Do Not Cross

Carrer Sonia flickr - REV

Photo credit: Sonia via Flickr (modified)



When my brother didn’t return, I went looking.  He’d been so eager, and he wasn’t that much younger than me.  I should have realized he didn’t understand the danger.  He always did think his sword could solve any problem.

He wasn’t prepared for who I deal with, in my line of work. Whatever they called themselves, I suspect they were Brazachan cultists.  But hey, they paid well.  That’s what matters.

A simple errand, I’d thought.

When I got there, the street was blocked.  The guards said the whole neighborhood was closed.  Something about the sewer.

I balked at spending such expensive magic on sneaking past, but guilt at sending him there won.

Inside, I was shocked, and that takes something.  No sign of life, dead quiet, even the plants were husks.  I got two steps toward the cultists’ lair before I felt it.  My skin withered, blackened; my hair sizzled and turned to smoke.  I ran.

That afternoon, fire gutted the neighborhood.  Accident, the officials said.  Not likely.

A lot of people went missing that day, including my brother.

I went honest after that.  Well, mostly.  I don’t involve innocents anymore.  Luckily, in this city, that hasn’t limited me much.



Word count: 200.  Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.  Big thanks go out to Alastair Forbes for hosting, and to J. Hardy Carroll for providing the original photo prompt, below.  Click the link above to read the rules for submitting, or just to the other stories written this week.  Everyone’s welcome!

Sorry I haven’t posted in over a week.  Work hit me with a few crazy deadlines just as summer socializing was at its height, and I can’t keep all the juggling balls in the air at once.  Here’s to keeping at least some of them up at least some of the time!

12-j-hardy-carroll-06-august-2017

Photo © J. Hardy Carroll



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26 thoughts on “Do Not Cross

    • There is now, perhaps! Although I didn’t have the full story in mind when I wrote this. I stuck in the Brazachans — who are death-god cultists — and figured a whole range of evil might be going on. 🙂 Thanks for reading, James!

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  1. Wow, chilling! You really can weave a tale like no one else. I always won’t I read more and I’m always left thirsty! When does the novel come out?

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      • It’s so annoying that you can’t edit your own comments, I agree! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading Heather. It really means a lot to me, and I’m so glad you liked the story! I haven’t had nearly as much time to write and post lately as I’d like (or to catch up with old friends either), The novel is on hold while I focus on getting short stories published; I was feeling torn in too many directions and decided to focus down. Plus I was stuck with a tricky plot/character arc on the novel. Stepping back from it has helped me develop some new ideas that I think will solve those problems, so I spend an awful lot of time mulling over ideas and taking notes for something that’s supposedly on hold. I’m optimistic about what I’ll be able to do with it in round 2. Now, if only I could find more time — or at least, learn to be even half as organized as you are!

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    • I didn’t have anything bigger in mind (well, except for all of Eneana – that’s pretty big!) but I’m glad you found it intriguing and it made you wonder what else could be there. Thanks for reading, Keith!

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    • Yep, *very* dark. Although I’m thinking this one was probably an accident, and might have wiped out the culprits as well. The Brazachan death cults prefer to keep a low profile, right up until they surprise you with some super dramatic coordinated attack. But those usually involve the undead. Not just regular old “dead.” Thanks for reading, Ali!

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    • It’s been a while since I’ve read the Malazan books so I’ve forgotten the details, but I remember really liking them, so I’m happy to accept any comparison! Glad you liked the story, Al, thanks for the great comment. I’m hoping that the craziness at work is calming down for the next week or two (prior to a big push in early Sept) and I can get in some more writing, and catch up on reading other blogs too. (And emails, and housework, and errands, and… yeah, everything, lol!)

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      • It’s true, things do pile up. I’ve been doing the next best thing to lying down in calming meadows: I declared August to be a no-TV month and have been diving into books every evening (that I’m home) instead. I don’t know about “relaxing” — it’s more “exciting” most of the time, and “stay up too late to read just one more chapter (who am I fooling?)” — but it’s still a good feeling. And it keeps me in the writer mindset, which is great.

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  2. A dangerous place for the uninitiated, though I would say your narrator doesn’t sound all that upset about losing his brother – no love lost there? I love that last line, shows exactly what kind of city we’re dealing with and that’s all we need. Lovely stuff, Joy

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    • Hm, I hadn’t meant for her (or him, I guess) to sound not upset — she went looking for him, after all, and used her expensive magic to try to find him, and “went honest” after he went missing because of her. But I did picture her as a tough cookie who doesn’t get too emotional in a crisis, so maybe that’s what’s coming across. As always, I had more I wanted to squeeze in there but couldn’t due to length restrictions. But if it still works as a story, even if not quite the story I had in mind, that’s fine with me.

      As to it being a dangerous place, yes, indeed; no place for innocents. Glad you liked the story, thanks for reading, Lynn!

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  3. Very interesting story seems these ‘cultists’ have some very black magic that it could kill all these people and destroy their town and crops. Sad the speaker lost his brother, a big price to pay but also I imagine, a forceful event in having the narrator change his ways using magic not to hurt innocent people again, seeing what the cult’s magic had done. I hope they were stopped!

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    • Yes, that’s exactly it — this horrible experience changed the narrator’s perspective, for the better (“well, mostly” at least). The Brazachans worship a death god, and I think something went wrong with one of their spells or rituals and it killed everyone and everything near their secret temple, including them. Unfortunately, there are plenty more of them in other areas to take up the mantle of evil. Thanks for leaving such a great comment, Amanda!

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