HUGE DISCOUNTS DURING THE LOCKDOWN.
DRASTICALLY REDUCED THE PRICE OF MOST OF OUR E-BOOKS UNTIL
MAY 31, 2020.
Death Behind the Lilacs $1.50
Seasons On The Dark Side $0.99
Three Mystery Stories $0.00 on most sites ($0.99 on Amazon)
Crypt Gnats $1.99
We have a winner! And four honorable mentions. We had over twenty entries for our first contest featuring micro-fiction fantasy stories.
The decision was difficult with all the great stories we received. Creating a story of 500 words or less was a challenge that our entrants accomplished with flair.
So, without further ado here are the winning stories.
First Place Story:
“A Safe Place to Remember” By Christina Tang-Bernas
A Safe Place to Remember
By Christina Tang-Bernas
The dragon opened its eyes at the change in light and scent signaling that someone was at its cave entrance. It raised its head to peer down at the human who had dared disturb their nap, shedding faded ticket stubs and dried flower petals and brightly colored greeting cards from its scales. The woman looked too old and frail to do much harm, but one didn’t live as long as the dragon had by underestimating people.
The white-haired woman stared back at the dragon, who was perched atop costume jewelry, bronzed baby shoes, “Wish You Were Here” postcards and bedraggled teddy bears, before stepping forward.
“Here,” she said, holding out an object with both hands. “This is for you.”
On closer inspection, the dragon snorted, “I don’t hoard books. Try the dragon in the next valley.” It turned to go back to sleep, but the woman shook the book.
“It’s a photo album,” she insisted. “I’ve heard you hoard sentiment.”
The dragon reached out to delicately lift the cover open with a claw, then flipped the pages.
They were full of photos of the woman, much younger, in a lacy white dress. Of a smiling man in a too-large suit. Of balloons and cake and dancing. Now that it was touching the book, the dragon could feel the emotions imbued within it. It wanted to rub its face against the yellowed paper.
“And what do you want in return?” the dragon asked. Humans rarely volunteered to face a dragon unless their desire overrode their fear.
“Nothing, really,” the woman said. “I just want you to keep it safe. I—” she stopped, shoulders sagging. “I’m losing my memory. Sometimes, I look at the photos in my albums and I don’t really remember the people in them anymore. I’ll point to someone, and they tell me it’s my husband, that I used to love him very much. And then, I’ll wake up the next day surprised I could have ever forgotten him, the person I spent most of my life with, the one who knew how to find my laughter best. One day, maybe I’ll forget him forever, or even forget myself, and these photos won’t mean anything anymore. Or I’ll pass, and the people who have it next won’t care for it, or understand. So, I want you to have it. To keep him safe. To keep my memories safe.”
The dragon considered this for a long while. “I understand,” it finally said. “It will be safe in my lifetime, which is many times those of humans.” It pulled the album into the midst of its hoard, so that it could no longer be seen. Satisfied with its new acquisition, the dragon curled up, eyes closing back into sleep and tail coming around to tuck its hoard closer to its body.
Only the soft footsteps and the light and scent changing let it know its visitor was gone again.
Honorable mentions in no particular order:
“Bodies are Wasted on the Young” by Joe Giordano
“Arthur’s Return” by Dawn DeBraal
“Growing Older Alone By Nicholas Poe
“Clarity” by Jen Mierisch
Bodies are Wasted on the Young
Just because I’m a ghost, I reject the idea that my personal development has to stop. That’s why I’m attending college. A public university, not some hoity-toity institution. Even though I don’t need to pay private school tuition – nowadays equal to a small country’s GDP – I wouldn’t feel comfortable haunting elitists. You know the types, people with cultured accents who were put down for Ivy League attendance from birth. Kids who had golf and tennis lessons as toddlers and now cut a fine figure in a lettered sweater or a debutante’s gown. I’d be uncomfortable spooking a campus with an eye-squinting bright sun and a wafting breeze with a woodsy scent, even if I had a sense of smell. I’m more familiar with urine odor in hallways or diesel fumes and when I was alive, I felt most comfortable working with my hands amidst cacophonous traffic and jostling streets, perhaps playing stickball or street hockey and lounging around in jeans and a T-shirt. I’m a down-to-earth soul.
Of course, matriculating as a ghost has its drawbacks. I’d have preferred a more meaningful exchange with other students and teachers. If I tap an undergraduate on the shoulder, they’re jarred like I’ve caught them watching porn – which, by the way, they do a lot. If I ask a question in class, the professor freaks out. My wispy, translucent hands can’t hold classroom handouts or carry books, so I need to look over fellow students’ shoulders to read the required texts. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Let’s see you try and predict when one of these kids will open a book. Most of them spend their time getting high or chatting up the opposite sex rather than boning up for exams. I’ve found that sitting in on study groups works best for me, and I’ve learned to birddog the serious students, those who actually prepare and ask questions in class.
I have a dual, if undeclared major – English and History, and I’m into full self-actualization mode. I take classes that exalt my spirit: art, history, literature, and creative writing. I can’t tell you how freeing it feels not to need to earn a living. Although, I’m surprised how crowded my touchy-feely classes are. Don’t these kids know that anyone who can quote Chaucer winds up flipping hamburgers at McDonalds? Public university students aren’t inheritance babies. They should be studying something serious, a vocation that gives them marketable skills so they can get out of their parents’ basements, pay off their student debt, and earn an independent living. Telepathically, I give them career advice: be an engineer, a computer scientist, a doctor, or even, God forgive me, a lawyer. It took me a lifetime to smarten up, but my counseling falls on tin ears. They’d rather make their own mistakes. I shake my head with the sad realization: bodies are wasted on the young.
by Dawn DeBraal
Ever since he accidentally stepped into a time warp, Arthur longed to be back home. Suburbia was not his goblet of wine. He was lucky to have found the Simpson's. They plucked him from the park and brought him home. He told them he had amnesia. They took him to the County who could not help them. There was no record of an Arthur Pendra in their files. They even branched out across the United States without success. No one had reported him missing.
Each day he commandeered children in the neighborhood, knighting them to avenge his name. They loved Arthur and would do whatever he proclaimed they must do. The number of dedicated children grew, they fashioned wooden swords brandished their shields of garbage can lids. Arthur enjoyed his time with them while some of the neighbors complained there were too many kids at the Simpson's house. Something needed to be done about it.
"Arthur, you must send the children home," said Bertram. Arthur knew it had gotten out of hand, but he suspected that dragons could stumble on the time transporter and send them to the future. It was only a small hole in the ground that swirled. He couldn't tell Bertram that he needed those children as a diversion if the dragons came through. He needed time to put his wizardry skills to work and was developing potions, but in this day and age, it was hard to find the eye of a newt and the tongue of a bat. They just weren't plentiful. Arthur set different days for the children, dividing them up into groups to come each day. There, they would practice their swashbuckling skills and maiden rescuing. The children thought it was good fun. They didn't realize they would be saving Suburbia America.
People complained their garbage can lids were missing, and all the picket fences in the neighborhood had been scavenged to make trusty swords. Arthur pooh-pooed their grumblings and told them one day they would thank him.
Margaret Meadow brought him a wizard robe from a costume shop along with a hat. The wand was a little lame, but Arthur could make that into a real one. He mixed his potions in the garage at night, getting ready for the time a dragon would cross over to take him home.
Screams in the early morning woke Arthur up. He couldn't believe his eyes when he saw a dragon walking the streets, scaring little dogs.
It found him. The dragon came for him. He was overjoyed.
Arthur appeared before the dragon, as did one hundred neighborhood kids with their swords drawn, shouting and clattering their garbage can lids. The police stopped short when they saw it was a dragon.
Arthur spoke the magic words tossing the potion that exploded. The dragon dropped on all fours allowing Arthur to climb on his back. Much to the children's dismay, the dragon rose into the sky, taking Arthur to the nearest time hole and back home.
Growing Older Alone
By Nicholas Poe
A tree grew on top of an old hill. Any hill is as old as any other, but this one looked older with gnarled roots sprouting from the ground and patches of dry weeds where grass once laid.
The last rays of light painted the sky a burnt orange as the sun sank below the horizon. Sam folded the top corner of a page in his book and closed the cover. He breathed in the fresh air, always cooler and sweeter under the tree. The branches, bent and twisted like arthritic fingers, clicked together in the breeze.
That’s when Sam heard her voice. Not distinctly, but like an echo in a cave.
“Hello?” Faint. But chills raced up Sam’s neck. “Is someone there?”
“Hello?” Sam’s heart thudded against his ribcage and he gripped the book hard enough to crack the spine. He was alone, the voice came from the tree itself. “Who are you?”
“Clarrissa of High Garden,” she said, her voice warm. “Who are you?”
The sky faded from orange to dark blue to black as they talked through the tree. Sam’s voice turned hoarse, but he talked through it.
Clarrissa talked about her mother, the Empress of a planet named Llondian and how her mother brought peace to the wartorn kingdoms. She talked about the sky and how she loved the three moons that playfully blocked each other in near-constant eclipses. She talked about the glass fountain with its clear water that, for reasons she didn’t understand, allowed her to talk to Sam.
In his turn, Sam told her about his city, the traffic, the poverty, the monotonous mundane mediocrity of it all. And she listened. Despite living in a world full of monsters, adventure, and magic, she listened to his tales of tvs and comedian magicians performing card tricks at children’s birthdays. Every day, for hours, they talked. About everything.
They often sat in comfortable silence and Sam listened to the sounds of the other world through the tree. He sighed. “I wish I could visit you. It feels like I’ve known you my whole life.”
“Haven’t you?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we met 30 years ago. Half my life.”
“No, it’s been a month.”
Clarrissa paused. “It appears our worlds move in time differently. I feared something like this. I became an old lady while you are still young.”
“That’s not fair!” Birds scattered as Sam yelled. “You can’t grow up without me!”
“I already have.”
They sank into silence knowing that one day Clarrissa wouldn’t be at the fountain while Sam still came to the tree every day.
“There’s nothing sad in it, growing old. I’ve done it and it is peaceful. Fulfilling. I am excited for you to know that feeling.”
“I don’t want to know it without you.”
“But once you do, after this is all over, maybe then we can meet.” Water filled Clarrissa’s voice. “Who knows what magic we have left to encounter?”
by Jen Mierisch
Ned Norton sat wide-eyed. As he shifted position, he rustled the paper on the exam table. The brilliant lights of the medical office beamed, but Ned’s body cast no shadow on the wall behind him.
“Anyctitis,” Dr. Davidson diagnosed. “Also known as shadow loss. It’s fairly rare, but we do see this condition from time to time, in patients suffering from an excess of optimism.”
“I don’t understand,” said Ned. “Please explain it to me.”
Dr. Davidson sat on his wheeled stool and replaced his stethoscope around his neck. “Basically,” he said, “your outlook is just too sunny. When you spend too much time looking at the bright side, darkness has a harder time getting near you. We mostly see it in younger patients.”
“So I’ll never have a shadow again?” asked Ned. “Surely there must be a cure.”
“Luckily for you, Mr. Norton, no medicine is required.” Dr. Davidson picked up a pen and made notes in Ned’s file. “Reading internet comments sections is highly effective. Attending political debates also works wonders for patients like yourself. Or, you could see our cynicism counselor, Jennifer Ex.”
“I’d rather do that,” said Ned. “Counseling sounds like a wonderfully positive sort of therapy.”
“Very good.” As Dr. Davidson rolled his stool toward the computer at the side of the exam room, his eyes rolled heavenward.
Ned took a seat across from Dr. Ex. She retrieved her folders, full of news clippings of violent crimes, human rights abuses, and catastrophic climate change.
Behind dark-framed glasses, Jen Ex arched an eyebrow at Ned. “Yo,” she said, smiling. “Let’s do this.”
Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all the writers for the wonderful entries to our first contest.
Submission Guidelines for the
Mystery Anthology ARE CLOSED AND WE ARE HOPING TO HAVE WHODUNIT
PUBLISHED IN 2021
NEW GUIDELINES FOR OUR NEXT ANTHOLOGY
Jersey Pines Ink is looking for stories for our new anthology TREES which is currently open for submissions now.
WE WANT A 2,500 WORD OR LESS DARK SPECULATIVE FICTION STORY INVOLVING TREES IN SOME WAY. BY SPECULATIVE FICTION WE MEAN HORROR, FANTASY AND SOFT SF ACTUALLY WE NOW WANT MORE
WE Now WANT TO INCLUDE:
more variety We think we have more than enough just trees although we'll still be glad to read tree stories. We'd like to include forest stories, and swampy woods stories, maybe some moss stories or whatever real or imagined that lives in the woods. Please spread the word to every writer you know.
Stories MUST be a "complete story containing a beginning, middle, and end.
Please heed these guidelines:
Stories can be no longer than 2,500 words. Flash and micro fiction is acceptable.
No graphic violence, rape scenes or abuse to children.
Standard manuscript format ONLY.
We do not accept multiple or simultaneous submissions. You may send another story if your first has been or is not accepted. If we have contacted you about an earlier story, you may submit another as well. Reprints will be considered if you have the rights to resell the story.
Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org
SUBJECT LINE: Story Title, authors name, word count
All submissions must be standard manuscript format or they will be rejected immediately.
Double space, Times New Roman 12, doc or docx only, all other formats will be rejected.
First page information: name, address, email, (pen name will appear in the by-line)
Headers: story title and author’s last name and page number.
Cover letter: Please include name, pen name, address, email address, PayPal address, (payment will only be made through PayPal), If submitting a reprint, please include publication history. Please include a short bio, 85 words max.
Manuscripts not following the guidelines will be deleted unread.
Payment after publication: $10.00 (PayPal).
DEADLINE October 31, 2021 (or until filled)
2021 MORE BOOKS!!!!!!
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