Hospitality

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A single foot, fur-clad against the outside elements, crossed the threshold.

The second foot, likewise insulated against the frozen ground, hesitated to cross the boundary.

Snow pressed around the bundled figure in the doorway, blowing into the hearth-room of the ancient keep.  The brutal winter wind teased the glowering flames in the fireplace, setting spidery shadows dancing along the thick stone walls, yet the gale blowing at her back was nothing compared to the dire stories being shouted at her from the dim hall.

Slowly, deliberately, she slid her recalcitrant limb through the doorway at the urging of a tiny form of indeterminate gender, waiting to slam the heavy wood door against the raging blizzard.

**THUD**

With the surcease of howling storm winds and punishing ice crystals, she stood, dripping slush, and listened to the stones of the hearth.  They spoke eloquently (as only stones can) of the recent past they had witnessed.

It sang to her ears only, using the tongues of flame burning solemnly above the grate.  As it whispered its dark tale, it highlighted the scattered bits of evidence around the room using the shadows cast –  a filament of iron embedded in the hard-backed chair.  The faint outline of a hastily-scrubbed pool of fluid on the flagstones.  Flakes of ash, not of wooden origin, scattered about the floor.  As damning as these small vignettes were – they paled in comparison to the single spot of scarlet overlooked on the hearthstone itself.

A chair, to the opposite end of the hall, it’s seat enshrouded in shadow the flames light feared to touch, took a deep breath, speaking the ancient rite in the Master’s own thin, reedy voice…

“Enter and be well by my fire on this miserable night, stranger.”

Frigg dropped her snow-covered cloak on the flagstones, preparing for her ‘work.’  The stains of false Hospitality would be cleansed by fire and blood.

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This Chick Walks into a Bar…

Book 2

The Arcanum Infernata says:

“Those who encounter daemon, Those scored by tooth or claw, Those fortunate enough to walk from the beast, Those burdened of stolen magics, forevermore.”

For those of you not fluent in cryptic Grimoire-speak – it means:  You survive a fight with a demon, and you get their powers.  Do not sell your soul to Satan, Do not die & work your way up the Hell Ranks…just go directly to power.  Do not pass Go…and do not collect $200.

Cool, huh?   How could a girl resist?

What the damned Arcanum failed to mention was the damned thing you stole powers from would chase you to the damned ends of the damn Earth to regain it’s damned abilities. That’s a hell of a catch there.  A rather important bit of a codicil to the ole’ contract conveniently penciled in extremely fine print in an unreadable font.

Trust me on this one…you do NOT want an extremely pissed-off demon dogging your every move.

I see you squirming on your barstool.  Rethinking that pick-up line?

Rose lineup Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction – Calling all Cars!

 

Rose lineup Flash Fiction

I sometimes miss the old Flash Fiction website – it was a vibrant online community of semi- (and not so semi-) hobby writers, who gathered at least once a week to be challenged to produce a small piece of original fiction.  Inspired by the photo prompt or directed requirements – we operated on a tight timeline to pop out a tiny slice of creative wordplay.

I’m sharing this piece again – as it was one of my favorite flash pieces, and, well, ’tis the season 😀

 

 

 

Calling All Cars!

157 words

“Calling all cars!  Calling all cars!”

Every year, we get the call.  Every year, we respond.  Every year, our department fails to close this decades-old case.

“Person of interest male, white, late 70’s, portly.  Full facial hair, white.  Last seen wearing bright red suit and hat with white fringe, black belt, black knee-boots.”

My hands curl around the steering wheel, mentally preparing for the yearly bloodbath.

“Suspect get-away vehicle tiny sleigh pulled by 8 animals of reindeer origin.  No plates evident.”

My partner and I lock eyes, knowing …HATING… what’s coming.

“Ocular trauma to multiple victims.  Eyes replaced with charcoal briquettes.”

I yank a cigarette from the pack on the dash.  “Shoulda been nice…” I whisper, even as my partner mutters  “It’s always the naughty ones…”

“Suspect 3.75 inches tall.  Last known locations… “

A string of addresses follow, blanketing the car in a wall of sound.

“Public Enemy number one…” I growl, flipping on the siren.

Olympic Tales take II

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About 2 months ago, I mentioned the Godhunter series by Amy Sumida.  Since that posting, I’ve been obsessed with adding more of this series to my kindle.  I’ve had some disappointments in the story line, but never a bad enough book to make me stop reading the series.

 

 

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I’m almost finished with book 10 now, and have even ignored the new Harry Potter sitting, patiently, in my reading queue.  I almost expect a Patronus to spring from the screen every time I select a new book, because I’m sure the Wizarding world’s patience is wearing thin.

 

 

 

There are currently 18 books in the series – so I’m beyond the half-way point, and have no intention of stopping until I’ve had them all under my nose.

I’ve lost count of the number of  times I’ve mused to myself “What can she (the author) POSSIBLY get Vervain (the character) into NEXT???”

 

 

A very interesting twist in this series is one I haven’t seen anywhere else…polyamory.

I’m not afraid of alternate lifestyle books.  I’ve avidly read same-sex orientated characters, neuter characters, vanilla-straight characters, and trans characters.  I’ve jumped into the stories of Christians, Buddhists, Wiccans & Jews;  run through the lives of Vegans, Vegetarians and your basic Omnivores.

If the author constructs a good character that comes alive in my head, it doesn’t matter what the surfaces are – I’m entertained (and educated) by the thought processes behind that surface.

And I like that – it continues to open my eyes to the diverse nature of humanity.

41zayixoqkl-_sx331_bo1204203200_The only stumbling block in the series so far was book 4 (Marked by Death).  This book took our lead character down an incredibly dark path…so dark, that I felt some of the depression seeping into reality from the reading.

Around half-way through this book was the only time I contemplated stepping away from the series for the author’s portrayal of abusive domination – as seen from the abusee’s point of view.  I think there may have been an abusive situation in the author’s life that she draws from.

 

I do have to give fair warning, though.  If you don’t like sex in your reading material, you might not find the Godhunter series entertaining.  Because the lead character has several lovers, there IS more sex in the series than most will be comfortable with.  What it doesn’t have, however, are the overly dramatic, chapters-long descriptors of bedroom play.  Vervain is a very complex being and I’ve enjoyed my time in her head.

 

Flash Fiction – Five of the clock

Rose lineup Flash Fiction

I’ve been digging through my old stuff again – and found another flash fiction piece I wrote up about a year ago.  Why it never ended up in the published list is a question best left to sages and those gurus who own time.

It IS a good piece of situational flash  –  so I’m sharing it now.  Enjoy!

 

Five O’Clock

Story Elements:  Conflict and Character

242 words

Too much alcohol.

Too little sleep.

Too much of whatever that white-ish sludge I found in the bottom of my whiskey glass was…

 

He wanted me quiescent.  Immobilized.  But conscious.  As much as I would like the reality of this room to fade away into my comfortable library, it stubbornly sticks to reality.

His boots scrape along the concrete floor, his off-key whistling echoing weirdly from the steel rafters.  Like a cobra strike, his face pops into my field of view.

“Ahhhh…” the word a long, slow exhalation, punctuated with garlic and tobacco smoke.   “No introductions necessary, I assume?”

They’re not, and he knows it.  His face and his escape have been plastered all over the news and social media since ‘The Butcher’ performed his vanishing act from his not-so-cozy cell a week ago.

Those stories amplified as he resumed his grizzly … work.

“It’s five o’clock somewhere,” he says sardonically, his face inches from my own, his breath forcing trickles of tears from my watering eyes.  “Have you ever heard the term?  It’s an excuse.  A cop out.  A clever way to say I’d rather go fill my gullet with alcohol than to do a competent job.”

A finger of ice traces it’s delicate way down my spine.

“You said that, your Honor, the day you sentenced me to life without the possibility of parole.”

He slowly draws a very shiny, very sharp knife between our faces.

“It’s time for my drink.”

A Pair of Olympic Tales

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The book that’s currently on my Kindle is called ‘Godhunter’ by Amy Sumida.   It’s a semi-humorous, semi-romantic, semi-action indie book which I’ve been through at least half a dozen times.  The question I have to ask myself is:  ‘Why didn’t I go back and look up more books in the series???’

I counted 18 when I dropped into Amazon just now…I’ve got some catching up to do!

I especially like the heroine of the piece.  She reminds me a lot of myself (in attitude, not in body type) so she easily came alive in my head.

That’s the hallmark of a good story in my opinion.  If the characters take life of their own inside my skull – the author has done their job.

Because this book brings some of the more iconic Gods from the Egyptian, Greek, Norse, Aztec, and other assorted Pantheon’s of old, it reminded me of one of my flash fiction pieces.  I dug around and, low and behold – I HADN’T put it on the T&T.

I’m gonna remedy that right now…this originally appeared in Flash! Friday on October 9, 2015 at 4:10 pm.   I’m especially fond of the title of the piece, which got me an honorable mention with ‘the most Victorian and Overblown title of the week.’

Whereas The Olympiad from their Throne on High, do Design to Demarcate the next Branch of the Family Tree

211 words
Character: An overbearing Aunt
Setting: A Garden
Theme: Marriage

“My dear, I am SOOO glad you could drop by for a visit!”

DAMN!!! 
I knew it was a calculated risk rematerializing within the Gardens on Olympus this time of day – but when Hephaestus says he has an opening on the forge – you don’t dally! Just my luck to land at the feet of Great-Great-Great Aunt Hera.

“These Gardens look disgraceful, don’t you agree? I simply must pry Demeter away from her ‘Ban the Pomegranate’ crusade – as I simply can’t entertain in such disarray.”

Aaaaand – Auntie was on a roll!

“We simply canNOT have any sort of wedded gathering here – Coatilcue of the Aztec would God it over me forever!”

I silently twisted the Cerebus-chewed handle of my beloved whip, counting the diminishing seconds ticking away. It would be months before I could get another appointment with the Forge.

“And when are YOU going to continue the line, my dear? By your age, Zeus had dozens of children. Granted, most were with mortal women, but STILL. Demi-gods have their uses, too…”

“Aunt HERA!!!” I bellowed – the fires of the Underworld burning a path through Hera’s prized bed of ornamental orchids.

“OH!” she sputtered, raising her nose in disdain. “I didn’t recognize you, Megaera! I guess Hell hath no Fury right now…”

…things…

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Tonight, the dying sun is huge and red as it drops into the embrace of the horizon, painting the sky in a panoply of oranges, violets, and pinks. It casts its paintbrush onto the dirty mounds of snow choking the narrow streets as well, rendering a floral display bursting with cold life.

The Natural will always find a way to disguise the ugliness of our world, if we mere humans will only take the time to admire its work.

I register this artwork as a small detail in my peripheral vision during my run toward home, without stopping to appreciate the view.  My instinct for self-preservation is stronger than Nature’s nightly art display.  Curfew is sundown, and for good reason.

Anyone not within safe enclosure?  …things… happen.

Chest heaving, I shove the heavy glass door of my building open, barely beating the soft ‘click’ of the auto-lock mechanism inside the solid steel frame and the rapid decent of the iron safety bars in front of the glass facade.  The door swings shut to adhere to its weighty frame with a satisfying thunk.  The cage finishes its drop a moment later with an equally comforting rattle that tickles the ears and reverberates through the painted concrete floor.

In the sudden silence of the lobby, my labored breathing is deafening, and I double-up against my shaking knees, trying to catch my errant breath.

 

“A moment later…” a little voice chimes in my head.

The rest of that thought is too horrifying to complete.

 

IMG_0287I shift to lean against the graffiti-and-grime spattered wall, furiously sucking in great drafts of musty air.  The muscles of my body demand fresh oxygen after their efforts to propel me to safety, and my lungs labor to fulfill that need.

My heart pounds furiously in my chest as it, too, labors – distributing the oxygen-rich blood the lungs are busy providing.  My fingers and feet throb in time with the casket of muscle straining in my chest.

I give myself a bare five minutes to recover from the mad dash of the last minutes…to bring my raging lungs back to more normal patterns of breathing and my heart to slow its rapid pounding.  I may have passed the immediate danger of being out-of-cover after nightfall, but I’m still visible to the street…and there are 11 flights of rickety stairs with floor-to-ceiling plate glass on each landing, between me and the tiny cube of interior walls I call my sanctuary.

stair darkI contemplate the derelict risers.  Time, and endless feet, have eroded the carpet on the stairs from thick, cheerful swirls of color to a slimy streak of threadbare fabric the color of ashes.  Those same feet have worn the wood’s glossy varnish down to mediocre grayish-brown and black stains.  The hands accompanying the before-mentioned feet have wreaked equal havoc on the handrail – streaking the polished wood with infinite layers of human oils and other, less pleasant to think about, substances.

The endless circle of stairs is both the bane of my twilight sojourn home, and the reason my home is sanctuary.

…things… never happen any higher than the 6th floor.

With a sigh of inevitability, I place my hand gingerly on the slick/sticky rail, setting my foot on the first of countless steps.

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

Behind me.  On the glass enclosure of the lobby.

Two fingers of ice slowly walk their delicate way down my spine as I freeze in place, left hand on the railing, right foot on the stair.  I suck in a very slow and cautious breath, careful not to let the movement of my chest disturb my exposed back.  My heart hammers in my ears, furiously pumping adrenaline-spiked blood through my veins.  It’s a titanic effort of will to keep myself motionless against the beating demands of unleashed chemical instinct which is screaming at me to run, hide, conceal myself in the convenient shadows just 3 steps up.

…things… happen when your movements draw attention.

Chemistry changes tactics.  If flight isn’t an option, we’ll go to option two.  The roaring blood in my ears blocks out sound, demanding I turn and face the unknown adversary tapping on the glass.  The fingers of my left hand tighten on the rail, and the right’s digits attempt to curl.

One more shallow breath, one more slow release, another Herculean effort to keep my fingers from fisting.

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

Three sharp, staccato bursts echo through the lobby.  Lance through my head.  The urge to turn my head ever-so-slightly, just a teasing hint of movement, so I can see the glass and the creator of that terrifying sound out of the corner of my eye, is powerful.

There are some …things… that shouldn’t be seen.

A kaleidoscope of fractured images of the dank stairwell and dying carpet dance across my vision from the unshed tears crafting prisms in my eyes.  Slowly, I blink, jostling the moisture into motion down my cheeks.

One more shallow breath in…one more slow exhalation out.

***thud***                                     ***Crrrrrrrrrrrack!!***

The window creaks madly at the sudden weight thrown against it.

I bolt up the stairs, no longer able to control the mad rush of chemicals flooding my muscles and sinews, knowing from the stories that …things… stretch the truth of reality in a fiction story turned horribly real.

I reach the ninth step before the back of my left calf explodes into a bloody mess of shredded skin and fabric an instant before my ears register the crash of broken glass striking the concrete lobby floor.  I push harder, forcing the muscles of my legs to keep working, keep pumping and contracting, keep pushing my weight against the pull of gravity to get me up, up, up!

It takes me a moment longer to realize the insane screaming echoing within the vast stairwell is coming from my vocal cords.

I grab the curved railing, swinging my body around the bend in the stairs, neatly vaulting myself over the landing and onto the next flight of risers.  Frantic, screaming, wide-eyed and bloody from the knee down, I charge up toward the first of the plate glass landings.  Instinctively knowing the more sections of curving staircase I put between myself and the lobby, the greater chance I have of drawing breath past the next few minutes.

The plate glass is darkened by decades of grime – reflecting perfectly my crazed appearance…

And the surreal …things… tearing up the landing below me.

 

My chest is on fire- my lungs straining to complete the exchange of choking carbon dioxide for clean oxygen fuel.  My heart is pounding at an alarming rate, trying to cycle the blood fast enough to keep my legs pounding, pounding, pounding on the staircase.  My vision narrows to single flashed images:  the next stair above me, my grimy shoe, a patch of cleaner wallpaper.

I bang into a solid object.  All forward momentum is halted, and I grab wildly at the object to keep myself from pitching backwards down the stairs.

The object grabs back.

A navy-on-black, 3 piece, double-breasted pinstripe suit.  A bright red, (possibly) silk tie.  Perfect half-Winchester knot between the tabs of a crisp, white collar.  Gold watch chain snaking across the matching vest.  Black leather shoes, buffed to an eye-blinding gloss.  Shoestrings carefully tied in twin bows.

I feel ten very solid – but very human – fingers digging into my upper arms.

“Tsk, tsk…” The sound slides from between perfectly sculpted, pursed lips, enshrouded with a dusting of black, five o’clock shadow.  “A mad dash?  All that wild screaming?  Such sounds coming from such a little thing?  Whatever will the neighbors think?”

Five of those iron fingers slide up my arm, along my collar-bone, and tease a gold chain from beneath my clothing.

“You know …things… happen when you steal from The Company.”

 

 

All 10 iron fingers lock around my throat.