Ziggy’s Flighty Plight. First published in the ‘Read For Animals 2’ anthology.

Ziggy stood atop a yellow bollard. He was waiting for some humans to come along with freshly cooked fish and chips. They were his favourite, especially those with vinegar on them. He knew it was unusual, but he had grown used to the taste whilst growing out of Chickhood.

His friends, the black-backed and herring gulls, still flew out to sea where they dove into the waves, surfacing with a fat silver fish in their beaks.

That for Ziggy, seemed like hard work. Battling the winds and the mounting waves, just to get a small fish! No, he liked the easy life, did Ziggy. The open ocean was not his style.

In the distance, slowly walking towards him, he saw a small family, fish and chips, in little paper conesp in their hands. Even from this distance, he detected the acrid scent of vinegar. It wafted over his beak. He bobbed down, preparing to launch himself into the air.

They were close now. A downward beat of his wings lifted him into the freshening breeze and he idly flapped as a light thermal blew beneath them, keeping him aloft with little effort.

As the family drew abreast of where Ziggy hovered. The little boy held out his hand. There was a chip wavering between his fingers. He was offering Ziggy a chip! With a loud squawk, Ziggy dove, grabbed the chip and was off up in the thermal again.
The rest of the family laughed at his antics. But, a few minutes later, when Ziggy saw a golden opportunity and dove down, grabbing a bunch of chips from the woman’s hand. She screamed ( he had inadvertently pecked her hand as he grabbed the chips), and waved her arms, trying to shoo Ziggy away.

This frightened Ziggy, so he flew higher, watching the family down his sharp beak. This was the first time he had pecked anyone. He was usually so careful. He was a bit sad, but, not too sad as he saw some more people heading his way. Surely they would also have chips?

His keen eyes stared at the oncoming people. Not a family this time but an elderly couple. They did not have chips but were eating burger buns. This, for Ziggy, was as good as chips. Easy to peck, easy to go down the throat.

He swooped down towards the people, making a beeline for the buns. The oldsters saw him coming and started shouting, waving arms and a newspaper, at him. Squawking with indignity, Ziggy lifted into the thermal, deciding that he had better fly away for now. People always threw food away so he could come back later and have a good feed.

Alighting on the Pier roof, he sat with all the other gulls, wings flapping now and then, when a squabble broke out. In the end, Ziggy got so fed up that he opened his wings, caught the thermals and flapped up and away towards the ocean, not to catch fish, like the others, but for a bit of peace and quiet. It was not his regular way, but sometimes, peace was infinitely better than being with the masses.

His wings turned a pink colour as the sun set and the sky become red with the setting sun. It would be better when all the people had left the promenade and he could eat his fill in peace.

Copyright Evelyn J. Steward. August, 2014

The Glass Dog – L. Frank Baum

GThe Glass Dog
by L. Frank Baum

(about 2750 words)

In this charming fairy tale, a wizard desires a watch dog who will bark at anyone who comes close enough to disturb his work. He commissions a glassblower to make him a little pink dog which he then enchants to do the desired task. In exchange, the wizard gives him a phial containing a single drop of the most powerful medicine in the world, which can cure any illness. The glassblower happily takes this and the wizard gets his enchanted glass watchdog. Since this is a fairytale, there is a beautiful (and rich) young woman in some serious need of saving. It turns out that she is ill from something that no doctor has been able to cure. Since she’s all but in the ground, she decides to wager her life against her marriage, and offers herself as a prize to the glassblower is he can cure her with his phial of medicine. The next day the beautiful, rich girl is back on her feet and reneging on her promise to marry the poor, old man. She puts it off and puts it off and in the meantime the glass blower has thrown out all the tools of his trade and is eagerly thinking up ways to spend his new wife’s money. Eventually, the glassblower starts getting anxious and asks her about their marriage date. She responds by asking him how he happened to cure her. Well, he tells her the whole story and she insists that she needs to have her own enchanted glass dog and the glassblower had best get busy stealing the wizard’s. For some reason the old man can’t see what a colossal bitch his intended is, and does what she asks, bringing her the glass dog. When he returns to her the next day, wouldn’t you know it, but the glass dog rushes at him and barks up a storm, and she won’t do anything to call it off, saying she never wanted to marry him anyway. He’s just too ugly. Heartbroken, the glassblower goes home to hang himself. Fortunately(?) the wizard interrupts him, saying that he’s lost his glass dog. He laments that he has no money to offer as a reward, but only has a beauty powder that he can spare. Of course the man jumps on this opportunity as well, re-steals and returns the glass dog in exchange for the beauty powder and returns to marry the uppity woman. And if you think either of them is happy with the match, you haven’t been paying attention to the rest of the story.

Baum,L_FrankLyman Frank Baum was born on May 15, 1856, in Chittenango, New York. His early education was a bit spotty, starting with home tutors and then a stint in a military academy which he had to quit because of a heart condition. He skipped high school, and like many authors of the time, worked as a journalist, as well as exploring his love of the theater. He wrote his most famous book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900 which was adapted into a Broadway musical two years later. Baum continued to write children’s stories until his death on May 6, 1919.

Gleaning Truths from The Fifteen Houses, a Novel By Jeanne Claire Probst

17274257Julianne Marguerite

Julianne Marguerite was one of many children born to her parents, Gerard and Edith. Unlike her other siblings who were always active and engaged in living their lives, Julianne Marguerite was a child who preferred the atmosphere around her to be silent…and rightly so for many reasons. One, she did not hear like her other brothers and sisters, and two, she liked being alone…it was quiet…and there was moments of contentment that came with being able to think while she observed the world around her.

Born into a bi-lingual family, hearing impairment made it difficult for Julianne Marguerite to make either language one she could call own. Although she was able to master her languages, it was done at great cost to her image as Edith would often punish her for not being able to repeat her lessons as quickly as her siblings leaving her to struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of shame.

With the aid of a hearing aid and being a visual person , as Julianne Marguerite grew, did master a language of her own, one that involved the words she did hear , body language and facial expressions and most importantly…the other person’s lips. She learned early on in life that even the eyes have a language all of their own.

When she became a teenager, Julianne Marguerite was given a guitar. At first, she had no idea how to make the strings work together to produce the music as she could hear it on the radio. Just twangs and more twangs. The guitar was a burden for her at first because it was another something she did not understand, and any sounds made were heard differently than when her siblings were hearing the same sounds.
It took a while, but with the aid of a music book with chords illustrations for guitars, Julianne Marguerite was able to learn where her fingers should be placed, how the strings should be strummed and eventually the miracle of these newly found sounds made their way to her heart. Finally, she had something that would allow her to express her feelings, good or bad. Even better was the fact that the guitar did not ridicule her because she played a wrong note or chord.

Julianne Marguerite was now also able to put music to words she had written and created her own songs. When she sang these for others she reaped a sense of joy and pride that comes from knowing you have something to offer to others…she had a “gift.” In time her sisters Chloe and Aude and eventually her mother Edith joined her when singing these songs together. It was the only thing they ever did that made them “look” or “feel” as if they were a family. It was the “strings” that allowed them to break down the barriers that prevented them to bond when they were younger…music.

The quite times Julianne Marguerite once enjoyed were now spent with her best “friend,” her guitar. Placing her ear on the body of the guitar when she played allowed her to feel the notes and when she learned to sing along with these, there was a kind of peace that only could be had when a person found something that they could connect with.

It would be thirty more years before Julianne Marguerite was able to understand her hearing impairment. With reconstructive ear surgery and the support of her doctor, she came to realize that she was not “deaf,” as she was often made to think. She was also not “stupid,” she had to learn differently. She was hard of hearing and simply did not hear as the rest of the people in the world around her. This knowledge had a profound impact on her future. More importantly there was the liberation from the chains of the lack of self-esteem and shame that encased her like a pea in a pod for most of the earlier part of her life. Music allowed Julianne Marguerite the strength and courage to eventually find the “real” person she was meant to be. The truth and her bond with music had set Julianne Marguerite free.

Jeanne Claire Probst
eShop Also Available
www.wintertreeproductions.com

Excerpt from Book 3 of the Tirnano – THE PURPLE QUEEN by Pete Emmerson

The Purple Queen (1)

 

ANAKIM

Croninn Country

 

An issue of a powerful scream came from overhead, M’ntar; the mighty Red Lord Dominie and his daughter, The Purple Queen, Alushamenta, along with their riders Winn and Mira appeared.

Two of the giants had vanished, already passed through a tear, one remained, about to follow, it hesitated as though it had a hint of the presence of other beings nearby.

Lusha flew directly into its face, a spout of searing flame spewing from her mouth covering the giant’s visage with blazing fire. Lord Dominie flew to the back of the giant’s head, his great talons tearing and clawing at the rock armour; chunks of granite were ripped off and fell to the ground. Winn stabbed at the exposed pink skin with a long spear.

In tune with Lusha, Dominie and Winn leapt away from the giant as The Purple Queen blasted the giant once more with a further jet of flames.

They returned as the conflagration subsided, tearing and stabbing once more. The giant began to spin slowly, its mouth opening wide in a horrendous screech, its arms flailing, blindly reaching for its tormentors.

Paul came to a halt, a mere hundred yards from the battle.

“GRANDFATHER, HOLD THE SWORD ALOFT, I HAVE NEED OF IT,” he shouted at the sky.

‘Ready” came the reply moments later.

Paul with the power of his mind willed the sword into his hands.

The blade appeared.

‘Make a cut and let it drink, then seal the wound with the side of the blade,’ sent Adalstan.

Paul remembering his mother’s first touch of the blade did as his ancestor bid. Wincing he cut his palm, then allowed Meinrad to absorb the crimson flow, then sealed the wound as instructed. All pain immediately left him as the wound closed. In moments he could feel his body fill with the sword’s power and lust for battle.

‘Attack, bring me close to its ankles,’ he sent to Carilla.

The Runner without a moment’s pause sped fearlessly towards the giant. Meinrad flamed, the sword spewed blue fire around the charging pair. Its humming song rose higher and higher, reaching an ear piercing scream as they closed on the colossal being. Paul struck at the giant’s heel severing its Achilles’ tendon. The giant bellowed and staggered.

Carilla spun on the spot and raced for its other leg. Paul filled with blood-rage swung Meinrad, the sword primed by the lad’s blood now able to slice through steel, bone and flesh cut deep. Paul thrust again and again.

Above him Lusha blasted the giant full in the face with a stream of flame once more, blinding it. Dominie then with tooth and claw tore the back of its neck open. Blood flowed from the wound; as the granite slabs fell, Winn sunk her spear deep into the monster’s head.

The Anakim sunk to its knees, Carilla, nudged mentally by Paul, leapt up the back of the dying giant, reaching the open wound left by Winn and Dominie; Paul thrust Meinrad deep into the bloody mess and left the sword to drink its fill.

The golem fell forward onto its face with a huge crash; its red bag fell to the ground and flew open. From within crawled men and women, over a hundred of them, terrified beyond imagination, others still within were either dead or seriously injured.

Finn and Xjang galloped up, having observed the entire episode. Paul dived from Carilla’s neck and gathered his little companions in his arms and burst into tears.

“Thank God you’re alright,” he sobbed. Continue reading

Corwen Halt by Chris Kaye

 

Chris Kaye

He had grown up on the railways:  on this particular line, anyway.  He was still young but already could open the carriage doors without any help.  I suppose you could say that he was a bit of a vagabond, although he did keep himself clean and tidy.  Regular commuters talked to him, and often, somehow, found themselves sharing their food with him:  the ticket inspectors merely took one look into his innocent eyes, and didn’t bother to ask.  They all knew him, and accepted that he was a seasoned, if slightly unconventional, traveller.

The station was fairly typical of a country village stop.  The buildings and flower-boxes were neatly kept, even if the signs, doors, and other woodwork could do with a fresh coat of paint, but that hardly mattered.  He knew where he was long before the ‘Spirit of Dunkirk’ Class 4-6-2 locomotive, tender, and rake of six carriages, had wheezed and clunked to a complete stop.  He shuffled off the seat, and was soon sitting on the platform at Corwen Halt, watching the train move noisily off on the next leg of its journey, towards the larger towns, and the end of the line.

He momentarily scratched an imaginary itch at the back of his head, and then strolled casually past the railway guard: on towards the end of the station building.  Old George didn’t say anything:  just nodded, and grinned at him.  He knew what that meant.  The guard’s room would be empty; the stove would be on, and the battered old armchair was still comfy enough that he could doze there through most of the afternoon, without anyone interrupting him.

He did sleep, and therefore missed her arrival.

Continue reading

War of the Words by Ellen Mae Franklin

Carol BondProse was a pretty thing with dark hair and brown eyes whose smile lit the world around her. This day found her hard at work. Sheets of paper lay scattered on the desk and floor, screwed up balls of the unwanted stuff littered the room and the quills that she so loved to write with – her most treasured of possessions – were spread out before her in loving array. Feathers and inkpots, scrolls, and the ability to create infinite worlds belonged to this dedicated writer, Prose was proud of every word.

 

“I have finished! I have finally made my mark.” Prose leapt out of her chair. “It is done at last, my very first story. It’s a pearler and once it’s published I know it will go straight to number one.” She hammered on the wall with her fist and the scraping of a chair on the other-side followed, then a came a knock on her door.

 

“Come in, come in Ink and hurry up.” Prose shouted, well aware that every writer in her building would be frowning at the interruption. Every time a writer placed the last dot on the end of a tale, indicating that the manuscript was ready for other eyes there was a celebrated shout: disrupting the usual quiet that enveloped her building.

  Continue reading

Horrific by Amber Jager

They were all expecting a different result.  The world had sat by with bated breath, waiting, knowing that it just had to be so.  There was no other true option, was there?  The guilt was inevitable and undeniable.  The truth was a certainty, not a question.  Everyone knew. Everyone knew wrong. When the announcement came through the loudspeakers, it was as if the world truly paused.  It didn’t matter what language it came through on, everyone was receiving the same devastating information.  It was wrong.  It was so horrifically wrong that nobody could even respond for the seconds, and then minutes.  If not for the buzz of the loudspeakers, the silence would have been absolute. No one knew exactly where the first scream came from, but it was most certainly that of a woman, and unleashed a cacophony of noise.  Where a moment ago no one had spoken, everyone now was yelling at once.  Blood spilled within seconds of that first scream, and would continue to flow from man and woman alike throughout the rest of the night. Continue reading

Healer’s Origin (1) by Chris Kaye

Chris Kaye

Sinter crystal. The fist sized lumps spilled their way out of the gash, so recently hewn into the rock face. Light flared, glared, dazed and dazzled the miners, as they scurried to a safe distance. Fear? It was hardly fear, as such, that forced them away. Caution, yes, but they were well pleased with their discovery. Look at them dancing and singing. Slapping each other on the back as if they were the best of friends, and not, each and every one of them, already planning how to increase their own individual share. The usual way of accomplishing this was to reduce the number of claimants. In those days, the phrase ‘accidental death’ had, as a general rule, little to do with accidents. They all knew the old saying, “Where sinter shined, varhl cannot be far behind”. There, of course, lay the problem. Old wives tales usually can be seen to have an element of truth in them somewhere. Sayings are a totally different matter and, despite their widespread use, do have a tendency to exhibit some kind of inbuilt ‘inaccuracy factor’. In this particular case, the saying was unfortunately (but more of that later) true. Continue reading

Ring around the Rosie by H.M.C

Hayley MerelleRIPPLES OF WIND STREAKED the long grass, and tall pines stretched into an orange and purple sky. Rosie shivered and the wind chased her as her small bare feet beat upon the earth past old fence posts and tangled barbed wire. Her back yard was the Australian bushland.

Black smoke from her farmhouse chimney billowed into the coming night.

‘Rosie!’ Mama called.

‘Coming!’ She ran full pelt through the grass and hoped no unseen sharp thing got her. A stick once wedged itself so deep into her foot that the doctor had to be called to remove it.

The house glowed from the fire in the hearth and Rosie’s mother hurried around the kitchen preparing the evening meal. It smelt delicious. ‘Set the table, will you, darling?’ Rosie took out four plates, four sets of knives and forks, and salt and pepper. She placed each item in the exact spot she did every night – carefully spacing the distances between objects. Continue reading

The Warrior’s Code – A Peacekeepers X-Alpha Thriller by Steve DeWinter

Chapter 1

Angela cut herself on the razor sharp edge of a box and inspected the tip of her finger. The cardboard had torn a miniaturized version of the Grand Canyon through her fingerprint and it took a few seconds for the blood to well up.
She promptly stuck the finger in her mouth before a single drop splattered on any of the objects arranged in front of her.
Dressed in a herringbone-patterned short skirt, a sheer beige blouse over a black camisole, and black satin two-inch heels, she looked out of place in the basement. With her fiery red hair done up in a bun, she looked like she should be rubbing elbows with the elite at the cocktail party in the rooms above her rather than standing in the middle of the impromptu mail room, sucking on her finger.
Wes was twenty years her senior, but the deep wrinkly crags on his face made him look more like eighty years older, shook his head. “I keep telling you Ang, you gotta wear gloves when handling these recycled boxes. Never had this problem back in my day. Cardboard made from trees, as God intended, is better.”
He wrinkled his nose at her in disgust. “And I wouldn’t be sticking no finger in my mouth after touching these things. Lord knows if they washed all that poop paper before recycling them into boxes.”
He emphasized the word “recycling” with air quotes before grabbing another package off the mail cart and slicing it open with a box cutter. Continue reading