Audrey’s No Rules Friday

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Rusting © Copyright, Audrey Goshorn 2014. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The Train

“Noah!” I scream and catch the back of his collar, choking him to a halt. “Those pennies’ll be hot.”

“Ow,” he whines.

“Well try thinkin’ for once in you life.” I’ve gone too far. He’s sniffling and smearing his runny nose all over his new ground suit. I sigh and my helmet fogs up a little. Putting a gloved hand on his shoulder, I try to pull him towards me, but he shrugs me off. “Just wait a few minutes, all right? Grandma’ll be mad if you burn your gloves.”

I walk off a couple yards, kicking rocks as I go. I like how they sound bouncing off the rusting metal of the old scrap yard. Howie and I found this place a couple years back, before he left for the mining colony. The sky is an impenetrable brown haze. I can’t tell where the sun is, but the info screen in my helmet says Noah and I have ten minutes before we need to high-tail it home for dinner.

There’s all sorts of things in the scrap yard. Some I recognize from school like cars and refrigerators, others I just guess at. It was a game Howie and I used to play.

“Hey, Howie,” I’d say. “What d’ya think that was for?”

And he’d say something like, “Honestly, Clarabelle! Can’t you tell? That is a tarfunkel. Obviously.”

I’d laugh and ask what it did. He always knew.

I hug myself as best as one can in a ground suit. It didn’t help. If I could see the stars, I still wouldn’t be able to find the rock Dad shipped Howie to. At the time I was grateful for Howie to have a job. I thought it meant we would have a life together.

A whistle reverberates through the yard, echoing against the walls of metal. I turn around but I’ve wandered far in the yard. My feet send clouds of dust pillowing into the air as I push myself as fast as I can. The whistle sounds again, closer. I skid to a halt before I run into a large metal cylinder. I’ve turned the wrong way.

“Noah!” I scream, but the whistle drowns out my voice.

When Worlds Collide by Jen (an April Fool’s Extra)

*Go here and here to read the origins of this story*

Firefight

“Gemma, lift!” Grace’s voice cuts me from somewhere near sleep. I thank the stars for that, because the sea is heavy on my flight feathers, misting my face with cold and salt. She swoops down to catch me in her wake and drag me up, away from the surf.

“You scared me to death,” she says. I laugh, though it’s not funny. “Only half a mile to go, looks like.”

“Where are we going?” My voice falls to the sea like lead. Grace looks over her shoulder at me and drags the air with her wings, slowing to let me catch up. She doesn’t answer, just taps me with her primaries as she flies. The sun is an idea on the horizon, spitting pastel pink on the trees we fly for. Her feathers are ash and blue in the waning dark, and I want to curl up next to her and smolder forever.

We touch down on sand that leads to woods, hiding our wings from the unknown. A river narrows into the woods, bubbling like questions. We find a hollow near the river, and I’m asleep before she can kiss me goodnight.

Pounding wakes me, rhythmic and fast.

Hooves. I reach out, catching nothing but leaves. Panic swells hot in my chest.

“Grace?”

“I hear it,” she says above me, tree branches obscuring her. “Come up here.”

I reach her branch and let the leaves envelop me. The pounding shakes our trees, but slows.

“Centaurs,” I say. Her eyes are widen. “We’re in Omnia.” We traded the abuse of one land for another, for all the talk of Omnia is of the death in their mines and their king’s dirty dealings with other lands.

These men wear his crest. They’re formidable Percherons, all hulking muscle and dappled gray. A pair of them pull a cart while two more guard the flanks.

“Stop here,” one says. “I want to check her.”

“She was stupid to run,” another laughs. A steel centaur pulls a tarp off the cart, and my skin prickles. What I thought was cargo is one of their own, bound and gagged. Her midnight coat fades into a torso that’s more bruises than skin.”He won’t have her for a daughter. I hear the wolves want her as a pet and are willing to pay.”

“Maybe we could play with her first.” They laugh again, and I can’t see straight.

Grace’s nails dig into my arm as her wings spring from her back, rustling leaves. Her eyes scream injustice. I know that look on her face, I saw it through the bars of my own prison on Maderas. I let my wings fall from my back, and I’m proud of her. There’s good in the killer and firebringer our land made us out to be.

A twig snaps. A centaur girl below us is golden and fierce in the morning light. She trembles, eyes focused on the cart. Her body screams in a silent way and I know her, too. She is us.

I jump from my perch and land soft next to her.  Grace shadows me, hands telling and soft on my hips. The Halflinger girl doesn’t flinch, but takes us in with knowing glances.

“Is she yours?” I whisper.

She nods, fire in her eyes.

Sparks fly from my fingertips. “Let’s go get her.”

~*~*~*~*~
A/N: Happy April Fools! I hope you enjoyed our mash-ups. We were inspired by last month’s Craft Discussion: World Building.

 

 

 

 

Jen’s No Rules Friday

I’m taking a page from Audrey’s blog and posting a teeny little flash fiction that has since grown exponentially.  I think it’s really fun to say a lot in very few words.

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The Flight

We were running.

Onyxʼs wings stretched out on either side of me, all black velvet over sinew and bone, immense and strong. His hooves beat the ground and I thought it should crack and splinter where they fell. I could feel his breath as my own, and the air we exhaled made stark vapor hang in the morning air. We were almost to the cliff, but they were gaining on us.

“Lilah! Stop!”

We ignored them.

“Easy,” I whispered to him. His ears pricked forward, leading us in the right direction. The drop off was just ahead, and the wind picked up as we cleared the trees. It tore away the shouts from behind, making them seem harmless. They were far from it.

Onyx slowed a fraction as we neared the outcropping, and he gathered his muscles for the jump, coiled tighter than a cobra. This wasnʼt some steeplechase fence, it was a twenty-one story wall of rock, with nothing below us but death. I gripped his ink-dark mane in both hands, knotting my fingers in it as if that would keep me firmly on his back as we danced through the air. Weʼd flown before, but never pursued by those who would love to see us fall.

A glance back showed the lead horse on our haunches, his neck snaking out, savage teeth ripping toward us. I kicked him in the face as Onyx screamed his defiance, spread his great wings, and leaped.
And even though I could lose the bond Iʼd risked my life for, lose everything, it was worth it because there was no sight as beautiful as a Pegasus spreading his wings. A grin split my face as sweet air rippled over Onyxʼs feathers and his wings caught a thermal, lifting us.

Shots peppered all around.

I screamed.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Stay tuned for Anne’s No Rules Friday next week. Follow us on Twitter to get updates and news.

Audrey’s No Rules Friday

I love flash fiction, mostly because I lack patience, but also because it forces me to be really critical of the words I use (like my overuse of the word really). So here is my short, short story…

Mr. McGregor’s Garden

“What are you doing?”

Her voice cut into me like a weed-whacker into crab grass. But I ignored her and continued to shovel dirt. I worked the soil for hours last fall, but the cold, dry winter had packed it hard. I had to push my boot brutally down on the shovel to inch the worn metal into the earth.

When I paused to wipe the sweat out of my eyes with a greasy shop rag, she was there, fretting just out of sight.

“What are you doing?” she asked again, her voice high and squeaky in irritation.

“Leave me alone, Violet!” My voice was a hoarse stage whisper.

“You could just tell me.”

I walked off to the back of my pickup. I should not have answered, now I could feel her smug smile prodding my back. In the pickup bed, lined up like eggs in a carton, were the new plants. Nothing but thorns and sticks, brown and lifeless now; I knew they would do the trick. I nestled a couple in the crook of my arm against the worn brown leather and carried them back. I placed them deep in their new homes and let their roots spread to explore the crags and pits of the dry dirt.

“What. Are. Those?”

“Roses.” I smiled to myself at her sharp intake of breath, like a sudden gust of wind through the still bare trees.

“I hate roses.”

“I know.”

With a couple more trips, I had all the roses in the ground. I scooped up the extra dirt and packed each plant in securely.

“They won’t grow,” she argued. “You didn’t fertilize the soil.”

I lumbered toward the house, leaving her. “You can take care of that, Violet.”

Each day tilted me closer to summer. The shiny olive-colored leaves broke free from their stems and the thorns reddened. The flowerbed was thick and full, solid. By the time the flowers were encased in near bursting buds, Violet had stopped talking to me.

I knew the flowers had opened when I woke up that day, the air heavy and hot, July sunshine beating through the single-pane windows. I almost bounded down the creaky steps, but I held back, savoring the moment of triumph. I kept my eyes on the patchy green grass until I was almost at the flowerbed. I lifted my eyes. I choked.

Violets!

As I fell to my knees, I heard Violet’s soft laugh trickle up from the dirt.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Stay tuned for Jen’s No Rules Friday next week. Follow us on Twitter to get updates and news.