Thursday, December 31, 2009

Flash Fiction 19 – An Average Life

Ok so I pushed the word count a bit with this one. I even know what sections I *should* cut – but I’m rather attached to them, so they’re staying :) I hope you’ll read and enjoy anyways!

For those who've been here before -- what do you think of the new template? Server where the old images were hosted disappeared so I had to start over. Lesson learned!

Wishing you and your loved ones a fresh year of magic and miracles!


An Average Life

It was New Year’s Eve. I was 25 years old and the world was mine for the taking. And I was alone.

The snow fell softly outside my window, lit by the vibrant lights of a town that was not mine. I was here to study history. Learning about a time that fascinated me, in the culture that arose out of it. I was an ok student, eager to learn and with grades strong enough to get into grad school. Barely. I’d been in the second round of acceptances and I knew it. Somebody else had had to decline in order for me to have a spot. Maybe several sombodies. But I was in – the hard part was over. And while I rarely had anything brilliant to say, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut and avoid revealing my ignorance. Through that, I came to be known as the quiet girl, but one who was worth listening to when she spoke. Yeah, I was surprised at that too; happy, but surprised.

I was afraid to leave the academic world. For while I was merely average here, I was afraid of being far less out there. My abilities were no match for my dreams. So when the opportunity to do post-grad work in France arose, I took it. I would never have gotten in had my peers applied; fortunately for me, the medieval studies department is run by academics, not marketing whizzes and nobody else knew about it.

So this is how I came to be alone, far from home, on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t have any friends – only acquaintances of the smile and nod variety. Theoretically we were working together; realistically all hoping to be the first to find and publish. Publish or perish – rule one of the academic world. Publish documents nobody outside would ever read or care less about, yet it all seemed critically important to those on the inside. And the few of us who saw it for the game it was? Well it was a game we chose to play, so we too followed the rules. After all, being average here was still pretty good – and there was never any shortage of intelligent conversation to eavesdrop on.

I sat up till midnight – even though it was just another night – watching the snow fall and contemplating life as it was, as it had been, and as it would be. Or could be. Maybe. The clock struck twelve, and I heard a knock at the door. I stared at it in disbelief – as though puzzling about it would reveal who was on the other side.

Convincing myself I had misheard, nonetheless I went and opened it. And was surprised at the crushing level of disappointment when there was nobody there. A knock at midnight. Right. Not in my world. Blinking back the tears of heartache that threatened to come, I almost missed the little package resting off to the side. Almost.

I picked up the wrapped box – although the wrapping was unlike any paper I’d ever seen. Almost metallic, it reflected the light in ways that made the paper appear to be made of liquid. There was a card attached and I opened it as I stepped back into my apartment.

“A lost soul,” I translated as I read, for it was written in a dialect of old French that few would be able to comprehend today, “sometimes, cannot find its place until its place is ready to be found.” Ok so that was weird.

I started to open the package, and as I did the strange wrapping fell away and disappeared. No, that’s not quite right – it’s more like it soaked into the carpet, much like spilt water. I could see where it went, but I couldn’t pick it up again, and after a few moments it faded, until all that could be seen was my ratty old carpet.

I looked at the box a little apprehensively after the mysterious vanishing paper trick, but excitement won out over caution and I opened it to reveal a necklace. A pendant, beautiful in its simplicity, appeared to be of Celtic origin. The chain it was on looked like silver but was so fine it felt like a piece of tinsel.

I picked the pendant up gently. It felt warm in my hands, and though it appeared tarnished, it was highly reflective, presenting a distorted view of my apartment. Ever so carefully, I tested the weight of it on the chain it came with. It seemed to hold. I did it up around my neck to find it fit just right.

I wandered to look in the mirror, tracing the unusual shape with my baby finger, as one might caress the scars of a loved one. The heat of the pendant on my chest warmed me straight through and the sensual tracing became hypnotic as the reflection in the mirror changed.

My apartment slowly disappeared from the mirror while I watched. It showed my walls becoming forests; my dying plants took on new life; my couch became a lake and the coffee table its beach. It was nighttime and my overhead light transformed into a moon. High above, yes, and yet so much closer and larger than I had ever seen it.

Gradually my reflection faded too – replaced by what, I couldn’t tell. The reflection was dulled until all that remained was the vision of the pendant. And with a blink, it was gone.

I looked around to find myself in a world that I almost knew. The colours were straight out of my dreams; close to normal but far more vibrant and alive.

I looked into the lake my couch had become and saw the moonlight reflected. A lightening bug danced out in front of me. There seemed to be a pattern to his movements, but at first I could not discern what it was; eventually I recognized the same script that was on the card.

“What do you want to see?” the little creature spelled out. My hand reached of its own accord toward the moonlit water while I pondered the question.

In a flash I was taken back to the time when the language of the lightening bug was the common tongue. The times I’d read and dreamed about became real, and I quickly learned that nothing I’d read or dreamed had come close.

I sat for months watching the years go by. I lived the lives of kings and peasants. I loved and I lost. I found disturbing similarities between their lives and ours, and differences so vast it astonished me that one culture sprang from the other.

But then, one day, something triggered a thought of home and the vision on the lake changed dramatically. I saw my own life, from the outside. I saw what had been, what was, and what could be. And I no longer felt so lost.

My eyes were scratchy, as though I’d left my contacts in too long. I was back in my apartment and my baby finger was still tracing the pattern of the necklace, which was no longer there.

I’d learned enough about the culture I’d come to study to write papers that would send the academic world spinning, and might even interest the outside world. And write them I did – but it would take several years to find enough proof so that I could publish. Suddenly my studies had focus and passion and no longer seemed like a game. And once out there, my papers held up to all peer reviews. Of course I couldn’t exactly reveal my sources, but by then I had others to back me up.

From this I found the life I’d been looking for. Making history come alive for others as it had for me. And while I never did leave the academic world, within it I found friends, family and a home. An average life, perhaps, but one worth living.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Flash Fiction 18: The Christmas Gift

For those of you interested in the horse side of things, a good Christmas story (not mine :) on the GRS Blog.

Merry Christmas all - and an amazing new year!

Thanks for reading!


The Christmas Gift:

I watched as my brother, this year's Santa, handed her the gift I had chosen; I'd been looking forward to this moment since I'd found it in June. She was my best friend, and keeping it a secret so long had been incredibly difficult -- I'd had to force myself to forget all about it so that I wouldn't slip up. Fortunately I'd remembered in time to wrap it; if only I could apply that skill to exams!

But I’d have to be patient a while longer yet. My mother put the gift aside. She had a small pile growing, since she preferred to watch us unwrap our gifts to opening her own. And she had no idea that that box contained something special. I waited, feigning excitement over my own gifts while watching her open the others. A scarf, some books, jewelry. Nothing like what I'd found.

Finally she had my gift in hand. She unwrapped it mindlessly, far more interested in my brother's reaction to his new skis. He'd been so disappointed when they hadn't appeared under the tree, but accepted that they just couldn't afford them; it made it all the more wonderful when he opened the little box that told him where he could find his real gift in the basement. I could understand why she wanted to see that; I wanted to see it too.

But now he had his skis and Dad was bouncing for the opportunity to play with his new gadget. And finally she opened the box in front of her. The last gift of the day. She pulled it out and there was a moment's hesitation before she realized what it was.

She looked at me. The room was chaos, but between us there was silence. She had tears in her eyes, which was not the reaction I'd anticipated. I'd thought I'd found the perfect music box; just the style she'd seemed to prefer. Her collection was extensive, but they were similar -- this one combined the best traits of all of them. Or so I'd thought.

"Where did you find this?" she asked. Her whispered voice inaudible in the noisy room, but her eyes making the question clear. I went and sat next to her on the couch rapidly explaining about the little flee market I'd found in Port Elgin and how it was buried at the bottom of a box in a random corner of an antiques booth. And I knew it wasn't really antique but I thought it would go so well with her collection. And I really thought she'd like it. And did she notice the detail in the silver? and what did she think of... Well I was speaking way too fast and in circles, but I was confused and worried that my perfect gift that I'd kept secret for so long had somehow upset her.

"Come with me,” she said, rising. I followed, curious. "Girl moment," she told my dad with a smile when he questioned our departure.

She led me up to the master bathroom and opened the jewelry box I'd seen a million times growing up. From it she retrieved a tiny key; the type you'd see on a young girl's diary. She sat down on the edge of the tub and I went beside her, a million questions on the tip of my tongue and somehow enough strength not to ask them. She opened the lid of the music box and winding the knob on the base caused the dancers to swirl around to the sound of Haydn’s Cello Concerto. She watched it, mesmerized. And somehow I refrained from interrupting.

She held the box up, with two fingers of each hand supporting the base and her middle fingers running along the detailing on the side, as though she were feeling for something. Suddenly the music stopped and the dancers froze. Her right hand had moved but the left had not. She fiddled for a moment and with a click the left side gave. She smiled and gave me a look that reminded me of an excited young girl about to share a secret. Nothing appeared to have changed on the box, but clearly a latch had been released as she was able to slide the front face off. Behind that was a keyhole. To which my mother held the key.

I looked to her for an explanation, but none was to be had. I had the feeling my presence had been forgotten. I peered over her shoulder excitedly as she opened the little drawer. There was a penny, what looked like a felt four-leaf clover, a pair of children's earrings, some beads, and a little card. She picked up the card gingerly and held it to her heart with her eyes closed and memories written on her face.

Returning to the moment she gave me a smile and a one-armed hug and then showed me the card that meant so much to her. Written in a distinctive scrawl I recognized as having belonged to my grandmother who had passed so many years ago, I read:

A penny for wealth,
A clover for luck,
And all my love for always.
-- Mum

Friday, December 18, 2009

Flash Fiction 17: A Christmas Tradition

Cutting it close on timing tonight! Hope you enjoy this one. Let me know your thoughts!



A Christmas Tradition

Resigned, she looked at the big white flakes obscuring the view out the airport window. It was Christmas-eve and the blizzard had delayed all flights. Indefinitely. It was starting to sound as though Santa might be the only one flying that night. Amanda half listened to the conversations around her. All people excited about reaching their destinations.

Amanda, conversely, couldn't care less where she ended up, she just wanted to get away. It was hard, too hard, to be home at Christmas.

Her parents and siblings tried their best, but their eyes conveyed the worry their forced smiles couldn't hide. And her nieces and nephews picked up on the tension, despite the best efforts of the adults. The eldest child had been only three when Alicia and Jeremy died; none of them remembered their bubbly older cousin or the uncle who always told the best jokes. And Amanda remembered them all too well.

She shook her head, physically drawing herself from the memories of her daughter and husband that even five years later had the power to devastate her. Palm trees and pina coladas. That's where her thoughts should be focused. She envisioned herself lying on the beach, soaking up the sun, and having lascivious thoughts about the cabana boy. It didn't even make her feel guilty, since she would've done the same even were Jeremy with her.

"Hi, I'm Jake," the little boy introduced himself, interrupting her wandering thoughts, "and this is my iPet, Monster," he announced quickly flashing his handheld video game towards Amanda.

"Really?" she asked, "What kind of pet is Monster?"

Jake rolled his eyes dramatically, "he's a t-rex," he informed her with the tone of an exasperated teacher. "He's only the most ferocious dinosaur ever!"

"Ferocious?" Amanda asked, "How old are you?" she questioned the precocious child, no longer having to feign interest.

"I'm five and a half," he announced importantly, "but Grandma says I'm really an adult in a little body. She won't let me go to the store by myself though. If I were really an adult I could." He gave her a look clearly requesting a reasonable explanation to that.

"Yes you're right, but I don't think you get to do adult things until you're an adult in an adult body," she tried to appeal to his logic and was rewarded with a brilliant smile. "So Mr. Adult Jake, why do you have a ferocious pet? Wouldn't you rather have one you can play with? This one could eat you!"

"No he can't, he's just a game." Jake told her, the child's literalness making her smile, "and besides, he has to help me take over the world -- you just can't do that with a chihuahua."

Laughing, Amanda questioned him: "Have you ever met a chihuahua? Little but nasty creatures. Could absolutely take on the world and win," she attempted to defend the breed she felt Darwin should take care of.

"Yes, but Monster can just step on one, and that's it. Not even hard to beat."

"Jake!" An adult voice with mixed tones of anger and fear interrupted, "You were supposed to stay put, what are you doing?" and directed at Amanda, "I'm so sorry, I had to take his sister in the washroom and he ran out while I was with her," he explained with a look at the boy that was supposed to be a glare but had too much love in it to be intimidating. A young girl stood slightly behind him, one hand in his, the other thumb in her mouth.

"It's no problem," Amanda assured him, a little surprised to realize she meant it. "He was just explaining the relative merits of a pet t-rex over a chihuahua."

"Yeah Uncle Matt, she needed to meet Monster. And I didn't go far - I could still see the washroom -- that's close enough. Besides there was nobody for me to talk to in there and girls always take so long," he said making both adults laugh as he stuck out his tongue at his little sister.

"Jake," the boy's uncle started seriously, kneeling down in front of him, "it's very important that you stay with me, even when it's boring. Ok?" Jake nodded. "Promise me?" the little boy rolled his eyes for Amanda's sake, but agreed.

"Now to settle this other issue," he started and Jake looked at him expectantly, "everybody knows a chihuahua will win out over a t-rex any day." This was greeted with instant groans and protestations, while he introduced himself in an aside to Amanda. "Jake you've met, and this is my niece Alexa. Lexi." Lexi took her thumb out of her mouth and shyly offered her hand to Amanda, never letting go of her uncle. Amanda shook it solemnly, introducing herself at the same time. "My sister's kids; I'm taking them to their grandparents for the holiday. She has to work and didn't want them to miss out."

"So where are you off to?" Matt asked conversationally.

"Warmth and pina coladas." Amanda answered with a look that suggested that topic be dropped. He seemed willing to let it go, and she was grateful for it.

Somehow Christmas-eve in the airport was not so hard when spent with the captivating family. The storm became impressive rather than a frustration as Matt kept them entertained with somewhat exaggerated, she hoped!, stories of storms past. As evening rolled into night and the airport patrons resigned themselves to the fact that they'd be spending Christmas Eve in the airport, even the most excited children fell asleep.

They spent the night quietly chatting while the children slept. Somehow Matt got her to speak of Alicia and Jeremy, even though she never told anybody about them. And somehow he directed her to the positive; she found herself telling him stories that made her laugh, and reliving memories that left her feeling truly happy for the first time since the accident.

Christmas day dawned white but clear, and sure enough flights were rescheduled and passengers ushered on as quickly as the airlines could manage. Matt and kids entreated Amanda to join them for Christmas, but still overwhelmed by the night before, Amanda retreated rapidly, claiming a tradition of beach Christmases that could not be broken.

Several hours later, Amanda was lying on the beach, listening to the waves roll up towards her feet, sipping occasionally on her pina colada, and amusing herself with the fanciful idea that Matt was her Santa Clause, giving her the ability to live again. She was even considering that just possibly next year, she'd spend the holiday with her family when she heard the voice.

"I'd really rather not have Christmas dinner alone tonight; would you be willing to join me?" And as Matt settled into the beach chair next to hers, a new Christmas tradition was born.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Flash Fiction 16: An Exhausting Night

hahaha so a bit of a deviation from my usual style. I'd be curious to know what you think!

As always - thanks for reading :) Enjoy!

An Exhausting Night:

Dinner was late. Again. And the stupid pet kept trying to steal my food, one paw swoop @ a time. Really. Civilized creatures shouldn't have to put up with such behavior.

The door to the outside was shut again -- a suggestion that I should stay in for the night. But that's something pets do, and I am not a pet. So I jumped up and hung off the door handle and it opened easily. I left it open behind me so I'd be able to get back in later.

I darted out into the shadows between the house and the bushes and paused there, deciding what to do next. First drink, then food. There's a mini-human in the house next door who left perfectly good milk out on the porch. I got up and helped myself to a drink, but had to leave quickly when the mini-human opened her door. The first time I was so absorbed in the sweet milk I let her come outside. That was a mistake I'll never make again. Spent the night trapped in that prison of a house being chased by not only her but three other mini-humans who if they caught me would squash me, or pull on my tail, or carry me around -- sometimes even upside-down! How undignified. And their door had one of those round handles not meant for paws. I couldn't get out. Had to hide until morning and dart out with the big human. Never again. So now I drink what milk I can and leave.

After my thirst was satisfied I warmed up with a quick dart up the tree. I wasn’t really trying to catch those birds of course – if I wanted to, obviously I would’ve. I just wanted to make sure they didn’t get too comfortable in my tree.

I hopped out of the tree, landing lightly and stalked across my yard. A simple leap landed me on top of the fence, which I paraded along to the complete frustration of the pathetic dog that lived in the other yard. Outside all the time and could never figure out how to open the gate. I vanished into the next yard just as I heard his owner open the door to yell at him and force him back inside. Mission accomplished. You’d think one of these days he’d be smart enough to keep his mouth closed. But then, we’ve already established he’s not the smartest critter on four legs. With him gone I was free to enter the yard and eat the remains of his dinner. Way better than mine. And I wasn’t forced to share.

I left his yard and began the long hike across town. Had to stop to avoid the obnoxious drivers who clearly didn’t understand that I had right-of-way. Was not amused at that. Chased a mouse, but it let it go when it turned off my route – after all, I had more important things to do.

And then, I was finally there. But the door was closed – no way in. I prowled around. A leaf blew in front of me so I pounced on it in frustration. And then I backed off and crouched down waiting for it to move again. When it did, I was ready. Caught it mid-air and batted it all around. The wind caught it and carried it up, but I was ready for that escape attempt and quickly climbed up the tree to catch it on the top branch. But as I did that, I saw it. The open window, not even five feet away. There wasn’t even a screen to claw through. An easy leap. I crouched down and wiggled my hind muscles in preparation for the jump, but then I paused. Was the window really open enough for me to fit through? It would be really undignified to hit the window and fall. That would be stupid pet behavior. And I am not a pet. But I wanted to be inside. I lowered myself, prepared, and leapt!

And of course I made it in no problem. An easy jump for an expert such as myself. I casually licked the sap off my front paws and made my face presentable before heading into the depths of the house. I listened carefully; if the people heard me, they’d throw me out. But they had long since gone to bed, so I was free to explore.

I was silent as I searched the house, and finally I found her. All curled up, asleep, on the softest of furs. I huddled down and pounced. A rude awakening perhaps, but she rebounded quickly. The two of us chased each other around the house with no thought of the noise we were making till one of the people yelled. Quickly we crouched backwards in separate directions. She paraded out where she could be seen, tail high and fluffed, and the human realized his mistake. Who was he to yell at one as brilliant as she? The human slunk back into his room, clearly ashamed at his behavior. She came back and rubbed her scent against mine. And really, the rest is absolutely none of your business.

Far too soon it was time for me to leave. Going out the window was far easier than coming in had been. I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I hiked home. And was glad that this time the car understood that it had to get out of my way, although I was rather puzzled that it chose to go up the curb to do so. Such a loud and unnecessary noise. Foolish driver. I avoided the dog’s home; the food was gone and he’s no challenge to my intellect, so why bother? Besides, it’d been a long night and I was tired.

Finally get home to see they’d closed the door. The door that I’d purposely left open. I was not amused. I howled my frustration but they failed to respond in a timely manner. Stupid humans. I was forced to lurk around my own home until one of them left in the morning. I stalked by, refusing to acknowledge them, making my annoyance known. They sometimes have to be reminded to show me the proper respect. At least she remembered to give me my gourmet snacks. I have her well trained to feed me every time I deign to return.

I climbed up to my room and was pleased to discover they had done a decent job of preparing my bed for me. The blanket was nice and flat, all stretched out and ready to be kneaded into the perfect position. It took me a moment or two to get it exactly perfect, and I was finally able to relax. Leave me alone now; it was an exhausting night.

Sherlock, after an exhausting night.
The photo that inspired the story.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Flash Fiction 15: Please Don't Tell

So the challenge this week was to take somebody else’s first line and write a story off of it. This was by ReyOLight on the Editor’s Unleashed forum. Rey’s Blog here if anybody’s interested :)

My fairy godmother was neither a fairy nor a god. In fact, she was a rather cranky old hag. Just don't tell her I said so.

You'd think helping people out would be part of her job description -- or so I always did anyways! But every time I'd call her, all I'd get is a lecture. "Do you think wands grow on trees?!?! I'm a busy woman, what makes you think I have time for this? There are starving children in Africa!" I never understood what starving children would've had to do with my dream date for the prom, but even as a teen I knew better than to question. Wouldn't want to be turned into a pumpkin!

My fairy godmother (or FG as I secretly referred to her) appeared at the strangest times in my life, always when I felt no need for her and never when I wanted her. That dream date? Never happened. My wedding? I begged for her assistance, but she was far too busy. She had time to show up for the open-bar though! And let me tell you, a drunk FG is a scary FG. But don't tell her I said so.

But on the birth of my first child when I was exhausted and completely astonished and happier than I could imagine, she was there. And truth be told, not entirely welcome. But don't tell her I said so.

One day after hitting rock bottom in the business world and being told, yet again, that she wouldn't help me, I lost it as I never had when I was a teen. FG seemed just as ready to explode. "You think this is an easy job???" she demanded.

"Well yeah,” I rolled my eyes, behaving as childishly as I sounded, “You get to travel the world making people's dreams come true. How is that bad?"

"And how about when to make people truly happy, you have to leave their wish unfulfilled. The ONE thing they want, that you know they are better off without. What do you do then? How do you do your job without being a cranky old hag?" I blushed. I couldn't help it. Instantly utterly appalled at all the horrid things I'd ever thought of her. And I thought back over my unrealized dreams. The date I never had with the guy who ended up cheating on his wife; the wedding that brought me back together with my mother when I had nobody else to turn to; the company I started when I couldn't find anybody to hire me... None of which would've happened if FG had granted what I'd begged.

I’d like to say that I smartened up and began to behave like the adult I was, but really, I’m human. I still asked for things and got huffy when FG couldn’t bother to help me, or was snarky in her response. But as time went on, she annoyed me less and less, until one day FG didn't seemed either old or so cranky. But please don't tell her I said so.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Flash Fiction 14: The Survivor

And so continues the month of one story... To any new to this, it really will make far more sense if you read the previous editions :)

For those new or interested the story begins here: Knowing
Part two is available here: The Next Step
and part three: The Watcher

Thanks for reading!

The Survivor

Jezina followed in silence throughout the morning. She was tempted to question Kale, but knew he'd never deign to answer. Jezi decided she'd go with him to the village and then venture out on her own; surely that was all he intended anyways. It was a four day hike to the village, and as much as Jezina had been apprehensive about traveling alone, she wasn't at all sure Kale's presence was an improvement.

She was glad when they finally stopped for the day. He'd set a pace she'd found exhausting, and since she didn't have to be anywhere for a specific time, she couldn't see any reason to push herself to keep up with him. Perhaps that was the easiest thing to do -- tomorrow she'd simply walk slower and enjoy her travels and Kale could go wherever he was going without her. Problem solved.

As disturbed as she was by him, Jezina was surprised to discover they worked reasonably well together. With no obvious communication it was decided that Jezi would set up camp while Kale scavenged for food. When he returned the fire was going and her bedroll unpacked -- she wasn't brave enough to touch his, even to help. They ate in silence. Jezina shivered, the warmth of the fire not nearly sufficient to overcome the chill of the watcher's gaze.

Several times she started to make conversation but his countenance was such that she froze before the first word was uttered. Defeated, she silently cleaned up the remains of their meal, rinsed briefly in the nearby stream, and curled into bed for her first night on the road.

Hearing Kale shifting restlessly in his sleeping roll, Jezina's less charitable side smiled a secret smile. Beds in the village where Jezi had grown up were nothing more than wood slabs raised off the ground -- often with hard knots in them. To her, the soft moss on which she now lay was luxurious. But to one accustomed to the feathers and foam Jezina had experienced over the last few months, the ground would be uncomfortable at best.

The next morning Jezina awoke in a great mood. Refusing to be cowed by the watcher's intimidating gaze, she took her time gathering berries for breakfast and leaves for tea. She could tell Kale was impatient to be off, and half of her hoped he'd be impatient enough to leave without her. She didn't want a fight, just an enjoyable journey, and that was unlikely to happen with him continually glaring at her. Her manners were ingrained enough that she made enough breakfast for two, and the devil on her shoulder was active enough that she asked "sleep well?" all too innocently as she handed it to him. The temperature only dropped a fraction of a degree at his silent reply and Jezina tried to convince herself that meant she was getting used to him.

Kale finished breakfast rapidly and was up, clearly ready to be off, while Jezina dithered about randomly taking her time, while trying to appear constructively busy. Finally Kale sat down with a sigh -- the first sound he'd purposefully made since they'd left. "I'm not leaving without you," he stated. For the first time since she'd met him, Kale addressed Jezina directly. She looked up at him, her initial surprise that he was speaking to her overwhelmed by his eyes. They were no longer the deadly cold gray she'd come to expect from him, but rather the palest of blues. Convincing herself it was merely a trick of the light, Jezina jumped on the opportunity to ask what she'd been trying to since they'd left.

"Why not?"

"I have no choice," he said bitterly. "You're the survivor," he all but spat the word out as his eyes chilled once more. A trick of the light.

Jezina looked at him uncomprehendingly, torn between telling him to just leave her alone and wanting to know what he was talking about. "I'm what?" she asked, thoroughly lost.

"From the woods, none shall return.
When the white-haired survivor approaches, the watcher must serve her.
She is the only hope."

Kale recited the memorized prophecy in a monotone while Jezina listened incredulously. A hand unconsciously drifted to her snow-white hair. She found it hard to believe that nobody outside her village had pure-white hair – it was the most prevalent colour in her village.

Her mind quickly flipped through the rest of the prophecy. The watcher. Ok so that was a little too eerie and she couldn’t argue with it since she'd been mentally calling Kale that since the day she'd first seen him; a name she'd never said aloud. She had a moment's fear that he could read her mind, but with a quick glance at him, shrugged that off as highly unlikely. But the survivor? She had survived the woods sure, but only because Elder Kesa had helped her. She shuddered at the memory of that horrific night. She hadn't done anything particularly brave or interesting, she'd just run away. Hardly something that would qualify her to be the only hope. And the only hope for what? She was having enough trouble getting herself to the village!

"You're insane." She stated emphatically, almost believing it. "Who are you to assume the prophecy refers to us? Rather full of yourself aren’t you?” she said with a nastiness born of fear. “And if you're really convinced you're this watcher, then perhaps you'd better get back home and watch for whomever else comes out of the woods! You could be missing her right now." Jezina rolled her eyes at him and stalked off in an attempt at a dramatic exit, determined to dismiss his tale. Yet deep inside, knowing what she knew of her village's history if nothing else, she feared there might be a ring of truth to the words. She could feel his icy eyes on her back as she marched away. If she hadn't been so aware of him she would've missed his barely whispered comment as he followed her:

"The prophecy is nearly five thousand years old, and all that time we have watched; over the years, it faded to the realm of family myth. But how do you dismiss a myth, when she walks up to your door?"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flash Fiction 13: The Watcher

Since last week it was almost midnight before I posted, this time I thought I’d try and get my story out on the early end of things :)

Continuing Jezina’s story again (the goal is all of November). Tricky cause of course what do you do after hanging on the cliff? It’s not a question I usually have to answer in 1000 words, but I do if the story is to continue. Whose foolish idea was this November project anyway? *g* hahaha ok enough silliness. I hope you’re enjoying my story – all suggestions and comments welcome.

For those new or interested the story begins here: Knowing
And part two is available here: The Next Step


The Watcher

Jezina cautiously followed the young girl into the house, with a shy glance at the kind looking woman and the intense man beside her. The young girl signed rapidly, clearly excited although Jezina didn't know if it was because of her, or if she was always exuberant. The older couples' gaze was cautious but welcoming.

Following the girl deeper inside, Jezina found herself in what was clearly the heart of the house. The huge open space had wooden floors covered with knit rugs in multicoloured designs -- far more colours than the dyers in her village had ever produced. The stone fireplace housed a low fire, with a cooking oven next to it whose scents indicated it was in use. Jezi's stomach growled the instant she noticed, much to her mortification. Fortunately nobody seemed to notice.

But then the warmth faded from the room and suddenly it seemed large and intimidating. She surreptitiously looked around, trying to identify the change, and when she looked up to the loft above, the one she had seen earlier was watching. The look in his grey eyes was one of pure hatred and froze her in place.

The young girl effortlessly broke the tension, speaking to him. His response to her was terse, but at least he looked away from Jezina who quickly moved out of his line of sight. The woman appeared in the doorway and led them all to a fairly small kitchen which was not huge, but had shelves entirely lined with food. So much food for only one family. Almost as much as they'd have in winter stores for her whole village! Jezina was astounded and tightened her stomach muscles to stop her stomach from reminding her again that it had been a long night and was well past breakfast.

The woman handed her a plate and gestured to the food, but Jezina hung back, unsure of what was appropriate to take or expected of her. The young girl again solved her dilemma by bouncing in front, randomly tossing a variety of items on a plate and gesturing one-handed motions that Jezi didn't entirely understand but interpreted to mean she should follow. As she did, she felt the watcher’s cold gaze on her once more, but refused to acknowledge it.

Jezina spent the day with the woman Dalone and her daughter Riley. She helped with their chores and Riley quickly appointed herself language coach and patiently spent endless hours working with Jezina. The man disappeared for the day, and while occasionally Jezina felt the cold eyes of the watcher, mostly he stayed away and she started to relax.

Invited to stay, the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and Jezina found herself adopted into the family. One quiet night Jezina confided in Dalone about what had happened the night before she showed up in their yard; the night her life changed forever. And Dalone held her while she cried. After that, she was simply family. To all but one. Nobody could or would tell her why Kale despised her, but it was clear he did. Never would he speak with her, and always he watched.

Eventually the day arrived when Jezina knew the time had come to move on.

"I still don't like the idea of you going off alone." Dalone told her, worrying. Jezina laughed "I'm only going over the hill," she reminded her.

"Yes, well you came from over the hill too," Dalone stated with a glance in the other direction, justifiably concerned. Jezina paled briefly at the reminder.

"Yes but this time we know what's on the other side." she stated with a confidence she didn't feel.

"Jezi will be fine." Riley reassured her mother. "After all, she knows how to sign now."

"Learned from the best!" Jezina said with a grin at Riley.

"Besides, she has to go so she can bring me back a new hat!"

"The whole reason for going really," Jezi joked.

"Maybe if we knew why you were really going?" Krage asked seriously. But Jezina couldn't explain it to them, just as she'd never been able to explain her need to cross the wall. She had come to love these people as family and she hated that she was hurting them by leaving. She'd never felt so welcomed, and yet she knew she couldn't stay. Dalone worried it was because of her son's behaviour, but Jezina realized that even without him, she would still eventually have felt the need to move on – even as part of her longed to stay.

"Karge I'm sorry. It's just something I have to do." Jezina said, tears sparkling her eyes as she met his glance. "Besides," she said trying to force the laughter back into her voice, "Riley really does need a new hat!"

She looked toward Riley to share the long running joke, but Riley had turned unusually serious. Standing where her mother couldn’t see her, she signed furtively, “Remember, he doesn’t hate you.” Before Jezina could question the unusual message, Kale’s abrupt arrival behind her put an end to the emotional goodbyes. There was no way she’d risk tears in front of him.

“Don’t worry Mother,” he said, his tone as cold as ice. “She’s not going alone. I’m going with her.” And with barely a passing glare at Jezina he picked up his bag and hers and headed off up the hill. Jezi shot a panicked glance at her new family. Dalone was clearly surprised but not entirely unhappy. Krage looked resigned, and Riley looked absolutely thrilled. Jezi shot a questioning look at her, but before she could say anything Krage spoke,

“You don’t want to let him get too far ahead,” he said in warning. Sure enough Kale was setting a pace she’d have trouble keeping up with. And so, questioning her sanity, Jezina left the family she had grown to love, to follow the man she was slightly terrified of.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Flash Fiction 12: The Next Step

Ok so since I really don’t have time for Nano this year, but I’m very disappointed about that, I’ve decided that during the month of Nov, I’m going to do mini-chapters for Flash instead that are pieces of the story I had hoped to write for Nano.

This one follows immediately on Knowing -- my second flash fiction attempt.

Enjoy! And as always, comments very welcome!

. . .
The Next Step

Jezina lay where she had fallen. Frozen. Afraid even to breath. She had no idea if she'd been seen or heard, and she promised herself that if she was discovered she would not scream. She would not have that be the last thing Denaf and her friends in the village ever heard from her.

A hand clamped tightly over her mouth causing an instinctive primal fight reaction, but the one holding her was stronger. "Jezi, quit it!" the voice hissed. The combination of her nickname and the fact that her attacker apparently didn't want to be heard either was sufficient to break through Jezina's blind panic. The hand over her face softened when she stopped struggling. "When I let you go, slide backwards twenty feet silently. There's a log there you should be able to fit in. Once there, stay completely still until the forest comes to life again, then count to two thousand. If all sounds as it should crawl towards the moon until you reach the edge of the trees, then run until daylight."

Jezina turned to look at the woman she'd always considered a mentor. Her eyes conveyed both her panic and her gratitude. "Go," Elder Kesa whispered. "Live well." the standard parting took on new meaning this night as Kesa turned her back on Jezina, calling to the others as she approached them, "I don't know what you heard. Whatever it was is long gone now." Jezina used the sound of her voice as cover to slide to the recommended hiding spot.

She focused on her breathing. In and out as quietly as possible, but the pounding of her heart sounded like an off-beat drummer. Entirely too loud and too fast; she was sure they'd be able to hear it. And so she let her mind drift. Trying to think of happy and relaxing times -- playing with Denaf as a child, or learning to pick herbs with Elder Kesa. And yet each memory brought her right back to the present as her entire history was wrapped up in the people who would, given the chance, ensure she had no future.

A foot stepped right in front of her log. She held her breath and closed her eyes. If I can't see you, you can't see me -- a child's way of viewing the universe, but in Jezina's terror she wouldn’t risk that whoever it was would sense they were being watched. She waited until the foot moved away, only seconds but time felt interminable. She exhaled slowly, as quietly as possible. She could hear voices -- it would seem they were dividing up the body of the kelah. With a sickening heart, Jezina realized what the "sacred meat" was at the Kreis festivals. A celebration of life, giving thanks to Aliah any time a kelah visited. Jezina's body wanted to wretch violently, but survival instinct kept her still and silent.

The elders left with the body of the traveler whose only crime had been to cross the wall. None of their conversation had lead Jezina to think they suspected there was another in the woods that night. That one of their own had crossed the wall. But the forest remained eerily silent and remembering Kesa's instructions, Jezina remained hidden. Sure enough, several minutes later Jezina heard a leaf crunch on the nearby trail. Somebody following behind, she knew not why. She did not even want to know why.

Before too long, night sounds returned to the forest. A hoot of an owl in the distance, the scurry of tiny feet through the underbrush, the occasional bird sound telling Jezi that normality had returned to the night. After counting very slowly to two thousand, using the internal chant as a way to focus and stay calm, Jezina hesitantly crawled out of her log. Feeling very exposed, she froze, understanding for the first time what it meant to be a prey animal. But knowing she couldn't stay there, and recalling the explicit instruction to crawl rather than walk, Jezi slowly and painfully made her way through the night towards the moon.

It was a long crawl. The forest seemed endless and the trail non-existent. The moon had all but set when Jezina reached the edge of the forest. Her hands and arms were all cut up. Her wrists and back screaming from the unusual effort. But Jezina ignored all that and got up and ran. She knew it was only a short time before her absence would be noted and knew also that she needed to be as far away as possible when that happened.

She found herself going up a series of rolling meadows. Tricky to run in as the grass was long and tangled her already exhausted legs. Each time she crested a hill it was to reveal another one. Just one more, she told herself, forcing her legs to keep going. She only knew that she had to keep going. Where was irrelevant. The sun was rising behind her. It would be warm soon.

As she crested yet another hill she was greeted by the strangest sight. She figured quickly that it was a dwelling. But rather than being made of clay and thatch like those in her village, the material used was transparent and seemed to soak up the rising sunlight. It was strangely welcoming, but Jezina was hesitant, unsure as to whether she should approach.

The decision was made for her when the young boy ran out to the yard. He saw her and before she could react, he had alerted the others in the home. Within moments there was a woman in the yard with the boy. She was followed shortly by a man who rested his hand on her shoulder and a girl, apparently a few years older than the first child. Jezina could also see another young man, nearer her own age, behind the clear wall but though his eyes met hers, he did not deign to acknowledge her, choosing instead to turn and disappear deeper into the dwelling.

The woman called to Jezina, her words in a language Jezina had never heard, and while her tone was welcoming, Jezi was very hesitant about approaching. The woman spoke again; the words had a different sound to them but still she could not understand. Jezina held her hands out in front of her, palms forward, fingers down, in the formal greeting of a traveler. It was a sign she had never thought she'd have reason to use, and wasn't entirely convinced she'd done it right. But the girl started signing rapidly in response. Too rapidly, Jezina's basic grasp couldn't follow what she'd said. The woman seemed to realize this and spoke to the girl who then signed two simple messages slowly. Welcome. Enter.

And so with equal measure of fear and hope, Jezina crossed the transparent wall.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flash Fiction #11 - Last Dance

Enjoyed this one, AND kept it well under the word count :) Couldn't come up w/ a good title though -- suggestions???

Happy Hallowe'en!

Last Dance

She felt the power course through her as she danced skyclad between the stones. To those watching she seemed to take on an ethereal glow, particularly eerie in the twilight drizzle. She was young to be High Priestess, and some of the braver souls had muttered objections when she took the post, though none doubted her now.

She had fasted through the three nights of the Samhain feast in order to prepare herself for what only she knew would be her last dance. But this moment, this last festival, was her chance to honour those who had given her such power.

She danced for her clan, giving their thanks for the successful harvest, and in supplication for future gifts. She danced for the spirits of those who had passed since last Samhain, to help the traveling dead reach the otherworld. But mostly she danced for Morrigan, the intensely powerful warrior goddess with whom she'd always felt most connected. Her mind opened and her body moved entirely of its own accord.

As the sun set, the hearth fires were all extinguished, leaving only the druidic fire she danced around to cast its shadows. The ancient stones she weaved between came to life as she passed through, seemingly swaying with the movement of her arms. The drums pounded but she heard them not, lost in the rhythms of her soul.

It was the festival of the dead, and she welcomed their presence as the spirits joined her dance. Even the least spiritual of the watchers could see the shadows of the dead as they passed by the stones. Shadows moving where none should be. And still she danced.

A faint breeze caused the shadows to whisper, and the watchers shivered knowing this dance was going far beyond any they had ever experienced. As with any who dance with power, it changed her slightly, brought her beyond the reach of the ordinary, and caused her people to regard her with awe rather than friendship. But she had never sought friendship. And so she danced.

The light and the dark warred within her as she whirled around the fire and between the stones, her painted body a work of art. As she danced, the head of each family ceremoniously entered her circle, one by one, to light a torch from the druidic fire. These would be carried to each hearth, uniting the entire village with the power-infused flames and protecting them from the spirits of those past. Her young sister Aibhilín, her only blood relative, was the last to approach. The young girl started in bravely, but shied away from the figure dancing. This was not her sister. Not the girl who used to run and play and would dare her to go out in the woods after dark. This was a woman shrouded in power; Aibhilín could sense the one she loved was already half lost to the spirit world. She quickly retreated outside the circle as she felt the dancer look right through her, apparnently seeing something Aibhilín could not and did not want to imagine.

The night was coming to a close -- the last of the stars were setting and dawn was just about to crack the horizon, but still the power did not lessen. If anything it seemed to build. Those still at the circle would later speak of a buzzing on the air, a palpable tension that held them enthralled. Exactly as that new year’s first beam broke the Samhain night, there was a loud crack and a bolt of lightening from the otherwise clear sky reached out to strike the very center of the druidic fire, momentarily blinding all who watched.

And when their sight returned, the eerie tension was gone, the traveling spirits seemed to have crossed, the druidic fire was out, and she who had danced with unrivaled power, was gone.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Flash Fiction #10 - A Mindless Wish

Wrote this one a while ago and never got around to posting it. No time this week so it finally gets its chance :)



"I wish I could live forever." It was a foolish statement, an ambitious youth's dream. One lifetime wouldn't be nearly long enough to accomplish all I'd dreamed of accomplishing.

I remember that day so clearly -- it was one of the first true spring day, senior year of highschool and we were on top of the world. All grown up and ready to "be somebody." Michael already WAS somebody -- he'd raised over a million in support for a small African country, built three schools, delivered food and medicine, and changed the lives of thousands. He was 18. He wished for the ability to change the world -- but we all knew he already had it. Jessi had no ambition in life beyond a happy healthy marriage and family. Her dreams were the simplest, but perhaps the hardest to achieve. Karen? She was going to cure Alzheimer's -- and several other diseases while she was at it. Mark's goals were far more immediate -- he was going to find the courage to tell his family he was gay. Stephanie was the political activist of the group and her plans went beyond the scope that any of the rest of us mere mortals could fathom. The closest we could understand was that she intended to rule the world. And know her, she just might do it.

And me? I'm ashamed to admit my dreams were far more self-centered. I wanted to travel -- to see the world. I wanted to learn to speak a dozen languages (despite being absolutely hopeless at the ones I had studied). I wanted to be known -- not famous, I never had any dreams of stardom -- but I wanted to be able to visit anywhere in the world and know I'd have a friend there to welcome me. I wanted to know . . . everything. What was and what would be. I wanted to understand. And sure I'd love to help people throughout this but if I were honest w/ myself, that was a happy bi-product rather than the motivating factor.

So it's warm and sunny out and we walked into our writing class to see a sub sitting on the desk. Mark made an immediate u-turn and left to enjoy the sunshine. The rest of us considered a mass exodus but a look from the sub was powerful enough to have us slumping into our seats wishing we'd been as quick to analyze and respond to the situation as Mark had been.

The exercise presented to us that day was childishly simple and, we felt, a complete waste of our time. Our usual instructor presented us w/ thought provoking exercises that encouraged us to think, to analyze, to argue. All things we were very good at. This? This was fluff. However, it was fluff w/ a codicil -- as soon as it was done, we were free to leave. Needless to say we whipped it off in no time and out we went. It was out of our minds by the time we got to the front door.

The assignment -- 500 words to finish the statement: If I had one wish I'd . . .

They say the first step to accomplishing a goal is to write it down. We didn't discuss the writing exercise -- it was nothing and it was spring out. So I never knew exactly what my friends wrote. I do know that Jessi left uni in third year to marry her TA; they would go on to have five children. The rest of us thought they were insane -- but they were happy. Ten years after that Karen won the nobel prize for her genetics research which led to cures for many of the worlds more tragic diseases. Meanwhile, Stephanie had worked her way through several university degrees before earning an intern position at the UN. Blood, sweat, tears and many years later she had worked her way up to the point where when she spoke, the world sat up and listened. And then did what she recommended.

And I? I had the life of dreams. I got to travel the world and meet people on every continent whom I would forever consider friends. I got paid to tell stories w/ my camera. And I enjoyed almost every minute of it. But life went on, as it will, and time took it's toll -- on everybody but me. I watched my friends die, and their children, and their children's children. Eventually, given enough time, I recalled that spring day so many years ago and the paper I'd put no thought into whatsoever.

And I wish I'd never wished.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Flash Fiction #9 - Training

"What are you doing here?" Sarah looked up from her desk to see her old boss standing in her office doorway.

"Shouldn't I be asking you that?" she said, entirely ignoring the woman with him.

"Seriously Sarah, this is a waste of your considerable talent," Agent Dylan told her, "When are you going to let it go and come back?"

Sarah didn't even bother rolling her eyes at the oft-repeated question, merely turned her back on him. It was a petty dismissal but she felt it was necessary. He, of course, entirely ignored it.

“We need your help," he said, indicating the blonde beside him. Sarah wouldn't even look at her.

"I don't do ghost wannabes. You know that."

"This one's different."

"What's different? Did she, or did she not, try to kill herself?"

"She's a level 8 medium with no shields." Dylan told her, completely avoiding the question. The implications of that did give Sarah a slight pause but was insufficient to overcome her long-ingrained disrespect of suicidal people. "We've put her through every kind of training we could imagine and still nothing. Consider it a challenge."

"Carol couldn't help her?" Sarah asked, reluctantly curious. She never could resist a challenge.

"She tried. Alyssa ended up in a coma."

"Interesting." Sarah acknowledged clinically, keeping the surprise out of her voice. Carol was the one who had originally trained Sarah. "Why did you wake up?" she asked Alyssa directly, thinking sleeping forever was an easy way out for one who wanted to kill herself.

"Dylan." Alyssa stated, with no indication of how she felt about it. "The spirits were quiet, but so was everything else. It was like I was in a void and eventually Dylan showed up and shoved me out. Now everything's back as it was before." At Sarah's look Agent Dylan shrugged off what she knew must've been an extraordinary experience. To enter the mind of one who is not under control is to risk being lost there yourself, and she imagined adding in the visiting spirits would just make it that much worse. Much like exploring the mind of a schizophrenic.

"What do you expect me to do?" Sarah asked, knowing the answer but needing it stated.

"You're an emphatic telepath. Take a look, feel what she's feeling, then build her a shield."

Reluctantly Sarah lowered the shields of her own mind which she used to filter out the thoughts and feelings of others.

She allowed a moment to be overwhelmed by the flood of voices frivolously chattering before focusing her attention on the girl beside her. As soon as she did the sense of despair was almost overwhelming. It was a horrid combination of an inability to help, no way to avoid the pleas, and a feeling of complete failure. And worse, a resigned acceptance that this was how it would always be. Switching senses, Sarah opened herself to experiencing Alyssa's thoughts which were being monopolized by a child crying in the dark, a tall pale man asking where his wife was, and others who were there but appeared unaware of her.

“Interesting.” Sarah repeated as she brought her own shields back up and disconnected from the chaos that was Alyssa's mind. She grabbed her purse and followed Dylan out of the room, silently agreeing with him that this was not the appropriate place for what needed to be done. Alyssa followed the pair, unsure exactly what had been wordlessly decided, but knowing that something had.

Arriving at the Motel 6 Dylan had booked Sarah sat down with Alyssa. "I've never done this before," she told her, "and I can't guarantee it'll go any better than Carol's attempt, but I’m willing to try." Alyssa just nodded. "When Carol helped you, she had you hide yourself inside a diamond?" Sarah guessed. A diamond is the hardest stone on Earth -- and therefore a great way to shield yourself, and one of Carol's favourite training images. Alyssa nodded her assent.

"Ok close your eyes, and wait till I join you." Alyssa's haunted blue eyes closed, and Sarah once again lowered her own shields and allowed the chaos in, having no idea how she was actually going to solve this. She temporarily blocked her emphatic sense allowing her to focus only on Sarah's thoughts -- and through her, those of the spirits with her. Her eyes were open, but the scene she saw was entirely in Alyssa’s mind. She found Alyssa cowering by a tree as some people wandered aimlessly around while others converged on her.

Turning her back on Alyssa, her dimmed emphatic sense could feel her hurt and fear, but she had to allow that for a few minutes. She found the pieces of the diamond shield Carol had helped her create and used that to build far more than a shield. She built an entire castle, with windows and only one entrance. Then she went and fought her way through the spirits to get to Alyssa, and casting her own shield widely enough to cover both of them she got Alyssa into the diamond castle – but once there Alyssa was blank. There was no expression on her face, no acknowledgement of her surroundings. Nothing.

And Sarah suddenly new what to do. She quickly pulled Alyssa back out into the realm of chaos. "Alyssa!" the younger girl slowly focused on her. "Somewhere out here is your knowledge, your feelings, your thoughts, and your memories. We have to find these and put them inside for you." Alyssa nodded her understanding, her eyes lighting with the first glimmers of hope. Using her own unique senses, Sarah was quickly able to locate Alyssa's feelings and thoughts -- hidden in a chest and a rock respectively, presumably previous shield attempts. On her own, Alyssa located her knowledge. Then it was just a search for her memories, which the rather helpful spirit of her grandmother was holding on to. All critical items accounted for, Sarah and Alyssa returned to the diamond castle. Sarah pulled the door shut, keeping a close eye on Alyssa. This time, she appeared to still be under control. "You ok?" Sarah asked. Alyssa nodded. Sarah let all her shields down. "Now?" "I can still hear them, but they're quiet. Like someone has the volume just one step above mute." Sarah thought for a moment and then walked over to the one open window and shut it. "Now?" Alyssa looked stunned.

"Ok so this is how it works," Sarah started in her teacher voice, "while you're in the diamond castle they'll leave you alone. If you want to listen, open a window; if you want to communicate, open the door and let only the one you wish to speak to in. If you find yourself outside -- which you will when you’re tired or upset, come back here as quickly as you can and shut the door. And remember, no matter how bad it is out there you can always get back. Got it?" Alyssa nodded and Sarah could feel her doubt and her hope warring it out -- but at least hope was still there. Maybe there was actually a chance. "Ok, when you're talking to Dylan tell him to leave me alone for a few hours. Open your eyes."

When Alyssa opened her eyes it was to see Sarah, incredibly pale, unconscious on the couch w/ Dylan leaning over her taking her pulse. And for the first time ever, silence. "She says leave her alone for a few hours." Alyssa told him. Dylan smiled ruefully "Yeah that sounds like her. So?" he asked -- but didn't need the answer. Even without looking uninvited, he knew from peace on Alyssa’s face that Sarah had met the challenge.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Flash Fiction #8 - An Evening Encounter

For those who actually read the blog for the blog part of things, I had the most amazing lesson today! Superpony had lightbulbs flashing every few minutes. hahaha and that story's on the GRS blog :)

For my Canadian readers -- Happy Turkey Day!!! Have a great Thanksgiving :)

And for everybody else: Friday Flash :) I couldn't decide on the right ending -- I have an extra paragraph that I couldn't decide whether or not to include. I *think* it's better w/o, but not quite sure so I added it in after a break at the end. Let me know your thoughts!

*edited to add: Alright -- the votes are in! Last paragraph is gone :) Anybody reading from now on in gets the edited version! Cheers :) *

Thanks for reading!

An Evening Encounter

It was a dark and stormy night. Oh wait, no it wasn't -- that's somebody else's story. It was actually a stunningly gorgeous night, crisp and cool with the hint of unfallen snow on the air. The harvest moon lit the world with a surreal night-time glow and the stars were so numerous Elsie felt there had to be some uncharted ones visible to those who knew those kind of things.

She was at the cottage for Thanksgiving and had escaped the warmth and chaos of the indoors for a few moments of complete silence. She'd been looking forward to this weekend for a long time -- the complete escape from the reality of her everyday life. She took a deep breath and savored the intense quiet.

"Excuse me," the little voice made her jump and her heart pound unbelievably fast. Her mind reviewed every scary movie she'd ever seen as she debated whether her family would hear her if she screamed. And then her imagination was brought under control as she observed who was addressing her -- a being entirely too fantastic for her somewhat uninventive imagination to have created.

"I was wondering if you might be able to spare a slice of pumpkin pie?" the little man asked. What? Elsie nearly laughed at the disjointed request. He was a squat man, with a face that rather resembled the cabbage-patch doll she'd had as a child. His dark green hair, highlighted by the moonlight, was a shade that was never in fashion -- not even in the 80s -- and was pulled back into a pony tail tied with something that looked like braided grass but was sparkling in the starlight. His voice was high, which made him seem childlike, but his eyes were haunted and belied an age not revealed in his appearance.

"Pumpkin pie?" Elsie asked, bewildered.

"Precisely." he replied, offering no explanation as to the strange request.

It was Thanksgiving -- of course she had pumpkin pie. And as her family had already eaten, nobody would care if she helped herself to another piece; this was the weekend for overindulgence of very good food after all.

"Sure," she decided with a shrug. "I'll be right back." And with a backwards glance at the unusual little man, she returned to the warmth and comfort of the cottage. She cut a generous slice and foamed a significant amount of whipped cream on top -- pumpkin pie was useless without whipped cream after all! Now the interesting challenge would be getting back outside with the pie. Sure enough as soon as she put her jacket on her mother questioned it.

"Where are you going?"

"I left my book in the car -- just going to grab it." It wasn't entirely a lie, she *had* left her book in the car and did want to have it for the evening.

"With your pie?" damn, her mother never missed anything.

"Well I don't dare leave it here!" Elsie stated emphatically with a deliberate look at her uncles and her younger brothers. Her mother smiled in acknowledgment while her male relatives loudly defended their honour and Elsie slipped out the door.

She returned to where she'd left the little man, but nobody was there. She looked around and was beginning to feel more than a little foolish when he materialized beside her. He lifted the entire slice with one giant sized hand, somehow keeping the pie intact and the whipped cream on top and leaving her with an empty plate. "Thank you," he said, and with a little half-nod, half-bow, he was gone.

"Well I guess that's that," Elsie thought, somewhat bemused, as she returned to the house, remembering to stop at the car and pick up her book.

"Polished that off pretty quickly, didn't you?" her brother was quick to point out as she walked into the cottage w/ the empty plate.

"It's good stuff." Elsie said with a laugh and fell back into the camaraderie of extended family gatherings.

Late that night when she finally went to sleep, she dreamed. She dreamed of summer in the nearby meadow and fairies, for they could be nothing else, dancing around the tree. Most ignored her completely, but one came and gestured to Elsie to follow. Quickly they came upon a pumpkin patch that, in the way of dreams, Elsie accepted unquestioningly. As she watched, Elsie saw the little man very like the one she met earlier appear to tend the patch; he seemed oblivious to her and the fairy's presence.

Elsie looked at the fairy quizzically. "Garden gnomes," the fairy answered her unasked question in a lilting voice. "Their lives rely on their gardens; this year the trolls wiped out the plot. If they couldn't recreate it by next year, the entire pack would die. It was out of desperation that Finzig approached you -- having spoken to you, law prohibits his return, but the pumpkin source you provided will save his family and the white gold on top will make them incredibly wealthy. That was very generous of you to include." The fairy said with a smile.

"What of Finzig?" Elsie asked, moved by the plight of one who'd risk all to save his family.

"He's going to travel," the fairy told her. "He'll be as the minstrels of your history once were -- welcome everywhere briefly and nowhere forever. He'll carry news and stories and discoveries from one garden to another, perhaps occasionally posing for photographs with those of your world. Don't look so sad," she told Elsie, "it's a life he'll embrace. As a child he was forever wandering and as an adult never settled in the pack. This will give him a chance to do what he's always wanted to do, and a valid reason for doing it. He's one of the few to ever leave with pride and his story will be sung for generations. And what you did made his leaving worthwhile. I brought you here so you could know that." And on that note the dream faded and Elsie opened her eyes to find herself lying in bed with her mind still in that place between sleep and awake where you still remember dreaming.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Flash Fiction #7 - Just Another Day

Just Another Day --

As her dinner companion's head exploded, Mary took a last sip of her espresso before sliding out of the booth and using the chaos that had erupted in the coffee shop to become disassociated with her unfortunate companion. There would be no point in sticking around for the cops -- she had nothing that could help them, and they would only hinder her.

It hadn't been one of her better days, she reflected as she slipped out the back door and blended in with the other pedestrians hunched to avoid the drizzly grey weather. But, she supposed, still better than some. At least she'd had time to pick his brain before it splattered so rudely across the table. Personally she didn't think his knowledge was worth killing for, but maybe she was becoming insouciant. Perhaps it was time to find a new career.

She followed the herd down to the subway and traveled three stops before emerging to flag an anonymous yellow taxi. She picked a random address she could've walked to, but habit had her instinctively make the job of those following her as difficult and inane as possible. Several cab changes later, she headed to her target location.

She slipped into the back of the lecture hall to hear the aged professor finishing up his under-graduate level talk. She waited as the students gathered their items and exited the hall with the extreme speed that only students escaping mandatory classes are capable of.

"Ah, Mary Mary quite contrary," he started seeing her sitting alone in the auditorium. To which Mary outwardly smiled and inwardly felt any respect she may have had for him disintegrate, "how may I assist you today?"

"Trevor Peters" she stated, watching him closely. The professor's face transformed from friendly-grandfather to one who has seen and known too much.

"I'm sorry, my dear, that name means nothing to me," he said.

After the day she'd had, she had no patience for the conventional games. "Spencer Matthews was killed a little over an hour ago. There's a very good chance Trevor will be next. Where is he?" The older man blanched slightly but otherwise gave no sign the news of his former student affected him.

"We haven't spoken in a while," he said inanely, "perhaps you'd like to come over for a coffee?" Several sharp retorts about the outcome of her last cup of coffee jumped instantly to mind, but resolutely she stifled them, knowing he was her only link to the information she required.

"I'd like that," she lied blatantly, and followed the professor out to his car. She was suspicious but not overly concerned when he drove to a stately old home instead of the nearest Starbucks.

The door was slightly ajar and the professor was cautious in opening it -- his movements betrayed an ingrained knowledge of tactical maneuvers not learned in the classroom. Mary was forced to reevaluate her opinion of him as she followed him in, sweeping left while he went right, her Springfield XD 9, previously concealed, now held confidently in front of her. As Mary shadowed the professor into what appeared to be his home library she was not particularly surprised to see him retrieve a Glock and magazine from a hollow book and load it; as her mind registered the significance of the practiced movement, she wondered idly what else might be in those books.

A quick sweep of the rest of the house proved what both instinctively knew -- they were alone. And nothing, so far as Mary could tell, had been touched. She wondered if the old professor had simply forgotten to lock up that morning, but as he was appearing less and less like an old professor by the second, she kept that thought to herself.

"What is it you want with Trevor Peters?" he asked bluntly.

"Information," she replied. "Information of the type people would kill for.” While she didn't particularly care one way or another about the life of the hacker who’d learned one secret too many, she had long since learned that playing the 'help safe a life' card motivated most civilians.

"What makes you think I know where he is?"

"If you didn't, I wouldn't be here." she stated, neatly avoiding the question. She knew better than to reveal sources -- even dead ones.

The look he gave her was that of a disappointed parent. "You don't know nearly as much as you think you do, young lady." Surprisingly she was more intrigued than insulted by his patronizing tone.

"Educate me," she challenged.

"This morning," he started, "I knew exactly where Trevor Peters was." Mary nodded -- she'd already ascertained that much. "He was here." That worried her briefly, maybe she really was slipping. She'd been certain the old professor knew where to find him, but had had no sign her quarry had been in the immediate area.

"I’ll help you find him," the professor stated.

"No thank you," Mary said, knowing even as she said it that the offer hadn't been an offer so much as a command. "You'd be putting yourself in danger. These people kill indiscriminately; just for talking to me, you could be at risk."

"Then I may as well be involved," the professor argued with a disturbing twist on logic. "And they're not that indiscriminant, otherwise how do you come to be standing here when Spencer is dead?"

"What makes you think I was there when Spencer was killed?" Mary asked focusing on the detail he shouldn't have known.

The professor gave her that withering you're an idiot child look again before pointing out that she had unmistakable flecks of brain matter staining her shirt. Ok so she should've picked up on that. Definitely time for a career change. But then, a math professor, on the verge of retirement, should not have.

"I will find Trevor." he started, taking advantage of her momentary discombobulation. "I can find him on my own -- in which case you'll never get to ask your questions, or we can find him together and see what he says." Mary’s tension rose as she envisioned her weeks of searching, not to mention a significant amount of money, being wasted due to a rogue professor

"There is one more thing that you don't know,” the professor stated, piquing her reluctant interest. Her raised eyebrow encouraged him to continue:

"Trevor Peters is my son."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Flash Fiction #6 - Business 101

Stuck to reality this time. Can't imagine why? hahaha I think maybe a trip back to Jezina’s world is called for sometime soon :) In the meantime . . .

Business 101

Her eyes wandered, oh so discretely checking the clock on the far wall. Jacob caught her eye and smirked, knowing exactly what she’d been doing and wishing he’d chosen a seat on an angle that would let him do the same. She smiled slightly in acknowledgment and forced herself to focus on the team meeting.

This lasted just long enough to realize they were still arguing – sorry debating – over the stupidest little details. She really just couldn’t bring herself to care whether it was a semi-colon or a period between those two phrases.

She wondered idly if these people sitting around the table really cared or if it was just something to do to kill time and feel important. Cathy was arguing vehemently for the elegance of the semi-colon, while Peter felt the period made for a much stronger statement; Alison left them to their discussion and retreated to her own world.

She forced a tiny portion of her mind to stay at the meeting which enabled her to nod at appropriate times while she enjoyed a detailed and thoroughly appealing daydream involving a tropical island beach and a scantily clad cabana boy. Just as it was getting good and she was working to keep from smiling and giving herself away, her reality was rudely interrupted by the sound of her own name.

“Alison, what do you think?”

“I try really hard not to.” was the immediate response from the daydreaming side of her brain; fortunately for her, the small piece that had been left to supervise the meeting kicked in and substituted “I firmly believe it’s critical we resolve this issue in a way that is most consistent with our global marketing strategy.” She held her breath for that moment of anxiety while she waited to see if her complete non-answer made any sense in the context of whatever they’d been discussing.

“Alison’s absolutely correct!” her boss stated emphatically much to her relief and Jacob’s disgust. Jacob was Alison’s peer and the only person in the room who both got how ridiculous the whole corporate culture was and yet still made a genuine effort. And because of this he bitterly resented her natural rhetorical abilities that enabled her to daydream the meeting away and provide respected answers while he had to stay fully engaged and would still never be asked his opinion.

Two painful hours later the meeting wrapped up with all parties convinced important decisions had been made. Jacob had pages of notes; Alison had a scribbled drawing of a beach umbrella. He caught up with her as she was clearing her desk to go home.

“So just out of curiosity, do you have even the slightest idea what went on in that meeting?” he asked, more resigned than bitter by this point. Someday, Alison acknowledged, he’d probably go far – but she was going to enjoy the trip a whole lot more.

“Of course,” Alison stated positively. And then summed up three hours they’d never get back in three words: “the period won.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flash Fiction #5 - Reduced Price

hahaha I had fun with this one but I can hear my OAC Writer's Craft teacher banging his head against the wall as I broke rule after rule after rule. "You have to maintain tense, tone, voice throughout..." Well the original broke all three, but I edited enough to follow two of the three and as to the other one, well clearly that was intentional to make a point rather than lack of editing time :) Sorry Mr. S. >;-P



Reduced Price:

"Ohhh look at the dragon -- he's half price!"

"We don't need another dragon," Steve told his wife, exasperated. This was a conversation they'd had many times.

"But he'd go so well in the yard next to the bird bath!" The bird bath had been 30% off. Claire had a need to rehome the dusty, the antique, and the hideously ugly artifacts of the world, and a shopper's eye for a deal.

The storekeep seemed to realize this and stepped in to close the deal at just the right moment. Claire was excited about this find, the attention to detail in the carving was incredible, and the deep green eyes reflected light in a way that made them seem eerily alive

Within moments of arriving home, the neighbourhood children had crowded around to see the new addition. It was town legend that their garden came alive at night and many of the children would spend hours playing there talking to their "friends", afraid of the witch who haunted the back corner, and swearing that if they snuck out after bedtime everybody came to life! Steve and Claire had spent the odd night in their yard, but their adult eyes saw no signs of life beyond the one curious little rabbit who hopped through in search of dinner.

Late that night Claire heard a noise in the garden. Knowing it was nearly impossible to wake Steve, she headed down alone expecting to find the local teenagers being teenagers. She turned on the floodlights, but nobody was there. The dragon had been turned so he was facing the opposite direction -- pointing almost directly towards the wizard but everything else seemed to be in order so she turned the lights back off and went back upstairs to sleep.

To sleep and to dream.

"Do you believe in magic?" the wizard asked her.

"Of course." Claire gave the only possible answer.

"And what of good and evil?"

"ummm sure" Claire said hesitantly.

"I assure you they exist, right here in your yard. The corner witch believes people are pests to be eradicated. Only the young ones are aware of us; she feels once they loose their sight, they're useless. So she and her minions spend the depth of the nights doing what they can to disrupt your civilization. Mostly they can only cause mischief, but with the power of the moon, any she encounters can be turned to stone. Those who "vanish" are often victims of her quest, and may be found frozen as a statue for sale at any garden centre. She particularly hates and envies the young and beautiful.

The witch's power is limited by her book. If she could not read the spells housed inside it, your people would be safe. And so we spend our nights trying to destroy it."

Claire looked around her garden. Sure enough, some of her favourites -- the little cat and the giant frog for instance, were missing. The dragon was watching her intently. He seemed to be trying to communicate something to her, but it was beyond her abilities to understand. The witch was glaring at the wizard, but seemed to be paying no attention to Claire whatsoever.

"You could help us," he told her, "all you'd have to do is remove the book by daylight while she sleeps."

Claire woke with that suggestion in her mind. She told Steve about her dream, fully expected to be mocked, and was surprised when instead he took her hand and led her downstairs to his workshop where he grabbed his toolbelt before heading out to the garden. She watched as he walked directly up to the witch, raised his hammer and swung.

"NO!" Claire yelled. He stopped mid-swing, proving he'd never actually intended to follow through. "What, you mean you don't want me to destroy your statue because of a dream?" he asked her, grinning to take the sting out of his words. She glared at him and approached the statue, twisting her head so she could see the book.

"It's actually got writing in it." she announced surprised.

"It's just scratches." he said peering over her shoulder, "not actual letters."

"Still, it's more detail than I'd ever noticed before." Looking at the statue she knew what to do. Feeling rather idiotic, but knowing she'd sleep better the next night, she took a chisel from Steve and gingerly chipped away at the unknown script on the book. The statue would still look the same, but Claire's superstitious side would be appeased, and her adult side could pretend she hadn't given in to childish fears.

Late that night, long after the moon had risen, she crept back to the garden half expecting it to be alive and busy. As soon as she stepped out the door there was a flash of light that momentarily blinded her. When she could see again it was to discover she couldn't move and the wizard was walking towards her. She tried to yell, but it was as though she were in a soundproof container. She could move, speak and breathe inside the container, but nothing moved her cage.

"Oh my dear, I must thank you for your assistance in the matter with the witch. Now that you've successfully incapacitated her, I'm free to do as I wish with any of your type who venture out after dark. She was such a thorn in my side always wanting to respect the people, but thanks to you I've proven to her just how stupid they are and eliminated of any influence she ever had."

With that he tipped her over and carried her around the block to the nearest garden shop -- the one where she'd gotten him for a great price over a year ago. "This will help you find a new home soon", he said with a smirk as he hung a sign around her neck.

It read: "Reduced Price”.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Flash Fiction #4 - Garden of Eden

Actually stuck to the rules this week :) And then promptly forgot to post! hahaha ah well, it's still Friday. Enjoy!

Garden of Eden:

"Hello . . . “ she called loudly; the second time today she had done so. The only voice to answer was her own, reverberating off the canyon walls. She hadn’t expected any differently. She acknowledged her disappointment as a sign she still maintained hope – no matter how slight.

Even the predatory animals considered the sweltering afternoon heat too oppressive, so with that in mind she returned to the cave that had become home. As she lay down for her afternoon siesta she allowed her mind to wander to what used to be. She was strict with herself – such thoughts were only allowed for a few minutes each day and always at midday when she could at least console herself with “if I were home I’d be at work now, and really, I’d much rather take a nap.”

It was small consolation, but one of the little things that helped her survive. “I hope you made it back,” she said quietly to the memory of the last person she ever spoke to.

She and Chris had gone up together that day – as they so often did. Both were competitive skydivers and Chris also a pilot. A normal day like so many others they’d spent together, they decided to fly over the Garden of Eden – one of Liz’s favourite locations. In the arid desert, the lush green of the canyon always struck her as mythical.

The canyon had never been fully explored – aerial views only showed a thick canopy where logically no trees should be growing. Ground expeditions were always turned back – although the reasons changed each time. But mostly, it hadn’t been explored because there seemed to be no practical, that is to say moneymaking, reason to do so. But Liz liked it better that way; she really didn’t want to know. Its inaccessibility was part of its allure; the mystery of the unknown allowed her romantic side to daydream.

That Sunday the sky was clear when they took off in Chris’ old Cessna 172P. Both had their rigs – they would land at the base for practice after their flight. They had not been speaking while coasting over the valley – both lost in their own thoughts. The plane shook violently for no apparent reason and the look on Chris’ face went from relaxed to intensely focused in an instant. When he looked at her, Liz felt fear that the jolt had only barely kindled. He summed it up succinctly. He had no control; the plane was gong to crash. They would ride it out as far towards the edge of the valley as they could, and then jump. Liz quickly strapped into her rig, before taking the controls to allow him to do the same. Despite several requests, he’d never let her fly before – the thought that he would never let her live down the fact that her first flight crashed wafted through her brain as her somewhat morbid sense of humour warred with her sense of panic.

Chris would hold the plane and Liz would jump first; they were nowhere near the edge of the valley, but there was no time. He would exit as soon as she was clear. With a quick “fingers crossed” Liz leapt out of the too-quickly moving plane over the thick canopy of trees, trying to figure where it’d hurt least to land. A few moments, it seemed like a lifetime, later she saw Chris exit just after the plane started an abrupt nosedive.

Breaking through the canopy left Liz with scrapes and bruises but amazingly nothing seriously broken. For the first few days she fought her way through the valley she no longer thought of as Eden with a single-minded purpose of getting out. Getting home. Calling constantly to Chris, she never got a response. She climbed up as high as she could in the trees, but her cell phone never got a single bar of service. Even so she continually dialed 911 in the hopes that just maybe it’d work. “Everywhere coverage” she muttered the slogan to herself. "Yeah, everywhere but where you need it." The nearest multi-coloured bird chirped its agreement.

After a couple of days of endless work hacking through the bushes with her bare hands for little distance gained she was exhausted. So when she discovered the cave, she opted to stay there – at least for a while.

Nothing in her life had prepared her for this. Certainly not her expensive education – although, as her mother had so often asked, what *did* a phD in philosophy really prepare her for? So far all it had provided was brief entertainment as she remembered first year’s discussion of the Allegory of the Cave while watching the shadows stroll across her cave walls. She was fit and strong but had next to no useful survival skills. She knew very few plants and little idea what to eat. She thought she was being so careful, but one very bad experience with red peas left her fever ridden, violently ill and unable to eat anything for days. She dragged herself to the creek she had found and stayed there, immobile, drinking whenever she woke, till it passed. After that experience she stuck to the foods she knew. A limited diet, but one that kept her alive.

Over time her days became divided between survival necessities, and continuing to expand her trail. One day she’d think she was getting somewhere and the next she’d feel it was a complete waste of time. After her first meltdown when she did nothing but cry for days and her thoughts started to scare her, she began to force herself to continue regardless of her mood. And so her days settled into a routine, where her three daily calls for help took on an almost ceremonial roll rather than a practical one.

Therefore she was entirely stunned when, just as she was drifting off into her siesta, she was certain she heard an answering call on the wind.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Flash Fiction #3 - What if?

Hahaha ok so I promised this one would be shorter and it is. Still not quite to 1000, but closer. Since the first draft was close to 5000, I’m pretty impressed by the brutal editing employed. Very different tone from the last one. Enjoy :) N thanks for reading!

What if?

You ever have one of those days where you really should've stayed in bed? Well my day definitely started out that way -- but if it hadn't, my life would never have taken the fantastic turn it did.

So it started as all my weekdays do, with the rather annoying Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. of my alarm clock. The covers felt so heavy I couldn't possibly lift them.

The next time I woke it was nearly an hour later and I was late for my job as an unappreciated secretary. I dashed out the door into the rain praying traffic was over and I could get there quickly.

That is, until I turned the key in the ignition. Click. Try it again, holding firm to the fool's hope that the same stimulus will create a different response. And once again I was rewarded with a resolute "click".

At the mechanic’s I settled into wait. I offered a brief smile to the elderly lady in the other available chair to which she nodded in response. There was an ancient TV playing in the corner of the room, but no sound and the people all had a sort of green tinge to them.

Moments later my internal muttering was interrupted by the elderly lady handing me something before going to claim her vehicle. I had a moment's thought of my long-past grandmother before I took a closer look at what I'd been given. A piece of paper and a box of crayons? Bemused I opened the box -- sure enough a Crayola 8-pack, just like in kindergarten.

It was just odd enough that it lightened my mood despite my grumpy intentions. And like most adults, there's still a child in me and that child wanted to draw with crayons.

So I took out the green crayon and started to draw a tree. Everybody can draw a tree. And next a black cat, sitting under the tree. And with the yellow I made a big smiley sun. All the pretty colours drew a rainbow, under which I drew the requisite pot of gold, with a single flower growing out of it. Starting to feel rather proud of my artwork (which looked like something the average five-year-old might present proudly to his mother), I got braver in my drawing. Off to one side of the page, far away from my smiling sun, I drew a gravestone, and buried under the grave was my poor dead car. Particularly artistic I thought.

When the mechanic returned, I rapidly stuffed my art in my bag, suddenly embarrassed by my childish entertainment. As I had dreaded, the prognoses was not good. I left, on foot, trying to figure out where I was going to get the money for a new car. The old one was evidently not going to drive me anywhere again. The only good thing was that the sun had come out so at least I wasn't hiking in the rain.

I walked the few blocks to the local used car lot, absently stopping to right a flowerpot that had been blown over near the entrance. Stuck under it was an already scratched and discarded lottery ticket; looking at it, I was surprised to see one box still unscratched. I dug out a penny and scratched that last box, figuring it was a waste of time, but hey somebody always wins -- why not me? The remaining square revealed a treasure box. Flipped the card over to read the rules - a diamond was $5, a tree was $50, a rainbow was $500, a flower was $5000, and a treasure chest was $50,000. In stunned disbelief I flipped the card back, sure enough the treasure chest was still staring at me. Turned it over again and read through all the fine print nobody ever reads. Skill testing question, 1 in 10,000 odds of winning, not legal in Quebec, blahblahblah.

My mind rushed over the options faster than you can imagine, while at the same time cautioning myself not to get too excited about the impossible. Five k would go towards buying another vehicle, and trust me a 5k vehicle is a significant step up than anything I've ever driven! The rest, however, would be startup funds so I could open a flower shop and get out of that horrendous office.

I turned away from the used car lot and walked to the convenience store. Trying for nonchalance, I held it under the self-check lottery scanner. Winner!

As crazy as this day was becoming, I still had to go to work. It took everything I had not to tell everybody there. Instead I stole a few moments to google prize claim instructions, and otherwise moaned appropriately about the death of my car, arranged a ride home from a co-worker, and generally did everything my mindless job required throughout the rest of the day.

At lunch time I adopted a kitten. I know, random eh? But the SPCA was doing an adoptathon in the yard, and this one had personality. It wouldn't have anything to do with anybody else but when I walked by it mewed w/ a slightly demanding tone, and, well, how can you ignore a cat that seems to have an almost human expression?

By the time I got home he'd been named BK for, you got it, Black Kat. He and I both knew that using a C was just entirely too mundane for such a distinguished being. I took BK in, let him out of his cardboard box and watched him explore his new home before emptying my purse of the crayons and image from the morning. It was then that I realized I had drawn my day entirely. From the death of my car, to finding the pot of gold under a flower -- even BK had a place in the drawing.

I looked at the crayons rather suspiciously. Surely it was just a fluke that everything I had drawn had come true, but the little "what if" trigger was going in my brain. What if I COULD draw a future? I could draw my garden shop. I could draw my friends their dreams. I could draw peace... hmmm well actually I can't draw at all so probably best to stay away from abstract concepts, but I'm sure I could draw food for starving countries... I picked up the crayon -- no harm in trying right? Just as I was putting crayon to paper, BK hopped up on the table and started knocking them off one at a time. Smiling at the kitten's antics I reached down to retrieve them, but I must've held one wrong because it snapped, and the sound of it startled me because it sounded wrong. Then it was there again. Beep. Ugh, alarm clock. Beep. Beep. Enough already. I rolled over and hit snooze, disappointed that it had all been a dream.

But then I felt the bed move... What??? I sat up, instantly awake, only to see BK stop kneading the blankets and look up at me curiously.