Tag Archives: short fiction

Remaining Ruth: A Short Story

This is a short I wrote back in 2013. It’s about a girl trying to hold tight her grasp on self-identity. This one appears in my first short story collection Slivers of Life.

Remaining Ruth

I heard my mother say, “It could be she’s just that kind of girl.”

I knew she meant me because my father responded, “No daughter of mine will be that kind of girl.”

I’m an only child, so forget any misunderstandings. Besides, just what kind of girl were they debating me to be?

I slipped through the back door, just inside the kitchen, crouched low near the refrigerator, and listened to their talk in the next room. I’m either a lesbian or a drug addict, depending on their deciphering of my mood on any given day.

Okay. True. I do keep my hair cut short and dyed black. I also prefer jeans and T-shirts to dresses and skirts. But that doesn’t make me a lesbian. Of course, there is that other thing…

My father said, “Maybe we should send her to one of those Catholic schools.”

“We’re not Catholic, Fred,” my mother reminded him.

“But they know how to deal with these sorts of things, Miriam.”

What sorts of things? I wondered, angling for a closer peek into the living room. I didn’t need to see, though. My father would be parked in his recliner, newspaper open and held in front of him. My mother, she’d be seated on the sofa, watching the television with the sound turned all the way down.

I’d never get past them. At least not without a hundred questions tossed in my face.

“Maybe we should just leave her be,” my mother offered. “I had my own moody moments at that age.”

A low harrumph, is all my father managed.

As much as I hated the idea of confrontation, I despised even more the notion of hiding out in the kitchen all night.

He’s the one who caught me, came right up out of his recliner as soon as I entered the room. “Let’s see what’s in your pockets, young lady.”

I knew the drill. They’d been doing this since the end of the school year, when I’d been stupid enough to leave a joint in my jacket, where my nosy mother happened upon it.

“I’m not carrying,” I told my father. “I smoked it before I came in.”

“So disrespectful,” my mother lamented. “I never sassed my parents when I was fourteen.”

“Gonna let them nuns straighten you out,” my father threatened, searching the pockets of my jean jacket.

He found nothing incriminating. I’d learned to never carry anything on me—at least not where they’d bother to look.

“Can I go to my room now?” I asked, not really looking for that argument my parents seemed to enjoy so much.

My father gave up a subtle nod I’d have missed if I hadn’t been looking for it.

They took my phone—and my bedroom door.

But I still had the bathroom.

I closed myself inside, pressed the lock. They’d come knocking in a while, demanding to know what all goes on when they can’t see.

They’ll never see what they don’t really want to see, though.

Muffled voices trickled through the floorboards, putting them still in the living room.

My mother’s the one who caught me kissing Megan Vennerhull. That’s where the whole lesbian thing came from. But we were just practicing. Megan pretended I was David Skillsky and I, well, I too imagined Megan was really David Skillsky—I just told her I’d been dreaming of Michael Kranshaw to keep her from freaking out. Megan has been in love with David since the third grade. But so have I.

Can’t tell that to Megan, though.

My fingers worked at the buttons on my jeans; I tugged them off my hips.

My father never used those multi-bladed razors. “One blade is all it takes,” he’d tell the television, whenever one of those commercials touting three blades came on.

I agree. One blade is all it takes.

I twisted the razor’s handle, retrieved the shiny blade from its open mouth.

It’s not a suicide attempt. I’ve never wanted to die. It’s just something I need, something I dream about when moments of stress find in me an easy target.

And I never cut too deep, either; just enough for bleeding.

Just enough for a taste of pain.

They never look at my hips—or my inner thighs. Nobody looks there. Nobody sees or knows.

My mother’s voice disrupted my moment of pleasure. “Are you going to be long in there, honey?”

“Be out in a minute,” I assured her, knowing full-well my father would be beside her in short order, threatening to remove even the bathroom door.

A quick cut just beneath my stomach let go that crimson release.

Better than an orgasm, this.

My father intruded; his meaty fists banged against the door. “I’ll break this son of a bitch down, Ruthie, you don’t open this door!”

“Can I wash my hands first?” I asked, rinsing the blade before returning it to its proper place of honor.

They weren’t quick enough—not this time, at least. I still owned one secret belonging only to me.

One more day I could still be the Ruth I wanted to be.

© 2013 Beem Weeks

This story, along with 19 others, is available in Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories. Find it at all online booksellers.

Day 4 of the Concordant Vibrancy 4 Book Tour: Beem Weeks!

Today is Day 5 of the Concordant Vibrancy 5 book tour. I am hosting me, myself, and I today. . . It’s always a party when those three show up! 

(1) What prompted you to be a part of the Concordant Vibrancy concept?

The thing that prompted me to participate in the Concordant Vibrancy concept was an invitation to do so. That’s the sort of proposal one just doesn’t turn down. To be asked to contribute to such a wonderful project is a high honor. Having my name and my work published alongside this group of skilled writers is an incredibly humbling experience. There’s also a challenge involved: Here’s a theme, now write a short story that encompasses this theme and brings it to life. Challenge accepted!

 

(2) Which Concordant Vibrancy books are you featured in?

I have been blessed to be part of four of the five anthologies. These include CV 2: Vitality, CV 3: Lustrate, CV 4: Inferno, and this latest edition, CV 5: Extancy. Each volume poses a theme and a question for the author to ponder while crafting a story around that theme.

(3) Why did you choose a certain attribute as your answer to CV5’s theme question?

I chose the attribute of adaptation to answer the theme question—What intangible elixir is paramount to one’s survival?—because those who learn to adapt will be those who survive. And survival doesn’t always equal success or a happy ending. Life isn’t outlined for us. It doesn’t fit into the pages of a well-crafted novel. Humans are often presented with unforeseen events that change our world, ruin our plans, and re-write the roadmap we’ve plotted for ourselves. These various themes postured in each of the Concordant Vibrancy editions speak to the human soul and to the human struggle for life. To adapt is to survive.

About the Author

Beem Weeks is an author, editor, blogger, podcast host, and audio/video producer. He has written many short stories, essays, poems, and the historical fiction/coming of age novel entitled Jazz Baby. Beem has also released Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories and Strange Hwy: Short Stories, as well as the novella The Thing About Kevin. He is a lifelong native of Michigan, USA. Beem is currently working on two novels and several short stories.

Social Media

TWITTER

WEBSITE

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

Day 3 of the Concordant Vibrancy 5 Book Tour: Carol Cassada!

Welcome to Day 3 of the Concordant Vibrancy 5 book tour. Today we are introducing author Carol Cassada. . .

  1. This is the third time I’ve participated in the Concordant Vibrancy series. I’ve known Yasmin, Monica, and the All Authors family for a while.

When they invited me to be part of volume 3 of the anthology, I jumped at the chance. I loved the first two volumes, and to me, the concept of Concordant Vibrancy was unique. 

Participating in the anthology challenged my mind. I delved into my philosophical side as I contemplated the theme’s question. Then I had to create a story centered around my answer. 

It was a fun experience, and Concordant Vibrancy helped break me out of my writing comfort zone. I was able to see what else I could create instead of my usual genre.

 

 

  1. I’ve been featured in Lustrate, Inferno, and now the last volume Extancy.

It’s been a pleasure to work alongside this wonderful group of authors who I admire. I’m sad to see the Concordant Vibrancy series come to an end, but I hope I’ll be able to continue working with All Authors in the future.

  1. I choose strength as my answer to the theme’s question, and when I say strength I mean emotional strength.

My CV5 story is inspired by my own life. Alzheimer’s runs in my family. My paternal grandmother had it, and my aunt was her caretaker. It was heartbreaking watching my grandmother’s mind slipping, and although my aunt never showed it, I knew it was tough on her.

Now, several years later, I’m in the same situation.

My mother was diagnosed with dementia about two years ago. At first, I didn’t want to believe it, but after confirmation from the doctor, I had to face the sad truth. I also stepped up and became my mother’s caretaker.

Being a caretaker isn’t easy. Aside from the physical stress, it can also exhaust you mentally. Seeing the person you love have their memories and their personality taken away is difficult. I’ve had moments where I broke down, wondering why my mother has to go through this, and worrying about the future.

As I explain to everyone, there are good days and bad days. Although there are challenging times, I manage to pull myself together to be the best daughter and caretaker I can be.

Author Links:

Blog: https://carolcassada.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dramacjc

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Carol-Cassada/e/B00520F3ZU?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2&qid=1609261323&sr=8-2

 

Day 2 of the Concordant Vibrancy 5 Book Tour: C. Desert Rose!

Welcome to Day 2 of the Concordant Vibrancy 5 book tour. Today we are introducing author C. Desert Rose. . .

* Knock, knock! *

 

I know you’re there!

 

Beaming Face with Smiling Eyes

 

I’m just kidding! Hello, everyone. C. Desert Rose here; just stopping by to say hello and share the 411 on my “Concordant Vibrancy” adventure throughout the year.

 

 

Going into this blog tour I was asked these questions.

 

What prompted you to be a part of the Concordant Vibrancy concept?

 

Which Concordant Vibrancy books are you featured in?

 

Why did you choose a certain attribute as your answer to CV5’s theme question?

 

 

Honestly, where do I begin?

How can one fully encompass and quantify the value of the above questions without potentially leaving something out? It seems difficult but I will do my best.

 

I’m going to try to answer all of these questions at once, albeit, potentially not in order.

 

I, gratefully, have been in all of the Concordant VIbrancy books. In Unity I wrote a story called “Her A to Z”. In Vitality I wrote an essay called “An Ocean of  Questions”. For Lustrate I wrote a comedy called “The Boo Thang Convention” and in Inferno, I pitched in with “Calliope’s Inferno”.

Now, for Extancy, I’ve brought another essay. This one is called “Frequencies Towards Illumination”.

Each one of these stories mean a great deal to me in their independent ways.

I came to join the Concordant Vibrancy project when my publisher, All Authors Publishing House, asked if I would like to be a part of it. We were being offered a compensation of sorts for being a House author. I was thrilled when I was first invited, but  also rather nervous. Mostly because I knew that I would be joining a collection of phenomenal writers and I wasn’t sure that I could compare to their talent. My very first entry, “Her A to Z” was written with great trepidation as I fully expected it to be rejected. But, to my great surprise,  it wasn’t. All these years later, here I am, having participated in the entire collection.

Solely speaking on “Extancy”, at first I chose “Self-Love” as my theme question word. But upon further scrutiny and feedback from the publishers, we settled upon “Awareness” which seemed to be a better suited interpretation.

Why “Awareness”? Well, in the simplest of terms, because awareness is true life … but I won’t get too much into that because then you won’t read my essay. LOL

 

Thanks for having me!

 

Following is an excerpt poster. Enjoy!

Layers: A Collection of Short Stories by Zuzanne Belec! Something for Every Reader!

Blurb: 

Layers is a debut collection of imaginative short stories celebrating life and the human spirit despite the ever-present spectre of melancholy in our lives today. With their distinctive blend of wit and humour, they light up any underlying darkness.

From the Americas to India, from Africa to Europe, and through a range of genres, voices and styles, layers are unraveled, revealing the textures and contrasts of old and new in the environments and cultures of today’s fast-paced world. With vivid descriptions, we are drawn into enchanting worlds with characters that leap off the page, leaving the reader lingering long after the pages have been read.

  • In The Christmas Charge: Instead of enjoying their Christmas preparing eggnog cream pie and sipping sherry by the fireside, three batty grannies go on an African safari. At this stage of wisdom in their lives, nothing can go wrong. Right?

 

  • In Paths Taken: When her grandmother ‘kills’ a man on a busy town square, Hecate is forced to face her worst fears and use her own unsettling powers to help her. But where will these new paths take her?

 

  • In White Noise: All Earl needs to do is hand his work over to his successor. But is it that easy to let go? And where does one hide from one’s inner noise when things go wrong?

 

  • In The Old Man and the Donkey: Deep in northern Portugal, an old man and his donkey go about their lonely routine. When an unexpected visitor shows up, everyone is given a new chance of happiness. But have they all been stubbornly avoiding it for too long?

 

  • In The Arctic Haze: Since he was little, bad luck has stuck to George’s soles like clingy dog mess. Some of us are luckier. Or are we really?

 

  • In Penny’s Purple Robot: A loving father exceeds himself to make his daughter happy after her mother passes away. But can he force himself to face a brutal truth?

 

  • In Mothers: Deep in Africa, a desperate mother accepts her own fate, but refuses to face an even harsher reality. Mothers will do anything for their young. And things may not be as they seem.

 

  • In Yeehaw: Running from their regular lives, Sam and Patsy end up in an artificial town – Yeehaw Theme Park. Will they find their true selves in this synthetic world?

If you like a minimalist and dark, yet humorous look at the contrasts we face in the world today, you will enjoy this collection of mixed-genre stories.

Buy now to enter into these worlds!

 

My Review: 

Rating: ★★★★★

Layers: A Collection of Short Stories offers readers a buffet of tales from which to choose. Author Zuzanne Belec has crafted stories filled with originality, intrigue, suspense, and life. Her characters arrive fully formed and breathing, alive with personality that radiates throughout these pages.

Each story is a look inside lives that are both unlike our own and yet very much alike. Though some stories may read slower than others, they are each worthy of a reading.

From the opening story to the final one, it becomes clear that Belec writes from the heart. She has the talent to weave emotion into her work, allowing readers to become invested in the characters and the plot. Among my favorites are The Christmas Charge, and the inventive Paths Taken.

If you enjoy short fiction, there is something here for every taste. This is a fine collection.

 

About the Author: 

Zuzanne is a writer, poet and translator who now lives in the heart of Europe, after being lucky enough to spend her first thirty years absorbing the contrasting textures of Africa.

After she quit the rat race, she spent fifteen years as a translator before discovering the world of writing. This discovery, and the encouragement from her daughters, partner and friends, led to her decision to delve even deeper into writing. She then grew a long grey beard and became a hermit, studying the craft and immersing herself into this world that is magic.
About the time when her beard reached ankle-length, she knew she was on the right path when three of her stories were published in Canadian literary magazines.

This debut collection, Layers, is the result of this passion. And it is only the beginning …

My Review of Comes this Time to Float by @StephenGeez

Rating: ★★★★★

Author Stephen Geez possesses a talent for crafting tales that draw readers into the unique and vivid worlds he creates. This collection of 19 short stories offers a smorgasbord of genres, characters, lives, and situations with which everyday people can and will identify. From the very first story to the last, Geez has a way of keeping the reader enthralled and entertained.

“Halfway House” tells a sad tale of loss and the search for redemption. “Vapor Girl” is trippy and far out, and one that will surely remain with you. “Family Treed” sprinkles the weird and humorous on this wonderful word salad. “Tailwind” is a thoughtful piece about a pair of aging friends in the latter stages of life. “The Age Eater” carries a note of science fiction and a hint of creepy. But my favorite is a story entitled “Holler Song”. This story harkens to the Ozark Mountains of Daniel Woodrell’s modern classic Winter’s Bone, where poor people caught up in impossible circumstances will do whatever it takes just to survive the lives handed to them.

There isn’t a bad story in the entire collect. Stephen Geez has been a favorite of mine since I first read his novel What Sara Saw many years ago. If you’re a reader with a keen eye for the literary, this is one you’ll want on your bookshelf.

A Pair of Brand New Titles from Fresh Ink Group!

Greetings to all book lovers! Fresh Ink Group has two brand new releases here in the new year! One is a collection of brilliant short fiction from author Stephen Geez. The other is a detailed investigative book addressing pain management versus opioid addiction. 

Comes this Time to Float by Stephen Geez

Prepare to think as you explore these wildly disparate literary short stories by author, composer, and producer Stephen Geez. Avoiding any single genre, this collection showcases Geez’s storytelling from southern gothic to contemporary drama to coming-of-age, humor, sci-fi, and fantasy—all finessed to say something about who we are and what we seek. Some of these have been passed around enough to need a shot of penicillin, others so virgin they have never known the seductive gaze of a reader’s eyes. So when life’s currents get to pulling too hard, don’t fight it, just open the book and discover nineteen new ways of going with the flow, because NOW more than ever Comes this Time to Float.

 

 

American Agony: The Opioid War Against Patients in Pain by Dr. Helen Borel

Managing pain with opioids is a science—except politics, money, and overzealous law enforcement are denying American patients the relief they so desperately need. Demonizing the best pain reliever we have leads to needless suffering, even suicides, and it drives the rise in deadly street drugs. Helen Borel gathers and presents the evidence, the intimidation, the raids of clinics, the chilling effect on those very professionals we trust to care for our loved ones and ourselves. She looks hard at the Veterans Administration, Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chapters include “The Suboxone Hoax,” “The Wrong Arms of the Law,” and “The Epidemic of Death,” plus an entire section on solutions for this widespread crisis. Read American AGONY now—or you might be the next one hurt.

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! – Fiza Pathan @FizaPathan

The Star Pupil’s Diary Entry by Fiza Pathan

The Star Pupil’s Diary Entry by Fiza Pathan

Dear Diary,

I had a wonderful day at school today. I got a star and I’m going to tell you all about it.

I’m eight years old, but I’m the tallest boy in the class. I, and the other kids in my neighborhood, study at the school down the block. Actually, our school was once something terrible; it was a disgusting Christian church, something called “Catholic.” The school officials tore it down and made it into a proper school for us kids.

So, I went to school today. I was the first one there so I got the biggest teddy bear to do my training with. The kids who were late got teddies that were way too small, the cheap ones that our soldiers stole from the hands of fleeing Jewish kids before they shot them in the head.

My teacher made us do our practice training in the morning. He handed us our daggers. We each checked with our fingers if they were sharp enough. Since I was early to class, I got to demonstrate. I put the dagger on the neck of the teddy and slit it the way my teacher had taught me to do. The other students followed me, but I was the best at cutting off teddy’s head.

“The jugular,” my teacher scolded another student who was cutting the wrong part of the teddy. “The jugular and do it slowly; it should make them cry.”

After dagger practice was over, we all sat and singing practice began. Singing is important; it touches souls and bring them closer to God.

We sang the national anthem. Teacher said I was the best singer and patted me on the head.

“Now, who knows a good English song, a hymn for our nation?” our teacher asked.

Every kid was stumped. They knew plenty of English songs, some of them were American. But you couldn’t sing those songs anymore. They knew “If I Was Your Boyfriend” by that Justin Bieber nonbeliever and “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, another group of nonbelievers—may the devil plague them!

But no one knew a hymn in English to our cause. Not a single kid. Well, everyone except me!

I raised my hand and teacher smiled.

He asked me to stand up and sing in place.

The other kids turned to look at me. They were jealous because they were not as smart as me.

I put my hands behind my back and stood straight like I do when singing the national anthem. I opened my mouth and began to sing:

We for the sake of Allah have come under the banner,

We for the sake of our Caliph have torn the world asunder;

We for the sake of our raped sisters will kill the ones responsible,

We for the sake of our nation will die, but not before we become incredible.

I didn’t know the meaning of raped, but daddy had taught me this song while we were fleeing India to come here, to this land of milk and honey. Daddy taught me a lot of songs and hymns as we fled India. We almost got caught, but our fake passports worked. Daddy is so smart. He is now working as a soldier here.

“Bravo, my son,” my teacher said, and he shook my hand. The other kids clapped, but some spat on the ground with disgust.

“Bravo, my son,” my teacher said again, holding me by the shoulders and looking into my eyes. “You are a gem of a man already. You get a star for this.”

And I did; a star made of metal shining like gold, the ones soldiers put on their uniforms. I was so proud that I couldn’t stop smiling.

The teacher then said it was almost time for prayers, but before that, did any of us kids know who we were deep in our hearts? Many kids answered:

“We are Allah’s blessing in flesh.”

“We are the terror of the Westerners.”

“We are the protectors of our faith.”

“We are true worshippers of the almighty.”

But the teacher said all their answers were wrong. I knew that too, because I knew the real answer. Teacher then asked me, “Tell me, son, who are we?”

I smiled, fiddling with my gold star before answering: “We are men who love death just as some people love their life; we are soldiers who fight in the day and the night.”

My teacher clapped, and so did the other kids, except for the ones who yet again spat on the floor and gave me angry looks.

We spent the rest of the day praying, going to the mosque that was once a church. They called it Lutheran, which sounds so ugly. I then came home, and here I am writing in this diary, which Daddy gave me to record the fun time I’m having here in this new country, the place where Allah truly lives with his beloved people.

I’m so happy to have earned my star. I’ll wear it tomorrow to the next beheading on the main square of those bad men who were trying to escape heaven, this place where we stay. I love beheadings. I take pictures of it on my uncle’s cell phone. I love the blood, snapped bones, and torn veins the best.

Tomorrow, our class will burn crosses at the beheading. I will burn not a cross, but a small statue of Mary, mother of that prophet who sinned against us. I’ve never burned her before, not because I haven’t gotten a chance to do so, but because . . . her eyes, her eyes when they look at me are funny.

Well, it’s time to go for prayers. I shall write later.

Yours always,

Alif Shifaq of the ISIS children brigade,

3 Bel Anif Mansion,

Sultan Saladin Road,

Raqqa,

ISIS Syria,

March 12, 2015.

*

After the fall of ISIS in Raqqa, an American soldier with his entire team were on the ground for inspection purposes. It was the year 2017, and the whole city had been razed to the ground.

The American soldier’s name was Emmanuel, and as he walked over the immense quantity of rubble, he spotted something.

It was a diary. A bit battered due to the bombing, but in good shape.

The hand of a preteen was found holding a pen beside it. The hand only. Not the rest of the body. The body had been incinerated.

Emmanuel lifted the diary and dusted it. He took it along with him, jumping over a pile of dusty teddy bears with their throats cut.

“City of the dead,” Emmanuel intoned, as he opened the diary to read. The first thing he read was an inscription in black ink from a fountain pen. It was done in calligraphy—skillfully done.

 

We are men who love death just as you love your life,

We are the soldiers who fight in the day and the night.

 

Emmanuel sighed and turned a page.

***

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Fiza Pathan RWISA Author Page

Welcome to the Showcase Tour! – A. M. Manay @ammanay

Mirror, Mirror by A. M. Manay

“Mirror, Mirror” by A.M. Manay

Set in the world of The Hexborn Chronicles

 

Shiloh stood in her teacher’s doorway, pulling anxiously on the end of a pink braid that had snuck out of her hood. Brother Edmun was in high dudgeon, ranting about insults and ingrates. A wooden crate sat upon the table, straw peeking through the slats. She could feel magic pouring out of it like waves of heat; it wasn’t dark magic, but it didn’t feel like good magic, either.

“Master?” she ventured. “Would you like me to make your breakfast?” She didn’t bother to ask about the box. He’d tell her if he wanted her to know – and, in his own good time, not before.

Edmun looked at her as though she’d appeared out of thin air. He waved her off. “Don’t bother, poppet. I couldn’t eat.”

Shiloh’s eyes strayed to the crate, but she said nothing.

“Go finish your essay from yesterday,” Edmun barked.

Taking her seat at her little desk with her back to the table, Shiloh could hear Brother Edmun unpacking the mysterious arrival. It was all she could do to resist the urge to peek when she heard the sound of a hammer. Under his breath, Edmun muttered a constant patter of unintelligible complaints. At last, she heard him pull out a chair and collapse into it. Carefully scanning the page once more for any mistakes, she stood to present her work to her master.

He looked down at the offering in her little hand, her words marching neatly across the page. Pen in one hand and her paper in the other, the glower slowly disappeared from his face as he read, leaving behind a hint of satisfaction. At last, he nodded, resting his unused pen. Shiloh exhaled in relief.

“Well done. A princess at the Academy could not have done better at twice your age.”

“Thank you, master!” Her smile lit up her eyes, which then strayed over Edmun’s shoulder to a mirror with gilded leaves and lacquered flowers hanging on the wall. The ornate frame looked out of place in the rustic mountain cabin.

“Don’t look in it more than you can help it,” Edmun ordered, calling attention back to her teacher’s face.

“Yes, master,” she replied. “May I know why not?”

Edmun hesitated.

“I can feel that it’s magic, master,” Shiloh continued.

He snorted. “I’m sure you can.” She waited for more, but knowing well enough not to press him.

Edmun heaved a sigh. “A man can give you a gift out of love, to please you. Or, he can send it as an insult, to remind you of errors and to caution you against repeating them. This mirror is the latter.”

“What does it do?” she asked.

“That is none of your concern,” he replied. “And that is all I will tell you. Go get a wand from the cabinet.”

Excitement sheathed Shiloh’s face. “We’re using wands today?”

Edmun glanced down at her from beneath his eyebrows. “Is there another reason I’d ask you to get one? Now, do it quickly, before I think better of it.”

 

***

 

The following evening, Shiloh picked up a clean rag and set about the dusting. Edmun was busy in the temple, preparing for the upcoming Feast of the Father. As soon as she was done in the house, she was to join him there. As usual, the red cabinet took most of her attention. The many books, wands, and magical curiosities inside had to be carefully wiped and returned to their accustomed positions. It was tedious work, but she was pleased that Edmun trusted her with the task.

Her work on the cabinet finally completed, she turned to dust the mirror and gasped. The silver surface had turned to black. A face appeared, and not her own. Shiloh took a step backward.

A man cocked his head to the side, a slow smile spreading across his face. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but Shiloh did not wait to hear the words. She ran, her head scarf flying behind her all the way to the temple doors. She threw them open.

“What?” Edmun demanded, looking up from the altar.

“The mirror,” she panted. “It turned black, and then there was a man…”

Edmun crossed the floor and took her by the shoulders. “What did he see? What did you say?”

“Nothing! I ran as soon as I saw him. I was only finishing up the dusting. Who was he?”

Edmun ran a hand over his mouth and chin and took a deep breath. “The most dangerous man in the kingdom. Silas Hatch.”

“The Hatchet?” Shiloh shivered. “The king’s spymaster? Why would he appear in your mirror?”

“Who do you think sent it? Hatch likely meant to speak with me, to threaten me. The king hates and fears me for reasons you well know.” His brows drew inward. “He gave you a right scare, didn’t he, poppet?”

Shiloh nodded. Edmun knelt to look her in the eye. “Now, if I were a kind man, I’d tell you that you need not fear him. But I’m not, so I’ll tell you the truth. You should be terrified of him. If you ever give him reason to believe you are disloyal to the crown, he will slit your throat with his own hands.”

“Why would I ever be disloyal to the crown?”

Edmun placed a hand on her head. “Good girl. Now, put that man out of your mind and help me ready the temple for tomorrow.”

Shiloh nodded, yet the ice of fear in her stomach remained; as did the look of worry on her beloved teacher’s face.

 

***

 

Shiloh sat on her bed in the loft above her father’s smithy. Upon her blanket lay an array of charms she’d just made for protection against all manner of hexes or ill-wishing.

The look upon the mirror man’s face had chilled her to the bone—something about the smile. It had been predatory. Proprietary. Wary. It had given her the distinct impression that the man’s interest lay not only in her master but in herself, as well. I will not leave my teacher unprotected.

She pinned one charm on the linen beneath her tunic. The others she gathered into an old handkerchief. She tied it tight and placed the bundle in her pocket along with a jar of paste.

She knew Edmun would already be in the temple performing his ablutions for the feast day. She let herself into his house and crossed warily to the mirror. She exhaled with relief to find it clad in its ordinary silver.

Carefully, she lifted the mirror off its nail and turned it face down upon the table. She held the pot of glue in the crook of her elbow and pried it open, then affixed seven charms to the back of the Hatchet’s “gift” to her master, one for each of the Lords of Heaven. She returned the mirror to its proper place and hurried to the temple before Edmun could scold her for tardiness.

 

***

 

At dusk, Edmun sat his tired bones into his favorite chair and looked balefully at the mirror. Given the visitation to Shiloh the night before, Edmun expected to see Silas Hatch’s face, yet as the pink light of sunset faded, the man did not appear.

“Perhaps tomorrow,” Edmun murmured. “I had hoped to get it over with.” He looked up at the mirror and realized that it was just slightly askew. Standing, he removed it from the wall. Turning it over, he found Shiloh’s handiwork.

Edmun smiled and shook his head. “My sweet, clever poppet. Too clever by half.” Sighing, he plucked the charms from the backing and set the mirror on the table, leaning against a water pitcher. Silas appeared in moments.

“Master Edmun, I feared you had forgotten the terms of our arrangement. There was to be no meddling with the mirror.”

Edmun swallowed heavily. “It was a momentary lapse,” he lied. “I thought better of it.”

Silas grinned. “You don’t have lapses. It was the girl, wasn’t it?”

Edmun said nothing.

Silas laughed. “It was. Ha! And what is she, only eight years old?”

Still, Edmun said nothing.

“She must love you as much as I did,” Hatch mused.

“What do you want?”

“Are you really teaching her mirror magic this young?” Hatch asked, brow raised.

Edmun closed his eyes and sighed. “Of course not. Evidently, I didn’t teach you your own well enough, as she defeated you with a handful of charms and some paste.”

The young man’s ears flushed. “Well, then,” he managed, “I shall have to redouble my efforts.”

“You do that. And Silas?”

“Yes?”

Edmun leaned in. “The next time you frighten that girl, it had best be after I’m cold in the ground.”

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NEW RELEASE! Strange Hwy: Short Stories by Beem Weeks is Now Available!

Fresh Ink Group is pleased to announce the release of Strange Hwy: Short Stories by Beem Weeks. This collection of short stories makes a perfect Christmas gift for the reader in your life.

Strange Hwy: Short Stories is available in full-sized trade paperback, dust-jacketed hardcover, and all ebook formats. You can purchase Strange Hwy: Short Stories at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Google Books, and many other online retailers.

Whether you’re into horror, historical fiction, coming of age, or slice of life stories, this collection has something for you.

Blurb:

If you ever find yourself on the Strange Hwy—don’t turn around. Don’t panic. Just. Keep. Going. You never know what you’ll find.
You’ll see magic at the fingertips of an autistic young man,
•A teen girl’s afternoon, lifetime of loss.
•A winged man, an angel? Demon—?
•Mother’s recognition, peace to daughter.
•Danny’s death, stifled secrets.
•Black man’s music, guitar transforms boy.
•Dead brother, open confession.
•First love, supernatural?—family becomes whole!
You can exit the Strange Hwy, and come back any time you want.
See, now you know the way in, don’t be a stranger.

Where to Purchase:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Google Books