Friday, February 20, 2015

“The Family Business” by Marina Finlayson (Short Story)

Genre: Humorous Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Renardo and his brothers are up to their eyeballs in debt, with one last chance to save their merchant business (and their gonads) from the moneylender. The great city of Tebos is holding its Festival of Song in three days’ time, and they have a wagonload of songbirds to sell.

There’s just one large, man-eating problem: the bored sphinx who guards the city’s gates, and her deadly riddle game. Renardo doesn’t even want to be a merchant, but somehow it falls to him to outwit the sphinx. No pressure. All he has to do is come up with an unanswerable riddle.


“I’m not asking riddles any more,” said the sphinx.

“Really?” The merchant raised his face from the dirt hopefully.

“Really.” The sphinx shifted her wings, which jiggled her bare breasts in a most interesting fashion. She saw the merchant’s gaze drift and frowned. “You shall ask them instead.”

The merchant’s eyes shot back to her face, alarmed. “Me?”

“All of you.” The sphinx’s nod took in the waiting caravans and the line of delegates behind her current victim, all toting their heavy riddle books under their arms. “Union regs only say I shall test each traveller and admit the worthy to the city. There’s no rule that says I have to ask the riddles. A person could get tired of creating riddles after a few centuries, you know.” She sniffed. “No one appreciates the work that goes into a good riddle.”

The merchant had too much on his mind to sympathise. Like just how big the sphinx was close up—bigger than a horse. Bigger than two horses, maybe. Not to mention the size of her teeth.

“Well?” said the sphinx, her snake-like tail twitching impatiently.

“Well what, your graciousness?”

“Are you going to ask me a riddle or shall I just eat you straight off?”

The merchant scrambled back in alarm. “Just a minute, your ladyship.”

He reached for his riddle book and she growled. “And that’s another thing. No more riddle books.”

“No more—?” The merchant cast an anguished glance at his well-thumbed copy of Riddle Me This. His father had presented it to him before his first journey to Tebos, and it had served him well ever since, though there had been that tense patch when the sphinx had decided that riddles were passé, and knock-knock jokes would introduce a little levity into the proceedings.

“Tick tick tick,” said the sphinx. “Time is money, you know.” She yawned, luscious, bee-stung lips pulling back to reveal wicked canines. Sweat sprang out on the merchant’s brow.

“Um …”

The sphinx flowed to her feet as the merchant hesitated. He scrambled backwards as she paced towards him, his eyes riveted on her face. “No, please. Just a minute, your magnificence. Mercy. Just—just—give me a second.”

His foot slipped and for a moment he windmilled on the edge of the precipice that looked down over Tebos. She waited, crouched down so they were nose to nose, till he stopped gasping.

“Lovely view,” he said with a sickly smile.

“The riddle, merchant.”

“What’s … what, um …” His brain had seized with terror. He rummaged desperately through the echoing spaces inside his skull for a riddle. Any riddle.

Buy this story on Amazon.  Find more of Marina’s work here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Choking Cupid" by Mira Day (Novelette)

Genre:  Chick Lit, Romance

Type of Short Story: Novelette

Summary:  Worst. Day. Ever.

At least for Summer Wilson. At 32 and single, she dreads Valentine's Day more than any other, and her hungry-for-grandchildren mother doesn't help matters.

When Summer's plans of wine, movies and ice cream with her best friend, Jessica, are ruined, Summer is forced to go on a blind date that would make any girl cringe. Pile on crabby customers and hotter-than-she remembers ex-boyfriends, all crowding into a local Asheville restaurant, and she can't imagine the day getting any worse.

In desperation, she turns to her new neighbor to help take her mind off her least favorite day, but even he might not be able to handle her aversion to Cupid.


“Don’t hate me.”

I read the text again, as I lock the café up for the day. After barricading myself in the office for a majority of the shift, I am more than ready to get out of there. Every time I ventured out into the dining room, someone on staff made a comment about me getting desperate or that I can only find guys at work. I brushed it off to not egg them on, but the bottle of wine at home is calling to me.

I hit the button to call Jessica. “Don’t hate me,” texts are never good.

“Ok, so really, don’t hate me.”

“What did you do, Jess?”

“How set are you on our plans?”

I walk down the icy hill to my car, glaring at the sidewalk. “You’re ruining them aren’t you?”

She giggles, “Actually, I may have just improved them. I met this super cute guy and he wants to take us out tonight. He has a friend for you.”

Jessica never finds the highest quality of guys. She usually falls for the first thing with biceps that pay her any attention, and trust me, they all pay her attention. Her bright blue eyes and red hair gives her the exotic, firecracker look the guys like to try and tame while her take-no-shit attitude keeps them begging for more.

I shake my head quickly, “No. No, no, no Jessica. Remember last time this happened? We met up with him and it turned out, he didn’t have a friend. And for whatever reason, we still ended up at home boy’s apartment. Oh, and let’s not forget the threesome he had planned.”

“It’s different this time. I actually met the friend. I promise.”

I climb in the car, allowing the phone to connect to the Bluetooth. Sitting back in my seat, I scowl at the dashboard. “What about the time the ‘friend’ was the guy’s sister. That was a fun night.”

“Geez, you’ll never let me forget that will you?”


“Come on, Summer. Do you know how long it’s been since I last had sex? I think I’m a virgin again. I need this.”

I make a face, “You don’t really expect me to believe that do you?”

“Oh yeah, it’s you who hasn’t had sex in forever!” She howls like a hyena at her own joke.

“You are such a bitch. Remind me why I’m friends with you?”

“Because you love me and I’m only looking out for your sexual well being. Now, go wash the café stink off you. I’ll be over in fifteen. Make sure to find something sexy, we’re going to Social Lounge tonight.”

Buy this story on Amazon.