over the security gate, watching the mass of bodies clapping and shouting. She sucks in a breath of cool night air, relishing the sensation. She looks up at the sky, an endless sea of black with sparkling lights, like the twinkling bulbs that appear along the windows a few days each year.

This is only the third time she’s been outside the facility.

She commits every detail to memory, adding to an archive of possibility for when her world is again locked behind metal and stone, her tiny sky surrounded by glass.

The sight of such excitement fills her with pride. She has worked so hard for this. All her training, the endless battery of tests, the countless hours of exertion, has lead up to this very moment.

Today, she will make history.

Instantly, the reporters swarm around her, hundreds of silhouettes hidden behind flashing lights. The noise is deafening, making it impossible to decipher any real meaning in the chatter. The once refreshingly crisp air now carries an overwhelming array of scents, unpleasant in its complexity. Nonetheless, she smiles for the cameras, relishing the attention, savoring the sweet taste of accomplishment.

In no time at all, Lyra is whisked away, behind steel doors that instantly block out the foreign world and all its secrets. The handlers deliver her to the testing site, where she’s poked and prodded for what seems like hours before finally settling inside the fluid cell.

“Let’s get her prepped and ready!” Dr. Wells announces, charging into the inner sanctuary, a circular three-story room surrounding a monstrous glass chamber filled with saline water. Her entourage of white coats scatters across the lab, reporting to their designated posts.

“Check the water temperature, make sure it’s within spec, otherwise the conduction will be compromised!” she barks at the technicians. “I want the head camera up and running, we don’t want to go in blind.”

Dr. Wells takes in a deep breath of stagnant, humid air. She reviews the protocol one last time.

This is it.

Time to make history by visiting our future.

“Let’s power her up!” she shouts, barely able to contain her mounting excitement.

The warm water surrounding Lyra begins to glow blindingly bright. A humming noise escalates, drowning out all other sounds. A tingling sensation runs across her skin, tickling at first, then sharper.

And just like that, she faded away.

Back at the lab, machines were hissing and footage loading as the signal stabilized. “Did we establish a connection? Do we have live feed?” Dr. Wells asks anxiously.

“According to Lyra’s location, she should be right off the coast of Maryland. But...” the technician falters.

“What? What is it?” she demands.

“The data from Lyra’s scans…it can’t be accurate,” he stutters. “The mass of the earth’s hydrosphere can’t possibly increase that dramatically.”

“How much of an increase are we talking about?”

“There’s no sign of land...anywhere within our detection radius.”

“How far reaching is our radius?”

“1000 miles…”

“Dear God,” she whispers, stunned silence echoing a startling truth. “It’s all underwater....”


Lyra struggles to orient herself. The bitter cold enveloping her pushes and pulls like a living thing. An unforgiving light burns from above, casting the world around her in glittering, fractured reflections.

She can sense the open water. It calls to her. The carefully constructed barriers that held Lyra all her life were nowhere to be seen. Fear gave way to exhilaration.

For the first time in 18 years, she felt free.

Lyra launches into the sun-soaked air, slapping the shimmering surface with her tail.

She cuts a path through the currents, dancing over the waves in playful abandon. She feels something slip in behind her, speeding in her wake. Lyra catches a flash of silver and slows.

Circling ripples give way to a fin. The mirrored depths break over glistening scales that fade into flesh. A face peers over the swaying swells. The face of a handler.

The strange creature’s mouth opens into a shrill whistle.

Lyra was too shocked to respond. It was the first time someone spoke her language. The comforting sounds of a dolphin spilling from the lips of a girl.

History is full of surprises.


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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mark Ethridge Week 88: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 2

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 2

Did I mention I take some really long walks? Sometimes they last for weeks. On foot, it’s a long way from a city to the mountains. I missed a lot of things from before the end. Cars. Cars were good. Twenty miles in twenty minutes. Fast food restaurants. “God, what I wouldn’t give for a Big Mac right now.” Radio stations. Days of walking, days of being alone, nights spent in a little one man tent, in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, with no music.

The list was endless. Computers. Cameras. Phones. It would have been great to call Valerie, and talk. Just to hear her. Listen to her laughter. The music in her voice. But it was gone. It was all gone.

Hell, even a flashlight would have been good. I could have read at night. In the tent. But, we ran out of batteries forever ago. Even the batteries were gone. Never imagined I’d see that. Those used to be everywhere. 40 AAA batteries in a box. $10.

A lot of people died, you know. A lot of people. They starved. They died of thirst. How do you find water when the faucets stop working? What do you do when the toilet stops flushing? When the heat turns off? When the grocery down the road runs out of food? A lot of people never found any answers.

I walked during the day, by the light of the sun. I camped at night. Never beside the road. Always out of sight, in the trees, or the brush. Hiding. Praying to see the sun the next morning.

I had a picture of Valerie. Hand drawn. No batteries, remember. Cameras didn’t work. Hannah could draw, though. She’d drawn a picture of Valerie for me, so I could take it on my long walks. Valerie. With her blonde hair. And her blue eyes. She was my heart. My soul. Why I kept going. Kept trying.

She cried every time I left. “Promise me you’ll come back.”

And I always promised. We both knew it was a lie. “I’ll come back. I’ll always come back.” We both knew I might not. We both knew I could die a thousand ways on each trip. Attacked by one of the roaming gangs.

At sunrise on the third day of my walk, I heard an eagle cry. When I peeked out, the biggest eagle I’d ever seen was outside the tent. One of Jessica’s friends. The eagle nodded its head and flapped it’s wings. It was time to start the day.

I rolled up my bedding, remembering when I had a sleeping bag, and not a bunch of rags crudely stitched together. I rolled up the layers into a single roll. I remembered pillows. Soft, cushy, warm pillows. So much nicer than the ground. Even with a bunch of lumpy cloth stuck under my head, the ground was still cold, and hard. And liked to suck the heat out of you.

I tied my covers to the bottom of my backpack, then quickly pulled the two wooden posts that held the tent up out of the ground. I pulled up the wooden stakes, and rolled everything up in the tent. I tied the tent roll to the backpack.

Have you ever had that cardboard taste in your mouth. When you’re throat dries out, and you feel like someone stuck cardboard in your mouth, and it stuck to your teeth, your gums, and the roof of your mouth. And tastes awful. Yeah. That cardboard. That old taste that said, “You lived through another night.”

I put on my backpack, and picked up my bag of books, and started walking. West. Following the path of the sun. No roads for me. Roads were too dangerous. Besides, they didn’t lead home. All I had to guide me was the sun, the wind, an old compass, and landmarks. I hoped I didn’t get lost again, spending weeks trying to find my way back to the camp.

“It’s like shooting an arrow at something you can’t see. And praying you hit it.”

I couldn’t mark my path. Mark the path, and you get found. You get found, and you get dead.

So, I walked. West. Through nowhere. After a couple of hours, I took a few swallows of water from my canteen. Just enough to wet my throat, and wash the dust out of my mouth. With any luck, I’d find a creek, or stream in a day or two. And could refill my canteen.

One good thing about the forest and the brush. You can find things to eat. Like dandelion. Wild berries. You learn what you can eat. And you learn to eat what you can. It’s eat weeds, or starve sometimes. Eat tree leaves. Eat anything you can. To stay alive.

As I walked, the sky grew dark, clouds blotting out the sun. I smelled the rain long before it started. There’d been a time I hid from the rain. Staying dry, inside my family’s home. Not anymore. Now, I pulled out an old rag, to get it soaked in the rain. I could wring water out of it. And water kept me alive.

Rain washed off the dust, and grime. I pulled off my hat, let the rain soak my head, wash some of the dirt off. I thought of Valerie. Waiting for me. It would have been easy to stop. To give up. To wander off, and slowly starve to death, or die of thirst. Like so many others had.

But I had Valerie. And the others at the camp. Trying to learn to survive. They needed me.

I needed them.

I needed her.

As I walked through the rain, I slowly washed the dirt from my arms and hands. The rain picked up, growing until I had to find a place to stop, and let the storm pass while I hid among the trees. I wasn’t trying to stay dry. Just trying to stay out of the wind.

It took an hour, but the storm passed, moving eastward, toward the coast. I liked to pretend we were near the coast. And the beach. Even though I knew it would take weeks to reach them. Dad used to take us to the beach every summer. We’d ride in his truck.

Then the world ended.

And I needed to walk. West. Toward home. Toward Valerie.


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


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pablo Michaels Week 88: That Initial Attraction

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Pablo Michaels' Picture Choice: 1

Title: That Initial Attraction

Billie jolted from a nightmare in a shivering wet sweat next to Glenn, who slept peacefully. The images of tsunami waves towering on the sides of the causeway and the Grim Reaper flagman posing as Moses parting the Red Sea, still ebbed in his eyes.

He wandered out to the deck and sat in a chair, naked, in the late night air to dry his body. Watching the half-moon fade in the West and focusing on the diminishing glow of the brightest remaining star, Billie remembered the day before when Glenn surprised him on their second date, a time when Billie had closed his heart to love with another man. They barely ignited the torch of their passion after the fiasco of their first encounter, both scrambling sloppily to learn how to love again after lengthy, failed relationships.

They had met on a Friday Rite of Spring celebration, when the weather was advantageous for an early barbecue. Their eyes locked together like bears attracted to honey, setting agreeing to meet at Billie’s apartment for a late lunch the next day.

When Glenn had arrived on Saturday afternoon, Billie wasted no time. His fantasies pictured Glenn in a Speedo. “Why don’t we get better acquainted in the hot tub?”

“Yes, I’d like to check you out with fewer clothes.”

Billie laughed at Glenn’s response. “I’d like to see you that way too.”

After taking a dip and sharing more details of their past involvements with other men, they sat to eat Billie’s preparation of cantaloupe melon balled and blueberry salads in scalloped melon shells and orange roughy baked in a white peppered, dill sauce.

“Is there something wrong with my presentation?” Billie couldn’t help but notice the grimace on Glenn’s face when he served the fruit.

“Uh, Cantaloupe and me. We aren’t the best of friends. But I can pick out the blueberries. I like them.”

“I’m sorry. I should have asked what you liked.”

The conversation tapered off until Billie removed the dishes and returned with the orange roughy.

“Oh, that smells good.” Glenn smelled the fragrance of the dill. After a couple of bites, his mouth puckered like he bit into a sour lemon.

“Is the sauce too bitter?”

“No, not at all.”

While Billie ate diligently, Glenn divided his fish into small pieces, dabbling with his fork and chattering.

Momentarily, Billie noticed Glenn was not eating. “Isn’t the fish done? I cooked it an hour.”

“I’m afraid I have an aversion to fish…, except halibut and grilled prawns.”

“Geez. I’m so sorry. After I clear the plates, we should change from our swimsuits.” Billie apologized, fearing Glenn would soon depart.

But as they began to remove their Speedos on Billie’s bed, Glenn placed his hands on Billie’s chest. “I like your hairy chest.”

“Be my guest. I like the touch of your fingers,” Billie responded to Glenn’s first seductive move. They kissed and rolled down on the bed.

They gratified their initial attraction fast but sloppily.

Billie didn’t expect to see him again, but Glenn was surprisingly, persistent. “Why don’t we go to the beach tomorrow?”

“That sounds like a good idea. It’s supposed to be warm again tomorrow.”

Early Sunday morning, they drove to the ocean.

When they arrived at the beach it was low tide, but the surf was treacherous. They took long walks along the shoreline, exploring the tide pools full of sea urchins and starfish. They marveled at the sea lion swimming offshore. They shared a cold bottle of Chardonnay while eating bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches and a rich potato salad, Glenn had prepared, silently, listening to the roar the ocean, and watching the waves tumble into white foam.

They departed in the late afternoon. The waves were large and high as they crossed over the causeway, the tide seeping onto the pavement, making it slick.

“If the water gets much higher, we may not make it back to your apartment.” Billie was concerned with the water and the congested traffic.

“No. I’ve seen it higher. We’ll make it. Why don’t you stay for the night?” Glenn asked.

“Why, of course, I will. It has been a romantic day. I love the ocean.” Billie anticipated the climax to the weekend, anxiously.

“I’m glad you enjoyed it. Do you like Chinese?”


“I’ll order take-out for dinner.”

Unlike Billie’s meal, they didn't leave a bit of food on their plates. The spices in the Gung Pau Chicken heightened their skills in bed that night, neither of them fumbling for expertise in experience.

Billie looked back at the moon and the star, both lower on the Western horizon, becoming fainter with the approaching light of dawn. The images of the causeway, Grim Reaper and the tsunami waves had disappeared.

“What are you doing out here naked?” Glenn whispered as he joined Billie on the deck.

“I had a nightmare and was wet with sweat.”

“Must have been the MSG in the Chinese food. I always have vivid dreams when I eat it too. My dreams are a bit more erotic, though.” Glenn sat in the chair next to Billie. His hand clasped Billie’s. “Tell me about your nightmare.”

“I’d rather here about your dreams. But we were driving across the causeway when…” Billie detailed his dream while they watched the sunrise from the East.


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


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Samantha Lee eek 88: Love and Forges

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Love and Forges

"This was a little extreme, no?"


She glanced around at the destruction, the mayhem, the bodies, and gave him the disbelieving look his denial deserved. "Right, of course not. Silly me."

Sighing, he tipped his face heavenward before turning to face her. "What are you even doing here? Don't you have some dead people to tend to? I'd imagine so after all this."

"It's summer," she pointed out. "I'm all about plants and flowers for another five weeks. Besides, Thanatos has already come and gone so this lot's set. I came for you."

He rubbed at his temple with his free hand, the other still gripping the hilt of a sword. She stepped carefully around the bodies and came close, heedless of the blood that still stained him. Her hand gently curled around his on the sword, gently pulling it from his fingers. He allowed it; it was probably best not to have the conversation he knew was coming while armed.

"You know?" he asked.

She laughed. "Know? It's all the mountain's talking about."

"It's ridiculous."

Twirling his sword idly in one hand, she started to pace back and forth in front of him; she'd never been very good at staying still. "They have a lot in common."

"Like what?"

"She was made by Dad alone - with a little help from the sea - he was made by his mother alone. They have...bonding potential."

He just looked at her in disbelief, inciting her to cough uncomfortably and went on, "He loves her."

"He loves the idea of her; I love her."

She switched the sword to her other hand. "Our family has a horrible record when it comes to love. Look at my situation. Or our parents'. We...we're just not good with happily ever after."

He wanted his sword back, wanted more violence to drown himself in and chase oblivion. Which is probably why she had taken the blade from him in the first place, very perceptive imp, his sister. "They say all's fair in love and war; who the hell ever heard of pairing love and forges?!"

"Blacksmiths?" she suggested.

Glaring at her, he said nothing.

She sighed, stopped pacing, and lowered his sword. "Dad gave his word Hephaestus could ask for whatever he wished and receive it. Hephaestus asked for Aphrodite. There's not a lot of leeway there."

"She wasn't Dad's to give away," he growled, clenching his fists. "She was mine!"

Another laugh. She dropped his sword, leaving it in the dirt so she could come close once more. There were few of their kind who would brave so much, especially knowing he was angry, but little sisters always dared much where big brothers and their tempers were concerned. "You're not thinking, brother mine; on the mountain, adultery is literally an Olympic sport."

Dared much indeed. "Are you saying that you engage?"

"Are you kidding? Where would I find the time? I'm much, much too busy being the confidant for all my siblings. I'm lucky if I can fit in washing my hair."

He rolled his eyes. "What about your darling sweetheart? And could you pick up the sword? Seeing it in the mud like that is making me itchy."

Obligingly, his sister bent and did as he'd bid, once more taking to pacing while slowly spinning the blade. "He doesn't, no, but it helps that he's not only confined to a kingdom of isolation but also scary as sin to almost everyone else but me. It helps. A lot."

"So you're advocating I cuckold our brother?"

"He's not my brother, he asked for my sister as though she were property to be claimed and owned, and he knew full well what her nature was when he made his request. It's like acquiring a tiger and being surprised when it kills your horse."

He blinked, tilting his head to the side as he studied his sister. "That was a little cold."

She suddenly switched to practicing parries and thrusts with an invisible opponent. "I have a strong sense of injustice, okay?"

"Says the girl in favour of me and her sister carrying on an illicit affair behind her step-brother's back."

"Love forges its own path."

He just groaned.


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Monday, February 24, 2014

Lizzie Koch Week 88: The Calling

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Calling

Jen knew it was wrong but couldn’t help it. Mesmerised by the glowing light in the jar, she picked it up, well aware of the rule not to touch anything in this room belonging to her mistress. It was like the jar called out to her. Wrapping her palms around the warmth, Jen peered down inside, unable to make out the source of the glow, whether it was from a single object or many.

A scraping of a chair along the wooden floor upstairs, alerted Jen to her mistress waking up. Jen had enough time place the jar back on the shelf and leave the room as she found it. But the jar refused to leave her hands. She couldn’t let go. The stairs started to creek.

She’d only been at the house for two weeks and was sure she’d get fired for entering the forbidden room and touching anything in there. She shook her hands violently but the jar didn’t budge. She tipped it upside down but nothing fell out. The hard surface of the table didn’t even put a crack in the jar as she banged it, hard against the edge. Running water didn’t loosen her grip. She heard the voice of her mistress calling her name but Jen couldn’t answer, didn’t know what to say. Didn’t want to draw attention to where she was.

The handle on the heavy wooden door turned slowly. Jen had nowhere to hide, the jar still tight in her hands.

The door slowly opened and Jen took a deep breath as the surprised face of her mistress appeared. She walked in, not uttering a word. She took the jar from Jen’s hands and placed it on the table.

“Do you know why I’ve had so many assistants before you?” she asked.

“No,” Jen replied, her voice barely audible.

“Do you know what lies in the jar?”

“No. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to touch it. It just called to me and I couldn’t resist it.”

“All my other assistants had the same problem as you. They couldn’t resist the jar either.” She stroked the jar, before reaching in, plucking out a glowing ball.

“I’m sorry,” was all Jen could say as fear gripped her. She knew what the villagers called her; a witch. But it wasn’t until now that Jen believed it.

“The others were very sorry.” She stood, cradling the glowing ball. “Come.” Jen followed her mistress, from the room, through the house to the backdoor, into a wild, overgrown garden. Jen hadn’t visited the garden before but had see the wild herbs and flowers growing freely.

The witch lay the glowing object down amongst the herbs and sat back. “Those who touched the jar before, couldn’t handle the power within.”

“What power?” Jen asked, kneeling in the grass, her curiosity greater than the fear that was now subsiding.

“It is said that only those with magic can withstand the energy of a dragon’s egg. Show me your hands.” Jen obeyed. “See, not a mark. Those before you ran from here with burns, unable to absorb the energy. You, Jen have absorbed the power. You my dear are a witch.”

Jen wasn’t sure whether to laugh or run but she did neither as she watched the glowing egg. It began to wobble, rocking gently from side to side. A tiny crack was heard.

“And proof you are a witch, the egg hatches for you. Every witch has a dragon.” the witch said, smiling. They both watched as finally, the shell cracked in two and an emerald green nose poked out. The tiny creature stumbled as its wings slowly opened. Jen watched, wide eyed as the dragon flapped its wings, reared up and flew round the garden, swooping, soaring and gliding before landing on Jen’s shoulder. “He is your’s Jen.”

“I . . . I know,” she muttered as she stroked his smooth head and stared into his yellow eyes. “I’m a witch,” she murmured, a smile breaking out across her face. “I’m a witch!”


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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, February 23, 2014

Ruth Long Week 87: The Dirt Road Home

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: One

Title: The Dirt Road Home

[Family and friends, they’re your gold, they’re your guardians. - Sean Hayes]

There was still blood under his nails and on his sleeves when he pulled onto the dirt road home. Shower and sleep was all he had on his mind but the freshly plowed road woke him up and the sight at the end of the pavement brought him up short.

What had been a haphazard arrangement of dilapidated trailers was now a neat row of restored mobiles and tidy gravel parking. What the hell had happened in the four days he'd been gone? The answer walked out of Seamus' trailer carrying a laundry basket.

He'd been on her heels off and on for two years but something always yanked him back before he crossed that line and tripped himself up. Now here he was as broken as he'd ever been and that line was a brick wall he was going to hit soon as he got out of the truck.

He parked and met her on the steps. "Evening, Layla."

She propped the basket on the railing and looked out across the snow dusted meadow. "All I'm going to say in my defense is that I couldn't stand by. Not this time."

He lit a cigarette and took a drag.

She turned to face him. "Look, maybe you don't want me, Connall, but right now, you need me. With Liam locked up and Seamus in the hospital, your family needs to make strong alliances."

She was wrong. He wanted her as much as he needed her. Wasn't going to say that though. Not now. Not yet. Maybe not ever. "Seamus still isn't home?"

She pushed her hair out of the way and rubbed her shoulder. "Not until tomorrow. I made arrangements for an aide to come out every afternoon the next two weeks to make sure he's doing alright and we know how to properly manage his care."

He took a couple more drags. "I'll pay you back soon as we get on our feet."

"No need. The union is picking up the medical bills, the property cleanup is courtesy of my brothers, and next week, Uncle Moose wants to talk to you about bringing Aiden and Liam into collections."

"He's taking on partners now?"

"No. Retiring and willing to sell the business to your family if you're interested. My brothers have their hands full with the bar and running shine. Mind if we go inside? It's awful cold to keep talking out here."

"Sure," he said, moving to open the door for her.

She scooted past him on the other side and headed down the steps and around the back of Seamus' place towards a trailer he'd never seen before and for a moment, his chest got so tight he couldn't breathe.

As they went through the front door, she said, "Patrick had this out back in hopes my daddy would move out there but he never did. I set it up as a community hub. Offices in the front bedrooms and coordinated meal prep and laundry at this end.”

He followed her to the laundry room and stood in the doorway. "What the hell is going on? You’ve come in here and completely restructured our property and lives.”

She closed the lid, switched on the wash cycle, and faced him. “I went through the books with Aiden and unless you make some serious changes, you’ll lose this property before spring.”

Damn it. He needed another cigarette. Or a punching bag. “How did you persuade Aiden to give you the ledgers?”

"The same way I persuade everyone. I know how to manage people and money. That's what I came in and did. Showed your brother the bottom line if he implemented my suggestions and he was sold."

“He didn’t have any right to let you in on family business. Shit, Layla! You didn’t have any right asking!”

“I told you soon as you got out of the truck that I couldn’t stand by any longer. I watched you almost lose your brother and then realize you were going to have to deal out retribution. I couldn’t let that sacrifice go to waste.”

He closed the distance between them. “What am I supposed to do here? Let you persuade me too?”

She shrugged. "I've never been able to persuade you to do anything, Connall. You always do what you damn well want."

"No, I don't. Isn't that the point? I took on my father's business after he died. I shouldered the blame for Dylan's accident last year. I avenged Seamus' beating. I didn't want any of that."

“We don't always get what we want. I've been running the bar, business, and books since my mama died. You think that's what I wanted?"

"What do you want, Layla?"

"Don't ask just to make conversation."

"I've never talked to you just to make conversation or pass the time."

She moved past him into the kitchen. "The same thing I've wanted every day since I was twelve."

He was on her heels now, in earnest this time. “Fifteen years is a long time to want something, girl. You should have given up a long time ago. Anybody else would have."

She paused at the kitchen window. "It's getting late and a storm's coming. I should go."

"Layla, you've always been in my head and my heart."

“But never your hands.”

“You know why.”

“You think I haven’t seen it before? I know what blood looks like. I know how it gets on my brother’s hands. Same way it gets on yours.”

He leaned forward and nuzzled the back of her neck.

She turned on the faucet and handed him a bar of soap.

He sighed. “Not enough soap in the world to wash off all the blood on my hands.”

“Maybe not, but you only need to clean up one day at a time. Wash your hands, throw your shirt in the laundry, and call it good for the day.”

He took the soap. “It’s getting late and a storm is coming. You should stay.”

There was still blood under his nails when he finished washing up and still on the sleeves of the shirt he threw in the washer. Shower and sleep were on his mind but not in that order and not before he and Layla got tangled in the sheets enough to make a dent in all the years of waiting.


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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, February 22, 2014

JB Lacaden Week 87: Jude

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JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Jude

I cleared my throat and looked at her in the eyes. Her face betrayed no emotions and, believe me, I tried to look for any. I felt my hands go sweaty and the urge to run away almost overwhelmed me. Almost. I planted myself deep and remained rooted to where I was. I maintained eye contact.

"So, uhm," I started to say. The words felt clumsy. I couldn't blame them. I felt clumsy doing this. "Sorry," I smiled at her. "I'll be saying 'uhm' a lot. Anyway, uhm, hi, I'm Jude."

She remained silent as she continued to listen to me. We were alone and yet I felt like a thousand pairs of eyes was looking down on me, waiting for what I would say next. I opened my mouth and I gave them what they want.

"I'm of average height and of mediocre accomplishments. I'm twenty three and skinnier than most guys. I don't have a Hollywood smile or a face girls will go gaga over. I'm not the guy some girl will be looking twice at when seen in the streets." I laughed at that. I scratched my head and went back to speaking. "I'm not athletically built. I am in love with books and I love getting lost in stories. I imaging myself laughing with the characters in their triumphs and I feel the realness of their heartbreaks with the tears on my cheeks. I love to write. I write poems and stories and my thoughts. I write to somebody sometimes. I write to nobody most of the times. I've never thought of myself as a great writer. The greatest compliment I gave myself was 'good'. I don't know why. Uhm, hmm...I blend easily. I step out and I get washed away by this ocean of faces and you won't be able to spot me in it. I am as faceless as they are. Am I being too hard on myself? I'm Jude and I am a couple of levels down in the self-esteem category. I have brown eyes and slightly sunken cheeks. I have gigantic dreams."

I felt myself starting to unravel. I felt myself shedding parts of myself. I continue...

"I love to run. I love the feeling of your heartbeat steadily rising. Sweat rolling down your cheeks. I love the feeling of being able to get to one place to another. I love the feeling of my shoes hitting the pavement and pushing me forward. The way I try to catch my breath. I love the feeling of running. It's the closest I can get to flying. Uhm, I'm Jude and I'm all of these things with a sprinkle of awkward and a tubful of clumsy."

Her lips remained a straight line.

"Uhm, I'm not really good at this...feelings stuff. I'm Jude and I love you, Margo. I love you with my insecurities and my blinding imperfections. I love you with words both written and spoken. I love you as I love writing. I love you with each letter I write and with each word I form. I love you in the paragraphs and the pages of my stories. I love you as much as I love running - you make my heartbeat go faster and you make me catch my breath. You're the closest I have to flying. I love you, Margo. Skinny, awkward me with the brown eyes and the average height and the not Hollywood face. Uhm, I guess that's it. That's what I've been wanting to tell you."

The Japanese woman in the painting kept her silence. She looked at me with her porcelain white face and her almond shaped eyes.

"Speechless huh?" I said. "Better than running away screaming in sheer horror, yeah?" I shoved my hands in my pockets and I stepped out of the house. I checked my phone and I see her message. She's already at the party.


The party was alive and it screamed and sang and the air was filled with its beer drenched breath. It was an explosion of lights and casualties lay outside on the grass with beer cans in their hands. I parked my car and started walking towards the house, already feeling uncomfortable. I saw her rush out to me and pull me by the arm. I was introduced to faces whose names all got jumbled in my head along with the music and the voices.

"Hey?" I said to her.

"Yeah? What's up?"

"I've something to tell you. Come on," This time it was my turn to hold her in the arm and pull her my way. I led her outside to a space free of drunken bodies and couples whose lips were locked with one another. I took a deep chunk of the night and shoved it deep in my lungs. Here goes nothing...

"Hi, I'm Jude," I started.

"Yeah, you're Jude." She said laughing. "I--"

"There's more," I said smiling.

She raised her hand to her lips and zipped it and I told her everything I told the Japanese woman in the painting. The words stumbled after the other and I felt lightheaded and strange and I just couldn't stop. I watched her face changed expressions. I finished and the night waited with the stars and the leaves and the grass for her answer. I felt my hands go sweaty so I wiped them on my pants. She cleared her throat. Then I heard something from her like a laugh caught in a tight place.

"Wow," Margo ran a hand through her hair. "And I thought I was drunk. OK."


"Hi, Jude," Margo said. She smiled at me. "I'm Margo and this is me..."

I listened to her. I grabbed hold of every word as they float out of her cherry colored lips. I held her hand and I felt fragments of insecurities and doubts dissolve into a puddle of nothingness. I listened to her and I started to see Margo in different ways. I saw a kaleidoscopic Margo, a rainbow Margo; each one of them truer than the last. Each one different and yet similar at the same time. I loved each one of them.

The night released its breath and the stars seemed to have grown brighter.

"Come on," she said after a while. I followed her as she ran to the car. We got inside and I turned on the engine.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"There!" She pointed straight into the darkness of the street.

"There's a good place," I said.

And so we drove away.


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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, February 21, 2014

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 87: Night Train - Part Four

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Night Train - Part Four

The Hotel Santa Fe, built by a couple of brothers from New Mexico before the war, was the architectural and cultural equivalent of ten pounds of crap in a five pound sack.

Jackson Lerner won the place off of them at the poker table.

The building's crumbling gray brick exteriors lowered one's expectations enough to take some of the sting out of the eyesore waiting inside.

Red carpet, red-painted ceiling, peeling white walls stained sandy by indifferent cleaning and unfiltered cigarettes, and black and brass light fixtures that went out of style sometime around the siege of the Alamo assaulted the eyes. Framed paintings of tropical locales didn't help much. The stink of homemade hooch, stale smoke, and broken dreams roughed up the nose. The house bands-- jazz combo Sunday to Friday, klezmer outfit for the Sabbath-- did a number on the ears.

Even so, a big regular crowd patronized the Santa Fe seven nights a week.

Jackson used to say they came to see him, and lot of the time he was right.

I always figured it was because he sold his booze on the cheap, had a way of attracting the best-looking skirts, and was the only guy in town who could run that kind of joint without even the slightest fear of a raid.

Rummies, drugstore cowboys, hard cases, flappers, whatever. As long as you paid your way and didn't do anything dumb on the premises you and your dough were welcome at the Santa Fe.

Jackson didn't run the place as a hotel anymore but there were rooms available, and on occasion, they still got used-- some for the business of pleasure and some just for business. No one ever spent the night. Not on purpose, anyway.

I sidestepped the line in front of the Santa Fe, nodding to O'Shaughnessy's boy-- and my new best pal-- William, waiting with the rest of the punters, and headed right for the entrance. I had to hope Jackson Lerner didn't have me snuffed before he made it inside.

Five hundred pounds worth of bouncer stopped me at the door.

A couple of baby grands in tailored black suits, Moses and Aaron Ross-- their actual names-- were downtown legends. I wasn't exaggerating about the five hundred pounds.

The brothers, born two years apart, had identical curly brown hair, identical prominent chins, identical loping walks, and identical capacities for breaking people.

They gave me identical hard looks as I approached.

I took my hand out of the pocket of my borrowed raincoat and tried not to wince as my arm swung free. Maybe I shouldn't have left the sling back at O'Shaughnessy's.

“What's the matter, boys?” I said with a smile that probably came off more like a grimace.

“It's a rotten deal, Moe,” said Aaron.

“He shouldn't have done it,” agreed his brother.

That answered one of Hersch's questions. Word of the hit was out.

“Can't say I cared for it much myself,” I added.

“It's creatin' a lot of bad feeling among the boys,” continued Moses. “He shouldn't have done it. Not to you, Moe.”

Another question answered without my having to ask.

It seemed too easy.

Jackson Lerner was known for running a tight operation, the first rule of which was loyalty. Absolute loyalty. I'd never heard any of Jackson's men, aside from Lon Robinson, say a word against him.

I went in for the big prize.

“Planning on doing anything about it, fellas?”

The brothers glanced at each other, then checked their polished shoes for specks of dirt.

“You're not thinking of pulling anything funny, are you?” asked Aaron.

“Depends how your sense of humor runs,” I replied.

“He's still the boss, Moe.”


The Ross brothers shared another glance.

“We're gonna do what we have to do, Moe,” said Moses.

“Nifty,” I shot back. “Me too.”

We stood around for a while, not talking. The people waiting in line stared at us with white hot hatred on their mugs.

Especially Williams.

“Listen,” began Aaron, “why don't you do us all a favor, get back in that dimbox you came here in, and just blow? No one'd think any less of you, Moe.”

I turned to look at the taxi. The driver was out of his cab, leaning and watching the goings on. I waved him away. He took off.

“Have it your way,” sighed Moses.

He stepped aside to let me in. They didn't ask for the Colt.

The heavy door swung shut behind me, cutting off the noise of customers demanding to know why I'd been admitted ahead of them.

Heads turned as I pushed through the fog of jazz and gin sweat on my way to the alcove that hid Jackson Lerner's table.

The unoccupied table had been set for service for two. One seat commanded a view of the entire room and had a wall at its back. The second seat didn't.

I slid into the Jesse James seat and settled in to wait.

Black and gold were the colors of the day-- black suits for the men, golden skirts and gowns for women. They staggered, and lurched past the table in groups of twos and threes, moving to the relentless beat of the jazz band.

A scuffle broke out when a big blond heeler in a cheap suit, fried on Jackson Lerner's gin, tried to cut in on a swarthy little guy in a good suit and an equally dark tall drink of water near the edge of the dance floor. They argued about it for a while, then the little man straightened his jacket and socked him one. The heeler took it well and got ready to give some back. The woman swore-- I didn't to hear the words to understand what she'd said-- and accepted a cigarette from the next guy in line.

I didn't bother watching the rest. It didn't matter who won the fight. Both of them were going to end up out on the sidewalk with their mugs punched in. Moses and Aaron would see to it.

I watched the front of the room instead.

Williams gave me the eye, then looked away as he finally cleared the door.

I spotted more than the usual number of Lerner's boys-- guys I knew and worked with-- hanging around the place. They looked like they were having a gay old time of it. They weren't. I'd pulled the same duty enough times to know. Most of them had pulled it on my say-so. None of them met my stare for more than half a second.

The band knocked off for their break. The sudden silence made my ears ring.

A familiar female voice filled the void.

“I heard you were here,” she said.

I sat back and smiled at a face I never got tired of looking at.

“Hello, Madeline.”

That got me an exasperated sigh. Still, the corners of her red-painted mouth turned upward.

Madeline Perilloux. Five foot eight worth of fierce Cajun heat. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Dark-tanned skin half a decade of northern winters couldn't bleach out.

The lipstick was Madeline's lone concession to the war paint. She didn't go in for munitions like so many of her flour-faced peers. Likewise, her evening get-up was blue and not gold. The dress ended just below her knees and she filled it out enough to make it very snug around all the right curves. She wore her long brown hair back to show off those marvelous bare shoulders.

She slipped into the seat opposite me.

“Are you out of your mind, Moe?”

“Nope. I'm hitting on all sixes.”

I reached across the table. She let me take her hand.

Madeline wasn't my girl. Not all the time, anyway. She wasn't supposed to be anyone's girl. Jackson had been chasing after her for two years. She wasn't having any, and if Jackson wasn't getting it from her he didn't think anyone else should either.

“Most guys get the message when someone shoots them,” she said.

“You know me, sweetheart, I don't do so well with messages. Someone's got something on their mind they can tell me straight out.”

“Where'd you catch the lead?”

“Shoulder. Nicked my side too.”

Hersch and O'Shaughnessy had given me three days to recover before sending me in to see Jackson. I wished they hadn't. I hurt more then than I had on the night I got shot.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“Jack?” she replied. “He's in the office, trying to decide what to do about you.”

I scanned the room, catching the eyes of Lerner's men all around. I didn't spot Williams.

“The Ross brothers tell me the boys aren't keen on how this went down.”

“They're right. They won't cross Jack, though.”

I opened my cigarette case. The thing was empty.

Madeline gave me two of hers. I lit them, then handed one back.

“You can still get out, Moe,” she said. “Just scram and don't look back. Go out to California like you used to talk about.”

“You mean run?”

I looked at Moses and Aaron guarding the front exit. They looked back with the flat, hard eyes of pros getting ready to dance.

“Nix,” I continued. “I'd only die tired. If Jack wants to rub me out he can try it right here.”

“You're a sap.”

“Yeah, but you love that about me.”

The office door swung open.

I gave Madeline's hand a squeeze, then pulled her toward me. I rose up to meet her halfway.

“Cash or check, baby?”

She grinned at me.

“Better make it check,” she said. “I just put this lipstick on. I don't want to mess it up so soon.”

A shadow appeared in the doorway across the room.

“You might want to beat it,” I suggested.

“I can stand it if you can.”

A couple of Lerner's boys started toward the table. I took the Colt out of my pocket and stuck it in my belt.

“I think Jack's made up his mind,” I observed. “Suppose I did decide to head for California? Would you come along for the ride?”

She laughed.

“I can definitely tell you that I'll consider thinking about it.”

“Well, Madeline,” I said, “if that's not reason enough to live I don't know what is.”


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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, February 20, 2014

Michela Walters Week 87: Second Chances

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Second Chances

The unmistakable proof was sitting in the big washbasin sink in her kitchen. The same rustic antique relic she’d found and restored a few months ago. He’d actually sent her chrysanthemums. Big, vibrant red blooms he must have somehow discovered were her favorite, because she’d never told him. Hell, Marley hadn’t really told him anything other than her name when they’d been introduced last week during her alma mater’s alumni meet and greet.

She’d honestly thought it was all a joke. Of course she recognized him, Dax was one of the most popular guys in Sig Eps, a fraternity who’d never let her into one of their parties. Oh no, not when she was part of ZBT, the ‘loser’ sorority where she and her other art and drama major friends were sisters of. When they’d had Greek Week, her and her friends were always the butt of everyone’s jokes. They didn’t fit into the mold of all the other fraternities on campus. She wasn’t blonde or petite, prerequisites for all the other groups. No, her and her friends considered themselves a merry band of misfits who were all too happy to be outcasts. At least back in college they’d had each other to fall back on when things got hard, or their self confidence needed bolstering. Now, out in the real world, she felt overexposed and vulnerable to attack.

When Dax started talking to her at the party, she thought it was all a ruse, some new form of Punk’d television show. Never in a million years did she think he was actually serious about asking her out. Yes, she’d grown up over the course of the year since she graduated, lost a few pounds and chopped off her long dingy locks for a short sleek bob, she loved. Even though she looked more adult, professional, she was still just Marley, the girl with paint permanently under her fingernails. For some unknown reason, Dax Walker approached her. She still wasn’t sure if he recognized her from the semester they shared European History together, or the one and only time she came up to the Sig Ep door with her friend Maggie and were turned away by their plebe pledges, Dax and Christian. The fat slur they mumbled as their reason for turning them away still rang clear in Marley’s ears.

“Did you even bother looking at the card he sent?” her roommate Sheila asked, a look of genuine concern creased her brow.

“Yeah, I saw who it was from. Why, was there an April Fools message hidden somewhere too or something more sinister?”

Sheila wandered over and handed her the card, not saying a word. Based on the look she threw her, Marley assumed it was important.

Pulling the card from the tiny envelope, the words hadn’t changed from what she’d read the first time she glanced at the card. “Please reconsider, Dax.” but there was something else in the envelope that Marley had missed. It was a small tag, that looked like it had been ripped off of a piece of clothing. You’re so much more than a number. When she read the seemingly simple sentence, Marley knew Dax remembered his actions from all those years ago, and perhaps he was even remorseful because of it.

On the back of the card was Dax’s phone number. Marley twirled the card between her fingers, debating her next move. Was she ready to forgive him so readily? The other nagging question was far more worrisome, could he actually be trusted?

Sheila was staring at her from the breakfast bar in the kitchen, her eyes steely and all knowing. Sometimes Marley really hated how well she knew her, and her past. They’d been roommates in the sorority house for two of their three years and when they graduated, it only seemed sensible to continue their amicable cohabitation. Days like this though, when Marley prefered to be in her head, working with a brush and canvas she really wished Shelia would just go away and leave her be.

“So… you going to give the poor schlub a call or just assume he’s exactly like you remembered from freshman year?”

Marley’s look must have encouraged Sheila to continue her thought, even though it was the last thing Marley wanted to hear. She was happy in her solitary existence and didn’t need some know-it-all jock telling her she was better than a freaking number. How the hell would he know, being a perfect adonis-like specimen and all. What the fuck did he know about being mocked for your appearance. For not being pretty enough, thin enough or curvy enough. She’d never make everyone happy, so the least she could do was be happy in her own skin, and Marley usually was. At least she was until some handsome man from her past decided to kick all her preconceived notions to the curb.

“Listen, I’m not telling you to hand over your heart on a silver platter, I’m just wondering if you haven’t also changed in five years? The guy obviously was interested in you, and I know based on sitting beside you two all night that you have some sort of chemistry. Just give him a call and see what he has to say. Meet him for a drink and you can come home in an hour if he’s as douchey as you remember. I’m just saying--- for him to hunt down your address and send you a bouquet of some pretty impressive flowers, took a bit of initiative. Shit, if you don’t call him, I just might. I mean, you did see his ass in those jeans right?” With a wink, she grabbed her water off the counter and took off for her room, leaving Marley alone to stew in her thoughts.

Some day’s Marley really wished she could go back to being a petulant toddler and throw her fists on the ground and have a tantrum. Her mind was battling it out with her heart over the decision. It wasn’t just Dax, but every single guy who’d ever made a snide comment, gave her a left-handed compliment or friend when asked about her, could only say, “She’s got a really great personality and is super funny!” No, Marley didn’t want their pity, but she also didn’t want to live in the past. She was different, more confident and accepting in the skin she was in. She was also done being safe and not taking any chances. Being alone, while great for always having control of the remote, was not as fantastic for company, or support, and who was she kidding--- most of all love.

She dragged a finger over the back of her iphone, a gesture meant to calm her quaking nerves, but didn’t do a damn thing. Steeling her resolve, she snatched it off the counter and punched in the numbers from the card she was still holding.

“Dax Walker.”

“Um, hi. Dax? This is Marley, we met at the Prescott alumni event?” She cringed at the wobbly sound of her timid introduction.

On the other end of the line she heard a hearty chuckle, “Marley. Thanks so much for calling. Man, you are one tough cookie to track down.”

“Really? I guess I’ve never tried to contact myself.” She was so bad at small talk, and reminded herself that cocktails really did help her with the awkward dialogue she stumbled her way through in everyday life. “Do you still want to meet for that drink?” Marley was softly banging her head on the cupboards cursing under her breath for blurting out the invitation and not even letting him speak.

She heard him laugh again, deep and rumbly and it was a sound she wanted to hear more of. “I’d love to. Thanks for asking. Does tomorrow night work? Unfortunately I have a business dinner I have to attend tonight--”

Cutting him off, Marley accepted and suggested a small but excellent wine bar that was close to her house.

“Great. See you tomorrow.” She was just about to hang up when he called her name.

“Marley-- you know I’m sorry about college, right? I always thought you were really lovely, but got sucked into the fraternity life, and I never had a chance to apologize. I’m not that guy anymore. I just-- just wanted you to know.”

Stunned, she sat holding her phone, unsure of how to respond. “um… thanks. I really appreciate it. That--- that’s really good to know.”

“Okay, just wanted to clear that up before tomorrow. See you then.”

With a whispered “bye” she stood stock still, leaning against the counter, not really able to process what had just happened. It wasn’t until Sheila stepped out of her room and cautiously asked her if everything was okay did Marley realize she was. She really was.

“Yep, perfect. I actually have a date with Dax tomorrow.” Instead of giving her all the details Marley knew Sheila wanted to hear, she turned on her heel and headed for her room to bask in the warm and fuzzy feeling of being wanted. Even if it didn’t last past tomorrow’s date, Marley felt buoyant and alive. It was amazing what a well timed apology could do-- not to mention being told you were pretty by one very attractive man.


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Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog:


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sarah Aisling Week 87: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep It? (Part Twenty-nine)

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice:

Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep It? (Part Twenty-Nine)

Janice slouched against the wall inside her closet with the hood of her sweatshirt obscuring her face, ignoring Step-monster.

Lara Strohm tapped on the door for the third or thousandth time. “Jan? Are you hungry?” Voice sweet as candy.

Janice ignored Lara and rolled her eyes. And they wondered why she sequestered herself in the closet, refusing to talk to anyone. Lara kept trying different ways to wheedle information out of Janice, ranging from a cajoling, understanding tone full of concern to bleating, raging threats and accusations.

Janice recalled the last round of lambasting, and her face flushed scarlet. How could Janice do this to their family? Didn't she realize her father couldn't hold his head up around his colleagues? Would she, for the love of God, give up the diary and/or press charges against “that filthy pedophile”?

That last remark had roused Janice from her hidey-hole. She'd slammed the bedroom door open and proceeded to back Lara against the wall of the hallway with a hand pressed to her chubby neck. Janice had smiled for the first time since she'd come home—if you could call stretching her lips wide over gritted teeth a smile—and leaned in close until their gazes locked. Janice's eyes were dead and cold; Lara's bulged.

“Never speak of him again. Don't ask me to talk to the pigs, and quit looking for my diary. I fucking ate it, Step-monster.” Janice stepped back, leaving Lara coughing and gasping. “Go ahead and tell Dad—it's what you do best, isn't it? You're so self-righteous.”

Janice stalked back into her room and slammed the door. Lara bumped up against it a few seconds later. “I won't tell him, Jan.” Her voice was soft and raspy. “I'm not the enemy.”

“You're not my mother! You'll never take her place!” Janice had torn at her own hair and kicked the door so hard a hairline crack zigged its way over the lower panel.

That was several hours ago. Obviously, Lara was trying to ply her with food now. And did she actually believe she could score points by not telling Janice's dad how she really got that bruise across her windpipe? Not likely. Janice knew Lara would turn Paul in if she found any evidence.

She waited Lara out. Once Step-monster laid the tray in the hall by the door and walked away, Janice crept over to her window, slid it open carefully, and shimmied down the trellis.

* * *

Paul Jeffries stood in the middle of his half-packed office, staring at his wedding photo. He'd been at this for hours, and he still wondered how he would find the courage to pluck it off the shelf and wrap it. He'd already removed the rest of his books and knickknacks, leaving the photo of him and Melinda lingering like a stark accusation.

The school board hadn't fired him—yet. Their decision was pending investigation. It seemed Janice wasn't talking and, in fact, had gone so far as to deny their affair. That didn't stem the rumors, whispers, or death threats. He'd received ugly letters from horrified mothers, from angry fathers, and from anonymous vigilantes threatening to string up “the big bad wolf” by his balls if he didn't leave town.

Paul decided to cut his losses and resign his position. The police were allowing him to leave town because the Strohms had agreed to it—with the stipulations that he wouldn't fight a restraining order placed against him for Janice and would disclose his location to Detective Hoffstra. With Melinda being held for psychiatric evaluation—almost certain to plead temporary insanity or face doing hard time—he knew the chances of her being released anytime soon were slim to none. Why stick it out in a small town where he was sure to encounter hatred and violence?

Although they were all compelling reasons to leave town, the real reason was sixteen with intense blue eyes, alabaster skin, and a sardonic smile. She was smart and beautiful and came across older than her sixteen years. Paul had fallen hard, all attempts to do the right thing slipping from his grasp like gossamer threads.

He continued packing, lost in thoughts of the three women he'd loved, lost, and destroyed—all pale of skin with raven curls. A scuff by the office door caught his attention.

There stood Janice, lost inside a black hoodie and baggy jeans, her mouth agape.

Paul raked a hand through his hair. “Ja--What are you doing here? The restraining order.” His heart sped, but it wasn't his fear of the police that caused it.

Thunder gathered behind Janice's eyes. “You can't even say my name? I've been protecting you.”

Paul sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face. “I know, Janice, and I know I don't deserve it, but thank you.”

“What's going on here? Why are you packing?” She still hovered at the entrance of the room gripping the doorjamb.

“I've resigned my position. I'm . . . moving.”

“Moving where?”

Paul shook his head, running a hand through his hair again. “We shouldn't be having this discussion. I . . . can't tell you where I'm going.”

Janice crossed her arms and glared. “Can't or won't?”

“Both.” Paul held his hands out in supplication. “Please, sweetheart, don't you understand what we did was wrong? I made a mistake, and I'm so, so sorry.”

“Sorry?” Janice coughed out a short laugh. “I'm a mistake? We were a mistake?”

“You're sixteen.”

Janice strode into the room, making Paul thankful his cherry wood desk offered a barrier between them. From the desk, she snatched a paperweight he intended to leave behind and hefted it in her palm. Paul wondered if she intended to aim it at his head and how much damage it might do.

“You said you loved me.”

“I know.”

“Was it true, or was I just a substitute for Aunt MJ or my mother?”

Paul swallowed. “I had no idea who you were. It was an unfortunate coincidence. I wish I could undo the damage.”

“You don't . . . love me?”

Paul considered his answer for a moment, his palms braced on the desk. “I care about you, about your future.”

“Do you love me?”


“Bastard!” Janice turned and fled.

Paul stood watching the door long after she'd gone. Janice would hate him as she should. It was possible she would testify against him now, but it was worth the risk.

He did love her. Sometimes love meant letting go.


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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

Monday, February 17, 2014

SJ Maylee Week 87: Finding Love

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: 1

Title: Finding Love

“I’m not going to fall asleep again.” Jane forced her eyelids to open. “Just keep talking.”

“Right.” Robert shook his head and kept his gaze on the road in front of them. “Your eyes haven’t been open for more than five minutes this whole trip.”

“I know. I’m so sorry. I’m just so nervous about tomorrow.” She rolled her shoulders. “I was up half the night trying to figure out what to say to her.”

“I’m sure the words will come when you see her.” He reached out and rubbed her knee. “Why don’t you just lay back and rest. “Tomorrow’s a big day.”

“Thanks, but I’d rather wear myself out so I have a chance at sleeping tonight.” She pulled down the visor to see the tiny mirror and poked at the dark circles under her eyes.

“Why don’t we stop and stretch our legs.” Robert pulled the car to the side of the road. “I think it will be quite a while before we reach the next town.

Jane stepped out of the car and looked out over the open field. New patches of green were coming back in spots all over, but the harshness of winter could still be seen in the broken branches along the tree line.

Jane made her way through the field. It seemed empty of life and the desolation seeped into her skin like the cold hollowness her mother left behind when she disappeared two years ago. Jane picked up her pace as she lost her self in memories of long ago.


She stopped, turned around and Robert stopped in front of her.

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know where I should be.”

“Honey, your long search is finally over.” He reached out and caressed her face. “It only makes sense that you’re feeling this anxiety.” He picked up her hands. “You know what you need now?”


“A piggy back ride.” He turned around and helped her up on his back and he started to run in circles.

The wind almost blew off her hat and an easy giggle reached her ears. It took her a second to recognize the foreign sound as her own laughter.

“Robert, I love you.”

He sat her feet on the ground and turned around. “I love you too.”


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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, February 16, 2014

Miranda Kate Week 86: Time and Motion - Finale

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Time and Motion - Finale

Their minds saw the man in blue walking, but it seemed like a stream of snap shots as he got closer. He moved so fast that it felt like a steam train barrelling towards them, arriving before they had the chance to duck to the side. He stopped at the end of the table – but the glass window end of the table. It was as though it wasn’t there - or that he was built into it.

The colour of his suit swirled violently up close. Vladimir felt the malt start to churn in his stomach. He diverted his eyes to the man’s face to try and stop it, but looking into the eyes was like looking down a corridor that seemed to go on forever.

Vladimir wrenched his eyes away and looked back into the restaurant. He noticed how nothing else was moving around them. It was like someone had hit pause on the TV. The waitress juggled two coffee cops with one foot off the ground - but there was no wobble, or jitter.

“You have activated the Control Panel Wizard.”

Vladimir’s head spun round. The man had clearly spoken the words, but they seemed to be inside his head rather than spoken out loud.

The professor’s eyes met Vladimir’s, seeking reassurance that he wasn’t the only one to have heard it. Vladimir matched his look. Neither of them knew what to do, or understood what it meant.

The man looked at them both.

“I can help you access the reality run you require. Please provide the binary code you were allocated.”

Vladimir glanced at the Professor again and then spoke. “We have no code.”

A glitch seemed to run through the suit of the man, like a line on a screen. He smiled and spoke again. “A binary code is required.”

“We were not provided with a binary code.”

The man took a slow blink. When his eyes opened again they were black with flashing red pupils.

The professor and Valdimir caught movement behind him as the men from the car came running across.

Then a white flash that left the Professor and Valdimir blinking rapidly.


Valdimir kept blinking but his eyes didn’t seem to clear. He realised he was lying on his back and assumed he had been thrown back although he couldn’t recall the movement. He heard the professor’s voice.

“Vlad? Vlad? Are you there?”

“Yes Professor, I’m here. Are you alright?”

“Yes, but I appear to be lying down.”

“Me too.”

Vlad moved his hands up to his eyes, continuing to blink, hoping to start seeing something soon. When his hands reached his face he jumped, a cry escaping from his lips.

“What is it Vlad?” The professor started to move himself, and then let out a similar cry.

Vladimir’s hand pushed at the thing across his face, which seemed to be suctioned on. Eventually it moved. When it did, he heard a series of bleeps. He heard the same bleeps come from where the Professor was lying. This time when he blinked he could make out shapes and slowly the Professor came into view. His eyes also found the source of the light; candles on a table between them.

Vladimir took in the room; it was little more than a cell with two cots, and a pile of wires leading to a large machine against the wall. On his body there were tubes and plugs attached, and he was horrified to find he even had a catheter. A needle into the main artery in his arm led to a hanging bag.

He swung his legs over the side of the cot. They felt weak and flimsy under him. But as he moved around, so did his mind. When he thought about his home and the University in Russia, it crossed over with thoughts a different home; a plusher one out in the country – a country that was in the West.

The details of his life in Russia seemed to be fading, like a dream he couldn’t quite catch. The name David came to him; it seemed to match him better. The details of another life belonging to David flooded his mind.

The Professor sat across from him, looking at everything with the same dazed look. Then he said, “David? Is your name David?”

“Yes, and you’re Augustine, or Ozzy for short? Is that right?”

He nodded, laughing out of disbelief.

“What the hell is this?”

They heard footsteps outside in the corridor and then a clinking sound as some kind of lock was activated. A strange little man put his head round the door and grinned at them.

“Hey guys, how you feeling? Seems you went down the wrong rabbit hole?”

They both looked at him, not fully understanding what he was talking about. The guy laughed at them, and came into the room. He started removing all the tubes and attachments to their bodies.

“Sorry you’re not quite back yet, are you? You tripped the Control Panel Wizard, you weren’t meant to do that. Seems you lost this round.”

Images of virtual world gaming came into David’s mind. “This is a game?”

“Yep. I know you thought you’d just found the answer to life, but sorry to disappoint you, it was all just a game. Why don’t you go put your names down, maybe you can try again in another month or so?”

The man pulled out a bag from under their beds and unzipped it.

“Here are your belongings. Take your time. There’s no rush.” And with that he departed.

David and Ozzy sat looking at each other, waiting for it all to come back.


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You can read more of my writing on my blog - Finding Clarity - at or join me on Twitter @PurpleQueenNL


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Jenn Monty Week 86: Heartache

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Jenn Monty’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Heartache

A wind howls through the barren night
Singing in a deathly tone.
The moon is gone,
The stars burned out,
Showing I am alone.

A vast sea of broken dreams
Stretches before my eyes.
The mud is thick,
The water deep,
Wading through all the lies.

The light is gone, the wind bears down
Rippling across the waves.
Heavy feet
Trudge forward still,
Forty nights and forty days.

Lost within the endless sea
Tears mingle with the dreams.
A favorite kiss,
A forgotten look,
Dreams are never as they seem.

The wind kicks up a driving force
Pushing against my back.
The waters whisper
A wicked voice,
Telling all the traits I lack.

A dream drifts up from across the sea
Of a lusher, drier land.
But moving muck,
And sliding truths,
Prove there is no place to stand
A crashing wave of dreams now past
Pulls me under and down.
One final dream,
To say goodbye,
May it surface someday and be found.


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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, February 14, 2014

Samatha Redstreake Geary Week 86: Remember Me

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Samantha Redstreake Geary’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Remember Me

*This story was inspired by the music of Michael Maas, a track entitled, “Remember Me”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A web of luminous threads pulsate in a riot of vibrant color, a thing of beauty only I can see…

I weave in between the connections, each one a different shade of love, a different song resonating in its core.

The Japanese restaurant is alive with the sounds of a hundred conversations, plates scraping, glasses clinking, laughter and music.

Not the music that trickles from the ceiling, but the songs that spill from their hearts, flowing through the threads that bind them to another, a thing of beauty only I can hear…

In a corner booth, a frustrated mother endures yet another battle of wills, the tangled threads to her children burning the brilliant white of unconditional love. A choir of children’s angelic voices can be heard playing along the web of a families’ deep-rooted affection.

Friends, laughing over sips of plum wine are tied by glistening gold bound by the inviting sounds of a guitar being plucked and pulled to match their lighthearted chatter.

An elderly couple sitting at the bar shares a plate of sushi, their iridescent blue cord humming with the steady wisdom of piano strings and the love of ages.

Young lovers embracing near the window exude a fiery passion that glows in ruby tendrils, licking at their hearts with the intensity of a violin.

Behind the scarlet flames sits a pair I almost miss, the subtle sounds of their heartbeats slipping into silence, the drumming pulse of their connection fading. Like the yellow flower centered between them, the petals of their song have dropped, one by one, until there’s nothing left but the stem--a wilting memory of the music they once shared.

They have forgotten me...

A crackle of energy pulls me to yet, another table. I watch, entranced as my attention is drawn to a new couple meeting for the first time. The girl’s mane of auburn curls bounce in anticipation, her crimson dress matching the flush that floods her cheeks. The handsome young man’s striking cerulean eyes focus on the menu, his leg tapping a nervous rhythm underneath the ebony table.

I edge closer.

Their eyes meet. The man smiles.

The smile steals her breath and swallows her heart whole.

In that instant, a flood of silver sparks erupt between them. The music is deafening. An entire orchestra surging with the flame fiercely burning through their core.

It is a love they shared long ago. They may not remember the lives they once lived, but they remember me.

I am a thing of beauty anyone can see, anyone can hear.

I am Love.


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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, February 13, 2014

Mark Ethridge Week 86: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 1

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: One

Title: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 1

The city streets were dark, and empty, with a few, rare lights, and a few rare men. It was always men. All the women and girls were gone. There were more animals living in the city than there were humans.

I wondered how many women had died on its streets. How many became food for the scavengers, the animals. When the last men would leave. Scav

engers. I was one of them. Searching the city for books. The knowledge of generations of humans. All that was left of the society they’d built. The science, and technology, and art. It was all lost. All of it.

Jessica had asked if I could. “Frank. Can you do this?”

Of course, I’d answered yes. We were desperate, learning to live in the mountains. Trying to form a community. To start a new kind of village. We needed anything we could find on organic gardening, composting, waste management, sustainable construction. Even the basics, how to stay warm in the ice and snow. How to avoid frostbite.

We were out of our elements. We were survivors of the end. Those that fled the cities, the towns, to escape the violence.

I grew up in a little town called Emerald. I knew everyone in town. The Franklin’s next door, the Simmons family. I could still name all of them. Henry ran the only market in town. He always had fresh made bread. “Betsy bakes it every day.” He sold fresh milk, and pasteurized milk. Used to tell me how Tom and Bobby took great care of their cows, and had the best milk he’d ever found.

I worked the fields with my Dad. Corn, tomatoes, beans, lettuce. You give me seeds, I can grow stuff. It’s what I learned. Dad made sure of that. We even had an organic garden. That’s where we made the most money. People in the towns and cities bought everything organic we could grow.

Then, the end came. We heard the stories on the nightly news. About gangs roaming the city streets. Raping everything female, then leaving them dead on the streets. They overwhelmed the police. Especially when the gangs armed themselves.

Then, the women started gangs of their own. Guns and all. And fought back. The body count went crazy. We sat in front of the TV at night, staring at the insanity. Wondering what was going on. How it could be happening.

The news stopped, of course. The TV went off-line. The internet stopped working. All the conveniences of life slowly collapsed. We kept the lights on as long as we could. But the power stations failed. And then the generators ran out of gas. And we burned candles. And made fires.

We didn’t know about the gangs leaving the cities, heading into the countryside. Until they got to town. I remember Mom screaming, “Run!” I remember running into the fields, and the trees beyond them. I remember hiding in the trees. I remember the screams from town. The gunfire. How that slowly trailed off. The screams of women being raped. And finally, silence.

I remember waiting. I waited three days. I watched men wander through the trees. Down the roads leading away from town. I waited. I hid. I prayed they never found me.

I remember going home. I remember Dad. He’d been shot at least a dozen times. His face was gone. They shot him in the face, just to make sure he was dead.

I remember Mom. Naked, on the floor. I knew what they’d done to her.

The same thing they’d done all over town. Fathers and sons, dead, shot full of holes. Mothers and daughters, stripped, raped, and beaten until they died.

The whole town. Gone. Just like that.

I still don’t know why. I still don’t know what happened. It was like some insanity broke out. And the world went insane all at once.

Now, I was wandering around cities, looking for libraries. It was odd, how many libraries were left standing. All the books, the computers, the technology, was still there. Undamaged. As if the people simply forgot about it all, killed each other, and then the survivors wandered off.

It was insanity. Something I couldn’t explain. Something I could never understand.

I remembered walking through the forests for days. With no idea what to do. Until Jessica found me. She took me to her camp. Just her, Hannah and Valerie. And a lot of wild animals. Eagles, hawks, wolves, foxes, bears. It was like the animals talked to Jessica, and she talked to them.

And her little camp had grown. There were a dozen of us now. Barely hanging on. Finding a way to survive. Learning from the animals. And scavenging anything we could. Anything that would help us survive.

The girls didn’t search the cities. It was still too dangerous. There weren’t many people left in the cities, but they were almost all men. And they were almost always gangs. They ignored me. Just another wanderer. They watched, and made sure I didn’t stay. As long as I moved around, and spent just a day or two in the city, I was OK.

“Dude!” Some guy came out of a building. There were a couple of lights on inside. “Here.” He handed me a beer. “Have a drink.” A big bruiser stood by the door, watching us.

I nodded, “Thank you.”

“What brings you into town?”

“Just passing through.”

“Where you heading?”

“West.” I looked west for emphasis. “Anywhere west.”

“Looking for something?”

“My brother. He was in Arizona.”

The guy laughed. “You’ve got a long walk ahead of you.”

“Yeah. One bitch of a long walk.”

I drank the beer, and then was on my way. Took a couple of hours, but I found a library. Spent the night in it, searching through the books. Gathered up a few on gardening, and survival skills. The next day, I left the city, heading back toward my home.

The little camp in the mountains. Jessica’s camp.

I missed Valerie.

Maybe. Maybe if I looked long enough, I’d figure out what happened. Why the world went insane. Why the human race had all but destroyed itself. I didn’t believe I’d ever understand. I didn’t believe there was an answer. How can there be an answer, an explanation, for insanity? And the whole world had gone insane. All at once.


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


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pablo Michaels' Week 86: New Man in Town

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Pablo Michael’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: New Man in Town

It was late afternoon, as Casey turned left on Kennebec. He was new in town, unaware of the layout of the streets in San Jose. His bearings had him confused, going down streets, the names he remembered from Seattle. He had a half an hour to meet Harold at the cafĂ©. This secret admirer had slipped a note and map in his gym bag at the fitness center that morning. He didn’t realize when he accepted his promotion his job would transfer to this city. He wasted no time finding a 24 Hour Nautilus gym. While working the machines, he exchanged glances with another man, the glimpses only a gay man understands. Casey hoped Harold who sent the message was the mystery man trading complimentary stares.

“Finally Kennebec and Flower. I’ve already wasted an hour.” Casey sighed in relief as he stopped peddling his bicycle to rest. “This guy Harold didn’t give very good directions. Too many wrong turns. Now, how long will it take me to get to the 4500 block of Flower? This is only 8000. He said meet me at Starbucks at five. I better hurry. I hope I don’t sweat.”

Casey peddled his bicycle faster, wanting to make it before it was dark. He rode through residential neighborhoods, houses like he’d wanted to buy when the one he left behind in Seattle was sold

Arriving at dusk at the top of a grade, almost a half hour late, Casey spotted the Starbuck’s cafe illuminated by the streetlights. Steering onto the sidewalk, he parked his bicycle next to the low, concrete bordering wall sheltering the outside dining area from the street. Once locking his bike, he looked over to a table where the man he spied at the gym sat, smiling.

Yes. It’s him. I’m going to dance like hell tonight. Casey approached the man. “You must be Harold?”

“Yes. And who are you? I didn’t think you’d meet me. I hope I wasn’t too forward?”

“No, you weren’t. In fact not forward enough. I’m Casey. Sorry I’m late, but your directions sucked.”

“I didn’t realize you’d be riding a bike, but I wanted to make it a little more interesting in finding me with a few misguided hints. Do you want coffee or something a little more intoxicating?”

“It’s too late for coffee. What did you have in mind?”

“I have the perfect bottle of Merlot I’ve been wanting to try at my house. Could I indulge you?”

“Depends on how far I have to peddle to your house?” Casey gazed into Harold’s green eyes, sparkling with desire’s fire.

“I live in the brown shingled bungalow on the corner of Flower and Kennebec. I believe you passed it on your way here.”

“Hmm. Nice neighborhood. I may build up a sweat on my way there.” Casey was teasing. He was begging for a faster mode of transportation to their rendezvous destination.

“I take that as a yes. I like welcoming a new man to town. Come, so to speak. We’ll put your bicycle in my car. I’d rather have you sweat doing something else.”

Harold led the way to his car; Casey followed, wheeling his bike beside them.

My long dry spell has ended. I think I’m going to like San Jose, especially the welcoming committee.


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