“I don’t date people I work with,” she said. “It’s too awkward when it ends.”
“With that mindset you’re setting yourself up to fail,” he told her. “Embrace the power of positive thought.”
“I prefer to be pragmatic.”
“How about a trial? Dinner this Friday, your choice of venue. No strings, no expectations, no obligations. I’ll even try to make it fun.” He saw her resolve wavering. “C’mon, Dee—just give me a chance!”
So she did.
Eighteen months later, as he casually blanked her at the coffee machine, she wished she’d listened to herself.
Teyin Airkin suppressed a shiver as he stood waiting in the Mirror Chamber deep within the heart of Shatterstone. No windows graced the bare stone walls. The heat of the morning sun, which bathed the streets of Seelie Court in its amber brilliance, was excluded from this place.
Dead centre in the chamber, the surface of the free-standing mirror shone coldly, throwing candlelight back into the circular room. It didn’t so much banish the shadows, as create them. Teyin had often wondered why the Magisters performed these rituals in near-darkness. Perhaps when he got back from the other side, he would finally ask about it.
Last year was lean-times. Plentiful rain and warming sun nourished verdant fields of rice and millet and sugarcane. Herds of sacred cows and droves of goats grew fat with wheat and calf and kid. The farmers and their families feasted every night.
This season is better. Drought-boiled soil dries to dust, crops shrivel yellow and brown, streams run bare to bed. Starvation haunts the sacred beasts, their bodies withering to fly-swarmed leather and sun-bleached bone.
The vulture’s sharp eyes catch the stumble of another dying cow. He spreads his wings and swoops down to enjoy his breakfast.
A Bird’s-eye View
Every other Sunday I’ll be publishing a drabble about, or from the perspective of, a bird. This week’s bird is the majestic vulture. This particular drabble is set in India, where the population of vultures has been recently decimated by the use of the highly lethal (to vultures) veterinary drug, diclofenac. As a result of the declining vulture populations, there has been a corresponding rise in rat and wild dog numbers; these mammals feed on the carcasses which would previously have been scavenged by vultures, and in turn spread diseases such as rabies and plague.
A couple of years ago, I watched a fascinating documentary about the plight of India’s vultures, and it highlights just how important a single species can be to an ecosystem’s food chain; and how vulnerable the equilibrium becomes once a niche species such as the vulture is removed from the chain. The fellow in the picture above is an African Lappet-faced vulture—a species also in decline and currently classed as ‘vulnerable.’
Its claws rake at the windows of my soul, sharp talons searching, exploring, hunting for the tiniest crack to exploit. Formless It drifts, alert for one moment of weakness, poised—perpetually—to strike.
It whispers, a scratchy voice which penetrates the walls of my mind. I walk into a room full of strangers, and It tells me, They think you’re ugly. When I’m asked what I think of a friend’s new music video, It snaps, Complete garbage! I swallow annoyance over some perceived slight at work, and It devours the sentiment, gorging Itself on what I’m torn between not being able to say and what I want to say.
Jailer. Host. Chauffeur. It knows me by many names, but I know It only as some indefinable monster. Some dark reflection that lurks within the shadows of consciousness and never, ever rests. I hide It behind a mask of false smiles and vague pleasantries, drown It in a thousand half-full glasses and shroud It within the stifling embrace of poorly-stitched silver linings.
The mask works, for a time. The world sees the smiles, the silver-linings, the half-full glasses, and is none the wiser. But there are two people the mask can’t fool; myself, and the shadow lurking behind it. Each day, when I wake up, I fix the mask in place. All I know for sure is that It wants in, and I don’t know what will happen to me if It ever finds that crack.
Today’s flash fiction was written for one of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Friday prompts, another “pick your title out of these ten and write something coherent” affair.
The shadowy image above seems to originate somewhere here, but I can’t find a proper page source or license. If you know where attribution belongs, please let me know!
Lina’s hard leather shoes rubbed her feet in all the wrong places but she winced away her pain as she trotted down the corridor, hands behind her back, fingers working deftly to fasten her apron strings. If she was late for shift again, Mr. Paul was gonna dock her pay. Maybe even give her the boot, if he was in a rotten mood.
“Hey, Lina!” Ruby’s head appeared from the open door of room twenty-six, followed by the rest of her ample frame. The maid’s uniform didn’t so much hug her curves as squeeze them into submission. She got by, though.
“What’s the deal, Ruby?”
The older woman smiled and patted her hair, frizzy mass of black curls tamed into a respectable bun. It was about the only part of Ruby that could be called respectable—least with a straight face.
15th February 2017 – Update!
I like this one even more.
Why, hello there!
If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the half-dozen regulars who check out my site whenever I publish something new. Or maybe you’re completely new to my blog, in which case—welcome!
If you’ve been reading for a while, you may have noticed some DRASTIC changes which have taken place today. Namely, a complete overhaul of my site theme and colour scheme.
I really loved my old Piano Black theme with its spacey background(s). However, the theme just wasn’t doing what I needed it to do. Featured images weren’t showing up, the font(s) I had available to choose from weren’t great, and the busy-background was kinda distracting to read.
So! I have a shiny new theme. It’s a little more minimalist, a little cleaner, and though navigation is roughly the same, it should make my posts a little easier to read. As much as I love reading white text on a dark background, I know not everybody does. And let’s face it, I have to leave the 90s behind sometime.
If you have a moment to spare, I’d be grateful if you could let me know what you think of the redesign. I’m still tweaking here and there, so bear with me if you come across something glaringly erroneous. I’m also not married to the theme; I might even upgrade again with a paid theme, if I can find one which really jumps out at me. But for now, I like this just fine, and would love to hear what you think too. :)
Your pal in space,
Another day, another flash fiction challenge—this one courtesy of the good folks over at Absolute Write. This week’s prompt is THE PARALLEL VIEW, but before I launch into the story, I’m going to take a moment to try to get you to join the fun on the Absolute Write Forums. If you like reading or writing, whether it’s autobiography, high fantasy, free form poetry or anything in between, then you might want to check the place out.
Because you get to:
As I missed yesterday’s daily WordPress prompt, I’m going to incorporate it into today’s post, so you get two haiku instead of one!
Morning’s first coffee
forgotten in desire
to create new worlds
Chill wind nips my skin
Silently I hold my breath
as you cross the floor
Last week, Chuck Wendig of Terribleminds asked people to suggest three-word titles for stories. This week, Chuck randomly picked ten titles and invited bloggers to write a 1000-word story based on one of those titles.
The title I ended up with was Guppy Must Die. Hope you enjoy!
Guppy Must Die
“I’m getting real fed up of his showboating,” said Angel. Centre-stage at the weekly Aquarium Fish meeting was where she shined, and today the fluorescent lighting from The Great Above lent additional iridescence to her metallic scales. “The way he flashes his tail, it’s… indecent! Obscene!”
“Hear hear!” Goby swam forward, and Angel relinquished her place in the spotlight. Goby’s wide-spaced, unblinking eyes rolled back and forth as he studied the other fish gathered for the clandestine meeting in the shadow of the bogwood. “How that little interloper steals all the attention for himself, why, it’s downright criminal!”
The gentle beating of her heart
is a balm to my soul’s aches.
I burn inside when we’re apart,
a thirst that’s never slaked.
She shies so softly from my smiles,
her brown eyes dance away.
She’s had her freedom for a while,
but now it’s time to play.
A response to Jade Wong’s poem, A Heart. Check it out!