Friday Flashfic: Careful

Again, with thanks to Tami for the prompt.

I lowered my head and charged straight at the lizard-man, hardening my skin as I went. When I collided with him my head and shoulders were solid metal, and he went flying.

My name’s Jake. I’ve got super powers.

The lizard-man didn’t seem too fazed by his fall, or by the fact that I’d already knocked out his buddy. He whipped his tail, flipping himself back upright and slashed down with wicked looking claws. They sparked as they glanced off my metal skin, but the force of the blow still bowled me over. I hit the parking lot pavement hard, and the lizard-man landed squarely on top of me.

I tried to shove him off me, but I didn’t have super strength, and a full-size lizard man totally outweighs one scrawny twelve-year-old, even one with super powers. But I had to defeat him. I had to prove that I was good enough to be a Super Ranger.

The lizard-man realized he wasn’t going to be able to injure me, not with my skin all slivered. But he could still make a clean getaway – he dashed off, away from the nearby shopping mall and toward the tree line. I tried to go after him but I’d had the wind knocked out of me – and superspeed isn’t one of my powers.

But before the lizard vanished into the trees, he was struck by a bolt of blue lighting. I whipped around, just in time to see a woman in a bright blue jumpsuit with black stripes jump down from the hood of a car. Tiny bolts of blue electricity crackled along her arms.

I pinched myself. Electra, here?? She was the leader of the Super Rangers team, and she’d won ExtraOrdinary Magazine’s Superhero of the Year award for three years running. She was amazing.

Electra glanced around the parking lot, noting the unconscious lizard-man by the shopping cart return. “Not bad, kiddo.”

I flushed bright red, though Electra wouldn’t be able to see it under my mask. I hoped. “Do you really – uh, I mean, thanks!”

“Will I see you at the tryouts next month?”

“Definitely,” I said, with a confidence I didn’t feel. I’d have to come up with some excuse for my parents – an overnight field trip, maybe, or a fake sleepover if I could convince Cyrus to help me out.

“Good.”

The Super Rangers were the top superhero team in the country, and they only took the best of the best as members and apprentices. They had tryouts once a year. If Electra thought I was ready for tryouts…

I tried to remember to breathe.

“Um, do you think –“ I was interrupted by my watch beeping. Damn, damn, double-dog damn. “Sorry, gotta go, late for something,” I gasped out, turning and running for the mall entrance. I could change in one of the bathrooms and go out the back door, where my bike was leaned up against the wall.

“Wait!” Electra called after me, but I ignored her.

Mom was just coming up from the basement, a basket of laundry balanced on her hip, when I crashed through the front door.

“You’re cutting it close,” she said, one eyebrow raised.

“I know, I know, sorry.” I kicked off my sneakers into the pile of shoes by the door. I didn’t see Ellie’s flats yet – I’d gotten here before my tutor. You’d think saving the world would get me a break on algebra, but I was too scared to tell my parents about my, uh, new extracurricular activity. I could just imagine them freaking out about it being dangerous and grounding me forever, and then I’d never get to be a Super Ranger.

“There’s yogurt in the fridge, and a new jar of peanut butter in the cabinet. Make yourself a good snack – you have to keep your strength up if you’re going to be ready for the Super Ranger tryouts.”

“Uh huh,” I said, shuffling toward the fridge. “Wait, what?” I realized what she’d said and dashed back into the hallway.

“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she was in the dark. Please don’t ground me.

Mom grinned, and pulled up her sleeve to reveal a formfitting jumpsuit: electric blue with a black stripe down the side.

Friday Flashfic: Winter

Thanks to Tami for the prompt.

The wind whispered through the dark, empty trees like a warning in a foreign language. Winter was coming, and with it the snows that turned the mountainside, difficult to traverse even in high summer, into a prison as inescapable as any king’s dungeon.

If I was leaving, it would have to be tonight.

That was the last push I needed to step out of the doorway and onto the path, drawing my cloak tighter against the wind as I did so. My pack was a solid weight on my back: such food as I had managed to squirrel away without Father noticing; a spare set of boy’s cloths that my brother had outgrown; Mother’s books. Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 26

The continued adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye. (Part 25) (From the beginning)

“So.” Milagros set down her tea cup. “Your ghost is missing?”

“Yes.”

Milagros said nothing. I picked up the teacup and sipped delicately.

I like tea. I didn’t used to, until I spent a year in England as an exchange student. There, tea is practically a religion. I didn’t like beer, so I had to do what I could to assimilate. English tea, though, is milky and mild and served with a biscuit. Milagros’s tea was bush tea, brewed strong from an assortment of herbs. I swallowed and immediately wished I hadn’t.

“And you want what?” Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 25

The continued adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye and college student. (Part 24) (From the beginning)

“What are you doing in my shop?”

I couldn’t help it; I took a step away from the anger radiating out from Milagros’ ample form. “I –”

“What, girl? You what? Your family has made it very clear what you think of anything that isn’t in your precious field notes. I didn’t think I’d catch you in here again.”

And that’s why I hadn’t wanted to come. Okay, deep breath. I braced for the coming storm. “I came because I need your help.”

Milagros jerked her chin pointedly toward the shattered glass and scattered coins on the floor. “You have a funny way of showing it, chica.

“There was a haunted coin in that jar.” Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 24

In which Lizzie does something she didn’t want to do…(Part 23.5) (From the beginning)

From the outside, it didn’t look like much. A yellow awning that used to be bright but was now fading and streaked with soot and pigeon-shit framed the dirty glass storefront, proclaiming this “Mama’s Botanica Santeria”. The window was crammed full of candles, dried herbs and flowers, animal bones, figurines of saints, and other detritus. None of it looked like it had been touched in months. All of it needed a good dusting.

Inside, Mama Milagros did enough business selling Santeria paraphernalia and offering consultas to her neighbors that no one questioned her ability to make rent, or wondered what she sold in her back room. Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: An Interlude

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye. (Part 23) (From the Beginning)

He’d been called many things in his life — and in his afterlife. Malphas was just the latest in a string of designations; every so often he threw his old one away and took up another. Anything to break up the tedium.

This one was his own little joke, not that that fool of a sorcerer was clever enough to understand it. A pity he was forced to use such clumsy tools, but there were drawbacks to his lengthened lifespan.

Afterlifespan.

Elizabeth, now… Elizabeth might understand. Elizabeth might yet solve the puzzle. He had teased her, that day, given her clues. Where was the fun without a little risk, after all? And yet he was beginning to think now that he had underestimated her. He could feel her burning, a bright spot against the frosty grey expanse that he now inhabited. All hex-eyes were bright to his eyes, but Elizabeth…she was something special. Something more.

Something dangerous.

She would have to be dealt with.

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 23

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye. (Part 22)  (From the Beginning)

Author’s Note: The scene where the locket is introduced is one that needs to be inserted during editing; it’s Henry’s anchor and though Lizzie usually carries it with her, Henry convinced her to leave it behind while she went to Darlington so he could continue to investigate.

I had hoped my trip home would settle me, but I left Darlington more apprehensive than when I arrived. Mom and Dad were on the Case of the Disappearing Ghosts now, but they hadn’t made any breakthroughs. Three heads working on the problem was certainly better than one, but in the meantime school wold start again, we’d all three get busy, and there was no guarantee the disappearances wouldn’t continue. Then there was Adelaide and her secret, and the still-unsolved mystery of Emily’s possession. And final exams.

I was so distracted, as I debarked at Grand Central and fought through the crowds toward the subway, that it took me a minute to realize that my phone was ringing. I fumbled it out of my pocket – didn’t recognize the number – and swiped to answer just before it went to voicemail. Continue reading