Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I in the Sky 5

March 19, 2023

I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me.

“Do you really think that I is going after Joy?” Chantal asked.

Shannon, standing beside Alex on the other side of their kitchen island, replied, “It’d be too much of a coincidence.”

“But we don’t even know if she’s getting those sorts of texts, ” Chantal protested.

“Well, something certainly upset her, ” Jacob replied.  “And since we know that I’s back, it would explain a lot.”

Chantal’s heart sank.  She really, really didn’t want her daughter going through the things she went through at that age.  She definitely had to hope that her daughter would have things better than she did, and that was something that she’d had worse than almost anyone else.

“Still, we need to find out for sure, ” Jacob continued.

“And the only way to do that is to get into her phone accounts and see just what it was that scared her so much, ” Shannon added.

Chantal almost fell into a pout as she agreed.  “Okay, fine.  But how are we going to do that?”

Jacob looked to Alex.  “Could you get into her accounts?”

Alex shook his head.  “I’ve never been the hacker.”

“Which I think points us straight at the person we need, ” Shannon said.

“And how is that going to work?” Chantal protested.  “We never really talked much to him, even in the old days, and it’s not like we can count on her talking to him for us.”

“Which leaves one option, ” Jacob said, looking to Alex again.

Alex looked uncomfortable, and replied, “What makes you think that he’s going to be receptive to me?”

“Well, you introduced him to us, and you always hung around with him more than any of us.  It wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve talked to him on and off over the years, ” Chantal replied.

“Which is more than we can say for Karen, ” Shannon added.

Alex gave a resigned sigh.  “All right, I’ll talk to him and see if I can still call in a favour.”

While still upset, Chantal felt relieved.  They were maybe one step further to finding out what might be bothering her sweet little Joy.

Shadow of Death 5

March 12, 2023

A woman woke up from a deep sleep to find a dark figure hovering over her bed.  “It is time, ” the figure intoned.

Another woman was watching television when a dark figure suddenly appeared in front of her.  “It is time, ” the figure intoned.

A pair of disconcerting, cloak-aided trips later, the three of them stood in a grey, featureless room.  It was clearly a room because they could dimly see walls in the distance, and yet some odd sort of clouds or mist obscured them, and hid everything from a distance of about 10 feet or so out.  It was a disconcerting effect, but they would count themselves lucky if that was the weirdest thing that happened to them today.

The figure that had saved their lives produced two amulets.  “Please, put these on, ” he said.

They looked at each other, but then decided to take the amulets and put them on.  To have saved them from what he saved them from only to leave them for these many weeks and then return to kill them seemed far too complicated for someone who clearly could have just killed them outright or done, well, whatever it was he wanted to do.

After they had done so, the figure told them to stand in front of him facing away from him.  They had just completed that when there was a little “bamf” of displaced air and another man appeared in front of them.  He was the very figure of a medieval knight, with long blond hair and a blond moustache and beard, massively muscled, and wearing ornate, silvery armour, carrying a silver blade.  The blade and armour even seemed to glow slightly.

“You!” he screamed.  “I have come to claim you for taking the life of my loved ones.”

The figure said nothing.

“Have you nothing to say in your defense?!?” the knight continued.  “No pleas for mercy?!?  No explanations for your cruel actions?!?”

The figure ignored him again, but whispered to them.  “Whatever you do, do not not move or flinch.”

They gulped as the knight brandished his sword, continuing to rant more and more incomprehensibly at the figure.  “You would hide behind mortals?!?  Coward!” he cried, swinging his sword around.

The figure placed his hands on their shoulders, and while they felt a strange chill at his touch they were also filled with a strange sense of certainty, as if this was what they were supposed to be doing and that all of this was determined and implacable.

The knight had finally lost what little temper he had left and screamed, “Your shields will not save you!”  Then, he swung his sword at the two of them, clearly intending to sweep them aside through the simple method of bisecting them.  He moved so quickly that they wouldn’t had the time to react or dodge out of the way even if they’d wanted to, but could only watch as the sword swept towards them …

… and bounced off.

As shocking as that was, what happened to the knight afterwards was even more shocking.  While he paused in puzzlement and before he could try again, there was a strange rumbling.  He look towards the ceiling, and cried out in despair, “No!  This is right!  He must be destroyed!  He must be destroyed!”

Then there came a loud bang, like a peal of thunder very close, and the knight stumbled back as if struck by a great force.  As he did so, that strange glow that surrounded him disappeared.  Breaking down into tears, he collapsed to his knees and demanded of the sky, “Why?!?  Why?!?”.

The figure then moved slowly but purposefully towards him.  “It is time you joined them, ” he intoned.

The knight looked up at him in anger and frustration.  Then the figure touched him, and he started to shimmer and glow again, and seemed to fade away.  As he did so, he said, “I see them.  I see them!  Oh, wait for me!  I’m coming!” and then a smile formed on his face … immediately before his body crumbled to dust.

The figure turned to them as they watched with shocked and scared expressions on their faces.  “Allow me to explain.  A long time ago, his family died in a tragic accident.  He blamed me for their deaths, and swore to destroy me.  After a long study, he found a way to defeat even me through the powers that had been granted to him.  However, while defeating me would not necessarily cause him to lose those powers, if he attacked an innocent they would.  I would not, however, risk the life of any innocent to preserve myself, so I needed to find a way to protect you, which was through those amulets you wear.  When he attacked you, those that had granted him the power took it from him, and once they rejected him I could then give him the peace he required without risking a conflict with them.”

They paused, chewing over his words.  Before they could recover their senses enough to ask questions, the hidden cloak billowed once more, and they were returned, together, to a point exactly half way between their two homes.  “Keep the amulets, ” his voice said from the air around them, “As mementos.”

And then, he was gone, leaving the two of them to look at each other in shock and wonder.

I in the Sky 4

March 5, 2023

So won’t you, please (be my, be my baby)
Be my little baby? (My one and only baby)


Chantal sat by the bedside of her sister in a cold, antiseptic hospital room brightened only slightly by the flowers and balloons and other items delivered by well-wishers hoping that it would cheer the occupant of the room.  In this situation, though, they only made Chantal all the more depressed, as symbols of hope and good will that were ultimately futile.

Because Chantal’s sister was dying.

Weakly, she looked over at Chantal.  Chantal tried to smile, tried to keep her sister’s spirits up, but that too was ultimately futile.  Both of them knew that her sister’s time had come, and nothing could change that now.

“Chantal, ” her sister said weakly.

“Yes? ” Chantal asked.

“I need you … to do something for me.”


“When I die … I want you to take care of Joy, ” her sister said.

Chantal was taken aback.  She and her boyfriend Jacob had been talking about having kids, but they both felt that it was a bit too early for that.  While in the back of her mind she’d known that once her sister died someone would have to take care of Joy, she hadn’t really considered that it would be her, and the enormity of the responsibility suddenly pressed upon her mind.  Would Jacob even be willing to take in the young girl?  Sure, given the circumstances he wouldn’t say no, but when things settled down would it be something he’d be okay with?  Did she even have the right to ask him?

“But, ” Chantal started, then paused to gather her thoughts.  “But wouldn’t someone else be better?  Mom?  Aunt Carol?”

Her sister shook her head.  “Mom’s getting too old to care for a young child, and she’s all alone herself.  So’s Aunt Carol.  And Joy adores you.”

Chantal didn’t feel that she could say no, but still felt the crush of the responsibility strongly.  As she started to plead with her sister again, she finally noticed that her sister’s voice had been fading and becoming even weaker, and as her sister started to speak again Chantal knew that she didn’t have much time left.

“Please … take care … of my baby, ” were her sister’s last words before the weakening but comforting periodic bleep of the heart monitor changed to a long, drawn out and final bleep.

The doctors tried to resuscitate her sister, but ultimately they failed, and so once that was confirmed a numb Chantal headed back to the nearby waiting room, where Joy and Jacob were waiting, with Jacob trying to keep Joy distracted and Joy, precocious for her age, having none of it.  When she saw the look on Chantal’s face, she knew that what they’d been trying to hide from her had happened, and that her mother was dead.  She burst into tears and said some incomprehensible things that included the word “Mommy” a couple of times, and then ran off down the hallway.

Chantal, after exchanging a sympathetic look with Jacob, went after her.  She eventually found her curled up on a pew in the hospital’s chapel, likely because it was the first quiet and empty place she came across.  She was, of course, crying, and her crying only got worse when she saw Chantal again.  Chantal went to her and took her in her arms, and let her cry on her shoulder.  And then Joy looked up at her and said words that broke Chantal’s heart.

“Everybody leaves me!  Daddy left me!  Mommy left me!  Everybody always leaves me!”

Chantal moved Joy back a bit so that she could look directly into her eyes.  “Joy, I promise I will never leave you, no matter what.  I will always be here.”

Joy burst into tears again.

Later, after Joy had cried herself out and was sleeping with her head on Chantal’s lap, Jacob came to her.  “I heard what you said to Joy, ” he said.

Chantal’s heart sank.  She knew that he knew what it meant, and she really hadn’t wanted to commit to it before she’d had time to talk to him about it.  But with Joy feeling abandoned she’d known, just known, that she couldn’t leave Joy alone or even with someone who might die before Joy grew up, and she really had the best chance at that.   “I’m sorry that I didn’t talk to you before I said that, ” Chantal said.

Jacob smiled.  “It’s okay.  And I want you to know that I am going to be there the whole way with you, 100%.  Especially since I know that you’re going to be a wonderful mother.”

“Why?” Chantal asked.

“Because both of Joy’s parents died in accidents, so there’s no way you can know that you can keep that promise, and yet you said that with such conviction that no one would have any doubts about it.  Especially not a heartbroken little girl.  That’s the primary job of a parent.”

Chantal gave a little smile.  Trust Jacob to put things in perspective.

Shadow of Death 4

February 26, 2023

A figure approached the ancient, abandoned mansion.

He was, well, pretty much average: average height, average weight, average looks. Pretty nondescript, really. He was dressed all in basic black, and his face was a bit pale, but otherwise you wouldn’t even notice him if you walked past him on the street  Given all of that … he didn’t quite fit the stereotype of someone who would want to venture into an old, presumably haunted house to look around and take pictures.  Or, more likely these days, videos.

He moved forward almost leisurely, and yet determinedly.  It seemed like he knew where he was going and had a purpose in mind, but was in no particular hurry to get there.  And it soon became clear that nothing was going to get in his way.  When spirits of the researchers who had examined the mansion appeared before him, he waited silently for them to finish their little scene before he moved on.  When a ghost tumbled from an upper floor and lay in a heap in front of him, seemingly sporting a broken neck, he didn’t flinch but continued on once the apparition had faded from sight.  For whatever reason, scenes like that didn’t faze him in the slightest.

Some of the ghosts, of course, had ideas of doing more than simply living out scenes from their past, but despite their having frightened and even killed other visitors to the mansion they still didn’t faze the figure.  When they appeared in front of him, cackling and laughing and screaming, moving in for the attack, all it took was a simple prolonged stare from the figure to cow them into submission, fading away and not bothering the figure again.  The ghost that that wouldn’t work on was a blind ghost who seemingly stumbled around the halls attacking anything she heard had no better luck with the figure, as as soon as he came across her he moved so silently that she didn’t even hear his passage.  Even the ghost whose sacrificial death was responsible for the ghosts and haunting here, who was able to destroy any living creature with a mere touch, could not stand against him, as she attempted to bar his way into the innermost chamber of the mansion and had to give way in the face of his simple and determined glare at her.

Inside that chamber stood a much more lively undead than the ghosts that haunted the areas outside of it.

He was sitting in a rather comfortable chair in what looked like a very comfortable study, and as the figure he entered he rose to his feet, an annoyed and slightly angry expression on his face.  “I am not accustomed to visitors in this place, ” he said menacingly.  “In fact, most visitors to this place who make it this far are never seen again.”

The figure was just as unfazed by this undead figure as he was by the ghosts outside, and so said nothing in reply.

The undead sighed, and continued in his urbane voice.  “I, of course, would not dream of attempting something like that with you.  I recognize who you are.”

Then, his voice turned almost hopeful.  “Might I hope that your purpose here is to finally claim me?” he asked.

“I am afraid not, ” the figure replied, in a voice that would send a chill down the spine of anyone who heard it, and yet was devoid of inflection and emotion.

The undead sighed again.  “I suppose it was too much to hope for.  I suspect that I will be doomed to my torment for an eternity, if not longer.”

The figure said nothing.

“So, if you are not here to end my pitiful existence, what purpose does bring you to this abode of the damned?” the undead continued.

“I am here for the amulet, ” the figure replied.

“Ah, yes, of course, ” the undead replied.  “Although obviously your purpose for it is not at all the same purpose that I had for it.”

He then moved to one of the bookcases and removed a specific book, that was simply entitled “Josette”.  He opened it, revealing that it was hollow, and removed a simple amulet from it.

“I had a purpose for this once, ” he said, looking at it wistfully.  “I had hoped that it might preserve her against that which threatened me and, through me, her.”

He then looked at the figure again.  “But, of course, you of all people know how that turned out.”

The figure didn’t reply, and so he handed the amulet to the figure.  “Take it, ” he said.  “May it serve your purpose far better than it did mine.”

The figure took it, bowed slightly, and then headed for the door.

“Perhaps, ” the undead said, “Perhaps one day, maybe even one day soon, you will return to me and end my torment?”

The figure hesitated for an instant, and then said, “We shall see.”

And then the figure exited the study, and vanished from sight, and from the mansion itself.

I in the Sky 3

February 19, 2023

We’ll be together for ages …
Eating and sleeping and …
Eating and sleeping and …
Eating und sleeping und …
Turnin’ pages.

Chantal stood behind the island of of their kitchen that looked into their family room, nursing her morning cup of coffee as she looked at the latest to-do list on her phone.  “Remember, ” she said, “You have to pick up Joy from her dance class today.”

Her husband, Jacob, didn’t even look up from the book he was reading in the overstuffed chair he was sitting in as he replied, “Uh-huh.”

“And she needs the permission slip signed for the field trip to the art museum by Friday, ” Chantal continued.


“And we’re all meeting with the Sampson’s for dinner tomorrow night, so you’ll need to get your suit from the cleaners.”


She quirked an eyebrow and finally looked up at him.  “And remember to get the sheep for the demonic sacrifice on Saturday, ” she said.

“We use goats for demonic sacrifices, ” he replied, deadpan.  “We use sheep for sacrifices to pagan gods.”

She burst out laughing, and he finally put the book down and came to the island to look at her.  “Yes, ” he said, “I heard everything you said and it’s in my phone, too, so I’m not going to forget.”

“Yeah, but it makes me feel better to remind you of it, ” she replied.  “It helps me organize my day.”

“Shouldn’t it be the university professor who’s organized and the artist that isn’t?” he replied.

“You are familiar with the stereotype of the absent-minded professor?  A stereotype that fits you a lot better than it should?” she replied.

“Point taken, ” he conceded, but before he could fire back their sixteen year old daughter burst into the room.

She started to grab her book bag and head for the door, but Chantal stopped her.  “Eat some breakfast, ” she commanded.

Her daughter paused briefly but then said, “No time.  I’ll grab something on the way.”

Chantal sighed.  “All right, make sure you do.  See you after school.  Love you.”

“Love you t …” Joy started to say, but then she paused while looking at her phone, and a look of fear crossed her face that she tried but failed to completely hide.

“Joy?” Chantal asked.  “What is it?”

“It’s … it’s nothing.  Just a reminder that I need to bring my notes for the test today, and I almost forgot.  Love you.”

And then she was gone.

“I remember seeing that look before, ” Jacob commented.  “On your face, when you were her age.”

“Yeah, ” Chantal said.  “That’s what’s bothers me about it, too.”

“Could it just be what she said it was, brief panic because she almost forgot something?” Jacob asked.

“I really hope it is, ” Chantal asked.  “But it really, really reminds me of … that time.”

Jacob thought for an instant.  “You don’t think it could be …?”

But he was interrupted by Chantal’s phone pinging with a new text, and a look of extreme confusion crossing her face.  “It’s from Shannon, ” she said.

Shadow of Death 3

February 12, 2023

This had to be the worst summer home in existence.

To start, it wasn’t anywhere near a beach.  There was a lake kinda nearby, but it was too far too walk and so not something that you would wander down to on a hot summer’s day for a quick break.  It was also in the middle of nowhere, with no one else around, so there was no chance of meeting friends for backyard barbecues.  And it was surrounded by impenetrable forest and so didn’t have any interesting hiking trails, and the forest itself was more creepy than pretty so even wandering or sitting in it wasn’t very pleasant.

Oh, and there was some kind of strange cultists around that revered the house and considered it key to some kind of strange ritual.  The same cultists that were now milling outside the door holding weapons and torches and constantly talking about breaking in and killing her as she watched them from an upstairs window.

To tell the truth, she couldn’t tell if they were ghosts, some kind of undead creatures, or living people who were delusional and insane.  The important thing to her was that over the past few days they’d proven that they were dangerous to people by killing off some of the friends she’d came up here with.  She’d hoped that she was safe in the house, but now she realized that she was trapped and that if they really wanted to get at her they had at least all night to do that, and given their numbers they’d be able to do it.  And all she could do was watch until they broke in and her next desperate fight for survival began.  A fight she was sure she’d lose.

But as she watched, a figure suddenly appeared between the ranting cultists and the house.  He was, well, pretty much average: average height, average weight, average looks. Pretty nondescript, really. He was dressed all in basic black, and his face was a bit pale, but otherwise you wouldn’t even notice him if you walked past him on the street. Nothing to suggest that he’d be able or willing to stand up to a murderous cult with the strange calm that he seemed to possess.

He didn’t seem to be raising his voice, and yet it boomed over the area and dominated over the rants and chants of the cultists.  “I have business with your mistress, ” he said, in a voice strangely devoid of inflection and emotion.  “I require that you take me to her.”

“What business does one like you have with her?” the leader of the cult, an older woman, yelled.

“My business is between your mistress and myself, and not for your ears, ” he replied.

“I think that you are nothing but an unbeliever, and what do we do with unbelievers?” she asked.

“Kill them!” the cult roared in reply.

“So let us kill the unbeliever!” she cried, and they started to surge forward.

But in the short time between those replies, the figure suddenly seemed to sag a bit in resignation, and then summoned some kind of long bladed weapon from somewhere.  There was a brief hesitation when they saw the weapon, but that was quickly overcome and they surged to the attack.  But the figure moved like a blur, and every time he moved a number of the cultists dropped … and dropped in a surprisingly bloodless way given that he was wielding a weapon with such a huge blade.  Despite his constantly exhorting them to stop attacking and just take him to their mistress, they continued until only the leader was left.  He asked her one last time to take him to their mistress, but she refused and lunged at him with the knife she was holding in her hand … and so he struck her down as well.

Almost immediately thereafter, there came a rumble and suddenly a tall, slender, beautiful green woman appeared, with a terrifying expression of anger on her face.  “Who dares attack my worshipers?!” she demanded, turning that baleful gaze on him.

But he met her gaze, and they stared at each other for a long moment before her countenance and demeanor completely changed.  “What can I do for you?” she asked.

“I have come for the amulet, ” he replied.

She sighed.  “Take it, ” she replied, and handed him a strange amulet that disappeared into the folds of his clothes.

He then said, “I merely wanted an audience.  Sorry about the mess.”

She looked down at the still bodies of her former cultists, sighed, and then shrugged and said, “It’s okay.  They were idiots anyway.”

And then they both disappeared.

I in the Sky 2

February 5, 2023

And the girl in the corner said, “Boy I want to warn you”It’ll turn into a ballroom blitz”


The party was just starting.  It was a fancy dinner party celebrating the business leaders of the community at an exclusive country club.  Everyone who was anyone was here … and everyone who wanted to be anyone was here as well.  It was an attempt to get face time and impress the people who needed to be impressed with how dignified and upper class they could look and how well they could fit in with this circle.

Which is why it was a bit of an embarrassment to Alex’s parents that his older brother, Derek, just looked incredibly bored with the whole thing.

“Can’t you just not look so bored? ” his mother complained.

“Alex isn’t bored, ” his father added.

Derek snorted.  “That’s because he lives inside his own head all the time.  He can’t actually be bored with this stuff if he doesn’t notice it exists.”

Alex shrugged.  “Guilty as charged.”

“You could eat a little, though, ” his mother chided him.  “I wouldn’t want people to think you were turning your nose up at it.”

Alex shrugged again.  “I can do not looking bored, but the eating thing’s a bit too far.”

His father sighed.  “I don’t think the two of you realize how important this is.  We’re new in town and don’t have connections, so if we want the business to take off we need to build some, and this event is a great way to do that.”

Derek looked a little embarrassed, and tried to look slightly less bored.  “We know.”

Alex still didn’t eat any of the food, but that was only because he knew that not eating wasn’t something that’d gain attention from anyone except the waitstaff … and they were used to it, from the girls and women who were constantly on diets to the businessmen who didn’t want to spoil their appetites for the free alcohol with anything as mundane as food.

He was spared the need to respond at all by a burst of applause from across the room, where a bunch of people seemed to be congratulating an attractive girl of about his age about something.

“That’s Shannon Spencer, ” his mother commented.  “She goes to the same high school that you are going to go to, and from what I’ve heard she’s a really good student, plays sports, is on all the clubs and all the committees.”

“Her family’s one of the oldest and most respectable ones in the entire town, ” his father added.

“I heard she’s a bit stuck up, though, ” Derek commented.

“Derek, that’s a terrible thing to say!  Where did you hear that?” his mother exclaimed.

Derek shrugged.  “I was talking to some guys about joining the football team, and the girls’ lacrosse team was using the field, and we saw her running wild on the field, and they made some comments.  That was the cleanest one about her.”

His mother rolled her eyes.  “Oh, Derek!” she exclaimed.

After doing his duty and not looking bored for a sufficient amount of time, Alex sneaked out to the lovely garden behind the club and leaned on a railing, lost in thought.  His revere was broken by a movement out of the corner of his eye, and he looked over to see Shannon Spencer at the other end of the same terrace, looking out over the same garden.  She noticed as he turned to look at her, and said, “Hi.”

“Hi, ” he replied.

And then they looked at each other in silence.

Alex finally broke that silence by saying somewhat awkwardly, “Um, I guess I should be going.”

Shannon snorted.  “Don’t want to hang around with the “stuck up Spencer”?”

“No, ” Alex replied, a bit annoyed with her tone … and assumption.  “It’s just that if either of us really wanted to talk to other people, we’d be inside.  One person standing outside staring at the garden saying nothing is fine.  Two people doing that gets really awkward really quickly.”

She quirked an eyebrow skeptically at him.  “So you haven’t heard the rumours about me and my family?”

“Well, yes, ” Alex admitted.  “But I prefer to get my information from more reliable sources, like small children and the mainstream media.”

Shannon laughed.  “Well, maybe to avoid the awkwardness we could talk a little.”

Alex shrugged.  “Might as well, since we’re already doing that.”

“I guess there isn’t much you don’t know about me, ” Shannon commented.

“Yeah, your family’s pretty well-known, ” Alex replied.

“And there’s some talk about yours as well, being the up-and-comers in the business world, ” Shannon said.  “Of course, some people still look down their noses at you guys because you’re ‘New Money’, not ‘Old Money’.”

Alex shrugged.  “As far as I’m concerned the key term is ‘Money'”.

Shannon quirked an eyebrow again.  “So all you’re interested in is having money?”

Alex shrugged.  “Not for myself.  As long as I have enough to get the things I need I’m okay.  But if the business makes money, then it’s a success, and my father has worked a long time and really hard at making it a success, so I want that to happen.”

“Are you going to go into the family business?” Shannon asked.

“Probably not, ” Alex replied.  “Derek’s better with running the everyday stuff and wants to do it.  I’ll help out, but will probably do something else with my life.  And your family’s into law, so are you going to be a lawyer?”

“Probably not, ” Shannon replied.  “I’m more into activism and stuff like that than suing people.”

“So neither of us are going to follow in our parents’ footsteps, ” Alex commented.

“Disappointing them immensely, I’m sure, ” she commented.

They stood there in silence for a while, and then Shannon said, “We probably should get back.”

“Yeah, ” Alex replied.  “It was nice meeting you.”

“It was nice meeting you, ” Shannon replied.

And then they went inside, separately.

Shadow of Death 2

January 28, 2023

Late at night, a young woman was having a nightmare.

Normally, while that would be unpleasant, it wouldn’t be all that much of an issue.  She’d go through whatever tremors the night had in store for her, and wake up afraid, heart pounding, pulse racing and disturbed … but then the light of the sun streaming in behind the curtains would reassure her that that world was nothing but a dream and she was indeed safe.  However, this dream wasn’t that sort of dream.  This was a dream where you both desperately wanted to wake up but lived in fear of it ending, because one way of ending the dream was for the supernaturally imbued creature chasing you to kill you … and if that happened, you didn’t wake up ever again.

So she was running through the pipes and steam of some strange kind of basement, trying desperately to avoid the horribly scarred man in the terrible sweater and hoping that something or someone in the real world would cause her to wake up before he managed to kill her.  Because as far as she could tell there was no way that she could survive otherwise, and she had the sense that he was just toying with her and that when he either got too bored or his bloodlust grew too high he’d simply kill her.

As if on cue, he popped up in front of her when she glanced behind her to see if he was following, despite not being anywhere in sight before that.  “Boo!” he exclaimed, laughing manically at his own bad joke.

She screamed and stopped suddenly, and then backpedaled to try to avoid him, but the sudden stop caused her to trip over something on the floor and come crashing down hard on it.  Momentarily winded, she looked up at him as he stood over her.  He produced a bladed glove-like weapon from somewhere and looked down at her.  “No glove … ” he started, and then took a dramatic pause to place it over his hand.

Finished, he then decided to finish his line.  “… No love, ” he said with a look of amused satisfaction and glee on his face.  And then his tongue slithered out of his mouth and extended the several feet needed to lick her on her face.

He raised his hand to strike at her, and she was certain that this was the end but  as it descended a hand caught it from the side, levering it up and eventually pushing her attacker back.  “What the f …?” her attacker began, but the dark figure in the gloom raised a finger towards him.

“Language, ” he said, in a voice that was emotionless and yet somewhat ominous just the same.

“Just who do you think you are to tell me what the f …” her attacker began, but at that point he noticed that her saviour had somehow produced a long staff like weapon and was holding it so that he wasn’t threatening her attacker with it but that it could be used against him at a moment’s notice, and was starting her attacker right in the eyes,

And then she noted that her attacker’s eyes widened in something she hadn’t seen from him this entire time:  fear.  “No, not that!  Anything but that!  You know what I’m facing there.  You can’t …”

Her savior interrupted him again.  “Begone, ” he said.  And her attacker ran away.

Her saviour then turned to her, and she didn’t see what it was about his eyes that made her attacker run off, because they seemed to be fairly normal, although they were an unsettling ice blue. He was, well, pretty much average: average height, average weight, average looks. Pretty nondescript, really. He was dressed all in basic black, and his face was a bit pale, but otherwise you wouldn’t even notice him if you walked past him on the street. Nothing to suggest that he’d be able or willing to stand down a monstrous killing machine without batting an eye.

“He won’t be bothering you again, ” her saviour commented.

She started to thank him profusely with the standard lines about how he’d saved her and if she could do anything to repay him, which is the point where he stopped her.  “In fact, there is something you can do for me.  In the future, I will come to you and ask you for a favour.  It will take no more than a few hours of your time.  Before we leave here, I merely ask that you agree to do this favour for me.”

If she hadn’t been just coming off of a situation where she was sure she was going to die, she might have found the fact that he didn’t tell her what the favour was ominous and might have thought twice.  But she was alive and was going to wake up again, and so she simply agreed to it.  She thought she saw a slight hint of a smile cross his otherwise emotionless face and then some kind of cloak billowed out from behind him and enveloped her, and when the darkness faded she was awake in her room, with the sunlight streaming into her room from behind her curtains.

Her first thought was that the whole thing was just a dream.  But then she noticed that the scratches that her attacker had made while chasing her were still fresh on her skin.  What was more disturbing, though, was the note left on her bedside table, that read merely “Watch for my coming.  D.”

I in the Sky 1

January 22, 2023

Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit …

Shannon walked into the kitchen to get another cup of coffee.  She moved with an athletic grace that she was somewhat vainly proud of, since she’d been an athlete in high school and while she didn’t have the time for sports anymore she liked to think that she could still compete pretty well, and even that if she had put more focus on her chosen sports she might have been able to make the national team or even have gone professional.  But she really used sports to pad out her CV and to work out her aggression and competitiveness while she prepared for a more professional life, finally landing on the fringe of politics, not running for office herself but helping to form and influence policy as part of an advocacy group.  It let her exercise her intellectual talents and involved a lot of different things and forced her adjust to a lot of different situations, which kept her on her toes.  Which is what she liked.

She brushed her long dark hair out of her eyes, picked up her cup, and looked from the kitchen island into their family room, where she saw her husband, Alex.  He had the manner and body of an intellectual, not an athlete, although he had a mix of “manual labourer” in the body as well.  He far preferred intellectual pursuits, but as he needled her — and occasionally her parents and sister — he hadn’t come from old money like she did and so he’d had to “work for a living”, and he was as proud of that as she was of her athletics, even if just like her he could spend more time doing the intellectual things that he really loved instead and so didn’t do those things all that much anymore.

Right now, he was doing something that always annoyed her.  He was playing chess.  But what you have to understand is that when he played chess, he didn’t just play chess.  Especially when the two of them were the only ones in the house.  He had had a chess table custom made for him, and so what he was doing was staring at the board, making a move, and then releasing a catch on the table, rotating it around so that he was now playing the other side, and then would stare at the board and make a move from that side, and then repeat until he won the game.

“You know, I hate it when you do that, ” she commented.

“If it bothers you so much, you could always volunteer to play instead, ” he replied, not even looking up from the board.

“I hate playing chess with you, ” she replied.  “You always win.”

He shrugged, still considering his move.  “I play Scrabble with you, and you almost always beat me.”

“Yeah, but it’s easier for you to lose all the time, ” she replied.  “You’re not as competitive as I am.”

He snorted.  “That’s certainly true.”

“Why don’t you just play against a computer or something instead of playing against yourself?” she asked.

“Because either I’ll figure out its pattern and beat it all the time, or else it’ll turn into a Court Martial type of situation, ” he replied.

She paused for an instant, wondering if she really wanted to follow up on that, but curiosity had always been her weakness.  “I know I’m going to regret asking this, but … Court Martial?

“It’s from an episode of Star Trek …”

She rolled her eyes.  “I should have guessed.”

“… where Captain Kirk is on trial.  Spock is playing chess against the computer, and notes that since he programmed it the computer is as skilled as he is but won’t make mistakes, so assuming that he makes no mistakes either the best he can hope for is a draw.  If I did manage to find a really, really good chess computer that could beat me, then that’s the best I could hope for, and if there’s no chance of winning there’s not much point in playing.”

Shannon thought for a moment, and then said, “Wait, if you don’t want to play an inferior computer program because you’d win all the time, why do you want to play with me when you win all the time?”

He grinned, still not looking up from the board.  “Because at least then there’s something nice to look at across the board.”

She smiled.  “Now there’s an …,” she started to say, but was interrupted by a text on her phone.  Reading it, she let out a small gasp, and then hoped that Alex hadn’t heard it.

But he had.  “What’s wrong?” he asked, finally looking up from the board and turning to face her.

“Nothing … nothing’s wrong, ” she replied.

But she couldn’t keep the concern out of her voice, and he stood up and walked towards her.  “I still remember that tone of voice, a tone of voice that I haven’t heard in years.  You don’t mean …”

Her heart in her throat, she nodded.

He looked concerned.  “What does it say?” he asked with trepidation.

Well, they said you was high-classed …

Well, that was just a lie, ” he finished.

I”, they said together.

Shadow of Death 1

January 15, 2023

In the silvery light of a full moon on a hot summer’s night, a young woman dashed behind a tree and, out of breath, pressed her back against it.

This is the worst summer vacation ever, she thought, which was an oddly prosaic thought given the circumstances.

Things hadn’t started out badly.  She’d gone to a house by a lake with a bunch of her friends, and met an absolutely gorgeous guy.  And she thought that he might like her, too.  So when another friend said that he was waiting for her out back, she tossed her normal cautious nature and shyness aside and decided to go for it.  She’d dressed up in her sexiest dress and sexiest heels, put on a lot more makeup than she normally would use, and tucked her glasses into the small, useless purse that matched the dress, and walked — okay, mostly stumbled because of the addition of the heels and subtraction of the glasses — out to the meeting place to meet him.  When the figure approached, she wasn’t sure if it was her beau or not … but when she barely dodged the machete stroke as it thunked into the wall next to her, she was pretty sure that it wasn’t.  When she put her glasses on again, instead of that cute boy it was a hulking man in a hockey mask with a machete, and the only thing for her to do was keep running, until she made it here, where she thought that she had finally managed to lose him.

That was something that she needed to check on, as it turns out, so she slowly peeked around the tree … and didn’t see him.  She peeked around the other side … and didn’t see him.  With a sigh of relief, she turned back … and let out a scream as she ducked under a machete swing from the man who had suddenly appeared in front of her.

She took off running again, but this was the time the heels tripped her up, and she stumbled and finally fell to the ground.  She turned over and looked at the man approaching her, and tried to scramble to her feet but couldn’t make it and scrabbled backwards until the man stood over her and raised the machete again.  Frozen in fear, she closed her eyes and had what she was sure was her last thought:  Mom was right that chasing boys would get me in trouble.

And instead of feeling blinding pain, she suddenly heard a strange clang.

She opened her eyes, and was shocked at what she saw.  Her attacker had swung his blade at her, but someone else had arrived and blocked it with some kind of long stick-like weapon.  Her saviour was holding the machete in the air over her body, and then even more shockingly was actually lifting the machete up away from her body!  Now, as she was being chased she’d seen just how strong her attacker was, and somehow this guy was moving it up without seeming to be making any effort at all, despite the fact that he was on the long end of some kind of stick which meant that he was giving up a lot of leverage to do that.  She obviously wasn’t going to work out the equations in her head in these circumstances, but her physics classes had taught her that that was not easy.

Soon, her attacker turned his attention to the new arrival, and with blazing speed swung the machete towards her saviour.  Again, in the chase she’d seen just how fast he could be … but again her saviour immediately swung the blade around and with supernatural speed blocked the blow.  In a rage, her attacker swung again and again but his attacks were blocked with almost dismissive ease by her saviour.  Finally, her attacker stopped and looked her saviour deep in the eye … and then his eyes widened and he ran off into the forest.

Her saviour then turned to her, and she didn’t see what it was about his eyes that made her attacker run off, because they seemed to be fairly normal, although they were an unsettling ice blue.  He was, well, pretty much average:  average height, average weight, average looks.  Pretty nondescript, really.  He was dressed all in basic black, and his face was a bit pale, but otherwise you wouldn’t even notice him if you walked past him on the street.  Nothing to suggest that he’d be able or willing to stand down a monstrous killing machine without batting an eye.

He turned to her and said, “I have need of  your services.”

She blinked in shock and could only stammer out, “Uh … what?”

“Not that way, ” he said.  “I have chased off that … creature and will spirit you away to somewhere where he cannot reach you.  In exchange, I merely wish you to promise that when I return to you you will do the favour that I ask of you.  I cannot tell you what that favour is, but you will be in no danger and it will cost you no more than at most an hour of your time.”

His formal speech had given her some time to regain her equilibrium, but unfortunately for him her mind wasn’t on his deal.  “Wait … you can fight that guy!  He’s running back to where my friends are!  You have to stop him!”

“I cannot do anything for them.  They must survive on their own.  You, however, I have need of, and as I have need of you I can save you, if you accept my deal.  If you do not, then I am afraid that he will return and kill you.”

She didn’t think that he sounded all that regretful.  In fact, he sounded pretty damned emotionless.  But she had to save her friends, and the details of his deal had finally sunk in … specifically, the idea that he said that he needed her.  “Well, I’m not going to agree to your deal unless you save my friends.  So your choices are to save my friends or you won’t get from me whatever it is that you need!”.

He paused to consider her words, and she felt a slight smugness at putting him in that bind.  After a moment, she continued, “So, if you hurry towards the house …”

“You think that I’m considering your purported dilemma, ” he interrupted her.  “I am not.  I am deciding if the better option would be to simply take you from here by force, or to leave you here to die and find someone else to take your place.”

Her mouth gaped open in shock, but he continued, “There is nothing I can do for your friends.  They will live or die of their own accord no matter what you do.  So the only choice you have here is about your own life.  Agree to my terms and live, or don’t and die.  This is one time when the choice is all about you, and nothing more than you.”

She couldn’t quite get her mind around that, and so stammered, “But, but …”

He fixed his eyes on hers and she felt a sobering coldness run all through her.  At that moment, she was utterly convinced of a number of things.  First, that he didn’t have any hostile or evil intent towards her.  Second, following on from the first, that he actually didn’t care at all whether she lived or died.  And finally, that it was absolutely the case that there was nothing he could do to save her friends and that this choice really was all about whether she, herself, lived or died and so saved him the trouble of finding someone else to help him.

She didn’t want her friends to die.  She didn’t want to live without her friends.  But she’d rather be alive with them dead than dead with them dead anyway.  If the only choice was whether or not she lived or died … she wanted to live.  “I agree, ” she said.

She thought that she caught a hint of a smile on his face, but then all of that was lost as what looked like some kind of cloak suddenly billowed out from behind him and enveloped her in darkness.  An instant later, the darkness receded and she found herself in bright daylight, on a main road, by a sign saying that she was only a few kilometers from her town and, thus, only a few kilometers from home.  Walking distance.  And then she heard the man’s voice in her head again.  “I will come for your favour at the appropriate time”, it said.

And she shuddered, wondering what she had gotten herself into.