Short break. Blog Post.

Hey guys I’m going to be taking a short break from posting, I’ll be back on Monday the 7th of May.

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Pilgrimage. Short Story.

Sarah reached the top of the hill and unshouldered her pack. There it was, the locals called it the Tree of Life. It stood in the middle of a large clearing. The trees bark was a deep brown, it stretched up into the sky, at least three hundred feet tall, the base was wide, about forty feet across. She could see the opening in the bark from here, a long split that was about seven foot wide at the bottom and about ten foot tall. She sipped her water and just gazed at it, the canopy of leaves were a bright green, the locals said that it bloomed with hundreds of thousands of red flowers once a year, making it look almost as though the top of the tree was burning. Sarah rummaged through her bag and took out her camera, she snapped a few photos then put it away again. Then she sat down and rested, staring at the tree.

When she’d gotten her breath back Sarah stood and put on her backpack, the hill was less steep on this side and seemed like it would be easy to get down. The journey so far had been difficult but not impossible, a reasonably fit person wouldn’t have too much trouble doing it. She looked up at the tree again, though maybe it would be best if this tree remained a secret, hidden from the world. It was only luck that she herself had heard about it, overhearing two locals on the bus talking about a pilgrimage. She’d used that knowledge to glean more from people throughout her trip. She knew the locals didn’t like talking about it with her, even though she tried to pretend she knew all about it already. Sarah started to walk, the descent was easier than she had hoped and she found herself at the bottom in an hour, the hill was rocky and there were plenty of places to walk down without too much danger of slipping. At the bottom she paused and took another sip of water. She had to be careful and take her time, it wouldn’t do to become over excited, that was when mistakes happened and a mistake out here could kill her. Sure the locals visited, but it seemed that they only did so every few months to make offerings. God only knew how long she’d be out here before someone found her.

The walk was longer than she expected, from the top of the hill it looked as though it was only a short distance from the base, the lack of other, smaller trees helped with the illusion. As she walked she occasionally stopped and snapped some more pictures. There was something peaceful about the open field, almost reverential, like stepping inside a church. The wind blew but it was a quiet, soothing noise, she could hear a river somewhere in the distance, though she hadn’t spotted one from the hill.

Sarah stood at the base of the tree, she reached out and gently touched the trunk, it was surprisingly warm. The bark itself felt smooth underneath her hands. The opening looked natural, the bark either side of it was undamaged. Inside was dark and shadowy but she could make out the remains of previous offerings, flowers, some mostly rotted fruits. A faint scent of damp earthy decay emanated from it, but Sarah found it oddly comforting, it reminded her of digging through the rich soil of her grandmothers garden as a girl, when they would plant flowers together on sunny days. She realised that she had already decided to keep this place a secret, she’d share photos of it but she would make something up about its location. This was a place of peace and solitude, it wasn’t meant to be filled with hundreds of tourists milling about. There was something deeply spiritual about it, Sarah reached out and touched the bark again, it was though she could feel faint vibrations, like the slow, steady beat of a giant heart. Sarah closed her eyes and breathed deeply, feeling her heartbeat begin to sync with the vibration, she released her breath and felt completely content. She took her hand away from the bark and stumbled forward slightly, she reached out and steadied herself on the tree, her head felt a little fuzzy, the world seemed just a little skewed. She shook her head and then went to her bag to grab a snack, the journey must have been more tiring than she realised. As she ate she walked around the base of the tree, only truly grasping the size of it after completing a circuit. Back at the opening she stepped inside, shivering slightly at the dip in temperature. Inside the tree was cool and slightly damp, the deep smell of earth was stronger, almost uncomfortably so. Another wave of dizziness hit, Sarah reached out and steadied herself against the wall of the tree, instantly she felt better. That steady beat was stronger here, she could feel it through her whole body. She felt herself relaxing and then suddenly she was sitting on the cold ground, her legs were numb and her body was cold. The sun had shifted outside, the shadow of the tree stretched out from her. Part of her knew she should get moving, that she needed help but she couldn’t move. She felt a deep sense of relaxation through her body, her limbs were heavy and moved ever so slowly. She felt her head dip forwards and her eyes start to close. She tried to move herself and just collapsed forward. Sarah lay on the ground, eyes closed and her breathing slowing.

Outside the moon cast a bright, silver light on the tree as a gentle wind whispered through the leaves. One by one flowers began to grow, a deep purple in the silver light. When dawn stretched across the horizon the flowers opened, their deep red petals revealing a golden centre that seemed to glow in the morning light. Sarah’s bag lay to the side of the opening, there was nothing else to show she’d been there.

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Escape. Flash Fiction.

Amanda sat down on the warm rocks, her legs were tired and shaky, her mouth was dry, she’d run out of water about an hour back and hadn’t come across any water out here so far. Her stomach rumbled lightly but she ignored it, she’d been hungrier before, there was still plenty of time for her to find food before she starved. As she caught her breath she surveyed the land, rolling green hills stretching out as far as she could see, gnarled, twisted trees dotted the landscape but there was little else. She glanced behind her and could see the large black plume of smoke rising in the distance, she looked ahead, it was better not to think about that. She still had a long way to go, sighing she stood from the rocks and started walking. The ground was slightly spongy, her feet sinking into it as she walked, it was almost like walking on cushions. The green grass wasn’t as soft as it looked, the blades felt waxy and sharp and occasionally they scratched her ankles as she went. She wasn’t dressed for cross country travel, wearing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, everything wasn’t supposed to kick off for another two weeks but it made no difference to her. She had planned on bringing nothing, she just wanted off this shit heap of a planet. There was still thirty years left on her sentence and that was thirty years too long.

Amanda could see people in the distance, ten in all, all moving towards the hidden building. Even though she knew it was there it was hard to distinguish, whoever had built it had done an excellent job of blending it into the landscape and it looked just like another low hill, the only difference was the thin green door on one side. She started walking faster, ignoring the ache in her legs, she didn’t want to be the last to arrive. Behind her came a dull roar, faded by distance. She spun around, heart thumping, there was nothing behind her, at least not that she could see. What the hell could make that kind of noise? Most of the planet had been catalogued and she could recall no animals larger than a small dog. What ever made that noise was big. She broke into a light jog. She’d heard rumours of the genetic labs creating Goliaths but she had never really believed them, they were just stories that the other prisoners whispered to each other in the dark.

The door opened before Amanda could knock on it, there was no one on the other side. She entered, turning sideways to squeeze through. Inside was lit by low light casting shadows around the small room. “Please take a seat. We will be departing shortly.” a spotlight lit a single chair, Amanda collapsed into it. It was soft and comfortable, as the restraints lowered over her shoulders she felt herself starting to doze off. The chair jerked backwards, startling her it went down a short corridor and joined a row of filled seats. One or two people were reading, most were sitting silently. Amanda let herself doze.

The rumbling woke her up, the countdown started a moment later. Light flooded the room revealing large windows. Amanda felt that familiar spike of adrenaline and started smiling. The room shook as the ship rose into the air. She watched as the landscape stretched out, giving her a larger view. She could see more plumes of smoke and moving through the haze were giant creatures, impossibly large. They were humanoid in shape, two legs, two arms, their bodies were naked, she could make out little else. Then the ship was too high and they were out of view, people were muttering to one another. Amanda closed her eyes and took a slow, deep breath, she was finally free of that place. Everything else was secondary.

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No short story today.

Hey guys, there won’t be a short story today, will be back on Monday as usual.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

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Reset. Flash Fiction.

The room was small, holding only a hospital bed and a chair beside it, a single bare bulb hung from the ceiling giving a weak and watery kind of light. Dana sat on the chair, the old man lay in the bed, she didn’t know his name, she didn’t bother learning them any more. He wore a thin hospital gown and was shivering with fever, his forehead was damp with perspiration and sweat stains were steadily growing under his arms. Dana didn’t speak, there were no offered words or reassurance, she just watched and waited. Every now and then she glanced at her watch to see how much time had passed, you could never tell in the room which was devoid of clocks and windows. The mans breathing was shallow and it rattled with each inhale and exhale, occasionally he would frown or groan, but beyond that he was silent. Dana reached out and gently took one of his wrists in her hand, she found his pulse, weak but steady, and gently lowered his hand to the bed. She wiped at the the sheets discretely, trying to get rid of the strange wet, greasy feel left on her hands. She wasn’t sure when he had last bathed, she couldn’t remember.

Dana’s stomach grumbled sullenly, she was hungry now, thirsty too. She had nothing to eat since breakfast and stupidly forget to grab snacks before coming in. She wasn’t allowed leave the room at all once her shift began, not until someone came to relieve her. She looked at her watch, another three hours to go.

An hour later and the old man gave one final coughing rasp before his chest lay still. Dana picked up his wrist again, ignoring the feeling of revulsion as her fingers slid along his skin. There was no heartbeat. The old man opened his eyes and breathed deeply, his plemmhy lungs rumbled then he started to cough, he spat up three globs of mucous onto the floor. When he stopped coughing he breathed deeply again and smiled. “Much better. I’m feeling a little hungry.”
Dana nodded, “We’ll get you some broth. You need to take it easy, build your strength.”
The old man shook his head, “I’ve spent far too long taking it easy. I’ve been given a second shot and I don’t intend to waste it!” Dana caught herself just before she rolled her eyes. She knew in a day or two he’d be talking about how God spared him, as if God had anything to do with it. Sometimes she wondered if he was pissed when they pulled someone from him, snatched what was rightfully his. There was also the other guy, assuming both existed, neither would be entirely pleased with what they were doing.

“I think I’ll need a bath too, I feel filthy, perhaps a sponge bath?” He grinned up at her, she left her face blank, showing none of the revulsion she felt. It wouldn’t have been the first time she’d given him one, but every other time he’d been unconscious or embarrassed and quiet. Now though he leered up at her, almost drooling. “I’ll get one someone in as soon as possible.”
his smiled dropped a little, “Oh. When’s the food getting here?”
Dana stood from the chair, “I’ll go check.”
She left the small room and entered a long, curving white corridor, she could leave now that the danger had passed. Windows lined the walls letting the sun stream in, it was almost painfully bright after the dimness of the room. Tony was doing his rounds, she stopped him and told him that 86 was recovering, he nodded and went to set things in motion. Dana slipped back into the room, “We should have food for you soon.”
“How should we amuse ourselves in the mean time?”
Dana bit her tongue, “You should rest, maybe try nap.”
He scowled at her then rolled over in the bed, his back towards her. Dana took a slow deep breath and counted to ten. This was her life now, an eternity with pervy, horny old men. There were other jobs out there, one’s she’d enjoy much more, but none offered the perk of immortality. There was something in the ground, she wasn’t high up enough to know what it was or even how it worked, she just knew that it would prevent the dead from dying. Over the course of two weeks you’d go from a skeletal husk to a happy, healthy twenty year old. Those who had enough money were more than welcome to take advantage. Dana on the other hand was killed every ten years to keep her young and beautiful, though she was nearing one hundred and ten years old she had yet to see what she would look like when she hit thirty five. She was snapped out of her thoughts as someone knocked on the door, a young woman entered carrying a tray with a bowl of broth and a glass of water. She placed the tray across the old mans lap after Dana helped him sit up. At least he could feel himself now, thank God for small mercies. The woman ducked out of the room quickly, Dana couldn’t remember her name, she was new, hadn’t been killed yet. She watched the man eat for a moment and happy that he would manage she sat down and waited for her shift to end.

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The Storm. Short Story.

Tabitha looked out at the horizon and the huge boiling clouds that raced towards her. The dust storm would hit soon, the house was already creaking and groaning in the wind. She wrung her hands together, hoping she’d spot something in the vast plains in front of her, anything to suggest that Jeremy was still alive. He’d gone out the day before and hadn’t returned. She hadn’t slept well, her dreams had been filled with Jeremy falling and hurting himself, of him being found by some of the gangs. She caught of glimpse of something outside, a figure in the distance. It stumbled, then fell from view. A second later she saw the figure struggling to their feet. She knew it was Jeremy, it had to be, there was no one else who’d be walking alone out here, not with the storm coming. Tabitha ran to the door and threw it open before she dashed outside, the wind tugged at her clothes and the fine soil blew up into her eyes but she didn’t stop. Behind her she could hear the door to the house slam closed. Looking ahead she could make out more detail of the person, it was definitely a man, though beyond that it was difficult to say. He had light coloured hair and his clothes were dark, but whether that was their natural colour or if they were just stained with dirt Tabitha couldn’t tell. Ahead the man stumbled and fell, this time he didn’t get up.

Tabithas breath came in heavy gasps, there was a painful stitch in her side but still she kept running. He was so close, the dust storm was coming but if they were lucky, and she was fast, they might just make it back to the house. Tabitha fell to her knees beside the man who was lying face down, ignoring the sudden flair of pain on her kneecaps as she dropped, she rolled the man over fully and saw it wasn’t Jeremy. She didn’t know who this man was. He had old scars criss crossing his face, he had a black eye and there were fresh scratches on his face. Tabitha pushed the disappointment down, she could still help this man and he might have seen Jeremy somewhere out here. She glanced up at the looming storm, it looked as though the entire world was ending. If they were caught out here they were both dead, there just wasn’t time. She pulled her hand back and slapped the man across the face. His eyes flew open and he sat up, flailing about himself wildly. Tabitha jerked herself backwards out of the path of his fists. “Hey! HEY! Stop it. Your safe but we need to get moving”
His swings weakened then he stopped, collapsing backwards. “There isn’t time to rest, come on, we have to get back to the house.” Tabitha helped the man to his feet, she struggled under his weight but she managed, with one of his arms slung around her shoulders the two of them began to walk drunkenly towards the house. At first Tabitha kept glancing behind them, tracking the storm, every time she looked it seemed as though it was right on top of them. Grit and dust stung as it lashed across her cheeks and arms, she coughed as the dry dust coated her mouth and lungs. The storm would reach them when it reached them.

Between panting breaths, Tabitha gasped a question, “what happened to you? Why were you out here?”
the man was quiet for a few seconds, “we were looking for food, water, anything really. There’s nothing left out there.”
“There’s nothing left here either.” each word was punctuated by a gasp.
“Did you see anyone out here? I thought I saw someone”
The man looked around wildly, stumbling to his knees on a rock, he looked up at her, “What did they look like?”
“It was a man, about six foot, he had blondish hair and dark clothes. I couldn’t make out anything more.”
the man struggled to his feet, “we have to move, quickly. I ran into him while I was searching, he attacked me, he tried to kill me. I’m lucky I survived.”

Tabitha paused, that couldn’t be right, Jeremy wouldn’t have attacked someone, not unprovoked. They were struggling but they weren’t at that point yet. She glanced at the man, at his grime covered face, he had said we earlier. “How many were in your group?”
“There’s twelve of us. There were more but we lost some of them. We were attacked for the little food we had.”
“Why did that man attack you?”
“I don’t know, he was looking for food and water too, we all are. I had a water skin and maybe he was desperate for it. He took it and left me for dead.”
He stumbled again and this time there was a flash of silver, a necklace had worked its way free, a small silver cross that Jeremy refused to take off, even when he bathed. Even with her squinting eyes she knew that it was his necklace. The man had lied to her, she knew Jeremy wouldn’t attack someone. She glanced behind herself again, the storm was almost on top of them now, the house was still a good distance away. She with a cry she shoved the man to the side and started running. She was slow, already tired from his weight, but she was faster than him and that was what mattered. The man landed heavily with a groan, he called out to her but the wind stole his words and garbled them. She didn’t pause, she didn’t look back. Tabitha panted and gasped as she half ran, half stumbled over the hard dirt. Her mouth was impossibly dry and her legs felt as though they would just simply stop any second. She didn’t look back as she ran, she expected to feel the mans hands grasping at her every time she stumbled or slowed, expected to feel his hot weight on her again, but this time dragging her down to the ground.

Tabitha reached the porch just as the storm hit. She struggled to close the door against the wind but she managed. She collapsed against it, too tired to do anything but get her breath back. When she finally did she started to cry, the tears cutting streaks through the drying dirt on her face. She stood and shakily walked to the sink, her legs barely supported her. She turned on the tap and watched the murky water flow from the tap, she took handfuls of it and splashed it against her face, enjoying the cold. The water was no good for drinking or cooking, but she could bathe in it at least. Tabitha screamed as something slammed into the front door. Again and again the pounding came, there were words there, she could just make out the begging and pleading over the howl of the wind and the creaks and groans of the house. She looked out the window above the sink and saw nothing but the swirling dust. The banging turned into feeble knocks and a moment later there was silence.

The storm ended the next morning, Tabitha found him lying on the porch, huddled over. She had no sympathy, it was too good for him, he should have suffered more. She dragged the body from the porch, ignoring the pain in her legs and arms. Once he was a little bit away from the house she left him there before returning to the kitchen, there she found a sharp knife. It wasn’t ideal, but she would just have to make do, she was a survivor and she was going to survive, no matter what.

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The Horde. Short Story.

The wind howled through the buildings carrying with it the thick, animalistic scent of fur and blood and filth. Every now and then Jacob could hear a scream carried by the wind, a snarl or a yelp, the horde was coming. A man had run into the town the day before, exhausted, near delirious, ranting about the monsters that were coming, half of his face had been covered in dried blood, the rest of him was coated in muck and grime. He had ranted for almost twenty minutes before he collapsed into unconsciousness, in that time they’d learned that his settlement had been attacked and he had been one of the survivors. He didn’t know if there were others, all he knew was that he ran as fast as he could and didn’t stop. A few people in the town wanted to throw him out, worried that the monsters were following him, but it was too late to make a difference. If the stories were true the creatures would be unstoppable. The size of the town offered some protection, made in the few stable tall buildings of old they could barricade themselves indoors, spread out into different buildings. Jacob knew that some had grouped together for protection while others like him retreated to higher ground. This place was his home, but his home could be rebuilt, he wouldn’t get another life. A flashing light in the distance caught his eye, that was Evie, up one one of the other buildings keeping watch. Four flashes, they were close.

Ten minutes later he heard them arrive, their shouts and screams echoing off the buildings accompanying the sound of smashing glass and the groaning shriek of tearing metal. Jacob scanned the streets below him, he was four stories up, high enough that hopefully they would miss him. Most of the taller buildings had already collapsed and any that hadn’t were too unstable. Jacobs breath caught in his throat when he saw the first one, it was nothing like he imagined. He had pictured giant fierce lions and panthers, like the kind he’d seen pictures of, instead he was looking at something twisted and sick. He could make out the face of a human, mouth stuck open in a permanent snarl. It had three muscular arms, two in the normal place and a third coming from its stomach, another, smaller arm jiggled loosely from it’s side. Its legs were thick and covered in criss crossing veins. Jacob threw himself back from the edge, praying it hadn’t seen him. The thing was climbing a building one street over. Heart beating wildly Jacob crept from the roof back towards the stairwell, earlier he’d blocked it with a metal pipe hoping it would help keep the things out. Now he slid the pipe free, wincing as it clanged and jangled against the door. He gripped the pipe tightly, feeling comforted by the weight of it in his hand. He pulled the door open and slipped into the darkness inside. He kept the door open a crack and peered through. He saw another one of those things leaping through the air, this one had long, twisted horns sprouting from all over its body, it carried with it a human head, swinging it by the hair as it let out a laughing shout. Jacob let the door close, he only had a glimpse but he was pretty sure the head had belonged to Evie.

Outside he could hear the screams and shouts, the rumbling of a building falling somewhere. Every now and then there would be a bang or crash against the building and each time he froze, barely able to breathe. Jacob slowly counted to ten after each one, gripping the pole tightly, only when he reached ten and there were no more sounds did he allow himself to relax.

Downstairs there was a loud crash, Jacob froze, he could hear something moving about on heavy feet. Below him the door to the stairwell opened. Jacob couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. There came a low chuckle from below, a gravelly voice called something out but it was difficult to understand, it took Jacob a second to decipher it. “I can smell your fear.” a small whimper escaped before he could stop it, below there came another chuckle. The door to the stairwell closed and then he was in the silent darkness again. He counted to ten, then released the breath he’d been holding. Then it moved. It’s heavy body plodded up the stairs slowly, as if it had all the time in the world. Jacob couldn’t move, he knew he had to but his body wouldn’t respond. He felt a warm wetness spread from his crotch and some part of him was dimly aware that he had just pissed himself. The chuckling started again, just the sound of it made Jacobs throat clench in sympathy. There was a scraping sound, just below him, the thing wasn’t far now. The thing called out from below, “Do you want to live, human?”
It sounded so close, he could almost feel the breath of it on his face.
“I asked you a question.”
“Good. Tell me of the other towns.”
“There’s another nearby, it’s about two days journey from here. It’s small.”
“You will take us to it or you will die.”
something heavy and wet landed in his lap, the stench of blood invaded his nostrils, his hands moved over it and he let out a shriek as he pushed the head from his lap, its long damp, sticky hair tangling in his fingers.
“you will take us or you will die.”
“Please, please I’ll take you, just don’t kill me.”
The creature chuckled, the sound of it hurt Jacobs ears, it was so close now he could feel the rumble of the words in his own chest, could smell the foetid rank stench of the creatures breath as it washed over him, “you’re all the same, anything to live just a little longer.”

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