Tag Archives: anthology

A Hell of a Thing by Lisa V. Tomecek

This story is written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas. You can find the rules here:

Title: “A Hell of a Thing”
Author: Lisa V. Tomecek
eBook: YES

Words: 500

“Come in from the cold, Uncle.”

I look up from the window to see him standing there by the open door: tall and lean and maybe thirty, with an easy smile, stubble, shaggy hair. And flip-flops.

Who wears flip-flops in the snow?

He’s always been like that, my nephew. I suspect I’ll never understand why.

“You look like hell, Uncle,” he says, and means it. I take in the jumble of thrift store denim and flannel and chuckle at the irony.

“I’m fine,” I say. I shrug deeper into my overcoat—black, wool, made in Italy—and heft my coffee. The steam spirals up in the chill. “Just out for a walk.”

“Don’t lie, Uncle. You didn’t walk.”

He frowns and waves a hand at the car that sits idling at the curb. The engine rumbles like a drowsing beast; the parking lights pulse red, wash the icy slush on the streets with blood.

“Come in. Bring your driver, too. We’re sitting down to dinner. Everyone’s there—well, except you.”

I know already. I’ve seen them gathered around the table, watched a long time. The memories of younger days wash over me, and for a moment, I think about it. But—

“No. I’m fine. I have things to do. Business meetings. Paperwork. Hostile takeovers. You know how it goes.”

But I know he doesn’t; he’s never been the corporate type. Still, he lets me play the game, and he smiles that easy smile again.

“It’s been a long time—too long. Everyone would be glad to see you.”

There he’s wrong. There I know better. I shrug and swallow my coffee. It’s bitter.

“Your dad and I don’t get along. We haven’t. We won’t.”

“You could,” he says, “if you tried.”

“I don’t think so,” I tell him. “Sometimes things go too far for making up.”

He frowns again. The falling snow clings to his shirt, lights in his hair. “You know I don’t agree.”

“And you know I think you’re too idealistic for your own good.”

A sudden sadness comes over him. He lifts up his hands, plaintive. “I wish you’d stop this, Uncle. Every year, you show up on the doorstep, and every year you refuse to come in. Just—why?”

I smile. It’s thin, wistful. I taste the spoiled memories. They’re bitter, like the coffee.

“Pride, kid. Pride’s a hell of a thing.”

I turn back to the waiting car.

“Should I tell him you came, Uncle?” he calls after.

I don’t bother to turn back.

“No.”

There’s a long pause, then—

“Merry Christmas, Uncle,” he says quietly, in that way without malice that I’ll never understand.

The car door opens. The heat welling from within washes the chill off my bones. I sit down, settle in, shut the door. My driver leans in from the front seat. His eyes catch the streetlights and glow, molten pools of red. They weren’t always that way.

Neither were mine.

“Where to, Boss?”

“Away,” I tell him. “Anywhere but here.”

Read other stories from this project here:

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Three Kings of Armageddon by R.K. Ames

This story is written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas. You can find the rules here:

Title: “Three Kings of Armageddon”
Author: R.K. Ames
eBook: YES

Dedication: To my wife and to my children: Joe and Sahara.

Har Meggido

“Shepherding seven Hebrew girls through the countryside at night? It’s enough to get an old cleric killed, Balthazar,” commented Melchior as he peered up the sheer walls of the pass, a quarter night’s walk outside the ruins of Har Megiddo. The three astrologists ran an unprecedented risk. However, Gaspar had yet to steer them wrong. He swore that the Godling had mandated it.

“Seven, seven, seven years,” muttered Melchior as he waggled a knobby knuckled finger at the back of Gaspar’s bald, clay-colored head. “Seven years since we left Babylon’s milk-laden bosom. I assumed that honoring the Godling would be the pinnacle, yet here we are. Trekking an ankle-breaking pass, pursued by Ehudi of all people. Ehudi the Tracker, Ehudi the Man Hunter.”

“Come now, Melchior,” said Gaspar in his comforting squeak of a voice. “What are our lives compared to the Godling’s desires?” Everything about Gaspar seemed unkempt yet everything was also in its proper space. The cold didn’t seem to affect the Hindu, like it did the rest of the party. Gaspar seemed to sweat confidence and exhale calm.

“Ehudi is a man,” Gaspar muttered reassuringly.  “The Godling is the avatar of a god. A life unthreatened is a life unlived, my friend.”

Balthazar grunted rhythmically as he hoisted white-slipped girl after white-slipped girl up a small ledge.  “Once through the pass we are out of Hebrew land,” he said. “We’ll claim that the girls are slaves. No one will look twice other than to inquire price.”

Melchior watched Balthazar as he handled the girls, his ebony hands contrasting on their bright white dresses. “I do wish one of these wrens would chirp” he grumbled. “The Godling wouldn’t close his mouth, but these ones haven’t spoken since we took them.”

Balthazar quipped, “The Godling said that each one had the power to destroy a nation. I’m not sure I’d want to hear them talk.” He rounded a sharp landing on the stone-hewn staircase that led to Har Megiddo’s first watchtower. At front edge of his vision a shadowy figure waivered, not quite illuminated by the torch it held.

Quick on Balthazar’s heels, Gaspar walked straight into his broad, shirtless black back. He stumbled, cursed, looked up the staircase, and froze. Seven white dresses jostled to accommodate the sudden his sudden stop. All that white, against the dark mountain pass stairway, blinded Melchior.

“Ehudi, I had expected that you would find us sooner,” crooned Gaspar. “It is reassuring to see that Herod’s most loyal hound has lived up to his reputation. All that must be must become.”

A pleasant voice echoed down the stairwell, “Archers have you in their sights. You have nowhere to run. Finish your ascent.”

A single torch, held by a single man dressed in boiled leather, appeared on the landing. Surrounded by archers, the group had nowhere else to go.

Silently, the group filed to the top of the pass and gathered in the atrium on the inside of the watchtower. All in plain robes, trail dust, and sweat that reflected in the bright torch light. There stood men with dour faces and weapons.

The men trained their weapons on the group. “Gaspar,” the leather-clad torch-wielder sputtered around a cleft palate. “Herod inquires as to why you left without saying farewell. He will be unpleased to find that you have taken slaves as well. “ He said out of the side of his mouth, earning a chitter from the subordinate trackers, “Clerics and astrologers? I wouldn’t want to learn what they want with little girls.”

Gaspar, face glowing brighter with each emphasized word, righteous rage sparking a fire in his squeaky throat, responded, “They Are Not Slaves, Ehudi, but inchoate celestial weapons with a god-mandated purpose! The young ones will not be molested! Their divine purpose will not contradicted! They were born on the same night as the Godling. The Star shone for them as well. The Godling and his angels will determine their fate.”

“You have no place to go Gaspar.” Ehudi smirked almost confidentially, arms wide staring into the morning. “The sun’s rising and there is nowhere to hide.”

Mid-smirk, confusion bloomed on Ehudi’s cleft face. Turning to look in the direction that Ehudi stared, conflicting expressions appeared the congregation’s faces. Balthazar registered shock while rapture spread across Gaspar’s.

The sky remained dark, yet the atrium was brighter than a mid-day in mid-summer.

Heads swiveled to the door of the watchtower as a deep bass voice boomed through group’s ears.  White-dressed girls stood in a triangle, shortest in front and arranged thusly. The image burned into group’s minds as seven flower-lipped mouths said in unison, “Hear me and tremble, heed me and dread. The dark night approaches. In the end I will rise. I will destroy. I will blow the seven trumpets. The earth will quake. Its inhabitants will bleed. Its inhabitants will burn. I will lie myself down and when I awake, Har Meggido will be the epicenter of the end of times. I am the harbinger of the Son of God!”

With a flash, the group saw only the residue of the vision on the backs of their eyelids. With a crash the brilliance was gone. Dresses were gone. The watchtower was razed to rubble. With eyelids crushed together, Melchior could only distinguish the smell of dust, burnt ozone, and fresh urine.

In the midst of the billowing dust, a column of pure light settled before the small group. As the light sparkled off the sandstone rubble, Melchior could feel the words in his soul, “Well done good and faithful servants, come ye into the rest of the Lord.” A tingling passed through his body as the sensation of gravity left him.

Read other stories from this project here:

Thomas’ New Coat

This story is written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas. You can find the rules here:

Title: “Thomas’ New Coat”
Author: Marissa Ames
eBook: YES

Dedicated to Jeremy, Laurie, Miles, and Lily. Thanks for all the apples and yoga.

christmas carol

Thomas shivered in the sooty slush outside the workhouse. The February wind whipped sleet into his face. He wrapped his tattered coat about him, which had become too small in his year detained in the boys’ ward.

Thomas lived in the best of times and the worst of times. In the age of wisdom and foolishness, the rich lived in three-story brick houses. The poor lived in workhouses.

The door opened, and his mother appeared. Emma wore her own dress. Gone was the striped inmates’ uniform.

With teary eyes, Thomas slid on the slush and collided with his mother. She wrapped her arms around him.

“Can we stay away this time?” he begged. “Please?”

Thrice, Emma had discharged herself when she could be apart from Thomas no longer. Women lived separate from the men, and everyone separate from the children. Those three times, Emma left in her own dress, took Thomas to a park then returned by midnight. The workhouse promised food and shelter in return for hard labor. The streets promised starvation.

“Mama,” he said, peering through his tears. “Please, mama?”

With hands roughened by picking apart oakum, Emma combed through Thomas’ hair.

“I’ll pull carts in the mines,” Thomas said. “I can still be a chimney sweep. I haven’t grown much, really.”

Closing her eyes in her gaunt face, Emma nodded.

As a widowed seamstress, Emma had managed to feed Thomas. Slipping in the slush during pea soup fog, she had injured her arm. She could not pay rent. After nights weeping in decision, Emma took Thomas to the workhouse.

Thomas had a plan. First he would work as an errand boy. Then he’d be crossing sweeper, cleaning streets in front of rich ladies in exchange for tips. He would purchase matches to sell to passing shoppers. Thomas would enter the mines if he had no other choice. But, for his mother, he would work anywhere.

Offering domestic services in trade, Emma found a room in a London slum. Thomas worked as planned, waking before dawn and coming home late, with money for soup and suet.

As he worked he advertised his mother’s skills as a seamstress.

The owner of a new factory bought his matches. He had a job for Thomas’ mother, with the new sewing machines. Emma had only sewn with thread and needle, but she soon learned the machines, pushing the treadle with her foot. Only once did she sew over her own hand. Thomas worked within the same factory, carrying bolts of fabric. They worked twelve hours a day and returned together to their tiny room.

Thomas fell asleep fast. At night, his mother stitched by the single flickering flame of her lamp. Customers wanted coats with detail that only skilled seamstresses could provide.

One year after leaving the workhouse, Thomas wore the same tattered coat. Emma had purchased scraps of fabric from her employer. She had unpicked the seams of Thomas’ coat and added the fabric to expand the sleeves. He had decent shoes, replaced when the others disintegrated. The slush did not invade the leather.

Luxury stopped at new shoes. Emma was ill. On good days, she worked at the factory, coughing into a handkerchief to catch the blood. On bad days, she sweated in bed with a fever. Half of November, Emma had worked at the factory. Twenty-four days into December, she had not worked at all.

Thomas trekked to the factory daily, buying food on the way home. After work, he cleaned the tenement to pay rent. Each night, Emma apologized as she fumbled with needle and thread while propped up in bed.

Thomas told her it didn’t matter.

Emma fretted over Christmas. Last year, they resided in the workhouse. She couldn’t see him at Christmas. This year, she had promised a hot meal, with meat. Goose and figgy pudding, she said. She had promised it before she fell ill.

Emma had one match left. She used that last match to light a fire on Christmas morning, as snow fell in the streets.

Thomas held his only gift, complimenting how well Emma had wrapped it in old blankets. Warm from the fire, he unpicked the twine. Emma smiled weakly as he withdrew his new coat: thick, warm, and sturdy.

He slid his arms into the coat and hugged it around his body as his mother coughed blood into her handkerchief.

As Emma napped at midday, Thomas traversed the new slush of the London streets. What he sought lay ten streets away, where Thomas had worked before finding the factory. Now other boys worked there, sloshing in sooty slush and broken shoes.

“Do you have matches?” he asked.

A boy half his age looked up with sunken eyes. Nodding and shivering, he said, “You have to pay for them.”

A rag wrapped around the boy’s head, in lieu of a hat. His patched shirt hugged his body tightly. The boy wore no coat.

“I need them for my mother,” Thomas claimed. “She’s terribly ill.”

Shaking his head, the boy said with chattering teeth, “My father will beat me.”

Thomas needed those matches. He needed them for his mother, who kept him out of an orphanage simply by staying alive. Emma had taught him that he was better than no man, and no worse either. She taught him compassion and charity.

“Will you trade?” Thomas unbuttoned his coat. The boy’s eyes lit up.

As the boy donned the coat and rolled the sleeves up, Thomas took his matches and sprinted home, sliding in the slush.

His own teeth chattered as he opened the door. He found his old, tattered coat. Emma woke as a log dropped from his frozen fingers onto the floor.

“Where is your new coat?” she asked.

Thomas added the log to the fire. Then he took her frail hands in his and told her of the little match boy. Someone needed the coat, just as Emma needed the matches.

“I’m sorry, Mama,” he said, hoping for forgiveness. “I know you worked many nights on that coat.”

Tears filled Emma’s eyes. She spread her arms. As she embraced her son and his tattered coat, she whispered, “I worked harder to make you a good boy. You’ve given me the best Christmas present by proving you are one.”

Read other stories from this project here:

Grandma’s Christmas Sweaters

This story is for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas (AMMC-DFQ). Details and submission guidelines can be found here:

  • Grandma’s Christmas Sweaters by Marissa Ames
  • Ebook: YES

 This story is dedicated to Ralinda, Kaylee, and Andee. Merry Christmas! I send you joy, love, laughter, and reasons to never wear those sweaters.

ugly sweater cookies

Grandma knitted sweaters every year, from January to November, and gifted them in December. She intertwined yarn into elaborate Christmas trees, stars, and snowy woodland scenes. Grandma’s sweaters reminded me of Care Bears spreading Christmas love with bedazzled belly magic.

Every year, I got a sweater from Grandma. Knowing what lay inside, I tore into the box with practiced enthusiasm. I pulled out the mass of festive yarn and held it up to the light of the Christmas tree, gushing about the love and attention she must have taken, just for me.

Then I tucked the sweater back in the box. Twelve boxes sat in my closet, neatly stacked in the far corner behind my old stuffed animals.

“Grandma’s visiting for a week,” mom told us. “It would be nice if you wore one of those sweaters while she was here.”

I groaned and slumped, but Sarah agreed. Nine-year-olds know nothing about making a stand for fashion.

When Grandma arrived, Sarah waited at the door in a red and green monstrosity. Grandma’s hot pink lips stretched taut over her dentures as she pinched Sarah’s cheeks.

Sarah grabbed Grandma’s wrinkled, spotted hand. “Wanna bake cookies, Gramma?” With that pink smile in place, Grandma waddled into the kitchen after Sarah.

“Where’s your sweater?” mom asked from behind me.

“I’ll wear it closer to Christmas,” I promised.

The second day, Sarah wore a fuzzy white garment bedazzled with blue rhinestone snowflakes as she held Grandma’s yarn. Mom raised her eyebrows as I passed in my t-shirt. I shrugged and moved into the yarn-free zone.

“You’re going to disappoint her,” mom accused the next morning.

I shrugged and continued texting.

“Sarah’s learning how to knit, and you’re ignoring your Grandma. Just wear the sweater, just once.”

“I will,” I whined, annoyed that I had to look up from my phone.

On the fourth day, I lacerated my foot in Sarah’s room. “You left knitting needles on the floor,” I said, picking up the bloody awl. “Where did you get these needles?”

“From Gramma,” she said, coiling yarn around her wrist. “What should I make with this?”

I shook my head. “You’re getting weird,” I said, hobbling away to find a Band-Aid.

Mom wouldn’t leave me alone. “Wear a sweater,” she said, grabbing her hem and stretching it down for emphasis, warping the snowman on the front. “Honestly, what harm could come of wearing one?”

“I don’t know,” I argued between texts. “I can’t risk it.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “Come to dinner.”

“What are we having?” I asked without looking up from my phone.

“Something soft, with lots of fiber,” she said as she shuffled out of my room.

I woke at 4am to the aroma of chocolate chip cookies. I rubbed my eyes and followed the smell to the kitchen. Decked in boughs of sweater holly, Sarah removed a tray from the oven. On the table, hundreds of cookies cascaded onto the lace runner. She had to have been baking for hours to acquire that many.

I squeaked, “What are you doing? How long have you been baking?”

“Oh, don’t bother her,” Mom said from behind me. I turned to see her sway past me, wearing slippers and a housecoat, with a red Santa sweater overtop of the coat.

Sarah set the cookie tray on a trivet. “Eat some,” she said. “You need some meat on those bones.” I flinched back as she tried to pinch my cheek.

On day six, I opened Sarah’s underwear drawer to borrow a pair of socks. She wouldn’t miss one pair, and I’d have it washed and back in the drawer by tomorrow. The drawer rattled as I pulled it out. My mouth fell open.

Instead of socks, Sarah’s drawer was filled with knitting needles of assorted sizes. Hundreds of needles, jammed tightly. I pulled out other drawers to find the same thing: hoarded knitting needles.

“Mom!” I called, wandering about the room.

All of Sarah’s clothes sat in a pile in her closet. On her hangers, bags of yarn dangled. A housecoat draped over her headboard. Eight pair of slippers peeked from beneath the bed.

“Mom!” I yelled again, hustling out of the room.

Mom sat in the living room, entwining two long, slender sticks into a network of yarn. Sarah sat on one side of her, and Grandma sat on the other. Reindeer pranced across their chests, ending in a knitted sleigh on Sarah’s sweater. On the coffee table sat glasses of Metamucil.

Mom looked up from her knitting. “Do I have to tell you again?” She glared at my designer shirt. “Go put on a sweater!”

I sprinted to my room and yanked my phone out of my pocket.

“911. What is your emergency?”

“Um…” It sounded stupid even before I said it. “My Grandma’s Christmas sweaters are turning my family into old-person zombies,” I blurted out.

The operator paused. I heard snickering in the background. In a professional and appropriately prudish voice, she said, “Miss, abuse of the 911 system is a crime. If this is not a real emergency, you need to hang up right now or I will inform the police.”

Tears stung my eyes as I watched my thumb hover over the touch screen. The police would not believe me. I lowered my thumb to the “end” icon.

That night I fell asleep with the light on as mom, Grandma, and Sarah baked fruitcake until dawn.

“Wake up,” Sarah called, shaking my shoulder. “It’s Christmas!”

I groaned and rubbed my eyes. Exhausted, I had fallen asleep in a chilly room and had woken up cozy and comfortable. I folded my wool-covered arms and sighed.

Mom, Grandma, and Sarah all hovered above me.

“Merry Christmas!” Mom greeted me, pinching my cheek. “What do you want for breakfast?”

I ran my hands over my belly, feeling the texture of miniature plastic lights beneath my palms. Sitting up, I adjusted the green sweater over my chest and said, “Stewed prunes.”

Read other stories from this project here:

A Merry Minion Christmas: The Evolution of a Fantastical Anthology

On behalf of LauraNick & Ruth & myself (Missy) I’d like to introduce (drum roll please……)

red dragon

Photo Credit: zazzle.com

AMMC-DFQ – Rules and Guidelines

A Merry Minion Christmas: Assorted Tales from the Realm of the Dark Fairy Queen

In the style of the #DFQWBS that brought many of us together, we’re now collaborating on a Christmas anthology. This project is open to members of the Facebook group Dark Fairy Queen and her Brilliant Minions. If you are not a part of this group and would like to contribute, please contact the owner of this blog for details. This is a free publication, with no royalties. However, an eBook will be available for download upon completion. If we receive over 50 contributions, the book will be available for print, for only the cost of printing and shipping. By submitting to the project, you agree to these conditions.

1. The submissions may begin on September 23rd with a final deadline of October 28th. This deadline is critical to produce a book by December.

2. The theme is a “Fantastical Christmas.” Use fantastical elements, even if they’re elements you believe in but someone else doesn’t. Examples include dragons, monsters, angels, fairies, magic, etc.

3. Tales must be between 500-1000 words in length. If necessary, we can allow some leeway, but no more than 50 words to either side.

4. Stories with dark, gory, romantic, or religions tones are all allowed and encouraged. Soapboxes are not. You are welcome and encouraged to write within your genre or religious element. However, if the editors feel you have slandered another culture, religion, or lack of religion, we will politely ask you to change the focus of your story.

5. Because this book may be read by younger children, keep your story within PG-13 guidelines. No f-bombs, sex scenes, or explicitly gory details, please.

6. You may make up to three submissions. Each submission must be a separate, complete story within 1000 words.

7. Each submission must be “satisfying,” i.e. a complete scene, leaving no unanswered questions or cliffhangers.

8. You may dedicate each story to someone as a Christmas gift, using up to two lines for your dedication.

9. Stories should be posted on your own website, or hosted on another writer’s website. If you would like to keep your dedication a secret, approach someone else within the #DFQ group about hosting your story. If you do not have a blog or do not know someone willing to host your story, message us – Laura James, Missy Ames, Nick Johns, Ruth Long via the FB group AMMC.

10. Each story must have a Title and Author Name, and “eBook Yes (or No)” to indicate your willingness to have it included within an eBook.

11. By tagging your story with #AMMC-DFQ and indicating “eBook Yes,” you agree to the publishing conditions mentioned above.

12. We will create a Facebook group (AMMC) to contain discussion of this anthology until its completion. Follow us on Twitter using the hashtag #AMMC-DFQ. Soon, a link code will be added to this post, which will connect all of our contributions.

13. Please use the following formatting, to make editors’ lives easier:

• Use double quotes for speech
• Use a blank line after each paragraph

*****

bhc

We are pleased to announce that Blue Harvest Creative is on board to for our cover design and formatting! This will be a beautiful finished product. So start thinking up your Christmas tales! We look forward to reading about your romance, mystery, crimes, dark tales, and passion. About fairies, angels, dragons, zombies, elves… or zombie elves! About the beginnings of your traditions, or the nuances of them now, through a fantasy element. We’re excited to see what everyone brings to the book!