Book Review: It’s My Life by Stacie Ramey

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If she wants a future with him, she’ll have to make peace with her past.

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Jenna’s never let her cerebral palsy get her down. But when she discovers that her condition was actually caused by an injury at birth, she’s furious with her parents, who withheld the truth. And as they push her to get yet another difficult procedure, Jenna feels her control over her life starting to slip.
Enter Julian, Jenna’s childhood crush. He’s just moved back to town, and he’s struggling in school, so Jenna reaches out to him―anonymously―to help. Soon, their conversations are about so much more than class. She’s falling for him all over again, hard and fast. But would Julian still be interested in her if he knew who she really was? And can she find a way to take back her own narrative before she pushes away everyone she loves?

Grade: B

Review:

I really appreciated this book in regard of enlightening teens on what it means to live with a chronic illness. The tone of the book, although it illustrates how it feels to live with cerebral palsy, is still a light one in the way any rom-com would be. In a way, this book is still a rom-com since the main focus of the book is how Jenna loves Julian (a childhood friend who moved away but has returned to town and is now in her English class). She’s trying to be a normal teen by getting to know him on a more intimate level through texting, but at the same time keeps her identity concealed because she feels that no boy could possibly fall in love with her damaged body.

I really liked Jenna, so reading the story from her perspective was fun, plus there were a lot of likable side characters as well, such as her best friend Ben and sister Rena. The flirting between Jenna and Julian was totally adorable and appropriate for their age.

I know that some of the premises in the book may seem unreasonable (such as Jenna wanting to legally emancipate herself from her family so that she could make her own decisions in regards to her health when it comes to surgeries and tests). But since the rest of the book was good I could overlook that minor lapse of judgment.

I recommend this book for anyone who’s wanting to learn more about living with a chronic illness and if you’re in the mood for a quick light romantic read.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Cover Reveal & Pre-Order for Strange Girls – Women in Horror Anthology

If you follow this blog or follow me on Twitter, then you may know that I’ve been busy putting together another Women in Horror Anthology. The good news is, I’ve finally sen up a pub date! Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology will be coming out February 18 (I thought a February date would make the most sense since it is Women in Horror Month!). But if you wish to be uber cool and support some amazing talent, then the book is set for pre-order here (a print copy will be available to order upon publication date).

Curious about what kind of stories you may find? Below is a quick synopsis for each short story found in the anthology:

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Her Garden Grows by Maxine Kollar

I belong to Rosamund now. You can’t save her.

Revival by Madison Estes

While grieving the loss of his sister, a medical student begins to suspect his laboratory cadaver is still alive. She shows signs of life, leading him to question his reality. He must decide how far he is willing to go to save her—if she can be saved at all.

Sideshow by Jude Reid

Everyone knows Ritchie and Sylvia are the perfect couple—everyone, that is, except for Sylvia, who’s walking the narrow line between the “yes” she doesn’t feel and the “no” she can’t bring herself to say. It takes a trip to the travelling Carnival, a tin duck, a strip show and a snake with amber eyes to teach her—and Ritchie—a lesson they won’t forget.

Jenny’s Bobo by Hillary Lyon

He’s her best friend; more stealthy than a cat, more loyal than a dog. But what happens when a clever teenage girl hijacks her parents’ most demonic asset for her own ends?

24 Hour Diner by Charlotte Platt

A young server in a 24-hour diner wiles his life away, watching the clock and waiting for something interesting to happen. When a beautiful homeless woman brings a colourful arc of intrigue in with her, he has no intention of letting that slip through his fingers.

Campfire Tales: The Bloody Rings by Emma Johnson-Rivard

A small-town legend is remembered in brutal and sometimes extremely dry detail. It concerns a man, a woman, and a strange town up in the North Woods.

Personal Demons by Angelique Fawns

It’s not easy being a teenager who identifies as non-binary. Especially when your new crush turns out to have some very dark appetites….

My Mirror Wife by Ash Tudor

Amelia’s beauty is formidable, but Ethan is a professional and introduces himself with the deadly charm of a true hunter. As their encounter changes into something intimate it becomes unclear who is hunting who, and beneath her mask of loveliness Amelia hides a simple yet lethal truth; she loves her husband.

Tribal Influence by Erica Ruhe

A skirmish in a detention center on the Texas-Mexico border uncovers an opportunity for a unique weapon of mass destruction — an innocent asylum seeker with the power to influence the emotions of others. And the U.S. military wants dibs. For Colonel Carl Holden, harnessing Joaquina’s supernatural abilities have proven challenging and he is forced to bring in his old colleague and bitter rival, Dr. Hector Espinoza, for help. Working through his own moral reservations, Hector’s efforts will reveal Joaquina’s terrifying potential and Carl’s hidden agenda but the breakthrough will come at a heavy cost to them all…

Night Terrors by Angela Sylvaine

In an isolated mountain town centered around a secretive research facility, a teen girl struggles to distinguish nightmares from reality after a near-fatal accident leaves her with terrifying nightly visits by masked tormentors.

Extinguishing Fireflies by Rebecca Rowland

Lea wanted nothing more than to have a child. When her daughter Arielle was born, Lea believed, as every new parent does, that her child would be special. At nine-years-old, Arielle is athletic and precocious and curious, and sure enough, has a very special—and terrifying—gift.

The Eyes of the Dead by Danielle R. Bailey

The Eyes of The Dead is a shocking perspective of what lies ahead for us all. Fighting for survival, a young woman discovers the realm of true horror.

The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding by Sam Lauren

The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding is a literary charcuterie of menstruation mythology. Everyone has heard of at least one, but is there any truth to them?

Blood by Red Claire

In a racist and repressive theocracy, a princess ponders the nature of power and symbols.

Friends with Benefits by E.F. Schraeder

Linked to a powerful mother, one girl doesn’t know if memory or magic holds her family together; can she trust anyone but herself to find out?

The Doll’s House by Alyson Faye

After Sophie’s mother is imprisoned for murder, Sophie inherits the doll’s house; whose inhabitants she believes are alive. As family secrets are revealed, is it Sophie or a supernatural force committing the crimes? Is anyone safe in Sophie’s family?

Leda and the Fly by Marnie Azzarelli

Leda has a problem and stares at a white wall to cope. That is until a fly decides that her precious space is its new home.

Self-Portrait with Pears by Rachel Bolton

A young man’s crush on a classmate slips into obsession when things don’t go as he expects.

A Song Only She Can Hear by Wondra Vanian

High school is hard enough when you don’t have to hide scales from your classmates. Unfortunately for Jewel, she’s about to learn that there are worse things than high school – and she might be one of them.

Angel of Death by Phoebe Jane Johnson

The mass murderess known as La Angel Muerta has been sentenced to death, the first woman to be executed under the newly restored death penalty. Although many scream for justice, a political power play proves justice is not blind. Simultaneously, a nation realms away follow the case as two worlds are destined to collide.

Cracked by Regan Moore

Gabby is about to find out that sometimes someone else’s treasure could become someone else’s curse.

Patterns of Faerytales by Azzurra Nox

The night before his wedding day, Cillian learns a dark secret about his wife that not even she is aware of. Her ignorance could be their bliss, but if she finds out what it is, then life as they know it might very well no longer exist.

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Review: Kneipp Mineral Bath Salt in Dream Away

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I always prefer a bath over a shower. However, being always on the run in the mornings I can’t really indulge in a luxurious bath. So, I often make it a staple for my Sunday nights. I love using bath salts cause they smell amazing, make my skin feel exfoliated and soft, and they just really relax me. When Allure’s Beauty Box for October included these bath salts from Kneipp, I was intrigued.

What It Is: Bath Salts

Active Ingredients: Valerian & Hops, Essential Oils

A little bit about the product: The high content of pure and natural thermal spring salt is obtained from pure natural brine in Europe’s only remaining open pan salt works, the Saline Luisenhall. The brine is free of chemical additives and environmental influences and contains natural trace elements.

Verdict: I wasn’t expecting the water to become an electric blue once I popped these salts in, however, the child in me kinda really loved that added perk. I liked to sit back and imagine that I was a mermaid chilling in some extra blue waters. The salts felt extra soothing, and the scent was also relaxing. Valerian root is known to aid with sleep, so I can see why this was used as a means to coax you into a night of better sleep. Luckily, I took a bath at night, so that I wasn’t expected to be uber perky after basking in this pond of chill for twenty minutes. I recommend these bath salts if you’re looking for a way to relax and also feel very glam about it too.

Price: $20

Where To Buy It: www.kneipp.com

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Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Leggett

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We’re told we have the power to lure grown men from their beds, make boys lose their minds, and drive wives mad with jealousy.

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Order on Amazon

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $13.59 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

No one speaks of the grace year.  It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Grade: A

Review:

This novel is touted to be a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, although to be honest the majority of the book has more of a Lord of the Flies vibe. This novel is mostly about survival and dealing with a group of adolescents. Once the girls in this dystopian society reach the age of 16, they’re sent off to live on their own on an island for a year, dubbed “The Grace Year,” in order to rid themselves of their womanly seductive magic and return as submissive, meek wives for the men in the county.

Tierney’s tale is a highly harrowing and very addictive one. Even in places where the pacing seemed to slow down, it was still interesting. The Grace Year girls not only have to survive four seasons out on a remote island on their own, but must also survive being hunted by poachers as prey, and each other (the girls turn on each other pretty quick not even a few weeks upon arrival). This story is a fascinating one because we see the lengths that girls will go to in order to survive and adapt to a new setting and society. All the girls look to Kiersten who is the alpha female of the group. Unfortunately for Tierney, Kiersten detests her for various reasons and will do anything to alienate her from the group. Some of the punishments they inflict on each other are both brutal and violent.

I really enjoyed this book because it showed the determination that prevails to survive the worst, even when all hope is lost. And ultimately, even in a tale of brutality and discord, you can find some kernels of light and sisterhood. My only complaint is that I would’ve liked more info about the community that the girls lived in. The county didn’t have electricity, nor did it seem modern. And I couldn’t gauge if the people who lived there were in a cult of some kind and made up stories of how life beyond the county was terrible to keep everyone within their walls, or if it was true that life beyond the county was awful.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys survival type books with a feminist edge.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Flash Fiction: Driver, Surprise Me

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I could still feel Rex’s hands wrapped around my neck when I met Damon. I shuddered at the thought. Maybe it was because he was wearing a suit, or maybe because I needed a getaway car, but when Damon stopped the car to ask me if I needed a lift I nodded – still dazed from the lack of oxygen. It was only after I got in that I noticed them. The whole back seat was lined up with porcelain dolls. Their glassy eyes and red lips painted in a perpetual smirk kind of creeped me out.

“Where to?” he asked, dazzling me with his smile.

I gulped – unsure of where I was headed. I hadn’t planned that far ahead when I ran out of the apartment.

“The bus station,” I hesitated.

“Getting out of the city?”

I nodded.

“Where to?”

“Florida,” I lied.

He nodded, as he tried to make small talk but I wasn’t listening.

I kept staring at the rearview mirror so I could steal glances at the dolls. I was transfixed by their disarming beauty and impeccable detail. Each doll dressed in a particular style, goth, hippy, posh, 17th century baroque, to mention a few. Once he caught me staring at them, our gaze met in the mirror for a fraction of a second before I quickly diverted my focus.

I looked down at my hands. Thought about how they had been covered in blood an hour ago. My mind raced, replaying the scene. The blade coming down and his hands around my neck. He didn’t think I had it in me. He thought I was weak. But boy, had he been wrong. Dead wrong. I stifled a chuckle.

“They used to be broken you know…” Damon interrupted my thoughts.

“What?”

“The dolls. I fixed them.” There was something about the way his eyes moved over my body that made me feel as though he were prying into my very core.

“Oh,” I replied. I suddenly felt uncomfortable. The space between us seemed too little at that moment, and I willed him to drive faster. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, he suddenly brought the car to an abrupt stop. I would’ve flung forwards and probably through the windshield if I hadn’t worn my seat belt. Before I had a chance to react, a rag covered my mouth and I blacked out.

I’ve gotten used to it by now. Sitting here and waiting for the night to go by as he drives throughout the city. He fills our nights with music as we ride. The Doors, Nirvana, at times even Queen. We’re in a loop, hapless passengers of a demonic ride. We pass through Soho, Park Avenue, across the Brooklyn Bridge. My glassy eyes take in the city lights while my red lips are frozen in a perpetual smirk.

But I’m no longer broken.

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Upcoming Anthology: Running Wild Stories Volume 4

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Sometime in April, my friend and fellow Inkblotter, Erica Ruhe and I decided to pen a short story together. We figured that if we could join forces, using our strengths to collaborate then perhaps we could write a very compelling and moving story that both of us could be proud of. That’s how our short story, Fragile Fruit was born.

For some time I wanted to write a short story set in Sicily in the late 1960s. I had always been intrigued by how vastly different Sicily was to the rest of the world during that time when it came to women’s rights. 1968 was widely known as the “peak of the sexual revolution” and yet, in Sicily, it was very common for young men to kidnap girls they fancied and rape them, and then said girl was expected to marry their rapist in what was known as a “rehabilitation marriage.” The only way for a woman to regain her sense of worth and dignity from a rape would be to marry her rapist, which would make her an “honourable woman” again and thus automatically extinguish the crime for the man. Franca Viola was the first woman to stand up to her rapist and say NO. She refused to marry him and it made international news, as many women saw her as a pioneer for cultural progress and emancipation. While many men, on the other hand, saw her as a threat.

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Franca Viola, the Sicilian feminist icon that inspired Fragile Fruit

Inspired by Viola’s courage, we decided to pen a story about a girl, Marietta who too, refused to marry her rapist but instead of remaining in her hometown of Maletto, fled to New York in hopes of a new life. Four years later, Marietta is forced to return to Sicily when her mother is on her death bed. She soon finds that she’s going to have to find a way to make peace with her demons and her past before both threaten to overtake her.

But when her rapist Alfio turns up dead a few days after her return, all eyes are on Marietta. But did she really do it?

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So, since April I’ve been sending this short story to various literary journals and magazines and of course as the norm of any writing it was rejected by a lot of them, despite each of them stating that they had enjoyed the short story very much. Flash forward to last week when I receive an email from Running Wild Press that Fragile Fruit was selected to be in the upcoming anthology Running Wild Stories Volume 4. Of course, both Erica and I are thrilled about this opportunity and that our creative child finally found a home. I don’t know yet when the anthology will be released (sometime mid-2020), so keep your eyes peeled for that info!

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Throwback Thursday: Candyman

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There are some movies that stick with you far more than others, and throughout the years, Candyman has become one of the. It recently was added to Netflix, so since my fiance had never seen the film before, I thought it was the perfect occasion for me to rewatch it.

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Candyman has three very unique aspects to it that I love. First, it incorporates an urban legend (somewhat echoing Bloody Mary with the whole mirror curse), a ghost story (cause Candyman is basically a ghost), and a love story (the first one being Candyman with the rich white girl he impregnated and was killed for and secondly, the one he has with Helen, who looks seemingly similar to his first love). The film is based off of Clive Barker’s short story, The Forbidden, and although elements of it are very similar, the film has given the villain a far more richer back story than the short story ever did. Probably because the short story’s setting was England, and moving the setting to modern-day Chicago, allowed the racial tensions of the past and present be a theme within the film.

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Plus, out of all the horror villains, Candyman has a valid reason to be pissed off and seeking vengeance. He not only was separated from the woman he loved and his unborn child, but was mutilated (an angry mob cut off his right hand, and him being a painter meant they pretty much stole him of both his livelihood and talent) and killed him in the most atrocious way (he was covered in honey and died by being attacked by thousands of bees). So ya know, he has a really good reason to want to off pimple-raced teens who are dumb enough to call upon him.

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But another thing that sets Candyman a little bit above all other movies is the fact that Tony Todd delivers an impeccable performance. His villain isn’t only scary, but there’s an element of seductive danger to him too. We know that Helen joining him means it’ll be her death, but a part of us can also understand why she can’t refuse him. He is both menacing and alluring, and that makes for one complex character. As much as we all love Michael Meters, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Krueger, there’s also no question that we’d haul ass if we ever encountered them and surely wouldn’t find those psychos sexy! But Candyman on the other hand, is almost a Gothic hero. He has a tragic backstory, we feel his pain, and in most cases want to believe that maybe we could make him fall in love again.

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Throughout the years, I’ve seen many horror films, but time after time this one has remained as one of my absolute favourites because Candyman isn’t just your ordinary slasher film. It’s a film that dares to question racial tensions, to push us into that grey area between love and hate, and ultimately giving us one of the very best and redemptive endings of all time.

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Book Review: What Kind of Girl by Alyssa Sheinmel

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Girl in Pieces meets Moxie in this unflinching exploration of all the hurts young women endure.

Release Date: February 4, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions: Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true? Some girls want to rally for his expulsion – and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.

Grade: B

Review

Full disclosure: I was ready to DNF this book at 25%, mostly due to the fact that it seemed to jump around a lot and that it was slow-moving. But since I enjoyed this author’s other book, A Danger To Herself and Others, at the beginning of the year, I decided to give it another try. I am SO GLAD I DID. Because Maya and Junie’s tale is a memorable one.

I think this book is important for teens because it explores a very timely topic: abuse within a relationship. Maya’s boyfriend Mike hits her, but she remains silent, like so many women do, because he’s the golden boy and somehow she feels like people would think she’s lying about the abuse or that she deserves it in some way. Apart from that, she also struggles with bulimia. I think the author explores these issues without glorifying or romanticizing them, but rather showing how someone truly struggles in those situations.

I also think this book sends out a very positive message for young readers as it shows the power of friendship and the importance of standing up for oneself even when you feel like the rest of the world would be against you. I recommend this book for all those that want to broach these difficult topics with their children but don’t know how. This could be a way to start the conversation.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Comic-Con LA – Get Your Nerd On!

This was my second year attending Comic-Con LA (thank you for the Press Passes!), so I kinda had an idea of what to expect this time around. But what I didn’t expect was for the crowds to be even bigger than last year. Again, I attended only Saturday, as it seemed like the day with the most interesting panels.

One of the things that I simply love about Comic-Con is getting to see all the amazing and creative cosplays. I may have a soft spot for those who cosplay horror characters, so you may see more horror related characters than any others. In fact, one of the first booths I stopped by was that for Crypt TV. Last year, they had the LookSee creature, but this year they had one of my favourite creatures, The Birch! Not only did they have a Photo Op with the awesome Birch Forest but it was a way to promote the new series inspired by the original short. I even had a chance to attend The Birch panel and viewing of three episodes. If you’re into creepy woods, witchcraft, and a creature who gets rid of bullies, then I suggest you hope on over to Facebook Watch and check the series out. The panel followed with a short Q&A session with the creators, producers, and actors. Since my favourite character from the series The Birch was the seemingly complex bully, Thurston, after the panel was done I had a chance to chat with the actor, Dempsey Byrk who portrays him. He was really nice and I wish I hadn’t been popping cough drops like no tomorrow to keep a cough attack coming, so I wasn’t as talkative as I probably would’ve been in better spirits.

Afterwards, I attended the panel for Zombieland: Double Tap. The fans were promised a surprise and everyone thought that that meant that Billy Murray would show up. I knew that would be too good to be true, so had joked that most likely we’d be graced by Jesse Eisenberg presence instead. And well, let’s just say that Jesse Eisenberg did show up, but so did Zoey Deutch and (probably this was the surprise) Rosario Dawson. The panel was fun and some lucky peeps got to win tickets to the premiere that was happening that same night.

Once the panels I was interested in were done, I went comic book browsing. I was looking for some vintage horror comics but like always, most of the ones that were awesome were way too expensive. But I did find some vintage Archie Comics and even Joe Hill’s Tales from the Darkside. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t many new horror comic books there this year as there were last year. But all in all it was still a very fun experience. I love getting to check out all the vendors (there are so many talented artists!) and getting the chance to try out new food items (I tried this vegan ice cream from Nice Pops that was really good, and being lactose-intolerant it was a plus to have ice cream and not deal with a stomach ache afterwards). These pops are handcrafted and made from Cashew Milk. I got the chocolate one but they had other flavours too and they cost $5 a pop.

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With tired feet and famished, I was ready to call it a night once 6pm rolled around. But as always, Comic Con LA didn’t disappoint. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday in the company of creative people and getting the chance to check out new things in the world of horror and comics. If you’ve never been to Comic Con LA, I highly suggest that you book your ticket for next year (which it’ll be in late September) because I have a feeling that with each coming year, it’s only going to get bigger and better every time.

Photos by: David Hanger

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Flash Fiction: Catching Sunshine by Erica Ruhe

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It had been seven days since the cave in. Two thin and bloodied hands, fingers peeled raw from days of scratching at the immovable rock, protruded through a small crack above the boulder. Autumn sunshine warmed Camille’s battered palms. Her eyes closed to enjoy the sensation and she rested her head on her arm. Inside the abandoned mine, it was black and cold but just beyond two tons of fallen mountainside there was light. There was life.

“Camille…”

She turned to the weak call.

“I’m here, Ana,” she replied and climbed down the incline of loose gravel. She stepped over the rail tracks and knelt beside her friend, breathing hard from the small exertion. Anastasia did not move, as if the flat of her back had become rooted to the floor. Camille tucked Ana’s exposed arm back under her burgundy coat blanket.

“I caught you some sunshine,” she said and placed her palms on Ana’s cold, dirt-streaked cheeks. Her friend’s chapped lips closed, her throat squeezing down nothing more than dry, dusty air. Licking morning dew from the exposed rocks day after day had not been enough to sustain them.

“Warm…” Ana croaked.

Their breath rasped loud in their suffocating confines. They spoke barely above whispers, their vocal cords strained and silenced days ago from the endless hours of screaming for help.

Ana cracked open her eyes.

“Do you think they’ll…ever find us?”

A tear trembled on the ledge of her sharpened cheekbone. Her skin had shrunk around her already slender body. Camille moved a palm to Ana’s forehead and the other to her chest, absorbing fresh chill from her skin.

“Yes,” she gave a weak nod. “One day.”

Crevices of dirt around Ana’s eyes deepened in question and the tear plummeted to the waves of her matted braid. Camille lightened the weight of concern in her expression.

“One day, we’ll be someone’s archeological find. We’ll be a treasure unearthed in a thousand years. They’ll discover our bodies, arms embraced around each other, and they will mourn for our unknown lives. They’ll make up histories for us and give us pretty new names.”

Camille stroked her thumb along the blood caked on Ana’s brow.

“They’ll lovingly preserve our bones in a life-size diorama and we will become an exhibit in their museum of ancient history. We’ll be enshrined in glass and admired by millions. We’ll live forever, Ana.”

“You’re so…dramatic.”

A smile tinted Ana’s words but it was too weak to reach her lips. Camille coughed and lowered her head to Ana’s shoulder, snuggling under the torn coat. Ana sighed.

“At least you have…a sweetheart to mourn you, Camille. I’ve never even had my first kiss yet. I never…dreamed that I would die without my first kiss.”

“A first kiss can be a horrid thing, Ana,” Camille teased. “Peter nearly drowned me.”

The girls shared a frail giggle. Ana closed her eyes again.

“Oh, the people I would have loved. The places…I would have traveled to. Perhaps our spirits will escape from this tomb. One day…”

Camille nestled closer.

“Perhaps a small sparrow will find us first,” Camille continued, adrift on Ana’s thoughts. “Perhaps she’ll leave behind dandelions on our chests and as we decompose, the seeds will catch just enough sun and dew to sprout and flower out of us.”

She twisted a loose buckhorn button.

“Perhaps the wind will carry our fragmented bodies back out to the wild. It will be spring, warm and bright. We’ll float over the mountain meadows and along the rushing rivers of melted snow. We’ll float over our town and look down upon our aging families. And we will sweep past their ears and whisper “we love you so very much but we cannot stay” and somehow they’ll know it is us and it will bring them happiness.”

She sniffled.

“We’ll live on as memories. Then the wind will take us again and we’ll be free.”

Camille lifted her head.

“Ana?”

Only stillness.

“Ana?”

She shook her friend’s shoulder but Ana’s expression did not move. There was no breath in her mouth. Her chest did not rise. Camille tried to hold down the rising emotion in her throat but her grief, unlike everything else in the darkened mine, could not be contained. Soft sobs choked her. Tears carved deep ravines through the dirt on her face revealing clean, frigid skin beneath.

Exhausted, Camille watched the last ray of the afternoon seep across the toes of Ana’s boots. She lifted her hand to the sunlight and let the dust motes waltz and twirl between her flayed fingers.

“We’ll live forever, Ana.”

sunshine

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