Tag Archives: Speculative Fiction

Peculiar Customs

The world is full of weirdness, full of things that could be injected (without modification) into a Fantasy/New Weird novel or short story without breaking stride, and by using customs like these a world becomes fleshed out, and far more real.

The past is a foreign country, as they say, and while the world is a weird place now, it used to be even weirder…

Creeling the Bridegroom  is a good example of weird customs from the past. Coming from Medieval Scotland (and practised until the beginning of the 19th century), creeling the bridegroom was a custom where the husband-to-be was tested by his future parents-in-law – by carrying a sack of rocks around their village until his bride decided he had had enough, and told him so with a kiss. The bride could also be ‘creeled’ but in a different fashion – a chamber pot was filled, with salt, coals, and a piece of silver, which may sound useful to us, but were useful to the Scots for other reasons…salt was not only used to bless the home, and to keep out faeries and the like, but also as an aphrodisiac (Old Scots saying: Fond o’ salt? Fond o’ the lasses!)

The Scots give us other wedding rituals that might seem strange to us, such as the tradition of getting married at Grenta Green (an estimated 1 in 6 Scottish weddings take place in this town) – Grenta Green became such a famous site for weddings because, after a change of laws in England, people under the age of 21 required parental consent to marry, whereas in Scotland you could marry from the age of 14. So you would run away there, to get married, usually in front of a blacksmith, rather than a priest.

Another weird old thing from Scotland – these dolls, found in a rocky outcropping near Edinburgh, now known as ‘fairy coffins’. They were found, in various states of undress, all the clothing hand-stitched. They remind me of votive offerings.

Scotland, eh? Weirdos.

I’ll be coming back to more peculiar customs around the world, soon.

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Thirst

Old tongues whispered, gingerly moving in tomb-dry mouths, dead languages spilling forth in a surrusation. Their absent-eyed – literally absent, just sockets, skeletal, sunk-back in rotten-flesh faces – meanderings begun to take shape, to take form, their feet tracing arcane patterns in the dust, shuffling shoggoth dancing.

Their voices grew stronger – long aeons passed in that cramped corridor, long aeons measured in microseconds, shadow-voiced creatures gaining strength – the skin relatives finding one another in the darkness, cooing and whistling, their voices growing stronger with each breath – that I am forced to take, oh God, trying, trying, desperately not to breath, they can hear me, they can hear me. They can’t.

The walls close in, slick-wet-screaming.

Slick-wet-screaming, voices-whip-and-whisper, shadows stroke the back of my neck.

Bumble bees kiss flower beds, and the wind whispers – flesh-blood-bones-marrow-suck-slurp.

The crooners surround me, violent promises spill out, not-spoken, but still heard.

The fields open around me, and the sun is hot. Too hot. It splits on the horizon, cracking egg-yolk flooding my mind.

I too thirst.

 

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Kingdom Came

She covered my mouth, and pulled me into the darkness.

Her lips touched my ear as she whispered.

“Shhh, it’s coming…”

Her breathing, slow.

My heartbeat, pounding.

The smell came first.

Rank, overpowering, wet-dog and fungus.

Kingdom came. Loping down the corridor, thick ropes of saliva, heavy, grunting breath.

His dead feet shuffled across the sandy flagstones.

I held my breath.

She muttered, unheard.

Kingdom stopped, carving some intricate scrimshaw into the wet wall.

Kingdom left, and she released me, into confusion.


 

Written for this week’s BekindRewrite prompt –

Kingdom Come.

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Sorcerers, Magicians, and Warlocks – What’s the Difference?

We are a bit spoiled for choice, in the English language. When we need a word, and another language has one that’ll do the job, we’re quite happy to appropriate it – words like schadenfreude, or (my personal favourite) l’espirit de escalier (“the spirit of the staircase”, which is the French term for that moment that you come up with a cunning riposte, moments (or hours) after it’s too late.


But, crucially for the discussion I’m about to have with myself, and that you can see right here, right now, on the screen of the device of your choice, is about synonyms. And then we’ll get into the cool stuff people should put into their fantasy novels bit. That’s coming, I promise. And this little bit about synonyms leads directly into it.

It’s not much of a tangent.

Now, the synonym group that I want to talk about in particular are words that are related to practitioners of magic.  Continue reading

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Swift Justice

 

“Define ‘divine’.”

The man scratched at his head, ran his fingers through the stubble on his chin, the downy fluff on his cheeks that passed for sideburns as he searched for an answer that might make sense to someone with no knowledge of six thousand years of mythology, unstained by organised religion.

“Um…” he trailed off, losing steam. “Well…”

She stared back, in naked innocence – he diverted his eyes, taking in the room surrounding them.

It was immaculately clean – a stark contrast to his own dishevelled appearance – the spines of books stared out at him from their shelves, and he could see a murky reflection of himself in the polished stone-mirror floor. She smiled, in gilt-edged guilt, both her and the room showing a taste of her life, ultramoderation.

“You don’t understand it either, do you?”

Her question settled into the fabric of the room, hollowly echoing from the walls, like the call of the tame, forcing its way into his wild life.

She moved slowly toward him, her smile now uncertain, shy.

She was a trap. He understood it now. His uncertainness turned to steeled determination, a call for swift justice rang out inside him.

“Are you human, madame? Or a trap, a temptation sent me by the Devil?” His eyes roved the shelves. Books on computing and engineering. Books of heresy. His hand reached for the Bible, bound to his chest. He touched it, reverentially, as his other hand sought the pistol at his hip.

He delivered her swift justice, and left the smell of cordite gun-smoke and sparking electronics on the floor.

 


 

 

 

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The Elevator Club

“Welcome to the Elevator Club.”

As greetings go, it wasn’t all that ominous. I mean, I’ve heard worse; “I’ve been looking for you”, or, “We need to talk” are pretty terrifying ways to start a conversation. But the Elevator Club was different. It was almost funny, a group of men in well-pressed, well-fitted suits that you could tell were expensive, just by looking at them, standing together in the elevator.

They just carried on their conversations, which was also weird – people usually fall silent when someone walks into a lift, but the hubbub of the Elevator Club just kept murmuring, mingling into the sound of the elevator’s motors.

It didn’t stop – the elevator that is.

Level 27 flicked passed, the light behind the number still illuminated. I turned around, and the man who spoke to me just shrugged.

“I was level 14,” he said, waving his hand toward the doors.

The fluorescent lights overhead just hummed, beating down on us with oppressive, ultraviolent light.

“But when you got in I felt the urge to leave just disappear.” His blue tie seemed to glow.

At level 47 one of the men twitched, he was older, and seemed distinguished, stepped forward, his hand extended.

He stopped, and the elevator began to descend, counting its way back down through the floors.

“I don’t know how long they’ve been here,” he said to me, indicating the men pressed against him.

“They won’t talk to us late-comers,” Blue-tie said to me.

The older man studiously ignored him, examining his fingertips.

“You should feel special,” he said. His voice cracked as he whispered.

“How long have you been here?” I asked him.

He echoed me, his face twisted into a sneer.

I can’t remember. It can’t have been long.

“Level 27,” the elevator said.

I didn’t want to get off.

The light behind the numbers flickered, on-off, on-off, on.

The elevator kept going down.

 

 


 

The Elevator Club was written for this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts:

The Elevator Club

and

Ultraviolent Light

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They Dug the Graves in the Sand, Shallow Graves

I suppose it’s my grandmother’s story, more than mine.

I’m famous – because of something a young woman did a lifetime ago.

It’s my grandmother’s story, but it’s also mine, because without it I wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t be here, and you certainly wouldn’t be talking to me.

It’s my grandmother’s story. But she gave it to me. So it’s mine now, too.

You can’t call it re-entry, can you, if it’s the first time you’ve crashed through that particular planet’s atmosphere. That wasn’t really a question. I do wonder what that sensation is called – when the dull roar begins, and you feel it, rising through your bones, and it threatens to shake your landing capsule apart. When you see a planet swell and grow in front of you, and you feel so important – we are the first! – yet so infinitesimally small.

What do they call it, that feeling, when you know that somewhere, beneath you, waiting for you, lie the smashed lander and the wind-picked, sand-scoured bodies of the first crew?

What do they call that? Because, it seems to me that words like ‘dread’, or ‘terror’, or ‘gut-twisting-agony-mixed-with-excitement’ don’t quite make the grade. Like none of the words we have can really even come close to those types of feelings. What’s the word for that feeling you get when the voice of Master Control finally comes through, riddled by the static of having to cross two hundred and twenty five million kilometres, give or take a few, their voice pulled apart by the gulf of distance between you, delayed by twenty minutes? You manage to – eventually – process the fact that those men and women who left the safety of wide-open horizons and air that you can breathe and trees and other humans three months before you did are now gone, smashed to pieces and martyred on the surface of Mars?

What do you say to news like that?

Continue reading

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Footprints in the Dust

She traced her hands along the labyrinth’s walls, feeling the same cold, smooth stone against her fingers, counting the locked doors along the path – she always walked in the same direction, the red carpet beneath her feet soft and pilling, following the same twists and turns through the corridors, the path she had left in the dust. The fluorescent lights hummed overhead.

Sometimes repetition is meaning.

Fine particles of dust rose up with each footstep, like little clouds, swirling around her.

She coughed, and the dust devils danced away, catching the light. Her trail meandered out in front of her, when first she walked these corridors she was in a daze, stumbling. Now she took care to walk in her footsteps, trying not to leave another trail. That could be confusing.

Zala stopped, and watched the doorways ahead of her intently. Her footsteps stopped not far from here, and she knew she was supposed to go on. Usually one would hum open, the lights inside pulsing white-blue-green in invitation. She could wait.

The lights behind her began to switch off, a slow series of thuds, echoing her heartbeat. Thud, thud, thud, thud-thud-thud-thud-thud. “No!” she screamed, and began to run backward, into the dark. No doors slid open, no lights beckoned. Her fingers groped for the doorway that she had come from, the solid silver that had kept her safe and guarded the room where she had woken up, nestled in a cloak of wires and tubes, bathed in dull, orange light.

Her knees gave out from underneath her, and she slowly sunk to the floor. “I’m not ready yet,” she whispered into the blackness. It seemed to understand her, and the low hum of the electric lights echoed again through the labyrinth. A lone light glowed just ahead.

“No,” she said again. “I’m not ready yet.”

But she was. She knew she was.

Eventually she got up, and trudged toward the light. The dust beneath her feet was scattered, and her footprints were no longer visible. The lights hummed on as she approached them, and thudded off behind her. A door slid open to her left. Zala kept walking, each step leaving a fresh imprint in the dust.

“How long?” she asked. No one replied.

She kept walking, until the lights no longer switched on before her, and another door opened to her left. This one pulsed white-blue-green. Stepping through the doorway she devoured the food left for her, and with greasy fingers swiped at the button to close the door. Tomorrow she would ask her questions again, even if she would never get answers. Because sometimes repetition is the meaning.

“How long?” she asked, in the middle of the night.

“How many others?”

There was no reply.

The computer banks hummed beneath the sound of the electric lights, and Zala kept walking, each footstep dislodging new clouds of dust.

Each night a new doorway opened in the walls, always to the left, always to the left.

Each night she asked the same questions.

Each night until she came to a darkened door, open on her right.

She had noticed the footsteps in the dust.

“How many others?”

The doorway yawned, with night behind it. The room it opened onto seemed cavernous, with wire stalactites dripping sparks and smashed glass glittering like diamonds. There were no others, not anymore. The skeleton hung dead-straight in the still air, and she disturbed the dusty footprints as she ran. The computers kept the air free of microbes, and still, still as vacuum.

“You must not enter darkened doorways.” The computer voice leapt out at her through the darkness. It still refused to answer her questions. “I cannot protect you there.”

“How long, dammit? How long?”

The lights went out, and new ones lit up before her.

She left her footprints in the dust.

“Twelve years.” She had lost track of how many days she had been walking, of how long it had been since the computer had closed off the med-bay and sent her on this forced march, this migration. “You were in cryogenic hibernation for twelve years.” It was the only night that stood out in her memories; it was the only one that was different.

“Twelve years,” she replied. “How many others?”

The computer stayed silent, content only to turn off the lights behind her as she passed.

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The Department of Divination and Diviner Control

It was a dark matter.

That the subject painted it in rainbow hues didn’t change the tone, which was surprising in itself. Bright green paint entwined with crimson (the world serpent, the blood of its victims), vast swirls of cerulean blue (for the sky, the day before it burned).

“So…what, exactly, is this?”

His partner gave him an blank stare, before turning her gaze back to the walls, covered in thick paint and thin finger-marks.

“Ok…dumb question. But where is it?”

That was another dumb question. But it was an excusable one.

They were an odd pair, but that was a given. The Department of Divination and Diviner Control tended to attract the peculiar. He was short, and some might describe him as ‘swarthy’. She was tall, ‘willowy’. Her powerful, him diminutive. They didn’t attract as much attention as you’d expect.

The little boy had been in their care for some time – it took a while before little ones made helpful predictions; it could take a while before they were even noticed to be prophets. After all, to a toddler, the fact that the sun was going to rise tomorrow is pretty big news.

The sun would come up tomorrow.

But the Department would have to work hard to ensure it came up the day after that.

 


 

Written for this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: Fingerpaint Prophecy, Dark Matter, Blank Stare and Odd Pair. Let me know what you think! 

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Hugs

Sunday Sketch - Terry Whidborne

Sunday Sketch – Terry Whidborne

Mother was right – their fur was so soft, and the creatures just seemed so trusting…like they’d never seen a human before.

Well, Mother always has been a crafty hunter – they’d never seen her before, hidden. The shot rang out. Blood-stains marked the russet fur. But it would wash out.

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Great Worqs

So, I received an email the other day, out of the blue.

The company it came from is called Great Worqs, and they were asking me to share their concept around, and see if you guys are interested. Basically, they are a company that links writers (that’s us, you guys!) with film makers (that’s some other people over there). Seems pretty cool – I know I’ve got something I’m considering sending over. They’ll be launching their new website in March, at SXSW.

They’ll be choosing a film (or three) to win a £100 prize, so there’s that, too.

Short films are cool.

Go check out their website: www.greatworqs.com

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Splash

Janice had always liked it here, by the river.

She flopped, heavy and wheezing.

He held her above the water.

“I love you, Janice…”

But he still couldn’t let her go.


 I just came across a weekly writing competition on reddit the other day – 25 words, based on one of their story-teller cards (like the one above.) Head here to check it out!

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Bang Bang

He came in from the cold.

“It’ll grow on you,” they said.

Horse-shit.

The little fire sputtered in the grate, blue-grey smoke coiling. He spat at it, and went to the sink, washed his hands – the water ran brown beneath his fingertips, and the walls seemed to close in on him, fake stone walls, fake wooden floor, fake fire. He turned up the thermostat.

They did the whole place to look rustic – which was another thing that pissed him off. Why hide the technology beneath this facade of another planet’s past? It’ll grow on you.

He looked out the window – a thin screen painted onto the wall of the hab – staring at the rambling pumpkin vines and the spears of maize that thrust into the dirt of this rock, a stake, claiming it for humanity. The replicator hummed, and dinged – false nostalgia for an age he had never lived in. The machine could create food from its surrounds, and it could do it in silence. It should do it in silence.

He glowered at it.

It didn’t make him feel any better.

The wind, he knew, howled outside, but you couldn’t hear it through the layers of glass and heavy plastic and gold that sprouted on the walls of his hab.

There was a knock on the door, but he ignored it.

He was down to the last bottle. Amber-gold, precious beyond anything else. He’d already been reprimanded for trying to disable his replicator’s copy-protection. He didn’t even care what brand of whiskey it made, so long as it made whiskey. It didn’t.

There it was again, that knock on the door – so sorry to be impolite, the knock said, I don’t mean to interrupt. The colony’s psych-bot knew all the door codes. It’d get inside eventually.

He found his hammer, and set to waiting.

 

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Swashmarks – Fifth in The Molotov Cocktail’s Flash Future Contest!

A Mermaid – by John William Waterhouse

Ah, that’s where I went wrong –

I linked to the main page of the Flash Future magazine, rather than directly to my science fiction short story, Swashmarks

You can read it, right HERE!

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Strange News From Another Star

The waves break on the black-stone beach.

The pebbles rattle as the water pulls back, gargling.

The dead sun overhead is slowly stripping the atmosphere away from this rock; it’s been forty-six days. There is nothing new to report.

#

Day forty-nine, by the Terran calendar. The concepts of ‘day’ and ‘night’ have no meaning, beneath the technicolour consumption going on upstairs. Day and night have no meaning, shadows are stretched, muted, changed – there is more than one shade of black. Black has no meaning, anymore, as subtle purples and blues and reds seem to erupt from the pebbles on the shoreline like flowers. Is this something I should report? It feels more like an isolation experiment than an exploration – maybe it’s both.

#

Where is Terra? Maybe I should ask the computer. The purple-blue-black-red-green sky is holding back the stars – in its death-throes the star has captured this planet, it’s now tidally locked, one side ever facing the monster in the sky that is peeling away the atmosphere in vast swathes. I sped over the dark side coming in to land, a featureless mass that suddenly gave way a twisted sun-line. New flowers open up daily on the beach; I’ve moved the rover away from the shore. They shine like gemstones, in the multi-coloured rain, but disappear when I stretch out my hand. The computer cannot tell me how long we have before the atmosphere is gone. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions.

#

Further from the landing site now. The pebbles are gone, replaced by a fine, grey sand that clogs the rover’s ventilation system and lays a soft silt on my instruments. Vacuum-sealed my arse. The flowers don’t seem to grow here in the highlands. I’ve lost track of the days that have passed, and the computer doesn’t seem to want to contribute to the conversation. The baleful, dying eye of this system is finally starting to sink beneath the horizon. I can still see no stars. When sleep overcomes me, the rover drifts to a stop; when I wake, it begins again. Or I hope it does. There is no ‘day’, no ‘night’. I sleep when I must, that is my night. When I awaken the sun sits lower on the horizon. Are we moving in the night? There is no night.

#

We have been moving at night. When I woke we were still moving. The computer won’t tell me why. It just hums, idiotically. I want to turn back. The sun has sunk even further, barely poking above the edge of the world. Fuck, what day is it? How long have I been here? The dust is everywhere. The computer would know how long it has been since we landed. It was never supposed to keep moving at night. I want to turn back, back to the sun.

#

It’s so dark here, so cold. The stars shine like solid points in the sky, like stones. Sometimes the dust whips by, thrown up into the sky by the wind, by the rover’s tires. Strange shapes form in the clouds. I want to see the sun. I’ve taken to leaving the lights blazing, even though there is nothing to see but dust. The lights burn only to illuminate the depth of the darkness. I want to turn back to the sun. The internal lights only illuminate the dust that’s settled inside the cabin. The computer won’t let me get out, no matter how much I beg. I don’t care what day it is. There is only night, now. Turn back, turn back. Let me out.

#

I can feel it growing inside of me. Fuck, did I say that aloud?

#

It’s still, here, at the outer edge of the blackness. So quiet, now. The sun has begun to peer over the horizon, blessed, beautiful.  I shoved a screwdriver into the computer – can you still hear me, you bastard? Are you still recording everything I say? I hope so, you fucker. I can feel it growing inside me. I am not ashamed, anymore, not a pinch of guilt. I can feel it  growing, I can feel its tendrils plucking their way through my veins and arteries, gently fingering my nervous system, ossifying and crystallizing my bones. I am waiting, little one.

#

A bloom pokes through my eye – it hurt, at first. It doesn’t now. The sun is here, and the beach. There is less water, or whatever it is. It looks like water. The sun is here – brilliant, purple-blue-black. I am a seed, or a meadow, and I am waiting for the flowers to grow.


Written for this week’s TerribleMinds flash fiction challenge: the Random Song Title Challenge. The song I got was Blur’s Strange News from Another Star. I also managed to squeeze in some of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: pinch of guilt and multi-coloured rain. Let me know what you think! 

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A Feeble Touch of Sunlight

She staggered through the darkness, the chanting, echoing drone of the wind and the feel of the rough-sided walls her only companions. Well, the wind and the walls and the feeling of black, black eternity. The walls seemed to close in around her, claustrophobic.

She kept turning left – that’s what you’re ‘supposed to do’ in a maze, keep turning left, and eventually you’ll find the exit. She kept finding dead ends. Still, she followed the walls, followed the walls. Down an alleyway, to dead end after dead end. She kept her left hand scraping against the rough stone. Eventually she would find her way out. She lost track of time – darkness has a way of perpetuating itself, of folding time around itself.

She walked until sleep overcame her, and, when she awoke, she walked again. Always in darkness. She drank the water that dribbled down the walls and pooled in the depressions in the tunnel’s floor. She ate fluttering insects and bundles of fur, invisible but fighting back. She shat in the dead ends, so she wouldn’t tread in it on her return journey – if there was a return journey.

She could see herself, bedraggled, gaunt, stumbling, left hand still on the stone wall. She imagined herself passing by in the darkness. She didn’t call out. What could she say to herself, passing in the eternal blackness? Don’t eat me. Please, I know you’re hungry. Please don’t eat me. When she heard footsteps she pressed herself against the wall, silent, and waited for them to pass. They never passed. It always took so long – even though time was uncountable here – so long for her to realise it was her heartbeat.

Or maybe she just convinced herself it was her heart. She always pressed on, sticking to the left.

Until today – this morning? this afternoon? – there was light ahead, weak and yellow, but light, light, up ahead. She took her hand from the wall. She ran. She ran. Tripping and spitting out curses, scraping raw her right knee when she fell. Her voice sounded strange in the blackness. She passed into the light.

A cavern opened up around her, the walls soft brick, unclimbable, opening onto the grey sky.

A feeble touch of sunlight.

It kissed her skin.

A tunnel open on the far side, a black mouth.

She stuck to the left wall, and worked her way around to it.

Back into the dark.

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Review: Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a really good read. This classic ghost story is gothic, both Southern and European, and quite modern. Judas Coyne is a retired rock star, who has fallen into the habit of collecting the macabre, which for an ex-metal star seems just “…like wearing leather pants, just part of the costume.” He owns a genuine snuff tape, a collection of Medieval with-hunters’ guides and a cannibal’s cookbook, and so when he’s contacted across the internet about a ghost for sale (“…not eBay but one of the wannabes…”) it seems quite natural for it to fall into his collection.

The suit arrives in a heart-shaped box, and the haunting begins…

“The mad sometimes drilled holes in their own heads to let the demons out. To relieve the pressure of thoughts they could no longer bear. Jude understood the impulse. Each beat of his heart was a fresh and staggering blow felt in the nerves behind his eyes and in his temples. Punishing evidence of life.”

I really enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box, which is odd for me as I’m not a huge fan of horror, but this story keeps the gore in check and is packed with great writing (“…a rotund family in promotional T-Shirts, their ample bellies doing double duty as billboards.”), a fantastic twist or two and some damn compelling characters. I love the way violence is introduced into the plot, as well as how the ghost speaks, cryptic and threatening through the radio (“…the dead drag the living down…”) It was great (especially as it was his debut novel), and on the strength of this novel I’m going to buy some more of Joe Hill’s books.

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A Shadow in the Blackness

The smoke rose. Flames licked at houses stacked like kindling – such beautiful colours – and screams rang out, cut off by the sudden, jolting

………………………………….crash

……………………………………………………of falling timber and collapsed masonry. The heat pushes gently at the membranes of my wings, granting me flight, and the once-cold iron that bound my ankles warms and warps, bending as I pull my legs free. I rake at the cobblestones beneath my feet, gouging loose the stones, and bellow into the night – my guards are busy, struggling to douse the orange tongues I cast about myself, my shield – and I let the warmth take me, carrying me upward into the night.

 

I am a shadow in the blackness, a scar on the night sky.

 

They flock to the church, scared little birds, watching their village burn.

 

I swoop, wings folded back.

 

I am death, I am destruction.

 

I am vengeance.

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Claws Red, Fangs Snapping

Terry Whidborne's latest sketch

Terry Whidborne’s latest sketch

She drew her cloak tighter around the ragged edges of her breath, trying to disguise the rapid rise-and-fall of her chest. She pulled her face-mask closed, to hide her lolling tongue and to cover the sound of her panting. To conceal the spatters of blood and the tracing lines of intestines on her skin-suit.

 

Voices rose up  behind her, shrill and panicked, reaching a crescendo as she turned the corner.

 

She had to convince herself to slow down, to control her footsteps. The wet cobblestones shone, and seemed to guide her along her path. She caught her breath, crouching down against a rough-scaled wall – she left a patch of crimson on the stone as she moved. Her tongue arrowed out from between razor-sharp teeth, picking loose scraps of gristle and fat, tasting the flavour of him on her lips. She smiled, a withering smile, and was disappointed that she had no-one to direct it toward. No matter. She let her mind replay the gory scene from which she had so recently fled, and the smile returned.

 

She saw the signal, the twin spirals in the sky, clouds-where-there-should-be-no-clouds.

 

Claws red, fangs snapping. 

 

The memory was not quite as delicious as the act.

 

The spirals, the disguise, the soon-to-be-dead.

Continue reading

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Promised Land

Caution: Radiation Controlled Area. Creative Commons 2.0 photo by Oleg.

The door groaned closed, and Brother Ponder groaned also, dropping onto one arthritic knee before it. He shivered beneath his cloak, and ran gnarled fingers over the rusted hinges, whispering his solemn thanks.

For each drop of the sacred ointment he chanted prayers and blessings, his fingers tracing delicate ruins as he massaged the oil into the metal. This door had kept them safe for so long, through careful attention and the proper ritual. His father had taught him the words and the motions, that had been passed down the generations. Keep the faith, say the right words, sing the right songs and the door would hold.

He whispered his thanks, and moved on to the next doorway.

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