Flash Fiction: In the Dark (886 words)

It was dark.

Celya couldn’t remember the last time she sat awake so long without turning on the lights, or when midnight had last seemed such a deep hour. Her knees were beginning to ache from the tight angle she held them, and she had sat still so long the edges of her arms, hands, fingers had started to blur. She had one hand tightly laced in her daughter’s hand for such a stretch of time that the sensation had sunk deeper than her bones and her mind was beginning to wonder if it felt anything at all. Almost, she wondered if she still had hands, if she asked them to move if she might find that her limbs had faded away while she just tried to breathe.

She couldn’t turn on a light. She wanted to more than she wanted to take her next heartbeat or feel her next breath, but she could not, and she wasn’t sure if it was because she knew what light would bring, or if she simply didn’t have the hands or feet anymore to strike the match, light the wick, replace the glass on the lamp.

Celya couldn’t remember another darkness like this, that hung in curtains around her familiar room and never cleared. She had been blinking into it for hours, waiting for the shadows to clear into the strange gray light eyesight sorted out in the middle of the night. She knew she was staring at her bedpost, at the dresser on the other side of it, and the wall behind that, the shaded corner deepened by the thick curtains on either side of it, the carved door. But she had to blink harder, faster, to see the real edges of them, not the memories she’d memorized.

It was dark. Too dark, and just their breathing was turning to shy sighs sliding sideways into something sinister between the silences. Just their breathing was shaking her.

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Flash Fiction: Reminder (141 words)

Henri wanted to steal colors.

She wanted to be able to reach up and pull the exact shade of green that limned the horizon on stormy nights down into a thick coil she could hide in the back yard, or under the shirt in her closet that she never ever wore. She wanted to strip it off every long blade of grass in the field beside the city, stack it up and pack it away. She wanted scrape it off the tree leaves, and rub it out of the moss. She wanted to take it away from every painter, and hide it from every printer, and nick it from every mind’s eye.

If she managed that, she would steal that specific red, that particular blue, that ripe yellow, and that bold gray. Because they too effortlessly reminded her.

Wednesday Serial: Farther Part LV

Anie fire_handANIE

Immediately, Chas ran and rolled himself onto the ground beside Anie. He tucked his hands under his head, and tilted his face into the line of sunlight he’d missed by a bare inch. Shutting his eyes, he seemed perfectly content to start the contest now, by taking a better break than his brother, relaxing more heartily, breathing more deeply, smirking more perfectly.

Darien tapped his axe head against the toe of his boot again, shaking his head. He took his seat slowly, leaned forward over his knees with his hands dangling loosely while he breathed. He looked sideways at Anie.

“Do you want to be the judge?” he asked her.

Anie shrugged. “Do you need one?”

Darien glanced behind her at Chas, stretched like a cat on the hard dirt. “We usually come in pretty close. It could come down to a single swing.”

“Well,” Anie said. “Won’t the trees make enough noise? Can’t you just listen for which one crashes down first?”

“Some trees fall slower than others,” Chas declared. He still didn’t open his eyes, just yelled it out like a city proclaimer. “It is not my fault if I have a tree that resists gravity.”

She twisted to face him, then back to Darien, eyebrows crunching together.

Darien shrugged. “And that’s why he always demands a judge.”

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Flash Fiction: The Edge of the Razor (731 words)

“I’m thinking about shaving my head,” Sadie said over the phone.

If Dana had not lived with her for three years – had not once seen Sadie come home at five in the morning looking like she’d been through the world’s wildest gauntlet scavenger hunt, had not come back to the apartment herself to a protest against overused plot devices that Sadie threw all by herself, had not known Sadie to spend a day researching military tandem bicycles, had not heard Sadie use the words polyglot, usageaster, and mamihlapinatapai in complete and mostly intelligible sentences – she might have spit out her coffee. Instead, she calmly finished her long sip as she walked down Sixth.

Gently, Dana shook her head while she swallowed, even though she knew Sadie couldn’t see. “No, you aren’t,” she said. At the corner, she glanced back to check the traffic lights, then crossed the street without hesitation.

“Uh,” Sadie laughed to conclude the syllable. “Yes, I am.”

“You’re thinking about shaving your head?” Dana asked. “Or you’re thinking about thinking about shaving your head? Where in the contemplative stages are you, exactly?”

“I’m standing in front of the bathroom mirror, holding a razor,” Sadie told her. Which explained the slight echo coming through the phone.

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Flash Fiction: How to Win (1485 words)

Zain kept his eyes on Silas as the kid realized that they had lost their wager. Zain wondered if Silas had ever lost a bet before, or if he’d seen before how quickly those conclusions came. Zain figured that he’d played through a hundred or two hundred in the last five years, but he still hadn’t figured out exactly where the lever was that turned the long rush of the game into the sudden weight of the ending. The most he’d figured out was how to breathe under it.

He watched Silas, knowing that the kid had been mirroring him all night, and hoping he’d keep the reflection a little longer. It was hard to tell though, whether he was still stunned by the abruptness, or if he was breathing too. Zain waited, one moment, then two, one breath, then four, and smiled slowly.

He nodded to Kibens, beside him at the table. “Thank you,” he said. Collecting himself, he started to rise from his chair and held out a hand for Kibens to shake.

Kibens looked at it, eyebrows rising, then took it firmly. “You’re welcome,” he said. “Any time you want another beating, come on back around. I’ll be happy to deliver.”

Silas was standing, too. He didn’t look at Zain, but nodded to the woman on his right, then the man on this left, and smiled a thanks of his own.

Zain breathed a little easier, smiled a little wider. It was near perfect. Still watching his little brother, he leaned closer to Kibens. “Any other night,” he said, voice low. “You’d be screaming at me for taking fourteen hands in a row, not beaming on top of one.”

Kibens shook his head, glared good-naturedly, dropped his hand and pushed it away. “Sit down then. Play another round.”

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Gwendoogle Part LXXXIII – Patron of Artists, Halloween, and Very Little Good Advice

GwendoogleAnswers served with some longer answers than usual

Kate Kearney searched: How many thesauri does it take to vanquish a prose block?
Short detour in the form of a story, which will absolutely lead to an answer:

In college, I accidentally became a Classical Studies major. When I say accidentally, I mean it invoke the image of a small child in a yellow rain slicker happily smashing through puddles who suddenly finds that her next puddle is five feet deep and she’s looking up at the glimmer of yellow sunlight through the blue sparkle of clear water. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was beautiful.

After about two months of studying Ancient Greek, single words in regular conversations suddenly began to distract me and send me on long mental quests to find their ancient roots. One day, sitting at lunch, someone mentioned a thesaurus. I spent a few blinking minutes pulling it apart into the Greek layers of theos and sauros. Then I blinked some more at why someone would call a collection of synonyms the God Lizard.

As is my way, I said it out loud and loudly. Everyone blinked, burst out laughing, repeated it incredulously, and trusted my skills as a linguist only until Google finished loading. Thesaurus actually came from the Latin word for collection or treasury. But it was too late to keep from calling it the God Lizard.

So, your answer my friend, is that you only need one. It’s a god. Why would anyone ever need more than one reptilian, patron of the arts deity?

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Fiction: How to Gamble Part II (2117 words)

<– Part I

Kiben’s smile stretched while his eyebrows rose. He looked Zain up and down, shocked at his bluntness, and, perhaps a little, impressed. Zain hoped he was impressed.

“I owe you a favor,” Kibens repeated. He shook his head a little, teetering on the edge of a laugh.

“Yeah,” Zain said.

He held Kibens’ eye, purposefully avoiding the others at the table, but let himself blink to turn it into an easy stare. The other three players around the table glanced idly at Zain, then Silas, then Kibens, and continued to play. The one sitting closest with her back to Zain, glanced behind her, raised a quick eyebrow and remained quiet.

Zain knew he’d said it a little loud for Kibens’ taste, but he could see the risk of it threading away as Kibens rolled his shoulders and leaned back in his chair. There was some trouble in saying it in front of these people, but he could see Kibens sorting it out and counting the ways to solve his problem before half a second was past. He was sharp enough, and both of them knew it. He could get out of the questions that would come later, and never explain how Zain had wandered accidentally down a back street that Kibens had found on purpose, or how Zain had gotten him out of deal gone wrong with a little of Fate’s mercy and a well-timed street brawl.

Zain stayed quiet, proving that he was smart enough not to say anything about it either. Kibens finished sinking back in his seat on a breath, relaxed.

“Then what do you need, kid?” Kibens asked.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Some Lifetimes (1081 words)

Five years spent between four block walls, hours and days lived with no activity, and it seemed, now, as if he should walk these familiar rooms like nothing had passed, as if he had been here yesterday. But Vardan didn’t. The twists of halls felt long, the walls felt wide, and the echoes of his footsteps were too clear compared to the rustling and shifting in the dark he was used to. He had been here, a long time ago. He knew which turns to take, looked out windows and saw what he expected, found where he meant to be with little thought, but some lifetimes had passed since the last time he was here.

He took his steps slowly. The windows spilled heat and light along the long hall, and he passed in and out of them. He blinked in the light, and missed the heat when he stepped into the next shadow. High in the palace, each square of glass showed off a tumble of roofs and wash of waves on the far side. He’d spent hours on hours here once, and he considered stopping at a window, leaning against the frame, pretending he could hear water through the glass like echoes in a shell.

He continued on his way.

At the end of the hall, he turned right, looped down a set of back stairs and arrived in the squarer hall below. Two guards stood on either side of Lord Damion’s office door. They stood straight-backed and square, perhaps built into the wooden architecture. Vardan watched them as he came closer, waiting for either of them to move. They let him pass, hardly looked at him, and didn’t move as he knocked firmly on the door.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: In Between (1015 words)

“I need to talk to you.”

Delanie looked over her shoulder. Her hands kept moving, snapping against the long laces of her boots to pull them tight. Looking back down, she tied a tight knot in three quick pulls. “Do you?” she asked, trying to keep her voice light.

“Yes,” Vant said. His tone stayed heavy, his eyebrows bent together as he nodded seriously.

Slowly, Delanie straightened, watching his expression, and begging for it to shift. He held her eye as if there was nothing in existence outside the officers cabins. Shore leave still held, and she thought he might be right. It was possible, from the unhindered creaking beams, and the quiet echo that followed the two of them around the cabin, that they were the only two on the deck. The docks, a few yards away would be rolling with crowds, and maybe there was a fisher or ten somewhere closer, but none of them were close enough to say that they weren’t blessedly alone. So, Delanie looked down, dropped her foot off the chair she’d been propping it on and took a long step away.

“No,” she said. “You don’t.”

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part LIV

Anie fire_handANIE

The fortress had been just a wide-standing shell of stone wall when they arrived between paling leaves.

The green that had held on through the early autumn chill had faded in a matter of days, not yet the riot of yellow and red that Darien promised Anie would come, but duller and bleached in the sun. Anie was used to watching the trees in the town square for the shifting seasons, and had always imagined that the sudden shift of autumn to winter colors arrived because of the several day’s stretch between her jaunts out to market. But there, walking under the trees from breakfast to dinner, the change still came like a hammer swing. She saw it coming, heard the whistle on the wind, and then it was there with the first too-cold night.

She had been glad to see the walls.

The whole line of them had crossed through the beaten gate where it hung on its hinges, and immediately made a jumble on the aged ground inside. The walls three times the height of a man, wooden staircases slanted up their inside faces with missing steps and railings. A long stone building stretched down the center, most of its eaves intact, and otherwise the fortress had been reduced to a wall here or there, and the old foundations marked out in crooked lines. Carts pulled to a stop where they could, and the people doubled back in all directions, looking at what age and abandonment had done. The knot around the gates choked the space, and the last of them threaded inside at a fish’s pace.

Anie had turned, examined the gray stone on all sides without picking up her feet. She kept her elbows against her sides and tried to be small in the new cramped space.

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