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And for the second story, the one actually meant for this week, I return to the fantasy realm. Both this work and the previous one have not undergone edits so forgive any repetitions, spelling mistakes, and any other issues (like lack of originality or plot :p ) I'll try to get back and fix them one of these days. My fellow writers, Melissa and Linda, have stories that can be reached by clicking on their names. Enjoy!

The Elf Prince's Wife, an original short by Jackie Lester

She was young, no doubt about it. He'd known it would be like this, just perhaps not hoe young she would actually look. It didn't matter. Her father had signed the agreement, creating peace between their two nations with this marriage. Now it was just the business of getting to know each other, the easy part in all of this. He hoped.

He pushed away his inner commentary and returned focus to the woman in front of him. "First, let's try out your new crown to see if any adjustments are needed." He spoke down to her, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder so he didn't overwhelm her all at once.

She simply nodded her head in reply. Jenka had hoped for at least a word or two from her to hear his new bride's voice for the first time but was left wanting.

He removed the crown from the velvet cushion on the table. He noticed his own hands trembling a little and tried to steady them before placing the delicate tiara on Sable's head.

"May I see it?" her quiet question surprised him. Jenka held the gold ornament in front of her, trying to hold his hands as still as possible so she wouldn't see his nerves getting the better of him. Sable reached out a tentative finger, tracing the thin band of gold that pushed up in an inverted V at the front, with a few additional lines of intricate metalwork creating the face of the piece. "It's lovely," she said, rewarding Jenka with the sing-song voice that had been much talked of across his land.

"May I?" he asked, indicating the crown. She again assented and he placed it carefully on top of her long brown hair. "Do you want a mirror?"

Sable shook her head and said, "There is no need. I'm sure it will be a welcome improvement to my plain face."
He looked at her closely, not able to understand why she thought herself plain. Her face was lovely, oval shaped with the hint of a blush still resting on her cheeks. It had been there from the moment she'd first walked in to the throne room. If he was being honest, he didn't ever want to see the blush erased from her face. She was exquisite, at least to him. The promise of the match warmed Jenka.

"Did your father inform you of the next part of the coronation ceremony?" he asked kindly. Jenka knew the blade could be an imposing thing to look upon, never mind what they would each have to do with it.

Again, Sable simply nodded. Jenka reached for the Elf blade and it sprang to life with his touch. Fire blazed along its length, burning white hot. Sable jumped back from the sight, the first sign that her bravery was more false bravado.

"Will it hurt?" she asked, the sweet tone of her voice belying
the panic she'd just displayed.

"No, the fire doesn't hurt if your heart is true. It is only the deceivers that need fear this blade." Jenka turned it around in his hand in an effort to somehow prove to Sable that he was in fact true in his intentions. He couldn't tell if it was working though.

Jenka held the shaft of the sword in one hand and placed his other hand in front of Sable. He recited the ancient words that would bind them together from this day in forward then plunged the blade through his open palm.

The fire sizzled but there was no pain. He hoped Sable could see this in his reaction.

He freed the sword from his palm, lifting it to show Sable the mark left there, the five-leaf that was the symbol of his people. Sable looked amazed at the sight and shifted her stance in what Jenka imagined was preparation.

He held out the handle to Sable and she took it firmly in her right hand. Her face clearly showed the amazement she was feeling.

"Are you ready?" he asked, wanting the ritual to be over swiftly so hr could show his new wife off to his people...and maybe eventake her to the bed chamber, if she proved as willing as he was.

"I think I am," Sable replied, her voice now stronger. She turned the blade in her own hand, mimicking Jenka's earlier movements. As the blade turned, the pure white light began to shift to angry reddish-yellow. Sable grasped the handle more firmly and held the tip of the sword at Jenka's throat. "I'm certainly ready to wield the power of this blade, but I have no intention of being a part of this war or its farcical peace promoted by fools."

Flash Fiction #12

First up this week is a post that was due two weeks ago. I loved the potential of the image we had to work with but time was against me until now. Meanwhile, I've been reading Poe and some other Gothic titles, as well as Pride and Prejudice. Those influences are clearly seen here :D

As always, links to the stories by my writing partners, Linda and Melissa, are available by clinking on their names. I hope you enjoy all of our works.

Adrift, an original short story by Jackie Lester

It had been just too easy to lie down. The weather suited the task perfectly. A bright blue sky altered only in colour by the warm, golden rays of the sun. She wouldn't have minded if there had been a few clouds but there were none as far as her eyes could see. So she'd lain down in the boat and just floated. It would have been an unparalleled plan except she'd forgottenthe oars on the banks of the small lake. Even this wouldn't have created a problem had the knot that was supposed to keep her tethered to the dock not suddenly come undone when the wind had picked up.

But all these unexpected things had happened in rapid succession till she was set adrift, out too far into the lake to swim back. Keera didn't think it would have been a great idea anyway when she was in her best gown. Her mother would be furious if the silk had stretched or shrunk or whatever it does when it's been doused in lake water.

On the plus side, it was now the exact excuse she hadn't been able to manufacture on her own earlier for not attending the ball that was well underway by now. She had no heart for being shown around like a prized doll from the country fair in hopes a rich man from a nearby town would be interested in marrying her. Keera had tried repeatedly to impress upon her parents the need for love in a marriage and that she would accept no less than that.

Parents just didn't understand and know she thought it served them right for planning the whole farce without her consent. And also probably her father's fault for not securing the boat sufficiently. This would most certainly teach them.

Unless the lesson would be hers, the moral harshly impressed on her by her untimely death from starvation. Surely, she'd be found before then....

Keera lay back in the boat, her bare feet cold in the late evening air. She'd left her shoes beside the paddles and was now regretting so many things. As she contemplated missing the one man she would have liked to dance with tonight, her lifelong companion, Henry, she shuddered from the increasing cold. The moon was full but a mournful grey colour now as the increasing clouds drifted over its face. She hugged her arms across her chest, trying to stay warm with little success.

A loon splashed over the lake in the distance, making Keera long for her own set of wings that would fly her back to the shore and her modest manor house that sat so close to the river. But wings were not meant to be.

Another splash sounded, closer this time and she sat up in the boat, feeling a mild sense of alarm snake its way into her mind. She could make nothing out in the darkness now oppressively thick around her.

A noise closer again drew her attention over her left shoulder, panic making her back bone more rigid. She thought of that tale she'd read to Henry last week, the one with the haunted mansion and the sorrowful ghost and felt maybe there was some truth in these kinds of tales. She tried to look back to her home, to see if it was as foreboding as the one in the story. There was nothing to see to compare with now.

Fear gripped her so tight that she could sit in the boat no longer. She lay back down, trying to focus on anything recognizable in the night sky. There were no stars to see and the normal satellite was now a gauzy mess of fog and dark. Keera tried to settle herself by thinking of picking daisies or spinning yarn for her mother. Hard as she tried though, her mind kept wandering back to the creaky library door that always gave her little sister, Elspeth, away when they were playing hide and seek. It was a creaky that grew more ominous when the candles were lit in the evening. She avoided that corridor after dark.

A howl sounded from far off to her left and she had no idea if
it was coming from the woods around her family's estate or the
opposite banks of the lake. The rapid beat of her heart
increased another ten fold and she tried to breath through the

Splashes began to sound all around her now and she sensed the futility of fighting her situation. She could jump in the water and try to swim for shore, dress be damned, but she had never been a strong simmer. The weight of the outfit would probably pull her down anyway.

Indecision raged on in her mind. She felt it almost as a physical thing, coursing through her tense body. The sensation tightened around her right wrist so much that she thought her veins would exploded from the pressure. She looked to the affected limb to see it was in fact a hand wrapped around it and let out a scream that would have shattered glass for miles around.

"Keera, shh! It's just me, Henry," the voice told her.

Keera tried to believe it. "Henry?"

"Yes, calm down, would you? I've been paddling around here for hours looking for you."

The fog seemed to be lifting for her own mind if not from the evening air and she whispered, "Oh, thank God!" She yanked Henry's hand to pull him closer to her and she kissed him soundly on the lips. There would be no more playing coy to try to win his affections, she thought.

Henry returned the kiss, while his free hand reached down into his boat for the knife he'd used to sever Keera's rope earlier. He had more cutting in mind for tonight.

Flash Fiction # 11: Crash Site

Two weeks have flown by (not to mention the extra few days it's taken to actually sit down and write this piece), meaning it's time for another flash fiction! Links to my writing partners, Linda and Melissa's, works are accessed by clicking their names. Hope you enjoy this one :)

Crash Site, an original short story by Jackie Lester

     No one was at the crash site. The glass must’ve been kicked out by someone, it lay all around the chopper as proof. The weird thing? There were no sign of footprints leading away in any direction. Brent supposed the wind could’ve blown them away from the sand covered ground before he’d arrived to investigate. But it wasn’t a particularly windy day.
     He pulled out a cigarette, sitting it on his bottom lip in readiness. He felt around his uniform for a lighter and came up empty. Just as well, these things will kill faster than the dust storms in the high season.
     Not ready to return to base yet, especially empty-handed, Brent poked his head back into the cabin of the chopper. There was nothing in it to indicate who’d been flying: no personal photos or mementos left behind. The first-aid pack was gone too. The pilot might’ve been hurt in the landing. Not enough, though, to trap him here. Maybe just a minor wound.
     Brent rubbed the back of his neck. Something was off. They’d received the distress call three hours ago, then nothing happened for an hour after that. Around that time, the power had died at the base for ten seconds. Exactly ten, according the the precise military clocks all around. It was nothing the back-up generators couldn’t handle, really. The two incidents should be unrelated, the chopper not being a big enough threat to the area. Still, the coincidence was worrisome, Brent thought.
     Deciding there wasn’t much more he could do until they towed the chopper to the base, Brent pulled up the hood of his cape. The winds were starting to pick up now and he knew all too well how much they could sting the skin if you didn’t protect yourself.
     He feared the guys on duty would rile him a bit about the failed mission. He was used to their digs these days anyway. Whenever he mentioned a strange impression he got, they’d mock him for being a fake psychic or a scaredy-pants, neither description flattering. There’d be no point then in mentioning the hunch that was getting worse by the minute.
     He turned back towards the portals, picking the one that would transport him to the CO’s office, and radioed the controller. “Initiate beam sequence. One body only.”
     “Aye, lieutenant,” came the terse reply.
     Brent felt the tingling sensation as he was slowly broken down into movable cells. Because of this, he didn’t notice when the creature, the one the colour of the desert sand, latched onto his back, hitching a ride to the most tightly guarded base on the planet.

Flash Fiction # 10: Lost

It's time once again to share a little story. I'm still trying to work on descriptions while manipulating varying tones for different characters plus the whole 'show don't tell' thing. Is it just me or is trying to combine all these elements a very tricky feat to pull off? Anyway, I know the overall story is more formal than I intended the main character to be portrayed. He started off one way but ended up another. Still, it's all work in an effort to hone my craft (I should put quotation marks around the word craft but I'm trying to take myself seriously here :p ) Let me know what you think.

As always, my writing partners, Linda and Melissa have their work accessible by a simple click on their names :)

Lost, an original short story by Jackie Lester

     The bright red leaves of the ancient tree shifted and swayed. The enormity of the movement, of the tree itself really, demanded I stop and watch. So that’s what I’d done. An hour ago. Since then, I’d been firmly planted in the same position, like my legs had been pulled down in a muddy bog, held in place by tendrils I imagined weren’t unlike the hair extensions found on Hollywood’s A-listers. I hadn’t actually been bound in any way but movement felt impossible. I had to try to force myself back into motion soon before I fell flat on my face.
     Mentally, I understood my brain wasn’t able to control my limbs at the moment.Then my body started swaying in time with the tree, mesmerized as though the wind itself were an instrument, a deep, melodic cello striking chords and I had to respond somehow. Why couldn’t it have been house music instead? That would’ve been a beat I could easily get behind.
     Roots began to spring from the ground, large limbs tapering to smaller, hand-like twigs that seemed to be reaching out for me. They tried to grab for me.
     And that did it. I snapped to attention, struggling against the weight of my legs. I trudged one step forward, then another though it seemed like ten minutes passed between each. The leaves were still churning in front of me but I tried to avert my eyes in case there was some kind of hypnosis involved and that’s what halted my progress the last time. There was something here that didn’t want me getting any closer. If that was the case, why pull me here with such a beautiful sight?
     I pushed forward, exhaustion rolling off of me in waves. I had to convince myself I could do this.
     I reached about ten feet in front of the tree when the leaves suddenly stopped swirling. They rearranged themselves methodically and I swear it looked like the tree had grown a nose, with deep grooves etched into either side. A wide line appeared beneath it, giving the impression of a mouth. When two shapes opened open to reveal dark, eye-like circles, I jumped back.
     “Who are you and why are you here?” the tree asked me.
     The tree asked me.
     I searched for a sarcastic comeback to buy me time to digest what I was seeing. Instead of a “duh, this direction was downhill,” the words that came from my mouth were released in a more proper tone than I would normally use, “The majesty of this place drew me, sire. I could not avoid coming to look.” They were also pure truth. I felt like I’d been compelled, my tongue fighting itself for mastery. But what was with this ‘sire’ business?
     “How is it possible you can you see us? Only the Praetori can see us. You are not Praetori.” I felt insulted that the tree dismissed me so easily, even though I had no idea what it was talking about.
     “Um, nope. I’m from Wisconsin.” The truth still poured from me, this time with a more relaxed delivery. I was beginning to gain control over my body and mouth, yet I knew it was still a slightly more unbalanced version of myself that stood before the strange foliage. “And you’re a little hard to miss, what with the dancing leaves the colour of hell fire and all.”
     “You must have the ancient blood in you to fight my bindings. I will grant you access on the provision that if you touch anything you shouldn’t or bring harm in any way, I will kill you immediately.”
     Ooookay. “So how do I know what not to touch?” This felt like a trap, one that had a single, inevitable conclusion: my death. Assuming the tree could bring it about that is, like it was promising. I had nothing else to go on but believing it meant business. “And what makes you think I even want access? I’m not entirely sure I like your terms, buddy.”
     Without so much as an answer, the tree morphed again, its trunk now transformed into a beautifully chiselled doorway, a steep peak curving down gently on either side around a stained glass window. Two carved wooden angels became visible on the left and right flanks of the trunk, one the colour of pale birch bark, the other a deep mahogany. Good and evil, maybe? Whatever the case, they stood as if on guard.
     “Please enter now and you may find the answers you are looking for.” It certainly wasn’t going to be the answer to ‘where’s the closest McDonald’s drive-thru’ I’d find behind the mysterious door. Yet, compulsion dragged me again and I shifted in the direction of the handle.
     I reached out my hand to grasp the door knob. Barely touching it, I jolted as blackness enveloped me. There was no way I’d ever have gotten it right.
Our Flash Fiction posts have gone up a little late this week but are finally here. Melissa and Linda's stories can be accessed by clicking on their names.

For my piece, I'm trying to work on some of the skills used in story telling: pacing, descriptions, tone. I still tend to lean to more formal writing, which I'm trying to scale back. I don't think this one is very exciting but maybe has potential for a bigger piece when I figure out how the character saves the world :)

The Key and the Impossible Night, an original short story by Jackie Lester

I must've dropped the key. That could be the only explanation. Well, one explanation anyway. There were still a few other things the needed to be worked out. Like where I am and how did I get here? Oh, and am I really seeing this impossible shit in front of me? I’m afraid the answer to that last question might only come from many long sessions with my psychiatrist. I pull my cell phone from my back pocket and made a note to look for one in the morning. Assuming morning ever came. It was seriously in doubt at this point.

Here's why: The world seemed to be folding in on itself. I don't mean like the impossibly difficult way it is to fold a fitted sheet, with all those crazy corners and uneven lengths. What I mean is that the sea and the sky appeared to be converging. Even what would normally lay beyond the sky; the milky appeared like it had always been a natural part of this immediate vista. It sounds ridiculous. I suspect you might be reading my words written on a wall in ketchup saved from today's grilled cheese sandwich lunch at the psychiatric hospital for all I'm aware.

I swear, all I'd done was pick up the key lying outside the strange old house, the one I must've overlooked every single day I'd walked past here on my way to the bus stop. Even I don't believe that makes any sense. Houses don't just appear on suburban streets out of the blue.

The more I try to sort out what I'm seeing, the more I'm beginning to question any remaining sanity I might be holding on to. It just isn't feasible for an airplane to continue to fly over buildings
once it’s been enveloped by the ocean, right? Nor does it compute that the stairs I'm currently standing on, rise from the floor of the ocean, continuing on to some place out in the cosmos that I can't see because a planet sits right in my line of sight. I try to rub my eyes, thinking they might be the culprits for these weird visions but nothing changes.

So, here's what I'm going to do: I'll set aside what I know about reality and just go with the flow. The big decision now is which way do I proceed, up or down? I'm definitely intrigued by what might be found beyond the stars that seem so close I could just reach out and touch them. Logic cautions me on this because, duh, the stars would be hot. Or is it ice cold? I’m not willing to find out right now anyway.

I could try walking back down the stairs and see whether the plane’s unbelievable luck would hold true with my breathing also. I've never had the chance to scuba dive in the ocean, now here's my chance. Sort of. As I gaze back down the stairs, pondering this last idea further, I notice a mass on the first step. It looks a lot like the key that had mysteriously gone missing only recently. Well, that tended to make up my mind for me. The impulse that the key was very important was strong, pushing me back down the steps to retrieve it.

This was all so confusing, mystifying, insane. I open the dictionary app on my phone to look for other apt synonyms and am surprised by the speedy response. The world could possibly be
ending and I only now get the best cell service ever. Go figure.

I quickly reach the step that holds the strange key, a skeleton brass thing that looks to have no real use in modern life. I hold my breath, not taking chances on the depth of the water because I can see a building that looks like the planetarium sitting about twenty metres below the surface and parallel to where I'm stepping.

The cautious lung exercise turns out to be unnecessary as the step is barely in six inches of water. I look back and forth between my submerged feet and the tall building now echoing the lost city of Atlantis. I don't get it, not at all.

With the key firmly in hand, I start back up the stairs. I count about twenty steps before it looks like my path will end. The star and the stairs are adjoined somehow but I can’t tell if the stars
are disintegrating the path I’m on or creating new ones for me to keep going up. It turns out it's the second scenario, which is probably a good thing for me right now.

I make it past the strangely low lying planet, gripping the key tighter in my hand as I reach heights I'd never imagined possible outside of the lyrics to “Stairway to Heaven.” There’s got to be an end soon, right?

The thought's barely crossed my mind when a short creature jumps out in front of me, saying, "It's about time! I thought I'd have to wait here all night for you, Benjamin." The little blue, furry being stomps on ahead of me without looking back.

His meek voice calls down to me again a moment later, saying "Hurry up, please. Only you can save the Earth now."

Not completely brought to my senses, I follow blindly, having no idea what he's talking about. I'm a cartoonist by trade. I’m pretty sure it isn’t in my skill set to save planets, only draw them.

I’m certain, at this point, this night of wonders is far from over. It crosses my mind that I might’ve had one too many gin and tonics, in which case I'll have a raging headache in the morning, for sure. For now, I’m going to ride out this adventure and see what this key will open.
It's time for another flash fiction. I had a hard time this week coming up with an angle to approach the image we were using for inspiration, despite it being a lovely picture. Hopefully I managed something a little different here from what my writing partners, Linda and Melissa, have done with their stories. Of course, you can read their works by clicking on their names :)

Without further ado, here's...

The House on the Bluffs, an original short by Jackie Lester

        The spot by the river where the fallen tree spanned across the water was always her favourite place to read. It was especially good because, the way the huge limbs had landed, they’d created a natural nook, like the cradle of a mother’s arms, perfect for leaning against and daydreaming. Ryan planned to take full advantage of these things, having nothing better to do at the moment.
        She leaned into the curve of the tree, not even worried how the small bits of bark might become uncomfortable. Ryan didn’t care at all. She just smiled at the pleasure a beautiful summer day like this can bring.
        Ryan bent the cover of her paperback, finding the page she’d dog-eared easily. As she read the tale of the swashbuckling princess fighting her way through a throng of black-hearted pirates, Ryan felt her eyes begin to close. The only thing that could make this moment even better was dreaming that Ryan was herself the brave woman in the novel. Sarafina, Princess of Andolovia, who could employ her sword with both hands equally well…
        But Ryan knew her dream would be different even before she opened her eyes. She could feel something soft at her fingertips. She stroked carefully and was rewarded with a lick on her hand. When Ryan finally opened her eyes, she saw that it was foxes, baby foxes, all curled up with her on the forest floor. How adorable!
        Ryan noticed she wasn’t wearing her favourite Clash t-shirt and cut-off shorts anymore either. Instead, a form-fitted, rose-coloured dress caressed her body. She wanted to jump up and fuss over the pretty gown getting wrinkled but her new furry friends looked too comfortable to disturb.
        She craned her head to look around. The river looked the same. The fallen tree was definitely the same. The biggest difference was the dark cliffs that she could just make out in the distance. There was a grand manor house that sat on top of the bluffs. It looked foreboding at the least, possibly haunted by a trapped spirit. Clouds hung low and dark over the building, adding to its oppressive feeling. It wasn’t a welcoming place but Ryan itched to go explore anyway.
        Ryan tried to shift but the fox cubs wouldn’t budge from her lap. Deciding there was nothing to be done about it, Ryan lay her head back against the downed tree and closed her eyes again. She wondered what she would find in that house on the bluffs if she could only go look, and began to imagine the possibilities.
        She jumped from her sleep this time, finding that she was back in her summer clothes. She looked in the direction of the scary house and found nothing unusual there. Only her small town with its large water reservoir that could be seen over the corn fields.
        Ryan stood up, dusting her shorts off. She looked for her book, which must have tumbled out of her hands when she’d woken up. It was nowhere to be found. She looked pensively again in the direction where the manor house had been in her dream and said, “I know what’s in the house!” She ran back through the corn fields, to her little house in town, where she would sit down and write her own adventure novel. Scratch that. It would be a Gothic mystery.
        She’d found a way to be the brave heroine after all.

Flash Fiction #7: The Darkness

It's time for the bi-weekly installment of my Flash Fiction posts. My writing partners, Melissa and Linda, have their stories linked here too; just click on their names :)

I tried, this time, to play with my word count and see if I could get it down to a bare minimum with enough of a story to be intriguing. How did I do?

The Darkness, an original short story by Jackie Lester

     As I lay in the dark room, I thought about all of the possibilities.
     What if magic was real? Maybe I could grow a pair of wings. Great, diaphanous ones that could take me far away from here. They would be in shades of purple, my favourite colour, and would sparkle in the light like they’d been constructed from some material only found on the moon. They would be beautiful and powerful and see me safely through any situation.
     I sighed, mesmerized by the image in my head. I reached out to touch it but felt nothing with my finger tips. The wings faded, the picture rippling away like the little waves you can create in any pool of water with just the motion of your hands.
    In fact, I knew there was water near me, I could hear it dripping over my left shoulder. It was pitch black, making it pointless for me to see if it would even be safe to drink. I feared I might be stumbling about for hours just trying to find the source of the noise.
    I’d searched for ages earlier, trying to find a way out, a door perhaps, anything that might help me to escape. It was entirely pointless. The space was too vast. The people who’d taken me knew what they’re were doing when they’d thrown me in here.
   All I could hope was that, come morning, light would filter through enough for me to make out some details and start my plans for escape.
   Unless morning never came for me again.

Flash Fiction # 6: (untitled)

Two weeks have flown by, I tell you! But here I am with another Flash Fiction, along with the links to stories by my writing partners, Linda and Melissa.

I have another untitled one this week, so maybe some suggestions for one? I struggle with them, wanting to fall into using popular songs or something (this one feels like it might do well with a Muse title, if nothing else works :p ) Anyway, I hope you enjoy! This one felt kind of good to write :)

(untitled), an original short story by Jackie Lester

  Maire walked through the woods, careful where she stepped in case anything was tucked under the loose leaves that covered the ground. The patrols had been through here earlier and had given her crew the all clear but there was just so much crap all over the place. This would be slow going.
  She pulled the rolling cart along behind her, the wood creaking as it bounced over unseen roots. Her scanner detected nothing in the vicinity and she grumbled in frustration, wishing she could go faster but tied down by the bulky equipment she needed for the clean up.
  Maire had just started to think of her comfy sofa back in her pod when the scanner bleated its angry sound, indicating metal parts were near. She grabbed the two-pronged tool from the cart and started sifting through the leaves. Eventually she found the piece her machine had indicated, an appendage of some sort, constructed of metal gears and leather made to look like skin. She shuddered then cursed the creatures for all the damage they’d done.
  They’d gotten it all back in spades by her people and their swift clearance of the creature army. They still had to figure out why they had come to attack her province, Markinta, and who had sent them. So far, all they’d found of the creatures were what could be arms or legs, or octopus tentacles, for all Maire knew. The leaders hoped that when they eventually found the heads, they’d find some kind of readable hard drive to get the answers they needed.
  Maire huffed, thinking these things, these killing machines, probably hadn’t even had heads and were just all fake limbs. She hadn’t been involved in the fighting and couldn’t say for sure what happened. Few returned who’d gone out on foot to fight them. The leaders had taken much more drastic measures to eradicate the creatures, with great success, obviously.
  She pushed the prongs of her tool into the limb and tossed it into the cart. There was a noise, like the sickening sound when an arm breaks. Maire figured she was just imagining things, though. Maybe.
  She rooted through the detritus a little more, then satisfied that she’d gotten the only piece to be found, moved on.
  It might have been an hour later or maybe just fifteen minutes when the scanner made its harsh tone again. Maire repeated the process with the tool but found nothing. The tree trunks where large here, probably six feet in diameter. She wandered around a few, poking at the leaves as she went. She found nothing.
  As she circled around the fourth tree, her machine made a noise she hadn’t heard before. What the hell?
  She looked behind her at the smaller trees. Still nothing. She looked up to pray to the gods for a little extra patience for this shitty task. That’s when she saw it.
  The face was sitting on the tree about eight inches above her head. It looked like it was actually part of the wood, it sat flush against the bark. She pushed the prongs under the bottom edge of the face and flicked the tool to shake the thing loose. It dropped to the ground at her feet.
  “Iii’m so-rry,” a voice called out to her, metallic and broken.
  Maire felt her flesh rise and said, “Who said that?”
  “...so-rrrrrry,” it said again and this time Maire had no doubt where the sound had come from. The face.
  She pulled off her gloves and picked it up. She held it in her hands, marvelling at the workmanship; at the opened skull with the intricate gears where her own brain must be. There were wrinkles at the thing’s nose, like it had earned the marks from years of smiling. Or probably growling in this case. The lower jaw was held on by a hinge, the chin constructed like a shiny wooden, rectangular bowl. It was a sight to see, no doubt.
  Still, she had to stop herself from smashing the face against the tree to relieve some of the anger she felt, knowing it needed to be taken back to the leaders. She went to toss it into the cart, when again, the voice called out sadly,   “I’m….sorry.”
  Maire held the face up again and really looked at it. Surely it was unplugged, being disconnected from the rest of its being. How could it be saying anything?
  The jaw dropped open with a set of grinding noises, making Maire jump in surprise. She wanted to call out for her team but knew they’d be hurrying to get done too. She could handle this thing.
  “I’m….sorry,” the thing said, its tone like that of the saddest funeral dirge.
 ; Maire was overcome by emotion. What if this thing had been forced to kill? It shouldn’t matter really, it had killed her people so it didn’t deserve any sympathy. But that cry….
  “What are you sorry for?” she finally managed to ask.
  “I’m sorry,” it repeated, the words coming a little faster now but no less sad. “I’m sorry, but I have to kill you now.”
  It’s eyes blazed a brilliant red as Maire held the face, unable to let go.

Flash Fiction #5: The Runaway

Two weeks always seems to fly by but sure enough they have again, which means another installment of Flash Fiction. Links to my writing buddies, Melissa and Linda's, stories can be accessed by clicking on their names. Enjoy!

The Runaway, an original short by Jackie Lester

    They might as well have left the thorns on the roses they'd used to form the circlet that held Abhi's veil. Though slight, its meaning seemed to weigh the headdress down painfully on her head, like it was creating a million tiny cuts, blood seeping from each wound. Looking in the mirror, she struggled to reconcile the reflection that revealed the simple, delicate ring of white roses. Instead of blood, it was only the glistening of tears that stained her cheeks.
    Abhi had always known that an arranged marriage was not merely a possibility in her future but an absolute certainty. It hadn't bothered it much before. Now that the day was here, her resolve was fading quickly. Having been immersed in daily life during her studies where choices were guaranteed not only to the men but also the women just as equally, she knew that she couldn't settle for the traditions so closely held by her parents.
    Ravid seemed like a nice man and had met the many desirable qualities her mother had written in a small notebook so many years ago. The problem was that Abhi hadn't chosen him. She hadn't mentioned this to her father, of course. She'd tried to confide in her mother, her concerns falling on deaf ears once Ravid had been found and his doctorate in economy had landed him a job with an American firm as a CFO, adding some bonus marks in the notebook. Now all that was left was for Abhi to complete the ceremony and live her life in the way that others had imagined it for her....
    She looked in the mirror again, intention now infusing her warm, brown eyes. She brushed the back of her hand across her cheeks to wipe away the tears and nodded her head in acceptance of the action she was about to take.
    Quickly removing the wedding robes, Abhi pulled on the yoga pants and hoodie she'd worn to the pavilion. She hurried to tie up her running shoes, amazed she'd been left alone for this long with the ceremony scheduled to start in ten minutes.
    Once she was back in her movable clothing and had her purse slung diagonally across her shoulders, she pushed open the bathroom window, thankful there was only one floor to the building. She swung her leg over the ledge, bending the other leg awkwardly to fit it through immediately following. She jumped into the shrub that sat below the window and held her breath for a few moments to settle her wildly-beating heart and, if she was being truthful, to make sure this was a move she really wanted to make.
    It didn't take long for Abhi to reaffirm the certainty that, for her, this was the right thing. She needed to choose her lifelong partner. She would be the one living with the decision, so only she should be the one making it.
    She stood up straight, brushing small leaves from her clothes and looked around to be sure no one was in the immediate area. Satisfied she wouldn't be seen, she walked out towards the street to hail a cab. She would e-mail or text Ravid later to apologize and try to reasonably explain her actions but for now she just needed to distance herself from it all.
    Abhi stood at the curb and waved her hand when she saw the first vacant cab approaching. The car pulled up beside her and she told the driver where she'd be heading. The driver gave her a curt nod to confirm he knew the place. Abhi hopped in the back and exhaled loudly in relief.
    Before the driver could pull back out into traffic, the other rear door opened and a voice said, "Mind if I share the cab?" Abhi looked up to see Ravid's face peering down at her, a small smile playing on his face.
    "Sure, jump in," Abhi told him as casually as she could, then asked, "You running away too?"
    Ravid didn't keep her in suspense. He told her that this wasn't what he'd wanted either. "People should be able to chose who they love or want to spend time with." He smiled again sincerely and added, "Not that I'm saying I don't want to spend time with you, just that we should see what happens BEFORE we get married, right?"
    "I completely agree with you," Abhi told him with a laugh.
They both sat back in the car, more relaxed now knowing that neither of them was hurting the other. It crossed Abhi's mind that fate was such a strange thing that maybe their paths would cross again and they would actually end up married after all. Anything was possible when given the chance to create your own future.

Flash Fiction #4: (untitled)

It's been two weeks since my last story was posted and I'm happy to report that my writing partners and I are still going strong :) Melissa's story for this week can be found here and Linda's here.

I have another stand alone story today but I what I like about some of these recent entries is that they are left somewhat open for possible expansion or continuation down the road. First, I'll have to come up with a title for this one, but that can wait a while, I think. I hope you all like it!

(untitled), an original short story by Jackie Lester

Sleep lifted from me at an infuriatingly slow place. I was aware of an intense heat around me though I still couldn’t quite manage to open my eyes yet. I struggled to pull at whatever was tied around my neck, making breathing seem impossible but my fingers failed me. There was nothing to grasp. I pushed hard against my eyelids, praying they would open and I could see where I was and what was going on around me.

Nothing seemed to happen for ages then sensation came back all at once. It threw me off but not enough that it prevented me from trying to look around. I should’ve known better. It’s like those times when the weather is so hot and you’ve been out running. If you take a huge gulp of ice water, pain immediately hits your stomach. You need to drink the water at a more tepid temperature at first, then work up to that refreshing cold glass. As soon as my eyes opened, I had to slam them shut against the bright light all around me.

I lay my head back, working to suss out what that momentary glance had told me. It was dark out but bright enough that it could easily be confused for daylight. Added to the stifling feeling of heat, it could only be one thing: fire.

I barely had time to digest the idea that I was lying in the middle of a burning forest when I heard a noise beside me. I tried to roll onto my side to minimize the light when I opened my eyes again but a quiet voice said, “Sh, don’t move or make a sound.”

“Where am I?” my voice was coarse but intelligible.thankfully.

“Here, drink this and I’ll get you out of here.” The voice, definitely a woman’s, came from right beside my ear. The woman put something to my mouth and I tasted gingerly. The fluid was thin, like water, but had the sweet flavour of honey without the typical sticky thickness.

I downed a few sips and found I was able fully move almost immediately. “What happened to me?” I asked the woman. She wore a veil across her face, blocking her identity quite thoroughly from me.

I attempted to stand up and regain my equilibrium as the woman replied, “I don’t know but I sensed you here. It isn’t safe. We must move quickly.”

I got a better look at my surroundings and saw what she meant. There was indeed fire and it seemed to be growing closer to the circle of open ground that I’d been lying on. “Okay, how do we get out of here?” I asked the masked woman with no small amount of panic in my voice.

She handed me the watery drink again and said, “Finish this then we can go.”

I gave her a questioning look but didn’t see much choice if she was insisting. She was the only one around I could trust for help. When I was done i handed the bottle back to her. I was about to sling more questions at the stranger when a tingling sensation worked it’s way up my arms. “What the…?”

The woman touched my arm lightly and said, “It’s the only way to escape.”

I held my hands out in front of me, stunned by the changing colour of my veins beneath my skin. I pulled the sleeves of my robe up further and watched the throbbing, green lines spread upward. I could easily imagine that my whole body would be looking much the same, the tingles were everywhere. I stared down at my palms as a small light, much like the fire light all around my but on a considerably lesser scale, poured out of them.

“What have you done to me?” I cried.

She hung her head and I could sense the sorrow emanating from her. “It was the only way,” she whispered.

The words had hardly escaped her lips when I felt a twitching at my back. I twisted to try to see what was happening and was stunned to see wings spreading out from my shoulder blades. This was impossible…

“We need to fly straight up out of here,” the woman told me and grabbed my hand, pulling me to go.

I tentatively shifted my shoulder blades and felt the wings respond accordingly. I supposed I could do this. I was going to practice a few more times but the sound of horses’ hooves began pounding the ground in the distance.

The woman grabbed my arm, her own wings now visible and fluttering. “Let’s get you to safety then I’ll try to explain what you need to know.” She flapped her wings and pulled me up with her.

It’s an odd thing being ten then fifteen then twenty feet in the air, moving faster and higher, how the knowledge will suddenly kick in on how to use your newly acquired talents for flight. I pushed my winds hard, forcing the woman to release her hold on me.

As we rose into the night sky, I followed the stranger, trusting her with my life and with the truth. It didn’t stop me from glancing behind to see the billowing clouds of steam coming from four different directions as the horse riders doused the fire on their way to my original position.

I didn’t know why they would want me and why this stranger would intervene but I hoped to have the answers very soon.