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An anthology published by Soft Whispers Magazine
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Served Cold by Laura Eno.........................................................................4
What the Knows, It Cannot Tell by Tony Noland....................................7
Lucky Charms by Neil Shurley.................................................................9
The Curse of the Little Green Hybrid by Maria Kelly.............................10
Moira of St. Brenna’s Land by Ronda Laveen .........................................16
THE PIT by Eric J. Krause........................................................................18
Coins n’ Laughter by Jim Wisneski ..........................................................21
Kim set the phone back down on its cradle, her mind in a daze.
"What's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost." Steven watched her with a worried expression on his face. "That was a Mr. Walsley from some law firm in Dublin. He said my Aunt Claire passed away a few months ago and left her estate to me." "You have, er, had an aunt in Ireland? You never mentioned her." Kim sighed and sat down on the sofa before her legs gave out. "Mom and Dad moved to the United States before I was born. Apparently, Mom and her sister didn't get along. I never found out much about my aunt; my parents never talked about her." "So what did this lawyer say?" "What? Oh, that the estate included a house and he's sending plane tickets so that we can see it and make arrangements about what to do with it. I guess that I'm her only living relative." "We own a house in Ireland." Steve had a faraway look on his face. "Whoa," Kim said with a laugh. "I know that with our jobs we could easily move there, but it might be a shack with sheep running through it. Let's not pack our bags until we've seen it, okay?" "You're right." Steve gave her a hug, a wide smile on his face. "I wonder if we'll see any leprechauns?" *** The plane tickets arrived three days later. They were for a one-way trip. "I guess Mr. Walsley assumes we'll be staying?" Kim found that a bit annoying but they could afford to pay their own way back so it wasn't a big deal. Steve was excited, like a little boy surrounded by presents, so she didn't want to spoil the mood. Mom and Dad had told her that someday they'd take her to see Ireland but it never happened. They'd died in a car crash five years ago, when Kim was twenty.
Still, it would be fun to visit the country of her parents' birth, explore the region with Steve and perhaps learn more about her roots. *** Kim stumbled out of the law firm, her head spinning. Steve's arm about her waist was the only thing that kept her from falling. He leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I guess you have the luck of the Irish after all. You're a wealthy woman now. Does that make me a kept man?" His teasing tone was meant to bring a smile to her face, but instead she felt icy fingers skitter down her spine. "I'll drop you off at your new home and have your rental car sent around later." Mr. Walsley's soft brogue soothed Kim's nerves somewhat. His voice sounded like her father. There was a certain comfort in that. Her second shock came as they drove up the tree-lined driveway. An elegant stone house sat amongst a wild growth of flowering plants that Kim couldn't put a name to. "It's beautiful." Her throat constricted with emotion. Kim felt the pull that said 'home' as she gazed at it. "I wonder why your parents never brought you back here?" Steve seemed awestruck as well, his voice hardly more than a whisper. "It's a beauty," Mr. Walsley said. "Been in your family for 400 years. Bit of a history to it as well." "Oh?" Steve said. "There I go, running me mouth again. You'll discover it on your own." With that, he pulled their bags out of the trunk and handed Kim the keys with a flourish. Seconds later, he drove away. Steve bounded through the door in excitement as soon as the stubborn lock opened. "This place is awesome. Not a sheep in sight, either." He winked at Kim, his enthusiasm infecting her. She spotted a large envelope on the table in the entry, her name written in large, bold strokes. The writing looked much like her mother's had. Could it be from her aunt? Steve noticed it too, or perhaps the look on her face gave it away.
"Why don't you go sit down and read. Maybe it will answer some of your questions. I'm going to go walk around the grounds for awhile." He kissed her forehead and left out the front door. Kim picked up the envelope with shaking hands and walked into the sitting room, barely noticing the pleasant surroundings. She pulled the sheaths of paper out and began to read. To my niece Kimberly, As I'm sure that your parents never gave you a proper education about your heritage, let me do so now. This house is cursed. As curses go, it's not so bad. In 1610, our ancestor made a promise to one of the fae, no doubt to save his own miserable life. He promised that the firstborn of each generation would live here for the next four hundred years and tend to the special plants that surround this house. After my sister stole my betrothed from me, she convinced him to move to America, hoping to negate the curse for any children they might have – which would be you. Fae magic doesn't work that way. I am happy that things turned out the way they did; revenge is a dish best served cold. My only regret is that your parents did not survive to witness it. You see, at the end of the four hundred years, this house and all family members revert to the property of the fae. Kim set the letter down, trying to grasp all of it. Her mind swirled with images of betrayal and hatred. A scream split the silence outside, stuttering to a groan before the wind washed it away. Kim ran to the door, yelling Steve's name. The door refused to open. A low laugh came from somewhere behind her, building into a roar that caused Kim to fall to her knees. She heard the words "Time's up" before darkness descended.
BIO: Laura Eno has a pet from the Underworld named Jezebel and a skull called Mr Fluffy who helps her write late at night. Various online publications include 10Flash, Everyday Weirdness, The New Flesh, Flashes in the Dark, Soft Whispers, House of Horror. To learn more about Laura, please visit http://lauraeno.blogspot.com
What The Wind Knows, It Cannot Tell
by Tony Noland
"No, nothing." Forensics would take another hour or two to finish up, but McCarthy had a feeling they wouldn't find anything else. The diary - better call it a journal, actually, since only chicks kept diaries - wasn't going to be much help. The shooter was one screwed up dude. Not really wanting to, he flipped to a random page of the journal. It was all one unbroken mass of words, a scrawl that went on and on in thick pencil, pressed so heavily that it almost tore the paper in places. since in fact, you will be forever branded an unfocused outcast from the secret brotherhood of first-rate people (even though you were never given the password or taught the secret handshake in the first place) and you’ll have to go back to spending your days selling dishwashers at Sears and spend your nights drinking shitty beer at noisy bars watching football teams you don’t care about with people you don’t like until you’re a pockmarked, smelly, boring old loser, alone and sexless for years and years and years and your death of your fourth heart attack well before the age of average life expectancy will come as a complete shock to you because you still thought you had time to make something of yourself, a thought that hits you in the chest and squeezes out of you what would have been your last pathetic breath because you finally, finally realize that you let other people dictate what you were going to do with your life and they, because they had no particular stake in the matter, were perfectly happy to spout shitty advice that cost them nothing to give but cost you everything to accept especially when He closed the book and called out again to Willis. "Anything?" "No, not in the last five frickin' minutes. Quit asking me that. If I find anything, I'll say so." "Calm down, I was just askin'." "Well, don't. You got someplace better to be? Too bad. Go check the bedroom again." The bedroom was where McCarthy had found the journal. He said, "I'm going out for a smoke."
Before Willis could say anything, McCarthy went down the hall to the kitchen. The back door of the apartment let out onto a wooden stair. He stood on the landing, and looked down through the rain onto the alley, four floors below. The rear courtyard was ringed with nine foot chain link fence, razor wire on top; the gate stood open, bent inward on its hinges. A long time ago, too, from the looks of the weeds growing through it. His smokes were damp. Everything was damp. He hated this kind of miserable, freezing rain. It took three tries to light up. Putting the pack away, he brushed the journal again, took it out. Out here on the porch, the book fell open, pages opening with the dampness. The last few pages were blank. McCarthy went to close it up, and saw the endpaper separate away from the back cover, the glue failing in the damp. He gently peeled it back. Pressed underneath it was a four-leaf clover, dried and cracked. In a heavy, penciled scrawl, written on the underside of the endpaper were the words SAVE FOR A RAINY DAY. McCarthy shook it onto the palm of his hand, watched it curl as the damp soaked into the pieces of leaf. He snorted. If the stupid bastard thought he had a wish saved up, he should have used to get a better life. One thought led to another, and McCarthy, four-leaf clover in hand and without really meaning to, wished for the first thing that came into his mind. And the rain turned into snow.
BIO: Tony Noland is a writer and blogger in Philadelphia, PA. His science-fiction short story, "Eight Maids a'Milking" appeared in the "12 Days -2009" anthology edited by Jim Wisneski. His sci-fi/horror teleplay, "The Bloodstained Lips", is in pre-production at Omega Road Chronicles. In 2010, Tony will be part of a team of co-editors for the anthology "Best of FridayFlash - 2009", working with senior editor Jon Strother. Tony is active on Twitter as @TonyNoland; his writing blog is http://www.TonyNoland.com.
“You can take the end of that rainbow and shove it up your arse,” the little green
bastard said. Not what I was expecting. I mean, I’d followed the instructions, handed down from time immemorial, and now I wanted my pot of freakin’ gold. How hard was it supposed to be? Fortunately, I like to be prepared. So I pulled out my .45. “I didn’t want it to have to be this way,” I said. “I always thought it was a natural thing. You find the guy, he gives you the gold. But if you’re going to be difficult about this, well, I can be difficult, too.” “Oh, whoop de do,” he said, rolling his eyes. “A gun. I’m a bloody leprechaun. You really think bullets will have any effect on me?” He stuck out his tongue and did a stupid little dance. “Listen,” I said, “I don’t want to cause trouble, I just want what’s coming to me. I got a lot of heat on me right now, and I really need the money. So just hand it over.” “Go screw yourself.” “How about this,” I said. “I’m a reasonable guy. We can split it. I’ll take, you know, half.” He stared at me. “60-40?” He turned, dropped his pants and mooned me. “Fine,” I said. Then I shot the little bastard in the head. Huh. Whaddaya know. Leprechauns have green blood.
BIO: Neil Shurley is a writer, actor, musician and nerd. His fiction has appeared in Rosebud Magazine and Suspension. You can find out more than you'd want to know about him at neilshurley.com. He posts short stories and various proofs of his nerdiness at thatneilguy.blogspot.com
The Curse of the Little Green Hybrid
My family lived on the hill behind the O'Riley farm (if you can call it that--a few
acres of inferior soil that was barely fit to grow potatoes in). We sort of looked out for their clan and my Da helped them when he could. He also helped himself to the attentions of Margaret O'Riley, the youngest girl. Their tryst caused quite a stir, for it wasn't often that our two races pitched woo. And so...I entered the scene. My name is Larry. I’m a leprechaun. Well, half-leprechaun, really. My uncle Morvay called me the "little green hybrid." There's a legend, nasty as badly-brewed poteen that a witch put a hex on the O'Riley family. An upstart of a young woman tried to curse the witch. So, the witch cursed her. She wrote it in goat's blood, on the side of the girl's hovel, and the words have never worn away. "The blood remains upon this wall That ye might be a curse to all Since you cursed me, with thy foul tongue Let then on all thine flesh be hung The power of death in all thine speech Wheresoever ye tongues may reach." The O'Riley's tried many times to remove it, even with fire, but to no avail. So the wall was avoided. When additions to the house were made, they were constructed around the wall. It was said that the old witch refuses to die, but remains ever close, watching her curse in action. I first saw evidence of the curse when I was a wee lad. Uncle Pat, came to our house drunk after a night of carousing, and became angry when Da refused to let him in.
"May the devil take ye, elfin bugger!" He pounded on the door. "And may ye shrivel up and die!" "Yer witch-curse won't do for me!" Da yelled. "It's a man's curse and on'y on a man will it do!" Da was right. Pat's curse rebounded. The next day, they found him in a ditch less than a mile from his house. It was difficult identifying him, though, desiccated as he was. Afterwards, I began to wonder. Would the curse manifest itself in me since I was only half O'Riley? Would my leprechaun blood protect me and keep me from making terrible oaths? Was being a "little green hybrid" a good thing? I wanted to know. About that time my Aunt Esmerelda moved in with us. God, she was old. Positively prehistoric! She crept up on me behind the house while I was trying to hex a snail. "Do ye love the curse so much that ye seek to destroy innocent creatures with it?" she snapped. I spun around, shocked by her sudden appearance. "No...Aunty, I..." "What, then?" Her dark, brooding eyes flared. "I wanted to see if the curse skipped me, because I'm half..." "Leprechaun?" she asked. I nodded. "Would ye be happy if it did?" I nodded again, "And relieved." She smiled; a hideous, toothless grin that split her face like an old scar. "If ye don't want the curse, mind yer tongue. Don't say words in anger. Or even in jest." "Have you ever been affected by the curse, Aunty?" "Only once," she said. I decided to try an innocent curse on a person. Not entirely innocent, because a curse by its very nature is bad.
For the target, I picked my mum. I watched her by the cook fire and thought: "Itch." Then: "Scratch," "Feel an itch," "May your skin prickle with the sudden urge to scratch yourself and then subside," and all other variations of "itch" and "scratch" that I could think of. Nothing happened. I felt relieved. When I turned around I saw Aunt Esmerelda in the corner, watching me. My face flushed hot and I fled the room, wondering if she knew what I'd been trying to do. But she couldn't read my mind. Could she? Some years later, Da passed and Mum was forced to turn the tenant farm over to her brother, Peter. She decided to immigrate to America, and I was going with her. So was Aunt Esmerelda. The voyage was dull, cramped, and cold. The Atlantic winds howled, but the ship rolled smoothly along the waves. There were other leprechauns on the vessel, though none of the non-Irish humans could see them because leprechauns have the gift of invisibility-at-will. I took up with an Irish lad named Devon and together we sneaked onto the first-class decks and peered out at the waves. "We're gonna make good time in this tailwind," Devon said. "Aye. If we don't get hammered by the sea and go down to the deeps." Devon shook his head. "Nah. T'is the best ship ever built, don't ye know?" "Bollocks! If she's a ship, she can go down and she probably will," I laughed. A sudden strong headwind whipped around as the breeze changed directions and a chill prickled the back of my neck. We turned to head back below to lower class and I saw her. Aunt Esmerelda, reclining in a lounge chair, was watching me scornfully with her hard, black eyes. By now you may have guessed. Our voyage abruptly ended in the wee hours of the morn, amid screaming and ice-cold, watery death. But I don't look that old, you say? Trust me, I am. The blasted leprechaun blood in my veins has kept me youthful beyond endurance. Or maybe it is that final curse. I’ll get to that later. Mum died that night. And Devon. And countless, innocent others. Esmerelda and I escaped on a lifeboat with as many of the Irish, human and leprechaun, that we could find. Some survivors would later complain that they saw boats adrift with few people in them. They probably couldn't see the leprechauns.
I sat shivering in the boat with my head bowed. Sometimes, I would look at Esmerelda. She bored holes into me with her black, knowing eyes and grinned in that awful way. Once we were aboard the Carpathia and counted among the living, I found the wireless op and sent a message to Peter, breaking the news about Mum and asking questions that I hoped wouldn't make him think I'd gone mad. We were living in a New York tenement when his return message reached me weeks later. He wrote of his sorrow at mum's death and confirmed my fears. I wasn't the first to suspect what I then knew to be true. Now that I've told this much, do you believe it? You haven't even heard the worst. I burned the wire from Uncle Peter and tried to wipe all references from my mind so she wouldn't discover my treachery. After thinking long and hard, I discovered how to end the curse. It was a way as horrible as the curse itself, but it was the only way the carnage could finally be brought to an end. So, I lit a candle one day after Esmerelda had gone shopping, and made the first of many horrible utterances. A few weeks later, word reached us that Uncle Peter and his wife had died of consumption and that many others in the O'Riley family were also stricken and were not long for the world. Esmerelda frowned when I read these letters to her, but said nothing. As for myself, I volunteered to help in the hospitals, caring for those suffering from tuberculosis and other dread diseases, like dysentery and influenza. Eventually, I received news that the last of my O'Riley kin had died in Ireland. The home was to be razed to plant corn. "Good luck," I said, putting down the letter. I meant it both about the razing and the corn. I hoped that both would be possible soon. "What are ye on about?" Esmerelda muttered. We were sitting at the kitchen table. "Nothing," I said. I coughed and put my hand to my mouth. A drop of blood appeared on my palm. I gazed at it and smiled. "I'm the last," I said. Esmerelda didn't say anything. "What happens to you when I die?" I asked her. "I'll die too," she replied. "At last." She smiled her toothless, evil grin.
"Why the devil are you smiling then, witch?!" "Because I'm cursed, too. Cursed to watch my own evil." She laid her hand on my arm. "Of them all, you're the only one had the guts to end it." I flinched, twisted out of her grasp. "I had to curse my own family to do it!" "Yes. And I'm sorry for it." I looked up at her in surprise. "You're sorry?" "When the obituaries started coming, I knew what you were doing. I could've saved you the trouble, but I didn't." "What do you mean?" "I removed the curse after the shipwreck. Those miserable souls; dying, screaming. It haunted me. I long for death now, and I'll die soon. But you don't have to." As she said this, she placed her bony hands over my chest, murmuring words in the old tongue. I felt the pain in my lungs disappear. My head began to spin and everything went black. When I came to, she was gone. "You expect me to believe that crap?" the youth said. He ran his greedy hands along my 32 inch HDTV. "You said you'd buy it for two, if I told you my story." "It's B.S.! You 'aint no half-breed leprechaun and you didn't sink the freaking Titanic. I'll give ya fifty bucks." I was down on my luck and soon to be evicted from my apartment if I didn't come up with some rent, which was why I was having the yard sale in the first place. I reluctantly accepted the fifty and helped the punk load the TV into the backseat of his convertible. "Nice car," I said, making small talk. "Is it new?" "Yeah..." He got into the drivers' seat. "It's a little green hybrid, just like you." He roared with laughter and slammed the door. "See ya around, Larry Leprechaun!" He drove away.
I watched the car speed down the street. "And may the road rise up to meet your greedy head." I started to turn away, then grimaced as I heard the distant clamor of screeching tires, shattering glass and fiberglass. The dawning horror overtook me that the curse, and its progenitor, still live. Remembering her final curse, I grew cold with terror. Somewhere she is watching...grinning. Forever, unless... I hurried to my apartment and took my sharpest knife with a trembling hand. I grasped my tongue between my fingers...
BIO: I live in Pinellas Park, Florida with my calico cat Missy and an odd assortment of books, with topics ranging from chaos theory and fractal geometry (that's ONE bookwhich I'm still trying to wrap my head around) to the Latin language (which I'm also still trying to wrap my head and tongue around) to mythology and religion. I'm currently enrolled in St. Petersburg College, seeking a general Associate in Arts degree that I can use to transfer to another institution (most likely the University of South Florida) where I will obtain my bachelor's degree in English (either Literature or Professional and Technical Writing minor). Someday, I'd like to achieve an MBA in Creative Writing.
Moira of St. Brennan's Land
My name is Molloy. Michael Molloy. I wouldn't say I’m good looking, but women
seem attracted to my Black Irish features. They're always telling me I look like bad boy actor, Collin Farrell. Being compared to him has only added to my reputation of being one of the campus studs. All I have to do is brush my dark hair back with my fingers, smolder them with my brown eyed gaze and women can't do enough for me. Life is good. This is my favorite day of the year, Saint Patrick's Day. Everyone’s dressed in crazy costumes, hats and beads. It’s the only day that it's socially acceptable to be drunk by 10 am. The chicks are out. The bars are full. The later it gets, the wilder it gets. I'm spending the night right here at Riley's Bar. They have the best parties and the hottest bar maids in town. Tonight, they’re all made up to look like fairies with their skin sprayed green, glittery, sequined wings and coochie short, petal shaped skirts. I spotted ‘her’ right off the bat. There was something special about the way she flitted in and around on feet as nimble as any River Dancer’s. She magically kept her tray, full of pitchers of green beer, safe from the elbows of the rowdy, jostling crowd. Slight, thin and cute, she was, with a tiny slip of a nose the color of fresh hulled peas. And fair, she was, with the shiniest copper hair I’d ever seen. Straight away, I was infatuated with the bounce of her breasts and the round of her rump as she bent setting down pitchers and mugs. Ordinarily, I would have been passed out drunk at closing time but, not tonight. Tonight I was on Mission Moira. That was the name on her tag, Moira. I gazed at her with my smoky eyes and asked if I could walk her home. Almost declining, she changed her mind and gave me the nod that said 'yes'. I nursed my pitcher until she was done. She’d grown up in St. Brennan’s Land, Ireland, she told me on the walk home, a backward and undeveloped territory. Her family had shipped her off to the states to get an education. They wanted her to have the advantages and knowledge of the modern world. Few young people stayed at St. Brennan’s these days--not much to keep them there. Like many small areas, the population was steadily dwindling. She was terribly lonely, she said, and missed them all so. When we came to her house, it was no surprise that this homesick girl asked me inside. I followed along in her sweet wake. My desire for her, I could not shake. With all of the excitement and beer from this night, my head was buzzing and I couldn’t think right. Nor left. But only of Moira from St. Brennan’s Land. Her bold eyes flashed lust and abandon my way. Moving close, lovely Moira, smiling, slipped one wee hand down my denim jeans. With her other, she led me into her bedroom. She put my love inside her as she slipped her silky panties to the floor. Quickly, we joined them there. Up and down. Down and up. Faster and faster, and then with a pop, it
was over as soon as it had started. I was surprised and embarrassed and quickly explained that, although I maybe many things, a selfish lover I was not. Miss Moira smiled brightly and kissed me, gently and fully, with flushed, plump lips all sugary and sticky. She assured me it was all right. She promised that more love would come later and now, because of this, I would last with her through the night. And so it was. She was right. Standing, she pushed back her hair, straightened her wings and pushed down her skirt. She asked me to come with her to the shower to clean off the sweat and sticky residue of our fire. She started the water. The hot spray, hissing against the cool spring air, made a mist like an Irish fog. Unpredictable Moira stepped in, fully dressed, and thus, I did follow. Wetly, we kissed. Wetly, we rubbed...one against the other. She peeled off my soaked-tothe-skin Levi’s. I slipped off her clinging, sheer white skirt. She passed me the loofah and turned so I could wash her back. Her lips curved into a sly half smile as I tried to take off her wings. They wouldn't budge. They were completely attached. I amused her further by scrubbing, intently, the green paint on her skin that would not come off. I started to panic. I was out of my comfort zone and not used to making love to green, winged fairies. For truly, Moira was not like the other girls, but what the heck, thought I, it's a night not to waste. I pulled her to me as I leaned against stall. She reached out and turned the water on full blast. More water, more water, and more water rained down. Swallowing us in its great rushing torrents. Together, we clung, like two drowning rats, to a log in a great big flood. Churning and swirling it took us. It carried us to...I don't know where. This can't be happening, I thought...oh, but it was. Then silence. Then stillness. Then darkness. I awakened to a tinkling of bells. How long I had been out, I hadn't a clue. We'd been transported to an ancient world, dark and heavy, where old ways were not forgotten. Where old tongues were spoken. A place of magic and spells and a folk who steal men for their seed. And bring them to St. Brennan's Land to keep their green-skinned race alive and known to the age of man. A place that smells sickeningly sweet of new growth, fresh-scythed, and peppered with mud and dung. A world, I soon found out, from which I would never leave. The man starved Moira said I would be taken out and exercised regularly but, otherwise kept in this black, putrid pit. A breeder. A stud, to be used like a piece of meat. A joint gnawed down to the bone. Then, beaten and battered with a rock, broken to bits and the marrow sucked out. There would be times, she said, when we would lay together in the warm sunlight on a coarsely woven blanket. My head nestled in her hair smelling of apples and sweet brier and light rain. We would feast on peas and beans and heavy breads and mutton. And share a cup of elderflower tea. It was funny, in an ironic sort of way, how life works out. I would forever be the stud I'd always considered myself. BIO: My name is Ronda Laveen. I was born. I will die. And in between, I'll do a lot of things. This story is one of those things. 17
Eric J. Krause
Three days of terror, hunger, loneliness, and boredom. All because of bad, blind luck. A missed step and he found himself down in this pit in the middle of nowhere. Who the hell had dug it? They'd done a piss-poor job of hiding it, and he only fell because he'd been distracted. The pit had been meant as a trap, that much he'd deduced. The sides had been dug in this hard dirt and rock and had been treated to make hand and footholds impossible. It wasn't cement, but he guessed it'd been sprayed with some sort of chemical. Hell, for all he knew, the stiff walls were natural. Sitting at the bottom of a fifteen-foot pit, nursing a probable sprained ankle, he'd had plenty of time to mull it over. At least he didn't have to worry about thirst. It rained daily, sometimes real downpours that soaked him to the bone. Though the water drained quickly, a trough-like trench in the middle held plenty of fresh water. Maybe whoever dug it had constructed it that way. Or maybe it was just a happy little accident. Since there was nothing to eat, water was all he had. Not that there weren't options, if you considered worms, bugs, mold, and whatever the hell else was growing in various cracks and crevices food. So far he didn't, though sitting there, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, he couldn't help but think about it. "Why me?" he yelled, just to hear his own voice. "Why me?" Three days ago had started out like any other. Alarm off at seven, out the door for work at eight, and knee deep in paperwork by nine. Just like any weekday morning. At ten, he left his desk for a quick bathroom break, and that's where it all turned. Instead of returning to his desk, he left the building for no reason he could figure. He was happy with his job, with his life in general, but he still left and hopped into his car. Back in the bottom of the pit, a beetle scuttled across the ground next to him. He almost reached out, snatched it up, and stuffed it into his mouth. He didn't. Not yet. Someone would come. They had to. He drove with no destination in mind. His cell phone rang, and he tossed it out the window. He screamed when it shattered on the pavement, frustration setting in on the inability to explain his own behavior. Mile upon mile stacked up across unfamiliar territory. He didn't know the way back, but he kept going. He bent down to drink from his trough and found a worm floating in it. He thought about slurping it up, gagged at the thought, then flung it out of the water and retched. 18
Bile came up, and his stomach knotted. What he wouldn't give for just a thimble-full of soda to knock the horrid taste out of his mouth and calm his stomach. He parked in an empty field that looked to have been deserted for years. He needed to be here. Or, more appropriately, he needed to be on the other side of the desolate field. He abandoned his car, but pocketed the keys. Maybe he'd be back, maybe he wouldn't. A row of trees, about three or four hundred yards away, called to him. He strode towards them at an even pace, his mind blank. Those trees in the distance were all that remained. About three-quarters of the way there, he found the pit. The taste of the puked-up bile lay heavy on his tongue. He gulped down handfuls of water, puked it up, then dunked his head and drank until he exhausted his supply. It had yet to rain today, but the gathering clouds promised it was just a matter of time. He could wait. Plus, the temptation of popping something into his mouth was gone. No way would he eat a bug or mold without a water chaser. He took a deep breath, looked up, and yelped in surprise. A small man, no more than a foot tall, stood at the mouth of the pit. "Another one searching for my gold, I see." He didn't know how to respond, so he stared. The little man, who had short brown hair and a long goatee, wore blue jeans and a plain white tee-shirt, complete with a breast pocket. From that pocket, he pulled out a pack of tiny cigarettes. He fished one out and put it in his mouth. A flame flared from his thumb to light his smoke. "I'd offer you one," the little man said, "but they're too small to do you any good. And what the hell are you staring at? If you're chasing my gold, you know about me." "I don't know what gold you're talking about. Who are you?" His voice felt weak, strained. "Yeah right, pal," the little man said. "You plead ignorance, and I set you free. Then I'm out a pot of gold that took decades to build up. Nice try." He shook his head. The cobwebs didn't clear, and the little dude still stood on the lip of the pit. "I don't know what's going on. I've been stranded down here for days with no food. Please help me. I'm starving." The little man laughed. "I know how long you've been down there. I've made sure you've had enough water. As for food, if the bugs and moss aren't good enough for you, too bad. You can stay down there another day or so. It's not like you can't afford to lose a few pounds." Anger welled up inside him, and he tried to think up an insult to lash back with, but nothing came. He just wanted out. He probably needed to start a job search. No way could he avoid being fired after walking out in the middle of his shift and disappearing for days. "Please, just tell me what's going on."
The little man shook his head. "You're clueless, aren't you? You must really be repressed, fella, if your mind's eye won't share the vision. I guess I can give you a hint." The little man sighed and snapped his fingers. His tiny casual clothes disappeared and were replaced by a bright green suit and hat, a pair of black leather boots, and a thick black leather belt, complete with gold buckle. The leprechaun--that's what he was, right?--cleared his throat and looked up to the sky, which had exploded in vibrant color. He blinked a few times and realized he was right below . . . The leprechaun must've been guarding his gold at the end of the rainbow. That made sense in a way, but why had he been chasing it? Hell, how had he been chasing it if he hadn't been able to see it? "We all have magic in us," the leprechaun said. He was back in his jeans and teeshirt. "Some more than others." He smirked. "Anyway, sometimes ordinary people just like you get a flash of magic and go with it, whether they realize it or not. Sometimes it pays off." He shrugged. "Sometimes it doesn't." "Please, I just want to go home. I'm probably jobless now, and I don't want to be homeless, too." "Nah, I'll get you back before you left. You can just check this adventure up as a nightmare." He found himself back at his desk in the office. He'd expected a finger snap or something, not an instant trip. He took a quick glance around and didn't notice anything odd: no one looked at him funny, and his workload was the same. The clock showed ten after ten, right after his scheduled break. He looked up the date on his computer and found the last three days hadn't yet happened. Had he dozed off? No, people would have noticed. Then what? He stood up and decided to tell the boss he wasn't feeling well. He couldn't make it through the day now. His head would spin right off his neck if he tried to play it cool. He reached into his pocket for his keys, and his knuckles brushed something else. He pulled out a gold coin with the leprechaun's face engraved on it. Yes, the rest of the day off was exactly what he needed.
BIO: Eric J. Krause pens stories from Orange County, California, just minutes away from Disneyland. He's been published in Trail of Indiscretion and online in The Absent Willow Review, Allegory, and Nocturnal Ooze, just to name a few. You can visit his blog on writing at http://ejkwritingspot.blogspot.com, where you can also find some of his past published works. He lives with his wife, Amber, their dog, Spike.
Coins n' Laughter
There once was a small forest on the edge of a small town.
The forest was said to be haunted. Not by ghosts, ghouls, or goblins, but by leprechauns. The tiny creatures would dance in the woods and the soft murmur of laughter echoed out into the small town. The laughter sounded happy but it was warned - well warned - that any who travels into the forest may never come back as the leprechauns were tricky little things. Daniel was poor. His family was poor. They weren't the only ones poor - the entire town was poor. Mostly it was because they lived so close to the forest and no rich man, woman, or family wanted to build a house near the leprechauns. They visited once in a great while but it was only done with a guided tour and the stay was brief. Not even long enough for one of them to buy one of Margie's apple pies or drink a warm cup of cider from the Luck Pub. Even if time allowed, the look of the small buildings that housed the few businesses the town had to offer were repulsive enough to send any rich man, woman, or family home hungry or thirsty. Daniel hated being poor. His big toe stuck out of his left shoe and his laces had rotted from the right one. One pant leg was higher than the other and his once white shirt was dirty, stained, and carried a swift odor and pierced anyone's nose like a pin. It wasn't just Daniel like this - he had two brothers, a sister, a mom, a dad, and a dog who all smelled the same. As did the town. Another reason the rich never stayed long. They didn't like smelly smells. One morning, as a hazy sun made the view of the small town and the small forest blurry, Daniel grew thirsty as did his family. He wasn't supposed to leave the house during days like these but he decided he would go and get water for his family. The walk didn't look that far and even though the creek that was the only source of water was near the edge of the small forest, Daniel promised he wouldn't cross into the forest. The water looked dirty. When he scooped the water into the bucket the water was brown and cloudy. Even as thirsty as he was, it didn't seem healthy nor safe to drink the water. He then took notice that as the water passed into the small forest, it cleared up. It was as if there was some kind of magic filter because the water going into the forest was so clear it made poor Daniel's tiny mouth try to salivate but it couldn't. He decided to take a chance and cross. He would just take one big scoop of the water and then hurry back. "Fetching a pail o' water, me sees," the tiny voice called out from behind Daniel. He had his bucket of water full but knew what was behind him. "Just needing a small drink for my family is all," Daniel replied. He turned around and looked down as the leprechaun sat on a wide mushroom cap. The tiny creature had a flaky looking beard and big eyes. It took its curved hat off and placed it on its knees. "Me sees no water," the leprechaun said.
Daniel pointed to the bucket. When he looked down, the water was gone. When he turned around, the creek was nothing but a dry, crusted bed of cracked mud and lonely rocks. "But how?" Daniel cried. "I can give you more than just water my friend," the leprechaun said. He picked up his hat and tossed it into the air. Daniel watched as it flipped a few times and then hit the ground. When it did it was overflowing with gold coins - not silver, but gold! The kind of gold coins the rich people had and used for food and clothes. "I sense you would like one or two of these, no?" the leprechaun asked smiling. "Where did you get all those?" Daniel asked. "You never ask a leprechaun were he or she's fortune comes from. Not when they be willing to share, me lad," the leprechaun replied. "Share?" "Oh course!" the leprechaun yelled. "Alls thinks we are evil, not such is true." A faint echo started to come from deep inside the small forest. It was the murmur of laughter. Daniel looked and could see the faint eyes of all the other leprechauns. The leprechaun hopped of its mushroom cap and walked over to its hat holding hundred maybe even thousands - of the gold coins that Daniel had dreamed about having. He took a few coins out of the bag and held them out to Daniel. "Can I take them?" Daniel asked. "Oh, of course," the leprechaun said. Daniel reached out while his mind imagined new clothes, a full plate of food - maybe even seconds - and windows that close. Just as he was about to pluck the coins from the tiny hand of the leprechaun, it closed its hand. "And in return?" the leprechaun asked with a sly grin. "You understand one cannot just give things away?" the leprechaun added while it jiggled the coins between its two hands. "What can you give me?" Daniel shrugged his shoulders. "You're poor, right?" Daniel nodded. "You have ragged clothing. You can't even find your own water." Daniel nodded. The leprechaun paced back and forth. It dropped the coins back into the bag and rubbed its chin. "You do have one thing I can use. Just as a temporary trade." "What is it?" Daniel asked. "Your soul." The sound of laughter in the background rose again. "See, I take your soul. You take some coins. You can eat, get new clothing, and then make something of yourself. When you do and you've got bags of your own coins, then you bring back what I gave you plus two coins extra and I give you your soul back." Without thinking about it, Daniel agreed. He wanted fresh food. He wanted new clothes. He wanted. . . a real life. He shook the tiny hand of the leprechaun and before
Daniel knew what happened, he felt a weird feeling in his stomach. It was as if someone was pulling his insides out. Then everything went black. Total blackness. The only surroundings were . . . the sound of the muffled laughter. When Daniel finally opened his eyes, he wished he could scream. "The trade is made. But since you can't move, my lad, I'll keep your gold coins safe." The leprechaun let out an ear piercing laugh and walked away. Daniel was angry. Then confused. Then scared. He realized when the leprechaun spoke to him, it was eye level. Daniel was now a leprechaun. Except he couldn't move his mouth. He was like a plastic leprechaun - or some kind of joke lawn gnome. He could move, but only waddle. He head could turn slightly and when he did, he saw the others. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of the same looking leprechauns all lined up neatly. They were all making the murmured laughing sound. . . When Daniel finally did try to scream, he realized it wasn't laughter he and the rest of town heard. . . it was the muffled screams of the souls long trapped as tiny leprechauns. Days went by and Daniel slowly began to accept his mistake and his new fate. There wasn't much good from being a leprechaun except that he wasn't thirsty anymore and his outfit looked nice. No holes at all. For a moment he convinced himself maybe it wasn't so bad. Without him, his parents had one less mouth to worry about feeding and the smells in the forest were pleasant compared to the smells in his house. For a moment, Daniel was happy. Then one day he saw the leprechaun that had tricked him into giving up his soul running fast through the woods. Out on the faint line of the forest he could see something. Someone. A person trying to get water. They had just stepped over into the forest. The leprechaun took its seat on the mushroom cap and began to speak. When the person turned around, Daniel started to scream. It was nothing but murmurs. . . and he was left to watch as his youngest brother was about to make a deal with the leprechaun. The End.
ALL clipart and artwork (except where noted) has been provided by Jenna Luckenbach.
Jenna Luckenbach is a graphic designer living in Boyertown, PA with family and pets. She loves the man in her life more than anything, his name is Brodie – a four year old Lhasa Apso! She specializes in creating logo’s and company branding – but she LOVES to do anything design related. She is always up for new projects and can be reached at FORTUNATECREATIONS@yahoo.com.
Thank you for reading Soft Whispers UNLUCK OF THE IRISH anthology!
The response was great and anthology great too! We plan on having MANY more anthologies in the future. Please don’t forget to check our site at www.softwhisp.blogspot.com for updates, open submissions, and our daily posts. A big thanks to all those who have submitted to this anthology and of course the greatest graphic designer in the world, Jenna, for helping out like she always does!