Short story: “The Blizzard”

My darling protagonists took me for quite a ride, though I really should have been getting ready for bed. With shock I discovered that Cass might have a thing for slash.

It is a story segment which would take place in the time span of my second novel, the sequel to the one that started as my NaNo. (Geez, what am I doing planning a whole book series what now?)

Oh, warnings for naked (though nothing is described and nothing comes of it). Also warnings for sap. Sickly sweet sap. Birch sap.

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Flash fiction: “A blank sheet of paper”

Another flailing piece of semi-poetic writing which turned nice and coherent.

—-

A blank sheet of paper, an empty document.

Oh, the promise that you bring, oh the possibilities, the choices. Whatever you can imagine, anything you can see can be used to fill them up.

Words of any kind can be stacked up and up, sentences, phrases, poetry or prose. Everything is possible and in some way that makes it all rather frightening.

Because if anything is possible, how are you supposed to make a choice about it?

“It is too big”, you cry. “The responsibility is too great for me!”

So you sit there and stare at it, perhaps hoping that it will start filling itself of its own accord, or perhaps that you, like a woodcarver, finding whatever may be hidden in any block of wood, that by staring you will be able to see the mystical, magical pattern of words waiting to be filled out on that one sheet.

You dawdle and you procrastinate, you angst and you dwell. Every word you put down seems to sully that pristine whiteness, like footsteps on a meadow of newly fallen snow, white and glistening.

The time passes, soon the hours of the day will be used up. The page remains blank and defiant.

What to do then, how to act?

The only way you can act when faced with such a devious being; you grapple it head on. You take that pen in your hand, you sit yourself by your keyboard and you just write.

You force those words out, you wrestle them like bull calves at a rodeo, you force them into patterns, into sentences and…Soon you find that the pattern you were looking for, desperately seeking in that white blankness suddenly emerges there before your very eyes.

The words flow down the page as if they’ve always been there, they hum like a melody and they create patterns to soothe your weary writer’s soul. For you find a satisfaction there, in this trial and exercise, like a man who goes for a run every day. Though he finds it daunting every day, especially when the conditions aren’t the best, when the rain pours and the wind blows, he keeps at it and gets successively better at it.

So you, the writer must do the same. Every day you sit down with that blank sheet of paper, that empty document, even when the day seems cruel and break to you. You sit there and you wrestle those words into shape and in the process you write out your soul’s melody.

And when your soul is truly humming, that is when stories are born.

Flash fiction: “Dragon Hunter”

Oh, look. Proper fantasy! Most likely induced by recent mentions of Skyrim.

—–

The dragon dove with a roar, tail lashing like a whip, tucking its wings close to increase its speed, only to whip them out at the last moment to come to a midair halt. The warrior stood his ground, boots digging into the sludge formed by the last week’s rain, his breath misted in the cool mountain air, for the moment making it seem like he also had fire breathing capabilities.

A second later the beast expelled its fiery breath and it was only at the last minute that the warrior was able to lift his shield, made out the best fire proofed steel, to protect himself from the heat. It still singed the hairs off his sword arm though. The dragon roared in frustration as the warrior emerged from behind his protective shield, grinning. Spitting and hissing the dragon crouched on the ground, its tail whipping back and forth like that of a cat stalking its prey.

The warrior paced, sweat trickling down his back, induced by that torrent of heat that he’d been assaulted with, nothing more… Or so he told himself. He quickly swapped his sword for the long spear strapped to his back, to allow himself better reach.  The dragon lunged again, rearing up on its hind legs, its long neck curving down to meet him head to head, by revealing a mouth filled with razor sharp teeth. He thrust his spear at the beast, once, twice, while the animal whipped its neck back and forth to dodge. The dance of lunging and dodging went on for some time until the animal seemed to have regained its fire-breath and shot off another ball of fire at the warrior.

He spat a curse as he was the one forced to dodge now, then losing his footing some on the muddy ground, slipping just enough that when the dragon lashed out with its sharp teeth again, it was able to get a hold on his spear. Quickly he knew he had to turn this slip into an advantage, so he cast away the spear and grabbed for his sword instead. While the dragon was worrying at the spear, like a dog with a bone he had the sword in hand, the finest spell-forged steel and he ran at the beast.

The dragon noticed him coming, but a second too late. By the time it had readied another burst of fire, he was able to dive under its belly and the beast shrieked in terror as he managed to slash into its shoulder as he went. It tried to flap away in fear and pain as he thrust at the thing’s soft underbelly, grabbing for its scales to steady himself. The frantic movement made the thrust fall short and it slid into the beast’s side, too far away from any vital parts. With a roar the beast tried to wriggle away from the pain in its side and the warrior knew he had it. Before long he’d have a dragon corpse to loot and some nice trinkets to bring back to sell.

Another earthshaking roar broke the silence, startling him not only by its volume but by the fact that it was so close. The leathery sound of wings, the smell of sulfur and the next moment he was locked in the jaws of a much, much larger dragon. Then there was the sound of bone cracking and his world faded into black.

The larger dragon spat out the corpse of the warrior and swatted the smaller dragon over the head.

“So much for being ready to take on a human!” it hissed, scales bristling, before sitting down on its haunches in front of the other.

Its fierce visage softened as it noticed the sword still lodged in the smaller dragon’s side. It was swiftly pulled out and the larger dragon expelled a small burst of flame to cauterize the wound. The smaller dragon whimpered and then licked the other scrapes it had received in the fierce battle.

“I’m sorry, mother”, the dragon said, bowing its head low. “I will do better next time.”

“That’s alright son”, the other dragon rumbled. “I’ll keep a close watch until you get it right.”

Short Story: “Laundry at Night”

Their apartment complex had a curious set up. The four adjacent buildings had a shared laundry room, housed in a separate building located on top of the small hill behind the buildings. There was a cobbled path that led up to it, which got rather slippery in the cold months of the year and the neighborhood kids liked to use that hill for sledding. The laundry room, or rather, laundry hut as the residents liked to call it was amply furnished though and the machines were free to use by anyone that had the key. They all supposed they’d earned that luxury because the rent was rather steep considering the location, a bit away from the center of pretty much everything unless you had a car. Once or twice someone had lost their key and the super always threw up a huge fuss, changing the locks to the laundry hut and replacing all the keys.

The machines remained free though and the laundry hut remained open until close to 11 pm, when automatic circuit breakers cut off the power until 7 am the next morning. Those late hours were mostly used by those with odd working hours or those that simply didn’t have the patience to check if the machines were free earlier in the day.

Emma was someone with little patience, which was why she was braving the autumn rains, trudging up the hill to the laundry hut this evening. Somehow laundry was something she put off until she opened her underwear drawer and discovered she had nothing left that was clean and appropriate for everyday use. The rain wasn’t so bad, it was the wind that did it, sneaking in under the thick cardigan she had pulled on after assessing her clothes situation and realized that there was still enough hours left to get a few loads done and dried before the power got shut off in the hut.

As she got closer she saw that the lights were on and there was a shadow moving inside the laundry hut. She cursed under her breath, wondering if her luck was so rotten that the one night she had to do the laundry another slacker had decided to do the very same thing. When she got closer though she saw that the hut was empty, nothing but the harsh lights from the ceiling lamps greeted her as the opened the door with her key. Emma supposed that someone had just finished up and left before she got up the hill. Though she hadn’t met anyone….

She pushed away those puzzling thoughts and started filling the machines with the most important stuff that needed washing. Underwear and towels in one machine, the nice shirts and pants for work in another. She started up the machines and headed back to her apartment, there really wasn’t any time to waste waiting on the machines and she didn’t really expect anyone else to show up. Besides, it was first come first serve here. As she headed down the hill, the wind at her back now she felt a slight prickle down her spine and she turned to look over her shoulder.

There was someone inside the hut now, a dark shadow against the bright windows. How odd… Emma forced herself to look away, continued down the hill with this unsettled feeling in her gut. As she neared the comforting presence of the buildings she’d managed to convince herself that she’d been seeing things and to confirm this she turned around again. Yes, the laundry hut was empty once more, its window creating pools of light on the muddy, brown lawn surrounding it.

The hour went by quickly and any feelings of discontent were all but gone when Emma headed back to toss her laundry in the dryer. It had gotten both darker and more unpleasant if that was possible, the near-leafless trees creaking and rattling in the wind, while the wind tore at her hair. The only thing providing any source of light was the lights from the hut.

And there was a shadow in the windows again.

Emma had to stop again, pulling her jacket tight about her frame. There had to be a sane explanation she told herself, either she was seeing things or someone was just checking to see if the machines were free. If the latter she should hurry and get her stuff out of them. She continued walking, picking up the pace and she was almost out of breath when she got the door to the hut open.

There wasn’t anyone in there.

Surely the person had given up, she told herself. Or she really was seeing things. Gods, what a silly girl she was! It was just the weather messing with her mind. She almost started laughing out loud at her own behavior as she moved the wet laundry from the machines to the dryer. She put some nice shirts aside that she needed to be ironed and then left. That was the one annoying thing about doing laundry in this manner, all the walking back and forth. Emma had talked herself into a rather happy mood though, until she turned back towards the hut again.

She was a bit closer now, so there was no mistaking that shadowy figure against the windows, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst part was the eyes. Like golden pits of fire, with pupils like a cats, boring into her. Yes, she was sure it could see her.

Emma ran all the way back to her apartment building, gasping for breath, hugging the shirts close to her. Panic had her in an icy grip, though her brain tried to find logical explanations for what she’d seen. Nothing helped though and she spent the time waiting for the laundry to dry in a state of stunned fear. She knew she had to go back, but she was afraid to, afraid to see that thing again. After putting it off for as long as she dared she had to leave, but it was with much hesitation and dread that she headed back out.

Every step she took felt like she was walking through deep snow, the rain whipping cruelly at her face, one part of her trying to convince her to keep going, the other telling her that she didn’t really need those clothes. Surely she could wait until the morning to get it, though it might be a bit hectic to squeeze that in before she had to leave for work. The fallen leaves crackled under her shoes as the shape of the laundry hut loomed up before her like a haunted house in a scary movie.

The laundry hut was empty.

Hesitantly she approached, but the hut remained empty. When she opened the door, facing the same emptiness she felt something inside her burst. Relief flooded through her and feeling almost giddy she gathered up her things in her hamper, happy, but still eager to get out of there.

Then, as she stood by the door, about to leave she saw the reflection in the glass of the door. The shadowy thing was standing behind right behind her, its eyes afire in its dark face. Frozen to the spot with fear she was unable to move or even turn around to look. “I’m imagining this” she repeated to herself as she saw the thing lift large hands to grip around her throat, smooth as silk. Then everything turned dark.

 

***

 

She woke up on her hallway floor with her laundry hamper tipped over next to her. Her head felt stuffed with cotton, her limbs stiff and unresponsive. She felt like she was waking up from a horrible nightmare. Slowly she pulled herself off the floor, wondering if she truly had dreamed it all. That she’d somehow passed out after she got back from the laundry hut. Then she got a look at herself in the hallway mirror.

Her neck was bruised and blue, as if something with long fingers had tried to squeeze the life out of her.