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In Another Vein

October 30, 2021 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , , ,
Photo by Garth Manthe on Unsplash

The full moon is my favorite lunar phase. Not because it helps me see better in the darkness—that’s never been a problem. It’s because moonlight infuses the evening with a special glow. It makes me swagger, and maybe take more chances than I should.

On this particular full moon, I am out and about by twelve-thirty; leggings, gray tunic, sensible shoes, my hair knotted atop my head. I think I look sleek like a cat without the whiskers or tail. Some accuse me of walking the streets, but that’s not why I’m out here. It’s hunger, really.

Nostalgia makes me head up Rush Avenue this night. I have memories of sweet drafts, sparkling with life. Ripe pickings, with little danger of getting caught. Part of me says to walk on by and follow my usual routine: Never the same place twice. With the full moon lighting the way, I am more visible than on other nights.

“Hey, girl,” a late stroller shouts from the other side of the deserted street. I ignore him. That is my first mistake. I’m not the only one dressed for inconspicuousness this night. 

Another man materializes on my right. A big, muscular fellow, dressed in black. 

“Why such a hurry?” he says, but softly, intently. He drifts closer to me, and during that action, I am aware that the late stroller has moved across the street toward me. I am flanked. 

I should run—I could easily leave them behind—but the hunger emerges, as it always does when beating hearts are within range. I decide to see what happens if I stay. That is my second mistake.

“The place three doors up has a broken latch on a rear window,” I say. “Easy to enter and look around, if that’s why you’re out here.”

“Maybe,” the big guy says. “And maybe we’re here because we’re looking for someone like you.” His hand grabs my arm, and I can smell tobacco and sweat on him. 

The late stroller takes my other arm, but his grip is lighter. He’s shorter, slimmer than the big guy. And his breath as he leans in tells me he’s been drinking. Maybe this duo isn’t out to make a quick buck on stolen goods.

“Nice night for a drive, Matt, don’t you think?” the late stroller says to the big guy as he leers at me. “Especially with the little lady here?” 

Matt, the big guy, agrees by laughing, more of a guffaw, and grips my arm more tightly, as though I’ve made any move to get away. 

Their car could be any parked along this quiet city block. I have a few seconds to decide on a plan, but I’m distracted by their closeness. Their pulses beat against my arms; even through the tunic’s sleeves I feel them and my hunger surfaces again.

I could sink my teeth into Matt’s hand, but his friend might be strong enough to pull me off. 

Unless. 

I know how to avoid a third mistake. Moving swiftly, I bite deep, and the reaction is predictable. Matt yelps, letting go of me. I turn just as fast to the other man and draw blood. 

“Fuck,” he cries. And I am free once more. 

Just as predictable is their rage. No longer am I a target for their lust: They must hurt me because I have hurt them. But I am quick, and did I tell you that I think just as quickly? 

Matt rushes me, but I sidestep, and his momentum barrels himself into his friend. They both go down, the friend striking his head on a concrete trash receptacle. He twitches a few times and lies still. 

Pushing back to his feet, Matt readies for another assault and then slows. He stares at me. I nod. The venom in my bite has flushed through him.

“What are you?” he says, but the anger that drove him to action a moment ago has dissipated. 

I smile. “Give me your hand.” Without hesitation, he complies, and I drink. I’ve had better, but this will do. He watches me, his eyes blinking languidly. “That’s enough for now,” I say. Placing my palm on his wound, the bite seals immediately.

“That was . . . nice,” he says. 

“That’s what they all say.” I reach up and gently touch his cheek, his lips. “Sorry about your friend.”

He shakes his head. “Not really a friend. More of a jerk.” He seems unsure of what to do next. “Will I see you again?”

“I should think so,” I say. And then, because I’m fast, I’m gone before he sees where I’m headed, even under a full moon.

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A Royal Pain

August 30, 2021 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , , ,

I botched it. 

I am swimming back to the pier where I somersaulted off moments ago. Three people wait for me: Tunis, Vi, and Wally. They could have followed me into the water, but my stumble as I approached the pier’s edge must have spooked them. I was all arms and legs desperately searching for balance.

“Super bad,” Wally yells as I pull myself from the foaming breakers. “No points for you.”

Tunis and Vi giggle. They are sisters. Wally is my brother, who takes on the role of my tormentor whenever our parents are not present. Which is now. We are all four at the pier hoping to catch sight of the phosphorescence that will add a ghostly aura to the waters of the bay once the sky darkens.

But jumping off the pier comes first. Each turn into the water gets graded by a secret system that only Wally knows. My score almost never approaches his, just like my height is always three inches less, and my age is two years behind.

I walk back out on the wooden pier, listening to the creak of my weight on the planks, the slosh of the waves beneath me, and the call of the gulls overhead. It is the finest part of summer vacation, hanging out on the pier, waiting for the night.

“Eeew,” Vi says, pointing at my leg. “Eye worms.” Tunis does a fake scream and runs to the far edge of the pier.

I pluck off the tendrils clinging to my right leg. “It’s just a jellyfish.”

“Fish puke,” Wally corrects. “Only you would find it.”

Straightening back up, I adjust my suit and stride to the end of the pier. It’s thirty feet out—I’ve paced it. This time, as I near the edge, someone dashes past me and cannonballs into the water with a whoop.

Tunis and Vi applaud Wally’s sloppy but cool exit. “Five,” they say, each holding up a hand with five outstretched fingers.

I stick my tongue out. “Show off,” I shout at my brother. 

When I look at the sisters, they take a step back. Have I scared them? They are new this year to our strand of Carolina beach.

“You go,” they say, almost in unison. They aren’t twins, but they could be, so alike they move and smile and talk. So immature at seven and eight to my eleven years.

“Follow me,” I command, and retreat several feet from the jump-off to get a running start. Rising on my toes, I pause to let the ocean breeze ruffle the edges of my still-damp hair, and I drink in its salty nip. I could stand here forever, but my audience is waiting.

“Ya – hoo,” I cry, sprinting. I make a perfect, magnificent arc and knife into the bay. When I surface, treading water in the deep drop-off, the sisters are not applauding. That was at least an eight, I think. Instead, they are pointing. At me. Wally is back on the beach, headed toward the pier.

A fat moon is rising at the edge of the world, where the sea ends. What do the girls want? Then I look at the water, the swells lifting me gently in the fast-approaching darkness. I am engulfed in a glowing blue—not only the water that surrounds me, but my hair, my skin, is tinged with an otherworldly color. 

Wally has walked to the edge of the pier and stands with Vi and Tunis. They all stare at me. 

“She’s queen of the blues,” my brother finally says, laughing, and with another whoop, joins me in the water. 

I savor the title. It’s the closest thing to a compliment he’s given me in the last two weeks. 


A Dianna Sinovic story will be included in Until Dawn
A Supernatural Anthology


Dianna’s stories are also included in the following titles:


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Sacrifice by Dianna Sinovic

April 13, 2021 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , , ,

Ryner held the sharpened spade two hand widths above the marker and, with a grunt, drove it into the thick, dense soil. The first shovelful was always the hardest, but his stocky frame gave him the power needed to break through the crusted surface. He flung the damp dirt aside and, without pausing, set the spade in place again.

The scout had located the precise spot for Ryner to dig. But the hole must be deep enough, and that would take time—something he had very little of. The cavity must provide a secure haven for the sacred pillar. That meant at least four velens down. He must hurry.

Already he could feel the gust from the advancing horde flowing over his face and arms. They were at most a half medido from where he stood. So many crowded into the vast column and so tightly packed were they that, like the outflow from an impending storm, they pushed the air itself before them, bringing with it the pungent scent of crushed chitin.

Sweat beaded on his forehead and ran down his face. It stung his eyes, making him blink and squint. He could see nothing on the skyline yet, but he must not stop.

He knelt and levered more dirt from the hole. Then more. The thick clods left his hands stained and grimy. Was it deep enough? There was a blackness low on the eastern horizon now. Faintly, the buzz and clap from that darkness joined the twitter of the field sparrows hunting in the fallow meadow. The fear he had kept tamped down began to slow his movements.

He unwrapped the pillar from its royal blue cloth and stared at the intricate, filigreed lettering, the language of the Ancients. Exposed to the air, the pillar vibrated slightly in his hands. No longer than a hunting knife, it was as thick as his arm. Quickly he rewrapped it and thrust it into the hole, then tossed in clods of earth, chunk upon chunk, to bury it. The invisible thread connecting him to its power broke with the last handful of sod. His muscles relaxed and his shoulders straightened. If that depth was enough to sever his tie, it was more than adequate to ensure the horde would never sense it.

He stomped the dirt with his boots and covered the small, fresh mound with dried grasses. He placed a cairn of rocks on the spot. Blayne would know the sign; it would take him several moon cycles, but he would find it.

The buzzing had grown deafening, the sky dark at midday, and the swarm was there. He was lifted and twirled. The pain engulfed him, roaring through him until every nerve fiber was afire. But the pillar was safe.

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It Had to be You

October 30, 2020 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , ,

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Tatum checked the time: twenty minutes after Luna Hour 17, and Avery still hadn’t shown up. It was Tuesday Happy Hour, their ritual weekly date since Tatum was hired by the Zoning & Mining Commission last year. Not that she ever called it a date; she and Avery weren’t an item. She was sure of that.

But Tatum enjoyed Avery’s company, and Rick’s Café in Luna Center made the best Frozen Tychos in the entire city compound.

Avery was the one who had suggested that they hit Rick’s—Tuesdays were Ladies Night, a retro gimmick that appealed to the younger crowd in Luna City, which was pretty much the entire population. Luna Council had an upper age limit for immigrants, with the result: almost no one was over fifty-five.

“Another Tycho?” the wait staffer in Luna blue murmured at Tatum’s side. 

Tatum nodded. What the hell. If Avery was standing her up—but he wasn’t, because they weren’t an item—then why not make the most of the evening before she headed back down to her pod on Level 9?

The cabaret was full, standing room only at this point, and Tatum watched the crowd churning through the room, laughing, talking, bouncing in the low gravity—one table was even singing a rousing happy birthday. 

She sighed and drained her glass. Elbow to elbow with more people than she could count yet very, very alone: the life of an introvert engineer. 

“May I?” A goateed man about her age nodded to the empty chair opposite her. He wore the dark green shirt and pants of the Air Quality division. “Our table needs an extra chair and this one is . . . ” He shrugged and smiled. It was a warm smile, a friendly one.

Tatum shrugged back. “Go ahead. I got ghosted. I won’t be needing it.”

The man raised his eyebrows, and Tatum knew she was being scrutinized; the gray Mining division uniform, her dark mass of curls, her face that tended too often toward seriousness. “His loss,” he said kindly. “I’m Sam. Please join us—we’re celebrating Kammy’s birthday. We’d love another partygoer.”

Avery emerged from the swirl of people to stand next to Sam, his face a scowl. “That’s my seat. Tatum was saving it for me.” 

Tatum’s eyes flashed. “You’re forty minutes late, and it’s a zoo here tonight. He can have our chairs.” She took Avery’s arm and faced him toward the bar, then turned back to Sam. “We’ll stand—enjoy your party.”

Avery ordered a Bailly’s Special, and the two of them shouted to hear each other over the throbbing beat of an electronic “As Time Goes By.” He was late because of a priority request from the Mare Frigoris Region. He hadn’t messaged her because he was swamped; he didn’t think she would mind.

“No,” she shouted back. “I don’t mind.” But I do, she was surprised to realize.

Sam from the birthday table brushed against her as he passed, heading toward the bathrooms. He leaned in to speak in her ear. “Are you okay? You can still join our gang if you want to leave this basin bloke.”

Avery pushed Sam away from Tatum, and fueled by a second Bailly’s he’d just finished, punched the other man in the face.

“Ave!” Tatum said, grabbing to pull him back. “Stop!”

The music ended abruptly, as though someone had flipped a switch, and the crush of bargoers shrank back slightly, leaving the three in their own small, cleared, quiet space. Tatum could feel the crackle of emotion from Avery, from Sam, from the surrounding crowd. All eyes were on them. Luna City was fairly tame compared with the reports Tatum had read of Earthside towns, but arguments still erupted and anger still bubbled up.

Blood dripped from Sam’s nose, and he dabbed at it with a bar wipe. He faced Avery squarely, although he was half a head shorter and slender to Avery’s bulk. But Avery held up his hands, palms out, a supplicant.

“Sorry,” he said, “I went too far. But she’s with me.”

Sam gave a brief nod and looked at Tatum. “And what do you say?” 

She reran the last few moments in her head—the explosion of anger, the fist connecting with face. Avery was jealous? It was a side of him she’d never seen. 

“Thanks,” she said to Sam. “I’m fine. I’ll be fine. He’s with me.”


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After

August 30, 2020 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , , ,

I found the rooftop garden because of Captain America. We’ve become close friends, he and I. He depends on me for fresh greens, and I depend on him to keep me from taking the last step off the ledge. 

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

The electricity blinked off citywide five weeks ago, but the evenings aren’t as dark as you’d think. There’s the residual glow in the sky long after sunset, and the ants that crawl along the windowsill in the kitchen give off a greenish hue, like those plastic glow sticks kids wear around their wrists at birthday parties—or used to, before. The Captain is crepuscular, so he rustles around just at dusk, but then falls fast asleep as I watch the clouds on the horizon with wide eyes, such an unnatural pink against the faint sprinkle of stars.

Except for me and the Captain on the sixth floor, no one else is left in this building. Before, I sometimes had to turn on my white noise app to mask the street traffic and my neighbor Javier’s blasting salsa music. Now the only sounds are the distant whine of a massive piece of machinery spinning into oblivion, fed by its emergency generator, and the thumps and rattles of my building, trying to decide how much longer it will remain upright. 

The evening is my favorite time of day now. Before, I lived for the morning, up before the alarm, out the door, at work in my cubicle in the financial district a few minutes before eight. Daytime reminds me of everything I no longer have–that the city no longer has. Maybe even beyond? It’s hard to say. With no juice to charge my phone, it’s been dead since four days after. That hardly matters because I lost coverage after a day. My parents live in Florida; maybe all is well there.

For some freakish reason, the plumbing still works. When life was normal, leaky faucets and cold showers were the stuff I commiserated about with my friends. Now, I wake each morning worried that the toilet will at last stop cycling or my kitchen tap will run dry. But they keep on filling and pouring. 

Once they do quit, I’ll need to leave this place. I’ve been living on canned food, heating it on my tiny balcony with the mini Weber grill I hardly ever used, before. Without electricity, my fridge isn’t much help to store perishables. In the beginning, I helped myself to the romaine and tomatoes and strawberries at the corner market; with no one around, there was no use letting it go to waste. But that has long rotted, so my visits now are to fill my cloth grocery bag with whatever cans I can carry in one trip. It’s decidedly creepy to crawl through the rubble of a dead city—no cars passing, no people yelling into their phones, no trucks trudging to collect the garbage left decomposing at curbside. 

The Captain isn’t mine. Captain America isn’t his real name either. He lived on the fourth floor, and I found him in the first few days after. Guinea pigs whistle when they’re hungry or need something, and he was setting up a racket I could hear from my sixth-floor window. I went searching, taking the stairs, of course, since the elevators ran on the energy grid. He was sitting in a 2-foot wire cage, looking at me with big, soulful eyes (and big teeth), and I picked him up, his tawny fur as soft as a kitten’s. 

“Hello, there, Captain,” I whispered. 

It was another living thing, not counting the immortal ants and roaches. But what did I know about guinea pigs? A city branch library is about three blocks from my building, so I went looking for a book to tell me, a tough hunt given that the online catalog was offline and the lights were out. If you need to know, guinea pig books are in section 636.9—with books on other small mammals like rabbits and hamsters. 

Before, I liked looking out onto the courtyard between my building and the next one, where an older fellow named Pete raised tomatoes and squash and tried to keep the squirrels from taking bites out of them. Now the courtyard floor is buried in debris, and Pete and the squirrels have vanished along with the pigeons.  

Just after I brought the Captain home, and desperate for some kind of greens for him, I located the entrance to the building roof. As I popped open the steel door, the earthy scent of soil washed over me and there it was: Three long aisles containing flat after flat of lettuces, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and more lettuce. I stood for several minutes, not believing my find. The wind picked up and a pelting rain fell, the first since before. I felt both drenched to the bone and refreshed, watching as the droplets ran down the lettuce leaves and dripped off the ends, exuding a faint bluish glow even by the light of day. My arms and legs—and likely my head—also glowed faintly in the dampness.

Later, with the Captain asleep and night descending, I pondered this new world where the sky was pink and the rain was blue. A line had been drawn for humanity. What I would find when the Captain and I finally struck out from the city? Would we meet masses of people who had fled … or no one? Or maybe, I thought, I’m crazy, and the world is still normal, but I just can’t see it.  

It is now day forty after, forty empty days and forty empty nights. I am harvesting more romaine leaves and anxiously watching the new shoots I have planted poke out from the soil. Then I hear someone. They are walking on the street below, whistling. I slip to the roof edge to listen—it’s an old folk song, “For the Times They Are A-Changin’.”

Despite our catastrophic reality, a sense of humor. 

“Hey,” I shout, but he doesn’t look up, doesn’t seem to hear me.

I run for the stairs—eight flights to street level—will I make it before he’s gone? I take the steps two at a time, then three. The Captain and I are not alone after all.

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