Category Archives: Alanna J. Rubin

The Cave by Alanna J. Rubin

For Stephan M. – a continuation…

The stillness that permeates the deep dark misleads you.

The deep voice that uttered the warning faded away as if carried off by the wind, leaving Lyra with a single question…What did he mean? She tucked her long red hair behind her ear and continued along the path even though the journey through the mountains had borne no answers, yet it was where the same voice had directed her. Lyra thought back to her village and the emptiness that greeted her upon her return from K’Daan, the kingdom of healers. She had completed her training and was eager to rejoin her family and offer her services, but when she arrived, there was no one. The village seemed to be devoid of all life. No laughter, no barking from the numerous dogs, no birds chirping, even the leaves of the trees no longer rustled. All that was left were the remnants of activity, the embers of cooking fires were warm, steam spiraled up from soup bowls, the smell of freshly cut herbs still hung in the air. It was as if everyone and everything disappeared in the blink of an eye, and an uneasy feeling crept over Lyra’s skin.

With nowhere else to go, Lyra remained in the village, in her family’s home. Her room was how she had left it, a small bed tucked in the corner under the window, her mortar and pestle sitting on the shelves on the far wall, and her brother’s framed landscape stood on the window sill. The only difference was the soothing flames that burned brightly in the fire place…her family had prepared for her arrival. The thoughtfulness created a feeling of warmth, which was quickly overtaken by one of worry and confusion at their disappearance. Lyra had passed an uneasy night and had woken to the same disembodied voice urging her to venture west to the mountains, and it had promised answers.

It must have been another mile before she found herself at the mouth of a cave. Ravens flew above, which only accentuated the darkness that seemed to spill out its entrance. Every logical thought urged her to turn around, but all her other senses told her this was the way forward. Lyra approached the cave with caution and examined the rocks and shrubs that guarded it. Among the shrubs, she found a substantial branch that she could use to fashion a torch. She pulled strips of cloth for bandages, from the satchel that rested against her side, wrapped them around it, then set them alight. Lyra took one last look around. All seemed normal, except for the disconcerting cawing of the black birds above.

There was no way around it though, so with a deep breath to steel her for whatever she might encounter within, she stepped inside. The fear and trepidation that were her companions moments before disappeared and a sense of calm took their place. Lyra felt a peace take root, one that begged her to remain engulfed in the soothing blackness of the cave. She felt a strong urge to lay down and sleep. A far-off voice seemed to be singing a soothing lullaby, each note making her limbs feel heavier. As she found herself succumbing, she heard a familiar voice warn, “The stillness that permeates the deep dark misleads you.” It snapped her to attention and the far-off voice that, moments ago, seemed to be singing a lullaby, turned into blood curdling screams. The burst of adrenaline broke the spell of the cave and Lyra found herself running forward. “Hang on,” she yelled out into the blackness. Her voice reverberating against the walls.

“Help me!” the man’s voice called back frantically.

A few feet more and Lyra found herself at the edge of a pool of water and a man tied to the wall, the water level just below his mouth. She scrambled to the man, her feet slipping on the damp rock. She pulled a knife from her satchel and cut him loose from his bonds that were made of vines and helped pull him up to safety. “Thank you,” he coughed, water having passed his lips right before she had finished cutting him loose. By the light of the torch, she could see his soulful brown eyes and a lock of his thick black hair fell into his face. “You saved my life,” he continued still regaining his breath, then asked, “What’s your name?”

“I’m Lyra,” she answered.

“Jorin,” he replied.


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Obsidian Order by Alanna J. Rubin

For Stephan M., a tale of magic and danger.

There were ripples, and they spread across the surface of the water.

Jorin brushed his thick black hair out of his brown eyes as he watched the outermost ripple collide with the edge of the rocky shore. Normally, he found the sound relaxing, but these were no ordinary ripples – they were a message from the faerie realm. Jorin’s spine ridged at the noise, but he forced himself to listen. The words were muffled, as if the sender didn’t have enough time to fully form the thought before casting it out into the world. Even though the words were rushed and unintelligible, the emotion was impossible to misunderstand…fear. Whoever had sent the message was afraid and if the Fae were afraid, no realm was safe.

Jorin grabbed his brown leather satchel, carefully removed the sage and other components that were tucked within and put them into the boiling water he had prepared. Its scent was pungent – perfect for brewing the liquid necessary for a human to cross realms. Even then, only those fully trained in warlock knowledge could complete the journey safely. Unfortunately for Jorin, he was only partially trained. He knew the incantations, knew the motions, but it was unpracticed at best. However, he was now the last and with his brothers dead, he would have no one to mentor him.

The memory of that day was indelible. Being the newest member of the brotherhood, he was sent to collect herbs while the others endeavored to hone advanced skills. In the hour it took for Jorin to return, it was done. The murderers left a calling card of sorts, the ashes of his fallen comrades were used to create a symbol, an arrow, with three crows standing atop the shaft. It was the crest of the Obsidian Order. A group of warlocks who bent the laws of magic in unnatural ways to achieve immortality, they left in their wake nothing, but death. It was Jorin’s brotherhood along with the Fae that finally defeated the Order more than one century ago. It could not be coincidence that mere days after the tragedy that befell his friends, the faerie realm sent a distress call. The Obsidian Order had somehow risen, and Jorin had to find a way to defeat them. The brotherhood told stories of that time and now he found himself clinging to them – a hopeful reminder that success was possible. He couldn’t give up. Jorin owed his friends that much and the world, as all knew it, depended upon him

The concoction had finished brewing, but he let it cool before he drank, then slowly sipped. It was bitter, but other than having a bad taste in his mouth, he felt no different. Jorin finished the last drop and suddenly felt anxious as the time to cross the threshold was upon him. What if he had made the drink incorrectly? If he had miscalculated, even in the slightest, his journey to the faerie realm would be short indeed. There would be no second chances.

Throwing dirt on the fire, Jorin watched as the flames sputtered and died out, picked up the grimoire, and walked to the water where the message had emanated. He recited an incantation from the book which revealed a reflection of the faerie realm – the doorway, in the surface of the water. He let out a nervous exhale, then waded into the cold lake.

If all was well, he’d come out the other side without much ado. The water had encircled his waist by the time he had reached the center of the reflection. Nothing. Jorin groaned, upset that he must have missed something when a weight wrapped around his ankles, dragging him under. Panic began to rise in his throat to form a scream, but it never came as the water covered his mouth, robbing him of his ability to make a sound.

Jorin’s eyes opened suddenly, and he began to cough, expelling the water he swallowed onto the leaf strewn ground. After catching his breath, he could now focus on his ethereal surroundings. It reminded him of being inside an impressionist painting, beautiful but not quite real. The colors were too vibrant, the smells too sweet, and the sounds too melodic. He could understand why visitors never wanted to leave. Jorin’s thoughts were soon interrupted by someone clearing their throat. Sitting in front of him, on a boulder, was the slender form of his tutor, Ellyrion. “It’s not possible,” Jorin uttered in astonishment. “You’re dead.”

Ellyrion chuckled, causing his floppy silver hair to bounce and the outer corners of his green eyes to crinkle. “Quite right. Quite right,” he said, pleased by the observation. “You were always my favorite student. When the Obsidian Order attacked, I took my last moments to cast a message in a bottle, of sorts. I knew you’d end up in the faerie realm and here I’ve waited for you.” Ellyrion’s jolly demeanor changed without warning to one of earnestness. “You have to finish what was started.” His eyes then fixed upon Jorin’s, forcing images into his mind’s eye. Jorin was whisked to The Forest of Allar, then to the Diamond Peaks of Omradda, and finally, the Valley of Tulesc –  all places designed by the fae to test the worthiness of a newcomer and, it appeared, he’d have to survive them all. Sweat beaded atop his brow and he grimaced as the images were seared into his memory, leaving him breathless. Jorin looked to Ellyrion for an explanation, but all he gave was an encouraging smile before fading away – leaving Jorin with a fresh pang of loss, but he could not dwell on it. Jorin picked up his water-logged leather satchel and grimoire then headed east toward the forest. Jorin heard Ellyrion’s voice pushing him onward and knew, in his soul, he would find a way to defeat the Obsidian Order and restore peace.

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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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