Cookie Crumbs

“Greta!” Jon called out. It was getting dark. Dad was going to be pissed.

“Greta!” he called again. He pulled out his flashlight but didn’t turn it on yet. It was still light enough for him to avoid the low-hanging branches, but once the sun set he wasn’t sure how much moonlight there would be.

“Greta!” His voice cracked this time. At least no one was around to hear, except maybe Greta. Would she even answer him? Maybe she’d fallen asleep again. Then he’d never find her before nightfall. He wondered how the townsfolk would feel about mounting another search party. Greta wasn’t the only child to get lost in the woods, but she was the only one to make a habit of it.

Jon sighed and ducked to avoid a low-hanging oak branch, then tripped on the roots. He stopped the fall with his hands, and felt something sharp poking out of the moist dirt. Closer examination, with the flashlight on, revealed a broken piece of pottery shaped like a small foot. Faded paint gave it lifelike lines and even suggested some type of ankle bracelet. Jon shivered involuntarily. The other kids liked to talk about a witch in the woods, but Dad believed she’d died a long time ago. What if she hadn’t?

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Death and Taxes… and Fairies

Once upon a time, in a forest far away, there lived a young fairy. Having no other fairies to talk to, she spent her days wandering through the woods. She knew the paths the humans took, and was careful to avoid them. She knew where the last rays of sunlight would hit the forest floor after a long summer’s day. And she knew where to find the freshest, sweetest water that would quench any thirst. One day, after a particularly heavy rain, she checked on her favorite stream and discovered a large book floating in the now muddy waters. The young fairy spent hours cleaning leaves and mud off the book before laying it in the sun to dry. She needn’t have bothered, for the book was magical and when the pages dried, it looked as shiny and new as the day it had been made.

Excited, the fairy sat down to read her new book. To her dismay, the words were written in a language she did not understand. She turned the book upside down, sideways and even tried to read it backwards, but still she couldn’t make sense of the words. She looked at it during different times of day and under the full moon. Nothing helped.

The pictures, however, were clear. They were beautifully illustrated in vibrant colors of yellow, blue and green. They showed her the adventures of other, older fairies. Those pictures enchanted her. She had never met another fairy!And they were so elegant; their wings were large and magnificent and brightly colored in jewel tones. She especially liked a young man whose wings shimmered like amethysts. After that day, the book never left her side, and she could often be found sitting on her favorite sunflower, in a clearing near the creek, studying the ancient tome.

One day, a tax collector from the neighboring kingdom – the kingdom whose humans liked to travel noisily along that trail through the woods – followed a different path.

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Second Chances

I never leave anything on the nightstand. Ever. So when I reached for my glasses that morning, I was surprised by the piece of paper underneath them. A pamphlet for CyLife. Mandi, I thought. I put the pamphlet down again. I didn’t want to think about it.

It was my normal waking hour. 5:15 am, even without the alarm. Routine took over. Feed the cat. Shower, shave. Suit and tie. A breakfast of egg whites, fruit and low-fat cottage cheese. Then I remembered I wasn’t supposed to go to work that day.

Uncertainty crept in, and I returned to the pamphlet on my nightstand. Smiling, happy families. Survivors, supposedly. People who had benefited from CyLife’s “revolutionary techniques.” I wondered how many of them were actors. Maybe all of them. Charles had told me the procedure was experimental, but he wouldn’t tell me how many patients had survived the operation. That meant not many.

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Wishing Only Wounds The Heart

A thousand whispers followed the path she tread, speaking words of death and fear for any who were perceptive enough to hear. That was not many in this place? They were too drunk, too troubled, or too dim to expand their minds enough to perceive. The ghosts who had died here recognized her for what she was, however, and their angry voices followed her as long as she walked the paths where they had been murdered.

Despite their general self-absorption, humans could sense her when she came too close. They could feel the fiery cold that crept up their spines in searing tendrils and then held their hearts in terror. Perhaps they couldn’t even tell that it was her, but they all felt it.

The streets had emptied early that night, far before she had even come. This was quite unusual, though the occasional person could still be seen staggering down the dusty roads. Hardly anything kept all the drunks, the foolhardy, and the fortune seekers off of the streets of Kei when there was money to be made.

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