Busted – A Short Story

By now, Colleen has hopefully shaken off the long road trip, had time to stretch her legs, and started to put things in order. It’s an exciting time, starting a new adventure. It’s safe to say we’re all eager to learn about this new chapter and hear all the stories when she returns to the helm. In the meantime, I thought I would pop in to share a short story with you.

It’s a piece of flash fiction which includes two of my favourite characters from one of my series – Fractured. I wrote it in response to the following prompt – ‘You’ve got something stuck between your teeth.’ I hope you enjoy.

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Busted

Riley crept into Merc Hall like the animal he undoubtedly was; all stealth and sanguine movement. Once a prominent government building, it now served as a beacon in the aftermath of war – a sanctuary for those like him. A mercenary for hire. The energy of the place pulsed along his skin, perhaps the result of so many hunters under one roof. Even subdued by sleep he could feel the danger they represented.

Tonight it only confused his wolf, because he could sense an underlying threat. He knew something or someone was waiting for him in the dark.

Using his night vision to navigate the corridors, he focused on his surroundings. It was hard to rein in the beast after so much freedom, and tonight had been all about the darker side to his nature. His claws pricked at his skin in anticipation, but he didn’t relinquish control. Not when his nose had picked up the scent coming from his room.

Friend not foe. He knew who it was before he heard her voice.

“Relax, wolf-man, there are no monsters in this closet.” The words were pitched at the perfect level for his hearing, despite the door between them.

“Shit,” he muttered, turning the handle. “How many times do I have to tell you I don’t need an upgrade?” His gaze narrowed on Maddison. She had made herself comfortable on the floor, her back against his bed. “And,” he growled, stepping into the room and closing them in. “Closet or not, it’s private. Which means.” He paused to show off a little fang. “You’re invading my space.”

It didn’t surprise him when she rolled her eyes. “Changelings,” she said, on a sigh. “Always so damn territorial.”

He wanted to smile so badly his jaw ached. “Why are you here, Maddy?”

“I was worried about you.” She got to her feet in a quick, fluid motion, which was almost feline.

“Now you’re just trying to piss me off.”

Her grin was sly. “What? I can’t be concerned for the big, bad wolf?” When she put a hand on his arm he felt himself settle. The damn witch had always been able to do that because his wolf saw her as pack; whenever she touched him, Riley calmed. “Look,” she said, releasing him. “I know danger is part of the job description and, let’s face it, trouble tends to follow you around. But you’re hiding something, and I wanted to make sure it didn’t get you killed.”

Riley didn’t respond right away. He walked over to the portable fridge to grab a beer. “I don’t need a keeper, Maddy, and I’m not hiding anything. I just needed to blow off some steam.”

Her hand reached out to snatch the bottle, but her eyes never left his. “Bull. Shit.”

The growl came out before he could stop it, which annoyed the hell out of him. He rarely lost his cool. “You’re not going to let this go are you?” he asked, dropping to sit cross-legged on the floor.

Maddison followed his lead, her green eyes sharp and assessing as they met his. “I guess it’s a moot point, since you’ve obviously taken care of the problem.” Her body relaxed the moment the words left her mouth.

“You seem pretty sure about that.” He let out a long sigh, tired of the secret anyway. “Look, it was personal, okay. I found out who attacked Simmons and I needed to take care of it. I owed him.” Truth be told, he owed nobody more than the woman in front of him. Maddison hadn’t known Simmons well, but she would never question his right to avenge a friend’s death.

“Ah, so because Jonas ordered you to stay out of it, you had to keep a low profile,” Maddy said, before taking a swig of beer. “That explains the sneaking around.”

“I don’t sneak,” he muttered, then scowled for good measure. “And Jonas might be leader of the pack, but he doesn’t know everything.”

“Aw,” she said, toeing his boot with her own. “I’ve never been a member of a pack.”

His wolf grinned at her teasing. “Shut up, Maddy.”

She tipped the bottle towards him. “Fine, I’ll let it drop. On the condition that you take back-up next time.”

“If there is a next time, I’ll take you along. How about that?”

“Now we’re talking,” she said, a little too excited at the prospect of getting her hands dirty.

She was true to her word though. She didn’t hound him for details as they shared the beer and talked of their active assignments.

An hour later she took the hint and stood to leave. “See you at feeding time,” she said, strolling to the door.

“Maddy?” She paused to look back at him, one eyebrow raised in question. “How did you know? That I found him?”

“Please,” she said, with her customary eye-roll. “There’s little that gets by me in this place.” She paused again on the threshold. “Oh, and by the way…you’ve got something stuck between your teeth.”

Thanks for reading.

Mel

Breathing life into your characters

Father and Daughter by susan52: DeviantArt
Father and Daughter by susan52: DeviantArt

I’ve been thinking a lot about role models and how they influence a writer’s work; the ways this translates to our readers.

There’s a reason writers become invested in their characters, why they often refer to them as real; a living, breathing part of the world as they know it. They have a history, complex personalities, and emotional depth. For readers, if we’re lucky, this equates to a character springing to life on the page.

Regardless of the process or how much planning is involved, as writers, we draw from our environment, and our experience. We observe behaviour, ask questions, have a sensitivity to body language, and pay attention. But it’s more than that. The people we meet, those we know – we use these observations to build unique fictional people. Then we give them a place to belong.

It’s not always a conscious decision and, like people as a whole, most have a variety of influences – their literary genes are inherited from all we see and hear. That’s why it’s so much fun when a character comes to us out of the blue. It can be difficult to pinpoint where they actually came from given the amount of information we carry in our head! It’s hard not to wonder at the magic of imagination, of fantasy, and marvel at the way the world around us has a direct influence on all we convey.

I can’t deny that many of my female characters are strong, passionate women. Quite simply, this is due to the fact I’m surrounded by resilient women. My mum is one of the strongest people I know. She is bubbly and affectionate, but, whenever I’m channelling sass – I think of her! My sister inherited that strength and I not only rely on her, I wouldn’t be the person I am without her.

And it’s not only my immediate family. My great-grandmother was a force to be reckoned with, a woman who practically raised four boys singled handed. Those boys (my grandfather included), were said to be hellions in their youth! She used tough love, an endless supply of patience and an iron will to keep them on the straight and narrow. I recognise her in a number of my characters, which isn’t a surprise.

The stories I grew with, family stories, certainly have an impact. My experiences of love and commitment, friendship and loyalty are also threaded through my work. I wouldn’t call us a military family per se, but most of the men served at one time or another and my grandmother lost her brother to the war. I never knew him, not personally, but through her I came to understand the man he was. It’s not only the good, it’s also the hurts and the disappointments we feel personally, and share with those closest to us.

I’ve had many wonderful male role models in my life. My brother is younger than me, but he’s my hero. It’s because of him I wrote my romantic crime series, and the experiences he shares about his life in the army all find their way onto the page. I haven’t personally served, but I understand camaraderie and the value of friendship and that’s what I try to reflect within the team I created. Growing up I had a lot more in common with boys than girls. My best friend, Tony, taught me valuable lessons about loyalty. He also has a wicked sense of humour, and I’m able to draw on those lessons.

That’s why, if we’re lucky, we connect with so many of our readers because, whatever the situation, whatever the outcome, it’s the characters who speak to, and for us. It’s in the connections they make, how they love, view the world and interact. A cacophony of life experiences that begin with our role models and build from there. That’s when a character truly comes to life. It’s what makes them memorable and why we want to spend time with them as often as we can. At least that’s how I see it.

There is a unique voice that lives within all of us. We might be shaped by others, but that’s not all there is, and it’s not all we give to our characters either. You could say, in one sense, the characters are an extension of us. So when a reader identifies with them, draws strength, laughs, cries, and celebrates their lives as we do, it’s a special kind of connection. There’s nothing quite like it. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Consumed: A Short Story

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Happy Halloween, everyone. I convinced Colleen to let me post a spooky story today, and hope you all enjoy it. Whatever you’re doing; spending time with friends, attending a party, travelling across the country (we’re thinking of you, Colleen), working, relaxing – have a great day and stay safe.


Matthew

I pressed my hand over Cindy’s mouth and shook my head. Her big, tortured blue eyes were bright with tears. I didn’t need to read the fear; I could feel it. It pressed all around us, battling my own. The tiny closet was suffocating. It was a vacuum, sucking out all hope of salvation and bleeding us dry.

At the pounding on the bedroom door, my body jerked; drawing my attention. The door was holding strong, mainly due to all the furniture we’d pushed up against it. It would not hold forever.

When the barrier collapsed and he came into the room, he would see the balcony window wide open. This was part of my plan; to convince him we’d made a run for it. He had to believe we were desperate enough. I’d left other clues; a knotted bed sheet tied to the railing, one of the mattresses on the ground below.

It was a risk. If any part of him remained, he would see right through the ploy. Even desperate I would never lead my sister into a nightmare. What was out there – it was worse than the hell we were already living. Unless he found us.

I felt my hand spasm in response to a loud crack and almost lost it when Cindy’s head shot back. It struck the wall of the closet, the sound impossibly loud in the tight space. The silence that followed prickled along my skin.

I knew what it meant. He had found a way in, this monster who used to be our brother.

Cindy drew my attention when I felt her draw in breath; a scream building in her throat. I knew it, and was powerless to stop it. I tried anyway, my eyes pleading with hers to keep it together.

‘Please,’ I mouthed, our gazes locked.

I felt tears burn when I saw her shoulders relax, and Cindy nodded against my hand. She had my back. I let the tears fall; the only response I was able to give. I didn’t make a sound, I didn’t move. I stared into my sister’s eyes and, in doing so, gave her what I always gave her. My promise that I would keep her safe.

After a long, tense moment, I turned my head and peered through the slats in the door. Seeing the monstrosity that was our brother almost broke me. So I turned back to Cindy, snapping my eyes shut and squeezing them tight in a nonverbal command. She complied immediately, which lifted some of the weight from my chest. Cindy did not need to see the thing crawling over our barricade into the bedroom.

I had no choice but to face it, and what I saw extinguished all hope we would ever get our brother back. The virus had eaten away at his humanity until there was nothing left. Jerry’s jaw hung slack and foam frothed at the corners of his mouth. His eyes were bloodshot, his body twitching with barely contained violence. The pain of seeing him that way seared through me until it was all I could feel.

When those eyes honed in on the closet, I fought the urge to scoot back. He knew. My plan had failed, and now we were cornered.

Jerry moved slow, drawing it out; red eyes narrowed on target. The reality of what would happen; the loss, the fear. It exploded in my head and something snapped.

I didn’t think. I moved. I grabbed the first heavy object I could put my hand on, which turned out to be a dumbbell and surged out of the closet.

Jerry’s expression showed no surprise as I tackled him and we fell to the thick, carpeted floor. There was only death in his eyes.

No. No. No. No.

I struck the monster who used to be my brother over and over; feeling the anger and injustice burn through me. I saw nothing, felt nothing, but the uncontrollable need to be free of this nightmare.

***

Cindy

I moved on shaky legs to the edge of the closet, trying to pry my eyes away from the horror in front of me. We had lost Jerry to a vicious disease and the unfairness of that was hard to live with.

It hit us all hard but, Matthew, my sweet, protective older brother – it almost destroyed him. It was eating at him, even now.

“Matt,” I whispered, terrified of what might happen if I lost him too. If I couldn’t bring him back from the edge.

I took another step toward him; the scene burning itself into my retinas. Matthew battled with a monster only he appeared to understand. I wanted to know what he saw; why the thought of losing me drove him into darkness when there should be so much light. He loved me, so much his protective streak could be suffocating. Yet there was beauty in it too.

“Matty?”

He didn’t respond to my call. He didn’t respond to anything until the lights went out. Then I felt him move. Matthew dropped the dumbbell and scrambled backwards. I saw his outline, thanks to a trickle of moonlight, and instinctively I responded to his fear. I scooted back into the closet and curled myself into a ball. I just wanted it to be over.

***

Matthew

As I shot into the closet, slamming the doors closed, I questioned the logic of shutting us back in our prison. There was blood all over my face. My brother’s blood. No, a monster’s blood; diseased and possibly contagious. What if I hurt my sister? The thought of it was so huge there was no room for anything else. It didn’t even register when the lights flicked back on. But it did register when I saw my mom.

“Mom,” I whispered, pushing open the doors. I felt only relief in her presence, knowing she would protect Cindy. I had to relinquish the job. I was contaminated. I could feel it; squirming in my blood like a poisonous snake.

“You have to take Cindy, mom,” I said, unable to look at my sister. “I’m infected.” I swiped at my face, but it was too late now. It was too late to save myself.

“That’s why I’m here, baby,” she whispered, dropping to her knees. “There’s a cure. We can fight this.” One hand gripped my chin, forcing my head up. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

I wanted to believe her. So much I fell into her arms and buried myself against her.

***

Cindy

“He’ll be okay now, sweetheart,” mom said, stepping away from the bed.

I nodded, and climbed up to lay beside Matthew. He was asleep. Finally. He hadn’t even protested when mom gave him the treatment.

“I wonder what he saw,” I whispered, smoothing the hair from his forehead.

“I don’t know, honey. But he’ll be okay. I promise. We’ll get through this.”

Again I nodded. It wasn’t easy, but I pushed away my doubts. I had to be strong for Matthew. His delusions were getting worse, and had been since Jerry died. This was a side effect of grief.

“Don’t worry,” I said, leaning to kiss his temple. “I’ll protect you. We’ll beat those monsters together, Matty. You’re not alone.” Then I curled an arm around him and held on.

***

Thanks for reading.

Mel

The Elf Killer – Part III: The Witch of Timmoral Forest

Check out Melissa Barker Simpson’s blog to learn more about the challenge.

I chose Option 1: Sentence Starter –

The first time I died, I was nineteen years old and resigned to my fate; the second time was a different story.

I am continuing the story of the Elf Killer, using the prompts from Mel’s challenge. This is a free writing time for me and allows me to experiment with different genres and characters. I am letting my true pantser out once again! I hope you all enjoy.

Here is Part One of the Elf Killer

Here is Part Two of the Elf Killer

As the darkness arrived in Timmoral Forest, Nedra the Witch watched the shadows grow long and deep as they descended and grew from the tall stature of the trees surrounding the glen. Conjuring her deepest magic she had materialized outside the cave she called home on the edge of the forest in order to safely escape from Rawmall, the half-breed elf.

Nedra paced back and forth in front of the door to her cave thinking of what her next move should be. Damn, Rawmall! That half-breed elf makes my blood boil, she thought. She didn’t need to take any more chances around him. His power over her was purely physical. Nedra wanted him in the worst way. If she succumbed to his charms, she would lose everything, again. Death was much too high a price to pay for a sexual tryst with a half-breed elf at this point. Not yet, anyway.

The night birds cooed above in the leafy canopy of the trees. The sounds of small scurrying animals were heard rustling in the dense carpet of leaves beneath her feet. Stars appeared in the night sky. Nedra slipped silently inside her shadowy cave while the ebony whispers of her gown flowed behind her. The low burning fire beckoned to her while the coals brought a warmth to the coldness of her body.

Nedra stoked the fire with a wave of her hand. Suddenly, another huge flame burst from her palm and glowed with a lavender intensity. Concentrating her thoughts, Nedra watched the blaze of her lust slowly burn to the size of a candle flame. Slowly the flame turned into particles of dust filtering through her fingers.

Nedra stared at the grains of sand and remembered. The first time I died, I was nineteen years old and resigned to my fate; the second time was a different story.

Nedra belonged to a coven of witches that like the dark cats they idolized, had nine lives. It was a certain kind of immortality if handled with the utmost of care. That meant following the rules, something Nedra had always struggled with. If certain urges were controlled, the witches could live long lives while meddling in the existence of others for their own pleasure. It was a blissfully wicked existence.

Impatiently, Nedra tapped her blood-red nails on the chalice she drank deeply from while memories swirled around in the dark recesses of her mind. Losing her first life had been careless on her part. At nineteen, she was too young to know that she had to overpower her thoughts of lust and greed. The Warlock had taken her life force quickly. Nedra had simply vanished in a puff of black smoke.

The dark headed human had been her downfall the second time she lost her life. She had bewitched him into giving her all of his wealth and power. However, once again Nedra had been too young to know that she should never trust a human. He had ended her life by thrusting a sword into her heart as she had fled his grasp taking his riches with her.

Eventually, true to Nedra’s powers, the human found himself a pauper and banished from his mortal kingdom. Madness had propelled the man to cross over into Timmoral Forest where the elven colony had flourished since the beginning of time. Visions of Nedra caused the man to view the world through a mist of red blood. Hatred became his life force.

Once Nedra’s life balance of seven lives had been restored, she cast a spell to bring herself back to Timmoral Forest. This time, she was determined to track the dark-haired human and take his life to pay for the untimely death he had taken from her.

Nedra smiled, remembering how she watched the human butcher the blue haired elf. The human was truly insane. She knew this would be her last chance to possess his soul once more. His life energy would give her the knowledge of the humans. She would become stronger with each soul her darkness absorbed.

She followed the human to the elven community of Morr. It was there she cast a spell on the elves hiding them in the darkest part of the forest as she watched the human burn their small community to the ground. The dark-haired human had never seen her coming.

He got what he deserved, Nedra thought, relishing the memory of the dark-haired human boiling in the caldron at Morr. It had worked. The trap had been set. Rawmall had come seeking the elf killer. Soon Nedra would get what she truly desired, Rawmall the half-breed elf.

776 Words.

Thanks for stopping by,

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The Horse Hole–A Halloween Tale

 

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The sun slowly slipped behind the trees leaving a warm glow to the field. Night birds scattered in the branches of the trees while insects droned on in monotony. The air felt cooler now. Ground fog swirled around the grasses casting eerie shadows on the ground. The evening gloom was rapidly approaching. I shivered in anticipation.

Not far off in the field, our two neighbor horses steadily crunched grass, their teeth reflecting bone-white in the rays of the setting sun. It was Halloween night – All Hallows Eve. Trick-or-Treating kids would soon fill the neighborhood with the sounds of laughter, as they went from house to house showing off their costumes and collecting treats.

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The horse hole was visible in the fading light. The horses visited me daily looking for handouts of carrots or even an occasional apple. They would hang their enormous necks through the opening, all the while munching, as I rubbed their velvety noses. They were the best neighbors.

I was ready this time. Last Halloween I ran out of candy early. This year I made sure I had plenty of candy to hand out to the kids. My pumpkins were lit and my decorations spread around the front porch were inviting – not too scary for the little kids. I made myself comfortable in a chair and sipped my glass of wine, enjoying the descending darkness.

The kids came from every corner of the neighborhood, dressed as fairy princesses with dainty shoes, green colored Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, skeletons, Count Dracula’s, monsters of every variety you could imagine. Babies dressed up as bugs, teddy bears, and even a vampire baby stopped at my door to receive a treat.

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The darkness filled the neighborhood. The street lights were lit and an orange glow cast long shadows on the street. The children ran ahead of their parents, laughing with their friends. Parents milled about in small groups watching their children, always near. The sounds of laughter completed the friendly Halloween atmosphere. I watched and smiled at how cute the kids were, enjoying their banter.

By 8:30 p.m. most of the children and parents were finished with Trick or Treat and were heading home. A few crying fairies stomped their way behind their parents, mad because the great adventure was over for another year.

I cleaned up the porch, and put away the decorations in the bin I stored them in. It was such a lovely night, and a Friday night too. I refilled my wine glass and went out back to my patio that overlooked the field where the neighbor horses grazed.

It was a marvelous night. Stars lightly sprinkled the night sky and were spread out like a mantle overhead. The warmth of the day barely lingered and I could feel the coolness creep in between the folds of my sweater. I sipped my wine and appreciated the view of the night sky.

Suddenly, I smelled the most obnoxious odor. It seemed to waft, thick like fog from the horse hole in the fence. Far in the distance, I could hear the neighbor horses running as their thundering hooves hit the ground. They seemed frightened as their cries filled the vicinity of the field. I was rooted to my chair, unable to move.

There he was – the Headless Horseman! His profile was etched in the inky darkness of the horse hole! I heard my wine glass fall and shatter to the ground as shards of glass flew all around me.

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(Image credit: Telltale Games)

The horseman’s black steed snorted flashes of lightning through his muzzle, as his blood-red eyes glared at me! He balanced a glowing Jack-o-lantern in his right arm. I could see him clearly and there was NO head! The buttons on his coat were visible in the light from the pumpkin.

I swallowed hard and felt like my eyes were popping out of my head. I stared transfixed at the horse hole. The Headless Horseman whirled about and was gone! The fog churned in great billows and drifted about the field.

Slowly, the smell faded. The fog grew thicker and moisture dripped from the remaining leaves left on the trees. I started trembling uncontrollably. All around me it was silent. My breaths came in great gasps. I shifted in my chair and looked around my back yard. I looked specifically at the horse hole. It was all dark – just swirling fog.

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He was really gone! I could feel my heart pounding inside my chest. I relaxed my tightened muscles and gradually stood up. My shoes crunched in the ruins of the wine glass beneath my feet. Behind me, inside the house, a light came on in the kitchen which illuminated the patio outside.

My husband came to the back door and called out to me to come to bed as it was getting late. I told him I was just coming in and would be right there. Could I really tell him what had just happened without him laughing at me, I thought. No, I would keep this encounter to myself. Too much wine and a tad too much chocolate, I figured. I will just clean up this mess in the morning.

I went into the house, locked the door, and turned off the light. I had enough Halloween for one night.

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I hope you enjoyed my Halloween tale which was inspired from one of my favorite television shows, “Sleepy Hollow.”  Thanks for stopping by so I could scare see you!

Silver Threading