Storybook Perfect

Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

Tag: free fiction

Happy Mother’s Day (+ free fiction!)

As the title says, happy Mother’s Day to all of my readers who are mothers. In particular a huge happy Mother’s Day to my own mother for whom my appreciation can never be fully articulated (and for a chatterbox like me – that’s something!).

If anyone out there is looking for a last minute gift may I suggest a copy of the anthology 18, containing my most recent story Nightfall? Or for hero-loving mums Oomph: A Little Super Goes A Long Way.

Ha ha, shameless plugs aside, as a special gift for my mother (and I suppose everyone else can read it too) here’s a flash fiction about a new mum.

Back To Work

by Kirstie Olley

“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Shona asked, trying to keep her voice even, her eyes flickering between her husband’s face and the rugged up bundle in his arms.

“I’m more worried about you,” laughed Dave as their daughter, Monique, wriggled in his arms, turning to stare up at her mother with big blue eyes.

Shona’s heart turned to mush at the sight of Monique’s tiny nose, shaped like a racing car lolly. She stooped and kissed it.

“Are you really ready to go back to work?” Dave asked, his brow creasing.

Shona sat down, tightening the laces of her boots. “I have to, besides we discussed this. You always wanted to be the stay at home dad.” They had discussed it. A lot. But the last three months had changed her feelings somewhat.

Struggling through the sleep-deprived first six weeks when Monique woke every two hours had been a form of torture she’d never endured before, but even amidst that haze there had been moments of magic. The soft, new baby smell that made her insides squiggly. The warm, floaty feeling when she cradled Monique while she breastfed. The elation when Monique smiled at her for the first time (sure some silly scientist claimed Monique couldn’t be smiling, that it was just gas, but Shona suspected soon another scientist would disprove the first). All those wonderful feelings made her reluctant to leave her daughter. Despite that she still felt the urge to get back to work. It beat in her, like a second pulse in her veins. Each time she blinked she changed her mind again.

“I know but…” Dave trailed off, looking at her as she pulled her hair back in a tight ponytail. His eyes lingered on his wife’s shape, a smile taking over his face.

“Is my uniform too tight?” she asked, worriedly glancing down at herself, unable to ignore the fact there was a little more skin around her stomach than there had been last time she’d worn these clothes.

“It always was pretty tight,” he teased, grinning broadly.

Monique cooed in her father’s arms, raising a pudgy fist up, demanding the attention of both parents be returned to her.

The ache returned as Shona looked at her daughter. She hadn’t thought it would be this hard to leave. After all she loved her job, she was passionate about what she did and couldn’t possibly give it up. But to leave Monique behind? The infant uncurled her fingers and clutched at the air between herself and her mother.

Shona’s phone gave an agitated beep. She rolled her eyes and peered at the screen where the words HURRY UP were written all in capitals followed by a ridiculous number of exclamation points. As hard as it was to leave, there were people relying on her.

“I love you,” Shona said, leaning in to brush her lips on Dave’s. “Both of you.” She bent to kiss Monique again.

“When will you get home?”

Shona smiled weakly. “You know I don’t know the answer to that,” she replied as she affixed her domino mask over her eyes.

“Come back safe.”

“I always try to.” Shona winked before she stepped out the door and flew off, cape streaming behind her.

A Gift For You

A few days ago I officially became an author on Goodreads (huzzah!) and so to celebrate I thought I’d create a new page which allows you to easily access all of the free fiction I have available.

You’ll find it in the pages tabs just above, creatively named ‘Free Fiction‘ (gets the point across yeah?).

At the moment it’s a modest collection but it’s bound to grow more and more as I add more flash fiction and sneak peaks. I hope you’ll keep checking back to see what’s new.

Flash Fiction – Kina’s Climb

Another Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge accepted. The challenge for those too lazy to read it was to write a story inspired by this amazing discovery.

As always, happy for feedback. Gimme, gimme, gimme!

third-1

Kina’s Climb

By Kirstie Olley

When you started the climb you either finished it, or it finished you.

It wasn’t easy, going up the spire every few days. Dragging the weight of herself and the bulbs up over the dome at the bottom wasn’t all that difficult, but the pinnacle itself was too tall and too straight. The surface stuck to Kina’s hands, giving the illusion of safety, but each time she moved a hand or foot she had to tear it free. When she was tired, when she wanted to sag back and rest her weary limbs, the wall’s grip didn’t have the strength to hold her in place though. She had to keep her body close, distribute her weight evenly and keep soldiering on.

Kina looked up. The summit was in sight. Long thin strands stretched out from the tip of the top, slinging down to the fence, supplying the charge to the protective barrier around her home.

With an oomph she pushed on, struggling upward. Her muscles were a fire under her skin, and though she’d started while dawn was still a grey smudge of light now the sun pummelled her with heat, reddening her skin.

The bulbs bounced on her back, slapping her spine, kicking her kidneys. Kina wasn’t new to the sensations however, the wet goop sticking to her palms, the burning inside and out. She did this every week, it was the only way to keep the charge in the fence, to keep the Others out, and to cry for help to anyone who could hear.

There had to be others out there, didn’t there?

Just because everyone else who’d sheltered behind these walls had died didn’t mean there were no other survivors anywhere. Right?

Even internally her voice carried the quaver of a lost four year old.

And then she was there, the receptacle open before her, the juice almost empty inside.

Kina wrapped her legs around the stalk as if it were a lover and struggled with the first of the bulbs. She pulled it around by the short rope that attached it to the harness on her chest and drew it in front of her. Her stomach muscles pulled taught under her ragged shirt as she kept her torso upright.

With a wrench and a pop the cork came out and Kina poured the sloshing liquid inside into the receptacle. The lines streaming down from the spear quivered and made a short, sharp shzt that brought a smile to Kina’s face.

Every time she wondered if the source might become less potent, if the current would weaken. The Others would come in then. Despite the sun’s heat she could feel the chill of that thought.

She emptied the other three containers until the liquid lapped at the brim. Re-corking the bottles Kina scanned the area. There were no signs of any Others, but no signs of help either.

With the hem of her shirt Kina wiped the sweat from her face. She corked the last container and prepared herself for the journey down.

The world flashed. Brightness that shamed the sun seared her eyes and Kina lost her grip on the bulb in her arms. It swung behind her and slammed into her other side hard enough to bruise. The bottles bashed each other, causing a clamour.

Kina wrapped her arms around the needle, adhering every part of herself to it while she waited for her eyes to readjust. Her temples throbbed, even her body pulsed with the pain. For an instant she considered that she might have touched one of the live wires, but she knew she hadn’t, there’d been none near enough to brush.

Before she recovered the flash came again, stabbing through the air, enveloping the world.

Was this the end? Had she survived the Others all this time only to die like this? Tears stung her eyes. How could she fight this? Her spire, her fence, they could hold the Others at bay, but not this world-consuming lightning.

Something rumbled. It was a waterfall’s roar, but with a depth and resonance she’d never dreamed possible. It was as all-encompassing as the light had been.

The tower trembled, like it was trying to shake her loose. No, that wasn’t it – the tower was as terrified as she.

The noise surrounded her, her ears ached like her eyes, but somewhere through the roar she heard words, impossible as that seemed. Clinging to the pinnacle, weeping for her life, the words washed over Kina.

“Hey, come over here, check this out. What do you reckon this thing is?”

Her vision came back while another voice joined in. She looked up past the receptacle, everything was blurry, tears gushed in response.

The eye loomed over her so huge it blotted out the sky. Just its damn eye and she couldn’t see anything else of it. Even the first time she’d climbed the spire her heart hadn’t pounded like this.

Every day she’d prayed for someone to come, someone to save her. This creature, gargantuan beyond conceivability, could never see her. She would be too tiny to it. She would be smaller than a dust mote drifting in a sunbeam. Someone had come, but they were no saviour.

Kina clung, their words reverberating through her chest, their lights coming again to blind her. Kina gripped to the tower and held on to her life. If she could survive this, then the Others would be nothing.

Sneak-Peak: Keys, Clocks and Quests

I really do wish I actually had a final title for the novel before putting up sneak peaks for it, but I still haven’t quite finished the first draft, so that’s not happening(it’s usually sometime during the second draft or later that a good name finally comes to me). However I love this passage and want to share it. It’s a fight scene involving the protagonist and his best friend/perhaps more against a horrific beast.

Without further ado, enjoy this scene from chapter 6:

Battle With A Butengram

Hayd followed Even, placing his feet just as the young monster hunter had taught him. He kept his eyes on everything, looking for signs of prey, his bow half drawn just like Even’s.

Even moved like a spirit, ghosting through the wood with silence and speed that belonged more to a Shain than to a human. He stopped, feet well grounded and raised his bow, aiming for something Hayd couldn’t see yet.

Hayd stepped forward to try and see what Even was aiming at. Whatever the creature was, it was unlikely to be a bird from the way Even was aiming at roughly his own shoulder height.

A twig snapped underfoot as Hayd shifted his weight to his toes and sighted the deer.

The deer’s head jerked up, large dark eyes looking straight at where Hayd stood. He tried to freeze so the deer might think he was merely an unusual tree. The deer clearly possessed more intelligence than that, because in the next instant it bounded off into the bushes.

“Well Light-foot.” Drawled Even. “There goes probably the best meal we would have enjoyed between here and Elta Capa.”

“I’m sorry.” Hayd let his shoulders slump.

Even’s head snapped up and turned slightly, his eyes staring into the bushes beyond Hayd. There was more than a passing resemblance between Even and the deer.

“Get up the tree now.” Even whispered.

“Huh?”

“Tree. Climb, now!” Still a whisper but the urgency twice as powerful.

Hayd still didn’t understand, but he grabbed the low hanging branches of a camphor and swung up, clambering up another branch as Even sprang up after him.

As usual Even was quick, quiet and agile, several branches above him in moments. Even paused, seated carefully in the fork of a branch, re-nocked his arrow and drew the bow, aiming for the ground.

Hayd looked down and saw nothing.

A snuffling noise, thick, bordering on a growl announced the beast. A long hog’s nose wriggled, scenting the grass. The bulky beast held its hairy weight low to the ground, six legs keeping its belly from sliding along the grass.

Upon reaching where Hayd and Even had stood only moments before it sniffed with extra enthusiasm and looked about from side to side, the rolls of fat on its neck limiting its movement. It sniffed again, slower, as if savouring the scent. It snuffled along the ground nearby, searching for the continuation of the scent, unable to understand where this captivating new scent had vanished to. It looked about again, grunting all the while. It tried to lift its head, but was incapable of looking directly above itself, where the prey it wanted hid. Hayd breathed a sigh of relief as quietly as he could.

The creature snuffled the air, such deep breaths they sounded like a reverse snarl. A bird in a nearby tree took flight startled by the noise. The sound of flight snatched the beast’s attention only momentarily, it drew in more breaths and stumped its way over to the tree trunk.

Snuffle-snuff. It sniffed the bark, the end of its nose bumping chunks away. It had the scent. Ponderously it lifted its forelegs onto the trunk, propping its body so its beady dark eyes, all six of them, could catch sight of the tasty morsels in the tree.

The beast’s cry was like a horse’s whinny, but thick with malice. The long sniffing snout opened like the maw of a crocodile, bristling with fangs.

A cry tore itself from Hayd’s chest and his muscles stiffened through out his body.

Even showed no such tremors. He fired the drawn arrow down, but missed the goal of the soft interior of the mouth. Instead the arrow head drew blood in a nasty gash along the beast’s cheek. It shrieked, the noise horrendously like a woman’s cry. Thick, bristly brows wriggled and set low. Even swore.

“What is that?!” Hayd wished he didn’t sound quite so high pitched.

“Butengram. Female by the looks, which means we’re for it if we can’t kill her.” Even was already nocking another arrow and aiming at the whinnying beast below. “In fact, the way butengram feed they’re a danger to their own environment. I’m surprised there was a deer left around for you to startle.”

The arrow flew, sinking into one of the butengram’s eyes.

She reared, shrieking that human scream again. Even drew another arrow from his quiver, shifting his weight as he did so, wrapping his legs tight around the branches of his fork perch.

“Hold on.” Even advised, aiming with care and waiting for the thrashing to stop so he could gain a clear shot.

The butengram slammed its front hooves into the tree trunk. The whole tree shook with the fat beast’s force. Hayd screamed again as he was jostled from his seating. His hands were scraped by the rough bark as he caught the branch that he, only an instant ago, had sat on. With great strength he kept his legs from hanging low, pulling them up and wrapping them around the branch as well. Through every inch of him he could feel his pulse pounding.

Though he did not see it he certainly felt another rear and stomp on the tree trunk. The wood splintered beneath the force of the hooves, the powerful scent of camphor rushed up and flooded his nostrils. There was also a reek of rotted meat, rising out of the gaping mouth of the beast below.

The world shook. At least to Hayd – hanging from the branch for dear life – it seemed to. He pulled himself close enough to the branch to feel the bark scratch his cheek.

A twang sounded, letting him know another arrow flew from Even’s bow. Another horrid scream followed a thick, meaty thwump as the arrow sunk into its target.

Taking advantage of the small gap in the butengram’s attack, Hayd swung back up to sit atop the branch.

Looking down at the butengram he felt his stomach clench. The beast weighed ten of him easily. Even’s arrows, lined up closely along the eyes of the beast, did nothing to lessen the visual ferocity of teeth and hairy leather bulk.

Even swore from his perch above Hayd, and Hayd looked up. “I can’t nock and draw fast enough to shoot inside its mouth.”

“I can help.”

“Your arrows are on the ground.” Even pointed to the splintered remains beneath the butengram’s hooves with his arrow head.

“I can borrow yours.”

Even glanced to the quiver. “I only have three left.”

The tree vibrated again, but Hayd kept his saddle this time. Even rode like a rodeo expert.

“I can do it.”

“You’ll be under pressure.”

Hayd scowled. Did Even think he couldn’t do it? He might not be much of a hunter yet, but he was a warrior damnit, a bit of pressure wasn’t going to affect him. He hoped.

“Fine then.” Called Even. “Catch.” He tossed one arrow down. “You aim for the eye as soon as you see an opening.”

“Why not the neck?”

“Skin’s too thick on top, only soft right near the bottom.” It was unusual to hear Even speak improperly. It was the most potent proof that they were in real danger. During the fire-water slaven attack Even had still managed to speak properly the entire time.

“Ok, so eyes.”

“Yep, I’ll aim for the mouth, when it opens it’s a harder target.”

Hayd nodded, and aimed with care, reciting mentally every tidbit of advice Even had given him about archery. He bit his lip and shot.

The arrow sunk into an eye. Hayd couldn’t keep his cheer in, though the sound of it was utterly swaddled within the butengram’s scream.

Even’s bowstring sung again, followed shortly after by a swear word so nasty Hayd had always been told the word came from the Shain and could be used to summon their ire. He looked up to Even with a paling face for the word’s use.

The butengram was still screaming.

Hayd turned back to face the monster.

Even’s arrow sat wedged between two fangs on the top jaw, buried in fleshy pink gum. His heart faltered. He could understand why Even had used that word now – they already appeared to be Shain-cursed.

The hooves pounded the trunk again. The splintering, tearing noise louder. The tree swung away from the offending hooves, but did not spring back as before. Even cried with horror, his own scream a girlish in its pitch.

The butengram wailed, thrashing her head, stomping her back four legs in rage while blood striped the side of her face.

Hayd felt like his mind took a step back and out from his body to survey the scene. The tree trunk broken, leaning back. Would those hooves strike two more blows before the tree was felled, or only one? Even was struggling to regain his seat, still gripping his bow, the last arrow in his other hand.

“Can you make the shot this time?” Asked Hayd.

“How will we get the mouth open?”

“I’ve got it.”

“Hayd, no!” Even’s terror was genuine, but Hayd was already shifting his weight. His sword scraped from its sheath and he took his own sort of aim as he hurtled himself toward the neck of the butengram.

Even’s scream faded in Hayd’s ears, not because it actually silenced, but because Hayd was so focused.

He was running a gauntlet straight into the realms of the Shain. The reek of camphor made his eyes water, but it was gone in an instant as the smell of unwashed carnivore slammed into him. He ran through the walls of scents, eyes on the beast’s jaws. They were slowly opening, no doubt intending to snap down on some part of him.

A sharp thrust with his left leg and a slight twist of his body and the straight ahead momentum of his body shifted. He would loose a lot of power now he had altered course, but all that power would have given him if he had kept driving forward would be a new home in the butengram’s stomach.

His feet fell into the grass and he ignored the jarring, bending his knees to try and accommodate it somewhat, then used his bent knees to propel him, allowing himself to spring in, this time from the side.

Once the revolting smell of dirt and meat and sweat and sick was all around him – smothering him like the sinking bog had tried to – he thrust the blade at his side forward with all the strength in his arms.

Skin tore. The flesh on the butengram’s neck resisted. It was thicker than leather, tough like Hayd imagined armour might be, but it yielded. Skin tore and crimson leaked out. The bright blood drenched his blade, it splattered his hands, coloured the grass. Skin tore and the butengram raged. She raged with her voice, crying louder than before, loud enough to echo through the forest with vibrant power. A hoof flew and Hayd lost his breath when the limb connected. The force of the kick flung him back, tearing the sword from his hands while it stayed buried in the rolls of the beast’s neck.

Hayd hit the ground. The force would have pushed the breath out of him had the hoof not already done that job. He skidded through the grass, his clothes gaining green and brown streaks in his progress.

He couldn’t get up again. There was no breath and his body was nothing but pain. He could hear the screaming of a woman. As the shrieks faded to nothing he realised those were not the cries of a woman, but the butengram.

Even’s face, haloed with his bizarre hair sprung into view.

“Hayd, are you alright?!”

Hayd croaked.

Even chuckled then asked, “Were you turned into a frog?”

“Don’t laugh at me.” Hayd wheezed, slowly rolling onto his side, raising himself on one elbow while his mid-section throbbed with agony.

“Should I get Mannandam? Do your ribs hurt? Are you getting your breath back?” Even dropped to his haunches like a puppy and watched Hayd with shaking hands.

“My breath’s coming back, but I hurt like a Shain cursed me.”

“Shain don’t actually curse people you know.”

“Really? Met many?”

Even chuckled again. “None I suppose.”

“I’ll take that healing, as long as there’s no more of those ghastly beasts around.”

 

As always I’d love to hear any feedback, though if you dislike it please do tell me what you dislike about it – it would be much appreciated! I’m particularly interested in whether the name Even makes people want to stab me in the face with a pen or not.

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