March 28, 2014

Storybook Menagerie - March Edition

It's amazing how many different ways a story can go from the same beginning.

Welcome to Storybook Menagerie, a new monthly collection of short flash fiction from some of my favorite fellow authors. The premise is simple. I write a beginning, just a paragraph or two. From there, authors pick up the story where I left off and add to it - in 250 words or less.

For March, we have an amazingly talented group of authors, including +Zayne Michaels, Vicktor Alexander, Cheryl Dragon, +Susan Hayes+Laurie Roma, and +Jana Downs 

Ready to get started?

In the beginning...

Rounding his shoulders against the harsh winds, Michael Connelly approached the lonely bench situated near the walking trail and eased down onto the frozen seat. Somewhere in the distance, a bell tolled, calling out the midnight hour with its mournful cry.

The full moon hung low in the sky, sparkling off the fresh blanket of fallen snow and illuminating the abandoned park in hues of the palest blues. Reaching into his coat pocket, Michael extracted his cell phone, clutching it tightly as he stared down at the display…and waited.

Zayne Michaels 
When ten minutes passed without so much as a text message, Michael stood and paced in front of the bench, cursing himself for being such a fool. Still, he stayed. When another twenty minutes came and went, and his cell phone didn’t ring, he finally had to accept the painful truth—Jared wasn’t coming.

He didn’t know why he’d expected this time to be any different, but he’d gotten his hopes up…again, only to be let down…again. His brain told him loving a man so deeply rooted in the closet would only mean heartbreak for him, but his damned heart just hadn’t listened. Jared had been simultaneously holding him at arm’s length and reeling him in for over a year. It was time for Michael to take back his life and put an end to this never-ending cycle.
Dropping his phone back into his pocket, he turned, only to bump into a wall of solid muscle. “Whoa, easy.” The stranger held him by the shoulders, preventing them both from falling on their asses. After looking Michael up and down with an appreciative grin, he took a step back and offered his hand. “I’m Aaron.”
“Michael,” he answered as he squeezed Aaron’s hand, lingering a little longer than strictly necessary. “Sorry about that.”
“No problem.” Easing past Michael, he continued toward the park exit, but stopped a few feet away and looked over his shoulder with another of those knowing smiles. “C’mon, you can buy me a drink to make up for it.” 


He couldn’t believe that he had let himself be drawn out of his home at this time of the night just for a text message from… him, but it was too late for him to turn around and go back. Or was it? Just as he’d all but made up his mind to rise from the bench and leave, his cell phone lit up and as he stared at it, twelve words flashed across the screen. Twelve words that made Michael want to cry with happiness and tremble with fear. He finally had what he wanted, but what was he supposed to do with it now? He glanced up from the screen of the phone and took a shuddering breath before glancing down again to be sure that what he’d seen the first time was still the truth. The words were still there, calling to him like a siren, mocking him with his greatest desire.

“I did it. The divorce is final. I’m on my way now.”

Nickolas Larraby, his married lover was finally divorced and Michael could love him openly, he should be excited, and yet…

He was suddenly afraid that it would all be stolen away from him.

Before he could dwell on it longer, he heard the roar of Nickolas’s truck pulling into the parking lot, before his heavy footsteps echoed in the darkness as he ran toward Michael. Michael looked up and barely had a moment to whisper Nickolas’s name before he was kissed furiously.

Cheryl Dragon

Michael began to doubt reporting the fraud to the feds. His boss hadn’t listened so what else could he do? This meeting was crazy. He was a financial analyst, not a spy. 

His phone chimed and Michael read the text. Obeying, he stood up, took three steps forward, and put his hands out at his sides. The cold wind cut through him. Forcing himself not to panic, he closed his eyes.

A pair of large strong hands came out of nowhere and patted him down. Shoulders and arms, torso, waist, and legs. Everywhere. In another time and place, this would be a fantasy. 

Michael opened his eyes and surveyed the federal agent who’d responded to his inquiry. Baby blue eyes and coal black hair, the agent had broad shoulders and was tall. Attractive but probably straight.

Chuckling to himself, Michael was focusing on anything but the reason he was there. He didn’t want to be in the middle of this.

“You can relax,” the agent said.

His firm voice aroused Michel down to his toes. “I don’t know what you want from me. I don’t have any proof. I can’t get files out.”

The agent nodded to the bench and they sat down. “Relax. You stumbled onto a case we’re already working.”

“Great. I risked my neck for nothing.” Michael pinched the bridge of his noes to relieve some of the tension. 

“Hardly. This is your lucky day.” The agent smiled.

Susan Hayes

Michael hunkered into his coat as the cold seeped deeper into his bones. He hadn’t been able to get warm all day. At least, not that he could remember. The only things he could clearly recall were the constant chill and the cryptic text message that had appeared on his phone. 

“Midnight. The bench where you proposed. Wait for me. L.”

So here he was, waiting. What else did he have to do? His children were grown, his friends gone. And it was pretty here, despite the cold. It had been years since he’d been to the bench. He tried to remember just how long, but his thoughts were as elusive as the wisps of breath that shrouded his face. 

A flicker of movement drew his attention and he glanced up to see the impossible walking toward him. Lauren. His Lauren. Looking so young and beautiful it made his heart ache.

He ran to her, sweeping her into his arms.

“Lauren? How? I lost you…” grief choked off his words.

“Not lost, just apart for a time,” she said and kissed him. She still tasted like summer sweet berries.

“You’re dead, my love,” he whispered the truth he had lived with for so many years.

“And now, so are you. Come, beloved. It’s time. We won’t be apart again. I promise.”

“But where are we going?” Already the wintery night was fading away, replaced by light and warmth.

“I don’t know where we’re going. I’ve been waiting for you.”

Laurie Roma

A sound from behind him had Michael spinning around, his Sig Sauer up and at the ready. He let out a vicious curse as Kira stepped out of the shadows. “Son of a…are you crazy? I could have killed you!”

A small smile played over her lush lips. “You’re better than that.”

Michael stood up slowly, shoving the gun and his phone back in his pockets. He frowned when he saw her hands were empty. “Where are your things?”

“I’m not going.”

“Oh, yes you are. You’re getting as far away from here as humanly possible.”

She shook her head, and the sheer determination shining back at him from her dark-brown eyes made him grit his teeth. “I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere until that murdering bastard who killed my father is dead.”

He was on her in two long strides, gripping her shoulders painfully as he fought the urge to shake some fucking sense into her. “These people are dangerous. This isn’t a damn game, Kira!”

“Of course it is, and it’s one I intend to win. I’m not leaving, Michael. I can’t…even for you.”

“I could make you,” he said, his voice deadly soft.

“You could, but you won’t. We both know I’ll never be free until this is finished. I can’t live like this anymore. I’m in this until the end.”

Defeated, he lowered his head until their foreheads were touching. “Until the end…”

Jana Downs

Today was D-day for his career, the make it or break it time period when he would finally know once and for all if he had what it took to make it as a published author. He’d shopped his manuscript from publishing house to publishing house without a modicum of interest shown by the editors who added his life’s work to the slush pile. The story was intimate, raw, his. He’d cut out his own heart and put it on the page. 

He looked down at his cell phone again, pressing a button just to illuminate the screen one more time in case he’d missed the message while staring down at it like an addict waiting for a fix. 

He wondered if his high school students felt this way before he handed back a big test. The outcome had already been decided but before that fatal period, there was still hope. 

Cursing himself as a fool, he walked deeper into the park, ignoring the bench that would probably freeze his ass to the cold metal anyway. 

Restlessness had driven him from his nice warm flat and into the cool streets. The park had seemed like a logical place to go since sitting in an all-night diner or coffee shop definitely wouldn’t take care of his agitation. 

“There’s probably a rejection letter in my mailbox,” he muttered to himself in an attempt to kill the hope that wanted to blossom in his chest. Their offices were closed now. They weren’t going to call. 

It was over. 

He shoved his hands deeper in his pockets to hide away his cell phone. He was done.


  1. Sweet..I don't tweet that how you say it? See I have no Loved seeing little snippets of all those authors works..:)

  2. Great set of flash fiction. Love all of the different takes on the setting.

  3. Wow. Same beginning so many different endings nice beginnings of new stories as well.

  4. Reminds me of the Pick your Adventure books that were popular when I was in elementary School

  5. Very creative writing from the different authors. This was interesting to read several different endings.

  6. Wow! That was great. I loved that one beginning had so many different endings.

  7. I want them all- now.. can't wait.. also can't wait for more.... thanks you all keep writing...

  8. I love it!! This is a fantastic many possibilities from some awesome authors. Amazing.

  9. Elizabeth Miller3/31/2014

    This is Awesome.

  10. Amazing to see how different each authors mind worked with the same start. Was fun to read. Thank you.

  11. Anonymous3/31/2014

    This is great. I liked each how each author mind work differently.

    Deborah H

  12. wonderful I am looking forward to more

  13. Great teasers. I can't wait.

  14. Wow! Just wow, this was a really great and fun way to get to know a couple new authors and add some new books to my TBR list!

  15. Loved it- thanks! Off to add more books to my TBR list.

  16. That's something new, or old, a story chain, like when you go camping and you start a story and go around the circle, adding, nice.

  17. I love this idea! I had a blast with this first storybook menagerie, I would love to see more!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.