Monday, December 13, 2010

"The Girl who Loved Dragon Ball" - 11 & Counting

Part 14: "The Girl Who Loved Dragon Ball"

Andrew slowed down as he neared the other children wading into the water near the shore, unsure of what to say or how to join in a game he definitely didn't understand. He watched the sparkling ball about the size of a kickball, which resembled a shiny pearl being butted back and forth between the gularisses and the humans. Even Showa, the koi-like gulariss that had seemed so shy before was caught up in the excitement. He butted it to his caudal fin and then slapped it high into the air, spinning so fast all of the water that flew off rained down like a sudden shower.

Finally he couldn't hold it in. He really wanted for once to join in on something.

"Viola!" He called out loudly, cupping his hands to be heard over their cheering.

The purple gulariss turned her head towards him, bounding over excitedly, "Hey Everybody! Andrew's here!"

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Mines of Misery" - Last One Standing Tall

A fantasy-western serial

Episode 13: "Mines of Misery"

"You see, that's what happens to heroes around here, Mr. Reed," Reinheart said, almost apologetically, "They get shot."

Reinheart's next shot missed him as Reed leapt from the chair. He barely dodged it, snapping his torso into an arc so the bullet passed under. He swung down his fist as Reinheart came at him. Reed had never felt full of such emotion before, it filled him with a fire that seemed to burn only stronger, regardless of the pain in his gunshot wounds. Reinheart caught Reed's fist. Reed struggled to pry the gun from Reinheart's fingers but Reinheart shoved him up against the wall, banging Reed's injured shoulder into the displayed weapons, knocking some of them free from the wall to the floor. With a jerk he kicked the open wound at Reed's knee and jammed his gun barrel hard against his pale green jaw.

"Too bad. Gunslingers don't win on guts alone," Reinheart said and then grinned as he pulled the trigger. A hollow click sounded. A growl rumbled in Reinheart's throat as his eyes darted back and forth between his gun and Reed's face. Reed only radiated more raw emotion, his teeth clenched in rage and pain.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo: How to Conquer the 1st Page of your Novel in 6 Steps!

Or... How to get started when the going is already tough!

Read more of Doug's Sticky Note comics here.

Ah, the blank page!

It holds so much possibility for creative freedom and expression. Yet, as soon as we load that "Untitled1" document or put a pen to the paper or stick it in our typewriter, why do we find ourselves staring at it with an equally blank stare? We're scared. Scared our writing won't be good enough. Scared that we'll fail before we've even begun. Sometimes we'll even try to write something but immediately delete it as soon as we read back through it. We can throw anything at it, but nothing seems to stick. Another page gets crumpled and tossed into the trash.

I call this the "White Page of Death" syndrome.

So what can we do about it? First off, don't despair, because you're not alone! Here's some steps to help you conquer the first page of your NaNoWriMo manuscipt:

1.) Calm down and take a deep breath. You're just getting started, so there's no need to panic, it's only the first day after all. You've got a long road ahead but every journey begins with that first step. Revel in that first step. Give yourself a moment to clear your mind, don't worry about what's going on outside your writing space. This is your writing time, so take a moment to focus on your story world and your characters.

2.) Imagine the setting of your world and your main character within it. Close your eyes and then open your inner eyes into your imagination. Think about what your character sees and feels around them. Where are they? What are they doing right now? Most importantly, what do they want?

3.) Begin writing and describe what you're seeing in your head. Take it slow and remember what you want to write about. You don't have to include everything in the first page, so take some time to put yourself in the world. Perhaps your main character is just waking up and making breakfast? Maybe they don't have enough money for breakfast?

4.) Don't judge anything you write. Right now it is important to get started, and you will not advance if you continually rewrite your first few paragraphs. Trust me when I say that I've been there before and it will only end in tragedy for your novel. If you realize you've made a mistake - just make a foot note to come back to fix it later. You don't have enough of your story yet to even begin to judge if it's working or not. Remember that NaNo is about pounding out that first rough draft. It's supposed to be rough and only you will see it, so don't worry if it's perfect. Trust me, it won't be and that's okay.

5.) Always leave a little more when you're done. For some people the first few pages come quickly, but it's when they stop at the first chapter point that they get stuck. All of the sudden you're right back where you've started. Another blank page. More pressure to perform. The best way to prevent this kind of chapter fright is to always start a bit into the next chapter before quitting your writing session. This way you have a springboard when you start up again. If the blankness is still keeping you down though, just rinse and repeat the first four steps until you've got a momentum.

6.) Remember that motivation will never come to you. It's very rare when you're working on an intense project like this that you're already motivated to write. If this was the case there would never be such a thing as an abandoned draft or unfinished work. The easiest way to combat this is to come to terms with that. What you're doing is a big thing. It's not going to be easy, but sometimes you just gotta pull on your big girl panties (or big boy boxers) and sit down and work. Motivation comes when we've already started and are excited about the end result. You can see the big picture in your head. Some days you're just gonna feel like giving up, but especially on those days you need to quit making excuses and just write.

Most of all, know that you can do this. You are good enough. If you start writing now, you're well on your way to 50,000 words. Good luck to all of you!

This is Joanie's second time doing NaNoWriMo. She won last year with her science fiction novel about space pirates, even after she spent the first week lowering her word count by rewriting the first three pages 8 times. This year she's finally learned her lesson.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NaNoWriMo & Serial Updates!

Hey Readers!

Halloween is in the air, and you know what that means for writers? The National Novel Writing month is only days away from beginning! For those of you not familiar with NaNoWriMo - check out their website here:  I encourage everyone who has never tried writing a novel and has always wanted to write one to give it a shot. This will be my 2nd year doing it! I won last year and I'm hoping to win again this year with another 50,000+ words! (Last year I finished over 60,000!)

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I will be ceasing production on my serials: Last One Standing Tall and 11 & Counting from now until the first week of December. This is to give me ample time to focus completely on my new novel, including some time nightcrafting a story structure and character arcs before November starts up. Don't worry though, Reed and Andrew will be back before you know it! They've both hit the halfway point and I'm so excited to be working on both of them. Their development has been a constant source of joy and relaxation for me. I hope you're enjoying them as much as I have writing them.

So you might be asking, "Hey Joanie, what are you writing this year for Nano?" And I'm really excited to tell you that I'm in the middle of development for it right now! I think my title says it all so that's all I'm posting for now. Are you ready?

Medina Harper, Monster M.D.

 I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't wait for November! I'll be posting weekly updates with how the novel's coming along and possibly some sneak peeks as well. For now you'll just have to wait and see.

- Joanie /^>

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"The Great Gulariss Barbeque" - 11 & Counting

Part 13: "The Great Gulariss Barbeque"

Afterwards the clan gathered at the lakeside, the humans drying off with towels. Aunt Jenna stopped Andrew from taking one.

"Hold on, you still have one more thing left to do." She called Duke over and the large red gulariss leaned down to him. He sniffed his dark woolen robe and closed his eyes for a moment. He opened them, staring at Andrew.

"Year after year it never ceases to amaze me how much of him I see in each of you," Duke said. "Your hair is just like his and you have his eyes - so intense."

"You mean Erik?" Andrew asked, remembering the story, "You knew him?"

He nodded.

"But that would make you..."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Tornado Tower" - Last One Standing Tall

 A Fantasy-Western serial

Episode 12: "Tornado Tower"
Four men fell to Reed's first round of shots, but he was only one surrounded by many. He did not know if he had killed any of them. At the moment he wasn't even thinking consciously, only Troy's fifty rules were on his mind, playing one after another as their need arose. He scrambled up from behind the catapault, running back towards the windmill. He ran along its backside into what he quickly discovered was an alley, blocked on one side by a wire fence and the other by heavy machinery. The men followed behind him, shots firing.
Wheeling around he flung out his arms, whirling them, casting dust into the air. The bullets stung him like knife stabs but none hit his torso or head, and as the dust settled, the men stumbled back as they saw he was still standing, with his long vined arms snaking through the air. His hat had fallen and he scooped it up with another free vine as he shook the bullets free of his arms, forcing them to heal quickly as a few chunks separated and fell. As soon as he could snap his right arm back in close he fired again, taking down a couple of the ones too stunned at his appearance. The others fell back around the corner to regroup.
Reed bent and threw his arms high up and caught onto a pipe. He pulled himself up just as the men returned out of hiding to open fire. Nothing was there. They looked up but Reed settled himself behind one of the larger pipes, keeping into the shadow. The men scattered, but he could hear them calling out to each other.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Counting Ceremony" - 11 & Counting

Part 12: The Counting Ceremony

What was first a feeling of being watched escalated into pure fear. Andrew could sense something following him. A branch snapped behind him. He took off, sneakers slipping as he struggled to keep a lead. Something was chasing him now and gaining with every step. He didn't dare turn around, afraid that whatever it was would tackle him down to the ground. Instead he barreled blindly through the forest, regardless of the stitch ripping painfully up his side the faster he went.

He slowed as he neared the crest of a hill but delighted when he could see the low stone wall just beyond it. His feet stumbled to keep up with his momentum as he ran downhill. If I can just get to the wall, he told himself, I'll be okay. I just gotta get to the wall! He didn't know why he felt this way but he didn't have any time to think about it.

Andrew tried to jump the wall but slipped in his haste, his knee banging against it as he tumbled forward. His arms flailed, trying to protect his head as he ducked into a roll. He landed hard on his back, the air rushing out of his lungs. For a few moments he couldn't get a good breath. His throat was tight and burned from running. He couldn't get enough air and hyperventilated. He stared up at the trees above him. Whatever it was, it wasn't vaulting over the wall.

He stayed down until he could breathe without gasping. He pulled himself carefully up, peering just over the top of the wall, ready to duck back down if it attacked.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fudoki: Why Do We Write?

Why do we write?

This is a question that has been on mind my since reading the novel Fudoki by Kij Johnson.

Fudoki is about an elderly Japanese princess named Harueme who is dying slowly from a lung disease. In her final days she writes about her life, but also, though she has never done so before, she also writes her own monogatari tale (Japanese fairy tale) about a tortiseshell cat who loses her entire fudoki in her a fire.

The word "fudoki", as used in the book, means:
"... self and soul and home and shrine, all in one to a cat. The fudoki is the chronicle of the female cats who have claimed a place, a river of cats that starts with the first to come to that place, and ends with oneself - when one grows experienced enough to have a tale to tell." (18, Johnson)

The cat loses everything: her family, her home, her place in the her family's legacy. Without them she has nothing. She is nothing. She wanders the world, searching for meaning along Japan's famous Tokaido Road. A god there changes her into a human against her will, so she loses even her physical identity as a cat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"The Iron Windmills" - Last One Standing Tall #11

A Fantasy-Western serial

Episode 11 - The Iron Windmills

Night had already fallen by the time Reed approached the mesa. The mesa towered over the landscape a black shadow framed by the stars in the desert sky. No clouds meant no tornadoes, and he was very glad for that. He needed all the advantages he could gather. There was no moon this night either. Good for cover, but difficult to spot a trap lying on the ground. Xylem are creatures of the day, so his sight was not so good as it would have been in the light, but it would do.

He left his horse, Abe, at the base of the mesa by a shallow pool nourishing a grassy patch that he knew would be picked clean by the time he returned. He ducked as Abe tried to snack on his head leaves again, tucking the stray leaves under his hat.

"You should thank me," he said, but Abe simply ignored him and munched on the grass, ripping up large dirt clods. Reed rolled his eyes, an expression he had picked up from the old man.
According to Troy, there were several man-made pathways and tunnels to the top of Windy Mesa, but Reed was no man, and so would make his own way there. He removed his boots, strapped them together and slung them over his shoulders. He leapt straight up, extending his vined limbs, sinking his finger-like roots into the rocky soil and pulling himself up. A few places were solid rock, and these he had to wrap his arms and roots around whatever small outcroppings he could reach. It did not take him long to reach the summit, shocked at how absurdly flat the mesa was on the top.
Nothing grew in the bad soil up here, which made him uneasy. A tall picket fence was an arm's width away from him, wide gaps between sharpened timber. This hastily built structure protected seven windmills. They were not like any he had seen before. The blades of these windmills were iron, a circular rim surrounding sharp petals branching from a pointed center, each one curved and twisting slightly to overlap the others. Even more strangely, though the wind was blowing fast here, not a single one of the windmills turned.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Secret Friends" - 11 & Counting

Part 11: Secret Friends
The two boys traveled just beyond the low stone wall bordering Aunt Jenna's farm, Andrew barely keeping up with TJ's lanky strides. He must live around here, Andrew thought, he seems to know exactly where he's going without having to look around for landmarks. He couldn't see the grin on the TJ's face.

When they arrived at Peddler's Creek, TJ offered Andrew his fishing pole and the bucket of worms. "You get this one started and I'll go find a stick for ya."

"Okay," Andrew said uncertainly. He had absolutely no idea how to put a worm on a hook. His father usually did that for him. He wasn't about to tell TJ that though. He let the other boy run off. He reached his hand into the bucket and pulled one out, mushing it a bit between his fingers, enjoying the slimy texture. Worms were really neat. His dad had told him that if you cut one up it would eventually grow into two separate worms, and while he wasn't sure he believed that, from then on he thought worms were pretty cool.

He held the squirming worm in one hand and the lure attached to the pole in his other hand. Should he tie the worm like a knot? Would that work? He stared at the shiny metallic scales on the lure, which reflected little rainbows just above the surface of the water.  He looked down into the creek, but he didn't see any fish.

A hand shoved his back hard, thrusting him forward. For half a second he flipped upside down, heard a laugh and caught a glimpse of the sun before hitting the freezing creek water. The water cushioned his fall, flooding his nose and into his mouth before his feet hit the bottom and he pushed himself out of the water, coughing and snorting out water. TJ was on the shore just above him laughing hysterically.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Gunslinging 201" - Last One Standing Tall

A Fantasy-Western serial

#10 - Gunslinging 201

Troy kept his word. Reed had not truly known a hard day's work until that morning. Before the sun had risen, he had repaired a number of structures in the town. His muscles burned, but he pushed on, not questioning the Sheriff since that usually just brought another load or another whack on the head. He had barely finished nailing another support beam to the main building when Troy called him back over.

"You done good so far. You still want to handle a gun?"

Reed grunted, glaring at him. His patience was beginning to wear thin.

"Most of 'em fainted by now," Troy said to himself and then to Reed, "I do believe you're the first to make it this far." Reed didn't know if this was a compliment or an insult. Though with Troy it usually tended to be the latter.

"I'm growing tired of this," Reed said, throwing down the hammer in his hand, "I have been working like a dog. I have listened to your words. Will you teach me to wield a gun or not?"

Troy frowned. "I don't know if you're ready."

"Then I must go." Reed turned away and began to head out of town. So much for this. He had wasted enough time here trying to please this man who obviously could not be pleased. He should have left immediately guns or no guns.

Reed halted, but did not turn around.

"I've been hard on you, son, but it's only because this is a hard world nowadays. A gun doesn't make you invincible."

Reed turned. "That is not why. You still do not trust me. Is it because I am a Xylem? Because I am different than you?"

They stared at each other. Troy seemed to be sizing him up again. Reed flinched defensively as Troy pulled his gun. The old man laughed.

"Glad to see you ain't forgotten number one. Now don't go running on me. I ain't gonna shoot you this time. Hold out your hand." Reed wasn't so sure of that, but he held out his hand anyway.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Boundaries" - 11 & Counting

Part 10: Boundaries

Aunt Jenna called the Sheriff's Office the next day, but the call was short and no one came by the house. Andrew tried to ask her who Mr. Pender was, but every time she changed the subject. Eventually he stopped asking. Soon Andrew had enough on his hands with the upcoming Counting Ceremony to worry about some mysterious man. By Saturday, he was completely forgotten.

* * *

The Day of the Counting Ceremony seemed like any normal summer day at the farm. The sun came up early as usual, stinging his eyes, first awakening to the red inside of his eyelids before rolling on his side and opening them, staring at the pile of clothes on the floor. He sniffed deeply.

Aunt Jenna was in the kitchen, making breakfast. He could pretend to sleep for another hour or so, she had miraculously offered to let him sleep in today since he had been working so hard, but he found it hard to sleep when he still had so many questions. He threw back the covers and dragged himself out of bed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last One Standing Tall #9

A Fantasy-Western serial

#9 - Gunslinging 101

Sunlight blinded Reed. He winced and rolled over, trying to catch the tail end of his dream as it scampered into the back of his mind. A boot nudged his shoulder, spinning him on the dusty floorboards. "Rise and shine, Cauliflower-Boy."

He opened an eye and gazed up at Troy who was glaring down at him. Did he have any other facial expression besides constantly annoyed? The Sheriff himself was already dressed, what little hair he had left on his head combed neat and straight, his eyes full of energy for someone so ancient. All Reed wanted was to sleep a little longer. Everything was sore and he did not want to get up.

"Don't make me drag ya outside," Troy said, spitting off to the side, "Cause sure as Hell I will, bum leg or not."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 9

Part 9 - "The Promise & The Stranger"

The rest of the evening passed in a blur to Andrew. He had nearly worn out his voice from talking so much with his new family. Even so, he hadn't enough time to really get to know any of the Gulariss before Aunt Jenna announced they had to head back to the farmhouse. The fish-like dragons had even spoken of more caves and rooms within the Den that made Andrew squirm with delight. How he yearned to run through all of them and explore!

"Please, Aunt Jenna? Can I please spend the night in the Den with everyone?"

"No Andrew."

"But I just got here and I--"

"I'm sorry, but we have much to do at home, and likewise your brethren have much to do here," she said, but not unkindly.

"It's not fair," he whined. Just when something interesting was happening, it had to get cut short.

"My dear, you'll have plenty of time to explore every nook and cranny, I promise. But, right now we have to go."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Last One Standing Tall #8

A Fantasy-Western Serial


Sheriff Troy could barely stand, his wounds bleeding deep red through his trousers. Reed rolled over a barrel for him to sit down on. He nearly kicked it away, but sighed heavily and set himself down as gently as possible.

"Damn that Reinheart! If I was ten years younger I could have slaughtered him!"

"Let me help you."

The old man sighed again and waved him away. "Don't worry about me. I'm done."

"No! Uncle Troy, don't die! I don't got anyone else left," his nephew said.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

He Said Nobody's Perfect

Angela's email hit me out of nowhere. Said she needed space. That she couldn't be online every night like she always had been. Space? I knew what that meant. Everyone knows what that really means. Some part of me had seen it all coming, much as I wanted to deny it. Is it sad part of me felt vindicated reading it?

I told her exactly what I thought of that. Sent her a long email. Don't think I'm heartless. If anyone she's the heartless one, not me! She doesn't mean it, I think. She just doesn't think about anyone else. She not only wears her heart on her sleeve but beats you senseless over the head with it. Messy, that's what this whole thing is. And I didn't start it. That so-called "friend" of hers did, polluting her mind against me. She's so flighty like that. It's just the way she's wired I guess. Sensitive is a better word. Overly sensitive is closer to the truth though. Tell her what she wants to hear and she goes running to it. She can't make up her own mind.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 8

Feel free to begin here or return to the

Part 8 - "Meet the Family"

Andrew did want to meet the other fish-dragons, (Though he supposed the correct term was Gulariss-es? Gulariss-i?) but he also wanted to study the complex shell mosaics along the walls.

The designs flowed in and out of another, like those optical illusion designs where you can't tell where one begins and another starts. The gently swaying lanterns cast shadows along their edges, some flickering to life, he could swear the gills moved in and out. He wished he had brought a camera with him; then again, it would have never made the journey down here to the bottom of the lake, no matter how "waterproof" it might have been.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Never Good Enough

The first time I met Jimmy it was magic. Sure we were nervous, but after the first half hour it was like we had always been together. He was even better than he had seemed online.

I know what you're probably thinking, but I've known Jimmy for eight years now. He's my soul mate. Look, you just don't know him like I do. You don't know what it's like for him. Believe me. I've been to his house.

I was just there a few days ago.

I saw his father hit him. Right in front of me, a guest in their home! I couldn't believe it. He even made him mow the lawn and take out the garbage while I had to sit in the dining room. I had to smile and act polite to a man I hated. What else could I do? I didn't want to make things worse for him. I could fly home at the end of the week, but Jimmy? He lived there every day.

I fantasize about him moving in with my family. It's killing me to only see him once or twice a year. I need him. And he was the first person who ever needed me too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Last One Standing Tall #7

A Fantasy-Western Serial


Reed watched as the men rifled through his possessions, such as they were.

Considering the shotgun barrel pressed against his temple, he decided he had better just let them do as they pleased for now. Not that he could have moved much anyway since they had bound him like a bale of hay. If he moved too much the coarse ropes cut into his green flesh, weeping precious fluid. Healing himself would only weaken him eventually, so he let the wounds sit open for now. Somehow he managed to tolerate the burning sting there.

A tall man gulped down water from one of his canteens, water dribbling down his narrow chin and splashing on his flannel shirt. Reed had never seen someone drink so greedily. Did they not have enough water in this town?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Blog Awards Ceremony

Gracie Crone of Crone's Cauldron Publications has presented me with two awards: the Versatile Blogger and the One Lovely Blog award. If you haven't read any of her fiction yet, I highly recommend her weekly serial: Fire & Water, a tale about a young man's destiny featuring dragons, selkies, shape-shifting cats and other fantastical beasties. The lovely Miss Gracie's not only a writer of myths and legends but of science fiction and horror as well. If you love a good ghost story, I also recommend her 6-part story: "The Back Yard" which was the first story of hers that I read.

Thank you so much Gracie! I always look forward to your new stories.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

5 Fun Ways to SMAAAAASH Writer's Block!

Makes you just wanna punch him, doesn't it? -- Find more fun comics at VG Cats!

As writers, we are united under a single fear. It happens to all of us, whether we be rich or poor, pros or amateurs. Writer's Block doesn't discriminate.

So what can you do when you're sitting at your computer, staring at the blinking cursor? Are your hands trembling over a blank notebook page? Or are you mindlessly punching the keys on your typewriter like the proverbial monkeys recreating Hamlet?

I'll tell you what you can do, my friends! Fight back with an old school--

-- Attack!  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Good Mothers

Donna studied the two packages in her hands, weighing the pros and cons of their Nutrition Facts, which at the moment seemed equally non-nutritutional, leaving her feeling meloncholy at best. 

As she let the winner fall gently to the cart, bouncing off the 48-count feminine pads and landing on the super value-pack of beef, she noticed something was missing. Not anything from the cart though. She looked up and down the aisle for CJ. Hadn't he been looking at that sugary cereal (Captain Whats-his-face?) that he loved so much? He had been, she remembered this vividly in her mind, hearing his voice so clearly say, "Mom! Mom look, you get a free DVD!"

"CJ?" she called, and when no answer came she increased her volume, "CJ?"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 7

It all started here...

Andrew didn't know how much longer he could keep his breath held. He had no idea how much further they had to go to get to the Dragon's Den. Was there really anything down here in the lake?

A grinning face interrupted his worries. His dragon only paused for a moment before he swam past, darting all over. The little fellow hadn't been nearly that quick on land, but he supposed he didn't look mostly like a fish for nothing. He could see little gills flaring in and out excitedly. Andrew swallowed his last bit of air, still watching Aunt Jenna kick forward. She swam like a frog, arms and legs wide then straight again. He couldn't swim like that, it tired him out too quickly.

When Aunt Jenna swam into a dark hole, he nearly bolted upwards for the surface, looking up briefly. From down here it looked so far away, a blurry patch of yellow light in the murky lake water. Even now he was tired, and very suddenly his throat burned for air. Every part of him screamed at him to leave.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Short Life of a Biscuiteer

It didn't matter what kind of biscuits: salty or sweet, dry or fluffy, Dana loved them all. But her favorites were the Queen's Specials. Only the Queen's Biscuiteers knew the secret recipe.

The Biscuiteers were no ordinary bakers. Only thirteen lucky bakers survived the rigorous standards, set forth by the notoriously difficult Annual Royal Biscuit Baking Tournament. Even those who won the previous year were thrust back into the match the next Autumn. Anyone who failed the Tournament was banished, never to be seen again. Therefore, to be a Biscuiteer continuously was not only a lifetime's achievement but a coveted honor. This process made certain that only the finest men and women baked the Queen's Specials, making them the finest delicacy in the entire kingdom and sought over by people from around the world.

As soon as she could toddle, Dana shadowed her brother Benjamin as he raced about the kitchen baking the Queen's Specials, each biscuit as big as her two-year-old head. She ate five of them in one sitting on her fifth birthday. On the day she turned eight, Benjamin presented her with her very first spatula - crafted from only the finest ceramic, baked for a month in the hottest of dragon furnances. For a whole month she wouldn't let it out of her sight, even putting it under her pillow as she slept dreaming of the day when she would bestow the world's best biscuits to Queen Jira herself.

The day she turned twelve, she felt entitled to something more than just a gift.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last One Standing Tall #6

A Fantasy-Western Serial
It all started here, but feel free to begin wherever you like.

Not even a lone tumbleweed blew across the empty streets of downtown Wheatfield.

Even so, Reed could feel the presence of humans all around him. Humans watching. Humans waiting for... what? He walked further into town, always keeping an eye behind him to his horse, Abe, who was still slurping noisly from the water trough, his tail swatting flies. Every little noise sounded so loud in the silence.

A fierce wind howled through the streets, his boots sliding over the crackling dirt. He spread his arms, extending vines to the brittle ground, but they found no cracks to dig in and take root. He fell back, his body spinning, ramming into one of the buildings, tangling in his own limbs until the wind finally died down as quickly as it had come up. He retracted his vined arms, rubbing them, watching the small bruises heal up.

He sat up to get his bearings until a door behind him swung open, rapping against the back of his head. He bent over, groaning, as hands grabbed onto him and yanked him inside into the darkness. He struggled. A hand clamped over his mouth. He kicked out and knocked something over. Feet pounding against hardwood floors, scampering. The sound of a match scraping and a flash of fire. Someone holding it too close to him, removing his hat. A chorus of gasps like a blast of quick winds.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Zombie Luv Flash Fic Contest:
Love After Death

I thought I knew what love was. The usual things: gentle touches, deep kisses, sweet words whispered, a ring... I was only nineteen the day I died. I knew nothing of real love.

When he ripped my sleeve, exposing the weeping bite marks, no one said anything. Everyone knew. I knew.  I didn't want to die. I'm ashamed that I begged my so-called true love to help me even as he shot me in the heart. His words, the last words I heard while alive, stung as I hit the ground.

"Can't ruin such a pretty face."

My mouth and glassy eyes stared wide open at all of them surrounding me as my life bled out. Their faces soon faded into darkness.

I don't know how much time passed until I first became... aware.
All I knew was weight pressing me down and utter darkness. At first I felt cocooned in a comforter, wanting to hide from the morning sun, only it wasn't that kind of bed. It was the garden variety. Dirt. In my mouth, up my nose, all over, wet and soft, densely packed. I screamed. The sound that emitted though muffled by it was deafening and frightening. Not human. Beyond understanding.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 6

It all started here...

"You didn't answer my question," Andrew said after some timed had passed, "You told me where it -- I mean he -- came from but I wanted to know why I got it."

He indicated the fish-dragon curled in his lap, its fantail curled around it like a cat, the gills flapping as it breathed in and out. It wasn't that he didn't have a million other questions, (like how it was breathing air in the first place!) but perhaps that one was the most urgent because he had a feeling this was serious.

"The Queen's eggs have always been passed down through our family. Yours was the last to be hatched."

As if he didn't have enough questions already. He frowned.

"So Erik, he was my...?"

"Your great, great, great," she had to count on her fingers to keep track, "great grandfather." She smiled.

"Do we have a photo of him?"

"Oh my darling," she laughed, "They didn't have cameras back then."

"What about a painting?"

She shook her head, "I'm afraid not."

"Then how do we know for sure? How do I know you're not just making this up?"

"Besides the egg, you mean?" She said softly.

He thought for a moment before saying, "Yes." She didn't seem angry.

"So you really don't believe me?"

"I need proof!"

"He's not proof enough?"

Andrew looked down again at the little dragon, his little dragon, he reminded himself. He picked up him in his hands and turned him around, waking him up. He turned him over again and again looking for a seam or a screw or anything that might indicate he wasn't as real as he seemed. Is it terrible that I want to find something to disprove him, he thought. The little creature giggled and smiled at Andrew even though he was dangling him upside down. He finally let him rest on his shoulder, his little whiskers gripping him tightly for balance. He yawned.

"I think he's real," Andrew said, "But I don't know about the rest... I mean, it's not that I think you're a liar or anything..."

"That's good to know!" She said, laughing again. He was glad to see she hadn't lost her sense of humor.

"But," he continued, "Did my parents know? Why haven't you ever told me before? Why now? Does everyone else know but me?"

"Oh Andrew," she started, pulling him into a hug, "No, not everyone. Only a few of us know. It's for their safety," she gently petted the dragon, "as well as ours. Believe me dear, I've wanted to tell you so much, every summer that you've come here."

"Why didn't you then?"

"It wasn't time yet."

"So how did you know it was time now?"

She sighed. He could tell her good humor was wearing down under his constant barrage of questions.

"I'm sorry,"  he said quickly, "I just want to know."

"I know you have lots of questions." She winced and stood up carefully, motioning for him to get up as well. "Come with me," she said, "It's high time I introduce you to them."

"Who? You don't have any close neighbors."

"They're not neighbors, they're family."

"How come I haven't met them before?"

Aunt Jenna laughed, "Well, you haven't been to the bottom of the lake yet, have you?"

"What's down there?"

"Our family's dragon den." She grinned.

With those words his imagination thundered on miles ahead, trying to determine what a dragon den could possibly look like. Was there lots of treasure? Maybe some suits of armor or artifacts? No, that was silly. Obviously he was nowhere near a castle or anything even remotely related to ancient history. Still, did dragons really like treasure? He realized just how little he really did know. It was true that he loved to swim in the lake, but he had never gone deeper than he would have in a swimming pool. He had always been afraid of seeing a giant fish or a monster lurking down there.

One time he thought he had seen something down there, had even felt an impossibly large fin (or had it been just some water weeds?) brush against his toes. He had flailed ashore, afraid to go back in until Jenna waded in and stood there for a whole ten minutes, proving it was safe. He had been seven then. The thought of going anywhere near the bottom of the lake frightened him.

"I can't hold my breath that long. I can't even really swim that well," he lied.

"Nonsense, I've seen you swim. You're just like your mother." She laughed. "You're probably more fish-like than he is," she said pointing to the dragon who was still perched on his shoulder and fast asleep again, still clinging tightly. "Now no more questions and fussing. Go get your swimming suit. We only have a few hours left of daylight."

"No, it's too cold."

"Andrew," she said, a little more sternly.

"Please, I don't want to go," he whined.

"Andrew, I'm not going to ask again. You'll be perfectly safe as long as you stay with me."

He shuffled his feet, unsure what else to say. He knew she would carry him there if she had to. That was the tone she always used when he was in trouble.

"I would never do anything to endanger you. You're my favorite nephew and a strong boy. You'll be just fine."

He blushed a little and turned away. Nodding slowly he mumbled an okay and trudged to his room, the little dragon still attached to his shoulder. It whistled, creating a strange gurgling tune.

When he had finally gotten his swim-trunks on, he strapped on his favorite pair of velcroed sandals. He tightened them. He figured he would wear them in the water to help him sink a little better. The thought of that suddenly scared him. Was he really going to do this? But Aunt Jenna words repeated. She wouldn't do anything to hurt him. She had always protected him. And a part of him did want to see the inside of a dragon's den.

It was a ten-minute walk down to the lake. The fish-dragon toddled along on behind Andrew who stuck close to Aunt Jenna. She had changed into a one-piece swim-suit under a thin white cover-up. Her skin was wrinkled and he could see the veins standing out on her legs as she walked along the dusty path, still barefoot. She was strong though from her life spent working on her farm. When he was younger she'd wrestle with him, but now he was beginning to see her age more, not nearly as energetic as she had been when he was little. She was still feisty though and he loved her for that. She was the opposite of his mom, who was always so reserved and quiet.

Soon they were standing at the lake's edge. The little dragon did not wait for an invitation and dove into the water. Andrew nearly leapt in after it but stopped when it resurfaced and looked up at them both expectantly.

"My word! I've never seen a hatchling so eager! I had to push Esmeralda into the lake!" She laughed.

"Who's Esmeralda?"

"You'll see very soon," she said, "Come along now."

Together they waded into the lake, her cover-up ballooning slightly in the water. He winced at the chilly temperature, bringing his legs close together as goose-pimples rippled along his skin. She was already at the edge of the lake shelf where he knew it dropped off deeper, so he hurried along wrapping his arms tightly as if that helped him be any less cold. It was up to his chest now.

"Just bob a little to get used to the water. We'll pass the thermocline on the way down and it will be much warmer."

"What's a thermocline?"

"You'll see."

He sighed. After a few moments soaking his head underneath the muddy water, he found he could unclench his arms and spread them out, the water still cold, but feeling better. At least it was shaping up to be a warm night, but it was still warmer outside than in the water.

"Alright now follow me. Take a big breath. It's not very deep, but it is a stretch. Remember to release the pressure just like I taught you," She added, pinching her nose and making a blowing noise.

With a splash she bent over and dove deep down into the lake, the little dragon following after her. Andrew filled his lungs with air, as much as he could manage, and he dove down, making a big splash as he kicked down, propelling himself down, trying not to blow out too much air as he cleared his nose, releasing the vice of pressure squeezing his forehead.

Never losing sight of her white cover-up swishing like a ghostly fantail, he followed her deeper and deeper than he had ever dove before.

Continue to Part 7?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


She missed the plains. Or rather, she missed the night sky above them, especially the late summer nights, when she felt exposed to the universe.

She'd lie on her back, knowing if the Earth ever stopped turning she'd be flung off it, propelled into those endless stars. The thought scared her, made her clench the wet grass in her fists, nails scraping against the rich dirt. But it was also romantic in a way, becoming one with the sky. It was poetry. His poetry.

She'd breathe in the sunflowers, waving in the wind, framing an edge of the sky like a windowsill. He stood nearby, smiling at her, leaning against the fence, relaxed, his curls bobbing in the breeze, chewing on a long stalk of golden wheat. He smirked at her. She had never told him.

Nor could she again. She opened her eyes. Bit by bit she sat up from the creaking dorm bed, leaning against the hospital green colored walls, painted over a dozen times at least. It smelled so chemical-like and chilled her through her worn cotton shirt. She looked out the window, open just enough to allow a breeze, but never far enough for her to slip out it, even if the barrier wasn't there. So many lights were burning at night. She couldn't sleep even though she was exhausted.

"I need to get away," she said, but knew that was more of a dream than the plains themselves. So far from home.

The words echoed in the bare space, carrying the weight of her emotions. She wanted to leave yes, but could she leave? Perhaps not could, but would, she amended. Would she try to escape? She pressed her fingers against the barriers, watching the ripples of magic flow along the walls, moving along all sides of the room until they lost momentum and faded. She pulled back, her head aching. How had they built such a room? They didn't have magic here.

She pressed her palms against her eyelids, so caught up in her nightly woes that she almost missed the envelope that sailed under the door, skidding along the cold tiles, a light scratching noise. She looked down to her side and stared hard at the envelope, for a moment disbelieving in its mere existence. But the red seal upon it, pressed in real beeswax, she could smell it, it was fresh and smelled like the hives of the plains. She could not ignore that.

Scooping it up she felt the material, paper linen, flipping it, rubbing a finger over the calligraphied ink, smudging her name, which though familiar, felt so foreign as of late.


Was she going crazy? Had she imagined this small token? Dragging the edge along her finger, she winced, seeing a drop of blood form. No dream. She sucked on it lightly, looking at the envelope.

She hesitated, wondering if this wasn't some kind of trick. Was it laced with poison? Perhaps a paper-thin needle to prick her finger on? Wouldn't a swift death be better than being trapped here, she argued, shoving down the paranoia threatening to deafen her with its banshee warnings. Ripping the edge off, she squeezed it open, letting the contents flutter onto her duvet.

The paper smelled of lavender. She held it up to her nose, breathing deeply. If it was a poison, let her at least die smelling a scent so dear to her heart. A wind blew through, lifting her hair and it was like she was back in the plains again, leaning over the wild lavender, his hand squeezing hers, quiet words passing between them.

She opened her eyes and peered at the blank paper. It was a trick. A cruel one. She thrust it against the window, wanting to break it with her fist, but like everything here, it was reinforced, beyond her powers to shatter it. Her fist glowed briefly against the barrier, but the color drained and she shuddered. She felt numb in its coldness. Tears fell from her eyes as she looked up at the paper, ready to rip it to shreds.


Words fading into view.

She spread her hands to the edges, holding it up against the glass at the moonlight. There were words there, glowing softly, written lovingly by hand. Her eyes fell to the last word, a name she knew so well. Prospero. She had spoiled herself and smiled. It did not matter what the rest of it said, so long as his name was among the words.

If you're reading this, I've
finally broken through the
compound's barrier. Coming
to get you tonight. Polished
your daggers. Sorry it took
me so long.


A loon's call echoed across the darkened campus. She pressed herself against the window, peering down into the courtyard. He stood there in perfect stance with a black shaft loaded into his obsidian bow. A smirk as he released the arrow, her heart flying with it as it exploded into the barrier, rippling violently, knocking her back as a shower of glass crystal rained everywhere, her hands shielding her face from the debris.

When she looked up he was crouched on the sill, a hand extended, offering the ivory handles of her twin blades. Her hands closed over them, relishing the familiar weight, the comfort from gripping them, the energy flowing through them, marks glowing along the blades. She could feel the locks holding down her magic releasing now that the barrier was gone.

"You missed a spot," she teased, the first time she's smiled in weeks, setting the daggers lovingly on the sheets beside her. His face was serious.

"I missed you."

She drew him into her arms as he knelt before her. His bow fell beside her blades. She pressed her face against his neck, smelling the scent of  the plains, smelling him, a mix of sweat and leather.

"Forgive me," she said, "I failed."

"You only fail when you give up hope," he said. She could feel his breath flowing through her hair like a warm summer breeze.

A siren sounded behind them, men running across the grounds, swarming like bees to a broken hive. He pulled her to her feet, both of them retrieving their weapons.

"There's so many."

"We're together now, aren't we?"

She smiled. She could feel the plains' magic in the hand touching hers. It increased, the bubble surrounding them, lifting them off the ground. All the magical energy that had been repressed in her exploded in a rush, a bursting hydrant of power that she could not stop and didn't dare try. He grinned.

They leapt down from her prison, the wind cooling the burning heat at her forehead, their feet brushing only lightly against the ground. They sped through the guards, repeling them with sweeping movements of her daggers and shots from his bow, their combined magic arcing off the bubble's edge like lightning. She could see the break in the barrier ahead, glowing a swirling blue. They blocked it, five men deep. They put away their weapons.

Joining hands, they thrust their opposite hands forward, fingers splayed. The men went flying in all directions as they crossed through the portal. They tumbled endlessly, losing contact.

She landed hard on the ground, face down in tall grasses, barely missing ramming her skull into a tree. For a frightening moment she couldn't find him beside her, but she heard him say "Up here!" and looked up into the tree. There he was, hanging from a branch by his ankle. He was laughing.

"Welcome home,"  he said, his eyes so bright and happy.

In those eyes, she was already home.


Thanks for reading!

If you loved it, hated it, or somewhere in-between please let me know. I'm always open for improvement. If you like this one, why not read some of my other #FridayFlash entries?

I write new flash fiction every Friday. On Tuesdays I update one of my #TuesdaySerials: Last One Standing Tall and Eleven & Counting.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Last One Standing Tall #5

A Fantasy-Western Serial
It all started here, but feel free to begin wherever you like.


The sun had moved high over their heads by the time they had reached the edge of the desert that marked the border to the next town, Wheatfield, now just a dim outline in the heat a few miles at most along the cracked ground. A cloud-line swirled overhead, casting a dark shadow over them. They slowed their horses and stopped, looking up.

The air became still. Not even the dried grasses swayed in the silence. Reed and Anna noticed immediately, they could feel the quiet around them. It was like the wind had taken its last breath and died. The air felt hotter and thick. For a moment Reed remembered the air of Anna's greenhouse. Only this wasn't calming. Something was wrong.

"A storm?" Reed asked, turning around to watch the clouds move swiftly behind them. He had never seen a storm pass so quickly. The Green Mountains had their share of thunderstorms, but he had never felt anything like this.

"No," Anna said, her horse backing up in fright, whinnying loudly. "Oh Lord... no..."

"What?" Reed had never heard her sound so frightened.

Anna simply pointed upwards into the clouds.

Reed had never seen a tornado before, let alone five of them all at once. Had never even heard about them. His fellow Xylem had mentioned natural disasters plaguing the human settlements, but he had never cared to listen to such stories. He figured that was all they were, just human tales. He didn't know what to think as they spiraled down from the black cloud, stretching down like the fingers of God to caress the desert sands. He pulled his horse, Abe, to a halt. He sat in awe, watching them explore along the dusty ground, debris kicking up around them, turning them black. For a moment he didn't hear Anna calling his name.

As he turned, he could not only see the fear on her face, but feel it radiating out from her. "What are they?" he asked, his words filled with reverence.

"Tornadoes," she said, "I've seen 'em all my life, but I ain't never seen this many at once or moving this fast. It ain't natural." She shook her head.

"Are they dangerous?"

"You kiddin me! You get cornered by one of those and you're as good as dead. They'll blow you off your feet and send everything around you flying at you so fast it'll cut right through you."

"Can we go around them?"

"Are you crazy? You can't go around them like they're a boulder on a path! Look at 'em, they don't have a pattern, they just fling around willy-nilly. We don't got a choice. We gotta turn back, Mr. Reed. Least til they pass."

"How long do they last?"

"Two, maybe three minutes if we're lucky, longer if we're not," she said and steered Clark around, heading back the way they came.

Hesistating for just a moment more, he finally followed after her, until she stopped again.

"You've gotta be kidding me."


He pulled up beside her and looked across the desert, catching sight of an approaching dust cloud. It wasn't another tornado, or even a smaller dust devil, it was a large group of vehicles heading their way and fast. They were clustered tightly together in an almost military formation. Unfortunately for them, it wasn't the Calvary.

"Reinheart," she said evenly, "I just know it. C'mon, we'll have to cut sideways. Maybe if we're lucky he'll run into those," she said, indicating the tornadoes. "Even a car's no match for a tornado. They'd be stupid to follow."

Reed nodded, following her lead. They galloped as fast as the horses could go, heading south. Neither of them could keep their eyes off the tornadoes as they passed by. Anna gasped when the tornadoes began to head towards them, changing direction almost as if they were being pulled magnetically by some unseen force.

"Impossible," Anna said, "I think they're chasing us..."

"They are not the only ones," Reed said, nodding towards the approaching cars, becoming more visible by the second. "We cannot outrun them much longer. Their machines are swifter than our horses."

"No, no, no!" Anna said, "They're cornering us! I forgot about the Muddy River. It's up ahead," she pointed to what he could barely see as a wide gap in the ground. The closer he got, he saw the canyon, cut by a river, its water brown, moving fast, the gap across it too wide to jump. They both slowed the horses as they reached the gap.

Anna briefly glanced back and forth between the tornadoes blocking their exit and the vehicles closing in. "I'm not giving up," she said, "Let's keep alongside it."

So close to the edge, they rode in a steady gait, always looking to the left, the funnel clouds dark before the sun, like iron bars trapping them, pressing them against the river's edge. Shots fired overhead. Behind them the vehicles closed the gap, bumping along the uneven ground. They could even hear them shouting now over the rumble of the engines. Neither of them dared look back, focusing on the town, so close and yet so far out of their reach. They could feel the winds now from the tornadoes, dust that stung at their eyes as it blasted about. The air that had been so quiet was now rumbling softly at first but growing in volume. Reed had never heard a wind so loud and angry.

"That's it!" Anna shouted suddenly, breaking and turning about wildly. "Mr. Reed, you get on to town, I'm gonna lead them away."

He couldn't believe what she was doing and no sooner had she announced this before she was galloping towards them full-speed.

"Anna! Come back!"

She turned back for a moment, "Don't worry about me," she said, and for the first time he saw her draw a pistol from her jacket. "They don't want me, they want you! You find my Dad! I'll catch up later!" Then she was lost in the clouds of dust swirling around them. He could barely see anything, and looked up, even the sun barely shown through as a bright circle within the amber cloud. It moved swiftly as he rode.

He had no choice. He could barely see where he was going and continued forward as fast as Abe could go. He couldn't hear anything over the roaring wind that threatened to deafen him. He held one hand on his hat, losing a few of the leaves on his head to the wind. Something cut him across his cheek. He ducked as a bush whizzed by. A fierce terror he could not describe overtook him.

Time was meaningless near the tornadoes. It wasn't until the winds began to die down that he became aware of what had happened, finding himself only a quarter of a mile from the town proper.  It shocked him that none of the buildings seemed disturbed in the least. The clouds were subsiding, the tornadoes gone as quickly as they had arrived, only the dust clouds showing that anything had happened. Some part of him wondered if he hadn't dreamed them up in the first place, until he placed his hand against his cheek. The cut healed easily enough under his touch, the green fibers sewing back together, weaving and tightening.

He looked around, dismounting from Abe, who he left to drink at a water trough near the town's edge. The horse seemed calm now and just as bored as ever. From here Reed could see the main street. Wheatfield's buildings here were bigger, longer, and there were more of them, but unlike Anna's town, this human village was empty. Empty as his own had been in the mountains. Many of the windows were boarded up.

Uneasiness settled upon him. This town did not feel right. Not in the least.

Continue to #6?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Highest Score

The high score on the Galaga table at Peter Piper Pizza on Alameda Avenue had always been Jessica's.

JES, as she was known on the score boards in the tiny arcade, had never been conquered, sitting pretty at 281,280 points. She always carried a few quarters in her pocket just in case she needed a quick run against the hoards of bug invaders. Peter's was local, but was more than just a pizza joint. Built when her parents were teenagers, her mom had even worked there for a time when Jessica was little. Peter's held a lot of childhood memories. It was her place. Her sanctuary.

So you can imagine how she felt when she sat down at the table for a quick run and noticed something had changed. The number under the red high score read: 379,720 points. That's not right, she thought. Was the machine broken? She was about to hit the tiny red 1-player button when the screen flashed to the high score screen.What she saw made her nearly pick up the machine with both hands and slam it into the wall.

        SCORE     NAME
1ST   379,720      DAN
2ND   281,280      JES

No one had ever dared challenge her before and this guy was clearly good. DAN huh? Say goodbye to your dignity, DAN, she thought, you're just about to get PWN'D by a girl. She cracked her knuckles and hit the start button, pulling all 8 quarters out of her pocket and letting them spill across the screen edge. She had a feeling she was going to need them.

Thirty-six quarters and a day later, she sat back in the worn wooden chair and sipped her Cherry Coke, nibbling on the stem that had long since lost its cherry. She smirked at the high score board which now read:

        SCORE     NAME
1ST   403,330      JES
2ND   379,720      DAN 

A celebratory supreme pizza was in order, so she ordered one and sat in her favorite booth by the window, watching the joggers, rollerbladers and dog walkers pass by. Her mind was light years away in a tiny pixelized cockpit shooting with 75% accuracy. She almost wanted to play again just to push it up higher, but that was a silly idea. That was probably the best DAN had. He wouldn't dare show his face here again, whoever he was.

Considering her marathon, she knew she should take a break from playing for a while, but something was nagging at the back of her mind every time she rode by on her scooter, her palms sweating, adrenaline pumping through her veins. She pulled over into the next empty spot and hopped off, not even stopping to take off her helmet. I gotta see the scoreboard again, she thought, just a quick look. But once she was inside she couldn't fight habit and ordered a Cherry Coke, sitting down, figuring if she had come in she might as well play a round or two, just to calm down. She removed the cherry and chomped down on it.

She choked on the cherry when she saw the score had changed again. 502,340 was listed under the high score. Her pulse quickened, her fist tightening around the joystick. She spammed the fire button, knowing the machine would take its own sweet time to get to the high score list but trying to make it hurry anyway. Her left eye twitched a few times and she rubbed it to try and make it stop. She nearly missed what it said on the Top 5 listing:

        SCORE     NAME
1ST   502,340      DAN
2ND   403,330      JES
3RD   400,110      JUS
4TH   390,270      GIV
5TH   388,660      UP

Just give up!? This time she cursed and leapt up so fast that she spilled her Coke on the floor and knocked over her chair. A couple patrons watched her closely, she could feel their negative thoughts hit her like gunshots. Her face flushed. She hadn't meant to cause a scene, but it was just... This guy, whoever he was, he deserved to get hit by a truck.

Kate, the cashier on duty, glared like a statue of a nun as she ran up to ask for paper towels to clean up her mess. It was her fault, she would clean it up.

"What's gotten into you lately?"

"Paper towels?" Jessica asked.

"You didn't answer me, Jess."

"It's DAN."

"Dan? I didn't know you had a boyfriend."

"He's not my boyfriend!" She said a little too forcefully and then bit her pinky nail, "I mean, he's this jerk who keeps beating my score on Galaga."

"That's what all that was about?" Kate said, and laughed, reaching underneath to hand her a soapy rag. "Use this instead. It'll save a tree."

"It's not funny. This is serious."

"Oh come now, it's just a bunch of numbers."

"It's not. It's a matter of pride."

"Then go beat his score then. Don't stand around here whining about it. And no more tantrums. You'll scare away the business."

She sighed. Kate was right. "Sorry."

"Just clean it up. I'll get you a new Cherry Coke."

Winning didn't come easy at all this time. It was a lot harder. But two weeks later Jessica had finally done it. She rested her cheek against the warm glass and closed her eyes, still seeing the ships zooming at her. She could practically play in her sleep now. She even had dreams about little alien ships surrounding her like flies that she couldn't get rid of no matter how much she swatted at them. She squinted down at the screen.

        SCORE     NAME
1ST   565,880      JES
2ND   502,340      DAN

"In your face, DAN," she said, sitting up and stretching. She downed the last of her third Cherry Coke, shaking it for the last few drops. She burped and folded her arms. One thing was for sure. DAN would be back. She brought her empty glasses to Kate.

"I see you did it. Took you long enough," Kate said with a grin.

"Kate, can you keep an eye on the table this weekend? Tell me if you see anyone playing it more than an hour."

"Jessica I am not going to stand around playing spy for you. If you want to see this guy so bad, then stick around. I'm sure he'll show up. There's a lot of people in on the weekends."

The next few days Jessica practically lived at Peter Piper Pizza. She had no idea who she was looking for. DAN could be anyone. A fat old guy who'd been playing it since '81 - or maybe a little genius kid who had learned all of his tricks watching the good players on YouTube. Maybe DAN was short for Danielle? She realized just how little she knew about DAN. Other than DAN was a jerk. She really hoped it was someone she could slug in the jaw and not feel guilty about it. In her mind she acted out her exacting her revenge in a number of different ways, but most of all, she wanted to see the look of shock and disappointment that was sure to be on DAN's face.

So she waited, sitting at her favorite booth, watching the Galaga table like a fox watches a rabbit hole, just waiting for the prey to come out and play. As Kate had predicted there were lots of people coming in. Kate was giving her the eye, which she knew meant: if all the tables fill up, I'm gonna ask you to move. She hoped she wouldn't have to, but when the lunch rush hit, Kate stood over her table and Jessica quietly gathered up her things and meandered into the arcade, finally plopping on the wobbly barstool in front of Street Fighter II. She figured she might as well entertain herself and put in two quarters.

When she looked back at the end of the round, there was someone sitting at the table.

His lanky legs barely fit under the table. He looked to be about her age with well-kept hair, baggy jeans and a black t-shirt. She suddenly had to know was on the front of his t-shirt. She didn't look back to the game even as M. Bison beat the crap out of her Chun-Li and the Game Over screen flashed. Her eyes were locked on him. This was it. Now or never. She bit her nail again and steeled herself. Don't show any fear. He was a jerk and she had to put him in his place.

He gave a low whistle. He was on the High Score screen. He didn't say a word, simply slipping in a quarter into the coin slot. He squirmed in the chair, preparing himself for battle. It was now or never.

"DAN?" She said suddenly, surprised at the squeak in her voice. "You... That was my high score."

He turned, smiling almost as widely as the Yoshi on his shirt. He adjusted his thin-framed rectangular glasses, "JES, I presume? You're really good. I don't know if I can beat you this time. 525,770 is my all-time high."

Jessica couldn't say why but her anger melted away, replaced by something else entirely. He didn't seem at all how she pictured he would be.

"Sorry if I made you upset, I just wanted to make sure you would play again," he smirked. "Care to join me?"

She hesitated, wanting to gnaw her whole pinky off, but holding her hands tightly together. Her face felt hot. She wondered if the A/C was broken. It was hard for her to breathe. She nearly left the restaurant, nearly turned and ran out, but forced herself to walk over and calmly sit down opposite him. It felt so odd to sit at the other end of the table. Her heart was beating too fast.

"So what's your real name?" he asked as he slipped in another quarter and his level began, working the joystick expertly back and forth.


"I'm Daniel. But all my friends call me Dan... You can call me Dan." He looked up briefly and smiled at her. He was so nice, and he was kinda cute.

Jessica smiled back. "You can call me Jess."


Thanks for reading!

If you loved it, hated it, or somewhere in-between please let me know. I'm always open for improvement. If you like this one, why not read some of my other #FridayFlash entries?

I write new flash fiction every Friday. On Tuesdays I update one of my #TuesdaySerials: Last One Standing Tall and Eleven & Counting.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 5

This is Part 5 but it all started here...

"Hold on a sec," Andrew interrupted. "What does this story have to do with anything? Where did the egg come from?"

"If you would let me finish, Andrew," Aunt Jenna said, "I'll be happy to tell you. Here, help me dry him off."

The little fish-like dragon was clean now, no longer gooey from the egg. His mottled colors were even more vibrant and his scales shimmered like the inside of a oyster. Blue, green, pink. Andrew had a betta fish once, and he remembered that the males were always more colorful than the females. They were like peacocks, using colors to attract mates. The thought of more dragons like this one intrigued him. He took the towel from Aunt Jenna and was surprised when the little dragon curled up into the towel like a cat, rubbing against it and drying off.

"Why do we have to dry it off? You said it was a water dragon." He felt ridiculous drying off a fish.

"Lake dragons are very particular about their water, as you will see. May I finish?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said with a sigh.

"Maybe I won't finish if that's your attitude."


Aunt Jenna smirked.

"I mean, you should finish."

"No more interruptions?"

"I promise."

The baby dragon opened its wide mouth and made a noise that was halfway between a gurgle and a chirp. It reminded him of those plastic bird whistles you filled with water, or at least how he played them, which sounded more like a bird gargling water. He gently dried it off, surprised at how soft its fins were. They were smooth as pebbles, flexible as rubber, yet sturdy. The tiny fish-dragon curled up in his lap, keeping his eyes fixed on Aunt Jenna as she continued.

As I was saying, Erik wished to save the Fae maiden, even though there was a price to be paid. He did not know what the price was, but it did not matter to him at the time. He was in love for the first time.

"Andalaise, please grant my wish," he said.

"If I bond with you," she replied, "my connection will be restored. But know this, you may never leave this forest, lest we both shall die and fade from this world."

"I would never leave this room if I could be with you always."

"You are truly a fool to say such a thing. But how I love you. Take my hand and vow to me then. Cursed are you if you break it, blessed are you if you keep it. You, and all your descendants as well."

He held her hand tightly. "I vow to never leave this forest."

In that very instant, the bond was created between them. They could feel it in their bones. Later that night, Erik took Andalaise as his wife. They lived happily together in the forest, teaching each other the ways of their peoples and they prospered in the bounty of the land during their first harvest.

As their first Winter set in, she was already heavy with child. Their son, Liam, was born in the middle of a terrible storm. The blizzard continued relentlessly for seven days and seven nights. They were running low on food and Andalaise grew weaker each day. Erik gave up his portions to feed her that she might be able to feed their son. Each day the game grew more scarce. He knew he could find more food outside the forest, but knew he could not leave it. They would both die. Their son was scarcely a few days old and would die without their care. However, they would all die soon regardless without any food.

Facing such utter despair, he wept at the lake where he had rescued his dear Andalaise. His cries awakened the Silver Gulariss, the Queen of the Lake Dragons. She rose from her winter sleep under the mud at the bottom of the lake and crashed through the icy barrier. She looked down in anger upon Erik who scrambled backwards.

"Begone foul human! You have disturbed my winter slumber. You are not welcome in the realm of the Gulariss," she hissed, spraying water that turned to ice crystals on the air. All about her danced a mist that became like snow in the cold, ice forming along her delicate fantail and fins.

"Forgive me! I beseech you, oh noble one," he cried, "Andalaise, my wife and daughter of the Fae, and our newborn son are dying of hunger. I would do anything you ask if you would give me food for them."

The fish-dragon listened to his plea and her heart softened, for she was not a merciless creature. The winter winds blew, but she seemed not to notice, studying him, staring into his eyes with her own. He found he couldn't look away. They were golden orbs.

"Yes, I see you have bonded with the Fae. You are already in bondage to this forest. What manner of human are you, that you so carelessly throw your life away?"

"I am but a humble man with one wish, to protect those that I love."

"Ah, your heart is indeed pure. I can also feel the Fae powers. They are strong within you. Perhaps then you could be of use to me. Pledge your life to serve me, son of Man, and I will feed your family for a lifetime. They will want for nothing."

"How may I serve you?"

"As Queen of the Gulariss I lay a single egg once every eleven of your human years. Once I have laid seven eggs, I will die. My seventh will come this very Spring."

"Then you wish for me to care for your eggs? But why do they need my care?"

"Normally my mate would care for my eggs, but he was killed, taken as a trophy by greedy Men who valued his colorful scales. Now there is no one to protect my children when I am gone."

He bowed deeply before her. "Then it would be my honor. I will pledge to serve you. I shall take care of your eggs as if they were my own children."

The fish-dragon rose higher and let out a bubbly laugh. "I am deeply touched. You are truly noble, that you would treat me and my kin with such compassion. What is your name, human, that I might address you properly."


"Erik the Kind-hearted, extend your hand." He did so. Using her long whisker, she traced a symbol on his palm. It glowed red hot, burning into his skin.

"Erik, as you protect my children, so my children shall protect yours. Together we shall unite our families in friendship. From this day forward, you belong to the Clan of Gulariss."

He touched his face to the ground, "My Lady Gulariss is both noble and generous. I asked only for food and you have offered me friendship. I cannot thank you enough."

"Rise! Sir Erik of the Gulariss! It is I who should be thanking you. You have improved my mood considerably, for now I have hope for the future. That is beyond worth. But for now, let us think of the present. I shall bring food to your family. Enough to last you through this confounded winter. All I will ask of you now is that you return here on the first day of Spring."

The Queen kept her promise, more than fulfilling her end of the bargain. All through the cold, harsh winter, Erik's family had more than enough to eat, so much that much of it began to spoil and had to be stored deep within the snow banks.

The following Spring, he kept his end of the bargain and met the Great Queen as she came ashore in all of her beauty, to his surprise, walking on her finned limbs as graceful as a gazelle, her slim body held high like a swan's. Her whiskers plucked an oyster from her back, setting it before him. She caressed the surface and it opened, revealing six eggs, each a color of the rainbow: indigo, purple, red, orange, yellow and green.

"My time is nearly at an end. I shall fly to my nesting ground at the center of the forest. I must ask that you come along, so that you may retrieve the egg when I am done."

"Andalaise will guard the others while we are gone."

The Queen nodded to her and she bowed with respect. "Thank you, my Lady Gulariss. Your kindness has brought good health to my family." She turned and showed the small baby that was sleeping peacefully in a sling tied across her back.

"He is but the first of many. I see strong children in your future." Andalaise blushed and smiled.

"Come, Erik. You may ride on my back." She helped him up and he held onto her tightly as she took off, her fins reflecting the light, casting small rainbows over the ground. Andalaise watched them fly high into the sky.

Andalaise began to worry when Erik did not return, but she did not leave Liam or her new children, the six eggs, which she kept in a place of honor. But she need not have worried. Two days later he finally did return, carrying the last of the Queen's eggs: blue as a sapphire.

"And that very egg," Aunt Jenna finished, "Is the same egg that I gave to you today."

Where once Andrew would have clapped, laughed, or said it was an unbelievable story but a good one, he now sat in silence. He couldn't deny the truth, because it was sitting in his lap and smiling up at him.

Continue to Part 6?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Miracle Man

A Friday Flash by J.M. Rich

I feel like I'm at a damn AA meeting. Hello. My name is Mike and I have lung cancer. No, I never smoked. It was asbestos in my apartment. That's what you get for trying to do something yourself.

For the record, it's always too cold on the fourth floor at Danish General. Every time I'm stuck there the nurses won't do a thing about it except gimme another blanket. As if that helps.

But you know what I hate the most? I hate it when people stare at you like they could contract cancer just from being in the same room with you. I know, I know, most people know it isn't contagious like a cold. But most people seem to keep their distance just the same, don't they? I don't even think they realize they're doing it. The fake smiles, the awkard wave and "Hey, how's it going?" even know they know full well how's it's going. I'm dying. It's cancer. What do you expect?

Don't think I'm always this pessimistic. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows, same as the cancer. I just need to type all this up before I do break down and actually tell someone everything. Like any of you will believe me either, but there's just some things that I need to say here so I don't go blabbing and earn myself a permanent trip into the crazy ward. Hell, I know I'm going to end up there. It's only a matter of time now, isn't it?

Look, I don't know how much time I have, so I'm just gonna be blunt cause everything else I've tried writing sounds too haughty. I have a super power.

Any of you ever wanted a super power? Me, I always wanted super strength. I mean who wouldn't get a kick out of bending steel beams like plastic straws and kicking cars out of your way. I've always wanted to kick a Hummer.

You know what I ended up with instead? A cure for cancer. Leukemia. Alzheimer's. I'm a living antidote. It's all here in my fingertips. That's me. Miracle Man.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

I know one of you wise guys is saying, "Well why don't you heal yourself, genius!" Yeah, of course I tried that. That's the strangest part about this whole thing. I can help everyone but me. I don't know why. It doesn't make sense. Not that anything makes sense about all of this. 

I don't blame you if you don't believe me. Hell, I didn't believe it myself at first. The first few people I cured I just wrote it off as coincidences, until Simon. Then, I knew.

It was Vicky who signed me up for Hospital Pals program. She said it would be good for me. Considering she was nice enough not to dump my ass as soon as she found out I had Mr. Big C - I tend to listen to her. She's good - too good for the likes of me.

Anyway, my pal was Simon. Amazing kid. Wanted to be a cancer doctor. Can you believe it? He didn't deserve to be here, but can't you say that about a lot of these kids? Damnit, they're so nice. I envy the pediatric side of the ward sometimes cause it's so positive over there. Unlike this side of things. Too many nights where you wish you didn't hear the wailing down the hall. Not that it's all sunshine over there either. They just try to keep things upbeat for the kids when they can, you know?

Even though Simon was only like 8 or something and I was more than triple that, we had a ton of similar interests, including fast cars. Kid had a great eye for a Porche. We were car-watching in the glass-walkway over the street bridging Building II and III when it happened.

One minute he was fine and laughing about a purple slug bug and the next he was seizing. I barely caught him before he hit the ground. I panicked and called out for help. It was one thing to see someone seize, and I had seen my share in the ward, but it was another to see it happen to someone you care about. Someone so small.

My hands were shaking as I lowered him to the ground. I took off my jacket and slipped it under his head so it didn't bang against the cold tiles. No one was coming to help. I yelled again. I felt so helpless and so utterly useless. When it finally passed, he began to cry.

"I'm sorry, Mike. I peed my pants. I didn't mean to..." He had nothing to be sorry for. I held him in my arms as he cried and he hugged me tightly.

"Am I dying, Mike? Am I dying?" I was crying. I couldn't stand his suffering. I wanted him to get better and maybe that was all it took.

Something passed between us that felt like at first like a warm wave, but it intensified. I thought I was burning alive. It was the same as before with Gerald, with Emma, with Paulie. Only it was stronger now. The fires within me consumed everything until everything was black and charred.

It was a day later and I was back in my room when I came to. I called my nurse and asked about Simon. She seemed surprised but then said, "Oh I suppose you haven't heard yet. Well, he's apparently been cured like those other three people. They're saying it's another miracle of God. He's probably just gone into remission. That usually happens." I wanted to slap her.

Dr. Carmichaels met with me privately later that day. Asked me directly if I had noticed anything strange about any of the patients. At some point just before their recovery, each patient recalled being struck with a violent hot flash. Each patient had been with me at the time, touching me. A handshake. A hand on a shoulder. Hands helping him stand. A hug...

I kept my mouth shut. That night, I had to see for myself. I snuck around after hours and I tried to make it happen. By doing it on command I found I could control the heat like a faucet. I let it burn as hot as I could take it before dousing it and moving on. I couldn't stay in one place so I went everywhere. Seniors. Adults. Teens. Kids. Babies. I healed thirteen in that night alone before I became completely exhausted. By the end of the week they were calling this place The Hospital of Miracles. The sick were lining up to get in and the Press tried to squeeze in at every open door. No one knew what was causing it and with so many cases popping up with no evidence of me involved, I was removed from suspicion.

Security tightened though, and I found it harder to sneak around. I had to invent excuses, even forge a few things I'd rather not admit to. I should have stopped then, but I couldn't. Once I found this power, I knew I had to help as many people as I could. I had to.

Simon was like my son, the son I'll never have with Vicky. Everyday I think if I can just save a few more people like him before my clock runs out... But it's getting so hard.

I guess that's why I'm writing this. I want people to know the truth before they catch me.

Tonight I'm going for it. I'm shooting for the whole terminal ward. God help me whatever happens tomorrow, but I can't stand waiting anymore. I need to help. I need to heal. I just have to. I'm sorry I couldn't do more. I don't give a damn what happens to me anymore. My life isn't worth as much as someone like Simon. I've taken so many things for granted. The world will be better off when I'm gone.

Vicky, if you're reading this, please forget about me and move on to something better. You deserve it.

Mike Sands
a.k.a Miracle Man


Thanks for reading!

If you loved it, hated it, or somewhere in-between please let me know. I'm always open for improvement. If you like this one, why not read some of my other #FridayFlash entries?

I write new flash fiction every Friday. On Tuesdays I update one of my #TuesdaySerials: Last One Standing Tall and Eleven & Counting.