ThursThreads, week 94


I reached into the open chest cavity, trying to remember my training and forget that the subject at hand wasn’t some random cadaver dug up from the cemetery, but, until recently, the living, breathing love of my life.

The lungs had always been my nemesis – they were so fragile, and so important not to damage. “They feel like velvet, or silk,” my instructor had said, but the lungs of someone who’d been dead for days never felt like that to me.

Tonight, however, I could feel it. I thought of the gown she’d worn on our first date, and the gossamer wings which had spread out ethereally in the moonlight. I eased aside her lungs and found my prize. Her heart, placed in a magical stasis for the exam, was still warm, but unmoving. Blood did not pump through her body, and if I didn’t restart it soon, I would lose more than my place in the college of physikers.

Closing my eyes, I imagined the beats, the charge the body gave to the heart, and began waving my fingers in the rhythmic pattern I’d been taught. The magic came to my fingertips, and with a shudder, her back arched and she came back to life.

I pulled my hand from her chest and watched as the wounds closed up. With a nod from my professor, I leaned down and kissed her cheek to awaken her, the now-undead recipient of my undying love.


VisDare 43: Memory


I lose you a little bit more every day. Not the fact of you, that you existed once upon a time, that you were part of a life filled with small victories and large tragedies and moments of a peace that I’ve never been able to re-acquire. I have cards and photos and journal entries detailing that life, the life that once was and is no longer. But those could be props from someone else’s life, the debris from a movie I starred in once but which was nothing more than the dreams of a lonely writer. I can no longer hear the timbre of your voice, feel the emanations from your hand, taste the anger which soared to my lips every time you brought up my failure to live the life you envisioned for me. The past moves ever ever on, carrying us all to the darkness that awaits.


Five Sentence Fiction – Determination


The tears flowed easily, pouring out of me in great sobs of angst and despair that did nothing to cauterize the wounds deep inside. I slept at night because I exhausted myself talking to strangers as lonely and bereft as I was, watching as their messages became less and less frequent until they stopped entirely, as their senders returned to the emptiness they called their lives. Each morning, a shower and some caffeine washed away the remnants of the previous night’s misery, enough that I could make my way from the island of safety that was my barren apartment to the cubicle where I could pretend to have a measure of privacy in which to drop my shield. But the clock ticked forward relentlessly, pulling me into the future at a rate of one second per second, and the time came every day where I could no longer hide. Stepping into the crowd, I let the chaos of life ensorcell me, drawing strength from that reservoir which somehow never seemed to empty, and from which I one day hoped I’d regain the capacity to feel joy.


A Merry Minion Christmas, entry 3

Written for the “A Merry Minion Christmas” collection.

“Wally, the Penguin Who Could Fly”
Eric Martell
eBook Yes
Dedicated to Ethan, Will, and Quinn

For as long as he could remember, Wally wanted to fly. At dinner, he told his mom and dad about the planes that had passed overhead that day, appearing as nothing but black dots on one horizon and then disappearing on the other, the only sign of their passage a trail of clouds in the sky. Wally thrilled at the sight of the wings and tail making the outline of a giant bird in the sky, and would waddle around excitedly, chirping and squawking loudly enough to wake up the whole flock.

“But Wally,” his dad said, “you’re a penguin. And penguins can’t fly.”

“Wally,” his mom said, “eat your fish. They’re getting warm.”

“Stop squawking, Wally,” his neighbors said, “we need to sleep!”

So Wally learned not to run around excitedly and squawk and chirp every time he saw a plane. But he didn’t stop dreaming of soaring through the air.

One night, the snow glowing in the light of a full moon, Wally saw something different flying through the sky. It wasn’t a bird. It wasn’t a plane. There was a red light that winked in and out and nine flying animals, the likes of which he’d never seen, pulling a large sled behind them. He didn’t hear chirping or squawking, but instead a faint “Ho, ho, ho!” calling down from above.

From that day on, Wally was obsessed not just with flying, but the strange red light that appeared in the sky just once a year.

One day while out fishing, Wally got separated from his family. A strong current pulled him north and his little wings weren’t big enough to make it back to shore. So he sailed away from his home, and his parents, and the only world he’d ever known. But the oceans were full of fish, and he floated easily on the water, and after many days, the current pulled him close to land. The ground was rocky, and the beach was full of other birds of all shapes and sizes, birds who could fly and chirp and tweet. Wally asked these birds if they’d ever seen the red light in the sky, but most of them were too young and too interested in cracking open shells on the ground to answer.

There was one wise old albatross who knew what he was talking about. “The light you seek comes from the north, and it belongs to a very special animal named Rudolph. He doesn’t have wings, but can fly all around the world in a single night. It will be a long journey, but if you seek him, follow the light of the North Star until it is directly over your head.”

Wally thanked the bird and set off to the north, marking off the distance a foot at a time with his short legs, waddling over rocks and hills and through valleys. He swam across rivers and splashed in the ocean. The weather grew warmer, and he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to continue, but dreamt of the red light in the sky, and persevered until it began cooling off again. He met thousands of birds and marveled at their wings, wishing, as he did everyday, that he could fly.

Finally, he started to see ice and snow everywhere he went, and the world began reminding him of the home he’d left so far behind him. He still hadn’t found the red light in the sky, though the North Star was nearly overhead, and he realized that he missed his mom and his dad and his grumpy neighbors.

One cloudy night he plopped himself down on a snowbank and cried. Wally was tired. He was lonely. And he knew he’d never fly. He just wanted to go home. Because his eyes were closed, he didn’t see the man approaching him. But he felt the arm around his shoulders and heard the warm voice. “Don’t be sad, Wally. You’re not alone anymore.”

Wiping the tears from his eyes with one flipper, Wally looked up at the man who was speaking. He was dressed all in red, and had a thick white beard, keeping him warm on such a cold night. “How…how did you know my name?”

“I know everyone’s name. And I know what you’re here for. Come, let me carry you.”

The big man in red picked Wally up and carried him to his house, a large cottage next to an even bigger barn. Knowing that Wally wouldn’t be happy wrapped up next to a fire, he brought him to the barn to introduce him to his team. The reindeer were excited to see him – there weren’t many people in Antarctica to deliver presents to, and they hadn’t met that many penguins. They were all friendly to him, but none more than the one he’d followed from the other end of the world.

Rudolph knew what it was like to want something everyone else said was impossible, and he spent hours with the penguin who’d traveled so far, sharing stories and talking about the many places they’d visited. As they talked, the man in the red suit brought Wally a bucket of fish, and Rudolph excused himself while Wally ate so that he could talk to the man. When they came back, the man had a serious look on his face.

“Wally, you’ve arrived on a very busy day for us. Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve, and my reindeer and I need to leave soon to bring gifts to people all over the world.”

Wally hung his head. His new friend was going to leave, and as exciting as it was to finally have met him, he didn’t know if he’d be able to make the long walk home.

The man in the red suit knelt down next to Wally and put his hand on his flipper. “Wally, would you like to come with us? We can fly you home.”

He traveled the world with the reindeer and his new friend, and as they flew back toward his home, the red light from Rudolph’s nose guided them through a snowstorm, bringing them in for a safe landing in front of his mom, his dad, and his squawking neighbors, excitedly circling around Wally, the penguin who could fly.

1047 words


Mid Week Blues Buster – week 36


I felt the drums before I heard them, a rumbling deep in my bones that drove me through the alley to the street. It was fully dark by now, and I’d warmed up some at home, enough that the combination of the buzz and the music made me feel a lot more attractive than I’m sure I was. Still, this wasn’t the night for half-measures, and I strode into the club as if I belonged there, and wasn’t just a slightly overweight geek in borrowed clothes.

The looks from the gathering of men in the door triggered every one of my self-doubts, and I fought hard not to let it show on my face. They were everything I wasn’t – strong, self-confident, possessors of ripped abs and style, the kind of men I’d always known looked down on me as some sort of lesser man-beast. But she hadn’t invited them here tonight. She didn’t know their names. And she wouldn’t be going home with any of them after a night of … well, whatever consenting adults did in a place like this.

I just hoped she’d be going home with me.

Making my way past the bros guarding the door, I found my way to the bar and waved to the bartender. Their drink menu was online, and I’d done the research to find out exactly which kinds of whiskey they had, what they tasted like, and which ones I could afford enough of to show her a good time. She didn’t want fruity, she didn’t want wine. She wanted…

“Booker’s. Two. Neat.” There she was, pressed up against me, tight in the ever-crowding room. Her skin was hot through my jeans, and I licked my lips involuntarily. I knew a man could get lost swimming among the stars swirling in her eyes from the flashing lights. I already was.

“I knew you were a smart man. And one who can follow instructions.”

I swallowed, my voice lost in a din of chaos in my mind. Women like this didn’t talk to me. Women like this didn’t smile at me. Women like this didn’t breathe into my ear and wink at me.

“Relax. Have a drink. Have a few. The night is young.”

We made our way to a corner and had that drink. And then another. And another. I don’t know what we said. I don’t know if we spoke aloud. But the buzz in my head grew, and my face grew numb, and I knew I had to kiss her. The whiskey on her tongue tasted even better than on mine, and my body quickly responded to this new intoxication, shivers of lightning running over my skin. She leaned back, breaking the kiss, and took another drink. Putting her cup down, she reached out for my hand.

“It’s time. Time to make me howl.”

Her fingers intertwined with mine, and I pressed my knuckles against the ring, and the stone atop it. She smiled at me, the smile I saw in my dreams, the smile I saw every morning when I woke up.

“Thank god your parents have the kids.”


A Merry Minion Christmas, entry 2

Written for the “A Merry Minion Christmas” collection.

“Not as They Are”
Eric Martell
eBook Yes
Dedicated to my family

Six glasses of water, four trips to the bathroom, five hundred and eleven giggles. Finally three small people were asleep in what used to be my bed, and I was free to go about my nightly rounds. My wife was trapped under an assortment of limbs, but I’d taken the opportunity during one of the assaults to lie down on the floor, and to free myself, I only had to pry a tiny fist off my index finger. Stifling a groan at my stiff back, I mouthed “thank you” to my wife and got a sleepy smile in return.

I could still smell the woodsmoke in the air as I made my way down the stairs to the living room. The glow of the fire reminded me of Christmases from long ago, when my belief in the mystical was stronger and more innocent, and I could still imagine a world where there would always be someone to take care of me. The kids hadn’t yet grown into the jaded cynicism I knew would dominate their teenage years, but I had to fight against the desire to show them what was really out the door, if only they would just look. I didn’t believe in some treacly Hallmark Channel version of childhood, but there was strength in seeing the world not as it was, but as you imagined it could be, and I wasn’t ready to take that away from them.

My wife had gotten most of the gifts wrapped while I had the kids out shopping for something special for her, and they were stacked neatly in the basement closet. That was the kind of magic I’d come to appreciate more as I’d gotten older, the magic of dependability, of someone showing you they cared about you in myriad small ways that other people wouldn’t even notice. Expecting more than that was a good path to the shrink’s office or the bottom of a bottle.
The glow of the lights through the pine needles threw shadows around the room, and I let my eyes grow unfocused as I placed the last gift around the tree. We’d had a good year, and I knew the kids would be excited as hours of careful wrapping turned into fodder for a landfill in minutes. Snatching a cookie from the coffee table, I sat back on the couch and stared at nothing – just shapes and colors and shadows, losing myself in the act of chewing.

Every year, we read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to the kids, passing down the legacy of mythmaking to another generation. It wasn’t the Night Before anything anymore, except the Night Before the 5 AM after-Christmas sales, but whoever wrote an ode to that wouldn’t include luxurious language like “more rapid than eagles, his coursers they came” – a modern-day writer would say “his reindeer were fast.” We’d lost a lot more than the innocent belief in Santa Claus – we’d lost a belief in a beauty beyond the efficient buck.

The wind howled outside, and I turned to watch snow start to fall. They’d said it was too warm this year for a white Christmas, but their models are complex and imperfect. Guess the kids would get a chance to break out the new winter boots we’d bought them after all. The snow was awfully bright tonight, a pure white that glowed in the moonlight.
But there was a new moon tonight. I’d made a comment about it in regards to the whole “moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow” line during reading time tonight, and I’d even double-checked it on my phone. As I tried to wrap my brain around what I was seeing, the snow got even brighter, forcing me to lift an arm to shade my eyes. And then came the flash. And the voice.


There was no one around to speak to me, nor to speak to, but that voice was too intense to disregard. Impossible or not, it was there. “Uh, my turn for what?”


“I do – I did. There’s no point anymore. The kids do. That’s enough.”


“Give? I give all the time. At work. Here. Look at that pile of gifts! And the Salvation Army – well, not them anymore. But Toys for Tots. Gifts for soldiers. The wishing well at the mall.”


“Then what?”


“But how – how do I give that? People see what they want to.”


“So – my kids? Change what I teach them? Am I doing it wrong?”


“Why – why me? What’s special about me?”


I didn’t respond this time, but did what the voice did. I thought about what I was being given the chance to do. Affect another’s heart, mind, beliefs. Show them a new world – a better world?

And all of a sudden, I knew who.


“It’s okay – I mean, I barely know -”


The voice was gone, and the glow disappeared from the snow. It continued to fall, though, coating the world in a skin of clarity and purity. All of the bad was gone, covered in an ever-growing skin. All of the good was gone, too. The past didn’t determine the future.

And that was my gift. The world not as it was, but as it could be.

I rose from the couch and returned to the bedroom. There was enough room on a corner of the bed for me to squeeze in, and I did, feeling the warmth of four sets of lives. Just as I was drifting off, a small voice whispered in my ear.

“Is it Christmas yet, daddy?”

“It sure is, big guy.”

1040 words


A Merry Minion Christmas, entry 1

Written for the “A Merry Minion Christmas” collection.

“On December 25”
Eric Martell
eBook Yes
Dedicated to the randomness of fate

The angel laughed, dark and thundery. “No one cares about Christmas anymore. The world has moved on.”

Just after nine thirty on the evening of December 25, 2013, Robert Anderson was born in the emergency room of Good Shepherd Hospital. His mother, a nineteen year old high school dropout, didn’t know the father’s name and didn’t even remember the night she became pregnant. Little Robert was wheeled to the NICU, born six weeks early and HIV-positive.

Just after nine thirty on the evening of December 25, 2013, Robert Anderson was born in the back of a taxi on northbound 7th Avenue, three blocks south of Governor’s Women’s Hospital. The driver of the taxi had cracked his head open on the dashboard when he’d rear-ended a swerving truck with a missing brake light, and he bled out his last when little Robert breathed his first. Robert’s father, a partner in a law firm, managed to complete the delivery before passing out from the sight of blood.

Just after nine thirty on the evening of December 25, 2013, Robert Anderson was born in a birthing suite in the Labor and Delivery center at Clayton County Hospital. His mother stayed conscious throughout the delivery, as did his father, a teacher at the high school, who cut the cord and held little Robert while he screamed out at the bright, cold world for the first time.

On December 25, 2014, Robert Anderson died. He’d never had much of a chance, coming into the world the way he did, and had been in and out of the hospital since the day of his birth. He expired in the arms of a nurse, for neither his mother nor father had come to see him since his last surgery on the 19th.

On December 25, 2018, Robert Anderson died. He was a bright and well-adjusted kindergartner, on vacation with his parents at Disney World. Returning to the hotel after a long day of fun, Robert was crushed when the sensor on the door of the monorail malfunctioned, catching his neck in between the doors and not letting go.

On December 25, 2028, Robert Anderson died. He was running over to his girlfriend’s house to give her the necklace he’d purchased for her – the first jewelry he’d ever bought for a girl. His mom had told him that if he waited until after lunch, she’d drive him, but love knows no patience. He slipped on a patch of ice at the bend on Lake Point Road and skidded in front of a car driven by a frustrated and lonely woman on her way home from church. Her eyes were filled with tears, and she didn’t even stop after knocking him into the ditch.

On December 25, 2033, Robert Anderson died. He had taken point as his squad walked up the road from Damascus. The road had been swept for IEDs, but not well, and as he scanned the ridge over the northwestern horizon for snipers, Robert stepped on a plate which set off a chemical spray aimed at his boots. The acid ate through the leather, and then his socks, and then into his flesh.

On December 25, 2043, Robert Anderson died. His trachea had not developed properly, and a bite of his grandmother’s amazingly dense fruitcake caught in his throat. His wife of six months tried to perform the Heimlich Maneuver, and then CPR, but he died as she was compressing his chest.

On December 25, 2073, Robert Anderson died. He had snuck into his daughter’s house, dressed as Santa Claus, to surprise his four year old granddaughter with a dollhouse. He accidentally shredded the covering on one of the strands of lights on the tree and his polyester coat caught fire. The smoke alarms alerted everyone else in the house, and he was the only fatality.

On December 25, 2113, Robert Anderson died. His heart, weakened since birth, finally gave out. The next day, researchers at Johns Hopkins announced the discovery of a drug which rebuilt the cells of an aged cardiac muscle. His bed was surrounded by his wife of seventy four years, his five children, 13 grandchildren, and 8 great grandchildren, three of whom were named Robert.

On December 25, 3013, Robert Anderson died. He had been among the first recipients of full-body revitalizing medications, and he looked much the same as he had when he was twenty five. His body was still hale and hearty, but his mind had started to fray after he stopped sleeping two years previously. He jumped into Boston Harbor and kept swimming east until he was too far from land to return.

On December 25, 1, Robert Anderson became the first citizen of the new world, struggling to take shape after the Great War. To celebrate the day, he and his fellow citizens exchanged gifts, gathering under the North Star on the coldest day of the year, and shared warmth and community.

The angel cried, tears coming unbidden to lidless eyes, and knelt down in the snow to ask for absolution.

844 words


Mid Week Blues Buster 35


I came to on a lawn covered with dew, the silver starlight refracting through the droplets to shine a thousand pinpricks of light upon my face. My feet were bare, my peasant shoes long having worn away as I’d made my journey west, and as I stood, the moisture cooled my skin, causing goose pimples to break out across my body.

There had been no reason for me to leave home, other than there had been no reason to stay. I was an outcast from a dead village, the last of my people – but not the first – to make the journey west. Looking out over the Sundowned Sea, I found that I could no longer remember the journey. I knew that there were mountains and valleys, rivers and forests, and I must have eaten and slept and walked for months, but it made no more of an impression on my memory than a faded dream.

The goddess who’d called me was one I’d known even as a young child, for she visited the people more than any of her brethren. She was dark, and called hate and jealousy to the fore of your mind whenever she spoke. I’d set fire to my mother’s bed on her orders, and I’d walked across the world to answer her call.

The sun would rise soon, filling the sky behind me with pinks and oranges and yellows, the colors the heralded a new day, which meant that it was time for me to find my rest. The shadow of an oak would provide my shelter, and the breeze from the south, my blanket. I curled up in my bower and watched the silver beacons fade from the sky. I had been called to the west to do great deeds for my goddess, and in the night we would begin her work anew.


Finish That Thought 15


When the moon exploded, I was sitting in my backyard, popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. The debris would rain down on the world over the next few hours, causing tsunamis, fireballs in the sky, and crushing humanity from above. In the meantime, it was my anniversary, and I was going to celebrate. I drained my glass in a single swallow and tossed the glass out into the yard. The glass shattered on a rock, just like my life. I lifted the bottle to my lips and began drinking in earnest.

The first fireballs streaked across the sky by the time I’d switched to whiskey. Marie had hated the smell of whiskey, but she was thousands of miles away with Stephen, sunning topless on a beach in the French Riviera. That she scheduled her honeymoon to overlap with our anniversary didn’t surprise me. She was vindictive, always had been. She wanted me to suffer, to miss her and the love I’d thought we shared. But she was the one who would suffer.

The explosion wouldn’t be visible from where she was. I’d planned it that way. All she’d know was that her new marriage would last until the end of the world.


Flash! Friday week 45


Children didn’t run over these hills, calling after each other as they pretended to be cowboys or explorers or knights. Young couples in love didn’t search the horizon for a place they could sneak away to and love each other away from prying eyes. Artists didn’t sit on outcroppings and try to capture the wonders of a sunset or sunrise or the motion of wild grasses blowing in a summer breeze. Hikers didn’t wrap their feet in worn leather boots and walk higher and higher, just to see what was over the next hill or what mysteries lay in the next valley.

Not anymore.

The dog was younger than the end of humanity, and it knew nothing of children or couples or artists or hikers. But it knew scents, and it knew that something had been here. She scratched at the dirt, clouds of dust blowing in the wind, delving until she found what had attracted her to this spot, the unknown combination of chemicals that had drawn her over unfamiliar hills. She didn’t recognize the blue fluff as a dog, though it had been a child’s favorite bedtime companion once upon a time.

Not anymore.

She gripped her find in her teeth, and loped off through the empty world.