Tag Archives: fantasy

The Ring. Flash Fiction.

Jenny held the ring in a beam of sunlight, watching as the afternoon light glinted across the diamonds. It really was a breath-taking ring and she wasn’t surprised she’d never seen her grandmother wearing it. Her grandmother seemed to favour subtle jewellery, nothing more than a pair of small, diamond stud earrings and little else. Jenny slid the ring onto her finger, marvelling at how perfectly it fit. She, unlike her grandmother, loved wearing jewellery the more it sparkled the better as far as she was concerned. She moved her hand about in the light, this ring would definitely be added to her rotation, only for special occasions of course, she didn’t want to lose something so beautiful and so precious. She considered the ring on her finger for a moment, it wasn’t a special day, not really, but the ring was just too perfect to take off.

Jenny reached for her coffee, ring shining in the harsh lights of the coffee shop. A man nearby smiled, Jenny didn’t notice as she doctored her coffee, adding a splash of milk and a dash of sugar. Without looking she left the coffee shop, the man stood and followed, hardly able to believe his luck. He had been searching for that ring for years, decades and here it was, in some unremarkable coffee shop worn by an unremarkable girl. Sure, she was pretty enough if one noticed those kinds of things but as the years went on the man found himself noticing them less and less.

The man followed her through the day as Jenny wound her way through her errands. He was finding it frustrating how she never seemed to find herself alone, not even in the aisles of the grocery store. He just needed a moment that was all, just long enough to snatch it from her finger. Jenny exited the store, arms laden with shopping bags. She walked through the car park, she reached her car and put the bags down, seeing his chance the man lunged. He pulled her down and kept her close to the ground, “Don’t scream, don’t make a sound and I won’t hurt you.” His breath was hot against her face and carried with it a fetid stench that reminded her of spoiling meat. His hands scrabbled at hers as he stripped the ring from her finger. She realised what was happening and snatched her hand away, but the ring was already gone. She moved to hit him, before she could he struck her hard across the face, an open handed slap that disorientated her. “it isn’t worth your life. To you it’s just a thing.” With that his crushing weight left her body and he was gone. Shakily Jenny stood and looked around the car park, people were milling around but there was no sign of the man. Her hands were shaking and her heart was beating heavily in her chest as she scrabbled to open her car, once inside she locked the doors. After a moment she burst into tears, once she had calmed herself she turned on the engine and pulled out of the spot, not remembering the bags of groceries she left on the ground.

The man looked at the ring in front of him, he had actually found it after all these years. He slipped the ring on and felt a rush of anger through him. The man glanced down at the ring, “I’ve missed you too sweetheart.” with a small smile he stared at the ring, it was almost as beautiful as the soul of the woman he had made it from.

House Arrest. Short Story.

Fred moved around the room slowly, counting under his breath as he went. The library itself was large with book cases coving the wall. The windows were stained glass blues, reds and yellows all depicting awful, terrifying scenes. One showed a man being burned alive, another showed a woman being ripped limb from limb by demons. Fred stopped counting, then he reached out and pulled a book from the bookshelf, he didn’t bother looking at the title, instead he flicked quickly to page 43. He read the first two lines then put the book back, feeling satisfied. The security measures were still in place here, he was protected. He felt himself relax a little as he put the book back. They had told him that the system would not fail, but he had heard that before. When people were that confident it made him nervous because it seemed likely that they’d simply overlooked something. He left the library, weaving his way between the large plush chairs and tables that dotted the room. He walked along the carpeted hallway to the kitchen. The kitchen was large, with marble counter tops and tiled floors, everything seemed to gleam in the morning light. He hated the kitchen. It was too big, too open and far too cold. Whoever had designed it hadn’t taken into account the rather impossible task of keeping the room warm. He went to the fridge and pulled it open, he examined the contents for a moment, it was too full to see everything clearly. He closed the fridge over, he was too stressed to eat. He’d been in this house a week already and it was starting to grate on his nerves. He wanted to be outside, in the fresh air, feeling the grass under his feet while birds sang as they flitted from tree to tree. He wanted his freedom back, he wanted his life back. He turned from the large, glass doors that opened to the perfectly manicured garden. They had promised he’d only be here for two weeks at most and they’d have the entire problem sorted by then. Not that he fully understood the problem either, but when some lunatic who can teleport and throw fireballs comes after you you stop questioning and just start running. Apparently he had the good fortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and some demon had decided he was a good target and even better, demons didn’t stop until they, or their prey, were dead. The man who’d rescued him, Paul, and his girlfriend, Tessa, had dumped him here while they were out hunting. Fred had yet to see anyone else, but somehow the fridge and cupboards were fully stocked at all times and his dirty plates seemed to clear themselves away if he left the room.

Fred turned off the TV, he could have sworn he just heard a bang from somewhere in the giant house. He stood from the couch and cautiously made his way into the hall. There was a dull thud from the back of the house, towards the kitchen. He started towards it then paused, was that blood on the carpet? The carpet was a pastel green colour and there was a trail of dark drops leading down the hall. His heart thudded heavily in his chest as he followed the trail. Maybe those people were back, maybe it was a trap. He paused outside the kitchen door, he leaned over and peered around the door frame. Tessa was sitting at the large kitchen table, blood streaked down her arms and legs, her head was resting on the table. “Oh my god are you OK?” Fred rushed over to her, she didn’t respond. He moved her red hair from her face and neck, her pale skin was covered in scratches and bruises, he carefully felt along her neck for a pulse, it was there but it was weak. What the hell was he supposed to do? He ran to the sink and quickly filled a bowl with warm water, then he grabbed a cloth. First things first he needed to find out where she was injured. He bathed the blood away from her face and arms, there were numerous cuts but they were all shallow, nothing seemed too deep. When he had finished wiping off most of the blood he carefully picked her up and carried her upstairs towards the master bedroom.

He lay her down gently on the bed, her chest was rising and falling slowly, at least he knew she was breathing. As far as he could see she had no major wounds, but if that was true why was she unconscious? Tessa opened her mouth and started screaming, Fred jumped back, letting out his own startled yell. There were no words, just screaming that echoed through the house. It died slowly, fading away to nothing and then she was completely still. Trembling slightly Fred reached out to her neck again, there was no pulse. Her chest was still. CPR, he needed to perform CPR and ring for an ambulance, he should have done it the moment he saw her. He lay her flat on the bed, what was it? 5 pumps then a breath? No, that was TV, it was more than that. He put his hands on her chest and started pushing up and down, Fred heard a low voice behind him “I wouldn’t bother with that if I were you. Her soul has long since departed her body. There’s no coming back from that. She’s dead.”
Fred whirled around, “Jesus Paul, what the hell happened?”
Paul shook his head, “It was too strong. Stronger than we ever imagined. We were split up, it chased me so I thought it let Tessa go. I barely managed to get away myself.”

Fred rushed over to him, “You shouldn’t be in here, you need to sit down, rest.”
Paul looked at him, “no, I don’t want to leave her.” he shrugged off Feds hand and approached the bed, he sat down beside Tessa’s body. Gently he reached out and stroked her face. There was a sudden, wet ripping sound as Paul’s other hand forced its way through Tessa’s stomach. “She has something of mine. Something valuable.” Paul’s hand groped around blindly for a moment, Fred felt bile rising in the back of his throat. Paul pulled his hand from her stomach, it was coated in blood and gore, he held something small in his fingers, he rubbed it against the sheets, cleaning it. As he held it up again Fred saw it was a small, metal ball. Paul stood from the bed, “Thank you for letting me get on with my work. It makes everything so much easier when people cooperate.”
Fred opened his mouth, then closed it. “I knew eventually they’d come after me if I just killed enough people. They were always so protective of their kind.”

Fred’s heartbeat filled his ears, he felt light-headed, he turned to run.
“There’s no point in running, I’ll always find you. You’ve been marked.” He held his hand out flat, the metal ball resting in the centre of it. It rose from his palm then shot after Fred.

Fred reached out for the door handle, he pulled the door open and ran out into the fresh air, there was no sound of pursuit behind him. Ahead of him he could see his car, he was so close to freedom, he was going to make it. The metal ball hit the back of Fred’s head, it exploded almost instantly his body dropped to the ground with a heavy thud. The ball stopped, hovered for a moment then sped off back to Paul.

A Chair Fit for a King. Flash Fiction.

The throne was made of iron with a thin gilding of gold, over time it had worn away along the arms of the throne, but the rest shone brightly. Ornately carved vines twisted their way around it, sprouting leaves and flowers along the way while delicately carved animals gambolled and frolicked, the carvings were so intricate and small that it would take hours of viewing to see them all. Despite the small nature of the designs they did not look overcrowded or busy, instead it was a delicious feast for the eyes. Jonathan sat upon the throne, though it had been years since had seen it properly he still remembered the carvings, as a child he would sneak it and gaze at them all until he was finally caught and shooed away by one of the servants. The ropes that bound him to the throne were made of material that felt like soft velvet, but they were stronger than steel. He had spent many hours struggling against them, as the raised scars on his wrists and ankles could attest to. The one across his chest hadn’t done much damage, but that was mostly because he couldn’t move his chest all that much, there was just enough room for him to breathe deeply. Every morning and evening servants came and bathed him with cool, damp cloths, they would empty his waste bucket which was artfully hidden by small black curtains that were pulled tightly closed between the legs of the throne. He had been sitting here for almost twenty years, his legs had already atrophied, more thin sticks of bone and skin than anything. His stomach hung heavily in his lap, he ate frequently, it was the only thing that helped pass the time. As a child he had looked upon it as a noble sacrifice, despite his fathers insistence that it was awful, but Jonathan could not understand how awful it truly was, not until he too was bound to it on his sixteenth birthday, the day his own father died of infection along the sores of his back and buttocks. The chair still smelled of rot and damp and sweat when they tied him into it. Somewhere along the dark and dimly remembered halls of the palace a clock struck ten, soon it would be time for the Royal Maiden, she would come nightly until she conceived another child. Jonathan found the act itself more one of duty than pleasure, he didn’t like the way he couldn’t move his body to match her rhythm, or reach out and stroke one hand softly down her back. No, it was nothing more than a mechanical act, he did it simply because it was his duty.

He heard a noise in the darkness, he didn’t bother looking to see what it was, probably another servant. He remembered his father calling out, his voice booming in the large room and echoing through the halls, asking if it was an assassin come to finally end him. Jonathan had never entertained the hope, why would he? There hadn’t been an assassination in over seven hundred years and even then it could be argued that it was more a case of a bad chef than an intentional killing. A servant walked into view carrying a tray, he hadn’t realised it was already time for his evening meal. Time stretched out endlessly here, but it was a duty that needed to be fulfilled. The people were bound to him, just as he was bound to them.

End of an Era. Flash Fiction.

The crowd stood in silence, the large space was filled with mourners, some carried signs, all wore black. They looked up at the window of the Cathedral and waited, praying for good news, but knowing there was no hope. Inside the woman lay on a large bed, her long golden hair was splayed out around her. Her hair, which once shone with light, had become dull and brassy, her skin was pale, her eyes sunken and dark. Thin wires snaked from her skin and into machines which were monitored by a team of doctors. They stood around the machines, not knowing what to do, there was nothing they could do other than help ease her suffering. A nurse carefully injected something into her IV, she didn’t stir. Over the last year the world had watched as her three brothers and two sisters all succumbed to the same disease, they who had lived for hundreds of thousands of years were dying and there was nothing anyone could do.

The woman opened her eyes slightly, they were milky white instead of the bright, brilliant blue they had been. She called out weakly for her sister, one of the nurses stepped forward and gently gripped her hand. “I’m frightened, the mortals have heaven and hell, but what waits for us on the other side? Do we have our own heaven? Will I be allowed entry?” the nurse didn’t respond, her eyes began to close as she drifted to sleep again, the nurse kept holding her cold hand. A year ago only a few had been allowed touch the gods, those who were deemed worthy enough, since then a parade of doctors and shamans had been through, all trying to find a solution.

The woman let out a soft breath then her body began to collapse in on itself, they watched in silent horror as the last god passed from existence. Finally there was nothing left but the bedsheets and wires. One of the nurses started to cry softly, a doctor went to the window and there he unfurled a giant black flag, the crowd gasped collectively, there was silence for a moment, then the screams started as the crowd cried out as one in grief and horror. Clouds rolled over the sun, casting the world into shade. The gods were dead, they who had done so much for man, they who had slain monsters and fought demons were gone.

Elsewhere, a man stumbled from the depths of a dark cave, squinting against the sudden, harsh brightness, he felt the cool air on his skin, he smelled the sweet scent of the flowers. He stumbled forward, he was not used to walking on two legs, beneath his feet the grass died, nearby a flock of birds took flight, screeching into the sky. The man turned his head in wonder, then he began to laugh, behind him he could hear them, thousands of them, hundreds of thousands, the ground shivered beneath their footsteps. The time of the Gods had ended, now it was their turn.

Daily Enchantment. Short Story.

“Hello little girl, would you like an apple?”
“For the last time Mags, I’m twenty six.”
“What? Shelly? Is that you? My eye sight isn’t what it used to be.”
“Come off it Mags, we all know you’re not blind.”
Mags frowned at her, “Oh Jessica! I thought you sounded familiar. What ever happened to respecting your elders? In my day that would have never been stood for.”
“I’ll start respecting you when you stop trying to kidnap innocent kids.”
“ME? Steal children away!? Never. That sort of stuff is illegal don’t you know.” Mags sniffed then wiped at her nose with one hand, “Besides, you know I’m on the wagon these days.”
“Oh and you were just offering me a snack then, was that it?”
Mags smiled, her face creasing into a thousand wrinkles, “That’s exactly it. I thought you looked a little hungry. Besides, you’re so small someone needs to start feeding you right.”
“I do a pretty good job of that on my own thank you very much.”
Mags arm shot out and grabbed Jessica’s, despite the thin and claw like nature of the old woman’s hand she had an iron grip, “Look at this, all skin and bones, I can fit my hand around your entire arm! That isn’t normal girlie. You need to be eating more.”
“I swear to god Mags, if you don’t let go of my arm right now I’ll go straight to the police.”
Mags dropped her arm and patted it gently, “There there dearie, no need to fret. I was just showing you how thin you were, that’s all.”
“I’m sure.”
Mags smiled at her, revealing stained and blackened teeth, “I’m just concerned over your well being love. You should come around to mine sometime for dinner. I can cook food that’s so good you’ll never want to leave.”
“I’m not going to yours for dinner Mags, when are you going to stop asking?”
“When you say yes. You need to be more friendly to people, be more trusting. The old days are over now, there’s rules, laws. I wouldn’t go around breaking the law, no not me. I know the penalties for that. Drowning, burnt at the stake. No thank you. Besides, you know I was joking before, right? About the apple? Just a little joke between old friends.”
“I wouldn’t call us friends Mags.”
“No? Acquaintances then. After all we have a bit of a chat every day.”
“That’s because you try to lure me off with apples.”
“Oh that’s just an excuse you know? Start up a bit of conversation. Gets a bit lonely here. I mean sure there’s other witches, but those hags can be dreadfully boring. All the old days this and the old days that. Sometimes you just want to give them a slap. And some of the stuff they do be saying, it’s shocking really. Upsets my delicate constitution.” Mags patted her stomach slightly. “I prefer to associate with upstanding individuals like yourself.”
Jessica nodded, “Look Mags, I’ve got to get going.”
“Oh of course, don’t let me keep you. If you want you can have this apple anyway. Eat it on your way home or something.”
Jessica sighed, “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“No, no, I insist.” She pressed the apple into Jessica’s hand. As always it looked impossibly perfect, deep red skin that shone in the light, a faint, mouth-watering scent of apple that promised each bite would be a crisp, juicy delight.
Jessica turned and continued walking, putting the apple in the bin as she passed one by. She shook her head, she’d really have to have a word with the local police about her, kids knew better than to travel through the Witch Haunts, but Mags wasn’t going to give up any time soon. Jessica had sworn she saw Mags hanging about at the edge of the exclusion zone the other day. As it was she was feeling uncomfortable, if it didn’t add on an hour to her walk, she’d just take the long way around. Why couldn’t her walk bring her somewhere nice? Like the Enchanted District, with the talking animals and trees? Or Princess Alley, where you could stop and watch a Princess performing with her animal companions. Jessica sighed, it could be worse, there were plenty of places worse than The Witch Haunts.

“Excuse me?”
“Still not interested Clarence.”
“I’m wounded. Though how did you know what I was going to ask?”
“When have you opened up with anything other than asking me out?”
“Hmm good point. One of these days you’re going to say yes though.”
“I tell you what, why don’t you hold your breath until I do. That’ll solve both of our problems, won’t it?”
Jessica kept walking, Clarence who had been half jogging to keep up fell behind her, Jessica counted down mentally. “BITCH!” She smiled to herself, predictable as ever. Just once she’d like a nice walk home, one where she wasn’t harassed. Oh well, she had been warned about it all before she moved but no, it was all so exciting, and she thought it would all be worth it. She had pictured glistening towers and strong, charming men, not these squat dank buildings and pushy princes. Hell, it wasn’t even like she came from money, though with Clarence anything at all would be a step up. Ousted by his brothers, penniless and alone, not that she could summon much sympathy.

As she approached the café she felt herself tense up a little then relax as she saw Joanna, who was outside clearing away tables, she smiled and waved as Jessica, Jessica smiled and gave a half wave in greeting. It was one of Joanna’s good days, at least going by her glossy black hair. When she got herself worked up it would turn a brilliant white and everyone knew to steer clear.

Jessica let herself into her apartment and dumped her bag on the ground, she moved into the kitchen and looked out the window at the Fairy feeder, tiny glowing lights gently floated around it. Jessica moved closer, they were setting up a few small houses amongst the flowers she had planted, Jessica smiled, maybe she would start having some good luck soon. She opened the window and a fairy flitted inside, Jessica smiled at it, “I’m just going to refill the feeder ok? Any requests?” the fairy shook its head then floated outside. Carefully Jessica refilled the feeder and closed the window again. With that done she turned on the kettle, it was always best that the fairies were outside for that bit, something about the steam seemed to attract them and she didn’t want to have to rush another fairy to the hospital. Luckily they hadn’t blamed her for that one, they could be quite vicious if they were crossed. Jessica filled a mug with hot water, she had a long day and now all she wanted to do was unwind with a bit of TV and a mug of calming tea.

The Rock. Flash Fiction.

Anna sighed and pulled her jacket a little tighter, now that night was falling it was starting to get cold. She looked around again and saw nothing, this entire thing was just so stupid. They really expected her to stand out here in a field of rocks until what? One of them chose her? How could a rock choose someone? If it weren’t for her parents insistence, she would have just skipped the entire thing. She had heard stories about this place since she was a child, how it signalled adulthood, as a child it all seemed wonderful and magical, now it just seemed stupid. Anna picked up a rock at random and turned it over in her hands, feeling the cold, smooth surface. She could just take this one and leave, no one would question it and no one would know. Anna dropped the stone, she would know. Anna took a deep breath, she could find a pretty rock, after all there were plenty to choose from. At least if she chose a cool one she’d leave this place with something.

Night had fallen fully, but the moon hung heavy and bright in the sky, casting everything in silver shadows. Anna wished, again, that she knew how to build a fire without anything to start it. It wasn’t cold enough to cause worry, but a fire would make the night go a little faster. Anna had given up looking through the rocks a short time before, instead she chose to sit on a large boulder and look up at the sky, away from the light pollution of the city.

Anna woke with a start, at some point she had dozed off. Clouds had covered most of the sky and blocked the light of the moon. There was a light in the distance, small and glowing a steady blue. She watched it for a few minutes, waiting for it to move, but it stayed steady. After a moment she stood and stretched, then started walking towards the light, something about it seemed inviting. As she walked closer she saw that what ever was emitting the light was lying on the ground.

Anna looked down at the glowing rock, it was about two inches across, the light was much brighter than she expected considering the size of it. She bent down and examined it a little closer, carefully she reached out to touch it, expecting her fingers to come away coated in paint or covered in slime. The rock was smooth, dry and warm to the touch. The light flared slightly brighter as her fingers moved over its surface. She picked it up and as she held it in both hands she could feel a faint tremor fluttering through it, like the heartbeat of a bird. She closed her hand over it and felt warmth spreading through her, filling her, as Anna watched her skin took on the glow until it seemed like she was bursting with light. A few seconds later the light faded but the warmth stayed behind. Anna looked down at the rock which was still glowing, though it wasn’t as bright as before. Carefully she put the stone in her pocket, she felt tired but energised and had a strange sense of being complete, as though she had been missing something, something she hadn’t even been aware of. Anna turned from where she found the stone and started to walk towards the boulder she had dozed off on, from there she would be able to find her way back to where she had been dropped off. Her father would be waiting for her, like he promised, with a thermos of hot chocolate and together they would drive home, her rock safely tucked away in her pocket.

 

Dreams. Flash Fiction.

Daisy yawned, then took a sip of her coffee. She didn’t want to sleep, she couldn’t sleep. Sleep was bad. Bad bad bad. She took another drink. Her body felt heavy, her eyes kept closing of their own accord. She couldn’t- her head slumped forward, her breathing was slow and steady.

Daisy opened her eyes and saw the world around her was burning. She sighed, she had fallen asleep, it was going to happen sooner or later but it still felt like a betrayal of her body. The dreams no longer scared her, she knew the leaping flames couldn’t actually burn her and that the heat she was feeling was more pleasant that horrifying. This was better than the last dream though, where she started off drowning in a sea of blood. She closed her eyes and thought for a moment, the flames disappeared and were replaced with a tropical island, her safe space. Waves gently lapped at the shore and she enjoyed the feeling of sand between her toes.

Daisy groaned and sat up, her neck was killing her, she’d fallen asleep at the kitchen table, again, and she knew it would take a while for all the kinks to be worked out of her neck. The phone started ringing, sighing Daisy stood and shuffled over to it.
“Hello?”
“You fell asleep again, didn’t you?”
“Hi mom.”
“Well I hope you’re happy. Aunt Lucinda is in the hospital.”
“How do you know it’s my fault?”
“She was burned, over half her body, her dressing gown caught fire.”
“oh.”
“Oh? That’s all you have to say? Oh? After permanently maiming your aunt? Why? Why do you do this? You know what happens when you fall asleep.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose mom.”
“That’s what you always say, but yet you still do it.”
“Mom I need to sleep. I can’t help it, it just happens.”
“You say that every time and I just know it’s a lie. You may have to sleep, but they’re your dreams. You can control them.”
“No. I can’t mom. We’ve been over this.”
“I managed to when I was your age.”
“No, you couldn’t mom. I asked Grandma about it a few years ago. You couldn’t control it any better than I could.”
There was silence from her mother. Daisy waited for a few more seconds. “I’m going to have to go now mom.”
“You can control it. I know you can, you’re just not trying hard enough.”

Daisy hung up, feeling the return of her familiar guilt. She took a deep breath, she just had a slip up, that was all. She had lasted almost three days the last time. She could do that again surely. Besides, it had been a while since it was someone she knew, they were always the worst, mostly it was strangers, just random people.

The only people that knew about the dreams were her, her mother and her grandmother. The rest of the family had been kept in the dark, told it was just a mental disorder and that was the way it was going to stay. It had to be kept secret, that was what kept her safe. Daisy pushed the thoughts away. She didn’t want to think about that. The image of a man, looming over her popped into her mind, the knife glinted in the kitchen light. She pushed the thought away again, already knowing how it ended. After what happened to him, she had tried to do it herself, but that hadn’t worked either. The only way to get it to stop would be to have children and no matter how much she didn’t want to have children, she knew that wasn’t an option. Neither her mother, nor her grandmother, had been able to avoid that. Some kind of family curse, that was all her grandmother knew about it, anyone who could say otherwise was already dead. Daisy took a sip of her cold coffee, there was nothing she could do, but it didn’t mean she would stop fighting it.

 

The Pit. Short Story.

Ben was surprised, the Pit wasn’t as large as he expected it to be. In his mind he pictured a giant hole in the ground, with steeply sloping sides and all manner of man and monsters battling below. The truth was much more mundane. Ahead of him was a hole, about fifteen feet across, and that was it. That was the pit. Oh sure, the bottom of it was down there somewhere, but he couldn’t help feel disappointed. The stories told, by drunks claiming to have been here and travelling storytellers had painted a very different picture. If it weren’t for the warning signs he would have thought he was in the wrong place. Despite the underwhelming nature of the hole he still approached carefully, he had seen holes like this before, with unsupported edges that collapsed as soon as anyone walked too close.

He inched his way closer using the path, feeling a deep seated nervousness. The air coming from the hole was warm and carried with it a faint animalistic stench, meat and pheromones. He stood at the edge, looking down. How many people and things had been thrown from here? Below something roared, he could feel it reverberating through his bones. He took a step back. Whatever was down there knew the drill and was probably expecting a meal. It would be disappointed. Ben had come by himself for no other reason than to see it. See the place where hundreds of prisoners were thrown into every year. There was light down there too, not enough to see properly, but enough to turn the total darkness into mere gloom. A small part of him wanted to just step right into it, to fall and fall and fall until he could finally see what lay at the bottom. The stories of it being filled with monsters were probably as exaggerated as the stories of the pit itself. None the less what was down there would be very interesting. He had heard the stories of the monsters, some dumb beasts but some cunning and calculating, which always led him to one question. Could there be a society of sorts down there? Some of the monsters were known to mimic human speech, was it true mimicry or were they actually talking? That was the kind of thing that interested him.

Ben stood at the ledge again, took a deep breath and yelled, “Hello!?” The sound of his voice echoed off the walls for almost a minute before it finally faded .There was another roar, this one louder, once that died down he could hear something else. He leaned over a bit more, “Who’s up there?” his heart started beating faster, someone, or something, intelligent was down there. “I’m a traveller, I wanted to see the pit. Who are you?” As his voice echoed it scrambled his words, making them hard to understand, but the voice replied all the same, the voice didn’t echo. “There are no words for me anymore. They’ve faded with time. I’ve asked those who visit, those who are thrown down here but none know of me. I’m old, older than any would dare believe. Once I tried to escape but no longer, this is my home now.”
“What are you?”
there was a noise, it reminded Ben of a dog throwing up, after a second he realised it was laughter. “I am life and death.” Ben felt a ripple of goosebumps spread across his flesh.

“Are you still there?”
Ben didn’t answer, the sound of the creatures voice was unnerving, if it was in the pit it was there for a reason. If it was telling the truth it could be something from the time before man. Such things were talked about in whispers, too afraid to say too much lest it turn the creatures gaze upon whoever was speaking of them.

“If you are still there I wonder if you could do a favour for me. I have been down here so long, I know very little of the world above. All I ask for is a book or two if you have them, maybe a story of a town or city. I do not want for much here, there is food and clean water, but there isn’t much intelligent conversation. It grows boring. I ask the same of most people who visit here. Some tell me stories of cities that stretch high into the sky, tales of how much land man has conquered.”

Ben thought for a moment, surely there could be no harm in talking to the creature, once he didn’t get too close to the hole. He thought for a moment and started talking about the Diamond Palace of Mount Seera. A place he had the chance to visit not too long ago. As he spoke he could see the palace clearly in front of him, its great diamond spires twisting upwards, the beautiful rainbows that coated the valley, the beautiful furniture crafted from diamonds and unbelievably comfortable.

“Thank you, I’ve never heard of such a place. It sounds like a wonder. In my time there was something similar, though made from material that no longer exists in this world. It was beautiful and almost impossible to comprehend.”

Ben looked around himself, it was almost dark. He had spent hours chatting to the creature and he was startled to find he couldn’t remember half of what was said. “It is getting dark out, I must go.”
“No, please stay, just a little longer. You could start a fire to stave off the darkness and the night chill.”
Ben opened his mouth to agree,  somewhere an owl screeched, causing him to jump. “No. I better go. I have stayed far longer than I intended.”
below he heard the creature sigh, Ben moved back slightly. He hadn’t realised that it was so close to the hole. “I understand. Thank you for speaking to me. It’s been so long since anyone has shown me such kindness.”
Ben stood and stretched, yawning as he did so. “I wonder if you would do me one last favour?”
“What is it?”
“If you have a coin, or something shiny. I have a fascination for such things.”
Ben reached into his pocket and pulled out a small silver coin.
He tossed it into the hole. Below the creature laughed again, “This is wonderful. Thank you.”

Ben left the hole and made camp as far away from it as he could. He set himself up quickly and before long fell into a deep sleep.

Down below in the pit the creature turned the coin around in its hands, watching it glint in the low light. It really was beautiful. It cupped the coin in its hands and started to whisper. Finally, after all these years it had everything it needed to escape this wretched place. It could feel the spells holding it in place weaken, with a triumphant shriek it launched itself upwards and through the hole, flying high into the night sky. It spotted Ben sleeping below, it landed beside him, he didn’t stir. It lay one hand across his forehead and whispered into his ear. It launched itself into the sky, he would have a pleasant life, or as pleasant as one could have in the years to come, as thanks for releasing it. Others wouldn’t be as lucky. It had a long, long time to plan its vengeance on those who imprisoned it. Few of them were still alive, but they had descendants and places that they had loved. It would destroy them all, one by one.

Love. Short Story.

“Can you not feel her love as she watches over us?”
“No, I can’t.”
Frank frowned, “Have you accepted her into your soul, completely and utterly?”
“Yes, I have. I could feel it yesterday, but not today.”
Frank looked at Bob, his face was still, but his eyes betrayed his worry, “Then you must have done something to offend her. Think, was there anything, anything at all that you did differently since yesterday?”
“No, I swear. I ate dinner with everyone, then I went to my room to meditate. I slept then got up for morning prayers.”
“What did you meditate on?”
“Nothing, I just let my mind go blank and felt her love filling me, guiding me.”
Frank nodded distractedly, “Hmm, perhaps this is a test.”
“Maybe…Maybe if I saw her she could tell me what I did wrong.”
Frank frowned again, “Perhaps, but she might strike you down for interrupting her.”
“I’m willing to take that chance. Life isn’t worth living if she isn’t in it.”
Frank nodded slowly, “I’m sure she will grace you with her love if you’re truly deserving.”
Bob nodded quickly, hopefully. The feeling of warmth and security, of loving and being loved was gone, replaced by a vast emptiness. How could he go on living like this? So alone, so unloved. How could anyone live like this? It would be better to be struck down and freed from this agony than have to endure it for the rest of his life. He would do anything for her love again. Anything.

Bob stood outside her room, there were no guards, there didn’t need to be. No one would ever dream of harming her, she was more precious than anything on earth. Anyone who saw her would instantly love her. He raised his hand and gently knocked, a thrill of fear going through him. What if she was angry at his interruption? Or worse, what if she refused to see him entirely?
“Come in.” He shivered at the sound of her words, her voice was smooth and sweet, almost melodic, it reminded him of lazy summer days. He opened the door, heart thudding heavily in his chest. She was sitting on a chair, a regular chair like anyone else would. She was so humble, many in her position would want a throne. She smiled when she saw him and he felt his heart ache again, he needed her love more than anything, if she denied it to him he would simply stop, he would be unable to eat or drink, nothing would ever satisfy him as her love did. “Ah, Bob” He shivered as his name danced across her tongue, “Is everything all right?”
It took him a moment to speak, “No, I’m afraid it isn’t” She frowned, Bob felt another thrill of anxiety, he was awful, worse than dirt to make her worry.
“Something has happened to me, I can’t feel you anymore, did I do something to anger you? What ever it was tell me and I will do everything in my power to fix it.”

Her eyes grew sad, “No, you did nothing wrong. It is not your fault, it is mine.”
“What? No, nothing could be your fault.”
She smiled at him, the smile lit the room, almost blinding in its beauty, “It’s nice of you to say, but I can make mistakes, just like everyone else. Last night as you were meditating, I could feel you, your strength, your love for me. I tried to help, give you more, but I’m afraid I over did it.”
“Over did it?”
She nodded, “Yes, and I’m afraid I damaged the part of you that allows you to feel my love.”
Bob started trembling, “But you can fix it right?”
She paused for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, I can, but I’m afraid the cost will be high.”
“Anything. Anything at all.”
“To feel my love again, you will have to become one of my high priests.”
Bob gasped, the honour, it was too great, he was not worthy of it, he opened his mouth to speak but she raised her hand. “It is a difficult job, and a thankless one, but you will feel my love with you always. It will be stronger than you’ve ever felt it. But you will need to make a sacrifice. You will have to spend your life serving me, you will not be able to leave, you will never have a family besides us. I’m afraid you will lose the ability to speak and the transformation will be painful, almost unbearably so. It will take you to the very brink of death.”
Bob opened his mouth, then closed it. He opened it again, “It would be an honour. Living like this is worse than death, I will do anything for you.”
She nodded as if she expected no other answer. You will not see me again after this for a year, but you will feel my love. The other high priests will look after you and train you in your duties. The days will be long and tiring, but there is no higher honour.”
He nodded quickly, “What do I need to do.”
“It’s simple, you must kiss me on the lips.”
Bobs mouth dropped open, did he dare? He had no other choice. He wasn’t worthy. His feet started to move him forward, her eyes locked on his. He leaned over her, the scent of her was intoxicating, she smelled of everything good in the world, each one identifiable but blending together at the same time. Their lips met, hers were soft and hot. He closed his eyes, sinking deeper into the kiss. Her tongue parted his lips, slipping through, teasing his. He responded in kind, their tongues moving over one another. Hers withdrew from his mouth and his chased after. Her teeth bit down in one swift movement. Pain, white hot and unbearable, but he didn’t pull away, he leaned into it, welcoming it. When she broke the kiss he collapsed, blood covered them both. Two high priests stepped from the shadows, “Take him away, train him.” She looked down at Bob, “I am truly sorry for what I have done to you, but there was no other way.” The two high priests dragged Bob from the room, a single tear slid down her cheek.

Forest Beyond the Shards. Short Story.

“Be careful of the edges”
“I know, I know, they’re poisonous. You’ve told me a million times.”
“Yeah, and I’ll keep saying it until I’m sure its sunk in.”
“It has.”
“Yeah, my last assistant thought that too. Know where he is now?”
“Dead?”
“Dead.”

Anthony sighed and continued walking, he knew what he was doing, besides everyone knew that Ted’s last assistant was an idiot. It was surprising that he had managed to survive so long out in the wilds. Anthony took out his water and took a sip. While he waited for Ted to catch up he decided to have a closer look at the shards. There were thousands of them, hundreds of thousands, all erupting from the earth. The tallest one he could see was about thirty or forty feet tall. Most of them were four or five feet in height. They grew out of the ground, sharp points getting steadily taller. The edges were razor sharp, Anthony had read once that a strand of hair would be cut in half by its weight alone. The edges themselves glistened in the sun, oozing a thick, clear gel that coated the entire shards. The gel was extremely poisonous, though useless for most things beyond assassination or experimentation. The early settlers tried using the poison to bring down game, but they found that any animals that had been killed by the poison had tainted meat. The shards themselves were multicoloured, bright blues and reds, greens and yellows, a sea of shining, glistening colour.

Animals were rare enough in the shards, a few insects fed on the poisonous gel, a few birds built their nests along the ground, nestled in clear spaces, safe from most predators. The shards grew slowly, but all too fast. Paths changed continuously, a clear section could be impassable in a month. No one really understood how the shards worked, it was too difficult to do any real testing on them. Most of the people who attempted it were killed, either by falling onto shards, or being poisoned.

If a person was careful it was safe enough to journey through them, at least it was easier than travelling around them. Going through cut weeks off of journey time and no one had invested in roads this far out. Not a lot of travellers needed to come this way. Anthony didn’t know why Ted was insisting they go out into the forest beyond the shards, it was a strange place, with twisted animals. Safe enough, but damned creepy. The shards themselves seemed to be a kind of line, and the further you moved passed it, the weirder things started to get. Anthony knew Ted had many theories about that, remnants from long dead civilisations, the aftermath of biological warfare. Anthony himself didn’t care too much, he had only taken the job because it paid reasonably well and it wasn’t too taxing. Ted like to think he was teaching his assistants, but he rarely explained anything he was doing. Really all he ever did was bark for instruments or warn Anthony that he’d die if he wasn’t careful.

They made it through the shard fields without any troubles, a journey that took them only two days. Anthony didn’t like sleeping amongst the shards, he had a constant fear that one would sprout out of the ground and impale him where he slept. Ted had told him it would be fine, that it took days for them to pierce the surface, but he still couldn’t get the thought out of his head. Now though the shards were behind them. It took another day through the grasslands to get to the forest. The grasslands made Anthony uneasy, the grass was almost too green and he had seen few animals. It felt like something was watching them, waiting to pounce.

He could see the trees ahead of them, great thick trunks, black and twisted, like they had been frozen while writhing in pain. The leaves on the trees were a dark green, so dark that Anthony thought they too were black until they had gotten closer. The forest itself was quiet, occasionally there would be the shriek or call of an animal, but they were few and far between. Ted had reassured him that it was normal, that most of the animals that lived in the forest were silent. The forest was the worst at night, not because it was dark, but because there were so many plants that gave off eerie glows. Light blues, sickly yellows, dark greens. The colours danced and moved as the breeze caressed the flowers. Anthony’s eyes played tricks on him, he could see shadows moving and writhing in the darkness, creeping ever closer.

The next day they paused by a river to have some lunch. “It doesn’t look like much now, but once a year, for about a week, this entire river goes red, as though it is filled with blood.”

“Why?”
“I’m not entirely sure yet. I think it’s to do with the trees. They have a red sap, and I’ve found a few unusually thick roots that go into the river. There’s also a species of insect that has red cocoons, which dissolve in water. I’ve yet to find their breeding grounds, only one or two by accident, so I can’t say for sure.”

“But don’t you want to know?”
“Yes, but it isn’t that important. Mostly I’ve only looked into it when I’ve had some free time out here, which isn’t a lot. I only found out because I happened to be here when it was red. It gave me a shock I can tell you that much.”

The fire had died down and Anthony was asleep, Ted sipped his cup of tea. Anthony wasn’t a bad assistant, but he wasn’t a great one either. He didn’t have that drive, that thirst for knowledge. No, it was better this way. Ted stood from the fire and moved from their camp. He had been in the forest many times and was used to navigating by the glow of the plants. Once he was a reasonable distance away he sat down to wait. It wouldn’t be long. There was a sudden, startled yelp of pain before silence fell again. Ted stood and sighed, it was all over for another year now at least, the forest would allow him to gather his data in peace. He went back to the campsite, Anthony’s corpse was impossibly thin, as though something had hollowed out his insides and left nothing but his skin. Ted grabbed a small bit of Anthony and pulled him to the river, the corpse was light and easy to manoeuvre. He pushed it into the water and watched it float away on the surface until the darkness swallowed it. He shook his head, at least the story way easy, poor man, fell into the river, loose soil at the bank. Ted extinguished the fire and settled into his sleeping bag, around him the flowers seemed to glow brighter than ever.