Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Prompt: Awakening the Beast

She sleeps, dreaming. Buried so deep for so long, she can’t move, barely remembers movement. Light. Freedom.

What’s changed? Something. Some impulse felt from so far away. She might open an eye, though there is still no light to see. She might flex muscles long dormant, though there is no more room than before. She wakes. And waits. Something is happening.
Dara pushes past reaching hands, runs to the stable, wraps her trembling arms around her gentle mare’s neck. Pulling a bridle over the horse’s head, she doesn’t wait for a saddle. She leads the mare outside to the nearest mounting block and leaps on bareback. Before anyone can call her back, they are gone.

Back muscles roll and flex. Ahhh. Head lifts into an opening space. Eyes capture some dim light filtered in from far away. She breathes. Patience.

Dara returns when the mare can run no more. She brushes the coat to a shine and storms through the stable, scattering chickens and unwary stableboys. Still reluctant to return inside, she walks down to the riverbank and follows the slender trail wending past fishing holes and fallen logs where she has spent many hours reading and dreaming away from the critical eyes that follow her everywhere inside.

Flesh ripples, colors begin to glow in the lightening dark. An ancient song builds in her chest, her throat. She holds it in, breathes the memory of sound. Soon. Soon.

Dara finds the old woman’s lodge where it always was, hidden by ivy and hedges unless you knew where to look. She pushes through the thick brush and finds the old woman in her porch rocking chair, shelling peas in a large bowl. Dara sits at her feet and picks at the peas. She rests her head on the old woman’s lap, a spidery hand stroking her hair.

“I’m afraid,” she confesses softly. “I’m afraid of what will be.”

“Do not fear yourself, dear girl. You are what you are. You will be what you will be. Holding yourself back works no better than holding back the sun or the tide.”

“I’m afraid I’ll lose myself,” she cries bitter tears.
“I don’t want to change,” she pouts.
“I won’t know myself any more!” she wails.

“Nonsense, child. You will find yourself, save yourself. It’s time.”

She wipes her tears and nods, reluctantly hearing the truth in the old woman’s words. Kissing a papery cheek, she pushes back through the heavy greenery to the river’s rushing currents.

She lifts her arms to the sun.
She stretches her limbs into space grown vast around her.
She tilts her face to the sunlight.
She raises her head high on her long, slender neck.
She turns, a slow dance, small steps in the grass.
She stands on legs folded so long, flexes muscles, shuffles wings.
She opens her mouth to release the song building inside. A song she’s heard her whole life and never sung.
The colors burst forth, brilliant radiance like a living rainbow, dancing light reflected on the grass, across the water.
Wings burst forth, flex, unroll, wave in steady sweeps.
Tail lashes, sharp enough to cut blades of grass as it passes over.
Finally free, she flies.
Brilliant star sounding her ancient song of power.

Dogs in house:
Cats soundtrack
Time writing:
1 hour?
April word count:

I really wrestled with this. I have a vision in my head that won’t quite coalesce into words. I clearly have dragons on the brain! Perhaps in time I’ll get it right. Meanwhile, I think this morphed into almost a poem.

I’ll welcome any comments!

Prompt: As his ship emerged from hyperspace, Raald Var realized something was wrong…

Nineteen jumps. Each one carried him through hyperspace, travelling just over one light-year in one week’s time. Nineteen jumps without a hitch, closing the gap between the Sol system and home. Perched just over a light year from the Gliese sytem, Raald Var leaned back in his pilot’s hammock and admired the beauty of the Three Sisters.

During the three years he had travelled throughout the Sol system, the single, yellow sun had always seemed so lonely in the sky, so dim, despite the crowd of planets around it. Var thought the only sight more beautiful than the three Gliese stars could be the horizon view of his own planet. He knew he couldn’t see any of the five planets from this distance, but he peered closely at the monitors anyway.

He streamed the comm dataset one more time, as he’d done before every jump. The data was far more vital than he. Better they receive it twenty times than not at all. While he waited for the data to download, there was time for a meal and a fur scraping before his final jump.

Protocols called for two system checks before each jump. Var ran three before he initiated the ship’s systems to jump into hyperspace. He had acclimated to the body-churning sensations enough that he no longer vomited, but he was eager to return to his suspension hammock. After one final system check.

One week later, the ship woke him with gentle rotations of his hammock. When he was fully alert, he slid out into the zero-g and pulled himself to the flight center. If he hesitated for a moment before settling in the pilot’s chair, who was there to see it? For one last time, he held his body still while the ship’s access controls wrapped around his arms, neck, and head. He stared at the Gliese Sisters while the rods pierced his fingers, throat, spine, and finally his eyes.

Fully connected, he initiated the jump sequence that would finally bring him home. As his ship emerged from hyperspace, Raald Var realized something was wrong. Asteroid debris tumbled around his ship, and he quickly dodged a piece large enough to damage the hull. Working with the ship to find a neutral space, they coasted while Var studied the monitors. He blinked, and blinked again.

Here on the cusp of Reelsa’s orbit, he could only see two of her sister planets. The ship’s sytems displayed the other, long-orbiting Dhjaba . But Reelsa was not there. The ship’s systems confirmed what the ache in his heart already told him was true. There were only four planets orbiting the Gliese Sisters. His home was gone.

TBC (perhaps)

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle

“Cleopatra’s Secret” from ARC Music 35th Anniversary 1976-2011

Time writing:
~40 minutes (darn Word crash!)

April word count:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Prompt: Superhero Grandmother

Karen pelted up the steps and through the lobby doors before they fully opened. She barely waved to Hodge, the security guard she usually chatted with before heading down to her mother’s room. She raced down the hall, pushed open her mother’s door and then stood limply, staring at the stooped old lady in the wing chair by the window. What was she thinking? She burst into tears.

 The old lady looked up. “What’s the matter? Why are you crying?” She asked with a tremulous voice.

 “Oh, Momma!” Karen dropped to her knees and laid her head on her mother’s lap. She felt fingers brushing her hair, and she sobbed harder. How she needed her mother now.

“What’s the matter, dear?”

 Could she? Could she know? Karen looked up hopefully. “Momma, do you know me?”

 The old lady’s hand dropped to her lap, and her kind blue eyes clouded with confusion. “Um…”

Karen sat back on her heels. “Momma, I need you. I’m sorry, I really need you. I don’t know what to do! Please. Please try…”

The old lady frowned as she thought. “Karen? What’s wrong?”

“Momma, they took the boys. I left them with the dogs at home to run to the grocery. I shouldn’t have left them, but they were sleeping, and it’s been so long—”

“Who took them?”

“I don’t know!” Karen wailed “Oh, Momma, I wish you could help me. I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

The old lady gestured to the bag Karen had dropped by the door. “What’s that, honey?”

“Never mind, Momma. I’ve got to go—”

“What’s in the bag, Karen?” Her mother asked in the crisp, no-nonsense voice that tolerated no evasion all through her turbulent childhood. No matter what else Serina Farhold may have been, she was first and foremost a mother.

Karen looked at her with a flare of hope in her eyes. Serina lifted an impatient eyebrow. Karen ran to get the bag and brought it back to her mother. She pulled out the silky fabric and laid it in her lap.

 “Momma, I don’t know why…I just thought maybe, maybe if you saw it, you would remember. Maybe you could help me get my boys back…”

Serina picked up the tunic, let it fall from her fingers. She looked out the window, and Karen felt her hope fade. She reached for the clothes in her mother’s lap. Old fingers, wrinkled and delicate, wrapped around her wrist in an iron grip. She froze.

 Serina picked up the mask in her other hand and slipped it into place with the ease born of years of use.

Before Karen could even blink, Serina Farhold, the last of the superheroes, once again stood befor her, tall and powerful in her costume, cape flaring behind her.

“There’s no time to waste, now is there, Karen. No one messes with my family and gets away with it. Let’s go get your boys.”

TBC (perhaps)

Time writing:
20 minutes
April word count:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Prompt: Life Flight

The EMS techs are more concerned with keeping me alive than sparing me any more pain. They probably don’t mean to jostle and bounce the stiff board onto the gurney, the gurney into the helicopter, the locks and buckles to keep me safe—safer than the last seat belt.

I am in a delirium of pain. Every inch of my skin feels hyper-sensitized to the brush of clothes, the cold of metal, the rough straps across my forehead, chest, hips and thighs. I want to pull away from each feeling. I can’t move at all.

The copter blades begin to turn. I move my eyes enough to track them through the open door. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. Wha-wha-wha-wha-wha… My eyes stop tracking and stare at the blur. We lift, swing, steady, rise, move forward. My eyes roll back.

I hear the dishwasher in my kitchen. No, the washing machine in the laundry room. Wait, it’s someone mowing outside. I’m sprawled on my bed, napping on a Saturday afternoon.

“Kelsey? Stay with me, honey.”

Huh? My eyes open, but I’m so tired. I can’t quite focus. I try to sit up, and I can’t move. Panic. A hand on my chest. A hand on my forehead.

“Kelsey, honey, stay still. You’re okay. We’ll be there soon.”

I remember. I remember, but I’m not ready. I drop it behind me before it comes fully into my mind. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I feel panic pushing against my chest. From the inside, pushing against the steadying hand resting on the outside.

“Kelsey, I need you to stay calm. Stay with me, girl,” the calming voice that goes with the face I can’t quite see. I slide my eyes to look out the door again. I can’t focus on the face, but I can see each blade as it slices through the air. The white stripe that defines the front edge. The flare along its length, the curve at its end.

I close my eyes. I want this to be a dream. I want to wake up on my bed, drool across my cheek, cat against my arm. Mowers outside.  

Dogs in house:
Dishwasher rhythm
Time writing:
20 minutes
April word count:

Prompt: Glowworm Cave

Thanks to Wanderings in the Fantastic World for another great prompt!
“We’re going down there?!” Paul shouted. And then there was no more time for talking, or thinking, or doing anything but holding on. The thick rubber walls of their raft bounced off the walls and submerged rocks of the river as it roared down a waterfall and disappeared underground. The icy cold water splashed over them, and Paul gripped his tie-rope with both hands, sure they were about to die on this insane adventure.

Quiet. Stillness. Well, the water slapped and burbled, but the roar faded behind them. And they were still moving, but in a lazy drifting swirl that seemed like floating after the fearsome descent into the cave.

“It’s okay, chicken. Open your eyes.” Katie nudged him in the ribs with her sneaker. He would have glared at her, if he could see her. He actually couldn’t tell any difference whether his eyes were open or shut.

“Okay, folks, we made it down the Hell Hole! In just a few minutes, things will brighten up in here. We don’t have to start rowing yet, so just relax after that exciting start to our trip,” Anna said in her best tour guide voice. Katie giggled.

Paul was still focused on not throwing up, or wondering which side would be better to lean over if he did. He didn’t want to roll the raft in the process. As he debated the merits of various positions on the raft, he realized he could see the girls in faint profile. He sat up and focused ahead on them. The darkness yielded to a dim blue glow. As they moved closer, it brightened steadily, until he could see both of their features, and even the damp glistening walls around them.

As they rounded a gentle curve, the walls spread farther apart and the roof was lit by thousands of tiny blue lights. Paul thought he saw some drop into the water. Yes, and they moved in the water, glowing squiggles of blue light. Katie gasped and Paul stared. “Welcome to Glowworm Cavern, ladies and gentlemen,” Anna announced. “The current’s too slow to move us forward here, so we’ll need to pick up our paddles in a minute. But take your time enjoying the view.”

Katie held out her hand and caught a glowworm as it dropped from the ceiling towards the river. She laughed. “It tickles!” she said, turning her hand over to drop it in the water. She leaned over to swirl her hand in circles.

“Um, maybe you shouldn’t do that, Katie,” Paul said worriedly, looking to Anna for confirmation.”

Katie laughed and splashed him. “Don’t be a baby! It’s okay, isn’t it Anna?”

Anna’s teeth shone bright white as she smiled in the blue glow. “Of course, it’s fine. Okay, let’s paddle. Paul, why don’t you and I start.”

They picked up their paddles and Paul struggled to match Anna’s smooth strokes. Katie laughed and played with the swimming glowworms while he found his rhythm.

As they reached the far side of the cavern, Anna lifted her face, resting her paddle against the raft’s bow. Paul wondered if he should stop, but he kept his steady pace, switching sides to keep them on a more or less straight line. He watched Anna, wondering what she was up to. Katie had quieted and watched her too.

Glowworms dropped onto Anna’s face. One slid down her cheek and dropped into the raft. Katie reached down to pick it up and drop it over the edge. She didn’t see what Paul saw. Two glowworms crawled right over Anna’s eyes and disappeared. He blinked, sure the dim light was playing tricks on his eyes. They must have fallen on Anna’s other side.

She smiled and picked up her paddle, pointing to the blackness ahead of them. “Okay, folks, it’s an easy ride from here to the Hidden Cove, but a long one. We should be there in about 30 minutes.” She opened her glowing blue eyes and turned to face the front again. Paul looked over to Katie, who was staring open-mouthed at the back of Anna’s head. 

TBC (maybe)

Dogs in house:
“6 Hour Jazz Music Mix by JaBig” on YouTube
Time writing:
30 minutes
April word count:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Prompt: Jungle Skyscrapers

Chris. You home, dude?
Yeah, s’up?
Ripe peaches on 36.
I’ll swing down to your
place and pick you up.
Bring a bag this time,

Chris snorted and tucked his txter in his knee cargo pocket. He grabbed a mesh bag from the hooks on the kitchen wall and a cookie from the tray his Mom had left on the counter. Should he write a note? Naw, he’d be back upstairs before she even noticed he was gone. And he could surprise her with fresh peaches. That would cheer her up. She only baked when she was feeling down. Which was a lot more since his Dad had left for that stacked blond down on 48.

He pulled on his gloves as he walked out onto the patio, tugging the branches as he passed to check how they felt today. Good swing and resistance. The watering system had been out of commission for three weeks and everything was finally recovering. Noone had been swinging since Joey fell from 52 to 47. It was dumb luck he was still alive. Old Man Sawyer had let his tree branches overlap between his upper and lower balconies enough that they held Joey when he landed in them. Tore the tree limbs to shreds though. There was a huge break in the canopy, and Chris would have to remember to swing around it for awhile.

Looking out from the patio edge, he could see vultures circling below. He looked past them to the rooftops that stretched from the base of the towers to the horizon. He hated being down on the ground, where there was no green to be seen. He stretched his arms and grabbed hold of the weeping willow his parents had planted the day he was born. Then he jumped off the edge of the 78th floor.

Swinging was a combination of jumping between the staggered patios that ran the height of the complex towers and grabbing the tree branches to support your weight enough to swing from one to the next without stopping. If you lost your balance, the patio concrete burn was a mark of shame for days.

Chris started swinging when he was eight, but his parents didn’t know for two years. By then, he could swing 20 floors in five minutes. Now he was 15 and could do it in four and a quarter. Billy Dooley down on 22 held the record at 3 minutes, 40 seconds. But since he left the complex to go to college in the States last summer, Chris was steadily chipping away at his record.

He swung to the next patio down, grabbing more branches to slow his fall and let him “bounce” on the patio, before he jumped into the air towards the opposite patio. Once he got his rhythm, in three or four jumps, it was only about three seconds in the air and two or three on each patio. He loved the feel of it, the leaping and falling and branches pulling on his hands, and the jar of each landing when you had to crouch and spring up so you didn’t lose momentum for the next jump. By the time he reached the full patio on 54, he was ready for a break. Mrs. Benson was sitting on a lounge chair, reading her tablet. She looked up, unfazed, when he landed on the double-size patio.

“Hey Chris. How’s it going?”

“Good, Ms. Benson. Thanks. There’s ripe peaches on 36. You want me to bring you some?”

She jumped up and tossed him a bag from the side table. “That’d be great, Chris. I’ll give you five bucks when you bring them back up. Thanks!”

“Sure thing, Ms. Benson. Gotta go!” He grabbed the nearest branch of her cherry tree and leaped down. He felt a little bad about stripping all the blossoms, but she was cool. His mom hated when kids jumped on their patio. No time to think about anything but swinging as he continued down to meet Jake on 40. Certainly not about whether his Dad or the blond—he refused to say her name and usually called her worse than that—would be on their patio. But it was blessedly empty. He might have pulled a little too hard on their tupelo tree, cause the whole branch came with him on his way down to 47. He watched it fall wide away from the tower as he continued swinging down to 40.

Jake was waiting on the patio. “Dude, did you drop that branch? That’s not cool!”

Chris shrugged. Jake was okay, but he could be kind of uptight. They both yelled at the top of their lungs as they jumped together towards 39. They couldn’t get too crazy or they’d shoot past 36 and have to do the shame ride on the elevator. Nothing worse than swinging past your mark. They paused on 37 to check out the patio space. There were already a couple of other kids picking peaches, but they moved in to give the newcomers room to land.

Chris filled his bag and half of Mrs. Benson’s before they had stripped the trees of anything that wasn’t green. He felt bad, so he pulled a few from his bag and tucked them in hers. These were the first ripe peaches of the year, so the 12 kids who had made it all sprawled on the patio and enjoyed the fruit of their labors.

“I heard Joey won’t be back in school till next year.”

“Yeah, I heard he’s got a brace from his legs up to his neck.”

“That sucks, dude.”

“Yeah, his folks are even talking about leaving the complex. Can you imagine living on the ground all the time? With no trees?”

They knocked politely on Mr. Gannon’s patio door, and he let them troop through his apartment to the hallway. As they rode the elevators back up to their homes, they traded the jokes and insults that translate to friendship.

“Why you getting’ off on 54, dude?”

Chris held up his two bags. “Promised Ms. Benson I’d bring her some.”

The car echoed with raucous laughter as it continued up. Chris shook his head. The guys really could be jerks. Yeah, Ms. Benson was pretty, all right. But she was almost as old his parents, probably. He dropped the bag at her door, feeling oddly uncomfortable about going in and collecting money from her.

When he got back on the elevator, Janice Kingsberry, who lived in the suite on 93, was there, glued to her tablet. She was 14 and pretty, but never said much. Chris had never seen her swinging. She eyed the bag of peaches. “Where’s you get fresh peaches?”

“Down on 36.” He reached in and grabbed a couple. “Here.” She hesitated, but he held them out to her and she finally took them.


“No prob.” They avoided eye contact until the doors opened onto 78.

As he stepped off, she suddenly held the door open. “Thanks again for the peaches. Maybe…maybe you could teach me how to swing sometime?”

Chris stared and blushed. “Um, sure. That’d be great. Why don’t you come down on Saturday? We’ll start with some easy ones.”

She nodded and let the door close. Chris looked at it for a moment, listening to the car ride up, then he let himself into the apartment, swinging the bag of peaches.

“Hey, Mom. I’m home! I have a surprise for you!”

Dogs in house:

Time writing:
~1 hour

April word count: