Storybook Perfect

Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

Tag: short story

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!

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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.

Flash Fiction: Eyes On The Sky

Another piece for the Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge (which is a great prompt, because it encourages me to create on a weekly basis beyond my own ideas).

This time the random number generator gave me 10, 10, 1, which is ‘the moon’ for my motif, ‘mythpunk’ for my genre and ‘a train’ for my setting. Technically I got 4 for setting, which was a labyrinth, but I’ve recently written a labyrinth story, so wanted something different, so rolled the die on that on again (cheating, naughty naughty, though this time I did manage to stick to the 1,000 word limit).

Well, without further ado:

picture courtesy of the creative commons

picture courtesy of the creative commons

Eyes On the Sky

I first saw him when I was forced to stay back at work, labouring over an Expression of Interest for a contract my company was desperate for. They were so desperate they actually paid me overtime, otherwise I would have left the office long before the moon rode in the sky.

He sat, elbow propped on the very thin sill beneath the train window, staring through the scratched-on graffiti up at the moon. She was fat and full in the sky and his eyes were full of her.

He was tall and slim – not an underfed slim, but that lean, muscular slim that hides more strength than you expect. His eyes, shimmering silver with the moon’s reflection, were blue under all that light and his blond beard was kept trimmed close to his face while his hair flared out in loose golden curls.

I wondered who he was, watching the sky with eyes full of melancholy. My heart ached and the next day all I could think about was him.

Desperate to see him again I worked late, this time unpaid, and left in time to catch the same train. I wasn’t sure he would be on the train, he had been dressed casually so may have been visiting a friend on a once-in-a-while trip. I walked the entire length of the train, checking every car. My heart skipped a beat when I found him in the front-most car, elbow on the sill, staring up at the moon.

I sat across from him, hands folded in my lap, and watched him.

He didn’t glance at me once, but that did not deter me.

The next day I didn’t care to stay back at work, so I sat at the train station reading as train after train clacked by.

When my train pulled up he was seated by the window directly in front of me. His eyes bored through the concrete roof of the station. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that his eyes were trained where the moon hung in the sky.

I sat across from him again, admiring the strong cut of his jaw and the beauty of his expression as he watched the moon. Again he didn’t notice my presence.

It was the weekend and I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I wanted the weekend to be over so I could go back to work, stay late and catch that train. My friends dragged me out to go dancing with them, and though I went I insisted on dancing by the window so I could look up at the moon – knowing he would be doing the same somewhere.

When Monday arrived I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. But something was gnawing at my stomach too. He never looked at me. He didn’t know I existed. Fine, tonight I would change that.

At the station I read my book, pulse thrumming, while I waited to finally talk to him. What would I say? What would he say? What would happen after that? I could barely focus on the story in my lap. Then something caught my eye in the tale.

Star-crossed lovers were the focus of this tragedy. The Sun and the Moon, Apollo and Artemis, in love, but never able to meet. During the night, when he could roam the earth she rode the sky, and during the day, when she was not trapped in the sky, he was instead.

The train screeched to a halt in front of me.

I boarded the train, my head hurting. It was a coincidence, wasn’t it? I just happened to read a story about a man in love with the moon. Right?

He wasn’t in the car I boarded, but he was in the next one along.

I sat myself beside him and stared at him. His golden hair ruffled out from his head. I swallowed as the thought crossed my mind that his hair was like the sun’s rays. I was being silly. Gods don’t walk the earth and myths are just stories.

His eyes shone, sad and silver and full of her. There was no mistaking his expression.

I swallowed hard and opened my mouth.

“Are you…” I trailed off; I couldn’t say it.

Slowly, reluctantly, he tore his eyes away from the moon. He looked at me, eyes a little wide, like he never expected there to be another person on the train.

“I’m sorry, did you say something?” He asked, his voice like a creaky old door from lack of use.

“I… er, I wanted to tell you…” I frowned and looked away. “Sorry, no, I wanted to ask you…” My eyes flicked down to the book in my lap.

His eyes followed mine and widened again.

“It’s tough being a celebrity.” He sighed.

I couldn’t talk for a few moments. He watched me, calm, waiting for me to collect my thoughts with the sort of patience only an immortal could possess.

“So you are? Apollo, I mean?”

“In a fashion. Apollo is just a name I’ve been given. I have thousands of them. But essentially, yes, I am the sun.”

My heart burst while my mind broke.

I don’t know why I didn’t doubt him, I just knew that he wasn’t lying. But that wasn’t what mattered, what mattered was that he was there, on the train, looking at the woman he loves and can never have.

The train pulled in to a stop.

I glanced at the sign and was shocked to see it was my stop. I apologised, dipping into a curtsey because that was all I could think of to do when departing the presence of a god, and I exited the train.

On the platform I watched as the train hissed back into motion, clutching the book to my chest with tears in my eyes.

Apollo looked up at Artemis and I watched as the memory of me faded from his eyes and filled with the sight of her.

I seem to be fond of a theme of obsession. Also, I think I kind of bludgeoned the reader to death with my motif. What do you think? I don’t love this one with quite the passion I have for Emily’s typewriter, but this was still fun and another chance to write a little out of my comfort zone.

Please, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your reactions.

Starting in Medias Res

The first post. I spent a great deal of time searching for an appropriate topic for my first post. Just like with your first chapter, page, paragraph, even line of a book, you want to make a great first impression. In a story you need to start in ‘medias res’ (in the middle of the action), so where does that put me?

Well, I am an aspiring author with a completed first novel attempting the arduous task of approaching agents with my novel: Storybook Perfect.

My novel is a tough sell, an unpublished writer peddling a fantasy trilogy – it’s going to take a great manuscript and a lot of effort, but I am committed. I have one rejection, but it was a positive one. They liked my query so read my manuscript, but eventually passed on it. The agent even went so far as to compliment my main character and encourage me to continue seeking agents as “while (my) manuscript was not what (she) was looking for there are other agents with other opinions.” Pretty positive for my very first try.

So I’m working on improving my appeal – behold a webpage to display myself and my works to the world. But I’m not just going to sit back and blog and hope for an agent to find me. Oh no! Fortune favours the bold you see. I am working on a new short story to enter an upcoming competition which has a prize of publication. The story is a new spin on the fairytale princess theme. The princess herself is a standard DID, trapped in a tower in the heart of a magical labyrinth. My tale however is told from the perspective of the labyrinths groundskeeper. I won’t say much more just yet but I do hope all this is ‘in the action’ enough for a first post – though realistically I expect that most of the blog subscribers I would have in a years time will never have even read this post, so I probably didn’t need to stress myself out so much ;p

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