The Thirteenth Sign

ferry

Photo by Jayant Kulkarni on Pexels.com

“This is most unusual.” The ferryman, standing at the head of his riverboat, guided it steadily, pull by pull, across waters darker than pitch.

“It is allowed. I have Persephone’s blessing.” The voice from beneath the ashen robes and hood was deep, husky, even coarse, but still unmistakably female. It was the only sign of her identity besides a vague shape, for no part of her flesh was visible to him.

While the waters of the Styx were liquid obsidian, the mist surrounding them swirled white as smoke, perhaps belched out between the Underworld and the living by the furnaces of Hades.

“Sisyphus had Persephone’s ear, and you chose your timing well, what with the winter solstice coming upon the land above.” The old man took another stroke, and then listened as if someone might call. Even to the cloaked figure, he looked unkempt and foul, his stench could have been rotting fish, the breath of rats, or gangrenous flesh. His long, stringy hair and beard dripped an unsavory substance.

Continue reading

Tower of the Black Prince

tower

Image of “The Tower” Tarot card found at biddytarot.com/

Sir Edward, the Black Prince, was startled to stupefaction at discovering himself suddenly removed from the cries, blood, and gore of the Battle of Crécy. Father had left the field intentionally, gambling on his son’s ability to win the day. Now sorcery had stolen victory from him and placed him where?

Her hideous screams followed her all the way down from the top of the tower as she fell, their last echo dying as she struck the earth and stone with a sickening “thump.” She bounced once, which almost made him laugh to his horror, then she ceased to move at all.

The night, for it was night here, was illuminated by flashes of lightning, rolling thunder causing him to tremble. His sturdy mount, white mane and noble stature, struggled against the bit and reins, trying to escape the macabre scene, but he was in control…barely.

Continue reading

Sharing a Lost Moment

death

Photo credit: saurabhbot09bot

“Just because they we lost contact with him doesn’t mean the worst, Amalia.” Nicholas Bishop nearly reached over to touch her hand, but instead, let it join his other one, cradling his coffee cup. He followed the younger woman’s gaze out the coffee shop window. Traffic was heavy, even this early in the morning. Las Vegas Boulevard was clogged with motorized humanity, trying to get to offices and schools before the August heat overwhelmed their air conditioners.

“You know Matt would have found a way to get through to us.” Her voice was husky, which Nicholas found sensual, but it was because she’d been up all night crying. He supposed the two of them might have gotten married someday, except his work as a climatologist kept him away from home for weeks or months at a time.

Continue reading

Book Review of “Reviver”

reviver

Promotional cover image of Seth Patrick’s 2013 novel “Reviver.” Note: Not the original cover or title.

I probably wouldn’t even have read Seth Patrick’s novel Reviver (2013), but I noticed on the back cover a small review by SF author Neal Asher. I’m familiar with Asher’s work and even share the Table of Contents with him in a recent SciFi anthology, so naturally I was intrigued.

A few weeks back, I was at the local branch of my little public library, and although I was already reading two books, found myself stuck there with my books and my beloved laptop still at home. So I started wandering the stacks. This library is small enough not to differentiate between general fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, so they are all intermixed. I was randomly strolling through, occasionally picking up and reading the summaries of various novels, when I happened upon “Reviver” and noticed Asher’s name on the back cover. I figured, what the heck.

This is Seth Patrick’s very first novel, and I can only imagine he went through quite a few iterations before he arrived at the final product I consumed. It was a terrific mix of horror, mystery, and a hint of speculative fiction. I know there are purists who detest that sort of thing, but I never was one for the extreme blood, guts, and gore of modern horror. Yes, there is graphic imagery in the novel, but nothing I couldn’t handle, and the psychological horror totally hooked me.

Continue reading

Senegalia and the Gods

fairy

Photo credit: Ingrid Endel

If Senegalia were human, she would look like an eleven-year-old girl, but even though she was the youngest in her family, she was over three-hundred-years old.

That’s not as long as it seems, since for the first one-hundred-and-fifty years after emerging from her pupa stage, she fluttered about the nest, and later, the verdant wooded high-canopy with the other overly curious and somewhat clumsy adolescents, a collection of fireflies, each glowing some shade of amber, sapphire, emerald, or ruby, no larger than three-year-old children, cavorting nude, for clothing was a human concern, and existing in a state both being careless and carefree.

For Senegalia, she believed her life was one of eternal play with the other nestlings, gossamer wings fluttering as fast as invisibility, racing around the feusha blooms, dodging errant moonbeams, their overarching background of earth tones and the deep greens of a mythical rain forest, competing to be the fastest, the most acrobatic, and certainly majestically fearless fliers. Of course, the grown-ups were always watching them, secure in the knowledge that they were all safe in the fantasy pocket universe, nestled in a depression of local timespace right next to the larger quantum reality of their greatest enemy, humans.

Continue reading

She Rides a Pale Horse

skull

© Sue Vincent

Ed slowed his stock horse as he approached the bleached cow’s skull. “Easy there, Chester. Let’s have a look.” The aging rancher stiffly swung a leg over his mount, planted it on the grassy field, and then slipped the other booted foot out of the stirrup. He squared himself on the ground, hitched up his gun belt, then looked into the cloudy autumn sky. “Looks like rain, don’t you think?” The horse was impassive.

He slowly walked toward the vacant stare on the ground. “How long have you been here, old girl?” He pulled his hat down tighter on his gray head. “Bet you’ve seen a lot in your time.” Ed looked over his shoulder. “The way of the world, Chester. It’s the way of the world.”

A cold wind blew across the plain, but Ed didn’t take any notice. For a reason he couldn’t explain, he was captivated by the worn remains at his feet. Then the first drops of rain began to fall, lightly kissing the brim of his hat, his boots, even the skull. He turned back toward Chester and froze. His companion was standing stoically, patiently next to the body on the ground, Ed’s body.

“What in…?”

Continue reading

Death Wish

death

Photo credit: Kaia Pieters

“Hey, Sam.”

“Hey, Death. How’s it hanging?”

“Same old, same old. You know how it goes.”

“Not me. What do I know about being Death?”

“Yeah. Guess you’ve got a point. Want a smoke?”

“Nah. I got what I want right here.” The twenty-two year old lifted a gallon jug of Jack Daniels to his lips and gulped down a couple of swallows.

“Mind if I?” The spectral figure in black held out his left hand while his cigarette still smoldered in his right.

“Go ahead.” A lot of people thought Sam was goth because of his clothes and make up, but it was all to honor his BFF.

Continue reading

The Greeter

umbrellas

© Dale Rogerson

This had to be a dream because Jae didn’t remember how she got here, and who would decorate a room like this? At only five foot two, the slender Thai co-ed felt tiny in such enormous surroundings.

“Hurry up.” The deep, masculine voice was coming from the shadows ahead.

“This is my dream and I’ll come when I’m ready.”

“You’re not dreaming.”

“But the last thing I remember was going to bed.”

“That doesn’t mean it was the last thing that happened to you.”

“Wait. The car accident…”

“Yes. Welcome to the afterlife, Jae. I’m here to sign you in.”

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

The image looked surreal to me, so that’s how I wrote it. With only 100 words to play with, I could only vaguely develop my idea. Poor Jae.

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

The Other Side of the Storm

malestrom

© Annija Veldre

Alise Egan’s scarlet gown fluttered behind her like a great cape as she faced the maelstrom. When she’d first seen the painting in Keyne Harlan’s private collection, she recognized herself immediately, even though she had never met the anonymous artist. But she assumed that whatever the woman was confronting was an ocean wave. Now she knew that the plasma field was the conduit between her world and another.

Long, slender legs walked forward with surprising confidence as her blonde hair, like her dress, billowed behind her, blown backward by an unseen discharge from the phenomenon just three meters in front of her. One moment, she had been admiring her billionaire benefactor’s painting and listening to him recite the legend and the curse attached to the artwork, and the next, the mystic tale had come to life, and she was inside living it.

“I’m here, Alise.” The familiar voice echoed out of the swirling energy ripples.

“Daddy?”

Continue reading

It’s Not a Scarecrow

scarecrow

© Anurag Bakhshi

“You know, I don’t think the flower bed is in danger from crows, Lindsey.” Kurt stood with his six-year-old daughter admiring their handiwork.

“I know that, Daddy. I just thought the flowers could use some company when we’re not around.” She stood, hands on hips, pride written all over her face.

“Well, you sure made good use of those old clothes we were going to donate to the thrift store.”

When she didn’t answer, he looked down and saw tears in her eyes. Kneeling, he put his arms around her and Lindsey held onto him tightly. “I know you miss her.”

“Why did Grandma have to die?”

“That’s why you wanted to make this, didn’t you? So we wouldn’t give away her clothes.”

“I miss her.”

“It’s okay. I miss her, too. We’ll keep anything of hers you want. I promise.”

I wrote this for the August 19th edition of Sunday Photo Fiction. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 141. I know. I usually push the word count to the limit, but I didn’t need so many this time around.

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