How To Find What You Came Here For

Welcome to the worlds that populate my brain!
The short stories you find here are the product
of a vastly overactive imagination
powered by coffee and M&Ms.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


The carcass stood before her, decaying slowly in the late autumn sun. Opportunistic organisms were making themselves comfortable in the bones, sending tendrils creeping into gaps and cracks, bringing life back to the dead hulk even as they destroyed it.

Mora shivered in her light jacket.

Dead or not, the building still watched her with its empty, broken eyes.

The fire had been an incompetent assassin; so much was ash but too many memories remained untouched. A painting hung on a blackened wall, the colors as bright and falsely cheerful as they'd been the first day she'd stared at it from a cold metal chair in the hallway.

Mora stepped closer to a gaping window. Avocado carpet had melted into black tar but somehow she could still smell the mildew the janitors had never been able to get rid of. Every footfall on that carpet had become whispered secrets traveling up and down too-silent corridors, rebounding off locked doors.

As a child, tossed on the doorstep by the capricious whims of a faceless system, she'd walked through the heavy metal doors expecting the usual collection of worn social workers and kids with a laundry list of issues that were mostly ignored. Six years of these kinds of places, off and on, while her mom hopped on and off the wagon.

This had been the last. For all of them.

The weight of seventy-two silenced children pressed down, buckling her knees. Her gloved hand slapped down on the charred sill; she fought to stay in the present, in the safe reality of a burned out building and shards of glass cutting into her palm through wool.

Mora had ended here, too.

Her heart still beat, breath still lifted her chest, but she'd died with the others. Her life, or what it might have been, had been consumed in the flames that night.

A breeze stirred the tall grass along the steps behind her. She turned, eyes blind to the golden stalks, and watched the shades of twelve men and women walk away, implacable members of an ersatz jury. No face turned, no back bent, no hand shook.

Scorching fury beat at her back, ice-cold indifference buffeted her face, and she stood in the middle.

Always in the middle.

Not quite a survivor, never a victim.

A breath, drawing in the fire and the frost.

A decision.

Time to go.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cheap At Half The Price

This post is my response to a prompt from Our Write Side. for Coldly Calculating. The challenge was to write a short story (700 words or less) using the phrase, "Cheap At Half The Price." It is a real struggle to squeeze in the kind of detail I like for mystery/horror, so let me know what you think in the comments. You can submit your own take on the prompt by following the link above, and I'll be happy to stop by and read it!

Heat rose in waves that warped everything. In her imagination, she could see the windows of buildings sliding as walls sagged and melted.

“I think that’s the place, Gwen,” Peter’s voice broke into her Salvador Dali world. She turned her head to peer at a shimmering building.

“There aren’t any windows.”

He shrugged. “We’re doing this at night anyway, so it won’t matter.”

He had a point. They’d decided on an evening wedding when she realized how hot it was going to be in Tucson in the middle of July.

“Good point. But this one,” she looked back at the building and felt a chill that had nothing to do with the AC on full blast. “There’s something about it that bothers me.”

“We haven’t even seen it yet; let’s give it a chance before we decide anything.” Peter paused and frowned. “That’s assuming we get to see it. Where is the agent…” He broke off as a sports car red enough to sizzle pulled in next to them. “Well, speak of the Devil!” He pulled the key out of the ignition and jumped out of the car.

Gwen followed reluctantly, feeling herself wilt in the oppressive heat.

“Good afternoon! So sorry I’m late, sincerely!”

The man rushing toward them was so slight Gwen thought if a good breeze ever came up he’d likely blow away.

“The name is Micah Nihasa.  I really appreciate your patience! I promise the wait will be worth it!” He clapped a hand on Peter’s shoulder and motioned them toward the glass door. “I unlocked the door on my way. Electronic locks, isn’t technology wonderful?”

He held the door and Gwen found herself hesitating despite her strong desire to escape the heat. Before she could step back, Peter grabbed her hand and tugged her into the waiting darkness. As she passed, Mr. Nihasa smiled, flashing brilliantly white teeth under a neatly trimmed mustache.

“One moment, let me turn on the lights.” A cell phone lit the darkness, then the lights flashed on overhead.

Speechless, Gwen walked slowly to the center of the hall until she was directly under a huge crystal chandelier. A vision of their reception danced around her, charming and full of joy.

Peter walked around the edge of the dance floor, poking his head into the restrooms and kitchen area, before meeting her under the sparkling lights. “It’s the right size, and the kitchen is exactly what the caterer asked for. It’s amazing, really.” He scanned the space again. “But the price has got to be just as amazing.”

Mr. Nihasa materialized in front of them, holding out a rental contract and a pen. “Actually, I think you’ll find the price quite good! We had a cancellation, and we haven’t been able to fill the space. So, as my father used to be fond of saying, it’s quite cheap at half the price!”

“Really?” Peter scanned the contract and reached for the pen even as Gwen’s unease returned.

“Honey, I’m not sure…”

“Gwen,” he interrupted, “this is half what the other places quoted us, and it’s perfect. We can’t pass this up.”

Before she could say anything else, the contract was signed and being tucked away. Peter turned and grinned with boyish glee, ushering her back to the waiting car.

“Peter,” she tried again, frowning. “Something feels off about that place.”

He stopped at the entrance to the parking lot, a line digging in between his eyebrows. “Are you getting cold feet, Gwen?”

“Of course not,” she assured him. “I absolutely want to marry you. I just,” she glanced back and saw Mr. Nihasa standing next to his car, talking on his cell phone. “You know what? Don’t mind me, I think the heat just got to me.”

Peter smiled and leaned in for a quick kiss. “We’re getting married!”


Mr. Nihasa stood next to his car and let the heat from the asphalt embrace him as he dialed.

“Sir, they signed the contract,” he spoke as soon as the call connected, not bothering to wait for a response. “One-hundred fifty souls, plus catering staff. I’ve emailed the details already.” Sharp teeth flashed in a predatory grin.

Technology really was wonderful.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Morning Glories

It turns out humans are humans no matter where we go. We are, it appears, a sort of universal constant. In this blog post by a friend and great writer, we see one facet of that constant: our ability to find something to argue about, even in the apparent absence of anything to argue about. Follow the link, and read on!

Morning Glories - by AmyBeth Inverness

By the way, AmyBeth also has an amazing series of short stories available on Amazon called "The Cities of Luna." A new short story is published on every full moon - the first one is Grands, and there are (so far!) a total of 14. Great fun to read, go check it out!

Sunday, June 19, 2016


Climbing up on the roof of the cabin wasn't Eideard's favorite task, but he'd learned the hard way that failing to care for the sod covered roof would have unpleasant consequences. If he'd been the one to build the cabin, he'd have used a more traditional roof. Still, it was surprisingly good at keeping the cabin a constant temperature.

When they'd first found the cabin, Iona had joked that she was going to plant a garden up there and grow the herbs she liked to use for cooking. They'd both pretended the move was temporary, so they could joke about things like that. The jokes didn't make it through the first winter. Iona hadn't made it through the second.

Kneeling, Eideard worked his way over the roof and checked for damaged sections that might need replacing. The pitch of the roof was just enough that sliding off was a real concern. Unbidden, a mental image of himself lying on the rocky ground next to the cabin, various limbs twisted unnaturally, popped into his head.

The last winter had been long and his mind had started supplying him with all manner of scenarios that would result in his death. If he slipped on the rocks near the river while fishing, he could drown. If a bear or pack of wolves caught him unaware while he was checking traps, they could attack him. There were a lot of ways to die, alone in the mountains.

That these images were increasing in frequency didn't bother him nearly as much as the realization that they were starting to feel more like fantasizing than worrying.

He sat at the top of the roof and leaned against the chimney, warm from the banked fire in the hearth below. The snow hadn't fully melted yet, but the days had stayed warm long enough to create a strong runoff in the stream near the cabin, and in the river that supplied the fish he ate.

"This isn't healthy, Eideard."

His wife's voice came to him like the images did; the unwanted and alluring tangled together in a messy knot. He knew she wasn't there. She hadn't been there for two years.

"Stop ignoring me! This is important, Eideard."

He closed his eyes and heard his answer. "I am listening, and I'm not ignoring you Iona. I just think you're overreacting, that's all."

"And you're in denial. Things aren't getting better, and we're too cut off here if there's real trouble. We need to talk about finding a town somewhere."

Her slender hands rested on slim hips, and a thick blonde braid lay over her shoulder to brush against her fingertips. Eideard's fingers twitched, longing to tug the ends of that sunny rope.

"It's not any better in the towns, you know that," he could hear the exasperation in his voice, and cringed.

"Stop pretending it can't reach us here, Eideard. We're vulnerable..."

"No," he'd rushed to cut her off. "No one knows we're here, no one would have any reason to come this high into the mountains. We've got the traps, good fishing, your garden...we even have the solar panels. We've got everything we need here."

"Except help."

He'd wanted so badly to be right, to be the one that made them safe when the rest of the world was caught up in hatred and violence.  He should have known better. Iona was never wrong; she had a knack for lining up the facts and evaluating them without bias that he envied. It was one of the many things that he loved about her, that quick and precise mind.

He opened his eyes and stared at the mountains circling the cabin. An ancient battlement taller than any built by men, impervious to everything but time. Strong and forbidding, but not enough to protect what he cherished most.

Flashes of purple in the meadow just below the tree line caught his eye. The pasqueflowers had returned, their lavender petals offering the first touches of color after the unrelenting winter. Bright and hardy, and Iona's favorite.

Eideard turned and slid slowly toward the edge of the roof and the ladder he'd propped there. The image of his broken body floated in front of him, and he brushed it away as he climbed carefully down.

The grave needed flowers, and those were her favorite.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Storm Rising

I'm jumping back into the writing pool with a prompt from Our Write Side and their Friday Flasher! Feel free to join in - just follow the link to their prompt and start writing!

The ship rolled hard to one side and Brian felt the safety rope yank on the harness that tethered him to the high metal tower that held the ship’s communication array. His flashlight barely penetrated the night, and numb fingers wanted to drop the tools and dive into the nominal warmth of his pockets.

He took a better grip on the wrench and wished, again, for the utility belt he’d carried nearly every day for twenty-two years. Everything he really needed had been suspended from loops on that belt, waiting patiently to be called into service, and it was in a duffel bag stuffed under the lid of the bench seat in his bunk.

“Bri…how’s it going?” The radio in his ear cracked to life, barely audible over the screams of the wind.

He fumbled to hit the reply button and nearly dropped the wrench.

“It’s getting there, Cap,” he shouted.

“Let us know.”

Brian could hear the tension buried in the experienced captain’s southern drawl; for a moment he was tossed back to the day three months earlier when he’d interviewed for the job on the big ship.

“Two decades as a TV repairman, huh? What made you want to sign on to a ship?” The captain had been smiling, but his eyes were sharp and considering.

“People don’t repair TV’s anymore. They toss ‘em and buy another one ‘cause the parts and labor cost more than a new one,” he’d shrugged as he said it. It’s not like everyone hadn’t seen it coming.

The captain nodded. “So why not just retire and spend some time at the beach?”

Another violent roll slammed him into the railing and back into the present.

“Yeah, Brian. Why didn’t you just retire and spend some time at the beach?” he muttered to himself.

Frustrated, frozen to the bone, and bruised, he slammed the back of the wrench into the rusted bolt. The other nine bolts had been tight, but they’d released after a couple of good yanks. This one, this last damn bolt, refused to budge.

Giving in to anger fueled by fear, he swung the wrench again and again and sent a stream of profanity into the storm with each hollow clang. Between one strike and the next the bolt turned imperceptibly. Brian froze with the wrench clenched in a fist high over his head. Moving fast in case it decided to freeze solid now that he’d broken it loose, he backed the bolt out enough to let him shove the communication array back into position.

He radioed the captain as he tightened the bolts to hold the array in place.

“We’re clear Cap, try it…”

The ship rolled and Brian’s world rolled with it, tipping him over the rail to swing out into empty space. The safety rope sang as it tightened, then snapped, catapulting him into the waiting darkness.

As the icy water closed over him, Brian thought of the other thing he’d stuffed under that seat.

His life jacket.

This post is my response to a from Our Write Side. for their Friday Flasher prompt. The challenge was to write a short story using four elements: under a seat for a place, a TV repairman for a character, a life jacket for an object, and night for the time. All of that in only 500 words! Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of the story, and feel free to follow the above link to the Friday Flasher prompt - other stories are linked in the comments.