Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Fire of the Gods

Fletcher at the Dig

His tent snapping in a hot, dusty wind, Fletcher found it nearly impossible to concentrate on his journal entry, an entry on which so much depended.

The porter, Daran, waited just outside with wide eyes, looking up at the group of riders carefully picking their way down the narrow trail snaking along the inner wall of the crater.

“Even now, Bryce approaches with a party of loyalists to steal the figurine,” Fletcher scratched quickly. “My initial academic excitement in the historicity of the piece has been supplanted by more fundamental concerns. No, that is inaccurate; it is an existential dread that now pervades my soul.”

Daran tentatively stuck his head between the canvas flaps. “Sir, only three kilometers more and Doctor Holcombe is upon us.” He looked back over his shoulder, panting.

Fletcher wrote on. “I am giving the figurine to Daran to get it out of the country. His wife’s cousin runs some sort of illegal smuggling operation along the passage to Peshawar. I can only hope that the figurine and this journal will make their way to you from this godforsaken pit. As long as the carving stays out of Bryce’s hands, all may yet be well. Nevertheless, his fumbling interference has awakened something ancient and, what is worse, it has taken nearly complete possession of him.”

Fletcher wrapped the journal, along with the figurine, into a leather sack. He bound it all together with a length of catgut, and rushed to the tent’s entrance. He pushed it into Daran’s hands.

“Take it, for fuck’s sake!” he said, “And do as I have instructed. Get it to Susan!”

He watched Daran’s eastward ascent out of the pit, intermittently hidden by the scorched, black trees and the great billows of steam.

“Godspeed,” Fletcher said, rasping, as he watched the porter climb up through the blasted heath. “Get it to Susan, Daran. My journal will guide her actions. She will know what to do.”

Fletcher  sat in his canvas chair, facing the flapping maw of the tent. The smell of all these burning things made him nauseous. He drew his machete from its scabbard.

And waited.

Fletcher at the Trial

“And your expedition ended in the deaths of several members of your research contingent. Is that not true?” The prosecutor pushed her glasses down to the tip of her nose, her dead, grey eyes fixed on Fletcher.

“That is correct. Several members of the group were horribly mutilated, including my research assistant, Bryce Holcombe, as you know.”

The prosecutor looked at the jury before continuing. “Yes, Doctor Fletcher. Those of us here in the so-called developed world can only imagine the sense of horror to which you were subjected in this circumstance.”

Blinding light crashed through the wall-length windows in the courtroom. Fletcher looked down at his shoes.

“Dr. Fletcher, would you care to comment on how your extended absence may have contributed to your wife’s state of mind?  I mean, raising three children alone, for twenty-two months, while her husband  was off in far-flung places, digging up old civilizations and whatnot. Do you not think that could be stressful?”

Fletcher looked up at Susan. Her eyes were seemingly vacant, but inwardly focused, he knew, on an undying hatred for humankind.

Several minutes of silence ensued, punctuated by stifled coughs and aborted sneezes.

“Doctor Fletcher?” The prosecutor was now standing beside her table.

“Yes?” Fletcher asked.

“Your wife was found surrounded by your mutilated children. This jury would like your insight as to how that might have come about.”

Now Fletcher’s grief flowed out in great, heaving sobs. “It was a mistake!”

The prosecutor strode to the witness stand. “Doctor Fletcher. Do you have any idea what  the words Cthuga kraal boglarthop mean? Your honor, the prosecution introduces exhibit one-forty-three-A.” The photograph showed three humps under a white and red sheet. On the wall above them, the unintelligible words were scrawled in what looked like blood.

Fletcher looked out the window. Heat rose off the pavement of the courthouse parking lot in radiated waves.

“It means ‘Cthuga forever burns’.”

“What did you send home to your wife, Doctor, along with your journal?”

Fletcher loosened his tie and said, “An artifact.”

Susan at Home

She fed them.

She bathed them.

After stories, she kissed them and hurried downstairs to the package.

A large glass of merlot rested on the table as she eyed the leather sack and twirled the catgut binding round her index finger.

She ignored the journal. More of Fletcher’s tedious ramblings.

But the carving was exquisite. She felt its heat and breathed deeply.

The Fire of the Gods

It was much later that night when the children were startled awake by growls that shook the walls.

Together, frightened, they stepped lightly down the stairs.

“Mother?”

Silence.

Then more growling.

Mother?”

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Well, I haven’t participated in one of Chuck Wendig’s FF challenges for a while, so…  The challenge this week was to write a story under 1,000 words entitled “The Fire of the Gods”. Well, I dreamed of Lovecraft and August Derleth and this is what came out. The elder gods, the ancient ones, just love to mess with lower life forms… or perhaps they’re just misunderstood. Anyway – hope you enjoy it!

Image by Beesnest McCLain


All the Colors of This World…

The teacher’s day started like thousands of winter weekdays before it. She made up the twin bed, drank half a cup of instant coffee, fed the cats, put on her wool coat, and walked across the street to the school. She seated herself primly at her desk. The empty rows of desks reminded her of a barren, November garden. She awaited the imminent clamor of arriving children, children whom she would ignore today while she contemplated the dull grayness of the tenements outside her window and considered what must be done.

Today is the day, she thought. Let the nightmare end.

The teacher had left no note of her plan, but she had filled many notebooks describing her despair and her musings on the different methods one might employ to end one’s life. She would exit the world unheralded and unloved, just as she had entered it thirty-four years earlier. Why had kindness and warmth never bent in her direction? Her body had known no pleasure save for what little she, on those rare mornings, was able to provide herself.

A wasted life, best ended.

And then the new girl was presented to her, all large, sad slate eyes and dirty, coppery hair, and of course she had to be introduced to the class and found text books, and writing implements, and wasn’t this just the worst day to have this type of distraction?

But the teacher was one to fulfill her duty, no matter the inconvenience. She escorted the new girl to a desk where she immediately drew the stares and taunts of the class. The teacher, distracted, vaguely admonished the children to leave poor Agnes alone and get along with their lessons, please.

The tik-tik-tik of the freezing rain against the window mesmerized the teacher. The bells rang for recess but she merely sat, thinking of oblivion, until the children bolted of their own accord, casting worried glances in her direction. All except the new girl, who stood motionless in front of the teacher’s desk staring, holding a pink rose between her right thumb and forefinger.

And the teacher accepted the flower. She pushed its soft pink petals against her nostrils and inhaled deeply, so deeply her ribs ached. But the teacher did not release that breath. She closed her eyes, sat back in her chair, and held her breath, refusing to release the scent from her head. As if in a dream, she noticed that the sun had broken through a crack in the clouds and bore down on the large east windows. Shimmering light bathed her face, and from a place deep within welled up images of love directed at her, the teacher, the woman who never knew love, and then the teacher was startled awake when the new girl said, “Pink can heal.”

The teacher opened her eyes and wept and did not stop until well after the other children wandered back in from recess with fearful looks on their faces.

And so the teacher did not end her life that day. The teacher’s feelings blossomed as each day the new girl brought her another flower. And the new girl always seemed to know which flower was the right flower to present, as if the new girl could read her mind or her heart and apply the just right remedy. And the teacher learned.

She learned blue hydrangeas soothed. And orange nasturtiums thrilled. And white poppies intoxicated. And there was no end to her pleasure while she smelled the flowers, but in the evenings, she still could be counted upon to burn or cut her forearms until the kitchen table was slick with blood and tears.

One day the teacher asked the new girl why the feelings the flowers brought her were only temporary, and the new girl said, “Because you want to die, they will not take root. You are barren. I’m doing my best.”

And the teacher became angry at being called barren for the third time in her life, and she  shouted, “I don’t understand! Where do you get these flowers? I want to see where they come from, do you hear?” And she shook the girl back and forth and tried to reach into her pocket and pull out a flower to sniff, but the little girl threw the teacher off with unexpected strength.

Then it suddenly seemed to the teacher that it was sunset, although the children were at recess weren’t they?. The sky was dark, and a fiery red sun looked in on her and the new girl from just above the horizon, like some malevolent one-eyed god.

And the new girl was changing too. She grew taller, her head elongated and horns thrust themselves out of her forehead while her eyes migrated off to the sides.  She produced an enormous red rose from the pocket of her jacket and with a low, growl said, “Red means wrath.” And then the teacher was no more.

The teacher was never found, but everyone assumed the worst for in her desk were discovered several personal notebooks, written in her own hand, describing her black depression as well as her thoughts on ending her life. She also described a person she referred to as ‘the new girl’.

The bottom drawer of her desk was filled with dead flowers: azaleas, poppies, lilies, roses.

No one could make sense of the flowers.

And there had been no new girl in the teacher’s class this year.

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This is one of those stories that was completely unplanned. I had not the faintest idea of what the ending of this story was going to be when I sat down to write it. Many times, one knows the ending and the writing is just a blazing of a trail to get there.

I hope people will continue to find the blog and read the stories. I’d like to think the stories provide some invitation to ponder or just a little entertainment on the train, the bus – some stories that don’t require a huge time commitment from the reader.  If you’re so inclined, please leave a comment thanks for stopping by. Hope you come back.

Image by studiobeerhost


Sitting in Darkness is Back!

I miss Sitting in Darkness.  I miss putting these little stories up here.

So, I’m going to start up again.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a story sparked by this picture.

Feels good to be back.

Image by studiobeerhorst


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