Full and red and perfect, not waxy or lumpy in the slightest. The inside would be crisp and white and juicy. It was her greatest creation yet, and she had to share it with the world. The single mother down the street—she might appreciate it. She always seemed to buy her seven kids McDonald’s and Kraft Dinner. She might not even have the money for proper fruits and vegetables. She would appreciate it more than anyone. She deserved it more than anyone.
A glance out the window showed a light smattering of rain. Donning her black hooded shawl, the old lady placed the perfect specimen in a cloth-covered basket and left the house. The young mother was home; her rusted minivan was parked on a driveway strewn with broken bicycles and chipped digging toys. Stepping around a jumble of plastic diamonds, the old lady ducked beneath a low porch roof and knocked on the door. The echoing shrieks of so many children echoed from within.
After a long wait, the door opened and the weary eyes of the young mother stared dully at her.
Smiling, the old lady pulled back the cloth. “A gift for you.”
The mother looked in and her face crumpled in a stormy glower. “An apple? A fucking apple? I don’t want your charity, ya old hag, and I seen Snow White!” She spat on the porch at the old lady’s feet and slammed the door.
With a sigh, the old lady set down the basket after removing the perfect apple.
She hoped those vile children got scurvy. It was just an apple.
He could hear the taps running, slowly filling the tub with cataracts of steaming heat, and laughter bubbled up his throat like the soap she was surely putting in he water. Soon! So soon! It was going to be a great joke. His best yet. She would love it.
Besides, it had been long day. She could do with laughter.
Within minutes, the pipes shuddered as she turned off the taps.
Gripping his surprise in his palms, he waited until he was certain she was in the tub, then crept up the stairs, slowly so his weight didn’t creak creak creak.
She was humming. The water splashed as she moved, and billows of steam belched from beneath the door.
Carefully gripping his prize, he opened the door.
She looked up and wiped sticky hair form an already sweaty face, and her brow crumpled in a frown. “I told you to leave me alone. I’m in the mood.”
Her eyes narrowed as he turned his back to her to prepare the surprise, then widened in time with her mouth as he turned and tossed the toaster in the tub.
He paused, long fingers drumming on the shaft of his bow. The silence of the forest greeted him—that silence that never was. Shrieks of birds, buzzes of bugs, the crunch of something moving in the windblown trees nearby.
Maybe he imagined it.
Then it came again, dispelling that thought, and he jumped over the fallen log, long legs carrying him through the forest.
A scream. Desperate. Filled with terror—and maybe something else that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Bursting through a thicket, an arrow already nocked on his bow, he dropped to one knee, ready to fire—and froze at the sight before him.
In a large, open glade, a mud puddle seemed to be… consuming a young man.
He paused, staring, then fired the arrow. The young man shrieked again, thrashing so huge, thick gobbets of slime flung out of the mud pond and splattered on the grass and bushes. The fletching of the arrow was just visible in the muck, slowly being sucked in with a wet slurp.
Abandoning his bow as a lost cause, he ran over to the edge of the pond of slime and stretched out one arm. “Grab my hand!”
The young man—so liberally covered in goop that he couldn’t even tell what colour his hair was—managed to extricated one arm and reached, fingers trembling.
The mud pulled him in further, grunting and glugging.
Their fingertips grazed each other, then he caught hold and yanked. With a tremendous grunt, he dug in his heels and pulled, gripping the young man’s wrist with both hands. The slime was powerfully strong and seemed reluctant to release its victim, but after several minutes of vein-popping struggle, it relinquished the boy and sent him flying out of the pond. He landed with a thud, and they collapsed together, panting and soaked.
Leto blinked and looked down at the muddy man sprawled atop him. “You aren’t wearing any pants,” he said, surprised.
In the few spots not drenched with mud, the man’s skin flushed deep, violent scarlet. “Crumpets,” he mumbled, burying his head in shame.
Ignoring it, Leto lifted his head and frowned at the pond, burbling in quiet menace. “What was that thing?” he asked, wiping sludge from his lip.
The man scrubbed his face with a mortified groan and rolled off Leto to slump in the long grass, revealing fine blonde hair and embarrassed green eyes. “You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you.”
His abdomen was engorged, stretched like a balloon fit to burst. The hairy flesh was stretched taught over the swell, and he was covered in mottled patches of ashen white and flushed scarlet. Though his breaths came quick and short, his ribs creaking with effort, his pulse skipped and fluttered beneath clammy, butterfly skin.
It was only a matter of time now. Soon the screams and groans would stop, the frantic twitching of his eyes would cease, and those heaving ribs would stop straining under taut flesh.
Though excuses are silly, I shall give them all the same:
It was December, which means it’s the busiest time of the year where I work: ie, retail.
Also Christmas, which involved lots of running around to see the in-laws.
Then New Years. Though I guess that’s just the one day.
For two weeks, the partner and I were in Cuba. We just got home this past weekend.
Excuses excuses, amirite?
I’ve got about ten books I need to review, so I’m building a stack that keeps glaring me in the face whenever I walk past. I also need to update my hairventures, though I’ll say it has been boring lately – just blonde, no style, because I’m waiting for it to grow out some for the biggest adventure yet.
Now that the new year is officially underway, however, I plan on updating regularly again. Writing group is meeting up (tonight at my house, incidentally) so I’ll have flash fiction to post, and book reviews, and hair, and yada yada yada.
Contrary to popular belief, no one ever writes books, makes movies, or becomes a musician for fame, power, or money. They all do it for one thing and one thing only: Fan Art.
I got my first fan art recently and by recently I mean a few months ago but I’m a mook and totally forgot to upload it and gush like another sort of mook.
Contrary to what one might think, it isn’t PURITY fan art, but CHANGELING, unpublished and collecting dust on my hard drive while I write its threequel, I swear. CB himself actually made this art – based on one of the early scenes of CHANGELING in which main character Aisling and her band of merry soldiers gets entangled with bandits bent on assault and robbery.
Aisling (orange) is a pyrophoric mage – meaning she has the innate power to produce and control fire. Leir (blue) is cryonic – meaning she is basically Elsa and can control ice and snow the cold never bothered her anyway.
Tying into this, actually… I was recently writing USURPER, Changeling’s threequel, and I wrote myself into a corner in which I needed lyrics to a ballad. Being completely nonpoetic myself, I commissioned by friend Bethany, a songwriter and poet, to come up with a few lines for me. Inspired by the idea of writing a lament and also the lure of Mars bars Bethany jumped aboard with gusto and wrote not just a few lines, but an entire song – and then decided she wanted to write lyrics to a heroic ballad I had referenced elsewhere in the same chapter.
So, without further ado, one stanza of Winter Song, written by Bethany Sanjenko for USURPER.
When the winter winds came, he put on his boots He opened the door and tightened his noose Now he lays in a grave, shallow and cold No one to have and no one to hold
I’m hella pumped on all this. And according to CB Archer, now I have succeeded!
Also, you should go check out his page and Bethany’s Soundcloud, both linked. His as of yet unpublished book is hysterical, and Bethany is seriously talented.