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.

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: Elbow Room (234 words)

The snow was coming soon. Looking up, Keada felt it in the weight of the clouds with their gray, bowing bellies. The sun had been fighting its way through in fits and starts since morning, but now it was just sifting its way through as if it had given up trying to define the world’s shadows. The air had been cutting cold at sunrise, and still as stone. Now, it brushed against her cheeks, just warm enough to feel like the breath of something a little too alive, a little too far away.

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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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Flash Fiction: Cold Snap (339 words)

The apples were so big Wen held them to her chest with one arm rather than run down the street with one massive fruit fattening each hand. She had seen jewels with less perfect color, the mottled red and yellow falling in narrow stripes like the unknowable colors of an eye. They couldn’t have held a better shine if she had slicked them with oil, and they were heavy, promising sweetness inside. Wen ran around the corner as quick as she could.

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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: 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.

Wednesday Serial: Farther Part LVI

Anie fire_handANIE

When Anie and Darien returned to the fortress, the crowd inside was thick, but organized. The carts were all backed against the far walls, leaving the center clear for cook fires and canvas tents. The long center hall had been cleaned out and supplies stacked inside. The uneven lines of the caravan camping had been erased by the square edges of the fortress, and everyone walked a little faster.

They found Thea and Mel beside one of the fires. Someone had rolled gray stones about the size of Anie’s head into a circle to hold it in, each one a little too straight edged after the tumble rocks they’d used for the last few weeks. It was easy to see that they were broken pieces of the fortress, long used to lying on the ground.

Mel smiled at Anie while she handed Thea a bucket of water. Thea smiled without even noticing that Darien and Anie were there, then almost grinned when she saw them, took a deep breath, and wiped her hands down the cloth she had pinned to her dress as an apron.

They ate when it was almost dark, just after woodmen returned from their chopping and a few others rolled the sturdiest carts into the gateway. Leaning their heads back, they looked up at the white stars framed by the gray walls.

And Anie slept easy.

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part XXX

Anie fire_hand


Night arrived slow and lazy. The wagons and carts came to their usual stuttering stops as each one found a spare patch of earth that somehow looked like a good place to lay out for the night to the drivers. They crowded a little closer than usual, the lanes between them shrunk to four or five shoulder widths, while men and women roamed around them.

Wesson picked a flat spread, and turned the cart so that the broad side met the wind. Thea marked out a place for the fire with her foot. Nodding when she pointed to it, Wesson started kicking stones toward her to form the fire circle.

Ma edged out of the cart, and started away in her usual way, winding through the walkers and riders. She called for Mel over her shoulder, who for once wasn’t too far away. Mel came running, and Anie stayed where she was, perched on the cart wall, out of the way and waiting for Thea’s instructions.

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