Category Archives: adventure

Finish The Story-After The Long, Hard Winter-Part Six

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Winter and spring landscape with blue sky.

Finish The Story

After The Long, Hard Winter

Part Six

This is a Finish The Story prompt from Teresa (aka, The Haunted Wordsmith). Teresa started the story. Then she passed it to Michael, who tagged Di, who tagged Fandango,
who walked it over to Iain, who graciously placed it in my hands.

So let’s start at the beginning (my entry follows):

Teresa wrote:

Winter had been hard. Harder than anyone in Goosedown had expected. It was six weeks into spring and Emily never felt better. She was finally able to get out into her garden. The spring flowers had fully said hello and color was everywhere, but the one thing she was most happy about was the Goosedown Spring Festival that was taking place today.

With one last check in the mirror, she adjusted her bright pink hat and set out for the park. While walking there she met up with …

Michael wrote:

Mary from the Dairy trudging along carrying two pails of fresh milk. The milk was for Miss Turnout’s café and scone emporium.

It was clear Mary was not happy, as everyone in Goosedown knew of the animosity between the two women. Mary had been in love with the handsome Sir Michael, and it was Miss Turnout who spread vile and vicious rumors about Mary such that Sir Michael turned his back on Mary and went off and married the less than gorgeous Phillipa the Needle maiden.

Mary had long held a grudge against Miss Turnout and every now and then she would clear her throat and deposit the said clearance into one of the buckets. Emily, being the sweet and innocent young lady she was and at that moment filled with the expectation of the coming spring, smiled serenely at Mary as she went by.

“There’d be nothing to smile about young Emily,” said the sour Mary as she passed and deposited another into the left bucket, “the rotten old cow destroyed my life, I’m gonna make her rue the day she spread rumors about me, no matter how true they might be. Sorry I should not have said that.”

Emily had no answer to Mary’s statement and was not a girl given easily to gossip so she …

Di wrote:

nodded and continued to smile sweetly as she watched Mary trudge away.

With every step, Mary moaned and bitched about Miss Turnout under her breath. Her deposits in the milk seemed to do little to improve her mood, and now she had a nagging toothache.

Maybe a filling had fallen out and was rattling around in the bottom of the bucket. Better still, maybe the old trout would swallow it and choke. That made her laugh, which in turn made her cough and there followed another satisfying splash in the bucket.

More bitching and moaning in rhythm to her footfalls, gradually fading into the distance and out of Emily’s earshot.

Emily was enjoying her walk to the park, taking in the riot of color on the way, the lovely sunshine, and the anticipation of the Spring Festival, especially as it meant passing through …

Fandango wrote:

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… the field red with poppies. Every time Emily walked through the beautiful poppy field, she would feel a strange sense of euphoria. Everything she was feeling became more intense, the colors of spring brighter, and her mood even happier. She put Mary and her feud with Miss Turnout out of her mind and concentrated on what she would do when she got to the festival grounds.

But Emily was feeling herself growing very, very tired. She was struggling to keep walking through the lovely field of red flowers, which seemed to be glowing and vibrating. Suddenly Emily had to stop. She yawned, stretched out her arms, and slowly fell to her knees. “Why am I so tired?” she wondered. “I have to lie down,” she said aloud.

It was already dark when Emily finally woke up. Had she missed the Spring Festival that she was so looking forward to? She wondered what had happened to her. But then she saw …

Iain wrote:

…Mary standing over her. Her face a ghastly white colour. As Emily’s eyes focused she saw that the white was liquid, it was milk, dripping off Mary’s face, reflected in the pale moonlight. There was something else too. Not just white. There were streaks of red too. Red like the blood red of the poppies that surrounded them. Like a mask of Raspberry Ripple ice-cream. She was naked, the liquid mixture dripping down over her pale skin. She held the two metal buckets Emily had seen earlier in the day, but they were battered and bent and covered in smears of red.

‘Mary, are you okay? Is that blood?’

Mary sneered, ‘It is, Emily. Not mine though.’ Her voice was deranged, like a cackle. ‘Bit of a dramatic end to the Spring Festival. Miss Turnout accused me of selling her tainted produce. Said my milk was lumpy and had gone off. Said it had ruined her baking and left a horrible aftertaste. Well, I couldn’t stand for that.’

Emily drew back as the ghastly apparition gave a loud shriek. ‘What have you done, Mary?’

‘She had it coming, that harridan whore.’

‘Mary, you’re not yourself!’ exclaimed Emily.

‘On the contrary, precious innocent Emily, I’ve never been more myself!’

With that, she ran off through the fields. Emily got to her feet as the other villagers from Goosedown appeared. Sir Michael led the way with a shotgun in hand. ‘Where did she go, Emily?’

Emily pointed to the path of crushed poppies left by the madwoman. The crowd charged after her. Emily decided to walk back to Goosedown, still puzzled that she had fallen asleep all day (had she been drugged?) and shaken by what she had seen.

When she got there, she found…

I continue:

Miss Turnout’s Emporium in ruins. The windows were shattered. Smoke was billowing out of the charred doorway and undulating out into the night skies. A crowd of people stood and stared. Crying sobs came from the grouping. Someone wailed.

Because of the bright light echoing off of the full moon, Emily saw something draped on the ground. There was a pool of liquid that glistened over the material, black in the moonlit night. Emily crept closer. Her mind was swirling with everything that she had encountered along the way. She was still a bit fuzzy, and confused, from her passing out in the field.

She took a tentative step towards the Emporium. Then another. Emily forced herself to continue forward, frightened by what she would find. Until a wet hand landed on her shoulder.

Emily screamed, turned, and saw the hand was Miss Turnout’s.

She dropped her hand instantly. “I’m sorry, love. Didn’t mean to scare the wits out of you.”

Emily took all of Miss Turnout in: her hair was wild and free of her usual cap; her festival clothing was in tatters; there were scrapes, bruises, and black drippings flowing from cuts on her face, arms, and hands.  Emily froze.

“You..you’re bleeding.” Emily removed her kerchief and started to dab at Miss Turnout’s face. There was a severe gash across her forehead and Emily tried to staunch the ichor from the wound with her headwrap.

“Thank you, love. Thank you.” Miss Turnout paused, staring beyond Emily, focussing on her shop, and the draped figure on the ground. She had to shake her head to take her out of her self-made trance. The shake turned into a full-bodied shiver and quake, her legs giving out as she dropped to the ground. Emily helped her to sit up once MIss Turnout demanded she did.

“It was Mary who did this. That crazy sow. She came in my Emporium, put down her damned buckets, and started yelling and coming at me. I had to defend myself. Chairs went flying, one going through the window, and she got as good as she gave. We both went flying into the display cases. I got my cuts and scrapes from that, as well as her bloody fingernails. Then, Philipa came in. Mary was a banshee, flailing around, attacking the two of us.

I’m not sure how the fire started- we were too close to the cooking kettle, I know that. And then Mary…


Okay. Now it’s my turn to tag someone, and the blogger I’ve picked is a wonderful weaver of words, Natale, over at The Midnight Ember.

Update: Unfortunately, Natalie is unable to accept this challenge at the present. Life happens. So…

Please welcome Holly and her blog A Fresh Perspective. She will take on the next section. Thank you, Holly.

Here are the rules:

  1. Copy the story as it appears when you receive it (and the rules please).
  2. Add to the story in whichever style and length you choose.
  3. Tag only 1 person to continue the story.
  4. Have fun!

 

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The Tod Chronicles: Book 4

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@Richard_Kadrey Prompt

The Tod Chronicles Book 4

I. The Dangling Participle

It was the best of Tods, it was the worst of Tods, it was the Tod of wisdom, it was the Tod of foolishness, it was the Tod of belief, it was the Tod of incredulity, it was the season of Tod Light, it was the season of Tod Dark, it was the Tod of hope and despair, Tod had everything before us, and Tod blew it all to hell.

“Thanks, Tod. And your stupid monkey thing too.”

That became the call of the people. The saying could be found on a huge, I mean huge, number of things. Cups, mugs, t-shirts, bumper stickers for your Space Vehicle, pencils, coasters (for drinks, not going up and downsy things), and it could even be found tatooed on certain parts of the body by those who were most miffed. Coke had to recall a wee bit over twenty billion bulbs of their product that had ‘Tod’ on the label.

Noone in the Acronym Research and Study Services knew who came up with the saying. TTAYSMTT was not the most graceful combo. It sent Ms. Belfar, acting head of ARSS, into a convulsive state upon its first appearance on a sign being dragged behind an FL 42U FE sky drone (otherwise known as a Fluffy).  TTAYSMTT, spoken, was a mouthful. Some headway was made when it morphed into TattysMit. The cool kids gave it the tweak it needed,  and “Ta-Tay!” became the flavor of the month and a half.

Ms. Belfar recovered soon after. She went into the Medial Circumference a wreck and came out engaged to Mr. Frank Bloom, the Circumference Custodian, and all around Dandelion Master. They will be hyphenated and brought to union by Commodore 71 on 210988 at 1500 hour of the clock, EST. The BB’s are registered only at acronym friendly stores.

“Ta-Tay!”, I mean Tod, was not happy about any of this. He wasn’t happy about what led to all of this: he was badly injured by the Man-Eating Space Ducks but, surprisingly, he survived; was eaten by a planet (whose name can’t be named due to legal issues) and summarily spit out by the (un)said planet; and finally escaping the clutches of a Galactic Orb Buster (Mrs. Belfar-Bloom was quite pleased with GOB) after infiltrating the GOB in three different disguises, and eventually vanquishing the intergalactic foe with the help of his quasi-simulated girlfriend Anouk and Darth, the stupid incontinent monkey thing.

Even with all this surviving stuff going on, Tod wasn’t happy at all at this point in his life. He definitely didn’t think he would survive this latest muck up. Just about everyone left alive hated him. Anouk and Darth weren’t quite sure at this point.

He had one job, and he incontinated all over it.  Push a lever here, press the three strobing globes in the correct sequence, and put Metal to the Peddle©™®. One job: the safety of the known universe.

If only he had a Spork ®.

How he messed up, partially atoned for the cataclysm that followed, lost his love then got her back again, and why that stupid Darth hid an ulterior motive in his bowls, are all part of this Narrative In Space (the NIS series, ARSS approved). It’s become my job to lead you on as the Narrator of the narrative.

Who am I?

I’m Jim. Welcome to my world.

Stupid Tod.

**Jim Notes: In case you missed that last three of The Tod Chronicles NIS series, the following blue letters below with jaunt you to their destination:

No Tod, You Just Lie There While I Fight The Man-Eating Space Ducks With A Spork

Mars Blows

Tinker Tailor Soldier Tod (Yanked off the shelves due to secretive thingies being worked out) 

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Author’s Note:

The above pulp cover prompt was “altered” 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 story posts from Mr. Kadrey’s. 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, and really 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 his website: Richard Kadrey

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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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.

 

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.

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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

The Once and Future Gigolo: Chapit Youn

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@Richard_Kadrey Prompt

The Once and Future Gigolo

Chapit  Youn

Click. Taptaptaptap taptaptap. Taptaptaptap taptaptapp µëæΩ∩.

Ding

“Hey, hi. How…”

Qo’ reH jIHvaD contact jatlhqa’ pagh pIHoH jIH!

DingDing

“OK. Be that way.”

Click. Taptaptaptap taptaptap. Taptaptaptap taptaptapp øǧBH99.

Ding

“Hey, hi. It’s…”

Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !Alien Language will be great for my resume !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !I'm doing my homework in Alien Language !Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !I'm doing my homework in Alien Language !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageGreat! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageAlien Language will be great for my resume !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageGraduate School in Alien Language here I come !

Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Alien Language will be great for my resume !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Alien Language will be great for my resume !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageWow, I'm writing in Alien Language !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Great! Now I am a Master of Alien Language!Alien Language will be great for my resume !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Alien Language will be great for my resume !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !Yes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language !

Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !I'm doing my homework in Alien Language !Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !I'm doing my homework in Alien Language !Wow, I'm writing in Alien Language !I currently hold a Degree in Alien LanguageYes ! Now I can get a job because I know Alien Language ! Graduate School in Alien Language here I come !

DingDing

“Damn.”

Click. Taptaptaptap taptaptap. Taptaptaptap taptaptapp 8675309.

“Hey…”

37194421_10160600408095076_7018920346367557632_n

DingDing

“Huh? Damn Damn Damn!”

Click. Taptaptaptap taptaptap. Taptaptaptap taptaptapp MÓOÞNŒG±O.

Ding

“Hey, hi. It’s me. How…”

 

“Do not EVER contact me again, or I will kill you.”

“But…but, Dale…I…”

“Don’t you “but Dale” me, Jackson. Flash and I have…had…have an open relationship, but you took it way too far, like you always do.”

“But…but…”

“Yeah, first emptying his credit account and then telling Flash about our weekend at Ganymede’s Pleasure Dome-and in such detail-dumb move. Really dumb.”

“Dale, please…”

“NO! Enough. I don’t care how drunk you were, or hopped up, or whatever. I’ve had enough of ‘Supernova’ Jackson. And…I’m not the only one. You can’t diddle around the dome and not hear what’s going down. Everyone knows. Grok that?”

“Oh.”

“Yes. ‘Oh.’ Done. I’m done!”

DingDingAPOZZ↓¥MÜ

The last image he had of Dale signing off was her hand slamming down on her own panel. Jackson’s screen blanked out, followed immediately by a harsh electrical rip that flashed across the screen, frying the control panel.

“Damn,” he said, his chin hitting his chest as his eyelids closed, gritted shut.

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

Jackson was on his back, sometimes a favorite position but not this time. He had spent the last cycle replacing his control panel and was on the finishing touches. One touch almost finished him.

“哎他妈的!!!”

Self-soothing his index finger in his mouth, Jackson pulled himself out from under the console. He levered himself into his chair and pressed the mauve button.

Nothing happened.

Pressing it again had the same effect. And again. Banging the panel with both fists and kicking it from his sitting position yielding the same results. Deflated, he laid his head down, feeling the coolness of the Ti-Strength plas pressing against his forehead.

The control panel clicked on.

“OK D.R. Let’s take this home.”

“Of course, Supernova. Sit back and relax, and leave the interplanetary thrust to me.”

“Thanks, D.R.”

Jackson settled back, letting the chair’s field envelop him while his ship cycled through it’s various G’s to take him where’s he’s gone before in one piece. It gave him time to think of what has been going on lately. Dale’s dust off hurt the most. They’d been off and on for a long time, suiting both their needs as needs arose. The others…yeah, the others. He shrugged.

But Dale…

He subvocalized to D.R. to pump him with Traz to get him into a REM sleep. Best way to let the light years slip by. His mind fought the drug at first, racing through the faces of so many of his…of his..of…og hoz…

Supernova Jackson doesn’t snore.

At least, no one has ever accused him of that. Other things, but not snoring.

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

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.

BTW: The first three answers Jackson got to his commcalls are actual SciFi languages. There’s no prize, except for the privilege of being right;  I’d love to see if anyone can get all three. Go for it.

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

Hippie Snowflake Revolution: by Blast Thunderpunch ( Stuart Nager)

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@Richard_Kadrey Prompt

Hippie Snowflake Revolution

by Blast Thunderpunch (aka Stuart Nager)

Prologue

~~~

Comrade Aleksandr “Moskali” Joneski broke the news just days before the revolution went live. It was first hand, no sources. He ran with what he knew, and it was a doozy.

He had infiltrated a Starbucks, ordering a Double Mocha Lite Latte with extra foam. His face contorted, teeth grinding away, he fixed his fake Millenial beard. It had been slipping off. The heat from the day was making him sweat balls, and it didn’t help that  the waiting line reached outside the hated cofevee place. He had already discarded the Man Bun part of his disguise; with nothing on top to hold it in place, he gave up after 22 tries.

Finally, his drink was ready. They got the fake name wrong, noticing this as he walked away to put ten packets of sugar in it.  He told the wench up front his name was Gerard. She wrote “Jerk.”

He slipped into the tail end seat of the communal table (“Ha!”, he thought) and sat. And sat, and drank. Sat and drank…and listened. Eventually, he had to use the restroom. When he came back his seat was gone. So he wandered, jockeying around for another spot. Towards the front of the store,  he heard the inflammatory words:

“So, what are you doing on July 4th?”

Pushing his way onto a stool, facing to the window, Aleks tuned into the discussion that was going on behind him.

“Oh, you know,” the pregnant tramp with the “Baby Bump: Drive Slowly” tee shirt said. “Food, drinks…fireworks!”

Aleks almost fell off the stool. This was it! Confirmation. He almost jumped up and yelled “J’Accuse!”, but he wouldn’t give the gay frogs the satisfaction. Instead, he hunkered down, taking a notepad and pen out of his shoulder slung Man Bag.

The bearded pot smoking revolutionary, who sat opposite the slut, leaned forward. Aleks saw this in the reflection from the windows. “Yeah, yeah. Fireworks, naturally. There’s gonna be a huge crowd. Best to get there early.” He paused.  “Is Alexandria going to be there?”

“Mayyybeee,” she said. Aleks saw a huge grin on her hateful face. “I know you have a thing. Does she know you have a thing?”

The libtard only shook his head back and forth, looking down into his large (not Trente! Large!) cup of iced treason. “Well, um, I don’t know. It might do more harm than good.”

Aleks was lapping it all up. Taking a sip of what remained of his drink, he spit it out. It was cold. As cold as their hearts, their allegiance to this great country. He was furiously writing everything down.

The trollop let out a piercing bark of a laugh. “Well, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll come along with us. Be loaded for bear: you’re not the only one with sights on her.”

He had to stifle the giggles that wanted to break free. “I knew it! I knew it!” he thought. “I would have pegged him for a godless gay; maybe this hippie chick isn’t a chick at all. Maybe she’s a…a he! An affront to my God. My god!”

She levered herself up; her coconspirator stood up with her. Aleks noticed they gave each other what he could only assume was a coded body message: they hugged, and then she patted him on the arm three times. Pat. Pat. Pat.

“You better be there,” she said to him, pointing her finger. “Time to man up and fight for what you want.”

“Fireworks. Food. Alexandria. Fight for it. Got it.”

Aleks put his pad and pen back into the Man Bag and started to follow them out of the store. He noticed they went left onto Lexington, and then were turning left onto Concord.

“Hey, man, it’d help if you cleaned up after yourself. People here aren’t your slaves, you know.” The so-called man he had sat next to during all this piped up as he was trying to leave. Probably a Jew.

“Not yet they aren’t. Not yet.”

BREAKING: Democrats Plan To Launch Civil War On July 4th

 

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

Author’s Note:

Fairly recently, author Richard Kadrey has been posting, on Twitter, reworked/photoshopped covers of old pulp(ish) novels, changing them to show off his  brand of humor. The above pic is one of them. I just thought it’d be fun to write the above 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

Epilogue: Zephyr, A Caress: The Abysmal Dollhouse (AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Please check back on Monday, May 7th, for my Final Reflections. Thank you.

zephyr

Epilogue: Zephyr, A Caress

The Abysmal Dollhouse

Grief lasts as long as it will last. There is no timetable when it should end, no scale for how deep it should be. Nothing to say grief won’t return. It is its own living thing, and it either eats away at you or strengthen your resolve to go on, to mourn, to let go.

The Shopkeeper embraced hers as an inner sore: on the outside, she presented herself as was her norm. A freshly starched white buttoned blouse, the top button fastened, her fingers assuring her of this fact. She smoothed down the black fabric of her ankle-length skirt. Putting on her apron, she winced, tying it a touch too tight. She left it as it was, as she had done every time since…

In the many weeks since the incident, the Shopkeeper took her time getting to know all the new dollhouses. They appeared, without ceremony, taking residence in the places of the ones that had been destroyed. Malcanisen remained by her side as she ambled about. She still found some of the debris scattered in the most unlikely of places around the shoppe; but, once found, they simply faded away once she wasn’t looking.

This new crop of minature replicas had wants and needs, just as the previous tenants of her shoppe had. When the opportunities presented themselves, they murmured the same “mine, mine, mine” as the ones now absent. But, things were not status quo as before. Far away enough that it brought something new to the Shopkeeper: worry.

There was a balance shift with the new: more unhappiness, more anger, more depravity. These dollhouses outnumbered those that exuded more peaceful memories and needs. The Shopkeeper did not like this new shift at all. Yet, there was little she could do about the denizens about her. Only another upheaval could, hopefully, tip the balance in the other direction, creating a more harmonious setting.

What she could do, she did. Once she had the feel of the new she began to rearrange the placement of the houses. The darker abodes were situated near lighter natured dollhouses; when she could cluster them, she did. There was a stabilizing effect for a short while, but distinct grumblings permeated the shoppe after the first reshuffling. Twice more she shifted locations around the shoppe; on this third try, the houses seemed to accept their lots. The Shopkeeper was pleased, but not entirely happy.

The window display took on a whole new life. A magnificent replica of the Castle of Goeie Hoop stood there, majestic in scope, taking the whole of the display space. Many called out for their due when the new door chimes tinkled; sometimes many hushes from the Shopkeeper was needed to silence them. Occasionally, when she was at her counter, waiting, sounds of gunfire could be heard. The Shopkeeper would look over with a scowl; the noise ceased. Always.

She had begun to avoid the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée best she could. The Wall of Skulls underwent a thorough cleansing of what had been displayed before. All forty-two specimens were new, with new nameplate labels. She had glanced at them early on, missing a few, especially Sigurd. She felt them all yearning to tell their stories, their need overwhelming. It disturbed her deeply; she kept it locked, a drastic change in her dusting duties.

It was one skull in particular that had her in knots. While she was privy to some ghastly knowledge from many in her care, there was that one: she wasn’t ready for it, wasn’t sure if she would ever be ready to hear the telling of this one’s tale.

The label only read “Child.”

Duster in hand, she busied herself around the shoppe, doing her best not to glance towards the empty far corner.

*** *** ***

The soldier only vaguely remembered the incident. He had a new scar that was painful if he placed any real weight on it. He had no concrete awareness of how he got this scar or even the when or the where. All he knew was it ached at times, and was only one of many scars all over his body. He carried it like the others.

There was a stiffness in his right hand, the outer two digits especially. His EMT buddy said it was probably a bad case of Trigger Finger since they sometimes get locked into a bent position. He was able to release them, so he didn’t bother checking out a doctor for it.

“Look, Tom. A Zayat ahead. I could use a rest stop.” His companion, Mary, tired easily, but he was more than fine with that. Her recovery from her stabbings was labeled a miracle by the nurses that tended her. His EMT buddy thought so too, having read Mary’s charts, even though he wasn’t supposed to.

Tom had awakened one day at the hospital, sitting by Mary’s side, no idea how he had gotten there. He remembered tracking Mary’s assailant, and that was it. The next thing, he’s by her side, an aching scar, stiff right hand, and an awake Mary staring at him. Her smile filled her face when she saw he was awake.

The nurses had told her all about the guy who had brought her in, most likely saving her life. They said he sat by her side more days than they kept count, talking to her comatose form, keeping on eye on her while she was out. He disappeared for a bit, and they all thought he had given up hope, but-surprise-he was back, and just after she, also, was back.

They talked for a long time, first about her attack and the aftermath. Mary was upset that her assailant had not been found, but was also relieved that there had been no further sightings or attacks. Tom was a reassuring presence for her, and she wound up being the same for him.

After her discharge, they got closer. Close enough to the point that he easily asked her to come with him: he needed to travel, come to some peace in his being with the loss of his brothers, and the guilt he still felt for falling asleep while on sentry. She agreed, without a second’s thought.

The Zayat was simple but more than sufficient, as all the others they had stumbled upon. They rested, found fresh food and water, and stayed for a few of the religious occasions that happened around them. Mary had an idea that Tom readily agreed to: they were given permission to stay and help tend this particular Zayat, for the time being, keeping it clean, helping with any chores that needed doing, and welcoming other travelers seeking shelter.

Their lives, for the time being, was enriched by this Zayat, the Jivitandana Sangha, and they enriched it, finding peace and love.

*** ***

The Shopkeeper was resting in her back room, fresh scone devoured, a second cup of tea steaming by her side on the table. She had closed her eyes, leaning into her padded chair. Malcanisen was at her feet; on her feet, more accurately, snoring away. Cleaning around the shoppe, tending to those who entered, the houses that wanted: it all still left a hole in the whole affair.

She had thought with the death of the murderer, the vengeance sought and achieved, that she would be released from her binding. As the Unfolding Doll seemed to have been. There had been nothing left of it from the fire that consumed Muirhouse and its woodshed. There had been no shimmering from the far corner, now less shadow filled than it had ever been. She was left, and it was gone, and the pain in her heart was so severe at times, the grief that subsided but rose again, and again.

Something prevented her from moving on. She racked her memory of everything that happened after that night at the Carousel, her then grief turning into a burning pledge of hatred and revenge. Promises made, from her and…promises made, but not kept, it seems, for her.

Collecting herself, she began to breathe in deeply, hold the breath, and let it out slowly. She continued this, calming herself into a single path of breath. It eased through her, a wind of her own making. It carried out a host of inner turmoil, a monsoon of sadness. She rested for a long time.

Until.

She came awake instantly. The Shopkeeper wasn’t sure if she had dreamed it, or…but, no, there it was, slight but there. A tap, tap, tapping…and it was near, so near.

Malcanisen bounded out of the back room. The Shopkeeper jumped out of her chair and ran through the threshold into the shoppe. Stopping suddenly by her counter, she looked around the entire area, looking under, behind, around; no one was there. Malcanisen sat down, eyes on her.  Tears that she thought she had been finished shedding started to well up once again as her heart shattered once again.

Until.

She glanced down. On the top of her counter was a knife. Long and sharp looking, it had a sheen that caught the light in the shoppe and sent spiraling of colors into the air, a prism of steel. She took hold of the hilt of the blade and brought it up, level with her heart, and held it there.

Looking in the far corner, it was again clouded in the deepest, darkest shadow.

And it was unfolding.

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

The AtoZ Blog Challenge

Here we are: the end of this year’s AtoZ Blog Challenge. During the month of April 2018, the challenge required that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. On Monday, May 7th,  there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers. If you travel back to the main page of the AtoZ Blog Challenge, you’ll find other blogs that participated. Many, I’m sure, will pique your interest, as many did mine.

On May 7th, all of the participants of the AtoZ Challenge are asked to post a reflection on the month’s process: afterthoughts, explanations, frustrations/elations, and whatever else may come to mind.

****After you read the Z post on Monday, April 30th, I will be asking YOU for questions, ponderings, or suggestions you might still have. I found a number of editorial mistakes when I copied and pasted the stories into a Word file (thank you, Grammarly) and already did some (minor) editing. So, if you’ve been with me all along, or just finding your way into The Abysmal Dollhouse, April 30th will be a good time to pose what’s on your mind. I will do my best to answer/address all on the reflection (mentioned above).

Any queries must be posted by Friday, March 4th.

As to what happens next with Tale Spinning &/or The Abysmal Dollhouse…time will tell.

Thanks for reading along.

Sigurd The Mighty: The Abysmal Dollhouse (#AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

Skull

Sigurd The Mighty

The Abysmal Dollhouse

Shadows edged their way throughout the shoppe,  pockets that swalowed light. The Shopkeeper would try to rearrange the lighting, add more fixtures, but nothing stuck: what was in the light remained so; the rest was shadows’ realm. The far corner held a shadow so complete that nothing affected it for more than a few moments. The Shopkeeper normally kept her distance, her peripherial vision always alert.

She made her rounds, dusting dollhouses, counters, display cases, and cabinets, in a grid pattern. She was careful in her dusting normally, but her experience with the woman whose mouth was covered, the devout way she used her personal brush on her temple, made an impression on the Shopkeeper.

Time passed. The shopkeeper stood at the side wall, off the left of her workstation, and realized she had not cleaned inside the largely locked cabinet in quite some time. Searching her apron pockets, the could not find the key that would unlock the door. She left the floor, positive she had hung it from the key hook in her back room. She walked behind her counter, hung up her duster, and went in search of the key.

Yes, the key was hung by its own ring, on top of a series of keys that unlocked other things. Taking it down and placing it in her pocket, the Shopkeeper heard a noise just outside of her room. A tap, tap, tapping against the glass. “Not now,” she muttered, knowing what it was, knowing she had not heard the front door open nor the door chime tinkle.

Stepping over the threshold, she turned and saw that the Unfolding Doll was leaning against the glass of the large curio cabinet. Its knife was making the sound, the tap, tap, tapping.  The hand of fine linen clutched the handle, letting the tip of the blade make the noise. The doll was all in white this time, delicate lace enclosed wrists led to the white sleeves, attached to a white lace bodice, finished off with a white linen skirt that fell almost to its ankles. The black buttons in the place where eyes would have been being fixed on one thing in particular in the locked display.  Its black ringlets were tossled, adding a wild contrast to the rest of its attire. Yet, it suited the blade.

The Unfolding Doll turned its head in the direction of The Shopkeeper, the tapping continuing. “Please, stop,” the Shopkeeper asked, reaching to her right where her broom was propped against the wall. Surprisingly, the noise did cease. The Shopkeeper sighed, took the key out of her pocket and waited until the knife was gone.

Walking forward, key in hand, the Unfolding Doll took a step away. Its button eyes did not move from what it was fixated on. The Shopkeeper inserted the key, turned and unlocked the large glass door, and gently opened it.

Inside stood the multi-tiered Wall of Death, a miniature presentation of the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée. Skull after skull adorned the replica wall, each with its placard, in tiny print, the matter of death that was the story of each individual whose brainpan was showcased. At present, there were seven shelves with six neurocraniums displayed, most of them complete, a few with cranial abrasions or missing pieces. 

The Doll stepped up and gazed solely on one skull, second shelf from the top, first one to the left. The Shopkeeper quietly moved behind and to its side. She pointed at it, reading the sign: Sigurd the Mighty. The Unfolding Doll appeared to relax, enough so that the Shopkeeper knew it was this that drew the doll’s attention.

Focussing solely on Sigurd, the Shopkeeper channeled her emotional energy on the object, as she had done before with other skulls. For her, it was the only way to unlock its story.

A deep male voice came from the cabinet.

40 men fought with me; 40 fought against. Their leader, Mael Brigte the Bucktoothed, refused to bend knee to me and my king, my brother, the rightful ruler of Norway. I had conquered all of this northern land of the Britains, this pissant of a leader being the last to stand in my way. He and his fought for his land; I and mine fought for our King.

Both sides were able, I will give Bucktooth that. Yet, his men had not fought battle after battle, did not have the true knowledge of those they fought with and their capabilities. My 40 cut down them all to a man. Mael put up a great fight, but he was still no match; I had not been called Riki, The Mighty. 

Shattering his knees with my mace, I drew my long sword, releasing his life force with blow after blow. Down went Mael Brigte, down the Bucktoothed, and the remainder of his men still standing lost hope, and they followed him down, to let the ground feed off of their blood.

While my men took their spoils, I took Mael’s head, tying it up to hang off my horses’ saddle. This was a trophy for my king, a show that this northern land was mine, and in its way, the king’s as well. We rode away from the slaughter, making our way back, knowing many days were still ahead of us. At nightfall, around the fire, it was made notice that I had a series of large scratch marks on the outer part of my leg. I had felt some pain, ignoring it as we rode having just left a battle. We passed around the skins of wine and none feeling anything after a while.

As I made to mount in the morning, I found Mael Brigte’s head looking at me. It seemed it was smiling, but it was only his buckteeth sticking out, his mouth frozen in an open grimace. The mouth and teeth were red, but I would be damned if cleaning the head was going to happen.

The road back was uneven, and my horse stumbled now and then. Each time it did, the head of Mael banged into my leg, a few of those times I felt pain. I kept one eye on the path, one eye on the head. A hole in the ground almost caused the horse to drop, but it righted itself well. Yet, eye on the trophy, I saw that the buckteeth of my foe had bounced far away and returned, scoring my leg. Blood pooled down my calf and was soaking my footwear.

When we finally stopped, the pain in my leg was so wretched that I at first limped to the campsite, nearly falling into the fire. I tried to sleep, but the pain was absolute. I was sweating, shaking, and when one of my men tried to help he touched the area where it hurt the most. He drew his hand away sharply, saying that the leg felt like a winter stove. He rubbed his hand in the dirt. I had been going in and out of being awake. I thought he said that there was something slimy coming from that spot on my leg, and there was a horrible smell being emitted. I passed out and remained so until the morning.

My men had to bring me to my horse and saddle me. I heard the complaints of a smell, and evil looks were given to my leg but the glances were swift. Everyone mounted, and we continued on. The path remained uneven, the head of Mael Brigte scored my leg again and again. Towards the setting of the sun, a day and a half away from our home, I fell off my horse, already dead before I left the saddle.

My son, Gottorm, buried me at Sigurðar-haugr.

This is my story told. Leave me be.

The Shopkeeper revived herself, awareness flooding back into the shoppe. The Unfolding Doll was not there. It was walking down the aisleway, tapping every now and then with its knife. The doll headed to the far right corner and the shadow. Stopping just before it, the Unfolding Doll turned to look in the Shopkeeper’s direction. Walking backward, it folded itself into the shadow and was gone.

Dusting the skulls was needed, and dust she did. A few of the skulls reached out to her, wanting to tell their story.

“Hush. Not now, please,” she gently quieted them down. “There is always time for more.” Finished, she took the key out of her pocket, locked the cabinet door, and returned to her back room. She hung the key back on the hook with all the other keys.

She smelled something. On the small dining table was a freshly baked scone, clotted cream, and raspberry jam. Next to it was a steaming cup of tea. She picked it up to take a sip: yes. She “mmmmmm”‘d as she folded herself into her padded chair. Thai High Mountain Oolong, a fresh scone. The Shopkeeper sipped, nibbled, and smiled.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

Sigurd the Mighty is part of Bizarre Viking Deaths. No joke. I came across his story years ago and always wanted to do something with it. Well, here you go.

As to the Wall of Death, if you ever go to Philadelphia, there is the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians. A very bizarre place to have a first date, but it’s what she wanted to do. There is a wall of skulls. I just took it a step further. I always thought this was an appendix to the “normal” Abysmal Dollhouse tales, but I’m glad I wrote this one for the AtoZ. Hope you enjoyed.