Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

The campfire started it all.  I had never wandered before, preferring to always stay with a group.  I wish now that I had been content to stay with the group that fateful night, but, alas, I did not, and now I must pay the price for it, for mortal eyes are not meant to see what I have seen.

The tents were up, the mood was festive.  We aimed to spend four glorious nights surrounded by nature and good company.  In the midst of the first night, I disentangled myself from the arms of my lover to sit by the fire once again.  The flames fascinated me.  In those blazing embers, I could see the edges of visions and dreams.  Some time later, it could have been five minutes, it could have been two hours, another light caught my eye.  It was not the stars or the moon; it was too low to the earth for that.  Nor was it the light of any road or hint of civilization; we had carefully plotted our destination to be at least two miles in all directions from the nearest manmade edifice.  This light flickered briefly, weakened and then grew startlingly bright.  My friends all still slept soundly.  In my groggy, entranced state, I felt I absolutely must know what made the lights, for they were now multiplied. 

I staggered towards the faint lights, heard a giggle from the depths of the earth, and stopped.  The lights had just vacated the place where I now stood, I could sense it.  It was as if something existed there but moments earlier, something both warm and frozen at the same time, and it had left an impression for me to find.  As I walked to the center of the sensation, I saw more than just the edges of visions and dreams.  I could see all of human history.  Moments flickered through my mind at nauseating speeds. Nothing remained hidden from me.  I fell to my knees, eyes shut uselessly tight against the motion sickness, hands vainly clamped to my ears to block the myriad sounds that formed a mad cacophony.  As suddenly as the visions appeared, they released me.  I fell to the ground, face-down.  That is where my companions found me the next morning.

They claimed I had wandered half a mile from the campsite, though I knew I had only walked a few steps from the fire.  I tried to explain about the lights and the vision, but my friends insisted it was naught but a dream.  I heard then that same otherworldly giggle as I refuted their theory, but within it, I heard also a warning.  I obeyed the obscene chuckle and grew silent on the matter. We joked through the day about my sleep-wandering.  My partner threatened to tie me down should it occur again.  I vowed that that wouldn’t be necessary. 

I should not have made such a vow for it was one I could not keep.  The lights drew me once again the next night.  I made a point to sleep facing my partner, with his arm tightly around me.  No matter how beautiful the fire was, I refused to get up to watch it.  Instead I shut my eyes tightly against the world and feigned sleep.  When I shut my eyes, memories of the visions came again.  They would not stop, regardless of how hard I concentrated on something, anything else.  A shudder passed through my body, but it did not originate within me.  It felt as though something crawled or fluttered over me and under me at once, beckoning me to follow it.  Finally, I could bear it no longer.  I followed the sensation.  Once again, I extricated myself and crept amongst my sleeping friends back into the trees.  The feeling dissipated a few steps further away than my previous night’s excursion.  This time I could still see some of the lights.  I braced myself for another mental onslaught, but none came.  Instead, the lights moved to surround me.  Their warmth soothed me, though still I felt the chill beneath.  The lights floated around me, sometimes caressing my skin, other times wafting around my head.  The headache from the visions finally dimmed. 

I knew then that the lights were alive. They moved.  They saw.  They thought.

They planned.  They planned for me.  In that moment, I knew their intentions.  They saw fit that I should follow them.  Subconsciously, I made the decision to go where they willed, to the ends of the earth if still they led.  They must have read my mind, for they drifted onwards at the moment of decision.  The farther we went the darker and stranger the woods became.  The trees took on dark, living shapes.  They shied away from the lights – which I came to call “fairies” for lack of a better word – but leaned towards me whenever I fell behind.  The bark of one tree gaped as if it were a giant maw, reading to devour anything its vine-like branches could grasp.  If not for the fairy lights, those branches would have had me a hundred times!  I shuddered at the thought of my body being slowly mashed within those ancient wooden jaws.  For one brief moment, I wondered at where the lights led me, but the moment passed quickly.  The only thought now left to me was to stay with the lights.  I was safe within the circle of lights.  The darkness held only horrors.  More than once, I heard the howls and chitterings of unknown creatures.  The sounds were like nothing I had ever heard before.  Indeed, if asked to describe them, I barely have the words.  The most distinct sound was akin to the howl of a wolf, but there was something more wild about it even than that.  A wolf, at least, abides by rules and instincts.  I believe the only rule that this creature lived by was to stay away from the fairies.  But what kind of power could such small things have that even the most nightmarish of abominations stayed well away from them?  I would leave them now, if only I could, but I was in too deep.  To leave them would mean abandoning the safety of the bright circle.  I knew they would not follow me.  I could turn and run and hope to avoid all the terrible creatures I heard and saw, but without a light to guide me, I would run straight into one of the vicious animals or the carnivorous trees.  No, to stay alive, I must stay with the lights.

Many hours (or possibly days; time loses all meaning in the eternal darkness of this accursed forest) later, the fairies led me to an impossibly dark tunnel.  I thought I had known darkness in the wood, but this darkness seemed palpable.  I balked.  The darkness beckoned me even as it swallowed the lights.  My sole companions and protectors in this malevolent wood had led me to this place.  Surely they had some reason for doing so.  Mayhaps a paradisiacal utopia lie just past the oozing ink of the tunnel’s mouth.  Or maybe there exists at least an escape, a way out of the nightmarish copse back into the ordinary world.  But even then, I knew that I could not return to that world unscathed.  My wandering days were over.  I knew that I would forever be haunted by this ill-advised adventure into the unknown.  The knowledge that, just beyond our everyday experiences, dwelt a place so bent on unhinging the mind would forever infect my thoughts.  

I dove into the mouth.  Immediately, a hollow coldness seeped into my very bones.  I shuddered.  Ahead of me, in the eternal darkness, the fairy lights were just barely visible.  I hurried to keep up pace with them, refusing to be left alone any longer in this abysm.  The shaft felt to be leading downwards.  I longed to touch something, anything to give me an idea of what type of pit this was.  With outstretched arms and still moving feet, I felt neither side of the passage.  The sense of sight was long lost to me – I could still see the moving orbs, but even their bright star-light did nothing to penetrate the black – and now the sense of hearing seemed to vanish as well.  No echo announced each footfall.  It was as if I walked upon a thick sponge that absorbed all sound, though the surface of the floor seemed solid enough beneath my feet.  Even my shallow breathing did nothing to alleviate the perfect silence.  Again, I could feel the action, but no other senses accompanied the sense of touch.  They say that sensory deprivation is the surest way to drive the human brain insane.  Suddenly, I understood.  Even with my sense of touch still intact, the lack of my normal capacities left me reeling. 

As I walked, blind and deaf, contemplating my own growing madness, I became aware that my orb companions had stopped.  Here the floor leveled out and I stopped beside the lights.  The lights grew in size and intensity until I thought my eyes would burst.  Still, they illuminated nothing besides themselves.  Or perhaps the light so overwhelmed my dark-acclimated vision that all else became unimportant.  However it was, I soon felt the warmth of the lights wrap around my shivering body.

They say I dreamed this all – the fairy lights, the forest, the tunnel, and what came after.  Would that I could share my discoveries with all mankind, but the revelation of such things would drive all to either madness or despair.  I saw the world.  I saw it as it was in eons past, when massive creatures trod all to dust beneath their heels.  I saw it as it will be in eons yet to come, a fire and plague scarred flatland, devoid of people save a few scrawny, naked humans.  I saw them rediscover fire and later writing and all the things we say make mankind ‘civilized.’  I saw them begin again to…but no, I can say no more.  The lights gave me to understand that this is our fate.  I cannot by telling change the way it shall be, but I can spare others the grief and hopelessness. 

Snow Bound

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Short Stories

Eugene Stephenson lived in the middle of nowhere.  His nearest neighbor lived four miles away.  His driveway consisted of a dirt lane branching off of a gravel road off of a little-known back road.  He had always been a recluse, but it was worse in recent years.  The idea of mingling with people on a daily basis, of being unable to get away from people at the moment of his choosing, made him cringe.  He could mingle, of course, but he chose to avoid people most of the time.

It was late January.  He hadn’t bothered to dig the snow away from his door for over a week; he had more than enough provisions to last all winter, if he didn’t mind eating chunky soup every single day.  He woke up with the dawn, made himself breakfast, and worked on the puzzle he started the previous night before he looked out of his front window.

More snow had fallen during the night.  The world looked brand-new and sparkly.  The sun’s glint on the ice-crystals hurt his eyes, but it was still beautiful.  But something was wrong.  Eugene frowned, his attention suddenly captured by the random footprints marring the white landscape of his yard.  Who would have been out here in the middle of the night? No one had any excuse to be around his house without permission.  After all, he posted “No Trespassing” signs on nearly every other tree around his property.

He cursed and put on his winter attire.  He had to work at the door a bit to shove the drifted snow away, but he made it outside quickly.  He paled when he recognized two sets of giant paw-prints coming towards his house, along with one set of ordinary boot-prints.  Large dogs bothered him more than he cared to admit.  He followed the prints behind the house, where they seemed to stop beneath his bedroom window.  Claw marks glared out at him from the window frame.  Whatever that thing was, it had attempted to get in his house.  Unacceptable.

He was about to go back inside, to make sure that his shotgun was loaded and ready to take out the intruder, if it happened to show up again, when he noticed something disconcerting.  No tracks led away from his home.  Instead, it appeared that after the creature stalked his room, all three trespassers had meandered over to his garage.  The prints stopped at the side door, standing slightly ajar.

Go inside, Eugene, the voice of reason in his head demanded.  Get your shotgun, call the police, do anything other than go into that garage.  He nodded once, turned on his heel and marched back inside.  He was just loading his gun when a knock sounded on the front door.

Who could that possibly be?  A trespasser wouldn’t knock.  Would they?  His curiosity proved too much to bear, so he edged closer to the door.  “Who’s there?” he called loudly enough to be heard through the thin door.

“Are you Eugene Stephenson?” a young man’s deep voice growled in response.

“I asked you first!” Eugene sputtered.

“I’m sorry for breaking into your garage,” the voice apologized.  “It’s just…I was hunting and got lost, me and my two dogs.  We just needed some shelter for the night.  Didn’t want to wake you last night.”

Eugene sighed.  Of course that was the most logical explanation.  Ever since the incident several years before, he had been paranoid, especially where dogs were concerned.  He cracked the door a bit to get a look at the young man and his two perfectly ordinary wolfhounds.  They weren’t as large as he feared they would be, which meant that his greatest fear had yet to be realized.  “Come on in for a cup of tea.  We’ll discuss how you can repay the damages to my property.  Leave the dogs outside.”

The hunter smiled and tied the dogs to the porch railing.  “Thank you, so much, Mr. Stephenson.  I was worried you were going to call the cops or something.”

Eugene chuckled.  That would have been interesting, indeed.  I wonder what the cops would think of my basement?

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The dogs keening didn’t stop for three days.  The naïve hunter never did bring home any trophies.  Eugene Stephenson added a few more “No Trespassing” signs the following spring.

Eternal Soldier

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Short Stories

“I’m sorry…”
“No,” Willow seethed. “He can’t be dead!”
“I’m sorry,” the nurse continued. “Your friend was scorched. No one could survive those kinds of wounds. I’ll need to notify the next of kin.”
Willow stared blankly at the wall, bottom lip quivering. Kendra pushed away an orderly trying to re-wrap her burnt arm. “We’re orphans. There is no ‘next of kin,’” she explained to the nurse.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, but the police will be here shortly. They’ll have questions for you. They’ll also need to notify his social security worker.”
“Screw this,” Willow finally snapped and shoved another nurse aside and strode out the door. The white hallway glared at her, tempting her to fill it full of flames and scorch marks. If this is where he dies… In her mind, the hospital leapt to flames around her, Ian’s body burning in a massive pyre with the dance of the dying welcoming him to the afterlife.
“Will!” Kendra’s desperate plea brought her back to the present. She balled her hands into fists, squashing the flames that began to lick at her palms. “What are we gonna do?”
“We’re gonna leave. You think the security in this small-town dump of a hospital can keep us here?”
“But Ian’s…”
“Don’t say ‘body.’ He can’t be dead.”
“Fine, but we can’t just leave him here. He’d want to be buried in the crypt with old Hannon. And Malcolm needs to know.” The two girls walked as they talked, Willow dragging Kendra along behind her like a puppy. No one made a move to stop them. After all, there was no sign of foul play…yet. The rest of the bodies must not have been found yet. Once they found them, Willow and Kendra would be the primary suspects in a massive arson and murder investigation. They had to be gone before the police got there.
“Maybe we can convince them that Malcolm is our social worker. Then he could claim Ian’s body and take us home and…” Kendra’s hurried whisper droned in Willow’s ear.
“No!” Willow stopped and spun Kendra around to face her. She put her mouth next to Kendra’s ear so no one else could hear. “We’re not going home.”
Kendra reeled back as if she had been slapped. “But…”
“We can’t. Not now.”
“Then where will we go?”
“We’ll figure something out. There are other people like us out there. We’ll find them.”
“But the Council always says that the others are bad, Willow.”
“Maybe we are, too,” Willow shrugged. Somehow she was perfectly fine with that. Three days earlier, that realization would have floored her.
“No! We’re not bad. We just made some mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It wasn’t entirely our fault!” Kendra insisted.
Willow’s retort was cut off by an inhuman shriek from the direction of the morgue.
“Ian!” Willow flew down the hall to find the source of the sound, Kendra at her heels.
They found Ian in the morgue, naked from the waist up, still wearing the scorched and tattered remains of his jeans. Two men lay in pools of blood at his feet. His eyes found Willow’s the moment she burst into the room.
“We should go,” he muttered, gaze returning to the bodies on the floor. Blood dripped from the corners of his lips.
“I told them you weren’t dead, Ian,” Willow clutched her friend to her in a quick hug. “You just needed to feed. Nothing can hurt us now.”

Confession

Posted: April 3, 2012 in A-Z Challenge, Short Stories
Tags: , , , ,

“So then I moved here.  Free-lancing and waitressing.  Fun stuff.”

“Sounds like a perfect, normal story,” Markus reached round Lenora’s back to hold her hand.

She bit her lip and blushed.  To him, it was a sweet habit she had whenever she talked about herself.  If he only knew… she forced herself to smile and look into his eyes, all the time praying that he would never discover the truth.

“Normal is perfect,” Lenora declared.  She gave Markus a peck on the cheek.  She laid her head on his chest and pulled her legs up on the couch.

He turned the old TV on and flipped channels before stopping on a ‘90s sitcom.  Canned laughter surrounded them as Lenora drifted off to sleep.
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Normal was perfect.  Lenora bit her lip until she tasted the rusty taste of blood.  Normal was last year.  Things were quickly falling apart.  She glanced around her small apartment.  The cheap furniture sat as a silent reminder of how quickly life could turn around.  Two months ago, Markus had broken up with her in front of their favorite diner.  She had begged him not to leave her.  She snorted.  What would Willow say if she could see that?  Lenora knew what she would say.  Take him out.  Destroy him.  He’s not good enough for you anyway.

Lenora shook her head.  A month after the break-up, almost to the day,  Shane showed up at her door with an apology and a plan.  They weren’t supposed to be together any more, but he didn’t care.  As long as they behaved, acted totally human, the Council would leave them alone.  They just had to lay low, pretend that they were normal.

It worked, too.  For a couple of weeks, they went to work, had date nights of dinner and a movie, went grocery shopping, and paid the bills.  They lived like a normal young couple.  Until Willow called.  Apparently, her, Kendra, and Ian also defied the Council and came together, but they weren’t even trying to be human.  It wouldn’t be long before they came to Lenora’s little town to “get the gang back together.”  Willow would want vengeance on anyone and everyone who had ever hurt Lenora or Shane.

Lenora grabbed her wristlet with her ID and keys and threw open the door.  She had to go before she lost her nerve. Markus had to know about Willow.  Obviously, she couldn’t tell him everything, but at the very least he deserved to know about the danger.

Shane was working third shift this week, so Lenora had to go alone.  She knew exactly where to find Markus.  Thursday night was double-drink night at his favorite bar.  She ran the block and half from her apartment to the bar and slipped in behind an already stumbling couple.  She bit her lip and fought the urge to race back outside.  Markus sat in the same corner of the bar they had shared.  His arm draped over the shoulder of Tammy, his new girlfriend.  I could still run.  He hasn’t seen me yet.  Maybe I can get Willow distracted or something.  She shook her head and forced herself to walk around the bar.  Markus had clearly already had a couple of drinks; he didn’t even see her until she stood right next to him.

“Lenora!” He did a double-take.  They had only seen each other for brief moments since they broke up and none of those moments included much talking.  “What’re you doin’ here?”

“We need to talk.”

“I’m kinda busy.”  He kissed Tammy on the cheek.  She smirked at Lenora.  Lenora narrowed her eyes.  Maybe getting rid of Tammy wouldn’t be so bad. 

“This is serious, Markus.”

He exhaled loudly.  His whiskey-breath made Lenora’s eyes water.

“Please.”  Her eyes searched his face, desperate for a response.

“Fine.”  He plunked down a few dollars and finished off his dark beer in one long swig.  “I’ll be right back,” he told Tammy.  She shot a dagger-glare at Lenora.  Lenora allowed herself a quick smirk in retaliation.

Markus followed Lenora out into the crisp night air.  He crossed his arms over his chest, waiting for her to say something.

Lenora hugged herself, trying to hold in her resolve and warmth.  A slow-motion image appeared in her mind.  Markus, writhing in pain, with living flames twisting around his body like a nest of vipers.  Willow overseeing his death with a detached gaze.  Lenora could almost smell the searing flesh.

“Well?” Markus’ prompting brought her back to the present.

“You have to leave town for a bit.”

“What?”

“You and Tammy and her kid.  You should just…go.  Just for a few days.”

“Why the heck would we do that?”

“It’s…uh…it’s complicated.  Just please.”

“Why?”

“Look, I have…old friends who might be showing up here and they’re not exactly fond of anyone they think hurt me in any way.  It would be best for everyone if they don’t have the opportunity to meet you.  Ever.”

“Old friends, huh?  From when, high school?”

“Yeah, well…” Lenora bit her lip and closed her eyes.  The picture of Markus’ possible death flashed in her mind.  “I didn’t exactly go to a normal high school.  Some of my friends were…dangerous.  They have special abilities and that may have messed with their sanity a bit.”

“You told me that everything about your past was ordinary.  You told me about the school you went to.  None of it ever sounded weird before.”

“I lied.  Look, you can be ticked off.  I know I would be, but you also have to listen!  Willow could be here any time and she already hates most people.  If she finds you…”

“Too late.”  Willow stepped out of an old pick-up truck.  Lenora blanched.  She could see Kendra’s and Ian’s silhouettes still in the truck, but they didn’t worry her.

Markus stepped back, frowning at the flame bouncing in Willow’s palm.

“You never should have hurt a Fae, Markus.”  Willow smirked.  Let the games begin.

This week’s challenge gave us the setting for the story.  Actually, Wendig was kind enough to give us 3 choices for the setting.  Only one of them would make any sense with the characters I’m using, so it was an easy decision.  It had to take place in an abandoned amusement park.  My inspiration was the old Land of Makebelieve in Upper Jay, NY.  I’ve never been to the area, so I don’t know how accurate this is, but it’s been destroyed by a flood by now anyway.  At the time this story takes place, at least one or two buildings (hopefully including the one I’m describing) were still at least partially standing. This story is more character development than true story.  Hopefully, you’ll still enjoy it.

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“What is this place?” Lenora crawled under the snipped wire fence, following her new-found friends.  Shane reached out a hand to help her stand.

“It’s an old theme park,” he explained.

Kendra suddenly appeared at Lenora’s elbow.  “And when he says ‘theme,’ he means it.  It used to be called Makebelieve.  It was kind of dorky, but totally great for little kids.  It had, like, all these storybook houses and fairytale things all over the place.”  Kendra shrugged.  “Guess it coulda been cute before it got all drowned.”

Lenora frowned.  “Oh don’t worry,” Shane wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her away from Kendra and Ian, who had been trying to steer her towards an algae-covered pond.  “It wasn’t that bad.  Well, it was.  It totally sucked for the owners of the place.  But nobody got hurt or anything.”

“Come on, man,” Ian whined.  “You didn’t even let me tell my ghost story!”

“That’s because your ‘ghost story’ is nothing but a lame attempt to make a campfire horror story to freak people out.”  Willow rolled her eyes.  She stuck her balled-up fists on the hips of her designer jeans, which were now spotted with mud.  “So are we gonna stand here all night and blab or are we going in?”

“In!” Kendra practically flew down the slight path through the weeds and brambles to a dilapidated shack.  The torn and filthy siding may once have been white.  A blue and moldy shudder hung off a window.  Lenora was surprised it was even still attached.  It looked as though one solid breeze would rip it away from the building.  Shadowy tree limbs reached down, pulling the gaping maw of the night’s blackness down over the two little stubs that stuck out of the roof.  Apparently, the blackness had already taken a bite years earlier.  Lenora saw no sign of what had once graced the building.

Ian followed close behind Kendra.  Shane kept his arm casually draped over Lenora and led her between the remains of two posts.  The door had been replaced by a very new-looking piece of thin particle board.  Someone had used blood-red paint to scrawl “X-Men” near the top and “Intruders will be fed to Wolverine!” on the bottom.  Kendra pulled up in front of the door.

“Which one of you guys did this?” she pouted.  “I wanted it to look nice.”

“Who do you think did it?” Willow crossed her arms.  “Seriously, Shane?”

“Yeah, have you ever even picked up a comic book?  Wolverine doesn’t eat people!” Ian shook his head.

Shane shrugged.  “I found it amusing.  If you guys really hate it, we can always pick up another board and paint it up together or something.”

Lenora shocked everyone by suddenly snorting.  “I get to be Wolverine, right?  Well, She-Wolverine, I guess.”

Willow and Shane laughed with her, relieved that she was finally joking.  She had been living with them for nearly four months and during that time she had laughed a grand total of three times.

“You can be whoever you wanna be, Nora,” Shane granted.

The board almost fell from its makeshift hinges as Kendra shoved it open.  Willow went right to a small wood-stove in the middle of the room.  She tossed a couple of wood blocks in the open door and set them on fire.  The glow illuminated a teenager’s dream hide-out.  Comfy furniture, rescued from the trash by the cash-strapped kids, sat scattered all over the small room.  An empty cooler dominated one of the short walls.  A slight mildew smell clung to the whole place, but that somehow added to the charm.  Posters plastered the walls, showcasing the interests of each person who frequented the place.  A tattered area rug partially covered a rusty-red splotch near the wood stove.  Lenora wasn’t sure she wanted to know what it was.

Ian snapped his fingers, pulling Lenora away from her observations.  “I forgot something in the car!”  He slipped out the door.

Shane patted an armchair next to him.  The puffy arms burst at the seams.  Lenora dropped down and sank into the cushions.  She smiled.  Shane started pointing out some of the other amenities of their hang-out.  “We’ve got food stashed in the cabinets under the window.  There’s games over in the corner.  There’s magazines here somewhere,” he stopped himself and frowned.  “But those are mine and Ian’s, so you probably don’t want to see them.”

“Probably not,” Lenora agreed.  “So we just kinda hang out here?  We drove half-an-hour to hang out?”

“Why not?” Kendra popped an Oreo in her mouth.  “There’s nobody telling us what to do here. We can use our powers without getting in trouble.  There’s no pressure to do anything if we don’t want to.  And besides…” the door snapped open again with Ian’s return and Kendra nodded towards him, “we can have this as much as we want.”

Ian held a bag of ice, a six-pack of Guiness, and a bottle of Tequila.  Willow relieved him of the liquor and left him to dump the ice into the cooler.

“Won’t we get in trouble?” Lenora asked.

“Never have yet,” Shane grabbed a warm beer.  “Don’t worry.  We’re not stupid.  We’ll sleep it all off before we head back home in the morning.”

Lenora accepted a glass of ice from Willow.  It couldn’t hurt.  Not if we’re careful.  It’ll make me feel better anyway.  Amber-colored tequila slopped into the glass, filling in all the cracks in the ice.

As soon as everyone had their drinks, Willow raised hers in a toast.  “To our newest friend!  May we be all the stronger for her presence!”

Lenora’s throat burned with the first of many swallows.  Each came easier than the last.  By the end of the night, she didn’t even care about the rationalizations anymore.  Her world extended only to her friends.  Did anyone else even matter anymore?

First things first: I have to apologize for not posting for a week.  I went to an AMAZING retreat with some of the ladies from my church.  I had to leave my house at like 5 AM on Thursday.  I had absolutely no desire to wake up extra early just to put something up here.  Next time I go away, I’ll set some stuff up to automatically post or something.

Back to today’s story —
This week’s flash fiction prompt was a title.  Obviously, the title had to be “The Fire of the Gods.”  Yes, some of the characters are being set up to be incredibly disturbing.  That’s intentional.  Don’t worry; I’m not losing my mind.  It kind of hurts to write that kind of character, especially since they could go either way.  I’m kind of thinking these might become main villains at some point in time.  Anyway…Here you go.  Enjoy.

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“What will they do if they catch us?” Kendra tucked a lock of stray mousey-brown hair behind her ear and leaned against a tree to catch her breath.

“Don’t stop, Kendra!  I don’t really want to find out,” Ian grabbed her hand and dragged her along behind him.  He pulled her on a zigzag path through the trees.  The sun was going down.  The night would bring him the advantage if they could just keep running a little while longer.

A shotgun blast ripped a branch apart twenty yards from Ian and Kendra.  Kendra shrieked.  Ian shoved her head down just before another blast bored a hole in the trunk behind her.

The gunshot gave Kendra an energy burst.  She outpaced Ian for a second as they sprinted to the next copse of pine trees.  Ian was several feet in front of her when he yelped and disappeared in the semi-darkness of the forest.

“Ian!”  She bit her lip and choked back a cry.  Panic wanted to take over her mind.  She fell to her knees to peer at the dark patch where Ian had vanished.  The panic nearly won when a pale hand shot out of the hole.  Ian’s hand latched around her wrist.

“Shut up!” he hissed, pulling her wrist down so her head was level with the opening of the hole.

“Are you okay?”

“Get down here.  We might be able to hide for a little, figure out what to do.”

Kendra let Ian gently pull her into the hole, which turned out to be the opening of a small cave.  They huddled in the corner of the cave furthest from the small entrance.  Kendra wrapped her arms around her knees and shook.  Ian glared, unblinking, at the entrance and bared his teeth.  If the hunters found them now, before it was fully dark, he wouldn’t be able to take them all down, but he wasn’t going to be caught without a fight.

Feet stamped through the dense patch of trees.  Men shouted overhead.  Someone fell and cursed close to the cave entrance.  Someone else dropped a huge backpack directly on top of the hole.  If they picked it up in a hurry during the night, they just might avoid seeing the cave.

Ian longed to whisper to Kendra, to tell her his plan.  She had to stay put, no matter what.  He was a fighter; she wasn’t.  There was no way she could take on the trained hunters above them.  But he could.  Once the sun went down, he would become one with the night, sneak out of the grave-like cavern, and start slitting throats.

He groaned inwardly.  How had it come to this?  Willow planned the raid perfectly.  They all had their parts to play and had done so without a problem.  Kendra spoke to the computers to get them access to the building.  Ian grabbed one of the boys, Shane grabbed the other boy and one of the girls, Nora grabbed the other girl, and Willow started a massive fire on the other side of the town as a distraction.  They weren’t even going to hurt the kids, not really.  They would take the children’s memories and identities and deposit them in an orphanage half a world away.  The children were just toddlers.  They wouldn’t really miss the memories and the orphanage was a good place, with good, kind caretakers.  The parents were the ones they wanted to punish. They were all partially responsible for Nora’s breakdown.  It had all made sense at the time.

And then things went terribly wrong.  One of the boys wouldn’t stop crying.  Ian had clamped his hand over the kid’s mouth.   He hadn’t realized that the child had a problem that kept him from breathing through his nose.  It wasn’t long before Ian realized that the boy had stopped struggling.

Ian choked back vomit at the memory.  He shook his head.  He would deal with that if they all made it back to the complex.  For the moment, he couldn’t afford to think past this night.  He had to focus.  Besides, he sneered, I’m not getting out of here alive.

Willow observed the men from the perfect cover of the high branches of a pine tree.  Sap soaked her black pants and hoodie, but she didn’t care.  Ian and Kendra had disappeared an hour ago into some little cave in the ground.  She figured the cave was supported by the interwoven roots of all the trees and other plants.  She wasn’t sure how they would manage to get out without being seen.  Ian is probably planning some kind of heroics.  If she knew Ian, he was torturing himself because of what he had done.  By accident!  If the stupid kid hadn’t screamed, it never would’ve happened.  She had to do something.  Nora and Shane had already disappeared.  Whether they had been captured, killed, or managed to get away, she had no idea.  But she did know one thing: she wasn’t losing anyone else.  Not tonight.

The sun hit the tops of the trees.  The whole forest seemed to go up in a blaze.  Willow got an idea.

All of the fires she had ever set had been started with small flames.  She’d been practicing with larger flame balls, but she had never made one on her own, in uncontrolled circumstances.  She would only have one chance at this.  If she failed, Ian’s guilt wouldn’t matter.  Kendra’s fear would dissipate.  And Willow’s own anger would never flare up again.  If she failed, they would all die.  But if she succeeded, they would all survive to fight another day.

She dropped silently onto a pile of rotting pine needles and oak leaves.  She flung her arms out to the sides and called fire from her core to caress her arms up to her elbow.  A few hunters had time to aim their guns before hell-flames erupted from her fingertips and set the whole copse ablaze.

The Grim

Posted: March 12, 2012 in Short Stories

Chuck Wendig has done it again.  This flash fiction challenge has been the hardest one for me yet.  The challenge was to write a story (1000 words or less) and include 10 out of a list of 20 words.  I used a randomizer to choose my words: dinosaur, beast, tornado, research, finger, sparrow, fever, cape, flea, and scream.  This story takes place about a week after the “Roast Beef on Ciabatta” story from a few weeks ago.

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Lenora screamed as a sparrow crashed into her window.  “Stupid bird,” she muttered.  It had only been four days since all of her memory returned.  Every little sound and shadow convinced her of impending doom.  She turned back to her computer, determined to finish her project before the storm became too threatening.  She figured it was bound to get bad, considering how desperate the sparrow had been to leave the area.  I wonder what would happen if Superman flew into a thunderstorm, her eyes glazed over as she pictured the scene.  His red and blue outfit clashed with the black clouds.  His ridiculous cape wrapped around his head, blinding him.  She giggled.

“Forget it,” Lenora leaned back in her chair.  Dinosaur research can wait.  Who cares about ancient dead things anyway?  This was the first time Lucas and Shane had let her out of their sight since she had attempted to leave the compound and hunt down her attackers.  She hadn’t gotten far before they found her, but Lucas had lost his mind.  He had been so furious.  It’s not like she would have gotten hurt.  She was more than capable of taking care of herself now.  And he couldn’t have been mad about her plans to hurt them.  They were evil.  If anyone deserved a slow, painful death, it was them.  She shook her head, tossing a few strands of honey-brown hair into her eyes.  She had no idea what was wrong with her mentor.

A sudden chill swept over her body, raising goose bumps on her arms and forcing her teeth to chatter.  She wrapped her arms around her torso and dragged herself to the kitchen.  The fever had attacked her randomly ever since the memories had resurfaced.  The doctors thought that maybe her body was trying to make the past seem like a bad fever-dream.  She didn’t care.  All she knew was how to make it better.  She stuck water in the microwave and grabbed her favorite mug and a teabag of strong Irish tea.  While the water heated, she dumped honey and lemon juice in the mug with the teabag.  Once her tea was finally ready, she curled up on the armchair in the dark living room.  Lightning flashes lit the room like a strobe light.

She thought about picking up a book, but the idea of thinking made her head hurt more.  Instead, she just sat and drank her tea.  Absently, she scratched the fleabite behind her ear.  No one bothered to tell her how quickly fleas can attack when you’re running through a field in the summer time.  She had to learn the hard way.

She was still staring out the window a few minutes later when another flash of lightning illuminated an ambitious cloud as it tried to funnel into a tornado.  Tornadoes used to terrify her.  Now she knew that this world contained far worse things than natural disasters.  The electricity was still on, so she grabbed the TV remote and hit the power button.  One finger lazily traced the numbers until she could tell the position of each number in the darkness.  Two seconds after she turned to the weather channel, the TV went dark.  One glance outside showed that all the buildings in New Avalon had been plunged into darkness.  The rain and the dark combined into a nearly impenetrable wall of inky blackness just outside the window.

Lenora simply sat in the pitch black with her tea.  Every flash of lightning that broke through the black startled her, but what frightened her more was what she could see in the split-second that the world turned to day.  A great beast sat just across the lane from her house.  Lenora’s eyes widened.  She gulped.  The next lightning came in a burst – six flashes in quick succession.  The longer light allowed Lenora to take a better look at the creature.  It was huge, easily the size of the panther she’d seen at a zoo when she was little.  Her eyes narrowed.  That shaggy straw-colored fur and the mangled ear could only belong to one wolf.

“I can’t believe Lucas is still watching me!”