The Indie Authors’ Advent Calendar opens again soon!
I know I’m late, very late again this year, but as you all know this hasn’t been your normal “run off the mill” year once more. Although things aren’t as bleak as they were last year, the prolonged problems seem to affect all my writer friend’s creativity (including my own). Just a few days ago, I only had 7 submissions. I’ve got more now, but still not the full 24 stories I’d hoped for.
So this year is going to be even bumpier than the last. I’m already sorry for this. I’ll make it up to you on Christmas Day, promised. This year, you’ll get two eBooks, the collected stories and bonuses and one of my short story collections.
Spread the word that it’s that time of the year again. The Indie Author’s Advent Calendar is open from December 1st on and you’re signed up for the daily alerts (BTW, if you get annoyed with the alerts but want the exclusive eBook at the end of the calendar, it would work to unsubscribe and then sign up again a day or two before Christmas *grin*).
Luckily someone reminded me of the quarterly bloghop, and I managed to write a story for it. Naturally, it is slightly spooky. It’s Halloween soon, after all. You’ll also get free short stories from the other participants. As usual there’s a list at the end of this post. Enjoy and leave a comment!
I hated the morning’s blinding light in my eyes, but welcomed it nonetheless for I must have missed the alarm. I just couldn’t afford to arrive late at work again, especially after the scary dream of how I had prepared for work. The details were fading, but I remembered the tube station and lots of people running my way.
My mouth tasted like something had died on my tongue, but I had no time to brush my teeth and wasn’t in the mood for coffee.
I left the house in a hurry. As I walked swiftly towards the tube station, I wondered if I’d locked the front door. I wasn’t quite sure.
The air smelled of lilacs that filled the tiny front gardens of my neighborhood. When was the last time, I’d noticed? Again, the sun blinded me.
The tube arrived just as I jogged up the last few steps to the raised platform. I entered behind a stocky man in suit and tie. Thankfully the car was nearly empty, but I still remained standing. There were always one or two people who ignored the unwritten rule of not looking directly at others. Some even wanted to talk, and that was something I abhorred this early in the morning.
My gaze traveled over the few people spaced out in the car. Some were reading, some used earphones and had their eyes closed, and a young girl, probably a teen on her way to school, looked in my direction. Her gaze went past me as if she hadn’t seen me at all. Perfect.
I got off at my usual stop, although I had trouble with the electric doorknob. It only did its duty when the schoolgirl pressed it. Maybe it didn’t like the sweat on my hands.
My throat constricted the closer I got to the office building where I worked. Hopefully I wasn’t too late. I needed the job to pay off the mortgage. I took the stairs to the third floor to avoid co-workers and my boss and managed to reach my place in the cube farm without anyone noticing. The scent of coffee hanging in the otherwise fetid air was particularly strong this morning.
Relieved I sank onto the ergonomic chair that came with the gray table and the computer in the cube and leaned back. I’d have to water my plant soon. It looked slightly droopy.
“Have you seen Finlay?” My boss’ voice sounded too close for comfort, so I bent over my keyboard and pretended to type although the computer wasn’t even running yet.
“Nope, not yet.” The voice of the co-worker in the next cubicle sounded annoyingly happy. “Maybe he’s late. There’ve been delays on the tube lines in his direction.”
“He’d better not.” The boss sounded annoyed, so I ducked even deeper. “Tell him to see me as soon as he shows up.”
My gaze wandered to the clock at the wall over the door to my boss’ office. Impossible! It was nearly time for lunch. A bright light reflected from the clock’s glass, and I had to close my eyes.
I stood in front of the Sludge Maker, as my co-worker called the coffee machine in the tiny, nondescript kitchen with its gray cupboards and counter top, and pondered whether I should pour myself a cup or not. I didn’t really like the stuff this machine produced.
Wait a moment. I’d forgotten to punch in. Leaving the Sludge Maker behind, I hurried toward the timer. Just as I left the kitchen, one of my co-workers entered. It was the petite brunette from the far corner that I’d admired secretly. And she didn’t see me.
Before I could step aside, she passed right through me. What the …
“Folks!” The boss’ voice rang over the low hubbub of the office and any noise died immediately. My co-workers stood up to better see him. I, too, turned toward him. Behind me, the petite brunette looked out of the kitchen. Her gaze tingled in my neck, but I didn’t turn. It was too creepy to be watched by a ghost.
“I am sorry to inform you,” the boss’ voice sounded strangely strangled, “that your co-worker Finlay Harper has passed away in the hospital after having a heart attack on the tube this morning. We will prepare …”
Not hearing the rest of what he had to say, I could feel my mouth hanging open, but my mind was too numb to do anything about it. Dead? I was the ghost, not the brunette? But … but … but …
A light, as bright as the sun—if one was stupid enough to look into it—appeared right in front of me. A dog barked. The scent of lilacs, cut grass, freshly brewed coffee, and rolls drifted toward me, and my father’s voice called, “Come on, son. What are you waiting for?”
As promised, here’s the quarterly bloghop story. You’ll get a free short story from me and more by the other participants. As usual there’s a list after my story. Enjoy and leave a comment!
The crystal at Eleanor’s window broke the light of the setting sun into rainbows that danced over her white walls. She squinted to read the letters of the newspaper article even tough she knew the text by heart.
“With squealing tires, the bus crashed through the barrier, headed for the long drop at the end of the half finished bridge. Driver and passengers were either deathly silent or screaming for their lives, when out of nowhere, a masked girl in her early teens and dressed in a multicolored spandex suit appeared. She flung her hands out, palms up, and a rainbow grew from the tarmac in front of the out of control Greyhound. The bus rolled over the colorful bridge to the other side of the river where it finally came to rest. By then, the girl was gone.”
“But Grandma, why didn’t she stay?” Billy always asked the same question. At five years it was hard to understand why one wouldn’t stay to get the reward one deserved.
“I wonder why she chose to save the bus.” Eight-year-old Walter pushed his glasses up. “Surely there were many other people she could have saved. But I guess this rescue was more spectacular. It did get a lot of media attention, didn’t it?”
“I’m quite sure that neither sweets nor marketing were on Rainbow Girl’s mind when she decided to help.” Eleanor patted the boys’ brown curls, reached for the purple bowl with the colorful chocolate eggs, and let them chose.
“I wonder why she stopped saving people,” Walter said with his mouth full. “Let’s say she was somewhere between ten and twelve when she started, she was barely seventeen when she stopped.”
Now this was a good question for someone who hadn’t been in love yet. Eleanor smiled her approval. Time would teach him that barely noticed miracles often had far greater impact.
“Maybe her mom scolded her and she didn’t dare any longer.” Billy reached for a second sweet, looking askance at Eleanor. She nodded – approving the sweets, not his theory.
“Why do you keep all these articles anyway?” Jessica lowered her book, a pained look on her face. “Those stories are nearly sixty years old, and not one appearance of Rainbow Girl has been proven beyond a doubt.” It seemed that as the oldest, she had made it her duty to stop believing.
“She was real enough for me.” Eleanor picked a piece of chocolate and unwrapped it. “Keeping the articles is bringing back my youth. None of you will understand this for a long time yet.” She savored the bittersweet flavor of the semi-dark chocolate. It tasted like life.
“Will you read us another one?” Billy looked up at her with the biggest, brownest eyes a child had ever had, melting Eleanor’s heart. He would become a heart-breaker for sure.
“I’m quite tired, dear.” Her age and the cancer were nothing that could be healed with a rainbow here or some glitter there. “Maybe your sister will. What do you think, Jess?”
“Grandma!” Jess put her book aside and swiped a strand of her long, brown tresses behind her ear. “Those stories only put stupid ideas in their heads.”
“You’re reading lies already, and you seem to enjoy them.” Eleanor pointed to the fantasy novel on the small table beside Jess. Had she been this contrary as a teen? “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
“Shakespeare has been dead forever. What does he know?” Jess got up and held out her hand to Billy. “Let’s get dinner ready, boys. Mom will be home soon.”
“Aww.” Billy slipped from Eleanor’s footstool and took Jess’ hand with slumped shoulders.
“Well, I wish she were real.” Walter kissed Eleanor on the cheek and followed his siblings. Just before the three of them left Eleanor’s little realm, a rainbow slid over Jess’ dark hair, causing a multicolored corona around her head.
Smiling, Eleanor leaned back, closed her eyes to her personal pool of rainbows, and allowed the warmth of her love to flood her fragile body. It was good to know that the magic had only skipped a generation.
Here’s my newest release. From 19th of April on, you can now get the third fairy tale retellings bundle on Amazon (Yes, this time it’s even in KU). It will also be available at the other retailers in 90 days. If you haven’t read the tales yet, go and get them:
Today, you’ll also get a free short story from me and I hope you’ll like it. As usual there’s a list of more participants of this BlogHop after my story. Enjoy and leave a comment!
A Day to Remember
The first of April was the first sunny and warm day of the year. Of course the family decided to eat on the terrace. The sky was blue as my baby nephew’s eyes with small white clouds sauntering slowly across it. Birds were singing everywhere, not just in my parent’s garden, and the apple, cherry, and pear tree lifted clouds of white and purple blooms toward the sun.
I loved the day – until my gaze fell on two small red spheres in the midst of the cherry flowers. Cherries? At this time of the year? Impossible! It had to be something else. I set down the pile of plates I’d been carrying to the outside table, turned, and walked closer to the tree.
My jaw dropped. An elephant the size of a small car sat on one of the branches. It’s light gray skin merged perfectly with the flowers. When it turned its red eyes to me, I stumbled backward.
“Folks!” I called. “Hey, folks! You gotta see this.”
“What’s it?” My brother called back. He was just distributing the plates I’d abandoned.
“There’s a bloody elephant in our cherry tree!”
“Yea, sure.” He laughed and kept working. “Nicely played though.”
His kids came running, wanting to know where the elephant was, but when I tried to point it out to them, it was gone, no matter how much I tried to find it again. The kids were rather disappointed.
“That wasn’t a very funny April Fool’s joke,” the eldest, my ten year old niece, said.
“I’d so wanted to see the elephant.” My youngest niece hugged me. “I’m sorry it’s gone now.”
I watched them race over the bloom-covered lawn, avoiding clusters of daffodils and spring snowflakes as well as the sagging crocuses and snowdrops without even trying.
When I turned to glance at the cherry tree a last time, the elephant reappeared as it opened its eyes. Did it really turn invisible when it closed its eyes?
“Neat trick, ey?” It winked at me.
It took me a full minute to regain my wits. Then, I asked, “Why?” And when it didn’t answer, I expanded on the question. “Why did you do that?”
It giggled. It was the strangest sound I’d ever heard, a mix between a blocked trumpet and the squeal of a mouse.
The elephant spread its big ears and jumped off the branch, floating in the air above me. With its trunk, it patted the crown of my head. “April Fools!”
It flapped its ears, and soared into the sky, vanishing in but a heartbeat. And I stood there, staring after it, wondering how it knew where to fly with its eyes closed.
More participants of the BlogHop and their stories:
Pst, it’s me again. You can now get my fairy tale retellings in four bundles with really cool covers. Each omnibus got a brand new, never before published bonus story. If you haven’t read the tales yet, go and get them:
Today, you’ll get a free short story from me. I was asked to include: Valentine or Love or Anti-Love, Cat, Grimoire and Fire. I hope you’ll like what I came up with. Again there’s a list of more participants of this BlogHop after my story. Enjoy and leave a comment!
Heart of Fire
Going to the Witch Hunt Remembrance Fire with Gregory had been Jackie’s desire since she’d been allowed to go the first time at age thirteen. Two years later, her biggest dream was about to come true.
Fighting her elation, she’d put on her best black dress—the one that looked least sun-bleached—and even found a purple scarf with matching stockings that would go with it. Unfortunately there wasn’t much she could do about her squished witch’s hat or her sturdy boots. With the family finances like they were, she had to wear what they could afford.
How had Gregory noticed her? Normally, he only hung out with the in-crowd. It didn’t matter. He was going to take her along as his partner, not any of the other girls.
Wrapped in a wide, black cloak she’d inherited from her gran—one of the last True Witches—Jackie waited for her beau. Her heart beat frantically when the limousine stopped in front of her house.
But no one opened the door for her, and when she climbed inside on her own, the long interior room with the dark blue velvet seats was empty. Even the tinted glass between her and the driver was closed. She’d never felt this lonely. The disappointment gnawed at her heart.
Just as she was about to step back out, the limousine drove off. The door closed with a thud, and Jackie fell into one of the soft velvet seats.
The sound came from one of the hidden compartments near the front of the long room, and the order was indisputable. Wrapped as tightly into her cape as possible, Jackie opened the small door, ready for a furred fury to attack anyone in sight. She’d never been particularly good with familiars.
But the cat—a black tom with white front paws—just walked out, tail held high and meowed again as if to say, “What took you so long?” It turned and stared at Jackie.
A few heartbeats later, the limousine stopped and the door was ripped open.
“There’s tonight’s princess!” Gregory’s voice was like honey and made her knees wobble.
The tom mewed in disdain, scratching the extended hand before Jackie could grab it.
“Yikes, why did you bring that monster?” Gregory sucked at his fingers while Jackie climbed out of the limousine.
“He isn’t mine. He was locked in a compartment.” Why did she have the feeling she had to defend herself?
Gregory grunted and took her upper arm. None too gently, he pulled her on the path uphill, toward the bonfire. As tradition demanded, it burnt in a ring of stones on top of an airy hill next to a spring. All four elements combined were the token that the witch hunts would never return. By the elements, the last few True Witches had made peace with the None Talented a century or so ago.
Jackie was looking forward to dancing around the fire. When the flames died down, those whose powers had already manifested would jump through the flames, the others would wait to jump the glowing embers.
Jackie loved the flames. In her family most members were fire witches. She breathed in the aromatic scent of smoking wood. It seemed to be calling for her, but no. It was just the dratted cat, hissing at Gregory.
Only when they neared the groups of teens dancing around the flames did she notice that no adults were around.
Where were the supervisors? She would never have gotten permission to come if the school hadn’t promised to bring in supervisors. And Gregory’s grip on her arm was beginning to hurt. Just as she was about to turn to head home—even with Gregory by her side she wasn’t ready to face the school bullies without adults nearby—two heavily built young men approached. Thank the Mother, Gregory has brought his bodyguards to protect me. Jackie relaxed as they stepped beside her.
“You’re sure about this?” Gregory asked someone behind Jackie.
“Witches take up to fifteen minutes to catch fire.” It was Dina’s voice, and it seemed to douse Jackie in ice water.
Gregory nodded to his bodyguards. Four strong hands grabbed Jackie’s arms. And before she could so much as protest, she flew into the heart of the fire.
The heat and the smoke from the burning timbers stung on her skin and made breathing hard. She teared up. Tendrils of fire seemed to wrap around her arms and legs, prolonging the flight. Hot air whipped up her hair and made it dance.
Meow! The tom jumped after her, and they hit the white hot coals throwing up a shower of sparks. Jackie fell forward and her hand landed on a searingly hot pebble. Still her fingers closed around it instinctively. To examine it, she blinked away her tears. They dropped onto the hot stone with tiny hisses, their vapor licked up by flames and carried away by the hot air.
Then the pebble changed. It expanded, grew rectangular and flat and softened to the touch. The corners turned to gilded metal. A grimoire? Only the rare True Witches owned one.
Jackie was so excited, she didn’t notice the fire’s discomfort any longer.
“I knew it,” the tom said. “From the moment I set my eyes on you, I knew you’re a True Witch. One of the few that can balance all four elements.”
“You can talk?” All of a sudden, Gregory, Dina, and all the others were farther away than the moon.
“How else do you expect me to teach you?” The tom sat down and began to lick his up-stretched hind leg. “Aren’t you going to punish them?”
“Now, that sounds like a really good idea.” Jackie grinned and pulled the fire to her. Flicker by glow by flame, it came to her, climbed her legs, spread over her body, her face, her hair, and her arms. Like a living torch, she stepped off the bonfire.
Gregory turned paler than the white sand of the sea, and if not for his bodyguards, he would have dropped where he stood. They carried him downhill as fast as they could. Following them, Dina screamed like a banshee as she ran. Most of the other kids fled too. Only a few reached for blankets and the fire extinguisher valiantly.
Before they could do anything, Jackie sent the flames back to the bonfire.
“All the better for us,” she said to the stunned helpers and pointed to the long table covered with delicacies. “Let’s party!”
The tom stalked off the bonfire and sat beside her. “I’m quite proud you didn’t hurt anyone.”
“They’ll be running home to mommy and daddy, wailing about murdering me.” Jackie spoke with a new spark in her voice. “Let them get themselves into trouble for a while.”
“I knew, you’d be the right kind of witch for me.” The tom lolled his tongue and it looked just like he was laughing.
More participants of the BlogHop and their stories:
Nothing can be more scary than the events of 2020 so far, and there isn’t much we can do about it except struggle to protect ourselves and the people around us. However, we might find a little happiness in reading some cool flash stories where the scariness is twisted and utterly not-2020-real. So without further ado, here are my story and the ones from 10 other participants of 2020’s Halloween Bloghop.
Enjoy the season (and my story) and as always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
The Witch at the End of the Road
Halloween is a nightmare for me. Mom always forces me to join tight-knit groups of friends that don’t want me, and I hate to pretend to be happy, collecting sweets. This year is worse than usual. She shoves me toward the group of bullies from my school. My arms, back, and legs are still hurting from the lashing she gave me when I begged her to let me stay home.
To my surprise, the trick-or-treating goes smoothly at first, even though the others’ none too gentle nudges hurt. But then Gordon tells us of the witch at the end of the road.
“She turns candy into stones.” His gleeful stare finds me. I shiver with dread. Not because of the witch—we wouldn’t go there if she existed—but due to the promise of lost sweets in his gaze. The closer we get to the witch’s house, the faster my heart beats. I struggle to join the chorus, but my painful bruises remind me of Mom’s anger and I go on.
“You first,” Gordon pushes me up the steps. There are potted plants on the porch and a black cat with white paws. I nearly wet my pants. This is it! I’ll lose my sweets, and Mom will be furious. I search for a solution in vein and ring the doorbell with trembling fingers.
A lady older than any I’ve ever seen opens the door.
“There you are!” Her voice is surprisingly friendly. “Been waiting for you, lazybones.”
I start speaking and stop when I notice no one falls in. Looking around, the boys are staring open-mouthed and motionless at the lady.
“Not spellbound?” She winks at me. “So you’re kin, ey? Interesting.” She turns to the others and taps Gordon on the forehead. “You will stop hurting people. Find joy in the woods.”
He walks away with glazed eyes. The lady taps every boy and gives them a command, and they file away silently. Witches do exist after all. I’m mesmerized.
When she turns to me, fear freezes my blood. Although I want to run, my legs don’t move. My heartbeat drowns out every sound but my breathing and her words.
“For you, I’ll need something special.” She cups my face with her hands. Barely louder than a whisper, a scream escapes my lips. She smiles and her eyes are full of sympathy. “I know, honey. Be strong. It’s over in a blink.” She kisses my forehead, warming me.
Next I’m in Mom’s kitchen, arms over my head, hurting. Stones have spilled from a plastic pumpkin onto the table. I’m covered in fresh bruises, and Mom is lifting a wooden spoon to hit me again.
The witch grabs her wrist.
Blue light whizzes between them.
I can hardly breathe.
The witch changes to the semblance of Mom, while Mom grows old and frail and vanishes eventually.
“Finally!” Witch-Mom hands me a bag of sweets. “Guess, it’s time for a new life for both of us, ey?”
If you liked the story or want to comment with anything else that’s on your mind, feel free to do so. I’ll answer as soon as I can. Meanwhile read the stories of the other participants:
If you’ve read my recent blog posts, you’ll know that I’ve been keeping up with publishing one book per month. Feel free to check out the previous blog posts announcing the new releases. But now, it’s time for our quarterly “Storytime Bloghop” again. Read free flash stories from me and 9 other participants. I hope you’ll like mine even though it’s somewhat longer this time, and as always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
The Guardian of the Sandsnake’s Temple
There was once a land of sand, and sand, and sand, and sand, and sand.
Gaspard stood at the entrance to the sand-goddess’ temple, the five fingers of his right hand clutched around a javelin, and his two bare feet firmly planted into the sand. Watching out for pilgrims, he was not expecting anyone. The bones of last person to make his way through the endless sea of sand were long ground to dust by the endless wind. According to the goddess, he had been a bad man, hurting his wife and nearly killing his child on his quest for gold.
As if gold held any value. Gaspard’s biggest dream was of meeting someone—anyone—at least once in his life, but chances were slim. He wondered about the guardian before him. Had she ever seen a world with more colors than brown, beige, white, and blue, and shades thereof? Had she died? Or had she fled her duties?
He imagined what it must be like to finally meet creatures like the ones from the books the goddess gave him for his education. The long-horned antelopes with their slender necks and the three long fingered hands from Quasrom fascinated him, as did the flying whales from Whattler III or the feathered dinosaurs from Permia.
The sound of the Final Klaxon ripped him from his daydreams.
A group of Praying Mules lifted their spiked front hoofs in prayer on the top of the final hill where the klaxon was magically fixed to a pillar of sand. The long ears with the soft fur fell back from their raised faces with the long snouts. Their soft furred, upright bodies radiated health.
Gaspard’s jaw dropped. Even in his books, Qumrands had only been mentioned as a rumor. The fur on their cheeks and snouts glowed nearly white in the glaring sunlight, a sign that they were high caste—if Gaspard’s books had it right.
After a few moments, four of the Praying Mules bent down and picked up something white and dome shaped they’d obviously set down before. The fifth took the lead. All of them were dressed in rags, barely covering their loins, but the many waterskins hanging around their bodies told Gaspard they’d come well prepared.
He watched with awe, as the group clomped the last few hundred yards of desert landscape toward the base of the enormous cliff of prehistoric sand that held the temple’s entrance.
The white, dome-like structure they carried turned out to be a stretcher covered with once white fabric. They were chanting the ancient songs, melodies Gaspard had never heard sung by anyone but himself.
The mules were approaching fast, and arrived just as Gaspard remembered his duty.
“Halt, in the name of the goddess!” He lowered his javelin and pointed the iron tip at the first mule’s muscular, furred chest. “State your business.”
For a few heartbeats, no one spoke, and Gaspard wondered if he could really stop five determined Praying Mules.
“We have come to bargain with the goddess”, the leading Mule said.
Before Gaspard could say anything, a Sandsnake as big as the leading Mule rose beside him. Her obsidian scales hissed gently as sand ran down her body. Gaspard had to force himself not to flinch. It had been a while since the goddess had appeared in her favorite form.
“I have been waiting for you for so long, Gardella,” she said in her warm, lilting alto. “Have you never considered what your absence must mean to him?”
The white fabric of the dome was pushed aside by a five fingered hand the color of wet sand, revealing a person with fur-free skin, a slender body, and long, black and white hair. Where the mules’ eyes looked mostly sideways, her eyes faced front, and there was a clear distinction between her nose and mouth. Gaspard saw a similar face in the mirror every morning.
He struggled not to stare at the human woman. His heart raced and for reasons unknown he was very afraid all of a sudden. He slipped closer to the Sandsnake’s warm body and the tip of her tail began to caress his back in a way that must be invisible from where the group stood. Gaspard was grateful and slightly comforted.
“I meant to come back earlier,” the woman called Gardella said. “But I fell ill. And once I’d recovered, Mission Command wouldn’t let me leave. They sent me to another quadrant altogether, claiming I’d gone mad for the loss of husband and child. And when I quit, they made it really hard for me to travel. If it hadn’t been for these wonderful people,” she pointed to the Praying Mules, “I’d never have made it back. I’m sorry, Zulussa.”
The great snake trembled. Was she crying? Gaspard’s throat went dry. What did that mean?
“He’s mine now. I raised him. I slowed time for him so he would heal and live.” The goddess’ voice shook. “I’ll fight for him.”
Gardella swung her feet from the stretcher and hobbled forward. One of her legs was twisted and gnarled like one kind of fossil in the temple’s sand. “I did not come to steal your child.” She smiled, but her gaze was sad. “My child.”
As she blinked away some tears, Gaspard’s world crumbled as if the ground under his feet had vanished.
“I have not been much of a mother to you, Gaspard. I never got the chance.” Her gaze met his, and her love washed over him just like Zulussa’s that he’d always taken for granted. “But I’ve come to give you the freedom to travel the world. The Praying Mules owe me much. They will do anything for you and show you everything.” She turned to the goddess. “And I will stay here with you, Zulussa. You will never be alone for as long as I live. Plus, I’ve got tons of new stories to tell.”
The Sandsnake shifted her form, and a rotund woman with beige hair and obsidian skin flung her arms around Gardella. “I missed you so, my love.”
And all of a sudden, all the tiny pieces of the puzzle made sense to Gaspard. The nameless man, whose bones were flying with the wind, the goddess who had been his mother, and his absent mother. His heart went out to the two women who were his family. Yes, he would travel with the Mules. He would spread the word about a forgotten temple in the sand, and upon his return, loneliness would be a thing of the past for all of them.
If you liked the story or want to comment with anything else that’s on your mind, feel free to do so. I’ll answer as soon as I can. Meanwhile read the stories of the other participants:
New Release plus Storytime Bloghop April (free fiction)
I’ve done it, I’ve published the first short story collection of the six I’ve planned for this year. This one is all about portals. If you like the idea of stepping into another world through a door or something similar, you might like this little collection.
Below the information about the release, you’ll also find a free flash fiction story about a pretty confused old lady that I wrote for the Storytime Bloghop. I hope you’ll like it. But the release first:
Doors are useful. Close them to keep people out. Open them to let someone in. Or step through … into another world.
His music condemns a young musician to death on a pyre.
Katlani’s plans of revenge crumble around her when her goddess interferes.
To save her father, a young woman must face the danger of doors that take her anywhere.
A disabled phoenix must rekindle his flames or die forever.
To save herself and those she loves from death for being different, a young woman must find the City of Many Worlds.
A bereaved tyrant faces loneliness if he doesn’t atone for his actions.
In these six portal stories, Katharina shows people at a crossroads. Their actions lead them to a literal or fictional door where they’re faced with an impossible choice.
But now to the free flash story I promised you. We hold the Storytime Bloghop quarterly, and all stories are free. I hope you’ll like mine, and as always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
The day faded and night fell. With the moon absent, it was so dark in the house, Jane couldn’t see where she was. All she had was a sense of space and age. Dust motes hung in the air, she could smell them more than see them.
The whole world seemed like that, slightly off. When she tried to look out of one of the windows, the curtains wouldn’t budge until she used all her strength. And when she went to the kitchen to fry some eggs, the sink under the window contained different dishes every time. As if someone put them there when she didn’t look.
Was there a ghost in the house? She remembered her gran—ages ago when Jane was still young—telling her stories in hushed tones about the young, handsome laird who’d been killed in this house and who’d come back to haunt it.
Jane shook her head. There were no ghosts. And if she was wrong and and the laird did exist, she would have noticed him by now, wouldn’t she? After all, she’d lived here for sixty five years; ever since her marriage.
She made her way to the living room by touch. One of those big, modern TVs hung at the wall. She didn’t remember buying it, but since it was there, she might as well use it. The living room smelled of stale beer, and she wrinkled her nose. Was someone trying to annoy her? But who?
She had no lodgers, even though Katie had often suggested she’d get some. Maybe her daughter was right. After all, the house was rather big for a single person.
But she didn’t feel ready to give up the life she’d known for so many years. The memory of Todd’s death still brought tears to her eyes. The clingy wetness tasted of salt and reminded her of the many times they’d taken their daughter to the sea. Those were the days … She sighed and there was a good portion of longing in the sound.
If only her day-night-rhythm would improve. The pills she was using didn’t seem to help. She still fell asleep at sunrise and lost most of the day to weird dreams before waking at nightfall. If she could reverse that, she wouldn’t depend on Katie so much.
Poor child. She walked to the fireplace and looked at Katie’s graduation photo. How the child had grown. Jane frowned. She really had to talk to the cleaning lady. She didn’t pay her for cobwebs and layers of dust.
The old-fashioned grandfather clock from the hall chimed melodically. Jane loved the clock. It had been a wedding present from her parents. She counted the beats automatically.
Nine, ten, eleven … twelve. Midday! A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Todd would come home any minute now. She had to prepare his lunch.
With a spring in her step, she hurried into the kitchen—was it winter already? It was so dark—grabbed a pan, a bottle of oil, and eggs, set everything on the table, and turned on the gas.
Someone gasped audibly.
“See, I told you.” Even though the person was whispering, Jane knew the voice.
She put her arms akimbo. “Katie Joanna Lou Hawkins. Come out wherever you’re hiding. That is not polite, and it might scare your father to death. You know how bad his heart has been lately.”
Katie stood up on the other side of the kitchen table, barely illuminated by what little light from the streetlamp in front of the house the curtains admitted. A slender youth that looked just like Todd when he was still young clung to her arm, and a dark haired young woman was half hiding behind her.
Jane frowned. There were streaks of gray in her daughter’s brown curls. But … but … she’d only graduated from university a few weeks ago, hadn’t she? And who were those teenagers?
“Mom?” Katie’s eyes were bigger than Jane had ever seen them.
Her poor baby. Still as afraid as a rabbit. “Oh, hon. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” She smiled reassuringly and opened her arms wide for a hug.
“But you’re…” Katie and the teenagers took a step back. All three grew very pale when Jane followed. Their gazes clung to Jane’s midriff. Jane looked down, and paled too. She was standing right in the middle of the kitchen table. How did she do that?
But she knew.
Everything came crashing back. The short, sharp pain in her chest, Katie’s and her grandchildren’s crying, the overbearing scent of white lilies, and the fact that she’d been standing beside her body, watching the mourners carry it away after the wake.
Heavy boots clonked on the stone floor of the small rear hallway. Katie and the teenagers grew even paler and moved out of the way of the door. It swung open with vigor Jane knew only too well.
“Darling!” Todd opened his arms wide. He was so strong, his shoulders so wide, and the scent of tobacco and leather so intense, she nearly cried for joy. And his voice … his voice still made happy little shivers dance down her spine. “I’ve been looking for you ever since you died.”
“I think, I was a little lost,” Jane said and threw herself into his arms. Gone were the years, the gaps in her memory, and the pounds she’d gained throughout life. She felt young again.
She never heard the grandfather clock strike one.
If you liked the story or would comment with anything else that’s on your mind, feel free to do so. I’ll answer as soon as I can. Meanwhile read the stories of the other participants:
It’s time for the Storytime Blog Hop again already. Why does it always surprise me so? This time I’m quite unprepared what with my grandson’s birthday and so on. We’ve had several small parties (with his father, with his great-grandparents, with his friends) and now he thinks he’s gong to get presents forever. I’m seeing a big disappointment in his future. 😀 But now we’ll get to the reason you’re here: my story for the blog hop. It’s a mini fairy tale retelling. I hope you’ll like it. As always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
I woke up in a different place and heard people whisper outside my window, just as I had planned. The one thing I hadn’t expected was the fact that I didn’t understand a word of what was said. How could that happen? Had I done something wrong? I looked at the ring on the low table beside the cushiony something that should have been my bed – bed as in “the bed I had slept in for years before dad got himself caught by my Beast.”
No, I wouldn’t think of him. I got up and dressed. Luckily, some of my nicest clothes had come along with the ring. I put it back on my finger. One day was all he had agreed to, so I’d better make the best of it. I opened the shutters in front of the window and sunlight fell in. It was my room and it wasn’t at the same time. Pictures painted on paper as thin and smooth as the thinnest leather I had ever seen hung on the wall. They showed demons with spiked, colorful hair and metal studs all over their faces. Still, below all that, they did look vaguely human.
Like Beast – if it would be possible to remove the ugly and scary bits. I turned and looked out the window. Two kids sat in the grass dressed like the demons in the strange paintings. Hardly older than my sisters when I left them, they were trying to eat each other mumbling gobbledegook. I watched them a while until I realized they were kissing, not eating. Blushing, I closed the shutters silently. I tiptoed out of my room and down the stairs. A real painting hung at the wall half way down. I stopped in amazement. It was my face staring at me. A black veil surrounded my head like a sad halo, and words in my father’s familiar hand sagged along the bottom. I bent down to read.
In memoriam of a daughter who did more than her duty for her guilty father.
A giant fist squeezed my heart.
“You like it?” A boy, surely no more than six or seven, grinned at me from the bottom of the stairs. I’d never seen him, but he spoke my language. He wore short, blue pants and nothing else and dripped water all over the floor. Where did he come from? My gaze went past him. How much this part of my home had changed! The floor was no longer stamped earth and cobbles as it used to be. Shiny wooden floorboards, soft carpets and comfortable looking furniture made my home resemble that of the ugly love I had left behind.
“Hello-o… Do you like it?” The boy climbed the stairs.
I nodded, meaning the house, not the picture but he obviously misunderstood.
“It’s my great-great-great-and some-grandaunt Belle. She was eaten by a monster, and no one has ever found her corpse. Maybe it ate all of her, hair and bones and all.” His eyes sparkled with excitement.
He could have hit me with a hammer and I wouldn’t have felt worse. Great-great-great-and some-grandaunt? What had happened? Where had all the time gone? Beast must be frantic. Then, it dawned on me. Beast would be dead after all this time.
“Say,” the boy had reached the step below me. “You look awfully like her.”
I stared at the ring. Would it be strong enough to take me back to my time? Without a word, I fled up the stairs toward the bedroom that had once been mine. I had to go to sleep. I had to!
After locking the door to keep out the boy, I slammed the ring on the nightstand and flopped on the soft bed. A single beam of light fell through the shutters onto my face. I tried hard, but sleep wouldn’t come. The sunlight was my greatest enemy.
This year hasn’t been good to me. I’ve been out with an illness that was supposed to be a minor nuisance but turned into nearly half a year of convalescence. I did finish “High School Dragons 3: Crowned by Fire” (more on that later) and just got it back from the editor. Getting it published asap is my highest priority. At the same time preparations for the Indie Authors’ Advent Calendar are underway (this year’s theme: dragons!), as well as the preparation of my NaNo novel. You see, I’m very, very busy.
That doesn’t stop me from participating in the Storytime Blog Hop again. This episode will also be featured in one of the two Halloween episodes of the “Alone in a Room With Invisible People” Podcast (FB page is here). Check it out, it’s awesome. So without further ado, my whimsical story for the hop. I hope you’ll like it. As always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
Edda’s Second Chance
Edda didn’t want to leave the afterlife to become an invisible friend. Not even the reward, a day of being human again, excited her. She only agreed after securing another boon.
As a slave, sex toy, and food tester for a rich Roman, she hadn’t enjoyed life. Her only fond memory was of his face, as he realized she’d poisoned the wine.
Grinning at the memory, Edda slipped into a little girl’s room. Only in second grade, Suzie already was victim to severe bullying. Edda wondered how she might help.
It turned out to be easy. Suzie was still young enough to believe in her. So Edda scouted routes, kept Suzie away from the two bullies, and encouraged her to learn Judo, which did wonders for Suzie’s self-esteem.
Halloween rolled around.
Since Edda didn’t feel like having a day off, she and Suzie devised a plan. In human form, Edda hid behind trees and followed Suzie as she and her best friend collected sweets. As expected, the bullies showed up soon.
Edda jumped out of her hiding place, grabbed the boys’ bags, knocked them over hard, and pretended to attack Suzie. As discussed, Suzie grabbed her lapels, and threw her over her shoulder. Edda dropped the bags and fled. Suzie handed the boys their bags.
After that, they protected her, and Edda was assigned a new case.
James father came home drunk every night, and James prayed half the day that he’d be too tired to hit his mom. But that hardly ever happened. Edda did her best to hide the three year old, but James’ mother’s screams found him everywhere. Every night, the boy fell asleep crying, no matter what Edda tried.
One day, she hid him in the garage under the car, and James climbed into the motor compartment. Something ripped and squirted oil, so she convinced James to hide someplace else.
The next day, his father had a car accident which kept him in the hospital for months. Unfortunately that saved his life because the doctors discovered a heart problem.
During his absence, James bloomed, making friends and even laughing. His mother, too, looked healthier and happier—until the day her husband returned and the beating commenced.
A decision grew in Edda’s heart. She could barely wait for Halloween. Rising early, she hugged James and told him to hide in the garden shed at nightfall. He complied. Then, she called in her second boon.
When the moon rose, she turned into the Grim Reaper—scythe and all—and knocked at the door of James’ home.
The father opened. Already drunk, he swore and staggered. “No party here.” He lifted his meaty fist to slam it into her face. With a laugh, she lifted her head so he could look under her hood into the non-existent face.
He paled, gurgled, and clutched his chest. With his family hiding, there would be no help. Edda walked away smiling.
Maybe being an invisible friend wasn’t too bad after all.