Wings of Burden

Image Prompt: Water by WLOP

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Image: Water by WLOP (DeviantArt)

I looked into the water with a sigh, feeling the chill of the water soaking into my shift. The water adhered the fabric to my skin revealingly, though the ripples on the water distorted my form. I crouched closer to look at my shape in the water. It was artistic, nature. This art was the highest and purest kind, born from the interaction of natural principles. Below my reflection fish swam, venturing closer with my stillness.

And then there were the wings.

Continue reading “Wings of Burden”

Unarmored

Night Diner

This is the third story in what I call the ‘Soul’ series, based on artwork by Klegs.

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Artwork: Night Diner, by Klegs (DeviantArt)

“Man, that was great!” Sarah was excited, animated, all the things that set me on edge. But she wasn’t like most people. I knew that she needed to just talk. I was content to listen, and she didn’t take offense.

“It was just me! I mean, the bar was a hole in the wall, but I wasn’t just opening for someone, either. They wanted me! They even applauded!” Continue reading “Unarmored”

Photographer’s Spirit, Sniper’s Soul

A photographer and a sniper meet in a bar. Neither is aware of the other’s occupation. They talk about “how to take the perfect shot”.

 

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I looked at the mirror across the bar and surveyed the damage. The youthful man looking back at me was a mess.  My hair was full of dust; from the explosions, from the powdered concrete of ruined buildings, and from the ever-present road dust.  You couldn’t escape it.  The caked mud on my face was where the dust in the air had mixed with a bloody scrape.  a I sipped at the beer in my hands – the first I had found in a week – and sighed, savoring this respite from the chaos.

My companion was a more grizzled man.  He looked like he was used to conflict.  His hair was cropped shorter than mine, a week of beard went unnoticed by any razor, and a jagged, torn scar snaked along the line of his jaw like a disfiguring rope.  “You’re new to this, ain’tcha?”

“It’s my first time ‘in it.’  I took some fantastic shots, but . . . it’s chaos out here.  This country is a wreck.”

He smiled, putting an empty glass down, and the bartender refilled it with an amber liquid that smelled like kerosene. “Y’get used to it.  Learn to function in chaos, or go home.  Got some good shots myself.  See that bell tower up there?” He pointed through the window – a church steeple was visible from a few blocks away.  The top of it had been destroyed, leaving only a broken wall, and the crumbling stub of a staircase. “Before they secured the city, got some of the best shots of my life up there.” Continue reading “Photographer’s Spirit, Sniper’s Soul”

My Friend’s House.

Take me to your favorite place, your favorite moment, describe how it is in your memory or imagination.

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I crawled out the window onto the porch roof. The book in my hand struck the sill, but I didn’t dare lunge after it as it skidded down the roof. It slid to a stop just short of the gutter. I went and retrieved it, careful of the edge. My next stop was to cross to the far side of the porch and spread a double-fistful of peanuts. Rushing back to my bedroom window, I leaned back against the brick wall, my legs spread out before me on the slanted roof, and I opened the book.

The wind was cool in my hair. The sun was warm on my skin. The rustle of the leaves was comforting, like a mother shushing and comforting an upset child. For a time, I was lost in another world. Princes led men into battle, magic powers contested each other, and the forces of good and evil struggled. Then I heard something.

A scrabbling . . . a crunch. I looked up, and a squirrel had found my peanuts. She’d gotten bolder in the past weeks. She tore the shell of every peanut, stuffing them into her cheeks before rushing off to bury them. Five, six times. Then she ran out of peanuts. She sniffed around the roof, and I tossed one her direction. Instead of cringing away, she rushed for it, scooping it up, trying to fill her cheeks. I tossed another, closer; she advanced – stopped, looking up at me, then took that one, too.

Would it be today? Would she? I held one peanut out, in my fingers. She looked at me, and it seemed like she met my eyes, even though hers were pure black and on opposite sides of her head. She moved forward with that frenetic energy that squirrels have, stopping barely a foot away. Then she crept closer and snatched it from me. Suddenly she was five feet away and crunching through the shell.

It was okay. I was grinning like a fool, despite her distance. She’d come closer than ever before, and I knew she’d grow more comfortable with time. “Come on down for dinner!” It was faint, through the open window. I could ignore it, pretend I didn’t hear, but then they’d find me on the roof and that would be a whole different kind of trouble.

I leaned in the window and called back. “Be right down!” I climbed in, replacing the screen, then I brushed leaves and grit from my pants and socks. I changed my shirt so they wouldn’t see the dust from the mortar of the brick wall, and I shook my hair out just in case. It was a good thing I did – a leaf drifted down. Then I rushed downstairs for dinner, still smiling. I had a new friend!

Dire Gifts

The elf queen, hearing that yet another young hero was slain during a heroic monologue, decides she’s had enough. She gives her last magical weapon to the grizzled, no-nonsense human guard and says it’s up to him to slay the great evil.

Dire Gifts

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“Dammit! Damn it all, another man dead while bragging to the enemy! Another blade lost! What do these idiots think dire blades are, Efran?”

I had not moved during her tirade. She would blow herself out and calm down. She never spoke to me, though. She spoke to her guards all the time, but never to Kirin, or Efran. I was surprised that she knew my name. “I don’t know, grace. But really, what are they? They’re not a birthright or a destiny. Just a rare and powerful tool.”

In her frustration, and being alone, she had laid across her throne. Her head laid on one arm, her knees hooked over the other. Now though, she flipped over, kneeling in the seat with her hands on the arm, and her ocean-blue eyes on mine. Her gaze was uncomfortably intense. Continue reading “Dire Gifts”

Paranormal Activity

A challenge to myself, to write a story for a picture chosen by somebody else.

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Eight o’clock. I hadn’t left work this late in months. All of the other purchasing agents had quit on me or were detailed to other tasks. It was just me right now, and I was exhausted. The monorail roared down the track running parallel to the road, the street flashing bright and dark as the windows rushed by. I didn’t pay it much heed, until it went dark, though. The streetlights went out, the house lights went out, and I could tell the train wasn’t powering down the rails anymore, only coasting.

I turned around, and looked down the mountainside – I could see so much of the city from here – and I was just in time to see the whole city go dark in patches. The train stopped with a squeal and hiss of hydraulic brakes, and then everything was quiet. I looked at the train and saw people in the glow of their phones, some pressing against the windows to see outside. A city-wide blackout.

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Murine Honor

If you’ve tried to ride a cat into battle, you should know it doesn’t turn out well.

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The enemy lined up in the distance. Their snarls and growls made me shiver, the tremble shaking me to the bones. “Steady on,” my mount purred.

I took a breath, calming myself, reaching forward to scratch behind his pointed ears. “Nerves like steel, whiskers like wind.” I repeated the battle mantra, imagining the steel in my bones. It was a pretense, imagining strength where there was none – I knew how easily my bones, tiny in comparison to the enemy, would break. And yet, it worked. I was calmer, and ready. Continue reading “Murine Honor”

Impression

‘Camping’

This is the second story in what I call the ‘Soul’ series, based on artwork by Kleg.(DeviantArt)

Artwork:RV, by Kleg(DeviantArt)

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The RV – and me, laying on top of it – came into sight on the laptop’s screen as I piloted the drone up the hillside.  My fingers danced over the keyboard, angling the camera to keep the RV in view.  I eased the drone into the corridor that the road carved through the forest, and had it shed altitude as it closed in for a landing.  As it settled to the roof beside me, I saw myself through the drone’s camera, shadowed but illuminated by the laptop’s screen.  I smiled to see myself, and I watched my lips twitch into a smile.  I’d never quite get used to that.  I turned onto my side to dismounting the camera from the drone, connecting it to my laptop.  I heard the ping that indicated the footage was downloading. Continue reading “Impression”

Pivotal Moment

Two siblings engage in a fight with sticks. To their parents, it looks like childish fun, but to the kids, it is an epic duel to the death.

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His breath heaved, his body sagging, but alert. Sweat dripped into my eye, and I blinked to clear it. Somehow I knew, I knew that it was coming. He’d seen the opening, and the blow was coming. Continue reading “Pivotal Moment”

Gentle Slayer

The Brave Knight has been kidnapped against his will by the Beautiful Princess, now it’s up to the Scary Dragon to go rescue him.

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I awoke in bonds, hanging from my wrists. I lifted my head, taking my bearings; the inside of a cabin, perhaps a peasant dwelling. No tapestries, no trophies, no portraits, the furniture all made of unadorned wood. The wood wasn’t local, and though plain, the craftsmanship very good. A silver cross on the wall. Perhaps not a peasant’s home, but a tradesman’s, or a priest’s. Simple, but not poor.

My armor, which I had been wearing while out riding, lay piled on the table along with my sword belt. I twisted to look behind me – I had been tied to a support column, and there were cuffs of metal on my wrists, secured by a tightly fastened bolt. I could cry out, but would anybody hear me? I heard no horses or carriages, no sounds of human civilization.

Best not to alert my captor yet, if I could help it. I crouched, bracing my feet on the floor, and pushed back against the support column as hard as I could; perhaps I could break it. I strained against it with no luck, then lifted away, and slammed my back against it. “Don’t bother dear, the house is very sturdy.” I snapped my head up, and a familiar face came out from deeper within the house.

“Princess Ravencort? Karina? What the hell is going on here? Quickly, get over here and loose these shackles.”

She looked at me, a little surprised, then giggled, a sound like pure crystal. “Oh, Prince. Don’t fear. I kidnapped you.”

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