Friday, February 24, 2012

Phosphorus’s Glow and Life’s Oxygen

Phosphorus’s Glow and Life’s Oxygen

By Cherie Reich

Linia cocked her head to listen for Griffon or her friend Barinia, but she could no longer hear them. Good. She was far enough away from them. All their smooching had grated on her last nerve. Some camping trip they’d had.

She crept closer to the sleeping draken. Pegasiflies buzzed around it in lazy circles, and the draken’s feather-tipped tail swished to swat them away. Steam floated from its nostrils. A leafy frond blocked her entrance to the animal’s nest, but she easily shoved the leaf aside and entered. If she couldn’t get to the cave, then she wouldn’t be able to check out the supposed hieroglyphics inside. No draken or annoying Griffon was going to stop her.

Her toes sought out each step. One wrong move and the draken would awaken. Heat and the scent of rotten eggs greeted her at the cave’s entrance. Her nose wrinkled, and she pressed her hand under her nostrils. Disgusting! But it didn’t deter her as she scurried into the cavern.

Darkness collapsed around her. She gulped and held out a hand to feel her way. Why didn’t she bring something for light? Or at least her backlit Litras? She tugged her lower lip between her teeth. If she left now and returned, it might be too late. The draken wouldn’t stay asleep forever.

Indecision seized her in its icy grasp. But what was that glow farther back? Curiosity broke the spell, and she stumbled forward. The faint white luminescence of the phosphorus rocks lit the cave. And upon these stones were the hieroglyphs.

“Wow,” she whispered to herself. Her fingers hovered over the ancient markings. If only she had time to decipher them . . .

The ground rumbled, and she bumped against the rock. Was it a cave in? A tremor?

No, it was much worse. Reddish eyes flashed from the cave’s entrance as the draken snorted.

Oh, no!

The creature slipped into the cave, its nose sniffing the air. Did drakens eat Perseans? Linia didn’t know, but she didn’t really want to find out either. Her back pressed against rough stone. Should she run for it? The draken blocked the entrance, but could find another way out?


Flames burst from the draken’s mouth, and Linia screamed as heat lapped around her. She would die here.

“Please, stop.” Her words couldn’t have any effect on the beast, but it did stop and look at her. She held up her hands. “I don’t mean you any harm.”

The draken lowered and leaned its feathered head closer to her hands. Did it understand her? Could she befriend it?

“It’s okay,” she whispered, fear draining from her and pooling at her feet.

Then, blue light filled the entrance. She gasped. “No!”

The draken tensed and trembled as electricity flowed through it. When it collapsed upon the ground and the light vanished, tears streamed down Linia’s face.

“Are you okay?” Griffon jogged into the cave and wrapped his arms around her.

“You k-killed it.” She breathed in snot.

“It was going to eat you. What were you thinking about running off like that? Barinia and I’ve been looking for you.” His words gave her no comfort, and she shoved away from him.

“The draken wasn’t hurting me, and I’m fine.” She slapped away her tears. “How could you do it, Griffon?”

He shook his head. “You sure know a great way to treat your shining savior. How about giving me a kiss for saving you?”

Her fingernails dug into her palms. She’d rather punch him in the mouth than kiss him. Instead, she pushed past him and scurried around the poor draken. The tears burned her eyes again. How could he do that?

“Where’re you going?”

“Leave me alone.” She picked up her pace and brushed away the pegasiflies swarming the entrance.


At the sound of her name, she ran from the cave and Griffon. The hieroglyphics were forgotten, but Griffon’s actions were not. She didn’t even stop when she saw Barinia as she packed her belongings to leave.

The image of that electrocuted creature singed her mind and crushed her heart.


Alezandros grabbed Sophisa’s hand and helped her over building rubble. Her gloved fingers tightened around his. He breathed deeply as the mask rustled against his nostrils. The cold Medusan air would freeze their nose hairs, if they didn’t wear the masks, but he regretted it hid her pretty face. Her long locks writhed along her back and stroked his arm. In some ways, she was more beautiful now than any time before.

“Isn’t this wonderful?” he asked her.

Her green eyes pierced into him, but he didn’t detect her general warmth. “I don’t know why you like coming out here, Alezandros. It’s cold and scary.”

“Well, it is cold out here,” he said as they walked hand in hand along the old city paths. His foot knocked a rusted-out can out of the way. “But scary? No, not really. Everything’s dead out here. It’s just the leftovers of our civilization.”

“Leftovers . . .” She scoffed. “Why couldn’t we have a normal date? It’d be nice to return to Bellami’s.”

“Bellami’s is great, but what about adventure? It’s not every day we get to come to the surface.” He pressed her gloved hand to his mask. If only he could kiss it through the fabrics. “Come on, this isn’t really that bad, is it?”

“Well . . . I suppose not.” She lightened up a little bit. “I suppose it is kinda—”


“What was that?” Her voice rose in pitch.

Alezandros pulled her closer. His heart pounded with excitement instead of fear. Could something exist at the end of their world? “I’m not sure.”

“Let’s go.” She tugged on his arm.

“Wait a minute.” He didn’t budge when the kanog emerged from an abandoned building.

Its purple tongue lolled from its mouth. Its fur was patchy, and Alezandros could count every bone in its body, if he wanted. Weren’t kanogs extinct? He’d never seen one except in old pictures. His grandparents had had some of the last ones as pets.

The creature growled again.

“Alezandros,” Sophisa whined.

 “Wait. This could be the last of its kind. We should help it.” He extracted himself from her grasp and crept toward the animal. “Shh, it’s okay, boy. We won’t hurt you.”

“Don’t go near it.” She didn’t follow him closer.

The kanog lowered and bared its sharp teeth. The growling increased until it barked.

“It’s okay,” he said again as he reached out a hand toward it. If they could take it back . . .

The creature leapt toward his hand and sunk its teeth into it.

He cried out, jerking his hand away from its fangs as the growling stopped with a quick yelp and nothing.

A stone kanog stood poised for action, as if it never existed.

Alezandros spun around, blood flying from his injured hand. “What did you do that for?”

Sophisa’s eyes widened as if he slapped her. “That monster bit you! You could have an infection now. We need to get you to a healer.”

“I’ll heal just fine on my own.” His hand stung, but the kanog was probably just hungry and scared. It didn’t mean to hurt him. Besides, Medusans were fast healers. It wasn’t like it tore off his merdre limb!

“Let’s go back underground.” He no longer wanted to be up here with her. Her reaction seemed to suck the oxygen from his lungs.

“Good,” she said with as much finality as he did.

Alezandros glanced back at the frozen creature. Poor thing. If only he had done something differently, the kanog might still be alive. He shook his head in dismay.

They left without holding hands.

Defying Gravity by Cherie Reich

Book Description: Homesick upon the SS Perseid, Linia, a young linguist, thinks she signed up for a mission of peace, but her crew members have another plan: attack the planet Medusa.

Bored with his dying planet, Alezandros, a space cruiser pilot, joins the Medusan Army in his quest for adventure.

When the SS Perseid clashes with the Medusans’ space cruisers, Alezandros and Linia’s lives intertwine. Sucked through a wormhole, they crash upon a post-apocalyptic Earth and are captured by cannibals. In adjacent cells, Alezandros and Linia cast their differences aside for a common bond: escape. But when romantic feelings emerge between them, they might do the unthinkable because for a Medusan and a Persean to fall in love, it would defy gravity.

Book Links: Surrounded by Books Publishing

Author Bio: Cherie Reich is a writer, freelance editor and library assistant. She enjoys writing horror, fantasy, and mysteries, but she doesn’t let that stop her from trying other genres. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and her e-books include Once Upon a December Nightmare, The Best of Raven and the Writing Desk, and Defying Gravity. She is a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Valley Writers and placed third in Roanoke Valley’s BIG READ writing contest.

Author Links:  Website


Wednesday, February 1, 2012



By: Terri Talley Venters


You are cordially invited to a Valentines’ Day Party

February 14, 1913

8 o’clock in the evening

At the beach home of Jeb and Shelby McAlister

In St. Augustine, Florida

Priscilla squealed with excitement as she danced in circles, delighted to receive the coveted Valentines’ Day party invitation hosted by her friends, twins Jeb and Shelby. Priscilla, along with everyone else fortunate enough to attend, looked forward this annual party of the season. The tradition started several years ago when Jeb and Shelby’s parents wanted society to mingle with their teenage children on Valentines’ Day in hopes to find good matches for their twins amongst the children of their wealthy friends.

Everyone anticipated an engagement between Priscilla and Jeb. In fact Priscilla let Jeb kiss her on the beach at last year’s Valentines’ Day party. Although she’d hoped for a proposal last year, she understood the delay since he and his twin sister, along with their parents, departed for Europe a few days after last year’s party.

Priscilla worried why he never wrote to her during this last year. She feared Jeb’s parents would try to marry him off to a lady of nobility during their Grand Tour. She read the social pages everyday and felt thankful to hear no news of him. Her heart would break if she learned Jeb got engaged to another woman.

It didn’t surprise her to not see him since last year. The McAlister’s lived in Philadelphia, while Priscilla and her family lived in New York. But like most wealthy families, they spent their winters in Florida. They took the Florida East Coast railroad to St. Augustine, Florida and stayed in the luxurious Ponce De Leon Hotel. Since the beaches in Florida were so beautiful, many wealthy families built their winter homes here including the McAlister family.

Valentines’ Day finally arrived and Priscilla arrived at the McAlister’s enormous beach home located on the inlet leading into St. Augustine. Her full-length, red satin gown would normally appear inappropriate on an unmarried woman, but her mother acquiesced and allowed Priscilla to borrow hers for this special evening.

Priscilla walked up the steps of the party and felt breathless at the sight of everyone wearing their finery--the women in beautiful gowns and jewels and the men in coats with tails and top hats. She entered the beautiful home and fantasized about her future with Jeb. She pictured herself wearing the latest fashions from Paris, adorned with diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires, depending on which gown she chose. But the best part about her fantasy life was the title of Mrs. Jeb McAlister.

She entered the enormous ballroom and immediately searched for Jeb. She took the glass of champagne handed to her by a servant, but ignored the scrumptious buffet meticulously laid out in the formal dinning room of the mansion. She knew eating like a field hand repulsed most gentlemen, along with her waistline. She saw many of her friends which delighted her, but she saw no sign of any of the McAlister’s.

“Priscilla, darling, how wonderful to see you. Have you met Matthew Oxford of Boston?” Madeline asked, kissing her cheeks to greet her friend since childhood.

“Of course, I remember Mr. Oxford. How do you do?” Priscilla asked. She raised her gloved-hand and allowed him to kiss the silken fabric protecting her delicate fingers.

“How do you do, Priscilla. How wonderful to see you again. I was just telling Madeline how sorry I was to hear about her husband who went down on the Titanic last April,” Matthew said.

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Madeline. And how unfortunate I must again compete with the beautiful Madeline Astor. How can I possibly land a fine husband when every eye is on you tonight,” Priscilla said.

“Thank you, Priscilla. But I’m afraid you outshine me in your beautiful red gown,” Madeline said.

“Madeline and I were just discussing how the tragedy of so many lost souls on the Titanic increased my business last year,” Matthew said.

“How interesting. It’s good to hear something positive derived from such a tragedy,” Priscilla said. She tried to hide her shock to hear a man discussing business in front of ladies. But his breach of etiquette reminded her of Matthew’s “nouveau riche” status.

“Mr. Oxford makes headstones for a living and his father owns a granite quarry,” Madeline said, catching Priscilla up on the conversation while sharing her misery of the dreadful tale.

“You see, tombstones are made from granite, although granite is composed 65% of silicon dioxide,” Matthew said.

Priscilla forced her eyes not to close with boredom from this dreadful conversation. She needed to find Jeb without appearing rude. “Sounds fascinating, Matthew. Although I don’t care to ever see another tombstone again, I’d love to hear more about the tombstone making business. But if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to search for our host, young Mr. McAlister,” Priscilla said.

Priscilla walked out to the beach and stood in the same spot where Jeb had kissed her one year ago tonight. She missed him terribly and felt disappointed she hadn’t seen him at his own party. She understood his duties as a host, but she thought it rather odd that no one saw either Jeb or Shelby at tonight’s party. In fact, no one saw or heard from the McAlister’s since last year’s party.

She looked out at the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean and thought of all the lost people who perished when the Titanic sank last spring. Priscilla prayed to see her beloved again. “Oh, Jeb, I miss you terribly. I love you and I want to be your wife more than anything in the world. Please come back to me.”

Priscilla couldn’t believe her eyes at the sight before her. As her vision watched the circling lights of the lighthouse across the bay, she saw a figure standing on the rocks. He looked like Jeb. She blinked her eyes and thought her prayers were finally answered. Her heart knew the image she craved to see again belonged to her beloved, Jeb McAlister.

She walked towards him and yelled, “Jeb.”

He looked at her without saying a word. He started walking towards the house and Priscilla followed him. Although it thrilled her to see him again, it concerned her when he didn’t come to her now. After an entire year apart, she felt disappointed at his lack of response. She’d expected Jeb to take her into his arms because he missed her as much as she missed him.

She watched Jeb head to the house and couldn’t keep up with his fast pace. She watched him walk through the open front door, almost knocking over a late arriving guest. He didn’t even stop to greet him. What happened to his manners?

Priscilla ran into the house and screamed “Jeb, Jeb, please wait, it’s me, Priscilla.”

“Did you see Jeb?” someone asked.

“Yes, he walked right through the front door a few seconds ago. Didn’t you see him too?” Priscilla asked as she looked through the crowded party to search for Jeb.

“No, in fact no one has seen Jeb, Shelby, or their parents tonight,” the other guest said.

“Look, there he is. Jeb is so tall; I can easily spot his top hat from here. But what’s the white thing around his neck? It looks like a life jacket,” Priscilla asked.

“Wouldn’t surprise me if Jeb decided to take a midnight sail by the Castillo de San Marco. But I don’t see him. Where is he?” Matthew asked.

“Look, he’s right there going out the back door. He’s probably headed towards his boat. It’s docked at the rear of the property,” Priscilla said, pointing towards Jeb.

“Hey, everyone, Jeb is taking us on a midnight sail in the harbor. Follow the man in a top hat and life preserver and grab bottle of champagne,” Matthew said.

“Hurrah!” the party guests cheered in unison as they headed out the back of the house.

“Where is he? I don’t see him,” everyone asked.

“He’s right there. How can you not see him? Everyone, follow me,” Priscilla said.

She led the party outside, and everyone screamed in horror at the sight before them. Four new granite gravestones now occupied the backyard. Priscilla immediately read the engraving on the third marker. She now knew why she never heard from Jeb again.

Here lies Jeb McAlister
Beloved Son and Brother
Born Jan 18, 1888
Lost at sea on the H.M.S, Titanic
April 15, 1912