Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Daring Rescue

A Daring Rescue
by Phoebe Ophelia

“I have a signal from a matter-transmission station,” Lieutenant Sami said from the comm station. “And another from the shuttle Alphonse. They are about 50 meters apart. The station is in a forested area, fairly secluded, but the shuttle is near a large structure, several stories tall.”

“Can we communicate with the inhabitants of this world?” said Captain Vasquez.

“I'm detecting no radio emissions, sir. They must not have the tech for that.”

“So no radar, either,” mused the captain. “All right. Commander Crichton, assemble a team and prepare for a stealth mission to recover the shuttle.”

“What about...Lieutenant St. Clair?” said Commander Crichton, a tall man with dark hair and striking blue eyes.

“We will attempt to recover Lieutenant St. Clair, as well, Commander, but we need more information.”

“Understood, sir.”

“Assemble your team, and be ready in one hour.”

The matter-transmission station was a meter-wide disk hidden in a pit formed by a ring of boulders. The team transmitted through one at a time, starting with Crichton, then Roberts, Jennings and hulking Torq, all security ensigns, and then petite Lieutenant Sami. All wore blackout suits and hoods. Crichton led them through a forested area to a clearing around a large structure. The shuttle was not far from it.

“We've reached the shuttlecraft,” Cricton sub-vocalized for the comm unit implanted in his jaw. The team secured the area, forming a perimeter around the shuttle. Lieutenant Sami opened the panel by the entrance, casting a shallow light which Crichton moved to shield from the building with his body. He could see her pale face in the eerie light, seeming to float in the darkness.

“The shuttle has power,” Sami sub-vocalized, keying in a sequence on the touchpad. The door opened silently; the inside of the shuttle was dark and empty. “Looks like Lieutenant St. Clair put her in lockdown mode.”

“Power her up.”

Sami moved to the front of the shuttle and bent over the display there. Her petite silhouette was suddenly illuminated by the lights of the console. “It looks like the shuttle soft-landed. It can be relaunched with minimal repairs.”

“Scan for Lieutenant St. Clair's comm unit; see if you can send a message to her.”

“She's not in the immediate area...a wider scan will take some time.”

“In the meantime, check the logs for any leads.”

“Commander,” Crichton heard over the comm, “A door has opened in the structure, and an alien stands in the doorway, looking out. It hasn't seen us yet.”

Crichton silently left the shuttle and peered around the bulkhead to see for himself. The alien was backlit and hard to see. The door itself was much larger than he had expected, he estimated it was about five meters high, and the alien was perhaps four. It presented a humanoid silhouette, though very thin. A much smaller figure, less than two meters tall, suddenly darted out past the alien, and the alien gave chase, scooping up the smaller figure in its arms. “Da-da-da!” the smaller creature shrieked.

“Dih-dah, mee la nee-na,” said the large alien in a very deep, booming sort of voice. It turned and carried the smaller creature back into the structure.

“Commander!” sub-vocalized Ensign Torq. He looked sharply over at Crichton. Torq was a Val, not a human, and his skin was the same color as his blackout suit. All Crichton could see of him was his slitted, catlike eyes. “That is a human!”

“What? Are you certain?”

“I have no doubt.”

“Was it Lieutenant St. Clair?”

“No, sir.”

Crichton went back into the shuttle. “Sami, can you get a signal to the Molari?” he asked.

“...yes, sir, I've got a link.”

“How fast do you think you can make the shuttle spaceworthy?”

“It may take thirty or forty minutes. Half that if Roberts helps me.”

“I'll leave him with you. Update the Molari on our situation and be ready to launch as soon as possible. I've got to rescue that human and see if there are any others. If you and Roberts are discovered, I want you to launch. We'll head back to the matter transmission point.”

“Good luck, sir.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

Crichton and the two security ensigns moved out. Torq, at 2.1 meters tall, was the only one that could reach the handle on the door. It was dark inside the structure, but a little light shone from a window to their left. Stairs led up to a second floor immediately to their right. “Jennings,” Crichton ordered. “Watch the stairs.”

The first room was large and open, with double-scale chairs and what looked like a long couch facing a structure made of stone. Through a wide doorway at the far end was another large window and to the right was a room filled with huge machines. Another door under the stairs revealed a small room with two strange basins inside.

They went back and started up the stairs. Each stair was as tall as Crichton's thigh, so it was a difficult climb and took some time. Jennings remained on the first floor, keeping watch.

The second floor consisted of a long corridor with several doors. Torg opened each in turn. The first was storage, with layers of shelves. The second was a larger version of the room downstairs with the basins. Inside the third was an alien lying on a raised platform, a covered in a cloth pulled up to its chin. “It seems smaller than the one in the doorway,” Torq said.

In the fourth room was a cage, two meters wide, three long and about three tall. It stood on legs like a table. In it was a human, lying on the cushioned floor of the cage, asleep. “I'm going to wake him and explain what's going on. You wait in the hallway and keep watch.”

There was no lock on the cage, just a simple sliding latch. It was made of wood and it had been fitted very tightly, so it took all of Crichton's strength to unlatch it. The cage doors then opened outward like a cabinet. “Wake up,” he whispered. “I'm here to help you.”

The man rolled over and looked at him. It was difficult to make out his expression in the darkness. “Da da da?” he said out loud.

“Shhhh!” Crichton sushed. “I can get you out, but you must be quiet.”

“Commander,” Torq said over the comm. “The last door opens.”

“Hide!” Crichton said, closing the cage quickly and ducking under it.

“Too late; I've been seen by the alien. I flee. It gives pursuit.” Crichton heard noises on the stairs, then it was quiet. “Jennings and I have reached the shuttle,” Torq said, “but we were seen and the alien approaches.”

“Damn.” Crichton opened the cage again. “Come on.” He tugged at the man's hand; the man got down from the cage very carefully and began to follow him without a word. They worked on the stairs; the man was not very agile, so it was slow going.

“Commander, the alien is almost here,” called Sami over the comm.

“You have your orders. Launch.”

“But what about you?”

“I and the man I've found can get to the matter transmission point while the alien is distracted by what you're doing. We're almost to the bottom of the stairs. Go now!”

Crichton grabbed the man's hand again and pulled him out the door and across the road away from the shuttle. It launched, brightening the sky behind them with the glow of its engines. The man slowed and looked back, hooting in excitement. “It's okay,” Crichton told him. “Lieutenant St. Clair left a matter transmission point near her crash site. We can escape that way. I'm sure the captain will want to hear how you ended up in that cage.”

Crichton pulled him gently into the forest to the point. Crichton helped the man climb over the rocks and stood on the platform, then tapped the activation code out with his foot.

The world disintegrated around them, then coalesced again as the cargo bay. “Captain,” Crichton said aloud to the comm. “Commander Crichton reporting in. I have rescued a human prisoner from the surface, but it's not Lieutenant St. Clair.”

“Take him to the infirmary; I will meet you both there shortly,” Captain Vasquez's voice responded.

Crichton turned and looked at the human, getting his first good look. The man was about his height, 1.9 meters, and a little chubby. His expression was wide and bewildered. “Come on, sir.” He took the man's hand again and began to lead him to the lift. “What's your name?”

The man looked at him and said, “Da da da!” He seemed to be missing some teeth.

“You don't speak the common tongue?”


“Hm.” Crichton didn't bother trying to speak to the man for the rest of the trip up the lift to the infirmary. Dr. Worthing was there, prim as ever in her long white coat.

“This is the human you rescued?” she asked Crichton.

“Yes, Doctor,” Crichton said. “He doesn't speak common. Or, maybe his captivity damaged his mind, somehow.”

“Hi there,” she smiled at the man. “What's your name?”

He grinned and pointed at the doctor. “Aha!” he said.

Dr. Worthing furrowed her brow. “Tom,” she said. “Are you sure...?”

“Sure of what?”

She placed her hand on one of the beds. “Sit here,” she said to the man. He walked over and put his hand on it, too. “Sit,” she repeated, sitting on it to show him what she meant. He copied her, and she pushed a button on the console at the foot of the bed.

“Tom,” said the doctor, reading the results. “She's not human.”

“She?” Crichton said. “But...” he looked at the being in front of him. The features were all characteristic of human males, except the cheeks were beardless. He was a little chubby, but still within the range of normal.

“She,” Dr. Worthing confirmed. “She has an internal gestation pouch. She's not human. Her organs are all in different places, and her DNA is different. She is...still growing.”


“Rapidly. If her growth rate is analogous to humans, she is very young. Perhaps the equivalent of a two-year-old child.” The doctor looked up at Crichton, her expression grim. “Tom, you didn't rescue a human prisoner, you kidnapped an alien baby.”

Crichton sat down heavily on one of the beds. Everything fell into place suddenly. The structure they'd invaded was a family home, the hulking machines things like refrigeration units and ovens. The weird basins were sinks and toilets. The cage from which he'd “rescued” this person was not a cage at all, but a crib. He rubbed his hands over his face. “Torq said he was certain he'd seen a human. It was dark...she was so quiet, I thought she wanted to be rescued. She came along willingly.”

“She doesn't seem to be disturbed by this experience,” the doctor said.

The baby alien had turned around on the bed and was playing with the pillow.

“I was hoping she knew something about what happened to Jenien,” Crichton said.

“Tom,” Dr. Worthing said, gripping Crichton's arm. “Lieutenant St. Clair is resourceful and tenacious. I'm sure she'll be all right.”

Captain Vasquez came in and the doctor briefed him on what had happened. “The aliens probably thought Lieutenant St. Clair was a lost child,” he said, “And took her away from the crash site.”

“And the shuttlecraft was just sitting in the alien's backyard. They may have thought it was a toy because of its size.”

“I agree. Commander, I want you to take the matter transmitter and return this child to her home. Just leave her somewhere safe where she will be found and return. Lieutenant Sami and Ensign Roberts are doing a high-altitude search for Lieutenant St. Clair's comm signal. Contact us through them if you encounter any trouble.”

“Yes, Sir.”

The alien child was cooperative as Crichton led her by the hand to the transmitter and then helped her climb back out of the pit. There were aliens combing the woods for the child, so he simply pointed her in their direction and went back into the pit. “Shuttle Alphonse to Commander Crichton.”

“Crichton responding.”

“We've located Lieutenant St. Clair's comm signal. She's several kilometers north of you, heading in your direction. She won't return our attempts at communication; her receive function may be damaged.”

“I'm going to rendezvous with her, see if she needs any help.”

“Your orders were to return immediately.”

“Clear it with the captain then, Sami, I think he'll see it my way.”

Crichton headed north. The sun began to rise to his left as he walked. He had only been walking for twenty or thirty minutes after dawn when he saw a person a bit smaller than himself. He watched the person for a moment. It looked like a human and wore a long white dress that obscured the being's figure. The hair was short and dark. It stopped for a moment, then said, “Who is that?”

Commander Crichton let out his held breath. “It's me, Jenien. It's Tom.”

“Ugh, finally!” she said, stomping over to him, and then past him. He followed. “I've been listening to your comm chatter all night.”

“Why didn't you respond?”

“I didn't want to expose these aliens to us any more than they already had been, and I certainly didn't want to get anybody else captured.”

“Were you mistreated?”

“Ha! I've been poked, prodded, manipulated, patronized, locked in cabinets, stripped, dressed, DIAPERED!”

Crichton began to laugh. Lieutenant St. Clair rounded on him and gave him a punch in the shoulder. He grabbed her arm and pulled her close. “I'm sorry,” he said. “I'm just so glad you're all right.”
She gave him a quick kiss and said, “Let's save it for when we're back aboard. I don't want to be caught again.”

“It wasn't that bad, was it?”

“I'd rather be sent to a Crunlian torture pit than go back there.”

“Gives you an idea what it'll be like for our kids.”

She stopped and looked at him. “Kids? We're not even married.”

“Well, about that--”

“No. No, no, no, NO! You are NOT proposing to me here. I would never forgive you if I had to link this experience with your proposal in my mind forever!”

“Ha-ha, all right. Not here. Come on.” He took her hand and began to run back to the matter transmitter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Calendar of Tales: December

Way back in 2013, I was inspired by Neil Gaiman's A Calendar of Tales to write my own tales using the same inspirational quotes. I did not read his stories before I wrote mine, but I did read them after, and they are all awesome.

“Who would you like to see again in December?”

“My 18 yo-runaway-self so I can show her that I find someone to love & own a home of my own - it did get better.”

Cherry shivered as she sat at the bar of the all-night diner. She was eighteen now, a full adult. She had been on her own for nearly a year and she didn't feel any less lost. She spent her nights here, nursing a cup of coffee, if she couldn't find a couch to surf. The night staff didn't care as long as she paid for something and didn't lay down in a booth to sleep.

She had enrolled at the local junior college, but couldn't handle a full schedule while she didn't know where she was going to sleep, and so wasn't eligible for financial aid or job placement. Without a job or rental history, she couldn't apply for any of the rooms on the housing board at the JC.

She shivered in the diner, but not because it was cold. Earlier that evening, when she had been trying to find a couch, an acquaintance had offered her more than a couch. He had offered her a bed. A permanent bed, if she wanted it; but he would be in it.

He wasn't icky, or anything, though she wasn't interested in him. It would solve all her problems; a stable address would allow her to get a job, to take more classes, to get set up eventually with her own place. She wouldn't let herself consider the obvious; that accepting his offer would make her feel like a whore, and she'd never ever feel like anything else. That wasn't logical. A job was a job, however it paid.

If that was true, why was she sitting staring into a cup of coffee and shivering in the diner instead of with him right now?
She picked through the bit of change she'd managed to pan-handle that afternoon. There was enough for the coffee and a buck for the server. She prepared to put the money down and leave.

An older lady sat next to her at the bar. “Don't go yet, kiddo.”
Cherry looked over at her. There was something familiar about her that she couldn't place. “Why not?”

“Because I want to buy you a piece of cheesecake and tell you some stuff.”


“Yeah, you like cheesecake, don't you?”

“Sure, but--”

“Hey, Chris,” she called to the server. He walked over, then looked between the two of them. He seemed a little freaked out, but Cherry couldn't see why. Maybe he knew this lady and she was bad news? It seemed far-fetched. She was the kind of middle-aged suburbanite you never see in late-night diners. Totally wholesome and harmless.

“Two cheesecakes, please. And a coffee.”

“What's your deal, lady?” Cherry asked.

“Just a minute.”


“Wait for the cheesecake.”


Chris the server brought the cheesecakes. He seemed a little less freaked out. “You ladies enjoy,” he said.

The lady took a large bite of the cheesecake, and nodded at Cherry. She shrugged and took a bite, too. It tasted like one of those frozen cheesecakes you get at the grocery store; good, but not amazing. She sipped her coffee, which had been refilled, then said, “So, what's your deal?”

“I wanted to tell you that you don't have to move in with Jason.”
Cherry's eyes grew wide. “What?”

“I mean it. You don't want to, I know. I remember. And you don't have to. You're going to pick up a classified section tomorrow, and you're going to see a job there that will meet all the needs moving in with Jason would. You will find your calling, meet the love of your life, and in ten years, you'll be living in a house that you own.”

“How do you even know about that? Who are you?”

“You'd never believe me.”

“Whatever, lady.” Cherry ate the cheesecake; it was the best meal she'd had in days. She wanted to believe the woman, but things like that just didn't happen. “Thanks for the cheesecake. It's been a trip.”

“When you're nearing your fiftieth birthday, your youngest son, the little surprise, will invent a time machine in the basement. You'll know what to do.”

Cherry turned back to the woman, but she was gone; the only evidence of her having been there was an empty plate and a twenty dollar bill. She snatched up the twenty and looked at it. Just an ordinary bill. She sat back down. It wouldn't kill her to wait until tomorrow to see Jason, and this much money would buy her some breakfast.

Chris the server walked by again to fill her coffee cup. “Hey, where'd your mom go?”

“My mom?” Cherry said. “My mom's been dead for three years.”

“What? Hey, I'm sorry. Who was that lady then, your aunt?”

“No, I'd never seen her before. She was just some weird lady.”

“You're kidding me, right? She looked just like you.”

“What? No way!”

“Well, she was older, but yeah. She looked like you, but older.”
Cherry's eyes got wide. “Maybe she was!” she whispered.

“Heh, you're pretty weird. What's your name?”


“No, really?”

“Yeah, really.”

“What are you planning on doing after this?”

“Well, the campus library opens at seven, so I was going to see if I could get some sleep there before my first class, but now...I think I might pick up a newspaper on my way. Have a peek at the classifieds.”

A Calendar of Tales: November

Way back in 2013, I was inspired by Neil Gaiman's A Calendar of Tales to write my own tales using the same inspirational quotes. I did not read his stories before I wrote mine, but I did read them after, and they are all awesome.

“What would you burn in November, if you could?”

“My medical records, but only if that would make it all go away.”

Abigail peeked over into the caldera and then pulled quickly back. The rocks themselves were smoking down there, and the updraft was very strong. She had begun to sweat in her heat-proof suit. She couldn't survive here without it, but if she stayed too long, her own retained body heat would cook her.

She took out the fat folder full of Steve's medical records and set them carefully on the edge of the caldera, then eased them over into the flaming pit. The updraft caught them and swirled them around, but almost all of them burned up in the hot wind or settled down into the caldera.

One lone page did neither. It snagged on something just below the edge. She leaned over and reached for it, but couldn't quite get it. Her suit had started to smoke. She pulled away and staggered down the mountainside. She stopped about twenty feet from the caldera and tried to breathe and think.

She could get the page and make sure it burned. Steve would live, and she would never have existed. Was it worth it?

She and Steven were assassins, and as such she had expected a quick, exciting death for both of them, not a lingering, dull, painful one. Cancer ate Steve over the course of a year. After six months of watching, Abigail could stand it no more. She left the love of her life to chase improbabilities.

She sought miracle cures, wish granters, anything that had the potential, however small, to save him. She had been to the bottom of the sea and the bottom of space. She'd seen shamans all over the world. She'd followed a tunnel through the earth to another world where everything was upside-down. She'd bought five hundred sixty-three lamps purported to have genies within; of them only one held a genie, and it was only able to do parlor tricks, not cure cancer.

This was his last chance. A ritual burning of something one wished to destroy; it was retroactive, so even if Steve died while she was out here, if it worked, he would be alive and cancer-free when she returned.

Abigail stood still and weighed what could be on that one page against her own existence. If she had never been born, perhaps her father wouldn't have lost his mind and started beating her and her mother, but she thought that unlikely. The disease had been in him, planted by his mother, whom Abigail resembled.

If she had never been born, her father might still be alive. He was her first cold-blooded murder, committed just before her brother was born, when she was only fourteen. There had been an investigation, of course, but her mother's testimony made it clear she had acted in self-defense. Abigail had no illusions. She had stabbed him as he sat watching tv. There had been no struggle. It was not self-defense.

Rather, she had done it to save her unborn brother from having a father like theirs; to keep little Joshua from becoming another monster in a line of monsters.

So, it stood to reason that her mother could be dead, would probably be in pain, and her brother would be a monster, if Abigail had never existed.

Then there was Steve. He had helped her since the beginning. He'd hired her to help him with a job, because of her stealth and almost magical understanding of locks and security systems. They had made quite a team. She knew she loved him when he was discovered on a job and she'd had to rescue him; she didn't know until then how much she needed him.

Abigail started to walk back down the mountain. She was exhausted. It seemed Steve would already be dead if she had never existed. She had killed in cold blood, and perhaps the world would be better off, but the ones she loved needed her and she couldn't abandon them.

All she had left was a thin hope that she could return to Steve's side before he left her forever.

A Calendar of Tales: October

Way back in 2013, I was inspired by Neil Gaiman's A Calendar of Tales to write my own tales using the same inspirational quotes. I did not read his stories before I wrote mine, but I did read them after, and they are all awesome.

 “What mythical creature would you like to meet in October? (& why?)”
A djinn. Not to make a wish. But for the very best advice on how to be
happy w/ what you already have.”

It was made of blue fire. The light and shadow formed a face, but the rest of it was a blue blaze. Jenny took a step back from it, but it didn't get any farther away. No heat or odor came from it.

“There is no need for fear, Master,” it said. “I am here to serve you.”

“ a...” It hovered impassively as she stammered. She cleared her throat and said, “What...exactly...are you?”

“I am a djinn.”

“What, like a genie?”

“Basically, yes.”

“I thought genies lived in lamps and granted three wishes to anyone who rubbed...”

“It doesn't have to be a lamp. I am bound to that ring you just put on.”

“This was my mother's. She never told me--”

“I never appeared to her.”


“Never. She was frightened.”

“How could she be frightened if you never appeared to her?”

“She needed a very ordered life, and didn't believe in the possibility of me. As soon as she put on the ring I ceased to exist, constrained by her will.”

“You died?”

“No. I simply did not exist while she wore the ring.”

“How can that be?”

“It is my nature.”

“What is your nature? I mean, there are many legends of genies being evil tricksters, teaching people to be careful what they wish for.”

“My nature is a reflection of my master's nature. If an evil trickster wears the ring, I am an evil trickster. If a generous, kind person wears it, I am generous and kind.”

“You can see into people like that?”

“I can know anything applicable to my master's needs.”

“Then you already know what wishes I would choose?”

“No, because you haven't decided yet. You feel you still need information.”

“I...guess I do.”

“I will help you. Ask me what you will, and I will answer.”

“Will it count against my wishes?”


“And I get three?”


“Do I have to write up a contract for these wishes in order to avoid loopholes?”

“I will grant the spirit of each wish. You don't have to think of which consequences you'd prefer to avoid. Because I reflect your nature, I will naturally avoid them.”

“And I get three wishes?”


“Okay. Hm. I don't know. What would you wish for?”

“I have no will of my own. You are my master. I exist only to help you.”

“What about those stories about the genies who want to be free?”

“Just stories. If I were freed I would cease to exist forever.”

Jenny gasped. “Oh, no!”

The blue-flame face smiled. “I appreciate your concern for me. I would like to avoid that fate, also.”

“Because I would?”

“Of course.”

“What about after my wishes? What happens to you then?”

“I no longer exist until someone else puts on the ring.”

“Oh!” Jenny said. “That's terrible! Wouldn't you rather exist all the time?”

“Of course.”

“And you can know anything?”


“What happens after a person dies?”

“Their body decomposes.”

“That's not what I meant.”

“I know nothing true about an afterlife. If I had to supply information about one, I would, depending on the faith of my master. You claim agnosticism, but have no belief in an afterlife, so I have no need to prevaricate.”

“Here's what I propose, then. I will disconnect you from the ring, and rebind you to my blood; you will serve me and then my oldest living descendant. You will exist continuously. After the three wishes are made, you will continue to exist as an adviser. I...never want you to be evil, so...remain a reflection of my nature, as it is now. I mean...I don't think I'm evil.”

“You are a very compassionate person. I would be proud to have your nature permanently.”

“You're just saying that.”

“No, I mean it. I've been reprehensible. Is this official? One wish for this, and then two others for later?”


“Your wish is my command.”

A Calendar of Tales: September

Way back in 2013, I was inspired by Neil Gaiman's A Calendar of Tales to write my own tales using the same inspirational quotes. I did not read his stories before I wrote mine, but I did read them after, and they are all awesome.

 “Tell me something you lost in September that meant a lot to you.”
My mother’s lion ring, lost & found 3 times over... Some things aren’t meant to be kept.
Elle stole the ring from her mother and put it back more times than she could count. She rarely even put it on. She just liked to look at the lion's head. It was very handsome, in a lionish way. Her mom never wore it either, but she missed it when it was gone. Elle always put it back secretly, unable to face her mom with the fact she'd stolen it.

She knew her mother must have caught on at some point, but she never said anything about it until she lay on her death bed. “Did you ever put back that lion ring you took from my jewelry box?”

“Yes, mother,” Elle said, holding Mother's hand. “Nearly every time.”

Mother smiled. “Nearly,” she said.

“Well...yes. Most recently I seem to have...misplaced it. I'm sorry.”

“Ah, too bad. Oh, well. It's yours now, anyway.”

“Mama, I just told you it was lost.”

“You'll find it again. I always did.”

“That was me, Mama. I took it and put it back.”

“Oh, no, that's not what I'm talking about. But you'll see. The ring is yours now.”

And then she died.

Elle had strange, sometimes terrible dreams about that lion head ring that night. She woke up from one and immediately tracked it down, in a drawer near her nightstand. It was mother's ring. Mother should have it.

At the funeral, Elle put the ring on Mother's finger. It would go into the crematory with her and be destroyed. She would never look at that handsome lion face again. She would miss it, but this was for the best. She moved back among her family, but no one much talked to her.

After seeing mother to the crematory, Elle took a break outside in the air. A man approached her. “Excuse, sorry to bother you, miss, but I'm a gardener here and I found this just off the path to the crematory.” He held up the lion-head ring.

“My mother's ring! This was supposed to go into the...”

“It's too late, now. Maybe you should keep it.”

“I don't want it.”

“Aw, come on, it's nice.”

Elle held it out to him and he backed away suddenly. “You keep it.”

“No...I couldn't”

“I don't want it. Please take it.”

He shook his head and continued backing away. “No, thank you. I'm sorry. I should go back to work.” He turned and ran.

Elle tried to get rid of it by passing it off to her family as part of Mother's estate. No one would take it. Elle was so mad that she wore it to every family gathering.

She sold it at a pawn shop. She passed by it in the window frequently. It went unsold for so long that in the end she bought it back for just a few dollars. Somebody had to keep it. It might as well be her.

It sat in a drawer for months. Elle moved on with her life. She'd look in on it every now and then, but rarely thought about it. Then, one day it was gone. She hunted for it. It couldn't really be gone.

A man lived with her then. “What are you looking for?” he asked.
“The Lion Ring.”

“Lion Ring?”

“A ring with a lion's head on it. It was my mother's.”

“I've never seen you wear it.”

“I don't wear it. I hate it.”

“Then why are you looking for it so hard?”

“To make sure it's really gone.”

“Baby, that's ridiculous. You'll never be done looking if you don't find it.”


“You can't just keep looking for it forever.”

She stopped and looked at him. “I...suppose I can't,” she said, running her hand back through her light brown hair. “If it's gone it's gone. If it's here, it'll turn up.”

“There you go.”

Elle began an aggressive cleaning program. The house looked great afterward, but she didn't find the ring.

Then, several months later, just before her wedding day, the ring returned to her. It appeared in her jewelry box like it had never been gone. The lion's gaze was like an icy spike through her chest.

When she caught her oldest daughter, Susie, stealing it from her, she tried to destroy it. She went at it with every cutting tool in the garage. None of them managed more than a scratch or dent, and she couldn't bring herself to try and cut the lion's head, only the band.

Elle threw it in the sea. She was blessedly free of it for three days, until Susie went to the beach with her friends. Then it appeared back in her jewelry box, like it always had done.

When Susie moved out, it vanished again, this time for a number of years. Every time it appeared again, Elle tried to give it to her, but she'd never take it.

Then Elle grew old died and it was Susie's problem.

A Calendar of Tales: August

Way back in 2013, I was inspired by Neil Gaiman's A Calendar of Tales to write my own tales using the same inspirational quotes. I did not read his stories before I wrote mine, but I did read them after, and they are all awesome.

 “If August could speak, what would it say?”
August would speak of its empire lasting forever whilst glancing, warily, at the leaves cooking on the trees.

RM lay back in the grass; it had gone gold and was getting a little prickly, but he still found a comfortable spot and stared up into a spotless sky. He glanced over and looked at Mina beside him. She gazed up into the sky also.

Mina was a girl who lurked on beauty's doorstep but stubbornly refused to enter. Some might have said if she took care of her skin, got a flattering haircut, wore newer, better fitting, more stylish clothes, she would be beautiful; and perhaps it was true, but RM didn't see any of that. The oversized, secondhand jeans and t-shirts couldn't hide her grace. She was everything he wanted her to be.

Except one thing.

He'd been trying to bring it up all summer, but somehow it had always been time to do something else. What a summer it had been! They'd taken up karate lessons from RM's Uncle Bob, and stopped their occasional smoking at his request. Suddenly RM had enough energy to go exploring, and he did, and Mina was almost always with him.

Mina looked over at him. Her eyes narrowed, and her lips curved in a wry smile. “What're you thinking?” she asked, her voice biting and suspicious.

RM rolled over and raised up on one arm. “I'm thinking summer's almost over. There are Naked Ladies blooming all over.”

“Ha! I should have known it would be porno with you.”

RM rolled his eyes; Mina knew perfectly well he was talking about flowers. She rolled over onto her stomach and began picking at the grass.

“Brooding?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Screw you.” She tossed it off like it was nothing, which it was. She rarely did that around him anymore. She even glanced at him and looked apologetic for a moment. “Well, I was thinking about the end of summer, too. About how we haven't really done anything...really amazing.”

“I think the summer's been pretty full.”

“Yeah, with hanging around town. It's been fun, but not really amazing.”

“Oh. I see. You want a change of scenery?”

“Nah, not really, I guess. I like it here.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“But still. I'd be nice to do something really awesome.”

“ what?”

Mina rolled over onto her side, facing him. “I don't know. I'll have to give it some thought.”

“I'm not doing anything crazy,” he said.

She pouted. “I'd never ask you to do anything crazy.”

RM's heart pounded. “I have an idea.”

“For what?”

“Something amazing.”

“Oh. Let's hear it, then.”

“Okay.” He moved closer to her and put his hand on her arm, then leaned down and put his lips on hers.

She inhaled sharply, sort of a gasp up through her nose, but that was the only sign of surprise. She lifted her head and their teeth bashed together. He came up for air and tried to apologize, but then they were kissing again, both of them together like they'd had the same thought at exactly the same time.

RM had no idea how long they lay there and did nothing but kiss, but it was long enough for him to consider moving his hand down her arm and then maybe see where else she'd let it go, when she broke off suddenly and exclaimed, “That's it!”


“The amazing thing we'll do. We'll prank Marcus Aurus hard. I still haven't gotten him back for what he did to me at the spring dance.”

“Um...wasn't he just getting you back for--”

“We're not even,” Mina insisted. She bounded to her feet. “Come on!”

RM sat up and looked up at her. “Really? So, what, it's like that didn't just happen?”

“What? Of course it happened. We don't have to talk about it to make it have happened, do we?”

“I suppose not.”

“Good, then. Come on.”

“You don't want to talk about it then?”

“What do you want me to say?”

“That you'll be my girlfriend?”

“It'll make things weird at school.”

“Yeah,” RM said, slowly climbing to his feet. “And get us more attention than we like, I suppose.”

“They don't like to see our kind too happy.”

RM snorted. “No. But we can cool it at school. That's how we play it anyway, right?”

Mina nodded. “Yeah, all right,” she said.

RM stepped up to her, put his hand on her shoulder and kissed her. This time there was no tooth-banging. She broke away far too soon and grabbed his hand. “Come on. We can make out later. We gotta get to the junkyard.”

“What are we going to do?”

“See if you can figure it out as we go along.”