Ishmael

Title: Ishmael
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: murder mystery, suspense, different era
Characters: Major Ishmael Dupres, Captain Etienne Barnard

I don’t know how my life got to this point. It must be some phobia of success.”

Looking at the words printed on the paper, Ishmael wasn’t sure what to think. He looked from the words to his lieutenant, then back down at the words again.

“And this was written on the body?” he asked. He was relieved his voice didn’t shake.

“Carved into the flesh.” Captain Barnard’s voice never shook. He was the steady firmament that upheld Ishmael’s command.

“That is most disquieting,” Ishmael said. “How many victims has it been? 10? 12?”

“10, sir. And he’s been getting creative with his knife. It’s a frightening turn of events. Women are scared to walk the streets alone as of late.” Barnard frowned. “The merchants are upset. It’s costing them quite a bit of business that most shopping is ending so early.”

“Ah,” Ishmael said. He stared down at the paper, the words written in an oddly elegant scrawl. “We’re going to catch you, you bastard.”

“We’ll get him for you, sir. I promise,” Barnard said.

Ishmael nodded. “I know you will. You are remarkably skilled at your job, and your squad are the best on the street. Get your kids out there and find this guy. I will reward each and every one of you.”

“Sir, you know that’s not necessary.” There was a tinge of pink high on Barnard’s cheeks. It was an oddly charming sight.

“I know I don’t have to make the offer,” Ishmael said, “but I have quite a large amount of money at my disposal. I would feel better using it to reward a job well done than on simple pleasures.”

“Still sir, you’re far too generous,” Barnard said.

They both knew that he would accept the money. Not just for his officers, but for himself as well.

From his earliest youth, Etienne Barnard had had a taste for the finer things. It was how their paths had first crossed in fact, when Ishmael was nineteen and Barnard was twenty-three. Barnard had been modeling for shopping money and Ishmael had been intrigued.

They’d shared a meal and a conversation, and by the time they’d parted that day they’d exchanged contact information. They’d formed enough of a connection that when Barnard found himself in a bit of trouble, he’d called Ishmael for help.

And through that help, they’d ended up in a lifelong career as police officers. It had been a strange jumble of events that led to this office and this moment.

Ishmael trusted Barnard when he said the murderer would be brought to justice.

He stared down at the words of a killer: “I don’t know how my life got to this point. It must be some phobia of success.”

“We have to get him off the streets. For the peace of mind of our citizens if nothing else,” Ishmael said.

TBC…

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I am not rich. I am not well off. I like to write and I want to share my stories with you.

“365 Prompts” – Prompt 041. blackberries 2A

“365 Prompts” by Harper Kingsley will be available as pre-release November 14. You can order a copy via Paypal or Patreon. Just send $5 and mention that it’s for “365 Prompts”.

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*

2. Tangled in the blackberry bushes, the small child howled in fear and pain. There were red scratches marring the dirty face and arms, one thorn having scratched dangerously close to a teary eye.

A. Tangled in the blackberry bushes, the small child howled in fear and pain. There were red scratches marring the dirty face and arms, one thorn having scratched dangerously close to a teary eye.

Anna ran forward, waving her arms to signal No. “Don’t move, kid. You hold still and I’ll help you.”

“Get me out of here. It hurts! It hurts!” the child screeched, making an aborted lunge forward. Anna winced when she saw that a long thorny branch was wrapped around the child’s chest, digging into the patched and worn cotton shirt.

“I’ll get you, I’ll get you, don’t move.” Anna tried to hide her panic and project a sense of calm concern. The last thing she wanted was for the kid to realize how afraid she was. “Why don’t you tell me your name, sweetie?”

“I’m not sweetie. I’m Brandon.”

“Oh. Well, hello Brandon. I’m Anna.” Working slowly, she began untangling the small body. He couldn’t have been older than four or five, dressed in clothes that would have done better in the rag bin. “Can you tell me where your parents are, Brandon?”

“Don’t have any,” he muttered, his attention focused on her hands. Which is why he missed the expression of shock and pity that crossed her face before she controlled herself.

*

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“365 Prompts” – Prompt 037. cellphone 2A.

2. The prepaid cellphone made an odd sound before dying, plunging the interior of the box into darkness. The occupant’s breath came louder in panic as the realization sunk in.

A. The prepaid cellphone made an odd sound before dying, plunging the interior of the box into darkness. Jackie’s breath came louder in panic as the realization sunk in.

Buried alive! I’ve been buried alive!

One minute she was enjoying the first real vacation she’d had in her entire life. And the next she was waking up in a box buried underground.

It didn’t seem fair.

*

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“365 Prompts” – partial Prompt-Fill: 004. spring 1A. “Out of the Wild Lands” by Harper Kingsley

Prompt 004. spring – 1A

1. It was a relief when the spring frost began. They’d been close to running out of nearly everything.

A. Once the river melted, it was a rush to finish building the boat and gather enough food to see them out of the Wild Lands. If they were lucky they could reach civilization within a few months. If they were unlucky they would die. They didn’t have a choice either way.

There was no staying where they were. They’d stripped the island of everything it had to offer, and there hadn’t been much to begin with.

It was either make the attempt now, or slowly starve to death. There was not going to be another opportunity.

/END PROMPT
Z
Z
Z

Prompt-Fill: “Out of the Wilds”
Author: Harper Kingsley

Once the river melted, it was a rush to finish building the boat and gather enough food to see them out of the Wild Lands. If they were lucky they could reach civilization within a few months. If they were unlucky they would die. They didn’t have a choice either way.

There was no staying where they were. They’d stripped the island of everything it had to offer, and there hadn’t been much to begin with.

It was either make the attempt now, or slowly starve to death. There was not going to be another opportunity.

“Quiet that baby,” Gareth ordered. He was lashing the last of the supplies to the boat and didn’t need the distraction.

“Yes sir.” Leilan shushed the blanket wrapped bundle, jostling it until the wails turned to an unhappy grumble. The baby had been fussing ever since her twin — her Other Half — had died. There was a real concern that she would follow after, the broken strings of her tattered soul pulling her down and down after her sister.

When Poiler had suggested killing the baby as a mercy — she must be suffering with her broken soul — Leilan had hit her as hard as he could and taken the baby himself. He couldn’t believe a mother could ever suggest murdering her own child. It made him suspicious of how the unnamed baby had died. She’d looked healthy after her birth; then she’d been quiet and still.

Leilan tightened his grip on the baby he held. She was alive. She needed him.

He stood out of the way as the men and women worked. He looked down at the baby’s face. She was skinnier than he liked, as his milk had only just begun to come in, but seemed healthy enough. He thought there was a chance that she would live.

“I’m going to risk it,” he said. She blinked up at him. One fist had worked itself free of the blanket and found its way into her mouth where she furiously gummed on tiny tiny knuckles. He chuckled and used two fingers to pull her hand out of her mouth. He wiped the slobber off with a scrap of cloth from his pocket, then tucked her arm back in the blanket.

“None of that,” he ordered when she looked about to cry. She hiccuped and blinked, but remained quiet. “Good girl.”

He jostled her a couple of times. “I’ve decided that you need a name if you’re going to be my daughter.” He licked his lips. “I think my mother would have approved her granddaughter sharing a name with her.”

He held her a bit away from himself so he could see all of her and she could see him. Even if she didn’t understand, this was an important moment. By giving her a name, he was accepting responsibility for her. She would be family.

“Melissa Kim of the House of Graythorn,” he said. “Welcome to my family, Melissa.”

PROMPT-FILL: Intense Thoughts: A. Her tone was so matter-of-fact [choking]

Title: A. Her tone was so matter-of-fact
Collection: Intense Thoughts
Author: Harper Kingsley

“I masturbated furiously.
Then I smoked some weed.
And my thoughts became very intense.”

A. Her tone was so matter-of-fact that it took them a moment to catch up. Then the meaning sunk in.

Albert went bright red and Clarice made a sputtering sound in her throat. “Why I never…”

“Did she just say what I thought she said?” Leon whispered to Yoshina. She hushed him and swatted at his hand, telling him to listen.

He refrained from rolling his eyes. She was probably right. The old people were so touchy; they took offense at every little thing.

His reaction to the farce taking place in front of him was going to be remembered for years to come.

Leon straightened his back and kept his facial expressions placid and untroubled.

He kept up his mask of scion of a respectable family all through the rest of the party. He swallowed his reactions to the things the dotty old relatives said and knew that he’d done well. At the end of the evening, Great Uncle Hermann even gave him a hearty farewell hug.

Leon enjoyed his sense of accomplishment all the way home.

Until he grasped the handle for his front door and the door swung open. There were broken ends of wood sticking out where pieces of the doorframe had broken away.

Leon turned on his heel and began to run. But from the muscled arm that went around his neck, he was too late.

As he choked and flailed helplessly, he could feel the walls of his throat closing shut. Tight pressure that didn’t quite hurt. His assailant was being careful not to damage the merchandise. He could almost be grateful.

He felt an entirely inappropriate pressure in his groin. Now? You wanna do this NOW?!

It was a teasing lick of pleasure. An instinctive tightening of muscles. From I want to pee to Oh as his body couldn’t decide whether it liked being strangled or not.

Then the black spots took over his vision. And his lungs were screaming. Terror had his heart hammering out blood as it tried to get oxygen to his brain.

There was the almost gentle stroke of a gloved hand against his cheek. His grasping, clenching fingers clawed weakly at a leather coat as the man’s head leaned close to his ear.

Say goodnight, Brucie” was the last thing he heard before passing out.

/END

PROMPT-FILL: Intense Thoughts: J. He’d been in prison long enough [NSFW]

Title: J. He’d been in prison long enough
Collection: Intense Thoughts
Author: Harper Kingsley

“I masturbated furiously.
Then I smoked some weed.
And my thoughts became very intense.”

He’d been in prison long enough that he didn’t care who watched. As long as they kept their hands to themselves, they could admire all they liked.

The paper crinkled in his fist and he fought not to squeeze. He wanted to save the letter. It was from his favorite admirer. But it was hard not to wrinkle the sheet of notebook paper as he rocked his dick up into his encircling right hand.

With as much care as he could manage–not much–he laid the letter on the edge of the pillow near his head. Then he dug his heels into the thin mattress and began thrusting his hips as he jerked himself. He propped his left elbow behind his back to get some leverage as he made the mattress cry out beneath him, a creaking of springs and shifting of his whole body.

He gasped rhythmically as he worked himself off. And when he came, it was with a dramatic thrusting of hips and a flop back amongst sullied sheets.

He lay there for a long moment, face uplifted and eyes closed. He drew in deep shuddering breaths and let the sweat and cum dry on his skin.

Tomorrow was laundry day. They’d come around with the big carts and change his bedding for new.

Tonight he would sleep amongst his own body’s excretions. He would breathe in the scent of himself and rub it deep into his touch-starved skin.

And he would dream of his dear admirer.

His dear heart that he wished he’d met before his incarceration.

/END

“$85 Dry Cleaning Bill”

Title: $85 Dry Cleaning Bill
Author: Harper Kingsley

PROMPT: I need to wash my blanket. It smells like dirty girl.

FILL: I need to wash my blankie, Holden thought, wrinkling her nose.

The dark cream colored rectangle of fake fur smelled of dirty girl and rancid powdered Corpse. Her own familiar smell had been completely wiped away by her cousin. Her terrible, terrible cousin. The would-be necromancer and part-time necrophile.

Her blanket felt tainted now. And the smell made her want to gag. If she didn’t love that scrap of fabric so much she would have thrown it away. As it was, she’d have to take it to the Dry Cleaners and hope they could save it.

Holden bundled the blanket into a garbage bag and tied it shut. She tossed the bag in the backseat of her car and drove to a coffee shop where she enjoyed a black coffee sweetened by two sugars and a croissant sandwich for lunch. While she was there she ran a quick Internet search for highly rated Dry Cleaners.

She chose and saved the directions to Happy Harry’s onto her phone. She ignored the notification that said she’d had five missed calls (This is my day) and finished her coffee. Then she drove to the Dry Cleaners, who told her it was going to cost $85 to save her blanket.

By the time she was home getting ready for the evening’s Entertainment, she was simmering over the amount of the bill. Her cousin hadn’t even apologized when she’d made such a big mess at Thanksgiving. (That selfish bitch. She only thinks about herself. She didn’t even look sorry when she got Uncle Raymond’s fingers chopped off. It was all about her. Never mind our family.) She’d swooped in, dropped angry criminals on them all, killed a bunch of people, then flew back east. She’d turned their family into a spectacle. And she’d never truly apologized.

It hurt to think that the family had welcomed her into their homes and she’d treated them so shabbily. Holden had made a fool of herself welcoming her new famous cousin. She’d shown her around and introduced her to all of her friends. And what had she gotten in return? A bloodbath in her backyard. A pile of bloody clothes and makeshift medical supplies in her room. A bunch of sexually assaulted family members–male and female, old and young-young–that she could barely look at without feeling like crying. And an 85-frakking-dollar Dry Cleaning bill because her cousin’s “friend”/hitman/lackey had taken a nap on her bed without her permission.

Holden’s cousin’s whirlwind visit had been a series of horrifying events that their family might never fully recover from. There were so many emotional scars forming that she found it too selfish to mention her financial concerns to any of them. They’d been through so much.

She felt too guilty to complain about her badly damaged rental house.

So to keep her creditors off her back, she’d gotten the kind of job she’d promised herself she’d never do. But what real choice did she have?

It was either pay the bills or end up in Debtors’ Prison. Or worse.

She could end up on the Auction Block. Where she would regret being so wholesome and pretty (I’d get full body tattoos and hack my hair off before my sale date. I’d rather be a Menial than Property) when she was sold for Entertainment.

I have to get some money, Holden thought. I have to fix this somehow.

/END EXCERPT

Tuesday Night – Chapter One [Kanon, mm, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel] (NSFW f/m scene)

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm
WARNING: Some spoilers for “Pulse of the City

CHAPTER ONE

The first time Carrie saw Teen Steel, it felt as though everything stopped moving in her chest. Her heart froze mid-beat and her breath caught in a gasp.

He was beautiful. Just this tall, gorgeous guy standing there, his black mask not hiding much of his face. His chest was so broad she thought that if she stood behind him she would disappear. Broad shoulders, narrow waist, and long muscled legs.

When she was a little girl she’d had fantasies of her “prince,” the man that would sweep her off her feet and that she would marry. He’d always been a rather indistinct figure in her mind, until now.

Teen Steel was the man she was going to marry. She didn’t have a single doubt.

Finding out that she was too late had to be the worst feeling she’d ever experienced. To come in one day and discover that the man of her dreams had already found someone else.

Every smile he gave *HER* made Carrie want to punch throats and rip out still beating hearts. Too bad she always had to be in control of herself, always had to pretend that everything was going to be okay even when she wanted to scream the world down.

Her brother Nathan kept giving her glances out of the corner of his eye like he wanted to ask her what was going on in her head. She ignored him and pretended like her world hadn’t been knocked off its axis when she wasn’t looking.

She maintained her control for as long as she could. Right up until things got to be too much. And in that moment, when chance presented itself, she’d already acted and there was no taking it back. She had to keep moving forward and if she was lucky it would be like it had never happened.

The blood would dry on her hands and fade away. And with it would go the memory of that *bitch* that had tried to keep Teen Steel for her own.

Because Carrie loved him the most, and she was going to make him hers.

* * *

Sometimes the loneliness ate away at him like a cancer. It made him writhe and scream and more than anything Tony wanted everything to be okay again. But that so rarely happened in life.

He cried himself to sleep on the bad nights. When everything was depressed and gray and so horrible it made him shake in misery, his whole body aching with loss. With every breath he took, he got farther and farther away from his center, becoming something else.

Her name beat the sound of his heart: *Ashley*. The only girl he had or would ever love.

When he got too melodramatic, Sunfire would toss something at him and tell him to “Get over it. I know it’s hard, but she’s gone and you’re still here. You need to live.” And it would be like someone had hit a switch deep inside and Tony would come back alive again. He’d been given the permission he needed to get past the death of her.

Loss was a swirling vortex beneath his feet trying to pull him down. He would fight it for a while, but there was no way he was going to be able to withstand such force for long. So one day he would slip and down he would go into the depths that only despair could take him, and who knew what would happen then? What could total loss get him to do?

Tony was grateful that Sunfire always seemed to show up when he was losing control of himself. And just having his friend around lightened the pressure on him, seeming to give him the air he needed to breathe.

Sunfire made him feel that everything was going to be all right, if not immediately, in the future at least.

They played video games and watched movies and Sunfire never seemed to mind when Tony wasn’t in the mood to talk. He seemed to make allowances in their relationship for times when Tony would be silent and moody.

It was funny how such a tragedy could have led to him realizing how great a friend Sunfire was. Always before he’d thought the man was irresponsible. He’d seemed the kind of guy that would forget birthdays and would never be around when he was really needed.

Tony had had his eyes pried open when he realized how thoughtful Sunfire was. Sure, Sunfire said dumb things sometimes, but he always remembered a promise and he always seemed to know what to say and what not to say during the emotional moments. It was actually pretty great.

But sometimes Tony wanted something more. He wanted the warmth of physical sensation. He wanted to bury himself balls deep in moist heat and let go of everything that had ever troubled him. Even if it wasn’t for forever, he needed that little bit of breathing room.

Which was how Tony found himself lounging on the couch in the common area with Solar writhing in his lap. She rubbed her naked breasts against his lips and her breath came in moaning gasps.

He’d never been overly fond of Solar–she was a little too chirpy for his tastes–but it had been a long time since he’d had anyone to hold onto. So he shrugged his mental shoulders and set about making love to her.

She made a high, keening noise in the back of her throat as he tongued her pussy. He had to use close to his full strength to keep her flexing thighs from crushing his head.

She was one of those people that could only make love to another metahuman. Anyone normal, she would kill in the heat of passion, which he figured might be a deal breaker for most guys. So he could understand why she’d been aggressive in approaching him earlier, her eyes heavy-lidded with lust as her small hands explored his biceps. And when she’d asked, he hadn’t seen any reason to say no.

They were two people using each other. He was using her to silence the screaming emptiness inside of him, and she was using him for sex. Though he wasn’t enjoying having to hold her back from crushing him. It took away from his enjoyment in the situation, though the sounds she made were almost worth it.

Tony had to consciously activate his ability, otherwise he was basically a normal human. It sucked during surprise attacks, but meant that he could otherwise have a normal life. He didn’t have to worry about killing someone in the heat of passion.

Ashley had only had normal human strength, so he’d never had to worry about her losing control. As long as she didn’t let one of her sonic vocalizations off in his face, there wasn’t much chance that she would hurt him. With Solar he didn’t have any kind of guarantee.

The danger wasn’t as exciting as he’d thought it would be.

Solar came with a ululating moan, then flopped sideways in a curve. Her legs were still splayed wide, her pussy shiny and wet from his saliva and her own natural juices. Her belly shivered with her shuddering breaths.

“You’re kind of beautiful like this,” he said.

She blinked heavy-lidded eyes at him. A catlike smile curved her kiss-swollen lips and her tongue flicked out for a second. Her white blond hair had flopped over one eye. She looked wild and wanton.

“I’ll be right back.” Tony got up from between her legs to walk toward the bathroom. It was just his luck that the elevator door entrance slipped open and Sunfire walked in at that moment.

Sunfire dropped the bags he was carrying and his mouth flopped open in surprise. His black sunglasses slipped down his nose as he stared over the top. “Y-y-you’re totally naked.”

“Yeah.” Tony dropped his hands in front of his crotch. “Sorry you had to get such an eyeful. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here for a couple more hours.”

“S-so you want me to leave and come back later?” Sunfire asked.

Tony shrugged, then nodded. “Yeah. Do you think you can do that for me?”

Sunfire’s mouth closed with a snap, then he gathered the shopping bags and put them together by the door. “I will be back to put these away later,” he said briskly, looking anywhere but at Tony. “Make sure you disinfect the couch and anywhere else you’ve been.”

Tony couldn’t help laughing. “I promise.”

“Hmph.” Sunfire snorted, then walked right back into the elevator. “I’ll see you later.”

“See you!” Tony called. He caught Sunfire’s eye as the elevator doors slid shut and for a second he thought he saw hurt feelings there. It must have been a trick of the light.

He shook his head and continued his walk to the bathroom. He still had to pee and get some wash cloths for Solar.
Ashley had taught him to be thoughtful.
When he came back with a couple of damp face towels in his hands, he was surprised to see that Solar hadn’t moved. She was still sprawled on the couch, her legs splayed wide.

She’d looked sexy and beautiful while in the throes of passion, but now, in the cold light of sanity, he couldn’t help feeling bad for her.

If there was one thing he’d learned since Ashley’s death, it was how to read the level of sincerity someone expressed. Which made him realize that Solar had strong feelings for him. Like actual love feelings, which went way beyond the crush he’d thought she’d had.

All he’d ever felt for her were the emotions of an older teammate, but now she was grown up and she wanted more from him than he was willing to give. Except loneliness and desperation had eaten away at his scruples. He’d let himself do something he probably should regret.

And that was why he felt bad for her. Because she was so insignificant that he didn’t even feel guilty about taking advantage of her. In fact, he didn’t feel bad at all. She’d been the one to approach him; all he’d done was say “Okay.”

He should have hated the thought of being a user, but all he wanted right now was something to fill the awful emptiness at his core. The place where Ashley had been ripped from his heart in one act of mindless violence.

“Hey, I brought these,” he said, holding up the towels.

She opened one eye to look at him, then closed it and moved her head a little to the side, turning her neck into a long stretch of tendon.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. He took one of the cloths and began wiping her body clean.

“You’re not into me,” Solar said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

Her large gray eyes opened to look at him. He felt as though he’d been stabbed in the chest. “I’m not stupid,” she said. “I can tell that you don’t really like me. And I like you enough that it doesn’t matter.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, not knowing what else to say.

She smiled, though it wasn’t a happy expression. “It’s all right. I’m a big girl.”

Tony chewed on his lower lip for a minute, then handed her the other towel he held. “Here, I want to get dressed. It was pretty awkward having Sunfire walk in.”

He picked up his clothes and began pulling them on. He could feel her looking at him, and it wasn’t as pleasant an experience as it had seemed before.

He felt like he’d made a big mistake.

Solar gave a bitter sounding laugh and stood with exquisite grace. “I’m gonna go take a shower. Why don’t you do whatever it is you do?”

“Okay,” he said.

He watched her leave the room, completely unselfconscious in her nakedness. She was well formed, tiny and pale with legs that seemed to go on forever, or maybe until they reached the floor.

Tony finished zipping his pants, then stumbled over to one of the recliners. He didn’t want to sit on the couch where they had just had their assignation.

He flopped down on the leather chair and gave a heavy sigh.

He’d thought that having sex with her would somehow make him feel better, but that hadn’t been the case. He still felt empty inside, drained of everything that had made his life worth living.

“Ashley,” he whispered, tasting tears he refused to let fall. He cradled his head in his hands, hunching his shoulders small.

She’d been dead for close to a year and it still felt as fresh and horrible as when he’d seen her limp and broken body cradled in her father’s arms. There’d been so much blood and bruised flesh that he hadn’t recognized her at first, until all of a sudden she was all that he saw. It was like some strange optical illusion, everything clicking into horrible clarity.

“Ashley,” he repeated, the sound of her name bringing him a terrible pain in his chest.

* * *

She’d never planned on feeling regret, but that was exactly what was flooding through her. No guilt, just the horror of disillusioned dreams.

Carrie scrubbed her body clean, wiping away every trace of *him*. The water was hot enough to burn her tender flesh, but she didn’t care.

From the minute she’d first seen him, she’d been sure that he was everything she ever wanted. Now she knew that she’d made one of the worst mistakes of her life. Not that there was anything she could do about it, not with Ashley firmly in the grave.

*I doubt her dad’s going to accept me just saying “Whoops.” There’s no way he would ever let it go if he ever suspected what I did*, she thought.

She curled her lip and rinsed the shampoo from her blond hair. Regrets were for losers, and there was no way she was ever going to fall into that trap.

As long as she pretended that everything was all right, eventually her lies would become the truth. Everyone would forget about Ashley and her lonely grave. And Carrie would never have to feel sorry.

Opening her mouth in a silent scream, she allowed herself one single moment of complete despair. Then she shut off the water, wrapped a towel around her body, and stepped out of the shower with perfect aplomb. Her bare toes flexed against the nubby green mat.

She dried off before pulling on her pale blue robe and leaving the bathroom.

She didn’t even glance toward the living room as she padded down the hallway toward her bedroom. It was attached to Nathan’s, something he’d insisted on. He was paranoid that something was going to happen to her, which was ridiculous.

If anyone tried anything she didn’t like, she would have no problem crushing every bone in his or her body. It was all about respect.

* * *

If there was one thing Seth had learned, it was to hide his complete and utter surprise when something crazy happened. Like seeing his best friend walking around the Demi Lair naked.

Seth walked down the street, ignoring the admiring glances he received. It wasn’t like he didn’t know that he was completely gorgeous, in costume and out. Genetics had been kind to the members of his family.

It would have been easy for him to pick someone up for a wild tumble. Unfortunately, the one person he wanted was completely oblivious and obviously straight.

Seth sighed. It was only strength of will that kept him from slumping his shoulders. He was Sunfire, and Sunfire never looked defeated and sad.

*Especially* when he felt defeated and sad.

He’d never wanted anything in his life as badly as he wanted Tony. The fact that he knew it was never going to happen only made it worse.

He wandered the streets for what felt like hours before he judged it safe enough to return to the Lair. He hoped he wasn’t going to walk in on anything truly horrifying. Though he couldn’t help the slight quirk of his lips at the thought of naked Tony. That was something he wouldn’t mind seeing again.

Sighing, he had to shake his head. Keeping secrets had never been something he was good at.

He paused for a moment in front of the elevator, fighting the urge to run in the opposite direction. He’d never thought he was a coward, but his hand trembled a little when he reached out to push the button.

It was with a sense of relief tinged with disappointment that he found Tony fully dressed. The air smelled of cleaning products, a lemony cleanser mixed with a floral air freshener.

He couldn’t help looking around. “Well, at least you did a good cleaning job. I’m not going to have to worry about catching something when I sit on the furniture.” He flopped down in his usual chair. “So where’d Solar go? Did she get all embarrassed about me seeing you guys and run off to hide?”

Tony shrugged despondently. “I don’t know. I think she’s in her room if she didn’t go out a window or something.”

Seth furrowed his brow. “What’s going on with you? Why are you so down?”

Tony sighed and hunched on the couch, his hands covering his nose and mouth. “I totally thought I was having a good time until it was all over and I realized that nothing was real. She’s not Ashley. And she’s not what I want. So how could I have had sex with her like it was perfectly all right?”

Seth sighed. “Why do you always have to feel things so deeply or whatever? You have to turn every situation into a soap opera, just all this drama and angst. Why do you have to do that to yourself? Why can’t you ever just be happy?”

“I wasn’t always like this.” Tony flopped sideways on the couch, bringing his legs up in a half curl that had Seth wondering if he should yell at him about shoes on the upholstery. Then he remembered that he didn’t care. “Everything was different when Ashley was alive.”

“No it wasn’t,” Seth disagreed. “You’ve always been a moody motherfucker. It’s like you can’t be happy for any length of time before you decide to wreck everything. Even when Ashley was alive, you guys were so on again, off again that we actually started a calendar listing your relationship status. And say what you will about Ashley–she could be a real, bullheaded bitch–she wasn’t the one that was always chafing at you guys having a relationship. That was all you, buddy.”

Tony gave him such a hurt look that Seth felt a stab of guilt, but he knew this was something that needed to be done. There was no way Tony was ever going to straighten himself out if everyone kept coddling him. He would keep insisting that he used to be different and he wasn’t always such a moody bastard.

“She was the one that broke up with me,” Tony said.

“Yeah, that last time,” Seth said. “All the times before that were all you. It was like you would reach a point of too much happiness and suddenly feel a desperate need to wallow in misery. So you would wreck everything, spend a few weeks bathing in angst and woe, then you’d be back scratching at Ashley’s door, desperate to get her back. Why did you always want to get her back?”

“Because she was the love of my life,” Tony said. He seemed shocked that Seth would come back at him.

“I don’t think that’s true,” Seth said. “I mean, sure, you loved her a lot. But at the end of the day, all she was was your enabler. She always came back to you no matter how much of a jerk you were. She’d take all your abuse and still come running when you called her name.” He shook his head, giving Tony a sad look. “I’m sorry, but your relationship was the farthest from a healthy one that I have ever seen in my life.”

“I can’t believe you would say something like that to me,” Tony said.

Seth shrugged. “It’s been a long time coming. And this whole thing with Solar… that’s a super bad idea right there. She’s on your team and you and I both know that you don’t really feel all that much for her, do you?”

Tony at least had the grace to look guilty. “I can already tell that things are going to be bad.”

“What do you mean?” Seth asked.

“She ran off, which isn’t a good sign.” Tony sighed. “I think I screwed up.”

Seth was surprised. He hadn’t expected Tony to accept being criticized, but here he was already moving past it as though it didn’t mean a thing to him. Which either showed a growing maturity, or more realistically meant that he was going to come back later ten times as hard.

If there was one gigantic flaw in Tony’s makeup, it was the way he refused to let things go even when he should. Hopefully it wasn’t going to be something that got him killed someday.

“It’ll be all right,” Seth said. “Solar is a big girl, and I’m pretty sure she’ll be able to handle everything. The one you’re going to have to worry about is Pulsar. Once he realizes what you’ve done with his sister… well, it’s not going to be too pretty.”

Tony grimaced. “I hardly thought of him at all. He’s going to try and kick my ass, isn’t he?”

“You did sleep with his precious sister.” Seth shook his head. “That dude’s gonna make you wish you were never born. He seems the type to hold a grudge too.”

“Great.” Tony scrubbed a hand down his face. “Why can’t everything be simple?”

“Because it’s never simple when you’re trying to replace someone with someone else. There was no possible way that Solar could ever take the place of Ashley, so all you did was end up hurting someone, which was kind of a dick move.”

“Well, my apologies your holiness, in the future I’ll maintain your crazy strict ideal.” Tony leaned his head back against the couch.

Seth couldn’t help running his eyes down Tony’s bared throat to his muscled chest and all the way down his long legs which were spread in casual abandon. He had to fight to keep from superimposing the image of naked Tony over the clothed one he was seeing now. That way only lay trouble.

“You just gotta be more considerate,” Seth said.

“*You’re* telling me to be more considerate?” Tony lifted his head to look at him in surprise.

“What?” Seth shrugged. “Have you ever seen anyone get so mad at me over something I’ve done that they’ve tried to beat me to death or anything? No. Why? Because I don’t mess around with peoples’ feelings. If you’re going to have mindless sex, stick to people that aren’t totally in love with you.”

“Wait, so Solar really is in love with me?”

Seth stared at him for a long moment. “You’re joking with me, aren’t you?”

Tony still looked confused. “You’re the one that said it.”

“Oh my God, you honestly didn’t know that Solar’s been panting after you from the first time she saw you? Where have you been living, underneath a rock?” Seth couldn’t help a twinge of pity for Solar, even though she wasn’t one of his most favorite of people. “How could you not have realized that she’s been trying to get into your pants for years? Her jealousy of Ashley could have melted steel with the heat of her passions.”

“Well, that’s pretty melodramatic.”

“Melodramatic, but true.” Seth reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of Tropical Fruit Mentos. “Want one?” He offered the roll.

Tony scoffed. “No thanks. I’ve screwed everything up and you think eating a bunch of candy is going to make things better?”

“Hey, it can’t make things much worse.” Seth peeled the wrapper and ate the first candy off the roll. “They’re tasty.”

“Fine, give me one.” Tony held out his hand. Seth smiled a little and dropped a couple of candies into his palm. “Just watch everything get worse.”

“Who ever thought the great Teen Steel would be such a pessimist? I feel so disillusioned.” He shook his head mock-regretfully. “My dreams have been burst like soap bubbles.”

“Have you thought about being a poet or something?” Tony asked.

“That’s my fall-back job,” Seth said, “you know, if the whole being a superhero thing doesn’t work out.”

“Well, at least you have job opportunities. If things don’t work out for me, I’ll probably end up flipping burgers or something.”

Seth couldn’t help laughing, covering his mouth with his fingers.

“It wasn’t that funny,” Tony said.

“No, no, it was just that I had this sudden image of you in a paper hat slinging burgers. So funny.” He shook his head. “You’d be ridiculous.”

“Well, I’m glad that at least one of us is having a good time.” Tony laughed. “How do you do that?”

“Do what?” Seth asked.

Tony shrugged. “Make even the most God-awful days seem as though they can somehow be all right.”

“It’s a gift.” Seth licked his lips. “Look, I know you screwed up with Solar and all that, but I’m not going to hold it against you. And maybe someday she’s going to get over it. You better hope that Pulsar doesn’t end up killing you in the meantime.”

Tony grimaced, looking around. “Do you really think he’s going to come after me?”

Seth snorted. “You don’t? He’s obsessed with his sister. I doubt that anything would be able to stand in the way of him ‘guarding her honor.’ Least of all whatever excuses you could come up with.”

“Oh crap, I really screwed up, didn’t I?” Tony rubbed his face.

“I won’t let him seriously hurt you,” Seth promised, “but it’s going to be pretty awkward around here for a while. There’s a reason why you’re not supposed to mess around with your co-workers. One night stands are for people you’re never going to meet again. It’s to keep things from getting too ugly.”

Tony groaned. It looked like it was starting to sink in that he had screwed up. He looked so dejected that Seth wanted to reassure him that things were going to be all right. He knew he couldn’t, not if Tony was going to learn a valuable lesson anyway.

Seth didn’t plan on going anywhere, but sometimes things didn’t work out as expected. He wanted to know that Tony could handle himself. It was a lot better than having to scramble around cleaning up his mess afterward. Just because he liked the guy–probably more than he should–didn’t mean he was going to let himself be snow jobbed.

Seth sat beside Tony in silence. He knew there was going to be trouble and there wasn’t a whole lot he could do about it.

Tony had made his bed. Now they were all going to have to deal with it.

/CHAPTER

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FIC: “FML,” by Harper Kingsley – 01

Title: FML
Author: Harper Kingsley
Character: Dantea Gasswell
Genre: urban fantasy, drama
Summary: A quick stop for milk results in a wacky and wild adventure.

I’m the stereotypical Asian girl with bad teeth. Fuck my life.

The irreverent thought popped in her head while waiting in line at CVS. She’d caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirrored shelf-back of a jewelry display.

At some point she’d begun to let her appearance go. There was no one that she felt a need to impress, and keeping up her appearance was a lot of work if the only time she left the house was to pick up a gallon of milk and some Ibuprofen. There were some days–today–when it didn’t seem worth it to wash her hair or put in her contacts. She kept her face and hands washed at all times and tried to keep her appearance somewhat neat and tidy, but she didn’t bother with fancy clothes or makeup. It was just easier to throw on her glasses and an unmarked black ball cap as she headed out the door.

I’m a wreck, Dantea thought.

She’d been in a rush and hadn’t bothered to check her reflection before leaving home, which meant she hadn’t realized that she was looking worse than usual. Less hot mess and more of just a mess-mess.

There was a gob of whitening gel firming up like gelatin on her eyetooth.

Screams for milk before school had ruined her morning bathroom routine.

The Iron Man tee shirt she’d pulled on was looking a bit dingy and dirty. She hoped it didn’t smell.

Her ponytail stuck out lopsidedly from the hole in her cap, the ends looking frazzled and maybe a bit dry. She hadn’t remembered to grab her headband, so her bangs were escaping the edges of the cap in crinkled waves. Even with the cap on, her hair looked horrible.

Dantea forcedly looked away from her startled reflection. She looked like a fawn or something, helpless prey waiting to be consumed.

It was hard for anyone to believe that she was an apex predator. Though she was one, a somewhat rare human-dragon hybrid. Which meant she’d inherited her dragon-mother’s large size and fierce appearance when in dragon form, and her human-mother’s lack of height and all around daintiness when in human form.

There were times when she saw pictures of herself and got confused. Her dragon nature wanted to snatch up the delicate girl she saw and either chomp her into gullet-sized bits or hide her away somewhere. Then she’d remember that she was looking at herself and things felt weird. Because who wanted to Captive Princess their own human form?

She was a freak.

If anyone knew what went through her mind sometimes, she’d be locked up.

An unbalanced apex predator was a danger to society. There were posters on buildings and television PSAs that urged citizens to turn in any suspect apex. Monetary rewards were given out when an arrest was made.

Dantea did not want to be exiled to the Spirit Realm. It wasn’t a great place to visit and she seriously didn’t want to live there. She’d much rather live as a human. Which she would only be able to manage as long as she avoided her reflection and the allure of the fawnish young woman.

“Excuse me. Next please.”

Dantea twitched and looked at the cashier. The line had moved on without her and she was next.

“Oop. Sorry.” She smiled apologetically and trotted to the counter. She pushed the jug of milk and the small box at the older looking woman.

“Not a problem.” The cashier rang up her purchases and didn’t raise an eyebrow when she refused a bag. “That will be $7.50.”

“$7.50? Geez, everything’s getting expensive. Soon we’ll have to stop drinking milk all together.” Dantea reached in her pocket for a ten dollar bill.

“Everyone’s been mentioning the raised prices lately,” the cashier–Marion read her nametag–said. “Crop failures and sudden climate change have wrecked nearly everything. Things are only going to get more expensive.”

Dantea stuffed the pill box and the receipt in her jacket pocket. She cradled the milk jug against her chest. “I hope not too expensive. We’re barely making it as it is.”

“I hear you,” Marion said. “My husband’s on disability after an accident at work. We’re barely making ends meet.”

“Sucks.” Dantea gave an affable nod toward the wall clock. “I’ve gotta go. The kids are waiting for this milk.”

“You have a good day,” Marion said.

“You too. I’m going to want to talk to you more next time I see you, so keep a line clear.”

Marion laughed and waved her hand as Dantea headed toward the door. It cost nothing to be friendly and Marion had seemed like a nice woman.

Dantea flipped up her hood once she got outside. It had started lightly misting when she got to the store, but it was drizzling now. She could already foresee her sneakers filling with water before she got halfway home.

Great. All I need is a pair of wet shoes stinking up the house along with everything else going on.

She’d looked at the overcast sky and thought about bringing an umbrella, but had figured it would hold off long enough to get back. Looked like she’d gambled on the weather and lost.

She stuck her free hand in her jacket pocket and began the trek toward home. Water immediately began splashing against her glasses and she could feel it soaking through her pant legs.

Even wearing her most stoic expression, she could tell that she was giving off an aura of irritated misery. The few pedestrians she passed swerved widely around her without knowing why they did it. Human instinct would recognize the danger she represented even if they didn’t consciously realize what was making them so nervous. It was one of the reasons she’d had such a terrible time in school–children had zero tact when dealing with someone perceived as different. The teachers may have insisted that they were being ridiculous, but the children had known that she was something to avoid. Thinking back, she couldn’t really blame them. She’d been a bloodthirsty monster until halfway through middle school. It was lucky she hadn’t eaten one of the little bastards.

Dantea was half a block from her street when she realized a pickup truck had been creeping up behind her slowly. She could see it reflected in the plate glass window of the bookstore and dress shop as she walked by.

She pulled her phone out of her back pocket and called Home.

H’lo?

“Hey, it’s me. I’m running a bit late. Think you could get the kids ready and out the door?” She kept an eye on the truck’s reflection as it got closer and closer. She considered throwing the milk and running, but these fools were awfully close to her house. It was better to handle them now rather than wait for a nighttime visit or have to deal with finding a new place to live.

What’s going on? You sound weird.”

“It’s raining really hard, that’s all. I thought I should wait somewhere dry until it stops.”

That might be a while. It looks like it’s raining cats and dogs.”

“Yeah. I should have just fed the kids freezer waffles and gone back to bed. Anyways, you got a handle on things there?”

Yeah.”

“Cool. I’ll be home later. Thanks.”

Sure. Bye.”

“Bye.” Dantea hung up the phone and slipped it into her pocket. She didn’t want anyone to worry while she did what needed to be done.

Her claws flexed in readiness when the truck sped up and squealed to a stop crosswise in front of her. The passenger side door flung open.

“Get in,” the driver growled. Guns bristled from the backseat, enough that she worried about accidentally getting shot in the face.

“Okay.”

TBC…

*

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Is it weird to treat mTurk like it’s a reverse-freemium game?

I’ve started Turking it.

What’s that? you ask. Well, it’s a microjob program run by Amazon called the Mechanical Turk. It’s basically our incentive to see ourselves as single processes in an otherwise cosmic-level machine. It’s humbling, yet soothing at the same time.

We are a solid state entity. We breathe together and move together as one single will.

Yet when you draw close, there are a million tiny universes being born and dying in the blink of an eye. And in that brief flash of light, there’s a whole life spooling out untethered, a lashing photocosm of ecstatic living done by a being that doesn’t realize quite how small it is. It lives, breathes, and dies; and somewhere in there, amongst all of the pain and joy and mindless wondering, a job is performed and a change ripples outward, adding to the outcome, the Plan. Everything we do is somewhat preordained, it’s only the getting there that’s considered free will.

I like to tell myself that what I do has some meaning.

I hate to think that I waste my time performing largely mindless tasks for $0.50 a pop.

To be honest, I’m not that enthused about being in the freelance job market. I don’t mind working and I don’t mind being paid money, but there’s some part of me that will always like having some idea of what to do. Work isn’t something I want to think about. It’s a task I want to perform as quick and clean as possible, with no one yelling at me and none of the sense of guilt that screwing up on the job brings.

I hate to disappoint anyone.

There’s something nice about Turking. It’s soothing and monotonous. It quiets something inside me that I’ve never been able to positively feed before.

My mom had a serious gambling problem. I think I have some of her same sickness, though it’s showed itself in a different way.

I enjoy farm games and continuous puzzle games. I like the feeling of clearing levels and receiving that little bit of pop-up praise. It makes me feel good. It’s like the “Ka-ching! Ka-ching!” of a slot machine, but it doesn’t cost me any money, which is good.

I hate spending money.

Being cheap isn’t something I’m proud of, but I’ve been poor my whole life. I’ve learned to hold on to every dollar that makes it into my pocket. I mean, sure, there are some things that I’ll blow a stupid amount of money on, but freemium games aren’t them.

I’ll play the heck out of a freemium game, right up until it reaches the point where I either grow bored or the game starts not working if I don’t give it money. And then I’ll cut the old game loose and move on to a new game that might not be as much fun, but is free.

And that’s what I find myself liking about mTurk. It’s like a freemium game that pays me real money.

Just like with a freemium game, you start out at the bottom level. But as you play, you gain points that eventually let you start earning better and better Hits. As you prove that you know how to read and follow instructions, you have the opportunity to make higher amounts of money.

You start out earning $0.01-0.05 per Hit, which is near to nothing. It’s these low payment amounts that thin the chaff from the wheat. People without a somewhat obsessive personality or a desperate need for money drift away after a few weeks, off in search of other opportunities. Meanwhile, a real Turker just keeps grinding away, 20 Hits, 50 Hits, 200 Hits, 500 Hits, 1000 Hits, 10000 Hits, going from making $0.05 per Hit to $0.90 or $2.

As long as you have a reasonable level of intelligence, you can make money on mTurk. It might not be a lot of money, but it’s something you can put in your pocket. And if you have a particular talent or skill, you can make $200 on a Hit or more. But on average, just doing things like looking at pictures or decoding a messy receipt, you can earn $50 or more a month.

If you have enough Accepted Hits you will have a good rating that allows you to qualify for more jobs and basically proves that you are loyal and deserve to be rewarded. The more Accepted Hits that you have, the more money you can make. It’s like all those games where you level-up and receive gold or gems, only these ones can be used to buy things in real life.

mTurk keeps my attention by having all the aspects of a freemium game, but actually paying me money. It might be a hassle to find Hits that I like, but I’ve added a few names to my mental list. Though I wish there was a better way to search and that the results didn’t look so forbidding.

That’s one thing that I’d change about mTurk. I’d make it more user friendly. The interface wouldn’t be so stiff and joblike, you’d have the option to choose the Fun Theme where you could play through Hit levels to receive gems and cool stuff.

How awesome would it be if Amazon provided prizes for achieving certain level-ups? “You are now qualified to accept Hits in Level 7. You have been rewarded one (1) Toaster Oven.” You’re not required to review, but you get extra Hit points when you do. I’m not sure of the legalities of them offering gift certificates, as money and prizes can be seen as different things, but I imagine they could shoot a Turker one of the High Priority items off a Wishlist and write it off as a promotional item.

And mTurk would become a perfect, beautiful thing. Like Farmville merged with the unicorn that ate the Candy Kingdom and there were plants eating zombies that turned into cash lining my pocket. It might almost be too good. But I can dream.

* * *

Mini-Bio: HarperWCK was raised by Papa Smurf and Vanity Smurf in the humble splendor of the Smurf Village. She grew up drinking the sweet fermented juice of smurfberries while licking mushrooms for sustenance, which explains her skewed way of looking at the world.

She writes fiction that features romance and violence and superpowered people. If you want to check it out, you might take a peek at Allies & Enemies“, the second book in the Heroes & Villains series. It’s inferable enough that it can be read as a standalone novel.

Black Friday [Vereint Georges, pre-Darkstar]

Title: Black Friday
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Universe B
Framework: Heroes & Villains
Characters: Vereint Georges, Sandra Georges, Patrick Georges
Genre: superhero, sci-fi

There were times when young Vereint Georges thought his family was weird. Thanksgiving was one of those times.

They bundled up in their winter coats and climbed into the station wagon at ten in the morning and headed to Willsbury, the next town over. Shining Star Grove wasn’t big enough for its own movie theater, so they had to make the 45 minute drive in the snow to make the 11:15 matinee showing of Mr. Garbello’s Balloon.

Vereint wasn’t very enthused about the academy Award nominated movie, but he was happy to be out of the house. Plus they were going to Chang’s Chinese Buffet afterward, which was always a treat. His mom didn’t believe in wasting money on restaurants and always said things tasted better when they were made at home. Except her version of egg rolls had been really terrible–he’d seen her scrape most of them into the garbage and wished she’d done that before making him eat one.

Dad switched on the radio as soon as they were in the car. He was the driver and he had control of what they listened to. Considering the radio only caught four stations and one was religious and two others were country western, it wasn’t like there was much to choose from. They always listened to the tinny sounding rock and roll station, and Mom would sing along and she sounded better than the people on the radio.

Vereint sat or laid in the backseat shivering until the car heated up. The orangey-brown vinyl always took forever to warm up in the winter and his bare legs stuck to it in the summer. Dad said he wanted to get a new car, but it hadn’t happened yet. Vereint figured they would be stuck with the station wagon forever.

“You want some cocoa back there?” Mom asked.

“Yes please.”

Vereint stuck his face in the notch between the front and back seat and watched her carefully unscrew the thermos and pour the cocoa into the plastic lid-cup. “Be very careful not to spill it. And watch out because it’s hot,” she cautioned.

“Yes, Mama.” The cup was only half-full and he was careful not to slosh when he took the cup and leaned back in the seat. He sipped, his eyes half-closing at the heat against his chapped lips. “Thank you.”

The cocoa was chocolatey and sweet. He idly wished for a couple of marshmallows, but it was still good plain.

He looked out the window and drank cocoa, listening to his mom sing with the radio. They were one of the only cars on the road, nearly everyone else tucked away in their houses as they did whatever people did on Thanksgiving. Everything he knew about the holiday came from TV as his family didn’t celebrate it.

His dad was 1/8th Native American and refused to celebrate the genocide of his ancestors. Vereint wasn’t sure what that meant, as to him Thanksgiving seemed more to be a day of eating too much food and watching the parade on TV. From what he’d seen in movies and shows, people didn’t do much more than eat on the holiday. All he knew was that his family had never celebrated Thanksgiving for as long as he’d been alive.

They’d started seeing movies when he was old enough not to cry as soon as the house lights switched off. He was fourteen now and they’d been going to the movies and Chang’s Chinese Buffet for nine Thanksgivings in a row. It was their family tradition.

Vereint sometimes wondered what it would be like to have one of those Thanksgivings he’d seen on TV, with turkey and stuffing and the entire extended family in one place, but it was more an idle musing than anything else. He enjoyed their trips to the movies and the rare treat of a meal in a restaurant. They had Christmas for the family gathering thing.

“Do we have to see Mr. Garbello’s Balloon?” he asked. “The TV commercials made it look so boring.”

Dad didn’t look away from the road. “What, you don’t want to see a three hour movie about a man and his imaginary hot air balloon?”

“It’s three hours?” Vereint slumped down in the seat, pressing his knees into the seat back in front of him. He was careful not to spill the last sips of cocoa, propping the cup against his stomach. “Someone call the coroner. I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

“But it’s cultural. It will be a good experience for you,” Mom said.

“How can it be good for me if I die?”

“Well, then I guess it’s a good thing we’re actually going to see Commander Quack,” Dad said.

Vereint quickly sat up, catching the cup before it could fall. “Commander Quack, really? Wow, I didn’t think you’d let me see it.”

“You’re fourteen now. You’re not a little kid,” Mom said. “We talked about it and decided that you’re old enough to see a movie about a giant talking duck interacting with real people.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” Vereint squirmed excitedly, his seatbelt the only thing holding him down. “Commander Quack. Steven in my class saw it and he said it was so cool. Commander Quack is a duck from outer space that crash lands in Central Park in New York City. He needs to get help to fix his ship and go home, but scientist guys want to dissect him or something.”

“Well, you know so much about the movie that maybe we should see something else.”

“Dad!”

“Okay, okay, settle down.” Dad laughed. “We’re still going to see Commander Quack.”

Vereint grinned excitedly. He never would have thought his parents would let him see Commander Quack. They were usually very strict about what he was allowed to see, which was why he’d had to watch The Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles at Duv’s house. His parents had thought it was too violent.

But now they were taking him to see Commander Quack, which was rated PG-13. It was the best day ever!

* * *

Vereint was quiet leaving the theater and couldn’t meet either of his parents’ eyes. Steven hadn’t mentioned any of that. He’d gone on and on about the fight scenes and the funny stuff. He hadn’t said a thing about the creepy stuff.

Commander Quack was a four-and-a-half foot tall duck. He’d had a ducky girlfriend on his home planet that Vereint suspected might have been a duck prostitute. But she was a duck same as him; Gloria was human, and even though it had cut away before the kiss, Vereint was pretty sure they’d had sex.

Gloria had walked out of the bedroom in Commander Quack’s shirt and he’d followed her out a few seconds later smoking a cigarette.

Vereint couldn’t look at his mother and father. He just knew they were never going to let him watch a grown up movie ever again. He was going to spend the rest of his life watching stuff like The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Witches. It made him want to punch Steven right in his liar face.

He wordlessly followed them to the car. The drive to Chang’s Chinese Buffet was awkward and silent. Vereint leaned his head against the window and tried to clear that awful movie from his mind. It had been boring and embarrassing, and having Commander Quack be a duck hadn’t saved it at all.

They reached the restaurant and it was hard to be miserable when faced with the pure awesome of Chang’s Chinese Buffet. Everything was red and gold and there was so much food he didn’t know where to start. Though he couldn’t help eying the big mound of peel-and-eat-shrimp and the whole row of sliced fruit and brightly colored gelatin.

“Come on,” Mom said, and she walked around with him, scooping and tonging food onto his plate. She believed the first plate should be healthy at least and always made him eat vegetables and grilled–not fried–meat.

“Can we get some shrimp too?” he asked, dodging around one of the three other people at the buffet tables.

“I don’t know. Do you think you can handle delicious, succulent shrimp?”

“Yes!” He nearly cheered at her smile and hurried to fill a clean plate full of shrimp. “Succulent,” he mouthed.

“Not too much. What if you can’t eat all that? There’s no reason to waste food.”

“I won’t,” Vereint said. He planned on eating all these shrimp and going back for more. Plus there were strawberries and pineapple peeking at him from the next table along with almond cookies with real almonds. “I’m gonna eat it all.”

She held her plate out with a nod and he scooped some shrimp next to the tangle of lo-mein and steamed potstickers. She always wanted him to eat healthy, but said as an adult she could eat what she wanted. He couldn’t wait to be an adult too.

She filled a little cup with cocktail sauce. “Do you want some?”

“No, I like mine plain.” He shifted from foot to foot, watching her drip Sriracha and soy sauce over her steamed mussels.

“You don’t have to wait with me if you don’t want to,” she said. “Your dad’s already back at the table.”

“No, I’ll wait for you.” He liked the little smile she couldn’t quite hide. Besides, he could tell she was almost done, and there was something oddly mesmerizing about the way she prepared the mussels. She liked to let the flavors absorb while she ate everything else, then she would scoop the mussels out of their shells with her fork.

“All done,” she said. “Come on.”

He followed her back to their table, careful not to spill anything from his plate. Once there, he suffered having a napkin stuffed into the neck of his shirt before grabbing one of the pieces of skewered chicken and taking a bite. “So good.”

Dad looked at Mom and said something too low for him to hear. They both laughed and it was such a warm sound that Vereint kicked his sneakers against the table leg excitedly.

Other families ate turkey on Thanksgiving. His family watched a movie and ate at a Chinese buffet. He didn’t know which was supposed to be better, but he knew what his family did.

Vereint smiled and kicked his feet as his mom told one of her rambling jokes and Dad looked at her with the softest eyes.

He loved the holidays.

* * *

By the time they got home it was nearly eleven o’clock and Vereint had to be shaken awake and led to the house like a little kid. He might have complained, but he could barely keep his eyes open and all he wanted to do was climb into his own bed.

“I love you. Goodnight,” he mumbled at the Mom-shaped blur.

She laughed and kissed his forehead. “Sweet dreams.”

“Mm.” Vereint stumbled up the stairs to his room and flopped across his bed, barely managing to kick his shoes off. One tube sock slid halfway down, but caught on his heel and dangled over the edge of the bed. He thought about reaching down to either pull it up or take it off, but his feet looked so far away that he didn’t bother.

Vereint buried his face in his pillow and tucked his hands under his chest and went back to sleep. He’d had such a great day that …

Vereint’s eyes popped open with a gasp. He held perfectly still in the darkness, the only light the red glow of his alarm clock–2:22. He didn’t know what had woken him, but his heart was beating fast.

There was a muffled cry and the sound of flesh hitting flesh. The murmur of a stranger’s voice. His mom pleading quietly. A shout–Dad’s voice–loud with pain and fear and rage.

There were people in the house. Someone was hurting his parents, maybe killing them.

Vereint slipped off his bed quietly and went to the closet to grab his baseball bat. He wished it was a gun or a sword. At least the weight was comforting in his hands as he crept to the top of the stairs and peered down.

Mom and Dad were kneeling on the hardwood floor in their pajamas, their hands tied behind their backs. There were three men dressed in dark clothes moving around, stuffing the fine silver and Dad’s coin collection into sacks. They all wore the same sneering clown masks. The fourth man was holding a jagged bladed knife against Mom’s throat while he stuck his right hand in through the neck of her nightgown, touching her.

Vereint didn’t know what to do. The knife looked wickedly sharp and there were four men and only one of him. He hated being so helpless but charging out there would only get someone–Mom–killed.

Holding his breath, he slipped backward, intent on getting to the phone in his parents’ room.

A hand fell on his shoulder and he instinctively lashed out with the bat. The man caught it with his hand and stars burst behind Vereint’s eyes as he was punched hard in the cheek.

There are five of them, was all he could think as his arm was twisted painfully behind his back and he was hauled down the stairs.

“Oh God, please don’t hurt my baby!”

“You lied to us.” The man with the knife did something painful with his hand and Mom shouted. “You said you were the only ones here. I guess you’ll have to be taught a lesson about what happens to liars.” The knife glinted dangerously, moving up from Mom’s neck toward her face.
“Have you ever heard of a Glasgow smile?”

Vereint tried to twist away from the man holding him, but there was a horrible popping sound as his shoulder dislocated and he screamed at the pain. “Mama!”

“Don’t you hurt my baby!” Mom didn’t seem to notice the blade so close to her face. Her blazing eyes were focused on Vereint and the man holding him. Her pupils expanded, blown impossibly wide, and some invisible something happened.

The man holding Vereint let him go with a horrific sounding shriek. Tearing at his face with his fingernails, he stumbled backward to collapse against the stairs. His mask fell on the floor, staining the rug with the blood pouring from his eyes and nose. He full-body twitched, blood pooling beneath his head from his ears. He didn’t get back up.

“What the fuck did you do, you meta bitch!” The knife made to plunge into the side of Mom’s neck.

Vereint had known for a couple of years that his parents were special. Mom could push people with her mind, just a little, not enough to be considered a superpower. He’d never seen her do anything like what she’d done to the man on the stairs. It must have been a stress born breakout event, one of those once in a lifetime things that happened when a metahuman was pushed to the emotional limit.

Dad’s breakout was violent and terrifying. Vereint wanted to look away, but he was trapped in the moment.

Dad could create bubbles of force. He needed to use his hands to focus them or do anything, but it was still cool to watch him lift and move bales of hay. He’d get this steely look in his eyes and move his spread-fingered hands and whatever he focused on would move too.

With his hands tied behind him, he should have been completely helpless. With his sudden breakout… he was deadly.

The man with the knife was flung so hard away from Mom that there was a cracking sound when he hit the wall. Then waves of force whipped around the room and there were agonized screams and splashes of blood and more than anything Vereint wanted to look away.

He couldn’t move. Couldn’t blink. The horror etched itself behind his eyes as what had once been human men were torn apart by an invisible force.

He huddled on the floor holding his hurt shoulder, and he watched the men die in front of him. Dad looked like an avenging angel, his usual mild expression wiped away by a terrible rage. Vereint had never seen anything like it.

He’d never realized that people had so much blood in them before. He could have gone his whole life without knowing.

“Are you all right?” Mom’s hands were warm against his face as she checked his eyes.

Dumbly, Vereint nodded. He felt like his throat was squeezed too tight shut for talking, but he didn’t want to worry her.

“Honey, look at Mama, okay?” He followed her crooning command and his breath caught in a hitching gasp. “In a few minutes Dad is going to take you to the hospital. You dreamed someone broke into the house and in your panic you fell on the stairs.”

“Sandra!”

“No, Patrick. He doesn’t need something like this in his memory. Let it all be a bad dream. I’ll clean everything up while you take him to the hospital.” Mom’s eyes bored into Vereint’s and he felt the world slip sideways and strange. “This has all been a bad dream. None of it was real. The memories will fade and you will forget everything that happened since you went to bed last night. You had a bad dream and fell on the stairs. What happened to your arm, Vereint?”

His voice came from far away. It didn’t sound like him speaking. “I had a bad dream and tripped on the stairs.”

“Good boy. Now go with Daddy to the hospital. Have a peaceful nap on the way and wake up with the memory that everything is all right and we love you.”

Vereint nodded and climbed to his feet. His dislocated shoulder hurt when he moved, but it was a distant pain.

He walked to Dad and let himself be bundled into his coat and boots. Then he followed his dad to the car. He’d had such a scary dream and he’d fallen and hurt himself.

Vereint wished he hadn’t been so clumsy. The nightmare that had woken him was already fading away and didn’t seem very scary in retrospect. So to have been so frightened that he’d tumbled down the stairs… it seemed ridiculous.

“Come on, buddy,” Dad said.

Vereint winced when his seatbelt was clicked, but it was a bearable pain. Daddy was here and everything was going to be all right.

He leaned his forehead against the window and closed his eyes. It was an hour and twenty-five minute drive to the hospital and he felt tired and achy.

He slept the whole way, comforted by the tinny rock and roll coming from the radio and the rush of warm heat from the vent.

* * *

Mom made him mac and cheese for lunch, then made his favorite meal for dinner. He might have complained about all the fussing if it hadn’t felt so nice to know that Mama and Daddy loved him so much. Plus his arm still ached in the sling and it felt good to be taken care of.

He noticed the runner was gone from the stairs when he went up to change, but he didn’t say anything. Mom must have gotten rid of it after his tumble. Better to blame an inanimate object than his own innate clumsiness for the accident. He must have worried her so much.

She’d even cleaned the whole house while they were at the hospital. There was the sharp scent of Lysol, Pine-sol, and Lemon Pledge beneath the pumpkin spice of her favorite air fresheners.

She kept touching him–his arm, his good shoulder, his face–as though assuring herself that he was all right. He felt bad for worrying her. What if he’d broken his neck? She might have lost her mind.

“I love you, Mama,” he said seriously, catching her hand in his. He was surprised to note that his hand was bigger–when had that happened?–but she still seemed so much stronger than him. She was his mom and she took care of him, loved him more than anything. He knew it.

“Oh, baby,” she hugged him, “I love you too. My good boy. My handsome, brave boy.”

He tugged her down onto the couch next to him. “Watch a movie with me? Please?”

“Of course. Anything for you, baby.”

Vereint felt warm inside as his mom fiddled with the remote control, turning the TV to a show about a teenaged girl that fought vampires. He was excited to find out it was a Black Friday marathon.

“I’m going to be a superhero someday,” he said during a commercial break.

She stroked a hand through his hair. “You can be anything you want to be.”

He sighed happily and rested his head against her knee. Her fingers massaged across his scalp and the strange heaviness that had lingered in his chest all day was soothed away.

Mama was here. Everything would be all right.

“I love you.”

=THE END=

ORIGINAL FIC: Faizel II: Chapter One

Title: Faizel II
Author: Harper Kingsley
World: Faizel
Characters: Faizel/Charlemagne, Ewing, Isadore, Ives, Jenny Deacon
Genre: vampires, mm, slash
Rating: mature
Summary: Picks up where Faizel left off. Faizel is fitting into his new world like a shark with lasers on its head. There’s blood in the water. He’s closing in.

CHAPTER ONE

Sometimes Ewing wondered if they had invited a devil into their midst. Because there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that Charlemagne was possessed. And the devil was named Faizel. Charlemagne’s darling love. The mysterious vampire that had appeared from nowhere to steal Charlemagne’s heart and rearrange the natural order of the world.

Ewing personally thought of Faizel as a booty call gone wrong, though he would never say it aloud. He valued his life too much.

Charlemagne wanted to keep Faizel secret, and Ewing was willing to go along with it. Because honestly, how could he even explain someone like Faizel? The guy scared the ever living fuck out of him, and that was no lie.
Continue reading

POETRY: Fine, by Harper Kingsley

FINE

This is my life
crappy and small
no one will love me
or need me at all.
I’ll wither away
a bit at a time
pared down to the bone
no one to call me “Mine.”
I’ll walk like a shadow
down regular streets
I’ll pick through the garbage
with never enough to eat.
I’ll hold out my hands
I’ll silently plead
“Anyone out there,
won’t you help me?”
I’ll die every day
a bit at a time
I’ll whisper the lie to myself
that everything’s gonna be fine.

POETRY: Peach, by Harper Kingsley

PEACH

The heavy weight of hottest summer,
sweat oozing slowly across heat bared skin,
the smell of sweet delicious flooding every sense.
Ripe flesh pulled taut over golden-hued globes,
juice threatening to burst out, sweet freedom, untouched,
mouth flooding wet with the need to taste,
to lick syrupy drops out of that split crevice,
to drink down every drop of ravaged flavor,
to bite down and consume,
to reveal the wrinkled knot hidden within.
Sucking on that core, lips pursing as tongue works,
wringing free every taste, face and hands sticky,
tongue tingling, scraping against the pinching crease,
nibbling away until every trace of flavor is gone,
the core is left damp with saliva;
desire lingers, but succulent flesh is completely spent.
All that’s left is to wait for time to bring ripeness and fresh fruit,
the sun heating fuzzy pink flesh,
as life renews, hungry desire comes again,
and golden-tinged globes swell with delicious fullness,
ready to taste.

POETRY: Apple, by Harper Kingsley

APPLE

Red flesh bit crisply to reveal juicy insides,
sweetness with a little tart floods across the tongue,
the hedonistic thrust of flavor,
teeth biting down, crunch, crunch,
chewing, swallowing, savoring each bite.
Fingers damp with fleeing moisture,
tongue licking up every drop,
sucking on the discarded core, trailing around the fertile seeds,
then lusting after fresh new fruit, hanging heavy on the branch,
red succulent flesh unbroken, bathed in yellow light.
Mouth watering in hungry desire,
while sticky juices dry sweet against the skin,
mixing with sweat, tacky and salty,
as hunger grows to eat again.

POETRY: First Bite, by Harper Kingsley

FIRST BITE

The oven heats the room
fills the air with savory scents
of cooking meat, spices,
succulent drops of juice flow
my mouth waters and my stomach whines.
I am a patient hunter
I fight the urge to open the door and look
to breathe in that delicious taste
and wallow in the flavors that flood my mind.
I nibble on crisp slices of apple
I gnaw on carrots and tiny corn
I wait and watch the timer tick
as the meat roasts and the vegetables bloom.
It seems like forever to wait;
the oven is a smiling maw
the heat makes my skin cringe as I reach inside
freeing the hot, steaming pan of food.
The meat melts like butter to the knife
the juices pour across the vegetables;
I mix a tasty gravy to drizzle across the top
and dig in with my fork, relishing the first bite.

Recipe Links: Nachos, Artichokes, Apples, Pumpkin

Recipes linked to: nachos, artichokes, apples, pumpkin

I have been craving nachos lately, and I’m sorry Ro-tel and Velveeta people, I can’t handle that much cheesiness more than once every few months. In search of awesome nacho recipes, I came across some other recipes I felt like sharing. Why? Because they look completely delicious and I love food.

Pizza Nachos from the Tasty Kitchens BlogI’m not very adventurous toward food; I can actually be rather picky. But these nachos… oh my god, these nachos. This is a whole meal right here.
What you’ll need: unsalted butter, olive oil, garlic cloves, heavy cream, 2% milk, salt, cracked black pepper, red pepper flakes, grated Parmesan cheese, tortilla chips, onion, pepperoni slices, sliced black olives, green bell pepper.

Loaded Nachos from The Pioneer WomanThese look so good. I love avocados!
What you’ll need: ground beef, yellow onion, 1 can beans, tortilla chips, grated cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, roma tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro leaves, avocado, sour cream, lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, paprika, cumin, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper.

Roasted Artichokes with Lemon and Garlic from the Tasty Kitchens BlogThe first picture makes these look like jellyfish or squid or something, but that’s just artistic license. The artichokes roast up beautiful and look absolutely delicious. I am a big artichoke fan, and I can see myself eating the whole batch by myself.
What you’ll need: whole small artichokes, olive oil, a lemon, garlic cloves, salt, dried oregano.

Apple Pie Dip from the Tasty Kitchens BlogIt’s like a no-crust pie. I’m not sure of the calorie count, but it can’t be too out of control.
What you’ll need: Granny Smith apples, cream cheese (regular or light), vanilla non-fat yogurt, lemon juice, light brown sugar, all-purpose flour, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, sugar, vanilla extract.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Scones from the Tasty Kitchen BlogOh, these look absolutely delicious, and really easy to make. Seriously, they look beautiful, but there’s no rolling out dough or any serious kind of work.
What you’ll need: flour, baking powder, baking soda, butter, eggs, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, buttermilk, salt, cinnamon, powdered sugar, milk.

I love kimchi soup. I don’t like the fancy rice very much, so I always eat with plain rice, but Maangchi’s recipe looks the best! –

If you like Maangchi (who wouldn’t?) you can download her cookbooks free as ebooks here: http://www.maangchi.com/shop. She also has her books available as print.

Plus, I can always eat kimbap. They are perfect for every mood and every day. –

Dracula on NBC

RE TV SHOW: Dracula [drama, horror]

Dracula on NBCTitle: Dracula
Created by: Cole Haddon
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jessica De Gouw, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Victoria Smurfit, Thomas Kretschmann, Katie McGrath, Robert Bathurst, Miklós Bányai
Network: NBC
Airs: Friday nights on NBC

Synopsis borrowed from IMDB: Series introduces Dracula as he arrives in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who maintains that he wants to bring modern science to Victorian society. In reality, he hopes to wreak revenge on the people who ruined his life centuries earlier. There’s only one circumstance that can potentially thwart his plan: Dracula falls hopelessly in love with a woman who seems to be a reincarnation of his dead wife.


I wasn’t interested in this show at first, as I’d caught part of episode 2 and it was too hard to figure out what was going on. Then episode 4 was airing after Grimm, and I got curious. So I went on Hulu and caught myself up from the first episode and…

This show is amazing.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a Dracula that was captured by the Order of Drago, locked in a coffin, and entombed. He is awakened centuries later and given the chance to enact his revenge against those that killed his wife, tortured and beat him, and have been hunting his kind with impunity.

Taking on the identity of Alexander Grayson, an American entrepreneur that’s come to London to introduce a science that will replace the need for oil and destroy the finances of his enemies, he is sexy, heartless, and cruel.

During his introduction to Society, he meets the reincarnation of his dead wife Ilona, who is known as Mina Murray and is a medical student desperate to prove that a woman can be a doctor. She is accompanied by her handsome beau, the journalist Jonathan Harker, and her friend Lucy Westenra.

Lucy, played by Katie McGrath, is a rich society girl with a secret love for her best friend. It’s heartbreaking to watch her moon after Mina, and have her affections ignored by the oblivious Mina.
Lucy and Mina from Dracula

Victoria Smurfit plays Lady Jayne Wetherby, a trendsetting woman with a secret. (Psst, it’s not the push up corsets. It’s the bad assery.)

There’s action, adventure, vampires sucking the blood out of their victims, and Dracula re-imaged. The costumes and settings are amazing, and if you’re a horror fan not watching this show, you should cry yourself to sleep at night because you’re missing out.

This is a great show.

Watch current episodes of Dracula online at Hulu.

Here’s a trailer for the show. The annotations are annoying, so I shut them off when I watched it. Otherwise, this is a cool trailer.

Switch Girl

RE TV SHOW: Switch Girl!! [Japanese high school comedy]

Switch GirlTitle: Switch Girl!!
Genre: Japanese high school comedy
Actors: Nishiuchi Mariya, Kiriyama Renn, Sakata Rikako, Jinnai Sho, Mizuki Nana.

Synopsis borrowed from DramaWiki: Based on a manga with the same name created by Aida Natsumi, ‘Switch Girl!!’ revolves around a high school student named Nika (Nishiuchi) who appears to be a stylish and fashionable girl at school, but that’s really a fake persona that she uses when she’s in public. At home, she “switches off” the facade and her returns to her true slovenly nature. Kiriyama Renn plays the good-looking transfer student Arata, who is Nika’s love interest in the story.

Season 1 is 8 episodes.
Season 2 is 8 episodes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this drama. It’s unfortunate, but to me most live-action manga spinoffs have been pretty hit or miss to my taste. This though … my interest was caught and I watched both seasons in one night.

Nika is funny when she’s in Off-mode at home, with her hair in that tri-corn hairdo and her overreactions to everything, and she’s beautiful when she’s dressed up in On-mode. Nishiuchi Mariya really owned the part and didn’t shy away from even the most embarrassing of scenes. I wish there had been a bit more with her sister, because we mostly see Rika in Off-mode with her blue sweatsuit and “old man” manners and the few instances of her dressed up were startling by the difference.

I’m used to watching kdramas, so I was a bit surprised about all the on-screen mentions of sex and love motels, but it’s a cute show and there’s somewhat of an implication of waiting for someone that really likes you for you, rather than just for looks. Plus Nika is a likeable character and Arata in his glasses made me laugh. (Though I couldn’t help thinking that those glasses were going to ruin his eyes … talk about coke bottles! They had to be at least an inch thick.)

I don’t know what the message with Someya was about (he’s a teacher! WTF?) and his whole deal kind of turned me off, but it was a fun show to watch and I’m hopeful that there might be a third season. (Please?)

Watch season one online with subs at DramaFever.
Watch season two online with subs at DramaFever.

EDITS: Idlewile, by Harper Kingsley – Chapter One

I thought I would show the difference between a Raw Feed chapter and one that I’ve performed first edits on. This is what’s published to Kimichee if you need the refresher: Idlewile – Chapter One. That’s straight from my brain to the screen.

If you’d like to download a copy to see what it looks like with the Track Changes on (there’s a LOT of red, just saying) here’s the link: TrackChangeSample-IdlewileCh1. It’s a Word Doc.

Otherwise, here’s how the chapter looks cleaned up:

I know some writers write a first draft, mark it up a bit, then retype the whole thing. I’m not that cool. As you can see, I don’t do the traditional rewrites. I just get the words on the page, then go through and clean up the mess I’ve made.

This edited chapter is for display purposes only. I usually make a copy of my originals to leave in my backup folder, then I make changes directly to the story itself. I didn’t realize how many changes I tend to make until I saw the chapter with Track Changes on. I was just a little surprised.

Anyways, this has been a part of my writing process. I hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing my brain at work. And please don’t be surprised if a Kimichee story looks very different in its finished form than what first appears here.