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Monday, March 31, 2014

Flash Fiction of the Month: March

The month of March has come to its close, which means another piece of short fiction from yours truly. This flash fiction piece was inspired by the Scottish/Irish/Faroese myth of the selkie. The selkie is considered a sea fairy that for most of its existence lives in the open water in its seal form. Occasionally they come to shore and remove their seal skins, revealing their inner form of that of a beautiful woman or a handsome man. Depending on the area, stories of the selkie can differ, but they are generally romantic tragedies. At 963 words, I present you my flash fiction piece for March:


Ethan
A story of the selkie
by K.E. Skedgell

   The ice cold sea thundered upon the shore. The selkie's shoulder throbbed, the sand beneath him soaked in his blood. Weak from the orca bite, he lay unable to remove his seal skin wrapped around his legs.
  A human voice. High in tone. A female. He opened his sand-caked eyes to a blurred vision of a hand touching his wound. Her words meant little to him, having learned precious few from their men-folk who fished the open sea. “Help”, “safe”, and “home” he understood. Warm hands lifted him and arms wrapped around his chest. The seal skin pulled away as his legs dragged across the sand. He tilted back his head. Her lips bowed upon skin that glowed beneath the pale moon, and he fell into unconsciousness.

   Ethan set the kettle on the stove to boil. A cool breeze wafted through the sunny kitchen window, carrying a hint of brine from the sea and rain from an approaching storm. Sara's laugh rang from the garden and that of her companion's. Her friend must have arrived while he took his afternoon rest. Tea and biscuits would be a good way to introduce himself.
   As the water heated, Ethan arranged a tray with cups, biscuits, and teabags. Sara's voice carried through the open window. “What a treat it's been havin' you here, Danielle. It's been a long time.”
   “Aye, too long. We have much catching up to do. I need to come back to Birsay more often. So, tell me more about Ethan. You've barely scratched the surface. How d'ya meet?”
   “It was a couple of years ago on the beach . . .”
   Ah, she was about to tell her “heroic” tale of how she saved his life, a story he could recite word for word for all the times she'd told it.
   “It was the anniversary of m' late husband's death. I'd been drinking to drown the memory of the day his fishing boat wrecked at sea. The entire crew perished.”
   “My condolences.”
   “Thank you. The evenin' had grown late and I was 'bout to head home when I stumbled upon Ethan. He was laying unconscious 'tween the rocks of the shore. I wasn't sure if he were alive or dead.”
   Sara paused.
   “Y' know, we've been close since our childhood until these last few years when you moved to Edinburgh with yer husband. We've told each other many secrets.”
   “We have.”
   “May I burden you with another?”
   “Of course. Tell me anything. Nothin' you say will leave this garden.”
   Ethan stood to the side of the window to get a better listen. Sara and Danielle sat at the little bistro on the patio as grey clouds blotted out the sun. Was she going to tell the truth?
   “Remember the stories my father told us as wee lasses of the selkies he claimed to have encountered while fishing out to sea?”
   “Aye, he firmly believed they existed. But why . . . oh!” Danielle cupped her hands over her mouth. “Don't tell me?”
   Sara nodded. “He was bitten by a shark or whale, which I don't know. His legs were wrapped in his seal skin. He might have swam to shore to seek help, but was too weak by the time he washed up on the beach to go further.”
   “And selkies can't speak so he couldn't tell you what happened.”
   “Aye. But he understands what I say. Not at first, but he learned. Thankfully for him he washed up at the house of a nurse. I dragged him here and cared for him m'self. A hospital was no place for a selkie. He's been under my wing e'er since.”
   Under her wing. More a prisoner. 'Course, without her help he would have died. Ethan quietly slid the window shut. The kettle whistled and he took it off the heat. Every day he dreamt of returning home to his family and searched the house for his skin when Sara was away. Without it he couldn't return to the sea, and she knew it. He set the kettle upon the tray and carried it to the door.
   “So yer hidin' his skin somewhere?” Danielle said as he carefully opened the door.
   “Hidin' it? He thinks it's 'round here. Selkies make fantastic lovers and do whate'er you ask of 'em. Ethan is here to stay. No, I'm not hidin' it. I rid m'self of that horrid thing.”
   The tray fell from Ethan's hands and crashed upon the patio.
   The women jumped in their seats. “Ethan, what are you doing out here?” Sara started.
   Ethan raised a hand and ran. His instincts had been right. The woman had never kept his skin. He was a prisoner. Humans couldn't be trusted, a common knowledge amongst his kind he regretfully ignored. And now his only option laid out before him across the beach, the waves beating the boulders beneath a blackening sky, for his other choice was no option at all.
   “Ethan, stop!” Sara shouted after. Ethan raced across the sand while relieving himself of the dry, false skins humans called clothing. He splashed through the frigid water and gasped. “Stop, Ethan! You'll drown. Come back to me and I'll take you home.”
   The waves crashed against his body, pulling him further into their icy grasp. “Ethan was your husband's name. Not mine.” He turned to her standing at the shoreline, her hands stretched out to him. Lightning seared the sky. “The sea was where I was born, and where I will die.”
   “You can speak? When could you speak?”
   Pairs of black eyes bobbed above the surface. His selkie family clicked and whistled, telling him they were here to take him home. Teeth clenched his wrists and ankles.
   “I always could, but you never would have listened.”

Friday, February 28, 2014

Flash Fiction of the Month: February

Echo....echo......echo........

Yeah, the blog has been pretty dead, but I'm hoping to liven it up a bit. Last month I came up with an idea to publish a flash fiction piece at the end of every month. I decided to start with February since the story I wrote wasn't quite ready by the time the end of January came around. You would think a flash fiction story wouldn't take long to write, but I am slow and a perfectionist. Two strikes against me. I've made this a challenge for myself to get the creative wheels moving in my noggin. I figured, I can write a 1000 word or less story for the challenge once a month, can't I? I better, but knowing me...

I'll probably need a swift kick in the hiney to keep up with it. Darn depression anyway.

At 735 words, here's FF story of the month number one:

The Thirteenth Year
a story of the strige
by K.E. Skedgell

“You are brave, Ariadne.” Momma pushed the last pin into the knot in Ariadne's hair. “My brave, beautiful daughter.”

Ariadne rose from her chair, her white dress billowing in the breeze. Papa took her hand. “Are you ready?”
 
“As best as I can be.”
Papa guided Ariadne to the village well. The priest followed, praying to the goddesses Artemis and Athena to spare their village of its curse, and to the Virgin Mary to save Ariadne's soul. The villagers gathered around, woe now replaced the cheer they once wore during Ariadne's thirteenth birth year celebration. The village elders carried the shackles and hooked them to the well. They turned to Ariadne.
 
“Words cannot express our sorrow,” spoke the eldest.
 
“I've always known this day would come.”
 
“Our hearts ache for you, child. Know this.”
 
They clasped the shackles onto her wrists and each gave a kiss upon her forehead. “If only there was another way to appease the angry goddesses to stop this centuries old plague upon our village,” an elder said. “May your next life be free from this terror.”
 
Momma and Papa kissed Ariadne on her cheek, and cried as they carried each other home. The villagers locked themselves in their houses and shuttered their windows.
 
Alone, Ariadne stood restrained to the well as the mountains turned into shadow and the sky purple. Dust blew upon the breeze and her heart pounded her ribs. Otis, chained outside the house, barked and wagged his tail inviting her to play. Tears filled her eyes, her bravery faltering. “No play tonight.”
 
A scream pierced the quiet darkness within the olive orchard. An owl. Must be. It was only one scream. Then came another, farther away from the first. The first responded to the second, and the two creatures carried on back and forth.
 
Then a third joined them.
 
And a forth.
 
A fifth.
 
Soon, a chorus of screams and screeches immersed the orchard surrounding the village. No, not owls. Striges.
 
Ariadne pulled on her chains. “I don't want to do this. Momma, Papa, please, unchain me!”
 
Her cries fell upon deaf ears. “Please, don't make me do this. Somebody help me!”
 
Dozens of red orbs lit up the trees as the screaming grew louder and closer. Wings flapped overhead and one of the creatures landed on the ground. Its hot coal eyes scrutinized her. The owl-like creature spread its wings, revealing a body like that of a feathered old woman, and belted an ear-piercing scream. The strige hopped toward her and pecked at her feet. Ariadne kicked it, sending the bag of feathers rolling across the gravel. It lay flat on its belly, its wings spread over the ground, and gave a tortured scream. The other "birds of ill omen" responded in kind.
 
Ariadne covered her ears and her skin goose-pimpled. Her nightmares had come alive. Since she was a little girl, she woke to nightmares of this night facing these horrid creatures. What had she done in her past life to deserve this?
The trees came alive and the sky a torrent of shadowed wings and fire-red eyes. Ariadne pulled on the chains, willing herself to break free from the well. A force like bricks and knives hit her back, arms, legs, cutting into her flesh and ripping out her hair. “Mother Mary,” she shouted as her body was picked and torn apart. She glanced to Otis, who cowered and whimpered. Tears of pain and fear clouded her vision. Her knees buckled and her will to live withered like an autumn leaf. Ariadne slumped to the ground and succumbed to the darkness, to silence.

* * *

A click of a door. Then another, and another. The villagers emerged from their homes and gathered with quiet trepidation around the well. A torn, bloodied dress and the chains that had bound her were all that remained of Ariadne. Her parents held each other tightly, but it was the shrill cry of a newborn that broke the silence in the village. The priest stepped out from a home, holding high a swaddled baby and carried the child to the well.
 
“She is reborn,” the priest said. “This night, Ariadne's body fed the beasts that plague our village, and in this new body her soul has been saved. Let us pray the goddesses are satisfied and in thirteen years Ariadne will be spared from the striges. Alleluia.”
 
Alleluia.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Didn't Win

Nope, not a chance. I'm not popular enough to have gotten enough votes to win, but at least writing the story for the Gaelsong contest was good practice. So now I will share my entry with you all:

Betty
by K.E. Skedgell

   
Every Halloween, Betty took delight in watching the neighborhood children dressed in costumes go door to door for treats. And every year she hoped at least one child would stop at hers. From her parlor window, she watched a young bee begin to waddle up her sidewalk, but the bee's mother grabbed hold of their arm and said, “No, not here. This is the home of that old witch.”
Betty sighed and her heart sank as all the children passed by her lighted porch. Another year without handing out candied apples to even one child. Every year she said, “Why do I bother?”
She looked about her home to her favorite things: her collection of owl statues, the crystal balls she used to read fortunes from, now gathering dust, her books of Shakespeare and Poe, a skull engraved with Celtic knots that used to bring her luck. Red votive candles glowed warmly as she petted her cat Mr. Black, but none of those things could heal her cold, lonely heart.
A young couple with a plum fairy princess stopped. “They will pass on by like the rest.”
They didn't.
The mother urged the little fairy up the sidewalk to the porch. Betty's heart sang. “A child! Oh blessed be!”
She rushed to the door as quick as her old bones allowed and grabbed the tray of candied apples from the table beside it. The door bell rang and Betty opened it, smiling.
Trick-or-Treat!” the little fairy said.
Here's a candied apple for you.” Betty placed the treat into her bag. She glanced to the joyful parents. “Here, have a few more, for your parents.” She placed two more in the fairy's bag.
Thank you, lady. These are my favorite.”
My name is Betty, little princess.”
I'm Rachel.”
Up and down the street other parents gave looks of distress and disgust. None would come to her door, she knew, and this family must be new to the neighborhood and not yet heard of their hurtful rumors. She emptied the tray into Rachel's bag and said, “Take them all. You and your family, enjoy!”
Thank you!” the fairy said, and bounced back to her parents to show them her bounty.
Every Halloween after, Rachel remained the only child to stop at Betty's. Even as a teenager, when she felt too mature to trick-or-treat, she'd always stop at Betty's for her candied apples. Rachel departed for college, married, and had a daughter of her own. One year she returned to town to take her daughter trick-or-treating and to meet her namesake when she heard of Betty's passing. Rachel, with little Betty dressed as a plum fairy princess, stopped at old Betty's house, the gardens over-grown, the house rotting from neglect, and set at the front door a candied apple, a small owl statue, and a card that read:
Thank you for the candied apples, and for the wonderful Halloween memories.”

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Entered A Contest...

...of sorts. It's called the Samhain Visions Cover Story Contest where you write a story, poem, or essay about the photo on the cover of Gaelsong's catalog. So I wrote a short story (the name of it is "Betty") and I think it's an okay little story. I need more votes though to win the big prize (hint hint) since the stories are voted on by your peers. Hence, it doesn't really matter how good the story is, or how well it's written, just as long as you can get enough people to vote for your story. Anyway, the voting runs until the 29th of October and you can vote on a story once a day every day until the the voting ends. I'm just looking to be somewhere near the top, I guess, and not dead last. I have ten votes as of writing this. Hope I get more.

In other news...

My progression on my Lake One Gothic romance novel, or novella, or whatever it'll be, is coming along slowly but surely. I have over 12k words written, some of which I'm sure I'll keep in the editing, but let's not talk about editing right now. Much too soon for that. I don't have much to say on this project until I have more written, other than I keep thinking about it more than I actually write it. Me thinks I need to set myself goals like I did with Draculești if I ever want to get the first draft done. Even if I don't reach them, at least I'll have something to work towards and get this thing rollin'.

The other day I had a friend of mine take some pictures of me all dressed up and looking Gothic while in the cemetery and quite a few of them turned out pretty nice. I needed some updated photos of me and the autumn season and the beautiful cemetery in my home town make for a nice back drop. One of the photos is my about me photo in the upper right of this blog. She's not a professional photographer, she's still learning to use her new camera so I thought since I needed some new pictures of myself for internet purposes, and she needed some practice, a little photo shoot would benefit the both of us. And we had fun doing it. A few for your viewing pleasure.

Photo by Anita McIlvain

Photo by Anita McIlvain

Photo by Anita McIlvain

Photo by Anita McIlvain

Aaand...

A few weeks ago my anxiety decided it wanted to fuck with me. I ended up having a bad panic attack when I went into work and cried uncontrollably. Not only that, the heart palpitations would not stop. I had to go home early from work twice which I did not want to do. I didn't want the points, and I didn't want to lose the time and money. I had no choice--I couldn't work the way I was. At the end of this month I finally get to see a doctor for this, but it isn't for an actual appointment, it's for a meet and greet, whatever that is. I guess doctors want to know you before they decide to take you on as a patient or something? I have no idea. I just want meds to make myself better again. The past week my anxiety has nearly vanished, but I know it'll return sooner or later. I still get the palpitations once in a while, though not nearly as bad as a few weeks ago. Anxiety sucks, big time. I don't wish it upon anybody.

So that concludes what I have to say for the time being. I really do need to update this blog more often, but what the hey. At least it gets updated, even if it takes a month or more between posts.

Now, click on the linky at the top of the post and cast your vote for me, even if you don't read the story (it's 488 words, it's not long at all) but please do. Let me know what you think. It's the first short story I've written in a long time. I don't think I did too badly considering, and that my word limit was 500. I even managed to keep it down below that. Ta ta for now!


Thursday, September 5, 2013

I Came To A Conclusion

Now, this is going to sound like I'm making up excuses, and maybe it really is, but I think I came to a conclusion as to why I'm having so much trouble writing this year as opposed to previous years, even when I was going through a spell of depression. The reason--my family.

Now, I love my family, and it's not them personally that is making it hard for me to get in the writing spirit again. The problem is that there is never a time when I have the house to myself. Never. There is always someone here in this house, whereas when I lived with my ex there were numerous times I had the house to myself, and that's when I got most of my writing done. When he was in the house I had a hard time concentrating on my work. He could be very quiet and still; yet, it was like the light shut off on my imagination until he went to bed. When he was gone and I had the house all to my very lonesome, I could turn on some music, light some candles, you know, set up an atmosphere, and have the comfort in knowing no one would be around to bother me and bring me out of my zone.

It was nice. And last year, when my depression started to take its hold on me, was when I did the most writing I had ever done. I had finished the first draft of my book at the turn of this year. I was proud, things were looking up in regards to my writing.

Then the ex and I split. That took its toll on me for a while, but I'm over it now. Yet, I still can't seem to focus because I know there are people in the house (and I have a cat of constant licking that never leaves my room). And I'm away from my comfy writing zone, my own place that I shared with my then significant other. I keep thinking to myself, if only I had my own place where it was quiet all the time, I could get some writing done. It just isn't feasible for me right now, money-wise, to have my own place.

I've toyed with the idea of taking a pad of paper and pen to the cemetery and sit there to write, away from the house and where most likely no one will bother me. I don't know. Like I said, I may be making excuses not to write, but whenever I open the document and start to pound the keys, I just can't get far because I hear people moving around (or a cat licking) and it takes me out of the zone. Perhaps I'm going through some sort of writing doldrums and I don't know how to snap myself out of it. I've tried, and have managed to edit my first finished piece, which still needs more editing, and I've written some new stuff, but not like I've done in the past. Maybe I need to take the energy I'm using toward whining on my blog and turn it toward writing my stories instead.