Short Story: Four

This is a mostly random short story I started at the beginning of January, and then didn’t finish until like a week or so later.  It is my second short story written so far in 2016.


u no anyting bout dragon eggs???

The text came through at three in the morning, startling me awake.  I stared sleepily at my phone, my brain taking its sweet, sugary time to process the words.  With a groan, I settled back against my pillow, and texted back, They probably don’t like being woken up at three in the morning.  Why are you even awake?

The response was almost instant, considering Elliot could probably text faster, and with better spelling, with his toes.  No srsly do u??

Clearly this was not going to be a “give hinthint comments to let me go back to sleep” kind of situation.  Why dragon eggs?

Lorrennnnnnnnnnnaaaaa plz

Wow.  That must have taken forever to type.  And it was totally unhelpful.  I rolled my eyes, and pulled my covers over my face.  Not that there was anything to hide from—my blackout curtains allowed as much light into my bedroom as a black-hole would.

Finally, I pulled it back and dialed his number into my phone.  He picked up pretty quickly.

“Since I’m already awake, we might as well avoid your terrible spelling,” I said as way of hello.  “So why is it you need to know about dragon eggs when the sky is still darker than this black-hole in my room?”

“Black-hole—?  Wha—?  Lorena, just—”  Elliot sounded pretty panicky, and I sat up straight, instantly worried.  He groaned, and I could hear all of the pent-up frustration even through the phone.  “Please.”

There was a crackle of something.  At first, I thought static, and then I realized it sounded more like a rustle of leaves.  Where was he?

“I don’t actually know much about them,” I said.  “It probably depends on the mythology.  Um.  They look like normal eggs, but bigger, I guess?  And, in the movies, they usually—”

“I know what they look like, Lorena,” Elliot interrupted.  There was more leaf-rustling-crackling sound on his end.  “What are you supposed to do with them?  How long does it usually take before they hatch?  Can baby dragons breathe fire right away?  And what in the world do they eat?”  His voice rose higher and higher in pitch until he sounded almost like me, and I was nearly a soprano.

“Elliot, jeez, take a breath before you hyperven—I mean suffocate.”  Hyperventilating, suffocation, totally the same thing.  I rolled my eyes at myself.

“I am breathing.  Can’t you hear me panting?”

“Oh, so you are hyperventilating.”

“Lorena!”

“Sorry.  Why are you so panicked about this?  I don’t know anything about dragon eggs—they’re just myths anyway.”

Silence.  A silence filled with more leaf-rustling and his definitely-heavy-but-not-really-hyperventilating breathing, which was basically not at all like silence.

“Well,” Elliot said at last. “I found something in the woods.”

“Something? What are you doing in the woods?”

“I couldn’t sleep,” he said sheepishly.

“So you took a walk in the woods?”

“I like the fresh air.” He sounded rather defensive, and I decided to drop it. Who really cared if he took walks in the woods after midnight?

“What did you find?” I asked. “It wasn’t a dragon egg, was it?”

I teased, but Elliot didn’t joke back. I heard a heavy sigh. “I had hoped you would believe me, Lorena. I knew nobody else would.”

“Dragon eggs don’t exist, though, Elliot.”

“Then what would you say this is?” he demanded angrily. “It’s a giant, polished stone, only it’s purple and not heavy enough to be rock. And way, way too smooth to have come from the woods.”

I had no idea how to respond. I peered out my window, and the moonlight glared through the temporary break in the curtains, but as soon as I let them back in place, the black hole swallowed that moonlight.

“It does kind of sound like an egg, maybe,” I said.

“I don’t know which is worse,” Elliot said. “The fact that you don’t believe me or that you’re only trying to pretend to believe me.”

“Elliot—”

“No, no, it’s fine. You back to sleep. I can handle this. Maybe Google will have something… no, it probably won’t, but I’ll be fine. Goodnight, Lorena.”

And he hung up.

I stared at the phone for a moment. His caller ID faded from the screen.

A dragon egg?

No, okay, I didn’t believe him. This kind of felt like a prank or something. Only a very pathetic one. The weird part was, Elliot didn’t do pranks. He was usually pretty honest.

It wasn’t that hard to come to a conclusion. No, I didn’t believe he’d found a dragon egg. But I did believe that he thought he’d found one.

I called him back. He let it go to voicemail.

I tried again, with the same result. This time, I decided it wasn’t worth it. If he didn’t want to talk to me—then fine, I would go to bed and reclaim my sleep.

I stared at the wall, cuddled up into my blankets, sleepless, restless, wondering. What if he had? What would happen then? What would that mean?

Some time later, I fell back asleep.

The next morning, I woke to a slew of texts.

Sry i didnt call u back

it hatched!

its prple!!!

its so pretty

ow!! it tried to eat my finger 

& my phone!!

sry lorena

And then the texts stopped. The latest one had been about a half hour ago, so I thought maybe Elliot was still awake. I called him.

I had no idea what to say.

He answered and spoke first. “Lorena, hi. I can’t really talk right now—there’s—quick, grab it!

“What is going on?” I asked.

“I’d tell you, but then you wouldn’t believe me,” Elliot said. There was a clatter of noise, and then he said, sounding far away from the phone. “Sky, don’t do that, you’ll get burned!”

I told myself the hurt I felt, I probably deserved. I really hadn’t even tried last night.

Then Elliot said, as if he hadn’t said anything at all before, “My egg hatched. The dragon tried to eat everything, and didn’t want any of what I gave it to eat. It woke my sister up, and when she came downstairs, it climbed all over her.” He yelled something in the background, then continued, “It has no qualms about biting and burning me, but it seems to adore Sky and eats everything she offers without even biting her too deeply.”

Even if I had no idea whether I believed in the existence of this dragon, I could hear the sounds in the background that made Elliot’s story seem very real. His sister Sky’s voice, an animal-like squawk that wasn’t quite a normal bird sound, and the chaotic sounds that came from chasing something.

“It wants Sky?” I asked. “How old is she again?”

“Four.”

Short Story: Game Over

So, I decided to join in a challenge in which we write short stories and then post them on our blogs exactly 24 hours later, no more, no less.  (Actually, I guess not about the less part, but definitely no more than that.)  Unlike apparently everybody else, I didn’t start writing right before midnight, but started at roughly 1:30 in the afternoon, and finished it almost exactly 24 hours later.  In the words, I’ve done absolutely no editing.

So…here it is, my 3,516 word short story.

Daze woke up on the floor, which was quite an odd experience.  Usually, when he woke up without remembering having gone to sleep, it was in a water-filled tube, and words floated in his vision.  This time, there were the words, but no tube or water.

At the bottom of his vision, in a black, nondescript font, were the words, Reboot #473.  Good luck.

Daze blinked, and the words cleared.  He sat up, looking at the room he was in.  It was small, probably about seven feet in width, length, and height.  Perfectly square.  The room appeared to be made out of blocks of metal pressed together like bricks, and it was rather cold under his hands.  Directly across from him, a black line ran along the wall in the shape of a rectangle, vaguely suggesting the existence of a door.  No knobs or other ways of opening the door were visible.

Besides himself, the only other thing in the room was a girl, sitting with her arms crossed just beside the door.  Although she didn’t look in the slightest bit familiar, Daze recognized her.

“Hello, Beam.”

“You were out for quite a while this time,” Beam said tonelessly.  “Long enough for them to pull you out of the tube.”

“That bullet must have really gotten me good,” he said with as straight of a face as he could manage.  It lasted about two seconds, before Beam rolled her eyes, and he laughed.  “I guess I’m getting sloppy.”

“Thank you for pointing out the obvious, Mr. Daze,” she said in her flat voice.  A bit of a smirk tugged at her lips.

Daze looked at her for a moment.  She looked absolutely nothing like what he’d seen her like last.  For the most part, she looked human—or at least humanoid, on closer inspection.  Her skin was very pale, almost pure white, and her hair, which fell in long, thick locks to her waist, was a pale gold.  She wore a dark grey bodysuit, with lines of dark blue running across it.

The strange parts?  Pale lavender wings sprouted from her back, each one probably five feet long, Daze guessed, when outstretched, though she had them pulled close at the moment.  Her eyes were a bright orange, and she only had four fingers on her hands.

“You didn’t have wings last time, right?” Daze asked.  Although he knew for sure that she hadn’t looked like this last time, he couldn’t at all recall what she had looked like last time.  For that matter, he couldn’t remember what he looked like, either.  He’d need to find a mirror some time later.

Beam raised an eyebrow.  “Your observation skills are astounding, Daze,” she said dryly.  “No, I didn’t have wings last time.  They’re a new thing.”  One wing stretched out a little and curled in towards her, and she ran her fingers across the light feathers.

Trying to remember menial details that were all hazy brought to mind a much clearer memory of shoving open a stiff door, and seeing a message carved into the floor with a knife.  We had a deal.  Then, the body laying on the ground nearby, only barely alive.

“So what happened, exactly?” Daze said, standing up.  He moved to the shadow of a doorway and pressed his hand against the wall right beside it.  To his surprise, his hand, although possessing all five fingers, didn’t appear to be made of just flesh and bone.  A plate of metal made up the back of his hand, and his two smallest fingers were also made of metal.

The door scanned his hand and approved his identity, then slid open silently.  Daze pulled his hand away and flexed it experimentally, noting the bits of metal and bolts that ran up his entire arm.

“Cyborg, huh?” he asked aloud, not particularly to himself or to Beam.

“Yeah,” she said, standing beside him.  She tapped him on the temple with one of her fingernails, and it made a metal clink sound.  “It’s an interesting look.  Anyway, the bullet in the chest got you, and I bled out.  It took them, oh, six hours to find us, and they dragged us back here.  We’re on the ship, not at the station.”

“Are they sending us back out again?”

“Yes, of course.  We’re the ones who made the deal, and so he expects us, though it’s possible he thinks we’re dead.  It’s up to us to finish the job.”

Daze nodded, going into the hallway.  It was lit only by a long strip of light running along the upper left wall—enough to more or less see where he put his feet, but not really enough to see Beam’s face as she spoke.  The ceiling was curved, slanting down to the left a little, and Beam’s wings brushed both the ceiling and the floor.  Daze decided that her wings were bigger than his initial guess.

“Immediately?”

“You were out for thirty-six hours, Daze.  We’re already probably facing a cold trail—so yes, immediately.”

The hall opened up into the main control room.  Daze stepped up into the warm, slightly sticky room.  Around him was the buzz of computers and the murmur of voices, all belonging to various crew members and their equipment, working to keep the ship running and in order.

In the center of the room, a very tall, green-skinned man talked to someone who was covered in so much dark fur and fuzz, Daze couldn’t make out a single feature about them.  Daze and Beam approached the table, and when there was a pause in the conversation, Beam said, “Hey, Captain.”

The green man looked up, and his grey eyes widened at the sight of them.  “Ahh, you two, finally up and about.  Excellent.  We’re almost at Ioskade.”  He gestured towards the large screen at the end of the room.  At that moment, it showed a small planet, mostly filled with blue water, but there were chunks of land, more brown than green, and bits of wispy clouds.  Data on and about the planet scrolled by on the right side of the screen, too fast for Daze to read unless he really concentrated.

“Is everything still on the planet, or was it moved?” Daze asked.

“Most of it’s still there,” Captain said.  “The message that was left for you is there, but we took the…body.”  Captain’s voice gave out slightly, and Daze took that as a bad sign.

“I take that to mean it wasn’t revived?”

“No.  We didn’t find you soon enough to do it on that one.  We barely had enough time to get you and Beam.”

“Oh.”  He felt a stabbing sensation in his chest at the realization that they hadn’t been able to save one.  One had died.  He let himself feel the pain and grief for a moment, then pushed it aside, knowing he had to concentrate.

“So what’s next?” Beam asked.  Daze saw a twitch in her right eye, which told him she’d felt and done the same as him.  “I assume we’re going back onto Ioskade to see if we can find any more clues than last time.”

Captain gazed at the planet on the screen for a moment, then nodded.  “Yes, I believe that’s the plan.”

~~~

Several hours later, Daze and Beam were back on the planet.  The atmosphere here was a little thin, but it seemed that his cyborg parts weren’t only on the surface.  His body adjusted fairly well, and he didn’t have any problems with breathing the thinner air.  Beam, on the other hand, had to bring a tank of air with her to occasionally breathe out of when her lungs needed more than what she was actually getting.

Although Daze’s memories of what had happened last time he was here were hazy, they began to come back the more he was on the planet.  The two of them stood in front of a large structure.  Ioskade was a rather Earth-like planet, and it had a plant very much like Earth’s trees, which could be cut down and used to build things, such as this structure.

Whoever had built it had not been all that creative.  It was mostly a square, with nothing to make the building look at all elaborate.  There was a door, built with old-fashioned, rusty hinges, and the windows were mostly just holes with heavy curtains.  Aside from the oldness of it, the house really was nothing spectacular. It wasn’t even in an interesting place, but on a flat plain of trees and tall grasses.

Beam walked up to the door and fiddled with the handle for a moment, before realizing she had to turn it to get it to open.  “Such weird doors.”

Daze vaguely remembered her making a comment similar to that the first time they were here.  “Can you imagine if we still had doors like that?” he asked, with a sense of déjà vu.

Beam frowned, and shook her head.  “Nope.”  She pulled the door open, and walked inside.

The building, Daze remembered, had three rooms.  This front room was clearly where whoever had lived in the house had spent most of their time.  Simple furniture, most of it made of the same “wood” as the house itself, was scattered across the room, some of it upturned.

Beam turned and looked at Daze, meeting his gaze.  They both remembered this part as well.

Images flashed across Daze’s vision, of what had happened before.  He and Beam had been in this room, as well as another woman, Vine.  After spending months tracking Vine down, meeting her there in that room had felt a little anticlimactic.  Daze always liked for the setting to meet the situation, but it almost never did.

Beam had tried to tell Vine to step down, and to come with them and face what she deserved.  Vine had laughed at her, and brought the two of them into the next room.

In the present, Beam pushed the door open.  It was originally a bedroom, but Daze couldn’t imagine that anybody would want to sleep in there ever again.

Someone had taken a knife and carved the message, We had a deal, into the ground in large letters.  Blood was splattered all across the room, and in the corner, there was a large pool of it.  Daze winced.

“That’s yours, isn’t it?” he asked.

Beam nodded stiffly.  “Yeah, I told you, I bled out.”

Behind the bed, which had somehow been knocked over and now stood on it’s side, was another, though slightly smaller, pool of blood.  Daze’s, this time.  He flinched again.

“I really don’t like coming back to the places where I’ve died before,” he said.

“Would anybody?” Beam asked in return.  Her face was pinched, and there was the slightest twitch in her right eye.  “At least we get a second  chance.”  She smiled with no humor.  “And a third and a fourth…”

Daze echoed the empty smile.  “I’m on my four hundred seventy-third.”

“You’re old.  I’m only at three hundred and sixty-two.”

“That’s because I’ve saved your life more often than you’ve saved mine.”

Beam gave him a flat look.  “Oh, nice try, Daze.  Very nice.”

“Oh, yes, bravo,” a new voice chimed in.  Both Daze and Beam looked up, neither very surprised to see a figure standing in the doorway.

Vine leaned against the door jam, crossing her arms.  Unlike them, she hadn’t changed even the tiniest bit since their last meeting.  The human girl stood about six inches shorter than Beam, with her lush black hair falling to her lower back. She wore a knee-length dress with a lot of frills on the bottom.

She looked like she should be innocent. But she was not.

“It is Daze and Beam, right?” Vine asked. “It’s harder to recognize you with your new bodies.”

“How did you know?” Beam asked.

Vine shrugged nonchalantly. She still leaned against the door jam. “My spy up in your little group is quite informative. Say, I wonder. Does it ever get tiring? You know, dying and then being imported into a whole new body, to start all over and die again? Surely one day, you’re going to want to say game over one day, rather than try again.”

Daze clenched his jaw. They’d already suspected Vine had a spy, but they hadn’t known for sure. “When that days comes,” he said, “and I don’t doubt it will, it’ll be when we have completed all of our missions.”

“And I suppose that means dealing with me, first?” Vine mock-pouted for a second, then her face hardened. “I can’t let do that, though. You can’t impede my progress—which means I can’t let you keep coming after me, either. This time, when I kill you, you’re friends up in that spaceship above us are not going to be able to bring you back.”

She pulled a small gun out that had been clipped to her leg and hidden by the dress, and pointed it at Daze. He hesitated, feeling déjà vu again. This was how he died the first time, with one of her bullets through his chest. He really didn’t want to experience it a second time. He reached for his own weapon, but Vine shouted, “Don’t, or I’ll shoot you!”

Daze froze, and held his hands up. He noticed that Beam already had her little laser gun out. It looked more like an old water squirt gun than a real gun, and even when it was pointed straight at you, it was hard to take it seriously.

At that moment, black, nondescript words appeared at the bottom of Daze’s vision, as if they’d been put directly onto his eyes.  If you can’t take her hostage, then kill her.

Beam’s eye twitched.  Daze knew she’d gotten the same message.

Vine pointed her gun at Beam, instead, since now she was the threat.  “You were sent to kill me,” Vine said flatly.  Either she had good guessing skills, or she’d just now been informed by her spy.

Beam shrugged with a feigned nonchalance.  Daze knew her well enough to tell that she was probably shaking inside.  He felt much the same.  This part never felt right.

“Will we have to?”

“You won’t even have the opportunity,” Vine said.  She nodded her head to the side, a signal, and all at once, a dozen vague forms appeared in the room.  In seconds, their features formed, but even before then, they rushed forward.

Three grabbed Daze’s arms and tugged them behind his back.  He was too surprised to fight back immediately.  Another four tackled Beam, but she managed to kick one back and elbow another. Two more replaced those, and she didn’t have the chance to fight further before they held her still.

Throughout this, Vine moved closer to them, but she didn’t for a second lower her gun.  Beam had been unarmed, and Daze still hadn’t had the opportunity to reach for his own weapon, but she alternated pointing it at the two of them.

“Your revival technique, it has one flaw—it relies on machinery.  I can kill you both, then destroy your machines, and you won’t be able to come back to life.”

“They can always rebuild them,” Beam snarled.  She hated being confined or held back.

“Not before it’s too late to revive you two.  They’ll have to send a brand new team on me, and by the time that happens, I’ll be so far gone, they won’t be able to find me.”

Daze looked at the room they were in.  He stood right beside the sideways bed, three of Vine’s minions or soldiers or whoever they were holding his arms tightly behind his back.  They’d slipped something onto his wrists, too, and he couldn’t move them.  It was tight enough that he should have lost circulation—but then again, his wrists were mostly made of metal.  The question was, could he get out of it?

The other five of Vine’s minions, who weren’t holding Daze and Beam back, stood near the doorway, weapons out.  It seemed that Vine was fully prepared to have the two of them attempt to escape.

Daze looked up at the ceiling.  This house was old, and the sun beat down on it every single day, aging and weakening the wood.  The roof looked the most worn, and Daze thought that maybe if it was hit hard enough, it might break open.  A beam ran across the top of the walls and met with another at the point of the roof, helping to support it.

Beam said something to Vine, though Daze didn’t hear her words, and Vine’s face clouded with anger.  She stepped up to her, and pressed the gun to her chest.

“Don’t make me.”

Beam opened her mouth, but Daze rushed to speak before her.  “You know, Vine, they don’t give you nearly enough credit.”

Vine frowned and looked towards him, though she didn’t move her weapon.  “What?”

“They don’t give you enough credit,” he repeated.  “Up at the station, you’re just a petty little criminal, but clearly, you do know what you’re doing.”  He nodded his head towards the guards.

Vine looked so incredulous, she turned completely towards him and pulled her gun away from Beam.  “Petty?  I stole a planet.  I am not petty.  I know what I’m doing!”

Daze nodded.  He was lying, of course.  Vine’s name was a well-known one, and there was a bounty out for her head.  Her reputation for somehow making a highly-populated planet with rather advanced technology completely disappear had put her up as one of the most fear thieves in history.  Nobody knew what she did with the planet or the people on it, and nobody knew why she did it or if she would do something like it again.  Or, rather, if she’d do something worse.

“That’s what I’m saying,” Daze said.  “They have it all completely wrong.”

Now that the attention was off of her, Beam relaxed a little bit.  She caught Daze’s eye, and seemed to understand what he was doing without him having to say a word to her.  That happened a lot, after having worked together for so many years.

Vine seemed to realize that something wasn’t right, and she raised her weapon at Daze.  However, at the same time, he tugged as hard as he could on his bonds, and they snapped.  Beam, unable to break out of her bonds, spun around and kneed one of her guards in the gut.  The other three took a moment to overcome their surprise, while the first one doubled over, groaning.

Daze pushed past them and grabbed Beam’s arm.  “Give me a lift.”Everything that happened next was rather in a rush.  Most of her minions tackled them, and a shot fired.  Daze jumped, getting a bit of a push from Beam, and grabbed hold of the beam directly above him.  As he had expected, it was weak, and it couldn’t hold all of his weight.  It creaked, then began to crack, the sound reverberating up the entire building.

“What are you doing?” Vine demanded in a shrill voice.  “You’ll bring the entire roof down on all of us.”

Daze dropped back down, but the cracks, now joined by moaning sounds, continued.  He looked at Beam, and at the same time, both of them ran for the nearest wall.

A gun fired.  Seconds later, Daze felt it hit him in the back.  His shoulder slammed against the wall, and the wood gave out under him.  He stumbled, fell forward, and rolled outside.  Beam tumbled out beside him, and then the roof collapsed.

~~~

When the cloud and dust settled, there was nothing much left of the building but a pile of wreckage.  Nobody else had made it out alive, from what Daze could tell from his place on the ground.  He couldn’t sit up, though, so he really couldn’t see much.

“Beam?”

“You’re bleeding,” he heard her voice said.  “I’m calling the station, and…I don’t think you’ll make it out of this one.”

He didn’t need her to tell him that for him to know.  The all-too-familiar feeling of his life fading away was all he could really feel.  He couldn’t even feel the pain, though he was sure that it was there, somewhere.

“Beam?” he asked again.  “This time, when they…”  He coughed.  “I’m tired of this.  Dying, I mean.”

Vine’s words from earlier ran through his head.  Surely, you’re going to want to say game over one day, rather than try again.

“Time to retire?” Beam asked.  He heard weariness in her voice.  She wasn’t dying, or at least he didn’t think she was, but clearly she felt the same way.

“I think so.”

Moments later, Daze’s vision faded to black.  White, nondescript words flashed in front of him.

Game over?

Short Story: Tears of Waiting

I’ve been wanting to write an all-dialogue short story ever since I read Brandon Sanderson’s I Hate Dragons” short story (and if you haven’t read that, you need to right now), but I’ve never gotten around to actually doing it.  Until now.  This is rather short, and I’m not sure if it’s really all that good (I mean, even if I don’t compare it to Sanderson’s work), but…well.  Here it is.

“I told him not to come back.”

“The boy never listened.”

“I know, but I’d hoped he might this time…”

“You mean, you hoped he would have made it this time, unlike all the others.”

“Yes.”

“You are so sentimental.”

“You blame me for growing attached?”

“Growing attached is what causes the problems.  You know that!  We can’t grow attached.  It only makes losing them that much harder.”

“If I’m sentimental, you’re cyncical.  Do you ever believe that one of them might make it?”

“After so many years, no.  I don’t believe any of them ever will make it.  I believe that we’ll be stuck here, as we are, for decades more to come, waiting in vain.  We might even have to wait centuries before we’re finally given up on.”

“That’s what your waiting for?  For it to give up on us?  We have to hope that one of them will make it!”

“Why?  None of the ones we actually liked made it!  What’s the point anymore?  I’m struggling to see why we don’t just send them away when they come, before we start to like them, and before they get hurt, and before they have any opportunity to fail.”

“If we do that, we’ll only guarantee that we’ll never leave.  You can’t win if you don’t fail.”

“What is that supposed to mean?  When they fail, they die!  Unless they’re supposed to come back from the dead, I don’t see how them failing the first time will help them win in the future!”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“What do you mean, then?”

“I mean that many of them will have to fail before there will be one that will succeed.”

“How do you know there will be one to succeed?”

“There are over seven billion people on the planet.  We’ve only had two dozen come…there are more, and there’ll be at least one who will be strong enough.”

“But that one person may very well be the last person left.  The seven billionth.”

“Perhaps.”

“Then we’ll be waiting no matter what.”

“Probably.”

“So why don’t we just send them away?  If we have to wait, we might as well wait without watching them get hurt.”

“Look, I hate watching them die as much as you do.  But we can’t truly get out of this without their help.  Waiting for it to…go away?  It will only come back again.  We have to be freed.”

“I don’t like it.  I don’t want to cry again.  You know I hate crying.”

“May our tears lead the right one to us.”

“That still requires waiting, and, oh…”

“Are you crying?”

“Yes.  Another one is coming, don’t you see him?”

“I do.  He looks strong.  Stronger than the others.”

“Probably not strong enough.”

“Why are you so skeptical?”

“If I make myself not believe, maybe it’ll be easier when he fails.  Maybe I won’t cry so much.”

“You’re already crying.”

“And so are you!  How is hoping any better, if it only makes you cry more?”

“I will not let myself stop hoping.  Life isn’t worth living if you don’t hope in something.”

“We aren’t even living, not like this.  This is torture.”

“Maybe it’s practice for when we get our lives back.  If we hope now, then it’ll be easier then.”

“Do you really believe in that?”

“I guess so.”

“Do you see him?  He’s almost made it to the end.”

“Maybe he’ll be the one, then.”

“Maybe.”

“Two more steps left.”

“He fell.”

“He—oh, I don’t believe it!  He seemed so promising…”

“They always let us down in the end.  I told you that.”

“We’re just waiting for the right one.”

“I suppose so.  But oh, I hate crying…”

The Price of Magic

This is what happens when I am bored and want to write, but have writer’s block. After about an hour and a half of headache, this is what I got written.

~~~

The flames licked up higher.  Shadows flickered uncertainly around the alleyway, growing steadier as the light did.  For a moment, all she could do was stare at the fire.  Then the realization began to hit home.

My house is on fire.  My house caught fire!

This time, the emotion that filled her wasn’t shock, but anger.  She whirled around, towards the dark form trying to slink into the growing shadows.  “This is your fault!” she cried.  “All your bloody fault!”

“Mine?”  The returning voice rose in pitch, just as angry.  “I wasn’t the one who let the gas out of the stove like that before lighting it.  I also wasn’t the one who stared at the flames as they burned your curtains.”

A flush burned at her cheeks, which only made her all the more furious.  “No,” she agreed with a snarl.  “You’re the one who distracted me.”

That was the last straw, which was exactly what she had intended.  The slim figure stormed back out into the open, throwing back the hood that had covered her face.  “Distracted?  Why must you blame everything on me, Sasha!  This isn’t any more my fault than it is yours!  Now stop yelling at me.  I’m trying to find a way out of this blasted alleyway before it fills with smoke entirely.”

Sasha’s eyes narrowed.  She knew exactly how to get out of the alleyway, and so did the other woman.

“Don’t even think about it.  I will not.”

“Do you even have any choice?  Do it, Eva!  However else are we going to get out of here?”

“Climb the walls.”  Eva jerked her thumb to the building behind her, which wasn’t yet burning, though with the wind the way it was, that would likely change.  “It’s only two stories, and the smoke isn’t that thick yet.  Get up and onto the roof.”

“And from there?”

Eva shrugged.

“What if it doesn’t work?”

“Improvise.”  With that, she turned around towards the wall.  The bricks were rough, but not enough for real hand or footholds.  Sasha coughed to hide her bitter amusment towards Eva’s idea.  It would never get them out of there.

“Eva, just do it.  We’re going to die in here otherwise, trapped between flames and two buildings.”

Eva, hiding her frustration at not being able to climb the bricks, turned towards her.  Sasha was no more than a silhouette, lit up from behind by the flames.  “What happened to being angry at me?”

“Just get us out of here.  Eva, please.”

Eva eyed her for a moment.  “I—I can’t,” she whispered.  “The last time I tried…  I only made it worse.”

“Just try!  Try or we’re going to die!”  Sasha was desperate now, no longer hiding the insecurities she’d always felt.  She had used to hide her feelings behind contempt and her temper. But now, her need to survive pulled it all away.  Eva now saw clearly Sasha’s jealousy of being normal and of not being like her.

Eva smiled bitterly.  She was the one who should have been jealous of Sasha, not the other way around.  “It hurts,” she whispered, then relented.  She laid her hand on Sasha’s shoulder and squeezed her eyes shut.

Without even really trying, she could feel it fading out of her, draining her.  Even if she couldn’t see it in front of her, she knew there was a wall of light surrounding the two of them.  Outside of it, the flames grew stronger from the energy they found in the wall.

“See?” Eva said softly, not even realizing she was talking out loud.  “It’s a paradox.  The wall keeps the flames away, but it’s made of energy, which only fuels the fire.  It grows stronger, which means I have to make the wall even stronger to keep it back.”

Sasha looked up from where she knelt on the ground and met Eva’s now-open eyes.  Now, she understood.  “But if you break the cycle, the flames will take us.”

“That’s the price of magic, sister.  And there’s only one way out.”

“What’s that?”

“Somebody has to find us.”

And that, both knew, wouldn’t happen in time.  They were trapped in the alley, one solid building to the left, a wall behind them, and flames to the right and in front of them.  The only way someone else would be able to find them is if the flames were put out, and by that time, Eva’s energy would be gone, allowing the wall to collapse and the fire to engulf them.

“I’m sorry,” Sasha said.  “For blaming you for everything.”

“I know.  It’s not easy having a sister with magic, is it?”

“It scared me, and yet fascinated me.  I knew it’s only a problem to you, but it’s also made me feel jealous, that you were the special one who had something like that, while I’m boring and ordinary.”

“You’re anything but boring.”

“Don’t flatter me.”

Eva smiled, but it was a weak one.  She had fallen to her knees beside Sasha, using her sister’s support to stay upright.  It was hard enough to focus on the conversation.  Eva knew she shouldn’t be talking at all, but she didn’t want to spend her last moments silent.

“I’m sorry, too, Sasha,” she said, hesitating a little despite herself.  “I haven’t been the best sister, either, not since Mom and Dad died.”

“At least we have each other now, though.”  It was as she spoke this sentence that Sasha made the realization.  “Eva, let me help you.  Maybe if we both take the strain…”

Eva shook her head slightly.  “No.  If you even touch the magic, it will take you entirely.  You’ll be a slave to it, just like I have been.”

“What else can I do, Eva?  Let me help.”

She was silent.  She knew that if she let Sasha help her, not only would Sasha take the magic, but Eva would be released from it.  But as much as Eva wanted to be freed from magic’s curse, she didn’t want to subject her sister to it.

Before she could come to a decision, however, Sasha took her hands in hers.  Just the little touch, and Eva felt a weight lifted off her shoulders, one she wasn’t sure that she’d been aware of holding.  She’d had it her entire life, after all.

The wall around them strengthened.  For a moment, it looked almost like it was real.  Then Sasha gave up too much.  The light radiating from the wall pulsed, and, knowing what would happen, Eva instinctively covered her eyes.  That light could have blinded her permanently.  As it was, when she looked again the place was still amazingly bright.

But several things had changed.  Sasha had collapsed to the ground, laying still at Eva’s knees.  The fire was gone.  All that was left was ash and smoke.  The wall, no longer having a source or a purpose, had faded away as well.

Eva stared a moment, then turned to her sister.  She shook her roughtly.  “Sasha!  Wake up!”

The girl didn’t move.

Eva felt her eyes start to tear up.  “Sasha, I warned you,” she whispered.  “The price of magic is too high.  You shouldn’t have done that.”

But it was too late now.  Her sister, she knew, would never move again.  She had sacrificed herself to protect Eva from the flames.  For that was the price of magic—it took your life.

Tears falling unabashed now, Eva stood up.  She vowed, right then and there, that she’d avenge her sister.  She’d find a way to stop magic from taking innocent people’s lives, just because they’d inherited it.  Or, in Sasha’s case, taken it for her sister.

“I love you, Sasha.”

Masterpiece

So I discovered this website, Ink Provoking, which gives lovely prompts. The one that was put when I found it was… Write a short story between 400 and 800 words in which you use the words: masterpiece, bird, pool, brick, girl, and bodyguard.

It was about time I wrote another short story, so here it is, all 674 words.

Some could have seen the bird statue as rather elegant, with its neck stretched up to the sky, its beak open in song, and its wings stretched out for the wind to ruffle it’s feathers. And some could have seen the girl as dainty, with her hair twirling, framing around her little face, her lips pulled into a smile, and her tiny hands helping another.

But that was before. That was when the bird was a masterpiece of a carving, sitting on the specially-made perch in the family’s home. That was when the girl had been the child and precious of the family.

Now the bird was just a piece of furniture that was in the way. The girl was just another child who needed to be fed and clothed. Nothing special. Not that it really mattered to the girl. Because all she needed was the company of the little bird.

Some could have seen the bird statue as rather crude, with it’s neck stretching far too high up to the sky, it’s beak open in a cry for help, and it’s wings stretched out in an attempt to flee. Some could have seen the girl as distasteful, with her hair twisted, tangled around her little face, her lips thin and sad, and her tiny hands rough and calloused.

The bird was the girl’s bodyguard, and she it’s. They protected one another. When the weather crashed and roared, the bird’s wings would provide a shelter and the girl would keep it warm. When the sun shined, the bird would sing a silent song of joy and the girl would dance to the music.

And that’s what made the bird a masterpiece, in the girl’s opinion. It was a master at peace. It was always there, always constant. Even more so than the girl’s shadow, which flickered and faded with the lights around her.

Then came the flood. The rain came in turrents and bursts, the water puddling up and the air darkening in fog and clouds. The girl clung onto the bird, but the rain and water continued to pile up, until she felt like she was swimming in a pool. Her grip loosened and she fell away from the bird. She cried out, but it did her no good.

They, the bird and the girl, had been separated from one another.

The rain continued to fall down. The clouds continued to block any sunlight out. The wind continued to blow around. The girl continued to wait for it all to pass, so she could look for the bird, her only friend, once more.

And her patience was rewarded. A faint piece of sunlight pierced the clouds—not much, but just to see around her. But what the girl found wasn’t what she expected. The bird was… broken. Its stone pieces lay scattered across the ground. A clump of feathers here, a foot here, its beak here. Realization dawned on the girl. The bird had been dashed against the ground in the storm.

She fell to her knees, crying. How could she go on, without her friend? Without her bird? Her bodyguard and friend? Not only did tears fall down her cheeks, but they seemed to be falling from the sky as well. The entire world was grieving the loss of that little statue of a bird.

That’s when something seemed to shift. The girl found herself drifting away, from the rain, from the world. She wasn’t alone. A certain bird flew beside her, comforting her, helping her, protecting her, loving her.

She smiled.

And that’s what makes a masterpiece, the girl thought. Being a master at peace.

Some could have seen the bird as rather elegant, with its neck stretched up to the sky, its beak open in joyous song, and its wings stretched out for the wind to ruffle it’s pretty feathers. And some could have seen the girl as dainty, with her hair twirling, framing around her little face, her lips pulled into a smile, and her tiny hands helping another in need.

The Cross

So, I figured I’d put my other short story up here, called the Cross.  I’ll warn you beforehand, it’s religious, so if you don’t like that stuff, don’t read it.  If you don’t mind it, or enjoy reading it, though, by all means, read it.  It’s based off of an event that happened to me at summer camp, and the words in italics are from one of my favorite songs, Lead Me to the Cross.

The Cross

The pastor’s words rung in my ears, even as I turned to Evelyn as she sat beside me.  “Will you come up with me?”  I asked softly.  Inside, I was afraid she’d belittle me.  She’d think I was lying about who I really was because I hadn’t done this before.  Savior, I come. Quiet my soul. Remember…

Instead, her eyes immediately teared up.  “Of course, I will!” she said.  She stood up, holding my hand.

Redemption’s hill, where Your blood was spilled, for my ransom.

Already, the front of the room was filling with others.  Some of them were going up for the same reasons as I, some were going to help a friend, like Evelyn was for me.  Either way, I began to realize that I wasn’t alone.  I didn’t have to be afraid of any of this.  Everything I once held dear, I count it all as loss.

We all knelt in front of the stage.  Many of us had tears streaming down our faces.  Not me.  I couldn’t bring myself to cry, not yet.  It hadn’t really clicked in my mind what was happening.

Lead me to the cross, where Your love poured out.

The pastor stood up on the stage, and prayed.  He thanked God for speaking through him that night, and for bringing all of us up there at that moment.  There were so many of us, ready to give up our lives for a new purpose.  We were Christians, from that moment forward, with Jesus at the front of our lives.  Praise the Lord for this!

Bring me to my knees, Lord, I lay me down.  Rid me of myself; I belong to you.  Lead me, lead me to the cross!

My eyes began to cloud up.  I was up at the front.  I was being reborn, not as a sinner, but as a Christian.  I began to really grasp what I had done.  But I didn’t regret it, not one little bit.  You were as I tempted and tried human.  The word became flesh, bore my sin and death. Now you’re risen.

The band had been playing softly at this point, but when the pastor had said, Amen, they began to play a song we all knew well.  In fact, it was one of my favorites, and it caused the tears to flow freely now.  I held tight onto Evelyn with one hand, and threw the other up in the air, singing as loud as I could.  It didn’t matter that my voice cracked, not then, not ever.

Lead me to the cross, where your love poured out.  Bring me to my knees, Lord, I lay me down.  Rid me of myself; I belong to You.  Lead me, lead me to the cross.

Lead me to your heart.

 

Clouds

So, I figured, I’d start this blog off with a story.  Why not?  This is one I just wrote as it came to me, and, it’s called Clouds.  Nothing spectacular, but I kinda liked it.

Here it is, in all of it’s 700-something-word glory.

Clouds

It looked like it could brush the clouds.  Diana stretched her fingers up, wondering, if she could stand at the top, would she be able to touch the clouds?  Or would they evade her?

A sharp whistle brought her back to reality, and she looked down.  Her father stood over her, the same hard look on his face as always.  “Get your head out of the clouds,” he snapped.  “You are supposed to be getting ready for school, and you aren’t even dressed!”

Diana pulled away from the window.  A part of her thought defiantly, “My fingers were in the clouds, not my head.”  But she did as her father wished, and dressed herself, pulled on her stockings, and braided her hair.  Her mother helped her with the last bit and handed her a brown sack.

“Here’s your lunch, dear,” she said, with a softness her father didn’t seem to possess.  “Now carry on; it would not be wise to make the headmaster angry by being late.”

“Yes, Mother.”

Another few moments, and Diana found herself outside in the bustle of the city.  The cobblestones were slick from the rain early that morning, and there was an air that suggested more rain might be coming.  In fact, it made the trip Diana made nearly every day seem even more dreary.

Merely for something to do, Diana looked up at the tower again.  The buildings around the city were slowly getting taller and taller as science found ways to support their weight, but as of yet, nothing was as tall as the tower situated at the center of town.  Again, Diana began to wonder what it would be like to stand at the top of it, reaching into the sky.

She looked down at the lunch sack in her hand, then at the street ahead of her.  A smile began to creep over her face.  The headmaster hardly paid her any attention.  Surely he wouldn’t notice if she was missing, and if he did, how would he know where she was!  Not even her mother and father would know where to look, because Diana was going to the tower.  She was going to touch the clouds.

She urged into a run.  Bare moments passed before the entrance to the tower was graced with her small presence.  She strode anxiously up to the door, grabbed the handle, and carefully, steadily pulled it open.

Darkness greeted her.  But with the excitement of an adventure filling her veins, she hardly cared or noticed.  She started forward, feeling her way with her hands.  After a few steps, she found a rail and realized she stood at the bottom of a stairs.  She smiled again and took the first step.

Once again, she felt excited.  She was going to touch the clouds.  She took another step.  She was going to reach out and feel them.  Another step.  What would they feel like?  Another step.  Would they be fuzzy like her teddy bear?  Another step.  Would they be warm or cold?  Another step.

The entire trip was like this; Diana took a step and wondered about the clouds, then took another step.  In almost no time, she was high above the ground.  Every few dozen steps there was a small window which she could look out.  Each time she reached one, Diana hurried to it and looked up.  Gradually, the clouds grew closer, and the town grew farther away.  Finally, the stairs tapered off onto a landing.  At the end of it was another door.  Diana ran up to it and pulled it open.

A sudden wind blew through her hair, and she nearly let go of the door.  For a moment, she stood there, eyes closed into the wind.  But slowly, she opened her eyes and looked.  A railing stretched out before her.  Putting one foot before the other, she stepped onto the metal platform.

Diana was there.  The thought occurred to her suddenly.  She looked up, and there they were.  The clouds she had wanted to touch so badly.  They were still out of reach.  She looked around her, but there was nothing to stand on.  She looked up at the clouds again; the frigid wind blew them about, changing their shape.  They looked as fluffy as ever.

Diana sighed, and leaned forward on the rail.  One day, call her crazy, but one day, she would build something tall enough to touch the clouds.