Mini Stories Anthology - Vol 1.
These tiny stories are such a joy to write. With them, I'm not tied to an existing plot, character arc, or theme. They go where they want to go.
There are no rules and for many of these stories, I'm shoving you right into the middle without any clues of what happened before and what might happen after but I hope through these little snippets, you can gain an appreciation for where it might go should I choose to pick one up again and stretch it out.
Arvo fell to his knees and pushed his head against the earth. The ends of his hair, drenched with sweat and blood, swatted at his cheeks. He cried, long sobs that began in his gut and formed into soundless wails that forced themselves out of his mouth. Numb to his physical wounds, he staggered back up to his feet, the pain making it impossible to stand to his full height. The burden drove into his shoulders, causing him to hunch at an uncomfortable angle. Pulling Glorial from her sheath, he took one step, then another, following the deep ruts the wagon wheels had formed in the mud. His mind drove his body forward. His crown. The throne of Ar. They would be his again.
The darkness stared back, mindless and foreboding. Imogen snapped the flashlight against her hip. It flickered, illuminating the caverns for a flash before dying and she tossed it into the grass, useless piece of crap.
Stalled at the mouth of the cave, Imogen pulled out her sword, clenching it with such ferocity, her knuckles turned white. The silence disturbed her. Dark thoughts crawled into her mind; cowardice thoughts. Thoughts of giving up, turning around, and pursuing a future that she could picture without her most certain death.
Imogen shook her head, wiping the sweat from her brow. She owed Lillian her life and when, or if, she returned, her debt would be paid and she could go home. Home, even the word tasted sweet on her lips. Imogen raised her sword above her head. Three. Two. One. She bolted, deep into the darkness screaming.
To the surrounding farmers, the trees bathed their fields in deep, mammoth shadows, haunting their crops and inviting nosy reporters. Wide, furiously green, with extensive, strong arms that reached out to their brothers and sisters, the trees defended the gates to Lionsdale.
A secret and unwelcoming society of wizards and magical curiosities, Lionsdale produced the dark arts that plagued society with snippy and trite problems around the home: the loss of keys, empty toilet paper rolls, and burnt toast. Assuming an outdoorsman or woman stumbled across the gates, venturing past the trees, and solving several sleep-inducing mathematical equations, they often returned in disgust when they discovered the processing fee to enter on a weekday paled in comparison to the fine print that stated if they failed to visit the town again in six months, they agreed to pay a monthly maintenance fee for the town's bookkeeper.
Only Barnaby's Guide to Northern England listed the town in their index. A detail the wizards of Lionsdale worked tirelessly to remove.
I peeked inside. The stench erupted from the bowels of the barrel. Fish. I turned and watched the sea captain glide a rag down the length of his harpoon. The pounding boots, the seagulls calling home--these were not chaotic harmonies but a choir prepping for war. My stomach twisted. Suffering under the weight of a crate labeled "peligroso," a cabin boy stumbled towards me. I put my hand on his shoulder.
"Where's this boat going to?" I asked.
He hesitated. Insubordination was an offense. Jinxing the crew was unforgivable. Leaning in, his words registered between a whisper and a mumble. "To catch Bellataur."
My knees shook. I began to sweat as understanding set in. This was the wrong boat.
Jasper stared at the window. It had seemed bigger as a kid, and yet, years later, he could remember the orchestra surrounding it: the thrashing rain, the wind, and nature's muffled harmonies. It still smelled the same. A sea-worthy, rotten stench that turned his stomach over. Even to this day, when he got a blister or was offered coffee, he would smell this room, a scent that crept under his nose and left quickly. In a twisted way, he felt grateful for this place.
"Hey bossman." In the corner, Sammy held up a red, plastic container. "We finished."
Jasper reached into his pocket and retrieved the stone. With a shriek, he hurled it at the window, sending with it every ounce of his past that he could muster. Shards of glass ripped from the frame and fell helplessly outside. The room fell silent again.
Jasper readjusted his coat and ran his hand through his hair. He turned to Sammy. "Burn it," he said and walked out.
"I ain't ever seen anything like it." The cigarette rolled from one side of his mouth to the other, illuminating the wrinkles in his cheeks. "I say, one moment I was reclining, watching that newsman and the next thing I know, Georgia here gets real yellow in her eyes."
The dog, timid and leaning on her leg, scratched at a wound assaulting the skin under her fur. Unable to ease the pain, she curled her head around and began nipping at it with her teeth until blood trickled down her leg and onto the gravel.
"Call me crazy doc but I think she may of gotten one of those bites people been talking about.”
The seller, a stick of a man with long, greasy black hair, propped his boots onto the table. "My son collected them for I don't know how many years. If you buy one, you have to buy the whole set."
I slipped the rubber band off the third box of cards. Like the first two, they were scattered, flipped up or down and poking in all directions. I fumbled through the set, tossing aside ghoulish monsters and intrepid heroes. Some were ripped, others torn in half. Near the bottom, I found it. "Inspiration." Folding it in half, I bit off a section, chewed it to a mush, and swallowed, forcing the rough paper down my throat.
The seller jumped to his feet. "Now hold on, you're going to have to pay for that."
I stuffed the rest of the card into my mouth and swallowed. My hands turned first, stretching out into tentacles, knocking over books and winding underneath and around the legs of the table. My chest popped and bulged, growing several sizes too large for my shirt. I licked my teeth, running my tongue over several rows of sharp enamel on the fringes of my mouth.
Patrons of the flea market sprinted in all directions, screaming, throwing chairs and antiques in any direction that would relieve them of the chaos. I pushed through the debris towards the ocean; the ample underwater crown that I would place upon my head.
Frank shoved his soda into the cup holder. "I don't like the way them birds are looking at us." He closed his door, fumbling down below the space between the seat and the door, searching for and finding the seat buckle. Circumventing his gut, he clasped his seatbelt and snapped the strap across his chest.
"You're imagining things," Debbie said, sneaking a quick peck on his cheek before securing herself behind the wheel. "Besides, Dr. Ramone said the medicine would give you some hallucinations. Your mind's just making stuff up."
The road up Mt. Thornbury comforted Frank's heart. Monstrous pine trees soaked the car in magnificent scattered shadows that dipped in through the sun roof and rested on the faded polyester. The wind whipped in and out of his hair, tickling his chin and rushing back outside.
Debbie swerved and slammed the brakes. "What the #%&! was that?" she shouted. Her knuckles white against the steering wheel, she started counting to calm her breathing. "One." Pause. "Two." Pause.
Frank had felt it, too. He threw off his seatbelt and awkwardly stepped out of the car. The ground shook and Frank gripped the car door to keep his balance. A darkness sailed across the sky. Birds--every shape and color--soared overhead, blocking the sun before moving on. Frank rushed back into the car, not bothering with his seatbelt. "Let's get out of here," he said.
Officer Dribbett tossed the phone. Missing the receiver, it toppled over the table and dangled inches from the floor.
“Monster call,” he shouted.
His voice echoed off the walls and fell on the floor. Edison, the only other occupant in the room, drooled over her desk calendar, polluting Tuesday and spilling over into Friday. Dribbett knocked on the faux wood: three hard raps. With a groan, she turned over, releasing several tiny bottles that rolled off the edge of the desk and dribbled near her feet.
Another solo quest. This once rare detail had become almost routine but Dribbett didn’t blame Edison. He picked up the portrait of Eddy standing with her family taken last summer after they had relocated Mr. Gollick’s werewolf population to Arizona. It was the only evidence Dribbett had that she could smile. Gently, he set the frame away from her elbow so she wouldn’t knock it over when she woke up.
He scribbled a note and stuck it to Edison’s collar, “Wendigo. Flatiron. Room 244,” flipped the open sign, and pulled the door shut behind him.
Charley brushed her hand along the stone. “It’s beautiful,” she said, craning her neck towards the painting. The rush of color, distinct and full of purpose, created a sense of warmth in her. The clack from her heels echoed throughout the chamber and she stopped to let the sound dissipate and revel in the silence.
Mr. Moreau motioned her along. “I really do suggest we look throughout the rest of the building. I wouldn’t want you to make a rash decision that might cause conflict throughout the rest of the process.”
Charley stopped him with a slight raise of her hand. “I don’t need to see anymore. It’s perfect.” She reached into her purse and retrieved a card, holding it out to Mr. Moreau between two fingers. “The gentleman on this card will see that you have your money this afternoon.”
“All of it, madam?”
The end of Charley’s lips curled slightly. Not enough for Mr. Moreau to notice but enough to shift the room’s atmosphere. “All of it.”