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.

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

My Flash Fiction Story is Published!

A few months ago, I entered a fantasy flash fiction story called The Stone Veil to Splickety Publishing, hoping to final in their mythical mash-up short fiction contest.

My story was selected (yay!) and then came the nail-biting wait for publication.

That wait is over.

You can find the July issue of HAVOK at magcloud or on Kindle at Amazon.

Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!


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!

26 Excellent Flash Fiction Stories!

Remember that flash fiction challenge I was part of a few days ago? And more importantly, do you want to read more?

26 Excellent Flash Fiction Stories.pngWell, Rosalie over at Penprints just compiled all 26 of them together in one glorious wrap up post on her blog! People wrote fantasy stories, science fiction, contemporary…you name the genre, you can probably find it.

So if you’re curious about flash fiction, check it out here –> –> –> 26 flash fiction stories 

 

 


Which story is your favourite?

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 yet? I’ve got a giveaway in each one!

Bird-watching and Other Human Pursuits ~ Flash Fiction Challenge

Have you ever written flash fiction? Well, you should because it’s a lot of fun! Since flash fiction is supposed to be under 1,000 words, it forces you to choose each word carefully, making sure each one is perfect for the story.

I’ve found it to be the perfect antidote for writer’s block–when I’m stuck in my WIP–or when I want a change of pace.

I’m participating in the The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash organised by Rosalie Valentine over at her blog. She sent me a photo, and I found a story to go with it.

Hope you enjoy reading Bird-watching and Other Human Pursuits as much as I loved writing it.

Bird-watching and Other Human Pursuits

I stare at him through my camera lens, wishing for another set of binoculars.

Which isn’t as creepy as it sounds; I’m bird-watching with Grandma. And bored out of my skull. I love hanging out with her, but her latest interest lacks the thrill of, say, watching ants travel to and fro across the sidewalk.

It’s a relief to rest my gaze on the boy’s chiseled jaw and full lips instead of the warble-throated hawk-beak or whatever I’m supposed to be searching for.

He’s about my age—seventeen—and sitting on a bench a quarter of the way around the placid lake from where Grandma and I are staked out. He checks his watch for the umpteenth time. Hope he’s not waiting for his girlfriend. I brush my bangs off my forehead and breathe in the scent of honeysuckle lying thick in the air as a dragonfly buzzes by.

Grandma grabs my arm. “Ooh, look Briar. A Costa’s hummingbird.”

“Wow. Awesome.” I keep my camera trained on the hottie.

“Such beautiful plumage.” She chortles as she scribbles in her notebook, her silver bob falling forward to frame her face. “Leah will be thrilled?”

“Where is she?” Mrs. James, Grandma’s best friend, usually tags along to whatever hair-brained hobby Grandma chooses next. Last month was ceramics, though that was more fun than I expected. I even managed to turn out a half decent bowl. Of course, Mrs. James tried to set me up—again—with her grandson.

“She said something about taking a walk. We’ll catch up later, I imagine.”

“Is she going to lay off how perfect what’s-his-name is for me?”

“Probably not. But for once, I agree with her. You two have a lot in common.”

“Grandma. He collects stamps.”

She continues as if she hadn’t heard me. “You both enjoy the outdoors and photography, he plays the guitar, you play the piano—”

“—not since fifth grade.”

“—and he adores his grandmother.”

I hug her. “Three out of four isn’t too bad. But I’ll do the choosing, okay?”

The hummingbird flits away and lands on a branch. Right above the hottie’s head.

“Come on.” Grandma motions to me. “Let’s get a closer look.” She sets off down the gravel path, and I follow her, tucking my hair behind my ears. Of course I’m wearing sloppy cut-offs and a concert t-shirt. I expected to be tramping around the lake all day, not bumping into a cute guy.

Oh, man. He’s watching us approach.

We’re almost to him when Grandma stumbles and loses her balance.

“Grandma!” I dash forward as the guy leaps off the bench, but he’s the one who manages to catch her before she falls.

“Are you okay?” we ask her at the same time.

“Oh, my.” She glances at me then him. “Thank you, young man. That could’ve been a nasty spill.” Leaning over slightly, she straightens her fluffy cardigan.

He smiles at me over her head, and my breath catches. He’s even more gorgeous up close. Hair darker than mine. Broad shoulders under a forest green tank top. Perfection. “Guess I was in the right place at the right time.”

Straightening, Grandma lays her hand on her heart. “I think I should sit down.”

“Oh no.” I put my arm around her and lead her to the bench. “Should I call Grandpa?”

“No, no.” She waves her hand at me. “I only want to rest for a moment.”

“If you’re sure.” When she nods, I turn to the hottie, who flashes me a smile. “Thanks for your help. I’m Briar, by the way.”

“Jack.” His lips twitch. I try not to stare at them. “Have we met?”

“Dunno.” His name teases my consciousness. Where do I know him from? “You go to Central High?”

“Meadowdale. But you look really familiar.” Jack points to my t-shirt. “Did you see them last summer?”

“Yeah. The Occidental Tourists are my favorite.”

“Mine too.” He beams at me. “I haven’t met too many people who like them.”

“There must be some because their concert in two weeks is sold out, and I didn’t get any tickets.”

“Really? Well, ah”—he looks down and scrubs the back of his neck, his ears turning pink—“I’ve actually got two. Well. One. Extra, I mean. Maybe we could…you know.”

I bite my lower lip. Is he asking me out?

Jack glances up, and his chocolate brown eyes narrow.

“What?” I look over my shoulder.

Mrs. James walks towards us, wearing a huge grin under her wide-brimmed hat. “I knew it! I knew if I could just get you to meet each other!”

I spin toward Grandma. She winks at me. I turn back to Jack. What’s going on?

His face is flushed bright red. “I don’t believe it. Briar, I am so sorry…”

Realization dawns on me. “You’re the grandson.”

He holds up both hands. “I swear, this wasn’t an ambush. I had no idea she was still trying to set us up. I told her weeks ago I wasn’t—”

“—interested.”

“Exactly.”

I take a deep breath. How could they trick us both like this? Jack seems really nice, but he’ll never want to go out with someone his grandmother introduced him to.

He moves closer, eyebrows raised. “She told me you were an excellent student who played the piano. So, yeah, not interested.”

I giggle. “I heard you collected stamps. So, yeah—”

“—not since third grade!”

We both start laughing.

He sticks his hands in his pockets. “What do you think? Want to go to the concert with me?”

Hopefully he can’t hear my heart pounding faster than a hummingbird beats its wings. “Yeah. That would be fun.”

Bless Grandma and her nosy friend. Maybe bird-watching isn’t all that bad after all.


Do you like flash fiction? Check out another story by my friend, Amanda, who blogs over at Hope Perch.


I’d love to host a flash fiction challenge myself. Would you participate? Answer in the comments below!

Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3Jebraun 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.


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