Author Interview–Leigh Landry

I’m incredibly excited to welcome my friend and writing buddy, Leigh Landry, to my blog! Hi Leigh! Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?
*waves* I’m a former musician and English teacher, and I now write and homeschool my two kids. We’ve got a house full of animals, and we foster cats and volunteer at our local animal rescue center. I like to keep things interesting here!
Can you tell us about your first novella, SECOND FIDDLE FLIRT?
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Lauren’s in the middle of clearing out her recently deceased sister’s room and prepping for a rehearsal/audition with an all-female Cajun band when her sister’s sexy, ex-soldier best friend arrives to help. Freshly out of a controlling relationship coupled with a heaping side of shared grief between them, Lauren has to learn how to trust herself again and fight for what she wants: her dream gig and Tyler.
SECOND FIDDLE FLIRT, is simultaneously fun and heavy. Where did you get your inspiration from?
I really wanted to write a fun, flirty series as a tribute to the music and modern Cajun culture of this area. But everything I write ends up tackling serious, weighty themes and issues, whether or not I intend to from the beginning. I am perpetually fluffy-dark, in writing and personality, hehe.
I love hearing about other writers’ processes, so can you tell us what your writing process looks like?
No matter how many books I write, I always feel like I’m still figuring out my process with each new project! I do plan more now than I used to, but my initial outlines are still very sparse and flexible. The further I get in this series, though, the more structured my outlines get, because I’m starting to know how I need the series to shape up. I always begin with my main characters and what they want, then put my couple together and see what happens!
Any favorite snacks for while you write?
As much as I love snacks, I don’t usually eat while I write. I do almost always have something hot nearby, coffee with a little sugar or herbal tea with honey.
What media are you loving right now (books, shows, etc)?
I’ve been in a reading slump lately. Other than critique partner manuscripts (which I am BEYOND excited about the things I read last year!!!), my brain seems incapable of finishing stories the last few months. Looking forward to enjoying more books again this year! I always love listening to the Smart Podcast, Trashy Books podcast, because their enthusiasm for books is absolutely contagious. OH! And I just finished season 1 of The Good Place, and I am completely smitten with that show. ❤ ❤ ❤
And where can people find you?
I mostly hang out on Twitter (@LeighLAuthor), but I do have a Facebook page (LeighLandryAuthor) where I post writing updates, songs on my writing playlists, and occasional kitty pics. I’ve also started a blog (https://leighlandry.blogspot.com) that has all of my book & contact info.

You can find Leigh’s first novella here, and you can preorder her second one, SIX STRING SASS, set for release on February 8, here! Happy reading!
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The Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong

I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be co-hosting a readalong of THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA with Kara Seal (@KRwriter) over on Twitter! It’s my first time doing anything like this, and I really hope you can join us and help make this a success.

The book (blurb from Barnes and Noble): An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.

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It’s been a while since I read this (at least 10 years…) but I remember it being really twisty and bloody and amazing. I used to try to convince all of my friends to read it, too.

The readalong begins on February 4, with weekly chats on Friday evenings at 8pm EST.

The schedule:
Week 1: Prologue–Interlude “Locke Stays for Dinner”
Week 2: Chapter 3–Chapter 5
Week 3: Interlude “Jean Tannen”–Interlude “The Schoolmaster of Roses”
Week 4: Chapter 10–Chapter 14
Week 5: Remainder of the book

I hope to see you all for the first Twitter chat at 8pm EST on February 9! Don’t forget to use the hashtag @LiesofLockeLamora.

Short Fiction Contest Winner: Bob’s Bones

I’m very excited to share with you the winning story of the short fiction contest written by Kelvin Woelk! Enjoy.


I claimed the last two top beside the big window, since no other tables were open. Maybe a cute girl would come in. I could offer the empty chair.
The door opened and a skeleton entered, toe bones clacking loudly across the wood floor.
 
I looked around. No one else seemed to notice as the skeleton approached the blackboard menu, the items written in white as if it had scraped them onto it with its own bony finger. It stepped up to the ordering counter, and the barista nodded and tapped her own finger against a screen, her face bathed in a light blue aura. The skeleton stepped politely to the side. I noticed it had offered no form of payment, nor seemingly had one been demanded.
 
A minute later, it crossed into the room where I sat, its head turning this way and that, plate and cup held in place with bleached curled knuckles. I realized, with mild panic, that it was looking for a place to sit. I looked down, hoping to avoid giving any kind of signal, hoping a seat might open somewhere far away.
 
But we had made whatever substitutes for eye contact when you look at a skeleton and it looks back at you with round black empty sockets. It clattered over, setting the cup and saucer down and placing a bony hand on the empty chair.
 
“Do you mind?” The lower jaw moved like a bad special effect. Before I could answer, it pulled the chair back and slipped between it and the table, with a sound like someone losing at Jenga.
 
“I’m Bob,” it said, finger bones extended, thumb bone pointing up. I could see only those two empty circles, black as night, but it seemed to be seeing me just as I was seeing it.
 
This is how it ends, I thought. In a coffee shop, shaking the offered hand of death who, frankly, can’t even come up with an interesting fake name. Probably moonlights as tech support. Of course, if you’re Death, it probably matters even less what you call yourself.
 
I reached out and felt the cold hard bones wrap around my own warm, soft flesh.
 
“I love the smell of coffee, don’t you?” the skeleton said, releasing its grip and raising its two empty nostril holes.
 
“More so than the taste,” I said calmly, expecting each word to be my last.
 
“Spoken like a tea man,” it replied, directing its two black voids toward my hands wrapped around the white porcelain cup. “Coffee’s not to everyone’s taste. But nice on a day like today.”
 
It raised its cup to approximate lip position and held it there.
 
It took me a few seconds to realize that it was blowing—or trying to—across the steaming liquid. It made no sense of course. But the day had already pegged high on the weirdness scale.
 
I watched with cringing fascination as it took a long sip. The dark liquid dropped out the bottom of its skull, splashing its spine, ribs and pelvic bones before dropping wetly onto the chair and floor. The skeleton looked down, then at me, shrugged and said, “It’s alright, they know me here.”
 
Feeling I had nothing to lose, I took a deep breath.
 
“So”, I said. “As much as the whole cloak and scythe thing seems a bit tired, it’s what most of us are conditioned to expect. However, I find this in between motif kind of half-hearted. No offense.”
 
Genuine puzzlement seemed to emanate from inside those black round voids.
 
“What?” it said, its jaw moving slightly and emitting a single clack. “What, the death thing again? I’m just a regular Joe, like you. I was coming from an appointment with my orthopedist when I spotted this place. I thought a coffee sounded nice. Not that my opinion matters, but you’ll live out the day, I’m pretty sure.”
 
“And tomorrow?”
 
It shrugged again. “Beats me. But no one gets out alive, am I right?”
 
“Anyway,” I said, “the orthopedist bit is pretty funny.”
 
The look now directed at me, combined with accompanying silence, was most unnerving.
 
“Lack of soft tissue is no joke, my friend,” the skeleton said. “Walk around without cartilage for a couple of days. You’ll regret it faster than than you can crack your knuckles. Would you excuse me for a moment? That’s the one thing about coffee I don’t love. Goes right through me.”
I easily stifled my laughter this time. The skeleton slipped from behind the table and headed toward the bathrooms. People in the ordering line moved aside, politely letting it pass. As it turned the corner out of sight, I considered going straight home to lie down. Maybe when I woke up—if I did—things would make sense again. But almost immediately, the walking boneyard was back at the table.
 
“Well, I think I better get going.” It again raised its cup, teeth clinking against the edge, and I watched the last of the coffee follow the predictable path, with predictable results.
 
“I kind of barged in,” it said putting the cup down, “but you seemed like a nice guy. Perhaps we’ll meet here again sometime.”
 
It stepped in the puddle as if hardly noticing it, turned and walked toward the door and opened it. A blast of outside air moved across my body, sending a cold shiver through my flesh. The skeleton stepped over the threshold, and I heard the latch quietly engage.
 
A girl approached pushing a yellow bucket on wheels, holding onto a long wooden mop handle. The wheels made a pleasing sound as they rolled over the wood floor. It was, finally, time to go.
 
 The girl began mopping around my feet. I stood up and gazed out the window, hoping to convince myself of what had just taken place. But no tracks appeared in the snow that was re-painting the sidewalk white, and I did not see the skeleton then or ever again.

SONY DSCKelvin Woelk has throughout his life held various job titles including, but not limited to, grocery clerk, hospital clerk, electronic technician, and technical writer. He currently lives in northern Colorado where he helps maintain the website for a small independent bookstore and to connect people with good books. Kelvin also enjoys photography, sending and receiving hand-written letters, playing ping pong, and trying his hand at writing short stories and non-fiction for younger readers. You can find a few other examples of his work, for better or worse, at www.birdseyetravels.wordpress.com.

Guest Story: Insubstantial

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! In honor of today, please enjoy a story written by my wonderful friend and writing buddy, Kate Sheeran Swed.

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Image from Pixabay

 

Calliope cannot convince her blood to circulate.

It is the sensation of waking with one arm splayed on the pillow, the limb drained and temporarily useless—only it tingles throughout her body. She can’t convince her numb fingers to grasp the doorknob.

The window is open, and she sneaks onto the slope of the roof more easily than ever before. Though she can’t manage her usual grip on the gutter, her ankles don’t smart when she lands.

She is weightless. She almost giggles, thinking of how she will surprise her mother by walking in the front door. But a cold feeling against her spine stifles her laughter. It is like getting up to use the bathroom at night, when the darkness convinces her to waste no time in returning to her room, lest the monsters should realize there’s a morsel out of bed.

If she loses her grip on the earth she will fly away, a balloon without a tether.

Calliope gives her head a shake, willing the dizziness to pass. Soon she will go inside, where her mother will press a cool hand against her forehead and check for fever. For now, she scans the yard for something familiar. The trees tilt, and she blinks to set them right. The flowerbeds wobble from daffodil to snapdragon, a double exposure in her brain.

Through the chaos, she catches sight of her lunchbox, anchored in the grass. She tries to remember the last time she held the handle, but it’s hard to distinguish the difference between days and years.

It should not be here. It belongs on the kitchen counter, jaw unhinged, waiting to be sated with peanut butter sandwiches and notes from her mother: Don’t forget to hand in your lunch money! Always with a heart.

On the street, kids hurry by, backpacks quivering as they cast wide-eyed glances at the house. Calliope kneels before the lunchbox. She expects damp knees, but no sensation leaks through her jeans.

There are two boys beyond the fence now, poking noses and fingers between the bars and whispering, jabbing one another with elbows. Calliope cannot hear what they’re saying. She wants them to leave her alone.

The lunchbox is decorated with a unicorn. There are rainbows on the thermos. But the hinges are rusty, the unicorn’s horn all but faded away.

Calliope reaches for the clasp.

One of the boys squeezes between the bars of the fence, pauses, looks back to his friend. The friend urges him on with a bright red sleeve.

“What do you want?” asks Calliope. The boy looks past her and swallows, then darts toward the porch.

Calliope decides to pay him no mind. She touches the tip of her index finger to the clasp on the unicorn lunchbox.

Her finger disappears. When she pushes forward, alarmed, the rest of her hand follows.

She jerks it back.

The boy reaches the porch, touches the bottom step. For a moment, the house settles in Calliope’s vision, and she sees it as if for the first time.

The porch swing hangs drunkenly from one chain. The welcome mat is gone. The kitchen window is broken, mold-black curtains hanging dirty and frayed.

It’s disorienting, like stumbling into a carnival and searching for a familiar strain through the cacophony of clashing tunes.

The boy hurtles back down the walk while his companion giggles.

Calliope is heat. She pours it into her fingers, curls them around the handle, and hurls the lunchbox with all the substance she has left.

The boys scream when the box hits the fence. They run.

Calliope sinks once more to her knees and tries to piece it all together, her thoughts no more solid than the ground beneath her feet. She will grow too heavy for the surface and descend through layers of earth, forget her place in time and fall through the years, until everything exists at once. She will hear the reason for the cockroaches, and how they keep the melody of the world from tilting off key.

The day slinks on.

*

Calliope cannot convince her blood to circulate.


Kate Sheeran Swed loves hot chocolate, plastic dinosaurs, and airplane tickets. She has trekked along the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, hiked on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in Iceland, and climbed the ruins of Masada to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea. Following an idyllic childhood in New Hampshire, she completed degrees in music at the University of Maine and Ithaca College, then moved to New York City. Her stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Electric Spec, and Fantasy Scroll Magazine. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Pacific University. You can find her at katesheeranswed.com or on Twitter @katesheeranswed.

The Monsters Among Us

I originally wrote this story for Jolene Haley‘s Halloween Showcase on her blog last year. I’m reposting it here to kick off October!

 

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The rhythmic sound infiltrates my dreams, blending with the hatchet chopping through the bathroom door, until I come to my senses enough to realize that the bloody tool I held in my dream isn’t making that noise.

With a sigh, I roll over and pull the covers over my head, trying to find my way back into my dream. The blood doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve gotten used to it.

The thin comforter does nothing to block out the noise, though, so I get up and turn on the light. My spacious room is dimly lit by faux-gaslight lamps, the only signs I’m staying here are the four-poster bed rumpled by sleep and my small suitcase sitting near the bathroom door.

I pad over to the window and peek out of the curtains of my first-floor room. The silvery moonlight illuminates a dark shape almost right outside my window.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The shadow’s shovel scrapes and bites into the damp earth. Over and over, digging a hole deeper and deeper.

I hold my breath, as if the figure might be able to hear me, but he keeps digging, oblivious to his audience. I let my breath out and continue watching, curious.

After another half an hour, he pauses and wipes his brow. The hole seems sufficiently deep for him now, an arbitrary decision from what I can see, and he rolls a sack into it before beginning the long task of refilling it.

The mid-morning sun shines through the gap in the curtains right into my eyes. I glare at the light before rolling onto my back and stretching out, feeling the silky sheets against my skin. The expansive bed envelopes me and holds me in its safety.

They’ll never find me here.

The thought swells within my chest and I laugh at the sheer exhilaration of freedom. I wrap my arms around my chest and roll back and forth on the bed.

I am safe now.

Still grinning, I dress in the only set of clothes I own. A sensible brown dress and sensible shoes. Everyone knows that “sensible” really means “ugly” but in this moment, I feel like a queen.

Gliding down the hallway toward the main lobby, I nod to the peasants who stomp past me. I forgive them for their ill manners. They don’t know what it’s like to be free.

“Miss Crawford,” the concierge says as I walk past. I glance around and then realize he’s using the fake name I gave last night. “Good morning.”

“Good morning, sir,” I say, magnanimous, my coy smile hiding my momentary lapse. “I was hoping to find some breakfast.”

With a smile of his own in return, he directs me into the dining room.

I like this man. He’s kind and pleasant. I look at the name placard placed on the countertop, proudly proclaiming him to be MR. HENRY WILKINS.

A good name for a good man.

I float into the dining room and the hostess seats me at a table on the glass-enclosed patio. The walls shimmer in the sunlight, making the dying gardens surrounding the room a hazy dream.

The hostess frowns at my clothing when she thinks I can’t see. I do not like her, but I didn’t look at her nametag before she left. I give her up as a lost cause. She’s not that bad and not everyone can appreciate true beauty.

Eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes. A feast the likes of which I’ve seen but never had cause to eat before. This, truly, must be heaven.

The gardener pushes a wheelbarrow full of fallen leaves past the glass wall in front of me. He looks like he’s in pain, hunched over the handles and limping. His mouth is parted, his breathing labored, and sweat drips down his brow.

Last night, when I arrived in the darkness, the air was tinged with a faint promise of winter. The gardener must be working very hard to be sweating so much in the cool autumn air.

I finish my breakfast and the gardener scoots by again. The wheelbarrow is still filled with leaves, but pushing it doesn’t look as difficult anymore.

With a smile, I resolve to meet this gardener. He seems like an interesting man.

Leaves crunch under my sensible shoes as I walk just outside my room’s window. If I didn’t know the ground had been disturbed, it would be easy to miss, but I look for the edges of the hole and find them beneath the leaves.

“Miss,” a gruff voice says from behind, “You shouldn’t wander off the paths.”

I turn and face the gardener. His graying hair is cut short and mostly hidden beneath a cap. A grizzled beard hides his mouth, but I can tell he’s nervous from the way his dark eyes twitch.

“Oh, I’m sorry, sir,” I say, pitching my voice into the girlish incompetence he’s expecting of me. “It’s just that I’m staying in this room,” I gesture to my window, “and I wanted to see these pretty views in the daytime.”

“In the daytime…” He narrows his eyes at me, like he’s trying to figure out what, if anything, I saw.

“I got in late last night and couldn’t see much in the darkness.”

He grunts and shuffles his feet.

“Well, as you can see there’s not much here, miss.”

But the way his eyes keep darting between my face and the hidden hole next to my feet tells me a different story. I smile at him.

“You’d um… best be finding your way back to the path.”

“I’m sure you’re right.”

I march past him without a backwards glance, proud of myself for the restraint I’m learning to show.

There are no holes dug outside my window tonight. I know. I sat next to my window waiting for him to come back, but he didn’t. Not tonight.

Men’s voices rumble urgently outside my door, their footsteps thudding dully on the carpet. I creep over, as quiet as I can, and press my ear to the cold wood.

“–no one here by that name,” MR. HENRY WILKINS says.

“Harrumph,” another man says.

Ice freezes my veins. I know that voice.

He’s here. They’ve found me.

“Do you have a photo?” The concierge asks.

My breathing is shallow. I can’t seem to catch my breath.

My hunter grunts and I imagine him patting his pockets, looking for it. Their footsteps recede.

“…seem to have forgotten it…” His voice fades.

My breathing eases. I can’t stay here much longer, but I have a little time. He’ll come back with that horrid photo they took of me. The one where my hair’s all matted with blood they wouldn’t let me clean off.

“It’s evidence,” they said when I asked if I could wash the blood off.

But they didn’t understand that what I do is necessary. The man who came after me understood least of all.

One more day here. That’s all I need before they come back with the photo and the concierge won’t be such a nice man anymore.

Deep breaths calm my frantically beating heart. This will all end up okay. I know it.

I didn’t come all the way here to not remain a free woman.

I like living in the space between invisible and not-quite-noticed. My plain clothes and quiet ways lend themselves to not really being seen. People interact with me, answer my questions, be polite, but as soon as I step away, I’m forgotten.

Not so with the gardener.

I can feel his eyes tracking me when I walk the winding paths outside. The only place I’m free of him is inside the walls of the Thornewood Hotel, but I enjoy being outside. The chill air wakes me up, reminding me of who I am. What I am.

And I’m going to enjoy my final day here, no matter what.

The gardener stalks, waiting, watching.

I bide my time, pretending at being oblivious.

This is the part I love the most.

Damp earth squishes between my fingers sending the scent of dirt and darkness upward. I push my hand down, reaching deep into the soil until my fingers touch the gardener’s prize.

I wanted to be sure before…

Most people need to dig up the whole damn grave to be sure, but I don’t need to. I know the feel of dead skin.

The gardener is a very bad man.

Unfortunately for him, I’m worse.

Halloween Short Fiction Contest!

This year, in honor of my favorite season, I’m running a flash fic contest for Halloween! Read on for details.

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What: Short fiction under 1000 words in the spirit of Halloween! Give me creepy, spooky, or funny. Let your imagination run wild and do what you do best! (Please, no graphic violence.)

Where: Send your submissions pasted into the body of the email to writingrosa at gmail dot com. Any emails with attachments will be disqualified and deleted.

When: Sub your stories by October 1!

Who: 18+ humans can submit. 🙂

There will be 1 winner and 2 runners up! Your stories will be posted on my blog during October and all winners will receive e-copies of a creepy Halloween book (Book TBD!)

Good luck and happy writing!

The Dreaming

Dusty cardboard boxes loomed over me in the attic of my late grandparents’ house. With a sigh I grabbed the nearest one and opened it. I hoped for treasure and instead found moth-eaten, ancient-looking nightgowns. A growl rumbled in my throat.

This was useless. How did my mom ever expect me to find anything up here?

I kicked the box down the steps.

“Watch it!” Mom’s good-natured voice, tinged with amusement, called up from below. “You nearly decapitated me.”

“At least then I wouldn’t have to go through this shit,” I muttered under my breath.

I trudged the length of the attic, nudging box after box with my foot. They probably all had stupid things in them. My grandma couldn’t even pack away her clothes right. Everything else was probably ruined, too.

Dust motes danced in the weak stream of sunlight coming from the small window at the far end of the room. The dust tickled my nose and I sneezed. Wiping my nose on the back of my arm, I moved closer to the window.

The outer pane of glass was cracked. The spiderwebbed pattern broke my view of the yard into little slivers that almost made a complete picture. My baby brother played in the yard with my dad. All the work left to us women, as usual for my family.

Anger coursed through me and I kicked the nearest box as hard as I could. Jewelry skittered across the floor from the newly split cardboard. Shiny fake jewels and cheap gold caught the dim light and gleamed. A pale silver ring rolled out and stopped at my feet. I crouched down and touched it.

I woke up in a pool of sweat, my mind sluggish, my skin hot and taut. My sheets were bunched around me and I shivered. I pushed back the covers and tried to stand, but my legs gave out. With a crash, I fell to the floor. Mom came running in.

“Oh, baby.” She held my arm and helped me back into bed. “Just lie down and rest.”

“Bathroom,” I gasped. She helped me to the bathroom. My legs shook violently from the effort and I shivered uncontrollably in the cold air. Mom changed my sheets while I did my business.

When I was done, I looked at myself in the mirror. Greasy hair plastered to my skin. Dark circles under my eyes. Haggard and sickly. I brought my hand up to push my hair back. The ring was on my pinky finger.

I didn’t remember putting the ring on. The last thing I remembered was touching it, and then I woke up at home.

I pulled the ring off and left it on the counter. After washing my hands, Mom helped me stagger back to bed where I fell into a deep sleep.

My head was clear the next time I woke up. And I wasn’t soaked and shivering, which was an improvement. I sat up and swung my feet to the floor. Taking a deep breath, I tested my weight. They felt solid under me and I made it to the bathroom on my own this time.

The ring still sat on the counter where I left it. I didn’t touch it. Something was off about that thing.

Mom came in with a breakfast tray. Scrambled eggs and ginger ale. Yum.

She helped me get comfortable and sat on the edge of my bed while I ate.

“How are you feeling, sweetie?”

“Better,” I said. Raising the fork to my mouth was tiring. “Tired. How long have I been sick?”

“Only a few days. Probably that bug that’s been going around.” She smoothed my hair back and smiled. Memories of the ring flashed in my mind. I wasn’t sure I believed her. “Just keep resting and you’ll be better in no time.” By the time I was done eating, I was ready to go back to sleep.

I dreamed about a room. Dark. Walls with peeling paint. A small, barred window with missing glass. A single chair sitting in the middle. The chair had a metal frame and a ripped vinyl cushion. I didn’t want to go near it.

A man entered the room. I didn’t know how because there were no doors, but one minute he wasn’t there, and then… he was.

I wasn’t even sure that “man” was the right description for him. He felt male, but he was more smudgy black smoke than man.

“I want my property back,” he said.

This is just a dream, I thought.

“Is it?” he asked. I was confused. Maybe I’d said that out loud?

Yes, I thought, careful this time not to say it out loud.

“If you say so,” he said. “Give me the ring.”

Or what, I thought.

He didn’t answer. Instead, spiders swarmed out of a crack in the corner of the room. My skin crawled just looking at them.

Maybe that’s where he came from, I thought before my blood ran cold. I hated spiders. My heart raced, sending shards of ice through my veins.

I woke up in pain but my first thought was: How am I going to get that ring into my dream?

The ring sat on the counter, pale silver against the dark countertop. I was afraid to touch it, but I wouldn’t have been able to say why. It seemed to have a life of its own and I was quite looking forward to being rid of it. If only I could figure out how. I slipped it into a small velvet bag without touching it and put it in my pocket.

Like other moments in my life when I was faced with a problem I couldn’t solve on my own, I went to the library. I was on the tail end of whatever this sickness was, but I needed to figure this problem out. Mom agreed to let me go if I promised to take it easy and call her the first moment I started feeling tired.

I holed up in the fairy tale section, scouring the books for stories about magic rings and dreams. After a couple hours, my eyes burned and my hands were dry and I was no closer to finding a solution. It was no use. I slammed the book shut and pushed it away from me. I propped my head up, hands pressed to my eyes.

A shadow loomed over me.

“Do you need some help?” His voice was smudged smoke and creeping things that crawl from dark corners. I didn’t need to look at him to know him.

Staring at the table, I reached deep into my pocket and pulled out the velvet bag. I held it out to the side and then it was gone.

“You have no idea what you possessed and gave to me so freely.” Faint laughter met my ears.

When I turned my head to say something to him, I was alone except for a sinking feeling that I’d done something very wrong.


Originally published on burntheboxdown.wordpress.com for the prompt “a stolen ring, a fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger.”