1. July 28, Part 2

    Read Part 1 or none of this will make sense. More stories are up over at Short Story Salad!

                "The military leaders of UK’s armed forces have met today with leaders from France and Italy to discuss strategy for the impeding war with Germany. We have with us former General Nathan Howe and diplomatic correspondent Maria Chavez to enlighten us further on just what this means. General Howe, Ms. Chavez, thank you for coming to the studio today."

                “Of course, Rachel.”

                “So Ms Chavez, what do you think the of the likelihood that the UK can persuade the United States to join their cause?”

                “To be honest, Rachel, it’s very touch-and-go at this point. UK leaders are wary to make any sort of military alliance with the United States ever since the early 2000s when they did nothing to stop the turmoil that the US tangentially set into motion after their War on Terror campaign. Luckily, we’ve been in an extended period of peace so there’s been no real need to bring up these concerns. President Michelle Obama-Johnson expressed in a White House meeting that her nation’s government feels for their ally and does indeed want to help, but the King is hesitating to reply. Although he may not have that option for long.”

                “Are there any other world powers you can think of willing to help in this fight?”

                “As you know, the Ethiopian government was eager to send aid after the bombing of Fort George Alexander Louis- but they may not officially issue military help just yet. China is also staying on the sidelines for now. Many are in the face of Germany.”

                “Bloody cowards.”

                “Do you have anything to add about China, General Howe?”

                “None. I’m talking about the Germans Miss Carter. But the bloody Germans are cowards though.”

                “Why do you say that?”

                “The EMP bombs they drop in the battle field short circuit soldier’s implants-“

                The nurse lowered the television volume so that it could barely be heard. Sam grimaced, the subtitles were moving much too slow for him to care to keep up. “I was watching that,” he said.

                The nurse smiled sweetly. “I’m here to prep you for surgery, Mr. Vance. You won’t see the end of the program anyway.”

                “But Richard hasn’t come yet.”

                “Your family will need to hurry up then,” she said chipperly, “There’s a list of soldiers waiting for cybernetic prosthetics and today is your day.”

                Sam checked the time. “But it’s two hours away.”

                “Prep takes a while, Mr. Vance. I’m sure your husband will be here shortly. Now please sit up.”

                She pulled away the sheet that covered Sam’s lower half and though he didn’t want to look, he did. He had been forcing himself to look at his legs; what was left of them, as they ended mid-thigh. He had been very lucky. Much luckier than Sgt. March or Lt. Colonel Whittaker or really anyone else. Sam was one of three survivors of Fort George Alexander Louis.

                “Sam!” called a familiar voice. Sam looked up and felt Richard’s lips lock on his. Richard then pulled away out of breath. “Sorry I’m late.”

                “You’re right on time, Mr. Vance,” noted the nurse. She eyed the two. “I’ll be back in a moment.”

                “It’s not like there’s much privacy to be had here, ma’am,” observed Richard. The large room was just partitioned off to make little ‘rooms’ for the recovering soldiers.

                “I’ll be back, soon,” she said in an octave lower than her regular voice as she stepped away. It was a Terminator VIII that had come out last year. Had Sam known any of this was going to happen, he might have taken Richard out to see it.

                Richard sat beside Sam, holding his hand. He was somber. Sam rubbed his husband’s hand in his. “I can’t just sit on the sidelines, Richard.”

                “Paul wouldn’t want you to do this,” he said, not looking Sam in the eyes. “Not to just look for him.”

                “I know he’s out there.”

                “No, you don’t.” Richard’s voice was much more stern. “I don’t like this idea of you getting these legs so you can go to a warzone and find Paul.”

                “What am I supposed to do, Richard? He’s MIA behind enemy lines!”

                “Do you really think your superiors are going to let you go on a wild goose chase to find Paul?!”

                “He’d do the same for me!” Sam had yelled too loud, he could see it in Richard’s face. Sam reached out and pulled Richard’s face toward his, resting it forehead to forehead. “I’m coming back baby. I promise.”

                “Sam, don’t-“

                Sam pulled Richard in for a kiss. “I promise.”

     

  2. Meet Janice, Part 1

    New week, new story! Check out more over at Short Story Salad!

                The phone had been ringing in a low, calming beeping noise for the past three minutes. Janice raised an eyebrow; there was only one entity that would be willing to be that persistent. She took the phone off the receiver. “Satan’s Office.”

                She nodded cool and took some notes, “I’m sorry, Jehovah, but Satan’s in a meeting right now,” She massaged her wrinkled temples, “No. He’s not always in a meeting… Yes, I’ll personally tell him you called.” She hung up.

                Janice glanced at the clock and sighed. It was already fifteen past three and there was still so much to do. She got up and straighten her pencil skirt, then proceeded, clipboard in hand to the front door which read;

     image

     

                Janice braced herself and then opened the office door. A wave of heat crashed over her, throwing back her graying brown hair into a wild frenzy  and forcing her blazer to dance to and fro. She adjusted her spectacles. “Mrs. Timely? I have a three fifteen appointment with Mrs. Timely?” shouted into the flames.

                There was a general chorus of screams, groans, growls and crying, but no response to Janice.

                “Mrs. Timely?”

                “Present!” came a reply.

                Janice turned to greet the woman, and raised an eyebrow. She was used to seeing faces down here that didn’t necessarily match the condemned-for-all-entirety profile, but sometimes she was still caught off guard. Mrs. Timely was a head shorter than Janice, with long brown hair looked like it needed a good brushing. She was old enough to have laugh lines on her face, but too young for wrinkles of any other sort. Janice nodded. “This way.”

                Mrs. Timely followed Janice into the office and breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh! It’s so cool in here!”

                Janice put on her work-smile. “Yes, we fixed the AC last week. It was torture otherwise. Please, take a seat.” Mrs. Timely did as she was bid. “Satan will be with you shortly but first I must clarify your visit.”

                “Alright,” said Mrs. Timely, rubbing her hands together.

                Janice took up her clipboard. “I already have your name, so… age upon time of death?”

                “35.”

                “Religion?”

                “Catholic, or I was born into it,” she smiled nervously, “I never really practiced.”

                “Few do.” Janice smiled reassuringly, “Finally, cause of death?”

                “… Suicide.”

                Janice nodded without batting an eye. Mrs. Timely almost seemed surprised, “We don’t judge here, Mrs. Timely, we just take what comes in.”

                “Ah,” nodded Mrs. Timely, but it was clear that she didn’t really understand at all. “C-can I ask you something?”

                Janice checked her wrist watch. “Hm?”

                “Why was I asked here? I’m not sure what procedure is down here, but I-“

                 When the hand hit twenty past the hour exactly, she gestured for Mrs. Timely to stand up. “Satan will see you now.”

                Janice lead a shaking Mrs. Timely into the next room. Satan liked a simple, sleek decor, much to Janice’s disapproval. The room was laid out in black and white, both colors making a bold, artistic statement against each other. Satan, a lover of dramatics, had his chair facing away from the door and out toward the fiery canyon beyond his window. All that could be seen of him as his obsidian spiral horns that crested over his chair. “Please, make yourself comfortable, Mrs. Timely.” His voice was deep and cold, almost like thick snow crunching together.

                Per the norm, Janice had to lead, almost drag the woman to the flush chair in front of Satan’s desk. When Mrs. Timely sat, Janice patted her on the shoulder, trying to give her some reminiscence of strength.

                “Thank you, Janice,” Satan turned his chair around and Mrs. Timely gasped. Janice knew that sound and it was one more so of surprise than horror. Satan’s skin was a deep, blood red and his eyes were completely black, as black and shiny like his horns. His face was narrow and came to a point at his chin where he wore a goat-like goatee. Janice liked to joke that it was the goatee that they gasped at, but no, rather, it was how kind his face looked. Everything else aside, it was hard to be frightened of Satan. Unless, of course, he wanted you to be.

                Satan looked at Janice with an eye that told her she should linger at the door, so she did. Then he turned his attention to the shivering woman. “Welcome, Rebecca, I hope you’re well.”

                Mrs. Timely seemed to shutter at her own name. She almost spoke but her words were all mumbled.

                “I see,” Satan placed his hands on his desk, “Do you know why I called you here?”

                “Because… I took my own life…?”

                “No. I mean, that’s the reason why you’re in this general area, yes, but not why I set up this appointment.” He cleared his throat, “Rebecca, there are two kinds of people who come to Hell, you see. Those who deserve to be punished for whatever time is necessary… and those who believe they belong here.”

                Janice stood ready; this didn’t always go was well as Satan had hoped.

                “Rebecca, you belong in the former category.”

                Mrs. Timely looked up, confused. “B-but I took my own life… that’s a sin.”

                Satan nodded. “You’re right, that’s a sin. One really shouldn’t squander the gift of life but we need some context first before we proceed.” Mrs. Timely tensed up. “You killed yourself for a reason. Can you tell me what?”

                Mrs. Timely’s breath became audible and shallow. She couldn’t keep looking at Satan and just focused on her shoes.

                “Should I start?” asked Satan.

                Mrs. Timely froze. “You know?”

                “I know that you were married for six years, Rebecca, to a man that thought he was ‘fixing’ you.” Mrs. Timely grasped the arms of the chair, bracing herself from her own convulsions. “I know that you fell in love with someone, someone who wasn’t your husband because you never really loved him.”

                Mrs. Timely threw her head up and protested, “I loved Henry!”

                Satan looked her dead in the “But not in the same way you loved Samantha.”

                Mrs. Timely threw back the chair she was sitting in. “Is this what you do here?! Is this another form of torture!? You’re just rubbing it in aren’t you?! The reason why I did it! The reason why-!” Mrs. Timely suddenly collapsed and held herself tightly. “I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn’t. But she seduced me! She knew my weaknesses and… and I was happy with her! Happy!”

                Janice ran to Mrs. Timely’s side and knelt beside her. “Mrs. Timely?”

                “Henry found out… Henry knew what I had done and told me of my sins. I knew I was dirty. I was horrid. There was no hope for me. None… so… I…”

                Satan put a hand on Rebecca’s shoulder, and she stopped shivering. “Loving someone is not a sin, Rebecca,” he said firmly, “But you have to believe that to get out of here. Otherwise you’ll just linger…”

                It took Janice thirty minutes to collect Mrs. Timely together and send her away with another appointment within the week. “It was good to meet you, Mrs. Timely,” said Janice.

                “Meet you…” Mrs. Timely echoed as she left.

                Satan sighed and leaned on his desk with a long, sad look on his face. “Did I miss any calls?” he said finally, trying to let the stress of the appointment slip away.

                “Jehovah called-“

                “Christ!” he swore, “I forgot today was our coffee day!”

                Janice pinched her lips into a tight smile. “Yes. He wasn’t too pleased…”

     

  3. Please Don’t Go, Part 3

    Part 1 and Part 2 are up if you’d like to read them first (which you should). More stories are up on Short Story Salad! See you tomorrow!

                ”FUCK!” she swore.

                “One more!” encouraged the doctor.

                With a final, horrible scream, Gwen pushed, grasping Rodney’s hand. A moment ago she wasn’t sure who would faint first, her or her boyfriend but now all she cared about was the screeching of an infant. Gwen wanted to take a breath but found her lungs would not obey; her throat tightened as did her grip on Rodney’s hand as she brought herself as high up as she could to see…

                “It’s a boy!” declared the doctor, holding up a tiny person with a thick mess of black hair crowning his tan head.

                Rodney smiled and kissed Gwen’s forehead. “Not a fawn…” she breathed. No one seemed to notice.

                Hours later, Gwen held her little boy in her arms and kissed his head. “You’re fucking beautiful,” she whispered.

                Grandpa Pat yawned. “You both are.” He stood up from his chair in the corner of the room and came around to Gwen’s bedside and brushed the hair from her face. “I’m going to get some coffee. Rodney, want to stretch those legs?”

                Grandpa Pat had caught Rodney in mid-stretch. Rodney grinned and looked to Gwen, “You need anything?”

                Gwen shook her head. “I’m fine.” Rodney kissed her and walked out with Grandpa Pat. Gwen looked around and sighed. She wished her parents would have come, but they had been so furious… It was pointless to think of it now. If they wanted to see their grandson, they’d have to come around eventually.

                She looked out her window into the hazy wetlands in the distance. It was just a dream, just a strange, strange dream of another place. Gwen had hear that women went though some crazy hormones during the entire 9 month journey. Maybe that was all it ever was.

                “Hello, Gwen.”

                She gasped and turned, seeing the handsome young man she had met eight months ago. “Isaac?”

                He smiled and his piercing blue eyes twinkled, “You did very well, he’s beautiful.”

                Gwen brought the baby closer to her. “What are you doing here?”

                “I’ve come for my son.”

                “He’s not yours,” hissed Gwen, “I’ve only ever been with Rodney.”

                “Ours is not the kind born of lust, Gwen, we select a vessel to carry our young,” Isaac approached. “And I chose you.”

                Fury welled up inside her, “You- what?! Didn’t I have any say in this?”

                Isaac appeared perplexed, “You accepted my invitation. You didn’t say deny me.”

                “I didn’t say yes either!” the baby began to stir in her arms. Gwen looked down and began to rock him as gently as she could with her rage beginning to boil over. “Get out! I never want to see you again!”

                “I can’t leave without my son-“

                “He’s not yours!” Gwen reached to her side and grabbed the nurse buzzer. “Get out now or I’ll get someone to throw you out!”

                Isaac looked at her sympathetically. “It won’t work, Gwen.”

                “What-?” Then Gwen saw them. The ferns growing on the floor and creating a lush carpet of flora beneath her. “RODNEY!” she cried but the hospital room melted away revealing a surreally beautiful forest. The sun hurt her eyes. She wasn’t in her bed any longer, but standing in the woods with her babe in her arms. “Take us back!

                “I can return you to your world, Gwen. You are the mother of my child, I owe you that much.” Isaac approached, his arms extended. “But first I must have my son.”

                Gwen spat in his face. “Fuck you!” And she turned to run.

                Her legs were weak and she soon found it hard to breathe. The baby woke up in the chaos of the run and started to wail. “Shhh, please baby. Shhh!” Gwen try as she might to sound calming, the panic in her voice betrayed her. Her feet were stabbed with twigs and stones but she kept running.

                A shadow leapt over her and the power figure of Isaac in his stag form cut her off. Gwen slide to a halt and scrambled to turn another way. But Isaac was quicker and again stopped her escape. Tears welled up in her eyes. “No!” she screamed, “No please!” Isaac backed Gwen up into the board trunk of a tree. “Not my baby! Please, no!” Gwen choked on her own tears.

                Isaac the man stood before her again and his face almost read of pity. “My people are in dire need, Gwen. They need our son.”

                “But- Rodney- no, please! Not my baby!” She searched Isaac’s eyes for any sort of compassion, but found no such thing. She was washed away in the blue of his eyes.

     

                Gwen sat in her hospital and for a moment it was as if she had never left. She just stared blankly out in front of her. Then she heard the gentle coo of her baby. Her eyes darted toward the window, where Isaac stood, holding her baby and smiling at him lovingly.

                “NO!” She spilled out of her bed, crawling toward Isaac.

                Isaac frowned. “Please, Gwen, don’t hurt yourself.”

                “Don’t pretend you care!” she could hardly make her arms obey her. “My baby-!”

                “Will be safe with me,” Isaac knelt down beside her, “I promise.” He meant it. She knew he did. “Goodbye, Gwen.”

                Isaac turned from Gwen and took a step toward the window.

                Gwen reached her hand out toward him. “…please don’t go,” she wept. Isaac paused. “Take me with you…”

                His hand was cool to the touch, just as it had been eight months ago. And they were gone.

     

  4. Pineapples, Am I Right?, Part 2

    Read this story’s silly Part 1 before moving forward. Please Don’t Go, Part 2 is also up, along with many other stories over at Short Story Salad!

                Elizabeth sat up with her knees to her chest, a bundle of plaid flannel as she kept an eye on Mr. Piddles on the other side of the room, clawing aimlessly at his cat-scratcher like nothing had happened. Her hands shook as she hit the icon of a young Asian woman with her cheeks blown up like a puffer fish on her phone’s screen.

                “Elizabeth?” An audible gasp escaped Elizabeth’s mouth at the sound of Mr. Piddles’… voice. “Elizabeth, I’m still hungry. Really I am.

                The phone was ringing. Mr. Piddles was still staring. Elizabeth told herself to calm down. That she was a grown woman for Christ’s sake… switch was awkward because she didn’t rightly believe in Christ. Until a few minutes ago she didn’t believe in talking cats either but here she was now. “Maybe my cat’s possessed by a demon-“

                “Uh- is that you ‘Liza?” It was a man’s voice on the phone.

                Elizabeth was confused for a moment, looking to the side. “Oh, that’s you Ian,” she said finally.

                “Yeah, Rache is on the toilet,” he said, “She’ll be out in a sec.”

                “Oh. Good. Yes,” stammered Elizabeth. “Yes. Good.”

                Ian laughed. “So what’s this about a demon?”

                “Demon!?” Shit. Mr. Piddles had disappeared from view. Elizabeth climbed up higher on her armchair.

                “You ok?” asked Ian.

                “Fine!” she blurted.

                “Yeah… hey! Here’s Rache! Bye, ‘Liza!” he sounded all too glad to hand over the phone.

                “…Stop making faces, Ian. Hey, Elizabeth?” This was Rachel. “What’s up?”

                “L-look I need to ask you something,” Elizabeth was still scanning the room for her large, misplaced tabby, “And it’s going to sound crazy.”

                “Okay. What is- hey stop it, Ian!” Rachel was giggling.

                Elizabeth knew that giggle. It was the same giggle Rachel always had when she and Ian were ready to go home after a night downtown. They weren’t going to bed. “Can you two stop screwing around for two seconds?!”

                “Geez, Elizabeth,” sighed Rachel, “Can you calm down?”

                “No I can’t calm down! I have a crisis on my hands!”

                “Meeeooorrrw.

                Elizabeth snapped around in the direction of the sound but Mr. Piddles was nowhere to be seen.

                “Crisis? What sort of crisis?”

                “Do you remember that show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch?”

                “Yeah? So?”

                “You remember Salem? That talking black cat?”

                “Yeah, he was great. What are you getting at, Elizabeth?”

                “… do you think cats can talk?”

                A roar of laughter exploded out of the phone, so sudden Elizabeth almost dropped it. Rachel tried to talk through her gasps for air but failed. That failure only lead to more giggling her part. Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed as she heard the panted breathing of her friend between what she assumed was Ian’s kisses. “…Ian…” she breathed.

                That was enough of that; Elizabeth promptly hit the end call button and sighed. “Gross.” Maybe it wasn’t so gross. It had just been a while for Elizabeth. Too long. This wasn’t helping, especially not with her crisis.

                “So are they actually a couple or just fuck-buddies?

                Elizabeth screamed, jumping up into the air and tumbling herself and the chair over onto the floor, knocking over a lamp. Elizabeth rubbed her head and was glad not to feel any blood.

                “Are you alright?

                Elizabeth sat up. Mr. Piddles was right in front of her, his tail playfully swishing back and forth. Her mouth was open but she didn’t know what to say.

                “Do you need more pineapples too?" he asked, "The effect doesn’t last very long, does it?

                “The… effect?” Elizabeth pondered this for a moment. “The pineapple make you talk?”

                Mr. Piddles licked his tiny paw at the end of his chubby leg and wiped down his forehead. “Isn’t it obvious? What, did you think that I was going to turn you into a Sailor Scout or something?

                Elizabeth’s eyes went wide. “I love Sailor Moon!”

                “I know!" Mr. Piddles chuckled to himself. "But I’m too old to be Luna.”

                “Ah… I see,” Elizabeth was little disappointed. Then she figured it was perhaps a little too much to hope that a woman her age could go traipsing downtown in a miniskirt fighting the forces of evil. That kind of stuff only happened to teenagers… with attitude. Then Elizabeth’s mouth pinched together in a determined pout. What was she thinking? ‘A woman her age’?! She was in the prime of her life! Living on her own and her freelance web design was really beginning to pick up! She was not only her own boss but the boss of her own life! She looked down at Mr. Piddles and smiled; heck she was more or less a teenage witch anyway.

                “So what are they, anyway?" asked Mr. Piddles.

                “Who? Rachel and Ian?” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “They say they aren’t putting labels on anything yet, but they practically life together.”

                Mr. Piddles nodded pensively. “Seems silly.”

                “Tell me about it.”

     

  5. Please Don’t Go, Part 1

    New week, new stories! Check out the rest over at Short Story Salad!

                ”Fuck,” Gwen said, a little louder than she would have liked. Her hands were already shaking before she began physically thrusting her clinched hand there and back, as if it would wipe that tiny pink plus from existence. Tears stung at her eyes, but she refused them. She wanted to feel the heat on her cheeks. Why? She didn’t know. “…Fuck…” she whispered.

                There was a knock at the door. “Gwen?” It was Grandpa Pat, “You’ve been in there a while. Uh, you alright?”

                “Fine, my stomach’s just upset,” she cringed at the thought of morning sickness. “I’ll be out in a minute, Grandpa.”

                “Do you got the runs?”

                “No, Grandpa…” the brief, embarrassing thought of her Grandpa asking about diarrhea almost made Gwen smile. That moment of levity was quickly smothered by the reality of it all. She quickly, and all too happily, threw the test back into its box and stuffed it into her purse. She flushed the toilet and resolved to wash her hands of this situation, literally and figuratively. Nothing much she could do about it right now, she told herself.

                She stepped out with her bravest face, arms outstretched. “Ta da!”

                Grandpa Pat chuckled. “Glad you’re feeling better, just in time for dinner.” He lead the way through a narrow hallway to his tiny kitchenette. Grandpa Pat lived on the ground floor of his triplex right off the Turnpike, almost directly situated on what was left of the New Jersey wetlands. If Gwen looked out the screen door that led to the back stoop, she would see the brown reeds flanking board screams of water that emptied out into the Passaic River, but not tonight. It was cold and humid and a thick fog lingered outside.

                The old man pulled the tin foil back from the casserole dish and moved to pull out a chair for his granddaughter. “Ladies first!”

                Gwen smirked. “Age before beauty,” she replied.

                He winked. “Then you still sit first.”

                Gwen’s mouth opened in pretend shock but she obliged. She had been coming to visit her Grandpa every weekend since she was five and though common thinking would dictate that a seventeen year old girl would have much more fun places to be than her Grandpa’s for the weekend, her parent’s recent divorce made her visits a welcome distraction.

                The drop-leaf table barely fit in the tiny kitchen but Grandpa Pat always insisted he was only one man and didn’t need much room. He preferred renting the larger, nicer, upstairs apartment to the Lopes’ who worked two jobs each to feed their three kids.

                “So how are things?” Grandpa Pat asked, stuffing his face. “Anything new?”

                Gwen scooped up a large spoonful and dug in. “Nope,” she said plainly.

                After Grandpa Pat went to bed, Gwen sat out on the back porch swiping through her phone restlessly. Her thumb kept bringing her back to the Rodney’s face in her contacts list but each time she returned to the home screen. She’d already texted him goodnight, there was no point in waking him; he had class in the morning, then he’d go straight from campus to work. Wouldn’t be home until eight at night. Besides, something like this was best to say in person. Maybe.

                The light from her screen faded and Gwen was left in the dark. An orange streetlight flickered on the street and only cast shadows into the yard. The Lopes’ had finally gotten their kids to bed and all that was left was silence. Silence and the taste of the fog that hung in the air. Gwen let her head sink between her knees. “…Fuck…”

                The soft shifting in the reeds caught Gwen’s ear and she glanced up. She squinted, not sure what to make of what she saw. Phone in had she woke up the screen and shined what little light she had in front of her. A fully grown stag walked out from the reeds and approached the porch. Gwen gasped. Did deer even come out this far onto the wetlands? She’d seen cranes and ducks before but never such a big animal. Grandpa Pat once said he accidently ran over one up in the Catskills and it messed up his truck real bad. Gwen stood up, slowly, making her way inside to put the house between her and the wild animal.

                “Please don’t go.”

                Gwen froze.

                “I need your help.”

                Gwen’s mouth fell agape as she turned to look at this creature again. It was closer now, within arm’s reach. It’s bright blue eyes stared intently at her, and being so close, she realized that a beautiful blue moss grew on its antlers. Its black nostrils flared as it brought its muzzle forward and let it hang here, like a hand, extended in greeting. Gwen couldn’t help herself, her hand reached out and gently rested on the cool, wet nose.

                And then they were gone.

     

  6. Stitches, Part 3

    Please read Part 1 and Part 2 before reading on! More shorts are up on Short Story Salad so feel free to check those out too!

                Mrs. Reynolds cleaned her hands on her apron. “No, sugar,” she said, “I haven’t seen your brother all day. You said his truck was still in the driveway?”

                Shara nodded trying to catch her breath, “Yes, ma’am.”

                “Well then he couldn’t ‘ve been meaning to go far. Noah probably just went for a walk, you’ll see.” She smiled and opened her squeaky screen door. “C’mon in and have scone. Made them fresh this mornin’, sugar.”

                “No, thank you Mrs. Reynolds,” Shara turned to race down the front porch stairs. “Maybe another time?”

                “Well you just hold up right there!” shouted Mrs. Reynolds. Years of living nearby the Reynolds taught Shara that she stay put when Mrs. Reynolds shouted, so she stopped promptly. In a moment, Mrs. Reynolds was out on the porch with a paper bag filled with baked goods. “There’s no way Imma let Margaret Adam’s daughter leave my home empty handed and empty stomached!” She came down the stairs and opened the bag for Shara to see. “These blueberry buttermilk scones will put some weight on those hips of yours, heh.”

                Shara smiled politely and took the bag; it was kind of Mrs. Reynolds to still try to look after her best friend’s children even when they were almost fully grown. Mrs. Reynolds reached out and brushed some of Shara’s hair away from her face. “You look so much like her, you know. ‘Specially when you braid back your long hair like this.”

                Shara was about to speak when Mrs. Reynolds reached into the bag and stuck one of the scones in Shara’s open mouth. “That’s a good girl! Now get on home, sugar. I’m sure you’ve got some chores to get done, don’t you?”

                Shara had nodded and walked off back to the path through the woods toward her house, but she wasn’t planning on going home. Lady barked and wagged her tail as she saw Shara approach and then peered in closely to get a good whiff of the treats inside the bag. “No, Lady,” Shara kept walking, “I’ve got an idea.”

                There was a line of scones resting in the woods, just far enough apart to lead someone to a treasure trove of scones beneath an oak. Shara sat hidden on a low hanging branch and Lady was tasked with scaring off any other woodland creature that might be looking for a quick lunch. She waited.

                And waited.

                And then she jumped.

                “ACK!!” yelped the goblin. They wrestled to and fro for a moment, then Lady appeared and growled ferociously. “Lady?!” The goblin stopped struggling. “Shara?! Shara, love, what do you think you’re doing?”

                “Making sure you don’t get away!” Shara pressed herself close to the ground and winched. She could see blood staining her bandages.

                “Look what you’ve gone and done!” The goblin wiggles out of Shara’s grasp and took a look at Shara’s wound. “Those’ll need to be redone.”

                Shara pulled her arm away from him. “Don’t you go on and pretend to be my friend, I know what you did!”

                “Did? All I did was bite you, and I thought that was in the past. I thought we were friends.”

                Lady sniffed at Shara’s bandages but she paid the dog no mind.”How could we be?! I don’t even know your name and you stole my brother!”

                The goblin snapped his fingers. Shara froze, so did Lady. “Stole? Now that’s pretty harsh don’t you think? I was only doing what we agreed upon.”

                “That’s not true!” Shara managed to say.

                “Oh? You can talk still?” The goblin’s eyes narrowed. “I guess it takes affect sooner than I thought… All right, you can say isn’t not true, but you never told me not to get rid of your brother. In fact you said it yourself, you’d wish he’d die.”

                Shara’s heat fell to the pit of her stomach. “I-I didn’t mean-“

                The goblin pulled Shara’s arm out and started to unwrap the bandages; there was nothing she could do to resist. “I know what you didn’t mean, love,” he said setting the bandages to the side and taking up a needle from his vest. From the needle, hung shimmering string, and with it, he began to resew the stitches. “You big folk don’t tend to think too clearly, some folk say it’s takes so long for a thought to cross the entire brain. I didn’t kill your brother. He’s been resting out here with me for the while and he’s already back in your house, nappin’ off the drought I gave him. He won’t remember a thing.” As the goblin sewed up the wound with the magic thread, it sealed her skin together, as if nothing had ever been there at all. “Tell you the truth, I would have given you the same, but there’s no point. You’re different now.”

                “Different?” asked Shara.

                He nodded. “My fault really, I wasn’t thinkin’ straight when I bite you like that.”

                “Wait, am I a werewolf or something!?” she exclaimed.

                The goblin chuckled. “No. Nothing so exciting. Them wolves are mean things though, you wouldn’t want to be one of them.” He finished sewing and bit the string to make it break. “No, you’re still human. Just… different. Can’t magic away a memory just like that.” He snapped his fingers and Shara could move again. She pulled her arm toward her and almost forgot to breathe- it was completely healed. “Soon that trick won’t work quite right either.”

                “Hm?” asked Shara.

                “Never you mind,” said the goblin, picking up another scone. “You should run along home to your brother. He’ll be up soon-“

                Shara pulled the goblin in and gave him a be smooch on the head. “Thank you! Thank you so much!”

                The goblin shoved her away. “That’s enough of that.” He took a big bite of scones. “Next time it’ll cost you. Maybe I’ll take some of that pretty hair of yours.”

                “My hair?”

                “Maybe,” he turned to leave, “Oh, Shara? The name’s Jex.” And with that he was gone.

                Shara raced home with Lady in tow and when she ran into the kitchen she saw Noah standing in front of the fridge perplexed.

                “I have the worst headache,” he said. Shara threw her arms around her brother and squeezed the air out of him. “That’s not helping!”

                Shara was too pleased to think straight, “Are you hungry?” she asked.

                “Yeah… yeah I guess.”

                Shara pushed Noah down into a chair. “Lasagna?”

                “Sounds good.”

                Shara opened the fridge and frowned when she saw the lasagna was gone. All that was left in the dish was a note that read in a poor excuse for a scribble, Hope you don’t mind.

     

  7. The Girl in the Photos, Part 2

    Read The Girl in the Photos, Part 1 before moving forward. More stories are up on Short Story Salad for your enjoyment! Click here to vote on what genre you would like to see us write next week!

                I could barely keep up with her and I was quickly out of breath. Sure, I wasn’t in the best shape, but I was still impressed how she ran so fast without shoes. She wasn’t worried about stepping on the broken bottle pieces littering the alleyways, just her destination. My phone’s text message notification chimed and I had to smirk, that tune always made me feel better. I glanced at the screen; Damien was wondering where I was- and then I tripped, nearly landed head first into a pile of garbage.

                As I whipped off someone’s Happy Meal, I realized that I didn’t see which way she went. “Shit,” I breathed. The ocean. She wanted to go to the ocean. The only way to the beach was over the Roosevelt Bridge so I rolled up my sleeves and continued. In retrospect, I felt a bit like a cheesy, cartoon villain; I had just about ogled her for hours on end and now I was pursuing her… to what end? I shook the feeling off and ignored another text jiggle as I turned the corner.

                I was at the bridge, but I didn’t see her. Had she gotten lost? Had I? There wasn’t a soul on the bridge, walking or in a car. Reminded me of a strange ghost town. I thought it over again but I was sure that this was the only way to the beach- you could even see the bay where the river emptied out into.

                Thick, beautiful waves of long, dark hair wafted longingly toward that bay. She was climbing up and over the walkway’s guardrail. “Fuck.” I ran toward her. She was going to jump. She was over the rail now, toes curling over the narrow metal landing. She hadn’t seen me yet. I took a slow, steady breath, knowing the next few sentences could decide her fate.

                “SOMEBODY ONCE TOLD ME THE WORLD IS GONNA ROLL ME-“

                Her face looked at me with shock and terror, almost as horrified as I was. Fucking Damien. Why the fuck was he calling me!? I saw her hands letting go of the railing.

                “I AIN’T THE SHARPEST TOOL IN THE SHED-“

                I lunged forward and grabbed a handful of the slick, spotted coat she clung to. She lurched forward but wouldn’t release the fur. “Let go! You’ll tear it!” her voice rang with panic.

                “SHE WAS LOOKING KIND OF DUMB WITH HER FINGER AND HER THUMB IN THE SHAPE OF AN ‘L’ ON HER FOREHEAD.” It went to voicemail, thank god.

                “N-no, listen,” I managed, “This isn’t the way.”

                “Just let me go!”

                In the pale orange light coming from the bridge I realized she wasn’t wearing anything, she had only covered herself with the furs. She glared at me, hatred boiling behind her eyes.

                “I-I’m Lynn. What’s your name?”

                “Why do you care?!”

                “I just do!” I blurted, “W-what’s yours?”

                Her nostrils flared. “Maili,” she growled.

                “Good. It’s good to meet you, Maili. I would like to continue to know you-“

                “Stop! Just let me go! You don’t understand!”

                “Suicide isn’t the answer, alright Maili?” I said, trying not to sound too accusatory.

                “I know what I’m doing!”

                “Look, you don’t want to do this.”

                “Yes I do! Let me go!”

                “R-really? Then why don’t you just let go of the coat?” I caught her, I could see it in her eyes. “If you truly wanted to die, you wouldn’t let a silly coat stand in your way. So j-just help me help you up-“

                “You don’t know anything!” she barked. I was taken aback; her voice was so much less graceful than she appeared. “You don’t know him!”

                “Him?” I held tight, but searched my mind for answers.

                “Yes, him. You know him, you work for him but you don’t know him!”

                “I know-?” I paused, “… Fisher? Carrlin Fisher? Your photographer?”

                Her face was still contorted with fury, but onyx eyes were shiny with tears. “My captor. H-he forced me. Kept me. Hit me. Said he’d burn it if I didn’t do what he told me to.”

                I looked stupid, I know I did. My jaw was slacked open. Her eyes moved from my face to my wrists. The salt water fell from her face. “I’m not like you. I don’t want to end it. I just want to be free.” I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. “Please,” she begged, “Let me go.”

                I heard a sound I had only heard in movies; of a gun’s safety being turned off. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Lynn.” I slowly turned my head to the left. Fisher approached with a semi extended out toward her. “I don’t want to do this, but if you let Maili go, I might just kill you.”

                I heard the funny jiggle of another text message, and somehow it didn’t make the situation any better.

     

  8. Stitches, Part 1

    Welcome to a new week and a new story! Head over to Short Story Salad for more shorts! We’re also asking for input for next week’s batch of stories, so please feel free to check out our poll!

                Shara held her arm frowning. “I know what I saw, Noah.”

                Noah opened the driver’s side door. “Just get in the car.” He tossed the emergency room paperwork into the backseat.

                “Why don’t you believe me?” hissed Shara.

                “Because you sound like you’re on crack or something.” He slammed the door. “Just shut up and come in.”

                Shara stepped in and buckled up but stared directly in front of her refusing to bat an eyelid. If she did, she might cry. She knew what she saw; a pair of glowing green eyes huddled beneath her car. She rubbed the bandages thoughtfully.

                “You need to stop protecting that stray you know,” Noah said sternly as they came onto the interstate. “It was one thing to keep putting food out for it, but that thing is wild. It’s dangerous-“

                “She needs a good home.”

                “It needs to be put down. I’m calling animal control in the morning.”

                Shara put up her bandaged arm. “Lady didn’t do this! It wasn’t her!”

                “Then tell me what did, Shara-“

                “It was a gob-“

                “I don’t give me that fairy crap!” His voice was harsh and cut with authority. He stopped himself and exhaled slowly through his nostrils. “You can’t hide things like this from me… I’d never forgive myself is something happen to you.”

                “Look, Noah,” sighed Shara, “I know you still think I’m a kid, but I’m not. I’m 16 and I can take care of myself.”

                Noah’s eyebrows bounced up skeptically. “Coulda fooled me.”

                “And I don’t need my brother bossin’ me around and telling me I didn’t see what I saw.”

                “I’m more than your brother I’m you’re legal guardian.” He snapped, “And I don’t care what fairy tale you want to tell yourself, but you lost a lot of goddamn blood from that bite. And what if that thing goes off an starts mauling kids, huh? They’ll need a lot more than stitches! That dog is being put down or so help me.”

                Shara crossed her arms. “You missed the stupid exit.”

                Noah cursed under his breath and started to find a way back around. Shara rolled her eyes. It’s not like Mom was around anymore to scold him for cussing like he did. When they got home, Shara slammed the passenger door and walked off without heeding her brother’s shouting as she bolted for the woods.

                He didn’t follow, she knew he wouldn’t. It wasn’t like there was anywhere she could go. Maybe to the Reynolds’s farm two miles down the road but they’d call Noah and let him know that Shara was just ‘blowing off steam’ with them. Shara didn’t want that, she wanted Noah to worry, just a little. But even more, Shara wanted to find … what bit her.

                It was getting close to supper and Shara’s stomach was growling. She ignored it. “Lady?” She called.

                Shara hadn’t seen the stray all day, but she tried not to worry, remembering she’d been in the hospital for most of it. It was odd for Lady not to be around the house around this time, the dog had always been happy to greet Shara around the time she came home of school. Shara was pretty sure Lady was a mutt, maybe something like a cross between a German Shepherd and a Labrador with her shiny black coat and pointed ears. “Lady?”

                “Rrrrroof!”

                “Lady?” Shara quickened her pace in the direction of the bark. What was Lady doing this far out in the woods?

                “Rrroof!”

                Shara turned a corner around an overhanging boulder. She saw Lady’s tail sticking straight out from behind it. A twig cracked beneath the weight of Shar’s foot and Lady whirled about, happy to see her. “Hey there, girl, where have you been?” Shara scratched the spot between Lady’s shoulders and the dog panted happily.

                “Ugh-“

                “Huh?” Shara peered past Lady.

                The shiny, black mutt turned and started growling in the direction of the strange voice. The space between Shara’s eyebrows narrowed as she leaned in to look under the overhang. She gasped.

                There was a small, lumpy creature with a potato-looking head, long slim ears and a rounded beak-like snout, spectacled with spots. It wore a dull blue woolen shirt and beads in the braids of its pale gray hair. The creature was clearly ruffed up a bit, with scratches and bruises over its arms and legs- was that Lady’s doing?

                The goblin stirred, it’s green eyes looked like reflectors staring back at her. It swore, “Imp’s ass. Not you again.”

     

  9. Golem, Part 3

    Trying to be more on time this go! Please read Part 1 and Part 2 before reading on! More stories are up on Short Story Salad! Thanks for checking in!

                The sun was going down on the Summer Solstice and Dad was crushing up newspaper to tuck them away in strategically placed spots throughout the bonfire pile. The Summer Solstice wasn’t anything like Christmas, but it was a pretty important holiday to stone masons. Something about keeping the light going for a long as possible. I could never repeat the verse verbatim, but I always thought it was rather beautiful.

                Robby wheeled in beside Mom, who was carrying a plate of s’mores supplies. Robby had a gallon of water on his lap.

                “You need to light it soon, Ethan,” said Mom, “Or you’ll miss the twilight.”

                Dad winked at her. “It’s so cute when you take these things seriously, ‘Ri.”

                Mom shrugged. “Something about love, honoring and observing, you know.”

                “I think you got that last one wrong,” Dad scooped Mom around the back and pulled her in.

                Mom pushed a square of chocolate into his puckered lips. “That’s what you think.” She kissed him but then stole the rest of the chocolate from his mouth.

                “Gross…” whispered Robby.

                I smirked. “It’s almost cute when you get to be my age, Robby.”

                Robby gave me a look and shook his head. He wasn’t buying it.

                Mom playfully pushed Dad toward the pyre where he withdrew his flint and stone and started trying to get the paper to catch. Mom pulled Robby up from his chair and sat him beside her.

                I felt a familiar tremor as Golem approached with a large stack of fallen branches bundled up in its earthen arms.

                Dad peered up. “Good man, Golem. Place them with the others.”

                It did. “Should Golem get more?”

                “Nah, you’re good. We’ve got plenty to last us past midnight. Plant your rocky behind next to your favorite lady.”

                My body jumped a little when Golem dropped its body beside me. I giggled.

                Robby was anxious. “Dad, you’re gonna miss the sun!”

                Dad clicked the rocks together. “No…” Click. “I’m…” Click, click, FSHH. Dad smiled. “Not.” He stood up and bowed his head, which must have been a feat considering how pleased he was with himself. “And just as Thine Light breathes life into the Stone of the Earth, Let our Light aid in delivering the gift of life into all we touch.

                Yeah, that. We all had our heads bowed now. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the fire rushing through and crackling into the pyre.

                It was dark, and Mom was still insisting that she made better s’mores than Dad. Robby was happy to be judge, I just hoped he wouldn’t barf later.

                I sat with my knees to my chest, letting my finger trace the runes I couldn’t feel below my shirt.

                “Would you like another s’more, Julie?” asked Golem.

                “No thank you. I’m full,” I replied.

                “Are you holding your stomach?” asked Golem. “Are you sick?”

                I smiled and looked at that gentle stone face. “No. I’m just thinking.”

                “What about?”

                I glanced over and assessed that the laughter from my parents was loud enough to drown out my hushed words. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.”

                “… What about?” it asked again.

                I forced a laugh. “About what I’m doing.”

                “You’re holding your knees.”

                “I know.”

                “Ah.”

                “… I haven’t been feeling like myself lately, I think.”

                “You’ve grown up a lot, Julie.”

                I guess I must have. Didn’t make me feel better. “I don’t know where I belong, or what I need to do.”

                “… But you are still Julie,” said Golem, “And if there is something upsetting you, you should do what you told Golem when Grammy died.”

                I paused. I could barely remember Grammy’s funeral. Golem had taken it pretty hard, almost as hard as Dad. But I didn’t remember what I had said. “…What did I say?” I asked.

                “Nothing,” said Golem, “Nothing at first. You just sat beside Golem.”

                I smiled, “…did I say anything eventually?”

                Golem nodded, “After a while, Golem asked why you were there. And you said, ‘Because I love you.’”

                I watched the fire made the shadows dance on the contours of its face.

                “You do not need to know where you belong or need to do, not right now anyway.” Golem smiled. “Golem will sit beside Julie for as long as you need.”

                I could feel my eyes sting, but I didn’t know if it was the fire or Golem. Still, I slid over and leaned my body up against Golem’s boulder-like frame. “… I think I’ll make another s’more soon,” I said.

                “That’s good,” said Golem.

     

  10. Maren, Part 2

    Be sure to read Part 1 before moving on! If you want Golem Part 2 head over to Short Story Salad!

                Maren threw herself into a dodge roll or something like it. Meer wasn’t pleased. “Why did you do that!?”

                “I don’t know!” Maren snapped back, trying to keep her voice low. “What else was I supposed to do? Stand around and wait for someone to stab me in the back?”

                The voice chuckled. Maren held herself low behind another gem display, spying this way and that. There was no one else in the room.

                “Oh silly, little Magister,” the voice was cool and smooth, masculine sounding perhaps, “You think you can hide?”

                Maren was breathless.

                The display Maren hid behind split in two, cutting through metal and shattering the glass. As if an invisible sword was slicing into warm butter. The security alarm began to sound with an ear piercing screech.

                Maren gasped and ran out toward another display. Still she saw no one.

                The voice was dauntless. “Hide as you might, it matters not. Soon you will taste my, Diamond Blade!

                Another display cut through and Maren dashed to different cover. Meer’s feathers were all puffed up in defense. “You can’t run forever!” she hissed.

                “You see, the Green Eye doesn’t belong to you, little Magister.” Sliced.

                Maren sought the impermanent safety of another display. “Meer we have to leave! The police will be here soon!” She shouted this time, there was no point in whispering with the alarm ablaze.

                “You cannot leave that magnifier in his hands!”

                “Ah! But mine are the rightful hands!” Sliced.

                Dodged.

                Hid.

                “This power was never meant for human hands! It was you Magisters that made the Star fall in the first place!”

                Maren was frantic. She was out of displays and the sirens from the police approaching the museum began to join the alarm’s horrid chorus. Her attacker was completely invisible and silent when he didn’t speak. And he didn’t seem at all phased by the mind-numbing alarm. Damn that alarm! It’s 10xs worse than a fire alarm-

                Maren looked up and spotted the numerous steel circles on the ceiling. “That’s it!”

                “What’s- eep!” Meer could barely hold onto Maren’s shoulder as she dashed out from her hiding spot and threw her open palm out toward the ceiling.

                “Are you giving up, little Magister?” asked the voice. “I’m surprised, but it is wise. I’ll make this quick.”

                Focus… Maren felt the heat bubble in the pit of her stomach, Focus.

                Meer understood. “Yes! Do it! Do it now!”

                Fire sparked on Maren’s fingertips and spun until it gathered up in a soft-ball sized sphere of flame at the center of her palm. She pulled back, threw the ball toward the ceiling and shouted, “Pyro Prom!”

                The sphere exploded on the ceiling and from the flames, water erupted from the sprinkler system above. Maren turned her gaze to search about her and smiled. A human-like form appeared in the veil of water cascading down.

                “You stupid  little-!” The form was blasted back with a raging fire ball, which had admittedly shrunk in the spray.

                The water was her blessing and curse here, and she instead dashed for the marvelous peridot in the center display. Maren’s footing slipped as she ran, nearly crashing into the display itself.

                “Quick! Get the gem!” urged Meer.

                “How!?” There was way into the display without a key and her fists couldn’t crack the glass.

                “DIAMOND BLADE!

                Maren looked up and saw the water-revealed figure flying through the air toward the case.

                                                        ***

                Maren sat in the courtyard, face dug into her sore arms. Meer flew down from the tree and began to peck at the untouched sandwich beside Maren. “Maren you need your strength! You did very well last night.”

                Maren tilted her head toward Meer, barely seeing the red bird through her thick strands of hair. “I barely made it out of there before the police entered the room, Meer. And I didn’t even get the stupid thing.”

                “But you got half,” said Meer, beak filled with lettuce, “That’s a half that they don’t have.”

                Maren could feel the weight of the precious stone wrapped in a handkerchief in her hoodie pocket. “Forgive me if I’m not as excited as you.”

                “You need to look on the bright side, Maren.”

                Maren turned her face to the crux of her arms. “That’s what my friend, Cristal, does. Not me.”

                Maren felt Meer’s feathers flutter by her ear. “That bird was eating your lunch,” said an unfamiliar voice.

                Maren pulled her head up and narrowed her eyes. “You’re… Tami?”

                The girl shrugged. “Tamami actually.”

                “Aren’t you a junior?” asked Maren.

                “Yeah, so?”

                “Why are you talking to a sophomore?” asked Maren.

                Tamami pushed the stray dreads out of her face and smirked. “Let’s just say, you’ve… sparked my interest.”