Wordy Babble

Ill Met by Moonlight: Chapter 3

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

unnamedThe Subjects

[Project Oberon: Day 3, 07h50m] Subjects have shown activity in Broca’s area, suggesting some semblance of speech or communication is being carried out in the dormant state. Whether or not this simultaneous reaction indicates a significant finding as a response to stimuli remains to be seen.

[Project Oberon: Day 3, 0810h] The second trial has been completed. Photos of a sea monster were shown to subjects 315 and 526; subjects 536 and 325 were exposed to a photo of a banshee; subjects 335 and 345 were removed from the trial to provide a baseline measure. Results varied by subject, though again subject 526 showed a delayed return to normal range of vital signs.

Though it is still too early to form any conclusions, discussion currently leans towards a positive outcome of results for the study at hand.

The next trial begins at 1900h.

I don’t bother waiting for Josh as I storm down the lane, no matter how much I hear him wheezing behind me. He asked me to slow down once, but  hasn’t again since it became clear that I wouldn’t. If he wants to follow me, that’s his prerogative, but after the stunt with the lake monster, I’m not about to accommodate him.

I have no idea where I’m going — I just know I need to get away from that cabin and the disturbing lake. The forest looms to my left, the shadows stretching out towards me, and as I follow the curving path, the beach falls farther and farther away until it vanishes from sight.

The moon follows us overhead, never seeming to move, a fixed point in the sky. It’s odd, the way it just sits there. Like it’s watching me. I shiver and wish it was gone, and then just like that, it is. Instead of the moon, a bright sunset has taken over the sky, spilling reds and golds across the fields and lush trees.

The light doesn’t make the forest any more welcoming.

“This is weird,” Josh pants behind me. “Don’t you think it’s weird?”

“It’s a dream. Of course it’s weird. This whole thing is weird. Or did you not get that from both of us being in the same place? However that happened.”

That is the question that has plagued me since I accepted it was true. It’s enough to make me wonder what the scientists are doing out there in their lab. Are they crossing wires? Messing things around so we won’t know who we are when we wake up?

Either they have no idea, which means they might not know the repercussions, or this is on them, which hardly seems ethical. Not for the first time, I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.

With this thought, I finally let go of some of my anger towards Josh. Sure, he might have tried to sacrifice me to the lake monster to save his own skin, but the fact is we’re in this together. Both of us trapped in our own psyches. It’s an experience not many people get to claim.

So I slow down and allow him to catch up. His duster blows in a non-existent breeze, and I turn in the direction of the wind in time to spot movement coming towards us.

“Get down!” I hiss, and shove Josh into the bushes along the side of the road.

He grunts and starts to protest my manhandling, but I clamp a hand over his mouth and point at the two figures coming up over a slight dip in the path. He ducks farther down, his eyes widening over the edge of my fingers.

For a full minute, we remain silent and still, watching these people approach. At least, I think they’re people. As they get closer, I find myself unsure. The figure on the left is male — tall, broad-shouldered, dark skin, wearing a pair of faded jeans and a grey T-shirt, with a denim vest overtop  — but his eyes are that of a wolf, and his nose is crinkled as he scents the air. Something that looks like a machine gun is slung over his shoulder.

The woman beside him is moving with a lithe, cat-like stride. Her long black hair reaches her waist, and her dark skin catches the bizarre sunset in a way that makes it look like she’s glowing from within. Her eyes are a piercing green, and she wears a sword strapped at her hip over a pair of beige corduroy pants and a long green T-shirt.

I raise my hands in front of me and test the powers that have twice presented themselves in my time of need, using my mind to move the trees around us to create a screen.

“Josh, I’d arm up if I were you.”

His mouth falls open. “Are you serious? I can’t do that.” He gestures vaguely at the trees that have folded around us.

I try not to roll my eyes. “You’re in a dream. Come up with something.”

He blinks a few times, wrapping his head around what I’m saying. Then he squeezes his eyes shut, his entire face contorted with concentration. He reaches towards the ground, and when he pulls his arm back, he’s wielding a wooden hammer the size of his head. I raise an eyebrow, impressed, and he shrugs.

At least now I feel more confident finding out who these new people are, though I have my guesses.

Keeping my hands raised, I step onto the path. Immediately, both people on the road draw their weapons. They exchange a glance and adjust their stances, as though not sure how to react.

“Who are you?” the man asks. Seeing them up close, I place both of them in their mid-twenties, though it’s hard to tell with their eyes the way they are.

“My name is Regan,” I say, opting to skip over the second round of confusion. “This is Josh. We’re part of a dream study, and I’m going to take a wild stab that you two are, as well.”

The two exchange another glance, and the woman nods. “I’m Mary-Ann, and this is my brother, Mark. We’re twins, so we figured we found each other because of that. But if you’re here…”

I understand their expressions. Everything seems to be making less sense as it goes.

“I’m not sure where you’re headed,” I say, “but I’d steer clear of this road. It goes to the lake, and thar be monsters.”

Mary-Ann frowns.

“Then I guess we’re between a rock and a hard place,” says Mark. “We just fought off a Banshee in an old warehouse. I don’t think she’s coming back, but there could be more.”

Josh groans. “So I guess that leaves…”

The four of us turn to face the field stretching away from the forest, and we make out the wide arena of a baseball diamond. On the other side of it, two more figures approach.

“I would guess they make five and six,” I say, but just in case, we keep our weapons ready.

Two women come into view as they cross the field. One of them is shorter, with bright blue hair, and dressed in leather pants and a black T-shirt covered in skulls. A series of knives line the belt at her hip. The other woman is tall and willowy, with long silver hair and a kind of paleness that hints at illness or a complete loathing of the outdoors. She’s the only one dressed in what appears to be normal clothes: a white sundress that almost fades into her skin. She looks as though all the colour has been leached out of her.

“Are you the rest of them?” Blue Hair asks.

I’m relieved that we don’t need to go through the whole conversation again as I confirm that we are. Blue Hair introduces herself as Clare, and Colourless as Andrea.

“Any reason we find you standing in the middle of a baseball diamond?” Clare asks. “Planning a bit of in-dream sports?”

“Thinking about it,” Mary-Ann says. “Thought we’d invite the banshee and the lake monster to join in. You have any partners you’d like to sign up?”

Andrea turns paler – if that’s even possible – and Clare frowns. “I can’t even pretend to know what you’re talking about.”

“What about the rats?” I ask.

I worry Andrea’s about to be sick, and this time even Clare reacts, her throat bobbing with a hard swallow. “Yeah, those we’re familiar with. Suckers came out of nowhere. A whole whack of them darting in like flies.”

Andrea shakes her head. “It was the size of my hand and ran right up my leg.” Her voice is soft, barely above a whisper. “I felt it in my hair.”

She runs her hand over her head and tears fill her eyes.

It strikes me as odd that we’ve all seen the same thing, but interpreted it in such different ways. Add in the lake monster that two of us saw and two didn’t, and the banshee that had revealed itself to only two others.

“They’re playing with us,” I say. “Whatever the scientists out there are doing, they’re dropping these images into our heads and seeing what our brains make of them. That’s why the rats were all different.”

“But what about now?” Mark asks. “We’re all here, seeing the same thing.”

“Are we?” I wonder. “Or are we all seeing the same scene in slightly different ways?” I wish there was a way to test it, but for now the baseball diamond is empty. Probably for the best. I don’t want another run-in with the lake monster. Speaking of which… I look to Clare and Andrea. “So there were no monsters the way you came?”

Andrea shook her head. “I was in the old school when Clare found me. I didn’t want to leave, but she wanted to see what else we might find.” She dropped her chin. “And I didn’t want to wait there alone.”

“If we know that way is clear, we should head in that direction,” Josh says.

“And do what?” Clare asks. “Go back to the school and pick our noses, waiting for something to happen?”

“I doubt we’ll have the chance to get bored,” says Mary-Ann. “Not if these scientists want to get a reaction out of us.”

“And if that’s the case, I think we should stick together,” I say. “I doubt banshees and rats are the worst things we’ll see around here, so it might not be a bad idea to have each other’s backs.”

Mary-Ann’s eyes widen, and her gaze tracks something over my head. A shadow passes in front of the setting sun, dousing the baseball diamond in darkness.

“Funny you should mention it,” she says.

I don’t want to turn around and see what’s coming for us now. If I’d known that signing up for this study would mean walking into a two-week nightmare, I doubt I would have signed up.

If I ignore it, maybe it will go away. I repeat the thought to myself even as Mark and Mary-Ann take a few steps backwards. Clare turns to look and jumps away, but appears otherwise unfazed, while Andrea’s lips wobble and I brace for her to faint. Josh glances over his shoulder, then grabs my arm. I feel nothing where he touches me, and the experience is so bizarre that I’m tempted to shove him away.

Unable to remain in denial, I finally turn around to get a look at what everyone else has seen.

Looming in the sky is a black shape. At first, I can’t make it out. It’s a blob. A smear in the clouds. But the longer I stare at it, the more it takes form: a wide, gaping mouth opening wide, red eyes glaring down at me, staring right into my soul. Long arms stretch out from either side of it and reach towards us.

Josh tugs on my arm – a gesture I see instead of feel – his eyes are wild, and his feet are already moving towards the road. There’s a panic in his eyes that spreads to Andrea, and my own heartbeat responds with the need to flee.

The shadow hands try to grab me, and although I know this is only a dream, and that it would be wiser to face it and fight, all I can think is that Josh has the right of it when he gives me a final tug on the arm and shouts, “RUN!”

Does Regan run or fight the shadow monster?

Newsletter subscribers will receive the survey within three days of the chapter being posted. New subscribers will receive the voting link in their welcome package, within 24 hours of subscribing.

To subscribe, follow this link: http://eepurl.com/GIJkz.

Please note: the email with the link will only go out to those who choose the “Regular Update” option on sign-up.


Ill Met by Moonlight: Chapter 2

The Cabin
[Project Oberon, Day 2, 1800h] The following scenes are now on display on the test room walls:
  1. A forest
  2. A cabin
  3. A lake
  4. A warehouse
  5. A school
  6. A baseball diamond

Each subject has been faced in the direction of a different scene to determine whether imagery seen during a state of unconsciousness can influence the dream experience. Subjects were shown the images three times for 0010s increments with 0020s rests. The scenes will be moved at random points throughout the study to gauge how the change of scenery affects the dreamer’s state.

[Project Oberon, Day 2, 2100h] The first trial has been completed. Photos of rats were shown to each subject three times for 0010s increments with 0020s rests. Reaction time varied by subject from 0025s to 01m36s. All subjects showed increased stress reactions. Subjects 315, 536, 325, 335 returned to stable heart rate by 02m55s. 526 returned to stable heart rate by 04m27s. 345 returned to stable heart rate by 06m35, which falls above the parameters of the study. Discussion as to whether subject 345 should be pulled from the study. Decision: as heart rate remained within normal range for someone of her age and overall health and dropped without medical intervention, subject is deemed safe to continue.

The second trial will begin at 0800h.

I scan the beach and debate between the boat and the cabin. The boat would allow me to explore the island and find out where exactly I am, but I can’t bring myself to go near that lake. Even the thought of it sends chills down my back.

I turn away from it and head towards the cabin.

As I approach, my steps slow of their own volition. Dark windows stare back at me and the door is slightly ajar. Although I know this cabin is in my own head, I’m leery about barging in. After that run-in with the rat-bear, I’m not eager to discover what else might be lying in wait.

The porch is draped with dried-out vines that cover the view of the lake. I’m not sure what’s worse—the creepy stillness of the water, or the dead screen blinding me from it. This whole place is off, like it was designed based on a magazine picture, but seen from all the wrong angles.

I reach the door and push it open, staying outside until the doorknob hits the back wall. Moonlight spills across the floor, revealing a sparse interior furnished only with a rickety kitchen table. Cabinets and countertops line the far wall. Some of the cupboards hang open, with small unidentifiable lumps within. Two windows let in a little more light, highlighting a single door to my left and confirming that the rest of the room is empty.

I don’t want to go in, but the thought that I might find something to arm myself with offers solid motivation. That rat-bear might be the only threat I face here, but I don’t want to take that chance.

Steeling myself, I step into the cabin. The air feels thick and close, though when I take a deep breath, I notice no change in the quality. If anything, I catch a whiff of bleach and sterile wipes. I wonder if I’ll reach a point in the next two weeks where I forget this is a dream, but so far all it feels like is a broken version of reality.

Nothing jumps out to grab me as I make my way through the room, but I keep my back to the wall anyway. If movies have taught me anything, it’s that the enemy can come out of nowhere if you give them the opportunity.

The window on the far wall is partially blocked by the same vines that cover the porch, but I can glimpse the lake beyond, and I swear there’s something skimming along the surface. I shift my position to better make it out, but by the time I have a full view, whatever it was is gone.

I continue my exploration of the cabin. The table is bare except for a thick layer of dust, and when I reach the cupboards, I discover the unidentifiable lumps are just old dishes. The rest of the cupboards are bare, and all I find in the drawers in terms of a weapon is a single wooden chopstick.

I leave it to continue its slow decomposition and am about to continue the search when a thud echoes from beyond the door at the other end of the room.

I curse myself for not checking first and leaving myself vulnerable, but now I’m stuck. To return to the front door would mean passing by that room.

Silence falls as I wait for the noise to repeat. At first, there’s nothing, but when I strain my ears, I pick up what might be a wheezing breath.

This is my dream, I tell myself. I have control here.

I cross the room, wince as a floorboard creaks under my heel, and pause outside the door. The breathing gets louder, a definite whistle on the inhale. Whoever it is, they’re afraid. I just hope there are as many weapons accessible in there as there are in here.

I debate whether it wouldn’t have been smart to grab that chopstick.

With no other reason to delay, I turn the handle and push the door inward.

Just as I take a step, a figure cries out and jumps in my face. I scream and jump backwards, creating space between us. My hands fly up as I prepare to use the same trick on my attacker as I did on the rat-bear, but they don’t come at me again.

My heart is racing, my chest aching with the speed of my uneven breaths, and I keep my hands raised as I take in the guy in front of me.

He’s an inch or so taller than I am, about the same age, and stands on the scrawny side. Bleach-blond hair lies over molten-red eyes. His clothing choice seems even more bizarre than my own: an ankle-length duster over a pink T-shirt, jeans, and a pair of steel-toed boots.

“Who are you?” I ask.

“Who are you?” he shoots back, a pillar of creativity.

Seeing no reason to keep secrets from someone inside my own head, I answer. “Regan.”

There’s a flash of panic and confusion in his eyes, and I realise he might not know his own name. Is that weird when he’s supposed to be a figment of my subconscious?

“Josh,” he finally says, with a hint of relief in his voice.

“What are you doing here, Josh?” I ask. Is he supposed to represent some part of my unconscious? Someone I’d long ago forgotten, or even a symbol of my self doubt?

“I—I’m here for a study. I don’t really understand what’s going on. I’m supposed to be dreaming, but this all seems so… real.”

I burst into a laugh. “I guess I must be more thrown by all this than I thought if I need an outward projection to tell me this is messed up.”

Josh frowns. “What do you mean?”

“This is my dream. You’re in my dream. I’m the one in the study.”

He blanches. “That’s not possible. I’m me. I can’t be in your head.” I worry for a moment that he’s about to faint, he looks so thrown by my statement. “I remember my mother dropped me off at—at… I don’t remember where. And there were tests, and then I woke up outside. In the trees. I was attacked and ran in here, but I never woke up. Now you’re here, and you’re telling me I only exist in your head?”

The alternative is too farfetched to even consider.

Yet the confusion in this guy’s eyes… the fear. I don’t feel that afraid, do I?

“How is it possible we’re both in the same place when we’re supposed to be in some medically induced daze?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says. “But unless you’re the one in my head, somehow it happened.”

Did the researchers know this was possible? Is this all part of their study?

“What did you think of the rat thing?” I ask. If I’m supposed to trust my brain in this place, I need to know what’s real and what’s not. I bring the memory of that rat-bear to mind, the way I’d flung it through the trees.

But I don’t feel as horrified by it as Josh clearly does. His face has gone white, and he backs up against the wall. “You saw it too? It’s what made me run in here. It was closing in on me so fast. I swore it was going to swallow me whole. Is it still out there? If it is, I’m not leaving.”

His answer leaves me reeling. “It’s not possible.”

But what other answer is there? Somehow, my brain and Josh’s have crossed. My mind is no longer my own.

The room suddenly feels too small, too closed in. Even if I can’t feel the wind on my skin, I need to get out of here. I run out the door and down the porch steps towards the beach.

“Wait! Stop!”

I don’t listen to him. I can’t. I need space to think.

I reach the water and bend over, bracing my hands against my knees. Every cell in my body is urging me to fight, to run. I don’t like it here. I want to wake up. I grab a chunk of skin on the back of my upper arm and squeeze. There’s a sense that there should be pain, a vague psychological reaction, but I feel nothing and I’m still here.

Out of frustration, I release a yell over the lake.

“I don’t think you should do that,” Josh says, close behind me.

I don’t care. I shout again.

The creature jumps out of the lake before I can make out what it is. Water splashes against my face and the green mass zooms past me towards Josh. He grabs my arm and jerks me forward, blocking his path so the creature hits me full in the face, heavy and squelching. The weight shocks me into action. Raising my hands, I imagine the creature rising above the sand. I hear Josh’s gasp as my imagination channels the image into reality and the creature soars away, writhing and fighting against the force of my mind.

With an effort, I fling it out over the water, far enough that I still can’t make out whatever horrors might have greeted me on closer inspection, then let go. It hits the water and goes under, leaving only the barest splash before the surface goes still again.

I take a moment to let my heartbeat settle, but fury settles under my skin, a warm and uncomfortable layer. Slowly, I turn around to face Josh. “What the hell was that?”

His red eyes widen. “It was coming at me. You yelled and it came at me. I—I didn’t think I just…”

I glower at him, disgusted, then storm off towards the road. There’s nothing for me in the cabin, and I’m not about to stick around here and wait for that lake creature to come back.

“Wait! Don’t leave me alone here. Let me come with you.”

Josh is jogging after me, and he’s already wheezing. I stop and glare at him. How can I trust him when he just threw me to that monster? What would he do if we’re attacked again? As I’m already learning, not even my own mind is safe, and I don’t know how far these researchers will push it. I’ll need to stay alert and ready to defend myself. But how can I live with leaving him alone to face that monster?

I’m starting to get the feeling that these next two weeks are not going to be the forgettable experience I was expecting…

Continue to Chapter 3

Ill Met by Moonlight: Chapter 1

unnamedThe Project

[Study 16487-D, referred to from this point as Project Oberon. Day 1, 0800h] Six subjects arrived on schedule. Subjects seven through ten have made no communication subsequent to the initial orientation — decision: the study will proceed with a total of six subjects. Following discussion, the majority (8-4) has agreed that six is sufficient to gain the data the study aims to collect over the course of the next two weeks. Testing for conditions and to eliminate incompatible subjects will commence at 0900h.

[Project Oberon, Day 2 , 1400h] Testing has been completed and subjects have been tagged as follows:

315: female, 24, 5’6, 145lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear

526: male, 22, 5’8, 237lbs, previous history of asthma but no current symptoms — decision: no concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear

536: male, 25, 6’3, 205lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear

325: female, 27, 5’8, 125lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests showed slight anemia — decision: clear

335: female, 24, 5’3, 130lbs, hospitalization for pneumonia 4x in last twenty years — decision: no concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear

345: female, 23, 5’7, 105lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests showed increased blood pressure and heart rate — decision: no immediate concern; will monitor status and remove subject if required, blood tests clear

[1500h] Subjects have read and signed all documentation. Informed consent has been granted. All have agreed to the conditions and have given full permission to the study heads to perform the following:

  1. Induce a coma using an injection of propofol
  2. Alter the condition of their physical surroundings to monitor any effect said changes have on their physical/physiological status with an aim to determine whether dreams can be manipulated by external conditions

Subjects have also sworn to maintain confidentiality at the end of the two weeks, per the confidentiality agreement, or risk legal repercussions.

For the part of the researchers, our responsibilities are:

  1. To ensure the safety and well-being of our subjects at all times
  2. To end the study at any sign of serious effects on the well-being of our subjects
  3. To remain within the ethical mandate of our study and only apply the changes of condition necessary for obtaining the data required

[Project Oberon, Day 3, 0900h] Subjects have been assigned beds 13 through 19. Subjects have again been briefed on what the study will entail and what they might expect once the propofol takes effect.

[1100h] Propofol has been administered. Subjects’ conditions are stable, and testing can begin.

I open my eyes at the shout of crows somewhere overhead. A breeze drifts over my skin. I expect to shiver, but don’t feel the cold.

It takes me a minute — maybe longer than it should — to realize I don’t know where I am, and another few moments to realize that if I want to figure it out, I need to sit up and look.

My body feels strange. Kind of light and distant, like I’m not really here, so I move slowly. I start by digging my fingers into the ground beneath me and am confused when they sink into the surface. Dirt? I rub my fingertips together to confirm it.

So I’m outside. That’s a start.

I run my hand over the ground and recognize the familiar sensation of grass on my palm, tickly and light. It still feels strange, but gradually I think I’m coming into myself.

Carefully, I sit up and have to blink into the darkness surrounding me. The bright moon highlights the tops of the trees ten feet ahead and the water twenty feet to my left. I seem to be standing on the edge of a beach, where the grass gives way to a fine sand. Reflections of the light on the water cast rippling shadows across the beach and over my hands when I hold them out in front of me. I’m still not certain of where I am. Or even who I am.

My name is Regan, that much I remember, but if someone asked for my birthday or the names of my parents, I don’t know if I could tell them. It’s there. I feel the information in the back of my mind like a distant memory, but when I reach out for it, it vanishes. But maybe that’s okay. For now, I’m all right with just being Regan.

I look down at myself and my confusion increases. These aren’t my clothes. The Regan I know myself to be would never wear these clunky army boots or cargo pants. The black T-shirt is familiar enough, but it hugs my body in a way I wouldn’t be comfortable with if I were walking down the street.

A niggling sense of explanation tickles the back of my mind, but disappears before I can latch on to it.

For now, I let it go and turn my attention to the rest of my surroundings. The water appears to be a clear, calm lake, without even the ripples of fish making their lazy way under the surface. It’s eerie. Lifeless. A shiver runs down my spine, and I’m relieved to feel a natural response from my body. This sense that I’m wrapped in gauze refuses to go away.

I turn to look at the woods. Despite the cries of the crows, the trees are as still as the water, untouched by the breeze or anything living within.

I don’t like it here. My stomach clenches as I take another pass and realize there’s nowhere to go. A boat sits at the end of the dock stretching over that still, seemingly empty water, and I spot a cabin at the end of the path, its windows dark and unwelcoming. But there’s no car, no signs, nowhere that tells me how to get home.

I rub my arms, expecting goosebumps, but there are none.

At the height of the silence, I jump at the sound of a high-pitched squeak behind me. I whirl back towards the woods and for a moment there’s nothing. It’s only when the bushes to my left rattle that I make out what’s there.

The taste of blood fills my mouth as my heartbeat races, and I raise my fists, though I don’t know what that’s supposed to achieve.

In front of me, creeping out of the bushes, is what looks like the result of a bear romancing a rat. The size of a cub, its fur is matted and thick, its pointed nose twitching as it scents the air.  Red eyes glare at me, and in them is nothing but malice and hunger. I back away, but it follows. My lungs can’t seem to suck in enough air, and I wish beyond anything that I was somewhere else. That someone would appear and help me. But I’m lost and I’m alone.

The rat starts to run, but I’m already on the edge of the water. I back my left foot into the lake, and although I can feel the water lapping against my ankle, there’s no cold, no wetness.

The beach is empty of weapons. Not even a branch I can grab to fend this monster off. It’s grinning at me now, its sharp teeth catching the glow of the moon. A sharp hiss emanates from its throat.

It lunges.

I raise my hands and squeeze my eyes shut. I imagine the rat flying away from me, into the trees.

There’s a loud shriek and the sound of branches being broken.

I open my eyes and stare across the empty beach. The rat is gone, and in the distance I hear it scurrying away through the woods.

What just happened? I stare down at my hands, but they’re just my hands.

The truth hits me like the weight of that rat against the trees. The dream study. This world, this night, that rat, me, none of it is real.

Was this what was supposed to happen? I’d been told that I would be put into a medically induced coma, and that the doctors would attempt to manipulate my dreams. But although I feel strange, my consciousness is far more aware than it is in even my most lucid dreams.

I stare at my hands again. Had I really made that rat fly into the forest?

My lips curl into a smile as I walk up the beach. Cool.

But if this is my home for the next two weeks, I might as well get comfortable.

Once again, I turn my attention to the world around me and start off to explore.

Continue to Chapter 2

Awesome Adventure Academy and “Boardgames”

January was a month of firsts for me in terms of publishing. First time I’ve focused on my writing for days at a time instead of around a dayjob schedule, first time I hit a nice sales milestone, and my first convention!

2015-01-30 16.41.44

The brainchild and test run for artist Adam Tupper and his organization Wonder Geeks Activate, along with a few other talented and energetic people, the AAA involved some amazing cosplayers, improv, artists, and all things geek culture, with the catchy catchphrase #likeschoolonlyfun

My booth at the start of the day. My table buddy and bestie Megan is already hard at work to convince people my books are worth the read ;)

My booth at the start of the day. My table buddy and bestie Megan is already hard at work to convince people my books are worth the read 😉

I had a blast! Made so many new connections, and bought some beautiful art from Rich Lauzon, Katie McCarthy, and Jolie Stripes. The novel pictured is a YA fantasy/horror by Kevin T. Johns.


I also had fun perusing the wares of Steamdragon Studio, a booth of steampunk/gothic curios including shrunken heads, monkey paws, mummy hands, and Marv, the mummy stuffed in a trunk. Each item comes with its own myth or legend, all adding to the atmosphere.


I inherited an imp familiar, that I think will end up named Crowley.

2015-02-01 12.36.53

Rob Olsen with Geek Inked Magazine was also awesome enough to give EVENSONG a plug in his article on the event. Want to know what the AAA was all about? Give the article a read!

Based on this experience, I’d jump at the chance to do it again. I love the opportunity to meet new readers in person. A few have come back to keep in touch so if any of you are reading *waves* Hello!

Last week I skipped posting my short story, but I’ve been good at keeping up on them! I technically have not missed a day since I started (read: I’ve missed days, but caught up). Today I’ll share one called “Boardgames”.


“You totally cheated!” Sarah cried. “It fell on the five.”

Gary laughed. “It did not. A clear six and anyone will vouch for me. Chuck?”

“Of course Chuck will vouch for you — he’s on your team! I saw a five.”

“Kara, ladies, calm yourselves,” said Chuck, raising his hands in a gesture that had the opposite effect than intended. He ducked to evade a projectile chip bag and snatched out a hand to stop his drink from toppling. “Hey now. Just because you’re losing–”

He had no time to finish before a pillow launched at him next. He caught it in the chest and collapsed on the floor. “Man down. I’m hit, Gary. Go on without me.”

Gary grabbed the dice. “I’ll make it up to you, man. I will avenge you! Come on, four.”

And he rolled.

Week 4 – Fall into Fantasy with Marsha A. Moore

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

The Enchanted Bookstore Legends

Book One: Seeking a Scribe

Book Two: Heritage Avenged

Book Three: Lost Volumes

Book Four: Staurolite

Book Five: Quintessence

By Marsha A. Moore

Seeking a Scribe: Enchanted Bookstore Legend One by Marsha A. Moore

Lyra McCauley is a writer and loves fantasy novels, but until she opens a selection from bookstore owner Cullen Drake, she has no idea he’s a wizard character who lives a double life inside that volume…or the story’s magic will compel her from the edge of depression to adventure, danger, and love.

His gift to Lyra, the Book of Dragonspeir, was actually her copy, misplaced years ago. Lost in her pain following divorce and death, she fails to recognize him as her childhood playmate from the fantasyland. Friendship builds anew. Attraction sparks. But Lyra doubts whether a wizard is capable of love. She’s torn—should she protect her fragile heart or risk new love?

Opening the book’s cover, she confronts a quest: save Dragonspeir from destruction by the Black Dragon before he utilizes power of August’s red moon to expand his strength and overthrow the opposing Imperial Dragon. Lyra accepts the challenge, fearing Cullen will perish if evil wins. Along with magical animal guides, Cullen helps her through many perils, but ultimately Lyra must use her own power…and time is running out.
Series Description:
The Enchanted Bookstore Legends are about Lyra McCauley, a woman destined to become one of five strong women in her family who possess unique magical abilities and serve as Scribes in Dragonspeir. The Scribes span a long history, dating from 1200 to present day. Each Scribe is expected to journey through Dragonspeir, both the good and evil factions, then draft a written account. Each book contains magic with vast implications.

Lyra was first introduced to Dragonspeir as a young girl, when she met the high sorcerer, Cullen Drake, through a gift of one of those enchanted books. Using its magic, he escorted her into the parallel world of Dragonspeir. Years later, she lost that volume and forgot the world and Cullen. These legends begin where he finds her again—she is thirty-five, standing in his enchanted bookstore, and Dragonspeir needs her.
When Lyra reopens that enchanted book, she confronts a series of quests where she is expected to save the good Alliance from destruction by the evil Black Dragon. While learning about her role, Lyra and Cullen fall in love. He is 220 years old and kept alive by Dragonspeir magic. Cullen will die if Dragonspeir is taken over by the evil faction…Lyra becomes the Scribe.
Purchase Links:

Marsha A. Moore loves to write fantasy and fantasy romance. Much of her life feeds the creative flow she uses to weave highly imaginative tales.

The magic of art and nature often spark life into her writing, as well as watercolor painting and drawing. She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and is a registered yoga teacher. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transformed into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Marsha is crazy about cycling. She lives with her husband on a large saltwater lagoon, where taking her kayak out for an hour or more is a real treat. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical!
 Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?
  • Don’t forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Excerpt from Seeking a Scribe:
Chapter One: Licorice Memories
The smell of anise
greeted Lyra as she opened the door to Drake’s bookstore. It took her back to
happy childhood memories. Licorice-shoe-string-rewards for following her
parents’ requests to stay on the dock while they secured the family’s pleasure
boat to its trailer. The aroma brought a fleeting remembrance of times long
gone, a treasure now that her folks had recently passed. At ease with the
familiar scent, she settled into browsing through rows of antique bookcases.
The shop owner
stuck his head around a set of shelves. “Do you like tea?”
“Yes, I do.”
Before she could finish speaking, he disappeared. “Is that the wonderful
smell?” she called out.
clinked in the back room. Receiving no answer, Lyra followed the noises,
scanning collections as she walked. This bookshop appeared established, but
surely she would have remembered it from her last visit to the Lake Huron
village five years ago. Books were her passion, especially fantasy. She paused
in front of that section and studied its titles.
The owner appeared,
holding a pewter tray with a teapot, two cups, sugar jar, spoons, and napkins,
which he laid on the corner of an old library table. She watched him carefully
pour the tea and hand her a cup. He was about her age, mid thirties or a bit
older, and handsome. His medium brown hair, peppered with gray at the temples, grazed
his shoulders in wavy layers, and his beard was trimmed into a neat goatee. He
wore long shorts, a knit golf shirt, and sandals—typical casual attire for this
island resort community.
She set down her
bag from the drugstore and accepted his offer with a smile. “Thanks. My name’s
Lyra.” She blew across the hot surface of the tea to cool it and then inhaled
the anise-scented steam. She closed her eyes to fully enjoy the memory. “Ah!”
“Afternoons of
boating and licorice with your parents? Right?” he asked.
Her mouth dropped
open. How did he know that?


Week 3 – Fall Into Fantasy with Elsie Elmore

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 3: The Undead: Playing for Keeps

By Elsie Elmore

When an undead woman with serious de-comp issues stalks sixteen-year-old Lyla Grimm, her hope of rescuing her rock-bottom reputation takes a back seat. Survival definitely trumps the in-crowd.

Her corpse-following scare reeks of a major prank and coincides with the arrival of Eric. He’s the hot new guitarist in her brother’s band. But Eric’s arrival isn’t by chance. He’s a Grim Reaper dispatched to find out why Death’s clients aren’t staying down.
As Eric realizes that Lyla can wake the dead, he jockeys for control of her gift. His uncanny way of appearing when she needs him most earns her reluctant admiration. But the closer he gets to Lyla, the less sure he is of his plan. The dead are easier to deal with than living emotions.
Gossip explodes, the Grimm family implodes, and desperation sets in. Death wants the gift and a soul. Lyla and Eric face hard choices with hidden consequences. Sometimes life’s choices aren’t really choices at all.
Buy your copy here: Kindle  Barnes & Noble Print  Amazon Print

Or add it to Goodreads


Elsie Elmore lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

With a science education degree, she never imagined she would someday write stories that challenge the laws of nature. She loves the color red, has an appreciation for chocolate and coffee that borders on obsession, and wishes fall temperatures would linger year round.
Elsie is a member of several writing organizations: RWA, SCBWI, and WSW. The Undead : Playing for Keeps is her debut novel. Find her on the web: on twitter at @ElsieWriter, her blog at elsieelmore.com, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/elsieelmorewriter.
Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?

  • Don’t forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Week 2 – Fall into Fantasy with Ann N. Noser

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 2: How to Date Dead Guys 

Under the Blood Moon series

By Ann M. Noser

College sophomore Emma Roberts remembers her mother’s sage advice: “don’t sleep around, don’t burp in public, and don’t tell anyone you see ghosts”. But when charming Mike Carlson drowns in the campus river under her watch, Emma’s sheltered life shatters.

Blamed for Mike’s death and haunted by nightmares, Emma turns to witchcraft and a mysterious Book of Shadows to bring him back. Under a Blood Moon, she lights candles, draws a pentacle on the campus bridge, and casts a spell. The invoked river rages up against her, but she escapes its fury. As she stumbles back to the dorm, a stranger drags himself from the water and follows her home. And he isn’t the only one.
Instead of raising Mike, Emma assists the others she stole back from the dead—a pre-med student who jumped off the bridge, a desperate victim determined to solve his own murder, and a frat boy Emma can’t stand…at first. More comfortable with the dead than the living, Emma delves deeper into the seductive Book of Shadows. Her powers grow, but witchcraft may not be enough to protect her against the vengeful river and the killers that feed it their victims.
Inspired by the controversial Smiley Face Murders, HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS will ignite the secret powers hidden deep within each of us.

Buy it from: Amazon US  Amazon UK  Barnes & Noble

Or add it to Goodreads


My to-do list dictates that I try to cram 48 hours of living into a day instead of the usual 24. I’ve chosen a life filled with animals. I train for marathons with my dog, then go to work as a small animal veterinarian, and finish the day by tripping over my pets as I attempt to convince my two unruly children that YES, it really IS time for bed. But I can’t wait until the house is quiet to write; I have to steal moments throughout the day. Ten minutes here, a half hour there, I live within my imagination.

Like all busy American mothers, I multi-task. I work out plot holes during runs. Instead of meditating, I type madly during yoga stretches. I find inspiration in everyday things: a beautiful smile, a heartbreaking song, or a newspaper article on a political theory. For example, a long drive in the dark listening to an NPR program on the SMILEY FACE MURDERS theory made me ask so many questions that I wrote HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS to answer them to my satisfaction.
I’d love to have more time to write (and run, read, and sleep), but until I find Hermione Granger’s time turner, I will juggle real life with the half-written stories in my head. Main characters and plot lines intertwine in my cranium, and I need to let my writing weave the tales on paper so I can find out what happens next.
Find Ann Online:

Blog   Facebook page  Twitter  GoodreadsWant to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?

  • Don’t forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Week 1 – Fall Into Fantasy with K.L. Schwengel

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 1: The Darkness & Light Series

Book One: First of Her Kind

Book Two: Emergence

Book Three: Edge of Darkness (Release date 2015)


It seems everyone wants to dictate what Ciara does with her life: Serve the Goddess, destroy the Goddess, do as you promised your aunt — all Ciara really wants is to keep the two magics she possesses from ripping her apart.

And that’s not going to be easy.

Not only is her earth magic in complete opposition to her other power, blood ties pull her in divergent directions as well. And then there’s Bolin, the man sworn to protect her. There’s no denying the growing attraction between them, but is it Ciara he wants, or her power?

None of which will matter if Ciara can’t overcome her fear and learn how to use her gifts. No one knows the depths of the ancient power she possesses, or what will happen if it manages to escape her control. Will she lose herself entirely? Or be forever caught between Darkness and Light?

Buy the e-book: Kindle Nook

Or the paperback: Amazon  Barnes & Noble

The battle for Ciara’s power has drawn the full attention of the Emperor and the Imperial Mages, forcing Bolin to put duty above safety and take her to Nisair. It won’t be an easy trip, even with an Imperial escort and a Galysian elder accompanying them. Especially since Donovan has found himself some new allies, one of who wields a dark magic that has literally gotten under Bolin’s skin.

For Ciara, coming to terms with the increasingly tangible manifestation of her power could destroy her. Even if they make it to Nisair–something that grows more unlikely by the day–there is no surety of safety for Ciara, or any of them. Not with Donovan willing to gamble everything to achieve his goals, or Bolin’s uncharacteristically reckless behavior, the result of which is the attention of something that has everyone worried.

Loyalties will be tested, lives will be lost, and no one will emerge unchanged as they find things are not always so clear on the line dividing Darkness and Light.

Buy the e-book: Kindle  Nook

Or the paperback: Amazon  Barnes & Noble



K. L. Schwengel lives in southeast Wisconsin on a small farm with her husband, a handful of Australian Shepherds, Her Royal Highness Princess Fiona the Cat, and assorted livestock. Growing up as the youngest of nine children, and the daughter of a librarian, Kathi spent many hours between stacks of books, and secluded away in dusty archives, drawn to tales of medieval heroes and conquering knights. With so many characters and ideas spinning in her head, she had to get them onto paper or risk what little sanity she possessed. She has been penning wild tales of magic and mayhem as long as she can remember, but opted to follow her artistic muse first. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts and spending many years working as a freelance artist, grocery clerk, art teacher, graphic designer, stable hand, advertising account coordinator, dog trainer, and process technician (among other things) she answered the call of her writing muse. When not writing, Kathi trains and trials working Australian Shepherds, still paints, dabbles in photography, graphic design, and anything else creative her assorted muses send her way.

Connect online at…

Blog  Facebook  Pinterest  Twitter  Amazon Page  Goodreads

Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?

  • Don’t forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.

Contest! And Page-a-Day Challenge Week 3: Pier 21

Last week I mentioned a brewing idea for a contest. I was still figuring out dates and prizes, but I think I have it narrowed down.

So here we go: I hereby present THE MERATIS CHALLENGE

I think the nature of this contest is extra fitting considering the trade Jeff enters into with the Sisters in Evensong, which would make any submission from him next to impossible. (Yes, I realise that’s a low blow and right now, he’s giving me the stink eye in the my head. But I stand by my assessment)

The terms:

Submissions of fan art or fan fiction based on the Meratis books/world/characters

Fan art can consist of, but is not limited to art, cosplay, interpretive dance, photography, and baked goods (but only if you share). Video, image, it’s all good! This is your chance to get creative and have some fun.

Flash fiction  can be anything under 1000 words (prose or poetry. Or lyric!), using any character/world elements included in the story. All I ask is that you keep it cleanish.

All submissions to be sent to theravens (dot) quill (at) gmail (dot) com

The incentive …. 

What’s a contest without prizes? All winners will receive a signed copy of Evensong (or Eventide if you prefer. Alas, Evenlight will not yet be ready for release),

1st place – $30 value:  book + $15 Amazon gift card

2nd place – $25 value: book + $10 Amazon gift card

3rd place – $20 value: book + $5 Amazon gift card

Plus a few odds and ends thrown in.

AND all contributors will receive a free e-copy of Evenlight on its release

Multiple submissions are not only allowed, they are encouraged – but you can only win once.

The dates:

Submissions will open on August 15,2014 and the contest will run until October 15, 2014. All submissions will be reviewed by a trio of judges (not me), and the winners announced on October 31, 2014.

I ask only one thing in return: bragging about how amazing your contribution is? Link people here and encourage them to submit! They haven’t read the book yet? Help me spread the word by sending them here! Start the conversation on Facebook and Twitter with #AndvellArt

Questions? Concerns? Leave a message in the comments or send me an email at theravens (dot) quill (at) gmail (dot) com

Ready, set, go!

But the post isn’t done yet. There’s still a short story to be shared!

I have a confession to make. I have not kept up with my page-a-day challenge. I know! It’s only been 3 weeks, Krista, what a lackluster attempt at any sort of dedicated progress.

But here is some news in my defense: The page-a-day challenge accomplished what I hoped it would and I have officially re-started the Evenlight draft. And I’m loving it (most days, over all, except when I want to set it on fire). As of yesterday, I hit 20k, so although the short stories aren’t coming out as quickly, it’s not for lack of words!


Week 3: #7 – Pier 21

A week can be a lifetime in the downtown core of a city. It couldn’t have been much longer than that since I last walked by this bar on the corner. The name Pier 21 in ye olde font welcoming the pedestrians out wandering the market, the lights over the full patio, live music wafting onto the streets alongside the scent of pub food and craft beer.

Now the building looks decrepit. The paint has chipped over the locked doors, and the yard is overgrown with weeds. I could almost expect the tumbleweed to shuffle past. One sign remains on the wall announcing a live show and all-you-can-eat wings on Tuesdays — or at least that’s what I interpret between the missing letters.

Around the yard, the fence has started to collapse outwards, as though from years of too many people leaning against it. Strings of white Christmas lights still wrap around the spires, looking sad and ignored against the depressing aspect of the abandoned building.

One week to bring about such a change, as if its soul left when the people did.

What does that say about the society that built it?

Page-a-Day Challenge Week 2: Kiss

I’m up to day 10 in this 30-day (or longer) challenge (miss week 1, click here), and I’m both surprised and thrilled to report that not only is it proving easy so far, I find I’m bothered at the thought of not writing. A few nights this past week I’ve come home late and thought only of going to bed – but the story had to come first.

From stories, I started thinking about my Meratis trilogy and how I feel it deserves some love … and you guys deserve some prizes. So I’ve decided to launch a contest. I’m not 100% sure of the dates yet, because I want to give enough time for you to get your creative cells working, but I want to see what ideas Jeff and his perhaps-not-so-fictional characters have inspired in you. That’s right, this is YOUR chance to share in my Andvellian world.

Once the rules and regs are set I’ll have an official post, but for now let it be said that I will be looking for submissions of fan fiction flash fiction (1000 words or less) or fan art (any medium! Art, video, interpretive dance – whatever you can come up with). There will be judges (of which I’m not sure yet if I’ll be  a part), and top 3 winners will get a prize package. Interested? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Now, for this week’s story.

11. Kiss

She closed her eyes and could feel his breath on her cheek. The pressure of his hands slid up from her waist, tracing along her spine, to cup the back of her neck, to tangle in the waves of her hair.

Her heart sped up as he pressed against the length of her, both of them drawing out the moment, luxuriating in every shiver, every tingle.

She had wished so long and hard for his moment. Prayed every day that it could be possible, even when she had sworn that it couldn’t. Fate wasn’t always cruel. Love didn’t always lead a person down the path of pain. Miracles did happen.

She had to believe that.

His lips were on hers. She felt their warmth, tasted their longing and desire, knew in that one moment that he needed this as much as she did.

She wanted him to kiss her forever and hang onto to this sensation of being completely alive. But he stopped.

Disappointed, she opened her eyes.

And saw no one.