The Countess (fiction)

The Countess

I had travelled far and finally reached her estate in the late evening. The Countess lived in an old mansion. I noticed on my arrival that the grounds were unkempt. In the darkness I could see shadows of bushes and trees that were long in need for some pruning. Probably once elaborate gardens that had since fallen into disarray. Once the carriage had delivered me to the doorstep. I knocked on the large front door made of oak. A woman I took to be the maid opened the door. She was dressed on a long black gown and had blonde hair that fell beyond her shoulders. She carried a lantern in her left hand. She looked very pale.

“At last you’ve arrived!” She exclaimed.

“I’m here to see the Countess.” I told her.

“Yes I know. The servants are asleep. I am the Countess.” She replied.  I was taken aback. I had been led to believe she was an old woman now, but she looked younger than I was.

“Oh.” I replied, somewhat dumbfounded.

“Come in.” She requested. I walked in with a couple of my bags and she closed the door behind me. “This way.” I followed her in the darkness with the lantern leading the way. We came to a door, and beyond it was a lit dining room. The table was mahogany and was huge, almost from one side of the wall to the other. At one end was a plate with cutlery, surrounded by some silver serving dishes.

“This is a wonderfully long table. You must hold exquisite dinner parties here.” I stated.

“I used to. It’s been a long time since I’ve had guests here, but please, you must be hungry. Help yourself to the fare.” She requested. I then noticed I was ravenous, and realised I hadn’t eaten anything since the morning, since I had spent most of the day traveling. I sat down and served myself some of the food out of the serving dishes. I also helped myself to the red wine in the carafe. The Countess sat down beside me and watched while I ate. She never ate or drank anything, telling me that she had already fed.

After I had eaten, we went to a spacious drawing room and both sat down on comfortable chairs that faced each other across the room. She asked me about where I came from, and wanted to know all sorts of details about where I lived, my family, my life growing up, and my relations with others. After so much talking I began to feel tired, and noticed the sky outside was beginning to lighten, we had talked all night.

“This has been fascinating.” The Countess remarked. “We’ll continue our talk this evening. Sorry, I seem to have kept you awake all night and you must be tired. I too need to rest now.” She stated.

When I went to my bedchambers, I found all my bags had been placed in the room, though I had neither seen nor heard any servants. I went to bed and fell into a dreamless sleep. I awoke late the next day. That night I was again in the drawing room talking to the Countess about events in the world outside. I had come here to attend to her library, as I had been told the Countess’s collections of books were in disarray, and she needed someone to sort them out and properly order them, which was my speciality, but the Countess didn’t seem too concerned about it. Maybe she just desired to have another learned woman here.

Every night was the same. After I had dined, I would talk with her until the dawn (and every time she would apologise for keeping me up so late), and then we would both go off to sleep. I began to sense that all she wanted was a companion to talk to, or play cards with (as we did some nights), rather than what I had been employed for. There were also supposed to be servants here, but I never saw them. Yet every day there were cooked meals for me and someone made my bed and changed the sheets when needed. I looked out for them and listened intently at times, but I never had proof that there was any life in this mansion, other than myself.

I was no fool, however. I was well-read and knew many things that other people had no idea of, much of it obscure and arcane lore. The Countess never ate or drank anything in my presence, nor did I ever see her in the daylight. She would always end our conversations precisely at dawn. She had lived for many years, but looked to be in her twenties. I guessed what she was, yet no harm had come to me during my stay here. Nor did I ever feel that I was in danger. She just seemed to want someone to talk with, so I decided to take no action. Besides, I too was alone the world now, and often craved company myself…

Joanne Fisher

I was recently watching the 1977 BBC version of Dracula (one of my favourites) and was struck with the thought what if Dracula and Jonathan Harker characters were instead both women and the vampire just wanted a friend, rather than have someone to help them move to London? As a side note, the organise the library idea I got from the Hammer version of Dracula (1958)…

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©️2023 Joanne Fisher


Question (flash fiction)


I picked up the gun and put it to my head, then paused.

“So why are we playing Russian roulette?” I asked the others. They looked at me solemnly.

You see, I’m in my head a lot. When we sat down I assumed we were about to play cards. I began thinking about something that happened earlier, and then noticed a revolver was in front of me. I need to keep a better awareness of my surroundings…

I looked at them for clarification. Hoping I would get an answer.

“Less talking, more trigger pulling.” Said the guy next to me. I pulled the trigger.

Joanne Fisher

I guess “Less talking, more trigger pulling” is where we’re at in this moment. I was struggling with a prompt and decided to tackle it via the absurdist route. While it didn’t solve the prompt issue, it did give me this.

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©️2023 Joanne Fisher

Clueless (flash fiction)


*Has been magically transported back to the early 1980s, but is so focused on their phone they haven’t noticed.*

“Excuse me, my phone doesn’t seem to be working. Is there anywhere nearby with better coverage?”

“Er… your phone doesn’t work? Have you tried contacting the phone company?”

“No since I can’t operate my phone, I can’t contact them. Can I please use yours?”

“My phone?”


“It’s at home.”

“Yeah I hate it when I accidentally leave my phone at home too.”

“Excuse me?”

“I thought I had lost it, but found it was in my back pocket.”

“Your back pocket? What did you find in your back pocket?”

“My phone.”

“How do you fit your phone in your back pocket?”

“Easily. Is your phone too large to fit in your pocket?”

“Yes, of course!”

“Do you still use some sort of brick?”

“A brick? What would I do with a brick?”

“I dunno, phone people with it?”

“Phone people with a brick?”

“Well what else are you going to do with it? Other than surf the web of course, if you can.”

“Surf the web? What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Yeah I spend too much time online too.”

“Look, just wait here and I’ll get someone who can help you, because I really think you need help.”

“Hey thanks!”

Joanne Fisher

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©️2023 Joanne Fisher

The Elevator to EEBY DEEBY (flash fiction)

The Elevator to EEBY DEEBY

I walked into the elevator and pressed the button. The doors closed and the elevator began moving. Looking at the display I noticed it said EEBY DEEBY with the arrow pointing up, instead of tenth floor, as it should have. Panicking about what was happening I tried pressing the alarm, but nothing happened. I tried accessing the phone but couldn’t open the compartment. Then the elevator slowed and came to a stop. The doors opened to reveal a tropical paradise. A warm breeze drifted in carrying the scents of many flowers.

“Welcome! You have gained admittance to the paradise of EEBY DEEBY.” The electronic voice in the elevator stated. I got out and looked around in wonder. Behind me I heard the elevator doors close. I turned around to see the elevator was gone. Instead there was a pathway leading up to the mountains where it had been.

Out in the distance was a sparkling azure sea. A city lay sprinkled along the coast with brightly painted buildings. The cerulean sky was a deep blue with a blazing sun at its zenith. Around me were trees with large dark green leaves and brightly coloured parrots squawking in the branches. A rough brown path led through the forest and down to the city where I could hear music playing.

It was all very nice, but what I had wanted was to get back to my hotel room.

Joanne Fisher

Inspired by the picture.

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©️2023 Joanne Fisher

The Offering (poem)

Illustration by Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel

The Offering

through the flames
I see the English soldiers
happily watching my body
burn to ash

a witch they called me,
yet my visions were
from God, I swear

what is divine
on one side seems
demonic to the 


I led armies to victory
in Orleans, and gained
access to Reims
for a new king
to be crowned

all the while dressed
in armour, unusual
for a woman, maybe

but what else could
this soldier of God wear?


though I die this day
though the Church calls me
a heretic
though my remains will
be thrown into the Seine -

let the world
make of me

whatever it will

Joanne Fisher

I’m not sure why I’ve written a poem about Joan of Arc, but it popped into my head, though she is a very intriguing historical figure.

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©️2023 Joanne Fisher

The Hanging Oak (flash fiction)

The Hanging Oak

I have stood tall for many years. My trunk has grown thick and wide, my branches have spread out, and my roots are long and deep. The flying folk live in my branches, singing all day, and I’m happy to provide them a home, other creatures use me for shade when the sun is hot, again I’m happy to oblige. There is one thing that bothers me, however.

It puzzles me why the creatures that move upright on their two trunks use me the way they do. Sometimes a group of them assemble and one them is lifted up and I am required to take their weight. It breaks the heartwood and my sap runs cold to feel them struggle and then go still, just hanging there off one of my branches. I don’t know why I have to endure this weight. Death is not something I wish to bring to any living thing, so why do they require this?

I prefer to feel them running happy and free minding their own business or seeking shade under my boughs, but not hanging limply from my limbs. Can’t they let me be instead of making me carry the weight of their dead? I did not want this, so why do they ask this of me?

Joanne Fisher

I was watching a documentary on folk horror and it was mentioned how trees were sometimes used to hang people and I suddenly wondered how the trees felt about that. So I wrote this about a tree who wasn’t happy about the situation…

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©️2022 Joanne Fisher

The Stars Below (poem)

The Stars Below

feverishly scratching
on a manuscript
all day all night

the words drumming
leaking through
your matchstick fingers
onto the blotted parchment

a spider dancing
across the page
with ink stained legs

"the stars!"

you mutter
to a shadowy room

"the stars!"

the windows shuttered
the doors firmly bolted


the stars
tell me everything
I know!"

Joanne Fisher

As I’m still recovering I thought I would share an older poem that I don’t think I’ve published here before. The title is stolen from an Ursula K. Le Guin short story. That story is about a mind that’s been turned inward, and so is this poem. This poem is also about the creative process and the intense focusing on what you’re working on to the exclusion of everything else…

I’ve been rather ill over the last few days, which is why I haven’t published anything here for a time, but I am getting better and normal service should resume shortly 🙂

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©️2022 Joanne Fisher

Broken Glass (poem)

Broken Glass

I travel down to Dunedin
bearing two wineglasses
delicately hand-painted
like stained glass
but broken

& you sit cross-legged
on the your bare wooden floor
trying to make something
greater than its pieces

another puzzle to sort out
like your jigsaws
like the both of us

with no final pattern
discernible yet

imagine if there was someone
who could piece together
my own fragments -

I too could be a

Joanne Fisher

First published in JAAM 12

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©️2022 Joanne Fisher

It Rained in Nelson (poem)

It Rained in Nelson


our caravan of tumblers,
jugglers, musicians, &

roaming players searching
for an audience

I never believed in 
the actual existence
of Nelson -
no one I knew
had ever made it 

but after journeying
through Kaikoura &

there it was


there was an intensity
of sunlight caught
at the edge of black clouds
gulls wheeling
sky-dancing before
the oncoming storm

then it clouded over
raining all day & night
just after our performance
there was sheet lightning
that lit up the entire sky
like a blue neon light
looking more like some
bad stage effect
than the real thing

even the thunder 
was unconvincing -
sounding more like 
Thunder Sound Effect No.5


what if the weather
had been better?
maybe we could have 
stumbled over the
land rises to find
the sea or some
empty field

a bonfire lit in the
remains of the night
someone strumming
everyone's favourites &
a joint being passed
from hand to hand

with a hazy head
I would have looked up
at a dark sky littered
with swollen stars
the wheeling cosmos
dancing in slow-time
with our voices

Joanne Fisher

First published in Takahe 45.

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©️2022 Joanne Fisher