Tuesday, December 31, 2013

TA DA! One Full Year Complete! [Prompt: Stairwell in the forest]

*Bowing* A blog post every single day in 2013. Every. Single. Day.

Thanks to so many of you for your encouragement over the past year. Special thanks to the many artists on deviantart.com and elsewhere who have so generously allowed me to share their inspiring images with you. And to Anne for sharing much of this adventure with me. I’ve really appreciated your creativity and support.

Still ruminating on the blog’s direction in 2014. But for now, one last story to round out the year. Enjoy!

Prompt: Stairwell in the forest

Thanks to “psdeluxe” for permission to share his beautiful image, “Forest”!

Dabren followed about twenty paces to Kingla’s left, sweeping his scanner side to side as they crept through the ancient forest. They had pulled off their helmets but kept the atmo films over their nose and mouth.

Technically they could breathe the oxygen-rich air, but it was hard to concentrate. When he got that much oxygen, all he wanted to do was take her back to the pod and…well, it was better to keep the film on.

He could tell by Kingla’s jerky motions that she was getting frustrated. Her whole career was riding on this venture. He was just the engineer keeping things going. She had the research community – and the rest of the galaxy – waiting with bated breath for their findings.

Which so far had been zilch. Nothing. No sign of HLS – high level sentient life forms – at any of their target landings. If they didn’t find something soon, they’d get recalled, and Kingla would be a laughingstock. A failure of epic proportions.

So yeah, the stakes were high, and she was wound tight as a coil on the pod’s engines. He cut her a lot of slack when she snapped at him, which she did frequently. She always made it up to him in the dark.

They entered a clearing in the trees. Kingla followed the curve of the water stream away from the pool, intent on her scanner. Dabren heard wind sweep through the leaves overhead and looked up from his own scanner. And stared.

“Kingla,” he said softly.

“Kingla!” He almost shouted. She turned around, a retort on her lips, whitened by the film. Her jaw relaxed and her eyes widened. He would have laughed if he didn’t feel the same way.

Steps. A curving staircase. Ancient. Rotting wood. He wouldn’t dare to climb it. Covered in moss, they curved around the far side of the pool.

His scanner trembled in his hand as he followed the line of the staircase. He thought it ended against the massive tree on the opposite side of the pool. But it didn’t. It ended in midair.

He glanced over at Kingla. She was moving toward the steps. “Kingla, don’t! It could fall apart before we have a chance to study it!”

She didn’t turn around. “I’m not an idiot. I don’t plan to step on it. Go back and get the gear pack. I want to climb up that tree next to it.”

“But it’s not—”

“Not attached,” she breathed as she came close enough to see. “Where does it go?”

Good question.

To be continued, perhaps…

Dogs in house
Houdini, Maize, Malachi

Time writing
~30 minutes, interrupted

December word count

Monday, December 30, 2013

Prompt: On New Year’s Eve | a fifteen-year old college student | steals a baby

Stefan sat on the library steps, watching the hurried pace of the few faculty and students still hanging around campus over the winter break. He huffed into his folded hands to warm them, however briefly, and tried to find another scenario – and scenario – that didn’t involve getting himself kicked out, arrested, or killed.

If only he hadn’t chosen that independent study. If only he hadn’t found those old texts in the empty reference room at the Art Museum Library. Hadn’t translated the Greek and started to realize they were misfiled. Completely. Dangerously.

If only he’d gone home for Christmas like Mom and Dad wanted – but he hadn’t wanted to burden them with a plane ticket they couldn’t afford. Even with his full scholarship – the youngest student at Harvard in over fifty years – they were stretched beyond their means. If he’d gone home, he wouldn’t have gotten in the middle of this nightmare.

His phone buzzed. It was time. He headed toward the hospital. He’d been volunteering, so no one would think twice about seeing him. For now. Everyone was thinking about their New Year’s Eve plans, anyway. He wished he were going to a party, maybe timing it right so he’d be dancing with one of the pretty freshman at midnight. Yeah, right.

He timed a different kind of dance to walk through each set of doors behind someone so he didn’t have to use his security pass. He wasn’t officially here. When he got to the maternity ward, he walked down to the long row of windows and looked at the babies tucked into their bassinets. They looked so innocent and helpless.

Phone buzzed again. He wanted to throw it against the concrete wall. He wanted to scream. Beg someone else to do this. He was just a kid – even though he’d spent the last five years trying to convince everyone around him he was more grown up than he was.

How could they put this all on him? What if he got the wrong baby? How was he going to get it out of the hospital? This was crazy! He wanted to turn around and run out. His phone rang. He didn’t want to answer, but he slid his finger across the screen and held it up to his ear without speaking.


He didn’t say anything. There was nothing to say.

“You know what’s at stake.” She didn’t sound angry, or obnoxiously cheerful like most adults when they tried to encourage him. She sounded serious, and urgent. “You can do this, Stefan. You have to.”

He clicked “end” and took a deep breath. He could do this.

A nurse he recognized was coming down the hall. He smiled and gave her a little salute. She laughed. “No hot date tonight, kiddo? You can come hang out with us. This is a happening party, I tell you.” She chuckled as he followed her into the warm room.

To be continued, perhaps

Dogs in house

Holiday music sampler

Time writing
~30 minutes, including research

December word count

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Prompt: Suddenly able to hear others’ thoughts | the illegitimate son of a king | is stalked by a jealous admirer

I wonder if he’s awake yet, the lazy bastard.

Sima Zhou stiffened at the table, where he was transcribing saying of the late Emperor Wu Di. He was a bastard, that didn’t bother him. But he wasn’t lazy! He’d been up before the thin streaks of dawn filtered in through the thin rice paper covering his window. His fingers were stained with ink as he painstakingly paid homage to the great man he remembered simply as Grandfather Sima Yan.

“Enter,” he commanded stiffly, and the door to his room opened, bringing the scent of fresh jasmine tea and his favorite spicy duck eggs. He glowered at the serving woman as she set his breakfast table. But she was perfectly polite and efficient, concentrating on her work and not giving any sign of disrespect. Had he imagined it?

“After breakfast, I will want a bath,” he said curtly, and she bowed with folded hands above her forehead.

As if it matters if he smells like jasmine or pigs. Did he hear a laugh as she carried her tray out of the room?

Voices followed him through the morning until he thought he was going insane. He finally sank into the hot water of the bath and let the water cover his head.

How I long to lie beside him…

Sima Zhou shot upright, spluttering. Was there no peace? And who said that? He thrashed in the water, looking all around the bathing chamber, but it was empty, as he had commanded.

If his brother had an accident, he would be appointed heir. He would thank me…

Sima Zhou shouted, “Who’s there?”

He was frozen with terror. If something happened to Sima Lun, he was as likely to be accused as appointed. He climbed out of the pool and dried himself quickly, struggling into his robes without waiting for the servants.

He had to find whoever was thinking such dark thoughts and convince them otherwise. But how?

To be continued, perhaps

Dogs in house

Time writing
~35 minutes, including research

December word count

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Prompt: Werefino

I dropped Cara at her dad’s and made my way home. As I fiddled with the key in my front door, I sensed movement behind me and whipped around.

“Stacy?” It was my sister-in-law. Former. I guess. She was disheveled, and…sniffing me? She crouched and sniffed around my waist, then up my side to my neck. I froze. What the?

Suddenly I felt the sharp sting of a lash against my back, and I fell against Stacy, trying to get away from whatever was behind me. I heard a whoosh through the air, and her hand shot up, grabbing the silver tip of a—a whip? I pushed away from her, to the side, trying to get away from both sides at once.

Two Native American men stood behind me, one holding the whip above his head, the other with another silver-wrapped rope held in both hands. “Come, werefino. You know it’s better if you come with us now.”

“What are you guys doing here? I’m calling the cops!” I fumbled to pull my phone out of my coat pocket.

“No,” The older man said, lowering the whip and holding out his open hand in a plea. “We don’t mean to hurt you or scare you.”

“Well, you’ve done both,” I snapped. “Stacy, what the heck is going on?”

“She’s not Stacy. Anymore,” the younger man said. He looked at her, and sorrow furrowed his brow and darkened his eyes. He loved her. But she had been with Megan for—how long? Almost 20 years?

“What do you mean?” I caught his words and turned to Stacy. She was still sniffing the air, and I got a good look at her eyes. There was no white. Her rich dark brown iris filled her entire eye, with huge black pupils in the middle.

“Is she on drugs?” I knew there had been trouble going on in the Asheville family, but I was persona non grata these days. I’m sure no one thought she would show up on my door step. How had she even found me?

“No, she is werefino,” the older man said. He gestured to my door. Can we bring her inside? It will be safer to talk in there, so she cannot run away.”

Safer for whom? I still wanted to call the cops, but I pushed my door open and led them in. Stacy followed me, then pushed past, sniffing as she wandered around the open rooms.

I turned to the two men as they closed the door. “Now, tell me what the heck is going on. What’s a werefino?”

To be continued, perhaps

Dogs in house

Time writing
~25 minutes

December word count