The important moments in life are as fleeting as cherry blossom. Love and family are just as ephemeral.
In Cherry Blossom, Ambrose discovers that his quest for immortality brought him more than he bargained for. Can he find a way out of his prison of solitude? In But For Snow, Tundra has finally found the wolf that’s been missing from her magical dreams of snow. Now she has to learn what it really means to love something. In contrast, Guiro in Alone must find a way to say goodbye to those he loves before his soulbond kills him and his family.
When Abbi the Labrador learns that the vet can’t cure her best friend, the rabbit Zac, she’s horrified. But that’s nothing to what she feels when he reveals to her that she will be the one to end his life, in A Final Request For Mercy. In The Day The Dog First Called, Natalia is the only one who can see the cobwebs plain as day, festooning her house, encroaching on her mind. No one else will believe they are there – until the dog comes to call. And in Jellybeans, a woman learns that sometimes even a jar of jellybeans can reveal deep truths about your relationship.
A collection of literary fantasy stories – contemporary themes laced with magic. And of course, a couple of canines.
Ambrose sits alone in utter darkness, no one but fear for company as he prepares for the culmination of his ambitions. It’s been years since he felt fear; it’s been years since he felt anything. That was one of the demands of the quest: let nothing distract him from his single-mindedness, not love, not hatred, not regret, not fear. So in a way, it’s nice to feel again, even if it does set his teeth on edge and send his pulse racing.
There’s no reason for the fear, of course. He knows the potion will work. Years of research and millions of dollars have ensured that. But the moisture that should coat his tongue and throat still slicks his palms and forehead instead. Ambrose scrubs his hands on his bare thighs; his grip must be firm, sure. The timing of this experiment is so crucial to its success; the merest half-millisecond hesitation caused by a slip of the knife would be disastrous—and he doesn’t want to die.
Which is entirely the point, really. He sits here, naked and alone, in the dark of night in a house nobody wanted on a rug nobody loved, because he is about to reach the pinnacle of his ambitions, and finally, at last, escape the clutches of death forever. Shame he has to die to do it.
Ambrose takes a deep breath and feels for the knife to his right and the stone goblet to his left. Careful not to spill the precious liquid, he raises the goblet to his lips, fingers wrapped around stone so smooth it feels wet. Or is that sweat again? In his other hand he clutches the knife, simple wooden hilt roughing his skin, and presses the blade to his throat. It’s cold and somehow it tickles.
Fear leaps in his stomach but he catches it, moulds it, hones it until it’s as sharp as the blade and is just another weapon at his disposal. He tilts the goblet until the liquid meets his lips, presses the blade into his skin until he feels the sting of blood. This is it, the moment when he will end his life and begin it, the moment when he will grasp his immortality. On the silent count of three, he draws the knife across his throat and swallows down the potion.
Hot fire grips him, and whether from the wound or liquid, he can’t tell, and it doesn’t matter, because the pain sears down into his belly and he can’t breathe, can’t scream, and his heart stutters. He’s dying. His muscles cramp, arching his spine until he knows his bones must shatter from the strain, and it burns, flames under his skin that light him up like a candle.
The fear bursts from his grip and floods through him on a tide of adrenalin. Everything’s done, everything’s over, and it was all for nothing, and the only thing he can think of is Lena’s eyes and a spray of cherry blossom in the moonlight. In despair that overwhelms even the pain, he passes out.