All Stuffed Up

baby

© James Pyles

“Why not, Buddy?”

“No magic. Anna have no magic. Not taking new apprentices. Just you.”

Keeping his promise, Landon told his best (human) friend Anna all about Buddy the Ambrosial Dragon and their adventures together, which started almost a year and a half ago. It had taken a long time to relate everything to Anna. Landon hadn’t realized just how much he and the dragon had gone through together.

“But couldn’t we teach her magic?”

After Landon told Anna everything, she thought it would be really cool if she learned some magic, too. Landon said he’d ask Buddy if he would take her on as his second apprentice. Today in the boy’s bedroom, the dragon gave him the answer.

Only the events that had occurred in Shadow of the Dark Wizard made it absolutely necessary for Buddy to train Landon in the mystic arts, and that was because the child had been accidentally infused with magical energy. If Buddy didn’t teach him how to control the magic inside, the magic would control Landon.

But such wasn’t the case with Anna. Like most other children, she was a perfectly ordinary human and had no access to occult energy, especially in this universe where real magic was all but unknown.

“She’ll really be disappointed.”

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Are They Windmills or Giants?

windmills

© C.E. Ayr

“Don Quixote?”

Wendy hadn’t visited her Uncle Brian’s place in Idaho for years but Mom finally “guilted” her into making the trip from California.

“I keep it as a reminder.”

They had been going through old keepsakes in his spare bedroom where she’d be sleeping, looking for family photo albums when they came across it.

“Of what?”

“That we can be easily deluded about what is and isn’t real.”

She thought this was as good a time as any. Wendy loved the old man but he had some pretty archaic ideas. “I brought you something.” She reached into her open suitcase, pulled out a book, and handed it to him.

“The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood,” he read from the cover. “I’ve heard of it.”

“I thought it might help you understand me better now that I’m grown up.”

“I’ll promise to read it on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

He left the room and came back a few minutes later with a dusty hardback he had obviously owned for decades. Taking it, she read the cover. “Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.”

“Right, Wendy. I’ll read your book if you read mine. Maybe you’ll learn to understand me better, too.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for January 21st 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

The image is obviously the iconic scene of Don Quixote in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s 17th century novel tilting at windmills which he imagined to be giants.

Yesterday was the Women’s March of 2018 which, like the same event a year before, was largely a protest against the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. I have mixed feelings about how some portions of it were executed, especially the fact of some protestors dressing in costumes designed to mimic female genitals.

Other women however, dressed as characters from Atwood’s novel which has now been developed as a television series.

Both Atwood’s and Orwell’s novels, written decades apart, predict a dystopian future where society is ruled by a totalitarian government. Orwell created a cautionary tale about what life would be like under a communist/socialist dictatorship, while Atwood took the opposite approach casting her totalitarian regime as conservative and Christian.

I used the image of “tilting at windmills” to illustrate, based on the manipulation of news and social media, how easily we can lose track of what is factual and what is not. If we simply believe what we’re told, then we can allow ourselves to blindly follow one ideology or another without considering the stability of the foundation upon which those beliefs are based.

So the younger and more liberal Wendy will make an effort to understand her Uncle’s perspectives while the older and more conservative Brian will do the same.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

River of Blood

river of blood

Blood in the Nile river in “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” CreditTwentieth Century Fox

Hashem said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn, he refuses to send the people. Go to Pharaoh in the morning — behold! he goes out to the water — and you shall stand opposite him at the River’s bank, and the staff that turned into a snake you shall take in your hand. You shall say to him, ‘Hashem, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you, saying: Send out My people that they may serve Me in the wilderness — but behold, you have not heeded up to now.’ So says Hashem, ‘Through this shall you know that I am Hashem; behold, with the staff that is in my hand I shall strike the waters that are in the River, and they shall change to blood. The fish-life that is in the water shall die and the River shall become foul. Egypt will grow weary of trying to drink water from the River.'”

Hashem said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt: over their rivers, over their canals, over their reservoirs, and over all their gatherings of water, and they shall become blood; there shall be blood throughout the land of Egypt, even in the wooden and stone vessels.'”

Moses and Aaron did so, as Hashem had commanded. He held the staff aloft and struck the water that was in the River in the presence of Pharaoh and in the presence of his servants, and all the water that was in the River changed to blood. The fish-life that was in the River died and the River became foul; Egypt could not drink from the River, and the blood was throughout the land of Egypt. The necromancers of Egypt did the same by means of their incantations; so Pharoah’s heart was strong and he did not heed them, as Hashem had spoken. Pharaoh turned away and came to his palace. He did not take this to heart either. All of the Egyptians dug roundabout the River for water to drink, for they could not drink from the waters of the River. Seven days were completed after Hashem struck the River.

Exodus 7:14-24 (Stone Edition Chumash)

Sekhet preyed on the Hebrew children and was protected by her lover Imhenat, who was among Pharaoh’s necromancers, they who practiced the occult rituals of the dead. She had long been thought to be only one of the many myths of the desert. Her name was used to frighten the Egyptian children into obedience. No little ones dared run away or disobey their parents, terrified she would come for them from the darkness.

One night some years previously, Imhenat found her weak and lying in the sand as he entered the wilderness on a personal pilgrimage. She was starving having not come across a man or animal in many weeks. He mistook her for an escaped slave and intended to rape and then flog her until she attacked.

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Night Prayer

pico duarte

Summit of Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic

Moshe Shmuel Cohen stood on the summit of Pico Duarte in the moonlight in front of the Dominican flag, the bust of Duarte and the “Christian symbol.” He had spent the day in a burrow well off the trail, concealed from light and curious eyes.

“You were not here my prior visit and are not so formidable as the Goyishe hunters believe.” He laughed bitterly.

“I was last here after Kristalnacht lamenting for my people, but how dare I pray to Hashem as I am? Hitler was a greater evil than I but there is an older evil seeking me. They are Van Helsing now but were Venandi when I was young. I’ll feed in La Ciénaga later, but soon I’ll need allies.

He turned to the cross. “No, not the God of the Christians for the Venatores claim him, but why would Hashem hear the prayers of a vampire?”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google maps street image and location and use it as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to the summit of Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic.

I really, really didn’t plan on writing yet another vampire story, but every other approach I could think of fell apart, particularly due to the fact that the name of the summit and the objects located there weren’t present before about 1961.

However, I did discover that a small population of Jews did settle on the island before and during World War Two, so I decided to involve my Jewish vampire as well.

I introduced Moshe Cohen in the story The Shadow Meeting which was part of my original Sean Becker series. That series stalled and so I relaunched it with The Beginning of the Fall. The most recent story is They Will Run You Down In The Dark.

A modern organization of vampire hunters currently calls themselves The Van Helsings, but in Na Gauna Ni Tevoro, I revealed their original name as “The Holy Order of Venandi,” “Venandi” meaning “hunter” in Latin.

I’ve been struggling to find a way to reintroduce Moshe into the current Sean Becker universe and, seeing a bit of Jewish history on the island, decided to have him originally visit their and climb the summit in or around 1938.

Oh, I found out that the most likely place to begin the hike and ascent of Pico Duarte is from La Ciénaga.

By the way, I did find an article about the history of Jewish belief in vampires.

How would a Jewish vampire feel about the Christian symbol and about Hitler relative to his own experiences? If the Van Helsings are actually an ancient and radical Catholic order split off from the main church and the Pope, how would that affect a vampire who had been Jewish or Christian before the “change?”

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Kepler Tomb

ruins

Fantasy wallpaper

Note: This story is over 6600 words long not including the afterword. You might want to get yourself a cup of coffee or tea and sit down in a comfortable chair before proceeding. Alternately, bookmark the page and read the story in stages. I hope you’ll find the effort worthwhile.

I found myself in the ruins again. I never imagined that I would wake up walking in the footsteps of an exo-archaeologist on a planet orbiting the red dwarf star Kepler 438b. No matter what I do, I wake up again in the ruins. On Earth almost a century ago, people thought the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun came with a curse. The curse turned out to be a myth, but it spawned any number of horror films, television shows, and novels. On Kepler, it turns out to be real, or real enough to keep me trapped here in a recurring nightmare.

How did I get into this mess?

As far as I know, my name is Jonathan Cypher but I only know that much because it’s what Raven told me. She also said I’m sometimes known as the Never Man, but so far that means even less to me than being Cypher.

All I know for sure is that I woke up one day in what looked like the bombed out ruins of Los Angeles. Then I kept waking up into a different world and a different life, including a particularly hideous nightmare. My most recent set of dreams had to do with saving someone who would otherwise have died in the London Blitz in 1940, but depending on who I saved or which other option I chose, subsequent history changed, usually meaning thousands or tens of thousands of people died who would otherwise have lived.

I finally managed to figure that one out, but now I’m in this mess and again it’s thanks to Raven.

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The Jammsright Limit

ramjet

Artist’s conception of a Bussard Ramjet – Found at Initiative for Interstellar Studies (i4is)

It had taken months for Arturo Patel to arrive at and get through the Heliosphere, the official barrier between the solar system and interstellar space, in the stolen prototype Jammsright-powered craft. He’d invented the Jammsright drive so he thought he should be the first to use it to leave the solar system and voyage to another star system.

The government hadn’t seen it that way since not only wasn’t he a qualified astronaut, he was fifty-nine years old. The bleeding edge space explorers have (with rare exception) always been young men and women who were thought best fit to endure the rigors of space flight.

Once he had managed to bypass the security interlocks between the space station and the ship’s docking arm, it was child’s play to hack the sensor systems causing the monitors to show everything was in standby mode when in actuality, the ship was being fueled and prepared for departure.

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Wilderness Pilgrims

horizon

© Sue Vincent

There was a sense of finality as the gateway between Gerliliam’s forest and this vast frozen wasteland closed behind the five Davidson children. At first they had questioned the wisdom of changing into such heavy clothes and coats, the weather in the forest being mild this morning, but now they faced a long stretch of frozen marsh with jagged snow-capped peaks beyond.

They were standing by four big stones which marked the exact place they were supposed to wait. There was a small, muddy pond right in front of them, but beyond that was only the vast flatlands covered with ice and snow.

Although the clothing provided by Gerliliam’s friend, an unusually friendly troll, kept them warm, they were all trembling with fright. Thirteen-year-old Mandy had the keenest sense of loneliness and responsibility. She was the oldest and now that the ancient grey dragon and his friends had departed, all of the others were turning to her.

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Revival (Not the Church Kind)

Chocolate Legs

From the YouTube video Project Soul – CHOCOLATE LEGS – Eric Benet (Live Band Cover) Freddi Lubitz

“Your cocoa skin against mine…Is all I need to help revive me…”

I’m dead and it’s all her fault. Oh, she didn’t actually murder me, but she knew it was dangerous. Well, that’s unfair. I was dying anyway. I had nothing to lose and she knew it. She was actually trying to help and I even agreed, but if I’d said no, I might have had a few more weeks or even months.

We met at a “Pagan Pride” event in Oak Park near Chicago. The place was actually pretty impressive compared to what I was used to. I’d just hit “the Windy City” and was staying at a cheap hotel wondering what I was going to do next. Kenadee had a little apartment on the South Side. She normally didn’t hook up with guys the same night she met them, but I have that affect on people.

Neither of us were exactly “pagan” people. They tend to be pretty nice and harmless, Crescent Moonies, Wiccans, and Heathens who pull together for local charities and social causes. I only went because they were having an open house and the food was free, plus they aren’t nearly as judgmental as churches, synagogues, and mosques.

She was there because being a witch, she had no other place to go for a social outlet plus she has a soft spot for puppies and they were having a fund raiser for the animal shelter.

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Saving One

St Paul's

St Paul’s Cathedral in London during the Blitz 1940

The dark-haired woman with the shimmering gown sighed. He hadn’t noticed that she was breathing before. “This is only the beginning. There are a great many things you will need to learn.”

“Such as?”

“Such as why you left four people trapped in a collapsed building with a bomb about to detonate?”

“I forgot about them. How could I…?”

Then he woke up. There was about to be an explosion. He could only save one of them.

Sunday, 8 September 1940 – London

A building had collapsed on them. Everyone who had taken shelter in here from the bombing had died except for those four, a man, a woman, and two children. Suddenly another man was standing in the center of what was left of the basement.

“Where…?”

It was dark, night but he could see outside through holes in the walls above them. There were explosions, the sound of thunder, the ground repeatedly shook. The black air was shattered by bright flashes of destruction. The drone of aircraft engines acted as background noise.

Jonathan Cypher saw five important things, a man, a woman, a little boy, an even younger girl, and a bomb. It had a Nazi insignia on it. Was it ticking?

“Sir, please help. We’re trapped here.” The man’s legs were buried under rubble. The woman, probably his wife, was unconscious with a head wound. The two children were clutching at her and crying hysterically.

“There’s about to be an explosion. You can only save one of them but please be careful whose life you save.”

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Not My Heaven

amusement park

© J Hardy Carroll

The ride slowed down and Jessie thought it was over. The man running it yelled, “Free ride” and it started again. He was dressed funny like the girl next to her.

“I’m Harriet. Isn’t this fun?” It was fun and scary. The sky was a different color and the children on the ride weren’t the same.

“Where are we?”

“Heaven, silly.”

“Am I dead?”

“We are but you can get off when it stops again.”

“Why am I here, Harriet?”

“So you know being loved by a Mommy and Daddy is better than anything else, even being in Heaven.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields writing challenge for 19 January 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

I pondered a number of different ideas for this one, from the sappy sentimental to murderous and dark. I decided to settle on “creepy carnival” but give it a happy ending. I thought about having Jessie actually die, but then figured I’d give her a break and a moral. Even being in paradise, I imagine the souls of all the children who died way before their time would still miss the Moms and Dads who loved them.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.