Monday, June 29, 2015

SJ Maylee Week 157: For a Smile

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: 1

Title: For a Smile

Jason dabbed the inside of the jar over and over. He’d been at it all afternoon. At this rate, he’d finish just in time. He didn’t know if it would be enough to make her smile tonight but Beth deserved his best effort. He switched brushes and added more dots of blue glow in the dark paint to each jar.

When Mrs. Connors paired them as science partners, he never would have guessed how their friendship would grow, especially after their self-inflating balloon exploded and they spilled vinegar all over themselves. But once Beth had started to laugh, he no longer cared that he smelled like a ripe pickle. From that day forward, life was different.

Hours later, he carefully wrapped his gift and set them in his pack. With his lucky hat in place, he walked out the back door and in a direct line to the girl on his mind.


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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, June 28, 2015

Miranda Kate Week 156: The Dragon House

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Dragon House

Gerald hovered at the front door of the shop, unsure whether to go in, but it was definitely the right place. He glanced up at the pink dragon on the roof to verify this decision, even though he knew it already in his bones. He told himself to stop stalling and get on with it.

A bell tinkled over his head as he stepped through the door. The shop was as he had imagined: dim lighting, strong smells of burned incense, and lots of red and gold lanterns. But there were no dragon pictures. He had expected lots of those, but there were none.

He roamed round the shop looking at the various tubs of herbs and spices on offer, and picking up the occasional candle and giving it a sniff, but no one came out. The only sound came from the display of tiny wind chimes hanging by an open window. He went up to the counter and lingered, hoping to make himself more visible to anyone in the back.

It worked. He heard footsteps and shuffling, and a small man appeared. His mind laughed at the stereotype of the small Chinese man in a conical hat, adorned with a long white beard and moustache, but when he spoke he did so with an Oxford educated accent, not a Chinese, broken English one.

“How may I help you?”

Gerald paused for a second before replying, “I’ve come for the Blue One.”

He’d expected a reaction, maybe even a gasp or a step back, but the little man merely raised an eyebrow.

“The blue one of what?”

This puzzled Gerald. “No, the Blue One, of breath and fire.”

A crease between the eyes broke the serene expression on the little man’s face. “I’m not following you. Is it an object you have seen, which you would like to buy?”

Gerald didn’t want to ask again. He had been assured those words would work. He was stumped, but then a thought came to him.

“I am not here to buy, I am here to engage. I am here to ‘match breaths’.” He said the last two words slowly, sure of their impact.

For a second the little man looked at Gerald as though he thought he was out of his mind, but then he regained his composure.

“Come this way.”

The little man indicated the end of the counter, and Gerald followed it round until he joined the man behind it. He was led to the back into a large storage room, and then up a dusty, wrought iron staircase at the back. At the top were two heavy doors which the little man pushed through, and Gerald entered the world he had anticipated.

Their footsteps were hushed by a thick red carpet, and they followed the inlay of a pair of golden, long-tailed dragons depicted on the walls on either side of the corridor. At the other end the little man pushed open two more heavy wooden doors revealing a large, high room, more like a warehouse, which was thick with the acrid smoke of a hundred giant incense sticks. More red and gold lanterns hung at all levels and a thousand shadows danced across the walls. But it was the dense one at the back that interested Gerald the most as he continued forward.

Gerald heard him before he saw him, the rasping drag of an ancient body on the rough wooden floor. Tinges of faded turquoise broke through the smoke, until Gerald made out the great mass of body and worn scaled skin. The Blue One was magnificent, despite his age, and Gerald baulked at the reason for his visit.

As the Blue One’s face came down to greet his, he felt the familiar stirring in his belly. His perspective changed as he grew in size, and the Blue One shrank back to make room for him. The cloudy mists of smoke changed to ethereal threads as his eyes changed, and the claret red of his scales shone in the lantern light.

At Gerald’s full height, the little man was but an ant now, running about gathering objects in preparation for the ritual.

The Blue One breathed, “You have come.”

Gerald nodded. “It took me some time to locate you. You have concealed yourself well here among our Western friends.”

“Yes, they keep me well. But you are here now, so my time is up.”

“On the contrary, our journey has only just begun.”

“I fear I can not match your breath.”

“Maybe you don’t have to match it - but join it.”

“Join it?” The Blue One’s yellow eyes narrowed. “I don’t understand.”

“Wasting your life energy and centuries of learning would be foolish, just because your vessel has grown old. There is no reason you can’t join me.”

“But how?”

Gerald waved a sleek talon at the little man at their feet. “He knows. You need not be afraid. You need only to step closer and breathe your fire light across mine. It will be a smooth transition.”

Gerald heard the chanting from below rise up as the Blue One stepped closer, and gathered his own breath ready for the moment. He heard the sound of the shutter slide back in the roof above them and the brilliant light struck, making them glow. He tilted his head back and let out his breath, hearing the Blue One do the same.

They were met; the swirl of red and blue energies spiralled upwards into the light. Gerald continued to maintain his, even when the Blue One had slumped back, his life force spent. Their twirling energies rose up into the light, then descended again, entering his mouth and throat, and running the course of his body.

Again the familiar sensation in his belly, and a shudder he couldn’t control, causing his tail to flip hard on the floor, shaking the building. Then he felt his skin change, his eyes change, and the presence of another within his mind. And when he looked out on the world it was through a dual perspective, complementing each other, and responding to its nuances in a deeper, more learned way.

He looked down at himself and the little man, who smiled up at him with open joy. They had done it. It was complete. The Purple One had arrived, ready to face the dawning of a new era for man and dragon kind.


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


Friday, June 26, 2015

Michael Wombat Week 156: Echoes

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Michael Wombat’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Echoes

..the sleepers are spaced perfectly for my natural stride, almost as if each one magically appears in exactly the right place just before my foot meets the ground. My bare soles delight in the feel of rough wood, warm on this spring afternoon. Long weeds caress my ankles. The flowery nightdress excites my thighs as I follow the curve of the rusted, corroded track ahead.

I am looking forward to surprising Percy, working all alone in the tiny signal box ahead. I shall climb the steps silently, creep up behind him and slide my hand down his trousers. He will kiss me, lift off my nightdress, and make love to me in the pauses between the passing of trains. This time, this time, I will reach him and we will make love.

The sleepers vibrate against my feet, and I look down, puzzled. The rails sing. The 15:10 to Windmill End, twenty minutes late as it is every day, hits me full in the back. The wheels slice through my neck and my thighs, quartering me and splashing crimson over the willow-herb, dandelion and dock leaves that grow between the rails. My last sight is of the endless arc of the old, abandoned railway track. The rails are rusted after decades of disuse, and the sleepers are spaced perfectly for my natural stride, almost as if each one magically appears…


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


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mark Ethridge Week 156: If It’s Just A Dream, Let Me Dream (Part 11)

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: If It’s Just A Dream, Let Me Dream (Part 11)

Typical of the Church, the religious leaders left the planet. The Levites left with them, of course. The rest of their people they abandoned. Threw them away, like trash. Left them waiting, on the planet, with no way off, no escape, for God’s punishment of a world.

The sad part for me was how many of the Christians had no idea what God’s punishment was. They were stupid and uneducated. They knew nothing about science, or nanotechnology. So, they had no clue what the Church was doing to them. No clue at all. To them, it was simply God’s will. God would strike the planet, send a cloud of vengeance from heaven to purge the planet of it’s sinful life. If it was God’s will, they’d die in that cloud. And if they died, it was because God considered them sinners, like everything else on the planet.

The part that pissed me off was how some filthy rich bastard would order a nanotech plague dumped on the planet to kill off all life on it, including his own people. Except to him, they weren’t people. They were disposable, replaceable human resources. To him, this was a write off as a bad investment, nothing more. There was no loss of life involved, no harm to the Church. It was perfectly acceptable to kill everyone on the planet. In fact, it was a good business decision. Hell, it was certainly cheaper than hauling all those human resources off the planet. Hauling them to safety was fucking expensive. Better to dispose of them, and try again, on another world.

My love and I stood outside the human city and watched. There was nothing we could do. Nothing we could say. We’d walked among such people before. “Don’t you know they’re going to kill you? They’re just throwing you away!” And always, we’d heard the same answer, “Whatever God’s will shall be done.”

We watched as some of them put on masks to protect against allergens, dust. Those throw away paper masks. Some, doctors, nurses, put on their surgical masks. None of it mattered. They knew the cloud would kill them, so they tried to filter the cloud from the air they breathed. It was useless. The nanomachines in the cloud would pass through their skin, like water through a sieve.

I held her hand, “It won’t be long now.” I looked at the sky, glad I couldn’t see the starships orbiting in above us.

“They’ll all die.” She pulled my arm around her. “Every last one.”

We didn’t talk about if it was quick and painless, or drawn out and horrid. We both knew the truth, having your cells ripped apart by machines wasn’t pretty. Having those machines use your body’s chemicals to make more of themselves, so they could rip more of you apart wasn’t pretty.

It was a death only a demon could conceive of.

“A give from the Church.” I held her close.

“Blue’s people are ready?”

I nodded. “They’ve all taken the drug.” A nasty enough drug. One that attacked the specific nanomachines of the Church’s plague. One that destroyed those machines, then used their remains to attack more of the machines. One that hurt like hell to take, because it replicated in your body until it achieved numbers sufficient to protect you against the plague.

To take the drug was to know pain you’d never forget. To scream, to cry, to pray for death. To wish you could breathe, then wish each breath wasn’t like drinking acid.

But, you’d survive. And if you wished to survive the plague, you had no choice. Blue’s people took the drug. We injected the drug in every animal we could find, wild and domesticated. We put it in bird feeders, sprayed it on grasslands, dumped it in lakes, rivers, seas and oceans. We put it in the water and watered the plants. We’d spread the drug through the planet, for months.

Blue had asked, “Does this work?”

I’d nodded.

“How do you know?”

“I took it.”


“And I walked on the surface of a planet, and watched it die.”

I’d survived the plague. I knew the drug worked, the nanotechnology did its job. Some of the people in the city would have encountered the drug, some of the drug would be in them. Those might survive, at least for a few days. But the drug would not be at full strength. The nanomachines would wage a war in their bodies. If enough of the drug was in them they’d survive, and have stories to tell of walking through the tenth level of hell, as they'd know pain even I couldn't describe.

If they didn’t have enough of the drug in them, they’d die. Slowly. Painfully. Horribly. Their bodies consumed gradually, as the drug became overwhelmed by the plague. It was a death I wished on no one. Not even on the leaders of the Church.

My love clung to me, “Blue’s people will watch for those who won’t survive?”

I nodded, “They’ll kill them. Spare them the days of…” There were no words to describe it. Spare them the days of what? Hell? “Mercy killings.”

We stood outside the city, and waited.

Until the sky began to change. The black of the sky, the light of the stars, turned pale blue. “The plague.”

All we could do was wait. And hope the people of the city died quickly.

I looked at the sky, “God’s will be done, indeed.”


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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, June 24, 2015

Denise Callaway Week 156: Regret

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Denise Callaway’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Regret

Tyler stared out at the sea, its water lapping at the beach in cheerful greeting. He came down to the islands to escape the memories but they found him, and continued to haunt him. Dad, he reflected, it seems as if I always failed you. Even when you wanted me to come home right before you passed away, something always came up. Now, it is too late and I missed that chance. He picked up the rock and tossed it across the surf. It skitted across but it seemed rocks skipped much more on still waters. His dad would take him to the lake and they would talk about life and skipped rocks across the lake. His dad could always find the best rocks for skipping. A sigh escaped his chest and he felt his eyes mist up.

Laughing down the shore caught his attention and he quickly wiped away the barely presented tears. A child kicked at the waves as her mother stood sentry nearby. Recognizing his neighbor, he waved their direction and Trish beckoned him her direction. Time with others seemed the best cure, or escape, so he accepted the invitation.

“Hello, Tyler. How are you today?”

“Father’s Day. It’s amazing how important it seems, now.”

She smiled tenderly, scooping her toddler up and walking up the beach towards their picnic. “Good dad’s are so rare these days.” Trish had shared her story with him about how Mattie’s Dad had skipped town when he learned she was pregnant. Her own father, however, had made sure she had a place to live and job at one of his resorts, the same one where Tyler worked. “Having seen what a good man is like, I don’t know how I found myself with Mattie’s father.”

“We all live with regrets. Mom says it shouldn’t keep us from living life, to learn and move on.”

“I think I’d like your mom.”

“She’s amazing, knows when to give advice and when to let you figure it out on your own. Sometimes, she says, the lessons speak louder with experience.”

“I suppose she is right. I know I’ve been much more cautious with my heart since Mattie came along.”

Tyler squatted down to help Mattie pat the sand into the bucket before turning it over to reach another turret for her sand castle. “Sometimes, we just need to live in the moment and enjoy what we have right in front of us.”

“True,” Trish responded, digging a small hole thoughtfully with her toe. Tyler watched the simple movement, a small ring decorating the second toe and polish adorning the tips. “Tyler?” He lifted his eyes slowly to meet hers. “Would you like to...join us for dinner tonight?” He knew she didn’t let men into her home and the trust she was offering him.

Nodding, he stood, dusting off the sand. “What time?”

“We eat early, so Mattie can go to bed. Sixish...perhaps we can watch a movie afterwards, or sit on the patio and talk.”

“I can’t think of a better way to spend the evening.” Life is too short to live with regret, he thought as he walked up the beach. His dad would want him to move on and take a chance.


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


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Samantha Lee Week 156: Entwined

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1


You know, it may not...may not be my fault. Not entirely. She's just one of those girls - the kind that you can't help but love. I think it may be something in her aura, something that just...pulses from her and gets into your head, makes you want to keep her safe, keep her protected. Decades, centuries, eons - an eternity spent at her side, longer than anyone else, the first - or, well, one of her first...her second, technically, but only by a few years. And I've been good, loyal, devoted. She commands, I obey. She requests, I acquiesce. A lifetime spent as general of my own legions, master of my own domain, now enslave forever after in my afterlife to an insane Fae Queen everyone and their broomstick wants dead.

I'm one of those lucky mighty who didn't just fall; I hit rock bottom and kept right on falling.

Oh, and look, here she is now. Savannah is the perfect specimen of her species; as beautiful and graceful as any angel, as fierce and deadly as any predator. Blood red hair with snowy bangs falls to her waist - she's decided to embrace the fairy tale motif and go for the long, rippling waves you'd expect of a Fae Queen. Her honey golden skin is a network of various dark umber tattoos. And her eyes...her eyes are big and vibrant, her thick irises a constant swirl of colour and patterns. I love her eyes; like endless pools of possibilities.

Why couldn't she be ugly? Everything would be so much easier if she were ugly. Maybe had some warts or a hideous birthmark or two or ten.

"Keeley!" My name is Bel-keelal-tohu. Time was, my name inspired fear, so much so it was whispered in hushed tones for fear its utterance would draw my attention. Then I died for a couple of millennia and woke to a child who told me it was too much of a mouthful and cut it down to Keeley. A name of awe and power brought down to a cute little snippet. By a child.

"I've been looking for you everywhere." The woman can summon me with a thought; why she'd bother to expend the energy actually physically searching for me boggles the mind.

She plops down beside me on the edge of the bed and flops back, going briefly spread eagle before bouncing up to prop herself on her elbows, smiling, oblivious to my resentment, my anger.

"Is something the matter, milady?" I ask coolly, my hands clenching, my fingers digging into my knees.

"Keeley, do you remember when I brought you back?"

"I'm afraid it is not one of my most clear memories, milady."

"You put me in a coma for three days and Da wanted you destroyed. He thought severing our tie would wake me."

"Ah, yes, fond memory. Can't imagine why it didn't come straight to mind."

She laughs, shifting to her knees and draping herself over my shoulders from behind, her cheek pressed against mine. "Fairy tales all start off pretty rough, you know. They usually get better though. I mean, I did wake up after all, and just in time too. And Da let you out of the dungeons, gave you back to me. Do you remember what you did the first time we met?"

"No," I tell her, and it's the truth. Memory lane, at least for me, is a dark and dim street, one I try not to travel too often.

"You tried to kill me," she murmurs, rubbing her cheek against mine. "You took me by the throat, pressed me back against the wall, rattled off a long list of impressive names and titles, and demanded I release you."

I sigh, turning away from her, breaking away from her. I leap to my feet and start to pace, wanting distance but unable to bring myself to leave. Under her thrall, always and forever hers - bound, tied, tethered, linked, whatever pretty word you want to give it, trapped all the same.

"Do you remember what I told you? My answer, Keeley, do you remember it?"

"No." A lie this time - her words haunt me, echoing through my mind in every whisper of silence, but...but it's not my part to tell.

"I have titles too and names," she says, echoing those first words to me. "I'm not even a century yet but already I've got quite the collection going. I have a whole kingdom beyond this room who'd burn the world to ensure my survival. Plus, you know, I'm a princess which is exactly as awesome as you'd think. Unfortunately, I also have a father who's a time walker, so I know exactly where my story's going. A thousand years ago you were a god, a lord of darkness and nightmares, a demon knight, and then you died and woke up here and now to find yourself leashed to a hurricane and, really, truly, I am sorry. There's no undoing this, no cutting the ties, no unlocking the shackles, no setting you free. Ever. From now until my last breath, you and me, we're a package deal. And I'm really sorry about that. My story's going to suck."

I frown. "You're saying you warned me? Suggesting, perhaps, that I should just suck it up and carry on because at the start you gave me the courtesy of a warning?"

I realize too late I've crossed a line, made her angry. Savannah is powerful, the sort of powerful that scares ancient vampires and makes original demons think twice about engaging. All that power does not mix well with strong emotions, particularly anger, and so someone - probably her Da - had taught her that anger and rage, like revenge, were best served cold. Glacial, preferably, if not colder. And so when she gets angry, Savannah shuts down, folding up like one of those night blossoming flowers and swiftly drawing in all the warmth and light around her until she seems to pulse with chilling darkness.

If I'd been paying attention, I would have noticed sooner, would have recognized the danger. But I wasn't and I didn't and now...

Now she lashes out, her hand clamping down on my wrist, her fingers digging in hard enough to bruise, and pushes her power into me. It's a spell I've felt before, felt often in fact - it's a favourite of hers, one she uses to share memories and calls her Vulcan Mind Meld. This time, it has teeth and claws, its bite sharp and painful as it drags me into her mind and our past.

"No! Da, no, no, no - I won't do it! I can't...I can't do it." I'm shaking my head and pulling futilely at my wrist that's caught in my father’s grip. Angry tears are a warm weight against my cheeks and I can feel something - some emotion I can't quite name - sitting heavy in my chest, like an iron grip around my heart.

"Kitten, you must; this has to be done to see the extent of your powers, here and now where the fallout can be controlled and not as a surprise that catches us all off guard. Not again."

It's panic, I realize, and fear. I'm afraid; I don't want to do this, don't want this choice taken from me. Khary was an accident, a horrible, terrible, beautiful accident but doing it again, knowingly and willfully inflicting his fate on another would be monstrous. And I'm not a monster.

Not yet.

I pull harder but Da won't let go. He loves me and wants me to be safe, wants me protected. He doesn't see what he's doing as stealing my choice from me, as essentially raping my Magic. He doesn't see what I'll do as a perversion. No, Da sees this as your classic two-birds-one-stone scenario: he gets a sense of just how powerful my newly discovered gift is and, should it prove successful, I'll have a powerful defender at my side for the rest of my life. That said defender will no doubt resent and loathe me is inconsequential so long as he serves his purpose.

Surprise, surprise - Fae morality is a darker shade of grey.

"You told me death was to be respected! That warriors earn their rest and have a right to it, a sacred right and deserve to left to it."

"I am afraid that Bel-keelal-tohu will simply need to re-earn his happily ever afterlife, kitten. Now, please, get on with it. Now."

Desperately, I summon my energy into my free hand and push at Da; the ultimate useless move seeing as how Da just absorbs my magic with a small grunt and an exasperated look.

Sighing, he shakes his head and turns to one of his guard. "Bring in the ghost!"

His words instantly change the panic and fear from an iron grip to an icy javelin, spearing right through me so swiftly it paralyzes me. I know what they're going to show me before the guards even return but it doesn't make it any less horrifying; Khardeen is chained spread eagle onto a wooden wheel carved with various magical symbols meant to dampen and block our bond and keep him from corporeal and bound. He is bloodied and bruised from torture; apparently someone wanted to test they'd hit upon the right combination of spells to affect our bond.

"Kitten, I am sorry, but I'm afraid your choices are to have two of these creations of yours or none at all."

"You can't kill Khary, Da."

"No, but I have faith that were our dungeon masters to apply their arts to their fullest, we'd at least be able to break him into something unrecognizable to you. Choose."

It isn't a choice at all and Da knows that.

I sigh, defeated, and summon my magic.

Da nods and lets me go, stepping away to give me space. My tears are flowing faster now, sprinkling the dusty floor at my feet like raindrops. This demon, warrior, high lord, whatever he was...he's going to hate me so much. Ripped out of whatever peace he's managed to claim to serve a fairy princess for the sake of an experiment, he's going to hate me. All of time is going to be spread out before us, trapping us together for the eons I'm going to have claim to, and he's going to hate me for all of it. That Khary doesn't is a bloody miracle, one that's probably defunct now after what Da's done.

Is it petty of me to not want to spend eternity linked to beings who loathe and resent me? I...Because of Da's gift, I know what my future holds - I've known, gods, seems like since the womb I've known exactly that nightmares await me. Da says there's nothing to do but endure them, that they're necessary for a future that's brighter than anything I could imagine further down the road. Easy for him to say; he just has to die, I have to live. Is it selfish of me to want at least one person with me through it all who wants me alive by preference rather than necessity?

I mean, doesn't everyone want to be loved?

I wonder...I wonder what that must be like as I close my eyes and set my magic free.

"I'm sorry."

Savannah is gone when I open my eyes. I'm on the floor, collapsed beside my bed, and I have no idea how much time has passed, a side effect of her spell. Groaning, I manage to get myself sat up when I notice Khardeen leaning against the far wall.

"What are you doing here?"

"You're an ass."

"I'm aware, but that doesn't answer my question."

"Milady wanted to be sure you were alright. She's gone for a walk to calm down."


Khardeen glares, the gold in his eyes heating with anger. "No. London and Banshee are with her and Sabine and Jester are sweeping the area around her."


"She is very angry; we do not wish for her to do something she will regret with the return of her senses."

I nod, understanding, and scrub at my face with both hands, frustrated.

"You should have told her what was bothering you, Keeley. She would understand. She knows us, after all, better than most anyone."

"Because she rents out room in our heads, Khardeen, because she's infiltrated us like some sort of virus to which there's no cure and no recovery."

Khardeen shakes his head. "It has always amazed me how you could be so outwardly loyal while so inwardly resentful, even after all these centuries."

"Not all of us are made to be good little puppies," I murmur. "We're not all like you, Khardeen."

"I'm not her puppy, Keeley, none of us are; that's not how this works and you know it."

"How do you do it, Khary? How do you serve her, obey her, love her, without losing yourself, losing who you were and all respect for yourself?"

"The rest of us - Djinn, Fae, vampires, werewolves - we're used to servitude of one degree or another. Fiddle with the volume, change the channel, play a different song even, and it doesn't change anything, not really; we are what we are. You, though, you were one of the mighty, someone strong and powerful and free, someone who'd had so many centuries of independence, of command he'd forgotten any other way to live. Worse still, you awoke to a world that had forgotten you. Your name, your triumphs, your legend, all of it had been swallowed by time and lost to its ravages. You were nobody, tied to a child. You forget, Keeley, that I was there when Lyr spoke to you, that I heard what he said while milady slept."

Ah, yes, the missing scene from our origin story. After Savannah had brought me back to life as her wraith, before she woke, there was her father. Same hair, same eyes, but a beauty that was more harsh, less graceful, and with none of that vulnerable tint that baited your protective instincts. Quite the opposite in fact.

When I came back to myself, the first thing I remember is Savannah smiling, looking down on me with an affectionate look neither of us had earned a right to. I remember passing out - I've never known for how long, never bothered to ask the few who might know - but when I next became aware, I was caged. On the other side of my bars, two men argued; Lyr and Khardeen, the latter still tied to the wheel that was now hung on the far wall like some sort of bizarre decor piece.

"Let me down, Lyr," Khardeen growled. "I have served your purpose - milady has resurrected the demon lord - now let me go! Let me...let me go to her."

Lyr chuckled, the sound dark and laced with ice. "Twenty years ago, you were dead, a mere figment of people's imaginations trapped haunting ruins no one had visited in centuries, and now look at you attempting to give orders to a king. An impressive turn of fate, wouldn't you say?"

"Your daughter-"

"Is more powerful than I could have ever hoped," Lyr snapped. "Giving corporeal form to a spirit, that was incredible. But what she did today? Drawing forth a long dead spirit with nothing more than the place of his death to draw from? That should have been impossible. She's not even connected to our people, has no other source but herself to draw from, and look what she has wrought."

Bound, bloodied, and bruised, Khardeen should not have been intimidating with a mere glare, but somehow he managed. "At what cost, Lyr? When Fio woke me, she was fine afterwards, walking away like it was almost effortless. Today? She's UNCONSCIOUS, Lyr. And for what? She's Fae, he's a demon; he will never care for her, only ever be a monster to her. You go too far and risk too much."

Lyr shrugged. "Fionnuala is immortal; there is nothing he can do to her that will not heal in time. And it was not for nothing. Eventually, Fionnuala will tame him, one way or another, and have at her disposal one of the greatest weapons our enemies have ever produced and an asset we could never have hoped for if not for her magic. The great and powerful Bel-keelal-tohu, revered for his brutality and viciousness, famed for his prowess as a warrior and skill as a general, leashed like a mongrel cur to a Fae child. Couldn't it have happened to a nicer guy."

He knelt down in front of my cage and smiled coldly when he caught me staring back at him. "Welcome to our Court, Bel-keelal-tohu. May you enjoy that defiance of yours while it lasts."

Five centuries later, that defiance of mine still burned strong, despite outward appearances to the contrary, in spite of all Savannah's efforts.

"Congratulations," Khardeen tells me. "You've resisted Savannah's allure. She was captured and tortured for three centuries, but you resisted. She was driven insane and unleashed two massacres and a plague before I could find her, but you resisted. She has you lead her protection detail and manage her plans, is careful to always ask and never command, and has never once summoned you, but you resisted. And now she's dying, but, hey, you resisted."

Everything stills, the world hit off its axis and unsure of what to do next. "She can't-"

"Oh? She has seven Wraiths tied to her, feeding off of her energy, plus the dragons, plus who only knows what else. Over five centuries at her side and you know I never bothered to ask if the cats feed off of her? If the werewolves?" He pauses to chuckle and shake his head. "She's starving, Keeley, and she's dying. And when she goes, so do we. We're entwined, like vines around a tree; when the tree falls, the vines are crushed, and all die. But, hey, congratulations, demon lord; you resisted. And soon you'll be free. We all will."

"I never meant-"

"For five centuries, Keeley, milady has tried while you've done nothing but hold tight to your defiance and pride. Now, well, as they say, it is too late to matter. But, hey, enjoy your victory."

Damn it.


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 156: Photoshoot

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Photoshoot

“Smile Saffron. You’re supposed to be warm, inviting, sexy,” snapped Archer. “All I’m getting is frosty.”

“Perched on top of a milk churn isn’t what I’d call sexy,” she mumbled before turning her gaze back to his lens. She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes and Archer saw it. His cold stare sent chilled ripples down her back as he approached.

“Take this,” he said, gently touching her hand. “And when you come back, I want to see you smiling and giving the punters what they expect.”

Biting back the tears, Saffron gazed upon her distorted reflexion in the cracked mirror, a true reflection of her life which was miles apart from the shots Archer took. That was fake, all fake but she couldn’t leave. She had nowhere to go, no money, no family. Nothing. She looked at the mirror, grabbed it with both hands, yanked it off the wall and threw it to the floor. Shards of glass splintered her legs but she didn’t care. Pain was all she felt. The rest of the time she was empty. Taking a step, her bare foot crunched down on a large shard. She watched as red trickled across the floor, pooling around the glass.

It wouldn’t take long, she thought as she bent down, lifting up a thin triangular shard. She’d feel pain for the last time then no more. It was the only release.

She ran the glass gently up her arm with a trembling hand, her fingers clammy. Her grip tightened. She inhaled deeply.


Saffron jumped, dropping the glass as Jade stood before her.

“He’s not worth it, please don’t leave me here.”

“I can’t do it anymore, Jade. I can’t.”

“Then don’t.”

“Archer won’t accept that. You know what he’s like. The only way out is to end it.”

“No, it isn’t,” Jade said quietly, sitting next to Saffron on the strained lino floor. She took the glass from her hand. “Don’t you think he’s taken enough from us?”

“Exactly. There’s nothing left.”

“Survival, Saffron, That’s what’s left. You and me. We’re a team. We can do this.”

“Do what?”

“Get rid of Archer,” she said flatly as she wrapped her arm around Saffron. “We get rid of him for good and then we’re free.”


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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, June 21, 2015

Laura James Week 155: LOVE

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: LOVE

The first time he saw her he knew he was lost. Auburn shoulder length hair, sapphire blue eyes and legs that reached the heavens. She was so out of his league, yet the impossible had happened and here they were driving to the coast, together.

He had dedicated his life to her beauty, knew her every desire, her happiness was all he had lived for and now he finally had the chance to show her how much she meant to him. Looking across at her, sleeping soundly in the front seat of the car, he only hoped that when they reached the beach house she wouldn't be disappointed.


He carried her still sleeping form into the bedroom and gently laid her down on the bed, carefully attaching the silk restraints to her wrists and ankles. He couldn't resist placing a chaste kiss on her delegate lips, hoping against hope that this kiss would wake her from slumber. She slept on.

Moving from the bed he carefully removed all his clothes and stood looking down on her, surrounded on all sides by the images of her life that he had painstakingly collected. Paying the garage attendant. Jogging in the park. Swimming in the sea. Washing her hair in the shower. Sleeping amongst pillows.


She had been such a disappointment, hadn't even put up a fight. He expected so much more. But then wasn't that always the way, reality hardly ever lived up to his dreams. Standing on the balcony, the sea breeze causing the drying blood on his skin to itch, he reflected on where he had gone wrong. He knew he was impulsive but she had seemed so perfect, yet up close the imperfections had been clear. Next time he wouldn't make the same mistakes. Next time he would get it right. Of that he was certain.


The first time he saw her he knew he was lost. Blond short wavy hair, dark chocolate eyes and legs that reached the heavens.


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


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Michela Walters Week 155: Solace

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Solace

The alarm rung in her ear, exactly at five oh five, just like it did everyday. She got up well before her parents roused from their daily hangover. Dani made sure to be out of the house early enough to give her an hour to jog on the school’s track before homeroom. For some reason, running gave her strength, an odd sense of calm before she had to fight her way through the day of being teased and tormented first by her classmates, and then by her alcoholic parents. If it wasn’t for her Grandmother’s passing, leaving the house and some money for her family, they’d likely be homeless and Dani in foster care.

Grabbing her backpack, she hustled down the stairs, avoiding the fifth step that had a little creak, not that it could wake her parents. Yesterday had been payday at the mill, and her dad had splurged on something better than the rotgut they usually drank. Hopping on her bike, an old ten speed she’d gotten for ten bucks at a garage sale, she rode up to the school. The sun was just peeking over the horizon when she arrived at the top of the hill where Ben Franklin High School stood, looking rundown and sad in the morning sunlight. She locked up her bike and backpack, stowing it beneath the stairwell before jogging over to to the track.

Opening up the gate, she was startled to see another person running laps. She’d been coming to the track every morning for three years and had never seen anyone here before. The guy was wiry and wearing a grey striped beanie and black hoodie. She couldn’t quite make out the face, but her spidey sense wasn’t pinging off the walls. He looked like just another person out for a morning run. Instead of her usual warm up of a casual jog twice around the track, she sauntered towards the bleachers and stretched her legs, appearing to not care that someone had encroached into her safe place.

The guy rounded the near corner and it was then that Dani finally was able to see her interloper’s face. It was Josh Watterson, a quiet boy who was in a few of her classes. He seemed nice, or rather he’d never been mean to Dani, which was a step up from most of her classmates. The only thing she really knew about him was that he was an amazing artist. His work hung in various cases around the school, many boasting ribbons from some art show or another. Figuring he was harmless she decided to get on with her routine.

Waiting until Josh was on the far side of the track, she began to run, her legs pumping in time with her breath. Two inhales for one exhale kept her on pace to run as far as she could go until the first buses began to arrive, when she’d make her way into the showers to get ready for school.

With the thump of her feet and the wind in her face, her brain cleared, thoughts unscrambling from all the useless noise she had to put up with on a daily basis. The fighting at home, the bullying at school and the annoying customers she served at the Denny’s most evenings. Her life felt out of her control, and she hated it. She hated that her chances of ever getting out of Harbor Springs was slim to none. She despised her station in life, living in squalor with drunk parents whose only real concern with Dani was how much she made in tips, and how many beers it would buy them at the Dusty Road Tavern. How at the ripe old age of seventeen did her life already feel over? Swept out to sea by the rising tide of choices she had little to no control over.

She’d circled the track twice when she was shaken out of her runners trance by the thumping of Josh’s feet behind her. He was catching up. She slowed slightly, hoping he’d pass her by with little more than a nod of acknowledgement. Instead, he slowed his pace, matching hers perfectly to run side by side, stride for stride.

“Morning.” he huffed, a little out of breath.

Flicking her gaze sideways, she mumbled her hello and continued to drag out her steps, hoping he’d get the picture she didn’t want to chat. They ran beside each other for a few moments before he started again.

“What are you running from, Dani?” His astute question made her stumble, her stride becoming irregular for a moment.

Once she’d gotten back on pace she answered wryly, “Nothing, Josh. This is a track. We all run around in circles, never going anywhere.” With that, she sped up, trying to shake him off. She felt like he knew things she didn’t really want anyone to know and it frightened her to death.

He sped up, but instead of catching up and running beside her, he shouted to the back of her, “You know I see you, right? Not just what you want people to see, but who you really are. I see you, Dani Mitchell and someday you’ll stop running.”

Her heart sped up with his confession, but she didn’t stop jogging until she saw he was no longer around. She stopped, hands on her knees to suck in gasps of air, not realizing how fast she’d been running. She left the track and went about her day, the thought of Josh keeping tabs on her, nagged her, but she kept her head down and pretended that it didn’t matter. Even if he did see the real her, she wasn’t a sparkly package wrapped up with a pretty bow. Her life was dark, depressing and if he really wanted to get stuck in the mire, he could go right on ahead, but she wasn’t going to give him any fodder.

The next morning, her routine started all over again. She glanced into the mirror only to see exactly what she expected, tired, bloodshot eyes staring back at her. Her parents had come home late from the bar last night, arguing about some guy hitting on Dani’s mom. It escalated until her dad finally passed out on the sofa, a beer sitting limply in his hand. Once she was sure they were both asleep, or passed out, Dani made her way downstairs to clean up the mess of bottles, dinner plates and trash that had accumulated over the course of the day. She gently extricated the beer from her father’s grasp, tucking it into the refrigerator knowing a beer was a beer regardless of how flat it might be. “Mitchell family motto,” she growled tossing the trash into the bin.

She rode her bike along the quiet streets, her thoughts still stuck on the events of last night and didn’t realize Josh was standing at the gate waiting for her until she’d already parked and locked up her bike.

“We really have to stop meeting like this,” Dani grumbled, marching past the man who was hell bent on ruining her only peace and quiet.

He jogged up to her, touching her on the shoulder, begging her to wait. The cracked tone in his voice startled her and she spun to look at him. His lip was swollen, a dark bruise creeping up his neck across his chin. “What happened?” she asked, her hand automatically touching his cheek.

“Ah, you know. The football team doesn’t like-- Pansies like me.” he mumbled, waving a hand in front of his torso like Vanna White. “Jeez, just because someone likes art doesn’t turn me into a girl or anything.”

“And what’s wrong with being a girl?” Dani challenged, her annoyance at the classic ‘don’t be a girl”, and “you throw like a girl” as insults was a pet peeve she corrected automatically.

Josh bowed his head, and Dani immediately felt ashamed that she too had just hurt this boy’s feelings. “Sorry, just a little peeve of mine.” She touched his shoulder, reminding him that he approached her, “Did you need something?” Dani didn’t want to be rude but her run awaited and it sucked he was getting pushed around, but what did it have to do with her.

He tugged off his beanie, showing his thick mop of brown curly hair. He played with the hat while shuffling from one foot to the other. “Uh, I didn’t mean to scare you yesterday. I just wanted you to know you weren’t alone, you know?”

His confession was disarming and Dani quirked her head to the side like a dog trying to figure out a puzzle.

“I-- I don’t know. I guess maybe I needed to know that I wasn’t alone either?” He turned his head side to side, looking lost and uncomfortable. “I’m stupid. Sorry, I didn’t mean to bug you or anything. I-- guess I wanted to know if we could maybe be friends?” His face was starting to turn a hazy shade of tomato when he finally huffed with her silence and turned to stalk off.

Dani’s mind finally kicked into gear at the sight of his slumped shoulders wandering off towards the gate. “Wait, Josh.” She jogged over to him and gave him a hug from behind, something she wished someone would give to her. “I understand, and yes,” she whispered before turning back to the track to start her run. She turned her head and told him to join her if he liked, for once not minding the company.

From then on, Josh and Dani were inseparable. They hadn’t realized how similar their lives were and how much better life could look sitting beside a friend.


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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, June 17, 2015

Sarah Aisling Week 155: A Measure of Grace (Part 33): You Don’t Get to Leave

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 33): You Don’t Get to Leave

There’s a moment of disbelief as a split occurs between what my brain registers, what my eyes see, and what my body knows is happening. Adrenaline screams through my veins, catapulting me to a state of hyper awareness.

I’ve heard people say their lives flashed before their eyes during a crisis, but my mouth opens in a silent cry that will never be heard. All I see is brilliant blue, muddy brown, and stormy gray, swirling ever faster as I tumble through the air.

This drop is the most devilish amusement ride to the tenth power.

There’s no praying or making deals with God.

I finally close my eyes, dizzy from trying to discern which way is up, and wait for the shortest and longest seconds of my life to end.

My back hits first, a cold, wet slam that punches the air from my lungs. The yawning arms of the sea welcome me into their foamy depths, pulling at my clothes, flinging my limbs in impossible directions.

Heaviness drags at my sopping clothes, the brackish water pouring between my gaping lips and shooting up my nose in a burning stream. There’s a strange moment when cool seawater trickles down the back of my throat, and the realization I’ve been breached sends me into panic mode.

I open my eyes to stinging darkness and attempt to gain my bearings. Blackness surrounds me. How do I know which way to swim?

Every time I pick a direction, I’m thwarted by choppy water. Waves crash into and around me, sending me tumbling helplessly like a leaf on the wind.

My lungs re-inflate without warning, and I take an involuntary breath, sucking in numbing cold seawater that burns to the core of my being. I cough, and more water rushes up my nose.

I vomit spontaneously, expelling the sea and God knows what else. It spews out my nose and mouth in what feels like a never ending stream before stopping abruptly.

There’s no choice but to breathe in though I know it will kill me. The compulsion is so great I can’t stop it.

Barbed icicles of pain explode inside, shattering whatever is left of me.

My last thought isn’t a plea to a higher power; it’s a cry of rage and regret from the depths of my soul.

I’m sorry, Max.

I am a supernova experiencing its final moment.


The murky depths of the ocean surround me, pressing in from every side, yet I remain still, suspended in place.


Katie emerges from the shadows, hovering beside me. There's a scuba tank tucked beneath her arm. “Breathe.”

Once the words are spoken, the need for air seems urgent, and I gratefully accept the mouthpiece she holds out, sucking greedily at the oxygen.

“Slow down. This has to last.”

Though we're underwater, I no longer feel cold, but I'm not sure if I can speak the way Katie is. I point to my mouth and make talking motions with my hand.

“It's best if you save your strength.” Katie's voice isn't garbled by the water, and her lustrous dark hair sways gently around her head but doesn't appear wet. She smiles, almost as if reading my mind the way she used to.

Warmth radiates against my back, and I turn away from Katie. The tubing attached to the mouthpiece bumps gently against my arm.

“Ro,” Katie calls. “This is your choice.”

A circle of light opens in the distance, drawing steadily closer as the warmth, now radiating in my chest, grows. Images of an infant in the womb fill my mind, and I lean toward the muted orb emerging from the dark. The tubing tethering me to the air tank pulls taut, and fear washes over me.

“Don't let go unless you're sure.” My sister's voice is steady, but I can detect a hint of urgency underneath.

I want to look into Katie's eyes, see how serious the warning is in their keen depths, but the warmth attracts me, gentle and insistent.

A shadow emerges from the center of the light.


He holds a hand out, beckoning me forward. “It's time.”

Cold panic squeezes my heart, and I gasp, thankful for the oxygen that flows down my throat.

“Don't be afraid, my love. I'll be with you the whole time.” Mike smiles, and his tanned face with its peppering of freckles brings on a familiar feeling of safety.

Katie interrupts the moment. “That's the problem, Ro. Safe doesn't always mean happy.”

“You belong with me,” Mike says, ignoring Katie.

I move closer to Mike, and the mouthpiece is nearly yanked from between my lips.

“Air or warmth. Risky or safe. You get to choose, but you can't have both.” Katie's voice is gentle but matter-of-fact.

I turn sideways so I can look back and forth between Katie and Mike. He hovers, bathed in warm, comforting light while she remains suspended in dismal, deep blue shadows.

Mike tilts his head thoughtfully, the way he always used to, and points to the tubing. “You don't need that here. Just let go, and I'll take you home.”

I look to Katie.

“You're stronger than you realize. You always have been.” She glances over her shoulder. “It's time. Choose.”

My arms move easily in the fluid around me, which bears no resemblance to the icy brine that swallowed me whole. There's no need to tread or fight to maintain my position.

The warm light is surely my soul being called back into the fold, but what of the cool darkness? If I choose to remain, will the battle to breathe begin again?

Fear draws me closer to Mike. The mouthpiece slips out, and I hold my breath as I watch the ribbon of tubing float toward Katie. If I kick my feet and reach out, I can be in Mike's arms in seconds.

When I look again, Katie is gone. The scuba tank with the tubing still attached drifts nearby.

“Come.” Mike opens his arms.

My choices now consist of an air tank in the dark unknown or the promise of someone to help me transition. I realize this means choosing death over waiting for it to rip me from this world.

The need to breathe is overwhelming, and I nod, opening my mouth. “Okay.” I kick my feet, moving toward Mike, and hit an invisible wall of ice.

A numbing sensation spreads fast and recedes, leaving agonizing pain in its wake.

“No!” Mike rushes forward, hitting the frozen barrier. He bangs his fists and starts yelling, but his voice seems far away now.

Splinters of agony sunburst from my heart, reaching to the very edges of my being. I open my mouth to scream through the avalanche of pain crushing me, burying me under the weight of a glacier.

A familiar voice cries out, seeming to come from every direction at once. “No, God damn it! You don't get to leave me!”

The glacier shatters into a million shards of sea glass, glinting with tears.

I’m sucked from the sea and thrust into a soaked, wind-filled place that’s blindingly bright. My lids close to slits, and it’s still too much.

My ears pop, and voices surround me, the words overlapping and blending together.

“Got her . . . need to get . . . now!”

“You sure?”

“ . . . can do about the location?”

“ . . . figure it out after . . .”

“Fucking go!” Max’s war cry drowns out all others, and I realize it's his voice I heard just before being ripped away from the icy wall keeping me from reaching Mike.

I try to speak, but nothing comes out. My limbs are numb though pain throbs along every nerve ending in pulsing waves. I shiver when a strong breeze blows across my wet body.

Warmth caresses my face. “Stay with me, China.” Max’s hoarse whisper causes my heart to pound erratically.

I’m still alive. Max, I’m here.

“Her lips are moving—thank God. We need to move her. Get some blankets!”

I want to see Max, but the light is too bright. Drowsiness pulls at me, sucking me under. I fight to stay awake, afraid I might slip away. In the end, I can’t fight the downward drag and succumb to a dreamless void.







I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. I’m warm and dry.




Preparing for blinding light, I lift my lids, but the room is dimly lit.


I’m on my back, blankets tucked around me up to my chin.

“Max . . .” No sound comes out, but I’ve drawn attention nonetheless.


“Welcome back to the land of the living.” Garth’s clipped tone greets me. A chair creaks nearby, and his face comes into my line of vision. “Don’t try to speak, my dear. You gave us quite a scare.” He lifts my eyelid and shines a penlight in my eye, releasing it quickly only to do the same on the other side.

I try to cover my face, but my limbs won’t obey. “Arms don’t work . . .” This time, I manage a soft whisper.

“Shh . . . take it easy.”

“Why . . . you? Where . . . am I?”

If Garth answers, the words never reach my ears. The abyss swallows me again . . .

I dream of a black and tan puppy. The little ball of fluff wiggles on my lap, letting out a high-pitched yap before jumping up to lick and nip at my nose. I hug the squirming puppy in my arms and coo to her.

She looks like a miniature version of Grace.

The puppy snuggles against my neck, and I fall asleep, holding her close.

The next time I open my eyes, it’s daytime. A halo of sunlight shines along the edges of the shade, but the room is dim and quiet. This time, Garth isn’t sitting beside me playing with his Montblanc.

I wiggle my fingers and toes, but I still can’t move my arms or legs. A silver pole stands beside the bed, and an orange concoction drips slowly into an IV line. I follow the tubing under the blanket.


Instinct causes me to turn my head, and a scream lodges in my throat. There’s another bed in this room, occupied by a sleeping, shirtless man. Another IV pole with a bag of clear fluid stands next to his bed. His head is turned away, but the vines of roses inked across his skin leave no doubt in my mind who it is.

“No!” I struggle to move, and realization sets in: My arms and legs won’t cooperate because I’ve been restrained. I buck weakly on the bed, arching my back and trying to yell.

Garth strides into the room with a syringe in his hand. “Take it easy.”

“No! Don’t you dare drug me!” My gaze flits between Garth’s looming figure and Max’s reclining form. “What is this?”

He lifts the edge of the blanket and swabs the fold of my arm, tapping with his finger. “This is for your own good. You can thank me later.”

“I’ll kill you! Bastard! How could you do this?” I struggle.

“Shh . . . don’t fight.”

The needle punctures my skin, and a sense of calm washes over me slowly, taking with it the will to resist.

There are no dreams in my drug-induced slumber, but the moment I awaken, the struggle begins again. I pull at my restraints even as I look across the room.

The bed is empty, the IV pole gone. The covers have been straightened and the pillows fluffed.

It's hard to tell the time of day, but it's not dark out. My IV line is still attached, the bag now filled with clear fluid.

“Garth! Get in here, you son of a bitch!” Tears leak from the corners of my eyes, sliding across my temples.

Nobody comes.

I try to lift my head and take in my surroundings. The walls are robin’s egg blue. Superhero posters are scattered throughout the room. A thick layer of dust coats the oak dresser.

I’m being held captive in one of the houses at the base of the cliff—I’d bet money on it—but why?

My already raspy voice goes hoarse in no time, and my ravaged body is too weak to keep straining. I sink back to the bed, soaked with sweat, and remain semiconscious.

When the door opens again, it feels like hours have passed.

Garth approaches the bed looking haggard and unshaven, his dress shirt half tucked into wrinkled slacks. He swipes a hand through his mussed hair and examines me with bloodshot eyes. I've never seen him so disheveled.

I can't help but glance at the empty bed across the room. “Garth, what have you done?”

Ignoring my question, Garth lifts the blanket and presses his fingers to my pulse, counting off the seconds on his watch. He checks my pupils and listens to my heart. Then he presses a palm gently to my chest, and I cry out from the sudden blinding pain.

“That's going to hurt for a while.” Garth shakes his head. “Moron punched you in the chest.”

When I catch my breath, I glare at him. “What moron? Would you please tell me what the hell is happening?” I dissolve into tears, angry I'm showing weakness in front of him.

“Your boyfriend punched you in the chest. We're lucky he didn't crack your sternum.”

“Boyfriend . . .?” I trail off, unsure how to respond. James is supposed to be my boyfriend, as far as the alliance is concerned, but I'm certain Max was lying in the bed across the room earlier.

“You've caused me a great deal of trouble, young lady. I should have handed you over, but no. I'm lying to everyone, and it's bound to catch up to me.”

Heavy footsteps sound on the stairs, and Max rushes through the door, pushing Garth out of his way. He lands on his knees beside my bed, seeking my hand beneath the covers. “China,” he whispers my nickname like a prayer, and rests his forehead on my arm.

Garth hovers behind him, a glint of amusement sparkling in his tired eyes. “This is the moron I was referring to.”

Confusion whirls inside me. Garth is standing beside Max, who pushed him aside and seems to be free while I'm still tied to the bed.

“Why am I tied down?”

Max's head comes up fast, his eyes blazing with anger—which he directs at Garth. “She's still restrained?”

Garth sighs, running thick fingers through his hair. “Jesus Christ. After the blow to her chest, among other things, the last thing we need is her going off half-cocked. She's already threatened to kill me multiple times.”

Max's jaw flexes. “Well, I'm here now. Get her legs.” Max peels the blanket back and unties the restraints securing my hands one at a time.

Garth goes to work on the lower ones holding my legs down, muttering to himself all the while.

Once I've been released, Max rubs my arms, careful to avoid the entry point of the IV needle. I shift onto my side, wincing at the pain. My chest hurts the worst, but my entire body is sore.

I flex my hands and feet, shaking off a slight pins-and-needle sensation. “What's in the IV?”

“Saline,” Max answers impassively.

“How about when it was orange, and you were lying on the bed over there?”

Max looks up at the ceiling but doesn't answer. Garth smirks.

“I want to know what happened.” My voice is low and dangerous.

“Leave us.”

Garth lays a hand on Max’s shoulder. “I don’t know if that’s wise.”

Max laughs without humor and rises to his feet, towering over Garth. “Dr. K, pissing me off isn’t wise. Creating a virus that eradicates most of the world’s population and then butchering those immune to it isn’t wise. I’m starting to wonder if you have a shred of common sense, but you will leave this room one way or another.”

Garth holds his hands out in supplication. “Very well.” He leaves, shutting the door behind him.

I try to sit up, but the pain is too much.

“Let me help you.” Max grabs the pillows off the other bed and slides his arm beneath my shoulders, lifting my upper body as gently as possible and propping the pillows behind me. “How’s that?”


Max sits on the edge of the mattress and brushes his knuckles across my cheek. “My God, China . . . I almost lost you. When I saw you falling—I just . . .” He shakes his head, lids slipping closed. “Eric tried to stop me, but I took a running leap after you. It almost took me too long—and when I finally dragged you onto the beach, your heart wasn’t beating.”

“You jumped off the cliff?”

He opens his eyes, pinning me with the intensity of his stare. “Of course. My life went over a cliff—what the hell else could I do? I started CPR, but it wasn’t helping. And there was no time, no defibrillator, so I punched you in the chest.” He takes my hand and brings it to his lips, placing a soft kiss there. “It worked. You came back.”

Tears sting my eyes and cause my throat to ache. “Thank you.” I recall what I experienced, and more pieces fall into place. “It was you! There was a tremendous pain in my chest that spread through my whole body, and you told me not to leave.”

“You heard me?”


Max ghosts a hand over my chest, his eyes filling with sorrow. “I’m so sorry, China. Your chest is going to be sore for a while.”

“Hey, I’m alive, right?”

Instead of answering, he looks at me with a guarded expression. “Other than the pain, how do you feel?”

“Okay I think. Why?”

He brushes my hair back. “Do you have any idea why you fell?”

I shrug. “I tripped over something.”

“Why did you trip?”

I think of the moments before the fall and the way I felt earlier that afternoon. “The virus!” The orange fluid in the IV bag makes more sense now, and I glare at Max. “What did you do?”

Max looks me in the eye, his expression unrepentant. “What I had to. I sent Eric to fetch Garth.”


“Nobody else knows—not even your mother. And you might be cured now.”

Anger blazes through me. “You had no right! You know how I feel about the treatments!” I sit straighter, ignoring the pain, and bang my fists weakly against his chest.

Max grabs my wrists. “Stop. You’ll hurt yourself.”

“How many people had to die to save me?”

Still trapping my hands, Max leans forward to kiss the corner of my mouth before looking earnestly into my eyes. “Nobody died. I donated the blood.”


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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, June 16, 2015

Kimberly Gould Week 155: Family and Friends

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Family and Friends

The door slamming behind her Xiao jumped on her bicycle and pedalled as fast and as hard as she could. Her parents could catch her quickly by car while she coasted down the hill and around the corner. The road was wide and solitary, the only way from their little corner of nowhere, population 15, to St. Andrews, population 300. It was amazing what a couple hundred people can do for allowing yourself to get lost.

She didn’t blend in, of course. In their corner of nowhere, all fifteen residents were Chinese, just like Xiao, and in either her family or her father’s cousin’s. Despite having yellow skin amid the white, she was able to relax and stop looking over her shoulder. Her mother wouldn’t risk making a scene in public and her father wouldn’t stoop to coming after her.

“Shar!” Xiao turned at her English name and found her classmate, Marie, approaching. “I thought you had a big party tonight. It’s the New Year, isn’t it?”

Xiao and Marie weren’t good friends, but the plump girl with her brown braid had always been kind. Her kindness now made Xiao break.

Tears began falling down Xiao’s cheeks and Marie, without hesitation, wrapped her classmate in a hug.

“Oh, Sharlene, don’t cry. Come with me. Mom made hot cocoa. It’ll make you feel better.” The early spring night was still chilly.

In Marie’s house, Xiao found what she needed so badly at home. Marie’s mother was every bit as kind and welcoming as her daughter. She even set out candied fruit, pineapple and mango, which made Xiao cry again.

“Oh, dear,” Mrs. Cunningham said, patting her shoulders. “I can find something else.”

“No, please,” she said, reaching out to snag a pineapple tidbit. “It’s perfect.”

Without judgement, without reprimand, and without family, Xiao welcomed the new year.


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Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege, and it's sequel Duty and Sacrifice. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Miranda Kate Week 154: Retreat

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Retreat

He sat with his book in his lap trying to focus on what he was reading, but instead finding himself listening to the sounds of the woods. He took a deep breath and felt his body relax.

It had been a long time since John had been out here, and he needed it now more than ever. The ugly face of the corporate world was seeping into his subconscious, his dreams reflecting it with more and more violence. At least here there was no-one to be disturbed by his shouts and screams as he fought his way out of them.

But three nights in they had subsided, yet he still found himself waking from the sound of screams, only they weren’t coming from him.

The first time, he’d leapt out of bed and gone straight to the gun cabinet, unclipping the rifle from the rack in seconds, and out on the deck with it loaded and cocked in less than a minute. But once out there, the trees and foliage revealed nothing; there were no sounds or movements. And despite waiting for a good fifteen minutes, alert and vigilant, nothing more came.

Only once back in his bed did they come again, and this time he remained prone listening, trying to understand what he was hearing. John knew foxes screamed, but this was so human his entire body responded as though liquid ice had been poured along its length, with every hair and pore rising in a gradual wave. The pitch was so high he was sure it had to be female, the moans in between taking form in his mind, tying his stomach up in knots as they recalled the picture of his father sitting astride his mother and punching her repeatedly in the head.

Such memories he’d suppressed since childhood, yet their authenticity he knew not to question. And was that it? Was he just associating that event and image with the sound? Did the sound even exist outside of his mind? Was it playing tricks on him? Was this another symptom of his overworked mind? Had the nightmares manifested into something real? Had he finally pushed himself beyond his natural boundaries?

He didn’t know, but after the fourth night of being woken by them he decided to find out. If there was wildlife in these woods that could be making this sound it had to be documented, and this was where the miracles of modern technology came in handy. He had resisted taking too much with him, but he hadn’t given up his iPhone. And despite the remote location, the Internet was still accessible.

John scrolled through site upon site that examined the wildlife in the area, but he couldn’t find mention of any foxes. And even individually he couldn’t match any animals to the sounds he’d heard. This left him with the reluctant choice of looking up his symptoms as a mental illness, but just as he was about to, he noticed a link between the others, a newspaper report with a headline that stood out:

‘Screams in the night – the dark underbelly of Brillingford Deep’

As John read the article he became more and more uncomfortable, even sick to the stomach.

‘Two bodies found naked in different areas of the wood … no attempt to hide them or cover them made … Several residents in the area reported hearing screams … initially thought to be wildlife’

He checked the date of it, and saw it was from the day after the first night he had woken to the sounds.

‘Shot in the back … 12 gauge made a mess … identical injuries … rifle barrel imprint indicates coercion …’

He got up and went into the house and checked the gun cabinet. It was locked. He opened it and took out the rifle, looking at it closely. He smelt the tip and checked it was still loaded – it was. But the box at the bottom of the cabinet caught his attention and he knelt down to inspect it. The top was ripped at the edges as though someone had been in a hurry to open it, and inside half the cartridges were missing.

Could someone have come in here and taken it without him knowing? He thought not. But that left him … in his sleep? He tried to recall his dreams, but all he managed to unearth was a sense of foreboding. But how would he have met these women? He only left the house to get groceries during the day, how would he have kept them until night – and where?

John started pacing round the house, as though looking at it for the first time. He looked in all the closets in all the rooms, and then he went out and walked the perimeter. The house was raised off the ground. It was possible to get under the house, but he had never tried … or so he thought. He bent down and looked under it, and saw something light under there, quite a way in.

He went onto his hands and knees and moved closer. It was some kind of material, he could see a texture. Could it be clothing? He crawled in. He reached out a hand to touch it, feeling something cold and solid under it. He pushed it and it moved, his stomach reflecting the motion as it flopped over onto its front. It was then that he saw the hair, and automatically started backing out. He could feel something rising up his throat, and by the time he cleared the bottom of the house, it was pushing to be released. He turned and threw up into the leafy mulch around his house, his mind still screaming the picture of what he had seen.

John staggered to standing, but remained bent over, hands clasping his knees. It was in this position that the police found him as their cruiser pulled up next to his station wagon.


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


Friday, June 12, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 154: New Friends

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: New Friends

She knew about the cheating. Knew every syllable leaving his lips so easily was full of deceit. But it was the way he breezed in with his lopsided grin and graze on her cheek, passing as a kiss, that made something within her die. She knew those lips had been all over someone else and he dared to touch her with them after spewing his lies.


It wasn’t even the touching. It was the manner of his touch. He couldn’t even be bothered to look at her. He couldn’t be bothered to actually kiss her. It was more of a cursory touch you’d give your great aunt who smelt of lavender and cats.

And that hurt.

If he didn’t want to kiss her anymore, what chance did she have when all interest was lost? There was no way she could turn his head, turn him on. There was nothing left.

She watched him sit in his chair, buried in the newspaper. Occasionally, his eyes scanned the pages but mostly they glazed over as the corners of his mouth curled up in his sexy half smile. She hated how his smile still made her want him, made her physically ache for him when he was obviously thinking about her, being with her. He didn’t miss her, want her or acknowledge her as a husband should his wife.

She toyed with the knife in her hands. How easy it would be to slice his throat as his gorgeous blue eyes stared in shock, hers the last face he would see. The thought didn’t even scare her. But why should she suffer the rest of her life in jail for him?

She smiled.

There was more than one way to get back at him, make him suffer for a change. Torture him like he tortured her every single day. She just needed to make a new friend. A friend who knew her husband just as well she did.


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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


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mark Ethridge Week 154: If It’s Just A Dream, Let Me Dream (Part 10)

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: If It’s Just A Dream, Let Me Dream (Part 10)

His Holiness didn’t disappoint. He arrived in his personal plane, more of an air yacht than plane. He brought his bodyguard with him, and his wife. “Men, power, and sex,” I laughed. Blue laughed at the sight of an old man with a 20 something young woman politely walking with him, showing her beauty, and her jewelery. “Pearl earrings. And the biggest diamond I’ve ever seen on a finger.”

And not one sign of life, or thought, in her eyes. Only emptiness. Only the will of the church, and her service to the church, and her spouse.

Blue cackled, “Now that’s what I call a dirty old man.” She elbowed my ribs, “Bet he has a harem at home.”

“No. But, she’ll conveniently die in a few years, and he’ll be forced to pick another wife.”

“Did I ever mention how evil your people are?”

After a good laugh, we resumed watching the monitors. His high and mightiness made his way to his throne, his trophy walked beside him. The man looked absolutely disgusted. It was hilarious to listen to him as he made his way through the massive defenses of the Levites. “Let’s get this the fuck over.” He motioned to the lead Levite, “I want that fucking traitor fried. And the blue goo with him too.”

“Sir! Yes, Sir!”

He looked at his trophy, “And then we can get back on board, my dear. And you can get out of those restricting clothes.”

Oh, yeah. He was a classy guy.

“He called me goo?” Blue shook her head. “Goo?”

“It’s typical. Anyone not a Christian and not from my Earth is just a blob of goo, and must be eradicated.”

She sighed, “I believe I already mentioned how evil your people are.”

“Yes, you did.”

I checked the time. Right on schedule. The next flare wouldn’t happen for six hours, more than enough time for his holiness to deal with us pathetic heathens, and get back to being one of God’s chosen.

“Ready for some fun?” I ordered the last two drones to join the party, "Time for some old fashioned shock and awe."

Old fashioned UCAVs from centuries earlier. Virtually no radar cross-section, low visibility drones. Armed with conventional missiles. Two drones, 16 missiles armed with high explosives made at the atomic level. One teaspoon of the stuff would leave a hundred foot crater in the ground. Each missile had four times that.

The UCAVs had old fashion projectile cannons on them. 50 mm. Their job was to take out the anti-matter cannon of the Levites.

The UCAVs flew high until above the warehouse. Then, they plummeted. Two missiles erased thee roof of the warehouse from existence, made such a boom, every Levite inside went deaf, and the flash of light, smoke and fire blinded everyone.

The cannons cut the platform with the anti-matter gun to ribbons. The Levites never knew what hit them. The remaining twelve missiles took out his holiness’s pretty yacht, and blew a straight line through the Levite’s walls of defenses.

“Flashy,” Blue nodded.

“I try.”

The laser defenses of his holiness cut in, and cut the UCAVs to pieces. I’d known that would happen. “That’s why I put the gas in the drones.” A cloud of nanites fell from the drones and filled the warehouse. The Marines were free from the Church.

Oh, the firefight that ensued. Heavily armed Marines assaulting the Levites. Part of me wanted to watch, but it was time to move.

Without words, Blue and I accelerated into the warehouse, right down the path made by the UCAVs. Blue flew straight at his holiness. I parked, aimed, and launched grenades filled with that same high explosive, at his holiness’s personal guard.

Blue stopped in front of his holiness. “Blue goo? Really?”

She punched him in the nuts. Hard. He fell, howling in pain, gasping for breath. She put a grenade in his big fat mouth. “Blue goo? Really?” She turned, and headed out as the grenade went off, and his holiness became little bits of goo scattered here and there.

We’d done what we had to. We’d negotiated with the Church. They’d come to kill us, and they’d lost. The entire exchange took less than one minute.

Blue grinned. "Shock and awe. Good description."

"Still works, don't it."


We didn't speak for a time, until I stated the obvious. “Well, Blue. Now things get ugly.”

She nodded. “I know.”

“Everything ready?”


"The Christians will leave, then they'll try to poison the planet, kill everything."

She nodded. “I hope this nanotechnology of yours stops theirs.”

“It does, Blue. It does.”

“It will protect the us?”

I nodded.

“I believe I’ve mentioned how evil your people are before.”


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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, June 10, 2015

Denise Callaway Week 154: Escape

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Denise Callaway’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Escape

Astrid shoved the short crop of curls from her eyes and glared at her sister. Eliya had once more left her to clean up her mess, and today that mess was their sister. Katya, who lived in a dream world, lost and unaware of the problems her presence created, sat in the awkward chair that seemed out of place in Astrid’s perfectly organized world. Much like her sister, the chair seemed to have popped in from another dimension. Katya gave her a winsome grin. “Do you know what I’m thinking?”

Astrid knew that was dangerous ground. “I can’t even fathom what goes on in your mind.”

“Let’s take a walk. I want to visit mama,” Katya declared as she jumped up and darted out the door.

Damn, I forgot how fast she is, Astrid thought as she chased after her. Up one stairway then the next, Astrid thought dizzily, does she not remember? Perhaps not. The last five years had been a blur of hospitals. Where was she going? Up one more flight of stairs, and they popped out onto the rooftop.

“Isn’t it amazing? Elie won’t let me come up here but this is where mama likes to talk,” Katya danced around the open space and giggled. She was unspoiled and free like a child. A chair caught her eye and she swung around and sat astraddle, her chin propped on her fists. “One of these days, I’m going to escape.”

“What are you trying to escape?” Astrid heard her voice. She hated that she sounded as if she was talking to a child. Katya didn’t appear to notice, however. She looked up in the sky dreamily.

“Mama escaped. She found a way to the other side. I want to join her.”

Astrid shifted uncomfortably. Mama jumped off a bridge. A normal person would have screamed. She laughed. Astrid and Elie had reached frantically after her but she was gone in an instant. They never even recovered the body. “What’s so great about the other side?”

Katya became serious. “I can be me without someone trying to put needles in me to calm me down, without doctors prodding me and telling me I’m crazy. I’m not, you know. I just don’t belong here.”

Her sadness struck Astrid. She hid it amongst manic episodes. “Katy...I would be so sad if you left us.”

“I know...but one day I will be gone. And when I am, I will be with mama. That’s where I belong.” Then, as if the moment of seriousness had never happened, she was up, standing on top of the chair. “DO YOU HEAR ME? I’M COMING TO SEE YOU, MAMA. SOON.”

Astrid reached for her, coaxed her down from the chair. She felt the evening mist start to fall. “Let’s go inside, dear. We’ll get a chill out here in this rain.” Katya turned to follow her. As Astrid reached for the knob, she turned knowing Katya had been ripped away. “Katya!” she called, but she was gone.


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


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nick John's Week 154: Sanctuary

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Nick John’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Sanctuary

He smiles as he dies.
I watch his eyes dim, expending dwindling power in a vain bid to drive back the terminal darkness, light fading then winking out.
My grip loosens on his head. He falls, brittle old bones rattling like jack straws on the cracked, blasted marble slabs.

What had possessed him to stand against me? He’d known himself overmatched, even in his prime, and that had lain far behind him, yet still he’d opposed me.
He’d called on his God, chanted his rites, mumbled his incantations.
I’d blazed through hasty wards, melted his bell, shredded his book, extinguished his guttering candle. These were meant for lesser ones than me.
Driven to his knees, as I’d closed with him, my dark fire blasting him, blinding him, brazing all about him, he’d reached behind him. Shielding his precious cross?

I catch the stray memory of a scent. Fear and despair, but a faint aroma of hope.
Where are those who’d sought sanctuary?
They’d scampered away when the old man had challenged me, distracted me.
They’ll be mine now - eternally.
I quarter the castle hall, scattering ecclesiastical flummery like a thresher.
I follow the spoor full circle back to the corpse; then understand his dying smile.
As I’d blasted him, he’d fused his melting cross into the mechanism of the great oak and iron door, sealing it between me and my fleeing quarry.
A pale, charred crescent - his dog collar - smiles from the shadows, mocking me.


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