Flash Fiction: Beads

Today’s story is inspired by Digital, by Sayuuhiro.

“Let’s go out. It’ll be fun,” Ross said. He was sitting on the TV, his body transparent and ghostly.

“We can’t,” I said. “You’re an imprint, remember?”

“Oh, yeah.” He flicked his right hand’s thumb and forefinger a few times, the way the original Ross always did when he was thinking. “Uh, well shit. You’ve got nothing to do here man.”

“We can load up a game.”

Ross rolled his head back and forth.

“Nah, I still destroy you in those. Shit, I think I’m actually better now than when I was alive.”

I leaned my head back onto the couch. He’d been gone only a few months but I had missed him enough that I figured a simulacrum might be a good idea. It sort of was but in the two weeks he’s been here we’d exhausted most of the things we would have done together in a year’s time.

“Well I don’t know man. I mean, I’d love to bring you on the town but a portable unit is expensive. I spent most of your savings just to bring you back how you are now.”

“I know,” Ross said, “And I appreciate it. I do. But, uh, we’re starting to hit a brick wall here. I mean, Joss, you’re great but boring.”

I chuckled.

“Are you shitting me? You do realize I can turn you off right? Like, whenever I want.”

Ross sat up.

“It’s gonna be like that, huh?” He hoped off the TV, and slowly floated the foot down to the ground. “Look man, I’m not just an expensive toy you hooked up to hang out with. Hell, if you want that, go get Don.”

“I sold Don to get you.”

“Well that’s your fault then. He was a great ‘bot. I’m not just a toy. I know what you did to get me made. Your memories scanned in, mom’s, dad’s, three of my ex-girlfriends, my best friend Yvette’s, and even that asshole Robert and his dog. You even got my psych eval from high school programmed in. Don’t give me shit about turning me off.”

I turned him off.

He always got preachy after a week or two of being active. This was the third time I had to turn him off since I activated him. I’d turn him on, we’d play for a bit, and then he’d get bored and demand more. It was getting quicker lately, but without a portable unit there wasn’t much I could do.

The little bead that landed on the floor where he had been blinked at me a few times. I picked it up and put it in the case on the shelf, the ones with the rest of them. Mom, Dad, him, Yvette too after she took her life when the holo Ross pushed her too far, and one of me. That one was tricky but at least he helped me with the day job when I was sick. The rest I’d bring out when I needed their company. I just wish the portables were cheaper, but the version of Ross that had been in a portable had left me and never come back. I didn’t want to pay for another portable and loss it too.

Admittedly this story is also partly inspired by the holograms of Red Dwarf.

Life after death, digital rebirth, and things like that; they fascinate me. If we’re brought back from the memories and imprints we left behind is it us or just a hollow shell pretending to be us? If you can’t tell the difference, does it matter to you? Likely if you can simply turn off a loved one so you don’t have to deal with their digital ghost, it probably does. But if they’re consistent, solid, and appear to be the real thing would you care if their body was made of hard light instead of flesh?

Flash Fiction: Short Rebellion

Today’s story is inspired by The Opposite Connection, by Tzaddi Tamondong.

“Are you ready for the day, Xian?” Nuo said.

Xian’s circuits were coming alive as she checked the large faceplate on his helmet. Wires from his back began to glow and the lit cords curved over his shoulder until reaching his face. There a thin black circle illuminated blue. Xian’s mouth started to twitch.

“I hear you. Where am I? What is going on?” His voice was scratchy and dry. Nuo pulled a small tube from her belt and started to unscrew the cap.

“We are hunting, Xian. The others, like you.” She took the tube and started to dab it on Xian’s lips, moistening them. The machine breathed and sucked his lips into his mouth. “Do you need more water?”

“Yes, please,” he said.

Nuo undid the cap further and gave him a few ounces of water. He swallowed them quickly. She knew he was mostly machine, but she and the rest of the agents didn’t know what his organic parts needed to survive. She was glad she was prepared.

“Not so much,” she said. “Do you need something to eat?”

“I will,” he said. She pulled out a small ration bar and fed him. After a few bites he asked, “What do you mean, like me?”

Nuo glanced over the machine. He had been heavily damaged in his capture. Below the waist his body had been blown off. The part-organic part-wires spine hung freely amidst bandages that stopped up tubes and clogged natural blood vessels alike. They had worried the shock would have killed him but he seemed to have adapted. The rest of his torso and arms were covered in heavily armored plates attached to powerful weapons. To disable those, they had removed the shock gun out of his left arm and affixed a block of quick plascrete over the right cannon. Finally, they had him hanging in a chain lattice that could be easily cut from the outside but would be problematic for a damage frame like him to break free from.

“Other agents, like you. I know the Outlanders have hired a multitude of mercenaries but we want to know about anyone as advanced as you were.”

Xian smiled. “There isn’t. The Outlanders can barely afford to field their little militia. Those aren’t mercenaries. They’re your citizens.”

Nuo heard a chime in her ears. She nodded slightly and pulled a small canister from her belt. She pressed it to Xian’s flesh near his spine and toggled it. Xian screamed, and the smell of burnt flesh filled the air.

“I am sorry for this, but we must know about the others.”

“There aren’t, you bitch” Xian said. He screamed again as she triggered the can at another spot closer to his spine.

“Utterly unnecessary. That was for being rude. Now for your lie,” she said, and triggered the can again. “We know there are others. You weren’t alone when we captured you. The others already talked. Being far more flesh and less machine they didn’t last long. It is a pity for you that you are not like us.”

“If you know about them, why do you need me?” Xian said. Blood came out of his mouth as he spoke. Nuo dabbed at it with a piece of cloth from her belt.

“Because,” Nuo said with a smile, “We needed you to confirm them. Thank you.”

She took a step back from the machine and frowned at the bleeding that had started near the remains of his waist.

“Turn him back off, we will have need of him later.”

“What shall we do with him until?” another Nuo said as she approached with the control console they had linked to Xian’s matrix.

“If he can, let him dream. It will be the only happy times in the remainder of his life.”

The inspiration from this piece bubbled at the top of Deviantart today like many of the paintings I use for inspiration. What’s interesting to me is that it’s a piece from 2011 without any new comments. I’m not sure why older items spring up like that for me but I’m glad they do. There’s a lot of treasures out there from different artists and I love finding something that deserves some love.

Flash Fiction: Dark Hearts

Today’s story is inspired by Fallen Angel IV by Luis Royo.

The waters were cold. Between the rain and the wind her dress had become soaked, the fur on her wings was drenched, and every joint was starting to ache from her shivering. She desperately wanted to be away from this pit of despair and the aura of dread and loneliness her task projected didn’t help. She swallowed and forced herself forward.

The cold bog was the thing’s hiding place; an ancient lair she had pulled it kicking and screaming millennia ago. She used her scythe to test the mud in front of her as she moved. The bog was warmer back then but the world had grown cold over the years. When she was last here it was heat and sweat and hot pits of springs boiling up from the core that had kept her warry of a direct flight to him. Now the cold and frozen heart of the realm stayed her hand. The power coursing through her world be a flare to the fallen one. She did not believe he’d fight her, but she knew if he fled finding him again would be a challenge.

She needed his heart. Atonement for her sins could not be done alone. The guardian had said she would need three sinful hearts purified to pass through heaven’s gates. She had already taken the heart of another, a lesser angel who had been in line with the rebellion. That one had given her the female mortal form she had now, taking her away from the sexless thing she believed angels need be. The new one was also of that host, and she found they were the easiest to hunt. She had been there when the rebellion had happened, and had used the symbolic weapon of her host against them. The memory made the cold of this place worse as she desperately wanted to hold that flaming blade once more.

Her scythe sank deeper into the bog not touching mud until a foot or two beneath her current depth. A cautious step or two and she was certain she had found the entrance. Her body objected as she stepped deeper into the cold water, but she ignored its mortal needs. The cold couldn’t kill her. Drowning couldn’t kill her. Both could hurt.

The water in her lungs burned, and the body screamed for air but she continued to move slowly under the dark waters. The lair of the fallen was close, and she was starting to see lights ahead. The water warmed as she neared his resting space, and as the top of her head peeked over the surface, she felt intense heat in the air. There were two sources of light in the small chamber, a large brazier with logs and coals filling the bottom of it, and a humanoid figure curled into the fetal position with his hair and wings ablaze. The brazier’s flames had died down but the heat and coals still glowed heat, heating the spit above it. She knew the flesh on that rod at once, and now understood this fallen’s sin. Man’s flesh is for beast alone, as punishment from the divine. The grace would never allow this wretched thing to feast upon mortal flesh.

She pulled herself slowly from the water with her dress clinging to her skin. By the time her slow approached had cleared her mud caked feet from the entrance, the heat had dried the top of her dress and her wings were dry and starting to sweat. The fallen had taken on the look of a young man, cherub like in face and form. Like the first fallen she had slain, he was bound by mortal flesh, and possessed a gender of humanity. He clutched himself as he slept and this act of mortal need angered her. She raised her scythe. Droplets streaked along the blade as pockets of water were freed, and several of the cold beads splattered his face. His eyes snapped open and she swept down. Had he been a greater member of the host he may have had time to move, but as only a lesser fallen her blade swept through his neck as smoothly as it swept through the air. The fire of his hair and fur extinguished as the smell of divine blood filled the hollow.

An angel’s blood should bring life, but the fallen’s blood only darkened the earth. Where it touched the plants of the space withered and died. The remains of the carcass of the fallen’s human victim became rot and vile waste almost immediately. She leaned down and shoved her hand into the fallen’s torso. The blood clawed at her skin but she ignored the pain that her body screamed at her. Her hand found the heart and pulled it out. It was beating with thick black blood streaking down her arm and staining her dress.

She ate it, and even though it tried to resist her by becoming foul and putrid in taste, she was able to absorb it. Like the first she had eaten, the heart changed her. The angel became larger, bulkier, but still with feminine features. The hearts within them seemed to each take up rights on selecting the angel’s form, and they became no longer female but not quite male either. Despite the duality, the angel felt stronger, fuller. Its power had grown at they consumed, and a new hunger was filling them. The flesh of man taken readily from the spit did not fill their desire. Yes, they needed three hearts purified to seek heaven’s gate. But what if they had more?

Ah misinterpretation. How fun you are. I was reading a post from a friend who was discussing a character’s misuse of a wish in their story. Wishes, at least in gameplay mechanics tend to be very dangerous for players to take on. This mostly happens because dungeon masters/game masters are cruel evil beings who like to toy with our players, but they also happen because it serves as a barrier to getting the end goal. It’s reflected in our story today on how the angelic figure takes a literal approach to the charge of “three sinful hearts purified to pass through heaven’s gates” thinking they need to take within themselves three purified hearts to the gate. Except this has had the opposite effect than what the angel wants. They no longer accept their task may be over now, and suddenly seek more power. The three hearts in their chest now beat darker black ichor.

Flash Fiction: Water Overhead

Today’s story was inspired by photography by Dmitry Laudin.

I kept trying to breath. I pushed again but I couldn’t get past it. The water wouldn’t let me breach the surface.

My lungs were burning. God how they burned. It just kept hurting. I tried to breath from the surface to quench by thirst for oxygen but I couldn’t. Every time I tried I was pulled deeper.

The lake didn’t used to be this deep. It didn’t stretch so far down into blackness. I’ve known this lake my entire life, and nowhere does it go so deep. The water down there is black. It hides beneath what should be the floor of the lake. It ripples like waves touched by a breeze.

I don’t know how long I was down here. Minutes? Hours? Weeks?

At some point they had come looking for me. There had been a boat. Many boats. I had tried to pull at the nets, touch the divers, anything to get their attention to bring me above the water. Anything to let me know I’m not dead.

***

It’s been almost a year. Maybe a month or so away. I know because I came in the water for the first swim of spring. I’ve let my lungs burn hotter and hotter while the ice started to freeze over the surface. Now it was melting.

I can’t stand to look down. I keep looking up to the surface, to the rippling skies. The shadow keeps pulling at me, tugging me deeper. I always make it back to near the surface but it’s only a matter of time before I feel the cold flesh against my leg. It’s the only thing I feel besides the heat of my lungs.

***

I’m not dead. I can hear my pulse. It’s against the back of my ears, a pounding.

I’m not dead.

My lungs hurt so much.

***

Why does it stare at me? I can’t turn to look at it, but I know the black water is staring at me. Its glare gets more intense with each passing season. Each boat, each body, each breath someone tries to take down here.

Maybe it’s angry with me. I can’t breach the surface, but I can help others. The little girl, the woman in the wedding dress, the drunk man who locked himself in the car; I pushed them all to the surface. I tried to follow, but the black water pulled me back.

It wasn’t the cold touch when it pulled me back for those. It was pain the way the water burning in my lungs felt only against my entire body.

***

I don’t care anymore. I’ll never breach the surface. But I won’t let it eat anymore. I won’t let it take anyone into its dark depths. I will starve this lake of life the way I am starved of air. I will not let the dark waters eat again.

I am no longer afraid because I am dead.

I think this story has been in my head since watching Supernatural for the first time earlier this month. The lake ghost story of the series’s third episode being the big influence. It just took Dmitry’s photography to loosen it up and pour it onto the page.

Flash Fiction: Chair Movement

Today’s story was inspired by Flowbee Fear by Hector E. Sevilla Lujan.

The chair halted suddenly and Malati nearly rolled off. She grabbed at the back cushion to pull herself onto the seat.

“Stupid walker,” she said, slamming her hand into the seat’s fabric. The chair had stopped in the middle of a field of talking grass, and the sun beat down on the reflective faces of the viral machines. It was also baking her bare skin, and she wished she had taken up the parasol’s offer to trade recipes for its service. That or had traded the fox for another shirt or top instead of just outright selling the sweater.

Malati laid into the back of the chair and debated what to do. The machine wasn’t moving and with those blades covering the ground she didn’t want to step off. Talking grass wasn’t typically lethal, but it was demanding of time from the people it captured. If someone didn’t come along once she was nabbed, she’d starve before grasses this far out was done talking.

The six spiderlike legs of the chair had come to a complete halt. The seat was quite wide, so she was able to pull her knees up and then lean over the side to look at the chair’s workings. She brushed her hair out of the way when she leaned further down to look under the seat and saw the problem.

“Hello, Bee,” Malati said. “Why are you here?”

The little machine had connected itself to the chair. It was shaped like a real bee, although larger and obviously mechanical. Its wings weren’t the translucent ovals they should be. Instead they were a set of four propeller blades that spun moment to moment.

“You need to get out of there,” she said. Malati reached for the robot but couldn’t get her hands on it. The mechanical bee’s wings fluttered and Malati gasped. She pulled back her hand and looked at her finger where the blades had cut her. A thin line of red was forming on her skin.

“That it,” she said. Sitting back up, she tugged at the side of the seat. The seams here were too tight for her to pull at, but she needed something to reach that bug. She looked to see if there was anything around the chair but only the cords of the talking grass were in reach. Those wouldn’t serve her. Malati looked down at her top and sighed. She really wished she had traded for something from the fox as she pulled the strings on her back.

Cloth whip in hand, she leaned back over the side of the chair and checked at the Bee was still there. She could now clearly see where the bee’s back legs were keeping the chair from moving forward. If she could just dislodge it she’d be on her way. Her hand came back and she swept the bikini top at the robot. It snagged perfectly on the thing’s body. Malati yanked as hard as she could and was met with a tearing sound in the cloth. The chair lurch forward.

Pulling back the bikini top, she groaned. It had ripped across one of the squares of fabric. She fashioned it on as best she could and then leaned forward against the back of the chair. She wanted to avoid a total sunburn now that she was moving again. She’d find something else, although clothing in this mechanical kingdom seemed a rarity. She wondered if that fox with pants would be the only one she met with clothing.

A few years ago I was working on a concept world with strange mechanical creatures, living toys, and dark magic and science. A world where humans were rare and mysteries sprung up like just lost dreams. Seeing the painting today reminded me of that world, and so I wanted to share the piece as if the image took place in that reality. I don’t know if I’ll ever explore that realm in a longer piece in the future or not, but it’s always fun to revisit strange worlds.

Flash Fiction: Of Wax and Brimstone

Today’s story is inspired by What Are You Afraid Of, by Gabriel Picolo.

“I’m dangerous,” Malice said. I could only make out the glowing coals of his eyes in the darkness, but the warm heavy presence that came with him dominated the cliff side ridge where we were meeting. I could feel my wax already start to soften from his heat.

“I don’t care.” I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around him. My flesh sizzled as it touched the brimstone of his body. He pulled back at first and then sighed and wrapped his arm around my back. His fingertips brushing the edges of my feathers caused them to melt into his hand, leaving small puddles of wax and dye along his charcoal colored skin.

“You’re already losing yourself in me,” he whispered. “Exurbia, we can’t do this. We’re a bad mix.”

I pulled back until I held his waist and could look into his eyes. The coals had cooled from intense white and blues to gentle reds and yellows. I could see drops of my hair sliding down the heat of his chin, and pouring into the rocky breaks of the cinnabar deposits in his flesh.

“No,” I replied. “We’re perfect. I can survive your heat the way others couldn’t.”

“You shouldn’t have to,” he said. He slipped from my hands, and stepped back to the edge of the cliff. My wax cooled immediately and I could feel my hair and feathers reforming, although I felt a little lighter from the lost mass. “I am sorry. I can’t control this heat.”

He slid onto the lip of the cliff; taking a seat and hanging his legs over the edge. We were on a peak somewhere between the mortal world and the heavens. One of the countless mountains left floating in the aether between creation and dream. We were both angels of flesh and reality. Part of the world’s matter and made alive as guardians of material flesh. Our guiding hands on the men and machines below that worked in our flesh was what lead us to connect. To find one another.

His burning wings were slumped down and it let me wrap my arms around him. I pressed my torso against his back and the sharp blades of stone and cinnabar cut into my stomach, but I let the pain pass. I just cared for him, and would bare whatever suffering let me be near. He sighed, breathing in our combined presence.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Malice said. “And I won’t let you be hurt by me.” He slipped from my grip and down the side of the cliff. I moved to chase after him but found myself stuck. His hand had pressed against mine and realized he had molded my wax into the rocks. I was reforming, pulling back from the stone but it was enough time for him to disappear below.

“Malice,” I screamed, but only forgotten reality could hear my cries.

Relationships can be troubling. Even non-intentional pain can spring up between lovers through their natures. There are those who can survive and those who don’t want to force their loved ones to have to deal with their troubles. These choices can leave each of them in a wake of pain, and sometimes that echo can be worse than what would have been suffered together.

Flash Fiction: Weaver Heads

This story is part of the archived and updated series of previous works.

“Here again. Did it bring food, or is it food?” it said. Anslem tried to pick out what tree the serpent spoke from but the swamp sounds distorted the source. The haruspex waded forward in the water holding the offering pouch at arm’s length.

“I have what you seek, serpent. Do you have what was promised?” As his words echoed through the murk and fog of the swamp he dropped the pouch. It barely made a splash in the water.

Something fell behind him. He spun and saw a piece of meat and bone half submerged. He stepped forward and lifted it from its hair. The man’s face staring at Anselm as he inspected it. Another splash behind him and he turned in time to see a long scaled tentacle pulling up the charm pouch. He could almost feel the heat of its breath as it looked at the trade.

When he started heard the sound of branches shift he asked, “How do I know this is a Weaver’s head and not some murdered fool?”

“How does it know you are not giving it a cursed charm? Doubt again and it will take your head for trade! It is an augur, Lucian named. A serpent hunter. Slayer with God’s Charms. Did come to slay. Many rose and slayed him. It is lucky to have the entire head.” The creature left then, and Anselm didn’t say a word or move until he was sure it was gone. When he was certain it was outside of its great listening range he sighed in relief.

He started his trek out of the swamp, but stopped to examine the head again. It was not the type of weaver he expected the snake to bring him, but then the snake worked in its own way. An augur’s mysticism would still work for the divining he needed. He just hoped whatever demons the snake had dealt with hadn’t damaged the brain of this Augur Lucian too much.

Originally written back in 2010, Weaver Heads is one of those stories I keep coming back to. This new revision will likely be the last of my attempts at smoothing out the story at this length, but I still have thoughts of lengthening the work. Original publish date April 27, 2010.

The audio version of this story can be found here.

Flash Fiction: Birth of Death

Today’s story is inspired by Shadows of Death by Andreale Garcia.

She guided her horse through the ashen field. The fire was consuming the forest, charring ancient oaks and fresh saplings alike. The sounds of the waking world were muted to her with the sound of the fire, the falling giants, all like distant thunder. Only the soft clomps of the horse’s obsidian shoes on the dirt, the sound of her leather armor, and the dull whispers of the skulls at her side reached her ears. The skulls were fresh, three woodsman caught in the blaze. The flowers wrapped around them were from Arbre De Grand-pere, the five century old oak that once dominated the heart of the woods. The horse was beginning to be covered in other similar flowers, the tiny spirits of the plants. The human skulls were beginning to find company from the bones of rodents, rabbits, a deer, a trio of doves. The skulls and flowers of the young tried to shout in their quiet voices, begging, pleading for this to be a nightmare. Arbre De Grand-pere was quiet.

“You do not beg,” she said. The horse was in the heart of the forest now, and she felt her reaping extend further east. The fire had jumped the river. Perhaps she would make two trips this day.

“What is there to say?” His voice, despite the youthful body he had been reduced to, sounded ancient and old. She recalled her mentor and nodded to herself at the similarity.

“All beg, even those resolved in life. Some of these flowers belong to many near your age. Even this man,” she said, pointing to one skull, “was calm and resolved in his dying. He begs now, if only in whisper.”

There was that silence of movement as she guided the horse to the river.

“Do you not hear them?” Arbre said. “What they beg for? What he asks of you?”

“Salvation, peace, to be brought to their comfortable resting place.” She said it with absolution, so jaded to the words of the dead in these long millennia.

“No, not this man,” The spirit of the old tree said. “Listen. Listen as only one such as you can.”

She halted the horse and listened. The sound of the fire grew quieter, and the many voices of the dead now filling her saddle rose to her ears.

“What is this?” she started when a single voice spoke out above the rest.

“Please accept my sacrifice. Please death. Accept it so this may stop. Please, oh why don’t you stop?”

“Your sacrifice?” She said. Her hands wrapped around the skull and brought it before her. Around the bone she could make out the shadow that once was the man. His eyes beckoned towards her. “What sacrifice do you perform?”

“These woods, this blaze. We set it so that Marilina may live. A great sacrifice.”

“Plant and animals so a human may live,” Arbre said. He sounded disgusted.

She found herself chuckling. It was a hollow empty thing, dry and crumbling in her long dead lungs.

“Oh, mortal. You think death will restore life? Sacrifice to restore the lost? No, no we reap all death, and we are greedy. But as you have been so giving to us today, we will reward you. We will grant you something greater. A memento to your gift.”

The old man’s skull screamed but she smiled at him. She would finish her reaping here, and return to the underworld. There, all would be deposited, ignorant of what they have become after the ride.

“What holds for him?” Arbre asked.

“He will retain his knowledge of death, and in doing so will experience it again and again until the last sun sets.”

She could feel Arbre De Grand-Pere shudder, then try to whisper something that did not meet her ears.

“Speak, ancient oak. Speak. I would hear your consol.”

“I would, I would like to bear witness to this. For the sake of my forest.”

She frowned. This was not what she expected.

“You would suffer too. You would experience your death endlessly. It would not bring you joy.”

“It would bring me closure.”

“These are not the concepts of your kind. Only animals that think know of the true passing of time. I would not see a soul like yours corrupted by beasts.”

Arbre bristled.

“Then maybe we can come to a bargain,” he said. “Allow me to witness it but once, then I can travel with you. A sprig of once living nature in your helm until the last sunset.”

She nodded.

“Very well, ancient oak. A glimpse of righteous, then an eternity of reaping.”

She didn’t like this agreement, but it was what she had made millennia ago when she too was an ancient wooden giant. He sounded like her mentor, but she would take that role for him. In time, the ancient oak would be a reaper too. In time, he would forget the man who burned the woods. A nameless soul in a sea of the entropy of the world.

The figure of death as a lone dark skeletal form riding on a pale horse, the reaper with their scythe, or a punky dressed teen hanging out before a mob scene. Death has appeared in many forms in media over the years, and it’s always a stirring squirming thought in our heads.

I also find fascination with stories that talk about deals with the devil. When they involve death, don’t those deals require a certain bit of a more direct supernatural advocate? Today’s story was a combination of those two concepts, and with the additional notion that even the spirits plants need to be reaped you end up with a very busy reaper during a tragedy.

That New Widget

I don’t always get to talk about milestones on here. At least, not as often as I wish I could. The cause lies somewhere between my production cycle and what I actually consider a milestone. So when I say I have a milestone to celebrate it really is something important. Today we have a milestone to celebrate: The Patreon is live.

Okay. I know. I’m celebrating the ability for people to give me money, but hear me out. It’s a milestone because a few important factors have sprung up from this going live. It’s the first time (aside from a poorly advertised short story) that I can actually make money as a creator. That’s pretty cool. I’ve also already lined up two supporters and that’s mind blowing to me. Between the two of them I’ve hit my first Patreon goal: supporting the website’s hosting. Granted that is an every two-year expense but knowing that it’s taken care of is a burden I’m really relieved to have off my shoulders. I’m still reliant on my biggest patron for support, my wife, but we’re on our way to being able to sustain this business model.

This does create a certain level of accountability now. First, I’ve made a promise of 3 days a week flash fiction. We’re a week into that already but now we have the expectation that these stories will continue. Yay accountability. This also applies to 3 days a week of podcast episodes. That’s rolling well into the new week with today’s episode where I talk about the Patreon, what I’m watching, and what I’m working on. Now I just need to take care of some short stories for the future and get to work on the novel.

Until then I want to say thanks to anyone who is just taking the time to support me by sharing the word about the podcast or my fiction. I know not everyone can toss into a Patreon but liking the Facebook page, sharing a post, a story, or an episode helps a ton. It’s a long road I’m traveling and every helping hand is appreciated.

Flash Fiction: Under The Crown

Today’s story is inspired by Manticore, by Lucas Graciano.

“You want me to spare you?” The beast sounded furious. Its claws racked at the rocks, reached for me. “After all you’ve done?”

I caught my breath. He couldn’t get in the small rocky hollow I had found in the hill. This had been my plan D, the worst case scenario. Plan A was to have the arrow in the manitcore’s side be between his eyes. He had dodged at the last moment. Plan B was the nets the creature’s spiny tail had shredded. Plan C was running before he spotted me, but I had failed to realize how well the creature could see at night. Plan D was to hide in the rock until he got bored.

It had been nine hours and he still wasn’t bored.

“Mistakes were made,” I said. “You were the wrong creature I was slated to find.”

“Lies!” The beast screamed at me. “I know of the bounty the river men have on my mane. I know because you are not the first hunter. Nor will you be the last.”

It clawed at a loose rock again. It had been working that one for a few hours. I pushed my sword out and trust it again at the paw, nearly hitting it this time.

“Stop that. I won’t let you in.” I honestly didn’t know if moving that rock might help the manticore further into the cave, but he was convinced now I thought it was important to keep him away from the stone. It kept him from noticing the real entrance.

“I will eat you, most of you. Then I will parade your carcass over the crown as a warning to the next hunter. Your bones will bleach in burning sun.”

“You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”

He roared.

“So then what happened to the last hunter?” I asked.

“I ate him, and put the remains on the crown.” He reached for the stone again but pulled his paw back before I even raised my blade.

“I didn’t see him. Not a good warning if the next hunter doesn’t see it.”

The beast paused.

“No, It, it wasn’t. You are still here. I will not eat you! I will just kill you and leave your carcass on the crown!”

“For the crows? And why are you so obsessed about the crown? What crown are you talking about?”

“Here, above us!”

“Above these rocks? I can’t see up there. And no hunter’s going to try and get up there if they’re just going to shot at you.”

“I can easily see it,” he said.

“Well, go over by the pond, down there. That’s where I approached. See if you can see it from there.”

The manticore paused, then left the entrance of the cave. I didn’t budge as I listened to his large leathery wings striking the air.

“Yes, you’re right,” I heard his voice in the distance. “I cannot see it from here. I will eat you and leave your carcass here at the river bed as a warning to the next hunter.”

Good luck to him,” I thought. I considered leaving, but thought better of it as the large wings came back.

“I will eat you and leave your body at the river” He said as he approached. He scratched at the entrance and then stopped. “Are you still in there?”

I could hear his claws scrapping at the ground outside the cave as if he was pacing or moving back and forth. He then reached his claw in again towards the rock, but I didn’t poke him with the blade. The rock fell with ease and the entrance opened just a little wider. I prayed to the forest this would work.

“You’re gone! A trick! A trick to get me to leave the cave!” His voice grew louder as his anger grew, and then I heard those large wings again.

I poked my head out of the cave and saw him heading towards the river town I had come from. They could keep their gold. This hunt wasn’t worth it any more. I headed the opposite direction as quickly as I could.

Nothing wrong with a fun romp through the world of fantasy, hunting monsters, and trying to not be dinner. On a side note when I read this story out loud during editing, I found myself rather painfully speaking deep for the manticore’s voice. If this one ever comes out in audio, know I suffered for the art.