Fiction: Flashy Fiction
Fiction writer and language lovers, Patrick Kelling and Sonia Segura grace our fourth issue with enchanting tales that are sure to please while placing you in a world that only exists on paper. Take yourself on a literary journey with “Out of the Shadows,” “The Sleeper,” and “Extraction” an excerpt from Kelling’s coming novel.
1. Excerpt from Extraction
2. Out of the Shadows
3. The Sleeper
Each segment serves as a small window, through which we take in the harsh world of the coal miner. Little by little, Kelling leads us deeper into a place made so vivid that readers will practically choke on coal dust themselves. The focus on objects emphasizes how little the characters actually have, thus intensifying the significance of each item, its function in Constance’s life, and in the story overall.
miners wrestled coal from the rock within the mountains east of Golden City the larger chunks they broke apart with their picks until the pieces were small enough to pick up with a single hand as they loaded it onto a cart it rubbed off onto their hands and clothes while some floated into their lungs outside the mine entrance they emptied the cart into a pile as tall as a man a breeze carried some of the loose coal dust off of the top of the pile a pinch of coal settled on the lip of a half finished bottle of whisky that evening a miner pulled from the bottle and the coal smudged against his lower lip he finished the bottle before stumbling into Constance’s tent he lowered himself onto her still form rubbing the coal dust from his lip across her face Constance woke with the coal tickling the inside of her nostrils and the miner’s arm awkwardly bent under her head. She sat up rubbing her nose with the back of her dirty hand and glanced at the miner who still slept drooling a black mixture of coal tobacco and spit onto the dirt floor of the tent. She couldn’t remember his name. She couldn’t remember if she ever knew. All the miners looked the same. The coal sat so thick on their skin that they might have been negroes. Their clothes so black that they all might have been priests. Constance looked out the tent flap. Everything appeared black in the early morning light. She flipped the buffalo hide off and found that like the miner whose face even now blackened the dirt beneath his cheek coal smudges blended into the week old bruises on her breasts and thighs.
a wagon carried the iron ore to Bonanza’s blacksmith who smelted it into a wagon axle and sold it to the army a corporal drove it full of supplies to the Colorado River as he tried to cross the axle bent on a rock the corporal replaced it with a spare and sold the broken one as scrap in South Pass where a blacksmith melted it down and created a small stove pans and a coffee pot for his daughter she used the pot daily to make tea until she died of small pox a barber slipped it under his jacket after he curled her hair for the funeral he sold the coffee pot as part of a pot and pan set to the miners when they declined to have their hair cut the miners took the cookware to their camp months later Constance arrived and reluctantly assumed the cooking duties as she did every morning Constance took the coffee pot and walked down the path to the river. There she used its heavy front to smash through the ice and filled it with the water that flowed below. She walked back up the path enjoying the air that swept along its banks free from the coal dust that covered the camp. Just upstream from where she filled the pot she found the body of one of the miners. He had somehow broken through the ice and it had reformed during the night leaving only his lower back and legs in sight. Thinking of the current cleaning this nameless man’s face and hair made her smile as she rubbed some coal out of her eyelashes. Back at camp she clawed at a handful of coffee beans that ran between her fingers as she threw them into the pot.
a shepherd watched the sheep as they grazed on the grass near Springfield when their coats had grown thick enough he sheared them and sold the wool to a factory in town where a man bleached the wool white and then wove it into a several shirts another worker packaged them in paper and placed them in a crate once they were delivered to a tailor shop on Denver City’s 7th Avenue the tailor placed the shirts on display at the front of the store where they sat until a miner bought one which he wore daily and within a week it looked as black as any other in camp two weeks after buying it he ripped it open the night he stumbled away from the fire to relieve the burning in his chest he fell into the river where the neck and shoulders of the shirt flapped in the current while the arms and chest became stiff with ice Constance watched as the miners pulled the body from the river. Although they had used their picks on the ice surrounding him sections of the man’s shirt and skin tore away as he slid free. His pale frost cleaned face and neck contrasted the black that still darkened his clothes. As the miners worked they wore their sooted faces as masks. It seemed to Constance that this was how they worked in the earth. No one cried or spoke although someone might have grumbled about lost productivity. She watched as the miners used their strong shoulders and backs to pull the body free and noted how naturally they worked as if these were the same stooped motions that they performed to separate coal from rock.
a boot maker in London formed and cut the leather which he sewed to a rubber sole then he formed the toe before building the heel and ankle he sold the Wellingtons to a local businessman when he wore them they rose to just below his knee and fit snugly against his ankle the man brought his family to America with him when he purchased a plantation Constance chased grasshoppers in the boots the day Union troops set fire to the house the boots survived on her feet her father did not she continued to wear them to remember her father until her feet grew big enough to fill their space when Hector said he would take her to San Francisco she wore them as her traveling shoes he laughed and called her a boy after Hector left her she searched for him first in Golden City then at a mining camp and hadn’t left since the path muddied Constance’s boots as she made her way to the stream. The warm weather had caused it to burst its banks during the night clearing away most of the ice. This water had a vitality to it freed after so many months trapped below the ice. Boulders in the middle of the current caused white spray as the water cascaded up as though the river were testing its boundaries. Constance stepped onto a rock that had been well back of the water’s edge the previous day. Minnows flitted from this way and that near its base. This way and that. A poem from her childhood rose to her thoughts. Where Alph the sacred river ran. Through caverns measureless to man and down to a sea of some sort. For the first time in months Constance dipped the coffee pot into the current instead of smashing it through ice.
the miner pulled the bag of flour from the shelf and settled it on his shoulder before stacking it on another in the back of the wagon he and another miner placed packages of bacon sugar salt and beans around it they drove the wagon out of Golden City and followed Clear Creek where the flour shifted within the bag as the wagon turned from the road onto a rough trail at camp they unloaded the bag in a corner of the half finished hut where it sat until Constance ripped it open and scooped several portions of the flour into a bowl and mixed it with water from the coffee pot she poured the batter in clumps onto a pan and then set it over the fire a spider scurried out from under one of its edges and towards some of the browning batter before Constance smashed it when she lifted the spoon she found that the spider’s white guts had splattered into the shape of her mother’s face. Constance frowned and looked deeply into the chunked eyes. As she watched her mother’s hair darkened as it had over the course of her life. Steam rose from her visage and into the morning air as Constance’s throat told her to wipe the guts away. She wished to stop her mother from seeing her so dirty with her dirtiest places still hidden beneath her dress without so much as the history given to her name. Her mother smiled then grinned then grimaced. This emotion spread across her face widening so much that her head split in two the halves migrating away from each other. Constance plopped more batter on to her mother’s crisping face with the same gesture she had used to drop earth on her coffin.
the blacksmith’s daughter covered the underside of the bronze handle with cloth and placed the horsehair bristles in their proper places then took the order to the Woodseer Street Boutique where a businessman bought it for his daughter Constance who took it with her on her family’s travels across Europe and to America when her father purchased the plantation she used it every morning for years except for two the day the Union troops burned her home down and the day Hector threw her from the wagon both times the brush stayed with her because she carried it in her pocket the first time one of the miners lifted her skirts she struck him across the face with its bronze backside he bent its handle against the mine cart still every morning she pulled the snarls from her hair only then would she go about cooking breakfast Constance thought of her brush. It wouldn’t do to have it rubbing against her hip as she walked. She moved it from her pocket to the sack. She felt that she should pack other things. She had always brought at least one trunk when she traveled. Usually she brought two. Best to be prepared for any event. Silk dresses for formal dinners. Light cotton underskirts for walks on the beach. Divided skirts for riding. An umbrella for wagon rides. The list went on. All these things were gone. Hector hadn’t thrown her trunk out of the wagon with her. Decidedly having nothing made packing easier. Should she pack pots and pans? Too heavy. A fork and knife? To eat what? She’d be in Golden City by late afternoon. Finally she settled for unearthing her diamond and placed it next to her brush in the sack. Leaving the coffee pot to boil dry above the fire she walked to the stream’s edge and began following it downhill.
BIO: Patrick Kelling graduated with his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado in 2008 where he was an editor for Square One literary magazine. He worked as an assistant professor of Journalism and English at Northeastern Junior College for two years and currently works as an editor and freelance writer in San Diego.
Out of the Shadows
“Out of the Shadows” successfully navigates the eerie corridors of a ghost story. When Vivienne, cynical about love and wary of the supernatural, takes a job giving tours of old mansions, the reader is propelled forward through the story, eager to find out why one mansion in particular seems to haunt her.
I can remember a time when things that go bump in the night were the stuff of nightmares. I was always scared and ended up sleeping with my Grandma. She lived with my family and I in humid Louisiana.
My name is Vivienne and that was many years ago. I’m all grown up and hopefully somewhat wiser. At thirty I decided to change careers after having worked in many jobs. Some of them were interesting, like being a wedding planner, and some were dull, like my job as a bank teller, to as crazy as helping to mentally rehabilitate wild animals at a zoo. If you ask me I think the people there needed rehabilitating, but that’s just my opinion. I’ve always felt like there was something missing in my life, maybe it was love, for I had never been in love. I might have believed in the boogie man but never that true love existed. It isn’t real and I truly believe it is a made up word by people who need to get a life. I definitely needed change in my life and I thought that a new job was just what I needed. Little did I know that this new job was going to be an eye opener for me. Everything I thought I believed and didn’t believe was about to change my life. My new job consisted of taking people on tours of antebellum mansions, and believe me Louisiana is loaded with them! It is a small touring company owned by a woman: my boss, Janice. She is a very nice person, maybe a little quirky. She is totally into that paranormal stuff. When I met her she stared at me for a moment and hired me on the spot! She told me she had to hire me because it was meant to be this way. I thought it was an odd thing to say. I went home that evening after the interview, excited, but at the same time I had a strange feeling like something was going to change my life. I know I have never felt this way and it was very disconcerting. I decided I would do my job to the best of my ability and drive the tourists around from one mansion to another.
I sure did love my Louisiana history! Okay maybe not the ghosty part of it! I have to say that so far I have not been bored with my new job. Which in my case was rare. The first week went by smoothly. I had three tours and met very interesting people. I have always been a history buff and this job really tested my knowledge.
And this is the second week of my job and the beginning of my incredible story. It was a Friday tour, which meant I was off for the weekend after the tour ended. I had laundry to do and cleaning to catch up with at my tiny apartment. Hopefully my old air conditioner would not go out on me, while I was doing this. That was only if I was lucky! This was the last tour of the day. I had six people in my group, two couples and two single young women. We all met at the touring company and were heading to one of the mansions I had not been to. I was a little excited because this is one of the mansions that had all kinds of mystery surrounding it. The two couples were on their honeymoons. They were so into each other that I doubt they were paying too much attention to my relating of the story. The two single young women seemed very interested and were hanging on my every word. I think partly because the owner of the plantation had been said to be very good looking. He had been a very prosperous young and wealthy tobacco grower. On my research of this particular mansion I had found out that he had married very young. He had also lost his wife to an outbreak of measles. I was looking forward to seeing the mansion myself as this would be the first time I would see this famous place. We drove up the driveway, lined with its enormous oak trees covered in Spanish moss. It was beautiful! Even the honeymooners were awestruck! The front doors were big and ornate with beautiful carvings and the initials L. C. for Laurent Carbonierre. I had read in one of the books at the tour guide office that Laurent had built this spectacular mansion for his new bride, but when she died he just seemed to have let it go. There was so much mystery surrounding this place and also talk about people seeing lights in the mansion and catching glimpses of shadows at the windows. I was such a chicken when it came to ghost stories like this one and the South was full of them! He, Laurent, was a mystery and every thing surrounding him as well. I had tried finding more information about him and how he had died and the date of his death, but I could not find anything. The only thing I had found out was that in the main salon there was a painting of Laurent and his wife, Marie. My group and I entered the mansion and sure enough it was as I had read in the tour book. It was fantastic! The Guilds, whose job is to restore these old relics had done a marvelous job. It looked so regal with the heavy purple velvet drapes with a touch of lavender lace on the edge. The period furnishings were upholstered in purple damask. It was just amazing!
But, what was more amazing than the mansion itself was in the middle of the room above the fireplace! The famous painting of the couple! My companions and I gasped! Sure, Marie was very pretty. Some would say she was beautiful. But the women in my group, even the married ones and myself would have had to agree that what had astounded us most was Laurent’s beauty! By far, he had to be the most “ handsomest,” “ beautifulest” man in the world—at least we thought! He had a sculpted face with a high cheekbones and a strong jaw. His hair was the color of shiny ravens wings. But it was his eyes, the color of the clearest bluest skies. He seemed as if he was staring into your soul! I felt as if he was looking into my soul and my heart as well.
I know I had said I had never been in love before, but damn! If my heart wasn’t beating a mile a minute. All the women in the tour were making comments as to how they wish they had met him when he was alive and wondered if his voice would have sounded sexy. And they wondered if maybe they would have had a chance to win his attention. All I was doing was looking up at those hypnotic eyes in the painting and feeling as if he could reach deep inside my heart and make me want things I had never realized I wanted. Well that certainly was a first for me. While I don’t consider myself beautiful I also know I am not chopped liver! At 5’8 I am taller then most of the women in my family. My weight hovers between 125 to 130 depending on the time of the month and how much chocolate I had consumed. My brown hair has golden highlights reaching the middle of my back in curly waves. Okay, maybe the highlights were my hair colorist’s doing. I always thought my best feature was my cat eyes, the color of new leaves. I have had my share of handsome men wanting to win my attention, although I had not had a chance to have a relationship. I guess maybe from all the jobs, and trying to find myself and where I fit in the world, I just never had time!
Since usually I’m afraid of anything that mentions any type of ghostly sighting, I had to wonder about myself and why I would even fantasize about a guy that had long been dead? But somehow I did not feel fear, but curiosity.
After going through the mansion and oohing and aahhing we exited through the rear of the mansion to view the beautiful gardens. We were coming to the end of the tour. I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the tour and many questions were asked that I didn’t have answers for. When I got back to the office I decided to do some googling on the internet to see if I could find out more on Laurent. But I came up with almost the same information as before, which was zilch. Later on that night after I got home to my apartment I couldn’t stop thinking of Laurent. I could not stop seeing his eyes and remembering how I had felt out of my mind. For some reason I felt compelled to go back to the mansion. I had no idea why. I just needed to. I felt I had to go back. I still had the keys that were supposed to be returned back to the Guild the following day. The mansion was located out in the country, forty- five minutes from town. So I went on a mission that I had no idea where it was going or where it would lead. All I knew was that I had to go and nothing was going to stop me. It seemed like it took no time to drive back to the mansion.
It was so dark out there, all the light I could see were the stars and the moon that illuminated the mansion. I entered the mansion and had the strangest feeling. Like I was being watched! Sure I was feeling scared, but there was also an air of excitement. I felt my life was never going to be the same! I walked into the main salon, where the painting of Laurent hung. And there by the fireplace looking up at the painting was Laurent himself! He was something to behold! I must have made some sort of sound because he turned around and looked at me straight in the eyes. My curiosity was stronger then me wanting to faint. So the first words that came out of my mouth was, “How is this possible? How can you be standing here? Are you a ghost? Am I the only one that can see you? And hey, why me?”
He told me, “I am here for you and because of you.” He gave me the most sweetest and sexiest smile and all I could do was melt. Then I had to make myself stop thinking of all that gooey stuff and get back to reality. I told him to please explain what was going on. He started to relate a most unimaginable tale. He was born in France in the year 1277 and had become a Knight Templar later when he was old enough to become a member. They were the most skilled fighting units and were tied closely to the crusades. When the Holy Land was lost, support for the order faded. There were rumors about the Templars secret blood initiation ceremony and how it created mistrust. In 1307 many of the orders’ members in France were arrested and tortured into giving false confessions and then burned at the stake.
“Okay. Time out here. How is it that you are here and alive after all these centuries? How can that be?”
Laurent, asked “Can’t you guess? You know how I mentioned the secret blood initiation ceremony? Well, we were ordered to drink from a cup at the time of initiation and were told we would be strong and unstoppable; that we would be immortal. At the time I didn’t think anything about it. I was young. I had no idea that I was committing to something beyond my comprehension. What were my fellow members and myself drinking was the blood of Adam’s first wife Lilith, she was the first vampire.”
I was speechless! It seemed so incredible! Call me slow but…..“Are you saying you are a vampire?”
Laurent said “Yes, that is what I am saying. I don’t want you to be scared.” He went on to tell me that all the myths about vampires being evil and wanting to suck everyone’s blood were not true. He said he needed blood but not all the time and when he did, it never harmed anyone. The only person that could break the blood curse and give him back his life was his soul mate. He told me that light burning him was a myth and that only fire could destroy him. That’s how a lot of his companions had died. He also told me how he had escaped from France and had wandered and hidden from his prosecutors until ending up in America. He had thought Marie was his soul mate, but she turned out not be. He had great affection towards her but had not been in love with her. He said he had a very strange feeling like his forever life was coming to an end. He had thought that maybe somehow he was going to die. Well, his other life, the immortal one was coming to an end, but his new life was just beginning. Because guess what? I was his soul mate. The one person who could break the blood curse. I guess the how’s and why’s of it didn’t matter. I had finally found what I didn’t know I was looking for. I guess my boss, Janice, was right when she had hired me because it was meant to be.
“The Sleeper” is an imaginative tale of mystery, enchantment, and adventure. When Dani’s uncle tells her the legend of two brothers—creatively crafted and folklore-ish in feel—she embarks on a quest, fulfilling a promise made to her dying uncle. Sonia Segura’s stories read like fairy tales with a modern twist, where the everyday lives of sensible protagonists rooted in reality suddenly find themselves in a world where magic is real, true love conquers all, and the princess rescues the prince.
One wrong move and I was for sure going to end up flat as a pancake! While the climb up the Ural mountains of Russia had seemed like a piece of cake, the inside of the tallest peak Mount Naordnaya was another thing! What had I been thinking?! Obviously I hadn’t! Or else I would not find myself in this predicament!
Okay, let me back up to a year ago when I was at my Uncle’s deathbed. My name is Danielle Lang, Dani to my friends and family, and to my uncle, being the person that raised me when my father, his brother, and my mother died in a car crash. I was five years old and he was my only family in the whole world! I was never exactly sure what my uncle did for a living. I know he always brought me the most wonderful gifts, while I attended school and he wandered the world. I always thought he was some kind of archeologist, but he turned out to be a treasure hunter, finding artifacts and selling them to the highest bidder.
I had just turned eighteen and graduated high school and I didn’t expect I would be loosing the only family I had. I loved my uncle, with his incredible stories that ignited my imagination and made me realize that I had the same adventure genes as he did.
As I sat by his bed in the hospital I listened to him asking a last promise of me. I thought, how could I deny this wonderful man? My uncle started telling me a story that seemed unreal. He had been traveling in Russia after he had found some old manuscripts. They mentioned a legend about the some ancient people that lived in the mountains of Russia and about the two ruling twin brothers, Darr and Kieff. They told of the jealousy of one brother towards the other and the plotting and planning of Kieff to make Darr, the one with magic abilities and popular with the people, disappear. Apparently Kieff used the help of an evil priest to get rid of Darr and keep all the riches and the power for himself.
As the legend went, Darr and Kieff had inherited their throne from their parents after they had died from an avalanche. Darr, older by two minutes, loved his brother and tried to overlook the fact that his brother was always scheming against him. It was always known that the oldest of the twins would inherit magical powers, like being able to manipulate the elements, like calling the wind, water and fire to do his will. This is what Kieff wanted most in life and he didn’t care how he got it. Even if meant killing Darr to get what he most desired…the power.
They turned twenty and were at the height of their rule when Kieff decided he needed to carry out his plan to be the sole heir and possessor of the power of the elements. He didn’t know that there was no way he could obtain those powers. Only the firstborn could, who was Darr. This is when he decided to enlist the help of the evil priest, who knew that Kieff would never get those powers. The priest had hated Kieff’s parents, the king and queen, and coveted the power they possessed for himself. Of course Kieff thought in his vanity that the priest was helping him because of his loyalty to him. The priest came up his own plan to kill both Darr and Kieff and keep all the riches for himself while making Kieff think he was helping him destroy Darr. The plan was to send Darr to the secret caves in the mountain to search for a lost child. When he got there he would be manacled and a ritual would be performed that the priest had been working on. The ritual itself would put Darr to sleep for all time and make the cave his tomb.
Of course Kieff didn’t know he would also be in that tomb, the ritual would take place that evening and Kieff had been beside himself, thinking of how great everything would be after the power passed on to him, because this was the way he thought it would happen.
When evening came, Kieff went looking for Darr to notify him of the disappearance of a child. And of course Darr’s first reaction was to go search for the child! Kieff accompanied Darr on the search, directing him towards the place that had been agreed upon with the priest. They climbed the icy mountain and headed into the frozen caves, because that’s where Kieff told Darr the child had been spotted. When they arrived and entered the cave, the followers the priest had enlisted helped him subdue Darr and Kieff. Kieff could not believe he had been tricked! The priest performed the ritual of putting them to sleep, starting with Darr. He would be the most trouble because of the power. Darr struggled, but because he was stunned and would never have believed the betrayal of his brother he loved so much, he was fast overtaken and put to sleep. Kieff managed to get himself free and told the priest he would not be entombed. No one knew for sure how it happened, maybe Darr still managed to get a hold of the elements but the icy cave collapsed. Everyone in the cave was buried in the ice never to be found. Darr himself was already frozen and remained asleep forever.
The story was incredible! I told my uncle that I had loved it! All at once with the most serious face I had ever seen on my uncle, he told me it was real! He told me how he had found those manuscripts, while exploring a cave in the mountains in Russia. Even though he lost the old manuscripts in a cave-in and almost lost his life, he had read them and they told of the story of the two brothers. He had also done some asking around at the village located at the bottom of the mountain. The villagers were not very forthcoming in their answers. They were very superstitious. The story had happened about four to five hundred years ago. Some of them spoke of how a few years ago, one of the elders had come across a tomb made of ice in a cave.
In that tomb was a man that looked as if he had died yesterday, time not having ravished his youthful appearance, the ice keeping him and his treasure in its hold.
My uncle wanted me to go back and find this treasure. While he didn’t believe that there was a person still in an icy tomb, especially the way the villagers had said the elder had described the person in the ice. He told me he didn’t have anything to leave me for the future. He felt he could rely on me to find this treasure and it would help my future and he could die in peace.
And this is what finds me here with my life now in jeopardy, on a ledge that is crumbling beneath my feet. What had I been thinking to journey all the way to Russia from America? But, how could I not keep my promise to my dear uncle that took the responsibility to raise me and love me after my parents’ untimely death? I was so sad when he passed away in his sleep. And here I was with my life literately hanging by a thread. Or should I say rope? I knew the rope was not going to hold me much longer. I don’t think I had ever been so scared in my life as I was at this moment!
All of a sudden I felt the air shift! I felt like I was being lifted in mid air, but I just couldn’t believe what I was experiencing, and somehow I was being held gently and felt safe. Next thing I knew I was in a room in a lower part of the cave. There was ice all around and in the middle was what looked like an Egyptian sarcophagus but made of ice, so it was transparent. And in that sarcophagus was a man! At that moment I thought about the story that my uncle had been told! I was actually seeing a legend and couldn’t grasp it! It was the stuff of dreams! I walked towards him and I felt as if I had no choice. I wanted to go to him, I was compelled to go to him. When I was close enough to really see him, I was shocked! He looked like he was just taking a nap. And that’s not all, he was beautiful!
Suddenly his eyes were looking at me! He had the most incredible sea green eyes with a tilt to them. His hair was silky black and so long it seemed it reached his lower back. I was awestruck! I felt a sudden shift in the air and he was standing right next to me! He said to me in a strange accent “I have been waiting for you.”
All I could stutter back was, “You have? Why?” He told me what had happened and it was almost the same story my uncle had told me with a few exceptions. At the end when the evil priest had \cast the curse, Darr was able to make a change that had been a risk for him to take. The change he made was for his one true love to find him and the curse would be broken. He had saved me from falling to my death in the abyss of the cave. And guess what? I was his true love! Hurray for me! I had never thought about dating an older guy. Especially four hundred years old! But he was well preserved for his age. The treasure had also survived and he was loaded! I think my uncle would have been happy with me just having the treasure. But, hey I don’t think I could any happier then I was at this moment. Life was really looking up. But first things first, we would have to spend the night in the cold cave. While accommodations weren’t the best, the company sure was. I was warm all night long. The sleeper had awakened.
BIO: My name is Sonia Segura and I live in Las Cruces, New Mexico but am a Texan. I have always had a million stories in my head but didn’t put them on paper. I joined a writing class and my teacher thought my writing was good enough to submit. I’ve had two stories published and working on more.