Saturday, November 30, 2013

Prompt: Just let me finish this chapter…

Thanks to Ekaterina Ermolaeva for permission to use her wonderful image, “Black Lizard”!

Drknst sat in the open window, reading his favorite book of Horstian love poems. He didn’t understand them, of course, but he sounded out the characters as if they were Gafowan, and once in awhile there was even a recognizable word in there. He sometimes dreamed of the Horstian female who had given him the small, red-skinned book, many sun turns ago. The things she could do with her ventral antennae…

Drknst slowly clicked his hindclaws against the stone sill, keeping time with the poetry he spoke under his breath. His black chitinous plates warmed in the sun, and his eye glowed red with sleepy pleasure. His spring horns and shoulder spurs had finally stopped itching, and he felt relaxed for the first time since the Thaw. His mane fell down his back to the top of his tail, which swept back and forth along the stone wall beneath the window. He felt a rush of pleasure from the scratch of chitin on stone and thought it was probably time to find a mate for the summer.

“Drknst!” called one of the yound warriors. “Come spar with us!” Drknst heard the raucous laughter as the others egged on his challenger. He rolled his eyes and pretended not to hear.

The others took up the cry. “Drknst! Drknst!”

He sighed heavily and eyed his newly sharpened kalak blade resting against the wall. Their chest plates were hardly strong enough to withstand a blunted blade, much less a warrior’s killing kalak. But the Thaw spurred their battle urges, and any warrior in residence was fair game. Especially a quiet, reading warrior. They thought him weak, despite what he taught them on the training fields. Despite the stories the other warriors told. It did not do for one to boast of one’s own prowess in battle.

“Drknst!” cried his challenger. “Are you coming down? Or must I come and carry your kalak for you, old one?” More laughter. Drknst snorted.

“Let me just finish this chapter,” he called down. Sounding out the Horstian poem, he paid no attention to the young chuk’s reply.

Dogs in house

Time writing:
15 minutes, interrupted

November word count:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Prompt: A light in the window, waiting for you
Thanks to Varla for permission to use her lovely, whimsical image, "I Miss You..."!
Melliken puffed on his pipe as he leaned back against the deep windowsill. The candle burned low in the votive glass, flickering the golden light to lead her home. Burning with the sadness that pressed on his heart. He tugged on the fringe of the red plaid scarf she had made and wrapped around his neck, his claws pushed through the fringe and retracted, a half-hearted nest treading motion.

He pulled his black and gray striped bushy tail up and began to groom it between his forepaws, remembering.

“Hey there, handsome,” she said, crouched down low and holding out her hand as he hung by the bushes, caution warring with curiosity, loneliness, and hunger. She stood and walked away. When she returned with tuna, he wasted no time, eating his fill of the small can and then jumping in her lap and curling up, purring. He’d followed her all the way home.

“I can’t take you with me,” she said, apology in her voice, as she packed her suitcase and kept lifting him out of it. “Mary’s going to take good care of you while I’m gone.”

Sure. Mary was nice enough, as roommates went. She never gave him tuna though. And she didn’t pet him when he jumped up on the couch or her bed.

“Here you go,” she wrapped her favorite scarf around his neck, tucking in the ends. “It’s got my scent, so you won’t forget me.” As if.

Mary lit the candle every night. Melliken always sat in the windowsill, fogging up the glass and watching people, dogs, birds…

One thing he would say for Mary. She never complained when he smoked his pipe in the window.

Dogs in house
Houdini, Buddy
Time writing:
20 minutes, interrupted
November word count:


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Prompt: Who really believed in the zombie apocalypse? Part 2

…Continued from Part 1

Zach stood outside the room, trying to piece together what he knew so far. He didn’t want to go in. He knew the end. He didn’t want to know the end. Brewer looked up and saw him, waved him in.

“I’m sorry, Zach,” she said before he said anything. “I’m so sorry. He missed his last check. I shouldn’t have let it go, but it was Abe.” She shook her head, tears on her cheeks. Everyone loved Abe. They respected Zach. He saw the difference.

Zach stared at the body on the table. Back exposed, a raw wound on the left side. He ground out, “What happened?”

“Looks like he tried to burn it out. A couple of times, I’d say. He was on the course and a cadet lost his sword and it hit Abe in the arm.”  She gestured to his bloody arm, hanging off the table.

“Everyone saw the cut, so he had to come here. Hoover sat right in front him and started whining.  The sword blow must have triggered the aggression already.” She drew a ragged breath.

“He killed Hoover with one blow. Broke Sam Batts’s nose and arm before we got him subdued. I gave him an elephant shot. But he won’t be out much longer.” Tranqs didn’t work on zombies. Zach wanted to cling to the hope that it had worked on Abe at all. Brewer must have seen it on his face, because she shook her head.

“I just waited for you, Zach. He’s gone. I thought you’d want to say goodbye. But I have to put him down.”

Zach wanted to protest. Abe wasn’t a mad dog. Brewer was talking about him like an animal. Like they talked about zombies. But it was Abe. He couldn’t make himself move closer to the table. Brewer stepped up to him and put her hand on his arm.

“I have to go check on Sam and the other staff. We’ll all have to be quarantined until a medic comes over from the Gator Bowl clinic to clear us.” She hesitated. “Don’t take too long, Zach. We don’t know how long he’ll stay under. I’ll come back in a minute to…”

Zach nodded curtly, looking away from her. Away from Abe. She left the room and shut the door. Locked it.

Zach stepped closer, but didn’t want to see. He turned away. “Jesus, Abe. What were you thinking? Why didn’t you come in right away?”

Because there was only one end.

He heard the rustle of movement. If instinct, friendship, fought with training, they didn’t stand a chance. Zach swung around, dropped to his knee and fired a flare straight into Abe’s chest. They stared at each other for an infinite moment, the flare kindling to life, burning Abe’s skin, his blood. Abe lifted his hand in a silent salute, and Zach jumped back and spun away as the flare erupted.

Abe never made a sound. His body did. Zach didn’t move until the room was silent once more. Until the soft click of the door lock, footsteps, and Brewer’s touch on his shoulder. He didn’t look toward Abe as he walked out of the room. It wasn’t Abe. Goddamn zombies.

Dogs in house
Houdini, Buddy
Time writing:
~1 hour, interrupted

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Prompt: Who really believed in the zombie apocalypse? Part 1

Zach climbed the steps to the watchtower and slipped a flask to the two young men on watch. The wind added winter’s bite to the ocean spray that seeped through thick jackets and caps and scarves. They sipped the lighter fluid passing for home-brewed vodka, looking out across the marsh and the ruined road to their island refuge.

“Any action,” Zach asked. They hadn’t seen any zombies in several days, and the tension rose, waiting for the next attack. They wouldn’t be lulled into carelessness again. The guards shook their heads, keeping up their scanning patterns even as they joked and drank with Zach. He kept things casual and friendly, but everyone knew who was boss.

Zach’s dad was the social outcast, the oddball, the crier in the wilderness warning of the coming zombie apocalypse in the face of derision and disbelief. Zach grew up in training, an endless series of martial arts, gun ranges, archery, military-style summer camps. He hated every minute of it. Hated his father. Until Abe, his first real friend, another regular in martial arts classes and summer camp. Until the zombie virus.

No one knew. They’d probably never know the truth. Was it a US Government plot? Was it a foreign attack? It didn’t really matter. All that mattered was the skin-eating bacteria modified into something far more aggressive and virulent. It swept through the cities in a matter of weeks, decimating the population and leaving two groups of survivors: humans and zombies.

Zach’s dad emerged victorious, a leader in the new, dangerous world. Zach and Abe stepped up with him in gathering humans and leading them to safety. The surviving zombies were tough to kill, drawn to humans to spread their infection. The humans clustered in defensible cities: islands, walls, bridges. Limited access points to keep out zombies. And strangers. Everyone had to be checked and rechecked for any sign of the zombie virus. Any visible wound had to be approved clear by a medic, stained with iodine for clearance.

“Zach, this is Medic Brewer. Can you come to the clinic?” Brewer’s voice sounded strained, even over the radio. Zach waved goodbye to the guards and headed down the steps as he replied, “On my way.”

The clinic door was open. Zach hesitated outside and called on the radio, “Brewer, status?”

Her voice sounded weary. “Secure. Come in to the back.”

Scanning the empty lobby, Zach saw signs of struggle. Overturned chairs and a smear of blood on the wall. Then he saw the dog. German Shepherds were sensitive to the zombie virus, and the clinics used them for early detection. Brewer’s was trained to whine rather than growl or bark, which seemed to avoid stimulating the early aggression trigger of the zombie virus. Now it lay sprawled on the floor, neck broken.
Zach crouched and pulled his flare pistol. Flares were the most reliable way to kill a zombie. Or beheading, but it was really inconvenient to carry a sword around. On high alert, he stepped past the dog and through the double doors to the interior. He checked two empty exam rooms and continued down the hall. Two more empty rooms. Brewer stood in the fifth, motionless next to a bloody figure on the exam table. Zach recognized the man, even laying on his stomach, face hidden. Abe.

Dogs in house
Houdini, Buddy
Time writing:
~1 hour, interrupted
November word count:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Prompt: The Mage’s Study

Thanks to Zachary Schwartz for permission to use his lovely image, “The Mage’s Study”!

“No dinner for me, tonight,” the mage had said. “I’m dining with…company…in town.” Nathan had ducked his head to hide his smirk. The mage’s company would keep him occupied long past dinner. Good, plenty of time.

The mage kept his study locked, but Nathan had learned a thing or two before he came to the mage’s attention. It doesn’t take a spell to pick a lock. He’d been inside plenty of times, but always under the mage’s watchful eye. Tonight he planned to take advantage of the mage’s absence to take a look at some of the books the mage never let him touch.

First, a glass of the mage’s fine claret. Nathan poured the open bottle on the mage’s table, itself a masterpiece of spelled workmanship. Nathan had watched the woodsman’s tools moving on their own in the shed for months as they carefully shaped and finished the complex interleavings of the 12-sided surface. He spilled a drop of wine as he set down the bottle and carefully wiped it with his sleeve.

The afternoon light filtered in through the spelled window panes. Nathan sipped the wine and browsed the study shelves. There. Le Dragon Rouge: ou, l’art de commander les espirits celeste. The mage had practically knocked his hand aside when he once reached for the 16th century manuscript. Nathan smiled and lifted his hand, palm up, even with the grimoire. He moved his hand to the left, and the heavy leather book slid off the shelf and floated evenly to the mage’s table.

He sat in the mage’s heavy chair, and it carried him smoothly to the table’s edge. His fingers reached for the grimoire, but something held him back. Caution warred with curiosity, and he finally compromised with a wave of his fingers to sweep the front cover open to lay flat on the table. A wind riffled through the pages, and Nathan pushed away his unease. He would practice the levitation spell to turn the pages, he encouraged himself firmly.

The afternoon light turned gold and faded as he studied the ancient text. He wasn’t even sure he was reading it correctly. Sometimes the writing shimmered on the page until he wanted to rub his eyes and send the book back to the shelves. But he read on, a quick glance at the candles on the table sending the wicks flaming to life. He barely noticed, although he’d never done that spell before.

Lost in his study, he jumped when he heard the mage calling him from down the hall. How had it gotten so late? The candles were burned to stubs, and only starlight twinkled in through the windows. Nathan heard the mage’s footsteps in the hallway and knew he could never put everything away in time. He started to rise from the chair when he was gripped by a force so strong it literally stopped him in mid-motion. Knowledge.

He continued to stand, passing a hand over the grimoire. He faded from sight as the mage entered the study, a rebuke on his lips.

He faltered, looking around, but Nathan was nowhere to be seen. He glanced down at his original 16th century manuscript of Brunfels's Herbarium vivae eicones, carelessly left open on the table. He had been studying it last night, but he was sure he had put it away. The boy must have pulled it out to study while he was gone.

“He should know better than to damage the spine…”

Nathan walked in, carrying a tray of tea and biscuits. The mage waved a hand to close the book and send it back to the shelves. If he had been watching, he would have seen it shift in mid flight, dropping down and left to settle among the grimoires.

He poured a cup of tea, then another. “Sit down,” he commanded. “I’ll teach you a new spell. Something simple. Perhaps levitation. That will be useful in your work.”

Nathan ducked his head down as he sat in his usual chair. If the mage had paid attention, he would have seen the boy’s eyes glowing gold in the candlelight.

Dogs in house

Time writing:
~45 minutes, interrupted

November word count:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Prompt: More in One World than the Other, Part 2

“Come on, I’ll get you one of those drinks you like so much. And we’re going to the NICU, so pick up a tray for the nurses there. Make one a small hot chocolate,” he said. She eyed him curiously but placed an order in Starbucks-speak. Nazu carried the tray while she nursed her venti gingerbread latte and tried to remember how long since she had been over here. She was spending more and more time in the demon realms. What did it say that she felt more comfortable there? More appreciated. More needed. More wanted.

Nazu purred close to her, and she blushed. “I know those thought waves,” he murmured as they stepped into the crowded elevator. She wished they were alone for just thirty seconds. Or half an hour. He purred again.

They entered the human NICU, and Rachel was struck by the smell. Human baby and antiseptic. So familiar, and yet so different from her daily life now. Nazu threaded through the room, crowded with rolling bassinets and equipment that Rachel longed for, toward a large young man sitting in a rocking chair with a baby wrapped in each arm as he rocked back and forth, crooning. He didn’t look up at their approach.

Nazu crouched down and pulled out the tall cocoa. “John, I brought a treat for you. I know you like hot chocolate. I’ll put it on the window sill behind you, for when you get a free hand.”

John looked up and smiled, and Rachel thought someone turned on the lights. She smiled back, and realized John had a gift. Several gifts, but she wasn’t sure what they were yet. “I like the babies, and they like me,” he said in a voice deeper than Nazu’s.

Nazu said, “Yes, John, they do. This is Rachel. She works with babies, too. She needs help, and I thought you might like to help her and her babies. They are different.”

“Different?” John asked. Then he went on, “I like to help with babies. I will help you, Rachel.”

Rachel crouched down so she was eye level with John. “I would like that, John. The babies I work with are different, but they are the same, too. They need someone to love them and take care of them. I can see that you’re very good at that. Would you like to come and visit our babies and see?”

John nodded. “These babies need me now, Rachel. They’re sleeping good. I’ll come another time, okay?”

Nazu held out a pager. “You can page me when you want to come, John. Any time, okay? We’ll come and get you.” He set the pager next to the hot chocolate on the window sill.

Rachel said, “I hope you’ll come see me soon, John. I think our babies will sleep good with you, too.”

He smiled again, and she smiled back, thinking just that smile was some sort of therapy.

As they headed back for the portal, Nazu said, “John’s mother was a shantuck. She died during childbirth here, because they didn’t know she needed a water birth. The baby sucked all the water out of her body, trying to stay alive. By the time I got here, he had been without oxygen for over 20 minutes, but they didn’t realize. I put him in a tub, and he survived, but he’s…. I think part of him is in the demon realm. I’ve always wondered if he would be any different there.”

Rachel thought about that as they walked through the portal. She had a feeling John was going to surprise them when he came into the demon realm…

Perhaps I should mention this is related to a few previous blogs. It seems I'm going to have to tell Rachel and Nazu's story eventually...
Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:
45 minutes

November word count: