Thursday, October 31, 2013

Prompt: There shouldn’t be a light there, part 2

Thanks to Martin for permission to use his beautiful image “1_landscape_speedpaint”!

He hadn’t seen a single person since he reached the northernmost Everglades. It wasn’t that surprising. Since southern Florida had been officially abandoned over fifty years ago, the wildlife had really taken over. He’d kept careful watch to keep above the tide and avoid gators. Even sleeping in an old cypress wasn’t much protection from panthers or pythons though. He’d woken the third morning before dawn to find a fat yellow python coiling around his knees. He’d risked a fire during the day to roast the meat.

It wasn’t till he got around the coast at West Palm Beach that he finally saw the gleam of light flashing on the horizon. He watched it sweep around again and again, mesmerized by its mysterious beauty. What could cast a light this far these days? It wasn’t always wise to go poking into other folks’ business. But Artimus figured it couldn’t hurt to walk on down to Miami and see what he could see.

And here he was, standing in the surf. Abandoned skyscrapers lined the shore, home to nesting birds and vines racing each other up the sides. Still no sign of people. Didn’t mean they weren’t around, though. He’d best be on guard.

Flash. There was the light. Going around the top of the tallest building. Artimus looked up at it for a long time. Bright enough to shine even in the day. No, it didn’t do to be too curious. But he still thought he might climb up and take a look…
Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:

October word count:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Prompt: There shouldn’t be a light there

Thanks to Martin for permission to use his beautiful image “1_landscape_speedpaint”!

Artimus planted his staff in the hard-packed sand and closed his eyes enjoying the sound of the surf and the warm water rushing over his leather-tough feet. Winter in the Southern Blade had cost him two toes as he made his way down the eastern coast to Miami. In all that time, he hadn’t been able to get this close to the ocean; the shore territories were strictly guarded.

It was up in old Ponte Vedra he’d first heard about the lighthouse. Every person he met after that asked if he’d seen the light. No one knew who, what, how, or why; but everyone sure was excited about it.

Finally, he met an old geezer like himself, a walker who’d been all over the country. Todd used to ride, but he kept getting beaten up and his horse stolen. He’d finally gotten wise that a walking man was a poor target. They’d spent three days company comparing notes on their travels, welcome spots, and danger zones. Artimus was on the verge of thinking they might team up for awhile when they reached Vero Beach.

He was used to looking for abandoned houses to squat in for a night or two. He hadn’t expected they’d find a young couple with two little kids. He’d have offered to help the dad hunt something with a little more meat to last them a few weeks. He sure didn’t expect old Todd to knock out the young man with his cudgel and clamber on top of the young woman before any of them came to their senses.

Artimus pulled him off her and bruised him pretty good with his staff, making it clear he wasn’t to come back and bother them again. He hadn’t expected gratitude, exactly. The woman couldn’t stop crying. She tugged on her husband’s arm until he woke up, then they skedaddled out, even though it was full dark.

Artimus let them go. He felt guilty that he missed Todd. He was even a little angry at them for getting Todd so worked up. He felt more guilty about that. He knew it hadn’t always been like that. He’d never forced himself on a woman.

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:
~45 minutes, interrupted

October word count:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Prompt: The map is wrong

“Where is it?! It should be right here! But there’s nothing…” Kevin growled and stormed, stomping around the thin ridge overlooking the mountains east of Novosibirsk. He drained the last of his canteen and threw it against the ancient Jeep.

Inessa ignored him, idly twisting her long braid and studying the holomap, tilting it up and down until she matched it to the view from the ridge.

Kevin continued ranting. “Four hundred thousand pesos, and what do we have to show for it? Seven months of planning, weeks on that hellish ship, and for what? Nothing?”

Inessa made no response, gazing out to the west of the ridge, following their route back down into the valley toward Kazhak territory. With typical Argentine arrogance, he converted their hard-earned and quickly spent lira and roubles into the currency of his youth. Most of it had gone to line the pockets of officials from the port along their arduous route to the mountains. If they didn’t find what they were looking for, there was no way they could safely make the return trip.

She stared back at the map while she searched her eidetic memory for everything her father had taught her about the lost Alexander scroll. She had only seen the scroll once, when he first brought it back from the excavation near Kabul. Carefully rolling it onto his home lab bench, Papa had pulled her up on his lap to see the stiff, yellowed parchment.

“Look, Inessa. Here’s the route everyone knows that Alexander took through the south.” He traced the route, his finger hovering above the map. “But this shows his route north of Mongolia. Just think, he could have made it all the way to the Kara Sea! What if Alexander had seen how big the world was beyond the Caucuses?” Papa swung her up as he stood, carrying her out of the lab and up to bed.

“Tell me a story, Papa,” she begged as he tucked her in. It was their nightly ritual, even before Mama left. He laughed and kissed her forehead, tracing Alexander’s route over her bedspread as he told her about the conqueror’s adventures in the wild northern world. It made her giggle to think of the southern Caspian Sea resorts that way.

Thinking of those bedtime stories, Inessa looked at the holo map again, then out past the northern mountains.

“It’s not here,” she said in quiet realization.

Kevin stopped his ranting long enough to sneer. “Oh really? Well, glad you noticed that. Your precious maps are freaking worthless…”

Inessa shook her head and pointed north. “It’s not here, at Novosibirsk.” She pointed to the holo map, drawing a line with her finger hovering above it. “Novosibirsk is too new. It was built in the late 19th century. We have to go farther north. Alexander’s Gate is at Seversk.”

Kevin recoiled. “Through Tomsk? You want to go through the old nuclear center? Are you insane?” He picked up his canteen and threw it in the back of the Jeep. “I should leave you here and forget about this whole crazy thing.”

“You could,” Inessa said calmly. She knew him with a twin’s intimacy. “But you won’t. You want to know if Papa was right as much as I do…”

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:
~1 hour, with some initial research

October word count:

Prompt: Abandoned cars

As soon as the red pickup cleared her front bumper, Jessie swerved behind him and pulled around the slowpoke who’d held her back since the onramp. She grimaced, glancing at the dash clock. Late on her third day. Great. She barely noticed the SUV angled in the median on the other side.

She still felt out of her depth in the busy police department headquarters. People were nice enough, and a few of the cops were flirty, but it wasn’t like she had thought it would be. It wasn’t like on TV, that’s for sure. By the end of the day, all she wanted to do was go home and crawl in bed with a bowl of ramen and the TV remote.

Traffic was stalled on the highway, and as she crawled past the SUV, she noticed the orange sticker. While she tapped her thumbs and mindlessly hummed along – she couldn’t even tell you the name of the song they were playing – she realized that car had been parked there since at least the beginning of the week. She’d seen it every day she came home from work.

She felt a little shiver across her shoulders and almost laughed aloud. “Don’t be silly,” she admonished herself. “You work in records. You’re not a detective.” Still, who had abandoned their car for so long? It was a nice new one, with a good paint job. She didn’t know cars at all, but a big SUV was not cheap. And why hadn’t it been towed, with the sticker on it for at least day? Well, she shrugged it away as the traffic cleared near her exit. It would probably be gone tomorrow.

She noted it in the morning, but thought the towing companies probably don’t work 24/7. Surely it would be gone when she came back this way at the end of the day.

When she left the building and climbed in her car, that same song was playing again. Why would she even remember that, except she knew the lyrics and remembered singing them when she passed the SUV before. She pulled a piece of mail from her big purse and found a pen. If that vehicle was still there, she was going to get the license plate and look it up. She chuckled. Vehicle. Now she was sounding more like a cop.


Attempt at brevity:

Jessie noticed the SUV in the median on her way to work, and again on her way home that night. The new job in police records wore her out, but when it was still there the following evening, it piqued her curiosity enough to write down the license plate number.

“Hey Adam. Yeah, I’ve been meaning to call you back. Listen, will you do me a favor? Could we ride over to check on someone? You know that SUV sitting on 147 all week? I just want to see why they’ve left it out there so long.”

Jessie woke with a start. Adam Wilson was the cutest cop she’d met so far, and he hardly gave her the time of day. She sure wasn’t going to give her a ride over to some random house. What was she dreaming? She groaned and pulled the pillow over her head. But…why was that SUV still sitting there? Why hadn’t towing picked it up by now?

She looked it up the next morning. Why would a guy leave a brand new SUV sitting by the side of the road? More like run off the road, halfway into the broad median. He lived in a nice neighborhood. Wait…the tag expired five years ago? What was this guy’s deal? She looked around the quiet records room. She really wasn’t supposed to go into any records without express authorization…

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:
35 minutes

October word count:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Prompt: Traveler of Dreams

Thanks to Anna Butler for permission to use her beautiful image, “Third Step: Traveler of Dreams”!

“You can’t take that in the boat.” The crow cocked its head and shifted its feet on the candlelit lantern, looking uneasily at Driana’s armload of fur.

Driana glanced down at the placid hrmfox, who gazed implacably at the crow. Full grown, he was mostly thick fur and weighed a mere twenty pounds, his body dangling as he rested draped over her crossed arms, his tail stretching almost to the hem of her warm cloak. A slight twitch of his large, thin, bat-like ears was the only sign he paid any heed to the crow.

“He must come with me,” she insisted calmly. After all she had been through tonight, no snippy crow was going to stand in her way. She leaned over the side of the rowboat and rested the hrmfox on the forward set.

The silver-glowing dragonflies fluttered around her, darting over the boat and toward the water, then back, as if encouraging her to follow. They would lead her to Ambion, she was sure of it. The first dragonfly had flown in through the library window when she was searching the maps for a sign of the sacred island. It had landed on a map and fluttered its wings until she unrolled the crumbling parchment, then it had dropped onto the unfurled map with a purpose that made her examine it more closely. Ambion! The island sanctuary of her dreams did exist!

As she stood, the crow eyed her balefully. “Then I want the shiny at your throat, as well as your ears,” he demanded with a sniff. “He’ll probably try to eat me for my troubles,” he grumbled.

Sweeping her long black hair away from her delicate face, Driana pulled the ruby earrings from her ears and tugged impatiently at the pendant around her throat. She felt a fierce satisfaction when the clasp broke. She had never wanted them, never wanted to be wed, and never to a fat, oily, nasty man like Rupon. 

The crow could have his wedding gift to her, and gladly. She held them in her palm, and the crow nodded to the floor in front of the hrmfox. “Let him guard them, then,” he cawed, hopping from the lantern to the stern of the boat. “Well, are you planning to stand there all night? This goes much better if you actually climb in and row, you know. If you can figure out how to do that.”

Driana suppressed a smile. No one spoke to her like that. Ever. She kind of liked it, although she wouldn’t let the crow know. She pulled up the horrid frilly hem of her wedding dress and climbed over the edge of the small boat. The oars were already resting in their rowlocks, and she picked them up with practiced ease. Pampered child princess, sold into marriage she may be, but she had grown up the baby sister to six older brothers. She was used to being underestimated.

She smiled more grimly. After tonight, she didn’t think people would be so quick to underestimate her. As she leaned down and wrapped her hands around the oars, her cloak pulled back to reveal the stain of Rupon’s blood on her white sleeves…

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:
~35 minutes, interrupted

October word count: