Free

roses

Photo credit: Dale Rogerson

“I’ve escaped. I’m outside of Sanctuary.” Dane Asher’s numb fingers caressed the brittle petals of the frozen roses. They were covered with a layer of snow, and were so beautiful, like the landscape graced by a winter that was slowly killing him.

“I don’t know why I’m free, but now I’m free only to die.” He looked to the frosted forest and the sunset at the horizon beyond. “Better dying free than living like a slave.”

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The Failure

fog

Found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie for Photo Challenge #355

“Screw this shit! I’ve had enough!” Dane roughly yanked the glorified brain cube off of his head and threw it to the ground.

“Mr. Asher, please retrieve your covering and replace it on your head. The amplified voice from somewhere over the dark stone wall behind him reverberated. Dane had always hated the Counselor’s snotty, superior London accent hidden though it was behind a vocal distorter.

“Fuck you!” He looked down for it anyway, but after having marched several feet away from his assigned position, he couldn’t see it. White fog swirled around his knees, and had mired everything.

The figures surrounding him, already dehumanized by the same isolation gear, seemed like ghosts. In fact, even though he could see again, he remained partitioned from the actual world.

“Mr. Asher, I remind you that you agreed…”

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A Beautiful Friendship

lovers

Lovers by Harry Hollard, 1982

Eugene hadn’t felt the warmth of a woman’s touch in too long. The pandemic, lockdowns, and all the rest made most people reluctant to become intimate with a stranger. His life had always been dependent on a near endless string of brief, anonymous affairs. He had been starved for what he needed for what felt like an eternity.

“Come here, lover.” Brenda cooed and sighed as he took the nipple of her right breast between his lips and expertly fondled it with his tongue.

They were both nude and his penis began to stir, but the longing he felt went far beyond that. However, as he was about to strike, he was startled out of the moment.

“And now you’re mine, you poor sap.” Brenda clutched his head in both of her palms and began a ritual Eugene knew all too well.

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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.

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The Warning

witch

– Oleg Oprisco

“You have to go back!”

She was tall, with long, red hair that drapped her blue jacket clad shoulders. Her eyes were an intense green and her face was smooth and pasty, like melted wax.

But what Sean saw in her hands gave him pause.

“Young lady, I don’t know what…” The sixty-five year old writer, in Glasgow to visit a dying friend, stared at what she was holding.

“Please, you have to go back.”

“What is that?”

“Your doom if you choose to continue.”

He had the taxi drop him off at a pub not half a block from where his old friend Brian MacGregor lived. He needed to have a quick one before facing Brian’s and his mortality. She was standing only a few feet from his destination.

“My what? Is that…?”

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Freedom Day

new beginnings

– Gabriel Isak

No one thought the Fields of Shantara would be the decisive battle against the tyranny of the Verbeni. For a dozen generations, the invaders of the colony world of Grazoria had ruled the human race with cruel efficiency, and although the resistance fighters were outgunned and out manned, they were courageous. Their harassment of the enemy gave the populace hope, until their exploits became legends for their children and their grandchildren.

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The Minor Goddess

goddess

Photo credit: UnexpectedTales

“Well, it’s about damn time.” She was more provocative than beautiful, though her piercing brown eyes, dark chestnut-colored hair, and burgundy-painted lips were definitely alluring. She was leaning over her tucked in legs, the skirt of her short, deep, Prussian blue dress hiked up, revealing ample, pale-skinned thighs and just a little more besides…and she was barefoot. Her expression was expectant with a dash of mischievousness.

Since my divorce, I’d been living in a flat on the third floor of a converted Victorian in Boise’s counter-culture North End. Having parked my car around back, I was walking up the front steps, a sack of groceries from the Co-Op balanced in my right arm, while thumbing through my keys with my left.

“I beg your pardon?” I paused on the ancient concrete steps, a cold January breeze blowing from the north chilling me. I thought I wouldn’t be out very long and so only put on a light jacket, and now I was shivering.

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Dreaming on Such a Winter’s Day

zebra unwinding

Image credit: Zulkarnain Ismail

William Blake knew he was in trouble when he saw the zebra unraveling like a ball of twine, especially since there shouldn’t be any free roaming zebras in the high desert southeast of Boise.

“Get a grip, get a grip, get a grip,” he muttered to himself, pressing his hands on each side of his head. The vision wouldn’t go away, but neither did the zebra seem to mind its condition.

“Of all days, why did it have to happen today?” Every New Year’s morning, the forty-eight-year-old electrical designer took a walk in the open fields south of his home, symbolically welcoming a year of new hope. “But I have to be at Edna’s in an hour for breakfast. I can’t go like this.”

The zebra moved on but then the clouds started turning themselves inside out, swirling and shifting from white to silver, then to magenta and turquoise. The grass around his ankles and then all across the field. writhed like serpents and rubbed against his legs like affectionate house cats, while the trees in the distance grew and expanded to Pellucidar-like proportions. Then the sky became granite and the ground turned to vapor, but neither did the atmosphere collapse upon him, nor did he fall through the mist.

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Eira’s Lover

trees and snow

Photo credit booklikes.com – Image found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

Aging widower Shannon Hart remembered the sound of the crackling of burning logs in the fireplace at home in the middle of a dark, quiet night as he stared across the low, rolling hills, watching fog freeze onto the widely spaced pine trees, a faint, unending dawn resting on the eastern horizon. Three weeks ago, his youngest grandson Drew came up here to perform the solitary winter solstice ceremony at the family’s wilderness wickiup. He was due back late last week but never returned.

The twelve clans all sent volunteers ready to search for him, but Shannon respectfully declined, and as a clan head, it was his prerogative. The secrets of the wickiup had been jealously guarded for untold generations. Even his own clan, the Tromsø, didn’t know what was hidden in the sacred acres owned by the Harts.

The eighty-year-old had been worried, and even tried to dissuade Drew from performing the ritual that the old man normally observed, but the twenty-eight year old had become a father earlier in the month. He claimed the right of a single boon from the clan elder as a birth gift, and Shannon had no choice but to grant it.

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Mona Lisa Smile

monalisa

Found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie and taken from Reddit.com – No other photo credit listed

Today was the day that Stefan Günther determined he would finally speak to his own personal Mona Lisa. Everyday for weeks, she sat across from him on the S-train as he made his evening commute home to his one-bedroom apartment outside of Wiesbaden and she went to who knew where.

“Hi. My name’s Stefan.” The twenty-seven-year-old accountant leaned into the aisle hoping she could hear him over the train noise and all the other conversations around them. “Since you smile at me every time I see you, I thought I should introduce myself.”

“Ludovica. Pleased to meet you, Stefan.” Her accent was unmistakably Italian and the same, subtle smile she had been wearing throughout all of their silent encounters never left her lips.

“Pleased to meet you.” He took her hand and remembered not to apply too much pressure. Her skin was warm and smooth, and her scent was slightly earthy speaking, he hoped, of seduction.

“I don’t mean to be too forward, Ludovica, but why do you always smile at me?”

“I like to smile. Besides, you remind me of someone.”

He chuckled nervously. “Anyone in particular.”

“If I like you, I might tell you someday.”

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