“Six hours into my labor I broke into the Shedd Aquarium. There, alone in dolphin exhibit on that little underwater shelf where the trainers stand, I birthed my son. Drenched in cold saltwater, blood, and amniotic fluid and backdropped by Lake Michigan in the Moonlight, I became a mother. The dolphins joined in chorus with my son’s first cries and the power of the universe overwhelmed my soul.”

So that just popped into my head.  That was my friend Stella’s birth story. She related it while we were sharing birth stories at the hospital new mom’s group four years ago. I had been life flighted for an emergency c-section, but Stella’s story stole the show.

I love Stella. Stella’s my friend, so I try to forget when she tells me something illegal she’s done. If I’m thinking of her off the radar operations now, I know I’m in trouble.

You see, I’d just gotten off the phone with Carolyn’s preschool teacher. I’d been getting suspicious about some things and the phone call made it all worse.

“It’s procedure,” Ms. Gina had said. “The doctor’s office sends the results of that test directly to us. You can always request a copy for your own files.”

“Thank you,” I’d said. “I’ll get around to it. The health department keeps track of all that for us anyway.”

Then I laughed and Ms. Gina had chuckled with me. I hung up. And I’d been sitting at the kitchen table with chills running over my skull and bile in the back of my throat until just now, when Stella’s breaking and entering stunt birth story popped into my head. (more…)

Betting it All

The bar was crowded and noisy, but that was to be expected. On Valentine’s Day the sad and lonely like to t flock together and drown their sorrows. Becky ignored them as she went to the bar ordered her Crown and Coke. The bartender was quick enough to have it ready for her by the time she settled on the barstool.

This was a local place close to where she lived and Becky had become a regular after work. Her job was stressful enough to need a drink after the day. Then she would go home to her Netflix and her iguana. Sammy never judged her for her movie choices.

“Hard day?” a masculine voice asked from the end of the bar.

“You know it.” She answered, aware that he was going to be taking the seat next to her.

“It’s a busy day for both of us.”

Becky slid her eyes to the side to look at Chet. He was as cheerful and pretty as always. Skin that glowed tan even in the winter and dimples dented deeply in his cheeks. Baby blues framed with lashes that would make runway models jealous. Not to mention a body hot enough to cook breakfast on.

“I feel like it’s not quite the same.” She returned to staring at her glass. “You are bringing people together in loving bliss and I’m snatching the souls of those who gave up hope.”

“You have such a negative outlook on what you do.” Chet said.

“It’s required. It’s in the job title. Cheerful reaper didn’t have the same ring to it.” (more…)

The Dragon’s Lost Library

I met the dragon the summer after my fifth grade year.

It was the start of summer vacation—a magical time for children. The days were full of possibility, and back then, the summers seemed endless. That summer, I planned on spending hours curled up on the bottom bunk bed, my fantasy posters surrounding me in a cocoon of magic, as I explored other worlds.

The first day of vacation, I talked mom into dropping me off at my favorite used bookstore. I loved its musty old smell, the chaotic stacks of books, and the ferocious feline that stalked the aisles unless it was lounging in a pocket of sun. The place always felt tinged with magic (although that could have just been me). It was staffed by an eclectic mix of college students and retired librarians. The owner was a young, pretty blonde who always had a twinkle in her eye and a knack for finding the perfect book for every patron. I always half-expected that one day one of the clerks would hand me a copy of The Neverending Story, and my adventure would begin.

That summer, she had begun collecting and selling art, which was how I found the dragon. Among abstracts, landscapes, and realistic-looking bowls of fruit, I found a handful of 8×10 fantasy prints. I wanted them all, but I could only afford one with my allowance money if I wanted to buy a new book. I spent several minutes waffling between the prints. The one I kept coming back to, though, was one of a red dragon in a cavernous hall, the far corners lost in shadows, surrounded by piles and piles of books, reading by candlelight.

I felt drawn to this dragon and his hoard of books. This dragon was a creature I understood. I felt a powerful yearning to curl up next to him and borrow a book off of his stack.

The shop owner laid a finger on the side of her nose and winked when I bought it. (more…)

Blood is Thicker than Water

I couldn’t hear the blood-magicker approaching, but I knew she was there. I cowered back in the little corner made by a building that jutted farther into the alley than its neighbors. I could feel the rough stones against my back as I clutched my tattered backpack against my chest and drew my knees up. The hard edges of the bottles and syringes inside the pack dug into my stomach and thighs, but they didn’t give me reassurance now.

A low hiss came from the darkness of the alley. The only light came from a thin slip of moon and the pale wash of stars high above which wasn’t enough for my weak human eyes to see very far. I knew the blood-magicker could see me though. I huddled in my corner, trying to ignore the dull throb of pain in my right knee, from when I’d tripped and fallen earlier. I couldn’t worry about it now.

Silently, I cursed the fate that had left me out here, in this deserted alleyway, with only the cold stars a witness to my imminent death. What had I ever done to deserve this? Nothing. Nothing, except be born.


February Stories at the Confabulator Cafe

Welcome back to the Confabulator Cafe, my friends! After a month off, we’re back and feeling refreshed. We hope you’re ready for another year of original, free stories. We even have a new guest contributor, so please welcome Kita Haliwell to the lineup this month!

Have you ever found yourself in a circumstance that led you to befriend someone you might not have otherwise? Hit it off with someone you never thought you would? The Confabulators toyed with this idea for this month’s prompt: an unlikely friendship.

We hope you’ll join us each week this month for fresh, new fiction. Here’s the schedule for the month of February:

Friday, February 3: “Blood is Thicker than Water” by Isabel Nee
Tuesday, February 7: “The Dragon’s Lost Library” by Sara Lundberg
Tuesday, February 14: “Betting it All” by Amanda Hadley
Tuesday, February 21: “Dolphin” by Emily Mosher
Tuesday, February 28: “Rocky Start” by Kita Haliwell