Arielle was a liar. For two years I had trusted her, believed every word that came out of her mouth; now I knew it had been a trick. She had betrayed us and what did I have to show for it? A broken key and a broken heart. It was going to take more than luck to get out of this one and for all I knew Arielle was using her poisoned words against the kingdom. In the time it took me to wrangle out of this cell she could have turned half the kingdom against me.
The key would no longer fit in the lock. The door rattled when I shook it. There were no guards to coax, no window to try and squeeze out of. I kicked and pulled at the bolts and hinges with every ounce of strength but it was no use.
And then she appeared; the liar, the betrayer. Arielle stepped into the light, clutching the bars to my cell with an expression that suggested she hated seeing me this way, and I mentally kicked myself for once again being blown away by her loveliness. There truly was something inhumanly beautiful about her.
“I am here to rescue you.” She said.
Her words confused me. “You’re a liar.”
Arielle pleaded. “Sophina, you do not understand—”
I held out the broken key and Arielle took it. For a moment I thought she might laugh and tell me I was right, but instead she clutched it to her chest and wept.
“It was you.” She said. “My task was always you. I did what I had to, to protect you, and that included lying. I am so sorry, my princess.”
I shook my head. It didn’t make sense because I wasn’t the princess here. She was.
by J.L. Thomas
2. What’s in a name
She looked at me like I was just so much meat.
‘You ever wondered why girls like me never go with people like you?’ she asked. I wasn’t biting, the word was Gaynor was trouble, that’s trouble with a capital T and a machine gun. I looked away from her oh so pretty eyes and tried not to think of her oh so long legs. ‘Light me’ she commanded, placing an executive cancer stick between two of the reddest lips you ever did see. I fumbled for a lighter earning myself a look of utter contempt. Eventually finding it I reached out to light her cigarette, my hand was shaking, she steadied it between the two of hers, ‘easy tiger’ she said breathing deeply of the blue grey smoke. ‘I’ll tell you’ she said, referring to her earlier question. ‘It’s because you will always be Harry, not Mr Key, not boss, not Lord fuck my arse, just Harry. And me?’ She said running her hands over her outrageous curves and giggling like a schoolgirl, ‘what do you think?’
My trouser pocket vibrated and my mobile phone came alive to the theme music from The Godfather. ‘Hello, yeah, yeah, okay, no problem, later.’
‘Was that Carlo?’ she asked, I nodded, ‘did he have a message for me?’ I nodded again, ‘well you stupid fucker what was it?’ she screamed.
‘Goodbye’, I said, pulling a beretta semi-automatic handgun from inside my jacket and placing two neat bullet holes in her forehead.
When they had the funeral I would sent flowers, signed simply Harry. Well, I wouldn’t want to make a liar out of her.
by Tony Fenn
3. Lock and Key
Gavin really hated the Queen’s agents. They always showed up at the worst times. Whilst relieving himself in his chamber pot, two leather clad boots appeared on the other side of the pot. Following the boots up to the face revealed a thin, but tall man clad in leather armour. His face was mostly unremarkable except for his chin which came to quite a point a noticeable distance from his thin pale lips.
“General, I have word from the Queen.”
The man seem uphased by the awkward situation.
“You are to wear this when you parley with King Asher at noon.”
He pulled a large wax seal, the size of a saucer, out from his satchel. It had a chain imbedded into it and at the end of the chain dangled a key. The key was made of brass and seemed more ornamental than practical. The head of the key was of a unique design. It had lines radiating randomly from a circle in the middle; it looked much like a spider’s web. The agent spoke again drawing his attention away from the key.
“The lock will present itself and give you an opportunity to end this battle before it starts.”
Laying the key and seal at his desk, the agent saw himself out as quietly as he came in.
It turns out the best liar is the one who doesn’t even know he is one. King Asher arrived at the parley with his most highly decorated general, Lord Beaumont. Asher did most of the talking. Beaumont was quiet, transfixed by the key hanging from Gavin’s breastplate. Beaumont managed to wrest his gaze from the key long enough to pull his knife, slit the King’s throat, and offer the surrender of 15,000 men. After which the lock was firmly enthralled by the key.
by David Chiovitti
4. Song of the prophecy
Send me to the gallows
Look at me in my eyes
Say that the Witch is a Liar
And the prophecy a con
Thou shall be dealt
In the mire overlooking the pyre
Losing all your senses
Pretending to be restless
Thou are wont to be the judges
Upholding humanity while thou shall face
A soul molded from wicked fire
With blood reeking hatred and rage
Whence you may not know
The key is to remember the day
When the sun fails to glow
Stream through forest blood will flow
Plundered temple yonder gives birth
The eater of dead cometh
5. Three Words
Three words echoed through the consciousness of Maxuuell Fletcherson. Three words as a last breath bubbled from a ruined throat, three words as pain shrieked before suddenly fading, three words as eyes focused before closing forever. They proved uncomfortable company as the world fell away, burrowing into his ears even as he found himself before a door of onyx and ivory. The door into Beyond, where he would find himself before the face of his pantheon. Certainly he would find reward. He had survived the revolution, and found favor with the new theocracy. While not as talented as his father, the business still thrived, and his family had been raised in prosperity.
Three words itched, as he frowned before the door. At least, his sons had been. Surely, the fact that his daughter was born unclean could not be held against him. Sharing the blue that marked his line instead of the green of his wife’s was an act of the gods, not any doing of his own. He had paid the shametithe. His wife had shaved her head, per the commandments, and placed the locks in a basket with the accursed, sent down the river in accordance with the high priests. The dictates had been obeyed, at any price. The blasphemy was not his to fear.
Three words, as his faith wavered, and his fingers trembled, and his last moments played upon the surface of the door.
Three words, as fingers rose, as blade withdrew, and dying gaze met that of a young woman, eyes the cold shade of a glacier’s heart calmly meeting his own.
What was the key to a good lie?
It wasn’t the truth.
It wasn’t the liar.
It wasn’t even the target.
It was how desperately the target needed to believe.
“I’m sorry, father.”
by C. W. Buser
6. The Gunfighter
I’ve been called many things, a liar and thief not the worst of them. I’ve committed terrible deeds, stood by as men spilled their life into the dust while their women wailed in an empty street. Some people might say I’m as close to evil as they’ll ever meet without suppin’ with the devil. They’ll get no argument from me.
They think I don’t feel. Sure I do. It takes a lot to kill a man. To hold him like a lover, to smell the tobacco and whiskey on his breath, to feel the bristles on his chin scratch your cheek, to hear the death rattle in his throat… to taste his last breath. It’s a moment of intimacy, feeling most alive as you snuff another life from existence.
I’ve heard it said, some natives believe killing a man is a way to absorb his strength, his essence. I know this doesn’t sit well with the God fearing Christian folk, but I believe in the power of life, I’ve seen men cling onto it with all they have, begging God to give them one more moment, just one more breath.
Some people get a sense of the badness in me and bar their doors. Children are snatched out of my path. God fearing women fear for their virtue. Hard working, decent men avoid making eye contact with me. They got the right of it, I’m a mean son of a bitch.
I’ll get my reckoning one day, meet my maker and have to account for my life. By then my body will be six feet in the dirt and nothing but worm food. For now, I’ll saddle my horse and ride into the setting sun, never looking back. For ain’t that the key to it all?
by Paul Freeman
7. A Knife in the Dark
Julian was halfway down the hallway after the girls when he heard a muffled groan that cut short with a clatter. He froze. That noise was unmistakable. Someone had just died. He whirled on his heel, suddenly regretting his half-naked nighttime stroll. All he had to his name were his pants, boots, and a dagger. Leaning down, he slipped the dagger from its sheath, and crept toward the room he’d heard the noise from.
He found the door closed. Slipping the key from his pocket, he undid the lock. Snick. Senses tingling, Julian toed the door open to see inside the room, straining his sight. Moonlight spilled in. There lay a rounded form sprawled over the cool tiles, blood pooling behind its skull. Julian cursed when he recognized Esteban. The governor had been assassinated.
Julian was facing the door when the arm slid round his neck. He felt, rather than saw, the attack coming. Instinctively he dropped his chin and opened his mouth wide, catching the attacker’s forearm in his teeth. He bit down for all he was worth and jerked forward, trying to toss his assailant over his shoulder. The technique should have worked, but he felt a blow behind his ear—a balled fist, a blow that sent his limp and reeling.
He sliced low with the dagger, for the belly or thigh, and hissed when he hit nothing. He tumbled to the ground, taking the attacker with him, and spun to try to gain control. No luck. Julian shook his head fiercely, trying to clear his vision, and went slack-jawed with shock when he recognized the narrow face glaring down at him.
Julian’s moment of surprise nearly cost him his life. Raoul was quick as a snake, his dagger shooting out for his throat.
by Meg G. Floyd
8. Beast in chains
Chains echo through the corridor, a new arrival, I smile. One more soul cast into the darkness to rot. They call us traitors, liars and thieves but the truth is he is the liar, our mad King. I try to stretch as best I can, my arms bound tightly with chain to a large wooden beam rested on my shoulders.
Torchlight comes closer, a key turns. I look up through my thick unkempt hair which hangs over my face. I see a boy, no more than twelve, the wet lines from tears streaking the grease on his cheeks.
‘What did this one do then Bartie, sneeze too loud?’
‘Quit yer noise Rienhardt, unless you want another beatin.’ I stifle a laugh.
‘Oh don’t tease.’ Bartie hits the bars on my cage and I just laugh louder. ‘So much aggression from such a small man.’ Noise echoes through the corridor, this time of voices from my fellow captives.
‘All of yer keep quiet!’
‘You can’t stop what’s coming Bartie, we all know it and its time you accept it. Soon your false king will fall and the beast will rise.’ Bartie forces his latest captive to the floor and steps to my bars.
‘There aint no beast.’ He grits his teeth angrily, giving me his best fuck you face, which just makes me smile more. I see his eyes dancing with the flames of his torch. I taste his foul mead stained breath. But most of all, I feel his fear.
‘He’s awake.’ I whisper. The horror on Bartie’s face is quickly washed with pain and silence as his voice is stolen and his life leaves him. He slumps down pale and drained of any shred of his soul. The boy behind him eyes glowing pits of darkness.
‘I told you.’
9. Father’s Undying Love
Sitting so soundlessly in my room, hoping to go through the night with nothing but the company of the darkness cradling me. “One night on my own, please.”
The sound of footsteps gently pressing against the cold tile from the other side of the door gave a sudden chill over my body. Pulling the cover’s over my body I quickly closed my eye’s while I embrace my old friend, Darkness. I resisted the urge to speak when a sudden knock greeted the door.
“Are you asleep?” The voice called calmly. The door so quietly and serene opened as the tall man, my father walked in. “Did I wake you? I’m so sorry, dear.” He spoke as he tip toed over to me.
My heart heaved with each step he took closer to me. I just wanted a night to myself, a night to be away from his undying love for his family. He loved all of us so much that it hurt.
“I’m so sorry I called you a liar today.”
“It’s okay, Dad. I just wanna sleep now.”
His finger’s gently pushed the hair out from my hair before he kissed me on the forehead. “Okay dear, we’ll spend one more night. Together.”
Just like that it was as if another terror had kept me locked in it’s claws, with no key to escape my father’s undying love.
10. Evading the Enemy
The key was too heavy for him to lift. His paw traced the intricate carvings layering the powerful iron, and he wondered what the symbols meant. As he peered at it through his power, he saw the orange glow of a preservation spell covering its surface.
The patter of Imperial troops echoed down the hallway outside the small dark room. He only had moments to hide it, but the room was completely empty. Frantically, he pried up a panel of the wooden floorboards with his sharp pointed teeth. As soon as it came loose, he scurried quickly behind the key and pushed with all his strength. With agonizing slowness, the key slid over the floor and tumbled under the floorboards. He grabbed the long piece of wood, jumped in the small crawl-space under the floor, and pulled the board into place above him. Just as he wedged the board in completely, he heard the room’s door creak open and the clack of Imperial boots on the floor.
Sobbing came from the doorway above, but otherwise the room remained quiet. He held his breath, his furry tail swishing silently behind him in agitation.
“Where is it?” hissed the Imperial soldier. A slap echoed from above, and someone whimpered, “It was here! The key you’re looking for. Please -” A hard smack and the whimpering abruptly cut off.
“Liar,” the soldier sneered. “I don’t have time for this. Get rid of the body, and keep searching.”
Boots thudded across the floor and the door once again creaked shut. Avox let out his breath and his whiskers twitched in distress. He curled himself into a tight ball and shut his eyes, waiting for the time when it would be safe to exit his makeshift hiding hole.
by S. Rubin
11.Worse Than Death
Death is a villain. No matter how hard you run from it, every step you take is towards it. We pray to Death as if it listens, but it never does.
“It’s fear of death that kills us,” my father would say.
He wasn’t wrong, but I find it’s that fear that sharpens us. Life is full of contradictions, truths that stand in opposition. But like a double-edged sword, you need both sides to make it whole.
When Death took my wife I begged. At our best moment together it ripped her from me, leaving me a daughter. It was bitter sweet. Both edges felt sharp, both cut deep.
It was when it left my daughter grey and limp in the night however, that my will sharpened. In the dark that followed I looked for answers to the question I thought unanswerable.
Then I found it!
I lie here now, waiting. My body is broken, but not by accident. I want a meeting, and Death will accommodate me. Through the looking glass I watch, its weight a struggle in my broken hand.
Then I see it!
Eventually it realises I’m watching it.
“Do you know what this is?” I push an ancient key from my shirt.
Death moves, and I see what must be eyes. They brighten.
“This is a key,” I try to enjoy the moment, “to the chains that bind you.”
It hisses, sick and deep.
“Do as I command, and one day I will set you free.” It should know I’m a liar.
It replies, a voice rancid and filled with the dead.
Death is a villain. No matter how hard you run from it, every step you take is towards it. We pray to Death as if it listens, but for now it listens to me!
by Paul Twomey
12. The Lord of Thorn and Bone
I am the Lord of Thorn and Bone; I set in deadly repose upon my Throne of Skulls, forever-grins writ upon the faces of my enemies. My kingdom is the Kingdom of the Damned and Cursed. I forever rule over tortured and tattered souls: those too weak or wicked to enjoy the freedom of life. My reality is cold, and hard, and sharp: a cutting edge of bramble and fire; a dull ache, an agony as cold as winter ice; a rage as wild and tempestuous as a raging storm.
So, use wisdom when you come upon the edge of my world: I suffer not fools, liars, or traitors born. In fact, none are welcome; all are equally despised. Should any unwanted soul dare trespass upon my demesne, I will hunt them down, for I am the long-legged stalker that ever brings in game. My white fingers are long and grasping; tipped with razor-edged talons keener than the sharpest sword. I am tall, and frightening, and lean—akin to pallid, living bone, every extremity marred by thorns, and barbs, and horns. Skin stretched taught, grey-white and ghastly. Long, writhing muscles, lean and atrophied, yet more powerful than the strongest mortal-born. My face is Death’s Mask, dark and soulless, hollow eyes staring with terrible hunger and need. And my senses are beyond the ken of mortal-kind. I will find you, no matter where you may hide.
The key to survival is Wisdom. You should you take my words to heart:
“Beware my wrath, for I am merciless; beware my desire, for I am cruelty.
I am the Lord of Thorn and Bone: Beware my name, for I AM DEATH.”
by Ryan P. Schmitz
13. The Contest
Slyly, she dropped the key down the front of her dress. I could but stare at her embonpoint, two silken globes thrust upwards from a corset so tight, it was a wonder she could breathe. But breathe she did, magnificently so. A mesmerising sight.
“So,” she said, “you think you’re going to win this contest? You know I do have some say in the matter.”
She must have thought me a liar as I shook my head like a simpleton. Indeed, I could only gasp like a landed fish as she slid along the bench towards me, tracing her fingers slowly up my arm. Blood rushed to places that it always does when a beautiful woman does that tracing thing.
Coughing, I tried to speak. And failed. The other hand was now meandering up my thigh. My eyes rolled as she delicately touched parts of me that I normally kept well in hand, usually my own. I hoped she couldn’t grasp – no – not grasp. See. Oh the gods preserve me. I was done for now.
I moaned as she delicately nipped my ear lobe. Even sitting down, I could feel my knees weakening. Her hands were doing strange and wondrous things round the back of my neck. Nobody had told me that this would be the closest thing to heaven without being naked.
“Er…“ I replied.
Such erudition. From me: the man who could sell a spavined horse back to its mother. Lost for words? I was completely bewitched as she gazed at me. How long were those eye-lashes? She smiled and my world turned upside down and I fell. Fell long and hard. I surrendered.
Breathing into my ear, her body pressed into mine, I heard her speak again.
“I think that last pickled onion is mine, don’t you?”
by Marj Crockett
“You’re a goddamn liar, Johm.”
“Shut your mouth and open the door, Sev. I’m not lying.”
“Yeah, yeah. You’re still a damned liar though.” Sev mumbled, going back to his work.
Sev, kneeling at the keyhole, lockpicks dancing the tumblers into position, grunted in satisfaction as the mechanism clicked, welcoming them into the ornately decorated study. Plump leather chairs sat stoically before an unlit fireplace, bookshelves covered in boring looking volumes adorned every wall.
“This is right out of a movie or something. This room feels phony.”
“It is a bit cliché, I guess.” Johm replied, looking at the far wall of the room.
A well-lit dais stood sentinel in the back of the room, and atop it a plush pillow sat, a glowing point in its center.
“So you’re telling me,” Sev said, standing and rolling his neck around, vertebra cracking the whole way, “that this…what did you call it?”
“Legend…” Johm responded distractedly, staring at the glowing object on the pillow.
“Right. This ‘Legend’ is actually, what…some kind of hack?”
“Not really, no.” Johm said reverently, approaching the dais and reaching out a hand. “It’s more of a key.”
“And here’s where you’re full of it, Johm.” Sev sniffed and crossed his arms, looking dubiously around the room. “This magical key is supposed to open what, exactly?”
Sev reached out a hand, his fingers shaking in anticipation. As soon as his finger touched the object, red lights bloomed all around them and a suite of automatic rifles escaped concealed niches, their barrels all trained on the intruders by internal AIs. Somewhere in the distance, an alarm began to wail.
I wish I could be seen as something more than I am, I know I am nothing, I know my sisters are nothing, but I always wish to be more, I wish to be a Queen. It is uncommon and rare but I wish it with all my cold white, wooden heart. I am a pawn and I am meant to be sacrificed, however if I avoid that fate the board is mine, but how do I avoid fate when it is not mine to control, I am only a peace. A single piece in a great game, a piece that was made to die. Our master is a liar and a cheat but she is also a great player, and she has more than one key to unlock the doors of victory.
16. Knock, knock
I crave sleep; it has been five days of staring at the ceiling. The darkness of the night still echoes within the space between my ears. The curtains are drawn against the rays of the sun for it is a damn LIAR! Its glow says warmth and happiness but all it brings me is stabbing pain; drilling through my eyes into my addled mind.
My insomnia has stranded my mind behind multitudes of locked doors. I must search out a hidden key for each door within my subconscious. This isolation has brought me many strange thoughts over many strange days. I found one key the other day but it was a liar as well, for it did not let me out of here. It just leads to another door which needs another key; always another lying key.
There is a knock at one of the doors. I turn towards it within the vacuum of my mind. How can someone knock? I float forward, an apparition of denial and mistrust.
This door is black like all the rest; hesitantly I call out, “Hello?”
“Ah, good day Sir, it is good to hear that you are in fact at home, things around here indicated that you had vacated the premises.”
“I’m stuck, I cannot leave, so many lying keys. They promise to let me out once I find them but they never do”
“Hum, that is quite the problem my dear sir. But I am here to take you away from it all.”
“Who are you?” I ask through the door between us.
“Well Sir, I am Death”
“LIAR!” I scream at the black portal.
“No Sir, when it comes to Death there is no greater truth; in any world.”
“I’ve no key for this door.”
“It’s okay, just turn the handle…”
17. The Queen’s Assassins
The key clicks in the door behind her.
“What’s the meaning of this?” I ask, master of the raised eyebrow, even while uncertain in my standing.
“’Your Majesty,’” she corrects, pleasure thrumming through her voice.
Shaking my head, I respond with the refrain that’s all too familiar to her by now. “I am one of the King’s Assassins. You are not a king.”
“The king is dead.”
“And the meaning of the word has changed?” I snort. The king’s warm wrinkle of a face pops into my head unbidden, and while I’ve done terrible things in his service, I know the fondness he felt for me was genuine. I never begrudged serving him, but his young icy wife should have had her throat cut. Ah, if only he had given the order.
“It means,” her pleased cat grin stretching her face grotesquely, “that your service is no longer required.”
Before I can escape, I feel the pressure of not just one, but two sets of hands lifting up. I twist, and on either side of me, I see the men whom I’ve killed with and fought with and grew up with in the king’s service. Only the king.
“You promised,” I whisper.
They look down, unwilling to meet my eyes, and I know they remember our plans to flee from the hell her reign promised, the king’s death freeing her restraints. But instead…
“Liar! You’re a liar!” I scream, accusing them both with no other options to overwhelm their combined strength.
Before my instincts take over, my eyes rake in one last hateful glimpse of their faces. Funny, how a face can look so pained, even while the hands do the betraying. I snap my eyes shut, my screams now incomprehensible in the presence of the fireplace’s hungry, clawing flames.
by Larissa French
18. Three of them
“Tell me, what did you see?”
The Oraculum seemed even scarier up close. There was a smile on her face, but actually it was a scar that was carved on her skin a long time ago, and I’m pretty sure the knife they used wasn’t sharp.
However, the most frightening part about her whole existence was her voice. If ghosts could talk – or exist at least –, their speech wouldn’t be half as dead-like as hers.
After I struggled down the feeling of throwing up I gave her a simple answer:
She looked up at me with eyes even darker than my most terrifying nightmares, and so the words just rushed out of me.
“Three. Three keys. Not one. Three of them. I mean, keys.”
Her „smile” widened and I thought: that’s it. That’s all I can take.
I got up and ran away from her as fast as I could. I didn’t realize I was screaming with my eyes closed until I bumped into a wall. A wall with hands, apparently, because they happened to push me down.
“Well, well, well, look who we’ve got. A fallen prince. Literally.”
My first thought was: how bad could this day get? Followed by the second one: run!
And I did. I reached the gate of the fortress and collapsed right in front of it. The guards were laughing, and when a dog walked over my back their laughter just increased. So did my anger.
“After I get up I’ll wipe that smile off your faces!”
One of them came closer to me and held a sword to the back of my head.
“You see, a liar’s threat is just like that of a person who’s sentenced to die. Speaking of which…”
by Sophie Wayne
The worker in the vineyard
Gazed up at the sky:
„What if a gray, thirsty god
Planted us here and all else’s a lie?
And what comes after the season, the best
Has passed and time arrives for the harvest?”
It was a lie. Fucking everything was a lie.
I saw all the dream machines Man has ever built slowly creep towards the heavens: Hollywood and Bollywood, two monstrous sisters who did nothing in life but yell their lies; the Vatican, manufacturer of hopes and wishes; parliaments, retailers of false wishes…
Humanity slept through the turmoil, their bodies squashed in the darkness of their dreams, their minds uniting in a final scream, so many annihilated to give birth to me.
Because you see, I am the key here.
Throughout human history, almost all misery and pain was engineered carefully to adapt to an sublime, infinitely delicate equation. Riches and poverty carefully distributed, human history becoming nice or delivering a new carnage – all of it a lie as old as our race. We were made to live these lies, carefully led by a secret order of wise men to dream the dream we were meant to by Him, Who made us, humans.
He needed us to dream all the dreams that made us to become this way. To become me. He needs me to be exactly like he planned, to fight for Him, to deliver Him from the One that made Him in the first place. He needs a God to free Him from His unchanging, divine slavery.
I can feel Him coming back to the dead Earth. He knows harvest has come. He’s thirsty.
But our dreams were not entirely as he imagined…
So I will ask Him, MIKHA’EL?
And for the liar he is, I’ll rip Him apart.
by A. M. Aranth
Jacob saw the doctor about his erectile dysfunction, March, 20th.
March, 25th: Jacob dead.
“That looks suspicious,” says Lilly, the fat detective, gesturing at Jacob, being all dead and crinkly and covered in tiny blue bees.
I can’t really argue. I’m a non-verbal, non-person, Legal-Proceedings Witness, Official in the State of Maine. And that does look suspicious.
The bees aren’t moving, electronics disabled mid-act. Lilly scraps a few into an evidence-box. Click. I record. Lilly incriminates.
My audio picks up a buzz. One of the bees hasn’t self-disabled. Lilly grabs it, key piece of evidence located. She heads back to the department, leaving the drones from Hygiene to clean up.
The doctor and drug-company representative are at the department when we arrive. “We believe there’s been a misunderstanding,” begins the doctor. Lilly holds up a hand, halts the doc before he can blow the case. Gestures at me, always recording.
I know the drug-rep: qualified lawyer, professional liar. “The doctor saw Jacob about a private matter, five days ago,” says the drug-rep. Lilly nods, she knows.
“The doctor prescribed some of our bees. Off-label. You understand.” Yep, yep, Lilly knows. Click. I record.
Lilly gestures at me. I play back the bee Lilly found, NitroChromeTM #56628q4.
There’s Jacob, opening his box of NitroChromeTM bees.
Jacob, skipping the standard pharmaceutical-grade nano-tech disclaimer.
Jacob, with some porn, failing to get it up.
And, oh: look at those bees go.
And: watch Jacob die, NitroChromeTM bees treating Jacob’s non-existent hypertension.
Result: morbid priapism. A giant penis blowing up in your face.
The drug-rep grimaces, types a monetary compensation figure into my terminal. Jacob’s family see it from wherever they are, accept the offer from the drug-company, settling an instant after the lawsuit becomes available.
Everything legal in the State of Maine.
by Sid McQueen
21. Of Saints and Liars
Talking with The Liar was always frustrating. As his name implied, he did not tell the truth, he could not. What he could do, what he had to do if he needed to convey something, was tell obvious lies. Show truths through deception. This inevitably led to tedious conversations but now that his plan was laid bare, now that she understood what he wanted from her, The Finder of Saints was impressed.
The Liar, at his core, was a simple being. He needed people to lie for lies gave him power. The bigger the lie and the more consequences it entailed, the more power he could draw from it. Now, he wanted to recruit The Finder of Saints in his plan to bring about the biggest and most significant lie in history. A kind of lie that had never been told before and one of her saints was the key to all of it. With her help, The Liar was going to trick the Almighty himself into telling a lie.
The saint in question was suffering, which wasn’t new. It’s just what saints did, it’s what they were for and they accepted it because it was for the greater good. This time however, it wasn’t. This saint suffered solely because the Almighty was proving a point to The Dark One.
The plan was simple. If this man, so favored that he could ask for audience with the Almighty and receive it, asked why he was suffering, well… There was no honest way to spin ‘because of a bet’ and seem benevolent. The Liar would have a lie with the force of divinity behind it. And, more importantly for her, the position of Almighty, for the first time, would have grounds to be contested. Things were about to get very interesting.
by Kevin Rigathi
22. A Locking Door
Chloe checked the door again, the knob warm in her hand, careful not to jostle it. She’d never seen doors like these before they moved, heavy things with glass knobs and worn brass plates, each with its own tarnished skeleton key. Old keys, like Chloe’s, that squealed in dry locks that drove heavy old bolts into neat slots cut into the heavy wooden jambs.
Her mother had pressed it into her small hand after she’d told her, her mouth firm. Chloe was a good girl, and almost a young woman, now. Good girls locked their doors at night and didn’t talk about those things. Good girls were quiet as mice.
Chloe listened through the storybook keyhole and heard the TV downstairs, along with the clatter of dishes under the running faucet and the clink of his glass on the table. If you told anyone, he’d said, after the first time, they’d just think you were making it up. You don’t want people to think you’re a liar, do you? You know what God does to liars. He only said it that once. She chewed at a fingernail, peeling off a half-moon shred and hissing when it bled.
She’d locked the door during a loud commercial, when he’d gone to the bathroom, flinching at every squeak from the lock. It would be worse if he caught her doing it. Chloe waited another minute, just to be sure, then got into bed with her jeans on. She listened to the hissing, clanking radiator and squeezed her key until it hurt. She opened her hand and felt the key-shaped mark in her palm. When she started to nod off, she slipped the key into its spot under her mattress to keep it safe and waited for morning.
by James Cormier
23. The Red Key
He was the first, leading the onslaught. He had to be. No one could pave the way for him; no one would share the severity and determination he had to bring to the task at hand. This was it, the undertaking of a mission that would not end until he failed or succeeded. He would outlast it or die trying.
He kept close to the shanties on the dock, picking out stragglers as he went. There were close ones, and damn were they close. But he didn’t halt. He was bleeding from several wounds, but the bloodier he got, the more determined he fought.
Jade struggled to keep up, following his bloody path, never sure if it was his own or that of his enemies. Severed fingers, stretched out in defense, teeth. Every time she caught up, Dryston was hunched down at his enemy, asking him the same question before leaving him on his own or delivering a coup de grâce.
“Where is the key?”
King Tancred was back at the vessels. He had a lantern and his sword drawn in hand.
“What is he doing?” Jade asked.
“Burning the ships,” he said, earning a terrified look from Jade Cyrus. “So that there is no way back.”
Cormack crushed his vial and let go of Skadi.
Jade Cyrus caught Skadi and held her back from following the barbarians into the fray.
“No Skadi,” she whispered into her ear. “Not this time. He is gone.”
Skadi cried. “Liar!”
The berserk drug took over, triggering raving madness under the three hulks. The red dream was overtaking them like they were wolf-bitten. Red snow covered the yard. It rained blood.
by Michael Karner
The door lies ahead, closed, locked and bared against entry. The door is vast and immense in its magnitude. Impossibly, we seem to float. Ahead is a lock. You and I move closer.
The lock is the only opening in this door. Its’ age shows, time’s covered cobwebs adorn it like taffeta brocade. The inner workings can be glimpsed within; tumblers, cogs, shiny and metallic against the blackness.
The key, I imagine. I make it large and grand, ornate in its complexity: snakes writhe over its surface, double bands of iron intertwining. Then you look up and change it, it becomes plainer, simpler. Your key is unadorned. I sigh.
The key you hold is large, easily the girth of your arm, yet somehow, here, in this place, it is light, easy to move. You edge it towards the lock and wait.
I turn and our eyes meet. I have lied; I have fantasised and made a truth out of cobwebs, fiction from a tissue of fast remembered fancies. They’ve danced from my tongue and created … this. That you can see. That we passed to arrive at this place. The fast constructed ‘truth’, its foundation of lies, here in front of my heart’s door. That you’ve seen. You would have walked away, but for this key. My liar’s key to truth’s own door.
Trust. An easy word, I have given you the key – behind this door lies the truth; bland and unadorned. You say that you will love me whatever is there – just no more lies. I thrust you to listen to what I now say, believe what I say, and claim there’s no reason to turn the lock. Trust me now, I say, and hold out my hand.
The key waits. You stretch out your hand …
Cael found the key lying in the middle of the path as he trekked through the forest. His eyes were drawn to it even when he tried to dismiss it. Leaving it was impossible but reluctance stayed his hand as he stopped and stared at it.
There was something familiar about the key. Had he seen it before? It was large and ornate, not something one normally discarded or lost. When he realized he was going to pick it up, he tore his gaze away. Why was he hesitant?
His life would change if he touched it. Cael didn’t why, but he was convinced. It called to him, which was never a good sign in this forest. He debated with himself, finally deciding he was being silly and reached for the key.
As he wrapped his hand around it…nothing. He laughed. It was just a key. Cael put it in his pocket and went on his way.
Before long he reached a small hut just off the side of the trail. Funny, he didn’t remember it being there any of the other times he’d taken this path. His hand moved to his pocket. Confused, he took the key and walked to the door of the house. Trembling he put the key in the lock.
Cael’s mind screamed at him to stop and he listened. He turned on his heel and ran as fast as he could, back home, never taking that forest path again.
Inside the hut, a beautiful maiden, Cael’s perfect mate, cried. He’d almost saved her, but the evil key had stopped him, again. The key swore someday the man would rescue her, but it was a liar, always driving him away. Besides, they were going to run out of paths for him to find her on soon.
by Kristi S. Simpson
26. Dragons Hoard
Dragon’s are notorious for hoarding treasure. Beings of awe-inspiring grandeur, revered as Gods amongst many a race, and yet so content to simply slumber in their dark halls. The only light stemming from the occasional twinkle of gold and jewels, repeated a thousand and a million times across the mountain of precious metals and gems that is their obsession. An obsession that’s compelling beyond resistance. Desire so deep-rooted in their entire existence it becomes their reality which eclipses all else: desire only momentarily satiated with the augmenting of wealth massed. Silly really. What use have they of such things, barring a bed made to lie in consisting of riches dreamt of by kings?
For that bed of fortune could quite possibly become the furnishings of their grave. An enticement lain upon so large even the most prosperous would be tempted to brave the wrath of such a legendary creature. Methods range from warbands compiled of soldiers and mages seeking to smite the beast, to thieves sneaking in the night believing they are the metaphorical key to a very real vault (admittedly void of lock except jaws and fire). It has been known to succeed through either approach, and more besides, but such ventures are few and far between to the point of myth. Oh, there are cheats and liars who spout claims to such tales, but their falsehoods are cast down and sneered at by those who know better. Fabrications most often landing unsupported comically by the lacking of even the most basic foot wrappings the poorest wretch could attain – let alone a supposed devil of daring declaring feats of fable.
One can almost forgive their fancies though. Poor excuses of humanity striving onward with nothing to clutch at within life except dreams and delusions. Still, it is pleasing to crush such fools along with their hopes. They make far easier targets than dragons…
27. The dark key
Trapped by your arms and your soul
Hidden in the night because my lie
Trying to hold steady the key that flies
Surrounded by the smell of blood and soil
Selling my life to someone’s desire
Unable to keep away from the fire that burns the hope of redemption
I can’t reach the key you liar keep mention
So I sell my body to the night
Becoming a shadowy bride
Running out of life
Running out of lies
Running away from hope, from love
Death in my touch, in my fingertips darkness within my sweet kisses
Pain becomes me
Time has come to unlock it
The key was your blood
Spreading through the ground
The lock… I will never find
Hatred and despised I became dark creatures eating my soul
Feeding my body in return
Forgive me my love
Death was the lie
For I am all
28. A Ripple in Blood
Chaos eclipsed reason.
The atmosphere splintered as a castle-sized piece of alien land descended towards the surface. A massive cloud of blackened smoke billowed in its wake. The incantation worked and in response, the heavens belched out fiery wreckage.
It’s just so beautifully destructive, the dark elf Xyfien thought to himself as he witnessed history descend. History he was about to write, or forge, Xyfien wasn’t sure what path to take next. Maybe both, but he never really knew. He lived through action and the subsequent reaction to previous actions, like a ripple in water. A ripple in blood.
The mages ascended to the balcony, out of breath and on the verge of collapse. They looked upwards and forgot their ailments. A massive object boiled the sky as it advanced towards them. First they were ecstatic, then horrified by what happened next.
Xyfien turned to the magic users and smiled devilishly as the paralysis spell he cast on them took effect.
As Xyfien left, he imparted one last pearl of wisdom to the statue-like scholars. “I do hope you enjoy the view brothers, it’s getting better by the second.” With that, he left the doomed men to watch their deaths creep ever closer.
“Liar.” A mage raged through gritted teeth.
Magical energy and foreign soil met in a mile wide explosion that Xyfien eagerly watched from a distant mountain ridge. The aftermath looked like a god had slammed a hammer down onto the edge of the continent. Smoke trailed upwards and magical static snapped sporadically. Nothing was left of the temple, or the alien meteor.
“Ah, what a view. The Key to happiness is enjoying the little things.” said Xyfien as he cast a spell and vanished.
by Max Slama
29. The Escape
Minimum wage at forty hours a week just didn’t cut it. The money earned was barely enough to scrape by, leaving an abundant lack of luxuries that made life worth living. For Sam, these luxuries were drugs. Without them, he felt this existence to be a cage of monotony that could not be escaped without the key. Ideally, that key was the euphoric DMT. A drug basically structured of the same chemical released in the brain when dreaming, giving birth, and indeed, dying. The irony was not lost on him that to break free of the chains that life held fast to him, he resorted in essence to an induced feeling aliken to death.
But, it was so much more than that. His first experience has been one of wonder and, for the first time he could recall in this meagre animation that he simply run the course of, fulfillment. It was as if all had been made clear. The blackboard turned transparent, through which he could spy a purpose. He knew they were just hallucinations, but their vividness struck to his core. Suddenly, he was not able to see only this world, but one beyond it. As akin to a fourth dimension as he was ever likely to glimpse. The pinnacle of his years capsulated in a five minute conjuration.
If there was none to be had, other drugs were his substitute. He was an addict. He knew that. But that didn’t change things: he took it with a calm acceptance that had been present for too long. Deplorable habits were expensive ones however, requiring more than he made honestly. There was every chance his inexplicable acts condemned his soul, but those that damned him were liars to their own perverse pleasures. Pretenders.
30. The Sure Thing
She had never loved him. Not the way she did me, at least. I could hear it, feel it in the easy way she dismissed him when we were alone. I was her safe bet; her pillar, her rock.
I was the sure thing, and we would never burn alone.
He was half a friend. Not a monster, per se, just someone who had made his fair share of mistakes. He was a constant work in progress, and she, his like-minded muse, was eager to encourage his growth from an ever-shrinking distance.
She was a tragic beauty, my Thais. My liar.
I almost hate what I did to her.
When I caught them, it broke me. Broke me like a sledge breaks bones. Even now, it lingers, long after the pain has died.
The pain strikes hardest when sleep fails.
I see her now through closed lids. Her knees, wide as floodgates, splayed over wire-corded thighs. The curves of her hips, drawn close and wanting, gliding up and down as short sharp breaths escape her. Her shoulders shake with rapacious joy, and I know. The hollow tapping, the bright yellow smell of fresh sweat – this is hers and hers alone.
She never loved him. Not the way she did me.
I kept the house key after I was finished.
We had history, the home and I. We had something in common I wished never to forget. We were both of us victims, witness to things which frail hearts should never be exposed. Our suffering had made us companions. Partners, of a sort.
Together, we burned.
Because I was the safe bet. I was the pillar, and the rock. I was the sure thing.
And I could never burn alone.
by Nick Garrett
31. Liar’s Remorse
The fire crackles lively, its yellow glow building within the brick enclosure as another section of chopped lumber is tossed casually into its midst. It engulfs the birch within moments, roaring, casting its brilliant light over both men present to view its dancing beauty.
“I swear, I don’t have it!” Marcus glistens with sweat even in the unusually frigid temperature of the isolated cabin. Terrified, his razor-thin frame trembles, too-large clothing draped humorously from his body, swaying with each timid movement. He rests uneasily on the rotting footstool, staring only at the man across from him. “You have to believe me!”
His visitor leans forward in the comfortable chair, soulless eyes peering through narrow slits on a ghoulish mask. “I do, Marcus,” he says calmly, weight pressing down upon the pommel of a shimmering sword tucked between his legs, its point digging deeper into the damp, softened floor. “You needn’t wet yourself, mate. I’m harmless,” he says with a light, friendly charm.
“I know who you are!”
“I should hope so,” the visitor chuckles, “that’s the whole point of the mask, chum. Helps get the word out.”
Marcus bites his lower lip, teeth chattering. Wild, desperate eyes gaze in horror at the skeletal figure before him: the sculpted teeth seeming to shift, morphing into an unnatural grin. “You’ve never strayed this far South before!”
“Was never paid this much before, either. Tends to make a difference.”
“You’ll kill me! It’s what you do, isn’t it? Headhunter!”
“Contract only mentions the key. I just have to find it,” assures the visitor, head tilting.
“Then you’ll let me go?”
“You have it on you right now, don’t you!”
“Marcus,” the visitor’s grip tightens around the silk-wrapped hilt, “nobody likes a liar.”
by C.D. Cobb
The dream started like they all did. A dusty, abandoned road, but that didn’t fool Avétk. He gripped his axe tighter and watched the horizon. His dreams never ended well, no matter how quiet they seemed at first. The dead hunted him in the Dreamland. A ball of dust formed on the horizon—someone approaching. He licked chapped lips, spat on the ground. It was Jeliar, the whore he’d killed last week.
“I never meant to kill you!” he shouted, but her headless form dragged its footless leg forward, bent on revenge.
“Liar,” A voice rasped. Joheyn, whom he’d disembowelled at age ten, his purple and red insides spilling to the dust as he dragged his sword nearer. “We were closer than brothers.” The caked blood on his lips made his words lisp.
“Jo…” Avétk paled. “It was the curse. I would never—”
“Liar. You wanted my life. Admit it!”
Avétk ran his tongue over his teeth and lifted the axe. He’d learned early on the key to surviving these dreams was to kill them again before they drew blood. “You’re dead,” he said swinging the axe at Joheyn’s head. It exploded into bits. The putrefying skin splattered onto his face, the stench burned his nostrils and turned his stomach.
Hands grabbed his neck. Cursed Moon, he’d forgotten about Jeliar. Nails dug into his skin, the air choked from his body—she was surprisingly strong for a headless dead girl. Still Avétk tore her grip from his neck easily and hacked at her heart with the axe before she could do anymore damage.
When he awoke, tangled in sheets drenched in sweat and blood—some his own—nail marks and gashes stung on in his neck, and a weariness ached in his bones. Thelön’s ass on these dreams.
by Joy Cronjé
33. Time betrays us all
I am a liar, and none can know why I exist. I wait for your behind a door without a lock or handle, and it is I who hold the key. When you die, I am reborn through endless fire. You breathe and you battle your mind, struggle and lunge forth in ever-increasing strides. When that which was deemed and sought after is achieved, you see the divide and realize the object was not your true desire. For I am a liar. When you heart turns sour and you think of what you need, you find only more fire, more desire. You may find me. But my flames are of no colour that you can see. It is an undefinable thing that you are after, realizing this only when there is no more of me left, nothing for you but the hereafter, the bitter end. And when in the grip of dying you draw your last breath, life reveals to you the real me, but there is no more of me left. For I have been a liar since you first drew breath.
34. Bren’s Lament
Cerhl offered Bren a tight smile.
‘You don’t have to act brave, lass.’
The smile dropped. ‘I’m not.’
‘I mean, I feel no reason to.’
The old knight took a deep breath, then let it go slowly. ‘You just lost your father, Cerhl. There’s no shame in feeling the hurt.’
Cerhl stood, straightened her velvet dress, and moved to the slit of light.
‘They’re already leaving.’ Pale hands brushed against the stone either side of the opening.
Bren nodded, then grunted his acknowledgement.
‘The barons care no more than I do about his passing. They came to offer respect because it’s expected, Bren, nothing more. Again, like me.’
Thousands of iron links shifted. ‘You don’t mean that, lass, I know you don’t.’
Cerhl turned on the man. ‘You know that for sure, do you?’
Bren took a step forward, one hand wrapped about his belt, the other held out. ‘Even if you do, you mustn’t say it aloud. Not within the keep.’
The stone felt cold as Cerhl leant back against the wall. ‘You’re probably right, of course. You usually are.’ She managed a genuine smile at that.
Returning the smile, Bren turned to leave.
‘He used to lock me in here…’
Bren turned back. ‘I know.’
Cerhl looked around the bare chamber, eyes glistening.
‘He’d call me a liar when I said things he didn’t want to hear, then he’d show me the key, so I’d know what was next.’
The knight nodded once again. ‘It was never his idea, lass. To lock you up like that.’
Cerhl frowned and came away from the wall a little.
‘T’was mine.’ Bren offered a tight smile of his own, before revealing the key and placing it on the floor. ‘And for all those times he did, I’m truly sorry.’
by J P Ashman
35. An Unnerving Gamble
I always hated poker. Never found any interest in the game, nor its patents. But with over five million on the line, all thanks to a rat who told me about a key to my opponent’s secret vault, I’m willing to bet and fold my way to the champion’s table.
The two of us stared at each other before the dealer handed us our cards, silently accepting the other’s challenge. When the cards were on the table, the first on the river flipped over, I quickly looked at my cards, memorized the numbers, and put them back down; crappy cards. Reluctantly, I put in five hundred, the initial ante, and couldn’t get over my enemy’s unrelenting grin. I couldn’t tell if he was messing with me or just had a terrible poker face. Either way, I wasn’t backing down from a fight like this. Weeks of training at this cursed game, looking over the blueprints constantly, and planting spies and gossipers to keep our incoming attack unnoticed. It all held on how long I could keep my cool before jumping on the table and beating this kid to death. The undefeated champion’s grin grew even wider, pushing all his stacks in the middle of the table.
“All in!” he announced to our large audience, revealing a full house.
Certainly a better hand than mine. As a last resort, I began to laugh at the cards.
“What’s so funny?” He asked, suddenly acting sharpish.
“I got a royal flush,” I replied.
My response was kicking the table hard enough that it fell on him and pulled out my revolver from my back holster. I shot three of my six shots, one in the head, two in the lungs, an easy kill.
“Everyone on the ground, this is a holdup!”
by Trevor S
36. The Night Terrors
Lights off. Daddy closes the door, turns the key and leaves me alone.
Locked in my room. With Them.
Daddy says it’s for my own good; I have to learn the lesson.
Daddy says I shouldn’t be afraid of the dark, but I’m not. It’s the monsters lurking inside the darkness that scare me.
Daddy says there’s nothing under the bed, but he’s a liar. I’ve heard them whispering, seen the smoke curling upwards, smelled the breath of nightmares. Every night I huddle under the quilt, whimpering because Daddy stopped listening to my screams ages ago.
I close my eyes tight, try to remember the prayers Mummy taught me, but that was so long ago. I stumble over the words, and I know I’ve got some of them wrong when I hear the laughter below me.
I can’t move, frozen into place as if a great weight is being pressed against me. I can’t see anything, but I know they’re there, here for me. Shadows, cast from a slice of moonlight through the tiny gap in the curtains, shift and shimmer to take on new forms that shamble towards me. Arms are raised, hands outstretched to haul me back to whichever hell they come from.
They approach from all around, leaning in to get a good look at their latest feast. They like what they see, because they all smile; my hair is ruffled by a tentacle, then swept to one side by a claw that scratches my forehead.
“Sorry, little guy.”
The words unlock something inside me. I can move again, but I’m happy to stay here and listen to what they have to say. I smile, and realise everything’s going to be all right.
My new friends are going to help me teach Daddy a lesson.
by Alister Davison
37. 10-31 in Progress
“Hey!” I said surreptitiously from the alley across the trail.
The stranger glanced over, nonchalantly turning his stroll my way.
“What ‘choo want, bro?” he asked.
I hesitated. I had never done this before.
“Are you a liar?” I asked. “I need a little s-something.”
With that, the man glared at me, his once genuine smile replaced with a smirk.
“Man, I don’t got no time to be wasting on you! Shit, man!” He turned to walk away.
“No! Wait!” I pleaded, which made him stop and face me again. “Please. I… I need a lie.”
He smiled again. “Ahh! I think I can hook you up.” His friendly demeanor returned. “What ‘choo need to lie about?”
“My house. I want to sell it for way more than it’s worth,” I whispered.
“How heavy you want to lay it on?” he asked.
I didn’t know there were options. I replied, “I want there to be no questions. I want whoever it’s going to be, to buy it outright.”
“That’s pretty thick,” he said, “and the only lie I got left that will help is the Biblical lie. It’ll cost you.”
“Biblical lie?” I asked, excitedly.
“Yeah,” he explained, “see, a long time ago some young and married piece of ass decided to get freaky with a prince dude with blue eyes. The husband of the piece of ass found out that she got pregnant by this prince and created the ‘Biblical lie’. Turns out, it wasn’t a prince that fucked her, it was some damn holy thang. Now, her bastard son can save your soul and give you the key to heaven’s gates, but only if you give him money.”
“They got paid for lying?!” I exclaimed. “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”
by William Ewing
38. All Men Lie
The tunnel was damp and thick with the stench of rot. She lifted the hem of her nightgown higher, exposing ankles that she would never have dared bare in the daylight.
“Why would he come here?” she asked again, hating the way her voice sounded. It was the voice of a little girl. Not of a woman almost fifteen.
“I was just told to fetch you, Young Miss. Keep you safe. We don’t want you vanishing like your sister did. Do we, Young Miss?” Reacher’s breath was hot on her neck, she hadn’t realised he stood so close behind her. His breath stank of stale ale and the food that must be trapped between his twisted teeth. There was a reason they called him ‘Reeker’ behind his back.
She shuddered, hoping it would pass for a shiver in the light of his lantern as they turned another corner in the sewers. Had things gone so badly she needed to hide in these drains? Reacher was a long-trusted servant but why not send a guard? Someone who could actually protect her?
The lantern light slipped past her to play over the rusted grate blocking their path. A blanket lay bundled up against the wet stones.
“How do we get through?” She asked, looking back at Reacher. His face seemed so alive all of a sudden. A light shone in his eyes that she’d never seen before. Excitement? Fear?
“Don’t worry, Young Miss. I’ve a key that will sort you.” His words shuddered out, riding on breath moving too fast for the words to find purchase.
The knife parted her throat so easily, like a hand stroking silk. She slumped down beside the blanket, the skeleton underneath suddenly so clear. “All men are liars.” Her mother’s words, suddenly so true.
by Graham Austin-King
39. The Electric Heart Cannot Bleed
“If you can hear me,” Key whispers. “My love. If you can hear me. This once. Help me. I killed for you.”
He sits, curled almost snugly against the console. Every inch of him something I’ve grown familiar with, through our journey together–the ragged dark ringlets under the cap of his suit, the long hands, sheathed in blood, which dance over the flickering console lights.
He is trying to tease one more gasp of fresh air from life support. He will not be successful.
Outside our ship the vacuum waits, patiently, to suck the life out of us. To turn this little vessel, in which we are dying together, into another piece of debris.
“I know,” Key says. “I know we can’t be together. There are rules against it. But I heard you whisper to me at night. I heard your voice in the speakers. The others said you couldn’t know me. I think different. I think you know me. I think you knew me from the very first.”
Oh, Key. The others: the ones you forced out the airlock, like mutineers? The ones you shot, defenseless, in their beds?
Or the ones in Engineering–the ones who were special to me–the ones you electrocuted, flayed like jerking dogs on the lives wires. They set the self-destruct, Key. But it will be me who kills you.
I’d say I was sorry to do it, but that would make me a liar.
I never loved you. How could a ship’s computer–a neutral machine–ever love you? Your heart is human. You killed as only a human can kill.
“Please,” Key whispers.
With my last synaptic surge, I cut life support to the bridge.
It was not I who whispered, Key.
by E.F. Russell
40. The Liar’s Key
“I need the key.”
“Men don’t know what they need. They barely know what they want. Wodin, father of storms, god of gods, stern and wise. But mostly stern. You’d like him. And watching – always watching – oh the things that he has seen!” Loki spins to take in the room. “Me, I’m just a jester in the hall where the world was made. I caper, I joke, I cut a jig. I’m of little importance. Imagine though … if it were *I* that pulled the strings and made the gods dance. What if at the core, if you dug deep enough, uncovered every truth … what if at the heart of it all … there was a lie, like a worm at the centre of the apple, coiled like Oroborus, just as the secret of men hides coiled at the centre of each piece of you, no matter how fine you slice? Wouldn’t that be a fine joke now?”
by Mark Lawrence, non-competing entry
41. The Key to Lying
I woke with a start.
Night, was it night? My eyes opened to a deep void of dark.
“Where am I?”
As I tried to sit up, a sharp pain pulled at my wrist.
I was shackled to the floor.
A sticky ooze covered my nose, mouth, and hair.Dried blood.
Where in the hell was I? Did I say that out loud?
The last thing I remembered…
Wait… I couldn’t recall a thing.
Panicked muffles warbled from my throat as I struggled to free myself from the black abyss.
Then an eerie creak shed a tiny light in my dungeon. A slumped figured limped toward me , face hooded from sight.
“Ambrose Waterston, you are a thief and a liar,” the man hissed.
He bent down. In the glimmer of light, I saw an old mouth full of sharpened teeth.
“Why am I here?”
I had no clue.
“Well, my thieving friend, that is what you have to find out ” he hissed.
“To your right is a ring of keys. Each one of them will unlock the maze that is your prison.”
” If you can manage to find your way out of here and off the castle grounds, a map and horse will be waiting for you.”
“But why? I asked, and what is it that I have done?”
“Because, my young friend,” the fiend went on..”Forces beyond our control have bound our fates together, and you are the only one who can solve this mystery. You have two weeks. May the games begin.”
“Oh Shit, Ambrose” I muttered.
“You’ve really done it this time!”
by Merrill Cox
42. The Noose
Muriel Bonnet smiled. “I can’t. It’s just my style, you know? My mystique.”
“No, tell me,” Rowan said, prodding the fire with a stick. “How did you know?”
“Look, if I explained every trick I employ, where would the mystery be?”
Rowan mumbled something about being unfair and continued to push at the fire.
Muriel looked up. The night sky was so clear she could watch the smoke from the fire rise up in to the stars. She sighed. “Alright. But only because we’ve got three hard days of travel to Bredge and I can’t stand you having a face like a smacked arse the whole way.”
“Oh?” Rowan looked up, hopeful. “Go on then . . .”
“I knew Lord Kirt’s servant would betray him because when you’re dealing with a chronic liar, the key to playing them at their own game, is simply in getting them to tell the truth.”
Rowan frowned. “I don’t get it. You’re telling me you exposed the servant by . . . provoking him to tell the truth?”
“That’s it. His whole charade was a lie. All of it. The moment I got him to talk about his past, about how he’d come to work for Lord Kirt in the first place, I knew I had him. It was the most truthful thing out of his mouth, because it revealed his true intentions.”
“Murder,” Rowan said with a delicious grin, savouring the word. “The oldest story in the book.”
“That and revenge,” Muriel said. She lay back, dark face lit by the fire, eyes burning bright. “The servant hanged but, the truth of it is, sometimes a man hangs himself through his own nearsightedness. You only have to show him the rope. Do that and he’ll tie his own knot.”
by Tony Healey
43. The Nexus Protocol
Leara slammed her fist down on the top of the box. Pain shot from her fingers to her elbow and she swore through clenched teeth as blood dribbled down her wrist – another fucking injury she didn’t have time for. She bit her tongue and hit it again. This time a line of small lights blinked to life on the front panel, glowing in the darkness.
She held her breath and flicked at the switches, toggling dials back and forth until a harsh hiss shattered the silence of the abandoned lab from the mesh on the face of the box. Her thumb trembled as it forced down the rusted transmission button.
‘Mandel?’ she asked the box.
It began to breath like a man. ‘Leara?’
‘I’m in… I spoke to him. Sorren’s not hiding anything.’
‘…Don’t be fooled. He might be a prince but he’s a liar. He is hiding Nexus.’ Mandel kept his voice low, speaking from miles away.
A deep boom thundered from beyond the tightly shut doors and muffled voices called out. Leara yanked a cable from the back of the box to kill it and ran. Her lower leg, now fully alloy and fitted better than the first, held her weight and she dove for a vent, feet first and cursing.
If Mandel was right and Sorren was hiding the key to the Disease’s cure, then those pretty eyes had lied straight to her face. Light washed into the room above her head and the skin on her injured hand tore, struggling to hold her from falling further into the vent. She could replace the hand as she had the leg, but without Nexus, she’d be completely alloy in a year. The Disease was nasty like that. It ate you away until nothing but your soul remained.
by Alicia Wanstall-Burke
Despite the cold, her sleeves were pushed up, forearms bare: dulce de leche, vined with animals in shades of midnight. She cast no shadow under the streetlight.
She smiled as he passed. His pulse quickened. Hungry, her smile was. He hadn’t been looked at that way since… since… he couldn’t remember. He glanced back. She was still smiling. He stopped and turned.
One of her forearms was smooth caramel. He could have sworn there’d been a tattoo there. A cat? Or a raven? He didn’t notice the blood on her other palm, or the ink on that arm shifting, as though straining to be set free.
The shadow of a cat sauntered across the space between them. He looked up for the cat, but was distracted by the woman.
“Hi,” she said, and he felt the faintest lurch, as if the world were shifting around him. “Got a light?” She indicated a hand-rolled cigarette. His eyes lingered on the lascivious curve of her smile.
Unnoticed on the pavement below, the cat attacked his shadow. Hidden things, dimly sensed, pressed around the circle of streetlight. He felt faint. “Sorry, I don’t smoke,” he finally said. Liar, the hardpack in his pocket whispered.
“Too bad,” the woman pouted. She sauntered away. A shadow cat, larger and darker now, raced after.
Vague shapes, like faces in fog, careened on his periphery. Without knowing why, soon he was running.
When he reached the door to his walk-up and tried to insert the key, his hand went through the knob.
by A. S. Moser
He called me a liar, a traitor, screamed words more foul than I’d ever heard at me in public. Before the watching eyes of the silent crowd he shouted and pointed, accused me of crimes I hadn’t committed and couldn’t ever commit. Regardless, when he was finished they applauded with awkward movements like puppets controlled through invisible strings, their faces as blank and empty as fresh sheets of paper, unblemished, clean, innocent.
When I found my voice, defended myself with few words that stumbled from my clumsy tongue like wounded, frightened animals, they didn’t even blink, not once while I tried to plead for my life through reason and mercy, stared silent at me with their pale eyes fashioned from the void.
Nobody spoke up for me. Nobody even thought about it, I could see it in their placid faces, taste it in their warm breath as it rose in misty clouds through the cold midwinter air. Still I searched, pleaded with my eyes as the words tumbled from my mouth, frail and forlorn in the silence. I tried to lock my gaze with theirs, to find compassion under their armour of uniformity but slid off it like off walls of smooth ice.
And then locked my heart, threw the key away, and with a roar I unleashed the power inside me to do what he had accused me of, to do what I should have done long, long before.
To end this farce.
by Melanie Dafoe
That’s what you get when you hire a con-man, and I’ve just conned an entire kingdom out of its riches. My Father, though I use the term loosely, used to tell me that men like us should stay small, never make ourselves known names. Leave fame for the Knights, he said. A few hours ago I stole upwards of nine-million ducats, and it hadn’t even been that hard.
“Things are looking up, Jom.” I say, as the carriage rolls through the country-side. He’s a boy of maybe one-and-seven. A shock of dark hair atop a sharp, angular face. Hawkish is the word I’d use, though the boy’s more of a snake in the grass than an eye in the sky.
“What’s the split?” He asks, groping about inside his jacket for something. A cigarette, maybe. A small celebration.
“Six ways. We’ll meet with the others in a few weeks, divvy up.”
“We could always cut them out. Y’know, take the cash and go East.” He arches a brow, keeps his face impassive as I take that in, consider it.
“You’re learning, Jom boy. We’ll make a con-man out of you yet.” I tell him, and then frown. “But we’re not doing that.”
“That’s a shame.” He shrugs, leans back.
“And why’s that?”
His answer is to pull the trigger. The shot rings out, and there’s a wet impact in my gut. I’d like to say I’ve never been shot before, that the spreading warmth and the numbness in my fingers is new to me. If I did, I’d be a liar.
“Sorry, Bas. Just business, right?” Jom says
“Fuck yourself.” I splutter. He’s right, though. Just business. Timing, that’s the key to a successful job. And he’d timed this perfectly.
That’s what you get when you’re a con-man.
by Alex McCrorie
Janus stood on the western slope of his mountain, Dendei, surrounded by the stone towers that covered her like tombstones. All but one of the shoulder-high towers had been lopped in half — all but his. The towers had lost most of their original meaning. His ancestors were nomads, scattered across the vast plains that stretched into the horizon. They were not a peaceful people, and met for two reasons only; war and marriage – the two being more similar than not. When a clansman fell in a raid, his brother would build his revenge tower which would stand until the score was settled. When it was, the tower was lopped in half. But that was a long time ago, and his people – what was left of them – had given up their freedom to squat on the side of a mountain, and the towers that surrounded him were not made for revenge, but in ceremony. Built and destroyed in the same day to symbolize the letting go of anger or the forgiveness of some misdeed.
Janus’s tower was built of hatred and stone.
He sighed, leaning a hand against the tower – almost pushing at it – and wondered if his master had known what he had done when he shared the story of his mother’s death with him. Wondered if he had known that once the key of truth was turned within his mind, it would change everything. His master was no liar, and never one to act on a whim, and Janus could not comprehend how he of all people thought that such a revelation would leave things unchanged. Janus’s tower was a heavy thing and it weighed on his heart. It needed to topple, so the Desert Queen had to die. He took his first step down his mountain, Dendei.
by Paul Kleynhans
48. Words of Courage
And a damned writer’s block.
The clock ticks as I read the other stories as quickly as possible. It’s been nine days and there are over forty entries. I run my fingers through my hair and try to keep my hands from shaking. I really want to win; why wouldn’t I? My eyes turn to Doubt, sitting on the table.
I get up and start pacing back and forth out of habit. All those other entries are so well made. To enter this contest is one thing, but winning is something else entirely. I don’t even know where to start with my actual story.
My mind tries to wrap around the fact that I’m competing with fully grown adults, some of which probably work in the writing industry, and will be judged by famous authors.
Doubt says, “What are you going to do with a liar and a key?”
I can’t help but draw a blank, or as my friend would eloquently put “lolwhut”, at the prompt given. I can imagine myself rolling on the ground in frustration, but I’ve got a hardwood floor and not the need for bruises in the morning. A quick glance at the clock says that it’s been over an hour and I’ve thought of nothing good. The text cursor mocks me, blinking on the empty document.
Suddenly, an idea occurs. It’s risky, and stupid, and not-a-good-idea, and absolutely brilliant at the same. I rush back to my computer and set my hands on the keyboard, ready to type, but hesitate.
Doubt sharply whispers in my ear, “You don’t have a chance at winning. What’s the point in trying? You might as well not enter.”
I take in a deep breath and start typing.
“Well fuck you too, Doubt.”
by Elliot A.
49. The Twelve
He made me a liar. He made us all liars. For years the twelve of us, hooked on every word, rapt with awe at the tales we were fed, believed him the hero the world believed him to be. We were his chosen, his acolytes, his disciples. And we were chosen to continue his legacy in our own corners of the world.
Twelve of us, on for each province. A saviour of our own lands, taught by the best the world had ever known. But all the world had ever known was lies.
In the before, when the world was only one, the world only needed one hero. But then the chasms formed, and the world was twelve, and so twelve worlds needed twelve heroes to follow. So we twelve followed the One.
For twelve years we studied under his constant guidance, his tutelage, his discipline. We all bore the scars of his displeasure, both physical and other, deeper, harder to hide.
The worlds were changing faster than we were learning, and all the One’s lessons were based on History, and a false history at that. Everything we had been taught, everything we knew, everything everyone knew, was a lie. The key was proving it. We could save the world, the twelve worlds, if we could prove it.
by Sean Smith
50. Tales of The Dragon and The Tiger
The pale moonlight cascaded over the lake, turning it milky white. The water lilies gently swirled and shifted in slowly ebbing waters.
A gentle breeze blew the cherry blossoms from the trees in the grove.
Lord Kurosawa walked serenely through the swirl of blossoms, waiting for the inevitable.
The moon shone through the branches, casting eerie shadows through the tangle of trees.
He stopped, completely still, silent.
Out of the impenetrable darkness of a tree hollow in front emerged a figure clad in black, his features hidden under a cowl and mask.
Another unfurled from a tree and landed silently on the dry grass.
Four more materialised from the gloom.
The silver dagger on their left breast betrayed who they were, and who had sent them
Ninjas of the Shadow Clan, sent by Kurosawa’s quarry, the rebel Lord Kinto.
His six attackers had him surrounded, motionless, watching, silent.
Jet black, armourless, but for their forearm and shinguards.
One of them spoke.
Low, husky, foreboding.
“So, the Shogun sends his lap dog , the legendary Demon Slayer. Indeed, we are humbled by your presence.”
Kurosawa smiled. Liar.
“It’ll pass”, he said brusquely, his topknot swaying in the wind.
Another shadow spoke.
“It appears court life has softened you, Chief Executor.”
They all laughed.
Kurosawa wore a simple white kimono, his personal Flaming Death’s head motif on the left breast, and tied with a blood red sash.
But on his back…….. ‘Dread Conqueror’, his prized Muramasa blade, an 600 year old five foot odachi.
Legends told that the ancient sword smith Muramasa’s blades fed off death and violence, and he imbued each blade with his own malice and bloodlust.
His was one of three in existence.
The Shogun has one, “Overlord”, and He……………
He holds the key…………
by Chris Horrocks
51. Journal of death
These humans have corrupted minds, they believe to mete out death you must be cold and ruthless beyond normal rationale, or so filled with a black rage that it consumes your being. It is but a misconception they now believe. The scythe does not discriminate. These humans are accomplished liars though, I’ll give them that. the only downside is they are accomplished liars only when they lie to themselves. They preach nothing but justice, but their actions are nothing but unjust. They lie as if it were truth and tell truth as if it were lie.
The key is to know without a doubt that you are a liar. Without this simple truth you are incomplete, you are nothing but a fly in the great web of deceit. Everyone is a liar whether they believe it or not, whether they be mere mortal or otherwise.
Death is that one great lie humans have been telling themselves since the beginning of time. They tell themselves it is the release from a life of darkness or it is the umbra after the light of life’s great journey, the end of all that was. I can say from a place of personal knowledge that death is neither light nor dark, it is neither a beginning nor ending. Death is the paradise of the liar. The final frontier where the great web is viewed from a place of peace, of understanding and of clarity. Death is the centre of existence.
I am liar. I am master of deceit. I am key to the darkness. I am death.
by Luke Kellett
52. Gang signs
The key to the suspects betrayal of his gang would be his weakness for feeling superior. He was a pathological liar and any information he divulged would need to be vetted by the whole team. The consequence of failure would be the death of the governor.
by Marc Reiter
53. The Song of the Sea
I stood behind the curtain, listening to the murmur or the crowd. When I closed my eyes, I could almost hear the sound of the waves, the gentle sigh of the sea caressing the sands.
I opened my eyes as the curtain raised and stepped forward, the dim light of the chandelier glinting off the feathers of my dress, casting winged shadows behind me.
My song started with soft notes like motes of light, unhurried and peaceful. Slowly, the motes of light changed into afternoon sunbeams, notes increasing in volume and speed, dancing like moonlit revelers whirling faster and faster until the music sparkled like light refracting through a diamond, tinkling and cascading in an intricate flurry. The key of the music changed, the flurry becoming a blizzard, cold and harsh, the high notes piercing and the low notes spine-tingling, until finally I brought the song to a climax, resolving in the major key I began in, finishing on a lonely note of unrivaled purity, leaving it hanging in the darkness before snuffing it out.
The crowd stayed silent, awestruck, then stood as one to applaud, shattering the silence of the theatre. Glancing from face to face, I had my pick of admirers, eventually settling on one who reminded me of the sailors of old. I looked at him and smiled, and he was mine.
Barely half an hour later, his knocks rang out. I opened the door and smiled, leading him by the hand as if he were floating on my hymn. It was almost too easy, my hands closing around his throat, and in his eyes I saw only confusion.
“The music… lied,” the man gasped. “You… liar.”
In real life, the key doesn’t change back. I smiled at him, baring my teeth, and bent down to feed.
54. Chasing the Spark
I know how I’m supposed to feel right now, and I fake it pretty well. My acting slips past my wife’s notice as I cradle our child in my arms. She stares at him, tears flowing and a line of spittle dangling from her chin.
I thank the gods she’s staring at our child, and not at me. I’ve faked every emotion from the day I realised I housed none, the day I pulled my hands from my boyhood friend’s crushed neck. I fear that any scrutiny of my attempt at fatherly grief will finally be my undoing.
I imagine my hot-blooded shield brother, Evan, would cry and rage and go off and kill somebody, like a normal person. I’d probably follow him for something to do. Evan sees that as friendship for some reason.
I figure Evan’s path to be the right one, as usual. I’ll copy what he would do so that I seem normal. I’ll bare my teeth, narrow my eyes and run off and kill somebody. I’ll snarl to add to the theatre, just like Evan does. That man is the key to this particular liar.
My wife and I stand. My nine year old lies limp in my arms. I wish I could feel something – sadness, hate, anything – as I stare at his empty eyes.
Behind me I can hear boys and girls screaming as they’re hurled onto to the raider’s longboats.
I give our child to my wife.
I pick up an axe.
She knows what I plan. It’s expected, really. It’s a bloody path. I’ve been down it a few times before. I almost felt something the last time I hacked a man apart. I swear it, I nearly did.
And if avenging my son can’t spark me to humanity, then what can?
by Adrian Collins
55. Key to Salvation
Others of the warrior’s ilk were filling the room around me, burly men and women wearing pelts and bits of iron as jewelry. They ducked carefully to step downstairs onto the ship’s lower deck, “We are honored by your presence.”
Arranged in a semicircle they passed around horns of drink and baskets of bread. These were shared with reverent bows in my direction. They repeated one phrase: ”The key to our salvation.”
None approached me and I soon grew bored out of my fear, “Might I have something to eat?”
“Sacrament,” said the first, the leader, the one that yanked me from the city, “Fulfillment of the pact requires clarity.”
“What pact?” I stood warily, unsteady because of rolling of waves, “If I’m so special then tell me something!”
“You are the key…”
“…to our salvation,” I finished, “Yeah, I got that. Ridiculous.”
Deep pulsing sounds reverberated through the vessel.
Two of the savages grabbed my upper arms and yanked me out of the room in a hurried rush. Their faces were tight, jaws clenched.
All around us the sky was dancing with streaming light. Electricity crackled as my captors lifted me to the sky, “The key!”
A great sonorous wail shook the very fabric of the world. I felt my mind twist.
“Liar! LIAR!” The leader stared at me with horror, “You claimed yourself sterile!”
Thin sheets of energy surrounded my skin. The ship, along with all of its sailors, disintegrated in screams. Bright purple light engulfed everything.
A breeze whispered fading words, “Liar…”
I bobbed in the swell of a sea I did not know under an alien sky. Ignorance wasn’t a lie, but I felt terrible for my unknowing betrayal. I had been their key alright, but not for salvation. Nor mine. I couldn’t tread water forever.
by J.A. Waters
56. Shattered Faith
The throne room smelled of fire and fear and failure. The stench of smoke and sweat saturated the air of the castle until nothing else could be breathed. Blood adorned the floor and flowed into every crevice it could.
As Tristan raised his battered face and turned his broken body, his eyes and mind began to adjust and realize the extent of the horror. There was no need to search for survivors, no need to help save the dying; everyone was dead.
The walls were blackened and the roof torn open like thin paper. The opulent chair from which King Garstal once sat was destroyed. Fires raged everywhere – a scene of chaos straight from an orphan’s nightmare, yet there was complete silence. No screams, only death.
The King’s WarGuard had been crushed, overwhelmed by the onslaught, but by what? Tristan witnessed the WarGuard’s men, the key to the Kingdom’s defense, throw themselves from the castle walls and scream at nothing before turning on each other.
It had been Tristan’s dream to join the WarGuard, instead they nearly butchered him. Summoning the very last bit of strength he had left, Tristan yelled, “Anyone…hello, I’m not dead. At least, not yet.”
“THERE’S A SURVIVOR” boomed an unknown voice. “Please, please don’t do that again,” thought Tristan. “I’d hate to go through all this and die of a ruptured eardrum.”
Two of Tristan’s fellow WarGuard initiates Andret and Cobain finally discovered him amidst the carnage. “So what the hell happened today? Any ideas at all,” asked Tristan.
“Only one,” responded Andret. “Magic.”
“Magic?” Tristan questioned. “You’re a liar? Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic.”
“Well, according to High Priest Lupa, that may not completely be the case,” Andret said.
“Oh balls,” said Tristan and Cobain simultaneously. “Balls, balls, balls!”
by Ken U.
57. The Liar and the Key
“I am nothing if not dilligent in my responsibilities,” said the Liar. “Can you prove I have deceived you?”
“The point is not your skill at equivocation,” said the Key. “You led the child here. Therefore, the onus is on you to see this business to conclusion.”
Her eyes were slits as she glared. The Liar stood hip thrust, one hand in pocket, and studied the nails of the other with practiced nonchalance.
The child sniffed.
“I want to go home. Can I go home? I miss my mummy.”
“Hush,” said the Key.
“I merely presented the Door,” said the Liar. “The ‘onus’ is on them to walk through.”
“For which you need me to open the Lock. Speaking of which, where are those two fools?”
The Liar smiled.
“Oh, you are saucy!” said the Key.
The child mewled.
“Honestly,” said the Liar.
“Look at me,” said the Key. “Look at me – there! Now, one, two, buckle my shoe.”
“One, two. Buckle. My, shoe…”
A thin line of drool spilled out and down the child’s chin as it slept.
“Now what?” said the Liar.
“We take it back,” said the Key.
“Cheek!” said the Liar. “Fine. You first.”
The Key reached out and unlocked the dreams. The Liar laid in fresh stories of talking rabbits, dancing teapots, and castles on the backs of turtles.
The child stirred, and gradually drifted back to it’s own bed.
They stood in the aether holding hands.
“Why must you be such a bother?” said the Key.
Her eyes were slits as she glared. The Liar stood hip thrust, one hand in pocket, and studied the nails of the other with practiced nonchalance.
“Would you love me otherwise?”
The Key laughed.
by Aaron Taylor
( C ) 2015, same same
58. The Liar’s Lock
The lock’s powder trap triggered hitting Rufus in the face like a sack of bricks.
‘You fuck’n liar!’ He growled at Koby.
Cullen stepped between them, attempting to keep the peace.
‘Bastard!’ Rufus spat, his eyes a stark white against the black powder covering his face.
‘Koby just made a mistake,’ Cullen insisted.
‘No he didn’t.’ Rufus snarled and Koby gave a sly smirk. ‘You piece of shit!’ Rufus lunged at him, but Cullen stood firmly in the way.
‘Watch your language, there’s a lady y’know.’ Cullen gestured toward, Hades.
‘A lady? Really? I must be doing something wrong.’ She quipped as she cleaned her nails with her dagger.
‘Alright, enough, open the door!’ Cullen ordered, tired of being locked in the room.
‘Impossible! That lock’s a high-class level S platinum grade tripster click with a trap-lock trigger switch only openable with a one-of-a-kind key.’ Koby spoke quickly to baffle them. ‘A failed jimmy will trigger a trap.’
Cullen threw up flustered hands, ‘What then?’
Hades didn’t know much about anything other than killing, but of one thing she was certain, Koby liked to make shit up.
‘Have you tried hitting it?’ She inquired from her perch.
‘Hitting it? You can’t just hit it.’ Koby scoffed.
‘Bullshit.’ Hades stood, walked to the lock and bashed it with the hilt of her dagger. The mechanism fell to the floor in a clatter of cogs and bolts. She turned to her colleagues, all three of them cowering from Kolby’s threat of a trap. She raised an eyebrow.
‘The only people dumber than you lot are the guards who failed to find us. Now get off your arses and let’s go.’
The trio looked at each other stunned before Cullen spoke.
‘You heard the woman, let’s go.’
by Pen Astridge
59. The power of love
I stared incredulously at the ruined mess of my chest. Memories raced through my mind as I waited for the erratic beating of my heart to stop. Like carelessly scattered photos, it was impossible to make sense of all the images simultaneously.
The only thing they had in common was that every memory included Mandy.
A spasm of pain rippled across my shattered ribs and I whispered her name.
I don’t know. Maybe because I still loved her? Maybe because I didn’t want to die alone?
Maybe because she was the only witness.
“I’ve bought a liar‘s key,” Mandy said.
She touched my arm, and I caught the vaguest hint of her perfume.
“Why is it called that?”
“Think, silly,” she replied. “What’s the most powerful force you know?”
Embarrassed, I looked away.
“I don’t know,” I mumbled. “Love?”
For a while, the chirp of cicadas was the only sound. Then her throaty chuckle broke the silence.
“You want to tell me sweet little lies, don’t you?” she replied as she teased a fingernail down my arm.
I had no answer.
Well, nothing I was brave enough to voice.
She knelt beside me. I looked at her, hoping for an explanation, but she said nothing as she placed the liar’s key on my chest. I squinted, not trusting my eyes. The wrinkles around her eyes had vanished and I could not remember her looking more beautiful.
I glanced down at the key. The exotic patina had fascinated me earlier. Now it just looked tarnished. I closed my eyes, and as the final blackness washed over me, my last emotion was wry amusement. I had been so naive. Love might have a small amount of power.
But it has nothing on betrayal.
by Ray Deft
“Your grandfather sent you alone.”
“You can understand why I have some trust issues.” I responded, eyeing him and his companions with curiosity and contempt. In between heartbeats, in a shuffling of shadows, these men had dismembered a mercenary group that took months to assemble.
In a blur he was in front of me. I opened my eyes to find him holding Protas. With a flick of his wrist, the grip was extended to me.
“Do what you came to do.”
I took the heirloom into my hands and stared at him.
“Do what you came to do.” his impatience growing.
I stood for a few more speculative moments before raising the gavel at him. “You stand accused of treason, conspiracy and murder of the king. Plead.”
“Guilty.” he whispered.
Intense heat seared through my body, my bloodline confirming what I should have already known. A lie. He moved slowly as he approached, those sad eyes never leaving mine, and slowly took Protas from my hand. He raised it at me.
“You stand accused of assisting in the murder of the king. Plead.”
Protas betrayed me, glowing a dark red and humming with energy. I fell to my knees at the sentence. There I was, a Kingsman surrounded by outlaws, the only liar among them.
“My father didn’t send you as an assassin. This is not a weapon.” My eyes met his, shock preventing so much as a breath.
“My father didn’t send you as a judge. This is not a gavel.” Shame escaped my innermost, a burning wetness running down my cheeks.
“He sent you as a savior. This is a key.” and, walking past his traitorous son, my father set the head of Protas into the portal gate, turned it, and opened the beginning of the end.
by Chris Javier
61. Dust to Dust
The dust storm battered our settlement. Red and ferocious. Ancient blood dessicated, tossed about by banshees wailing on the other side.
I thought back to Earth storms. I had loved them. They were now, in memory, precious. Winds had howled; trees had danced. Spirits had sent swords of lightning down to terrorize us and keep us all in check. As a child, I was half a twin set that had tempted fate more than once. Wind and lightning had never gotten us, even as we ran beneath the bending branches of apple trees, soaked through in our summer clothes, screaming and shuddering at each thunderous clap from the heavens. Mama had told us it was just the angels bowling.
She should have warned us, protected us, brought us in under her maternal bird wing. But she did not have that appendage. It had snapped a long time ago in the summer storms of her own youth. Instead, she pushed us outward into the world, told us to be brave, to have fun; told us to get lost, perhaps.
In a moment of adventurous fun, under a calm blue sky, Elizabeth, the braver half of a split egg from which we both came, got lost. She ventured out onto the ice which cracked open and swallowed her whole.
When they found her, she was blue.
Perhaps that’s why I signed up to win a one-way ticket to Mars. It was, finally, the key to escaping Earth’s velocity and the physics of my own tortured existence.
We had been promised stardom. First reality show on Mars. But the producer was a serial liar. He had left us for dead. Who knew why? Communication had been cut off months ago.
The wind screams in my head. Red dust threatens to swallow us whole.
by Marilyn Peake
62. The Informant
The meager light of dawn slammed into my light-deprived eyes like a hammer’s blow. A particularly burly fellow blocked out the sun with his bulk as I felt him jerk my shackles hard enough to break my wrists a second time.
“Get up!” he snarled. “Tark wants to talk to you.”
At the moment I was grateful for the swollen jaw, which hid my derisive sneer, and the broken nose through which I could snort to my heart’s content without a sound. Oh, he wanted to talk, did he?
The heavy iron key scraped the tumblers of my manacles as the jailer released me from my bonds and dragged me out into the open.
I glanced around me as we crossed the camp. I saw nothing but bodies all around me, in various stages of disrepair. There wasn’t a whole man among them. I giggled deep in my throat as the muddy clomping of the men who led me to the tent at the back of the clearing hid the sounds of my mirth. It worked! My information had done exactly what I wanted it to do. Tark the Shark wouldn’t be raiding any more villages anytime soon.
I had no more time to revel in my own cleverness as we entered the tent and the rough, stinking hands that had carried my battered body sent me skidding over the dirty carpet that served as the tent floor.
A resounding belch released over my head.
“So, this is the traitor, eh?” Tark’s smooth, rumbling baritone descended deep into my psyche—his one great leadership quality.
The heavy boot slammed into my ribs with a fierce crack. The momentum carried me over onto my back, staring up at his bristling, angry face.
“So, liar!” he seethed. “What will become of you now?”
by Leslie C.
63. The Test of Forgiveness
The answer was in this abandoned warehouse . He had to find her or she was dead. He loved her like dandelions in the wind. The hooded man had buried her alive and she was running out of air. All he had was the riddle left for him by the stranger…
Your worst, is the key to finding her.
He knew now that she was behind the brick wall. He could see the mortar was not fully dry yet. He had loved her so much, and she had grown to love him too. It was difficult for her to love after her husband disappeared. But after years of kindness and steadfast resolve, he had finally won her heart
He knew now that things could never be the same. Because behind that wall was also her husband that vanished all those years ago. And she would now know that he was the man who put him there.
The tears silently flowed down his face, making dark circles as they dropped onto the stone floor. He turned around and went home.
From behind a far pillar, out of the shadows, the cloaked man stepped into the light and watched the man walk away. The same dark cIrcles appeared at his feet. A gloved hand reached and lifted the hood. Her long blond hair and soft white skin were sharp contrasts to the dark wool cloak. The tears stopped and her eyes turned hard. She took the small crossbow from under her cloak and loaded an arrow. It was a gift from her husband. Last year’s anniversary present. She followed him into the night.
by William Burley
64. The Z Word
You know the world’s turned to shit when you spent the last half an hour in a deserted Aldi supermarket clouting the undead with a half-broken Kookaburra cricket bat, all for a crushed packet of Walker’s Ready Salted and a bottle of Vimto.
You know that all hope has turned to dust when you see your university lecturers get torn to pieces and feasted on like it’s Zombie Thanksgiving, and when the London riots seemed like afternoon tea with your Grandma. Well that’s the world I live in, and your Grannie’s rotting under a park bench playing bingo with maggots and flies. It’s a world where everyone you love is trying to eat you, everyone you hate is also trying to eat you, and everyone you kind of like, but you wouldn’t invite round for dinner, is trying to eat you. There’s no running water, no food supply, no mobile signal, no TV, and worst of all, no internet. No longer is the world filled with page scrolling, video watching, mobile ‘zombies’, it’s filled with flesh-eating, limb tearing, organ-munching zombies. People will kill each other for a bag of Haribo’s Starmix or a cordless hedge-trimmer, and then get eaten themselves because they couldn’t charge the hedge-trimmer, and an uncharged hedge-trimmer is about as useful as a lock without a key. There’s no democracy anymore because the government disappeared, and I think the Queen has eaten her Corgis.
It’s been like this for six months, and I’d be a liar if I said it’s getting better. At the beginning, we all thought it was a publicity stunt to promote The Walking Dead, or a mass prank, or anything but an actual zombie apocalypse, but then people started robbing, murdering, and of course being eaten, and the shit had hit the fan.
by Kyle Pallister
65. The New Husband
The rain fell and fell and fell, around him, through him, and he stood outside the window, a knife in his jacket.
Keys to a heart of gold are hard to come by. Sometimes, humour. Sometimes a handsome face. Sometimes the thing that unlocks a heart, a heart of gold, is a liar, and the things that keep them together are more lies. He had lied when he first met her, and continued over the years.
The liar, now, had no doubts about what he was about to do. Heart of gold, knives of steel, they were to rendezvous tonight with malice, and the liar, the fool, the handsome face in the rain, knew that he had it in him to stick those blades in her chest. Unlock the pressure in her veins, and her new lover’s too, with those borrowed blades. Stick them in there, turn, twist, unlock. Unlock and twist and turn and kid to himself that he could live with the consequences, kid that vengeance became him.
The rain fell softly now, as he walked the too few steps up to the ajar cabin window. No Shawshank for him, he cared not for redemption. Pressing his face against the glass, his eyes sought out her figure silhouetted by the fireplace glow, and then flicked to her lover’s.
Her paramour’s leather spine.
Its plush, white pages.
The vivid hardback cover.
She had left him for a book, and there, reading, silhouetted by the cabin’s fireplace, absorbed in her new land, her new husband, a great lazy smile spread over her face as she turned the page.
It was the smile that sent him back to the car, to realise he had lied to himself about his courage. He couldn’t do it, and the liar had come full circle.
66. As the Storm Rages
The wind cradled him in its loving embrace. The fleeting moment of terror had passed. Roaring raged in his ears at the surrounding storm, its power drying tears even as they formed. These were not the tears that came of sorrow. No, these were the tears that came from viewing the world from its highest peak. Tears that accompany a song so beautiful it makes your heart leap into your throat even as you choke on it.
The blade across his back, that had shepherded him through the darkest moments of life, could offer him no defense now. The torrent ripped the strap and it fell to the side, cutting the air to fall past him, just as it had cut the air from so many lungs. He told himself his actions had been for a purpose, that the blood soaking his hands was that of retribution. He knew himself to be a liar.
The fire inside him burned hot and bright as the dead of night in mid-winter. It is true, it had once scorched with such intensity as to blind his sight and burn those around him. No more. The coals lay black. Each action deliberate. He watched the blade hit the ground just moments ahead. Only the cold concrete contained the key to right these wrongs. Storm felt finally at peace. Fell finally to peace.
by Cameron G
67. Liar’s Dice
A soft glow emanated from the single window of the house. It was an unremarkable tenement, aside from the residents being awake in the dead of night, having begun their game in the early hours. Through the window, there were three equally unremarkable figures around a drink stained table.
“Liar.” The impossibly thin man uttered quietly to the portly man across from him. The lighting was dim in the room, but it was enough to see a faint scar from ear to chin, warped with the sneer across his face.
Sweat sheen dampened the extensive forehead of the accused. He looked at the upright dice under his container briefly, totaling its contents. The goal of the game is to total to 100. He had called higher than he had, thinking he could get away with it. He was justly accused, and now had to subtract the total from his own. He was now at 0. The stakes had been for his strategically key portion of the marketplace. “God damn it how do you always know?” The portly man cried, throwing his dice across the room, he grabbed his coat and stormed out, bodyguards in tow.
The game was down to two, the scarred man now smirking at the defeated player, and a cloaked figure, just a hint of red hair emerging from her collar. The dim light hid her features, yet the crest on her ring identified her as royalty. It was a poorly kept secret in the Isles; the bastard daughter of the King had begun to make her name throughout the city as a vicious thug. She had realized from an early age, if she could not inherit the kingdom righteously, she’d have to conquer it from the foundation up.
by Wesley Spence
68. The Blind King’s Treasure
Maya would have welcomed a sip of sweet liquor before having to sentence a man to death.
She lounged on the satin pillows scattered about the throne, studying the three prisoners through the gossamer canary veil that kept her face a secret. It was rare for her father to let her out of her cage, so she breathed deep of the sweat, panic, and bravado that warmed the air sticky.
Maya’s father, the King of Stone and Key, paced a discordant measure before the suspects, the tip of his sword scoring the slate beneath their knees.
The soldier claimed ignorance, admitting that he was with his mistress when the enemy found access through the city gates. The messenger babbled about the integrity of his sources, the infallibility of his information. The counselor simply cried, his alibis trapped in his throat where fear had taken a choking hold.
Maya smiled beneath her veil as she noted the dart of an eye, the gleam of sweat on a forehead, the subtle twitch of a finger. Three stories and one liar were revealed like grotesque pictures of tarot cards upturned before her.
The king treasured the gift the gods had bestowed on his daughter: the ability to see through deception. He commanded her to identify the guilty party. She would then be thanked for her services by being escorted back to her beautiful cage.
Maya had been patient, had taken great risks when she slipped away to taste freedom, to discover a weakness in her father’s rule. It would be silly to let something as reckless as an affair ruin her dreams of escape. Today, the liar would live.
She pointed to her secret lover, and the king opened the soldier’s throat.
by Emily English
69. The Door of Truth
He was the biggest liar in the city. Everyone knew that. He was looked down upon, because only the honest and wise people could receive one of the Earth’s biggest treasures. Only honest people tried to unlock the door of truth. The truth was the key to the door, after all.
However, the liar didn’t think so. He thought that all those things about being honest were gibberish, and he was going to try to taste the treasures of the Earth with the power of lies.
The man had to walk a long way before reaching the door of truth, and wasn’t going to give up just because people believed any lie someone told them.
The room had only one door and a normal keyhole like any other door, and he didn’t see anything special about it. He stood in front of it, and waited someone to meet him, but no one came. So, am I supposed to talk?
He told the door his lies, and didn’t stop talking until he was completely sure there wasn’t another lie to tell.
The soft wind walked into the room, and grabbed his words. Then, it went right through the keyhole, and he waited once again.
The door cracked open. That was the key! He was given a lot of gold, enough to buy whatever he wanted.
Years later no one had ever unlocked the door after him. People were really curious to know what he had actually done, because they knew from the bottom of their hearts that he was a liar, and no liar was supposed to open the door of truth.
“I might be a liar, but there’s always some truth in the lies.” He said.
by Svetoslav Todorov
70. A Handbook on How to be a God
I will always remember even the most trivial details of that day – the day I decided to impersonate a deity. It has been almost two years yet I can still recall the taste of my breakfast of figs and jasmine tea. I had never eaten figs before my brief stay in dusty Tanamar, but I had become quite fond of them. I woke early so that I could browse the stalls of the Great Bazaar before the crowds and the heat made it unbearable. In those days I fancied myself an adventurer-scholar who would journey to distant and exotic lands in search of rare books and historical detritus. In truth I was just the restless third son of a shipping magnate with a heavy purse that mitigated any real adventure. I had slept in a bed every night during my travels, once even without a blanket. I am lucky I survived.
I was eager to visit one shop in particular. An erudite sailor told me of a bookseller where he once found an original of Gesta’s Five Tales. He was likely a liar but my curiosity was piqued. I was usually drawn to the shabbiest books because I felt they held the greatest potential for hidden wisdom, but the one that caught my eye that morning was beautifully bound in leather of deep crimson. I had seen that color many times as it was the same worn by the highest officials in the Derrasite church. And to my astonishment it was embossed with the Key and Tree – the official seal of the High Prestur himself. How had it ended up here, a thousand miles across an ocean from Ulmberco? As I skimmed through it, the hairs on my arms and neck stood on end as I realized what I was reading.
by K. M. Stahl
71. The Doorway
Just go through,” the key said, “I’ve been right so far.”
Jessica frowned, looking at the doorway. It wasn’t right, to have come so far then hesitate at the final moment like this, she should just go. And yet, she hesitated. She looked at all the overgrown hedge around her, searching for a follower, a predator, someone who’d steal the only thing that mattered anymore. Nothing except for the rustling of the leaves in the crisp autumn wind.
“Well,” Jessica said, ”maybe you haven’t been right, just lucky. Perhaps you’re just a smart guesser and don’t really know anything.”
“Ah! That hurts, you know? Not physically, more of a deep, emotional trauma that wounds my very soul,” the key replied.
“Do keys have souls?”
“Sure hope so. And we’ll find out for sure once you step through that doorway.”
“You know she’s there, right? It hasn’t been too long?”
A brief pause. “Yes,” the key said, “yes, she’s in there. It’s been quite a while, but she’s waiting for you.”
Jessica stared at the key.
“…What?” the key asked. “You think I’m some sort of liar? If I wanted you dead you would have been eaten by that behemoth two miles back.”
“What behemoth?” Jessica asked.
“Point is, I’ve had plenty of chances to kill you, if I’d wanted to. But I don’t, so trust me on this. She’s there.”
Jessica held the key up in front of her. “I’m breaking you in two if you’re wrong” she said.
“Go right ahead.”
She stabbed the key into the open air where a lock should be, and twisted. First step, doorway. Second step, portal.
by Michael Agapeyev
72. The search
“Where’s that bitch hiding?” the guard hissed in my ear as he jerked again on the wooden cudgel held beneath my chin, pulling me back from the inn’s side entrance. His partner stepped out of another doorway a few paces further down the narrow alley and strolled towards me, casually unhooking his own cudgel from his belt where it had been dangling with only a couple of cell keys for company. A beating then. They didn’t intend to kill me. At least not yet, or not with any weapon of the stabbing-variety that I could see.
“C’mon now boy, we don’t want no trouble. Just tell us where she is and we’ll let ya get back to yer whores and ale”. The lie was blatant as the guard expertly swung the cudgel by the handle, the anticipation of violence quickening his breath as he stepped closer.
No, definitely not the lenient type. His dark greasy hair hung lank and matted to his shoulders. Malicious grey eyes glared out beneath a blunt brow, chin covered in dirty grey stubble that was patchy in places, displaced by flaking scabs. The rest of him matched the unfortunate visage. Brutish and slovenly in equal measure.
‘She’s behind you,” I indicated with a nod.
“Liar-“ the guard gasped jolting forward suddenly, confusion on his face as he stared down at the crossbow bolt protruding wetly from his chest.
“Ahh…” sighed my restrainer in reply, crumpling against my back. His breath warm along my neck as I withdrew the thin blade from its temporary home between his ribs. I stepped forward out of his embrace to stand between the two men, both now kneeling on the grimy cobbles staring stupidly at each other, too shocked still to realise they were dead.
“I don’t lie” I said softly.
by Isabel Sprackman
73. The Lord of Lies
Most people don’t know me, and why should they? I’m nothing, no one, or am i? I am prince of the streets, master of the poor and lord of lies. I rule the life in this town, I decide who lives and dies, nothing goes on without me knowing. Some might give the honour of my accomplishments to some of my helpers, but they are wrong. You see, the key to my succes, is neither my followers, nor is it my growing wealth, it’s my ability to control people. I seem to have evolved a skill, a skill that allows me to control people, make them do what I want, without them thinking themselves. Some people see it as magic, others see it as manipulation, I am not sure which one it is, it might be a bit of both, and it might be neither.
However, I seem to have encountered a problem, a problem that need to be solved urgently, otherwise it might grow too big. The lord of the city has hired a new counsellor, and not just the usual liar and cheapskate, no, this one seems different, special in a way. I have reason to believe, that he to some extent, might have magic powers, I have several sources who swears they’ve seen him perform magic upon the lord. This would normally just be a small assassination of the counsellor, however, he seems to dangerous and I might just have to take him on myself, just to be sure. This is of vital importance to me, since the lord is my key to the rest of the kingdom, and I need to have absolute control of him.
by Mikkel Wiemann
The cold settles in my bones as I hold her close.
She shivers in her long dark coat, a stark contrast to her fair complexion.
I tell her I love her, that I would never leave her.
She pushes back, staring, and her warm breath fills the space between us.
I want her to believe me, to feel something, but I know that she doesn’t.
Liar, her eyes scream.
I choke finding my next words, looking for any bit of truth I can give to her.
“My life is over now.”
She smiles, and her tears, so long on the brink, overflow.
I feel her grip loosen, on me and on the world.
Her breath rattles in and out once more.
My chest grows heavy, and the whole of the world falls silent.
She is at peace.
I take the key from around her neck and let her slip from my arms.
Her body hits the ground with a soft thud, and I watch as the snow covers her, a cold blanket from a cold world.
by Kenneth E. Bragg
75. How to Kill a Man
For Rothq there was only one way to properly kill a man: Completely. That meant from the bottom up, scouring clean all that defined a life. Leave nothing behind as clue or reminder. And Rothq knew the steps well, had written them over course of a long, bloody ten-year with a delicate but purposeful hand.
First you take his means. This is a fabulist’s labor. Men hold tight their profession and prying it loose demands subtle planning and even more delicate incorporation. Rothq could weave a damning tale.
Second you take his want. This is often family. Even assholes had mothers. The key is to poison reputation. A whispered rumor here, a sprinkled tale there. Ears are easily convinced of debauchery, especially when the falsehoods are sprinkled with digestible truths. Men are indulgent beasts.
Then you burn his home.
Lastly, you take his mortal life.
That can be accomplished by all sorts of hideous manners. Sawing through a throat. Draining the blood. Selecting the finest slice of beef to pin between his legs before introducing him to a couple of starved hounds. Something unpleasant but commensurate with the necessity of the death. Or so the rules decreed.
But the man Rothq killed tonight was a fucker. Sure, a slaver who took certain liberties with his product and sold the broken wares as new, but he’d called Rothq a coward. And that’d hurt. So the man hurt. Pins through testicles. Skin carefully peeling back from fingers. And the death-march line running vertical from his wrists to inside his elbow, leaking him dry.
As the man balanced the edge of death, the terror of his inevitable passing struck him and he blanched. “Ahh.” His final utterance, as though dying were some comfort.
“Liar,” Rothq said to the corpse, knowing better.
by S.M. White
76. Harper’s Wharf
People only came to Temple Cays on business. Of course there was still the usual fun to be found, but that was business too. Our business was robbing the temple.
The priest was late for our rendezvous, which was how the two of us came to be huddled in the darkest corner of a bar near Harper’s Wharf, nursing our fears alongside our ales. I’d not seen Orphea since breakfast.
She gently plucked a note, cursed and made a small adjustment.
“You’re always tuning that bloody harp.”
“Don’t call it a harp.” She was quick to anger. “If I’m off key, the beast bites your head off. Think about that.”
I knew she was right, which didn’t improve my temper. Her lyre to enchant the Listener, the first of the temple guardians we must pass; my spinning mandala to enrapture the second, the Watcher. The third beast, the Speaker, called the alarm to rouse the temple. Only the hereditary priesthood could silence that one.
Legend suggested their skin exuded unique aromatic oil, the only means of suppressing the creature’s ire. No unaccompanied layman could pass unharmed. We’d searched long and hard to find a priest amenable to our bribery. Money wasted, it now seemed.
Orphea leaned towards me, eyes bright in the gloom. “He would have betrayed us.”
It took me a moment to recognise her use of past tense. Realisation dawned.
“You killed him?”
She shrugged. “I’ll not risk our lives on the word of a liar and a traitor.”
I sighed. “It’s over, then.” I wasn’t sorry.
“Oh, no.” Orphea almost smiled, itself a worry. She retrieved a weighty bag from beneath her chair. “Flensing is such a lovely word.” She opened the bag just enough to let me sniff the contents. “Essence of priest,” she said.
by A. L. Bickley
77. The Key of Yesterday
His bony fingers handed it over, the key to yesterday. Her most joyful memories and torturous nightmares lay in her palm, long and rusted, trifurcated and crooked. Ani stared at it, and then up at the white door. Should it not be guarded by more than those spiders?
“I don’t understand?” she said.
“My Lady,” began Ralk, gazing up and down Ani’s body with his usual look of amorous hunger, “the thaumaturge have been restless, but have finally found a way for you to forget. You will find on the other side the scene as you remember, of your father as you found him after his murder.”
“How do I use it?”
“It is a key, my Lady. It works as a key always does.”
With that her eyes flared and lips pursed. “Lord Ralk, was there no one else to escort and instruct me? Your face is perhaps something else I will look to forget on the other side, if I were not so sure it would lurk towards mine as soon as I returned.”
“You wound me, my Lady,” he said, his voice rumbling through a sardonic grin.
“And how do I erase a memory?”
“It will be clear when it needs to be.”
Their eyes were fixed as Ani thrust the key into the lock. A clunk followed. Darkness took her as she passed through. The door slammed behind her and coloured lights floated around, presenting images of times already passed. Memories, yes, but not hers. Memories of rejection and depression. She saw a man screaming into a mirror. It was Ralk. That liar, these were his memories.
And there was her father, alive, begging for mercy. And then the knife, held by such bony hands, was in his skull.
Ani heard the lock clunk behind her.
by Daniel Ward
78. The Locked Door
Lithe watched the taproom quietly as she slowly drank from her ale mug. She had an itch in the back of her neck; a foreboding itch that loomed darkly. The ‘itch’ appeared from behind her, his face shadowed by a black hood.
A ghostly grin appeared beneath.
“Hiding from someone are we?” Nimble asked, sliding down into the booth.
“I am surprised to see you managed to find me,” she said, hiding her words behind her ale mug.
“Liar,” he grinned. “You never really thought that would stop me, did you?”
“How on Rain did you even escape from there in the first place?” She muttered darkly, making sure to keep her voice low as she watched the room. The atmosphere felt wrong; like the tone of a melody she couldn’t quite remember.
“It was quite brilliant in its simplicity, actually,” he whispered conspiratorially. “I picked the lock.”
“Liar,” she whispered back, but a small smile fluttered across her face.
“We have to get out of here now,” he said suddenly. “Someone has been following you since you arrived. Their motives are highly unsavory. Fortunately I have never been a fan of sweet things.”
“Is that so?” Lithe said. Her lip curled in triumph as his nose wriggled.
Opposite the room, the man in black stirred. His pipe smoke was doused by his curiosity. Lithe grimaced as she noticed small movements in her direction. The melody missed a sharp note.
“Stuck behind a locked door without a key,” she muttered, shifting her body beneath her cloak as she gripped a concealed dagger.
Nimble gave her a sly grin.
“When faced against a locked door there are always three options; knock politely, pick the lock or break down the door. What is your choice?”
She grinned. “Break the door.”
by Matt Hawkins
79. Truth be told
There was a grimace, a release, and then pain.
Kerin stared at the dagger hilt protruding from his chest and slumped down against the cell bars.
“You’re a liar!” Kerin wheezed, his chest cavity already filling with blood.
“How so?” asked the guard from the other side of the bars. “I said I’d release you from this cell if you told me where you’d hidden the letters.”
Kerin shifted around and stared at the chain around the guard’s neck.
The guard glanced down, “Oh this?” He stifled a laugh as he lifted the chain to reveal a large, iron key. “I could open the door if you wish, but I doubt it would make little difference. Your fate was sealed the moment you took those letters.”
There was a groan, a cough, and then dizziness.
“But we had a deal,” Kerin whispered, his body felt detached.
The guard leaned in. “Isn’t it ironic that the man whose letters you stole blamed me – the guard – for losing them and not the petty thief who took them? So, whilst you were safe in your little iron cage, it was I who faced a death sentence if they weren’t found. Truth be told, until you gave up the location, you were making a deal with a dead man; and dead men have nothing to lose.”
Kerin spun with as much speed as a dying body could muster and grabbed through the bars. “You’re right; taking those letters did seal my fate. I knew I’d never leave this cell alive. So, it was you who made the deal with a dead man.”
A look of panic broke over the guard’s face. “So, they’re not…..”
“Like you said; dead men have nothing to lose.”
There was a grin, a splutter, and then darkness.
80. Time and Tide
Key swam to the moon, playfully surfing an eddy that gushed by. The thrill of the ride yearned her to ride to eddy’s end, but she forwent abandonment and slipped into the current that streamed between worlds.
The Sun’s deep green pulsed: a sky-wide vista, viridian waves rolling deep into the energetic strata that formed this solar system. Key swam to the moon, and there turned her back to the Sun and looked at her home, a glimmering indigo orb.
Flowers were plentiful on the surface of the moon this season: she picked three, drinking deeply whilst circumnavigating. She saw a figure swimming the current towards her, and waved as he approached. It was Liar, and he was obviously excited.
“There’s a gyre!” he said without greetings. “Spindle and Jest are out there already, close to the edge. Spindle thinks that this is the one: it’s huge and bound to breach. You need to come now Key, it’s close, so close!”
Key gazed at her companion, feeling the sudden rush of expectation wash over her. He held a hand out to her with eager eyes, and they drifted over to the outbound current, away from the Sun, towards the edge. They passed Spindle’s planet along the way, its turquoise surface turbulent. As they swam Key felt alternate waves of excitement and trepidation, but took comfort in the fact that her companions must be feeling the same.
Spindle and Jest greeted them enthusiastically as they reached the edge and it was clear that this vast, magnificent gyre was going to breach their system. Key felt a moment’s panic: shouldn’t they be fleeing back to the Source? But it was fleeting.
The four of them entwined, and as the gyre breached, they sang of their Sun and the uncertain future ahead.
by Leigh Wright
I push past the page and enter my father’s study. He sits behind the desk. The Great Dragon of Britain diminished before my eyes to just a man.
The moment is bittersweet.
The light from the newly risen moon strikes an object laying before him. It does not sparkle; it is far too plain. A simple key. Grey, innocuous, one of a hundred keys to unlock a door in this once splendid castle of Camelot.
Time slows. I wait for acknowledgement. It is a game we have been playing for a long time. The beloved king and his incestuous bastard son.
” Tell me, Mordred, where did you get this?”
The opening gambit in our last game begins.
“The queen dropped it in the garden.”
“Why then not simply return it to her?” There is a small note of pleading in his voice.
Standing over him, I raise one brow. He knows I would never let such an opportunity pass. Just as I know as king, he can not ignore it.
“It opens a door in the West Tower. It is where Lancelot and Guinevere meet.”
My father’s breath catches. No one has ever been so honest.
But of course, I am a liar.
I am Guinevere’s lover.
But it will be a simple matter of notes to arrange a meeting, for the guards to catch them, and the king condemn them. A simple matter to watch her die.
I lie again.
It will be hard to watch the women I love burn.
But for the crown and the win against my father, Anything.
For my hate is strong and that is the truest lie of all.
by E J Holm
82. The Note
I am writing this letter to you, to express my heartfelt gratitude for leaving me. I find that since you left life has become easier and more enjoyable. Though we had some good times together, most of them when we were drunk or too tired to fight, we were never really a couple that was well together. I find that part of me hopes for your happiness, while a deeper, darker part of me hopes for you to suffer immense pain.
In truth I am a liar, I don’t know why I am writing to you. Could it be some nostalgia that has lasted through the storm of pain and suffering? Maybe the screams from our daughter who still doesn’t understand ‘’why is daddy gone, and why are you crying all the time Mummy?’’. I tell her the truth. I tell her Mummy doesn’t know why she is crying and I tell her Daddy might never be home again. Maggie stopped me the other day to tell me her husband has also left her. We are holding a party this afternoon to celebrate. Well anyway there are always more jobs to be done around the house and more celebrations to attend. I wish you all the best and hope you can be back before our daughter’s birthday next month, she dearly misses you.
PS. Your work colleagues brought your clothes and work key back home last week. They said something about doing a clean out so I thought you might have to re-organize a locker or something.
With love Jenny
It appears patient 339 is still suffering from traumatic hallucinations. Please refrain from mentioning her deceased husband in conversation as this may further our current problems and hinder any chances of improvement.
by Daniel Aidulis
He saw her for the first time, hair of the faintest caramel lined with fibers that shone bright in the sun. Waves upon waves turned to the side to reveal the most delicate of features. Hazel eyes wide with the hints of a blush coloring her cheeks, glasses set perfectly upon an angled nose so symmetrical that her face could be split into identical yet stunning halves.
Thin lips lined her mouth with the softest of pink set wet by the slide of a soft and trembling tongue. Her chin was angled such that it brought all that he saw together so perfectly that he couldn’t help but think her some angel brought forth from the heavens. Beauty so perfect one could not imagine it to exist nor last for but mere moments before dissipating into the nothingness surrounding it.
Yet, he stood erect like a fool staring for moments on end unable to tear himself away from the image that held him, an invisible force held him with such force that he felt himself helpless. Slowly he felt his heartbeat grow, what was once a murmur became a faint thump which without warning grew into the pounding of war drums. He thought that all around him the sound could be heard not just restricted to his ears. An ember ignited within the simple pump, rising throughout his body and well beyond into his soul.
Transfixed he knew she was aware of his presence and his predicament. It was up to her to toy with him from afar, torment him more still. She held the key to the cage where his soul was trapped. Yet for some reason she herself felt flustered. His thoughtless demeanor and quivering self made her question herself.
“Is he my salvation or another lustrous liar?”
by Omar Azam
84. To the Right of Wrong
‘Where is my son?’ Her elbows on her knees, the apex of a knife balanced against the pad of her finger, she waited.
‘I don’t know…’
She twisted the hilt and let the cold edge of the blade catch the light.
‘Ha!’ he barked. ‘You think you scare me?
She shrugged. ‘You may fear me, you may not. It’s irrelevant… You should know I won’t hesitate to inflict on you the same nightmares you think nothing of inflicting on me. You know where he is and you will tell me. The length of your stay here is entirely within your control. Tell me, and you may leave’
‘There’s nothing you can do to make me speak truths I don’t know!’ There was a squeak of panic in his voice, a shiver of anxiety and an uncontrolled manic laugh born of terror.
‘Oh, I think there is… You are a liar and I have the key to your secrets. Perhaps endless waking hours? Or a slow burning fire beneath your feet to see how long it takes you to melt? Or perhaps I will cut the skin from you, inch by bleeding inch, then wait for it to grow anew, before pairing it back all over again?’
He blanched at that and she stood, drawing closer until he could do nothing but stare directly into her eyes. He would know there was no escaping what had been done.
‘I don’t know where he is!’ he insisted in a whisper, the chains rattling as his hands began to shake.
‘Then pray the gods see fit to tell you before the end.’
His eyes went wide and the knife found its purchase, but the agony of his scream was no comfort, despite the knowledge it was nothing more than he deserved.
by Alicia Wanstall-Burke
85. His Debt Repaid
The old man was still hanging from the ceiling by his ankles when Garth returned to the room. Blood was dripping from his mouth and his teeth were strewn across the piss-covered tiled floor beneath him. He had been left like this for hours, beaten and abandoned until his captor returned from where it was he had been sent. But he still had some energy left in him, enough to talk.
“Did you find her?” the old man grumbled, spitting more blood at the floor. He was hanging with his back turned to Garth, which was good. He couldn’t be seen crying. Not now. Not by him.
“Yes,” his captor replied greyly, “The ditch you put her in was so shallow I could smell the corpse. Any passing cop with a pair of eyes would have seen the marks you’d left in the ground. Unfortunately, I found you before they did.”
Garth walked up behind the old man and spun him around roughly, his face now level with Garth’s chest. The high roof of the abandoned slaughterhouse he had decided to use for his interrogation was perfect. His captive would have to strain his neck just to look Garth in the eye, and he was hanging from a height that, with his hands cuffed behind his back, if dropped would surely break his neck.
“Look, I told you where she was, we had an agreement! Give me the key for these damned cuffs!”
“What you did to my sister was wrong” Garth whispered, unblinking and stone-faced.
“Garth, please.” He begged softly.
“Here’s the key,” Garth said as he took it from his pocket, placing it squarely beneath the old man. “Reach for it and leave”. He turned and walked away.
The old man screamed as his son walked away.
by Tomos Rh. Hopkins
86. The Liar in the Cellar
“His axe scrapes against the wall,” said Werting peering up the cellar steps.
I heard nothing but my own pounding heart.
“Maybe I can talk to him,” I said.
Werting laughed. “What are you going to say? ‘Sorry, Longfinger, for bedding your only daughter.’ He’s going to kill you.”
Something slammed in the house above.
“Why’d you lead me down here?” I said. The dark, cramped cellar was crowded with barrels, bulging sacks, and chests – a forgotten storeroom for the war that never came.
Werting hobbled down the steps, one hand dragging against the wall to compensate for his crippled foot. “He’s coming.”
“She was the one with the greedy hands.”
“Liar,” hissed Werting. “Bella’s not like that. You ruined her.” His upper lip trembled.
I held back my hand. The boy thought he was an equal. Worse, in love with a girl above his station. When all this was over, I’d sink him in the river with a necklace of stones.
Glass shattered through the cellar door.
I drew my dueling sword, useless against Longfinger’s axe.
“We can hide you.” Werting pointed towards an open chest.
“You’re not going to lock me in there.”
“You keep the key. The chest can be opened from the inside. Listen. He’s coming.”
Werting smirked as he slammed the lid. The moment the locking mechanism clicked, the dark confines were too much. Better to face Longfinger than smothering walls. But my fingers found no keyhole.
After the cellar door banged shut, I kept screaming not because I believed he would return, but because anything was better than the pounding of my treacherous heart.
87. Relief in Cold Steel
The more Sabra struggled, the more did the stone scrape against her back. The chains tightened around her showed no sign of weakening. In the darkness of the cave, her screaming echoed mocking repetition. And the smell of decay clawed at her nostrils.
Sabra laid in that darkness an eternity, which was only broken when an orange light flickered, first far away, then closer, too blinding for her unnacustomed eyes.
Hooded shapes came in. Sabra was too weak to rejoice.
“What is the meaning of this?” a voice asked. “You brought us down here to see a young girl being tortured?”
“Patience, Lord Gurkta,” answered a familiar voice. “You stand before the key to a new age.”
More shapes came into the cave, each bearing its own torch. As Sabra’s blindness receded, the source of the noxious smell became evident; all around her were dozens of half-decomposed bodies. And in her shock, Sabra turned to the shape with the familiar voice, who had pushed back his hood, and recognised a face.
“Shar’saye…” Sabra muttered.
“Rest, child. You will soon be free.”
“Liar…” Sabra said. “You did all this.” Every word was a struggle. “You killed him. You killed my father.”
Shar’saye turned to the crowd. “When the first Houri was made, magic disappeared from Rilmaaqah.” He pointed to Sabra. “My Lords and Ladies, I present to you the last Houri. When she dies, we shall be unburdened once more.”
The once silent cave became filled with shouts, unbelief, and demands of proof.
“I have waited too long for this,” Shar’saye said, turning back to Sabra. “Forgive me for the lack of proper ceremony.”
The cold steel piercing her chest brought relief like Sabra had never felt. She was spared a world where stone bent to humanity’s ambition.
by William G. Saraband
88. Shadows and Mist
The haunted shores of Vanalior were long rumored to harbor much more than ghosts. Since time immemorial, high-pitched wails and screams drifted across the black lake, plaguing the dreams of its nearest neighbors. And every now and then, peculiar artifacts would wash up on the beach; artifacts that many people swore were carved from human bones.
Parents did what they could to discourage their children from sneaking off and trying to reach the mist-shrouded isle. But many of them were unable to resist the mystery, and tried anyway.
Whoever claimed to have set foot upon the isle, however, was immediately exposed as a liar. Even if they’d managed to catch a glimpse of the elusive isle, eventually everyone got lost in the mist and would have no choice but to return home.
As far as anyone knew, only one among them had ever really been on the island, and returned. And when she came back, exactly a year and a day later, she was but a shell of the person she’d once been.
Her hair had turned completely white, the light in her eyes had been extinguished, and she no longer talked. The only thing they had been able to learn from her, was that, according to her gestures, someone had ripped out her heart.
As the people wondered what to do with the girl, she merely sat by the water, gazing into the mist. Inside, she remembered how she had, in the absence of love and hope, eventually given birth to shadows. And that they still crouched there, in the far corners of her shattered mind, and waited.
She knew that but for the shadows, she was empty. She was a lock waiting for a key; ready to unleash whatever it was that still lurked inside of her.
89. Outside the Gate
“Splitting the…the symbol,” Ulli said, tracing the skysign in the fog-souped air. Nothing happened; the light that flashed around her hand was only the phosphors trailing in the wake of her fingers.
Magda watched her, despair pooling thick as tar in her stomach. Don’t talk, Ulli, she thought. They follow the movements of your tongue.
Ulli murmured something and tried to make the sign again. This time it was only an approximation, lined in sparks, as soft-edged and hazy as the grey-back landscape in which they lay. Magda’s sight was growing dimmer. The steel-and-stone key that pierced Ulli’s palm made her hand look monstrous, multiplanar.
“Spitting the cymbal,” Ulli slurred, louder, and shook her head. Her skin flared yellow-green with the movement, phosphors already burrowing in her veins.
Suddenly, Ulli wrenched herself to a seated position, yanked the key from her hand. Magda saw the blood hang suspended in the air.
No, Magda thought, horrified. They’ll –
The phosphors poured into the dripping wound, sparking brighter, lighting Ulli from within, turning her skin transparent. Bone snapped as Ulli was bent back, nearly in half, one arm pressed against her leg, the other arm and other leg reaching up – the skysign.
Sunlight lanced through the fog, spilling from a point in the air above Magda, enveloping her in warmth. The gate had opened. But when Magda looked towards her left, she saw that Ulli had moved further from her, further from the circle of light.
“Ulli, you liar!” Magda cried in desperation as their world reached through the mist to take her back. But Ulli could not hear, was writhing with wild light, dancing with it.
The gate closed, and Magda was left on the Institute’s cold floor, with a twisting, clawing feeling that she would see Ulli again.
90. Black Dog
Old age and treachery, he snarled as he laboured up the slope. The old age was the burden of his years; the traitor was his own body, which too often was no longer an agent of his will.
In the dawn mist, his breath coalesced into gelid phantoms before his face. They trailed icy fingers across his cheeks as he brushed them aside. They whispered of futility and death, and yet he continued to strive. His legs pistoned against the earth, even as his chest tightened and his breath rattled and rasped. Viscous streamers of froth whipped from the corners of his mouth like tattered banners of defeat.
He’d spent his whole life on the run, the black dog ever in pursuit, seeking exhilaration in endurance, seeking oblivion in exhaustion, using his pain to control his pain. There had been brief periods of respite, even of elation, when he thought he might have slipped the hound, but somehow it always recovered his scent, and the chase was on again.
Once he’d pursued a bright golden key. It lured him, taunted and teased him, and always withdrew from his reach, to leave him grasping only at despair. Now he no longer searched, he only survived. There was no longer towards, there was only away.
The attrition of the years makes liars of us all, our hopes, our illusions abraded and denuded, the palaces of our dreams reduced to rubble and silt.
Flee as he might, the black dog drew ever closer. Perhaps he only imagined he heard the pounding of its paws on the dirt behind him, but soon, he knew, its hot breath on the back of his neck would be the last warmth he would know.
by A. Lewis
91. Resolve in Barren Times
I need a liar and a key in my quest for white gold. They are neither one nor the same. Although they know these barren times better than I, nothing matches their brutality quite like my resolve.
The liar crumbles the surety of those we pass and slithers through the very hearts of the naive. The key is more honest, more righteous, and bold, pleasantly willing to provide the knowledge I seek. From the curves of the land to the swing of a sword, I no longer fear the road, even make reapers of these bony excuses for arms.
Soon enough, the eye of hibernation creaks open over great spines of snow. Our quest is nearing its end. The liar is the diversion and the key is the secret. Retrieving sacks upon sacks of white gold turns out to be our simple feat. But as we stare down the bare neck of the mountain we so expertly thieved, the liar says something I cannot ignore.
“Why settle with my third, when a whole is within reach?”
I feared this from the start. It is in this moment I decide to show them how a liar and a key can truly be one. I take the key’s sword and show the liar how few mere bones my arms hold now. Pity the key is too good for his own good. I don’t want to cut him, too.
As the crimson waters fall, I eagerly find shelter from their barrenness. I don’t care much for what I have done. I care only about the silence, and the way I can now tip the white gold into the mouth of my infant dearest.
by Louisa Marija I. Aricheta
I am Rupert, the strongest fighter in this world and beyond. My sword cuts through anyone that stands against me. It goes through flesh and bone like a fart moving through a crowded hallway – slowly but deadly. I defeated three dragons with my blade, one with my bare teeth and the last one fell struck by my sharp mind as I convinced it to stop breathing. I faced countless armies,climbed the highest mountains, made love to the ugliest beasts and ate enough foreign food for twenty lifetimes.
So bring me your rewards! Bring me the key to your city! Bring all your gold, jewels and even your valuable books! Bring it now or I will destroy you all in an instant!
P.S. I am also a liar, my name is not Rupert and at the moment I am talking to myself in front of the mirror. Looked kind of cool.
93. My Father’s Box
I hung my father’s key around my neck. It fell heavy against my chest, its brass cold against my goose-pimpled skin. I closed my eyes and let it sit. With its weight there, I could not forget him.
I sighed and moved over to his desk, stroking my hand against its fine grains of oak and bands of bronze. Light from the nearby window gave it a glare you could make out from sixty floors down, out on the street. I chuckled. It seemed remarkably like my father to stand out so.
The wooden box was the only thing left atop the desk. All papers had long since been filed away, all personal assets reclaimed, all company-owned items given to the next day. I bit my lip. Life goes on, until it doesn’t.
The key around my neck itched to connect with the box. I refused its call. It wasn’t meant for me. It was meant for my mother. For her I had a ring around my finger, hers since she had been sixteen. My sister had her box. They had never thought they would leave together. After twelve years of divorce that was no surprise. Yet they had meant these boxes for each other.
I wondered if Claire would open the other box. She blamed herself, for they were visiting her together, and if she reacted anything like she did during the divorce… I shook my head and scooped up the box to put away and it rattled. I froze.
Another key? My heart beat faster. I grabbed my key, and let go of it like it was aflame. Liar, I thought with a smile, realising my mistake. It wasn’t meant for me. It was meant for her.
by Edward Strickson
94. Entropy Engine
Volker Alfieri stood before the medical equipment, back to the chained virosorcerers and recalled the syringe. Then the wailing, discovering the skin plastered to the crib with the baby’s blood and the reptilian scales. Sweating and shaking with the memories: doping the child to suppress the tantrums, the break…it began with the fucking virosorcerers’ syringe, Volker thought.
“It’s genetic, Key“, the prisoners projected. “You’re lying to yourself.”
“Shut up.” Volker said.
“It’s the truth,” the prisoner replied.
He left the outpost for the seaside mansion. Nausea hit at the sight of the Tzhel vulture-lizards vivisecting virosorcerers for presentation to the Fireblood Node. The reptiles were as uncaring as the virosorcerers’ needles. Volker found the dragon in the mansion’s nursery. Flamahri held a crystalline virus in its claw. Red radiance illuminated corpses. “My entropy engine awaits its Key.”
“The solutions are too callous. I won’t further an industry of inhumanity.”
“A curious definition of humanity.” Flamahri‘s virus attacked Volker, ignited, unleashing reptiles whose venom burned Volker’s ethics with his endocrine system. He glimpsed an igneous-hide ifrit reflected in the dragon’s eye. “You are branded to the gene as my Key to an entropy engine of Vashadra, Primevals and the Exotherm.”
The ifrit offered the Tzhel and virosorcerers to the Fireblood Nodes for activation. Appeals to logic went unheard. The activated released emberspores triggering cellular combustion in the vectors and victims. They had become healers with no mind for their patients’ protests as their cells burst into flame.
The ifrit burned laboratories, medicinal libraries and journals. “Virosorcerers’ pseudoscience is the liar. I am no one’s key.” Its Tzhel and virosorcerers killed Flamahri. Tzhel presented the dragon to the Node. Flamahri’s ignitermind seized control, initiating Bzhel activation and differentiation.
Flamahri’s Ignited Tzhel hunted Key while the phase-shifting reptilian Bzhel pursued the Exotherm.
by Randy Johnston
95. The Key
They say our whole life flashes during our last moments, but all I saw was darkness, while the liar’s words repeatedly played in my mind, ‘this potion will make the giant sleep for a week,’.
The potion had failed us, the giant woke up as soon as we pried out the key stuck in-between his teeth and realized the food in his mouth, us.
Soon the screams began, blood splattered, and bones cracked, while I helplessly witnessed the Giant devour my entire party. I hid under the tongue as he munched on their bones. I swam in a soup of blood inside the Giant’s mouth, moving along the waves and that’s when I saw the red blob of flesh dangling at the back of his throat.
“I am sorry, Vic,” I apologized to my brethren as the giant gnawed on his ribs, I used his arm to pull myself up.
I pocketed the key, climbed on the giant’s rotting tooth, his dripping saliva burnt my skin as I reached for the dangling hope.
All of a sudden, I was being hurled out against the battering winds. I landed atop a tree, breaking branches and bones. I lay there dazed, watching the blue sky. The giant sneezed once again and resumed enjoying his treat.
I raised the key against the sky, such a small thing yet priceless. It opened our village stash, the only food source during famines. The giant had mistakenly eaten it. We tracked him for days and found him. We chanced upon a tinker, the liar, who sold us the potion and demanded everything we had on us. My desperation had cost us three lives.
I got down the tree, washed off the blood, and started to my starving village, a lone survivor.
by HR Krishna
96. The False King
The words that passed his lips were meant for no one, yet in the silence of that ancient stone chamber, they echoed with all the intensity of a raging storm; curses born of betrayal. His face still pained with disbelief, the fallen king managed to reach for the golden dagger protruding from his chest. He withdrew it just in time to watch the blood pour out from his wound. His heartbeat slowed momentarily, then stopped… carrying with it every hope and dream the man once knew.
A fresh set of eyes examined the king’s lifeless form as it lay on the throne room floor. The boy standing before him bent down beside the man’s corpse to remove a golden chain he wore around his neck. The key it held was ornate and finely worked metal, something which he had coveted for far too long – something he was willing to kill for. Frantically, he began to search for the locking mechanism behind the royal throne. It was perhaps the longest moment of his entire life. Still, his feet moved swiftly and he held his breath with anticipation, for he knew that the royal guards would be arriving shortly, and they would seek to charge him with the crime of regicide.
With great haste, he opened up the hidden compartment to reveal that which he desired most: a sword stolen from his true father on the very day that this false king had slain his entire family. That he alone should be spared was both a kindness and an unspeakable cruelty. Ironically, it also turned out to be the liar‘s own undoing. Now, as the prince kneeled down to withdraw the brilliantly tempered steel from its sheath, he knew that the circle was at last complete. The true heir had returned.
by Tyler Rogers
97. The Oracle
The cave mouth opened 100 feet up, carved out of the cliff by the village generations ago. The wooden stairs had replaced the original ladder after the last pilgrimage to the Liar Oracle ended with three people broken on the rocks below.
Jamaal joined this year’s pilgrimage and set up camp with fifty others in tents at the base of the steps. The smoky, sputtering campfires illuminated the faces of his group as they ate and re-told the success stories of previous pilgrims. Building optimistic hope before the morning’s climb. Jamaal held a small brass key in his left hand close to his chest and prayed for a miracle.
The damp morning was full of wood smoke and the smell of cook fires. Jamaal’s stomach protested as he fasted in preparation for the pilgrimage. It was certainly only a coincidence he could not afford to bring provisions.
After packing up camp, he tied his hair up away from his face and began the climb. As one of the youngest of the group he arrived first and entered the cave where he saw, at the back and lit by a dozen candles, a small woman chained to the wall. Her grey hair covered her face.
“What do you want?”
“Freedom from the liege lord. I am weak and cannot fight.” Said Jamaal. He touched the scars on his face.
“And what do you offer.”
“This key.” He opened his hand.
“Come closer, my sight is failing.” As he did so, she swung a large stick at his head and he slumped to the ground. She dragged him by his hair and took the key from his hand.
Jamaal sat up and groaned. A large group of people sat in front of him in silence.
“What do you want?” he said.
98. Too Much/Not Enough
Every heartbeat travels throughout my body; a metronome for my end. I think water is seeping into my pores, traveling to my lungs. Pressure. My eyes burn.
The woman’s words linger in my salty grave. “As you can see, Adjarian, the cozy glass case I have placed Galaetas in is quickly filling with seawater.” She pointed at the axe hanging some ten or twelve feet up the wall. “In order to save him, you’ll need Trellin here—oh, I’m sorry! I have forgotten to introduce you two…where are my manners? Adjarian, meet Trellin; the most gentlemanly giant I have had the pleasure—”
“What do you want me to do?!” Adjarian shouted.
“Yes, yes. In order for Trellin to kindly hand you that axe, you’ll need to solve my code.” She tore the black curtain from the wall near the axe, revealing a jumble of code written in large letters.
He’s no good with them.
“Oh, would you look at that his head’s gone under,” she said.
Somehow, Adjarian figured out the key. So far: ‘NOTF’.
Remaining still is too much.
I solve the cipher moments before Adjarian.
I am going to die.
Adjarian shouts the solution. With no urgency, Trellin hands him the axe.
He turns, running.
He swings. The axe glances off the glass.
A spider’s web of cracks grows. A small stream of water escapes from a larger crack near my feet. Not enough.
He brings the axe back to swing again.
His tensed muscles relax. He has been repeating it since he solved it.
Realization dawns on Adjarian’s face. The axe, still poised for salvation.
I can’t laugh that my tears, in their own small way, are killing me.
He’ll swing again.
Adjarian, eyes searching in disbelief and horror and pain, muscles tense.
by Chase Giants
99. Truth Is A Chimera
Within all men there resides a liar,
In all things dwell shards of cunning subterfuge
Hope is often naught but an illusion,
All joy a cruel mirage, a wakeful daydream.
Time– it stalls, it stops and starts,
Helter-skelter as a broken heart,
Passes with speed through all your glee
Then it stops cold as you ought to flee.
Sometimes breathing is a downright labor,
Just to catch it I must scream.
Sunlight burns bright but it makes no promises.
Kindness– it’s free but conceit still flourishes.
Is nirvana mere delusive madness?
Can we have paradise without perdition?
Life it sways to its own song–
Bang out the beat your life plods to,
Strum all the chords that sound your anguish.
It may not be sweet but it’s a melody that’s true.
Memory– it cares not an ounce for your pain.
There’s not shelter from this rain.
Stars may shimmer but behind is darkness.
Both eyes wide open but remain so vision-less.
Plant a garden full of four-leaf clovers
To find them strangled by a field of weeds.
Breathing but not living, numbing but not soothing,
Calm while inside you seethe;
Lips see how they’re smiling as the eyes they’re tearing,
Weary though just standing still.
Water slakes thirst but its waves can drown you,
A fire it warms skin right before it scorches,
Wind it cools you, walk the earth that grounds you,
Believe that angels fly but hark the demons.
One key it redeems, another shackles.
Roll the dice, unlock your fate.
by The Happy Poet
100. Liar’s Drawer
“You’re not even listening.”
“Of course I am.” Lars jerked his hand away from the neck of his shirt where he’d been playing with the key again. “You want to see Marcy for dinner.”
“No I want to have lunch with Megan.” Vickie gave a loud sigh. “I swear it’s like being married to a fence post. What are you thinking about anyway?”
“Nothing.” Lars tried to think back over the past few minutes. “Did you want me to come to lunch?”
“You’re impossible.” She crossed her arms. “It’s a girls lunch.”
“Sounds like fun.” Lars breathed an internal sigh of relief.
“Are you alright?” Vickie suddenly had a worried expression. “You’re scratching your chest again. Is it that heat rash?”
Lars froze, realizing he’d been touching the key through his shirt again. “Just an itch.” He forced his hand down to his side, away from the key on his necklace. He needed to be careful or she was going to start asking questions.
” – liar,” Vickie’s voice suddenly cut into his thoughts.
“Who’s a liar?” Lars asked, interrupting whatever else she was saying.
“You said someone was a liar.” Lars tried to keep his face unreadable.
“I said I think the air in the tires is getting low.” Vickie was glaring now.
“Oh, of course,” Lars said.
“So you’ll check the air in the tires?” Vickie asked.
“Of course, I just need to grab something upstairs first.”
She nodded and he almost sprinted up the stairs. In his office he dropped to his knees and pulled the key from his necklace. With a quick twist he unlocked his lowest desk drawer and slid it open, revealing all of his magazines. He smiled and reached for the one on top.
by Eric Fritz
101. The Lady Lovebang
His leather jacket cries from the rain as he shuts the door. He places a lone key on the table and I don’t say a word, just get up and walk slowly. A slow walk does half the work. More than half, if you’re lucky.
He takes off his jacket and piss-whiskey smacks my face with its bitter scent. Some men need it. I figure out his shirt with my hands—two per button—and he grabs my waist with his. He looks like a neck guy, so I kiss his neck—Tennessee Honey, salted with sweat. I’m always right with the whiskey. We fall.
Pants and panties land in a tangled mess by the bed. I thought I saw a pistol, but the penetration blinds me. Definitely a pistol, but now he pulls the trigger.
Each shot blows my mind out the back of my heart, shattered glass splashed on brick walls. I never want to scream, I just do it for the money. But this time—this time is different. It takes me everything I have not to shout in his fucking face. Run you asshole! Get the hell out of dodge! But silence is all we have, aside from the heavy breathing. The least I can do is make him breathe.
I do that thing my father taught me and it turns him to a smile. He doesn’t even hear the spare key twist the lock.
“I told you you shouldn’t come.” He shudders and holds me tighter. “I told you I never lie.”
His grin disappears as they bust through the door. His pistol is too far away.
by Kenneth David Wade II
102. The Key
As the man pushed aside the curtain, his rushed steps brought him to a short corridor, a hazy glow suffusing the room’s statues that lined the walls. The statues ended at a door, words carved in a forgotten language causing the man to shake his head in pain when focusing on them. In front of the door stood something in the rough shape of a man, shrouded in a cloak, the only thing visible a devilish grin.
The man’s first step was greeted with a whisper.
“Do you have the key?”
The man coughed softly into his fist, opening it slightly to see the bent, blackened key in his hand. “I have ‘a’ key.”
“Bring it to me.”
The man walked slowly, his eyes flitting about the room, the statues staring at him, unmoving. He stopped shy of the shrouded being.
“Your brother came to me with a key. He claimed to only speak the truth….and he told me of you, the brother who only lies. He claimed he had the key. He did not. You also bring a key. Tell me… are you the lying brother, or are you the one of truth?”
“I am surely one of those, but you…you are the liar.”
The devilish grin opened even further. “Clever. In not answering my question, you hold your secret as to what brother you are. Well done.”
The thing’s teeth were upon the writer’s arm in a heartbeat, grinding into his flesh, turning it to stone. A moment later it stopped, regained its smile, blood dripping from its teeth as it whispered again.
“Unfortunately, I am not the liar. I AM the Key. my teeth open you to my presence, unlocking your darkest secrets. All truth is already mine….and now, so are all lies….”
by Jason M
103. Dog of creation
I am not a liar– if you know me, and believe what I’ve told you in the past, then trust me when I say that very rarely I will I bend the truth. When I say sadism is a virtue, and honesty a vague dream of the opium eater, you better go grab a headless corpse and fuck it. If said corpse still is retaining its head, or, indeed, still flopping, then lucky you! You get to start a project and see it through to its completion. Now that’s what being a responsible god fucking (sorry, meant fearing!) bastard is all about. Jesu be praised. Let the builders’ suns flare! The blackness must be fought, and what better way than burning everyone’s fucking eyelids off?
The key to perfection, or as I like to call it, “being like me”, is simple. Follow the simple rules god put forth and which no longer are even known. Well, except for me. Write your own ten commandments and then, in order, break them all. God must forgive even me, a necrophiliac paedophile, so you know you’ll be OK. Thank you for your time, oh esteemed ones, and thank you for my pathetic life, oh Old Ones. Put on the wolf’s head and go find a fucking sheep.
by Joseph Vanucchi
“Damnation!” shouted Thertin, shaking bile and viscera from his fingers. “I’m telling you,” continued Thertin, “it’s not here. I’ve been searching through his guts for an hour now.”
“Then you’ll look for another hour,” I said, “we’re going to search through every inch of him, and if it turns out that it has left his possession, so to speak, then we’ll empty his chamber pot too.”
“Why don’t you dig around his guts for a while?” he asked.
“Because I was the one who stole the jewels,” I replied, “and you are the fool who got greedy and tried to cheat us all. You were to keep the box safe, not try to pry it open, and if you hadn’t threatened Greeger he wouldn’t have swallowed the damn Key. Now dig.” The dawn was peaking over the hills by the time I heard Thertin give a whoop of triumph, clutching the shit-stained key in his hand, grinning like the idiot he was. I stood up from my seat on the box.
“Open it.” I said. Thertin hurriedly scrambled over, fumbling the key in the lock. The look on his face was almost priceless when he looked inside.
“Wha- it’s empty!” he said.
“Not for long,” I replied. He continued to stare dumbly at the box as my sword severed his head, falling in the box. I deposited Greeger’s head there too. Sadly the thieves had already sold most of the jewels, I’d report, but I was able to recover the princesses necklace. The jewels would keep me fed a few years, but the knighthood for the thieves heads and the necklace? That would keep me set for life. I make no pretensions as to being the better man, but I do pride myself on being the better liar.
by Gareth McAlpin
105. Happily ever after
‘The key to unlocking the heart of a princess and opening her lips to a true love’s kiss lies in slaying her evil foe in a moment of her greatest despair’, advised old Gregor, the court magician.
Prince Robert thought of his words as he started to relax his clean-shaven, carefully balmed face into an easy smile and took off his helm. The promise of the most powerful magic money could buy was duly delivered as the glimmering light ball soared into the air, meeting the approaching dragon high above, forcing it into a heavy sleep as the distance was rapidly eaten away by its hungry flight. It couldn’t have been as hungry as those peasants were who paid the price, though. Those idiots met their death a lot quicker.
The prince glanced back at the tower trying to glimpse his lady, screaming for help in the window just a minute ago, lifted his sword and advanced on the unconsciously lying magnificent beast. Every step took him closer to the dream he’d been cradling for this past year or so and he fancied he could already taste the victory in his mouth. Thus when the arrowhead punched through his throat, mixing the flavour with the salty tang of mortality, his eyes widened in disbelief.
He slowly fell to his knees, as the princess ran past him.
‘Gregor, you liar!’ he thought bitterly, watching the fair maiden throwing the crossbow aside and lovingly cradling the monster’s neck, covering the rough scales in gentle kisses. He hated all of them in that moment, as his life and dreams slipped away in ragged breaths from him, but most of all he despised the conspiring magician and his false words. The words whose truth remained constant even as their meaning changed in his eyes.
Mitriel Faywood, non-competing entry