Sunday, March 9, 2014

Free Fiction: "Mid-Life Crisis"

I have discovered that Flash Me Magazine, the venue that published my second story "Mid-Life Crisis" in December 2010 is no longer available online, hence my story is no longer in the archives. This is a pity, as I don't have electronic proof of the publication.

As the story is well out of contract, I am making it available here for people to read. It is a flash piece, companion to "The Ten Thousand Steps", from Expanded Horizons November 2011.


Mid-life Crisis


A.J. Fitzwater

"Awww, dragon poop," said the Phoenix.

 Whumph. With that proclamation she fell into a gently steaming pile of ashes.

 The Wizardling Katewin carefully replaced her scribing pen. These were not the words of wisdom she had been waiting a full day in a hot, stuffy eyrie to hear, eager to enshrine into The Tome of Phoenix Prophecy.

Her stomach rumbled; the room smelled like roast chicken. A crease marred her usually smooth brow as she glared out the window at the now far more attractive busy castle courtyard far below the Tower roost.

Phoenix Duty was a prized post in the Tower, but not even the Prime Wizard had hinted at the tedium. Hours of waiting, punctuated by a few sagacious words.

So far, the words had been far from wise, let alone prophetic.

With a sigh, she went back to memorizing teas from her battered tome on herbal lore. It would be some time before the Phoenix rose again.

The sand glass had turned twice before the ashen remains stirred again.

Katewin snatched up her pen, wetting the nib with ink. Despite her boredom, her meagre hopes for witnessing a prophetic moment were rekindled with each reincarnation.

The Phoenix carefully groomed the magnificent gold feathers, and coughed a small puff of ashes from her beak.

"I've come over all hot and sweaty," she grumbled. 

The great bird was ashes once more.

Katewin's cheeks didn't match the intensity of the Phoenix's flames, but she burned with a mixture of bemusement and annoyance. Why was the greatest prophecy making being in the Kingdom talking such banality?

The next time the ashes evidenced movement, Katewin was prepared.

Fortified by the pluck of a matriarchal line of Wizards, Katewin spoke regardless of the knowledge that she would be punished severely if she was caught.

"Pardon my temerity," she said once the Phoenix had opened her coal-glow eyes. "But, oh wondrous Phoenix, are you feeling all right?"

"Goodness," breathed the Phoenix. "You're the first to talk back to me in such a long time."

A thought flashed. Why was the Prime Wizard, the Phoenix’s closest companion, so wary of the creature? Mindful of time, Katewin hurried on. "You sound uncomfortable, omniscient one. Is there anything I can do?"

The Phoenix cocked her head, then squinted at Katewin. "Omniscient my feathery arse. I'm having trouble stopping myself from popping up and down like a Jack-a-Box. I'm all flushed and it's making me crabby. No one, least of all that fool of a man the Prime Wizard, wants to talk about..." The Phoenix dropped her voice into a faux-dramatic whisper, and darted her glowing eyes side to side. "The Change."

Katewin blinked. Her lips twitched. For having been absconded in the tower for so long, the Phoenix affected a more than fair imitation of the ladies at court, voices and eyes fluttering behind their feathered fans and masks.

A grimace bent the Phoenix's large golden beak, and she nodded her great red plume towards the awaiting Phoenix Tome. "Write THIS one down. Let’s see what those simpering fools make of THIS."

Katewin gathered herself, glee making her fingers grasping the pen itch and twitch.

"Menopause," Phoenix intoned. "Is just vile."

Her feathers glowed sun-bright, and then she was a sprinkle of silver remains.

Katewin indeed carefully scribed the words; she was, after all, under edict. She sat back and pondered the steaming ashes littering the base of the perch, tapping the pen to her pursed lips.

She thought of her grandmother, a law unto herself, and her famous garden. Katewin’s eyes dropped to the herbal tome and she began turning pages. She smiled.
The next time the Phoenix arose, Katewin was prepared with a pot of black cohosh tea.

©2010 AJ Fitzwater

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