© Sue Vincent

A warm summer breeze blew from one end of the passageway to the other. Raisa Hewitt could feel it gently caress her face and flow like fingers through her long, dark hair. She could hear the friendly chattering of birds from outside the arch ahead of her, the rustle of leaves in tree branches, she inhaled sweet almond and jacaranda blossoms. The scene was supremely idyllic and she realized she couldn’t be in more danger.

She’d dressed casually like a tourist, an American on holiday taking in the ruins of Spanish castles and churches. Soft canvas shoes made not a whisper as she padded like a cat across the flat stones beneath her. Jeans over a black leotard and a light cotton shirt afforded comfort and mobility. The Springfield XDM Compact in the holster at the base of her spine offered both maximum portability and stopping power. She hoped she wouldn’t have to use it.

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The God of the Dark Hills

dark hills

© Sue Vincent

It had taken five days for teenage Dani to guide the five children across the frozen tundra to near the base of the Dark Hills. They had all grown up in a city and were used to soft beds, a heated home in the winter, regular meals of plentiful food, and all the comforts and pleasures modern technology afforded such children.

Dad and Mom took them camping in the mountains every summer, but they drove to the State Park in Mom’s van, built a campfire near wooden picnic tables and there were public showers and bathrooms just a few yards away. They brought their food in plastic shopping bags and a big cooler and it was like barbecuing in their backyard.

Even in the winter going snow skiing was fun, but when they were through and everyone needed to get warm, they’d go into the ski lodge and order lunch or dinner in the restaurant.

This journey was nothing like that. Nearing the end of their fifth day in this icy wilderness, the Davidson children were dirty, tired, cold and miserable. Their sense of fright had been numbed so now all they felt was the relentlessness of walking one step at a time for minutes and hours, hoping their guide who was only a little older than Mandy knew how to find food, shelter, and safety before they all died.

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sky and water

© Sue Vincent

Darya stood on the edge of Stanley Peninsula facing west toward Long Island. It was all part of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and late on a Thursday afternoon in February, there was no one else in sight. Silently, she watched the Sun through a heavily cloud-dappled sky as it sank toward the horizon. The waters of Willapa Bay were calm belying the fact that the wild Pacific Ocean was less than a mile away.

For the past five years, she had been gathering tiny shards of lost memories like flowers, struggling to create the bouquet of her childhood. Ever since she was six years old, she had lived with her brother Cody and her parents Hamid and Esther Shah in their comfortable upper-middle class home in Orange County, California. But Hamid and Esther weren’t her parents and Cody wasn’t her brother.

She had been rescued by presumably from drowning in the surf near Huntington State Beach by Cody when she was six and he was ten. Darya couldn’t speak and had trouble breathing at first. No one knew the problem was that she had rarely used her lungs before and her language didn’t at all resemble English.

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The Goddess Blesses


© Sue Vincent

Hadad took Ellil’s hand as they walked down the trail flanked by great fields of yellow wildflowers.

“It’s so pretty here, don’t you think, Hadad?” She squeezed his hand as she looked up at him. He turned his head and she could see his large, deep brown eyes. They looked so beautiful, so romantic.

“Yes, it’s very nice here.” He didn’t always know what to say to her although he was known as a “smooth operator” at school, or at least that’s what his friend Utu called him. He said he got the term from one of those old movies they show on TV late at night. Hadad thought Utu secretly pretended to be an American gangster from the 1940s instead of a fifteen-year-old culture geek too shy to even look at a girl.

He could hear the “crunch” of their footsteps on the gravel and sand as they walked nearer to the copse of trees ahead. Spring had begun only hours ago, but thanks to the Goddess, the world around them was green and growing with life.

“Did you really see them? I mean, you’re not just making it up, are you Hadad?”

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Love’s Blood


© Sue Vincent

“…I met this girl…she ruined my philosophy…my heart skips a beat when she comes around”

From “I’d Rather Have A Love” performed by Joe
Writer(s): Derek Louis Allen, Gerald Isaac, Alvin Jerome Garrett

Even knowing this is what her father wanted, what she wanted, Zachary wasn’t sure he could do it. He loved Deborah very much and he believed she still adored him. It was only because of their love for each other that he was now walking across the manicured lawn in the back of his estate in the bright morning sunshine contemplating murder.

No, it wouldn’t be murder for the simple reason that she was already dead; dead, interned, and yet not dead.

The small duffel bag felt heavy in his right hand, not due to the weight of its lethal contents but that of his heart. He’d almost accepted Peretz’s offer to help him, but it would have been a terrible burden to place upon a father who had lost his only daughter once and now was about to lose her again. Yes, he was losing her, but he had convinced him that as her husband, he had to be the one to save her.

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Long Climb to Sanctuary


© Sue Vincent

The cities were lost to the Grendels and most of the human race was dead. The early news reports Neville Smith heard said that the disease had been introduced to Europe and the Americas by groups of refugees from Somalia, but the conspiracy theory websites released documents stating that something got away from the CDC and it was their own staff that spread the infection causing a global pandemic.

The last report before all telecommunications and the electric grid went down was that up to 94% of the human race had died. Only one percent of humanity was immune. That left the Grendels, well, that’s what Neville called them. Human beings who were mutated by the virus becoming…what? In the poem “Beowulf,” Grendel was cursed as a descendant of Cain from the Book of Genesis in the Bible. The creature was said to devour live warriors and in the real world, the mutants consumed the dead.

But that was over three months ago.

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Haaninin’s Friend


© Sue Vincent

For many years, Franklin Long took morning walks along the river. When he was young, his walks were runs, even in the winter when it snowed. As he got older, the runs slowed to walks. Finally, in his twilight years, he started using a long stick to support himself and he rarely walks alone anymore.

“What’s that over there, Grandpa?” Franklin’s youngest grandson, twelve-year-old Foster pointed away from the river bank, just a few hundred feet ahead of them.

“We must wait, Foster. This is a solemn ceremony.”

“But Grandpa, they’re birds.”

“No, Foster. They are crows.”

They both watched with interest, though Foster’s hands and feet were starting to get cold.

“There must be a hundred of them in that circle. Aren’t groups of crows called a ‘murder’?”

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The Winter Rose

winter rose

© Sue Vincent

Nancy clung to the base of a gas street lamp just across the street from St. Andrews shivering as she listened to the beautiful hymns and organ music late on Christmas Eve. The tiny child’s clothes were too thin to ward off the December chill and wind, and the cloth wrapped around the perforated soles of her shoes did nothing to keep out the snow.

She couldn’t go back but no one else would take her. Papa had never come home from his sea voyage to America where he said he could earn a fortune for their poor family, and Mama had been beaten and murdered on the way home from cleaning the houses of rich folk, all for a few farthings.

Auntie Pierce took in her baby brother Benjy but said she wanted no “dirty little girl” in her home and sent her away to her friend Lady Harrington to work with the maids. The maids said she was too small and weak and would be nothing but a nuisance, so sent her back to her Auntie’s. Auntie’s man servant refused her entry at the door and she found herself alone.

A boy named Charley Bates discovered her begging on a street corner for just a few pence with which to buy bread and took her to Fagin with promises of work and pay. It was then she embarked on her new life as a thief.

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The Woman in Blue

blue light

© Sue Vincent

Obe was tending the fire on the shore by the bay. The sun had set to his right hours ago and most of the clan slept. Their tiny settlement was young and night predators hunted nearby so he kept watch, though the fire and the scent of the men should keep them away.

The moon shone blue through the clouds illuminating the water before him and the island beyond. Other clans of their tribe occupied the land across the bay to the south and east, but Nakuma’s people hoped to make the northlands their home.

Like most young men, waiting alone bored him and with the passing minutes, he became drowsy. He wrapped his blanket, woven by his sisters, tighter around him and with the fire, he felt warm. If his father found him sleeping, he would be struck and shamed in front of the other hunters, so he forced his eyes open. He heard her before he actually could see her.

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The Thaw

the thaw

© Sue Vincent

It wasn’t the ravenous hunger that awoke her for that had been with her since the accident. There was a sound, a new sound. Water. She could hear tiny trickles of water around her.

Aleera didn’t know how long she had been in the dark with the unrelenting pressure keeping her immobile. The cold was irrelevant to her, even the lack of air was meaningless, but the weight above her was massive. She hadn’t been able to move so she slept, though fitfully. She experienced moments of startling lucidity and then she panicked. She was trapped, unable to move more than the slightest degree in her fingers and toes. What had happened? If only she could remember.

Then she would drift away again into blessed oblivion within her accursed prison.

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