A useless love-a connection or affinity that doesn’t fit into the plans of anyone concerned.

It was his smile that killed her. Gap toothed and cheek to cheek. What a way to end a week. Showing him the room he would stay in, he ran around touching everything with awe and excitement.

“Don’t expect him to talk,” the harried looking social worker said as she’d bundled him into Joy’s arms. “Aaron is not supposed to have said much before, but he’s saying even less now.”

His little curls bobbing he bent over a dinosaur that had slipped from the toy box. With a child’s unknowing roughness, he made it stomp all over the walls. The quiet was a little strange to Joy, having had many temporary guests over the years, and she was used to playtime being a raucous time. At least he was settling in. Joy left him to it; she was on dinner duty tonight.

When Bonnie came home with Ria, Aaron was washed and warm in his pjs, sleepy-eyed and stroking his lapels. Bonnie kissed Joy warmly, her hands stroking the red frizz of her hair. She turned to little Aaron, his mouth open. Bonnie laughed, and squatted to greet their newest member, “And who is this delightful little fella?”

We all waited respectfully for him to say and Bonnie even tickled his little tummy. But he just smiled shyly and shuffled in my direction. I tousled his hair. “This is Bonnie. She’s my wife.”

I guided him into the kitchen, to stand beside our little gloom cookie. She laughed when we called her that; at least with the change in her music and outward appearance, she hadn’t lost her humour. Ria was just expressing the adult processing of a lot of sad events that had happened in her life. For her, it would always be a phase; we could see her struggling against a culture of blaming others for her pain, even though she might have earned the right too. “Hey little buddy.”

“This is Ria. She’s our only other friend staying now.” We smile at each other, knowing that we are not always friends now that she’s a teenager. Small children seem to understand that better than surrogate and foster carer.

“Ok, it’s bedtime buddy!”

Aaron took my hand and followed me meekly. It was unusual to have a foster child so well behaved, but not unheard of. Still, given what he’d been through, he should have had a meltdown by now. I mentally sighed. We were probably going to be in for quite a day tomorrow.


We woke to screaming. In our blindness we knocked over a lamp and tripped on a rug. Bonnie got to his bedside first, the nightlight glowing gently and highlighting the tight torque of the twisted sheets. The little sweaty brow with the matted curls, the eyelids fluttering, the dream war still raging; this here was our screamer.

“No, Jimmy. No!”

I got the softest hint of smoke. I looked over to Bonnie, who stroked his forehead and whispered soothingly to him. Slowly, his eyes opened and he gazed at us unseeing. Our hands underneath him, we gently unrolled him and straightened the bedsheets.

“Who was Jimmy?” Bonnie asked as we climbed back beneath the sheets and cuddled.

“I can’t be sure, but the social worker said that the mother and boyfriend were in custody being questioned about a fire that broke out with Aaron in the house. Luckily a neighbour saw the smoke and Aaron at the window. I think he was already being monitored before this happened.”

I had seen small injuries on his body as I’d gotten him in the bath. How any person could hurt a helpless babe I could never understand, and it was hard not to let my boiling blood take over. Maybe there was a reason the kid was so obedient. The thought made me swallow hard. These thoughts would not let me sleep well.

“We’re their safe place, love,” Bonnie stroked my hair and shoulders, knowing where my thoughts were taking me. “You can’t undo what happened to them before they got here.”

“I know.” I sighed, and rolled over, looking at the moonlight on my familiar side, my possessions littered about in my cluttered way. “I know.”

Bonnie wrapped around me, her breath warm on the back of my neck. Her breathing steadied and I knew she was asleep. For a while, I watched the wall instead, before exhaustion eventually brought me down.


Dressing Aaron the next morning, I couldn’t help my soft hiss as I noticed some mild, fresh burns on his brown little body. Poor little tike. I plastered the smile back on my face so he doesn’t think it’s him that making me angry.

As I tided up Aaron’s room, the smell of smoke or ash or something still bothered me. I smelt it as I made the bed. As I shook out Aaron’s pjs, I noticed singe marks. But, I had brought these brand new the day before.

I talked to Bonnie about it, who shrugged it off. Maybe it had come from some other source, some grease or grime. I didn’t have another explanation, so I had to let it go.

The following month was quiet, Aaron seemed to be settling in. No midnight calling out. No misbehaviour. A perfect little guest really. He loved reading with us, and with him tucked under our arms, he inched his way into our hearts. We knew he would only be  with us a short time, but falling in love with his dear self had not been part of our plan.

It had been my turn to work late, a covered shift at the hospital. I was bone-tired, my hands shaking with weariness and I rounded the last corner before home. The bright red and blue flashing stung the back of my eyes. A policeman waved me off the road and blindly I parked and looked at the house. My house, with tiny embers floating up into the night, blackened with soot, its roof largely gone. I went for my phone and saw Bonnie’s missed calls.

Across the lawn, the dew cool on my feet, and I found my family on the verandah of our neighbours across the street. All of them were there, and safe. Running to Bonnie, I wrapped her up in my arms, kissed her and grabbed in Ria and Aaron. Our neighbour Jane took the kids inside and I allowed my burning eyes to cry as we turned and looked at our damaged house.

“What happened?” I asked Bonnie, looking at the way her mouth pulled down in the corner.

“I don’t know,” her voice broke and she fingered my sleeve. “I was working in the lounge and the kids were in bed. I heard Aaron cry out and as I got up, there he was at the door. He was sleepwalking.”

She looked at me then, her dark brown eyes wide with confusion. “He kept saying, ‘No, Djimmy.’ He was just standing there, looking at me. Then the fires, the flames, behind him…” Bonnie’s lips trembled. “It was like…he was on fire. No. He was on fire. I know he was.”

I held her hand tight, both of us sitting in silent but panicked contemplation. I saw the little shadow toddle into the doorway.

“Aaron,” I held out my arm and he walked into my embrace. “What’s up little man?”

He snuggled in and I heard his sniffles. “Fire.”

“Not your fault Aaron.” I looked over his curls at Bonnie, who still looked a little scared. “All an accident.”

I cradled him with one arm and tugged Bonnie gently. I looked at my tired and frightened wife. Tonight, we needed to rest. Tomorrow, we would decide how to tackle what came next. After all, this little man needed us more than ever.

Scarlet woman

Thin tendrils of mist writhe over the gently lapping water and I stand on the dock, waiting. In my blood, I can feel the thrum of the waiting evening, the dark things uncoiling in the grey, moving unseen in the falling night. Beside me, my malamute Loupe watched, his sharp blue eyes on the shifting around us.

The ferry chugs toward me, drawn by the scarlet allure of my hood, the single point of brightness in the fog. A quiet and drawn young man holds the boat as I step on, and I make small talk as we cross. The flickering of the light on the water gives the youthful face a gravity and solemnity as he talks sparingly. I can see what sort of man he would become in a snapshot.

My footsteps on the boardwalk are a hollow sort of sound, lonely, until my companion’s crisp  scrapes sound beside me. We take a break at a bar, where I nurse a vanilla vodka on the rocks, crisp and clear on my palate, the sweetness my balm to the workings of the world.

I watch a couple inside, intimacy drawing them together over the cliche flickering candle, a warmth and relaxation in their faces evident from what I assume is the wine in those glasses. Loupe’s dark-rimmed ears flick back and forth, his black nose twitching. I rubbed him with my foot; I could feel it too.

Leaving my tumbler empty, I walk. We cross the old tram tracks, over the cobbled streets, wandering along deserted shopping strips. The silence fills the cracks here; it is preternatural and wrong, out of place even on a lonely night like this.

Slipping out of the darkness a girl, her dark head down, wanders into the space. She seems not to notice the stillness, the emptiness. Behind her, it rises, its form neither masculine or feminine, much like the mist surrounding the island. The girl walks on, heeding neither me nor what stalks her. From an alley I watch as it gathers, coalescing, congealing, into a form like a human.

Long ago one of my forebears had been told to watch for the wolf, but it was never the wolf that was the trouble. Oh, the stories they tell all involve the wolf now. People prefer not to be reminded of what waited in the dark, what the small parts of our brain are afraid of when we can not see. The wolves are not that to be feared; treasured companions and keepers.

With a soft rustle of fabric, the girl pass me by, the blue light picking up the soft features of her face. A still forming hand reaches, and the ragged flash of glacier blue, sharp and hungry through the eons.

Charging with energy, my axe, that slid so well and familiar into my palm, lit the alley with silvery light. My nemesis turns a head as they glide past, and I see myself reflected, red coated and glowing, Loupe growling softly beside me.

I step into the cobbled alleyway, sounds lost in the vacuum that the fey brings. Justice sings in my blood, coursing through my limbs. It turns from its prey to face me, gashes for eyes glowing in the darkness.

“Little guardian,” in a voice like age coiling serpentine in the air, “you are far from home and all alone.”

“Not as far as you, fey, and not as hungry.”

It laughs, crisp and cold, with a mouth with the blackness and emptiness of space, as the expected face starts to devolve. “What will you do? Scratch me? You’re just a little girl. I am as old as time, older than your ancestors.”

“You’ve lived far too long then,” I heft my axe. “You need to be released back into the stars.”

It gathers and rushes at me, its edges a thousand slivers of glass. I may have a chance while it is still in a humanoid form. It limits its capabilities and I know where it will be hurt. Swirling out of the way, my cloak takes most of the damage, but a sliver slides cold against a cheek and my blood trickles warm against the cold of my skin.

The pike at the end of my axe has gashed it, a tar-like substance oozes from its malformed leg. With a hiss, it rushes again, icicles pelting through the air at me. A weave of garment lighter than mail but similar in strengths knocks aside the small ones that escape the pendulum of my axe but the bruises flower against my skin beneath. I step forward slow, wind gusting and howling. A well timed one-handed swipe and the body is slipping sideways. A growl of triumph and my companion, treading in my footsteps, shielded by my body, launches forward, his teeth bright daggers in the dark.

There is the sound like the ripping of wet sheets and with a judicious swing, crunching glass. Collapsing downward, a sail released and without the wind, it falls. Black goo bubbles and steams, burning up to nothing, released from existence.

My axe slides deftly beneath my coat, onto my back, and the wolf spits out the chunks he can. I acknowledge his service by kneeling, bending my head to his, and scratching the scruff of his neck.

“Why do they always say just a little girl?” I muse as we walk, the silence disappearing around us. “Do they not know what a girl can do?”

Loupe whines in what feels like sympathy.

I smile down at him. “Clearly, they haven’t met enough little girls.”

We walk into the night, side by side, the wolf and I.

Ingenuity and its fickle heart

On this week’s challenge at terrible minds, it’s mash-up time! I rolled16 &17 for Dieselpunk zombies!

“C’mon Jas,” she begged. “We need to get that foil running.”

Jas rolled out from under the foil, goggles glinting up at her. “May, I can’t do this any faster. But do scream if you see the chompers.”

May cocked the pistol, her wavy dark hair reflected in the shiny barrel. The last thing her Daddy had given her before the girls had left the compound. She aimed her barrel over at the edge of a deserted building, tested the sight. She turned quickly focusing on another crumbling and greying building, and halted, heart hammering in her throat. Tentative exploratory steps began a shuffle shamble. They were coming.

“Uh Jas,” May said, taking a faltering step backwards into the foil, “I think you’re running out of time.”

Jas rolled out and adjusted the lever on her goggles, zooming on the street. “Bugger. One sec.”

With some thunderous clunking under the foil, shaking the mast, the light-weight solar sail undulating and snapping, Jas got to fixing. May watched with increasing trepidation as the hoard closed in on their position.

“Jas…” The drawn out note of fear was enough, she hoped to get her friend moving.

There was a gentle hum as the sails came back on line, a flash on neon blue as they activated. Jas rolled out and jumped up, swinging to pick up the dolly. “See? I knew I could do it!” The smudge of grease on her cheek above her broad smile was adorable.

“Boat now. Gloat later.” May swung her long lead over the side and with ungainly movements slid it.

Jas turned. “Right.” With an elegant bound, she threw her light frame over the side of the foil.

With a flourish Jas stepped in behind the wheel. With a small lurch, the foil slid away from the sidewalk, sliding down the city streak, uneven where plants had forced themselves up through the bitumen, cracking it like a scab.

Only meters away, their shuffling and stumbling footsteps audible, the Lost followed them with glazed eyes in ravaged bodies, torn and the grey-green colour of a gangrene they didn’t feel, the slack-jawed gnawing of their incessantly hungry maws.  It was always the rusty blood on them that chilled May’s blood, or the red flag of a recent feed.

Once, the Lost had been people too; they had felt and laughed and danced. But all the evidence suggested a pruning off in the higher brain areas, reducing the Lost to base instinct. Their bodies sought to repair what was being lost, so they turned cannibal to ingest the easiest source. None of them lasted beyond a year; the flesh at the end became too decrepit.

They rose as one, a great swelling wave of hunger and desperation, gaining on the foil. Others trickled out, joining the surging mass, their pursuit the drumbeat that underscored the fearful beating of the girls’ hearts. The Lost were gaining.

Levelling her pistol, May swallowed her guilt, knowing that they no longer could feel, and started to pick off the leaders with potshots. They went down, rolled right under the feet of the crowd, but others surged forward.

“Don’t mean to hurry you or anything Jas, but they’ll be on top of us in seconds if we don’t HURRY THE HELL UP.”

Jas turned, her long honey brown hair trailing in the wind. “This just turned into a fun outing!”

With a wide swing around the corner, Jas turned the boat down a side street, the foil rolling faster as gravity pushed her with ardour. May could see the shining mass they were barrelling towards.

“Jas.” Her tone was wary, her hand gripped a hand hold, her gun waving at the end of her outstretched arm as she took out another few of their pursuers. “Jas!”

Cackling loudly at the wheel, Jas steered them directly at it. Any moment now they would crash into the water.


They flew in the air for a moment, before slamming into the surface of the water, a green wave washing over them and the deck. A family of ducks, disturbed, buffeted them with the air from their wings, quacking angrily at being disturbed.

As May removed herself from being moulded about the central cabin area, she looked up to see Jas’ triumphant expression as she flicked a switch. Behind the foil came a little burble as an engine somewhere rumbled to life with a little puff of smoke, and they began to move forward.

May picked a piece of stinking weed from her hair and flung it over the side in disgust. “You couldn’t have just told me?”

“More fun this way.” Jas set her goggled eyes at the centre of the lake.

The girls lazed in the sun, their undead friends watching ravenously from the lakeside. Some tried to swim, but between their lack of coordination and lack of buoyancy, none got further than the shallows. Spread out, the rays warming and drying their young bodies, they rested quietly and contently with their shades on.

May sat up, and looked at her friend. Even with the sun on them, her friend’s skin had distinctly gotten paler.

“You feeling alright?” May stroked the silky waves Jas was drying on the deck.

Jas propped herself up. “Just fine, no problems.” The smug look returned. “Want to see what I’ve saved for the grand finale?”

May sat back, preparing to be amazed. It would have to be pretty special. Their hungry friends waited on most areas of the lake bank now. Jas unfolded a handle from the side of the wheelhouse, and as she cranked, the sails retracted and a spoked overhead propellor appeared. With a couple of hard and fast cranks, the engine growled into life, and the blades began to spin. They started to move forward on the water, and Jas pressed a button, allowing their wheel more freedom of movement for steering.

“Hold on.” Her eyes sparkled as May was relegated to a seat with a jerk. She circled around the lake, gaining momentum. On the last lap, staring down the Lost, she gunned it, pulling the wheel towards her. Slowly, ever so slowly, they gained altitude, passing close enough to knock over several of the waiting.

May laughed with joy as they rose up; the freedom, the ingenuity. In the clear and crisp air, they were soaring with the birds. This hadn’t happened since the Blood Years, when the Lost had first appeared. Flying was an art thought lost.

As May looked out, she noticed the foil listing slightly. She turned to Jas, slumped unmoving over the wheel.

“Darling!” Pulling her up, May set Jas on a seat, and pulled the foil to a wavering level.

“I think our day is done,” Jas shouted weakly over the rush of air. “This little clockwork heart has had just too much excitement.”

“Daddy can fix you!” May shouted, fumbling for the throttle. “Just hold on.”

With a small chuckle in the back of her throat, Jas watched her love take the wheel, always level headed in a crisis, even though she wasn’t sure where she was going.

“Second star on the right and straight on ’til morning.”

Jas’ eyes closed, her happiness all around her as together they touched the sky.

The Wendy Lady

Charlie, better known as Spokes for his ability to turn anything into a ride, was pretty new to Neverland and was sure that if there was a better place, one lonely little orphan wasn’t likely to see it.

When Peter had taken his hand and led him from the dingy orphanage that had been his home, Spokes knew it was the happiest moment of his life. No more rules, no more school or chores or cruel Mrs Hudson who ran the orphanage with a Puritanism that would give the most docile child an urge to escape.

His happy thought had been the first bike he built from scraps and spare parts. She was a beauty and rode like the wind, with the noise of a group of boys running sticks along fences. Spokes was pretty sure his second happy thought was flying.

Peter had been here, showing him all the secret places, how to swing on ropes and that he should definitely stay away from the mermaids, who blew him pretty kisses from faces hiding malice and mischief. He showed him how to fight with slingshot, sword and bow and arrow. Spokes vowed one day to do it all from the back of a bicycle.

He introduced Spokes to the Darlings, saving special mention for the Wendy lady. Spokes thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen, with a smile like sunshine.

Today Peter went away and all the colour drained from the hideout. The Lost Boys disappeared quick smart, and Spokes found himself stumbling through the forest, looking for his playmates.

From beside his ear came an agitated tinkling. He turned to find Tinkerbell, burning brightly beside him. He still had trouble understanding her.

“‘Lo Tink!” he winked. “Wha’s this game?”

She blinked and tinkled at him frantically before zooming off into the foliage.

“Tink! Wait!” With clumsy bounds, he ran after her, branches slapping him in the face, roots tripping him.

Spokes stumbled into a clearing , and found the Wendy lady, crouched over something. A soft glow lit up her face from beneath, bringing a chilling element to her smile.

“Ah, Spokes,” her voice was low and dangerous and she didn’t even turn to look at him, “I knew I could count on you.”

Slowly she stood, and Spokes could see Tinkerbell hanging limp, one wing pinched between the Wendy lady’s outstretched fingers. Spokes didn’t know much about faeries, but he was pretty sure that would hurt later.

“All the boys are hiding,” Wendy said in a voice that made Spokes wish he was hiding too. “And my brothers…”

Spokes wasn’t sure what to do. He wouldn’t outrun Wendy if Tink couldn’t. He was afraid. Wendy snatched his hand and held it with none of her gentleness from before. She dragged him back further into the tangled vines and thick stands of trees.

“Where are we going, Wendy lady?”

“To do what needs to be done, of course.”

They came to a cave, its entrance barred closed with rough hewn logs. A curtain of vines had been pinned back, obviously used to hide it previously. From the outside, there was a complicated mechanism of unlocking, and Spokes watched as each of the parts moved. The door swung in and Wendy threw both of her captives in.

“Stay here while I fetch the others. Then, we’ll get to work.”

Spokes didn’t like it. He was feeling like he was back at the orphanage. He sat with his head on his knees for a bit, pushing the dirt around with his toes.

Ever so slightly, the light brightened. Spokes turned as Tink sat up, clutching her head and emitting a high-pitched moan. She tried flapping her wings and faltered, face-planting in the dirt with a pained squeal. Spokes picked her up and put her on his shoulder.

Now that she was awake, he could see the inside of the cave. “What is this place?”

Dangling from the roof he could see a small, clear cage. Perfect size for someone small. And luminescent. There were benches with needles and thimbles.


Tink shook her head, eyes downcast. She pointed at a draping cloth and Spokes whipped it off. Piles of cloth, embroidered delicately with shining silk thread, the russet tone so familiar.

“Hook’s clothes?” Spokes squeaked as he rubbed his head vigorously. “Us?”

Tink nodded slowly. She snuggled into Spokes’ neck. Thoughts like cogs ticked in his brain, one part spurring on another. He took a long stick from the corner and was sad when the little faerie recoiled. Feeding it out a small gap in the door, he expertly maneuvered it out, followed by a skinny arm up to the elbow. Gently, he twisted it, pushing on one small lever. There was an audible click and the door swung open. Tink zipped out and Spokes followed, the whirr of his thoughts almost audible as he rubbed his scraggly hair. Her small light hovering erratically, she waited. He whispered his devious plan to her.

Wendy returned, baby John in hand and two of the smaller boys under her arm. She threw them in and slammed the door, briskly turning away again.

“Wait, Wendy lady!” Spokes called. “Tink is hurt real bad.”

Stopping still, the Wendy lady turned, stiff with worry. Tink was Pan’s favourite; she could not be replaced or explained away. She stalked back, her dress trailing behind her.

Inside the cave, the light flickered and spluttered, Tink looked sure to be done for. Wendy ran to her side, “No, no, no…Tink…”

As she knelt, Spokes looped their makeshift lasso over her and pulled tight, trapping her arms beneath the twisted bonds. Spokes and the other boys hoisted her to the ceiling where she shrieked and struggled and then cajoled. The boys kept her tied until Pan returned.

“It was all for you, to keep things the way you wanted. We have to work to make a life for ourselves. Hook buys, so we make.” Her head hung with shame as she whispered, “I never meant to hurt anybody.”

“But you did Wendy. Maybe you were just too old for Neverland, already caught in the grip of adulthood, of the dreams of having shiny things…”

All the Darlings were returned home, to return never more.

And Spokes…Let’s just say that Neverland never lost its magic for him.


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.


Like fluffy cotton wool, dyed grey and absorbing the sounds and smells of the world about, the fog descended on the city. Where it went, they went, silent footsteps down the streets and alleyways.

She is walking all alone, her confidence worn outside in the studded tattered vest with the patches of half a dozen angry punk bands on the outside and with the unbrushed, unwashed hair, dye faded over months, shoved under the dark beanie. It was the brash conversation with a friend, speaking of illicit things in a tone so loud people three back could hear, to this suddenly quiet person slipping down streets alone; it was this sudden change between that had attracted them.

Those that crept beneath the cover of the fog were the ones of legend that had been preying on the solitary, the weak, or those that would give them sport; these others had been driving the fog for thousands of years, feeding from the luckless around the Thames and in the deep, dark forests that the Hellenic and Celtic feared for exactly these predators and tricksters of lonely places. For centuries, they had drawn the fog with them like a screening cloak, used it for play and to disorient.

The girl turns, a sneer on her face. “All right. Who’s there?”

Her voice drowns in the muffling mist. A clang echoes by her feet, and she shrieks as something leaps out. A cat, a grey streak against the ground, yowling as it runs, as she should. But she lets go of her breath with a gush and laughs at her stupidity. But that feeling of eyes on her still lifts the sensitive hairs at the back of her neck, gets her heart hammering.

She continues on her way, distracted by the noise behind her, like a thousand autumn leaves tumbling together and crunching.

“Whoever you are, cut it out and piss off. I can defend myself, and I am not afraid of you.”

It’s like a hiss, the sound of their laughter, like the howling winds sneaking through a chink in the brickwork, chilling you to the bone.

The girl stalks onward, determined to get out of this alley. Ignoring all her instincts, the fear flooding through her veins with the adrenaline, she presses on.

Around her, tendrils of mist probe at the edges of her vest, tangle the strands of her hair. She jerks, a puppet dancing at the pulling of their strings.

“Who are you? Leave me alone.”

Frantic now, she stumbles into a run, desperate for the cross street she knows is ahead. Coalescing from the mist in front of her, swirling atom by atom, the shadowy figures form, laughing at her panic. Their shapes are grotesque, twisted, gnarled and deformed; millennia of their depravity transforming their outward appearance to match what lay within.

With taloned limbs, they reach as one, hissing with laughter as she screams and jerks from them. Surrounding her now, fog in between a barrier from the outside world, they creep in as she spins like a top, searching for a weak point. With a ferocity they enjoy, she launches herself at the littlest one, her fists flailing.

A bag drops to the ground with a thud. Above, a window opens, a head pops out. There are no more disturbing sounds. Shuffling painfully down an alleyway, an old man long down on his luck finds a bag. He rifles through it, takes the few notes, looks around. He drops the bag again, and scuttles off, tugging down the beanie and wrapping the jacket tight about him, cherishing the anonymity.

From the fog they watch. And they wait.

Orichalcum Slave

In the still and quiet in the town, ever this way since the water came, there are no voices crying out, and the bells have long since ceased ringing. But here, Heike waits, as asked to by his master. He has been waiting so long.

Over time, his bionic eyes have adopted to the change in light. So little of it filters down. Where once his master’s plants grew, undulating weed now rules. Heike has made some of the little fish his pets. They come to him now, their skins metallic like his own.

His joints grow less mobile and his skin is becoming marred with the scars of the barnacles that attempt to make his hull their home, discoloured by salts drawn to his orichalcum skin.

How he longs for his family; for their smiles and the gentle touches of inclusion.Sometimes a shadow in the ripple of the water makes him turn with joyful remembrance, the hope of a connection, only for the shark to swim over in strong, slow strokes. Their bedrooms stand empty, what remains of their curtains waft now in the current, a tragic reflection of before.

Standing now at the empty gable, he looks out at the city, the buildings in disrepair, the great pillars tumbled, blocks from the buildings offset from their foundations. Their home still stood; his master was the city’s Master Architect and he, the stalwart assistant. His master would be proud to see that all of his creations had stood the test of time; barely a crumble among them. 

He wanders through the hallways, the frescos painted by his mistress. Barely an echo of what they once were, he traces the brushstrokes that had pictographically told their story. Lingering in the corner, with reverent fingers he traces the outline she had painted, a soft-edged picture of their faithful man. Still, he waits.

Yes, he remembers the day the ground shook. People running around like ants, lost and confused. From the shelter of the house, he watched the water, bubbling, a maelstrom of belongings and currents. There were screams and sobbing. And Heike waited, like his master had asked.

“Heike,” his voice rough and face drawn, “stay. Look after our home. We will see you at the end.”

Heike had nodded in assent and watched them go, dressed in their finery, their cases apparently heavy. Even when he blinks, he can still see his little charge’s hand in her father’s, waving goodbye.

Why did they not take him? Heike was his master’s greatest achievement; his wealth and protection was wrapped up in Heike’s orichalcum hide. The names they had called his beloved master. Those voices are all gone now.

Did he mean that one day they would all be together in paradise? He knew the master believed that all life had souls. Were they beyond him in paradise now?

Heike looks upon his hearth under the shifting aquamarines and royal blues, highlighting the ruffled ridges of his cultivated coral.

He misses them so much. He knew that no one believed in his softly-glowing hydrogen heart, but he had loved them and did so still. Where were they now?

Beyond the city walls, Heike spots a change in the light density of the water. He changes his focal distance. There is a light, descending down toward the city. Hope surges through his heart. They’d remembered him!

With his heavy step, he bounds down the streets as fast as his mechanical legs allow, heart light as air on the current. At the city gates he waited, his hands pressed together in his customary greeting. The fierce beam of the craft’s spotlight swallows his subservient little frame beneath the richness of the semi-circular city gate.

They were finally coming home.

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.