Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Prompt: Not everyone sees the truth

Thanks to Mirella Santana for her beautiful image, Inner Loneliness

Vidan looked through the small barred window on the door. On the far side of the bare room, he saw Ulani perched on the single wooden chair. The chair faced into the room, but she rested on her knees with her chin on the low stone sill. Her long black hair fell in thick ropes against her back, and her once-white gown hung in webbed tatters. She had a careful technique for pulling the threads to make the intricate wings that she painstakingly stitched onto the back. They draped behind her, trailing almost to the floor.

He leaned his head against the glass and peered to the left. She had not eaten breakfast, despite his exhortations. He could usually convince her with a little cajoling, along with gentle reminders of the consequences. When he gave her 11 o’clock meds, he would remind her they would put her on an IV if she did not eat. She hated being in the infirmary. There was no window and they took off her wings.

Vidan was one of the good nurses. He genuinely cared about his charges. He wanted them to be well, to get better. Some did. Some didn’t. Some, like Ulani, didn’t see reality the same way the rest of the world did. To Ulani, her wings were real. When they forcibly removed her gown and wings, she screamed and fought until they rugged and restrained her. When she woke, she begged them to stop the bleeding, to restore her wings.

It was Vidan who learned how much better she behaved when they left her wings on. Vidan who learned how to talk with her, connect between their two realities. When he asked her what she saw out the window, she described a foreign landscape from a castle keep, not the dismal rooftop view of air-conditioning units and drying laundry. She spoke of cattle and battalians of soldiers sharing the fields surrounding the castle. Horsemen and giant horses training, riding, racing, hunting. A rose garden surrounding a vegetable garden planted in curved patterns of raised beds.

She would not talk about the people though. When Vidan pressed her about her family and friends, Ulani would break down in tears and curl into the chair, face pressed against the back, retreating too far into her reality for him to reach. Then he would rub her shoulders and brush her hair with a worn wooden brush, and finally leave her alone to rest and return when she felt safe enough.

When Vidan closed the heavy door behind him, and Ulani heard the bolt slide into the lock, she would sigh and stretch, reaching up to rest her forehead on the cool windowsill. Her wings unfurled and stretched behind her, gently waving in the room’s quiet stillness.

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:
~30 minutes, distracted

July word count:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Prompt: The Last Carousel

Sarabel reached both arms high. “C’mon, Tomas, jump! I catch ya. Promise!”

Tomas sat perched on top of the spiked metal fence they had laboriously climbed together. Sarabel had jumped down to show him how easy it was, but she had stumbled against some broken pavement and twisted her ankle, swearing all the bad words she remembered, and a few they had made up. He grimaced down to her now. “I don’ wanna, Sa’bel. Iwangohome!”

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Whichair side ya choose, ya have ta jump. An’ I here on dis side ta catch ya. So choose.” She stretched her arms up again, encouraging him to jump into them.

He closed his eyes and leaped out like he was jumping into a pool. Sarabel stepped back and caught him in a bear hug, as if they had practiced a hundred times. Which, of course, they had. Tomas flung his arms around her neck and laughed. Sarabel kissed his cheeks and dropped him to the ground, swinging his hands in her own.

“Good jump! Now, c’mon. I wan’ show ya sometin spesh.”

Tomas gripped her hand tightly in his stubby fingers as they walked down the broad broken path.

“Wha’ dis?” He asked, looking around wide-eyed.

“Dis was a zoo. All kinds animals here.”

“To eat?” Tomas liked meat when they could get it.

“No, silly. Not all animals to eat. Dese for look-see.”

He glanced up and her and snorted. “Look-see? Why?”

Sarabel shrugged. “Why” was Tomas’ favorite word, and she rarely had answers. “Curious, I guess. Dese diff’rent animals than out dair.”

“Diff’ent? Like what?” Tomas looked around with more interest.

Sarabel pointed to the overgrown pond on their left and pulled him toward a faded sign on the fence. “See here? Dis where alleygators lived. Dey like great big gwonnas wit lots teeth an’ long tail. See picture?” She traced the barely visible outline with her finger.

Tomas fingered the picture and cocked his head, thinking. “Gwonnas wit teeth? Eat Tomas, stead Tomas eat him?”

Sarabel laughed and pulled him away. “That’s right! Big alleygator gwonna eat ya right up!” She tugged him into a run. “Come on, alleygator meat! Got sometin’ spesh ta show ya!”

Tomas laughed and chased her down the path. He almost ran into her when she stopped without warning. He looked up and grabbed her leg, peeking around at the giant animal before them. “S’at live, Sa’bel? S’at alleygator?”

She ruffled his hair and pulled him in front of her. “No, silly! Da’s alleyphant, not alleygator. Big, big. But not eat Tomas. Eat grass.”

“Got two tails? Look-see, Sa’bel!” Tomas climbed on the elephant statue’s curved trunk and swung his legs on either side.

“Das his nose, ya b’lieve? He pull grass wi’dat and put in mouth up here, look-see?” Sarabel stood on tiptoe to run her fingers over the elephants mouth.

Tomas studied the statue quietly. “Dis be good animal to keep out dair.”

Sarabel looked back at his serious face and nodded. “Better dan wat we got, right? No eat Tomas, no fight Sarabel.” She shrugged again. “Cmon, we mostway dair.”

They left the elephant statue and continued on the path, following the curve until Tomas stumbled to a halt. His mouth dropped open. Sarabel laughed. “I told ya it spesh. Cmon, I show ya best part.”

She pulled his hand, walking up to the broken shell of the old carousel. Burned and stripped of all decoration except for one perfectly preserved zebra. It stood balanced on its pole, ready for the next rider.

Sarabel lifted Tomas onto the Zebra’s back, and he clutched the pole for balance. She stepped forward and patted its neck, then walked back to stand next to its back leg. “Wan ride?” she said back to Tomas. She didn’t have to look up to see his nod.

She leaned her weight against the zebra’s rear to get the carousel moving. Once it started, it quickly picked up momentum, still balanced after all this time. Sarabel hummed a song she remembered, louder and louder as she walked after Tomas, then jogged, then ran. He laughed and clapped his hands, then grabbed the pole again when he slipped in the saddle.

Finally Sarabel ran out of breath and stepped away to let the Carousel’s momentum carry Tomas around. He rode it until it slowed all the way to a stop, on the far side from Sarabel. She jogged toward him, and he reached out his arms for her to lift him down. He hugged her tightly. “Tank ya, Sa’bel. Dat spesh. Yes, yes. Dat ver ver spesh,” he whispered into her neck. He snuggled into her arms, and Sarabel started walking back to the fence they had climbed to get in.

“Sa’bel? We could stay here. Be zoo animals. Ride again tomorrow.”

“Sorry, Tomas. Not enough protection here. Not like houses. We come back, kaykay?” He sleepily nodded agreement. Sarabel tightened her arms around him.

In the distance, they heard a single howl, then another. The shadows were lengthening, but they still had plenty of light to get home.

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle
John Williams, Latin American Guitar Music By Barrios And Ponce
Time writing:
50 minutes
July word count:

Prompt: A thief by any other name…

Pedrika dropped to the ground without a sound under her soft leather boots. She spun, still crouching low, swinging her long, curved kedvatch around her. The shining blue runes dripped off the wicked blade and sparked through the air as they sank into the ground. Shielded, Pedrika stood and wiped the kedvatch against the thigh cuff of her dark brown boots.

She tucked the blade inside her left boot and checked her sheaths of slender throwing kedvims. Two empty of the six along each forearm. The bandolier strapped across her chest held all twelve in front and another set along the back. She tugged her tunic under the bandolier, and for a moment she strained against the tight bands that wrapped around her chest, trying in vain to loosen them, to take a full breath. Her hair had come loose from its braid, and she muttered a binding spell. She would pay for that later, but she didn’t have time to re-braid it, and Quaid would give her worse than a blinding headache if anyone discovered she were a girl.

She grimaced. She never understood how differently she must appear to the world with her hair bound in a boy’s braid and the rune marks glowing around her eye. It was still her. Still the same girl who had run through the castle gardens so long ago. Still the same girl captured by the slave raiders and –

Pedrika gave her head a sharp shake. No sense thinking about the past. Good or bad. She patted the pouch tucked inside her tunic and looked around once more for any sign of danger. Seeing none, she stepped out of her shielded corner and walked at a brisk, no-nonsense pace towards Quaid’s house above the riverwalk. With her success tonight, she would finally pay Quaid her freedom price. Not that he would let her leave, of course. But at least she would be a free woman. She snorted softly. A free thief.


Raghu crept along the rooftops, following the thief. He still felt the power of the runes, and the shock of seeing such a beautiful woman appear without warning at the wall. He still felt his connection to the contents of her pouch—a ribbon wound around his heart and tugging as she pulled farther away from him. He could not let them stray too far, or the ribbon would tighten and squeeze the life out of his heart before it broke forever.

The trap was set and sprung. He only hoped she did not lead him into another trap he could not yet see…

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle
Spanish Guitar Music Vol.1
Time writing:
30 minutes
July word count:


Monday, July 29, 2013

Prompt: Do you see too much?

Najla’s brush flowed across the paper in smooth, unhurried strokes. She dipped colors and blended them into her painting with a grace that was poetry in motion.

Oyadlen watched from the doorway, drinking in the beauty of Najla’s motion as much as her art. He drew a deep breath and savored the rich smell of paint and wet paper. Najla didn’t turn, but he sensed her smile nonetheless.

“What are you painting today, my young friend?” Oyadlen stood behind her and rested his heavy hands on her shoulders. “Ahh, eagles—”

“They are hawks, Uncle. You should know that. Don’t they look like the hawks in your mews?” Najla said indignantly. She turned and shook her finger, scowling fiercely.

“Indeed they do, little one. But, Najla, I don’t need many more hawks in my aerie. If they get too crowded, they will fight each other. You don’t want that, do you?”

Najla reached up and fingered Oyadlen’s face, touching his brow, eyes, mouth, then patting his cheek. She nodded seriously. “Yes, Uncle, I understand. Do you think this pair and their young one will be all right?”

Oyadlen pressed her fingers to his cheek so she could feel his smile. “Yes, Najla. I think they will be fine. We will let the young one go free when it grows old enough. Until then, you can help to feed it if you want.”

A smile lit Najla’s face as she returned to her painting.

Oyadlen saw papers drying on the table under the window and walked over to examine them. There were three. Rabbits cavorting on a flowery meadow. They looked fat and ready to hunt. A spring festival in the courtyard, with jugglers and dancers, food stalls and a puppet show in front of the fountain. He smiled. It would be a great celebration after the harsh winter. The third seemed to be covered in a gray mist. Oyadlen frowned and pulled it closer. As his eyes began to focus on the images within, a shiver crossed his shoulders.

“Najla, dear heart. Why did you pain this? We have talked about what happens to your paintings.”

Najla stilled. She did not ask which painting. She knew. Hanging her head so that her long blond hair hung in a curtain, hiding her face, she whispered, “I’m sorry, Uncle. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t thinking, and it just came out. Is it very bad?”

Oyadlen looked at the painting once more. He shook his head in despair. How could he keep her safe, keep them all safe, from the images in her head? He returned to her side and gripped her hands in his own. “It’s a beautiful as all your paintings, dear heart. But sometimes you see more than you should of the world beyond. When you paint it into our world, it’s not always ready to live beside us in peace.”

A tear crept from Najla’s eye and slid down her cheek. Oyadlen brushed it away wish a finger and traced a smile across her lips. “Fear not, dear heart. Continue painting your hawks. Those rabbits will feed them well.”

Distracted, Najla smiled and returned to her painting. Oyadlen left her room and, when he was out of her hearing, began calling for his guards. They would face great challenges with the coming of the moonless night.

Dogs in house:

Time writing:
~40 minutes, distracted

July word count:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Prompt: Mercy, Light, Song, Amber, Bound (use at least 3 of these)

Mangina lifted the collar around her neck and dried her sticky skin with her ragged scarf. She tucked the scarf underneath to try to give her neck some relief from the heavy gold. It makes no difference what it’s made of, she thought bitterly. She still was not free.

Sipping water from a copper ladle as she sat cross-legged on the marble floor, she laid the amber stones in yet another pattern around her. Closing her eyes, she listened for their song and began to hum. She felt the power vibrate through her body, rattling the amber pieces on the floor. Opening her eyes, she saw beams of light shooting out in all directions from the stones. If only she could modulate their song and focus the light, she would finally be free. But every time she tried to change the song, the light scattered and the stones fell silent. Mangina wept.

A toneless voice from the shadowed corner said, “Your tears are wasted. Sing. Again.”

Mangina sobbed. “I cannot! Oh please, let me go! Let me walk outside in the sun. Let me see my family. I promise, I will try again. Please, I am so very tired—”

The voice, unmoved, said only, “Sing. Again.”

Mangina leaned forward until her forehead rested on the cold marble. Swallowing her tears, she sighed with deep, trembling breaths. Finally she sat up once more and gathered the amber, laying them out in a new pattern. She closed her eyes once more and began to hum.

After awhile, the voice said once more, “Sing. Again.”

Mangina chokes back her sobs of despair. There was no mercy here. She scooped up the amber and tossed them in a sweeping gesture across the floor, uncaring how they fell. Past caring, she closed her eyes and hummed with the new amber song. Fueled by her anger and frustration, she added her own harmony to the song. And felt the power shift. Not daring to open her eyes, she built the harmony in her mind, complex weavings of all her fear, anger, longing, loss. As she sang, she saw her family, her home in a vision that grew so large and real, she opened her eyes to find herself floating in midair, surrounded by a rainbow curtain of light.

The voice whispered, “Yes….”

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Bacon, Brindle

Jesse Cook, Free Fall

Time writing:
20 minutes

July word count: