Probable cause

You think it’s a standard B&E gone wrong, except the perp didn’t take anything. Or did he?

Blue LED light strip light trail slow motion

“Wait ‘til tomorrow if you want to see the place for yourself. Forensics just left, so the evidence is headed your way, but the smell isn’t quite as past as the victim.”

You hang up without saying goodbye. Eight years working homicide has squeezed all the niceties out of you to make room for other skills. The kind that catch killers.

Whatever happened here happened quick. Started as a B&E. Ended in blood. The guy must’ve had bad intel. He didn’t expect to be met at the door with a bat. You tiptoe around two dotted brown lines into the kitchen where the victim’s knifeblock turned against him. Struggle over, the perp’s trail heads right past a couple grand in electronics and doodads and out the fire escape window. Pretty straightforward.

What you can’t get out of your head is why. What was this guy after that he’d kill for, then leave without? Seems pointless.

Your heart shrivels up and drops into your colon.

Unless whatever it was was on the victim.

Unless those wounds were intentional.

Unless this wasn’t a break-in gone wrong.

You close your eyes and replay the crime. You open your eyes. You open them again.

The third trail accuses you with its brightness. The glittering blue of a severed magical soul slides from the door to the kitchen, skips a few feet, then bleeds over the windowsill. You don’t know why you didn’t turn on your second sight right away. Overconfident.

You follow the trail to the fire escape, down the alley, into the bustling city beyond where it pools and disappears at the curb.

You stare down 59th Street headed towards the goblin farmer’s market. A thin smile creases your face. It’s been a while since you’ve been Down-Downtown.

How do you like them apples

Day 28: Rotten
No Novel November 2019

Johnny surveyed the orchard full of naked trees and sighed. Every year, the harvest was less, the waste more. The apples of belief bloomed each spring, swelled in summer, ripened in fall, and hit the ground to rot before the first frost. Months of back-breaking work for nothing.

He spent the day clearing the ground the old-fashioned way. For their anniversary, Demeter had bought him a fancy cart off Amazon that sucked them up automatically as he walked, but it stayed in the garage. Some things needed doing by hand. Besides, ten acres was nothing compared to what he used to work.

As the sun dipped below the branches, Johnny threw the last bag of mealy brown apples into the barn and himself into the armchair in front of the fire. He reached for his phone and the red-labeled bottle on the end table, opening both.

“Yeah, D, I think this is it for me. Nobody quests anymore, especially not for enchanted produce.” He took a swig from the bottle and grimaced. “Time to retire to the big orchard in the sky. Two hundred years is a good run, right?”

He paused for another pull. “Good gods, this is terrible,” he coughed. “Why do people like it?”

As Dionysus expounded on the wonders of scotch, Johnny’s attention faded. Something about the red label and the burning in his sinuses stirred up an idea.

“Hey, D,” he interrupted. “What do you think about Johnny Appleseed’s Hard Cider—‘So Good, It’s Magic’?”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Sealed with a curse

Day 21: Dear
No Novel November 2019

A single gold going with a skull - how to draw coin by sephiroth art via Deviant Art

“Dear You! It’s your lucky day! You have been sent the Lucky Coin of Antioch! Guaranteed to grant your wishes! NO TRICKS OR CATCHES! Just make a copy of this letter and send the coin to the first person in your contacts list IMMEDIATELY after you make your third wish! Do this and your life will be good FOREVER! Follow the rules or YOU WILL DIE!”

With shaking hands, I drop the tarnished silver coin into the envelope. The address on the front is barely legible, but I’ve got to believe it’ll make it.

A violent coughing fit forces me to stop on the way to the mailbox, and the blood on my hands draws stares from passersby. Let them stare. All that matters is this letter—my only chance at redemption.

I stumble turning to go back into my apartment. A stranger catches me, flinching at the icy chill of my hands. “You alright, mister?” he asks.

I clutch him tightly, my dry eyes wild, wishing for the pain to end, for death to come with its sweet release, but knowing it won’t. Not until that letter is delivered.

My voice comes out in a hiss dry as paper. “Don’t…break…the chain….”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Special collections

Day 18: Susurrus
No Novel November 2019

A girl in a library with magical glowing books - The reader by charlie bowater via Deviant Art

The dry, gentle rustle of pages accompanies me as I pass through the stacks. I’m new; the books aren’t used to me yet. They bluster inside their heavy covers, jump skittishly when I touch their spines, resist when they’re reshelved and their chains locked. But I ignore their spiteful susurrus and go about my duties: dusting and polishing, feeding and watering, grooming and reassuring.

By sunset, they begin to settle. I draw the curtains and tuck thick velvet blankets between their bookends, humming lullabies as I go. One hand on the door, I blow out the final candle and bid them goodnight. I tiptoe away, already anticipating the morning. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day they accept me as their Librarian.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here. 

The rager of the gods

Day 13: Envy
No Novel November 2019

Two green beer bottles in a bucket of ice via WallPaperFlare.com

Shots! Shots! Shots!

The gods sat in a circle around a bucket filled with ice and unlabeled bottles. With Hera away for the weekend, Olympus had become the site of an epic rager, complete with a dance floor and a mountain of ambrosia pizzas. Most of the younger deities had already passed out, but a handful of stalwarts remained.

There were three potions left, identical except for effect. Lust had sent Hephaestus and four demigods for a different kind of party; Wrath took Artemis and Aphrodite to the backyard; Poseidon was working off Gluttony in the kitchen; and Hermes had a Sloth aura that made them all sleepy.

Athena scrutinized the bottles. No matter what she drew, it was guaranteed regret in the morning. But what the Hades—what happens on Olympus stays on Olympus, right?

She grabbed one and knocked it back. The taste made her cough, acrid and sharp, and when she opened her eyes again, the world was bathed in green light.

She waited to see what else would happen. But as seconds passed, she realized that while she felt no different, the eyes of her friends had turned baleful and cold. Desire mixed with hatred.

No one said anything. They just stood up and left, one by one.

Athena sat alone on the throne room floor wiping away bitter tears. The effect was only temporary, she knew, but the ache, the isolation, the emptiness—the sting of envy—was all too real.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you’d like to know more and/or join in, click here.