Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Two

Welcome to week two. Our picture prompt this week is an image called Recurrence, by Brady Wedman. Submissions of 500 words or less are due in the reply section of this post by Saturday at 6 pm PST. Stories considered for the anthology must contain some element of magic or the supernatural. See complete contest rules here.

cemetery

20 thoughts on “Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Two

  1. Jim M

    Jim M, Twitter: @Jim_M848. 500 words with title.

    My Haunting.

    By the graveside of my dear Abbie I decided to take a drive and visit the town where I spent my childhood, where my father was buried.

    I felt subscribed to death and confounded by my terminal nature, I wanted to visit significant places once more, even without Abbie’s laugh to brighten them.

    The war graves stretched in uniform lines and whilst passing time with my Dad, the view brought me an adolescent memory of the ruined cottage on Lovers Leap cliff above. Suitably plucky (tipsy) after midnight I ventured out for Lovers Leap cliff, enjoying the nervous tingle of doing something dangerous again.

    The last remaining stones of the desolate cottage scattered a peak just back from the cliff’s edge. There was still a vague, house like shape in the ruins and I easily found the hearth where I placed the single red rose that I had liberated from the pub’s Valentines display. I sat on a tumbling by the hearth and witnessed the moonlight dart and play across the waves below.

    Now, as honest as I am old, just as I started to feel foolish, cold and a bit headachy I realised that the Widow was with me. I couldn’t see her per se, when I tell you she was ‘veiled’ I mean it both literally and figuratively if you follow me. She was both definitely there and possibly not at the same time, like my mind kept trying to correct for a sensory error. When she spoke, her voice was ashen and toneless, I fancied I heard a faint accent but, that could have been me.

    “Who are you?” Her voice was only the returned part of an echo, “You’re too old, why are you here?”

    I swallowed, my arm cold to the bone, flittingly sure that I was having a heart attack.

    “I’m sorry I don’t mean any harm or you any disrespect. I wanted to meet a gh.. (I stumbled as I wasn’t sure whether she knew she was dead and didn’t want her to fling me from the cliff in a rage).. You. I wanted to meet you.”

    “Do you wish to jump? Be with your loved one?”

    “No, thank you. Do you know Abbie?” I faltered

    Nothing

    “My wife, she passed on, over, this winter.”

    “Gregor?”

    “No, Abbie. Do you know her, can I speak to her?”

    “Do you wish to jump? Be with your loved one?”

    I sighed.

    “Do you have a rose for me, Gregor?”

    “Yes, I brought you one, it’s in the fireplace.”

    And she was gone.

    I’m honestly not sure why I expected that the dead would even speak our language. I suppose like most of the living, they speak their own as they have their own agenda.

    I told the story to Abbie’s best friend, Anne. We met every week after Abbie’s death. She smiled right through the story and I don’t think a part of her doubted me.

    I can’t believe all those people jumped.

    Reply
  2. Holly Geely

    For Mittens
    Holly Geely, @hollygeely
    499 words

    “Isn’t raising the dead a job for nighttime?” Stephen asked.

    Jeff chose one of the perfect rows of tombstones, and counted fifteen in. He beckoned for Stephen to follow.

    “Well? How are you going to make a zombie before noon?” Stephen’s tone was sardonic rather than amused.

    “Have you done it before?” Jeff asked.

    “No.”

    “Exactly. Shut up.”

    Jeff emptied the cloth bag onto the grave. He had a sharp knife, a bouquet of red roses dipped in black paint, an assortment of gemstones and the skull of a cat. The skull still made his stomach twist when he looked at it.

    “That looks like a pile of junk,” Stephen said.

    Jeff regretted bringing a non-believer. The equipment was sinister enough to belong to necromancy and a believer would never have questioned it.

    Stephen was only half-right, anyway.

    “Do you want to do this or not?” Jeff asked.

    “It sounded like fun last night when I was drunk, but now it’s just stupid,” Stephen said.

    “Go home if you want.” Jeff always gave them a last chance.

    “I’ll stick around. You’re my ride home.”

    As far as assistants went, Stephen was among the worst. Jeff had met plenty of others who enjoyed the process. He couldn’t remember what had made him choose this one last night in the bar; he’d been more than a little drunk himself.

    Jeff lifted the skull and turned the empty eye sockets to face Stephen.

    “Touch the skull,” Jeff said.

    Stephen rolled his eyes and stuck two fingers in the holes.

    Jeff grabbed his wrist with what must have seemed a surprisingly strong grip.

    “Don’t touch Mittens,” he said. He could tell Stephen was rattled, and rightfully so. Even non-believers could sense when the power was in the air.

    “Let’s get this over with,” Stephen said.

    Jeff placed both palms on his chosen grave. His arms tingled all the way up to his elbows.

    “Read it,” Jeff said, nodding to the headstone.

    “Here lies…” Stephen paused. “Is this some kind of sick joke? That’s my name.”

    Jeff kissed the top of Mittens’ bald head. He released the tingles into the empty space where her brain had once been.

    His father would disapprove of him using the magic this way. “It’s family only,” he’d say. Mittens was family enough for Jeff. Besides, Jeff had already delivered plenty of bodies for Father; he deserved one of his own.

    “A soul for a soul,” Jeff said.

    “What?”

    Jeff picked up the sharp knife and buried it in Stephen’s left eye. He was an expert by now and his chosen didn’t live long enough to scream.

    He went back to the car for the shovel. He buried the body with the gemstones and painted roses. It wasn’t necessary, but he didn’t feel like carrying them home.

    Mittens rubbed up against his leg and he stroked her soft fur lovingly.

    “I’ll raise Father again tomorrow,” Jeff told her. He didn’t have the heart to murder someone else so soon.

    Reply
    1. necwrites

      I love how you set up sympathy with Jeff despite numerous subtle hints he might not be all that savory of a character. And his little burp of conscience at the end is perfect.

      Reply
  3. ochodog

    “It’s a long way, from June to September. Is that how it goes? That old Sinatra song?”

    “Hah! May to December you nut” and Olive began to croon, sounding not at all like Sinatra

    “Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September…”

    Herb listened then reacted “October. I think I’m midway through October. Yesterday I’d have said August but today’s a new day – not a great day – unfortunately.”

    “Yesterday for me was November” Olive responded. “Today is November and tomorrow, God willing, will also be November. I don’t want to think about December. It’s coming. I know it. I can feel it. I can feel it, smell it, and taste it. I just can’t see it. Can you?”

    “Not really.” Herb shifted in the dirt and stretched his horizontal body. “It’s not like I have any inside information. When people are gone, they’re gone and we’ll be no different I suppose. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Friends will weep, someone will say something nice – I promise, Olive, if you go first, I’ll say something very nice – and then * poof *. We’ll be on the other side. No use wondering about it.”

    Olive winced then grew thoughtful. “I guess I’m wondering more than you. If you’re only an October and yesterday you were only an August… When I was feeling like that I didn’t even think about it all ending. Now it’s all I can think of it seems. I don’t want it ever to end. It’s so damned fun.”

    “It is fun, Olive, I’ll grant you that”. Herb smiled, reminded of all the fun that life can be. “Even on the wettest days, when the soil turns to mud and the roots grow long and tangled? Still fun” said Herb, lifting his shoulders and raising his palms upward in a how-about-that? gesture. “Olive, try not to focus on it.”

    “The light. I keep thinking about the light. And the air all around. That’ll be so different. Will I be aware of the difference or is dead and gone just plain dead and gone?” Olive knew these were questions Herb, or anyone really, couldn’t possibly answer. They were just weighing on her now. Would she really never see again the people she loved? What about those who’d gone before? Would they be there waiting and would life go on anew with them?

    It was dark, and damp and loamy, as always. Olive and Herb shut their eyes. Olive hadn’t expected December quite yet but it was there. It reached down and grabbed, seizing her in a moment of restfulness. It snatched her up, pulling her through dirt and tree roots and weeds. It brushed her off and stood her upright. A setting sun she’d never before seen was low in the sky, emitting rays of pink and orange. A light wind stirred. Yellowed tree leaves shook to the ground.

    Reply
  4. zevonesque

    Potential Energy
    by A J Walker

    The wind dropped as Eddie walked up to the newest grave; he stooped to read the inscription – ‘Beloved Son, Taken From Us & This Earth Before Experience – Aged 1 Year.’

    “This is going to be a good one; worth a ransom.”

    Lincoln looked up to Eddie. “This is just weird. A baby.”

    Eddie shrugged, indicating that Lincoln should start digging.

    “Some apprenticeship, my mum would turn in her grave.” Lincoln said.

    “Maybe,” Eddie nodded, “if I hadn’t dug her up.”

    The ground gave up easily having only just been back-filled and Lincoln’s spade soon clunked against the coffin. He knelt down and pulled it up carefully, pushing the soil from the pale wood leaving it pristine.

    “Looks like a scale model.” said Lincoln.

    “So does the occupant. Now, fill up the hole again quickly.” Eddie picked the coffin up and put it on the cart beneath the tarpaulin.

    Lincoln filled the hole in no time and then caught sight of the gravestone as the inscription began to dissolve away. It still freaked him out seeing the headstones fade. He looked across the hillside, covered with row upon row of white sugar marble; perfect identical headstones – all nameless.

    It had been an easy day for the grave robbers; little dirt to shift and no pulled muscles.

    “They will pay highly for the boy.” Eddie smiled. “All that potential life; all that unused energy.”

    “Powerful stuff for their spelling?” Lincoln asked.

    “You better believe it.” Eddie said. “That’s why we don’t bother with the old ones. Used up.”

    The reaping was well timed the new moon a few days away; when the boy’s potential would be at its maximum. The wytches would pay Eddie highly for his digger’s fee this month.

    “Anything in particular you want me to ask for, Lincoln?” said Eddie.

    “Can I have one of them magic ever full tankards, like yours?”

    Eddie laughed, “I reckon so boy. Maybe even two.”

    Lincoln shook his head. “Just one please, I only got me one mouth and another one would be greedy.”

    Eddie slapped him on the back. “You’re damn right lad. No point in having two now is there. Be like having two front doors or two sets of teeth.”

    “What’ll the wytches use him for?” Lincoln asked. He was failing not to think about the body being split into constituent parts.

    “I learned not to ask and try not to think about it. In fact, know not to think about.” said Eddie.

    The tales of wytches using the hearts of the young to retain their youth was one story he all too easily believed. Next month the gravediggers would probably not recognise the wytches.

    “Just think of the tankard and we’ll have ourselves a right old night and week to forget boy.” With that Eddie and Lincoln left the cemetery and as the cart rumbled over the rutted track Lincoln diligently cleaned his spade, hoping it would be a few weeks until he had to use it again.

    (499 words)
    @zevonesque

    #FlashDogs

    Reply
  5. milambc

    Houdini It (500 words)
    @brett_milam

    The wand lay in two next to the coffin like a splintered unicorn’s horn, no longer majestic, only useless wood. Eddie hoped it would be consumed by the underground dwellers, as the coffin his head rested on was soon to be. And the person within it. His Elva.

    When he listened closely, straining into the metal lid, he tricked himself into thinking he could hear her still-beating heart. In his head, it thumped madly, like a drummer on PCP, demanding to be let out of the coffin.

    He was The Incredible Eddie of Eddie and Elva’s Enchanting Everything. The name was her idea and it took off.

    They’d traveled from Boston to Fort Lauderdale to San Diego to Baltimore with their roadside magical emporium. He’d put on the classical red and black cape with the black top hat and the black wand with a white tip. She’d wear the same, just sexier, showing her smooth legs and robust bust. This garnered higher tips; it’s economics.

    His go-to go-home trick was handcuffing his hands behind his back, laying down on the road, and letting Elva drive their trailer over his chest. It was more physics than magic, but it elicited the proper oohs and awws.

    Soon, their antics caught the attention of bigger newspapers, then bigger television stations and before long, Eddie and Elva’s Enchanting Everything was sparkling the LED billboards of theatres all over the country.

    They still did the trailer trick and in the enclosed theater space, it somehow seemed even more menacing than before.

    One night after another sell-out show, Eddie and Elva were helping the crew dismantle the stage, as they always did. They were the type to remember their beginnings. Afterward, they exited behind the building to find a small man clad in black against the dumpster, so small that he could be mistaken for an oddly shaped garbage bag.

    But he had a gun and a gun made no matter of size.

    “Make the gun disappear,” he said, his words laced with a mocking tone that was like a noose around Eddie’s neck.

    Eddie could feel the impression of his wand in his back pocket. His hand hovered.

    The gun didn’t disappear nor did the bullet that lodged itself in Elva’s brain matter.

    And like any great magician, the small man with a gun disappeared forever, but left in his wake a wave of pain that kept rolling over Eddie.

    Eddie sometimes allowed the illusion that he’d finally managed to get his head above the wave.

    Then it’d roll over him again. And again. And again.

    He thought back to his days at the magic school. The first thing his instructor, the Outstanding Ollie, had said to the wonderfully wide-eyed class, now made The Incredible Eddie feel incredibly useless, like his wand.

    “Magic, kids, is within us, performing its miracles with every heartbeat, but as it lives within us, it dies without us.”

    Eddie’s heart beat begrudgingly, but the magic he could no longer conjure.

    Reply
  6. necwrites

    Nothing Personal
    by Nancy Chenier
    500 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    The alembic purrs with a slow boil. Tubed coils of glass fog up amber here, dusky indigo there. I chant protections into the steam. Condensing spells into liquid is tricky business, and time consuming. The knot of pressure across my breastbone tells me it’s time we don’t have.

    Shadowy drops collect at the base of the flask. I hurry upstairs.

    He’s waiting for me, the quilt up to his chin, breath rustling like parchment left out in the sun. He may not have the strength to voice the accusations that crowd his tongue, but his glare says enough. You’d think I’d be used to it. He’s just needs someone on which to blame the agonizing disintegration, the bed-sheet days of waste—and I’m a convenient target. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t personal.

    The glare doesn’t soften as I slick his lips with elixir. Neither does the pressure in my chest.

    I slide down the side of the bed. I don’t want to see myself die. Again. Failure never gets easier.

    ###

    I bury him on a grassy hill. If you could overlay all the worlds I’ve crossed through, this slope would be salted with my unmarked headstones.

    The runes tattooing my ribcage and spine protect me from the disintegrating sickness, which is local reality’s way of resolving the paradox of harboring two of me at once. Naturally, that leaves my native selves vulnerable.

    In one of the worlds, I’ll find a way to keep both of my selves alive. I just have to keep trying.

    ###

    I arrive at the next world in the morning. Strips of cloud pick the gold from the sunrise. A fresh start.

    The house looks the same except for the lush garden. Is that asafoetida? And datura? Interesting. None of my other selves have harbored any kind of magical knowledge. Tingles along my spine become needles.

    A woman opens the door as I reach the porch. Something familiar about her, but rarely do I have a wife. And she’s not to my taste at all.

    “Hello. I’m—” My spine seizes up. She hustles me inside. I collapse onto the tiles. My ribs splinter around my lungs.

    She smirks down at me. “Don’t you recognize me?” It’s my voice, slightly higher-pitched. I’d never encountered myself as a woman before.

    “What is happening to me?” I rasp.

    She draws the lapel of her robe aside. Sinuous script traces glowing wards from her collarbone, along her ribcage, over her hips. I can feel their power from here, dwarfing mine.

    “Never thought to extend protection to the rest of us?”

    “I tried!” My throat collapses on my words. She doesn’t realize what I endured, so many failures.

    “With elixirs. Why not the wards?”

    I read the answer in her expression: the fear that the disintegration would bounce back onto me, as it’s doing now. My skin burns with shame.

    She nods.

    All I can do it glare up at her. I hope she takes it personally.

    Reply
  7. voimaoy

    Dreaming in Colors
    @voimaoy
    495 words

    Under the twin moons Alpha and Beta, the field of stones begins to glow. Much has been written about the changing colors that I am attempting to describe. The colors shift, repeat, but there is no discernible pattern, or if there is one, we haven’t found it yet. That is why I am here.

    The first ones here were terraformers, cloud seeders. Imagine their surprise to find evidence of an ancient civilization, a vast system of structures and a plain of standing stones. This complex is now designated Area 51.

    This is what we know so far–

    Whoever they were, they were like us. It appears they were humanoid, judging from the constructions, shelters, places for sitting and sleeping. They may have been scientists and musicians, poets and mathematicians. They left nothing but these shells of buildings, this field of standing stones. They were here, but now they are gone.

    This is what we don’t know–

    Why did they leave here? Where did they go?

    We are here to study the stones, but these are not really stones. They have a crystalline structure, like quartz, but the substance is unknown to us. The stones are 3 feet high, arranged in rows of 12, forming squares 3 feet apart, repeating. Is this arrangement significant?

    Viktor Hilbert maintains that the grid structure is indicative of a mathematical basis, and the lights are coordinates in space.

    Evian Flouray has described the arrangement as a piece of land art, site specific. She thinks that the color combinations are random, like lightning flashes between clouds.

    This suggests to me some kind of neurological activity, an intelligence at work. My theory is that the stones are memory devices, forming a network of connections, a mother board. The colors are a code, maybe even a language. An attempt to communicate.

    I am looking for the Rosetta Stone.

    And this is why I am in the field, as Area 51 begins to glow, and the light show begins. I watch the pastels, the jewel tones, the ultraviolet. They have numbered the colors–there are millions of them. The colors flow around me, red and orange, bright blue like the heart of a gas flame. Is there a pattern in the spectral lines that the instruments are not subtle enough to decipher? What am I missing in the flashes of indigo and chartreuse?

    I long to touch the stones, like fingers upon soft skin. I imagine them warm, as if alive, the colors radiating outward, enfolding me in their embrace. I can feel them, tentacles of lightning, reaching mind to mind. Intelligence beyond conscious understanding, beyond words. I am dreaming in colors.

    I see green, moving. There is a bright light between the green. It is the first time I saw a tree, the light through leaves. It is my first imprinted memory.

    Now I see a color that I have never seen before. It is indescribable. It has no name, no number. I look up at the countless stars.

    Reply
  8. C Connolly

    A Deal In Death

    @FallIntoFiction

    (500 words)

    “Let’s get to it,” the dark haired girl says, casting a glance at the altar, scattered with white slivers and bowl filled with solidifying carmine contents. “You called?”

    “I did,” Sara says. “Help her,” she demands. “She’s dying.”

    “You don’t say,” the female responds. “I wouldn’t have guessed.” A pause, accompanied by an appraising glance. “You brought me early.”

    “Can the sarcasm. We don’t have time.”

    “Well aware,” is the answer. “Rather – she doesn’t. As you know.”

    “How long do we have?” Sara asks, tone uncertain.

    “Didn’t you do your research?” her companion says, eyebrow raised. There is a slight quirk of her mouth.

    “Can you help her – or not?” Sara demands.

    “Of a fashion,” the girl responds. “Not the way you’re envisaging. It doesn’t work like that. Plus, there are the terms to be decided on. Decidedly unorthodox, you know.”

    “How does it then?” the older woman asks.

    “Her time is here. Now. There is no undoing. No cure. She must pass beyond or wander the borders. In that, there’s a choice – though I wouldn’t recommend debating the options. Those who linger become vengeful – sooner rather than later, in my experience; which is considerable to say the least. Their disturbance renders them noticeable to those who hunt such entities. They would track her down, eventually – likely much more quickly, given her youth. The energy’s a give away to those in the know.” The tone is neutral; matter of fact.

    “Then you can do what, exactly?” Sara says; tone sharp. Her eyes wander to the small figure, beneath stained blankets; chest barely moving now.

    “That kind of depends,” the girl responds.

    “On what?”

    “On you,” she says. “On what you want to give. There is power in a mother’s love, beyond all other…”

    Sara looks directly into the girl’s dark eyes; assessing. She looks away. “You have your deal,” she says, simply. She spits into her palm, cupping her saliva within it, where it mingles with the blood from the cut across its breadth. She slaps it into the girl’s hand, their fingers grasping firmly for a moment.

    “Sealed,” the girl says.

    “Don’t I deserve your name?” Sara asks.

    “You don’t,” the girl says. “Those aren’t the rules. Besides that you know better than to ask; to seek leverage. Deal’s done now – no workings within it, once all’s said and done. You’ll feel it take shortly.” She draws a breath. “You can call me Rogue, for what it’s worth. Suits as much as any other.” The girl smiles. “She’s waking.”

    With those words the woman, Sara, falls swiftly to her knees, then to her side, as the girl stirs, laid upon the slab.

    “Time to go,” Rogue says, holding a hand out towards the figure to her side. Glancing at the smaller body as she turns her back she adds, “I’ll see you soon.”

    “What?” Sara says, sharply.

    “No timescale specified for our deal,” Rogue says. “Always state the specifics; though it’s a little late for that lesson now.”

    Reply
  9. David Borrowdale

    Growing Pains
    498 words
    @MicroBookends

    Grammy shook the hessian sack, rattling the enameled jewels within. “Ready for your first counsel?” she said.

    Alice nodded, her pigtails dancing.

    Grammy upended the sack, sending teeth chattering across the ground.

    “Now, help me sort them. Upper central incisors are best, but you can use the lower, or even lateral incisors at a push. Molars and premolars are not fit for purpose – too long in the dark – so back in the sack with them.”

    “What about the canines, Grammy?”

    “Stay clear of the canines, there’s too much of the predator about them. Remove any caries. Very good.”

    Grammy and Alice sifted teeth in silence. Grammy occasionally gave a shake or a nod when Alice presented a tooth for her assessment. When they were finished they had a small pile of perfect square white teeth.

    “You can’t plant them in any old soil,” Grammy said. “It needs to be very alkaline. A handful of calcium phosphate is all you need. Scatter it onto the earth before you plant each tooth.”

    Alice scattered the white dust on the earth and Grammy handed her the first tooth.

    “Push it right in, make sure the roots are covered. A little deeper. That’s it. Keep the rows true and the spacing even. Give them enough room to stretch; they won’t thank you if they’re crammed in. Water them in well. Now the hardest part: we wait.”

    Alice visited the field every day. She stooped along rows and slouched down columns, peering closely at each tooth. At first all she could see was her vague reflection in the pearly veneer. Then one day, when the sun was at just the right angle, she saw small dimples and beads on the surface. Gradually the dimples deepened and the beads bulged, until the teeth began to look back at her. They tapered at the base, and tiny ears budded from the side. Each ivory surface took on a pink, brown or yellow hue, and tiny arms peaked through the surface of the soil. Alice helped unfurl any limbs that were caught in the earth. The teeth were becoming sprigs.

    Alice tended the nascent sprigs as carefully as Grammy had showed her: trimming the grass around the roots with nail scissors, and pinching out any damaged or deformed sprigs; an uneasy kindness that never failed to bring water to her eyes.

    One day when Alice was sweeping winter’s first frost from the sprigs, Grammy crept up behind her: “it’s time for your second counsel. It’s time I showed you how to collect teeth.”

    “Can’t I stay here and watch the sprigs grow?”

    “No, Alice. I once felt that way too, but my Grammy pulled me away from the fields. If we don’t give the children their tand-fé they’ll stop leaving us their teeth. And when we run out of teeth to grow, our kind will cease to exist. Come on, it’ll soon be dark. You carry the silver; it’s too heavy for my old bones.”

    Reply
  10. Karl A Russell

    Sick Of Goodbyes
    486 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

    First there was Marianne.

    Then Mary and Mona and Jane, who broke far more than the pattern.

    Vera next? Or that little girl in Paris? Maybe someone else in between? I hate to admit it, but there have been so many, I’ve probably lost more than I will ever recall, and no matter that I promised them all that I would never forget them. What can I say? 300 years is a long time, especially when it’s counted in corpses.

    But some stay with me.

    Alice was next, as far as I can remember. We had a rare old time, and I probably even loved her, but in the end I was alone again. I tried to hold on to her, to the end and beyond, but that never works, and I got lost for a while. I must have made a fine sight, wandering the moors, a chalk-white wraith, still dusted with her crumbled bones. There were no cameras then of course, but the odd pencil sketch still survives.

    Joan brought me back to life, gave me shelter and love for as long as she could, and I repaid her kindness by leaving before she did. Not that she lived, of course; I just think it’s easier for them sometimes, if I’m not there to watch.

    Then Eleanor, Josephine, Phillipa, Britt…

    Another Mary?

    More and more and more, a trail of loves and deaths. Beautiful women – and one or two men – all turning to ash that drifted through my fingers like grains in an hourglass. Their powdered fragments are cairns on my journey, way markers on my travels round the world and back.

    Until I came home, to Moira.

    She was the last.

    The longest.

    The one who finished me.

    Watching her age and wither, seeing our home fall into wrack and ruin, knowing that I would one day wake and she would not, I swore that it was the last time.

    No more love.

    No more graves.

    No more goodbyes.

    And I tried.

    I tried so hard.

    But all men get lonely, and when one is more than a man, it is more than mere loneliness. It is a bone deep hunger, a yearning that nothing else will satisfy.

    And then I saw her.

    No name yet, just a thought and a feeling and a dream. Crystal blue eyes which seem to see straight through me. A smile that makes me melt. A laugh so loud and full of life that it all but disguises the sorrow that she carries around like a ball and chain.

    I want to release her, to know her, to share her fears and dreams and fire.

    And although I know where this road leads, and I am so heartily sick of goodbyes, I am weak and lost and lonely, and I cannot stop myself.

    I wait in the coffee shop.

    I catch her eye.

    And I smile.

    “Hello.”

    Reply
  11. Mark A. King

    The Tomb of the Unknown Solider
    @making_fiction #FlashDog
    500 words

    You feel nothing for the criminal. You have a job to do.

    You’ve been told he is dangerous. He could encourage the collapse of society itself.

    You watch as he is stripped. Beaten. Tortured. You do nothing.

    You watch the slashes on his back. You watch his mother cry as jagged metal shards are hammered, hammered, hammered into his limbs. He is hung from a tree and mocked.

    You hold the coin of the Emperor in your palm.

    You close your eyes and dream of a future where there is peace and no need for soldiers. You are taken to another place…

    *

    You open your eyes and know that you have a mission from God. There are heathens in the foreign lands. You have travelled on horseback, in your suit of armour; sword and bible equal weapons that protect you.

    You’ve crossed the wastelands where the only things that grow are hate and superiority. If they won’t listen, you will beat them. If they still won’t listen you will debase them, dehumanise them; and when they are nothing but husks, you will kill them in front of their friends and family as a lesson to the rest of their type. For you are told that you are a soldier of God. But at night you cry. You weep, until your insides want to spill out.

    You hold the bible in your hands.

    You close your eyes and pray for a future where there is peace and no need for soldiers. You are taken to another place…

    *

    You open your eyes and you are fighting for your survival. Your ancestors worked in harmony with the sacred lands and spirit guides long before your people were called a tribe or had the name, Mvskoke.

    New people come. They steal the lands and burn the villages. You do not want to fight. But they steal what is yours. They have no respect for the lands, or the spirits. They bring disease.

    You hold your necklace.

    You close your eyes and pray to the spirits for a future where there is peace and no need for warriors. You are taken to another place…

    *
    You open your eyes. The large LCD screens throw ethereal green hues into the darkened office room like living spectres. You are a god watching the night turned to day in every shade of green. You see the shapes. The drone moves, silently above the moving dots.

    People.

    You switch the camera so their shapes turn to yellow, orange, and red. You are an X-Box generation soldier. Only, you know intelligence gets it wrong. Sometimes weapons factories are schools. The TV reports often show burnt toys and molten children’s shoes instead of weapons.

    Your finger rests over the button.

    You close your eyes and do not pray, for only fools believe in god. You wish for a future where there is peace and no need for soldiers that kill from office chairs. You are taken to another place…

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  12. Grace Black

    Grace Black
    @blackinkpinkdsk
    500 words
    Dominoes of Dalliance

    His smile was a shade of brilliant you’d expect on a natural born charmer; faux, like the rest of him. Bleached marble white and polished to conceal the faint sepia veining of his telltale smoker’s smile, though, his teeth are hardly the point of this story.

    The warning, red flag flapped about in the wind, vividly. Honestly, it’s a wonder she missed it, but this is rather common among the love-starved. Always pining, yearning, hoping idly for ‘the one’ to come along.

    Bleh.

    They make excuses, explain away the unanswered calls, unreturned texts, and then rejoice at the random midnight drunken-dial. It’s truly pathetic, tragic. Yes, she was tragic.

    Investing in his bank of fool’s gold, depositing notes in his narrow margins, she disregarded any share that seemed to tip toward the red. She shared dreams and philosophies as he’d fish for and then devour her praise. He fed on her kindness.

    They debated religion and theories, nuances of grey, as well as the strict edge of black and white. He made her head spin in the most delicious of ways, and she was enthralled with his winsome wit.

    She was grey, always grey within her broadloom canvas, and believed him to be of hidden light. She bled dichotomies and carved paradoxes into her art. Expression.

    Though loath to realize, the deeper she’d delve into his murky night it was her light he had claimed. A master manipulator with his sleight of tongue. He wooed the stars from her eyes and warmth from her flesh. Perpetually stuck on the border of black and fringe of false white.

    So you see, I had to step in, give her a push. A tiny shove off the edge of insanity, six feet under she now lies. I left her tragic tear-streaked face buried beneath the marker overgrown with moss. Now I’m free to roam as I like. Her skin never fit quite right, constricting to say the least.

    He seemed so fond of fragile creatures, taking advantage of their vulnerabilities. I wonder if he’ll enjoy my new diaphanous silhouette? Perhaps a surprise visit tonight beneath the light of the druid moon.

    My lips stained pain-red will whisper all the naughty he likes, and when he can no longer discern between nightmare or vice, I’ll grip his throat. With his airway constricted, he’ll be unable to spin any tales of the tallest to shortest in variety. He’ll be at my mercy, pleading with his bedroom stare. My icy grip will challenge his December eyes one final time.

    They were lovely eyes, I’ll think, and he’ll gasp. Choking for air, he’ll question. I’ll simply smile as he takes his last breath.

    The grey he thought he inhabited is bleaker than his scope of knowledge.

    As his bloodless body lies pale in my arms, Black Death will come for him.

    For I always knew of my grey hue, and I only prey on the inky souls of deception in the perilous night.

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  13. Wisp Of Smoke

    The Caretaker of Bones
    @Blukris (498 words)

    The gardener finished buttoning his charcoal uniform, grabbed his copper pail, and headed out to the cemetery. His eyes took in this land of polished granite and muffled sobs, its manicured carpet of luxuriant grass, its well-travelled footpaths. He inhaled the night air, an old friend that tickled his throat, and nodded at the mute stars, which reciprocated his silent hello with a subtle twinkle. A reunion of sorts, once a year on this exact day.

    With much to do, Morris began his journey with familiar steps on the sacred lawn. As he approached the etched markers of lives extinguished, he mumbled a concise string of rehearsed words, then reached into his bulging pail. With the flick of his wrist, he tossed his batch of modified fertilizer across the shamrock-green terrain, like a croupier dealing a hand of blackjack. After three hours, there wasn’t a lone blade of grass untouched by the granular substance of renewal that he meticulously spread with a focused pride.

    The gardener sat on a bench, a mug of coffee perched next to him, as a golden, breathing fog hovered above the ground, its viscous lungs heaving its gift to the residents napping in eternal solitude.

    Six feet below, an unseen architect was ripping the dirt apart with the brutish efficiency of an invisible bulldozer. Caverns were gashed open, revealing tunnels of shimmering quartz and veins of liquid glass. Walls of soil became billowing silk curtains, spindly roots morphed into incandescent lanterns, their chartreuse glow illuminating the burrowed world of renewed encounters. Worms were transformed into the slithering conductors of a maudlin orchestra. Heavy casket lids began to shift.

    Fleshless bodies, unleashed from their slumber, began to walk amongst their brethren, greeting one another with the clack of a skeletal handshake. Parents were reunited with sons and daughters, some adults, others mere infants, a tiny bundle of bones exchanging lipless kisses with mommy. Husbands and wives gazed at each other with ardor in their hollow eye sockets, their unhinged jaw bones snapping desperately in an attempt to mouth forgotten words of affection. Obedient dogs found their masters again, their furless tails lashing against the welcoming scent of their owners tibia. Soldiers patted their band of brothers on the spinal column, then saluted their former lieutenants with a properly stiff carpus. And two dashing skeletons, one wearing a red fedora, the other a lavender scarf, danced their yearly waltz on the anniversary of their shared expiration date. This city of lively dirt was a place of rebirth, an underground villa of love reignited.

    Above ground, his eyes boring into the pair of towering, ivory tombstones in front of him, Morris, the gardener, the son of conjurers, tapped his foot on the vibrating ground, as the music of his youth played on. With his promise to his parents fulfilled for another year, the caretaker of bones was spent. He stood and began to shuffle home, a flaming grin on his face, a soft goodbye on his lips.

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  14. this once and future life

    The Dog at Midnight

    Walter ushered the woman to the fire. He could see her eyes and knew she was far older than he initially thought. No crows feet but a depth, a knowing, a haunted look that shook Walter.

    “Thanks.” Her voice was melodious and captivating and made Walter want to cry.

    Something about her made him think he should turn her away. She was holding something in her hands. “May I see?”

    She handed Walter a green collar with purple flowers and green leaves on it. It was so worn in places that the colors had faded to almost white. “They said you can help people who have lost things?”

    Walter was surprised; no one had ever put it like that before. “I guess. I’m not sure what you mean. I’m not like a missing persons or animal locator if that’s what you’re talking about. What I do is . . . different.”

    “I know.” The woman’s gaze burned into Walter and he flushed. He didn’t consider himself a charlatan but he felt his gig was about to be up. This woman, when he couldn’t provide what she wanted, would tell everyone he was a fraud. She continued, “She was sick. She was getting worse and not eating. I couldn’t let her stare so, I had them help her die.”

    Walter was taken aback, What was he supposed to say?

    “They let me sit with her while they gave her three infections. I watched her go to sleep and then nothing. They said her heart stopped but nothing changed. She was still warm. He ears were still soft and floppy. She was still in there. I need you to find her spirit. I need you to make sure she made it to wherever she needs to go.”

    “I don’t really do that. I commune with deceased people.” Walter stalled. “I guess I could try but I don’t know if I can give you a specific message. You know, different language and all.”

    “It’s tearing me up thinking that she’s still in there somewhere. She pursed her lips, “How much?”

    “Well, I usually charge $1,000 but since I’ve never tried with an animal, I guess $250.”

    “Ok. What do you need from me?”

    “Your name and the name of your pet would be helpful.”

    “Sorry, I thought a spirit medium would know those things.”

    “Deceased people not living.”

    “I’m Liza and my dog was named Indie.”

    Walter guided Liza to a table and chairs. He dimmed the lights and held her wind chapped hands. He closed his eyes and gave his best impression of concentration and listened to the cracking of the dwindling fire. “Mmmmmm. Ommmmmm.” He peeked at Liza’s head drooped down as if in prayer. “Oh, spirits, hear me.” The fire suddenly blazed and cast shadows around the room. “Ommmmmm. Ow!”

    Liza looked up quizzically.

    “Something bit me!” Walter looked under the table but saw nothing. “Ow!”

    Liza’s eyes lit up and she looked 10 years younger, “Indie!”

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