Fiction Friday 04.24.20

The Empress clutched the letters in her hand. She paced inside the tiny garden. The walls felt like they were going to swallow her whole. Her swollen belly caused her gait to wobble. She stared at the red royal velvet tapestry draped over a nearby bench. She longed to once again walk out amongst the open trees. Once she was a simple maid who got to go home to her family’s tiny cottage on her day off. Somehow that had all changed. The Empress still didn’t really understand what had happened. Now she was carrying the heir to the empire. But the protection of the Emperor was suffocating her. She was completely at his mercy. Her handmaiden brought her a platter of plums and pickles. The Empress devoured them, the juice dripping down her chin. The quiet girl who had served her for the last six months struggled to hide her revulsion at the strange cravings the Empress devoured. 

The servant girl longed to scream at the impostor who stood before her. Once she had been Empress of this palace. Once she had dressed in luxurious linens and sumptuous velvets. Now she wore a stiff wool uniform. She should’ve known better. When the visiting emissary had given her the beautiful genie’s bottle, she should’ve thrown him out of the kingdom. Or better yet, had him beheaded. Instead she had caressed the sparkling bottle thinking it was just another pretty bottle. The cloud of smoke that escaped the bottle had held her doom. The genie that appeared before her was neither intimidating nor looming. He was a slight, unassuming man. The former Empress thought he appeared more scholarly than magical and impressive. He’d simply bowed before her and produced a piece of parchment. “Vundar the great and terrible at your service, your eminence.” He consulted the parchment. “I see here that you long to be free of the trappings of your current life. I can arrange that.”

Before the former Empress could protest, she had switched places with the maid who was cleaning the chamber. The maid had looked in wonder at the finery she suddenly wore. The new Empress stared in the mirror in fascination. The former Empress watched in shock as her life walked away without her. The former Empress now wore the plain uniform of the servants. She tried to scream, but no sound came from her mouth. Vundar circled around her and nodded approvingly. “That should do it. No longer do you have to sit through long days at court or the neverending banquet dinners. No more confining clothes or commands from the Emperor to produce an heir already. You are free. Well. Almost. You can not speak to anyone about the magic that made you so. In fact, you cannot speak to anyone you knew in your former life as the Empress. Other than that you are free to do as you please.”  With that, Vundar disappeared in a puff of smoke. The bottle he lived in disappeared as well. 

The former Empress looked at her new life and screamed. No sound came out. Silence, as she came to be called, was appalled at how she was treated. She was bullied by the other servants the moment they figured out she couldn’t speak. Silence slipped into a fog. She slept in the servants dormitory and watched with sadness as her fellow servants went home to visit their family on their day off. Silence had no family. Her parents had married her off to the Emperor when she was barely more than a child. The only letter her mother had sent her was a hastily written message warning her that if she did not conceive an heir soon she would regret it. Now Silence was nearly 20 years old. Three years she had been the Empress and endured the Emperor’s touch. No child had ever come to her. Silence watched in mute rage as the Emperor announced that his Empress was with child. The peasant girl had conceived almost immediately. No one had even noticed that she was a different Empress. No one knew that Silence had been replaced. Day after day went by. The new Empress was coddled and protected. Silence was promoted to be her handmaiden. She could not protest. The new Empress liked the quiet girl who saw to her every whim. Silence helped her get into the elaborate costumes required for court and banquet. When her hands fell across the silks and velvets she remembered how much she had hated them. The weight of them and how they hampered her movement. Silence started spending her day off working in the stables. As Empress she had always had to ride in a stuffy little carriage for travel. Now as Silence she could help exercise the horses same as any other servant who was willing to volunteer. The Emperor’s collection of horses was varied. Tiny ponies lived next to enormous draft horses. Sleek, fiery horses lived in stone barns. Water horses lived comfortably in stone ringed ponds. Silence came to love all of them. She discovered she could speak to the horses as long as no one else was nearby to over hear her. So she took common painted horses out for long rides through the field. She told them everything she could not speak to another human. Time continued to pass. Her best friend became a black and white spotted horse gone mostly gray named Jinn. Silence and Jinn spent every free day exploring the lands around the castle. The other grooms thought nothing of it. On the days Silence came to visit, she was entitled to ride any common pony she wished. It was one perk of being a castle servant. The days after she had visited, Jin usually worked twice as hard. By the fifth day, Jin would begin to watch the doorway for his friend. By day six he was unruly. On the seventh day they would ride the fields together again. 

This pattern continued until the day the Empress gave birth. The girl child did not resemble the Emperor at all. In Silence’s opinion she more resembled the genie that had made the maid into an Empress. Outrage broke out amongst the court. The auguries and fortune tellers all said the same thing: someone had placed a cuckoo changeling child in the Emperor’s kingdom. All eyes fell on Silence. She had appeared right around the time the Empress became pregnant. They called her a witch and bade her take the girl child away. Silence picked up the little girl and stared around the court. Once these people had bowed and scraped for her favor. Now she would be cast out. The Empress was to be locked away until she conceived another child, with no visitors. Silence could not believe this turn of events. She looked down at the child and smiled. Here was someone who needed her. Who would love her regardless of the roles she played. Silence bowed once before the court and walked out through the side gate. The stable master had Jin tied up to a small cart. Silence bowed once to him where he hid in the shadow of the doorway. She climbed up and drove away. 

When she reached the forest, the child began to cry. Out of instinct, Silence began to croon a lullaby. She was startled by the croaked voice that came from her own throat and yet relieved. Perhaps this curse wasn’t so all encompassing after all. Silence and her new charge set off to find a place for themselves in the world.

The prompts for today’s story:

  • The Empress 
  • mercy 
  • pickles 
  • letters 
  • royal velvet plums 
  • genie’s bottle

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Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

Fiction Friday 04.17.20

You can’t hide your secrets from the moon. She sees what you try to hide in the dark. During the day her sleep is disturbed by the tears you have not cried. It’s like trying to hold back the ocean’s tides. Eventually the water finds a way to flow. 

Tonight do yourself a favor. Bask in the light of the moon and sing her that lullaby you haven’t quite forgotten. Open that hope chest that your mother gave to you and look at all the fine linens you’ve never used. Watch the moonlight glint off the tarnished silver that has gathered dust. Dig deeper. All the way to the bottom. There is a letter waiting for you to read. You read it once a long time ago and then buried it in the hope chest. Your tears are trapped inside the words on that page. Let them flow. Pull out the tiny pair of baby shoes. You were once tiny enough to fit your feet in them. It was both forever ago and only yesterday. 

When the tears run dry, the relief makes it easier to breathe. Deep breaths fill your lungs and ease the ache that you’ve been carrying in your heart. You look at the fancy linens and see new possibilities. You’ve needed curtains in the kitchen for a long while, looks like you found them. You leave the letter and the baby shoes behind. The box of silver ware is heavy but you know you’ve got a polishing cloth somewhere. Soon they will be shiny and clean. You may not have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth but there is nothing stopping you from using one to make your tea. 

The prompts for today’s story:

  • The Moon
  • chest 
  • letter 
  • baby shoes 
  • clean

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Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

Fiction Friday 04.10.20

Graffiti popped by the local cafe. She breathed in deeply the scents of fresh roasted coffee and reveled in the sounds of life all around her. She had spent the last three months in hibernation, completely cut off from the outside world. It had been a healing time during which she had completed her memory book. The download of her memories into the tiny crystalline book had taken nearly three weeks to finish and months to recover from. Now she felt refreshed but the process had been messy and emotional. Graffiti took a deep breath. She was no longer troubled by those memories, they were safely stored away with the rest of the world’s memories at The Tempest Stone Library. 

The cafe was busy. Graffiti had no memories to reference in order to know whether it was usually this busy on a Tuesday. If she could remember she would know that usually Tuesdays were dead and that’s why she went on those days. To spend more time with the adorable barista, Raven. However, Graffiti couldn’t even recognize Raven’s face. Raven’s dark eyes grew wide at the site of Graffiti. He stared a little too long, hoping against hope some flicker of recognition would stir in Graffiti’s eyes. Even the palest fire of a memory would’ve given life to the dead butterflies pinned to the walls of Raven’s heart. But no flicker, no glimmer, not even a sparkle of recognition stared back from Graffiti’s brilliant blue eyes. 

Graffiti watched the young man in front of her take her order. He seemed like he had something he wanted to say. Instead he just hung his head and took her order. She had no idea what her usual order was so she ordered a minty hot chocolate. The young barista added extra whip cream to it without even consulting her. When she took the first delicious sip she forgave him for being so bold. Graffiti went and sat at a table by the window. Raven watched her from behind the counter. He was dead to her now. His friends had warned him against getting involved with a curator who donated their memories to the great library. Curators led volatile lives and wiped away the damage they did by hibernating once a year. Raven sighed and quoted a long dead poet. “Nevermore.” 

The prompts for today’s story:

  • quoth the raven 
  • pale fire 
  • graffiti pop 
  • when the butterflies float 
  • the tempest stone 
  • a memory book

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Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

Fiction Friday 04.03.20

The herd of dusty taupe Vespa scooters stampeded out of town. It was the last full moon of winter. There were sacred ceremonies to perform for the Cider Society. There was still a chill in the air as they rode. The members were bundled up in an assortment of gear. Fluffy down coats, raggedy old blankets, even a cloak built from ratty old towels. 

Their little club had formed mostly by accident or maybe it was the whiskey to blame. The purchasing manager, Timothy, at the little dealership in town made a mistake on an order form. He ordered thirteen dusty taupe vespas instead of the one that he had intended to order. The small bottle of whiskey in his drawer was the most likely culprit of his clerical error. When the herd of Vespas arrived on a flat bed truck the salesman all stared in horror. They didn’t have much demand for Vespas in the tiny town they lived in, nevermind ones in the most boring color of beige you had ever seen. Timothy shrugged it off. For fear of losing his job, he bought two of them himself. Timothy gave the pair to his wife and her best friend. They were a wild pair and they soon became an inspiration to the town. The Vespas didn’t fly out of the showroom but within six months they only had five left. Timothy considered it a win. He schemed with his wife on how they could get the last five to move. She came up with the idea of the Cider Society. They had patches made up and delivered to the other Vespa owners with a letter welcoming them to the exclusive Cider Society. There was an invite at the bottom to meet at the local diner on Tuesday night for gravy fries and a drive around the town. It took another four months to sell the last five Vespas, but they all sold. Timothy watched the last one drive away with a pang of sadness. He had bought into his own marketing ploy and was sad that he wouldn’t get to be a member of the Cider Society.

When Timothy arrived home that night, it had been a Tuesday and the last full moon of Winter. His wife and her best friend were snickering in the kitchen. They handed him an envelope. Inside was the keys to the last Vespa and his very own Cider Society patch. He had laughed and hugged them both. They all rode down to the local diner for gravy fries. The ten other members of the group welcomed Timothy with open arms and declared him the Emperor of the Cider Society. He was given a cloak made of ratty old towels and a crown sticker for his helmet. Timothy had laughed heartily and made his first decree. 

“As newly crowned Emperor of the Cider Society, I propose our first sacred ritual. Follow me to the edge of town!” He stood up and marched out to his Vespa and the rest of the Cider Society followed. 

Now they were standing beneath their fifth winter moon. The ritual had changed over time. The rest of the Cider Society pulled their playing card crowns out of their saddlebags. They howled up at the moon above them. Then they began their last dance of the season. The strange little band of outsiders formed a circle around the cow statue at the edge of town. Timothy placed the wizard hat on the statue. They began their dance around the Wizard Cow. A large jug of honeycrisp apple hard cider was passed around. The dance eventually devolved into giggles and the entire Cider Society wound up passed out beneath the Wizard Cow. When the sun’s rays rose over the horizon, Timothy would wake up the members of the little band and they’d all take a hungover ride back into town for a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. 

The prompts for today’s story:

  • last dance 
  • honeycrisp apple cider 
  • band of outsiders 
  • playing cards 
  • dusty taupe 
  • vespa 
  • wizard cow

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Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

Fiction Friday 03.27.20

The Grand Tower stood tall on the shore. No one knew who had built it. There was no visible way to reach the top. It stood tall on the white sands as a monument to some long lost deity or queen. Travelers came from miles around to lay their sweet sorrows at the base of the tower. They were tired and grungy from long days of walking. Dried carnations and worn love letters littered the ground beneath the tower. Every high tide they were swept away to the depths of the ocean. 

One cold and blustery morning a woman walked around and around the tower. The few pilgrims who had camped near the tower watched her with suspicion. The woman began to sing. The words were unknown to everyone who was assembled their but it tugged at their hearts regardless. She sang until the sun was overhead. She held a small bottle in her hand and let the sun’s rays imbue it with their warmth. The woman walked to the ocean side of the tower. She poured the heart oil into her hands and she wrote her beloved’s name on the wall. A loud screech echoed from the top of the tower. The woman continued to sing. She traced the name of her lover over and over again. The onlooking crowd gasped in horror as a crack traveled up the side of the tower. The woman didn’t flinch. 

The golden roof of the tower fell off and landed in the sands. A lightning bolt came out of the clear blue sky and struck the tower. There was a loud heartbeat that pounded three times and then a creature launched itself from the tower. It’s wings were so large they nearly blocked out the sun. The onlookers ran for shelter as the shadow of the creature fell over them. The woman still clung to the tower, singing, and tracing her lover’s name on the cracked wall.

The creature circled three times before landing beside the woman. The woman turned and acknowledged the monster before her. “Lenora. I’ve come to free you. The monster is dead at last. Come back to me.”

The creature let out a scream that had everyone nearby covering their ears. When they looked up the creature was gone and in its place was a woman. She stood shakily. Her clothing was rags. Tears glistened on her cheeks. The two women embraced, laughing and crying. They walked up from the tower and headed off to the east. The tower cracked and crumbled with every step they took. The onlookers watched the tower become a ruin within the space of a few minutes. The two women never looked back. They walked hand in hand. The oldest woman in the crowd walked towards the tower. She surveyed the ruins and whispered an old nursery rhyme.

“The love that gave you wings will become your prison bands, until the tower falls to the sands.”

The prompts for today’s story:

  • grunge 
  • heart oil 
  • sweet sorrow 
  • wings of love 
  • the grand tower

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Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

Fiction Friday 03.20.20

Blanche wrapped the guilt quilt around her shoulders. Every patch held a worry or a wish and it was stitched together by her fears for her children. She rocked quietly in the corner of what used to be the nursery. Many little ones had come and gone through this little corner of her home. Every one of them had left a little piece of themselves behind. The ethereal forgotten pieces of childhood were stacked neatly on the shelves. A whimiscal elephant that was missing one eye that Sammy had carried around for her entire babyhood. A bird hotel built by Johnathan as a class project. A marble scale that Henry had treasured during his mad scientist phase. Glow in the dark stars tracked across the ceiling from when Joanie was afraid of the dark. Blanche just rocked and rocked. Her Mother Bear days were over. Her cubs were all grown. They’d found homes and lives of their own. They all piled into her house on Sundays to devour six pizza pies and their mother’s homemade cookies. 

When they left there was an emptiness. A wild thing stalked the silences in her home. A longing that had nothing to do with diaper changing or house wrangling sat deep inside her heart. It grew. And grew. It grew without bottle feeding. Soon it learned to walk, with no input from Blanche at all. It scared her how this longing grew. After raising four babies she had the rhythm of helping another grow to their potential. But this thing in her heart broke all the rules. She could feel it doing backflips in her chest when she wandered the aisles of the grocery store. It made it hard to sleep at night as she laid in her big bed alone. She talked to her daughters more. She visited her sons for lunch. Nothing stopped the growth. Nothing slowed it. Soon she felt as if her skin was too tight. The wild thing whispered to her at night. Forgotten dreams. Lost ideas. She turned the music up while driving and tried to drown its whispers out. 

Then one day she found herself in the school supply aisle of the grocery store. She bought a coloring book and crayons. When she got home and was unpacking the groceries she laughed at the whim that had inspired her to get it. But later that night as sleep refused to come she opened the book and colored a picture of a giraffe. The voice of the wild thing was silent the entire time she colored. Within a week she had filled the entire book with color and ordered several more to be delivered to the house. Then she upgraded her cheap crayons for fancy pencils and it delighted her the way they scratched across the paper. 

By Autumn the wild thing in her chest was almost silent. Except when she walked past the old nursery. On one beautiful fall day she opened every window in the house and began to deep clean. She reached the Nursery and she sighed. The wild thing howled at her. She took a deep breath and dragged everything out. She gathered up her children’s lost toys to be dropped off to them. She dragged a table and a chair inside. Her favorite stained glass lamp was settled into the corner of the table. Blanche gathered up her pencils, paints, coloring books, and sketchbooks. She tucked them all neatly into a side table and stacked her current work on the table. The room took a deep breath and let it out. It felt lighter. Autumn forgot about cleaning and spent an hour doodling instead. She stood up to stretch and went to leave the room. As she reached to turn off the light, she smiled at the transformation of the tiny room. All traces of her children were gone, except for a few glow in the dark stars. Tiny spots of light scattered across the ceiling. The wild thing in her chest was gone. 

The prompts for today’s story:

  • Blanche Autumn 
  • star track 
  • mother bear 
  • ethereal 
  • guilt quilt 
  • bird hotel 
  • marble scale 
  • whimsical elephant 

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Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

Fiction Friday 03.13.20

There is a warehouse in the clouds. It holds an unusual collection. Right by the door is Pierce the archaeologist. He is preserved under glass. His eyes follow you as you enter. If you stare at him for more than a moment he begins to furiously blink out morse code. Help… Me… His blinks are translated by the placard in front of him. There is a yellowed index card taped to the display. It reads: ‘Ignore Pierce. He is imprisoned for crimes against the empire. Go see the octopus instead.’ Most people nod and go off to see the octopus that runs the place. A cat naps on a nearby velvet couch. The octopus is in an octagonal tank. This tank is larger than most swimming pools. That is because Henry is the size of a volkswagon bug. Seven of the tank sides are touch screens that Henry is busy furiously tapping at. Strange images appear and he sorts them into a never ending cascade of folders and to do lists. The eight side is open and there is a velvet rope curtaining it off. A large placard on a pedestal reads in large letters: ‘Do NOT tap the glass.’ In tiny print below someone has scribbled: ‘violaters will be aten’. You stand patiently. The cat stretches on the nearby couch. The screens are a blur of images and folders and images and folders. A loud voice booms from the ceiling above. “How can I help you?”

You stare up at the ceiling trying to figure out where the speakers are hidden and who is speaking. The glass in front of you is tapped twice and you jump. Henry’s tentacle is suctioned to the glass.

“Are you going to stare all day or are you going to tell me why you are interrupting my work?”

You pull yourself together and nod. “I apologize Mr. Henry. Sir. I have taken the ride by rainbow to reach your location. The head office would like to know if you have finished your report on the tale of textiles.”

The water in the tank agitates subtly. The screens blur from the moving water. “I don’t have time for regulars and randoms to be coming in here and questioning the way I do my job. In the time I have been talking with you I have not catalogued at least 73 items. Ninja! Get this fool his report and then show him the door.”

You nod your head and try not to irritate the enormous octopus any further. The cat stretches leisurely and hops down in front of you. “Well. Come on then. You’ve done a terrific job of irritating Henry. You’re lucky he didn’t decide to drench you. If I’d gotten wet because of you, there would be hell to pay.”

You nod to the cat and follow him as he leads you further into the warehouse. There are marvels stacked neatly beside each other everywhere you look. A statue sings opera next to a pixie trapped in a mason jar. Around the next corner there is a black void hangs from the shelf with a velvet rope sectioning it off. Finally you reach a row of filing cabinets that goes off as far as you can see. Ninja stops and licks his paw. “It’s in the fourteenth cabinet on the left. I must warn you that the filing in this place is haphazard at best. I don’t have the thumbs required for true organization. It’s in the second drawer from the bottom marked ‘Foo.'”

“Thank you Mr. Ninja. I’ll be back shortly.”

Ninja’s only response is a meow and a flick of his tail. You walk down to the fourteenth cabinet on the left. You wonder why no one has been able to retrieve this report yet. At least three agents have been sent. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up as you bend down to open the drawer. The moment it opens you hear yelling. “Jump away! Run! Don’t look!” Of course you look to see the source of the noise and you see three tiny agents in a dollhouse built into the drawer.

“Shit.” Is the last thing out of your mouth as the spell takes hold. The pain is excruciating and everything around you grows bigger in size as you are miniaturized. You lay on the floor of hallway for a moment but then you hear the thuds as Ninja comes closer. Without thinking you duck under the drawer. There is a narrow crack between the cabinets that you are able to squeeze through. You push yourself through it while Ninja’s now giant paw continues to bat at you. It gets darker and darker but you can see light on the other side. You squeeze and fight your way through until you reach the back of the cabinet. The shelving you had passed on your way here now towers over your head. You find a spot to hunker down and begin to plan. Somehow you must escape the warehouse in the clouds and get a message back to HQ.

The prompts for today’s story:

  • ninja 
  • regulars and randoms 
  • a tale of textiles 
  • pierce 
  • rides by rainbow 
  • in the clouds 
  • cat naps 
  • archaeologist 
  • octopus 
  • velvet couch 
  • warehouse

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Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

Fiction Friday 03.06.20

Juliana walked her parisian poodle, Mimsy, down by the river. The night breeze tangled her hair as they wandered. They reached the end of the river where the water stood still in a large pond. The candle bridge crossed the river right before the pond. It was lit up to fight off the darkness of the new moon. It was Juliana’s favorite night to go for a walk. No one else was there yet. She stepped onto the bridge and walked to the center. The candles reflection danced across the still pond. Mimsy curled up at Juliana’s feet to take a nap. Juliana let out a deep sigh. She grabbed the dirty penny from her pocket and held it tight to her heart. Juliana transferred every hope in her heart to the filthy, misshapen penny. She smiled and tossed it into the pond. It was the night of wishes after all. The pond’s surface split into a thousand tiny waves and rings, making the candlelight dance and fracture across its surface. 

A muppet claw grasped the edge of the bridge. Juliana backed away quickly. A battered teddy bear with a single unexpectedly human eye, climbed up onto the bridge. Juliana stared and Mimsy started to bark. The bear spoke. “Listen Dollface, you were the one that wished for the awakening eye. You can’t back away from the wishes of your heart.”

Juliana took a single step forward. “I thought that prayer would awaken the eyes of one who would love me. Not… whatever you are.”

The bear took a step closer. “I will love you forever, all you have to do is take my hand and come inside.”

Mimsy kept barking and pulling on the leash. Juliana felt the leash slip through her fingers but was too mesmerized by the creature in front of her. “Come inside where?”

“My home of course. Where we will live together forever.”

Juliana thought of all of the lonely days in her tiny studio apartment. She couldn’t return there. Even Mimsy never fully chased the loneliness away. Juliana threw caution to the wind and took another step forward. She grasped the creature’s hand and they both vanished from the bridge. 

The prompts for today’s story:

  • standing water 
  • muppet claw
  • doll face 
  • unexpectedly human 
  • parisian poodle 
  • candle bridge 
  • teddy bear 
  • awakening eye 
  • come inside

Join the Grady Guild to get your story fix! These stories will be delivered to your inbox the same day they are written!

Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

Fiction Friday 02.28.20

I walked into the dingy bar where the Rockabilly band, Pickle Juice, was playing. They jumped and jived and jammed on their steel guitar. I held on to hope that this would finally be the right place at the right time. Maybe I could finally be free of this curse. 

Ever since the Night of the Raven had descended upon the small town where I grew up, I had been cursed. The townsfolk had held a lottery for who would receive the Raven’s mark and I was the unlucky recipient. A raven tattoo circled my throat. The beak of the raven was almost lost in my hair. At night I sometimes could hear it whispering to the recesses of my mind. The wings of the raven wrapped around my neck and crossed each other in the front. Sometimes when I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror I would struggle to breathe. I’d remember the searing pain as the Raven was sacrificed and I received my mark. Everything changed after that night. I lost the ability to speak. The Night of the Raven broke my life. My parents divorced soon after. My mom moved me across the country and bought me an endless assortment of scarves to wear. 

Now I was in this shitty bar. The drinks were all fancy and weird. Made with things like witch hazel and rosewater. It was warm in the bar and I hated the scarf I had wrapped around my Raven mark. It made a stifling evening so much worse. I looked through the crowd. In the back by the band I saw another girl wearing a thick scarf even though her tee shirt clung to her with sweat. Maybe she was the one. I had read every legend ever written about the Night of the Raven and its aftermath. It happened only on leap years during the first full moon in February. There were very few of us Raven marked walking around. In ancient times I would’ve been shuttled off to an island with anyone else unfortunate enough to receive a mark. Now we mostly hid in plain sight. Tattoos were far more common these days than ever before. I walked towards the band. The girl was dressed in a poodle skirt and tee shirt. Her scarf wasn’t a dainty thing. Rather it was almost a full cowl. I caught her attention. She looked at my thick scarf and her eyes went wide. I lowered the front of my scarf to show her my mark. She got very excited and showed me that she too was Raven marked. The only thing left to discover was if our marks were compatible. If they were, they would be released back to the spirit world. The myths said that the ravens came to our world to experience everything that reality had to offer. Usually they stayed with their bearers until death. Then they would carry the soul of their bearer to heaven. There was a loophole. If you could find another marked bearer who’s raven matched your own, it could release you from the curse. I figured it was worth a shot. I had loved to sing as a child. I’d mourned for my music from the moment the Raven stole my voice. The girl was bouncing excitedly and dragging me towards the back of the bar. A side door took us out into an alley. I used my phone to write out my plan. She nodded in agreement. She unwrapped her cowl from her neck. Her raven was placed exactly as mine was, the wings crossing in front of her throat. I pulled my scarf over my head and the tiny whispers of the raven became a roar. I covered my ears and so did the girl. A blinding light lit the alley up. Every piece of garbage that littered the alley was highlighted in dazzling brightness. I had to shut my eyes against it. There was a coldness in the July air and the back of my eyelids glowed red. Then it was gone. I took a deep breath. The alley smelled worse than I expected. I started to cough and kept coughing as black smoke poured out of my throat. It formed into the shape of a raven and then it winged towards the sky. I cleared my throat. “Wow.” Tears formed in my eyes. I hadn’t spoken in almost twenty years. The girl looked at me. “Jane.” She said while pointing to herself. Her voice was as scratchy sounding as mine. I smiled at her. “Want to go grab one of those weird ass cocktails inside?”

She laughed. “Yes. Yes I would.” I hummed along with the band’s music as we made our way to the bar.

The prompts for today’s story:

  • broken life
  • night of the raven
  • witch hazel & rosewater
  • hold of hope
  • pickle juice
  • rockabilly

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Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

Fiction Friday 02.21.20

The Rosy Future Circus traveled from town to town. They followed the rivers, floating their caravan of curiosities to their next destination. It was a tiny circus with very few curiosities to speak of. They had a murder log named Larry who followed their caravan like a duckling followed its mother. Larry would eat the table scraps tossed overboard and he was a very content little crocodile. He was so dark in color he was almost purple. He was also tiny compared to the other river crocs. When the other crocs came nearby he’d pull himself up on a shelf on the back of the circus barge. The Ring Master’s name was Waltz. He was a cranky old bastard who was very strict with the crew. 

They floated down to the next dock in the town of Middleway. Waltz began bellowing as usual that the tent and ring must be set up in less than an hour. The circus folk flowed out of the river and off the barge. It hurt the river crew to be on land for so long. They struggled as their skin dried out and breathing became difficult. Waltz refused to give them even a drop of water until everything was set up. It put a hustle in their steps but also hate in their hearts. They had no choice but to obey the Ring Master. He held their prince captive in a tank on the barge. None had been able to free the tiny river prince. The last rescue attempt had left the prince scarred when his tank had been shattered. For that folly, the river crew mourned forever. They could find no way to free their prince without harming him further. The young tarantula wrangler, Silvertips, watched with sad eyes as the river crew worked themselves to sickness for her father. Waltz blamed his long dead wife for the weakness of compassion that Silvertips carried. His wife, Sandrine, had died trying to save some of their crew from a fire on the second barge they used to travel with. It had been where the crew slept and the critters were kept. Waltz had ordered the river crew to help put the fire out but they had been exhausted from setting up the tent that day. His normally quiet wife had screamed at him that he had to unlock the cabin and release the crew locked inside. Waltz had laughed and said he could replace the crew at the next dock. Sandrine had snatched the key from his waist and leapt onto the burning barge. She scrambled across the deck and made it to the cabin door. She unlocked it and fell inside. Within seconds half of the crew was diving off the barge into the water. There was a large boom and the barge sank to the bottom of the river. Sandrine never resurfaced. When the barge was dragged out of the river bed and Waltz climbed into the burned and waterlogged shell, he found Sandrine trapped by the critter cages. Her hand was still wrapped around the lock on the wolf cage. The wolf was drowned right next to her. Waltz screamed in rage and sorrow. After Sandrine died he became an ever more unrelenting task master. The drowned crew and critters were sent to the crematorium. The other crew held a silent vigil at midnight for their lost friends and family. Sandrine was buried in the town she was raised in. Her grave was covered in monkshood and hyacinth. It spooked the townspeople and they started a whole new cemetary just so they wouldn’t have to walk by her grave. Strange canine footprints were often found on the grounds. The townsfolk crossed themselves when passing by the cemetary. 

It had been nearly five years since Sandrine’s death. Waltz had finally decided to stop at the dock by her final resting place once again. He hoped that the townsfolk’s memories were short and they wouldn’t remember that it was this circus that had suffered the devastating fire. If they did remember, Waltz hoped that their morbid curiosity would win out and they’d still have decent attendance at the show. 

The sun went down and slowly the crowd started to trickle in. Before long the big tent was full. The jugglers and dancers got the crowd going. Silvertips was stationed in a smaller tent to the side, offering Luck Spider bites to anyone willing to pay. The Luck Spider’s venom lasted no more than twenty four hours but gambler’s lined up outside the tent. There would most likely be brawl over a forbidden poker game somewhere in town tonight. The third gambler in line offered to pay triple the fee if she wouldn’t let any of his rivals get a bite. A brawl started in the line and Waltz had to toss the three of them out. After an hour, the Tarantula Tent was closed down for the night. Silvertips was sent to get ready for her high wire act. Fifteen minutes later Silvertips was hanging from the ceiling of the tent by a length of spider silk. It was the closest she ever got to feeling like she was one of her beloved spiders and she loved it. The crowd oohed and aahed as she twisted herself up in the silk and then unrolled herself until she was perilously close to the ground. She was in the process of climbing up the silk again when the first scream started. At first Silvertips ignored it, assuming it was just an overanxious spectator. But then there were more screams. Silvertips was halfway to the top of the tent when she stopped to look around. The townsfolk had crammed themselves on the topmost bleachers. They all stared at the main entrance and many of the children were weeping. A glowing silver wolf stalked into the tent. You could see the outline of the tent canvas and poles through him. He growled loudly and several women fainted. The wolf walked to the center ring and sat just below where Silvertips was suspended. Silvertips could see the sands below him through his translucent form. She knew she should be afraid but wasn’t. Silvertips had spent most of the last five years afraid of her father’s anger. A ghost wolf paled in comparison. Waltz stomped into the ring bellowing. “What’s going on here???!”

No one answered him. He caught sight of the wolf and he went pale. “You? How? You are dead! I saw to it myself! You should’ve burned and instead you took Sandrine with you! You cursed beast! Go back to hell!” His voice shrieked as panic clawed at his throat. The wolf stalked closer to him. Between one blink and the next he became a man instead. He was no more solid but he was far larger than Waltz. Waltz shrieked and ran into the night. The ghost turned and looked at Silvertips. Silvertips was shocked to see a mirror of her own green eyes staring back at her. His wavy brown hair held streaks of silver just like her own did. Her mind and heart made fast calculations. This was her true father. Murdered by that bastard Waltz. The ghost placed his hand over his heart and bowed to her. Then he was a wolf again and he bounded after Waltz. The tent was silent as howls and screams tore through the night. Silvertips slid down to the ring floor. She gathered poise she didn’t know she posessed. “I’m afraid the show is over for tonight. Anyone who would like a refund, please see me at the box office.” 

She walked out and stepped into the booth. None stopped on their way out. Several people crossed themselves as they passed by. Some murmured prayers. A few placed their hands over their hearts and nodded to her as they left. Silvertips returned to the barge and immediately released the river prince. Outside of his small tank he unfolded until he was taller than her. He gobbled down a plate of forest berries and nuts. He thanked her and dove into the river.

In the morning, Waltz’s body was found beside the river. His face was a mask of sheer terror. There was not a single scratch on him. There were wolf prints in the mud beside his body and monkshood blossoms were scattered everywhere. No one wanted to touch it. In the night the river crocodiles dragged Waltz away.

The prompts for today’s story:

  • circus 
  • travel to rivers 
  • gobble forest berries and nuts 
  • murder log 
  • rosy future 
  • spider bites 
  • called silvertips

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Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady