Carrie Ann Ryan
One Thousand And One Dark Nights
Once upon a time, in the future…
I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.
I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast library at my father’s home and collected thousands of volumes of fantastic tales.
I learned all about ancient races and bygone
times. About myths and legends and dreams of all people through the millennium. And the more I read the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually become part of them.
I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I would not be telling you this tale now.
But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off with bravery.
One afternoon, curious about the myth of the
Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar (Persian: ??????, “king”) married a new virgin, and then sent yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. It was written and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade, the vizier’s daughter, he’d killed one thousand women.
Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had never occurred before and that still to this day, I cannot explain.
Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to protect herself and stay alive.
Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.
And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.
And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that he might hear the rest of my dark tale.
As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new
one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before you now.
Hailey Monroe bit into her lip, closed her eyes, and moaned. Loudly. Dear gods and goddesses that was…heavenly. Earth shattering. World changing. Orgasm inducing.
That was the best damn cream cheese turtle brownie she’d ever baked in her life.
She may have baked pies, cakes, tortes, cookies, muffins, biscotti, and other kinds of decadence in her past. But right now, with this beautiful, mouthwatering cream cheese turtle brownie in hand, she knew she’d never achieve such greatness again.
At that depressing thought, she ate the last of her treat and frowned.
Seriously? The pinnacle of her success in life, the greatness she had hoped to achieve lay in a brownie.
A brownie sent from heaven, mind you, but a brownie nonetheless.
She quickly wiped up any spare crumbs then went to the sink to wash her hands. It was kind of upsetting that in her twenty-seven years of living, this baking achievement was it for her. Most people would think finding a cure for the common cold? painting something that reaffirmed beauty and life for others, or building homes for the unfortunate would be something that made a pinnacle a pinnacle. Instead, Hailey had dessert. This divine brownie.
It probably didn’t help her thoughts that she kept calling the damn thing heaven-sent and divine. It was just a baked good, one that crumbled when roughly handled, like the rest of them. It would be consumed wholly and forgotten in the next moment, never to be heard from again.
At least Hailey herself was stronger than that. Some days.
She cracked her knuckles, wincing at the pain in her joints—a wonderful side effect of all the drugs and treatments she’d poured into her system over the years—and rolled her neck. Today was a new day, a new adventure. It was the same mantra she repeated to herself every morning.
Hailey owned and operated Taboo, a café and bakery in the middle of downtown Denver. She had prime placement right off the 16th Street Mall and the business district. During prime hours, she had men and women in suits and neatly pressed clothes, begging for coffee and leaving with something sweet and delicious. No one could rightly say no to Hailey and her baked goods if she were really trying.
Her shop catered to more than just those in a hurry on their way to a meeting or working on a very important case. Families came in on late afternoons or on non-school days with children in tow. Her hot cocoa and cookies went quickly when school holidays met cold Denver weather days.
People in all shapes and sizes ventured into her shop, and she loved it. There was never a dull moment. Even when the place was only filled with a customer or two, they were hers. After thinking she’d never see the middle of her twenties, she was now looking at the back end of those years and owned her own business besides. She was a caretaker, a businesswoman, a baker…a survivor.
She pressed her lips together at the last word.