Let Me Tell You My Story, To Help Us Pass the Time by David Shakes

Squealing brakes, glittering glass and concertinaed metal took my babies from me. Cold in the ground they lay and I, in my grief, wept freely into that consecrated soil.

* ‘There are no accidents,’ say the children. *

What had I done for them to be taken so young? It’ wasn’t right and I cursed the man who took them. He still lived, still walked the earth while my babies were buried in it. They didn’t even take his job.

* ‘No event has a life of its own,’ chorus the girls. *

‘Take up their bones and head for the hill where a single tree grows,’ Maman told me. ‘Wait there, don’t matter how long, wait – wait until the last leaf has fallen of its own accord.’

* ‘There exists a sacred cycle between the living and the dead,’ say the children. *

‘There is a price child, always a price.’ Maman said.

I said I would pay it. I didn’t have to think. I walked the hill and sat beneath the skeletal tree. My broken nails were caked in dirt. I picked them clean like the bones of my children that lay beside me – bleached white by the moonlight.

* ‘The serpent eats its own tale,’ chant the girls, giggling. *

‘When the bare limbs part the clouds and you see the stars, slip them bones in the water. Then tell Xevisio of the great harm done to you and yours. If your cause be just, He will ask Agbe what can be done.’

* ‘What you do unto another, you do unto you. We are all one,’ say the children. *

The sons of Mawu took pity on me, and my babies came back, swimming up from the murky depths. I blessed those Vodun and then bit my lips. Behind my babies’ eyes, old souls stared back – hungry souls.

* ‘We are the vehicles for the expression of the serpent’s power,’ say the girls, their voices deep and serious. *

First a voice from the waters said, ‘Your babies still slumber – they cannot be sullied by this deed.’
And then came a voice from the tree, ‘The Loa will do what must now be done.’
Finally, a voice from the sky said, ‘There’s always a price my child, always a price.’

* ‘We act for the He who made the trees and the ropes,’ say the children. *

So we walked down from the hill. I held their hands in mine, these babies who were not completely mine. We walked down the hill and met the road. We walked the road to the same stop where it happened.

* ‘All this has happened before and will happen again,’ the girls whisper conspiratorially. *

We got on to ride and I met you and told you my story. They didn’t even take his job you see? He’s still driving the bus.

* ‘You’d better get off soon.’ say the children. ‘Real soon.’ *

Follow David Shakes on Twitter:@TheShakes72

The Wolf Moon by AV Laidlaw

The wolf moon and the winter constellations shone hard and cold behind the branches of the birch trees as John Summer led the gelding by its halter along the track. Hoof falls cracked the icy earth. The gelding snorted a cloud of ghost breath that dissipated slowly in the moonlight. Then there was silence among the snowdrifts and trees until the old man, slouched on the back of the gelding, silver streaks in his black beard and his eyes hidden under the rim of his hat, began to sing a soft lullaby. He was drunk and his wrists were tied together with knotted rope.

“Hush now,” Summer said. “You’ll only call the wolves on us.”

“I don’t fear ’em. The wolves ran with me up in the mountains.”

The old man continued to sing the same lullaby Summer had sung to his youngest as the boy slipped away into the cold and hunger of winter. Summer dropped his hand on the Smith and Wesson in its holster and thought he could finish that song now. But there was a way with these things, they had to be done properly as his father had shown him and as his grandfather had shown his father all the way back through the generations. He led the gelding onwards, even as it stumbled over the rutted track, towards the hill rising naked from the woods.

When the old man saw the blackened and lighten struck tree on the hill summit, he stopped singing and sobered. “You’re gonna do this, ain’t you?” He twisted his hands and shifted his weight in the saddle but John Summer knew how to tie ropes too well.

“There’s more whiskey, if you want.”

The old man said nothing and Summer shrugged. The gelding stood obediently under the thickest branch as Summer clambered up the trunk, hands scratched by the rough back but too cold to feel. He looped a rope over the branch and tied it hard as he could, then dropped the nose around the old man’s neck. The old man raised his hands as if in prayer but there was nobody a man like that could pray to.

The moon turned yellow as it sunk towards the horizon, glittering the ice crystals on the tree. Summer slapped the gelding’s rump and it bolted back down the track. It would find its own way back to the farm, even through the darkness.

Summer stood and looked at the figure that was once a man but no longer a man swaying at the end of the rope, its feet pointing down and its head lolling to one side, still wearing the hat that hid its eyes. This was a simple thing done in the night, deep in the woods. That was the way his father had taught him. He drank whiskey to keep himself warm as he watched the winter stars fade and the pale blue dawn break across the eastern sky.

Afterwards, he walked back down the track to the farm and full moon followed full moon rising copper coloured into the night. He planted corn in the fields under the sun that burnished his skin and turned the air thick and dusty. Mary swelled with child and he told her they would cope, they always did, although there was nothing that could replace what they had lost last winter. The corn turned golden and Summer sharpened his scythe on the whetstone, over and over until the blade shone as if it cleaved the sunlight itself. From time to time he glanced towards the white mountains rising in the distance and gripped the scythe handle more tightly.

On the eve of the harvest moon, he sat on his porch and watched a figure riding down the track from the mountains. Summer walked to the gate to greet the man. He was old, silver streaks in his black beard and his eyes hidden under the rim of his hat, and under his breath he sung the soft lullaby that Summer had not heard in seven months.

“You knew I was coming back,” the old man said.

“You don’t learn your lesson easy.”

“Neither do you, John Summer.” The old man dismounted. He stood for a moment with his thumbs in the pockets of his jacket, looking at the farm as if he meant to buy the place. Then he took a rope from his saddle.

Follow AV Laidlaw on Twitter: @AVLaidlaw

The Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness II Winners!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our winter flash fiction contest! We had many whimsical and wyrd tales from which to choose. It was a difficult decision but here they are, the winners of the 2016 Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness flash fiction contest:

Second Runner-up:
The Wolf Moon by AV Laidlaw

First Runner-up:
Let Me Tell You My Story, To Help Us Pass the Time by David Shakes

And the Winner:
Tir na nÒg, The Land of the Young by Mark A. King

Congratulations! LCP will feature the winning stories on our blog and Mark wins the entire LCP catalogue!

The Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness II

Happy New Year!

Welcome to LCP’s second annual winter flash fiction contest!

Below are the photos to inspire your stories about REBIRTH. You have until midnight on January 31 (PST) to submit up to four stories of 100-750 words each. Post your stories in the reply section below. Be sure to include your name, Twitter handle or other contact information, and a word count at the top of your story. See the complete rules here.

We look forward to reading your stories!

winter tree

girlfriends

Image credit: Girlfriends by Angie Chung (Yellow Sky Photography) Flickr under CC 2.0 
Image has not been altered from its original form.

The Cedna is Out Today!

CednaMaster2EBP

Today marks the release of our second offering of the year, The Cedna, by Emily June Street. The Cedna is the second book in the Tales of Blood & Light fantasy series. Get it today at Amazon, or special order a signed print version directly through LCP.

Get Book One, The Gantean, here.

Every Cedna is born to die, paying the balance that keeps magic alive. One Cedna desires a different path, free from the pain that comes with the sacred duty. As Gante faces destruction at the hands of Lethemian raiders, she fights against her fate as a ritual sacrifice. Though dangers loom on every side, the Cedna travels south in a desperate diplomatic bid to protect the island. Ethnic prejudices, old animosities, and a handsome stranger who pulls on her with a magical bond quickly overturn her plans, leading the Cedna on a world-shattering adventure of love, heartbreak, and war.

Every choice is final.

Check our blog in the upcoming week for Emily’s in-depth look at the lead character of The Cedna and more information about The Tales of Blood & Light series.

Enjoy!

 

LCP Update

Beth and I had a long overdue LCP meeting today at the Hummingbird Cafe in Fairfax, where we ate delicious Cajun food.

Beth is busy drafting Regency Magic Book Three and working on short stories. I may have convinced her to return to some detective fiction she was working on a few years ago, too.

I’m wrapping up the final touches on The Cedna, Tales of Blood & Light Book Two, which will be available December 27th, 2015. I’m also revising STERLING, ToB&L Book Three, and I’m hoping to get it out to some fresh readers in the new year. Next I’m fiddling around with some drafts that have been stewing on the desktop and maybe be ready for the next layer of work.

Most importantly, our annual winter flash fiction contest–Winter of Whimsey & Wyrdness–will begin in January 2016. The theme is REBIRTH. Stayed tuned for further details about the contest structure and prompts.