Sunday, March 24, 2013

Prompt: Always lonely, never alone

Thanks to theancientsoul for the beautiful visual prompt!
Lin Bai walked onto the balcony, shivering in the cold night air. She looked up to the full moon and blew out a cloud of warm breath. The moonlight shone on her dark hair, draped in delicate braids cascading down her back. Her white satin gown bared her arms, and she had not brought a wrap to cover her shoulders. She stretched out her slender arms and gripped the marble railing, rolling her shoulders and arching her back to ease the prickling sensation that covered her skin. She could feel but not see the bright colors of the fresh tattoo rippled over her shoulder blade. As she stretched, the lines peeled up into the air, the wings gently waving back and forth until the body was completely free. The butterfly perched on her shoulder for a long moment before it fluttered into the air around her head.

“You are free, little one. Go now, before you are seen,” she urged.

“Why do you always set them free?” a dark voice rasped from the shadows. Lin Bai whirled around, her long skirts fluttering like the butterfly’s wings. The black cat jumped onto the curved marble bench and groomed his paws, delicately licking his night-black fur and tugging on his long, wicked claws. He continued, “They’re a gift for you. They’re supposed to keep you company."

Lin Bai swept her skirt aside and sat next to the cat, stroking his back as he arched into her hand. “I would keep nothing here against its will, little one. Even you,” she smiled sadly to the cat.

He shrugged, a human gesture. “The mice are good. And the hearth is warm. I’m not complaining.”

She laughed at his matter-of-fact assessment. “Well, I’m glad you’re comfortable, at least,” she teased, drawing her fingers down his tail and resting them on her lap.

“I am. Why can’t you be? You know he would give you anything you ask to make you happy.”

“Not anything.”

The cat turned his green eyes up to her for a long moment, then looked away. “No, I guess not anything. But almost anything. Anything you want to have here, at least.”

Lin Bai sighed. The wizard would indeed give her anything she asked, including companionship in the form of the tattoos that sprang to life each night. She refused to hold them captive as she was. The cat had been the first. Every day, she encouraged him to leave, but he always claimed he was content to stay. As much as she welcomed his company, she longed for a human touch. But she would not yield to the wizard. Never him.

She sighed again and stood. “It’s cold, cat. Come in by the warm hearth,” she said as she returned to the comfortable tower that was her lonely prison.

The cat yawned and shook its head. “I’ll stay out here with the moon for a little while.”

Lin Bai shrugged and pulled the balcony doors closed. The cat was never bound by doors or windows. He watched her disappear from the windows, as a cloud hid the moon. If Lin Bai had looked out onto the balcony, she would have seen a man on the bench. His long, black hair curled over the collar of his cape, and his green eyes blazed across the balcony to the wilderness stretched below. What could he bring her, what could he give her, that would make her love him? What, other than the one thing she wanted. The one thing he never could give her. Freedom.  


Dogs in house:

emanuel pascu, classical guitar

Time writing:
25 minutes

March word count:


  1. Prompt: Always lonely, never alone

    Shena walked out onto the balcony, where the sounds of the celebration dissipated into the cool evening. The black cat was waiting for her, and she tugged the ungainly train of her dress around to sit on the stone bench beside him. The cat stood and purred. She reached out. He rubbed his cheeks against her hands just like the cats at home. The cat seemed to understand her better than her new husband.

    Her wedding dress was the colour of the snow that covered the upper reaches of the mountains beyond; the colour of bones; the colour of death. What was this culture that to which she had just irrevocably joined herself that celebrated a marriage with the cold blankness of white rather than the warmth of blood red?

    The cat clawed his way up onto her lap. She gathered him to her chest, not caring if his claws dislodged a sequin or a pearl. She closed her eyes and imagined the warm fur belonged to her seal-tipped tom from home. He wriggled from her grasp and climbed up on her left shoulder. A soft paw batted at her tattoo, and she felt the wings of the inked butterfly shiver in her skin.

    "Shhh," she said, pulling the cat back to her lap. "It's not time to wake that one yet."

    1. Love this! Nice description and scene setting using the image. And I am bowled over by the fact we both saw the tattoo as something coming to "life"! I would enjoy more of this story!

  2. Ooo, is the cat the wizard? I'm not sure... I wonder why he can't give her freedom, and if it is a 'real' reason or just one he has imagined up himself, and where that would lead the story...

    Anyway. And how neat we both had living tattoos, although I suspect I was influenced by your dragon tattoo from last week, so the germ of the idea lies in you.

    1. LOL Good questions, Anne! I actually have a sneaking suspicion that many of these story prompts could lead to a whole novel at some point. Although I'm not deliberately doing so, many of them seem to be set in the same world. We'll see what the future brings. And then I will have to answer that most dreaded question: "What happens next?"!