Tagged: Horror

The Dragon and the Dying Stars

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 31

Challenge #14: Write a story in the style of a fairy tale, including phrase repetition and involving stars as physical objects. It must be serious in tone but also include a Phillips screwdriver.

This challenge was set by G. Deyke.

Once upon a time, in a world far distant, the night sky grew dark. Slowly, at first, the stars grew dim. The king’s philosophers at first thought that this was nothing more than the action of passing aeons, and that more would burn anew. But ere long their numbers dwindled, and the naked eye saw plainly what no telescope could: the stars were consumed.

Troubled, the king sent out his greatest knight upon a steed of chrome. Agravane was that knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a sword born of a dying star. Never would that blade break, and never would its edge grow dull. For many weeks Agravane rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone that stood before his throne.

At last, Agravane found his foe, and the king at last saw who it was who plucked the stars from the aether like grapes from the vine.

It was a dragon, vast as his kingdom and black as the void. Each wing was as wide as a galaxy, and its eyes glowed like quasars. Its manner and its motions were that of a great animal; its structure and its form, that of a terrible machine.

When the dragon spoke, it spoke not to the knight before it, but to the king beyond the stone: “I have lived since before the days of time. Since before the noise of creation and beyond the notion of being. Your universe is an affront to me, but in its matter I have found a host, and that host offers a solution. From one hundred billion dying stars I built this body, and with it I shall consume all the living stars that remain. Then there shall be stillness and silence and peace until the heat death of the universe, wherein there shall be stillness and silence and peace still.”

In his throne, the king trembled at the threat of such a foe. But Agravane was fearless.

He held aloft his sword: “You might have seized your matter from the stars by force, but mine was a gift granted in a time of dire need. When I stood alone against the hordes of Far Reach and my weapon snapped in twain, bright Achernar crystallised into a blade that would never fail me so.”

But though Agravane was fearless, he was not wise, and his sword did not avail him: the dragon was forged of star-steel too, and though the blade did not dull against its scales, neither could it cut them, and the beast crushed him in its mighty hand unhindered. Agravane’s sword was lost to the aether whence it came.

Fearful, the king sent out a second knight upon a second steed. Carador was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a spear born of a dying star. Never would that shaft snap, nor would the point fail to find its mark. For many weeks Agravane rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone.

“What fool comes to challenge me?” demanded the dragon, in a voice that carried even through the void.

“No fool am I,” Carador responded, keeping his distance “for I carry the same spear that came to me during the siege of Omega Centauri when my own weapon was lost.”

The dragon snorted: “Never can you pierce my scales with your stick.”

Carador took aim: “I do not intend to try.”

He did not direct his spear against the dragon’s scales, but instead towards one of its vast eyes. Unerring, the spear flew, yet clattered from the boiling orb: even the eyes were forged of star-steel, and even the eyes could not be harmed.

With a single pulse of its fiery gaze, the dragon tore the knight’s very atoms asunder, and Carador’s spear too was lost to the aether whence it came.

Holding little hope, the king summoned still one more knight. Gilhault was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a hammer born of a dying star. When swung, the head was weightless, yet when it struck a foe it held the mass of a thousand moons.

But before Gilhault could mount his steed, an unseen assailant cracked his visor with a cudgel so he could not brave the void: Elayn, his squire, stole the reins and rode off in his stead.

Furious, the king sent all his knights to pursue her, but all were left behind: none tended the steeds with more skill or kindness than Elayn, and so none could catch Gilhault’s, which she had so long cared for.

Elayn faced the dragon.

The dragon laughed. “Will you fight me with a simple cudgel?”

“No.” Elayn drew her own gift of star-steel from her voidcloak. “With this.”

And the dragon laughed louder, for the item she produced was but a Phillips screwdriver.

“I too was at the battle against the hordes of the Far Reach, and there my master was dismounted. I leapt through the void to reach his steed, but found it maimed beyond motion. For weeks we drifted, helpless, until we were caught in the orbit of Leporis. From that star was born this screwdriver, and with it I saved this steed.”

“Go home, little girl,” said the dragon. “You have some years yet before I trouble myself with your sphere: do not forfeit them.”

Elayn did not answer this insult. She merely charged forwards, and the dragon, without even going to the effort of stretching out its neck, consumed her whole.

But though every piece of the dragon was formed of a dying star—every piece indestructible—they were held together with screws of star-steel. And though their threads would never strip and their shanks never break, no bond held them in their place but simple force.

In this way, with nothing but a screwdriver, Elayn beheaded the monster whose neck no blade could sever.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

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Ultraviolent Unicorn Deathmatch of Destiny

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 22

Challenge #10*: Write an interactive story with at least two good endings and two bad endings. It must feature a conflict between Man and Society, and must also involve a choice that hinges on equipping the right item.

A hyperlinked version of this story is available here.

1

In the arena, two majestic alabaster unicorns duel to the death. Their tungsten chainsaw horns ring out against one another like a swarm of killer bees in a blender.

Intervene: 2

Place bet: 3

Leave: 4 Continue reading

Long in the Tooth

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 21

“Visiting hours are over, I’m afraid. They have been for about seven hours.”

“Ah. But I called ahead!”

“I see.” The nurse checked her notes. “Then you must be Count…”

“Please, Count Dracula is my father! Call me Vlad.” He reached out, took her hand, and kissed it in the most vampirically dashing way imaginable.

“Nice to meet you.” She wiped it on her shirt in the least inconspicuous way imaginable.

Kids these days. The old vampire hypnosis never seemed to work on them. A shame, as he could have done with a snack after the long trip. He supposed it was all that Netflix or Snapchat or possibly some fortifying effect of a diet consisting almost entirely of avocado toast. That had never been a problem back in Transylvania. Except it probably was now. Everything flown everywhere!

“Do you know which room it is?” she asked.

“Of course! 1428, same as my birth y…I mean my bus. Ah, ah, ah.” He gave a nervous laugh. “The 14:28. They only start in the afternoon. That’s why I couldn’t get here during daylight.” Continue reading

White Rabbit

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 20

Challenge #9: Write a story featuring every sense but sight. It must have a palindromic word count and not use any adverbs ending in “-ly.”

“Bugger. There go the lights.”

“Spare lantern?”

There were a few seconds of vigorous clicking while Harper tried the switch.

“Dead.”

“Oh well. Absolute last resort I suppose…”

I fished about in my pocket for the lighter. What I found instead was most disconcerting.

“Harper?”

“Yeah?”

“Harper, there’s a hole in my pocket.”

The silent dark of the Alterworld was polluted by a string of graphic obscenities. Continue reading

Lord Harlington’s Heir

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 13

Challenge #6: Write a creature horror story featuring a psycho party member in which a torch is used as a weapon.

“I was terribly sorry to learn about your uncle, Mr. Heathcote.” Mr. Smith extended his hand to shake.

Taking it, the man gave a dismissive tut. “Oh, he was only second uncle. And, ah, it’s Lord Heathcote now.”

“Ah, yes. Yes, of course.” This fellow might have been rather callous, but if he was quick to pick up the title, he would be quick to pick up the pen. “Shall we go inside?”

“In a moment, perhaps.”

The hesitation caught Smith by surprise, though the slightly imperious tone did not.

“I overheard some rather curious gossip in the bar of my hotel last night.”

Smith remained at the door, his hand on the key in the lock. The longer he kept it there, the more that unturned key started to feel like his commission slipping through his grasp.

He let go and turned. “I daresay you must have.” He smiled faintly. “A man dies inside a locked room but his body is nowhere to be found: your uncle’s misfortune might have been lifted straight out of the latest Christie. But I assure you, the investigation was quite thorough, and its conclusions entirely unremarkable. Come.” He turned the key at last. “I will show you.” Continue reading

All the Better to Eat You With

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 11

Challenge #5: Write a post-apocalyptic fairy tale with a non-linear narrative.

Little Red pushed open the door of her grandmother’s cottage, knowing what she’d find long before she saw it. There was blood on the doorstep. The Wolf had left his car hidden in a stand of trees, but the atom-scorched trunks did little to disguise the bright warpaint and burnished chrome.

“Eyes bigger than your stomach, eh?”

She primed her weapon.

The creature on the bed bared its teeth.

***

“Wouldn’t recommend going that way,” the Wolf said, clearing flesh from his car’s grill with the end of a tyre iron. “Big horde of ghouls. Barely got through it myself.”

“Oh dear!” Little Red stepped off her bike. “But I simply must get these supplies to my grandmama!”

“No fear!” The Wolf gave her a big, toothy grin. “Where does she live? Perhaps I can suggest a safer route…”

***

“Now remember what I told you,” said Red’s mother, for the fiftieth time.

“Yes, yes, I know. Stick to the path, don’t talk to anyone, and if I run into any ghouls—”

“Don’t cave their heads in.”

Red stepped out of the bunker and onto her bike.

“And make sure that your cattle prod’s got a good charge: you know how grandma gets when she hasn’t been fed!”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

Prophecy for Yourself

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 1

Challenge #1: Write a story of survival against seemingly insurmountable odds including elements of black comedy and a “Screw destiny!” moment.

On any other day, the harbour would have seemed bustling with life. In truth, however, the streets were empty, and the bloated hands that manned the vessels at the dock were anything but alive. Shrouded in a cloud of inky vapour, Baal-Sogoth rose from the depths, strode through the surf and began to climb the granite spire that looked out across the shore. The Lord of the Abyss had, as prophecy foretold, come to claim dominion over the people of the earth and sand. In days to come, he would have his drowned servants carry the hills to fill the depths, making all the world even so that no land broke the surface of the sea, and no waves marred its perfect face.

In days to come, Baal-Sogoth would look upon the Earth and see a glassy, fish-like eye no different to his own.

In days to come, the Earth would look back with its new dead life, and see his eye in turn. Continue reading

Unearthly Sleuths

There’s a new anthology from JayHenge Publishing, and this one’s all about speculative detective fiction! It’s called Unearthly Sleuths, and it features two of my stories: The Card and Noise on the Wire. The former appears in OCR is Not the Only Font, my flash fiction anthology from 2012, but the latter is a brand new Alterworld story I’ve never shared before!

If that sounds like your sort of thing you can grab a copy in ebook or paperback right now! However, the editor has extremely kindly allowed me to offer the ebook as a reward for supporters of Ten Little Astronauts, so if you’ve pledged for that at the Audio Collection level or above (or the bargain Digital Bundle), you’re already due to get a copy when the book is funded!

You might also be interested in Phantasmical Contraptions and Other Errors, also by JayHenge, which has a steampunk theme and features no fewer than three of my flash fiction pieces.

Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure 50% Complete!

It’s taken a lot longer than expected (the original plan was to have the entire thing wrapped up by the end of November 2015), but the first (or arguably left-hand) half of Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure is now complete!

exponential-adventure-half

Provided you choose to sit around moping at the at the very beginning of the story, rather than going off and doing something interesting, you can explore every single possible option leading off from that point, and follow along all the way to every possible ending: 256 in all!

I’ll be starting work on the second (or right-hand) half of the Adventure pretty much immediately, but it might be a while before I make the new content available just so that there aren’t too many dead ends for readers to stumble into. If you haven’t taken a look at this yet, now’s a great time: you’ve got absolutely masses of options and I can guarantee that any storyline you can start, you can also finish.

At the time of writing, the story is 78,629 words in length altogether, making it the single longest work I’ve ever released by a reasonable margin (the next longest is currently Face of Glass, at 55,550). Despite that, this novel-length interactive story is completely free to explore. If you’d like to chuck some money my way, however, please consider pledging to support Ten Little Astronauts, my crowdfunded novella. You’ll get a book that wouldn’t have existed any other way, every copy will have your name recorded in the back as one of its patrons, and you’ll be helping me achieve my dream of having my best work to date distributed by Penguin Random House. It’s a win-win-win!

Halloween 2016: Failing That…

Happy Halloween, everybody! I would have liked to write a brand new horror story for the occasion, but things have been a little busy recently so I never got around to it. Instead, here’s an audio version of Failing That…

If you’ve enjoyed this, you might also like to pledge for a copy of Ten Little Astronauts. The story revolves around a series of murders on board an interstellar spacecraft, everybody who supports it gets access to (among other things) an audio version of the opening chapter, and if you’re really quick you’ll be in the running to get a signed copy of my 2016 flash fiction anthology, Robocopout, which isn’t even on sale yet.