Tag Archives: fantasy

Meat-Eater

In hindsight, Trista realized she probably shouldn’t have fallen asleep under that tree.

Pus dripped into Trista’s eyes from the multiple infected sores on her scalp. She wanted to wipe it away, but the tree held her fast, pinning her arms to her sides, arms she could no longer feel. Feverish and frequently delirious, Trista couldn’t struggle. She’d lost track of how long she’d been trapped here. Days? Hours? She couldn’t remember.

Her body was coming apart. She was covered in sores as the tree slowly digested her. Her skin was sloughing off in greasy sheets, exposing bone and muscle that had turned black from the tree’s corrosive sap. Strands of flesh and tissue were all that was holding her organs in and that not very well. Already thick coils of bowel stretched from her abdomen to the ground, where insects feasted on them.

In her rare moments of coherency, she longed for death. She had suffered for so long.

Her final thought was a wish – a wish that she had never ventured into this hateful forest.

[Originally posted on Ficly.]

Magic In Unexpected Places

Claire found the hat half under a bush, half out. It was the sort of hat one might wear while working in the garden — woven straw and wide-brimmed. Claire turned the hat in her hands. The top had been torn out, leaving ragged edges and a large hole.

She flipped the hat over — and it took a moment for her mind to resolve what she saw. All around her it was broad daylight, but looking down through the hole in the hat revealed a landscape cast in night’s shadow. Night, in a place that was other.

It was like a window into another world, or maybe more like a periscope. When Claire moved, that other landscape moved in concert. When she turned, that other place turned, and she saw a world much like her own and yet different in some indefinable way.

She brought the hat down to the ground so to reach through, pluck a blade of grass, and pull it back when a voice, solemn and sad, caused her to gasp and nearly drop the hat.

“I wouldn’t do that were I you. Stuff really shouldn’t cross between our two worlds.”

[Originally posted on Ficly.]

Market of the Macabre

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series Market of the Macabre

He drifted through the cacophony with certain inevitability. Barkers called out their wares along the way.

“Seed of life, extracted via rectal cavity!”

“Fetal tissue from forced abortion!”

“Skullcap of a suicided dwarf!”

“Broken heart! Freshly broken!”

On and on the calls went, featuring items of the grisly and the grotesque. His attention, then, was ripped away by the Finder rapping on the bars of the cage.

“Too bad none of these Rippers has you, eh, lad?” The Finder’s chuckle was wet and croupy. A clump of phlegm shot out and slid down one of the bars. “I knows me my goods, I does, I does. Make me a small fortune from it, too.”

He watched with feverish eyes as the Finder stopped the cart and climbed up next to the cage. A pause to gather himself, and the Finder’s barked call brought all to silence in the market for a brief moment. Then as one, merchant and consumer alike surged forward to bid for this new prize.

“Last breath of a sickly boy with no hope, bottled right before your very eyes!”

[Originally posted on Ficly.]

Eye of Newt

The black cauldron sat in the middle of the room and hissed menacingly as the green sludge within burbled and glurped.  The stench emanating from the vile brew was overwhelming, nauseating in its potency, but the witch standing over it seemed not to notice.

“Leg of lizard.  Tail of salamander.  African bat guano.”

The bubbling mix sizzled and sparked with every ingredient added.

“Dash of pixie dust.  Cloven goat’s hoof.  Heart of newborn lamb.”

She read from the page she had copied from the ancient tome.  The print had been terribly faded, the language archaic, but from it had come a form of magic that others would kill to acquire from her, if only they had known of it.

“Stir clockwise for three minutes, six turns per minute.”

Her arm ached by the time she was done dragging the mixing rod through the thickening glop, but past experience proved that her discomfort now would be worth it once she was done.

The final ingredient was eye of newt.  This she dutifully added, expecting that the formula would transform into its usual bright blue color, indicating that she had done everything perfectly and that the potion was ready.  Instead, it puffed a cloud of acrid smoke, causing the witch to cough and gag.

When the air finally cleared, she looked to find that her precious Vanity Potion, her secret to ultimate beauty, had turned black and smelled strongly of charcoal.  She cursed quietly and then sighed in resignation.

“Oh, well.  I guess I shall have to start again.” The witch-turned-prom-queen whirled to face the young man – her date – that she had tied to a chair behind her.  His head lolled to one side, revealing a red socket where his left eye used to be.  “I’m sorry, Newton, dear.  I confess I was careless with your gift.” She raised a short dagger and took a step toward him.  “I’m afraid that I have need of your other eye.”

Eternal Sleeper

The Lonely Moon gazes down on me,
The pale, immortal Son of Night.
It wakens the Eternal Sleeper,
Who calls to me, and I answer.

She walked, barefoot, across a carpet of moss. Her song – soft, haunting – danced on a breath of air, spun through the wood.

Only the trees observed her progress, their bony fingers scraping across her skin, clutching her hair, tugging at her thin nightgown. Dead leaves chittered nervously, a lament for other lost souls. She seemed not to notice, hypnotized by the enchantment in the air.

She sang, even as vines wrapped around her and bore her to the great old oak. She greeted it like an old friend, her hand caressing its rough surface.

“Hello, lover,” she whispered. “I have been waiting for you.”

It stood wide to receive her, molding itself to her as she was pressed into it. Washed in the moonlight her features were transformed into gnarled bark as the oak claimed her for itself. Her song ended only after the tree was whole once more.

* * *

Somewhere in the forest is an ancient oak tree with a human face. The legends all say that once upon a time, the Eternal Sleeper reached out from its slumber and called a young maiden to itself, that she went to it willingly and became one with it, a song of joy on her lips. It is also said that when the Lonely Moon shines upon the Sleeper, you can hear her singing still.

Originally posted at Clarity of Night.

Two Lamps

“Choose the lamp on the left, see visions of the future. Choose the one on the right, taste of true madness for a spell.” The crone’s words burned in the girl’s mind like festering sores. She held her hands over the lamps but felt no heat from them, despite the frigid temperature in the small chamber. No shadows, nothing to indicate they even sat before her, despite what her eyes told her.

What kind of choice was this? Madness versus prophecy? The choice itself was madness.

Still, she plunged her hand into the light of the left-hand lamp and felt warmth from it at last as it gripped her arm and invaded her body. But then it grew bitterly cold as it wracked her mind with visions of an impossibly horrible future. She screamed with the pain and terror of it and knew that this was far worse.

Her last thought before she succumbed to the black madness was, I should have chosen the other lamp.

* * *

Shuffling steps. A hunched figure in the shadows. The girl was half-curled in a fetal position, eyes wide and unseeing. She could have been dead, but for the tears streaming from her eyes and the trembling lower lip.

“Your problem, girl, is that you have no imagination, no ability to see the consequences of your choices. So very typical. Arrogance of youth.”

She spat and the rancid spittle slid down the girl’s cheek as the crone shuffled back into the shadows.

Originally posted at Clarity of Night.

Flashes of Speculation Open Once Again

After a six-month hiatus, “Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com is once more open for business. With the site’s re-launch comes an upgrade to WordPress 2.3 and a new, magazine-style theme, courtesy of “The Design Canopy”:http://thedesigncanopy.com/. I am looking for contributions to the site, stories that are no longer than 1000 words and fall into any or all of the sub-genres of speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternate history, etc.

Additionally, contributors are now able to register at Flashes of Speculation and use the WordPress Dashboard to submit their stories. These contributions will then be reviewed before being published in order to ensure proper formatting and quality as well as to prevent spammers. Hopefully, this will take a bit more of the load off me in getting new contributions published, as well as make Flashes of Speculation a little more of the community project I’ve always intended it to be.

I encourage you to go check out the site again and contribute stories if you’d like. I would also be very appreciative of any and all publicity you are willing to give to Flashes of Speculation through your blogs and websites.

A Less Charming Harry Potter

Brandon Sanderson has read the final Harry Potter installment. He had, in part, this to say about it:

bq. Initial thoughts: I liked it, as I’ve liked all of the other HP books. However, it lacked the charm of the books that occurred inside of Hogwarts. (Source: “Brandon Sanderson”:http://www.brandonsanderson.com/blog.php?date=1187247600)

That, for me, was probably the main thing about the last book that I disliked about it. I missed the uniqueness of Hogwarts and the interactions with the students and the teachers. It made sense that something near the end would have to take place away from the school, since Harry had to explore his roots in order to understand better how to defeat Voldemort. It just would have been nice to spend a little more time at the school. I didn’t really expect much of the story to take place there, though, since the conclusion to Book 6 made it pretty clear that Harry didn’t intend to go back for his last year.

I’d still love to see some sequels to the series to fill in the years between Voldemort’s demise and the epilogue. Whether Rowling decides to break her word and actually write such books, however, remains to be seen.