Insomnia leprechauns

A few months ago I posted one of my flash fiction stories for the Korea writing group.

We still meet and we still write but the rules have changed. Now we write at the meeting, by picking two words at random. We get 20 minutes and then put pencils down. In such a short time, you have to just start writing and hope it ties together. It’s good practice for sure.

This last’s week challenge was quite fun: the prompt words are as you see in the title.  My personal challenge was to write something less silly than usual. It is tempting for me now to revise and add things but instead I’ll type it up just as I wrote it.

 

Dark, swimmingly dark. Shadows of deep black rose and hung heavily in the sky. There was no respite. There was no break in the bleak darkness. There was nothing at all.

***

Marcus can’t sleep. He’s always been like this. It explains it but it doesn’t excuse it. He needs to be awake tomorrow, alert. He needs to be free from the groggy ravages that pilfer his mind.

He stares at the LED on the tent ceiling. Now almost 3 am. And he hasn’t heard a sound from it, if this is even its region. Marcus sighs and unzips the sleeping bag, unzips the tent, crawls out, unzips his fly, urinates for a long time. The dark forest surrounds him, ungrudging and uncaring. The moon overhead haunts him.

Back in the tent, he is more awake than ever. A supernatural state of awareness that mere dreams cannot challenge. The Sandman himself quails against this redoubtable bastion of nonsleep. His face and hands ache from exposure. Even that much moonlight has burned him fiercely.

It grows colder and he burrows deeper into the bag. At last the sun rises, the moon sets, and Marcus is free. Free to walk under the open skies again. He walks away, leaving his tent and his bag and everything inside it. If all goes well, he’ll never need to use it again. And it doesn’t….well, he won’t need it either. He fervently hopes he guessed right. He thought so, but hadn’t heard anything from it last night. And that was strange.

Marcus hikes out to the port, his long strides carrying them there only a few hours after sunrise.  Bezel is there. Her wings beat as she waits in the sky for him.

“Morning,” Marcus says to her.

“Grokk take your morning,” Bezel says. “Do you have it or not?”

“I know where one lives,” he says. “Not far from here.”

She stares at him, eyes glassy with disdain. “I have not come from xbrxxis to hear stories. I hate flying! I can never get comfortable on a spaceship.”

“The last one died,” Marcus admits. “I wasn’t too rough but they are fragile creatures. It cursed me in its death and I am now a daywalker But I slept next to one last night I can take you there. It’s not far.”

He speaks slowly and precisely. Bezel is not evil, nor particularly malicious for her kind, but she would kill him with little provocation. Most aliens were like this, deadly but not mean-hearted. It was one of the things they shared with humanity.

“I can’t capture it by myself,” he reminds her. “Not at night, not now.”

She flies higher which he thinks means she  is angry or dismissive or threatening or possibly all three at once.

“Tell me the cords. If I can find it you earn your reward. You can come off-planet with us. Otherwise,” she stops, her voice cold. “Death is too good for you. We’ll take you to the void instead.”

He gave her the information and sat down to wait.

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2014 – Publish or Perish!

On one hand, 2014 was for me a year like any other.  Every new story I wrote this year was rejected, many multiple times. I racked up well over 50 rejections this year, and most of the stories I think are among my best. In fact, even though I love writing short stories, I think I’ll stop trying to write so many every year. It’s just a lot of work that mostly leads to rejections. Writing novels is probably a more fruitful way to go.

Furthermore, I tried to write another novel for Nanowrimo this year and did not finish it. So on that hand, it’s sort of a normal year.

That, however, is a very misleading hand.

It has unequivocally been the best year of my writing life.  I sold two travel articles early in the year, appearing in Wanderlust UK and CSTN Solo Travel.  The Tales to Terrify podcast agreed to adapt one of my first published stories. Two different anthologies (Dead Harvest and History and Horror) bought stories of mine, one a reprint and that found a home for the first time.

Best of’ all, as you have no doubt heard if you’ve been to this blog before, is that I sold my novel.  This is a book I started planning in 2005 and I finished in 2011 and then spent a while looking for agents and publishers.  Because the folks at Severed Press wisely pointed out that there’s not a lot of market for historical horror, they signed me to write two additional books.

I’m almost finished with my Journal to the Center of the Earth novella, the first one for them. I re-read Verne and Burroughs and Doyle and I hope to keep their fast-paced narratives even though obviously it will be a different story.

I’m excited to see what 2015 will bring.

A Trio of Halloween Stories

Halloween

3 very short stories, each 250 words or less, written for Halloween.  These stories span time and space: from ancient Ireland to modern Japan, and the most scary place of all–the back of a greyhound bus.

The Five South (Seattle to Redding)

She smiled at the man across the aisle. His shaved hair spoke of a recent prisoner or soldier. He nervously licked his lips and smiled back at her. Women like her were not found on the Greyhound.

Sometimes it was too easy, this seduction of man. The euphoric joy of coupling was unrivalled for her kind. Taking men to her bed, or to the toilet at the back of the bus when necessary, and fucking and sucking them until their essence quite literally became hers…oh, her nipples tingled with anticipation.

It was late and most people had left the bus by Eugene. She patted the empty seat next to her invitingly, while slipping her other finger down her into her underwear.

She could not pleasure herself, of course. A succubus is not built that way. But she could pretend, and it drove men wild.

Indeed he was at her side, lust raging in his eyes. His hands found her breasts and his breath was warm on her face. No one on the bus paid them the slightest mind.

She suppressed a sigh. It really was too easy. She reached for the bulge in his pants almost by rote.

She froze when she felt his burning skin. It burned beyond mortal capabilities. The shaven-haired man clasped her hands with inhuman strength.

“Do you know?” he said in a deep silky voice that belied his harried exterior. “How many kudos an incubus gets when we trap one of you?”

The End

Vintage Black Cat

A Long Way From Tokyo

Akari cursed as her scooter came to a stop. She was a long way from Tokyo, and the tropical lush nature of Kyushu was filled with new sounds and a darkness the city never attained. Her childhood fear of the dark, long since conquered, remerged as strong as ever.

Out of fuel, and only kilometers away from Mt. Aso. There were people at the train station who could help, but she would have to push her Suziki along the road. No moon lit that dark sky, and even the stars seemed hesitant to shine with their full force.

She was just starting to push her bike when she realized that something was behind her.

It was a black tosa, a dog bred for fighting, killing, maiming. This one was smaller than some she had seen, but its eyes glowed like burning coals and smelled of decaying meat, dead places, forgotten graveyards.

This was no wild dog, Akari suddenly knew, but an okuri-inu, a spectral beast that preyed on lone travelers. She dropped her scooter and ran wildly, irrationally.

The hellish creature accompanied her, imminent as death itself.

Twice she almost tripped, but then ahead of her headlights appeared. She ran into the street, waving her hands and stopping the small car.

The young couple helped her into the car with murmurs of care, but they winced visibly at her scent.

She smelled of death, and would forever more.

The End

Spooky House

Lady of the Barrows

She was there, alright. Sitting by the stream, meticulously washing a suit of armor piece-by-piece in the cold mountain water. She hadn’t seen me yet, thank the Dagda.

The problem was, I thought, that it was my armor. The armor I was wearing.

I ducked back down, to avoid her attention. From afar all I could see was her raven dark hair, her pristine white clothing, and her small pale hands clutching my chainmail.

But it wasn’t only imagination that told me she had no face.

I needed to return to the camp, to tell my band of warriors that there was a presence here. The sign of the Sidhe is never a good portent before battle, and already we were outmatched against the Ulstermen.

A breeze soft as a lover’s breath passed over my neck and I shivered. Something was behind me. I clung to my spear as though it were a talisman. My heart beat wildly, my body utilizing knowledge that my mind could not understand.

There was nobody there. The stream flowed, the leaves rustled in the wind, the trees stood sentry as ever. But the woman was gone.

I ran, fear lending wings to my feet.

I never saw the arrow that sunk into my throat, but I did, at last see her empty face. Only dimly aware of my dying, spasming body as her horrible wail filled my ears.

I was, I learned, the last of my men to enter Tír na nÓg.

The End