A Big Change

I found a new prompt!  For me, anyways.  Check it out inspiration monday!

If this isn’t a prompt destined for dragons, I don’t know what is. An interesting thing to stumble upon immediately after my previous post – obviously someone’s got plans for my writing, but I like it, so that’s ok.

I’m going to take the ‘no rules, seriously’ side of ‘the rules’, because my story ran through that 200-500 words and then just kept going.

I used the prompt phrase: Skin and Scales.

*****

“Who are you talking to, honey?”

Lydia glanced up from the animated conversation she’d been holding with thin air on the back porch. “Fred.”

An imaginary friend? Marsha exchanged a glance with her husband. This wasn’t exactly normal for a thirteen year old.

“On the phone?” John asked, hopeful. Phones are normal.

“No.”

“Is Fred… is Fred sitting in front of you?”

Lydia gave her parents a look that clearly questioned their sanity. “Of course not.”

“Then… where is he?”

“Well, firstly, Fred’s a she, DUH,” Lydia said, proving her mastery of the expected teenager snark. “And secondly, also obviously, she’s talking in my head.”

“… Oooh…” her concerned parents replied in unison. “And… and what is she talking about?”

“The change.”

“What change?”

Their daughter smiled, an eerie heat in her eyes. “I will be forged in skin and scale.”

The child psychologist agreed that this was, indeed, unusual behaviour. Marsha and John decided to leave out the last bit. No need to make her seem too strange.

***

“When did Fred first start visiting you, Lydia?” The mousy man asked, his soft voice meant to engage children and make them feel safe.

“She showed up last month.” When the psychologist just waited, she added with an eye-roll, “And hasn’t left. Why would she?”

“And what do you two talk about?”

“What to expect, mostly. And aerospace engineering.”

Doctor Williams had heard a lot of strange things, but this was certainly unique. He forced himself to focus on the first part. “What to expect?”

“I’m thirteen, Dr Williams,” Lydia condescended. “I’m going through changes.”

“Puberty?”

“Sure, that too.”

“And… does it worry you?”

“Well I can’t say I was expecting it, but I’m more excited than worried. It helps that Fred came early to talk me through it.”

Dr Williams crossed his legs uncomfortably. “Don’t you feel comfortable talking to your parents about this? These changes, I mean? What insight does Fred have?”

“This is a bit outside of my parents’ experience. Why talk to them when I can talk to a professional?”

“What role does the aerospace engineering play in puberty?”

Lydia gave him a wide eyed look. “None, I hope. Aren’t you supposed to know these things? You’re a doctor.”

“Then why are you talking about it with Fred?” the doctor asked, bewildered.

“I’m thirteen, I’m going through changes.”

“What changes?!” The little girl was too self posessed – it was like talking to an adult who was doing his best to confound his psychiatrist, but it was just a little girl, giving him dribbles of meaningless information.

“I will be forged in skin and scale.” Lydia’s eyes flashed red, and the doctor flinched.

He dabbed anxiously at his sweaty brow and swallowed his growing discomfort. This was a little girl, nothing to be afraid of.

“What… what do you mean by that?”

After a long and thoughtful pause, Lydia shrugged and smiled. “I’m thirteen, I’m going through changes.”

***

Lydia ran a high fever for over a week. Any attempt by her parents to take her to the emergency room was met with a snarled no and an unnerving glare. Her eyes gleamed in the light from the open door when her parents looked in on her late one evening.

“Like cat eyes,” Marsha muttered, fretfully pulling balls off her sweater. It was the middle of winter, but they couldn’t seem to get the house temperature below 30C. Marsha sweated through her knitwear in a firm act of denial that anything odd was going on.

“What was that, hon?” John changed into shorts and a tank top the moment he came home from work. He shivered constantly in his office, unused to the cooler air. He tread lightly around both his wife and daughter. The former wound so tight he worried she’d snap, the latter bubbling over with restless energy, like a caged tiger.

“Nothing. She’s awake.” Marsha continued to fidget with her sleeves, watching her daughter’s shadowy form out of the corner of her eye.

“… yeah,” John sighed. “Heya kiddo. How are you feeling?” He flicked on the light in the room and stepped into the dry heat.

“Good,” Lydia rasped, “Gooood” She spoke with a sibilant hiss to her tone. Her hair was matted and damp against her brow, her eyes unfamiliar and restless.

“It sure is warm in here.”

“Heat is… gooood.”

“We’re worried about you, kiddo. What’s happening?”

“I will be forged in skin and scale.”

“Is that dangerous?”

“Not for me.” Lydia’s eyes focused on the here and now for a moment and her brow creased in worry. “I think I should probably go away until it’s over.”

“Away where?”

“The mountains.”

Her parents exchanged worried looks. Finally, her mother asked, “Is that what Fred says?”, in her first acknowledgement of her daughter’s strange new friend. Or whatever it was.

“She says only if I like you.” Lydia lurched to her feet and gave her parents a considering look. “And I do, so… could you give me a lift?”

***

John and Marsha were unprepared for this new development in child-rearing. They had packed their daughter a sleeping bag and tent, a pile of protein bars, chocolates and fruit roll up snacks, and a change of clothes. They argued over what food their daughter ought to bring, but in the end, decided that they preferred to leave her wired on sugar than teach her how to use a stove while also suffering from… something.

When they dropped her off at the head of the most isolated trail they could find – the parking lot was empty, thankfully – she was burning up. Marsha leaned in for a hug and got her hand scalded when she tried to feel Lydia’s forehead one last time.

She smiled at them, the same old smile she’d always had, but more… toothy… and trotted off into the woods like she wasn’t running a fever that ought to have put her in the hospital and was just off to a friend’s house for a sleepover.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Marsha said.

They sat in the front seats of the family van, staring into the darkness in uncomfortable silence. Had they really just let their baby wander off into the woods alone?

“Should we go after her?” John whispered around midnight. “This is crazy. She’s sick.” He reached to unlock his door.

At that moment the ground beneath the van rumbled ominously. Tree branches fell on the hood and in the distance they could hear the clatter of tree trunks crashing down to the forest floor. The rumble eventually stopped and John and Marsha sat very still, their animal instincts screaming danger.

The sky glowed red and indigo in the distance.

Marsha reached over and squeezed her husband’s hand. “I think we should listen to Fred.”

***

John and Marsha’s weariness had overcome wariness sometime around dawn. They didn’t walk down the trail as they’d planned, so they didn’t see their daughter walk down the trail stark naked and steaming in the cold winter air, pause beside a bush about 50 m from the trail head and pull out the gear bag she’d left behind, and don the change of clothing. She ate three chocolate bars and a fruit roll up, wrapper and all. She also, as an afterthought, ate one of the metal tent pegs and found it agreeable.

Lydia’s knock startled her parents awake. They rushed out like they hadn’t seen her in years instead of merely a day. They were thrilled to see her acting her usual self. Maybe this was all it would take to get their baby back.

“Well, kiddo? How was it? Were you warm enough?” John smiled down at his daughter. He casually checked her forehead and confirmed that the fever was gone, draping an arm over her shoulder at the same time. He squeezed his wife on his other side and enjoyed the feeling of having his family in his arms.

“Yes. I made the lake boil, but I chose one that only gets melt runoff, so I didn’t kill any fish.”

Only John’s arm around her kept Marsha from hitting the ground.

“That’s … super, kiddo. Just super. How about all that junk food, eh?” John decided his wife’s state of delusion seemed like a nice place to be.

“I ate a grizzly bear.”

Marsha chuckled weakly, pulling herself upright and plucking at the balls on her sweater. “Well that’s lovely, dear. Does that mean you’re too full for pizza?”

As Young as you Feel

Master Class is mixing things up, and doing a somewhat elaborate month-long challenge in which you get to pick and choose from a variety of challenges that will update regularly.  The one-word challenge of the first week is:

Hooligan

It’s such a great word, how could I resist?  click on the link below to go to the page and read the other submissions or post your own!

“Mildred!  If anyone asks, I been out here with you all day!”  Ernie cackled delightedly and pushed the screen door shut with his cane.  He had a newspaper under his arm and two beers.

His wife of sixty-three years was weeding the vegetable garden.  It was a strange garden, with stout banisters  running between the rows.  Their son had patronizingly explained wireless technology to his poor backwards mam when she’d asked how he liked his provider, and, since getting her set up with the device, had received  cellphone calls from across town to ‘help his poor old mamma up from her gardening’. Mysteriously, and entirely unconnected to the fact that he had accidentally made his Outlook Calendar public to his contacts, he was always on his way in for a massage when she called.  He built the fences so that Mildred could pull herself up, and she had thanked him profusely, eyes twinkling.  They made excellent trellises.

Mildred joined Ernie in the shade of their porch.

“Heya toots,” Ernie deposited a sound kiss on her lips and offered up the bottles, “Give us a hand?”

“Your damned arthritis, what good are you anymore?” she chortled, popping the caps off the two beers with a sharp tap to the edge of their cinder-block table.  “What have you really been up to, you old hooligan?”

“Me?  Why, I’m just a feeble old codger.” Ernie took a swig of his beer.  “Not much could get up to, is there?  But might be that the dog walker who called you an ugly old witch and doesn’t pick up after his dogs left his van windows cracked.  And on a completely unrelated note, I cleaned up our front lawn and all down the street, kindly soul that I am.”

“Kind indeed – cheers to being so old that we couldn’t possible have done anything wrong!”

SciFriday 1 – Commute

This piece is called Tracks, by Sandara. Click the image to go and check out more of her work.

Travelling the abandoned byways of this, the ancient home of our foolish godly ancestors, I curse my own foolishness.  The ghostly silence groans with concrete and steel losing to gravity and time.  

The rumbling coo of pigeons  is nerve-wracking.  Massive and wily as they are, my best chance is to take advantage of their poor eyesight – move slowly, steadily.   

My camel’s metal claw rings against buried rail and the birds hone in on the noise.

Next station’s in 2km.  I can see their evil red eyes gleaming.  Too far.

Ducking under the bot’s torso and pulling out my bow, I scan the horizon and pray.

When the first enormous rat bites into my calf, I’m ready with a knife.  Commuting downtown really is deadly.

***

Chris White Writes put out a photo prompt today, more specifically, a sci fi prompt.  I love reading sci fi, but I’ve got to say, it’s not my strong suit.  What better way to improve than by practising, though, eh?

Click the picture to check out the artist, or go to Chris White Writes to submit your own prompt response and read other submissions!

Trifecta: Guilty Pleasures

This week’s trifecta writing challenge required us to incorporate the following word into a story under 333 words in length.  click the Trifecta badge to go to their site and check out other submissions, or submit your own!

MANIPULATE (transitive verb)

1: to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner
2a : to manage or utilize skillfully
b : to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage
3: to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose : to doctor
I’ve been thinking a lot about just how processed food is, lately.  Quinoa in a cookie = healthy cookie, no matter how many other, unpronounceable ingredients it has, and it is amazing what you can do to eliminate the health benefits of kale (and make it taste delicious, too!).  Organic seems almost synonymous with healthy, and that gluten-free brownie must be better for you than the plain old contains-flour brownie on the other shelf.  Vegetable juice certainly sounds healthy until you notice the salt content, and gummies are packed with ‘real fruit juice’.  We brandish these labels of healthful, non-fat, zero calorie and pro-biotic to argue that the sweet potato chips (deep fried in coconut oil), vanilla bean cake (made with real vanilla bean!  fair trade!  and no gluten!) and fried chicken (free run) are actually good for us.  I’m not trying to say what is or isn’t actually healthy, but really, what might the future hold?

Salesgirls and boys trolled the aisles.  Their slinky outfits and razor-sharp smiles stood out starkly from the burqas of the shoppers, indecent and unavoidable.

Their bold, kohl-lined eyes seemed to stare right through the anonymous shroud of his face veil.

Sensing easy prey, one undulated over to him, her perfectly manicured hand balancing a delicate tray laden with brussels sprouts.  Darting around her would be an unforgivable rudeness, so Mark stopped, sweaty hands clutching his basket like a shield.

The girl leaned close with a predatory smile.  “You,” she purred, “are going to just love what I have on offer today.”

Mark swallowed convulsively, barely keeping from recoiling from the invasion of his private space.  “Brussels sprouts?  I’m getting broccoli today, thanks.”

“Oh, but these are something you’ve never experienced before, sir,” she replied, bringing one to her nose and inhaling deeply.  “Zero nutritional value, high in fat, sodium and calories, we manipulate our  OINK! pork rinds so you can enjoy your guilty pleasures with none of the guilt and all of the pleasure.”  she plucked a single leaf and placed it on her tongue with an indecent moan.

Mark licked his lips and wondered if the salesgirls’ tactics made women as uncomfortable as they made him.  He knew, absolutely knew, that he didn’t like pork products.  That his contractual partner of two years, Cara, didn’t like pork products.  Faced with an equally anonymous fellow citizen, he could have shrugged off her offer and been on his way with little social interaction.  The citizen would never be standing within his government recommended 1.5 metre diameter column of personal space, practically naked in a translucent sheath dress, either.  She smelled of synth-sexual-hormones and bacon.  More manipulation, but knowing didn’t help.

If he bought them, she’d leave him alone.

***

Cara saw his purchases and sighed.  She pulled an identical package, half-empty, from the pantry.  “I’ve been feeding them to the dog,” she said.

Mark smiled  and replied.  “I bet he’s experiencing all of the pleasure, with none of the guilt, too.”

Write On Edge and Trifecta: It Could Happen

This week, I’m combining the Write on Edge and Trifecta Writing prompts.  Click on the above pictures to take you to one or the other of the sites for this week’s linkup.  Read some of the other submissions, or submit your own, or both.  It’s always interesting to see the many and varied stories that come from the same prompt.

From Trifecta, the following word, whose third definition is to be used in a response between 33 and 333 words:

QUAINT (adjective)

1:  obsolete:  EXPERT, SKILLED
2a:  marked by skillful design <quaint with many a device in India ink — Herman Melville>
b:  marked by beauty or elegance
3a : unusual or different in character or appearance :  ODD
  b : pleasingly or strikingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar <a quaint phrase>

From Write on Edge, we have a quote and a picture to use as inspiration, in any way we choose:

Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts.”

~ Salman Rushdie

Image courtesy of Unsplash.
image courtesy of Unsplash, click the picture to go to the site

Shoulders hunched, eyes flitting from object to object, flinching from sudden movement, Jeremy couldn’t help but to slink down the city sidewalks.

The pedestrian sign flashed 30…29… System malfunction, opposite light turns green before walk flashed to hand, the screech of tires as a truck speeding down the street tried to stop, failed, the gasps of horror from onlookers, last thing I hear before the agony of impact.  It could happen.  He licked his lips and waited while others crossed.

A couple came up alongside him.  Their dog sat wagging and grinning at her side.  She caught him staring out of the corner of his eye and smiled.  “He’s quite friendly, you can pet him if you’d like.”

Friendly dog, until I reach to pet him and he jumps up, teeth tearing at my face, hanging on, horrible horrible sensation of weight in his face, hot blood dripping down.  It could happen. Jeremy rolled horrified eyes up to the woman’s, shuddered and jerked his head no.  

A man walked towards him on the sidewalk, hands tucked deep into the pockets of his trenchcoat… pulls out the gun hidden there, I don’t give him my money fast enough, it’s not enough, and an explosion of pain blossoming from the center of my chest, it could happen.  Jeremy plastered himself against the brick and flinched away.

Pidgeons… the plague.  

Fire escape… stairs loose abruptly and collapse on top of me, bones crunching.

Jeremy escaped to the new terrors to be found in the grocery store, bought the food least likely to kill him.

“Hey buddy, wanna try our new granola bar?”

Sudden onset of peanut allergy, choking hazard, contamination, “No!”

The man hawking death-bars grinned.  “Come on, buddy, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Eyes darting between deaths around him, Jeremy barked out a bitter laugh.  “Your world seems so quaint.”  He clutched his purchases tight and escaped, keeping an eye on the shelves that might crush him.

“And yours, so small!” the man replied.

Walk out to Winter

Tamnen slipped silently through the woods, the sound of his steps muffled by the snow.  The trees were frosted white, each leafless limb delicately outlined, each plump conifer draped in a glowing blanket.  The moonlight caught on each snowflake as it fell, a disco-ball of iridescence.

If he weren’t so distracted by the cold, he might have been able to appreciated the evening’s beauty.

“All a scarf really does,” he huffed, breath misting, “Is remind you that your head and torso are naked.  What the hell kind of tradition is it, really?  Might have been practical back in Greece, but I doubt our ancestors would have trotted about this exposed to the elements they’d had to experience frostbitten nipples.”

It was useless, of course.  He’d tried the same argument, minus the reference to nipples, with his father that very morning, but it was hard to have a proper debate when your opponent’s only response was a growled, “This is the way it has always been, and always will be.”

Tamnen supposed he ought to be grateful Tumnus and leave it at that – before that Lewis fellow’s chance encounter in the woods, even the scarf would have been ‘an affront to the ways of our ancestors!’  Tamnen wondered if Tumnus’ father had been as obsessed with keeping to the old ways.

a sketch done by my long-suffering sister who tolerates my random requests for drawings with grace.  Fun fact - if you ask someone to draw you a faun, they will, at first, assume 'baby deer'.
a sketch done by my long-suffering sister, Doodle, who tolerates my random requests for drawings with grace. Fun fact – if you ask someone to draw you a faun, they will, at first, assume ‘baby deer’.

His own father had been too outraged at Tamnen’s temerity at comparing himself to the great Tumnus to give any real answer.  It seemed to Tamnen, however, that the great Tumnus had had the temerity to be caught out by a human, and was only revered because his image, wearing non-traditional clothing, had been inscribed into children’s books everywhere, the first of their kind  not depicted as naked.

An unexpected dip in the ground sent him tumbling into deep snow with a loud yelp.  He leapt to his feet, brushing frantically at the clumps of snow clinging to the hair on his chest and head, his entire body trembling with cold.

He snapped his scarf out a few times, cursing, to shake the cold from his only protective covering.

The muffled silence of the woodlands was broken by a surprised gasp.  Tamnen whirled with a yelp of alarm, tripped and tipped back into the snow with only a momentary glimpse of a red hat, brown ringlets and a pair of wide blue eyes framed by icy branches.

“OH!  Oh my gosh, are you ok?”  the rapid-paced crunch of snow under boot grew closer, interspersed by the whoosh of her breath as she stumbled through the undergrowth.  Even as Tamnen scrambled out of the shallow defile, his skin bright pink with cold, her mitten-clad hand closed around his arm and pulled.  They tumbled down into the snow, and once again, Tamnen found himself covered, scrambling to his feet and shivering.  He reached out and hauled the girl to her feet before shaking himself off.

Steadying herself on his arm, her eyes widened, taking him in.  “Oh. My. Gosh.”

Uh Oh, Tamnen thought.  Is not being seen rule one, or is freezing one’s ass off in honor of the ancestors?

“You must be freezing!  What do you think you’re doing out here with no shirt on?”  She yanked a mitt off and tossed it aside, pressing her plump hand against his chest.  “You’re cold as ice! Hang on.”

The girl stripped off her thick coat and shoved it at him.  Hardly daring to believe his luck, Tamnen slipped it awkwardly around himself, the residual heat from her body shrouding him delightfully in warmth and the summery smell of peaches.  He surrpetitiously shuffled a few steps until the snow came up to about the girl’s knee level.

“I’m Amanda,” she said, gesturing impatiently for him to lower his head.  He obliged and she plunked her hat down on his curly hair, pulling it down as far as it would go.  Tamnen re-adjusted it, tucking his ears safely out of sight.

Amanda stared at him expectantly, their breath clouding out between them, her cable-knit-sweater pulled tightly closed.  “Well?” she demanded.

“Um, Tamnen.”  Tamnen said, rubbing his arms through the delightful wool of the coat.  Amazing, absolutely amazing.  It’s like having upper body fur.

“Well, ummmTamnen, that answers one question, but more importantly, why are you wandering around in the woods at night, in the winter, and naked?”

“I have a scarf,” he offered weakly.  “And what are you doing out here so late?”

She lifted the camera that hung around her neck. “And weird fur-pants, yeah, I can see that.  Not exactly winter appropriate, though, is it?”

“Right?!” Tamnen exclaimed, happy to hear someone finally agree with him.  “It’s ridiculous – it’s winter, below zero, snowing!  and yet, we go around dressed in the traditional garb of our ancestors, ancestors who never experienced anything like this kind of cold!” his voice deepened in an immitation of his father, “This is how our ancestors dressed, who are you to think you’re better than generations of Fau-” his voice cracked, “F-fausts before us?”

Amanda hadn’t paid attention to his slip-up, however, her eyes were locked on the hard-packed snow patch he’d created with his energetic pacing.

“Ohmygosh!” she gasped, one mitten-clad hand pressed against her mouth, the other pointed at his completely visible cloven hooves.

“Um…”  Tamnen wracked his mind for an explanation.  A hand raked through his hair pulled the hat loose, to further delighted exclamation from Amanda.  The small horns previously hidden by hair were now poking through.

“Ohmygosh, no-one will ever believe this!  It’s like I’m in freaking NARNIA!  Are you real?!”  Amanda did a little jig of excitement.

Narnia, Tamnen thought, suddenly feeling elated.  His ears perked up, and Amanda squealed excitedly.

who am I to not emulate the great Tumnus?  Tamnen smiled, and said, “Haven’t you ever heard the expression, a picture’s worth a thousand words’?  And… can I borrow your gloves too?”

Check doodle out on DeviantArt or on her infrequently updated blog, DrawninandQuartered
Check doodle out on DeviantArt or on her infrequently updated blog, DrawninandQuartered

***

My goal this year is to write more fiction than just prompts.  Prompts are great, but they don’t often open you up to going over 500ish words.  I like including pictures that either (as now) were drawn particularly for my story, or that I see and either inspire a story or suit it.  So if you want me to write something inspired by your artwork… drop me a line (in comments, or at lexy3587 (at) gmail (dot) com).  I love a good challenge, and having your art featured on my blog will lead to fame and fortune… or at least fame… or some renown… amongst the people who read my blog.  The important thing is getting your art out there, really.  

Write On Edge: The Road Ahead

  Write on Edge this week provided a quote and a photo, and I decided to use both for my response to the prompt.  click the link above to go to the prompt page.  Submit your own story (500 words or less), or read some of the other responses.  The quote and image are below.  The picture, I have to say, gives me the willies.  There was a time that farmed lumber could be planted in neat and tidy rows.  It isn’t allowed any more in Canada (I think, anyways), but there are a few such old plantings you might walk through in provincial or national parks – it gives you the oddest sense of wrongness, as every tree in all directions abruptly lines itself up perfectly with every other step you take.  That’s what the prompt this week reminds me of.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”~ L. P. Hartley: The Go-Between (1953)

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

“The past is a foreign country.”  Marta smiled smugly down at her sister from her perch on the wagon seat.

Natalka scowled and stomped her foot.  “That doesn’t even mean anything!  When you were my age, you got to go to market with Papa, it’s unfair!”

Gregor swung her up in a bear-hug.  “Oh, my little girl, the woods are much darker and more dangerous than they were back then.” he said, “You’ll stay here and keep your mama safe, eh?”  He set her down and swung easily into the driver’s seat and gathered up the reins.  “Remember the rule, my lovely?”

Natalka rolled her eyes and sullenly replied, “always stay behind the fence.”

“Good girl.”  He set the massive draft horses off with a flick and a shout.  As the wagon rumbled through the gate, Marta leaned out of the wagon and stuck her tongue out at her younger sister.

***

Natalka hummed to herself, winding her way through the woods and picking a bouquet of wild flowers.  Intent on finding just the right one to complete her bouquet, she hardly noticed the fence until she hit upon it.  She scowled through the wooden bars, at woodland that looked just like the woodland on her side, but more… something.  There were the same types of trees, the same ferns and shrubs and vines.  The same squirrels and mice rustled the underbrush, the same birds fluttered above, though none would cross the fence.  

And yet, in comparison, the world within the fence seemed drab and gray.  Natalka sighed and chucked a branch over the fence.  Even it seemed more… something… there.

Off in the distance, she heard her name.  Forgetting her anger at being left behind, Natalka squealed in delight at her father’s early return and turned towards the house.

His voice again, calling her name, but this time clearer, and more clearly coming from behind her.  Natalka peered through the slats at the greenery on the other side.  In the distance, she could just make out the road to town, and on it, an occasional glimpse of the cart.

“I’m coming, Papa!”Natalka laughed and slipped through the slats.  She ran through the underbrush, towards his booming laugh.  She was breathless and flush when she stumbled out into the roadway, empty but for a path of logs laid out in a perfectly delightful wave.  Perfect for a little girl to balance on while dreaming of daring adventures.  Her papa called again, and she hopped onto the logs and skipped off in search of him.

***

Marta cried and struggled as she was dragged back to the house.  “I can hear her!  She’s just over there!” she shrieked, clawing at the strong arms wrapped around her.

He set her down gently.  “You only hear what you wish to hear, my little one.  You mustn’t follow the voices, you’d break your mother’s heart.”  Fat tears trickled into his beard.  “Losing you both is more than I could bear.”

Trifecta 109 – A Mickey Mouse Breakfast

WHATEVER
1.   (pronoun)
a: anything or everything that
b: no matter what : regardless of what
Used in questions that express surprise or confusion
2.   (adjective) a: all the
b: any ; any … that
Used to refer to something that is not known
3.   (adverb) Used to show that something is not important

***

“I’ve been reading up on this new two-dee trend – I don’t like it.”

“Ugh, You’re so lame.”

“More of your late 20th century colloquialisms, Minnie?  Couldn’t you have chosen a better rebellion phase to go through?  When I was your age, we went  Twenties – called ourselves Betties, after a chef who wore material derived from mollusks as jewelery. Much more attractive than that.”  Mika Souris flicked a dismissive hand at her daughter’s attire – a stiff blue jacket over a retro Britney Spears concert tee-shirt, neon pink plaid button-down tied around the waist of her striped leggings.

“Whatever, mother.  You’ll totally never understand what it’s like to be a nineties kid.” Minnie rolled her eyes and sneered.

“It’s the 30th century, darling.  These nineties people you so admire had to use static devices to primitively uplink.  And attend archaic educational institutions whose normative procedures restricted their effectiveness.  You can hardly stay downlinked long enough for breakfast.”  She snapped her fingers in front of her daughter’s eyes, recognising the blankness in them for her daughter’s uplinking.  “Let alone an entire educational session, as these people did.  What has you so rapt?”

“It’s a nineties serial drama, and it’s amazing.”  Minnie tried to uplink again, but her mother caught her by one baggy sleeve.

Mika sighed. “At least choose a 3D mod for it – I can’t imagine they’re able to bring something that old all the way up to senso-dimensional quality, but this flat-viewing silliness might mess with your sensory input functions.  You don’t want to fry your up-circut like poor Don Ente, do you?”

“Ugh, mother, Mister Ente downlinked a virus.  And Feeny is totally two dimensional.”  Minnie sighed dreamily and added, “I want you to call me Topanga from now on.”

Willa rolled her eyes.  “Fine.  Finish your cereal… and your serial,” she added grudgingly, “and then I want to see you clock at least forty minutes of educational processes before the next meal.”

Master Class – The Sisters

I’m linking up with Master Class this week, with the prompt:

click the picture to go over to the Master Class page and add your own take on the prompt, or to read others.  The requirement was that this not be the first or last line of the story.

***

My father was a poor man, rich in children.  His oldest daughter he gave to a wealthy man three times her age for a hefty sum, her twin apprenticed to the thatcher down the road for a lifetime of roof repairs.

My father could have gained more profit from me elsewhere, as I was quite a pretty child, but the Sisters demanded me in payment for their service.  Of two things you could be sure – the Sisters would help any who asked, and they would be paid.  You didn’t survive leaving a debt to the Sisters unpaid, and you didn’t die quickly if you tried.

I remember fearing them, with their long dark robes, swaths of shadowy cloth obscuring their faces.  They could not possibly see through that heavy black linen, and yet they moved gracefully as dancers through the narrow halls of their home, efficient and completely aware of their surroundings.  I can now see the nuance, tell them apart and read what their intent is.  Though nameless and silent, I can see that this Sister is the one who set the farmer’s bone in exchange for his only chicken, and that Sister cured the Magistrate’s cancer in exchange for his manhood.  Payment is always exacted, and always something the debtor can pay, even if they would rather not.

I was a servant, though they treated me with the same kindly indifference they provided to all.  I was well-fed and -clothed, and while my work was difficult, I slept on a soft pallet in a cool room.  I was contented with my lot in life, a pale ghost drifting through the dark halls of the Sisters, silent and obedient.

My place with the Sisters changed the summer I turned sixteen, a man’s age.

And so here are the aromas that conjure for me the beginning of the end: burning wood, sweat, and peppermint, because that’s the oil she put in the diffuser.  I spent a night with her, and forever more, I was a servant to the sisters, though also more.

My father came to the Sisters when his dimming sight had made it near-impossible to sew the tiny stitches required of a tailor.  He was offered a trade.  He grudgingly accepted the terms, and turned back to home without my guiding hand.

Ten years later, the air full of smoke, I watched in bewilderment as the heavy cloth fell aside, revealing soft skin as pale as moonlight, impossibly beautiful, and inhumanly long and thin.  She cast off her gloves, thin hands tipped with razor sharp claws, then drew back her mask, and I could only gape at the beautiful monster before me, cat-eyes glowing in the flickering torchlight, Cheshire smile jagged with pointed teeth.  Her auburn hair trailed to her feet, and as she mounted me, its silken waves caressed me like fingers.

The Sisters trade for what they require.  On occasion, they had need of a laying hen, or a new goat, though what they required of the magistrate’s manhood, apart from retribution for his evil deeds, I know not.  Of my father, they required a man, and, in time, his debt was paid.

A Temporary Trip

 This week on Trifecta’s writing challenge, the word is:

 1usually zombi
 a :  the supernatural power that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body
 b :  a will-less and speechless human in the West Indies capable only of automatic movement who is held to have died and been supernaturally reanimated
 b :  a person markedly strange in appearance or behavior
2a :  a person held to resemble the so-called walking dead;especially :  automaton

Their rules are simple – 33 to 333 words, use the third definition of the word.  Head on over to submit your own work, or read some other takes on the challenge.  And now I’ve updated mine to put back in all the paragraphs that wordpress apparently decided were unnecessary for my story.  weird.

This photo was taken by Ryan Hyde, and shared on Flikr.  Click on the image to follow the link back to his page and check out some of his other work.
This photo was taken by Ryan Hyde, and shared on Flikr. Click on the image to follow the link back to his page and check out some of his other work.

Jeannie sloshed her drink as she stumbled through the crowd.

He swore as the cold liquid seeped into his shirt. “Jeez, I am so sorry!”  She shouted over the pounding music.

“Hello, Jeannie.” “I’m not Jeannie, I’m –“ She paused and tugged the hem of her skirt down, revealing more cleavage in the process, “SUPER-hic… Supergirl!  Who are you?

“I’m a reaper.” Jeannie tugged the neckline of her costume up. “Great costume,” she slurred disdainfully, taking in his jeans, shabby suit jacket and ancient converse.

“I’m working.  I think a costume would be kind of tacky.”

“Whatever, grim reaper.

“Not the Grim Reaper, just a reaper.”

“Whatever.”  Jeannie stumbled, jostled by the crowd.  When he steadied her she smiled and sloshed more of her drink on his arm with her over enthusiastic salute.  She leaned in, smiling flirtatiously.  “Thanks.  I’m so trashed right now, I’m probably eighty percent zombie, you know?”

He wrinkled his nose at the sickly sweet of her breath.  “I know.”

“Wanna get out of here?  I could use some fresh air.”

“Yes.” Jeannie giggled and grabbed him by the hand.  They wove through the crowded yard under orange and green twinkle lights, through the black streamers hung at the gate, past the incredibly drunk hulk dry heaving in the bushes, past female Woody and a maskless gorilla making out on the front porch and out into the relative quiet of the street.

She wobbled in her heels and swung their clasped hands playfully.  “So, where are we headed?”

“Your place.”

Jeannie giggled and tugged his hand.  “Then we’re going the wrong way, silly.”

He sighed and ran his free hand through his hair, turned back to face her. “Jeannie, don’t you think it’s time we stop pretending?”

She looked out at the rows of cardboard headstones on the lawn, a glossy red boot emerging from the shadows cast by tree and house.

“It’s just so stupid, y’know?” she whispered, completely sober.  “Such a waste.”

“I know.”