Themes: Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism, Mysticism
Words: 998

Theo kicked out at a stray stone, sending it bouncing along the sidewalk. It bounced three times, then went plink! as it struck a post driven into the Stukers’ lawn.

Yard Sale.

In the yard, Mrs. Stuker arranged items on a table, whilst Mr. Stuker brought another cardboard box from the house. The Stukers had been threatening to hold a sale for years, ever since their son had left home to take a job in Pensacola. Dennis had been a hoarder, a fact Mrs. Stuker complained about often.

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“But I’m tired of the doll house. I want to play on the rocking horse.”

Alexander’s complaint reached Maria as she crossed the midpoint of the stairs. The creak of the ancient wooden staircase beneath her feet drowned out his next words, and it wasn’t until she approached his bedroom door that she heard him speak again.

“Oh, fine. But only if it’s a story with monsters in it. Monsters that eat little girls.”

Maria knocked softly on the door, and was rewarded with Alexander’s call of, “Come in!”

When she popped her head around the jamb, she found her adopted son by the doll house, a lip-heavy pout betraying his displeasure. He’d breezed through his terrible twos with barely a cry, but since turning six, he’d become distant and distracted. Maria and Thomas told each other it was just a phase, that he’d soon grow out of it. Luckily, she knew just the thing to entice him out of his room.

“Alexander, I’m about to have afternoon tea. Would you like a scone?”

He shook his head. “We’re playing.”

“Who are you playing with, Alexander?”

“Clara.”

Maria looked up at the picture hanging on the wall. The girl’s golden curls crowned her head, the smile on her face infectious as she struck a pose for the camera. Two months after the picture had been taken, the curls were gone. Chemotherapy had ravaged her body, ripping from it the plumpness and vigour of youth. Five months after that, Clara passed away, just a week before her seventh birthday.

Tears stung Maria’s eyes. Alexander had been asking about the picture, lately. Maria had found a sort of catharsis in talking about the daughter she’d lost. But she’d never imagined that Alexander would turn Clara into an imaginary friend.

“Maybe Clara would like a scone as well,” she suggested, blinking rapidly to clear her vision.

Alexander cocked his head to the side, pausing as if listening to something. “No… Clara wants to stay here and play with her toys. But she doesn’t want you to have afternoon tea alone, so I’ll have a scone with you.”

A smile teased its way across Maria’s lips. One of Clara’s last questions had been, “Can I still have afternoon tea in Heaven?” That was the moment Maria felt her heart break.

“Come on, then,” she said, holding out her hand. “While the clotted cream’s still fresh.”

At the door, Alexander turned back to face the emptiness of the playroom. “Alright, you can ride it until I’m done with my scone.” And with that, he left the room and began clumping down the stairs.

As Maria closed the door behind her, she heard a familiar wooden creak. With a shiver, she hurried after Alexander. Just the stairs, she told herself.

UFO


I’ve had a bit of a break from writing (and reading—sorry, people whose blogs I follow!) for a couple of weeks to sort out some RL malarkey. But I’ve found time to write this little piece for Sue Vincent’s weekly #writephoto prompt. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and please check out Sue’s site for other excellent entries.

Article 94

Those of you who follow me on Twitter, or John on Facebook, have already seen this, but read the whole thing for more exciting news!

It’s should be old news to you, but John and I signed a contract with Severed Press for them to distribute the English eBook and paperback of War of the Worlds: Retaliation worldwide! They re-edited the story, and came up with a killer cover:


Pretty epic, huh?

I promised exciting news, so here it is: Severed Press is interested in another War of the Worlds sequel, and it just so happens that John and I have an outlines for two more books. We’re currently in negotiations for book number two!

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Themes: Crime, Urban Fantasy, Sci-fi
Words: ~994

Emporium was quiet for a Saturday night, but then, it tended to attract a lot of Espers. Dunno why. Maybe they like the music. Maybe they like that the bar staff don’t ask How’s your day been? as soon as you pull up a stool. Maybe they just like the soft-light ambiance. Emporium wasn’t really my scene, but I didn’t feel as uncomfortable there as most simple, honest folk do.

The beat of synth music pulsed its way out the front door. The bouncer gave me the once-over, but made no move to stop me. Recognised me, probably. This wasn’t my first visit to Emporium, and I doubt it’ll be the last.

My eyes adjusted to the dim, smoky interior, straining for every scrap of soft light they could get. I glanced over couples staring lovingly into each others’ eyes, and scanned the faces of men and women clustered around tables in small groups. It could’ve been a scene from any bar in the city, except for the fact not a damn one of them was making physical contact.

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Call Me Vlad

One micey. Two micey. Three micey. Four—

He stopped, stock still, on the gleaming barbed wire fence. The fourth spike was empty. Where was four micey? He’d hoisted the carcass up just yesterday. Miceys did not just get up and walk off the spikes. Not after he’d chewed off their little micey heads.

A victorious squeal from the undergrowth revealed the fate of four micey. A black-tipped tail flashed through the dandelions as an opportunistic stoat made off with the largest morsel in the larder.

No matter. Tomorrow, there would be more miceys to catch.

UFO


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 shrike. If birds were the size of some of their dinosaur forebears, you’d rightfully be worried about raptors such as hawks, eagles and falcons. However, perhaps after reading about the shrike, you’d bump it right to the top of your ‘avoid’ list. The shrike is a small, carnivorous passerine (the order of birds which also includes sparrows and robins). Lacking the talons of birds of prey, it hunts by pouncing on its victims from above and lifting them up to the thorns of trees or spikes of barbed wire, where it impales its live meal. It can then tear them apart at its leisure using its sharp, curved beak. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a colloquial name for this tiny killer is butcher bird. They’ll hunt small mammals, other birds, as well as insects such as bees and toxic locusts.

Image from here under this CC 2.0 licence.

Themes: Detective, Crime, Parody, Pirates
Words: 972

The docks smelt bad even at the best of times, but as she tottered down the wooden pier on her stupidly high heels, Detective Kitty Salva tried not to pull her face at the foul miasma of rotting fish and blooming algae wafting up from the water below. There were only two ways to smuggle dragons into Yew Nork City, and if they weren’t coming by land, they had to be coming by sea.

The things I do for my job!

“Mind yer footing here, Miss,” said Unscrupulous Jack. The smuggler offered his hand, assisting her over a loose plank. “Are you sure you wanna see this? My word’s gold. Just ask anyone.”

Kitty simpered at him. “My client insists I view the holding area. He wants to be certain that his phoenix will be travelling in excellent conditions.”

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Theme: Fantasy, Legend
Words: 992

“Tell us a story, Grandpa!” Talia begged. Her cry was picked up by the other children in the flock, a chorus of voices demanding entertainment.

Joram looked down at their eager faces. In a few years, Talia and her friends would be leaving school, entering the murky world of young-adulthood.The little ones would be little no longer, and they’d have no desire for an old man’s stories.

“What story would you like?” he asked his granddaughter.

He knew the answer before she gave it. She flung out her arm, finger pointing to the distant wall looming over the city. “The story of the firewall!” Of course. It was her favourite, and she never tired of hearing it.

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Adorned with a crown of jewels, she sat regal on her throne, watching the comings and goings of her subjects below. The morning sun rose, glinting off the stately amethyst and sapphire necklace which twinned the crown.

Nearby flower petals, opening to embrace the sun’s touch, beckoned to her with their perfume of sweet nectar. The cold of the long night forgotten, she stretched her wings and hummed a monotonous tune as she hovered in place.

With royal precision, she dipped forward to greet the flower and sip her saccharine breakfast.

UFO


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 beautiful Hummingbird. I suspect the specimen in the Pixabay picture above is actually a male (the species exhibits sexual dimorphism with the males usually more brightly coloured than females), but I couldn’t get the image of a queen wearing jewels out of my head.

An interesting fact I discovered whilst writing this drabble is that the males of some species perform a ‘courtship dive.’ To paraphrase Wikipedia, the male ascends by ~35 metres before diving down over a female at 27 m/s (equal to 385 body lengths/second) to produce a high-pitched sound. That downward acceleration is the highest reported for any vertebrate undergoing a voluntary aerial manoeuvre, and the speed relative to body length is the highest for any known vertebrate. In comparison, that’s about twice the diving speed of the formidable peregrine falcon whilst pursuing prey.

Hummingbird–1,  Peregrine falcon–0

Peregrine Falcon

And he’s pretty damn upset about it!

 

Spacepals Review Stuff

Hello!

Glork

My name is Glorken, and I’m The Urban Spaceman’s best and only friend! TUS has fallen a little behind on scientific reports to the Homeworld, and has asked me to step in to help out by reviewing stuff that is super important to you Earth-things.

Before we get to the good stuff, you probably want to know about my species, right? Specifically, you’re looking at me and thinking, “Hey, that guy has no fingers. How does he count?” Right?

Super important stuff you need to know about me…

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Themes: Humour, Parody
Words: 670

Pussycat lay draped over the side of the rowboat, her paw trailing listlessly in the water. Every few minutes a fish would swim up to examine the ripples, only to dart back to the safety of the depths when Pussycat took a swipe. She hadn’t caught anything yet, but she no longer expected to. These fish were very different to the sticklebacks she hunted in the stream back home.

In the back of the boat, Owl sat strumming his small guitar. Every so often he’d stop at the end of a phrase and repeat the bars he’d just played. His voice was mumble too quiet for Pussycat to discern his words; no doubt it was another ode to her beauty. That was pretty much all he sang, these days.

Another fish swam up to the boat. Another swipe of the paw. Another one that got away. Another repeated refrain from Owl.

“Will you stop playing that bloody thing?!” Pussycat hissed. “You’re scaring away all the fish.”

“I told you they were too fast to catch.” Owl slid his guitar beneath his seat and pulled out the picnic hamper. “These aren’t like the sticklebacks we get at home, you know.”

As Owl began carving up the hunk of honeyed ham, Pussycat sighed at the stars. This was not how she imagined her honeymoon. She was tired, hungry, smelled constantly of the bilge-water that found its way into the bottom of the boat, and to top off her list of complaints, the gold ring Owl had bought for her was turning to brass.

Owl appeared by her side and offered a plate containing a single slice of ham. “Here you go, my love. Eat up! It will improve your mood.”

Pussycat accepted the plate and devoured the ham, but the beast in her stomach still growled in complaint. “Don’t suppose there are any eggs to go with it?”

“I’m sorry, my love, but I had to throw them away yesterday; they’d turned quite green.”

“What about the mince and the slices of quince left over from our wedding feast?”

“You used the last of the mince for fishing, and we ran out of quince just before I cooked up the ham.” Owl bestowed a smile on his new wife. “I told you we should’ve brought more jars of honey.”

“Could you please just not talk for a while?” Pussycat sighed.

“Is something wrong, my love?”

Pussycat’s tail bristled, doubling in size. “Of course something’s wrong! Everything’s wrong!” She held up her wrist, showing off the gold-brass ring in the starlight. “The man who sold you this ring was a complete swine. And I bet that turkey-looking fellow who performed our ceremony wasn’t even ordained to marry us.”

“I told you he looked shifty. But you insisted on eloping! What was I to do?”

“You didn’t have to give him all our money, though. Right down to our last five pound note, too!” Not only was she starving and cold, she was now destitute. The proud owner of a brass ring and a boat that leaked. The boat had seemed a bargain at the time, but in hindsight, she should’ve walked away when she saw its name painted on its shallow hull. Who the hell called a boat Pea Green, anyway?

“It’s not all been bad, has it?” asked Owl. He sat on the bench beside her and took her paw in his wing. “We had our first dance by moonlight, with only the stars for company. How many people can say they did that?”

The dance was nice, she had to admit, but it didn’t make up for the cold. Or the hunger. Or the brass ring. Or the misery. “When we get back home, I’m planting roots.” She thumped the side of the boat. “And we’re selling this piece of crap.”

Owl smiled smugly. “I told you it wasn’t possible to circumnavigate the Earth in a rowboat.”

Pussycat snatched back her paw from his feathered grip. “I hate you,” she growled.

Earth


Inspiration for today’s Flash Fiction comes from Edward Lear’s poem, The Owl and the Pussy-cat (which you already totally knew… right? RIGHT?!) .

This is one of those times when I write one thing for two prompts and also sorta maybe just a little bit cheat my way through it. Yesterday, Jade M. Wong tagged me in a “write as much as you can in 10 minutes” challenge over on her blog. The prompt she gave was GREEN EGGS AND HAM. I didn’t get 10 uninterrupted minutes to do this, and it probably came to more like 15, but meh.

Chuck Wendig today set a “pick one of ten one-word titles and go nuts” flash fic challenge. I don’t know why I had Lear’s poem in my head when I read this prompt, but here we are.

According to Jade, I now need to tag at least 5 bloggers and offer a new prompt, but since I am That Indecisive Person who struggles to pick things (don’t ask my favourite food, colour, animal, etc) I’m just going to leave this open to anybody who would like to join in the fun. So, set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and put something out there! Full rules on Jade’s page linked above, and your new prompt is…

*after agonising for 25 minutes due to aforementioned indecisiveness*

SUMMER CAMP