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September 26, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – One Amazing Sentence

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 8:19 pm

It’s been forever since I last did one of these, so maybe it’s a good thing that I can ease back into it, with just one sentence. Challenge as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here.

And the sentence is:

When the rain finally came it started as a cool drizzle, barely more than a mist, which turned into a downpour that flooded the scorched and cracked earth and made the temperature drop like a fever breaking.

May 31, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – Mirror Murders

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , , — Eva Therese @ 10:12 am

This weeks Flash Fiction Challenge as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig. Randomness delivered unto me the title ‘Mirror Murders’, which was actually rather easy to work with, since I find mirrors creepy, especially when it’s after dark and I’m home alone. It also ties in nicely with an idea I have been kicking around with for a long time.

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”Professor Crane?”

The woman sitting on the bench turned her head towards them. In the sharp spring sunlight, her eyes were little more than slits and yet Detective Walker felt her studying them, cataloguing them and filing her findings away for future reference. “Yes?”

“I’m Detective Walker and this is Detective Schuler.”

“Detectives? Really? For a moment there, I thought you were two of my students. I really must be getting old.”

Walker took a closer look at the woman. She was not unattractive, but dressed plainly and used no makeup. Her hair was blond with grey streaks that she had done nothing to cover up. It couldn’t have been easy, being a pretty, young, blond teacher in a place like this and she looked like she had been doing her best to hide it. Walker thought she could relate; as a Latino woman she was used to being judged by appearance.

“We wanted to talk to you, about the Mirror Murders ten years ago,” said Schuler and sat down next to Crane.

She didn’t look surprised, but she got an expression of distaste. “I would imagine that the police still has these places called archives. There you can find the testimony I gave a decade ago.”

“We have read it,” said Walker, sitting down next to Schuler so as not to close the woman in. “But we want to hear it from you in person.”

“I have nothing to add.”

“Professor, please …” began Schuler.

“Don’t,” snapped Crane. “If you know enough about that case to come see me, you also know that the only thing that came out of my testimony was that I was deemed crazy and had to spend six months in a psychiatric hospital, while my life fell apart around me. I lost my job, my fiancée.” She stopped herself. “Crazy or not, I have no other recollection of what happened that night, than what I said in my statement. I have nothing to add. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She got up to leave.

“The murders have started again,” said Walker. This wasn’t exactly how she and Schuler had planned to deliver the news, but at least it made an impression.

Crane sat down again. “Are you absolutely sure?”

“Everything fits. How it seems to be a different killer for each victim, but with the same M.O. The scene of the crimes, locked from the inside. The victims found dead near a large mirror. Even details the were never released to the public.”

“Like how the killer in each case seems to be the same height and build as the victim?”

“Yeah,” said Schuler. “How did you know that?”

“I thought you said you’ve read my statement?”

“Professor Crane,” said Walker, “you are the only one who survived an attack back then. If this is the same killer or group of killers, they could be coming for you again.”

“Oh no. They’ve had their chance. If the same person still wants me dead, he or she will have to look for another way.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I killed my assailant back then.” She gave an impatient sigh. “Are you sure you’ve read my statement?”

“Do you have any idea, who could have wanted you dead?” asked Schuler.

“No, but that’s your job to figure out.” She got up again. “It could be the same person behind these new murders or it could be someone new, who has discovered the same method. Find what connects the victims and you’ll find who wants them dead. Simple as that.”

“Be that as it may,” said Walker, also getting up, “we would still like a statement from you.”

Crane looked at Walker for a rather long time; cold, grey eyes, that seemed to pierce her brain and read the thoughts written on the back of her skull. Walker wondered what it was like having her as a teacher and had a sudden, vivid mental image of a lecture hall full of students all frozen in their seats, too terrified to do anything but pay attention.

Finally Crane said: “Very well, if you insist. Let’s go to my office.”

About half an hour later, Walker got up from her chair. “Thank you for your time,” she said, while thinking exactly the opposite. Crane had really been serious when she had said that she didn’t have anything to add. In fact she had hardly changed a word, compared to the statement she had made ten years ago.

It still didn’t make any sense and there were no useful details. In essence, Crane had been attacked by her own reflection coming out of the mirror, but had managed to fend off and kill her attacker, who had then melted away to nothing. Walker had to ask herself, whether the attack had actually really taken place or if Crane had just imagined it, incorporating the details of the Mirror Murders, that had been known to the public.

Crane went with them out into the hallway. “I hope you find whoever is responsible for this,” she said. “But please, do not worry about me.” She stood as if she wanted to see them on their way, to make sure they really were going. Walker gave a curt nod, Schuler muttered something polite and the two detectives walked down the hallway past the ladies’ room.

“I’ll just be a minute,” said Walker and opened the door. The room had one of those huge mirrors that covered the whole wall above the sinks. Walker could see herself in it, naturally, and she could see Schuler and there was also part of the hallway and even the door to Crane’s office. And just as the restroom door closed behind Walker, she saw the door to Crane’s office open and close as if somebody had gone in. Somebody who had not been reflected in the mirror.

April 6, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – Life is Hell

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 3:32 pm

A couple of years ago I actually finished a novel set in a world where Heaven and Hell and the war between are at the heart of the story. I just had to revisit that world for Chuck Wendig’s challenge.

A couple of explanatory details: Demons do not have names until they earn them. Damned souls get sorted according to whatever sins they used to damn themselves when they were alive, but Hells internal security get no souls that way, so they get to hand-pick the ones they want using criteria unknown to anyone but themselves.

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Pandemonium. All Hell broke loose. No doubt all of the new arrivals had used those expressions on several occasions, without having any idea what they really meant. They couldn’t have imagined the controlled chaos of Hell. For them, the closest approximation would be the inside of a bee hive. There was a system and an order to the writhing movements of the masses, but it was devised by an alien mind, unfathomable to humans.
It showed in their faces as they huddled together in the centre of the square, staring wide-eyed at their surroundings. They were all naked but most seemed oblivious to the fact, although some of them tried to cover their bodies with their hands and at least one of them stared greedily at the nakedness around him. The demon wrinkled her nose at this. Hell do not suffer fools gladly.
“Right!” Her voice was sharp and crisp like a gust of the wind that never stirs in Hell. The damned souls all turned to look at her. The man from before stopped gawking at the others and looked her up and down instead. She ignored him. “I don’t think I need to tell anyone where you are.”
This close to them, their thoughts could be sensed. They were scared and confused, but there were no-one here who did not know where he or she was.
Slowly their thoughts became more coherent. Why am I here? I don’t deserve this? I didn’t do anything, I just watched. I would have paid the money back. I hardly touched her. It was an accident.
Their thoughts seemed to be coming from all directions, but they all ended up in the same place. They melted together until they were all the same thought, repeated over and over again. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.
The demon smiled. “Right,” she said again. “It would seem you are all ready to move on.”
“Move on?” one of them asked.
“This is only the transit hall. From here you will be handed out to the different Princes depending on what particular vices and weaknesses that landed you here.” She bared her teeth in what might have been a smile, but then again, perhaps not. “Think of it as the Sorting at Hogwarts.”
“So,” it was the indecent little man from before, “does that mean I get to go somewhere having to do with sex?”
The demon Looked him over. “Yes. Go stand over there.”
He was actually grinning as he went to the spot she had pointed out. She shook her head and wondered whether he was all there. Not that it would make any difference to him in the end. Hell suffered lunatics even less gladly than fools.
She started Looking over the rest of the souls and dividing them into groups. Most were easy to make out, but a few had so many sins in so many different areas that it took several long Looks to find out which were the most prominent.
She had just finished, when she felt someone behind her and turned to find herself standing face to face with a demon much taller than her, with a body made of unsubstantial smoke.
“I am here to collect souls for the Web.”
The demon tried not to look afraid but suspected that she failed miserably. The demon in front of her came from the Web, which amounted to the internal security of Hell, and no-one liked to talk to them, because doing so almost always meant that you had been accused of something and there was little chance of clearing your name. Still, she told herself, the demon was simply here to collect souls.
She bowed her head and stepped aside and the smoke demon glided towards the souls and started to inspect each one, her following right behind it. Most of them it spared only a glance, although she suspected that it still Looked deeper than she had been able to. Others, it examined for longer, before moving on. Finally it stopped in front of the nasty little man.
“This one,” it said.
“That’s not fair,” the man complained. “You said I would go somewhere with lots of sex.” He would have protested some more, but she grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and threw him at the ground in front of the smoke demon.
“Sorry about this. That guy is an ass. I’m sure there are others that are more suited for …” She trailed of. She had no idea what the demons from the Web actually did with the souls they collected.
“No.” A smoky tendril uncoiled itself from the lowest part of the smoke demon and touched the man, as if it was prodding him with a foot. “He will do very nicely.” Then it continued.
It only picked one more soul. A young teenager, really no more than a child, who had been weeping silently but uncontrollably the whole time. Her youth and desperation belied the fact that she had ended up here because she had killed her younger brother.
Done with its work, the smoke demon turned towards her and hovered for a moment as if assessing her as it had the souls. “You have done well.”
“Thank you.”
“I will see you again.” With these words it turned and started to float away, the two souls following it. The man wasn’t complaining but was eyeing the girl next to him.
The demon stood frozen in place, the words echoing in her mind. Finally, with an effort, she shook her head. It had only talked meant it would see her, the next time it came to collect souls. Yes, that had to be it.
She looked back at the remaining souls. “Right,” she said. “I’ll get you lot on your way.” She wasn’t in any danger. She hadn’t done anything. It wouldn’t be fair.

March 20, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – SomethingPunk

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , , , — Eva Therese @ 6:06 pm

This weeks challenge from the lovely and beardy Chuck Wendig is ‘SomethingPunk’. Please, see here for an explanation of what the heck that is supposed to mean.
I then chose to cheat I bit. The description specified a ‘new SomethingPunk’ world. but I thought that this tied in really nicely with a world I had already invented. So this is me writing PsionPunk (or possibly OrichalcumPunk or maybe both). The story works as a sequel to this Flash Fiction Challenge but if I’ve done my work properly, it should be possible to read this without having read the other.

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When I was six, my father started working for the Company, flying raw Orichalcum. He left me behind as a guarantee that he wouldn’t try to abscond with the load. I remember the night before he left. I had been fed and given new clothes and I was lying in a soft bed in a small dormitory with seven other children. My father tucked me in and then he told me about all about the airships and how every trip would be an adventure. He would come back as a rich man and we would have a house to live in. I remember some of the other children looking at us, listening, as if he was their father as well. He sat with me and stroked my hair until I fell asleep. When I awoke, he was gone.

It was some time later, maybe a few months, that I first witnessed the two men come for one of the children, a boy named Ami. All the children from the different dormitories were gathered in the playground, there were about a hundred of us, but they walked straight up to Ami. We all stopped playing and watched Ami and the two men. They talked to him, too low for us to hear and he was nodded shyly. Then all three of them walked out of the playground and slowly we all went back to what we had been doing before the interruption.
This was the last time any of us saw Ami. At dinner-time of the girls from his dormitory, named Tinnaf, said that she had been back there and all his things were gone.
“So,” someone – I don’t remember who – said, “his father must have come back for him.”
Everyone nodded.
“But, he didn’t even say goodbye to me,” insisted Tinnaf. “Why wouldn’t they let him say goodbye?”
There were some mutterings at this, but I didn’t care. I hadn’t really known Ami and I didn’t like Tinnaf. I thought the most likely explanation was that he simply hadn’t cared as much about her as she seemed to think.

 Still, I couldn’t help being a little bothered by what had happened, so when I had finished eating, I sought out the caretaker. He was a very old man, named Briar, with a crooked leg, which meant that he had to use a walking stick. He was very kind, even though he tried to be stern with us and I liked him a lot.
When I came to see him, he was in the workshed, mending a broken toy wagon. I put some more coal on the fire, since the evening was chilly and got a grunt of thanks from him. I climbed onto his workbench and sat there with my legs dangling over the edge.
“Briar,” I said, “what happened to Ami? The men came and took him and now his things have gone.”
“He’s moved out,” Briar said, not looking up from his work. Then I heard his voice in my head. “He’s dead. Dead. Can’t let her know.”
“Dead?” I repeated confused.
There was a small ‘thonk’ as Briar dropped the wagon. He turned to look at me. “Dead? Why would you say such a thing? Who told you that?”
Even in my confused state, this struck me as unreasonable and unfair. “You did. You just said he was dead.”
He just stared at me. Then I heard his voice again in my head, even though his lips were not moving. “Did I say it out loud? She can’t know. What will they do to her if they know?”
“Who are they?” I asked. I was getting uneasy.
He looked at me as if he had never seen a creature like me in all his life. Then he grabbed my shoulders. “Don’t tell anyone. You can’t let anyone know, about any of this. Do you understand?”
I didn’t. I still nodded.
This seemed to make him relax just a bit and he let go of me. “FRun along with you. And remember, not a word to anyone.”

I didn’t tell anyone, but the next time I saw the two men coming for a child, it made me feel sick and I didn’t look at them, afraid to draw their attention.
Then one day, maybe two months later, they came again and this time they walked straight up to me.
“Aisha,” one of them said, speaking softly, so the other children wouldn’t hear. “I want you to come with me.”
I wanted to scream or cry or run away. But none of the other children had done this and I was dimly aware, that if I did it, they would realize that I knew something. And I had promised Briar I wouldn’t tell anyone. So I just nodded and followed them out of the playground.
The door in the wall had just slammed shut behind us, when Briar came hobbling up to one of the men and grabbed his arm.
“Wait!” he said. “Don’t kill her!”
The man shook him off impatiently. The other made a face. “Briar, we’ve been over this. And honestly, if you can’t …”
“But she’s different,” Briar interrupted, pointing at me, as if there could be any doubt who he meant. “She’s a telepath. The Company will want her alive.”
The man looked at him incredulously. “Are you sure?”
“Nah, he’s making this up to save the girl,” said the other man.
The first man ignored him and just looked from Briar to me and back to Briar. “You know what will happen if it turns out you’re lying?”
Briar nodded. “I know. But it’s the truth. She read my mind one day, clear as if I’d spoken my thoughts out loud.”
“Hm.” The man looked at me. “If it’s true, she’ll belong to the Company, body and mind. Not sure that’s a fate I’d wish for anyone.”
“At least she’ll be alive,” replied Briar.

January 28, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – Fairy Tales Remix

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , , , — Eva Therese @ 7:42 pm

Challenge as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here. I rolled a natural 20 and got Detective as my genre and in my head Detective always translate to Noir.
Note, it’s be years since I read the fairy tale or watched the adaptation in Jim Henson’s Storyteller, so if the details differ from what you remember, that’s why. I don’t have an old or rare version lying around somewhere, I just have a bad memory.

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Like all the others, this story started with ‘a dame walked into my office’. After that came trouble, as always. It’s not that I never learn; by now I’m perfectly well aware, that a beautiful woman walking into my office means trouble and lots of it, but somehow my common sense is always overruled by wishful thinking. And in this case, there was more than enough to be wishing and thinking about. Long red hair, legs that seemed to go on for miles and eyes dark and dangerous like the sea during a storm.

And so it was that, rather than send her packing, I told the lady to have a seat and pour her heart out. I even offered her a drink, which she declined, so I drank it myself, while I listened.

“Please, Mr. Horowitz “It’s my husband … He’s … He’s disappeared.” She lifted a handkerchief to her eyes.

I frowned. “Listen, Mrs…?”

“Kitsis. Emma Kitsis.”

“Mrs. Kitsis. In most of the cases I have involving disappeared husbands and boyfriends, I find things that make my clients wish that they had never hired me in the first place.”

She looked at me indignantly. “It’s not like that,” she said, like so many before her.

“Be that as it may, I will be requiring payment up front.” Some things I had learned.

“Very well. Money is not an issue.” She folded the handkerchief with a brisk movement. “But once I’ve told you my story, you’ll see that it’s not like that at all.” She hesitated. “I suppose I should go back to the very beginning.”

“Please do.”

“A year ago my father found himself in a dark place. I won’t go into details, sufficient to say that it was a very dark place. My husband … Well, he wasn’t my husband back then … Mr. Kitsis, helped him out of the situation and in his gratitude my father promised him anything. Anything at all. Imagine his dismay, when Mr. Kitsis asked for the hand in marriage of one of his daughters.” She looked down at her immaculately manicured hands and added in a low voice: “He had a deformity, that made him very unattractive to look at. Had never had any luck with women, I guess.”

“That sort of thing is against the law,” I pointed out.

“Oh, there wasn’t actual forcing involved. No-one was dragged off to the altar. My father wouldn’t even ask me or my sisters to do it. But I felt it would be very bad to go back on a promise that had been given out of gratitude, even if Mr. Kitsis was asking for something that, strictly speaking, wasn’t my father’s to give.”

“And maybe you feared repercussions. After all, Mr. Kitsis must have been a man with some power.”

She licked her lips. “Maybe,” she said dismissively. “But that hardly matters now. The important thing is that we got married. And then we got to the wedding night.” She actually managed to blush prettily as she said the words. I wondered how she did it. “And he …” She hesitated once more and frowned. “He transformed,” she said finally.

“Transformed?” I eyed my by now empty glass and wondered if I should have another. “Metaphorically?” I ventured.

“Literally. When he lay down beside me, he turned into a beautiful young man. He told me he was under a curse and that I could help him break it.”

A curse. There was trouble and there was big trouble and then there were curses. My common sense was getting the better of my wishful thinking and I was seriously considering asking the lady to get the hell out of my office. Instead I grabbed the bottle and poured another drink. “A curse. Go on.”

“By agreeing to marry him, I had lifted the curse at night. But for it to be lifted completely, I would need to keep it all a secret for a year and a day. I couldn’t tell anyone.”

I knew what came next.

She looked down and lifted the handkerchief once more to her eyes. “But I couldn’t keep it. My sisters weaseled it out of me. They pretended to be worried about me, about my happiness, but really they were just jealous because I was happy. Anyway, the moment the words left my lips, I heard a roar. I ran upstairs, but my husband was … gone.” She sniffled and looked up at me with those huge, dark eyes, shining with tears. “You have to find him, Mr. Horowitz. Find him and break the curse.

I cleared my throat. “I may not be an expert, but shouldn’t it be you who go looking for him? You, who break the curse?”

She lowered her gaze demurely. “I am with child.”

I looked at her stomach, but there was nothing to see. I fact, it didn’t even look like she had had any breakfast, that was how flat it was. Still, it wasn’t hard to believe that spending several nights in bed with a handsome young man, could have had that result. “Yes, I see why your delicate condition would make it impossible for you to travel the world, looking for your true love.”

She smiled at me, a little too eagerly. “So will you find my husband?”

My common sense and my wishful thinking had a short but heated debate in my brain. There’s no telling who would have won, but then the two glasses of whiskey interfered and reminded both sides, that the lady was married to a wealthy man and that I needed to get paid if I wanted more whiskey. This made my common sense pause and my wishful thinking started to dream about whiskey.

“Yeah, I’ll take the case,” I said, already thinking about where to start. I knew a few birds who might be willing to sing for me.

January 14, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – Roll For Title

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 2:52 pm

It’s time for another Flash Fiction Challenge and really, it’s been far too long since I did one. The challenge is as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here. I got 9 and 4 on my RNG which got me the title ‘The Cartographer’s Vault’. The ‘the’ was optional. This is what I got out of it.

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The door opened and a man stepped into the small, dimly lit shop, which smelled of curry and broth. The woman behind the desk put down her soup bowl and gave him a wide smile, showing teeth that were surprisingly white, not to mention numerous, for such an old, weathered face. She leaned forward over the desk, showing off arms on which the sagging skin was covered with faded tattoos. “How may I help you, young man?”
The man had short blond hair, a neatly trimmed beard and blue eyes which were currently blinking rapidly, trying to adjust to the gloom. He bent his head politely. “Mistress, I’ve come for a map.”
The woman’s grin widened, showing off a gold tooth. “You’ve certainly come to the right place.” She made a gesture with her hands indicating the maps pinned to the walls all around them and rolled up and stacked in boxed on the floor. “You have the look of an air ship captain. Perhaps looking for something to help you navigate an unfamiliar sky, yes?”
He shook his head, a tiny smile playing on his lips. “No. Though you are right about me being a captain. But I have the maps I need, for now. I am looking for something a bit more special.”
The old woman’s face became shrewd. “A treasure hunter, then? Well, follow me.” She grabbed a lantern, and hobbled over to a door, producing a large key ring from her belt, while she walked. She selected a big iron key and unlocked the door with it. The key, the lock and the hinges on the door all looked rusty, but the key turned smoothly enough and the door slid open with barely a sound. There had been a time when the door had opened slowly and creakingly, but that was some years ago. For one thing it had been almost impossible to make it seem like the door was very rarely opened, when in truth she had treasure hunters dropping in several times a month. And secondly, with her back not being what it used to be, in was just getting to hard to open.
She stepped first into the room, the man following in her footsteps. The vault was even smaller than the shop, but much more packed. All the walls were covered with shelves and there were boxes on the floor in the middle of the room. Every available surface was packed with maps. Most were scroll, but some were just folded. A few were stitched together into books. Some didn’t even look like maps but were wooden cubes with odd markings.
The woman made another grand gesture with her hands, which made the lantern swing wildly and shadows dance on the walls and turned towards the man. “In here are maps of everything. Maps of places that are, that have been and that will be. Even quite a few maps of places that will never be. Now, what do you need?”
“I need a map that can show me the way to the Land of the Dead.”
The old woman’s smile disappeared and was replaced by an expression like she had just smelled something unpleasant. “Oh, you’re one of them,” she said flatly. “Off to tear a sweetheart from Death’s clutches? Although, you don’t look like the romantic type. A friend then? A sibling?”
The man shook his head once more, with the same small smile. “No. I want to find a man I killed.”
“Why do I get the feeling, that you’re not filled with remorse and looking for a way to undo your misdeed?”
“You are vise.”
“Vise enough to recognize trouble when it rears its ugly head. I don’t want to know anymore. Take your map and be gone.” Without even looking, she reached into one of the shelves and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. She practically shoved it into his hands and yet, when he took it, there was a moment where she held onto it, as if her fingers were refusing to let go.
He bowed his head. “Thank you, mistress.”
She scoffed. “Save your thanks. Soon enough you’ll be cursing this map and me and everyone else who had a part in your endeavor, down to the merchant who sold you your walking boots.”
He looked up at her, an expression of genuine perplexion on his face. “Walking boots?”
“To get to the Land of the Dead you have to cross the desert of salt, on foot. And that’s just the beginning. But it’s all in the map and now you have it.”
“We haven’t even discussed payment yet.”
“Consider it a gift. And now I would really like to finish my lunch, if you don’t mind.” She shooed him up the stairs and out, despite his objections.
When she had closed the door firmly behind him, she returned to her desk and picked up her soup bowl again. She took a sip and noticed with a grimace that it had gotten cold in the meanwhile. She shook her head at the folly of young men these days and at the folly of young women fifty years ago, when she had drawn a map to a place, that should much rather have been lost forever.

October 26, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Subgenre Smash-And-Grab

This weeks flash fiction challenge, as always, courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here.

Random number generating gave me Slasher Horror and Zombies. And all in good time for Halloween.
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Here in the basement, the banging on the door and the screeching of the zombies were distant and muffled by several barriers. In the relative silence, other sounds could be heard. Quick, frightened intakes of breath and quiet whimpers, not all of them coming from children. The survivors all huddled close together, watching the entrance to the stairs.
They were pushing up against the back wall as if they were hoping to melt into it when the zombies broke down the door. And they would break it down and smash through the makeshift barriers as they had done with everything else that had been put in their way, dead or alive. Especially alive. It was unclear whether the zombies actually ate the humans they killed, but they seemed to have an intense hatred of the living, wanting nothing more than to kill them or convert them into their own kind.
The whole basement reeked of sweat.
A soft voice spoke. “Hush, sweetie. Everything will be alright.”
The enormity of this lie made several people turn their heads and peer through the dim light at the speaker. She was a young woman, holding a little boy, a son or perhaps a younger brother. She met their looks with a stubborn glare of her own, as if daring them, any of them, to contradict her. No-one did.
A man’s voice sounded from out of the darkness in a corner of the cellar. “You might want to consider releasing me.” It was a voice dark and cool and smooth like black silk.
A short stocky man spoke up. “Want your chance to kill us before the zombies get here? A couple of last murders before your time is up? Or do you imagine that they will welcome you as one of their own?” He spat on the floor.
“Compared to what I’ve heard that the zombies do to people,” the voice answered, “I would consider myself almost merciful. A quick, clean death is suddenly not such a bad prospect for yourself and your loved ones.”
There was a heavy silence, broken only by small whimpers as several parents realized that they had actually, for a moment, consider his suggestion for their children.
The woman who had spoken before was not one of them. She stared in the direction of the voice, as if her gaze could penetrate the darkness. “If we release you,” she asked, ignoring the gasps around her, “what will you do?”
“Have a go at the zombies, of course.”
The stocky man spat again. “What kind of idiots do you take us for!? Why should you help us?”
“Well, you were kind enough to not hand me over to the police. Even if it was only because you wanted to keep me here and hand out your own kind of justice.” The voice sounded remarkably cheerful at this thought. “Also, I have never tried to kill something that was already dead. I wonder how that feels.”
Several people shuddered.
The woman let go of the little boy’s shoulders and took a small step towards the darkness. A man grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?! He’ll kill us all!”
“Look at it this way,” came the voice again. “You can release me in the hope that I will leave you alone and go after the zombies. Or you can wait for the zombies, hoping that they will take me and leave you alone.”
The woman yanked her arm free. “What choice do we have?”
From above came the sickening sound of splintering wood. The screeching grew more audible.
“Very true,” said the voice softly. “What choice do you have? Anyway,” it grew cheerful again, “it sounds to me like you have about five minutes to make up your minds. No rush.”
The woman took a couple of tentative steps into the darkness. No-one followed her, but no-one tried to stop her either. She could just make out a figure in the corner, tied up and unceremoniously dumped. Her nose wrinkled automatically as she caught the stench of urine. Then the figure lifted its head and looked straight at her and she gave a small gasp and stepped back. What made her recoil was the fact that he looked nice and friendly, like someone you would want to talk to, be friends with, maybe even take home after a few drinks. The realization that it could have been her among his victims, almost made her turn back. Instead she forced herself to kneel down and began to work the ropes.
After a few minutes, in which she tried to ignore the sounds from above, she realized that it was fruitless. The ropes were thick and the knots had been bound tightly by someone much stronger than her. She was about to turn around and ask one of the others to come and help her, when the killer said: “I think you need a knife for that. You can borrow one of mine.”
“Borrow one of yours?” she repeated, stupidly. Then she realized what he meant and felt sick.
“They’re right over there.” He nodded to give a direction. “And better hurry up,” he added in a conspiratorial whisper.
She got up and managed to stay up, even through a rush of faintness. There was a table and on it lay two knives, a chef’s knife and a big cleaver. For a moment she wondered why the people who had brought him here, hadn’t gotten rid of them. Surely it would be dangerous to have them lying around, in case he got loose. Then it hid her and she felt sick again. She picked up the chef’s knife with a shaking hand.
“Better bring them both. I’m going to need them,” she heard him call and she picked up the cleaver as well with numb fingers, carried the knives back, knelt down and started to cut through the ropes.

October 12, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Horror In Three Sentences

Filed under: flash fiction challenge, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Eva Therese @ 9:29 pm

This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge, courtesy of Chuck Wendig is ‘Horror in three sentences’. Which lends itself well to run-on sentences.

One day, he smiled at his mirror only to have his reflection not smile back. Maybe he could have smashed the mirror or maybe he could have run away, but he just stood, gaping, while his unsmiling counterpart reached out towards him and drew him in. Trapped in the cold void behind the glass, he screams unheard as the reflection walks around in his place, living his life, always smiling.

October 5, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Orichalcum Sailor

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: — Eva Therese @ 4:10 pm

Aaaannnddd I’m back from holidays and stuff. *looks around* Huh, it’s been longer than I thought. *writes her name in the dust on the mantelpiece*
So I did a flash fiction challenge, as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig. It can be found here and my randomly generated title was Orichalcum Sailor. I had much fun with it, even if I did manage to depress myself a little bit.
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In the absolute quiet of the fog, the sounds of the airship seem deafening. Every creak of the ropes a scream, every groan of the planks an explosion. The sailor can see dark shadows moving in the fog; judging from their size they are air-born whales; harmless, although so large that they sometimes cause accidents. But there are other things lurking in the shadows. Like the small green swallows, no bigger than a mans hand, who sometimes join together in flocks counting millions and blacken the sky and devour everything on their way, even the whales. And then there are less tangible threats.
It is so quiet that the sailor can hear even the faint humming of the oirchalcum in the hold. It is the most precious metal on the planet, perhaps on any planet. It is both strong and beautiful, making it sought after by weapon makers and jewellers alike, but it is valued most of all for its other qualities. It enhances psionic abilities and there isn’t a second-rate telepath on the planet who wouldn’t sell her own grandfather for just a splinter of the metal. The amount in the cargo is worth more money than the sailor will see his entire life. To ensure his loyalty, the mining company is holding his daughter hostage. If even a gram of the metal is missing when he gets to port and unload, they will cut off one of her fingertips. If two grams are missing, they will take the whole finger. More than that …
The sailor shakes his head to clear it. Why did he start thinking about that? He needs to focus on getting himself and the cargo home safely. The company is hard but fair and as long as he does his job, they won’t harm his little girl. On the contrary, right now she will be safe and warm and fed and looked after. He did the right thing by taking this job. If he hadn’t, they would both have starved to death. He shakes his head again. The soft humming from the orichalcum seemed to have grown louder, but it is only because his hearing is straining against the silence around them. Still, he can hear it clearer now, it is less like a humming and more like an actual sound, but very soft and low and he can’t make it out.
Maybe he shouldn’t have agreed to a carry a bigger load this time around. Orichalcum can only be transported in very small amounts; too much of it in one place and it gains critical mass and wipes out everything. That is why the company is always hiring people willing to leave a child behind and set out to transport a small amount of the metal from the skymines, through the foggy cloudsea and down to land.
He doesn’t mind for his own sake that it’s dangerous work, but he does for his daughter’s. The thought of what will happen to her if he one day doesn’t come home, torments him every day and sometimes it keeps him awake at night. He wants to save up enough money to quit and set up a shop, but the wager is low and it will be a long time before he can make it. So this time he agreed to carry a bigger load. It is still well below the critical mass, but even this amount can do peculiar things to a man.
Maybe that is why his concentration is slipping, he thinks, as he shakes his head once again. He once heard that orichalcum only affects psions. The sailor have never shown any signs of having any kind of psionic abilities, but they can be dormant. Just his luck, that he has something in his brain that has never been useful in any way, but is now letting the metal mess with him. He promises himself that the next time, he will just take the usual load, the money be damned. If he can’t keep his wits about him, there’s a much bigger risk that something will happen and he won’t get home and then his daughter …
He shakes his head again. He can hear the orichalcum clearly now. It’s singing to him, a wordless song, repeated over and over and over, more beautiful every time, until it feels like his heart will break from it. He leaves the rudder and goes to the cargo hatch. He hesitates only a moment before opening it and kneeling by the edge. The song flows around him, so powerful that it feels like he should be able to touch the sound waves. He can see the metal bars, black, but gleaming with every colour of the rainbow, like an oil spill.
It’s alive. He is neither surprised not frightened by this realisation. It seems very natural. The orichalcum is not unlike the flocks of green birds, who can become something terrible, a force of nature when there are enough of them.
Like it has heard his thoughts and waited for just this realisation, the song stops. It feels like his heart should stop with it. Tears stings his eyes as he starts to cry over the loss. “Sing again, please,” he whisper.
You must help. The thought appears in his brain like he has thought it himself, but he know he hasn’t.
“What do you want?” he asks.
The answer is longer, more complicated. It consists of a series of images, combined with emotions. There are words, but they are few and far between.
When it is finished, he nods once and gets up. He goes back to the rudder and changes course. A few degrees widdershins and up. Behind him, the orichalcum starts to sing its strange, beautiful song again.
He looks down, through the plate of glass set in the bottom of the hull. He can faintly see the lights of Rambura, the city he was on his way to. He frowns. There was something there he was supposed to do, some reason to go there, but if he can’t remember what it was, it can’t have been very important. The music washes over him again and he shakes his head to clear it from the unwanted thoughts and focus on listening.

June 6, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge – Choose Your Own Words

Filed under: flash fiction challenge, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Eva Therese @ 6:04 pm

Challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here. My five words, chosen by a random number generator were: Scorpion, legend and holiday.
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It was the day of the Festival of the Slaying. The street was filled with small girls in white dresses, all holding a wreath of white flowers in one hand and wielding a small maul with a long shaft and a head of crystal glass in the other. They were making their way – some running and laughing, others walking solemnly – to the statue in the middle of the town square, to lay their flowers before spending the rest of the day playing and eating buns.

Hane sat in the shadowy side of the square, nursing a pint. He was looking at the statue. It depicted the hero of the city, Rhida the Slayer, standing proud with one foot on the broken body of a giant scorpion, the size of a rhino. She had slain it a hundred years ago, but the statue had been erected only some twenty years ago.

Back then, Hane had tried to tell the stonecutters that they were doing it all wrong, but they didn’t want to listen, even though he was one of the few persons still alive, who had seen Rhida in person, when he was a boy around 10. Now at the age of 110 he was the only one left, but people still wouldn’t listen to him, when he told them about Rhida.

Oh, the scorpion was perfect. He should know, he was also the last person alive to have seen one of them and it was because of that, he only had one leg. The other had been chopped off to stop the poison from spreading.

The giant scorpions had lived in caves underground and, most of the time, had threatened no one except unlucky spelunkers. But they could live for more than a hundred years and never stopped growing and when they grew too big to survive on the meagre prey in the caves, they came to the surface.

The villagers had killed the rest of, them smaller ones, but this was the queen, the biggest of them all and she had killed everyone who came after her, until Rhida showed up. She had destroyed its eggs and then killed it, thus rendering the giant scorpions extinct, but had died right after, from blood loss or poison. She had never stood triumphantly over the dead scorpion like the statue did, where the only weakness showing was her leaning on the diamond maul, she had used to smash the scorpion.

Furthermore the statue had a serene face shining with beauty and wisdom. The real Rhida, Hane remembered, had a nose that had been broken so many times that it now looked like a turnip. She has also been ill-tempered, selfish, lying, greedy and with a foul mouth. She was a woman who looked after herself first and last. The string of events that had led to her eventually going down into the caves to rid the village of the last scorpion before it could breed, had been strange indeed. Hane thought that it might have been the one unselfish thing she had ever done in her entire life and of course it had ended with her getting killed.

But the villagers would hear none of this. The wanted to believe that Rhida had been a hero with every virtue imaginable and that she had sought out the village, looking to rid them of their plague. This was the story they told their children and they held up Rhida as shining example of all things good and proper.

Once a year, they dressed their little girls up in white dresses – never mind that Rhida properly never owned a white piece of clothing in her entire life and would have dirtied it within moments, had she ever gotten one – and let them lay their flowers and wield their little glass mauls, in honour of the great hero.

Hane sighed, took a sip of beer and closed his eyes. Why couldn’t he let it go? These people believed what they wanted to believe. What they needed to believe. What was wrong with using Rhida as a role model for little girls and boys?

He could hear a noise, but it was at the edge of his hearing and he couldn’t make out what it was. Probably some overenthusiastic children. What was wrong, he thought, was that it wasn’t true. Rhida had been brave in the end and a great warrior, but she had had her flaws and plenty of them. They weren’t honouring her or her sacrifice, because they were in fact honouring a completely different person, who they had made up for the occasion and had given Rhida’s name and credited with her deed.

Hane opened his eyes. He could hear screaming and it did not sound playful or even like a spoiled child having a tantrum. It sounded genuinely terrified. The real Rhida had been careless. She might have gone searching for the scorpions eggs, but she most likely hadn’t found all of them.

The screaming was growing louder as both more people joined in and as they came running this way.
Now, if people hadn’t made such a paragon out of her, beginning right after her death, maybe someone would have checked up on her. Maybe someone would have gone into the caves to look for remaining scorpion eggs. But oh no, Rhida could do no wrong, so of course she had gotten all of them.

A crowd of people streamed into the square, screaming and crying and tripping and trampling each other. Behind them Hane could see something black and shiny, the size of a rhino. He took another sip of his pint. He was old and dying with a belly full of beer was not the worst way to go.

He felt a bit sorry for villagers, but only a bit. After all, he had tried to tell them, but they hadn’t wanted to listen.

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