Flash Fiction: A Crown of Grey and Red

“If you could even begin to comprehend where I’ve come from, you would be terrified of me.”

I took in the grey-haired woman in front of me. All in greens and browns she was dressed, but wore a cloak of ox blood red. Her hair was entwined with holly berries; a crown of red above a wrinkled face.

“You should go back to town,” she said to me.

“They sent me to gather the water this year.”

“You?” she laughed. “You are too young.”

I drew myself up to my full height. But even so I was noticeably short for my sixteen years.

“They said she would be here to lead me into the woods to the water. The last girl.”

“And what makes you think that I am not she?”

“Because that was five years ago and you’re too…”

“Old? The woods change you.” She stepped back into the shadows of the trees. “Are you coming or not?”

I looked back at the town for a moment and clenched my jaw before following the woman.

 

“They lie when they say it holds the power to give eternal youth, you know,” she said when we reached a spring surrounded by dried and ashen vegetation.

“Then why do we come?”

“Because the years we lose, they gain,” she said with nonchalance as she filled the bucket I had brought with water and started walking away.

“And you will leave me here, to your fate?”

She looked back. “If it means that I could see my son one more time before I die, yes.”

 

On the elected day I, too, entwined berries in my greying hair and ambled to the edge of the woods I would at last be permitted to leave.

A young girl already stood waiting.

Writing Update: End of May 2017

May has been a month of fiction started, but not necessarily finished. The reason for this is that the stories were written either for Patreon (part 4 of The Box of Secrets) or the writing course I am currently taking through The Open University and FutureLearn. Unfortunately I was not able to take part in all the Microcosms and Cracked Flash Fiction competitions.

The flash fiction I did write, was:

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The Ruon Chronicles and The Box of Secrets

You can read The Box of Secrets over here on my Patreon page – it is one of the The Ruon Chronicles stories. It is delivered in monthly instalments and there are three instalments left!

The other The Ruon Chronicles news is that this Ruon Chronicles website happened…

All the fiction will now be available in one place, while the ‘behind the scenes’, like the worldbuilding, will still be posted here and (usually in more detail) on the Patreon page.

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INK-gedenkbundel (INK Anthology)

The INK anthology has now been published (containing to of my works) and it is so pretty! Just have a look –

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Camp NaNoWriMo (July) & Short Stories

I’ve decided to use July’s Camp NaNoWriMo to work on the short stories started in the fiction writing course. Although these started out being exercises in, for instance, character sketches, I realised soon that I want to build on them and also complete the stories.

These stories include (not the final titles!):

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Flash Fiction: Beneath the Bed

This story was written for Cracked Flash Fiction last week. The prompt was “You’re my favourite monster”.

Beneath the Bed

“You’re my favourite, Monster,” Lisa said to the shadowy lump beneath her bed and smiled. Her two front teeth were missing and she was holding another tooth in the palm of her hand.
“There is no reason for you to be afraid of the tooth fairy, okay?” she said. “She’s a nice fairy who’ll bring me money and then tomorrow we can go buy candy.”
There’s a snapping of teeth and a scrabbling of nails beneath the bed as Monster tried to catch a stray bug that had found its way there.
“Okay?” she asked again. Monster had become awfully quiet and agitated since the tooth fairy started showing up.
“Okay,” a voice rumbled from beneath the bed. “Can we have chocolate, Lisa?”
The little girl nodded, blew Monster a kiss, and pushed a small teddy bear beneath the bed before she jumped onto the bed and placed the tooth beneath her pillow.
Monster crept further into the shadows, hugging the teddy tightly, when Mom came to say goodnight and shivered with the knowledge of what was going to happen during the night.

The witching hour came much too soon and, with it, monsters like the bogeyman, shadow man, and the tooth fairy. She entered the room through the window. A thin sliver of nothingness that took on the form of Lisa’s mother as she neared the bed and picked up the tooth. Monster held his breath.
“What of yours do you give me in return for her safety, Monster?” she hissed.
“Two years of my time with her,” Monster answered. It was always two years.
A banknote was shoved beneath the pillow. “I accept.”
The tooth fairy slipped out of the room again, her passing only a whisper in the wind.
Beneath the bed sounded Monster’s muffled crying.

Flash Fiction: The Sewer Rat

“The Sewer Rat” was written for the final Cracked Flash Fiction competition of 2016. In this competition you are given the sentence you must start with and 300 words in which to finish the story.

In the case of this story, I lengthened the first sentence, as the only part given was “Sometimes it was better to hide the unsightly with shiny things than to try and fix it”. Notes on the story will appear on my Patreon page.

The Sewer Rat

Sometimes it was better to hide the unsightly with shiny things than to try and fix it, I thought as I traced a crack in the porcelain of the mask with a brush, pressing goldleaf into the imperfection.

Across from me sat the owner of the mask. His own face had been pressed into a grotesque gargoyle-like visage by the mask he wore. I wondered who had made the mask for him, but daren’t ask. Money that could afford porcelain as fine as this did not take any questions into the secret lives of their owners lightly.

“Is this going to take very long?” His voice was silky smooth, charismatic. The kind of voice you wanted to listen to, that you believed no matter the vile rhetoric it spewed. The voicebox around his neck bobbed up and down as he spoke.

“It is a long process,” I sighed and rolled my shoulders. “It takes as long as it takes.”

He harrumphed, drank more of the coffee he clasped in his hands.

“You know,” he said after a while, “you lot should really be kept an eye on. You can’t just go making masks for just anyone who asks. There should be -” he paused, “standards. Look at me. I deserve that mask. Sewer rats should stay where they are.”

Sewer rat. Someone once called me that and he left crying and with three less teeth. But my mask ensured that I escaped that life. Not many had the chance. Especially with a slum lord like the one sitting across from me.

I went outside, scraped soot from the outside of the building, pressed it into the last part of the crack. Soon all would see the man for whom he really was. The sewer rat behind the mask grinned.

To read the story notes, click here.

Flash Fiction: The Sky At Noon

She watched the Moon from the cracks in the wall of the tower where she was kept prisoner every night. Tendrils of light escaped through the cracks where she pressed her eye against the wall. But for all the light that could escape, it was not enough the draw the moon’s attention. He still kept his back turned on her, his face towards the earth as he searched for her there.

She could hear his faint voice above the Stars’ singing. The Stars were singing a dirge for one of their kin who had fallen, trailing the last of her light across the night sky. The Star who loved the Moon and whose heart had been broken by him. He neither noticed her love, nor saw her fall. So they sang a dirge he did not hear as he searched for the Sun on the horizon where the ocean spilled over the edge of the earth.

But the Tower of the Sun was always kept just outside the Moon’s eyeline by the Nightcloak Man who spread the darkness over the earth each night. Each evening he captured the Sun, each night the Moon searched for her in vain. Each night the Nightcloak Man thought the Sun started to love him.

The Sun beat upon the stone of her tower prison and cried out in such anguish that the stone’s heart broke and crumbled.

The walls of the tower fell away, letting out bright shards of light as the Sun stepped forward. The Moon turned around, smiling. He cast his spear at the Nightcloak Man, who fled from them.

For what seemed an eternity the Moon and the Sun hung in the sky together above the earth and people marvelled to see the Moon in the sky at noon.

 

Flash Fiction: One Touch

This story was written for the Cracked Flash Fiction competition. In this competition you get the first sentence of the story and then have 300 words in which to finish the story.

One Touch

I would find sanctuary with the witches. The thought raced through my mind as I ran into the dark forest. Behind me I could still hear the villagers shouting, telling me how they would kill me if they ever saw me again. With them, I knew, was my fiancee. But they would not dare to venture into the forest. Once the trees veiled all with their shadows and drowned all sound with their matted, fallen leaves, the world became the dominion of the witches. Even the woodcutters, like my fiancee, did not venture into the forest, but kept to the sparse woods on the far side of the village.

I sank down in the safety of a shadow with my back pressed against a giant trunk and touched my face. A raised scar spread from chin to eye, the skin puckered as if it had been sewn up hastily. Not that anyone should have lived through such a wound. I knew that when the other woodcutters carried my fiancee into the village. An axe to the face… I shut my eyes, trying to blot out the blood. But the sight was burned into my memory, so I tried to flee from it by running towards the witches’ cottages.

The eldest witch was standing at the edge of the clearing as if she was waiting for me. Years of healing had taken their toll on her – her face marred by cuts and burns, one arm shriveled and useless, one leg half lame.

She held out her arm when she saw me approaching.

The other witches stepped from the cottages. Witches; healers who took on the wounds of those they healed with a single touch. I touched my new scar.

“You’re our sister now,” she said.

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Flash Fiction: The Short Straw

This story was written for last week’s Cracked Flash Fiction competition. In this competition you are given the first sentence of the story and 300 words with which to finish it. This is what I came up with…

The Short Straw

“Next time we meet, one of us will be dead.” He lifted the cup of poison-laced whiskey and gulped it down before a swift death claimed him.

His friend closed his staring eyes before leaving the room. Those who had drawn the long straws were waiting in the parlour.

“Is it done?” one woman asked, a lace handkerchief pressed to her nose and muffling her voice.

“He is dead.”

“And now we wait,” an elderly gentleman said before adding, “I wonder for how long.”

Outside rain started to fall.

“I still cannot condone what happened here tonight,” the police inspector in the corner said.

“It was suicide, plain and simple. That is all your report need to say. And no one else will say anything else,” he said, eyes filled with a strange fire. “We all want to know if there is an afterlife, after all.” His expression dared anyone to say different.

“It’s not as if he can go to court and say otherwise,” the woman said, the lace handkerchief visibly trembling.

“You wanted him to be chosen,” an overweight man wearing rich clothes said. “If anyone is going down for this, it’s you. You wanted the money, not us. Definitely not me.”

“No one is ‘going down’ for this,” the police inspector said. “No one will ever know. No one will suspect anything. And you won’t say anything, will you, Judge?”

“Not as long as I get my cut of the money,” the judge grinned.

“There is no money,” a thin voice came from the centre of the room before the ghost of the man appeared. The grey figure laughed and cold hung in the room. “Tell me, Judge, how many times have a ghost turned up at their own murder trial?”

For some story notes and an earlier version of the story, you can head over to my Patreon page.

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Flash Fiction: Metamorphosis

This is another entry for Cracked Flash Fiction, a weekly challenge and competition where you get the first sentence and 300 words with which to finish your story. (You are allowed to tweak the first sentence; for instance turning it into dialogue, and in this case I substituted an exclamation mark for a full stop.)

Metamorphosis

I woke up with a shovel drenched with blood in my hand, and there was a trail of blood leading up to me. I got up slowly, stumbled, and then righted myself by using the shovel as a crutch. My left leg didn’t want to carry weight.

Some of the houses lining the street were burnt. Cars – some burnt, some simply left with their doors open – stood around haphazardly. My own car was crumpled against a street pole not far from where I had woken up. I looked down at my left leg and gagged. My left foot was gone, the flesh ripped, but the wound not bleeding. There wasn’t any pain. I gingerly touched my face with red-stained fingers. Where a stubble-covered jaw should have been there was nothing but raw flesh. A shiver shook me.

I limped towards my car, hoping to find my phone in working order.

A mangled body at the end of the gory blood trail drew my attention and I limped closer. It had been a woman. Now her head and chest was a bloody pulp. In her hands she clutched a foot. My foot.

An overwhelming desire to taste some of the flesh overloaded the synapses in my brain until spots appeared in front of my eyes and I came to myself once more.

My gurgled scream sounded across the street and deserted cars as I remembered what had happened before the alluring scent of fresh flesh drew my attention to my right and I dropped the shovel.

Some people stood there. One had a shotgun aimed at my head.

“Kill me,” I tried to beg, stretching out my gore-covered hands. But the words stuck in my throat and sounded like a growl.

I lurched forward.

The gun fired.

 

Story notes, ideas, and an earlier version is available on my Patreon page.

Flash Fiction: Flower of the Ghosts

“Flower of the Ghosts” was written for Cracked Flash Fiction’s competition. In this competition you are given the first sentence and 300 words with which to finish the story.

Flower of the Ghosts

He found her at the base of a stone angel, almost appearing to be part of it. Her grey roots folded around the statue while one single pearl-white bloom turned its head towards the moon, seeking its silver light.

He wasn’t sure why he always thought of the ghost flower as a ‘she’ except that the bloom reminded him of a dancer in a white dress that swept and curled as she turned to the sound of faerie music. The flowers only grew in graveyards and only then, it was said, on the graves of those who had lived righteous lives worthy of remembering and emulating. He had believed that story until the day he found one on the grave of a murderer. Or perhaps he stopped believing because the questions he was left with became too many and too difficult to answer.

Technically he was a grave digger, but sometimes, just sometimes, his work required … other services. Like the removal of an old golden family heirloom that, by chance, happened to have slipped into a coffin before burial. Or making some more room in the cemetery by donating a fresh body or two to the student doctors. But his favourite job was seeking out the grave flowers. They only grew in the midwinter and then sprouted, bloomed, and died all in the space of one full-mooned night.

He held the knife in one hand and carefully took the bloom in the other. Red sap seeped between his fingers when he severed the bloom – more questions he didn’t need answering – and carried it over to where the family was waiting.

“Will it cure him?” the mother asked, rocking her baby.

He nodded, handed her the flower.

Sometimes, just sometimes, he felt as if his work helped people.

 

Story Notes:

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I think of when I see “stone angel” is Doctor Who! And, seeing as how I can’t write fan fiction for the entry…

I played around with ideas about a sentient plant and then the person finding the plant hallucinating… but they just didn’t work for me. So I decided to just write about the flower and then see where the story took me. It didn’t really change from the first draft to what you see here.

Once I set the story in a graveyard, I also just had to add some body snatching. Because reasons.

This is one of those ideas which, I think, may lead to some more fiction in the future. Perhaps the story of the murderer on whose grave the flower grew?

Flash Fiction – The Oath

“You could forget who you are in a place like that,” the Seeker told the young man.

“Why would I want to forget?” he snapped at the old man.

“Trevian,” his mother chided from the other side of the room.

“Look at me,” the old Seeker said, stretching out his arms and turning in a circle. “Are these the robes a helper on a pig farm could ever have worn? Because that is who I would have been before I went to the Sanctuary and became a Seeker of Knowledge.”

“Are you telling me that my life isn’t good enough?”

“I am telling you that your life could be much better – and much longer. There is no reason for you to go off and fight.”

“It’s war. And honour.”

“There are many types of honour.” The Seeker glanced towards the mother and nodded. “Not that you have much say in the matter,” he told the rehearsed lie. “Your mother bound you to us by oath.”

“That was before I was born!”

“Which makes her oath so much stronger than you telling your friends that you will go fight with them while you were drunk!” The Seeker brought his hand down on the table so hard that both child and mother flinched.

“I swore an oath to the Wislic of the Sanctuary in the name of the Creator,” the mother said. “It is an oath that cannot be broken.”

“You are now eighteen,” the Seeker said. “Which means that you are now bound to the Sanctuary. You will follow me and turn away from this folly. Go and fetch your things.”

 

The mother watched her eldest child leave her home with the Seeker and wondered if she would be punished for lying about an oath that she had never made.

Story Notes:

“The Oath” also takes place in the world of Airtha-Eyrassa. I haven’t really written a story about the Seekers of Knowledge before (except for the Patreon patrons where there were some worldbuilding notes). As it had to be a story of a max of 300 words (mine came to 299), I didn’t put in too much extra info, but the Sanctuary I wrote about here is Holt Haliern in the Midlands and not the Eastern Keepers (on the map it is only marked as “HH”).

To read more stories set in Airtha-Eyrassa, you can also visit my DeviantArt page or my Patreon page (both have free stories). They also contain a preview of The Ruon Chronicles.

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