Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Kimberly Gould Week 198: Details

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Details

Melanie pulled the needle through the cloth and tucked the end of the thread beneath her stitches. WIth a flourish, she snipped the remaining thread and released the embroidery hoop. The creases did mar the effect, but holding her work next to the picture she’d take on her vacation, she was sure she’d gotten the fleabane just right.

Tamara looked over her shoulder. “That’s really good. Botanically correct. I went for aesthetic rather than accuracy.”

Her work was also washed and stretched, making it pop that much more. The ring would make a beautiful place mat.

“Those leaves are wrong.” Melanie pointed, eager to diminish Tamara’s work in retaliation.

“Yes, but they balance better than real ones.”

Melanie looked back at her work and began planning how to add the pussytoes and paintbrushes in the background. “That’s fine, but I prefer to focus on the details.”

“And that’s why yours will be stuck in a lab while mine will grace a table.”

“Mine will be appreciated.”

Tamara laughed. “You think mine won’t? We’ll see, Melanie. We’ll see who gets Philip's attention.”

Melanie frowned, unsure if the noble would prefer her botanical efforts. Then again, if he didn’t, she knew her father would. Letting Tamara have the last word, she snapped the embroidery hoop on again. She had work to do.


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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 Kimmydonn.com


Monday, May 9, 2016

Michael Wombat Week 198: You Will Burn

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Michael Wombat’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: You Will Burn

(Trigger warning: this one’s a bit violent. Please forgive any typos, as I wrote it in a two hour window between other necessary jobs)

“You will burn! You will burn!”

The voice woke me from my slumber. My dream of forests dissipated like smoke on a forest wind, leaving behind naught but wisps at the periphery of my mind.

“Let all be forgiven! Let none be denied!”

Who was making such a noise at this time? I fluttered open my eyes. Figures stood about my bed, holding lighted candles. Figures – men – from the village. I recognised their faces. There was Ailred the smith, Pentecost the baker, Father Ilbert and half a dozen others.

“Hold her!” the priest snapped. Pentecost flung aside my bedcover and strong hands gripped my wrists and ankles.

“Father Ilbert, what’s going on? Ailred?”

“Strip her,” Father Ilbert said. “Let her go naked before the Lord.”

My scream of denial went unheeded. Ailred’s meaty fists gripped the neck of my shift and tore it away. He stared at my naked body, licking his lips.

“Be not tempted by the witch!” Father Ilbert snapped at Ailred. “Before you know it she will turn you into an eel!”

“Witch? Wha... I am no witch! I am a cunning woman! Pentecost, tell them. I healed your rash last month. And Ailred, your daughter would have died but for my help. I delivered your grandson, tell them!” Both men stared silently away, their lips tight.

“There is a curse come upon this village. The crops fail, the beasts sicken—”

“The weather has—”

“It is well known that women are to blame for the world’s evil,” said the priest. “Eve, the first woman, proved that beyond the doubting. Admit to your guilt, witch, and die easily.”

“You’re all mad!” I writhed to free myself, but the hands that held me were too strong.

“We are here to save you, girl,” said the priest. “As you slept this night in your goose-feather bed we prayed for your soul in the sight of the Lord. Ailred! Break her shins.”

“What? What are you ... NO!” My protest was cut short by my screams as the smith brought his hammer down heavily on my legs with a mighty crack. The pain was immense.

“Confess!” Father Ilbert insisted, spittle spraying from his red lips.

“I am no witch!” I gasped desperately, sobbing, great racking sobs that shook my whole body.

“Bring her!”

They dragged me out of the toft, naked and bleeding. By the door little Pons lay on the ground in a heap.

“My child! What have you done?” My vision swam. Daggers of agony sliced my legs.

“The spawn of a witch must not be allowed to survive, lest they breed more.”

“You bastard! You evil turdsucker! You will rue this day—” Father Ilbert’s fist hit me full in the face. I felt my teeth shatter.

“You see?” he crowed, triumphantly, “She tried to curse me! Proof indeed of her guilt! Take her eyes. If she cannot see us, she cannot curse us.”

And they did. They put out my eyes, painfully, excruciatingly, with their eating knives. I knew then that I was as good as dead, and, inspired by the wisps of my dream, began my incantation, quietly, barely moving my bruised lips. Father Ilbert could not have heard my words, yet he cried “She confesses!”

The men dragged me out of the village to the forest. It was cold, and my whole being felt like it was being torn apart.

“Ralf!” called Father Ilbert, “Did you do as I asked?”

“Yes, Father, good sycamore and broom, just as you said.” I knew Ralf. I had made him a potion to repair his broken heart not a se’night ago. I continued to chant beneath my breath, calling on Cernunnos for help as they tied me to what felt like a stack of wood. The branches and twigs scratched at my back and buttocks. My shattered legs collapsed but the bindings around my arms kept me semi-upright. I felt intense heat around my feet, and knew that they had lit the fire.

“Cernunnos, please,” I wept.

“Know this, witch!” cried Father Ilbert. “Because you confessed your sins we forgive you, even as you twist in death like a dancing silhouette against the pure light of themoon. We purify your soul in the fire and your spirit will live forever, rising with the smoke from the ashes and the embers in your eyes!”

“Praise the Lord!” chorused the men watching.

“Another soul is saved!” cried Father Ilbert.

“Praise the Lord!”

I felt ... a tugging ... within me. Something inside shuddered, and suddenly I could see once more. No, not see – this was not seeing. Rather I sensed everything about me with a kind of misty awareness. I saw the men gathered around a blazing inferno, inside which a body – my body – twisted and charred. I felt no pain. I was detached from it all now. I was ... I had become ... the forest itself. Cernunnos had saved me, gathering me in to join her in the trees of the forest, rewarding me for my years of devotion. I was blessed.

And with my new awareness, I suddenly saw the emotions of the men who had killed me. I saw terror and anger and sadness and confusion and desperation. A better woman than I might have forgiven them then, knowing the despair that had driven them, but not I. I would never forgive. In their fear of a non-existent witch, they had, ironically, created one. They had created me. I pulled strands of their emotions through the earth, deep into me, up through my roots and into my branches, creating songs of hatred from their twisted feelings; songs that manifested in leaves of red fire. It was not yet autumn, and yet my leaves sang out and fell, raining fiery death upon those who had murdered me, the leaves singing my vengeance as the men screamed.

Through the long centuries since, other people have come to this clearing, drawn here by the remarkably red leaves of the large tree that shelter it. None of them ever left. And I see you now, woman, warming your feet against the paltry fire that you have made. I see your hopes and dreams, your lusts and your greed. You disgust me, as do all your kind. It is time for my leaves to sing again.

“You will burn, you will burn...”


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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.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Jen DeSantis Week 197: Anywhere

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Jen DeSantis’ Picture Choice: 1

Title: Anywhere

Marie knew the spot when she saw it; weeping willows were always his favorite. She let a little smile touch her lips as she walked the last hundred yards or so over to the benches. A weeping willow…. A fitting place for an ending.

She was deliberately early, knowing that he prided himself on always being on time. She wanted the time to breathe before he arrived and stole her breath away with all of his plans.

Marie had known Marc for almost ten years now. He joined the institute where she worked then and they’d been working together ever since. She’d been in love with him for almost all of that time. And the time before she loved him? It barely registered on her radar. All of the important things in her life had happened since she met him. The rest was just noise in the background.

And now, it was ending. She wondered whether life would just cease to have any color or meaning once she walked away from this bench. That would be a bitter pill to swallow after ten years full of music, color, and passion. Still, this was the way of the world. Ebb and flow. She thought, while she was in it, that it might never end. That’s never the way of things, though.

Marc bounded toward her over the grassy hills. She saw the little spring in his step that belied his excitement. Though her heart ached in her chest, Marie couldn’t help but smile for him. He was happy; it was all she ever wanted for him. She took a deep breath and counted to four, then exhaled deeply. She had to hold it together for him now. She wouldn’t let her sadness taint his joy. Not now.

“You came,” Marc said, a smile growing across his face as he squinted into the sunlight.

“Of course,” Marie replied. “Have I ever not come when you asked?”

He snickered. “No, I suppose not. How are you?”

He sat down next to her on the bench, the fleshy part of his leg nudging against hers. She felt her heart flutter and took another deep breath.

“Alright, I suppose. Been a bit busy. You? You sounded very excited on the phone.”

“I am!” Marc exclaimed, and he took her hand absentmindedly. “It’s all so thrilling really.”

“Well, I’m on the edge of my seat. Tell me before I burst.”

Marie concentrated on the sway of the branches around them to block out the dizzy feeling his hand on hers caused. Breathe in, breathe out. Hold it together.

“The grant money finally came through,” he said breathlessly. “We’re going!”

Marie exhaled hard. She felt her face crumpling and worked hard to keep it together. Of course, she had already known what his news had to be. It was only thing he’d working on since he joined the institute those ten years ago. The only thing that brought out his fire.

When he joined the Institute, he’d done so to work on a theory about long term space travel. He believed he could harness the science and make it a reality for humans to reach the outer edges of our solar system and beyond. It was all he talked about, all he worked towards, and all he dreamed of. When the money came through, he talked of nothing else but hopping on a spaceship and leaving this world behind. For him, no time at all would pass as he slept away the journey to the galaxies beyond. But for her, earth bound and awake, he’d be gone. Completely and forever.

“You’re not happy,” Marc said softly.

“Of course I am,” Marie said too quickly, trying to recover. “I am so happy. Your dream is finally a reality and you’ll finally get to go.”

Marc looked at her and squeezed the hand he still held. “We,” he said again. “Unless….”

“We?” she asked. “I don’t understand.”

“I always thought that you…”

All of the reminders she’d given herself to breathe failed as she stared into his bright eyes. The excitement was still hectic on his face, but there hesitation there now as well.

“Thought that I what, Marc? What did you think?”

“I thought that you would want to come with me.”

She exhaled and moved her other hand on top of his. “I didn’t think…. You see, I always assumed you meant to go alone, with just the astronauts. I didn’t think you’d want me there.”

He tilted his head to the side, a faint smile playing at his lips. “How would I ever get by without you?”

“I didn’t think…. Let me understand. You want me there as your assistant, yes? You are simply worried about the experiments and the data?”

Marie knew it didn’t matter. Should he say that that was the only reason he wanted her to make the journey, she would go home and settle all of her affairs immediately. It wouldn’t matter in the slightest that she’d be only his assistant. But, suddenly, she needed to know where she stood. It would be a very long time in that spaceship to always only wonder.

“You are very good at your job,” Marc replied slowly. “But, no. I had hoped, perhaps, there was a little more there than that.”

Marie leaned in closer to him. “There has always been more than that for me. But, I never thought…”

He kissed her without warning and the world around them seemed to stop. She breathed him in, her heart feeling like it might beat straight out of her chest.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered as the broke apart. “I always thought you knew.”

Marie laughed softly. “Of course you did,” she replied. “It’s forgiven. And yes. I’d go to the end of the world with you.”

“And beyond?” he asked with a smile.

“Anywhere,” she said. “Anywhere at all.”


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Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author. She lives near Philly with her family. Tweet her at @JenD_Author