Erin Ritch

Writer, Blogger, Mom

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Tag: Flashfic (page 1 of 2)

Short Story Collection Volume I – published!

Yay! After much compiling, formatting, and proofing…my first collection of short stories is finally published!

Ta da!

I am so excited to have these stories out. I am a lover of short fiction, my first story ever published online was a piece of flash fiction. As the description says, they are “tales of fantasy, science fiction, and the obscure.” Some of the work has appeared previously on this blog over the years, while other stories are new and unpublished.

For the cover design, I wanted to incorporate the new-and-improved No Wyverns Publishing logo. The background text is a loop of the titles of the twenty-two stories contained in this book. I plan to publish more anthologies of short fiction in the future that will use this same layout…eventually becoming a box set! (Oh, the plans…the plans…)

 

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite stories included, “The Last Machinist.”

I have searched countless years, scouring the globe for an object that probably doesn’t even exist.

Jen-Li stared at the wrinkled page of her sister’s last journal entry. It trembled in the whipping wind that invaded the abandoned living quarters, howling as it broke through the cracked windows. The room was so cold. Bitter and lonely, as though resentful for being left in such a state. A thin layer of dust covered the overturned furniture and broken dishes like downy, providing just enough protection against the raging elements outside.  Removing her gloves, Jen-Li traced the sentence with her finger, leaving a muddled smear of letters in its wake. She wiped it again for the last time so that it would belong to her alone. So that this idea that her sister pondered became nothing but a blur, just like the stain of runny ink on her fingertips that would eventually wash away.

“What does it say?” Terra asked from the doorway. Her small frame was swallowed by her heavy coat, transforming her into a bulky, short stump of a ten-year-old. Her blue eyes shone fiercely from the depths of her fur-lined hood. She could read her mother’s body language too well.

Whisking the withered journal in her arms, Jen-Li closed it with a loud clap. A cloud of dust sauntered up to her face, burning her freckled nose as she hacked on the taste. The sound seemed to startle the frozen room as another wave of dust trickled from the ceiling and into her damp auburn hair.

“I wanted you to stay in the mech,” she said, peering out the frosted window glass as she replaced her gloves. Her mech was still there, motionless and protected beneath the ancient fir tree on the edge of the abandoned drive. She looked up at the splitting beams of her sister’s last known dwelling place. “This place is falling apart.”

“Did Aunt Nina find it?” Terra pressed. Her voice sounded on the precipice of panic.

“I don’t know,” Jen-Li replied sharply before she caught herself, realizing that her own voice sounded strained. That was not her job, not her duty as Terra’s mother, to sound afraid. That was not who she was. That was not the tone of this journey that had taken them from the warmth of home to this wasteland. Jen-Li recovered and joined her daughter in the entryway.  “But we will find out.”

 

Intrigued? I hope so! The e-book is priced at only .99 and the print version at $4.99 – both available at Amazon!

The Man in the Polaroid Picture

Image by kristina

 

He loved days like this. Where it was just him and the rain and his subtle disposition. He took a careful sip of his steaming coffee and smiled just before the amber liquid touched his lips. He had become good at this. For too long he hid behind a newspaper or a suitably worn paperback book, stealing glances only at opportune times. But not anymore. Now he could sit on that open bistro patio scattered with autumn brush, finally unnoticed without the aid of cover or distraction. Unnoticed, until now.

She would not have been the type to catch his eye and he would blame himself for it forever after. He had allowed his confidence to muddle his senses, careless in the easy anonymity provided by the busy crowd. He even let his mind wander, distracted by a memory awakened by a scent in the air. It was in that moment that she approached him, placing the package so quickly in his hand that he looked twice to confirm it was there. The woman disappeared in the breeze with a flash of her long black trench coat.  He never would be able to describe her completely, other than a pair of soft brown eyes that looked back to confirm one last time that he was he.

Something told him to wait until home to investigate the small package held firmly in his coat pocket, quickly moistening from his sweaty palm. Holding it beneath the window light, he traced the careful folding of the brown parchment paper, with creases so precise they must have been measured. The package was a neat square no larger than his fist, with the words To John written in scrolling penmanship across the front. The paper felt worn between his fingertips and upon inspection, this wrapping had been reused many times before. He unfolded the paper to reveal a photo. It was a Polaroid, developing in front of him as he held it to the dwindling afternoon sunlight. It was him, sitting at the table on the open bistro patio, oblivious in a whirlwind of autumn leaves. He was struck by the look on his face. A revealing break in his facade, captured for his own eyes to see.

He didn’t have many things to pack, he lived that way for a reason. Or he had, anyway. Tucking the Polaroid in his jacket pocket, he left the simple brown wrapping atop the neat bed. It would be used for the next John Doe, whoever that may be.  But he wished him one thing. To allow himself those breaks in consciousness, those reminders of himself, no matter who may be watching. He looked back one last time before shutting the door. It will always be worth it.

Complete the Story…”The Gray Man’s Street”

Now that Myth is locked in and launches in LESS THAN A WEEK (*breathe*), I’m allowing myself some time to actually watch TV and not feel guilty about it. I used to follow many, many shows but now it seems the only ones I make time for is Game of Thrones or Big Brother. (I feel this sentence sums me up very well.)

Then I learned about a Netflix series called Stranger Things. It quickly became my latest obsession, it reminds me of The X-Files and Twin Peaks with all sorts of paranormal goodness. And it’s set in the 80’s?? You have me hooked, Netflix. Hooked. I may only be three episodes in, but I love the story and style of the show in general.

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It got me inspired to try one of the story prompts from Complete The Story, a gift from my husband for my birthday, intended for moments precisely like this where I want to write a quick, easy story. I wanted to write a story that happens in the world (or world similar to) that of Stranger Things.

 

 

 

Erin Scribble

 

 

This is a really fun book, there are literally (tee hee) story prompts for every situation you can think of, with only a single page commitment.Unless you’re like myself, that is, and quickly spilled over into three additional pieces of paper.

 

 

 

 

 

So I hope you enjoy…and if you love the paranormal and haven’t watched Stranger Things yet…go watch it!

 

THE GRAY MAN’S STREET

(Words in bold are taken from Complete the Story)

They were safe, for the time being. But it was no time to let their guard down. Slowly, Samuel opened the car door, trying his best not to make a sound. He looked both ways down the street. All he could see was darkness with occasional pools of light beneath the bleary street lights. He returned inside and locked the door, checking it twice.

“Did you see it?” Melanie whispered. A small trickle of blood traveled down the side of her face. She had experienced the worst of the impact, her light frame tossed like a rag doll as they spun across the street.

Samuel wiped his hair out of his face. He became aware of the condensation building on the windshield. He hoped it wouldn’t draw attention.

“Nothing,” he said finally. “I don’t know what direction it took off in. It was so…fast.”

“Let’s keep going! Please!” Melanie begged.

“Shh!” Samuel snapped. “We can’t! The engine, I’m not sure it will start. I’m not willing to risk-“

“I see it!” Melanie squealed, sobbing into her hands.

A figure appeared at the end of the dim headlights, crawling on its belly towards the car. It was the creature that hit their car, a flash of gray that forced them into a spiral. They had injured it, too. Samuel knew from the cry it made at impact. He fumbled with the keys and tried the ignition. It ticked but failed to spark to life.

“C’mon…” Samuel urged, pumping the limp accelerator.

The figure crawled closer. It wasn’t an animal. It wasn’t a man. But it had eyes and it met Samuel’s gaze without flinching. And without fear.

“Get it in the back seat,” Samuel shouted, unbuckling Melanie’s seatbelt  and helping her over the seat. “Stay down!”

“What are you going to do? Shouldn’t we run?” she sobbed.

Samuel tore through the contents of the glove box, watching as the creature bumped against the headlights. He saw a glimpse of slimy gray skin, stained red with blood. Dark eyes drew up to meet Samuel’s gaze as it thumped atop the hood of the car.

“Back!” Samuel shouted, pointing his father’s flashlight in the creature’s eyes. It howled and dropped to the side, scratching and fumbling with the locked door. Samuel held onto the door. “No!”

Then there was nothing. The air was so quiet that Samuel could hear the far off bark of his dog, probably watching for him from the living room window. Melanie tried to muffle her sobs from the floor of the backseat. Samuel carefully lifted his fingers from the door, one at a time. In a breath, the door was ripped from the vehicle and thrown into the woods.

Samuel!”

“This song is the best! The absolute best, turn it up!”

Todd nodded and increased the volume of the car radio. He accelerated, trying to keep up with the beat of the music. Tiffany hummed with the music, settling back into her seat. She watched the twilight treetops flash by, a blur in her sleepy state.

“Is that Samuel’s dad’s car?” Todd shouted as he turned down the music. He pointed to the vehicle ahead of them, overturned on the side of the road.

“Oh my gosh…” Tiffany gasped, sitting up. “It totally is! And I bet you Melanie is with him, too.”

“Should we stop or something?” Todd asked with a shrug.

“Are you crazy? That’s all on them.”

“But maybe we should help-“

“Just let the Gray Man do its thing,” Tiffany yawned, settling back into her seat. “And turn the music back up!”

“Ripples” (Star Wars Fan Fiction)

The sun rose again on Dagobah, as it always does. I see the ripples it makes in time, revolving around the atmosphere, day after day, year after year. Through the treetops, the light fights for entry. One ray at a time it breaks through and somehow is enough for this old world. These ancient trees have no plans of going anywhere. The other creatures are forced to grow around them and intertwine into layers of organisms and this is repeated a thousand times over this deserted planet. Deserted, except for me and that cave.

I close my eyes and inhale the hot, musky air deeply. I hear the darkness crying for me, summoning me to its arms. I will not give it a name. I will not give it that. The cave is simply darkness. I have grown accustomed to its whispers, echoing down the long and twisting corridors of the labyrinth. I am not surprised by its tricks or reasonings, its lures or promises. I look down at my cup of soup and see the ripples in its liquid. And then I hear the scream.

There are very few creatures of significance on this planet. We mind our own business, they and I. But I have been here long enough to recognize their calls and that scream is not known to me. I set down my cup as the scream rings out again, an echo down the long cave walls. I do not know if this is another tale the cave has created to lure me. But I cannot risk the price of not knowing.

I stand before the entrance. Not hesitating, but observing. Listening. I feel the ripple in the Force, the choking fear of the creature inside. It is not meant for that evil cave. It will be swallowed whole and spit out into something twisted. My lightsaber cracks and hums to life as I enter. It sputters beneath the moisture that drips from the cave walls like tears, weeping for the thoughts within. I cannot help but marvel at what it has become. I clear my mind and listen, fighting back at the whispers that claw the edges of my consciousness.

Fear, fear, fear. That’s all I sense, it is a beacon in the darkness, attracting not only myself but the other tainted creatures that make this cave their home. I see them wince and avoid the blaze of my lightsaber as I continue further into the pit. Finally, I find the glint of an eye. Two eyes, then a flutter of wings. I approach it carefully, still unsure if this is a ruse of the cave. But it is not. A small bird, young and confused, is caught in a tangle of vines. I dismiss the snakes that have inched towards their prey and they return to their nests for another day.

“Small creature. The same, you and I,” I whisper hoarsely, freeing the small bird. It trembles in my hand and I can sense its small heart on the verge of collapsing.

Turning back, the entrance of the cave begins to close. Vine after vine reach for each other, intertwining into a thick wall. The fears of the bird are manifesting. Unbeknownst to this creature, it is feeding the darkness with its terror. Soon the bird and I are encased within the cave, illuminated only by my burning lightsaber. I reach the wall and try to pierce it but it is stronger than I expected.

“Calm, must you be,” I tell the bird. I know it is Force sensitive, it must be to live on this planet and survive as long as it has. And maybe, that’s what it drew it to the cave in the first place.

A small crack appears in the dried mud between the vines. And another and another, splitting into a dozen different pathways to freedom. Finally, a hole opens up large enough to squeeze the bird through and the wall disintegrates, no longer powered by the animal’s fears. I dust myself off and step through, feeling the lift as the dark cave is forced to release its grip of me, too. I did not let you take that creature, I tell the darkness as it skulks away.

I return my lightsaber to the layers of my robe. Perhaps my soup will still be warm. I smile as I hear the sounds of the bird’s wings flapping in glorious freedom, racing as high into the gray sky as it can reach. The sound grows louder and louder, into a windstorm that cracks through the treetops. The X-Wing plows into the swamp with a loud hiss of its engine. I close my eyes and envision the ripples of water as the cockpit door opens.

 

“The Moth”

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Image credit Brandon Towne

Some call me the butterfly of the night. But I am nothing like them. I had to knit myself in the darkness, the damp morning hours slowing my progress. I have to hide from the dawn, my bright coat attracting every predator in the revealing sunlight. But unlike my cousins, I know secrets. I gather them while I flutter against the glass, watching and listening as I tumble towards the light.

The Strangest Storm

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Image credit Tech Haven

One night, the rain came in the strangest way, they say. In a whisper and then in a shout, it covered the ground with water black as that night itself. The rain coaxed the plants above the soil, leaving them to float aimlessly atop the rivers of water, like corpses with nowhere to go. With faces pressed against the steamy glass, all you could do is watch the rain dump from the sky, transforming passerbys into blurry figures that scattered from the storm.

Late Night Writing Prompt – “Clarity”

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Image credit: Tuncay

This rain brings me a feeling I have had before. Of a cold afternoon where we parted ways for the last time. I’ve already told you a thousand goodbyes – through my eyes, my demeanor, my words, and my actions. But still you call for me through the glass, asking me to break through and come back. But life is just not that simple for you and I. Wait and see what the rain will bring, maybe some clarity as it has for me.

“Dear Andromeda”

 

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“Queen of the Red Snow” by Erin Ritch

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The water dripped down the window, stripping away the condensation and revealing the red snow beyond the glass. Red like bright new blood, alive and fleeting. It fluttered through the air and stuck to the glass, glistening like fire that simply melts away. Danielle laid beneath the window, still rousing from sleep. She watched the water drip steadily down the glass until she could not deny what laid beyond the walls. Today, she would be the queen. And tomorrow, she would not.

The red snow only fell every hundred years. Sometimes it would take longer, sometimes less. There was no predicting it as much as the historians tried. Danielle came from the line in wait, the children raised only in anticipation of that snowy red morning. Because on those rare red days, the reigning monarch was locked away, to pray and plead with the gods for the cursed snow to disappear. Fearing the chaos that could ensue from that one day left without charge, Danielle’s ancestors had been chosen to fill the role. And that meant today, Danielle was the queen of the red snow.

Somehow, she had known this would happen to her. Every night Danielle went to bed in anticipation of it, wondering if tomorrow was the day or the day after that. She had trained herself to enjoy an extra beat of darkness each morning before opening her eyes. She had known this dread her whole life, as though red had been following her invisibly, a shadow in the dark. Most of her ancestors did not know the red snow, raised only to wait and then die. Some of them did reign uneventfully. And some of them raged.

She heard the trumpets in the distance, signaling the new queen. Danielle visualized the monarch being walked down the long hallways, locked away and powerless for that one day. There was no turning back now. Danielle rose from her bed and looked outside at the sheet of red snow. She only had one thing to decide now. Should she reign? Or should she rage.

 

“Candy Cane Lane”

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 Image credit Taryn

‘Tis the season for giving…or else.

“Seriously? A donation box?”

Mark pulled the parking brake on his family’s minivan. He scrubbed away the condensation that had gathered on his window. Through the foggy streaks, the Christmas lights of Candy Cane Lane shined brightly. He squinted his eyes at the donation box outside one of the most decorated houses, the grandest and most majestic of them all. There was a crowd at the donation box as other Christmas light searchers dutifully dropped a few dollars inside and went on their way. A man dressed in a Santa costume stood beside the box, jollily ringing a bell and ho ho ho’ing.

“Don’t be on the naughty list. Please help us pay Santa’s electric bill. Merry Christmas,” Mark read aloud the sign next to the donation box. He shook his head. “Oh, come on.”

“Santa? Lives here?” Three year old Tyler shouted from the back of the minivan. He squirmed to be released from his car seat.

“Don’t be silly. He wouldn’t live in a dump like this,” Sarah corrected from beside her younger brother.

Lucy unbuckled her seat belt to get a better view, stretching across her husband’s lap. “You can’t really blame them. Look at this place! It must’ve taken them forever to decorate it!” she exclaimed, the lights reflecting in her glasses.

Mark snorted. “I doubt anyone is forcing them to do this. They bring this mess on themselves.” He motioned to the traffic jam of cars and pedestrians crossing the crowded street. Other cars tried to slowly fight their way through the sea of people, their headlights turned off so as not to ruin the ambiance.

“And yet, here we are…right outside their house,” Lucy replied with a large grin and a wink. She turned around in her seat. “Okay, kids! Who’s ready for some Christmas lights?”

Tyler and Sarah cheered in unison. After locking the minivan and securing coats, hats and gloves, the family started down the hill of Candy Cane Lane.

“Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!” the Santa at the donation box exclaimed. His dark eyes shone brightly from behind his thick white beard. He motioned his large gloved hand to the house behind him. “Behold my beautiful abode, decorated just for your delight! Donations are appreciated! Ho ho ho!” He patted the donation box and then his belly.

“It’s so pretty…” Tyler whispered, staring in awe at the light displays, statues, inflatable slides and animatronic characters. The hum of thousands of Christmas lights crackled across the evening air, reverberating in their ears.

“Great work…let’s get going,” Mark grumbled, urging his family forward.

“Ho ho ho! Santa is going to have quite the utility bill, I hope he can afford it!” the Santa of Candy Cane Lane encouraged loudly.

“Dad!” Tyler whined. “We have to help Santa!”

Lucy started to rummage through her purse for spare change. Mark shook his head and motioned for her to keep going.

“No, Tyler – Santa is doing just fine,” Mark replied loudly, looking over his shoulder at the overflowing donation box of cash.

Santa stopped ringing his bell. He repositioned his large belly and announced, “Ho ho ho, Tyler’s dad is on the naughty list, it seems!”

Dad!” Tyler gasped in horror.

“Hey Santa, you have a nice evening, alright? Merry freaking Christmas,” Mark called back, waving dismissively.

“And you as well, Mark Hanson and family!”

Mark stopped. Lucy paused and studied his face.

“Did he just say your full name? Do you know him?” she whispered. Mark shook his head.

“And Sarah! I hope your dad hasn’t ruined your chance at that bike!” Santa continued happily, nodding at passerby’s who dutifully dropped change in the donation box. He rang his bell rhythmically, his head bopping along with the Christmas tunes playing in the background.

Sarah’s mouth dropped open. Her eyes began to well with tears as she stuttered wordlessly. Lucy knelt down to hold her daughter. She turned to Mark with eyes on fire. “Fix this. Now,” she commanded.

Mark sighed and turned around. He walked back to Santa, who was now avoiding eye contact. “Look, I see what you’ve got going on here. Nice little scam. Maybe I’ll put up a few lights in my yard next year and see if I can make a few bucks. But you don’t need to get dirty about it. Apologize to my kid, alright?”

“Ho ho ho! I hope you have a house to go back to!” Santa bellowed happily.

“What…did you just say?”

“Accidents can happen, you know! Just ask Rudolph!”

“Oh, drop the act – “

“Would be a shame for something terrible to happen! And right before Christmas!”

Mark straightened his coat. “Are you threatening my family?” he said quietly.

Santa’s beady eyes turned back to Mark. He stopped ringing his bell. “Last year, December’s electric bill was almost four hundred dollars!” he shouted. “Ho ho HO!”

“Alright…alright,” Mark huffed, grabbing his wallet from his coat. He muttered to himself as he shuffled through the bills, holding up several dollars in front of Santa’s face, then stuffing them inside the bulging donation box. He returned back to his family and ushered them further down Candy Cane Lane.

“Thatta boy, Mark! And…Merry Christmas!”

THE END

Editor’s note:

Any Santa portrayed in this story is purely fictional. The real Santa would never be so lame.

And I do sincerely wish you a wonderful, very merry Christmas!