SciFriday – Salt

Post-apocalyptic City, by Peter Siegl, on DeviantArt. Follow the picture to see more of his work!

In the hunt for immortality, there are always fads – the ‘real’ way to stay healthy would sweep the nation, be disproved, discarded and replaced.

Some things stick, though, to the point that the government takes it to heart.  The connection between sodium intake and blood pressure was clear.  Heart attacks were nearly eliminated, along with fast food chains.

Too bad our civilization’s salt addiction was all that had kept the snails off our backs.

The remaining officials strongly encourage the surviving populace to relocate to the coast – and remember that a high-sodium diet is a healthy diet!

***

This is a piece in response to Chris White Writes’ new SciFriday posts – he provides a piece of art, you provide about 100 words of sci fi.  win-win.  Head over to read the other submissions and submit your own piece!

Master Class – Castle, Stormed

We’re into the first full week of Nanowrimo, so while I hope to keep up doing one or two blog posts a week, chances are they’ll be bits and pieces of the story I’m working on for Nano.  Case in point, this prompt response.  If you’re doing Nano as well, feel free to add me as a friend on the boards – Lexy0387 is my username.

This week’s master class is from Dragonflight, and the challenge was to use it as the beginning or end of a story.  Click the image below to go to the prompt and read some of the other responses, or answer it yourself!

The photo below is by a flickr user named Helena.  Follow the link to see more of her stuff.

Dragon

“What are you doing here?”

Mara had been training for this moment for so long, and now that it finally had, an actual man speaking the male part was throwing her off.

“I’m… I… I’m… I live here,” She stammered.  “Hang on.  Let me start again.” She cleared her throat. “Good Sir Knight, you have rescued me.  Prithee take this – ” she snatched up a kerchief, “This token of my gratitude.”

The scruffy man gingerly plucked the kerchief from her outstretched hand, but made no move to cherish it.

“Um.  Perhaps you could also do me the favour of directing me to the treasure?”

“What treasure?”

“You know, the priceless treasure, found beyond the dark wood in a dragon-guarded castle?”

“I think that’s me.  I’m a princess, so you get the priceless treasure of true love.  And living happily ever after.  Theoretically…”  She wished he’d stop gaping at her.

“I was hoping for a golden harp or maybe a magical golden sword.”  He glanced about, as though hoping the chamber would reveal its secret stash of magical golden objects.

“What kind of knight are you?”

“No kind of knight at all – Monroe the Treasure Hunter, at your service,” he sketched a bow.  “Could we speed this up a bit?  I’d like to get out before the dragon wakes up.”

“You didn’t slay the dragon?  What’s wrong with you?!”

“I just happen to not like killing intelligent creatures unnecessarily.  I thought a princess would be less bloodthirsty.”

“Well you try living trapped alone for nine years, see how bloodthirsty you get.”  Tears built in her eyes.

“N-nine?” he stammered.

“YES, Nine!  I’ve been stuck in this stupid castle for nine years, and someone finally shows up and defeats the dragon – sort of – and he just wants some stupid gold sword, and now I’m probably going to have to wait here another nine years for a real knight to come along!”  Mara could feel the tears rolling down her cheeks and hated him for being witness to it.

Monroe was distinctly uncomfortable faced with tears. “Why don’t you just go home instead?  I’m sure your parents will understand, and I bet you’ll have loads more luck finding a husband if you’re living somewhere less isolated!”

“Leave?” she said, staring down at the gate.  She could see the dragon, collapsed across the stable yard and a crumbled section of the outer wall, snoring peacefully.  The decision was easy.  “Yes.  You’ll return me to my kingdom.”

“What? No.  I meant, you can leave, because the dragon is asleep, and go home… by yourself…which would probably lead to you getting killed by brigands,  or something.  Maybe you should just stay here.  I’m sure someone’ll come along… eventually.  If you leave now, you’ll remain cursed.”

“I’m not under a curse, my parents just wanted to find me a prince or knight to marry.  And I’m tired of waiting for him.  Take me home, and you’ll get your treasure.  My father has tons of gold,” she added.

His eyes lit up, and Mara knew she had him.  She rubbed her palms against her thighs in anticipation of the challenge.

Haven

This post is a response to Write on Edge’s Write at the Merge # 6 (stained glass, and the lyrics to Fun’s “Some nights”), and Trifecta’s word (Path – 3a : course, route  b : a way of life, conduct, or thought).

If you’re looking for some great short stories, I highly recommend checking them out by following the links below and reading a few of the other submissions.

Concrit always welcome, I hope you enjoy!

“Our path should take us through the high pass. That’s what all the records indicate.” Ruby alternated scowling down at the grubby map in her hands and the weathered building before them.

“I’m telling you, this is it. This is where it lead.”

“The map is supposed to take us to a Haven.” Ruby’s voice cracked and Jim moved to put a hand on her shoulder, only to have it slapped away.  “You must have read it wrong.”

“Let’s just go and check it out.”

“Fine.” she strode across the boulder-strewn yard and through the arched doorway, Jim trailing behind her. Halfway down the aisle, she snapped, “See, nothing but a church from the before-time.”

Jim walked past her, entranced at the sight of the stained glass mosaic rising up from the shadowy hall, lighting the motes of dust in fiery hues. “It’s fully intact! Can you believe it?”

“What are we supposed to do now, Jim?” Ruby barely glanced at the glass.

“How could it’ve survived for so long, unbroken? I mean, Ruby, have you ever seen anything like it?” Jim felt a painful squeeze at his heart, understanding now what his mother meant about the exquisit pain of seeing something truly beautiful with your own two eyes. “It’s just so much better than that picture in Mrs Em’s book, y’know?”

Ruby smacked Jim in the head. “You know what’s better than a bunch of glass? Surviving. How about you come back out of the clouds and focus in that, huh?”

“But Ruby -”

“We’ll find the right path in the morning. Do something useful for a change and break up some of those chairs for firewood.”

Jim sighed as his sister stormed out into the dying light of day.

“… how could stained glass still be whole without protection?”

“How, indeed?” The man at the pulpit had a cruel gleam in his eye.

The church doors crashed closed.

“Ruby?” Jim whispered, backing away from the red-lit man.

Crush

This week on Trifecta, the word was:

CRUSH (transitive verb)

1a : to squeeze or force by pressure so as to alter or destroy structure   b : to squeeze together into a mass
2   : hug, embrace

Head over to submit your own response, or read some other takes on the prompt.  There are some fantastic authors who submit weekly to the Trifecta challenge, and they’re always well worth the read.

This story is a continuation of the Which Witch series of stories.  It is pretty much entirely stand-alone, but you are certainly welcome to read back through the story pieces, by following the Fiction tab at the top of the page and clicking on the links under the title Which Witch.

I try to include a piece of artwork that I think goes with the story, and this week is no different.  Only I put it at the bottom of the story, because it’s not just me that thinks it goes with the story – my sister drew it, in response to reading this story ahead of time.  She didn’t even roll her eyes too much when I changed the original, accidental deadline of friday to “um, no seriously, you have to have it done Wednesday night, because I have to post it tomorrow”.  You can check her out at her blog, Drawn in and Quartered, or over at DeviantArt.  She doesn’t have too much of her personal artwork up on DeviantART yet, but I’m working on it – peer pressure is key!  This is one of my favourite pieces she’s done – it hangs on my wall, and when I eventually have the option of painting rooms in my own house, will likely the colour-inspiration of one of them.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I could totally kick her ass at drawing… when she was 4… and I was 10.  She claims it probably had something to do with the development of fine motor function, but that’s just a cop-out.  She’s just a sore loser.  What sibling rivalry?

Comments and critiques are always welcome, I hope you enjoy the story,

“GRAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

Agata clapped her hands over her ears as the howl reverberated down the canyon, followed by the distant thunder of landslides.  Dust from the ceiling settled on her meal.

Removing the hand cupped protectively over her own pint, the barbarian woman took a swig and continued, “There are some nasty beasties out there, Miss, so you really ought to hire on a guard to get through the pass.”

Gunilla brushed her short blonde hair back, the heavy musculature of her shoulder and arm rippling, and jerked her head towards the rest of the barbarians.  “And I suggest you hire me, ‘cause some of the lads have trouble hearing ‘no’ when they want to hear ‘yes’, if you know what I mean.”

Agata shuddered.  Such large, heavy-set men.  Such tiny loincloths.  Barbarians are quite barbaric, she decided, firmly averting her eyes from the manly display of body hair and scarring.

“What do you hear when you want to hear ‘yes’?”

Gunilla let loose a full-bellied laugh.  “Me?  Depends on how much I want to hear ‘yes’, I’d imagine.” She grinned and winked.  “But my tastes don’t lean towards scrawny pretty little things like you, eh!”  She produced a small painting of a statuesque woman wearing a horned hat and a bustier that left too little to the imagination.  The barbarian woman stroked the side of the picture in a surprising show of tenderness.  “My Vilhelmina is an opera singer!”

“Very nice.” Agata cleared her throat.  “So what is so dangerous in the pass?”

The inn-door burst off its hinges and slammed to the ground.  A gigantic figure shouldered its way into the room, towering with its one-eyed head amongst the rafters.

GRAGH CRUSH!” It swung its club down hard in a shower of dust that had once been a solid oak table.

“OGRE!” the barbarian woman yelled, sweeping Agata out of harm’s way.  Potential client safely stowed, she let out a berserker yell of her own and leapt to join the fray.

crush

<– Quack! ||

First Impressions

This week on Trifecta, the word was

DEATH
1a : a permanent cessation of all vital functions : the end of life
b : an instance of dying disease causing many deaths>
2a : the cause or occasion of loss of life
b : a cause of ruin <the slander that was death to my character — Wilkie Collins
3 capitalized : the destroyer of life represented usually as a skeleton with a scythe

I figured, with a prompt like that, how could I not dust off my imagination, stretch out my fingers and jump back into writing again.  Some of the other responses I’ve read so far are amazing – you should check them out, or submit your own!

This piece of art is called “The Playground Called Life”, and it’s a photomanipulation.  The artist’s name is Michael Vincent Manalo, and he’s from Manila, in the Phillippines.  All his artwork has a great surreal “There’s a cool story behind this” feel to it.  Check him out on DeviantART or at his website.

Nick gazed over his teacher’s shoulder at the dark figure at the front of the bus.

“We should postpone the trip. Looks like rain.”

“Take a seat, Mr. Ryan”

He took a seat next to a preppy-looking blonde, dread twisting his stomach.  I only lasted three days at this school, he thought, sourly.

Shadow shrouded the girl to the point that Nick couldn’t see her.

DID YOU HAVE AN ENJOYABLE THANKSGIVING, NICHOLAS?

Nick glared. The girl narrowed her eyes at him and snapped, “What?”

Why are you doing this?

I BEAR WITNESS FOR THESE OCCASIONS, NICHOLAS, I DO NOT CAUSE THEM. I REGRET THAT YOU ARE HERE TODAY.

Nick laughed bitterly.   His seatmate pressed herself back against the window.

IT IS GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

“Yeah, well, the feeling isn’t mutual.” The shadowy presence flickered briefly, And Nick found himself glaring at a girl whose presence he’d forgotten. He blushed. Said it aloud. Again. Awesome.

Nick could feel the grains of sand slipping one by one through the hour-glass.

Death stood, its darkness dissipating like smoke.

HOLD ON TIGHT.

Nick cranked his music up louder and wedged his body in between his seat and the next, knuckles white. Despairing, he called out, “Brace yourselves!”

Last time I move somewhere with cliffs, he vowed.

The bus snapped sideways, and existence narrowed to a roar of terror, crumpled metal and short-lived weightlessness.

Nick relaxed his grip on the seat and dropped to the bus roof. He blinked in surprise when a second metallic thud echoed through the silence. he girl took in the bloodied and crumpled forms of her classmates in mute horror.  She couldn’t see Death gently lifting their souls into its embrace.

Nick couldn’t take his eyes off her.

“How are you even alive?” he blurted out.

“Luck? Your timely warning?  How did you know what was going to happen?”

Death runs in the family, that’s how.

Warmth and colour seeped back in as Death departed.

“Women’s intuition?”

Gone Campin’

There is nothing I love so much as being in the woods.  The prospect of a trip north leaves me giddy and making lists, even if it’s just for a weekend.  Since Gwynn is back up north with my family, it’s doubly exciting to go up.  After all – what’s better than the woods?  Seeing one’s pooch for the first time in a week.

It might just be one of the most wonderful things… to be greeted with such absolute love and happiness.

This trip, I drove up with some friends of Doodle’s (and mine).  One advantage of this is that we actually got some photographs of the drive up!

Another is that K has a fancy camera, an artistic eye, and an enjoyment of taking pictures.  Any pictures with unusual colouring are definitely hers.  Other pictures, it’s probably equal chances being from my camera or hers.

Fiddling with colours…

… and artistic 🙂

It was considerably chillier up there than it has been most of the summer.  And rainy, though we lucked out with clear skies friday night, saturday morning, and sunday morning.

I’m kind of in love with her camera’s selective colour options

K & S … Doodle had to work on Sunday, unfortunately, so she missed out on hiking shenanigans

Gwynn found some puddles after all that rain

He’s very good at recall lately, and we practice a lot… still, on trails in this kind of woodland, I let him drag the long-line for short stretches, and call him back often.

We had a great trip, even with the rain.  Less fun… the trip home.

two lane undivided highway + Sunday afternoon cottage traffic + an accident closing the southbound lane = usually 4 hour drive extended to nearly 7… shoot me now.

a better picture to leave you with… sometimes Gwynn chickens out after he gets up on the rocks. Or his ‘getting up’ point is too close to a very long drop for my sanity.

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.”

Shiver


This week on Trifecta, the word is:

flight (noun)

1a : an act or instance of passing through the air by the use of wings

b : the ability to fly
2a : a passing through the air or through space outside the earth’s atmosphere

b : the distance covered in such a flightc : swift movement
3a : a trip made by or in an airplane or spacecraft

3b : a scheduled airplane trip

Follow the link to Trifecta to read more prompt responses or to submit your own!

This is a continuation of story, you can see the last one here.  Feedback is welcome – not to mention, opinions on whether you want to find out what’s next, or, please, for the love of all that is holy, Lexy, please move on from this trite and blah storyline, it bores me.

The picture below is… well… nothing like I’d really imagine in an old english house, but it is so cool and dark and just the right kind of ominous.  Even better, it’s probably the kind of staircase 99% of people walk past without seeing, but this guy saw the potential in it.  It’s a photomanipulation by artist Jakub Kubica from Poland.  Check him out on DeviantART, or his blog, there are some really great photographs, altered and unaltered.  Poland is officially on my ‘places to visit’ list – there are some very cool looking buildings and bridges there, though for now I’ll settle for seeing them through the lens of Jakub Kubica.

Rachel jerked her hand back from the smouldering wood, surprise breaking through the remembered terror of the dream and dousing the fire.  Chelsea’s eyes were wide and frightened, pressed against the wall.

“I-“ an icy spray of water hit her square in the face.  The tousle-haired boy playing fireman proceeded to douse her chest and arm in the attempt to put out the banister.

Chelsea choked back a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snicker.  “You can probably stop now, Reggie.”

Rachel glared in silence at her attacker, trying hard to keep in mind that this other cousin was about 10, and therefore an inappropriate audience for the swearing she wanted to do.  Some of it must have come across in her eye, however, because he snatched a towel to hold out, half peace offering, half barrier against her wrath.  The showerhead vanished with a guilty clatter.

“So… how was your flight?”  The scrawny boy peered at her, sparrow-like, shifting his feet as though prepared for flight.

Rachel shifted her weight with a squelch of carpeting, and carefully pushed some damp hair out of her face.  Her lips twitched as she struggled against the laughter that bubbled forth.  She dabbed her face with the towel, and replied, “It was good.  I didn’t expect England to be so wet, though.”

The answering grin on her cousin’s face was cut off abruptly as he looked down the staircase.

Chelsea brushed past her.

“Caleb!” she squealed, throwing her arms around the neck of the gorgeous newcomer.  His golden brown hair fell across a California tanned face with twinkling blue eyes and an easy grin.  His smile grew broader as their eyes met over Chelsea’s head.

“You must be Chelsea’s cousin from over the pond?  I hope you didn’t swim all that way.”

Rachel smiled in response, tamping down the swell of irrational terror.  Jet lag must be kicking in for those beautiful eyes to have seemed so very cold for a moment, leftovers from the dream

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.

Kick Me


The thing about writing is that it really does take practice – even more so when it’s the kind of writing with word limits.  I’m feeling a bit like the tinman, my write brain sitting dormant and rusty for a few months, creaking painfully as I try to get back into the swing of things.

This week on Trifecta, the word is:

FIREWORKS (noun)

1: a device for producing a striking display by the combustion of explosive or flammable compositions

2: plural a display of fireworks

3: plural
a : display of temper or intense conflict

b : a spectacular display <the fireworks of autumn leaves>

This is a continuation of the story Which Witch, the rest of which you can find in my Fiction tab.

The photos below are of a piece of paper art by Su Blackwell.  She does book sculptures, as well as installations such as this, and it is hard to believe it’s just made of cut paper.  It’s magical, like the words leapt off the page to show you the story within.

“You don’t WHAT?!

Agata stared, flabbergasted, at the old man seated across the broad mahogany desk, his liver-spotted hands steepled, his wrinkled face calm and solemn.

He raised an eyebrow slightly at her tone of voice, and repeated in a crisp accent, “We do not accept young ladies in this program, madam.”

“You don’t accept witches into your school of witchcraft?” she heard the shrillness of her own voice and winced internally.

“We do not accept ladies into our school of the Arcane Arts.  It is simply too esoteric and complex a field of matter for a woman to benefit from.  We would be glad to consider your admission into our poetry and languages department, however.”

The papers stacked neatly on the desk fluttered.

“Too complex?” she snarled, leaning over the desk as the inkwell rattled.  “You don’t teach magic to women because we’re what? Incapable of performing spells?”

“Not incapable, Madam, simply too flighty and emotional.”  He carefully caught a pen as it rolled across the glossy desk and set it in a stand.  “Not to mention, prone to hysterics.”

Agata threw her hands up in disgust and stormed out, slamming the door behind her.

The old man waited for her steps to fade and rang a bell.  “Bradley,” he said to the nervous young man who answered, “Have someone sent up to tidy my office.  I’ll have a cognac and my pipe in the library today.”

Bradley stared, wide-eyed at the winter-scene in the office.  A thick layer of perfectly formed tiny paper snowflakes coated the entire room, including the head and shoulders of the Headmaster of Arcane Arts.

“W-what happened?” he stammered.

“The young lady was somewhat put-out.”

“Your pens are stuck in the ceiling plaster, Headmaster.”

“Yes, quite a display of fireworks.  For a member of the weaker sex.”  The Headmaster brushed the paper from the shoulders of his dark suit.  “My pipe, Bradley.”

The old man walked out, cane in hand, KICK ME sewn neatly into his suit-back.