Flash Fiction

I’m not sure where this is going just yet. Maybe nowhere. Or maybe this is a new series. Or a new book.

This is a continuation of “Raven’s Wrath” which I published a couple of weeks back. I liked the idea of there being more to it, so here it goes.

You couldn’t know this, but this installment connects the (possible) series to one of my unpublished novels by mentioning the concept of a ‘shadow glade,’ the guardians, and the fictional east Texas town of Parson’s Crossing. Which means if I keep writing this, you’ll get to meet some characters I know pretty well.

It could be fun . . .

raven’s wings

“Wait. What?” Heather was clearly confused.

Raven grunted as she continued to stuff clothes haphazardly into a bag. “You should pack,” she said. “We need to get the fuck out of here.”

“Maggie said that?” Heather asked still holding a half-eaten burger.

“No,” Raven explained. “Maggie said we fucked up. Maggie said the coven would be pissed. Maggie said it was too much.”

Heather remained in the doorway. “Too much?”

Raven tossed her bag to the side and began to gather toiletries from the bathroom. “Jesus, Heather, yes, too much.”

“But he posted a picture of your boobs. Online. Like, anyone can see it. He got what he had coming.”

Raven turned slowly. Her hands were full, but she just dropped everything she held onto the bed and walked over to Heather. She stood before her, glowering. “Do you know what we did?” she asked. “Do you know what actually happened?”

Heather’s voice was uncharacteristically quiet. “It was a simple spell,” she said.

Raven nodded. “That’s what I told Maggie.”

“It was a compulsion charm. He was just supposed to go to work the next day without pants on. Eye for an eye . . .” Her voice trailed off.

“We compelled him, alright,” Raven confirmed. “But not to go without pants. We got something wrong. Some nuance of the chant. Instead of leaving his place without pants, he tried to leave without . . . skin.”

“What?” Heather whispered.

“They found him collapsed in his front yard, dead from blood loss. He skinned himself from the waist down and still tried to go to work—because we compelled him to do so.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah. He’s fucked. We’re fucked. Maggie’s fucking pissed. The coven will want fucking blood. We have to go. Pack a bag or I’m leaving you here.”

“But, where will we go? They can find us anywhere.”

Raven finished cramming a few things into her duffle bag. “Not anywhere. Not in a shadow glade.”

“What shadow glade?”

“Parson’s Crossing. It’s in Texas.”

Heather was finally in motion, beginning to pack as Raven finished. “But the guardians. They’ll turn us in.”

“Not if they don’t know we’re there. We go. We lay low. We hide. We wait for the heat to blow over and then we reach out to Maggie and see if she’ll help us make this right. She can at least ensure we don’t hang for this.”

Heather turned white. “They’d hang us?”

“Or worse. We’re bad witches now, Heather. We need to hide or they’ll kill us for what we did. We have to run.”

There was a knock at the front door.

“We have to run now,” Raven said. She grabbed her bag and Heather’s wrist and they slipped out the back.

Maggie probably could have stopped them, but she didn’t.

Flash Fiction

I make promises. I break ’em. But I swear, I do intend to be more consistent in writing fiction. It’s good for me, and it’s fun.

To prove my intent, here’s a quick little something to . . . brighten up? . . . your Friday.

Once more, a prompt from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘confidential’, ‘midnight’, and ‘troll’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

raven’s wrath

“He’s just a troll. They’re all over the internet.”

“I told you that in confidence,” Raven said.

Heather rolled her eyes. “You need to lighten up. We’re taking care of it.”

It was 3 minutes ‘till midnight.

“Besides,” Heather continued. “The pictures looked real enough. Nice rack you got there.”

Raven glared. “You looked?”

“Of course. I may be straight, but I like boobs.”

“Well,” Raven said, “Let’s see how our troll likes my response.”

They chanted, and when they were done, a man-child Raven had briefly dated learned a powerful lesson. Don’t fuck with a witch—even online.

Flash Fiction

“It’s all too much.”

That’s what I told her. She gave me that look. You know the one. I know you know the one.

I sighed because that’s what I do when she gives me that look.

“It’s not complicated,” she said.

I cocked my head to the side. Had I been a cat, I would have made that “merrrra?” noise they make when they meow a question.

“It really isn’t,” she said.

“How’s that?” I asked.

“We go in,” she said matter-of-factly, “we deal with it, and we get out.”

That made me grin. I didn’t want to. I tried to keep a straight face, I really did, but I couldn’t do it.

“We ‘deal with it’?” I asked.

“Mmhmm,” she said.

I knew what she wanted. She wanted me to ask. God damn her.

You know what she’s like? She’s like a perfect storm building on the horizon. There’s lightning and distant rolling thunder and you can smell the rain, the scent of it blowing in on the breeze, and right about the time you think to yourself, “It’ll be nice to fall asleep to the sound of the rain tonight,” you hear the fucking tornado sirens go off.

That’s what she’s like. All beauty and chaos. A bouquet of toxic flowers.

God, I love her.

“Fuck you,” I said.

She looked shocked and slightly wounded. It was a lie. All part of the show, folks. It’s what she does. It’s how she charms me.

“You have a better plan?” she asked.

“No,” I clarified. “I’m not saying that. I just think it might help if you flesh yours out a bit.”

“Which part?” she asked.

“The ‘deal with it’ part,” I said.

“Oh. That part.”

“Yes. That part.”

“You know,” she said. “Deal with it. Stabby, stabby with the stakes. We’ve done it dozens of times before. I don’t know why you’re acting like this one is different.”

I caught her smirking as she said it, that shit-eating grin she gets when she knows she’s saying something careless and utterly improbable.

“I mean, I think this time’s a little different,” I offered.

“A little,” she conceded.

“That’s the part I need help with,” I said.

She shrugged, pulling on her tactical vest. I love the way it hugs her, hosters lined up against her breasts. Is there anything as sexy as boobs and bullets? No. No, there is not.

Not that guns would do us a lot of good where we were going. I knew we’d take them anyway. Trust me, if you’ve got to get away quick, you feel better doing it with a gun in your hand. But all the coverfire in the world wouldn’t save us if this thing went sideways.

She picked up a stake.

“Ah, yes,” I said. “Stabby, stabby.”

She nodded. “See? Basically the same.”

“Except,” I clarified, “this time we’re going up against royalty. The heads of the oldest clan in the new world. They’re stronger. They’re quicker. There are at least a dozen of them. And they live in a fucking castle. A castle in the middle of Texas. We’ve never taken on anyone as strong them, so I think it’s a little more complicated than normal.”

She maneuvered around the table, pushing supplies and assorted weapons to the side. Her hips grazed the edge. Her ass found its way onto the surface, her legs wrapping around me and pulling me in.

Because that’s what she does. She’s a siren and this is her song. Her fingertips grazed the outside curve of my right breast, one hand high and the other sliding down my lower back until she finds something to grab onto.

She kissed me. It was hard and wet and strong. She bit my lip as she pulled back, a coppery taste lingering where she pierced the skin.

“See, the thing is,” she whispered, “this is what we do. And we don’t stop because it’s hard. We don’t shy away when others would. Fuck that. We rise up. It’s what we do.”

I could feel my nipples getting hard at the sound her words and I went light-headed because I knew. I knew what would happen next.

It was all too much.

Too much to resist. Too much to ignore. Too much to walk away from, no matter what common sense dictated.

“What we do,” I heard myself repeat.

“Yes,” she purred. “What we do. So get your gear and get your ass in the car. We have vamps to kill.”

Fuck me. I can hear tornado sirens in my head and I don’t care.

It’s too much and not enough, all at the same time.

Flash Fiction

It’s been a while. Too long.

I know. Things I’ve said before. But I mean it. I used to publish here every week, and life kind of forced a pause on that. A lot has changed, but I miss the writing. I intend to start it up again, slowly, like easing into freezing waters.

How very poetic of me. Look at that. I already sound like someone trying to sound like a writer. Some things don’t change.

This week’s prompt is from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘crate’, ‘nerve’, and ‘simultaneous’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

Let’s do this.

the crate

I stood in front of the crate for at least 5 minutes, trying to work up the nerve.

In the end, I didn’t even do it. There was this noise, like a wounded animal, and a simultaneous thump from inside. Hard.

The wood splintered and cracked, and I just stood there, eyes closed, while whatever was inside came. I could feel it breathing on me, smell the stench of its breath, before it howled and took off.

I don’t know where it went. I don’t want to know.

I hope I’m never near that thing again.

Flash Fiction

It’s been far too long since I posted any fiction. Time to change that, though I’m easing back in with something super-short. Just 98 words.

The prompt comes from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘floss’, ‘history’ and ‘sketch’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

I hope you enjoy it.

the dentist

“Have you been flossing?” he asked with a little too much trill in his voice. His patient did not answer.

“You know the history of dental care, don’t you?” he continued. “A great deal of it was extraction.”

He tugged hard and another tooth popped free.

“A bit sketchy, really. I mean, it does nothing for gum disease.”

Tug. Pop.

“Just primitive.”

He wiped his blood-soaked fingers.

“It’s a good thing we got that tongue first. I have so much more room.”

His patient moaned in protest, but it would do no good.

“Now, where is my drill?”

Adam Savage

What follows is an explanation of cosplay as shared by Adam Savage during a TED Talk. I found this little gem on Imgur and simply transcribed it. If you’d like to see it with the images, you can find it here. If you’d like to listen to the entire TED Talk, that’s here.

This beautiful exploration of cosplay gets to the heart of what fiction – what art – is all about.

I never truly understood Cosplay until Adam Savage explained it for me.

It’s not called “costuming” at conventions. It’s called “cosplay.” Ostensibly, cosplay means people who dress up as their favorite characters from film and television and especially anime, but it is so much more than that.

These aren’t just people who find a costume and put it on. They mash them up, they bend them to their will, they change them to be the character they want to be in those productions. They’re super clever and genius. They let their freak flag fly, and it’s beautiful . . .

So I put together a No-Face costume [from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away], and I wore it on the floor at Comic-Con. And I very carefully practiced No-Face’s gestures. When people asked to take my picture, I would nod and shyly stand next to them and they would take the picture and then I would secret out from behind my robe a chocolate gold coin and at the end of the photo process I’d make it appear for them, and people were freaking out.

“Holy crap! Gold from No-Face! Oh my God!”

This is so cool. I’m feeling it. I’m walking the floor and it’s fantastic. About 15 minutes in something happens.

Somebody grabs my hand and then puts a coin back into it and I think maybe they’re giving me a coin as a return gift, but no, this is one of the coins that I’m giving away. I don’t know why. And I keep on going and I take some more pictures and then it happens again.

Understand, I can’t see anything inside this costume. I can see through the mouth. I can see people’s shoes. I can hear what they’re saying and I can see their feet. But the third time someone gives me back a coin, I wanna know what’s going on, so I sort of tilt my head back to get a better view, and what I see is someone walking away from me like this…

Walk Away

And then it hits me.

It’s bad luck to take gold from No-Face. In the film Spirited Away, bad luck befalls those who take gold from No-Face. This isn’t a performer-audience relationship. This is cosplay.

We are, all of us on that floor, injecting ourselves into a narrative that meant something to us, and we’re making it our own. We’re connecting with something important, and the costumes are how we reveal ourselves to each other.

I’ve been away too long. And yet, it’s justifiable. Even understandable.

My schedule is packed, juggling a full-time gig, a graduate program, freelance writing, and trying to maintain at least a little bit of balance for downtime. Something had to give, and lately it’s been my writing here.

But the site hasn’t been abandoned. I will post when I can. I can’t and won’t promise the kind of consistency I had for years – not until school is done in January, at least. But I don’t want anyone thinking I’ve just taken off.

Not at all.

I’ve been working my way through Creativity, Inc. Written by the president of Pixar, Ed Catmull, the book chronicles the rise of the animation giant. Pixar is known for top quality films and an unrelenting passion for high-quality art. Catmull is central to Pixar’s story, of course.

He has a lot to say about the concept of ego, but most of it can be boiled down to the statement above.

A big part of Pixar’s culture is rooted in candid feedback, regardless of rank, department or involvement in the specific project. Basically, everyone there is committed to making the best films possible. Constructive criticism is a necessary part of that process.

As he tells Pixar’s story, it’s hard not to think, “Well, yeah. Obviously.” And then someone reads something I wrote and points out a potential weak spot, and I immediately think, “Hmph. Clearly you don’t get it.”

But in those moments, I’m the one who doesn’t get it.

Do you want your art to be great? Do you want to produce the best stuff you can possibly produce? Then you have to be okay with candid feedback. In fact, you need to seek it out.

Don’t just ask for feedback from people who will tell you your work is amazing because, of course it’s amazing. You did it. Don’t seek out consistent nay-sayers, either. Seek out people who aren’t shy about giving you frank reactions.

What do they like? What don’t they like? What feels right? What feels wrong?

And whatever they say, put your ego on the shelf. Listen and then, from a non-defensive place, consider their input.

Candid feedback is the only kind of feedback that helps artists grow. If your ego can’t handle that, it won’t invalidate your talent, but it may keep your talent from developing further.

Flash Fiction

This week, another redo. I promise to bring you something fresh next week.

But first, I’d like to revisit one of my favorite short stories. It’s simple and quick, with a nice little reveal at the end. I like the punchiness of it.

I made only minor edits to the original. Enjoy.

tender embrace

“You’re mucking it all up,” he said.

“That’s a point of view,” she replied.

“No, that’s a fact.”

She sighed. “I forget how difficult it is for your kind to distinguish perception from reality.”

“Perception is reality,” he said.

“Thank you for making my point.”

He opened his mouth to speak and then thought better of it. After a moment’s reflection, he wagged his index finger and said, “None of that. None of your riddling. I’ll not allow you to turn this into a war of words.”

She smiled benevolently at him. “What sort of war would you prefer, sir?”

He blustered, his hands forming fists and his cheeks turning red. Along the left side of his forehead, just above the eyebrow, the thick thread of a single vein could be seen. It looked ready to burst.

He held a book in his right hand. Reflexively, he lifted it and began to sift through its pages.

“That trinket will do you no good here, sir,” she said casually.

“Trinket? Why, this is–”

“I know full well what it is. I don’t come to your home and insult your intelligence. I’ll thank you to show me the same courtesy.”

“No,” he said. “You merely come to my home and kill people.”

It can be so difficult to explain to a human, she thought. “I don’t kill.”

He hefted the book before his face with two hands as though its weight required a double grip. “I said in the cutting off of my days,” he read, “I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.”

She made a small gesture and the book lifted out of his hands. He stared at it, awed and terrified. She made a second gesture and the book closed on its own and floated to her.

“What makes you think I’m the one who deprives you?” she asked.

His eyes remained transfixed on the book.

“This,” she said looking down at it. Her fingertips ran along the leather spine. “Yes, this is sacred. This is truth. This is so much more and so much less than your kind understands. What it says about me most of all. Sir, answer me, why do you blame me? Why seek me out? Why try to stop me from performing my duty?”

“You are the enemy of man,” he said. “You must be stopped.”

She smiled at him again, not unkindly. “Let me ask you a question. You say you sought me out?”

“Yes.”

“To stop me?”

“Yes.”

“Under what circumstances would I meet with a man, face-to-face?”

He recoiled in shock. “No . . .”

She moved forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. Looking gently into his eyes, she said, “Yes, my dear, sweet, noble man. Yes. It is already done, else you would not be here.”

And then Death wrapped her arms around him and held him tight in her tender embrace.

Flash Fiction

I’m sorry for the fiction hiatus. It’s been a long month, full of ups and downs. Most weeks I’ve just been too drained. I’ve started a few stories, but finished none.

And this week, I’m cheating. Sort of. I’m dusting off an old story originally published on my site all the way back in 2012. I’d forgotten about it, but I like it. Quite a lot, actually. It’s got a nice sense of balance.

So, with a few edits, here it is. Enjoy it, and forgive the repeat. It’s not like you’ve read the original, anyway.

leaving the fold

“Ester, you must go to The Binding. You must. Jedidiah will be sorely vexed if you do not.”

Ester looked into Rahab’s eyes. She’d known Rehab all her life. Until three weeks ago, she’d never spent more than a few hours outside her company. That was before she wander away from the group in town. They were buying supplies.

That’s where she met Eddie.

“You were named for a whore,” Ester told Rahab. “Have you ever thought to ask your Pa why he named you that?”

Rahab recoiled from the words. “She’s in the geneology of Matthew,” she whispered. “She saved God’s people.”

“And she was a whore.”

Rahab’s lip quivered, her eyes filling with tears.

“The Binding . . .” Rahab said, still reeling.

“I’m not going.”

“But you’re promised to Jedidiah. You’re to be his wife.”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“But the elders have decided it. It is God’s will. It is God’s way. It is –”

“Not my choice. I’m not going.” Ester looked into Rahab’s eyes. Her friend was badly shaken. She sighed.

That first day, meeting Eddie, it had been the same way for her.

“What the fuck you dressed that way for?” he asked.

Her cheeks turned red at the use of the devil’s tongue, but she talked to him anyway. Perhaps her heart was already gone, even before her feet were willing to follow. It certainly hadn’t taken Eddie long to convince her.

She only wanted a few things – a necklace that had been her mother’s, a couple of dresses, just until she could get some normal clothes, and her dowry. It was, after all, more than ten grand. Enough to buy freedom and a new life.

“You can come with me, Rahab. If you want.”

“What? Leave home? Leave the fold?”

“It’s all shit anyway,” Ester said.

“Such profanity!”

“They’re just words. Come with me. Please.”

“I can’t.” Rahab’s tears dried at the idea of betrayal.

“You can and you should. All of this is bullshit.”

“Why do you keep saying things like that?”

“Because they’re true. Rahab, you don’t have to be Bound to Seth. You could make your own choices. Think about it. Isn’t that what you think God really wants? For you to choose? This life – the way we’re forced to live – this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.”

“You’ve become an abomination!” Rahab declared.

Ester closed her bag and shook her head, defeated. She moved toward the door, preparing to slip out into the night.

“You’ll burn,” Rahab said, her voice flat with judgment and finality. “You’ll burn in hell if you leave the fold, and I’ll not weep for you.”

Ester closed her eyes. She wanted to hug Rahab, but she did not. Instead she simply said, “I’ll weep for you,” and left.