Tag Archives: Flash fiction

The West Wind’s Daughter

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I’d like to announce the publication of my flash fiction fantasy story, “The West Wind’s Daughter” on the Theme of Absence’s website. You can read it here The West Wind’s Daughter

 

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Wish

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“Danny doesn’t like blue,” Cara said, tugging on Amanda’s hand.

“But it’s not all blue,” Amanda said, holding the sheet set down for her daughter’s appraisal. “See, there are white clouds and yellow stars.”

“But the sky is blue.”

“Of course the sky is blue,” Amanda said.

“Blue gives Danny nightmares and when he has nightmares, he wakes me up,” Cara said.

Amanda sighed, replacing the sheets once more among its brethren and strode along the aisle, Cara in tow.

“And that’s why you tore your sheets?” Amanda asked.

Screaming had woke them in the early morning hours. They found Cara’s room a complete mess, cotton ribbons strewn about, the mattress and pillows bare while Cara sat in the middle of the floor, shivering and wide-eyed.

“Danny did it.”

“You’re too old to have an imaginary friend. Just tell me what’s bothering you,” Amanda said.

She halted and crouched to her daughter’s level. Large brown eyes stared at her, slightly puzzled and a little hurt.

“Why don’t you believe me, Mama?”

“Because nothing is invisible, baby.”

“The air, chameleons and the Klingons’ Birds of Prey are invisible,” Cara said.

Amanda blinked and burst into laughter. Drawing Cara into her arms, she kissed her daughter’s head, still chuckling.

“Got me there, and you are spending way too much time watching movies with Daddy,” Amanda said.

“These!”

Cara wiggled out Amanda’s embrace and dashed several feet down the aisle. She spun, facing Amanda, a set of sheets clutched to her chest. Amanda unfolded and joined her daughter. Taking the set from Cara, Amanda studied the field of vivid yellow covered with a pattern in neon pink and orange paisley swirls and purple peace signs.

“Really?”

“Yep, they’re perfect. Danny loves them,” Cara said.

“These would give me nightmares.”

Grasping Cara’s hand, Amanda began the trek to the check out lines, weaving through the labyrinth of aisles. Cara chattered happily, though Amanda couldn’t understand what her daughter said. Each time she halted and asked Cara about it, her daughter only scowled as if Amanda was wasting her time and said:

“I wasn’t talking to you, Mama.”

“Those sure are bright, huh?” The cashier grinned as Amanda handed the sheets to her.

“She inherited her father’s lack of taste,” Amanda said. “He has a pea green suit I’ve buried in the depths of the closet.”

The cashier chuckled and rang the set up. Amanda paid for the sheets, tucked the purchase into her shopping bag and grabbed Cara’s hand.

“Have a nice day,” the cashier said.

“Thanks, I hope so. You too,” Amanda said, walking away.

Amanda slowed her pace as they exited the store, her heart lodging in her throat. On the sidewalk bordering the parking lot, a clown capered, a bouquet of balloons in her hand. Amanda swallowed, her hand squeezing Cara’s.

“A clown!” Cara bounced, pointing. “Can we get a balloon?”

“I don’t know.” Amanda eyed the cavorting creature garbed in silk motley. Unease coiled in her belly. “Why don’t we just go home and I’ll make us some lunch?”

Cara pouted and tugged on Amanda’s hand, refusing to move. They stood halfway between the store’s entrance and the cluster of cars in the parking lot. Amanda spied her car twenty feet beyond the clown. She sighed, giving in to the inevitable.

“Hello,” the clown said.

Amanda cringed, staring at the impossibly wide painted mouth.

“Can we have some balloons?” Cara asked.

“Sure can,” the clown said.

She picked out three strings from the others gathered in her hand, giving one to Amanda. Crouching, the clown grinned and gave the other two to Cara.

“You’re very lucky. This one here is my fiftieth,” the clown said, tugging on the string of the red balloon. It danced above Cara’s head. “And it’s special.”

“It is? How?”

“If you pop it after saying a wish aloud, your wish will come true,” the clown said, her gaze flickering to the empty air to Cara’s right.

“Wow,” Cara said, eyes wide.

“Thank you,” Amanda said, pulling Cara away.

“Thanks, clown lady.” Cara tried waving with the hand holding the balloons, they jostled and bobbed, rubbing together.

“You’re very welcome.”

Amanda’s hand delved into her coat pocket, searching for the keys as they neared the car.

“Mama?”

“What?”

“Can I borrow your pin?”

“Hmm?” Amanda frowned, withdrawing her keys. “What for?”

“I want to make a wish,” Cara said.

It would be one less balloon in the car on the ride home. She handed Cara her balloon, slid the keys back into her pocket and began to remove the decorative pin on her lapel. As she worked the clasp, Amanda glanced at the balloons Cara held. Three shiny balloons, not two.

“Why did she give us three?”

“One for you, one for Danny and the special one for me,” Cara said, passing the other balloons to Amanda.

“Don’t be silly. Danny doesn’t exist.”

Cara glowered at Amanda. She wound the string around her hand, lowering it.

“I wish Mama could see Danny,” Cara said, jabbing the pin into the balloon.

The thin flesh popped, resounding across the parking lot. Amanda gasped.

A white furry creature towered over her. Tiny, leathery wings sprouted from its back. Amanda’s gaze traveled up the torso, and she found herself staring into a pair of large, black eyes. Cat ears flattened as its pink nose twitched nervously.

“This is Danny.”

Danny grinned, the smile nearly consuming the lower half of his face. Sunlight glinted on dagger-like teeth.

Amanda screamed, her hands fluttering to her mouth.

Free of her hold, the balloons drifted to the sky. Two specks of color soon lost among the blue.

 

This is Dreaming Blithely’s 50th post! Thank you all and I hope you enjoyed the story. 🙂

 

 

 

The Old Witch

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“I hate living like this!” Disgusted, Jaspa tossed the can of tomatoes to the floor, spilling the contents.

“Starve then,” Jaspa’s mother said, trying to salvage the tomatoes.

“Can’t afford to be picky,” her father said, digging into a can of beans.

“Why can’t we settle somewhere? I miss having hot meals.”

“And become Scavenger bait? No thank you, I’m attached to my skin,” her father said.

“The light and smoke of a fire draws attention.”

“I want chocolate and a decent bed.” Jaspa pouted, crossing her arms over her chest.

Her parents exchanged exasperated glances.

“The Old Witch would know how to conjure chocolate and I bet she has a bed soft enough to ease her bones,” Jaspa said.

Worried glances passed between her parents.

“She’s all safe in her apartment building. No one dares to bother her,” Jaspa said.

“For good reason,” her father said.

“Her magic is the dark sort,” her mother said.

“I’m going to see her,” Jaspa said, standing.

“No you are not!” Her mother stood, putting her hands on her hips and staining her grimy shirt with tomato juice.

“She’ll take me as an apprentice,” Jaspa said.

“She’ll bake you into a pie,” her father said.

Jaspa snatched her backpack from the concrete and slipped her arms through the straps. She grinned at her parents, sure of her quest.

“If you leave you are no child of ours,” her mother said.

“I thought our common sense would have been inherited,” her father said, shaking his head.

“Fine,” Jaspa said, chin lifting as her eyes stung. “When I am an all powerful witch and you two are dying of starvation I’m not going to help you.”

“It’s been nice knowing you,” her father said. “I wish it was for longer.”

“Wait and see,” Jaspa said and stormed out of their hiding place behind the dumpsters.

Gritting her teeth, she was determined not to turn back as she reached the mouth of the darkened alley. Sunset colored the sky in fiery shades, causing the ruined city to become a silhouette of black spires. Fear snaked through Jaspa, her steps tentative. She had never been on her own. Inhaling, Jaspa bolstered her courage and strode onto the debris littered street.

She stuck to the sidewalk, staying close to the safety of the buildings. Her body was tense, waiting for the slightest sign of one of the bands of Scavengers that plagued the ruins. They’d kill her in a heartbeat, scouring her belongings for anything useful and leave her corpse to rot with the detritus abandoned by humanity. Jaspa’s gaze flickered constantly, trying to probe the shadows of alleys and doorways for movement.

The distant sounds of gunshots sent her skittering into an unlocked corner store. She ducked below the window display, her heart hammering against her ribs. Voices echoed, the words mangled as they resounded through the streets. Jaspa raised herself and peered out, her pulse roaring in her ears.

A band of people spilled into the crosswalk, semi-automatics slung across their backs and pistols in their hands. Jaspa slid down, her breath coming in gasps.  She stared at the shadowy interior, praying they would move along without investigating the store. More shots caused her jump, the loud reports too close for comfort. She slithered across the floor, her pack jiggling on her back.

Once in the safety of the shadows, Jaspa crouched and began weaving through the aisles. There had to be a back door, and those words looped in her head. It was a mantra to keep her focused, to keep the panic at bay. She almost cried out in relief, spying the exit sign over a blue metal door set into the wall. Rushing to it, she pushed, finding it unlocked.

Jaspa stumbled into the alley. Turning, she raced to the end of the alley and bolted across the street, not stopping until she reached the Old Witch’s abode.

Stars pinned the twilit sky, and the late spring breeze cooled Jaspa’s cheeks as she bounded up the steps and opened the door.

Candlelight illuminated the cavernous lobby with a soft golden glow. Closing the door stirred the air, causing shadows to leap and dance upon the wall. Jaspa shivered, her stomach knotting. Gathering her courage, Jaspa stalked to the stairwell and began her ascent.

                                                                                           

The Old Witch’s suite reeked of smoke and something sickly-sweet. Jaspa trembled, her muscles rubbery. Glass French doors separated the living room from the bedroom and as Jaspa approached, the hair on the nape of her neck rose. Through the rippled glass, she spied a creature of fire and bones. Hands shaking, she turned the doorknobs and entered the room. She had come too far to turn back.

Before her sat an old woman, skin papery and time worn. A gentle smile played upon the witch’s lips while kind blue eyes regarded Jaspa with surprise.

“Hello, dear.”

Jaspa inched closer, shivering with fear and cold. The paltry fire in the hearth flickered as a draft toyed with it.

“Goodness, child, why are you quaking so?”

“I have seen…things on my way here,” Jaspa said, her voice wavering. “A man covered in black dust.”

“Only the charcoal man,” the Old Witch said, gesturing at the fire.

“And a man clothed in gray fur,” Jaspa said. She drew closer to the crone, relief chasing away the terror.

“That is the huntsman. He’s kind enough to supply me with meat.”

“Then there was a man covered in blood,” Jaspa said, quivering at the remembrance.

“My butcher,” the witch said.

“I spotted a fiery creature sitting here before I came in.”

“You’ve seen my true form, dear.” The Old Witch grinned. With a flourish of her hand, the witch transformed Jaspa into a block of wood and tossed it onto the fire.

As the flames cavorted, hungrily feasting upon the wood, the Old Witch chuckled.

“Finally, I will be warm.”

 

NOTE: This story is for a flash fiction challenge found on Chuck Wendig’s blog, terribleminds. It is a retelling of Grimm’s fairytale “The Old Witch” set in a dystopian world.  

 

 

 

Christmas Auntie

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Auntie looked away from the cozy interior. The couple within had made a show of merriness, although her heart told her differently. They desired the one thing that they had trouble creating more than any of the gifts piled under the tree. She trudged through the snow to a pristine bank, flakes whirling around her and glittering in the flickering lights on the Wilsons’ house. With a grin, Auntie began rolling balls of snow. She hummed as she worked, sculpting a form and smoothing edges.

Auntie held the object she made, cradled in one arm as she removed her shawl. She wrapped it in the embroidered red wool, snug as a babe, and kissed the bared bit of snow. Words whispered tumbled from her lips, the magic light on her tongue. Crying, the snow sculpture was born. Auntie peered into the rosy-cheeked face with joy, admiring her work.

“Shush now, love,” she said, cooing to the infant as she ambled to the Wilson’s front door. “They’ll give you their hearts, I promise and a better home you’ll never find.”

Auntie placed the bundle upon the doorstep and rang the bell. She faded into the shadows as the door opened. The warmth of answering a Christmas miracle flooded her.

“Where did she come from?” Jason asked.

“It doesn’t matter.” Mara’s gaze didn’t leave the cherub in her arms.

Auntie’s laughter mingled with the wind. She hefted her bag, slinging it over her shoulder and began her journey once more.

Gas Station Santa

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“Hello there,” Santa said to Cara as the elf lifted her onto his lap. Cara stared into Santa’s dark appraising eyes.

“Hi.” She looked around the store. Paper chains and flickering lights dangled from the ceiling, illuminating Santa in an eerie glow. A table along one wall was laden with toys. Her eyes lingered on a doll, her heart full of yearning.

“Do you know the meaning of Christmas?” Santa asked.

Cara turned to him her nose touching his. “It’s Jesus’ birthday.” Her gaze flickered to the doll.

“Are you an honest girl?” he asked. “Hell is filled with naughty liars.”

Cara nodded, transfixed by the shadowy fire of his eyes. Santa kissed her cheek.

“Smile!” The elf said.

Cara started at the camera flash and blinked her eyes to clear her vision. She felt herself pulled from Santa’s lap and set on her feet. The elf shoved a box into her hands.

“Had fun?” Cara’s mother asked, leading her out of the gas station. A bell rang overhead as they departed.

“Uh-huh,” Cara said. Santa’s words rang in her mind, making stomach lurch.

They climbed into the car, and Cara’s mother started the vehicle. Cold air blasted from the vents, slowly warming on the drive home. Cara studied the box in her lap. Inside was the doll she had admired, its empty blue eyes shining in the dashboard lights. Cara tucked it under the seat, away from her and out of sight.

 

*Author’s Note: This story is slightly autobiographical, but of course I exaggerated and condensed the experience. Also, when I met the Santa this tale is based on, it was in a butcher shop next to a convenience store. It wasn’t until I was an adult that it dawned on me how creepy that was.

The Gift

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Molly thundered down the stairs, her heart soaring with anticipation. Christmas morning had arrived. As she reached the bottom step, she jumped it and rushed into the living room. The glory of gifts awaited her, cascading out from the adorned tree. Molly squealed and dove into the treasure.

 
“You are supposed to wait for us,” her mother said with mock sternness, her eyes dancing.

 
“She’s our little monster.” Molly’s father entered the room with two mugs of steaming coffee. Mom laughed at the joke and took the cup Dad offered her.

 
“Let her open the big one first,” Molly’s mother said. Her father set his coffee aside and walked to the mountain of presents. Molly squirmed, barely able to contain her excitement. There was a rustle as her dad searched for the gift.

 
“I had forgotten how heavy this was.” Her father pushed aside the presents to unearth a long, large box wrapped in red and gold striped paper.

 
Molly didn’t wait for her father to move out of the way before attacking the present. She tore at the paper, revealing a black lacquered box. She grinned, opening the lid, and cried out, delighted.

 
Lying upon a bed of silk was girl near her own age, her face peaceful in death framed by dark doll-like ringlets. Molly had admired the girl several weeks ago when they went into the city to shop. She gazed up at her parents beaming with joy.

 
“She’s perfect,” Molly said. “I can’t wait to introduce her to the others.”

Pieces of You

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They are never quite the same. I pass by them on the streets, pale imitations of you. The hue of their hair doesn’t match, often darker or lighter than your auburn, that sweet fire that frames your face. I search for mementos that remind me of you: a lock of hair, an earring, a pair of glasses. Even a slender hand or a graceful leg. Sometimes, I can catch one. It’s easiest when they are alone, stepping out into the winter darkness after paying for gas or striding across a deserted parking lot, leaving a long day of work behind. Pretty birds that chirp when I cage them. They don’t chirp for long.

Siren Song

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I dreamed of her. I always dream of her. Every night it is the same.

 
I found myself in her garden washed in silver light. Flowers lined the stone walk, their heads bent in sleep. A breeze ruffled the grass, bringing her music to my ears. The dulcet notes danced along my skin, burrowing into me. They mingled with my blood, shining shards nestling into my brain. I raced forward, my heart soaring, my whole being fevered. The flowers blossomed as I rushed past, each center displaying a face framed by petals and each visage distorted in pain. They wept, blood cascading from their eyes.

 
“Turn back.” They sighed, their voices a harmony of a hundred lost souls. “You know not what you desire.”

 
I ignored their warnings for I knew they were false, flowers always lie. She stood, a Grecian statue come to life under the sweeping boughs of a willow. Moonlight and stardust, her hair undulated around her, caught in a fragrant wind. Her voice was the sweet call of undying love while her graceful fingers plucked the strings of a lute. She called to me and I hastened
toward her. All sweetness and promise, she smiled at me. Her hand beckoned me closer. I followed as she began to swan away.

 
It became a dance between us. She drifted deeper into the forest, casting smiles and coy challenges over a bare shoulder and I floated along, eagerly onward, crushing twigs that broke like bones underfoot. We entered a meadow, and she advanced toward the lake, her feet skimming across the surface of the crystalline pool. With her arms open, she turned, waiting for me. I flew toward her my heart near bursting with joy into the cold water. I held my arms out to her. She flowed into my embrace, nestling her head into the crook of my neck.

 
“Fool,” she said, her arms becoming iron bands about my chest.

 
I gasped and tried to pull away, the enchantment gone from my eyes. The meadow was a marsh, the water a rancid, vile green bog, and the bank littered with bones. A skull smirked at me. I screamed and she laughed, triumphant. Her face was gaunt, corpse skin stretched over sharp bones, her hair a mass of tangled weeds. The slick tendrils wound about my arms and neck, binding me closer to her. She drew me under the water, my open mouth choking on the viscous liquid. It invaded my nose, burning my lungs and I struggled but to no avail. She was stronger. Moonlight slanted through the bog, ghost fire streams, illuminating her face. She grinned, her jagged teeth set in black gums, tugging me downward. We spiraled, locked in a deadly embrace. Darkness encroached and I tumbled into oblivion.

 
I woke then. I dreamed of her. I always dream of her. Each night it is the same

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Arabella

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033 (2)The wind howled, coursing across the hollows of the cliff face and creating an eerie moan. The sea leapt against the rocky beach below, sending up sprays of foamy white, reaching for her, welcoming her. She gazed out over the endless horizon, gray water meeting gray sky until she couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began. The bare, skeletal tree beside her was her only companion on this lip above the ocean. She knew that they would soon part ways.

Arabella’s face burned from the blazing trail of tears she cried and from the merciless wind, cold and unforgiving. It tore at her hair, loosening strands of auburn from the silver net and grasped at her gown, the emerald silk billowed out behind her. Arabella did not care. She was dead inside.

Two days ago, she had been banished to her apartments, those rooms of opulent decorations, she herself but one more. A living statue of perfection, and like a statue, so easily transferred, sold to the highest bidder. She had hoped of a different life. A life with William, a life away from the coldness of  Marlowe Hall, a life on the shores of another country where she could be free to of her familial obligations, the confines of her ancestry and free to love whom she wished. Instead their plot was discovered and she was betrayed, and with much ado, her wedding day was drawn closer. William must have gone on without her after waiting for her at the grove. He must have left, and thought her heartless, to begin his venture which ended in the sea.

The Meridian Maid had sunk yesterday morn, the news given to her by Nell, her loyal traitor, a hand upon her arm, sorrowfully bleeding comfort and regret. Arabella had not believed it so, but as the day wore on, more news of the wreckage wandered to her ears and each tale was a needle in her heart.

Her parents had masked their joy with frowns of concern but still they arranged for her to marry Lord Ashford in two days’ time. Arabella had vowed to be no party to such a farce. She knew how she was esteemed in that gentleman’s eyes and it foretold a lonely, loveless future set amongst all the wealth of the two families combined. She’d be only a thing, a possession, a means to acquire more fortune. No life for her, there wasn’t a life left to live.

Arabella breathed in the brisk, briny air and sighed. She felt hollow, relieved to be so empty. If this was life without William then, she thought to herself, I do not wish to be a part of it any longer. Everything had become ridiculous and void of meaning and she was weary of it all.

She glanced back once more. Her home, no residence for it was never home, loomed above the line of trees, the dark, slate covered turrets trying to pierce the sky. A loathing rose within her. Arabella spat on the ground, cursing every soul born to a Marlowe that dared live in that house.

“May they always seek the comfort of love but never find it.” Arabella scowled. She tore at the net that bound her hair and tossed it behind her. The thing had been a present from her parents on the engagement to Lord Ashford and she had no desire for it to grace her corpse.

Arabella held the vision of William in her mind, his kind face, laughing eyes, and the open, generous heart always eager to give. She closed her eyes and rushed forward, vaulting into the air as her feet pushed against the rocky ground. The wind tore at her, clawing at her face and hands but she did not care. She felt a moment of utter freedom before she met the rocks and cold water of the ragged shore. The sea swept her away, welcoming her home.