“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 Inc. 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, I guess because they’re hungry.” 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 holistics’, the name of the new technique. The participants of this course will have 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 deliver method throughout the country as best I could while evading inquisition. Ever so often I’d visit Melinda who had to stay behind to take care of her son. Suddenly, Life was exciting again.
My year will be extremely busy, and here’s why: I’m planning on writing 52 short stories this year. I know this sounds crazy, but after the scare with my father’s breast cancer I need a fun challenge, and I love writing short stories. I know I’ll probably not be able to write one short story per week, translate it into German, and post it here on my blog, but I pledge to at least try. My goal is to write enough of them to fill 4 or 5 anthologies. Should you have cool ideas for story prompts, you’re welcome to eMail them to me through the contact form on this site. If it’s a good suggestion, I’ll take it.
To give you an impression on the scope of this challenge, let’s dive into a couple of numbers (strangely enough I love numbers nearly as much as words). A good sized crime novel has between 50 and 75 thousand words, an epic fantasy between 100 and 250 thousand. If I assume an average short story length of 3,000 words, I’m facing 156,000 words plus the same in translations plus the ca. 100K words I need to finish the novella I’m currently writing, the ending of Scotland’s guardians part 2, and another installment of my fairy tale novellas. That makes 412,000 words in total for 2017 (not to forget the publications that need to be done).
Now let’s have a look at my stats from last year: I managed to write and translate a total of 304,574 words. Had I been writing every single day (even on weekends and holidays) that would have been a mere 835 words per day. Taking off weekends and the times my children were not in school, I think I wrote more than twice that amount per day. To make my goal in 2017, I’ll have to write 2,200 words per day. I call that a real challenge, and I won’t bereave myself should I fail. However, my ambition is to make it through the year reaching all my goals.
Wish me luck (and enough writing time)! I will start posting on January 26 when it’s time for the next Story Time Bloghop.
P.S.: If you want to read more than the beginning (the first 100-250 words) of the short stories I manage to write, you will have to be fast (the full version will be available for a few days after posting only) or wait for 2018 when I’ll publish them all in bundles of 5-6 stories.
A quarter of a year passes so fast, I hardly ever realize how much time has gone again. And that’s me nearing 50 already. Luckily I’m still feeling much, much younger (also due to being in love with the same man for more than 30 years, methinks). So here we are, closing in on Halloween and Christmas with our next Bloghop.
My middle daughter is a great fan of Australia (probably inherited from her mother — me). Her favorite band is 5SoS, she’s interested in Aboriginal history (did a voluntary presentation in school about it), and the wildlife. I’m sure she’d love to travel to Australia just to see everything with her own eyes. So naturally, I came up with a way she could get there. Enjoy the story (as always there are links to more stories at the end of this post).
Do you believe in magic? Visit Australia for a tenth of the usual price. Information at St. Paul’s chapel, Kirkstreet, Monday 5pm
With the music of an Australian band filling my little living room, I stared at the ad trying not to get my hopes up. Australia was my dream country. I’d read all the books, seen all the films, and carried around a first aid kit with everything needed to cope with snake bites, including antidotes to the most common poisons. Not that I ever needed it though. I’d been saving every penny for as long as I could remember, and it still wasn’t enough – not even for a one way ticket. By my estimate I’d be fifty before I would have the funds for a three month holiday. So what did I have to lose?
I entered St. Paul’s chapel a little late and discovered I was the only visitor. The hollow feeling in my gut deepened. I had known the ad’s offer was too good to be true. I turned to flee, but the exit was blocked by an Aborigine in a loincloth and nothing else.
“Welcome. I am very glad you came.” His wrinkled face contorted to the friendliest smile I’d ever seen. He grabbed my hands and pulled me to a mattress lying in the space between the front row of the pews and the altar. “Please, sit down with me. You could be in Australia in less than five minutes.”
My hands grew clammy. Was this real or had I fallen into the clutches of a fraud? One thing was sure, he felt my desperation, my longing. Well, he wouldn’t swindle me out of my hard earned savings. “I don’t have any money.” And that wasn’t even much of a lie.
“Don’t worry about something so inconsequential.” The Aborigine sat on the mat with crossed legs and pointed to the other side. “Please do let me explain. It all comes down to the Dreaming.”
“Dreaming?” I had read about their religion. It consisted of thousands of stories about the beginning of the world and the Aborigines’ ancestors. What did that have to do with me visiting Australia? This was all too confusing. Still I sat down against better judgment. Maybe I could learn something new.
“If you believe it or not, I come from a time before the white man came to Australia. The ancestors took me here and promised to find me a person who can help me, and they did.” He smiled again, and without reason, I relaxed. “Back home, my son went on a Walkabout to be worthy of becoming leader of our tribe. On the day he should have returned, I found him semi-conscious not far from our village. He’d been bitten by a desert death adder which was strange since they are usually very reluctant to do so. I called upon the ancestors, and they took me here and sent you to me. Will you come with me to save my son?” He looked at me with puppy dog eyes. How could I refuse the plea, especially since I couldn’t lose? Best case, I’d get to see at least a little bit of Australia. Worst case, I’d waste a little time to please an old lunatic. So I nodded.
He took my hands, and the persistent hum of a didgeridoo filled my mind, taking all light with it. The droning sounded like a busy beehive, but it held a melody that grabbed my heart and puled me along. When words joined the song, the light returned. I found myself under a sky with a full moon and the Southern Cross that I’d only seen on TV. Scents, aromatic and wild, filled my nose, and the buzzing of insects joined the song.
The old man sat under an eucalyptus tree, playing the didgeridoo. Beside him lay a man maybe in his early thirties. He was breathing hard and sweating profoundly. Luckily the moon’s light was enough to see the bite wound on his ankle. I took my first aid kit out of my handbag, and used the pump to suck out as much poison as I could. The man moaned. When I was sure I’d done the best I could, I filled a syringe with the antidote and injected it into his bloodstream. Hopefully it would be enough to counteract the poison. Desert death adders had a lot of poison in their bite. My prayers joined the old man’s song and together we waited.
When morning dawned, the younger man’s breathing became regular, he stopped sweating, and fell into a peaceful slumber.
The old man stopped playing. As the melody ended, I was sucked back into darkness. All I heard were is parting words.
“Thank you. We owe you a much longer visit.”
When a hand touched my shoulder, I opened my eyes. I was lying on the mattress in St. Paul’s, and a young Aborigine woman bent over me with a smile on her face.
“So, you are here after all. I didn’t expect great-grandfather’s tales to be true. Honored to meet you,” she said and helped me up. Then, she crossed the arms before her chest and bowed. “I have come to fetch you to Australia for a few months as my great-grandfather requested.” When she straightened again, a smile lit up her face that reminded me a lot of the old man’s. “And we all thought you’d be a figment of great-grandpa’s dreams.”