Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Louder

Skullwall.jpg
At first, it was small.
It was the sound of footsteps padding behind them. Surely, just paranoia. It was dark here. Claustrophobic, too, and laced with the ancient scent of death and earth. They inhaled, and in their mind’s eye, stepped back in time to see fresh bodies packed tight.
The newly-engaged couple had gone to Paris and dared each other to explore the infamous ghastly catacombs. In the 1700s, the cemeteries were crowded, so the French stored their dead under the city, reinforcing tunnels. To this day, their bones were stacked high and far, skulls grinning vacantly in the darkness.
They trespassed late at night, avoiding guards and slipping into the catacombs. But the cameras saw them. They crackled with white static a moment after, causing a guard’s head to turn to the display. He sat up in his chair, cursing, and oblivious to the interlopers.
The pair moved deeper into the catacombs, and what was small swelled. The footsteps. One set became many, coupled with the dry scratching of bone against stone. Their nerves broke. They ran, flashlight rays bouncing against walls of skeletons. In the brief illumination, they could see bones move, dust shaking loose from remains.
Their flashlight flickered, then died.
Pitch-black consumed them.
Then so did the others.

I wrote this piece for the 200-Word Tuesdays Magazine, selecting the theme of "Catacombs." I'll add a link to the story when they post it. Right now they're going through a bit of a transition, so when that's complete I'll update this entry. Just wanted to post something fun because I haven't in a while. Been pretty busy with the manuscript.
Take care, everyone!
 Larysia 

Image credit goes to Scottt Stulberg Photography

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Rider-In-Waiting



             
           The sound was like a scythe cutting through air followed by a thunderous rumble. People perked up in the ruined streets like prey, eyes stretching wide in alarm. Women grabbed children, men grabbed women, and they ran. They scurried into buildings—former homes, shops, schools—and bolted down to the dugouts within them. Some reached safety in time before the airstrike dropped its bombs. 

            Others did not. 

            Kashif’s mother threw her boy into the building. Hands pulled him in over the threshold and slammed the double doors shut.

            But that did nothing. 

            Light, bright and wrathful, poured in from around the frame and between the hinges. The room briefly illuminated with heaven-like rays before the doors blew inwards. Everyone shrieked, a crescendo of mortality briefly muted by a chorus of explosions.

            Kashif watched his mother amidst the light. She reached out to him, feet above the ground, hovering like an angel. Then a great plume of fire blossomed like a lotus, engulfing her. The flames roared, licking his flesh before sending him backwards.

            The men beside him were launched off their feet. Together, the trio sailed until they hit a wall. The man on his left was crushed by one of the metal doors. The one on his right managed to shield him. He crumpled atop Kashif, who laid there dazed.

            The boy’s ears rang. His insides hurt. The weight of the man made it impossible to breathe. Grunting, he shoved with his skinny arms, moving the limp form just enough to wiggle free. He took a peek at the man, who was still. 

            He didn’t look hurt. But sometimes the dead never did. He saw when they were scavenging once, coming across a bloated ashen girl. She rested like a fallen stone cherub, milky unfaltering stare captivated by oblivion. Concussive shock, his mother muttered when he asked. He wanted her to explain what that was and she shook her head, growing somber, removing the girl’s shoes that were now his.

            Suddenly, the man coughed. Blood sprayed from his mouth, marking Kashif’s pointy face. He wiped his cheek with the back of his hand and staggered away as the man gurgled. He locked gazes with him. Panic coupled with resignation. They both knew the man was going to die.

            Kashif emitted a low whimper before erupting in tears. He limped outside, ignoring the pain in his chest and the flowing sticky wetness under his nose.

            “Mama!” He cried, entering a void of hot dust. 

The haze was thick. Grey and orange filtered his vision through a white layer of dust from disintegrated concrete. Wincing, Kashif coughed, expelling the particles that wanted to settle in his lungs. Ruby droplets coated his tongue. He lifted his t-shirt over his nose and let his eyes water.

            Towers of smoke danced to the great blue sky, undulating in time with flames. Smoke and fire intertwined, flirting with one another before parting briefly. They would always rejoin, embracing playfully. Wispy fingers beckoned the boy to have fun with them, but he refused. 

            He needed to find his mother.

            The crackling fire was punctuated by screams. “Mama?” His head snapped to each sound, struggling to see who it belonged to. But the harder he squinted, the more he realized he didn’t want to see. 

Figures appeared from the dusty fog, misshapen monsters. A weeping female figure shambled towards him, reaching out, but missing a hand. With a small cry, he turned around to see another form pulling itself along by the arms. There were no legs trailing behind, only a crimson trail. 

            Kashif shrieked, running and crying for his mother. He ran through the street, now hell’s forge. Hot embers and ash peppered the ground. He was thankful for the rubber soles protecting his feet. Shadows moved within the fog, becoming exaggerated silhouettes that looked like bouncing imps. The boy passed a cluster of little demons, seeing they were in actuality a man digging at a fresh heap of ruin, shouting names at it.

            He ran up to the man. Kashif tugged on his robe. The man looked at him for a moment, and then turned back to the quiet rubble. Kashif screamed, tugging harder. The man backhanded him, sending him to the ground.

            “My daughter!” He yelled, throwing his hands at the collapsed home. “My wife! I must find them! Help or leave!”

            The boy put a hand to his stinging cheek. Pitch figures slunk from the ruin. The man was oblivious to them, continuing to dig as their red, glowing eyes found Kashif’s. With long fingers, they pointed at him before shooting straight up like dark pillars. He scrambled to his feet and fled, hyperventilating until the world spun. With a gasping breath, he collapsed.

            He landed face-down on soiled earth. He heaved, coughing. This time the pain in his chest was electric. His tiny body jolted. After a moment, he realized with shame that he had wet himself.  He coughed again. A gout of blood pushed up from his throat. Whimpering, he sat up, forcing himself to his knees. He took a shaky breath, noticing the hot acrid smoke suddenly smelling of incense.  

            “Kashif …”

            The boy started and looked up when he heard his mother’s voice. “Muh-mah—” In the heat of the desert on fire, he froze.

His mother was astride a horse. 

It was a massive horse, unlike any of the ones he had seen before. This was not the sleek horses of the sands. No, the beast was large and muscular like it could move mountains. That, and it was a sickly colour. Green and grey, like rotting meat. Like all the bodies that had been dragged from ruins after they started to stink. It chomped on its bit revealing a bloated, bruised tongue.

His mother stared down at him, her eyes as milky and faraway as the dead girl’s had been. With horror, he noticed the burns. Her flesh melted and split, disfiguring her once blemish-less skin. Her arm was bent at an unnatural angle. Her right leg was missing at the knee.

Stand, my son,” she said, her lips moving unnaturally.

Kashif rose, putting his hands in front of the wet stain, embarrassed and frightened. Whatever this animated flesh was, it was not his mother. There was no kindness, no love, but a vast emptiness.
She held out her good arm, bending down. “Come with me.”

He shook his head, taking a step back, seeing that the horse had a mass of shadows circling at its iron shoes. “No.” He said meekly.

The rider’s hand remained outstretched. “Come, Kashif. I have found you. Let me take you away from here.”

A wild neighing from behind caused him to jump. He looked over his shoulder. There reared another horse on its back legs, kicking its front hooves boastfully. It too was unlike any he had seen before. Its coat was redder than flame and wetter than blood. It donned armour, like a warhorse. The only thing that was familiar about it was its slender Arabian build. This was a desert horse.

He saw men on the street behind the red horse as if they were a moving backdrop. The men were armed. The muzzles of their guns flashed and more people screamed. Survivors were gunned down. Kashif felt the corners of his lips twitch into a grin when the man who hit him crumpled to the ground, at last reuniting with his daughter and wife.

“Hurry!” The rider on the first horse urged.

That was another thing Kashif noticed—the crimson horse had no rider.

The red steed dropped to all fours and the ground trembled. It let out heavy breaths, nostrils flaring. Gun smoke trailed from its nose and mouth. With a soft whicker, the horse bowed its head and bent its front legs forward.

The invitation to climb on its back was clear.

Be my rider, Kashif, he could hear it say. Live another day.
 
Only to die another,” the first rider interrupted his thoughts. He turned back to it, seeing no longer his mother, but a great hooded figure. He tried to look for a discernable feature, but couldn’t. It was like staring into an abyss. Kashif backed further away from the first horse and its rider, finally spinning around to bolt to the crimson steed. 

The scent of oil and copper assaulted his olfactory system. He pulled himself into the saddle, gripping the reins. He had never been on a horse before, but the creature knew what to do. It faced the men with guns and confidently trotted towards them. Kashif pressed against the beast, scared, but they cheered at red horse’s approach. The boy let out a sigh of relief as the men welcomed him, too. He looked over his shoulder.

The rider, his horse, and merciful offer were gone.

Still, he stared after them.

And until his last breath, always would.

I was invited to write this story for an unrealism anthology that will be published later this year. Since I have permission to post this on my blog, I'm sharing this now. Once I have details regarding the e-book I will post them.
           This story was inspired by the travesty in Aleppo. Many times civilians are forced to make a decision between death and joining radicals to live another day. Hopefully I have given the subject matter justice, because that's nothing I can do for the people there.
The image isn't mine and I don't know who it belongs to. Let me know and I can add credit. Thanks!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Endless Exchange

Life sat at Earth’s Great Oaken Table, hands resting in Her lap as She waited for Her partner to arrive. The ivory chess pieces before Her whinnied and neighed, rustled and shouted. She smiled, watching the green, living board and all the creatures on it. Soon, a shadow darkened the other half of the board. Gothic ebony pawns, knights, rooks, and bishops materialized from thin air, followed by a King and his Queen.

“Let’s skip the pleasantries, shall we?” Death said. “We have a game to play.”

Life nodded, heart heavy, and hit the clock. Death rapped skeletal fingers against the table. Life sent a pawn forward, and thus began a timeless game.

In a matter of turns, dark knights reared, cutting through Her pawns, sieging Her rooks, beheading Her bishops, and savaging Her Queen. White pieces lay scattered beside the board. A pale lonely King was on his knees amidst a sea of blood. “I thought you’d be better at this by now.” Death remarked, taking him. “I always win, friend. Why we still compete, I never know.”

“Hope,” Life replied, eyes shining with tears.

Death smiled, realizing why he loved his dear foolish companion so. “You beautiful romantic.” He hit the clock.

In a stronghold, nuclear weapons were armed by another pawn. Then launched.

Hey, all!

I wrote this piece for the 200-Word Tuesdays Magazine. I selected November’s theme of "Checkmate." 

Thanks for reading!

Take care!

Larysia

Disclaimer: Picture of Peter Ganine Vintage "Gothic" Sculpted Tournament chess set is not mine.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Writing Pet Peeves

Pet peeves.
Things that drive us nuts.
We all have them.
Since taking writing seriously, I’ve acquired some dedicated specifically to the craft. I acknowledge that writing is difficult sometimes. Occasionally we don’t feel motivated, inspired, or are just plain stuck and suffering from writer’s block. I personally see that as part of the experience and thus, not so much an annoyance, but something writers have to learn to overcome through continuous trial. It’s a challenge. A measure of perseverance against our own nature. So, that said, my true beef isn’t with the craft itself, but rather the networking side of writing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve encountered amazing, talented writers who have been nothing but supportive. A handful will be listed below with details and links to their blog. However, what I am referring to is more of the toxic or unprofessional aspects of networking.
Here we go!
  1. Writers Who Don’t Write
This is rightly first on my list.

We all know someone who has been brainstorming notes for their debut magnum opus for years. They haven’t gone past scribbles in a notebook they take to Starbucks. They never try harder than telling everyone about their great ideas. They don’t even attempt to get themselves involved in the writing community (online or otherwise). Simply put, they expect people to acknowledge their alleged brilliance without having put in any work.

I get that at some point we’re all aspiring. We have to start somewhere. I also realize some people merely write for hobby. However, my issue is with writers who want to be taken seriously. People who want us to open our pockets for them one day and buy their work. Thankfully, talk is cheap. So cheap it’s worthless.

I am a firm believer in surrounding yourself with motivated, like-minded individuals who want to succeed. Those are the kind of people who will inspire and challenge you. Unfortunately, wannabes tend to be stuck in an ambitionless rut and are best to steer clear from until they decide it’s time to actually write.

  1. Auto DMs
These are the bane of my Twitter existence.

Everyone has gotten these. Someone follows you, you follow them, and minutes later you’re sent a cold message about buying their book, connecting with them on other social media, and in rare cases, offering to 5-Star your book on Amazon if you 5-Star theirs!
I find these to be thoroughly obnoxious and in the latter example, disgustingly unprofessional.

When I get an automatic direct message, I block the user. I don’t want spam. Nor do I want to interact with a bot.

I only buy books from authors on Twitter if I’ve scoped out their work, interacted positively with them, and if they haven’t pushed their novel on me. Online, I want to get to know an author before I buy their work. I hate to say it, but that’s because some self-published authors aren’t selling quality work like the aforementioned Author McFiveStar. (That said, I do question how some authors have gotten traditionally published, as well.)

I understand that authors are busy. I get that writers can be socially awkward. However, if you’re not willing to put in the time, effort, and commitment to putting yourself out there, you won’t have much success with an online platform. Readers want to interact with genuine authors. Otherwise, what’s the point?

  1. Defensiveness to Feedback
This one makes me cringe.

From my old fanfiction days to now, there’s always someone who asks for me to critique their work and doesn’t take it well when I’m anything less than wild over it.

I give constructive criticism. The kind where I take into consideration someone’s attachment to their work, being sure to mention all the positives, and then where I have my concerns and what can potentially be done to improve upon them. I know my opinion isn’t the end-all and be-all. But chances are, they respect it in some way because they wanted to hear it in the first place. So when people become upset with me, I regret wasting my time.

Writing has to be held to a standard. As a writer, if I have concerns with the work of my peers, I will tell them. We must elevate each other’s work, not hide behind niceties because we’re scared to burst someone’s bubble.

If you’re approaching other authors for an ego stroke, don’t come to me. I have better parlour tricks than blowing smoke up someone’s arse. Only come to me (or anyone else, for that matter) humble and ready to accept more work may potentially be ahead of you. After all, every day we should work hard to become better at what we do, no matter what level we’re at.
After all that venting, I can finally do some praising! Check out these folks below if you’re interested in checking out some fantastic authors and good people.


J.D. Estrada is one of the most hardest-working and interactive self-published authors I’ve encountered. His urban fantasy series, The Human Cycle, features vampires, werewolves, demons, angels, and more on a quest to save the world with the human protagonist, Nathaniel Runnels. But he has more than just novels under his belt! J.D. has a great variety of content including poetry, YouTube videos, and of course, blog posts. Check out his blog For writing out loud.


“The story that cheerfully breaks the rules and gets away with it.”
“Thanks to the skill of this storyteller—who concocts a delicious blend of mystery and history—we are blown away by the premise and the structure. A delight to read from beginning to end.”
“One of the best opening lines I’ve read.”
“Brilliant comic timing!”
Dialogue that shows “remarkable command over the spoken word.”
“… a light touch to leave the reader both pensive and thoroughly entertained.” 

People who should know better have said these things about the work of Dublin-based writer Richard Gibney, who compiled these quotes for this bio on Larysia’s blog all by hisself. Also an editor, he’s keen to work with fellow creatives in this area, rather than the mind-numbing assembly-line stuff he often has to otherwise churn out. He’s currently seeking an agent for his novel The Quantum Eavesdropper, and he hopes to publish a short story collection, Fade to Black, in the near future. Read his blog Ragtag giggagon!

Eric Syrdal is a wordsmith unlike any other. This Poetic Planeswalker hails from Louisiana and is a proud geek, playing D&D, Magic the Gathering, and plenty of videogames. Read his work to be taken to another time and place. And, if you’re a writer, be prepared to be jealous when it comes to his word choice and achingly beautiful romanticism. Truly, he’s one of my inspirations when it comes to poetry. Have a look at his blog to don My Sword and Shield!

California resident Stephen Cleath is newer to Twitter, but has had made quite the impact with his sincerity, enthusiasm, and imaginative flashfiction. Highly introverted and empathic, he’s a sensitive and creative soul (who would like a red panda as a pet). A Whovian, Browncoat, Wizard, and most importantly, a proud uncle, Stephen has many titles he adores. Read his blog An insatiable reader ...

If you live in Edmonton, chances are you know Azeez Ahmed. This social butterfly is an aspiring indie screenwriter and filmmaker. His favourite directors are Christopher Nolan, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorcece, and Matthew Vaughn. Azeez’s also a fiend with words, doing anything from writing exquisite poems to spitting rhymes. Breaking into the Twitter scene as of late, he’s getting into the groove of social networking and would love to interact with everyone! Check out his blog and board The Eh Train!
Thanks and take care, everyone!
Larysia