Monday, November 29, 2010

Vampires And Almost First Kisses

Jack stands beside me, mouth open, eyes wide, as we stare down into an empty trunk. The heat of the exhaust burns my leg through my jeans, but I can’t move away from it. The trunk is empty.

“Where the hell’d it go?” Jack asks.

I shake my head. “How’d it get out?”

Jacky slams the trunk closed and turns around to lean against it. I do the same. The cicadas buzz so loud out here at night it’s impossible to hear anything else, so there’s no point being on guard. Besides, not even Jack can outrun a pissed off vampire. After being knocked over the head with a tire iron, wrapped in silver chains, and thrown in a trunk, I’m sure I’d be pretty pissed too. Vampires aren’t known for their happy-go-lucky attitudes.

“What do you wanna do?” I ask.

“I guess we go home.”

“We can’t go home without finishing a job, Jacky. You know that.”

He shrugs. “Who has to know?”

He’s right. Mama would kill us if she knew I was on a vamp hunt, on account I’m only supposed to be doing ghosts and only one hunt a week, so we didn’t tell her about it. And this was a side job; Jacky didn’t get the order from Mac, his boss with bounty hunting and at the garage, so he doesn’t know either. It’s probably not the smartest thing to do, going out without telling anyone in case something happens, like a vampire goes missing from your trunk. But Jack needed the money to fix the Chevelle, and the pay was right.

I steal a glance at Jack and watch him fish a pack of camel cigarettes from the pocket of his flannel shirt. I could tell myself I’m just along for the ride, but I’ve never been much of a liar. Jack taps out a cigarette and leans forward to light it. His dark hair falls over his eyes. I have to fight the urge to brush it back so I can see his eyes.

“So we goin’ home or you feel like lookin’ for it?” He blows out a puff of smoke, rubs his fingers over his sideburns.

“What about the client?”

He shrugs. “I’ll handle it.”

Mama isn’t home and she thinks I’m at Amanda’s house. I don’t want to go home and be bored and alone. And Jacky could really use the money to fix up the car. It feels wrong to back out now. “Let’s just go find it. Not like we had any other plans for tonight.”

“Fine by me,” he says, tossing his cigarette to the ground. “It can’t be too far. Split up?”
I want more than anything to prove myself to Jack, but splitting up on a vamp hunt? Especially one who is bound to be madder than hornets and was smart enough to get out of a locked trunk? “I think we should stick together on this one,” I say.

“Yeah, probably right. Damn things are hard enough to catch the first time.” Jack takes his Colt out of the glove compartment, double checks to make sure it’s loaded with the silver bullets with crosses etched into them, and then he grabs the bottle of holy water from the duffle bag in back of the car. He tosses it at me along with my stake--cow oak, Daddy made it for me.
“Get the chain too?”

“Good idea,” he says smiling at me. I turn away so he doesn’t see the blush on my cheeks. Once we’re both fully loaded, we head down the dirt road, leaving the Chevelle behind. Hunting is always done best on foot. If we get too far ahead, we’ll go back and move the car farther up the road. It takes a lot of time, but the car is too loud to find anything. And if we leave it too far back? Vampires are very fast.

Out of all the monsters we hunt, vampires are my least favorite. Fast, strong, and on top of that, they’ve got God-only-knows how many years of intelligence and experience. The perfect predator.

“Any theories on how it got out?” Jack asks.

“Um.” I rack my brain for something smart to say. I’m no expert on any of the Darks, Jacky is. He usually knows everything, but he’s asking me what I think. “They’re strong. It could’ve just broken the lock and we didn’t notice.”

“The lock looked fine to me.”

“Oh.” I ramble off a few other theories, just to have something to say. Then all of a sudden Jacky stops at a wall of trees. He sniffs at the air.

“It’s in here.”

“You sure?”

He nods. “I’ve been out here before. Lot’s of times. It smells different.”
“You come way out here? For what?” My lips snap shut as soon as I ask. None of my business what he does when he’s not working, much as I want it to be.
He shrugs. “It’s quiet.”

I listen, expecting to hear the cicadas, but there’s nothing. No sounds from the main road. No bugs. No owls. Nothing but heavy quiet. Jack hears things ten times louder than normal people, so I get his need for quiet. “It’s nice.” Well, except for the vampire somewhere in the dark.
“Yeah, and look at that.”

I follow his gaze up to the sky. It’s the most velvety blue, with more stars than I’ve ever seen. “Wow.”

Jack laughs and nudges my shoulder. I smile at him, close my eyes and breathe him in; cigarettes, cologne, and something else. Something unique to Jack that I can only describe as woodsy. His fingers find mine and lock together. He squeezes my hand. “You ready to go in?”

“Yeah.” I try to let go of his hand, even though I really don’t want to, and take the first step into the dark woods, but he pulls me back.

“Wait. Hey, Charlie?”

“Yeah, Jack?”

“There’s somethin’ I been wantin’ to do. And I know now ain’t the best time but--” He looks up at the sky, so full of stars, “--before we go in there.” He brings his free hand up to touch my hair. His thumb brushes my cheek and I suck in a breath. “I wanted to thank you. For comin’ out here with me tonight, even though you didn’t have to. And for, you know, huntin’ it twice.” He chews on his lip, brings his face a little closer to mine.

I draw a breath, steeling myself. This is it. He’s finally going to make a move. He leans in closer. I can just imagine how his lips will feel on mine. I’ve imagined it thousands of times.

A twig snaps. Jack’s shoulders stiffen and his head flips up, looking over me. “Aw, sh—”The vampire sails into him sending them both flying into the trees.

“Jack!” I chase after them, cursing the whole way. Stupid vampires.

The vampire throws him into a tree, splinters of wood go flying, and then he pins Jack up against it. “I’ve never tasted a werewolf before,” he says. “I’ve always thought you guys had more hair.”

Jack shoves him back. But the vampire is up and after him again before he can get himself away from the tree. They wrestle, the vampire hissing and Jacky growling. Then the vampire shoves Jack up against another tree.

“I’m a hairless. It’s a new breed,” Jack says to the vampire, but his eyes are on me. He sees me sneaking up from behind the vamp. We both know the damn thing could hear me miles away, but the big bad wolf never expects much from little red.

The vampire laughs. He throws his head back, mouth open, in that annoying way they all do right before they bite. I take that split second to pull my stake from its holster and drive it into his back. He screeches, then falls dead at my feet, shriveling up into the old, moldy corpse he should be.

Jack brushes some wood splinters and tree bark from his shoulders. “Damn thing almost bit me.”
“Now you know I wouldn’t allow that.” Especially after it interrupted what I hope was our almost first kiss. I really hate vampires.

“Nice work,” he says, pulling out my stake and wiping it off on his jeans. “Let’s get this to the client and collect.”

“Yeah.” I kick the corpse.

Jack, only slightly out of breath, eyes glistening with adrenaline, grabs it by the ankle and starts dragging it back toward the car, forgetting all about what almost happened. I could tell myself I’m glad the vampire turned up so that Jacky and me could get paid for finding it. But I’ve never been much of a liar.

Check back Wednesday for another full short by Natalie!

Photo by {peace&love♥} on flickr

Monday, November 22, 2010

We Break for Turkeys

In honor of the day of baked birds and cranberries, we are taking a break this week because - let's face it - it's hard to write in a food coma.  We will be back the week of November 29th with individual short stories from each of us.  And we'll have a fresh batch of tangles coming in December! 

Our schedule will look a little something like this with fewer question marks:

Nov. 29 - Dec. 3: Individual Shorts - LNV
Dec. 6 - 10: LVN
Dec. 13 - 17: VNL
Dec. 20 - 24: WE BREAK FOR ELVES
Dec. 27 - 31: Something clever? Individual shorts? Witty conversation? A post dedicated to the number of words you can spell with LVN?

Also!  A quick reminder that you can find all of the pieces of our various stories neatly cobbled together in our Tangles Past Archive.  The link for this is also in our nav bar (above) for quick and easy access because we love you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  We'll see you on the flip side!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kiss Of Death (Part 3 of 3)

Johnathan’s lips brushed her nose, then her cheek. As his kisses neared her mouth, a pounding at the door startled them both. Johnathan motioned for Rosemina to be still.

“Woodsman! Open your door, by order of the Queen!”

Rosemina was at once frightened and relieved. The guard at the door was surely here to escort her to the gallows, yet he had very likely saved the Woodsman from meeting the Prince’s fate. Rosemina stepped away from Johnathan, covering her traitorous lips with one hand. How could she have thought to kiss him when he had been so kind?
“Woodsman!” The guard shouted again.

"Cover your face," he spoke softly to Rosemina and gestured to the bed where a small pile of blankets sat folded at the foot. "All will be well. I promise you."

“Wait,” she begged as the guard again pounded on the door. It was not only her face that would belie the truth of her identity, but the satin and velvet of her garments. With her hands moving as quickly as her heart, Rosemina wrapped herself from head to toe in the gray and brown blankets of homespun and wool.

Just as she lowered a thin piece of gray wool over her face, the Woodsman opened the door, for fear the guard would burn his meager home to ashes.  As the guard pushed Johnathan aside to enter, Rosemina could see through the fibers before her eyes that the Queen had again ordered his helmet sealed at the neck. Her kisses would be no defense against this man. It would take the magic of the Queen’s sorcerers to unbind that metal.

“Please,” Johnathan opened his hands before him. Empty as they were, Rosemina now knew they saw the world as clearly as did her own eyes. “Forgive me, good sir, my wife is ill and tired and wishes no visitors. What is it the Queen desires of a humble Woodsman and his wife?”

Rosemina found it difficult not to gasp and fidget as Johnathan spoke. Again she thought of the Prince and his beautiful smile as he said the word ‘wife.’ Only a few moments after, he was dead.

The guard loomed very near Rosemina. She could see as little of his face as he could of hers, but she was certain he scowled behind the metal shield. Much as she wanted to, she did not move lest her wrappings fall away and reveal the riches hidden beneath them.

“Your wife, you say?” When the guard spoke, his breath was strong and sour through the grate. Rosemina stifled a cough and wondered that more people weren’t killed by kisses. Surely a mouth that rotten was every bit as poisonous as her own lips. “What’s wrong with her face?”

“As I said, she is quite ill. The – light. It’s too much for her eyes.” The pause was a small one, but noticeable and Rosemina coughed in the hopes of convincing the guard of her illness. But it was not enough and the guard demanded she remove her shawl and turn her face to him.

It took very little imagination to know the guard’s lips curled back over his rotten teeth as Rosemina slowly removed the cloth from her head. “Now, prove she’s your wife,” the guard said and Rosemina shivered. “Kiss her.”

“No,” she whispered as Johnathan took her face in his hands, but he whispered over her lips that all would be well. But Rosemina was not convinced. No man in his right mind would have moved to kiss her so quickly. There was no doubt in her mind that Johnathan had been compelled.

His lips fell on hers before she could draw another breath to protest and even as the warmth of them soothed her, she felt that this kiss was no different from all of the others. Again she cast her wish to the sky, Let there be one soul whose life would not end with her kiss. Let that soul be his, but even as she did, she remembered the smell of roses and despaired.

If she could have made that kiss last a lifetime, she would have, for his lips were sweet as honey. But Johnathan, who was perhaps more aware of the guard’s gaze than Rosemina, pulled his lips from hers. It was done, her fate and his sealed with a kiss. She would either die today or a Woodsman’s wife.

Rosemina drew a deep breath, looked into Johnathan’s clouded eyes, and again dared to hope.

Thank you for reading!  Remember, if you'd like to read the full story, check out our archive.  We'll be taking one week off for Thanksgiving, but starting Nov. 29th, come back for individual short stories by each of us!
Photo via - if this is your photo let us know so we can credit you!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kiss Of Death (Part 2 of 3)

The Prince gave Rosemina’s hand a reassuring squeeze and she turned to him just in time to see his face go slack. “My lord?”

Without a word, the Prince collapsed dead at her feet.

A stunned silence befell the spectators. Rosemina stood frozen, gazing down at the Prince’s body, willing him to wake. Surely, he was playing a trick. He had been protected by the kingdom’s finest physicians and most powerful sorcerers. If anyone were to break her curse, it would be him.

When the Prince didn’t rouse, the Queen ordered her men to arrest Rosemina. But Rosemina was light on her feet, and the men were clad in heavy armor. She pushed her way through the crowd and headed into the forest. She ran as fast and far as she was able, until she came upon a small clearing where she fell to her knees and wept.

“Hello,” said a voice from the shadows of the wood. The figure of a young man came toward her. Rosemina shied away, not wanting to meet the eyes of anyone, let alone another man. “Don’t be frightened,” he said. “My name is Johnathan.” The man held out his hand.

“My name is…Magnaline.” Rosemina pulled her hood up over her head and tried to shield her face. She knew that if he were to see her, he too would be compelled to kiss her. She would not send another innocent man to his death. “Don’t look at me. Please.”

Johnathan laughed. “I wouldn’t dare,” he said as he stepped out of the shadows. Johnathan was plain but handsome. His well-groomed hair fell over his ears in light brown waves, but the feature that stood out to her most were his eyes, cloudy grey and unfocused.

“You’re blind?”

“Yes, but even I know that you’ve been weeping. I don’t live very far. If you’d like, I could offer you a meal and a place to sleep, and return you safely to your home in the morning. ”

Rosemina knew, as horrible as it were, that if this man proved to be untrustworthy she needed only to kiss him. Having nowhere else to go, and not much light left in the day, she accepted his offer and followed him to a quaint little cottage nestled deep within the forest.

Johnathan prepared a small meal for the two and readied his own bed with clean linens for Rosemina. He hadn’t asked why Rosemina had been crying or where she had come from, but she felt after the kindness he’d shown her, that he deserved to know her story. “My name isn’t Magnaline,” she said.


Rosemina detected the amusement in his voice. “You know who I am, don’t you?”

“I’ve heard tell of a girl so beautiful that no man can resist her kiss.”

“And you’ve heard of what becomes of such men?”

“I have. And I know that this girl was summoned by the Prince only this morning. One can only assume the lady’s curse remains unbroken?”

A wave of sadness overcame Rosemina at the mention of the young Prince.

“Rosemina?” Johnathan reached across the table and caressed her cheek. “May I?”

“Yes,” she whispered. Johnathan moved his hand down her chin. He felt her jaw, her nose, her brow. “You are beautiful,” he said. A tear fell from her cheek onto his thumb. “Come.” Johnathan stood and pulled her to her feet.

“No,” she said. “You mustn’t.”

He smiled. “I cannot be compelled to kiss you, Rosemina.” He held out his hand. “Perhaps I could be the one to break this curse.”

Rosemina hesitated. If she took his hand, he would pull her to him. He would kiss her, she was certain. She wanted more than anything to break her curse, and he was a man who could not be lured by her beauty. A man who could kiss her of his own free will. But if it didn’t work, could she watch him die at her hand?

“I promise you, it will be worth it,” he said. “For the both of us.”

So distraught and full of longing, Rosemina made her wish again, Let there be one soul whose life would not end with her kiss. Let that soul be his. She stepped closer to Johnathan and took his hand.

He wrapped his arms around her. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to hope. Johnathan’s lips brushed her nose, then her cheek. As his kisses neared her mouth, a pounding at the door startled them both. Johnathan motioned for Rosemina to be still.

“Woodsman! Open your door, by order of the Queen!”

Come back Friday for the conclusion by Natalie!
Photo via - if this is your photo let us know so we can credit you!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kiss Of Death (Part 1 of 3)

Rosemina first encountered her curse at age five when the neighbor boy chased her behind the rosebushes, pressed his sticky, candy-covered lips against hers and promptly fell down dead. To this day the taste of chocolate and the scent of roses are synonymous with death in Rosemina’s mind.

Rosemina’s beauty was exquisite. So lovely was she, that every boy who laid eyes upon her felt compelled to kiss her. And so it was many years, and many ill-fated kisses, before Rosemina and the rest of the village came to understand it was not merely misfortune that caused all of her suitors to die. It was Rosemina.

You see, her lips were poisonous.

The town leaders held a meeting and it was decided that Rosemina must be confined to her house whenever possible. At those times when it was necessary she venture out, her lips must always be covered, lest any boy unable to control his urges be killed.

Rosemina’s father built a cottage in the forest at the very edge of town and there she spent her days, shunned and alone.

The years passed and Rosemina grew both lovelier and lonelier. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Rosemina made a wish on a falling star. Let there be one soul whose life would not end with her kiss. One soul she could love and be loved by.

The next morning Rosemina woke to a vigorous pounding on the cottage door. Her father’s shouts brought her into the front room where he struggled with men in full armor. “You will not take her! I forbid it!”

“What is this, Father?”

At the sound of her voice, which was almost as lovely as she, the men released her father. They swayed at the sight of Rosemina and she was glad to see that as a precaution, their helmets had been sealed shut.

Rosemina listened with budding hope as her father explained that the King’s son had heard tales of her beauty and wanted to be the one to break her curse himself. She did not hear the edge of fear in her father’s voice, only the news that her wish had come true. For, surely, if anyone could break her curse, it would be a prince.

Rosemina was dizzy with happiness, an emotion so unfamiliar that she stumbled more than walked her way to the awaiting carriage. She barely noticed the way the King’s men avoided her once she was safely locked inside. Rosemina found it far more exciting to watch the world go by knowing that this time, it was she leaving it behind.

It was only when they arrived at the castle, with its great outdoor stage and crowd of spectators, that Rosemina became nervous. Before she had a chance to dwell on her fears, she was yanked from the carriage by more hands than she had ever felt at one time.

The Queen’s ladies oohed and ahhed over her as they pulled her along stone corridors, stripped her of her “filthy rags” and shoved her in the deepest, warmest bath she had ever felt. She had a moment, before the scrubbing began, to think that if heaven were anything like this, being put to death would be just fine.

When Rosemina was dressed in so much finery she could hardly stand upright, the Queen paid her a visit. Rosemina felt her cheeks go warm under the older woman’s gaze. The Queen made a slow circle around Rosemina, piercing her with a glare. “Do you intend to murder my son?”

Rosemina gasped at the Queen’s directness, but held her head high when she replied. “No, your Highness.”

The Queen cocked her head, her voice a touch warmer this time. “This curse, what do you know of it? Who cursed you?”

“I know nothing, your Highness. I believe I was born this way.”

The Queen pursed her lips and glowered at Rosemina. “Hear my words, girl. Our wisest physicians and most powerful sorcerers have prepared protective potions and talismans for the Prince, but if you bring death to this castle, it’s your head I’ll have.”

Rosemina drew in a shaky breath. “Yes, your Highness.”

“Cover her,” said the Queen to her ladies. She left the room as a velvet hood came down over Rosemina’s face, shrouding her in darkness.

As she was lead to the outdoor stage, Rosemina reminded herself that in the old stories, it was always the Prince’s kiss that broke the curse. Soon she would be free. No longer the town pariah, but a princess.

Rosemina knew she’d reached the stage when she heard the murmur of the crowd. The velvet hood was pulled gently from her head and the audience gasped. She found herself looking into the astonished eyes of the Prince.

His face broke into a wide grin. “You’re even more beautiful than the stories said.”

Rosemina tingled with pride. For the first time in her life, she was glad to be beautiful. Glad that someone wanted to kiss her. “As are you, your Highness.”

The Prince’s eyes widened with surprise and then he laughed. “I think I’m going to enjoy having you as my wife.”

Rosemina’s cheeks ached from smiling. Her years of suffering had been worthwhile if only to bring her to this moment.

The Prince held up his hand and the crowd silenced. “Now, let’s take care of that curse, shall we?”

Rosemina nodded, no longer caring if she appeared too eager. The Prince cupped her face in his hands and leaned forward. His lips were soft and warm and gentle as they touched hers. She sank into them, certain that this was what kissing was supposed to feel like. All too soon, the Prince pulled away. She opened her eyes and he grinned with pride. The crowd erupted in cheers.

Rosemina laughed with joy and relief when the Prince reached for her hand and held it aloft in victory. She looked back at the King and Queen who smiled from their thrones.

The Prince gave Rosemina’s hand a reassuring squeeze and she turned to him just in time to see his face go slack. “My lord?”

Without a word, the Prince collapsed dead at her feet.

Come back Wednesday for Part 2 written by Lacey!
Photo via - if this is your photo let us know so we can credit you!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This post brought to you by the letter 'T'

We have an announcement to make.


We have heard from a few readers that they prefer waiting until Friday to read the full story all in one go and we think this is pretty keen and have been brainstorming on how to make this easier. And we've done it. Prepare yourselves.

We have created an archive of Tangled Fiction Fulls.

Impressive, right? Once the story has been posted in full, we'll be compiling all of the pieces into a single document and loading them into the archive.

Quick side note - you'll notice that we have installed IntenseDebate in order to thread comments, so please use that feature! It will let you comment as a guest, create an IntenseDebate profile, or sign-in with your Twitter or Facebook account.

The Tangled Trio now has two completed shorts up and and I have to say our latest is my favorite so far. Seeing where Valerie and Lacey took this one was exhilarating. You can find it here: What Wishes Are Made Of.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

*Photo by hamadryades via Flickr Creative Commons (This is a vision of our future...we have room to grow!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

What Wishes Are Made Of (Part 3 of 3)

That boy didn’t fall into the well. He jumped.

I should’ve gone to the well alone.

That freaking wishing well did it. And I’m going to make sure it undoes it too.


I’m actually starting to see the appeal of sweatpants and sneakers. The hike up Harper Hill is much easier today than it was in heels. By the time I get to the well, I’m pretty calm. I’m not annoyed like I was before, back when I thought it was all hocus pocus and a waste of a Friday afternoon. I won’t waste it today. I'm not even sure what I'm doing here. I just know that I'm tired. I am so freaking tired, and I just want this to end.

The wind blows and I wrap my arms around myself. “Jesus, it’s cold.” As soon as I say it, I get that feeling. The one I’ve been dreaming about. It’s telling me that it would be warmer inside the well where there’s no wind.

My skin creeps with the feeling like someone is watching me. I scan the clearing. The old grate sits up against a tree. A crow caws from up in the branches above. But there’s nobody here but me. Me and the well.

I pull cold air in through my nose, and the smell hits me. I remember it from the first day we came up here, but it wasn’t nearly this strong. I don’t have to wonder where it’s coming from. Or what it means. I step up closer and peek down into the blackness.


When I walk into the cafeteria at lunch, I spot Liv right away. She’s not at our usual table, where Jake and the rest of the team sit, but at a table in the back. Her face is turned toward the wall, pretending not to hear the whispers. Even if she couldn’t hear them, every eye is on her, and nobody is making it subtle. How could I let this happen?

I scan the line to the concession stand for Maddy but she’s not there. I know she’d never eat a regular school lunch, but I check that line too. There’s no sign of her. I can’t even think about food, not with everything that’s going on in my head. I go straight to Liv and slide into a seat beside her. “Hey.”

“What’s up, chica?” she says without looking up. “You seen Maddy?”

I shake my head. “Not since this morning.”

“Huh. Hey, did she tell you what she wished for?”

I shake my head again. A knot forms in my stomach and I turn away from her, hoping she stops there. But I know she won’t. Liv can’t let things go.

“What did you wish for?” she asks. I tense up. I can’t answer that question. All of that happened before Liv and Maddy. It was a different life. Besides, Liv’s wish could be pure coincidence. And Maddy might really be sick. I try to make myself believe that, but at the same time some small part of me hopes it’s real.


Nina pulls her shoulders in and turns away from me. I think I deserve to know what she wished for. After all, I only made my wish because of her. Everyone in this room is staring at me like I have TRAMP stamped on my forehead. She owes me. “Well?”


“Your wish. What was it?”

“Oh. It was nothing. Kid’s stuff. Just for fun.” She looks around the room, everywhere but at me. “I’m worried about Maddy. Where is she?”

“She probably went home. She looked like death.” But Nina and I both know that’s not where Maddy went. As soon as this day is over and not everyone is staring at me, I’m going too. This time, I’ll be specific. No way am I going out like this.


It’s quiet in the woods. There’s no sign that Maddy will be at the well, but I keep hoping I’ll see her when I get there, or that she really does have a cold and she never went at all. No matter how much I want my wish to come true it can’t. Not like this.

I reach for the little bird on my bracelet, only to find the empty ring, which opens up the empty part of my heart. When he gave it to me, we were only kids, but I knew he meant it. It makes me think of you, Nina. I can still hear his voice. And I can still see the haunted look in his eyes the last time I saw him. The same one Maddy wore this morning. His smile coated with the same false sense of pride I saw in Liv today. What happened to him was my fault, and I won’t let it happen again. I can’t.

I quicken my pace and push through the last of the trees and I spill out into the clearing. There’s a figure by the well, but it’s not Maddy.


He turns to me and smiles. He looks the same as in my dream, the same as I remember; deep brown eyes and dark hair that’s neither black nor brown, but somewhere in between. He was thirteen when it happened, and he still looks it, except for something reflected in his eyes that makes him look older. Only his wet clothes and the smell of his damp skin give away where he’s been.

Luke holds out his fist. He unfolds his fingers, and in his palm rests my charm.

Come back Monday for a new story started by Valerie!

*Photo by Robyn's Nest via Flickr Creative Commons

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Wishes Are Made Of (Part 2 of 3)

“Offerings ready?” Nina nods, Maddy shrugs, and I pull mine from my pocket. “Then wish if you’ve got ‘em.”

My quarter flies first. Nina carefully drops a silver charm she’s pulled from the trite little bracelet she’s worn for years. And Maddy, not to be out done, blows in her gum.



I haven’t slept more than an hour since the day we went to that stupid wishing well. The nightmares won’t stop. I even tried staying home from school yesterday. I thought maybe I could sleep during the day but the nightmares were still there, and this time I was home alone.

So today it’s back to school. I’m so tired I actually wore sweatpants. In public.

When I walk up to Nina at her locker, she doesn’t recognize my makeup-free face. The surprised - but still friendly - expression she wears for the stranger approaching her shifts into recognition, and then concern as she realizes it’s me and I look like crap.

Worry lines form between her eyebrows. “Hey, Maddy. You still sick?”

I nod and even that feels like a monumental effort. “Yeah.”

Nina’s lips turn down in her pity pout. I must really look bad. She usually saves that for homeless people and the kids that get shoved into lockers at lunch. “Well, you weren’t really dressed for the weather when we went up to the well.”

“I know,” I say, and try to keep the anger out of my voice. It wasn’t her idea to go up there, it was Liv’s. And I could’ve said no, but I didn’t. It’s hard to believe it was only last Friday that we hiked up Harper Hill and my biggest concern was making sure I didn't fall and get my favorite skirt dirty.

This is what I get for mocking the wishing well, I guess. For spitting in it and thinking sarcastically, I wish I could get out of this place.

I don’t believe in wishes. That’s what I keep telling myself. But it’s starting to feel like the wishing well believes in me.

In the dreams, the well calls me. Not with words, but like, this feeling. And I know I have to go back. The only way to get the nightmares to stop is to go back. But I don’t want to go back. Because I understand now.

That boy didn’t fall into the well. He jumped.


I’m starting to wonder if I did the right thing.

Maddy’s eyes are so haunted. They look around, but they’re not seeing anything in the hallway. They’re focused on some other place and it’s scaring me because Maddy’s usually the one noticing everything. She spots the latest gossip as it’s happening.

I did what it wanted. I gave the well something that mattered. Something that mattered a lot. Even now my fingers reach absently for the little bird and I miss it. It’s like I threw a tiny piece of my heart away.

Maddy grabs my arm and I jump. Her grip is so tight it pinches. “What happened in your dream? The one about the well?”

I want to ask Maddy what she wished for, but then she would ask me and I can’t tell her. I can’t tell anyone, ever. Instead, I bend the truth. “My dream? That was days ago. I don’t really remember.”

“Nina,” Maddy leans close and stares me down. “I really need to know.”

The cacophony of noise in the hallway comes to a dead stop and I’m saved. The silence can only mean one thing. Liv is here. Maddy’s head jerks up in surprise. All around the hall, heads are swiveling, the conversations gradually picking back up as Liv makes her way through the crowd.

Maddy’s grip on my arm relaxes. “What’s going on?”

Liv approaches in sunglasses and a scarf tied around her head like some fifties movie star. Even as the boys laugh, and the words bitch and whore are tossed at her she holds her head high.

I sigh. “You missed a lot yesterday.”

I should’ve gone to the well alone.


Whoever said “be careful what you wish for” got it wrong. It’s not what you wish that matters, it’s how. Be specific. That’s rule number one. Watch your word choices; semantics count.

I thought being infamous would be cool. Like, badass. But it turns out the difference between being famous and being infamous is way bigger than I thought. Like, famous is being loved and admired. Infamous is having all your dirty little secrets exposed and being hated for them.

I should’ve said what I wanted to be infamous for instead of leaving it up to fate.

Nina is at my locker with some girl when I get there. They’re ripping off paper that’s been taped to the door so I won't have to see it, but it’s pointless. It’s not like I haven’t seen the photos before. The whole school has. And my parents. And the police.

Apparently the girl with Nina is the only person alive who hasn’t seen them because she’s staring at the picture in her hand with her mouth wide open. “Liv? Is that you?”

It takes me a minute to realize the strange, scruffy girl with Nina is Maddy. Wow. If I wasn’t going through my own personal hell, I might be worried about her. She looks like crap.

I swear the whole hallway hushes, waiting to see if I’m going to claim those photos. “It’s not a very good shot of my face is it?” I say, and force a grin. “At least my boobs look good.”

Nina frowns. So disappointed in me, I’m sure. Maddy just looks confused. Some jerk from the basketball team slams his fist into the locker next to my head, startling us all. “Nice job, whore.”

I’m so mad I want to punch him in the face, but I channel my inner Marilyn Monroe and keep my composure. “No one told Jake to send those pictures to the whole school.”

It’s not my fault Jake “accidentally” sexted the whole school – including the principal. Those photos were just for him. It’s not my fault he got kicked off the basketball team. It’s not my fault we both have to go to court now.

That freaking wishing well did it. And I’m going to make sure it undoes it too.

Come back on Friday for the next piece by Lacey!
*Photo by Robyn's Nest via Flickr Creative Commons

Monday, November 8, 2010

What Wishes Are Made Of (Part 1 of 3)


There’s no stopping Liv once she sets her mind to something. Today it’s visiting the old wishing well at the top of Harper Hill.

It’s Nina’s fault, of course. She should know better, but she usually doesn’t and at lunch she confessed to having had a dream about the well. I didn’t get the details, but Liv did. Her eyes lit up, and that was the end of it. Instead of an after school trip to the mall, we’re out on a nature hike in search of wishes. I don’t believe in wishes, so this is basically a giant waste of a Friday afternoon.

We’re not supposed to go there. Not since that boy fell in and died however many years ago, but Liv gets off on the rush of doing things she shouldn’t. She likes to flirt with the idea of having a bad girl reputation. But not like smoking or having sex bad. Rebellion lite, she calls it. Bad enough. That’s how I know this is more about her than Nina.

It’s always about Liv.

She’s out ahead of me, moving way too fast up the steep path. My gum is hard as a rock, my nose is starting to run, and my feet are numb. If I’d known we’d be spending our afternoon mountain climbing, I definitely would not have chosen the three inch heel, knee boots.

“This better be worth it,” I yell, but Liv only waves her hand in the air.

Nina turns, always the peacemaker, and mouths, “Sorry.” It doesn’t really matter if she is or isn’t, we’re still clawing our way up an invisible path to visit a wishing well she saw in her dream.



I never would have come alone.

The woods are cold and quiet. I hear the wind tossing pine needles overhead, but the trees are old and tall. Nothing stirs around us except our own breath. Three continuous streams of white clouds. The sound of our steps is all there is and it’s as if we are all there is.

“I see it!” Liv sings, victorious, and moves more quickly than before.

“’bout freaking time,” Maddy mutters, but I know she’s just as curious as we are. Sullen is sort of a lifestyle for her.

A tremor passes over my shoulders; cold, fear or excitement, I’m not sure which, but I shove my hands into the pocket of my hoodie and jog behind her.

In my dream, everything was grey. The well was little more than a low piling of slate stones with holes around the lip where the wrought iron grate had been torn away. It was too deep to see any way, but the smell of it hovered just around the opening.

There were no words in the dream. It was just me and the well and the overwhelming sense that I needed to come. When I woke, I knew what my wish would be.

“No wonder that kid died,” Liv says, her voice loud as a wolf’s cry in the silence around us.

“Jesus.” Maddy rests her hands on her knees. I’m not sure if she’s talking about the well or the hike.

“Don’t be dramatic.” Liv moves right up to the edge of the well and leans over as casually as if she were considering a pair of satin pumps. “Is this how it looked in your dream, Nina?”

It is exactly as it looked in my dream, but that seems strange to say. I shrug. “Yeah, I mean, mostly.”


There’s nothing in that well but black. The bottom could be ten or one hundred feet below me and it would look the same to me: a solid plane of nothing. I’m pretty sure any dream involving this place wasn’t so much a dream as it was a nightmare, but Nina has a way with understatement the way Maddy has a way with black eyeliner.

I hold my hands out to the side and step up onto the crumbling stone lip. Nina gasps and Maddy mutters something under her breath. They’re both jealous in their own ways. Neither of them is fond of taking risks. That’s why they like me; I take risks for the three of us.

One pass around the crumbling well is enough to keep my rep solid. As I leap to the ground, pebbles roll beneath my boot and I slip. Just a little, and I land safe and sound, but Nina gasps again, playing to her strengths.

“What the hell are we doing here, anyway?” Maddy does her best to appear uninterested in her surroundings.

“Wishing. What else are creepy, old wells for?” Nina’s wandering toward the old wrought iron grate, as oblivious of my little digs as always. “Right, Nina?”

“Oh, um.” She turns and crosses back toward us. Her eyes are wide and as grey as her hoodie. “Right.”

I’m not convinced there’s any more magic in this well than there is in the sole of my boot. It was just a dream and not even my dream, but there’s no way I’ll have come all this way and not make a wish. Better to try than regret.

“Offerings ready?” Nina nods, Maddy shrugs, and I pull mine from my pocket. “Then wish if you’ve got ‘em.”

My quarter flies first. Nina carefully drops a silver charm she’s pulled from the trite little bracelet she’s worn for years. And Maddy, not to be out done, blows in her gum.

Come back on Wednesday for the next piece by Valerie! 
*Photo by Robyn's Nest via Fickr Creative Commons

Friday, November 5, 2010

In The Cards (Part 3 of 3)

The mutt whuffed and it sounded like laughter. He bobbed his head, dropping something to the ground at his feet. Nim was sure he grinned, but she had no time to wonder. The dog spun and ran leaving Nim alone in the soft light of the caravan.

“Come on Lem, it’s not funny.” Any second now Lem would step out from the shadows and laugh, Nim was sure of it. She waited, straining her ears for any recognizable sound. Cars passing in the street, the tinny music of the carnival’s old ferris wheel, even the mutt’s growl. But it was as though she were the only one left in the world.

A gust of wind broke the stillness, making Nim shiver. Pulling her shawl tighter, Nim took a step toward the thing the dog had dropped. Light glinted off it in a way she recognized and her skin prickled. A tarot card. Nim could hear it calling to her. It sang a song unlike any she’d ever heard before, and Nim had heard them all.

Lem never let Nim give readings. He thought he was the one with the talent and she let him go right on thinking it. Lem had no idea that while he made up fortunes, Nim saw the real thing. She meant to keep it that way.

The cards spoke to her. It started as whispers soon after their mother died. But now their voices were so loud that they kept her awake. At night, while Lem slept, Nim was forced to lay spread after spread, until they’d spilled all their secrets and finally gone quiet.

Their mother had always warned them not to misuse their gifts. Nim had obeyed, but Lem couldn’t resist using his charm. Through the cards, Nim knew the hearts of everyone with the carnival, whether she wanted to or not. Worst of all, she knew the greed that lived in Lem’s.

The song from the dropped card seemed to swell and grow until it surrounded Nim. The melody wove itself into her bones and she bent down to pick up the card before she even realized she’d walked to it. Nim hesitated. “Lem?” She called one last time, but she’d given up hope of a reply. If this was a joke, Lem would’ve come out by now. Even he wasn’t that mean.

The card lay face down in the dust. It was the same size and shape as Lem and Nim's deck, but with an ornate symbol drawn on it’s back. The symbol reminded Nim of the tattoo in the mutt’s ear. The way the lines twisted into loops and doubled back on themselves sparked a memory. She’d seen a mark like that before.

This belongs to the women in our family. It’s yours now, Nim's mother had whispered, one night near the end. She pressed a small, intricately carved wooden box, just big enough to hold a deck of tarot cards, into Nim’s hands. It will open when you need it. Don’t ever let anyone see it, not even your brother.

Nim could feel the eyes of the mutt out there somewhere. Watching and waiting to see what she did next. With a painful squeeze of the knife for courage, Nim snatched up the card and sprinted back to the caravan.

She slammed the flimsy door shut and latched it, knowing the caravan wouldn’t keep her safe from anything outside. It couldn’t even keep out a strong breeze.

The candles flickered and threatened to go out as Nim dropped the knife back in the block and laid the card face down on the table. She wasn’t ready yet to see what message the dog had left her.

Instead, Nim looked again at Lem’s last spread. He’d thought it was for the blonde, but the cards told a different story. His story. Death in his near future. The Fool as his significator, crossed by the Four of Cups. Greed. And the new card, The Cur, as his outcome. She pulled that one close and studied it. Lem’s face was frozen somewhere between horror and outrage. The Cur seemed to be staring right at her. Not with a snarl, as she’d first thought, but with a grin.

“How?” she asked the cards, but for once they were silent. Only the new card, the one the dog had dropped, still sang. With a shaky hand, she flipped it over.

Nim’s breath caught. The words at the top of the card read The Legacy, and like The Cur, it looked like it belonged in the deck but Nim knew better. It took her a moment to recognize herself because the girl on the card was smiling. But just as she was sure that the boy on The Cur was Lem, she knew the girl on The Legacy was her.

Unlike Lem’s, her card was a portrait. In one bite-scarred hand she held a small wood box. In the other, a deck of cards.

Nim ran to her bed and dug the box her mother had given from it’s hiding place underneath. The top was carved with the same intricate design drawn on the backs of the two new cards. It hummed against her palm, the vibrations a soft thrum in harmony with her heartbeat. At her touch, the lid popped open with a soft click.

The velvet-lined inside was filled with tarot cards, their backs all bearing the ornate symbol. Nim flipped through them slowly. An unfamiliar feeling, power, surged through her as she realized just what she held in her hands. Nim spread the tiny prisons out before her. Every drawing was unique. Each one featured a different scene, a different person, but one thing was always the same. The Cur. His mangy, scar-covered face grinned at her from every card.

Join us Monday when Natalie starts off a brand new story!

*Photo by Paolo Camera (vegaseddie) via Fickr Creative Commons

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In The Cards (Part 2 of 3)

She stood, brushed the hair back from her shoulders and adjusted her shawl. It wasn’t ideal to pop in with blood dripping from her palm, but there was no time to find a wash bucket. Nim reached for the handle, stopped only for a moment to utter, “Showtime” and pulled the door open.

Nim held her eyes wide as they adjusted to the soft glow of candlelight. It didn’t help them focus any faster, but this part always went better if she appeared to be seeing things others couldn’t.

The air was so full of the blonde’s cloying perfume, Nim was sure it would stick in the back of her throat long after Lem had sent her on her way. Nim didn’t allow her nose to wrinkle. The smell was no worse than the usual must of the caravan. Lem called it character.

The blonde’s back was to her. Lem always seated them so he could see the door and give Nim her cue. He would lean back in his chair and smile. He always said the same thing, “Nim, just in time.  Would ya take a look at these cards? The lady has quite the future.” But it wasn’t the words that were important, it was his gesture. If he swept his left hand over the cards, that meant love; if it was his right, money.

Nim would approach the table slowly. She knew just how to let her head fall so that she appeared to be listening to the spirits. It was an easy sell. She already looked like a ghost. After a moment, she would speak softly in a way that made her words seem profound, and tell them she saw a great love in their future. Or money. Or fame. Or whatever it was Lem had figured they wanted most. It didn’t matter what the spirits actually had to say.

Of the dozens of signals Lem had designed, they used only three or four, but as Nim stepped into the room this time, he used none of them.

Because Lem wasn’t there.

There was only the blonde and the table and the four walls of the caravan. Nim took another step and could see that the blonde’s shoulders trembled and her arms were covered in gooseflesh.

“Hey,” she called, but her voice sunk into the thick shag of the carpet. The blonde didn’t move. Nim tugged her shawl tight around her shoulders and stepped around the table. The girl had a strange and focused look in her eyes. Nim glanced over the spread of cards. Nine in all, with the tenth clutched in the delicately jeweled fingers of the girl. “Hey,” she said again, this time louder.

With a start, the girl dropped the card. “Oh, hey.” She smiled. Her teeth were whiter than pearls. “Sorry. I must’ve totally spaced for a minute.”

Nim stepped back as the girl got to her feet and slung her purse over her shoulder. The strap was leather with shiny silver studs. “Would you mind? I mean, I’ve gotta go.” She dug her cell phone out and started rapidly tapping at the screen. “Just, uh, tell ‘im I said thanks or something.”

She moved quickly. The door fell shut behind her and Nim listened as she stepped into a jog. Nim couldn’t blame her. This wasn’t the sort of place for city girls after dark.

It didn’t take long to search the space. There were only so many places a person could hide in their tiny caravan and Lem was in none of them. Nim frowned at the mess of blankets on his bed. If this was part of the game, he’d have told her.

Coming back to the table in the center of the room, she traced the pattern of cards Lem had laid. The spread was filled with cup cards. Lem would’ve had no trouble reading them as love. He called that sort of thing magic.

It was the tenth card that made her hiss through her teeth. It lay over the sixth, and Nim knew from the bit she could see that it was Death – the card of transformation. But the tenth card was not one she’d ever seen before.

A mangy dog with muddy eyes and scars criss-crossed over its nose stood on dusty ground. It’s lips were pulled back in a snarl. Blood dripped from one of its sharp teeth. ‘The Cur’ was printed across the top in jagged, black font. Painted in the same style as the rest of Lem’s cards, this one could’ve gone unnoticed to someone else, but Nim knew better.

Nim shivered in spite of the warmth of the caravan. Fire seemed a fitting companion for this card. She would burn it in the trash bin and then find Lem, but as she reached for the card, something in the background caught her eye.

The Cur stood some distance away from a caravan. Nim recognized it as the trash it was, but it was the figure standing by the door that made her catch her breath and hold it: a boy, dressed in jeans and a loose button down top with a deck of cards spilling from one hand and dark hair falling over one blue eye.

“Lem?” She asked, her voice strained and hollow.

As if in answer, Nim heard a dog bark outside her door. Shoving the card into her pocket, she pulled a knife from the wooden block by the sink and opened the door.

The flea-bitten mutt stood ten feet away. He was hard to see against the dark sky, but Nim could see the reflection of candlelight in its eyes and on its pale paws.

“What do you want?” Propping the door with one hand, she held the knife in the other. The handle pressed against her forgotten wound. It throbbed in a dull, distant way.

The mutt whuffed and it sounded like laughter. He bobbed his head, dropping something to the ground at his feet. Nim was sure he grinned, but she had no time to wonder. The dog spun and ran leaving Nim alone in the soft light of the caravan.

Check back this Friday for the final piece by Valerie!
*Photo by Paolo Camera (vegaseddie) via Fickr Creative Commons

Monday, November 1, 2010

In The Cards (Part 1 of 3)

The caravan sat up against an old wooden fence, covered in rust and moss like it had been puked out by the earth. Vintage, her older brother Lem had called it, but Nim knew better. Vintage meant trash.

She pulled her shawl around her shoulders, but the wind still bit her skin. She couldn’t go inside yet. Lem hadn’t given the signal. Tonight’s girl was blonde, her skin bronzed by the sun. Nim looked down at her own milky white hands. She’d never have tan skin. She’d never have anything the girl in the caravan had—money, friends. It wasn’t in the cards for her.

Dusky pink clouds swept the sky, and by now Lem would be flipping over the fourth card—past. No matter what the card actually said, he’d be reading her some generic spiel about how she had a friend of the opposite sex whom she thought she could trust, only to have her heart ripped out. Then the fifth card on the cross—conscious. He’d tell her to trust her heart when a new person entered her life, and he’d be giving her his most charming smile.

Even as his little sister, Nim could see the beauty in Lem. His deep blue eyes could melt the heart of any girl, even the rich ones that wandered into the carnival on Thanksgiving break from school. Lem’s black hair always seemed to fall over one eye at just the right time, like he’d trained it that way. It softened him. Made him look sweet. But Nim knew him better.

Nim perched on the tow hitch at the front of the caravan, the cold on the steel worming its way through her jeans. She tucked her hands under her arms to try and warm them. Her head fell back against the caravan and she listened. She could hear the muffled giggling of the girl and Lem’s deep voice, coaxing her along, making her believe his every word.

He’d be reading the sixth card, Nim’s favorite part. On the sixth card, near future, Lem would drop a subtle hint about what was going to happen once he read the tenth and final card. And they never caught on. Not one of them. Nim’s lips pulled up into a small smile. There was nobody better at the game than Lem.

A rustling sound caught Nim’s attention and she watched a flea-bitten dog wander away from the brush. It stopped in front of her and sniffed the ground in her direction. She looked around for an owner, but she knew she wouldn’t find one. There were so many wild dogs roaming the outlands around this city, there should be a law. Maybe there was a law. Nim didn’t know. The caravan moved so often, she couldn’t possibly keep track of all the laws.

The dog was an ugly grayish-brown color. Its fur was matted and full of mange. It had a fresh cut across its muzzle and a few old scars criss-crossed here and there. But there was something about it that made her want to touch it.

“Hey,” she whispered. “Come ‘ere.” The dog whined. “I ain’t gonna hurt ya.” She reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a chicken bone she’d picked up off the street. “Here.” She held it out to the dog. They had enough chicken bones. She could spare one.

The dog crept closer, its nose in the air. Nim smiled and cooed at it. Maybe Lem would let her keep this one. The last one they’d taken over to the chop wagon and traded it for coffee, eggs, and flour.

The dog stretched its neck and a black tongue slipped out of its mouth and touched Nim’s hand. She grabbed it by the scruff and pulled it closer. The dog whined and struggled. “Shhh!” Nim whispered. She pulled the animal to her and held it tight to soothe it. “It’s okay.” The dog calmed and took the bone.

Nim listened to the voices inside the caravan, hoping Lem hadn’t heard the scuffle. He’d be mad if Nim blew it before he got to the tenth card.

Laughter rose up from behind the tin wall and Nim breathed a sigh of relief. She looked down into the dog’s mud-colored eyes. “Sorry I don’t have meat for ya.” She stroked the smooth patch of fur, untouched by mange, on the dog’s ear, and she felt a bump underneath. She turned the ear inside out. There was a small tattoo, done in black or blue ink. It didn’t look like any letter she’d ever seen, or a number, but some kind of symbol. The sky had grown dark and she couldn’t make it out. She leaned the dog’s head back a little and tried to catch the tattoo in the light seeping through the curtain on window above them.

Focusing on the tattoo, Nim didn’t catch the annoyance in the dog’s eyes. It flipped his head and bit her hand. “Gah!” She jumped up, letting go of the dog. It disappeared into the brush, its tail between its legs. “Go ‘head. Run away, ya bastard!” she yelled after it. Nim squeezed her hand and blood oozed out between her fingers. “Stupid mutt.” She sat back down on the tow hitch and watched a cloud of breath form in front of her face. Her hand throbbed. She needed to clean it but everything was inside.

Nim strained to hear, but the voices inside the trailer were silent. Had they heard her? Nim cursed herself under her breath. She hoped that Lem had gotten to the tenth card already and that she hadn’t spoiled anything. Maybe she’d missed her cue because she was distracted with the dog, and Lem was inside patiently waiting for her.

She stood, brushed the hair back from her shoulders and adjusted her shawl. It wasn’t ideal to pop in with blood dripping from her palm, but there was no time to find a wash bucket. Nim reached for the handle, stopped only for a moment to utter, “Showtime” and pulled the door open.

Check back this Wednesday for Part 2 by Natalie!

Photo by Paolo Camera via flickr Creative Commons

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