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: Excerpt from “The Bequest.”

 

Joseph Carmichael formed one third of a paranormal society membership. Nay, a fellowship. Not quite the same as Tolkien’s that set off as a company of nine from Rivendell, but three was divisible into nine so there were clearly mysteries in numbers that defied rationale. The Fellowship of The Three sat well. Musketeers they were not.

The remaining thirds were his brothers Allan and Conrad. Both equally weird which was real handy when it came to obsessive hobbies. In this case matters involving the arcane, supernatural and downright unexplainable. That did exclude the cat some mad woman had called in about one Friday afternoon that had powers of levitation. The quorum concluded being stuck up a tree was not evidence they could, hand on heart, swear by. Although they had cursed a few times whilst feeling foolish gazing at a Manx feline in a tree outside the local supermarket. They doubted it was truly stuck too. Probably saw the mad woman and legged it up so fast it may have appeared to levitate. Although based on the small crowd smirking in the background it was more like a wind up. Par for the course in fringe societies where the average Joe had no idea how unsafe things were, what with causality being wrapped up in mystery and an undying premise that monsters and ghost were real. Rolling with serendipity it was a Joe that Conrad was interviewing.

Joe Stringer sat in a chair that looked too small. Not that it was but the girth of the incumbent man made it seem so. The chair was at a table in the local public house, The Royal Oak, and the table was being attended by a waitress called Rose. Joe knew she looked down on him. They all did. Nobody liked a fat man who wheezed when he moved. Then again Joe had a gift. They laughed at that too. But sure as pigs end up in sausages, similar to those within the breakfast before him, they would be laughing out of their asses by months end. Joe’s talent lay in dreams. Mostly they were despotic and censored owing to never actually having had a girlfriend never mind sex. He was a statistic on pornography search engines and his virgin dreams cost him large in self-esteem. Every now and then though there was a genuine mother of all dreams. One the left him wide awake and staring at the ceiling covered in sweat. A lucid in your face booger of reality dipped into his slumbering. The worst ever had been a black box covered in soil with an insane man screaming in the darkness. To Joe the interred victim knew he was there. The pleading went on and on.

“Help me Joe, I’ll pay you well, whatever you want I can give you….what is it women? I can give you those Joe…and life eternal. Roll back the fat and make you one of those men fucking in your dreams.”

The temptations of the devil. Eternal life in Joe’s book was a crock of crap and demons lie. Except that one had been tempting; women and desirable. He stayed in that dream too long and rolled out of bed near midday. But boy, had it been tempting. By the end it was hurling abuse and calling him every name under the sun.

The last line as he woke to, tangled in sheets with his head under a pillow was, “Fuck you Joe, you’re a dead man walking…and I’m coming. Just you wait. Keep your fat ass alive and then we’ll dine together.”

Whatever that meant. He was under no delusions of being the corpse on legs. Every doctor he met said so, his bloods said so and no doubt if they asked his heart that would say “Any day now.”

Still, of late Joe had had a few more dreams. Not the lottery ticket numbers he’d been trying for, but ones featuring dead people. Not any old dead people. These were ones he knew of. Right here in Compton, still alive and kicking last he’d seen. But the dreams had proper scared him. People died all the time right? Old folk, terminally ill ones, junkies and those unlucky enough to be hit by trucks rolling past a pot hole. Joe remembered that in the local rag. Man killed by lorry in tragic accident; driver and local authority found culpable. Joe thought nothing of it until he ambled out of breath to the scene a week later and the dream flashed back in every detail. The only change was the pothole. Oddly that had been fixed within two days of the crash. What could you do though? “Hey copper I had a dream, next week someone will cycle down that road and get hit by a truck.” They’d see the fat man and laugh him off as a crank. They all look down on me.

The last two days changed things though. More dreams, more dead folk. Except right now they were alive, but deep inside Joe knew, like the cyclist, death was coming. So far the demon was quiet. But this needed to end before his card turned up on top of the deck.

“Joe, Joe Stringer?”

Joe wiped his forehead and refocused on reality noting somehow his plate was empty. Trance eating. “Yes and you must be Conrad Carmichael?”

He shook the hand of the man in front. Rose returned to clear the table and set down two bottles of lager. He nodded consent as she penned them onto his bill.

“That I am,” replied Conrad as he sat down opposite and took a swig of ale. “What’s got you so worked up you need a paranormal investigator to talk to?”

The fat man leaned back in his chair, decided it was uncomfortable and leaned forwards instead.

“It’s death Mr Carmichael.”

“Is it?” replied Conrad. “Anyone we know or do you actually mean Death himself?

“Somebody in this very bar, as it happens.” Joe was sweating again.

“Really? And you know this how?”

“I, Mr Carmichael, have the power of divination in dreams.”

A raised eyebrow opposite. They all look down on me.

There was a pause. “And if I’m not too presumptuous might one disclose the unfortunate?”

Joe rested uneasily, “Yes Mr Carmichael, it’s you.”

-Gary Jefferies, from a current work, “The Bequest.”

Author Bio:

I’m from Lancashire, but moved to Staffordshire when I was three and now live in Bedfordshire (England)

My favourite piece of writing is currently my first book that sits awaiting an edit, closely followed by The Assent of Rose Marie Gray, which is sitting with a publisher awaiting a decision. On my blog Dragon Stone holds quite a keen interest as do my paranormal short stories. These have been well received so far from my blogging community. As for other authors; Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is up there along with Tolkien; not forgetting the great bard Shakespeare. I read mostly in Horror and fantasy fiction as genres, but that’s certainly not exclusive.

Why do I love to write…in two sentences…seriously? It’s hard to put into words, but my mind goes into a parallel reality where the stories are evolving and demand to be put into words. It’s not a choice, it’s a long lived necessity; not doing so would be a travesty of the imagination.

You can follow Gary and his lovely writing on his blog Fiction Is Food. Gary has so many things on his blog to learn about. From writing tips, to interviews with published authors, to excerpts of his own published work. You’ve got to check it out.

 

Guest Submission: Twilight Visions

A one-armed Odin-eyed

Mad martyr prophet

Stands at the edge of the abyss,

Visions of the White Wyrm

Strangling creation; swallowing time.

 

Twilight stars fall,

Diamonds plunged in velvet night,

Grandsons kill grandfathers

Before fathers are conceived,

Chaos and Paradox burn

The charred corpse of causality.

Yesterday, today; tomorrow

Collapse on themselves

Folding into singularity:

The final moment.

 

Wolves loose their chains,

Feasting on Sun, Moon and Sky.

Darkness & silence fall.

The Question left unanswered.

-John W. Leys

Author bio:

1. Where you are from.

◦I currently live in Redmond, Oregon.

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

◦Tough question. The first thing that sprang to mind is Howl by Allen Ginsberg, but that’s just in this moment. Ask me later today I’ll probably answer differently.

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

◦I love to write because it gets the thoughts and demons out of my already cluttered mind and traps them on paper.

You can follow John and his poetry on his blog Darkness of His Dreams, you will not be disappointed.

 

Guest Submission: Into The Deep

He watched the moon glow red in the sky
throw colour over ripples of grey,
A whiff of a scent as if in a dream,
A flash, then he’s falling away.

Into the deep, green tentacles flap,
as if; happily waving goodbye.
A panic, an unheard scream,
bubbles bursting towards the sky.

Down in the grime the muck and the slime
beside the hull of an upturned boat,
Protrude oars, like arms reaching out …
as if to get ahold of his throat.

An eel comes to look at the boy with a book,
who into the water was spilt.
Who struggles and fights,
his legs disturbing the silt.

Deep down he plunges
The light disappears in a mist,
Like angelic detritus he floats,
intoxicated with heavenly bliss.

The dark clears, a nymph beckons
with barely a flick of her wrist,
A wisp of a thing, lures him deep
Her face he tenderly kissed.

He’s now way below,
Where tides ebb
And flow.
And dreams
Reappear
With
The
Fish.

-Ellen Best.

Author Bio:

Hello, my name is Ellen Best. I reside in East Anglia, Suffolk, England. I have stepped away from my traditional working life to write. My favorite book, one I am drawn back to, time and again is Jon McGregor. If nobody speaks of remarkable things. An astonishingly beautifully written book.

My blog is where I experiment with flash fiction, poetry and secretly hide pieces of me. I attempt other genre’s, step out of my comfort zone and procrastinate from my manuscript, my first novel. Follow this link to read about Ellen’s first experience with fantasy writing. I highly recommend it.

You can also follow Ellen’s blog here.

Guest Submission: Little Sisters Can be Such a Pain

Memaids

Lauren and her sisters were on the open sea, waiting for the arrival of the schooner their father’s seagulls had sighted. Camilla practiced showing off the bangles on her wrists, plundered from the last ship they’d downed. Bonnie wore a tiara with a large green jewel in the center, sparkling in the sunlight. Amanda was the youngest. She was decked out in multiple gold chains, a wide jeweled band around her forehead and a pearl snood, which she didn’t know how to wear, so it was hanging off the side of her head.

The onslaught of direct sunlight and its reflection bouncing off the waves and jewelry made Lauren’s hangover doubly painful. She closed her eyes and lay back in the water, lazily flipping her tail to keep herself afloat.

“Your hair is going to be all slimy,” Amanda noted. Lauren covered her ears, but Amanda continued in inescapable Sirenese, “No one wants a fishy looking sea creature.”

The words dove under the waves and penetrated Lauren’s aching head. She lifted it out of the water to give her sister a miserable glare.

“Who taught you that?”

Amanda looked at Camilla, whose attention was suddenly absorbed in a hangnail.

“Camilla, why would you teach her Sirenese before she’s completed her training?”

“Hmmm?” Camilla’s irrepressible grin belied her feigned innocence.

“Ugh.” Lauren pumped her tail to distance herself from the pack. There had better be rum.

“Aren’t you going to put anything on at all?” Amanda called. “Not even a bracelet?”

“Leave her be,” Bonnie said drily. “She gets it done.”

The schooner arrived well before sunset, to Amanda’s delight since she was counting on dazzling in her gold finery. The first sailor to see them was young, about her age. She glowed with pride when he pointed her out first.

“Captain!, Hoy! Fish-girls in the sea!” he shouted, leaning so far out of the crowsnest he almost fell out of it. Amanda felt a rush of power.

The boy scrambled down, as the other older sailors shouted insults and jeers at him. But one sauntered over the bough to take a look, and did a satisfying doubletake when he spied Bonnie, then Camilla. Camilla lay back in the water to give him a good view of her naked torso, pushing her hair behind her shoulders to further bare her skin, while staring unflinchingly at him, one eyebrow cocked.

“Oh my…” he began, unable to finish the thought.

His pals soon joined him, gawking at the four mermaids flaunting their beauty in the full light of day.

Amanda ruined it a little by trying to sing, but Lauren flipped her tail to splash a faceful of seawater that shut Amanda up in a fit of coughs. Lauren was the strongest swimmer and was well away by the time Amanda recovered. She made it to the ship on the side where the nets were hanging and called up to the men.

“Do you permit guests to board?”

Her voice should have been inaudible, but every man on deck heard and felt compelled to rush to the side. Bonnie and Camilla knew they were left behind, but couldn’t help admiring their sister. She just had the magic.

Four of the men lowered a net so they could raise her up and lift her over the side of the deck. The rest crowded around, pushing to see her. Although she lay in a relatively undignified state on the deck, her low murmur held them in reverence.

“Do you gentlemen have any grog? You’d be surprised how thirsty one can get in all that water.” she leveled this at the tallest of the group, who had a handsome pair of calves.

“I’d be honored to share my ration with you, miss,” he said with an awkward bow.

“As would I!”

“Me too!”

“Mine’s right here!”

She thanked the tall one and took his flask, draining it in a few swallows. She handed it back, asking “Who’s next?”

Several flasks appeared for her selection. She took the largest one from a chubby, curly headed man with flushed, pock-marked cheeks.

“Aren’t you a treasure,” she said in her low voice. He beamed as she finished off his ration.

Things were looking up now. She felt her headache melt away with the heat of the rum.

“Anyone here enjoy a game of chance?” she asked.

“I do,” an imposing voice broke through the ranks accompanied by the sound of steel unsheathed from a scabbard.

The men parted to let a uniformed officer step forward. He held his sword at ready, but looked away from her as he spoke.

“I like my chances better with my friend here.”

“Are you afraid to look upon me sir?” she goaded him. But he was a student of the lore, and knew he and his crew were in grave danger if he allowed himself to look.

It took a great amount of resolve to keep his eyes averted. Every word that she uttered caused his blood to migrate toward her. But he was a brave and stalwart captain.

“Gentlemen, mates, I believe our guest would like a tribute. Please deposit your valuables, earrings, chains, wedding bands and purses. We can do this peaceably, and I’d like to save your wretched lives along with mine, at least today.”

He sent the cabin boy to his chambers to fetch his lockbox.

“You’ve been lucky today, madame. We’ve just come back from a successful trade, and have more than enough to satisfy your elegant taste. I would only ask that you accept our grateful gift, and allow our ship to pass unharmed.”

Lauren had been looking forward to a night playing with the sailors, hearing some music and learning new card games, but she was also pleasantly drunk, and found she didn’t care much either way.

She beckoned the curly headed man to her side. “Lift me up so I can speak to my sisters.”

He did as she asked and she called out to them, “We have a voluntary tribute, shall we let pass?”

Camilla pouted a little, as she always enjoyed when the drowning sailors clung to her, but there was no denying the expedience of this take if they were just going to hand it over. She and Bonnie nodded to each other. The deal was on.

“Get something to put it in, it’s a pain to go chasing for it,” Bonnie called out.

The captain heard this and offered his lockbox.

Lauren was draped across the tall sailor, negotiating the trip back over the side while simultaneously pressing against him teasingly. The captain had just secured her in the net with the lockbox and they were lowering her down when the sound of Amanda’s singing came at full volume.

The men dropped the nets and Lauren plunged into the water. The lockbox tumbled in, disbursing its contents into the murky depths. Amanda’s siren song swirled around their heads and the men became crazed.

The captain was the first to lose his mind. He ran through the first mate with his sword. Fights broke out amongst the other sailors. The cabin mate jumped into the sea, holding his ears. More sailors jumped overboard. Camilla made for them. She caught the first one as he was thrashing, and she trained her eyes on him, calming him. He grasped her tightly, a stupefied smile on his face as he sank under the water.

Bonnie surveyed the mess a moment, then dove after the contents of the lockbox.

Lauren lay in the net, drunk and uncaring. She would figure out how to disentangle herself tomorrow. And Amanda, she was going to have to do something about that one.

-Lara Clouden

Author Bio:

  • Answer these three questions about yourself:
    • Where you are from. -Duluth, MN / San Mateo, CA
    • You favorite: piece of writing writing/book/literature.
    • (Just one? OK, but just so you know, this is also an acronym of all my other favorite books:) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    • In no more than two sentences, why you love to write.
    • (Can I spend that on the previous question?) I love to write because I’m good at it. Also, I recently found out that it’s ok to write garbage once in awhile.

You can follow Lara and her writing on her blog: Elbycloud.

 

Guest Submission: Into The Deep I Plunge

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Into the deep I plunge …
The deepest, darkest place
I can find … in my brain,
Yet … nowhere to be found.

The light, the one that once shone
From within, is beckoning to be heard ….
To be seen … to be loved.

 

untitled

Into the deep I plunge,
Happily Ever After… One step forward,
Sadly,Two steps back.

 I vowed FOREVER!
Is forever now?

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The deeper I plunge,
The further I fall …

… into GRACE?! …

A space forgotten by me,
Forgotten by all!

Shame on them, shame on me!

Take me deep …
Keep falling … Hold Me!
Let Me GO! … Take my hand,
Fall with me …..

unnamed (1)

Into the deep I go …
Where? What? Why? …

… HOW?! …

How have I fallen
This deep, without letting go?

Further … Slower … Clinching

TIGHTLY!

Oh … I see now … REJOICING!

You never let go …

unnamed

Into the deep I plunge …
It’s warm … welcoming,
Inviting … I like it here …

Come with me … You’ll love it too.

Hold my hand, don’t let go!

Into the deep WE plunge ……….

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-Stephanie Lohrfink

Author Bio:

  • Where Am I from?  I currently live in a little town in New Jersey, called Byram … where most people know you, yet act like they don’t .. lol ;o)

  • My favorite piece of writing/book/literature?  That’s a tough one, but if I have to pick, West Side Story is at the top.

  • In no more than two sentences, why do I love to write?  I have an extreme love for conveying life in colorful words! Since I can remember, I have loved everything about writing, creating, just bringing my mind to different places.

You can follow Stephanie and her writing on her blog: JuSteph4All

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: 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: 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!

August on The Ink Owl

Welcome all to a new month! Something new and exciting has come to the Ink Owl: Guest Submissions. I have 18 submissions from across the globe that will be featured throughout this month. These writers took on the challenge to follow the prompt; ‘Into the Deep I Plunge’ and create a fantasy based piece of writing.

There was very little expectation on my part that anyone would submit work, but I was very wrong! So many people, amateur writers, published authors, and poets reached out to me and submitted some very creative and beautiful pieces. It is so inspiring to me to see others working so hard pouring their passion into wonderful story-telling.

Each post will have links to author’s blogs, or published works. Feel free to explore their websites to your heart’s content! Happy reading!

-M.E. InkOwl