Friday, February 28, 2020

Flash Fiction #396 -- Lost in Elsewhere/Part 6

The Yeti howled even after Edmond let go of his ear. 

The ice beneath our feet cracked in a pretty spider-web design.

We were all going to fall and die. 

Maggie tried to create more magic, but she was weak.  Five hid in my pocket.  Edmond held to Yeti fur as the creature started jumping up and down.

I panicked — and I did the one thing I do well.

"Stop!" I shouted.

Everything stopped — the Yeti in mid-leap and everyone else in mid-move.  I found that the ice beneath my feet had started to give way with a crack almost six inches wide already.  I could see nothing but a drop beneath, and no sign of the bottom lost in the shadows. 
I carefully moved away and nudged Maggie to a better position.  My head pounded as I slid Lord Snow forward and went to grab Edmond.  By then, I'd reached the end of my control; I barely caught hold of Edmond, and a few strands of Yeti hair, when everything moved.

And I mean everything.

The Yeti hit the ground and gave a startled cry.  Lord Snow leapt at him -- misjudged because I had moved him -- and Maggie yelped and leapt forward, too.

Edmond was yelling. "Stop that noise, you stupid -- oh."

The Yeti scrambled backward when the floor fell away a few feet away from us.  He glanced over my shoulder to the new hole and took another quick step back.  The icy path beneath me was still webbed with cracks.

"I suggest we all take this disagreement at least a few yards elsewhere," Lord Snow suggested.  If a snow leopard could tiptoe forward, that's precisely what he did.  Maggie moved carefully up beside Lord Snow.

The Yeti gave a frantic nod. "Yes, that appears to be quite wise, sir."

The Yeti sounded like an old-fashioned British gentleman.  I started to say something and changed my mind.  As things went in Elsewhere, this wasn't so strange at all.  At least we had a chance of dealing with him.

Edmond glared at the Yeti, though, and I could tell there was more trouble brewing unless I headed it off.

"You did a good job, Edmond," I said quietly and hoped the Yeti didn't take much notice. "I couldn't get to everyone in time."

Edmond had been growling softly, but that sound slowly stopped. "Thanks.  Though I probably shouldn't have bit his ear."

"Not a whole lot of choices," I replied.  I held Edmond against my chest, and I realized he had started to tremble.  Five began to climb out of my pocket, and I quickly handed her over to Maggie while I held Edmond a little tighter.

"We'll be to my den soon," Yeti said as we headed deeper into the ice caverns.  We left the cracks behind. "We'll have tea like proper--" he looked around at me and my companions, "-- beings." He gave another quick look around at everyone and shook his head rather than saying something more.

"Why did you attack us?" Maggie asked.

Yeti gave a little sigh as though he had hoped not to hear that question.  His long strides slowed, and he didn't even complain when Lord Snow went a little bit ahead.

"That was my mistake, and I do apologize.  I am so used to things attacking me that I struck out without even considering what an odd group you are.  I only felt the magic and -- well, you know how it is."

Yes, unfortunately, that was something I did understand.  I hoped Edmond recovered soon.  I held him closer and wanted to reassure him, but that might be embarrassing for him. It's better not to upset a cat.
We passed by a couple openings to the world outside.  It had gone dark out there and the bitterly cold.  The wind howled in around the openings, and Yeti hurried forward past the second and then stopped when we were in a somewhat safer, if not really warmer, area of the passages.

"I say, that is a furious storm, what?" He shook his head with a touch of worry. "How is it such an extraordinary group happened to drop into my area?"

"By accident," I reassured him. "None of us were prepared for it."

"Yes, I can see that you are not dressed for the weather."

I could see a golden glow up ahead and hoped the others hurried a bit.  Holding Edmond was keeping me partly warm, at least.  He was not trembling so much, either.  The fact that he'd said nothing at all lately worried me, though.

"Edmond?" I dared. "Looks like we're almost there."

Edmond lifted his head from my arm -- and then he hissed, clawed his way up to my shoulder, and launched himself into the air behind us.

I knew we had trouble even before I turned.  At first, all I saw was Edmond, his wings unfurled as he flapped once, and the ice and snow --

And something moved.  It blended too well with the wall so that all I saw as a ripple of movement.

"We have trouble!" I shouted. "Look out, Edmond!  There are others!"

"Dada!" Five shouted and leapt into the air to follow him.

"Oh no," Lord Snow said and chased after her.

Yeti came to stand beside me.  I hadn't noticed that he was so tall.  I felt like a child standing in his shadow.

"Ice spiders!" Lord Snow yelled and sounded worried.

"Many of them," Yeti agreed. He'd lifted his hands.  He had, I noted, dangerous claws.  I didn't know why he hadn't used them on Edmond, but I was grateful. "Get back!  All of you!  You -- the creature with the teeth -- back!"

Edmond kept going, his own claws swiping at something on the wall.  I heard a clink and fall, but even then, I couldn't see the creature.

"Dada!" Five called out in fear.

Edmond looked back, saw Five following him, and then he panicked.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Flash Fiction #395 -- Lost in Elsewhere/Part 5

Wall of snow, meet my face.

I  had just enough time to close my mouth, or I would have been inhaling more snow.  It was lucky for me that the wall was firm snow, but not ice.

I don't like snow.

My hands moved instinctively, and I grabbed at the wall when I started to slide downward.  Snow began to crumble, and I couldn't get a grasp on the fluffy white stuff.  I was going to fall again, and a long way --


I had magic, though I wasn't really used to doing anything helpful with it.  My training had only barely started, and my father was trying to teach me just the basics.  I understood the need to build that foundation, but at a moment like this, I really could have stood something more concrete, so to speak.  The one thing I did understand, though, was need.

I needed not to fall.  I desperately needed not to fall -- and my fingers caught hold of the snow that felt more the consistency of a rocky cliffside now.  Unfortunately, it was still cold.

"Mark!" Edmond shouted and quite close.

I turned my head to see him flapping in circles, trying to get close to me.  For a moment, I feared he would land on my shoulder, and we'd both go falling --

"I found him," Edmond shouted.  "He hasn't fallen.  Come on, Mark.  You need to get up to the top before more trouble comes along."

"Not the most encouraging reason for me to move, Edmond," I said, but I had started climbing upward, testing out the snow at each lift of my arm.

"How about this, then:  Five is really worried about you."

I cast him a sideways glance and then sighed.  Yes, that one did work better.  I didn't want to upset the poor little thing.  I felt a few twinges of pain as I moved, but the cold helped there, at least.  Edmond kept circling around, and I wondered what he thought he could do to help. 

"Go on up, Edmond," I said.  "I'm almost there."

That was not entirely true, but I was closer.  Edmond made one more circle and then moved upward.  I had heard him gasping.  The last thing we needed was to rescue Edmond from the snowy bottom of this shaft.

I made the mistake of looking downward.  I was far higher than I had expected -- and yeah, I don't like heights that much, either.  So I hated the snow and didn't want to fall.  I started upward again.

The world felt empty without Edmond around.  I strained to hear the others somewhere above me, but I was gasping and my heart pounding.  I wanted to get to the top.

I didn't want Five to worry.

And then there was worse.  I could hear the sounds of trouble up above -- both Maggie's shouts and Lord Snow's growls.  The sudden fear almost made me lose my hold on the magic.  I dropped nearly a foot before I caught hold again and started out once more, moving as fast as I could.  It was dangerous and took so much energy both in movement and magic that I was soon gasping and lightheaded.  The buzzing in my ears blocked out most of the sounds from above.  I had to stop.  I was starting to see black spots at the corner of my eyes --

Five landed on my shoulders.

"Aunt Maggie said I should tell you to hurry," Five said, sounding quite official.  Then she gave a little tremble.  "Please hurry, Uncle Mark."

They had sent Five down to get her to safety.  I tried not to think that meant they were in real trouble -- though there were still yells from voices I didn't recognize and growls from Lord Snow.  Maybe, though, they were trying to get her out of the path of trouble.  Kittens had no sense of danger.

I had already started moving back upward.  My fingers began to go numb with the cold, and I had to watch where I placed my hands.  I concentrated on that work and thinking about getting Five into my pocket once I cleared the wall of snow.

I heard Edmond let out a yowl like I'd never heard before --

"Dada is mad," Five whispered.

"So am I," I said, and it was true.  I was mad that we'd fallen -- literally -- into trouble when all we wanted was to get back home.  What was it with Elsewhere that we found difficulty at every turn?  Why couldn't --

My hand reached for the next hold and found nothing.  I looked up.  I had reached the top.  That gave me a surge of hope and enough energy to propel myself up and over the top.  I scrambled forward an all fours and Five gave a squeal of surprise and delight as she did her best to hold on.

I got to my knees then quickly to my feet as I put Five into my pocket, mumbling something about secret weapon -- she liked that.

My friends were fighting a yeti.  The huge, white-furred creatures with eyes of ice blue swept dagger-like claws at Maggie and Lord Snow.  Edmond was nowhere to be seen, and I had a sudden fear that was colder than the world around me --

Then Edmond came sweeping out of the sky and headed straight for the back of the Yeti's head.

Edmond had never learned how to land -- not on the ground and certainly not on the back of a Yeti head.  He hit with enough force that the Yeti gave a startled shout and started to slip on the ice.  Edmond had grabbed hold of the long fur and flopped around a couple times as the Yeti shook his head, still stunned by the blow.

Edmond hissed and grabbed hold of the creature's ear.

It turns out that Yeti's have very sensitive ears -- as well as high--pitched howls that can crack glass.

And ice.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Flash Fiction # 394 -- Lost in Elsewhere/Part 4

Welcome to the new adventures of Mark, Maggie, and Edmond the talking cat.  There are three sets of adventures on the Joyously Prolific Blog.  You can find them by searching for Surviving Elsewhere, Journey to Somewhere Else, and Saving Elsewhere -- or you can find the entire set here: Tales from Elsewhere -- and you can buy the book for $1.99 with this coupon code WN38F (not case-sensitive) which you enter prior to completing their checkout.  (Good until December 31, 2020 -- pass it around to your friends!)

"Lord Snow!" Maggie yelled, panic at the edge of her voice.

I felt much the same way, but I couldn't quite get my breath to yell -- and that might have been a good thing.


I heard the word over Maggie's shouts and grabbed her arm.  "Listen!"

"Be careful up there!"

That gave me a good idea of where Lord Snow had gone. I dropped onto my knees and carefully crawled forward, signaling the others -- including Edmond -- to stay back.

The opening was about twelve feet across and irregular.  Another foot of it broke off as I neared, and I stopped with my heart pounding.

"Slowly, Mark," Lord Snow said from somewhere below me.  Far below me.

I inched forward and looked down.

Lord Snow sat on a ramp of ice about fifty feet below.  Pieces of the snowbank sat all around him.  He looked annoyed.

"Ah, there you are," Lord Snow said.  He shook snow from his fur.  "Well, this is embarrassing. I was actually trying to find an opening into a burrow.  I did not intend to drop in like that, though."

"Burrow?" I asked. Paths led off to different areas, all of them made of translucent ice.  It looked slick.

"Probably an ice spider," Lord Snow said with a twitch of his ears.  Not a happy cat.  "The question is whether you come down here and join me or not."

"Ice spider?" I said and thought maybe I ought to back away from the opening, especially since part of it cracked and fell away.

"Ice spiders are annoying, and they can be dangerous -- but I don't think you want to be up there on the flat plane when night comes and the winds blow."

I hadn't considered storms, even though I had noted that the breeze was a bit brisker now.  Wind?  There was nowhere to take shelter, except down.


"Down," she said and with a glance around the bleak landscape.  I felt nervous about all the things we could not see ... but I could hear the sound of the wind starting to roar in the distance.  "Edmond, you go first.  The wind is picking up."

"You expect me to jump into some spider -- oh."

A gust of wind caught Edmond and slid him back a couple inches.  He scurried forward and dropped down over the edge with hardly a pause.  I watched Edmond land and slide a few feet before Lord Snow snagged him.  Edmond nestled in close to the larger cat.


"Waiting for a break in the wind," she said, her metal wings fluttering a bit.  "You should --"

"You and Five go first," I said.  "Don't worry -- this snowbank isn't going to hold up much longer anyway!"

Maggie lifted on her wings, flapping them rather frantically as she slipped over the opening and then dropped the last couple feet.  Five let out a sound of delight.  We'd have to find her a rollercoaster.

I slid forward, trying to let my feet down first --

Of course not.

The snowbank tore free, and I tumbled, snow and ice falling with me.

It can't be that far --


I hit the ice path more on my side than my face, which was good.  I didn't need a broken nose. Then snow fell over me.  And then more snow.  I thought I could hear the others yelling frantically, probably telling me to move -- but that wasn't exactly possible.    Snow is light and fluffy in the air, but once it hits the ground -- and piles up -- it might as well be made of lead.  One arm was pinned under me, and the other was quickly weighed down beneath snow.  I tried to wriggle that one free, aware that there was little air to breathe, and everything was damned cold.

Distant voices.  I tried to call out, but that meant breathing in snow.  Panic helped, though.  I got my arm free with a wrench and tried to push the snow away -- and it worked, at least a little.  I was able to breathe just a bit of icy air -- but more air than snow this time.  I pushed more out of the way, but it was starting to compact, not melt.

Sounds still.  Distant.  Muffled.  I hadn't fallen that far, had I?  How much snow --

Cold.  Colder than I had ever been.

Glad Edmond wasn't with me.

I tried to push a little more, but then thought maybe being still might help more.  Be still and quiet. --


Maggie's voice called me back to the danger.  I tried to move, but everything felt too heavy.  There wasn't much air, either.

"Mag --gie --"

"I think I can hear him.  I'll try to use a little magic.  Stay back, Lord Snow. We would have a hell of a time dragging you out of the snow."

"He's close --"

I knew that was true, too, because I could clearly hear their voices, and I thought I saw a bit of a shadow overhead.  With a force of will, I shoved his arm upward --

"There he is!" Maggie shouted.  She grabbed my hand -- had to be her, since she was the only human -- and I felt a surge of warm magic and heard the frantic beat of her wings.  Maggie was lifting me up out of the snow that fell cascading away from me.  I'd dropped much farther than the others, probably breaking through the ice where they had stood.  I could barely see Edmond and Five up on the higher shelf.  Lord Snow was gingerly making his way up along the edge, but even as I watched, some of that snow fell away.  He barely scrambled upward in time.

Maggie was gasping.  "Mark --"

"Toss me -- wall," I said.  "I'll grab -- not toward Lord Snow.  Too much weight there."

"Yeah.  Magic, Mark."

"I'll try."

We both knew that my magic wasn't always reliable.  I barely had time to think about it as she tossed me aside.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Flash Fiction #393 -- Lost in Elsewhere/Part 3

Welcome to the new adventures of Mark, Maggie, and Edmond the talking cat.  There are three sets of adventures on the Joyously Prolific Blog.  You can find them by searching for Surviving Elsewhere, Journey to Somewhere Else, and Saving Elsewhere -- or you can find the entire set here: Tales from Elsewhere -- and you can buy the book for $1.99 with this coupon code WN38F (not case-sensitive) which you enter prior to completing their checkout.  (Good until December 31, 2020 -- pass it around to your friends!)

The snarling creature landed with a head roll, and I saw claws flash in the diffuse light.  Huge.  It growled and stood, so snow-covered so that even the face showed nothing but eyes and the flash of teeth --

I wanted to back away, but there was nowhere better to stand.  Maggie moved to my side.  Edmond tried to burrow into my jacket, and Five disappeared into my pocket.

We were not prepared to face monsters.

The thing stared at us and blinked.  Then it gave what could only be a frustrated sigh as it shook the snow from his body.

"What have you people gotten me into this time?" Lord Snow demanded.

Maggie gave a cry of relief and threw herself at the unhappy snow leopard.  She wrapped her arms around his neck.  The snow leopard looked startled. 

"We're glad to see you," I said and kept from doing the same as Maggie.  "I don't think any of us tried to call you here, Lord Snow.  I'm sorry you got dragged in --"

"No, not your fault," Lord Snow admitted and looked around with narrowed eyes.  He and Maggie came back so that they gathered in a little circle.  It seemed warmer now that the huge snow leopard was with them.  "I set a spell of my own so that if any of you came to trouble in Elsewhere again, that I would be pulled to you.  It seemed wise at the time.  And this does look like trouble."

"I'm not sorry you are here," Maggie said, a hand on the Snow Leopard's head.  "Thank you.  I can't get any indication of where we are, Lord Snow.  We were starting to walk in the general direction from which we came, but as far as I can tell, there's nothing but more snow out that way.  Or any other direction.  Are we in Lord Ice's lands?

Lord Snow looked around, his eyes narrowed.  He even walked up to me, looking past where I stood to where we'd been thrown.

"How --" Lord Snow began.

Five pushed her head up out of my pocket.  "Hi!"

Lord Snow puffed up and leapt backward a good ten feet -- a very startled snow leopard.

"I scared the big kitty!  I scared the big kitty!"

"What in the name of the Gods --" Lord Snow said.  His fur was starting to settle back down.

"Talking, winged kitten," Maggie said and took Five from my pocket to hold her out in view.  She batted at the snowflakes.  "I'll give you one guess how that happened."

"Edmond, whatever were you thinking?" Lord Snow asked, slightly bemused now.

"I wasn't thinking," he admitted.  "That's pretty obvious.  This is Five --"


"Five of Six.  The others are not with us."

"Well, not so much a disaster as I expected," Lord Snow said.

"I'm not a disaster!" Five exclaimed with righteous indignation.  "I am a good kitten!  It could have been Two instead!"

"She does have a point," Edmond agreed.

Lord Snow came closer to the kitten in Maggie's hand.  It occurred to me that Five had no idea that she ought to be worried about big things that could be dangerous.  We'd have to teach her quickly if this adventure went on for long.

"I am pleased to meet you, Kitten Five," Lord Snow said with a bow of his head.  "I have known your illustrious father for some time, and I hope you will find this adventure as exciting as our others."

Edmond snarfed in disbelief but changed it into a cough when Lord Snow gave him a sideways glance.

"It is cold out here," Lord Snow said.  "And your father is not as young as he used to be."

"Hey!" Edmond protested.

I hid my smile while Lord Snow looked around again, sniffing the air and even the snow.  We had it up above our ankles, but it felt like more snow below us, packed down by more snow -- a vast flat glacier that didn't appear to be moving in any direction.

"We are, I believe, at the very outer reaches of Lord Snow's lands," he finally announced.  "This is where Winter begins, and it is not a safe place to linger.  However, there is a problem.  Even if I pointed you in the direction of home -- and I'm not sure even I could -- the boundaries are made to keep things inside this area.

"Dangerous things," I said with a sigh.

Lord Snow glanced at Five as though he thought we should not be saying such things in front of the kitten.

"If there is anything dangerous," I said and drew his attention, "then we all need to be aware of it and careful."

"Ah, yes.  Of course.  Pay attention Kitten Five."

"Yes, sir," she said with a quick nod.

"Didn't learn her manners from her father," Lord Snow said.  Edmond sighed this time.  "But there is hardly anyone I would rather have by my side than Edmond, Mark, and Maggie.  We are all resourceful.  Right now, my friends, I think we would do best to head the way you started.  All directions lead Lord Ice's lands.  If we are lucky, the trouble there will be over before we arrive."

"Trouble?" Maggie asked.  "I had just come back from a Council meeting, and no one from Lord Ice's lands had shown up."

"Trolls, icelings, snowbirds -- all manner of creatures are stirred up, but we don't know why," Lord Snow admitted.  "I was out scouting when I inadvertently took this side trip.  I thought I had fallen into some trap."

"Then we need to get you back," I said and stared at the flat white world all around us.  "I suppose we better get walking."

"Let me go ahead," Lord Snow said.  "I know the feel of the snow better, and this is a dangerous land."

We did not argue.  We just walked and walked.  At least there was magic to stay warm.

And then Lord Snow disappeared.