Cruel (Short Story)
Dystopian | New Adult
The day every child on Earth disappeared, Aveline and her family were thrown into a hellish existence that the world should've seen coming. The adult population was never given a choice: most men were possessed by the demon spirits of Cruels with women becoming their prisoners. Now Aveline's mother is sick with fever, her older sister's gone missing, and she has to sneak into the Cruel-infested city of Yearn to try and save them. When she catches the eye of a sadistic and reckless Cruel leader however, Aveline must use every ounce of strength and wit she has to escape his brutality, ultimately being faced with the toughest question of all: how far is she willing to go for humanity, even if it means dying to see it restored?
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Teaser from Cruel:
It’s been two years since the Regime took over, turning this country into something unrecognizable. I’m almost certain my sister was captured last week.
“I still don’t like that you’re going alone,” Tarrant says as we stand over my mother. I squeeze the rag and dribble cool water on her face; my mom bats it away.
“You wouldn’t be doing me any favors by coming and you know that,” I say, looking over at him. Beams of light stream down into the tornado shelter, illuminating dust particles and his strained expression.
I lean down and murmur a quick goodbye into my mother’s hair, but she’s too delirious at this point to hear me. I hand the rag to Tarrant and grab my tiny backpack from the ground. Nodding to the others, I climb the steps out of the shelter as he follows me.
“Wait a second,” Tarrant says, following me through the trees. I ignore him, swallowing hard. He finally grabs my arm.
“Have you thought about my proposal?”
“I don’t have a lot of time right now—you said so yourself—and the sun is setting already,” I give as my answer.
“But I need to know,” Tarrant continues. I finally look at him, the man I’ve fallen for against my better judgment, and let him embrace me.
“Yes, all right? My answer would’ve been yes, if things were different,” I murmur into his shoulder, wetting the fabric with tears. “But marriage these days is absurd, assuming I even make it back tonight—”
“Don’t you say that,” he says. “You are coming back, and when you do, I want you to be my wife.”
“Why? So we can suffer that much more if I’m taken as one of their slaves? Or you’re found and tortured long enough to give up my whereabouts? It’s dangerous to even consider it.”
“Those monsters took our homes, our families, our goddamned bodies for themselves. You’re going to let them take away the decision to love each other too?”
“They haven’t taken that away,” I say, as quiet as the rustling leaves overhead.
Tarrant breathes hard and cups my face in his calloused hands, leaning down to kiss me. His lips are familiar and soft, and a sob wells in my chest at the thought I’ll never feel this again.
“I have to go,” I say as I push him away gently. Tarrant stares at me, still clinging to my hands. It must be difficult for him to let me go into the Cruel city of Yearn without his protection, but he’s an escaped prisoner and therefore a target.
“I’ll see you soon,” he says with vehemence. “I love you.” I don’t respond, the words sticking in my throat. I turn and run.
Fun Fact about Cruel:
In my short story "Cruel" as well as my other works, I want to explore the dark sides of things. Having a background in psychology and spending some time working with mentally ill individuals has shown me the horrors that many people have experienced, and continue to on a daily basis.
I feel that it is important to address and bring light to those issues, even in an entertaining setting such as a book with fantasy elements. Thus, I infuse the issues of abuse, power struggles, spiritual warfare, and other subject matter in my work. My utmost goal is to write an entertaining, enthralling book, but it is many times going to carry those deep issues beneath the surface.
About Ashley R. Carlson:
Ashley is a fantasy author, freelance editor, editorial intern for Midnight Publishing, and editorial contributor for Arizona Foothills Magazine.
She is currently working on a steampunk fantasy novel series and plans to release Book One in Fall 2014.
Ashley grew up and currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona (or the "bowels of Hell" as she affectionately refers to it during the summer months). She dreams of the greenery and water of the Pacific Northwest and plans to move there some day.
Ashley is the proud mother of three animals-a neurotic German shepherd that follows Ashley everywhere she goes, a serene mutt from Mexico, and a cat that gives new meaning to the word "bitchy."
Ashley enjoys Yelping for local restaurants, fostering kittens from nearby shelters, and watching the Real Housewives of...anywhere.
Find Ashley on Twitter (@AshleyRCarlson1), Google+, or check out Ashley's blog at www.ashleyrcarlson.com for updates on her book, thoughts on writing, and thoughts on life! (And she doesn't mean Tinder, or online dating, or dating in general...no. None of that.)
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