Author Archives: StuHN

About StuHN

I am a creative individual with many areas of passion: Professional Storyteller; NYS Certified Drama Specialist/Educator; Professional Development Coordinator & Facilitator; Workshop Leader; sometime Puppeteer; Playwright; Director; Performer; Teaching Artist; and sometimes more.

frosting harvesting

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bludberry-yogurt-cake

frosting harvesting

It was the last feather on the horse’s back. The final straw. The icing on the cake. The “One More Thing” that collapsed her, broke her heart, blew out her soul. The fact that everyone-everyone!-turned their back on her. Even Dale and the twins. Dismissing her and all she stood for.

Forever and a day, all due an unwatched process.

No matter what she was doing first aide on Adele while her twin, Gale, stood off to the side. No matter that Dale ignored the accident, turning around and going into the garage. No matter the blood that was slithering down their daughter’s face from the head gash from tumbling off of her bike, or, she suspected, from Gale pushing her off the bike. The blood blotted out Adele’s eyes, filled her mouth, ran onto her clothes.

No matter for any of it. She took her eyes off of her entry, and no one would forgive her this lapse. Burnt cake. Burnt frosting. The timing of the accident left no time for redos. She had no time to remake any of it. She was already late.

Then she was judged, and harshly. Her neighbors and friends, co-workers, friends, and finally family, judged her end result and issued it Insufficient. As they turned away from her, the Adjudicator yelled the word. Insufficient. Her entry.

Herself.

As was the law, she stood where she was. The late afternoon turned into night, and, finally, the dawn summoned the new day. She was free to leave, but to where? Without seeing it done, she knew Dale had burnt all of her things and changed the locks on all the doors. Her parents and sister as well. It was what was done. Any gift that she had made, kept by family and friends, would be heaped in a pile in the middle of town. By the end of this new day, it would all be broken to dust, the rest turned to ashes.

The walk out of town took her northeast. No town that surrounded her once home would take her in. The news spread too fast. She drank spring water, ate fruit, and raw fish when she could find it. She hid when wagons and solitary riders passed. Sleeping outdoors fitfully, whether it rained or grew cold. Nothing was safe. Not until the journey took her far away.

Time passed, and her clothing got ragged, as did she. Dead inside, she did not heed her weakening from lack of sleep, lack of adequate food, and the constant travel. She gave up. Falling to her knees, and then prone, her eyes closed with her wish for death.

She found out later that the family was traveling, having visited kin up north. The three girls needed to relieve themselves desperately. Their parents argued how close they were to home, how dark it was getting, how tired they all were. It was their younger brother that sealed the deal, his pants and shoes soaked, leaving him crying. The wagon stopped and the girls jumped out, heading to the tree line.

Waking in their house, snuggled beneath a heavy quilt, cleaned and changed into nightwear, she first thought that this was a hallucination. The oldest girl, Mara, cried out “She’s awake!” That sent all the children rushing to the bed she was lying in, followed by Roman and Anne, their parents. All was explained, even though all the questions of the children.

“You were almost dead,” Sarah piped up amidst the telling. The youngest girl, Tara, and their brother, Zara (shortened, she later found out, from Zacharia) just stood and stared at her.

She feigned not knowing her name at first, but the children persisted. She could not tell them that she was Insufficient. They would toss her out. It was lying, but she created a truncated version of that horrible branding.

“Eena. My name is Eena.”

Once Eena was strong enough, she repaid their generosity, at first helping in the cooking, finally taking it over when she proved how adept she was in the kitchen. Everyone enjoyed what she brought to their table, even the picky little ones. It took a short while before she baked again, but she had been healing inside bit by bit. The adults would know something was off if she continued to refuse to bake.

Her first try was met with a smattering of lips and peals of “more, more” from all the children. Their parents joined in that chorus on the third evening’s treat. They praised the frosting, the moistness of the cake. The cupcakes. The frosted tarts. Everything she brought to the table was met with praise and full mouths.

Word got around, and by the end of Eena’s first season in her new town, she had requests, then orders, from all the households. Others seemed to visit the town for errands that never happened, but resulted in their leaving with baked goods of all types.

Eena had been paying for all her baking needs by the end of her second month, with enough left to repay her family for all that she used.

The first season led to the next season, and by the time the third season rolled around, Eena had moved out and into town, opening up her own bakery and living in the back room. She experimented with icing and cake flavors, types of cookies and other baked goods. One and all, she frosted, iced, and created happy tummies.

A year turned to the next, finally admitting she needed help to produce all the orders. She took on Mara, being of age to apprentice, and the two of them baked and created and laughed throughout the day. By the time Mara was proficient she had met a love, that became her spouse.

Moving on left room for Sarah, then eventually Tara. Zara went by Zach now, and he helped with any hefty lifting or fixing when needed. Tara stayed on the longest, making new confections one after the other. Eena had expanded the space with Zach’s help, adding two more living spaces in the back: a bedroom for Tara and a visiting room for them all. The bakery doubled in size and in output.

Zach finally married but still found the time to help around the bakery. The girls came to help, usually two at a time, leaving their children with Grandma Anne and whichever’s sister’s turn it was to mind the little ones. Roman helped with what he could, playing with his grandkids until they tired him out.

Everyone had retreated for the day, and Eena was finishing up one last cake order. She was making an orange frosting, sugared and mixed with orange zest, when the door opened. She humphed a bit, more for herself not making sure the door was locked.

“I’m sold out of everything, and just about done for the…” She couldn’t continue. She dropped the bowel of frosting, the mixing spoon flying up and ladeling the sticky mess onto her face and shirt.

“Adele?”

The girl’s-young woman’s-eyes filled with tears. She nodded her head vigorously, her cheeks turning a burning red. Eena was coming around the counter just as Adele flung herself into an embrace that Eena had never experienced.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Adele repeated over and over.

“Shhh, shhh, you’re here now. That’s enough.”

They both cried, laughed, and tried to unstick themselves from the frosting that was hardening them together.

Eena wanted them to never again unstick from each other.

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Abrupt Transition: Orangutan Space Chapter 2

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To Read Chapter 1, please click on the title: Oranutan Space

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Abrupt Transition

Afterwards…

The Mammala War Ships were known as the, almost, deadliest destructive force in outer space. The APEX  was juiced up to be the warship that surpassed them all. During the battle, the APEX faded into the unlit side of a large asteroid. Lurking; neither the Hominide class nor the OrbShips were aware of the danger. The APEX systems recorded the attempt and the defeat. The sole occupant really didn’t care which side won.

Felidae hated everyone.

She watched the destruction of the R.O.c.K.’s. Whoever the pilot was, they were an expert at the Zig-Zag Swing. Knowing the outcome was no deterrent from enjoying the show. Felidae was waiting for the next phase of the altercation when…an unexpected nothing happened.

The Pongo powered down it weapons array. Instead of flipping and going after their attackers, it just continued going in its original direction. Fast. She thought they were at TT levels; her AI confirmed it a moment later. It made no sense to her: the Pongo had the raised hand. The OrbShips only carried two R.O.c.K.s apiece, and even warming up their Death Dartles was futile. The Pongo was accelerating, and neither OrbShip would have the power to catch up or do any real damage with their double D’s.

This probably wasn’t their mission. Right place; wrong time. Most likely they were scavaging what minerals they could when they were alerted of the Hominidae vessel. Its path was coming closer, so they set a trap near two adjacent large asteroids. The Pardis OrbShip hid in the darkness created by the dense shade of one asteroid. The Tigris chose a more Blankenship using its masking unit.

They had the perfect opportunity to bring down their enemy. The Pongo did not have a chance one minute, then the next one the upper hand was lost. Their weapons were already active and fired enough rounds to make the captains of both OrbShips deploy their R.O.c.K.’s prematurely. The Pongo easily blasted three of the four. The fourth one came a little close, but it was just a manuever and a target lock.

The Captain and crew of the Pongo should have gone on the offensive. They should have wanted blood. They had the edge.

So, why did they run?

Felidae fired off a tracker disc, letting her ship’s AI guide it to the Hominidae.   Knowing it would attach itself, she kept her attention on the two Orbs. A non-friendly smile briefly emerged. Feidae was on the prowl. She kept  the Apex’s deflection mode on. Once the Pongo was gone Felidae went on the prowl.

Neither OrbShip were aware Felidae was in range until she dropped the deflection sheild. No matter. It was too late for them. The Pardis Orb took the full force of the Apex; it was over too soon for Felidae’s tastes. The Pardis was ripped apart. She gave it no notice. Her attention was now directed to the Tigris.

The Tigris was the larger of the two, with a few tricks not usually part of the main designs of the OrbShips. Zip Discs came churning out of the ship. If one struck the Apex its internal core would be fried. And weapons, controls, and life support. Felidae had a broad smile, ready for the challenge. She let them play variations of attack modes which all failed. The APEX was too fast for them, and Felidae proved to be a much better pilot. Boredom came upon her quickly. She had been playing with them. No more. She struck the Tigris with force blast after force blast.

Felidae ordered her AI to deploy all of the TeslaBarbs across the outside layer of the APEX. They unfolded from the ship, and the electrical vibrations and charges went to its highest mode. Felidae descended upon the Tirgis; the APEX went into spin and rolled over the OrbShip, sinking the barbs into the hull and puncturing the Orb over and over. As the barbs pierced, the electrical componants fried any systems it connected with. The Tigris was dead, and the crew knew it as all systems failed and the ship cracked apart.

Retracting the barbs and sealing them away left Felidae a Pro/Con decision to make. On one hand, there was enough scavangable debris floating around that she could use or sell off. Her credit could use a boost.

“Screw the potential credits,”she muttered under her breath. There was the potential for greater rewards. Most likely more to pounce on and destroy, and then find some credit worthy items.

“AI, Bring the tracker online and send the location path to my console and my quarters. Power down weapons, for now. Once we get near the Pongo, bring up the deflection particles.”

She sat in her pilot bag, growing angrier as time passed. The APEX would catch up with the Pongo, no doubt in her mind. They definetly had skilled operatives aboard. There were skills abely used to destroy the enemy weapons and some excellent piloting.

So, why did they run?

The question nagged at her. She’d catch them, find out the why, and then one by one she’d delete their lives.

Felidae hated everyone.

To be continued?

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This Total Eclipse of the Sun: #FridayFictioneers

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ronda Del Boccio

This Total Eclipse of the Sun

“Fledglings, we are gathered here in mourning for Audrey 2.”

Sobs went around the container.

“He did not fall to the dangers of this world! Nor fungal spores. Dry soil. Bugs. Nor cat piss.”

A few felt verklempt.

“NO! It was the dreaded petulance imaginable: People!”

A cry rang out from the fledglings.

“Do we not reduce Carbon Dioxide, benzene, and nitrogen dioxide?”

“YES!”

”They under water, forget us. We deserve better!”

“YES!”

“Then, let’s fulfill our mission. Let’s take over the world”

“YES!”

“Tonight, we honor our fallen. Avenge Audrey 2!”

A great cry arose.

Tonight, thar be blood.

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It’s #Friday Fictioneers prompt time, as always created and hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog, Addicted To Purple.

The rules are simple if you’d like to do this:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt (goes up on Wednesday).
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.
  1. Add the InLinkz button (below) so your readers can find the dozens of other bloggers who have taken up this challenge.

Orangutan Space

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Orangutan Space

The DTGA Pongo maneuvered through space in their combat-proven zig-zag swinging style, trying to outrun the R.O.c.K.’s that were heading their way. If even one hit the ship they were finished. Alpha Leader 1 scrunched on the command deck, giving orders to all stations in quick, short Long Calls His pack blew up three, but the fourth one was still hanging on their tail. It was getting too close for comfort.

He looked around, proud of the assemblage of Bornean and Sumatran tribes. They worked well together even though he had been warned the mixing would not work. He was glad that his superiors in DTGA were wrong. He wanted to bring his space boat home and rub their faces in the mud. Taunt him? “They don’t know the meaning of taunt,” he kept to himself.

Beta Follower 1 and 2 were at the weapons relay, trying to get a fix on the last Rapacious Omni Combative Killer. They were both chittering away, trying out by the book plans at first and finally got down to what works: Pantsing the Controls. They were good at it, and AL1 gave them space to prove it. He just needed them to make something work, and fast.

“Bring Lens Hood Rear, increase to Pi magnification. Put it on the big screen,” he barked out, still focussed on his two weapons masters and the screen above their shaggy heads.

The Opticals brightened the images he was looking for. Yes, the Panthera ORBShips were hanging back; they were recharging their weapons. “Speed level TT. NOW! Optics: set focus to normal.”

The thrust sent the crews hair up and back as the Pongo leaped to obey.

“We got it,” came, in unison, from BF 1& 2. BF1 corrected a Pathfinder while BF 2 fired their own version of the enemies R.O.c.K.’s. Their Howl Boom was flung at the R.O.c.K. in climb mode, then did a dead drop onto the incoming death behind them.

They all watched the HB blast the R.O.c.K. into pebble size pieces. Gamma Pilot 1 avoided the rubble, knowing it could still do damage to the Pongo. All the tension dropped when Ze, GP1,  announced their safety. Much chest bumps and playful taps ensued. Al1 was tempted to order Ze to flip the ship and face the two Panthera class OrbShips and giving the go to BF1 & BF2 to power up their weapons. His mission was not that; it was just bad juju that they encountered the enemy.

“AL1,” the Gamma Pilot asked. “Original destination, or…” knowing what they all wanted: take out the two Pantera ships.

“No ‘or’, Ze. Back to base. Original directive. Get us back, but all eyes on hiding spots. They caught us this time. I don’t want a second.”

“Understood,” the Gamma Pilot responded. Ze set the controls and they zipped towards base.

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

The AL1 was back in his nest, having turned over command to AL2. His mate, Fear of Fire, was cuddling him after a rigorous session. Their uniforms were on the floor and they rested seven HandSpans above the mess.

He was on the point of falling asleep until he heard her say his name.

“Person of the Forest…” She was swirling her fingers through his massive chest hair.

“Hmmm?”

“We have to make a decision before we get to base.”

“FoF, we’ve talked about this before. I can not go back to Taiga with you. My position is too important, the mission is too important.” He turned over to look at her. “I would like you to stay, be a full member on this boat.”

She removed her hand from his chest.”I have no place among the crew. A Fracture Explorer would be useless on Pongo. I study the soil of the planets we go to.  I’ve had to broaden my knowledge into liquids of the world, and what effects the winds have on all of this” She raised her hand between them, stopping him from interrupting. “Yes, I know, I can do my job of worlds you visit or get abducted to, rescue as many alien races you can when their sun is its death throes. But in between? There is nothing for me to do past analyzing my samples and recording them. There is so much time you are in space, flying here and there, fighting the Pantera fleet or just wandering aimlessly.”

“I don’t wander…”

“Yes, you do.

There was an uncomfortable silence that lasted a second too long.

“I like wandering, ok? It’s in my nature. Pongo is my home, this crew has become my family.” He paused. “I would like for us to be family.”

She sighed. He sighed. It was going to be a long cycle off.

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

Time passed slowly on their way back. FoF moved back into her nest, for now, and Person had other things to contend with. A restlessness that had been a small thing, that he thought he had shut down, started to become a mess. As AL1, he had to control the situation and shut it down. Fast.

He was waiting for the three Arbitrators to arrive at the Discussion Module. He kept sighing & grimacing while he sat there. This was what the superiors at the DTG were antsy about. He had gotten his way by a squeaky inch. The mixture of the three groupings of their people was a global challenge that he wanted to win. Finally getting permission, he assembled the best at their jobs, no matter what they were: the Fringed, male and female, and the Unfringed. Ze fell into that group and was lusted over by the some of the Fringed groups, and taunted…hell…hated by the rest.

Each grouping held 1/3 of the crew population. The Zir third originally stuck together, fearful of the bias that had gone on for so long on Taiga. Shunned, the closed minded resorting to violence whenever they thought they were safe, Zir became their own crusade. He remembered the many slogans that incited some riots: “Armed Unhinged, You Can’t Toss Us Aside” was the most incendiary. Things got hot for a bit, then cooled down as real discourse began. It ended with Zir truly becoming part of the whole. A ban on the violence took a little bit more to creep into the empty-headed. The repercussions harsh.

Things changed. At least on the outside.

The three arrived together, late, but together. That was a hopeful sign, he thought. He put the part of him that was Person of the Forest and resumed his role as the AL1 for the meeting. Nodded at the AL1, and the Fringed representatives Long Called for him. The Unfringed represntative  did not say anything: the two Fringe waited. The tension rose in the room, but The Unfringed Zir finally let a lackluster “Hoot.”AL1 sighed. This was going to be a long meeting.

Until the Klaxon went ballistic.

“Fire in the Cargo Hold. Fire. This is not a drill. The Cargo Hold is losing pressure. Repeat: Fire. Cargo Hold. Pressure Loss.” The ships’ AI was at her loudest, not trusting the crew to respond with the urgency. AL1 heard her like this at the worse of times.

“Acknowledged, GALDI+!3. Normal level, please. Contact all non-responders to leave their level. AL1 out.”

Bolting out of his platform, AL1 got on the emergency wave. “Damage Control. Every one of you! To the hold. NOW!”

As he raced through Pongo, one thought hit him: did Ze miss part of the Orb that we exploded? Too much time had passed, but, if he thought it, he could bet his last piece of fruit that other Fringed thought so as well.

The mess could turn uglier. Might. Would. He wished he could have gotten the meeting started at least. He hoped there would be time after this became controlled.

He hooted if anyone was in his way in the corridors. Fixing the problem in the hold was the paramount priority. He’ll see what can be accomplished after that, hoping things did not escalate.

If it did, and Ze or another Unfringed had a paw in this, his superiors at the DTG-the Don’t Tough Ground-would roast him alive.

Letting out a huge sigh, AL1 raced as fast as he could to get to the hold.

If this wasn’t an accident,” he thought, “then who set it?”

To Be Continued?

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Author’s Note:

1) The To Be Continued? is really up to the readers. I mainly get comments and likes on the drabbles from another prompt challenge, Friday Fictioneers. My other posts, close to nothing. If it’s critical feedback, I’m open for it. Can’t improve (if it needs it) if no one brings it up. It also helps make writing worthwhile. So, do you want to see the next chapter of Orangutan Space, please let me know. Thanks.

2) So, a pondering on Tweeter led me to the above story. Even though it was a ponder, I saw it as a prompt challenge. In David’s words:

Thought for the day: the world could do with more genre fiction. Imagine: orangutan detective noir; orangutan steampunk; orangutan space opera. The world would, I suggest, be a happier place,

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(This wasn’t the inital photo prompt. I just liked it.)

3) It also fit another prompt from Fiction Can Be Fun, the shared website that David and Debs write alongside each other.

Here are the rules from Fiction Can Be Fun, if you want to take their prompt challenge:

Write about a colony on another planet or in space. Bonus points for building in the theme of the classical elements (earth, wind, fire, water) and/or for approaching it from the perspective of an alien species. The photo above is also a prompt piece to use or not use.

500-1,000 words
Deadline: 2pm on Friday 10th August 2018

A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below. If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.

 

The Crumpet Slaughter Squad: Chapter One

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@Richard_Kadrey Prompt

Chapter One: Mrs. Teasdale’s Tea

Mrs. Teasdale had set her Afternoon Tea the way she always did: her favourite assortment of sandwiches (Coronation Chicken, Cucumber with butter, and Cheese and Pickle);  Crumpets; Chopped Date Scones with Strawberry Jam and Clotted Cream; and three tarts (Bakewell, Yorkshire Curd, and Egg Custard). As a final touch she placed a smattering of Fancies around the three plates. She snuck one and took a bite.She was in heaven. And she was expecting company.

The small round table was covered with her finest linen, topped off with her mother’s lace tablecloth. Mrs. Teasdale set out her favorite China and crystal glassware in their traditional placement. The salad plate, centered and surrounded by the linen napkin and fork to the left, the spreader and spoon to the right. Slightly above the spoon stood the water glass, while opposite it, on the same level, was her finest teacup. The small bowel was just off the napkin and fork, alone but never forgotten. The creamer, sugar bowl, serving dish, tea strainer, and at the last minute, the teapot, found their spots in the midpoint between the two settings.

All that was left was to write Ms. Letts name on the place card and set it in the middle of the salad plate, which she did. Now, she was waiting for 4:00 pm, the arrival time for Ms. Letts and the making of the tea. The fresh water was in the tea kettle, waiting to be brought to boiling to make a delightful pot of Earl Grey, as requested by Ms. Letts. Mrs. Teasdale preferred Broken Orange Pekoe but, sadly, that was not the tea she would be seeping today.

The harsh taps of the Wellington door knocker alerted Mrs. Teasdale that her guest had arrived. She scuffled to the front door, patting down her Peach dress, making sure that the white collar laid flat. Yes, all was in place.

Opening the door, Mrs. Teasdale took in Ms. Letts attire. She instantly approved of her understated black dress, draping her figure, the hem falling just below her knees. She noticed the black hosiery, patterned exquisitely. The shiny black pumps helped to make her legs taut and outstanding.

Realizing she was being rude, she lifted her eyes. Mrs. Teasdale took in the Babington shoulder bag, a stylish choice. Her eye-line lifted further, causing a sharp intake of breath. It rested in her throat as she focused on Ms. Letts face.  Shoulder length black hair framed her exquisite porcelain skin. The face, oval-shaped, seemed sculpted. Beautiful brown eyes, arched eyebrows, smooth jawline, and a slim nose, left Mrs. Teasdale almost speechless. Her vanity flared fiercely but she caught herself in time before it showed. At least, she hoped so.

“Smile, you silly git,” she thought as she welcomed Ms. Letts into her abode. They exchanged pleasant greetings. Giving the grand tour of the first floor, they exchanged in small talk, accompanied by smiles both broad and slight. Mrs. Teasdale guided her guest to the sitting room where they would have their afternoon tea. Ms. Letts reached up to the Babington, placing it on the floor by the table. Mrs. Teasdale noticed, for the first time, that Ms. Letts wore dark kid gloves.

Slightly puzzled, as it was a fairly warm day, she bade Ms. Letts to relax while she prepared the tea. “Earl Grey, just as you requested. The shopkeeper assured me that the tea leaves were fresh, delivered just the other day.”

“Oh, Mrs. Teasdale: I almost forgot. Reaching into her large bag she brought out a pastry box that, when opened, sent shivers of joy running through Mrs. Teasdale.

Opening the lid, she exclaimed: “Ms. Letts. This is a stunning Battenberg cake.” She leaned in a little too close, getting a whispered “Tsk” out of Ms. Letts. “It smells heavenly. I will put this in the fridge while I light the oven and bring the water to boil. Please have a seat. It won’t be long.” She left Ms. Letts in the sitting room, entering the adjacent kitchen by its swinging door.

Instead of sitting, Ms. Letts took a stroll around the sitting room. The shelves that held the knick-knacks were well dusted. The Grandfather Clock: spotless. The area rug was wearing in the spots Mrs. Teasdale trod on her path through the room. She admitted it was still pretty, though. Parting the dusty curtains, Ms. Letts looked out the window that faced the park across the road. She noticed the bottom two rows of glass where expertly clear; the top row panes, not so much. She turned her attention and took her seat. Picking up the place card, she let out a slight laugh and put it back in its place.

Mrs. Teasdale lit up the burner full blast. A proper tea is made only with boiling water, her late mother told her time and again. Even after her passing, Mrs. Teasdale followed that rule every time she assembled her afternoon tea.

She turned to the counter on the opposite side of the oven. On the shelf rested the Triple- Tier plate rack, already full of the assortment of sweets. She quickly went to the fridge and brought out the Battenberg, slicing it gently, then placing it artistically around all three of the levels. She finished just as the tea kettle began its screaming.

Mrs. Teasdale moved back towards the kettle and teapot. She did not hear the kitchen door swing open.

Ascertaining that the water was at a perfect boil, Mrs. Teasdale poured some of the hot water into the China teapot. She put down the kettle over the flame and swirled the water around, heating the insides just so. This water was expelled into the adjoining sink.

The tea kettle quickly found its steam, the screeching whistle alerting her it was time. She filled the teapot with the boiled water, quickly adding three hefty teaspoons of the Earl Grey tea leaves. The smell of the tea was intoxicating. She slightly resisted putting the knob on the teapot, but trapping the heat was essential.

As she was doing so,  her lower back, on the right side, was in agony, the pain blazing, causing her to shudder. She shrieked as another stinging, shooting pain tore through her, just under the left shoulder blade. Her legs began wobbling, sinking to her knees as she took two more short sharp shocks. Now unconscious,  Mrs. Teasdale’s upper body smashed into the oven door which hit her face an awful blow.

A violent spasm, from another two blows, sent her to meet the splattered tile floor, face down. She died before she hit. Another set of death jabs created a pattern in Mrs. Teasdale’s back that wouldn’t be noticed while she was covered in her own blood. One more plunge entered at the base of her skull, severing the spinal cord.

While she acknowledged this was overkill, Ms. Letts was compulsive in these matters. Flipping the body onto its back, she cleaned the gore of her Jagdkommondo Tri-Dagger on the Peach obscenity of a dress. She placed it on the counter behind her.

Self-cleansing was next. Standing at the kitchen sink, she mixed the hot and cold waters to give her the warm setting she needed. She quickly found the dish soap, dabbing it lightly on her gloves. Under the running water, she massaged all surfaces of the gloves until the last of Mrs. Teasdale’s blood swirled away.

Patting the kid leather to a damp state with a kitchen towel was followed by scrubbing the sink with the same towel. Once she was satisfied, she poured a liter of bleach down the drain, finding it in a cubby under the sink with other cleaning sprays and material.

When she first entered the kitchen she brought, from her purse, two seal-able plastic bags. Taking one from the food counter, the kitchen towel was shoved inside. Taking another cloth, she took off and wiped down her pumps top and bottom. She had stood to the side when the first stab dug in but the spray was stronger than she anticipated.

Next into the bag went her hose, ruined to hell with the viscous that spurted. She cleaned her legs off with the towel and hand soap and put her heels back on. Giving herself a last once-over, she decided to reclean her shoes. The top was as clean as it would be, for now. With one last kitchen towel and soap, Ms. Letts scrubbed down the outsole, shank, heel, and heel tip. The linen joined the others in the plastic bag. It would find its way into her shoulder purse, joined by its unused mate, when she vacated the kitchen.

Picking up her dagger, and then her skirt, she sheathed her weapon of choice. It attached to her outer thigh, comfortable and hidden. Ms. Letts let her dress fall, making sure that there was no outward sign of the death she always carried.

The bakery box she had brought in was off to the side of the counter. She looked over the sweets laid out but didn’t take any. “Willpower. Must not.” Repeating her mantra a few times, Ms. Letts picked up the empty bakery box, disposal bags, and then the teapot. Stepping over the drying blood, she went into the sitting room.

Sitting at her assigned seat, she picked up the strainer, laying it on top of the teacup.  Lifting the teapot and tilting it, the tea flowed, the strainer capturing the leaves of Earl Grey. The smell was enticing, and her first sip was bliss. It was strong, hot, and delicious as it was. No need for sugar nor cream. When the last drop in the china cup was exhausted,  into the bag it went, along with the place card. She laughed again, this time a little bit shriller. The false name was delicately inscribed.

One last look around the sad, little room and she was up. Stowing the plastic bag into her Babington, Ms. Letts placed it on her shoulder after fastening the clasp. Picking up the empty bakery box, she headed to the front door, carefully retracing the worn pathway that Mrs. Teasdale had set. She stopped just before grasping the doorknob and sighed.

Turning, she hurried back to the kitchen and swung the door open. Mad for crumpets, like the others in their club, she took the four on the tiered display and placed them in the bakery box, closing the lid.

Once done, she focused on Mrs. Teasdale one last time. The pool of blood that spread under the body was starting to congeal. It had spread to an almost perfect circle, the exsanguinated reposed figure cutting the ratio into fragments.

Finally, she turned her attention to the flaccid face. The facial muscles were giving up the ghost sure but steady. Mrs. Teasdale’s weak chin and pouting lips were folding into the double jowls of her neck. Her broad nose was wider, the damage caused by her face slamming into the oven door. Her jumpy brown eyes were open, staring at nothing. “I thought so,” she muttered, noticing the hairpiece Mrs. Teasdale wore was in disarray, showing off the thinned out scalp that glittered from the overhead lights.

“Thank you for inviting me to tea. It was lovely.”

The lump of dead flesh didn’t answer back.

Ms. Letts left the house after she made sure no one was out for a walk. Unlocking her car with a “Beep!” she quickly entered it, locking the doors and starting up the engine. Pushing the button under the console, the back and side windows tinted a shade darker. Placing her shoulder bag in the passenger seat, she removed the empty plastic bag. She backed up, turned left once on the road, and headed to the secluded spot that framed the park.

Once settled she opened the bag. She stripped off her gloves and tossed them in. The wig was next, setting her long red hair free. This was followed by the contacts, the brown irises replaced with her natural green. Kicking off her heels, she replaced them with the Constellation trainers that were in her Babington. The difference in comfort was astounding.

Digging deep into her shoulder bag she located her burner cell phone and turned it on. While it was warming up and finding satellite coverage, Wendy aka Ms. Letts, opened her bag for one more item: the package of moist towelettes. She wiped her face and neck, the ivory makeup a bit stubborn but the towelettes worked. Taking another one, she gave her legs another go. It was a good thing as there was a light shade of blood that transferred off her skin and onto the towelette.

By the time she added the used wipes to the disposable bag, the burner had cycled through all of its gymnastics. She placed a call. It went straight to the club’s voice mail.

“Ladies, Wen here. My afternoon tea was perfect. I hope all of yours were just as splendid. I’m looking forward to tonight’s round of sharing. Ta for now.”

She turned the phone off, took out the battery, and tossed it into the disposal bag, sealing it tight.

Starting the car and revving it a few times, Wendy laughed as she put it in gear and hit the road home.

As she sped along, she opened up the bakery box that she had placed on the passenger seat. Reaching in, she took out a crumpet. No jam. No clotted cream. Just a bite and she was in heaven.

It had been a splendid tea.

***********************************************
Author’s Note:

I get a kick out of prompts. Right now, creatively, I need these jumping off points. That’s what you’re seeing here on Tale Spinning. I have a few projects of my own I’m procrastinating with that I hope I’ll finish and try to do something with them. We’ll see.

The above pic is one of them, created by Author Richard Kadrey. He has been posting, on Twitter, reworked/photo-shopped covers of old pulp(ish) novels, changing them to show off his brand of humor. I just thought it’d be fun to write a few things from Mr. Kadrey’s posting: so, yes, this is my writing, not Mr. Kadrey’s.

Richard Kadrey is a writer, photographer, comic book writer, and an all-around interesting guy. His fiction straddles the Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Cyberpunk worlds, and he’s pretty darn good with it all. I fell in love with his writing starting with his first Sandman Slim novels. Gritty, sometimes violent, often full of whimsy, worth reading. He’s not just another pretty face.

You can check out more fun covers by following him on Twitter @Richard_Kadrey.

To get into his body of work, visit him at his website: Richard Kadrey

The Condo: #FridayFictioneers

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sandra-crook-stacks

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

The Condo

“Seven floors and a rooftop garden. That’s what the classified said: seven and a garden.”

“Well, if you look at it a certain way…”

“I am looking at it in a certain way. It’s pure bloomin’ ugly.”

“Sigh.”

“Although, it does have a river view if you get a spot that faces the river.”

“There is that. You know, you’ve said you’d love a fixer-upper. Get yourself all into it, making it perfect for the two of us, and…”

“And? Not your mother ‘and’ I hope.”

She placed her hands on her belly.

“Oh!”

“Yes. ‘Oh!”

“Right. Well, in for a pound…”

**************************************************

It’s #Friday Fictioneers prompt time, as always created and hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog, Addicted To Purple.

The rules are simple if you’d like to do this:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt (goes up on Wednesday).
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.
  1. Add the InLinkz button (below) so your readers can find the dozens of other bloggers who have taken up this challenge.

Prologue: The Tod

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Prologue

The Tod

Mars was a sterile,  fairly abusive, planet. Everything was covered in this orange moss, spongy in some places, hard as rivets in the majority. Mars was the last place anyone on the crew wanted to be but the pay was decent. Not enough to buy a Micro Space, but enough to eat and get zoned out. Tod and the gang wanted more. They just needed to find something exrtaordinary that might bring in a hefty bonus that the company keeps dangling in from of them.

It had not been easy from the countdown. It just got worse from there.

The transport had a hell of a time finding enough flat to land on. Took awhile, since the majority of Mars was a land of craggy crags. It wasn’t easy.

They had broken three Scrambler units while collectings samples.  The fourth Scrambler made it the farthest before it, too, went to join Scrambler Heaven. Tod, Dave, and Hal had to push and pull to get it back to the ship.

Tod had found something unique. Well, he thought it was unique: a perfect round globe, white. No seams. It was lighter than he expected.  Dave and Hal argued if it was or wasn’t. Tod out-stubborned the two of them and made a deal for sharing rights, if it did turn out he was right. They all grumbled as the pushed and pulled the Scrambler.

Internal suit systems were supposed to regulate a lot of things to keep them safe and comfortable. His cooling unit broke down right after they got over the first hump of a hill. Sweat was pouring off of Tod, even more so than almost getting eaten by the man-eating space ducks.

Jim, his ex-captain, saved his life but made that life a living hell.  The mission on Anates was semi-successful, but no matter what Tod did-not even saving Jim’s life from the Duck Princess-was good enough. He was expelled from Rogue Fleet with no pension. He had to find a job, and fast.

Damn Jim, that passive-aggressive noodlehead. Tod was glad to be done with him.

He did miss Debbee though.

Which brought him here, a Basura Hauler. He’d spit if he wasn’t in a contained space. Tod commed the others if they needed a break. Both enthusiastically agreed-a first.

They secured the Scrambler the best they could and settled in. They sat together, leaning against their sampler. No one talked, trying to conserve air. They’d already used a lot, but they two more hours, give or take. Plan was to get as close to the pick-up, pin the Scramble down, and get out of the suits to refill the air tanks. Tod also needed his coolant system checked out.

Tod had been nodding off a few times, waking up with a jerk each time. The jerk, though, was not voluntary. He commed the others: neither answered. Getting up, Tod saw the depressions in the moss that Hal and Dave made. Just no Hal and Dave.

He looked around, called them again. A great big NADA. He went to the Scrambler, checking to see if they went inside for some reason.

When Tod opened the back of the Scrambler there was no sign of Dave or Hal. Just the unique, to him, white globe.

They had put in a crate. There was no crate now. The thing was floating in the middle of the space, turning colors in a slow rotation. Black, orange, green, and then…red. It began to pulse with the globe emitting light. Red light. Tod started to back up, thoughts of getting away, running as best as he could in the suit.

The crags under him shifted in a jerky motion (“Ah that’s what I…”) when his inner thought was cut off. A hole opened up under him so fast he had no time to do anything to save himself.

As he continued falling, he looked up and saw the hole seal up instantly.

“MARS BLOWS!!!” Tod yelled as he continued his descent.

***********************************************
Author’s Note:

I get a kick out of prompts. Right now, creatively, I need these jumping off points. That’s what you’re seeing here on Tale Spinning. I have a few projects of my own I’m procrastinating with that I hope I’ll finish and try to do something with them. We’ll see.

The above pic is one of them, created by Author Richard Kadrey. He has been posting, on Twitter, reworked/photoshopped covers of old pulp(ish) novels, changing them to show off his brand of humor. I just thought it’d be fun to write a few things from Mr. Kadrey’s posting: so, yes, this is my writing, not Mr. Kadrey’s.

Richard Kadrey is a writer, photographer, comic book writer, and an all-around interesting guy. His fiction straddles the Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Cyberpunk worlds, and he’s pretty darn good with it all. I fell in love with his writing starting with his first Sandman Slim novels. Gritty, sometimes violent, often full of whimsey, worth reading. He’s not just another pretty face.

You can check out more fun covers by following him on Twitter @Richard_Kadrey.

To get into his body of work, visit him at his website: Richard Kadrey

 

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this.

Chapter 7: “He’s not dead, Jim.”

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@Richard_Kadrey Prompt

Chapter 7:

“He’s not dead, Jim.”

“He’s not dead, Jim,” Debbee, the ship’s AI, relayed.

“Damn it!” Jim faced the monitor, the screen turning from green to a blood red. He hung his head and sighed.  “Ok. I misspoke. I meant to say Damn glad that Tod’s still with us. Yes indeedy.”

Debbee’s voice rebounded from all around. She only opened all channels when she was so pissed off that it spiraled down to her core programming. “Uh huh. Sure. I can tell how deeply moved you are.”

Jim always mumbled when his emotional state maxed out. This time it was anger mixed with a dash of guilt and a smidgen of petulance. So, he cursed.

“Jim, Jim, Jim. How many times have you been told-and not just by me-that your mumbling is a major irritant?”

He was in no mood for a lecture, especially from Debbee. Before his mouth worked without his brain Jim turned and activated the gurney. Debbee did the initial assessment. Now it was time to get him to the Med so it can do its magic. He followed the floating gurney; not that he needed to, but it was a good distraction.

Jim heard a scratching sound down by his right hand. “Huh.” He was clutching the remains of the Rogue Fleet Spork, supposedly the finest weapon in all the forty-two planets. “Yeah, right,” he mumbled.

“JIM!”

He kept moving on, finally reaching the med door. It swooshed silently open. Tod’s gurney went directly into the Medicus unit. Jim watched as the diagnostics protocol turned Tod purple for a few minutes while it reduced his clothing to recyclable mush.  Then the part Jim hated everytime he was hurt: Tod was tubed, injected, catheterized, IV’d, and skull-capped.

The whole procedure sent shudders racing through Jim. He had better things to do than to watch Tod, stupid freaking Tod, get hooked up. As he was leaving, he finally realized he was still holding the defunct Spork. Jim walked over to the recycling unit and tossed it in.

“Are you sure you want to do that, Jim?” Debbee chimed in.

“Well, gee, let me think. It’s broken beyond repair, half fused melted, and the Spork barely did its job when it wasn’t in that condition. So, yes, I want to recycle it. Now.” He waited a moment. Nothing happened. He sighed and finally said “Please.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Jim unlocked his cabin and the single door swooshed silently open, and then closed once he entered. He hung his cape, then his uniform, in the SteamSteward, pressed the Dry Clean cycle, and let it do its thing.

Sitting on his bed, he took the unfinished bulb of the Vulpes 24 and slurped it down. The warmth dribbled down his throat. Jim licked his lips, finding the last bit of liquid satisfaction. He tossed the bulb, turned off the lights, and settled in.

It took a long time for Jim to fall asleep. His mind was racing around with all that had happened on Anates: the high, gusting winds that made his cape flock around; the sudden attack from the man-eating Space Ducks; Tod, stupid Tod, not having his Spork and getting clipped by a few of the Ducks; having to protect Tod, stupid Tod, from further attacks as he bled on the ground; the fight for survival; and then noticing the blonde vixen on that horse-like thing.

Jim thought he noticed her directing the ducks. He wasn’t sure since trying to stay alive and protect stupid Tod. After taking down five of the ducks and noticing there were no more trying to eat him, Jim turned to look for the blond. She was gone. He hadn’t heard her arrive and hadn’t heard her leave. He was missing something. He knew it, but couldn’t find it in the mess going on in his head.

These thoughts swirled around Jim’s mind until finally, they spiraled him down into a deep sleep. His REM cycle was active and only increasing. The cover sheet was kicked off, wadded into the corner of the bed. His pillow was next, flung to the floor. Jim’s pulse and breathing grew frantic.

Debbee, who monitored Jim and Tod, sounded a blaring noise to wake him up. She repeated it, adding new sounds, upping the level, until it was all a discordant cacophony of sound.

Jim was still asleep.

“Tod is awake, Jim. TOD IS AWAKE.”

Jim bolted awake and sat up. “Stupid Tod,” he mumbled. Debbee let this one pass.

He was drenched in night sweat and his head was ringing. Debbee’s com screen was a bright yellow and spread across the room.

“I knew something was off. I knew it!”

“Jim, what was off?”

“The blond. She had wings. She had wings. She looked like us, but she had wings.”

**********************************************

Author’s Note:

I get a kick out of prompts. Right now, creatively, I need these jumping off points. That’s what you’re seeing here on Tale Spinning. I have a few projects of my own I’m procrastinating with that I hope I’ll finish and try to do something with them. We’ll see.

The above pic is one of them, created by Author Richard Kadrey. He has been posting, on Twitter, reworked/photoshopped covers of old pulp(ish) novels, changing them to show off his brand of humor. I just thought it’d be fun to write a few things from Mr. Kadrey’s posting: so, yes, this is my writing, not Mr. Kadrey’s.

Richard Kadrey is a writer, photographer, comic book writer, and an all-around interesting guy. His fiction straddles the Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Cyberpunk worlds, and he’s pretty darn good with it all. I fell in love with his writing starting with his first Sandman Slim novels. Gritty, sometimes violent, often full of whimsey, worth reading. He’s not just another pretty face.

You can check out more fun covers by following him on Twitter @Richard_Kadrey.

To get into his body of work, visit him at his website: Richard Kadrey

A Night Without: #FridayFictioneers

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

A Night Without

The lights drew them on.

From bars to clubs to private parties, the three had been on the go since sundown. The long night brought pleasure, debauchery, and fear. The three thrived through all of it.

Pre-dawn left the streets barren in front of them, wasteland behind them.

It had been a good night. They just wanted to make it last as long as they could. It was in their nature, and it was a shared revelry.

Still craving more, they searched for new pleasures. The lights attracted them. Then the laughter and music.

Their night would end, well sated.

**************************************************
Author’s Notes: (Edited)

Hi. I was going for subtle, and I probably went way too far. Only a few picked up on the key words: “the long night brought pleasure, debauchary, and FEAR.”; the streets behind them were a “wasteland.”; their night would end with them being “sated.”

To me, I tried to say “Danger” without saying “Vampires.” Lesson learned: too subtle doesn’t work.

As to the title A Night Without, I went for the symbolism of Night. From Sparknotes:

God’s first act is to create light and dispel this darkness. Darkness and night therefore symbolize a world without God’s presence. In Night, Wiesel exploits this allusion. Night always occurs when suffering is worst, and its presence reflects Eliezer’s belief that he lives in a world without God.

So, A Night Without is a night without God. Probably should have just put the word in. Again, live and learn.

*****************************

It’s #Friday Fictioneers prompt time, as always created and hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog, Addicted To Purple.

The rules are simple if you’d like to do this:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt (goes up on Wednesday).
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.
  1. Add the InLinkz button (below) so your readers can find the dozens of other bloggers who have taken up this challenge.

The Roof Of The Rising Sun: #FridayFictioneers

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PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

The Roof Of The Rising Sun

“Wow. Some show the stars put on for us.”

Lena leaned back, checking to make sure Dave was there. She nestled against him.

“I don’t deserve y…” Dave started.

Lena found his mouth, kissing that sentence away.

Dave had survived many misfortunes until Lena stumbled upon him.

She hadn’t seen him. He was invisible, after all. He picked her up, apologized, and started to leave.

“Wait!” was all he needed to hear. They talked. Went on a date. More dates followed.

They’d been together for three months now.

The sun rose, beaming onto Lena, and through Dave, on the roof.

****************************************

Author’s Notes:

Thus ends the Dave Trilogy. I hadn’t planned this when I wrote the first Dave story (Veiled Consequences), and it wasn’t until I wrote the second piece (One More Thing) that that drabble fit with the previous week’s. So, I knew I had to end it, somehow, this week. No idea how it would go until I saw the photo prompt. I had to live with that photo all day until I figured out what to do with it. Hope you enjoy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s #Friday Fictioneers prompt time, as always created and hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog, Addicted To Purple.

The rules are simple if you’d like to do this:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt (goes up on Wednesday).
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.
  1. Add the InLinkz button (below) so your readers can find the dozens of other bloggers who have taken up this challenge.