Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Prompt: Finding Calm in the Middle of the Storm

Annie rushed along the nearly empty central passage. She was late for a station council meeting, and her boss was going to give her hell. Stepping around the crouched figure, she barely registered the lanky teen boy panhandling. If she hadn’t been in such a hurry, she’d have pulled out a couple of tokens. You weren’t supposed to encourage them, but life was hard enough on the station when you had credit, she couldn’t imagine how tough it must be for those who lived on the fringes. If he was still here when she came back this way, she would take the time to give him something.

Whether it was the mental distraction or something in her way, suddenly she stumbled, losing her balance and sliding on the metal plate toward the side wall. She reached out to brace herself, but before she touched the wall, she dropped into an open trench. A startled scream tore out of her mouth as her left leg scraped along the sharp metal edge. Her hands reached down to catch her balance, and she found herself stuck fast in the trench. Struggling to get out hurt her leg, and she felt wet warmth on her thigh. For a horrified moment, she thought she had lost her bladder control in the fright, but she looked down and saw red. Blood was already running down her leg and dripping off her foot. She panicked and tried to pull up, but she couldn’t move her leg at all. She was somehow stuck fast in the opening. Then she felt something brush up her leg. That’s when she started screaming.

Suddenly, the boy was right there. He dropped to his knees in front of her and grabbed her hands. It’s all right, Annie. Hang on. You’re going to be okay.

He let go of one hand and stroked her cheek, and she felt a sudden rush of calm. She dimly realized he hadn’t opened his mouth. But she’d heard him speak. Hadn’t she? He was staring intently at her, and he nodded, smiling. She pulled away, and the fear rushed back, threatening to overwhelm her.

The boy pressed his hand against her cheek. The fear receded once more, and Annie could think rationally. Something moved against her leg again, and she realized there must be something living in the subdeck. But that was impossible.

There’s lots of impossible here, Annie.

Her eyes jerked back to his, and he put a finger against his lips, then his neck. When he took her hand again, she stared at the small star birthmark on his neck.

“You’re a peelath, aren’t you?” She whispered.

He nodded once, then looked around for help. He started to pull away, and Annie panicked. She gripped his hands tightly. “Please don’t leave me!”

He looked back at her and nodded again. It’s okay, Annie, he repeated. Don’t be afraid.

Oh stars above, he was speaking into her mind. It was true what they said about the peelath. Could he read her mind too? But as she recoiled from the thought, she realized that she wasn’t afraid. As long as the peelath touched her, he held her panic and fear at bay. She wanted to get free, get her leg out, get away from whatever was touching her leg, but she didn’t feel that initial hysteria.

“I’m stuck. Can you pull me up?”

He stood and pulled her arms up. She felt his wiry strength strain against her upper body, but her leg was jammed fast in the opening. When it scraped painfully against the jagged edge again, she cried out. He dropped back into a crouch in front of her and looked around for someone to help them. Annie looked behind him, but there was no one. At this hour, traffic was sparse. The most sensible solution was for him to go get someone, but Annie didn’t want to lose his touch. She knew it was the only thing keeping her from screaming in terror.

Annie, I have to go find someone. I can’t get you out by myself.

“No! Please, don’t leave me! There’s something down there. I feel it!”

He looked into the hole and studied the darkness around her leg. While he watched, Annie felt the thing coil around her foot, calf, knee. She whimpered.

Annie, will you trust me?

She swallowed and nodded without hesitation. She didn’t know this boy, but she knew she could trust him. He had already entrusted her with his dangerous secret. The peelath were forbidden on station.

He pressed both hands against her head and leaned his forehead against hers. A sizzling sensation rushed over her body, and she remembered the lightning ball toys her brother had when they were young. Her ears popped as he pulled away. She felt the thing in the dark uncoil from her leg and slide away.

I’m not leaving you, Annie, I just have to go over there to get help.

He ran to the far wall and pulled the alarm. Before he could return to her, the first people came running around the far corner. Annie looked up at him and shook her head. She hoped he could read her mind. She thought the words she wanted to shout. Dangerous! Stay away or they’ll discover you!

He faltered, then stepped back, allowing the others to crowd around her. Annie tried to keep him in her sights, but he was swallowed by the crowd. By the time they pulled her from the trench, he was gone. Her leg bled along jagged cuts from the metal grate, and there were strange black marks coiled around from her foot to her thigh. As the emergency crew arrived to treat her, Annie thought, Come find me! I’ll keep your secret. I want to help you.

They put a mask over her face. As consciousness faded, she thought she heard a faint reply. I know you will, Annie. I’ll find you.

TBC (perhaps)

Dogs in house:

Allegro Classical 2011 Winter Sampler

Time writing:
~50 minutes

April word count:


  1. Prompt: Finding Calm in the Middle of the Storm

    The plank floor lurched under Amiel's feet. Briefly, the wall was a floor, porthole looking down into a frothy sea, then it was a wall, then a ceiling. He fought motion-induced nausea and clambered hand over hand to the swinging door.

    "Wizard!" yelled a seaman, somewhere above.

    Amiel did not spare breath for a reply, which would be unlikely to be heard anyway. He was almost getting the hang of the new violent shifts of orientation. Then the ceiling seemed like a floor, and bile rose in Amiel's throat from more than just nausea. They were going to flip!

    The ceiling returned to its proper location of up, and Amiel dove through the finally reachable door. He cast about for the ladder to the deck, then scrambled towards it. His mind spun through spells. He was not sure that prayers might not be more appropriate at this moment.

    He launched through the hatch. He was sailing through the air. He should have tied a line about his waist. Too late now. He spread his arms, steadied his breath, and prayed he hit neither ship nor water before he completed his spell.

    1. Nice topsy-turvy movement here as Amiel struggles in his room. Love the last graph!

  2. I really like the world development here!

    1. Thanks! Her sliding into the trench is a very clear vision for me. Not so much what comes after...isn't that so often the way? :)