The beast at the bus stop

She stood at the edge of the snow bank, kicking at the road grime which collected there. When the snow sat fresh, she’d made herself a snow beast. One that would protect her.

The snowplow had wrecked it before it had the chance. Pushed it right into the snow bank. Like the bullies did to her at recess.

The road twisted away from her as she looked up to check for the school bus. Soon it would race around the far corner, stop in a squeal of protesting brakes. The door would open, the bus driver beckon. She would hesitate, she always did. Her bully waited for her at the back of the bus. Waiting for the bus driver to watch the road. Waiting to begin the morning ritual of terror.

She often thought of running into the woods. Hiding. Escaping. But no. It would be worse trouble in the end.

Her gaze flicked to the ground. Had something moved? Lumps of salt and sand encrusted ice, half-melted and refroze countless times, nothing alive in there that she could see. It shifted again, frosty crust sparkling.

A gasp of horror escaped her as it lifted from the roadside, not a dirty snowbank but her snow beast in a roadside camouflage. She couldn’t look away, even as she saw the school bus arrive in the corner of her vision.

The familiar squeal of brakes filled the air as the yellow bus mowed into the beast.

The beast growled and opened its terrible yawp.

It swallowed the bus whole.

The beast burped once before it settled back into the snow bank. The girl stood there, quiet, unsure of what to do.

Tour Guide

Oh! Hi there. Are you here for the tour?

Excellent. The Bay is always restless in foul weather. Stirs up the mermaids, you know. Gets them all riled up and showing off in the big waves.

Unfortunately the dragons tend to keep to their caves. The damp isn’t good for their fire breathing and no one likes a whiny, chilly dragon.

What’s that? Oh, no refunds I’m afraid. It’s in the fine print.

If we get lucky we might see the local sea monster, who only comes out during storms. Well. Hee hee. He causes the storms so there’s something of a relationship there. You’ll love him. He’s better than ten dragons. You can see invisible monsters, right? Right?

Now, now, no need to be rude.

You see that patch of snow to your left? It’s actually a crew of ghosts what prowl this beach. Or, you know, part of the storm. Best err on the side of the fantastical, I always say.

What’s that? You’re leaving? Hogwash, you say? Not at all – wait! Look out for that storm wraith! No, I swear, this one’s real, don’t breathe that mist, it’s poison – aw. Lost another one. Not good for business. Not good for business at all.

Beloved

She is still uncertain if she should be a scientist, an artist, or a unicorn veterinarian when she grows up. The crease above her nose tells me these are serious decisions.

I keep my vote to myself. “What happened to your dragon farm?”

“Oh, I’m still doing that but there’s a lot of free time in dragon farming. Especially if you’re helping.”

“I’ll be helping.”

She pulls a piece of paper from her bag. “I’ll make a list. Pros and cons. I want to be a scientist so bad but there’s so many sick unicorns who need my help.” She sighs deeply. The world is heavy on her shoulders.

Based on the prompt beloved https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/beloved/

Inscrutable

Three birds on the coast, their destination freedom. Their wingtips warmed with flight. Their defiance of winter an inscrutable delight. I’ll take their inspiration and hurry home to huddle ’round my fire. My fingertips wrapped and warmed around a mug. My defiance of winter a thick pair of socks atop a woolen rug.

This post written in response to The Daily Post’s ‘inscrutable’ prompt https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/inscrutable/

Silence

The forest falls silent as the snowflakes flutter downward. The owl’s wings are muffled beneath the crush of ice crystals stacking mindlessly atop each other, heedless of their collective weight. A branch breaks, a limb is lost. The gnome things hunker down, stuffing their ears with moss against the deafening crash of kamikaze flakes.

I hear nothing and slumber on.

A stoat races across the fallen branch. The owl stretches out her clutching talons as her silent wings beat on. The gnome things cringe as the stoat’s cry penetrates the moss.

I sleep on, mindless in the silence of the snow.

This post was written in response to the Daily Post’s photo challenge “silence” https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/silence-2/

A Weathered Destiny

I’ll admit it, I was a terrible assistant. The wizard I worked for never received his messages. The coffee, if fresh, was instant. Ants on the sugar bowl, you get the picture. He hated instant coffee. Had a phobia of ants. Loved getting messages, said they made him feel less alone.

He might have done better with an actual person, rather than an old binder clip he infused with the first soul who floated past. Thanks for that, wizard. You bastard.

Few years back he up and died. Just keeled over mid-spell, so here I am, stuck living in this damn clip for all eternity, bored out of my mind. His kids tossed me in a junk pile with all his other crap. I mean, the view is better, but turns out rust itches like the dickens as it chews away at you. I’d crumble if someone tried to open me now, shove a sheet of paper in my maw. I’d stain it cruddy orange as crumbles of my corroding body skittered to their feet.

Not sure I deserve this. Not sure I deserved being trapped inside a clip to begin with. What the heck was he thinking? “I’m lonely and have a fetish for sentient binder clips?” I suppose I had some odd collections myself back in my human days. I liked to save the third metatarsal of all the little fairies I chopped up and threw into my stew.

I was famous for my stew. Set up a cannery and made a fortune. “Fairy stew puts a twinkle in you” remember that song? Your grandma might. That was me! Course I got blamed when the fairy population crashed. Darn things were so small it took three to stuff a can. Did my customers ever twinkle, though. Those were the days.

I know what you’re thinking. Did ol’ Wizard McGizzard trap me here as punishment? I doubt it. He was just a geezer without any gumption left for that sort of thing. He got lucky. I didn’t. Soon, though. This old body’s getting over-weathered. Soon it’ll be nothing more than dust. Then I’ll be free. I think. I hope. I guess I could end up spread out between a zillion cells, this one this memory, that one another, scattered to bits when the wind picks up. Maybe you’ll inhale me one day. Wouldn’t that be grand, now.

Well. Enough about me. What brings you here?

This post was written in response to the Daily Post’s prompt “weathered

runaway story

The story came to her in the early morning when her mind was still fresh from dreaming.

She had almost caught it when her alarm clock screeched and the story fled in terror.

It slipped beneath the crack of her door as she struggled to pull on her pants. She wasn’t far behind, but it was far enough.

Down the stairs, past the old library, she searched. Nothing. Her heart ached to lose such a story. Her fingers ached to write. Her mind longed to lose herself inside it.

She pulled back the coats in the old closet, whispering into the cedar scented shadows. “Story?” Nothing answered but the scritch of mice in the walls.

She crept into the wizard’s room, the one he rented by the week and reeked of charcoal, skunk, and sour feet. He was out.

She peered inside a blue potion bottle. Empty. But she could still make out the faint scent of the story.  It had been there, no more than a minute or so ago.

She closed the door with a click and hesitated. She crouched, checking the key hole. Dust. Pieces of a crushed and tragic spider. No story.

Her stomach growled.

The fridge. She hurried to the kitchen, grunting as she yanked at the door. There. Behind a plate of leftover ham. The story she’d been hunting. The one that escaped her.

She lured it out with a handful of papers and a promise of ink from the bottle in her pocket. Quiet, stealthy, she wielded her pen, her face a study of concentration and delight. The story relaxed at last, snuggling into the snow-white paper beneath her hand, knowing it was home.

My Top 5 Books of 2017

Looking back over the book lives I lived this year, five particular books stood out (note: they weren’t necessarily published in 2017, just read by me in 2017). Here they are, in no particular order:

2017-12-31 08.05.55.jpg

 

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I’m a sucker for books about books. Books about bookstores are a special treat. This one is about a bookstore on a barge whose owner faces a personal crisis that sends him, his bookstore, and a young writer down the river in search of the owner’s lost love. Full of book nostalgia, hope, and deep thoughts, this was a treat to read.

Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy

Thrill Me is a craft book on writing speculative fiction. As a writer, I consume a lot of craft books … and most of them get left unfinished, because they’re as dry as my ninth grade math text. My personal philosophy about craft books is if they aren’t written well enough to keep my interest, I shouldn’t be letting them teach me how to write. This is where Thrill Me shines: it grabbed me in the beginning and thrilled me to the end. I devoured it, yearning to get back to it each time I put it down. It reminded me why I love speculative fiction and why I write it. An inspiring book for all writers in the genre.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is a powerful middle grade fantasy about grief. As he sorrows and rages against his mother’s imminent death and all the changes this brings, Conor’s grief is physically manifested in a terrifying, Ent-like monster. It is a beacon to the genre in that it never preaches, it never sugarcoats, and it never holds back. The raw power of Conor’s grief is a punch to the gut the reader won’t soon forget. I’ve rarely been so moved.

 

 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

This middle grade fantasy is a beautifully written, fantastical romp into the bog home of a repressed people forced to sacrifice the youngest child in their village every few years to a mysterious witch. The witch, on the other hand, cannot figure out why these silly folk keep regularly abandoning infants in the forest. She rescues them, feeding them starlight and finding them homes beyond the bog, past the sleeping volcano that seethes beneath the story. Then one night, the witch accidentally feeds one of the foundlings moonlight instead of starlight and enmagicks the child, whom she names Luna and raises as her own. As Luna grows, the real evil demanding the babies be sacrificed becomes clear as Luna, the witch, a dragon, a swamp monster, a desperate new father, and a mad woman embark on a journey that will bring them together and change their world forever. This adventure is a wonderful romp I never wanted to end. I’ll be reading this one again soon.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

This one makes it to the list because of its originality. A prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, this novella in the Wayward Children series follows Jack and Jill through their portal into a dark and frightening world. One of the twin sisters is adopted by the local vampire to a life of luxury and blood, while her sister Jack is apprenticed by the vampire’s nemesis, a mad scientist. They come of age beneath the burgeoning knowledge that they are destined to become the next generation of an ancient rivalry, and on opposing sides. But deep within Jack’s heart stirs an impossible loyalty to her sister. It’s a heck of a story that brings the mad scientist of old spooky movies into the new millennium.

*

That finishes my list and as the old year closes I’m excited to see what books 2018 will bring … in January alone I’m counting down to the release of Seanan McGuire’s Beneath the Sugar Sky (the third in her Wayward Children series mentioned above) and the English translation of Ahmed Saddwi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad.

What were some of your favourite books this year? Any you’re looking forward to?

the child Santa forgot

Jane’s parents didn’t celebrate Christmas, but the media did. There was money to be made. From mid-November onward, Jane’s world was saturated with the spirit of Christmas. Santa always came through. A miracle for every child. Presents for everyone!

“Don’t worry,” her strange Aunt Ellie promised Jane, every year, “I’ll make sure Santa finds ya.” Her mind, Mum said, got hurt when Aunt Ellie was young. “Santa’s a magic fellow. He would never miss a girl like you.”

Like magic, there would be a festive envelope waiting on Christmas morning, tucked beneath Jane’s pillow where her parents would never see it.

An envelope stuffed full of expired coupons.

Buy one pizza, get another pizza free, expired October 7th. Twenty dollars off a round of golf at The Meadows. Good until August 22nd. Jane would pore over them, looking for some twisted pattern, a reason why Santa left those particular coupons. A clue to tell her what she had done wrong to anger him so.

It wasn’t until Jane was eight or nine that she realized the envelopes were from Ellie, stocked with the best intentions her broken mind could muster.

Jane continued to struggle with Christmas as an adult. She decorated trees and played Santa for her own kids, forcing herself into rituals she didn’t understand, or love, or care to. The smudge of old shame clung to the season like grime to a roadside snowbank. But she watched.

She watched for the children Santa was forgetting. Taking care to send them magic in whatever way she could. Sometimes it was a spare candy cane, or a coin left in their path, a toy tucked inside a hollow tree to be found some distant day. Passes to the zoo, ones that never expired, tucked inside an open backpack pouch.

She did it for Ellie, who Jane supposed had the idea in the first place. She did it for herself, to prove she could make her own magic, and she did it for the kids, because Santa wasn’t going to.