Tag Archives: Ficly

Shadow Man

I saw a shadow man today, tracking me through the corn. It kept its distance, for which I was grateful, but it moved when I moved, stepped where I stepped, stumbled when I stumbled. It stayed with me for some time before I stopped and turned to face it.

Hey, there, shadow man, I called to it. Why do you shadow me today?

I could see its mouth open in response, but I could not hear its words. After a moment I shrugged and moved on. It shrugged and did the same.

We traveled together for a while in this way. The corn was tall, the sun high overhead, and I lost the shadow man several times. Each time, though, it reappeared and continued to shadow me.

Eventually, we reached the end of the corn, and the field opened onto a rolling hillside.

This is where I go, I said. Will you still shadow?

It thought this over for a moment, then shook its head.

Very well, I said. Perhaps I will see you again.

I waved and moved on down the hill.

The shadow man stayed, but I could feel it waving behind me.

[Originally posted at Ficly.]

The Logbook

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series The Clockwork Desolation

The book lies on a table. Its pages are torn, tattered. The ink is faded, in places almost nonexistent. What ink remains, however, tells a chilling story.

On the left-hand page is a diagram, the chemical structure of a molecule labeled, simply, Nightmare. Then, a mathematical equation, all letters and numbers and symbols, the solution circled once, twice, three times. Below that, another molecular diagram, similar to the one above, but subtly different in ways that only an experienced biologist — or master alchemist — would recognize and understand.

The rest of the page is faded, but there are notes on the next.

“Use of the Coil has yielded… weaponized form of Nightmare…” Then, further down the page: “…highly unpredictable and volatile, lingering in the air hours after dispersal. I am suspending study of the compound until a stabilizing agent…”

There is little else on the page but one, last scribbled notation:

“…assistant has made off with my Coil… no idea what he has done!”

[Originally posted at Ficly]

The Clockwork Mannequin

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series The Clockwork Desolation

Sand blew through the broken glass and ticked against the metal skin of the clockwork mannequin behind it. Dressed in a tattered waistcoat, its gears and joints shrieked and popped in the dead air as it attempted to pivot on its rusted pedestal.

“Greetings, Loyal Customer™!” it called out to no one. “We have the best boots and buskins—”

A harsh whine of metal.

“—try a pair on!”

The wind howled through the dusty street before the mannequin, shifting small dunes from one side to the other. Tumbleweeds raced past, bouncing off broken buildings on their way to nowhere.

“Corsets, top hats, monocles! We have—”

Clanging, banging gears. A puff of smoke and the smell of burning copper.

“—al Customer™! You have only to ask!” The mannequin continued its pitch in spite of itself. It jerked right, once, and became still, its voice holding out just a moment longer.

“Loyal. Loyal. Loyal. Loy—”

And then it froze, silent as the human shadows burned into the boardwalk beneath it.

[Originally posted at Ficly]

Traversal

The tiny craft’s re-emergence into real space was unremarkable in every way. No flash of light to mark the rift it tore in the black, no radio or gravity waves, and even the EM radiation typical to subspace travel was dampened so as to be indistinguishable from the universe’s own background noise. The ship was decked in a non-reflective nano-material that absorbed all forms of energy that struck it, recycling it back through the hyper-efficient engines for a continuous, if nominal, power supply. And so, for all intents and purposes, the craft was invisible to all but the most advanced surveillance tools.

And in this part of space, perfect concealment was tantamount to survival.

“Feather the engines back,” Harking commanded. “Drift us from here.”

“Aye, sir,” the pilot replied.

“How long until traversal?” Harking inquired.

A pause while the pilot did the math. “Just under three lights, less than 30 minutes at our current course and speed.”

“Barely good enough,” Harking muttered, “but it will have to do.”

[Originally posted at Ficly.]

Cartographer

A little over a year ago, three authors on Ficly completed a collaborative short story that took about six months to complete. For those not familiar, Ficly is a flash fiction site where all stories must be 1000 characters or fewer. Any story may be sequeled or prequeled as often as there are ideas to do so, and this can often lead to some truly epic works. “Cartographer” is one such story, begun in April 2010 by Shu Sam Chen and completed with one of my own contributions in October 2010. From start to finish, the story was built from 52 individual pieces, totaling just over 9000 words. I’ve been meaning to compile all the parts into one document for some time now, and that document can be found in various electronic formats below. I’ve also included SSC’s initial contribution below to give you a little taste of what to expect. Feel free to share these documents, but please make sure that it always remains under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

PDF | MOBI | EPUB | HTML | RTF | TXT | DOCX | DOC | PS

Our little ship coasted on the rough turbulence around Yvonne’s Delight. We were five days out from the Hydras, running a shipload of tetrahydride to Phis Minor. The pilots up front yelled incomprehensible vectors at each other, every now and then passing me a new set of data. I was too busy to notice, fingers tapping away in a frenzy at the holographic keyboard.

“We’re going to need the routing code quick, Carto!”

“Carto, estimate time is four-half seconds!”

“No way, four-half secs? The fastest record is four-two!”

“No choice, four-five is the best we can do. Leave it.”

“Coming up! Lock and load!”

I looked up calmly, fingers still flying over the surface in front of me.

“Code ready. Move into position Five-Five-Nine-Delta-Five.”

“Roger that, Carto. T-minus five seconds!”

“Routing code ready. Extend vector array.”

“Array’s up, hurry!”

“Code base logic written.”

“Come on!”

The instability changed to smooth running.

“My god. That…”

“Was three-nine. Our carto’s broken the record!”

Shoot the Messenger

Smoke drifted lazily from the barrel of the Ladysmith.

“You didn’t have to do that.” Kathryn’s gaze fixed on mine.

I glanced at the body sprawled out beside her and chuckled. “I know. It’s just kind of fun.”

The waitress sidled up to me. “More coffee, sir?”

“Sure, sure,” I replied. “And another serving of those wonderful hashbrowns, if you please, with my compliments to the cook.”

“Certainly!”

Kathryn smirked. “She didn’t even look at the body. I think they’re a little too accustomed to your routine.”

“Of course they are. If Marj wouldn’t keep sending those damned messengers at breakfast…” I replied.

“Still, you really don’t need to keep shooting them.”

I shrugged. “I don’t like the messages they deliver. The day Marj sends one I like is the day I get out of this business.”

“The business of shooting the messenger.” Kathryn’s delivery was deadpan.

“You know what I mean.” I sounded petulant. I didn’t care.

“Alright,” she said. “I’ll ease off. For now.”

“Thanks.”

Helluva way to start the day.

Attacked

He helped her up from the floor. She was bruised, bloody, and shaken. Whatever had happened here, it had been violent and traumatic. The room was a study in chaos.

“You alright?” he asked. No response. Her gaze was distant, focused on something far from here. He tried again. “Hey! Look at me!”

She did.

“Are you alright?” She nodded, tentative at first, then more emphatically. “Good,” he said. “What’s your name?”

“S- Sarah.” Definitely in shock.

“Ok, Sarah. It’s ok, now. I’m going to get you out of here.” She sagged against his shoulder.

“Can you tell me what happened?”

He felt her nod. “Attacked.”

“By what?” No response.

Something crashed in the other room. He made her look at him again, helped her focus.

“Ok, Sarah, this is important. The thing that attacked you, it might still be here.” Fear flashed in her eyes. “Can you tell me what it looks like?”

Her face clouded with confusion.

“I- yeah, but it doesn’t make sense.”

“It’s okay. Just tell me.”

“It looked like a pair of folded purple socks.”

[Originally posted at Ficly.]

Flight

Lightning flashed, and the boys ran, pumping their legs as hard as they could.

“Did you see that?” the first cried.

“No, and neither did you! Keep running!”

“I can’t,” came the reply. “I’ve got to stop for a sec.”

They dropped behind a fallen log and sucked air in ragged gasps, the panic of their flight showing its toll on them. Blood roared in their ears as their scared and exhausted bodies tried to compensate for the brutal run.

“Was that what I think it was?” the first asked. The reply came as a nod. “How can that be? I thought they were just legend?”

The second shook his head. “I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter now. We just have to get away. Ready?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Good. We’re almost there.”

They stood to run again, and another flash of lightning illuminated the shadow looming over them, arms outstretched, a wooden pole shoved up its back. They screamed, and the thunder boomed.

In the morning, the ring of scarecrows circling the town had increased by two.

[Originally posted on Ficly.]

Market of the Macabre

This entry is part 1 of 8 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.]

Cursed

The Callous Demon peered down at Leohand from its perch atop the door. Leohand glared at the leathery creature.

“Ah, I see you’ve met Domedra,” Tarvin said, coming back into the room. “She’s harmless enough, but few of my customers care for her presence. Cuts down on theft.” He chuckled.

“I’ve come for an item in your collection,” Leohand growled. “A Prayer.”

Tarvin’s demeanor became serious as he dropped his voice to a whisper. “I don’t know who you are, chum, but I don’t deal in Relics.”

“I have it on good authority that you do.” Leohand pulled a folded document from his coat. As he took it, Tarvin’s eyes widened as the tattoo appeared from beneath Leohand’s sleeve.

Nodding, Leohand declared, “I have carried this Curse for twelve years.” Tarvin felt the blood drain from his face. Few Cursed lived longer than three years. That this man had survived four times that long…

“Remember that before you choose to cross me,” Leohand finished.

Tarvin stammered, “Y- Um, which Prayer specifically did you want?”

[Originally posted on Ficly.]