“Did you hear that?” I whispered, my eyes drinking in the darkness surrounding the car.
He stopped kissing my neck long enough to mumble a distracted “No” before returning his attention to my skin.
“There it is again!” I crowed and then quickly lowered my voice, not wanting to alert whatever had made the sound to my presence.
He sighed and sat back, listening in annoyance. After a moment, he said, “I don’t hear anything.”
His eyes widened. “Wait…”
The sound began to repeat, its frequency and volume increasing as if it were getting closer. And closer.
“I’m creeped the fuck out,” I hissed. “Let’s get out of here.”
“You don’t have to ask twice,” he said under his breath as he scrambled half-dressed over the seat back and positioned himself behind the wheel. He wrenched the key in the ignition, but the car only clicked.
The sound was so loud now that it drowned out the beating of my heart in my throat. I couldn’t see anything beyond the rolled-up windows, no matter how intently I stared into the darkness.
The driver’s side door flew open and something blacker than the night slid into view for an instant, and then both the man and the creature were simply gone.
“Damn it,” I spat.
I got out of the car, slamming the door in irritation, and stomped to the hood. Reconnecting the battery took almost no time at all, in direct opposition to the difficulty I had disconnecting it on the sly in the first place. Thankfully, it was usually easy to entice a man to look under the hood of a ’76 Firebird; even a man who couldn’t tell a battery from an oil pan.
I closed the hood and sighed. I had almost seen it this time. I guess I’d just have to try again.
In an effort to up my game and get back in the swing of things, I’ve decided to write an occasional micro-story from a roll of the Story Cube dice. This is one such exercise.
Story Cubes: Hand or palm, Tower, Apple, Alien, Lightbulb, the letter L, Fountain, Moon, Flower
She sighed and rested her chin in her palm as she gazed out the open window onto the lush fields below. Flowers swayed in the breeze, glittering like diamonds as the dew on their petals caught the faint light of the crescent moon. Leaves rippled as the wind played in the orchard, the apple trees lined up at attention, as stiff and reticent as the Imperial Guard.
She sighed again as she pushed herself away from the window and padded across the room, ornate rugs muffling the sound of her bare feet. Her quarters in the Tower were luxurious, if cramped. Exotic textiles from all corners of the Empire were brought to make her imprisonment comfortable, as befitting a woman of her status. But that did not change the fact that she was confined to this gilded cage for the unlikeliest of reasons: love, with a capital L.
Recalling the day they met still brought a flutter to her stomach. She had just returned from a hunt and stopped at the fountain to water her horse as she had, once again, overtaxed the poor beast. A loud bang startled her as she handed the reins to a groom. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so she began to search for the source of the noise. Rounding a corner within the palace, she nearly bowled over a figure crouching to pick up the shattered remains of a lightbulb.
The figure rose, locked eyes with her, and she was lost. She fell into the depths of those eyes, frozen, mesmerized. It was only an instant, but she now belonged heart and soul to the creature before her. Spindly grey fingers wrapped around her own and the alien led her away in silence. They had almost reached the spaceship when the Imperial Guard captured her and dragged away from her Love. She had since been left to rot in the Tower Cell, her Empire forgotten as she pined each day for the alien to return for her.
I’m not sure where this one is going, but since it’s been forever since I posted anything to my blog, I decided to give you a taste of what kind of stuff is rattling around in my head. Enjoy!
She watched the snowflakes gently float to the ground, melting instantly as they touched the warm water oozing through the gutter. The air temperature was just below freezing for the first time in months, despite the promise of an ominously warm Christmas. Ever since Climate Change was finally regarded as an inevitability, the seasons had changed so drastically that snow in December was an exception rather than the rule. Evelyn was old enough to remember the words to White Christmas, even though she could no longer recall the melody.
Trudging through the barren countryside, Evelyn was not as vigilant as she once had been. She had lived a long life against tremendous odds to reach the age of thirty-four, and now considered this to be the twilight of her human existence. All that was left was the transformation. She just hoped that it didn’t hurt.
A man had once told her that humans were actually beings of energy hiding in a meat suit, that the transformation would free her, if she let it. Evelyn didn’t stick around long enough to find out if he was telling the truth or just trying to get close enough to rape her. That had been a lifetime ago, just past her nineteenth birthday, before the western seaboard of what had been the United States slipped into the sea – a result of a catastrophic earthquake culminating in a tidal wave of ungodly proportions due to rising sea levels.
Evelyn laughed out loud, unconcerned by who – or what – may hear her. Those people had been so sure that Climate Change had been a hoax all the way up until the sharks were knocking on their windows. She had known better. It hadn’t been much of a loss since that area had experienced more years of drought than anywhere else. The water did eventually return to its pre-tsunami level, but it had been just the slap in the face the deniers had needed to get them on board.
Not that it made any difference in the end.
* * *
“Unhhhh…” she groaned. All she wanted him to do is to carve the damn brain. It took forever to catch a fresh one of a decent size and she didn’t want it to be stale by the time the family dinner was over.
“Gaaaaa…” he responded murkily. He would cut the damn brain when he was good and ready. Jesus, didn’t he have enough to do, keeping the eyeball martinis fresh, and watching the game? He barely had time to put his foot up before she was squawking at him to do something else.
She lurched angrily toward him, losing a fingernail in the process. Great! Just what she needed! Another fingernail gone, and here in the middle of a party. She would have been embarrassed if she wasn’t so dead.
He saw her lumbering his way and dragged his foot to the floor to stand. “Urrraahhh…” he puffed through the rotted stumps that used to be his teeth. In his peculiar hitching motion – owing to the loss of his left foot to the lawn sprinkler when he was newly dead – he rambled over to the rickety card table proudly displaying the main course, still partially encased in its previous owner. Grabbing the cleaver caked in dried blood from being used to procure dinner, he threw a sour look her way and slammed the knife down into flesh. The pale salmon matter cleaved easily and the steel imbedded in the cardboard below. “Aaak” he quipped and snatched the severed piece for himself.
His actions had attracted the others and soon the sounds of grunting and slurping filled the small cabin until nothing else existed.
In an effort to make up for the lack of activity on the TotallyTawn WordPress blog, I offer a short story. I hope you enjoy it.
Champion of the Dragon Empress
The Dark Knight stood—legs spread, gauntlet-encased hands resting comfortably on the hilt of a gilded longsword—knee deep in the shattered remains of the enemy. The flames of battle stained the sky an oppressive orange-amber, kindling a symphony of ominous sparks which played lovingly across the knight’s immaculate gold and onyx armor. Though torn and stained, the Dragon Empress’ standard—a scarlet dragon on a field of blood—poked forlornly from the muck behind and to the right of the champion, and taunted the vanquished as they fled.
The knight watched the broken figures retreat, knowing they would return to fight another day. The enemy combatants would certainly die drowning in their own blood on that day, yet somehow there would always be more clamoring to take their place. The carnage was unrelenting, and the Dark Knight was its orchestrator, snuffing lives as easily and frequently as an acolyte douses the candlelight at the conclusion of Rites.
The visor of the knight’s winged helm was closed, affording none a view of the weariness veiling the warrior’s thundercloud-gray eyes. Only the Dragon Empress herself had seen the wrinkles marring her paladin’s aging, pitted skin, and the streaks of silver coursing through the Dark Knight’s long, stringy locks. If it was known how timeworn the Defender of the Realm had become, there would be no quarter, no respite until the Dark Knight had fallen. Only the diaphanous illusion of this single warrior’s invincibility spared the empress’ forces from being overrun.
The victorious soldier returned the perfectly balanced sword to its scabbard, rigidly turned, and began the trek to the Palace of the Dragon Empress. A lustrous diamond among the wretched, stinking masses, the Dark Knight was untouched by the grime of battle, further underscoring legendary claims of fortitude. The throngs parted with silent reverence, clearing a dusty path through soldiers and civilians alike to the marble steps of the palace, and then on into the opulent throne room.
“The Defender of the Realm, Champion of the Dragon Empress, and The Vanquisher of Fears: The Dark Knight,” the Herald announced to the empress’ court, ushering in the towering, metal-clad, soldier with a modest bow and lowered eyes.
“Leave us,” the Dragon Empress commanded, beckoning the knight forward. The empress patently ignored the murmured grumbling of the courtiers—barely heard over the swishing of silk and brocade—as they exited the room, imperial guards at their heels.
Once the cavernous room had cleared of all save monarch and champion, the Dark Knight finally removed her helm with a sigh, and knelt—right knee and fist to the ground—before her regent. “The battle is won, Your Majesty,” she intoned, as she had thousands, perhaps millions of times before. “The Fears have been defeated and all is quiet. You may proceed as you will without their hindrance .”
“You have done well, my champion,” praised the empress. “How do you fare?”
The Dark Knight lifted her stormy eyes and captured an identical pair belonging to her twin, sitting stiffly upon the throne. “There will come a day when the Fears will overpower me, my liege. I have conquered them for you every day since you were but a babe, but we both know that Fear cannot be kept at bay for an eternity. Are you prepared for that happenstance?”
The empress nodded. “I am,” she breathed. “On the day when you can no longer hold back the Fear, I shall exit this world as we entered it—together. And know this, my sister, only by defeating Fear have We truly lived. You have made this happen, and We are grateful.”
* * *
Marsha took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight, her internal battles won and her mind calm. Blinking the glare from her thundercloud-gray eyes, she adjusted the microphone, took a small sip of water, and began her prepared speech.
“Again!” The hatchlings darted around her as she waded through the hip-deep water, pleading – as they always did before she returned to the surface – for her to recount the tale one more time.
“You have already heard it a thousand times over,” she admonished.
“Please?” They begged in unison.
Drawing the smallest dragonet from the murky fluid, she held it before her with a stern expression. As she gazed into its earnest, slitted eyes, it lovingly wrapped its tail around her slender wrist. Her lips twitched, revealing her resigned bemusement.
“Very well,” she relented, as she always did. Gently returning the creature to the water of the birthing chamber, she glided to the far end of the chilly, stone temple, and settled regally onto the edge of the central dais. She absently tucked a loose strand of her lustrous dark tresses behind one sharply pointed ear, smoothed the wrinkles from her sleek, cerulean tunic, and began to speak, her voice low and smoky.
“In the days when the World was new, Men and Dragonkind became embroiled in a bitter war. Whatever incident sparked the conflict was lost from the Chronicles and it was not for many ages that it became clear that neither side could ever emerge victorious. In order to broker a peace, Kalani, the Queen of Men, offered to become one with the Dragon Caliph, Garron, so that the races would be forever joined by blood. Garron accepted the queen’s proposal and an extravagant celebration was prepared to commemorate the end of the Great War.
However, Kalani never intended to fulfill the agreement. On the day of the feast, she secretly adorned her lips with a poison so that the first kiss she shared with Garron would be his last, paving the way for her conquest by treachery.
All went according to the queen’s designs, until her youngest daughter, a girl in her twelfth year and the only person – besides herself – that Kalani had ever loved, congratulated Kalani with an impulsive kiss.
The little princess fell into a state a hairsbreadth from death. Consumed with anguish, Kalani begged Garron to save her daughter.”
At this point in the story, she paused to allow the hatchlings to consider what Garron might have done. She watched them impassively as they swarmed before her, and then drew a breath to continue.
“Garron had had his fill of battle, yet he was not a weak ruler. He demanded that Kalani immediately surrender all subterranean territory to his people while Men remained above ground before he would heal the girl. Once Kalani agreed before the entirety of the World, Garron took the young princess below to his stronghold – to this very temple, in fact – to be restored.
Her recovery was not an easy thing. It took two seasons and left her significantly less human than she had been. Her survival was of such importance to the fragile peace that Garron supervised her care personally, and in doing so, gradually came to love her.
When the day came for her to return to her mother, the princess left Garron with a heavy heart and ascended to the surface. Her ordeal had made her unrecognizable to Kalani, who demanded she prove her identity. Humiliated and betrayed, the princess spurned her mother and declared her love for the Caliph.
Realizing her mistake, Kalani begged to make amends with her daughter. The princess was soft of heart and relented. A contract was made which finally brought a lasting peace to the World.
This is how it came to pass that the Mother of Dragons consented to spend two seasons of each year on the surface in the company of Kalani, and the other two seasons below with her love and their many children.”
Her countenance softened as she said, “So you see, my loves, why I must go? If I do not, our races will be plunged into a conflict that none would survive.”
“Yes, Mother,” came the discordant response from the water.
A proud smile graced her lips as she regarded her dragonets. Rising, she moved from the dais to the adjacent stairway. She slithered up four steps before turning to lift a hand sadly in farewell. “I will return soon, my loves.”
She turned back quickly to hide her tears as her sinewy, undulating tail carried her to Kalani.
It’s hard for me to believe that I now have yet another year of blogging under my belt. I have made many new friends, ventured outside of my comfort zone, and learned so much that I cannot judge 2012 as anything other than a fantastic year for which I am ecstatically grateful.
I have done the prerequisite year-in-review post for 2010 and 2011, but this year, I thought I’d do something a little bit different by sharing with you the short stories that I’ve written throughout the year instead of just my most popular or my favorite posts. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. And I wish each and every one of you the very best in 2013!
Eilain hated her job. It was bad enough that she had to partner with that lech, Thanatos, on the occasional unusual reaping call. But recently, the number of cases had been growing, resulting in her having to spend more and more time rebuking Death’s sexual advances. The guy just wouldn’t give up. It was exhausting.
“Knock knock!” a jaunty masculine voice chimed through the closed – and locked – door.
Eilain rolled her eyes. Speak of the devil.
“I’ll be ready in a second, Than,” she called. “I have a few things to finish up.”
“Just don’t take too long, beautiful,” he replied, his voice heated. “This one’s special. I’m getting a chubby just thinking about it.”
She sighed heavily, her hands resting on the heavy mahogany desk, and bowed her head in helpless disgust. A moment later, the off-key rendition of Nelly’s Hot in Here assailing her senses from the far side of the door finally spurred her into action. With a resigned heave, Eilain pushed herself back and to her feet. She snagged her Hourglass off of the corner of the desk before padding across the room, throwing the bolt, and hurling open the door.
“Hey, baby!” Thanatos greeted her with a sleazy smirk, “Wanna touch my scythe?”
Eilain shouldered past him and gracefully descended the front stairs, grumbling loudly, “Let’s just get this over with, okay? I have a million things to do.”
“You know,” he leered, gliding up behind her and breathing into her ear, “there have been studies that prove that sex improves concentration. Maybe after this, I could help you -”
She cut him off. “Give it a rest, will you, Than?” His breath on her hair was making her stomach turn. She reached the portal and turned to face him. “I am not in the mood.”
A spark of anger flashed in his sockets. He sneered, “What the matter? Is it that time of the month again? I would think you had better control of that, being the Mistress of Time, and all.” Predictably, he injected overt sexual tones into his pronunciation of her title.
Eilain rubbed her temple with her empty hand and spat, “Just shut up and do your job, Death. I know it’s hard for you to refrain from being a lecherous ass, but just this once, try. Try hard. This call is worse than the rest.”
“What’s eating you, Lainey?” he murmured, sounding like a whipped puppy, his anger doused by confusion.
She turned her back on him, effectively putting an end to his loathsome attempt at conversation, and activated the portal. Holding her Hourglass before her chest with both hands, she took the lead, and stepped decisively through the shimmering black membrane.
Thanatos followed, one hand on his scythe, the other gripping her right shoulder so they would not be separated in transit. Once they had arrived safely, he quickly removed his bony fingers before she could shrug them off, possibly aware that he was pushing his luck too far tonight.
They walked to a small cottage – alone in a misty, wildflower-laden field – in silence. Nothing moved but them. No birdsong reached their ears. No breeze ruffled their hair. A pregnant hush blanketed the surroundings, welcoming them with resigned, bated breath.
Entering the cottage, they glided unopposed to the bedside of an exceptionally beautiful woman. She reclined peacefully – her glossy hair artfully spread over silk linens, her lips full and red, her body curvy and voluptuous beneath the thin sheet, the thick lashes of her closed eyes fanning over her flush cheeks.
“Is it time already?” the beauty whispered, her voice heartrendingly weak, eyes still shut.
“I’m afraid it is, Venus,” Eilain answered gently. She watched the last grains of sand pour through her Hourglass rather than Venus’ perfect face, unable to bear witnessing the death of Love.
Thanatos shattered the somber mood by proclaiming gleefully, “Look at the jugs on this one! JACKPOT, baby!”