Friday, May 28, 2010

Guy's Worst Nightmare

Guy should have felt more confident about the rescue mission, but he was too busy feeling guilty about it. It was his fault they had grabbed Travis, but what could he do about it now? Move forward for the kid's sake, he told himself. He had to.

Why did they take him to the water park of all places? He didn't figure that one out until he peered over the fence and saw just how dark it was in there. After all, why would a little water park like this need lights when it only operated during the daytime? Sure there were a few here and there, but not nearly as many as an amusement park would at night. He climbed up over the top. Only a few sparse security lights near the maintenance buildings and shops were on. Shadows pooled everywhere else. This place could be full of them and he'd never be able to distinguish them from the darkness.

There was the water too. Although in the daytime it was bright and clear, now it was black and reflective, blocking his view of anything that might be swimming just beneath the surface ready to strike. Perfect conditions for a couple nightmares, he thought. Didn't most people dream of drowning? Guy had.

"Wouldn't it be smarter just to go through the front entrance?"

The sudden words caused the teen to loose his footing on the fence, tumbling over and landing hard on his side in some bushes. The crow flapped down and perched on his shoulder, peering down at him through a pair of silver spectacles.

"Guy? Are you alright?"

"Keep your voice down! We're supposed to be sneaking in, Lambent." He pulled himself out of the bushes as quietly as possible, pulling off the debris stuck to his clothes.

"I don't like this." Lambent wasn't watching Guy but looking in every possible direction. "You have no idea how many dregs are loose in here. We need to make a plan before we go any further."

"Travis could be hurt."

"You're not ready for this."

They both looked up as a loud buzz crackled over the park's PA system. The lights all around the park, faded, the amber lights dimming down to a glow, before being smothered by the darkness. Even though the lights were gone, they could see all of them now. Of course they had heard him enter the park. They had been waiting for him.

"Too bad," Guy said, "Looks like I have to be. Are you coming with me or not?"

"I wouldn't let you fight them alone, if that's what you were thinking. I don't run from nightmares."

They were edging closer now.

"Neither do I," Guy said, "Guess that's why we make a good team."

There were impossible to count because some were melting into others, combining into bigger creatures, morphing and stretching, while bits oozed off to become their own forms slithering along the ground.

"I suppose so. Ready when you are." His feathers began to take on the familiar white glow, emanating from within.

Focus, Guy reminded himself and closed his eyes, opening his mind wider. Too many. Need to plow through. He stretched his arm forward and Lambent transformed, turning into glowing energy in his hands as he formed a propeller on a pole. It solidified instantly and he gave it a spin, the blades whirling so fast that they dissolved the dregs as they leapt at him, leaving hundreds of droplets behind him as he ran through their ranks.

He called Lambent back from the shape as soon as the last ones fell away. No need to waste all their energy on the likes of these guys, not when there were more dangerous foes up ahead. He knew there would be, Logan had probably just amassed this many all at once to wear them down. The crow flew swiftly beside him.

"I'm going to scout ahead!"

"Don't!" Guy tried to snatch at him.

Lambent dodged. "I'll circle the park and find you."

"We don't have time for this!"

"Oh, but you do have time to waste running blindly around this place?"

He figured Lambent would try to take charge again soon enough, but he had to admit the idea was good. "Fine. Hurry!"

Guy also had to admit he was tired. It had already been a long day and now it was dragging into his night. He slowed down, trying to catch his breath, but tripped down into a channel of water. Water went up into his sinuses. He was dragged along before he broke the surface.

Thankfully he was a good swimmmer. He loved the water, but this was no time to play. He looked around. He had fallen into the lazy river, a circle of water that just floated everyone round and round and round. His mother's favorite. He had always tried to swim against the current. Now he let it carry him, might as well use it and save some strength.

He spotted the nightmares before they saw him and dove under the water. He flipped on his back, holding his nose and looking up through the cholorine water that stung his eyes for a moment. He could only see blurs and flipped back, kicking with his legs before he surfaced. Once he was around the corner he resurfaced again. At least the water was warm - that luke-warm temperature that always reminded him of a hotel pool. He climbed out at the next ladder and shook out his wet clothes, glad it was summer and a hot night, otherwise he might be in trouble.

There was no sign of anyone, including Lambent. He glanced about and saw the Lazy River had carried him to the Wave Pool, which was active, waves crashing into each other. What was that? He ran closer and peered at the end of the pool up on top of the ledge next to the lifeguard tower. Someone was waving at him. He edged closer. It was Logan Marshall and he had Lambent in his fist.

"Come up here and save your little Guardian, if you dare!" Logan shouted, slamming a black staff into the ground. Hundreds of nightmares dove into the pool as the ground shook, cracking the pool's floor. The water bubbled, turning black.

Guy didn't need any more invitation. He ran along the edges, blindly ignoring the number one rule of the pool. He slipped and skidded, tumbling into the waves. It happened so fast he couldn't tell which way was up and swallowed the nasty water before he could keep going. It wasn't until he surfaced that he realized something more was wrong. He was caught in a whirlpool. Logan stood up there, laughing down at him. Had Travis even been here to begin with? Was this all a trap?

"Of course it is." The voice boomed over his world, Guy's eyes snapping open to stare into Logan's face, surrounded by light. His heart pounded in his ears.

He lunged forward but straps held him down, even one around his neck, choking him. Logan shoved him back against the chair.

"Too bad, you were so close that time," Logan mocked in a sweet tone, "You should really try again."

"Stop it! Leave him alone!" That was Travis! Where was he? He couldn't see anything under the stinging light in his face. What happened? He couldn't remember anything. Why did he feel so tired?

"You have to break the cycle!" Lambent? He was here too? Where was here? Why couldn't he remember?

"But I'm having fun," Logan said, "Thirteenth time's the charm, I always say. Have a good night...mare."

The light flashed off. He couldn't see but felt the nightmare as it smothered him, squeezing his neck, his life-force fading slowly, draining into a glass flask next to him. The only light left in the room. Three shimmering bottles full already and the night was eternally young here. His eyes closed.

Another wave of guilt washed over him, nearly drowning him in sorrow. Lambent, why didn't I listen? I should've waited. I'm so sorry, Travis. I never should've gotten you involved. I'm not a real hero. I only wanted to be... in my dreams.

He awoke to himself in the center of an abandoned circus on a dark, moonless night, the shadows closing in. Logan's laughter echoed from every direction.


Testing the waters with some characters from my dreams and nightmares YA novel. Had this idea pop into my head last night and I just had to go with and see what happened. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it.  
        - Joanie


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 4

This is Part 4 but it all started here...

Andrew couldn't understand how Aunt Jenna behaved like nothing strange was happening.

This whole situation stressed him out, especially because nothing felt strange about it other than the fact that he thought that he should feel strange. He was giving a bath to a fish after all, or what resembled a fish anyway. This was ridiculous.

The fish in question squirted him in the face when he wasn't looking. Aunt Jenna laughed, but he was glaring as the water dripped down. He furiously wiped his face.

Too many questions bounced around in his mind. He knew she might get annoyed with him, but he hated being kept in the dark. He had to have answers.

"I don't get it," he started, "Why did you give it to me? Why didn't you hatch it?"

"Because he isn't mine. He has always been meant for you. Even before you were born, even before your mother was born, even before I was born, he was given to you."

He sighed. All she was doing was making him more confused. Why do adults have to be so confusing?

Her hand rested on his shoulder again. "Andrew, you are a very special boy. Do you know why?"

Adults always say things like that too. Does she want him to answer? He did anyway.


He knew he was being rude, but he didn't care. It was bad enough he had to stay here for the summer. Why couldn't this have been at least a normal summer like all the others?

"Would you like to hear a true story?"

He shrugged. It was as good as a yes, because he did think that Aunt Jenna was a good storyteller. He was a little old now for stories, but he wouldn't outright deny her the opportunity to tell one. Especially since this one was apparently true, which he normally would have doubted, but after the egg hatched he found he was a little more open to mysterious explanations.

He watched her as she carefully knelt down on the folded bath towel next to him. As she spoke, she scrubbed the small creature clean with a washcloth. It was actually holding still for her, seeming to like her voice. It was almost as if it was listening too. Her voice was magical.

Once upon a time, before you and I were born, this land was a forest: a world of trees, tall as the mountains, packed so close together you could hardly see the ground. Before long, an explorer came to settle on this land, having heard that it was good land. He was a good man, strong not only in body but heart as well. His name was Erik and he built a dwelling on this very spot.

He chose this place because it was close to a deep lake. Yes, the same lake that sits here today, just down the road. He swam like a seal and dove to the bottom of the lake. He discovered the lake was filled with fish -- fish so big they would not fit in this bathtub, even some that were as big as himself.

One day while hunting these fish underwater, a body fell into the lake above him, sinking fast down past him. It was a woman, bound to a rock, sentenced to die in the depths of the lake. Using his spear, he freed her and brought her to shore. He laid her on the ground, admiring her beauty. He had never seen anyone with such long, white hair and her skin had a hue like polished copper. She was wounded but breathing. When she opened her eyes, he realized she was not human.

"What manner of human is this," she asked, "who steals a Fae from the hand of death only to slay her with such hatred?"

"I cannot hate that which I have never met," he replied and threw away his spear.

"And if I slay my rescuer?" She drew dangerously close, her eyes so strange and wild.

He smiled. "To die by such lovely hands must surely be the most pleasurable way to die."

"Truly you are a foolish human," she said, "But I like you. I am called Andalaise."

"I am Erik."

Erik took her into his arms and into his home, where he dressed her wounds and gave her food and drink. They spoke together as the sun disappeared behind the forest and continued talking until it began to rise again. Erik had fallen in love with Andalaise, and she with him.

"I will always remember your kindness, Erik."

"Are you leaving?"

"Yes, I must go."

"No, stay with me. Be my wife."

"I cannot."


"I am dying. The humans who threw me into your waters cut down my home, the tallest tree in the forest. It was my tie to this world. I shall fade from this world when the sun touches the highest point in the sky."

"Is there nothing I can do?"

"You have made the end of my life peaceful. That is enough."

"No, I will not let you die! I do not wish to be alone again now that I have found you."

"I can grant your wish, but it comes with a price."


Continue to Part 5?

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Stupid Tea Party

Most girls her age carried dolls, but MaryJane carried Sprinkles, a fairy porpoise.

"Sprinkles is going to be a famous paleo-proctologist when she grows up." MaryJane wasn't sure that was exactly how you said it, but it cracked Mom up everytime she said it that way and she loved to hear Mom laugh.

"Stuffed animals can't grow up, stupid," Lily said, "It's just pretend. Don't you know how to play tea party?"

MaryJane could ignore a lot of insults, but stupid was the one she couldn't forgive. She snarled.

"I'm not stupid, you're ass-in-nine." She had heard Mom say that to her ex-boyfriend once. She grinned.

Lily's eyes went wide and she squealed, "Daddy! She called me a bad word!"

MaryJane didn't cower as the six-foot-six cowboy-man towered over their tea party. She wasn't afraid one bit. She looked up at him and showed her teeth. She offered him a plastic tea cup. Hers was filled with slime. He'd like that.

He frowned. "Watch your language, little miss."

"Were you cussin MaryJane?" That was her mom right behind him and she did cower then.

"No! I didn't cuss!" It was true. It was a big word, but not a bad one.

"She called me an ass!" Lily said with a sniffle. She was faking for sure.

"That's not what I said, I said--"

"MaryJane!" Of course Mom wouldn't believe me, she thought.

"I'm sorry!" She wasn't sorry but that was what you were supposed to say so people would leave you alone.

"Don't tell that to me, tell Miss Lily."

She didn't want to tell her. She bit the inside of her lip until it hurt really bad and she could taste the blood.

"Right now, young lady."

She held out her fairy dolphin to Lily, "Sprinkles says, I'm sorry that MaryJane has to play with someone like you. You're not very nice and you have the imagination of a slug."

She ran off before anyone could catch her, with Sprinkles clutched to her chest. She knew she was squishing her, but she couldn't help it. She knew she had gone overboard this time. The backyard gate was open and she ran out of it, not looking back.

MaryJane wondered again if Mom wouldn't be better off without her. Then she would be able to find that new man she was looking for. MaryJane didn't like any of them, especially not this dumb cowboy and his daughter. Then Mom could marry someone and have new babies. MaryJane could live at the circus with all the other freaks. Everyone always told her to go there, anyway. And who knows? Maybe the circus people would listen. Maybe they would laugh. Maybe they would like Sprinkles.

MaryJane kept running. Sprinkles could be her manager. She did always want to be a human cannonball.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Last One Standing Tall #3

It all started here, but feel free to begin wherever you like.

Reed did not sleep well that night, which was becoming all too normal for him. Too many sounds echoing in the house disturbed him every time he drifted off on the couch. All the furniture seemed to come to life in the darkness and a few times he thought heard someone walking along the upper floors where Anna was sleeping. He missed his hut, missed the familiarity of his village. This human village was too strange.

The night passed too slowly. When he could no longer keep his eyes closed, he sat under the lamplight in the study, examining some maps of the area. Eventually he grew restless even of this and decided to go for a walk.

As soon as he opened the door, the desert winds blowing through the town made him regret his decision and duck back inside, shivering. He stared at the coat rack in the entryway. Humans were known for being able to weather cold climates by their woven fabrics. He reached out and touched a man's coat. Could he? There was no one to stop him.

He slipped on the coat as he had seen the people wearing them on the streets. He pulled up the collar and took a hat as well, although it made him itch under the brim. He turned towards the door to try his luck again and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror hanging on the wall. If he stood a certain way, he looked human, except for his bare feet, because the coat only went down to his knees. But in the darkness it was hard to tell any details. Even the leaves on his head looked like curled locks of hair in the darkness.

He walked down the streets, keeping to the shadows, surprised at how much warmth he retained through the coat. Most of the buildings were dark now, except for the saloon, the light pouring out into the street. Men stood just beyond the windows. He stood near the porch just before the rectangles of light. Reed could hear every word they said.

"Come off it already, MacDougal."

"Just let him yak so he'll shut up already."

"It don't matter what we do. The way I see it lads, they're always gonna come back unless we strike 'em at the heart. Burn 'em all down, I says. Before they get us first."

"And burn down the whole mountainside? We need that timberland."

"Forget about the timber! This is an invasion!"

"That's a load of tall tale nonsense."

"No, it's not! It's true! I've seen 'em! There was one today with that Daniels girl! Ask anybody and they'll tell you!"

"Sit down before you tear your skirt!" A chorus of laughter echoed, rattling the window panes.

"Oh sure, ye don't care cause it's just one now. But that's how it always starts, isn't it? He's a scout for war! I think that girl's working for 'em too."

"Who cares about her?"

"Mr. Reinheart does. He wants her dead, just like her Daddy."

Any other conversation died down immediately into silence.

"Now I got your attention, don't I? Ask him yourself. He knows all about the Xylem. Not so crazy now, am I?"

"I don't remember appointing you as my spokesman, MacDougal."

"I-I didn't see you there, sir."

"Of course not, you were far too drunk, weren't you? I believe I've mentioned this to you, Elroy, so correct me if I'm wrong, but we have had this conversation before, have we not? About ranting drunkenly in public? Disgraceful."

"Y-yes sir, that we have, sir. But I didn't--"

"And yet, here I find you, in public, completely intoxicated, and raving about something we discussed in confidence."

"But you said-"

"And I also heard that you attacked Miss Daniels today... in broad daylight."

"Well I," his tone switched immediately, "Lord no! Please! No, I have a family! Two wee lasses! I'm begging you!"

"Those are your nieces, Elroy. I can tolerate a liar, but I despise a beggar."

A gunshot followed. Reed flinched. He had never heard anything like that before. He sprang onto the porch, peering into the window, but could not see anything past the crowd of men, which edged towards the windows, pressing against them. The sound was still echoing in his mind.

"Gentlemen, please. Calm yourselves."

"You killed him!"

"Be honest. Who among you will actually miss that fool?"

Another gunshot rang through the air.

"Anyone else give a damn?"

Reed could hear the boards creaking under their feet. No one moved.

"You know, Elroy was right. This is a war. You are either with me, or against me. You choose to cross me at your own risk. I warned Elroy once, but as you can see I am not the most patient of men."


"What? Oh... right. The bodies. Take them out back. If anyone asks questions MacDougal drank himself into a rage and killed poor Frank. I shot MacDougal. Had to. Self-defense. He was insane, ranting about the craziest things. Plant people! Imagine that."

Some of the men moved away from the window, giving Reed a clear view of the man. He was cleaning his gun, such a strange instrument to Reed's eyes, with a handkerchief. The reflection off his glasses flashed white as he turned his head towards the window. His gaze was like a wolf's and Reed froze under it. The man grinned. He mouthed something. I see you.

Reed backed away from the window. He was long gone by the time the man stepped out through the saloon doors. The man held his gun up to the moonlight, watching it gleam against the surface.

"See you soon."

Continue to Part 4?

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Last Flight

A Friday flash fiction by J.M. Rich

Milo dreamed of flying.

Not the conventional flying, with planes or hangliders or even jetpacks. He dreamed of having wings. Such thinking was forbidden, so he kept it locked away in his heart. Everyone could tell something was up with him because he was always staring at the sky. Even while walking down the street. It was surprising he didn't have a permanent neck cramp from it.

He even had a pet bird, Petey by name. It was the typical issue, a green parrot. There was something in that too. When no one was looking he would let Petey fly anywhere he wanted, although often he sat on his shoulder. His mother had once caught Milo talking to himself, but in actuality, he was talking to Petey.

"If I set you free, will you tell me how to grow wings?"

Petey dipped low in a bow. "Come with me and you can ask the Great Bird himself."

"You want me to come with you?"

"You are my family. The only one I have."

"I'm not a bird."

"Yet living on the ground is killing you, though you do not realize this."

"What if they won't let me in to the Kingdom?"

"Then we will find somewhere else to go."

Milo scratched gently behind Petey's head. "What about my family?"

"You are no longer a fledgling. The time has come to leave the nest."

They left the next evening in Milo's plane. He did not respond to the calls to turn back as he neared the edge of the island. No one bothered to chase after him. It was too much effort for only a small plane, driven by a young man with a bird-sized brain.

Petey asked directions from a flock of seagulls and although they were wary of the flying machine, they could not break their vows and revealed the location of the Bird Kingdom to the young parrot.

They flew on for what seemed like days, always toward the horizon, always below the clouds, with the endless sea in all directions under them. He was low on fuel, but he did not tell Petey until it was too late. He couldn't have turned back. He would not return to that world again.

The warning light flashed. The tank was empty. It was only a matter of minutes before he would fall out of the sky.

"You fool!" Petey bit his hand, "Why! Why did you come all this way knowing you could not make it?"

"I had to try. I really thought I could. I gave up everything, and if nothing else, at least I can fly for real just once."

Milo unbuckled his seatbelt, and though Petey tried to stop him, he leapt from the plane. The plane itself spiraled down, down, down, splashing briefly before disappearing under the waves.

Milo closed his eyes, his arms wide, fingers splayed. This is what it was like to truly live, to fly so fast he didn't have a breath.

Milo never hit the water.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 3

This is Part 3 but it all started here...

Andrew froze, afraid to move at all, afraid he would drop the egg, or worse, that whatever came out decided Andrew looked delicious enough for its first meal. He heard a high-pitched chirp. As he held his breath, he could hear the cracks open as they spider-webbed all over the surface.

Up through the center burst an opaque horn. He leaned back as it disappeared and thrust upward again, the little horn snapping off, falling to the ground. The egg split open and a smooth magenta head poked through. It took it a few tries to slide out between the crack. The creature opened its toothless mouth in its first breath of air. It pushed through more, revealing catfish-like whiskers on its cheeks that reached outwards like feelers on an ant, carefully inspecting the air and rubbing against his hand as he carefully held it out towards it. It chirruped, and squirmed, opening two black eyes that stared deeply into his own.

His fears faded. He felt a pang of worry over the creature as it wobbled this way and that trying to break out. He wanted to help it, but he remembered what Aunt Jenna had said about the baby chicks. If you helped them, they would never be able to help themselves. He sat back, setting it on his lap, watching it, waiting, wanting to help but holding back. His hands were shaking so he held them together. It was taking forever, but to him it was happening so fast, he was caught up in every detail.

Fins slipped out of the other cracks, sending shell bits tumbling down the sides. It screeched as pulled itself forward, the shell falling apart behind it. It wasn't until the creature had stumbled forward, shrugging off the egg bits that Andrew could finally see its entire body.

It was a fish! Or was it? It couldn't be a real fish because it was obviously breathing air and looking around curiously, without panic. Its lower fins were able to hold it upright, although it wobbled. Two of the pectoral fins looked more like bird wings and it wasn't until it started to flap them that Andrew realized this definitely wasn't a fish after all.

Its frantic fluttering managed to get a foot off the ground before it tumbled into the dust. It cried out and continued to flap but became stuck on its side, only managing to kick up a dust cloud. Andrew brushed the egg bits off his lap and crawled towards it, again reaching out a hand towards it. What if it bit him?

He touched its tail fin, which looked like the tails of the fancy goldfish he had seen at the pet store. The tail was delicate and brilliantly colored. Robin's egg blue faded into firey orange with yellow and sea green inbetween and covered in black spots which also ran up its back. It squirmed and turned back to see him touching its tail and they both froze. Its eyes were intelligent, not at all like the glassy expression of a normal fish. It blinked, watching him with wide eyes.

Andrew didn't dare move as it slowly righted itself and came forward, its catfish whiskers alert, it's eyes never breaking its stare with him. Slowly it crawled towards him on those weird fins. It opened its mouth and chirupped again. A question? Andrew was lost in its eyes again, eyes that seemed so innocent. It wouldn't bite him. He could feel that. He reached toward it.

He stopped halfway when it leaned forward, meeting his hand, nuzzling against his palm. He nearly pulled back as vibrated, gurgling. Was it purring? That wasn't right, but it was close because it seemed happy. He petted down its back as it arched to meet his hand, even letting him pet its dorsal fin, which felt soft as silk. It stumbled closer to him, feeling him with its whiskers, and examining him. Before he knew it, it had climbed on his lap and he was sitting there staring at it as it stared back at him.

"Hey," Andrew said.

It smiled, its mouth open.

Andrew was about to say something else when it broke its gaze and stared over his shoulder. He turned around to see Aunt Jenna standing there.

"Well, don't just sit there, Andrew. Bring him inside."

"Aunt Jenna, I..." He wanted to apologize, but he also had a million other questions in his mind, the greatest of which was what should he do next. She didn't seem nervous at all. It was as if he had brought home a puppy or any other normal pet.

She knelt down beside him and the creature backed off slightly, but didn't leave his lap. She opened her hand and inside was a blue muffin. She offered it to the creature. It felt the muffin with its whiskers and then snatched it, shoving it into its mouth, chomping down on its own whiskers. It slurped clean the whiskers, smacking its lips, licking them. It leapt forward at her, but Andrew caught it. The creature wasn't too hard to hold onto since it was sticky from the egg fluids.

"The poor thing is starving! I bet you're ready for some dinner too, hmm? Let's get you two cleaned up."

Andrew nodded and stood up, cradling the creature in his arms. They were both sticky and dusty.

"I still don't know what it is."

"What he is," Jenna said, "is a gulariss, a lake-dwelling dragon."

Continue to Part 4?

Monday, May 10, 2010

A New Look and a Novel Update

After seeing what some of my fellow #FridayFlash friends have done with their blogs, I decided that "Nightcrafter" was definitely a few years overdue for a new site update. This time around I'm getting rid of the all-black look for something much easier to read with better contrast. I saw a lot of people saying it's easier to read without the black and after a few days of trying out this new template, I have to agree. I went with something a little old-west-victorian-esque because I'm a huge fan of SteamPunk in general and it's not too distracting from the writing itself. :)

In more important news, I'm about half-way through the third-draft thanks to some great feedback from my two devoted beta readers. Due to recent life-events (including a promotion at my job and my little brother moving in) I got behind in my original launch schedule. I should be ready to release during Fall 2010 though - and I'm still going with Amazon's CreateSpace due to all the good reports I've heard from fellow NaNoWriMo authors. I'm considering using the "free-copy" to print my first-draft just for my own sake, to put on my shelf to remind me of why I'm doing all of this... to write because I love storytelling. I'll post a pic if I end up doing that! It'll be fun to design the cover as well. I helped with a few children's book covers for one of my coworkers in LA and it was a blast!

Here's to more good things to come this year!

Friday, May 7, 2010


The margarita wasn't working for Tiffany. Sure it was cold, but not nearly cold enough. Again she asked herself just what the hell she thought she was doing in the one of the hottest places in the world during the hottest time of the year. But in the end, it all came back to him though, didn't it? Wasn't it worth getting away from it all, just for her own sake?

Even her back was sweating now, beads trickling down and driving her insane until she finally leaned forward, attempting to peel her thin blouse away from her back and waft in some fresh air without attracting too much attention. Not that she didn't already stick out here. She couldn't deny it. She was never very good at blending in anywhere. She hoped she didn't smell as bad as she felt.

She tried to focus on the music. What there was of music, anyway. The ancient radio played mostly static, and the clunky speakers scattered around echoed mostly feedback, but there was a band playing. They were the usual fair: the trumpets, guitars, light percussion and a trio of singers all in tune. It was a happy song and even though she couldn't understand a word they were saying, it comforted her. Or maybe the margarita was kicking in now?

Her cellphone vibrated and she dug it out of her purse, her heart pounding. Was it him already? She didn't dare delete his name until she was sure he would stop calling her. Thankfully the name on the screen flashed "Maria" and she answered.

"Shame on you, Miss Tiffy! Why did I have to hear from your sister that you were in town, hmm?"

Penny. That figured. Her older sister did have a big mouth. She had to let someone know she would be out of the country for a while though.

"Okay, the silent treatment. Well, I'm coming to pick you up no matter what you say anyway, so let's skip the drama and tell me where you are." Tiffany had forgotten how nice it was to hear her musical voice.

"I'm sorry, I just wanted to be alone."

"Nonsense. Don't make me Google you." They laughed.

After a little more nonsense, Tiffany finally caved and told her everything. Maria arrived half an hour later and stormed into the bar.

There wasn't much more to say, but they shared another margarita together, sometimes laughing, other times crying, but always ending back at the same point.

"You shouldn't stay indoors like this. It's a nice day."

"Says you! It's hot!"

Maria rolled her eyes, "Oh please, you have no concept of hot little miss Massachusetts!" They both laughed. "Besides it's not even Noon yet. Speaking of which, I'm starving. C'mon, I'm buying."

Lunch wasn't what Tiffany had expected at all. The truck looked more like it should be selling ice cream to kids, especially since the side of it was covered in painted cartoon characters, all of the most popular ones from the States and some foreign ones she didn't recognize at all. There were a lot of kids gathered around, but there were adults too and the line wrapped around the delapidated playground. Tiffany was fanning herself but it was even hotter now, even with her wide-brimmed hat shading herself. Maria seemed energized by the heat, even more so than usual.

Tiffany didn't complain so much about the heat. She was too busy chatting up Maria and describing the smells that were wafting out from the truck and the hungry people lunching.

"Promise it's not too spicy?"

"I'll tell them to just give you the tortilla," she said and they laughed again.

"What's so special about this taco truck anyway?"

"You'll see," Maria said, grinning like a little girl with a secret to tell.

Tiffany found out too late what she meant when she was staring into the face of a young man her age who had a smile that was even wider than Maria's.

"And what can I get for you, Senorita?"

Tiffany wasn't surprised that he spoke English. Almost everyone spoke a little, enough to deal with tourists like her, but she was surprised that he had an accent similiar to Maria's - which meant he had probably spent some time States-side like she had, probably for college.

She wanted to give Maria a dirty look or kick her with her heels or something, but found herself for the first time in a long while with nothing to say. She was even hotter than she had been all day, even under the truck's awning with the young man's fan blowing a cool breeze against her face.

"Emile, this is my friend, Tiffany - you know, from Brown?"

"Oh yeah?" He offered a hand. "Nice to meet you."

Tiffany shook it, squeezing, his grip was good but not crushing.

"How bout dos especiales?" Emile pointed to the menu. There were no pictures so Tiffany had no idea what was in it. Tiffany was boiling in the heat, her vision clouding.

"Perfecto!" Maria paid him, but his eyes were watching Tiffany, still smiling.

There were a few complaints from the line behind them. Emile shouted something back to them. Then he turned back to Tiffany. "I'm off soon, want to hang out later?"

"Yes." Tiffany's face turned bright red, but it wasn't from sunburn.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 2

An urban fantasy serial.

Part 2 - Reality Checks Out

"Seriously, what is it?" Andrew asked. He always pictured a dragon egg looking something like this. That thought was ridiculous though. It couldn't be real. He was old enough to know better.

Aunt Jenna shrugged. She had to be hiding something.

"Is this a joke?" he asked.

"Andrew, now would I pull a prank like that on you?" Aunt Jenna asked, grinning.

She had pulled a few good pranks on him before. None of them ever went this far though. How could she make something that moved like that? But it felt too real to be a bunch of Mexican jumping beans or something like that. He knew this because one time he had secretly handled one of Jenna's incubating chicken eggs that was ready to hatch, just to see what it felt like. This egg moved like one of those. He had felt life inside.

"Sissy!" That was his mother calling.

"It's about time for your parents to get going," Aunt Jenna said, "Let's go see them off, shall we?"

Andrew looked down again at this present. He was about to ask her something more about the egg, but she had already disappeared inside. He didn't know what to do with himself. Andrew was afraid to take the egg out of its box. It wasn't that he thought he might drop it or that he would break it somehow. He didn't want to touch it again. He put the lid back on and had to press it down hard to get it to shut, making the air squeal out. The box rattled in his arm and he nearly dropped it. If this was just a painted Mexican jumping bean, it was worthy of a Guiness World record.

"Andrew?" That was his father that time.

He didn't want to make him mad, so he put the present down, nestling it behind a patch of rosemary and hurried up the back porch steps into the house. They were all there waiting for him in the living room.

Just like the start of all of his summers, there they all were, lined up like a photograph. His parents, standing behind his luggage and his Aunt Jenna exchanging some last words with them in hushed tones. They gave him their attention as he entered. Had anything changed this time? He supposed their hair mostly, especially his father's which was receding further every year.

"Did you thank Aunt Jenna for your present?" His mother asked.

"Thank you Aunt Jenna," he said very quickly.

"Don't forget to give your parents a hug and a kiss goodbye," Jenna said.

How did she disarm a conversation so easily? It was one of the reasons why he didn't run away from the farm every summer (although admittedly he had tried once).

It wasn't that his parents weren't nice, they were just strict. Jenna said it was because he was an "only" child. Andrew hated that term, because everyone said it made him selfish and greedy behind his back. He pretended not to hear. Jenna seemed to be the only one who didn't think so.

He dutifully gave his mother and father a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and they returned the same. He could tell his mother was a little choked up, she always was when she wasn't going to see him for a while, but she managed a smile this time.

"Take good care of your aunt," his father said, "You're a young man now."

"I will." His dad smiled and Andrew stood a little taller. "Have a good summer," Andrew added and then, "I'll miss you."

"We'll miss you too," his mother said as they walked out arm in arm to the car.

Andrew stood on the porch with Aunt Jenna to watch his parents' car back down the gravel drive. Andrew and Jenna waved as his dad turned the car around and drove back across the boards bridging the stream, his mother looking back one last time before they were out of sight. The rumbling of the car's engine faded under the buzzing cicadas and then they were gone. He wondered if he didn't just imagine his time off the farm. That new thought scared him a little. He may have been older now, but it didn't make things any easier to deal with, that was for sure.

A hand rested on his shoulder. Jenna's touch comforted him a little, but it didn't completely drive away his thoughts. He blurted it all out before he could stop himself: "Aunt Jenna, why do I have to stay here every summer?"

"No one's making you stay," she said. Technically his parents were, but he knew what she meant: I'm not making you stay.

He looked away. He didn't like seeing her sad, but still, it just wasn't fair. "I didn't mean it like that," he said.

"Where did you put it?" she asked.

Now he felt really guilty. He pointed to the backyard.

"It needs you," she said, and he swore that she had a different look to her then. He didn't know what it was but he felt an urgent need to go outside to check on it. She went into the kitchen. He could hear the faucet running as she clambered in the cabinets searching around for a pan.

He knew when she was cooking like that she wanted to be alone, so he headed back outside and sat down on back porch steps, staring at the present between the rails of the porch. He blinked. Did the present just move again? Maybe this was some kind of dream and he'd wake up back in his bed at home. It would be the first day of school and summer would be a memory.

When it lurched forward and toppled out of the garden, over the low bricks, he rushed forward, tripping over his feet. He scooped it up out of the rosemary and pried off the lid, throwing it aside. What he saw nearly made him faint, his vision turning dark for a moment in his excitement.

He traced the crack running along the egg with his fingertips. The egg lurched again, the crack lengthening, branching off into several smaller tributaries. He dug his fingers underneath and lifted it gently from the box. It felt like a warm mug of hot cocoa and he held it close to him, being careful not to crush it, listening for a heartbeat.

He only knew one thing for sure as it started to hatch. This was no practical joke.

Continue to Part 3?

Saturday, May 1, 2010


you can't see what's going on
underneathe the surface
hiding in the shadows
a hundred fathoms deep

is it so dangerous
or is it only a refraction
magnifying what isn't there
or is it lurking nearby
masking its identity
tricking you again

remember the trench?
in that deepest darkness?
sight is meaningless there
your one tiny light
can only go so far
and often it hides the truth

you'll never see
the two rows of teeth
open wide
ready to snap