Flash Fiction: Strange Enough (271 words)

Winter was deepening, the air turning dry and biting. The first snow was creeping closer. Every day, it seemed ready to break through by morning, and every day it came closer, but the distance just seemed to stretch. As if the world had decided to run from it. As if the snow had not quite realized it would have to give chase.

Jedda watched the windows as she blew out the lamps for the night. The pitch black outside blew away with the light, until the outside world wasn’t quite locked away behind the glass. The shadows of the trees spilled inside. The wall of her neighbor’s house stood, flat and gray. The clouds, pale and heavy, hung low. The wind-wheel hummed softly, spun lazily.

She caught the spark out of the corner of her eye. Flashed, and gone.

She turned her head, and the cat turned too, faster. His ears were high. His eyes reflected brighter colors than it should have, for just a moment. He kept one paw raised, halfway through his next step before she had startled him. She almost laughed at him.

When he had remembered that Jedda lived there, that she often turned her head, and that there was no danger, he looked away from her. He took another step across the plush rug, and sparks flashed around his feet.

Jedda smiled.

The cat leaped onto the back of the couch, landed with a crackle, and his fur stood on end.

She laughed silently, and kept watching. There was no magic in it, but it was strange enough to enchant anyway.

The snow was coming soon.

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Flash Fiction: Kiss (146 words)

The rain arrived, late, after the heat of the day had bled out and the evening breeze had sunk in deep. The sun had not set, but it had abandoned its strength, filling the last hours of the day with cool light. The air had smoothed and thinned, no longer dragging at lungs and skin as people moved about.

Though Toera had decided against moving. Her day had gone on long enough. She sat on the stone bench at the end of her street without any real intent, and felt the first raindrops on bare arms.

Cold.

Like heavy mint or the kiss of gold.

Looking up, Toera watched the rain fall and gleam from old, gray clouds. It steadied, thickened, moment by moment. Hands wrapped around the front of the bench, shoulders braced, she shivered. She blinked it out of her eyes. Slowly smiled. Grinned.

Flash Fiction: Heavy Blanket (361 words)

“You’re not sleeping,” Javie said, gently. It was so simple a statement, she seemed to be delivering news, as if she weren’t sure if Artair were aware.

But sitting up, still in his boots and heavy breeches, jacket buttoned tight as he leaned a shoulder against the porch column, he wasn’t sure how he couldn’t know that this was waking. His eyes weren’t even a little heavy. The edges of his thoughts were still sharp enough, straight enough to catch glimpses of the dark between them. He had his fingers wrapped around the cloth of his sleeve, but they itched for production.

He smiled at Javie as she slipped out the front door. The inside of the house was just a shadow behind her. She blinked as if the moonlight was too bright for her, and moved carefully to keep the blanket from slipping off her shoulders. It was too cold for her night-shirt and her bare legs. Her dark hair had been roughed up by her pillow.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I meant to come inside…”

But he still wasn’t moving, but she was slipping down beside him on the step, flicking the blanket over her knees. She flashed him a smile too. Sleepy as she was, it looked like an easy thing.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Long Weeks (564 words)

The ground was still frozen when the war started. Edri thought her mind was still numb as well, when that was the first thought that rose to consciousness after she saw the notices pinned up around town. There were long weeks before the earth would thaw enough for them to drive a spade into. Long weeks before they could start the planting and by then hundreds of able hands would already have left for the borders. Fewer workers, but they would seed as much ground as they could, eager for whatever extra they could get in the coming seasons.

Edri pulled her scarf tighter around her head and kept walking through the main square, as if she hadn’t thought anything at all.

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Flash Fiction: Brittle (186 words)

The bonfire had been a good idea. The smoke smelled sweet coming off the old wood, and the heat sank through Dayva’s coat, through her boots, through her skin, chasing the brittle chill out of her bones. She took a deep breath and rolled her shoulders forward to catch the warmth. Bouncing on her heels, she smiled to herself, happy with how smooth motion felt.

That, she decided, was the worst part about winter – not the dark that crept in too early in the evening and stayed too late in the morning, not the starkness of the trees and the bare ground and the midnight moon – but the cold ache that worked itself into her, starting at her hands and her feet, seeping down inside her lungs. It made her narrower, it made her thin, and she was never quite sure which motion might break her.

She heard Lin’s footsteps behind her, crunching in the scattered stones that bordered the front stair. Dayva didn’t turn to face her until the last moment. The fire beat into her shoulder and her cheeks burned in the cool air.

Flash Fiction: Fluff-Butt (375 words)

At midnight, Elida gave up pretending she was moments away from sleep. She gave up pretending she wasn’t cold, grabbed the blanket in both fists and yanked it tight around her shoulders. Pulling her knees to her chest, she kicked the end of the blanket back over her feet, and tucked her head as deep into the pillow as it would go. Then she took two, long breaths, willing her blood to remember its job.

Her skin still felt as if it were trying to sneak itself into numbness before she could catch it.

Groaning, Elida shut her eyes, slowly talking herself into getting up. There was an extra blanket on the other side of the room. Her coat was hanging uselessly off the back of her chair. There were clean knit socks somewhere.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Invention (748 words)

Oranges meant vitamin C, and vitamin C meant a swifter recovery.

Dana looked at the heavy bags of fruit on the store shelf, and sighed to herself. She could hear her mother repeating the statement perfectly, though she hadn’t heard anything else perfectly in three days thanks to the marshmallow-stuffed feeling her head cold was giving her. It was not poor advice, so Dana picked up a bag of oranges and cradled it against her chest, but she took a few steps and wished that she hadn’t. She didn’t like oranges.

She didn’t put them back. Grabbing a big box of tissues, a jar of juice, and a bottle of decongestants, she checked out as quickly as she could and escaped back to her car. There, she sat still and blew her nose three times. It didn’t make her feel much better, but she could breathe properly for about half a minute. When she remembered how much more comfortable the couch at home was, she put the car in drive and forced herself to hit the road.

The stairs up to her apartment were too tall, but she had walked up and down them so many times, she reached the top step on autopilot before she remembered to mentally complain. She fumbled with her keys around her bag of groceries, but made it inside. She kicked off her shoes, stumbled away from the front door, and sat down heavily on the couch. She didn’t bother to take off her coat, and dropped her bag right at her feet.

Then Dana sat there, happy not to move.

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Flash Fiction: In For the Night (178 words)

It was cold outside. Cold enough to chill Deira’s toes through the leather of her boots. She had her coat buttoned tight to her chin, but her cheeks were still numb, and her hair couldn’t keep the chill off her ears. Hands as deep as they could go in her pockets, she walked in short steps, because the ice was slick, and she didn’t want to drag that much air into her lungs. She had her chin tucked into a knit scarf, and her breath held gray in the air.

It was miserable. Like turning to metal in the winter air, picking up the cold, hardening, stiffening, as if she had forgotten she had blood to keep her warm.

But when she got to her door, kicked her boots on the stoop and knocked the wet off herself as best she could, when she opened the door and stepped inside to meet the steady coals in the fireplace, warmth had never been as dear, nor the dark outside seemed so calm.

Flash Fiction: Diagnosis (672 words)

It had been light when Jennika fell asleep, and it was dark when she woke up. It didn’t seem like enough time had passed, but her mouth was sticky from deep sleep, and her chest and arms were over-warm, like she’d been knocked out of it before her body was ready to come back up for consciousness. She blinked, and swallowed, and took a deep breath. Then she pulled herself up straight.

“Whoa,” Kynbessne said, sitting beside her in the cart bed. She put her hand on Jennika’s shoulder and the cart lurched at just the right moment to turn the gentle nudge to an insistent push back down to the blankets.

Jennika fell back on one elbow, but took another quick breath, trying to wake up. It hurt. Her throat was rough, and her head felt thick.

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Flash Fiction: Heavy Winter Sky (99 words)

“You’re still here,” Jekiah said.

Fingers bunched in her collar, Wynn pulled her coat tight without a mind for the insignias, or the soldier’s stitches in the shoulders. It was just thick wool, bold-faced to the cold wind that tried to cut through her. “I’m still here,” she repeated.

And there was something about the ice bite on the backs of her hands that reminded her what warmth was in her blood. There was something in the black winter sky that carried such undeniable weight, that to stand straight underneath it was proof and testament and promise of what sort of iron she was built from.