Posts Tagged ‘short story’

The campfire started it all.  I had never wandered before, preferring to always stay with a group.  I wish now that I had been content to stay with the group that fateful night, but, alas, I did not, and now I must pay the price for it, for mortal eyes are not meant to see what I have seen.

The tents were up, the mood was festive.  We aimed to spend four glorious nights surrounded by nature and good company.  In the midst of the first night, I disentangled myself from the arms of my lover to sit by the fire once again.  The flames fascinated me.  In those blazing embers, I could see the edges of visions and dreams.  Some time later, it could have been five minutes, it could have been two hours, another light caught my eye.  It was not the stars or the moon; it was too low to the earth for that.  Nor was it the light of any road or hint of civilization; we had carefully plotted our destination to be at least two miles in all directions from the nearest manmade edifice.  This light flickered briefly, weakened and then grew startlingly bright.  My friends all still slept soundly.  In my groggy, entranced state, I felt I absolutely must know what made the lights, for they were now multiplied. 

I staggered towards the faint lights, heard a giggle from the depths of the earth, and stopped.  The lights had just vacated the place where I now stood, I could sense it.  It was as if something existed there but moments earlier, something both warm and frozen at the same time, and it had left an impression for me to find.  As I walked to the center of the sensation, I saw more than just the edges of visions and dreams.  I could see all of human history.  Moments flickered through my mind at nauseating speeds. Nothing remained hidden from me.  I fell to my knees, eyes shut uselessly tight against the motion sickness, hands vainly clamped to my ears to block the myriad sounds that formed a mad cacophony.  As suddenly as the visions appeared, they released me.  I fell to the ground, face-down.  That is where my companions found me the next morning.

They claimed I had wandered half a mile from the campsite, though I knew I had only walked a few steps from the fire.  I tried to explain about the lights and the vision, but my friends insisted it was naught but a dream.  I heard then that same otherworldly giggle as I refuted their theory, but within it, I heard also a warning.  I obeyed the obscene chuckle and grew silent on the matter. We joked through the day about my sleep-wandering.  My partner threatened to tie me down should it occur again.  I vowed that that wouldn’t be necessary. 

I should not have made such a vow for it was one I could not keep.  The lights drew me once again the next night.  I made a point to sleep facing my partner, with his arm tightly around me.  No matter how beautiful the fire was, I refused to get up to watch it.  Instead I shut my eyes tightly against the world and feigned sleep.  When I shut my eyes, memories of the visions came again.  They would not stop, regardless of how hard I concentrated on something, anything else.  A shudder passed through my body, but it did not originate within me.  It felt as though something crawled or fluttered over me and under me at once, beckoning me to follow it.  Finally, I could bear it no longer.  I followed the sensation.  Once again, I extricated myself and crept amongst my sleeping friends back into the trees.  The feeling dissipated a few steps further away than my previous night’s excursion.  This time I could still see some of the lights.  I braced myself for another mental onslaught, but none came.  Instead, the lights moved to surround me.  Their warmth soothed me, though still I felt the chill beneath.  The lights floated around me, sometimes caressing my skin, other times wafting around my head.  The headache from the visions finally dimmed. 

I knew then that the lights were alive. They moved.  They saw.  They thought.

They planned.  They planned for me.  In that moment, I knew their intentions.  They saw fit that I should follow them.  Subconsciously, I made the decision to go where they willed, to the ends of the earth if still they led.  They must have read my mind, for they drifted onwards at the moment of decision.  The farther we went the darker and stranger the woods became.  The trees took on dark, living shapes.  They shied away from the lights – which I came to call “fairies” for lack of a better word – but leaned towards me whenever I fell behind.  The bark of one tree gaped as if it were a giant maw, reading to devour anything its vine-like branches could grasp.  If not for the fairy lights, those branches would have had me a hundred times!  I shuddered at the thought of my body being slowly mashed within those ancient wooden jaws.  For one brief moment, I wondered at where the lights led me, but the moment passed quickly.  The only thought now left to me was to stay with the lights.  I was safe within the circle of lights.  The darkness held only horrors.  More than once, I heard the howls and chitterings of unknown creatures.  The sounds were like nothing I had ever heard before.  Indeed, if asked to describe them, I barely have the words.  The most distinct sound was akin to the howl of a wolf, but there was something more wild about it even than that.  A wolf, at least, abides by rules and instincts.  I believe the only rule that this creature lived by was to stay away from the fairies.  But what kind of power could such small things have that even the most nightmarish of abominations stayed well away from them?  I would leave them now, if only I could, but I was in too deep.  To leave them would mean abandoning the safety of the bright circle.  I knew they would not follow me.  I could turn and run and hope to avoid all the terrible creatures I heard and saw, but without a light to guide me, I would run straight into one of the vicious animals or the carnivorous trees.  No, to stay alive, I must stay with the lights.

Many hours (or possibly days; time loses all meaning in the eternal darkness of this accursed forest) later, the fairies led me to an impossibly dark tunnel.  I thought I had known darkness in the wood, but this darkness seemed palpable.  I balked.  The darkness beckoned me even as it swallowed the lights.  My sole companions and protectors in this malevolent wood had led me to this place.  Surely they had some reason for doing so.  Mayhaps a paradisiacal utopia lie just past the oozing ink of the tunnel’s mouth.  Or maybe there exists at least an escape, a way out of the nightmarish copse back into the ordinary world.  But even then, I knew that I could not return to that world unscathed.  My wandering days were over.  I knew that I would forever be haunted by this ill-advised adventure into the unknown.  The knowledge that, just beyond our everyday experiences, dwelt a place so bent on unhinging the mind would forever infect my thoughts.  

I dove into the mouth.  Immediately, a hollow coldness seeped into my very bones.  I shuddered.  Ahead of me, in the eternal darkness, the fairy lights were just barely visible.  I hurried to keep up pace with them, refusing to be left alone any longer in this abysm.  The shaft felt to be leading downwards.  I longed to touch something, anything to give me an idea of what type of pit this was.  With outstretched arms and still moving feet, I felt neither side of the passage.  The sense of sight was long lost to me – I could still see the moving orbs, but even their bright star-light did nothing to penetrate the black – and now the sense of hearing seemed to vanish as well.  No echo announced each footfall.  It was as if I walked upon a thick sponge that absorbed all sound, though the surface of the floor seemed solid enough beneath my feet.  Even my shallow breathing did nothing to alleviate the perfect silence.  Again, I could feel the action, but no other senses accompanied the sense of touch.  They say that sensory deprivation is the surest way to drive the human brain insane.  Suddenly, I understood.  Even with my sense of touch still intact, the lack of my normal capacities left me reeling. 

As I walked, blind and deaf, contemplating my own growing madness, I became aware that my orb companions had stopped.  Here the floor leveled out and I stopped beside the lights.  The lights grew in size and intensity until I thought my eyes would burst.  Still, they illuminated nothing besides themselves.  Or perhaps the light so overwhelmed my dark-acclimated vision that all else became unimportant.  However it was, I soon felt the warmth of the lights wrap around my shivering body.

They say I dreamed this all – the fairy lights, the forest, the tunnel, and what came after.  Would that I could share my discoveries with all mankind, but the revelation of such things would drive all to either madness or despair.  I saw the world.  I saw it as it was in eons past, when massive creatures trod all to dust beneath their heels.  I saw it as it will be in eons yet to come, a fire and plague scarred flatland, devoid of people save a few scrawny, naked humans.  I saw them rediscover fire and later writing and all the things we say make mankind ‘civilized.’  I saw them begin again to…but no, I can say no more.  The lights gave me to understand that this is our fate.  I cannot by telling change the way it shall be, but I can spare others the grief and hopelessness. 

Monday seems to be my Flash Fiction day.  This week’s challenge was to write a scene about a character making  a sandwich.  I thought it sounded insane at first, but then I realized it could be pretty fun! This one comes in at 992 words.  See if you can find the names that connect this story to last week’s.  Let me know what you think in the comments!

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Lenora’s stomach gurgled as she threw open the door to the apartment.

“Nora, that you?” Shane called from the common room, never looking up from his video game.  Muffled gunfire and zombie groans drifted to the kitchen.

“Yeah!” she whipped open the breadbox.  She growled.  Empty.  Again.  She braced herself on the counter and ground her teeth.  “Who ate all the freakin’ bread?” she barked.

The violent sounds silenced.  Shane stood in the doorway.  “Are you okay, Nora?”  He took a tentative step towards her.

“I’m hungry,” she seethed as her nostrils flared and her eyes became green slits.

“Okay…it’s okay.  There’s more bread in the fridge.”

Lenora shoved him backwards when he moved to get her a plate.  “I don’t want your help, Shane.”  He held up his hands in surrender and leaned against the door.  Opening the fridge, Lenora’s face suddenly split into a grin.  “It’s ciabatta bread!” she cried.

Shane just laughed.  “Guess you’re okay.  I’m just gonna go finish kickin’ zombie butt, then,” the gunshot and zombie noise resumed as soon as he left the kitchen.

After retrieving a bread knife, Lenora happily sliced the ciabatta roll.  Sandwiches make things better.  Especially on special bread.  She hummed tunelessly to herself as she spooned horseradish sauce on one piece of the bread.  She let it soak into all the airy holes.  Ketchup went on the other piece of bread.  In the dim light from the single bulb, the ketchup almost looked like thick blood.  She smiled and licked her lips.  The bread absorbed some of the red.  Just like cloth.  Like lab coats and stupid little sweaters underneath.  Like paper, too.  All their notes and research.  She stuck the condiments back in the door of the refrigerator and reached for the rare roast beef from the night before.

The ketchupy redness had filled a few more holes in the bread.  Her thrill at finding the ciabatta bread evaporated.  Like towels and rags, the knife in her hand shook.  A quick picture of once-white towels, soaked in blood, overtook her.  No.  No, no, no, she dropped the blade to the counter.  No remembering.  The smell of almost raw meat drew her away from the memories lingering at the edge of her mind.  She shook her head and quickly sliced a thick slab of beef.  She slammed it on the horseradish-covered bread.

She wrenched the refrigerator open one more time to find the cheese she had stashed in the vegetable drawer earlier in the week.  A deep frown creased her forehead.  Half of the cheese was gone.  So much for that hiding spot.  Sharing a dorm-like apartment with four other teenagers had its disadvantages.  Lenora almost stormed into the living room and demanded that Shane tell her who ate it.  With a flick of her wrist, she tossed the half-block of sharp cheddar back in the otherwise empty drawer.  She didn’t bother to shut the drawer before she slammed the refrigerator door.

Crack.  Lenora winced.  Her stomach growled again, now more insistent.  She opened the door to see the damage and sighed.  They were almost out of duct tape.  I’ll fix the stupid drawer later, she decided.  Once again, she retrieved the cheese and plopped it on the counter next to the half-made sandwich.  She sliced the remainder of the block and laid the thick slices on top of the beef.

The unexpected memory still had her shaking inside.  She refused to let it mess up her sandwich eating.  I really do love sandwiches.  The light bulb above her head flickered and dimmed.  She glanced up at it and shrugged.  I’ll get Shane or Ian to change it later.  Ketchup oozed out of the sandwich when she squished the top piece of bread on top of the meat and cheese.  Oh gosh, the blood again.  It’s the blood again.

She wasn’t in the little apartment kitchen anymore.  She was fifteen again, desperately trying to grasp what was happening to her.  A choked sob barely escaped her throat.  The only color in the bright white and chrome lab was the bright splotches of red scattered all around the table.  They had nicked an artery when she got one arm free of the bindings.  One of them had his hand on her mouth, forcing back her screams while one of the others tried to stop the bleeding and strap her arm back down so they could open her arm and take tissue samples.  The third one was on the floor with a couple of thick towels.  “It’s gonna stain the floor,” he complained.

“I told you to put down plastic,” the one gagging her looked down on him.

The floor?  That’s what they’re worried about?  The freakin’ floor?  That was the only coherent thought Lenora could remember.

“Nora!  Nora, it’s okay!” a disembodied voice called to her.  Something wrapped around her chest.  She struggled and tried to kick and bite, but the something seemed to know how to keep away from her attacks.

“Let me go!  Let me go!” she cried.  “Please,” her tears overcame her struggles.

The strong something lowered her to the floor and rocked her back and forth as she sobbed.  “Shh,” it whispered in her ear.  “I’ve got you.  It’s gonna be okay.”

She was back in the kitchen, her carefully made sandwich in pieces on the dirty floor next to her.  The strong something was Shane.  He stroked her hair and kissed her forehead.  “Shane?” she murmured.

He pulled back to look her in the eye.  “What happened?”

She pushed her hair out of her face and shook her head.  “I don’t know.  But it’s happening more often now.”  She pushed herself off the floor.  Without a glance at the mess she’d made, she strode to the porch door.

“What’re you going to do?” Shane frowned, not sure if he should let her leave so soon after an episode.

“I’m still hungry,” Lenora suddenly grinned.  “I’m going hunting.”

Flames and Havoc

Posted: February 13, 2012 in Short Stories
Tags: , , ,

This is a short story I wrote based on a prompt from the Terrible Minds blog (quick note – there is some language on the blog, but also some great points).  The characters here are from a larger story I’m working on at the moment.  The plan is that I’ll write short stories as background pieces for the larger one.  The prompt was to write an unlikable, but compelling protagonist in 1000 words or less  This comes in at 998 words.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Willow lounged in front of the fireplace in the townhouse she shared with Ian and Kendra.  Usually people flocked in and out of the house at all hours; alone time was a luxury.  For once, no other Fae were using the house as a hostel.  Kendra was in her room reassembling a computer.  Ian was “on a date,” which would end either here or at the girl’s place.  Either way, it would probably end badly for the girl.  Unless date wasn’t actually a euphemism for make-out and then drain body of blood.  It’s been a while any which way, Willow shrugged.  She didn’t care about Ian’s late-night urges.  Human safety wasn’t high on her list of priorities.

She took a sip from her wine glass and laid her head back on the puffy couch, her red hair draped over the cushion.

Kendra suddenly pushed aside Willow’s feet and plopped next to her on the couch, plucking Willow’s wine glass out of her hand and taking a sip.  “Ugh,” she made a face.  “It tastes like feet.  How can you drink that stuff?”

“Some of us would rather have finer things than beer and whiskey,” Willow retorted, snatching the glass back.  “You just have no culture.”

“Culture?” Kendra snorted.  “Weren’t you just saying the other day that we should make our own culture?”

“Yes, and my culture happens to like fancy wine.  Occasionally humans get something right.”

“Whatever,” Kendra rolled her eyes.  “So…Lucas might be coming over to talk soon.”

Willow narrowed her eyes.  The fire leapt up, green and angry.  Kendra jumped up and grabbed the always-handy fire extinguisher, just in case the fire escaped or Willow lost more control.   “Will, relax!  He just wants to talk!”

“He never just wants to talk, Kendra!  He’s going to try to make us change our minds.  Again.  He wants us to go back to New Avalon and I’m not going!”  The fire hopped onto the stone floor and back into the fireplace.  Kendra quickly shot the stray flame that stayed behind with the extinguisher and glared at Willow.

“He’s coming, whether we want him to or not, so get a grip!  I’m sick of covering up scorch marks.”

The door opened quietly.  Ian just glanced at the girls, dejection written all over his pale face.  He silently sat in the middle of the couch.  He frowned at the new scorch mark and then at Willow.  He grabbed the bottle of wine from the floor and tipped it into his mouth.  After a few swallows, he spoke.  “Is there something wrong with me?”

“Of course not, Ian,” Kendra sat and wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

“She said I creeped her out.  That I looked like Dracula or something,” he laid his head on Kendra’s shoulder.

“Sounds like a compliment.  Why didn’t you drain her?” Willow asked.

“I would’ve had to follow her; she left pretty early.  With another guy.”

“So?” Willow asked.

“Willow,” Kendra admonished, shaking her head.

“I was on the drunk side of tipsy by the time they left.  It wouldn’t have ended well.”

A knock on the back door interrupted the conversation.

“Lucas…” Willow clenched her fists.  Kendra got up, still holding the extinguisher.

“Why’s Lucas coming?” Ian frowned.

“Because he’s an idiot.”

“Oh.”

“Hi, Kendra.  Are Willow and Ian home, too?” Lucas’ low voice rolled through the rooms to reach Willow and Ian.

“Yeah, they’re in the living room,” Kendra replied.  She lowered her voice to a whisper, still audible to the two on the couch, “Be careful, Lucas.  Willow already has a fire going.  There won’t be a warning if she gets ticked off.”

Willow snorted and stood, arms crossed, to greet the man.

“What do you want?”

“We need to talk about the company you three keep.”

“We like our company just fine, thank you.”

Lucas sighed and leaned on the mantle.  “The Council isn’t happy.  They want you to come home.”

“We are home.”

“They want to talk about what happened two years ago and get you some help…”

“I don’t need or want the Council’s help!” smoke wisped from Willow’s hands.  “What do they want to do, send me through some freakin’ 12-step program or something?  I’m not apologizing for anything.”

“Yeah, well, the window for apologizing is closing pretty fast.”

Kendra paled.  “They’re sending Hunters, aren’t they?” she whispered.

Lucas swallowed hard and gave a slight nod.  “Soon.  I’m here to warn you.  You took an offer from them and now you’re using it to give shelter and provision to their enemies.  They want this over.  Now.”

Willow’s jaw clenched.  She held her hands away from her sides and small flames engulfed them.  The fire-tongues licked her skin, but didn’t burn her.  She unleashed a small fireball into the fireplace with a muffled boom.

“What we did wasn’t wrong!” she exploded.  “You know what people can do, what they did to Nora!  You’re her mentor; you’ve heard her horror stories!  How can you not just want to rip them all apart?  Besides, that ‘offer’ was just what the Council owed us anyway,” Willow’s pupils held a small flame.

“How long do we have?” Ian asked.

“A few days, a week,” Lucas shrugged.  “Not long.”

“We were just stupid teenagers!” Ian pleaded.

“And now you’re adults and need to start behaving like it.  If you come crawling back, begging forgiveness, if you agree to confinement on the complex, they’ll let you live.  But that’s only if you come back now.  Of your own accord.”

“No,” Willow spat.  Her hair drifted around her face; heat billowed from her skin.  Lucas gulped; he had seen her lose control before and didn’t want to see it again.  “Get out,” she demanded.

“Fine, don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Lucas took long strides out the door.

“What’re we gonna do?” Kendra whispered.

“We’re not going back,” Willow decided.  “We’re stronger than we were.  We can handle ourselves.”

“What’s your plan?” Ian asked.

“We wreak havoc.”