Category Archives: Alanna J. Rubin

Showdown by Alanna J. Rubin

For Seth Bodak

He slugged down the rest of his beer, slammed the mug on the bar, and walked outside. The hot sun beat down on him and the dry breeze ruffled his black duster as he stepped out on to the dirt road in front of the saloon. Mad Jack was already there, waiting for him. He was rumored to be the fastest gun this side of Kansas City, and he had a bounty on his head to prove it and it was Derek’s job as the law to bring him in. He pulled the brim down on his black Stetson to shade his eyes from the glare of the sun and flexed his right hand in preparation for the quick draw that was to follow. Mad Jack nodded to Derek in greeting, “Sheriff,” he acknowledged then spat. “I hope you made your peace. I hate to think that I killed a man, and he left unfinished business.”

“Rather polite of you,” Derek responded.

“Well, there ain’t no reason to be uncivilized about the whole thing,” Mad Jack countered.

“S’pose not. So, let’s do this then.”

Mad Jack and Sheriff Derek stood about twenty paces apart and stared at each other. Derek shook his hand as it hovered over the gun in his brown thigh holster. Mad Jack drew fast, but Derek was that much quicker and…Mad Jack suddenly slumped over. “What the?” Derek exclaimed and stared at the gun in his hand that he hadn’t fired.

“Derek,” he heard a woman call out. “It’s time for dinner.”

Derek sighed, “Coming, mom” he called back. “I only needed two more seconds,” he mumbled in disappointment. Derek walked over to Mad Jack and looked at the indicator on the back of his neck. “Parental Override Engaged” flashed LED indicator on the android. Derek hit the reset button on his neck and put Mad Jack into charging mode. “Next time, you won’t get off so easy,” he warned Mad Jack in a southern drawl before leaving the room and turning off the holographic image of his surroundings behind him.

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Reflection by Alanna J. Rubin

For Holley Rogers

Slowly and carefully he turned the key; the door creaked as it opened to…nothing.

The room was completely empty and it only seemed more hollow by the reflection on the stainless-steel walls. Marcus walked in, dumbfounded. The walls only showed his own brown eyes, staring back at him. But how? He had chased the three-legged creature into the abandoned hospital and could have sworn he heard the creature’s wail from within this room. He stood in its center, forehead scrunched in contemplation. Where is it? He asked himself. He made a slow circle seeing nothing, but his own blue shirt, two hands and feet on every surface, when the door slammed shut. He turned abruptly, his heart racing as he pulled on the handle to no avail. He banged on the metal walls, desperate to find a way out, his hands leaving sweaty palm prints on their surface. Marcus sank down against one of the walls, pulling his knees to his chest trying hard to hold himself together.

On the other side of the door, two men in white jackets observed Marcus through the two-way mirror. “Great job, luring him back, Lex,” one of the men commended.

The three-legged creature responded, “It’s my job to wrangle the runaways, Garrin. Especially the delusional ones. Do you think he’ll recover?” Lex inquired, genuinely curious.

“I hope so, but his delusion of being a human seems to run deep. This is the third time he’s escaped. And even surrounded by reflective surfaces, he never seems to see his own image.”

Garrin and Lex both looked on a weeping Marcus with pity as he clutched his three legs to his chest.

 

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Awaken by Alanna J. Rubin

For Desi

Making a zombie is actually way harder than it sounds.

Marcus looked at the corpse that was laying on the floor of his bedroom. Even in death, Callie was the epitome of “popular.” She was beautiful with her long blonde hair and blue chiffon dress and tonight was going to be fantastic as long as he could find the right spell. He sat with numerous worn leather bound spell books trying to find the right incantation to reanimate her. He had tried three already and despite a little finger twitching, the body had done nothing. Marcus was growing frustrated and running out of time.  He looked at his watch. “One hour left,” he uttered to no one. He couldn’t be late in meeting his friends, but the second hand kept moving as if to taunt him.

He knew his parents did this kind of thing all of the time. They were private detectives and it was common for them to bring the recently deceased back to life to ask them questions about their deaths. It definitely came in handy when trying to solve murders, but this was important too. He looked down at the girl from his cross-legged sitting position on the bed. Living, dead, or undead, as the case may be, his friends would be jealous. Marcus scanned several more pages, carefully turning each one as if they’d rip in his hand, then tapped the title, “Necromantiae.” This has got to be it, he thought to himself. Marcus read through the lines, took a deep breath and slowly let it out to center himself. If he’d learned anything from his parents, it was that concentration and calm were key to any good casting.

“From your dreamless slumber, I call you forth,” he spoke to the realms.

“To the shackles of flesh, I command thee.” His hair fluttered in an unearthly breeze and an energy began to pulse in his veins pushing him onward to finish the last line. “Excitare, Excitare…Awaken, Awaken.”

He watched as the breeze settled upon the body on his floor and waited impatiently for a sign that it worked. A minute passed by and…nothing. Marcus slammed the book shut in frustration and got up from his bed to pace. He ran his hand through his thick black hair and wondered why he had even bothered getting dressed for tonight. He turned to look back at the body and pulled loose his bow tie. “Ahh,” he yelped as the girl he had tried so desperately to resurrect now stood in front of him. Her head seemed to have a slight tilt to the left and her eyes were a little bloodshot, but that would get better with some time. She was perfect. A little groan escaped her lips followed by a raspy, “Where am I?”

Marcus looked around his small bedroom, a little embarrassed that he hadn’t cleaned up better, then replied, “That’s not important. My name is Marcus and I’m taking you to prom.” She looked at him with a blank stare as if trying, with great difficulty, to process what he had said. He watched as the comprehension of his statement caused a lopsided smile to grace her lips. Marcus would have said that her face lit up, but her muscles were a little too stiff for that. She shuffled closer to him and tried to fix his tie, but she became frustrated by her lack of dexterity. “No worries,” he said as he pulled the tie of all together. “I hate wearing bow ties anyway.” She let out a wheezing laugh as he dropped it to the floor.  “May I?” He asked holding out his arm for her. She smiled and gladly took it as she found it difficult to walk. He beamed at her with pride. “My friends are going to be so jealous when they see you. I can’t wait to see their faces. None of them thought you’d say yes if I asked you to prom, but even though I was sad when I heard you died, I knew when I found out that I had a shot.”

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Our Son by Alanna J. Rubin

For Sean

With clothes and blankets wrapped around him like a protective nest, he strained to hear the muted conversation his parents were having about him.

They had been arguing for the past week, ever since his tenth birthday and he couldn’t understand why. What had happened? Xavier felt brave enough to ease out of the blankets and put his ear to the wall and suddenly he could hear his parents as if they were standing right next to him. “Simon,” his mother chastised his father, “it’s time. He needs to know.”

“I disagree. He’s too young,” his father replied while pacing nervously.

“He’s going to start asking questions, and what will you say then?” His mother asked.

“I don’t know, but that’s not the point. When he asks, that’s when we tell him.”

“We can’t hide the truth forever.”

“I’m not suggesting forever. All I’m saying is not now.” Xavier couldn’t make heads or tails from this conversation. What did they mean? What didn’t they want to tell him?

Xavier found himself leaning harder into the wall when it suddenly gave way under the pressure. Xavier fell back onto his bed in surprise as the drywall dust exploded onto his face. But that was nothing compared to the surprised look on his parents’ faces as they stared at the gaping hole in the wall with awe. “I…I’m sorry,” Xavier stammered. “I didn’t mean to,” he blurted out.

“We know sweetie,” she spoke soothingly. She quickly approached him and wrapped Xavier in her arms. Instantly, Xavier felt safe. “Simon,” she called out snapping him out if his stupor. He looked at her, shock still visible on his face. “You were saying?” She spoke, her voice thick with concern and sarcasm.

Simon swallowed hard as Xavier looked at him expectantly. “Son,” he started without taking his eyes off him, “you see you’re not like your mother and me,” Simon hesitated, struggling to find the right words, “you’re special.” Xavier pulled away from his mom, giving his father his full attention. Simon sighed, “What I’m trying to say is that you’re not from…Earth.” Simon paused to let his last statement sink in.

Xavier’s eyes went large, “So, I’m an alien?” He asked confused. Simon nodded.  “Is that why you’ve both been so upset?”

“No baby,” his mother chimed in. “We’ve been arguing because this past week you started exhibiting abilities and we’ve been hiding it from you. We weren’t sure if you were ready to find out the truth, but clearly there’s no avoiding it.” She gestured toward the demolished wall.

Xavier swallowed hard; it made sense. He’d been dreaming of another world starting this last week, but now he knew it was more than a mere dream. Something was awakening inside him. “Do you know where I’m from?” he asked cautiously.

“We don’t,” Simon replied. Xavier’s face fell as a wave of fear and loneliness came crashing down, but Simon immediately noticed the shift in his son’s demeanor. He bent down and firmly gripped Xavier by his shoulders, “But no matter what, you belong here with us. You will always be our son.”

Xavier smiled feeling relieved by his father’s assurance and gave his dad a hug, but pulled back abruptly feeling a rush of excitement, “So what else can I do?” he asked.

Simon looked at his son with a glint in his eye, “We don’t know, but your mother and I will do everything we can to help you find out.” Xavier knew his world had changed forever, but he never felt more at home.

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Even in Death by Alanna J. Rubin

For Sean

The lead lined coffin rolled through the streets with thousands of onlookers staring in reserved silence.

Not that Anholt could see them. The lead blocked the sensors from detecting him, but it also interfered with his ability to see through objects. He could, however, feel the waves of sorrow emanating from the crowd. If only they knew who was actually in here, he thought to himself. Some might think his tactics distasteful, but honestly, this was the only way.  He’d been barred from entering the palace and his face plastered on wanted posters across the kingdom. When Anholt had heard that the revered royal advisor to the king had passed, he shed a tear for his good friend then thanked him for this opportunity.

Anholt took great pains to switch the coffins and buried his friend’s remains on his family’s land overlooking the peaceful golden valley. A far better suited resting place than the opulent one his station demanded. Gareth, always disliked the idea of his remains being interred in the royal catacombs beneath the palace. At least I spared him that, he spoke aloud. Jostling roused Anholt from his melancholy, snapping his attention to the task at hand. He could tell from the movement that the coffin was being placed on the altar in the Great Hall in preparation for the viewing. This was his chance. His heart raced as he waited for the emotions of the pall bearers to grow faint. He’d only have a small window of being alone now that they had left.

Awkwardly he pressed his hands and knees against the lid, but it didn’t budge. “Not funny”, he uttered through clenched teeth as he strained against the lid which seemed to have sealed shut. His arms and legs collapsed as he relaxed, his breathing labored. Mentally he geared himself up for another round when he felt someone approach. Whoever it was, was nervous. Anholt laid quietly, not wanting to alert whoever it was to his presence and silently wished for he or she to go away, but they didn’t. Instead he felt the coffin shake and heard a groan as the lid was pulled up. He prepared himself to attack when he saw the person’s face, “Darcie?” He squawked in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“What does it look like,” she said in an annoyed whisper, “I’m rescuing you.” Anholt felt a smirk tug at the corner of his mouth.

“Well, that’s a coincidence, because I’m here to rescue you.”

“Fine job you’re doing to. Gareth warned me I’d have to look after you. Was the first step in your brilliant plan to get yourself trapped in my brother’s coffin?”

Anholt wouldn’t admit she had a point. “We don’t have time to argue details. I’m here now, so let’s go.” He tried to nimbly leap from the coffin, but his legs were tired from the strain of his failed attempts of opening it, so his foot caught on the edge causing him to trip. Darcie grabbed him under the arm and saved him from falling to the ground. Can this get any more embarrassing? He silently asked, sure that Gareth would have found the situation uproariously funny. But Anholt’s train of thought was interrupted as he found himself entangled in Darcie’s embrace and staring into her hazel eyes, the same hazel eyes as Gareth. He had held her brother’s gaze not long before his death, when he pledged a solemn oath demanded by Gareth who knew his life on this plane was fast coming to an end. Anholt faithfully promised that he’d take his sister away before the king could marry her. She was chosen to be his bride by royal lottery, but Gareth knew her heart belonged to someone else. Anholt’s pulsed raced as Darcie flashed him a nervous smile and he realized that he was that man. Even more surprising was the flood of emotion their closeness unlocked. He took Darcie’s hand, reveling in her touch, and together they ran toward freedom. As they fled the palace and the kingdom, Anholt chuckled at the wisdom of his friend. “Thank you,” Anholt whispered hoping his words would reach Gareth’s spirit. Even in death, Gareth knew him better than he knew himself.

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Beacon by Alanna J. Rubin

For Kendra: Fall never ceases to be an inspiration.

As I walked down the street, I felt it for the first time this year, the air changing from the warm southern summer nights to a cool breeze… ah the magic of fall is here.

The beautiful night begged me to linger even though I was already late in meeting my friends for our scheduled guy’s night, but I didn’t care. They could wait, but the night, however, was fleeting. Overhead, a cloud moved revealing the large bright full moon whose light shone down upon me. The energy it bestowed was invigorating. It felt as if I were being charged up and I walked with an extra zing in my step. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that my left arm started to tingle. I ignored it at first, thinking nothing of it, but the sensation grew to the point where I stopped dead in my tracks and pulled up the sleeve of my brown leather jacket. My pale skin shimmered under the light of the moon. It was beautiful, mesmerizing, and frightening as I watched the shimmer spread up my arm. I quickly changed direction as home was no longer an option. Instead, I made my way to the mayor’s, who also happened to be the leader of our coven and my sister. She would know what to do.

Breathless from running, I waited impatiently on the white porch for her to open the door. When she did, it was clear that Gillian, with her short red hair and excited green eyes, wasn’t surprised to see me. “Xavier,” she said warmly, “come in.”  She led me through the halls of her spacious home. The walls were a calming shade of blue accented by white wooden trim and oak wood floors. As I followed her deeper into her house, the tingling sensation of my arm began to lessen. Clearly, her home was far from the ordinary appearance it projected. After a few minutes of walking through the various rooms and down the stairs to the basement, I found myself in the middle of our entire coven, which also happened to be about a quarter of the small town of Fairwood. The familiar faces all smiled when they saw me arrive. Gillian must have seen the confused look on my face, because she gestured to them and said, “We’ve been expecting you. It’s time.” If that was my sister’s attempt at an explanation, then I was more confused than ever.

They didn’t waste another moment and began casting, the ceiling soon disappeared revealing the night sky. My skin once more began to tingle. Gillian helped me off with my jacket, leaving me feeling vulnerable in my short sleeved white shirt and led me toward the center of the circle the coven had formed. My brain told me to resist, but my body was drawn forward. I stood alone as my sister joined the others facing outward holding hands. The light of the moon seemed intensified with the chanting and it shined directly down on me. My skin responded and the shimmering grew to encompass my entire body. The energy burst forth from my finger tips and shot up into the sky like a beacon. Then it was over as suddenly as it began. The chanting ceased and the ceiling reappeared, where the night sky was a moment before. Fatigue set into my bones and I fell to my knees. Gillian came to my aid and gently brushed a lock of brown hair that had fallen into my face back behind my ear, like our mother use to. “You did very well, Xavier,” she complemented as she led me to the couch to sit down. The rest of the coven dispersed, excited chatter filling the house. They all nodded at me in appreciation as they walked by, but left me alone to recover.

“I don’t understand,” I replied. “I’ve never heard about this or read about it in our coven’s history. What was that?”

Gillian smiled, “It’s the prophecy.”

“A prophecy about what?” I asked still confused.

“All you need to know is that they’re coming.” Gillian smiled broadly and patted my arm. “I’ll get you some warm apple cider.” She got up as if that answered everything, but when I looked down at my arm, it was still shimmering and I could feel remnants of the energy coursing through my blood. Each pulse felt like a warning, a prompt to move into action. With an inexplicable certainty, I knew that I needed to learn about this prophecy and stop it from coming to pass if it wasn’t already too late.

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The Syndicate by Alanna J. Rubin

For Unknown –

He opened his eyes slowly, the sting from the fall still throbbing at the back of his head. “Hurry,” he thought. “I have to recall the incident.” The portal started closing.

Aaron watched as the edges of the portal drew together toward its center, leaving no trace of its existence, taking with it the last flicker of memory of where he was and why he was here. He found himself hoping that whatever it was would come back to him. In the meantime, Aaron was surrounded by nothing but dirty gray concrete walls.

Damn, he thought to himself. Aaron sluggishly got to his feet and dusted off his black pants trying, without much success, to ignore the pain in his head while looking for a way out. He wandered the maze like halls, which all looked the same. The only sources of light were cast from dim yellow bulbs evenly spaced every few feet along the ceiling.

After what seemed like hours of aimless walking, he was starting to wonder if he’d ever make it out, so he was both elated and on high alert when he heard voices up ahead. He crept along slowly and hid himself behind a pillar just outside the entrance to a room where he saw an exceptionally beautiful woman with long red hair wearing some sort of leather armor. Whoever she was talking to was out of view and they appeared to be arguing. However, their hushed tones made it impossible to make out what they were saying. That became the least of his concerns when he heard the hammer of a gun being pulled back and the weight of its barrel pressed against the back of his head.

“Get up…slowly,” the menacing masculine voice demanded. Aaron didn’t have any viable options, so he complied. As he stood up and attempted to turn around, his captor ensured that he remained facing forward and forcibly marched him into the small room. At least that’s what it was a moment ago, but Aaron now found himself standing in the middle of an opulent throne room and seated upon the silver throne was a familiar looking woman with short dark hair and eyes the color of the sea during a storm. She looked at him slack mouthed and rose to her feet. She was slender, but wore the same kind of leather armor as her associate.

“Aaron,” she breathed. “Is it really you?”

“Yes,” he responded. “It’s good to see you, Miri.” He could not help the wide smile that broke out across his face.

“Brother,” she exclaimed, running over and embracing him as if they were children again. She pulled far enough back to look him in the eyes, the spitting image of her own. “But how? I thought you were dead.” Her look of confusion was understandable. Aaron also thought he should be dead, but fate had other plans. “That’s a story for another time.”

“Then why are you here?” she asked.

“That’s a good question. I can’t remember and I didn’t even know where I was until I saw you,” Aaron replied.

Miri looked at him quizzically then asked, “Do you trust me?”

“Unconditionally.”

Miri gently pulled Aaron’s head down so that their foreheads made contact. “Open your mind to me,” she commanded and Aaron obeyed. It was a strange sensation as Miri’s consciousness surfed his memories. She saw his capture in the hallway, his wandering the maze like halls, his fall from the portal and…Miri let go with a gasp and Aaron’s eyes went wide as his memories came flooding back.

“What?!” she asked.

“You’ve been framed for the chancellor’s murder,” Aaron said worriedly.

“I saw that myself, but why?”

“Callum,” the weight of the name hung in the air. “He still considers you a threat to his power. He wants you out of the way, so…”

Miri interrupted to finish Aaron’s sentence for him, “So he can become the next chancellor, unchallenged.”

“That’s the short of it, but I came here to get you out,” Aaron said with desperation. “The Syndicate is on its way along with Callum. He tried to wipe my memory before I could warn you and he almost succeeded too, if I hadn’t made my way through the portal. I knew you’d be able to pull my memories back, just like mother could. You’re so like her. She’d be proud to see the leader you’ve become.” Aaron squeezed Miri’s shoulder in pride and to share a moment of grief for their departed mother. He then moved to the center of the room and let his eyes focus on everything and yet nothing at the same time. His fingers created elaborate signs in a repeated order in an effort to call a portal into existence.

The ceiling shook as the Syndicate’s ships landed and the footsteps of the troops beat down in eerie uniformity. Miri looked up in worry, then over to her brother who seemed to be in a world unto himself. A wind formed in the room, whipping in circles around them as if they were in the center of a tornado, but the energy was sucked into the heart of the portal as it erupted into the room out of nowhere. Miri looked at Aaron in awe, “I’ve learned a thing or two since the last time we were together,” he said with a smirk.

“Clearly,” she replied impressed. “Erissa,” she called over to the red-headed woman. “Yuri,” to the man still holding the gun that was pointed to Aaron’s head earlier, “go,” she ordered. They both looked at Miri, then ran through.

Aaron, walked back over to Miri and took her hand, “This isn’t how I imagined our reunion,” he said.

“Well, you always did have a flare for the dramatic,” she replied light heartedly. They both ran into the portal just as the Syndicate came crashing in and it vanished before Callum, wearing his white captain’s uniform adorned with the silver emblem of the Syndicate, could follow. He clenched his fists in anger. This was far from over.

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