Archive for January, 2009


Scenes from a Hat: Echo

January 30, 2009

Scenes from a Hat: Echo

by Nix Winter
Editor: M. E. Ellis

Pale blue fading into gray, the horizon lay smooth against a backdrop of jagged, dark pine forest. Toshiro Masuda stood in the doorway of the small jet, an elegant hand reaching up to pull dark glasses down. All the blue of the sky had taken refuge in his eyes. This far north, the scent of pine and fireplace smoke in the air left him feeling out of his element, disconcerted. A wolf howled somewhere in the jagged dark of the forest, but close enough that the sound echoed longingly down his nerves.


He pushed his glasses back up. Calm as shadow, he waited. The perfect fit of his suit, a dark gray with a slight tint of blue, wrapped a powerful body, as lithe and wild as wind ruffling the pines. Raven hair gathered at the nape of his neck, held in a clasp of platinum. Only the pale golden tint to his skin, perhaps the smoothness of his face, the shape of his eyes—if one could catch him without his glasses—gave hint to his Japanese ancestry.

Again the wolf’s voice echoed over the private airstrip, crying a song deeply rooted in Toshiro’s heart.

The world granted precious few options for repair of anything, let alone something as precious as the life of a loved one. Tosh counted few enough of those in his life. He would not lose, no matter the price.

Long and black, the armored limousine arrived. Even though Toshiro was well past the point of return, its arrival brought the echo back again, driving home how very fragile his position was. He started down the stairs, exiting the jet, his body a projection of casual confidence. Of all the roles he’d played in his life—geisha, slave, king, gangster, anthropologist—this was perhaps the most difficult lie he’d ever embodied.

A man, broad and easily the root of troll myths, exited the front of the limousine from the passenger side. His thick coat, lined and edged in black and white fur spoke Russian about as well as his body language spoke dangerous. Toshiro looked at him disdainfully, carefully blanked his face, blue eyes hidden.

“Masuda Toshiro Sensei,” the man asked in painful Japanese.

“Yes,” Toshiro said, pulling his passport, which he handed over to the man. “Of course. I understand that the surrender of my passport was a condition of my employment. I expect,” he said, his words misting menace, “the other terms of my employment have been met.”

Troll Man bowed, approximating something vaguely Japanese as he pocked the passport. “There has been some slight difficulty, but Boss has provided a substitute. I think you’ll find him adequate.”

“You will hope so,” Toshiro said, smiling with tight lips.

The man’s huge hand opened the door for Toshiro, while his other hand held out a photograph.

Toshiro took it and studied it with a detachment that he did not feel. “He has not been harmed? He is untrained?”

“Yes, Sensei. The subject was acquired from the United States less than a week ago. He is a fighter, but the boss thought he might meet your needs.”

“We shall see,” Toshiro said and slid into the car, expecting the other man to close the door. The predatory aura to him hid his plans well. If he could gain his wolf and leave before his scene was over, the only real challenges were reconstructing the two passports, getting to a flight that would take them anywhere other than Russia. As the door closed, he again heard the wolf cry. Lies were his element, but he would find his truth, and no matter what challenges, together they could repair the world.


Scenes from a Hat: Substitute

January 27, 2009

Scenes from a Hat: Substitute

by M. E. Ellis

A pillow for a breast, a cigarette for a cigar, a candle for a lamp. Substitutes.

Out, out into the night now, coat collar up, fists in pockets, cap low on my brow. My gaze darts, ears listen, nose keen to catch her scent, her beautiful, well-mourned scent. I will have her once again.

She stands on the street, hands upon hips, head cocked, lips a sultry pout. Similar, so similar that the sight of her invites a lump to my throat. Could it be…? My approach doesn’t startle her. Far from it. She has been waiting for me…hasn’t she?

“Hey, sugar,” she says, candy-pink lips a wide smile. “Wanna fuck?”

No. No, I don’t, but I return her smile, nod, nod like the sucker she thinks I am.

“Come on, then.” She jerks her head towards an alleyway between the buildings behind her, lit only by the streetlamp in its mouth. The lane stretches into infinite darkness, where my imagination places many girls like her, their backs against the wall, legs spread, or on their knees, maws wrapped around cocks that don’t belong between professional lips.

She turns, sashays into the alley, shadow’s jaws closing around her. I follow, my footsteps precise on the rain-slicked cobblestones, my heartbeat accelerating. Ten, eleven, twelve footsteps later, and she stops, a grey figure, no discernable features.

“Here will do.” Her loud whisper floats, rebounds off the mouldy walls. “Fifty for full, twenty for a hand job. I don’t use my mouth.”

My broad frame fills the width of the alley. “You should do. Doing so would shut you the fuck up.”

Her sharp intake of air stutters in her throat, the release of it a breathy laugh. “What?”

“You didn’t hear me the first time?”

Eyes, they almost glow in the dark when as wide as hers, you know.

“Yeah.” She snorts, laughs again, and a clicking sound breaks through the cocooned air.

“Are you chewing gum?” She. Is. Annoying. Me.

Substitute. Substitute. Substitute, substitute, substitute

My fist connects with the end of her nose. She squeals, sinks down onto her ass, the proverbial sack of shit, legs bent at the knees, hands steepled over her face.

“You’re not her, are you?” My nostrils flare. An ache so vast threatens to overwhelm my airy mind, threatens to thicken the descending red mist. “You…tricked me. You…almost had me…believing—”

My boot heel greets her temple, and she releases a muffled, blood-garbled shriek. Her torso thuds sideways to the damp stones, her body the pose of a cadaver left to rot.

Which she will be after I’m done, for her breaths grow short, and her appendages spasm, inciting twitches to her fingertips, her feet.

Sarah? Sarah, where are you? Come back. I need you. I can’t…can’t accept any more…fucking…substitutes.

She won’t listen. She never listens.

But I’ll keep looking, and I’ll find her. Oh yes, I’ll find her.


Scenes from a Hat: Germination

January 16, 2009

Today, I’m lucky enough to have another guest author. Out of the hat, my friend Jaime Samms picked the word “germination.” I’m pleased with the resulting story, and I’m honored to share it with you! Thanks again, Jaime! Delightful scene!

Scenes from a Hat: Germination

by Jaime Samms
Editor: M. E. Ellis

The natural glamour of sunlight on snow stretched off into the distance. Each flake sported every colour at once, then no colour at all as dancing shades of trees played across the brilliant surface. One slight tilt of the head, and a tiny, glimmering beacon sank into the blue depth of shadow.

Lyre touched one long finger to the crystalline beauty. An instant of chill seized him before a coin-sized hole opened in the bank of white flakes. He looked up and watched the sparkling expanse surrounding him while an eternal breath passed through him.

“It is time.”

He rose, waded into the drift, lay down. Under him, snow sizzled into nothing until he lay with the frozen earth under him. The shock of cold sank its teeth into him, gripped him with lethargy. Above, only an ovoid of pure, endless blue.

His thoughts fell up.

Light Dazzled. Faceted crystal wings tinkled in the still morning, wakened the world to sound and frigid vibrancy of winter sun. Deep sapphire eyes glimmered down on him from a delicate, opal-skinned face. Diamond fingers reached to his cheek. The cold, rigid touch nicked his skin. Blood welled, dripped down his cheek to the earth.

“Good-bye, Lyre.” A spill of impersonal laughter, the clicking of wings, and the sky above reappeared.

Air sighed, picked up strands of his hair, and wove it into a tangled web above him. The web caught, a sail that lifted.

“Come, Lyre. Not yet.”

It whispered in his ear, caressed his face, tickled up under his clothing—tempted. He shook his head. The hair shivered free of the wind’s clutches and settled back around him. A whistle of frustration whipped over the snow’s surface screening his view in swirling white, pricking tears to his eyes. It didn’t want to let him go.

The tears escaped and followed the blood into the earth.

“Flee while you can!” Air moaned over the earth, groaned through the trees, cajoling. “Run, Lyre!”

He didn’t move.

Roots broke through the loam, wrapping around his wrists and ankles. He shivered.

“Too late.” The wind died away. “Good-bye, Lyre.” It whispered into silence.

The trees stilled their branches, concentrated on prying tendrils through the soil to twine in his hair, pluck at his garments. His skin tingled where tiny roots slithered over his ribs, along his spine, explored the length of his arms and legs as the last remnants of his attire disintegrated.

“Ours now.”

They claimed him with their minute, intimate slide over bare skin. The earth under him finally warmed, and he closed his eyes.

The soil shifted around him, rising to cover hands, feet, hair.

He smiled.

Every precise touch, every whispering sound, every shimmering vision played through him, drifted into the world, taking bits of him with them until he was every root, every sigh of breeze, the sunlight dancing off the snow.

Where his body had been, tiny green shoots and pure petals of white opened their faces to the sun, welcomed his gaze, waited for him to come again.


SfaH Contest: Winners!!!

January 13, 2009

Thanks to the wonderful random integer generator at I have two winners for the SfaH contest. One winner gets a $10.00 gift certificate from Wild Child Publishing, and the other gets something far less lucrative: a custom character in the long version of “Rejection.” Trinity Blaico is the gift certificate winner, and Faith Bicknell-Brown is the character winner.

Also, a recount (or maybe a last minute vote I hadn’t seen) put Rejection over by one vote, so I started working on it last night. I didn’t get far, and this will be a difficult one because the story, the emotions triggered, and the characters make me sad.


Writing Collaboration: Zombie at the Barnyard Disco

January 12, 2009

My friend, Daniel, and I have started writing a story, length undetermined, as a collaborative effort.  We’re doing a trade with the story, bouncing back and forth with a goal of 250 words per turn, but no specified maximum limit. It’s been interesting so far. I was commenting to Jambrea that it’s difficult to tell where his parts end and mine begin when I go back and read the story. Right now, we’re in first draft mode and have not done any editing, so the excerpt I’m about to post (yes, I know) is raw, unedited, and from mind to screen.  We set up the document on and created sharing permissions so we can both access the file in a central location. When one of us is done, we tag the other and wait.

Here’s the excerpt:

He answered the phone, “Its about time.  I’ve been waiting all night for you to call me back.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Reynolds replied.  “This stuff takes a little planning.  Its not like running to the grocery to pick up some eggs.”  Aren knew he was right.  Eggs never made him this anxious and unnerved.

Reynolds blurted, “So, where ya at?”

He considered giving him his home address, but Aren wasn’t quite sure he wanted a guy like Reynolds to know where he lived quite yet.  This whole scenario was still very new to him.  There have already been a slew of second thoughts racing though his mind.  Aren was hoping that something fell through and he’d never call.  He had actually considered calling her back and cancelling all of this.  But he couldn’t, he had to go through with this.  All this waiting, well, it was just enough time for his conscience to play more games in his head.

The thought apparently lasted longer than he’d thought because the voice on the other end echoed, “So, where ya at?”

Aren continued depositing coins into the machine, thinking with each clink and clank as they fell into the capture bucket.  “I’m not at home.  I’m doing the washing.  You know the laundromat just behind Jimmy’s Pizza, over by the zoo?  I just finished two wash loads, and I’m getting ready to put them in the dryer.  I have at least an hour or so here.  Where are you, and can you meet me here?”

“Damn you, Aren.  I’m nowhere friggen near there.  It will take me at least twenty minutes to get across town to that shit hole dive you call a laundromat.  I need you to come to me, and it’s going to have to be at least an hour from now.  I got this thing to take care of before I can do business with you.”

“Well, I guess you better start movin’.  Listen.  Ariel set this up, and I aim to do right by what I told her, so don’t fuckin’ be late.  I’m staying here until these clothes are dry, and then your window is closed.  I don’t care how dangerous you think you are, or how scared you expect me to be, but this is not up for God-damned debate.  Do you want my help or not?”  Aren pressed the “HH” button and watched the spirals twist as his Kit-Kat bar made its way to the edge before dropping into the retrieval tray.

Aren was surprised with his own words.  Strong-arming a man like Reynolds was something most didn’t do and live to tell about it.  But they were both in this because of Ariel and as odd as it may seem, Reynolds needed Aren more than Aren needed Reynolds.

Reynolds growled back into the phone, “Fine!  I’ll pick you up in ninety minutes.”

“Well, me and my laundry.  You have room in your trunk?”  There was a little playfulness creeping back into his voice now.

Aren smiled and he knew that as Reynolds ended the call, a smile crept onto his face as well.  Taking a bite of the Kit-Kat, he walked back over to his clothes and dumped them in a row of dryers.  Ninety minutes would be cutting it close, luckily Aren never folded his clothes so he would be ready when Reynolds showed up.


Rites of Romance Reviews: Sanguine Moons

January 11, 2009

Sanguine Moons has received its second review, and I have to say that 4.5/5 is a high honor. Rites of Romance Reviews got a hold of Weston and Morris this time, and Katherine Petersen had this to say:

While it stands well on its own as a short story, this piece would work well as a chapter—whether the first or not—of a novel. I look forward to reading more of Owens’s work.


Scenes from a Hat: Vinyl

January 9, 2009

Scenes from a Hat: Vinyl

by Anthony Owens
Editor: M. E. Ellis

The dark, purple glow emanated from a long, tube light bulb. Next to the black light, noble gas raced around the enclosed glass track, and electricity sparked it to life, casting a shameful and pallid blanket of bright orange light on patrons sitting in plush chairs, their knees spread wide.

Neon. Number ten. 1s2 2s2 2p6.

Other glass tubes adorned the room, racing around a raised stage with what Brodie expected were faux brass rails. Two vertical poles extended from the shiny, smooth wood floor of the stage up to the black dropped ceiling tiles. He contemplated the other tubes, and his recall slipped, but he knew that some of them contained other noble gases, and the ones that didn’t were probably colored fluorescent bulbs.

Fucking chemistry.

One of the most annoying voices ever possessed by a human rolled out through the club’s sound system. “Tonight, we have a special guest from a local band, DirectiveNine. The singer is here, and these are his songs. Hope you enjoy them!”

Are you kidding me? Can’t I just watch these girls in peace? That band broke up, like, four years ago. I swear, instead of tipping you to play them, I’m going to tip you not to next time. Dick.

Brodie realized that he’d not been paying any attention at all to the girl who delicately descended the stairs to the stage, a drunken swagger jiggling her in most of the right places, and a few that made him wince a bit. The girl’s head bore the curse of owning the most soulless and lifeless eyes of any stripper, ever. Or, maybe she was just drunk and stoned.

I wonder if she’s holdin’.

She finished the three-stair journey, and a sweet guitar melody filled the small dive with a sonorous joy that still—even after four years—sent tremors up his neck, stood his hair on end, and ran chills through the course of his body.

God damn you, Saul. Why’d you have to quit? You wrote such good songs.

He sat in misery and neglect, since no dancers had been by in at least three songs to say hi or shake their almost-covered asses in his lap for a dollar. The decline of DirectiveNine weighed on him still, but he’d never made songs like the ones he and Saul did. His desperate desolation drained in a siphoning snap as soon as she entered the main room.

Who the fuck is the new girl? Oh my god.

He sat upright, puffed his chest forward, adjusted his septum ring, and put on his cool look. It took everything in him not to sing along with the words he’d written. The melody possessed him, and though he didn’t project a voice, his lips moved in sync with the song. He scoured the woman now climbing the stairs to the stage, thoughts of the last dancer dissipating like a ghost on meth. Crystal blue eyes, icy and burning, looked down on him and her persuasive motion clutched him into stillness.

Breathe. Just breathe. Seriously. BREATHE!

Long, raven locks, pulled and twisted into twin braids swung with the rhythm of the music, his music, and her gaze embraced him against time, handcuffed to a stare that teased to throw away the key. Shiny, smooth, and black, her outfit knew just how to make her, and she knew even better how to wear it. Her curves only continued where the restraint of the vinyl costume ceased, and her undulations served only to raise his interests.

All the cool flew away, and Brodie’s jaw slacked, his breath drew quick and shallow, and the memory of the last time he’d blinked his eyes no longer registered. In a jolting second, she dropped to the floor on hands and knees and crawled to the edge of the stage. Index finger extended, she pointed at Brodie and crooked it back only to extend it again.

“Come here.”

Brodie, without missing a beat, purred, “Yes, ma’am.”