From the Mind of Master Imaginationist Crystal Connor ~"A Trusted Name in Terror."

The Darkness, Artificial Light, In The Valley of Shadows

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My work had been reviewed and judged and...

The Ruins has earned a runner up placement in Crypticon Seattle's 2010 writing contest!

Whoo Hoo!

I feel really good about this placement because this is what I wanted. I'm not going to lie to you and say I didn't want to win, of course I did, that's why people enter contest in the 1st place, but the recognition of a placement feels just as good.

Here is The Ruins for you to enjoyment. The Ruins will also be included in my short story collect "...And They All Lived Happily Ever After."


It sounded like a cannon. Not like the whisper of 16th century artillery, its ear-piercing scream was like the roar of the Mark 7 16inch guns blasted from the bowels of an Iowan class battleship. The recoil from the .50 caliber was so powerful that the 2nd shot propelled me a full foot and a half, and I hit so hard against the wall I was afraid I was going to black out. I remained standing and snarled victoriously at my archenemy lying at my feet.

I saw my husband but couldn’t hear him, as I was still temporarily deaf. He quickly glanced me over from head to foot, at the gun in my hand and then at the floor. He looked at me slowly this time checking to see if I had been hurt. I watched him halt the men from entering into our bath suite, his guards were only a fraction of a second slower than my husband in coming to my aid. He assured them that everything was ok before he closed the door. The sound was coming back to my ears, but for now all I could hear was ringing.

“I’m tired of these wild accusations.” I screamed that declaration I know that I did because I felt it in my chest but my hearing still betrayed me. Fahyim looked down at the scale, which was now in a thousand smoldering pieces and smiled.

“That brutal instrument is the creation of the Devil.” I heard myself that time but I sounded far away.

Nothing said I love you more than the way my husband looked at me now. He told me all the time in all seven languages that he spoke how much he loved me, but it was this look that hammered it home.

I meet him in France. On our 1st date he flew me to have lunch in a city with a stunning view of the Arabian Sea, he proposed in Germany and now we spent six months living in the US and six months in Iran. I married into a very affluent and powerful family; in antiquity his would have been a royal one.

I had been engaged in trench warfare with that damn scale since the birth of our twins two years ago and I was losing ground with frightening speed. His smile melted me. He glided across the mosaic tiles with the grace of a dancer and the way he was looking at me then let me know he didn’t mind the extra.

We fell asleep on the bathroom floor but I woke up in bed. I was hot and sticky and wishing I was still on the cool bathroom floor. Spending the summer months in Iran was like vacationing in the fourth level of Hell. It was only 11 in the morning and already 93 degrees.

I was only out of the shower for five minutes before I started sweating again. I followed my children’s laughter into the kitchen. Sameer and Sameera where playing and chasing their cousins who were 4 and 6 around and the nanny and the poor girl was near

tears. They we’re all going to the zoo today and in their excitement lunch was all but ignored.

After getting the children fed and out the door I went to check on the renovations. The East wing of our palace-sized home had been unused for almost 30 years and the space I was given to remodel was a 27,000 square foot space with a tile and glass dome top – I was having it turned into my own private indoor rain forest.

The foundation and been dug up to accommodate my heated pool that snaked around my oasis like the Amazon River. My husband imported fragrant tress from Asia and Africa that were now tall enough to filter the sun. Tropical birds and butterflies were brought from Malaysia and Peru and last week I saw a python.

The groundskeeper, who was hired to stay on top of the butterfly and frog population, assured me that he was harmless and explained that he was imported to feed on the frogs and that he shouldn’t grow larger than 12 feet or so.

Last year I saw in the distance what I believed was a leopard cub. It scared the shit out of me and I fled into the arms of Fayhim, who was just as startled as I was by the sighting. Later that day we found out that the jungle cat was just an Ashera, a large exotic house cat that had cost $20,000.00 courtesy of the emissary of evil – my mother-in-law.

Both cats had been declawed for my safety, but that idea was not my mother-in-law’s favorite.

I was in my 7th year of remodeling and “The Garden” was becoming one of my favorite places in the world to visit. No matter how many times a day I came down here I always heard and saw something different. Small rodents and lizards (some large one’s too) had been imported so the cats would have something to hunt and a new species of bird was discovered in my forest.

The team of veterinarians we hired who specialized in tropical animals was growing concerned over the results of recent blood test due to the fact that the animals were drinking what was essentially swimming pool water. We hired water chemists who assured us that he could control the bacteria levels while reducing the amount of chemicals that were use to keep my river clean.

My current project besides converting my pool into a quasi-fresh drinking water source while keeping it save for my children and I to swim in was incorporating two “natural” springs. One pool was to resemble the fresh water of a river and the other, the Jacuzzi, would be the “hot” spring.

I could hear the call of the birds but I couldn’t see them from the tops of their canopy. I felt like I was being stalked and I probably was...fucking cats.

I was inspecting the site where the fresh water pool was to be installed when my foot was tangled in a thick vine. I tried to yank free but I fell and as I was lying there trying to catch my breath, I felt the ground beneath me shift. I tried to get up but before I could I fell again, this time 30 feet beneath the foundation of my home.

I don’t know how long I was unconscious; when I woke up I realized that my left leg, right wrist, my jaw and maybe a rib or two had been broken. As I lay looking up at the shaft of light, jagged floor boards and pebbles of dirt that slid down the hole I left I did the best I could to stay calm and breath.

The worst-case scenario would be that I would spend the night here and would be found by the groundskeeper when he did his morning rounds. I drifted in and out of sleep, when I woke up again it was still daylight. My jaw didn’t hurt as bad and neither did my ribs. I was able to drag myself up to a sitting position and get a better look at the cavernous void that I had fallen into.

If I had of landed just a foot to the left I would have kept falling. I gingerly peeked over the cliff that I was perched on and saw nothing but blackness. There was a cool upward draft of air and I could hear running water. There was a wall thrusting itself upward from the abyss and the pillars that crowned it stopped just a few feet from the foundation of my home. The temple wall was constructed of large stones that had been cut and placed on top of each other and I could see images carved within the wall.

As I studied the strange symbols that had been chiseled in the rock I wondered what message the ancient people who worshiped here were trying to convey when I saw an image that made my blood freeze in my veins. Shaped within this stone that had been underground for God only knows how long were the faces of my children. I cried out and closed my eyes, opening them slowly to see if what I saw would still be there. It was my two children.

The light pouring in from above flickered and when I looked up I saw a silhouette of a head, and then another, and another. The reflection in their eyes and four legs that helped their descent served to alert me that I was now prey. I took advantage of their slow and cautious decline and stood up. I used the pain that shot through my body like a lighting bolt as fuel and dragged myself away from the light. It took only 25 steps to plunge me into complete blackness and in 15 more I fell the distance that I missed the 1st time.


Droplets of water woke me up and as I opened my eyes, I could see my surroundings. Instead of being enclosed in darkness I was bathed in muted shades of grayness and I prayed that this source of light meant that there was another way out.

I sat up gingerly and noticed that I had fallen down a flight of stairs. The floor I was sitting on was inlayed with rows of mosaic stone rugs.

I rose slowly but still managed to stand fast enough for me to slam my head into a large stone ice crystal that was hanging from the caves ceiling. My vision exploded with stars and blood poured from my nose as I stood swaying waiting for the pain to subside before dragging myself deeper into the cave following the sound of the water.

The tiled rugs I was walking on became littered with sand, the sand turned into loose pebbles before I found myself stumbling over large unstable rocks. I closed my eyes against the pain and lost my footing, I plunged headlong down a narrow ravine hitting both sides of the jagged wall on my way down.

My broken leg became a compound fracture. I heard the fluttering of winged creatures taking flight in the background of my screams along with the sounds of hunting cats and was bombarded with the of falling rocks the size of grapefruits that had shifted in response to the movements of the predators above.

I was safe from the cats for now because the only way they could have come down to where I lay broken would have been to jump. However the distance was too great for even an animal granted with nine lives to attempt.

I watched the cats peering down at their next meal as my vision threatened to abandon me. What jarred me back to consciousness was the sound I heard from behind me.

I sat up fast dragging myself from the water’s edge as quickly as my battered body would allow and as I did so I saw the tail fin of something large and prehistoric plunge back beneath the liquid depths. I sat trembling against the rough and ridged wall of the cavern. I took off my shirt and wrapped it around the gaping hole in my shattered leg the best I could with just one hand. With my latest fall my broken wrist was now dangling from my arm by just a few tendons. I threaded my arm through my bra strap for support, closed my eyes and tried to think while desperately trying to ignore the splashing of water.

I opened my eyes and waited for them to adjust to the light, which was brighter than the grey light from above. The first thing I noticed on the shore of the other side of the bay was another temple. This one was much smaller than the one I encountered when I first fell beneath the earth but in terms of size it looked like a two-story house that would have comfortably accommodated a family of six.

There were stairs leading to the crest of the temple from both sides where the crumbling remains of two thrones sat, both equal in size, and between them was a large pit.

I was hoping it was used to contain flames to keep the royal one’s warm but somehow I knew that wasn’t its intended purpose.

The carvings on the temple and the wall behind it resembled the remains of Persepolis. In the center of the wall behind the temple was a stone effigy of a Goddess and she dwarfed the statue of Emperor Shapur the 1st who stood guard before the Shapur Cave. The deity, carved from rock, was illuminated from something that was glowing behind her, which gave the effect that she had descended to earth in gold rays of light.

The light reflecting off the moving water that bounced off the walls, the formations dripping from the caves ceiling, and the pillars thrusting out of the water made the inside of the cave beautiful; and the Goddess, her temple and carving made this underground space seem sacred.

I pulled myself deeper within the cave so that I could see around the temple in front of me because I wanted to see where the brighter light was coming from. The journey of six feet was long and laborious, an ambitious feat for someone in my condition.

I reached the end of my excruciating expedition just to learn that the fruit of my labors would be paid with cruelty and despair.

The Goddess wasn’t alone standing on each side of her were stone replica’s of my children that seemed to have had been carved before the beginning of time.

I looked up at the Goddess who seemed to be staring down at me with malevolence, with tears filling my eyes I screamed at the Goddess and the sound that came from the depths of my soul was guttural and inhuman.

I woke to the rustling sounds of leathery wings and lay in petrified terror as a thousand large bats flew past me, over the head of the Goddess that stood over my children and into the twilight beyond. The passage they flew through looked like a mining shaft and I knew the light coming from the other end of that tunnel was from the moon. If the bats could use that tunnel get out meant it I could use it too, however all I had to do was swim across to get there.

There were only two problems with my exit strategy. The first one being, I couldn’t walk let alone swim and secondly, and more importantly, there was something in the water. Something big.
I felt a draft that was blowing on me from behind. I flipped myself over on to my back and propped myself up on my elbow to see where the air was coming from and saw a passageway that I hadn’t seen earlier when I was crawling to this spot where I could see behind the temple.

I was exhausted, confused, and riddled with pain. I closed my eyes and let the cool air caress my face. I lay back down, and the drops from my tears pooled in my ears. I just wanted to go sleep but the cool air turned cold and I began to shiver. The next sound I became aware of was a waterfall of pebbles. I sat back up and noticed wisps of dust and cascading stones coming from the opening of the smaller cave in front of me. Then I heard a feral sound, the chirping and chattering of felines.


The scheming cats had found another way down. I gave these animals a Garden of Eden they were fed well and protected. The best vets money could buy tended to their medical needs and I was spending $6,000 a month to ensure they had fresh drinking water…and now here they were hunting me.

I pushed away from the portal in the rock wall. As the head of the first animal appeared my arm, head and neck dipped into the freezing water. The lead hunter was completely out of the opening and two others weren’t far behind.

With a large underwater stroke I propelled my entire body silently into the water and arched my back to stay afloat disturbing as little water as possible not wanting to

attract the attention of its occupants. The cat on the shore hissed and prepared to lunge. As the cat took flight something brushed across my back. The timing was perfect and the huntress splashed down into the water to my left and came up pissed.

The distance between us was just a hairs breath, I tried to push away from her but my overhead stroke was quickly converted to a protective defense shield. Her razor-sharp claws sliced my forearm all the way down to my elbow. Now I was just as mad as she was. I swung at her ripping away the flesh across my knuckles on her teeth then pushed her head beneath the water and she shredded away the meat on my arm in retaliation.

As another cat was sailing through the air to her aid, a hooked tentacle, the blue color of a healing bruise, burst from the water with the same fear inspiring awe and splendor as a missile being shot from the silos of a submerged submarine and wrapped itself around the cat’s middle.

The pride of large house cats on the water banks displayed their outrage with arched backs, flattened ears, and spits and hisses. Their reverberated snarls echoing of the cave walls sounded like the roars of lions.

Another cat took flight but this time I was not the quarry, it was the beast rising from the depths of the water. The leviathan had the head of an eel; the fangs thrusting out from its bottom jaw and to be at least a foot and in its mouth were rows and rows of knife

sharp teeth. Two more tentacles rose above the water; the cat that had pounced was now locked within its jaws.

I wrenched my arm free from my bra strap, rolled over and swam. My only goal, my only hope, was that I would have enough strength, enough speed to swim the distance of an Olympic swimming pool to get to the shores of the temple.

I ignored the carnage I was hearing behind me and swam. I thought of Johnson and Johnson No More Tears scent of my babies’ hair and swam. I thought of the holes in the knees of Sameer’s tuff skin jeans and swam. I ignored the cramp in my side and swam. I thought of the drawer full of Sameera’s barrettes, ribbons, and hair combs and swam. I ignored the burning in my lungs and swam. I remembered the last night I’d spent with my husband on our bathroom floor, I remembered the sounds of laughter from my babies and swam.

I felt new pain explode in my arm, as it slammed down hard on rock. I climbed out of the water on my elbows like a navy seal sneaking onto the beaches on enemy lands. I swung my bum leg out of the water, brought my arms against my chest and rolled my self further away from the water as if I was on fire. I had gained so much momentum that I crashed against the base of a staircase.

The sea monster rose out of the water at a frighten height. I was not safe from where I was and I wouldn’t be able to get out of the way in time. The monster’s attention was suddenly at the Goddess as if it she had called to it. The beast seemed to flinch and bow in submission before sinking back beneath the water seeming to never take its eyes off her as he did so.


I don’t know how I got there but I found myself lying at the feet of the Goddess. Rows of concrete bells draped her ankles and her toes were jeweled with rings. The purple light of the rising sun woke me and cool morning dew wrapped me in a damp fog.

My head weighed a thousand pounds; I hurt in places I didn’t even know existed. I could not go on. I knew that Fayhim would be looking for me, so I just thought I’d rest here until he found me. I just needed a little more sleep.

How long I slept there was no way of knowing but I woke up in a drowsy cloud of haziness, delusion and pain. Mommy. Can you hear a mirage? Mommy? That was just wishful thinking or a cruel dream. Either way that wasn’t Sameera’s voice? I was lost beneath the earth. God alone knows how far I had wandered from home. If anyone would be calling me it would a member of the search party, an adult, using my 1st name. Fayhim would never bring a child down into this earthbound hell, especially our own.

Mommy! That was my daughter’s voice and it was full of tears and terror. Sameera! My voice held more strength than my body and just screaming her name pushed me towards blackness. But hearing both my children crying out to me through their tears gave me the strength to call upon the Goddesses from my culture to deal with the one who stood above me. I called to Leza the West African Goddess of Protection, and to Sekhmet the Egyptian Goddess of War and Destruction.

As I pulled myself up through the mining shaft, the cries of my babies were being muted by the sounds of drums, dafs, and cymbals. The daf, a drum made with metal rings attached to the inside of the drums frame, was mainly used in religious ceremonies, hearing it now drowning out the cries of my children and being in the presence of this Goddess made my blood freeze.

My crawl was so slow it was more like a slither. By the time I inched my way to the sounds of the ritual music and within view of the percussionist who beat them I could see the entrance to the cave, which was probably still a half a mile away; the indigo sky was splashed with bluish grays, magenta and the secondary colors of orange and purple; and four of my fingernails had been ripped away.

Though mere seconds before I was a half a heartbeat away from death what I was seeing now filled me with rage and gave me the strength to stand up. The space I was standing in was filled with stone pillars and another temple, which reminded me of the

one of the Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram, but seemed somehow older. The only Goddess present was a replica of the one below.

The Goddess that was carved into an arch on the side of the temple, and tied to three of the four pillars of the shrine were both my crying children and Fayhim, and he couldn’t have looked any prouder. Resting upon the pillars that my family was tied to was a sacrificial mound and bound upon it was our screaming nanny and she was struggling, against all hope, against her restraints.

“The prophecy shall now be fulfilled.” I didn’t even see my mother-in-law until I heard her. The drummers reduced their banging to soft taps, so that the monstrous atrocious woman, who kidnapped and imprisoned my family and was now offering them up to some ancient Goddess, could be heard.

She handed me a ceremonial knife that was so old that at first I thought the blade was stone. After a longer look I realized it was oxidized copper the flaking and green color so deep it was as if the copper had returned to its natural state. The hilt of the long blade was the face of the Goddess, her headdress colored stones and jewels.

My mother-in-law gently rubbed the side of my face and called me by another name, “You’ve never come this far before, this time you must do what must me done.”

I looked at my bounded and gagged husband, listened to the cries of my children and watched the nanny scream and struggle against her restraints.

I looked back at my mother-in-law who smiled encouragingly at me. I plunged the knife into her neck, the blade came out on the other side just above her shoulder. The look she gave me was a forgiving one as she slid off the blade and collapsed onto the floor. I hobbled over to my husband and removed his gag; all I needed was to hear his voice.

“Its ok,” he said calling me by the name his mother had used to address me. “I’ll wait for you, I’ve always waited for you.” He told me he loved me in his native tongue while I told him I didn’t understand.
“I loved you before Cain was born and I will love you until the end of time. Don’t worry; I’ll wait for you, in Paris like always. This is the farthest you’ve ever come, and we’ll make it next time I’m sure.”

I had gotten him untied and he was holding my face within his strong hands. I turned to look at Sameera as she screamed Mommy just in time to watch my child materialized into smoke. Fayhim was holding me tight, kissing me and telling me that it was ok, that he would be waiting for me. I heard my son screaming out to me but Fayhim blocked him from view, when I heard him no more I knew he too was gone.

There was nothing left in me, I was hysterical and demanding to know what was happening. My husband soothed and calmed me with just his touch and presence. He smiled at me he kissed first my right eye, my left and then my lips. “I’ll see you in Paris.” He faded from my view, my grasps as I begged him not to leave me, and within moments he was gone.

Sitting alone within the temple walls with no one with me but my slain mother-in-law and my dead nanny, but how she died I couldn’t tell. I looked up again at the Goddess who had destroyed my family and suddenly couldn’t feel my heartbeat. Looking up at the Goddess was like looking into a mirror; the Goddess I was looking at was me. My screams took the very last of what I had and I collapsed near death, hoping for death that did not come.

I was also denied sleep and I lay on the cool floor all night trying to understand what it was that my husband and mother-in-law had said to me, what they saw in me – what I saw in myself when I looked into the face of the stone carving; while trying to understand what it was I must do the next time I got here and wondering how many times I had failed before. Finally sleep was granted.

I woke to the rustling sounds of leathery wings and lay in petrified terror as a thousand large bats flew past me, returning down to the refuge of darkness from which they came. The next sound I began aware of was footsteps and I was relieved when I

realized that they belonged to the countries authorities and the guards that had been employed to protect my husband’s family.

But I quickly became mortified as I knew the only thing they would see was my murdered mother-in-law, my dead nanny strapped to a sacrificial alter, a nasty looking weapon that my prints would be found on, and at the realization that nothing I would say would make any sense.


  1. Cue happy song! That is awesome. You totally deserve all the accolades you can get,more are sure to follow :)

  2. Congrats like i said in my quote Bitches Be Ware!! lol

  3. Damn, if this is only 2nd place I don't think I can handle the winning story...remind me not to read your shit before bed. You might have to see a professional cuz somethin ain't right if this is the shit you think about...
    Love ya hoe!