Tag Archives: short story

My Short Story, Give and Take, Published in Dark Helix Ezine

Give and Take is one of the most viewed short stories on this blog. Recently, I got a chance to tweak the story a tad and submit it to Dark Helix ezine, which features speculative fiction. This edition’s theme is strong women, which is why I submitted Give and Take; the main character features a different kind of strength and resilience than what most people would expect.

So please check it out! It’s free, downloadable, and a great way to discover other female creative voices.

https://t.co/ihpCzGRMxA

https://mailchi.mp/bf7de9629d50/j6j42rgms9

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Rewrite: The Balance of a Cat

So, thanks to Brant’s comments, I decided to revise the last story, Balance of a Cat. I admit, at first I was reluctant. I like writing in a the first person POV, as I enjoy the sense of intimacy and the unique perspective it provides to a character/story. But, I thought it was important to revise it, for the story’s sake. That’s a writer’s job: knowing when to go against what you want to do in favor of what you have to do in order to write the best story you can. Also worth noting, I did the finishing touches after watching a webinar on dialogue by Kevin T. Johns. I love writing dialogue, anyway, but though it’s late and I’m tired, the inspiration stirred by the webinar didn’t make the revisions feel like work. Anyway, here’s the revised version. 

 

The Balance of a Cat

He’d intended to surprise her, not make her cry. But Lee had always been a crybaby–a fact her cousin never let her forget–and the tears and snot glistening on her pinched, pink face were as expected as the annoyance he felt every time. Still, they were blood, the same age, and in a town as small as theirs, one’s choices in friends were slim.

“You always get me in trouble,” she moaned from behind. She swatted at the tree branches whipping her face, her crying intensifying by the second. “I have a math test second period.”

Max kept a steady pace on the trail, leading the way into the woods. The shrubs were thick, and the ground almost bouncy underfoot from the layers of dead pine needles and dirt. “Then why’d you come?”

“Because you told me to!”

Of course. Like some kind of living robot, docile Lee didn’t have it in her to say no, though Max guessed that’s why he’d dragged her along. Hearing her sniveling behind him, though, made him feel a little bad. Lee was smart. She was aiming for a scholarship and, with her brains, she could actually escape their pinprick of a town. Max handed her a balled up tissue from his pocket.

“You know I like school.” She blew her nose. “You’d better not mess this up for me. I twisted my ankle during last week’s trip to the quarry. I got to school late the next day because of it and barely talked myself out of detention.”

“I told you to be careful scaling those rocks.”

“It was night!”

“The moon was out.”

Max smiled when she choked off a retort. After so many years, she knew it was useless to argue. “Fine,” he said after a bit. “I’ll get you back before your test, OK? Anyway, we’re almost there. You’ll see, it’ll be worth it.” He pushed through the last of the trees and kept going until he reached the cliff’s edge. There, he stood on the cusp, took a deep breath, and spread his arms as if trying to catch the early morning rays. “Isn’t it amazing? You can see everything from here!”

Below, ‘Cow-Town’, or Dunsville as it was officially known, sprawled as far as the eye could see and was more farmland than anything else. But to Max, it was a green stain on the fringe of the unknown. “The world is waiting for me, cousin. I might not have your brains, but I’ll come up with my own way out of here.”

“Dad says you don’t have any talents, either. Aside from finding trouble.”

Max dropped his arms to his sides. “That’s what everyone thinks, isn’t it? That I’m just a dumb, screw up?”

Lee didn’t answer, but came up cautiously behind him to put a hand on his shoulder.

Max turned back to the cliff. “Well? How do our futures look from up here, Brainiac?”

She shrugged. “Kinda scary. Everything looks…so big, so spread out.”

“Makes you feel small, right? Maybe even insig…insignificant? But the potential–!”

“Maybe. I don’t know.” She tugged at his shirt. “Let’s go. You could fall, and I don’t want that.”

She tried to take him by the arm but he pulled out of her grasp. “I’m not going to fall. I’ve got the balance of a cat.”

“You don’t have a tail,” she insisted.  “They use them as a counter-balance, or something like that. I learned it at school, which is where we should be right now.”

“Come on, not even one step?” Max waved towards the great beyond. “It’d be hard to find a better view than this—“

His foot slipped before he ever knew what had happened. It was Lee’s scream and the sudden rush of cold air on his face that stirred the latent sense of fear within him.

But the world fast approached; a growing green patch of grass, looming before Max’s eyes.

In truth, it was probably the only way a dumb, troublesome kid like him could earn salvation.

So, Max closed his eyes. And embraced it.

falling2

By Anka Zhuravleva

 

Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde

 

New Flash Fiction: Balance of a Cat

I’ve had a really rough time coming up with stories. Either the inspiration isn’t there, or I start but don’t have the stamina to finish or the story just doesn’t materialise. It’s so annoying! But today, an old trick helped me out (mentally making up opening sentence one-liners until something felt right) and I ended up having a little fun. The original opener was : ‘I hadn’t intended to make her cry.’ But once the story came together, I ended up modifying it for a better fit.

 

Balance of a Cat

All I’d wanted to do was surprise her, not make her cry. But she was a crybaby–a fact I never let her forget–and the tears and snot glistening on her pinched, pink face were as expected as the annoyance I felt every time. Still, she was my cousin, we were the same age, and in a town as small as ours, choices of playmates were slim.

‘I hate that you always get me in trouble,’ she moaned from behind me. She swatted at the tree branches whipping her in the face, her crying intensifying by the second. ‘I have a math test second period.’

I kept a steady pace on the trail, leading the way into the woods. The shrubs were thick, and the ground almost bouncy underfoot from they layers of dead leaves and dirt. ‘Then why’d you come?’

‘Because you told me to!’

Of course. Like some kind of living robot, she didn’t have it in her to say no, though I guess that’s why I always dragged her along on my expeditions. Hearing her sniffling and sniveling behind me, I felt a little bad. Unlike me, she was smart and could actually one day get out of this pinprick of a town. She was aiming for a scholarship to a good university and had the brains to do it, too. I handed her a balled up tissue from my pocket so she could wipe her snotty face.

‘I like school!’ She blew her nose. ‘You’d better not mess this up for me.’

I sighed. ‘I’ll get you to school before your test, OK? Anyway, we’re almost there. You’ll see, it’ll be worth it.’ I pushed through the last of the trees and kept going until I reached the cliff’s edge. I stood on the cusp, took a deep breath, and spread my arms into the rays of the early morning sun. ‘Isn’t it amazing! From here, you can see the whole world!’

‘Cow-Town’, or Dunsville as it was officially known, was more farmland than anything else but, to me, it was a green stain on the fringe of everything else that lay beyond it’s borders. ‘The world is waiting for me, cousin. One day, I’ll find my own way out of here.’

I heard her quiet step behind me.

‘Well?’ I asked, pointing.

‘It’s kinda scary. Everything looks…so big, so spread out.’

‘Makes you feel small, right? Maybe even insignificant?’

‘Maybe. I don’t know.’ She pulled at my shirt. ‘Let’s go. You could fall, and I wouldn’t want that.’

I waved her off. ‘I’m not going to fall. I’ve got the balance of a cat.’

‘You don’t have a tail. They use their tails to counter-balance, or something like that. I learned it at school, which is where we should be right now.’ She leaned a little closer towards the edge, though her feet remained glued to the ground.

‘Come on, not even one step?’ I waved towards the great beyond. ‘It’d be hard to find a better view than this—‘

My foot slipped before I ever knew what had happened. Actually, her scream and the sudden rush of cold air on my face stirred the latent sense of fear within me.

But the world fast approached. A growing green patch of grass, looming before my eyes.

In truth, this was probably the only way a poor, dumb boy like me could earn salvation. So, I closed me eyes and embraced it.

 

Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde

Ben’s Bouquet: Flash Fiction

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything on this blog. Actually, I had given up hope that I’d come back to it at all. Life just got crazy, and then there was the whole neck, shoulder, and arm pain thing that plagued me for over a year. Oh yeah, and my computer decided to give up the ghost. But against all odds, I’ve come up with a little ditty of a story, and I posted it spurred by the naive hope that there are still readers out there who still dig my little stories, or that maybe I’ll meet some new ones. I say ‘against all odds’, because up until a few hours ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d write again. Why? I just couldn’t find the drive, the ideas, or the energy to focus. But, somehow, I caught hold of a feeling and decided to run with it. And so, here is my diamond in the rough…

 

Ben’s Bouquet

The bouquet rests in my hands. Its disgustingly beautiful, a brilliant mass of lilies and roses interspersed with feathery greenery. Even then, while holding my heart in my hands, the smell is intoxicating. I can barely think.

I remember now why I hate flowers. Sickeningly sweet, their aroma makes your head swim, and yet, like a drug, their beauty still manages to arouse your heart. And just when you fall in love with their colours and complexity, they die.

“Why’d you bring me flowers, of all things?”

Ben leans against a pillar, watching the buses come in and out of the station. They run on time, each one faithfully carrying its passengers away to parts unknown. The riders look happy; expectation lights up their faces. Men, women, children, singles, and families, clutching satchels and suitcases; backpacks stuffed with snacks for inter-city rides. The constant rumble of voices and the squeals of excited children hover over the platform. They should be holding these flowers, not me.

“I dunno. I thought you liked flowers. Tonight’s a happy occasion, right?”

“Is it?”

We shouldn’t be arguing, not now.

How much time do we have left?

The station’s giant clock looms behind him, but his silhouette obscures its face. I shuffle through my purse for my phone, but he takes my hands in his and sits on the bench beside me.

“You look like we’re at a funeral. We talked about this. You said you were thrilled.”

sad girl

I look at the bouquet resting in space between us. He was right. We had talked about it, but at the time the news was fresh and we were riding high on excitement and the possibility of what could be. But now…

The doors of a nearby bus snap shut. With a roar, it pulls away from the station, the red tail lights flashing as it pauses at the intersection before leaving the lot. Then it drives away into the night. Another bus pulls into its freshly vacated spot.

“I didn’t pick this internship, you know,” Ben says. “They chose me.”

“I know. It’s a great opportunity. You’d be crazy to pass on it.”

He tips my chin upwards so I could look into his eyes. Chocolate brown and earnest, it’s impossible to look away. “It’ll be fine. I’ll get settled in, and once things are in order, you’ll join me just like we talked about.”

The second bus finishes loading. Once the last passenger is seated, the door shuts with a snap and the bus drives away, it too, fading into the night.

For Ben’s sake, I decide to be brave. He was doing this for us, after all. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me. It’s just…so far.”

He pulls me in close for a hug. “Good thing I’ve got all those books on bio-engineering to keep me busy.”

His bus finally pulls up. Ben stands and throws his backpack over a shoulder. “It’s a big change for us, but it’ll be good. Trust me.”

He kisses me goodbye and boards the bus after storing his luggage. In a moment, he’ll leave for a new city, a new home. A new life. And until we met again, I will live on memories that would, over time, wither like a fistful of flowers.

I lean on the pillar as he had done, watching his bus pause at the intersection as if for one last look back. Then the engine revs and it drives into the night, red taillights glowering.

Once Ben’s news had sunk in and the whole picture had become clear to me, I’d told him over breakfast one day that nothing lasts forever, not even love.

“The sun comes up every day, doesn’t it?” he answered. “And even if we don’t always see it, the moon moves along its cycle today just as it’s done since the beginning. Some things might not last, but other things, the important things, do.”

I’d stopped arguing with him after that. He believed it, and that had been enough.

I press the flowers to my chest. They were beautiful. And he’d given them to me. Whether as a parting gift or a promise, I didn’t know. But tonight, before laying down for bed, I would dry one or two in a book. Just in case.

Rose

Dyane Forde July 2017

717 words

Falling Free: Short Story

So at last, a short story! It’s been a while since I’ve posted one, primarily because most places I submit to don’t accept work that has been published, even if it’s on a blog. However, at just over 1000 words, Falling Free is shorter than the requirements of those same magazines and so seems like a perfect candidate to (hopefully) entertain you.

A quick note: this story was intended to be the inspiration for a graphic project, which is why it is so heavy on visuals and tone. Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think below. 🙂 Please enjoy.

Falling Free

From "Falling Man" at www.davidreviews.com

From “Falling Man” at http://www.davidreviews.com

I am nearly dead from running. Stone slaps the soles of my feet, the pitter-patters echoing and filling the surrounding void. A barren land, it’s a world of grey mountains on the left, black mountains on the right; a slate-grey sky above. Not a tree, or shrub, or blade of grass anywhere. White clouds straggle across the sky. Or are they ghosts? I can’t tell.

I hear him behind me, the madman who drove me to this place. Once across the threshold, I’d tried to block him out, had thrown the locks and bars in place. But he is stronger than me, smarter, too. I’d jumped aside and hit the road running just as the door burst open and the first traces of his sickness swept into the void. That smell—the sickness—I know it well.

I hear him beating the path. He’s furious and fast. He comes on with ease, as though a native of this world and immune to the pain burning my torn-up feet; not afraid of this land with no roads or any living thing. Just greyness and stone. And…

Wait, there’s something up ahead.

Skidding, I change course, take the corner around a boulder. I head for whatever it is.

Maybe a way out?

He’s angry. Bellowing, he too rounds the corner, spitting rocks in his wake as he takes the hairpin turn. I sense his eyes zero in on me. He’s coming.

The ground suddenly gives way to a valley. I speed down the slope, putting my hand down when I almost tumble to the bottom where a collection of rocks wait to tear me to shreds. Once over them, I scale the other side. Streaks of blood stain the surface. Hands shredded, knees bleeding, it doesn’t matter. I can’t let that madman catch me.

I haul myself over the edge. Safe in the other side, but don’t know for how long. I pause to catch my breath. The dark spot in the distance is closer. Nothing between me and it.

“Hello, my name is Constance. Do you want to play?”

It’s a little girl about seven years old. She wears a pink dress, and her wavy brown hair is tied back with a white bow. She smiles. I’m shaken by her innocence. A single white light in this darkening grey world. She holds out a hand. I take it.

What’s a kid doing out here alone? I look around but there’s not another living soul anywhere.

“Uh…where’s your mother?”

Constance crumples to the ground. Blood pools on her candy-pink dress. She coughs once, smiles again, and then is gone. Cackling trickles into my head.

It’s the madman.

He always ruins whatever he touches.

I take off, heading for the spot in the distance. The closer I draw to it, the more the world changes. Ghosts spring out of the ground, each one bright and bursting with life and hope like the girl, caricatures of ‘the good life’:  a mother dressed in a blue and white dress and a flowery apron holding her baby. Her name, Aviva, and the baby, Elan. But upon taking my hand, they too collapse having succumbed to scarlet blotches spreading like weeds across their chests. Others, Hope and Mercy, two frolicking puppies, also fall to jagged, red polka dots. Each death triggers the maniac’s laughter. It pricks the inside of my head like a million fingers running nails across a blackboard. It’s too much. I’ll crack.

I fear…

…he’s changing me…

…making me like him.

Other ghosts appear, this time familiars. Friends, family, colleagues. Girlfriends.

‘Get your lazy ass off the couch and get a job!’

I remember that one:  Lucy. My last and greatest love. But like the madman, I have a knack for drawing out the worst in those around me. To this day, I doubt she knew that her presence had kept the Darkness at bay, or how much thicker and deeper it became after she left. I’d tried to block it out. It still took everything I’d had not go mad. And now, here she was in my world of grey, still hateful, still angry. Yelling.

Like the Madman. He screams at my back, his fury pushing me towards the quickly approaching spot. The black patch looms–yawning like an open mouth. Now I don’t want to go. I want to run back to the valley, through the mountains, all the way to the exploded door and, finally, into the world of color and caricature beyond.

Just what am I doing here?

At the spot, the madman pulls back. I drop to my hands and knees. His laughter fills my head; it’s rapid, hitting hard like a Gatling gun. The stone is cold under my hands, chilling me like I’m kneeling on an ice rink. Gasping and hacking, I can barely breathe.

God, I’m utterly broken.

The chasm’s on my right. The madman on my left. He stands so tall I can’t see his face.

He squats. I can’t look at him. Shaking takes over my arms, then my torso and, finally my legs. He leans in so his lips are against my ear.

“I never meant to catch you,” he says.

“Wh-what?” I lick my lips. Maybe I can talk my way out. “What do you want?”

He stands. Puts his hands in his pockets. Sighs.

“No!” I’m screaming now. “I don’t want to—“

“Die.”

He nudges me with the tip of his foot.

I fall.

Am struck by the fact that now there’s no need to run. No need for strife.

No Darkness trying to drive me insane.

I realize

The madman did me a favor.

Crazed,

He did the thing I could not.

I am free.

Falling

But falling free.

I laugh, only a little surprised by the rising notes—bordering hysteria.

I laugh harder, the sound becoming familiar, as though it had been hiding so deeply and for so long within me that I’d forgotten it was even there. Until the madness pried it loose, setting free a raging, powerful beast.

I want to see the face of my killer.

I look up

As I fall down.

Through the gathering mists

The haze of oncoming unconsciousness opening the door to

The Inevitable.

The madman looks down.

Our eyes meet.

I smile in recognition.

For that man on top

Who watches me as I fall down;

The one who pushed me over the edge

Is me.

Copyright@ 2015 by Dyane Forde