Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sarah Aisling Week 161: A Measure of Grace (Part 35): Shell Game

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 35): Shell Game

“Come out, come out, wherever you are . . .”

Time stops, a pregnant silence filling the house. My heart beats out of control in a staccato rhythm that causes a whooshing in my ears and leaves me lightheaded.

Max scrambles off me and poises carefully on his knees, bringing a finger to his lips. He grabs for some clothes piled at the foot of the bed and tosses them at me.

I grab a shirt and yank it over my head.


Shit. I should have realized someone would know where Garth was staying. We've become too comfortable, too sure of ourselves hiding in plain sight. My eyes water, panic racing through my veins as I pull on a pair of sweats with shaking fingers.

Max stares hard at me, a question in his eyes.

I mouth James to him, and understanding dawns. Max lowers his head, staring at his knees, brow creased in concentration.

If we get off the bed, the floor will creak beneath our weight. If we stay here, we face likely exposure. James cares for me, and I might be able to talk my way out of hiding from everyone—including him—for the past three weeks, but if he discovers Max . . . I shake off the thought and grip Max’s arm.

Pitching my voice low, I lean forward and whisper, “If James comes upstairs, you need to hide. He can’t find you with me.”

Max shakes his head, eyes blazing.

I cup his face. “Trust me.”

Max seems torn. He chews on his bottom lip, his gaze darting around the room.

“Garth?” James calls out again, closer this time, at the base of the steps.

“If he comes up, hide under the bed. I'll deal with him.”

Max's jaw clenches, but he nods sharply, his fingers slipping between mine. We remain motionless, palm to palm, fingers entwined, and wait.

James starts up, the old wood protesting with each footfall.

My mind scatters in a hundred directions, looking for an excuse as to why I haven't contacted James, explaining the bloodbath left in his childhood home, how much to say about Gibbs and what he did to me, and—most concerning of all—coming up with something to say about Max if James should discover him.

The speed with which the human mind can sort through multiple scenarios, dismissing and discarding those that aren't viable, amazes me. I've already run through a number of ideas, and James is only halfway to the second floor.

Running feet pound across the kitchen. “Yo!”

James halts and retreats to the living room.

“Eric? What are you doing here?”

“General! Shit, I wasn't expecting you! Just a sec . . .” Eric pauses, breathing heavy. “Damn. I saw the back door wide open and didn't know what to think.”

James is quiet for a few seconds before answering. “You seem flustered, sergeant. Should I be concerned?”

Max's grip on my hands tightens. I lean into him, the muscles of my thighs fatigued from holding this position for so long. He releases one of my hands to wrap his arm around my back. I'm not sure if he's offering support, trying to comfort me, or both, but I'm grateful. The new position allows some of the tension to release and makes me feel safer.

Eric says, “No, sir. Nothing to worry about now that I know you're the one who left the door open.”

“Where's Dr. Kasabian?”

“He returned to the lab. I just stopped by to see if he needs supplies. The doc tends to forget essentials, like food. Brilliant types, you know.” Eric laughs.

James simply hums in response.

Mentally, I'm begging Eric to shut up. Less is usually more, especially when attempting to bamboozle a superior.

“So what are you doing in town, General?”

“I came to speak with Garth. Perhaps I should make myself comfortable and wait for him.”

Max stiffens. My heart lurches. There's no possibility of remaining still and silent in this room for hours, waiting for an opportunity to sneak away. Besides, if James comes upstairs, he'd have to be blind to miss the IV pole, medical supplies, and women's clothing.

“You'll have a long wait. Don't think he'll be back til tomorrow, maybe the next day. He tends to lose track of time in the lab.”

James laughs, free and easy. “That he does. I'll catch up with him there. Need a ride back?”

“Nah. I'm on leave the next few days. Thought I'd take advantage of the peace and quiet—if that's all right.”

“If Dr. Kasabian doesn't mind, I don't.”

“Already cleared it. I wouldn't dream of taking liberties.”

“Of course not. You're an exemplary soldier, helpful and loyal. The alliance needs more men like you.”

James and Eric continue talking, their voices moving away from the stairs toward the kitchen. I let a long breath out, my heart still beating wildly. Max cups my face, pressing his cheek to mine.

“Almost there, China,” he whispers. “Don't lose concentration now.”

I nod and burrow against his neck, feeling guilty for allowing him to absorb more of my weight but afraid of what might happen if I don't. “Sorry.”

“What do you weigh, a buck and a quarter? I can take it.”

We remain in the awkward position while Eric and James chat downstairs. My nose starts to itch, and I rub it across Max's clavicle. I settle my head on his shoulder and pay attention to what's being said below.

“Any word on Marie?” James asks.

“No, sir. You'd be the first to know. Um, can I ask you something?”


“What’s going on with Lieutenant Gibbs?”

There’s a long pause before James answers him. “I’m not exactly sure.”

“Forgive me if I’m overstepping, but some of the guys mentioned Gibbs and Marie went missing around the same time. Do you think there’s anything to that?”

James huffs a sigh, his boots scuffing along the floor as he paces. His footsteps stop abruptly, and I can imagine him scraping a hand over his hair as he tends to do when frustrated. “There is something to it, but I need you to keep this under your hat.”

“You have my word.”

“You know I had Marie staying at my house. Well, something went wrong.” James starts pacing again. “When I returned, it looked as if there’d been a bloodbath. The inside of the door to the den had deep gouges, I'm guessing from Grace’s nails and teeth. She must've tried to claw and chew her way out. There was so much blood . . . I thought for sure I’d find someone dead, but the place was deserted.”

“Holy shit!” Eric manages to sound genuinely shocked.

“I had several samples of the blood run, and most of it belongs to Gibbs. It was all over the bed and floor. Marie’s blood was on the pillow. I think—he might have—Jesus.”

“You think he, uh . . .”

“Raped her. That sick bastard was always taunting her! I thought it was harmless, just Gibbs being the asshole he is. God! Food and supplies are missing from the house. I think he has her. There’s been no sign of them. I—I don’t even know where to start looking or how to explain this to Nina.”

“Fuck. I had no idea. Can I help?”

“I have a handful of my best guys on this, but we can’t spare the numbers with the president in-house. His timing sucks. I don’t want him to think we’re incompetent. If you could keep an eye out, an ear to the ground, look for any clues, that would be great.”

“No problem. There haven’t been any signs of Gibbs? If his blood was all over the place, sounds like he’s hurt pretty bad, maybe holed up somewhere, recuperating.”

“There is one clue—tire tracks leaving my house, headed south. I lost the trail about half a mile down the road, but I’m guessing Gibbs loaded the car with supplies, kidnapped Marie, and took off.”

Even though James' theory is wrong, the thought of being Gibbs' captive elicits a rash of goosebumps across my skin. He's still out there, healing . . . maybe planning. His cold gray eyes filled with awful promise haunt me.

Max senses my burgeoning distress and holds me tighter, kissing my temple. “You're safe.”

You're safe. Two whispered words that shatter my fear because I'm certain Max would give his life to protect mine. Another icy finger of fear climbs my spine, this time for Max and Grace. Gibbs knows about both of them now, and that knowledge gives him power. I shiver involuntarily and hug Max tighter. I have to believe we'll destroy Gibbs before he gets to us. Once we're back at the power plant, we can disappear, wait him out. James has guards looking for him.

“—can't believe this fucking guy!” I catch the tail end of Eric’s words.

James scoffs. “You have no idea. And this is personal.”

“What do you mean?”

“Gibbs has it out for me. He must have friends in high places. Though I outrank him and have informed my superiors that he's a loose cannon that needs to be muzzled, I've been instructed time and again not to interfere. They've tied my hands—and the bastard knows it. He wanted my job, but any chance of that went to shit when he pulled this latest stunt. Nobody can save his ass now.”

“That’s a plus, right?”

“Maybe,” James murmurs in a contemplative tone, letting a few seconds pass before he utters words that make my heart beat faster. “Gibbs has gone rogue. He’s seasoned enough to know what will happen if he’s caught, so he won’t get caught. We’re sitting ducks. He knows how we operate, what moves we’ll make. An animal caught in a trap is always far more dangerous. He has nothing to lose at this point.”

I lift my head and look into Max’s eyes, seeing the truth and resignation of what James just said reflected there. I start to speak, but he lifts a finger to his lips, shaking his head. He mouths, “Wait.”

Eric walks outside with James, their voices fading into the distance.

I open my mouth again, and Max covers it with his hand, bringing his lips to my ear. “Shh. We have to be sure he’s not coming back. When Eric gives the okay, we’re out of here.”

“Tonight?” I ask after he takes his hand away.

“Oh yeah. I’m not taking any more chances. James is right about Gibbs being a problem. If he’s stupid enough to come for us, I’ll solve the fucking problem for everyone.” Max’s voice is cold, hard, and matter-of-fact.

I have no doubt Max intends to, maybe even hopes for the chance to kill Gibbs.


Three hours later, the house has been scrubbed of evidence and the medical equipment stashed in the attic amid the mountain of belongings from the previous occupants. All stiff, cramped muscles have been massaged and stretched. We’re packed and ready for the trek home.

Max insists on carrying me to reduce the number of footprints. Once he’s sure I know how to use the high-powered rifle he found in the den, he has me sling it over my shoulder before hiking me onto his back.

Eric plays both pack mule and scout, his massive frame fitted with a large rucksack as he forges ahead, using bird calls to signal us. Sometimes he circles back to make sure we aren’t followed.

The circuitous path we traverse to the power plant takes three times longer than it should, but it’s imperative that nobody discovers our hideaway.

Despite the darkness and overcast sky, I can tell time has moved on in the weeks I spent unconscious and recuperating. The forest floor is carpeted with fallen leaves, many trees well on the way to being stripped bare. There’s a crisp chill in the air that has a distinct sharpness redolent of late autumn giving way to the start of winter.

Our exhalations are visible, suspended in the stillness. I’m grateful there’s no wind to rustle the leaves or cut through our clothing though the silence also makes it easier for us to be heard as we travel.

Max stops us once, catching up to Eric and telling him to switch to “Route C.” I have no idea what that means, but Eric nods and sprints ahead, hooting like an owl a few minutes later. I don’t speak the entire trip, content to cling to Max’s body as he brings me closer and closer to safety.

We reach the power plant without incident, and after the heavy metal door is shut and bolted, I take my first deep breath since we left Garth's house. Max releases me from his back. The burning numbness of pins and needles vibrates my limbs as I rub my arms and legs to both warm and stimulate feeling in them.

When the door to our quarters finally opens, Grace races down the hall, barking joyfully. She heads straight for me, leaping so hard she nearly knocks me off my feet. I stagger backward into the wall and close my arms around her warm, furry body. She pants hard, and I feel her heart beating wildly.

“I missed you so much, Grace!” An overwhelming swell of love fills me to bursting, and tears of happiness trickle from my eyes.

I dip my head, thrilled to receive one of Grace's full face-licks. There truly is nothing like the love of a dog.

Max crouches beside us to ruffle Grace's fur and accepts a tongue bath, too. She puts both paws on his shoulders, whining softly as she licks his face with great intensity.

Two figures come toward us: Tek and Andrea.

“There's my girl.” Eric drops the rucksack to the floor and hurries up the hall, pulling Andrea into his arms.

I knew there was an attraction between them, but when did it progress into the open? I'm happy for them.

Max stills, gazing at Tek. He pats Grace's head and mutters, “Down, girl,” before rising to his feet. “Where's Ali?”

Tek smiles strangely and inclines his head toward the main area.

Max squeezes my arm before he takes off, pushing past Eric and Andrea. “Tek? She's okay, right?”

“C'mon, Grace.” I follow them around the corner.

Before I reach the living room, a voice rises in song, beautiful and clear. I skid around the edge of the door and peek in.

Ali is singing. Her face is flushed with pleasure, eyes bright. Max drops to his knees in front of her, and she skims her fingers lovingly through his hair. Grace walks over and sits beside them, watching curiously.

Tek, Eric, and Andrea arrive behind me, everyone rapt as Ali's voice rises and falls like an angel's. I'm not sure exactly what's happening but recognize what a powerful moment this is between the siblings.

When the last sweet note rings out and fades, Max pulls Ali close and stands up with her locked in his arms.

Tek leans in the doorway, arms crossed, his eyes shining with unshed tears. The rest of us stand silently, waiting for an explanation.

Max sets Ali down. “You sang to me.”

She nods and claps her hands together.

“It's been so long . . . but I remember the last time—”

Ali shakes her head. “No, Connor. Don't ruin this moment with that.”

“Okay.” Max cups Ali's face, examining her carefully. “How were you able to sing like that? Your asthma . . .”

“I'm much better—thanks to the new treatment.”

Max seems puzzled. “New treatment?”

Eric presses past me and approaches Max, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Yeah, I never had a chance to talk with you about that.”

“You? What do you have to do with this?” Max's tone is sharp.

“I provided the medicine. Well, technically, Garth did.”

What?” Max pivots and grabs Eric by the front of his shirt, bringing them eye to eye. “Are you fucked in the head?”

Eric stares back at Max calmly. “No. And I didn't compromise your position or tell Garth any details. He knew there were others and asked if anyone had medical problems, anything we needed.” He shrugs, gesturing toward Ali. “How could I not?”

Max's hold on Eric loosens, but he doesn't let go. “And?”

“Before he was assigned to the virus, they were working on some new asthma remedies. This is something completely different that's never been on the market. You take one pill a week, reducing to every other week when you can, and eventually, once a month for maintenance. Garth gave me enough pills for the next few years, man!”

Max digests this information, finally letting go of Eric. “You're sure he doesn't know any details about us?”

“Nothing. Garth didn't want to know—not even the gender of the patient or how many of us there are. Said if he doesn't know, there's no chance of him giving anything away.”

“All right.” Max laces his fingers over the back of his neck and walks slowly back and forth. “Good. This is great. Eric, thank you so much . . .” He halts in front of Eric and pulls him into a man hug, slapping him on the back.

Ali glides over and hugs me fiercely. “Welcome home. We were so worried about you.” Tears shine in her blue-green eyes, so much like Max's.

Another person wiggles in, turning this into a group hug.


She leans her head against mine. “My God, Marie, when I saw you go over the cliff! It was one of the worst moments of my life—I felt so helpless.”

Grace slips between our legs and jumps into the middle of the huddle, taking turns licking our faces.

Even though it's late evening, we gather in the kitchen for a celebration of food and wine. Eric pulls his chair close to Andrea, keeping a possessive arm around her narrow shoulders. Ali sits between Tek and Max, who keeps looking at his sister with wonder. It warms my heart to see him relax and joke around, the corners of his eyes crinkling when he laughs.

Though Max sits physically closer to Ali, he includes me in the conversation and keeps hold of my hand throughout the meal. A few glasses of wine along with Max's presence beside me warm my insides.

The group of us talks and laughs, releasing the tension that's kept us in knots the past several months. We don't talk about dark things, only happy times, sharing jokes and old stories. The horror hasn't gone away, but by unspoken agreement, we've decided to put it on hold for the time being.

My head feels pleasantly fuzzy, well-being flooding my veins. Max inches closer to me over the course of time, his thumb rubbing slow circles over the back of my hand. He's staring at me with a hunger that causes an excited tingle to sweep over me, settling low in my belly. I meet his gaze, my breathing fast and shallow.

Laughter breaks out around us, and Eric makes a comment about us ignoring everyone.

Max answers Eric without taking his eyes off me. “You're right. We're being rude.” He stands, tugging me up with him, his expression intense. “Come with me? We need time alone.”


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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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SJ Maylee Week 161: Two Pieces

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: Both

Title: Two Pieces

They’d been on the road for weeks. She’d seen more old locks than she cared to admit except for the one they sought. Two pieces for every puzzle, it’s the stories she grew up with. Never did she believe until her mother disappeared without a trace.

“Get ready, Jenny. The next salvage yard is on the next block on the right.” Tommy said.

“It’s going to be another dead end.” She squeezed the key in her palm. “I almost wish we’d never found it.” She rolled down her window. “What are we seriously hoping we’re going to find, anyways? She reached her hand out the window. The weight of the old key kept it in the center of her palm even after she opened her fingers. The damn thing wouldn’t fly away.

“I have a good feeling about this place. It’s your family history that tells you to find the lock after the key appears. Isn’t doubt right before you find the right lock also part of the story? Hey, what the hell are you doing?” Tommy pulled the car over.

She handed him the key. “You don’t know that we’ll ever find her just like we don’t know there’s any truth to the stories. They’re just that, stories geared toward scaring a little girl from straying too far from her mother.” She got out of the car. “Don’t you remember the other half of this story? If we connect this puzzle and find my mom, we’re bound to keep the curse going. This will happen to me and our daughter.” She rubbed her round belly.

Tommy walked around the car and grabbed her hand, dropping the key in her palm. “If that happens, I won’t stop looking for you. You believe me, don’t you?” He pushed back the hair from her face.

“My sweet, Tommy, I believe you.” She smiled at her husband and in that same moment the key warmed in her hand. “I believe.”


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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,


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Miranda Kate Week 161: Frozen

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: Frozen

She blinked, the brightness causing her freshly opened eyes pain. She stared at the view trying to understand what she was seeing, the stark white fluffy lines crossing the blue background, swinging back and forth in the breeze.

As she watched the motion she realised she could feel the air against her skin. She was outside. They were trees. Long thin, frost covered trunks and branches moving in the cold air. She didn’t feel cold. She didn’t feel anything at all; she was numb.

She looked down at herself, her naked body more blue than pink, with dark, crusted patches of brown emitting from between her legs. Her mind recalled images: a grin on a man’s face; wrestling with tied wrists; seeing a door open and feeling panic. Then the pain, she remembered all the pain.

She felt the warmth of a tear as it rolled down the side of her face. She attempted to move a hand to wipe it away, but felt nothing – no strength, no limbs. Her eyes sought out her hand, and she saw it, black welts round the wrist reminding her why she was here.

But how long had she been here? How long did she have? If she couldn’t move, how could she help herself? She felt panic rise from her stomach and grip her chest, causing her to inhale. But the air coming out barely made a mist; her body was no longer warm enough.

She realised that she wasn’t completely numb. A dull ache was present in every part of her. Maybe that was what had woken her.

She didn’t want to be awake. She didn’t want to remember. Then she heard a whisper on the breeze, her name being repeated.

“Crystal, Crystal, Crystal …”

Terror gripped her stomach, the flush of adrenaline bringing warmth and pain in equal measure as it fought the cold in her bones. But the sound didn’t increase, only ebbed and flowed with the motion of the trees, lulling her, soothing her, lifting her.

The white fluff of branches drew closer as though seen through a lens that was zooming in. And in their entwined midst she saw the face of her grandmother smiling and calling her on. She smiled back, wanting to go, but something held her.

She looked down at the broken body lying on the snow covered forest floor, and saw a faint line connecting her to it. She tugged at it, giving it a sharp yank. When it broke she felt release, and watched it float up to her. She was now free to follow her grandmother into the bright light that was once the sky.


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


Monday, July 27, 2015

Denise Callaway Week 161: Charred

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Denise Callaway’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Charred

The flame licked up the wood as Missy studied it therapeutically. It seemed to represent her life of late. Everything went up in flames and she lost it all. Her job first kicked her to the curb...cutbacks. Then her landlord refused to work with her on her rent. She turned around on the picnic table to look towards the tent. At least she didn’t have little mouths to feed. But at some point, everything would bottom out. A briefcase held all her credentials. A college degree, job experience, but no address. Grabbing the bucket of water, she doused the fire and began to pack up the tent. Glancing around the campground once more, she picked up the charred stick and wrote on the table, “I am real!” Perhaps someone would believe and things would start falling into place. For now, she remained invisible, unnoticed, and...hungry.


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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:


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Michael Wombat Week 160: Pangaea

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Michael Wombat’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Pangaea

Seventeen years. Seventeen claustrophobic, stifling, soul-sucking years stuck with two shit-for-brains bitches in this cramped box of a hypership with the fucking FTL drive stuck on max. The thinking behind having an all female crew had been to avoid tensions brought about by male posturing and testosterone-driven willy waving. Yeah, right. Fluctuating oestrogen and progesterone levels, added to three completely different personality types, do not make for a happy band of travellers.

We’d tried everything to fix that bastard drive. Heidi had even taken to belabouring the casing for hours on end with a big fuck off steel hammer. Arms like a docker, that one, but all of her sweaty effort could not shift the needle out of the red. Daft twat, she kept trying though.

Heather, ever the thinker, the planner, had spent endless months trying to work out the effects of travelling away from Earth for seventeen years at 3.73 times the speed of light. Stupid cow, as if it mattered. She’d tried to tell us that if we ever got back to Earth, say seventeen years from now assuming that we could just turn the fucking ship, which we couldn’t given that at this speed it handled like the Titanic after it had been hit by the iceberg, that far more than thirty-four years would have passed back at home. Or fewer, I forget which. She’s a right spunktrumpet.

Me? I’ve spent the last seventeen years thinking about men – well, cocks – and fapping, given that my speciality, Sub-Light Manoeuvring, had become completely irrelevant the moment the entanglement drive array had been pierced by a pea-sized piece of space shit just three days into the mission.

Fucksake, here’s that wrinkled whore, Heather, sticking her head through my hatch as if she owned it. About five years ago I’d been briefly tempted to try feeling her up, maybe release some frustration with a bit of lesbian lust, but then she’d laughed that irritating snake-hiss laugh of hers, and all thoughts of girl-on-girl action had disappeared forever. What the fuck does she want now?

“Hey, Maggie, take your headphones out.”

“I can’t hear you. I’ve got my headphones in. I’ll take them out.”

“Stupid bitch. Yes, I’m smiling but you can’t hear me, you c—aah, can you hear me now?”

“I can, yes. Not that I give a donkey’s bollock, but what do you want, Heather?”

“What’s that racket from the speakers? Sort of wanka wanka wanka?”



“Sweet Baby G and all his little unicorns!”



“So help me, I’ll kick you in the fanny!”

“It’s, erm, it’s the Proximity Alarm. We’ve come so close to an object – a planet, asteroid, sun, I don’t fucking know – that the override circuits have only gone and SHUT DOWN THE FTL DRIVE!”

“Really? So we can...?”

“Maggie! Heather! Stop fingering each other down there and get your skanky arses up to the pointy end! NOW!”

“You mean walk along the ten feet of decking to you, like this? Hello, cunt-face.”

“Look. Look out there, ahead of us.”

“Bugger me sideways. It’s Earth.”

“It is, isn’t it? I mean, I’m not seeing things.”

“No, Heidi, you’re not seeing things. That, my pretty pudenda, is Earth. We’re home.”


“Crack a smile, Heather! We’re home!”

“Maybe, but...”

“But what? Come on, spit it out. You never were a swallower, I’ll bet.”

“OK. You see the land-masses? The continents?”

“Yes! I even remember that one’s Africa!”

“Yes, well done, but – they shouldn’t all be touching each other like that. There should be oceans in between.”

“So what you’re saying is... I don’t know what the fuck you’re saying.”


“Gesundheit. Come on, out with it. Your face looks like a slapped arse.”

“Pangaea was a supercontinent that existed during the late Palaeozoic and early Mesozoic eras. It was formed roughly three hundred million years ago, and it began to break apart about a hundred and seventy five million years ago. Much of Pangaea was in the southern hemisphere and surrounded by a super ocean, Panthalassa. Exactly like what we’re looking at now.”

“Oh fuck.”

“Oh fuck.”

“Yes, ladies, we are indeed home. And now I finally know what happens if you travel for seventeen years at 3.73 times the speed of light. Apparently you go around in fucking circles and also travel two hundred fucking million fucking years into the fucking past.”


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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, July 23, 2015

Mark Ethridge Week 160: If It’s Just A Dream, Let Me Dream (Part 13)

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: If It’s Just A Dream, Let Me Dream (Part 13)

“You know I can’t go with you.”

Yes, I knew, but I wanted her to explain it one more time. “Why not?”

“Because of how time travel works.”

“And how does it work?”

My love laughed. She kissed me on the cheek, then kissed me long, and tender. “You know. Don’t pretend you don’t.”

I knew. I’d always known. And I always felt my heart break when it was time for me to rest, to return to my life, my world, my time.

Time prevents paradoxes, you see. No one can go back in time prior to their birth. No one can go back, and accidentally kill their parents. The time paradox can’t happen. People have tried to go back, change history. All of those who did, died. They went back to when they didn’t exist. And when they got there, they ceased to exist. Their history remained, none of them faded from history. But, their trips back in time were the last things they did.

I could go home. To my time, the world I was born in, the time I lived in. A thousand, ten thousand centuries earlier. I couldn’t go back to before I was born.

Neither could my love. Or my daughter. Or Blue. Or anyone I knew. The people I’d fought with on this strange Earth, with the black sky, the violent red sun, the stars visible in daylight, didn’t exist in my time. They wouldn’t exist for countless centuries.

“You can’t go back because you didn’t exist then.”

She smiled, “See? You do understand.”

“Then why can’t I stay here?” I asked that question each time I had to return to my time. “What happens if I don’t go back?” And I already knew the answer to that question.

“My love. You have not finished your life there. You know that.”

“So, I have to say goodbye to you once more.”

She kissed me again. God, how I loved the feel of her lips on mine. The taste, the texture. I wanted to stay there, in that heartbeat, in that moment, and never leave.

“Yes, my love.”

As we walked, she told me our people would help Blue’s world all they could. “We’ll do everything they can. Food, medicine. Our best scientists will work to heal their world, repair the damage to its biosphere.”

“May be be successful, for once.”

Her laughed was like water to me, after I’d spent days crossing the desert. I wished I could hear it every day.

“And I’ll forget you, won’t I?”

“Yes, my love.”

“Because you don’t exist then.”

As we reached the transfer station, she pointed to a sign above the entrance. “Miracles Room. You made that sign.”

Because it was a miracle I was able to find her, love her, marry her, start our family, across an ocean of time. And a reminder to myself, miracles happen. Miracles are real.

The machine looked like a normal room. My love and I kissed one final time, and I walked into the room. I stretched out on the bed inside, closed my eyes, and prayed I would wake up.

And I always did.

I woke to find myself on the bed I’d set up in the phone booth in my backyard. It had been easy enough to punch the back wall of the booth out, extend it far enough to fit a mattress inside. My phone boot. My escape, from the life I hated. The life I lived, hoping it would someday end.

I’d had another amazing dream. About blue aliens, on a strange world. I knew, like any dream, it would fade from my memory with time. I wished I could remember one of those dreams forever. I liked my dreams.

I knew from the darkness outside the phone booth, it was late. My wife would chew me out once more, “You and that friggin’ phone booth! I think you love that place more than you ever loved me!”

“I sleep well there.”

It was the truth. I slept well in my phone booth. Much better than I did in the house. So, she endured my time there. She let me hide there.

“Well. You’re awake now. So you can help with the dishes. Then, we can go to bed.” She handed me a sponge, and bottle of soap, “And don’t tell me about your silly dreams. Keep them to yourself.”

“Yes, dear.”



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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, July 22, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 160: The New Boy

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The New Boy

Feathers were ruffled when Jackson, the new boy walked into class. College just got exciting for Maddie and her clique. She gave him her best smile, meeting her sparkling blue eyes, flicking her blonde hair off her shoulder as he sat at the desk next to her. He returned a courteous smile then turned to his books.

The next few days, Maddie made it her mission to bump into Jackson and get him talking. But all he did was smile, and walk off. As if that wasn’t enough, she saw him giving more than the time of day to April. April, a loner, a weirdo in Maddie’s eyes.

“How have those two become such good friends?” Maddie asked.
“They both work at the kennels,” replied Marie, touching up her lip gloss.
“How do you know that,” Maddie asked.
“My dad stopped by to look at getting me a dog. He’s known I’ve wanted one for ages but haven’t been allowed. Now my parents are separated, he figures he can do what he wants where I’m concerned. Anyway, I saw them both there working. Maybe you should get a dog.”
“Maybe I will,” Maddie replied, before marching off.

At the kennels, Maddie walked around, not interested in the dogs at all.
“Hi,” Jackson said, the first time he instigated conversation,
“Hi, I didn’t know you worked here.” Maddie smiled brightly through freshly glossed lips.
“Yeah, I do my bit to help out. So you’re looking for a dog?”
“Yeah but I hadn’t realised there were so many. Maybe you could help me?”
“Sure. What do you have in mind?”
Maddie shrugged. “I don’t know. I figured, I’d know when I saw it.”
Jackson gave her a grin as he pushed back his dark hair from his face. “Maybe the dog will choose you,” he said.

The afternoon was fantastic as Maddie spent the entire time with Jackson, not really paying attention to the dogs. Any one of them would do. Her mum could walk it. She had no intention of actually choosing one there and then anyway; a few visits to the kennels and Jackson would forget about her wanting a dog and ask her out.

But he didn’t. And on the fourth afternoon, April ended up showing Maddie around as Jackson was busy.

“Are you and Jackson going out?” Maddie asked.
“No, just friends. Why?” asked April
Maddie shrugged.
“If you want him to be interested in you, you have to stop faking your love of dogs.”
“It’s not fake!”
“Sure it is. Look, I know what you say about me. I know you think I’m weird. I probably am but if you ask nicely, I could help you.”
April dug into the front of her apron and pulled out a small purple bottle. “My nan made this. It’s a herbal medicine.”
“Well, I asked her to make it for you. I knew what you were up to, I know you want Jackson.”
“And what do you want?” asked Maddie, eyeing the glass bottle.
“To be accepted, to be your friend, part of your group.”
“What will this medicine do?”
“It’ll get you want you want.”
“Why don’t you take it then?”
“Fine.” she took off the stopper and raised it to her lips. A tiny drop touched them.
Maddie snatched it, gulping it down. “I want Jackson to like me, want me.” she said. “Thanks April. Meet me at lunch and please, wear something at least from this century.”

Lunchtime, and Maddie was nowhere to be seen. April wore a bright new outfit and was instantly noticed by Marie. She fitted in like she’d been part of the group forever. By the end of the day, April had been invited to a party that night with Marie. They left college together and saw Jackson at the gate.
“Hi,” said April. “Missed you today.”
“Yeah, I was kinda busy. You look different.” He noticed April’s face fall. “I meant nice, you look nice. But don’t come to the kennels like that.” he smiled.
“Who’s your friend?” April asked.
“Ah, this is gonna sound strange, but you know I’ve always wanted a husky? This beautiful girl showed up at my house this morning. She looks kinda familiar, I know it sounds stupid.”
“No, it doesn’t,” said April, grinning as she stroked the husky, looking into her blue eyes. She nuzzled into the dog, “I told you you’d get what you want. Shame you had to end up like this.” She jumped up, linking an arm into Jackson and another into Marie’s as they strolled down the road with the husky lapping at their heels.


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


Monday, July 20, 2015

Laura Jame Week 160: Mis-Diagnosed

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Mis-Diagnosed

Ted hated group therapy, sitting around with other people in various stages of decline, sharing false feelings. He waited, head down, anxious for his turn. What lies would he share this week? Could he even be bothered?

"Antony, would you like to share your thoughts on what Stacy has just said?" Dr Prichard sat pen poised for his response.

"My name's not Antony, it's Ted." Ted whispered into his collar.

"I'm sorry Antony, I didn't catch that. Could you please repeat?"

Ted lifted his head and started at her straight in the eyes, "I SAID MY NAME IS TED!"

Dr Pritchard signalled to the nurses at the door, "Now Antony, we've discussed this before. Your mother filled out the forms when you were admitted and your name is Antony Whitehead. Ted was the name of..."

Ted didn't let her finish. He leapt across the circle and grabbed the doctor by her throat. Spittle fell onto her face as he kept repeating. "TED! TED! TED! MY NAME IS TED YOU FUCKIN' BITCH!"

Ted found himself dragged off the doctor by the nurses and soon in a headlock on the floor. "Please give him 50mils of hydroxyzine and take him to his room." Ted felt a needle puncture his skin and then familiar feelings of peacefulness flowed through his body as the drug took effect.

Ted started giggling, he couldn't help it, group therapy was over and he hadn't had to share anything. He was dragged none too gently back to his room and dumped on his bed. Deep down he knew when he awoke all the old feelings would return but for now he was happy and he clung to the happiness as drifted towards sleep.

When Ted awoke his room was in darkness, the sun having set several hours previously. The drugs had the effect of making his body slow to respond to instruction, his tongue lay fat and heavy on the base of his mouth. He needed some water but of course his water jug was empty. He lay for while, tongue moving around his mouth creating little saliva thinking back over the past few months at the hospital.

Every week had been a new diagnosis, first of all AD, then AGS. He enjoyed convincing them he had as severe case of OCD but that proved to hard to maintain. MSDD was one they clutched to for a while, RAD also proved popular but his favourite was MFD. He was sure that they just made up the letters to make themselves look smart and the patients confused. Now they were working through ODD but of course they were all wrong. He was fine it was his mother that had the issues.

He finally managed to gather enough strength to sit up in the bed and swing his legs over the side. He sat and held his hands out in front of him and saw that they were shaking slightly. This was a new development, maybe the drug concoction he was on was proving detrimental to his health. He chuckled to himself, what if the very thing they were giving him to cure him was actually killing him instead? Wouldn't mother be pleased.

Grabbing the empty water jug of the bedside table he staggered out of the door into the corridor. The water cooler was halfway down and seemed to be swaying in a non existent wind. Using the wall to steady himself Ted made his way down the corridor finally reaching the cooler which to his relief had stopped moving. Using a plastic cup he managed to down a few gulps of water which helped bring his body back under control.

Bending to fill his water jug Ted heard whistling and turned to see a janitor walking towards him, a tool kit swinging by his side. "Evening there Antony. Glad to see your up and about again." Without thinking Ted swung the half filled water jug at the janitors head. Water and plastic rained down around them both and the toolbox emptied its contents at Ted's feet.

"My name is Ted you arsehole." Ted bent down and picked up a mallet that had spilled from the toolbox. He waited until the janitor had half sat up and slammed the mallet across his forehead. Blood and bits of hair flew across the corridor. "Maybe now you'll remember."

The mallet felt good in his hand and Ted, feeling powerful for the first time since he had entered the hospital, decided that he would help others remember his name. At the nurses station he attacked the nurse with such gusto he ensured a closed coffin would be necessary. With the mallet dripping blood he wandered down the corridor to the common room, where the other patients sat and played card games, chess or watched the television.

As he swung the mallet left and right not caring who he hit, he shouted. "TED! TED! TED! MY NAME IS TED!"

Finally Ted was exhausted and sank to the floor letting the mallet fall from his hands. He surveyed his handiwork and felt proud of what he had managed to accomplish in such a short time.

"Diagnose me now bitch."


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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