A Light in the Darkness

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-HoodWrite on Edge’s Red Writing Hood prompt this week was a combination of a picture and a song.

Candles and Iowa

Follow the link to see the picture, hear the song, read the submissions, or submit your own.

Having never been to Iowa, the song made me think of the prairies – rolling low hills and vast expanses of emptiness, and farms, of course, because isolated homesteads are the kind with candles flickering in the window, a light you can see for miles.

Feb2011 114

**

She looked in at the flickering candle-light with a kind of longing.

Daddy figured she was probably attracted by the food-smells.  He took to carrying the old shotgun when he went out to the barn in the early morning hours.

Momma stood vigil at the kitchen window, watching her through the chintz curtains.  She had this look in her eye, predatory and ferocious.  Daddy treated Momma like she had to be protected, but I knew better.  Grizzly bears don’t need protecting.

She never came past the fence-line, like she knew she wasn’t welcome.  To me, she seemed worn down by the weight of the world, weary and too-thin.  In a distant way, I knew that a drought-filled dust-bowl summer and an early, bitterly cold winter were to blame.  With her sad golden eyes tugging on my heart-strings, I tied it all back to the things Momma and Daddy talked about late at night, whispered conversations about money, bad crops and our best milker running dry.  Me and Momma had done the canning in half the time this fall – and that wasn’t a good thing.  Times were hard, for us and for her.

An old stew-bone here, a carefully hoarded egg there, I did what I could.  She didn’t exactly fill out, but I could see a new spark in her eye.

Will to live, Daddy called it.

Orneriness, Momma said.  I didn’t tell her that that’s exactly what Daddy said Momma had sometimes.

I just smiled and made sure she got that last biscuit, and a bit of cold stew.  Something to keep the spark alive.

Desperate and starving, men came from the woods when Daddy was two days gone on a trip to town.  We didn’t have much, but it was more than they had.

Momma’s eyes glinted grizzly-bear fierce as she loaded the shotgun, smooth and confident as Anny Oakley.  I hid in the cupboard.  You didn’t back-talk Momma when she had that look in her eye.

She said desperation makes a devil of a foolish man, but her Daddy taught her to shoot.  Men never expect women to put up a fight, and that’s their mistake.

I guess they didn’t expect the wolf, neither.  Between the crack of buckshot and the hair-raising growls and evilly glowing eyes in the darkness, we ran them off.

Daddy came home, wagon rattling with the few things he’d been able to barter for, hopefully enough to get us through the winter.  He was pretty rattled to hear about the incident, snarling about yellow bellied curs, eyes glinting with rage.

I made a nest of blankets for her on the deck, but she wouldn’t stray close.

Daddy said she was a wild animal, and while she liked us, she liked her freedom more.

It was a hungry winter, but she never lost that spark, we made sure of it.  She left with the spring, off over the low hills.

Momma just rolled her eyes when she saw that she took a chicken.

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Rain

Not gonna lie, this prompt response is 412 words.  But, people, it’s nanowrimo, and every extra word counts.  I’ve got no time, no words, no ideas, and definitely not enough freaking words.  See for yourself – if you want to be my friend on Nano, find me under ‘lexy0387’ in the Toronto nanosphere.  I know, it’s sad.  Every word is being dragged out of me with the sam amount of effort and pain as an adult tooth.  And, when my dentist pulled a front tooth painfully and without enough freezing, from my mouth, he was horrified.  “Oh… yeah, that would have still hurt – wow, you’ve got long roots!”.  Thanks, doc (dent?), thanks a whole lot.  If I ever need another tooth removed, I’ll remind you to seriously seriously pay attention when I ask for that fourth shot of freezing, because apparently my roots are about this close to coming out the bottom side of my jaw.  Like an alien from Doctor Who.

I had this brilliant idea… it was all planned out in my head.  There were scenes in which my MC, much as I like her, would not be happy.  She would, in fact, experience the full range of human emotions, and encounter difficulties, people she liked, disliked, loved, hated.  It was all there, and I kept holding back writing anything of it, because, you know… not november.  And now, where is it?  I’ve got nothing.  it’s sad.  This weekend might just see me begging family members to take the dog on various lengths of walk, so that I can sit at the computer without him yipping his loneliness at me, and actually… write.

I’m starting to feel like Hook.  Can anyone else hear that dreadful tic-tic-ticking?

For now, though, shockingly, the cringe-worthy first scene in what I’ve written so far actually quite suits the Red Writing Hood prompt over at Write on Edge.

This week, use rain as the inspiration for your fiction or creative non-fiction piece. The word limit is 400, so please come back this Friday and show us what you’ve written.

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
Follow the links to check out what others have written.  If you’re doing Nano, good luck, and I hope you’re doing better than I am.  If you aren’t… well… then you just won’t understand why my posting is going to continue being so severely limited for the remainder of the month.

Interesting artwork from talented artist?  Hah, no.  How about more hours in the day?  But here’s a picture of my puppy.  Note that he’s not sleeping.  No… that would be ridiculous.  He’s watching me type my nanovel… keeping an eye on me to ensure I don’t do anything silly like try to leave the room without his noticing.

Lily stared grimly ahead, struggling to keep calm.

Of course they’d be here.  They paid for it.

She shivered as the steady drizzle of rain seeped ice into her bones, stabbing through her heart as her brother’s coffin was lowered into the ground.  She wondered if any of the strangers who had shown up for his funeral actually cared that he was dead.  That woman, his boss, certainly showed no signs of sadness.  Lily glared at the couture-bedecked woman seated across the grave, some minion holding an umbrella over her head.  Perfectly made-up hazel eyes lifted to meet red-rimmed and swollen.  Lily refused to look away, refused to be apologetic for being caught glaring.

The woman’s lips twitched near a smile, and she nodded acknowledgement to Lily before turning to speak to the man seated beside her.  He nodded and rose.

A few moments later, the rain transferred its sodden fury to an umbrella.  Lily tensed, trying to focus her whole attention on the priest’s words, trying to ignore the presence at her back.

Her nephew had other ideas, twisting around to smile toothily.  “Hey, Remy,” he stage whispered, his childish enthusiasm giving it greater volume.

“Hey kiddo,” Remy crouched down slightly, still holding the umbrella high enough to protect all three of them.  More than a hint of a smile played across her brother’s ex-employer’s face this time.

Lily hated the easy way Matthew let go of her hand to grab hold of Remy.

He’s been Jake’s best friend for years.  Of course Matty likes him.  He’s a familiar face.  She tried to focus on the fact that, without Jake around, she wouldn’t have to deal with these people much longer.  Just get through today.

She flinched away when Remy leaned in, his warm breath against her neck.  “I’m going to take Matty for a walk.  He doesn’t need to hear all this crap.”  Faintly, Lily saw the sharp jerk of Remy’s head towards the priest.

Lily hadn’t even been paying much attention to the man, but Remy was right.  Ramblings about how God felt it was her brother’s time to go, that God was taking him into his arms, blah, blah, blah, how trite.  How completely meaningless to a boy who just lost his father.  She nodded her consent.

Remy tried to hand her the umbrella, but she shook her head, no.  She had cried enough over the past few days – the rain could do her crying for her.

Roc

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
This week’s prompt for Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood was:

to write a fiction orcreative non-fiction piece set entirely in an airport. Take us on an adventurein 450 words or less

It really didn’t work with the firefly piece (she only just left the airport!), so I figured I’d go back and catch up with Agata (you can find the storyline in Which Witch under my Fiction tab above).  If you don’t want the whole story, the overview to make this story more understandable is quite simple:  Agata is a witch.

a picture I found on public domain, click the pic to go to its source

Agata coasted gently down into the woodland alongside the field.  Her hair was wildly tangled from the wind, and her boots sank ankle-deep in the swampy ground under the trees.  With a sigh of disgust, she hoisted her broom and pack over one shoulder and trudged out to the unusual building sitting in a long and narrow, hard-packed clearing.

It stood at least three storeys tall, a half-tube constructed of bits of scrap sheet metal and canvas.  One end was sealed, but the end she could see into was one enormous door that had been slid aside to allow her a clear view of something even more bizarre.

A mechanical monstrosity stood in the middle of the building, balanced on two wheels and an end-piece, looking awkward and extremely unstable.  Like… almost… a duck.  Agata wondered what purpose it could possibly serve.

From somewhere within the construct, a steady clanking rang out, interspersed with some very creative cussing.

“Hello?” her voice echoed in the large space.  “Is anyone there?”

The clanging fell silent, followed by a clatter and a crash.

A large man emerged from within the beast, scowling and brushing his grimy hands off on his equally grimy coveralls.  He dabbed at his forehead with an oil-smeared cloth, leaving a black streak above his eye.  Wild tufts of hair sticking out haphazardly on his head.

Agata realised the man had spoken while she was taking in the bizarre scene.

“Pardon?”

The scowl became fiercer, but also more ridiculous with the single surprised black eyebrow he’d given himself.  “What’d’ye want, girl?  If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, I’m not mad, I don’t need a nurse, or to be taken to the mental hospital, and no, you can’t buy my land, it’s mine, and I need it.  I’m a busy man.”

“I’ve never seen you before in my life, I’m not a nurse, and what on earth would I do with a narrow, hard-packed strip of land?  As for your sanity – ”  She hesitated, glaring at the machine.  It was too intriguing.  “I’m withholding judgement until I find out more about that.”

He was transformed, a broad and delighted grin on his face.  “Curious, are ye?  Excellent.  Can’t stand folk without curiosity!  Hang on, it’s almost ready to take out for a spin!  Just you stay put!”

And with that, he dove back under the machine, clanking enthusiastically.

Agata crouched to peer beneath.  “Um… I mostly just wanted to know what it was?”

“Eh?”  Rattle, thud, clang.

“What does it do?”

He scrambled up, grinning.  With a proud hand across its beak-region, he replied, “Why, It’s a flying machine!  I call it the Roc.”

Ice Breaker

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
This week on Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood, (follow the link to read more prompt responses, or, better yet, submit your own!) we were challenged to be inspired by the phoenix, one of the definitions below:

(source New Oxford American Dictionary online)
phoenix |ˈfēniks|
noun
(in classical mythology) a unique bird that lived for five or six centuries in the Arabian desert, after this time burning itself on a funeral pyre and rising from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle.

Phoenix |ˈfēniks| Astronomy
a southern constellation (the Phoenix), west of Grus.

It’s like the universe is telling me to keep adding to the Firefly story, by giving me prompts that move it forward.  There are a few previous pieces in this story, which you can find under my Fiction tab (above), in the storyline called Firefly.

Today’s art-to-go-with-post is actually also the inspiration of a great many aspects of this storyline… I saw it, and have been waiting for a part of the story that would make sense to include this artwork with.  It’s a photomanipulation by Aimee Stewart (USA).  Some of her artwork is in greeting cards, and has been made into puzzles.  Not only talented artistically, she is also in the midst of creating her first children’s book, art and all.  You should check her out HERE at DeviantART, or at her website HERE.

Rachel rubbed her arms against the chill country air.  How can it be so cold in the summer?

She followed the shadow-shrouded figure of her aunt, trying to ignore the prickly sensation of being watched.  They don’t believe, not really.

The fire was already lit, a dull orange glow separated from her by starkly outlined trees.  She could reach out to the heat of it already.  Just a touch to shake the cold.  No.  Too little control, too many burnables.  Once again she felt the futile longing for a teacher.

Her Aunt Miriam smiled back at her, hands fluttering with nerves and excitement.

Breathe.  She stepped forward, already feeling the pull of the fire, so welcoming.  The flames rose in a thunder of crackling wood.

Heat rose within her and she swayed.  Blood sizzling and nerves screaming ecstasy, she let the music and heat of the flames wash through her, out of her.  Distantly, she knew the onlookers were being washed with the echo of what she felt, the merest lick of the heat that washed through her very bones, the softest stir on the surface of what she saw and felt.

The flames licked out, spreading and scattering impossibly, dancing their joy, flickering across the grassy clearing in the form of foxes and cats, birds, butterflies, sprites, boneless and graceful, pulling people into the dance.

The joy of each person fed that of the rest, fueling the fire of the dance, shooting the central fire higher and impossibly bright as its creatures darted out into the night.

She longed to keep going, keep dancing and feeding into the heat and passion of it all.  But Rachel had been Laga to her own coven for a long time, and knew how to fight the fire without being burned.

“Fight it with fire,” her voice was hoarse and drenched in smoke, but it ground her enough to do what must be done.  With that, she leapt into the flames, a flurry of Elementals following her.

The pain was excruciating and ecstatic, the core of the flame heating and tightening around her as its creatures returned to it.  All of its creatures, and I am just one more.

She burned up and let the vision take her.

Fire.  Smoke and ashes tangling through the air, choking her lungs and clawing her towards unconsciousness.  Her hands and bare feet throbbed with harsh burns that should not have touched her. 

The ember fox stood before her, more solid than any she’d seen.  Isbritare, I name you. Ice breaker, you have answered the summons.

London Calling

This week’s Red Writing Hood challenge at Write on Edge was Olympics themed, and with options.  Head over to submit your own story, or to read some more prompt responses.

The 100 Meter Sprint

100 words on a conflict, competition, or game.

The Road Race

300 words on a topic of your choice. The only catch? Your setting must be London, Beijing, or Rio de Janeiro.

Synchronized Diving

Partner up with another Write on Edge writer. You each have 450 words to write about a conflict between two characters; each writer should represent a single character’s point of view.

I decided on the Road Race.  Having been to London only briefly, I figured that would be the only setting that could even remotely work out of the three, not that I really discuss it all that much.  Mainly because I decided I wanted to continue the firefly story from two weeks ago, and that particular scene was NOT in London.  There might have to be some fill-in between the two scenes, but for now, we’ve got 10-ish year old Rachel in Firefly, and 16ish year old Rachel in London Calling.

Instead of the usual interesting artwork to go with this one, I’ve decided to leave you with a song, in a blatant ripoff of Lance at “My Blog can Beat up Your Blog.”  His blog should totally look out, though, because my blog is scrappy!  I lie.  My blog is like those fainting goats – it would knock itself unconscious to avoid being beaten up.  **An additional note, now that I’ve gone through and started reading other blogs from the prompt response.  Yup, I did, indeed, manage to pick the exact same song as Lance used for this prompt.  Clearly it’s just the song to think of when thinking of London.  So, please note that I was only planning to rip off the ‘music in blog’  idea… not the ‘London Calling’ idea.  Go figure.

Rachel clawed her way back to a groggy wakefulness as the plane started its descent into London.  Her head pounded and her mouth tasted of ash.  Always ash after that dream.  Running, from the fire or to it, through a strange house, scorching heat from the door she sought.

She collected her bags and glowered around the passenger pickup area, the light too piercing even through her sunglasses.  A woman hurried towards her, a tight smile on her face, and equally beautiful and stylish daughter in tow.

Oh great, Rachel thought, self consciously fiddling with her rumpled Tee, the welcoming committee. 

“Darling, you look a fright!  Was the flight dreadful?  Of course it was, you must be exhausted, poor thing.  Chelsea, help her with her bags.  We offered to have your ticket upgraded, you know, but your mother insisted you were fine.  Oh goodness, where are my manners, I’m Miriam, darling, and my daughter – Chelsea, I said help her with her bags!  I’m sure you’ll get along like gangbusters.  Ah, there’s James with the car.”

She awoke as the car pulled up at an old country home, sand-coloured bricks covered in creeping vines, windows peeking out from the greenery like watchful eyes.

She remembered her mother describing the Florence Cottage as charming, quaint.  It looked more like a mansion.

“Wow.  You live here?”

Chelsea snorted.  “No, we figured we’d just bring you to a random house.  Come on.”

Rachel froze at the top of the stairs, clutching the banister.  The dream.

She pointed, eyes locked on the door, heavy iron handle stark against pristine white that blurred in her vision, bubbling with heat that wasn’t there.  “Where does that one lead?”  She could smell the smoke, so real, the heat.

Darkness shrouding her eyes, she heard Chelsea yell, “FIRE!”

Under the Oak Tree

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood

It’s Red Writing Hood again!  Write on Edge offered up this challenge for the week:

A stand-alone scene, fiction or memoir, in 500 words or less, involving a handwritten letter.

Link up your own story, or go on over to see what everyone else has come up with.  Concrit is always welcome.

I missed the ‘stand alone’ part initially, and had to give up on the start of the first piece I was writing, connected to one of my other story pieces.  And then, mysteriously, I couldn’t shake the idea of Peter Pan.  In a tree.  I’ve been reading the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series recently, by James A. Owen, which I suspect is a very strong factor in this sudden fixation.  And, in case you were wondering, yes, you should definitely read that series.  Also, I really wish I could illustrate my own stories.  The man has talent.  As seen below.  I found the drawing through the link that you can go to by clicking the image, which appears to be James A. Owen’s live journal account.  It is the artwork of James A. Owen, whose other link is above.  The artwork is from the book The Red Dragon, and is of Laura Glue, one of the Lost Boys in the series.  I could tell you more, but why ruin a good book?

Marco froze, a leaf-dappled shadow, bare feet gripping the rough bark, listening.  Sure that he remained unnoticed, he slid out along an overhanging branch and peered down curiously.

The girl pulled an envelope out, smoothing an oft-read letter on her knee.

He struggled with the writing, sharp eyes picking it out easily, but unable to decipher the characters as they were, full of flourishes and extra loops of ink.  Foppish.

The girl didn’t seem to mind it, though.  She clutched the letter to her chest with a sigh of contentment.

“My knight, my love,” she whispered.

In a flash of decision and action, the boy landed facing her, with a soft thump, hands on his hips.  “Boo.”

The girl clutched her letter in surprise, as she let out a small shriek.  She then delivered surprisingly solid kick to his stomach, knocking him from his heroic pose.

“What’d you do that for?” he yelped, skipping back out of range.

“Me?” she cried, struggling to her feet.  “You attacked me!”

“Never did!”

“You accost a lady of the realm in the woods, and dare to talk back?”  She drew herself up and bestowed upon him a withering glare.

“What’s wrong with yer face, then, Melly?”

She tried to smooth the expression from her reddening face.  “Nothing.  And I am Lady Amelia.  What are you doing here?”

“S’ my tree.  What’s in the letter?”

“It is from my beloved, Sir Erwin.  He is courting me.”

“Why’d you want to marry such a girly man anyways?”

Amelia gasped at the insult.  “He is not girly!  He is a brave Knight, kind and good, and he is the bravest man alive.”

Marco snickered.  “With his girly writin’ an always last in the lists an’ all?”

“It’s not…” Amelia hesitated.  Her brave Knight dotted his ‘i’s with flowers.  “He’s just trying to appeal to my delicate female sensibilities is all.  Go away, Marco!”

He let out a crow of laughter.  “Delicate female sensibilities, my arse!”

Amelia reached out, unthinking, and smacked him over the head with the ratty letter, which he promptly tore from her hand for her efforts.  “You’ve ruined it!” she wailed.

“Never did…” he concentrated intently on the paper in his hand, sounding out the words.  When understanding came he stared in shock at the blushing girl.  “You’re runnin’ away with him, Melly?”

She crossed her arms. “Father won’t let us marry.  Since when can you read, anyways?”

Marco glared sullenly at his grubby feet.  “Since you told me we couldn’ be friends no more ‘cause I was uneducated.  Erwin’s a pansy, an’ he treats his horses like dung.”  He peered up at her for a moment, dark eyes flashing. “King said you can tell a lot about a man from how he treats his animals.”

Amelia flinched, remembering an incident with a puppy.  Even babies ought not pee on Sir Erwin.

“Maybe… maybe you could walk me home, Marco?”

All smiles, he offered her his arm.  “Don’t worry, Melly.  I’ll write you a better letter.”

Firefly

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
This week for Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood, they gave us a short poem by Robert Frost to inspire 450 words.

The Secret Sits

We dance round in a ring and suppose,

But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Go on over to read more submitted responses, or to give your own!

Let me know what you think of this.  It isn’t attached to any of the other short stories I’ve written.

This photograph is by MD-Arts on DeviantArt.  He has a collection of amazing fire shots, this one using a two metre long flaming rope.  Check out his site to see more of his work, including more amazing fire art, as well as some beautiful nature shots and adorable kittens.

Light like a bonfire, flickering, crackling, shadows all around, smoky and unreal… Rachel swayed as dizziness and nausea washed over her, the confused jumble of images from that night assaulting her senses, burning her lungs.  She choked back the gasp of pain at the memory of a memory, hoping none in the kitchen had heard her.

“She saw them – she danced with them, you all saw her!”  Her Aunt Bea sounded worn down.

Spinning and leaping, shadows flickering against shadows… so much music.  Not music.  Fire.  Her body felt overheated, her feet throbbing painfully in time to unheard music.

Rachel’s mother sounded like she’d been crying.  “What difference does it make?  She’s too young, and that’s all there is to it.  Just leave it be.”

“We only use age as a factor because most have stopped showing signs, and even if they do, they’re about the right age anyways.  We can’t just leave it be.

“She doesn’t even remember it!  She might never.” Her sister.  Rachel scowled angrily – of course they would let Rebecca be involved!  And, of course, Rebecca was all for keeping her in the dark.  “I think it’s better if she’s allowed to forget, poor thing, it must have been terrifying.”

A short bark of harsh laughter from her usually cheerful aunt.  “Careful, girl, you’re looking a bit green.  Most never see, and none in the past three generations have danced!  You’re only sixteen, you still might see.  If you do, you’ll understand why your sister needs training now.”

Rachel smiled, gratified that someone could see through her perfect sister’s sickly sweet mask.  It seemed that the main argument was now only between her mother and aunt.

“For god’s sake, Bea – you were considered an early bloomer, and already seeing at eighteen!  She’s only a child, she can’t keep this kind of secret yet.”

“She won’t be able to cope with this on her own!  She has been chosen to flame, and that cannot be undone.”

Chosen.  The word struck like a mallet to a gong, reverberating and echoing through her skull.  She remembered a face – bewitchingly beautiful and terrible.  Words tolling like bells, without meaning but so important.

She collapsed into the door, swinging it open with a slam as she came to her knees on the cool slate of the kitchen.  The fire in the hearth roared in welcome.

The women stared in horror at the baby of the family, soft round cheeks traced with blood red tears.

With more ferocity than she thought she had in her, she snarled, “Tell me the truth!”

The elder Maari shook her head sadly as Rachel’s mother sobbed.  “It’s too late for secrets, now.  She is born of the flame.”

Ruffled

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood

This week on Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood, the challenge was this:

You have 400 words to write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece about freedom, in any way that makes sense to you.

Go HERE if you’d like to read more prompt responses, or submit your own.

The story is a continuation of the Which Witch storyline, which you can find in my Fiction Tab.

The picture is one I found on Deviantart, by Anna Earley, an art student in the USA.  I love the shadow in it, the way there’s only a hint of yellow throughout, and the lantern on the end of the broom is a great touch.  She does character drawings, as well as scenes like this one, that really look like part of a story I’d love to hear the rest of.

“Hem-hem?” Miss Chesham quieted the room immediately, dimpling sweetly at the crowd of women.  Perhaps more than the sweet old woman she appeared to be.

“Welcome, Lady Wytches of East Hammond! I would like everyone to extend a warm welcome to our guest, the Wytch Agata. She has come from, er,” she consulted a small lacy notepad, “Deutschland, where, if you’d believe it, wytches are tortured and killed! Simply barbaric!”

The Lady Wytches murmured greetings and welcomes, rustling in their elegant dresses as they turned to observe her. She waved sheepishly, feeling grubby and underdressed in her wrinkled navy dress, a crow amongst ruffled pink chicks.

Disciple Mary was formally accepted into the Lady Wytches as a full Wytch. The Wytches agreed that Yeoman Brannik was charging too much for his cabbages, he shall be spoken to. Polite applause all around.

Agata joined them in the next room for afternoon tea. She was immediately accosted by three girls near her own age, nearly bursting with excitement.

“Oh my goodness, Aggie, it must have been such an adventure, travelling all the way here!” Blue Eyes squealed.

“It’s actually–“

“Oooh, we shall be the best of friends! Come!” Curly Hair grabbed Agata’s arm, smiling toothily, and dragged her away from the table of tiny sandwiches.  Her stomach growled its displeasure.

***

Agata slipped out the side door and into the evening air, inhaling deeply as she embraced the darkness and silence.

What coven meets for afternoon tea! Wytches! Lady Wytches! She snorted. Busybodies who can’t spell or cast a spell from what I’ve seen of them.

She kept to the shadows, unwilling to risk a wytchly interruption. Three days of taffeta and lace and ruffles, everything white or coral or peach, the wytches gasping and tittering at her so-called adventures, at her ‘charming’ accent, and her mannish outspokenness.

Agata eyed a large muddy puddle. With great deliberation, she jumped, feet together, and landed in the center of the mire, mud squelching around her boots, water soaking the hem of her skirt.  She smiled, head tilted back to the moonlight.

She ducked under a prickly bush, emerging a moment later, scratched, grinning, and gripping a familiar haft.

Everything I need is here. She stared at the distant glow of the village lights for a long moment.

Agata straddled her broom in a most unladylike fashion as she flew away.

Rumors

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood

This week on Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood prompt, we were challenged to:

write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece about a time one of your main characters finds himself or herself paying back a debt–financial or otherwise.

This is a bit of a spin-off from the Which Witch storyline.  I liked a temporary character found in Shades too much to just get rid of her, so here she is, resurrected.

This image is by Artoftheoldschool on DeviantArt – you can get to their page by clicking on the cottage.  You’ll notice the cottage isn’t made of gingerbread.  Gingerbreading, also known as stick style, is only captured a little in this particular cottage, but I love the dark feel of it.  It looks like it could be located deep in the dark woods.  If you’re looking for more explanation of gingerbreading/stick style, I suggest google images.  Just ignore the ones made of gingerbread.

“You’ll be repaying me for that meal, surely?”

The siblings’ heads snapped up in surprise, the older girl automatically moving to shelter her brother.  Their faces were smeared with their guilt and gluttony, icing and crumbs and sticky sweet honey.

They quaked in fear, trapped against the gingerbread wall, the old woman blocking their escape.

The sunlight trickling through behind her gleaming through the rough chop of hair that escaped from under her head scarf and cast her face in shadow.

“Please, mistress, have mercy!” the girl quavered, tears welling in her blue eyes.

“Mercy for thieves?”  The woman’s voice was worn and cracked, the harsh caw of her derisive laugh echoing in the stillness.

The forest air was heavy with silence, devoid even of the constant background hum of insects.

“We was hungry,” the boy cried, wet lips sulky.  His ruddy cheeks were plump, the button holes on his shirt stretched tight by his rotund torso.

“Oh was you?” the old woman crouched down, her short-cut pants riding up to reveal grubby knees.  Out of the sun, her smile-creased face was revealed to the children, though her expression was grim and fearsome.

The children shrank back, the girls tears running faster, splotches of red marring her pale cheeks.

“We don’t have any money, Mistress.  Please!”

The woman’s weathered hands closed tightly on each child’s wrist and she hauled them to their feet with ease.

She cackled as she dragged them up the worn steps to the door.

“What use have I for money?”

The door slammed behind them with ominous finality, made more ominous by the old woman’s confidence in releasing her grip.

The boy rattled the knob, but to no avail.

“You’ll just make her angry!” his sister hissed, tugging his wrist.  They moved through the shadowy house, and found their captor humming as she stirred the contents of a steaming cauldron.

Without turning, the woman gestured with her spoon towards the corner of the room.  “Broom, mop and bucket, boy.  I want floors so clean I could eat off them.”

“Gregor.”  He tried to sound fierce.

The woman turned and raised one eyebrow.

“M-my name is G-gregor.  And sweeping is servants’ work.”

“Well, Gregor, I am the Witch Gretal Baer.  Broom.  Mop.  Bucket.”  She smiled wickedly at the way his face drained of colour.  He swept feverishly, as though speed of movement could save him.

The witch turned to the little girl.  “And you?”

The girl managed a wobbly curtsey.  “Hansine, Mistress Baer.”

“You will start by scrubbing the dishes and cleaning the counters.”  The witch turned back to the cauldron but was called away by a nervous throat clearing.

“Are you going to eat us?”  She quailed at the expression on the witches face.  “Only, the townspeople say you eat children.”

The swish of the broom stopped.

The witch Greta Baer smiled her most ferocious.  “If I am known for cooking up children, then why on earth would you eat a pie on my sill?”

Green-faced, the children rushed to their chores with vigor.

Lines

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood

This week on Write on Edge, the Red Writing Hood prompt was:

write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece about a time someone crossed a line, legally or ethically. Explore the motivation of your character and possibly the consequences of his or her actions. In 450 words or less.

Check out the other responses, or post your own by following the RWH link above.

Apparently I’m feeling a bit maudlin lately.  This continues right after Cheap in the Necessary storyline.  If you want to read it all in order, check out the Fiction tab at the top of the page.

The picture below is by Vivi, click on the image to check out more of her work on Deviant Art.

I shivered in my underwear, shifting uncomfortably on the toilet lid.  Face cupped in my palms, I felt the icy water falling from my hair, dripping down onto my legs and drizzling down my calves.   I struggled to maintain some kind of composure. I was tired of being that girl.  The crying girl.  For once, I’d like to get mad or sad or flustered without that prickling sensation behind my eyelids, the blurry shiver of salt water welling up and blinding me.

The narrow strip of vision I had showed a vacant sink, the overflowing garbage can, cheap crumpled paper towels scattered around it.

“Your shirt is almost dry,” Joanna called out, over-loud above the rattling whoosh of the old hand dryers.  “I don’t know about your jeans, though – you might just have to put them on damp.”

“O-“ I croaked.  Coughed, tried again.  “Ok, thanks.”

“What?!”

“I said OK!” I tried to sound cheerful.

A few minutes later, she passed my newly rinsed and dried shirt over the stall.  It still smelled like gravy.  Or was that my hair?  I ignored the wet that soaked through the shirt the moment I flicked my braid behind me and snagged the damp jeans from the door.

Beggars can’t be choosers.  I sighed and swung open the stall.

“Are you ok?”  I asked, surprised.  She’d been all fire and fury while helping me rinse smears of starchy potatoes out of my hair.  Now, she looked worse than I did.  Her eyes were haunted and watery, her face was drawn and haggard.

A grin fluttered weakly across her face, but crumpled in an instant.

“What’s wrong?”

“Her brother-“ Joanna pressed her fist against her mouth.  I tried to remember ever seeing her as upset as this before.

“What?”  I laid a comforting hand on her arm, but she stepped away.

“Nothing.  It’s just… nothing.  I should never have said anything about him.”  She hugged herself tight, staring down for a long moment.  She met my eyes and whispered, “Do you think I’m a bad person?  Like… really bad?”

“What? No!”

“You were mad at me for not caring about your feelings.  And I…  Katie and I… we used to be friends.”  Eyeliner tears traced black down her cheeks.  “And I used it against her, just like I did to hurt you, only… worse.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat.  I couldn’t believe she was acknowledging that behaviour so openly, so apologetically.  The difference between now and that night at the club was like night and day.

“You were just trying to protect me.”

She let out a sob and sank to her knees.  “I used her dead little brother to hurt her.”