July 2023: Storytime Bloghop Chris Makowski – fellow author
Surprise, surprise. Today, you’ll get not one, but two #free #stories on my blog. You’ll find even more if you follow the links below. Please do visit the other participants, and please leave comments. There’s nothing more rewarding that hearing from you. It means the world to us.
As the gate closed, shutting the maelstrom on the other side, Rupe counted quickly. Of the hundred that had set out, only three – Pista, Caram, Edda – remained, near death but determined.
In his hand, the kiehr glowed with the lives of those who had been lost. Everything else – tools, weapons, everything but the clothes on their backs was gone.
But they lived.
And wherever they were, it was raining. The forest around them remained dark and forbidding. But nothing was trying to kill them.
“Quickly!” The others roused, their movements stiff and pained. “We must find shelter!”
He wanted to use the orb to find it. But the cost, the energy of those who had passed, would be irreplaceable. At least until they found a home here.
Randomly, he pointed. “This way!”
The manor was large and well-lit, even with the torrential rains falling. The three others had used tiny magics, barely enough to keep themselves dry. Even so, he felt the loss.
A flag waved forlornly on a post before the door. Thirty-seven stars on a blue field, then red and white alternating stripes.
A last hope. “We will bargain fairly, but dearly. And we will not suffer again, no matter the cost.”
Grimly, the little party marched to the front door. His fingers touched the kiehr.
I am sorry, he whispered as he took just enough magic to glamour them into finery.
Even so, he felt memories die.
When the door opened, a large man in stiff clothes with a face to match looked down on them. “The governor is…”
“We were called.” Rupe let his hood fall back enough to reveal his face, eyes glaring into the servant’s head. Believe me!
The man staggered. “Yes. Right this way.”
They stepped in, their spell keeping the rain and wet outdoors.
He gasped. “You – you’re not…”
“We were called,” Rupe repeated, the others pulling back their hoods, the glamour covering their shabby appearances.
His face gone white, the servant opened a double sliding door, surprising the other two men in there – one in a fine suit, the other in military garb with a sword on his hip.
Ambush? Terrified, Rupe strode in, looking from man to man. Neither had the sharp features of the Alfar. The sword remained undrawn.
“We were called. We came.” His eyes set on the soldier. “Name your bargain.”
“You?” A glass filled with amber liquid swished off the table and emptied into the man’s mouth. “I called you?”
Pista stepped forwards and put her fingers over the glass: it filled with a pale-yellow liquid. Rupe prayed none noticed the liquid came from her sleeve.
“Magic?” The soldier snatched up the glass. “Williams, close the doors.”
The servant, wide-eyed, had to be told twice before the doors shut.
The – General? Colonel? – took a sip. “I’ve never tasted the like.”
“Bogyberry brandy,” Rupe announced. “Is your bargain for this?”
“No!” The other man circled slowly, taking in all four. In turn, each removed their cloak, allowing the full impact of the glamour to fill the room: two women of incredible beauty, two men of incalculable power.
Not four desperate people with next to nothing to their name.
“A moment.” Without an answer, the two stepped back towards the fireplace, anxiety and greed on their faces.
The papers! Edda’s voice sounded in his skull. A moment of looking at the table – papers, legal papers, and a map!
“Power.” The two returned, avarice dripping from every pore. “We want power, power over our enemies, and power above all men!”
Might as well ask for the stars above.
Rupe turned his gaze on the soldier. “Four of us, four terms each.” Then he planted his finger onto the map, at the crux of an L-shaped land. “There. You will make there ours. You will set it aside as its own place, ruled by itself. And you will make this gift a secret from all others.”
The soldier sucked on his cheeks, but the other one nodded. “Easily done.”
Rupe waited, saying nothing.
The soldier spoke first. “I want power – political power.”
“And power over the souls of a nation!”
“And I want–“
“You had your turn,” frowning, the suited man rapped the table. “I wish for my enemies to suffer. And I wish for Reconstruction to go on as planned.”
Rupe mumbled under his breath, then nodded. “Four and Four, as agreed. As best as we can provide, you will have what you ask when your part of the bargain is done.”
From nothing, a parchment with faint writing appeared. “Sign your names there. We shall make our marks.”
Too quickly, both scribbled names at the bottom. Solemnly, the four added theirs.
The parchment vanished. “The Covenant is sealed.”
As one, all four recloaked and turned toward the doors.
They passed out into the night, and it was as though they had never been.
“On this day, the fifteenth of March of 1870, Legislative Act 102 is hereby passed.” There was no applause. It was just another act of the Louisiana legislature, creating a new parish clawed from the parishes of Calcasieu and Vermilion. Few if any gave it more than a cursory read, forged as it was by the Governor himself, ostensibly as a favor to his friend, a paroled Colonel of the Confederacy.
Even fewer noted the asterisk in the act itself. And none paused to consider the few extra pages inserted due to that single symbol.
In the swamp on their land, their house built itself. Strange trees spread deep roots, their branches growing foreign fruit. Fresh water springs appeared.
His people would live.
Reverently, Rupe put the kiehr at the highest point, the better for it to pull from this land so nothing inside would be lost.
And on a wall, he hung the agreement, a thin pane of clear sap protecting it yet allowing any to read. And it was with an unsavory smile he read through the whole.
“Four and four,” he muttered to himself. “These people cannot count. And they never read the fine print.”
This time my story for the blog hop found me, but read for yourself. Along with my #free #story, there are plenty more. BTW, the story about the Easter Hare and BB Wolf from the last Bloghop is currently getting turned into a comic. I can barely wait to show you. But for this hop, I wrote about a nightmare you’ve all had. I very much hope you’ll like it, and let me know if you “got it”.
Remember to visit the other participants to read their stories, and please leave comments. There’s nothing more rewarding that hearing from you. It means the world to us.
The scent alerted me and drew me to her. Hot blooded innocence woke my craving so bad, my stomach grumbled. Imagine my surprise when I found the window unprotected; unprotected and wide open, like an invitation!
Of course I didn’t hesitate. I flew with economic wing beats to where the aroma came from. I could taste the tangy, metallic blood, pulsating under her skin already.
Naturally cautious, I circled the room once, twice, three times, but there was nothing remotely dangerous for me. So I closed in on her, looking for the best place to land.
Her hand shot out, and I jerked back. Thankful for my fast reflexes, I flew higher. Was she still awake? Had she just lured me in to kill me? I gazed down at her.
She moaned and stirred, so I gave her more room and settled in the shadow above her wardrobe. Waiting for the right moment, I observed her.
With the summer night’s heat, she was wearing a nightshirt so thin, it was more revealing than hiding anything. Fighting the urge to strike immediately, I longed for her to fall into deep sleep.
Her breath slowed.
Her blood called, driving me insane.
Again I flew.
Closer and closer. She barely moved.
Gently, I landed, touching the skin of her throat ever so lightly.
So close. Her blood pounded, only a thin layer of skin away. With one swift, determined move, I pushed my mouthparts through the outer layer. Sweet blood shot into me as I released saliva to keep it from congealing and sucked greedily.
Soon, I’d leave and she’d have no memory of my bite except for a small, itchy swelling.
Again it’s time for a blog hop with #free #stories. There’s so much been going on in my life (my father was run over by a car, my husband totaled our car, visits from the kids, Easter, a nasty head-cold twice) that I didn’t write anything at all for the longest time. I’m all the more thankful for the challenge because it forces me to get back into my writing routine. This time I wrote a really silly story (my editor said it needs to be an animated cartoon) and very much hope you’ll like it.
Remember to visit the other participants to read their stories, and please leave comments. There’s nothing more rewarding that hearing from you. It means the world to us.
The Big Bad Wolf and the Easter Hare
The minute I saw her silhouette through the milk-glass-window in my office door, I knew she spelled trouble. Trouble for me. Those long, sinuous curves of her ears made me want to chase her, and not just for a night.
I managed to shove my bourbon glass and the bottle into the cabinet under my massive oak desk before she finished knocking.
“Come in.” I held my breath as I watched her enter.
“Are you B.B. Wolve?”
“The one and only.”
She sank into the black leather chair, a beam of light playing on her lovely white fur. I found it hard to speak, so I didn’t.
“The Easter Bunny vanished. If you find him, I’ll pay you three more.” She bent forward and placed three golden eggs on the table—more than I’d make in whole year in my business. I told you she’d be trouble. But with that kind of payment I was ready to face anything the world could throw at me.
“When? And where was he last seen?” Of course I still had a few questions, but the next one was to satisfy my own curiosity. “Are you related?”
“The Color Hens were the last to see him. They said he picked up the eggs for the Americas but didn’t show up for the Northern Europe load.” She crossed her looooong, slim legs, and I found it hard to concentrate on her voice, regardless of how sexy it sounded. “I’ve organized a couple of rabbits to take over his route, but they are only a temporary solution. We need him. Especially in Germany people insist on an Easter Hare, an Osterhase.”
Speaking past the lump in my throat without giving away how much she’d got me off balance was hard, so I kept it short. “Deal!”
The Color Hens weren’t very happy to see me, but they gave me a hint to follow. “After the last Easter, he let himself go,” their leader said. “Insisted that next to no one was interested in an Easter Hare any more and that it’d be much better to leave Easter to the bunnies. Stayed in bed most of the time. We sent him to the White Lady for counseling and it worked like a charm. He was full of energy when the time came this year.”
I knew it would be no use to talk to the White Lady. She never answered questions, claiming customer confidentiality. I’d need to have a letter from the king to make her divulge information. But the sweet little bunny in her front office was a different matter altogether. She’d helped me out more than once. So I called her.
“Oh, it’s you.” She sounded sheepish. “Sorry to say, but I’m no longer interested in our hunts. I got engaged just before Easter.” If she were a cat, I swear she’d have been purring.
“Caliwandalous.” I forced myself to smile. She deserved to be happy. “Could you give me a hint or two about where I could find the Easter Hare? Please, Sally.”
A long silence.
Then, “Have you talked to the pigs?” and a click that ended the call. Wow. That was weird. But all in all, talking to the pigs was a good idea. If they didn’t know where the hare was, no one would.
“Hi hon, come for some huffin’ ‘n puffin’?” Mother Sow grunted as she closed the gate to their part of the city behind me. Wriggling her rear, she led me along the trampled earth path to the Arena, an auditorium for the daring and the lewd. “Long time no see, B.B.”
I shuddered at the mountain of flesh in front of me. How could she have become even fatter? Still, my voice didn’t shake. “Nope, I just came to talk to Junior.”
“He’d be in his house.” She pointed to a poorly-built brick house at the end of the path, overlooking the Arena, and a few heartbeats later the door closed behind me. The single room smelled of pig—what else—and had food piled up in one corner, straw in another.
“Ah, Big Bad!” Junior rolled off the straw and walked toward me with outstretched arms. “What can I do for you this time? I’ve got some really nice bunnies for a sensual hunt, and a little mouse in a teapot for blowing exercises.”
I shook my head. I’d told him three years ago when I’d opened my agency that I was no longer interested in such activities. “I just want to know where the Easter Hare is.”
“Never seen him. Isn’t he still on duty?” He smiled as innocently as a piglet, and I was ready to leave again—when my gaze fell on the food.
“Oh, haven’t you?” I pointed to a colorful egg half hidden in the tower of food. “How about you tell me where he is, and I’ll not tell anyone he’s been here? After all, he’s quite a prominent figure at this time of year with lots of journalists clamoring for an interview.” I left the threat hanging, satisfied that Junior paled to a slightly dirty pink.
“He went to the Big Forest.”
“Why?” I held up my hand. “No, better tell me what you said to make him go there.”
“He wanted to know where Orion set up his bear traps.”
My jaw dropped and it took me a while to recover from the shock. “He’s that suicidal?”
Junior shrugged, but I no longer cared. I nearly ripped the door off its hinges and started running. Time was of essence.
It was already getting dark in the Big Forest. Thankfully my nose was still as good as it’s always been. Keeping it close to the ground allowed me to easily follow the hare’s scent, and soon I caught him staring at a piece of the path. Half hidden under twigs, I could make out a big metal oval with teeth and a central metal disk—the trigger.
“Don’t!” I gasped for air. “Don’t kill yourself.” I’d love to grab him and pull him away, but I’m so winded and he so ready to throw himself onto the trigger, I’m worried I’ll kill him accidentally.
His gaze fell on me. “It’s egg shaped,” he whispered. “Why does it have to be egg shaped of all things?”
“No clue.” I fell onto the grass, breathing hard. “What about Sally?” It was a long shot, but I was quite sure he was her fiancee.
“She’ll find someone else.” He looked at me with despair in his eyes. “Can’t you just eat me?”
“Not my cuppa any more.” I sat up again. I’d fought with wild boars, bears, elk, and even a wolverine. But his black cloud was worse than anything I’d ever encountered. I inched closer whenever he wasn’t looking at me. “An extremely beautiful white doe asked me to find you, and I’m loath to disappoint.”
“My sis Ruby. She’s such a bully.” He sighed and turned back to the trap. “For all I care, she can run my business, but no. The Easter Hare has to be male. And he can’t be a bunny. What a ridiculous notion.”
He was quite good at imitating the white doe’s voice.
“That’s still no reason to throw away your life like this.”
He harrumphed and jumped.
I grabbed his shoulders and jerked him back, twisting around to get him as far away from the trap as possible.
SNAP—the trap’s jaws closed and pain shot through my rear end.
I howled in pain but didn’t let go, no matter how much the hare struggleds.
“There they are.”
A full medic team surrounded us, but I recognized Ruby’s voice. She must have followed me the whole time and I hadn’t even noticed. What a woman! I glanced at her while the paramedics tried to free my tail from the trap. She’d even brought Sally.
“Come home, honey.” Sally’s voice was low and meant only for the hare. “The Lady says she can help you if you let her.”
“I hate my life.” The hare sounded no better. “And Ruby insists on keeping up traditions.”
“I’m sorry.” Ruby’s voice wobbled. “I didn’t think it was this serious. We’ll find a way to change how things are handled. I promise.”
I cleared my throat. “And I’ll help. If I can learn to live with half a tail, surely the Germans will get used to an Easter Bunny. It’s not as if most still know the difference between a rabbit and a hare anyway.”
Everybody laughed at that, and the tiniest of smiles made the hare’s lips twitch. I was sure that with the available help and a few changes in management, he’d recover.
Smiling most beguiling, I turned to his sister. “Would you agree to a date with the owner of six golden eggs?”
January 2023: Storytime Bloghop (plus a tiny bit about the kickstarter)
I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things. The kickstarter is such a great motivation to get back to writing (it’s in its final throes … ehm week, and I think we might even get to the last stretch goal yet). Also, I settled into my new flat just fine. My story for the Storytime Bloghop is the first one I did using dictation, and although it needed some revising, it turned out better than I’d feared. And writing it went much faster than typing. I’ll try dictation on my novel next.
For now, I hope you’ll like this blog hop’s #free #story. Remember to visit the other participants too. And please leave comments for us. We love to hear from you. It cheers us up and means the world to us.
I went to fetch water like Mom had ordered me to. It was Saturday and the whole family wanted to take a bath. For that we’d need a lot of water. I already hated carrying the heavy buckets, and I hadn’t even reached the river yet.
The sun shone through the gaps in the forest’s canopy and sweat ran down my neck, despite the cold of the winter morning. When I neared the river, the trees ended and the sky spread blue and endless toward the distant mountains. It was the perfect day for an adventure but none was forthcoming, and Mom had made it pretty clear what she thought of the make-believe adventures I’d played yesterday.
A flight of dragons was flying overhead, returning to the mountains with two Aurochs, and there seemed to be another group further in the distance. Since they didn’t eat much it meant that they’d have their annual maturity-feast soon.
I envied them their strength. If I were a dragon, I could carry enough water for a whole week of baths in no time. Angry with Mom—punishment was one thing but why had she ordered me to do this without any help at all?—I kicked a new stone, the size of my dog. Where had this come from all by itself anyway?
“Ouch.” The stone turned a scaly snout toward me.
Holy cow. It was a dragon, not a stone. Judging by its mottled dark blue scales, it was a male youngling. Since I’d never seen a dragon this close, I just stood and stared.
“What did you do that for?”
I apologized and then asked him why he was here.
“Well,” he said, “I’m trying to find out how to start my fire. I’ve experimented with so many things already. I ate coals, drank my parents’ fire, I even participated in a weird ritual, but nothing helped. I still can’t breathe fire.”
He seemed friendly enough, so I sat down beside him and pondered his problem, although what could I, a mere human, do to help him? Still, I couldn’t just leave a baby dragon without helping him, could I? My mind wandered to the way Mum made fire when my little brother forgot to feed the embers again. Tentatively, I said, “What if your fire only starts with something that hasn’t got to do anything with fire at all?”
The dragon managed to look skeptical despite his scales. His breath condensed in the cold air, and he cocked his head as if questioning my sanity.
“I’m not kidding. Mom starts our fire with two stones. She hits them together, sparks fall onto the tinder, and set the wooden splinters on fire. Maybe you’re missing those stones. Have you tried eating some?” An idea crossed my mind. “Of course they would need to be the right kind of stones. If you help me carry home enough water for my family’s bath, I’ll give you one of our sets.”
“Deal.” He went to the river and began sucking up nearly as much water as I used to fill my buckets. I was quite glad that dragons had an interim stomach for transporting liquids. Imagine having to bathe in the half digested foodstuff in his real stomach. I shuddered involuntarily.
Side-by-side we walked to my village, a circle of wooden houses surrounded by a wooden palisade. Since most people stayed inside on a chilly day like this, no one noticed us slipping past the houses. Not that my people feared dragons, but none had ever visited the village before, and I worried they might politely ask him to leave. After all, an accidental hiccup would set the whole village ablaze, and they didn’t know my friend couldn’t do that yet. So I made doubly sure no one saw him.
Our bathhouse was attached to the side of the house and had a separate entrance. Mom had insisted on it to keep the water’s vapor out of the main house. She’d set up the the tub already, lined it with a white cloth, set the soap on the only stool in the room, and started a fire in the open hearth. The cauldron sat beside it, ready to heat the water I brought.
I hung it over the fire and emptied my buckets into it. It looked like I hadn’t fetched any water at all. This would take a while, even with the dragon’s help. I sighed.
The dragon peaked over the rim, opened his mouth, and emptied his interim stomach. But what was that? The water flowed from his mouth, and it flowed and flowed and flowed. He filled the whole cauldron with water. And my buckets as well. When he still couldn’t stop, he vomited water into the bathtub until he finally managed to close his lips. The stream of water stopped, and he stared at me with wide eyes.
I stared at him with wide eyes too. Could it be? It wasn’t impossible just highly unlikely. I mean when was the last time a dragon had been like him? Still, I voiced my thought. “You’re a water dragon.”
“There hasn’t been a water dragon in centuries.” His voice trembled, and he shivered.
Remembering my grandmother’s adventurous tales of the Mighty Waterdragon, I said. “You’ll get used to being special.” My grin went from ear to ear, I could feel it. “Would you let me join your adventures? Anything will be better than carrying water for a bath.”
“Well, that’ll be quite the surprise for my tribe.” The dragon visibly braced himself. “By the way, my name is Dracobert. If you want to be my partner in adventure, you’d better come to my maturity feast.”
I laughed. The bath would come in handy after all.
Behind the scenes, I’ve been very busy the last three months. I’m nearly finished writing an Urban Fantasy novel set in Hamburg, and the Indie Author’s Advent Calendar 2022 is ready. I hope many of you will join in the fun tomorrow. There are truly lovely stories in it this year.
To shorten the waiting time, here’s the Storytime Bloghop (a month later than usual, but everyone was too busy to notice, so please forgive us. Better late then never, right?) I hope you’ll like this blog hop’s #free #story. Remember to visit the other participants too. And please leave comments for us. We love to hear from you. It cheers us up and means the world to us.
“Ark-Ship One, Longoustine. Report to base.” The voice from the loudspeaker crackled. The solitary bluish-gray crustacean on the bridge sighed. Luckily the search for a new home 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.
“Longoustine reporting. Possible planet found. Commencing scouting endeavor. Requesting full weapon access.”
“The use of all weapons has been approved. Good luck, Longoustine.”
A few seconds later the vessel slowed and found a place in the orbit of the planet. The globe looked promising with its wide expanse of water. A little terraforming would easily submerge most of the land masses.
Longoustine 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 his data scan was finally complete, he marveled 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. Naturally, their weaponry would not suffice to stop an invading army from his home planet.
Longoustine decided it was time for a peek. Since the planet’s atmosphere was too thin for his breathing organs, he ordered the ship’s transporter to deposit him in the middle of 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 like this. 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 his species 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.”
Longoustine froze. These creatures ate crustaceans? What kind of world was this? Where there more predators specialized on cracking exoskeletons? With a small sound Longoustine activated the transporter and returned to his ship, the ape-man’s perplexed stare burned into his memory. What if there were more dangers on this world than he’d anticipated?
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. Conservative estimates showed that even if they eliminated the worst species for good, the whole ecosystem would change for the worst. With the ape-men gone and the continent’s submerged, other species would thrive … and most would eat crustaceans. And even if their society could keep the threats in check, the ecosystem was so precariously balanced, all of his computer models predicted its complete breakdown.
Defeated, Longoustine reported his failure, set course to the next planet, and began to repair the loudspeaker.
Somehow time seems to get faster the older I get. It’s depressing to see the end of my life less far away than the start. Add in a good amount of Corona bad news, the frightening developments in the two biggest countries worldwide, and the climate crisis, and you might understand why I find it hard to do regular blog updates or eMail letters. It all seems so pointless.
But then I see my grandson. I revel in the way he enjoys every day, accepts every person as is, loves learning new things without a thought about what will come tomorrow. And I have hope. Hope that things might still change for the better. That’s what always gets me back to writing something.
I hope you’ll like this blog hop’s #free #story. Remember to visit the other participants too. And leave us comments. We love to hear from you. It cheers us up no matter what, because it means someone reads what we write. And that’s worth so much in times like these!
“Don’t you miss work?” I asked Melinda.
“I like living here with you alone.” My daughter set aside another darned sock. “Not to forget that the inquisition will never find us here.”
I smiled at her to show her how much I love her, but in secret I longed for something more important to do than making a living. I sighed and went back to my spinning. The regular rhythm and Melinda’s breathing relaxed me and the internal unrest subsided until the peace of our evening routine was disturbed, when something heavy thunked against the window of our little cottage. Since it was dark outside we couldn’t exactly see what it was. My fingers stopped turning the spindle, and we both held our breath, fearing the same. But there was no screaming, no pitchforks, and most of all no fire. Slightly relieved but still wary, I called. “Who’s there?”
“Sh-sh-l ivri” The voice sounded muffled, as if it held something in its mouth and was trying to talk around it. Melinda looked at me, and I looked at Melinda.
“I know someone who talks that way,” I whispered. “But this is a different voice.”
Whoever was outside the window bumped against the delicate pane that kept out the winds. If it broke, winter would send its icy fingers into our home, so I got to the door and opened. But not without stopping at the hearth and picking up the biggest knife we owned. I dropped it the minute the door swung open and revealed a roughly human sized dragon with red scales and a bundle of cloth hanging from its maw. When he saw Melinda standing behind me, he took the bundle out of his mouth and moved his jaw from side to side to loosen the muscles.
“I don’t understand why the boss insists on carrying it in my mouth,” he said and handed the bundle to her. “Special delivery for you. New Stork sends their congratulations. You’ll find a welcome bonus packed right in.”
With shaking fingers Melinda opened the bundle.
“It’s a boy,” the dragon said needlessly. “Plus a few nappies.”
Melissa’s face mirrored the shock that kept me rooted to the spot. I had to clear my throat several times before I managed to speak. “Why’s Stork sending us a baby? We never ordered one.”
“New policy.” The dragon smiled, displaying more teeth that I was currently happy with. I swallowed, and he smiled some more. “We’ve got a few remnants that need old-style distribution. Your daughter was one of the candidates the boss chose.”
“Remnants? Come in and explain.” I stepped aside. I’d been one of Stork’s helpers for as long as I remembered, learning the midwife’s trade from my mother and passing on my knowledge to Melinda. However, since the inquisition started burning midwifes as witches, we’d gone into hiding. So far successful.
The dragon curled up in front of the hearth, enjoying the warmth of the fire. He puffed a few happy smoke curls before he got to the point. “Stork lost a lot of his delivery crew when the inquisition decided stork deliveries were not real and anyone believing in it was superstitious and needed to be punished. People actually started shooting storks then.” He stared into the flames for a while, and I took up my spindle again. He sighed contently. “Well, as I said, Stork lost a lot of his crew that way, so he decided to go direct with a delivery system designed to work without stork transportation. I helped him set up the system. It took quite a lot of magic to get it working properly, believe me.”
“Direct?” My mind whirred. “Stork-free delivery?”
“Well, the seeds get harvested when they’re still in single cell state, and a magical tube shoots them directly into the mother’s belly. It’s a marvel. It really is.” He preened his claws and looked smug. “And I was a major part in developing that system if I may point that out.”
How could Stork send babies straight to the mothers? Into their bellies if I hadn’t misheard. My eyes widened when I realized what that meant. “If he sends the parcel into the mother, it must come back out at some point, right?”
“Yup, and that’s why he’s inviting you to an advanced training in what he calls ‘birth’. That’s short for ‘binary inter-rump transfer, holistical’, the name of the new technique. We put the holistical at the end because the acronym reads better that way. Stork expects the participants of this course to spread the word.”
Suddenly I saw my life stretching out in front of me – always traveling, helping women through ‘birth’ and teaching Stork’s new delivery method as best I could while evading the inquisition. Ever so often I’d visit Melinda who had to stay behind to take care of her son.
I laughed out loud. Suddenly, life was exciting again.
This was a close one. I wrote the story in one sitting on the 25th (links were due on the 22nd, but I know the organizer :D).
My next goal is to write up an idea and a reading sample for a semi-open call of a German publisher before the end of May. We’ll see how that will go. I’ll try to keep you posted.
Now, enjoy the story and remember to visit the other participants’ websites too. And leave a comment!
“Are you coming to the dance club tonight?”, Elsbeth asked Vinny as they sat cross-legged on the flowery duvet on Vinny’s bed. “It’s going to be girls night, and you so love to dance.”
“I’d be all alone.” Vinny shuddered. She’d never gone anywhere without at least one family member around. The very idea scared her. What if the others didn’t like her? What if she needed help? Safety lay in numbers.
Elsbeth laughed. “It’s an evening of dance and merriment. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Vinny lay back and stared at the white ceiling of her room with her heart thundering in her chest. Elsbeth had gone so many times already, but whenever asked, Vinny had declined. Somehow it seemed her duty to agree this time, but that didn’t make the decision any easier. Even the green and yellow wallpaper didn’t calm her nerves like it normally did.
“Can’t Joe come along?” She knew Elsbeth liked Joe.
“He’s got two left feet.” Elsbeth slipped off the bed and opened the wardrobe. “You could finally wear your new dress.” She pulled out a white dress with black polka dots. The body fitting top and the wide skirt with its seven layers of underskirts were Vinny’s pride and she’d never had a chance to put it on so far.
Breathing deeply, Vinny nodded. “Okay. I’ll come. But promise you won’t leave me alone.”
“I swear.” Elsbeth grinned from one ear to the next, and her teeth gleamed in the sunlight falling through the yellow curtains.
The dance hall smelled strongly of straw which was no wonder since it used to be a barn. The familiar scent calmed Vinny’s nerves somewhat.
“See, it’s not as bad as you thought.” Elsbeth dragged her deeper into the throng of people. “Let’s show off your dress.”
Vinny found it hard to follow her. Too many people milled around, and soon Elsbeth was lost in the sea of faces. The full moon was already up, and the music was loud enough to wake the dead, and everyone seemed to be determined to move to the rhythm one way or the other. Aside from the DJ’s table and a hastily constructed counter where drinks were sold, the room was bare. As far as Vinny could tell, it was better that way. Hundreds of teens her age swayed on the dance floor—although Vinny wasn’t sure how they could tell the area for dancing from the area for socializing.
“Hello. Beauty.” Warm breath caressed her ear. “All by yourself on a lovely night like this?”
She flinched and turned, finding herself nose to nose with a young man slightly older than her. Jared was the head of her school’s soccer team, and she’d dreamed of him for at least two years. His eyes held a glitter that made her already wobbly legs shake. His smile created dimples in his long, handsome face. Vinny’s heart raced, even though the scent of dog, drifting off of him, didn’t suit him at all.
“My friend …” She tried to look around, but the young man had already grabbed her arm.
“I’ll show you the ropes until he shows up.” Jared nodded toward the bar. “Care for a drink?”
Ignoring her answer, he pulled her along, waved at the barkeeper, and handed her a cocktail glass with something that smelled of lemon with a tangy note to it.
Vinny closed her eyes for a moment and let his flirting wash over her. It felt so good. If it hadn’t been for her exceptional sense of smell, she could have fallen for him. But so … this had gone on long enough. She opened her eyes again, breathed deeply to gather her resolve, and said. “Sorry, but I don’t drink anything but plain water. I will leave now.”
The smile on Jared’s face faltered, but then returned full force. “Naturally I will accompany you, lovely lady.” Grabbing Vinny’s arm, he headed for the rear exit, a small door set into the wall behind the counter. His fingers dug into her arm.
Vinny allowed him to pull her along and used the time to scan the dance floor for Elsbeth but she was nowhere in sight. She should have known better than to trust her promises. Elsbeth always meant well but she just didn’t understand how hard it was for Vinny and her family in a town of were-wolves.
Once through the door, Jared turned and pushed her against the barn’s wall. One arm raised over her head, the other still holding her arm, his face closed in on Vinny.
Albeit reluctantly, she turned her head sideways to evade his kiss. “I’m quite sorry,” she said. “But I am not interested in dating a wolf.”
“Not even an alpha?” His eyes grew darker. “You’re beautiful and your smell is so enticing.”
His pheromones hung in the air like a heady perfume. Vinny’s heart raced and she wanted nothing more than to throw herself into his arms.
“I can feel that you’re a were too.” He stared into her eyes without coming any closer. “Don’t you feel it too?”
Vinny couldn’t answer. Her blood roared in her ears and the need to share the night with another were, burned in her blood. If only it hadn’t been full moon.
“Be mine tonight,” Jared’s whisper filled her senses. “And I’ll be yours forever.”
Vinny didn’t manage to speak. The change she had suppressed for so many years finally had overcome her. A loud moan escaped her lips as her bones melted and reorganized themselves.
Jared stood back, his eyes wide with wonder. “You’re a …”
“A were-cow, yes.” Elsbeth stepped out of the door, aiming a handgun at him. “And if you harm even a single hair on her body, I’ll pump a round of silver bullets into you.”
“Why would I harm her?” Jared didn’t even look at Elsbeth. “She’s perfect. Beautiful and perfect.”
Vinny saw the adoration on his face and for the first time ever, she felt she might belong after all.
He groaned as the change came over him, too.
Vinny’s heart danced as his body settled into that of a strong, healthy bull. Side by side, they walked away into the night, leaving behind a girl with a gun and an open mouth.
Looking at the year I feel positively SciFi. 😀
Being buried in tax papers, I was glad that someone reminded me of the quarterly bloghop. This story is a little darker than usual. Blame it on the weather or on my mood. I still hope you’ll like it. 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!
The Beauty of Rainstorms
Frozen in my bay window seat I seek solace in neat rows of books, well placed trinkets, and carefully arranged furniture whenever lightning illuminates them.
I flinch at every earsplitting thunder-crack, remembering the earth-shaking explosions, the sirens, and how – secretly shivering with fear – Mother used to read to me in the bomb shelter’s gloom. Her voice was all that kept panic at bay. Her words painted pictures in my head, so vividly I no longer smelled the dust hanging in the air.
I don’t want to think of our flight. The waves’ thunder, the salt on my lips and skin, the burning thirst – worse than hunger – and the scared gazes of men, women, and children are burnt into my soul. Although I cannot know the number of boats like ours that were swallowed by the ocean, I feel their once living cargo in my heart. A stone of the beach we landed at still lies on one of my shelves. It gives me strength when my heart can no longer bear the burden of my fear.
Now, I’m a mother myself and I read to my own daughter. During thunderstorms I sometimes hide in her bed, sucking in the scent of diapers and milk. Then, she’ll close her tiny arms around my neck, and I know the world won’t end – like it didn’t end in the bunker, like it didn’t end on the ocean.
If only my sweet daughter would be here with me now. Her room is endlessly far away, and my legs don’t obey. The storm’s chaos and noise paralyses me. Like a laughing giant, it plays with my memories, my fate – one of many – as if to prove how unimportant one human life is. And still, I’m here, even though I I sit and stare silently at my orderly room, fighting panic.
The door opens and my daughter bursts in, delighted by every kaboom. Her laughter against the giants’ grumbling. My living whirlwind careens through my sanctuary and hugs me with all her strength. While she holds me, she talks about everything and nothing until I finally relax.
Maybe with her it’s possible to rediscover the beauty of rainstorms.
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.