• Chapter Fic,  Fiction

    Ghost Ride, ch. 2

    It’s night again. It’s always night.

    They emerge from the desert like seekers returning from a pilgrimage, which is to say, they return blinking the shine from their eyes when every lit-up neon sign is too much, much too gaudy and much too foreign. Alexis slips her sunglasses back on her face, and Moriah only takes a look at her and sighs.

    “I swear, it’s like I can’t take you anywhere.”

    “You love me,” Alexis says, and Moriah only shakes her head. She doesn’t dignify it with an answer.

    The two-tone digital bell chimes as they push their way into a deserted diner. The fact of prerecording sends a shiver down the back of Alexis’ spine. She thinks of the ghosts of long-dead fish in the desert and puts it out of her mind. The metal push bar is sticky beneath her fingers, and she makes a mental note not to touch anything.

    The host that greets them is tired and ragged, worn around the edges just like the menus she hands them. Everything is sticky, including the tacky vinyl booths. It sticks to the back of Alexis’ legs. There are knife wounds in the upholstery from someone’s temper. Alexis can see into the foamy guts of the seat.

    Their waitress is pretty in a way that’s gone on too long, a record left to play after the DJ fell asleep, spinning around and around until the grooves wear smooth to the point of distortion and beyond. Makeup gathers in the creases that bracket her mouth, in the fine little lines beneath her eyes. She offers them a tired smile and two glasses of water and asks, “What can I get you?”

    “Pancakes and bacon,” Moriah says.

    “Coffee.” Alexis’ stomach gurgles.

    “She’ll have the pancakes too.”

    The waitress doesn’t even pause. Just nods and walks away over checkerboard tile. Alexis leans her head on her hands. “I hate it when you do that.”

    “And I hate when you don’t eat. Tough.”

    “We don’t have the money.”

    They both shut their mouths when the waitress comes back with Alexis’ coffee through force of long habit.

    “Yeah, well. On the list of things I’m willing to sacrifice, meals don’t make the cut. Not yours and not mine.”

    Alexis worries her bottom lip between her teeth. “Yeah, okay.” It isn’t the last time they’ll have this conversation, but she likes when Moriah talks like this. She likes the lit-coal feeling it sparks somewhere in her chest, low down next to her growling belly.

    She snags the glass sugar canister off the edge of the table and dumps an ungodly amount in her coffee, then she drowns it in creamer. It’s tepid by the time she raises it to her lips, sweet enough to choke her. The sugar container and handle are both sticky. Everything is sticky.

    “I don’t know how you can drink it like that,” Moriah says with undisguised disgust worn smooth through use. It’s an old saw, familiar land.

    Alexis just shrugs like she’s supposed to. “Calories are calories. Caffeine is caffeine.”

    She pushes her cup across the table and Moriah stares at it like it’s poison. She sighs, scrubbing a hand over her tired face and lifting the cup to her mouth. “Only because I’m driving,” she says. She takes a deep gulp and thumps the mug back down, setting it rattling in its saucer. “God, that’s foul.”

    They shut up again when the waitress comes back with their food. She eyes the cup sitting on Moriah’s side of the table but says nothing. She looks them over once and refills it from a steaming carafe that smells bitter and burnt, too tired to care if two urchins stiff them out of three bucks.

    Alexis dresses the second cup just as nasty as the first. She’s still thinking about the bruises under the waitress’ eyes after she’s gone. They remind her of the yawning maw of the canyon.

    Moriah drowns her pancakes in syrup and crunches on her bacon, dragging it through the sticky sweet mess on her plate. She makes happy noises as she eats, and Alexis just watches her for a while. There’s a bead of syrup sitting perfect on the dimple on her lip. It’s there only for a second before Moriah licks it back off.

    Moriah glances up from her food (wonder of wonders) and catches Alexis looking. She quirks a brow in her direction, you gonna eat or what?

    Alexis shakes her head and twists her hair off her face and away from her food, letting it unravel down the slope of her back like a tawny rope. She pours a river of syrup onto her own pancakes and wonders if diabetes runs in their family. The bacon is burnt and the pancakes taste like chemicals, and Alexis once again has that feeling of being home.

    * * *

    They hit a gas station on their way out of town. It’s nonnegotiable, so that it isn’t even a conversation. The needle to the gas meter is dipping too near the E for comfort, and no matter what Moriah says, they’d skip meals for this if they had to.

    Keep the car gassed: it’s the inviolate rule.

    Alexis leans her arm against the open window and taps her fingers along its lip, little aimless songs that remind her of the prairie. She tips her head back and rests her head while she waits for Moriah to finish filling ‘er up. The tumbleweeds in this town give her the creeps. Everything is too quiet. The flat, empty fields of dirt stretch on for miles, yawning into the dark.

    It’s disturbing here in a way it wasn’t in the desert. An empty place that’s supposed to be empty is peaceful. One that’s supposed to be full is a horror.

    Alexis looks at herself in the passenger side mirror, assessing her looks. She’s pretty, she guesses. Sometimes she thinks so. Tonight is lucky; it’s one of those nights. The bleary lights from the awning overhead shine down on her just right, blurring imperfections and picking out the shadows beneath her cheekbones, the tired hollows beneath her eyes. Consumption chic. She’s got Moriah’s nose in miniature with thin, stubborn lips and tilted black eyes. There’s more to tell them apart than to keep them together. People can’t often tell, she doesn’t think, that they’re a matched set. Sometimes she likes that and sometimes she doesn’t.

    The slam of a car door jerks her out of her reverie.

    “Alright,” Moriah says. “Let’s rock and roll.”

    * * *

    Alexis picks at the edges of her cellphone. It’s silvered with paint, the false chrome already flaking off to reveal the plastic white underneath. It’s a cheap thing, picked up at a drugstore in a town miles back. Alexis gets her thumbnail under the crumbling paint. She pries at its weakness and flakes it off to silver powder into her lap.

    She sticks the edge of her thumb into her mouth to taste it, and it tastes like nothing. Like dirt and dust and the slight salt of her own skin.

    She flips the phone open. The screen blinks white for only a second before winking back into grey, flat nothingness. Dead again. Nothing holds a charge anymore.

    She opens the glovebox all the same, pulling out a kinked old power cord. She plugs one end into the cigarette lighter and the other into her phone, waiting for the screen to blink back to life. She flips the lid of the phone shut and tosses it in the cupholder.

    “No signal?”

    Alexis shrugs.

    “You know we’re going to have to talk about it sometime.”

    Now it’s Alexis’ turn to reach out and crank up the radio. She flips to a talk station and turns it up obnoxiously loud. It’s a dirty trick, but someone’s got to do it.


    <-Prev | Next ->

  • Fiction,  Poetry

    Poetry and Fiction Masterpost

    Consider this your all-purpose directory for works hosted on this website. I’ll update this as more stories are written. Currently updating stories are up at the top.

    Feel free to shoot me a message via Twitter DM or email if you’re looking for something and can’t find it or if you have any questions.


    Ghost Ride, two sisters on an eerie jaunt through an uncertain apocalypse

    The Poison Path Series (It’ll help if you’ve read the first book.)

    Short Stories

    Poetry


    *Patron-only locked posts are indicated by an asterisk

  • Chapter Fic,  Fiction

    Ghost Ride, ch. 1

    This story is now finished and is available as a short novel wherever you find your books. Here are some links for easy access.

    Two sisters on an eerie jaunt through an uncertain apocalypse. Brought to you by my love of @a_long_drive, the road trip bot on Twitter, probably.


    It’s cold here in the deep desert. The AC crapped out miles ago, ditto the heater, so it’s nothing but windows down for them. Alexis pushes her face into the breeze.

    She can smell the ocean from here, even hundreds of miles from the nearest shore. It’s the damnedest thing. She thinks of the ghosts of thousands upon thousands of sea creatures buried beneath their tread. She thinks of smelling the salt of an ocean long gone, faded away into flakes of salt and nothingness.

    The wind stings her cheeks and blows the wet right out of her eyes.

    Moriah slaps Alexis’ thigh idly, never taking her eyes off the road. “Get back in the car. You look like a damn dog.”

    Alexis flips her off. She keeps her head out the window for a few seconds more, partway to annoy the crap out of Moriah and partway out of genuine enjoyment of the sensation. Eventually she does what Moriah says, hauling herself back in the little red car with a small huff. The smell of diesel wars with the scent of salt. It smells like home, and Alexis settles back against the car seat with a happy sigh.

    Moriah slants a glance at her. “You done communing with nature?”

    Alexis shrugs. “I’m hungry. Are you hungry?”

    “I could eat.” Moriah glances at the rearview mirror where there’s nothing but dead space that winks out into nothingness behind the red glow of their tail lights. “Don’t think we’re going to find anything out here though.”

    “Yeah. You’re probably right.”

    Alexis unfastens her seatbelt and leans over the seat, reaching for her bag in back.

    “Hey! Hey, sit your ass down.” Moriah swats at her ass, and Alexis ignores her. “Gonna make me fucking crash,” she grumbles.

    “Sit your own ass down. You’re a better driver than that.” Alexis glances at Moriah archly over her shoulder, giving her a grin. “Although not by much.”

    “Bitch.”

    Alexis swings back into the front seat holding her prize. She takes her sweet time rebuckling her belt. First, she unzips her backpack and digs around until she finds two smashed PB&Js. She tosses one into Moriah’s lap, keeping the other for herself. She unzips the top of the ziploc and pulls her sandwich out, taking a big bite and licking the jelly that oozes from the corner onto the web of her thumb. She tosses her bag down into the footwell.

    “I don’t suppose you’ve got a bag of chips in that magic sack of yours, boy scout?”

    Alexis chomps at her sandwich, flicking her backpack open with the toe of her shoe. “Nope. I’ve got—a bottle of warm water, a pack of fruit snacks, and not much else.”

    “Ugh, fine. God, I’m sick of peanut butter sandwiches.”

    “Me too,” Alexis says, drawing the words out with relish. They’re almost as good as the feeling of finally having food in her belly. She wishes there were more. Just in case Moriah really wanted chips, she adds, “We’ll keep our eyes peeled.”

    “Yeah,” Moriah says. She sounds troubled, enough that Alexis glances over. She traces the frown on her sister’s face, the pinched line at the corner of her mouth.

    Alexis opens her mouth to ask about it, but Moriah cranks the stereo all the way up. She does it on purpose, to cut her off.

    “Whatever.”

    Alexis settles back in her seat, pulling her sunglasses off the dash and settling them on her face, shielding her eyes from the night. Her sunglasses are white, cheap plastic and gaudy, $4.99 from some gas station she can barely remember. Moriah says they make her look like a douchebag, and Alexis says good—they’re supposed to. They’re just what she likes.

    She crumples up her sandwich wrapper and throws it out the window. It’s destined to become part of the doomed landscape, just like them all. Guns N’ Roses pours out of their little car’s speakers, streaming desperately into the night.

    Alexis closes her eyes, and Moriah drives.

    * * *

    Alexis doesn’t think she sleeps, but she wakes up sometime before morning. The sun is just starting to stain the horizon blush-pink, the whole world lit up in tones of soft-washed grey. Alexis can still see the stars as faint pinpricks of light if she looks up. The driver’s seat is empty beside her.

    She yawns her way out of the car, snagging the hoodie that had been crumpled under her head and shoving it over her shivering body. It’s still fucking cold in the desert. She can see the faint white puffs of her breath. She slams the car door shut, and Moriah looks toward the sound, just for a second, before turning her gaze back over the canyon. She’s perched at the edge of a cliff face, nothing but a fathomless plunge below. Alexis can’t see the bottom, even when she walks over to stand side by side with Moriah, close enough that their shoulders brush.

    It looks like an ink wash drawing painted in hues of bruise, livid violets. Caput Mortuum. She glances over at Moriah, the thready black hair whispering across her face, trailing out behind her in the breeze. Her sister is beautiful, Alexis thinks. She studies the proud, crooked line of Moriah’s nose in profile, the serious set to her generous mouth.

    She looks back at the canyon. They really drove all night.

    “I didn’t think you were ever going to wake up,” Moriah says. Her voice sounds strange. Smaller, Alexis thinks. It’s strange to think of anything about Moriah as small. She’s always taken up all the room there is in every room, every hallway, every outdoor place.

    “You could have woken me.” Her voice does it too.

    Maybe it’s not her voice, Alexis thinks. Maybe it’s this place, a place too old and big for the both of them. Maybe it’s swallowing them up, the sounds they make sucked into the violet dark below. If she were the reverent type, she might care about walking on hallowed ground, but the only altar she knows is her sister.

    “Nah,” Moriah says. “You looked like hell. Figured you could use the sleep.”

    “So could you,” Alexis says. Then she says, “Thanks,” belatedly. It’s awkward. Gratitude always is, between them.

    Moriah shrugs. “You feel up to driving?”

    “Sure.” Alexis holds out her hand and only has to wait a second for Moriah to slap the keys into it. The jagged corners sting her palm.

    She doesn’t say that Moriah never lets her drive. She doesn’t ask if she’s alright. The answer is so obviously no.


    Next ->

  • Monthly Updates

    Next Steps for The Poison Path Series (and my fiction in general)

    Last time I talked to you, I was working on Angeline’s story. I shared a summary that I was excited about. I’m still excited! I spent several weeks working on that book before hitting a wall that was probably inevitable. You see, Angeline’s story is the story of the Old Country. It’s the story that takes place approximately 20 years after the events of The Poison Path. Which is to say, it’s the story of a changed empire, and I can’t tell her story without telling the story of the world she lives in.

    So I went back. I picked up Serafina and Mag’s story where we left them last. I got about 3k words in and then—another wall. Because it occurs to me that while I’m deeply invested in Mag and Serafina—while I love them and want to tell their story—their limited vantage points can’t get me where I want to go. Not quite.

    I want to tell a bigger story, filled with many different voices. I want to tell a story from all sides, which potentially means I want to tell a lot of littler stories. I sometimes say that all I want is to write fanfiction of my own stories, my own worlds, and a conversation with a friend reminded me that I can do exactly that.

    I’m self-published for a number of different reasons: because I want ultimate control of my work and the way it’s presented, because I’d rather share stories than have them tied up for years in pitches, because I think it’s a business model that makes sense in this day and age… but I think sometimes I forget the sheer, dazzling amount of freedom that comes with that choice. I want to keep telling the story I began in The Poison Path, but the next steps forward don’t need to be books if I don’t want them to be.

    Always, I want to serve the needs of the story first. I realized that what I wrote for Mag and Serafina stands up well as a short story. I realized I can tell the story of the next twenty years in the Old Country through a series of vignettes and shorts. I can post them here, and I can collect them in an anthology. Angeline’s book will absolutely be a book, but for now, maybe this.

    So I’m excited! I’m excited to tell this story I’ve lived with for almost ten years now. I’m excited to explore this world and share it with you, one little piece at a time, the way I love to tell stories best. (What can I say? I’m a fic author at heart.)

    So stay tuned, and consider joining the party on Patreon if you’re not subscribed yet. I think I’ll probably post these short stories as patron-only posts, and we’ll go from there. Thank you, as always, for your support. Thank you for being here. <3