Friday Flashfic: Serena’s Dragon

Serena had never seen a dragon before.

She’d read about them, in the books her father brought home from the rubbish piles and carefully cleaned before letting her touch them. There was a slowly-growing pile under her bed. The books held all sorts of fantastic creatures — witches and fairies and princesses disguised as rag-pickers.

And dragons.

But though Serena had read about dragons, dreamed about dragons, and begged her father to tell her stories about dragons, she had never before seen such a creature in the flesh.

Until now. Continue reading

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Friday Flashfic: Snow White

“You’re not eating,” the man says.

I dig my fingernails into my palms and feel no pain; I am dreaming again. The visions appear more frequently now, no longer waiting for the unbroken hours of nighttime sleep. They come every time I close my eyes.

“I’m not hungry,” I say.

I am unmoored in time and place, at the mercy of the whims of the universe. I blink my eyes and I am a child, looking up at a world that feels suddenly too large; I blink my eyes and I am old, and my joints ache with every step. I dream of vast deserts that burn with a violet flame, and underwater palaces made of coral and woven seaweed.

“You say that every time,” he says. Continue reading

Friday Flashfic: A Mask of Beauty

They found him sitting beside her dead body.

She was laying on the ground, an expression of surprise immortalized on her delicate face. Lying so still, she might have been mistaken for a doll; her skin was as smooth as porcelain, and her eyes large and dark. Her lips were painted a bright blood red. There were flowers in her hair. She was dressed in silks, but they were stained with ugly brown splashes of dried blood.

He made no move when the soldiers approached; failed to acknowledge them at all. He only sat, and stroked his long white beard, and watched the girl. His sword lay, bloody, on the grass beside him.

One of the foot soldiers ran up the hill, breathing hard. “The village is empty.”

The captain frowned. “They cannot have all simply vanished.”

Below him, the old man began to laugh. Continue reading

Friday Flashfic: Fireworks

A special edition of Friday Fiction, on Saturday because I was on the train yesterday and had forgotten to schedule a post. Happy Fourth of July!


Nyssa pressed forward through the crowd. At her height – or rather, her lack of height – her field of vision was filled entirely with bodies. And while the crowd was composes mostly of nobility, who supposedly had regular access to baths, it had been a long, hot summer day. Her nose was filled with the stink of sweat.

She pressed onward. This was her first Victory Day at the palace; she was not usually the sort of person to receive and invitation. In years past she had climbed up to the roof of her lodgings-house, picnicked with her house mates, watched the brilliant pyrotechnics, and dreamed of the day she would create one.

This would be a better view.

Finally, Nyssa passed through the front row, Continue reading

Friday Flashfic: Saturday Night

This was not how my Saturday night was supposed to go.

That super cute guy I met in the coffee shop? I was supposed to have dinner with him, talk about our taste in movies – we both like horror films – and complain about our jobs – I’m a paralegal, he works in finance. We were supposed to have dessert, go for a walk, share a kiss, wander back to my place for a little post-date action. I had it all planned out, how I’d pour him a glass of wine and sit on the couch, and reach up and unbutton the top button…

You know what was not supposed to happen? The fangs, for one thing.

Yeah, as soon as my pretty white neck came into view my Cute Date turned into Eldritch Creature of the Night. Complete with fangs, pupil-less eyes, and a hunger for blood. Luckily, I was still wearing my cross. The Big Guy and I might not be on the best of terms, but it’s too damn useful not to wear, being one: a cross and two: pure silver.

So Mr. Fang couldn’t lay a hand on me without burning himself, and it was quick work to grab the stake from under the coffee table and take care of him. Then, of course, there was vampyre dust all over my carpet – my brand new carpet – and I had to vacuum when all I wanted to do was curl up with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

I thought about calling my mother, but she’d only say “I told you so.”

It was a terrible night, and a terrible date. But you know what the saddest part is?

This doesn’t even make my Top Ten.

Friday Fiction: Home

Miri crested the top of the hill and sat on a tumbled-down stone wall, panting as her heart slowed and the light-headedness settled. Below her, the town spread over the valley like a blanket of red and white, the clean stone and bright roofs picturesque against the green of the hillsides.stock-photo-aerial-view-of-carmona-a-typical-town-in-saja-valley-cantabria-spain-72730978

Oren climbed up behind her, his pace steady – and his breathing steady, too. Habits instilled by his military training kept him in shape, and Miri was starting to reconsider her habit of sleeping through his morning workouts.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Continue reading

Friday Flashfic: The Octopus Society

A little preview of a world I’ve been playing in recently. If I ever finish Princess (and Salvage) there might be a novel about lady inventors and Science and exploration and the delicate politics of being an independent city-state within a huge-ass steampunk empire. Grown-up Adeline will have a big role.

Adeline tumbled into bed, completely exhausted.

She had planned on working tonight – the candle stub she’d fished from the refuse pile was still large enough to light, at least for a little while. It was almost done. A few finishing touches only…

The other girls had laughed when she said she was going to be an inventor. It wasn’t that she was female — all the scientist’s associations in the city accepted women now. It was that here in the workhouse, it was hard to have dreams.

And no surprise, when she came back from hours at the mill barely able to stand.

***

It worked. It worked!

The little clockwork sparrow flapped its wings, and hopped, and cocked its head to the side, and chirped. It didn’t fly — too heavy — but it could glide from the bedside table to the floor.

“A controlled descent,” Adeline said.

The girls crowded around, wide-eyed. “Oh, Addy!” breathed one. “You did it!”

***

The Academy of Sciences accepted students only one day a year. Prospectives were invited to present their work before a panel of judges, and only those with the highest marks were accepted.

Addy hurried down the street, her clockwork sparrow cradled to her breast. She was missing work to be here. They’d fire her tomorrow, and then the workhouse owners would beat her for it.

But she had to try. She had to. 

***

They laughed her out of the room.

***

Adeline lay in bed, too broken-hearted to cry. The sparrow sat on the bedside table, and every so often let out a soft cheep. “No, it’s no use,” she told it. “We weren’t good enough.”

She could hear footsteps coming down the hall — the night monitor. Adeline grabbed the sparrow and stuffed it under the pillow, her heart pounding…the footsteps faded away.

Adeline frowned. There was something else under her pillow.

Slowly, she drew it out. A ring in the shape of an octopus, perfectly sized for her finger. A card, printed on thick stock and lettered in black. She held it up to the window, squinting to read it.

Welcome to the Octopus Society.

Adeline smiled.