Friday, August 31, 2012

Fantasy Flash Fic: The Scribe

The Scribe: Once, we all rode dragons...

The Scribe

In a thousand years, we will not remember these days. What Calla said to Mor, what secret loves were stamped upon trees.

What will be remembered is the scent of daffodils in damp spring ground, the fire of the ship as it burned through the atmosphere and tore pockets of earth. The particular pang of losing our last dragon.

Everyone will say they were there; how they'll remember it! The little dragon, stunted and jewel green, mewling as the Other Men dug it out of its bern and broke its neck. It was placed in a bag and taken back to their ship. No one will remember how we crouched, frightened, with our useless amulets and half-formed prayers in the heaps of our houses. They'll all recollect marching against the interlopers, the dragon thieves. They all bore weapons, but were struck down. Some died. Who? No one recalls.

It is the peculiar trait of our people that stories alone are passed along through the centuries; audible and embellished, whispered and shouted and turned into dance. But never written. A piece of the soul is taken with each written word, it is said, and our souls belong to the dragons.

Who do they belong to, now that the last dragon is dead and carted off to the world of the Other Men?

When I was a little mewling thing, I studied the way my finger dragged through dust. Mor said, Better you not do it at all, but if you must (perverted thing), do it on water. Let the traces disappear as soon as you make them.

Ah, but they lived in my mind. For a few years, anyway. And when I realized I could not make my mind remember everything I had ever inscribed in water, I turned back to dirt.

Deep in the woods, where wolves and bears live, I first used a stick. Then the knife of my brother, upon the bark of trees up high, so that my people would not see. For they forage, and hunt the small game. They only ever look up to see the dragons flying across the sky.

No one looks up anymore. They surround the charred bern and hold hands, and tell stories of their bravery on the day the Other Men came. I write on the trees deep in the woods, up high.

One per tree: the names of the dragons. There were five hundred. And then, more trees for us: Calla, sister to Jena. Wife of Mor. Another tree: My name, brother of Mor. Nothing else on that oak.

Five hundred of us. Our names peer at the dragon trees through the branches, a labyrinth of memory in the deep woods. After half a year, I climbed down and began again, brazenly low:

Felix, born when the crocuses were yet buds. Calla saw the steam, brought us all to see the acorn in the earth. The acorn that would grow to be a mighty dragon. His nostrils were still closed, tail wrapped tight around, a sticky mess. In a week, he was unfurled, dry as old timber, bright as the new grass.

Too small. No one mentioned it. Old Martyam was dying on the mountain, her body part and parcel of the granite and snow. Mor said, She still breathes! Only I said, It is clouds. Mor threatened to take his knife back. I shrugged, and said maybe it was steam and smoke after all.

Calla drew us back to the infant dragon. Our hopes lit like sparks, though it crawled on oddly bent legs.

We all remember when we were a great race. Everyone rode dragons; we flew all over our planet, and returned with more stories. There was even one dragon, a behemoth that could fly among the stars. Nahan rode him. Nahan, who has not been seen in half a millennium. Was there ever such a dragon? Or even a Nahan?

Perhaps, it occurs to me as I etch on a piece of cedar bark, Nahan rode away on the magnificent star-traveler and brought the Other Men. Perhaps Nahan is enslaved somewhere, along with his dragon, Gabriel. Perhaps he is not enslaved, but lives as a king. Perhaps he sold us.

Felix was to be mine. This was known. I was the only one who had lived without a dragon; the others had known them, had flown on hot, scaled backs. But for centuries, the dragons had grown smaller, so that we carried them. I didn't care that, now that my time had come, my dragon was barely larger than a squirrel. Who needed to fly? I could climb trees and taste the high winds, with Felix clinging to my back.

His wings weren't strong enough to lift him when the Other Men came and broke his neck and took him away, and I am not standing around the charred bern where he crawled.

Calla came to tell me she was going up the mountain to be with Martyam. She is ancient; they are ancient. But still beautiful. She found me with knife and birch; she saw her name but did not recognize it.

Your soul, she said.

Gone with Felix, I said, if it ever existed in the first place.

I wanted to know. Why tell me, and not her husband?

She was silent, and after a while, she asked me to teach her to write her name. Then she left. She will die with the old dragon on the mountain, or die with the corpse of her. For those are clouds, I'm sure.

Four-hundred-and-ninety-nine, where once there were a thousand. I have discovered a way of heating the blade, to make the mark deeper and more permanent. It is not like breathing fire, not exactly, but here in the deep woods, I am the first of my people to do this. We will not wither, and when the Other Men come again, I will hold up my blade and mark them like trees.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fic: Last Words for the Fickle-Hearted

Which affair broke her heart, it is not to say. There was a chain, and she danced over the links, until it broke. Which link, it only matters to one person, and he is not here to remark on the matter.

Green tea in a white cup. She stared at the bottom, at brownish leaf dust coagulating, swirling. Soon it will be cold, and she'll drink it and finish her book.

He read one or two books per year. Mostly, he wrote. And had other women. As such men do. Where he found them, she'd never understand. When were her eyes off him? The back of him was as familiar as the tea cup, as the snoring she put up with at night. For him. Because complaining women don't make sweet lovers. Or wanted lovers.

Her inner nag turned on her, lacking otherwise healthy repositories for its criticism. She painted pink lips in mimicry of young girls, of photographs of herself years before she met him. A bow in the middle, a bit of careful inscribed plumpness. Swift strokes of blush on her cheeks.

If she had to do it again, she wouldn't choose a man fifteen years her junior. She'd pick one thirty years her junior, ripe and unformed and like the elms that bend in storms. Knotted ropes to keep him at his work, whether it be digging in the earth or hunched beneath some sink. But not at a typewriter. No more of those.

The tea went colder than expected, no trace of the kettle or fire. Somewhere, a train dips through the valleys in the night, deaf to the screams of wild things in the dark. Heedless of what lies over its tracks. Somewhere, a scattering of bones is about to occur, and she thinks of picking them up later, of marking the small pieces with letters and punctuation. A humorless board on which to write her own goodbye, on which to banish all her fears.

When were her eyes off him? In between the lines. In between sips of tea. She listens and looks, and sees all. And in the hush, she hears, finally, the train bellowing far off, shouting its presence to the curving hills, announcing that it is coming, at last.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fic Rec: Text Messages From A Ghost

Text Messages From a Ghost is just what you might think -- a series of text messages between a guy and the ghost in his phone. A friendship develops that is humorous, melancholy, and, in the sequel, bittersweet enough to make this girl cry. Mallory Ortberg leaves just enough unsaid, and the medium is perfect for the unraveling tale of a man and his ghost. And Julia. And that cat! And -- Look, just go read them yourself. It's short and perfect. And seriously, I cried at the end.

Ortberg also writes text message conversations between a variety of others, including du Maurier's Rebecca that is spectacularly psychotic.

Discovered via Art of Darkness, a never-ending trip into the fascinating, and superlatively creative, darker side of our world.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

On Being Nine Again, For Just a Moment

It's a strange thing, getting something back that you hadn't realized was even gone.

For my upcoming fortieth birthday, I wanted to find out if my Donkey, a present for my ninth birthday, could be restored. I took him to the Doll Hospital and Toy Soldier Shop in Berkley, Michigan, where I stood in line and felt silly to be a grown woman holding a rather scruffy stuffed donkey.

Donkey on his way to hospital

Janice, a lovely woman in a work apron, checked him over and said she could clean him up. And that it would take three months -- that's how long their backlog of doll repair is. She must've seen the look of absolute horror on my face, coupled with brimming tears that mortified me, because she reassured me that he'd be safe with all the other dolls in the doll hospital waiting area. Which horrified me even more because dolls, let's face it, are creepy. Shelves of them, all staring down my gentle Donkey with their glossy doll eyes? With their stiff little arms held out in front like killer robots? Sure, it'd be fine during the day, but what about at night? (which is when dolls come alive; everyone knows that)

But I had no choice. I relinquished him to Janice, who told me a story of a biker guy who lost his teddy bear companion when it came loose from the back of his Harley and went thumpa-whump-whumping down the highway and got run over by three cars -- and how she restored the bear, and how the big, burley biker dude started to cry when he saw his buddy ready to ride again.

These people should be okay, I thought. And so I left him.

I nearly screamed when I got the call from Janice yesterday that Donkey was ready. Ready! I just dropped him off two weeks ago! They knew he was special!

So special, that Janice had even taken him home to work on him. Not only did she bathe him after soaking him overnight (filthy, she said), but she repainted his eyes, restuffed him, restitched spots, and replaced his entire yarn tail and most of his mane.

B picked him up on his way home from work. When I came home, there was Donkey, waiting for me.

As silly as this sounds, I felt instantly as if I was nine again. How many times in your life do you get to truly, truly feel like a child again? What a gift.

P.S. Forgot to add how Donkey came to me. With my ninth birthday a week away, my mother told me I could pick out one present for myself, but I couldn't have it until my birthday. I knew immediately what I wanted. In the stuffed animal aisle, there was a big pile of donkeys. I chose one.

Over the years, he was my first "fandom." I would draw him, usually in Sherlock Holmes gear, with a hat and pipe and coat, and he would solve mysteries.

He's not an Eeyore, just a mass-produced donkey. But he is my Donkey.

/sappy blog post about my stuffed animal

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stuffed Between My Ears

Over at the Geek Syndicate, Phil Ambler and Dion Winton-Polak of Scrolls host Lily Childs, where they discuss all things flash fiction and read from a number of works that appeared at Lily's Friday Prediction. Included is "One Night," my piece of myth and horror, at about the 8:00 minute mark. Also included are pieces by John Xero, Sandra Davies and other familiar pens. Listen!

The whole thing is wonderfully fun to listen to, and I must say that the readings really bring to life those tiny tales, with all the drama and intrigue. Well done!


I missed a deadline that I really wanted not to miss. I'm kicking myself, but sometimes, I don't honestly know where the time goes. I seem to remember when I had more time, but maybe that was just a dream. At any rate, the story I wrote was indeed finished last night before the midnight deadline, but I was not happy with the last few paragraphs. This morning, I'm glad I didn't submit since I want to change them, and not minor changes, either. I'll just have to find another market that wants an origin story/warped Red Riding Hood (not really)/fantasy piece.


Daydreams occupy a lot of my time. Right now, I'm obsessed with Imagine Dragons, and in my mind, I have developed an entire fan video of Sack Boy from Little Big Planet waking up and exploring his new world to the Imagine Dragons song, "Radioactive." I've got every scene, every move he makes, the world (apocalyptic, of course), all of it planned out. But I'm not an animator! I can draw you a horse heading left, if you allow for a great deal of artistic license and just trust me that it's a horse. Anyway. Here's the song:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Music for a Summer's Eve Apocalypse; Zombie flash fic

The zombie apocalypse should have its own soundtrack.

My Official Zombie Apocalypse Playlist (via an iPod on shuffle) at Bizarro Central. The Chipmunks? Yes.


There were no signs, no one who remembered what the street had been. A number, a name, General So-and-So highway. Route 6, A Historic Scenic Parkway. It stretched anonymous and flat into the distance, a crumbling blue arrow pointing to the setting sun. West. 

Marv watched his shadow, always afraid it would rise up and take him. I turned him by the shoulders. 

W'ere going this way, I told him. He nodded. Shaggy black curls, thick with dust, fell around his face. 

They watched from the last house, faces peering from second-story windows. When it got dark enough, they'd come out. 

It was almost dark enough. 

Marv's shadow trailed us, growing smaller. Asphalt cooled beneath our shoes. I prayed to the unknown road to take us somewhere safe, somewhere there were others like us, someplace with walls. Somewhere my brother's shadow couldn't hurt him. 

He took my hand, and I whispered it would be all right. Just keep walking. That's all. Keep walking.