Category Archives: short story

Brave the storm

This idea has been bubbling around in my head for a little bit, maybe as something to submit to a Black Beacon books anthology. But this was inspired by Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds challenge; 1000 words in 10 chapters. Different! Hope you enjoy it!

Brave the storm

Rolling in like the surf, the storm darkened the sky and electrified the air. Liesel could feel the clouds drawing in the static as the wind whirled sharply. Above her head, spindly eucalypt branches were snapping back and forth as she walked down the steeply sloping Milton street. Tonight’s storm was going to be a typical Brisbane summer storm; hot and heavy and a little overdone. She had to get inside before the storm broke. Over her shoulder, thunder rumbled threateningly and Liesel picked up the pace.

The door tore from her hand and slammed, reverberating the light wooden walls of her Queenslander. Fat drops of rain splattered noisily against the window pain in a tattoo, ringing in the gutters and on the roof, the tang of fresh rain filling the room. It was so dark for 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Liesel sighed as she shed her wrappings, coat, bag to the hook by the door, and walked to the kitchen. A steaming cup of tea later, and she could enjoy watching the storm roil o
outside her window.

With an hissing bang, the house plunged into shadows. Flashes of lightning picked out the crevices and nooks of the darkened inner rooms. Liesel ran from room to room, fastening wooden shutters to protect the windows from the now wildly swinging branches. She found her back-up candles and lit several, their tremulous light giving her back a little calm. That was when the dripping started.

Rivulets of dirty water ran down the walls, pooling against the sills and slipping to the floor. What started with gentle rivers became a flood, the water splashing everywhere. The cacophony of the storm outside, it’s swirling branches and debris, tattooed against the wall and windows. It grew so loud that it became almost a knocking, but Liesel ignored it. She grabbed old towels and shoved them under every streaming wall. As suddenly as it had started, it stopped, leaving her with only the echoing drips. She stood in the middle of her house, catching her breath.

With a loud bang, the door flew open and Liesel shrieked. A gush of air quenched the flames and the dim rooms lost all light. Almost above Liesel’s head, the thunder crashed and she screamed as the bright flashes of lightning lit up a figure standing in the entrance.

She was soaked to the bone, a pastel summer dress plastered against her dark skin. Each burst of light picked out the edges of her face, the fearful whites of her eyes. A black trickle of blood ran from her templed. Outside, splashing in with leaves and twigs, the boiling air howled and Liesel was terrified.

“Hello?” she shouted over the din. “Can I help you?”

A silent scream formed on the woman’s lips as she held out a hand to Liesel. The blood circled into a curl, lost in the black tangles of hair. But she did not answer.

“Tell me how I can help, please.” Liesel’s voice started to crack with strain.

The woman advanced in the moment of darkness, and the next flash found her right in front of Liesel, her eyes pleading, hand grasping. Liesel gasped and stepped back from her, raising arms to protect herself. But the woman didn’t come any closer, just stood, dripping on the floor. Liesel looked down for just a second and could see the skirt moving, as if a heavy material floating in a current. She looked back at the distressed girl’s face and knew that she had to help her.

“I’ll follow you,” she said.

8. Tightly zipped in her rain jacket, Liesel braved the street. Her stairs were treacherously slippery in the monsoonal downpour and she gingerly took her time with each one. She looked down the street and could barely see the girl or her shuddering movement. As she left the protection of her house, green matter dislodged by the storm slashed at her eyes and face. Still she walked on, trying to focus, peering through the misty grey to the end of the street.

She could hear the little stream before she saw the mess it had become. Brown and churning with detritus, it swamped over its little banks. Shadowed by the hill of Paddington and great groaning trees, Liesel found it impossible to see or distinguish any detail. She stood at the edge of the park, beneath a pair of jacarandas, buffeted by the storm.

Appearing out of nowhere, the girl stood in front of her again, a frantic edge to her motions. Liesel followed, trying to ignore the blood pounding in her ears. Up a small, worn-in path, pushing aside some dilapidated ferns and pieces of an old fence, they climbed toward what Liesel could see was a crossing. The stream now rushed over bigger, flatter boulders. Liesel couldn’t see anything.

“Where?” she called out, but the girl had stopped beside the boulders.

If she hadn’t been looking directly at the girl, she wouldn’t have seen the upsurge of pale material in the river. What she thought was a root was a hand, caught and curled in a larger gnarled mess of roots.

Her feet were slipping in the mud and rocks as she ran. “Hold on!”

Tucked into a back-eddy beneath the big tree, the girl had been suspended, but Liesel could see the water was getting higher and more violent. Liesel had to lie on the ground, around the roots, to lift the girl’s head up, to stop her drowning. With one hand she held the back of the dress, bunched tightly, and the other was trying to work the caught hand free. She felt it slip, and all the girl’s weight bore down on her as she started to float. Liesel wrapped her arms around, trying to lift her out, but she was heavy and slippery. Her finger’s dug into the girl’s wrists and with a tug she managed to get her partly on to the bank. Liesel dragged her further out, weeping with joy and fear and elation, before she caught her breath.

Turning the girl into recovery, Liesel was checking her breath when she started to vomit up murky water and cough. Saying a silent prayer, she waited for the stranger to recover enough to walk. Enough to brave the storm.

Devolution (A medpunk story)

Another challenge over at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. Good fun. This med-punk came to mind as soon as I read the challenge. Don’t know if it strictly fits, but what the hey!

Hanging back alongside the edge of a building, Angie watched the group weakly struggling through the street. Against the curfew, they were making their way to the Wellness Clinic several streets over. They wavered, their movements feeble. These would be an easy target.

Swinging her legs over the peeling picket fence, she approached on silent feet, trying not to alert them. The dots were prepped and adhered to her fingertips, the stronger adhesive on the other side.

Darting forward, she stuck one to the trailing elderly woman’s neck, and moving on, to the small boy, one to his trailing arm. A cry escaped the older woman and Angie was out of time. She leapt between the man and woman at the front, a touch light as a feather on each arm.

With a spurt of energy, she darted into another alley, hearing a congested grumble from the man at the head of the group. It was not long before his pursuing footsteps faded; all the group were too sick to put up too much of a fight.

It was a relief; Angie was going to need all her energy for the long hours remaining in her mission of compassion and survival.

“The fear,” he’d whispered to them, “the fear my darlings.” His wracking cough had spluttered out then, held back . “They were sold a terror, a portent of death, which they believed with their whole hearts. They were misled.”

Angie had looked over to Veronika then, at the deepening lines and dark circles around her eyes. Her husband Natane, an immunologist who had been part of the underground for more than a quarter-century, was dying of a complication of the eaglepox virus. In the time before the Devolution, Veronika had been a doctor and researcher, which she had kept up in their hidden civilisation.

When the chicken-pox virus had suddenly evolved, it’s virulence remaining the same but adopting the increased risk of the death of its smallpox cousin, the world was decimated. The innocuous name of chicken just didn’t reflect the danger. A presenter from the US had jokingly called in eaglepox and the name had stuck.

With the Devolution, and the hunting down and imprisoning of the scientific and medical professionals, there was no one left able to help the movement address the disease. Vitamin C was upped, fresh produce found in every home, but still people died in their thousands.

The underground survived, largely unscathed because of Natane and Veronika. But how would they protect others and stop it evolving again?

Natane had died before they had the answer. It was Angie who discovered the old dermal patches. Soaking them in a combination of antivirals and the vaccine, they could save the population of their town, and connect with others of the underground to help spread the cure. They found a recipe for a strong adhesive that meant the dots would adhere long enough to deliver the optimum dose.

They’d all committed; but it meant a huge danger. They would have to access to groups of people. They would have to take it to the streets.

Angie and her sister Clare ended up in the paediatric wing of the Wellness Clinic, where patients spilled haphazardly into corridors and out on to the street. And still they came, the children listless and afebrile.

The head nurse, as she called herself, bustled about with alcohol hand wipes and containers of pre-prepared vitamin enriched drinks. “We need all the assistance we can get with this outbreak. Even with the curfew, we are still getting more and more cases.” She paused to touch the forehead of a young girl curled up on her father’s lap, shivering, the angry red welts harsh against the pale forehead.

“So sad,” she murmured to the girls. “So many of them not taking care of themselves.”

Angie and Clare fanned out, distributing the tiny dots to small hands and feet, pressing them against the arms of distraught parents as they comforted them.  At midday, the wards quietened, exhausted families slumped against any available surface with their children. Angie broke off, into the intensive care ward. Her stomach roiled seeing the children wasting from the virus, their poor little bodies covered in open sores. She checked their pulse, smiling wanly at the parents at the bedside.

At the end of her round,  the shadowed overhang of a door bearing a hand-painted sign declaring it Neonatology presented itself to Angie. Looking about the eerily silent ward, Angie could see no watchers, and took a chance. Ducking through the door, she entered the ward.

Lights were low, and it took a second for her eyes to adjust. The nurses turned their eyes towards to her for a moment, before seeing the volunteer badge on her scrubs. Many of the parents were asleep, exhausted. Making sure to use the alcohol, she would drop a tiny dot to a toe or heel, and brush the parent as she left them a drink.

She reached the last room where a pair of twins rested, entwined. Otherwise she was alone. She stepped forward, her eyes on the tiny miniature people. She snaked a hand in, her dots delivered.

“What are you doing?”

Angie turned to see a young woman, her mouth hard and tight. Her sweats were stained and her eyes smudged with tiredness.

“I’m Angie, a volunteer.” She turned her back on the mother, pretending to stare into the humidicrib, and swallowed. “Your little ones are so perfect.”

“You have no right.” The woman moved up next to Angie, eyes blazing. “Get out.”

Angie ducked her head, hands in her pockets, seeking another dot. She offered her hand. “I apologise. I’ll leave now.”

The woman looked at her hand coldly. Angie shrugged and offered her a drink, a dot prepped and ready on her fingertip. As she took it, Angie had to manoeuvre awkwardly to make sure it stuck. A puzzled look crossed the woman’s face and Angie quickly backed out and away.

She crossed back into the paediatric ward, leaving her cart tucked out of the way. She rounded through the different areas, looking for Clare. Angie spotted her in a corridor not far from the main entrance, squatting next to a mother with three little girls.

As she walked towards her sister, she heard the hiss, “Her.”

Angie’s arms were grabbed roughly from behind, tears smarting with the cruel grip, and she was frogmarched down the corridor. “We’ve got you, bioterrorist.”

Angie saw Clare’s terrified stare and shook her head imperceptibly. She’d been caught and Clare needed to get back to tell the others.

Angie’s knees shook as she walked. She’d been around long enough to know that the people caught never came back. Since the Devolution, the Alterna never let the truth get out.


** Just in case anyone is curious, transdermal patches for vaccine delivery could be in our future.**

Siren song

Irresistible temptation. A prompt from 642 things to write about.

With a voice and face like his, Joe Crash was born to be a star. Those baby blues peering out from a slightly weathered and shadowed face, a sly smile on that square-cut jaw. He could have been a poster-boy, but he employed a little select facial hair and a just-out-of-bed, tumbled, longer hair to turn him into just enough bad boy.

Anyone who’d ever seen him perform had quickening pulses at the fluidity of his svelte hip gyrations. His voice brought tears to eyes, brought people to their knees, had them frothing with sexual excitement. Even critics had problems finding flaws in his work and governments everywhere worried that his notes might be turned against them.

Joe created hysteria where ever he went. Not since The Beatles had people lined the streets. Of course, he waved with unconcerned casualness, signed all manner of autographs and generally kept to himself. Occasional dates with other celebrities ended up splashed on the tabloid pages but his private life remained remarkably private and he kept his past in the shadows.

Meredith had used all her industry favours to get a one-on-one interview with the man himself, while he was on tour in Sydney with his band, The Crows. She’d done her research and she was ready.

She took in her look in the mirror. Her dark hair was tousled, the outline of her eyes a smoky haze and her tight black pants and sweetheart spotted bustier topped it off. She slipped her red cropped jacket around her shoulder, splashed her favourite red on her lips and strode out the door.

Backstage she waited for an hour while Joe played a long encore for his fans. She could hear the distorted sounds of the band. She heard the click of his boots as he strode down the hall, the sounds distorted by the shuffle of another’s foot. Meredith was waiting next to a pillar, as still as the shadow that covered her. Joe saw her last minute and startled. Quickly, he collected his cool, and turned to the dainty blonde who he was leading backstage.

“Cleo, you’re going to have to excuse me. I forgot that my agent set me up with an interview.” He stroked her cheek gently as her face fell into a pout. “I’ll see you at the after party, sweet.”

Deftly, he slid the rectangular invite into her jeans pocket. She couldn’t have been more than 20, with this man whose age was pinned at around 35, and when she turned away, she looked dazed and confused. Joe whispered in her ear and she shuffled down the corridor.

“Helps with the image,” Joe shrugged as he entered the dressing room, gesturing to a spare chair for Meredith. “If you people want to be with you, or be you.”

With a clean pull, he yanked off the stage-sweaty t-shirt, of course deliberately giving Meredith the unadulterated view of his lithe body. He smirked and remarked, “I probably should have asked first. Sorry, not used to having professionals here after my gigs.”

Meredith waved it off, made a deliberate effort to get out her notebook. “But you are used to having women in here after though?”

Joe’s grin turned predatory for a moment before he dialled it back to an expression they used in her business called “boys being boys”; a fake apologetic grin followed by a look of helplessness. “I’m single, hopefully they are too. Life is too short for hang-ups, Miss…”

“Meredith.” She leaned forward, extending her hand, so he had to come to her. The stiffness in his back afterwards showed she was ruffling his feathers a little bit. He turned away from her to wipe his face with a towel and shrug into a shirt.

Joe buttoned up the wrinkled, grungy collared shirt, before flicking his hair up in the mirror and turning back to her. The wickedness was gone; clearly this time he was going for the open and honest assault. “So, I guess we’re here to talk my tour and the upcoming album.”

Meredith’s smile was correspondingly warm. “I thought we’d actually have a chat about the little chits you’ve been killing.” She watched Joe’s eyes harden as she continued, “I guess Chloe, or was it Cleo, is your next mark.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His voice held a threat equally as deadly as the hissing of the cobra.

“I know who you are Mr Crash. Or should I say, more specifically, what.” Meredith leant back, her eyes never leaving the singer.

“And what is that?” His arms crossed, surprisingly well-muscled for a man of his weight.

“A siren.”

His laughter was too loud, too hard and too sudden. “I think you might just be mad, Meredith.” He picked up a phone. “Last time I do any favours for Stan.”

As he dialled, Meredith played a video. One she’d paid a lot of money to get her hands on. The edge of a show, about two years prior, a girl escorted from the crowd. In the darkness at side of stage, you could see him. His face in picture perfect quality. And as they turned away together,  he transformed, becoming the monster she knew he was.

“Killing James McGrath without having the proof was sloppy,” she said as she stroked her iPhone and he put the phone down. “But leaving a trail of missing girls behind your tours is worse.”

“That is fraud, that video,” he said, his exterior calm a signal to let her know he was getting ready to attack.

“It’s no fake, Joe, or should I say Okeanos.” She did not fail to see him start. “It’s a long way to fall from Olympus.”

Meredith stood, near the door but close enough to strike if needed. “Not enough sacrifices to keep you in these times?”

Joe turned back to the mirror. “A God has to survive somehow.”

“So you know the truth.” He turned again, flung his arms out wide. “You know, now I have to kill you.”

“You can try.”

Ever so softly, Joe sung as he circled. Meredith recognised the ancient words; he was singing of weakness and frailty, appealing directly to her human body. He didn’t recognise then, the jewellery she work, the ear cuffs that protected her from the beauty of his song.

She came back at him, singing the song back, twisting the melody back on him. He began to slow, looking tired and old. When he realised, he threw a chair, which Meredith nimbly dodged, causing it to crash and shatter the mirror behind her. She sang further, weaving the molecules of his body out, pushing the supernatural to his periphery. She would get only one shot at him.

His lunge came, his hands aiming for her throat. She dodged and he went sprawling on the ground. Swiftly, she pinned him there, fastening him tight.

“What are you?” he whispered into the tiles, still in disbelief at where he was.

“Once, I was one of your many slaves. One of the beautiful women your seas stole and turned into the nymphs, the sirens.”

“When your power dwindled, it freed me. But I never forgot the horrors you made me watch, the sailors you made us drown in your incessant drive for power.”

“I promised myself that when I escaped, I would find you.” Meredith gently stroked his hair back from his face. “Don’t worry, your end will be a lot less painful than theirs.”

Meredith opened her mouth and began to sing. The story of the thousand ships, of the lives ebbing beneath waves escaped from her. She went on to talk about the drawing of power, the stealing of a soul.

He was grey beneath her when she stopped, his chest heaving with his last breaths. A faltering smile crossed his face before it stilled forever.

Meredith removed herself, taking the back passageways out. No one would remember she was here, that she got this interview;  her melodies had made sure of that.

When the news reported Joe Crash’s death of a heart attack the next day, Meredith leaned back with a smile, feeling his invincibility in the singing of her blood. Today, her revenge was complete.

On the inside

A challenge where we write a story based on a 15 word sentence another blog member wrote over at terrible minds. Mine was the following, from Bree.

It was a strange feeling to wake up dead. It’s hard to explain to a living person, the quietness that comes with not having to breathe, the aching of limbs that aren’t growing or living any more, that are barely yours. More of an emptiness than anything else.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes, trying to remember how I’d ended up in a meadow on this glorious day. As my lips formed words, my throat uttered the same guttural moaning as the…. When my tentative fingertips crept up my neck, I could feel only superficial abrasions. A glance down and I almost came undone. My side had been gnawed; I had a gaping hole above my hips. I screamed, but all I heard was an unnatural shrieking. Eventually I calmed down enough probe the wound. There was no blood and no pain. It seemed I had no more natural reflexes, because even though I was overwhelmed with revulsion when I pushed the ragged skin flap back, I didn’t gag.

I began panicking. I was one of them: the risen. They were the very danger I had been escaping from. I couldn’t remember how I came to be here, how I turned into one. It had been dark, we’d been running through the trees, they’d been close behind us… That was where I drew a blank.

I pushed myself up from the grass, and started shuffling toward the foothills of the mountain. Luckily, I still remembered where the cabin was tucked, in a blind corner of the valley, hidden from view and with an obscure path up a shallow creek. I looked about me, at discarded parts in the grass, the signs of struggle, and shivered. The sooner I got there, the better. My friends could help me.

It took me the better part of the day to get to the valley, as my feet dragged in every root and twisted in every hollow they could. The only benefit of being undead was I no longer felt any pain, my body was just responding more slowly with every hour that went on. The shadows were long streaks of darkness on the ground as my foot plunked into the stream.

Several times, I slipped on rocks covered in algae. On one spill, there was a sickening crack as my jaw hit, and when I got up, it hung more loosely than before. I tried to be careful, to take my time, but my coordination had disappeared since my death.

The upper valley turned silver as the moon rose overhead, turning the homely rocks into beautiful staircase winding upward. I wondered if my friends were sitting in the attic with the skylight open, as we had many evenings in the past, talking about what to do in the future and the people who we missed. For how much longer would I be able to appreciate the world around me like this? My ragged sigh was drowned in the gentle sounds of the stream.

It was early morning when I rounded into the hidden cleft of the valley, the hut disguised by big bushy trees. I stumbled into the clearing on the other side and sat, looking at what appeared to be a dilapidated door. I knew better. When the bellbirds began stirring, so would my friends.

Kate was the first out of the door, no doubt planning on her usual early morning dip. She was her typically careful self and started when she saw me move in the shadow of the tree. Slowly, with random and uncoordinated movement, she slipped back to the house. I knew that they would observe me now, watch for what I would do. All I had to do was wait.

It was late in the afternoon when Kate stepped out, armed and strung tighter than a bowstring. She walked towards me, stopped, and then moved again. She crouched away from me, ready to spring, her green eyes level with mine, flicking around my body to my damage. She definitely recognised me.

“Pete?” Her voice was level and soft, but she didn’t move a muscle.

I tried to speak but groaned gutturally instead. Kate scuttled backwards but didn’t retreat fully.

She tried again. “Do you know where you are?”

I nodded my head limply. I gestured my pale, slightly green arm at the cabin. This time she didn’t run. She bit her lip, regret flitting over her face. A thinking risen was an event we hadn’t a plan for, especially not when it was one of our friends who became undead.

“I have to talk to the others. Can you wait here?”

The clearing dropped back into silence when Kate closed the door. I was happy waiting. The door burst open as John strode through it, waving a machete. A flag flew up in my memory, but it was still in the dark recesses of two nights ago. John was impetuous and aggressive, he was a real danger to me right now. I struggled up, my lip turned up and I even growled. He turned to face me as the others poured out from the house, their bodies taut with stress, everyone armed.

“See?” John yelled, gesturing at me. “He’s jus’ the same.”

“Pete,” Kate spoke clearly and calmly across the space. “Show the others he’s not right.”

Slowly, I dragged myself back, tried to lower my hackles. I saw their expressions; some were unconvinced but others I knew just wanted me back and they looked hopeful. John turned and towered over me, and suddenly it all became clear.

I had almost passed John, with the risen just behind us, their hunger driving them on. He saw me, I saw the whites of his eyes. I saw his arm move before I felt the bat hit me. Blinded by pain, I tumbled, and fell beneath the crunching jaws of the undead tide.

Growling, I crouched, the red haze of fury tinting my world. John’s eyes showed that he knew I remembered, and then that he suddenly realised how close he was to me. I was not going to suffer alone.

“Pete, no!” Kate was begging me.

I heard them all cry out, but it was drowned in the wet screams as John received the repayment for his kindness.


Inspired by one of my favourite songs, Samson by Regina Spektor, which was my iTunes random selection, as advocated by a new terribleminds challenge.

For a man with hands so chapped and rough, his were the softest hands that had touched her in a long time. It was with the reverence of admiring the softest silk that he ran the strands of her hair through his fingers, remarking in hushed tones, “It’s so beautiful, this red.”

When he invited her to bed, it was the first time ever that she went willingly. It was with gentleness and understanding that he wiped the tears from her cheek, kissed the curve of her neck and held her until the tears subsided. When she woke, their hair was tangled together, the raven and the red.

In the weak light of morning, he watched her dress, wrapping her shawl modestly over her hair, and did not laugh at her modesty now. His dark eyes met hers, a question unasked on his lips. It was interrupted by a shout and shuffle in the dirt outside. He bundled her up, hid her in a small cellar, and went out to meet the soldiers.

Her heart thumped in her ears and she shut her eyes tightly, pulling her dress about her. If they found her in here…The sounds of battle, the ringing of metal on metal, shouts of pain and fear, were new to her, and she wept in silent terror. He came to her, his clothes wet and stained pink. He carried her out in his arms, and she quivered in fear of him, seeing men laid out, dead and bleeding, a sea of red and shit and tears. He put her on his horse, and took her to the city gates. Men ran from him and he took those bricks down, one by one, smashing them to slivers to prove his point.

Standing beside the horse, seeing her fright, his hand holds hers with gentleness he had not today demonstrated. “Delilah, you will only ever know my gentleness. Do not fear me as others do. I want you to remember last night; did you not at least love me a little then?”

Remembering the tenderness no one had ever shown her before, Delilah knew she had, at least in part. “I did.”

“Then be my wife. I promise, I will always take care of you.”

Delilah nodded, tucking an escaping red lock back into the blue shawl, a match to her unusual eyes. “As long as you promise never to let me go back to this life.”

That night, they celebrated their nuptials under a canopy of stars.

“When I see the starlight in your eyes, I can believe that we might all be children of the heavens.” Samson’s eyes were bright as he kissed his bride.


Her wedded life had been blissful. Samson had delivered on his promise. In his hometown, he was considered a hero, and she was given respect she’d never had before.

It was why she couldn’t have foreseen the men in the mountains that afternoon. When Samson found her on the path, her face misshapen from the bruising and the blood congealing on her skin, she was unconscious. When he scooped her up, she screamed her agony through her unconsciousness.

Eventually she came to, and in a darkened room, where she didn’t have to look at the pain in his eyes, she told him of their initial promises of silver, and when she refused to cooperate, the beatings and then of what followed. Still, she hadn’t told them the secrets of her husband’s power. Eventually, her hand in his, she fell asleep again.

The healer told them that he didn’t expect her to survive. Her injuries were severe. Samson, head in hands, was broken. He had her taken to his mother’s house, where they could share her care.

In the morning, Delilah’s breathing was shallower. Samson took shears to his head, slashing at his hair. He didn’t want this burden any more. Clinging to his arm, his mother wept.

“Leave us,” he thundered at her. Weeping, she turned away.

They didn’t wait long. As he waited, Samson thought of his happiness, lying and slowly dying upon her sick bed. Docile and weak as a lamb he went.

They mocked him for his tears. “She was only a woman,” they said, putting out his eyes for his weakness. Whispers in the dark told him she was dead, what they had done to her. They put him to the wheel, shackles chafing upon his wrists. Slowly, his hair grew back.

To show off their conquest, the local forces paraded him in front of gathered officials. He was chained to the columns in the great hall, hung like a sheet on a line.

He could hear the soft swish of garments, the gentle pad of dancing feet. One passed near him, he could hear her adornments jingling.

“You promised.”

He knew that voice. Lifting the once proud head, he listened, hearing the girls’ dancing revolution.

“Release me.”

Samson struggled to his feet. He would fulfil his promise to his bride. Fingers curling around the cold links of chain, Samson pulled. All around him, the babble continued, people enjoying the event. Slowly, he built the tension in the bindings. He heard the first cracks of the stone, overwhelmed by the hubbub of the gathered crowd. He continued to pull, with arms kept strong by working in the mills.

Only as the building began to shake did they look up from their feasting and self-satisfied back-patting. The shrill screams of the dancing women echoed about the frightened shuffling of a thousand feet.

He felt her slide in between his astride legs, her arms wrapping around his calf. With a great yank, he pulled. Around them, the walls crumbled in great boulder-sized chunks. As the roof fell in, Samson covered his Delilah with his body, to protect her one final time.

Best intentions

I published this over at Readwave first. It’s a follow-on from A Mentor’s Mantle.


Change the world, he said. Do for others, he said.

Ella Fritz tossed another tool out as she continued on her hunt for blueprints. The whole laboratory had been tossed, someone looking for her mentor’s opus. It was a vain hope that she would find it; likely, if it had been here, it was already gone.

Her eyes smarting with frustration, she kicked a large cog, which went sliding across the room, smearing the concreted floor. With a satisfying ding, it hit the wall. Ella raised her head at the ticking sound that emanated faintly from behind the panel. Pushing aside her skirts and rising to her feet, she explored the wall, fingertips gently probing at the joins. On the floor level, a tiny raised bump slid in with some encouragement. The panel popped out with a soft hiss.

Ella slid the door sideways to find a movie projector, the reel clicking as it rolled over and over. She stopped the projector and unspooled the film. There was definitely something recorded on it.

Setting it up again, being careful not to damage the precious recording, Ella flicked the switch and watched it play on the blank wall opposite. The film was silent, and it began with her mentor frantically pointing at his gold pocket watch. She watched him tuck it into an obscure pocket on his waistcoat.

The film blanked out for a moment before she could see him again, standing by the bench. He was pretending calm, but Ella, a lifetime study in the moods of Professor Alberé, could see the fear in the flutter of his hands against his coat. Even though she knew it was futile, she internally begged him to get out one of the pistols she had kept in the drawer by the door. He would never pick them up; a man of principle and peace had no use for weapons, he had said.

The men who entered were masked, dressed darkly to match their deeds. The hulking form carried a shotgun, sawn off and deadly, and he waved it at the Professor. Another, standing with stately form by the shoulder of the first was clearly quiet, waiting. Ella saw his lips move in slow and deliberate speech and watched the Professor’s face fade a shade or two. This went on for a few tedious minutes, Ella knowing what happened at the finale.

With hot, useless tears, she watched her noble benefactor crumple to the floor, the spreading stain of a life draining away staining his work suit. Gritting her teeth to watch to the end, she saw the men demolishing the lab in a futile search. The slight right-sided limp of the smaller man brushed a memory in Ella’s brain, but it didn’t come to the surface.

Eventually the men left, attempting to start a fire, which would be foiled by the Professor’s ingenious sprinklers. Ella’s eyes remained fixed on Alberé, knowing he was long dead, lying there in the pool of his lifeblood.They killed him to steal what he would have freely given to help the world.

She restarted the film, watched his initial movements. She took his watch from the pocked in her own waistcoat, rolling it over in her hands. She watched the sequence again. He was pointing at it, and pointing at her. Ticking over, her brain was weighing up the possibilities, and she’d never been very good at charades.

It clicked! He was pointing at the projector. Exploring every angle with her fingers and peering at the machinery, she couldn’t see a spot where her watch might fit. She flicked it open, looking at the moving parts, at the ornate filigree. The shapes were strange. She realised that this was not the original cover to the watch. Holding it into the light, she turned to look at the wall. There was a map, structures, some calculations…

From outside, there came the soft thud of a landing. Ella stiffened, her heart racing. With fumbling fingers, she closed the film into a case, tucking it under her arm. The watch she shoved deep into her brassiere and slipped out a small backdoor.

She piled into her basket, quickly unwinding the ties, willing her patchwork balloon into the sky.

As she drifted out into the canyon, she looked back at three figures on the clifftop beside their hired craft.

She would find out who they were.

Infinity Sailor

Taking on another of Chuck Wendig’s prompts, I rolled two 10s to get the above title. This is what came of it.


A wave like a small mountain hovered above the weather-worn sloop like a warning. But it mercilessly crashed down anyway, snapping the homemade mast in two. It tugged the blue sails into the darkening sea, tipping the ship precariously. Sobbing with terror, Pania sliced at the ropes with her hunting blade, her frozen fingers slipping on the handle. Another wave slammed her hard against the railing and the rope trailed through her fumbling fingers. Listing where the sail had gone under, the boat whirled around, trying not capsize.

Scrabbling across the slick deck, Pania grabbed on to the taut rope and sawed.  A sudden keel and her hand gushed blood, dull under the storm clouds hanging low. Despite the stinging in her hand she kept sawing, the thrashing of her former sails making the boat swing and dance about.

Another wave blasted over the deck of the boat, swirling Pania off her feet and slamming her head against the boards. She was saved from being swept overboard only by the line she’d secured herself to the boat with. Groggily, she realised she had lost the knife. As lightning forked overhead, she caught the glint of silver. She dived, stretching for the knife, as the ocean relentlessly pounded her down.

It was gone, and her boat was being dragged under by the weight of the water in the sails. Pania wondered whether it would be better to chance the open waters until the partially cut rope snapped with the weight and she was flung from the boat.

Even with the tether, she was being subsumed by the raging waters, one wave slamming on her head before she’d had a chance to take a breath after the last. Weakening from the struggle and her bleeding hand, the cold sapping the little energy she had left, Pania drifted. She would never again see the rolling hills of home or hear the calls of the kea. The old men who didn’t believe in her would be right. Sinking felt so peaceful.

Vaguely, she might have noticed being lifted in the air, on to a sleek, metallic boat. If you asked at that moment, Pania would have said it was a dream. When she awakened, she had no memory of her rescue.

In a bunk, with a scratchy blanket tucking her in tightly, Pania silently panicked. She didn’t recall escaping the grip of the waves, nor any of this brushed metal rescue vessel. Only the roll of the room gave away that she was still on the sea.

Climbing quietly and gingerly from the bed, Pania tried to remember. She was dressed in a fluoro-yellow jumpsuit, warm socks on her feet.

Suddenly an image appeared in front of her, of a man. “Welcome to the Nightingale, friend. I am glad to see you are awake.”

Pania reached out.  She had heard tales of what once had been, before the Catastrophe, but it was so beautiful. The shimmer of light, projected into pure air.

“My name is Sam. Come upstairs to the helm.”

Pania startled as the wall moved back and she peered into the dim stairwell. She darted up the stairs, bounding from step to step. Another door hissed open, revealing bright sunshine. Overhead, the sky was clear and calm, and the light only enhanced the sleek metal lines of the ship. The way she skimmed on the surface was like a thing of magic.

A ladder led her toward the now unblemished blue of the sky. Pania ascended toward the bridge, the mirrored glass hiding her host from her view. With hesitancy, she entered the darker room.

Turning at the sound of her step, Sam was all smile, all the way up to his jewel green eyes. “I’m so glad to see you up and about.”

“I’m Pania.” Her hand took his and shook it. It was cooler than she was expecting.

“So,” Pania’s hand stroked the well-tended console reverently, admiring the whorls of her warrior status reflected in the surface, “how did you come by a ship from the before?”

Sam’s expression was confused. “The before?”

“You know. Before the Catastrophe?”

“What catastrophe? Where?” Forehead furrowing, Sam looked back at her blankly.

“Everywhere.” Pania stared at him. “How could you not have known?”

“I only just started commanding this vessel. We launched from Sydney 6 months ago.”

Pania blinked. “Sydney was one of the worst hit, almost 300 years ago. It’s been submerged for that long.”

Sam was incredulous. “I would have heard about it, and certainly would have made a log about it. When did you say it happened?”

“June 5th, 2063.”

“But it’s only May 20th today.”

“As best my people calculate it, it’s 2252.”

Sam turned away, his fingers flying over a console, where reams of dates spooled. All the same. Excepting the very last one, a week before the Catastrophe.

“How long have you been on this boat Sam?” Pania whispered, her eyes fixed on the screen.

A recording appeared near her head. It was Sam, his face as smooth as it was now. Distress twisted his features.

“I can’t do this on my own Carolynne. But I haven’t heard from you, and I know you would have found a way, if you were alive.”

“I searched for you, in the debris.” A stifled sob. “All of those people. Someone’s pool noodle. A paperback. A floating cemetery of everyday lives. No one deserved that.”

“It was supposed to be you and me together with just the open sea for a while. I feel like I’m slowly going crazy.”

An arm dashed across the image’s face. “When I said I couldn’t live without you, it wasn’t a lie. I have to erase all this, so I can dream you’re still coming home. I’m going back two weeks, continually erasing for as long as I can.”

“Goodbye firebrand. I miss you.”

The recording folded down to a square of light that flicked back into the console. Pania stood silently, assessing Sam whose face was wracked with grief.

“How are you still here Sam?”

Lifting his head for a moment, Sam smiled weakly. “I almost died in a severe accident. My brain was intact, so they saved me and put me in this body.”

Hand sliding palm facing revealed a glow. “My atomic heart powering my housing. I am an android.”

“Nightingale was designed to be a rescue ship, sailing Australian waters to rescue those in distress. When the last global war hit, and refugees were dying by the thousands in the Strait, this was the answer of the Australian people.”

“And who better to power it than the robotic naval captain?” His voice was bitter and far away.

“Have you been alone all this time?” Pania placed her hand on his arm.

“I don’t know.”

“I was trying to reach Australia,” Pania ventured. “I need to know if there are others alive out there. The Nightingale could help me, help us.”

Sam didn’t answer, his head bowed, hands in his artificial hair.

“I won’t leave you alone.” Pania squeezed his arm and he looked up at her.

He didn’t answer, but with some deft movements at the main console, he set a course.


Outside, the world rushed by, graffiti streaking the motion blur of grey. On the seat beside my friend, I was bored. Where was the adventure? Wearing multicoloured dots, a girl is destined for a wider world than the back and forth, the nine to five.

When my friend pushed her way to the door, her grey coat quickly lost in the crush of commuters, I couldn’t help it–my skirts trilled with excitement. The adventure begins! As the train pulled out from the station, now mostly emptied, I sat by the window, unobtrusively watching.

There was an elderly man looking my way, but I could already tell that he wouldn’t risk getting up. A few seats over, a young Asian woman in an adorable pleated skirt and high sock combo looked down at her phone giggling. She looked liked fun. Despite my repeated efforts of subliminal suggestion, the girl’s head remained bowed, her ponytails bobbing as she laughed. Ah well, her loss.

What do you mean I’m in a huff? All that from a rustle of my raiment? The indignant is all in your interpretation.

It’s just…I have to be invited along. I’m no unwanted tag-along.

After riding around for several hours, a woman got on her with her young daughter. Swinging her feet shyly, the girl looked at me. Trust me, adorable with a capital A.

“Look at the pretty umbrella Mummy.” I liked her even more. The child clearly had good taste. “Can we take it?”

The mother turned from her book, focusing through her glasses on the other side of the seats. “Hmm. I guess we do need an umbrella. Sure honey.”

Gingerly sliding from the seat, the little girl gently picked me up. Her hands smelt like honey and were sticky. I was placed reverently in the little girl’s lap. I could get used to this treatment.

When we disembarked, I was swinging by the little girl’s side.

“The zoo!”

Even I flinched at that supersonic squeal. The smell of the animals was certainly a giveaway. I love the zoo; all those interesting animals.

The sun was struggling through the clouds and I knew I would be put away.

Gently pushing at the edges of the mother’s conscious mind, I made her think of the sun on her darling’s tender skin.

“Why don’t you open the umbrella Madeline? You can keep the sun off.”

Good to know my powers of persuasion weren’t failing.

We walked around the zoo, admiring the beauty of all the animals. I liked the orangutans best; they always look like little furry Buddhas to me.

Madeline got really excited at the baby elephant. “Look Mummy. He’s really small and hiding.”

In all that excitement, she forgot to pick me back up again. As it was getting late in the afternoon, I was ignored. I didn’t mind.

It was almost closing time when she arrived. Pink, spiked hair and a smartly cut leather jacket. The twinkle of all her piercings caught my eye. But it was the sharp awareness in those grey eyes that made me like her. She didn’t miss a trick. With her long lens, she was taking shots of mother and baby, completely focused.

I almost thought I was going to have to trip her, so powerful was that focus. Eventually though, she picked out the polka dots. “Oh, you poor thing. Left behind.”

She brushed my dust off and tucked me into the side of her backpack.

Suddenly, a rock song blared beside me. With deft maneuvering, she flicked it into her hand, and started packing up her gear.

“Hey Jen!”

“Oh, that’s ok sweetie. I go tomorrow. But listen; I’ll be back from New York before you know it.”

New York! That was where a stylish girl should be. Now this would be the start of a grand adventure.

Whisper, continued.

This is a first and a real challenge for me. I have never written the ending to someone else’s short story, though I did collaborate when I was much, much younger (one day we’ll write that best-seller together, Maryam). 

This week, I am continuing in the challenge with Chuck Wendig over at his terribleminds blog to take someone else’s cliffhanger and continue it. I chose to write the ending to a story called Whisper, an intriguing piece by writer Margit Sage. Please take a look at her story before you read mine.

Raina picked her way timidly down the dank and dirty alley, looking sideways at the dingy bricks, hoping to find a door between the scrawling tags and tattered notices. Stepping over a murky puddle, she stumbled on the uneven ground and crashed into garbage, pieces of paper and refuse flying everywhere.

Picking herself up, and pulling a piece of towelette from her–what was that; don’t think about it–she turned with disgust and spotted the door. It was innocuous, badly faded boards with the scraps of what might have once been red paint, now a rusty streak here and there. As she got closer, she could see the gouges from where someone had tried to open it, probably with a crowbar. Beside the door, there was a plain black button beneath a grilled opening. Was it a buzzer?

Silence followed. A loud crackle made her step back. Somewhere overhead she heard a grinding, machinery on the move.

“Who’s there?” Almost as friendly as the reception she’d had in the cemetery.

“Ms. Edwinson. I am the executor of James Edwinson’s estate.”

The door creaked open. Raina wished, the first time she ever had, that there was–somebody–anybody waiting for her at home. She supposed she should have told her landlady, just in case. She peered into the dark opening, hearing clanking and the sliding of a big metallic door. A hush followed the gush of a hydraulic device, leaving Raina awkwardly contemplating escape.

“Ms. Edwinson?” A professional woman’s voice echoed from the chamber within.

Pressing her courage to the sticking-place insistently, Raina cleared her throat and stepped into the darkness. As her eyes adjusted, she could see a plump woman, hair drawn back, the highlighted edge or a pair of librarian-style glasses.

“Follow me.” With a sharp turn on her heel, and a quickness of step that had Raina almost running after her, the woman delved deeper into the building, to the light at the end of a wide corridor.

Catching up to the woman, Raina could see she was in her sixties, but sharply dressed. Definitely the gatekeeper.

“Excuse me, but I don’t think that I caught your name.”

With the tiniest smile, the woman replied. “You can call me Doctor McTaggart.”

Stepping into a light so bright it seared her retinas, Raina and the Doctor came to the end of the corridor.

“What is this place?” Raina could see people in private consultation rooms, their identities protected by frosted glass. An assistant came out, holding a vial of rich red blood.

“What we sell here, Ms. Edwinson, is a chance at immortality.”

Doctor McTaggart guided her into an elevator. Raina made sure she watched for the floors, so she knew her way out. At their floor, she drew aside one of the frosted doors and ushered Raina in. The room was comfortable, well appointed, sedate in dark browns and greens.

“Are those Mr. Edwinson’s ashes?”  With an authoritative gesture, she indicated that Raina was to hand them over.

“There’s a video for you to watch.”

Slowly, the room darkened and the temperature cooled. A screen dropped slowly from the ceiling. There was a blip, and there was her uncle, full of life. Raina guessed it had been made about 5 years ago. Probably around the time he was initially diagnosed with the cancer.

“Hello Raina. If you’re watching this, I’m probably dead. You probably have no idea what you’re doing here or what this facility is. I’m sorry about the secrecy but it’s part of my contract with them. Life Industries offer to make sure your memory is retained.” His laughter was tinny in the speakers. “I wish I could see your face right now. You’d have that serious little expression, with the knitted brows and wrinkle in your nose.”

Raina self-consciously changed expression, feeling as if someone were watching.

“Take it easy, Raina. Let an old man have his memories. This is part of my last will and testament, and accordingly, I bequeath my entire estate to the last surviving member of my kin, my niece, Ms. Raina Edwinson.”

A little knot in that had been building in her stomach since that discovery in the safe loosened. She hadn’t wanted the family estate or responsibilities, but the thought of it going to someone who didn’t understand the significance of their history would have upset her.

“I assume someone will be along with the all the corresponding paperwork soon, my dear. Now let me tell you what I’ve done.” The image of her uncle began playing with a dirty, great gem. “With my ashes, that by now, no doubt, the resourceful McTaggart has taken from you, I am to be formed into two gems. One will be for you to remember me by. The other my dear is going to be inscribed with some details about my honourable self; about what made me, well, me!”

“Take a look out the window,” he chortled, having a great time. “Look I say!” The image paused, and sighed. “Raina, you haven’t got all day.”

Hesitantly Raina made her way to a curtain on the far side of the room. Drawing it back, she saw a burning trail in the sky, a smoke tail lingering behind as it punched through the heavy grey cloud layer.

Her uncle’s video crowed, “Shot into space in a miniature rocket. My inscribed gem, some of my blood preserved for posterity, and a data chip all about me.”

Raina shook her head. Her uncle had some crackpot ideas, but this one really took the cake. A diamond on a rocket into space. Apparently he’d had too much time, and definitely too much money.

“Raina,” the voice was gentle, caring. “Take care of yourself. Look after our family’s legacy.”

The video blipped out, and Doctor McTaggart was back. One hand held a bulky envelope which undoubtedly held the will, an edited copy of the recording, and the gem they’d made from his ashes. In the other was a clipboard with a non-disclosure agreement.

Weary of forms, Raina scratched her name on the page and turned to leave.

With a strange and alarmed look on her face, Doctor McTaggart pressed her hand to her ear. “If you’ll please excuse me, there’s been an incident I have to attend to. One of my staff will collect you and escort you out momentarily.”

The door shut behind her with a decided click. Raina leaned against the wall. The door opened within a minute. “Time to go, Ms. Edwinson.”

In the silence of the elevator, the assistant hummed. Raina was exhausted and it was only as she was being left again in the dirty alleyway that she recognised it as Ride of Valkyries; her uncle’s favourite tune.

She looked up and into a face that appeared right out of her childhood memories.

“Uncle James?”

There was a crinkly smile, a wink, and the gentleman ducked past her and ran down the alley.


Prompted by the Cooperative Cliffhanger challenge at terrible minds. An original story with these characters was published with Readwave (read about my first experience here).


There was the click of heels on the floor, preceded by the creak of a unhappily yielding lock and the echoes of timid knocking. In the silence of the house, there was just the clicking of the clock hand and the scrape of shoes on tile. James followed the dark footprints on the cream carpet, his heart beating wildly, unsure of the emotions but riding the surging adrenaline. The tip-tapping coming from the kitchen was the staccato of impatience.

James turned the corner and stood, his beefy arms folded and head tilted with an attitude of disbelief.

“Well look what the cat dragged in…”

Liesel brushed back the long strands of her blonde hair, resurrecting the warm smile she’d been practicing for the last hour.


“How did you get in here?”

This was not the welcome she’d been expecting. Flippantly, she gestured at the key sitting in crumbs of dirt on the tabletop. “The spare. In the place we always left it.”

James grunted. He always forgot that damn key. He looked away, swallowing the rising upset, or the rising anger, he wasn’t sure which was winning the battle at this moment.

He turned back as Liesel, who at that moment wrapped her arms around him. He narrowly dodged a kiss aimed at his lips, and Liesel planted a kiss on the upsweep of his bristly cheek. A little miffed, Liesel stood back, crossing her arms defensively.

James stood looking back at her. She looked well, kempt and healthy. Not like she’d been living rough. Someone had cared for her. He was both gladdened and angered by that.

“Where have you been Liesel? We’ve been out of our minds.” Muscles reflexively twitched in his arms. James was thinking of all of the tearful phone calls he’d shared with Liesel’s mother, Jane; the way his heart rent every time, Jane could have been his own mother. Useless frustration at being unable to find her. Police officers who remained unhelpful and distant. What could they do with no leads and a history of disappearances?

“I can’t really talk about it,” Liesel cast her eyes down, a flash of silver and blue against her neck. “Didn’t you get my note?”

“Fat lot of good that note did.” His words were spat from his mouth with a violence that scared them both. Shaking, James backed away, balling his fists by his side. He could smell the musk of his own sweat.


“You were gone for three years Liesel.” The dull thud of his hand on the wall made her jump. The fever pitch of his voice . “Three years and not a word. We thought you were dead.”

Liesel’s eyes were big and blue looking back at him, like she always did in the situation where she’d done wrong. A child who never knew that her actions hurt other people. James was trying to breathe slowly, to stop the jittering of his nerves.

“But I couldn’t James. If I could show you what I’d seen. There are places in this universe

Harsh laughter caught her off guard. James’ expression was not sympathetic or engaged by her story. He was bordering on hysteria and his face was mottled with red spots. “Spare me your fairytales, Lis. I am done with your versions of truth.”

It was the odd ring in his voice, the bright hardness in his dark brown eyes that held her. This was not the man she had left. He was sharper this time, his bitterness honed on the years he’d wondered at her fate. All the time, she’d been gazing at all the wondrous beauty of the galaxy, of quasars and stars burning for thousands of years, of little green men and the ponderous shapes races took in worlds beyond their immediate solar system.

She had been chosen, and answered the call, not really counting on the personal toll of gallivanting across space. She had thought her James, with his seemingly endless patience and vast love for her, she had thought he would get it. And he’d been here. With all of the questions, and none of the answers.

“James, I am sorry.” Matching the sincerity of her feelings by attempting to connect with him, she lowered her head, tried to reach his eyes. “I didn’t think about you in this.”

His head shook sadly; this admission was far too late to make any difference to him.

“But you have to believe me,” she pleaded. “This was crucial, and beyond us as two little people.”

“It wasn’t to me.”

A slight tilt of his head. Liesel turned to see what he was looking at and James began to scoop up her items from the table, swiftly, angrily. “I need you to leave.”

As he loaded them into Liesel’s arms, she scrabbled to catch falling loose bits. “We need to talk.”

He spun on his heel and looked directly at her. “Yes. We do. Not today.”

His hand large and warm on her shoulder as she remembered, he guided her towards the door. Plaintive sounds came from her, but they weren’t forming coherent sentences, and Liesel was getting really frustrated with the way this was going. She wasn’t expecting the greatest homecoming, but she thought it would be better than this.

With a creak, the key turned in the lock, and Liesel looked up, catching the slump of James’ shoulders and his hissing sigh. For a brief moment, it was just a woman’s silhouette in the doorway, bright light from the outside flooding in. A soft click of the door lock and the three faced off in the dim, deathly quiet hallway.

“James?” Her voice was rich and questioning.

“Ella,” his reply was wary, “this is Liesel.”

The curls bounced as her head tipped to the side. “Ah. Liesel. A pleasure.”  Her hand, encased in an elegant suit jacket, extended in a gesture of warmth.

“And you are?” Liesel’s smile held, perplexed, as she returned the warm shake.

James cleared his throat, shifting uncomfortably. “Ella is my wife, Liesel.”