Flash Fiction: Butterflies for the Dead

The day you died I cut out my heart and buried it on the hill beneath the oak we had planted together a lifetime ago. The oak’s roots enfolded it in a loving embrace while the wind whispered songs through the ribbons and bells tried to its branches. I left, washed my hands, and dressed in black to hide the gaping hole left in my chest.

Heaviness remained in my chest even though I could feel the biting winter wind against my ribs and I took to hiding my face behind a funeral veil to hide the tears that flowed every time your face or voice beckoned from my memories.

I tried to fill the hole my heart had left by catching a white dove in the oak tree and placing it within my chest. The bird fluttered, but did not make a sound and I soon grew tired of the extra weight I was carrying with me.

 

You had been buried for three years when I had the courage to dig up my still-beating heart encased in the glass jar I’d taken from the kitchen. The heart was still broken, just as it had been on the day on which I buried it. The wind whistled to me through the ribbons and leaves of the tree and gave a voice to the bells hanging from the boughs. I lay down on the soft grass with the bottle clutched to my chest. Night came and I slept beneath the outstretched arms of the oak.

 

The next morning I saw that my heart was slowly breaking open. Instead of burying it again, I sat and watched it through drying tears. The crack deepened ever so slowly and opened until butterflies started to escape; their wings still folded and fragile. At last my heart started to feel lighter, even as I cried about the time we did not get to spend together. Memories that would never be made flitted through my mind as the wings of the butterflies unfolded and dried. Soon they were flapping their wings, looking for a way out of the confines of the bottle.

I rose, the jar still clutched in my hands, and walked to the edge of the hill. Wind rustled and rang the bells as I opened the jar and I was sure I heard your voice on the wind whispering to me.

As the butterflies escaped their glass prison, I saw that my heart was once again made whole and became lighter and lighter as the butterflies flitted away on the wind. I trembled as I placed the heart back into my chest and took off my funeral veil. I watched in awe as the world came into view once more and everything regained the colour that had been lost to them for three years.

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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.

Flash Fiction: The Nightingale’s Last Song

A nightingale had died during the night. Now it lay next to my boot; wings folded, legs rigid, body half-covered by grey leaves from the dead rose bush. The rest of the garden, like those around it, had been dealt a severe blow by the blight. Everything but the others’ biohazard suits was grey and pale.

The others entered the house while I dug a shallow grave with my bare hands and held a small funeral for the feathered beauty that was no more. My young self would have been proud of the animal funeral. But there was no longer time for childishness or true grieving. There was the living to think of and the dead to bury.

I turned at the call of my name to find my Watcher in his pristine parrot-bright biohazard suit at the house’s front door. I glanced down at my own hands covered in sparrow-coloured dirt. For some reason the plague chose not to kill me, but only infect me, leaving me a monster. Yet I could always feel it in my blood, pumping through veins tired of fighting for another day if another day meant more of this.

“There’s dead inside the house,” the Watcher said.

I sighed, nodded, braced myself, and rubbed a hand over my stubble-covered chin. Today I would dig more graves, whisper more last rites, say goodbye to pale strangers before covering with the earth they would once again become. But I would not sing for them. They deserve a voice better than mine to send them off to the lands of eternal life. I dusted my hands on my grimy pants and tried not to think how I must look unwashed and unshaven. Good only to deal with the dead they say God deserted.

Like a child I glance to the sky, to where the silver crescent moon still hung faintly in the pale morning sky, and wonder whether I had been forsaken or spared.

Tree header faded Milada Vigerova

Microfiction: When I Came There, She Was Gone

This was originally published by Paragraph Planet on 7 June 2016. (Be sure to check out their other 75-word fiction.)

When I came there, she was gone. The tree which had kept her safe throughout the winter was cracked and broken, yet the branches sprouted bright green leaves. From the cracked trunk of the tree led a path of spring flowers following in her footsteps. I found her at the end of the flowering path, breathing spring into the woods. All around us the trees came alive and blossomed. I leaned in to kiss her.

Milada Vigerova

For more fiction set in this world, check out

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Worldbuilding: Maps of Airtha-Eyrassa

I won’t lie – I love maps. Whether they are of real or mythical places, a place I know very well or a place I still wish I could visit one day. I often have a faint idea of the place I’m writing about in the flash fiction fantasy stories, but for the Airtha-Eyrassa books I’m writing, I need much more detailed maps…

I’ve put some of the maps I’m busy with up on the Patreon page, but here is an example of one of the maps –

Airtha-Eyrassa Map June 2016

It’s not final and, as you can see, there are also quite a few notes scribbled on it as well. But it does show all of the countries at the time of the first book. It is also how the world looks at the time of these flash fiction stories:

Charms of Ash
Dust Red As Blood
Shadows
Charmed

To see the other maps-in-progress and a whole lot of worldbuilding, you can join my Patreon page. Here’s the video for the campaign…

Flash Fiction: Shadows

“It is too late to turn back – for all of us,” I said. “We have to go on. We were chosen for a reason.”

Around us the landscape had turned starker until only short brush remained and the red dust was whipped into the air to scour our faces and hands. The prison tomb, after all, had been built to be forgotten. And it had been forgotten for nearly a thousand years. Books, though, can make memories last a lot longer.

 

It felt an eternity before we reached the cliffs where the Khalver had been entombed. Some of us – those too weak – had been left behind to be buried in the sand. I wondered if their souls would reach the Veil now. But we had no choice but to push on.

 

The tombs were carved into the rock and blood-red stone doors, their once pristine carvings worn by time, stood the only guard. I took the tattered tome from the bag digging into my shoulder and opened it at the passage where the words to open the doors had been written down an age ago.

I stumbled over the old words, but, when I had finished, the doors opened with a deep groan. Skeletal remains lay at the doorway and, now that sunlight shone into the tomb, I could see the mass of roiling grey shadows inside.

One of them rushed out and into Raonaild’s screaming mouth. The light of his soul flickered out in a burst of light.

I could hear my own voice echoing a “No!” against the cliffs.

When Raonaild spoke again, it was not with his own voice – or in his own tongue. I stared at the Khalver before me and dropped the book.

The other shadows rushed from their tomb.

Story Notes:

This story is set in the world of Airtha-Eyrassa (in which my WIP The Charms of Life and Death is set). To read more flash fiction pieces set in this world, you can click on the titles to read Dust Red As Blood and Charms of Ash.