|Sahta, First Child is a short fantasy chapter novella; read a bit more about it here!|
FFM18 01-AnticlimaxI emerged from The Paths, pushing Lyrrie ahead of me in her antiquated wheelchair, and waited for my eyes to adjust to the shift in worlds. We had stepped out of a forest, on to a worn old blacktop road that cut through a barren desert. On this plane, the sun was setting, and I cursed our luck. Shit always got weird around here at night and the whole business would’ve been easier at noon.
“This is it?” My companion asked, and I nodded. “What the hell are we going to do here?”
“Meeting my cousin,” I murmured, blinking away stars. A hundred yards ahead of us, the old highway was intersected by another, creating a crossroads devoid of stop light or sign. The old gas station was barely more than a shack with two ancient pumps out front, and my travel-addled eyes tried to reconcile the ghost image of a witch’s hut in the middle of the woods. We had left there yesterday, and I wasn’t at all
Singing from the DepthsArchibald Ichorwell had dedicated his life to the accumulation of knowledge; a noble goal he had begun to pursue through ignoble means. He held in his hands the Kakoasteíon, an ancient tome of unknown provenance, dogged by fearful tales and superstitions. Not a single scholar of the modern age had dared pry it open for fear it would return the favour in kind.
Archibald Ichorwell dared. By candlelight he translated:
Look up, and observe for yourself. Infinity hangs above our heads. We are but plankton in the oceanic void – imagine the leviathan that sails in the depths. There are some things that man was not meant to know. Some truths that our minds have not been shaped to understand. My mentor once told me that to seek to learn the inconceivable is alike to pouring the ocean into a cup. I now know this to be untrue. More correctly, it is like fitting a tiger inside a fly.
I say this in warning, in illustration of what awaits you. To read what I am about to w
FFM18 10 - BlessingsThe desert was cooler than usual for the season, and the traveler was grateful for it. He was a long way from his familiar fjords and stark tundra, a different sort of desert in its own right. On each of his shoulders, there perched a large raven, and at each of his heels stalked a lean, vicious-looking wolf, but he had picked up another travelling partner along the way between home and here.
“You sure you ain’t lost?” The little spider whispered, and one of the ravens eyed him hungrily, not for the first time.
“I am still following the Star, little trickster,” The Allfather replied, with a hint of a smile. So long ago was this, that even he was still young, the scars on his eye still raw and fresh. He had already drank from Ymir’s well though, and had foreseen the various mischief-makers that lay in his own future, surrogate sons and the like. “You’re trying to mislead me again.”
“This is b
Buckle Up Your SwashThe casting director smiled. “I’m Nina Packington and this is Zebedee Mackham, our artistic director. Thanks so much for coming in to sing for us… Adam, is it? ”
“Oh, no problem at all. I’m thrilled to be here.” The man looked about the rehearsal room vaguely. “Am I… the only one auditioning today? I thought there’d be lots of people.”
“Well, word’s got round—” began Zebedee.
Nina jumped in. “We’re just being very choosy.” She directed another smile at the auditioner. “Now, if all goes well, you’ll be taking the central role in the opera, replacing our lead Mortimer Murgatroyd who has… left us.”
“Oh, yes?” said the auditioner.
“Yes, indeed.” Nina cleared her throat. “At the first preview performance, after the climactic scene—the very, very climactic scene—he, well…”
There was a long pause.
Shakespeare Jumps the Shark“Behold, the fair Ophelia whose feet
“so nimbly guide the course of skis that fly
“not upon base snow, that blights the land
“but water, flawless, perfect in its sheen.
“Drawn by vessel motorisèd she
“like Phoebus’ car glides swift across the lake,
“though not so bright, her radiance less grand,
“her fair-faced beauty gentler on the eyes.”
“Hamlet,” said the gravedigger, “it’s cool how much you like Ophelia and all—I’ll agree it’s admirable that she was so keen to give waterskiing a try—but I’ve got a job to do here and I think we can both agree I should probably get it done sooner rather than later. This isn’t the best time to stand on the lakeshore reciting an ode
FFM 2018: Like MagicArturo always picks the best songs.
He finds them in the boxes upon boxes of old records that my father left to me, retrieving them with exaggerated care from their yellowed protective sleeves. Arturo doesn’t believe in anyone or anything besides himself, but whenever I see him putting a record on I am reminded of a worshipper kneeling before his holy altar. The comparison always makes me smile.
I know I should clean things up. It has been months now, but I still I haven’t been able to bring myself to unpack all the boxes, and now they just sit in the corner of the apartment, gathering dust. My apartment has become a shrine to the dead, sacred objects stashed in corners, spilling over into the tiny living room, and across the floor of what used to be our bedroom.
Last summer the heat became so extreme that Arturo decided to reduce everything in the apartment to its simplest components. We removed half the furnishings, the curtains, our antique couch. He insisted that we tea
Blood and IronThe patrol found her nearly six miles from the village of Stoneford, or perhaps she found them. She was barefoot, dressed in a simple shift, with her long hair unbound and a knife clasped in one hand. Blood had half-dried in tacky streaks across her skin, and her clothes were all but dyed in it. She glided across the ground like a Queen, cloaked in an air of serene grace, and beneath the blood she was impossibly beautiful.
The patrol didn’t stop her. She stopped them.
“Nobody else in that village survived,” she said. “You must take me to the King at once.”
The knight who led the patrol sent four soldiers on to the village to see for themselves, then gave the woman his horse, to spare her feet the rocks and stones of the road. She took the high seat like a throne, though the animal, normally well-trained, sidled beneath her like it sensed a storm, a skirmish, a snake in its path. The knight assumed it was the scent of blood and apologized for his mount
FFM Challenge: Experiments with FlyingThe portal stood on the top of the hill. It was dark grey stone, the color of washed out storms, and at times it sparked.
"Still here after it was built thousands of years ago," Shep grunted. "Like we all dreamed."
"We wouldn't have been born if it didn't exist in the first place," Mauveine pointed out. "I like being here."
They gathered around it. Ginger's hair-snakes were biting her nails, and she sucked at a lollipop the size of her Velcro sneakers. Mauveine slithered back and forth, with worry. Her scales had started to go grey. Chiffon, the sheep with wings, did somersaults in the air but his "baa"s were mournful. Shep the shepherd pressed his hawthorn staff against the portal's outline.
"Okay," Shep said. "Let me see what I can do."
They were standing in front of the portal. Shep was using a handful of Chiffon's sparkly white wool, carded and combed, to turn into yarn. He pressed at a spinning wheel so that the yarn spun into thin wool. He kept spinning.
"I can't beli
The Damocles ProtocolAt 2:47am, Michael Johnson died of a heroin overdose on the third floor of a multi-storey car park just outside Hull.
At 9:18am, his body was discovered by an Ikea employee, who subsequently called an ambulance.
At 9:44am, the death was reported and a unique identification number sent to a server at the Ministry of Justice.
At 9:45am, the code was broadcast, detonating one specific half-gram charge of plastic explosive.
Julia Walker’s phone was broken. She got out of bed, pulled on her clothes and turned on the TV.
“…collapsed in Parliament shortly before 10am and was pronounced dead on the scene. When approached for comment—”
The time in the breaking news banner read ten fifteen. Julia switched over to some ancient sitcom and stuck two slices of bread in the toaster. Then she boiled the kettle. The noise dro
UnmakeningHis Supremacy the Dark Lord Malefacorum was the undisputed tyrant of Pyrexia and the one and only wielder of the one and only Dread Pistol of Unmakening, which ran on Quasihyperfantasium and therefore had a vast number of unbelievable abilities. He was, undeniably, powerful. He was also--
“--a complete and utter tit, but you never heard it from me.”
“But…you’re one of his personal guards?”
“Yeah, and so are you. Doesn’t make him any less of a long brown streak on the underpants of humanity, just also demotes the likes of us to toilet paper…or something. All right, the comparing-whatsit-thingy got away from me there, but you get the general picture, right? Come on, keep up!”
The young man, moving awkwardly in his ill-fitting armor, stopped trying to adjust the breastplate to hang more over his breast and less over his stomach in favor of catching up with the older man pacing easily ahead.
“I don’t understand, though
The RedeemerThis was wrong.
Temel stood and trembled, staring through her visor, through the superimposed readouts and targeting circles, at the older woman kneeling gently in the grass.
It was a false world. She knew it was a false world. She’d known when the pod malfunctioned, when it crashed, when she woke up in a soft bed surrounded by white and green, by fresh air and birdsong and peace. She’d still known when people had come to her, changing bandages and ointments, bringing her fresh clothes, speaking something strange that lilted like song.
She’d known it was false. Everybody knew that their own home world was the only true dimension, the one original universe, the Absolute and the Supreme. Everybody knew that whatever else was out there was only made of empty shadows and monsters, stealing power and life to sustain its artificial existence. Destroying them was merely canceling out a negative, more creation than destruction really.
And yet the ointments and c
FFM 2018: AdriftHMS Orpheus: Captain’s Log - Day 26 - Bearings: Unknown.
There is blood in the water.
The men gather upon the railings, and wait for the others to arrive. Like sharks, they’re drawn by the promise of meat. Their tails thrash the water, pale hair splaying beneath the surface like weeds.
When they sing, we are helpless.
I no longer know where we are.
The sirens will not let us leave.
HMS Orpheus: Captain’s Log - Day ? -
The heat smothers us, making us lethargic. Hours drip between our fingers like honey. Slowly, we're beginning to forget our own names.
Why would we want to leave this place? Where would we go? There are no maps, no charts by which to steer our course. Even the stars are unfamiliar.
The islanders have invited us ashore.
Perhaps we will stay.
Ship’s Log, Entry 1622
Once this was a convict ship, bound for the colonies. We thought the sea had delivered us, but we were mistaken. Th
Of course there are plenty of other good FFM stories to choose from as well. Here are just a few of them:
FFM 30: THIS IS ABOUT DEATHI sat beside my children listening to the old widows speak about Death over coffee. They regarded the subject like an old lover, describing each encounter with affection-tinged grief.
“The soul is heavy,” said one as she described her husband’s death. “I could feel him lighten.”
I pressed my children to me, bearing their weight.
CrutchHanna twisted her ankle on a tangle of heather and gritted her teeth. It wasn’t broken, but she couldn’t put her weight on it. Her laboured breath came faster and harder as she fought for the will to go on. She had no choice. Only Frostcreep tea would break Lyn's fever, and there was only one place Frostcreep lichen grew. Nobody was around for miles, but for two crows watching from a nearby spindly branch.
Krunk Krunk, they called.
Spurred on by the discomfort of their gaze, she took a ginger step and collapsed into the brush, scraping her palm on exposed roots and unidentifiable serrated fronds which raised warm, red welts. She cursed and clawed her way up again, onto one knee. The moors stretched out around her, sloping down to the sea at her back, and towering up to the unreachable summit ahead.
She crawled to the lone birch tree, bowing low to the crows and apologising to them as she broke off their branch to use as a crutch.
Krunk Krunk, they went, and ho
FFM 2018 Day 30: Dream of What Will Come Had dreams been things of rational thought, the girl would’ve been frightened when the beast appeared. With a fraction of its face, it filled her whole vision, and its body was covered in pointy bits that could cut her right up. But it was gentle, this beast, and had a voice like steady rainfall, and it spent the nights with her, playing games and making up the most wonderful stories.
That’s what she told her father, and the therapist he took her to on Wednesdays. And it was true, but it wasn’t the truth, the full description that would fill her father’s downcast eyes with worry and lead the therapist to dig even deeper into her brain. She hated hiding things, but she hated the idea of hurting people with those things more. So each day she talked about what the beast had done, and each night, it did more of those things…
...And then it brou
FFM 29: Thea's SeasonsIn autumn, she feels at most peace. The trees in the forest are at their brightest in their dying – the reds, oranges, and yellows. Even the tans she can appreciate. Her hair turns a rust color. She begins preparing – sewing warmer clothes, making jerky, stockpiling wood. The wind whips the fallen leaves around the forest floor in colorful swirls. At night, the fire keeps her toasty warm. And on clear nights with no moon, the stars are at their brightest.
In winter, she finds it hard to be kind. Her hair pales to an icy white, and no one comes through the forest anymore. Most days, she stays inside her hut, trying to keep warm. The wind, light and breezy in the fall, now roars with unrelenting force. The sun shining on the snow blinds her and makes it impossible to see. So she goes outside on days that are cloudy, to crunch through the white landscape on woven snowshoes.
In spring, she sees every day as a gift. She watches every day as the buds burst on the trees, c
FFM 2018: SealskinSlick-backed, she sheds her second skin upon the shore and leaves it there. Sea-foam and sand mingle in-between her newly forming toes.
Her steps are uncertain at first, but like all newborn creatures she’s quick to find her feet. The sea cries out, but she doesn’t turn.
She has no intention of ever going home.
Satan and His Robot Buddy PaulEXT. SAINT SWITHUN'S HOME FOR EXCEPTIONALLY BIG-EYED ORPHANS - MORNING
We see the sun rising over St. Swithun's Home for Exceptionally Big-eyed Orphans, which is prominently signposted. Birds are singing. Peaceful flute music - you know the music I mean - plays.
Record scratch. The music stops.
INT. SAINT SWITHUN'S HOME FOR ETC. KITCHEN – CONTINUOUS
MRS. WITHERSPOON continues screaming, hands clasped to her face. She screams for some time, eyes wide with horror. Finally, we see what she was screaming about. There is a plate on the kitchen table covered with the smeared remains of a cake. Icing is splattered liberally all around.
MRS. WITHERSPOON: Who can possibly deduce who ate the orphans' precious cake?
Tyres screech outside.
Brutal guitar solo plays.
TITLE CARD: "SATAN AND HIS ROBOT BUDDY PAUL"
SATAN and his robot buddy PAUL burst through the wall of the orphanage. Fragments of brick fly across the room, break
FFM18 23 - Troy‘You always get the one with the shitty wheel,’ Troy hissed.
I rolled my eyes and pushed the shopping cart through the automatic glass doors. “They all have shitty wheels,” I said, without moving my mouth. “It’s a cosmic law or something.”
“It’s a joke, Troy.” I pushed the cart through the grocer’s section, picking through vegetables. “What’s got you in such a mood anyway?”
‘Seriously? I’m fucking pent up. I don’t like being a prisoner.’
“Maybe you’ll remember that next time you cause trouble,” I chided, and felt my lips twist into a smirk.
‘Come on, just let me blow off some steam.’ He paused, and his voice shifted. ‘You know I’m harder to manage when you let me get all built up like this.’
I grabbed a couple of tomatoes and tossed
FFM 20: The Music Box “One more time,” the clock-maker rasped, weathered fingers winding back the delicate interlocking gears.
The mechanical box opened, revealing the ballerina inside shivering off the silks that covered her tiny form. Within the velveteen confines of the box, she began to dance in a perfect likeness of her. Eyes stinging, the clock-maker watched the replica twist and turn with a sweep of the tinkling notes, before shrouding herself in the dark fabrics within the box. The lid gently closed.
The clock-maker blinked away tears, absorbing the silence and the memory of her music until it was deafening.
“One more time.”
FFM 18: Apocalypse, NOW!The Harbinger of Death hung the last of the solar panels on the roof of the makeshift hut and hopped down, clapping the dust free of her hands with satisfaction. She stood for a moment, admiring her handiwork before picking up a broken piece of plywood she had fashioned into a sign, propping it beside the entryway of her little shelter. The sign read:
COMMUNITY SERVICES HELP REQ’
She had run out of space when painting it, but still felt confident that the appropriate message came across. Finally, she picked up a milk crate, stood it on its end, and sat.
It took about an hour before she caught sight of a silhouette moving in her direction. Eagerly, she stood up, rubbing the grid imprinted on the backs of her thighs before recognizing the figure approaching. She slumped back into her seat.
“What do you want?” she mumbled, crossing her arms.
“Me? I came here to see what you were doing,” the Harbinger of Doom peered around her at the sign, picking his teeth wi
FFM 2018: TetherHollow-mouthed, and dry-eyed, I press the intercom button on my wrist.
“You have to cut me loose, Sam.”
The silence on the other end is deafening.
“I can’t.” A declaration, or a plea - I can’t quite tell. Either way, neither of us has time for this. Sam’s window is closing fast. Ten metres to the hull, another three metres through the airlock. It might as well be the other side of the world.
“Then I’ll have to do it for you.” I tell him, and somehow saying it out loud makes it real in a way it wasn’t before.
The exo-suit makes manoeuvring difficult, but we’ve all been drilled to within an inch of our lives on the protocol, and my fingers find the release catch without hesitation. The safety catch gives me a little trouble, but I eventually get it loose. After that it’s easy.
Holding the tether in my hands, I open my fingers, and watch it drift away from me in slow motion. I could still reach out and grab it,
FFM 2018: FatedThere was no time in the cave at the root of the world. No weeks, no days, no hours, or minutes. The Weaver sat at her loom, watching as mortal men grew and died, and their children rose to take their place. But time did not move for her, and she remained unchanged.
She was not one of the Fates, she did not decide the course of history. The Norns would send her messages through the red threads of fate, a tug here, a severing there, and the Weaver adjusted her work accordingly. But sometimes she wondered what it would be like to truly hold the fate of someone’s life in the palm of her hand.
Time did not pass for her in the typical sense, but she did other things in-between her loom work. She had a small garden, growing in a patch of sunlight that filtered down through the roots of the tree. She cooked, and cleaned, and sometimes she would rest in her small bed at the back of the cave, her blankets the old tapestries of bygone ages. She did not sleep, but sometimes she did dream, a
When Grandmother CallsWhen Grandmother calls, she says that everything will turn out alright in the end. I haven’t told her that the wolves are at the door.
Metaphorically and literally.
I’m not sure which concerns me more.
At first I thought that it was stress. You worry about a thing—about next week’s work rota, about making ends meet—and you start to see it as an animal skulking about behind the railings across the road.
Then you realise that there really is an animal, and you think that it’s a fox.
Then you hear the howling, find the claw marks in the wood.
When Grandmother calls, she says that everything will turn out alright in the end. I haven’t told her that the wolves are in the stairwell.
Nobody else seems to notice as they step over them or squeeze by. Perhaps
The FlatmateThe first note stuck on the fridge doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve been working such long hours, never seeing anyone outside of work—back home far into the night, out again at the crack of dawn. I’m still halfway between reality and dreams, so I don’t even read the note’s message. The angry tone permeates through but that’s all. I just throw the scrap of paper into the bin as I leave.
The note when I get home does upset me though:
There wasn’t much food in. Why don’t you ever do the fucking shopping? You’re the one who’s out near the shops all day.
There may not have been much, but it was my food. I’m hungry and that makes me anxious. I check the whole flat over and over before I go to bed but everything’s as it should be.
The message on the fridge next morning berates me for leaving the place looking like a tip. Why don’t you tidy it then? I think, though it’s pointless to exp
Transcript OneSEGMENT 1:
This is Professor Granham of the Department of Xenobiology at King’s College London, recorded July 16th, 1930. I leave this message partly because others will doubtless come looking for me, and partly because the…the [inaudible] compels me. There will be those at the University who know the nature of my latest avenue of research and may be able to retrace my steps. Please do not attempt to do so. If you were to see what I had seen…such glory, such hideous—
[Here there is a knot in the wire where a length has been excised. Staff are reminded to check all wastepaper baskets thoroughly before emptying.]
I have wrestled with the possibility of making my discovery known. Part of me wishes to reveal what I found, to allow my colleagues the opportunity to…to make it safe somehow. To stand against the horror I could not. But I know that at best this is foolish. At worst, the will of…
The best security here is
The Singing in the StarsParabola squadron floated out on the starboard flank of the fleet, barely visible. The azure glow of their engines had long cooled. They'd been out there for hours, on standby. No orders had been issued since.
“We should have heard something by now,” said Thaela over squad comms.
“Not necessarily,” answered Nerys, trying to sound more authoritative than she felt. “If this is really first contact, standard protocol goes out the window. We're all playing by ear.”
“Playing by ear usually requires that you hear something.”
Nerys couldn't really argue with that. Whatever the reason for the silence, and there could be any number of legitimate ones, it was still incredibly frustrating. Staying focused was getting difficult. Over her port side wing she saw Rozi nodding off in her cockpit. Nerys almost knocked on the transparishield to wake her before realising how stupid that was. She flicked comms back open instead.
“Rozi!” she snapp
Moleus Moleificarum“From the depths of hell they rise,” roared Brother Marlburrow. “Eyeless, ever hungering! Their hides, black as char! They claw their way up through the rock and dirt! Beneath our very feet, the legions swell!
“They're just moles,” pointed out Brother Simmons.
“Fools!” yelled Brother Marlburrow, brandishing his shovel wildly. His small frame was barely keeping up with the rabid, frothing energy that animated it. “'Beware, for the devil shall visit upon you, guised in cloak of beast and fowl; whosoever recogniseth not his evil shall be damned for their lack of vigilance, and there will be much wailing, and gnashing of teeth'! Lo, the devil is visiting his evil upon us! Lo, the devil, in the guise of a mole! Behold!”
He held up his bucket, full of moles tumbling adorably over each other.
“Behold as they revel in filth! Creatures of the underworld! Demon, I name thee! Spawn of Lucifer!”
The monks gradually dispersed,
FFM 9: Putting on the RitzShe reached above into the sky, plucking out the two brightest stars and fastening them into her ears. In the foreboding depths of the dark abyss, she pinned a siren’s opalescent scale to her hair. The molten rock of the earth’s core she fashioned into a cape of rippling flame, cascading around her like a waterfall of radiant heat to keep her warm. The final touches came upon her dainty feet: the clouds, glittering with raindrops unshed, laced to lift her when she danced.
Satisfied, she turned to her husband, and stopped, completely stunned.
“Seriously, you’re really not ready yet?”
FFM 2018: FirelightThe fire warmed them, so long as they kept it fed.
Outside the world was ice, and glass, and the hollow bones of metal giants. Remnants of a dead world consumed by an uncaring god. The wind sang to them sometimes in the night, calling to them, asking them to join it. But Jonah would not let them go outside.
They would not make the same mistakes. He would not let them. And so they made offerings of bone and bright cloth to the fire. They sang lullabies to its embers, and curled their bodies around it to protect it from the things that prowled in the night.
So long as the fire burned, they were safe. So long as the fire burned, they would stay alive.
When they ran out of scraps to burn, they made offerings of their own bodies, as was only right. Jonah praised their sacrifice. He said they would be remembered forever, and they knew it was true, for Jonah would never lie.
Night by night, the group became smaller, and for some doubt began to blossom in their minds. The fire grew weake
G. Deyke is an indie author of games, novels, short stories, flash fiction, and the occasional poem or screenplay. They will write anything from humor to horror to fairy tales, but have a particular penchant for speculative fiction: especially (though not exclusively) fantasy. They currently reside in a small village in southern Germany.
Due to a tragic imbalance of their machismo-to-sense ratio, G. Deyke can never refuse a ridiculous challenge.