Doug Rivner looked from the window of the Hobbit hole and tried to assess his chances. He could count at least twenty-six orcs from his vantage point and he knew that making a break for it was against the odds. Fair enough, this was a Hobbit’s house and the pantry was well stocked, but he couldn’t hold out indefinitely. Eventually they would breach the door, or he would be forced to confront them. He hated the waiting game.
Only three years before he had become a Ranger, back before the dark magic brought orcs, goblins, and bugbears back from near extinction. This is insane, he thought to himself. I survived the Covid back in 2020-23 and the high water levels global warming had brought in ’27. He quickly counted the remaining bullets in his ammo pouch. Damn, 30 rounds. No way am I going to take them all out.
He double checked the barricade at the round door, and cut a piece of cheese. He then sat with his back to the far wall and munched his snack. He then placed his assault rifle across his lap and settled in. He would doze for a bit, and then come morning, Rivner, the last of the Rangers, would try to break out, or at least “go out” in a blaze of glory.
It was not long now before the sunset and Harin knew that he would have to hurry. The first day of spring had come and the Kraken would need to be appeased if the village was to have an unhindered fishing year.
“Hurry up Harin,” Taris shouted from the waiting boat.
“Don’t rush us,” Harin replied. “We still need to say the words.”
Harin’s brother, Tarin, poured the scented oil over the offering and Harin began the incantation.
“So be it,” they said in unison as spell ended and the last drop of oil fell upon the offering.
“Now lets get back to the village before it arrives to take its tribute,” Tarin urged, and the two brothers joined their cousin in the boat and pulled with all their might to distance themselves from the sacrifice rock.
They knew that in the morning all of the offerings would be gone except for a few bones. They didn’t want theirs to be among them.
Thus the spring ritual ended. The village would indeed have a successful fishing season. No great storms would wreck their habour. The boats would again all return from their daily fishing.
As for the Kraken, no one was really sure if it really appeciated the tribute, but safe was safe. Besides, the gulls all seemed to enjoy the leftovers.
Eugene found that he now spent more and more time at used bookstores. It wasn’t that he was a particularly avid reader, but that he found a comfort in being surrounded by things that were even older than he was. At eighty-six, he had seen a lot in his life, and the escalating pace of life, and especially technology left him bemused. Books on the other hand, especially old ones were substantial, and had a sense of stability and permanence.
As he browsed the leather bound tomes he decided that tomorrow he would have to mix things up a bit. Yes, tomorrow he would visit that antique shop over on Hardeman Square.
“We have been reviewing our sales figures for the last two years, and it looks like we have reached the saturation point with our target demographics. The suits upstairs want to see even bigger figures for the coming season, but I think we have played the sun and sand angle as far as we can take it. It is up to you to open a new demographic by this time next week,” the sales director told her team.
When the deadline arrived she once again approached a rather sheepish looking advertising staff.
“What do you have for me?” she asked.
There was some averted gazes, and a couple of whispered apologies until the black lipsticked teaboy piped in.
“Ma’am, I know I’m not actually part of the team, but I have an idea. We could go for the Goth community, and I think I know it pretty well. We could use this photo,” he said lifting it from Escobar’s desk. “Add the caption, Come to the Shadow Lands, and I think we’re onto a winner!”
“Keep smiling and and don’t look toward the mirror,” Holly whispered.
Damion let out a laugh that didn’t come across as forced, and then took a swig of his coffee. He then leaned into her and whispered, “Are you sure the mirror is where we are being watched from?”
She threw her arms around his neck and whispered, “I thought it was the light bulb, but I just got the slightest glimpse of a red light in the upper left corner of the glass just when it meets the frame.”
“What do you think we should do?” Damion queried.
“Follow my lead,” Holly replied. She then reached out and pulled Damion’s shirt over his head before kissing him in the centre of his chest. She then tossed the shirt expertly over the mirror and whispered, “Now.” The couple then made their break for it grabbing Damion’s shoes and their “whistle-blowing” files as they rushed out of the apartment door.
“We need to find somewhere safer,” Holly said, as they ran down the back stairs to the alley. “And, I think we need to go to the newspaper with this sooner than later.”
Wanda had always wondered why there was a rule that no one, under any circumstance, could ever go into Granny Hall’s attic. It had really irked her to be forbidden from doing something without as much as an explanation as to why.
Well today was her chance. Mum had taken Granny to the hospital and Wanda was allowed to stay at Granny’s place to water the plants and feed Boris, the beagle.
Once the car had left, she slowly went to the attic stair door and tried the handle. It was unlocked, but the door creaked loudly as she pulled it open. She ascended the stair to spy an empty attic. Well not exactly empty as there were a few letters, and other papers, as well as a small box seemingly glued to the ceiling. As she stepped into the space she was suddenly swept upwards, as if the gravity of the room was reversed.
She struck the ceiling with considerable force, and it took her a moment to catch her breath and weigh the situation. She was being drawn to the ceiling as if it were the floor. It was then that she noted that one of the letters on the ceiling was addressed to her grandmother by her maiden-name: Emily Newton. There seemed to be more to her heritage than she suspected, and a family secret that she was yet to learn.
Holly and Tim booted up their laptop and prepared for another day of online phonics and fractions. As the computer came to life, there was something unusual on the school’s Google Classroom links. As they went through each of their lesson slots they saw that the connection was down. It seems the entire server had crashed – the Covid lockdown equivalent of a “snow day.”
Arthur had quite the crush on Millie back in high school. She saw him more as a dear friend, however. He never worked up the courage to reveal his feelings for her though, and she slipped through his fingers. He was sure if he would have been able to serenade her and express his feelings, he would have prevailed.
It was on the occasion of their sixtieth reunion that he discovered her again. On the on-line registration page it had brief biographies. Millie had been widowed for five years and he for six. Surely this was an opportunity not to miss. He contacted her, after some catching up she agreed to attend the reunion with him. He then arranged a meeting in the park near the old school a week before the reunion.
Dressed in his best suit, Arthur waited for his chance. Flowers in hand, and guitar ready he was going to find the courage to serenade her, and win her heart this time. And he did!
Joseph sat at his customary spot on the pavement, and huddled for warmth in his threadbare overcoat. He placed a cup, with chips in the enamel, in front of him and pulled out his cardboard sign, Please help – God bless you.
As usual he remained invisible to most people, though some would toss small change into his cup.
One young man made the effort to give him a smile each day, and apologise for having nothing to spare.
“God bless you all the same,” Joseph would respond.
One day the young fellow passed by without his usual greeting. This at first sent a wave of disappointment through him. Then it occurred to him that something might be wrong, so he rose and followed the man into the park where he sat alone on a bench.
“Is there something the matter?” Joseph asked.
“No,” the man said before bursting into sobs.
“Tell me,” Joseph prompted.
“You know I have told you that I didn’t have anything to spare. That was because I was saving up to get a bus ticket to go see my parents on my Mum’s birthday. That’s tomorrow and I’m still four pounds short,” The young man said despondently.
Joseph said, “You gave me plenty each day, because your smile made my day.” He then took his enamel cup out of his coat pocket and presented the youth with four pounds. I think it’s time for me to give you something in return.”