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Be Careful What You Ask For … by Désirée Matlock

For Mark Reale

 “And then the alien’s claws reached around the door.”

The fire crackled as Joe’s voice hitched excitedly. Leanne chuckled; we were all enjoying the game.

I should never have joined in. It all started last week when Jimmy won an RV and a camping trip in a drawing.  He’d invited us all along. I’d agreed, but that had been before the week I’d just had. The worst week of my life. We had agreed we were going to follow all the camping tropes, hit all the high notes of camping. As city people, we’d all gotten excited at the idea of the great outdoors and some drunken carousing. Of course, now… I definitely was no longer in the mood.

A few minutes ago, the six of us had been gathered around the campfire gossiping when Penny had started it by saying, “It was a dark and stormy night, and the wind was creaking through the trees in the moonlight.” My gut had dropped, worried she was going to tell a ghost story. No. Let it be witches or monsters… I prayed silently to myself.

Then Joseph had added the next line, “The dark of night was suddenly broken as a spacecraft crash landed deep in the woods. The only thing nearby was a cabin with six friends who were camping.”

I had relaxed; aliens were a safe subject.  Joe raised his eyebrows at each of us and pointed in a circle to really drive home his point that he was talking about us. It was ridiculous enough that I’d even grinned. I really should have walked away, but I was interested in hearing the story, and it seemed safe enough.

Marla sitting just to Joseph’s right had bounced up and down in excitement as she realized it was her turn, “Um, okay! Hmmm… They had no idea the danger they were now in, but they heard the noise and went to investigate.”

Marla then gestures to pass the torch to me, and I’d added, “The UFO appeared to have been cracked in half from the impact, but the driver’s seat appeared empty as the six friends approached.” This was getting fun, and we were still on the subject of aliens, so I was letting my guard down. Foolish.

After the week I’d had, I should have had no interest in hearing any scary stories. After all, I’d been living one. But, we had agreed that we were going to follow all the typical camping tropes, and really get the most out of our free camping trip. And of course, the campfire tales were one of said tropes.

In retrospect, I should have warned my friends. Or stayed away, or told them what the gypsy had told me.

It was finally Leanne’s turn, and she added, “They all wandered back to the cabin, disappointed that they had not found any alien visitor… And…. now they were planning to call the authorities about the UFO. However, when they returned, they found that a tree had knocked out the phone and electric. It was as dark as night inside the cabin, and their flashlights did little to brighten the gloom.”

“Nice one, Leanne,” Jimmy complimented her. The two of those were probably finally going to sleep together if left to their own on this trip. If I knew Marla, she’d be watching to divert one or the other of them. We had all agreed years ago it was a stupid idea to let them sleep together, and she’d been their unwitting chaperone ever since. So far so good, we figured.

Leanne batted her eyes at him, and then downed her third beer in one long gulp. Uh oh.

Penny watched in amazement, and then realized it was back to her now. “That’s when…” and gestured to Joseph.

“Aw that doesn’t count!” Marla stood for a second. “Needs to be longer than that!”

“Too bad!” Penny laughed and leaned back. No arguing with her. It was Joseph’s turn.

“Okay, let me see.” I got worried that Joe was going to change the topic.

“And then the alien’s claws reached around the door.”

I watched Marla as the story circle reached her. Suddenly I realized, as I watched an ethereal spooky look cross her face, that she was about to change the subject matter entirely.

“No!” I whispered, terrified my friends would learn my new secret.

But Marla’s words were coming out anyway… “And that’s when the ghost appeared.”

And it did. Oh boy did it.

I crumpled to the ground, passing out against my will. I watched, horrified and disembodied, floating above the events as my own form rose from the ground, white and semi-transparent, completely transformed into the appearance and presence of Lady Arabella Forester, the angry woman who had been living within me for the last six days. I hadn’t meant to become her host, but damned if I could completely get rid of her.

—–

As she tromped around the fire, scattering embers and screeching nonsense at my friends, I desperately tried to figure out what to do! What could I do, as a disembodied self, I wasn’t that skilled at helping. I tried getting back into my head, but Arabella is quite fiesty. She really doesn’t like to share; my body being male doesn’t seem to stop her.

It took all five of my friends to get me back into the RV and lock Arabella away. She banged around the RV quite a bit, bruising and slamming my body around, quite distressing to say the least. My friends were trying to work out what to do, and what had even happened.

“What the heck is wrong with Paul?” Marla said.

“Hell if I know,” Jimmy added. “Maybe he’s possessed?”

Joe added, “He’s lost his fucking mind is what’s wrong with him. Your story freaked him out.”

“My story?” Penny said, in disbelief. “We all did that. It’s just a ghost story, for god’s sake!”

I floated disembodied above them trying to tell them to speak the spell. I should have spoken earlier. I should have told them the gypsy’s spell. Dammit! Too late now.

I finally pushed my way into Leanne’s body. She twitched hard. Leanne fought me tooth and nail, trying to force her way back up to the surface, but I managed to get all the words out. “Fleeby Taboora Pamnacht!” I said, even though it sounded ridiculous, because I knew it would work. It sounded strange in Leanne’s drunk voice. But hey. The only way to do it.

Joe started freaking out that now it was happening to Leanne, but the banging in the RV stopped, and I turned to the others, in Leanne’s tiny little body. I whispered that it was safe to open the doors, but no one was allowed to mention ghosts again around me. They all nodded, stunned into silence.

Leanne’s body passed out and I went black. A few hours later, when I woke up, I was in my own body.

Jimmy and Marla smiled at me, while Joe handed me a piece of chocolate. “S’more?”

Everyone looked shaken up, but thankfully no one mentioned anything.  I sat up and asked for graham crackers, the fire warm and comforting to watch. I really was glad we were all getting together.

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Eye Contact by Erika Lance

To Kenny “The Jedi” Mull, this is long overdue!

After finishing off the last of the Jack, he looked down the long road…sighed… and thought “here we go.”

Staying in one place was no longer an option. The body count he was leaving eliminated the idea of social interaction.

Whatever it was that was following him didn’t care; it didn’t seem to have any feelings. It just did.

He sighed again, dropping the bottle and pulling his jacket tighter around himself. It was cold out, but traveling at night was safer. There was less chance of being seen and less chance of making contact.

There was an answer, he knew there had to be, but he needed time, something he seemed to be losing each day.

As he continued to walk, he went over the last three days in his head; he thought he had been safe.  He kept seeing the faces even though he didn’t know their names. He rubbed his hands in some sort of motion to remove the blood that was no longer there but felt stained into him.

They had been so young. He shook his head; he couldn’t think to much about it. He couldn’t change it now. He had to find a way to stop it. That was the only answer.

He saw the lights coming behind him. The road was dark and most cars didn’t even see him. Most people don’t register those who try to blend, try to become part of the landscape. He was one of those people now.

He kept walking until the lights changed from white to red and blue. He closed his eyes and stopped walking. He took a deep breath when he heard a car door open and the officer say, “Hey buddy… What are you up to out here?”

He knew he hadn’t done anything to draw attention to himself. It was possible, however, that he was being looked for. There would be a description. He would match it. “Nothing. Just heading home,” he replied without turning around.

He could hear the officer approaching. If this happened quickly enough, then nothing would go wrong.

“So, where do you live?” the officer asked.

“Close,” he replied. He knew the officer was less than five feet from him now. He could hear the officer’s breathing and heartbeat. That was bad. It was close.

“Sir, could you please turn around?” the officer asked.

He wanted to say no. He wanted to run away. This would just get him tazed or shot at best.

He slowly turned, keeping his eyes averted.

“Sir… Sir… Could you look at me?” the officer asked. He wanted to scream NO!

Then he knew it was over. It was over for this officer who was doing his job, who had friends… Family… a life and it was about to end.

He looked up slowly and saw the wings unfurl behind the officer.

 

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The Traveler and the Searcher by Nicole DragonBeck

For Ayla S.

I knew it was coming, but every winter when the humans leave and the wolves come, I hope this year will be different.

This year it got worse, just as the giant, staring eye in her dreams had told Sabra it would, in so many horrible, silent pictures with no color and stark lines. She sat on the benched, pressed between the enormous bulk of Mother Hansom, and Josie, who was four years older than Sabra, but an orphan and under the care of Mother Hansom, just like Sabra. For a moment, Sabra wondered if Josie saw the eye in her dreams. She looked at the other girl’s face, and knew she did not. Josie had not known any of this was going to happen.

“We’re not going to make it,” Old Benston said. “Not this year.”

The whole clan was gathered in the tight, smoky meeting hall. The fires were choked and smoldering to preserve the little remaining wood. Sabra looked around at the gaunt and worried faces. A stirring in the back drew eyes. Several people stood up, faces now angry. Because Sabra was twelve, she had to stand up in her seat to see, and only when the man came closer could she tell who he was.

He was tall and dark. His face was covered by a black beard, and what was left free of hair was covered with pale scars. His eyes were blue and piercing. In his left hand, he carried a staff made of sliver-green wood. The wood ended in a cunningly carved claw, which held a golden orb.

Sabra was transfixed. It looks like the sun in summer time, she thought. Not the pale circle that passed for a sun in the depths of winter.

“You have no leave to be here!” Old Benston’s voice thundered through the hall.

Old Benston was old, but in his prime, he had been the strongest fighter and best hunter. Now in his elder years, his brawn still showed. Next to the other man, though, he appeared frail and bent.

“You have no power to command me.” The man’s voice was soft, yet compelling, and everyone quailed when they heard it. “Only the gods and the seasons can do that.”

“What do you want?” someone called from the gathering.

The man’s eyes swept over the assembled people. “I have come for the Searcher.”

“There is no one here who has shown the promise,” Old Benston declared, but there was a tremble in his voice.

“Let me be the judge of that,” the man replied in the same calm, certain tone.

His eyes passed from face to face, and over Sabra’s. He caught her gaze for half a second, and in that time, her heart sped up and a warmth grew in her stomach. Then his eyes moved on, and Sabra was left empty. A shadow fell over her, and she looked up. This close, the man was much taller than she had at first thought, and his eyes were brighter.

“What is your name, child?” he asked.

“Sabra,” she told him.

“And where are your parents?”

“They were taken by the winter,” she said. “Four years ago.”

He nodded, his face full of compassion. “And what of the dreams?”

Sabra paled. How could he see into her mind like that? “I don’t know,” she whispered.

“Have you dreamed of me yet?” he pressed.

Sabra looked closer, examining the lines of his face, the way his left eye squinted when he wanted something, the strong muscles flexing in his arms, and the scars that covered his body, as if an army of thorny creatures with tiny blades had attacked him. He wore no shoes.

She shook her head. “I have never seen you before.”

He signed, gave a single nod, and turned away. Her eyes widened. Sewn into the back of his cloak was the giant eye, white and ominous, taking in the whole of the world with an unblinking gaze. He turned at her inarticulate moan, his eyes questioning.

“The eye,” she mumbled, pointing with a shaking hand. “On your cloak.”

He looked over his shoulder, then turned fully so his back was once again visible. The eye was gone. Sabra frowned, suddenly confused. Had she imagined it? Was she dreaming while awake now?

“There was an eye,” she explained. He waited in serene silence for further clarification. Sabra looked up met his gaze. “The eye that shows me the things that have not yet happened in my dreams.”

His eyes lit up and his elated expression made him more handsome and less frightening. “I knew I would find you here!” he cried.

“How?” Sabra wondered.

“The eye told me,” he answered simply.

“What does that mean?” she asked, though she had no doubt as to the truth of his words.

“You must come with me,” he said and held out his free hand. The glowing ball upon his staff grew more luminous. “To the Land of Eternal Summer.”

Sabra swallowed. “I thought that was just a dream.”

He shook his head. “I have been there, once before, many, many winters ago. But I cannot return.”

“Why not?”

“I am the Traveler.” He smiled. “Only the Searcher can find the way back to the Eternal Summer.”

Sabra took his hand, and the light on his staff exploded, enveloping them in warm brightness, bleaching the details of their surroundings, the shock on Mother Hansom’s face, Josie’s scared expression, the bulk of Old Benston beside the fire slowly fading until there was nothing but light.

Then the light was gone and they were outside, on a low hill. The village was nowhere in sight. Only a few twiggy trees broke the icy flatness of the land. Overhead, a single black crow flapped away, leaving behind a harsh warning croak.

“How did you do that?” the young girl asked.

“I am the Traveler,” he answered with a shrug. “It is easy as breathing for me, and I do not know who I do that any more than I know how my heart beats.”

“Where are we?” Sabra said, gooseflesh rising on her arms.

The Traveler handed her a cloak like his. It was thin, worn, the patchwork of colors almost indistinguishable from one another. Sabra did not believe it would be able to hold off the cold, but when she put it over her shoulders, she could no longer feel the chill.

“Beyond the borders of the Westland,” he told her. “That way…” he pointed with his staff, “is the city-state of Doheedron, and that way,” he pointed in the opposite direction, “Is the realm of Jarmander.”

“And there?” Sabra pointed ahead of them, where great mountains rose up.

“That is the Stria, the end of the world,” the Traveler told her. “Beyond that, I cannot say.”

“Have you been that far?” Sabra looked at him with wide eyes.

“I have stood atop the highest peak and seen the horizons of all the realms of this world,” he said. “But no matter how I have tried, I cannot pass beyond the boundaries.”

“So the land of Endless Summer is somewhere beyond the end of the world?” Sabra reasoned.

“What will we do?”

“Once we have found a way there, we will come back and bring all the people to the land of Eternal Summer,” the Traveler told her. “Now, which way do we go from here?”

Sabra gazed around. The horizon beyond the mountains called to her, and she started in that direction with confident steps, the smell of warm grass and the drone of lazy insects pulling her onward. Eternal Summer awaited, the eye promised her, and for the first time, Sabra was not alarmed by the picture it showed her.

 

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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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Love of My Life by Erika Lance

For Amanda Dodge, thanks for inspiring me.

He found her clipping her toenails in the kitchen.

This was by far the most disgusting things he had seen her do yet. Not only was she clipping her toenails on the counter, she was clipping them into his cereal bowl. He shouldn’t have left it unattended.

Harry had often thought he could never stand to be away from the love of his life, Cindy. Now, he knew that wish was a horrible idea.

He looked over to see Cindy now dropping the bowl off the counter, the contents spilling everywhere. Harry just sighed. He had replaced all the dishes in the house with plastic ones years ago. He knew he would have to clean all of this up, but he didn’t have the mental strength.

He walked over it and poured himself another bowl and ate it over the sink, just in case she decided to knock it from his hands.

When he was finished, he realized she was no longer in the room with him. He listened. Silence. This sometimes bothered him more then the noise she created when she was breaking things. She was always breaking things. Harry supposed he would breaking things as well if he was trapped in the same house forever.

This was all his fault.

He had met Cindy when they were in high school, freshman year. She was laughing in hallway, and he followed the noise to the source and fell in love.

They had the best relationship,the perfect relationship, and when she got sick, Harry did the most desperate thing he was able to do. He wished on a star.

It turned out the star was being monitored by a demon with a wicked sense of humor. So, his wish was granted… Of course it was all about the wording. When making a wish, you should always make sure to word these things perfectly.

Saying something like “I want Cindy to be with me forever” was not perfect wording. When she passed away at the hospital, he was grief stricken. Cindy had been his whole world. So when he arrived home, he was so thrilled that she was there, sitting on the couch. He was so thrilled that he didn’t notice that Cindy wasn’t thrilled. In fact, she was angry.

It actually took him three weeks to realize how mad she was and that she wasn’t actually interested in spending her afterlife or in other terms, her forever, stuck in a two bedroom house.

He had tried everything to undo what he had done. Even offered his soul to the demon. It turned out that his soul wasn’t nearly as valuable as hers. This coupled with the fact that the demon thought this whole situation was funny. So, he, no they, were stuck.

He looked down at the mess on the floor and then said “I love you” as he grabbed the paper towels to clean up.

 

 

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Of Course Not, Silly by Lisa Barry

From Sandy Bibeau:

In the middle of the night, in the foggy moonlight, the gargoyle jumped out from behind the crooked tree.

Melinda sang as she pranced around the room.

“You’re not supposed to tell anyone,” Shawn muttered. His sister’s face scrunched in protest and her tongue shot out as far as it could reach. He huffed and looked back at the old book.

“It says here that no one really thinks they’re real which is why they can get around so easily and sneakily.”

Melinda stopped and knelt next to Shawn. “I know they’re real,” she whispered.

“You think unicorns are real,” he scoffed. Melinda’s big brown eyes widened.

“You don’t?” she asked.

“Of course not, silly,” Shawn said and closed the book quickly. He stood. “Come on, it’s time for bed.”

“I am six years old. I don’t need you to put me to bed.”

Shawn sighed. “I know but mom asked, so…” He shrugged and started to close the blinds. Melinda pouted as she took a last stare out into the darkness. She climbed into bed and waited for Shawn to flip the switch and leave her alone.

He flipped the switch. The door latched close.

“You know nothing, Shawn Smith,” Melinda whispered into the darkness.

She waited before his steps on the stairs faded away.

Slinking off her bed, she went to her closet and opened the door. A soft glow emanated from the corner. Pushing passed stuffed animals and dolls, she sat next to the small gargoyle lounging with a book open before him.

“The unicorn won’t be able to visit us today,” she said to him. He blinked and a soft growl emanated from his chest.

“I know,” she ran a finger over the cat painted on the page. “He closed the blinds, and I haven’t figured out how to open them yet.”

The gargoyle huffed and snuggled into her as Melinda started to tell a story, oblivious to the meaningless words on the book’s pages.

 

 

By Lisa Barry

4 August 2016

 

 

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We Remember You….

From the writers at Stories My Friends Started:

We want to send out a huge thank you to the men and women who have given their lives in service for this country. Without you, we would not experience the amazing freedoms and opportunities that we all share.

Thank you again.

On this day, as with everyday, we remember you!

The Authors of the SMFS

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