Monday, November 30, 2015

Laura James Week 178: Final Moments

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Final Moments

Frank couldn't believe that it had all gone so wrong so fast. The plan had been simple, get in grab his daughter then head north till the fuss had died down. He'd got in with no problems, the guards had been lazy and predictable leaving a clear path to the room where they held her.

Opening the door Frank took a breath, his daughter was huddled in a corner. He wasn't surprised at the way she looked, the months she had been locked away in darkness had leached all the vitality from her skin, but he was still shocked at her condition.

He grabbed a tatty blanket from off the floor and carefully wrapped it around his daughter's shoulders all the while whispering that she was safe, that it was all over, he was taking her home. Lifting her in his arms the loss of weight she had suffered was more evident, she was lighter than a feather.

The return journey to the car was uneventful, no guards stopped him. Placing Jennifer gently in the back of his car, Frank pondered his next move. He had wanted to head north straight away but with Jennifer in such condition he would need to find somewhere closer in the short term.

He pulled into the driveway of a house that had a 'For Sale' sign and after breaking in got them both settled. Frank had kept checking in the rear view mirror for signs of bringing followed and the fact that he had got away clean made him feel more vulnerable. He couldn't understand why after the lengths that they had gone to capturing Jennifer they had let her go so easily.

Now that Jennifer was clean and Frank could assess her injuries. Apart from severe weight loss there were a couple of small puncture wounds in her left arm. After he had persuaded her to drink a little soup he watched her as she slept. She had not spoken a single word since he had picked her up and he had no idea what had been injected into her system.

That had been three days ago and now here he was sitting at a kitchen table in a house he didn't own whilst the still warm corpse of his daughter lay in the next room. He still couldn't quite believe what Jennifer had said when she finally spoke. She was carrying a virus designed to manipulate the common cold into a deadly form of flu. The men who took her had worked for a large pharmaceutical company who were haemorrhaging funds and saw the opportunity to make money with a targeted campaign.

Frank had his daughter back but only because they needed her to make money. With a heavy heart he realised he had no choice. Hundreds of thousands of people's lives lay in his hands and he couldn't live knowing he had a chance to stop things.

Picking up the gun he had used to kill his daughter he rested it beneath his chin and pulled the trigger.


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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


KendallJaye Collard Week 177: Hellshot to High Prairie

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KendallJaye Collard’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Hellshot to High Prairie

I’d barely made it out alive. Blue Eyes had an entourage that I hadn’t accounted for. That meant that every shot had to count. One final, deep breath and I kicked open the door to his hotel room.

Blue Eyes jumped back from the round table where he and his followers were playing cards. “What the...” was all he managed to say before my gunfire rang hard and heavy in the tiny room. As they all reached for their guns, I pointed and fired barely looking their direction. I didn’t want to lose a moment of Blue Eyes’ reaction as I calmly dispatched his entire crew of five. By my count, I had one shot left. Blue Eyes frantically patted his ribcage, his pants pocket, his waistband. I knew his gun was on the bedside table and out of his reach. I continued to walk through the room while Blue Eyes backed himself into the corner. The panic was thick in the room, and it tasted delicious.

“What do you want? Who sent you?” he demanded with little conviction.

“You don’t remember me. It’s been a while. There’s a lot of years and a log book of miles in between here and there.”

I knew I didn’t have time for a monologue. I could already hear people gathering in the hallway.

“Wait,” Blue Eyes mumbled as those icy eyes narrowed. “You’re that Kid. Kid Harper. I heard about you. I never thought I’d get the chance…”

I shot him in the shoulder.

He slid down the wall.

“You missed,” he taunted.

“Hardly,” I bit back. I clobbered him with the butt of my revolver.

His eyes rolled up to the sky, and he went limp. I turned around to the crowd that had gathered outside the room. “Nothing to worry about people. This here man is wanted by Washita County Sherriff in Oklahoma. I’m a US Marshall.” I rummaged in the breast pocket of my coat and pulled out an official enough looking badge that would allow me passage. It was a trinket I had picked up from one of my prior bounties. He was a pedophile scum in Kentucky that used his small town badge to manipulate kids. I kept it. Figured it would come in handy. I held it up long enough for everyone to be able to make out that it was a badge, but not long enough for them to tell where it was from.

The people made a path for me as I slung the unconscious body of Blue Eyes over my shoulder. My height belied my strength. Fine by me. I used every advantage I had.

“I do thank you for your patience, folks. Let the hotel owner I’ll be sending a check for clean up and funeral expenses for these men.” I jerked my head in the direction of the heap of bodies littering the floor. “I need to get this guy to Oklahoma by tomorrow sunset.”

I made my way through the crowd and out the door. I heard the standard hushed voices that always accompanied my work. Let them talk. Let the legend grow. It made my work that much easier.

My mare was waiting for me right where I left her. A quick yank on the reigns loosed the knot. She stayed perfectly still as I gave her soft muzzle a kiss. Most faithful, trusted thing I owned. I heaved the unconscious man over her backside, and I whipped myself up into the saddle.

I made like hellfire out of the two-bit town.

I had my sights on one thing now.

The place where it all started.

I dug in my heels and headed north.


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KendallJaye Collard gets her kicks above the waistline, Sunshine. Wine drinker, Cancer Survivor, and protected by rocksalt. Spread the love with her at @KJCollard.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Sarah Aisling Week 177: A Measure of Grace (Part 42): The Beauty of Surrender

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 42): The Beauty of Surrender

Gibbs stands before me, eyes full of wild amusement, face a patchwork of cuts and bruises. His lips curl into a cruel smirk.

The world freezes, my mind scattering in multiple directions: assessing his injuries, afraid of what he's done to Ali, wondering where Max is, calculating my chances of getting away while navigating this treacherous terrain in the dark with a twisted ankle.

Gibbs reaches out and cups the back of my neck, wrenching me closer. With his other hand, he pats me down, confiscating the knife. “I see that moment in your eyes—the one where you realize your options are few and unpalatable.” He laughs, a smoky puff of breath laced with cinnamon assailing me.

I stare up at him, not daring to allow him out of my sight. I can't afford to miss a sign, a weakness, the truth, or a lie. My life, and maybe the lives of my new family, might depend on it.

Gulping a breath, a trace of cinnamon riding the edge of the frosty air, I steady myself and prepare to do whatever can be done. Eric might show up. Max might ride to my rescue. Bottom line? I'm alone with a madman. To my great shame, my eyes sting with the heat of tears. Blinking rapidly, I fight them with everything I have, determined that I will go down strong and fighting, no matter what.

Gibbs tilts his head and ghosts a finger across my bottom lip. “Shh . . . don't fret. It's over. The running, the fighting, the hiding from your fate. There's a beauty to surrender, great courage in acceptance.”

A hot poker of anger flares inside me, eviscerating the tears. I bite at the offending finger, but Gibbs is too quick, snatching his hand back. I glare into his insane gaze. “You are the most despicable excuse for a human being I've ever come across. May the virus mutate and liquefy your insides, you vile scum!”

His eyes widen slightly, but the impassive mask returns a second later. “Tell me how you really feel, why don't you? If I were prone to sensitivity, which I'm not, that might have hurt my feelings.” The hand on the back of my neck tightens painfully, his voice a growl. “What time you have left to live belongs to me, will be decided by me.”

“What have you done to Ali?”

“Oh, now she was a hoot! I would have liked to play with her a bit more, but she was needed elsewhere as bait. Let's return to the underground fortress, shall we?” Gibbs swings us around roughly, marching toward the path hugging the rocky face of the cliffs.

The howling wind slices through my clothing and pushes hard against my body, reminding me why I used the tunnel to get up here. I struggle against his iron grip, planting my feet against the rock-strewn ground and finding no purchase, my boots slipping. “No! I won't go that way!”

Gibbs pushes me against a boulder and presses his forearm against my throat. Released from his iron grip, the back of my neck aches, throbbing in time with my pulse. The icy cold of the stone seeps through my clothing, causing an involuntary shiver. His intense gaze roams my face, inky shadows concealing his expression. “We're going to the plant. I've been out here scrounging to survive while you've been dining like royalty and sleeping in comfort.”

“How would you know what I've been doing?” Though the words are coated with sarcastic derision, my heart knocks against my ribs.

“Remember the key in the bottle?”

“What key?”

Gibbs chuckles. “I admire your fire, but we both know you found that key. I’m going to hazard a guess that you didn't get the message I was trying to convey with said key, my attempt to level the playing field a bit.”

“What message?”

“Still haven't pieced it together? You recently spent some time under the watchful eye of Dr. Kasabian, recuperating from what I suspect was a relapse.”

I involuntarily suck in a breath. Did Garth betray us after all?

“I was watching, here and there. When you were getting ready to leave the house, I contemplated ambushing you, but then I thought why not find out where sweet Marie has been hiding herself?” Gibbs brushes his knuckles across my temple and down the side of my cheek, lowering his voice intimately. “I was so close to you. Dr. K went back to the lab; the disloyal Eric came to meet with your jughead boyfriend, and you were all alone. So I snuck into the house and planted a tracker in your duffel bag. It was exciting, knowing someone might catch me.”

Ice singes my spine. I swallow, pulling air through my nose. “You're lying.”

Gibbs continues rubbing his knuckles back and forth gently. “You'd like to believe that, wouldn't you? You'd like to believe you outsmarted me, that your sense of safety was real—when your group came out to play on the beach, when you practiced with weapons, the stolen gropes and kisses with what's-his-name—but I was there for it all, learning about all of you, waiting for the perfect moment.” His fingers wrap around my jaw, their grip borderline painful. Since I don’t dare look away for a fraction of a second, frightened of the cues I might miss, I watch him lick his thin lips, his eyes dilating. “How did dear Andrea end up with your ragtag crew, hmm? They told me she was dead. We had a thing before I found you.”

“No, you didn’t, you crazy fuck! You destroyed her!” Angry, I kick him without considering the consequences.

In response, he traps my legs between his boots and presses on my windpipe until pinpricks of darkness dance around the edges of my vision. I choke and claw at his arms, my fingers slipping off the smooth nylon of his jacket. When he finally lets up, flecks of light spark in the darkness as I fight to avoid passing out. My throat burns, and I can only manage dry croaks.

“As I was saying before you so rudely interrupted . . . I had a thing with Andrea. I’d love to see her again, catch up. Who else is at the plant right now? Tek is probably dead or dying and no threat to me. Eric might be a challenge, but I’ve got a few surprises up my sleeve.” Gibbs pulls a set of handcuffs from his pocket. We scuffle for a few seconds, but he wins easily, trapping my hands in front of me and fastening the cuffs around my wrists. “There. Now we can continue. Would you like to know how I discovered your underground kingdom?” He steps away, yanking me forward.

I would like to know how he discovered our location but refuse to give him the satisfaction of knowing that, simply setting my aching jaw mulishly. He shrugs and starts toward the treacherous ledge again, forcing me to protest. “The safer path is that way.” I nudge my chin in the other direction. “There’s an entrance up there to the tunnel leading to the back door of the plant.”

He stares at me for a few long moments, considering. “Okay, but you better not be lying, or you’ll suffer the same fate as your ex.”

“My ex?”

Gibbs starts walking again, tugging me along behind him. “Keep up. No falling on that pretty face.” After a few more strides, he slows, glancing back. “Your precious oaf of a boyfriend fell for the tender morsel of bait I laid out—hook, line, and sinker. You should have seen him, rushing onto the cliff ledge with eyes full of fire. When he saw his precious sister trussed up like a turkey, all caution went out the window—and then it was a simple matter of a few well-placed kicks.”

My heart hammers so hard, I can barely speak. “Where are they?”

“Ali is still waiting for someone to untie her. It’s cold up there, poor thing, though I think her attention is focused on the broken body of her brother, bobbing in the surf between the sharp rocks below. If it helps, he's not feeling any pain.”

Please, God, let him be lying.

Grief overtakes me, a gaping hole opening up inside. Even the possibility of never seeing Max again, experiencing the intensity of his sea-glass eyes or the reverence of his touch, draws a pitiful cry from the depths of me. I choose to believe Max is alive, but either way, I'm determined to end Gibbs' toxic existence.

Gibbs continues along the increasingly steep path with me rushing to keep up with his surefooted strides. I never dreamed it would be so difficult to maintain balance with my hands cuffed together and almost plead for him to slow down, but I don't trust myself to speak without cursing or crying or both.

Thunder rumbles over the ocean. Even in the darkness, rolling clouds hang suspended in the air, filled to bursting with unfallen rain. A jagged bolt of lightning splits the sky, illuminating the purplish storm swells. A few seconds later, thunder cracks, shaking the ground and rattling my teeth. A strange tingle spreads across my skin, an acute awareness of the electricity sizzling in the air.

“Looks like your tunnel idea was a good one. I'd hate to come this far only to be struck by lightning.”

Getting crispy fried would be too good for you, I think with a flood of uncharacteristic vitriol.

The sky spits fat staccato drops of rain that pelt our bodies and patter against the rocky trail. More lightning strobes around us in disorienting flickers, thunder crashing seconds later with a resounding boom. I lose my footing, nearly twisting my good ankle.

“Why are you doing this?” I scream. “Why are you so evil?”

Gibbs stops short, and I plow into him. He rounds on me, grabbing for my arms, his fingers biting in painfully. “I'm not evil! Say it again and you won't live to gather the bones of lover boy.”

I gape at him with surprise. His typically crazy gray eyes are tinged with hurt, and he looks away quickly when our gazes meet. I start to wonder if there's a way to reach the good inside him, convince him to let us go.

My hopes are dashed when Gibbs tightens his hold on the cuffs and backhands me, the force of the slam rocking my head back. I bite my lip, the taste of blood seeping onto my tongue.

We near the top of the trail, the entrance to the tunnel looming darker than the night, an inky entrance to hell. With swift clarity I'm certain Gibbs is going to kill us all if given the chance. He might play with me for a time, play with Andrea or Ali, but when he's had his fill, death is on the dessert menu.

In another moment of insight, I decide I'd rather die on my own terms.

We arrive at the summit where the dirt flattens into a natural landing pad. Gibbs lets go of my arms, muttering something about a flashlight. I breathe deeply, extending my fingers until the pads caress the stone where Max kissed me the first time he brought me home to the power plant.

Max jumped out at this very rock, scaring me before taking my breath away with a searing kiss. When I tried to slip from his grasp, he grabbed me around the waist to keep me from plunging into a crevasse.

The very chasm looming two feet behind Gibbs.

The time for thinking has passed. Gibbs roots around in his jacket, searching for a flashlight. Then he's going to shine it into the opening, possibly seeing the yawning abyss lying in wait.

Resting against the stone, I allow my eyes to close for just a moment, imagining the feel of Max’s sensual mouth, the thrill that jolted through me as his lips sampled my skin. I remember how hard it was to get close to Max and the happiness I felt when he finally let me in. I savor the moment.

When I open my eyes, Gibbs is watching me, fascinated. “Where did you go just now?”

“Reliving a memory, an attempt to forget this nightmare.”

Rain drives down harder, saturating the ground and gurgling down the steep path. The natural overhang protects us from the deluge, almost as if we’re inside of pocket of calm.

Gibbs reaches out, tracing my face with his fingers—the gentlest moment I’ve spent in his presence. I flinch, turning away from his touch.

Rage reignites, transforming his face into a mask of hatred. “You’re just another bitch, aren’t you? Tease and tantalize only to snatch it back.” He grabs my face in a vise-grip, leaning in until I’m eye to eye with bloodshot crazy, his voice ragged. “The things I’m going to do to you . . . and Andrea. Oh, the places we’ll go.”

“Look behind you, you crazy fuck!”

“I’m not falling for that one again. Let’s go.”

I plant both feet and bend my knees, balancing the best I can, and press against the tall stone for stability. Clasping my fingers together, I use my cuffed hands as a weapon, coming up fast and slamming Gibbs under the chin.

He stumbles but not far enough.

With a feral scream I ram my knee into his groin and jab my balled fists into his solar plexus.

One foot steps back into nothingness, and he teeters on the edge of the fissure, pinwheeling his arms. He’s looking for purchase, for anything that can save him from falling, and ends up grabbing what’s directly in front of him.


Adrenaline crashes through my system. I bend my knees deeper, leaning toward the stone. I scream incoherent things, pleading with every fiber of my being for this to be over.

The moment seems to go on forever, drawn out in a macabre dance of death as we push and pull and fight not to go over the edge. In the end, I lose. Gibbs isn’t letting go, and he weighs far more that I do.

My last thoughts include an ornery man with sea-glass eyes.

Max, I love you. Catch me, Katie.

A savage shout from my right precedes several sizzling snaps. The only comparison I can make is the igniter on Dad’s grill but much louder.

I’m shoved against the stone, flopping like a rag doll. Strong arms surround me, snatching me from the hands of death.

An inhuman keen fills the air, changing pitch as Gibbs goes over, disappearing from sight. The crunch of bones cracking like twigs is punctuated by horrid screams as Gibbs tumbles to the bottom of the fissure.

Someone is talking, but I can only hear the screams. I shake my head, wishing I could cover my ears.

“Make it . . . stop.”

My head is forced forward, cheeks stinging. I blink until two shards of sea glass come into focus, and then I let go, slipping into quiet oblivion.


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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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kimberly Gould Week 177: Scenic Drive

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Scenic Drive

“Next right,” Bennet said, not looking up from his map.

“Right,” Dani confirmed, signalling her lane change.

“Skip the next two and then left. There should be lights.”

“Got it.”

Bennet held a GPS in his left hand in addition to the map. Dani only glance at it, focusing on the road. This was why she had a navigator.

“Okay, we’re within 300 metres. Slow down.”

Dani did as instructed, pulling over to left. The other reason she was driving instead of Bennet was because she’d been to Europe recently and had no trouble driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.

“Stop,” Bennet said at the least opportune time. Dani saw a spot on the shoulder that she should be able to park the car for a few minutes.

“Stop!” he said with urgency.

“I am stopping! I can’t just slam on my brakes in the middle of the road.”

That made Bennet look up and assess their surroundings. “Oh, sorry.”

Dani rolled her eyes. “We can walk back,” she reminded him.

“Sure, it’s just over there.” He pointed. Removing seat belts, they both stepped out of the red sedan they had rented in Zurich.

“You know,” I think there are better way to sight-see,” Dani complained while Bennet held the GPS in front of him, following the blinking cursor.

“I thought you liked this? You’ve seen most of the big cities, the monuments. This is a way to see the little things, small unknown towns, tiny churches in the middle of the countryside. You just want a schedule,” he said.

“So what if I do?” Dani crossed her arms over her chest. “Besides, this isn’t a small town, it’s a rat warren, and that isn’t a church, it’s a manhole cover.” They had arrived.

“Huh. Weird. Where would they hide the cache?” Dani yanked Bennet out of the road. A loud honk rose and fell with Doppler.

“Honestly, look around you! You’re missing so much, including the risk to your life.” The last was bitter.

“Yeah, sorry. Wait, look. We need to look. It’s an eye.”

Dani cocked her head and the lens shape turned into an eye.

“Okay, so what do we look at?”

Bennet stood atop the eye, turning in a circle. “Come here,” he called. “Maybe you will see it.”

Dani sighed and stepped forward, rolling her eyes and looking upward.

With her head tilted up the moment she touched the eye, she saw the brilliant flash that enveloped her and Bennet.

“What was that? Lightning?” Bennet asked.

Dani rubbed her watering eyes, waiting for them to clear. When they did, she wasn’t in the middle of a street any longer. She was surrounded by grey stone carved into intricate displays of a royal procession. It was like Elgin Marbles, but whole, kept.

“WELCOME!” a voice boomed loud enough to shake both Bennet and Dani to their toes. A man, larger than life with lightning sparking around him came into view. “So long since anyone has come.”

“Bennet. I want to go home.”


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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


Friday, November 20, 2015

Mark Ethridge Week 176: I See Angry People (Part 5)

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: I See Angry People (Part 5)

I woke from a dream of being trapped on a boat on the ocean, by myself, with waves tossing my boat around, threatening to wash me overboard, and carry me to a watery tomb.

It was raining. Pouring, actually. Thunder, lightning, howling wind. I knew the sun was up, I could see the trees around me, green leaves and all. I could only do that when the sun was up. So, I’d been out for a while. I didn’t know how long, and with the sky filled with clouds, I had no way of telling what part of the day it was.

And I was soaked to the bone. Which didn’t strike me as a bad thing, given the wound in my arm. Clean water on a wound couldn’t hurt, so I held my arm out as best I could, and let it get soaked. Once the caked on blood, sweat, and dirt were washed off, I tied the wound up in a shirt sleeve, and decided I needed to chance calling on the animals for help.

I let out the howl the wolves had taught me, and listened. Nothing. Nothing but silence, the sound of the wind, the rumble of thunder. There were no wolves in hearing distance.

I screamed like an eagle, and was rewarded a few minutes later when an eagle screamed back. I screamed again, and waited. A golden eagle landed on a tree branch nearby, and stared at me. I chirped, the way Jillian had taught me.

The eagle studied me a while, then screamed, flapped it’s wings, and motioned its head, liked I should follow it.

I did.

We headed north, further from the fence. I was tired, hungry, and weakened from my wound. The eagle knew. It circled back frequently to check on me, make sure I was keeping up, that I knew where it wanted me to go.

After a few hundred yards, my arm was on fire again, and I felt blood leaking from the wound, running down my arm, dripping off my elbow and fingertips.

The eagle guided me to a pair of houses in the middle of nowhere. Two well kept, neat houses, fully painted, yards edged and mowed, sidewalks clear, and a truck in each driveway. Opposite the houses was a warehouse with a sign, “Tommy’s Garage”.

The eagle motioned me to follow it into the clearing. I hesitated, the last human I’d encountered was a berserker with a gun who shot at trees, and screamed, “Nothing’s getting past me!”

The eagle screamed, then landed on a lamp post in one of the front yards. In the pouring rain, the wind and the lightning. The porch light on one of the houses turned on, and a man, and woman, opened the door, and peered out. “What is it, Scotty?”

The eagle screamed again, then turned toward me and flapped its wings. “Is someone out there, Scotty?”

The eagle screamed again.

The man raised a rifle, and cautiously stepped from the house, “Who’s there?”

I held up my hands and stepped forward, “Don’t shoot.”

He pointed his rifle at me, and studied me.

“I’m Frank.” I looked at the eagle, and screamed. The eagle screamed back, extended its wings, and took to the sky, headed for its home to wait out the storm.

“You speak to Scotty?”

I nodded. “He brought me here.”

I was getting a bit dizzy, and stumbled a bit.

“You OK, Frank?”

“Bastard shot me.”

He put the rifle down, saw my arm, turned to the woman, “Put on some hot water, and get some thread and needles.” She didn’t ask why. He walked through the rain to me, shook my hand, “Tommy.”

I wobbled a bit.

“You’ll be staying with us a while. At least ‘till we get that arm patched up, and get you on your feet again.” He guided me to the front door, “You’ll be safe here.” Next thing I knew I was in a kitchen, sitting at a table. “This is Joy, my wife.” She smiled. “His name’s Frank.”

She rested my arm on the table, “Oh heavens, Frank. You’ve been shot.”

“One of those idiots guarding the fence, no doubt,” Tommy mumbled, “Wasting good bullets. Shooting at nothing.”

I did my best to not scream as Joy washed the wound with soap and hot water. I ground my teeth and tried not to bite my tongue. “I wish I had the anesthetic I had at the hospital.” Joy smiled. “I’d knock you out, and clean you up, and you wouldn’t know a thing.” She smiled.


“I’m a good doctor, don’t you think?” She smiled again. A friendly smile. Tommy chuckled.

“She’ll take good care of you. Have you stitched up, and getting better in no time.” He laughed then, “Want a beer?”

“He’ll need something stronger than that, dear,” Joy motioned him to one of the kitchen cabinets. “A glass or two of the good stuff.”

Tommy poured a glass of whiskey from a bottle. He poured another for himself. He and I chugged them down, and he poured two more. That’s when Joy started stitching me up. They made a good team, her doing her work, and him distracting me as much as he could. It still hurt like someone was stabbing my arm with an icepick. But at least the bleeding had stopped.

“So, Frank, what brings you to these parts?”

“I’m looking for something.” I winced as the next stitch went in.

“Where you from?”

“It doesn’t really have a name.” I wondered how I could explain the tiny settlement in the mountains. “I call it Jessica’s place.”

He nodded. “Where’d you live before the world went ape shit crazy?”

“Tommy!” Joy gave him an angry look.

“I know. I know. You keep telling me it was a virus of some kind. All I know is people went off the deep end, and started raping and killing and everything went to hell.”

Joy sighed, another stitch went in, and I winced again. “It was a virus, you know.” She looked at me. “Infected people’s brains, pulled down parts of their cognitive abilities. Turned them into wild animals.”

Tommy nodded, “Whatever. I just know the world went crazy.”

“It didn’t have a real name,” I decided to answer Tommy’s question. “Just a small place, with a few families, and a farm market.” I tried to smile, but winced instead as another stitch went in. I took another sip of the whiskey, “I lived at home, with Mom and Dad, and my sister.”

“Oh.” Tommy looked at the floor a bit. “They didn’t make it?”

I shook my head.

“You from anywhere near Denver, or Boulder?”

“Denver? Colorado?”

“You don’t have a clue where you are, do you.”

I nodded, and winced again. “I just kept going west.”

“From where?”

“Kentucky, I think. What used to be Kentucky.”

“You walked here from Kentucky?” Tommy shook his head. “Fella, you are a long way from home.”

We spoke off and on while Joy finished stitching my arm up. Tommy pulled out a clean shirt, clean pants, and underwear. “Take all the time you need.” He and Joy showed me to the bathroom of their house. They had running water. Hot water.

I hadn’t had a hot shower in years. It felt good to soak in the water for a few minutes. I got dressed in the clothes they’d handed me. Back in the kitchen, I met their neighbors, Kathy and Ben. An old, retired couple. “Ben’s a bit of a gun nut,” Joy told me. “He’s managed to chase everybody off with his canons.”

Turned out Ben had a dozen or more assault weapons. An AR-15, an AK-47, and loads more I didn’t recognize. The man was armed to the teeth.

Tommy asked for everyone, “So, what brings you this far west?”

“I’ve been looking for,” I paused, “someone.”


“Yeah. I don’t know them. But I’ll recognize them when I find them.”

Tommy and Ben nodded. “No one like who you’re looking for around here.”

They set up a cot in the garage that night. A cot with blankets, and pillows, and sheets. They turned on a wood burning furnace in the garage. “You’ll be warm and dry in here.”

Kathy said, “I’ll check on you once the sun’s up. Bring you some breakfast.”

“Thank you.”

“We don’t get many,” Kathy paused, “many civilized people through here. We take care of the ones that turn up.”

“Tommy?” I asked, “What was that fence?”

“That’s a long story, Frank. A long story indeed. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.”

We all said goodnight, and they went back to their houses. I stretched out on the bed. My body did the rest, and I was asleep in no time at all.


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


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 176: Fallen Angel

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Fallen Angel

“I can’t do it anymore. It’s horrible down there,” said Gabby. “Everyone hates everyone else.”

“That’s why I need you to continue with your task, my dear, spreading cheer and hope to those who need it.”

Gabby looked down below, upon humanity, looking no bigger than ants as they scurried around, giving time to no one. In another direction, a war raged. Another, a protest march turned into violence. It was Christmas and not one Christmas song could be heard above the vitriol that flooded so easily from lips that were once innocent and kind.

“They all need it,” she moaned.

“Exactly.” He kissed her forehead, and she was gone.

It was raining. Gabby wasn’t surprised. The weather was growing darker by the day; heavy, black clouds sitting silently, blocking out the sun’s feeble rays. She made her way through crowds towards the park where she began to hear the faint sound of singing. One of her many sisters stood alone, her voice small against the unwelcoming, unseeing crowd.

“I’m with you, sister,” Gabby cried, pushing through the crowd, reaching out her hand.

“It’s too late,” she whispered as a single tear slid down her cheek.

A shrill cry escaped Gabby’s lips as her eyes met the empty eyes of her sister with the tear frozen on her grey cheek. The warmth her sister had was gone as Gabby’s hand touched cold, hard stone.

The hatred around Gabby caused the stone to crack. The face that always smiled started to crumble and the stone angel toppled and fell at Gabby’s feet, splitting in two.

No one noticed.

No one cared.

A tussle broke out a few feet from Gabby, fighting over a bag of shopping. More people joined in, like it was a sport.

“Father” please let me come home,” she shouted, looking up to the heavens, somewhere above the thick, angry clouds.

“My dear, I had no idea it was so bad down there,” he said, placing an arm around her.

“It’s worse. This is all I could get,” she said, showing the stone face of her sister. “The hatred down there is killing us. What do we do?”

“Nothing.” He exhaled deeply, his shoulders hunched. “It is too late for them.”

Gabby looked down along with her father as he called back his surviving angels. With no angels left on the earth, they looked down in horror as human turned on human and tore each other apart.


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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, November 16, 2015

Laura James Week 176: Bedtime Story

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Bedtime Story

The kids came charging down stairs, all ready for bed. Snuggling up together round the fireplace, they looked expectantly at their Grandpa.

Grandpa put his pipe in the ashtray, "Did I ever tell you guys how I met your Grandmother?"

All four heads shook no.

"It was long ago, when we lived in the village. I was coming back from the market and the only way home was through the woods. I'd been told over and over not to enter the woods after dark, strange beasts had been seen, but I had no choice and I was too drunk and too stupid to take heed of the warnings.

The woods were very dark and soon I was disorientated, lost..."

"Were you scared?" Asked Gemma. He bent down and pulled Gemma onto his lap, "A little but I had my knife. Soon I sensed that something was out there, I kept seeing flashes of white through the trees. I thought back to the stories, beasts that could devour you in a single bite roamed these woods, was that what I would face.

Then from the right a white wolf charged at me, growling with large teeth."

The children gasped and Gemma snuggled further into her Grandpa's arms.

"I threw my knife with all the strength I had but it missed, so I turned and ran. The wolf was gaining on me when I heard a voice shout for me to duck, I had no sooner dived to the ground when an arrow passed over my head, striking the wolf down.

When I finally pulled myself together and stood, I was faced with the most beautiful woman I had ever seen."

Gemma looked towards where her Grandmother sat knitting, "Wow. Do you think Grandma will teach me to shoot?"


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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


Sunday, November 15, 2015

KendallJaye Collard Week 175: Lady Masika’s Consort

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KendallJaye Collard’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Lady Masika’s Consort

Gods Damn It!

Another morning I was going to be late for work.

I lived on a small island. It was mostly a tourist trap with outrageously priced time-shares and vendor stands selling eight dollar lemon shake-ups. I was one of the few residents who called this home. During hurricanes or major storm events, the city hub would send police over to escort everyone off the island. They would raise the drawbridge to prevent people from sneaking back to their homes.

The drawbridge was up. There was no storm.

I slowed my vehicle to a stop and glared at the raised drawbridge. Everything about this Friday the 13th conspired against me. Alarm clock broken. Dropping eggs. Holes in socks. Buttons popping off my coat. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the drawbridge mocking me as well.

I put my car in park and shut off the engine. No telling how long this wait would be.

I got out of my car and slammed the door. In frustration, I fished my phone from my coat pocket and began to jab at the numbers for work. While waiting for Susan to answer the phone, I heard a soft rumble. The rumbling began to change from audible to physical. The earth under my feet began to buckle and shift as the rumbling grew louder. I had to drop my phone and steady myself with both hands against my car. My attention turned to the rumbling waters.

And then I saw her. The Goddess.


I’d been asleep far too long. It was good to stretch my arms and feel the sun kiss my face. I smiled as I felt the warmth pushing through my muscles, my blood, my bones. I allowed myself to breathe in deeply of the salty air. I moved my arms and legs through positions and poses I remembered from dances performed thousands of years ago. The summons was complete. I was risen once more.

I opened my heavy lids to see the surroundings had completely changed. The scent of the water was familiar, but my eyes were full of new and wonderful things.

I danced my way to solid ground.

And then I heard him. The Human. He was weeping.

I looked down. Tiny details eventually came to focus. He was so small. So fragile. Had I grown so much in slumber? Had this realm become smaller?

I smiled as I crouched to be closer to Him. “Why are you weeping?” I asked, remembering too late that my language couldn’t be understood. I took my finger and traced a line from the corner of my eye down my cheek. He could only nod as the choking sobs wracked his body. I knew He wasn’t the one who summoned me, but I felt the need to protect Him all the same. His emotion touched me.

I faded until I was small enough to dry the tears from his cheeks with my hair. I vowed immediately to never leave His side. Not even gods know how much time we have to spend. We were bound, He and I, until my summoner could find me.


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KendallJaye Collard gets her kicks above the waistline, Sunshine. Wine drinker, Cancer Survivor, and protected by rocksalt. Spread the love with her at @KJCollard.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Sarah Aisling Week 175: A Measure of Grace (Part 41): What’s Luck Got to do with it?

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 41): What’s Luck Got to do with it?

In a panic, Max slaps Tek's cheek sharply. “Wake the fuck up, man! Where are they?”

Tek's head lolls to the side. He's out.

A burning fear squeezes my chest and spreads, stealing breath and radiating a numbing tingle through my limbs. I gulp at the icy air, but precious little actually reaches my lungs.

Max stands and walks away slowly, muttering to himself. “Think. Think!” He bangs a fist against his forehead.

Eric grabs Max and shakes him. “Hey! Get it together!” He waits for Max's crazed, pain-filled eyes to meet his. “We need to regroup.”

Max pulls away and roars, “I need to find my sister!” His fear is raw and terrible.

“Yes, you do! But not like this—out of your mind with no clues to follow.” Eric points above the scarred metal door. “This camera works, right?”


“Let's get Tek inside and see if we can make heads or tails of his control room. We should gather weapons, too.”

My heart aches for Max, and I understand the need for immediate action, but what Eric said makes sense. I snag the sleeve of Max's jacket. “He's right.”

Max startles as if taking note of my presence for the first time, his eyes slowly clearing. He nods, looking shell-shocked, and tucks me under one muscled arm. “It's a good plan. Yes.”

Eric reaches out. “The keys?”

Max digs around in his jacket and hands them over. “The silver one with the green cover.” He lets out a choked laugh. “Ali insisted because we might have an emergency. Fuck!”

Before Eric can insert the key, the door opens. Andrea's pale face peeks out, and then she rushes into Eric's arms, pressing her face into his jacket. “Oh God, oh God, oh God. That sick bastard!” She lifts her head, fingers turning to claws that grip the lapels of Eric's jacket. “Tell me she'll be all right—that you'll find her! The things he'll do . . .” Andrea's words end in a plaintive moan, and she presses a hand over her mouth, the fire in her eyes turning to sorrow once her gaze falls upon Max's anguished face.

Max lunges toward Andrea, and I step between them, pressing both hands to his heaving chest. He reaches around me, holding his arms out to her. I struggle to hold Max back while Eric pushes Andrea behind his considerable bulk. Andrea is still fragile and learning to trust us after her ordeal with the Alliance.

“Andrea . . . what did you see? What do you know?” Max's voice rumbles beneath my palms. He's no longer pushing, but the tension thrumming inside him seems to writhe with a life of its own.

“I—I don't remember the words—I'm s-sorry! You should see it, the video. I know how to show you.” Andrea peers around Eric's shoulder, her tearful gaze falling to Tek's prone form. “He lets me hang around the control room. Being able to s-see the screens makes me feel safer.”

“Let's get him and go, then!”

“No.” Eric steps in front of Max and bends, lifting Tek carefully. “You guys go ahead with Andrea. I'm a trained medic. I'll assess Tek's injuries and get him settled somewhere comfortable.”

Max holds the door for Eric and waits for me and Andrea to enter before closing and locking it. The rush of the wind is replaced by the distant hum of the power plant as we hurry through the halls. When the elevator doors close on Eric and Tek, the rest of us head for the control room.

Andrea bends over the console, pressing buttons and cursing her shaky fingers.

Max stares at the monitors, waiting for the footage that might help him find Ali. I grasp his closed fist, and dilated sea-glass eyes dart to our joined hands. He tries to pull away, but I don't let him.

“Show me,” I say as gently as I can.

Max's expression wars between permission and denial, but after a brief hesitation, his fist opens, depositing something soft and warm into my palm.

A purple rabbit's foot.

I cradle the downy good luck charm. The ability to speak escapes me. The rabbit's foot is old, the fur bare in spots, but clearly, it's been well-cared for. My mouth opens and closes. I wouldn't know what to say even if I could find words right now.

Max crushes me in his arms, his ragged breathing hot against my cheek. “I gave that to Ali before we were sent to separate foster homes, told her hope lived inside it. She took it so seriously and has never been without it since.” He cups the back of my head and presses his lips close to my ear, his voice a hoarse whisper. “Ali doesn't believe she's coming back. That's the only reason she'd leave it for me—to say goodbye.”

“No, maybe so you would know to find her. Ali left us her hope, and we won't let her down. Do you hear me?”

“Thank you.”

Andrea's soft voice breaks in. “Um, video is cued.”

Max anchors an arm around my shoulders and walks us over to the screen. “Go ahead.”

The video is a greenish hue with grainy shadows. A variable whooshing comes through the speakers.

“Why does it look like that?” I ask.

“Shit quality infrared camera. Guess whoever installed it cheaped out.”

On the screen, Tek and Ali exit the power plant, the low murmur of their voices canceled out by the wind. They both wear matching fur-lined parkas with the hoods up, but the height difference makes it clear who's who. He has an arm slung casually across her shoulders, head bent close to hers. Ali's tinkling laughter rings out during a brief lull in the distortion.

Ali twists to peer up at Tek, the whipping wind stealing some of her words. “ . . . think there's . . . see on the cameras?”

Tek's response is unintelligible, but Ali nods in response and they start for the narrow path that curves along the outside of the outcropping. A tall figure morphs from the inky mouth of the tunnel, appearing like an apparition at their backs, and follows.

I have the ridiculous urge to call out to them, warning of the danger even though there's nothing that can change what's already come to pass.

Max stiffens, his fingers digging painfully into my shoulder. “No, no, no! Look behind you!”

Andrea looks away. “There's a gap of about five minutes before . . . before they come back on camera. Should I skip ahead?”

The way she says it causes my stomach to twist.

“Do it.”

I gaze up at Max. His face has become stone, wiped of emotion.

Andrea advances the video, stopping it and pointing to the place all three figures disappeared.

A fast-moving blur emerges from the path, hurtling into view—two figures locked in battle. Even though Tek wears a bulky parka and Gibbs a thin, streamlined jacket, it's obvious Gibbs has fifty pounds on Tek, all of it muscle.

Grunts and curses pepper the air as they parry. Tek is fighting with all he has. Gibbs slams a fist into Tek's jaw, snapping it back. Tek seems to have forgotten his training and leaves himself unprotected, but instead of moving in for another shot, Gibbs steps back a little and dances around him.

“Come on . . . you can . . . better than that! All the practice on the beach?” Gibbs taunts, shoving Tek in the back of the shoulder. He gazes up at the camera, gray eyes glowing eerie and alien-like, a condescending smirk twisting his features grotesquely.

Andrea gasps. I instinctively press against Max, repelled by the sight.

Gibbs knew he was on camera. He knew we trained on the beach. What else does he know about us?

Tek yells out and rushes Gibbs, head-butting him from the side and knocking him off balance. The two of them hit the gravel hard, and Tek starts whaling on Gibbs with gusto. His blows aren't well placed, most of them body shots that don't have much effect, but one punch hits its mark, the crack audible even over the howl of the wind.

Blood spurts from Gibbs' nose, appearing like a geyser of slick oil under the infrared light. He screams—not a lament of pain but a war cry. Beating his chest, Gibbs slams a knee into Tek's hip, tumbling him to the ground.

Gibbs whoops, shaking his head. “Fuck, what a rush! You know, I was gonna leave you alive so you could tell him all about me, but I think I'll leave you as a message . . .” Grabbing Tek by the hair, Gibbs punctuates his words with jabbing punches. “Not . . . to . . . fuck . . . with . . . me!” He keeps punching long after Tek goes limp.

A screaming projectile flies through the air, knocking Gibbs off Tek. Ali kicks Gibbs in the gut with her steel-toed boot, eliciting a true cry of pain. He curls into a ball, protecting his torso and head, and stops moving.

After witnessing what he just did to Tek, I know he's playing possum. So do Max and Andrea. The three of us yell at the screen, warning Ali to run.

She takes her attention off Gibbs to look at Tek.

Gibbs moves into action, sweeping his boot across the ground, knocking Ali off her feet. He leaps up and stares down at her, hands on hips. “How did you get loose, you sprightly little bitch?”

“You did a shitty job tying me up, that's how, bozo!”

Gibbs throws his head back and laughs. “Well, aren't you a smart mouth? I might have to keep you.” He slips something metallic from his back pocket—a pair of handcuffs, which he swings around on the end of a finger. “Only the hard stuff for you from now on. Get up like a good girl, and I'll leave the fate of your boyfriend up to God.”

Ali struggles to her feet. “Let me see him first, and I won't give you any more trouble.”

“I doubt that, but whatever. Make it snappy.”

Ali kneels beside Tek, brushing his hair back gently. He moans, and she kisses his temple before placing her lips beside his ear.

Gibbs reaches for Ali's arm, wrenching her to her feet. “No sweet nothings allowed.”

Ali punches him in the stomach. “You wouldn't know a sweet nothing if it jumped up and bit you! Just give me a second, asshole!”

Gibbs laughs again. “Fine. Say bye-bye.”

Ali crouches beside Tek for a few seconds then stands and turns, slipping something into her pocket before holding out her wrists. “Okay, let's go.”

Gibbs snaps the cuffs on. “You're almost making this too easy. What was that you put in your pocket?”


Gibbs grabs her bound wrists and yanks her toward him, simultaneously rooting around in her pocket. Dangling from his finger is the rabbit's foot.

Ali kicks Gibbs in the shin. “Give it back!”

He holds it out of reach. “What the hell is this, and why were you hot to hide it?”

“It was Tek’s childhood good luck charm.”

Gibbs tilts his head. “Maybe Tek—what the fuck kind of name is that anyway?—needs it more than you now.” He pelts the rabbit's foot at Tek. Then he flicks on a flashlight, turns Ali around, and points her toward the rocky path. “Onward and upward, sweetheart.”

Tek reaches a hand out. “No . . .”

“Oh, yes. Close your eyes and dream of me with her.” Gibbs kicks Tek in the face before following Ali.

With a shout of frustration, Max upends the table full of manuals, the heavy volumes thudding to the floor. He picks one up and pitches it against the wall.

“Max!” I yank on the back of his jacket, careful not to get between him and the objects of his destruction.

Max drops to his knees and tears at his hair. “Not my sister. I've given up years of my life to protect her!” He shoots to his feet, rage emanating from stormy eyes. “That deviant fuck isn't getting away with this! Show me the rest.” He points to the screen.

Andrea shrugs. “That's all of it.”

“No, it's not. Skipping over when Eric discovered Tek, how long after Gibbs took Ali did we get there?”

She forwards the video until we appear. “Twenty minutes.”

Something about what happened is nagging at me. “Max, she lied! About the rabbit's foot!”

“So? Why would she tell that bastard the truth?”

“Because she wanted Gibbs to leave it behind! It's a message for you. Ali gave you her hope. I'm sure it means something.”

Max nods. “Yeah. I'm sure she'll find a way to let me know which way they went.” The hot coal of rage still simmers in his gaze, but business-like Max is back. “I need weapons and night vision.” He leaves the room at a run.

I turn to Andrea. “Hold down the fort. Watch the cameras, and call us on the walkie if you see anything!”

“Okay! Good luck!”

I barely dive into the elevator before it slams closed. Max doesn't acknowledge me; he gnaws at his bottom lip, deep in thought. When the doors slide open, he lunges for the weapon cabinet, taking a pistol, taser, and two knives. He loads the gun, shoving extra bullets in his pockets, and tests the taser, blue sparks zinging between the metal prongs.

We return to our quarters. Eric is tending to Tek in the room Andrea stayed in when she arrived. He looks up, grim. “Had to give him some morphine. Definitely broken ribs. Cross your fingers there's no internal bleeding.”

Grace lays snugged alongside Tek's body, snout resting on her paws. She looks up when we come in, and her tail thumps with enthusiasm, but she remains next to her patient.

Max's expression shows no emotion. “Give me the night vision goggles.”

Eric hesitates, eyeing Max warily. “Okay, man. Over there.” He points to his jacket, which is draped over a stack of chairs. “What the hell was on that video?”

“Long story short—Gibbs has Ali, and I'm going to bring her home.” Max grabs the goggles and a walkie-talkie, pressing the latter into my hand. He grabs my face and kisses me hard before stepping away. “I'll come back.” His words are a banishment as much as a promise.

“No, I'm coming with you!” I lunge for Max, and he sidesteps me.

Eric grasps my shoulder, his touch surprisingly gentle. “Marie, it might be best if you hang out here and watch Tek while we take care of biz.”

Max's icy gaze lands on Eric. “No, you stay here and protect them. We don't know who else is out there and what they know.”

I pull away from Eric and grab Max's hand, tears burning my eyes. “Please don't leave me behind.”

Max's jaw clenches and he refuses to meet my eyes, instead looking somewhere above my head. “This is why I tried not to love you. I can't protect both of you at once. Stay here.”

Max pushes me into Eric's arms, and then he's gone.

At first, I struggle madly, kicking and clawing—even trying to bite Eric's hand—but soon realize I'm no match for his brawn. I breathe in ragged huffs, facing away once he lets me go, blocking the exit.

Grace watches stoically from her place on the bed.

“Look, I can't let you run off half-cocked. You could get yourself or Max or Ali—or any combo of you—killed.”

I gulp stale air and nod, wrapping both arms around myself. “You're right. Sorry.”

“That's all right!” Relief emanates from his laugh. “We good? 'Cause I'd rather work together than play jailer.”

“Yeah, we're good.” I scratch Grace behind the ears, so I don't have to meet Eric's keen gaze. Grace whines softly and licks my hand.

“I'd like to go check on Andrea. Think you can keep an eye on Sleeping Beauty here?”

“Sure.” Guilt swills around in my gut. “Wait. Do you think you could get me some tea before you go? I'm feeling shaky.”

Eric's eyes widen almost comically. “Oh, yeah! Yeah, I'll be right back with that.”

He leaves the room, and I collapse in a chair, head in my hands. “Get it together, Marie. You can do this.”

I count the seconds, each one taking Max farther from me and closer to Gibbs. Less than a minute goes by before Eric pokes his head in, looking apologetic. “Can't find the tea.”

“Oh, shoot!” I make a show of smacking my forehead. “I meant to get more from the supply room. Do you mind getting it?”

“Where would I find it?”

“Third rack, second shelf from the bottom.” The lie slips from my lips with ease.

“On it!”

The moment the elevator hums to life, I shove the walkie talkie in my pocket. I rifle through Eric's jacket, hoping for a gun and finding a knife instead. I take it and continue searching until I find what I'm really hoping for—the night vision device that looks like a cell phone.

The last thing I do before leaving the room is draw close to Tek, who rests peacefully in a morphine-induced slumber, and grasp his limp hand. “Hold on. Ali's coming home and so is Max.”

I open the door slowly and peer down the hall. The task I sent Eric on should occupy him long enough for me to escape. By the time Eric figures out I'm gone, he'll be torn between going after me and following Max's order to stay at the plant. I'm betting his sense of duty won't allow him to abandon Tek and Andrea.

Adrenaline surges, fueling me with energy and the ability to pretend what I'm doing might not be the stupidest decision ever. I take a few wrong turns on the lower level, my heart racing as I expect Eric to catch me at any moment.

When I finally push open the door to the outside, a cyclone of dust swirls around me, the grit stinging my eyes. The strength of the wind has ratcheted up considerably, creating a low moan. I hurry across the gravel and into the smooth stone tunnel, thinking it might be safer than the precarious outside trail. Darkness, thick and all-encompassing, presses so close I fear I might choke on it. Fumbling the night vision device, I turn it on, holding it out in front of me. The screen flickers to life and illuminates the way ahead. Somewhere nearby, water drips, plinking against stone.

I move faster than I should through the slick, drafty tunnel. Halfway through, I lose my footing and go down on one knee. The night vision screen tumbles from my hand and hits the stone with a crack, skidding into the darkness.

Panic explodes inside me, crushing my lungs in a breathless vise. “Shit!” The curse ricochets off the walls and rings in my head. Blackness swells, a discordant cushion of despair threatening to consume me where I kneel.

You can do this, Ro. Think of Ali, of Max. You found the love I never did. Get off your ass and protect it!

“It's so dark, and I . . . can't breathe!”

Remember the time I dragged you to that abandoned castle? In the middle of the day, you managed to trap yourself in the dark. You mewled like an unhappy kitten until I found you. I helped you then, and I will lead you out now.

Curling into myself, I close my eyes—though there's nothing to see—and remember.

We were driving home from college and were forced to take a detour along a winding road flanked by towering trees and tangled vegetation. The pinkish-gray sky was heavy with the threat of coming snow.

Rather abruptly, the trees thinned and a field opened up to one side, revealing a stone castle set back from the road. Katie slammed on the brakes and skidded into the driveway, a spray of gravel pluming behind us, and accelerated, taking the ribbon of curves at top speed.

I braced my hand against the dashboard. “Are you crazy?”

“I've always wanted to explore a kingdom! Live a little!”

We explored the grounds of the pale stone castle, wandering paths bordered by meticulously manicured grass and pondered why anyone would bother with landscaping when the structure was leaning and crumbling in places. Katie thought she saw someone and took off, running between two of the buildings. By the time I turned the corner, Katie was out of sight. I wandered around until I fell through a grating into a damp basement. The square of daylight overhead was well out of reach, and I sprawled in the darkness, crying out to Katie. When her head appeared above me, she reminded me of the flashlight app on my cell phone, which had landed a few feet away. I felt around on the damp floor until I found my phone, and then it was a simple matter of locating the exit.

That's my girl. Breathe, and find that night vision gizmo.

The drafty air is cool in my expanding lungs. I take a few more breaths, orient myself, and creep slowly along the tunnel until my fingers curl around the device. I press the on button and pray as it flickers to life. A spider web of cracks zigzag across the screen, but it still works.

“Thanks, Kiki,” I whisper.

This time, I move with caution, ecstatic when I reach the top of the trail and step out onto the ledge. The sky is overcast, clouds of fog hovering in the damp air. The wind is biting, whipping hair into my face, but I rejoice leaving the tunnel behind.

Scanning the area with the night vision gadget, I look for movement and find none. I pick my way along the steep path, weaving between rocks and shrubs as I search for signs left by Ali or Max. I pass a few scuffs in the dirt, but the rocky terrain conceals any footprints.

A long strand hanging from the sharp edge of a boulder grabs my attention. When I get closer, I lower the night vision screen to take a look.

It’s Ali’s red scarf.

I grab the soft wool between my fingers and shove it into my pocket. I come around the side of the boulder fast and twist my ankle, catching myself before I fall.

A snap sounds from behind me, and I whirl around, expecting Eric. There’s no one there. Pressing a hand to my chest, I wait a few seconds for my heart to slow, listening to the sounds of the night. The wind whistles, buffeting the rocky hill and bending bushes.

A few yards farther along the path, I find Ali’s glove stuck in a bush and have to bend low to untangle it. Maybe she hid the glove there on purpose, hoping Max would see it. I’m excited now and wonder what clue I’ll find next.

As I stand up and turn around, a pair of glowing eyes fill the screen. Shocked, I jump back and drop the night vision device, screaming when I come face to face with a grinning nightmare.

“Surprise. Miss me?”


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

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

Monday, November 9, 2015

SJ Maylee Week 175: The Magic in the Mushroom

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: 1

Title: The Magic in the Mushroom

Angela wandered through the woods mentally reviewing all the things she needed to finish before going to work in the morning. Sometime over the last few weeks, the leaves had changed from green to brown. Now, they’d all fallen from the trees and had created a blanket of crunch under her feet. She could no longer even see the path.

She tilted her head to the side and blinked several times. Nothing in front of her looked familiar. Nothing. How could she have meandered so far off the path? She walked the same path every week. Every part of her day worked like clockwork. With the execution of her careful lists, Nothing was ever out of place.

The hair lifted off the back of her neck and a chill covered her body. She looked down at her toes and noticed a rather large adorable mushroom. Her gaze focused on the center of the fungi and time began to slow until her world went black.

She squeezed her eyes several times and things came back into focus. The familiar path was once again before her but all the leaves were green and back on the trees and that sneaky mushroom was nowhere to be found.


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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,


Friday, November 6, 2015

Michael Wombat Week 174: Bubblewrap and Chandeliers

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Michael Wombat’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Bubblewrap and Chandeliers

t squatted on the dining room table, a giant spider of copper and glass. Its twin depended from the ceiling. The dining room floor swam with bubblewrap like a plastic pool, enough for a celebratory game of her favourite ‘Furry Fish’. There would be a popping frenzy the likes of which had not been seen in the house since, well, since Toby had been fired and they’d had to stop buying lovely new things.

All that had changed now, of course, after the unfortunate accident that had befallen Toby’s boss. Life had become hard after Eileen Bottomley, newly arrived as head of department, had forced Toby out of the company. They had struggled to get by on Llyzbet’s wage only. Saddled with a huge mortgage, they had pared outgoings to the bone; stopped eating out, shopped at Aldi, cancelled Netflix. They had turned off the heating, which in a draughty old house like theirs led to arctic draughts everywhere. Life had been hard, grey and miserable.

Naturally, they had tried to find out what his new boss had against Toby. Emails, meetings with HR and angry letters to Occupational Health had all come to nothing. The reason that Arseface, as they had come to call her, had given Toby the sack seemed to be no more than an irrational hatred of home-workers coupled with a personal dislike of Toby himself, and what Arseface called “his kind”, the whole rancid meld liberally sprinkled with a solipsistic conviction of her own infallibility. Without telling Toby, Llyzbet had even visited Arseface’s house in a desperate attempt to persuade her to see reason, woman to woman, but that hadn’t worked out at all well. Of course, once blessed fate had stepped in to deal Toby’s nemesis the literal and metaphorical blow that had led to her being hooked up to a life support machine, the company had had little option but to approach Toby and beg him to return. No one else knew the department like Toby. No one else would be able to rescue the plummeting sales figures. He simply had to come back.

Toby would have leaped like a puppy into their honeyed words with no thought other than working and feeling useful again, but Llyzbet had sensed opportunity and had restrained his enthusiasm. Once Arseface was out of the picture, she had gone to town and had made the company work to bring Toby back into the fold.

She had ensured that the company made concession after concession. If they wanted Toby, they had to give him Arseface’s position for starters. A company car had been her next request. Llyzbet had to admit that she felt a revengeful glee at the ease with which they capitulated. They had welcomed Toby back with open arms, a huge rise in salary, and even an unasked for, rather splendid Christmas hamper.

Llyzbet and Toby had turned the heating back on, visited M&S for a big Christmas shop, and re-subscribed to Netflix. A few early winter weeks without heating had shown that the house badly needed insulation and draught-proofing. It also needed new carpets, curtains, and upholstery, but Llyzbet had insisted that their first house purchase had been the copper and glass chandeliers for the dining room, one of which had been hung earlier.

“You’ll be wanting shitloads of carved mouldings next,” Toby had joked, “and stained glass shower curtains. Bells for the servants.”

“No point until we actually have servants, cariad,” she’d smirked. “No, it has to be the chandeliers first. It’s appropriate.”

“In what way?”

“It satisfies my sense of karmic balance,” she’d told him mysteriously, and left it at that. It was better that her husband didn’t know the details. Better that he remained blissfully unaware that his devoted wife had visited Arseface less than a month before. That she had perched on a hard chair in the plushly furnished lounge while Arseface sprawled languorously in a leather armchair, drinking sherry and pontificating on the importance of hard work and how people like Toby were incapable of it. Rainbows of light cast by her own enormous chandelier had danced about on her cashmere top as she had said “Frankly, my dear, you’d be far better off getting rid of him. Find yourself a decent white man instead. You’re not that unattractive, after all.”

Llyzbet had pushed to her feet, stepped calmly over to Arseface, and punched her full in her smug arse-nose. She heard the satisfying crack as the vomer bone shattered. The sherry glass fell, drenching the Persian carpet., but Arseface didn’t care about that. She didn’t care about the snotty blood pouring from her nose either, being deeply unconscious.

Llyzbet looked down at the mess she had made of Arseface’s nose. She did not regret her moment of fury; oh no - Arseface had deserved all that she got. Clearly, though, there would be hell to pay once she regained consciousness. Llyzbet’s troubles were about to get a whole lot worse. Unless…

Llyzbet scoured the room for ideas. Plenty presented themselves, but they all screamed ‘murder investigation’, and that would never do. What she needed was an accident. Finally she glanced up, and nodded, her lips curving into a grim smile.

The kitchen yielded nothing of use, but eventually she found a toolbox in the utility room that contained all that she needed. She took a Phillips screwdriver, an adjustable spanner, and a can of WD40 because you never knew, did you?

The bedroom above the lounge had been easy to find, and her luck was in as she paced the correct distance from the door and found herself in space in the middle of the room. It would have been impossible for her to move the four-poster bed on her own. She slid aside the rug, and unscrewed what she thought was the correct floorboard. Damn, not quite. Four more screws, a second floorboard lifted, and there sat the huge bolt held in place through a crossbeam by a large nut.

She fitted the spanner and put all her weight into pushing the handle. Nothing. A small squirt of WD40, then she tried again. It shifted slightly. Encouraged, she pushed harder. It turned reluctantly, squeaking a little. Llyzbet felt a frisson of excitement. She really had no idea what to expect, but sometimes you had to just trust in fate.

The nut turned more easily now, and Llyzbet held her breath. What would it sound like? Would the neighbours hear, despite the extensive grounds that surrounded the house? The nut came free and Llyzbet caught her breath, gritting her teeth.

Nothing happened. Why wasn’t it moving? She stood and, after a doubtful pause said “Fuck it” and stamped on the bolt with her heel. It slipped through the crossbeam, freeing itself from years of enclosure. From below a cacophonous thumping crash shook the house. A dog somewhere began to bark furiously.

Llyzbet knelt back down and placed the nut in what she guessed might be a believable place if it had not been secured properly. She replaced the floorboards and screwed them home, rubbing dirt into the screws so that they looked undisturbed. She replaced the rug, and carried the spanner, screwdriver and WD40 back down to the toolbox in the utility room. She wasn’t certain that she needed to, but she rubbed the handles anyway with a towel from a washing basket.

Back in the lounge she found devastation. Eileen Bottomley sprawled across her expensive bloodstained carpet, pinned there by the shattered skeleton of the fallen chandelier. Her skin was sliced by scores of livid cuts, and shattered glass covered the floor and furniture. Llyzbet could not cross to check the body for fear of disturbing the pattern of glass shards. She turned and left the house.

Although Arseface had not been killed outright by the falling chandelier, she hadn’t lasted long, and Toby’s life had been put to rights again. She smiled at him now, idly toying with the second chandelier on the table.

“Never mind that for now, cariad,” she said. “Take your clothes off and bring that bubblewrap. It’s time for Furry Fish.”


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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, November 5, 2015

Mark Ethridge Week 174: I See Angry People (Part 4)

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Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: I See Angry People (Part 4)

I don’t know how many days I walked before I found the fence, but I did eventually find a fence. On my side of the fence was the forest, the wilderness. Everything was wild, natural. Then, there was the fence, and next a thirty foot wide strip of cleared land. Nothing but short grasses, no trees, bushes, rocks. Nothing. Along the top of the fence was razor wire. Someone had put the fence there, and made it to keep others outside.

To the north and south, the fence ran as far as I could see. “North it is.” As I walked I noticed places where the brush and trees inside the fence got thinner, as if they’d been cleared. After several miles, I came across a shack inside the fence. It sat at the edge of the 30 foot wide clearing, and someone lived in it, that was obvious. I spotted an outhouse further back in the trees. There was also a gate in the fence, across the clearing from the shack.

“Big fence for something,” I continued north another few miles, and came across another shack. This kept up throughout the rest of the day, until I reached where the fence turned westward. As the sun was low to the horizon, I decided it was time to rest, made my way into the trees on my side of the fence, and set up my tent.

Gunshots woke me, and not just a few gunshots. It sounded like a mini war, a pitched battle. I grabbed my bow, quiver and arrows, and headed toward the sound. When I reached the fence I saw a man with an assault rifle inside the fence. He was shooting the hell out of the trees on my side of the fence, and screaming about how no one was getting past him while he still breathed.

Hidden in the trees, I watched as he emptied the gun’s clip into the trees. He seemed to shoot at anything that moved, even limbs in the breeze. He pulled out another clip, reloaded, and cut loose again.

And he shot straight at the trees I was hiding among.

The only thing I could do was hug the ground and pray. My right arm lit up, like I’d been branded, and I bit my tongue hard enough to draw blood to keep from screaming. I’d never been shot before, but I knew the guy with the gun had managed to hit me.

He reloaded a second time, moved past me, and shot more holes in the trees.

I shifted, rolled on my back, sat up, and stared at a nasty gash across the top of my arm, half way between my elbow and shoulder. Blood, my blood, soaked my sleeve, and shirt, and dripped from my elbow as it flowed toward my wrist. With a bit of effort, and a lot of pain, I got to my feet, and returned to my campsite, where I opened my pack, pulled out some rope, and put a makeshift tourniquet on my arm to slow down the bleeding, and give me a chance to see how badly I been shot.

“Well. I’m haven’t bled to death, so I don’t think he hit an artery.” It struck me as funny the things I thought of as I examined my arm. “Pain is a good thing,” I probed my wound with my fingers. Yes, it hurt like hell, like chewing on nails, or having a wolf bite you, and hang on as you walked around. But, I needed to know how bad it was.

“No broken bones. That’s good.”

An old shirt sleeve, torn off a shirt, was about right to make a makeshift bandage. I’d have tried to stitch the wound shut, but I didn’t have anything to use. No needle or thread, so a bandage had to do.

“Can’t stay here. If they check the area he shot up, they’ll find a trail to me.” I packed my gear, and headed west, through the trees. Every mile or so, I checked to find the fence. “At least the bleeding’s stopped.”

I walked until I couldn’t, paused a few minutes, then headed north, further away from the fence. Again, I walked until I couldn’t, then set up my camp. “I’ll stay here tonight.”

Scared? Hell yes. I knew wolves, and other predators could smell blood for miles. And I had oceans of it on my right arm, with no way to clean it off. And I couldn’t climb a tree with one arm. I had to stay on the ground, and hope I made it through the night.

I’d have given anything for a jug of water, so I could rinse my arm off, wash my wound, and at least feel like I was able to take care of myself. But I had no water. None. All I could do was pull the bandage off, bury it in the ground, and make another one.

Hell, with only one arm, I couldn’t even shoot my bow. I was down to using my knife as my only weapon. I considered calling for a wolf, but I wasn’t Jessica, and I was a long way from any wolves that knew her. No, I’d have to get through the night on my own.

With that, exhaustion and the agony of my gunshot wound caught up to me, and I passed out


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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, November 4, 2015

Denise Callaway Week 174: Narrow Viewpoint

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Denise Callaway’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Narrow Viewpoint

Eila watched the sun slowly rise through the window. This was his favorite window in the entire compound. Unlike the others, this one offered a hint to the outer world. He could see the wire threading through the glass, reinforcing with woven efficiency. Behind that, the clouded glass showed a shadow of a metal grate. The rust discoloured the glass. The design kept the outer world from invading into the inner world. But on a good day, Eila could see the sun and patches of sky. On a great day, Eila caught a glimpse of green life.

He pushed the broom towards the corner. Task complete, he afforded himself the luxury of a climb up the wall. Carefully, he removed his gloves and tucked them into his belt. His shoes followed, placed together next to the climb. When he made his first reach, his feet found the crevices with ease, followed by his hands. Finally, he broke past the upper ledge. Resting his elbows on the ledge, he gathered in the view hungrily. The leaves were sparse but he could see them twist and turn at the will of the wind. Eila considered this motion and then his mouth opened in pleasure as he watched it break free and float down to the ground. Free to touch the earth. Free to explore. Free to know. He slid down the wall from his perch. Free. Sliding his eyes around the room, he sighed. The fog would move in soon and the trees would disappear. Picking up the broom, he continued to sweep the dust into a pile.

One day.

One day I’ll drift.

One day I will know the dance of the leaf.

For now, I will shroud myself from the fog.

Scooping the dust, he moved on into the compound. This room will lock itself when the fog moved in and he couldn’t afford to be on the wrong side. The poisons...they say their own people created the poisons, the fog. His own people created this prison. His own people...because of greed...power...avarice. Now, there was nothing...but dust.


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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:


Monday, November 2, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 174: Target Practise

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Target Practise

“You were supposed to pull the trigger. What happened?” Maxwell asked, taking the gun from Zoe’s hands.

“I . . . I couldn’t do it. It’s a harmless bird.”

With a splintering crack, an explosion of feathers filled the air before floating down.

“It wasn’t real. It was a test. If you can’t kill a stuffed animal, what good are you?” asked Maxwell, turning the gun on Zoe.

“I’m not a psycho serial killer, working my way up from animals to humans. I will have no problem killing the bad guys!” Staring down the barrel of a gun belied her confidence but she stood firm.

“Here,” Maxwell said, offering her back the gun. “Maybe another method in killing is your style.”

Becoming an assassin wasn’t something Zoe asked to do or wanted to do but her choices were limited; to die in prison or work for these people who she knew nothing about. But she took the deal. She didn’t want to rot in jail for something she didn’t do other than getting on the wrong side of Maxwell in a bit of road rage madness.

She watched Maxwell talk with a colleague. Talking about her leaving by his glances her way. She saw the deep furrow on his forehead, shaking his head like she was a disappointment. She had to up her game. It was a sodding bird! A stuffed bird! Why didn’t she shoot the sodding bird? Second chances were rare and prison life was not something she was made for.

Maxwell turned his back on his colleague, walking back to Zoe, a faint smile on his otherwise stern face. He reached into his pocket.

Zoe’s breath caught in her throat.

Her fingers gripped tight around the gun.

She smiled, lifting her gaze, remembering what she’d been taught but Maxwell would know that, was expecting everything she did. Panic rose. She swallowed bile. A split second later, her arm was raised, the gun pointing. A shot shattered the tense silence.

Maxwell hit the floor, a crumpled heap as Zoe lowered her arm.

The bullet met its target, she was sure but the first rule of her training was never to assume anything.

Heading towards her target, she passed Maxwell, a quick glance told her he was breathing, just a trickle from a flesh wound on his ear as the bullet grazed past. She pressed a finger to his colleague's neck. Nothing. But then the hole in his forehead told Zoe all she wanted.

“I ought to blow your brains out right now,” Maxwell said, standing behind her, the muzzle of a gun pressing hard into her skull. “But humour me.”

“He was going to kill you. He reached for his pocket, I saw the look on his face, the look you warned me about. I saw his eyes, fixed on you. He wanted you dead.”

The pressure released in the back of her head. Zoe exhaled loudly. He reached into the pocket, pulling out the small pistol.

“My guess is he was going to blame me or kill me too. Do you know why he wanted to kill you?”

“Yes. Internal politics, nothing for you to worry about. I guess I underestimated you Zoe. I won’t be doing that again,”


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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, November 1, 2015

KendallJaye Collard Week 173: The Judgement of Dismas

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KendallJaye Collard’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: The Judgement of Dismas

A lousy loaf of bread. How was I to know it was a cart bound for the King’s palace? All I knew was that my infant and wife were starving at home. My hunger aside, she needed sustenance to feed tiny Asher. Without food they would both die.

The King had been cruel with his taxation. There were no jobs to be found. I offered my carpentry skills to everyone who crossed my path. I begged on street corners for coin. And when all of these options yielded no result, I resorted to theft.

I was returning home. It had been a long day of looking for work. My entire body ached. I saw a street vendor with a broken cart on the road. I recognized the floor of his cart was broken and food had tumbled to the ground. He was sitting on the ground, sleeping against the crooked cart. I was thankful I had my tools with me. Maybe he would be willing trade me some scraps for repairing his cart.

“Sir!” I cried as I approached the man. With each step closer the picture became more focused.

“Sir?” I tested, praying my eyes were lying.

I knelt and shook his shoulder. “Good Sir?” I asked in a near whisper.

His head fell to the side and I noticed the enormous gash decorating his neck. He was sliced from ear to ear. Blood soaked his shirt, and I recoiled at the discovery of his blood on my hand. He was dead. There would be no work for me today.

Immediately I thought of Marae and Asher at home. The goods here would last months. Knowing just one loaf of bread would buy my family almost a week, I knew what I had to do to save them. I gauged my surroundings. I reached into the cart and took a loaf of bread.

Suddenly the thundering of hooves froze me in place. Three men on horseback came over a small rise in the road. “Halt! Thief!” one of the King’s guards called to me. I immediately dropped the loaf. The bread bounced on the hard ground. My bloody palm print was undeniable on its surface.

My mind began to race knowing the situation looked much worse than what it was. “Please. Your Royal Guards. My family is hungry.” I quickly dropped to my knees and raised my hands in submission. “I was only trying to keep my wife and son from dying. I took this….”

“Looks like more than just petty thievery to me,” he declared while pointing to the dead merchant. “Planning on taking the cart for yourself, Murderer?”

“Caught him red-handed at that.”

“No. I…”

The guard closest to the body used his foot to kick over the dead man. “And tried to hide that he was stealing from the King, no less.” The body toppled to the side and revealed the King’s insignia painted on the side of the cart.

“This isn’t what it appears…”

“You know what happens to murderers and thieves who steal from the King?”

Unfortunately, I did.

I was bound and carted to the city proper. I was tossed into a tiny cell with another thief after being stripped and beaten. The verbal assaults never ceased. Even the taunting jailer offered no comfort. “Maybe you two will be famous. You’re being crucified with royalty tomorrow. Maybe he’ll name you his Princes.”

I watched my last sunrise from behind the bars of my prison. I heard the crowds outside who had gathered to watch me and my fellow prisoners meet our fates. I smelled the iron of dried blood in my nose. I felt the sting on my back from last night’s beating. Maybe this was a better fate. Better than wasting away. Better than dying from hunger.

My cross was placed at the right hand of the King of the Jews.


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KendallJaye Collard gets her kicks above the waistline, Sunshine. Wine drinker, Cancer Survivor, and protected by rocksalt. Spread the love with her at @KJCollard.