Multi-Prompt Collaborations

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.

 

Princess

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

Prompt 2

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.

 

Honor

Written by: Grant, Richard, and Amber

Prompt: 1, http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/art/Dodge-This-452672142

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.

 

Masks

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:

jenniferlyonbooks.com

http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/castlevania/images/6/61/GodMask.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20100821105750

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Fall

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.

Fucking freak!

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.

 

Mechanics

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.

“Your hand…”

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.

 

Dialog Challenge

The CSM creative writing club is proud to present our dialog challenge.  The prompt for this challenge is as follows:

“Create two characters and have them meet and discuss a topic. The topic can be anything you want: philosophical, political, advice, hypothetical, etc., just so long as they are discussing something. If you have the time and/or will, try to bleed in character development/definition or teach us about who they are.”

We hope that you  enjoy these pieces!


The Cabin

By: Richard Sebastian-Coleman

Scene opens to two friends in the main room of a small mountain cabin, there is a large fireplace, a nearby couch and chair, and a small dining room table. A window above the sink looks out into the mountains. 2 is trying to get a fire going while 1 looks at him from a nearby chair.

 

1: (exasperated, he’s evidently been watching for a while) You don’t know what you’re doing! Here, let me get the fire started.

2: I know what I’m doing just fine, it’s just that the wood is wet so it’s creating a lot of smoke

1: The wood’s fine you’ve just got blow air on it for a while and not stack the logs so tight that it can’t get oxygen. (1 comes over to fiddle with the fire, to no success)

2: Oh now look who’s so smart. You pushed the wood apart and it lost all the heat!

1: Fine I’ll push them a little closer, look it’s coming back, just blow on it with me.

2: (Laughing) If that’s what you’re into.

1: Shut up you know what I mean, just get down here on your knees and when I breathe in you breath out, we’ll keep a continuous stream going.

2: You’re not helping yourself

1: I’m not the one who needs helping! You’re the one who crashed the car in a cabin without a telephone during a snowstorm.

 

Both stand to face each other, ignoring the fire. Their argument becomes more heated as the sound of wind outside becomes greater.

 

2: You were the one who reserved a cabin in the middle of nowhere that didn’t have heating in the middle of winter!

1: Yeah because we both thought it would be fun! A nice peaceful getaway in the mountains.

2: (mocking) Oh now you make it sound like we’re in love.

1: Look I’m sorry your girlfriend decided to dump you and couldn’t come with, work through that on your own time, don’t take it out on me and the fire.

2: (Moving towards him aggressively) Listen you…

 

Suddenly the wind roars outside ceasing the fighting temporarily, it’s pitch begins to rise steadily until it’s bloodcurdling and almost human. It lasts for several seconds but it’s eeriness makes it seem to last an eternity.

 

1: (Slowly) What… the hell… was that

2: (rationalizing) Must have just been the sound wind makes when it comes through the pass

1: No…mountains don’t make noises like that

2: Well…nothing else could’ve made it except for the mountains

1: We know something that’s supposed to..

2: Dude, no, we get one wind blast in the middle of the snow storm and now you’re psyching yourself out about witches and demons!

1: Shhh…shhh…I don’t want to bring down any curses, they say just talking about her draws her to you

2: Oh really? Who’s they? Everyone who’s come up here, camps, and makes it back just fine to tell ghost stories to scare little kids?

1: (Angered, in defending himself he forgets his previous advice to not talk about her)  No, I’m talking about the hunters who find deer hoofs and bear claws in their traps but the rest of the body torn away, because she kills what cannot escape.

 

The wind roars again and starts to climb in pitch but then settles down

 

2: You see, clearly we were just imagining, it’s nothing but the wind coming through the pass.
Thunder crack and the apartment illuminates for a second from the lightning, a pause as it becomes dark again, then a soft green pulse of light from outside. 1 and 2 turn their heads to the window, the green light pulses again, they begin to cautiously walk towards the window. Unnoticed by either, the fire begins to grow rapidly in the fireplace.


Spirit

By: Grant DeShazer

The shop door swung shut behind him with a hiss of hydraulics and jingle from the door bell.  In all likelihood Roman would be the only one who would actually use the door today.  Afterall his clientele tended to consider doors as more of an annoyance rather than a proper form of entry.  The last client he had worked with still gave him nightmares.

The first thing to do today was to layout the contract and then get together the things he needed to make it a binding contract.  After that was finished he would go through the steps of projecting himself beyond this realm, it was only then that his new potential client would actually be able to show up, at least for this first time meeting.

Once the steps were finished he sat down on a plush couch, contract laid on the table before him and a simple tape recorder, well it looked like a tape recorder but its function was far more involved.

In a clear voice he said, “I close my eyes and open my mind to the other.  Come to me, friend of mine, spirit of the realm beyond–”

“Stop that!  I am already here.  Idiot.”

Roman’s eyes snapped open, sure enough she sat right across from him, plain as day.  “How did you get here already?”

“You haven’t figured it out yet?  I’ve always been here, just been waiting for you to be strong enough to contact me.  I have so many things I want to tell you.”

“I could have guessed that from the last time we talked.”

Illia chuckled, “So what is it you wanted to talk about today?  You made some serious preparations by the looks of it.  How did you learn all of this anyways?”

“That’s not really important, what matters is, if you want your story told, I need you to read and sign this contract.”

Illia smiled mischievously, “But I already did?  Can we get onto talking about me now?”

“Wha–” Roman hastily flipped through the pages of the contract, to his surprise her signatures had appeared everywhere “–but how?”

“Like I said, I have some interesting things to tell you.  Why waste time over some silly piece of paper like that?”

“What do you mean silly?  You realize this is binding right?”

She shrugged and put out her hand, “Let me see it really quick.”

Roman begrudgingly handed over the contract, feeling more than a bit skeptical that she really know what binding meant.  She paged through it momentarily before tossing it aside onto the floor where it promptly burst into flames.

All he could do was stare in shock at the burning papers.  In a few seconds the fire went out, leaving not even a trace of smoke in the air, or a mark on the floor.  He opened his mouth but Illia spoke first, “I warned you yesterday, I am not like the others you’ve worked with before.  I am here for a very specific reason.  Something that you are not even capable of understanding yet.  But we will get there in time.”

Illia paused and moved dangerously close to him.  It wasn’t her proximity to him that bothered him, it was the breath he felt, warm against his neck that sent chills down his spine and froze him in place.  No ghost, spirit, or otherwise, should ever have a warm breath.  “Just understand one thing Roman,” Illia said, just above a whisper, “I am here for your story, as much as you are for mine.”

“So anyways let me tell you about this great place I went to get food the other day!  I think it would make the most interesting story for you!”   Illia said, back in her spot across the table, a smile spread across her face.

He swallowed, he could still see the fire burning in her eyes.  Roman was afraid of her.


 

If Only

By: J West

Peter flinched as the door to his apartment banged open behind him.  He didn’t have to turn around to know that his friend David was standing there.

“Are you ever planning on telling me your secret?” he huffed.  Peter took his time answering, wanting to sound as acidic as possible.

“Not really.”

“It’s pretty selfish of you, you know,” David spat, walking toward where Peter was standing.  “I thought that you of all people would understand that keeping your friends in the dark usually gets everyone killed.”  

Peter kept his back turned and his face hidden.  What happened to Tara was not your fault.  You tried to save her, he thought, but the image of his dead girlfriend still appeared in his mind with a sickening jolt.

“Keeping this secret keeps you safe from Mastermind.  You know that.  If I told you what I knew, he could weasel the information out of you.  He’d find out that I told you everything I discovered when I was helping Shadowman and Grimspeak.  And then he’d kill you.  Don’t you understand that?”

“Well, last night, I almost fell to my death because Shadowman couldn’t save both me and Tara from being cast off that roof by Mastermind.  He had to choose which of us to save since Grimspeak wasn’t around to help him.  And he picked Tara, but didn’t make it in time.  I was sure I was going to die as a human pancake on Sixth Avenue.”

“I am aware, I saw the news,” Peter said with a dark, humorless smile.  He was trying to stay as stoic as possible, although the thought of his friend lying dead terrified him more than anything.

“Do you know how I survived?”

There was a pause.

“Of course you don’t.”

“Tell me.”

“Not unless you tell me your secret.  One for one.  Otherwise I walk right out that door.  We need each other to defeat Mastermind, and you know that, Peter.  I need to know what you know.  And you…well…you need my skills.”

Peter frowned.  What skills?

There was a thick silence as he weighed his options.  He’d always known his secret would come out eventually, and he was fairly sure that David wouldn’t take it well.  But he was too curious to turn down the offer to hear his friend’s confession.

“Fine.”  Peter turned around.  “But you’re going to hate me.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Just…don’t freak out, okay?”

David said nothing, but spread his arms.  Go on.

“I’m Shadowman,” Peter said, sighing heavily.  As proof, he raised his hand and conjured a black smoke that spun effortlessly up from his palm.  David’s eyes widened, but Peter started talking again, rushing to tell the whole story.  “I’ve been working with Grimspeak ever since the accident gave me my powers.  I’ve been trying to save people and stop Mastermind from taking over the city.  As you know, defeating him solely as Peter Davies the Corporate Bigwig isn’t really working very well.”

He expecting David to have a shocked or angry expression on his face.  But his friend was…smiling.

“I should have known.”

“What?”

“Well, if that’s your secret, it makes me feel far better about telling you mine…”

“Just tell me already!”

I’m Grimspeak.”

Peter was nonplussed.  “Seriously?”

David nodded, looking amused.  “Luckily, I could defy gravity long enough to stop my fall last night.”

Peter paused for a moment, then laughed.  “You know, we probably should have figured this out a long time ago.  If we’d worked together and shared our secrets, Tara might not have slipped through my fingers…and you wouldn’t have had to save yourself last night.  We could have been so much stronger together.”

“If only we’d taken off our masks.”

“If only.”


 

Barter

By: Amber Hill

“How are you feeling?”

“Did he tell you to ask? Or do you really care?” I take the glass of water Nas offers me and sip at it gingerly. My throat burns, and I ignore the tinge of red underneath my fingernails.

“The Lord lives and breathes by you,” Nas says, wiping at the corner of her mouth. I suppose she’s just finished a succulent meal as well.

“Does he, now?” I glare up at her, and I know my gaze continues to startle her. If the pure, animal ferocity behind it wasn’t enough, my eyes’ silver, mirror-like quality regularly renders her speechless. She generally avoids eye contact for that reason alone.

“You are his finest creation,” she says, and scratches at something just above her ear. She is watching the glass instead of me.

“I am his finest vessel.” I cock my head at her slightly, reading her dull expression. “I’ve less right to this body than he does. I – this-” I twist my hand at her, showing her the blood in the cracks of my palm “- does not belong to him.”

She swallows deeply. “You’ll excuse me.” She bows her head slightly, and turns to leave the room.

I reach out gently with my mind – it doesn’t take much with her frail figure – and she rocks to a stop, arms pinned to her sides.

“You’ll wait for me to excuse you,” I say over the rim of my glass. I feel my presence roiling through her blood, rooting itself in her deepest veins. The pulse of her heart feels all around me, and yet very far away. I could crush her from the inside out.

She nods, and I relinquish her. “Send for Caster,” I say, without looking at her again. I don’t have to watch to make sure she does as is commanded. She leaves the room in a hurry, and beside the door I catch a glance at my reflection.

I lick the blood away from my lips, halfheartedly.


 

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February Collaborations

The Creative Writing Club is proud to present our February collaboration pieces.  Each writer was given approximately five minutes to write.  At the end of that period they would pass their piece off to the next person who would then continue the story.  As per usual for this blog, the authors that worked on each piece are listed in order at the beginning of the piece.

The prompt for these collaborations are as follows:

Write about a movie director with chapped lips.

Or

Finish the following phrase and write a story that follows it: I’d love to ____, but my _____ just _____!

Please enjoy what we came up with!


Playwright

By: Grant, J, Richard

“I’d love to write a fantastic story, but my lips are just so chapped!” Jeff exclaimed, pounding his fist against the table, causing the keyboard to jump up.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Shell said, “Just get yourself some chapstick and move on with your life.  Besides what do chapped lips have to do with writing anyways?”

Jeff’s anger withered a bit, “But my lips, they really hurt…”

Shell rolled her eyes and let out an exaggerated sigh, “I swear, you are the writer between the two of us.  I am just here to tell you what to write.”

“And what if I don’t want to write?  Your story isn’t really that interesting anyways.  All you ever want to talk about is the most interesting food that you ate.”  He shifted and cracked his knuckles, “What was it last week?  Octopus or something like that?”

“No!  It was sushi made by one of the world’s most famous chef’s.  Why didn’t you write that down!”

“Because,” Jeff said, a bit annoyed, “People only want to read stories that are interesting and have something to say.”

“Alright, fine, you really want to know?  I’ll tell you.  It started when I was young….”

“No, not that again,” Jeff grumbled.  He tried to make a grimace, but then winced as his chapped lips began to crack.

Shell frowned.  “Why do you have such a particular aversion to my life story?  You make life stories for a living.  Even if they happen to be mostly fictional.”

“My dear, when you write stories for a living and they end up as films, it makes real life seem so…ordinary.”

Shell began rummaging in her purse.  “You’re so sure my life is ordinary.  I’ve done things that would shock you.”

Jeff rolled his eyes.  “I’m sure.  What are you looking for, anyway?”

Shell pulled her hand out of her bag in triumph.  “Lip balm, of course.”

“For you or for me?”  Jeff dared to hope Shell would take pity on him.

“For me.”  She winked and put it on slowly, watching Jeff agonize over it all.  “Unless, of course, you use my life story in your next movie,” she said.

Jeff closed his eyes, and held out his hands in acquiescence.  “Fine.”

“Good” Shell said, “I’ve already scheduled a meeting with the producer for tomorrow morning at 11, you’ll be there.”

“Good grief, you knew I would cave to you, again and again and again.”

“Well Jeff, don’t be dismayed, my life was full of adventure.”

“Really, like what?”

“Well, I once saved a baby from a shark attack.”

“Bull shit” Jeff retorted.

“Absolutely true, it was at the aquarium, his mother was holding him over the stingray (which are a type of shark by the way) petting pool and he wiggled and she dropped him, but I, with cat like reflexes swung my arms below the babe and caught him, my own arm just next to the ray’s tail.”

“Who’s going to want to see that dramatized on film?”

“Well dear, when you dramatize it you can make it better. After all, you clearly thought I meant something more interesting when I first told you I saved a baby from a shark.”

“Yes I did, I thought you meant you saved a baby from a shark attack!”

“But I did. I told an absolute, scientifically verifiable fact. If you write a scene where I am a mile away from shore and happen across the baby Moses floating in the water about to be consumed by a Great White then you would have told an equally scientifically verifiable fact.”

“So what is the truth?”

“I don’t know dear, you’re the artist.”


 

The Anniversary

By: Braden Egtvedt, Grant, J

“I’d love to go, but my lip just burst!” is probably not how you should respond to your wife’s idea.

You see, we were about to celebrate our ten year anniversary and my wife wanted to do something “extra-special,” as if going to a nice restaurant, cliff diving in Peru, and giving the dog a perm isn’t special enough.

What was this idea that is so delicate that it’s inhibited by a chapped lip? Going to see Lloyd the Squirrel that makes you smile. Have you ever tried to smile, or at least stretch your lips when they were dry before? It hurts… and doesn’t really stop the bleeding.

But she insisted anyways, and here I was standing in the middle of a crowd, grinning from ear to ear, tears streaming down my face and blood oozing from the deepening cracks in my poor dry lips.  As you can imagine, I’d do almost anything for my wife, anything at all.  Just a simple look and I can’t really say no.

And well, I guess, she never really had any sort of reason to regret begging me to do something, after all her ideas usually turned out to be rather wonderful.  Yet this time, that wasn’t really the case.  Maybe it was the combination of my terribly dry lips or the grin that had spread so undesirably across my face and my failure to prevent it from doing so.  Once people turned to see me in my miserable state of being, they instantly broke into a sheer panic, pushing and shoving their way past me to get out.

Looking back you’d likely say that I am a bit presumptuous to assume that I was the only source of panic, but I guess my wife had somehow come across as being even scarier.  She was giving me the glare.  The kind of glare that makes even the manliest man quiver.  I’d warned her that my lips were in no condition for this sort of activity.  But, what can a good husband do when his wife begs so much to go to a single event?

I took her hand, hoping she’d soften her expression just a little, but we were suddenly distracted by two teenagers decked out in Lloyd the Squirrel hats and shirts.  Lloyd actually has a pretty intense cult following; oddly enough, most people who used to be into Twilight now follow him pretty exclusively.

“Omigosh,” gasped the girl, clutching her hair, which was braided and dyed the exact shade of Lloyd the Squirrel’s fur.  “Are you a vampire?”

I just stared blankly, not sure what kind of answer to give.  Maybe she was still into Twilight.

Her apparent boyfriend joined in with the gasping.  “We’ve never seen a real one before,” he told my wife, who only deepened her scowl.  If the area hadn’t been as full of people trying to stampede out of our general area (probably my fault), the teenagers might have actually heard her growling.

But my wife was able to successfully fend off the fangirling teenagers with her frown, and then we stood alone.  Ten years of marriage could not really prepare me well enough for our situation:  my face was dripping blood, we were alone with Lloyd the Squirrel (which should have been awesome but was actually kind of creepy), we were in Peru with a dog that had just gotten a perm, people thought I was a vampire, my wife had just given me the glare, and this was possibly the worst anniversary ever.


Hidden

By: Kelsey A-M, Braden Egtvedt, Grant

Sandra looked down. To think it all began with a missing chapstick. Her right shoe slipped off her foot and twirled through the air on it’s long journey to the ground floor. Plop. A soft sound among the bustling traffic and rushing pedestrians. The clothing article was hardly noticed sitting sole up on the cement sidewalk. Only a young boy saw the shoe’s long journey to the ground. He pulled at his mother’s skirt, pointing at the woman who stood so many floors above. “I’m on the phone,” she said, pulling the fabric from the boy’s hand. “We will get ice cream later.”

Sandra shivered as the wind violently whipped her burgundy scarf. She was sitting on the roof of the downtown mall, watching the city live. Well, that and hiding from the police.

She slowly slipped her second shoe off, watching as it followed its twin. She had to get rid of those shoes. They caused enough trouble for the day. And besides, it’s not like they were hers. Now she was returning the shoes to the city she apparently stole them from.

It wasn’t every day that you woke up five minutes before you were supposed to leave for work. Well, not for normal people, anyway.

Sandra let out a dismal sigh as she watched the other shoe complete its plummet to the ground, bouncing once, unceremoniously off the pavement before coming to a halt only a few feet from where the first had settled.  Then again, she thought, normal people don’t exactly worry over the state of their lips, or at least, normal people didn’t have to worry so much about the minor details of their day to day lives.

She could easily imagine not having to sweat the minor details.  Days where she could show up in simple clothes with her hair in disarray and the signs of sleep still clinging to her face.  Sure, some might point out that there were entire months where she showed up to work in that manner, but then again, those were merely costumes.  Her real job was far more dangerous and required significantly more attention to detail than any other job.

So to her, losing that one stick of chapstick, no matter how minor of a problem it may have been to any other person, had now set off her disguise entirely.  A dangerous scowl spread across her face and she got to her feet, she’d have to set things right before she could truly start her day off.  It was essential.  There was no telling the sorts of problems that might arise should her disguise fail.


 

Fringe

By: Richard Sebastian-Coleman, Kelsey, Braden

She smiled and then realized that that made her mouth bleed so she stopped. Probably everyone thought she had some sort of disease because just because she couldn’t find chapstick in her bag. One fails to acquire a $1.25 tube of wax and suddenly can render oneself on the fringe society, looking like some modern leper. Perhaps it was a good thing. She still had no idea how these actors actually felt about her. If they didn’t like her at least now they might fear her. Machiavelli had said it was better for the Prince to be feared than loved right? But then Dylan had said sometimes people who are loved have more power than anyone could ever fear. Both were men whom she’d never known so why she should care so much about what they thought she still wasn’t quite sure.

Ugh, that thought caused her to grimace, which sent another trickle of the red red kroovy down her chin. Must focus on the set. Something good must have just happened or else she wouldn’t have smiled, what was it? Oh right, Roger had tripped on a lighting cable and face planted on hardwood, nice. She sort of liked Roger though, maybe she shouldn’t laugh at his pain. That caused her to stretch her mouth and bleed again.

“I’m sorry everybody, does anyone have any chapstick?”

Roger craned his neck up off the floor, the lighting guy stopped repositioning the light Roger had nearly caused to tumble, and the rest of the cast previously caught up in private conversations with each other turned to look at her.

“I do!” Roger said. Redirection being his solution to cover up his embarrassment. He reached in his pockets to find the little tube. His eyes bulged suddenly. Where was it? He had just used it twenty minutes ago. He looked at her, an apologetic expression on his face. “I can’t find it.” He admitted after thorough rifling of all four of his pockets. Her mouth was set in a firm line. His eyes dropped to the floor. Thankfully, just as the silence threatened to consume Roger, Sara, the sound technician, yelled out, “I’ve got some!” She stood up from her booth and made her way over to the stage.

“Here you go, Tori.”

“Thanks.” Tori applied the wax to her lips, then realized that she got blood on the stick. “Oops! Sorry about that, Sara.”

“Eh, it’s alright. Kind of expected really. Go ahead and keep it. I’ve got. like, five of them at home and no one really goes through them all the way, anyway,” Sara replied with a bit of indifference.


Perkins

By: J, Richard, Kelsey

I’d love to go to your wedding, but my cat just got married.  It’s kind of a big deal, and I’m sorry and I hope it doesn’t ruin your perfect day.  I just can’t take two weddings in one month, especially when one of them will never be topped.  I’m referring of course, to my precious Siamese named Perkins.  When a sparkling white wedding of that magnitude happens, ones like yours seem so small and…dare I say…off-white.

Surely your RSVP response card wasn’t intended for this kind of “Not coming” response, but as you felt it was your duty to announce your imminent yet sadly unimportant marriage, I felt it was mine to announce the reason for my obvious absence.  I’m sorry if you’re offended, but my cat really means everything to me and Perkins leaves for his honeymoon the day after your wedding.  He needs me, and his new wife needs me.

They actually do.  Who else is going to feed them?

Some people might think that I am a bit too loyal to my pets.  And while that’s probably true, I must admit that I prefer their company to most people.

“Dear, you can’t write this to Chelsea and Mark.  They’re going to think you’re crazy.  Not to mention rude.”

“But – “

“Not one word.  You go get another piece of cardstock and RSVP yes to their wedding.”

“With a plus one?”

“Obviously, darling,” my wife says.

I do as she says.  But what I don’t tell her is that my plus one is actually going to be Perkins.

I don’t think Perkins has ever been to such a nice hotel! I’m glad I came to this wedding just so I could share the room with him! I found it rather inconsiderate that Chelsea would pay for a hotel for all her guests yet neglect to find a pet friendly hotel. What a bitch. Did she never consider the possibility that someone might want to share in her joy with a friendly wonderful Persian cat on her lap? Ah well no matter. Perkins fit very nicely into my suitcase and didn’t make a peep at the front desk when we checked in (small amount of vodka really helps). Oh I feel like a Cold War spy sneaking into this hotel with Perkins, what an adventure we’ll have!

Dear Diary,

Chelsea was “not amused” when Perkins showed up at the wedding rehearsal. Apparently Mark’s mother has a serious fur allergy and now they have to have the place cleaned up by men in hazmat suits. Apparently now I’m the bitch for not considering that Mark’s mother might have a long family history of cat allergies and nearly dying at fancy events when such animals were introduced.  Ah well, at least they’re sending me home.

“What a lovely nap.” I say, stepping into the kitchen and placing a kiss on my wife’s cheek. With that important task done, I next call out to my other two darlings. “Perkins and…Yoouu!” I wait, but hear nothing. No light paw steps on the hardwood, no insistent mews. I feel the blood drain from my face. I drop the box of treats to hear them scatter across the counter as I race to find my darlings. They’re not in the bathroom, the den, the master bedroom, the study, the prayer room. I place my hand on the door knob of the guest bedroom. And behold quite a scene within.


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The Mansion

Ugir strolled through the streets of the city with hands stuffed in his pockets and his tattered jacket drawn tight against the cold evening air.  Around his neck hung a necklace with a single clear crystal and compared to the rest of his attire, the necklace was the only valuable thing he had.  A few people looked at him briefly as they strutted by.  He could almost hear their laughter at him.  They might not laugh out loud, but he knew they were snickering under their breath.

They were all so stupid, so annoying.  So…small minded.  Always laughing at him, always shouting at him for being different.  What had he ever done to deserve such treatment?  Nothing.  Not one damn thing and yet, they still did.

But things were different now.  Ever since he had found the book everything had changed.  Now he knew that he wasn’t alone.  The things that he could do did not make him different.  They had always made him better, made him stronger.  At first he could only do simple things, but now, with the crystal, he was so much better.

Ugir kicked viciously at a rock on the sidewalk, watching it skitter away into the distance sliding to a stop at the foot of a sandy colored building.  A government building no less.  He strode up to the bottom and looked up one of the carved columns holding up the roof.  Some Latin was carved into edge of the stone roof.  He scowled at it, people always thought that a dead language made them look smarter.  He scoffed at it and went on his way.  While he despised the government this was not the proper spot, it didn’t have the right feel to it.

It was close though, he could sense the direction he needed to go.  Not long now.  Not long till the laughing stopped, till the mocking ended.

Finally he was there.  The massive buildings stretched up into the sky.  A monument to the rich, to the privileged.  They were the ones that laughed the loudest, mocking his rags and his depravity.  They thought they were safe in their fancy cars and their fancy buildings.  They had all the money in the world and they thought they were safe.

Dead men.  The lot of them.  Fuck the rules of the book.  He had power now, power to do away with the world.  Nothing could stop him.

Ugir planted himself in the center of the crossroads and started to draw the power to him.  Its exhilarating feel drew a wicked smile across his face.  Oh how they laughed at him when they found out what he could do.  What threat was a man in rags?

He called more power to him, channeling it through his crystal necklace before wrapping it tighter around his fist.  The rags of his jacket fluttered slightly on his skinny frame as he drew himself up.  Enough of this place, he thought, he was a master of his form, not some street beggar to be pitied.  Fuck the rules, fuck this life.  He had enough.

The drab colors of the city began to waver around him, furthering his twisted smile.  They would finally know exactly what it was he could do.  The whole world would know.

When he could barely contain the power whirling around him he bent down and released it all into the ground.  A deafening explosion rocked the city.  A few of the oldest buildings crumbled in a plume of dust.  For a moment he wondered if he had done it wrong.  Ugir saw red. The book had been wrong!

The ground shuddered slightly before it thrust upwards with an angry roar.  Like waves on water, the earth shook up and down violently, spreading outwards from him in a destructive path.  Entire buildings collapsed, vehicles were tossed about like toys.  Wave after wave of rock spread outwards from him, turning the city to dust.

All the while, Ugir stood at the epicenter, chuckling softly to himself as silence began to fall on the now lifeless city.  Finally, he had the last laugh.

 

Halloween Collaborations

CSM Creative Writing proudly presents seven collaborative short stories written in honor of Halloween.  Our writers were put in pairs, with one writing the beginning and the other the ending.  We hope you enjoy!


  1. Leaves

Written by Joe and Braden

Wiping sweat from his brow, Gordon straightened up and stretched his back. The yard was clean. Finally.

An endless carpet of leaves had seemed to encompass each individual blade of grass earlier (a metaphor taking almost as much work as clearing the yard), but now the yard was green once more. Now they were all stuffed into one huge, orange bag. Fine work he’d made of it too. Fine work. It was time to go inside, grab a beer, find a book, try not to step on the LEGOs in the living room, and relax a bit in front of the fire. Then he could come back and tie the bag and leave it in the trash. But not yet.

The back door was flung open as he approached to reveal his daughter, Gracie, in a pair of overalls, a plaid shirt, and a light denim jacket. “Daddy!” she yelled, even though he was only six feet away, “You finished!”

“Yup. Jump right in darling,” Gordon replied, chuckling. The leaves were waiting. She made room for him as he stepped into the house. Then she dashed into the yard with a high-pitched laugh.

As Gordon opened the fridge, he heard a prolonged rustling sound from the yard coupled with some muffled yelling. Looking outside, he saw Gracie’s denim jacket sitting on the ground beside the leaf bag. He chuckled again, thinking of the energy of youth.

He made his way to the fire, avoiding the LEGOs, and began reading. Naturally, he immediately fell asleep.

“Where’s Gracie?!”

Groggily, Gordon attempted to rouse himself.

“Gordon, where is she?! I can’t find her anywhere!”

Gordon’s wife, Gertrude, would looking down at him with concern.

“She went out to jump in the leaves. I fell asleep before she came in.”

They were both worried now (Naturally. I mean, what kind of parents wouldn’t be?). Gordon and Gertrude rushed out to the front yard, but Gracie couldn’t be seen—only a flattened pile of leaves and the orange bag. Gordon got a feeling that someone was watching him. They looked around the yard until they heard “Mommy! Daddy!”

They both looked to where the voice was coming from—the tree—and saw Gracie on one of the higher branches.

“Gracie! Get down here right now!” Gertrude shouted.

At the same time, Gordon yelled, “Gracie! How’d you get up there? I’m impressed!”

Gertrude slapped Gordon.

They got Gracie down safely, after which Gertrude scolded her for climbing so high where it was unsafe and to go to her room. Grouchily, Gracie grumped off to gouge her thoughts gregariously. Gee.

So remember kids (or parents), don’t let your kids go play in the leaves unattended. They might get stuck in a tree and have to grouchily grump off to gouge their thoughts gregariously.


2. Scare Crow

Written by Grant and J. West

Scarecrows always stood alone surrounded by an empty field of dead and dying vegetation.  They were the silent watchers of the fall decay and the summer growth.  But whenever Laya thought of them, they were always surrounded by a field of barren earth, or the remains of the season’s crops.  She hated scarecrows.  Such sad creatures.  Pinned up and left to rot alone.  She made it a habit to stay far away from them, wishing to avoid the dread that always rose up in her gut.

So when she found herself, arms crossed over her stomach, clenching shut her jacket against the cold, staring into the empty face of a scarecrow she had to ask, what had driven her to come this far out into the field?  Maybe it was because this scarecrow was different.  There was something odd about it.  A sense of wrongness clung to it.

The face was made from a burlap sack stuffed full of old oily rags.  Color left over from what looked to have once been eyes oozed down the fabric of the bag before it ran down onto the plaid shirt.  Its arms and legs hung limply and swayed slightly in the wind.  Something was definitely wrong with it.

Scarecrows were usually festive and goofy-looking.  This one was too…dead.

Laya glanced around, this last thought scaring her.  What had made her think that?  Okay, maybe the color from its eyes did look a little like blood, but why should that make her afraid?  It was just dye.  And she’d always hated scarecrows, ever since she was little.  It was probably just that.

She vividly remembered when she had been six or seven, and Grandfather had taken her out into the field to help him put up this same scarecrow.  The cornfields that day were still in their prime; still rolling with green and yellow and gold leaves.  But the moment they put up the new scarecrow, Grandfather had fallen off the ladder.  Heart attack.  They buried him a week later.

Perhaps scarecrows killed the things around them.  Perhaps they didn’t protect the crops at all.

Laya forced herself to take a step closer to it.  It had been sitting in this field for far too long.  She trembled as another icy gust of wind raked its claws across her face.  Her hand, somehow no longer connected to her brain, was moving to take off the scarecrow’s burlap sack.  Was something under there?

Laya’s mind was screaming, “No! Don’t do it!”

But her hand was no longer listening.  And when she felt the scratchy fabric against her dry hands, part of her wanted to close her eyes.

And when the scarecrow’s mask came off, Laya knew why her grandfather had died all those years ago.  Because what was under that mask radiated evil and power and anger.  And her body overloaded with the fear.  He had died of fright, and no one had even noticed.

And Laya’s last thought before her heart gave out and she buckled to her knees was of a man of hay, standing before death and destruction, scavenging for fear like a bird.
He truly was a Scare Crow.


3. Candles

Written by J. West and Brody

Mark lit the first candle and stared at it.  It stuttered to life, the new wick quickly turning from white to black, the red and yellow embers slowly becoming a flame.  He watched it flicker helplessly for a few seconds until it stabilized, and took delight as it began to burn.

It was dark in the shop, and he was the only one there this late.  Mark had never liked Halloween, and so he had volunteered to work that night while all his older co-workers took their children trick-or-treating.  As soon as everyone had left and the sun had set, Mark had pulled out the candles; the electricity was on the fritz again.  

Mark was about to light the second candle when he heard a slam near the back of the store, near the bathrooms.

“Is anyone there?” he asked.  He’d intended for his voice to be loud, but it came out just above a whisper.

There was, of course, no response.  It was almost stereotypical, the way something like this would happen to him on Halloween of all nights.  Mark nearly laughed, the mirth rising in his stomach like hot air.

But then the first candle went out with a small “thwpp.”  And Mark froze, his hands halfway through striking a match for his second candle.

“Hello?” he asked, this time hoping there wouldn’t be an answer.

And then an icy chill descended over him, and he felt something grab at his face.

“Got your nose,” said a snide voice.

“John, you had me going.  I thought there was a burglar.”  Mark blew out a relieved breath.

“Yeah sure.  You’re afraid of being robbed…but a ghostly visit is normal for you?  You need to sort out your priorities.”

“Haha, yeah, you’re right…” Mark chuckled as he kicked his demon summoning book under a table and out of sight. “What do you want?”

“Oh I just wanted to see how you were doing. Catch up. Have some tea.” John’s smile quickly faded into a frown. “You think I don’t know that you’re summoning demons? I will not tolerate you ‘having fun’ with another being from Beyond.”

“It’s not that-” Mark began.

Then what is it?” John nearly shouted.

“I just- I just feel like you aren’t fully interested. Like my soul isn’t really worth that much to you.”

“And a demon would treat you better? Mark, seriously, why are you acting so hostile towards me. I’ve given you all you ask. You never worry about rent, all your enemies are mysteriously frightened to death, what more do you need?”

“Working lighting would be nice,” Mark muttered.

“Fine. When you decide you still care, call me on your Ouija board. Until then, I’m gone.” John vanished.

Mark sighed. He picked up the demon book. After staring at it for a moment, he put it on his bookshelf.

The full moon peaked through the curtains as Mark tried to light another candle. A fourteen year old walked into the store. Great, Mark thought, more teenagers looking for demon books. They never take this seriously. This kid, however, was not looking for books. He was looking for blood.


4. Cookies

Written by Brody and Likith

Screams of horror resounded through the graveyard. Kathy, who bears no resemblance to any Kathy who ever attended Colorado School of Mines, ran towards the screams. She was horrified to find a boy who had been stabbed with a sword of dry ice. Above the trees, she saw a figure riding a broom towards the old, abandoned house on the hill.

Slowly, Kathy walked up the street and opened the tall, wrought iron gates. Her coat snagged on the gate, and when she turned, she saw a black cat sitting behind her. The cat hissed, and vanished before her eyes. The door creaked as she opened it and looked inside. She cautiously stepped through the door, which slammed behind her with a resounding bang! She carefully debated between the stairs in front of her and the kitchen to the right.

A pleasant scent of chocolate chip cookies wafted from the kitchen, so she followed her nose. She sat at the cold, wooden table and grabbed one. She bit into the cookie. It was surprisingly warm, as it didn’t seem like anyone had been around for a long time, and remarkably similar to the chocolate chip cookies her grandmother used to make. Oh, how she had craved for these exact cookies, whose recipes her mom simply could not master. It would always seem like something was amiss. Neither of them could ever place a finger on it. But these were different. It was at that precise moment when she realized that an ice-cold wave took over her spine, and the blood drained from her face, making it almost waxy.

It simply could not be. Her mom didn’t even know she was here, let alone the scant chance that she did, somehow, master the recipe overnight. And her grandmother couldn’t have just sprung back from the dead. Unless…


5. Dave The Cat

Written by Braden and Grant

A cat was walking down an alley. People called him an alley cat. He didn’t know why, but people are weird like that. Because “the cat” is going to get tedious to write and readers typically connect with a character better when they have a name, the cat shall be named Dave. Now, Dave was a black cat, partly because this story is being written by a Halloween-themed prompt, partly because I didn’t want to describe him too much. Oh, and Dave has green eyes, because eeriness. And because people seem to be obsessed with eye-color (I’m looking at you, Lit Majors).

Now Dave usually just wanders the streets looking for food, like and ol’ stray would do. Except this time, he felt as if something was watching him. No, not the people passing by on the street, nor the surveillance cameras on the light posts, nor the rotting fish sitting next to a homeless guys who has passed out with a bottle in his hand. It was the bottle, you see. Something was glimmering in the reflection, but Dave hadn’t the slightest idea what it was.

He crept closer, then used his above-average sense of kitty-awareness to locate what was in the reflection: dry ice. Why? Because it was on a white board and I felt like it should be in the story.

Now it should be said that this wasn’t just normal dry ice.  This was the kind of dry ice that gave people the spooks.  Or at least, given the purpose of this story it does anyways.  Dave was taken back.  What was dry ice doing in his reflection? He was just an alley cat going about his business not wishing to be disturbed, yet there it was, staring back at him from his own reflection.

Dave was smart though, his instincts said something wasn’t right so he turned and left the alley. After all what cat would ignore their instincts.  And he was of no mind to spend any of the remaining lives he had.  Since the last laser pointer incident he was certain that at least one of his lives was gone.

Back to the story, since this is supposed to be about something sinister watching Dave, it was rather clear that this wasn’t the last Dave would see of the dry ice.


6. The Boy in the Abandoned House

Written by Likith and Emily

A very unusual blend of fear and festivities sets in at this time of the year. What incident sparked this all off, I can’t help but wonder. This place I have now come to call home stuns me every other day. Here, the people celebrate their differences rather than try to hide them. I think a good example is the time of year they call Halloween. Although I haven’t experienced very many of these, I enjoy the smell of pumpkin pie that hangs in the air when the Forman family next door bakes them for their kids. Last year, they were even kind enough to spare me a piece. A sudden reminder that I wasn’t as invisible as I thought.

You may wonder why it is that I feel invisible often, and it’s not because people ignore me. Well, they do, but the reason they do, is because I am a ghost. Though I can keep up the image of being a normal human boy, it requires a large amount of my energy, and I tend to become as unnoticeable as a gray wall. When people actually notice me and go out of their way just to do something for me, it’s honestly quite a surprise. Even something as simple as sharing a piece of pumpkin pie is an act of kindness that I won’t easily forget.

I spend every day living as a normal person, but being normal is hardly easy when you have to remember not to walk through objects or pretend to eat three meals a day. I’m sure that people think there is something wrong with me, as I’m constantly saying things that are nonsensical to them or perhaps just outdated. Thus, I am the outcast of my class, deemed a “weirdo” and “strange”. So I am very thankful for any kindness shown to me.


7. UFOs

Written by: Joe and Emily

It was Halloween in the year 2057.  It had been a completely normal day with the usual parties and costumes.  But as soon as the sun started to set, it would mark the beginning of the “Age of Devils”.  At first, people speculated that the huge, black UFOs must be some sort of trick for a movie or just some crazy rich person gone wild with special effects.  As they neared, it became obvious that this was not the case because each UFO was filled with devils.  The devils were over ten feet tall and gave menacing glares while chanting something that sounded like a curse.

Fire began to rain from the sky, perhaps originating from the UFOs (shaped like huge shards of half-molten rock) and perhaps originating from the spaces in between.

The spell of Halloween was broken as trick-or-treaters disappeared in gouts of flame.  Panic spread like the sugary sweets had before.

Then the devils came down.  They had curling horns, like a bighorn sheep’s, but covered in spines.  Dark, scaled plates adorned their torsos, their pairs of arms and pairs of legs.  They hefted long, flaming whips as they herded humans before them.

Some brave souls tried to fight back with street signs, power tools, or just over-full bags of candy.  But inevitably, they were felled by devil-flames and sent burning into the night, beacons of despair to all that beheld them.

The invasion had begun.

And maybe prophetically, we were losing.


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Image courtesy of http://www.e-tarocchi.com/blog/media/1/20111016-jack-o-lanterns.jpg

Home

In the morning, there is always coffee.

The place has a strong, sweet scent, like vanilla, embedded in the walls.  The air tastes like honey and milk as light as meringue.

In the afternoon, there is always silence.

There is a still moment after the caffeinated rush of those first hours.  The people who come here when it’s quiet remember what made it loud, boisterous, and messy.  The silence has a cherished status.

In the time before dusk, a door always opens.

Heavy backpacks slam to the heavy wooden floor.  There are exclamations of relief and the refrigerator opens to release cool drafts on unsuspecting bare feet.

In the evening, there is always light.  

Electric, of course, except for one solitary royal-blue candle lit in the corner, because Ellie likes candles.  They smell good and last a long time.  Just like this place.

Ellie and I come here every day.  Because we must.  But mostly because we want to.

In the mornings, it’s hard to leave it.  It’s warm, cozy, and delicious.

In the afternoons, we grumble because we wish we were there.

In the time before dusk, we arrive wearily.

And in the evening, we make the place bright with our glittering laughter and enduring lights.                

           

Every morning, the wick on Ellie’s candle is burned black and curved like a fishhook.  Every night, it’s lit with flames of white and cream and tangerine and periwinkle.  The wick grows a little shorter.  A little more time has passed.

By the time Ellie’s candle runs out, my time at this place will too.  I’ll be absent while the coffee brews and the milk froths and steams.  In the afternoons, I’ll be gone when I’ve always been gone, and at night, I’ll be away when I shouldn’t be away.

I’ll be in college when Ellie takes her first sip of coffee and declares she prefers tea (as I predict she will).

I’ll be in college when Ellie arrives home from her first day of high school and her pack full of books slips from shoulder to elbow to the stained, gleaming wood.

I’ll be in college when she finds a new candle to light, and when that candle’s used up too.

There’s no sense in denying it anymore, so I might as well commit this place to memory.  Special circumstances must be taken to remember where you came from.

Five months later, I purchase a large royal-blue candle.

And think of home.