For the past few years I have enjoyed participating in I Saw Lightning Fall’s Advent Ghosts. It used to be that ghost stories (or just creepy stories) were a part of the holiday tradition, and Advent Ghosts is just one way to re-embrace that tradition, if only in a small way. The rules are that you’re supposed to write a scary/creepy/unnerving drabble and share it on your blog on the 19th. A drabble, for anyone scratching their head right now, is a story that is exactly 100 words long.
As with every year that I’ve participated my story this year is not a drabble–though I think it’s the shortest one I’ve ever shared for this event so who knows, maybe someday I’ll hit the mark 😉
Trying to be Brave
by Rhonda Parrish
Though she could no longer hear it, Wren knew the beast was still out there somewhere, somewhere near—skulking, still and silent, among the cedars. She pressed her back harder against the tree trunk, praying it was wide enough to hide her, and tried to be brave.
She slowed her breathing—in, hold, out—and exhaled through her woolen mittens—in, hold, out—to keep feeling in her fingers and diffuse the cloud of breath that would give away her position.
She was trying to be brave—trying so hard to be brave—but Jack’s screams lingered, echoing inside her like the ding, dong, dong of the church bell. It would be ringing soon—the bell—but there was a frozen lake between her and it, and the beast was near.
But help wouldn’t be coming. She’d sneaked away, tip-toeing past her parents door while they still slumbered. Danced from shadow to shadow through the village, across the lake, to meet her love beneath the treetops to steal kisses and play at magic. Help wasn’t coming, because it didn’t know it was necessary.
And now, even the sun was retreating, soundlessly creeping across the sky to hide behind the treeline. She could stay and wait for the end—the sneaky, silent, forever sleep offered by the cold, or the screaming, struggling, steaming death of the beast—or she could run.
Wren took a couple good deep breaths—in, hold, out. The village needed to be warned. Needed to know what waited in the woods, what she and Jack had awakened.
With a whispered prayer Wren leapt from her hiding place and tried to be brave.
You can also read my past attempts at Advent Ghosts stories:
They say it’s the things which drove you crazy that you miss the most. I never much believed it myself. Not until I lost you.
It’s been a year now. And what a year. A year of rehab and therapy, lawyers and courtrooms. A year of firsts.
My first surgery. First steps without my walker. First birthday without you. First day back in our apartment, alone. First night—
So many things you could have counted. So. Many.
It used to frustrate me so much, your counting, but my love was deeper than my irritation so I stayed. Stayed though you counted every Cheerio in your bowl. All the bowls in the cupboard. Every spoon.
I loved you enough to stay though you counted your pills six times a day. And when you stopped taking them? I stayed then too.
I spent our last Valentine’s Day dressed up, crying and watching you crawl across the floor in your suit picking up each Q-tip from the Costco-sized box I’d spilled and counting, counting, counting.
I stayed through all that, yet you let a drunk driver tear you from me. One. One car. One driver. One crash.
Christmas was always your favourite holiday, and I’m celebrating in style in honour and remembrance of you. I’ve baskets full of Christmas balls scattered throughout the house, festive decorations, and the tree is up and decorated. I think you’d approve. The lights twinkling on it are reflected in the glass globes which adorn it and nearby the fireplace snaps and pops. Outside, snow is falling, piling up in the corners of our windows, and my want for you is so intense it’s nearly a physical thing.
I stare out at the city. From this high all I see is a sea of lights piecing the darkness. Like stars.
I look up, then, expecting to be disappointed; star-watching and snowfall so rarely go together, but through a clearing in the clouds, just to the left of the moon, one star gleams. It’s super bright and though I don’t know its name or if it’s a part of a constellation, I’d bet it’s one sailors use to navigate. To find their way back home.
I close my eyes.
I make a wish.
When I open them, something has changed. Not outside. The moon and star are still there, snow still falls and below steams of red taillights still move alongside the blue-white of halogen headlights.
I shift my focus from beyond the window, to its glass. The change is in here. With us. The window reflects the room back at me. Tree, fireplace, me…and you.
Your reflection is as solid as mine. Distorted ever so slightly by the flaws in the glass, but distinctly you. Your shaggy hair. Your hipster glasses. Your mouth which moves, your voice I hear.
“I missed you—” You reach for me. You reach for me and I panic and grab the basket of Christmas balls from the window ledge beside me. The wicker is hard against my fingers, unforgiving. I turn it upside down, pour out the balls which tumble over one another, and onto the floor.
You stop. Your graze drops to the floor, then back up to mine, reflected in the window.
“I—” you begin, then stop and chew on the corner of your pinky finger’s nail. My chest clenches at the sight, so familiar.
Your indecision is a vacuum sucking all the air from the room, slowing the tick-tock of the clock on the mantle until each sound is a long, drawn-out scream. I can’t move. Can’t breathe. My eyes burn, but I cannot cry.
“One,” you say, kneeling down and disappearing from my sight. “Two—”
I exhale. The grip on my chest loosens and the clock resumes its natural rhythm.
How many balls were there? A dozen? More?
Too few. Too few.
I step back and white heat rips through my heel as the ball crunches beneath it.
Blood stains the milky glass shards, drips from my foot to the hardwood. You reach for a piece, a shard, “Five, six, seven…”
A sob catches in my throat and I snatch a ball from the tree. It’s blue and glittery, the surface rough against my palm. I remember picking it out with you in the antique store we stopped at on our way home from the local theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol three years ago. You’d grinned at me then, so big I could see the gap between your bottom teeth, and your eyes shone with love. It was a perfect moment in a perfect day.
How many more of those days could we have had?
“Eighteen, nineteen, twenty—”
How many were stolen from me?
“Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine—”
I hurl it with all my strength so it shatters. I rip the next from the fir’s branches and smash it too. And the next, and the next.
I scream out my anger. I sob out my sorrow. My blood mixes with the fragments of memory spreading across the floor and woven through it all, your voice. Implacable. Counting.
“Three thousand four hundred and two, three thousand four hundred and three—”
Last year I participated in Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts event where authors write spooky tales and share them and enjoyed the challenge enough I decided to make it a holiday tradition.
We’re actually supposed to write 100 word stories, but last year my story was just over 600 words and this year it’s just under 900 so apparently I suck at that part LOL Still, I hope you enjoyed it.
Loren will be linking to a lot of people’s Advent Ghost stories tomorrow from his blog and you should pop over and read some of the work by people who know how to follow the rules. I had to post this early because the 19th (when we were supposed to post) is a Fae-tastic Friday and I try not to have more than one blog entry per day.
My fun zombie tale, Waste Not, has been translated by Silver Sära and published in the most recent issue of Algernon. This is my very first translated story and I think it’s pretty awesome that the language is Estonian. This publication is a fantastic way to start off my week. Check it out:
One of my favourite discoveries from this process came when I ran part of my story through Google translate. The phrase ‘Waste not, want not’ appears in my story, but when Google translated it back to English from Estonian it became “Waste not, then do not miss seeing” which I love. I think that will need to become a short story title at some point 😉
I’d like to add a shout-out to my friend Deborah Walker. Without her I would never have thought to submit to Algernon and what’s even cooler is that it’s my great pleasure to share this table of contents with her. Thank you, Deborah!
I chose that image to go with this post because to me it feels cold and rather desolate. I think that’s as good a way as any to visualise disappointment, which is what this is all about.
Disappointment is buying a paperback copy of a gorgeous anthology you believe contains one of your stories, tearing open the package and turning the book over to look at the back cover, where all the contributors names are listed and not finding your own. Disappointment is opening the book and running trembling fingers down the table of contents, scanning for your name, the name of your story and finding nothing. Which is precisely what happened to me a couple weeks ago.
Disappointment sucks. It sucks so much that I decided I needed to take a step back before I blogged about it, because I didn’t want this to turn into a rant or some such thing. I’m not sure what the point of it is, actually, except perhaps catharsis.
A couple years ago one of my stories was accepted for inclusion in the aforementioned anthology. Full disclosure: I never signed a contract. As it was a non-paying market I wasn’t completely surprised by that, lots of small markets (especially ones who don’t pay) don’t seem to have contracts. Anyway, I digress.
I assumed, weirdly enough, that my story, which was accepted to the anthology, was included in the anthology. I blogged about the publication, I added it to my list of Publications on my website and I, eventually, picked up a copy of the book to add it to my ego shelf.
So, not only was my story not included, but I spent money to find that out. Not loads of money, but that’s hardly the point, is it?
Now, to be fair, the story that was accepted isn’t my finest. In fact, if it hadn’t made it into that anthology it would have been trunked, but since it was accepted into the anthology… *sigh*
Anyway. I wouldn’t have been super disappointed if the editors had dropped me an email to say ‘Hey, sorry but we’re not going to include this story after all.’ But they didn’t.
I don’t know if my story being left out was an oversight (the production didn’t seem super organised) or intentional, but either way? It fucking sucks.
All it would have taken was an email, ya know?
Anyway, since it wasn’t actually accepted elsewhere and because I’m feeling particularly… somethingy (defiant, maybe?) today, here’s the story that got unaccepted to an anthology:
My zombie munchkin story (oh yes, you did read that right), “…Oh My!” has found a home with Kzine and I couldn’t be happier. The release date hasn’t been set yet, but you can bet I’ll tell you all about it as soon as it is.
I did a collaborative project recently over on the 2xCreative community on LiveJournal (incidentally, if you use LJ and we aren’t friends there… you know how this ends right? –> Moi On LJ). I was paired up with Dragon-Gypsy who is an artist. She and I had one month to come up with a creative project to do together and both of us were pretty short on time, but not enthusiasm. In the end I wrote a story and she illustrated it. It turned out great, and I enjoyed the collaboration. It was good to have deadlines and work with someone with the common goal of creating something creative and cool. Thank you Mab! You rock.
Click on the image to see go to her Deviant Art page and see the image in a larger size along with all of her other great artwork. 🙂
I’m running down the stairs to the subway, the echo of my heels on stone sounds in my ears like gongs as I descend into the bowels of the city. I hold my dress above the filth I’m walking on like a heroine in some Victorian novel. It’s white; the kind of bright white that exists only for overexposed pictures and weddings. Marc always teased me that I’d be late for my own funeral, but I’d promised to be on time today. Continue reading Late→
I’m sitting here listening to Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley (who make up Evelyn Evelyn) perform even though they are separated by an ocean courtesy of the giant ash cloud. It’s remarkable what technology makes possible, isn’t it? Someday perhaps it will inspire me to write something techno-y. In the meantime, I’ve found some inspiration in the deadlines and prompts offered via the Whittaker Prize. I included one of the stories I wrote for it in my newsletter, which yes, I did get done and sent out today.
I have a ticket for the World Horror Convention in Brighton this year…but I don’t think I’m going to be able to use it. I’m not known for making these sorts of decisions easily, and my mind isn’t completely set on this one, but really, I would say with 99% certainty, I won’t be going. You see, the thing is as much as I really want to go (and I do, I really do) I applied to Clarion West this year.
The odds are very much against my being accepted to Clarion West but if I get in, that would take priority for me over WHC.
While it’s actually possible for me to manage to go to both, I don’t want to. That’s a lot of money and a lot of time spent away from my family. Danica will have a tough enough time dealing with my being gone for six weeks if I get into Clarion West, adding another week for a trip to Brighton not long before that would be wrong.
The tricky thing is, Clarion West generally notifies people about whether or not they got in sometime in March, usually (I’m told) toward the end of it. Word Horror is in March, which means I’d need to have a plane ticket sometime before then. And so, and so…
I don’t think I’m going to Brighton. I suppose the deal is actually pretty much sealed, even if I try to deny it or pretend there is still a question about it. I want to go to Brighton but let’s face it, if I went it would be more pleasure than business (I haven’t got a horror novel to promote yet and Niteblade doesn’t make money so I can’t justify the trip on the grounds of promoting it) and Clarion West could do amazing things for my writing and thus, my writing future. So I’m not going to Brighton. It makes me sad, I will miss being able to see friends, and hang out and all the good stuff that comes with conventions (oh, and the bag ‘o books, I’ll -so- miss the books!) but in the end it’s the right thing to do. And if I don’t get into Clarion West? I guess I’ll just take that money and take my family on a beach vacation somewhere. That will help soothe my disappointment.
Also, if you could keep your fingers crossed for me that I get accepted into Clarion West that would be fabulous.
(The picture is of my cat, Indy, and is completely irrelevant to this post. I put it there because I couldn’t think of something relevant to put as a picture and I’m trying to include more of my photographs in entries…so…yeah.)
I’ve a couple new stories out today, which is a lovely way to start the year. Firstly is my six-word story that is in It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure which has an ironically long title 🙂 I get paid with a contributor’s copy for that, which has a value of $8.10 US. That means I got paid an equivalent to $1.35 a word. I’m pretty sure that’s my highest per word payout so far. Pretty snazzy.
I also have a short story at Flashes in the Dark today. You can read Dive just by following that link, and Flashes in the Dark is one of those cool webzines that will let you leave a comment if you feel like it. A little bit about this story, but cut because here there be spoilers: