Fiction Frenzy Winner – Freezing Nightingale

Written by Lynx Firenze


It’s been four days since I was thrown in this well. The woman who left me in here promised she’d bring me some food in a week, if I survive that long, but I’m partially submerged in freezing salt water, up to my chest, and I can’t sleep for fear of slipping and drowning. The only means I have of telling the time are the shadows cast by thin rays of sunlight I catch a glimpse of every now and then.

As the cover is removed and more freezing water is poured on me, which is my only source of hydration, I think someone or something must be adding more salt to the water I’m submerged within. The addition of fresh water is masked by this strange sea salt. A sudden shiver runs through me though it’s a reassurance more than anything – the end stages of hypothermia have yet to reach me.

To stave off the inevitability, I start to fidget and flex my muscles as best I can in the confined space. Wasting my strength is, perhaps, needless but I don’t know how long I can last before my blood starts to clot or freeze. I don’t know what that woman wants from me but, unless it’s my corpse, she’d best let me out of here soon.

Death is close, I fear. No sunlight. It’s probably night-time. I hear the sound of a heavy metal bucket being placed on the edge of the well and tilt my head back, mouth open and hands cupped to capture as much of the precious liquid as I possibly can. A torrent of warm water with a slightly metallic tang washes over me and I blindly guzzle it down, meekly hoping that if it’s poison it finishes me off quickly. The flow stops and I whimper, partly out of shame at what I’ve been reduced to, and partly because it once gained me another cupful or so of water. The cover closes, leaving me in total darkness again, and I drink the remaining liquid I’ve caught in my hands.

There’s a faint blue light coming from the water underneath me, but I don’t believe it’s anything more than a hallucination. For all I can tell, I’m probably suffering from advanced hypothermia. A faint singing accompanies the light and I smile. Feeling warmer with this voice around somehow, my own lips purse ready to join in with the woman’s song. Her song – strangely – seems to lift as I join, as though she’s happy that I want to sing with her. Thoughts of hypothermia vanished, nothing seems to cloud my voice, as I focus on the sound of hers; fillling me up and lifting my mind from its present cage.

But as all things come to an end, so does the song, with her voice fading away, leaving me in the cold darkness once again.

“She’s in here,” a woman’s voice floats down to me, the one who put me in here.

“A disused well, is that safe?” Another voice joins; I believe it’s the woman who sang. “Seems dangerous to me. Mortals are so fragile.”

“She’s either dead and unworthy or alive and determined. Or she’s just lost her mind.”

“I don’t find that particularly reassuring Juno.”

“Well, you said to test her.” The cover comes off and I can see stars, cold moonlight illuminating the area around me.

“I meant her supposed abilities as a singer, not her ability to survive in a disused well for a week.”

“Well, maybe if you were more clear…”

A teenage goth, the likes of whom populated my concerts since the start, leans over the well. “She’s alive, so that’s a start,” shrugging her shoulders. “Come on Nightingale, sing for your supper,” she laughs, cruel and bitter.

Nightingale… Is that my name? I think it is, or at least it’s my stage persona, why do they want to hear me sing though? The thought crosses my mind that perhaps she’s just an overzealous fan who saw Misery one too many times and got ideas.
“W-Why?” I croak after several attempts, forcing the words from cracked and bleeding lips. No tears come when I try to cry, just pitiful wheezing sobs.

“She’s too thirsty to sing. Give her a drink,” the singer said.

“Are you going to pay for it?”

“Just add it to my tab, I’ll work it off later since I know that’s all you want.”

I hear the sound of laughter and a firm slap; a minute later a hose appears over the edge of the well and a steady stream of water spills in. I drink it gratefully.

“Whenever you’re ready, honey.” A second woman appears over the edge of the well, almost albino in her complexion.

After a moment of silence, filled with resentment and tears, I force my swollen tongue to obey; singing a melancholy song about a girl lost in her memories as she wallows in a dark dungeon. The song ends by implying that she dies alone and unloved in the cold darkness of her cell – I hope the irony isn’t lost on them.

“That was beautiful,” the albino sighs.

The goth is silent for a moment then she shakes her head, “I should teach Darla to sing,” she says, “do you think she could do it?”

“Darla? Sure, loan her to me for a few weeks and I’ll have her singing like an angel for you.”

“And then when she divulged all of my secrets?”

“I’d ask her why she was telling me about your operation when she should be practising. You can keep Nightingale for a while longer if it’ll make you feel better in the meantime.”

“Please don’t leave me down here,” I whimper involuntarily, “I’ll die.” My voice seems pathetically small, like a child begging the monsters under her bed to leave her alone.

“Will she?” the albino turned to the goth.

“Probably. Chances are she’s suffering from deep hypothermia, she won’t have slept, she only drinks as much as she can catch, and she hasn’t eaten unless you count the blood I tossed her last night for a joke.”

Blood? Surely, I would have noticed. “You never fed me blood,” I say with false bravado.

“Yes, I did, you’re covered in it.” The goth laughs and drops a compact mirror into the well. I catch it and flick it open, a pale blue light illuminates me and I drop the mirror in shock, my face and breasts are caked in a deep crimson crust. Gurgling a scream, new tears burst from my eyes with accompanying wails.

“Juno, that was just cruel, you’ve needlessly traumatised her.”

“I’ve taught her to respect her betters,” the goth corrects. “If she behaves herself from now on she has nothing to worry about, but if she doesn’t she’ll be back in there. Whenever she feels like disobeying or causing trouble then a part of her is going to remember how she feels right now.”

“It was unnecessary. Haven’t you ever heard of a blood bond?”

“So I did it because I’m a sadist, sue me.”

“Just throw her a rope.”

Through my tears I vaguely make out the shape of a rope as it’s thrown down to me, a loop tied at one end to make a foothold.

“Nightingale, sweetheart,” the albino’s voice takes on a honeyed edge. “Come out like a good girl and we’ll only keep you for a week, there’s towels and food and a blanket up here for you…” There’s a familiar warmth to her words, “And I promise not to let Juno do anything this horrible to you again.”

“Like I said, so long as she behaves.”

I hesitate then try to slip my boot into the loop, but I miss. “I can’t get my foot in the hole,” I whimper after four attempts; expecting another bucket of blood or, worse, the well cover sliding back into place.

“Big surprise, hang on,” the goth retracts the rope and drops it back down with a lassoed knot. “There, just loop that around your waist and hold on.”

I obey silently and she effortlessly pulls me out one-handed, I wonder if it’s because of a pulley system I can’t see, or she’s just freakishly strong.

It’s almost as dark outside the well as in it, the only illumination being the headlights of a black sedan parked nearby with the boot popped. I shiver again.

“She’ll live,” the goth says dismissively. “Dry her off and stick her in the boot, I’ll drive.”

“Don’t mind her,” the albino wraps a towel around my shoulders and starts to gently dry me with the other. “She isn’t as bad as she seems. There’s food and blankets in the boot for you.”

“OK,” I sigh weakly, not wanting to be put back into that freezing darkness. “Just please don’t hurt me, I don’t want to die.”

“Do as you’re told and you’ll be fine. But if Juno gets pissed off, stay out of her way, she’ll be nicer to you the more submissive you are so if you’re in any trouble with her just beg and call her Mistress a lot. She liked your song by the way, not that she’ll ever admit it. Lay down though, I don’t want the boot to hit your head.”

I obediently lay as flat as I can and she closes the boot, sealing me in. The engine of the sedan roars into life and pulls away at high speed, taking me away from the life I loved and into the waiting darkness of the future.


After running the Fiction Frenzy between July 1 and August 31, we received various entries and all of which were superb. In the end, the winning entry was one which was both strangely comical and enticing. Written by the newest member of our writing forum, Lynx Firenze has pieced together an interesting tale, blending vampires and the supernatural with humanity. Given us the chills just by wondering what’s in store for this poor young Nightingale, we hope she gets out alive. If you enjoyed Lynx’s work, please consider leaving a like or comment below. 

Featured Image CC // Dilip

 

Mulberry Way

Written by Lockmaker


She would not turn to them. And while she spoke to them, softly and slowly, she would not turn. They’d arrived a little after nine. Seven months filtered down to this. She sat hunched in a chair towards the window, watching the grey skies and the rain trickle down the glass.

“Perhaps I was a fool.” Her voice whispered to them. “Perhaps you should have never come.”

“Catherine, this is a chance to tell your side of the story.”

Catherine Green, reveals all. The headlines would be bold, brash and bloody. People would ask for his autograph. The fearless reporter willing to do what no other would. The genius who revealed all.

The recorder lay beside him on a table. The orderly had brought tea and left them alone in the mint coloured room.

“There was once a girl who believed she had cancer, so she took a knife from the kitchen cabinet and stabbed her husband seventeen times.”

Catherine chuckled at the thought of her infamous story, while the journalist watched her with his fingers laced under his chin. The jury had not believed her pleas of sanity; there was never a lump, never a young doctor, nor any proof of her appointment. A deranged woman who’d languished for nearly two decades within the walls of the mental unit chosen for her. Since her imprisonment there had been no signs of a relapse, nothing to suggest mental illness and yet the doctors’ reports complained of her unwillingness to accept reality.

“What’s your story?”

“We can never go back. Do you understand?” Her hand was papery and dwarfed by his own. Catherine was once a beauty, but it had faded now – cheeks gaunt and eyes watery, she turned away from him, a sigh caught in her throat.

“Catherine, I’m here to let people know your story.” He was here for promotions, cars and money but she still smiled and thanked him before clearing her throat.

“I awoke alone.”

“This was after the doctor’s office?”

“Yes. He was such a handsome man, though I never saw him again. I remember there was a light above me, it was swinging you see, casting shadows on the far wall.” She ran her fingers through brittle hair before reaching for the glass of water left on the side.

“I didn’t see him at first.”

“Who?”

“He called himself Wednesday. Such a handsome man. Such a gentle voice.”

“Wednesday, you refer to him as the umbrella man?”

“It was a black one; he would lean on it as he spoke.” Her voice lowered in a mockery of an English gentleman. “Call me Wednesday sunshine. It’s not my name but call me it all the same sunshine,” she laughed to herself before turning towards him, her voice regaining the gentle, soft quality he expected of her. “Do you wish to find him?”

The journalist blinked at her suggestion as her hand touched his own. Her face furrowed and she drew a tongue across her chapped lips.

“I advise you to leave. Drive away. Find a pretty girl and marry her. Don’t stir the hornet’s nest. When you know of him, he knows of you.” Her voice had become a harsh whisper, her eyes fixed with his own. Her nails dug into his skin.

“Catherine,” he took on the voice he used with all clients, one to reassure and coerce the story from them. “Please, this is for you. A chance to tell your story.”

“Bah.” She moved away from him, crossing her arms. “This is for you and your bank account. Don’t think I don’t know. You know, I was imagining rape or death but the doctor only spoke to me.”

“What about?”

“Truths,” she hissed the word and tapped the side of her chair. “He will show you hell for his own amusement. He spoke of so many others but wouldn’t let me see them. Once, he threw a tea party and fed me. But what did he feed me? To be honest, I didn’t dare ask. I kept finding hairs, red ones, soft like a child’s.” She turned away her eyes down as she shook her head. “ But I would never ask about what he gave me or what he called his failures.” The mock accent returned as she tilted her head back.

“I judge you dull.” Bringing her hand to her eyes she wiped away a phantom tear, her voice pleading as she spoke again. “So many names, he’d tell me them again and again, all failures. All unwilling to do what must be done. I was his play thing and he made me kill Thomas.

“I loved Thomas in a way, I married him after all and yet I wanted to survive so badly. Though he said I was becoming dull, so I amused him the only way left to me. I killed Thomas to amuse him.”

“What happened to you?” The words left the reporter almost as a prayer. He didn’t believe half of her story, he’d done the research.

Catherine Green had called into work, then spent an hour in the bathroom before walking to the kitchen, grabbing a kitchen knife, and stabbing her husband seventeen times in the chest. The police found her with the knife in her hand, whispering to herself about proving herself “worthy”.

“I was broken.” She stood with a great effort before moving closer to the window
“He instructed me.” Lifting her sleeve he saw the crisscross of wounds, they glared at him in pale lines. “Look for him and he will find you.”

“Why did he find you?” The reporter asked as Catherine let her sleeve fall and placed a hand on the window.

“I needed to learn. I never considered my worth beyond breasts and a pretty face. Life is so beautiful.”

Catherine dissolved into madness then, screaming and yelling, before the orderlies sedated her. It was clear he wouldn’t get clarification today. Pulling out of the hospital car park he reflected.

The case of Catherine Green had shocked the world of 1995; she was beautiful, white and blonde. She’d seemed so stunned and confused in those early pictures that people still doubted she was a real killer. The Rettendon murders, had taken her off the map, three drug dealers a far juicier story for those wishing to complain about the state of society. And yet something about a beautiful young woman driven to murder would always inspire people, including himself.

While driving, he formed the structure to his article: human nature versus the supernatural “hidden” killer. Paramurders would take it – a terrible magazine for aging housewives who believed in every new age trend. But he still wished to write the true hard-hitting stories of murderers and serial killers. Not stories about men with umbrellas.

It took him two hours to return to the office. Sitting down he felt his eyes glaze over, he’d wanted so much more out of Catherine Green. He didn’t want to work for the Sunday Reporter for much longer; freelance work allowed him a chance to earn more and yet he only needed one great story to propel him to the heights of journalistic stardom.

Catherine Green was meant to be such a chance and she had proven to be as mad as a hatter. He let his head sink as he opened his emails, wondering what wonderful words of wisdom his boss could provide.

Sifting through his emails quickly, the journalist stumbled upon an interesting find – an email from Catherine Green’s hospital.

Hear of me I know you. Speak of me and you will find. Search for me and I will come. I have looked into you and I find you dull. I will not play with such a thing long but I will play if you so wish.

He stared at the email before him and was chilled to the bone. Perhaps it was a joke, perhaps it wasn’t. But he knew one thing for certain, the truth of the umbrella man was now within his grasp.


A chilling tale, Mulberry Way sets the scene with a curious look into the life of Catherine Green – a female serial killer bent on revenge. With a madness that breathes life into her character, Lockmaker has written a fantastic thriller that just leaves us hungry for more. Just who is this umbrella man, is a doctor, an imaginary psychopath? Perhaps we’ll find out one day. But in the mean time, if you enjoyed Lockmaker’s work, make sure to view her other published work on Inkblots, “Dear Mister Nice Guy.

Featured Image CC // Maarten Van Damme

Howlers

Written by Dizzy Dazzle


They were gaining on her. Fast.

She tore through the trees like a bullet, barely acknowledging the razor-sharp cuts to her arms from the branches. She would feel the pain later. The forest passed by in a blur, tree trunks merging into one another, their jagged arms grabbing at her, forcing her back. She glanced behind her, long black hair whipping out round her cheekbones. Her first big mistake.

They were close. Nearly close enough to touch. She let out a gasp and, as though they could smell her fear, they let out shrieks of triumph, whilst their fiery yellow eyes burnt ever brighter.

She willed her legs to go faster, but she could feel them tiring. The girl knew the creatures were clever. As she couldn’t rely on speed, she’d have to deceive or trick them. If only she had access to a torch – they hated fire.

Without pausing to think, she made a sharp turn to the right. But the girl was too slow. They were still following her, growling and snapping at her heels. She urged herself onward, heart pounding. Her legs were beginning to feel like lead weights.
They had split up. She was dimly aware that there were three of them, and that two were rounding her up from the sides. She glanced to her right, glimpsed a wolf-like head and lean, withered human body. The creatures eyes flashed menacingly, and she swallowed a scream that was building up inside her.

A river loomed into view. She headed towards it, though knowing she was going to tire before they did. She closed her eyes, then snapped them open again, surveying the width of the river. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to jump that far.

She gave a sudden burst of speed and launched herself from the bank towards the far side. But it wasn’t enough.

As she fell down towards the fast-flowing water, she closed her eyes and hit the surface, plummeting down. She heard them behind her in the river, and she surfaced quickly, gasping for air and clutching at the banks, her fingers scrabbling at the sodden earth. Something grabbed her from behind, and she let out a scream as claws cut deep into her ankles. Claws tore at her shoulder, ripping the flesh, and she went under again.

The creatures dragged her towards them, scratching at everywhere there was skin. The water was thick with blood. Her blood. She struggled to turn herself around, and managed to kick one of them in the neck. She heard a yelp of pain, and then they turned on her again, eyes burning angrily. This was it, she was going to die. She no longer had the strength to fight back. And letting out a deathly scream, the creatures closed in on her.


Our Halloween content has certainly kicked off in style with Dizzy Dazzle’s short fictional piece. Born from a larger work, Howlers is just a tense, fast-paced snapshot of the world she has built, but it holds our interest so tightly. A Wendigo is a particularly gruesome creature known for their gangly bodies, wolf heads and acts of cannibalism throughout North American and Canadian myths. Typically seen as monsters of the northern, colder regions, the beasts are often found in many contemporary horror stories. If you enjoyed Dizzy Dazzle’s piece, perhaps view her other work such as “Sinners”, and her short poetry, “Spiderwebs”.

Featured Image CC // Miguel Angel Avila Lombana

 

The New World

Written by Ricardo


“What is this?” Charlotte asked in the gap between shoving more of the half-melted brown substance into her mouth, occasionally stopping to wedge a chunk out from between her molars with her tongue. “It looks kinda like poop,” she stopped chewing then, with several blocks of the stuff in her right hand and looked up at the man beside her, horrified. “It isn’t poop is it?”

“No, you idiot, of course you haven’t,” the man replied. “It’s a food from the Old World.”

“Oh, so it isn’t…?”

“No,” he interjected. “Just eat it.”

“Oh, okay.” Charlotte looked down at her hands, where the chunks she had been holding had begun to melt, creating a hardened shell around her palm and the base of her fingers. She shoved the chunks in her mouth, chewing at her hands like a cat trying to groom itself.

The man shook his head, looking up and away from the girl pulling more of the stuff from a broken vending machine. He scanned the area around him, trying to mark out any potential hiding spots or escape routes, either for himself or for anybody else currently in here. But he found it difficult to concentrate when all his eyes could see was what used to be there.

It had been nearly fifteen years since he was in this particular supermarket. He with his girlfriend the last time, buying groceries and kitchen appliances for their new house. He even remembered, rather oddly, the vending machine. He tried buying a drink from it but the damn thing ate his money. It took almost two decades, but he finally showed that vending machine what for.

Illuminated aisles showed shoppers the way to their selected produce for the day. The burning heat of thirty 700 watt light bulbs went largely unnoticed. Nobody cared, it was normal. But there was a brief moment after stepping back outside from your weekly shop when natural sunlight was appreciated. And the warmth of it too, rather than the chilled air conditioning and stale smell of sweat.

Now all that surrounded him were filthy floors, shattered windows, and the shelves were pushed into each other in order to create makeshift camp sites and barricades. Everything was either riddled with bullet holes, or plastered in blood, or the green sludge that those things emitted whenever you so much as touched them. This was a hot-spot for them. In actuality, this was good as it meant it was one of the few places where no humans came, meaning supplies. And lots of them. He checked his bag was still intact and nothing was leaking, tightening the cross-body strap around him. They made a good haul today, they’d have enough to survive the next three months.

“Shaun, what’s that man doing?”

The man stopped right where he was looking, between two empty and defrosted chest freezers with the lids torn off. Charlotte must have started looking around too and saw him before Shaun did. He could see the figure between the freezers clear as day, on his knees, with one hand on the freezer beside him vomiting blood and a puddle of green sludge in front of him. Shaun’s heartbeat seemed to triple in speed after seeing the man at the freezers and hearing the Howler tear the revolving door out of the wall, throwing it into the parking lot behind it, and showering the entrance in a glowing green spatter of goo.

Shaun dropped behind the shelving units where the vending machine was and where Charlotte was sitting wide-eyed, a mouthful of the chunky sweet stopping her from screaming. As her eyes filled with tears, they locked on to Shaun. He never thought he’d be so thankful that she had an insatiable sweet tooth. He placed a hand over her full mouth.

“Listen, we’re going to get out of here the way we came in, okay?” he waited for her to nod in confirmation, her tears now streaming down his hand. “You go to the manhole, I wedged it open so you can pull it back open. Get back to the shelter, I’ll be right behind you.”

Charlotte obeyed, crawling through the door entitled Staff Only. Shaun heard the manhole cover drag across the ground, and her footsteps descend the ladder. He took several deep breaths, getting his thoughts together. Now that she was gone, all he had to worry about was getting out with his supplies. He clenched his hands into fists until his knuckles turned white and peered over the shelving unit.


With our next batch of content coming up in October under the theme “Halloween Scarefest”, it’s a great time to conclude August’s work with a post-apocalyptic short story. Loosely tying into both themes, Ricardo’s story was written on behalf of a past Half Hour Challenge and we can’t get enough of it. In fact, we hope he writes more! If you enjoyed his HHC, you can read his other stellar work published on Inkblots, including “A Sweetened Ache” and “Love After Death”. 

Featured Image CC // Revan Jinn

Haru

Written by Rae-Chan

The following is a short excerpt from a longer work of fiction entitled “The Boy in Crystal”. Earlier in the story Lily discovered a man locked away in an underground science facility, he was kept preserved in a tank which was encased with pale blue crystals as part of “Project Future”, and Lily manages to rescue him. 


Lily and the man sat outside under the copious blossom trees. He stared up into the branches, seemingly amazed by the little pink and white flowers.

Lily watched him silently, taking in his pale skin and large, hetero-chromatic eyes. He looked like he hadn’t seen sunlight in a long time. His skin had an ugly greyish tinge to it and his hair, though tied into a braid, looked greasy and unwashed. Just how long had been in that tank, Lily wondered. Although he seemed fit and healthy, the lack of sunlight in that dark basement room made him look drained and ill.

‘What are these called?’ the man asked, awestruck.

‘Blossoms,’ Lily informed him. ‘Haven’t you ever seen them before?’

‘I don’t think so. I don’t remember ever seeing anything like them. They’re so pretty.’

Lily smiled and looked up at the flowers. She had to agree with him, they did look beautiful.

‘They only bloom in the spring,’ she said to him. ‘Bees and other insects are attracted to the flowers and pollinate the trees. Once that happens, the blossoms aren’t needed anymore so they die. Then in the summer, the trees are covered in leaves and fruit and stuff like that.’

‘Wow…’

The two sat in silence for a good ten minutes or so, looking up at the blossoms.

‘Lily?’ the man asked suddenly, pulling his gaze from the blossoms to look at her.

‘Yes?’

‘… Nothing,’ the man shook his head and looked down at the ground, a sad look crossing his face. ‘Doesn’t matter.’

Lily offered him a smile and said, ‘Don’t be shy, you can talk to me.’

‘… Are the doctors mad at you?’

‘I think so,’ Lily said, smiling a little.

‘… I’m sorry. It’s because of me.’

‘It’s not your fault. I disobeyed orders.’

‘What orders?’

‘I wasn’t supposed to go into your room.’

The man looked confused but said nothing else. After a few minutes of sitting in silence together, Lily spoke again.

‘So, what’s your name?’ she asked.

‘My name?’

‘Yeah. I mean, you know my name, so I should probably know yours too, if I’m going to be looking after you.’

‘… I don’t think I have one.’

‘You don’t have a name?’

‘The doctors never gave me one.’

‘Well, that won’t do. Everyone needs a name. We’ll just have to come up with one for you. Let’s see…’

The man watched Lily as she thought of a suitable name for him. She looked up into the branches of the blossom trees, thinking.

‘I’ve got it!’

‘Yes?’ the man asked, eagerly.

‘Haru!’

‘Haru?’

‘Yeah. I found you today, and today it’s spring.’

He nodded slowly, seeming to agree with her logic.

‘So what do you think? How about Haru?’

The man considered it for a few moments before smiling, suddenly looking happier than Lily would have thought possible, his face lifting and brightening in such a way that he almost looked healthy.

‘Haru,’ he said.

‘Haru,’ Lily repeated, laughing. ‘That’s settled then.’

Haru looked delighted, like a child who had just received the greatest gift he could have imagined. And, Lily supposed, having a name – particularly to Haru – was the greatest gift he could imagine.

‘Thank you, Lily,’ he said quietly, suddenly looking close to tears, the whole thing seemed to be, quite understandably, overwhelming for him.

‘Hey, it’s all right,’ Lily said, quickly putting an arm around Haru and giving his shoulders a reassuring squeeze. He leaned his head against her chest, closing his eyes and letting her pull him into a soothing embrace.

Lily rubbed his back comfortingly, like she used to with her little cousin whenever he got upset while she was babysitting him.

‘It’s all right now, Haru,’ she said, soothingly. ‘Everything’s going to be all right.’


A beautiful story excerpt written by Rae-Chan was certainly meant for publication this month. In Japanese, the meaning of the name Haru speaks of sunshine, spring and light – perfect for August’s sunshine theme. As alluded to above, the excerpt is part of a larger work of fiction named “The Boy in Crystal” and is well worth a read. Our author is still revisiting parts of the tale and restructuring, but if you did enjoy Rae-Chan’s work here, please see her other superb work including, the “Prologue from Aes: The Blaze” and “Remembering War”.

Featured Image CC // Walter

By Force

Written by OrdDiff


“Dragons. Beautiful creatures, aren’t they?” The magician said, gazing out of her tower’s window. “Faster and tougher than any beast in the natural world, yet fully aware and able to speak. There isn’t a single adult dragon that hasn’t mastered the arcane.”

The group gathered in the magician’s study was diverse. A military commander fidgeted in ceremonial armour, protecting him from the cold and not much else. A long-nosed bureaucrat scribbled away on a sheet of parchment, recording the meeting for any fuel he might use to ascend a rung on the political ladder. A kind-hearted nobleman sat with rapt attention, while his aide scanned the room for the closest exit.

“You like drakes. We get it,” the bureaucrat interrupted. “Can we please get to the point?”

The magician eyed the bureaucrat with disdain. “Very well. As you know, the secrets of flight have eluded us for the longest time. My predecessor,” she spoke the word with unconstrained vitriol, “declared it an impossibility, stifling any and all research into the area. Young apprentices were intimidated into dropping it, and sponsors were encouraged to invest in more stable research.” She turned her golden gaze to the rich man. “I must thank you again for your trust.”

The nobleman beamed with pride. “You have always done right by me, it was the least I could do.” He said with misguided humility. The bureaucrat made a particularly aggressive note.

“We knew that the secret of flight would never be found on our own,” she continued, “so we turned to the natural world. Thanks to recent accidental discoveries by the military, we gained solid groundwork on the mechanics of mundane, or physical, flight. We found out how birds and other small creatures flew and, through collaboration with the mountain dwarves, created a prototype glider.”

“Which failed.” The commander interjected, much to the magician’s chagrin.

“Indeed.” The magician countered with a sly grin. “While it was capable of carrying an amount of weight over a short distance, it was impossible to create one sturdy enough to carry anything as heavy as an elf, let alone a human or dwarf. So, we left the designs with the dwarves and turned once again to magic. Clearly, birds did not hold the answer.”

“Let me guess,” the bureaucrat said snidely, “dragons did.”

The magician smiled. “Exactly. According to our previous understanding of flight, dragon wings should never be able to carry their immense bulk. We needed their secrets.”

“And that’s where we came in.” The warlord grunted.

“That’s right, and I thank you once again for your sacrifices.” She said somberly.

“Weren’t my sacrifices.” He said, accusingly. A glare from the bureaucrat reminded him of his place, and his brow, previously furrowed, slowly smoothed once again. “Did you get what you needed from the specimen?”

The magician nodded. “Yes. With the live dragon you captured, we were able to study its magic and biology. After several weeks, and a lot of accidents, we finally got it. Gentlemen, you may want to step back.”

She ushered them away from the desk and moved to the edge of the chamber, pulling on a silken rope. The large table the group had been sitting by moved aside, revealing a large, dark hole. The sound of metal chains clinking against themselves filled the air, and slowly a wrought iron cage ascended from the depths of the tower. Inside, bound by the wrists, was what was once a human. Crimson scales covered her back, leading up to two massive, Draconic wings sprouting from its shoulder blades. A small pair of horns pierced the creature’s forehead, and a thin wisp of smoke escaped from her nose.

The three visitors looked upon the sight in horror. For the first time all night, the scratching of quill-on-parchment could not be heard as the bureaucrat’s board fell to the stone floor. “This is what we have accomplished, gentlemen.” The magician proudly declared. “A successful chimera! The dwarves can keep their gliders, this is the weapon we have truly been searching for. Take note, for we have taken flight from the dragons.”


Inspired as part of a past Half Hour Challenge, OrdDiff’s fantasy piece gives us the chills somewhat. A human turning into a dragon, though not by way of skin-changing it seems. It feels a little like a Marvel or DC superhero comic – swapping the science-fiction for pure fantasy here. By Force closes out our “Tipping the Scales” content for July, and it’s a rather apt piece to conclude on, don’t you think? If you enjoyed OrdDiff’s work, consider viewing his other short stories, including “Hunter and Prey” and “Bronze Regrets”. 

Featured Image CC // Kenneth Lu

 

A Conversation of Song

Written by Warp Spade


The moonlit waves swashed back and forth over a stretch of sand two miles long. Gentle and soothing, its sound a dull wash in the back of the mind. A clear night’s sky stretched out above like a black canvas filled with flecks of white paint. Not a soul to be seen, the sandy shore was smooth and untouched, ready to be shaped by the footprints of hundreds of visitors the next day.

A wooden pier stood old yet proud, stretching out to sea like a great finger, pointing to a distant unknown. Empty but for a jet black piano that rested at the pier’s end. Grand it stood there, waiting to perform to the world under the great spotlight of the moon.

A figure appeared, a shadow, gaunt and tall. It stood beside the piano, looking around before sitting quietly at the keys. It had no discernible features, seeming to almost change in shape as it stretched its arms out to touch a key. A single note resonated, sending ripples through the water beneath. Another note, higher this time; more ripples.

Note after note came, each one as spine-tingling as the next. Yet there was no song, no melody. It was as if the pianist was lost, tapping note after note, getting faster and faster, more angry and frustrated, no sense of rhythm. The sea began to surge beneath the disgruntled figure, moving this way and that in a swirl of confusion. Each note causing the water to jump in a mist of rage.

Then, in an instant, it stopped. The figure slumped down, defeated. The sea receded and the calm from a moment ago returned. Sitting motionless, the shadow was fading and re-appearing as if breathing deeply, heavy with thought.

A sound. The pianist turned its head suddenly. Another figure, standing upon a huge rock at the water’s edge a short ways down the beach. With violin and bow in hand, it quickly slid the bow across the strings creating a shrill, rough sound that clung to the air around it. The pianist replied wearily with a long deep note.

A moment passed. The violinist tentatively created a sustained and wafting sound, and the air around breathed effortlessly as the music ebbed and flowed. The pianist joined in, beginning to find rhythm and fluidity and the two instruments began to work together, one following the other. The noise grew louder and stronger as the musicians began to feel more confident in themselves and each other. Melodies grew and changed, rapid one minute and slow the next.

As song filled the air, so too did the air begin to move with it, the sea erupted around the pianist like a sudden storm. Water crashed around the pier, excited and spontaneous. The two figures were speaking and the elements were listening.

They played together, minute upon minute, hour upon hour. A symphony of sound, wind whistling and the sea seething, working together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. The music between the two musicians was not meant to have an audience; it was a love letter to fall on only their ears, yet played on the world’s greatest stage. The pianist’s hands moved in a blur. Hunched over the ivory keys, the figure was pouring his soul into the song and the result was magic.

The violinist, head bent and arm moving to and fro, created a merry song that danced from the strings and into the air. The sensuous sound wrote words of love into the wind. The two instruments were symbiotic, crafting sweet music together from night ’til the approaching dawn. A conversation of song.

The black of the night slowly turned crimson as the horizon came alight, setting the sea on fire with the approaching sun’s rays. The violinist stopped suddenly, and the pianist turned to its musical partner perched upon the rock, pausing in anticipation.

The violinist turned to face the pianist before bowing long and deep, and letting its violin and bow drop onto the warming sands beneath, crumbling away into nothing. And with that, the early light engulfed the figure leaving nothing but a slight breeze behind.

As the violinist was engulfed, so too was the pianist, not by light, but by rage. It hammered its fists down on the keys, returning to its ways of frustration and anger. This time the sea grew monstrous, huge waves rolled high and crashed into the pier from all sides sending spray everywhere, covering the pianist in a mist of sea and salt. The noise from the piano grew and so too did the waves. Suddenly the pier was engulfed completely and with it the piano and its companion, swept away into the sea, drowning in the sorrow of loss. The loss of that perfect night, never to be recovered.


 

New contributor Warp Spade’s short fiction is eloquent in word choice. Wrapping together the beautiful sounds of music with the frenetic rage of the sea works so wonderfully, it gives us the chills just reading it. The personification of the sea within his short story keeps us gripped to the certain tragic conclusion. But all things come to an end, sadly, we’re just happy we got to read such a great piece. If you enjoyed Warp Spade’s work, feel free to leave a like or a comment below. 

Featured Image CC // 2thin2swim