The Ink Owl

"If you don't turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else's story." -Terry Pratchett

Guest Submission: Diving Deep and Surfacing

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You are swift moving water

traveling through dense forest

twisting

turning

through the midnight landscape

fireflies and Luna moths

crisscross

your body

in a dazzling display

of bioluminescence

while wood nymphs

waltz on your mossy banks

to the chorus of crickets

and the hoots of snow white owls

I am the waxing moon

hanging in the indigo night

cool and remote

my silver light

glittering upon your surface

where I see myself reflected

I am almost beautiful

As you flow over rocks and logs

up hills and down vales

then rush over cliffs

where become a waterfall

you sing me a siren song

of longing

of heart’s desire

until recklessly into your depths

I plunge

© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

Author Bio:

  • Where you are from?
    • Born in Southern California, raised in Central Massachusetts and lived outside of Philadelphia for the last 27 years
  • You favorite: piece of writing/book/literature?
    • I am a serious Jane Austin fangirl. I have a Pride and Prejudice tattoo (“Obstinate, headstrong girl”)
  • In no more than two sentences, why you love to write.
    • I write because I have to. It is the inner voice of my conscious and unconscious minds rising to the surface and spilling out of me.

You can follow Christine and her many intriguing and tantalizing writings through these blogs: (You’ve got to check them out, they are amazing.)

Guest Submission: Into The Deep

small-water-and-sky-background-betty-lukens-felts
Picture obtained through http://www.thinglink.com

Warm water lapped at Bairon’s thighs as he settled astride the aspra. The creature snorted with impatience, tossing its equine head, and he laughed, patting the side of its neck, feeling the power in the smooth muscles, “We’ll be going soon enough. Be calm.” Bowing his head, he focused his strength inward before allowing the power to spread out, bathing his surroundings in the magical light that comprised his sense of sight.

The waves were calm, the crystal blue waters of the inland sea looked peaceful, but there were few of those who lived on this island that were willing to come within a hundred yards of the water’s edge. The hidden, yet ever present, danger was illustrated by the misty shapes of hundreds of shipwrecks which now drew his gaze. There were so many broken masts that the shallows appeared as a forest whose trees had been decimated by some disaster, and everyone knew that each mast marked the final resting place of another crew that met their fate at the hands of the demons that lived in the depths.

There was not enough life within the rotting boards for him to make out more than the vague shapes, but he could see the bright darts of light that indicated the aquatic life in the area had adopted the husks which discouraged even the bravest of the villagers from approaching the water. Despite the life he could see, the smell of death was heavy along the coast, dimming the brilliance of the midday sun.

Movement at his side drew his attention and he turned toward the village shaman, “You don’t have to do this, you know,” the man rasped in a voice as weathered as his face.

“I am sinha,” Bairon replied, “It is my duty to protect the peoples of the land.”

“Your magics may not work in the deeps,” the shaman warned and passed a heavy staff to him, “Take this. You may need a weapon.”

Bairon accepted the staff and strapped it into a groove along the side of the saddle, “I will take it,” he gestured to the mask obscuring the upper half of his face, “however, my melee skills leave much to be desired.”

“Yes, the light magics demand a high price,” the shaman observed, his expression somber.

“They do,” Bairon agreed, “But they also give great strength. It is not a sacrifice I have ever regretted.”

“I hope that does not change today. You go into great peril, sinha, and our people will be forever in your debt. When you are ready, place the skimmer over your nose and mouth, it will allow you to breathe under the water. Hold tightly to the saddle. Aspra can move swiftly enough to knock an unprepared rider from their back.”

“I thank you for the warning,” Bairon nodded and a crooked smile appeared as he prepared to secure the skimmer, “I have to try, you know, because there is only one way to catch a mermaid.”

-Sherastiliin

Author Bio:

Where you are from?

  • Originally from Utah, now live in Arizona

You favorite: piece of writing writing/book/literature.

  • Typically love fantasy, but my all time favorite book is probably Pride and Prejudice

In no more than two sentences, why you love to write.

  • There is nothing more exciting to me than the endless possibilities of a blank sheet of paper. To me, writing is freedom to go wherever and be whatever I want.

 

 

Guest Submission: Horror in Repast

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The monolith looked harmless. Kind of a disappointing end to a rigorous hunt. Tall enough to be ominous, sure. Eerie because of how smooth the black rock was. But there were no fireballs flung from it, no smoky haze around it, and no thunderous voice emanating from inside it. Just a silent tower. It was everything going on around the tower that gave Kelly Greirson the heebie jeebies.

It had been years since the finding of her time-mastering necklace. But those years had swarmed in a nonlinear fashion.

Tinkering with the gears of time will do that. It will keep your body young but your brain a demented mess of aged memories.

Kelly did not let herself worry about that. Too much metacognition will drive you mad. Instead, she allowed her emotions to do all the processing. She cried a lot, screamed, cursed, laughed. It was emotional recklessness. But not during a job. At least not if she could help it. During a job she had to pull herself together. Especially a job like the current one.

She watched the ceremonial fires down in the valley. A wide ring around the tall, inhuman tower. Her eyes blurred and the scene converged into a strange point of light. It was happening again. Her mind was slipping away from the present. She felt for a stick among the detritus around her and gripped it. Sometimes if she held on to something, she could anchor herself. It was not working. Her breathing quickened.

She looked down at the stick then back up. The surroundings had changed. This was familiar. It was all the way back to the beginning of her strange adventures. That awful bonfire of fear. She threw the stick into the flames just like she had done so long ago. The twig was dry, eager to be devoured. All the fears she placed on it were fed to the monster flames, giving it a nourished shape.

  1. P. Lovecraft got it right. The human mind was not supposed to know all the deeply hidden things in the world. Humans had to confine themselves to small islands of reality. Maybe Lovecraft had seen too much himself. Maybe he had written it down as a way to expel it from his mind. And, of course, he had written it as fiction.

“How else could you write this stuff down and get away with it?” Kelly said.

The fire before her was a wide ring in a valley again. Good. She did not want to relive that fire creature’s attack. She watched the uninhibited dancers fling themselves around the monolith. Some of them bloody, others lusty, all hedonistic rag dolls. These were the same sane-looking folks she had followed earlier. After the protest. Her vision began to blur again. Sometimes remembering something took her to that time. Was the necklace getting more volatile? Perhaps it would not be needed much longer. Not if this tower was what she thought it was.

The dancers turned into protesters, signs bouncing up and down.

“Not my president!”

“No more words of hate!”

Kelly listened to the gnashing chants. They were angry. Obviously. But they were also fearful. A tremor to their lips. Many of her friends told her that many nights they could not eat or sleep because of the anxiety. Some turned to counseling, but Kelly never saw it help much. The world was just becoming … unstable … mentally.

A reporter had a giant camera pointed at the crowd. She was asking them what they wanted to express through their protest.

“We want everybody to know we won’t stand for those who stand for hate speech. They will not speak for us or to us.”

“How do you hope to stop them? Through a change in law? A clarification of the first amendment?”

“Through whatever means necessary. If that evil man wants a wall … We’ll build a wall around him!”

Then the chorus:

“Wall around him, wall around him.”

It was no wonder those fascist-hating fascists needed an outlet for insanity. Their protests only served to tease the angst. They needed more. The tower called to them and they came. They shed their sensitivities along with their clothes. Every hidden epithet they had been too scared to speak could be flung with spittle upon the dark stone.

Kelly did not notice how that spit sizzled and bubbled along the smooth ebony surface of the monolith. She was still transitioning back to the present. Lucky for her, twin sister Katie was more anchored into the now. Kelly envied her, but whenever Katie suggested they share the power and burden of the necklace, Kelly refused. It was like that movie about the short kid and the ring. His pudgy friend just wanted to help, but did not know what he would be getting into. That was a lot like this necklace. Kelly thought she had better protect her sister from as much horror as possible.

A pebble arched and dropped in the thick undergrowth beside Kelly. Then another tapped her on the shoulder. Kelly cursed and looked up as a third flew through the moonlight. It would have hit her head if she had not dodged. They were messages from her twin. Something must be happening. But the tower still looked sleepy to her.

A harder look down into the forest clearing, however, revealed that the bonfire ring was suffering under a heady wind. But she could not feel any wind. It was not blowing the pines, just the fire, pushing it away from the tower on all sides. The nefarious breeze was coming from the monolith, itself.

“Here we go,” she breathed.

She closed her eyes then rose from her hiding place. But in a blur the woods were gone, trees transformed into telephone poles.

“Not again,” she bit. “This is getting ridiculous.”

Kelly looked around the quiet street. Trash blew and a smattering of protestors collected on the corner. One waved to her and smiled.

“Kelly, you going to be joining us today? It’s been a while.”

A devious smile tugged up at Kelly’s cheeks. She played with her necklace. “Sure. What’s this one for?”

“Women’s rights. Didn’t you notice my hat?”

Kelly laughed. “Oh right. Just a little distracted lately. What’s oppressing us this time?”

The friend looked at her funny. “You feeling okay?”

“Yeah, sure. It’s Just … Don’t you get tired?”

“Of being oppressed? Of course.” There was an edge cutting into the woman’s voice.

“What if I told you you could do something about it?”

“But we are doing something. Hashtag resist, you know?”

Kelly sighed. “Yeah. Okay.”

“Hey, cheer up. Come out with us later. After the protest we’re gonna kick back and relax at the clearing.”

Kelly darkened to a grim shade. “The clearing? Where they used to have those safe space meetings?”

“Yep, that’s the place.”

Kelly stopped a groan just before it escaped. What was it with that place? It was a hotspot for collecting snowflakes … and melting them down to raw fear.

“That place sort of calls to you doesn’t it?”

Another strange look from the friend. “It’s just a clearing, Kel.”

“Right.” Just a very hungry clearing. She should have known that place would come back to haunt her, even after she had dealt with the creature from the fire. That had taken, what, about twenty-five tries before she had figured out how to stop it? What would she find there this time?

Kelly blinked forward through time, back to this time, and found she was descending toward the clearing. She tore through thorns and vines and they tore her back. But she did not seem to feel it. She was only half present. Besides, she was used to pain. So Kelly kept running, straight for the stuttering flames that the wind blew right into her. The humans, who had been dancing inside the ring of fire, were now being blown into it, limbs and hair becoming personal pyres. The tower seemed to like its delicate co-eds medium-well. A brûlée to lazily pop down ancient gullet, perhaps.

But this Old One, this decrepit god, was going to get a rude awakening. She hoped.

She saw Katie on the other side. They were both coming through the heat of the fire, careless of the burns. Once through, it would be mere yards to the monolith.

At the top of the tower she could see tentacles push out. The emerald gem of her necklace flared as the she pushed through the naked gyrators and leaped to the stone. This Old One was ready to eat. She drew a knife from an ornate scabbard. A reward from another adventure. An old demon that needed killing. She thrust it now at the ebony and it slid in as through charred bread. Crunch. Another knife in her other hand sank to the hilt as well. Both glowed with sickening sea green. In this way she scaled her way to the top, heart shoving blood hard out of every valve.

There was no trepidation in her clear eyes. She left that to the folk screaming below. But there was pain. Every place on her body that touched the monolith sizzled. Kelly’s receptors crackled in response, popping with agony. She hoped it would keep her anchored in the present … to the task at hand. So on she went, encouraged by the sound of her sister’s voice on the other side of the cylinder.

Katie was screaming defiant profanities. She always seemed to enjoy herself. Kelly smiled and then shuddered. She felt a time shift coming and tightened her jaw.

“Are we doing this? The two of us?”

“You mean rescuing millennials by taking on ancient earth demons?” Katie said. “Heck yeah! Sounds like fun to me. As long as that necklace really does what you say it does.”

“You have no idea.”

“Exactly. When it alters time my memories are all rewound.”

Back to the tower. The tentacles elongated and writhed above. A few whipped down, inky and wet, narrowly missing the heads of the twins. Meanwhile, knives kept cutting chinks in the obelisk and the siblings kept rising closer to the top.

Another fat feeler swung like a tongue licking the lip of the tower. Kelly let go of an anchored knife and swung down to the other hilt, avoiding the protuberance. But Katie was not so lucky. It slammed into her chest head on, flinging her into the air. She flew high before smacking into the top of a tall pine like a rag doll and falling to the ground with a crunch.

Kelly growled and redoubled her efforts. With a strain she reached the hilt of the knife she had let go a moment earlier. She yanked the other blade free and the next tentacle received a slicing cut, spilling watery brown goo. A howl emanated from deep inside the tower’s gut. Kelly smiled. While its pain flared she ascended to the brink. The round top was concave, tentacles all around the edge. The center was pitch black. Only a mouthful of grinding teeth were visible in descending spirals down its gullet. It reminded her of one of the Star Wars movies. Sarlacc pit, right?

A searching appendage wrapped around her middle. It tightened and then lifted her up into the air above the toothy hole. A single tendril of black slithered up from the depths of the mouth. A glowing eye at its tip blinked then stared at the intruder.

There is defiance left upon the earth? Or are you simply eager to be consumed?

“Hashtag resistance,” she grunted, trying to breath inside the arm’s hold.

I prefer my food charred, like the morsels around my foundation. In any case, where did you learn bravery in a world of fear?

“A lot of second chances.”

And yet you shall still be consumed.

“Yes.”

Then why bother?

Kelly’s necklace shimmered in the Old One’s eye, catching its attention. Kelly grinned.

I know the feel of that gem.

“What does it make you feel?” There was genuine interest in her voice.

I feel the same timelessness as that of myself. It has been a long time since I have felt that outside of me. But … something else as well. Something molten. Something … incandescent. I will understand more once I have ingested it.

“There are words I once learned that go, ‘It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour’.”

The being shuddered, as though bitten by the words. If there was a time to escape, this was it. But that was not the plan.

Few still speak the words of the Ancient One. But you underestimate my longevity … and my voracious appetite. If you think you can scare me with words then … well, there is a humorous irony to that.

“You can’t be that old. There was no tower here a few years ago.”

You must think of me as a tree. A tree is timeless because its fruit fall into fertile ground, recreating the tree again and again. There is very good soil here.

A needle on the end of the appendage lifted and pierced Kelly’s leg. Droplets of blood spilled down into the creature’s throat.

Yes, I thought so. Your blood is familiar. It was the one thing off-putting about the ground here. But I will eat you just the same.

“I left a lot of it here. All of it, maybe. But I’m tired of talking. Let’s get this over with.”

She ripped at the tentacle around her, wriggling free and slipping down into the maw.

But as Kelly fell, she found herself descending into the ringing chime of a door. It reverberated through her.

She held out the necklace with a trembling hand and a smile. “I’d like to buy this please,” she said to the squat, frowning owner.

“You sure about that? No refunds. Not this time.”

“This time?”

“You know what I talk about. First round on me. Teach you thing or two.” A pause. “So you learn something, eh?”

“A lot.”

“You buy this again, you learn more. Maybe things you rather not. Scary things. You can do … handle this?”

“I … I need to learn more. Learn to not be afraid.”

A shrug. “That will happen, but there more too. When you stripped of all fear, will face things others cannot; things that drive you mad maybe. Deep things. Dark things.”

A credit card had been hovering in the air, aimed at the store owner. It began to waver and retreat. The owner snatched and swiped it.

“Okay then. Deal.”

“Wait, I—“

“You start to act like big baby. You need necklace more than I thought. I make decision for you. You welcome.”

Kelly shivered.

The stomach was cold. So cold her extremities began to coat in frost. At least it was not slimy and gelatinous like she had expected. Just empty space, stale, and so very old. Older than anything she had ever experienced. The further she sank the more ancient the smell. Like she was drifting back through the ages. Toward the beginning of evil.

Then time began to break down. Even more so than usual for Kelly. She looked down at the necklace. It was coming apart at the edges, bits chipping off. Had she been wrong about the power of the gem? Had it finally met its match? Snippets of memories like frozen shards spun round and cut her. Or maybe those were teeth. Either way she bled the memoirs of her life.

Her father pushed her on a tricycle which morphed into a bicycle with training wheels. Peals of laughter transformed into terror as a car sped around the corner and straight into her dad.

Kelly was thrown from the bike, soaring back into her mother’s womb. The swollen belly was strapped with monitors. Medical personnel were quietly, methodically, coldly proclaiming they could no longer hear three heartbeats. Beside her was Katie, doing a slow summersault. A third baby floated limp in viscus fluid, eyes vacant.

Then the fetus shrank, enlivening, the three sisters growing what looked to be tails as they swam in their mother’s uterus.

She swam and swam until the stomach stretched into a lake. She was a young teenager. And what once had been an umbilical cord became the serpentine form of a cottonmouth whisking across the surface of the water. Toward Ben, the neighbor boy. A scream bubbled from Kelly’s lips.

The spewed lake water became vomit spilling into a toilet. She gripped the sides of the bowl with white knuckles. Katie was rubbing her back and quipping, “You are what you eat. Or drink, in this case.”

“So I’m a wild turkey?” Kelly croaked.

The following laughter echoed back to the present, bounding off the arcane walls of the old monster.

“No fear,” she whispered.

What?

“Just something written on a shirt my dad was wearing when he died.”

Ironic. I enjoy irony almost as much as the taste of some of those memories you released. Such an interesting past. I can barely wait to finish you.

One of Kelly’s arms, now frozen, snapped off and floated away.

Kelly only smiled. “It’s taken a long time to find you, Old One. But that’s okay. Gave me time to figure out how best to defeat you. Gave me time to notice your appetite for fear.”

It is why I have grown so large here.

“It is why,” Kelly breathed, “it will be your undoing. My gem isn’t timeless, like you thought. It is simply … made of time. You know what happens when a timeless creature eats time? It means your time … is … up.”

Her mouth and tongue were stiffening into ice. She was barely able to creak out a smile before she became a frosty statue. The deadly cold drove down to her brain and forced the last of her synapses to fail. One last heartbeat thudded.

The necklace gem, barely still in one piece, pulsed, then throbbed, then broke, tearing a shaft of light from the being’s mouth. It gutted the creature from the inside out, sending waves of turmoil through those inky tentacles. Never before had it felt such tremors of trepidation. It existed to feed on fear, not to become it. The tower could not endure. Its seams ached and then cracked into tumbling rubble.

Those below still with enough breath left in them screamed and those with working legs fled. This time their fear was a healthy one. One young man scraped along the mossy ground. The left half of his face was charred a papery black, the eye bleeding down his cheek. But his good eye turned to observe the fate of the obelisk. He wondered at the shattering tower. He asked himself why he had come here. But most of all he worked with all his might to escape. For he realized there are things better left alone. And there are fears … real fears … that supersede the petty ones we horde.

-Benjamin Davis Shelor

Author Bio:

From Southwest Virginia. Favorite lit is Tolkien. write like I breathe. It just happens, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes foul, sometimes fresh.

You can follow Ben on his blog SeeBenWrite.

Guest Submission: Long Journey to Hell

It was one of Heaven’s cunning emigration policies. Citizens were led to believe that secure poverty was better than a journey into insecurity.

Raphael almost didn’t make it. He wasn’t even at the middle of the journey, when all his strength left him. He was reduced to a skeleton with featherless wings. He didn’t lose his wing with one fatal tear, like the first wave of immigrants did. It hurt beyond compare, but it was over in one painful second. Those who took the long way lost their old self like a leper loses his skin, slowly and painfully aware how they became less and less.

Feathers and small broken bones littered the winding pilgrim road. Raphael’s shoes turned into rotten scraps and then into nothing. He was left with nothing but the road under his soles. The dust felt almost intolerable, it covered the landscape, tiny smoke-flavoured specks invaded Raphael’s lungs and eyes and soul. He inhaled the dirt of the other pilgrims, the ash of burning wings and the trash of unwanted memories.

Raphael lay on the side of a ditch and waited for life to drain away from him. He waited and waited but Death was not walking those parts of the universe that day. Raphael wondered what happened to ‘hell-dwellers’ and ‘celestials’ when they arrived to the end of their long existence. After some contemplation he concluded that he most probably would just stop existing, disappearing like the flame of a candle when blown out. His eyelids grew heavier with the weight of unfulfilled dreams.

Raphael put his hand on his heart and asked for the forgiveness of his beloved ones. He failed them.

Death had a light touch and stroked Raphael’s face with endless patience. Water dripped on Raphael1s deserted lips. As it reached his tongue he realised it was more than pure water: it tasted of life and a will harder than steel. Morning sunlight and childhood giggles filled his soul. When he gasped for breath, the air soared into his lungs and he realised he wasn’t going to die. When he opened his eyes, his saviour had already left.

Raphael only found a slim bottle of “Mercy,” the sparkling version with extra minerals and hope. He felt surprised and grateful although he had no idea how it all happened. His mysterious benefactor had also washed his feet and wrapped them in white linen and also tided the stumps of his wings. Raphael fell to his knees and wept.

After his eyes ran dry of tears, he got up and continued his journey. His body felt lighter and his soul gleamed with a strange warm feeling. The journey was still long and after a time even his new shoes became rags and the bottle of Mercy didn’t give him consolation anymore. But he wasn’t going to give up anymore, he knew he’d arrive to his destination. Days melted into each other and time stuck to him as an overchewed gum. Then one day he smelled water. First it was no more than a faint dampness on his skin, then as he got closer he could see the river and the bridges dipping their feet in the waves.

Where there is water, there is life; this was one of the wisdoms Raphael learnt from Ms. Colomba in Generic Cosmography.

Raphael made the last meters running, staggering, almost falling over the stones. He arrived to the river just outside the city. It flowed with the slow grace of the great ones who don’t care about the passing in time. Raphael smashed into the water, the lukewarm waves embracing him like a mother the prodigious son.

After climbing out, he sat down on the muddy bank and tried to get used to the emptiness on his back. It was the happiest day of his life. (…)

-Fanni Suto

Author Bio:

I’m from Hungary, but I live in France.

Favourite literature: I love Sandman by Neil Gaiman and anything by Antal Szerb, who is a Hungarian writer from the first half of the 20th century. He’s got pretty good English translations, worth checking out.

I love writing because I care about other people even if it’s me who made them up. Writing is something which makes me truly happy and stimulated.

You can follow Fanni’s writing on her blog Ink Maps And Macarons.

Guest Submission: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead

The things we learn COVER FINAL

 

Single is the race, single

Of men and gods;

From a single mother we both draw breath.

But a difference of power in everything

Keeps us apart;

For one is as nothing, but the brazen sky

Stays a fixed habituation for ever.

Yet we can in greatness of mind

Or of body be like the Immortals

 

On the Olympics: Pindar of Thebes, ancient Greek lyric poet

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.

Meditations: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

121AD – 180AD

On the Olympics: Pindar of Thebes, ancient Greek lyric poet

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.

Meditations: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

121AD – 180AD

On the Olympics: Pindar of Thebes, ancient Greek lyric poet

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.

Meditations: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

121AD – 180AD

 

End

 

At the end of her Edinburgh street, where it joined a busier road, was a security camera perched high on a metal pole.  If anyone had been watching they would have seen a slim young woman in a red dress illuminated under a streetlight.  They would have seen that she seemed agitated, her feet fluttering on the pavement’s edge, her hands raised to her face, turning this way and that, and then stepping into the road.  She seemed to be crying, unsure what she was doing.  They would have seen the approaching car and that the young woman was looking in the wrong direction.  When she did hear it, turning in mesmerised surprise, it was too late.  But perhaps nobody had been watching the CCTV screen because it was the driver of the car who called for the ambulance, a small crowd gathering, and who then tried to make the young woman comfortable – talking to her, even pushing his jacket under her head – and waited beside her until the ambulance arrived and the paramedic said that he couldn’t detect a pulse.

***

On the morning of her death, suicide bombers blew themselves up on London’s transport network.  Three on the Tube and one on a bus.  Dozens were dead, many more maimed.  She watched, appalled, as the news unfolded, curled on the sofa, making cups of coffee that she didn’t drink, while the sun traversed the rooftops and patterned her in shadows.  It seemed a rerun of 9/11 or Bali or Madrid; random and senseless.  That’s what angered her the most: it was carnage without fathomable purpose.  She was alone in her flat; she’d had an argument with her flatmate who had flounced off, muttering darkly and swearing loudly.  But she was used to being alone, to the silence; she welcomed that kind of solitude because it didn’t allow for distraction: it gave her the space to frown over her law books, sucking on a pencil or tapping on her keyboard.  But not today; today she wanted company: someone to share her outrage with, but she didn’t know who to phone.  Instead, she’d make another cup of coffee, set it on the table beside the sofa, and then throw it away when it was stone cold.  

In the evening, she’d been invited to a dinner party but didn’t want to go.  However, invitations to a Redmarsh soiree did not arrive lightly and, as Toby Redmarsh was senior partner at the rarefied law firm for which Lorna would soon be working, it wasn’t an invitation that could easily be postponed, let alone refused.

That didn’t, however, mean that she was looking forward to it.  Born and bred in modest circumstances, she still felt socially uncertain in the company of the more gilded.  It was stupid of her, and she knew it; she had overcome disadvantages of class and schooling to arrive at the hallowed portals of Wilson, MacGraw & Hamilton.  It had been always been her ambition to be a lawyer but now, on the verge of attainment, she had become increasingly uncomfortable.  She would be the office’s sacrificial  socialist – she knew that as well – the example held up as living proof that talent alone could reap its own reward in the heady niche of corporate and commercial law.

    “Casual, of course,” Tessa had commanded, wife to Toby, who lived with her husband in Edinburgh’s New Town and had a bohemian tradition to live up to.  “We’ll see you at eight,” said Tessa.  “You know our address, don’t you?”  It was said contralto, and not really meant as a question: everyone should know where Tessa and Toby Redmarsh lived or, if not, they had no business being invited to their home.

In the morning, after the bombs had gone off, she phoned Toby, who spoke to his wife, who told him that the dinner was still on.  We can’t give into them, he then told Lorna, having been given the party line.  We have to keep going as normal.  Tessa thinks that we’re doing the right thing, he said, not sounding convinced.

She dressed, watching the evening news, marvelling at the simplicity of mass murder.  It made no sense to her; she’d never wanted to hurt anybody in her life, then cried and had to put her makeup on again.

    The house in question, Lorna discovered, was on an imposing square close to the city’s West End; near enough to allow its residents to feel themselves in close proximity to real people, but far enough away to be insulated from them.  The Georgian house, on four floors, was lit from top to toe like a cruise liner.

    A Filipino maid dressed in black, down to her jet ear-rings, opened the door to Lorna and, without speaking, took her coat and ushered her to the drawing room.  Tessa was already holding out both hands as Lorna waded through thick carpet, and although they had never met, beckoning Lorna like an old friend.

    “My dear girl!  How nice to finally meet you!”

    Tessa allowed her cheek to be kissed; offering Lorna its flat surface like a penance, then took her arm and led her to the unlit fireplace, and the group of other guests around it.  On the walls hung large and impressive canvases, each lit from above by a downward-slanting brass lamp.  No art expert, even Lorna recognised the tortured faces of two Howsons and, in another, matchstick men streaming from a factory gate that just had to be a Lowry.  Lorna’s gaze encompassed the room with a mixture of awe and contempt, as Tessa took her arm and they negotiated a baby grand piano on which sat family photographs in silver frames and what might have been a small and abstract Paolozzi.  

    “This, everyone, is Lorna Love,” trilled Tessa, pushing her forwards to be devoured by several pairs of eyes.  “She’s also a lawyer, aren’t you?”  Her hands plucked and tugged Lorna to a gilt-ornate settee and prodded her down into one upholstered corner.  The unspeaking maid offered Lorna a flute of pink champagne on a silver tray.

“I’m not really a lawyer,” Lorna replied.

“But you will be.  Soon.  Toby says great things about you.”  Tessa beamed, displaying whiter-than-white teeth.  “Anyway, it’s great fun, don’t you agree?” she said, moving in beside her.  “Pink champagne, I mean.”  Her long fingers wrapped around the stem of her glass had blue fingernails, the same colour as her dress.  “But how remiss.  I haven’t done the honours, have I?  I don’t suppose you know hardly anybody here at all.”

    Tessa’s bracelet in the half-light was a golden rattle as she thrust her hand towards the nearest couple; a balding be-spectacled man in his late fifties, and a flaccid woman in a purple tracksuit and double string of pearls.

    “This is Geoffrey Crumb – or should I say Lord Geoffrey Crumb – and his Lady wife, Monica.”  Lorna solemnly shook their hands, recognising the bald and be-spectacled man as a High Court judge.

    “- and this is Marcia Apsley, whose husband Walter is such a darling man.”  Marcia, dye-blonde hair to her shoulders, and too old to be wearing the shortest of short black dresses, gave her a broad smile; Walter, in a sober blue suit, barely touched her fingers and looked away.  Tessa then indicated her husband with a sweeping motion of her hand, “and you know old Toby, don’t you.”  Toby Redmarsh, propped against the mantelpiece, raised his glass in welcome.

    “Right then,” said Tessa and tinkled a small silver bell.  “We can eat.”

    Lorna was placed between the severe tracksuit of Lady Crumb and, on her left, the tinsel of Marcia Apsley who, without ceremony, immediately poured herself a glass of white wine.  No girl-boy-girl seating arrangements at the Redmarsh table.  There was avocado to start with, virtually obligatory in the New Town, carefully scooped from its shell, mashed up with cream, herbs and chopped bacon, and served back hot in its skin.  “We got the recipe from a friend in Cape Town,” explained Tessa, although it was clear that the Filipino maid did all the cooking.  “Out there, of course, avocados are almost weeds.”

    “Makes you think,” said Marcia, poking at her avocado with a fork.  “I don’t think I’ve ever eaten weeds before.”

    Walter snatched a quick glance at his wife and guffawed to signal that Marcia, already pouring herself a second glass of wine, had made a joke.  

***

    In a lull in the conversation, as they were finishing the hot avocado, and as the Filipino maid began to clear plates, Marcia asked her if she really was a lawyer.  It was clear that, in Marcia’s circle of acquaintances, lawyers spoke the Queen’s English.

“I’m going to be working with Toby,” replied Lorna, making no effort to disguise her provincial accent, “although I still have exams to pass.”

“How exciting!” said Marcia.  “At least, I suppose, it must be somewhat exciting.  Being a lawyer, and all that.  Actually, that’s a strange word, if you think about it,” she added after a pause.  “Somewhat.”  She pronounced it sum-wot.  “Like a fruit.”

    “That’s kumquat,” said Toby.

    Marcia looked up from her plate, shrugged, then handed her plate to the Filipino who was circling the table replenishing empty glasses.  She held the bottle in a white napkin that obscured the label, and her face was pitted with the pockmarks of some childhood affliction.

    “She’s from Manila,” said Tessa when the door had closed and their empty dishes were rattling down the hallway.  “Nowadays we wouldn’t know what to do without her.”

    “I went there once.  In the Army,” said the High Court judge and tilted back his head.  “Extended leave.  Ate dog once.  Not very nice, but did have a bite to it.”  He paused to see if anyone thought this funny, which nobody did.  “Thought I should see a bit of the world.  Long time ago, of course.”

    “We call her Gertie,” said Tessa, ignoring him.  “Her real name is unpronounceable.”

    Let others invent a name for you, Lorna thought, and hide behind their generosity.  She shouldn’t have drunk the pink champagne or the wine with dinner.  The doctor had said that her medication was incompatible with alcohol.  Lorna felt light-headed, suddenly tearful, thinking about the bombings.

    London, of course, dominated the conversation, punctuated by the unpronounceable Filipino who circled their laden table, balancing salvers and empty plates in her sensible hands.  Lorna watched her studious anonymity, feeling hot, and then shivering; a pool of tears had gathered behind her eyes.  She dabbed at them with her serviette, or napkin, or whatever they were called in a house like this.

“It’s an obscenity,” Toby was saying, “but the real danger lies in getting our response wrong.  It’s a question of choice.  Either we continue to uphold the sanctity of human rights or we now make national security paramount.  The two are incompatible.  The government will bring in new terror laws, no doubt about it.”

The High Court judge agreed.  “It’s also a question of rights and responsibilities,” he said, enunciating clearly as if giving a judgement.  “Everyone has the right to disagree with what the government is doing.  In Iraq or about anything else.  That doesn’t give them the right to kill people.”

It was a blindingly obvious point but, being a High Court judge, nobody could disagree.

“Anyway,” said Tessa, keeping a close eye on the Filipino who was circulating once more with wine bottles and replenishing glasses. “I just think we should shoot them.”

    Toby cut a slice of gristle from his beef and slid it to the side of his plate where it bled like a sacrifice.  “All very well, of course, if you manage to shoot the right people.  We can only hope that the intelligence services know who the bad guys are.”  Toby’s confident tone suggested he had a rare faith in the intelligence community, nodding and smiling over his heaped plate.

    But Tessa felt that he had missed the point and waved her fork alarmingly at him.  “Meanwhile, don’t you see, more people get blown up.  Bugger their human rights!  What about our human rights?”  She made it seem like a personal affront and sawed at her meat with hunched shoulders.

    Marcia had been listening to this exchange like a tennis spectator, moving her head back and forth, a dimpled smile playing on her lips.  “Actually, Tessa’s quite right.  All you lawyers do is pontificate, which is worse than useless.  If suicide bombers want to take radical action against us, we should take radical action against them.  The more radical the better, if you ask me.”  She laughed across the table and tapped her empty wineglass in hospitable rebuke.

***

    After dinner they sat over coffee and mints in the drawing room, with the curtains open and garden lights on the lawn conjuring daylight from the darkness.  Lorna was standing with her back to the unlit fire, feeling light-headed: the doctor had been right; small white pills and wine was not a sensible combination.  She sat down heavily on the settee and put a hand to her forehead.

Toby sat beside her and put a fatherly hand on her knee.  “Are you okay?” he asked.  “I have to say that you don’t look terribly well.”

“Just tired,” said Lorna.

“You’ve been ill,” said Toby, “and coming here tonight wasn’t probably a good idea.  Do you want me to call you a cab?”

Lorna nodded, wanting to cry.  

“She’s not well,” said Toby to nobody in particular, and helped her into the spacious hallway where he lowered Lorna into an upright chair.  A grandfather clock ticked in one corner, and a staircase, thickly carpeted in green, led to a shadowed landing.  The Filipino maid brought her a glass of water in a crystal glass.  Lorna smiled her gratitude.  The maid’s eyes were black and impenetrable.

The taxi arrived and Toby helped her inside.  Tessa fussed in the background, in a pool of light from the open doorway, her hands threaded together, smiling uncertainly.  She unfurled her hands to wave goodbye.

“Just pass those bloody exams!” shouted Toby as the taxi door closed.

With her life fast diminishing, Lorna sat in the back of the cab with her eyes closed, squeezing tears inside her eyelids.  Her veins were filled with a heady cocktail of regret.  She stepped from the kerb to cross the street to her flat.  But conflicting thoughts had pressed in and deafened her.  

For a few moments she didn’t know where she was, except that she was lying in the road.  She also knew she was wearing a red dress – she was lying on one side with her head tucked down and could see it – and with an effort of memory remembered that she’d bought it in an Oxfam shop, and been worried by a red stain down one side that could have been tomato ketchup or blood from a previous murdered owner.  She simply hadn’t heard the approaching car or the screech of brakes until it was too late, feeling the push of air as it advanced and its bright and predatory eyes.  

Then she was aware of a paramedic in a green uniform gently turning her onto her back and as she lay there, gazing at the stars, all she felt was great sadness and a void that might not now be filled.  Then, her eyesight fading, she heard a child crying, muffled sobs from nearby.  The child seemed to be crying into a pillow, the feathers pressed against its mouth and nose.  Lorna knew that the child didn’t want to be heard or wake anybody up.  It didn’t want to make a fuss and, more than anything, it didn’t want anybody to ask what was wrong.  The child’s sobs sounded familiar, but it still took Lorna some moments to realise that the child was her.  By then she was in darkness and becoming frightened.  A part of her understood that something bad had happened, but she couldn’t remember what.  The child’s sobs faded to silence.

 

***

CL bandw
Charlie Laidlaw

Author Bio:

Where are you from?

I was born and brought up in the west of Scotland, am a graduate of the University of Edinburgh.  I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist.  I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics.  

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then.  However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.

Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’m still doing that.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in East Lothian.   And that’s about it.

What are some of your favourite works?

Too many to mention!  I grew up with Hemingway and Greene, and then moved onto Fay Weldon and John le Carre who is still, I believe, the absolute master of dialogue.  I suppose now I read mainly contemporary literary fiction…from a hugely eclectic mix of authors.  Like any avid reader, I love stumbling on an author I haven’t read before.  I still have that wonderful sense of discovery if I chance upon a book I love.

Favourite books would include anything by Joanne Harris, One Day by David Nicholls, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.  But that’s to omit a huge number of other books that have either shaped my writing or, quite simply, been fantastic reads.

Why do you write?

Good question.  I suppose I knew from an early age that I was good at writing and not very good at everything else.  I wrote two “novels” before I was seventeen.  Although both were gibberish, they forced me to think about narrative and structure, plot and dialogue, and come up with characters who readers could empathise with.

While I’m not religious, I do have a semi-Presbyterian streak in me; that trait in my character that says that, whatever you’re good at, you should keep doing.  So, for me, it’s a strange compulsion: it’s not for money or seeing my book in bookshops: it’s about trying to find fulfillment around what is of importance to me.

Guest Submission: Chased By Death

Have you ever seen a peace so quiet, a night so tranquil, a person so unsuspecting that you knew they were begging for disaster? Like a fly following sweet aromas into a hungry flytrap, a busy little ant strolling along a spider web, a thirsty wildebeest drinking tiredly in a crock-infested watering hole, some people become prey only by living their lives with simply too much comfort. So whose fault is it when a powerful, overconfident general finds a body within his own stronghold? Is it his own?

“Christopher,” one of the commanders whispered. Four commanders accompanied General Borfan as they examine the body.

“Face down,” Borfan said, rolling the body onto its back with his foot. A massive gash through the front of his throat stretched even down to his collarbones as Borfan and the four followers shuttered. “Had the killer attacked from the front, he probably would have fallen backward. Poor Christopher most likely didn’t even see who cut him because they must have come from behind.”

“Look at the cut, General,” another commander said, bending low and tracing the slice in the air with his finger.

“What’s your point?” Borfan asked.

“It is nothing like ours. That this weapon was created to be used for this sort of thing,” the soldier answered, standing again. “This is no traitor, simple burglar, or even hired no-name after your head. This is a professional outsider.”

“Come,” Borfan told them immediately. “We start with-” he stopped. The two guards that had stood in the doorway lay in puddles of their own blood, cut along their throats just as Christopher had been. Their eyes, however, were different, large and gaping in fear of whatever they had seen as they bled to death beneath their enemy.

“How…?” Borfan whispered.

“He must have been in there with us!” one of the commanders stated.

“Close and lock all the security doors to the main hallways, and double the guard to the main gates. Whatever room or hallway they are in, they will be locked in until we find them. Not one soul leaves this building!” Borfan shouted, leaving the table and drawing his sword. “We’ll find him.”

The order went out and all hallways on the eight floors were closed, bookended by massive, iron doors with locks so complex that two soldiers were needed to unlock them. Loud clangs could be heard as they slammed powerfully and cut off all exits. Then appeared a messenger.

“Another death on the third floor!” he said, gasping for breath. “A sentry there spotted the intruder.”

“Lead us there!” Borfan commanded.

Racing to the staircase, they descended at a velocity almost impossible, and Borfan stumbled towards the end, nearly spraining his ankle. Arriving on the third floor, the messenger guided them through the maze of hallways until they met two guards protecting a sealed door. But a third female soldier sat against the wall, moaning quietly to herself. The General strode over to her, grabbing her by the forearm and lifting her to her feet.

“HE’S FOUND ME!” she shrieked in a desperate terror. “HE’S RETURNED AND FOUND ME! HELP ME PLEASE! SAVE ME!”

“Silence you fool, it’s me,” Borfan growled, turning her face so she would look him in the eye. Yet as he did, her eyes bounced around the room spastically, as if she had lost their control. “Look at me,” he told her. She whimpered, holding her face still, but her brown, desperate eyes continued to race about, resting in no place. “Janen, look at me!” But she could not.

“I…I can’t see you,” she whispered.

“What in Hisman’s name…I’m right here, you stupid-”

“Sir,” one of the door guards interrupted. Borfan glanced over at him with no response. “She…she has been blinded, General.”

A sickening feeling swarmed about Borfan’s body as he released her, and she clung to the wall as if she would lose herself in the hallways.

“I can’t see anything,” she sobbed, her eyes still lashing about uncontrollably.

“What happened to you?” Borfan asked her, stepping backward. “What manner of man could do such a thing?”

“It was no man,” she stammered. “It was a devil, drifting through the hallways in a cloud of shadows…unseen unless it desires. Its finger is slender and sharp, like a sword itself. I didn’t even realize it was there until Jaxol’s throat was opened beneath its finger…and it will be the same for you! Even the death among your men has gone unnoticed!” Borfan glanced around, horrorstruck as he found that now, only three of his commanders were with him.

“Where’s Daun?” he snarled at his soldiers.

“I don’t know!” one of them answered. “He was just with us!”

“His fate is the same as the others,” Janen whispered. Her body trembled as she clung to the wall as if it was her only protection. “He’s coming for you, Borfan! Run! Flee! Escape if you can! DEATH ITSELF HAS ENTERED THIS KEEP AND WILL NOT LEAVE WITHOUT YOU IN ITS CLUTCHES! RESIST IF YOU WILL, BUT YOUR END WILL BE FOUND SOON ENOUGH! BEWARE THE CREATURE WHO’S EYES HAUNT THESE HALLWAYS LIKE BLOOD-RED SPECTERS! LIKE DOORWAYS TO HELL ITSELF! RUN! RUN! RUN!” she began to scream, and Borfan’s resolve failed him and he left them in a dash down the corridors, nearly leaping down the stair case, but awaiting him on the second floor was a great iron door, closed tightly.

“RUN! RUUUN! RUN! HAHAHAHAH! RUN BORFAN!”

“Open!” he screamed, pounding his fist, but there was no answer.

“RUN! RUN!” Janen could be heard through the hallways above. “RUUUUUUUN!”

He screamed for the guards on the opposite side to open the door, but no response came, so he descended again to the first floor, but that was also closed off, leaving him boxed in the staircase. Like the door before, the first-floor hallway was locked tight, with no one to open it up to him. Refusing to be caught and killed on the stairs, he bounded upwards again, moving to the third floor, where he knew that on the opposite side of the keep, there was another staircase. Flying upwards, he quickly reached that floor as his calves seared but he paid them no heed.

Leaving the stairs and freezing in place, he found that the door before him was left gaping open. Undeniable, inescapable terror caused heat to blanket his body and then to vanish, leaving him shivering in the dark.

Quiet.

All was quiet.

The door was open.

Why was it open?

Where were the guards that were to assigned to close it and allow none to pass through?

He was alone. His options were to turn back or to move forward and turning left only blocked halls in his way. He had to move forward. Every ounce of common sense within him bellowed to not enter the dark corridor. But where else could he go? Step by step, he entered through the open doorway until all torchlight vanished and the world was black. His only hope was the light an eternity away from where the door at the other end awaiting, open and inviting.

CLANG

The iron door to the corridor slammed closed behind him, while who had shut it, he did not wait to see. He was soon streaking through the opened hallway at a grueling speed, putting as much distance between himself and the slammed door as he could.

CLANG

The second door, this one at his destination, slammed shut and enclosed him in darkness. Almost immediately he tripped, slamming his head on the cold, solid wall as he fell. His sword rattled across the ground as it slid, falling from his sheathe. He scrambled blindly, crawling along the floor trying to find his only source of defense, but his sword was gone. Desperate frustration welled in him and he screamed in the darkness, punching the wall and sending shooting strips of pain up his fist and wrist. His shout echoed up and down the corridor and he found himself alone. He had rolled as he fell and now in utter night was unable to tell from where he came and to where he had run. As he sat, the cool air and silence seemed to sooth him slightly and he rested, beginning to think through the ways of escape. His own breathing was the only noise as he panted, alone in the dark.

Yet suddenly, a light crept back into the hall behind him and he turned and saw that the hallway door had been opened. A tall, shapeless figure stood in the doorway, only a silhouette against the dim torchlight from outside of the hall. Still and silent, the figure stared into the hall as the light behind it seemed to bend around its form. Borfan gasped and struggled to stand and run forward, but all was dark again.

CLANG

The hall door slammed shut, and only seconds after it slowly creaked open, lighting the hall again. This time, the figure was twice as close, yet it stood still as if it hadn’t moved. Borfan took the moment to find his sword and bolt away before-

CLANG

The darkness returned and the door shut again, but immediately began to creak open another time. Even closer, seemingly traveling at speeds much higher than Borfan, yet when he turned to see, the intruder was still, standing motionless in the hallway and watching him.

CLANG

CLANG

CLANG

CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG

The door began to slam open and closed again and again on its own as the figure was now sprinting toward Borfan like a ghost, who finally reached the end of the hallway, ripping open the already unlocked security door, stepping out and slamming it shut, twisting the great wheel to lock it as best as he could. Closed inside, the intruder would surely be slowed. He swept across to the stairs, but upon descending, found that the ground level doors were also locked, just as the other side. He was caught in his own trap. Unless he could make it to the roof and escape by repelling to the ground, he would die. To the roof then. To the highest level, number eight from the ground. As he ascended from the third, he could hear faintly that Janen continued to scream “RUN, BORFAN, BUT IF YOU RUN, YOU WILL ONLY BRING YOURSELF CLOSER TO HIM!”

The eighth floor was reached, and greeting him in the hallway was his messenger, standing wide eyed in a frozen state of surprise.

“Ready my horse!” Borfan commanded him, and when no response came, he grabbed his shoulder and shouted: “Do as I say!” The messenger fell limply onto Borfan’s shoulders, and as the General yelped in shock and stepped aside, the messenger’s body lifelessly rolled down the stairs.

“Dead…” Borfan shuttered, now in a terrorized panic. “Dead where he stood.” Raising his eyes from the lifeless heap, he clutched his sword tightly in his hand as he ran towards the door that led upwards to the roof of the keep, but as he reached it, he found that it too was sealed shut. The guards that had stood there lay in heaps on the ground, filling the hallway with their blood. As he stopped his running, deep wheezing took over and he began inhaling as profoundly as he could. He reached for the door, his last exit to safety, hands trembling and body shivering.  Yet as he reached forward, the great wheel budged, and the sound of iron on iron slid from its wheel as it began to turn, unlocking itself with a mind of its own. What ever man, spirit, or beast that haunted his steps awaited the door’s opening patiently, itching to greet him. His cry of distress was high-pitched and wailing, and he left the door to hide in the eighth-floor meeting room. Escape was impossible. Hiding was his only option. Down two hallways and on the left, he found two of his commanders standing beside the door.

“General! The keys, quickly!” one of them cried. He stood with his fellow soldier’s arm thrown around his shoulders as if the man could not stand on his own. The second, supported by his comrade, had been babbling words over and over, staring at Borfan as if confused at why Borfan could not understand.

“Gael saw him,” the stronger of the two said. “He saw him, and now his mind is rubble.” The General whipped out the keys from his belt, fumbling with them madly, unable to still his hands from shaking.

“And Aaron stretched forth his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt,” the second man whispered. “…Aaron stretched forth his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.”

“Will you shut him up?!” Finally, the correct key was found and shoved into the lock, turned as the simple door clicked quietly and they entered.

“It’s the plagues, sir,” the saner of the two told him. “The plagues of Moses.”

“I don’t care what it is, just get him in here,” Borfan said, yanking the babbler by the shirt and tossing him into the opened door, who immediately fell onto his stomach. The first followed him in and Borfan stepped inside, slamming the door and locking it.

“And he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.”

The commander bent low and lifted his friend from the ground, again putting his arm over his shoulder and walking him into the room and sitting him in a chair. Like the meeting room they had been in only a few minutes before the nightmare had begun, the room was simple and dark, with a table and chairs for convenience. The only difference was two windows in the far walls, opening with a glimpse of the black and empty night outside.

“And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.”

Borfan strode over to the window, glancing out at the wall beneath him, hoping and pleading that there might be some way to climb to the ground to run. The commander ran to the other window, doing the same.

“I don’t see any way out!” his voice shouted.

“…and the cattle of Egypt died: but the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.”

“Are there any curtains that perhaps we could use as a rope?” Borfan grumbled, bringing his head in from the window and glancing throughout the room.

“NO!” the commander shouted. “NO, PLEASE DON’T!”

“Issachar!” Borfan shouted, watching him cling with his hands to the window’s sides as if something were pulling his head outward.

“GENERAL, HELP ME!”

Borfan sprinted to his side but was far too late. Issachar was yanked outwards, screaming as he waved his arms and legs in the air, dropping like a rock until he found the ground with a disgusting “thud” eight stories below.

“And they took the ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.”

Borfan leaned out Issachar’s window, bearing his sword with him, but there was no one…or nothing, that would have pulled the poor fallen soldier out. Above, a small sound of movement was heard, but by the time Borfan’s gaze rose, the sky was empty.

“Come down here and face me, coward!” he shouted. “You crawl in the shadows, but fear to stand before me!” Silence responded as Borfan stared up at the roof, which lay only ten feet above them until he heard it.

“I….come….” a voice said from above, slow and silent, breathing deeply in between words, and Borfan immediately knew he had made a mistake.

“And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.”

“What is wrong with you!?” Borfan screamed, coming in from the window and kicking the commander off of the chair and onto the ground.

“And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such,” was the answer as the commander climbed to his knees, crawling towards Borfan and hugging his legs.

“And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days!” the commander said, in a violent, pleading tone. “They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days!” Borfan struggled to pull the madman off of him, but his grip was as iron. “But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings!”

Then it was quiet, and the commander stopped, staring up at Borfan with wild eyes, horrified that Borfan did not understand what he was saying. He turned slowly to look at the door, and Borfan’s eyes followed his, and in the silence, thumps from behind the door crawled into the air.

“What is it, Gael?” Borfan whispered. “What is there?”

“For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians!” Commander Gael shouted.

“What is it?” Borfan hissed, eyes still locked on the door.

“And when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses and smite you!”

“Is this he?” Borfan asked, backing against the wall, Gael still clutching tightly to his legs. “Is it the destroyer?”

The door’s lock, while it could only be unlocked from the inside, turned slowly on its own with a small click. The wooden door began to open ever so slowly, creaking loudly and filling Borfan’s ears.

“And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle!”

The door finally reached its extent, and the dark hallway gaped before them like the throat of a terrible beast. The darkness and shadows seemed to crawl out from the depths of the keep, and the three lit torches in the meeting room simultaneously were extinguished. All went black, a darkness that nearly pained Borfan’s eyes as he held his sword with such force that his fingers ached deeply while they trembled.

“And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians!” Gael was screaming. Borfan’s heart pounded painfully against his chest and in his head and in his fingers. There was something there. Something dark. Something evil. Something spawned from the very bowls of the fiery inferno. In the blackness that reached out from behind the door, there was a light. Two red, piercing lights that glowed like the belly of Hell, moving silently as they entered the room. Eyes with no pupil, no body, no voice, glared at Borfan as they glided through the air, unblinking and unwavering.

“AND THERE WAS A GREAT CRY IN EGYPT!” Gael roared, releasing Borfan’s legs and vanishing into the room. “FOR THERE WAS NOT A HOUSE WHERE THERE WAS NOT ONE DEAD!”

He started to say something else, but his words withered in his throat as an object struck him. And Gael was gone. Borfan scrambled away from the eyes that drifted toward him, but everywhere he turned, a wall impeded him, and there was no escape. And then the fiery eyes were before his face. He swung his sword for them, but something struck it with enough speed and power to dislodge his weapon from his grip and it fell into the dark and disappeared.

“Who are you?” he asked. The intruder hesitated, staring into his soul.

It gripped his throat with an invisible hand, mechanic power squeezing his neck closed and no air passed through again. It lifted him off the ground and held him out the window with terrific strength. Borfan’s vision dimmed as blood was unable to reach his head. He struggled to breathe, but the being’s fingers were like great walls obstructing the oxygen. The temperature dropped even lower as Borfan entered the windy outdoors, clawing at the arm that held him so many feet in the air.

“I am the Destroyer,” the killer whispered almost silently. “I am Death.”

And Borfan fell.

-Spencer Cook

I am excited to feature Spencer on the Ink Owl this month. He has been writing for quite some time and has recently created his first writing blog. It has been a pleasure to get to know this rising storyteller over the past year and learn more about the world he has created. Follow this link Omegastc to explore his first post and make sure to give him a follow and some thoughts. And follow this link to explore his blog and give him some feedback about it.

Author Bio:

1. Where are you from?
I’m from Salt Lake City, [Utah].
2. Your favorite: piece of literature/writing/book.
My favorite book is probably Enders game.
3. In no more than two sentences tell us why you love to write.
I love to write because it lets me become a creator of worlds and a writer of histories!

Guest Submission: Patchwork

IMG_0798
The quilt I made
Is stitched with giggles and tears.
It reminds me of the life I’ve lived
And what I’ve done throughout the years.
Yellow for the sunlight,
Silver for falling rain,
Lavender for violets,
Brown for beautiful terrain,
Green for each new spring,
Blue for perfect summer skies,
Red for autumn leaves,
Pink for a winter sunrise,
These pieces of my quilt
Are memories that we have built.
-Megan Erickson

Getting To Know You Blogger Q&A


I have only had one other tag given to me, so I’m still trying to understand how it works. Not to mention that I was supposed to respond to this tag almost a month ago, Sorry Avid Observer. I feel like tags are a great way to promote your blog, but also let your readers get to know you just a bit more. Plus you can always nominate others for this tag to get to know them, and spread the awareness of their blogs.

I keep thinking these things are like chain-letters but in the best way possible . . . Anyway, thanks so much to Avid Observer for nominating me in this and if you have a minute to check out her blog do so, she has a lovely writing style, and a captivating point of view.

If anyone else has more experience with Tags on WordPress, please fill free to elaborate further on the topic in the comics below. I clearly don’t have enough practice with handling them. If you have had a tag in the past and would like to show more examples of them, feel free to leave a link for the rest of us to follow! Now to answer those questions.

How long have you been blogging?
I have been blogging for almost an entire year now, by the end of this month. It was around this time last year that I began to seriously consider creating a blog for my writing.
Do you enjoy doing tags?

I suppose I do? I need more experience with them. This one hasn’t been too painful to fill out. 😉
Do you follow the blogs that follow you?

Yes, I do. I feel that if someone is going to take the time to look up my writing and then follow the Ink Owl, I should return the favor. Plus I usually am rewarded with a whole new world of writing to explore. I’ve made some incredible friends and acquaintances through following other blogs, and I’ve learned so much from other blogger’s writing styles. It is fascinating!

Describe your blog in 5 words?

Reflective, Engaging, Fanciful, Entertaining, Owlish
How many posts have you made on your blog? (Not counting this tag)

196 posts!
On a scale of 1-10, how much do you enjoy blogging?

9. Sometimes I get behind my own blogging goals and get frustrated with myself. But for the most part, I love it.

Post some links to blogs you enjoy reading (these are also some of my nominations for this tag) :

Earth To Ash– You can find stimulating thoughts about the meaning of life, the beauty of living, and great poetry.

Kindra M. Austin– You can find excellent writing here. Kindra manages to pull at your emotions, and honestly, makes you feel every word she writes. I get sucked into her stories and thoughts and leave her blog feeling like I’ve not only learned something new about the world but valuing more my own life.

Brave and Reckless– Oooooh, just follow the link and have your mind blown by the number and flavors of blogs and superb writing pieces found here. Just do it, I dare you.

Fiction Is Food- You can find so much information on how to write here. There are some great author interviews, insight on the writing process, and entertaining work. Always worth the follow.

Fitful Fearful Phantasmal– If you fancy an eerie read, or chills while you’re sitting in the depths of your home in the dark, in the middle of the night then click there. Do it.

Darkness of His Dreams– I cannot stress how much I enjoy the poetry on this blog. It is beautiful. It is haunting. It is an introduction to another world. And it is so well written! You will not regret visiting the page or following it.

Writing or reading blog posts?

I enjoy both, they feed off one another. I can’t write unless I’m reading, and there is so much to read on WordPress. It’s ridiculous!

Other Blogs I would like to nominate:

JuSteph4All

Inspiration Pie

FoodZesty

Jade M. Wong

The Wine Wankers

Tracy York

Emotions Of Life 2016

If you do not do tags or awards, please feel free to pass on this. Otherwise, I’ll be waiting to see your answers! Happy reading.

-M.E. InkOwl

Guest Submission: The Torment

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Again, I lie awake, assuaged by the stillness of night,
a clock ticking, then tocking, slowly teasing me with dawn.
Soon the fringe of daylight will edge toward tomorrow,
exposing my scars of yesterday, barely healed.
Why is there no end to the torment?

avatar Ash Douglas

Author Bio:

Born and raise by my grandparents in a small fishing community on the south coast of Newfoundland, Canada, it’s a place called Harbour Breton. I left there when I was 18 for university.  Since I left home and right up to present day I’ve lived in the city of Mount Pearl/St. John’s(combined these are kind of like one bigger city) so I live in the city of Mount Pearl and work in city of St. John’s as a Paralegal in a law firm downtown. I live with my fiancé Trixie and her mother Barbara. Trixie and I have been together for seventeen years this month, she’s my number one fan. I also have a 19 year old daughter, Ashton who is in her second year of college.

My favorite book is the Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha because as soon as I picked it up I loved it, it read like something I had wrote it myself, the book was written like the way I think sometimes. It was a feel good read that brought back a slew of great memories based on the context of the book. I highly recommend it.

The reason I write is because it’s an outlet for me, it helps me express myself, and it makes me feel good when I make an impression on someone’s life. I like to think that what I write matters. I have always been an inner thinker, I’ve kept many journals, so many notebooks and when I really think about it, writing has been a part of my life this whole time, it’s only now I’ve chosen to share it with the world. I’m so glad that I took the plunge.

You can follow Ash at his blog: Earth To Ash

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