Thursday, March 25, 2021

Lunar Orb


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Flash fiction lightning streak image

This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge (Week 192). Miranda posts an image as an inspirational prompt for writing a story. This is from Miranda's post:
This week's picture prompt was taken by Ralf Eisenreich, a German photographer. He calls this 'Little Green World'. He has some interesting pictures across a variety of subjects. 

Here's a link to the prompt image. Please note that anyone can join in with a story up to 750 words. Mine used all 750 words for those who are counting. Not quite horror this time, but more a bit of fantasy.



Lunar Orb

K. R. Smith

They said the old woman was a witch. Guarded whispers implied she knew magic and had knowledge of worlds beyond what others see. Zoe wasn't so sure. 

 Still, it was her only hope. Zoe wanted to know about her mother, whom she barely remembered. Raised by distant relatives, who spoke little of her parents, she felt as if parts of her own life were missing. If this woman truly had the power of second sight, perhaps she could learn more. With that in mind, she knocked timidly upon the weathered door to her house. After knocking a second time, the door slowly opened.

 "I see you're finally here," the old woman said.

 "I've come to ask—"

 "I know why you are here," the woman interrupted.

 "Because you can see things?"

 "Hardly. You've asked everyone else in town about your parents. I assumed it was my turn."

 "Can you tell me about them? Especially about my mother."

 "Only a little. I never knew your father. I only met your mother once, briefly."

 "She died when I was very young. I was hoping you could help."

 "Is that what they told you?" The old woman laughed quietly. "Your mother took it upon herself to meddle in affairs that did not concern her. So, yes, she is gone from this world."

 "Can't you tell me more?"

 "Do you know the circle of stones in the forest beyond the river? The one in the Glade of Sorrows?"

 The name sent a chill down Zoe's spine. "I've heard of it."

 "It is there you'll find your answers." The woman took a box from a shelf and opened it revealing a crystalline orb. "Take this. There is a rotting stump in the middle of the circle. On the night of Ostara, place the orb there and look down into the moonlight."

 "What? I don't understand!"

 "You will. That is all I can tell you."

 "How can I look down into the moonlight?"

 "You have taken up enough of my time. You must go now."

 There was little doubt the old woman's patience was short. She opened the door, even giving Zoe a brusque shove from behind. Zoe was still confused about what was to be done. She was certain, however, she would find her way to the circle on the first day of spring.

 After a few times exploring the area, Zoe found the ancient circle. And on the day of the equinox, she kneeled within the stones and placed the orb in a crook atop the decaying stump. She wrapped herself in a cloak and waited for the moon to rise. As darkness fell, Zoe listened to the eerie noises from within the woods, willing herself to stay despite her fears. Eventually, the moon rose in the east, climbing slowly through the night sky.

 The instructions, however, made no sense. How could one look down into the moonlight? Zoe stood back from the circle as the moon rose. When it was nearly at its highest point, she understood. The orb focused a spot of light on the ground, illuminating a flat stone. She brushed away leaves and moss and could see faint writing around its edge in an unfamiliar language. Zoe recoiled as the light danced on the stone's surface. A mist surrounded her. The light, refracting among the rock's crystals, formed an image she knew only as a fading memory: the face of her mother. It was a sad face. A voice seemed to emanate from the stone itself, begging her to leave.

 "Mother!" Zoe cried. "Where are you?"

 "Leave this place," was the reply. "I was greedy. I wanted power, more than life itself, and now I am a prisoner of my own making. Leave before you are a prisoner, too."

 "I can't!" Zoe screamed. "How can I free you?"

 Her mother shook her head. "It is too late for me. Leave quickly! It is too late."

 The words faded into the darkness as the spot of light moved away from the stone. The moon continued through its heavenly arc unaware of the drama below.

 Zoe sat and cried. It wasn't until she noticed strange figures on the other side of the circle that she stopped. She grabbed the sphere and ran. Zoe understood little more than when she started, but she did know she would never return the orb. It was the only link to her family. And even if she could do nothing else, there would always be another Ostara




© 2021 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Standing At The Crossroads


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Like many authors and artists, I have a presence on social media. And while the term social media may be an oxymoron, it's what we have to work with. 

And so, I'm here. And there. And wondering if I should be over that way instead. 

I have a Blogger blog. You already know that, of course, because that's where this is posted. I also have a Patreon account. And I do stuff on Medium. And Twitter. I also have a website. I would think that's more than enough.

The problem is that I can't seem to figure out which one people prefer. 

I had been posting to Patreon for a while with little success when I started up Medium. That seemed to be taking off like gangbusters. So, I concentrated my efforts there. Of course, the traffic promptly dried up. In the meantime, Patreon started drawing a (tiny) crowd even though I hadn't posted there for some time. Seeing that, I posted more on Patreon. Within days, of course, there was a slight uptick on my Blogger blog as Patreon visits waned. It makes no sense to me. Perhaps there's some weird quantum entanglement thing going on. Not that there are ever many visitors to my humble blog. But the increase was enough to notice. Unfortunately, it didn't last.

In addition, I have a website. Now I know it isn't a very exciting website, but I thought it might gather a few visits. As of the last time I checked, only four places on Earth registered as having visitors to my site. One was where I live. I expected that as I look at the site to see if updates went as planned. One of the other three was Wuhan, China, which is somewhat disturbing....

As for my Blogger blog, I can't say I've drawn a lot of interest based on the numbers I see. I have posted a few stories here lately. I want to keep the blog active as I try to figure out where I want to focus my social media efforts. I know it needs a refresh at minimum or, perhaps, a complete redesign. While I have tried to simplify the layout, neither of those other tasks are going to be completed in the near future (too much other stuff going on right now).

To summarize, there is a whole lot of mediocre going on here. If you have a suggestion as to which direction to take, pass it on!



The photo on this page is by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash.


© 2021 K. R. Smith All rights reserved 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Northern Enlightenments


Just a reminder: It’s okay to leave comments!


Flash fiction lightning streak image

This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge. She posts an image as an inspirational prompt for writing a story. This is from Miranda's post: This image is from a Bookings.com website, advertising a holiday home called Bø Huset in Bø, Sortland in the Vesterålen Region of Norway - Fjords country. The holiday house is hosted by Michelle Edelman, who I am assuming (until she responds to my email) is the person who took this stunning shot. 

Here's a link to the prompt image. Please note that anyone can join in with a story up to 750 words. Mine has 602 words for those who are counting.


Northern Enlightenments

K. R. Smith

It was cold, perhaps the coldest night of the year. The sky was clear. The air was still. That was good—at least for Jake. With no wind, he could hear footsteps a long way off. 

Jake had followed the tracks before and knew where to be for a good shot. He nestled in as best he could behind a fallen tree to hide his presence. His rifle rested in the crook of a branch. Everything was in place. 

It was difficult to keep his breathing under control. The frigid air, the excitement, even his thoughts worked against him. One well-placed shot would bring fame and fortune. Most of all, it would bring respect. The doubters, the ones who had laughed, would be silenced. Jake knew his job and he did it well. It was only a matter of time—if he could a steady hand.

It seemed an eternity until his eyes spotted movement among the trees. He turned on his night-vision goggles. The heat signature was clear. This was not a bear or a moose; it walked on two legs.

Soon the target was close enough to see using the dim light of the stars and the auroras that slithered above. Jake strained to keep the quarry in sight among the brush. Then, it stopped. Had he been spotted?

He watched through the scope of his rifle, trying to breath slowly. The sight line was not clear; he couldn't risk a shot. 

The target began to move again, making its way to a small knoll. It couldn't be more perfect. Instead of standing, however, the target sat down, mostly obscured by brush. Jake cussed quietly under his breath and waited. 

After a while, all movement stopped. In the dim light, he couldn't tell what was going on. Was what he saw really the target or had his prey somehow eluded him again? Jake turned the night-vision goggles on again. The image was just a blob; there was nothing identifiable at which to aim. The target was there, but huddled too close to the ground.

Jake waited for a while longer, but the situation remained unchanged. He knew he had to make a move.

As slowly as possible, he got his legs under him, eventually reaching a kneeling position. He was in luck; the prey was facing slightly away from him. Jake prayed his target's peripheral vision wasn't very good. He raised his rifle, centering the crosshairs on the body. 

With his finger hovering over the trigger, he was puzzled that his target seemed to sit motionless, the head tilted back. It made no sense. Why?

Jake looked upward, just as his quarry was doing. Above him, luminous colors danced, weaving to-and-fro in a mesmerizing display. It was more magnificent than any aurora he'd ever experienced. When a huge burst of color brightened the landscape, Jake heard a murmur of approval from the brushy knoll. He watched the shimmering lights for a while, then studied his intended victim. He flipped the safety on and propped his rifle against a stump. 

He leaned back against a tuft of grass and lit a cigarette. The light startled the creature, which stood and faced him. Jake pointed to the sky. It made a grunt, shook its huge fingers towards the heavens in response, then sat back down to enjoy the glowing exhibition.

There was going to be a lot of crow to eat, for sure. The fame and fortune he'd dreamed of disappeared into the darkness. But whatever this thing was—sasquatch, yeti, bigfoot—it didn't matter; he couldn't destroy something that understood beauty.



© 2021 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Leveraged Buyout


Just a reminder: It’s okay to leave comments!

This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge. This is from Miranda's post:

This week's picture prompt was taken by Austrian photographer Ernst Haas. This is New York in 1952. 

Here's a link to the prompt image.

I went sort of semi-noir with this prompt. Miranda allows or 750 words; I used 472 of them. I decided to put this one on Blogger since I haven't posted much here lately. And I used an image from Unsplash for my post.

The ending may be ambiguous for some, but I'll let the reader fill that in as they like.



Leveraged Buyout

by K. R. Smith

 

Image of man in the city wearing a fedora.

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash            

 

As far as Malcom could see, there was only one other a man on the street. He sat in a chair on the sidewalk, his hat pulled down and his collar turned up against the chill of a January wind.

"How's it going?" Malcom asked.

The man on the chair looked up enough to show his eyes, but said nothing.

"I'm a friend of Charles. Are you James?"

"Maybe," the man said while glancing up and down the street. "And what does a friend of Charles want?"

"He said you might have some merchandise I'd be interested in."

"He did, did he?"

"Yeah, I'm redecorating. Thought I'd pick up some white stuff."

"Perhaps I can be of service."

"How much?"

"Fifteen."

"Fifteen bucks? I don't need it gold-plated. I was thinking half that, or a little more, at most."

"Maybe last year. This is nineteen and fifty-two, man. New year, new price. I got a lot of business expenses to cover."

"I'll bet."

The man shrugged. "That's the price."

"Well, I ain't got that kinda dough. I don't suppose you could spot me a few bucks?"

The man in the chair just gave him a stare that said no.

"Look, I need this bad," Malcom said through clenched teeth.

"You're free to shop around if you think you can get a better price."

"Yeah, sure. The cops have everyone else hiding in the sewers."

"Maybe you got a friend that could help out."

"Right—all my friends in their lofty social circles…"

The man in the chair turned away, unconcerned.

"Yeah, thanks," Malcom replied to his silence.

He walked away, his head bowed in disturbed thought. Others he passed along the street all seemed to have the same desperate look, their eyes following him, but saying nothing. Malcom ducked into a corner doorway to escape the wind's bite, shaking from the drug missing from his veins. A man passing by stopped in front of him.

"Malcom? Is that you?"

"Shorty?"

"Yeah, man. What are you doing 'round here?"

"I was hoping to do a little shopping, but it seems prices on this side of town are a bit steep. And, let me tell you, I need some stuff bad."

"Tell me about it. I know all your nasty habits. What are they asking?"

"Fifteen."

"Whoa! That's a jump. I guess all the cops performing their due diligence has scared away most of the competition."

"What am I going to do? I can't get that kind of dough. Not right away, at least. Any suggestions?"

"Negotiate."

"My supplier wasn't interested in negotiating."

"Everything's negotiable, man. What sorta leverage ya have?"

"Leverage? Nothing—unless being almost broke counts."

"Okay, then. Just how much cash do you have?"

"Twelve-fifty, total."

Shorty smiled. "That's plenty, Mal."

"How so?"

"I can sell you a revolver for ten."



Thanks for stopping by to read!

 


© 2021 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Truths of a Shy Writer: The First Seven Days

This is an update from Terri Deno I thought I'd share (click the link to view)...

Truths of a Shy Writer: The First Seven Days:  My plan for 2021 was to move my weekly blog posts to Tuesday--it would work out better for many reasons, including the ability to get those...