As you can see I forgot to post again. I’m currently working on the final volume of the High School Dragon trilogy while also trying to keep the garden (some 1800 square yards) from getting overgrown with plants I don’t want. At the same time I’m so longing to drive my motorbike again which has been waiting patiently in my garage for years(!). The weather is wonderful and calls me outside. Instead I’m sitting here, writing (which I love btw, but still …).
So yes, it’s that time again, the Storytime Blog Hop is upon us. I know there’s a new logo around but I like this one too much to give it up any time soon. Have fun with my story and don’t forget to visit the other participants.
Before the Dreams
Shadows crept across the wall, it grew dark. The orange wallpaper turned grey except for a sliver of light that would turn into an arch soon. Jude pressed his eyes close trying to fall asleep, but no matter how much he had romped around during the day, he wasn’t tired enough.
He curled up into a ball. From below his covers, he peaked at the wall beside the door. A glowing line appeared and widened to an arch.
Clonk, clonk – the central heating rumbled. Now, his last chance of sleeping was gone. Soft steps came closer, and Jude did his best to feign slumber. He didn’t need to look at the monster. His memory from the fist encounter was still vivid. The fanged beast with the green fur had begged him for three nights to follow it. If only it didn’t look so dangerous.
A soft paw caressed his cheek. “Please, Jude, come. I promise you’ll be back before morning.” The monster sounded like a singing angel. “You’re the only one who can help me free the queen.”
Jude thought. Here was his chance to be a hero. Was he to chicken to help just because the one asking was a monster? He gathered his courage, got out of bed (eyes still closed), and followed the monster through the arch. Everything faded.
Not much to say but that I’m very tired and extremely busy. Some things leech more strength than I had anticipated, mostly due to stupid people. So I dug out this old writing exercise for you. I still quite like it despite its obvious flaws. Have fun, and don’t forget to visit the other participants.
Morning has broken
I kicked the pebbles and watched them fly into the gently breaking waves. In the distance, the sea sparkled but close to the beach, its sheen seemed dull. I should have known she wouldn’t come. Not only didn’t she talk to boys, ever, also this part of the beach smelled like rotting garbage, and the water carried brown sludge from Dad’s sewage factory. His slogan still rang in my ears.
‘Synbatec – Cleanliness everyone can afford ‘
Hah! I dug my bare feet into the sand, cooling grains mixed with water squeezed through my toes. I loved this feeling but hated the effort of rubbing them clean later. The sun burned my face and helped me suppress my tears. I had wanted her to come more than anything in the world. I needed her to see what Dad really did when he “cleaned” the waste water. She would have known what to do. After all, she and her father featured eminently in the news—him being a famous actor and an environmental activist. They surely could negotiate something that would keep Dad out of jail and end the pollution.
With my eyes still closed, I strained my ears for footsteps, but not even seagulls came to this godforsaken place. I sighed, opened my eyes, and gagged on a foul taste. A hairy hand pressed a wet, sweet smelling cloth to my mouth. My vision blurred, but I recognized the butterfly tattoo on the man’s forearm. Every Wastopaneer Environmentalist wore it. I relaxed and sucked in the sweet odor of the sleeping drug. If they had to kidnap me to stop Dad’s toxic waste, I wouldn’t put up a fight.
From the corner of my eyes, I saw her. She smiled at me, and her smile stayed with me when darkness claimed me.
It is already time again for the quarterly Blog Hop. My, how time flies! My grandson has started to crawl, still on his belly, and two teeth are already out. Slowly my days are finding a new rhythm, so I’m writing again. I hope you’ll enjoy this snippet which is based very, very loosely on my experience of becoming a grandmother rather unexpectedly. As usual, you’ll find the links to the other participants below my story.
“Well, you could come in today but only the male doctor will be there,” the gynecologist’s receptionist said. I knew that wouldn’t do. My daughter would never see a man – not when it was her first visit to a gynecologist. I told the receptionist, just as I had told her about the low but persistent abdominal pain Shelly was experiencing. It wasn’t urgent but it definitely needed someone looking at it.
“Well Dr. Paulsen won’t be in before tomorrow. I’ve got a free slot at 9am.”
I smiled and sent a sliver of pleasurable magic through the phone for the woman. “That’s splendid. We’ll be there on time.”
The next morning, my daughter – a little grumpy from getting up this early – and I climbed the two floors to the gynecologist. After the usual paperwork, the receptionist left us in a room with a desk and the gynecological chair. Her smile was meant to be reassuring. “The doctor will be with you in a few minutes.”
Shelly looked at me with a frown. “I won’t sit on that one.” She nodded to the chair.
Before I could answer, the doctor came in. She was a petite woman with brown hair, a white lab coat and tired eyes. “Welcome.” She shook our hands and smiled at my daughter. “It looks as if it’s coming soon. Who’s your regular gynecologist?”
My jaw dropped and for the first time in a long, long while I didn’t know what to say. My daughter’s face must have mirrored my surprise because the doctor said, “Don’t tell me you didn’t know.”
There was no answer to that, but my daughter was too shocked to make a fuss when the doctor examined her. I didn’t even need my magic to soothe her.
“Dear me.” Dr. Paulsen’s eyes widened. “It’s coming right now!” She nearly fled the room to call an ambulance.
While we waited, Shelly’s contractions intensified. She moaned with pain, and my heart hurt in sympathy. At least I now knew her sudden gain in weight hadn’t been due to obsessive eating or cancer or any of the other diseases I had feared. Still, I suffered with her every time the contractions hit. She squeezed my hand as if she meant to crush every single bone to pulp, and it took all my strength not to use a calming spell on her. According to my own mother that would interfere with the baby’s own magic should it have some.
The ambulance took its time and even my spell couldn’t make it faster. All I could do was prevent the gynecologist from panicking. Waves of soothing magic flowed through the rooms, arduously avoiding Shelly. But once the ambulance arrived, everything went fast. Shelly was carried downstairs on a stretcher, and I followed with knees too shaky to manage the stairs without clinging to the handrail. The ambulance headed to the nearby motorway with flashing lights and siren, while my daughter screamed in pain, still clinging to my hand. I tried to make myself as small as possible to not obstruct the doctor and his helpers. The baby arrived soundlessly three minutes before we reached the hospital.
“That doesn’t look good.” The doctor’s face was grim as he cut the cord. My heart seemed to stop beating. I barely dared to look at the rather bluish looking limp body in his hands. “Oxygen. And a tenth of a unit …”
I ignored the doctor’s gobbledygook and concentrated on my daughter. I closed my hands around her wide eyed face. Finally I could help. My magic tugged at her worry, smoothing it out and adding a little hope here and there. “Keep breathing. There’s nothing we can do but hope.” We closed our eyes and ignored the clattering of instruments and the babbling of the paramedic. If we lost the baby, I’d probably never be able to create a bubble of hope again. So we clung to our own little bubble. It was all I could do to keep it up. Shelly’s heart beat the same fearful-hopeful rhythm as mine.
The ambulance screeched to a stop.
“We’ve got her!” The relief in the doctor’s voice was palatable. Very gently he placed the wrapped baby into Shelly’s arms. A content, pink face with the bluest eyes anyone had ever seen stared at us, and a wave of happiness hit me. The baby was magical, and breathing, and moving her tiny fingers, already weaving her spell on us. As I hobbled after the stretcher that was wheeled to a lift, my smile couldn’t have been wider. I whispered to my daughter, “I guess it’s time to think about a name for her.”
It’s time again for the quarterly Storytime Bloghop. This time I did something a little different. Easter, my brothers (I’ve got three) and I were fooling around with a new gadget one of them had gotten. We took some really crazy pictures. So I included one of those at the end of the story. Since it is the punchline, you might want to not look at it until you read the story first. 😀
The Day I was Clever
When I arrived in our kitchen that morning, staring bleary eyed at the wood furniture and the stone counter, Dad gave me NewReality™ glasses.
“It’s time for you to see the world a little differently”, he said and vanished. I think he might have left for work, although his vanishing did feel slightly spooky to me.
Due to too little sleep (I’d played with my 3D virtual reality game half the night), my brain wasn’t working yet so I put them on, and the world changed. Now I stood in a kitchen made of white marble and chrome. Where my bowl of cereal had stood, a plate with artfully decorated pancakes waited for me. I dug in, slightly disappointed that they still tasted like my cereal.
The way to school had changed too. The bus had turned into a sleek limousine, my classmates were wearing spiffy suits or skirts and blouses, and everyone wore a tie. When they saw me, they smiled like friends. I knew they weren’t, so the roaring laughter in the background made sense somehow. I just didn’t know what they were laughing about.
At school, I sank into the seat beside my best friend who grinned at me.
“My, do you look strange,” he said. “If you’d brought your mobile, we could’ve taken pictures.”
“They’re just my new glasses.” I answered. They couldn’t be that bad, could they?
Only when the teacher arrived did I realize that I’d forgotten to bring my books. At least I’d brought my homework so I didn’t get a black mark, but everybody was laughing about me. And when I say everybody, I mean everybody.
As I passed through the hall on my way to my next class, people I’d never met more than in passing came to me to shake my hand. As long as I was looking at them, they just smiled, but as soon as they moved on to pass me to the next person, they burst out laughing – even the teachers snickered when they walked past me. I didn’t see it but I heard them.
After the second break, I had enough. Knowing I’d be in big trouble later, I still sneaked off the school grounds and set out to walk home, staring at the ground to keep others from seeing my face. What were the new glasses doing to it that everyone was laughing so hard?
I turned a corner and stopped in surprise. I’d accidentally walked in the wrong direction. Heat surged into my cheeks as I turned around again. I had barely reached the gates of the school when a car pulled up beside me. To me it looked like a beautiful convertible, but it sounded like a robot with asthma. The tinted driver window rolled down, and my mother’s face smiled at me. She looked like an angel in a flowing blue evening dress, so I smiled back involuntarily.
“Get in the car,” she said, and I obeyed wordlessly.
In our new kitchen, she ordered me to sit on a chair, prepared a hot cocoa for me and a mug of coffee for herself. My stomach turned to ice. I know I was in trouble now. Still, she kept smiling – or were the glasses just changing her expression like they’d changed the kitchen?
“How often have I told you not to turn night into day with your gaming?” Her voice sounded cold and distant, but I felt her anger underneath. I lowered my head and apologized, but it was no good. “And now you’re even wearing gaming glasses to school! Don’t you know how ridiculous that looks?”
“Dad gave me those this morning,” I protested.
“That isn’t possible.” Now, Mom sounded more annoyed than angry. “He left for a business trip to Paris last week. Don’t you ever listen to anything I tell you?”
I had to admit that listening wasn’t my strongest trait.
“Now, give me those glasses and go to bed.” Resignation filled her tone although the face I saw was still smiling. “I’ll write an explanation for your teacher. But no more gaming this week.”
I groaned and took of the glasses. Immediately, my mother’s blue dress turned back into the faded jeans and oversized T-shirt she always wore. I yawned and handed her the glasses reluctantly.
“Let me show you how stupid you look with these,” she said and put them on. “Gosh. How did you manage not to run into things with these? Everything’s completely blurry.”
Although I wondered about her last remark, I burst out laughing when I saw her face with the glasses.
This is how clever Mom looked. I still wonder about me.
That was my story. I hope you liked it. And her are the links to the bloghop’s other participants. If it is anything like the last hops, you’ll find many great stories. Go and read them:
Today is the 4th of December and silly me forgot to let you know that the annual Indie Authors’ Advent Calendar has opened its doors again. If you love a surprise story every day, it’s THE place to bookmark. And if you sign up for the alert, you’ll get a bonus every day (a picture, a poem, a recipe or another story), and the eBook with all stories and bonuses on Christmas Day.
Yes, it’s that time again. Here’s the Storytime Bloghop for June. This time we have 12 participants (including me) and their stories. Enjoy. Here’s mine
“Lobster One. Report to base.” The voice from the loudspeaker crackled. The lonely bluish gray crustacean on the bridge sighed. Luckily the trip was nearly over, so he needn’t worry about repairing it any longer. His long-range sensors had already caught the data stream of a suitable planet.
“Lobster One reporting. Possible planet found. Commencing scouting endeavor. Requesting full weapon access.”
“The use of all weapons has been approved. Good luck, Lobster One.”
A few seconds later the vessel slowed and found a place in the orbit of the planet. It looked promising with its wide expanse of water. With a little terraforming it would surely not be a problem to submerge most of the land masses.
Lobster One observed the planet from above for four days. They were the hardest days of his voyage since he had to remain on high alert due to space junk. When is data scan was finally complete, he marvelled at the results. The planet was perfect except for one, minor detail. It held a semi-intelligent species, some kind of ape-like creature walking on two legs mostly warring against each other. Their weaponry would not suffice to stop an invading army from his home planet.
Lobster One decided it was time for a peek. Since the planet’s atmosphere was too thin for his breathing organs he ordered the ships transporter to deposit him in the middle off the biggest ocean. What was that? Why couldn’t he breathe? His handheld scanner showed that he was surrounded by water. He should not have difficulties breathing. Still his intake valves seemed to be clogged. He used up eight of the ten time intervals he could hold his breath to clean the valves and grab a water sample. Then he reprogrammed the transporter to deposit him in a different ocean. Thankfully he sucked in oxygen.
A strange undercurrent caught him unaware and pulled him along. The more he tried to escape the current, the faster it got. More and more crustaceans appeared around him. Although they were a lot smaller than him they resembled each other strongly. Just when he realized that the tiny creatures around him were not intelligent, they were lifted out of the water and dumped onto a big metal surface.
“Oh look, we caught a lobster!” His universal translator managed to make sense of the garbled noises of the ape-man. “Finally something better to eat then shrimps.”
Lobster One froze. These creatures ate crustaceans? What kind of world was this? Where there more predators specialized on cracking exoskeletons? With small sound that the ape-man didn’t even notice Lobster One activated the transporter and returned to his ship.
During the next three hours he set up a new scan with very specific parameters. It took the ship a whole week to complete.
The perfect planet he thought he had found was infested with creatures hunting and eating crustaceans. Commercial calculations showed that even if they eliminated the worst few species the whole ecosystem would collapse. Defeated, Lobster One reported his failure, set course to the next planet, and began to repair the loudspeaker.
Here are the links to the other stories. Enjoy them and please leave comments. We can only improve our craft if you let us know what works and what doesn’t. Thanks for reading.
Yes, it’s that time again. Remember that my story will only be up for a limited time (let’s say until May 2nd). So if you want to read it, hurry up. 😀
There are many more participants in this bloghop who are listed at the end of the story. Make sure you check out their stories too. Now, have fun:
The coarse fabric of the chaise longue itches under my fingers as I lay there with my eyes closed. Why do I have to lie anyway? It isn’t as if I’m ill or so … (a little while ago the rest of the story was still here. Yoon you’ll be able to get it as an eBook)
Remember that here are more stories for you to read:
P.S.: I’ve got a promotion scheduled for “Juma’s Rain” (a YA Fantasy Romance) on the 7th and 8th of May. The price will drop from $4.99 to $0.99 those days. You can’t have it cheaper than that. So bookmark this link where you’ll find my eBook and 150+ on the 7th and 8th of May.
On the last Wednesday every three months, a couple of Indie authors get together for the Storytime Bloghop. We each post a flash story (500-1000 words). This month doesn’t have a theme aside from Speculative Fiction.
If you enjoy my story, please leave a comment. For the other stories follow the links below my story. Now, have fun (although this story is rather dark for my standards).
I stare at the scars on my arms. The thin lines look crappy. Blood pulses in them — so close to the skin’s surface. I imagine what it would look like if it welled out; blooming dark red on my pale skin. A token of life no-one could mistake. A tiny cut would be enough to prove that I’m still here.
But I’m not gonna do it.
I’ve promised myself. After all, that’s why I’m here, isn’t it?
My gaze wanders through the room, as colorless and empty as my life. Why am I staying? I curl up on my bed. I’d be better off dead. No one would notice anyway. Except for the therapists – maybe. But they don’t count. Neither of them knows what I’ve been hiding in my mattress. So close. So easy to reach. Maybe I should make a cut … a tiny one … in a place where no one will see it.
No. I don’t want that any more. Breathe! I roll on my back and force myself to lie still. The display of my mobile that’s lying on the table casts a bluish rectangle of light on my ceiling, but I have to strain my eyes to see it. It’s not yet dark enough outside. Maybe I should turn on the light, but my strength has gone. If only the mobile were gone. Everything would be fine then. Or it wouldn’t, but at least I wouldn’t know.
„I’m dating Mandy now,“ he wrote. That was it. The end of our relationship with a text message. Who does that? And I’m not even sorry … or angry … it’s not important at all.
I remember what it was like when we first got together. His arms felt so warm on my shoulders. His laugh filled the emptiness inside. But he laughed less and less often. I’m a burden for everyone. I even kill the laughter.
The razor blade in the mattress calls for me. Not with a real voice or so, but I can feel its presence. I try not to think about the comforting and familiar pain spreading from my arm. Soon it would be stronger than the hollow feeling in my chest. Maybe it would finally open the door that traps me in this life. I wonder what’s on the other side. Will I be able to really feel?
The door opens, and Mr Bollart looks in.
“Half an hour to the meeting, Tanja. Are you alright?”
“Shall I turn on the light?” He reaches for the light switch, waiting for my answer. I nod again.
The room is now too dark, and he probably can’t see me. But maybe I’m not here any more and that’s why he can’t see me. The right corner of my mouth twitches when I ponder what Mr Bollart would say if he turned on the light, and my room was empty.
“Yes, please.” My voice is so low that I barely hear myself, but light floods my room.
“See you in a minute, right?”
“Hmm.” That could mean ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ or something else. Don’t know. It’s not important. It’s important that he looked in. Into my room. As if it were important that I’d show up.
Most likely he does that with all his patients. They trained him for that, didn’t they? Psychology … must be hard. Nothing for me. I roll onto my side using my arm as a pillow. The wall on the other side of my room has a horizontal line. Maybe there once stood a bed. It looks like it. I wonder what kind of problems that girl has had? All kinds of people come to this institute.
Don’t think about the blade.
Think of other people. Of the fellow inmates.
Louise, two rooms down the corridor for example. She swallowed enough sleeping pills to kill a horse. She cries in her sleep. Tonight I tried to comfort her — wasn’t really successful. I mean, she went back to crying as soon as I returned to my room. Just because they were nasty with her in school. Mobbing … must be horrible. But being invisible is worse. Believe me. I know that from experience. Maybe I should tell her?
Today. During the therapy session.
If I go.
I might also … the razor blade … I feel it as if it were digging into my side. My hand crawls to the rip in my mattress. If I use it now, they’ll take it away from me. And then? I won’t get a new one easily. I don’t want to need a new one. I don’t even want to use this one. Shit world. My hand crawls on, and I can’t stop it.
Someone knocks timidly, and I pull back my hand instinctively. Again the door opens. Louise looks in.
“May I come in?” Her voice trembles as if she’s scared of something. Not of me, surely.
“OK.” I sit up and pull my legs to my chest to make room for her on the bed. The chair from the table to too uncomfortable.
She sits on the far end of the bed and stares at her hands.
“For tonight. I felt so lonely, and when you came, it was better.”
Something warm spreads in my belly. I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it. I can FEEL. Without the blade!
“Could we…” Louisa doesn’t look at me. „I mean … would you like to…“ Her hands tighten their grip on each other, and she shivers. “Would you like to go to the session with me?”
All of a sudden, I realize she’s afraid of the answer.
“Of course I’d like to.” I smile. It’s the first time since I came here. If she can find the courage to reach out, maybe I can too. I could start by saying something during the session. Who knows. I might hand in my razor blade some time soon. Or not. We’ll see.
On August 26th, you’re going to get a special treat. A couple of authors (me included) have decided to do a Story-Time bloghop which means you’ll get tons of interesting, well written (I know that for sure), brand new and FREE short or flash stories. All are speculative fiction (SciFi and/or Fantasy), all will be online for one week only. So if you want to read the stories, mark August 26th, come to this blog, read my story, and follow one of the links provided to another story (all blogs will be linked in all posts).
John Byk interviewed me about my eBook Ann Angel’s Freedom and about publishing in Germany in general. If you’ve wondered what I sound like, here’s your chance to listen to me interrupting the moderator all the time (yes, it’s really hard to shut me up when I start).
Also, I forgot to say that my eBook Ann Angel’s Freedom is still free on amazon (any amazon site) until midnight US time (that’s roughly 9 am tomorrow morning in Germany). So if you want it, go and get it before time runs out.