Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Once Within a Solstice Tree


“Mom!”
Amelia closed her eyes. If she pretended not to hear her daughter, would whatever Bethy was yelling about go away?
“Mom!”
A cascade of pounding feet tumbled down the stairs to Amelia's basement workshop. With a sigh, she put down her tongs and stepped away from her bench, careful not to leave the chunk of frankincense too close to the bubbling cauldron.
“Mom!”
Amelia plastered on a smile for her child, who couldn't really help being a rambunctious bundle of energy. That sort of went along with being ten. “Yes, dearheart?”
“Hermione's in the tree again!”
Oh, good grief. Not again. “Did you spray her?”
“Yeah.” Bethy rolled her eyes at the silly question. “Of course I did. Didn't do any good though. I don't think she cares anymore.”
Well, that was lovely. The little varmint was developing an immunity to the nasty tincture that was making the entire house stink. She also hadn't been impressed at all with the Tabasco Sauce idea, the soap, or that bitter apple stuff from the pet store. Nothing would deter her from her quest to taste all of the Solstice ornaments.
“I bet fire would work,” Bethy offered as she trailed up the stairs after Amelia. “Though I don't think it would be great for the tree.”
“No, dear, it wouldn't be.”
The two entered their sitting room to find half the decorations from the tree on the floor. Hermione's brothers, predictably named Harry and Ron, sat on the mantle watching the action with vaguely amused expressions on their reptilian faces.
“Hermione!” Amelia snapped. “You get out of that tree right this instant!”
Branches ruffled, but no Hermione was forthcoming.
“I mean it.” She walked up to the tree, trying to find her elusive pet. “You get out of there right now or...”
She had no idea what to threaten, but as she was racking her brains to come up with something a tiny little nose worked its way into view. It was followed by two of the widest, sweetest eyes she'd ever seen and her heart melted.
People who read about dragons in books might tell you dragons survive by having thick scales and the ability to breath fire, but people who live with them know the truth: dragons survive by being absolutely adorable.

(Image is Little Helpers by Anne Stokes. It's on my calendar this month.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Leaves of Red and Green


Maribeth frowned at the tea leaves. She didn't want to tell the sweet young thing across the table from her what they said, but she couldn't lie about it and the client would be upset if she refused to say anything.

“I see a man,” she said.

The girl – she was at least twenty-five but had an undeniable air of girlishness – smiled. They always did, unless they wanted her to see a woman.

“He has dark hair and blue eyes.”

The girl leaned close, peering at the leaves herself. They undoubtedly looked like nothing but a mass of gunk to her, but she nodded anyway. “What's his name?”

“I don't know.” Maribeth moved the cup as if she needed to adjust the focus to see more clearly. She didn't, but the clients always liked a show. “But you will meet him very soon.”

“How soon?”

Maribeth gave her a mysterious smile. “Very soon. Maybe even today.”

She felt a familiar twinge of guilt over not warning the child, but nothing would be gained from alarming the poor doomed thing. At least this way her last few hours might be happy ones.

After the client had paid and left, Maribeth got up with a sigh and flipped the off light in the window. She couldn't handle another reading today.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Under a Hat


Pixel read the message three times, but it still didn't make much sense. “Help! I'm under a hat!” Sounded bad, sure, but which hat? And where? And what was keeping Gwie stuck under the thing? It seemed to Pixel that his sister really could have been more specific.

He crumpled the note and stuffed into into his pocket. If she'd really wanted help, she'd have given more details.

As the afternoon wore on, he completely forgot about Gwie. It was only when their mother was setting the table for dinner and asked after her that he remembered the note again. He pulled it out and thrust it toward his mother, who took it with a perplexed frown.

The frown drew her eyebrows together in a way Pixel thought was funny, but as she read, they continued to creep closer to one another, and he started to get worried.

She lowered the paper and glared at her son. “How long ago did you find this?”

He shrugged, not wanting to admit that he'd had it since right after lunch.

“And where was it at this unspecified point in history?”

He pointed at a corner.

“You, sit,” his mother said before stalking over the the corner in question.

He sat and watched as she pulled a book out of the air, flipped to the index, and looked something up. She muttered a quick spell under her breath and slid the book back into the ether before returning to the table.

“And, you,” she said to the chair opposite Pixel, “I hope you've learned something.”

Mom made a motion in the air that was remarkably similar to that of yanking a hat off a young girl and all of a sudden, Gwie was sitting at the table looking very, very ashamed of herself.

“Yes, ma'am,” the young witch murmured. “Cursed hats are called cursed for a reason.”

“Yes, they are.” Mom sighed and left the kitchen for the hall closet with a hat that was still invisible to Pixel's eyes. “And?”

“And...” Gwie said slowly. “Never trust Pixel for help.”

Mom laughed as she closed the closet door and came back to the kitchen. “Close.”

“Hey!” said Pixel, not thinking that was very fair. How the heck was he supposed to have known what the note was talking about? “How about, in the future, tell your rescuer where to rescue you from?”

Gwie rolled her eyes. “How about, in the future, rescue myself instead of waiting on other people?”

“Ding-ding-ding!” Mom said with a smile. “We have a winner!”

Mom pulled a chicken casserole out of the oven. “Now, where's your dad?”

“Um...” Gwie said, pulling a crumpled note from her own pocket and smoothing it out on the table. “He says he's stuck in a raincoat.”



I asked Google for a random word and receive "underline". I then asked for a random image based on the word. That image was from a page about making cascading style sheets but I think it worked well for a writing prompt. :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pong-Pong, Origins


I have only the dimmest memories of the Before. There were tight spaces, dimly lit and kept too warm. There were boxes radiating the smell of cardboard and making my skin itch. There were other animals, but they kept to themselves. We were too scared to talk, too uncertain of our destinies.

The first human I remember moved me from a container and onto a shelf. I was stuffed in behind others like me, in the midst of a small army of terrified children.

One by one, my companions started to disappear. Mostly it was the ones before me, but occasionally, there would be a light and movement and a hand would snake through to take someone from the depths of our group.

Eventually, I was in the front row and able to look out at the world around my shelf. There were many other shelves running in long rows under flickering florescent lights. There were signs with numbers and names on them, but while I could read the signs under others, I could not see the one under me. I spent much time wondering what it could say.

Sometimes the lights went off and the building sat in silence, but most of the time, the lights shone and humans meandered by at irregular intervals. They came in two basic height groups, tall and short. The tall ones sometimes pushed carts and took from the shelves. Other times, they pushed carts and added to the stock.

The short ones never brought anyone to the shelves and seldom came unaccompanied. A few of them picked me up off the shelf. Some found me wanting and put me back, others where told they couldn't have me by the tall people with them. No one ever bothered to explain why I was being left, but as I didn't know whether things would be better off the shelf, I didn't really know if I wanted to be taken or not.

Then He arrived. He was short, with light brown hair and blue-gray eyes, and he smiled brightly when he saw me. He picked me up and I knew this was My Boy, the one I had been waiting for.

“You sure the panda's the one you want?” his mother asked, but I knew from the way she looked at me that she was certain I was going home with her.

He nodded and hugged me tightly to him.

They ran me through a scanner and took me out into a bright world filled with humans, cars, trees, blue skies, and all sorts of things I'd never imagined. And as they walked me through this new and amazing world, they gave me my name, Pong-Pong.

That's when my life started.



This post inspired and co-written by Pong-Pong the Panda.



Friday, June 1, 2012

Anchors Away



The postcard was bent around the edges, clearly worn from its journey halfway around the world. A Buddah sat on the front and ten-year-old Chaela was proud of herself for recognizing him, even if she didn't have any idea where the statue was.

She let herself wonder about that for a minute, imagining her father smiling at her and challenging her to guess. He wouldn't care if she guessed right or not, just that she guessed before she turned the card over.

“Singingpore!” she said, seeming to recall Daddy saying during his weekly call that the ship was docking there soon.

“Chae-la-la, I'm missing you in Thailand! You'd love all the temples here and you'll be crazy about the jewelry I picked up for you today. Love always, Dad.”

Maybe Singingpore was in Thailand. Or Thailand could be in Singingpore. She'd have to ask Mom.

She ran up to her room, postcard gripped tightly in hand, and rushed to the cork board over her bed to pin Buddah up beside a Hawaiian sunrise. (That one had been easy to guess because it actually said, “Hawaiian Sunrise” on the front.)

She had Canada, California, Mexico, Hawaii, and now Thailand. Eventually, she'd get something from the Middle East. Then after too many months to think about, the pattern would reverse. Middle East. Asia. US. And, at long last, home in Washington State.

She loved her post cards, she really did. But all things told, she'd rather have her dad.



Prompt found at http://www.flashfiction.in/. Photo by Kirti Manian.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Elephant and Couch


I asked a niece and nephew to each give me nouns to use as prompts. They came up with elephant and couch. We agreed that I could write about an elephant who sits on a couch and breaks it, but we thought that might be too obvious and I came up with this instead...


Madhu sat on her couch, staring at the broken television. The final match of the Cricket World Cup was starting and the horrid thing picked now to become a piece of useless scrap. Her trunk crinkled in agitation.

There wasn't a netcast of the game and she took too much after father to pop down the pub and blend in with the crowd there, as evidenced by the fact that she even had a trunk to be crinkling in the first place.

Her dad could fix the problem. He was, after all, the Remover of Obstacles. But Madhu had repeatedly promised herself that she was going to stop running to him with her problems. Besides, he was tusks deep revising his latest manuscript and had never understood his daughter's attraction to sports. Grandpa Shiva did, but repairs were the opposite of his gig.

Well, there was no help for it. Her options were to break her father's one rule for her or to turn thief and steal someone else's telly.

Madhu went into her bedroom, covered her elephant face in enough makeup to look plastic, and teleported herself to the game, where she made it onto international television for her enthusiastic pro-India “costume”.






Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wicked Awesome

“Ohhh...” the pretty blonde purred. “Look, girls, something wicked this way comes!”
Her minions laughed like this was somehow witty. It wasn't. Someone said something nearly identical every single time I walked into the cafeteria. And usually it was Goldie Locks there. (Who may have been born with an alignment to Good, but who was downright rotten in spirit, thus proving that good and evil aren't quite as important as they're reported to be.)
This time was a little different though. This time instead of everyone snickering and someone pretending to smell wet dog, a voice from directly over Goldie's shoulder tossed out something I'd never heard before. “Yeah,” he said. “Something wicked awesome!”
As a group, the student body turned to stare at the new kid. He's just gotten in this morning and nobody knew much about him other than the basic stats. Name: Rhett Hoodson. Attractiveness: High. Height: Even higher. The rest was a bunch of unknowns. Heritage: Unknown. Powers: Unknown. Alignment: Unknown.
Goldie herself had been flirting with him every time I'd noticed them in the halls together, but now her nose crinkled up. She turned to her minions, who all mimicked the sneer. “I guess someone has a taste for bestiality.”
The entourage smirked like this was a new cut and not something uttered any time a guy said more than two words to me. Like my furry tail and tufted ears overrode my humanoid everything else.
New Boy gave a truly wicked grin. “Oh, I don't. Which is why I'm afraid I have to decline your invitation to sit at your table.”
Oh, wow. Mama would love this guy. Which, of course, meant I needed to steer way clear of him if I was going to have any hope at all of graduating with a Neutral designator and making it into Happily U rather than being delegated to a random community college of Evil.
But when he turned that grin my way... Well, I was certain that while I might be the big bad wolf-girl, this boy was the one who spelled trouble. But I followed him anyway.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cowboys and Sporks

Nathaniel pulled a shiny silver spoon out of his bag after sitting on my living room sofa. “What's this?”

I raised an eyebrow at my instructor. “You're kidding right?”

But of course he wasn't. That would require a sense of humor.

“What is it?” he asked again.

I sighed. “It's a spoon.”

“Is it?”

Gah. The old and wise guro thing that had been done to death in movies decades ago didn't suite Nat at all. For one thing, he was barely out of college. For another, his jet-black skin had almost as many piercings as pores. And, probably worst of all, he wore a cowboy hat. All the time. In Boston.

“Okay, maybe it's an object you've glamored to look like a spoon.”

“Is it?”

My eye-rolling was entirely automatic. Mom was constantly telling me to lay off the motion, but I didn't see how anyone could possibly refrain in my position.

He rolled his eyes back. “You're supposed to prove it. Without magic.”

“You're my magic tutor,” I pointed out.

“Yeah. And I'm trying to teach you something. How can you tell this is enchanted?”

I shrugged, something else Mom bugs me about doing too much. “Touch it?”

Most glamors are completely vision-based tricks and can't stand up to touch. Everyone that.

“What if you can't reach it?”

Obviously, I could reach it. Nathaniel looked tough, but he worked for my mother, who was easily the most bad-ass witch in New England, so he wouldn't hurt a hair on my pretty blond head if I tried to take it. “Whatever. I don't know.”

He held it up in the shaft of sunlight piercing the window until its shadow fell on the coffee table between us. Its decisively fork-shaped shadow. “Illusions fool eyes, but not the sun.”

Okay, that was worth knowing. Still, I was going to say something scathingly sarcastic until a little voice in the corner of my mind screamed at me to look down.

My eyes drifted to the floor and I started to laugh.

Turned out, Nathaniel did have a sense of humor. Though maybe a slightly twisted one. Because his shadow wasn't wearing a cowboy hat. His horns would have pierced it.

The minotaur sighed. “Took you long enough.”



Prompt above found through +Flash Fiction Project.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This Job's for the Fish

Eeareea smacked her tail against the rock she sat upon. That was the third human to pass by today without so much as glancing her way. What good was it to lounge around seductively topless if no one noticed?

Things had been so much easier back in her grandmother's day, before the invention of those blasted motors that made a sailor deaf to everything outside his boat.

A jet ski poked its nose around the corner of the cove, but Eeareea wasn't even tempted to go after it. She had a cousin who'd spent months in intensive care after trying to get someone off one those monsters.

She may just have to be under-quota this week. It wasn't like she wouldn't be able to make up the slack next week, when the spring break college crowd started showing up. Oh, yes, the time of drunken frat boys hanging off the sides of sailboats and virtually begging to be caught was nearly upon them!

Of course, pointing that out to Aalye wouldn't get her anywhere.

Sometimes thinking about her boss made her think that it wouldn't be so bad if one day she were the one to get caught. Living life in some human aquarium probably wouldn't be that bad. She had a dolphin friend whose sister was in Tampa and quite happy. All the humans seemed to expect from her was a small amount of gymnastics and in return they gave her a predator-free climate-controlled pool with all the fish she wanted. Really not bad at all. Not at all like the horror stories they told kids to scare them away from shore.

The sun was harsh today and Eeareea needed to get back underwater soon if she wasn't going to burn. It would be bad enough to go home without a catch, but going home with her skin bright red and ready to fall off would be even worse.

She was just about to dip under the the waves when she heard the sound of a lone human hiking over the rocks behind her. Finally a spot of luck!

She turned to smile her most dazzling smile at the young man, who stood gaping at her like... Well, like he was looking at a mythical being. It was a similar expression to the one most humans wore when seeing a mermaid, though not as filled with longing as she'd hoped.

Then the human held out his hand behind him. “Honey, you have to come see this!”

As another human male clambered into view to take his boyfriend's outstretched hand, Eeareea threw her head back and flopped into the water. Didn't that frigging figure?

Maybe she'd stop by the career center on her way home. Sirening just wasn't what it used to be.

Image is a piece called Storm Chaser by the lovely and talented Jasmine Beckett-Griffith and prints are available for sale on her website (http://www.strangeling.com).

Prompt for the story came from this random art generator and was to demonstrate a sense of anxiety with a mermaid. I think I was supposed to paint it, but I'm better with words than brush strokes. :)


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Timing Is Everything


Chronos, what year was this anyway? Sometime after trains, but before air conditioning. So... Twentieth Century somewhere? Sometimes Celia really regretted not paying more attention in history class. If she'd known back in school that she'd be stuck paying off the student loans on her Chronological Engineering degree delivering dumplings to Time Travelers with the munchies, she would have.

It wouldn't be so bad if she was at least in Coordination, making sure the machines were properly calibrated and would dump you in the right time and place, rather than on the other side of the planet during the wrong war, as had happened to many an early Traveler. She was still at least two years and three promotions from that though, and for now her job consisted entirely of stepping through portals to strange places with weird smells. And never anywhere she'd want to go, of course, because all of those time periods occurred after the invention of fast food delivery and very few people were stupid enough to pay Speedy Snacks' delivery fees when there were local alternatives.

At least this drop-off wasn't in the Middle Ages. She'd been back and forth from there all week and her hair absolutely reeked of the time period when she got home every night.

Dripping sweat, she followed the directions of her customer-locater app across a train platform and up a small set of stairs that looks to be made out of pure rust. Why in time would anyone vacation here?

It took a few moments to spot her target, but once she did there was no mistaking the couple. They were the only people on the train with white sneakers and top hats. Bloody tourists.

Celia handed them their order and shifted from foot to foot waiting for payment. Outside the train, people were rushing around and Celia had a bad feeling about the whistles that were being blown.

“Honey,” said one of the customers, “do you have a ten? I'm a little short.”

“What? You said you had enough.”

The train made an ominous creaking sound and yet more whistles sounded.

“I do, but I don't think she can break a hundred. Can you break a hundred, dear?”

Celia shook her head. “No. You can send credit through your phone though.”

The male tourist snorted. “Don't trust those things. I'm sure we've got cash somewhere.”

The train shuddered and started ever so slowly to move.

Ugh. Celia was going to be stuck on the thing, speeding away from her portal home. It was a million degrees here and she was supposed to get off in half an hour!

She grabbed the money the woman was holding in her hand. “I've got ten I'll spot you. Have a good trip!”

She took a running leap, landing on the platform just as the end of the train car accelerated past it.



Prompt taken from The Flash Fiction Project on G+.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Shepherdess and the Ghost


Once upon a time, there was a kingdom plagued by a menacing poltergeist. No one was certain if the ghost was that of a long dead monarch, an aggrieved peasant, or a tragically murdered executioner, but the one thing the kingdom was sure of was that this ghost was trying to kill the king.

First, the ghost started with small threats. A skate on the palace stairs was followed by a light shove into the moat. It seemed more funny to the castle's occupants than anything. But then the actions got worse. There came a falling chandelier, a broken suit of armor that just happened to let fall its sword as His Majesty passed, and an arrow flying toward the king's heart in the middle of breakfast. But the king remained unconcerned until one night he was awoken by the sound of his first-born child's cradle cracking apart, split asunder as if struck by lightening.

“A threat to my person, is cause for concern,” the king told his people. “But a threat to the princess is something we must take action on. I offer a cart full of treasure to who ever can banish this ghost from my land!

Most people in the kingdom weren't too keen to take on a homicidal ghost, but an entire cart full of treasure wasn't something to be ignored and many came forward to defend the princess.

There came priests and wizards and knights. Demon-tamers, vampire slayers, and exorcists. But though they were all brave and mostly competent, they made no progress in ridding the palace of its unwanted occupant. On the morning the last of the specialists left, the ghost threw a tapestry into a fire and nearly burned the audience chamber down.

The king was strongly considering move to another palace when a shy young shepherdess approached him in his garden and announced that she had a plan. He wasn't optimistic about her chances, but with all the sane options failed, surely whatever she wanted to do was worth a shot.

First she ordered the king to bring her fine clothes, then bade his servants to bathe her and arrange her hair like that of a noble lady.

That evening, the king held a grand dinner where he introduced her to court as a princess from a neighboring land.

After everyone else has gone to bed, the shepherdess grabbed a lantern and stole through the corridors softly singing a melody her sheep were particularly fond of. As she walked, she became aware of a cool presence trailing after her, and she smiled to herself.

Certain she had the ghost's attention, she led him out onto the walls and stood looking down at the fields and forests bellow. Gently, she started to talk about her life with her sheep, about how sweetly the grass whispers through a meadow, about how beautifully a brook can sing, and about the great wonders to be found outside the palace.

And finally, she spoke of how she yearned for someone other than sheep to share her life with.

Hearing this, the ghost placed his hand on her shoulder and though she could not see him, the shepherdess could feel the love he felt for her.

In the morning, the shepherdess was able to assure the king that the ghost would bother him no more. She took her cart full of treasure and bought a cabin on the edge of a forest meadow with a brook cutting just feet from the back door. And there she stayed with her sheep and her ghost, and everyone was very happy.


I created the prompt for this project by randomly selecting cards from my Once Upon A Time game deck. Cards drawn were Sheperdess, Treasure, Ghost, Clothes, Heart, and Sleeping. The end condition was "The king fulfilled his side of the bargain and everyone was happy."


Monday, March 5, 2012

Nica's Find


The ball sailed through a gap in the balcony rail and Trey said a word his mother wouldn't approve of. Well, that was that. The ball was in the Undercity now and Trey would never see it again.

Veronica saw the ball crash down from the pristine world lurking above her own. She nudged her cousins and they rushed over to hunt for it in the field of rubbish. An undamaged Uppercity object could be worth some serious money.

The others searched for the ball, but Nica was distracted by a swirl of magic coming from a spot under the nearest Uppercity bridge. Her oldest cousin swatted her shoulder and told her to pay attention, but she ignored him to follow her new lead.

A wooden stirrer lay half-burried beneath a broken doll. It hummed with energy as Nica grabbed it and a vortex of water began to swirl above it.

Shocked, Nica dropped the stirrer and stumbled backwards. Her leg caught on a rusty support beam, opening a gash on her calf. But she felt no pain because she was too busy being stunned by the wet water genie bowing before her.

The genie smiled. “What is your wish?”




This is in response Rachel Harrie's Second Campaigner Challenge of her fourth campaign. The exact prompt was kinda long, so check it out there if you're curious. :) It involved four unconnected images (the above being my favorite) and a brief written description of a situation.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Field Trip



“Uh-oh.” Char stared at the cracked stone. He hadn't meant to break it, just to grab the worm crawling across it.

“Charlemagne Ezekiel Finch!” His mother huffed up, her crest fluffing out in annoyance. “What did you do?”

His foreclaw drew little squiggles in the dirt.

Char's mom let out an aggrieved sigh and sent a pulse of energy into the stone. After a little popping sound, the rock looked just like it had before her son happened to it. “I can't take you anywhere.”

“I'm sorry.”

She rubbed her beak against the back of his ears. “It's okay, hatchling. None of this is real. But be careful.”

“It's not real?”

“Nope.” She draped a wing over her son to steer him over to the board that explained the exhibit. “See, it's a replica. But there really is a place like it in the Dull Realms. And a flock of humans built it without any magic at all. Isn't that amazing?”

“I guess.”

“You guess?” She bumped her shoulder against his. “You can't even clean your room without magic.”

“Yeah, but why would I?”

The elder gryphon shook her head. Some days she really wondered why she aviary-schooled her child.


Image prompt found via Flash Fiction Project on G+. Cute little chibi-gryphon found at DragoArt, along with instructions on how to draw one of your own. Which I'm off to do now... :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Shadows and Embers

Shadows crept across the wall, hunkering down near the gritty stone and hoping that no one in the crowd below would notice him. It was just his luck that there would be a funeral today, interfering with his ability to get into the cemetery unseen. But it wasn't like he could just do this tomorrow. No, the task had to be accomplished at the rise of the full moon. It was tradition.

He could just imagine what would happen if one of the stupid humans looked up and saw him. “Ahhhh!” it would scream. Then another would join it, “A demon! It's going to kill us!” Right. Like Shadows had time to munch on random humans. Everyone knew humans took hours to prepare properly and the little imps waiting at home would be starving by then. What kind of father would make them wait for human meat when Chicken Shack was on the way home?

Finally at the right spot, Shadows slid down from the wall and made his way silently to row three, plot d.

As the moon slid into view, he laid a bundle of orange daises by Ember's gravestone, then went home to care for their young.



I found the prompt via +Writ on G+, but it's originally from Rachel Harrie's Campaigner Challenge.

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count.
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:
  • end the story with the words: "everything faded." (also included in the word count)
  • include the word "orange" in the story
  • write in the same genre you normally write
  • make your story 200 words exactly!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Michelle

Pieces of glass littered the floor, the bookshelf lay on its face, and the contents of the hall closet blocked the doorway.

Samantha was almost certain she had not left the apartment like this.

She forced her way into the room, mentally rehearsing her apology to Michelle. She'd known the argument they had before she left for her gig had left Michelle upset. She hadn't realized it left Michelle upset enough to trash the entire apartment.

All of Michelle's things were still around, as far as Sam could tell, even an incredibly awful cheapo guitar she must have finally got around to picking up for the lessons she kept saying she'd one day take. But there was no sign of Michelle herself. Sam assumed she'd called her brother for a ride somewhere. It had happened before and she'd always been home the next day.

But morning came and went. Sam cleaned the apartment, ran to the store to buy some of Michelle's favorite wine and some flowers, and tried not to stare at the clock as the time crawled by.

When the sun set, Samantha let herself call Michelle's phone. No answer. And her brother swore he hadn't heard from her all weekend. He'd lie for her in a heartbeat, but he wasn't very good at it, and Sam was certain he was telling the truth this time.

At a complete loss as to what to do, Sam sat on the sofa and pulled the shiny but almost toy-like new guitar onto her lap. If Michelle had asked for advice, there's no way Samantha would have let her buy something so... So discount store.

Oh, well. At least Sam could get it tuned.

Except, when she played a quick chord, she realized it was already in perfect tune. She was impressed with the thing. Nothing this cheap should have sounded so beautiful.

She played until close to sunrise before forcing herself to bed.

Although Sam thought of herself as a musician, guitar strumming seldom paid bills and the IRS considered her a barista. At least she was a barista in a relaxed cafe, the sort of place where an employee could take in a instrument and leave it behind the counter until there was a lull in customers, when she could take it out and play it.

It was pathetic to be dragging this thing around, she knew that. But like a lovesick teen can't help playing the same emo song on constant repeat, she hadn't been able to leave it laying alone in the apartment. Even though she was being silly. Even though it was Michelle's guitar. And even though Michelle was still so upset with her that she hadn't even called yet.

It was beyond pathetic to pull the guitar out and start the opening strings of the Beatles song Michelle, but she did it anyway.

“Michelle, my belle...”

Her heart broke as she sang, and she could have sworn the guitar was weeping. When she reached the end of the song, she yearned to gather the guitar in her arms and never let go.

But a customer stood by the bar, watching her with an empty coffee cup in his hand. Refills ranked above grieving hearts.

Sam put down the guitar and went to the counter, but the customer didn't hold out the cup. He gave her a long, studious look, before asking, “Where did you get that instrument?”

“I don't know.” She narrowed her eyes at the young man. He was in his early twenties, rumpled, and drowning under a pointy wizard's hat. All in all, he reeked of being an undergraduate at the Magic Institute. “It's my girlfriend's.”

The guy bit his lip. “You should ask her about it.”

Sam's spirits sagged. “Yeah, I'll do that. If she ever calls me back.”

“Oh...” The young wizard shifted from foot to foot before placing the cup on the counter. “I'm still in school. But... I don't think that's a normal guitar. It sounds enchanted.”

“Enchanted?”

“Yeah.” He nodded. “If it was on an exam, I'd say someone turned your girlfriend into a guitar.”

He tapped the counter, gave her a sad smile, and made an awkward turn toward the door.

The theory seemed ludicrous. Yet, it really wasn't like Michelle to disappear without letting her family know. So Sam leaned over the counter and yelled, “Wait! Could you break an enchantment like that?”

The student pushed his hat back from where it had fallen over his forehead. “If I had to guess, I'd say you have to destroy the vessel. But it's probably a romantic curse, so you'd have to do it somewhere special or on the right day or something like that.”

“How do you know?”

He shook his head. “There's no telling unless you know who cast it.”

And, of course, Samantha had no clue. She was, however, confident as she picked up the guitar again that the student was right. Holding it felt like holding Michelle.

“Oh, sweetie,” she whispered. “I'll fix this. I promise.”

Weeks came and went as Samantha made appointments with wizards, stalked the curses and charms on-line forums, and read every book the library had on breaking enchantments.

By the end of summer, she couldn't take the uncertainty anymore. Michelle's family had gotten worried and the police had opened an investigation into the disappearance, but while their techs could prove the guitar was enchanted, they couldn't prove it was Michelle. And they couldn't break the spell.

So on the eve of their anniversary, Samantha went to the train station where they had met. She'd play one last rendition of Michelle, then smash the guitar. Either the time and place would be right and her beloved would be free. Or Michelle would be truly gone and there would be tracks to jump onto.

She finished the song, gave the guitar one last kiss, and slammed it against the bricks.






Prompt taken from this photo, found at The Flash Fiction Project.