I'm excited to announce that I have been selected to participate in Amphibian Press's newest anthology, titled OUT OF THE DARKNESS. With these four dark fantasy short stories, travel from a post-apocalyptic world riddled with mythical creatures to a multiverse war between souls; from a kingdom cursed by treacherous gods to deadly trials for an ocean kingdom's warlord.
In the meantime, have a taste of my short story, called RED AND WHITE.
Yesterday, Red and I did the first really stupid thing we’d done in years: we let in a stray dog. It was frigid outside, the kind of cold that makes the toes fall off birds. We heard a scratching at the door. Red got her gun, but when we looked, it was just a dog; the poor animal was shivering and so skinny we could see his ribs. He could have been a magical weapon of some kind or a shapeshifter sent by the crazy nightlings, but we let him in anyway. Guess it means we’re still human.
At any rate, he didn’t kill us, just left when the sun came up.
It was a huge surprise when we saw him again the next evening. We went hunting every day, just before nightfall, and without fail he began to show up, night after night after night. We gave him scraps of food when we could spare them, but we didn’t dare name him. It was no use getting too attached.
I always hated food runs. We were, of course, smarter than the roving nightlings, but they had more resources. Endless weapons, endless magic—only the unlucky ones got caught with their heads up their behinds. Those were our favourites—easy to beat, easy to kill.
Sometimes, we scavenged for food down by the river. Fish were always good, if you could cook them without being caught. Watercress and river weed were usually findable, but we had to be careful because we didn’t want to overfish or overharvest our food supplies. Luckily, the closest encampment was several miles away, and they rarely ventured into our part of the city. Bloody redheads, they called us.
Our main food supply came from the traps. The nightlings treated us like pests so they would set up food stations where they tried to lure us in. We were good at killing them by now, so often we looked for traps and raided them for food. Ambush the ambushers.
It was during one of these trips that the dog came in handy.
Although we didn't enjoy going out at night, it was often easier to avoid the roving eyes of the nightlings by at least waiting until twilight. We snuck through the decrepit city streets under the dimming light of the setting sun, looking for anything that might indicate a stash of food. After a bit we came across an old abandoned warehouse in the south end of town. Peeling paint, broken glass, and graffiti slathered on every surface greeted us, but we knew it was more than that: a nightling hid behind a bush.
This nightling was camouflaged—it had changed to green, the color of bushes. Never mind that bushes were dull, dirty grey. Even the brown leaves had long since blown away. We always wondered why they thought this tactic would work. Nightlings look nothing like bushes, especially when they’ve changed to a different colour.
Red ran ahead to scout, while I got my gear ready: rope, an orbifizer hobbled together from old bits of electronics and charged with magic, a flashlight, a bag of rocks, a slingshot, and some other useful odds and ends. You never know what might come in handy.
I pulled out my slingshot and a rock, swung it around my head, and let it fly. The rock smashed against the nightling's face, but it didn’t seem to notice. Frowning, I took stock of my situation. Maybe it was asleep or enchanted, and I could just overwhelm it. Or maybe it was just learning—pretending. That would be bad.
I slipped forward quietly, pulling out my orbifizer. The orbifizer was a tool designed to give sudden jolts of power, helpful in tasks like starting engines or killing fish mercifully. In this case, it would hopefully overwhelm the nightling's magical capacity and cause it to die. I reached out and zapped the nightling. It blinked once, and then its crackly, inhuman voice intoned: "Not enough magics. Sleeeeep. Sleeeep.”
This is always good news—a nightling dying on its own... although, it was unusual for a nightling to be out and about with no friends and not enough power. But before I had any more time to think about it, Red came barreling around the corner on a gigantic warehouse loader, chased by a slew of angry nightlings. Their little wings rapidly fluttered, keeping them in the air. They weren't very fast creatures, but they were persistent.
The thing about our city is that since the calamity, the Creatures had gone to great lengths to take control of everything. After they had annihilated the majority of the humans living here, they ridded us of electricity. It was a foreign power to them, and evil. Or something. In its place, they ran conduits from the wells of magic located in extremely secured areas to the other used buildings in the area—the baths, the factories, the houses—you name it.
It was one of these conduits that Red accidentally crashed into with the forklift; one of the forks knocked the power pole over. It crashed forward and a power line came loose, flopping erratically through the air. I ducked and froze, hoping desperately that the power line would miss me. Getting zapped by raw magic is almost certain to be deadly, though low levels are survivable. Red jumped off the loader and it continued on by, still followed by the swarm of angry nightlings. She then covered my body with hers, as older sisters do.
Then the power line struck… the sleeping nightling. Sparks hissed and fizzed. The blubbery voice intoned, “I is awake… awake!”
Red gulped and I heard her breathing speed up. She would be the first to go. Maybe once she died, the nightling would think it did its job and leave me, cowering under her corpse, to live another day.
“Human detected,” the nightling said. “Eradication in progress.”
I held my breath.
From nowhere we heard barking. The dog’s bark was thin, a little like the sound of pennies in a wooden cup.
The flying black imp of hate turned.
“Disturbance detected. Disturbance indicates human location.”
Red and I didn’t dare to breathe.
The nightling turned and flew off in the direction of the dog. We waited five minutes without moving, but the air was clean and quiet. All nightlings seemed to have disappeared.
When Red finally sat up, she was crying.
“Poor dog,” she whispered. “He saved us.”
We scrambled to our feet and quickly slid into the building. Our eyes widened. It hadn’t been a trap at all. This warehouse was where they stored their human food to put in the traps. It was a jackpot.
It’s the kind of thing in a life that makes you want to squeal and dance, but we didn’t dare for fear of the nightlings’ return. There was still a horde of them out there, searching for us. Quietly we filled up our bags with as much as we could carry, hid more food in other nearby locations, and then carefully snuck back towards home, reveling in our newfound treasure.
When we got home, the dog was sitting on our porch. Red finally squealed and ran to give him a hug.
He ate well that night.
For the rest of the story and to read the other stories in the collection, get on on Amazon now for only $0.99!