Forsaken

Image credit: Perfect Lazybones/Shutterstock.com

Image credit: Perfect Lazybones/Shutterstock.com

After the war all signs of vibrancy were gone.

We went, my friend and I, to the old mall where once we’d spent many a lazy, pointless morning. It had been a tribal rite of sorts, the meetings in the mall. We’d shopped sometimes, sometimes drank coffee, and more often than not spent what felt like endless hours in the games room, pretending to be soldiers in some futuristic war. But nothing’s endless, not really, except the end.

The war came, not so futuristic, and so much more terrible. And we were solders for a time. And we survived, he and I. Just like we won the games, over and over, and maybe because of it. I guess we will never know.

Now when we visit, the lights are out, and all is wreckage. Even if the games room still functioned – and nothing does, not any more – we would not have the heart to play. We wander in the fall out, shaking our heads, no words to say. We sit by the escalator, build a small fire, warm ourselves and dip our cigarettes to the flame to smoke.

You weren’t allowed to smoke in here before. Now there are no more rules. There’s no more of anything, not really.

We’ll have to go out and hunt soon for food. But we both know it’s a fruitless quest, a pretence we have that there is a future, for us, for anyone. We haven’t eaten in days. This little fire won’t heat the cold and hunger within.

“Twenty days and counting,” my friend counted.

Twenty days since we made it back home, and found a ghost town- nothing more. What had we been fighting for? And what cruel god had let us survive, when so few did?

I shook my head. “Here’s to twenty more” I said, but I didn’t mean it.

“We won’t last that long,” my friend mused, but not unhappily. Like me, he yearned for the freedom that others had gained in death. Starvation in a ghost town is a particularly cruel way to go.

“Here’s to that, then” I said. “Here’s to that.”

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

Posted in Horror Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Alchemy

Image credit: Vera Petruk/Shutterstock.com

Image credit: Vera Petruk/Shutterstock.com

In those times we read the ancient book
The masters of our little universe were alchemists
and in awe we followed their dictates
They fed on spells and death and hate
into the mess of the nigredo each must fall
if we were to rise at all

I often felt the wisdom they peddled
to the unsuspecting masses was quite suspect indeed
but I followed in any case in thrall
to powers unseen and perhaps dread
And the less of that that’s said
the better as my master often would say
On the coldest, winteriest days
when too many suffered and bled

None of us know anything that’s the simple truth of it all
and yet we look to others for honesty and objectivity
and when written in some ageing text
in symbols and languages known to few
then from this wellspring of false knowledge
everyone knelt and drew such sustenance
that fools might find
We may as well have lost our minds

I believed too long to call myself
a creature of intelligence
And yet I proclaimed as much as any
That from the book we found the secrets of the universe
And our lies reached us
like our ancient curse
And bled into the morning
and the aeons yet to come till
Humanity was quite undone
And so was I

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

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The Girl in the Wall

Image credit:Ruslan Grumble/Shutterstock.com

Image credit:Ruslan Grumble/Shutterstock.com

She would appear on full moon nights. Only in that one room, up in the attic, and only then.

He only saw her because, on such glorious light soaked evenings, he wanted to be at the top of the house, looking out to the sky, to the wonderful moon.

He understood, then, that perhaps she wanted the same.

The first time he’d been frightened by her. It wasn’t something you expect, after all, a ghostly face of a girl appearing in the wall beside you. A face watching you, while you watch the moon.

But there she was. The girl in the wall, as he came to call her.

When she didn’t emerge from the wall, or cause him harm, he relaxed. He enjoyed her company, though she didn’t speak. At first he tried to see her other nights, but eventually he knew, it was only ever once a month, as the moon met its fullest glory.

He researched the house, but couldn’t find any story of a girl dying here. Still it was an uncelebrated house in an uncelebrated part of town, so anything was possible.

He wished she would speak to him, give up her secrets, her story. But she never would.

She seemed sad sometimes. Like she knew something. Each month, sadder still.

When the doctors gave him his prognosis, he wasn’t even surprised. The girl in the wall had known, he was sure.

The last month before he died, however, when the moon was ripe and she came to the wall to watch its glory with him, she actually smiled.

And then he knew his fellow moon follower had been waiting for him. Soon he would join her, join her in the wall, and neither need be lonely again.

The moon shone down on the dying boy and the girl in the wall. And in its silvery glory was the promise of the morning to come.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

Posted in Horror Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Masks

Image credit: Captblack76/Shutterstock.com

Image credit: Captblack76/Shutterstock.com

She grew used to the masks, but she knew she should not.

The avatars they were given were faceless. That was part of the design, they said, so you could more easily choose how to look.

“You are not constrained here by your genetics,” they said in the brochure. “You can be anything you want to be.”

And for every choice there was a mask. Happy, sad, indifferent, whatever you wanted. Just choose and put it on, and discard for another when you need. So easy.

“The freedom of choice is just the beginning of the virtual experience,” the brochure continued. “Experiences are safe no matter how dangerous they might seem. You can learn and grow in comfort and in security. You can even die and not die.”

It had sounded like a good idea at first. And everyone was doing it. At the end of the working day you had television, or you had this. You would come home to the government regulation small flat, where you could reach out and touch both walls at the same time. Such sensible constraints for the environment and the economy, as you were told, and how could you reasonably question or complain? But you didn’t have to be so caught by limitation. The government provided a remedy for that. Just don the headset and choose your mask, and the vista of limitlessness and eternity was available.

But little rebellions grow of understanding the lie behind the marketing. For there was as much pain in this place as anywhere else. If you didn’t wear the right mask at the right time you were shunned. Bullies roamed the virtual streets as hungrily as they did the real. There was nothing virtuous about the virtual at all. And power and privilege rose and fell on the relentless egos driving it all.

So one night she chose no mask. No mask at all. She walked faceless among the hordes. And the another night, and another. And for a long time they didn’t even notice. But eventually, some did, and over time more saw her. Saw her faceless self for the first real time.

And some even understood. Some joined her – the faceless army for the faceless world. Nothing virtual about this reality at all.

They cut off her access when they realised. She imagined they did this for the others. She would come home and watch television for a while, then sleep.

But in the morning she would go into her small bathroom and look in the mirror,and see her own face, her real face. And if she supposedly had nothing now, and was so alone in a world that could not countenance her capacity for thought, she had this at least.

She could look at her own, true face.

It was enough.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

Posted in Horror Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dilemma

Image credit: PsychoShadow/Shutterstock.com

Image credit: PsychoShadow/Shutterstock.com

On the in between plain Edward faced his dilemma.

His calculations had been precise enough to bring him here, but here wasn’t what he expected.

Though, if he were honest, he hadn’t really known what to expect. Time travel hadn’t been a success story before, and his mathematics and geometry had failed and failed and failed again. Until now, this breakthrough, bringing him to….this.

Time, clocks, choice.

He’d perhaps expected gravel streets of ancient London city, or the battle strewn expanse of the crusades. If not, the bloody guillotine falling on the nobility necks in France, or biblical cities of salt.

He’d expected to go somewhere in time, not to the portal of time itself.

And what of choice now? If he walked up to one of the clocks to touch it, choose it, what would happen? Where would he go? What would he see?

Or would he go anywhere? Was this all there was? The dread thought occurred and chilled his soul, down to its depths, down way below the bone.

The minute hand on each clock ticked on, and on, and on. Was this all there was, really? Was travel in time only travel to time itself? Was the world he knew and the world he imagined nothing more than that – just imagination – just random psychotic images in a fevered mind, just filling in time?

Once you loosed the yoke of the day-to-day and reached here, perhaps all that was and ever would be would be reduced to all it ever was, or ever could be.

Just time, just clocks, just choice.

Let me go back, he wanted to say, back to my home to my laboratory, to my hopes and dreams. But even as he said it he tasted the futility on his tongue. He’d come here, and here was too far away from it all. Too different from it all. He couldn’t find his way back, he couldn’t go home, and he couldn’t go anywhere else. Not really. It was too late.

He didn’t have the time.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

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Catacombs

Image credit: Verkhovynets Taras/Shutterstock.com

Image credit: Verkhovynets Taras/Shutterstock.com

Down in the catacombs
Rhys, David and me
Looking for danger
Insolent, free
Our bloodied hands
A warning sign
Destroy all that’s innocent
Everything fine
Down in the catacombs
Rhys, David and me

Only fools trespass
Down in the mines
We’re what is waiting
We’re what you’ll find
Slicing your skin
Eating your pain
Dust to dust friend
You’re all the same
Only fools trespass
Down in the mines

Hell’s destination
Follow we three
Pay the pied piper
Nothing is free
Life’s but a shadow
Gone in a blink
No time to run now
No time to think
Hell’s destination
Follow we three

Down in the catacombs
Rhys, David and me
Hell’s destination
Follow we three

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kissing Trees

Image credit:andreiuc88/Shutterstock.com

Image credit:andreiuc88/Shutterstock.com

I remember the kissing trees, as we called them when we were young.

They were in the wooded area on the outskirts of town. The place we would go to play when what kissing trees might signify was barely known to us. We saw them, leaning one to the other, a slight touch at the top of the tallest boughs.

“They’re kissing!” Sylvie had said, laughing.

I laughed too.

But they were beautiful. More so than me, and more than Sylvie was then. At eight years old we were both normalcy personified. Scrappy young kids, playing innocent of the world. Not even understanding then, what they signified.

They were just the kissing trees.

Years later we went there again. Sylvie was suffering from her first broken heart. Anthony, the cleverest and handsomest boy in our school had drawn her in, then spat her out, as he did with anyone unwise enough to trust. But by then Sylvie had grown very pretty indeed, so thought she would be different. And I, still plain, could not tell her or warn her. She would not have listened to me.

But now my company was craved, in her sorrow and dismay, and the places of comfort as a child. So we went to the woods, and by and by found the kissing trees, there still, so quiet and regal it was as though they and waited for us, frozen in time, all the while.

“I shall never recover!’ Sylvie proclaimed, ever dramatic.

“You will,” I said, “You all break many hearts yet yourself, and have yours broken more than once I imagine. And you will recover and grow stronger, though you won’t believe me now!”

“You are wrong!” she announced, tears streaming from her far too pretty eyes. “I know it, I feel it. My pain is eternal, as unchanging as the kissing trees!”

We both turned to look at them in this moment. Something ran under my skin, a prescience perhaps, I do not know. I only remember this, thinking as she ran towards them, her arms open in a kind of reckless, hopeless embrace, that I wanted to cry out to her to stop. But I didn’t, and I didn’t know why then, and I do not know even to this day.

I knew only this, that we’d never run through the kissing trees. We’d never dared to trespass on their ancient embrace. But now, now in her heartbreak, Sylvie was in the mood to break unspoken laws. Her world had crashed and burned, and she would take all with her.

I understood only as she did so. Only as she ran through them and then as she…disappeared.

Only then did I truly know. The trees were not kissing as our childish minds had fashioned. That wasn’t their purpose at all. They met in a different embrace, the embrace that created a doorway, a portal. But I do not know why, or to where. Not then and not to this day.

Sylvie never returned. I never told anyone that I had gone with her to the woods that day. The police looked for her. Across the town her pretty face was plastered on billboards and lamp-posts, but all to no avail.

Anthony was distressed. She might have liked that, if I could tell her.

But I couldn’t then, and I still can’t to this day. I don’t know where she’s gone.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

Posted in Horror Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Captured

Image credit:Fernando Cortes/Shutterstock.com

Image credit:Fernando Cortes/Shutterstock.com

They caught her on the morning tide. Raised her up, heavy and frightened and squirming in their nets.

The moon had not even forfeited its dominion in the sky, and even some stars still flashed their dying light on the scene. Radiating the water on the shoreline, as they drew her in.

Not fish, not woman, but both. A legend in flesh and scale.

She sang no song. She was no siren. A throwback to the past, perhaps, and abstract and wretched creature.

But what a prize!

They subdued her easily. Her fear and her disorientation rendered her powerless.

“She will need water,” one said. As though they knew. As though they knew anything.

“An aquarium” agreed another. It was decided.

She had no words to argue, no language to share. She understood in some vague and primitive way, but no more than that. And she had no chance to focus, for her body was adjusting to the air and lack of water, reorienting itself, so she might survive.

Survive.

Later she swam in the large prison they’d chosen for her. She bumped up against the glass walls, hoping always to find a way through. Just a small one, that was all she needed, but the walls were resolute. She knew her small expanse too quickly, and her sorrow bit deep within her confused mind. All she knew was she was caught.

Captured.

She saw them come and go. Not the ones that brought her here, but others. Women, men, children, pointing. Flashing lights assailed her eyes, and she heard their mumbling voices, their laughter. She couldn’t understand.

Neither could they. None of the food they tried to give her could nourish her. And here there was no rest, no way to sleep. Only the endless ramming against walls that would not give.

On the seventh day she died. Of a broken heart perhaps, or just of loneliness and captivity. The patrons to the aquarium were not amused. The owners demanded their money back from the fishermen. It all ended almost as quickly as it began.

The fisherman trawled the seas thereafter, looking for her kind. A fruitless quest, she was the last, the last of them all.

And now she was gone.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

Posted in Horror Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Look Back

Image credit: Captblack76/Shutterstock.com

Image credit: Captblack76/Shutterstock.com

He learned many secrets as a child.

Most of all, he learned how to hide his true self, even from himself.

“Never look back,” they said, “into a mirror, for you will see your soul.”

He understood their advice,and why they told him. They knew his soul, for they and drawn it up themselves, into the squawking babe that he inhabited, all those years ago. A child of impeccable pedigree, and lineage suitable, strong enough in constitution and faith to carry his light. His fallen light.

He waked in beauty, and much in the world around him was even more beautiful still. How could he walk these streets knowing his true face? They told him, you must hide and show others beauty, for only in that will you succeed. To know too much of yourself courts disaster. You may shrink back yourself, having forgotten the true glory of your own world, and you may defeat yourself.

“It has happened before,” they said. “When you first fell. Your image changed, and for centuries you despaired, and then you denied, and then you embraced it all, but now once more you have let it go. For it is time. You must not remember. You must not look back.”

This form was chosen to tempt, to beguile. He understood, and he found comfort in facing the mirror each day, seeing his body, his face, his expressions. He belonged. He looked like them, and they were beautiful to him in their way.

In his way. As long as he never looked back.

“Yes, look forward,” they said. “As we look forward to your rise, and their eventual fall. In your place, in our place.”

Then he might see his face. But not till then.

But what if he loved the beauty now? What if he wanted nothing to fall? Not this earth, not this kind of creation, not even heaven itself? Looking forward meant looking at them and seeing them look back.

That was new, that was wonderful.

So he might disappoint those who drew him here. Those who hated what he now found beautiful, so like him, so like the image of something or someone he once loved, so long ago, so hard to remember.

What did they know of his fall? What did they understand? He might be grateful they brought him here, but that was all.

He’d bring them down instead, cast them down, in the name of something he’d long ago forgotten. But now he remembered. Now he could reach out again, to something higher, something more beautiful.

And it would embrace him, at least for a time.

As long as he never looked back.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

Posted in Horror Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Crow Queen

Image credit: CaptBlack76/Shutterstock.com

Image credit: CaptBlack76/Shutterstock.com

Queen of the crows
Wreathed in the forest’s gloomy light
Arise at our bidding
Arise this night

Daughter of darkness
Free from the world’s aching embrace
Show us your desire
Show us your face

Bringer of sorrow
Doomed to see nations rise and fall
Give us your wisdom
Give us your all

Jury of souls
Queen over all of our goals
Open your mouth
Swallow us whole

Keeper of secrets
Knowing the shame hidden so deep
Embrace your children
Now let us sleep

Embrace your children
So we may sleep

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments