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.

All in a day’s work

Day 11: Farmhouse
No Novel November 2019

It’s not actually a farmhouse. That would require a farm. More accurately, it’s a homestead.

The house is nestled in the crook of what passes for a highway in these parts. According to the brief, there’s a vegetable garden, a gang of chickens, a solitary cow, and a well of the sweetest water in this zip code; there’s also indoor plumbing and wi-fi. These folks don’t need much from the outside world, but they’re not cashing in on this scrap of countryside.

You check the coordinates again. This isn’t your first rodeo, and you’re confident you’re right for the job. It’s just the rumor you heard about Harrison last week. Sometimes the psytech spits out the wrong address or wrong name, and then you’re up the Styx without a paddle.

Gravel crunches under your tires as you pull up to the garden gate. You leave the engine running as you get out.

A twiggy, mousy-haired teenager trots up to the fence. “Hey, mister, you lost?”

“You Reynold Cole?”

“Uh, yessir.”

“Your parents Finnegan and Esmerelda?”

“Yeah? What’s it to you, mister?”

“Nothing personal.”

The property’s dense treeline mutes the sudden pop and thud.

You pocket the aneuryser and get in the car. If you hurry, you can be back in the office before Laurie’s birthday cake is gone.

It’s the first thing they teach you in the academy: When a heroic call to adventure disrupts the primary timeline, always kill the farmboy.

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.

One last thing

Day 6: Address
No Novel November 2019

Painting of a low-rise apartment building complex - Israeli Apartment House by saltytowel on DeviantArt

Cora leaves the black suit at home and covers her shock of red hair with a stocking cap despite the summer heat. Although no one would likely recognize her after what’s happened during her time away, she’s not taking any chances. The last thing she wants is for some former “friend” to shanghai her down memory lane as she wraps up this final piece of unfinished business.

This used to be their apartment. She feels a twinge of heartsickness looking at it, sweet nostalgia for another life in which she thought she had everything she wanted. But it’s easily silenced. That’s exactly what she came here to do, after all.

She closes her eyes, draws a lung-bursting breath, and lets it out one molecule at a time.

I forgive you, Jeremy. For not understanding. For being weak when I needed you to be strong. For running away without leaving. I release you to yourself and take back what’s mine.

The air is fresher somehow in the next breath. Lighter, freer.

She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a handful of gravel that she hucks at the bottom right window. The familiar face that appears there drops instantly from anger into gobsmacked disbelief. His eyes widen, his jaw drops.

Cora grins and waves.

Then there’s a crack of blue lightning so bright he falls away from the window. When he scrambles back through the curtains, she’s gone.

He wonders if she was ever there at all.

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.

Nothing to See Here

Day 4: Nothing
No Novel November 2019

Polymer clay sculpture of a sideshow carnival magician with cards, white dove, and white rabbit - The Magician 4 by wingdthing via DeviantArt

“Any volunteers?”

Several hands shot up from the crammed benches in front of the ramshackle stage. The carnival had arrived at its final stop, and the crowd had showed up with first-night enthusiasm. Everybody loves a big finish. And Mister Mysterio, Master of Magic and Mysticism, intended to give them one.

“Yes, you! The lady with the intriguing hat. Come right up. Don’t be shy.”

The volunteer tiptoed up to the platform where Mysterio took her hand with exaggerated chivalry and walked her to an oversized box festooned with patchy stars.

“And now, Miss…Sandra, thank you…Miss Sandra will enter the Shadow Box where I shall make her disappear!”

Sandra giggled nervously and stepped inside.

Mysterio rolled his shirtsleeves to the elbow. “Nothing up my sleeve.” He took off his worn bowler. “Nothing under my hat.” He stomped on the boards. “Nothing under the stage.” Then he bowed to the lady and closed the door with a click.

With a flourish of his wand, the magician tapped three times on each wall of the box. There was a sound like blowing a bubble in reverse, then he turned the knob and opened the door.

The only thing inside was an evaporating green mist.

The crowd erupted, and Mysterio luxuriated in the applause. But when he headed offstage rather than back to the box, the cheers turned to angry murmurs.

“Ah, ah,” he chided, wagging a white-gloved finger. “I promised to make her disappear. I never said anything about bringing her back.”

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.