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Harpies Call

Eric Witchey has sold stories under several names and in 12 genres. His tales have been translated into multiple languages, and his credits include over 160 stories, including 5 novels and two collections. His work has received recognition from New Century Writers, Writers of the Future, Writer's Digest, Independent Publisher Book Awards, International Book Awards, The Eric Hoffer Prose Award Program, Short Story America, the Irish Aeon Awards, and other organizations. His How-to articles have appeared in The Writer Magazine, Writer's Digest Magazine, and other print and online magazines.

His soft and doughy wit disturbed not the silent and still pond of Millicent's hard-won peace. She would not, could not, lose her own heart to such fools as he. Razor-sharp retorts served no purpose save raising rage to sword and claw, and from that naught but tears would come. Still, annoyance put her hard to the mood to give him more than the golden glow of her face. She cooed and crooned to calm him before whispering thick as honey, her quiet spell.
Turning in the dim light of her salt-laden lantern to soften her complexion, bring light to her dark eyes, and enhance her heart-shaped face, she said, "Upon a night such as this, Sirrah, had I my moment of weakness. Into the prince's arms I fell, and thus bestowed I shame to soul, family, and lair."
All her life had given her the heart and mind of the moment, and all her hopes and hungers brought these honeyed words to her lips. Leaning nearer that he might know the delicate perfume she had taken to nape, ear, and hair, she went on while willing sorrow to her eyes. "Abandoned thus and left fallen in my village home, what choice had I but to flee to mountain caves and the bosom of others such as me?"
His eyes widened in the gloom, and upon a stone laid he helmet, sword, and mail.
"Come then," good Sirrah, "close by the light and nearer me to see what manner of man brings sword and will into my home."
As she had hoped, nearer leaned he and reached for cheek and wayward strands.
As she had done a thousand times, she drew him in and placed lips to neck, and drew from him his life and will until he fell from her arms, an empty husk, to join the armor, bones, and dust at his feet.
Filled and flush with triumph, she raised her cry of joy, a siren's song, a night thing's call to sisters hidden in high caverns.
From a dozen caves such as hers, the call returned in kind. All and each among her sisters, set voice to wind in harmony of love's embrace and fallen foes.
Across the dark valleys and distant hills, the cry rolled forth until, far from their lairs, two souls picked up the song by ear--one in fear and one in hope.
Fear faced is a hero's lot, and a knight of strength and heart turn horse's head toward distant caverns from whence the harpy's song had come.
Hope faced is love found, and from a distant grotto among the thickness of ancient forests, he crawled forth, spread wings, and returned the call of future's promise. To wing, to wind, and to love, he flew.
In caverns dark and stained by passions won and lost, steel contested claw. Battled there, for prizes known and not, steel, fang, and claw, until in triumph one met her gaze alone.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 20th, 2022

Author Comments

Like most humans, I'm a beneficiary of, a willing participant in, and a victim of love. The Love's Call stories began as a speed writing warmups based on randomly selected prompts. One of the prompts was the question, "What does romantic longing and love feel like for mythic creatures?" Composition took place, as it often does, in a fever of sublime madness. Revision, a cognitively complex process and the hardest part of writing flash fiction for me, turned the first drafts into stories by exploiting details to imply character lives that extend into a greater world than actually appears in the text so that the reader can bring those lives into focus in a single thematically resonant moment of change.

- Eric Witchey
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