Clocktower.

A bit of fiction from 2012. Not the best and very loosely based on the world of a MMO that I played at the time. I scrubbed references for the game in my minor edits below. A few reworked passages, a few spelling errors, but the tale is largely as-written. I think I imagined a novella at the time, but probably got distracted. I have no firm memory of what the intent was aside from this bit of writing; however, it was labelled “Prelude”. Also, the larger piece was titled “Dancing the Ghost”.


Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Tock.

Lucretia flipped her cloak over her head. She knew that doing so would be largely ineffective, as the cloak was little more than a scrap of oiled cloth and provided very little in the way of disguise, but the largely symbolic act couldn’t hurt either. She risked peeking out between the folds of her cloak, hoping the small, furtive motion would not drawn any attention to the place where she hid.

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Her pursuer burst into the room, a nervous ferret glancing around the unkempt room, seeking his prey. Lucretia started, almost revealing herself, as his fierce eyes fell upon the door she’d left ajar to check on who may follow. She forced herself to remain still, her only motion being to reach for the hilt of the dagger on her hip, her hand masked by the shadows, floating dust motes, and her upturned cloak.

Tock.

Tick.

Tock.

“Girly,” he said, as he looked closer at the crack. “C’mon out and play, Girly. Ol’, Berund was only kidding about beating the shit out of you. What’s a few coppers, lass, eh? Nothing to get angry about, right?”

He looked around the room, ear bent to the silence, waiting for an answer. Lucretia let out her breath silently. He’d not discovered her yet, there was still hope it wouldn’t come to blood. And if he intended to beat her, she didn’t plan to take the beating without extracting some blood in return.

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Tock.

Something about the cubby door held his attention, though, and Berund started towards her, the air kicking up the thick dust of the room in its wake, but his roaming eyes belied his ignorance of her whereabouts. She gripped the dagger’s hilt tighter, knowing the sorry blade would only likely serve more to surprise more than injure her hunter, and she likewise hoped the surprise and pain would be enough for her to scramble away to the next hidey hole she could think of. Stupid, stupid, stupid, she scolded silently. It had been a dumb move to choose a hiding place without an exit, but she hadn’t had much choice.

Tick.

Berund’s hand reached for the edge of the the door.

Tock.

Lucretia tensed, readied herself to pounce, blade quietly slipping free of the sheath.

TIck.

And then… the din of metal upon metal descended on them both. cacophonous and painful. Berund quickly covered his ears and roared in pain as he stumbled to the door by which he’d entered this room, cursing at the noise filling the room.

It was noon in Ravenswatch and Lucretia had, in classic mockery of the phrase, been saved by the bell. Her cloak draped over her head did little to deaden the noise of the bell above, and neither did her hands after she had let the dagger slide back into it’s sheath and covered her ears — but she endured, hoping the disruption would give her a chance to escape to a better hiding place until Berund calmed down. Sure, it had been but a few coppers, but coppers all the same. Berund hated to lose even one, and she’d abandoned nineteen when the guard asked for her begging papers, which she’d not renewed for lack of funds. That alone would have been easy to hide, but for that damn Mouse who’d made sure to tell Berund about the coin she’d left behind. They’d been close once, but now he seemed determined to torment her.

She’d have to hide for several days before Berund’s demeanor would revert to merely perpetually surly. What had been lost was a full evening’s worth of drink, by Lucretia’s estimate. Until he’d gotten his alcohol levels back to normal, it was best to avoid Berund unless she wanted a broken arm, or worse.

She huddled there in the darkness of the shadows once the bells ceased…. watching….. waiting.

Tick.

Tock.

But Berund didn’t venture back, probably thinking she’d not survived the clamor with her senses intact and that’d be punishment enough; or he’d thought to look for her in less noisy places.

Tick.

Either way, Lucretia deemed it was safe after a spell and snuck out to find a spot to hide near the farms of Landenshire, perhaps the caves she’d explored when the city became too oppressive to her, as it had on more than one occasion.

Tock.

The sound of the clocktower counting away the seconds faded as she made her way to the main gate of the Watch. Yes, she told herself, she was overdue for a vacation. Staying the shadows on her way to the gate, she left her problems behind her, like an old shirt or a trinket, of which she’d grown weary. Lucretia kept her face hidden under the hood of her cloak, avoiding any attention from the guards as she slipped past the tall doors leading to the farmland beyond the city walls, unaware she was being watched from shadows darker than those she’d used to her advantage.


Mouse took note of where ol’ Lucky went, fairly certain of her final destination. When they were younger the two of them, along with some of the other guttersnipes, often went to the small cave just outside of the Watch to play monsters and warrior as break from the normal begging and petty theft that filled the rest of their lives. As they grew older, the guild expected them to contribute more to the common coffers, leaving scant time for puerile heroic games, but Mouse had watched Lucky follow the same worn path they had used to reach their childhood sanctuary more times than he cared to remember and it didn’t take many brain cells to figure out this was where she’d go again.

He followed her as far as Landenshire to be certain and, having convinced himself his assumptions were correct, he contemplated how much Berund might be willing to pay to learn this news. Considering he was still likely enraged about his lost coin, Berund would probably pay at least as much as he’d lost in exchange, possibly more. Worst case, Mouse would still be a couple of coppers richer and his prestige with the guild would increase.

Turning back towards the city din, Mouse smiled at his fortune. As far as he could see it, it was a win-win situation for everyone involved — everyone except for Lucky, and she ranked low in his hierarchy of the world. Collateral damage.

She shouldn’t have left him behind years ago.


© Michael Raven

Big. Empty.

He pulled off into the gravel shoulder of the two-lane highway somewhere in the never-ending flatlands of North Dakota and stared out at the road before him, one that terminated as the vanishing point just beyond the horizon without deviating from the straight line it made dividing the swaying amber fields of wheat. Then he reviewed the the same in the rearview mirror, an infinite-seeming tether back to a lucrative job (golden cuffs, he’d heard it called), house, wife, and something just shy of the average 2.43 kids common to most families in the Upper Midwest. He should go back, he told himself; Valerie would be worried and the kids, well, they’d sense something was wrong once she started worrying about him and follow suit.

He loved them, right?

He did.

But the thought of the forty-hour workweek, the home repairs, a love-life centered around a birthday and an anniversary, and the inevitable soccer practices and music lessons —

He put the car back into drive and on the asphalt and followed the sunset while the radio faded in and out as it played a song by the Stone Temple Pilots somewhere left of the dial.

© Michael Raven

Juxtaposition.

He’d decided he was going to seize the tiger by its tail today. Instead of waiting for his bus on the one-way road between the skyscrapers of downtown like he did every day, looking up to catch a glimpse of the woman from his dreams as she crossed the skyway above his head, he had decided to miss his bus to try and meet her there.

While he waited, he glanced out the winter-frosted glass panes and watched the pedestrians below, and there he saw the woman of his dreams climbing aboard the bus he rode every day.

© Michael Raven

Acquiesce.

He awoke.

His eyes opened and gave way to ice-flows aquamarine green ghosting through the waters, Moon and her attendants sparklescattered, waiting for his arrival. She spoke nothing, which spoke volumes and he sighed, slitherstomped through the powered waste of white down the only path that remained in the ocean full of tears. She waited and, as far as he was concerned, she could damn well continue to wait — he’d not chosen to come here, but she’d drawn him to this place full of drifting white snow that stung needles into his flesh as he walked, driving him on. But she didn’t know that pain made living more easy to endure, so he rushed not, letting the pain punish him so he could feel alive.

He started to speak to the polar bear, but the old man shook his head. While Shadow was willing to try the Mistress’s patience, Bear was in no such mood. Old Man Bear pointed to his eye and then to the Moon; Shadow followed the path and nodded, knowing what he would do. The beast had told him the cost and Shadow had long since known it would come to this eventually. Moon was a harsh and cold mistress. She would have her due.

Continue reading “Acquiesce.”

Trade.

“You have something I haven’t been able to find,” Steven said with the air of conspiracy. “And I have something you will want when you see it. I think a trade is in order.”

Steve was the kind of guy you half-ignored. It didn’t matter what he talked about with you, it always sounded slightly off — not crazy, but starting to eclipse crazy. I responded with a noncommittal grunt.

He pointed to the pentagram on my chest. “I want to trade for that. Can’t find one like that ’round here.”

“I’m a bit partial to it,” I replied. “No trade.”

“But you don’t know what I have.”

I sighed. “I’ll still say no, but whatcha got Steve?”

He reached into his backpack and pulled out a wicker basket, grinning ear to ear.

“Well?” I asked, getting impatient with the man.

He opened it and inside was a raven skull, boiled clean and intact.

“Found this by the beach, though he had a little more meat on him when I did. Cleaned it up for you, pretty sure you’d like a raven to add to your sacred tools.” He held it closer. “Big bastard, too.”

I held onto the pendant I wore, contemplating.

“Fine,” I said taking off my pentagram and handing it over to him. “Apparently we both have something the other wants. “Deal”.

He slipped the satin cord over his head and handed me the basket, a shit-eating grin on his face. “I know things, Mick. I knew I had something you couldn’t resist.” And then he skipped down the street to the waterfront, making me wonder if there was something else I owned that he coveted.


© Michael Raven

I’ll keep this short.

This was largely a true exchange. The actual conversation mostly lost to time and memory, but “Steve” was an incredibly short man I knew when I lived in Seattle, someone who had also befriended a recovering heroin addict (that really should have had a support group more than me and “Steve”, as she thought her teenage boys’ love was what would keep her off smack — boys that saw her for one whole mandated day — hours really — a month and refused to talk to her on the phone). Anyway, I met him through the addict that I at first found attractive, but then just liked her as a friend, especially when the depth of her addiction became apparent. We rarely hung out as a trio, but he found out the cafe I hung out at when I wasn’t cutting hair or dancing myself to exhaustion at the fetish club. He was a bit “off” and claimed he was both gypsy and Cherokee, which may have been the truth. He also barely reached my shoulders in height (though not showing signs of being one of the little people) and always had a wild look in his eyes like he had done a shit-tonne of coke before he bumped into me at the cafe. When he saw the dead raven, he knew he would more than likely be able to trade me for the pentagram I wore that he apparently coveted. It was a simple welded silver wire piece, nothing special — but that was the thing… You could only find medallion or fancy/fussy-looking ones around Seattle at the time. I could vouch for that. And it seemed right on him, once he slipped it over his head.

I still have the skull.

Wheels on fire.

She hurried.

She was going to run away.

Again.

It was what she did. She ran whenever she got that spark that traveled from ass to neck like ice on a winter morning, clitter-clack and five fingers of shudders creeping crawling. Only it was summer this time, and she couldn’t begin to explain it away, force herself to stay, like she’d promised him she would, like she promised everyone before — men, grandmotherly old ladies, families who’d made her part of their own. She always promised to stay and she always broke that promise, no matter how intent she had been to keep it when it was made.

And here she was. Running. Again.

Continue reading “Wheels on fire.”

Three words.

This past week I’ve been digging through older bits of fiction I’ve written and posting a bit here and there to daylight some of my writing that has been otherwise becoming mushroom food. The older stuff isn’t always my best work. This one is from 2008.

For some reason, however — and I cannot put my finger on just why — this bit of flash fiction makes me unreasonably proud of what I wrote. Some place at the very end captures perfectly the moment I was trying to paint as far as I can recall. Of course, I’m willing to admit that it probably doesn’t deserve the pride I bestow on it, but let me have my little glory moment and not tell me how absolutely awful it is.

Please?

“This is the part when you tell me you love me,” she said as she leaned over the coffee table between us. I couldn’t help the lingering stare at the vast cleavage just barely hidden by a skin-tight, black, cotton tank-top she wore, but I suspected Julie wore the shirt explicitly to elicit such a reaction from me.

I leaned back into the overstuffed chair and sipped at my beer, unable to tear my eyes away from the pale flesh of her breasts.

“Is it really?” was my non-committal reply. “Hell, I don’t even know the meaning of the word.”

“Bastard.” She threw herself back into the couch sitting opposite me, arms crossed against her chest, denying me the view I had enjoyed for an all-too-brief time just a few moments before. Her response was borne of frustration, not out of any spite. For as long as I could recall, Julie had been attempting to get me to say three words in a very specific order and had always met with a refusal on my part to satisfy her demands.

Drive.

Another older piece. I’m not sure of the date but, judging from the number of edits needed, it was probably from the early days of trying to write fiction instead of poetry. I’m a little baffled why I chose present tense other than I think I originally intended for this to be a series of shorts, The file is named “Assorted Flavours” and the page had the header of “Drive” after the word “tick–“. Oh, how terribly artsy and vague of me — between the UK spelling of flavours and my use of the italicized word “tick” and a time to indicate a moment changing… All with zero follow-up.

Anyway, I’m sharing this because it is more fact than fiction. I apologize in advance if I didn’t make enough edits to make it readable. I did a lot of losing sense of my time-tense in the original version, shifting from present to past to present/past to… well, you get the idea. It’s this problem alone that suggests that this was an early adventure in writing fiction.

As usual with my old writings, I kept edits to the absolute minimum and usually only corrected spelling errors or, in this case, problems with moving POV with respect to time.

3.33 pm

Early summer in the arid foothills west of Billings, the windows rolled down and dry heat washing over sweat-stained shirts, cooling to the skin as it saps the sweat and left moment’s dryness before another bead of sweat boils up and takes a seat.  Everything is burnt amber and gold, even the sage seems yellowed and dry this drought season, the sand in the tall grass floating on the breeze, a dust you can discern on your tongue as the world whips by.

Dragons and gold pieces fill his head.  He imagines himself a valiant barbarian ranger, tracking quarry, finding riches, battling atrocities and scoring cosmopolitan chicks.  His eyes do not see the vast endless azure peppered with cotton-puff clouds, nor does he witness the jagged granite teeth of the Beartooth mountains gnashing in the distant haze of afternoon sun.  He is a warrior, fighting the bugbear and the ogre.  He has the map and there are worlds of treasures to explore.

The fantasy is broken with a query.

Continue reading “Drive.”

Gift.

Originally posted on Lady Jabberwocky using the given prompt: Write a story based on the word ”gift”.

[Minor edits for spelling and a single word addition.]

He stuffed another package into an increasingly overflowing cargo plane filled with presents and packages meant for loved ones, or sometimes as a present for one’s self if the prices on Amazon were right. It was probably one of the last flights that had a chance of getting purchases to their destination before Christmas Day.

John cracked his fingers and looked up at the dark grey skies.

“Gonna snow,” he said to no one in particular, especially not to the resident village idiot, Geoff who had managed to sneak up on him from behind.

“You’re always right,” Geoff chimed in. The boy was right. John was already six for six this year alone. “It’s like you have a special kind of gift of predicting when it will snow.”

John looked at his coworker. “It’s not a gift. It’s arthritis, you boob. Now, get back to work”.