Stories

A dystopian mermaid Christmas story for you

The Cost of Holiday Cheer

by Amy L. Sauder & by Jaclyn (proprietor of Amica Mea)

 

“Santa didn’t like me.”

“Madlyn, eat…” her father Greg frowned.

An awkward Fischer dinner was to be expected, the weekly pad thai a miniscule pretense of normalcy. Greg would look with pleading eyes at his wife, Lilith. Lilith would force a sad smile for their daughter, Madlyn. And Madlyn would make pretend that all was right in her 4-year-old world.

“My lil’ pet,” Lilith comforted. “Why would Santa not like you? You’ve been such a champ. I’m sure Santa is eager to bring your gift.”

“No, Santa frowned. He shuffled me off.” Madlyn had emptied her box of noodles long ago, but opened and closed the paper flaps as if more pad thai might magically appear.

“Honey, what’s she talking about?” Lilith patted Greg’s hand, but he quickly reached for his water. His hands would be clammy from the cold glass rather than the conversation.

“Salty food…” Greg said. “Should complain, get a coupon.”

Lilith turned her attention back to Madlyn. “Santa is sorry, pet. He had an off day.” Lilith poked Madlyn’s nose. “Your Christmas will have everything you’ve ever asked for. Promise.”

Greg sputtered and coughed. “I wouldn’t get too excited…”

But it was too late. Madlyn clapped with glee. “Anything?”

Lilith laughed. “If you asked for a Zoo Unicorn, you might have some trouble convincing daddy to clean the poo, but maybe you’ll get a GlowFish. Why, Santa might even leave a Pocket Panda under the tree.”

Lilith was beaming, not the false smile she’d grown accustomed to. “We may need to get a Pocket Panda, Greg. What did she ask for? a Zoo Unicorn? or did she ask you to design a docile T-Rex?”

Greg stuffed his arms with empty takeout boxes and hurried toward the kitchen. “All this clutter…”

Lilith wheeled out from the table and followed. “Greg, what’s with you?”

Greg dumped the boxes on the counter and drooped. “Lilith, she told Santa she wants you here for Christmas.”

Lilith’s smile froze. “But she knows…”

“What she knows,” Greg said, “is that magical Santa will give her whatever she wants, now thanks to you.”

“This isn’t my fault,” Lilith spat. “I didn’t choose any of this.”

Greg drummed his fingers on the countertop. “I’d do anything…”

Lilith rolled her wheelchair to his side and rested her head on his hip. “You can only do so much. We’ll be fine.” She nodded and smiled desperately.

Greg pushed away and tromped to his makeshift lab. “There’s got to be some way…”

 

~~~

 

The double doors to Barry’s office were shut tight like the gates to Oz, and Greg marched straight through the cavernous foyer to knock, stack of papers tucked firmly under his elbow.

“Mr. Fischer!” hissed Barry’s assistant Felicia, her canary blouse rippling as she waved her arm for attention. “Mr. Fischer! He’s already on the call. You’re late!”

Greg jerked to a stop in front of Felicia’s desk, mere feet from the doors, and let out a breath, barely keeping the papers wedged between his elbow and side. He deflated and rubbed the back of his neck. He didn’t care that Felicia was curt; he just needed to talk to Barry and hoped he wasn’t too late.

“I can wait.” But Felicia had already gone back to work. They let silence fall between them, and it filled the gleaming, cold room.

Felicia typed vigorously on a slim laptop, eyes flicking to the upper right corner of the screen, where Greg assumed her phone application was docked. You never knew whether these meetings would run long or short, not with Barry.

Greg rubbed his face and sat in the lounge to review his calendar. The meeting with Barry had been scheduled for nearly two hours ago, but he’d been too occupied. The meeting between Barry and TecGenToy shareholders was not supposed to have happened without Barry and Greg’s meeting first. Greg rubbed his neck again, but he didn’t sweat.

Felicia stopped typing. “Look, Greg. I’m sorry to be abrupt. It’s just been so crazy around here.”

Greg didn’t smile, but nodded in a sort of bow. “No harm done, Felicia. We’re all going a little crazy with all this.”

She smiled and went on typing. “I think they’re wrapping up. One of the shareholders hung up.” She looked up at him again. “You’re next in five.”

Greg nodded again, though less to Felicia and more to himself.

“Thanks, Felicia.” He coughed with a rasp into his elbow and flipped through his papers one last time, but it was like reading cooking directions for toaster strudels. Too familiar.

Next thing he knew, he was walking towards a low leather chair facing the desk of Barry Weismont. An aquarium lined the wall behind Barry’s desk. The fish scurried through the water, eyes bulging.

Barry stood behind his desk, slowly pacing. The blue glare of the office light cast Barry’s face in partial shadow, so that Greg couldn’t tell if Barry was pleased or angry.

Barry slapped his desk. “Greg! So glad you could come in. You were supposed to meet with me before the shareholder call, but this works just as well. Except, of course, the shareholders expected an answer. Especially Boscoe. That guy is trying to balance his checkbook and wants to know whether he can get that second sub.”

Even with the theatrics, Greg could never read him. Barry never smiled with his teeth showing, not even now, as he tugged on the cuff of his sport jacket. He only ever seemed to smile flatly, “just like the Mona Lisa,” Lilith always said.

Greg coughed roughly again. “Do you have any word from the Pocket Panda team?”

Barry leaned back and cocked his head. “What does the Pocket Panda team have to do with you delivering on the exceptional, groundbreaking product you promised? You and the team are the brightest and the best and more than capable of cranking out our record-breaker. You—”

“You didn’t give us enough time. You wanted a fast turnaround. I asked for help. Without the Pocket Panda team it’s not possible to execute…properly…” he said in a low voice.

“Not possible to execute, is it? Are you saying we don’t have a product when I just spent the last 45 minutes apparently wasting my time assuring our shareholders of your unmatched character, work ethic, and reliability? That they had nothing to fear? That Boscoe is getting his sub in time for the Reef? That—”

“Sir, what I’m saying is that I’m asking for the Pocket Panda team. If we had them for 24 hours…”

“It’s not possible.”

“Excuse me?”

“Greg, I know that you’ve been a scientist longer than I’ve had a driver’s license. You’re a scientific genius, a laboratory legend! But what you lack is what I bring, which is business know-how. I know you’d like to continue working on your cool little science projects, and you’d like to continue to take home that paycheck to your wife and daughter. To do that, you have to focus on the science and the lab, and I give you full freedom to do that. I know you know that! See—“

“Sir, I’m sorry, no.” Greg winced and rubbed his neck. “I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

Barry leaned on his desk with both hands. “We can’t ask for help from the Pocket Panda team, or they’ll have claim on a piece of our success Your job is to make sure we sell this year’s number one fantasy pet, better than Pocket Pandas, Zoo Unicorns, and all this year’s pets combined.”

Greg looked as if he was holding back bile. Barry continued.

“I’m more than happy for your hard work in the lab to benefit your family, especially when it does so much good for this company and its shareholders. I just worry that all this chat and debate is taking away from you and your team finishing in time.” Barry smiled.

Greg blinked hard against the shimmer in his eyes and stood. “I’ll get it done.”

Barry gave a clap and a smile-less laugh. “That’s my mad scientist! Have it in production by midnight, and go ahead and use the expense card to help yourself to a nice dinner at Fagioli’s tonight.” But Greg was already out the slowly swinging doors, heading for the stairs.

 

~~~

 

“Ho ho ho, merry Christmas!” Greg’s boisterous façade masked the tremor in his voice. His arms gripped the gift like his life depended on it.

“I’ve been good, I’ve been good, I’ve been goooooood.” Madlyn bounded to his side and hugged his leg. “Is Mommy back? Is she here? Did I get my magic Santa present?”

Greg swallowed. He hadn’t rehearsed the words. Of course he hadn’t – he was always a man of action, not words. He could never articulate to Madlyn what was happening. It was always Lilith who explained she was dying. Lilith had said her next steps would be out of the wheelchair and into a new world where all things are possible, even life after death. Mere fairy tales.

Greg had never told Madlyn that he was trying to save her mother. He didn’t know how to say that he couldn’t raise Madlyn alone. Now, it was Christmas morning, and he still did not know how to tell Madlyn what had happened. What he’d done.

Madlyn peeped her head up. “Is Mommy here yet?”

“Let me sit down.” Greg forced a laugh.

Madlyn raced to the couch, and Greg followed reluctantly. He plopped next to the antsy girl and set her gift tenderly on the end table. Madlyn tugged at her jumper pocket. “Look how big it is! If that’s a Pocket Panda, I’m all ready – even if it’s huuuge.”

Greg gave a tight smile. “About your mom….”

“Is she running late?” Madlyn pouted her lips.

“No, no,” Greg reassured. “She’s always punctual. You know that.”

Madlyn squirmed. “Oh.”

“Well,” Greg stumbled for words. “Well here, why don’t you open your gift? We’ll talk after.”

Madlyn didn’t need to be told twice. She tugged the green ribbon off the cherry-red wrapping, then lifted the box lid.

“What’s inside?” Madlyn asked.

Greg pulled out a small aquarium. “Is it a GlowFish?” Madlyn asked, already forgetting her Pocket Panda excitement.

“No,” Greg said. “Not this one.”

Madlyn peered into the glass and saw a creature swimming. Shimmering purple scales and billowing pink hair flashed between the green plantlife. The creature creeped out, curious, questioning.

“A Micro-Mermaid!” Madlyn exclaimed. “All the kids asked Santa for one.”

Greg smiled, and it almost reached his eyes. A twinkle of hope.

Madlyn plastered her nose to the glass. The mermaid splashed to the surface, reaching for Madlyn’s finger. “Lil’ pet,” the mercreature said, its voice a gurgling squeak.

“It’s okay now,” Greg whispered. He rested his hand on Madlyn’s shoulder. “I fixed it.”

Madlyn shivered. “Mom?”

 

~~~

 

The lab was a flurry of white coats and black tablets, a normal pace for a Tuesday. Greg sat at his desk, alone in the lab lead’s office.

Gulping coffee from a red and green Snoopy mug, he scrolled through his inbox full of after-holiday sales, end-of-year giving, and stem cell mini-brain kits.

He clicked on an Urgent calendar invite:

Shareholder Celebration Dinner!!!!

We’ve broken our sales records and DESTROYED the competition. Our shareholders are flying in for dinner tonight. We’ll be feasting at Fagioli’s and strategizing how to further annihilate Pocket Pandas and Zoo Unicorns!!

BE THERE!!!!!! J

Greg swallowed too much, too hot coffee, and started dialing his phone. He’d planned for situations like this, but he hadn’t predicted it’d come up so soon.

“Hi Mom… Yes, I had breakfast… ”

Greg tossed the toaster strudel wrapper in the wastebasket.

“I’d love to chat, but I’m actually at work. I just need to ask if you would pick up Madlyn from school today… You don’t need to bring her home. That is sweet, but Lilith is very drained from treatments and can’t have visitors. Would it be too much trouble if Madlyn stayed the night with you? I will pick her up in the morning to take her to school… Ok, great, thank you Mom. I have to work now… Love you… Yes, you too. Bye.”

Greg tapped the hang up button. He stared at the notes on his desk: specs for Micro-Mermaids v1.0, notes for v2.0, and drafts of a Koala Kubs prototype. They leaned in sloppy stacks. They wouldn’t get filed until the college interns returned from break.

Of all the lead scientists, Greg was the only one still using paper. Tablets and floor-to-ceiling touchscreens made paper obsolete. In fact, in the lab proper, fire regulations prohibited paper notes or charts. But Greg thought all those screens muddled his mind. It was a strange thought, since he had no evidence to support it. And as he stared at the slouching hills of paper, he wondered how he got to this point, having acted on two scientifically unsubstantiated ideas.

“Hey Greg!” It was a bright, round man in a white coat with teal piping.

Greg coughed. “Hi Bob. How is your team today?”

“They drank too much and came back fat and happier than me, but they seem ready to get at it again. Did you see the call center report? All positive comments!” He patted Greg’s shoulder. “We really made something special. This could put us in the books.”

“Yup.”

“All right! Well get that blue jacket and come on!” Bob had already started turning toward the lab, when he caught sight of Greg’s coffee mug, and his face fell. “I’m sorry, Greg. I get too excited. How’s Lilith doing?”

Greg coughed again. “She is doing well. Resting at home from her last treatment.”

But Bob’s round face had already begun to pucker with tears. “I’m sorry, Greg. I just noticed that you’re using the same Christmas mug from last year. Lilith always gets you a new mug for Christmas.” Bob gasped with the effort of crying and trying not to cry, which sounded like a cough and a honking goose. “I just can’t imagine what you’re going through. Oh Greg, can I give you a hug?”

“Sure,” said Greg, frozen, as Bob was already embracing him and wetting his shoulder. With a few firm pats on the back, Bob released him and sighed as if he’d finished a marathon.

“Thank you, Bob,” said Greg. “I appreciate it. Lilith really is doing…. She actually ordered a mug online on one of her better days. It hasn’t arrived yet.”

Bob beamed, wiping his shining face with his lab coat sleeve. “Oh Greg, that’s wonderful. I don’t know how you do it. If my Hannah was sick, I’d be a wreck.” Greg was adding an alert to his phone out of Bob’s sight: Xmas sale, new mug.

“Ha… You would do great.” Greg glanced at his watch. “We better get to work.”

Greg grabbed his coat off the hook and pulled it on while walking toward the lab. He overheard Bob sighing to himself, “Poor guy… going through so much.”

 

~~~

 

Greg worked many a late night, no longer to save Lilith, but to keep his end of the bargain. There are always consequences for cheating death. The gods of scientific breakthrough and holiday commercialism demanded sacrifice.

His white labcoat would redden as hours waned. Lilith would know how to get the stains out.

It began with a butcher knife. If he was quick enough, the shock would ward off pain, for a time. Then came the melding and morphing, the redhot sizzle that rendered the creature unconscious. But it would always wake in time for the scissors.

No one could know the cost of holiday cheer. The creatures were meant to have a childlike glow and bring joy to the world. There would be no merry Christmas if they were to share their tale of torture and modification, and so the ability for speech must be eliminated.

“Stop squirming!” Greg insisted. “This won’t hurt much longer.” The scissors slipped through her mouth with precision. It was used to slicing the tongues of the wicked. A fit punishment for the likes of smooth-talking criminals, he assured himself, but a tear fell from his face to the beating heart of the Micro-Mermaid he created.

Stories

Chapter 1 of I Know You Like a Murder

Here it is! For you. For free. I’ve posted Chapter 1 of I Know You Like a Murder on Patreon. Get yo sneak peek there.

Enjoy now [with the sneak peek here]

Detectivize October 23 [by preordering here]

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Stories

A Very Mermaid Christmas

Or, a Christmas more impossible than Unicorns and Pocket Pandas <3

No, my obsession with mermaids isn’t quite over yet 😉 In fact, I have an eerie holiday tale written just for you!

My White Winter Hymnal dystopian story – Turn the White Snow – wasn’t creepy enough, so I teamed up with Jaclyn – Proprietor of Amica Mea – for a new holiday horror story.

 

Find some time this holiday weekend to get away from the hubbub and read The Cost of Holiday Cheer for some chills.

Here’s my Christmas greetings to you: I hope your awkward family Christmas isn’t as awkward as this one 🙂

for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives, Stories

Stories on why we create

Creativity isn’t finite. The more you give, the more you have. That’s a philosophy I want to live by, and Ksenia does too.

Ksenia Anske sends cards with personalized stories to her readers. So when she sent one for my writers’ group, I volunteered to facilitate our writers prompt and had everyone write her a story back.

Ksenia

Because stories are meant to be shared, and a writer can only hide their stories for so long before some need to spill out, even if it’s in short form 🙂

And now we’re going to share those stories with you, stories to encourage you to create.

Jenn

“With this final bit of paper and fragment of graphite I beg of you to continue on what I can do no longer. I brought their gruesome reign into the world and now with these last meager strokes I must pass the mantle onto another. They came from my mind you see, in murderous retribution. The misshapen wolf-child led the way howling in agony that I had abandoned him. My mind had pulled the sparks of his essence together but I had trapped him there. But he escaped, and he brought the millions of forgotten characters with him. The creatures control my mind, and have managed to get a link to every human brain. If I stop writing (I haven’t much longer now) without another to take my place the world ends. Pick up your pen. Go.” – by Jenn Wieland

Kim

“There once was a woman who decided to try writing. At first she was thrilled and excited, but then she met the rejection monster who gnawed at her amazing manuscript.

The brave writer stabbed the dreaded monster with her mighty pen. The monster shrieked and died at her feet. The amazing writer skinned the beast and made a cloak that she wore in the frigid winter.

The amazing writer walked proudly down the published road with her rejection coat wrapped around her shoulders.” – by Kim Kouski

Andy

“Once upon a time a young girl named Ksenia yearned to be an author, a writer. Over the years she succeeded but oh, she grew so weary and discouraged. Then one night she had a dream. She seemed transported into fairyland, with castles and dragons, knights – and a blight – a blasted desert where nothing lived. She asked a handsome knight, ‘Why? Why is fairyland blighted?’ He said sadly, ‘Those are the regions of fairyland where our goddess Ksenia has never written about.’ The end.” – by Andy Zach

Yasmeen

“Once upon a time, there lived a sixteen-year-old girl who found a book buried beneath a pile of ruins… The girl had never seen a real book before, let alone written words and paper. This book had a red toy train on the cover.

Books were only something people have heard about – a distant memory for few. And here it is… the last book in existence wedged between her fingers. ‘Our race can be saved!’ the girl thought. ‘Finally our world will not be mute and the curse will be broken.'” – by Yasmeen

Amy

“As the dancer danced, flowers popped up around her toes and danced with her. They danced the words – the flowers and her – until a flower castle appeared. The dancer danced the word “wing”, and up sprouted the wings and lifted the word dancer to the tippy top. ‘I will make my home here,’ she danced.” – by Amy L Sauder – uhh, me 🙂

KseniaStoriesPhoto.jpg

So that’s the stories. Now go out and make your own creations! And then share it with the world, give it away in some form somewhere 🙂 Pass on Ksenia’s enchantment <3

(Psst! If you want to know more about Ksenia who started this story card thing for me, you can see her website, social media, and read about all the ways I want to be like her when I writerly grow up.) 

 

Relationships, Stories

Penguins Can’t Love Snowmen

He just showed up out of nowhere, all prim and proper with his top-hat and button-up. She tried to style with her tux, but the waddling and flops don’t quite work for that. He says it’s endearing. Still, her wings can’t straighten the mess of hair atop her head, and well no one ever offered her a hat like his. Of course, penguins can’t love snowmen.

Snowmen are around people and well, penguins can’t do people. The crowds, the laughter, the cheeriness when all penguins do is squawk. People make her shudder. So penguins stay far away – far away from people and cheer and snowmen. No, penguins can’t love snowmen.

Funny thing about penguins – they’re a flight risk. Just waiting for the snow to melt, to leave them out in the heat suffocating and sweltering and the people stand around and gawk at penguin bumbling. “Perform for us, penguin, do your silly way.”

Maybe being with a snowman, there’s always a little bit of winter around. And yet penguins can’t love snowmen.

His carefully crafted smile is worth measures of penguin attempts where beaks can’t turn upward. He props his hat on her head, and it doesn’t quite fit, but maybe that’s just how it should fit – off-kilter is the penguin way, right? Her waddles forward are okay when paired with a snowman that can roll with the punches. But penguins can’t love snowmen.

She asks if he’ll ever melt.

She asks if she can waddle slowly and he’ll take his time as if it’s a natural pace.

He says the snow will stick for “another 3000 weeks, at least.”

He says 3000 weeks is enough time for some waddling about.

The funny thing about snowmen is maybe they’re as real as penguins. And I’m not quite sure why penguins can’t just love snowmen.

 

 

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My Creative Projects, Stories

A Seussian Red Cross

For our most recent staff retreat, I was given the opportunity to write a poem, in the style of Dr. Seuss, about our team. What other workplace asks you to write such fun material? 🙂 Enjoy!

 

Seuss

A Seussian Red Cross

In a land of nonsense, quite grand they do say,

Where children and grownups quite ridiculously play –

The Who’s & the Horton’s, Sneetches & Zax,

Grinch & Lorax & Cat in the Hat –

 

There’s only one group to handle that clatter,

One crew enough to tackle the matter.

The Seussian Red Cross jump into the fray,

The Seussian Red Cross will save the day.

 

We’re led by our captain, the Betsy of Pratts,

While Amber and Bryan have Betsy’s back.

 

The Grinch stands no chance with Crystal around,

Sending cards & good cheer to all soldiers’ towns.

 

When Thing One and Thing Two muck up the house,

Alyssa’s team shows them what we’re about.

Providing for needs, while home disarrayed,

Working hard to ensure the family is safe.

 

When Green Eggs & Ham cause a terrible slump,

When “in a box with a fox” causes a bump,

When Sam-I-Am has no clue what to do,

Traci’s team brings calm to the hullabaloo.

 

And while the medics of Seussville need quite a lot,

The Blood Services team transports blood on the spot.

 

What a crew, what a team!

But don’t forget behind the scenes.

 

Eileen’s got a group drawing Who’s far and wide,

To help out the town, in blue and grey skies.

We can’t do this alone – not if we tried.

 

This they know, as do Lyn’s own patrol,

Who wrangles the money from high and from low.

 

Then there’s Brooke and Biz Ops,

Her behind-the-scenes team.

They help with buildings and fleet and little big things.

 

Oh the Places You’ll Go, thanks to Beth in HR,

Oh the Thinks You Can Think if you travel so far.

She gives money and vacation and holidays too,

Our own personal genie in this land of Seuss.

 

We can’t deny, it takes a full crew,

And Trish spreads the news with gusto renewed

By coffee and lattes and java and such.

You really just can’t compete with this bunch.

 

There’s so much about Seussville to love & to cherish,

But the Seussville Red Cross is greatest of greatest.

 

Red Cross

 

 

 

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My Creative Projects, Relationships, Stories

Poem: Happy UnBirthday

With recent birthday celebrations, I thought I’d share a little poem I wrote awhile back for some friends’ birthdays I missed. I make belated birthday greetings all the rage 🙂 Let me add that this is even more brilliant when spoken aloud in a ridiculous voice!

Happy Unbirthday

Happy Unbirthday to You.
I speak to all of us here of course,
But specifically Amber & Kim who
I really wish a happy unbirthday as a matter of course.

You see, while all of us have an unbirthday today,
Amber & Kim celebrated their un-unbirthday not long ago.
So while we all can celebrate our unbirthday in some way,
Only Amber & Kim can celebrate it today so close –
To their un-unbirthday.

Here all us unbirthday fellows sit around,
In joyous occasion of our recent un-unbirthday comrades.
And really us unbirthday folk celebrate year-round,
Except for one un-unbirthday a year we celebrate scads.

And now, to the recent un-unbirthday two
Present and accounted for.
We almost got to enjoy the occasion with you,
But now we’ll just have to wait 364 – or 348 – unbirthdays more.

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My Creative Projects, Stories

Shovels & Ash

Caila has travelled to and fro to scatter wishes. Village, city, forest and field, a wish in every place her feet would touch. She would wish on that first star every night, she would wish with a tap of her heels, and she would wish by meadows of clover and weeds. The wishes piled up, yet the fulfillments dwindled.

But then an idea quite greater than a wish presented itself – hope. Be it a whisper of fate, a cry of desperation, or another chasing after the wind, Caila added hope to her wishing, and her seeking altered. She sought, not for a far-off needle in a multiverse-spanning haystack, but for the tangible surrounding her. And hope gave her wings, literal wings that wishing had never granted. Who needs love and wealth and purpose when one has wings? It was a glorious sight, an angel on earth, and Caila adored herself and her long flowing wings that spanned the earth and sky alike.

Yet all was not perfection still. Large cities barred their gates, and villagers shook their heads at her audacity. Dreamer they called her now, the Dreamer who burdened the world. When she danced through the streets, the wings would knock over boxes, loads, even animals. She apologized in course, but is apology enough when the action continues?

So Caila took to the sky – she could with her wings – and as her body wearied of fighting gravity, she in time recalled a story. A boy with wings that flew to the sun. The ending, rather than a word of caution to her, was a word of possibility. So she flew up and up, until the sun set fire to her wings and she plummeted to the ground – the wings were mere ashes covering her body now. She had found freedom – no wings to hold her, so she danced through the streets once again.

The ashes tumbled from her sleeves, her hair, her shoulders, and began to cover the world following her travels. Caila, the ashen dreamer, roamed the earth, though neither Caila nor Dreamer was she named now. Ash, they called her, the whole world. Towns shooed her away with the brooms they swept up her ashes with.

Of course one day, Ash came upon a shovel – it was bound to happen after roaming the entire world. She scooped up a pile of dirt, reached out her hand and sifted the dirt through her fingers. Not unlike the ash, she thought. One scoop of dirt was not enough for the shovel nor Ash, and soon there was a gaping hole in the ground. The hole stretched through, all the way through, into the depths of the earth, out the other end, through the sky and stars and planets and galaxies, to a world that Ash wished she could know – a world full of shovels and wings and wishes.

Ash touched the ledge with her toes, then her heel, and finally she felt no ledge at all. Her body fell down the hole and found no end. Always plummeting, much like Alice, only never to stop. After a time unknown, she looked up the hole she’d made and saw that her body had not moved from its original leap. She reached up and climbed out of her determined hole, defeated. She plopped herself down next to the hole, and her mind roamed where her body no longer dared to go.

About the world she imagined, person after person scowling upon her dreaming. Her body may fit in a room, cabin, village, forest or sky, but her spirit was much too large to squeeze into the place. “Admit it,” Ash whispered. She was always at her essence the same person living the same life with simply a different way of striving – her name changed, yet always left the same dissatisfied her. Caila looked down at the hole that was no longer there – it had been filled over by her ashes as she sat.

She traced her fingers through the grey ashen circle that clashed with the surrounding brown dirt. Her fingers, then her hands, finally her arms joined with gentle strokes of her hair, until the whole story had been written in the ash, a tale of a dream. Haybales, sun, brooms, shovel, all of it lay before her a piece of art, while the breeze slowly tugged it out of legibility. For that moment though, no one could touch the truth that had been proclaimed here, none could deny the reality of a fairy’s tale.

Caila hinted a smile, then opened her mouth as agape as her jaw would allow, and screeched. All of the pain left, hidden in that screech, as it slowly transformed to a squeal, a joyous sound that scattered the ash – tumbling away in an instant, and all the ash, the wings, the desire, the dream – none of it mattered anymore. She laughed and, though it was no melodious laugh – yet neither was it a horrendous guffaw or braying – it was a song in its own right. She found something of far greater worth than her own name, her own tale. A song of a journey, a journey forward.

Showcasing other Creatives, Stories

FanFiction: His New Stargazer

Tomorrow my crazy-dedicated writer friend Megan Fatheree will have a new book out to purchase, called “The Half-Shape Child.” It’s a YA sci-fi romance adventure that’ll get you laughing and crying and all emotions in between. To promote this book, Megan is asking buddies to write fanfiction (because who doesn’t love a lil fangirling, amiright?) Here’s mine:
 
 

 His New Stargazer

 
“He’s just so down-to-earth.”
 
“Ha ha.” Fiona rolled her eyes while shoving the pasta in the oven.
 
“Seriously, it’s a sensible thing to love him. I’m not throwing my heart to just anyone.”
 
Fiona moved her hands to her hips as she nudged the oven shut. “You don’t think it’s suspicious? He’s not sensible, he’s secretive. Won’t say anything about his travels, won’t speak to anyone but you about his wife, and even then it’s all general.” Fiona counted with her fingers. “Her eyes were the color of honey. She loved stargazing. She freakin’ died of a tragic heart attack, but you can see the paranoia in his eyes.”
 
Tania grabbed her sister’s wrist. “Stop. Just give him a chance. He cares.” Tania peered through the window, but he wasn’t back from his walk yet. “I’m not going to pressure him to talk about the most painful moment of his life.”
 
“Uh huh.”
 
“And,” Tania added, “he may have been a galaxy-traveler, and she may have loved stargazing, but he’s totally fine with me being a homebody.”
 
Fiona gagged. “Yeah, yeah, you’re his escape, or whatever romantic nonsense.”
 
Tania looked through the window again. There he was, down the path, strolling so casually, looking into the sky, perhaps dreaming of the life he left for her. “He’s no romantic, just steady,” Tania said. “Dedicated to the simple life.”
 
He saw Tania through the window, smiled and waved. She beamed and held up her hand. “He’s here.” Fiona opened the door.
 
“Fiona. Tania.” Was there a lilt in his voice when he said her name? She couldn’t tell. Maybe it was the same. She touched his arm then went to check the pasta.
 
Fiona pursed her lips. “Tell me what you’re hiding.”
 
“Fiona!” Tania yelled.
 
“I know there’s something you won’t tell her; you’re no good for her if you can’t just be open and trustworthy.”
 
“How did you know I was hiding something?” He smiled, not even deterred.
 
“Please, I’m sorry,” Tania said, “don’t listen to her. Don’t let her ruin the evening.”
 
Fiona stood in front of Tania, and held up her hand. “No more secrets. She may be okay with it, but I’m not.”
“Fine.” He sighed. “The truth.”
 
Tania felt water filling her eyes. Why would Fiona ruin a pleasant night like this?
 
“The truth, Fiona,” he said, “is I love your sister. I am very trustworthy. I should never have a second chance at love, but with Tania I think I do. And if it’s alright with you, I’d like you to step out of the way so I can propose.”
 
Fiona shook her finger. “That’s not what I meant.” She took a seat at the table. “But I believe you. You’re a liar, but she can trust you.”
 
He stepped forward ‘til he was just inches from Tania. She smiled as a tear trickled down her cheek.
 
“And for the record,” Fiona interrupted, “I hate it.”
 
“Yeah, yeah.” Tania laughed and waved her hand in dismissal.
 
“Marry me?” he asked, holding out a simple bronze ring with intricate stars etched around.
 
“Absolutely,” Tania whispered. And as she admired the brown band on her finger, she realized for once she liked stargazing.
 


 
To figure out just what his secret is, plus travel the galaxies in this new world, look to buy “The Half-Shape Child” on Amazon or iBooks tomorrow!
 
Visit my blog next week for an exclusive interview with Megan Fatheree herself, where she gives us some tidbits about this exciting new novel of hers.
 


 
Fatheree_author_photo

Megan Fatheree was homeschooled from Pre-school through 12th grade. During this time, she was blessed to be able to focus her efforts toward the craft of writing. She is now in her early 20s and a full-time author. Some of her books include “Precious Jewel”, “Eminent Danger”, and “Rose-Colored Glasses”. She loves what she does and wouldn’t trade it for anything. She looks forward to all the great adventures that lay in store for her in the near future.