Tap into Your Dark Side with Drabbledark

Drabbledark

It’s fitting that I wrote my very first sci-fi-themed drabble laid up in bed, expecting an alien to burst out of my stomach at any moment.

I’d been up all night, in pain, so I’d called in sick to work. I was wickedly uncomfortable, but I was also at home, so I wanted to make the most of my “free time.” (You can only watch so many hours of Netflix before the novelty wears off.) I didn’t feel well enough to work on a long-form writing project, but I remembered seeing a call for submissions for 100-word stories. 100 words? Yeah, I could manage that.

It turns out I loved the challenge of writing a drabble. It’s an exercise in brevity and succinct storytelling. And if the author can set expectations, then subvert them quickly (who doesn’t love a good twist?), drabbles are rather delightful to read.

In the end, the rumbles in my tummy were a stomach virus (so, basically an alien), and the 100 words I’d written while bedridden were deemed cool enough to publish.

Today, Drabbledark: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, edited by Eric S. Fomley, is out in the world! You can read my mini sci-fi story, “Survival,” within its pages, alongside 100 other short-and-sour tales of dark fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Despite their slight word count, these stories pack a punch.

If you dig micro fiction and dark plot lines, check out the anthology HERE. It’s a fun one!

Advertisements

Author Meg Archer on Humanity, Identity, and Hawk-shifters

Transformed_500x750

Last month, I had the pleasure of reading an advanced review copy of Triskaidekaphilia 3: Transformedthe latest anthology from Pen and Kink Publishing. Today, I have the pleasure of hosting one of the authors, Meg Archer, here on the blog!

I absolutely loved Meg’s story in Transformed. In “Red-tail,” hawk-shifter Ruby Vogel toes the line between a mundane human life and her other, hidden self. As a fly-by-night spy for a mysterious contact, she’s often tasked with trailing people, gathering information, and above all, being discreet. In exchange, she gets paid; no questions asked, no names, no trail to follow in the cool night air. But when she unwittingly gets caught up in a dangerous game, the huntress becomes the hunted, and Ruby has to decide whether she can really keep those two halves of herself separate anymore. Is it worth the risk, to deny her shifter side? Is she a woman who becomes a hawk, or is she a hawk who becomes a woman? Is she both, or neither–or is she something else entirely?

Meg’s writing style is sassy and fun, and this particular story kept me laughing and calm during a particularly rough bout of turbulence while I was on a flight to Phoenix (so thank you, Meg!). And spoiler alert, she’s just as sassy and fun off the page.

Without further ado, here’s Meg!

***

In my short story, “Red-tail,” a young woman walks the boundary between her human self and the hawk who lives inside of her. Or maybe I should say she soars across the boundary. As one of the stories featured in Pen and Kink Publishing’s anthology Transformed (the third in their amazing Triskaidekaphilia series), Ruby Vogel’s story is about how much of the animal we allow to live in our human selves, and how much humanity can survive when we are at our most animalistic.

(And it’s about sex. Can’t forget the fun parts!)

Like most of the things I write, Ruby’s story came to me in a series of images. One lazy, hot afternoon, I watched a hawk spiral high over my house, seeing its head move as it scanned the ground. I pictured a red-tailed hawk, flying out across a city, heading towards the trees, and wondered how it might hunt in those two very different locales. And I imagined a scene near the end of the story, when a character at their most vulnerable would also find their strength.

From those images—both familiar and strange—the rest of the story began to bloom.

In a world like our own, where rare animal-shifters lived relatively isolated lives, trying to fit in with humans, always searching for a balance with their true selves. Ruby, a hawk-shifter, takes on a variety of semi-legal jobs for an employer who pays well and asks no questions. She spies, steals, and waits for the full moon to pull her out of her skin and into her feathers. It’s been a good-enough life, but she wonders if she’s destined to be alone.

Is she the only one of her kind? Are there others who might understand? And if there were, how would she find them?

Is her morality, her ethics, the same as ours? Does she have a duty to humanity, or to her other-self?

What is it like, being a solitary hunter and a social creature, all at the same time?

Who is she, really?

My favorite thing about speculative fiction—whether it’s about hawk-shifters or brave explorers of alien worlds or space wizards with laser swords—is how it is able to make a statement about the here and now while being set in some other world. In my story, I became fascinated by the theme of identity and humanity.

We all have a little of the feral animal within ourselves, I think. From the adrenaline-powered mama bears who lift cars to save trapped children to the sudden steady calm of a pilot bringing a plane down safely under extreme conditions like a crane gliding elegantly down to the water, there are moments when that strange other-sense grips us. Moments when we’re more than what we are.

We can do the things we think might be impossible, and when we are pushed to our extremes, we sometimes are changed by the experience. If that were always accessible to us, who would we become?

In the tilt of a dog’s curious head or the frantic pace of a mouse in a maze, we see ourselves in animals. We’re busy as bees, snakes in the grass, curious kittens…

We see animals in ourselves, too—although that wilder, less constrained nature is sometimes frightening when it stares back at us in the mirror.

In Ruby’s world, one shifter’s advantage is another one’s nightmare. And when she’s confronted by the lengths to which another shifter will go to avoid the change, her perspective shifts and expands. With a romantic encounter that twists and turns as allegiances are revealed, Ruby’s wish to meet others like herself opens up her world in ways she never could’ve predicted.

I hope you’ll check out Transformed and read all of the great, wildly different stories that are alongside “Red-tail.” It was such an honor to be chosen for an amazing collection. A few of the stories in particular moved me and took me on an incredible journey, and I was so impressed by the range of styles, topics, and approaches to this idea of shifting and transformation.

Thank you to Tiffany for allowing me to share a little corner of her blog’s space!

***

About Transformed: Nothing is quite so deliciously freeing as caving to your instincts. For centuries, shapeshifters have personified our impulse to bow to our animalistic nature. From lycans to skin-walkers and everything in between, shapeshifters give us a chance to connect with our inner-selves and celebrate our intriguing differences, our passions, and ultimately our humanity through their necessity of striking a balance between their human selves and supernatural selves.

About the Editor: Charlie Watson is a freelance editor ready to make her mark on the Edmonton writing community. Through her work with various writing and editing groups around YEG who deal exclusively with first time authors, Charlie is devoted to ensuring that fledgling authors have a wonderful experience publishing for the first time.

About the Series: Triskaidekaphilia is the love of the number thirteen. It’s also the name of our anthology series which explores the more shadowy corners of romance and erotica. There will be 13 volumes in total, each of which will be released on a Friday the 13th.

Buy your copy of Transformed HERE!

 

 

RAVENOUS is alive!…(Kind of…)

Ravenous cover

Happy Friday the 13th, kiddies! In celebration of this spooky, spooky day, Pen and Kink Publishing’s RAVENOUS, edited by the lovely Ariel Jade, is now available.

If you’ve ever craved a sexy inside look into the love lives of vampires, this is the collection for you!

About RAVENOUS:

Dark. Brooding. Tortured. Sexy.

Vampires are a mystery, morphing through history from maligned villains to sparkling saviors and back again. They can be the ultimate bad boys, the supreme seductresses, or the evil monsters. They fascinate and repel us at the same time. What other creature can steal into your bedroom in the depths of the night to stalk or protect? What other ancient being is so accessible yet so powerful? What other enigma is desired as much as feared?

Cross the threshold into a world of insatiable heroes and voracious heroines. RAVENOUS explores saucy, sexy, and sweet tales: of forbidden vampire/vampire hunter love, vampire threesomes in space, kink as only a vampire could enjoy it… and so much more.

Edited by Ariel Jade and with contributions from Wendy Nikel, Jaap Boekestein, Sara Dobie Bauer, Violet R. Jones, V. Hummingbird, Dale Cameron Lowry, R. Michael Burns, and Tiffany Michelle Brown.

Don’t forget to bring your garlic–just in case.

Yep, you read that right, I have a story in this steamy book, and it’s one that I’m incredibly proud to have written. “A Taste of Revolution” is a very…complicated love story, full of fairytale influence, politics, sexy memories, and undead bloodshed.

About “A Taste of Revolution:”

Jules Hammond thinks the vampire way of life in the Republic of New Vampyrium is a crock of shit. Her brethren are ruled by a pair of nihilistic tyrants, quarantined in what was once Romania, and forbidden to prey upon humans. Even worse, Jules could be staked and beheaded for voicing her disdain in public.

In the underground safety of her lab, Jules spends her nights synthesizing artificial blood infusions, talking a lot of political smack, and longing for freedom.

When a chance encounter with a gorgeous vamp from her past—now the crowned prince of the Republic—ignites lustful desire in Jules, she’s both twitterpated and confused. As she struggles to reconcile her overwhelming and exceedingly annoying feelings for Prince Fabian, Jules is offered a dangerous opportunity to free the vampire race from the clutches of its depraved monarchy.

Who knew the fate of bloodsuckers everywhere would depend upon a blue-haired blood chemist with rage for days and budding feelings for a man who represents everything she hates.

Here’s an excerpt to get your (undead) blood pumping:

“She turned suddenly and crushed her nose into a very broad, very firm chest. Jules stumbled back, groaning, blinking hard to keep surprised tears at bay. Her fingertips found the bridge of her nose and inspected it. Nothing seemed out of place.

‘Are you okay?’ said a sultry, masculine voice.

If Jules had a pulse, it would have quickened substantially. She looked up at an angular jaw, searing blue eyes, and a round head of perfectly coifed brown hair, familiar from Prince Fabian’s television appearance only an hour before. And there was that roguish smirk, the one that looked so good on camera—and even better in person.

Jules gulped and then sent a message to her thighs that no, it was not okay that they were quivering right now. Not for Prince Fabian. This guy represented everything wrong in the vampire world. And yet, he was so pretty, so appealing in flesh and blood, that Jules wanted to throw her legs around him and nibble his ear right there in front of everyone.”

And that’s their first meeting. It gets real…interesting from there on out. There are motorcycles, and Gothic castles, and first kisses, and some brutal battle scenes, for good measure.

Enter Pen and Kink’s Friday the 13th giveaway to try to snag a free copy, or purchase the book on Amazon.

I hope you love “A Taste of Revolution” as much as I do. Happy reading!

My Fears Take Flight in “He Smelled Like Smoke”

Ink Stains cover

Whenever I’m asked why I write horror stories, my answer is simple: it’s therapy. Cathartic, terrifying, fiscally free therapy.

Though many are quick to say that putting something in writing gives it power, I feel the opposite in respect to horror. When I write a story chock full of the things I fear, I feel a little better afterward. I sleep deep. The gnawing in my chest lessens. There’s something about writing about monsters that releases them from the fine cracks in your brain and heart.

Writing “He Smelled Like Smoke,” published today in Ink Stains, Volume 5, from Dark Alley Press, was a triple-bonus therapy prize. This particular story contains not one, not two, but three of my greatest fears, which play out in taut, gruesome detail in less than 4,500 words.

One of those fears is flying on airplanes. I’ll admit, it’s a completely irrational fear and one that didn’t manifest until adulthood. It had nothing to do with 9/11. It has everything to do with being confined with strangers in a big, metal tube that’s hurtling through the air at ungodly heights at ungodly speeds, and sure, I know where the exits are should something go wrong, but…

Don’t even get me started with turbulence or in-flight storms.

“He Smelled Like Smoke” takes place at 35,000 feet. Naturally.

And wouldn’t you know it, I got on an airplane about a month after I’d typed the final sentence of the story and…I was calm and cool and didn’t have a single episode of vice-gripping a stranger’s arm during the flight.

Perhaps my calm was due to the fact that I knew, come what may, my fate would pale in comparison to that of Alexa, my protagonist in “He Smelled Like Smoke.” Because her fate? Worse than all the turbulence in the world.

I’ll give you a little taste here, but you’ll have get a copy of Ink Stains to find out what happens to Alexa – and to try to figure out those other pesky fears that no longer keep me up at night since I’ve exorcised them in print.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your fright…I mean, flight…

#

He Smelled Like Smoke (Excerpt)

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

Keeping his eyes on mine, Jared reached up and hit the flight attendant call button. When his gaze became overbearing, I stared down at my black skirt and wished I’d shaved my legs that morning.

A tired-looking woman in uniform with a chignon barely holding to the back of her head came over. She put one hand on the headrest in front of Jared and the other on her hip. “Can I help you, sir?”

“I was hoping to get a pre-flight shot for my friend, Alexa, here,” Jared said. “Flying doesn’t agree with her.”

“It’s against federal regulation to serve beverages before takeoff, sir,” the flight attendant recited. “We’ll come through the cabin to take orders later.”

She took a step away, but Jared caught her hand in his. The flight attendance did a quick about face, a frown creasing her tan skin. “Sir…” she began, but she didn’t finish her sentence. The crinkle between her brows melted. She breathed in deeply through her nose as if she were standing in the cold, crisp air of a forest instead of a cramped cabin that smelled like sweaty, disgruntled, tired people. Her eyes bored into Jared’s and she started to look…aroused?

“Whiskey, neat,” Jared said.

“Of course.” The flight attendant’s voice held the quality of warm maple syrup. She turned and strode off in her orthopedic shoes, apparently to get us some liquor.

Jared settled back into his seat, coolly and slowly, smiling.

“Thank you?”

“Why the question mark?”

“I’m not sure what just happened,” I said.

“I asked for something. And I got it.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I took an in-flight magazine out of the seat back pocket in front of me and flipped aimlessly through the pages.

The flight attendant returned a moment later with plastic cups, each filled with a thimbleful of whiskey. Jared’s long fingers wrapped around the plastic. “Thank you…Debbie,” he said, glancing at her name tag. Debbie walked off without a word.

Jared held out one of the cups to me. I could smell the smokiness of the whiskey. I imagined oak barrels and the forest and a hand up my skirt. I mentally swat myself in the face. Stop thinking about sex.

Jared and I tipped back our glasses and the first sip burned my throat and then coiled in my stomach. It expanded, coated my insides, and I felt my shoulders relax.

“Much better,” Jared remarked.

“Yes,” I said. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Jared took a pack of matches out of the breast pocket of his suit and let the pack flip and amble over his knuckles until our pilot announced it was time for takeoff. For some reason, I felt safe.

#

To find out what happens after takeoff – and to read my favorite closing line I’ve ever written – pick up your copy of Ink Stains HERE.

 

 

 

Author Interview with Danielle Davis of kINKED

Danielle Davis

kINKED, an anthology exploring the intersection of tattoos and kink, was released into the world last week thanks to Pen and Kink Publishing. And though I’m rather fond of my own story, “Begin Again,” which kicks off the collection, I simply can’t stop fangirling over another story in the anthology – Danielle Davis’s “The Courier.”

The story is set in a world where paper is incredibly rare and modern forms of communication don’t exist; thus, humankind has come up with a rather resourceful and…creative way to send messages to one another – inked on the bodies of couriers.

Davis’s story follows Pier, a courier who gets a lot more than expected when he delivers a message to a wealthy and handsome woman named Aubra.

“The Courier” is such an inventive and interesting story, I had to ask Danielle Davis a few questions to learn more about its inspiration and characters.

First of all, your story is absolutely mesmerizing. What inspired this particular tale and, more specifically, a world where paper is scarce and human bodies are used as parchment?

Thank you! I got the idea while thinking about what I wanted for a new tattoo. I wanted to get something important to my life, something that made a stark declaration. Later, as I was getting it inked on my foot, previous inklings (no pun intended) that were floating around my subconscious came together into the basis for the story.

Unfortunately, I knew my courier had a message inked onto them and that it was a socially common thing, but I didn’t know why anyone would do that to themselves until Pier entered Aubra’s library and showed me how shocked he was – then it was “BINGO! Paper’s valuable because it’s rare! How did I not know that before?” This was one instance where it was like I was looking through a magnifying glass at the story, and it wasn’t until I pulled back a bit that I saw the rest of the world these characters lived in.

You mention fairytales in “The Courier,” and the story itself almost reads like a dark fairytale or a piece of didactic lore. In the spirit of classic fairytales, what do you feel we, as readers, are supposed to learn or divine from your story?

I’m so glad that came through, because “The Courier” went through many iterations as a failed fairytale before it figured itself out. I think this story serves as a cautionary tale against the spell fairytale endings cast. Too often we hear “follow your heart,” but we forget that the heart can sometimes lie; listen to your heart, sure, but let your head lead. Pier gets what he thinks he wants, but it comes at a high cost.

You achieve such gorgeous intimacy between the characters of Pier and Aubra, though it’s their first meeting. What advice would you offer authors to help them establish connection and intimacy between characters?

Look at what the characters want (or think they want) and let them see some part of the other character as a fulfillment of it. Even if the other isn’t actually the answer to a character’s desire, they’re more likely to allow an organic intimacy to form faster than if you just put two people in a room and say, “Ok, now chat.”

If you were to describe Pier in one word, what would that word be?

Naive.

And Aubra?

Predatory.

What is a song that you feel sets the tone for “The Courier”?

Definitely Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman.”

Why do you think folks should read romance and erotica?

I think it’s important to be able to connect with those fantasies and desires you may or may not be able to share with anyone. It puts you in immediate contact with the carnal part of you that craves physical intimacy. While some may use it as a substitute for things they aren’t getting in real life (and then it’s a necessary escape to relieve the pressure), others can use it to heighten their own sense of sensuality in order to feed their relationship with their partner.

Where can we read more of your writing? Are you working on anything specific right now? 

My website is www.literaryellymay.com. I post stories on my blog all the time and I have a page that links to my other published works.

About Danielle Davis 

Danielle Davis

Danielle Davis is a liar, a cheater of cards, and a misrememberer of song lyrics; only two of these are true. Her dark fantasy and romance has appeared in Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, and Tailfins and Sealskins: An Anthology of Water Lore, among other places. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and beyond under the handle “LiteraryEllyMay.”

 

 

Kinked_photo5sm_front

 

 

Every tattoo tells a story… and you’ll want to read them all! Get your copy of kINKED today!

 

 

The Dangers of Smooching Frogs: Read “It’s in Her Kiss” in the After the Happily Ever After Anthology

ahea-cover

I’ve never liked “The Frog Prince.”

A spoiled princess becomes indebted to a frog after he retrieves her golden ball from a well. Though she promises the amphibian she will be his companion, the princess attempts to ditch the croaker at the first opportunity. When the frog shows up at the palace and asks to be let in, the princess explains the situation to her father, the king, and he forces her to make good on her promise. If the princess falters and doesn’t give the frog what he wants, he threatens to tell the king. In the original version from the Grimm Brothers, the princess is so disgusted by her fate, she throws the frog against a wall. Only then does he turn into a prince (which is a game changer), and they suddenly rush into marriage and live happily ever after. The end.

Can you say dysfunctional? Why should the princess receive a happy ending? And what the heck is up with that psychology? Why does the frog still choose her? Is he that much of a gold digging opportunist?

After all the entitlement and manipulation, the princess and the frog simply shrug it off and choose each other, which was never a satisfying conclusion for me.

When I learned Transmundane Press was putting together the After the Happily Ever After anthology, I knew it was my chance to retell a fairy tale that I’d always found troubling. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, my story isn’t all rainbows and happy endings, because let’s face it, fairy tales were meant to be didactic stories that youngsters could learn from. Some horrific shit goes down in fairy tales. But “It’s in Her Kiss” dives headlong into the psychology of the relationship between the frog and the princess. Of course, I’ve put a new spin on the classic take, too. 

“It’s in Her Kiss” is at once a re-imagination of a classic story, a satirical look at modern romantic relationships, and proof that happily ever after isn’t always what it seems.

It’s in Her Kiss

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

Delilah has developed a fetish of the human-who-was-once-an-amphibian variety. Her predilection has progressed into a full-fledged addiction as three or four times a week, the door to our flat bursts open and a new prime specimen drips pond water onto the Ikea rug in the foyer.

Delilah wears a proud smile and clings to their arms, bright with infatuation, gleaming with accomplishment. After all, her rose-pink lips elicited their transformations. And they are all hers, rescued from the muck and ever-grateful to their savior.

Each specimen is distinctly different, but they all are ambitiously handsome. Last week, Delilah’s first catch was Italian. Olive skin, dark, emotional eyes, clothing that only a European can get away with wearing. He was young, so he was probably an exchange student. Her second catch looked like a lumberjack, a man with a full beard, bulging muscles, and enough freckles to create a connect-the-dots coloring book. I half-expected him to produce an axe to cut the lasagna they shared that evening. The third was an older Russian gentleman who moved with innate bravado and had the saddest blue eyes. He didn’t speak a lick of English, but Delilah didn’t care. She took him to bed anyway, as she does with all of them.

The next morning, she kisses them goodbye. When they’ve reassumed their froggy countenances, she affixes their legs with a little gold band. It helps her to determine which frogs she’s already romanced. Then, out the door and back to the park they go, as if nothing ever happened.

I’ve lost track of the number of suitors that have come through our door and dampened our rug. Does Delilah know? Does she keep track? Does she delight in her growing number of conquests?

And if she does, is my name at the top of the list? Does she fondly remember me as her first? Or does her lack of lust and passion for me exclude me completely from the ranks?

#

I’d resigned myself to an amphibian lifestyle the morning I met Delilah. I’d been a frog for nearly a year, the result of a tumultuous breakup and a vindictive ex-girlfriend who decided to teach me a lesson. When she threw me into the lake, a note full of expletives, blaming, and mentions of voodoo followed me.

At first, I thought someone would figure it out. My parents ordered a police investigation, but the ensuing search proved fruitless. You don’t leave a trace when you recede into a local pond. No cell phone records. No credit card transactions. People say you were completely normal the last time they saw you. And, of course, the woman responsible for the hex isn’t going to have a change of heart. Especially when you cheated on her—not one of my finest moments.

As the missing person posters shriveled on lampposts around town and were eventually replaced with the face of some other unlucky guy, I decided I’d make the most of my new life. After all, I’d always enjoyed the outdoors, I’d become an exceptional swimmer, and while I missed a choice cut of sirloin from time to time, I developed a taste for bugs.

While gathering breakfast one morning at the community park, a net dropped over me. I panicked. I jumped; I kicked; I squirmed, but then my little heart raced far too fast, and I grew heavy with exhaustion. I looked up, expecting to see a mean-spirited little boy, the kind that would subject me to light filtered through a magnifying glass.

Through the mesh, a pair of feminine brown eyes gazed down at me. A girlish grin lit up my captor’s face. And wouldn’t you know it, it was nice to receive a smile for once.

I didn’t struggle as Delilah scooped me into her palms and said, “Gotcha.”

#

The internet is a crock of shit. I can find support groups and rehabilitation programs and intervention specialists for some crazy things—people who eat the ashes of their loved ones, Satanic cultists, teenagers who sniff glue to get high—but I can’t find anything for sex addicts that use magic to ensnare, manipulate, and then re-enchant their lovers. The lack of resources is maddening.

I’ve done some medical research, too, trying to discern if Delilah has some kind of health condition that gives her lips transformative powers. Could this be genetic? Some insane recessive gene? But I’ve found nothing.

I’ve reached out to local government to express my concern in the recent surplus of frogs in our neighborhood. A state representative emailed me back saying that while he understood my annoyance, the increase in amphibian life in nearby ponds has proved ecologically beneficial. A rare species of fish, recently deemed on the cusp of extinction, now flourishes in ponds and lakes around town.

Since my ex mentioned voodoo in her departure letter, I’ve been trying to track down dark magic shops in the area, but my searches are spotty and uninformative. Apparently, none of these niche businesses are too concerned with having a web presence. I’m sure they rely on word-of-mouth marketing to keep them in business. “That son of a bitch cheated on you? Well, there’s this place you can go to get a potion that’ll turn him into a dog. Literally.”

My search is frustrating, but I understand how widespread, traditional marketing would pose a safety concern. A plague of frogs would likely descend upon the shop, if only the poor schmucks knew where it was.

***

To read the rest of “It’s in Her Kiss” and other fractured fairy tales, purchase your paperback copy of After the Happily Ever After on Amazon.

For fairy tale afficianodos, Transmundane Press is also offering a limited edition hardcover printing, signed by the editors, Anthony S. Buosi and Alisha Costanzo, which you can purchase HERE.

Rapunzel Gets a Happily-Never-After Ending in “Now You See Me”

after-lines-promo-image-1

My mother, fair-skinned and wraithlike, crying openly into my father’s wounds is my most vivid and treasured childhood memory. As my twin brother and I watched, she cradled his head in her lap and sobbed as he stared, unblinking, past the fine curve of her cheek and into a churning grey sky. He writhed in response to her gentle touch, seemingly in confusion and pain. My father’s skin was a labyrinth of scratches and grooves, his injuries the result of stumbling blindly through miles and miles of unforgiving forest terrain. His blood blossomed like poppies on my mother’s blue dress, flowers that surged and flourished at a startling pace. Tears accumulated across the sharp relief of my mother’s chin and dripped down onto my father like rain.

I was heartbroken that this was how I was to meet my father after eight years of hearing stories about him. He was supposed to be gallant and handsome, not ruined and swooning and gasping for breath.

“He’s going to die,” I whispered into the stormy air.

But then my father’s random, floundering movements ceased. He became still, oh so still. The only action which indicated he was still alive was a wild fluttering of his eyelids. After a moment, he reached up and caressed my mother’s cheek with an assuredness and intention not possible for someone who’d been newly blinded. His gaze locked with my mother’s, and he smiled.

He struggled to speak, but at first, all that poured forth were meaningless gurgles. And then, “I can see you. I can see you. I can see you…”

My mother cried anew, but from her eyes poured happy tears, salt bred of love and renewal. Her fresh round of weeping became a magical anointment. My father’s wounds closed up like riverbeds reduced to dry ravines by scorching sun. My mother’s hair, shorn and ruddy, grew and grew until it circled them twice. Her tresses shone like gold, even in the dim light of the oncoming storm. My father’s blood disappeared, evaporated into the mist—or perhaps it found its way back into his body as color returned to his cheeks.

As my parents gazed at each other, it was as if they were seeing each other for the very first time. I saw their shared happiness weave an unbreakable thread between them. I knew they’d be together forever. Their love would make it.

And most importantly, as I watched my mother and father rediscover each other, I began to understand that true love requires equal parts sacrifice and baptism.

***

Read the rest of “Now You See Me” in the After Lines anthology by Erebus Press, a collection of dark happily-never-after tales.

Have a blog and want to review the anthology? Contact stebuosi@gmail.com.

afterlines-promotion-2