Friday, December 2, 2016

The color of pain

Prompt: The color of pain

It sparkled, casting dancing rainbows across the earth it caught the light. All the colors that ever were hung suspended, contained. Lil gasped, shocked that she could see so much, it was beautiful. The most beautiful thing she had seen since... Frowning she turned her thoughts away from that particular memory and focused on what was right in front of her. It was rare that she could indulge this way, but time stretched out like taffy just for her.

She reached out, and touched it with her finger - it still felt warm. She brought her finger to her lips and licked: salt. She sucked the liquid from her skin and shivered. Exquisite.

She turned her eyes back to the couple as they were leaving, clinging to each other - eyes wide. The tear she had tasted was the first the earth had known. But it wouldn't be the last. It was all she could do not to laugh.

Time lurched forward and the pair stumbled into the vastness of the world, leaving behind paradise and watering the earth with their tears.

Lilith smiled to herself watching her husband and his new wife wander away from paradise. Pain wasn't something she could feel - not really. But she still enjoyed it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Spider Tale


Awhile back, this image was posted to /r/spiders - and cute as it is, the image is rather grim when you take a moment to think about what is actually goin on in the image. Rather than face reality, I wrote a little story with my preferred version of events.

Shh. Shh. It's okay.

I will tell you a story.

Once upon a time, in a land of silk and dewdrops lived a spider. She was clever and quick and caught many a fierce fly for dinner.

She fell in love with a dashing little male spider and they had a beautiful egg sac filled with children. They had hundreds of babies, each one more beautiful and clever than the last. The mama spider loved her babies and would give each one a hug and a kiss goodnight.

Being such a skilled huntress, she never felt hungry and she and her children went on to populate all of the earth with adorable spiderlings who liked to hug and kill nasty flies.


The End

Friday, September 9, 2016

Letters of Note during the Fall of the Dominion

Author's note: After writing about the Champion of Cyrodiil becoming a mass murderer while using the game-breaking 100-percet chameleon on reddit, I joked that people could "Give me your head-cannon and I'll tell you a tale." This was the challenge I received.

Prompt: The Stormcloaks ally their independent skyrim with Hammerfell making High Rock automatically join them (it's surrounded). The Dragonborn goes on to fulfill his destiny and become the next Emperor starting with the three mentioned nations then expanding by using his army of Dragons (who bowed to him for defeating Alduin) to crush the Dominion. J'Zargo gets promoted to Arch Mage as a result Aela is Harbinger and Brynjolf becomes guildmaster of the Thieves Guild. GO

---


This letter was found in the back room of a local brothel in Dragonstar, Hammerfell, in a strongbox filled with gold and gems, next to a case of Blackbriar Mead.

Magda,

It seems unlikely Maven is going to see her rise to power. Though she is a powerful ally locally, with her ties to the Empire cut, she will go no higher than where she is.

We need to lay the groundwork for business is Hammerfell. I’m sending Vex, along with a shipment of weapons to Dragonstar. We need to reach out and start getting markets open. She’s going to stay behind and help organize with your help. You’ve always gotten on. And Vex isn’t really the “getting on” type.

I’m looking to you to smooth things over with the local toughs. You’ve always been able to sweeten the deal with that silver tongue of yours, love. Make sure they know that the coin will flow both ways if we get this ring off the ground. I know you have ties with the Alik’r and I know they need a few more sharp blades on their side. We want to be those blades – for the right price.
I don’t plan on using knuckles and knives unless we have to. Just want to expand our business opportunities. Send my love to your Uncle Scheb. Shadow hide you.

-B

---

This is the official letter of resignation of Colette Marence. Found in her the desk in her quarters after a fire where she unfortunately met her demise.

After a great deal of thought, self-reflection and deliberation I have decided that my services at the College of Winterhold are coming to an end. I feel my talents are not being fully utilized, and to be frank, no one takes me seriously. When I brought up the remarks that Nirya made about my lessons, I was laughed at.

I will not be laughed at any more. I’m going to return to High Rock. I have recently accepted a position at court. I want to wish you all the best, but I’ve never been a very good liar. It will be nice to be really and truly warm once again.

-Colette Marence
Professor in the School of Restoration


Also on the desk was this note for the Arch-Mage

Colette,

This one wishes to see your report on my new Sunfire scrolls first thing in the morning. No more excuses.

Walk ever on warm sands,

Arch-Mage J’Zargo

---

Journal of Aela

[date]

Ria has taken the blood today. I knew she would make a good shield-sister, and it is nice to bolster the ranks of the Circle after so many have decided to follow in Kodlak’s footsteps. I, for one, shall never tire of this hunt – and an eternity in the Hunting Grounds thrills my blood.

[date]

Vilkas is right, it is foolish to keep the Circle to only those who have tasted the blood of Hircine. Even I can see Athis is ready for more responsibility and it is time to recruit more cubs.

[date]

The Dragonborn sent us word that vampires are after some artifact. I’ve taken to rooting them out where I can. I still miss her. Our hunts were… intense.

[date]

Hircine has granted me a vision of destroying more vampires. We have struck up an alliance with the Dawnguard. Apparently, Isran knew our Dragonborn as well. She leaves an impression wherever she goes.

[date]

Rumors of war. Perhaps she will call on an old friend. Perhaps we can hunt again once more. I know Farkas has made noise about finding a boat to the encampment. I would not deny him this. I may not deny myself this.

[date]

Vilkas has promised to watch over the New Bloods. Farkas and I shall hunt with our sister once more. In my blood I feel this pleases both Ysgramor and Hircine. But even if it did not - I would see her once more.

---

The Devastation of the Dominion

This correspondence was found in a safe in a cleverly concealed room in the Imperial Offices of the Penitus Oculatus some 50 years after the the New Dragonborn Emperor Crushed the Dominion. Scholars have dated them to the era, but cannot verify how accurate these accounts are. A small journal was found with it - apparently, the daughter of Baratus Deccata brought the letters he received to Ben Laprey, Commander of the Imperial Penitus Oculatus.

Ms. Deccatus,

Your father was a great man. Thank you for your generous donation of these letters. It allows us to have a better reckoning of the Empire's role, such as it was, in the rise of the Empress.
For obvious reasons, we cannot make this ledger public. But you may come and read our compilation any time.

Yours in thought and word,

Scibe Paulus Varutt

---

Baratus you old ghost! You know how much I pay to get my messages to you? Least you can do is not send the poor fools back empty handed. Your last report was pathetic. We all know the Stormcloaks won the day - and frankly, it's a blow. But don't despair just yet - I have some connections in Hammerfell and High Rock. There are some strings left to be pulled.

But you need to send me more information on this Dragonborn. Is it what they are saying? She can not only kill them, but command them? The bards in these parts would have us believe the woman can reach into the chest of one of those drakes, rip out its still beating heart and eat it while it looks on. It's actually my favorite song. But the truth - quickly.

-BL


Sir,

I wish I could dismiss the stories you've heard, but after a brief stay in that wretched island the Dunmer bought from the East Empire, the Dragons have been flocking to her. Between the Sky-Fell Alliance that Ulfric brokered with Hammerfell they've pressed High Rock into a forced truce. Skyrim may not be our ally, but it doesn't take a seer to guess their next move.

I would tell the Council they need to be prepared to bow down fast and low if she has her beasties wing this way.

I hate to waste your time with rumors, but I've heard this one too many times to discount it: Blades are said to have found an old holdout in the Reach. If you have any of the old records, it might be time to dust them off. If they aren't with the Dragonborn, they are likely to be weak as tissue.

-Specter Baratus Deccata


Baratus,

Get your ghost-ass into that damn army. You are to be eyes only. Report as you can. Do not compromise your cover.

---

Six month gap

---

Sir,

We have word that the Crystal Tower has fallen. The High Elves are laying down arms. Full report at debrief.

BD



We need you to come back here, Ghost. We can't debrief you from the Isles.

Ben



Sir,

I hope once you read these words you will someday find it in your heart to forgive me. But with the loss of the Emperor still raw, I never thought I would ever feel the same. But if you had seen it -
She doesn't control the dragons. At least not with magic. They respect her. They love her. When she speaks, the world trembles.

And that's how we all felt about her. Not one to command from afar, the Dragonborn Empress held meetings with all her commanders - laid out the plan, and would then move with the infantry. Anyone who tried to argue with her ended up in a brawl.

I know it sounds funny, but knuckles could command better than even that Th'um of hers.

She saved my life, Ben. And I think I saved hers. Though it's hard to tell. These types seem immortal.

The dragons devastated the Elven defenses - much as they devastated Skyrim's until she brought them round. Our forces on the ground had it easy, mopping up panicked routers and pressing onward, securing our retreat.

It was easier than it should have been. But it just proves the point that we'd been bleeding the Altmer as much, if not more, than they'd bled us. We just blinked first.

But that's not why I'm staying. I'm staying for her. I know, you'll think it foolish that an old man is taken with a lass, who by all accounts was rounded up and sent to the block at the start of Skyrim's civil war. But I've been smart for most of my career. I'm fairly certain I've earned one bout of stupidity.

To hear her talk to the Dragons is enough to bring most folk to their knees. But when she's just with the soldiers, she relaxes. Has a bit of mead and venison and sings the old songs with us. And she would sing with me. And when I sing, I get foolish. But so does she, apparently.

To see her fight is to see death dance. I think if you had been here, you'd be staying too.

I can't tell you where we're going next. I can't write you again. If you try to contact me, I'll kill your couriers. But just make sure everyone is ready when she comes home. You can deal with me then.

Baratus Deccatus
Order of the Dragon

Friday, September 2, 2016

Under Starry Skies Above

July 29, 2016





"Wrong," said Sheila. She stared at the sky. No big dipper, no Orion, and the moon, which earlier had been casting a silvery light on the crusty snow, was nowhere to be seen. Instead, an oil-slick colored nebula dominated the night sky.


Sheila had never experienced her hackles going up - she'd read the phrase, seen it happen to her dog when there was a possum on the porch one night - but the sensation of the hairs on her head lifting simultaneously as she looked at the sky was almost as terrifying what she was seeing.


"Jesus Christ, she turned to go back into the house, her feet crunching on the rime of ice. All of the lights were out, the door itself was gone, leaving a gaping hole into the dark interior. Everything about the house looked wrong somehow. Flat, like a movie prop.


She took some shaky steps onto the porch and peered into the darkened building. It was empty.


"Phil? Dawn?" she called, and her voice hardly more than a whisper, but it seemed to ripple and echo off the walls. She groped for the light switch, and found nothing. Just a smooth pale surface. It felt hard and slick, like the surface of a tooth.


A chittering sound could be heard deeper in the strange building. Something with claws walking on the strange surface. Clickety-click. Clickety-clickety-clak. Click. Click.


"Oh, Jesus. Oh, God. Oh, Jesus," she whispered and turned to leave. Even the sky with it's stars that weren't her's was better than staying with whatever was waiting for her in this house that wasn't a house. Panic darkened her peripheral vision, and adrenaline pumped through her veins - the door was gone.


"No, no, no," moaned Sheila.


Clackety-clackety-click-click. Clickety-clackety-click. So much closer now.


A hallway that would have been the wrong shape to fit into the house stretched out to her left and she began to run. Run without plan or thought into the grim darkness that didn't hold the clicking noise, her heart hammering in her chest and blood pounding in her ears.


The darkness was so complete, she slammed full-force into a wall. Her nose smashed, her lips shredded, and broken teeth clattered from her mouth made their own mocking clicking sound on the floor. All of her breath had whooshed out of her lungs, and bursts of light sparked and exploded inside her head. Sheila would have fallen, but walls were suddenly tight about her. Coffin-size. She could hardly turn this way or that. She breathed in to scream and choked on her own blood, causing her to spasm with coughing.


Her fear was such that no words could form. She just began to scream and claw at the walls. She pounded, as much as she was able. Bruising her hands. Small cracks formed in the walls and in the bones of her hands. She didn't stop. Broken hands were nothing in the grip mad fear. The cracks in the wall spidered out, and she was able to make a hole.


Outside, the sky - horrible and alien still loomed. A hysterical thought wormed its way into her panicked mind: Just a little more.


She slammed her fists, and began to throw her whole body into making the hole bigger. She was able to get her arms out, cutting gashes along her arms and torso as she hauled her self out of the too-small hole.


Sheila landed on the icy ground, bleeding. She looked at what had been the house. It was like looking at a broken monitor screen. Reality fractured.

She laughed. And laughed. The stars looked on with no pity.

Friday, August 26, 2016

In the Dark




July 27, 2016


Darkness. The Void. All That is Not.


When you're a being of ultimate darkness, whose very existence is the antithesis of life and color, there aren't many people who want anything to do with you.


Well, there's the crazies. Aren't there always the crazies?


Teens who listen to a little too much death metal sacrificing chickens while listening to Korn, or entire civilizations who built pyramids all around blood sacrifice to keep him appeased. As if the contents of a George Ramero movie was of interest to him. He's Darkness, for fuck's sake, he doesn't need your blood. Give it a rest.


But there was always someone who assumed that because nothing could survive in the vacuum of space, that he enjoyed killing and blood.


Idiots.


Another opinion that didn't make him incredibly popular. And then there were those who assumed he was evil and would take up noble quests to destroy him. As if.


He had shake his heads at Knights of the Eternal Flame of Enoch. One of that order had set himself on fire to "keep out the darkness," which pretty much summed up his thoughts on the matter.


Morons.


All told, he was fine with never interacting with anyone, gods or mortals.


Which was all the more surprising when he got her voicemail, asking him out for waffles. He'd never had waffles.


He'd long since given up texting, since he always screwed it up. But Google's voice-to-text had come a long way.


"Ok, Google." he said, his voice was soft, but his phone chirped to life.


"What time should I pick you up?" he asked, and then hit SEND. He felt foolish, almost giddy. He tried not to look in the direction of his phone, and just focused on existing. Spreading the vast nothingness as far as he -


-DING-


I'll pick YOU up, darlin'. See you at 10 ;)


Google read the text for him, and he played it back a few times.


Sounds good. He sent back. And it did.


And now all there was to do was wait. Which was something he was really good at. He had waited for millennia before creation and would be waiting long after everything had ended. But suddenly it was harder. Much harder. He wanted to do something that wasn't simply existing.


He wanted waffles. Waffles with her.


Time passed, and for the first time in eternity it seemed to take forever. And he knew what forever felt like. He was forever. He was the cold dark of eternity.


And then he saw her pulling up. Rays of light piercing the veil of his realm, and colors he'd never known existed melted all over the landscape he'd never seen. He put on his sunglasses. But it didn't stop the warmth spreading through him - it felt so alien, but also... lovely.


She stepped out of her car and smiled at him. He had to shield his eyes.


"You look radiant," he said. "But everyone tells you that."


She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek, and his heart fluttered in his chest.


"I always love to hear it," she said. "You ready to go?"


He hesitated, but only for a moment.

"I can't wait."

Friday, August 19, 2016

When Heroes Kill

I just tried out 100% Chameleon to see what all the fuss was about. I then proceeded to kill every (city-dwelling) citizen of Cyrodiil without any resistance.

Author's Note: This came from the above reddit link. The OP said "I feel like I should have read about that in Skyrim." So I wrote about it.

Found in the stacks of Apocrypha

Journal of Erina Jeranus

(All that are left are bloodstained scraps of vellum in a rotted leather binding)

Some of us lived. We don't know why, but so many died. What I couldn't understand was how everyone could be so calm about it. The guards asking about rumors and reminding citizens to stay on the road.

As if bandits were what was soaking our homes in blood. No one ever saw who did it, but I remember when I was in the basement, chatting with Sindarion about his plans to travel. He stopped suddenly, like he was clearing his throat. I looked at him and he had the oddest expression, then the blood poured from the gash in his neck, some spurting... Oh, Divines! Why?

I knew someone was here. I don't know why I wasn't killed. I followed the sound of footsteps - I know it was madness, but what else was there to do? The only reason I could was because so many were already dead, and the streets of Skingrad were silent.

Footsteps echoed off buildings filled with corpses. The stench should have been overwhelming, but I had become used to it. There was a strange shimmer in the air, like the shadow of a shadow. So I watched, hands shaking, heart beating so loudly I knew he could hear it.

Then I caught sight of the murderer, and recognized the killer as the one who had saved us all from the swarming hordes of Oblivion: The Champion of Cyrodiil. He smiled at me before moving down the road towards Anvil.

The Gods have abandoned us.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Heartbreak

Heartbreak

June 28, 2016

"Crap!"

The object seem to hang in the air for a moment, the sun caught it fully, sending red bangles of light in all directions. Ella's fingers actually brushed it, but moments too late.

The heart hit the stone floor and shattered. Jagged shards skittered across the floor, making an enormous mess of razor-edged splinters. She watched as a large portion slid under the fridge. The other hearts in the bowl clattered together as she came to an abrupt halt, chiming like bells as they jostled.

"Again, El?" said Brent, popping his head in from the next room. "What's that, number four this week?"

"Shut up," she snapped, crouching down to pick up the bigger pieces gingerly between her finger. The chunks were pretty easy, their edges catching the sunlight that was streaming into the kitchen window.

"At this rate, you'll never get enough to graduate," he said. He put his own bowl on the counter and crouched down to help her clean up.

She pinched a smaller piece, and squeezed too hard, and it sank deep into the pad of her thumb and she hissed in pain.

"Sonova --"

Brant took her hand and squinted at the tiny wound, brought her thumb to his mouth, and she could feel his teeth grazed over the fleshy part on her thumb and catch the ruby shard. It hardly hurt at all when he pulled it out. He spat it into the palm of his hand and grinned at her.

"They sting like a bitch if you leave them in. Don't feel too bad, my first year, I broke the Academy record smashing these motherfuckers," he said. And Ella felt herself blush.

"I bet you did," she said, squeezing a fat drop of blood out of her thumb.

They finished cleaning up the mess. Ella swept up the smaller pieces, and Brent got an old bar of soap to help nab the microscopic slivers that you would only find the next day when you wanked barefoot looking to get a cup of coffee.

"It doesn't seem right that they're so easy to break," said Ella, dumping out the remains into the dustbin.

"Nature of the business, El. If we didn't break them, someone else would. Some of them do make it," he said.

"Any make it all the way?" she asked.

"More than you'd think. Well, I got to get back to the kiln," he said. "Don't let Master Jiin give you too much shit. I'll have to tell you about the time he upended an entire pallet."

Ella giggled feeling remarkably better than she had just minutes ago, and she smiled at Brent. His breath caught for just a second.

"Thanks, Brent," she said.

"Don't mention it."

Friday, August 5, 2016

Home Sweet Home

Jenna loves her apartment, and her apartment loves her. But Jenna has started seeing someone new, and her apartment is getting jealous...

June 16, 2016

Jenna was pulling off her top as she skipped into her bedroom, giving Todd a grin and a wink. He was following her in, when the door slammed, not so much in his face as on it. There was a crunching noise.

"Fuck me!" is what he tried to say. But it was more an inarticulate yell-scream, that devolved into whimpers as he tried to simultaneously stem the flow of blood and not cry and was successful at neither.

"Dom!" cried Jenna. She slapped her hand against the wall, enough to shake loose a picture frame on the other side, which crashed down. "We talked about this!"

The door swung open slowly, and she rushed to Todd who was dripping blood everywhere. Including - oh God! - the plush carpets. She steered him to the bathroom, and had him sit on the commode. Jenna grabbed one of the nice towels from her bathroom and Todd pressed it to his face, absolutely ruining it - just like he ruined everything.

As Jenna went to the medicine cabinet to grab some cotton swabs, the mirrored door was stuck. She tried again - it wouldn't budge.

"Dom," her voice was filled with warning, and the next time she tried the mirror popped open, and she grabbed a bag of cotton balls.

"If the bleeding slows down, you can plug it up with this - but not until it slows down, hun. I'm going to get you some ice. I'm so sorry. I thought we were past this."

"Forget it, Jen," said Todd, hos voice muffled by the towel and dribbling blood. "I can't do this anymore. Either you move out, or I'm done."

"Leave Dom? You can't be serious."

Todd and Dom hadn't gotten along from the get-go, when he'd tracked mud into the den, then had the temerity to complain about the the size of the kitchen. The kitchen with granite countertops with chunks of mica so shiny you'd think it was gilded with silver. And this plebe says it's too big for what they need.

Strike one.

Another time, he didn't bother putting a towel down on the floor after a shower - dripping everywhere as he lumbered over to where Jenna's towels were folded. And then left it there.

Strike two, motherfucker.

After that, Dom made sure Todd lost his keys in the couch or stubbed his toes when heading to the bathroom at night.

But then the interloper had done the unthinkable - he'd wallpapered the den. Which wouldn't have been so bad, if hadn't made the cardinal sin of using a liner. And even then, Dom could have let it go - but the border was a repeating picture of cats wearing Hawaiian shirts and aviator sunglasses. That shit couldn't stand.

Todd had thought the borders hilarious and thought he was being ironic. Jenna had to work hard to keep Dom from breaking his legs (it would be ironic) - whispering about mahogany crown moldings, and thick matte-finish paints in deep rich colors.

Todd lived in a little apartment downtown - hardly more than a studio, from what Dom understood. Jenna had once mentioned he decorated with posters. Posters! Like some college dorm.

"Oh, I'm serious all right." Except it came out "Umph Om pheriiuff ull righph." And Jenna laughed. Not a big laugh, just a chuckle that bubbled up and escaped her lips before she could slap her hand over her mouth. But it was enough. Todd was on his feet and shoving past her. Mostly so she wouldn't see him cry.

When he got to the front door, it stuck just enough that when he tried again - and it wasn't stuck at all - he ended up smacking himself in the face, bonking his broken nose and screaming in pain and frustration.

"I hate this fucking place!" Uh haph this fuggin plaff!

And in minutes he was in his car and gone.

Jenna stared at the stains in the carpet and sighed.

"I wish you wouldn't be such a dick to them, Dom. You know I love you," she said, leaning against the wall. The AC kicked on for a minute, and she was hit with a gentle cool breeze. "I know, I know - I'd never find another place like you."

There was a rattle from the pipes in the wall near the stains on the floor.

"Well, whose fault is that, huh? He wouldn't have bled everywhere if you hadn't bashed his nose in," said Jenna. She grabbed some soap and plopped the ice she'd been planning to use on Todd's nose in it and poured it over the stains.

"Well, if it doesn't come out, I'll talk to the folks at Brite & Klean, they are miracle workers," she said.

The A/C vents purred in response.

Friday, July 29, 2016

16 Accords of Madness, v. III: Hermaeus Mora's Tale

Author's Note: This came from a question on the TESLore subreddit

Are Hermaus mora Sheogorath connected?

March 20, 2016

Cynara's hand trembled as she lifted the book from the pedestal. The leather of the cover felt warm and seemed the slither under her touch - sucking at her fingertips like tacky mud, but hungrier.

The search had been long, but she finally held the knowledge in her hand. She licked her lips, oblivious to the two Daedric Princes watching her. A small smile flickered around Sheogorath's lips, and Hermaeus Mora's expression was much the same as it always ways.

"She is already mine, MadGod," said old Herma, his voice bubbling up from the writhing darkness.

"I give her a year," said Sheogorath, stifling a yawn.

"A year? For what?" asked Mora.

Oblivious to the conversation, Cynara opened the book and a tentacle, much the same temperature as the tome, slid around her neck and pulled her into Apocrypha. Without even a thought, both Princes followed the mortal.

"Before she gets bored of your slimy stacks," he replied, leaning on his cane.

"There is no boredom in my realm - endless knowledge is at her fingertips. She will never leave," he said, his voice oozed with smugness.

"I changed my mind," said Sheogorath. "Six months. And you will kick her out."

And the Mad Star vanished, leaving behind a scattering of butterflies wings that turned gray as the color slowly leeched from them.

After a a month, Cynara had read non-stop. Her fingers were smudged black with ichor. Three months had passed, and she was pulling books from the stacks.

"Where is it? No! I've read this one. And this one! I know the roads to Aetherius! I know how many stars sing in the sky and the names of their cousins! I know the words that will rent the Towers and sunder Mundus. Where is the rest?"

As the time crawled on in its sideways manner that it did in the dark corridors of Apocypha, suddenly the hush was cut by laughter. Then the sound of pages being torn.

"I see it! I see it now!" she screamed. By the time the Lurkers found her, she was surrounded by the broken shells of hundreds of books, naught but empty bindings, looking for all the world like dead birds. She had ripped their precious secrets asunder and swallowed them, pausing only to laugh and reach for another book. Ink dribbled from her mouth and her stomach bulged with destroyed knowledge.

As tentacles wrapped around her neck choking her laugh to silence, Hermaeus Mora heard another laugh all around him, and Cynara's body was no longer in his grip, and his scream of wrath was terrible.

"They may start in your realm, brother. But eventually, they all belong to me."

And it was a lesson the Old Man in the Forest would never forget.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Off and on

I've taken a bit of a break. The combination of personal writing projects coupled with my new job has monopolized my time. I have a few more entries that should last through the month of August. I hope to be posting here sporadically, but it won't be weekly updates unless a fancy strikes me.

Best of luck with your writing!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Stuff of Nightmares

Erin shoved her arms into the basin, sinking into the viscous fluid up to her elbows. She closed her eyes as she groped around, her fingers brushing over all manner of strange things. She recognized the skittering of the N'rux bug - bulging warts on the thick hide of a nameless beast, it shrank from her touch before she could get a good grip. Serrated teeth nibbled at her fingers ad she pulled away with a wry smile. The Grib was always hungry and one day, she would be just a little too slow and start to look a bit too much like Auntie Grins, who only had three fingers unevenly distributed between her two hands.

Erin shifted and made a quick grab, her fingers closed around the slender body of the pale Reb. She pulled it from the fluid and it immediately began to cry a soft heartbreaking sound that brought tears to her eyes. Its body was grayish-white and veined with blue. It wrapped around her slender wrist, and before she could grab it with her free hand, it sank its proboscis into her warm flesh and began to suck. Her vision blurred and suddenly she --

Her training was supposed to go on for another three weeks, but due to an little-known custom, her Master had decided to move it to today. She had tried to reason with him, knowing that failure meant expulsion and expulsion meant she would be kicked out of the only home she had ever known.

"You should have taken that into consideration, Acolyte," said Master Tuum. "If you can't pass this test, maybe you deserve to scuttle about the wastes."

"Please, I just need a few days to review. By all rights --"

"You've heard my answer," he said, his voice cold.

Erin began to go through the motions. It felt like her limbs were moving through cold pudding. Nothing was connecting, her runes did not achieve their spiritual ascendancy, no matter how careful she was in their carving. Her incantations lacked any umph at all. And she could feel failure pressing all over her.

Erin stopped. Sweat plastered her hair to her forehead. She leaned down and bit her wrist. A spout of warm blood filled her mouth, but she kept gnawing, ignoring the agony. Suddenly, a cold, bitter taste filled her mouth.

Blue ichor mixed with her coppery blood and clotted into odd purple streaks covered her arm. And she knew it was smeared over her face as well.

"How did you like that, you little shit?" she asked, still tasting the Reb's ichor in her mouth.

"Well done!" cried Master Tuum. "It's hard to break the Reb's hold. How did you do it?"

"It was the Incantations. I knew they should be working, but the Reb doesn't actually know the words. I do. And I knew they should have sparked ripples across the world," said Erin.

Tuum elbowed the robed Master next to him, who gave him a rather irritated look.

"I told you she knew them in her sleep," he said with a guffaw. A couple of Masters nodded, but seemed less than impressed by his enthusiasm.

"How would you apply the Reb in your work?" asked Master Helen.

"Moistened meshed nets are ideal. Hands on is strictly for testing and emergencies," said Erin. "I would apply it to the hairline of a visitor. Often times it will tap into their stresses and feed. When sated, it will detach and can be placed back in the basin."

Cowled heads nodded.

"We will add the cost of the Reb to your tuition," said Tuum.

Erin knew this was more than fair. Other Acolytes who had applied to the School of Somnum Exterri had been assigned to capture some of the specimens they lost control of or killed, rather than pay for a new one. Often, those Acolytes never came back. It was a way to keep tuition low.

"Welcome, Sister Erin. Bring unease to our visitors. May they wake in terror," said Master Helen.

"May they wake in terror!" called the circle.

Erin couldn't stop herself from clapping her hands together and grinning like an idiot.

There was a sudden piercing pain on the side of her head, and she slapped her hand against her temple. There was an audible crunch, and a hot, sticky fluid oozed down the side of her face.

"Oh, no," she whispered. She looked at the remains of the Froob Bug, squished on her hand, yellowish guts boiling away into a noxious gas before her eyes. She would have a horrible, blistering rash on the side of her face for at least two weeks.

The circle of Masters faded. Reality came back. Her test for full admittance was today.

"For fuck's sake," she said.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Time and Time Again


Her face lit up when he walked into the room, and he stopped dead in his tracks and he could feel the blood drain from his face. He hadn't seen that look in... Was it really years? His heart was hammering in his chest and he could only stare at her. The look of gladness in her eyes melted into concern. And she moved forward, pressing a cool hand to his forehead.

"Cal, are you okay?" she asked. "You look... Are you sick? You look awful."

He struggled to speak and to focus on her face, but his vision was blurred.

"Ginny, I - No, I'm fine. I'll see you in a bit," he managed.

"Back to the basement?" she asked. And then he saw it, the seedling of the look he had come to recognize and resent in her eyes. But it was so new, without the bitter edge it took on after months and he saw it clearly - it was sadness. She missed him. He swallowed against the lump in his throat.

Calvin closed the distance between them in just three steps. He slid his hands in her hair and cupped the back of her head, pressing his forehead against hers and staring into her eyes - so dark brown. The smell of her hair - that vanilla stuff she used. How long had it been?

"I will be right back," he whispered. "And then we can go out to Poorman's for lunch."

That faint look of disappointment that had manifested in her gaze was replaced with a warm smile. He kissed the corner of her mouth, and felt tears skip loose when he closed his eyes. This wasn't what he expected.

When he stepped back from the embrace he felt empty. He descended the basement stairs quickly and saw himself there. A sense of wrongness and dislocation crawled over his skin, but he ignored it and grabbed himself and spun him around. It was like looking into a kindhearted mirror - fewer lines, less red shot through the whites of his eyes, less frost in the hair.

"Recognize me, Cal?" he said, his voice a rusty growl.

"It works," he whispered. His eyes took on a fevered look of excitement. "I knew it!"

"Shut up, jackass," said Calvin. "You're going upstairs now. You're going to shower. You are going to take Ginny to Poorman's and talk to her. And hold her hand. And -"

"Are you insane? You just told - no proved to me it works. I can't stop now," said Cal.

Calvin sighed. He could feel the memories forming in his brain. He could see himself bludgeoning himself to death. He could see binding him and trying to pursue Ginny himself. Different outcomes seemed to unfurl in front of his eyes. But each one was surrounded by strange crackling images - like the broken-spectrum aura he would get before a migraine. He knew it wouldn't work because he needed both of himselves to even be here. Goddamn time travel. What a fucking waste.

"I'll do it," he said. "You go, and I'll make sure it happens."

He saw the doubt flicker across his own, younger face.

"You know I will. But please... We can't lose her. She doesn't understand."

Uncertainty flickered across Cal's face.

"But Ginny's fine," he said.

"She is. Now. But we don't know when to stop, do we?"

"You coming, Cal?" her voice caused Calvin to close his eyes and he struggled and didn't quite succeed in stifling a sob.

"Jesus, does she die?" Cal's voice was a horrified whisper.

"No... She just. Couldn't compete. And she knew it. And you know it. We know it," said Calvin. "Please go. Please. I thought it was worth it - cause I'd have time. I'd have all the time I needed. But we don't. I don't."

"I'm coming, Gin."

Calvin watched himself ascend the stairs. Then he did the only thing he could. He got back to work.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Tea and Death

April 14, 2016


"Why are you standing there? Come inside and shut the door behind you," said the old woman. Her hair was the consistency of dandelion puff, and it was pulled back into a tight bun, exposing a face lined with wrinkles and looking like dry tissue paper.

I started, looking around for a moment, and felt a chill wind behind me and shut the door, which was thicker than the span of my hand, and closed with a satisfying 'click.' The wood grain was silky smooth under my hand, and my fingers drifted over the cool, wrought iron filigree that swirled and whirled over the polished surface.

The house was small, but comfortable. The kitchen dominated the living space with a huge cast iron range that radiated pleasant warmth and a smell that was unmistakably cookies. I couldn't tell what kind of cookies - but they smelled of vanilla, chocolate and some kind of spice I couldn't put my finger on.

The old woman had set out a tray with a dainty tea service made of a pale ceramic that looked like it was carved from bone. Without even touching it, I could imagine the gentle rasp against my skin and the sound it would make as it clinked against my teeth. She poured two steaming cups of dark liquid. And though I assumed it was tea, the smell was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I couldn't place it or even begin to describe it.

"Don't just stand there, dear. Take a cloth and get the biscuits from the oven," said the woman.
As I pulled open the oven doors, the warm smell of baking cookies along with the full-force of the oven heat blasted around and over me. It was pleasant and overwhelming. I inhaled deeply as I pulled the hot tray from the oven, and felt tears spring to my eyes.

A brief vision of someone - someone I couldn't quite see or remember handing me a cookie that looked like one of the batch before me. Someone big and someone I loved, but they were a blur or a faded dream.

"Set it on the block over there," she said. "They need a little time to cool. Have a seat, love."

I sat and watched the woman bring the tray over, balancing it with an ease that belied her seeming age.

She set my tea on the table before me, and added a small, empty plate made of the same material as the teacup. I picked up the cup and cradled it in my hand - it did feel exactly as I imagined. I took a sip of the liquid and memories washed over and through me. They passed quickly, but all with perfect clarity - and new understanding.

I didn't see her rise. I didn't see her move across the table. But the woman was wiping my watering eyes with a soft cloth.


"You'll be alright," she said.

Then she went to get the cookies.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Purification


April 5, 2016



"Haven't you ever heard of a cover story?" Kel asked, as she packed up some bread and cheese into her haversack, her pale blue eyes locked on Ocheeva.

The argonian's eyes narrowed. "Of course we have, we are just concerned that you will bring undue attention to our sanctuary."

"You're being silly," said the Imperial. "When people see me, they don't see an assassin. They see the greatest mage of the Cyrods who laid low the King of Worms. They see a soldier who braved the horrors of the Deadlands to save...Well, save might be too strong a word... But close the gates at Kvatch. Why am I in Cheydenhal? Because I need to sort out some Mage's Guild business. The Count is still grateful to me for saving his twit of a son. And I'm this close to being Champion at the Arena."

Kel was setting out apples onto the table as she spoke.

"Fabulous," said Ocheeva, her voice crackling like a fire. "We need throngs of fans lining up at the sanctuary door."

"I'm careful. I've always been very careful," said Kel. "Haven't I always done a good job? Look at this dress, the scales, the ring - there hasn't been a bonus I haven't earned."

The argonian picked up and apple and shined it against the dark leathers of her armor before taking a bite.

"Fair enough. Look, Kel, I'm sorry, it just came as a shock. We're not used to having heroes in our midst," Ocheeva sighed.


"You know better than anyone that I'm not a hero," Kel said. But Ocheeva could no longer hear her.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Silver Streaks

March 29, 2016


Steph stared at the hair on her head and thought the term silver was a little overrated. If anything it looked like a filament of glass, clear and only standing out against the darkness of the rest of her hair. She knew some women could cultivate streaks of these locks, but she doubted she would be so lucky.

No, her mother's hair had a muddy, faded look to it when she had started to gray, and Steph was sure she would age in the same dull fashion.

It put her in a foul mood.

She looked at her reflection, meeting her own eyes and then frowned. There was a fleck in her eye. No, fleck isn't right - it was a streak that swept through her deep-brown iris. Her wide, dark eyes had always been her vanity, and now there was a pale stripe that kissed the edge of her pupil and swam through the color, and seemed to continue into the whites, though it was harder to track.

"What the hell," she muttered, leaning into the mirror, her fingers pulling the skin away, and she could see where the silvery color cut through the spidery red veins. Gingerly, she pressed her fingertip to the area, and felt nothing. As though she wasn't pressing her finger onto her eye - and when the whorls of her finger came in contact with it, it felt surprisingly cool. And hard. Like glass.

When her finger came away, the color - or lack of color - had already spread to it. She watched fascinated as her skin became at first shiny and silvery, then as though someone were showing her the meat and bone, but it all slid to transparent crystal as she watched. It crawled up to her first knuckle, and despite feeling nothing other than a faint chill, she found that once it had past the joint, she could no longer bend it. But that ceased to bother her nearly as much as her darkening vision.

She took a breath to scream, but by the time the air passed her vocal chords it just sounded like an errant breeze. She would have been impressed with how lovely the glass made her hair look.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Loose Ends

March 14, 2016


"This just in, it seems that when the Proto-organic beam from the alien spacecraft engaged with the already toxic atmosphere of the Earth it ignited the sky. Scientists - Well, the scientists that are left - are saying that it caused the radiation from the nuclear blasts that most of the major civilizations had detonated was reflected into the alien fleet. And though the alien craft are still in orbit we haven't been able to see any signs of life. Not that that matters Jan, because as you well know, there haven't been any signs of life on Earth for about a week now, but here we all are," said Tom, he smiled at the camera. His skin was roughly the color of day-old guacamole that had been left in the sun. His eyes, his pride and joy - the color of glacial ice, had long since clouded over with cataracts, but they didn't seem to affect his vision. Mike on the camera was in worse shape, with parts of his skin sloughing off as he took the live-shot. But he was still wearing the WMMT jacket, which contained the worst of it, and the headset had melded into the skin of his face as the nanites worked to repair the radiation damage as quickly as it happened. "Back to you, Jan."

"Thanks, Tom," said Jan. Her blonde hair was still perfectly coiffed, though her eyes had sunk back into their sockets considerably. The makeup she was wearing gave off the impression she was wearing an ill-made mask that was slipping off her face. But it was really just her face that was actually slipping off her skull.

"Word from Google is that their micro-technology has been working tirelessly to repair soft tissue from the ravages of radiation. However, we've just been told that our bodies are only able to tolerate the presence of these mini-robots because of the strange response the population had to the bio-agent known as Agent Jelly, that was introduced when Russia was able to launch the bio-hazardous material to key points in Europe, Africa, Canada and the United States. We're going to Tina, live... or whatever we're calling it now, outside of the capital crater. Tina?"

The shot cuts to a woman who is missing half of her face. When she speaks, a garble of syllables come out, that the nanites translate after a few moments. Techs at Google were kind enough to make the voice in everyone's head sound a little like yelling, so you wouldn't think you were insane. Most people hate it, but there's no one left to turn it off.

TRANSLATION: THANKS JAN, WE'RE LIVE OUTSIDE OF THE RUINS OF THE WHITEHOUSE. SURVIVING OFFICIALS CONFIRM THAT THE ASH FROM THE SUPERVOLCANO AT YELLOWSTONE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR SATURATING OUR ATMOSPHERE WITH RADIATION THAT WAS IGNITED WHEN THE ALIENS ATTACKED. WITH THE LATEST THREAT DEALT WITH, SURVIVING WORLD LEADERS ARE CONVENING FOR AN EMERGENCY CONFERENCE. THIS IS TINA VANKMEER REPORTING. BACK TO YOU, JAN.

The screen flickers back to Jan, who nods at the viewers.

"Thank you Tina. Many leaders have expressed thanks that all of these disasters have come to light. President Biden released this statement:

The screen cuts to a text overlay as Jan reads.

"This has indeed been a trying time for our nation and the nations of the world. No one was prepared for the attacks and the eruptions to come in such rapid succession. Then when Aliens abducted so many world leaders, we knew we had to act. The golden lining is that, despite the high casualties, those who survive seem impervious to heat, cold, hunger and thirst. Which makes rebuilding that much easier.

"We've come to the strange conclusion that anyone who has survived this long seems to be unable to die. This world shall rebuild - and with the alien technology now at our disposal - we can make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Stay strong. God bless America."

The camera cut back to Jan, and she shuffled some papers on the desk.


"Now a word from our sponsors," she said.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Stormchasing


March 13, 2016

The sky looked like a bruise. Not a gentle reddish kiss, but a roiling welt of deep purples, oily blacks, and sullen grays. And it was angry. Angry as I'd ever seen it. I knew why.

You shouldn't tell him no. He doesn't take no for an answer. But I wasn't worried about him. When all is said and done, he's just a man with a hard-on looking for a willing or not-so-willing woman to fuck - nothing for me to fear. I've dealt with men and gods alike - both are slaves to their baser needs - rutting like dogs at the scent of a bitch. Some women liked such things, crave it like fine food and drink.

But I know better. It isn't the thunder you need to fear.

Just ask poor Io, pale as milk, lowing in the field as a cow, under the watchful eyes of Argus. Ask Semele, whose ashes drift on the wind after seeing her lover in all his immortal glory. Look to the Bear that was once Callisto, chaste nymph of our fair huntress - chaste until the thunder rolled. Call out in a cave and hear the voice of little Echo. Poor girls.

For all his bluster, for all his rage is but a prelude to the real storm. So I'll bow out of this era, and find a time when he and his ilk have settled some. Where they play cards in the shade of new constellations.

And perhaps... Perhaps Hera will have learned a thing or two. Burn a bra, or have him sign a pre-nup with clauses that account for bird-transformations, or let him cool his thunderbolts on the couch for a century or three. It would do him some good.


Until then, I'll stay out of this myth. Or better yet, make some new ones to groove to.

Friday, April 22, 2016

In Like a Lion

/r/writing contest. The prompt actually came from my mom when I told her about a moth bumping into my window in February.

March 4, 2016

Winter stared out the window, still rimed with frost, and tried to see past the thick shadows. Not even stars were winking tonight.

There was a dull thwack and a scrabbling flutter and Winter jerked back startled by the moth harrying her window.

"How odd," she said, watching the insect. "Much too early for you. My brother isn't due for weeks yet."

But there it was at her icy glass at the end of February. She picked up her Android and swiped it, smiling as the picture of her twin sticking her tongue out, with her blushing cheek squished against Winter's, her eyes squished shut as she snapped the selfie, popped up on her home-screen. She flipped through the contacts and dialed Spring.

As the phone buzzed a ring, she glanced at her window, and now there was only blackness and she felt a twinge of worry. It wasn't often that living things came to the home of Winter.

"Hey, sis! How've you been?" Springs voice was always pleasant to hear, but he seemed to be in rare form - practically buzzing with energy. Also odd.

"Are you in the area, Spring?" she asked.

"No sweetie, I'm not due in for... Gosh, a month at least. Why?"

"One of your harbingers was at my window - I thought it was weird, being the ass-end February and all," said Winter.

"Oh, shit - honey, I meant to tell you. There was a small issue with security. I got some new guys and they're usually pretty cool, but the alarm went off and they just... They opened a couple of the boxes," he said.

"Oh, no... But the lion is out," said Winter, looking at the window again. Still no sign of the moth.

"I know, I should have called. But we got most of it packed away again - and you know how snowdrops are, they'll come back if the sun flirts with them even a little bit," he said. "Look, sis, I love chatting with you, but April showers don't arrange themselves."

"I know, bud. I'll see you at Autumn's party next era, anyway."

She pushed the 'end call' and chewed her lip. She grabbed her favorite coat and slipped into the night.

The lion was cruel and fickle - able to hide, making you think it was safe to come out. Then without a sound, a wind cold as Death's chest freezer would choke out new blossoms, ice over ponds where frogs had started to stir, and completely fuck with the migrating birds.

Technically, the lion was her, but things got a confusing when she anthropomorphized too much. March was a bitch like that.

The darkness was thick and syrupy, but she could hear the lion moving through the shadows, punctuated by a deep, reverberating growl that rattled her teeth. But then she heard something else - the buzzing flutter of velvet wings. Closing her eyes, Winter took a beep breath - and faintly caught the hint of wet mud, pollen, a delicate green.

Reaching forward, her hands sank into the sky blue mane of the lion. She opened her eyes, and saw a single glacial blue eye, the size of a grapefruit, staring into hers, and she laughed. And as she laughed, the lion laughed - and cold wind roared through the land.

On his nose, was the moth. Its wings were pale green, and even in the darkness seemed to shimmer and glow , and where its tiny legs caught on the lion's mane, green tendrils curled out of the frosted fur. She coaxed the bug gently on her fingers - delighted at how soft and oddly warm it was. But everything felt warm to her.

She whispered gently in the insect's ear, though she knew perfectly well, moths had no ears, and it fluttered away. Where the gentle wind of its wings kissed the frozen earth, it would soften.

It winged back to her brother's house. And she knew that despite his plans, he would be early. Which was fine, since it had been awhile since she had slept in.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Playback

Feb. 26, 2016

Beginnings

They shoot the white girl first. Then the old black woman. The five-year-old boy next. Then his mother. They systematically execute everyone on the bus.  I rewind the tape and watch how they move. Something is off, and it makes my brain itch as I watch but I can't put my fingers on it. Like they are super-imposed on the video. They shoot the white girl first. They are clearly part of the scene.

I can't see their faces, and there's no reason why. There were no masks on, no hoods, and it wasn't the lighting or even the quality of the video, but my eyes could not discern faces. Whenever we isolate images to look at them, the picture is distorted, as though someone had dipped fingers in grease and smeared it over where the faces would go.

What was worse was that no one at the precinct could identify when this happened. We had found the bus company, but there was no sign of a single murder, let alone a wholesale slaughter.

"Rosen, you have to give it a rest," said Blake. He filled the doorway, bending down to peer into the room. The guys called him the BFG. You'd think someone of his size would be terrifying, but Billy Blake had a way about him. He could get people to talk - he had kind eyes and wasn't afraid to find the good in the worst kinds of people. The rookies would watch some of his interviews with pedophiles, rapists and sadistic murders and clench their fists and spit about how they could never do that. But the BFG had more convictions under his belt than half the department put together. Because not only can you talk to Blake, you want to talk to him. He had warm brown eyes, with the types of crinkles that told jokes and held laughter. Eyes that didn't tell the perp that they were a piece of shit, but that they had just made a mistake. They would forget the cameras, forget the microphones and tell the BFG all their wrongs. Some would cry. Some would brag. Some whispered it quietly. But in the end it was recorded and went to trial.

And it wasn't an act. He tried to look beneath the layer of slime on some of the people who sat in the interview chairs and really see what made them tick. He could see the abused kid. The crushing loneliness. The need to be understood. And he connected with them.  A perp can smell insincerity from down the block. And though he would take their words and use them to lock these sick people away for years, these guys never seemed to attach the bad feeling to Blake. They would shake his hand, some would call him from jail just to talk.

The smile on my lips felt plastered on.

"I know, Blakey. But this is driving me up the wall. The guys at computer crimes say the video is legit. The bus is real. We've got the number, the drive - hell the names of his wife and kids and third cousins - everything, but it’s been in service every day and there have been no incidents. They let us review all of the surveillance video they have on file – a year’s worth. It does't make sense," I said, pushing some of my limp brown hair out of my face. I picked up my coffee mug and took a pull. The liquid was cold, but it was still caffeinated. "I'm gonna head over there and talk to the manager. L-T said I could ride the route, see if anything comes of that. You want to go for a trip?"

A smile creased Blake's face, but he was shaking his head.

"I'd love to, Rosie, but it's Sara's birthday and I can't miss this one," he said.

"Jeez, get out of here Blake. Give Sara a kiss for me," I said.

He ducked back out of the office and I could hear him swipe his card and the click of the magnetic locks as he left the building. I rewound the video.

#

The manager was a small, overworked man with thinning hair, and narrow eyes that gave him a scheming, rat-like quality.

“Look, lady – I don’t know why you have to do this. The owner okayed it so you can ride the fucking bus. If it had been up to me, I would say you can piss up a rope with no warrant – just sayin’- but that ain't my call. Don’t bother Harry too much while he’s driving. He has actual work to do,” he said. His voice was high and nasally and I inwardly said a prayer for all of his coworkers.

“Thanks. I’ll stay out of his way,” I said.

The bus was actually pretty nice. Velour seats with rainbow graphics against the gray plush. Each had its own little television screen for the movie. I sat in one of the seats that had an emergency exit and a good view of the driver and the door. The vehicle was dotted with passengers stowing bags, settling kids, flipping through magazines or browsing on their phones.

My phone rang and buzzed. I pulled it from my belt.

“Detective Rosen,” I said.

“Rosie, where are you?” it was Blake and he sounded out of sorts. I had never heard him sound out of sorts.

The bus lurched forward, and I reached  to touch the seat in front of me to steady myself and happened to catch the eye of an elderly black woman and felt an odd pull in my stomach.

“Vasquez called me from the computer unit. They were able to date the video, but it didn’t make sense. But it made me feel funny when he told me – especially with you going out there so I wanted you to know,” he said.

The lights flickered on the bus as we drove through town, and static squealed on my phone and I had to remove it from my ear. I saw them manifest.   It was like the shadows were pulled from every corner of the bus – it darkened around where they appeared and the sound it made was alien and excruciating. There were three - I knew there would be three.

I didn’t need the BFG to tell me what date they found on the video.

They shoot the white girl first.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Laughter and a Kiss

Feb. 18 2016

The laughter crackled like static electricity around the room when the bottle stopped spinning. It was pointing straight at Drears, whose ears turned bright red and she hung her head, letting a curtain of dark hair fall over her face.

Whispers followed. Jimmy got Drears! Wouldn't want to kiss that... Followed by more laughter, and this time I felt my ears getting red - but with anger.

Drears wasn't so bad, just awkward. She wouldn't have even come to this party if her sister Kelly hadn't been ordered to bring along her younger, awkward sister. Kelly was everything Drears wasn't - blonde, popular and put together. She wasn't mean, but she also didn't have to time to help her hapless sis, or risk losing her social standing by sticking up for her. When the game of spin the bottle had been announced, a grin as sharp as broken glass twisted on Kelly's lips and she shoved Drears into the room before heading over to the beer pong table.

The poor girl sat in the room, picking at the fraying hem of her jeans, pulling her knees as close to her chest as she could. Hardly part of the circle, but it was enough for the bottle to glance her way. Enough for the crowd to laugh at her. And me.

Drears wasn't her name, in case you couldn't figure that out - and some people honestly didn't know. Even her mom called her Drears. It took me a second, but I remembered - it was Dorothy. Like the girl from OZ. Kelly and Dorothy Rears, and all it took was Mrs. Lawson calling out attendance on the first day of sixth grade.

"Drears? Who's Drears?" she asked, looking over her bug-glasses at the class. Her ears had turned red then too. Laughs sizzled from the back of the room and chittered to the front like splinters of glass.

"Dee. REARS," said Derek Hawthorne. "Drears!"

And that was that. It wasn't even funny. But the laughter sounded the same tonight as it had three years ago.

I could see her eyes shining with tears that wouldn't hold back much longer, even through the curtain of her hair. I leaned forward, one hand on the shabby carpet, and reached out with the other and slipping it through the strands of hair to cup her cheek. We were so close I could feel her breath on my face, minty with a hint of warmth beneath. My forehead bumped hers with a jolting, but not unpleasant thump.

She blinked in surprise, and two twin tears fell, but didn't even hit her cheeks. They were simply swallowed silently by the carpet. Her hair felt like silk and I can still see her dark eyes. She was surprised. I raised my eyebrows and waited half a second. I saw the smallest smile, but it was enough.


I kissed her gently on the corner of her mouth and all the laughter stopped.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Discord


Feb. 11, 2016

The apple seemed to hang in the air for a beat maybe two, before dropping on the table. Each of the fair goddesses looked at its flesh, burnished and shining softly in the warm light of Olympus and felt desire. The stem had a single leaf that curled, also wrought of the metal - or grown. Such things are difficult to distinguish at a distance. But the words could be read by all, "To the fairest."

Each letter cast off the light from Hestia’s hearth and could be seen in the eyes of wisdom, love and fertility. Gray, blue and green all turned to gold that day. All at the feast fell silent and watched.

Hera, queen of all, wife and mother was cold and beautiful when calm. But she was not calm, she was like the sea, pulling back a tidal wave.

Athena, gray and armored, but fair face revealed. When she laughs a wicked beauty can be seen. But she was not laughing.

Aphrodite, flaxen hair and ruby lips, desired by all. Now she took on the fierce look of a tiger extending claws for a kill, which only increased her beauty but filled us all with fear.

Three hands, alabaster all, reached for the apple. Each knew how it would feel in her hand, at once cool and warm. Perfectly heavy in the palm. The words so true all would know them right, once the fruit was in hand. Tongues caressed lips at the mere thought. And eyes, already brimming with desire for the heavy fruit, filled with anger at the other two who dared reach for the prize.

Food dropped back to plates. The sharp sound of in-drawn breaths as the celebration turned into a contest with but a tossed apple.


Eris, the uninvited, still small, watched through her dark hair that was covering her darker eyes, and smiled.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Duel


Feb. 3, 2016

"Wait - just wait, this should work," Phil took out the pipet and let a small droplet of smoking greenish liquid drop into the crystal decanter. It began to simmer and the mixture turned an interesting shade of seafoam green and the smell of cinnamon toast permeated the air, eliciting a groat from the aforementioned Phil.

He hurriedly began to paw through his leather satchel. Bottles clinked together, and there was the audible sound of glass crunching, and a liquid the color of moldy cheese dripped out of the corner his pack and began burning pits in the marble floor.

"Nice try," said Angie, pulling her wand out. She began tracing a series of complex runes in the air as Phil glanced over at her.

"No, no - you aren't even getting the declensions right," he snapped.

Without  thinking he placed his hand on top of hers, banished two runes, then re-drew the incantation in its correct format. Her eyes widened and she turned a dangerous shade of magenta.

"How very dare you!" said Angie.

"I'm not the one butchering the ancient texts," he said.

"Says the guy who turns a potion of Lung Rot into potpourri?" she said back, pushing her frizzy blue hair out of her void-black eyes. "For Lung Rot, you need to simmer the mandrake stock for an hour before adding the drake's blood. Any hedgewitch could tell you that."

"Well, you'd know," he snorted.

She finished the rune work, reached into her pocket and then tossed some chalky gray dust at Phil. He coughed, and wiped it from his face, pulling his spectacles off and began to hastily rub them on his robe, but the dust smeared greasily all over the lenses. The more he rubbed, the worse it got.

"No! Not my Vision-Sense oculi! Do you know how much these cost?!" he cried.

"You got the Vision-Sense?" she asked, the anger replaced by intrigue and concern.

"You ruined them," said Phil, unable to keep his eyes from brimming with tears. 

"Let me see them," Angie said, holding out her hand, her talons had retracted and Phil handed over his specs. She held them up to the light, whispered three complicated, forbidden words and Phil could faintly hear terrified screaming, and then the greasy mess seemed to vaporize, leaving the lenses clear.

"What did you do?" he asked, peering over her shoulder.

"I told the bacteria that caused the mess that I would make them evolve into multi-celled organisms if they didn't fix it. They hate that," she said.

"Oh, that's brilliant," murmured Phil as he reapplied his glasses. "Oh, these are much clearer."

"They do good work when they're in a panic," said Angie. "Look, Philip, I know I said I was going to hex you into next semester. I'm sorry. Finals have really been getting to me."

"I know how you feel. The project that Dark Lord B'Rudd is having me do - I'm going to be transsubstantiated before this semester is over," he said absently screwing and unscrewing a bottle of glowing blood of the dread Thrax beetle.

"Wait, is it the summoning of the unmentionable evil from the edges of reality?" asked Angie.

Phil went still and his eyes widened. "How did you know?"

"He assigns the same thing every semester because he's lazy. I still have my notes from last year. Do you need them?" she asked, adjusting her backpack, causing some rats to chitter at her before running down her pack, and hopping onto the summoning floor and disappearing into a small opening in the wall.

"Do I? Angie, that would literally save my soul - I haven't been able to do an effective binding in... Well, I can't," said Phil.

"Yeah, let me dig them out of my room," she said.

His face filled with glee, then doubt and suspicion.

"How do I know you aren't going to trick me?" he asked, and another expression - a cross between embarrassment and wincing crossed his face in the other direction as soon as the words left his mouth, blotchy red climbed up his neck and bloomed in patches across his face. "I mean... we were just -"

She gave him a steady look with her odd, black stare.

"I'll need you to drill me on the runic declensions and then we'll be even," she said. "I can swear on... Drat. I traded my soul for extra credit. What else would work?"

"Your mother's soul?" he asked.

She clapped her hands together and grinned, "Perfect!"