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Flash Fiction: The Stairs

Our writing group has a challenge on at the moment where we have to write a story for each of the photos one member of the group is sending from New York.

You can do any genre, etc. as long as the photo inspires it somehow. This is the second photo and my second story.

Read the first story here.

Stairs in New York City

The Stairs

The sweltering heat from the summer reflected mirages even in the alleyways where fire escape ladders led from every floor of the tall apartment buildings. She sat on landing of one of the flights of stairs, huddled in the bit of shade that the landing above cast, and stared up at the sky.

“They said that there would be a solar eclipse today,” she called through the window to where her family sat, unmoving, in front of the TV. A few grunts told her that they’d heard her.

“They say a dragon will eat the sun,” she added softly, hoping that it was true. That a dragon would at least eat half the sun and cool down the oven-like city.

She gazed up at the blue sky again, her eyes watching the few cirrus clouds merge and flow in the winds that did not reach to the ground but only mocked from the air.

Wiping the sweat from her brow, she closed her eyes and listened to the faint ringing in her ears, imagining that it’s the sound of the ocean.

“It’s showing on the TV,” one of her siblings called in their robotic voices. Which one it had been, she could not tell. They had all started to sound the same to her.

She scooted out from under the landing into the sunlight and lifted the film in front of her eyes, making sure that she did not look at the sun directly. Slowly, ever so slowly, the dragon appeared and started to gnaw away at the sun. Slowly, ever so slowly, the sun became little more than a sliver, its jagged crescent shape looking like a golden moon.

The clouds that had been little more than filaments of white started to pack together, swirling in the unseen and unfelt winds. They drifted to where she was, obscuring the feasting dragon and she removed the film from in front of her eyes. With a last look over her shoulder at the family she no longer felt was her own, she started to climb up the stairs. Around and around she climbed, her feet clanging on the metal, until she reached the roof of the building. There the clouds hung low, as if they were waiting for her. She lingered for a moment on the precipice of the roof’s edge before stepping onto the cloud, her arms outstretched. And she flew.

Flash Fiction: The Path

Our writing group has a challenge on at the moment where we have to write a story for each of the photos one member of the group is sending from New York.

You can write any genre, etc. as long as the photo inspires it somehow and it’s 500 word or shorter. This is the first photo and my first story.

Photo showing a flight path on a screen.

The Path

I remember the world before magic was cast aside. When the sun and the moon were young, when the trees had only blossomed once before and everything was still new. When we walked in thornless gardens drinking dew from clean green leaves and trailed our fingertips along the soft feathers of the peacocks that showed off their bright plumage and sang for the sun. I remember still a song sung by the young silver stars before their light started twinkling and fading.

A series of electronic beeps draws me back from my reverie and I open my tired eyes. The memory of the gardens and their hidden paths are replaced by the sticky face of the child who had been trying my patience for the past 10 hours of the flight.

“You look funny,” he says, barely taking his eyes from the screen in front of him.

“So do you,” I say. And I mean it. The bright spark of magic that I would have expected to see behind his eyes, that flicker of memory all children had of the world before, wasn’t there. His eyes were just dead.

He snorts, opens his mouth for a retort, but I stop him.

“Do you believe in magic?” I ask. He laughs an adult’s laugh.

“Of course not.”

“Look at me,” I say. “Really look at me, and tell me I still look funny.” The child’s mother glares at me, her eyes briefly lifting from her own screen, but the child pauses whatever he’s busy with on the screen and looks at me.

“You just look,” he searches for a word that’s no longer in the vocabularies of the world. That is no longer remembered in the dictionaries unless you turn to the old archives or those printed on paper.

I hold my breath, waiting for the word to come to life once more and fill the world with magic.

He shrugs. “You just look off. Like you don’t belong here.”

I close my eyes, lean my head back and feel the tears burn my eyes.

“You’re right.” My voice is harsh, hoarse from years of tears I’ve not spilled. “I don’t belong here.”

“Where are you from?” the mother asks. She doesn’t look up this time.

“East of the sun, west of the moon,” I say.

The mother mutters something to her child about mental illness and how he should leave me the hell alone.

The song of the stars stirs in the depths of my memories. I start to sing it softly, my tongue soon remembering the strange lilting, lingering sounds of their language.

On the screen in front of me the picture of the plane is still over the waters of the Atlantic, tracing our route as we go. Above the din of the engines, I hear the stars answer.

I remember the world when the sun and the moon were young, when we walked hand in hand, following the gardens’ hidden paths. And I wondered if you remembered.

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Fiction Excerpt: “All the Things I Forgot”

The plane’s wreckage had been there since I was a boy. It had aged as the windblown sands scoured it and the sun bleached it like the bones of a long-dead animal. I was told never to go near it, that it was haunted by the spirit of whatever it was that had caused the pilot to crash on a clear day in spring.

Yet I yearned to go to the burnt fuselage, climb to the top and get a glimpse of the world from on high. I often flew in my dreams. Dreams of being on the plane before it became a piece of twisted metal. Sometimes, in my dreams, I walked — unharmed — through the flames to safety and watched the plane and the forest around it burn. There was no forest anymore. 

Mother and father always became very uneasy when I told them of my dreams. My mother would chase me outside to play whenever talk turned to the crash site and what was to be done about it. I would go into the small garden with a few flowers, vegetables, herbs and a forlorn oak tree in the corner.

It did not matter how hot it was, I would not sit beneath that tree. Rather, I would huddle between the pungent leaves of the tall tomato plants for some shade. There I could sit and read, but still had a view of the street and the village’s people that passed along the chain link fence. Except for the odd grocery delivery or postman at the gate, no one ever came over. And I never left its confines. Our house — our whole village, Father said — was covered in signs and sigils to ward off the evil that lingered outside our borders. But inside our small house I felt safe, dilapidated roof and all. 

On my fourteenth birthday I decided to go on an adventure like in the books I always read. After everyone had gone to bed, I crept through the dark house, stopping in the kitchen to grab the flashlight on my way out.

I could see the fuselage on the hill across the road from the back door. My heart caught in my throat and first I could do nothing but stare. Gathering all the courage I could muster, I crept down the weed-ridden path and climbed over the rusted gate. Slipping across the road, I tasted my first steps of freedom, of being Outside. I headed for the burnt plane, freedom tingling in my fingertips.

There was no need for any fences around the plane. No one ever went there, not even on midsummer when mother and father carved the sigils deeper into the worn wood of the house. I slipped on soft black soil as I climbed up the slope to the wreckage. When at last I reached the top, heart beating in my ears, I made the sign to ward off evil . I turned around then, looking back at the village I’d left behind and gasped. From here you could see the whole village and even the world beyond. No lights lit the windows of the houses this late, though, and the only sounds came from the crickets that sent their trills through the night. I walked closer to the fuselage and stretched out my hand. The scoured metal was still warm from the day’s sun. I shivered. There was one last test I had decided on for this night — to go inside the wreckage and see for myself what lay within.

The door was partly ripped off and fire-stained. Thanks to the angle the plane was laying at, I could climb inside without much difficulty. I set a trembling foot inside the plane and grasped at the warped frame to pull myself inside. A piece of metal tore open my leg just underneath the knee and I cried out even though there was no blood. My voice echoed through the interior of the plane and I clasped a hand over my mouth, blood still churning in my ears. I could no longer hear the insects’ shrill song.

I swallowed back another cry when I saw what was inside the plane, lit by the slanting moonbeams. No fire had penetrated the interior of the plane, it seemed. All who had been on the flight, though, still sat where they had been when the plane crashed that day. Now turned to ashen, dust-covered mummies, their empty eye sockets and grotesque open mouths gaped at something in the front of the plane. Strangest of all, though, was the thin veils the women all wore. Covering their heads and hanging to their shoulders, their faces were only half-obscured by the thin fabric. 

Curiosity pulled me further inside the wreckage, urged me deeper and deeper towards something dust-covered that lay on the floor at the front of the plane. The long-dead seemed to be staring at with empty eyes. When I got closer I saw that it was an old teddy bear. I stooped and picked it up. The moment my fingers brushed it, the recognition flashed through my mind. It had once been mine.

Get your copy of All the Things I Forgot on Amazon or Kobo for only $0.99! 

June news — Time for winter writing spells

The Ruon Chronicles

Finally the first draft of the new first chapter of The Knowledge Stones is finished! Huzzah! Basically the first and third chapters are brand new in order to flesh out the story and and characters and, you know, not pants the whole novel. I’m posting the first part on Patreon tomorrow, so if you’re a Patron, you’ll have access to that post of many others that are only available to read there.

Winter is (more) properly here now

With it being nearly mid-winter, the days are now getting colder (Well, colder for me. Apparently I have anti-freeze in my blood and basically live in my summer clothes right through the year). But, with the longer evenings and dark mornings come some vacation days that I’ve taken around my birthday and which I am planning to spend writing and crafting and just resting.

That said, I am busy designing some more charms for The Ruon Chronicles that I will embroider throughout June and post here and on Instagram. Now I just need to figure out what all the charms mean…

Pain and fever Ruon charm combined

Maps! And moar maps!

While the main map for the world of Airtha-Eyrassa has already been drawn by hand, I’m now digitising the map and some of the other maps that go with The Knowledge Stones. Well, okay, doing it with software rather than just scanning the map into a PDF and working from there. I do prefer drawing with pencil and paper still, though. I very much doubt that I will suddenly turn into a digital art maestro! I don’t mind importing it afterwards and making it a more crisp image that I can use otherwise, however.

Here’s an example of one of the maps I have tried digitising:

May Update: Worldbuilding, a Ghost Story and Tinnitus

Worldbuilding The Ruon Chronicles

I’m really enjoying returning to the beginning of the world of Airtha-Eyrassa to make sure that everything for The Ruon Chronicles slots into each other perfectly. It’s also forcing me to make sure that the magic systems, etc. are working the way I want them to.

For instance, in the next few weeks I’ll be working on the embroidered charms and how the knitting, tapestries, etc. fit into the magic system. See, so far it all works in my head, but writing things down usually shows where the holes are. Some of the worldbuilding will be posted here, with some of it only available on Patreon.

I hope, also, that I will have time to actually embroider some of the charms to see if they work like I want them to when translated into thread during the few days that I’m on vacation in June. Keep an eye out on Instagram for them as I’ll post them there first!

A ghost story

Ah, the radio drama. So… I have the ending. Apparently lying awake while feeling like crap helped with that. Now I just need to fill in the other blanks and actually write the whole thing in the correct format before end of July. It is still going to be a ghost story, though.

I also still have some interviews (okay that sounds a lot more formal than I mean for it too) before finalising the story. Some ghost stories that I’ve been told or at least paranormal encounters I’ve been told about. While I don’t want to use them as is, I still want to write them down or record them as part of my research for the story. All I can say for the moment is that they are (mostly) hospital stories.

A ringing irritating as heck

In other news, while I’ve been productive, I have not been as productive as I could have as my ears are having a field day driving me mad. I was diagnosed with Menière’s Disease in about 2007, but the tinnitus hasn’t been this bad in a long time. I mean, it’s always there, but right now it’s loud, it’s irritating, and, along with my other symptoms like vertigo and nausea, makes me feel really crappy. I have now discovered that a fan and quite loud music together drowns out the damned sound — yay! I do feel a bit guilty for having a fan on in winter, though, as I’m just wasting electricity, really, but I am at the end of my tether.

So, hopefully, during June, I’ll be more productive again — huzzah!

Worldbuilding Airtha-Eyrassa: Knowledge Stones, Part 2

Read the first part of this series here: Knowledge Stones, Part 1.

Worldbuilding the Knowledge Stone

During the early stages of developing the world of Airtha-Eyrassa — that is to say, before the Major Overhaul I started end of (gasp!) 2014 — I already had the idea for a kind of knowledge stone. It was, however, more like a passing fancy than something I could actually make fit into the story. Then came the “flash piece” A Box of Secrets. Which became the novel The Knowledge Stones. ‘Cause that’s how I roll, apparently.

Suddenly pieces that had either been glaring plot holes or which I’d thought of just abandoning fell into place. If I had been in the bathtub at that time I probably would have at least shouted “Eureka”. Rather, I think, I had one of those weird writer-stares where your brain is running a million miles an hour plotting, while you’re waiting to pay for milk and also still trying to act like a human.

From the beginning, though, the knowledge stones were green (I guess because it’s a pretty colour? *goes in search of symbolism dictionary*), and now they became part of the very mythology of the world as well. Because a world needs it’s myffic stuff.

In the previous part of this series I already mentioned that I picture the original Knowledge Stone as looking something like the Code of Hammurabi:

The Knowledge Stone, however, had to be broken to keep it safe, which meant that pieces and even splinters of the stone was carried away from the hall where the Stone was kept. These pieces may have had writing on them, or have been plain. It was, however, the ones with the writing on that Lewjan and his followers were most intent on finding and taking for themselves. Many pieces were captured in this way by the enemy, but many valuable pieces of the broken stone was kept safe because there was no writing on it.

However, what makes the stone so special in actual fact, is that knowledge can be imprinted into the stone by those who have the Talent called Nithrus. The stone, therefore doesn’t have to be inscribed in order to be filled with knowledge. Only those with Nithrus can read the knowledge locked within the stone. At first only some of the Airus had Nithrus, but, later, some of the half-Airus, half-humans also had Nithrus and could read the stones. It’s these Airus and “Airahna” that mostly become the Seekers of Knowledge.

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Fiction Work in Progress: “Not the Chosen Ones”

I don’t often write science fiction. And you can forget about me writing hard sci-fi … I don’t think that will ever happen. Sci-fi acting more like fantasy, though? Bring. It. On.

I can’t quite remember where the idea for “Not the Chosen Ones” came from, all I know is I was listening to RSG’s Sterre en planete (Stars and Planets); a weekly radio show about space and all things space-related. They also give the sun weather every week which I just find fascinating. But, as usual, I digress.

Anyway, I got the story idea and started writing it down, forgetting to finish listening to the show.

This is the first draft of what I think of as “part 1” of “Not the Chosen Ones”.

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First draft: Not the Chosen Ones   

My job was to keep the chosen ones in stasis alive until I die. The one after me would do the same, the one after her as well. We were created for nothing else but a life on this desert of a ship that would fly them to the Promised Land. 

We were told nothing of where we were going, only that we needed to go to the new planet — a terraformed place the chosen ones would call home. Would maybe even call earth. They would ensure Earth lives on. We would ensure they survived. 

You’d always seen our futures, you said three weeks after we’d met. I said it was still too early to talk about such things. You laughed but your eyes did not. It was the day before the sirens sounded for the first time and it was that moment — a simple moment we spent on one of the viewing decks — that I remember most clearly. 

As the siren sounded shields shuddered under the onslaught of a barrage of fire. We each ran to our stations, the warmth of your hand a vague memory around mine as I followed the others of my living unit to the stasis chambers. But the Fathers and Mothers were safe. They survived. Most of us did as well. Those who didn’t were given clinical send-offs by the Captain. We wept when we were alone again. 

I told you tales of heaven when I saw you again. Of planes of existence where there would be no more sickness, no more pain, no more death. You said you saw heaven in me, that I was the place that you could call home. That our paths were stretched out into eternity yet mingled together. Dimension upon dimension, so you said. 

We lost two of the Fathers when the next attack came. They were given funerals with songs — the funerals our dead had deserved as well, I thought. 

“You are not from Earth,” one of the captain’s aides snorted when he overheard me say as much. “You were bred for a job and we expect you to do it.”

My rations were cut, but you sneaked me extra food so I could remain strong while some of my sisters died. 

We had forgotten what it was like to travel unhindered through the vastness of space. The data we collected became only an afterthought. I was one of the lucky ones chosen for data collection after an attack left our data team dead. 

I sang some of the old Earth songs for them at their send-off. This time no one bothered to cut my rations. We all hoped — wished — for distant lands and help and mercy for those in peril in some way; no matter how childish it may have been. 

Our only hope was keeping the Fathers and Mothers alive until we reached the Promised Land. 

In every iteration of every universe, we were a constant, you said as we lay in each other’s arms one night. 

Morning brought with it another attack. No one stopped me from singing the old songs at your funeral. 

I wept freely and went to hide in the stasis chambers of the Mothers and Fathers, all the while cursing them for bringing us on this godforsaken journey. 

To be continued…

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Worldbuilding Wednesday – The World of Airtha-Eyrassa: The Knowledge Stones

Here is some information about the Knowledge Stones which come to play such an integral role in the Ruon Chronicles. You can also see here how I usually do my worldbuilding – writing a type of short article with main points relating to the subject at hand.

The Knowledge Stones are the second kind of magic in the world of Airtha-Eyrassa, the first being the “magic”/Talent or Nith of the Ruon.

Fun fact: I have various pebbles that I keep on my desk at work, one of them being a moss green colour, flecked with reddish brown and I did not buy it at all because it reminded me of the Knowledge Stones…

The Knowledge Stones

It was after the First Sundering that the Knowledge Stones and Nith of reading them came into being. This Nith is called Nithrus; Nith of the Airus.

The Knowledge Stones are a moss green colour, flecked with gold and copper, and is very scarce. However, once one of these stones were found that was extremely large and the Stone Readers decided to use it to convey all that had happed in the world before the First Sundering, as most of the knowledge of that age — which had been written on scrolls and in books — had been unmade during the violence before the cataclysm during the Sundering.

The eldest of these Stone Readers, Ira-laleth, imprinted all remaining knowledge on the stone.

Because the stone was so heavy, it was left where it was found; in the north of Kauko near Bhethméahn.

This stone, held the greatest repository of knowledge — rivalling even that of Holt Haliern at that time — was fiercely guarded both day and night. Then Lewjan’s forces attacked.

Afraid that the stone would be unmade, the Airus broke the stone themselves, carrying the pieces away and fleeing with them in an effort to keep them safe.

Although the initial intent was to take the stones to the sanctuaries, the plan was thwarted as the Airus were many times found and killed, their bodies left for the carrion to feast upon. And, because the Khaldun did not yet know the stones’ worth at this time, the stones were left to lie untouched. But, in this way, most of the stones were lost.

Ira-laleth died in Bhethméahn, cut down by Lewjan’s daughter, Silbhris.

The Airahna and the Knowledge Stones

It was only later after the Second Sundering that the Airus found out that some of the Airahna — those with both mortal and Airus blood — could also need the Knowledge Stones and was, therefore, also blessed with Nithrus.

Many — if not most — of these Airahna became Seekers of Knowledge; searching the whole of Airtha-Eyrassa for the lost Knowledge Stones. The Nithrus was found to be passed down for three generations.

Some of the Seekers of Knowledge did not spend their time ‘in the field’ so to speak, but rather in the great libraries of the sanctuaries. There they read and transcribed all the stones they could. The Airus and Airahna also found stones which were empty and could be used to imprint new history upon.

Note:

Not all of the Airahna became Seekers and neither did the Airus who held the Nith of Nithrus and none were forced into this role.

Neither were all of the Seekers of Knowledge Airahna, and many could also not read the stones even when they were found and they had to be taken to the Keepers first to be read.

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“Forgotten” now available!

Nine years ago a plane crashed outside the village. Since then sigils have kept the darkness away.

Joshua dreams of flying and escaping the burning fuselage unhurt. Now fourteen, he goes to explore the plane’s wreckage but has no idea that he will release powers beyond his comprehension. The spirits of the wreck are the least of his problems.

You can now get Forgotten on Kindle and Kobo at the following links:

Forgotten by Carin Marais – Kindle

Forgotten by Carin Marais – Kobo 

Forgotten Cover JPEG File

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Cover Reveal! Forgotten

The day is here! The final cover for Forgotten is ready! Behold –

Forgotten Cover JPEG File

Blurb:

Nine years ago a plane crashed outside the village. Since then sigils have kept the darkness away.

Joshua dreams of flying and escaping the burning fuselage unhurt. Now fourteen, he goes to explore the plane’s wreckage but has no idea that he will release powers beyond his comprehension. The spirits of the wreck are the least of his problems.

Forgotten will be available from next week!

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(Cover photo by Benjamin Behre on Unsplash.com.)