Who are the Winners of the Stories of the Stars Contest?

Talk about intense competition! So many awesome tales for fellow judges Sheri Yutzy, Laura L. Zimmerman, and I to choose from. Narrowing them down was difficult.

The top three spots were hotly contested, but we finally selected the winning entries for our flash fiction contest.

First Place: Sam Graber, with Starfinder’s Sacrifice

Somehow, I missed this entry the first time I read through the stories. As soon as I read it, however, I knew I’d found my first choice. The quick action and high stakes grabbed my attention right away. And the ending!

Favourite line? Starlight thrums through my veins.

Second Place: Maggie Graber, with A Million Heartbeats

This narrative shows off a perfect YA voice. Not to mention quirky details (how’d she fit so much characterization in such a short story?!?), a dynamic brother/sister relationship, and hints of trauma and isolation. Plus, it has all the feels!

Favourite line? Above me stretches the ceiling of heaven itself, a vast canopy of inky, fathomless darkness pierced by thousands and thousands of pure white lights.

Third Place: Catherine Hinkle, with Bones of Cobalt Blue

I loved the imagery in this story. Such a strong setting that swept me into the moment! The themes of love and loss are palpable. I feel like there’s so much more that could explored with the two characters, and I was sad to finish reading!

Favourite line? Unfurling her wings, she soared high in the currents, where stars whispered of hope. 

We were thrilled with the response to this contest and appreciated each story we received. Some amazing talent out there. We hope you keep reaching for the stars!

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Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, Jebraun lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering your identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet?
I give away New Zealand chocolate and an e-book in every one!

Starfinder’s Sacrifice by Sam Graber

Stories of the Stars contest first prize winner:

No one knows what the stars are. Only that they are far away, and they give us our power.

And now they are winking out.

“Danar?” Charis steps beside me and slips her hand in mine. Starlight gives a silver sheen to her ebony hair. If the stars die, I will never see her like this again.

“Where is he?”

Charis closes her eyes and points to the south. That much starlight would be like a beacon to her.

I raise a hand toward the nearest star and it begins to dim, light flowing easily to me until the star resists. With time the star will regain its brightness if it isn’t completely drained. Fully depleting a star is a thing no Starlighter would dare do.

Except Murdock. For this transgression he’ll be branded Starkiller.

Charis puts her hand on my forearm. “I’m coming with you.”

“No, Charis. I can’t protect you from him, and you’re too important. If I fail, you’ll need to bring other Starlighters to deal with him.”

Charis shakes her head. “By the time others reach him, Murdock will have purged. He will be invisible to me.”

So it falls to me to stop him. I start to pull my arm away.

Her grip tightens. “Murdock is my responsibility. I won’t have you dying for me.”

Death and darkness. “You can’t possibly blame yourself for all the death he’s caused.”

Starlight thrums through my veins. I need to shift soon or it will overwhelm me.

I close my fingers into a fist, preparing to jerk out of her grip.

Charis takes my chin with her opposite hand and turns me to face her.

“Danar, I’m not your child to coddle. You will take me to Murdock Starfire, now.”

Her eyes glow with the starlight inside her. How can she hold it constantly without it burning her up? I have never seen Charis Starfinder without the glow of starlight.

I look away. I can’t argue with her.

Stars forgive me.

I open my fist and release a burst of starlight. My vision blurs as we shift through space. When we materialize again, we’re standing in the middle of a Starlighter habitation. My arm aches from the strain of drawing Charis across a hundred miles in the span of a second.

Charis grabs me and pulls me down beside a picket fence. A whoosh is followed by screams. Murdock is here.

Anger boils up in my chest. I risk a peek over the fence. Murdock blazes like the light of a full moon. Around him is death and carnage. Houses engulfed in white flames. Lifeless shapes on the streets.

There are women and children here. I won’t let him kill everyone he wishes.

I jerk my hand out of Charis’ and shift to the street directly behind the killer.

“Murdock! Stop this madness and face me!”

He turns and hurls a brilliant white fireball at me. I shift three steps to the left. Heat blisters my skin as it streaks by.

“Why, Murdock? Are you so calloused that you would kill even women and children?”

Murdock chuckles, his voice resonating with starlight. “You want to know why? Ask your Lady Starfinder. Did she tell you what happened between us?”

My gaze flickers to where I left her by the fence. Murdock and Charis? Fury pulses with the starlight in my blood.

I shift in front of Murdock and punch him in the face. His head snaps back and pain sears my fist. I shift back a few paces.

Murdock raises a hand to his cheek. “It seems I’ve struck a nerve. Are you going to tell him what really happened, Charis? Or should I burn him to ash?”

Charis steps out onto the street behind him. Tears make glowing streaks down her face. I’ve never seen her cry.

“Don’t do this, Murdock. Please.”

Murdock turns to face her. I shift between them to shield Charis.

Murdock smirks. “You’re not going to tell him how much we meant to each other? How you told me we could spend the rest of our lives together?”

My vision flashes. I clench both fists, ignoring the throbbing in my burned hand. “You lie!”

Charis puts a hand on my shoulder and steps past me. “I loved you, Murdock, but I never promised you anything.”

I press a hand to my chest. This isn’t real. “Charis, what are you saying?”

Her hand moves to my cheek and she glances at me. “What I should have told you weeks ago. Please forgive me?”

“Forgive?” Murdock laughs darkly. “You never gave me that choice. You walked away without ever looking back.”

Charis takes her hand away. I sway as if it was the only thing keeping me upright.

“Because I saw you for what you were, Murdock. You never loved me, only how I made you feel.”

“That’s not true!” Murdock roars.

“If you truly cared about me, you would let me go. You would stop this killing.”

I raise a hand to Charis’ shoulder. “I wish you had told me first,” I whisper.

I make eye contact with Murdock. He glances away.

How would it feel to lose someone you care so much about? Murdock is willing to kill to mask his pain. But me?

I would sooner die.

I draw the last of my starlight into my fist and step forward. Charis pushes me aside and steps in front. She places both hands on Murdock’s face.

No!

Starlight flares around them both. Their outline burns into my eyes. Then there is only darkness, and Charis swaying in front of me. I step forward to catch her.

Above, I feel another star pulsing in the night sky. Murdock has gone to take the place of those he consumed.

Charis is limp in my arms. I have never seen her so frail and lightless. I don’t need my star sense to know that she’ll never be able to hold starlight again.


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Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, Jebraun lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet?
I give away New Zealand chocolate and an e-book in every one!

A Million Heartbeats by Maggie Graber

Stories of the Stars contest second place winner:

I’m not an insomniac. I’m just lying awake at 2 am.

I stare up at the dirty, white ceiling. There’s a crack that runs from one side to the middle, as if it will split open at any second causing the roof to crash down and kill me.

What will it say on my gravestone? Here lies Venus Taylor, the girl that lived in a trashy apartment?

Because that’s all I’ll be remember for. Anxiety crawls up my spine, but I fight against it before it can choke me. Think of something else.

I shiver and pull my comforter closer around my chin. We don’t have any heating and it’s November. My little brother, Zane, sleeps with Mom, which keeps them both warm. I don’t mind because I get to have my own room. I’d rather be cold than have his stinky feet in my face. It’s impossible to sleep when he’s in my bed.

Of course, I’m not sleeping anyways. I groan and roll over onto my belly. Go to sleep. Go to sleep. I press my face into the pillow until all I can smell is Mom’s detergent and pretzels. I hate the smell of pretzels. I have to sleep with it every night because when Zane used to sleep with me he’d eat pretzels before bed. It helped him to be able to sleep. No matter how many times Mom has washed it, it still smells like pretzels. Like insomnia. Which I definitely do not have.

There’s a whisper in the darkness and my body turns to ice. Is it the high school boys from down the street? They always try to break into houses and steal stuff. And beat up little boys.

My heart races with the memory. I rise from my bed slowly and reach for the large stick that I keep under my bed. A shape moves in the darkness. I leap forward and give it a hard thwack.

“Ouch!” The shape emits a high-pitched squeal. “V, it’s me!”

I squint in the darkness at the figure. Zane is lying on the floor and cradling his arm.

“Zane?” I bite my tongue to keep from saying a bad word. “What are you doing? It’s 2 am.”

“I know!” Zane whines. He pulls himself to his feet. “I was trying to sneak into your room before you took me out with your cane.”

“And why are you trying to sneak into my room?” I whisper, pulling myself to my full height so I will stay four and a half inches taller than him. He’s growing so fast, even though he’s only eleven.

“I can feel the magic.” Zane grins, then yanks me towards the window.

“What?” I gape.

He pushes open the window, cringing as it squeaks slightly, then pulls himself easily onto the sill.

“What in the world are you doing?” I reach out to grab him, but he’s too fast and disappears out the window.

I bite my tongue fiercely and rush to the window, peeking out after him. He’s climbing up the drainage pipe of our apartment building to the roof.

“Get down here at once, Zane Taylor!” I hiss. “Or else I’ll get Mom!”

He reaches the roof and sticks his head over the edge to see me. “Mom won’t be able to climb up here and get me.”

I clench my teeth and haul myself after him. I’m heavier than he is since I inherited Mom’s curves, and the pipe trembles forebodingly. I don’t dare look down, and I let out a sigh of relief when I reach the roof.

“What were you thinking?” I turn to face him with my most wrathful expression. I’ve practiced it a thousand times in the mirror to look exactly like Mom’s, and I’m proud of it.

He’s not even looking at me. He’s staring up, his eyes wide and his face glimmering with pale light.

“You-” I can’t remember what I was going to say, because suddenly my eyes are drawn to the sky.

Above me stretches the ceiling of heaven itself, a vast canopy of inky, fathomless darkness pierced by thousands and thousands of pure white lights. It hangs over me, a brilliant display of divine beauty that goes on and on and on.

“Can you feel it?” Zane whispers.

The sky reaches down and wraps me in the warmest embrace. This feeling, it’s what’s been keeping me awake. There are no words that can describe it.

“Listen.” Zane looks over at me and smiles, his face glowing in the light.

I try to protest, I try to say that we should get off this roof and get back into our beds. I try to say that I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I can’t. Not with the starlight filling every crack in my heart that I didn’t even know I had.

Instead, I listen. I listen, and I watch the stars. They pulse up in the sky like a million beating hearts. Then…voices. First, it’s indistinguishable, then it’s whispers. Voices whispering pleas and prayers.

“I don’t understand.” I press my hands over my ears, but I can still hear the voices.

“Shhh.” Zane grabs my hands. His fingers warm my freezing ones, and he presses my hands onto his chest.

“Listen to me.” He smiles.

I stare into his twinkling eyes and listen to him breathing. Soft and gentle as a feather. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

V…

V…

Zane’s voice.

His lips aren’t moving.

His heart beats against my fingertips. Far above us I see a tiny star pulsing to the same rhythm.

I love you, V.


jebraunclifford.com blog signature (1)

Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, Jebraun lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet?
I give away New Zealand chocolate and an e-book in every one!

Bones of Cobalt Blue by Catherine Hinkle

Stories of the Stars contest third place winner:

She landed with the practiced ease of centuries, blue talons gripping the cliff’s edge. Wind whistled through the granite crags, and small stones scrabbled beneath her feet. With a low growl, she dove from the cliff. Unfurling her wings, she soared high in the currents, where stars whispered of hope. Gliding down to the last of her hunting grounds, she crept into her den to sleep, alone on the spine of the world.

Altogether alone.

With a shuddering sigh, she rested her chin on a floor polished smooth by centuries of use, and slept.

The scent and sound of man woke her while the afternoon’s light fell through the pines, and her ridges stiffened. His horse waited at the tree line. She heard it shake its head, its tack rattling. The horse’s sharp scent was overlaid by his. He smelled of wood smoke, of leather and salted meat.

She snaked her long neck to watch him.

The man rubbed his neck, staring down the mountain side. Thick shafts of sunlight reached through the branches to touch his face.

Then, for no discernible reason save the golden light and the dust motes, he smiled and laughed. She crawled closer to the mouth of her cave. His laughter faded, and the music stopped.

The man lowered himself onto a fallen log, head in his hands. He drew a deep breath, and rolled his shoulders. His jaw clenched, and he returned to his horse.

She waited before easing herself out of the cave. With practiced stealth, she followed him to his camp, her blue wings tucked close, and through the forest the next day. He sang to himself and to his horse, scratching behind its ear until it closed its eyes and chomped. His slow gentle chuckle and the way his horse leaned into him in the evening drew her in.

She flew far to hunt without frightening the horse and crept into a dark cluster of pines to rest during the next day, intending to find him after she had rested. The crack of a branch woke her.

He froze, the smell of terror filling the shadows. His hand drifted to his insignificant knife. Her amused snort blew the bracken away from him, and his face paled. He staggered backwards.

No. He could not leave. She could not be alone.

So she sang. A deep rumble, with the counterpoint above, through her secondary chords. She hummed in a rumbling bass the song he had sung to his horse, and he stopped. His eyes narrowed, and he backed away. That night, she found him again, and they sang together. Their songs became a habit until he reached the town. She watched him leave with a shake of his head.

She returned to the mountains and keened the songs to the stars, who whispered them back.

Summer came and went, and the stillness ate at her. She had to find him, to sing again, and there, in a clearing reminiscent of the ones in the mountains, she found his scent. He had been there recently, and the knowledge comforted her. She curled up in the shadows and slept. Sunlight filtered through autumn leaves, and familiar footsteps woke her.

She arched her back, cat-like, and unfurled her cobalt blue wings. He stood at the trees’ edge, and with a growing smile, he began to sing. He crossed the open space and reached out to her.

“Oh, my friend, how I’ve missed you,” he said, and she hummed in response.

That evening, he headed down back to town.

She followed his scent to the stone town. He sat alone at his window holding his head in his hands. She landed softly on the slate roof and rumbled to him. A smile like sunrise and moonrise together lit his face. He swung out the window and clambered up the roof, but his smile faded. He glanced around and touched her neck.

“You shouldn’t’ve come.”

She nuzzled his arm, and he sighed and settled back against her shoulder until the sky lightened in the east, and the stars faded. She flew to the forest to wait, and by midmorning, he returned. She hummed a greeting. When he reached out his hand to the soft aquamarine of her jaw, she nudged his arm, and he leaned his forehead against her cheek. They stood there until dusk gathered.

He sighed. When he left, the silence was tangible.

She was alone.

She growled and lashed her tail, knocking a boulder into a stand of russet maple.

Perhaps she need not be alone?

Grinding her teeth against the coming pain, she reached into her bones and peeled away the magic. She sang it from within and poured it into her wings until they grew so heavy she could no longer stand. Magic tore through her. With a resonating crack, her left wing fell, followed by the right. They hit the ground, the membranes withering until all that remained were long curving bones of cobalt blue.

The night forest was very still. She raised her head to look on the silent stars with new eyes. She stumbled, then took careful steps across her clearing, gaining confidence and agility until she laughed as she spun on new limbs in the moonlight.

When he returned in the morning, she sat on the fallen log near the curving bones and smiled up at him.

“I have been waiting for you,” she said.

He stopped, stunned, then stepped close and smoothed her cobalt hair away from her face. A smile like the joy of soaring above the clouds lit his face, and a laugh like music broke free. He swept her up in his arms and spun her in a circle.

“How?”

She smiled, an unfamiliar movement, and set her hand on his chest. “I sang.”

He touched her cheek with gentle fingertips. “You will stay?”

“Always,” she said.

Taking his hand, she walked away from the cobalt blue bones, and together, they went home.


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Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, Jebraun lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet?
I give away New Zealand chocolate and an e-book in every one!

Do You Love Flash Fiction? Enter Our Contest!

Yes! It’s that time of the year again.

Fellow speculative fiction fan, Sheri Yutzy, and I are hosting a flash fiction contest and this time Laura L. Zimmerman is joining us!

Stories-of-the-Stars-18

We’re so excited to see the amazing flash fiction work YOU come up with.

We’ve got some great prizes lined up to feed your flash fiction soul.

1st place:

2nd place:

3rd place:

Submission instructions:

Deadline: Friday, October 5, 2018

Submit to: storiesofthestarscontest@gmail.com

Length: 700-1000 words

Genre: Speculative fiction

Theme: Stars—your story must mention stars in some way.

Submit your story as a separate document. Please include the title of your piece, your name, and contact information in the heading of your document. If your story does not fall within the speculative fiction genre, it will be disqualified.

  • No excessive violence or language
  • No erotica

Winners will be announced October 19, 2018. So what are you waiting for? Get writing! And if you need any help or advice about writing flash fiction, check out this great ‘how to’ post by Laura over on Quills & Inkblotts. You can also check out last year’s winning entry and the second-place story for inspiration.

Good luck!

Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3

Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter? I give away an e-book and chocolate in every one!

Second Place in our Flash Fiction Contest: Sunchaser by Caroline Madison

Another awesome entry that snagged second place in our ‘Stories of the Stars’ contest: Sunchaser by Caroline Madison.  We hope you enjoy the vivid imagery and lush descriptions.


Sunchaser by Caroline Madison

I am Abrihet Beyene, born Eddel Beyene, but my people allowed me a new name when they told me I would be a Sunchaser.

It means “she brings light.”

The Daystar himself whispered the name to me when I was small.

Don’t look at him, my daughter. He will scorch your eyes, and then how will you see anything beautiful?

But the Daystar has always been a part of me. I think he dimmed his glory so I could find him.

Now, here I stand, twenty years later, the sixty-seventh Sunchaser.

Ancient sands shift beneath my feet as the surf foams over them. It fills me with a warmth that shoots up my legs to my core, because even the waves know that tonight, the existence of our world rests on my shoulders.

It is my task to meet the Daystar at the horizon and lead him back to his place of beginning so he can rise again.

No boat follows. If I succeed, I won’t need one; if I fail, drowning is a mercy. The rest of the world will slowly freeze to death.

You must be afraid, the young ones say, to run with nothing but black water beneath your feet.

They do not understand that I am Abrihet, child of the light, and the Daystar calls me.

“Habibti…”

My father’s gentle voice draws me back to the celebration on the beach behind: voices chanting, bells ringing, feet stamping rhythmically in dance. The beating heart of what it means to chase the light.

I turn, responding to the pressure of his hands on my shoulders. “It is almost time, Abee.”

“But not yet,” he says with a smile and nudges my cheek with one finger. Then he sweeps an arm out across the beach, the gesture provoking a chorus of shouts joined almost at once by his rich laughter.

I close my eyes as my father’s voice swells like music.

“Do you smell what the wind carries you? The gift she brings?”

The sweet scent of fruit drifts down from the mountain groves, mingling with salt tossed up each time the ocean collides with nearby rocks.

“Hear the drums…”

Vibrations thrum through the bones in my feet, up my legs to my chest. “They reach the earth’s heart, and she gives us her music.”

Hands press lightly on my head and shoulders as my tribe gathers around me with prayers for speed and surefootedness.

But every other touch fades away when my father’s hands cradle my face and he presses his forehead to mine.  

“May our love embrace and protect you. The Lady of the Night tries to come between you and the Daystar. But tonight, Habibti, you have wings on your feet.”

The pounding surf stills and a chant rises.

Not my name: the pulse of this task is not me or even the Daystar. It can’t be.

It is Life itself, and so my people cry “Haya!…Life!”

The crowd parts for me, clearing my path to the water where the Daystar stretches his golden beams across an ocean holding its breath for my arrival.

Run, Abrihet. Faster than you ever have before…Sunchaser by Caroline Madison.pngI launch forward, the balls of my feet springing off of sand that no longer sinks beneath my weight. When I reach the water, it holds as well, a path more certain than any land-bound road because the Daystar forges it for me.

I love you, Abee. Holding my father’s kind, aged face in my mind gives me more strength than I thought possible. He is my heart, and so the heart of all that lives.

The rhythm of it pounds in my ears with each desperate push of my legs, a deep throb that shouts for my success as loudly as my people do.

Ahead, the path of light stretches to the horizon where the Daystar hovers just above it: a brilliant orb of heat and flame, usually unchallenged.

But tonight is different. A shadow creeps between us, chiseling away at his right edge. The light path narrows slightly. Only then does my breath catch as fear squeezes my lungs like fingers constricting around them.

Tonight, Habibti, you have wings on your feet.

Setting my gaze on the Daystar, I ignore the darkness eroding his radiance. I will reach him in time and conquer this usurper, as others have before me.

Faster, faster, I can no longer feel the water beneath my feet. Now, Abee, I am flying.

With every stride, the Daystar grows bigger, brighter, until he fills my vision entirely, a third of his brilliance shrouded by the Lady of the Night. Then half. That darkness whittles away at my path until it is barely wide enough for my feet.

Only ten more strides…nine…eight

My legs do not shake, nor do my lungs burn as though unequal to the task. I am equal. This is the purpose of my first breath, and every breath after. Laughter bubbles up and spills from my mouth.

Then my foot plunges into dark water.

“Abee!” My cry is strangled by the ocean rushing up my nose and down my throat.

After several seconds of struggling, I break through the surface, choking and sucking in lungfuls of air. Air far colder than it had been a moment ago.

The brilliant pinks and purples have faded to the blue of twilight, and the Daystar is now a black circle ringed with a sliver of light.

I failed.

Tears spring to my eyes as I watch the Daystar slip beneath the horizon…alone.

Fear rushes back, colder than anything I have felt before.

Not for me. For my people waiting on the beach. Their celebration will continue long into the night, because they believe I will bring them another day. Abee will stand at the crest of a dune, waiting to gather me in his arms. But the day will not come, and neither will I.


 

Did you miss our first place flash fiction story? Check out The Birth of Gemini.


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3

Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity,
stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter? I give away an e-book in each one!

First Place in our Flash Fiction Contest: The Birth of Gemini by C.S. Johnson

Sherri Yutzy and I had a lot of fun reading all the entries from our ‘Stories of the Stars’ contest. It was a hard decision, but we both loved C.S. Johnson’s flash fiction story, The Birth of Gemini. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!


 

THE BIRTH OF GEMINI

C.S. Johnson

http://csjohnson.me

From a new, upcoming science fiction adventure series, Signs of the Stars

°☼°

The moment his tiny, newborn son grasped onto his forefinger, he felt the galaxy around him shift along with the vulnerability inside his heart.

The cool, steel walls of the operation room dimmed; the sounds of the medical staff in the background became muffled. His breath suddenly came in stilted, uneven gulps.

“Micheel.” His wife’s voice was a shaking whisper behind him.

It hardly seemed real that he was standing on the Nebulous, one of the many medical starships owned by Mercy Interplanetary Alliance. He had been with the company for over ten years, working faithfully port to port, planet to planet, all across the Nova Galaxy.

It hardly seemed real that he was holding his son, Callox, his hours-old, ruddy-faced offspring, whose sparse ruffle of black hair and already darkening eyes served as a reminder of his own.

“Micheel … Pasher’s arm … ”

Micheel felt the whisper of the still, small voice of God as it passed through his premonition.

Burning dots abruptly appeared just beneath Callox’s shoulder. They twinkled in a forbidden pattern.

Micheel finally dared to look at his beloved wife. In her arms, another small, sleeping bundle glowed with identical markings.

The constellation branded on their bodies served as a marker, one indicating his twins carried the hidden code Earth’s last generation had engineered into human DNA.

“It’s not just Pasher, Nabelle. Callox has it, too,” Micheel finally said. He traced his finger along the new constellation on Callox’s shoulder, his heart filled with simultaneous fear and wonder, awed by mystic beauty and floundered by harsh reality. “The Sign of Gemini. More than appropriate, in this case.”

 

He traced his finger along the new constellation on Callox’s shoulder, his heart filled with simultaneous fear and wonder, awed by mystic beauty and floundered by harsh reality. (1).png

“We need to leave. Now. Before the Collectors come,” Nabelle whimpered.

“Gemini is the Sign of Order. It’s not a threat.”

“To my family, it is,” Nabelle reminded him. “It means a change in leadership will take place. A new human order is beginning. Pasher and Callox are its forerunners. The Collectors will not let them live.”

“But change is not necessarily dangerous—”

“Anyone embedded with a Sign is dangerous. That’s why if the Collectors find them—”

“—they’ll kill them,” Micheel finished.

“They know when the Signs appear and how to track them.”

“That’s how they killed Esta,” Micheel murmured, remembering stories of the warrior queen who bore the mark of Orion, the Sign of War, who had lived over five hundred years before.

“We will have to separate the twins,” Nabelle whispered. “If we want to save them.”

No. Micheel felt his breath rush out of his body. Fifteen years he had waited for his family, only to have them torn apart after barely five hours.

Before he could argue with Nabelle, the monitor by the operation room entrance beeped.

“Doctor Reshi.” The familiar voice of his intern, Zara, crackled with static. “Count Lux of the Pyrian System has arrived. He has requested an audience with you.”

“Lux is here? Already?” Nabelle’s topaz eyes widened with sudden fear and fury. “I doubt he’s here to congratulate us.”

Sudden, unpleasant resolve ran through Micheel. “Rest, ya kamar. You just gave us our twins. Lux might be your cousin, but he doesn’t know you’re here.”

Nabelle shuddered. “Collectors don’t forget, Micheel. Why do you think he wants to see you, of all people?”

“I am a surgeon.” Micheel gestured toward the robotic controls and surgical tools behind him. “Maybe he needs surgery.”

“I would laugh if I wasn’t so scared,” Nabelle muttered.

“There’s no need to be scared. I can protect us.”

“How?”

Micheel pressed the button on the intercom. “Zara?”

“Yes, Doctor?”

“Tell His Grace I’m in surgery,” he ordered. “I’ll be with him in a few hours.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“How long to do you think you’ll be able to get away with that?” Nabelle shuddered.

“Long enough for you and Pasher to be transported out of here.”

“What?” Nabelle gaped at him.

“Here. Take these rejuvenation meds,” Micheel said, placing a med patch onto her shoulder. “They’ll give you a day of pain-free movement. Don’t overexert yourself.”

“Micheel—”

Micheel pressed another button. “Zara, I have a patient here for emergency transport,” he called. “I’m sending the transport module down now.”

“No!” As Nabelle struggled against him, Micheel marveled at her, at how the light subtlety of his skin colors clashed so beautifully against her bronze strength. He would miss her desperately, he knew.

“Listen,” he ordered. “Once Lux is gone, I’ll find a way to get Callox out of here and meet up with you.” Before Nabelle could object, he held Pasher to his heart, gently kissing his baby’s forehead. “I love you,” he whispered. “Remember me, until we meet again.”

“This is not a good plan, Micheel.”

“Don’t I know it.” He drew her close, letting his lips hover just above hers for a long moment, before kissing her deeply. “But I can’t lose my family.”

The guardrails around Nabelle’s bed shifted, and a small, darkened glass top came down over the bed, sealing them off.

“What about Callox?” Nabelle asked.

“I pray you will forgive me, and refrain from asking me to answer that.” Micheel knew she would never forgive him if he told her his plan. “Go and return to the place where we first met, all those years ago, ya kamar. I’ll be waiting for you.”

A portal opened up behind the bed, and Nabelle and Pashar disappeared through it, heading toward their emergency transport. Micheel knew they would be safe, but as soon as they were gone, he felt as though he was gone, too.

Callox started crying, and Micheel longed for the freedom to weep with his son.

“Now I must save you,” he told his son. “And unfortunately, that means there are many more tears ahead of us.” He carefully placed Callox on the operating table and reached for his scalpel, calling in the required information for the coming surgery.

“I’m so sorry for this, Callox, but Daddy has to amputate that arm.”


Wasn’t that amazing? For more flash fiction, check out our second place story, Sunchaser.


Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3

Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity,
stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

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