flash fiction

The Network: Myths of the Mirror November Writing Challenge

Written in response to a challenge at Diana’s blog.


A big old one is down. We knew it was ailing. It had given up part of its substance to the Eaters and Dissolvers, and for long its messages had become faint. It went down hard. The whole net shuddered. The Burrowers trembled and Stompers scattered. Now the entire flow shifts and jiggles. Water has backed up through the nets and mineral transport has halted. Our hyphae tingle, for we know what is to come.

We’ve been through this before. The fall of a big one tears a rift in the fabric, laying the matrix open to That Which Is Above. The whole network redeploys, full of flurries and judders. Messages vibrate through us. Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus—hold those supplies! Protective compounds, a flux of nutrients—more, more, more! Make chitin, build new tubes, shut down useless sections. Pump and transmit. That old one existed for many lives of our kind, many cycles and thrummings of the World. Its mass—everything it built in its long life—will have to be divided, managed, mobilized for All. Transformation commences!

The crawlers and wigglers, burrowers and borers, they’re at work already. The matrix vibrates with their chewing, grinding, and jabbing. Water comes down from Above. Some of our kind are brewing solvents to squirt down the holes and cracks, loosening the bonds, freeing the elements—to us. We absorb liquids and shunt them from tube to tube, to the ends of our net, to where it mingles with other nets. Our tubes will take the stuff of the Big One and turn it into the stuff of Life.

Life. For the Big One made seeds. We know where they fell, descending soft into the matrix, swelling, breaking open, extending roots and stems. We surround them, cradle them, feed the tender rootlets, make substances to tell them of others of their kind. We transmit wisdom, help them grow and stretch, so they will fill the rift and seek That Which Is Above. We are always here. We endure. We sustain. We dwell in the matrix, and the matrix dwells in us.

Forest

Photo-prompt Flash Fiction: Answering the Call

The seas had crept higher each year and hurricanes got stronger. Month by month, the Moon’s leering face grew larger as the highest tides of the millennium invaded the land. Rumors spoke of stirrings in the deep, of some new power that made it perilous to live near the sea.

Then came the earthquake, convulsing the entire eastern seaboard. Cities foundered, towns drowned. The oceans climbed the hills and entered every door. Streets once said to be paved with gold vanished under wave-laid ridges of sand. The deep waters touched the things of humans, left their marks and placed their claims.

People abandoned the coastlines and fled inland. Ruins remained ruins. Towers thrust empty into silent skies. Crabs frolicked in the sandy streets by day and seabirds soared above; rats hunted there at night.

The boy had journeyed far. In the turmoil of the time, watchfulness failed in the asylum he had been sent to when his gills emerged. Slipping through an unwatched door, he fled and hid. Travelling by night, he wandered eastward, tugged by an ancient impulse toward the sea. The nights flung vast arrays of stars across the sky. Before she went away, his grandmother had told him their patterns had changed since she was small. She told him he would follow her some day. He knew he had to hasten now, to reach land’s end when the time was right.

Sometimes, the lights glowing from house windows reminded him of sweet, lost things. But always the sea-longing in his blood pulled him away. And there were his gills, of course. They had grown and developed. He was able to swim a long way underwater now and had changed in other ways too. When he raised a hand to the sun, the webs between his fingers filtered the light. The few people who came close enough to get a good look at his face ran away screaming.

The metropolis was a vast labyrinth inhabited by animals grown bold and curious. The boy avoided them, exploring the empty streets by day, finding safe places to hide in at night. He knew this wasn’t where he needed to be. This wasn’t the great undersea city of his grandmother’s stories, or the brooding, ancient town where she was born.

On the night the moon ate the sun, the boy heard voices calling to him. He ran down a long street to the harbour, jumping over the ridges of sand between rows of hollow, blank-windowed buildings. The Deep Ones had arrived. “Iä! Iä!” they cried. “He sleeps no more, he dreams no more. He lives! Come to us, little one!” As the boy approached the desolate, weed-grown wharves, shapes emerged from the sea. His people. They would guide him to the portal in the deeps, where the elders would welcome him home.

Written in response to Diana’s March Speculative Fiction Prompt.

Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. Image by Natan Vance from Pixabay.

Two Scenes For The Solstice

Years ago, I wrote a couple of seasonal flash fictions; well, they’re really the same story told in two different styles. They were prototypes for a scene in my novel Hunting the Phoenix.

012crop

I

Winter Solstice In the House of the Phoenix

(An Alchemical Allusion)

Summoned at last, I go, wrapped in my cloak of midnight velvet. I bring gifts for the household, and a gift for the chance-met stranger, honouring the ancient law. For the keeper of the door, a distillation of rainbows in a fiery spirit; for his goodwife, the song of a bird caught in crystal. For the stranger, the warmth of my hearth fire in a vessel of amber. For the alchemist, a book of secret wisdom. And for the master of the house, the blind physician, a golden flower, nourished with heart’s blood and watered with my tears.

My footsteps ring on the stones as I approach him. He is not so large as I had imagined, and older, his face lined with years and sorrows, his hair more silver than gold. His clothing is dark and plain against the splendour of the company, but he wears gold spectacles with lenses of emerald. He accepts my gift, smiling as I place it in his hands.

We file in procession to the place of the fire. One by one, our torches are extinguished and we stand together in darkness. From the silence his voice speaks and we answer, chanting the ancient words of faith and hope. Then comes a red glow, faint but strengthening, until by its radiance we see him again, and rekindle our torches from his glory.

Up and up, from the depths to the highest tower we climb, he before us, the vessel of flame, lighting the lamps anew, and the fire at the heart of the house. In the dance of new light we go singing to the feast, to lay our cares aside and come together in joy. For among us is the one who has died and lives again, radiant, rejoicing until the night ends in the red dawn of the new sun.

 

_MG_0014

 

II

Last Greeting From Kingsport

I got an invite to a shindig last night, at Phoenix House, up on the hill. I wore my best black velvet duds. Good thing, ’cause everyone was togged to the nines. I brought presents, like you’re supposed to: rainbow liqueur for the guy at the door, crystal chimes for his missus, and a glowing coal in a brass pot to keep the beggar warm. For the old alchemist up there, a book of secret mumbo-jumbo; and for the man himself, that doctor folks say is blind, I brought my golden flower, the one that took seven years to bloom and nearly killed me.

He’s not such a big guy up close – kind of old and dressed plain, except for those emerald specs. I think he liked my present, but who knows? “A kindred spirit,” he said. “You will join us here before long.” And he smiled.

Then the lights went out and we all got torches and trooped down to the cellar. We doused our torches and stood by the rocks in the dark, breathing. Some party this is, I was thinking, when he started to sing and we all joined in, even me, who didn’t think I knew the words. After a while there came a little glow. It got stronger, until it was like a star in his hands, and we lit our torches from it.

We went up and up, into every room, lighting candles and lamps. Then the party – mountains of food and rivers of drink, like I never saw in my life. What a night! Music and singing and dancing until the sun came up, all new and red. He was everywhere with us, the wildest of all. (I don’t think he’s really blind, you know).

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and I hope the New Year is a good one. But I’m going back up there now, and I don’t know when I’ll be back.

Fire adj2