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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Noteworthy and Upcoming Events

Don't forget you have through May 31st to read and comment on all of our May posts. Each comment is an entry to the drawing for an Amazon gift card. Winner will be announced in early June.

May's readership hasn't quite met with April's totals, but there are a few more days yet. We'd love if you share the link and recommendation for your favorite Unbelievable story from May.

In June we have plans to add a new monthly feature that we hope you'll enjoy and look forward to each month.

Speaking of June. What's on the calendar for our LQR authors?

June Noteworthy Events


June 30 - Katie L. Carroll book signing
                Avon, CT Public Library
                7:00 pm
                www.avonctlibrary.info/localauthorfest.html for more info

Katie will be signing her YA fantasy, Elixir Bound

Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone. It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked being that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love.

June Upcoming Events


June 7 - THE GREAT CONNECTICUT CAPER Mystery Solved event will take place at none other than Gillette Castle State Park on the day the final chapter is released, Sunday, June 7, 2015 from 2-4 p.m.! Bring the whole family for storytelling, letterboxing, craft activities, and author & illustrator meet and greets. Hosted by the Connecticut Humanities. www.eventbrite.com/e/mystery-solved-tickets-16635416980


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Reader Flash – Share Your Own Story

Photo Credit
May has been Unbelievable! Now it’s your turn. We’d love you to share your own flash fiction inspired by our unbelievable theme. In no more than about 200 words share a story that explores the good, the bad, or the ugly side of things beyond belief.  Fiction or non – your choice.

Show us your writing chops. Post anonymously if you want, but keep it PG-13 rated. A good test is to ask yourself if you would be comfortable reading it to your teenager.

Leave your story in the comments and feel free to leave encouraging comments for other flashers! Each story and comment gives you another entry into our May Giveaway.


Monday, May 25, 2015

The Dental Dam Breaks by Stuart R. West



Oral hygienists are the chattiest people on earth, so thought Henry. Particularly when they jam tools and prod fingers in your mouth, rendering it impossible to reply to their constant questions. Of course, finding a new dentist is like trying on a comfy pair of socks—when they fit, it’s awesome; when they don’t, blisters may apply.
“So, what do you do, Henry?” The tube sucked at his mouth like a miniature vacuum cleaner. With a slurping sound, the tip of his tongue swept up, blocking the air flow. “I mean, like, for work.”
“Ah a ahhpha ahtiss.”
“That’s cool, that’s cool.”
Henry doubted the gothic-looking hygienist truly thought his graphic artist position was cool. No way she could’ve possibly understood him. Then again, she’d probably been schooled in dental translation skills. Still, her blatant apathy made it clear she’d rather be anywhere but here.
Behind Henry, a timid voice peeped up. “Hello, hello, I’m Dr. Barrows.” A hairy-knuckled hand stuck in front of Henry. As Henry shook the hand, he couldn’t help but worry about all that hand hair. He twisted, trying to see the dentist, but the awkward chair—a contortionist’s dream chaise—held him captive. Honestly, if their relationship was intimate enough to allow this man to poke around in his mouth, Henry at least wanted to see him.
With the tube gulping down his remaining saliva, Henry managed, “Ha, Docta, I Herry.”
“Nice to meet you, Henry.”  Dr. Barrows sounded less than gung-ho, no rat-tat-tat patter Henry had grown accustomed to from other dentists. Rather, Barrows sounded tentative, quiet. Maybe not a bad thing, really. At least Henry wouldn’t have to talk. “I see you’re in for…” A rattling of paper. “…root canal surgery.”
Henry’s eyes snapped up like spring-coiled shades. “Wha?  No! Cahity! Cahity!” Henry spat the tube out. It landed limply on his baby-sized bib, hissing like an angry snake. “Cavity.” He sat up, jacking a thumb back and forth toward his mouth, ensuring there’d be no question as to why he was in the dentist’s chair. No, not chair. Torture rack. But he damn sure wanted to make sure it was the right torture, at least.
“Hmm. Guess Rita got confused over the x-rays.” Assuming “Rita” was the raccoon mascaraed hygienist, apparently she’d fled the scene. Otherwise, Henry imagined, she’d be apologizing, trying to save her job. Good for her, not so good for Henry. For some reason, he felt more comfortable with a witness. “Ah. Here we are. Yup. A cavity.”
Relief settled Henry back into the rack. He squirmed, trying to make the chair hump nestle comfortably against his back.
Dr. Barrows sighed, a longing sauna-seeking sigh. Paper ripped. Seconds crawled. The dentist cleared his throat, whispering something inaudible. “Okay, Henry, here we go.”
Henry still hadn’t seen his dentist. But it was impossible to miss the huge needle waving in front of his eyes, a mutant hornet stinger. He clamped his eyes shut. Rubber-covered fingers kneaded his gums. Something hit the offending cavity, charging an electric jab of pain. His stomach pot-bellied up, while his feet scrabbled at the bottom of the chair. Then the hypodermic dropped anchor.
“I’ll give this a few minutes to work, then come back and check on you. You may need nitrous oxide. You’re kinda’ a big guy. Ever had nitrous before?”
Already, a not unpleasant, slight tingling sensation crawled up his face. His lips turned elastically lazy, refusing to mold words properly. “Yeth.”
“Good, good.”
Dr. Barrows’ footsteps receded, dress shoes clacking across linoleum. Then the swooshing of tennis shoes. Rita’s face loomed large, an animated balloon bob-bob-bobbing in front of Henry. Her eyes widened, her apathy gone but replaced by something far worse. Fear. “Oh my God, Dr. Barrows is crazy,” she whispered. “Don’t let him know I said anything. Just be careful.”
“Wai…wha? Wai a mimmute!”
Too late. Henry’s gothic angel of mercy whisked away on rubber-soled flats, his pleas unheard, unanswered.
What the hell’s going on here?
Better to suffer through a sore tooth rather than go under the drill of possibly crazy Dr. Barrow. Henry pulled at the bib, attempting to sit up. Suddenly, hairy knuckles splayed out even hairier fingers onto his chest.
“Whoa, now, settle down, Henry.” Barrows chuckled as he pressed Henry back into the chair, apparently a well-practiced welcoming procedure.  “It’s not uncommon for people to panic before they have surgery.”
Surgery? I’m just getting a filling!
“Nuh. Feelin’ bettah.”
A plastic shell clamped down over Henry’s mouth and nose.
“Yep. Seen it before. Jitters. You just relax now. The nitrous will send you off to sleepy-land.”
A hissing sound seeped out of the mask, bubbling into his ears.
Crazy. Hairy knuckles. Gonna’ drill my mouth.
 Henry smelled nothing. He thought he tasted something slightly sweet, maybe not. While his body relaxed, his mind gyrated, wanting to rabbit in multiple directions. But his body persevered in the battle, coasting along on waves of giddiness.
Dr. Barrows released another sigh, echoing faraway as if from within a tunnel. A blurry bearded face hovered in front of him, surrounded with a fringe of lumberjack-orange hair. Twin green specks of light bounced off Barrows’ glasses, a wolf in the dark. And Henry still couldn’t make out the dentist’s features.
“You know something, Henry? I feel like I can trust you.” Barrows’ voice sounded tired, yet lilting in a poet’s manner, soothing. Sooo soothing.
 “Did you know dentists’ hold the highest rate of suicide?” continued Barrows. “It’s true. I used to wonder about it. Not any longer. ‘Cause I found out why.” His voice dropped even lower, softer. “Guess it first happened—what?—two years ago. That’s when I first heard the voices.”
Voices? What’s he yammering about? Where am I?
“I was finger-deep—finger-deep, sorta’ a dental joke—inside a patient’s mouth. Then I heard singing. High-pitched voices, indecipherable. But definitely singing. A chorus, a hellish chorus. Coming from the patient’s mouth.” Other than the hissing gas infiltrating Henry’s lungs, the room fell silent for a moment. “Thought I was going crazy. Wrote it off, went home and tied one on. But it kept happening. With more and more patients. And the worst part, Henry, the worst part…you know what the worst part was?”
Barrows paused again, clearly waiting for an answer. He was in for a long wait. Henry couldn’t say anything even if he wanted to.
“Well, I’ll tell you. When I took the drill into my patients’ mouths…just doing my job…the voices screamed. Cartoon mouse shrieks. Painful, agonized shouting. I…I was killing unseen, living beings…communities, perhaps…worlds. As Oppenheimer said, ‘I have become death, the destroyer of worlds’. I couldn’t take it, Henry. I tried to talk to my wife, my friends…they abandoned me, thought I was crazy. Yet…and yet, here I am. Still drilling, still operating, still…killing. What I’m killing, I don’t know…not sure what…”
Barrows’ voice travelled down a long hallway, dissipating like fine smoke into whispers. And then radio silence. Nothing.
Henry woke with a jolt, drenched in sweat, freezing. Something banged inside his skull like a drum. He struggled into a sitting position, checked out his surroundings.
The dentist. That’s right. Cavity. But…what happened?
He had a vague recollection, a half-remembered dream that felt ready to drift into oblivion. Something about…Dr. Barrows?
When he stood, he nearly toppled back into the chair. No thanks, not today. He felt his cheek, chipmunked out to grotesque proportions, sore, but not too bad. Apparently, Dr. Barrows had completed the dental surgery while he was out.
With the back of his hand, he wiped drool from his chin. Then he stumbled into reception.
“Hi. Um, I guess…I need to make a follow-up appointment with Dr. Barrows.”
The receptionist stared at him, her face crinkling like cellophane. “I’m sorry, sir…you said ‘Barrows’?”
“Uh-huh.” Henry didn’t particularly believe Barrows was an exceptional dentist, not by a mile. But, hey, he didn’t remember any pain, and that had to count for something.
Still the receptionist wouldn’t loosen her disapproving glare. “We have no Dr. Barrows here, sir. Maybe you mean Dr. Stillson or— “
“No. I’m sure it’s Dr. Barrows.”
The sour-faced woman craned her head around, bird-like, as if hunting for worms. Abruptly, she stood. “Um…wait right here, sir.  I’ll be back.” She scuttled off.
After ten minutes, Henry’d had enough. He tossed down his business card and hurried for the exit.
Weird. In fact, the whole day seemed weird.
Not that he remembered much.
Henry dug through his muddied recollections as he rode down in the elevator. Then the Muzak started. No. Not Muzak. The song spilled from his mouth, just not in his voice. Henry couldn’t carry a tune, his attempted warbling able to scare off cats. But this—this--sounded far worse. A sped-up record, a chorus amped up on helium.
And he swore the song was Smile.
* * * *
Here I am, talking about myself, pretending not to. Ah, I'm probably not fooling anyone, but play along anyway, 'kay? Just imagine Morgan Freeman narrating and we'll all get through this just fine.
For more of Stuart R. West's adult and young adult suspense tales filled with light heart and dark humor, check out his Amazon page.
And please do check out Stuart's blog featuring weekly rants, failed stand-up comedy routines and incisive author interviews: Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Does Magic Exist?

Continued from THE CUBE...What happens when the numbers fall into place and Bethany holds a multi-million dollar winning ticket.


Unbelievable.
I checked and rechecked the numbers for the millionth time. At least once for every dollar the ticket might, no, would win. Even if there were several lucky winners the numbers meant I could donate millions to my favourite charity. Anonymously of course, and there I stumbled on another problem.
Not that holding the winning ticket to a mammoth lotto win was a problem. No. My problem stemmed from the undermining of my faith in the world where I lived.

Magic didn’t exist here. Fair enough, there were magicians. Clever illusionists. I give them credit for their skills, but that’s not the magic I refer to. Nor were the ‘miracles’ performed by saints what I considered ‘magic’, though they ,too, left me wondering and hoping they were real.

If I credited my choice of winning numbers to the strange cube given to me by a total stranger, then I must by default, admit to believing in something very similar to magic. Fate? Destiny? They didn’t quite cover the apprehension and fear I saw in the stranger’s dying eyes. Had he been cynical, when he stood at the crossroad on which I now stood? Did disbelief lead him to a lethal miscalculation? Did I believe in coincidence?

If magic didn’t exist and I ignored the stranger’s warnings, the outcome of not following his precise instructions would leave me with a magical figure in my bank account. Would it also leave me to share his fate, fading away with a lethal disease?

At this stage I can’t even rely on following the choice my character might make. Being an author gives me multiple personalities to run ideas through. Only this was too important to leave to a flawed heroine, hero type or villain.

If I carried on with my plan, donating the winning ticket to a charity of my choice without touching a penny of the windfall, my actions would prove I do believe in magic. Do I? Is this my world, where science rules and logic defies even the most wonderful mysteries? Does God exist? Are we alone? Why do I need to debate these deep topics? My life has flowed from one day to the next, without much drama. Life, love, work and recreation, holidays and chillaxing with my peeps. Nothing to complain about. Mundane but exactly as I envisage things. Of course, I am still waiting, dreaming of meeting ‘Mr Right’ but in the meantime I enjoy each relationship I enter into.

I run my fingers over the winning ticket. The paper is cheap, the print will probably fade. Hardly a million dollars’ worth of paper and ink. It could change my life. Don’t think I haven’t lain awake all night spending every dollar, again and again… The things I could do, the people I could help. Would setting up my own charity count as ‘giving’ the money to charity? Or would that break the cube’s rules. Would I dare try to trick the magic? If I believed in it?

I unfolded a printed sheet of paper and re read the wording I had penned. Anonymous donation. There were more rules though. My rules. Listed in point form. I placed the ticket on the paper and refolded the letter with care. Once satisfied the ticket was safe I slipped the paper into an envelope and sealed it. Taking care, I applied a strip of tape over each end and across the seal. For added security. On the front of the envelope I had printed the words ‘Only to be Opened in the Presence of a Quorum of Members’.

I didn’t want the ticket to tempt an over-worked volunteer. The unregistered winning ticket although on cheap paper and printed with poor ink was worth millions to anyone who handed it in. I wanted to ensure it found its way into the coffers of the charity and not the pocket of one person.

I had also printed a covering letter to explain the need to only open the sealed envelope  where enough working members of the charity were gathered. Feeling confident I had taken enough precaution against temptation I closed the brown business envelope, already addressed to the charity in question, and headed to the post office.

The early morning rush crowded the mall. I strode passed the Magic Bean Café, resisting the aroma. My purpose drove me to dodge the scurrying workers. I would join them soon. For now though I had time to spare. I needed it. My hands were sweaty, my knees shaking though I walked determinedly toward the Post office. Joining the queue I needed to remind myself to breathe. I clutched the envelope in one hand, the other strangled the straps of my handbag. Finally, gasping for air as though I had run a marathon I approached the counter.

“How can I help you?” The sales girl addressed me. This was the moment of truth. No return from here.

It took me a moment to calm my racing heart and ask for the envelope to be sent registered mail. Yes, signature required. Yes, tracking. Or should that be ‘no’? I didn’t want the charity to trace the donation back to me. Could I leave a multi-million dollar ticket to find its way through the post?
I chewed my bottom lip, wondering how I could have overlooked researching this aspect of the project. The patient sales attendant became less patient. I dithered and decided.

“Just register the envelope to get to its destination. They don’t need to know it is from me.”
“Seven dollars eighty, thanks.”

She didn’t even raise an eyebrow as she stamped the envelope, initialled the corner and tossed the whole thing behind her into a huge burlap bag.

Done.

I believe in magic. I must, why else would I cast aside a multi-million dollar windfall. I was either the world's most gullible idiot or in line to have a change of luck. Good luck.

I turned from the counter and bumped into one of the scurrying workers.

Blake, the ‘oh so hot’ bachelor who worked upstairs and who my colleagues voted “Mr Most Eligible”, caught my arm and steadied me.

“Sorry…” I muttered, still trying to stop shaking. I wanted him to keep holding me. His hand didn’t shake and his strength helped my heart and head focus on something other than the likelihood magic existed.

“Listen, you look a little flustered. Why don’t we grab a coffee, and I will walk you to work.”

“You? What? We, I mean me… would I?” My tongue refused to be associated with further embarrassment and my mutterings faded. I took a deep breath and forced real words into being. “That would be great. I am a little rattled.”

“Great. You aren’t usually in this early. You’re Bethany, right? I have seen you so often yet we haven’t met properly. I’m Blake. I work…”

“Upstairs. I know.” Damn, why couldn’t I say something clever, witty or even keep my mouth shut. Did it sound as if he was a regular topic in our staff room? 

He grinned. “Come on. The Magic Bean Café had a spare table a moment ago. I will shout you a drink this time, but next time it’s your turn, okay?”

Next time… Okay, I needed to sit down and re assess my world. What luck, good luck, to have Blake not only ask me to have coffee with him, but to ensure we met again, for a drink.

Unbelievable. I was beginning to believe in magic. 
***

Rosalie Skinner resides on the east coast of Australia when not totally immersed in the fantasy world of her writing.
Rosalie’s love of the ocean, nature, history and horses has enabled her to give her books an authentic air. Her latest achievement has been to ride through the Australian Snowy mountains and see the wild brumbies run. When not watching the migrating whales pass her doorstep she has more humble pastimes.
Other than being a published author, her greatest thrill is being a grandmother. Born over fourteen weeks early her granddaughter’s perfect development and growth are a miracle and joy.

Follow:  Blog,

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The True Diary of Melanie Jane, AKA, Runaway Jane (by Crystal Collier)

What follows is the true diary of Melanie Jane, presumed run-away in May of 2012.

November 12

Dear Diary,

You will not believe what happened today. I was in the cafeteria and Cindy Hadlam was being herself—or should I say, she who-snubs-everyone because they’re-the-scum-on-the-bottom of her shoe. Today her three-year-old antics included throwing French fries at me. Seriously. French fries. Because she’d never eat something like that and ruin her prom-queen figure. I think deep down she’s jealous. I mean, who doesn’t want to eat pizza and marshmallows? You have to be crazy to pick salad over that.

Ignoring her (because that’s what you do with temper-tantruming toddlers), I got up to leave at the same instant a sophomore walked past my table.

Collision.

Chocolate milk spewed from its smashed carton like a garden fountain, pizza crust flew through the air like a trapeze monkey, and apple slices twirled like ballerinas onto the trays and tables around me. If I wasn’t humiliated by how much of it stained my flannel button-up, I might have calculated the likelihood of making the accident happen again, but aimed at Cindy’s table.

Wanting to book it out of there, I remembered Gran’s words: “When life gives you lemons…”

I took a bow, dropped my empty tray on the table, and walked straight for the exit, chin held high. A couple kids applauded. Most laughed, but that’s not the amazing part.

Todd Waters.

Source
He stood in the doorway, him and those dreamy green eyes. He gave me a salute as if to say, “One solider to another, way to take a blow.” The best part, he was actually looking at me.

Yes, I’m talking about untouchable Todd—the guy who could be the head of the basketball team, the quarterback, and the student body president all in one—except he sticks to his books, quiet corners, and lets the entire female populace drool.

Granted, he might have been looking at the milk dribbling down my shirt, but staying positive here…

So all in all, not a bad day. Lesson learned? Be confident—even in bad situations.


December 12

Dear Diary,

I saw Todd in the office today while bringing in a teacher’s note. He was wearing an army jacket and his khaki pants were crinkled, but he was still as hot as lava. He pounded a fist on the receptionist’s desk, dark hair hanging shaggy in his eyes and his teeth bared.

I didn’t think Todd got angry. In fact, I don’t think anyone has ever seen him do more than crack a smile, but tension wafted off him like gas fumes. (Not that he could ever smell bad in any way. Gas fumes can be pleasant, you know?)

Anyhow, so he whirled around and stomped toward me. I thought about moving out of the doorway, but I didn’t. Todd stopped right in front of me. He reached around me for the door handle, then, like coming out of a trance, he blinked twice and stopped, looking right into my eyes.

I want to say my knees didn’t go shaky, but they did. He smelled like a sea breeze. I felt dazed and a little dizzy—because that’s what happens when you stare into a gorgeous guy’s eyes—and then he touched me. Physical contact.

He put his hand on my arm and gently shifted me away from the door.

I dropped my note at the desk and hurried after him. He was halfway out the front doors when I caught up and asked, “Todd, are you okay?”

“Just a really bad day.” He turned away like he was going to leave, then glanced back over his shoulder and asked, “Wanna go for a ride?”


Source
Did I? DUH!

We hopped in his car and drove for the beach. And we talked. He said his parents wanted him to come home, permanently, and he’s not ready for that. He likes living in John’s Island. He wouldn’t say where home is or who he lives with now—some kind of relative—but he took off because his parents were putting way too much pressure on him. I told him about my cousin Lindsey whose parents expect her to be perfect, and how she ended up in therapy with a nervous twitch when she got her first B. Talk about pressure! I told him to be brave and stand up for what’s important to him. I hope he’ll get to stay. After that we talked and talked, and he even smiled a couple times. It was a good day.

Lesson learned? Take time for people. You never know how much you’re needed.


January 1

Dear Dairy,

Reason to celebrate today. Todd gets to stay! His parents agreed. Isn’t that awesome? He called to thank me for encouraging him to fight. I’m so glad.

Lesson learned? Doing a good thing gets you a call back!


February 22

Dear Diary,

Things are a blur since Todd and I became friends, but I had to write today. Todd and I talk all the time. He probably knows me better than anyone, but it’s hard to get him to talk about himself. I think he’s having a hard time with anything related to home or his parents. I don’t blame him. They’re still putting pressure on him. When he needs a break from them, he calls me and we take a drive to the beach. I love the beach. The sunsets are amazing, and chatting with Todd? Well, it doesn’t get better than that. He’s like my best friend. And maybe something more.

But that’s not why I had to write! Todd asked me to Prom. Me! Can you believe that?
  
Lesson learned? Patience always pays out.


March 5

Dear Diary,

Prom was epic. Todd looked totally amazing in his tux, and he took me to the beach afterwards. Just the two of us.

He asked if I’d ever thought about running away from home. I told him I thought about leaving all the time, but not like abandoning my family. I’m a Junior. One more year and I’ll be out on my own, going to Berkley, rooming with a stranger, and living it up. He graduates in a month. When I asked what he’s planning, he shrugged and said he’d probably go into the family business.

And no, I don’t know what the family business is.
Source

But that’s not the amazing part. He kissed me. K-I-S-S-E-D ME! And it was amazing—the epitome of every girl’s dream kiss. I’m pretty sure I’m in love with him.

Especially since he asked me to be his girlfriend. (Because the kiss wasn’t awesome enough.)

Oh, and he asked if I wanted to meet his parents. HIS PARENTS! I don’t know how we got so serious all of a sudden, but I told him yes (to both), and he said he’d arrange the meeting. This is crazy!

Todd Waters is my boyfriend!

Lesson learned? Anything is possible.


May 23

Dear Diary,

I’m a little angry. Okay, a lot angry. I shouldn’t even have this stupid diary right now!

Todd took me to meet his parents alright. On the beach. He had a basket full of stuff that I assumed was a picnic. Never assume things. He seemed really nervous, which completely makes sense, but I figured he was worried that I wouldn’t get along with Mommy and Daddy.

He dragged me out to this sandbar and started wading into the water.

For a minute I thought he was totally crazy. He reached for me and said, “Come on, this way.” And then he smiled a winning smile that could make any girl melt. So I took his hand.

Worst. Mistake. Ever!

He pulled me into the water and it instantly swallowed me. Like a giant mouth—but not quite as stinky, and without teeth. Oh, and I could breathe. It’s like a bubble formed around us as we sank down into the depths of the ocean until everything around us was black. Pitch black.

“Melanie,” Todd whispered, “meet my parents.”

And I did. His mom’s a freakin’ nixie! Water spirit. Yeah, and she trapped his dad under water ages ago, and the poor guy is really pale and sickly, but she doesn’t care because she got the son she wanted out of him.

So the basket Todd packed? Yeah, it had my journal, an old T-shirt I usually sleep in, and my brush—all things he STOLE out of my room. And now I’m supposed to become his wife or some junk like that. And have his baby.

Oh and FYI, there is no cell coverage at the bottom of the ocean, even though Todd is nice enough to recharge my cell once a week when he goes up for sunshine.  

Jerk.
 
Source
So this is pretty much it. My life sucks. I’m prisoner to a mythical creature. I’ll never go to college or see the sun again or tell my parents I didn’t run away (like the note Todd left suggested). I officially hate the ocean. And nixies. Why couldn't Todd have smiled at Cindy that day in the cafeteria?

Lesson learned? Never trust a cute guy. Not that I’ll get the chance ever again…unless I can figure out how to sneak out of here. Todd’s dad hasn’t figured a way out and he’s been searching for decades. Maybe we’ll succeed someday together, but if we do, I will not be taking this embarrassing monologue of gushing blather.

That’s it. All she wrote. The end.

Diary recovered on Pockoy Island beach, South Carolina, May 5th, 2015. No record of Todd Waters exists in school or county records. Due to the dubious nature of this account, it is inadmissible as evidence of abduction. 




Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens everything from dark fantasy, historical, and romance tales, to inspirational stories. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese.

Check out her published works for more amazing reads.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Let's Talk About the Unbelievable


I lived in Southern California. Flew to Maui for vacation. Traveled by schooner to the island of Molokai. (Through the worst trade winds in years and I get seasick on a rolling chair. Ugh. Anyway…) Rode in a Jeep up to the top of the mountain to visit a macadamia nut farm. During the presentation on how they grow and harvest the nuts I heard a couple people talking with heavy Mid-western accents. I asked, “Are you from Wisconsin?” They replied, “Yes. Brown Deer.”

I grew up in Brown Deer. The population of Brown Deer when I moved away in 1980 was 12,582 – it pretty much still is. It completely floored me that I was standing on top of a mountain on the island of Molokai talking to people from Brown Deer. What are the odds of that?

My husband traveled from our home in Oregon to Baltimore for work. A friend of ours, who lives in Southern California was in Washington DC on a business trip, but had to attend an event in Baltimore that night. They both checked in on Facebook and saw they were in the same town and made arrangements to stop and visit over a quick cup of coffee.

Those kinds of coincidences are unbelievable to me. Everything that had to line up so they were even discovered is pretty unbelievable.

What sort of events, coincidences, or happenstance have you been involved in or witnessed that left you gaping in wonder? Don't forget that each comment on our posts this month enters you into the drawing for a gift card. Click on the May Giveaway link above for details, but really, it's simple...leave a comment! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Remember the Future by Eric Price

This concludes the three part story, Cloverleaf Project.
Click here for Part 1: Thank the Lucky Stars
Click here for Part 2: The Final Transmission

The beast came around the corner and eyed the dying man while Ray watched. All he could ever do in his dreams was watch. He knew it was a dream. He had had dreams like this his whole life. As a child, his mother would say, “It’s only a nightmare.” She quickly learned “only a nightmare” didn’t begin to explain Ray’s visions. He would see disasters, assassinations, devastating accidents. He had positive dreams too, but he seldom remembered them. They didn’t stick with him. They didn’t frighten him.

For a while, his mother thought he may have precognition. When she took him in for sleep screening, and they compared his results to the times of the actual events, they realized he didn’t have the ability to see the future. The events he saw happened as he saw them.

As a thirty year old adult, time had not lessened the effects of the visions. It didn’t desensitize him to them. If anything, they became worse. Stronger. More real. And now, as he watched some ungodly creature ripping Simon to shreds, he knew, beyond any doubt, his father was dead.

Ray awoke with a start. He sat in bed, gasping to catch his breath. Sweat ran down his chest like rain through a gutter. His bed sheets had been un-tucked and knotted into a ball. They fell to the ground as he sat, practicing the breathing exercises he had learned for the purpose of calming himself in the days before the sleep screening, back when they were “only nightmares.”

He pulled on some clothes and headed down the hall to his mother’s room. Her friend, Julie, had insisted she and Ray go into hiding. At first, just a seemingly casual move every few years. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t mention it to anyone. But that changed a year ago when Adam P. Jackson, a childhood friend of Ray’s parents, Simon and Susan, and their mutual friend Julie, announced his candidacy for president. The people involved with Cloverleaf Project started disappearing. Not the first group. All except Julie and Ray’s mother had been sent on space exploration missions—from which they would never return. But the hundreds of babies born in the subsequent batches/breadings/broods, aside from enhanced strength, agility, intelligence and luck, they must have also been bread to withstand the effects of gravity. As far as anyone could tell, they may have floated into space.

Ray knew they hadn’t disappeared without a cause. So did Julie and Susan. Ray knew where they went because he dreamed about it. Julie and Susan knew because Julie had always been a firm believer in the old cliché, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” She proved her loyalty to Adam time and time again so he would keep her employed as an advisor. She betrayed said loyalty by secretly keeping Susan and Ray in hiding.

“Mom? Mom, are you awake?”

The door opened and Susan looked wide awake. “Ray? It’s 4:30 in the morning. I got up when I heard you screaming. Was it another dream? What’s wrong?”

He looked over her shoulder at the clock on her night stand. “Yeah. Another one. Come to the kitchen. I’ll brew a pot of coffee. I don’t think I’ll get any more sleep tonight.”

Susan came into the kitchen fully dressed as Ray set two cups of Highlander Grogg on the table. He motioned for her to sit has he pulled out his own chair.

She didn’t take her eyes off of him as he took a deep breath followed by a sip of his coffee.

“It’s Dad.”

Her gaze didn’t waver, but the muscles around her eyes spasmed, and a layer of tears formed on the rim.

“Did he—? What happened?”

“Mom, he’s dead.”

“You’re sure? Who am I kidding? Of course you’re sure.” A tear broke free of its eyelash levee and coursed down her cheek. “What happened?” Her voice cracked.

“Some kind of animal killed him. He hadn’t landed very long ago. Something happened to his ship too. Another animal, some type of bug, ate the metal. He…he never sent the final transmission.”

Susan took two large gulps from her cup and wiped the tears from her eyes. When she spoke again, her voice sounded as steady as ever. “We’ll have to move again. Soon. They’ll realize he should have landed by now. I’ll throw my things together. Let’s just go as soon as we can. How about sunrise?”

“No.” Ray went to the coffee pot and refilled his cup. “I’m done running. We’re done running.”

“Ray, we knew it would come to this sooner or later. If Simon sent his transmission, it would have bought us some time. We’re too high profile for Adam to attack us now. We’d have had at least until the election or maybe until his inauguration, but he’d have come for us. Now he can have us arrested, and it will be perfectly legal because Simon didn’t send his final transmission containing details of Kapa1 Ceti VI.”

He sat at the table and took his mother’s hands in his own. “I have to stop Adam. You know as well as I do he’s killing the other people created by Cloverleaf Project. You and I have always been top of the list; you for being married to Simon, and me for being a genetic impossibility since you and Dad were supposed to be sterile. Plus, I don’t think they’d afford me the luxury of killing me. Not since they have no idea what special abilities I may have other than managing to beat the odds and live.”

 “Coffee on an empty stomach gives me the jitters.” Susan refilled her cup, topped off Ray’s, and brought a container of cinnamon rolls back to the table. “What do you suggest we do?”

Ray took a bite of cinnamon roll and took his time chewing it. He washed it down with a sip of coffee and said, “We aren’t doing anything. You’re almost sixty years old. I’ll take care of it. I have to stop Adam. At the very least, I have to stop him from becoming president.”

“First of all, I’m fifty-eight. That’s almost fifty-nine, not almost sixty. Plus, I’m in better shape, both mentally and physically, than most people in their thirties and forties. Second, I’m your mother, and I’m sworn to protect you until the day I die.”

“You’ve come to the reason why I’m going alone. With any luck, and we both have an exceptional amount of luck, neither of us will have to die.” Ray paused to drink more coffee. “Adam’s arms have a long reach, and his fingers dig well below the topsoil. Stopping him may take more than putting an end to his campaign for president. I don’t know.”

But he did know.

****

Adam read through his speech again. No mention of the disappearances. Perfect. The small amount of public outcry happened almost a month ago, and it died down as quickly as it started. It all came from the extremist branch of the other party, and nobody takes them seriously anyway.

A mention of my accomplishments. Discuss a few unattainable goals. Shake some hands, kiss some babies, and I’m sipping a cocktail on my private plane before noon. Do politicians still kiss babies? I should ask Julie.

A knock came at the door. Julie stuck her head in and said, “Mr. Jackson, it’s time.”

“Thank you, Julie. Oh, while you’re here, should I kiss babies?”

Julie’s brow furrowed, but quickly returned to its smooth appearance. “Sure. If someone presents you with their baby, you can kiss it.” A smile brightened her serious face, somehow making her look younger yet showing the crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes. “Don’t go picking up babies and kissing them if their parents don’t offer them, though. People will think it’s creepy.”

Four security guards stood sentinel outside his door. They flanked Adam two by two as they traversed the corridor leading to the outdoor stage. The draft carried the salty taste of seawater on the air. Adam had considered keeping some of the Cloverleaf Project products. He could see the benefit they’d provide with security jobs, but he calculated the risk as too great. He couldn’t have humans as advanced as himself walking around.

He had Julie where he wanted her. She thought him a savior of the human race. She’d be the last to die. But Simon’s family. They presented a problem. First, he had no idea where to look for them. They show up every once in a while and disappear again without a trace. Julie would help him find them, then she could go too. Who knows, maybe at the same time.

A muffled sound behind Adam pulled him from his thoughts. He turned, but no one followed him—not even his bodyguards. Another sound came from the other direction, and Adam stood alone in the corridor.

“This ends today, Adam.”

“What? Who said that? Show yourself. Is this some kind of prank?”

“You took something from me. Now I’m taking something from you.”

Footfalls landed on the ground behind Adam. He spun to look into an all too familiar face. But not a face from the present, a face from the past.

“I know you. You’re Simon’s son. What’s your name? Randal?”

“Raymond. My friends call me Ray, so you can call me Raymond.”

Adam smiled. “I’ve been looking for you, kid. Well, I’ve been looking for your mom. You don’t interest me much. Julie tells me you're not special. She says you may not even be Simon’s son. What are the odds two sterile people could reproduce?”

Now Ray had a chance to smile. “You recognized me at once. I could see it in your eyes. You know as well as I do how much I look like him. They are my parents, and there’s a lot about me you don’t know.”

Adam shot his hand into his sports coat and produced a classic Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum revolver.

With advanced genetics coming from both parents, Ray sidestepped the line of fire, and kicked Adam’s arm skyward. Without his incredible strength, Adam would have never maintained a grip on the gun.

“Unbelievable. How can it be? How can you be?”

He lowered the gun level with Ray’s head and pulled the trigger. The report sounded like a cannon in the corridor.

Ray’s cheek stung from the graze of the bullet. He spun, backhanded Adam in the face, and ripped the gun from his hand.

Adam landed on the ground. A two inch gash below his right eye gushed blood. Disoriented and off balance from the blow, he struggled to get to his feet.

While Adam fought gravity, Ray opened the cylinder, checked the remaining rounds, and snapped it closed. A swift kick sent Adam sprawling. Ray stepped on the presidential candidates neck and rested the barrel of the gun on his forehead.

****

Susan passed through the hallway for probably the fifth or sixth time before she noticed the envelope on the table. Simple capital letters on the front said, “MOM.” Her heart stopped as she fumbled with the seal and began to read.

Mom,

I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you any of this face to face. I had another dream a few days before Dad died, and I knew what I’d have to do. I didn't want to worry you, or have you try to talk me out of it. This dream wasn’t like the rest. It didn’t show the present. I could see the future.

I have no way of knowing if my vision will work the way I saw it, but either way you’ll have to go into hiding one more time.

Everyone will think I’m dead, but I’ll be living incognito in the country you told me you most wanted to visit. I can’t write it here in case someone by chance were to find this note before you. Of course, you should destroy it after you’ve read it. Go wherever Julie sends you, give everything a few months to settle down, then it should be safe to join me.

Love,

Ray

The phone rang, and Susan dropped the note.

“Answer phone. Hello?”

“Susan, it’s Julie. Have you heardthe news?”

Thinking of the note, Susan asked, “What news?” Did Ray contact Julie as well?

“I can’t talk, now. I just wanted to make contact with you. I’ll have press conferences the rest of the day… maybe the rest of the week. I’ll get back to you when I can. Turn on the television. It will answer your questions.”

The conversation cut off with a click.

“Television on.”

A light below the counter illuminated, and a three dimensional image showed a reporter standing in a stadium. A few moments later the audio started.

“…will keep you updated on any new findings. Here's what we know right now. Presidential candidate Adam P. Jackson has been assassinated. The identity of the gunman is currently unconfirmed. Witnesses report seeing a Caucasian male, of average build and about thirty years old, running from the crime scene. He then advanced east to the pear and jumped into the ocean. A body has not been retrieved, but he is believed dead.”

“Television off.”

Susan retrieved the note from under the table, set fire to it, and threw it into the fireplace. When the last embers turned to smoke, she went to her room and started packing.

****

Dedicated to Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), my go-to for a short science fiction fix.

****


Eric Price lives with his wife and two sons in northwest Iowa. He began publishing in 2008 when he started writing a quarterly column for a local newspaper. Later that same year he published his first work of fiction, a spooky children’s story called Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast. Since then, he has written stories for children, young adults, and adults. Three of his science fiction stories have won honorable mention from the CrossTime Annual Science Fiction Contest. His first YA fantasy novel, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, received the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Literary Classics Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, The Squire and the Slave Master, continues the Saga of the Wizards. It is scheduled for an August 4, 2015 release. Find him online at authorericprice.comTwitterFacebook, and Goodreads.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Portents and Omens by Mary Waibel

Will the untimely arrival of four meteorites herald the end of the world?

***

Portents and omens.

The words swirled, a quiet whisper that teased the edges of her slumbering brain. Cassie moaned in her sleep and shifted restlessly under the sheets. A void, darker than the deepest of night, filled her vision. In the distance, pinpricks of light flickered, only to be consumed by the utter blackness surrounding her.

The words sounded again, louder this time, as if shouted in anger. Fear traced an icy finger down her spine and she jerked awake, her pounding heart and the rasps of her breath the only sounds in the silent room.

Pale beams of moonlight filtered through the window and onto the antique quilt draped across her queen sized bed. A light breeze fluttered the curtains, bringing with it the musky scent of fall. Shadows danced across the walls, looming and shrinking, the non-rhythmic pattern setting her nerves on high alert.

The digital clock on her nightstand flashed from four nineteen to four twenty, and Cassie sighed, knowing sleep would never return. She tossed the bedding aside and padded barefoot to the sliding glass door separating her bedroom from her third floor balcony.

With a flick of her wrist she released the lock and pushed the door open. The hiss as it slid on the track sounded loud in the predawn silence. She tiptoed across the chilly wood planks, her breath streaming into a white cloud that drifted through the frosty air.

Goosebumps covered her arms and legs reminding her it would soon be time to pull out warmer sleepwear, rather than the t-shirts and shorts she'd worn all summer. Wrapping her arms around her waist, she considered going back inside and grabbing her robe, but the sight of the night sky pulled all thoughts of cold away.

Myriads of stars and planets glittered and twinkled above, more than she had ever seen while star gazing in the middle of the desert. The light pollution from town should have obscured the skies, but tonight it seemed that every heavenly body was on display for all to see. Maybe she’d get lucky and catch some of the Perseid meteor shower. After all, every sky watcher knew that this was the best time of night to see them.

Cassie scanned the sky, quickly finding the familiar constellation of Cassiopeia. Thinking of the star chart she’d studied in school, she slid her gaze down to Perseus, knowing the meteors would originate from here. Her heart thundered in her ears as she stared at the cluster of stars. Algol, the Demon Star, flickered and flared, its brilliance brighter than usual.

An omen.

Her mind flooded with the knowledge of her studies of ancient religions. Algol heralded bloody violence and death. Histories of multiple cultures traced violent uprisings back to this star. Even Ptolemy had referred to it as “the Gorgon of Perseus”, linking the star with death by decapitation. This star was a very bad omen.

While she stared at Algol, four streaks of light flared and blazed across the heavens. Cassie followed them as they sped across the sky, growing larger and brighter. She frowned. This wasn’t the time for an earth grazer. They were only supposed to occur in the early to mid evening. But these meteors were definitely coming through the earth’s atmosphere.

The meteors grew brighter, their trails leaving a brilliant fire in the sky as they plummeted toward the ground, disappearing on the horizon. A wave of light surged toward her, passing by in the blink of an eye, leaving behind the scent of pine and fresh turned dirt. Something had hit nearby.

Cassie braced for the shock wave, certain these meteors had impacted the earth, but nothing came.

Hurry. Hurry.

The thought pounded in time with her accelerating heartbeat. Acting on pure impulse, Cassie raced inside, slid on her well-worn flip flops, and scooped her keys up from the counter. Almost running now, she headed out the door and started down the stairs. She’d gone two steps before she stopped and ran back to her apartment.

Hands shaking, she jabbed her key at the door knob. After three attempts, she managed to steady enough to insert the key and lock her door. Her home secured, she flew down the stairs and hopped into her car.

The town was eerily silent and unusually dark, even for the early morning hour. The streetlights were out and no lights shone in the buildings she passed as she followed the sensation urging her to head for the hills on the outskirts of town.

Her headlights cut a path through the darkness as she sped through the empty streets of downtown Augury. The three and four story buildings that huddled on top of each other gradually gave way to houses with small strips of grass between them. Further out, large yards and picket fences hid larger homes from view. Eventually, yards morphed into fields as Cassie neared the town’s outer limits.

A hundred feet before the town line, she slowed and turned off onto a dirt lane. Her car’s engine whined as she followed the twists and turns of the bumpy road. Sweat dampened her hands, and her breath came in heavy pants as the car climbed higher into the hills.

Hurry. Hurry.

A couple of miles later, the headlights glinted off of something in the road ahead. Cassie eased her car to a stop in front of a massive iron gate. The beams of her headlights lit up tall trees that loomed along both sides of the secured driveway. At the farthest edge of the pool of light, she could just barely make out the outline of a large mansion.

More trees towered to the sides of the gates, as if shielding the property from the eyes of the world. She shivered and gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white as she fought against the strange desire to leave the safety of her car and head into the woods beyond the gate.

Unable to resist, Cassie exited her car and studied the fence blocking her way. It was a classic iron fence, with two inch diameter bars spaced six inches apart and standing seven feet tall. They were too narrowly spaced to slip between and too tall to climb over. She would have to find another way to the woods beyond.

The scent of pine was strong here, like it had been on her porch after the wave of light. Twigs cracked and leaves rustled underfoot as she picked her way down the fence line. With each step the pull toward the woods increased.

I need you. Hurry.

She stared into the darkness beyond the fence searching for…something, but what she didn’t quite know. A light flickered and her heart fluttered in response. Heedless of the dangers, Cassie sprinted forward until she reached the source of the light.

A body-sized rock jutted from the ground on the other side of the fence, as if it were a javelin thrown from the skies by a giant. Bright white light pulsed from within, steady, like a heartbeat. As she studied the rock, a fissure appeared, growing longer and wider, until rays light speared through.

Cassie squeezed her eyes tight and turned away, but the brilliance still filtered behind her lids. She stumbled away, searching for shelter from the blinding light. Branches scratched her cheeks and rough bark scraped her shoulders as she bounced off of saplings and small tree trunks. A shadow danced over her field of vision, and she moved toward it until blessed darkness surrounded her.

Sweat beaded on her skin as the cool morning air turned sweltering. It felt like she was at the beach during the hottest part of a summer day, with no breeze to cool the blistering heat. She pressed against the tree trunk, praying for relief. Just when she thought she’d pass out, the light vanished and the air cooled until she shivered.

Cassie opened her eyes and blinked until the spots cleared. Rays of sunlight flickered through the canopy of the trees, softly illuminating her surroundings. Overhead, leaves of vibrant red and orange fluttered, making the woods appear to be on fire. She turned and peered around the tree trunk, her breath catching as she stared at the vision before her. There, beyond the fence, stood a man. A naked man.

Messy waves of dark brown hair brushed the tops of his broad shoulders and framed his strong jaw. His nose was slightly crooked, as if it had been broken at some time. He had full lips and light stubble covered his chin and cheeks. But it was his body that drew her attention.

Scars covered every inch of skin below his neck. Long, jagged white lines. Red pock-marked circles. Faint white dashes. Not one inch of skin was left unmarred. Beneath the marks it was easy to see that his body was pure muscle. Like a body builder’s. Raw power emanated from him, and Cassie wondered how someone with such power came to be so damaged.

He clenched his fist and his muscles bunched, drawing her gaze to his left bicep. A silver crown tattoo glittered against his tanned skin.

Mine.

Cassie jerked back as the word blared in her mind. Panicked, her gaze skittered to his face. Dark blue eyes glared down at her, pinning her in place. Her legs trembled as he swept his gaze over her, his eyes lingering on her chest and hips. Heat crept up her neck at his blatant appraisal.

“Wh-who are you?” Her question came out breathy and quiet, and she feared he hadn’t heard her.

The man lifted a brow, and a second later a cruel smile inched across his full lips. “I am the beginning of the end.”

***
Ever since seeing the teaser for X-Men Apocalypse at the end of X-Men Days of Future Past, I've been toying with an idea for a serial based on the four riders of the Apocalypse, and this is where I've gotten with it. I hope you enjoyed and are interested in learning more about Cassie and this man.


Twisting tales one story at a time. 

YA author Mary Waibel’s love for fairytales and happy-ever fill the pages of her works. Whether penning stories in a medieval setting or a modern day school, magic and romance weave their way inside every tale. Strong female characters use both brain and brawn to save the day and win the heart of their men. Mary enjoys connecting with her readers through her website: marywaibel.blogspot.com



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