Holiday Guest

Welcome to October’s Blog Hop, where authors from all over the world tag each other so visitors can follow the links and read all of their stories in one sitting. Enjoy my story, then pick a link below and check out the others.

The glass bottle of raw milk slid across the table and smashed the floor. Not to be outdone, the jar of cream followed it. JJ’s mother stared. JJ thought she might’ve been inclined to blame him, but he was on the other side of the room. She had only heard the milk smash, but she had seen the cream move. 

Her mouth falling open in a surprised O, she swayed, and then grabbed hold of the edge of the counter. “Did you see that?” She asked JJ. 

He nodded. And then they both heard the sound of a child’s laughter. JJs mother put her hand to her chest and her eyes teared up.

JJ had a bad feeling that this was his fault.

Two days earlier, on the night of the full moon before Samhain – or Halloween as most of his friends called it – JJ had stood at the cross street nearest his house, with a bag that held three apples. He wasn’t sure that this counted as a proper crossroads, since it was in the middle of suburbia. But the one that seemed like it would be absolutely correct, was too far away for him to go on his bike, especially at night when he wasn’t supposed to be out at all.

Pulling a trowel out of his backpack, he began to dig around the roots of a small tree planted in the sidewalk. Digging around the roots was hard, and instead of making one large hole, he has been forced to make three smaller ones. Into each hole he dropped an apple. Once he had all three apples buried, he stood up.

He hadn’t planned on what to say. So he stood quietly with his hands clasped in front of him and said, “Dear spirits, I’m sorry that you’re out here all by yourselves with no family. I hope you like the apples. I just want you to know that you’re not forgotten.” 

JJ went on, “I had a little brother. He died. I miss him a lot. But I wish mom and dad would have another baby. I hope he’s not alone, and I don’t want anyone here to feel all alone.” A sudden breeze ruffled his hair and stilled. He stood for another moment, and then headed back to the house, up the ladder to the garage roof, and back in his bedroom window.

Two days later, the milk bottle broke.

The milk bottle was just the beginning. Pictures fell off walls, dirt jumped back onto floors after being swept up, cold spots manifested randomly around the house, and lights and electronics turned themselves on or off.

His mother did a house clearing after two days of chaos, and for about 24 hours, things were quiet. But then they erupted again with renewed vigor and the sounds of childish laughter.

The only upside was that JJ’s parents were suddenly doing something other than grieving for the child they had lost. Their voices were once again animated, and their faces were mobile. And even though the voices were yelling and the faces were anxious and grumpy, JJ found he was happy to see something besides hanging heads, tears, and slumped shoulders.

He missed his brother too, but he missed the parents he remembered even more. He had never said so aloud, but he resented their emotional absence.

There was another very cool thing about the spirits presence. With Samhain approaching, JJ found the idea that they had their very own ghost in the house to be highly entertaining.

Since presence of a rowdy spirit had it’s pluses, and JJ continued to say nothing about his excursion to the cross roads. 

A week before Samhain, JJ asked if they could decorate for the holiday. For the last two years, his parents have not bothered to do so. The first year after his brothers death, they had gone through the motions for JJ’s sake, but after that they had just given up. He was mildly surprised when they agreed to his request and pulled out the cobwebs, and gravestones, and orange and purple fairy lights, and several things that JJ had totally forgotten about.

His dad even took him to pick out some pumpkins to carve. The house began to take on a somewhat spooky air, which went perfectly well with the child’s giggling, and things occasionally flying around the room. Although this did seem to be happening less often. JJs mom had done a tarot reading, and had been very closed-mouthed about what it had told her. What this had to do with the lower level of activity JJ had no idea. 

When his parents decided to do a small celebratory dinner for the holiday, JJ was delighted. Their family did not do the traditional dumb supper, but told stories about their beloved dead, whether those were ancestors or not. JJ had missed the stories.

They did the dinner the night before Samhain so that JJ could go trick-or-treating if he wished. When his dad told a funny story about something his little brother had done JJ had a feeling but everything was going to be OK. He saw his parents holding hands. When the story was finished the fairy lights in the dining room all jiggled as if a breeze had blown through. And everyone at the table took a deep breath. JJs parents smiled at each other as they had not for a long time.

JJ hoped that he might have a new brother or sister at the end of the summer.

 

Read some other great stories here!

Unwelcomed Vistors by Bill Bush

The Witch at the End of the Road by Katharina Gerlach

Unraveled by Bonnie Burns

Holiday Guest by Sabrina Rosen

Home by Barbara Lund

Missing Parts by Jemma Weir

A Perfect Match by V. S. Stark

The Glistening Bat by Karen Lynn

II-The Priestess by Raven O’Fiernan

The Old Ways by Nic Steven

Halloween Pest by Elizabeth McCleary

Tales From the Pumpkin Patch by Marilyn Flower

Immortality by Juneta Key 

Flight

“Amy. Please. Don’t.” I said, trying to sound soothing and friendly.

The girl standing on the edge of the school roof turned her head slightly, looking at me from the corner of her eye. She said nothing and turned back, looking up at the sky. Amy was not one of my friends, but neither was she an enemy. 

She was one of those that lived at the bottom of the high school food chain, desperate for the social status that would stop the constant harassment. She didn’t dress quite right. Her pants were a bit short, her shoes a bit too practical, and the colors in her clothes a bit too garish. He hair was frizzy and dark, always worn with the top pulled back into a barrette. 

The barrette was gone now. Her hair caught up in the breeze, snaking over too pale skin. I gripped the antler I held in my hand and took a step closer.

I had found the antler in the woods while hunting with my dad. It had six points, and I thought my hand had tingled when I picked it up. A breeze I had not felt had twirled a stream of brown, dead leaves around me. 

I hadn’t planned to be on the roof. It was off limits for students, but we all snuck up here from time to time. The door lock was easy to pop. I had been heading to the cafeteria, but the stairwell had called me, and I had answered. And found Amy. 

I took a few steps toward her. “Amy?”

She did nothing, not even telling me not to come closer. That was scary. I stayed out of arms reach, since I thought that might make her jump. The breeze twisted around us carrying leaves. One caught in Amy’s hair. I froze. Then lifted the antler. 

“Hey, you should have this.” I felt like a total dweeb. She couldn’t possibly think this was anything but a ploy. Of course it was but I didn’t actually have anything planned, just a vague, gut feeling that she needed it. 

She turned her head. I held the antler up. “I’ll just put it on the ledge and back away.” 

She looked down and then stepped along the ledge. More leaves skirled around her. She smiled and closed her eyes for a moment. I thought she would sway but she didn’t. Then she opened her eyes. 

“Did you know I love birds?” I hadn’t, and shook my head. “I’m so trapped here. I can’t leave. This place is a cage.” She clutched the antler to her chest. Her smile was suddenly genuine and happy. Even radiant. “Thank you.” The leaves danced again and she fell backwards off the roof. 

“No!” I rushed forward looking down. Nothing was on the ground. Nothing at all. A hawk screamed. I looked up, it was riding a thermal towards the clouds. Leaves danced again. I went back inside.

Velvet Sky and Other Pocket Myths

My book of flash fiction is now published on Amazon Kindle.

Flash fiction as subtly soft as a velvet sky with hooks that won’t let go.

Dead cats don’t eat kibble
But they still want the bowl full, and a warm place to sleep

A monster uses her stove
She’s found him in the closet and now he won’t leave

Maizie doesn’t expect guests.
The home invaders don’t expect Maizie

A magic storm is throwing rocks
But residents of Lark Row are much stranger than the maelstrom that surrounds them

These 20 pocket myths have twisty ends to delight and enchant the reader. Demons and cats, sorcery and surprises make these pieces of flash fiction a perfect bedtime, or anytime, read.

If you like your stories short and to the point, get it now!

The Longest Night

Welcome to the July 2020 Storytime Blog Hop!

The black water of the pool was surrounded by bones; a smooth mirror reflecting his beaked face. Touching it with a claw, small ripples spread out, deforming the image, then slowly coming again to stillness. How much water did he need to drink? Would a sip do? Or should he drink deep? Perhaps instead he should simply apply his blade sharp claws to his own feathered throat. But he was not entirely sure he could strike true. No, the water was best, and a deep drink, to be sure the deed was done. He took a deep breath and lowered his face to the water, only to be bowled over by something striking his shoulder.

Shirdal heard a flutter of wings. The trees above him were still and quiet. He sat up and again leaned over the water. Again something slammed into him, knocking him away. This time he heard a hiss and a shuffle of dry leaves. Shirdal growled and turned once more. This time something exploded out of the water into his face throwing him backwards so he landed belly up an in pure defensive mode. But there was nothing to fight. And no water on his face at all.

“Allright!” He shouted to no one he could see as he righted himself. “I’ll wait! But this is happening. You can’t stop me forever!” He didn’t even know who he was shouting at. 

“Nor will I, if you make a bargain with me.” A voice spoke. Shirdal turned and faced the winged woman that stood behind him. She was heart-rending in her beauty and she carried a coiled whip. He bowed to his goddess manifest, lowering his head to touch the ground. 

“You find life to be not worth living. But there are too few of you for me to allow you to simply leave.” She looked up at a large tree that hung over the pool. “Here is my bargain: spend the longest night suspended from this tree. If you still wish to die when the sun rises, you may do so. I’ll not stop you again.”

Shirdal looked up. What was one night of suffering in a lifetime of grief? “My lady Nemesis, I agree.” She snapped the whip at him and Shirdal was jerked up over the pool, dangling by his back legs over the black water. Panicking, he flapped his wings, but bound and upside down he remained. And so he would remain by his own agreement.

The first thing he noticed was the pounding and pressure in his head as his blood flowed in that direction. The second thing was that he was having difficulty breathing. This set off another panic reaction. He found himself regretting his agreement, although he was not sure what the alternative would have been. 

The thing about choosing to do something terribly difficult is that it tends focus the mind. All the busy little thoughts disappear in the blazing intensity of pain and struggle. It strips internal commentary, and burns away litter, until the mind is still.  At first he fought the pain, sometimes thrashing, sometimes just trying to push it away with his mind. Finally he gave up, simply being with the agony in his legs and head. 

Then he became bored. He fought that for a while too, telling himself stories and counting things. Eventually that too became uninteresting, and he started to ask questions. Why am I here? Why did Bel leave? Griffins mate for life. What’s wrong with me? He ran through his own flaws. I’m not very flexible, my sense of humor is non-existent, were griffins even supposed to be funny? Ever?, Maybe with a mate? Bel had not thought his way of showing affection was pleasant and certainly not funny. He had wanted to touch her and snuggle and groom, and she didn’t like it. Why not?

He dangled over a poisoned pool. Was there something wrong with how he showed affection? Or was it that”¦ What if they had just been a bad match? 

Shirdal went rigid. Yes, griffins mated for life, but were they all happy about it? What if he had just dodged a miserable life? What if Bel had done him a favor? What if there was a mate out there that really enjoyed snuggles and grooming?

The sky had transitioned to a deep blue as he contemplated. His ordeal would soon be over and he must choose what he would do. He didn’t want to go through this again.

He looked down at the water below him for the first time since being strung up. The was enough light now that he could see his reflection. Who did he want to be?  Who did he want to be with? He could decide that right now. He looked in the eyes of the being in the water. He. Could. Choose.

When the sun stepped away from the horizon, a voice surrounded him. 

“What is your will, Shirdal of the Griffins?”

“I will live!” He felt a rush of energy. Driving his wings down hard, he felt himself lifted. The whip uncoiled and an unseen shove sent him away from the pool. Crouching on the ground for a moment, he leapt into the new morning. 

Be sure you visit some of the other writers in this month’s installment of the Storytime Blog Hop.

The Right Tracks by VS Stark

The Guardian of the Sandsnake’s Temple by Katharina Gerlach

The Last One by Jemma Weir

The Pooka Plays Pool by Nic Steven 

The Longest Night by Sabrina Rosen

Near Death by Bill Bush

Alexa by Barbara Lund

What They Wanted by Karen Lynn

Night at the Museum by Vanessa Wells 

TRIBULATION Culled, eclipsed by COVID19 (A Poem) by Juneta Key

Artifact

Adele strolled down the path, footsteps even and slow. The trail was heavy with fall color; gold, burgundy, wine red, and she inhaled the scent of dying leaves. Fall was her favorite season. But still, she sighed. Adele was in her own autumn. For the most part, she was not lonely, the cats made her laugh, pestered her, and snuggled with her. But she wished – not for the first time – that she had a child. But it was too late for that.

While she walked, her mind drifted to the horror movie she had watched the night before. It had been well done, and unexpected. The creature was all mouth with long fangs. Tentacles sprouted all over its upper surface, along with some bulbous eyes on stalks. It also propelled itself with tentacles and had been quite fast. Her foot came down on something small and hard and she stumbled, pivoting to see what it was. 

A fist sized metal object lay on the ground. It was faceted like a gem. With neither sound nor warning, it began to unfold. Like origami being disassembled it expanded in small geometric plains until it was as big as she was. And she was looking at the monster from last nights movie. Tentacles reached for her. She back-pedaled wildly away from the three inch fangs, then managed to turn and run, stopping only when she stumbled and collapsed on the ground. Her heart and lungs slowed and nothing jumped on her, which gave her the courage to look up. Nothing was there. 

Climbing to her feet, Adele thought about how to get back to her car. The fear and running had left her exhausted. Her only options were to cut through the brush, or go back along the trail. Toward the monster. But there was nothing on the trail. Adele didn’t think she would make it through the woods, so she sighed and slowly headed back. It didn’t seem like she had walked far before she spotted the sheen of metal on the ground. She stopped and thought. Then took a few more steps closer and pictured a mouse. Nothing happened. A few more steps. Still nothing. Tentatively, she approached the object until she was close enough to touch it.

Still holding a mouse in her mind, she reached out and made contact with the metal lump. It unfolded, and the origami settled into a mouse shape. Fur grew and the mouse wiggled its nose and looked up at her. She dropped the mouse image and did her best to think about a clear, empty sky. The mouse collapsed back into a metal lump. Taking a glove out of her pocket, Adele used it to pick up the lump, and put it in her pocket. 

Once at home, she sat down and visualized a baby. She took her time, imagining every detail, including keeping the shape when she was not looking at it. Then she touched the metal. 

Good Parenting

There was a hand sticking out from the wall. Marik the Noble watched as it twisted and flexed as if stretching. Presently, it was joined by another. By placement, its mate. It too flexed and stretched. Then the mouth appeared. No face, just a pair of lips and a tongue. The lips parted and the tongue wiggled. Marik drew his sword. The lips spoke. 

“We greet you, Emperor! The Rogauld collective has chosen you! Rejoice! For our wisdom is rarely given!”

 Marik walked slowly around the intrusion, looking at it from several angles, sword at the ready. 

“What wisdom would that be?”

“We have been experts in governance for a thousand generations. If there is something you want to be done better, we can tell you how!” 

“Why would you help me?”

“We seek to help all leaders! It is our joy and our duty to do so.” The hands waved. 

“Is this all there is of you? Just a mouth and hands? Will the rest of you be coming through the wall?”

“This is not our actual form. It is simply a method to get your attention and speak with you. Now, tell us of your problems and we will find solutions together!”

Marik said nothing, nor did he sheath his sword. There was no good reason to trust this Rogauld Collective. 

“What’s the price for your advice?” 

The hands turned palm up and the mouth smiled. “Why none! We only want people to be happy with their leaders! It is our joy and our duty…”

“Yes, you said that already. I’ll need to think about this.”

“Of course! In the meantime tell us your biggest problem and we will prepare an answer.”

Marik thought. “My people are like children. They make poor choices. I want to know how to help them make better decisions.”

“An excellent question! Let us know when you wish us to answer. We will leave you for now. When you have decided to take our assistance, come here and call ‘Rogauld’ and we will return.” The mouth and then the hands withdrew into the wall.

Marik thought about the strange being for days without telling anyone. Finally, stepping back into the room he called out “Rogauld!” And the hands and mouth once again emerged. 

“We are excited! You are taking us up on our offer?”

“Yes, tell me your solution.”

The hands and mouth slid down the wall.

“Come sit with us here.”

Marik glared. Kings didn’t sit on floors.

“Come! Come!” The hands waved him to approach. 

He sighed and sat. 

The hands opened, “take our hands and we will convey the information.”

Marik did. 

“How do children learn to make good decisions?”

“I have no idea. I’ve never raised any.”

“Ah! No wonder you are having trouble with this! We will tell you! Children learn to make good decisions by making bad ones.”

Marik shook his head. That was ridiculous. Children had to be taught. Like his people needed to be taught to manage their lives. 

“This is stupid.” He tried to withdraw his hands but could not. 

“Be calm! We will help you achieve your desire! Your people will become much wiser in their choices when we have finished!”

The hands began to pull him in and the mouth opened. Marik struggled. He was too much a warrior to scream when the mouth engulfed his head. His body went limp and the mouth spat him out. An infant’s head sat on his adult body. 

“Now you will not be able to interfere with their learning process! A good father lets his children make mistakes! Now you can make some too! Maybe you’ll learn from them. We’ll check back in 20 years and see!”

Mascot

I had to tilt my head back to look at the web. Seeing it in its massive entirety was better done at a distance, but I had to be here, close enough to see the spider crawling toward one of the climbers. Climbing the web was just recreation on the Sun Dog. But that spider was doing things it shouldn’t, and it was my job to stop it. Ideally, before it freaked out another colonist. I wasn’t hopeful. Nope, it’s front grabbers had already scooped up a climber and was heading back toward the floor of the big drum. Its victim was yelling and banging on the grabbers to no avail. The spider hooked into a girder, and trailing a thin line behind, it jumped, traveling sideways across the web as the drum turned. The colonist was screaming now. The spider landed, deposited its wiggling burden unharmed, and released the cord which swung sideways with the rotation, endangering climbers. Then it was off again, heading for another human. 

“How many is that?” I asked the climb master. 

“Four, Anthony. It hasn’t hurt anyone. Yet. It’s only a matter of time before one of those lines knocks someone off though. I sent out the recall, but that doesn’t mean they will listen.”

I nodded. This batch colonists were big on personal choice. Risk was not discouraged. The spider had another person in its grabber. This one wasn’t struggling.

“I want to try a catch net.” This was a piece of emergency equipment that fired a net that deployed and then spat out a parachute. It was designed to catch falling climbers and was guided by the ship’s AI. The climb master spoke into his wristband phone. It took a while for him to stop talking. 

“Problem?”

“The ship AI was having a hard time. It won’t recognize that peripheral. I had to get it to latch on to the climber’s phone.” 

I scowled. Something else to fix. 

We waited for the spider to jump. When it did, the net fired, and spider and climber were engulfed. I realized only after the fact that this could have killed the climber if the spider hadn’t released its line as soon as the net surrounded it. Why had it done that? 

The climber was scraped a bit, but otherwise unperturbed. 

“I don’t think it meant me harm,” he patted the carapace. “It kept saying, ‘Rescue!’ I think it thought it was helping.”

I snorted. It was a peripheral. It couldn’t want anything. 

“In danger. Must help.” Said the spider. 

The climber patted the spider again, “No buddy, they’re fine.”

“Fine? Safe?” Asked the spider.

“Yes. They’re just having fun.”

“Fun. An expression of enjoyment,” said the spider. Then it turned towards me, pointing its camera at my face. “Anthony! Friend!” It scuttled over to me and pressed its metallic body against me. I staggered and stared. It seemed the Sun Dog had a new mascot. 

Copyright Sabrina Rosen April 2020

Threads and Feathers

The air was perfectly still, and this was important, because it meant that the campfire smoke went straight up. Bergen could not afford to disrupt the rhythm of the drum beats once he started. Smoke in his eyes and lungs would most certainly do just that. The crow had said that the spacing of the beats was the only thing that allowed it to sever the threads of time, fate, and memory. Any variation, was a thread that could not be cut.

Bergen settled himself, making sure that he was comfortable and could maintain the pace for hours. He had practiced for over a year. The weather report for this night was for a calm still air, and warm temperatures. Settling the resonant djembe between his knees, he tapped the head a few times, testing the tone. The African drum was not traditional, but the crow said it would be acceptable. It was that resonance that mattered. The crow picked up the sharpened flint Stone and took wing as Bergen started his drumbeat. He was going to get back his son. 

Spiraling around the campfire, the crow cawed three times. Multicolored glowing threads began to appear, growing down from the stars to trail across the ground. One brushed across Bergen and he almost lost his rhythm as the memory flashed across his eyes: his adult son, glassy eyed and tied to a hospital bed after a suicide attempt. The crow sliced the thread and it fell to the ground withering. 

Another thread, another memory: a young adult screaming at his father. That thread too fell to the ground. Bergen continued the steady beat. Black feathers buffeted his head, and black, fluffy down seemed to fill his lungs. He coughed but continued drumming. More memories spiraled around him, evoking images and sounds as the threads trailed over him and were cut away. 

Slapping his son hard on the face, bursting into the boy’s room when Bergen smelled marijuana, a report card thrown in the trash, the baseball team cleaning up after a successful game as a boy waited for Bergen to pick him up. Each thread was sliced and shriveled. Bergen’s hands were getting sore, but he ignored it. The sight of his son asleep, far too late for a the promised story, his wife’s reproachful eyes when he got home too late to tuck in his son. The crow dropped the stone and cawed. Bergen beat faster, faster, as the crow spun around him in a mad dance. Feathers became thicker, thicker, blotting out the light of the campfire until Bergen saw nothing at all. The crow spoke once more and Bergen stopped. 

Slowly, slowly, the light returned. Sunlight. There was no smoke, no drum. Just Bergen on a porch swing, the warmth sinking into his shriveled, arthritic hands. 

“Daddy!” Squealed the little boy, leaping into Bergen’s arms. The impact hurt. Bergen didn’t care.