Empire of the Dead by Phil Tucker

Empire of the Dead


Anna Stephens Interview – Darksoul

Anna Stephens

Interview – Darksoul

Candy by Lavie Tidhar




Monthly Short Story Winner: Secrets

Spring has sprung as the saying goes. And since spring is a time of new beginnings I thought we’d try something new for April’s writing contest. This month instead of writing a short story, we’re asking you to write a fantasy poem! But now I’m skipping ahead. Let’s start at the beginning.

February’s theme was secrets

Secrets by NostalgiaCaptured

February is the month of love. But it is also the month of secrets: secret gifts, secret admirers, secret lovers. But in fantasy, there are many kinds of secrets besides these. There are secret groves where wood spirits dwell, secret spells that no man should utter, and secret plots whose success can change the course of history. Whether they are kept for good or evil, secrets play a huge role in fantasy, as does how they are revealed and who they are revealed to.

This month, your challenge is to write a fantasy story or scene about a secret. It can be good or bad, big or small, but it must be the main point of the story.


1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must include a secret as a major part of the story in addition to some element of fantasy.

And the winner of February’s challenge is wishywash27! You can read her story, “The Senator’s Dilemma”, at the end of this article. Congratulations again wishywash27!

You can view all of our past winners’ entries here.

March’s theme was luck

Shamrock In The Snow by IrishVikingDesigns

Do you believe in luck? Whether or not luck is a real thing in this world, there are still people today who bet fortunes on the roll of a die or the spin of a wheel. In fantasy, however, luck can be a living breathing force. Bad luck can send an adventurer to their doom and good luck can be a gift from the gods themselves. It can tip the scales of great battles, or help a young peasant become a noble prince.

This month your challenge is to write a short story or scene involving luck. It can be good or bad luck, but it must be a main point of the story.


1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must include luck as a major element or theme in addition to some element of fantasy.

You can vote for March’s winner here.

Voting ends on April 28th. Check back next month to see who wins!

April’s Writing Challenge

Rose Red by KaliLainePhotography

For those who didn’t know (I being one of them) April is National Poetry Month in the US. And since we haven’t done a poetry contest since last March (2011), I thought it was due time to have another one, just for a change of pace. That being said, this month’s rules are very easy.


1. Must be poetry.
2. Your poetry does NOT have to rhyme.
3. Must include some element of fantasy.
4. No dirty limericks.
5. Poems must be a maximum 24 lines. (This is normally a short story contest, epic ballads would be a wee bit long.)

Contest ends April 30th! If you’re interested, you can enter here.

Good luck to all entrants! Check back next month for more Writing Challenge fun!

Now please enjoy our winning story short story!

– – –

“The Senator’s Dilemma”
by Rebecca L. Fisk (wishywash27)

I pressed the accelerator all the way to the floor in the desperate hope the vehicle get around the next corner. The flashing lights in my rearview mirror were gaining and the wail of the siren made my heart race faster than it already was. The safety mechanism I so naively voted in favor of kicked in.

The computerized voice that managed to be both soothing and irritating as hell informed me what I already knew, “I detect your vehicle is approaching a speed 10 mph over the approved limit. I am slowing your vehicle down now.”

I slammed the steering wheel in frustration. Damn it! Seeing as how outrunning my pursuer was out of the question, I deliberately chose a spot under a street light, and pulled the traitorous vehicle over. Composing my face into what I hoped was a contrite and harmless expression, I pressed the button that would roll my window down and waited, forcing my breath to come slowly and calmly.

“Ma’am. License and registration, please. Do you know why I pulled you over?” The officer looked barely old enough to shave.

I handed him the documents and making sure the light cast from the streetlamp caught my face and simpered, “Oh officer, I am so sorry, truly I am! I was just thinking about tomorrow’s session and how important the vote will be. I want to make the right decision, you understand better than most how serving our people takes precedence over anything else, I’m sure.” Yes, I was laying it on thick. I was also taking a huge gamble that he was pulling me over for something innocuous and just had very, very bad timing. My gamble paid off.

He looked up, my speech and the name on my ID connecting the dots for him. “Sen- Senator? Senator Calvinia?” he stuttered.

“Yes, that’s me.” I smiled innocently up at him.

“Gosh, wow, I am so sorry to delay you, Senator. It’s just, well, your tail light is out.” The poor man was blushing as he rushed on. “But I understand, you’re right, the vote…” He trailed off then cleared his throat. “You are free to go, and please, drive home carefully.” He literally half curtsied and tipped his cap to me.

I quashed the hysterical laughter burbling up my throat and assured him it was no bother, I would indeed be careful, and thank you.

The poor kid! I should submit an accommodation to his superiors. Right after I got this stupid car to my destination and my trunk full of contraband had been safely emptied.

Once I was outside the city limits, I could find a gap zone and use my powers to fix the damn tail light and de-activate my car’s tracker, but I was counting solely on my title to get me through the checkpoints. Since my senatorial predecessors had seen fit to combine the entirety of their powers and create a massive Dead Zone over the capitol, no one could use even the tiniest amount of individual power within its limits.

It was advertised as a way to provide a safe and neutral territory where business was conducted and laws were made through honest planning and benevolence for our constituents. In reality, it just meant my fellow leaders had learned how to be sneaky and corrupt the old-fashioned way. Physical threats, greased handshakes, and family connections were amongst the most common, but there were other ways too.

My family connections were what earned me my seat on the Senate. I hadn’t wanted it, but when my father’s life was cut short in the magical duel on the Senate steps that precipitated the creation of the Dead Zone, his seat was handed down to me. I had thought it meant carrying on my father’s legacy, but they had done it with the intention of using my inexperience and starry-eyed idealism as means to further their own agenda. It worked for a while, too.

The law that required all vehicles to have a speed-override function, the one that had screwed me over tonight, was a prime example. It was presented as the best way to eliminate dangerous high speed chases, as well as the myriad of other situations where high speeds led to fatal accidents. Those goals were all achieved, but the real goal was to allow one more method of controlling each and every citizen.

We had traded our freedom for safety. The problem now was there was no way to keep us safe from our own government. Or so I thought.

The change began one night almost a year ago. I arrived home late, exhausted after yet another endless session where the senators tried to out-snake each other and push through more laws designed to tighten the noose around the capitol’s neck. I let myself in the side door, fully prepared to zap a meal and curl up with a movie off the free public network. Instead, I got a gloved hand over my mouth with another one around my waist and a voice in my ear telling me not to scream.

Just as I was about to scream anyway, there was a high-pitched buzzing noise, and the voice continued, even closer to my ear, “If you want to know what your father was working on that got him killed, come to 41475 Vector Avenue at 7am tomorrow. Come alone. Call for a taxi and give them a different address on Vector. Walk around the block twice before coming to the address. Don’t say anything to anyone, don’t even talk to yourself about it out loud. Your house and car are bugged.”

The gloves left my body and the buzzing noise was gone. I stood still, in shock, waiting to be stabbed or strangled. When several minutes passed and neither of those things happened, I choked out the command for the lights to turn on. Nothing was out of place. No one else was there .

I sunk to the floor and began to think about the information I’d been given. I didn’t want to go. I was terrified. But in the end, I was more terrified not to go. To not take the chance the wearer of the gloves was telling the truth. That my father had been murdered. To always have unanswered questions – that was more horrible than the possibility of getting murdered in a warehouse downtown.

I followed the directions to the letter and eventually arrived at my destination. It was a smallish, non-descript gray building. I hesitated at the door, half hoping it would be locked. It wasn’t. I crossed the threshold.

My footsteps echoed on the concrete floor and up to the exposed rafters. “Hello?”

“Here,” responded a voice.

I whipped around. A man in a dark trench coat appeared behind me. He was very tall, but with kind eyes, eyes that looked very tired.

“Thank you for coming, Brim. We weren’t sure you were going to, but I hoped you would.”

I was taken aback at his use of my first name. Informal. Familiar. “Have we met? I mean, before you broke into my house and nearly gave me a heart attack last night?”

He shook his head. “No. But I was a friend of your father and he spoke of you often. I apologize. For last night too. I’m afraid there isn’t much time and it was the best I could do without compromising anything. Please, come with me. You need to see some things.”

He took a small black controller from the pocket of his coat, pressed a few buttons. A hole opened up in the floor. He motioned me to follow down an old-fashioned escalator. I stepped onto the moving staircase and allowed it to carry me into the bowels of the building.

As my eyes sunk below the floor, I realized the innocuous gray building was a front for the real operation. The belowground epicenter was abuzz with strange machines, glowing lights, and frowning scientist-types in lab coats looking harried and genius-y.

When we reached the bottom of the escalator I followed the man in the trench. He had the habit overly tall men sometimes have of hunching their shoulders and tucking their chins into their chest while walking so as to appear less intimidating. He led me to a room off the main hub and ushered me in.

“I want to show you these.” He pointed to a mess of papers spread out on the tables. “They came three days ago. Along with a letter from your father. He had left instructions for them to be mailed to us before he was killed; very smart man, your father. He knew. He knew that nest of vipers would find a way to push their plan through. He wanted to make sure you were protected and we could carry on his work if he wasn’t here to do it himself.”

I looked through the papers. They were plans. Plans outlining how the Elders would put the Dead Zone into effect. Plans to-

I caught my breath and had put my hand out to steady myself on the edge of the table.

There were plans to destroy the power network that formed the Dead Zone. Items we would need to accomplish this feat were listed. Items I realized the senators had been methodically outlawing for the past decade.

I knew that all individuals had a certain level of power that allowed them to perform basic tasks, such as creating fire by harnessing elemental energies, or moving objects with their minds. Some individuals were blessed with enormous stores of this power, which enabled them to perform much more complicated and strenuous tasks. As a child, I had been able to perform more difficult challenges than other children my age and my father had once told me I would come into it fully when I came of age.

I never got the chance to reach full potential. It hadn’t dawned on me until that moment in the subterranean laboratory that the timing of events may have been concisely planned for that very reason.

My hands had shook, and I fought back tears as I looked up and met the eyes of my trench-coated collaborator.

“You understand, don’t you?” He’d asked softly.

I nodded.

“What do you want to do about it, Brim Calvinia?”

“Let’s take the bastards down,” I hissed.

Now that we were so close to accomplishing our plan, I had almost screwed it up because of the careless oversight of a burned out tail light.

I cleared the final checkpoint that would allow me to leave the Capitol and find a gap zone with nary a suspicious glance.

It was time to make them pay.

– – –

Congratulations again to Rebecca L. Fisk! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information. Happy Writing!

Title image by alicewphotography.


Leave a Comment