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Four haikus based on emotions.
A quiet fading.
I’ll become the wallpaper.
That’s all I ask.
“For sale: Wedding Dress,
size four, embroidered with pearls!!”
It’s never been worn.
Life’s a coffee shop.
You never know who’s going to
Stumble through that door.
Golden, gated bridges –
The ones you have set ablaze
By pure accident.
Three haikus inspired by cooking.
Pitted cherries, raw
ruby red and injured, sliced
into halves sweetly.
10 To Taste
Sizzling olive oil
The scent of empty hunger
The hiss of the pan
Ginger makes a snap,
shocking, a little’s enough
to be a surprise.
A fresh pot of tea
The crumbling of a hot scone
Sun through the windows
Nose against his shirt-
Coffee and spearmint
In the scorching sun,
We climb another mountain
Hands stretch toward the sun
Sand sinks in between my toes
I hold up the sky.
Being an adult
Means three a.m. smoke alarms…
Red tomato stains,
The taste of rosemary bread,
Curly hair, braided.
She swallows words and distills
Memories like tea.
People trudge along.
Ephemeral eye contact.
Seen, then forgotten.
CSM Creative Writing presents its Spring Bash Collaborations, appropriately written while snow poured down outside. These collaborations were written with the first writer starting the story, the middle continuing it, and the last author finished the story. As you’ll undoubtedly see, they didn’t all go the way we thought they would…
Enjoy! Sign up to follow us if you like what you see. We’ll post another round of collabs soon.
J. West, Braden, Richard
“Wake up,” whispered Brynn.
“-s wrong?” mumbled Val.
“It’s time to shake the trees. Get up. I made coffee.”
Val pulled her gray comforter over her head, reveling in the warm cocoon. She knew what Brynn’s words meant, and she strongly opposed it.
“I can’t do it alone. When the branches are covered in snow like this, they’re too heavy for just me to lift. You’re the tall one. Galley said you need to help.”
“Galley doesn’t like me,” groaned Val. Brynn didn’t answer, but ripped the comforter off of her sister with ruthless efficiency. “Stop!”
But it was too late. The cold air had rushed to her exposed ankles and elbows, nibbling and sending goosebumps up her arms and neck.
“Some spring, huh?” said Brynn, walking over to her side of the room and lacing up her snowboots.
“I won’t believe it’s spring until I see it.”
“That’s what Galley said,” laughed Brynn. “She thinks like you do. Maybe that is why you two don’t get along.”
“Why’s that?” Val asked with a hint of anger.
“No reason,” Brynn answered playfully. “Come on. Let’s go knock some snow.”
The sisters worked hard that morning. It was cold out–if the snowfall wasn’t an indicator. Galley came out to check on their work, but seemed too interested in her coffee to really pay attention to the detail of their work. A few of the branches were hanging low under the weight of the snow, probably about to snap before Val or Brynn took care of them.
In time they cleared out all the damaged branches from around yard and piled them in what would have been the grassy center of the yard. Galley now stood up and walked over.
“The gods have not seen fit to send us spring so we must convince them to do so,” she replied. From underneath her bathrobe she pulled a long dagger and held it to the sky. “Spirits of spring, we sacrifice to you our blood and coffee! As we warm the earth with our heat, warm us with yours!”
“Warm us with yours!” Shouted Val and Brynn. The three then took their coffee mugs and emptied them onto the pile of branches. Galley cut a small slit in her wrist and pushed blood out of her veins onto the pile, then passed the dagger to Brynn who did the same, and then to Val who repeated the gesture.
Looking back towards the sky Galley shouted “Now we have warmed this spot of earth with our blood. Into the warmth we cast flame to bring heat.” She pulled out a propane lighter and after a few seconds of trying to get the flame to hold, pressed it against the wood pile. The branches immediately took the flame and the flame spread rapidly over them. A great bonfire came to life and the three knew that soon the air would warm for good. Ah, truly Spring had come.
Richard, J, Braden
The earth is coming back to life as the students recede from it. For every new green shoot that proudly sticks out of new and fertile soil there is a student head the flops forward in despair. Spring has come! Warmth to conquer cold! April’s showers to wash away March’s mud! And due dates for group projects out the ass! The earth rising up while the sky is coming down creates a uniquely uncomfortable pressure to be under.
This isn’t a story yet, but I should probably try to make it one. Probably shouldn’t really complain about college, should just be happy to be here, and be close to getting out. Story, story, and story. This type of angst never spurs good stories nor good art in general. Just schlock goth teen music.
I probably should be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy a college springtime. But from underneath my growing pile of library books, the only fresh air I get is when the person across from me sighs at the right angle to fit between the book spines. The only plant life I see has been murdered, mashed into a pulp, bleached, and then tattooed with ink until it becomes a paper page. The only animals I see are the tiny squirrels living in the corner of my eyes when I haven’t slept in a few days.
I’m in my own little cave here, trying to write this short story for another class project. At first, I was excited at the prospect to sit down and bleed out words. Usually it’s easy for me. But with so many things happening as the school year comes to a close, I’m pretty sure all I’m bleeding out is coffee. Straight coffee. No hemoglobin.
So where does that put my rambling thoughts?
Angst-ville, my friend. Angst-ville.
This might be the point in time in which you wonder what could possibly justify this kind of writing. Am I actually going to turn this into my professor for a grade? Well, considering my motivation and current workload, yes. I think I will. Hello, Professor. Or TA. Whoever end up reading this. I really don’t know at this point in the year. Anyway, I hope you enjoy my stream of consciousness.
Aah, there isn’t much to say. I could talk about the happenings of Angst-ville, but the citizens aren’t the most interesting creatures to study–at least to a college student. They had a town meeting today: “3 Projects due on Wednesday, each of which only have a quarter rate of participation by the group members. Reminder: these are all 4-person groups.”
Well, I guess I have broken my lifelong record for summing up my feeling in only a page of writing. Woopee. I guess I’ll go back to my life. Goodbye, paper.
Braden, Richard, J
Trampolines are death traps. They are also a source of my childhood. The many warm days spent jumping up and down and up and down… My thighs are fit, to say the least. You could say I got pretty good at front flips, if by “pretty good” you mean I don’t land on my head.
Not many households have nets on their trampolines, but I found mine a source of extra fun instead of “overly safe.” For one, you could bounce harder than you would if you worried about falling off. However, as I’ve noticed, a net means you are more comfortable jumping by the edges, which may wear out the springs a bit faster. One time while we were jumping, a spring became dislodged and flung out into the yard. All we heard was a KCHING, but later found out what it was.
The trampoline didn’t kill anyone that day. Not that day, nor the next. But it is planning to someday. Somewhere in its rubbery brain it wants vengeance for its lost spring, so mercilessly ripped from it by children who needed a bigger and bigger high. It bore the brunt of childhood energy like no parent ever could. The trampoline’s children were literally bouncing off walls. Yet trampoline received no reward. So it began plotting to kill the people it once saved.
“If only they would bounce on me in winter” it thought. “My rigid rubber would crack at the slightest pressure and send them falling through to the hard ground below and surely to their death.”
But the nefarious parental units of the children would probably prevent this. So, the trampoline plotted.
It would bide its time until spring, when the last vestiges of winter’s icy glare melted from the springs and left them to glisten evilly in the honey-colored sunlight. The trampoline would hear the children playing inside. It decided it would call to them, whispering with its creaking joints and waving its flexible center in the soft wind.
And then, when the children succumbed and safely ensnared themselves in the net, it would strike.
“Honey, did you hear a cackle?” asked my mom, standing at the window and looking out at the backyard.
Should I tell her about the trampoline? Better not to risk her safety. “Uh, no.”
“Hmm, must have been the wind.”
A big thanks to everyone who swung by our booth for the E-Days carnival. We had an absolute blast hanging out and talking with everyone.
Our booth had a fridge door on which hundreds of different words were posted. Those who dared to swing by our booth were challenged to write some sort of poem using the available words. Displayed below are the results of that challenge.
As a rather important side note, these were all generated at a carnival where alcohol was provided for those who were of legal age. Of course, some came out a bit non-sensical, or very deep, depending on how you read it. Then again, some…well, some just don’t make much sense. But in either case, enjoy what the collective community came up with over the course of a day.
CSM Creative Writing recently collaborated with Mines Little Theater in honor of the annual E-Days celebration at Colorado School of Mines. In an experiment, the writers and actors gathered together to write five short plays. But there was a catch: these plays were written in 24 straight hours. To honor this incredible feat, we have decided to share some of the scripts on our blog. We hope you enjoy them!
If you like what you see, please follow us for more updates or check out the works of our resident authors.
Note: These plays use profanity and are not necessarily intended for young audiences.
By: Saige Mabutt-Wing
Characters: W1, W2, S1, S2, A1
(Man (W1) sitting on bench (couch) holding remote)
W1: Hey babe, where’s that new remote! (Finds it under butt) never mind, I got it! (Points at stage and presses buttons multiple time). Babe, I thought you put the batteries in here!
(Woman (W2) walks out and throws batteries at W1’s head)
W1: (Grabbing batteries and putting them in remote) Thanks babe! (Points at stage and presses button)
(Announcer (A1) steps out on stage)
A1: Welcome to the latest installment of Family Time: Wild Style, the only show where our daring adventurers are not only forced to survive in some of the most treacherous terrains on earth but are also put through the rigorous tests of spending time with their own family members. Tonight, a set of sisters are left alone in the middle of New York’s Central Park. Which will rip them apart first, sibling rivalry or this historic landmarks fearsome inhabitants? All this and more starting now on the one and only Yeeeee Channel.
W1: (Pauses channel) Babe, can we get some snacks in here already!
(W2 walks out and sprinkles a couple pieces of popcorn over W1’s head)
W1: Sweet! (Plays show)
(A1 steps off stage and two girls step on stage (Sister 1 (S1) and Sister 2 (S2)) looking around)
S1: (Pacing back and forth) Alright Carol, if we’re gonna make it through the night here we’ve gotta start collecting supplies. First, we need fresh water, god knows you can’t trust the water fountains around here, and we need to find a shelter, and then of course we’ve gotta find something to eat.
S2: (Rummaging around at floor level) Relax sis, check out these berries, food right? (gesturing with berry in hand) I’ve got this survival stuff in the bag.
(S2 pops berry in mouth and instantly collapses)
S1: Ahhh shit!
W1: (Laughing, pauses show) Babe you gotta see this! (Hits rewind)
(S2 sits back up, S1 turns back around, W1 hits play, Repeats, W1 laughing)(Does twice)
(W1’s laughing dies down and continues watching)
A1: With Jane incapacitated how will these sisters escape with their lives, stay tuned for more, right after these commercials.
Commercial: (A1) Spray on Nail Polish, that’s right you heard me, spray on nail polish!
W1: Boooorrriing (Fast Forwards)
Commercial: (A1 speaking very fast) Now coming in three convenient sizes, purse, shelf, and industrial. With every order you will receive not just 1, not 5, but a whole 10 finger sleeves for maximizing that neat and clean shine that only spray on nail polish can provide. So call in now – only the first 10,000 callers will receive this extra bedazzling kit for no extra cost. That’s right, I’ll say it all again, 1 bottle of every size, 10 finger sleeves and a bedazzling kit for only 4 easy payments of 15.99. So call now!
W1: Finally! (Hits Play)
(S1 enters dragging on S2)
S1: Alright sis, it looks like you’re gonna be paralyzed for a while, so we’re just gonna have to wait it out on this park bench and hope it doesn’t rain tonight.
S2: (Incoherent Mumbling)
S1: Right, sounds good! (S1 tries lifting S2 onto bench, fails) Hnnnggh (Tries again starting at feet) MMnnnegghhh, god Carol, have you even been using those aerobics disks I got you for Christmas? You weigh a ton!
S2: (Squeals in protest and slightly flaps arm)
S1: (Drops feet) Fine then, just stay on the ground then! (Crosses arms and legs turns off to side)
(Silent standoff as S2 flops hand around. Simultaneously, W2 enters and sits down next to W1 trying to get his attention)
S2: (Turns around with fake mustache on and kneels beside S1 who is now playing dead) Mi Amour! Mi Amour! (Yelling lifting S2 in arms, begins slapping her face while repeating) Mi Amour! Mi Amour! Mi Amour!
W1: Dammit babe, you switched it to that awful Spanish Soap Opera crap! (Grabbing at remote)
W2: (Stands up in huff and throws down remote at W1’s feet) Uuggghhhh!
(S2 still slapping S1 and yelling)
W1: Thanks Babe! (Picking up remote changes channel)
(S2 throws aside mustache and starts swatting at the air, S1 throws up an arm in defense of face)
W1: Ahhh there we go.
S2: Dear god, what’s wrong with these pigeons? They’re a bunch of maniacs! Aghhh! (Continues swatting)
S1: (Muffled Squealing)
S2: Look over there, that old abandoned hot dog cart lets go! Come on! (Half dragging a stumbling, uncoordinated S1, both walk around to backside of bench and duck underneath)
A1: (S1+S2 freeze, panicked looks on faces) The Johnson sisters have made it to shelter but will they make it through the night? Find out after this commercial break.
A1: (Different Voice) Do you believe in…
W1: (Mutes TV) Gotta pee, gotta pee, gotta pee. (Waddles off stage)
A1: (Continues mouthing words, makes stabbing motions, starts dancing, returns to normal standing position)
W1: (Walks back on stage) Ahhhh. (Sits down and unmutes TV)
A1: So donate now by calling 1-800-666-LION, that’s 1-800-666-5466.
S2: (Whispering incoherently)
W1: What the… I can’t hear a thing. (Turns up volume)
S2: (Steady increase in volume up to yelling) I know I’ve been a pain in the butt, it’s just I felt like I really needed to prove myself, you were always our dog’s favorite and I guess I was just jealous.
S1: (Yelling as well) It’s okay I understand, he was a really cool dog and the only reason he slept in my bed more often was because I was on the bottom bunk.
(S1 and S2 share a heartfelt hug and then freeze)
A1: (Yelling at top of lungs) And so our sisters have made it through the night intact but will they make it out of this dense wilderness alive!!
W1: (Jumps at sudden loudness) Oh god too loud, too loud! (Turns down volume)
(S1 and S2 now standing looking around)
S2: How do we know which way is out? We got so turned around last night, I don’t know if we’ll ever find our way out of here.
S1: I’ve got it! We’ve just gotta climb a tree and get our bearings, it’s so simple!
S2: I don’t know…
S1: It’s fine I’ll be extra careful, promise.
S2: (Sighs) Okay.
S1: (Climbs up tree offstage) I see it, I see it! A building right over there, we’re so close!
S2: That’s great, we might actually make it out of here alive!
S1: Whoooa, Whaa, Whoooaaa! (Falls back onto stage and starts clutching leg) Oh god, I think it’s broken.
S2: Oh great, just great!
A1: How will the wonder twins get out of this one, find out next!
(S1+S2 exit, W2 comes out wearing headband and war paint walks around looking intimidating)
A1: In a world overrun by underwater mutant zombie ninjas only this half vampire, half werewolf assassin can save the world from nuclear annihilation.
W2: (As character) And I don’t play by the rules.
(Walks off stage unfazed as A1 imitates explosion)
A1: Coming to theaters near you this Saturday.
W1: Awweessome, babe we gotta go see this when it comes out, the hero chick looks just like you!
(S2 enters supporting limping S1)
S2: We made it, we made it! I could never have done it without you, sis!
S1: Thanks sis.
(Turn to hug each other but unsupported S1 falls over)
S2: Whoops, sorry. (Helps S1 backup) Now let’s get out of here. Yo, Taxi!!
(S1+S2 freeze hailing a cab)
A1: And thus these sisters found their way out of the deadliest place on earth, and found their way back into each others hearts. Tune in next week when an intrepid father and son duo take their chances in the untamed depths of a city aquarium.
W1: (Turns off TV, all others exit) Man, that was the worst episode yet! Oh well. (Starts to walk off stage) Hey babe, whatcha thinkin for dinner?
By: Jordan Brothers
Jogger (ipod and headphones)
A1, A2 (small book)
B1 (some sort of drink), B2
All: Wearing running shoes, running/jogging gear
JOGGER enters from curtain, walking; begins stretching, winces in pain; adjusts ipod
JOGGER: … Holy shit, my thighs. How long has it been since I’ve gone running? What, like 5 months? Wow… Oh boy. You can do this, this is good for you, ok? Great! Alright song, song, song… this one will do.
JOGGER begins jogging, move forward then run in place MC
JOGGER: …This is nice. Legs are fine, breathing’s good, this isn’t so bad.
SPRINTY bolts out of curtain, runs past JOGGER to DC, runs in several circles around JOGGER, then runs off to side and circles around backstage
JOGGER: … Scheise.
JOGGER speeds up gradually to a fast jog, struggling, then tires and slows down to a stop, bending over in exhaustion
A1 enters curtain, jogs to stop beside JOGGER
A1: [talking a mile-a-minute] HEEEYYY YOU! How are you? Do you come here often because I haven’t seen you outside in months!
JOGGER: [between heavy breaths] Hi.
A1: Isn’t this such a great path? Did Kara tell you about it? The lake is gorgeous and the loop is just the right length for five or six quick ones. I come out here everyday. Oh hey you and I could start running together!
JOGGER: Ummm I don’t know, I’d probably slow you down.
JOGGER starts up running, giving off clear signs of annoyance, A1 steps back then jogs forward to match pace
A1: Oh noooo, you’re fine, I don’t care much for the exercise part, just being outside is sooo beautiful. And isn’t this weather perfect for running? Although it’s going to snow tomorrow, surprise surprise THANK YOU COLORADO. Blah blah bla-blah blah ba-ba-blah blah. Anyways do you want to keep running with me?
JOGGER: No, really I’m going to slow you down, I’m fine.
A1: Oh, ok! Ta-ta! I think I’m going to go back to that other loop, the sunlight hitting the trees looked really nice….
A1 exits by slowing and backing out through curtain
JOGGER: …. How do you even talk that fast?
Few moments of silent jogging, then B1 appears sloppily running out of curtain
JOGGER: Hey there, are you doing ok?
B1: Yeah, yeah… I had way too much to drink last night so I’m trying to sweat it off.
JOGGER: Um, running it off isn’t supposed to really work.
B1: Hey, weren’t you at the party last night?
B1: Oh, I was really worried I hit on you and I really don’t like it when I hit on friends when I’m drunk.
JOGGER: Yeah well, lucky me, I stayed in last night.
B1: Ehh, whatever boats your float. I think I’m gonna go puke in a bush.
B1 backs up through curtain, hear retching noises behind curtain
SPRINTY runs out of curtain again and runs off to side, JOGGER silently watches and starts to slow down
A2 enters from curtain and matches speed, nose in a novel, JOGGER speeds up again, A2 notices
A2: Oh, Ms Jones, nice to see you outside on a Saturday.
JOGGER: Oh, yeah, the weather’s nice but there’s going to be snow tomorrow.
A2: Oh, what a surprise. How is the monthly report coming?
JOGGER: Making progress.
A2: And the brochure graphics?
JOGGER: In the works.
A2: And the budget draft?
JOGGER: Coming along.
A2: Excellent, I’ll see you in the office on Monday.
A2 backs up through curtain
JOGGER: I hate my job… Oh great, a hill. [slow down, lift knees higher] Shit. [heavy breathing] Come on keep going. [reaches top, slows and switches to flat running] Don’t stop, don’t stop, keep going, it’s all downhill from here.
B2 enters from curtain
B2: Jones is that you?
JOGGER: [very heavy breathing] Hey. You. Wow. That hill was. Intense.
B2: Well that’s what happens when you run outside. I’m so proud of you for getting out of your apartment! You stay inside so much it gets me worried.
JOGGER: Work is keeping me pretty busy.
B2: SAME! But I’m really glad you’re finally getting off your butt and taking a break.
JOGGER: Yeah, a really painful break.
B2: But running is so good for you! And if you just keep pushing yourself you’ll get used to it! Just keep going. Listen, I need to finish this lap so I can get home. Toodles!
B2 runs off to the side
JOGGER: … I guess I could keep pushing myself. Hey, wait up!
JOGGER speeds up, breathing heavy and getting more and more tired. SPRINTY enters through the curtain, running circles around JOGGER
JOGGER: GAH, how do you run that fast?!
SPRINTY dead stops in place, JOGGER stops and bends over.
SPRINTY runs off to side. JOGGER falls to knees
JOGGER: … Running sucks.
JOGGER collapses, A and B emerge to carry her through the curtain.
By: Jordan Brothers
P: Can you tell us where you were this evening at 6 pm, ma’am?
N: I was lost in the desires of the sunset, drawn to the freedom-air like a bird to the sky. I followed my soul out into my secret place of earth and life. Beauty soared into my lungs and brought peace to these delicate bones of mine.
P: Come again?
N: I was in my garden.
P: What were you doing in your garden?
N: Chained, held captive by magnificent lyrics of emotion. My heart was weak against the pull of the raw breath of language. How intense a feeling, to be so enraptured by carvings painted on the corpses of life!
P: … Excuse me? Corpse?
N: I was reading a novel.
P: Was there anyone with you?
N: The caretaker of my ferocious passions was just beyond my reach in our dwelling place.
P: …Your what was in the house?
N: The musician of my joy, orchestrator of my moans, my angel of sweet intimacy, the roaring lion of my daylight wanderings.
P: Your… cat??
N: My “other half”.
P: Oh, your husband!
N: Yes! Sir are you hard of hearing?
P: No, of course I’m not. Now, how did you notice the fire at your neighbor’s house?
N: …The what?
P: The fire, th-the… the bright source of heat, erm, consuming the house?
N: Ah those!
P: So, how did you notice?
N: My heart was lost in the musings of a forsaken brother, but my ears captured the barest stirrings of human howls from across our low barrier. My focus was shattered and I raised my eyes from the skin of the forests. That is when I beheld them, the destructive galaxy of suns feasting on the compacted limbs of the deep woods. My bones became ice in the suddenness. The dim hums of agony and fear came from beyond the breath of dragons.
P: You… heard shouts and looked over?
N: Yes, approximately.
P: Did you see the burglar, the man who started the… consuming brightness, did you see him at all?
N: The unsummoned visitor, the starry wanderer?
P: Could you… oh boy, can you describe him?
N: I saw his face for barely a heartbeat. His face was a lake of darkness as he glided past the thermal brilliance. His eyes glowed with erotic mischief, clinging a satchel of abducted items to his chest. His mouth was scarred, but told the silent story of a broken psyche, a deep cloud of thunderous neglect bleeding into his heart. And he was tall.
N: Would you like me to translate his likeness onto … how you say… paper?
P: A… picture? Yes please.
N: Jubilus! Come! [Exit]
P: Whew, young adult novelists.
Images courtesy of:
CSM Creative Writing presents our latest collaboration in the form of short stories. Each author chose from one of the following prompts, wrote a beginning, then switched and continued another author’s story.
Prompt 1: Write a story for this picture http://wlop.deviantart.com/art/Sky-Lanterns-442002652 or for this picture http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/art/Dodge-This-452672142
Prompt 2: You receive a gift with a note that says, “I hope you never have to use this.”
Prompt 3: Your grandmother leaves you a journal with a lock, and a key. What is written inside?
We hope you enjoy these newly crafted stories!
If you like what you see, check out our amazing authors’ other works, or follow us to get notifications each time we update.
Written by: Amber Hill, J. West, and Grant DeShazer
Prompt: 1, http://wlop.deviantart.com/art/Sky-Lanterns-442002652
The moon swam above in an inky sky. Why he had chosen such a clear night, he didn’t know.
The kingdom was distracted. Not only by the death of the princess, for whom they were grieving on this night, but by the feeling of being on the eve of war.
Durbroch couldn’t bring himself to stand in the little boat as it approached the shoreline. He had never been very sure-footed on the sea, nor did he want to risk being seen in the silvery light that spilled over him. His mission was simple, but surely not easy, and he wouldn’t make it any easier by drawing attention from the silly folk on the hills surrounding the proper.
The bag at his feet rocked as the boat bumped against the sandy bottom. Durbroch was on his feet in under a breath, the bag slung up onto his shoulder in one swift movement. He stepped off into the water, and trudged up toward the treeline, his heavy armor surprisingly soundless across his broad shoulders.
There was shouting from the city walls, to his left. He jogged the rest of the way to the trees, and lifted the heavy iron mask that guarded his not all too pleasant face. Catching a breath was always an issue in this gear.
He placed the bundle down once out of sight and straightened long enough to check the shore again. He made briskly for the boat, kicked it away, and watched it float aimlessly for several heartbeats before turning back for his prize.
The bag was stirring when he found it again in the shade cast by the cone-shaped trees. He knelt down, and quickly shirked the bag.
The princess glared up at him, surprisingly sober.
“You could have at least let me poke my head out. I could hardly breath in there,” she whined. “I hired you to fake my death and bring me to Allion so I could find my brother. I thought you were trustworthy and smart, but I never imagined your manners would be so crude.”
“Well, beggars can’t be choosers,” said Durbroch irritably.
“Well, I’m a princess, and I can too choose.” she snapped, standing up to stretch her aching muscles. She’d been cramped in that bag for far too long.
Durbroch regarded her with restrained impatience. “We’ll camp here tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll find us some horses in Halcyon, and we can ride to Allion from there. We’ll arrive at nightfall.”
They made camp in silence, still able to see the lanterns floating above them in the sky like golden guardians poking through the needled branches.
“Do you think my parents are sad?” she asked suddenly. Her tone was casual, but Durbroch detected something like regret underneath.
“Are you sad?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll miss them. But I miss my brother more. And if they had anything to do with his disappearance, I don’t know how I would feel.”
“You’re pretty brave for someone as young as yourself.”
“I’m only brave because I have to be, Durbroch.”
And he saw her steel herself, silhouetted in the twilight. It was a look he was rather familiar with. A look many men wore before plunging into the depths of battle, blade in hand. But, it was never a look that stuck for very long, even the strongest warrior would be swept up in a battle and thrashed mercilessly against the shore until nothing was left in their eyes except a forlorn emptiness and an animal instinct to survive.
This princess might very well be brave and strong now, and perhaps with his help she would remain that way. But it very well could come to pass, that she, like so many of the men he had once commanded, would be swallowed by a cruel and unforgiving world.
The Blue Bottle
Written by: Richard Sebastian-Coleman, Amber Hill, and J. West
A small bottle containing dark blue liquid that instantly evoked a sense of being far from heaven. The spy’s last resort, should he/she/it get caught while on the inside. The two vertical lines of the ‘H’ of hydrogen on the label formed two ominous pillars that seemed to border the door to the land of the dead. Such a strange thing, that such a small amount of pretty blue hue could lead one out of this world to the next. A small note from John at The Company accompanied the blue hue in its little brown box, ‘‘Hope you never have to use this.”
Yeah, he hoped he never would have to too. The plane would take off shortly, and this would be stuffed nicely in his carry-on, under a different label of course, probably Tylenol. Why The Company bothered to properly label the things for their agents was a little beyond him. Ah well, if it got lost in the mail probably best someone knew what it really was, wouldn’t want some kid getting at it. The ‘C’ on the label was as ominously curved as the pillars of the ‘H’ were straight. So close to being a sickle.
He slid the bottle carefully into the pocket at his breast and moved toward the plane, donning a pair of sunglasses and spitting his gum onto the asphalt. Several flight crew members were scrambling about at the base of the steps that would lead him to his final mission before an early retirement. He smiled to himself, nodding in response to some wordless thought.
He mounted the stairs slowly. Not due to his age – the thought made him laugh, as even his seniors weren’t talented enough to have been able to quit so young. He just wanted to savor this feeling. The last steps onto this cursed plane.
He reached out for the door frame, and the moment his fingertips brushed the metal, the plane exploded.
He didn’t know how far he was once he came to again. He couldn’t have been out for long; the ringing in his ears still hadn’t faded. His eyes fluttered, but the sun blinded him. He rolled carefully, ignoring the twisting and pulling in every inch of his body, and let out a long groan as blood dripped onto the pavement just inches from his gaze.
He started to crawl – just as he had been instructed to do from day one – and tried to push with his legs. One foot was surely broken. He assumed that was from being thrown. He moved his gaze ahead. The shrapnel of the plane was beginning to crumble almost forty feet away.
Suddenly, a heavy weight pressed down between his shoulder blades, driving him into the hot ground.
“Where do you think you’re going, Agent Four?”
He couldn’t and wouldn’t answer. Not when he was so close to being done.
“Where is the treasure?” The man pressed, stepping harder on his back with a heavy boot.
“I have it,” Four said, rolling over.
He pulled out the blue bottle.
“Drink it, and experience true enlightenment. It’s a treasure from the jungle,” he said in what he hoped passed for a dejected voice.
The man reached down and uncorked it, unaware of how he straddled the line between life and death.
And then, as Four had always done on his missions, he watched as the man uncorked it, then closed his eyes and waited.
He always knew when to close his eyes.
Written by: Grant, Richard, and Amber
It was raining. Hard. She could feel it hitting her scalp, running down her neck and soaking the collar of her shirt. She probably should have felt cold, or made some effort to find cover in the drenching downpour.
But it wasn’t a bad thing either. It made the grip he had on his katana slippery, made his movements sloppy and weak.
She reminded herself that she was in control this time. She let that determination play across her face. He was nothing now, a nobody that didn’t deserve even the smallest kindness. Not after all he had done.
To think that he was someone that she had looked up to, someone that had even trained her to be the best she could be and all he had done was destroy that. He’d been using her from the start.
“Are you scared?” he hissed, “Scared to shoot a former mentor?”
“If I wasn’t ordered to bring you in, I’d have already shot you.”
He turned towards her a bit more, light flashing off the polished length of his katana, a slight grin crept across his face. “You should be. Taking a life should never be so easy. Besides, do you really think you are in control right now?”
She took a step back, but kept her pistol leveled with his head. She wouldn’t back down, she wouldn’t let him intimidate her!
“Can you honestly explain why you were ordered to bring me in? Surely everyone knows how dangerous I am. There’s certainly no doubt as to the things I’ve done. So why is it that you are to keep me alive?”
“Quiet! Backup will be here any minute.”
He cocked his head and took a step towards her, his grin growing. “Oh I don’t think so, not unless you replaced the radio in your command box since I was last with you. Elsewise your shouts for backup have disappeared into the ether.”
“You’re lying” she replied quietly, but saw her own hand shake out of fear that he was right.
“If I was lying, then I would have run. After all, I’m quite talented with this blade but not quite talented enough to take down four helicopters who have me surrounded on a rooftop, this isn’t a videogame afterall.”
“X-1 to Base! Do you come in Base!” she shouted into the radio, giving into the fear that she really was alone, but keeping the gun pointed at him. The radio didn’t even echo back with a static buzz, had she imagined that it did earlier? In that moment of questioning he struck, with a simple flick of his wrist he sent the katana blade straight towards her hand sending the pistol flying across the roof. He then brought the blade back down towards her head but he had trained her too well to be hit by such an obvious blow. She dodged and rolled towards the pistol. He moved to block her, but exoskeleton suits really helped with that sort of leap.
“If you want to keep any honor then get out of the suit and fight me as human to human.” she yelled, just as her fingers wrapped around the pistol grip.
He hardly hesitated. The taste of the game was surely too much for him to bear. There was a faint buzz, a hiss, and the face mask fell away to reveal his face. The one she had spent months driving from her memory. “Honor,” she chuckled, rolling on to her back and raising the pistol to rest directly between his eyes. She pulled the trigger without blinking.
Written by: J. West, Grant, and Richard
Prompt: 1, http://wlop.deviantart.com/art/Sky-Lanterns-442002652
Ali liked it on the roof. No one else had the agility to follow him up there, so he was able to achieve total privacy. The roof was the one place he could be completely and totally himself. He was not donning a metaphorical mask as he did among the others in his village.
They didn’t understand him. Not completely. Not that it was their fault. No one can truly understand another because each person hardly understands himself. Ali knew this. So he allowed himself to take on personas depending on his situation.
With the man selling swords, he was abrasive and intimidating because it got him a discount.
With Lila, he was romantic and charming.
With his brother Gil, he had always been honest and cheerful. But he would no longer need that persona. Because Gil was dead.
Gil was dead and Ali was on the roof and he was always himself on the roof.
But who could he be now? Without Gil tying him to reality? Without Gil’s need for his honesty and optimism? What did the absence of that mask leave space for?
The lanterns from his funeral were still rising from the streets below Ali’s feet. They reminded him of glowing pumpkins rising to the charcoal heavens. And the full moon backlit them with the subtle intensity of an angry whisper.
Are you there watching me? Ali wondered, imagining Gil was peering down at the lantern spectacle from his place among the stars. Can you see me on the roof? Do you finally understand me? Why I had to do what I did?
Ali clenched his fists. He may have been an assassin. He may have taken lives. He may still own a sword that had tasted blood. But with that money, he’d kept Gil out of trouble. He’d been the disappointment so Gil could succeed.
And now he was dead and Ali was a murderer for nothing.
Was it worth it?
He pulled the blade out from its sheath and stared at his reflection in the metal. It was worth it. It had to be worth it. No matter the terrible things he had done, Gil at least had been able to live a life worth living, free from the family’s expectations.
And if he was really being honest, Ali liked what he did. There was nothing that made him feel more alive. Perhaps he really did have his father’s blood running through his veins, loath as he was to admit it. He’d always hated that man, hated what he had done. But now looking down at the blade cradled in his hands, he realized he was no different than his father. He killed for the sake of the people closest to him.
A red lantern drifted overhead, illuminating him for a moment. He sheathed his blade and rolled his shoulders. If he looked hard enough he could see all the way to the edge of town to where his next contract was to take him. It was a special contract, unlike his usual bunch. Try as he might, his brother had gotten caught up in this mess. And now he would have to finish it. Father had already made that very clear.
And so, however much he liked the roof, however beautiful the view of the lanterns, he left that and returned to another winding dimly lit alleyway. When he was boy these types of places scared him, because someone with bad intentions might come down them and do him harm. Now he was the man with bad intentions, and the children were afraid of him. He would wrap up the mess with Gil, then return to Lila. Return to the one true gentle embrace he had ever known. Then he stopped and shivered. He had done all he had done for Gil, now there was no Gil, because of all he had done. What if there was no Lila? The wind that had whistled overhead stopped, and he was alone. He saw the shadow of a boy peep out from behind a doorway then immediately dart back inside. Yes, he would finish this, father had made that clear. But the final closure would be himself.
Title Photos courtesy of:
The cement wall is rough and cold against my back. My knees whistle in pain, but I have to ignore them. The footsteps are fast approaching and if I so much as breathe, they will find me between the trash cans in the alley.
I duck my head, ignoring the pounding behind my eyes, and place my forehead against my kneecaps. I never used to wear denim jeans. I never left my flat wearing anything but custom, hand-made slacks. The idea of that seems ludicrous to me now.
I feel hot tears stinging behind my eyelids. In a matter of a month, everything has been turned upside down. Maybe I was given the chance to right it all – no, without a doubt I was given the opportunity, many times – and I ignored the signals. I ignored my employees. I ignored my manager, Cline. I had grown up with my gift. Who could have known more about it than me?
I hear shouting. Angry, terrified shouting. Those people are afraid of me.
I try to fight the return of the image, but my memory has overpowered me recently. I seem to have lost more control over my own body in the past month than the crowds of horrified people – my former adoring fans – who haunt my every waking moment.
I recall for a brief moment the day before all this began. I was standing on my porch step, handbag hooked on my elbow, tossing a disinterested wave over my shoulder and the crowd of screaming children and grown admirers. They were celebrating the fifth time my face adorned the front cover of a magazine. Cline stood beside me, a hand between my shoulders, trying to guide me into my apartment safely. Two of my security guards kept the crowd at bay, but I could feel the pulse of their excitement. I paused for just a heartbeat to drink in the feel of their eyes, the sound of their exquisite adoration.
And then a strange hush fell over the crowd.
I turned just in time for the assailant’s aim to be true. The glass shattered against my temple, sending me staggering into my door. The guards were already after him, shoving through the crowd toward the man wailing at me from the back. Telling me I was dangerous. Telling my fans that I couldn’t be trusted.
Anger lit in my belly like a torch exposed to oxygen. I suppose that the flame had been there all along, waiting for the fuel.
I slid out of Cline’s hold, ignoring the blood running down my cheekbone. I still stood above the crowd by several feet, and my attacker was clear to me. A perfect shot for him, a perfect shot for me.
I raised a single hand, fingers curled together as though holding a tiny, plastic doll. The man’s screaming halted in his throat. His body lurched, and before he could begin to fight the invisible hold I nearly crushed him with, he was several feet in the air, at the will of my power. My telepathic reach. The ring that granted me my gift glinted on my right ring finger, displayed before the crowd.
There was a scream, and then another, and then the entire crowd was bustling to get away from me. Before, all they wanted was to touch me. And now, they couldn’t get far enough, fast enough.
Cline stepped in front of me, stealing my attention, and took hold of my shoulders. I didn’t release the attacker until Cline’s voice finally cut through the pounding in my head.
Let him go. This is what he wants.
And then I saw the man’s smile.
I surface from the memory as though it were drowning me. My jeans are stained with tears, and the feeling is close to normal now. I straighten my neck and listen to the shouting at the end of the alley. I glance down at my hand, where the ring glimmers just barely through the grime, and I tear it off my finger. I pocket it quickly, and feel the power ooze out of my body. I am not a weapon.
The footsteps slowly fade. I hear dogs barking, but only faintly. I can’t tell if they’re heading for me or away, but I don’t want to take the chance of finding out.
Slowly, I get to my feet and stretch my legs. I face the opening of the alley and the twilight-stained street beyond. There are police calling for my arrest. The government is looking for me now. Their promise to let me be expired when I nearly killed someone with the very power that had granted me so much fame.
I furrow my brows and stare down at the floor for a moment. The damned ring. I can’t let it go – my power is the only thing protecting me. And it won’t do someone else any good, either. It will only give me power. What was once entirely my own gift is now entirely my own burden.
I glare out at the street once more, and then turn on my heel, resorting to climbing any fences I must to remain out of the public’s eye.
I freeze in my place, the barrel of a gun nearly touching my brow.
I raise my hands instinctively, as if to use my power, despite the weight of the ring against my belly in my jacket pocket. And then a car rolls past the alley, and for a heartbeat a pair of green eyes light up.
I swallow the bile that rolls up into my throat, and move my hands to motion for surrender.
“Colin,” I say, and it comes out on a breath. I can’t add voice to my words. “Colin, please. I’m not wearing it. It’s not on. I don’t have my powers.”
The gunpoint doesn’t waver. I can see his jaw working, and I imagine his mind is doing the same. He was tasked to bring me in, undoubtedly for testing, with the rest of his agency. His putrid agency.
His eyes light up again for the span of a breath, and I am taken back for a moment to the nights when we met. First, when I was still an angel, a goddess. He was to be hired as a security guard. He even came to interview with Cline. And then he met me, the real me, dragging another man into my apartment late at night and nearly collapsing with the weight of alcohol in my brain. He spat in my face, and refused the job. He refused to be a babysitter to the most pampered, temperamental woman in the country. I drove him away, the first person to ever willingly leave.
We met again after my fall. He was the only person I could think of. I was nearly dead from exhaustion, having fled for days from his agency, and he let me stay at his home. He gave me his bed and his food, and one night, he gave me himself. A week into my stay, he found me sobbing in the corner of his kitchen. His agency had hunted my mother down and were “unsuccessful at discovering my location before termination of the subject.” I donned my ring and used my power to hold him at bay across the kitchen. I couldn’t bear to let him touch me, to soothe me. I fled out into the night, and I blocked out his voice shouting after me.
Now his gun doesn’t waver. I continue to show him my palms, letting the tears flow down my cheeks. His eyes glisten in the headlights of another passing car, and there are tears in his gaze as well. I realize in this moment that he is the only human alive who knows exactly who I am: not a super villain, not a murderer, but a broken human being with too heavy a task to bear.
I realize that the man that I love could take all this pain away in a single fraction of a second.
I remember the feel of his lips on mine. I remember the way he looked at me, as though he couldn’t bear the possibility of never looking at me again. I remember the promise he made while cradling me during a fit of tears.
I’ll never let anyone hurt you.
When I see his long forefinger move to the trigger, I can’t decide if he is honoring this promise.
Sometimes it was so easy to forget that Oliver wasn’t whole.
Sometimes he could make it an entire day without thinking about it, without someone commenting on it. Those days were often the best days. Then he at least felt more human.
But today wasn’t one of those days. It had started early this morning when, while packing himself something for lunch, he had accidentally cut his finger. Or rather, he cut the artificial skin covering his mechanical hand. It wasn’t a big deal. It stung a bit, and it only took him a minute to fix the minor cut. Normally letting a knife slip like that would have resulted in cursing and blood. It was the first reminder that day that he wasn’t normal.
The second had been when he had shaken a new client’s hand. The man instantly recoiled, as if he had been bitten by a snake. Oliver had, of course, been required to explain why his hands were so cold.
And now, here he was, at the gym. One of the few places he completely resented. He, of course, was supposed to come here everyday just to keep his torso strong. It was all part of his contract. Four years of service. Of course that had been changed to 2 years active duty and two years on reserve. Today marked the first anniversary since he’d nearly died. Most people would have been grateful that they were still alive, and while he wouldn’t say he was ungrateful, he’d rather that the doctors had been able to save his arms and legs.
Even though he wasn’t out fighting any longer, he still had to fight continually to keep what remained of his body in shape. As a result he usually would come here late at night, when there were only a few other people here. That way he could work in peace without someone openly staring at him. He couldn’t workout with the artificial skin on. He had to take it off.
But today a friend of his, Brant, had invited him along to workout at the end of the day. Oliver hadn’t been able to say no. There was no way that he could, he’d been putting it off for a few days now.
Oliver completed his last sit up and climbed off the machine. Brant gave him a thumbs up before getting on for his last set. “Hey man, listen, a friend of mine invited me over for dinner tonight, I think you should come along.”
“Who is this friend of yours?”
“Just a single girl I met a while back before we were shipped out. Since Nadine and I are dating, I thought maybe you might have luck with her.”
Oliver frowned, he doubted it, most women looked at him like he was some sort of monster. “What is her name?”
Brant grinned, “You will just have to come along to find out.”
Brant climbed off and rubbed at his shoulder where his mechanical arm met with what was left of his original arm. “Feels like there is a storm coming. Stump aches…Anyways are you in or not?”
Oliver didn’t really feel any desire to go. Whenever anyone found out that none of his limbs were real, they acted as though something was wrong with him. Sometimes the shock was so much that they couldn’t even say a word and would just stand there gaping at him. At best, they might apologize or thank him for his service, but even then, he could always tell they thought of him as an outsider, as inhuman. It was especially worse when they found out despite the artificial skin he wore because then they felt as though he was trying to trick them.
“Look, I know how things are when people find out,” Brant said, “But she isn’t like that. I promise you will have a good time.”
“What if I say no?” Oliver said, turning to go to the locker rooms so he could head home.
Brant pulled Oliver to a stop, “I will drag you there by force. You need to get out some. Smell the roses every now and then.”
“Yeah, whatever man. She will just freak out, like everyone else.”
“I swear Oliver, you are so dense sometimes. Here’s the address. If you aren’t there we will come to your place and party there.”
Oliver rolled his eyes but took the slip of paper anyways. Normally he would have just ignored a threat like that, but Brant really was the kind of person that would move a party to Oliver’s house just to make Oliver socialize. It had happened before.
Oliver shifted nervously in front of the bright green doorway, hands jammed into his coat and his hood pulled over his head to block out the rain. What was he doing here?
He freed one of his hands and looked down at the dark metal that made up his palm. He wasn’t wearing the skin tonight. Might as well get the alienation over with right away, then he could just slip out early.
Brant’s clear laughter could be heard through the door, along with some faint music. Oliver took a deep breath and turned back to the dimly lit street. Maybe he should just go home and lock his door.
Without really meaning to he turned back towards the doorway and knocked. Even the sound his clenched fist made against the door sounded artificial to him. But, tonight, he would do his best to forget about it.
The music inside grew quieter, the laughter stopped. Brant said something and the sound of footsteps making their way towards the door drifted through the air. Oliver found his heart pounding heavily in his chest. He was already mentally bracing himself for the inevitable. Maybe he should have worn a long-sleeved shirt.
Even if this girl was smart enough to not act surprised that he was mostly mechanical, there would still be signs. Little pauses in her speech, moments when she would glance at his hands and arms. And even then, he could always see the look in someone’s eyes. Everyone always had the same look, the look that said he was different, that he wasn’t normal. He hated that look more than anything else.
There was a slight pause between when the footsteps stopped and the door opened. A pause that almost seemed to say that he shouldn’t be here, that maybe the person on the other side of the door would just close it the moment they saw him.
The handle turned in a smooth motion and the door swung inward bathing him in warm yellow light. Luxurious and inviting smells from cooking food drifted out, embracing him. The interior of the house was inviting and cozy. He could see Brant down the hallway, a crooked grin across his face and Nadine tucked under his arm. For a moment Oliver felt like he did whenever he returned to his parents house. The light felt warm and comforting, like he belonged here.
And then she stepped out from behind the door, a warm smile on her face, eyes dancing with life, gorgeous brown hair tumbling down over her shoulders, a red blouse and blue jeans. Oliver felt his heart skip a beat and he struggled to keep his jaw from dropping. What in the world? “Lu…Lucy? Is that really you?” he stammered, stepping back.
Shock quickly spread over her face, her hands covered her mouth and she managed a little nod. Oliver took another step back and crashed down the stairs. He lay there, on his back, for a long time, rain dripping down onto his face. So she was alive. Lucy had survived.
He heard the door up the stairs close, shutting off the warm light. He didn’t blame her, not after the way they had left things. He wouldn’t have wanted to talk to himself either.
Oliver blinked, well, that charade was over, it was time to go back home and forget tonight ever happened, forget her address, and move on. His heart was still pounding heavily in his chest and he felt sensations that he had thought had long since vanished.
“Are you alright?”
Oliver looked up at Lucy, who stood over him with a concerned look on her face. He pushed himself up, “I should get going. Sorry. Forget I was even here.”
She put her hands on her hips and scowled, “And where will you go? Huh? Just go back to being alone?”
He started to say something but she cut him off.
“You always were bad with people.” She said softly, offering him a hand up, “Come on, let’s go inside,
Without meaning to he reached up, but then he saw it, the flash of surprise and confusion the moment she realized that his hand wasn’t real. He snatched his hand back and got to his feet.
Oliver nodded, straightening his jacket, “Yep, and my arm. Both arms really. Oh and my legs too. Brant didn’t fill you in?”
She shook her head, “What happened?”
“I served the country. That is what happened.”
Again she covered her mouth with her hands, her eyes wide. There was sadness in them. He jammed his hands back into his pockets, “I should just go, you have guests to look after.”
Before he even took a step she crushed him in an embrace. She felt so warm, even in the cold rain. The bitterness and distance he felt for the world seemed to just melt away into nothingness. He returned her embrace and for the first time since he had returned, his body truly felt whole again.