Monday, September 30, 2013

Prompt: Not all monsters are monstrous, Part 1

Thanks to Raikuni for permission to use her powerful image, “Seedeater 1”!

Keffen crouched next to Rappeh on the broad limb of the sanguot tree, the rough bark scratching his bare feet and bottom. He tried not to squirm from the sting of the scratches he’d earned climbing the gigantic tree for the first time. He was still proud that Rappeh had chosen him to go on the hunt this morning, but it hadn’t been as exciting as he imagined, stealthily stalking a grazing gerdbet or chasing a lean panjkew at top speed through the waist-high grasses.

But they hadn’t brought any weapons other than their usual walking sticks. Keffen wondered how they were going to kill their prey, but was a little afraid to ask Rappeh. The lead hunter wasn’t generous with information or praise, but he dished out stinging criticisms of the training hunters with a vicious tongue that left the younger boys reeling as if he had swung his walking stick at their heads. Keffen had avoided a tongue-lashing so far, and he hoped that watching closely and avoiding stupid questions would spare him from Rappeh’s ire.

The night before, the hunters had danced around the central fire, celebrating a great feast of boodhin meat that would last at least through the next moon cycle. The three hunters who had brought down the enormous animal had reenacted their drama again and again, entertaining the entire village with their antics.

Keffen and his friends had tired of the performance and made up their own dance in the shadows. They had been surprised into sudden stillness by Rappeh’s appearance from the dark side of the fire circle, when Keffen was pantomiming spearing the boodhin. Rappeh had regarded them all in silence, then motioned Keffen to his side. “Meet me at the well before the first light,” was all he said, before he disappeared into the darkness again.

Keffen had hardly slept for excitement – and fear he would sleep too late and miss his opportunity to impress Rappeh with his hunting prowess. He was the undisputed champion among his peers with the bow and throwing blades. But much to his dismay, when he met Rappeh at the well, the hunter motioned him to leave everything behind. They walked out of the village with only their walking sticks and water skins work over their shoulders.

The barest scratching noise brought Keffen’s attention back to his uncomfortable perch, and he looked at Rappeh for guidance. The hunter nodded approval and pointed his walking stick down to the far edge of the clearing they crouched over. He lifted a finger to his lips, and motioned to his eyes. Watch.

Dogs in house
Houdini, Maize

Time writing:
20 minutes

September word count:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Prompt: Songs of the Dead Dragon

Thanks to Darya Kuznetsova for permission to use her beautiful image, “Songs of the dead dragon 2”!

Fyorian rested under the sheltering skull of a dreadnax so old the cyclen’s roots grew through the bones. He shrugged into the warmth of the bearskin against his back, and tuned his lute while he waited. “Always waiting,” he muttered grimly.

He propped his feet against the dradnax’s lower jawteeth and began to play a mournful tune. The dreadnax might have approved of the dirge, broken teeth and ribs signs of its last fatal battle. Fyorian wondered what could have defeated a dreadnax in the twe’en times, then decided with a little shiver across his back that he didn’t want to know.

Wearing the bear had finally succeeded in driving the biting nidges from his dark curly hair and beard, but the heavy smell of the curing fat as it warmed against his back made him sleepy. His fingers slowed over the lute’s neck and strings, until his head dropped back against the cyclen root and leaned the lute neck across his chest. If he snored, it was not loud enough to wake a dreadnax, as his brother often complained.

It was, however, enough to wake the cyclen, which had first stirred at the sound of his lute and now grew restless for more. Little leaves popped up out of the ground on root-runners, closer and closer to Fyorian’s boots. Soon, the leaves wavered up the side of the dreadnax’s jawbone and stretched to the top of the teeth to get a sense of the living thing that rested there.

Fyorian felt a tickle against his skin. The lightest brush, perhaps of a wandering nidge? He reached up to brush it away, and could not move his hand. His eyes snapped open and he tried to sit up. He felt bound by ropes all over his body. Looking down, he saw he was covered in cyclen leaves…and roots?

When he struggled, they tightened. He shouted, and they drew back. Drew back? He shouted again, and they pulled a little farther way. He saw there were none around the lute, and he reached for it. The root-cines on his arms loosened enough for him to grab it, and when he gripped the strings, they all quivered. He lifted his eyebrows in surprise.

Curious, he tapped the strings again. The leaves all quivered in time with the vibrating tones, and the root-vines loosened up around him. He sat up and drew his hand across the lute’s neck, plucking a few notes. He could hardly believe the evidence of his own eyes, his own body, feeling the vines drop away from around him. The cyclen wanted him to play…

Dogs in house
Houdini, Maize

Time writing:
20 minutes

September word count:

Prompt: Balance, settle, cross, thrill, lost

James sits next to Catherine on the ferris wheel bench, trying not to clench his hands on the safety bar. He hates heights, but she had bounced up and down and clapped her hands when they wandered near. How could he say no? He wanted to please her, keep her smiling, keep that sparkle in her eyes when she looked at him.

The wheel lurches up, their bucket swinging forward and back, rising on the back curve. He couldn’t figure out where to look that wouldn’t make him sick. Forward? Aw, hell no. Up? Are you kidding? Down? Bad, bad idea. Look at Catherine. That’s okay, isn’t it? Up here? No one paying any attention? She’s looking all around like a happy kid. Even through his rising misery -- yes, that was a pun, he thinks sourly -- watching her makes him happy.

“Oh, James, look! I love how the lights end at the ocean, and then it’s just black out there. See those lights? I wonder what kind of ship that is? What do you think?” She chatters on and seems oblivious to his quiet.

They’re almost to the top, and the wheel stops, their bucket swinging even more wildly. His knuckles gleam white against the bar. The roaring in his ears drowns out even her voice, and suddenly he feels hot resentment that she dragged him up here. No wait, that’s not fair…

Her white hand slides over his, light and dark fingers intertwined on the rail. She’s looking at him now, really looking at him, realizing, oh god, she’s going to think he’s a total dweeb and a loser. Suddenly she smiles.

“I think you’re the bravest boy I know, James,” she says quietly, so he has to lean toward her to hear.

He pulls back. She feels sorry for him? That’s just—

“Did Hogan give your class the same lecture about courage?”

What? English lit Hogan? James shakes his head.

“He said courage is being afraid of something, and doing it anyway.” She reached her other hand up and brushed the hair from his eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you would hate this.” She leaned the rest of the way until their lips met.

He didn’t notice the lurching, the swaying, the wheel drawing them up and around. He didn’t really notice much of anything until some time later, when they were walking around the fairgrounds, arm in arm, and they neared the ferris wheel again. He looked down at her with a lopsided smile.

“I didn’t hate it that much, actually. Want to ride again?”

Dogs in house

Time writing:
~35 minutes

September word count:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Prompt: sleep, rocking, water

Sarah lay in the hammock, too weak to lift her head when the boat rocked suddenly, side to side. It was different than the steady rocking of the waves flowing underneath, the soft slap against the hull. Then she heard a footstep thud on the deck. She rolled her head to the side and licked her lips, trying to speak. She might have whispered, “Jared?”

More steps along the deck. More than one person. Not Jared. She sank back, her flare of hope dying. She closed her eyes and waited. It didn’t matter anymore. The sounds faded away. There might have been voices calling out, talking to her. They were so far away, she couldn’t make out what they were saying.

There might have been hands touching her, shocking against her damaged skin. She couldn’t lift her own hands to push them away. There might have been fingers, gentle and warm, but burning with the slightest touch, opening her eyes and feeling for a pulse on her neck.

Would they leave her like Jared had? She called on energy reserves she didn’t know she still had and moaned, shifting her head a little. The hands flew off her as if she had hurt them. Funny, that. I wouldn’t. She thought. So tired. I couldn’t. Please. Don’t leave me. “Please…”

She must have said it aloud. The hands returned, one under her head, one holding water to her lips. She swallowed once, twice…

“More,” she croaked.

“Slowly, ma’am. A little at a time.”

The hand under her head lifted her again for another drink. She took two more gulps and dropped her head back. She felt an eerie sense of déjà vu, and her eyes snapped open.

The young man drew back, bright green eyes widening in surprise. He ran fingers through his shock of blond hair. Then he smiled. The smile she knew so well. The smile she loved.

“Ma’am, just lie still. We’re getting a stretcher down here for you.”

Déjà vu.

“Name…”she whispered.

He frowned with concentration, two fine lines between his brows that she had traced so many times. “Oh, My name is Jared Winters, ma’am. Can you tell me yours?”

He didn’t know her. It was all still to come. Again. Could she change it this time? Could she save him? Should she let him go? Could she break the cycle? The questions roared in her ears, swam before her eyes, weighted her head against the hammock so she could not move.

Could she free them both?

Dogs in house

Analekta: Classical Gems

Time writing:
~25 minutes

September word count: