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Helga Louise Sorensen March 4, 2013

Far below the surface of the planet, Senior Vat Tech Watt Simms woke with a start. That dream again.
Vat Room H. He’d named the acre-sized glop in the vat, Helga. At one end of the huge rectangular vat, all the waste from the city above travelled down chutes into temporary storage silos, to be fed into the vat by the day-shift technicians. All day long the glop he’d christened Helga got a steady meal of dead cats, dogs, rats, slaves, kings, queens and servants. Plus all the retired plastic and metal she could handle.
Watt’s dream began with an average day at work and the thousands of corpses being folded gently into the mix. Then the conveyor belts would all simultaneously grind to a halt. He and his new partner Fleck would press buttons and reboot, reset, refresh, but nothing would get the conveyor belt moving again.
He would notice unrest in the corpses on the belts. They would twitch. Quiver. Stand up on shaky legs. Slaves, princesses, priests, not zombies but fully alive, would watch in confusion as reanimated cats and dogs ran through their throng hissing and barking. Then the conveyor belts would start up again, delivering their passengers, whose surprised expressions turned to horror, as they sank into the pink-stained yellow mix that was Helga.
The worst part was when the terrible queen, twice dead, once in life and then drowned in the glop, rose up out of it and stepped daintily through the grasping hands and bobbing heads of the churning surface. Spying Watt peering down at her over the edge of the vat, she would float up light as mist, to stand on the cement walk near him, regarding him intently, weighing the pros and cons of his life. Then finding him lacking she would stride up to him and plunge her hand into his chest. His whole body on fire, he would scream with pain, but there was no air….
That was when he always woke up gasping, drenched in sweat.
He knew he wouldn’t get any sleep until his new partner stopped fooling around and learned the job.
The clock on the wall of his cubicle indicated it was time to get up. Gliding through his morning routine, he found himself at the cafeteria, staring at his morning bowl of glop, trying to decide between Condiment #3, the parisienne and Condiment #8, the rio grande.
An arm jostled him, almost spilling his breakfast. “Come on. Live a little. Go for number eight this morning.” Assistant Vat Tech Trainee Fleck reached past him and sprayed a huge helping of Condiment #10, rocket blast, on his own bowl of glop. “This is the right stuff to start your day, Watt. Nothing lower than eight for me, mate.” He clapped Watt on the shoulder, almost knocking the bowl out of his hands, then pushed through the morning crowd to an empty table.
Watt sprayed a healthy dose of number three on his meal. The viscous mix rearranged itself into chunks of brown meat and colourful vegetables. He paused a moment to inhale the fragrant steam rising from the bowl, then joined his new colleague for breakfast.
“You look terrible.” Fleck was spooning stew double-time into his mouth.
“Why don’t you just pour it down your throat and get it over with?” Watt said. This new partner was just as irritating as the last one. There should be courses in diplomacy for the young. “I had that dream again.”
Fleck grunted and rolled his eyes. “You should go see somebody about that. It’s not healthy in a man your age.” His grin didn’t reach his eyes. “You spend too much time on your own. Come to the pool tonight for a swim. There’ll be naked lovelies from level four.” He waggled his eyebrows.
Watt nodded his head. “I’d like that. I have a project in the greenhouse to check on first, but I’ll meet you there later.” He gave his attention to his meal, bringing a spoonful of stew to his mouth. He closed his eyes, savouring the aroma. Melt in your mouth goodness. Condiment #3 was definitely the best, converting the tasteless cooked glop into food to delight a gourmet. He lingered over his bowl while Fleck went back for seconds.
Breakfast finished, they bussed their dirty dishes and headed down the stairs to the vats. Nine levels later they entered Vat Room H.
“Good morning, Helga,” Watt said to the glop as he walked to a control console. The heat and humidity hit him and droplets of sweat formed on his brow. He undid the first two buttons of his shirt and opened it a bit. Clouds at the ceiling dropped a constant fine rain. The fans kicked up a breeze.
“Ah.” He inhaled deeply. “The air smells like the perfume of a beautiful woman.”
Fleck looked at him. “That’s the air fresheners.”
Watt shook his head. He liked to get in to work a little early to enjoy the quiet and calm. The daytime lights snapped on and the two men squinted against the glare. As he had for the last week, Watt continued teaching Fleck the complexities of the readouts. Aeration, temperature, humidity all in mid-range; gas captured and directed to upper levels, optimum.
“You’re looking good this morning, Helga. I trust you slept well?”
Fleck put his hands over his ears and frowned. “I wish you wouldn’t talk to that stuff.”
“Vat techs have been talking to that stuff, as you call it, forever. Get used to it.”
“Yes, but they didn’t all mean it the way you do. It’s creepy. And sick.” Fleck folded his arms and faced Watt.
Watt shook his head. “Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it. The old girl grows on you.” He smiled and turned to address the mix.
“Good Morning Helga, Mistress of the Deep. Awake and face the day, Lady, awaken from thy sleep.”
Fleck shook his head. “Not even a good rhyme.”
The currents in the viscous yellow mix picked up speed and the bubbles grew bigger.
Watt smiled down at the mix. “May your day be merry, may you enjoy our offerings, and be pleased to grant us your generous gifts.” He bowed deeply. Fleck rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes.
Morning rituals finished, they switched on the conveyor belts. The rumble of the belts was the only music accompanying the procession of corpses on their final journey from the storage silos to the mix.
At midmorning Watt and Fleck, each with their own controls, guided nets of boulders from the ceiling, and lowered them gently through the surface, so as not to bruise the mix. When the boulders were safely on the bottom of the vat, they released them and slowly drew the nets back into their ceiling niches.
Watt nodded. “That’ll help her digestion. Can’t argue much with rocks that big.” Fleck peered over the edge of the vat into the pink-stained mix far below. Body parts floated up, sank, resurfaced and whirled away in the strong currents.
Helga fed.
Late afternoon, they lowered a metal bucket at the front end of the mix, farthest away from the corpse-fed inlet, and removed a sample. They took a break while they waited for the bucket to return. Watt sat beside the vat with a good view of the mix. He patted his leg and nodded his head to the rhythmic sounds in the vast chamber. “Almost like sitting in a drum, sometimes. Don’t you think?”
Fleck shrugged and puffed a thick roll, blowing smoke rings towards Watt. Watt batted them away. “Shouldn’t be smoking in here…”
Fleck rolled his eyes. “Don’t go lecturing me on smoke when your girlfriend there is putting out tons of gas all day long.” A thin jet of hot air shot up from the mix and hit Fleck in the face, choking him and igniting his smoke. He pitched the glowing butt into the vat, scraped his arm over his singed eyebrows and glowered at Watt.
“Life is simple. Don’t insult the lady,” Watt said. He caught the bucket as it arrived at the edge of the vat. They examined the product shivering in the bottom.
“I hate this part,” Watt said. “Let’s make it quick,” They both dipped oversized spoons into the quivering sample and placed the mix into their mouths. In the warmth, it stopped shivering. They ran their tongues through the mix, and then bit down. It changed in consistency from relaxed to hard, then after a few chews, back to relaxed again. They swallowed.
“Whew!” Watt said. “I hate eating the live mix. But the glow is strong in this batch, eh?” He wiped his brow. “It’ll be a good harvest today.”
“Yeah. Too bad they cook off most of the alcohol. Now that would make great stew!” Fleck set the bucket aside.
“Hey, aren’t you going to empty that bit back in?” Watt said.
“It’s just a drop. Probably too cold anyway.”
“Don’t be stupid. Helga lives off dead people. She won’t mind a little cold.” Watt poured the remaining contents of the bucket back into the mix and pounded the bottom to release the last drops. They slithered over the lip and dived into the vat, leaving the bucket dry. He shoved the empty bucket at Fleck. “See? That’s how you do it.”
A muscle in Fleck’s jaw twitched. He looked Watt up and down, as though calculating how much effort it would take to toss him over the side. Then he shrugged and walked past him, jostling him with an elbow towards the vat. Watt caught himself on the edge. “Idiot,” he said, under his breath.
They prepared to harvest a quantity of mix from the front end, where digestion was complete. Watt stood close to the outlet and monitored the opening of the gate and the out-flow. Rotors on the other side sucked out the sludgy mix. He covered his ears, but still imagined he could hear screams as the mix was gouged and torn away from the main body.
“Okay. Stop the flow,” he yelled to Fleck.
Fleck nodded. “Just a little more. Got to make our numbers look good.”
Watt frowned as the mix continued to leave the main vat. They’d bled off a huge harvest and the part that was coming through now was thin and soupy, floating with undigested pieces and groups of digestive cells. “Stop the flow,” he commanded and strode towards Fleck.
Fleck scowled and flipped the switch. The gates closed, severing the harvest from the main mix. The air pressure rose and fell, squeezing them.
Heated to the boiling point on the other side of the gate, the harvested mix hissed. Watt covered his ears again. “Sorrow, Lady, for any pain we may have caused you.” The mother mix roiled below him, sloshing back and forth in the vat as the remaining portion redistributed itself. Gelid pseudopods formed and fell back, formed and fell back, increasing in girth and height. “You’re a good girl, Helga. A beautiful girl,” Watt crooned. “The best that ever there was, and we appreciate your efforts and the pain you endure so that we may live.” He continued speaking in a soothing tone until the pseudopods decreased in size and the surface of the mix settled into the vat and resumed its normal slow currents.
“You act like that thing’s alive,” Fleck said, jerking a finger at the mix.
“It is alive, you bloody fool,” Watt shouted.
“Okay, it’s alive. But it’s not bloody sentient. You really need to have yourself checked out, old man.” Fleck glanced at the time clock on the wall. “I’m leaving. See you tomorrow,” he said, and stomped off to the stairs, leaving Watt to close up for the day.
“Young idiot. Don’t pay him any attention Lady. He doesn’t understand.” He watched Fleck walk along the side of the vat. No yellow pseudopod snaked out to wrap itself around his throat and drag him screaming to his death. Watt remembered to breathe again when Fleck made it safely out the door.
“But he will, finally. Won’t he, Helga?” Watt turned off the feed of bodies to the belts and waited until the last body was interred gently into the mix. He flipped the switch and the conveyor belts all rumbled to a halt. He set the overhead lights on automatic, the controls to sleep, checked readouts once more and patted the console.
“Good night Lady,” he called over the edge of the vat. “Sleep well… until we meet again.” He felt a tension in the mix. “Please go easy on him, Helga. We’re running out of trainees.”
A column of yellow mix as thick around as a man’s waist reared up a full man’s height out of the vat beside him. He stopped in his tracks and looked at it. It swayed slightly, regarding him, though it had no eyes. “You poor old thing,” he said. “Lonely, Helga, aren’t you? Lonely and sore, I bet, from that last bloody harvest. I’m sorry, old girl.” He reached out his hand to the column. It moved towards him, then returned to its original position. Tense. Wary.
“Poor old thing.” He turned away, fetched a chair up against the side of the vat and sat down. “Did I ever tell you the story of the little mermaid?” He placed his hand on the edge of the vat. The pseudopod relaxed, leaned over and touched his hand. It was as warm and dry as his own. “No? I thought it was your favourite story. Well, here it is again, then.
“Once upon a time there was a little mermaid who lived in the sea.” The chamber filled with the sound of waves lapping a shore. Watt nodded at the Lady’s sound effects.
“She loved to watch the sea birds fly so free.” Cries of gulls echoed in the air.
“Her best friend in the whole wide ocean was a whale, who used to sing to her.” The mournful song of whales filled the chamber. “See, Helga? I knew you heard this story before.” He settled himself in his chair. The pseudopod leaned gently against his hand.
“… and the little mermaid and her new prince lived happily ever after. Until of course the time came, as it always does when the new prince grows old, that the little mermaid needed another new prince to take care of her. Then the old prince, who she loved so dear, and who loved her back more than anything, helped her find a new prince to take care of her when he no longer could. Just like us, eh?” he stroked the pseudopod. “Golden Girl,” he murmured.
“Did I ever sing you the song about the fair in Scarborough? No? Well it goes like this…”
“Did I ever sing you the song about the girl who only lived twice…?”
He went through his vast repertoire of songs. They were all accompanied by the crash of waves, cries of sea birds, and songs of whales.
Hours later, he woke up; the lights were dim, the pseudopod had returned to its vat, the chamber was filled with the sigh of waves washing up on a beach.
Helga slept.
The tension in the air had vanished. “That’s my girl. Go easy on the lad, Helga. He’s not bad. Just young.” He got up and tiptoed past the vat, singing quietly,
“Her eyes, they shone like the diamonds,” and hummed the rest of the tune all the way out the door and up the long climb of stairs.
The bad dream stayed away the rest of the night and Watt slept well.
The next morning Fleck staggered down to breakfast looking haggard. “I had that dream last night,” he said, clutching his chest.
“Oh you did, did you? The one with the terrible queen, was it?” Watt applied Condiment #10 to his bowl of glop. “Nothing like a little rocket blast to get you going in the morning, eh lad?”
Fleck groaned and cast a bloodshot eye on his own bowl of morning chow. He eyed the condiments for a long time before reaching a shaking hand to Condiment #3, parisienne. “No, too flavourful,” he said, moved his hand to the number one nozzle and sprayed a gentle helping onto his mix. It promptly congealed into gray porridge, no sugar.
Their work day passed without event. Fleck was quieter than usual.
The next morning Fleck showed up late for breakfast. “I didn’t sleep a wink last night,” he said.
Watt regarded him thoughtfully and took an extra serving of Condiment #10. “That’s too bad. I do hope you’ll start getting a good night’s sleep soon.”
Fleck nodded and ate a half portion of mix with no condiment.
Another calm day at work. Fleck didn’t say a word, but cast constant glances at the mix.
The next morning Fleck didn’t show up for breakfast. Watt enjoyed a hearty meal, then went to Fleck’s cubicle. The door was locked. There were sounds of a struggle within.
“Are you alright, Fleck? Should I call for help?” The thumping and groaning continued. Watt sighed. He paced. He chewed his nails. He folded his arms and waited. Checked his site for messages. Answered some.
Finally the door opened. Fleck’s hair was dishevelled, his eyes had dark rings around them, he was dressed in yesterday’s wrinkled uniform and he smelled bad. The room behind him looked like a giant had picked it up and shaken it. Movement on the ceiling caught Watt’s eye. A thick ropey pseudopod was slowly retreating into the air duct. Splatters of yellow mix clinging to the walls and broken furniture flowed together into a small pseudopod and followed the path of the larger one.
Fleck closed the door gently behind him.
“How are you?” Watt said, laying his hand on the young man’s arm and looking him in the eye.
“Not bad, all things considered. I had no idea the Lady could be so… persuasive.”
Watt nodded. “Do you feel like a bite to eat?”
“Yes, I believe I do.”
“Condiment # 10?”
“No. Maybe I’ll have a small helping of the number three this morning.” Fleck rubbed a bump on his head. “Work my way up.”
“Glad to hear it.” Watt said, gently guiding a limping Fleck down the hall towards the cafeteria. “I’m truly happy that you survived the initiation, lad. You’ll be wanting to perform the morning’s greetings to the Lady Helga yourself, I suppose?”
“Yes. That sounds about right.”
“Well. I’m glad you finally saw the light.”
“You would be, wouldn’t you? Couldn’ta just told me? Explained things the way they was?”
“Who’d believe it?”
“True. There’s always that.”

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Sixteenth of Fughuary

 This story is from a terribleminds.com prompt; write a story of something that really happened to you, but write it in a genre other than reality. The following story tells of what happened when one of our dogs was quilled by a porcupine. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-4e

          Sixteenth of Fughuary     Louise Sorensen February 18, 2013

On this cold winter day, Wizard Bob, our two hell-hounds Todd and Fred, and I went for a ski-around of the perimeters of our territory. Checking ward lines is a never-ending job, but we enjoy the exercise.

   Normally gentle upright folk, Todd and Fred prefer their four legged form to sliding along on skis. Todd’s in his thirties, and came to us only recently. He doesn’t say much at the best of times, and you can’t get a word out of him about his past. In his human form, he’s a hunter. In his hound form he chases anything that moves. I suspect there’s a little wolf hound somewhere in his ancestry. I think his favourite animal is the bird, because he likes to flip it so much.

   Fred is a sweetheart who joined us a few years ago. He comes from a family of shepherds but we don’t have any sheep around here and he couldn’t cut it as a herder at a neighbouring farm because of his fear of cows. Both Todd and Fred work security for us.

   Todd would just as soon chase a cow as ask it the time of day, but Fred is the most cowardly fellow I’ve ever met. I take that back. Fred is the most cautious fellow I’ve ever met. I have to take it back because if you look up the word cautious in a dictionary, any dictionary ever made, in any language on earth or any other planet in the cosmos, you’ll find Fred’s smiling face snuggling up to the word cautious. It’s actually there. He held the winning ticket in The Magic 100 Years Once in a Lifetime Contest and that was the prize he chose. Fred’s magic is luck. If I’d won that contest I would’ve asked for Enlightenment for All, or a Three Day Weekend, or possibly a Beer Nut Tree, but Fred got his picture in the dictionary to illustrate the word cautious and called it good.

   I suspect Todd and Fred like to check perimeters in their furred form because Bob and I can’t keep up with them, even on skis, and they can get into any hell-foolery that pops into their deranged little canine-buddy minds.

   It was sunny that day. The air was cold enough to freeze bird song and we gathered up some of the shards to thaw out and enjoy later. The hard packed snow was fast, perfect for back-country skiing. But I had spent the previous night and late into the morning scrying the past for an article I was writing on Harry VIII, and was plodding more than skiing.

   We found all our wards working fiendishly, the perimeters flawless, the weather exactly as forecast; cold-as a-witch but with a hot-almost-spring sun. After an hour and a half we headed back home.

   Have you ever had a day so perfect that you got the feeling things were going too smoothly? I had a twinge of foreboding as we passed the haunted house and the hounds went in to explore.

   “I hope they don’t get possessed or fall through a floor or step on a nail in there,” I said to Bob, as we took a short rest. I was scorching hot from the exercise and soaked with sweat. The frigid Arctic blast from the north was a welcome relief.

   “They’re not going to step on a nail, Lola. They’ll be fine.”

   “Well, they could fall through the floor,” I said, eyeing the rickety structure. The wind moaned around the tilting walls. “Or they could come out possessed by one of those lazy spirits.” A ghostly woman leaned her tattered essence out of one of the eyeless windows and blew me a kiss. Her gray ragged dress whipped around in the wind. A tiara sparkled on her brow. I looked away quickly, lest she overtake my spirit.

   “Nothing like that’s going to happen. They’ve gone in there plenty of times and nothing’s ever happened. See?” Bob gestured carelessly with his ski pole as the two grinning hounds peered through a gap in the weathered boards of the front porch and clawed their way out.

   It had been a grand old house in its day, with tall windows, fancy ginger bread, and a tower. I wondered who had built such a place so far out in the back country, away from any habitation. These lands have been used forever to grow hay and grain, and those who farm have always lived on the shores of the Wizard Lawrence River to the south and flown in for plantings and harvests.

    “Yeah, but life never sends you the same problem twice,” I said. “It’s always something new to trip you up.” I watched uneasily as another ghost leaned out a window and waved and then another, and another; women in low-cut dresses exposing ample flesh, hard faced men in suits and tails with cigars clamped firmly in their jaws. I whistled the hounds sternly to us and we skied on.

   After two hours we had covered our entire Saturnday route and were well on our way home, when we arrived at our favourite little hill. Pretty well our only hill as our territory is fairly flat with fields, forests and streams on gently rolling land. Sun warmed, the snow on the hill was very fast. We raced each other up and down for half an hour. Almost finished our tour, close to home, we held nothing back.

   Bob skis farther down the hill than me, but I ski faster, though for a shorter distance. Evenly matched, we both won three times and were going for a tiebreaker when we noticed that the hounds hadn’t come back from their foray into the Dark Forest to the east. Normally they explore, check back with us every fifteen minutes, stay for a few minutes, then go off again on their own.

  “I hope they haven’t run into a ginglymus,” I said. Too late, I remembered a dream I had the night before. Ginglymice are not of this dimension, but they sometimes invade our forest at this time of year for the fruit.

   I whistled the hounds to return to us. We waited five minutes, but there was no sign of them.

   “This isn’t good,” Bob said. We looked in the direction we’d last seen them. There was a weak spot on the wards of the east perimeter where a nest of Incessant Ginglymice constantly pushed at them. I whistled again, long and shrill. Come here, dammit.

    Todd barked in answer. I whistled again and Bob roared out across the distance, “Todd, Fred, come here.” Fred appeared, racing out of the forest towards us. Todd’s barks continued from the same location, high and distressed.

   “Should we go and get him?” Bob said. It was a long way to retrace our steps and we were tired. In his man form, Todd is a private, independent, mostly sensible fellow who vigorously defends his right to be left alone and do his own thing. In his hound form however, he is instinct driven and illogical.

   “Yeah,” I sighed. “We’d better go get him.” I dismissed thoughts of a hot meal anytime soon, readjusted my gloves and ski poles and we raced back up the trail. A far piece later we stopped to listen, then followed the sound of Todd’s barks into the forest where the trees grew close together and the snow was deep.

   Our worst fears were realized when we got closer. Besides Todd’s barking, we could hear loud chuckles punctuated by high pitched giggles. We kicked off our skis and tromped through the snow to find Todd attacking a downed ginglymus that was rolling on the forest floor laughing. Ginglymice are giant bear-like molluscs, peaceful and harmless if you leave them alone. Unfortunately, they have a weakness for Gilda fruit which is irresistibly delicious, but if you lock eyes with a Gilda fruit it transports part of you to the nineteenth dimension, where it tells you side-splitting jokes until eventually you die laughing.

   Only a part of the ginglymus had intruded into our dimension, but it was a bad part, a defensive mantle armed with battalions of needle sharp thorns. Todd’s mouth, chest and front legs bristled with thorns. His mouth dripped blood.

   Wizard Bob charged and laid into Todd with the broad side of his cros sword, yelling, “Todd, come away from there.” Todd shied away from the blow, then went right back in for the ginglymus, worrying it and getting more thorns in his mouth. Bob tried to get between the ginglymus and Todd, without getting thorned himself, but the ginglymus was rolling over in convulsions of laughter and Todd danced around it, always out of Bob’s reach.

   Fred charged in to help. “No Fred, come back here,” I yelled. He looked longingly at Todd, Bob and the ginglymus, shrugged, then came back to sit beside me. He didn’t say a word, but I could hear him humming, “Fools Step In.”

   I charged in and grabbed Todd by his collar. Thorns raked my hand as I threaded my ski pole through the collar to prevent him from going in after the ginglymus again.

   “Is it okay?” I asked Bob.

   He kicked the Gilda fruit away from the ginglymus’s eye and the creature ceased its convulsions. In a moment it sat up with a perplexed look that said it was trying to remember its own name. Presently, with much grimacing and the occasional chuckle, the ginglymus withdrew tail first back into its own dimension. The minor rift in the continuum sealed itself with a foul smelling greenish belch.

   I waved away the cloud of noxious gas blowing from the location of the former rift, whipped out my portable scrying crystal and thumbed in the number for our local shawomen. A recorded message announced that the healers had left for the day. When it came to removing the thorns that pierced Todd’s flesh, we were on our own.

   “You start home with him,” Bob said. “I’ll go on ahead and get the pliers and come back for you.” With that, he took off. I’m a Dwarf, so of course I’m very strong, but I’ve always had to work very hard to keep pace with skinny, long legged Wizard Bob. Skiing beside Todd and staying out from under his big feet at the same time made it impossible to keep up with Bob. As he disappeared into the distance, I was left behind with limping Todd, my ski pole through his collar, and droplets of blood marking our trail. I hoped there were no wolfen about.

   The sweat chilled to ice on my skin, and I felt the cold.

   Todd continually cast apologetic glances my way, but distracted by the pain of the thorns, he kept stepping on my toes. In human form, Todd’s a big guy. In hound form, he’s enormous. I was relieved when we both finally established a rhythm to move side by side, each of us with our feet on our own path.

   I knew I needed to move fast and get Todd home before the thorns penetrated deep enough to pierce a vital organ, so I pulled a hoot root out of my inner pocket and broke off a small round excrescence. It hooted in pain. “Give it up,” I told it, popping the pill into my mouth. “You know you’re better off without this.”  The root shrugged, acknowledging the truth of my words. The fewer excrescences it carried, the longer it lived. I crushed the bitter pill between my teeth and felt the surge of energy I needed to get Todd home quickly.

   Todd was limping, but with those long legs he was still very fast. He seemed to remember all of a sudden that he needed to get home with haste, and started dragging me by the ski pole threaded through his collar. Soon we were flying, my skis rarely touching down.

   Then we hit a tuft of grass and I was truly flying. I landed in a blink, and picked myself up. My ski pole was lying in the snow, and Todd was galloping away in the distance, hell bent for home.

   The effects of the hoot root lasted however, and I arrived at the house before Bob even came out the door with the pliers.

   “You made good time.” Surprise was written all over his face. I was not surprised. I learned in horse racing that there is very little difference in the times between a fast horse and a slow one. I had been thinking that he must have been going very slowly, but he was tired, and hadn’t had the benefit of any hoot.

   We took Todd into the hallway of his house and I held him steady while Bob pulled a few thorns out of Todd’s mouth with the pliers. These pliers didn’t work very well so I went into our house and got another pair of pliers, plus some tweezers.

   Todd lay quietly, only moaning occasionally when we pulled out a particularly long thorn. With Bob and I both removing thorns the work went fast. Soon, only the smallest, most difficult ones were left. After being hot and sweaty from the ski, then crouched over Todd for an hour and a half in the cold hallway, I stood up to stretch with a groan, stiff and sore.

   The sun was setting so Bob conjured a light on the end of his finger and we went back to the close work. Bob shone the light and I pulled the fine thorns out with the tweezers. When we were finished, we rubbed our bare fingers over every square inch of Todd, to make sure there were no thorns hiding in his dense fur.

   Satisfied we’d gotten them all, we let Todd get up. Claws clicking on the stone floor, he staggered down the hall to his bedroom, flipped on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, and kicked the door closed with a hind leg.

   My fingers were scratched bloody from pulling out thorns, and my beard, which I’d shampooed, conditioned and French braided just that morning, was tangled and bristling with grass, and thorns we’d tossed aside.

   “Humph,” I said, picking thorns out of my beard. “How’s that for gratitude?”

   “Well, Lola,” Bob said, patting me on the shoulder. His fingers were scratched and bloody too, and blue with the cold. The tip of his nose was red. We closed Todd’s front door, both of us limping a little as we headed up our walk, thoughts of a hot meal foremost in our minds. “It beats the time,” he said, “when we had to climb up the hind leg of that Great Horse and block and tackle that Great Worm out of its arse…

But not by much.”






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Queen of Swords

This is a FridayFlashFiction from a prompt at terribleminds.com January 28, 2013. We were given three lists of ten categories for Setting, Motif, and Subgenre to be chosen randomly. I’m not going to tell you what I rolled. If you want to know, you can check Chuck’s site for that date. Word limit 1000, mine 998. This is a continuation of back story for one of the main characters of my wip, Dragon Dreams. Previous short back stories posted on this site are Wild Wild Horse, and Red Spiders of the Stone Forest. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-42

Queen of Swords Louise Sorensen January 28, 2013

Justice Maria Tang, Maria to her friends, loved her summer job. The Pirate’s Cove Amusement Park on Lake Ontario gave her flexible hours, a great Pirate Queen outfit complete with an excellent replica cutlass and the opportunity to sword dance.
Her job included security, posing for pictures, and performing in the nightly show. Audiences enjoyed seeing her tiny character defeat hulking pirates with her swift thrusts. It was fun and supplemented her substitute teacher’s income.
The park was crowded this hot Saturday afternoon. Ready for her break, she almost missed him. A good looking twenty-something she’d noticed the previous two Saturdays; he seemed to show up a lot around her. The first time he’d been with a group of friends, the second time, an elderly couple, his parents, judging from the family resemblance.
Both times she’d noticed him staring her way. Now he accompanied a man and a woman who looked to be his sister. The couple was swinging a little girl dressed in pink between them. The little girl shrugged from their grip and held up her hands to her mother to be lifted. Her mother shook her head, smiled and spoke to her brother who immediately picked the child up, buried his face in her tummy and blew loud bubbles. Tossing her head up, the child screamed with laughter.
Maria shivered. She’d love to feel those wet kisses.
She shook her head. Too good looking. After a number of failed relationships with hot guys she was done with men forever. Especially hot ones. She risked a peek through her eye lashes. He was staring back intently. She blushed and looked away. Then she glanced behind her in case he wasn’t looking at her after all. Parents with children crowded the area, but she saw no one obvious. She turned back. He was still staring at her, pleading, humble. Their eyes locked and she felt like she could see infinity. His sister tugged impatiently on his arm and the spell was broken. He followed his family into the restaurant.
Disappointed, she took her break, eating her apple on a stone bench in the shade of an old tree. Bees tumbled in the roses, birds chirped. Tall, but not too tall for her. Lean, muscular. Thick black hair. Grey eyes. Or were they green? She’d never been close enough to tell. She put her sunglasses on and closed her eyes. Nice smile. That goofy Hawaiian shirt. The fine hair on his arms limned with gold by the sun. Those strong arms around her, warming her, fingers running up and down her skin, goose bumps, fire, caressing her lips, fondling… Stop thinking about him, he’s not for you. Fine, I won’t. Muscular tanned legs. But not a fencer. A surfer.
Molten. Just when she’d sworn off hot guys. They came, they conquered, they dumped you. No, Surfer Boy was too perfect. If she ever crossed swords with a man again, which she was never going to do, it wouldn’t be him.
She took a last look around before heading for the evening performance. The scent of moonflowers cut through the humid air. Though she thought it unlikely they’d stay, considering the child, she searched the thinning crowds for Surfer Boy and his family.
She spied them on the walkway leading into the theatre. His sister was stabbing her finger at the amusement area, then stabbing it at him. His head hung down, he kept shaking it no, then looked up and spoke calmly. His sister slumped in defeat, shaking her head. Maria couldn’t hear them, but the body language was unmistakeable. They continued in, and Maria hurried to the back entrance.
Maria played the Pirate Queen, a role she’d won through lightning reflexes, a fit dancer’s body, and an unconquerable spirit. The show was fast, authentic and more brutal than the audience knew. There had been a pirate king starring in the role, but Maria had beaten him relentlessly in rehearsals. Their choreographer Maurice had thrown up his hands in despair, but saw the benefits of a beautiful little pirate queen as his star. Now the former king played her opponent, and put every ounce of his strength and cunning into his swordplay. He might have been better off with a club; Maria infuriated him repeatedly by laughing when she danced away from his blade. His cutlass never even kissed her skin.
After the show she peeled off her sweaty outfit and showered. When she came out the back stage door, she was startled by a hand on her arm; Surfer Boy’s sister had her in a tight grip.
“My name is Erin Donihee,” she said, staring into Maria’s eyes.
Maria shook her off. “So?”
“Sorry. I don’t know how to say this.”
Maria looked around. Performers trickled out the stage door. She felt safe enough to listen to this woman. “Just come out and say it. Is something wrong?”
“It’s my idiot brother.”
Surfer Boy! “Is he okay?”
“Yes, he’s fine. Thanks.” Erin smiled. “It’s just that… well, he’s extremely shy. He’s been dying to ask you out, but he just can’t get up the nerve. He’s a decent guy… but he got his heart cut out and handed to him. You’re the first woman he’s been interested in for a very long time.”
“That’s a little hard to believe,” Maria said. “And you’re telling me this because he asked you to talk to me?”
“No,” Erin laughed. “He’d kill me if he found out. I just wanted you to know. You can do something about it, or not. But if you do, you’d better not hurt him.” She turned and walked away.
Humph. Maria headed towards the exit.
He was sitting on the stone bench, alone in the dark, the loud Hawaiian shirt unmistakeable.
She marched over and held out her hand. “Hi. My name is Maria.”
The sunshine of his smile banished the night. “Hi. I’m Lloyd.”

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Red Spiders of the Stone Forest

This story is from a prompt at terribleminds.com January 18, 2013; choose your story setting from the Impossible Places. I chose the Stone Forest; link is below. Word limit 1000. Mine 998. This is more back story for Josey Buck, a character in my wip, Dragon Dreams. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-3R


Red Spiders of the Stone Forest Louise Sorensen January 21, 2013

When I was seven, after a particularly brutal Polarin winter, the Family went south for a beach vacation.
Four of the thirty-one children were male; my twin brother Buck, Asta’s twin Wing, Mia’s twin Trevor, who was older and also our teacher, and my father’s adopted son Boyd.
Unlike my sisters, who spoke of nothing but medicine, babies and politics, I had a poor memory, and a bent for independent thinking. As a result I was generally ignored by the girls and spent my free time with the boys, an enthusiastic if not entirely welcome participant in whatever hellery they could invent. As well, boys being the weaker sex, they needed a bodyguard. The strongest of all the children, and Buck’s sister, my duty was obvious.
By the second week at the beach, the boys were bored.
“If you’re going to explore,” my father said, knowing the boys needed time away from their bossy sisters, “you must take Josephine.”
“She’s big but she can’t remember anything, Father. Trevor will have to give us the lessons twice if she comes with us,” Boyd whined.
“Manners, Boyd. Any more of that and you can stay here and supervise the little ones. We’ve given Josephine something to help her with her memory. And you need someone big and strong. Now run along and don’t get into any trouble.” My father gave Boyd a gentle push and returned to his seat under the umbrella with the older women, then called to us, “Trevor, keep them out of trouble!”
“Where are we going, Trev?” Buck, with a perfect memory, always demanded exact plans.
“Upstream. There’s some great fishing at the river’s source.” He brandished hooks and line. “Fresh fish for supper.” We all cheered. “Keep an eye out for berries and fruit too.”
Trevor lectured us on flora and fauna but I wasn’t yet used to my new memory chip. “Could you please slow down, Trevor? It’s taking me awhile to process this information.”
“Okay,” he said, but he never did.
We came upon a huge glade of berry bushes and stuffed both our packs and our mouths. Wing daubed the blue juice on his face. The rest of us did the same and from then on we were all fearsome warriors.
Pear trees lined the bank, and we wandered farther upstream gathering the ripe ones.
“Look.” Buck pointed across the river. An enormous ram as tall as a bull was wading into the water to drink. Something red crawled up the ram’s leg and he snapped at it, crushed it in his teeth and swallowed, licking the goo off his lips.
“Yuck. What was that?” Boyd turned a little green.
“The Red Spider,” Trevor intoned, “a poisonous semi-aquatic spider native to the Stone Forest that feeds on small animals, such as yourself or Buck, or parasitizes larger animals, like that ram. In sufficient numbers, they could overpower even a grown woman. They’re good eating, as the ram demonstrated, although we cook ours. If we see any egg clusters in the shallows and can retrieve them safely, we’ll take those home for supper too.” My mouth watered at the possibility of fried eggs.
“Why don’t they attack the ram?”
“One just did, Josey. And was eaten for its trouble. Look.” Trevor pointed across the water. A flock of woollies filed out of the Stone Forest and began grazing on the grassy riverbank. “Past the flock you can see the Stone Forest crawling with webs and Red Spiders.”
“We should go there and look for eggs,” I said.
“No, Dummy,” Boyd put his hands on his hips. “Poisonous semi-aquatic spiders. Lay their eggs in the shallows of the river. Weren’t you listening?”
“Leave her alone, Boyd.” Buck, undersized, fearless, clenched his fists. My staunchest defender.
“Yes I was listening,” I threw a pear at Boyd and hit him on the cheek. He fell down, wailing.
“Quiet! We don’t want that ram… Uh oh. Quick, let’s get out of here.” Trevor looked frantically for shelter.
“Back to the camp,” I yelled.
“No. We don’t want to lead it back to the Family.” Trevor waved for us to go further upstream but the ram was across the river in no time.
We scattered.
Trevor and Boyd ran away from the river, towards distant trees. Wing, Buck and I ran upstream. The ram’s breath on our heels, we made it to an outcropping of stone and dived into a narrow tunnel. The ram charged the opening, crashing into it repeatedly, grunting as rock rained down with each impact. The stench of him wrapped around us.
It seemed like hours before he finally gave up and stomped away, snorting. I crept out first and watched him cross the river to his flock, waiting placidly on the other side, as though this was routine behaviour for their leader.
The three of us tiptoed away from the cave and followed the riverbank back towards camp. The water was roiling with big fish feeding on red spiders. The spiders would crawl ashore to escape, and the fish would leap out of the water onto the narrow strand to get them, then flop their way back to the water. One big fish landed too far up the sand. After flapping around for a few minutes it lay exhausted, mouth open, red gills gasping for air.
“Let’s get it,” Wing said, and he and Buck rushed toward the beach. I caught Wing and pulled him back but Buck wriggled away and raced to the fish.
Spiders fleeing the water scuttled towards him; he was covered in them by the time I reached him. I beat them off, threw him over my shoulder, grabbed Wing’s hand and we ran.
I didn’t realize until we reached camp and I collapsed that I‘d been bitten.
Months later I woke up, and found out I’d lost my leg.
More importantly, I found out I’d lost my brother Buck.

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Wild Wild Horse

This story is a result of a random numbers prompt from terribleminds.com. My prompt required my story to take place in the weird west, have as conflict man vs.tech, and must have a forbidden book. This piece is back story to my current work in progress, Dragon Dreams. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-3u

            Wild Wild Horse       by Louise Sorensen January 17, 2013

“Josephine! What in the seven levels of frozen hell are you doing?” I hear panic in my voice and calm myself. “Sorry. What have you got there, daughter?”

   My unruly daughter, the one who doesn’t quite fit in, looks up at me with those big brown eyes and says, “Oh hello, Father. You startled me.” She stands in front of the forming table trying to hide what she’s working on, but I have a sinking feeling.

   “What are you making, Josephine?” I ask with as much nonchalance as I can muster.

   “I’m making a horse, Father,” she says, head down.

   I keep my voice regular, though I can’t help balling my fists. My fingernails cut deeply into my flesh.

   “That’s a project for your sisters, Josephine. You know you have trouble following recipes. Why are you working on it? And all alone?”

   “I wanted to surprise you Father.”
   “You’ve definitely succeeded. But why?”

   “I got bored. My leg’s all healed now. Mostly. And I wanted to help replace the horses. The dogs are wearing themselves out herding the beeves. We need something we can ride herd with as soon as possible. “And,” she finishes quietly, “I thought if I made one, I could have him as my own.” I know she wants so badly something to call her own.

   “Hmm.  I understand. But things don’t always work out the way we want, do they?” I wipe sweat off my brow. “This is a very tricky procedure, Josephine. It requires total adherence to the written instructions. You cannot stray one iota and succeed. Did you follow the instructions to the letter, Josephine?”

   “Yes I did,” she says with a smile and a shine in her eye. My chest relaxes a bit.

   “That’s a relief. May I examine your work?”

   My curious, irrepressible daughter moves aside and I inspect the foal that she’s creating.

   The gelatinous form glistens in the bio pan. “Hmm. Wiring looks good. Skeleton’s well built.” The half formed milky eye glows red momentarily. If I had blinked, I would have missed it. My heart rate increases.

   “Josephine,” I say in my calmest tone, “where are the directions you used to build this creature?” She hands me a flimsy.

    “But this addendum isn’t part of the standard directions.” I strive to keep my voice from shaking.

   “No, Father,” she says patiently, as if to a three year old. “I found the addendum in the old records. I wanted to go back to the original and make a real horse. A genuine horse. One that’ll be even better than the ones we lost.” 

   Her pleased expression dismays me, breaks my heart. So intelligent, such a good nature, but can not follow directions absolutely. Most of her offspring have proven to be first quality. Such a pity some must be culled; we need them so desperately.
   “But didn’t you see ‘Forbidden’,” I wring my hands, “beside that particular addendum? I keep erasing it but it keeps on popping up.”

   “Yes. I saw it. But I read it carefully, Father. There is nothing to fear in those instructions. They will create the horse of our ancestors down to the last molecule.” She smiles, so proud of her initiative. She doesn’t know that the genetic material she used to make her poor little foal was contaminated somehow during the long voyage from Earth and requires special procedures to render it safe.

   “I should have made sure those directions could never resurface. I should have known labelling them Forbidden would not ensure they’d never be used. I should have destroyed that horse DNA and developed a new animal from donkeys or zebras or moose or something.” I tear at my hair.

   “Calm down, Father. It’s going to be alright.” Josephine takes me by the shoulders and pats my back as she walks me out of the lab. “I’ve followed the directions to the letter. I didn’t try to experiment or change anything at all. I promise.”

   I hate myself, but I know what I must do.

   I leave my bed late that night on the pretext of checking some detail of my morning surgeries and hurry to the foetal developement lab. It’s deserted; the only sound the rhythmic whir of life support machines as they sustain developing creatures. My daughter’s creation is beautiful; long legs perfect, head and body a work of art, a true Drinker of the Wind.


   But there is a disturbing sinuousness in the glossy black coat, a cunning intelligence in the fully formed eyes, sharp canine teeth erupting where there should be only pink gums.

   Somewhere in our long voyage from Earth, the horse DNA was violated, polluted, perverted by an extraterrestrial invasion. The alarms went off and we destroyed precious gene specimens by fire; lost many plants and animals and a good deal of our own human seed. Only a trace of alien matter remained in the last of the horse DNA and we couldn’t bear to lose the horse forever. So we kept it and found a remedy. Labelled the records of the contaminated gene material Forbidden and forgot about them.

   “Not good enough,” I say as I pour poison over my daughter’s beautiful, crafty foal and switch off its life support.

    “I’m so sorry this happened, Josephine.” I hold her the next morning as she weeps in my arms. “You’re not methodical enough. You didn’t follow the directions. And he died. I’m sure he felt no pain.” I pat her on the back. Brilliant, intuitive, my difficult favourite child.

   “Here.” I guide her away from the rotting remains of her foal, “I have something for you.” I hand her a tomato plant in full bloom. “Perhaps you’re not suited to follow in the family profession. Zoology and medicine are clearly not your forte. I think you’d make a fine botanist.” I push her out of the lab.


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Going Out On Halloween

On Sunday, October 28th, 2012, I was waiting in the car while my husband checked out farm implements. Surrounded by driverless tractors, we were the only living creatures in the parking lot. Hurricane Sandy was on her way, and it was a dreary windy morning. I started thinking about ghosts, and Halloween and how I’d love to write a ghost story in time for Halloween. My muse sent me this and I scribbled it down in longhand on paper I keep in my purse for just that purpose. With a few tweaks, here is the story. P.S. My old yellow cat, Oscar, died October 31, 2012   http://wp.me/p1BAlV-30

Going Out on Halloween     Louise Sorensen  October 29, 2012

“I know he’s not real,” Ellie McCracken said to her sister Lena, “but I can see old Oscar plain as day, sitting at the foot of my bed. Right there,” she said, pointing. “He’s purring and smiling just like he’s been up on the kitchen counter and polished off a whole bowl of cream.” Ellie, propped up by a pile of pillows on the raised front end of her bed, nodded towards the end of the coverlet.

Her sister Lena peered over her wire rimmed glasses, nose wrinkling at the smell of disinfectants and rot in the hospital room. “Why do you think he’s not there?”

“Oh, Lena, they’ve got me so hopped up on drugs in here I can’t see straight,” Ellie said. “See this button? Any time I feel like it I can press it and get a shot of morphine. It’s great.” She  pressed the button and sighed. “Good stuff. All day now I’ve been seeing our animals coming in for a visit. Most of them from forty years ago. Why, I can even see your old dog Ben there, lying at your feet.”

“You can? Well. Isn’t that something?”

“Yes,” said Ellie. “Isn‘t it? I stayed away from drugs my whole life and I come in here and the first thing they do is pump me full of them.”

“Looks to me like you’re doing your own pumping, dear. Go easy on that stuff, will you? I don’t want you falling asleep on me. So. What else is new?”

“Well. Daddy was here a while ago. In fact, I thought I saw him talking to you when you came in. He kept me company for hours, sitting right there in that chair where you’re sitting now. We were talking and joking and having a great old time. He had such a good sense of humour. I knew he wasn’t really there because the nurse kept coming in and asking me who I was talking to. I’d say I was talking to myself, and what‘s the harm in that? Didn’t want her to think I’m losing my buttons.”

“You’re as bright as you ever were, Elle,” Lena said. “You know it’s Halloween tonight, eh Hon?”

“Oh, I’ve never liked Halloween, Lena, you know that. Not since those high school boys stole my bag of candy. I never went out Trick or Treating after that. My last time,” she said, nodding her head for emphasis and crossing her arms in front of her.

“I know, Hon.”

“You’re not here to make me go out are you?”


“The nurses won’t allow it. I’m too sick. And too old.”

“Pish tosh. No one’s ever too sick or too old to go out on Halloween,” Lena said. “Now get up out of that bed. We‘re going to a party.”

“Oh, I don’t go to parties.” The rising wind rattled the windows. “And we can’t go tonight. It’s pitch black out there and there’s a bad storm on the way.”

“Nonsense, Elle. Storms are the most fun.”

“I know you used to love storms, Lenie. But I’ve never been able to go outside in one since you, you know…

“Oh,” Ellie said.

“Yes, I know dear.”

“I’ve missed you, Lena.”

“I know Hon. I’ve missed you too. But I’m here now, and we’re going out dancing.”

“But… I have nothing to wear. Just this old hospital gown. It‘s open at the back,” Ellie finished in a whisper.

“There’s fancy duds at the party. You can change there. Hurry up, now. Everybody‘s waiting.”

Ellie struggled to get up out of the bed. “I don’t know about you,“ she said, eyeing her sister’s smooth skin and dark curls, “but I’m not as young as I used to be. Give me a hand, will you, Lenie?”

Her sister took her hand and helped her sit up. Ellie swung her legs over the bed. “Ooh. That hurts. Just a minute Lenie, I’ll give myself another shot. There we go. Much better.” There was a faint ripping sound as she stood up.

“That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” said Lena.

“Yeah. Not bad at all. I feel much better. Almost like dancing.”

“Wait til you get there. There’s going to be all kinds of dancing. A family reunion. Even those awful boys who stole your candy. You can give them a piece of your mind,” Lena said, smiling.

Without a backwards glance, Ellie locked arms with Lena and they walked out the door of the hospital room. The black lab named Ben followed close behind. Oscar, the old yellow cat, sniffed at the pale still form lying in the bed, meowed once, then jumped off and trotted after the two sisters, tail up.

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This Should answer Some Questions October 15, 2012

Louise Sorensen 0ctober 9, 2012  shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-3j

“The Next Big Thing” –I’ve been tagged by Julia Hughes to answer She Writes questions.

1) What is the working title of your book?

Josey Buck and the Hermit Dragon. I’ve been wracking my brain for another title, but so far, this one has stuck.

2) Where did the idea come for the book?

I wrote a year of short story flash fictions with prompts from Chuck Wendig at  terribleminds.com  and got the idea for this story from a randomly generated sentence assignment.

I think Phillip K. Dick may have used randomly generated sentences, to judge from his story ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ which was the inspiration for the movie ’Blade Runner.’

I learned a lot from this year of short story flashes. How to write prose, how to make it short and succinct, what works for me to develop a story;  music, visual images, random generated sentences. But most importantly, I learned that I actually can write.

3) What genre does your book fall under?     Scifi.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

For the two main male parts, I would say Michael Fassbender and Joe Flanigan. Although this would be a different role than we’re used to seeing the latter play. For the female protagonist, I don’t know. Should it ever be made into a movie, we’ll see.

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

A woman finds herself in an impossible situation and seeks escape.

6) Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?

Likely self published, although I will keep all options open.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

At the moment, it’s five months and counting. Although I am writing, polishing and presenting it to my writing workshop simultaneously, so it’s a little more than a first draft.

Not only is this the longest piece I’ve ever worked on, but I’ve also had a lot of interruptions since I started. The universe seems to know. Though even when I’m not able to sit down and write, I find my mind constantly chewing on the story. So it’s working out.

The way I’m writing this story is not a method I would recommend, but I’ve found that the first time I do something is generally a train wreck. By persisting with this story, I’m developing work habits and methods that help the process and I believe that writing longer pieces will get easier with practice.

I’ve resigned myself to being one of those writers who takes forever to finish a book. There’s so much pressure these days to hurry up, finish and then self publish, that people forget that you don’t have to do this. The book isn’t going to be any better for being written and published in a hurry. Joy can be in the journey too. Since I adopted that attitude, I’ve enjoyed my writing much more. And I think that I’m writing easier and faster, for not feeling pressured.

8) What other books would you compare this to in your genre?

I can’t think of another book that’s very close. Although ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ may be one. I’m not sure anyone else would see the comparison.

9) Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I’m inspired by what has happened to me in my own life, and what I see going on in the world today. Plus, where I think technology may go.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

This is the hardest question of all. I’m writing as honestly and accurately as I can, but the story at first probably sounds like high fantasy. It isn’t. I’m basing it completely on facts, and extrapolated science. Although the concepts may sound magical, I believe they could be possible some day.

Thanks very much to Julia Hughes @tinksaid on twitter,

http://www.juliahughes.co.uk/julias-blog.html who nominated me for She Writes “ The Next Big thing.” http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/the-next-big-thing-2?xg_source=activity

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Beyond Curtains of Lace

Well, here we go again. My last entry for this flashfiction was 494 words. Over the 400 word limit. So I reworked Beyond the Lace Curtains to this new piece.  379 words.

Beyond Curtains of Lace             Louise Sorensen October 10, 2012

https://pinterest.com/pin/179158891397540771/   image

http://yearningforwonderland.blogspot.ca/2012/10/behind-curtain-flash-fiction-contest.html    website    shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-3e

Only three people heard the faint strain of Flamenco guitar playing upon the wind that All Hallows Eve. Melinda the rider, Mateo the warrior, and Anna Maria the dancer. Of the three, only the dancer followed the music to the crumbling house brooding on the hill.

The old church bell tolled twelve. Peering through the glass French doors, the dancer startled as pale lace curtains lifted from the wall.

Green mist filled the room, the doors yawned wide.

The dancer entered.

With an unseen wind the curtains filled. A woman pale as bone appeared, glided ‘cross  the wooden floor with bruising kisses from her dancing shoes. The guitar awoke, eyes bright, played harder. The woman, rhythm faster, eyed the dancer.

The dancer dreamed the music on her lips, hands high stirred the burning air with finger tips, struck the bare wood floor with heels, soft leather. The floor trembled to her rough caress. Throughout the empty house her footsteps echoed, drumbeat of a hollow heart.

The woman  tattooed stars and circles on the floor, the dancer matched her step for step. A violin wept lost love, revenge, betrayal. A trumpet sang out molten notes, despair, and hope.

The woman sighed, ‘Dance with me,’ upon the rushing air.

They whirled around, bathed in moonlight steaming through the open doors. The woman held out her hand “Come with me, stay with me, be with me.’

Green lightnings crackled in the air, the walls gently parted. Soft lightnings stroked the dancer’s skin, then minnow quick, flashed away.
The lightnings  spun together, wove a man. The woman laced the dancer tight.

The dancer fought with all her might, the dreamy wrappings.

Tore away the lacy curtains made of ghosts. Escaped the woman pale as bone, the dark eyed man sketched all in lightnings. Flew through the open French doors. Disappeared into the lonely night.

The wail of the woman, the cry of the man pursued her, spurring on her flight.

For it was not her time to leave the town, all the life within.

Not her time to release the lovers, dance in the woman’s place.

Not her time to be lost forever in a silent world, beyond curtains of lace.

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Beyond the Lace Curtains

Beyond The Lace Curtains  Louise Sorensen October 3, 2012

https://pinterest.com/pin/179158891397540771/   image

http://yearningforwonderland.blogspot.ca/2012/10/behind-curtain-flash-fiction-contest.html    Flashfiction website

shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV3a

Only three people heard the faint strain of Flamenco guitar playing upon the wind that All Hallows Eve. Melinda the rider, Mateo the warrior, and Anna Maria the dancer. Of the three, only the dancer followed the music to the lonely old house brooding on the hill.

Peering through the glass of the French doors, the dancer felt the toll of the wooden clock standing in the corner, as it struck twelve. She startled as the pale lace curtains on the wall lifted and swirled.

A mist of green rose in the room, the doors opened of their own accord, and Anna Maria the dancer, stepped through.

The lace curtains billowed in an unseen wind, a hazy shape took form. A woman pale as bone glided across the boards, bruising the wooden floor with kisses from the heels of her dancing shoes. The guitar woke up and played a little louder, the woman increased her rhythm, beckoning the dancer to join in.

As if in a dream, the dancer tasted the music on her lips, holding her hands high above her, stirred the burning air with finger tips and struck the bare wood floor with the heels of her soft leather shoes. The floor trembled to her rough treatment. Her steps echoed through the empty house like the drumbeat of a hollow heart.

The woman  tattooed hearts and circles on the floor, and the dancer matched her step for step. Other instruments wept their accompaniment. A violin sobbed a story of lost love, betrayal, revenge. A trumpet melted hot upon the air, singing its tale of despair, and hope.

The woman beckoned the dancer ever closer, ‘Dance with me.’

They whirled around the dance floor, bathed in moonlight streaming through the open doors. The woman held out her hand “Come with me, stay with me, be with me.’

Green lightnings crackled in the air and the walls fell away. The dancer felt soft tingles as the lightnings touched her skin, then darted away, quick as minnows in a stream.
The lightnings  wove together and formed a man. The woman held tight to the dancer’s hand on one side and the man on the other. She wrapped the dancer in her lacy shroud and opened her fingers. But the dancer, realizing the trap, tore off the dreamy wrappings and pulled free.

She pulled free from the woman in the lacy curtain made of ghosts, and the dark eyed man made of lightnings, and ran through the open French doors, disappearing into the night.

The wail of the woman and the cry of the man followed her, spurring on her flight.

For it was not her time to leave the town and all the life within.

Not her time to release the lovers and dance in the woman’s place.

Not her time to be the woman in the silent world beyond the curtains of lace.

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Platinum Jungle Cat

The title of this FridayFlashFic was randomly generated from a military site through terribleminds.com. The site gives five Military Operation names and we had to pick one for our title. The names I got were;  Steadfast Bandicoot, Perpetual Ogre, Humane Emu, Culturally Imperative Lover, and the last one actually was Platinum Jungle Cat. It was the only one I immediately saw any story in at all. Word limit 1000. Mine  1223. So no cigar for me, this week. But I felt the story needed every word I used. http://wp.me/p1BAlV-32

      Platinum Jungle Cat                         Louise Sorensen April29, 2012

Ian steals into our cabin on silent feet, plops his skinny butt down beside me and gives me a hip bump.

“Hey Babe,” he says, with a hideous grin. He drops a small yellow apple on the bed. Up early before the start of our twelve hour shift, he’s been to hydroponics for this gift.

“Thanks.” I lean forward to kiss him. Half in and half out of my jumpsuit I almost fall over.

“Hold on,” he says. “I’ll wait ‘til you change.”

I pull on my clothes, grab his face with my hands and proceed to say good morning in the second best way I know. My heart rate goes up and he’s breathing hard, but there’s no time for more. Routine on this under-manned mining ship is strict.

I relieve Second Officer Baker at Control. His bones crack as he stretches. The ship’s on autopilot, and he’s been playing solitaire. Captain, if she were still alive, would be pissed.

Switching away from Baker’s card game, I see Navigation looks a little off. The Nav screen shows the ship’s path for the last twelve hours is a spiral. Have we been flying around in circles? I pinch my lip and go into the program–the only sound the tapping of my fingers on the keys. This would go much faster if the voice interface still worked, but it’s been offline for two years.

After half an hour getting nowhere with corrections, the screen shoots me error messages. I comply again and again. Suddenly, it goes black. External camera feed shows static. I call Ian. At least the intercom still works. We’re lucky life support is on a different system too.

Ian, Sheila “Mac” MacArthur and I tinker for four days and finally get Nav and cameras back on. Don’t recognize any stars. We’re way out past the end of the asteroid relay stations.


Two days trying to figure out where we are yields zip.

We’re sitting around Control drinking cuffee and choking down jelkie when the asteroid monitor, also calibrated for terrestrial planets, pings. We’ll find out where we are eventually, and a terrestrial planet is a tremendous find, so Ian, Mac and Baker are all jumping up and down to go and take a look.  I’m left behind to baby-sit the Malus.

I peer out the airlock at Ian, keeping him in sight as long as possible before he closes the lock on the scout ship.

They’re not down there half an hour before I get a transmission, “Oh my god… it’s incredible down here. You should see it…“ Followed by excited babble.

Then nothing.

They sounded happy-excited, not terrified-excited. Of course Ian as a geologist, gets excited over anything minable. So the news must be good. Right?

Six hours.

Twelve hours.

Twenty four hours. No response.

I can’t leave without them.

Taking the last scout ship, I find no sign of survivors or even their ship itself at the landing co-ordinates. A circle of melt confirms they were here.

I land nearby, on the side of a silver white jungle.

My ship, forty feet tall, shudders and settles a little. It shouldn’t be doing this, instruments say the landing area is solid.

The ship settles a little lower.

I fire the engines. Got to get out of here. Nothing happens.

The ship groans and collapses in upon itself. Ten feet of freefall, then an abrupt halt.

I pull a space suit on in a rush. Leave the helmet open a crack as the suit has only four hours of air.

Another shudder, more freefall. There’s not much ship left beneath me. I don’t know if we’re caught in a sink hole or being swallowed by something. Whatever it is, we’re going down. Pushing a sidearm into my suit pocket, I seal my helmet and blow the escape hatch.

Blinding brightness.

I jump.

Light gravity. Good landing.

Adjusting the filter on my faceplate I see a misty orange atmosphere, and through it, the platinum jungle. The tip of a vine covered pyramid towers over the treetops.

No one answers my calls on the suit radio. I put it on automatic.

Big holes are growing in my ship.

I slip across the landing area and sit down on a platinum rock to watch.

Round shadows are growing on my suit.

So close to earning my way out.

I wonder whatever happened to Ian.

One more hour of air. Should I crack my helmet and get it over with? A whir of motion catches my eye. Through the eroding faceplate, I make out a flying snake the size of a humming bird. It hovers in front of me, sticking out its tongue.

Checking out supper?

I reach out and it coils around my finger, folding up its wings. A ruff of feathers around its neck smoothes down. We stare at each other for a long moment before it coils up and darts away.

Will the shadows breach my suit before my air runs out?

Must have dozed off. A dozen platinum jaguars are slinking towards me. Their jaws are open in huge grins, their movement liquid. Forming a circle around me, they sit down. Yawn. What big teeth!

One of them saunters over and drops down at my feet. His hide is etched with iridescent rosettes. I swear he smiles, and then sinks his teeth through the fabric of my suit, into my leg.

“Jeezez damn! Bloody hell.” I paw for the gun and shoot without aiming, but the trigger breaks off. Covered in patches of white, the gun crumbles to dust. Shit! I throw the gun at the jaguar, but it shrugs out of the way and looks at me mournfully. I cannot interpret its expression by human standards. For all I know, it’s injected me with venom, and now the whole pack is going to sit back and wait ‘til it works.


After the initial pain, my leg doesn’t hurt. It bleeds a little, then the edges of the skin turn a dull platinum. The one that bit me gets up and wanders into the forest. The others leave too. I guess they’ll come back later to dine. I can almost hear them murmuring as they wander off, like people discussing the latest game results. No mention of me, dying here. This doesn’t disturb me as much as I think it should.

I try to appreciate the otherworldly forest and the animals flitting through the trees, but their beauty is lost to me.

Dozed off again! My suit’s gone. Naked on yellow grass, my whole body is platinum. No problem breathing. The orange mist is gone now, the air clear. The trees and vines are purple-green, with sparks of pink and orange blossoms everywhere.

A platinum jaguar saunters back. Sits down beside me. He drops a golden apple, gives me a hip bump and opens his mouth in a hideous grin. I can almost hear him say, “Hey Babe!”

My wrists end in bulbous paws. I waggle one, and flex an arsenal of shiny claws. My arm has become lean and muscular. My legs are still human. I turn over on my side and struggle to get up.

“Hold on,” I hear more clearly in my head. “I’ll wait ‘til you change.”

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