Photo by Karen Lau00e5rk Boshoff on

Litha dipped her brush into the shiny blue powder and dabbed it onto her eyelid. 

Dab, don’t swipe, she thought. This shadow had a lot of fallout, and if she swished the brush back and forth across her lid, she’d end up with blue all over the bridge of her nose.

She opened her right eye and closed her left and repeated the process. She was new at this, but she’d been learning from videos online. There was a process, a formula, involved. This was mathematical and precise; she could do precise.

Something soft tickled the crease at the back of her knee and she jerked, streaking shiny blue powder all over the left side of her face. 

“Shit!” She looked down and saw her gray tabby looking up at her. “I love you, Max, but now is not the time.”

Litha opened the pack of makeup wipes and fished a towelette out. She scrubbed at her face, erasing the blue along with the foundation that was underneath it. Redness bloomed across her cheeks and the freckles that she worked so hard to hide became visible.

She looked down at her watch. She was running late. Litha rolled her eyes and grabbed another wipe from the pack. 

This was supposed to be a five-minute-face, but she’d been working on it for closer to forty. She scrubbed her face and tossed the wipe in the trash.

“Be good, Max,” she called as she ran, bare-faced, out the door. “I love you.”


I Knew I Loved You

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on

I knew I loved you the moment I met you. I was just too stupid to realize it. I was young and dumb, and I didn’t know what the spinning feeling inside my stomach meant.

I met you again years later, and the feeling was back in an instant. This time, I listened. You turned me down.

My heart shattered into a million little pieces and each one stabbed my insides.

Another year passed and I saw you again. Your hair was longer and greyer than the last time, but the feeling was the same. I asked you out before I could lose my nerve and you said yes! I wanted to sing and shout and crow, but, instead, I just smiled and said, “Cool.”

I wanted you to think I was cool. I wanted you to be impressed by me. Luckily, you saw right through my bravado. You saw me and you liked what you saw.

Years have gone by and I know I want them to keep coming with you by my side. There’s only one question I have, and it’s time to ask it.

I take a deep breath and I get down on one knee. I tell you that I love you; that I’ve always loved you. I pull out a small ring box- it isn’t much. You deserve so much more, but you say “yes” anyway.

I tear up and pop up on my feet, sweeping you up in my arms and swinging you around as I kiss you silly.

I knew I loved you.

New Year, Better Me

Photo by Anna-Louise on

I woke up at midnight when the neighbors set off their illegal fireworks. My partner slept soundly through it all, but the cats burrowed under the blankets for safety. I squeezed my eyes shut and willed them to stop.

It didn’t.

I couldn’t stop the flood of thoughts as I lay there awake. It was the official start of a new year- a chance to move on and do better. How could I improve from the previous year? What changes could I make?

In 2022, I had a stroke and had to take an extended leave of absence from work. I felt like I didn’t fully control my body- I still don’t. I have neuropathy in my left hand, left arm, and left foot.

All-in-all, I’m very lucky. I could have been so much worse.

I’m back on my feet now. I look normal most of the time, but inside my head, in my brain, there is permanent damage. I will never be the same again. It feels cliche to say, but it made me realize how little is guaranteed in life. We only know that we get this life.

Sure, there may be an afterlife, but no one really knows for sure. People have faith, but faith by definition isn’t knowing. I know I have this life.

And, I don’t want to squander it.

I have plans for this new year- big plans. I’m going to take my health more seriously, I’m going to tell the people that I love that I do whenever I can, and I’m going to say “yes” more often. I’m going to say “yes” to myself more.

I hope I get to stick around for a long time. But, again, I don’t know. All I have for sure is now, and I’m going to make the best of it.

Happy New Year!

All Too Much

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

It was all too much sometimes.

Mare stared at her computer screen. She had about a dozen tabs open and she needed all of them. There were the two spreadsheets she needed to refer back to, her vision board (to remind her why she was doing all this), her ambient sound mixer, and then the three she was actively working out of. There were other open programs, too.

Her headset dinged, signaling another incoming call.

She clicked the button on the pop-up to answer the incoming call. “Thank you for calling-” she began.

“I know who I called! Do you think I’m stupid?!”

“I’m sorry,” Mare said automatically. “How can I help you?”

“As if you could actually help me!” the caller screamed. “I need a full refund for your shitty so-called service…” The caller kept yelling, they were always yelling. Mare let her; sometimes it was better to just let them talk themselves out.

“I understand your frustration. I would feel the same way in your shoes. While I can’t give you a refund, I can cancel your account so you aren’t billed in the future.” Mare had a system for dealing with these kinds of customers: apologize, empathize, and resolve. Nine times out of ten, the customer bought it.

“I don’t want your phony excuses!”

Mare moved her mic away from her face and sighed. She was so sick of this. She was so sick of the entitlement and the abuse.

“Are you listening to me?!” The customer was still yelling. “You know what? I want your supervisor!”

Customers always thought this was some kind of trump card; like it was a magic word that could grant their every wish. Not today.

“No,” Mare said simply.


“I said no,” she repeated. “I won’t be doing that; you need to learn some manners.”


“Hold, please.” Mare pressed the pause button on her softphone program and took off her headset. She closed her eyes and rolled her neck and shoulders. An instant message popped up on her screen.

Why do you have a call on hold?

It was her micromanaging supervisor. She liked to monitor their calls in real-time and if someone used the hold button, they were in trouble. Mare flipped off her monitor and left the message unread.

She reached down and picked up her backpack, and started putting the few personal effects she was allowed to keep on her desk into it. This was it. She was looking for a job when she found this one, and customer service jobs were a dime a dozen in this town. It seemed there was a call center on every corner.

“Where do you think you’re going?” her supervisor demanded. “You still have a call on hold!”

“They’re on time-out.”

“Time out? You can’t put people on time-out! Get back to your desk or I’ll write you up!”

“You can’t talk to me like that.”

“Oh?” Ice dripped from her supervisor’s words as she spoke. “And what makes you think that? I can talk to you any way I want to!”

“No, you can’t.” Mare’s voice was calm, serene. “I don’t work here anymore.”


“I believe you heard me. I’ll turn my badge in at the front desk.” With that she walked away, leaving her former supervisor frothing at the mouth. She was better than this; she didn’t need to take this.

Don’t Fear the Reaper

“Please look at me,” she pleaded. “I promise I’ll do things differently this time.”

Death looked at Lavinia and frowned. He shook his massive head and looked again toward the west. He raised his arm and pointed west. It was time to go.

“What about a last request? Don’t I get one?”

Somewhere beneath the hooded cloak, the darkness gave the expression of exasperation. He shook his head and looked west again.

“Why are you being so stubborn?” she asked. Tears were falling freely down her cheeks now. She was too young; she was only sixteen.

She looked to the west and shuddered. So this is it? This is really the end.

“I was a good person,” she began, “where am I going to go?”

Death dropped his arm and looked down at her. Had he a face, it would have been filled with sympathy. It may not have been right, but it was time. Slowly, he extended his left hand to the west and held out his right. It was a rare display, but it felt right.

Lavinia looked down at it and trembled. Hesitation overtook her for what felt like hours but was only an instant. She took his hand and swallowed.

Death gave her small mortal hand an almost imperceptible squeeze; just the barest reassurance. He led the way, and she followed.

Locked and Lost, Part Two

This is part two of another story. To read part one, please click here.

Temperance looked down at her half-eaten sandwich. It was tasty, but she was done. She looked over at Chastity and Kindness. They were giving Humility another pep talk. She smiled.

“Where shall we head next?” Charity asked as she signed the credit slip. Diligence was stacking up the dishes for the busser.

Forgiveness was about to suggest an AA meeting to help with step five when the bell above the door chimed. Seven virtuous faces turned and blanched at the sight of the seven matching sinful faces.

“Well, well, well,” Lust purred. “Chastity, you look unwell.”

Chasity pursed his lips and screwed up his brow. There were a dozen things that only she would say that he wanted to. Pride picked an invisible piece of lint off his suit and placed it on Humility’s shirt.

Wrath squared up against Forgiveness. She smiled as she threw the first punch. Six gasps punctuated the sound of Forgiveness’ nose breaking.

“Hey, take it outside,” the tired waitress said. This was the thirteenth brawl she’d dealt with this month and she was tired.

The fight was fast and frenzied. Even Sloth seemed willing to fight. He didn’t, and Diligence almost got the better of him before Wrath stepped in, but he actually thought about it.

In reality, Wrath did most of the work. She was like an old Norse Berserker, imbued with the spirit and powers of a bear- biting and rending flesh as she went.

Panting and blood-spattered, except for Pride somehow, they went back into the diner. The waitress took their order like she would any other patron. It was a little early for the brawlers, but it was slow and she needed to turn the tables to make rent.

“So,” Envy began. “Now what?”

“Anything you like!” Lust purred. “We are free of the good influence and the world is our playground!”

Locked and Lost, Part 1

Lust looked to Envy and smirked. They were so over their head on this one. Lust reapplied her red matte lipstick while maintaining eye contact with the green one. She quirked her brows as she capped the bullet tube and tucked it away in her purse.

“I hate you,” Envy said. His arms were crossed over his chest and he was very carefully not looking at her. “Sometimes, I really hate dealing with you.”

“It’s because I’m gorgeous!”

Envy didn’t try to argue, he just huffed and looked across the street. There was a happy family bopping along together; it was disgusting. He had nothing and here they were, out in broad daylight, happily flaunting their bliss. It was wrong.

Wrath grunted at Envy. It was her monosyllabic way of asking if they needed killing. Envy just waved her off. She bit back on the urge to backhand him for his flippant gesture.

“So, why did you bring us all here?” Pride asked. He was tall and sharply dressed in a new silk suit. He adjusted his tie and tried to look bored by it all while still looking down on Sloth and Gluttony.

They were hand-in-hand sitting on the sidewalk. Sloth was wearing the dirty clothes he’d slept in and Gluttony was scarfing down something that smelled like gas station nachos, but where so covered in other things it was hard to tell.

Lust smiled and blew a kiss to the sailor as he passed by them on the sidewalk; Greed swiped his watch while he was distracted.

“The answer to all of our questions is inside,” She looked in the window. There were seven people, the fun-house mirror reflections of them, gathered inside the diner. “It took a lot of finesse to find them, but I did.” She said finesse like it was a saucier dirtier word than it needed to be.

“What are you thinking, Lust?” Pride asked. He had a plan forming in his head already, but he wanted to hear her’s first so that he could one-up her.

She smiled. “I’m proposing something that will make all of our jobs so much easier.” She licked her lips and winked at a passerby. Envy scowled. “If they were to…disappear…then there would be no ‘good’ influence for us to contend with.”

Sloth was so shocked, he almost got to his feet, and Gluttony stopped mid-bite. Wrath smiled, revealing too-sharp teeth. Envy looked intrigued.

“Damn,” Pride said. Her idea was better than his. “I’ll be damned.”

“And, so will we all, but not for a long time.” Lust said. She sauntered to the door of the diner and opened the door and slipped inside.

Take Me to Your Leader

The whole world waited with bated breath as the saucer slowly lowered itself to the ground. They were real! Aliens were really real.

Chandra tried not to wince as the saucer landed with a thud, cauterizing the grass of the White House south lawn beneath it. The gardeners would be pissed. Who knew if it would ever even grow back?

The flying saucer looked like any fan of 1950s sci-fi would expect it to; it was shiny chrome and looked almost like two hubcaps connected by a belt of spinning, blinking lights. A tripod of spindly legs that didn’t look strong enough to hold up the craft threatened to buckle as the spinning belt slowed and then stopped.

She watched as the lights stopped blinking and a rectangle on the lower part of the craft disappeared and a ramp slowly extended. There was a blinding light coming from inside the craft.

A shadow stepped into the rectangle and began to walk forward, down the ramp. News reporters scrambled to tell their viewers everything they could glean from the sight.

The alien was bipedal and humanoid, but the back-lighting made it difficult to see much more than that. It wasn’t until the creature was halfway down the ramp that the world saw on their tiny screens that it was gray-skinned with a large inverted pear head.

Huge, black eyes peered out, taking in the assembled crowd. It twitched its mouth in what could only be described as a sneer.

“Greetings, and welcome to Earth!” Chandra called, not sure if she should step closer. “I am-“

The alien held up its hand and emitted a noise like nails on a chalkboard before it spoke in lightly accented English.

“I have just traveled a long and perilous journey- too perilous to talk to some spokesperson.”

Chandra looked over at the general standing next to her and shrugged.

“My people have long been aware of your tradition of a ‘spokesperson,’ but I only wish to speak to someone who actually matters. I have come to parle with you leader; take me to him.”

Chandra squared her shoulders and advanced on the alien. It was shorter up close, and its arrogance made it less intimidating. She smiled wickedly as she spoke.

“You’re speaking to her.”

Things To Lose

I stare at the screen before me, looking over the list of things you should lose before you turn 35. The list is long and obvious. Most of these things I’ve either already ditched or never had.

Old receipts, bad habits like smoking, toxic relationships.

The last one gives me pause. I think of Cole. I think of him and how he’s just always been there. Whether I want him or not. I don’t know if I can discard him.

He saved my life once. I was having an allergic reaction and he ran into a pharmacy to get me some Benedryl. Sure, he could have (should have) taken me to the hospital, but he didn’t want his family to know he was with me.

He wasn’t ashamed of me; just embarrassed.

I think of the time he screamed at me (how did I pick just one?) for burning dinner. He came in and started picking at me- at my looks, at my clothes- and I just got distracted. It was my fault, really.

But, still, he saved my life. He kept me alive. Doesn’t that mean that I belong to him?

I read that somewhere. Until I find a way to save him, I belong to him.

I don’t want to belong to anybody. I’m my own person with my own feelings and whims and needs.

But, it’s been so long since I was my own person. The time before I was with Cole (back when I was in high school) was so long ago. I don’t know who I would be without him (and without him, I’m pretty sure I’m nothing).

It feels wrong; I go to reach for myself and…nothing. I feel nothing. Am I nothing? I’m afraid (without Cole) I might be.

It’s my birthday in 43 minutes. My 35th birthday. I made myself a cake and put candles, 35 of them, on top. I haven’t lit them. It isn’t time yet.

I glance at the bedroom. The door is closed and I can hear Cole’s gentle snore coming from the other side. If I trash him, where will I go? I think he’ll get custody of our friends in the break-up.

I shake my head.

It has to be done. I get up off the kitchen floor and tiptoe to the bedroom. I stand over him for a long time; just watching him sleep. He looks so weak; so…human.

I come back to the kitchen and check my watch- one minute. I light the candles. I watch the second-hand tick down.

Then I close my eyes and make a wish. When I open them, I’m alone in the apartment.

The Sound of Silence

Adrian stood at the end of the dock, listening for the inevitable sounds of the lake- birds, frogs, the lapping water, something.

Instead, nothing came to him. It felt as if the fog swallowed up the sounds before they could reach his straining ears. It was eerie. His grandmother would have called it uncanny.

Grandma Jones would have said it was the lake monster preparing to strike. She would have said she herself was eaten by the lake monster.

She wasn’t.

She went swimming alone and had a heart attack in the water; she drowned.

No lake monster, no nothing. It was simply bad timing. If she had waited just half an hour longer, she would have had the heart attack on dry land, where help could easily get to her. Or, maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all.

The fog was getting thicker, Adrian could no longer see the outline of the trees across the lake. He should turn back and go inside; there was a lot of work to do there. Instead, he stayed, rooted to the edge of the dock.


Adrian jumped at the sound. The sudden noise caught him off guard. Was the fog breaking? No, there was still no other sound.

Splash, splash.

The sound was soft, like a leather glove across velvet.

The hairs along the back of his neck stood on end. In an instant, he knew.

He wasn’t alone.

Adrian turned to leave, except he didn’t. His body wouldn’t move. No part of him would respond to his mental commands to leave. Sweat trickled down his skin despite the cold of the morning.


Then, it reared up. The lake monster looked like a cross between a shark and a crocodile. It seemed to smile as it looked at him. I opened up its maw to swallow him whole.

All at once, his body finally listened to his mind. He turned and ran for land. He didn’t look behind him as he ran, not until he was halfway back up the grass to the house.

Nothing was there, no monster, no fog. It was a clear day.

The sounds of the birds and the frogs and the water enveloped him. As he gasped for breath he felt a pain building in his chest. He patted his hip, trying to find his phone.

“911, what is the address of your emergency?” said the voice on the other side of the line when he finally managed to dial.

Adrian gave the address and confirmed it for the dispatcher.

“Okay, tell me exactly what happened.”

Adrian paused, would they even believe him?

Coffee Break

Barista served take away hot coffee cup to customer at counter bar in cafe restaurant,coffee shop business owner concept,Service mind waitress

Mara was swamped. The line was out the door and growing. It was also her first day as a barista.

“I can get the next customer,” she called over the hissing of the steamer.

“Good morning!” said a woman stepping up to the counter. She was tall, over six feet, and her willowy frame made her look just a little like a pale stick insect. As she tucked a strand of hair back, Mara thought her ears looked a little pointy.

Probably some kind of cosplay.

“Hi! What can I get you?” Mara’s hand was poised over the register, hovering, twitching to get the order started.

“I’d like 10 double shots, please,” the woman’s teeth seemed just a little pointy, too. “Oh, and lots of sugar!”

Mara’s hand faltered.

“That’s 20 shots,” she said.


“That will kill you!”

“I don’t think so.” The other-worldly woman said brightly. “It’s my usual.”

“Your usual? Is this a joke?”

“Nope.” As she spoke, there was something wicked behind her eyes. “You can ask your supervisor if you like.”

Mara turned slowly to her trainer. Mellissa was finishing up the drink she was working on; without looking she reached for the sticker printer to make the next drink.

“Hey, Mel?”

“Yeah?” Mellissa took to quick strides over to the register. “What’d you break?”

“N-nothing,” Mara stammered. “I just don’t know if I can make this order.”

“Why?” Mellissa looked up at the customer and smiled. “Oh, hi, Titania! Usual?”

The strange woman, Titania, nodded and smiled at Mara.

“Yeah, this one is different,” Mellissa said. “The system won’t let us key it in, so we just scan this barcode. It’s the same price. The sticker printer spits out a blank sticker- then we just make it.”

Mara did as she was told, and took Titania’s money.

“We’ve got a line this morning, and your drink always takes a while,” Mellissa said. “Can I make yours last?”

“No worries, I’ll wait.”

Mellissa nodded and patted Mara on the shoulder.

“You’re doing great, kid,” she whispered.

Mara cleared the line and stepped in next to Mellissa to start making drinks. It was midmorning, and even the drive-thru was slowing down. It was quick work with the two of them both making drinks.

“Here you go, Titania,” Mellissa said. “Thanks for your patience.”

In answer, Titania just smiled. She locked eyes with Mara as she put the 30-ounce cup to her lips and started chugging. The shots were cooling, but still hot. Mara watched in horror as she downed the deadly drink.

When she finished, Titania smiled at Mara and quirked her brows, smiling.

“Until next time, mortal,” Titania said on her way out. When she reached the door, she turned and looked at Mara. “What was your name?”

Mellissa stepped in swiftly. In her hand was the branch with little red berries that Mara had seen on a shelf behind the register.

“You know we can’t do that, Titania.” Mellissa’s voice was stern and she held the branch out like a sword.

Titania recoiled from it but smiled.

“It never hurts to ask.” She waved and left.

“And that,” Mellissa said gesturing to the door. “Is why I told you not to tell me your real name. You can’t trust their kind.”

“I don’t understand.” Mara looked down at her name tag. It said, Dave.

“You know my name isn’t Mellissa, and no I won’t tell you what it is.” She took a deep breath. “If she learns your name, she can control you- make you do things against your will.”

Mara’s mouth popped open in sudden realization.

“You mean-“

“Yeah, that’s the Fairy Queen.” Mellissa looked over at Mara. “Just scan the barcode and keep the line moving and you’ll be okay.”

Death is Like This…

Dressed in a long black cloak, scythe held low, she wondered how it was that people didn’t recognize her. Apart from the scythe, she looked just like the fan pictures of her- and more like the less-than-favorable ones. Maybe people just saw what they wanted to see.

Death took the long way home. It was raining, but the rain would soon turn to sleet. She turned her collar up against the cold.

Death still had 78 years on her contract. She’d been doing this for over a dozen years already. When her contract was up, she would be re-born, given a second chance at life.

When she died, she was only nineteen- still just a child in many ways. She was a teenager when her life was snuffed out, and now she had a job- a career without growth opportunities.

She opened the door to her building and climbed the narrow stairs to her flat. She was death incarnate and she still couldn’t afford to live alone. Her roommate was a pleasant fellow.

Her mother would freak out if she knew that she was living with a man. It would hardly matter that he was gay, he still had a penis.

He was laying on the couch when she came in. He was breathing hard and reaching for something in front of him- his inhaler.

Death ran to him and handed it to him. He dropped it instantly; his hand wouldn’t close around it. She held it out to him and pushed down on the trigger.

She pulled out her phone and dialed an ambulance.

There was a knock at the door. She looked at him and saw fear in his eyes. He was begging her not to go. The knock became more insistent.

“I’ll be right back,” she promised.

She could have screamed when she opened the door. Death was standing there; the Death that was on duty now. She wanted to slam the door in her face.

Instead, she led her inside. Death crouched down as the other Death raised her scythe.

“I’m scared,” he whispered. “What will happen to me?”

She took a breath. “Death is like this, it’s like stepping into a warm bath and falling asleep. It’s peaceful.”

He nodded, and the other Death reaped him. She gave an irreverent salute to Death as she made her way out of the flat.

Death sank down onto the sofa and held her head in her hands. Her cheeks were wet as the snow began to fall.


Hawthorne walked around the empty mall aimlessly. He wasn’t supposed to be there. No one was.

The shops had long since been abandoned; a few of them boasted bits and bobs still littering the scant shelves. It reminded him of an old pop song lyric, “just to prove that we were here…”

He shook his head and his sleeping bag when he found the right spot. This was so not worth twenty bucks.

But, a dare was a dare. Hawthorne had to prove his manhood, or whatever.

Gibby was full of bad ideas- this being chief among them. Last month, he dared another friend to surf a moving car down a residential street. Luka was fine, but he wet his pants when Gibby stopped suddenly before she got to the stop sign.

Gibby was the queen of the burnouts and loadies. She had the best shit, and she was willing to share, provided you did what she dared you to. If you didn’t, no one would talk to you.

Hawthorne snuggled down into his sleeping bag and thought of Gibby and her haunting amber eyes. He imagined her cock-sure grin when she picked him up in the morning. She may even hug him.

After twenty minutes, he gave up on sleeping. There was too much nothing going on in here. He usually fell asleep to the ambient sounds of his mom’s apartment- the soft voices of the neighbors coming through the walls, the flick of his mom’s lighter as she smoked, the blare of the tv.

It was soothing to him, but here in the old mall, there was nothing.

Hawthorne sighed and got up. He left his sleeping bag where it was. He was near the exit that Gibby was picking him up at in the morning. He’d grab it on his way out.

Most of the security gates were down and locked in the empty stores. He tried each one as he passed, hoping for an open store. There wasn’t much to take, but that would make it all the sweeter when he found something.

Gibby would hug him for sure when she saw he was brave enough to swipe something while he was in here.

He didn’t hear the second set of footsteps following him up the dead escalator. He didn’t even think to look behind him when he got to the second floor.

His pursuer followed, quiet as death and twice as quick. When Hawthorne got to the old music store, the would-be stalker grabbed him around the waist.

He shrieked.

A grim smile split the follower’s face as he held Hawthorne tight. Wings unfurled from his back and soon they were flying out of the hole in the skylight. Hawthorne screamed the whole way up.

And, the whole way down when the creature dropped him. He only stopped screaming when he hit the tiled first floor.

Red eyes and black wings took off into the cool night.

Hawthorne twitched on the floor. He didn’t realize he had been bitten by the creature. The bite was probably the only reason he was still alive. His back crunched and shifted against his will and he screamed out again.

Gibby pulled her mom’s car into the parking and parked in front of a defunct department store. She honked her horn and lit a joint. Fifteen minutes came and went before she cut the engine and exited the vehicle.

Hawthorne was probably going to jump out and scare her. She knew it, she just knew it. Well, she’d let him scare her.

Then, she’d tell everyone how she found him sucking his thumb and still asleep when she went to pick him up. It was her word against his, and who would they believe?

Gibby tripped over Hawthorne’s sleeping bag as she made her way through the abandoned mall. Yeah, he was going to pop out at her. She rolled her eyes and steeled her nerves.

“Come out, wherever you are!” She called. She picked her way all over the first floor, winding and trying to pull up the security gates as she passed the stores. They were all locked tight against her prying.

She wandered aimlessly, hopping up on a kiosk just to see if it would hold her up. It did; she had a slight frame. When she had exhausted the first floor, she started to climb up a dead escalator to the second floor.

Like her erstwhile friend, she didn’t hear the footsteps behind her. When her pursuer grabbed her, though, she spun around in its clutches and sprayed mace all over the front of her attacker.

The creature, she didn’t know what else to call it, screamed and grabbed her tighter. It raked its teeth along her neck, getting the mace residue in the wound. It was her turn to scream.

Wings unfurled from the creature’s back and it carried her up and up into the early morning light before dropping her.

Hawthorne smiled as he listened to her screams until they stopped with a thud. He blinked his red eyes against the dawn and swooped back inside the mall.

Tell Me Where It Hurts

Tell me where it hurts. Tell me every little pain that haunts you and makes you weak.

Loving you isn’t the rotten work you make it out to be. To drown in the ecstasy of your notice is all I long for. Let me die in your arms.

Tell me in no uncertain terms who did this to you. I will make them sorry they ever touched a hair on your precious head. I will make them hurt.

Tell me where it hurts. Tell me when and where and who injured you.

The act of loving you doesn’t end at your rough and broken edges. I want to hold you tight and squeeze all my love into you so that it glues your parts back together and you are whole again.

Tell me you love me, too, so I can die in peace. I want to rest eternally in the bosom of kindness and reconciliation.

Tell me I’m not the one who did this to you; I couldn’t bear it if I had. I would rather fall on poignard than hurt you. I would rather call to the old gods and the new and draw down their notice than be the reason your smile falters.

I want my love to be as gentle as a lamb, as fierce as a lion, and as all-encompassing as the sea. I want to gather you up into my arms and never let you go.

Tell me where it hurts.

Mother Warned Me About You

My mother warned me about you. She told me you were dangerous. She told me you would hurt me.

When I met you the first time, it was in a dream. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt like I’d met you before. I don’t know why, but you felt like home.

I tried my best to put you out of my mind. I told myself you were dangerous. I told myself you would hurt me.

The second time I met you, it was a fleeting glimpse in a shop window as I passed by in the pouring rain. I didn’t get a good look at you, but I knew you in an instant.

You were all the things I was warned about. You were dangerous. You would hurt me.

The third time I met you, you were following me on the sidewalk on a sunny day. My breath caught in my throat as I glimpsed you; the monster just behind me.

I heard my mother’s voice in my mind. You are dangerous. You will hurt me.

Today, I see you in my mirror. I knew it was you; I knew it was me. I’ve known all along, I just didn’t want to know.

I am the creature in the night. I am the shadow that follows you on a sunny day. I am the monster half-glimpsed in the rain. But my mother was only half right.

I am dangerous, don’t make me hurt you.

New Things!

GM Potter is on YouTube!

I started a YouTube channel! I am getting ready to post my welcome video and have some ideas for the coming months. The channel will focus on book reviews and crafting- two of my dearest loves- and will also feature updates to my writing and go over my process. I hope to see you there!

A Letter Written

I stare down at the papers strewn across my writing desk, waiting for inspiration to strike. I’ve agreed to be a pen-pal to a person half a world away that I’ve never met, and I haven’t the foggiest idea what to say.

Should I write about my day? How interesting could that be? I get up, I go to work, I come home and go to bed. That’s it.

I could write about my family, but I live alone and don’t have a particularly close family. I could always write about my goldfish. His name is Blub-blubs. He mostly just floats there.

Maybe I could go into my hobbies. I stream old tv shows from the 90s. I don’t sew or craft or even have the energy to do much else.

I hear the mail truck rumble down the street and decide to walk down to pick up the bills. I wave to Fred as he pulls up to the next mailbox. He waves back.

Oh, no!

There’s a letter from my pen-pal. My fingers tremble as I open the letter right there on the lawn.

His name is John Smith; he lives in Germany but he’s from England. He gets up and goes to work, then goes home and watches old tv shows from the 80s. He has a beta fish named Bubbles and doesn’t talk to his family much since he moved away.

I run back to my desk and write a letter back. I ask him about moving outside his country; I’ve always wanted to do that. I ask about his job and what shows he watches.

Maybe my life isn’t quite as boring as I thought.

Novel Update

Malcolm on my current novel draft.

I sat down to work on the current draft of my novel this evening to find my youngest cat sleeping on the stack of papers containing all of my notes and revision. He weighs about 16 pounds. If it were either of my other two cats (also both around 16 pounds because they are all Texas-sized), I would just shift him to get it out. However, this cat is just over a year old and still loves to bite.

As my mother likes to say, “Tomorrow is also a day.”

A Sea of Silken Flowers

This is part two of the Embroidery story.

I watched Townsend make his way across the graveyard, delighting in the confusion blooming across his face. Absentmindedly, he touched each headstone as he passed; draped across each one was a small scrap of fabric painstakingly embroidered with a flower in silk thread.

I flinched when he saw me. I was still holding my basket of flowers, and for a moment I thought of running. He scowled and cut across the grey grass to me.

I froze. Not a good look for an assassin, let me tell you.

“What are you doing?”

“What do you think?” My voice was defensive, maybe more than it needed to be. I softened myself. “I’m just paying my respects.”

“To every new grave?” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Brock says you’re turning down jobs.”

“Only some of them.”

“Why? Is this about Larrissa?” He said my sister’s name like it was nothing; like she was nothing.

“Don’t you say her name!” I shoved him and he stumbled back a few steps. “Don’t you ever say her name!”

“What is this?”

“He told me I would save us from a civil war, that by doing my job I would save lives.”

Townsend looked confused.

“Look around! Does this look like I saved anyone?” I resisted the urge to let out a scream. “They built a new graveyard because the bodies were stacking up in the street!”

Townsend shrugged and opened his mouth to rebut, but the fierceness in my eyes stopped him cold. I shook my head and looked in my basket. There were still a dozen flowers to pass out.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Don’t say that to me, say it to them,” I muttered as I laid another flower on a freshly turned grave. This one wasn’t marked yet. Perhaps it wouldn’t be.

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

“I want out!” I screamed. I imagined that windows opened so their owners could get a better view of the crazy woman screaming in a graveyard. “I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, and I’m done.”

“I don’t-“

“No women, no kids. That was the only rule I ever had.” I stomped back to him. “How many of these belong to women and kids? How many times has the water rippled and someone else gotten hurt even though I have my rule?”

“We can’t know that,” he protested.

“I know.” I pulled out my favorite dagger and plunged it into his breast, pumping it twice. “I quit.”

He crumpled to the cold, grey ground, his face was a mask of shock. I rooted around in my basket until I found his flower.

A black dahlia for death and betrayal.


Ouch! Damn it!

I stuck my finger in my mouth and sucked on it as I inspected the scrap of fabric in my hands. Good, there was no blood on it. I pulled my finger out of my mouth; it wasn’t bleeding either.

I took up my needle and pulled another satin stitch across the bleached muslin. Sometimes you just needed to stab something a few hundred dozen times to feel better.

“What are you doing?” asked a familiar voice.

“Hey, Brock,” is all I said in answer. I didn’t lift my eyes from my work.

“No, seriously, what are you doing?” he asked.

“What does it look like?” I didn’t even try to hide the annoyance from my voice. “I’m practicing the womanly art of embroidery.”

“You’re an assassin!”

“I like to sew.”

I swear I could feel him roll his eyes as he sat down across from me. Still, I didn’t look at him.

“You’re needed, standard wet work.”

“How much?”

“50% above the usual rate.”

I opened my mouth to say no, but he cut me off.

“That’s after my cut.”

“No women, no kids, right?”


I shrugged but set down my project. He handed me an envelope which I opened. I finally looked at him when I read the target. His face was bruised and I could tell it had been bloodied recently.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Nope, this is real, and it’ll happen with or without you.” He smiled but winced instead. “Either you take out the prince or an angry mob will and we’ll be plunged into civil war.”

“Who takes over after the overgrown brat?”

“Dunno, above my pay grade.”

“Fine.” I picked up my project and pulled another satin stitch across the taught fabric.

“What is it anyway?”

“A flower. It’s for my sister.”

“I thought she-“

“For her grave,” I corrected.

Brock nodded and left me alone in my room- my candle wavered when he shut the door. I waited until I heard his heavy footsteps thunder down the stairs before I allowed the tears to fall.

“You shall be avenged, dearheart,” I whispered when I was done with my work. “Soon.”

The prince was an easy target. Possibly too easy. I didn’t even have to rush while I washed the blood off of my hands. I was already in the graveyard when the alarm bells sounded across the still sleeping city.

I laid the embroidered forget-me-not down carefully across the top of the headstone. I crossed myself and made my way home. I sat down in front of my unlit fireplace and pulled out another fabric scrap.

I stretched it taught across the hoop and tightened the screw. The first stab is always the most satisfying. This one would be for the poor sap who would take the fall for the prince. His grave would be unmarked, but Brock would make sure I know where it was.

A white orchid on a white fabric scrap would be enough to help him reach the heavens.

Other Than I Am

I’m not a Man. I never will be.

There is no dagger in my smile. When I smile, it’s just that- a smile. I smile when I feel joy. I can’t be anything other than what I am.

I am prey to the swaying of my thoughts, so I will bow my head. I will beat my fists against the tiled floor and curse the Creator for making me as I am.

I cannot be any other than as I am. I long to be a Man- to be free to do as I please with little to no consequence.

I long to walk alone at night, with nothing but the stars to guide me. I can’t, or rather, shouldn’t. It isn’t safe for me to do so. If I am accosted, it is my fault for allowing it.

I am not a Woman. I never will be.

I am not fierce; a fire burning brighter than the very stars themselves. I’ve never burned bright enough for anyone to notice.

There is no power to the sway of my hips. My smile does not hide secrets. I have no secrets.

I long to bewitch and ensnare, but I cannot.

I have neither a Man’s mind nor a Woman’s might.

I cannot be anything other than what I am.

New Novel Update

I am done with my 0-draft of my new novel, and beginning the process of revisions today! Time to break out the red pen and sticky notes! My goal is to begin the beta-reading process by the end of June or the beginning of July.

Swamp Witch

And just like that, the sun rose.

I woke, slowly at first, then all at once. I woke as I fell asleep, with the ineffable feeling of falling.

Only this time, I fell. My knees hit the hard wooden floor of my one-room house, and for a moment, I regretted putting them in. The soft dirt would have been softer to fall onto.

I stretched and dressed in the dark. I did most things in the dark these days. The generator ran out months ago, and it saved me from looking in the mirror. It led to better days.

I always wanted to be a swamp witch when I was a kid. Somehow, I didn’t consider the mosquitoes in all my childish dreaming. The first summer I was burned and twisted and swollen from the elements.

I loved it.

I combed the swamp and slept beneath the willows until I found this little hut. It was abandoned, just like me, and no one came to claim it. Just like me.

The cot was already there and I bought the floors. Tourists with too much money like the things I find in my swamp; everybody likes a terrifying bog witch.

It’s quiet. Not peaceful-quiet.

Something’s wrong. Someone is in my swamp.

I resist the urge to giggle at the reference. This is serious. My skin crawls with worry and my stomach leaps to my throat when I hear them.


I slip out of my shack like a ghost- cunning and stealthy.

I creep behind the protected trees and over the protected land, carefully picking my way across the swamp. I resist the urge to retch when I find the first trap. It’s a snare, and I nearly get caught in it myself.

I crouch low and keep my breathing steady and my ears open as I untie it and loop the rope around my shoulder. I hope it’s the last, even as I find another and another.

When I find their camp, I am sick. Dead animals hang from trees and meat roasts on a dwindling, unattended fire. I put out the fire and take down the animals and bury them in the soft soil. I ask Mother Moon to watch over them into the next life.

I creep back into the depths of the swamp when I hear them again. I can’t hear their words, but I can tell their confusion bends quickly to rage.

I smile at their fury.

I spend the rest of the day stalking them and taking down their traps. When night falls, and the poachers return to their camp, I stay on the fringes and watch them.

I wait for sleep to take them. Then, it’s my turn.

I snare and trap them, one by one. My hands are deft, and they don’t wake. I make sure they don’t wake again.

When they aren’t a threat again, I finally hear the animals return, and the not in my chest eases.

I spend the night taking what I can use back to my home. They won’t be needing them again. I like the blankets best. They’re soft and as I snuggle down to sleep, I hear the birdsong.

And just like that, the sun rose.

Another Letter I’ll Never Send

Dear former lover,

I hate you. It has been over ten years, and I still hate you. I hate you for what you did to me. I hate you for what was and what should never have been.

I read the other day that on average it takes seven years for all the cells in a healthy adult to replace themselves. Seven. I hope this is correct because I long for a body that you never touched.

I hate you. What you did to me used to make me wish I’d never been born, now I wish you’d never been born. It has taken so many years of work on myself to love myself enough to hate you.

I don’t think I’ll ever let go of this anger. 

I think about you less and less as time passes, but every year your memory comes creeping back in. Every year.

December is haunted because of you. I’m haunted because of you. I hate you with every fiber of my being. I hope you suffer every day of your life. 

I hope your socks are always damp. I hope you have a million unfinished sneezes. I hope you forget a word at a moment that makes you look like a fool. I hope you itch on the heel of your foot and never really satisfy it.

I hope you rot,


A Letter I’ll Never Send

Dear Grandma,

I miss you. I really miss you. I’ve seen cute frog things that remind me of you lately. When you were alive, I never saw very many, but now that you’re gone- I see them everywhere.

I wanted to cry when I came to your page in my address book. I was making up my Christmas card list. I wanted to surprise you with a gift card for a nice dinner out. Instead, I turned the page.

It hurt. I feel like there’s a part of me missing.

I want to call you and talk about the weather and how the changing seasons affect your plants. I want to get you a hand-blown glass plant mister. I found one online in the most beautiful shade of violet. It reminded me of the curtains you had up at the Park.

I got another cat. I think you’d like him. I know you wouldn’t admit it, but I think you would get along.

I miss you, and I love you.



There and Gone

I could have sworn he was right beside me; for years he always had been. Now he’s gone.

I don’t rightly know what it was that drove us apart. Was it my hair or my taste in music? Was I too clingy or maybe not affectionate enough? Something changed. I went from being the apple of his eye to just another stranger on the street.

He guided me and told me that he loved me, but his most recent actions make me wonder if he was ever really capable of love. So much hate and venom from such a small man.

Small? Yes, I dare say that though he is over six feet tall, he is small in all other ways. Small-minded. Small-hearted. Filled with small ideas and the overwhelming urge to make others even smaller than himself.

I used to look up to him with wonder and awe and fear. His temper and his rage frightened me and gave me nightmares. His cruel smacks and cutting, biting words left scars that I never thought would heal.

But they did, and I look upon him with pity.

I am great and strong and mightier than he ever meant me to know. He kept the knowledge that I am capable and enough from me like a miser keeps gold. His only power came from trying to keep a little girl down.

He tried to beat me and bend me to his will. For years, I was afraid it worked.

Now, though, I look down on this small man and wonder what it ever was that I feared in him. I see his petty jabs as what they truly are- a scared, little man trying to make everyone smaller than himself so he can feel in control of something.

For years, I carried him around with me. I carried his barbs and stings and I thought they were right and just- that I somehow deserved them.

I know that isn’t true, and, as I pull the last barb from my heart, I grieve the end of the relationship, wretched though it was, and move along.

I am strong and I am enough.

Mother Moon

Standing sky-clad in the dark of the New Moon, Artemis rolled her shoulders back and willed herself to shine.

Night and darkness were her domain. The owls and shadow-cats were her faithful subjects. Night lent reverence to all things, and this was most deserving.

What is done by dark will always be revealed by light. Truth crows in the light and illuminates all.

Artemis opened her eyes and sang new life into existence.

Her belly grew and grew until it was Time. She dropped to her knees and birthed a fox and a hare into the wooded glen.

She cried tears of joy and wrapped them in her pale willowy arms. She glowed in the lack of moonlight.

Animals gathered all around the Huntress in the dark. These were her children. She kissed her palms and gave them each a blessing.

“Blessed be,” she sang as she shone in the night.

The Spy

I wish I’d paid more attention when I went to spy school.

I wish I’d graduated from spy school.

I kind of wish I had actually enrolled when I’d had the chance.

I looked over at my captive and tried to remember the last question I’d asked. Was it, “Who do you work for?” Was that too cliche?

My captive looked up at me with large cow eyes.

“Please,” he begged. “Just let me live. I’ve told you everything I know.”

“Yeah, alright,” I said as I moved to untie him. He came clattering face first onto my brown carpet. “I guess I’ll let live, or whatever.”

“Thank you!” My captive scrambled to his feet and ran to the front door. He yanked and yanked, but the door would not budge.

“Dude!” I called over my shoulder. “I didn’t say you could leave. I said you could live.”

My captive sunk to his knees and began to sob. “Please, I’m just the pizza guy.”

“I didn’t order a pizza,” I said, regretting my decision to let him down.

“I must be at the wrong house!”

“Oh, you’re at the wrong house, alright,” I said as I walked over to him. “Even if I had ordered a pizza, it would have been with extra pineapple, not espionage.”

I laugh at my little quip. Maybe I didn’t need spy school after all.

The Fear of Falling

Jules stepped onto the platform and resisted the urge to scream. She was a long way up and the people down below were urging her to jump.

If she jumped and fell, she would surely die. But, if she didn’t jump, she would live to regret it.

JUMP! JUMP! the crowd screamed up at her.

Jules closed her eyes and willed her hands to stop shaking. She stepped up to the edge of the platform and jumped.

For too many moments, the ground rushed up at her and she kicked herself for working without a net. She always worked with a net.

Jules opened her mouth to scream, but before she could draw the breath, her partner caught her by the wrists and swung her up into the air.

She caught her swing easily and allowed herself to beam as the crowd cheered.

Welcome to Hell

She put her hand out and Malphus shook it. The negotiations had been difficult. Angie kept going on about peanut butter and hairnet sauce, whatever that was.

Malphus let go and he and Angie were standing at the gates of hell in an instant. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, trying to figure out if she was still dreaming. This couldn’t be real, she had to still be dreaming.

“When can you start?” the demon asked, flexing his wings.

“Start what?”

“Your new job, silly!” Malphus chuckled. “Looks like we have a new office prankster. Satan’s gonna love that!”

Horror clouded Angie’s features. “How? Why?” She racked her brains trying to figure out what was happening. Then, she remembered the weird dreams she’d been having lately.

“You interviewed me in my sleep!?”

“We find that’s the best approach when hiring new demons.” He paused. “Usually, there’s less screaming.”

The black gate swung open and Malphus walked through it backward, like a campus tour guide. Angie had no choice but to follow.

“So, to the left,” he said gesturing. “We have employee housing and the cafeteria. There’s also a jogging trail and a gym. To our right is your new office building!”

“What exactly will I be doing? I won’t torture people.”

“Of course not, silly-billy. That’s the lower executives. You’ll mostly be doing data entry so R and D can implement new programs. If you ever want to torture sinners, you can always work you way up- you’ve got a billion year contract.”

“A billion years?”

“Yup,” Malphus said. “But remember, time moves differently down here. Up there, it’ll only be about two weeks.”

“I can’t miss work for two weeks while I’m in hell.” Angie said flatly.

“Of course you can! We put in for vacation on your behalf and back-dated the request. It’s all taken care of!”

Angie opened her mouth to utter another protestation, but Malphus cut her off.

“Also, your salary is in the eighteen point five trillion dollar range for the length of your contract, after taxes of course. It will be deposited into your account when you get back.”

Angie’s world swirled before her eyes, and Malphus blew a puff of sulfur in her face to keep her from passing out. She closed her eyes and shook her head, but when she opened them, she was still in hell.

“So? What do you say?” Malphus asked.

“Yes,” she said after a moment. “I mean, it’s only a billion years, right?”

Malphus smiled and held out his hand again. This time, Angie took it confidently and shook it twice.

Demons and Dinner

The chef in the video is blathering on about how important it is to measure your ingredients for consistent results.

I roll my eyes. Some things, like garlic, you have to measure with your heart. I flatten the garlic clove with the broad side of my knife and peel away the papery skin. My knife makes quick work of it and soon I’ve lost count of how much I’ve added. Instead, I just taste it every few minutes.

I shake in some white pepper and the room fills with smoke and the stench of sulfer.

Great, maybe I should have been measuring.

I fling open the doors and windows before I scramble up on the counter to reach my screaming smoke detector. It takes a few tries, but finally, I silence it.

I take my soup off the good burner and set it on the star and crescent cast iron trivet, a hand-me-down from a dizzy aunt. I dipped a clean spoon in and raised it to my lips.

It tasted amazing- nothing like the now dissipating stench from a few moments ago. I shrug and reach for a stoneware bowl.

Someone behind me cleared their throat, and I drop the bowl. It explodes into a million tiny pieces. I live alone.

Slowly, I turn, fighting the urge to scream when I see him.

He’s over eight feet tall, hunched against my ceiling. His skin is the deep red of drying blood and his eyes glow with yellow flames. What really sets me off though, are the horns protruding from his creased forehead. There’s a scar on the ceiling above him where he’s scraped off the popcorn.

He’s tapping his foot and looking annoyed. “You summoned me,” he says with a sigh. His voice booms like thunder and rattles my dishes. Dogs bark somewhere down the block.

I try to speak, but all I can manage is a tight squeak.

The demon rolls his eyes and strides forward on his cloven hooves. He opens the right drawer on the first try and pulls out a spoon. He dips it in and tastes the soup.

That’s a summoning spell.” He smacked his lips. “It’s delicious, just the right amount of garlic, but it’s still a summoning spell.”

“No!” I seem to have found my voice at last. “It’s Italian tomato soup.”

“Is that tomato? All I taste is garlic.”

“I like garlic,” I hiss, taking back my spoon a little to forcefully.

“As do I.” He smiled, revealing his fangs. “Hence, how you managed to summon me.”

“No,” I whisper. “I was making soup.”

“You can eat it, but I’ll still be here.”

“You’ll never leave?” I asked in a wail.

“Not until you give me a task,” he said simply.

“Task?” I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.

“Yeah,” he began, scratching his chin. “I was summoned, by you, and now I can’t leave until I do your bidding.”

“But I don’t want you to do anything. I don’t have any bidding. I’m a good person.”

“Hey! Just because I’m a demon doesn’t mean I want to do evil things. No one ever asks, they just assume, and I am mighty tired of it!”

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

“I forgive you.” He sighed. “I just get so tired of the demon equals evil equation.”

“What would you like to do?”

The demon in front of me looked genuinely surprised. “In 10,000 years, no one has ever asked.”

“Well?” I asked.

The demon screwed up his face and there was a sound that I can only describe as a rock and roll record being played backwards. I watched as my soup pooled together and jumped back into the stoneware bowl that had somehow mended itself. The bowl bounced back into my hands and the spoon plopped in.

I looked up at the demon and smiled. “Thank you,” I said. “Would you like a bowl?”

The demon smiled back and nodded.

“I think I know what I want,” I said as I handed him a bowl.

The demon quirked his brows in question.

“I want a friend,” I began. “I want a friend who likes garlic as much as I do.”

“Done,” said the demon as his body shifted into that of thirty-something hipster. He looked just like the sort of friend that you would expect me to have.


The lies we tell ourselves

The lies we tell ourselves are, by far, the most insidious and wicked.

For years, I told myself that I would never be enough. In truth, I am not only enough, but I may be too much for some people. Exuberance, in all things, flows through my blood and seeps out my pores.

I dance. I sing. I take up space.

I will not apologize for any of it. I deserve to be here, just as I am. I matter and I have value.

I don’t know who first let me think I wasn’t enough, but I know now that they were just projecting their own lie onto me. They lived their lie; they nurtured it and fed it until it became a part of who they are.

I will not fall into the same trap. I refuse. I will live deliciously and be my own true self. Who I am and what I am is whole.

No longer will I lie to myself, hobble myself.

It’s a new day, and I will step into it with renewed purpose and a strong sense of self.

I Don’t Want to Hurt You

“I don’t want to hurt you,” she calls to me. She’s hiding behind the corner and there’s a gun in her hand. I can’t see her, but I can see her shadow. “Please, just let me go.”

“You know I can’t do that,” I call back. I take a hesitant step forward, trying to be stealthy, but the broken glass underfoot crunches.


A shot rings out, coming from her position. I leap back behind the pillar that I was hiding behind. It isn’t like her to miss.

“I won’t miss next time,” she says. “I really don’t want to hurt you!”

“You didn’t miss this time,” I whisper to myself. There’s a bullet hole just a few inches over where my head was. “I can’t let you go. You killed twelve people; I have to bring you in!”

“You really don’t.” She pauses and in her silence, I can hear her reload. She’s serious about this. “They were all bad. You can’t fault me for taking out a pedophile ring.”

“It isn’t for you to be judge, jury, and executioner.”

“Someone has to be!” There’s a note of resolution in her voice like this is the last thing she’s going to say to me. I peek around the corner and another shot rings out.


My shoulder erupts in fire and there’s a wet sound that can only be my blood hitting the wall behind me. I drop down to my knees in pain as I hear her footsteps pitter-patter away from me. I can’t believe I let her go. She didn’t want to hurt me, but she did.

I grasp for my walkie and radio that I need help. I lie on my back and wait. It won’t be much longer now.