Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Fate




I crept down the boardwalk at that time of day that’s between late night and early morning, using darkness and the fog rising from the water as cloaks. To ease my nerves, I wore earbuds connected to the device in my hoodie pocket, allowing Tom Petty’s voice to sooth me as I moved down the boards toward the pier.

The darkness was not absolute, even with the hour and the lack of a moon. Not only was I too close to town, but there were lights on the pier. I didn’t know if the ferris wheel illumination was meant to make the pier more visible to ship or if it was for advertising, but according to my sources, they never go off.

My eyes were on the wheel and my ears were full of waves and music, so my first inkling that I wasn’t alone came from a faint but sharp aroma mixing in with the briny scent of the sea.

There, sitting on the railing on the other side of the pier entrance, were a trio of teenagers. They passed a small glowing joint between them. As I paused to consider turning around, one looked my way.

He gave me a lackadaisical smile. “What’s up, bro?”

So unexpected was this behavior, I was at a loss for words. Where was the screaming? People usually screamed, either in fear as they ran away or in excitement as they grabbed their cameras.

“Dude!” Said one of his friends, a young gentleman with dark skin and shiny rings in his nose. “It’s a sasquatch!”

“Yo!” went the third one, all eloquence he may have possessed having abandoned him.

They all three stared at me.

I raised a hand. “Hey.”

Their eyes went wider. The only holding the joint looked at it as though wondering if it was causing hallucinations, then held it out to me.

Taking the wordless offering, I drew the joint to my lips and took a small, polite, drag.

The boys laughed.

“So...” said the talkative one, taking the joint back. “What’s a sasquatch doing down here? Don’t you usually, like, stay in the woods and stuff?”

“Usually.” I raised a long, hairy finger to point down the pier to a garish green and orange tent-like structure with a giant hamsa in from of it. “See that building that says, ‘Curiosities’?”

The teen glanced at the tacky affair, landing with more agility than I would have expected. “They got something of yours?”

“Nah, nothing like that.” I held my hand out for the joint and allowed myself another hit. “They’ve got this fake Bigfoot exhibit, right?”

“Yeah, alright.” His head tilted toward the side as he retook possession of his weed. I supposed he was trying to figure out what that had to do with me.

“I have to take a selfie with it.”

All three of them snorted with laughter and the boy with the nose rings shook his head, “For real?”

“It's a dare,” I admitted. “If I do it, I win a bet with a friend of mine. A lot of money's on the line.”

“Sasquatches use money?” asked the first teen.

“When we have sanctuaries to run, we do.”

“Huh. What do you know?” He pulled on the dying roach and passed it to his quiet friend. “Need help?”

“Nah, I got this.” I shook my head, stuffed my hands into the pocket of my hoodie, and ambled away.

When I passed their way again, the boys began to follow me, as I knew they would. I’d feel bad about how I led them out of the city and away from their homes, but once they’d seen me, I didn’t have a choice. My kind avoids humans not because we’re shy, as we’re often portrayed, but because of this draw. Once a human sees one of us, they’re spellbound for life.

So, I took them home with me, and gave them rooms in the sanctuary. I think they like it here, as all the humans I keep seem to. Their upkeep is costing every penny I won from completing that dare, but I guess that’s just the way fate is sometimes.




The pictures above were writing prompts provided by Bliss Morgan as part of her annual Nightmare Fuel Project.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Stephen


The first time I saw Stephen, he painted a hex sign on my right arm, and I couldn't move my fingers for three hours.


The second time I saw Stephen, it was at his trail for unauthorized hexing. I got to tell a nice lawyer in a nice suit all about the finger incident, and then I got to tell a not so nice lawyer in a nice suit about it. Afterwards, the judges thanked me for my contribution and sent me away before the sentence was cast.


I think you can understand why I wasn't so stoked to see him the third time I saw Stephen. It was the first day of my senior year of high school, and he walked right into my classroom to take the seat beside mine.


"Let me see your hand," he said.


There was no way I could hold back my sneer. "I don't think so."


I was all set to look away and never look back when I caught a motion in the corner of my eye. He was holding back a smile, possibly even a laugh. I turned my head so I could fully focus on him as I ask, "What are you so amused about?"


He thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Nope. Can't think of any way to answer that without you getting mad."


"What's that supposed to mean?"


His smile finally broke through. I liked the smile much more than I wanted to.


The fourth time I saw Stephen, he was hustling tourists outside a hotel. Cheating change from clueless visitors via slight-of-hand was an odd way for someone of the magic caste to spend his after-school hours. Yet, there he was, pulling off a silky smooth three-card-monte.


As the fleeced tourist made the wise choice to retreating to the hotel lobby, Stephen's gaze began to sweep the crowd in search of new prey. His attention landed on me, and he grinned. Gathering his coins from the folding table he has set up, he kept his eyes on me as I walked slowly up.


My head shaking, I stopped in front of him. "What are you going?"


"It's a game, princess." He paused midway through breaking down the table. "Did you want to play?"


"No, thank you." I frowned as he slid the folded table into a bag and slung the bag's strap across a shoulder.  "You don't need that guy's money."


"Nope." He gave me an agreeable smile before striking a path up the sidewalk, tossing over his shoulder, “But neither did he.”


The fifth time I saw Stephen, I decided to stop counting how many times I'd seen him. Apparently, he was in my homeroom now, and counting him everyday would soon grow tiresome.


The sixth time I saw Stephen, he was holding a dead cat.


It's not womanly to shriek when startled by something bloody, but I did it anyway. On the plus side, the scream jolted the cat back to life. She cracked open an eye just long enough for me to see she was not grateful for the favor, then closed it again.


"What are you doing with that cat?"


For once, he didn't seem amused by my presence. "Looking for a mage."


My eyebrows slid together. "You're a mage."


"I know. Just..." He held the cat out. It was small enough to lay across his two hands, so maybe it was more of a kitten that a cat. "Heal her. Please."


Despite not being able to see why Stephen didn't cast the spell himself, I drew a quick symbol over the injured animal. A warming blue glow wrapped around the cat's body.


"Alright. All better." I looked up at Stephen. When had we gotten so close? His head was bent down, his eyes on the glowing fur in his hands. If I took my hands from my pockets, where I'd stashed them as soon as the spell had been drawn, I could put them underneath Stephen's to help support the weight.


Stephen's throat bobbed, and he nodded. "Thanks. I... I guess I like cats."


"You sound uncertain."


A smile appeared and his gaze slid up to me. "No. I'm certain. I like cats. I work at the rescue on sixth. That’s what I do with all the money I get from the cards. But that seemed like too far to take this one with her so bad off."


"So why didn't you heal her?


His eyes dropped as he paused for a deep breath, then he blurted out a long line of mumbles I could just barely understand. "I can't cast health spells anymore. They all come out as hexes." His gaze moved to the side as if to judge my reaction, but it darted back to the cat in a flash.


"Hexes?"


"Yeah. Like last year. I wasn't trying to paralyze your hand. Why would I do that?" He twisted his neck, bending his head so it looked like he was addressing the feline. "I was trying to wake her. So she'd do better on the tests. I didn’t know I’d somehow lost the ability to do it."


"Why would you care how I did on my exams?"


A breeze ruffled through the air, its scent speaking of bread baking in the cafe I was heading to before I ran into Stephen. "Well, I thought if you did a good job, and if you thought I'd helped... Well, that maybe... Maybe you'd like me."


I just sort of stared at him.


"Do you remember the first time we met?" he asked.


"Of course." I studied his face, trying to read the direction we were going in. "You hexed me."


His eyes stay latch onto mine as he shakes his head. "No." He smiled sadly. "The first time we met was in year one."


"Year one?" I repeated, a bit dimwittedly, I'll admit.


"We've been going to the same school for eleven years."


I frowned and cast my memory back, trying to summon any image of Stephen before the last semester. "Are you certain?"


Laughing, he shook his head. "Yeah. I see you all the time. You just don't see me."


"What? Were you invisible?"


"No." He sighed and snuggled the kitten against his chest. He held her against him with one hand, using the other to scratch her behind the ears. "Or maybe yes. In the sense that anyone not in your social elite may as well be.”


I wanted to argue against the notion that I was that snobby, but found I couldn’t. Even though everyone at the school seemed to know my name, I could only name a twenty something people in the thousand body student population. “Hmmmm…. I’m sorry, I guess.”


“Don’t be sorry.” He gave one shoulder a shrug. “Just… You’re missing a lot.”


The next time I saw Stephen, I tried very hard to see him fully. Medium height. Average build.  Race, ambiguous. Nothing about his stats stood out. He wore the same blue and gray uniform as the other boys, although his untucked shirt was out of regulation and his tie was neither tight nor straight. It was easy to see how I missed him before, how he’d blended into a background of moving images.


I focused on some of the other blobs moving through the hallway as I leaned against the wall beside where Stephen stood watching the traffic. A girl went by with bright green hair. How had I missed her before? There was a couple, two boys swinging their conjoined hands like they were strolling through a forest glen rather than weaving through the student masses. A girl whose mascara ran down her face in teary smudges. Another grinning like she’d won the lottery. A boy with a big, bushy afro…


The bell rang and I followed Stephen into homeroom.


Jaquelyn was sitting in the seat I had come to think of as Stephen’s. She waved me to my seat and I sat, obeying out of habit rather than stopping to think if I really wanted to sit there or somewhere Stephen could be beside me. My new friend walked to a place near the back of the room while my old friend smiled. “Surprise!” Jaquelyn said. “I told Principal Amel it just wouldn’t be right for us to be in different homerooms and that she had to move me.”


“Great.” I smiled. If asked to described whether I liked Jaquelyn or not, I’m not sure what I’d say. But she was familiar, and she wasn’t asking me to break out of my comfort zone like certain other people. Nevertheless, I spent the entire period fighting the urge to look back over my shoulder.


Seeing Stephen became a matter of course at that point. There he was by the water fountain. There by the window. There at lunch.


“Who is that guy you keep looking at?” Deedee asked. She squatted behind where I sat, leaning forward to bring her head next to mine.


“Stephen,” I said.


“Who?” my friends chorused.


I nearly said, “No one.” But at the last instant, I changed my answer to, “My homecoming date.”


Which meant that the next time I saw Stephen, I had to ask him to homecoming. And hope he said yes.


“Homecoming?” he said, a lazy smile rising up in the wake of his speech. He jerked his chin to the left. “See that girl by the door?”


“Yeah?” I winced, fully expecting him to say he was already committed. I winced again when my eyes landed where he was directing them. Brichelle Eerin. Mousy, pale, and always chewing on her fingernails. My first thought was to be mortified to place second to her, but it was immediately followed by an appreciation of the girl. For someone as nervous as she was, asking a boy out must have been a really big deal. So, good for her. Even if it was bad for me.


He bent down to whisper in my ear. “What’s her name?”


I turned my head. “You don’t know her name?”


“I know her name.” He rolled his eyes. “I want to see if you do.”


Okay… “It’s Brichelle.”


He smiled. “Then, yes, I’ll go to homecoming with you.”


My jaw dropped before I could snap my mouth shut. I glared for a second. “You were testing me?”


His smile turned into a big grin. “Yeah. And you passed.”


I stared. It was probably more of a glare.


Eventually, his expression fell into a relaxed regard. His eyes were on mine, the different browns in them sparkling like topaz “Sorry. I won’t do it again.”


Despite the cockiness of exchanges like that last one, most of the time I saw Stephen, I saw a shy, reserved sort of person. He was a watcher, an observer of the world. If he felt any need to affect the goings on around him, he didn’t show it. One day while out shopping, I saw a little notebook. I bought him that and a nice quill, giving him the two items in homeroom the next day. After that, I saw him writing in the book more often than not.


The first time Jaqueline saw Stephen, he was on my arm and we were walking into the homecoming dance. I could tell she saw him because she stuck her chest out like she does whenever she approaches a male of our species and asked him what school he went to. He didn’t have his notebook with him, but I was certain the exchange was going to be recorded in it later.



The whole school knew him eventually, once he became my official boyfriend and was thus popular-adjacent if not popular in his own right. But I don’t know if any of them ever truly saw either of us.




The first sentence of this story was taken from Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine. It was one of the possible writing prompts for Chapter One. I can't figure out where the image is from. It pops up on a Google search for "boy with cat, anime" and is on several places on Pintrest and websites that host backgrounds, but no one has accredited it. If you know who created the image, please let me know. Because a.) I want to acknowledge the artist, and b.) I want to find more work like it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Harvey


I never understood why the other kids thought Harvey was creepy. “It’s the teeth,” they all said. But what’s creepy about having teeth? I had teeth; these other kids had teeth; you most likely have teeth. Teeth are not creepy; they’re normal. What’s creepy is all those stuffed animals out there without teeth.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Them

The first time I saw one of Them was at a train station on a Saturday morning. I was going into London to visit the shops, and I presumed it was a new art installation. The council had warned there would be more statuary in our town future, so it made sense that this blocky metallic man would be related.

When I disembarked the train, I saw another of Them. “Must be an advertising campaign,” I thought.

The third one of Them was standing on the tube platform. The fourth was near the exit. By the fifth one of Them, found just outside a sandwich shop, I was starting to get nervous. Everyone else was ignoring them, but when I touched one, it was most certainly there. Maybe everyone else knew what they were about?

“Excuse me?” I said to the next person to pass. “Do you know what this is?”

“It’s a sandwich shop.” He didn’t even slow down as he passed the sixth one of Them.

At this point, my blood was icy cold and my skin had erupted in gooseflesh.

I stared as the man who had just passed came to a stop and transformed into the seventh one of Them. What was happening?

“You!” said a man with bushy brown hair and a ridiculously long scarf. “You see them!”

As he was pointing at one of Them, he must have as well.

“Yes…”

The man’s blue eyes widen. “And you haven't transformed?"

"No..."

"That must mean something!" He proclaimed as he reached out to take my arm. "Come with me!”

And that is how I met the Doctor.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Let's Play

When I was five, my cousin got a new playhouse. You know, one of those little prefab structures to sit in the yard and let her imagine a future of domestic servitude? My parents were worried because they couldn’t afford to buy me one and thought I might be jealous.

I laughed when my mother broached the subject of my theoretical envy. “I have a house, Mom. I don’t need a smaller one.”

She smiled at me and turned to her mother. “See, she’s fine.”

Grandma gave me a long look. “So, you really don’t want a playhouse of your very own? Not even for your birthday?”

I snorted, rude in the way that only the very young can get away with. “No. I want a spaceship.”

“A spaceship?” she replied slowly.

“Yep!” My neck nearly snapped with the enthusiasm of my nod. “I want to travel to other planets and meet aliens!”

I never got my spaceship, but it’s all I can think of as I look into the yard of the house we’re checking out. “Honey,” I tell my husband. “A spaceship!”

“That’s cool,” he says. But he doesn’t run up to it with me, and doesn’t act like we should buy this property without even walking inside the house.

“I’ve always wanted a spaceship!”

His lips curl up. “Then you shall have a spaceship. But, I’m not sure this is the one.”

“Are you kidding?” I run my hand over the side of the glorious thing. Although it looks like metal, the outside is actually some form of plastic. This means there’s no rot or rust, so even though it obviously hasn’t been maintained, it’s not falling apart or dangerous. It just needs a good cleaning. And maybe an exterminator. “It’s perfect.”

Carlton looks at our realtor as I stick my head inside the saucer. “Do you think they’d sell just the spaceship?”

She laughs. “We can ask. I know they were planning on leaving it.”

A light blinks on a panel across from the door. “Oh!” I say. “It still works!”

“Works?” Carlton asks. “What do you mean?”

I’m busy climbing into the spaceship, but I answer over my shoulder, “There are electronics in here.”

“I don’t know that they’re safe,” he answers. “Something this old, and outdoors… Be careful.”

I love the man, but sometimes he really isn’t much fun.

My phone illuminates the interior of the ship. It’s small, but oddly comfortable. Cozy even. I can easily see myself putting some floor pillows in here and spending the day reading classic sci-fi. The panel with the blinking light on it is smooth save for the bulb and something in the shape of a hand.

I smile to myself as I place my palm on the panel.

I stop smiling as the entire room brightens and swirling noises fill the air. The spaceship hums to life, and the doorway slides closed.
Through the portals, I can see Carlton yelling, but his voice doesn’t make it through the hull.

As the ship rises into the air, I realize I’m finally getting my interplanetary adventure. And I think I still want it.

The Light

The first thing I think of when I see the bright light is the song “Mr. Spaceman” by the Byrds. “Hey, Mr. Spaceman, won’t you please take me along? I won’t do anything wrong. Please, Mr. Spaceman, won’t you please take me along for a ride?”

The second thing I think is, “Run!”

These thoughts hit each other head on to cause me to stand staring at the approaching luminescence.

Approaching luminescence… Whatever it is is getting closer, coming toward me through the dark forest. It shouldn’t be able to make a straight line, not with all the trees in the way. I dart to the side, but the light turns to stay directly in front of me. That’s probably not good.

“Don’t run,” says a voice that sounds like it’s being projected from a million surround-sound speakers. “Stay. Please.”

The voice is both terrifying and serenely comforting.

I force myself to speak. “Who are you? What do you want?”

“I love you,” the voice replies. For some reason, the answer doesn’t frighten me.

“Who are you?” I ask again. The light has continued to grow closer and is now filling the entire clearing with blinding radiance.

“I am Iyrin, a watcher.”

A watcher? A watcher who glows with the force of a star. “An angel?”

“Some call me that.”

“Can I see you?”

The light dims until all I see is darkness. As my eyes adjust to this, a shape begins to form before me. It’s tall and human-shaped, save for the wings. I can’t tell what gender the being is, but it is the most breathtakingly beautiful individual I have ever beheld.

The being - the angel - draws near. Near enough that despite the dark, I can suddenly see his- her?- eyes. They’s a pale yellow, like buttercups, and are filled with adoration.

She - he? - reaches out and embraces me. And the world becomes nothing but light.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Truth or Dare?

“No,” I state, firm in my conviction.

“You’re the one who picked dare.” Connie folds her arms and gives me a look that clearly communicates there’s no backing out of truth-or-dare. “And the dare is, go swimming in the abandoned bunker.”

“But I didn’t know it was this gross!” I wave my hand over the murky expanse, which is lit only by Trina’s cell phone. It also smells like… I don’t even know what. But it smells awful. “I want another dare!”

“Nope,” says Trina, her voice holding laughter. “Although if you want to tell us who you were making out with in the library, we’ll let you switch to truth.”

I can’t do that though. The things in the water could quite possibly kill me, but nowhere near as quickly as Connie and Trina would if they found out I’d been with a vampire. They wouldn’t call me a fanger slut, but they would make it very, very clear that I’m not to be involved with anyone who considers me food. And there’s no way they’d buy that Alec is different, that he doesn’t view me as nutrition; they’d say I’m deluded.

“Fine,” I grumble. At least they let me change into my swimsuit, so I’m not having to do this naked. I draw a breath and run into the water with a squeal. I stop with it hitting my knees. The water isn’t actually that deep, just slimy.

“Swim!” Connie calls out. “You can’t just stand there, that’s cheating!”

I sink down to my knees, bringing the water up to my waist, and I start to gag. I can’t do this.

Feeling sick, I rise to my feet and trudge back to my friends. Time to face the truth...