Tag Archives: post apocalyptic

Sacrifices to the Monster

Happy Canada Day everyone! I’m sorry I’ve been away so much in the last few weeks and this week isn’t any better. I’ll be gone for most of the remainder of the week, totally beyond the range of Internet access. However, I’ll try to read as many as I can when I get back.

copyright Jean L. Hays

copyright Jean L. Hays

Sacrifices to the Monster

A few feeble cries still came from the sweltering trunks of the half-buried wrecks. As the sun set, the cars descended on a platform into the earth, moving silently on well-oiled gears.

When it stopped, an old man approached and unlocked the trunks. He pulled out the sacrifice victims, all young men and women as he had demanded.

He gave them food and water.

“They said you were a monster,” one croaked. “That you would eat us.”

“They are barbarians,” the man said. “Live down here with me until we have enough. Then we will ascend and retake our land.”

 


Courage at the End – Friday Fictioneers

This is my 100th Friday Fictioneers story, which means that I’ve written 10,000 words since I’ve started the Friday Fictioneers. Here’s to 10,000 more. Also, those of you who got here through the Friday Fictioneers portal saw that I have a new icon, different from my normal Delta Sigma one. This signals new things to come. More details to come later.

GWT logo

copyright Melanie Greenwood

copyright Melanie Greenwood

Courage at the End

The couple sat with the vaccine lying between them.

“You take it,” the woman said.

“Then you and the baby will die. Let the baby have it.”

“But if we die, who will care for him?”

“We have to do something soon.”

They sat there silently, as time slipped away.

*        *        *

“That’s it?” the professor asked.

“It’s up to the reader how it ends,” the student said.

“Are you kidding me? You can’t be timid as a writer! Choose an ending and stand behind it.”

“Fine, they give it to the baby.”

“The baby? That was the stupidest choice! You fail.”

 


Beating Swords into Saxophones – Friday Fictioneers

Beating Swords into Saxophones

The Earth was snoozing peacefully—the sunny Sunday afternoon of history—when the aliens came to prod through what remained of human civilization, oohing and ahhing in incomprehension over our ruined cities and quaintly antique technology.

They found our weapon caches delightful. The casing of a Minuteman made a pleasant booming when hit with the butt of an M-16 and .50 bullets strung up on trip wire cable laughed and sang as they tinkled together in the wind.

Then one poked at a landmine, with explosive results. “Save that for the concert,” the leader said. “That’ll be the grand finale.”


The Strangemans (Part 2)

This is an Aftermath story. In the previous part of the story, Damian and his friend Nikolai find shelter in a ruined house in the post-apocalyptic wasteland outside Ipswich. They meet a deformed woman who gives them food and shelter.

wasteland

“Do you live here by yourself?” Damian asked.

“No, there are several of us, but they will not show themselves yet,” she said. “We are the Strangemans.”

“The Strangemen?” Nikolai asked.

“Strangemans,” she corrected, smiling with yellowed fangs. “For changed people like us, even the language must change. We are men no longer, or women. But where are you coming from, and where are you going?”

“We came from Ipswich,” Damian said. “I—I don’t know where we are going though.”

“You are not the first to run away from that place, although most who flee thoughtlessly out here die quickly. It was fortunate you came across our house. I will give you a choice. If you wish, you may become one of us. You will have food and shelter, and more importantly, allies. Or you may leave. We will give you some food to take with you if you choose.

“How many of you are there?” Damian asked.

“Several,” she said again. “The witchers—raiders from Ipswich—hunt us if they find us, so we never tell our number or faces to outsiders. I’m am an ambassador of sorts. You may think about it, if you wish.”

“I will join you,” Damian said immediately.

“Me too,” Nikolai said. He eyed the empty bowl in front of him.

“Are you sure?” she said. “There is a sort of test to join us, but it is quick.”

“I’m sure,” Damian said, looking up into her eyes. He trusted her eyes.

“Very well.” She took his left hand, caressed it and then brought it to her mouth as if to kiss it. The next moment she bit down hard at the first joint of his pinky finger.

Damian screamed and jerked his hand back, but it was done. The woman pulled the tip of his finger out of her mouth, dirty nail and all, and placed it in his trembling right hand.

“Why? Why—” His voice shook from physical and mental shock.

“In a moment,” she said. “We must stop the bleeding.” She bandaged his finger with the care of a mother and then kissed it, as if in benediction.

“There is one more step,” she said. “Now throw it into the fire over there and you will be one of us.” Damian looked down at the tiny bit of bloodied flesh in his hand. Apart from him, it was nothing but a foreign object. He threw it in the fire.

“Now you have given part of yourself to us forever,” the woman said. “And we will protect you with our lives as well.” She held up her left hand and Damian saw the tip of her last finger was missing as well. “Welcome to the Strangemans.”

She turned to Nikolai, but the other boy had backed against the wall, his whole body shaking. “You are next, if you would like,” the woman said.

“No, no! I can’t,” he said. The tears were pouring down his face. “There has to be another way.”

“There is no other way,” she said. “Life out here is no game. If you cannot give of yourself, we cannot give ourselves to you. It is quickly done and the benefits are for a lifetime.”

“Damian! Damian, help me!” Nikolai cried. There was desperation in his voice and Damian understood the crushing dilemma he was in, wanting to belong, but not daring to go through with it. And Damian could not save him, not like he had from the butcher of Ipswich. Only Nikolai could decide. Damian wondered what he would have done if he had known what was coming and how unfair it was for Nikolai to know.

“Be at peace,” the woman said. “You may stay here another day or two at most, unless you decide to join us before then. For right now though, you must stay here.” She turned to Damian. “As for you, newest Strangeman, come meet your brothers and sisters.”


The Strangemans

This is an Aftermath story. In the previous story, the Butcher of Ipswich, Damian rescues his friend Nikolai from a butcher who is about to kill him. Due to stress and fear, Damian enters an altered state where he moves faster and is much stronger, but also totally deaf. He escapes the post-apocalyptic city of Ipswich and runs off into the dark, nighttime wasteland.

wasteland

The dark, putrid wasteland echoed with screams and weird cries but Damian heard none of them as he ran, carrying his friend Nikolai in his arms. He had no destination and no plan, except to get as far away as he could from the depraved city of Ipswich. It seemed like almost no time had passed when the sun rose behind him and his shadow—a dark, sickly skeleton—leaped out in front of him. It was only a moment or two before he could feel the sun’s terrible rays burning into his skin, sending up tiny blisters. It didn’t hurt, but some part of his brain beneath the preternatural fog that covered his mind knew he had to get out of the sun immediately.

He was in a narrow lane with ruined houses on both sides. He ducked into the closest house on the left, the only one with an intact roof and dropped Nikolai to the dusty kitchen floor. Damian was still deaf—whatever power had seized him in Ipswich when he had snatched Nikolai from the terrible butcher’s table and fled had also plunged him into a silent world of his own. He would be worried later; for now the lack of screams and cries of pain that had filled every day of his life were absent and he walked in a sort of aural Nirvana.

Nikolai was still unconscious. Damian looked at him and then, in a sudden decision, lay down next to him and went instantly to sleep.

He woke and found himself gazing up into the kindly face of a monster. It was, or had been, a woman, but now her face was swollen and tumorous and her teeth were yellow and sharp. But her eyes were kind and she when she mouthed unheard words to him, he felt strangely reassured. She held a cup up for him to drink and then gave him some food. It was plain stuff but far better than he was used to. After a few minutes, he fell asleep again.

When he awoke again, it was dark and the first thing he noticed was the crackle of a fire. It was indistinct, but his hearing was returning. Nikolai was up as well and eating. “Hello,” he said, when he saw Damian. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know,” Damian said. He would have thought it was all a dream, except they were definitely not in Ipswich anymore.

“What is your name?” the monstrous woman asked, coming over to Damian. She held out a bowl of food for him, which he eagerly accepted.

“Damian,” he said. “I could not hear you before. My ears— but it’s okay now.” Despite his upbringing as a fugitive and her hideous appearance, he found himself trusting the woman. “Do you live here by yourself?”

“No, there are several of us, but they will not show themselves yet,” she said. “We are the Strangemans.”

(To be continued tomorrow. Don’t miss it!)


The Butcher of Ipswich

After a long, long time, Aftermath is back! For those who don’t know what it is, Aftermath is a post-apocalyptic world set in England. The original stories were centered around a character name Edward “the Squid” Morrison, who was a pretty bad guy but who was on a quest to find music and other artifacts from the former world. On his journey he found an unconscious boy whom he named Sean. Even when the boy awoke, he didn’t speak, although in the last story that I wrote, he found out that the boy’s name was Damian. This is Damian’s backstory.

Aftermath

The city of Ipswich was dark and it stank. The whole world stank now, but the city had a concentrated stench of years of piled and rotting waste. During the summer days, the unforgiving sun baked the waste to a hard crust that only the fat, evil flies could find any nourishment from, but still it reeked. Damian was used to it all by now. He had been born into that den of villains and pirates and raised on its merciless streets. He knew where to hide during the day and where to find food each night, away from the slavers and pimps and meatmen.

He was sitting in his nest of rags and scraps between the two steam pipes. Nikolai had not returned yet. Nikolai was his—friend? What that the right word? They didn’t talk or hunt for food together, but they didn’t fight either. They spend the long days together, sleeping with their backs pressed together, but then, when the blistering orb of fire sunk below the horizon, they went their separates ways and hunted their own food. Maybe that meant they were friends.

The night had been productive. He had grabbed a handful of b-meat off a truck and ducked down into a drain before the driver could chase him. All meat was separated into three categories. A-meat, the kind that came from cows and pigs and other legendary animals, was unheard of these days. If there were still such animals left in the world, they could not live in the blighted wasteland around Ipswich. B-meat was mostly seafood, with some bird thrown in when someone got lucky. C-meat was the rest: rats, snakes, irradiated mutants from the darkness beyond the city, and worse. It was sold ground up and mixed together so the customer never knew what, or who, it came from. There was high demand for all types of meat, but Damian never touched c-meat. Beggars couldn’t be choosers, but thieves who were good at their trade could be as selective as they wished.

Damian heard running footsteps approaching. He peered into the darkness, trying to pick out if it was Nikolai. Suddenly, Nikolai’s running form was backlit by a powerful spotlight. He was almost to the entrance to the steampipes when something like a metallic whip wrapped around him and dragged him away, screaming. Damian pulled himself back into the shadows behind the pipes. There were many groups that routinely hunted down street children, and the difference between them was only like the varying levels of Hell.

The spotlight was gone now, Nikolai’s screams were muffled and then suddenly cut off. He was dead, probably, beyond Damian’s help or anyone else’s but still, Damian found himself creeping out of his hole and tiptoeing to the head of the alley. It was still hours until dawn but from the dim lights of neighboring buildings, Damian could see a handcart being pulled away by two men. He followed silently. There was nowhere good they could be going but still, his heart sank when they turned into the reeking, fetid alley behind the meat market.

Just go back, his mind screamed at him. Nikolai was dead anyway, or soon would be. But he was a friend, or the closest Damian had ever had to one.
The cart stopped outside a shop and he saw the men carry Nikolai through the door and then leave. A pair of men wearing blood-stained aprons and swinging cleavers walked past and Damian shrank down into the shadows. When they had passed, he went to the door. It was bolted with a latch on the inside, but he slipped his homemade knife through the crack in the door and a moment later it opened.

There was Nikolai, lying motionless on a table. There was no one else around, but he could hear voices coming from an adjacent room. He stepped inside. Nikolai was still breathing but blood was coming from a gash on the side of his head. The blood was warm and sticky and seeped through Damian’s fingers as he pressed his hand to his friend’s head. Nikolai moaned a little and his eyes flickered open. “Come on, we gotta scurry,” Damian whispered. “Can you stand?” He put his hands behind Nikolai’s back and helped him sit up.

“Put him back, boy.” Damian looked up to see a tall man wearing a butcher’s apron standing in the inner door. “Put him back and I’ll let you go, but I already paid for him.”

“He’s my friend,” Damian said. There was no way out. Nikolai’s eyes had closed again as he sat. “I’ll get you someone else.”

The butcher sighed. “It’s not worth it to me, plus I don’t believe you.”

“I’ll find you a hundred more. Please, please.”

“I’ll give you five seconds to get out of here before I take you too.” The butcher picked up a cleaver to punctuate his words.

Damian could feel the rage and the fear coursing through him, urging him to act. It was a feeling he had felt before in dangerous situations and the raw, wild feel of it had always scared him and he froze. The butcher gave a little shrug and moved towards him. The feeling building in Damian reached a fever-pitch and suddenly pain exploded in his head, so severe that he cried out. It felt like his head was going to burst. And then, just as suddenly, it ended and the world descended into silence. The butcher continued towards him in slow motion. Damian took a step towards him and hit him in the chest and the huge man flew back and crashed silently through the wall.

It was like a dream. Damian picked up Nikolai and walked outside. He started running, still carrying his unconscious friend. He weaved his way between people, all of whom seemed to be moving in molasses. Now he was just running, with no thought to where he was going. He saw the outer gate of the city, open to its normal night traffic. Two guards stepped into his path, but they went flying as he barreled effortlessly through them. Then he was outside the city, where he had never been before, running heedlessly into the cursed wasteland. Behind him, there may have been shouts or sirens or sounds of pursuit, but he did not hear them and he did not care.


My Ancestors’ Cell Phone

The cell phone was the most important relic of the tribe. We did not know when it was originally made, but it had been passed down through the generations, each taking care of it, replacing its parts, memorizing and passing on its secrets.

cell phone

The current cell phone case had been made by my uncle, after the former case had been shattered in a moose hunt. He had melted down plastic and cast it in the precise dimensions. It was waterproofed with rubber seals in case it fell in the water or got wet. Each of us had our task in keeping it going. Mine was the batteries.

“I think we are going to need a new battery soon,” Hadrian told me. He was my cousin, in charge of maintaining and repairing the solar panels that charged our batteries. The current battery was getting less than an hour of use per charge.

“I will need to make a journey,” I said. “The necessary materials are far away.”

The next day, I set out, taking only my spear and a skin bag of food and tools I would need. It was a three-week walk to the mineral spring my grandfather had shown me, where the precious salts crusted along the outflow. I collected what I needed and then began the long process of heating and refining, then more refining. I took special rocks from my bag and crushed them, heating, mixing, siphoning, all in the precise order that I learned from my grandfather and that he learned from his father long ago: The Way of Making the Battery.

I stayed at the mineral spring for a week, preparing everything in sequence. It was exacting work, working with the fine tools my great-uncle had made, and working under a magnifying glass that had been hand ground generations before. When all was complete, I assembled the components in a battery case that my brother Yocub had made, and set off back to camp. My path crossed the lands of the Tensheein, and a band of their warriors stopped me, demanding tribute. I gave them some of my food, but when they learned why I was traveling, they let me go. Missions of teknoji were sacred.

When I got back, Hadrian and I tested the new battery, charging it with the solar panels. There was a small flaw inside it and it did not hold charge, so I had to take it apart and remake it. A week later, we tried again and this time the charge lasted up to eight hours: a very successful battery.

My father wanted to call a neighboring tribe with whom we hunted every fall, but the wind had died and he had to wait another day so that the wind could power the tower on the hill and transmit the signal. They talked for fifteen minutes, arranging to meet at Black Cross a week later.

That night, we sat around the fire, listening to my sister code. She had been creating an app that would pick out the locations of nearby animals by their calls. She had been working on it for almost a year, writing it on the phone itself on an application written by our great-great grandmother. As she worked, she sang the lines of code aloud, each of us listening, learning, checking her work.

campfire

The Song of the Code echoed in my head as we all lay down in the great tent for sleep. It was like us, I thought. Each line nothing in itself, but working together, each with its own purpose, it could make something great. Without my battery, the cell phone was nothing. Without the solar panels, or the case, or the microphone, or the delicate camera optics, the cell phone would not function as it should. Each part and person working in perfect unison.


Cartman – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Janet Webb

copyright Janet Webb

Cartman

Ross polished the bars of the shopping cart until they shone. He had status now and he had to act accordingly.

After Boom-day, when gasoline ran out, bicycles were big. But as tires cracked and chains broke, they were discarded. Now, the man with a shopping cart was king.

Ross overtook Jenks on Broadway, carrying a huge load on his back. Ross nodded officiously; Jenks sneered.

“So high and mighty with your cart, aren’t you? But that front wheel is wobbling pretty bad. How long until you’re like me?”

Never, Ross thought. He was somebody now. He couldn’t go back.

 


Gotterdammerung – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Jan Wayne Fields

copyright Jan Wayne Fields

Gotterdammerung

We couldn’t face New York City sober, so out came the last of the whiskey and we danced a frenzied, forgetful dance on the deck of the last fishing boat in the Atlantic.

Around 6am, the boat entered the Narrows, the AI effortlessly navigating the spidery, rust corpse of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Belle crawled to the railing and peered ahead into the darkness. “There’s hope, right? Deep down in the subway system. People could survive.”

I nodded, took another drink.

The sun rose and Belle suddenly laughed and pointed. “She’s still there, torch held high. There’s still hope after all.”


The Universe of Five

This story was inspired by the picture for this week’s Friday Fictioneers. I was originally going to use this story idea, but it proved to way too long, so I wrote it up properly here. I feel like I should continue it, but I don’t want to dilute the original story theme. Read it and let me know what you think.

cogs

She counted to five, because there were only five things in the tiny cave that was her whole world.

  1. The Bed, where she slept.
  2. The Hatch, where her food and water appeared while she slept.
  3. The Hole in the floor where the smelly stuff went that came out of her body.
  4. The Wheel. The Wheel was her life. She turned it in long, slow revolutions, around and around and around.
  5. The Light that was built into the ceiling and illuminated her world in a sickly yellow glow. When it came on, she got up and ate and began to turn the Wheel. When it went off, she went to sleep.

It was not a life without thought, but it was a life of small thoughts. She was not sure how she had ever learned how to turn the Wheel, or why she turned it when the Light came on. That was just life. She did not worry about how her food got there; the process was invisible and did not warrant thinking about. All that was real was in her small cave.

She counted obsessively. “1: the Bed, 2: the Hatch, 3: the Hole, 4: the Wheel, 5: the Light. 1: the Bed, 2: the Hatch . . .” She did not count with words—she knew no words—but only saw the images in her mind as she went through the list. She did not count her food. It was there, but then she would eat it and it would disappear and become part of herself and so ceased to be truly real. She did not even count herself. She could see her body, but it disappeared out of sight around her chest and shoulders. Her head was invisible to her and anything that was invisible was not truly real. So she moved like a ghost through her world of five real things.

Time was binary: there was dark and then there was light. The dark was the empty place, when things ceased to be real. Then the light came again and the world was recreated. Every time the Light came on, she would get up, count the world, and then eat. Then she would squat over the hole, and then begin to turn the Wheel. She had no memory of past events, because all events were the same.

universe of 5

Until the dark time when the Light did not come on.

She became aware of lying on the Bed in a world of nothing. This happened sometimes, but then the Light would come on. So she lay there and waited. The next thing she noticed was an uncomfortable feeling in her body. She needed to eat, and to squat.

She wondered if the food was there. That was impossible, since the Light wasn’t on. A thought occurred to her. Was the Hole there? It was a strange thought and at first she dismissed it. The Light wasn’t on, how could it be? But maybe it was like the Bed. The Bed winked out of existence with everything else when the light went out, but it still cradled her formless body as she slept. It had a sort of dark form. Could the Hole have that too?

After a few heartbeats, she crawled forward and felt the floor beyond the Bed. She kept moving and her probing hand felt the floor disappear in a small circle, just like the Hole. By now, the urgency in her body was frantic and despite the absurdity of the situation, she positioned her invisible body over the non-existent Hole and squatted.

When she was finished, she wondered if the Wheel was there. Did everything have a dark form? She moved forward and found the Wheel. She could even turn it. The idea of turning an invisible wheel seemed ludicrous to her and she laughed.

It seemed obvious now, but it had never occurred to her before. Everything must have a dark form. But already her mind came up with an objection. How could the Light have a dark form? It was a contradiction. That, at least, must be impossible.

She made her way to the Hatch and found that it was there, but with no food or water. That made sense, since the food came with the light, but she could not understand why her body wanted it so much. Noises came out of her middle. There was an indentation inside the Hatch where the food always appeared. She felt around with her hands, but nothing was there.

While probing with her hands, she found a small opening further up. She put her arm through it and continued to probe. She felt a dark form she had never known before—smooth and hard with small bumps. There was a bigger bump and when she pushed on it, part of the Hatch fell away and she tumbled forward, through the hatch and out of her known world.

It was still totally dark, which was almost comforting. It meant it was still like a dream. Perhaps it was a dream. She started walking, hands out in front, seemingly floating through an abyss of emptiness. Walls came up against her touch, but she floating around them, letting them effortlessly guide her progress.

She walked in a sort of reverie and it was a shock when she realized there was light up ahead. It was not the Light, but a different light. This was grey and faint, unlike the dull, yellow Light that she knew. It kept getting stronger until she saw that she was in a cave that was very long. All along the sides were things that looked like the Hatch. She could not count them, but there were more than five.

Ahead of her was a kind of floor that went up. It was the shape of the Hole, but much bigger. The light was coming from it, far, far above. The pain in her middle drove her on and she walked, up and up in a circle, going towards the light.

She came to the top, where there was something like a large hatch and something like a very small wheel on it. It turned like the wheel and then the large hatch opened. Light poured in.

It was a cave without walls, huge beyond imagining and filled with light and far, far too many things to count. The size, the colors, the numbers all overwhelmed her. She wanted to run back and hide, but she stood as if frozen, trying to take in this whole new world at once.

*         *         *

Captain Nuris piloted the jump-craft just above the blasted landscape, surveying the site of their victory. Not much was left; the enemy capital had been fire-bombed into oblivion. Smoldering wrecks and piles of rubble showed where the once powerful city had stood.

“No signs of life yet, Captain,” his navigator said. “Wait. There’s someone over there. It’s a woman, I think, but naked and filthy. Just look at that tangle of hair! How do you think she survived?”

Nuris stopped the jump-craft and looked over at the figure, standing frozen in front of a door. Behind her, a massive building lay in shattered ruins. “Must be one of the Cogs that powered the machinery,” he said. “This was a manufacturing plant here, I think.”

“I thought they were supposed to be non-intelligent?”

“Well, this one had enough sense to escape.”

“What should we do: pick her up or leave her?” the navigator asked.

“It’s been three days since the bombing—she’s got to be hungry. If she’ll come with us, we’ll take her.” He turned the jump-craft and started towards her.


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