Architects of Illusion_Chapter One_The Serpent’s Secret

Welcome to the conclusion of the first chapter of Architects of Illusion, a young adult historical fantasy series inspired by the land and legacy of Biltmore Estate, where Greek mythology meets The Book Thief and Fantastic Beasts! 

Part One_The Titan’s Trap
Part Two_A Bridge Between Unlikely Islands
Part Three_Sea of Forgotten Souls

Fish Fountain at Biltmore Estate

The Serpent’s Secret

April 15, 1912
Olympus
Asheville, North Carolina

The journey from the pyramid’s portal led her a thousand miles away to the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, in a place guarded by magic and guided by the Muses.

Olympus.

The portal opened into the wall of a limestone fountain, where a fearsome stone fish, its tail wrapped around a trident, dissolved into a window of glowing green water. Calypso stepped from the water into the crisp arms of the mountain air that wound through a shaded walkway dripping with wisteria.

“Do you have it?” a woman asked, her face hidden beneath the hood of a crimson cloak that flickered as if made of flames.

Calypso held out her hand. The artifact pulsed in her palm. “The ship was lost, as were most of the humans on board.”

“An unfortunate outcome,” the woman said, her empathy as insincere as her thirst for vengeance was genuine. “Such is the price of war.”

I can say with some authority that the woman in the red cloak had no love for humans. They were merely pawns in a treacherous game she relished playing.

“By securing the key, you’ve saved countless more lives.” She reached for the artifact, her silver serpent ring slithering around her fingers like a living thing. “I assure you, no one will ever find it.”

Something stirred above them. The woman glared at the tangle of wisteria, searching for the source. “Bellator!” she called over her shoulder. A massive stone lion stepped from the shadows. “Search for interlopers. You know what to do should you find any.” The lion nodded his head before slipping back into the dark.

“Now then, be a good nymph and hand over the key,” the woman insisted, her fingers eager to pluck the shimmering device from Calypso’s palm.

Calypso bristled and closed her fingers around the relic. “This also has a price,” she said, her voice unwavering.

The woman clenched her fist, her serpent ring raising its head as if to strike.

“There’s a child from the ship, an orphan, Catharina Van Impe. You are to bring her here and keep her safe,” Calypso demanded.

The woman let loose a low guttural laugh. “Why should I be bothered with another mortal child? My domain is already infested with them.”

“She was wearing the key.” Calypso’s instincts told her the girl had an important role yet to play.

And she was absolutely right.

The woman cocked her head, her face veiled in shadow. “Curious, that someone with your reputation should be concerned with the fate of a human liability.”

Calypso dangled the chain from her fingers, the glow of the key reflecting in her unyielding glare. “That is my price.”

“Along with your silence?”

Calypso nodded.

“It shall be done. No harm will come to her.” The woman reached out her hand, impatience oozing from her lips. “You have my word.”

Calypso dropped the artifact into the woman’s palm. The serpent ring coiled around it, its ruby eyes flashing with triumph.

And there, in the space between illusion and truth, in the midst of myths and monsters, the most powerful key in history would remain out of reach from all, save one.

© 2018 Samantha Redstreake Geary

Inspiring Soundtrack

 

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Architects of Illusion_Chapter One_Sea of Forgotten Souls

Join me on a journey through the first chapter of Architects of Illusion, a young adult historical fantasy series inspired by the land and legacy of Biltmore Estate, where Greek mythology meets The Book Thief and Fantastic Beasts! 

Read Part One_The Titan’s Trap
Read Part Two_A Bridge Between Unlikely Islands

Look for Part Four, the Conclusion, on Friday, June 29th.

Apeiron’ by Daniel Peniston

Sea of Forgotten Souls

April 14, 1912
North Atlantic Ocean

People spilled into the hall in uneasy waves, grasping at the hands of loved ones to keep them afloat in the waist-high water. A dozen different dialects crashed against the corridors in cries of confusion, for few could read the English signs, and fewer still could speak the language. No matter the tongue, they shared a common plea.

Save us.

Calypso, silent and camouflaged, never took her eyes off of the girl. If any of the mortals were to survive, she would need to remove the threat that hung from the girl’s neck. She sensed the water rising and willed it to wait. But even an oceanid as powerful as Calypso could only hold back the hunger of the sea for so long.

It wasn’t nearly long enough.

A man dressed in white, wearing a tag that declared him, STEWARD JOHN HART, called to the crowd, his face the pallor of terror. He called out and motioned for them to follow. If it wasn’t for this one courageous act, every man, woman, and child in third class would have perished.

Calypso trailed closely behind the girl who was caught in a flood of bodies that swelled up the stairs. Every frantic turn led the third class passengers further into a maze of white-washed walls and wood paneling, overturned chairs and empty tables, through levels of abandoned grandeur as foreboding as it was foreign. The closer they ventured towards the ship’s center, the more they saw the looming threat reach its icy fingers inside to foil their escape.

Their floating palace had become a tomb.

The brave steward led them up, away from the sea’s snapping jaws and into the open arms of the boat deck. His triumph, however, was short-lived when he saw what awaited them.

Calypso’s heart fell. She had kept the sea at bay to give them time to escape, only to be met with defeat in the form of a sole remaining boat. A lifeboat ten sizes too small to save what needed saving.

Parents lifted their sobbing children into the raft, their goodbyes frozen on smoky breaths, as the last of their hope piled into Collapsible D.

Jean and Rosalie pulled Catharina into a fierce embrace before placing her firmly into the last space on the boat. As the raft was lowered, Catharina weeped silently, her cheeks burning with tears that turned to ice. A stick of chalk still gripped in her hands, she wrote on her board with frantic strokes and held it high for her parents to see. Ik hou van je. Ga alsjeblieft niet weg!

I love you. Please don’t go!

The collapsible dropped several feet before the men lowering the ropes regained control, causing Catharina to drop her board over the edge, where it sunk into the deep, and her hope along with it.

The moment Catharina’s collapsible touched the water, the Titanic began to tilt. Mere minutes after her tiny lifeboat reached a safe distance, the massive bronze propellers rose from the salt to face the stars.

Calypso took one last look at Catharina’s parents, locked in each other’s arms, wrapped in fear and anguish and love. A flicker of hope flashed in their eyes. Hope for the part of them that would live on.

At the ship’s edge, Calypso called a wave to carry her back to the screaming sea. All around her, wails of terror spread like a suffocating mist from hundreds of souls who clung to white floating clouds of false hope. Only ten survivors would be pulled from the water’s claws. I had counted. Twice. And still the number haunts me.

I watched, helpless, as the eyes of the metal beast that burned away the night closed their lids. The weight of water squeezed the titan’s neck until it cracked in two and slipped into the black.

And then there was nothing.

Nothing but silence skated on the glassy surface.

But under the silence, under the black, circling, waiting, was something far worse than the frozen sea.

Calypso dove under the black of the sea and spied the Cetus only meters from the cluster of lifeboats. Menkar had found what he was sent to fetch and he meant to have it.

Precious little life had managed to escape the titan’s tomb. Calypso would be damned if any further harm came to the rafts of refugees, their fates unjustly condemned in a war not of their making.

The oceanid charged towards Menkar with unbridled fury.

The talisman’s magic channeled through the salt and drew the Cetus directly to Catharina’s collapsible. The distressed girl never saw the sea serpent open his jaws inches from where she sat, nor did she notice the oceanid firing a flash of blue light that snapped his jaws shut. Catharina was numb from the cold, from loss, from the enormity of what she had witnessed. The thrashing of her own heart rivaled the bumping of her boat from the battle that waged beneath.

Calypso shot another bolt of electricity at Menkar. The ten thousand volts generated by an oceanid is a lethal shock to most living things, but for the cetus, it was just enough to stun him. She had little time before the sinking serpent regained his senses.

Using her power to shape the water, Calypso’s creation broke the surface and sped towards Catharina’s boat.

A nudging at Catharina’s elbow brought her out of a somber fog. She glanced down with ice-laced eyes to meet the curious gaze of a glassy dolphin. The child had never seen one outside of picture books. Her father would tell her stories of swimming with the spirited dolphins in Greece. How she longed to join him on his adventures.

Her gaze traveled over the sea and rested on the empty space where the ship had been, where her father once stood, his arm wrapped around her mother, smiling, laughing, living. She hoped they were with the dolphins.

Catharina reached out a chapped hand to stroke the dolphin’s slippery nose. Slowly, with her fingers hovering over its watery skin, it backed away, just enough to make her lean over, until her necklace dangled over the boat’s edge.

Calypso, hovering close, shot a small spark at the brass chain around Catharina’s neck and severed the link. The talisman tumbled into the deep.

Calypso snatched the necklace and darted in front of the waking Cetus. She watched him shake off the shock. She waited until his black eyes locked on her, until he recognized what she held in her hand, and then, she swam.

She cut a swift path through the sea that would lead the serpent away, far from the fragile lives she hoped to save. She swam until her body ached, until the water warmed with the rising sun, until she knew, beyond a doubt, that Catharina was safe.

When she reached the coast of Cuba, Calypso dove to the seabed, where a crumbling city slept. She navigated through the stone structures, one of many childhood playgrounds, until disappearing into the narrow mouth of a pyramid, leaving the serpent to swallow his defeat.

Calypso swam into the pyramid’s center, towards a particularly potent source of magic. A soft green glow stretched across a circle of towering stone sentries, symbols scrolled across their backs, their meaning lost to a landscape long erased, their power protecting them from the stomach of the sea.

Calypso hovered over the luminous surface. Only those born of the salt and surf could pass through the portals of Poseidon, for a price. The currency for traveling between portals was simply this.

The truth.

Calypso broke through the surface of the portal and braced herself for the cost.

Memories flooded her mind like specters rising from raven smoke. Fleets of ships, fire licking at their sails, rocks chewing at their hulls, water wrapping its fingers around the feet of sailors, their screams sinking into the sea.

No matter the shores she fled, nor the centuries that had past, she could never escape her own ugly truth.

She was a thief. A predator. A killer.

She wasn’t born to steal mortal lives. It was the weight of grief that shifted her into something savage.

Long ago, on the ancient shores of Ogygia, she had fallen in love with the Greek king of Ithaca. The memory of losing Odysseus haunted her still. Poseidon manipulated her suffering to poison her heart against the humans.

I have seen the destructive power of despair. It hardens the heart until there’s nothing left but cold unfeeling stone.

But I have seen the transformative power of truth undo the damage of despair, and replace it with possibility.

Calypso chased her truth all the way to the Titanic. She would chase it to the ends of the earth if it led to her redemption.

© 2018 Samantha Redstreake Geary

Inspiring Soundtrack

 

Architects of Illusion_Chapter One_A Bridge Between Unlikely Islands

Join me on a journey through the first chapter of Architects of Illusion, a young adult historical fantasy series inspired by the land and legacy of Biltmore Estate, where Greek mythology meets The Book Thief and Fantastic Beasts! 

Read Part One:  The Titan’s Trap

Look for Part Three on Friday, June 22nd.

Apeiron’ by Daniel Peniston

A Bridge Between Unlikely Islands

April 14, 1912
North Atlantic Ocean

I am an observer. I cannot change the course of fate, no matter the countless times I’ve been tempted. I am bound by these laws of my existence. It is my curse. To watch. To know. To remember.

During my time on this earth, I’ve learned there will always be monsters, whether they slither beneath the sea or sit in a seat of power, just as there will always be those blind enough to enable them.

They make me weary of watching.

It is the rare and daring few who choose to stand against the monsters, no matter how high the risks, nor how insurmountable the odds, who make life worth watching.

Sadly, their stories are rarely sewn into the binding of history. Their chapters may have been lost, but they are not forgotten.

I remember them all.

This is their story.

And it begins with a bridge between an unlikely hero with a dangerous past and a Flemish girl with a dangerous future.

An oceanid, a sea nymph known as, Calypso, raced through the current to close the gap between her and the doomed vessel, dread coursing through her veins.

She was too late.

She spied the belly of the wounded ship a few meters ahead, dead in the water. After circling its ribs, she found six slices through its side where it struck the unnatural ice. Slight as they were, the damage opened the seams wide enough to tempt the sea.

Saving the ship was no longer within her power. But that wasn’t her task. She was sent to secure the artifact before the Cetus sniffed it out.

Calypso commanded a silent wave to lift her over the railing. As it broke over the stern’s sleeping bridge, her ebony tail transformed into legs that found their footing on the dripping deck.

“Find the key,” she willed the water. Salt water is not only an exceptional conductor of electricity, but of magic.

The pool at her feet shifted into a small school of crystalline fish that hovered a few inches above the planks. Calypso followed the fish past a curious crowd, their bodies bent over the ship’s starboard edge, where the serpent’s mountain of ice had scraped by and spat snow onto the deck. The air was thick with a danger they could not see. She knew all too well the creature that lurked beneath them. She could sense him watching, waiting for the ship’s surrender to the sea.

No one but I noticed the strange sable-skinned girl.  Like all nymphs, Calypso could bend the water so that neither light, nor unwelcome eyes, could find her. She moved swiftly, covered in dark armor, her unearthly grey eyes peeking beneath long locks of silver hair that swayed as if she were walking underwater.

The fish led her to a narrow stairwell that descended into the ship’s humming center. The further she plunged, the more her surroundings shrunk. She followed them down a dry, dimly lit hallway marked STEERAGE, a series of doors cut into the walls like rows of polished teeth. Calypso couldn’t fathom why humans would willingly travel inside the jaws of such a beast.

The eager fish hovered in front of a door. With a nod from Calypso, the fish collapsed into a puddle that climbed up the door’s surface until it was coated with water. The door dissolved, leaving a clear rippling pool in its place, like a window of water that revealed the cramped chamber within. The room was lined with four beds, two set into each wall, one balanced precariously above the other, a white water basin and porcelain pot nestled between them. The walls were papered with half a dozen colorful drawings depicting a child’s vision of the sea, from a giant octopus chasing schools of silverfish, to dolphins playing with divers. Sleeping soundly in the beds were two snoring men, a restless woman, and a small glowing girl.

With a flick of her wrist, Calypso ordered the water to venture inside the room. Rivulets of sea water ran down the wooden face of the door until they formed a puddle on the floor that slipped underneath. Once on the other side, it shifted into the shape of an octopus, its translucent tentacles tugging the blanket away from the girl’s body, uncovering a curious contraption fastened to a brass chain that snaked around the girl’s sticky neck. Its intricate metal gears and symbols emitted a golden light, like embers breathing in a forgotten fire.

Over the centuries, Calypso had crossed paths with many forms of magic, but none were as dangerous as the ancient power that pulsed before her.

I knew the Aperion’s dark history, the tragedy it left in its wake. The secrets surrounding its origins had sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean millennia ago. It was nothing but a myth, a ghost of a god’s wrath that haunted the disintegrated deck of another doomed ship.

Myths have a way of bleeding into reality. The blood this one cost was far more than reality was prepared to pay.

The peril that washed over those above had slowly, too slowly, trickled down the decks from frightened lips into disbelieving ears. The souls in third class were the last to hear of their terrible fate. Grumbled protests of disrupted slumber grew to shouts of alarm as fear charged the air around them.

I knew the only sleep that awaited them was one from which they would never again wake.

The girl with the glowing necklace, Miss Catharina Van Impe, wiped the dust of dreams from her eyes and shuffled into the hall after her parents, a book clutched to her chest. Embossed on the mossy cover were gleaming gold images of a mischievous boy sitting at the water’s edge, flanked by a pair of mermaids, with a ravenous reptile lurking below. Little did Catharina realize that her present predicament mirrored that of her favorite fiction. Peter Pan, however, had a fighting chance.

Her mother, Rosalie, hastily wrapped a wool blanket around her shoulders and pulled her close while whispering assurances, “Alles komt goed, mijn lieveling.”

“Everything will be fine, my darling.”

But everything was not fine. While the Van Impes and their third class neighbors were fast asleep, an hour had slipped by since the serpent’s ice silently sliced into the ship’s hull. The first lifeboats were being lowered, while the sea surged into the nose of the ship and steadily strangled it.

After an upsetting exchange with a group of men gathered in the corridor, the girl’s father, Jean, confirmed the rumors, “Ze zeggen dat het schip zinkt.”

“They say the ship is sinking.”

Catharina reached for the small framed chalkboard that hung from a necklace of twine near her bed. Her trembling fingers gripped the chalk. Zullen we verdrinken, Papa?

Will we drown, Papa?

Though Catharina was nearly eleven, she had never learned to swim, not properly, not well enough to keep from drowning should the cold fingers of the sea catch hold of her. Born with an affliction that robbed her of hearing, Catharina’s childhood was sheltered from a world that was not ready to rise up and meet her for who she was, whether it was waves on the shore or hurtful words in a classroom.

Jean kneeled down in front of Catharina, his words careful and pronounced so she could discern their meaning. “Nee, schatje, we worden gered door de kleinere boten, degenen wachten op ons bovenop,” he promised.

“No, honey, we are saved by the smaller boats, those waiting for us.”

Salvation, however, was not within reach of third-class.

First and second-class passengers could easily access the boat deck directly from their set of stairs, where lifeboats were lowered, half-full, with women and children. It was dicey math when dealing with a mere twenty boats to shepherd over two thousand souls.

Catharina’s father was accustomed to the dangers of the open sea. Harvesting sponges was a hazardous profession, one meant for only the most accomplished diver, but this wasn’t a simple matter of holding one’s breath. The sea temperature was 28 degrees Fahrenheit, cold enough to  steal away their warmth, and with it, their lives, in under fifteen minutes.

The frigid sea seeped through the seams and raced down the hallway, snapping at their heels. Catharina’s eyes widened with alarm. She hastily scribbled, Ik ben bang, on her board.

I’m afraid.

Jean hugged her fiercely, the metal of her medallion pressing into his ribs. He pulled back and kissed her brow. With gentle hands, he reached for her necklace, a token of another time, a gift for his pregnant wife, Rosalie, upon his return home to Belgium.

In the year 1900, Jean was diving off the coast of the Greek island, Antikythera, when his friend, Ilias, rose to the surface holding a severed arm. It was this remnant of corroded bronze that led to one of mankind’s greatest discoveries.

The Antikythera Mechanism.

The spirit of adventure led Jean to follow Ilias to the ocean floor, where he pushed the limits of his lungs to reach the scattered bones of an ancient ship. It was there, half buried beneath a layer of sand, that he found a rare and beautiful relic.

The Apeiron. A key unlike any other, for it unlocked the unlimited power of the stars.

The charm had captured Catharina’s imagination since she was a babe in her mother’s lap, and was passed on to her when she turned ten. It was all she ever wanted, and in truth, it was all they had to give their cherished only child.

Uw charme houdt u veilig,” he reminded her with a confident smile.

“Your charm keeps you safe.”

But I knew the terrible truth. What coiled like a noose around her neck was no lucky trinket. It was a death sentence.

© 2018 Samantha Redstreake Geary

Inspiring Soundtrack

 

Architects of Illusion_Chapter One_The Titan’s Trap

Join me on a journey through the first chapter of Architects of Illusion, a young adult historical fantasy series inspired by the land and legacy of Biltmore Estate, where Greek mythology meets The Book Thief and Fantastic Beasts!  Look for Part Two on Friday, June 15th.

The Titan’s Trap

April 14, 1912
North Atlantic Ocean

A quiet danger slithered beneath the surface of the midnight sea. For nearly four nights the creature stalked its prey, watching, waiting, until the manmade metal beast had traveled deep into the wild depths, far from the salvation of any shore.          

In truth, the ship was doomed the moment its bow kissed the tide.

I would know. I was there.

The maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic was history in the making. Considering I am History, I felt I should attend.

The creators of the Titanic did indeed make their mark in the history books, but not for the reasons they had hoped. The records of history, however, rarely reveal the entire story. They are a blend of truth and illusion, created by architects who honor but one grand design.

Their own.

Those who study and document the events of human affairs never consult me directly. If they had, the actual account of the Royal Mail Ship’s fate would have taken a far darker turn.

Beneath the passengers’ false sense of safety stirred a malevolent force found only in the pages of their storybooks. In these stories, a wicked beast is defeated by the heroism of humans. But this was no fairytale. In the real world, it’s the monsters who win.

This particular monster was a cetus, a giant sea serpent called, Menkar. His serpentine body was covered in impenetrable silver scales that stretched over a hundred feet in length and weighed nearly two hundred tons. His flexible neck supported a spike-covered skull that narrowed into jaws lined with rows of bone daggers, ending in a piercing beak. Cetea were the largest, most fearsome predators of the deep. If their frightful appearance wasn’t enough to give one nightmares, their breath of deadly ice would do the trick.

It was Poseidon who sent Menkar to retrieve an ancient talisman rumored to be on board. A dangerous and powerful key—that is what led to the Titanic’s demise.  

Menkar circled the belly of the ship, sniffing its seams for signs of weakness. He believed every hull built by human hands was one fatal flaw away from being breached. The iron bones and steel skin of the Titanic were no exception. Its rivets failed to fasten the metal plates of the brittle hull. The walls of the presumed watertight compartments never reached the ceiling, allowing the sea to flow from one room to the next with ease. The ship, I’m sorry to say, would not have withstood a hurricane, much less a monster who spent millennia digging graves for Poseidon.

Mortals believed the sea was theirs to conquer, no matter the centuries of storms and shipwrecks that swallowed their flesh and spit their bones upon the sand. But the sea never bent to their will, for it cannot be bound with ropes of greed, nor stilled by anchors of ambition. It was a restless and savage beauty with a hunger for arrogance.

That dark night, hubris took the shape of a ship named after a Titan, insulting the temperamental god of the sea. Humans watched the waves cower at their titan’s feet like subjects worshipping a queen. They celebrated their accomplishment before the paint on their pretentious deity was dry.

History was lined with the deaths of ignorant men.

And ignorance, I’ve found, too often repeats itself.

Sea serpents were eager to remind humans of their proper place. Though depicted as a ravenous villain, Menkar found humans to be highly unappetizing creatures with an unsavory aftertaste. He much preferred the familiar tang of aquatic life over detestable land dwellers. He did, however, relish the art of sinking the vexing souls, simply out of principle.

Menkar wasn’t born a bloodthirsty beast. It was the weight of loss that shifted him into something sinister.

A fierce guardian of a dying breed, Menkar was a formidable foe for man and immortal alike. He bore the marks of infinite battles, but the greatest scar remained unseen, carved deeper than bone, from a tragic turn of the Ethiopian tide.

Millenia ago, Menkar’s mate, Mira, was sent to punish a proud queen who had offended Poseidon. A task that led, not to the queen’s demise, but to her own. Mira’s death became legend. The cetus who fell under the sword of Perseus.

I have seen the devastating power of loss. It sharpen one’s shape until there’s nothing left but barbed edges.

Menkar’s thirst for vengeance could never be sated. It mattered little that his victims were innocent of the crimes committed in the past. He was blinded by one of the greatest monsters of all.

Hatred.     

And so, with a heavy armor of hate, Menkar slipped through the salt, his breath leaving a trail of shards winking in his wake. He passed the nose of the ship, sparing one final glance at his prey, and darted into the distance.

With a wicked yawn, Menkar’s magical breath stretched and curled until if formed a solid mountain of unforgiving ice.

The trap was set.

© 2018 Samantha Redstreake Geary

Inspiring Soundtrack

 

The Bridge Between Lost and Found

Welcome to “The Bridge Between Lost and Found”, starring the winners of our commenting contest, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Crystal Collier, Yolanda Renee, Lisa Shambrook, C. Lee McKenzie, Roland Yeomans, Djinnia (Mandy), Denise Covey, Michelle Wallace, Arlee Bird and Mikkel Heimbürger. 

Colossal Trailer Music – Headless Body in Topless Bar – Snow Angels – Benjamin Zecker

In a sleepy little town nuzzled in the North Carolina mountains, down a yawning stretch of tree-lined gravel, leaning precariously over the embrace of two rushing rivers, was a peculiar place where lost things went to be found…

It was rumored that the rivers themselves reunited the patrons of Mik’s ‘Lost and Found Bar & Grill’ with what they sought. The legend, birthed around a twenty-first century campfire, ran through the waters into the gullible ears of those caught in its currents. It was a tragic tale of a young schoolteacher who was fatally afflicted, and the damaged soldier who loved her. The boy, determined to discover a way to save her, had stumbled upon a hidden shelter where they could live their remaining days in peace. She was to meet him on the bridge beneath the full snow moon. Sheets of ice had coated the planks, and the waters below grew restless. Before he could reach her, his traitorous leg buckled, sending him into the foaming mouth of a waterfall that swallowed him whole. The bridge bore the weight of the girl’s spirit ever since, her fiery hair seen trailing in phantom winds as she mourned the love she had lost that fateful fourteenth of February.   

Colossal Trailer Music – Headless Body in Topless Bar – Chaplin Walking – Oli Jogvansson

The locals suspected the sorcery was more likely in Arlee’s white bean chili. A spry chef with an enviable mustache and a mean bottle of moonshine, Arlee safeguarded his recipes as if they were the culinary equivalent to the holy grail.

Mik, the playful proprietor with a penchant for fixing things, and his wife, Yolanda, an amiable force with a fondness for matchmaking, welcomed customers every day of the year for nearly nine decades without divulging a single secret. But that did little to deter anyone within a hundred mile radius from lining up at their door. Valentine’s Day became especially popular, as folks were eager to feed upon riverside favorites that came with a side of spooky star-crossed love.

Colossal Trailer Music – Headless Body in Topless Bar – Skeletons Dance – Claudie Mackula

There was no sense in asking their staff, of course, for they were even more eccentric than their employers. For starters, their busboy refused to wear a shirt. Unsuspecting diners would get an earful of fire prevention tips while Roland, tall and topless, cleared nearby tables.

The waitresses, Michelle and Mandy, were a pair of charming identical twin teens who were reportedly adopted by the owners back in 2066, and refused to grow up. Mandy continuously serenaded customers with random song lyrics, while Michelle broke into dance routines at irregular intervals to the delight of the dinner crowd. During the lunch hour, the resident poet laureate, Lisa, would deliver a passionate helping of lyrical prose whether they ordered it or not. Breakfast was often a dicey affair when Denise served up sweet potato pancakes with stinging psych evaluations. Diners either had a breakthrough by the time they finished their hash browns, or they left with a doggy bag of egg salad and shame.

Their cashier, Lee, was also a bit bizarre. She shared heated opinions regarding one’s dietary decisions, often leaving patrons with a customized health plan highlighted beside their bill if they consumed anything deep fried.

Colossal Trailer Music – Headless Body in Topless Bar – Hansel and Pretzel – Snorre Tidemand

But the most curious character of them all was Crystal. A striking, red-headed girl who, despite the sixty years spent hostessing, never looked a day over twenty. A wealth of knowledge, she knew even the most obscure historical details. And there was the small matter of her head tilting at odd angles.

The public was more than willing to overlook any peculiarities the minute their food arrived.  

“How many?” Crystal asked, marking off names in the holoscreen.

“Two,” a boy squeaked.

“Some crazy bloke is on the bridge,” a voice snickered from the doorway.  

Her fingers froze in midair. She squinted out the window and shook her head. It wasn’t safe on the bridge this time of year. She knew better than most. She brushed past the line of bundled customers and stepped into the bitter cold that clouded their breaths.  

“Hello?” she called out. The vexing wind whipped around her head, tempting it loose. “The bridge is closed!” she warned, though truthfully, she made a habit of strolling across it every night. 

The man came closer, something about his gait seemed…familiar. He stepped off the bridge with a lopsided smile.

Colossal Trailer Music – Headless Body in Topless Bar – Moon Spell – Alexandros Nikolaidis

“Alex!?” she shouted, darting towards him, hope surging through her, but the momentum caught her head off guard. It toppled from her shoulders onto the snow, where it rolled across the space between them and landed at his feet. 

He bent down and gingerly picked up her head, carried it back to her empty shoulders, and secured it as best he could, considering.

“I see you’re still head over heels for me.”

Crystal wrapped her arms around him. “How…how are you…here?”

“Some kids found me a few months ago while they were camping. Took them awhile to restore my basic functions. After sixty years stuck under a rock, it was no easy task,” he whispered into her hair. “I’m relieved to see you’re safe.”

“It’s everything you said it would be.” She leaned into him.

Alex held her face between his hands. “So they’re not quick to disassemble you for having a screw loose?” he asked with a grin.

“They encourage it,” she smiled. “And there’s more of us, Alex. From all over the country. Entertainers, a nurse and psychologist, a literature professor, even a fireman. All of them damaged…like us.”

“Damaged or not, you’re worth more than a hundred new droids.” Alex reached into his pocket and pulled out a small metal object. “I was planning on giving you this gift before I went for a swim.” He placed the object in her hand.

It was a replacement titanium screw for her head. Something impossible to find in a world that considered her obsolete. In that moment, she felt the power of connection. Of acceptance. Of love. And for the first time in her existence, she understood why humans celebrated it.

© 2016 Samantha Redstreake Geary 

996 words


 Music Contest

Share your thoughts on our bizarre Tim Burton-inspired love story and Danny Elfmanesque music in the comments section below by February 24th for a chance to WIN a digital copy of Colossal’s enchanting album, Headless Body in Topless Bar!

Congrats to our album winners and many thanks to our composers, writerly cohorts and readers for joining our quirky adventure!

 Winners

Roland Yeomans
Crystal Hicken Collier
Denise Covey

A Blind Eye

WEP HalloweenI’ve joined forces with Sub Pub Music and artist, Jenny Vyas to create a creepy atmospheric journey through a classic childhood tale gone horribly awry (a story that spooked the pjs off me as a kid) for Yolanda Renee & Denise Covey’s fearful WEP Halloween challenge! Knock on our virtual door October 21st – 23rd, wager which fairytale we’ve twisted and you’ll walk away with a digital copy of Sub Pub Music’s latest haunting album, Cryogenesis, featuring dark & daring composers Mikkel Heimburger, Cody Still, Nick Road, Ciaran Birch, and Martin Hasseldam. Those who stray from the correct path may be detained indefinitely within the confines of our cryo chamber *cue evil laugh*.


SHUTTER by Jenny Vyas

Sub Pub Music – Cryogenesis – Cryogenesis – Cody Still

Mist, silent and sinister, spills through the chamber’s silver veins. A silent thief come to steal the warmth from our bones. It licks at our legs, hungry for heat. It slips past our lips, stripping our lungs of breath and smothering our screams…

“I see our mysterious guest has successfully thawed,” called a cheerful voice beside us. Memories scattered in the wake of a woman wrapped in a gleaming white gown. A haze of spun sugar clung to her shining flaxen waves.

We winced as her chair screeched a complaint against the stone floor. Our skin, wrapped in a warming sheet, shivered beneath a phantom blanket of ice.

Tegrel stirred.     

“Where are we?”

“Somewhere safe,” the woman smiled. She folded her arms atop the metal table that stretched between us. “I understand you’re a bit, foggy. An unavoidable side effect, I’m afraid. I do hope my inquiry won’t be too tortuous,” she purred, tilting her head with feigned concern. “I was alerted the instant your status improved. I wanted to handle your case, personally. I’ve no doubt our little chat shall be far more interesting than this evening’s stale corporate affair,” she winked. “Now then, let’s start with your name.”

We stared at the woman whose sweet scent and syrupy words oozed with something sinister. We tightened our grip on the pulsing fabric, its label catching on our fingers.

KRYOS Pharmaceuticals

ASCENT by Jenny Vyas

Sub Pub Music – Cryogenesis – Oscillation – Ciaran Birch

“KRYOS is growing desperate. Animal trials have failed,” father whispers to mother across the candlelit table. “The Pestis has infiltrated the world’s population. Humanity is a hair’s breadth away from extinction.”

“We were doomed the moment Monsainto gained control over the global food supply,” mother says, her fingers absently brushing the angry blemish along her collarbone, courtesy of the corporation’s more nefarious animal subjects. Our scars run deeper than most.   

The Pestis was rooted in the GM toxins that polluted the most vital elements to our survival. Our food. The regrettable, long-term, unintended side effect? A catastrophic inability to reproduce.

“KRYOS isn’t the solution,” mother squeezes his hand. “They’re nothing but a cannibalistic corporation eager to claim their share of the spoils. It’s up to us to turn the tide.”

Our lips curled with contempt.

“Who are you?” we demanded, dropping the offending blanket.

“Someone who needs answers.” She clenched her jaw. “Your undocumented cryopreservation is terribly troubling. KRYOS prides itself on following proper protocol. Why, one tiny slip on our side of things, and, well,” she leaned forward as if sharing a secret, “the consequences would be…severe.”

UNHINGED by Jenny Vyas

Sub Pub Music – Cryogenesis – Shield of Fate – Nick road

“That damnable woman!” father shouts. “Dr. Syngenta’s expedited testing of her vaccine. On children, no less,” he swallows back the horror. “I traced the unregistered KRYOS chambers to Monsainto’s classified facility in Creve Coeur. The woods bordering the lake are restricted to high-level corporate personnel. I won’t have access. We need someone on the inside. A child.”

Mother pulls her hand away, “No,” she says, shaking her head vehemently. “Shalen’s not ready. Tegler is too unpredictable! It’s too danger–”

“We don’t have a choice,” father cries.

“Imagine my surprise when a prohibited child popsicle conveniently turns up in one of my chambers during a witchhunt,” the woman seethed, her breath a cloying vine of venom. “Property that was to be disposed of after a rather distressing incident.”   

Tegrel bristled.

“We’re not your property!”

She rose from her chair, a glint of menace flashing in her crimson glare. “Oh, but you are. You and your gloriously untainted blood.”

F A C A D E

FACADE by Jenny Vyas

Father wraps his arms around us. “I’ve run dozens of blood tests. There’s no sign of Pestis. You’re safe.”

“What about Tegrel?” we whisper into his coat of wool and woodsmoke.

His embrace tightens. “Tegrel will protect you from the real monsters in this world.”

“Delightful news!” The woman beamed. “Your blood, my dear, may hold the key to our elusive cure,” she rubbed her palms together. “Available at an absorbent consumer cost, of course.”

BURROWS by Jenny Vyas

Sub Pub Music – Cryogenesis – Sentenced to death – Martin Hasseldam

“I’m not feeling particularly welcoming, Dr. Wood,” the blonde woman hisses, her gun wavering in the space between fire and flesh. “I assume you left a damaging trail for the authorities,” she spat. “No matter. Nothing an unfortunate forest fire can’t fix.”

A massive wolflike creature leaps from the corner, it’s snarling snout dripping with savage fury.

“Dorothea, NO!” Father shouts.

With a piercing howl, the beast tackles the wicked woman to the ground, jagged jaws tearing through blood and bone, until a flash of blue fire finds its mark in the heart of our mother.

Our eyes land on the spidery scars. Ragged and raised, they crept down the woman’s neck and crawled beneath her clean, white gown.

Vengeance, eager and persuasive, slithered through the seams of our thoughts. 

LET ME IN by Jenny Vyas

Sub Pub Music – Cryogenesis – we are all aliens – Mikkel Heimburger

Tegrel pushes past me with a guttural growl. Father spies us in the shadows of the cryo room. He shakes his head, wide eyes begging us to stay hidden. We hesitate a heartbeat too long. A corporate guard seizes our arms and tosses us into the nearest chamber. The steel mouth slams shut and swallows us whole. We throw ourselves against the glass, crying out for father, but he cannot come. He’s pinned to the ground, battered and broken and still…

“It hasn’t escaped my notice, your mention of others. I’m sure your siblings are worried sick. We should find them, don’t you think?” she asked, eyes glowing with greed. Another unsullied urchin would raise her profit margin through the roof.

“Tegrel stays close. He watches over us.”

“What a brave brother you have. There’s all manner of monsters lurking about. You’re both better off under my protection,” she nodded with approval, turning on her heels to head for the door. “I’ll notify my guards to collect him.”

“But he’s here,” we taunted. “In this room.”

The woman, creator of orphans, scavenger of souls, spun around, her triumphant smile slipping into a scowl. “What are you playing at?” she challenged.

Beneath the table, our fingers shifted into claws.

We leaned forward and whispered, “Tegrel protects us from monsters.”

© Samantha Redstreake Geary 2015

Word Count: 1000


Cryogenesis_cover


RUNNER UP BADGEHALLOWEENAlbum Winner!

Congrats to Djinnia for being the first to guess the origins of this tale: ‘Shalen and Tegler‘ are indeed ‘Hansel and Gretel‘! Many thanks to the WEP gang for joining our journey to the darkside!

 

 

Realms Faire_Cody Still: Into Oblivion_FINAL CHAPTER

 Cody Still BannerBanner design by Koke Núñez Gómez

Into Oblivion

Our Realms Faire journey ‘Into Oblivion’ ends today with Chapter 5. Join us for a serial adventure inspired by the music of composer, Cody Still. Listen to the featured album selections and choose the correct track that sparked each chapter and you’re entered to WIN 2 digital albums by Sub Pub Music!

 BONUS challenge: Which classic fairy tale inspired ‘Into Oblivion’? Enter for the chance to WIN signed album art!

▶ Submit your track selection for each chapter in the comments section below! 5 chances to enter. One entry per person/per chapter. Open internationally.

▶ The commenting window for all chapters will remain open until Monday, Nov. 17th, midnight EST!

▶ Winners will be announced on November 18th. Three winners will be randomly selected to receive digital albums, Ununpentium and Involution.


Chapter 5
Inspired by
by Samantha Redstreake Geary

The suspended image sunk back into the recesses of Cody’s contraption, snapping Leonardo from  his stargazing daze. “I wish to make my mark on the stars…having been in their midst, for but a moment, has shown me it is possible.”

“With knowledge, everything is possible,” Cody offered.

“We must bring this…this marvel of science before the Duke at once,” Leonardo commanded. Snatching the open notebook from his desk, Leonardo tossed it to Cody and urged him through the door.

Read the rest of the FINAL CHAPTER, listen to the music, and wager a guess, HERE!



Realms Faire BadgeWelcome to Realms Faire, an annual event hosted by Dimensions in Fiction author, M. Pax. The virtual festival kicks off November 10th, featuring several themed events where fans can play to win some amazing prizes, including books, albums, giftcards, and more! Visit the links below and help spread the word! #grogz

VelociRaffle ~ Joust ~ Drench-a-Wench/Soak-a-Bloke ~ Stockade Brigade ~ Dueling Bards ~ Phasers ~ Wisdom of the Creative Realms ~ Dragon Hunt ~ Riddle Me This