The Black Riders

Honcho trotted along beneath me, the tap of his hooves echoing off the walls of the buildings on either side of me. The sound echoed, alone, in the still air of late afternoon.

I frowned, turning in my saddle to peer first left, then right. Where were all the people? Dry Creek was never going to be anything more than a small town, a stop for soldiers headed out towards the Southwest border, but it still felt alive and bustling compared to my home out on the ranch.

I thought back to the last time I’d visited, several months ago. There’d been some big fuss about a big-name bandit being caught, about to go up on the gallows. I wouldn’t have minded seeing that, but I had to get back to the farm, soon as I picked up the supplies for my da. Continue reading

Planet-Hop from Trappist-1e!

“Jerry, how’s this one look?”

I glanced over at the poster held in the receptionist’s hands, trying to smooth out the frowning creases in my face that threatened to become permanent. “Actually, that one’s not so bad,” I said after a minute’s reflection. “Very retro.”

The receptionist nodded, biting her lip as she looked down at it. “Our windows aren’t that big, though,” she pointed out.

I didn’t need a mirror to know that the twitch was back in my jaw. “Maybe they’re kids looking out the window, so they’re smaller. Whatever. It’s just an ad, Sherry.” Continue reading

The Forbidden Pages, Part II

Continued from Part I, here.

I stared at the faint, gauzy, illusory face floating in the air in front of me. I should have been scared, but astonishment pushed all other emotions aside for the moment.

“No way,” I gasped out, my words barely a whisper.

The face grew, sliding right out of the wall, moving through it as if it was no more solid than smoke. It grew into a small figure, with glowing strands of long brown hair cascading down over her shoulders, spilling over the short sleeves of a white dress, with a thick red ribbon tied around her waist. She floated out, a foot or two above the ground, out until her bare feet finally drifted clear of the wall. Continue reading

The Forbidden Pages, Part I

I crept down the stairs of the old house, wincing every time the old boards creaked beneath my tread. My uncle was fast asleep, but I knew that he didn’t sleep heavily. What if he heard the noise and woke up?

Finally, after what felt like ages of moving with excruciating slowness, I reached the bottom of the stairs. I slipped a hand into the pocket of my pajama bottoms, curled my fingers around the brass key that lay inside.

The door to the library, seven feet tall, loomed in front of me. I looked up at it with trepidation, wondering how much trouble I risked getting myself into. After all, my uncle never failed to remind me, on each visit to his house, that the library was off limits. He kept it locked for a reason, he insisted, even if he never divulged that reason to me. Continue reading

One More Time Around

I advanced slowly into the lair, trying to stretch out my senses beyond their human, mortal limits.  Danger, the kind of danger that could instantly and permanently put my lights out, lurked around every corner.  I needed to trust my intuition.

Right now, my intuition was sending up all sorts of smoke signals and setting off all kinds of alarm bells about the corner ahead.  I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but I tightened my two-handed grip on the purloined pistol I’d taken from the entrance guard.

After all, with his head staved in, he didn’t need it any longer. Continue reading

Out of my league…

With apologies to Terry Pratchett.

I slammed down the empty beer glass, staring morosely at the suds sliding down its sides. “It’s no use,” I said aloud. “I love her, mate. For strewth.”

“Strewth,” echoed Davey, off to my side. “Trev, it can’t work, though. She’s in a whole other league, you know? She cheers for Dolly Sisters, an’ we’re born Dimwell fans. Hell, you know what they’d do to her if they saw someone like ‘er in our place, wearing those colors?”

“‘Course I do,” I snapped back at him. “But what am I supposed to do ’bout it? I love her, Davey. You don’t know what it’s like!” Continue reading

Snack Drake

Brindle stumbled out of the portal, his battle-axe ready in his hands. “H’rak K’thum!” he shouted out, lifting the weapon over his head as he roared the traditional Dwarven battle cry.

Ariven next emerged from the portal, his long Elven fingers still splayed out, glowing with energy as he maintained the breach. “Is it safe, dwarf?” he called out, his focus remaining on the portal.

“Yeah, looks that way,” Brindle grunted, lowering his axe as he looked in both directions down the corridor. “Strange smell, though. Alchemical. Where have you brought us, wizard?” Continue reading

Facing Death, Part III

Continued from Part II, here.

So, I’m dead. And that’s not the surprising part.

No, it’s more surprising that Death has shown up to claim my soul. Literally. I’m apparently not off to Heaven or Hell, but following him.

If I don’t seem too upset about this, well, it’s because I’m not. I had reasons for doing what I did in life, but they seem kind of flimsy, now. If I had to go up and face judgment in front of God and all his angels, I’m pretty sure I can guess the inevitable outcome.

So tailing around after a seven-foot skeleton in a black robe and carrying a scythe doesn’t seem quite as bad as facing eternal torture in the fires of Hell. Continue reading

Facing Death, Part II

Continued from Part I, here.

The tiny, single little speck of everything, everything that contrasted against the overwhelming blackness of oblivion, wavered for a moment. I waited for it to go out, or maybe just shift into the Hell where I was pretty certain that I’d end up, despite my last words.

It didn’t do so, however. I clung to it, not quite ready to disappear into nonexistence quite yet. It flickered, twitched – and then, incredibly, started to swell…

It kept on swelling, growing larger, until it challenged the sea of black nonexistence in which it floated. It grew larger until it dominated that emptiness, consumed it and occupied it with itself. I felt like I was trapped against a wall by a force, impossible to resist as it grew larger and larger, pushing me to flatness between the wall of nothing behind me and the bubble of everything in front of me… Continue reading

Facing Death, Part I

“An’ now, here’s the poor sumbitch himself, ready to face justice fer his crimes!”

I heard someone shout something, but the bag over my head muffled the words. I felt a palm impact sharply with my back, knocking me forward. My foot hit the wooden step in front of me, and I staggered, nearly pitching forward.

Thankfully, the hand behind me grabbed the back of my collar, kept me from toppling down. Good thing, too, since they’d bound my hands. No chance of escape, not this time. I was pretty much well and truly screwed. Wouldn’t be walking away from this one. Continue reading