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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March Collaboration: Poetry

The CSM Creative Writing Club proudly presents its latest collaborative venture into the world of poetry.  We’ve gained some fabulous new members, and are proud to showcase their work here.

Each of these poems was written in the following order:

  • The first person creates a title and first line
  • The second writes a metaphor relating to the title and first line
  • The third includes personification
  • All proceeding lines are alternating writers continuing the poem.
  • The last person in the order finishes the poem

We hope you enjoy these pieces.  Feel free to let us know what you think in comments, and follow us for future updates!


 

Branching

Written By: Richard Sebastian-Coleman, Braden Egtvedt, Brody, J. West, Molly, Clara Levy, Richard, and Braden

Out of the mud come roots which then become the trunk

As if hit by Bunyan’s axe swings, the top becomes something new; alive

The tree smiled and breathed in the cool morning air

Stretching toward a sky it knows it can never reach.

It feels the fatigue of gravity and takes an alternate path:

Outward, outward!

And, Upward, upward!

For what is sky to the tree but home?

A sigh of relief, a stretch in the sun

The tree more content and happy than I can ever be

But as I see what a tree can have

Why can’t I have a sky for me?


Lovely

Written By: Clara Levy, Braden Egtvedt, Richard Sebastian-Coleman, Brody, J. West, Molly, Clara, and Richard

 

He wasn’t so much a looker, but he was lovely.

Being near his heart was being near a small warm star

The heat of his personality welcomed you in, offered tea,

Like the scent of fresh baked cookies on a cold winter’s night,

His presence brought joy to the room.

 

His hands were soft electricity

His smile was a live wire.

A conductive yet lopsided grin

that somehow, magnetically lured you in

 

Oh! How he was lovely!

Because he was an exemplar of what love could be

Light without shadow, magnetic pull without rejection

He wasn’t a looker but that wasn’t the point.


 

Demolition

Written By: Molly Baron, Clara Levy, Richard Sebastian-Coleman, Braden Egtvedt, Brody, J. West, Molly, Clara

Twisted metal coated the concrete

The concrete accepted the offering, though it inflicted pain

The body heaved as it was gutted, turning into a corpse, it felt it had a noble death

The metal and the glass and the brick felt the disturbance of a

Trumpet, playing for their funeral.

 

The song instilled a pain in me,

A cold reminder of my loss, while my eyes held back an ocean

Part of me has died – I have a hole where something was

I cannot hold myself up when what was once inside is gone.

 

And as the slow chew of the demolition crew works

the gnawing widens the hole to a cavern…

 

And then I pass. The sound drifts away.

I can no longer hear the ripping, the gutting, the pain

Until another day, until another day.


 

Spring Morning

Written By: Brody, Molly Baron, Clara Levy, Richard Sebastian-Coleman, Braden Egtvedt, J. West, Molly

crisp wind and a flower in the snow,

two skyscrapers bursting through dense , winter-white clouds

blood dripping from the feet of the black brick steps

 

This tiny point of chaos resonates and ripples through the sleeping  forest

Stirring from under its blanket the shoots, the stems, the tiny legs, the ruffling fur

Spring has come as the blanket melts away

Life stirs as colors do

Inspecting the newfound companions

 

the first time i’ve really felt at home, the first time i’ve belonged

it’s like the first time feeling the warm sun

But deep down, it is marred by my past – I know what I did.

Is there forgiveness in spring?

But as the radiance of sun warms my skin, it heals the winter beneath

and I know

I have been born anew.


 

Provider

Written By: Braden Egtvedt, Brody, Molly, Clara, Richard, Braden, J. West

Trees.

The tree was the mother and the animals her children

tugging at her bark apron, as she reached up into the cupboard of sunlight to feed them

The mother loved her children, even when they could not understand

“Let me provide for you” she said, “let me be your life”

 

May my roots hold this ground for you,

May my leaves give you breath,

May there be shelter under my branches,

and may everything that walks and crawls on me call you friend

 

Let me comfort you when you get full

And let me help you when you are sick

I will be someone you can always look up to

Someone you can always count on

 

I’ll give you all that I can spare

What I have I will always share.


 

Honey

Names: J. West, Molly, Clara, Richard, Braden Egtvedt, Brody

Some people sip sunlight in honeyed glasses

Refractions of fluid dance into their welcoming mouths

It is as if they tease the person sipping

 

Tickle the throat and warm the gut

to let sunshine grow within the body

It nourishes that which is weak

And humbles those who are strong

 

It keeps everyone together

With hope and peace and sweetness

This is what makes good things great

 


 

Images courtesy of likesuccess.com, www.publicdomainpictures.nettheheartmovement.comwww.123rf.comiphonewallpaersfree.comsimshalom.com, and www.feelhealthylife.com respectively.

 

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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Winter Collaborations

 

The Creative Writing Club is proud to present our December Collaboration pieces.  While these are intended to be read a individual pieces some do have a bit of overlap.  The club was given the prompt:

Place a character with supernatural abilities into a “hell day” at Mines. How would they react?

Each writer was then given fifteen minutes to write as much as they could.  At the end of the time period, everyone switched to another piece.  However the catch was that they were then to introduce their character into that story and see what the resulting chaos was.  As can be seen, this lead to pieces with a considerable amount of overlap.  Since each author took the stories in different directions with each time they passed the story on, attempting to seamlessly mesh everything together would have been much like trying to untangle the Gordian knot.
So in the spirit of preserving each writer’s style and intent, the stories are being presented as is.


 

1. Ice

By: Kathy, Likith, and Joe

Serena sighed, running her hands through her shoulder length locks as she glared at the computer screen. Three lab reports and an exam all in the same week. “I swear this school is trying to kill me.” She mumbled, her head falling onto the big red textbook that sat innocently in front of her.

Sunday morning she had stationed herself in the library intent on getting something done. After all, with her exam on Wednesday, a lab report due on Monday, and the other two reports due on Thursday, she had to get something done. Well…that was her initial plan. It didn’t seem like it was likely given that it was 5 o’clock in the evening and she had one line written. One line.

She flicked her wrist, absently freezing the water in her water bottle as she tried to will her reports to do themselves. She didn’t notice the weird looks as the ice froze and unfroze, drawing the attention of the remaining students in the computer lab. She didn’t notice the temperature slowly dropping as her hands started slamming against the keyboard, her frustration clear through the loud clicks.

Serena grumbled in annoyance,pushing her chair away from the computer table and standing up. “Screw this. I need Marc’s help. I really do.” she muttered.

She tried as hard as she could to avoid seeking it out, but this week had been just about as unforgiving as any week could get. She would take Marc with her, and go meet her professor. What Marc saw always helped her understand the easiest way to get a good grade. It made all the difference. A month ago, Serena would’ve dismissed that idea as unethical and something that she just wouldn’t do. But not tonight.

Serena managed to convince Marc to go with her to talk to the professor. He didn’t even have to be in the room. If he focussed hard enough, he could even read through walls.Through a small wireless earpiece, she could receive instant feedback of what the professor was thinking, and she would’ve learnt the best and, more importantly, the easiest way to get a good grade. What could she offer him in return? Her freezing abilities didn’t just work on physical objects. It worked on the mind too. And what better gift to a mind reader than a time-out from that barrage of information he had to scan through on a daily basis. A couple of seconds of contact with his skull, and he would float away into the calm of nothingness. Perfect bliss.

As Serena and Marc were walking in the direction of her professor’s office, she heard the sound of footsteps behind her. Three sets of footsteps. Two of them muffled. Before he said anything, she knew who it was.

“Heeeello Serena!” Kayden chimed behind her as she winced uncomfortably, “Where ya off to?”

“See a professor,” she grunted, hoping he’d just go away.

“Gotcha,” he said, seemingly unaffected by her tone or the length of her answer, “Well, you can always count on me for a hand if you like. I could have my buddy here eat your homework, or rough up your professor’s office, or rough up your professor and steal his boxers! Right Wishbone?”

There was a small barking sound behind her. Serena turned around, her face flushed with anger. “Do you remember what happened the last time you set one of your dogs on my professor?” she asked, “He couldn’t show his face on campus for a week in fear of being teased because a dog marked his office as territory. In fact–” She raised a hand and put a quick ice wall between herself and Kayden.

“Hey!” he yelped, almost at the same pitch as the dog, “You froze my shoe to the sidewalk!”

“Deal with it!” she called back.

She continued on towards the professor’s office, Marc chuckling beside her. She would get her work done . . . ethically. Mostly.

At least she wouldn’t be able to humiliate anyone but herself.


 

2. Fire

By: Brody, Kathy, and Likith

Shit, I’m gonna be late, Ember thought as she threw on a shirt and jeans and darted out the door. Two quizzes, an exam and a presentation to look forward to today and she nearly overslept. She barely caught the bus. Sitting by the window, she sighed. The sky was overcast, and she feared it was a bad omen for the day ahead of her. The bus got to campus a few minutes early, so she grabbed a coffee for good luck and walked to biochemistry.

Adrenaline flooded through her as the professor began handing out the exams. Her stomach was overwhelmed with nausea. She pulled out her pencil and began circling answers. She thought she was prepared until this morning, when she realized she barely touched chapter 9. Classmates around her began sweating, and before she knew it her test was beginning to smoke.

“Why is your test smoking?” The professor asked nervously, and that was when Ember lost control. Her test caught fire and everyone began to run out of the room. She couldn’t believe it. She had done so well the last two years hiding her identity.

No one was supposed to know Elementals existed, much less that she was one. Fortunately, everyone was so riddled with test anxiety and fear for their lives that they would not realize anything was up with her. They would have no idea why her test caught fire. At least, that’s what Ember told herself.

The test was postponed, so she walked and sat outside her thermodynamics classroom to prepare for the quiz she hadn’t studied for.

“Morning Ember,” Serena said, her sapphire eyes locking onto the black haired teen sitting in the front row. Ember growled softly, lowering her head to the soft plastic of her notebook before mumbling, “Morning.”

She heard her long-time friend chuckle quietly before a quiet thud indicated that she had dropped her backpack to settle into the seat next to her.

“Did you hear? An exam in biochem caught on fire,” said someone a few rows up. Serena froze, her eyes landing on Ember’s still form as the class erupted into disbelief. “Someone must have dropped a match or lit it on fire with a lighter or something.”

“You had biochem before this class. Did you see anything?” Serena inquired quietly, her eyes locked on Ember’s form.

“Absolutely not.” Ember mumbled. “But they had to postpone the exam.” She lifted her amber eyes to stare at Serena, narrowing on the frozen water bottle. Cold as it is, her water bottle should not be that frozen….

“You sure?” Serena asked.

Ember nodded. “ ‘Rena, why is your water bottle still frozen? It’s eleven and you had work this morning.”

“Uh….” Serna said as the color drained out of Serena’s face. Just what is she hiding?

Ember frowned, feeling the pulse of the arcane magic before the room froze solid. Every desk, every backpack, notebook, and pen were all encased in ice. Startled screams echoed in her eardrums but all she noticed was the pale, sweating face of her childhood friend.

“Everyone, please leave the classroom quickly. The heating system must be out of whack in this room.” Their professor ordered, “Leave everything where it is.”

An accidental fire was believable, though the doubts still floated around. All those weird hypotheses that most were too shy to voice out, Marc read and laughed at. But a frozen classroom? All Marc saw were ellipses. No words around for a while, and then there were a massive barrage of curse words ill-fitted into open-ended questions. These newbies were just too careless with their powers. Some probably even thought they were the only ones who knew about it. How could they? Marc would never miss news like that. His gift was probably the only one which sounded so ridiculous no one could resist rejecting that was even a possibility. Except maybe Kayden’s. His gift was really ridiculous.

Anyways, Marc thought to himself, he was safe. He needed to help Serena. Obviously there was no traceable evidence that pointed to her, but this was something that the university wouldn’t just ignore. Something had to be done. Powers like this needed to be controlled if a good cover for the Elementals even had the chance to exist.


 

3. Spirit

By: J, Brody, and Kathy

Amy thought the day was going to be just fine, but that was before she accidentally slipped on a patch of ice while walking to class and slid onto the sidewalk with a crash.  Her ceramic coffee mug slipped from her grasp and shattered into millions of pieces.  She wasn’t bleeding, as far as she could tell, but her pride was wounded.  And her whole outfit was covered in coffee.

Someone behind her laughed.

“Shut up, Gray, it’s not funny,” she scowled.

“Yes it is.”

“Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you have to be completely insensitive, you know.”

Gray’s transparent form flickered a little as he squatted down to her level.  “It was still hilarious.”

“Some days I wish I’d never met you.” She stood grumpily and adjusted her backpack.

The lecture hall was packed by the time Amy made it to her seat in the back.  She didn’t bother saving a seat for Gray; he didn’t need one.  Amy was the only one who could see him anyway.

They’d been friends for several years now.  Amy had finally gotten the hang of being able to see ghosts like Gray.  Sometimes she helped them solve mysteries or complete unfinished business.  But Gray was the only one who’d liked her enough to stay after the adventure was over.  He said it was because he liked to keep her company.

But why he wanted to sit in on today’s physics lecture was beyond her.  It was torture.

They got their exams back that day.  Amy’s professor handed them out with a grimace; the average had been higher than expected (a 62!) but no one was really impressed with this.

Amy turned her exam over, saw a grim red “45” and slid down in her seat, flipping the paper over again.  Gray tutted sympathetically.

“Rough.  That test must have been murder,” he whispered.

“You know, I can see dead people…but if we have another exam like this, I’ll probably get to meet a few more…it was awful.”

Gray nodded.  “And you didn’t even ask me to help you.”

“That would have been cheating.”

“You can’t cheat if I’m dead.”

“I beg to differ,” Amy hissed, trying hard not to draw attention to the conversation she was having.  If people thought she was talking to herself, they’d probably be okay with it, but that didn’t make Amy feel better.

Turning around, Ember asked, “Who the hell are you talking to?”

Amy froze for a moment before stuttering, “Uhh I talk to myself sometimes, especially when I don’t do well on tests.”

“I did bad too, don’t be upset,” Ember replied, attempting empathy.

“Don’t listen to her, she got an 86.” Gray whispered.

Sending a chilling grin to Ember, Amy asked, “Oh yeah, Ember? What did you get?”

Amy could have sworn that Ember’s hair was jet black, but now it looked like it was turning auburn. “I, uhh… I got a 62.”

“I’m sure you got exactly average. Now what did you actually get?”

“Fine I got an 86. I was trying to be comforting.”

Now the air felt like it was getting warmer. And Ember’s hair was definitely glowing. She can’t be human. Maybe she’s some kind of witch?

As if he read her thoughts, Gray answered, “She’s a Fire Elemental. Back in my village we frequently interacted with them. They were gods to us. I’d be more careful with my words if I were you. They’re usually kind… until you make them upset, that is.”

“I’m sorry, that was rude of me. I shouldn’t have snapped.” Amy said to Ember.

The air cooled down again and Ember’s hair returned to black. “It’s fine. It was wrong of me to get angry over that.”

“I should get going to chemistry lecture. We’re supposed to be getting our tests back there too. Just something else to break my ego,” Amy replied, her voice breaking into fake laughter.

“Hey, I’m in chem too! We could walk together.”

Amy was hesitant to agree, but the two set off from the physics lecture hall together.

It was when they reached CO209 that Ember dragged her away from the back row, settling them both down next to another girl, her silver eyes flickering briefly to them. “Hey Ember.” She greeted before turning to Amy. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Serena.”

“Nice to meet you, I’m Amy.” Amy responded, ignoring Gray’s introduction. After all, she was the only one who could hear him. “How do you think you did?”

Serena shrugged, her fingers playing with her metal mechanical pencil. “Probably not too well. I hated this section more than Quantum mechanics.”

Amy winced in sympathy.

“I don’t think anyone liked it.” Ember added.

Amy didn’t respond, bending over to her backpack to grab her own notebook for class. “You love quantum don’t you?” Gray inquired, his head tilting to the side.

“Shut up,” Amy hissed, absently accepting her exam from her professor. The best thing about having a small class was that the teacher knew who they were. She glanced down at the red number at the top of the page, cheering when the average of 66 was announced. She finally beat it, and by a full 23 points.

“That hurt,” Amy heard Serena murmur, instantly wondering what she got.

“Serena got a lovely 30 and Ember scored slightly higher at a 42.” Gray informed her doing back flips in mid air. “And I think she’s another Elemental, her seat and backpack just got coated in ice.”

Amy flinched, but some part of her couldn’t shake the feeling of triumph. Who cared about electromagnetism and electric fields? Quantum was far more interesting.


 

4. Speed

By: Grant, J, and Brody

It started off with the usual alarm.  Followed by a reminder alarm and another.  Hayden’s alarm joined in, adding to the cacophony in the room.  And shortly after, Mitchell’s alarm went off down the hallway.  I pulled my sheets up over my head and groaned.  Why did this morning have to be here already?  I had only gotten into bed…must have been only a few hours ago now.  How long was I asleep for?  What did it matter anyways?

I fumbled with my phone and managed to silence the annoying beep while my other roommates got up and went about getting ready for the day.  Sleep quickly found me again.  But it didn’t last either, it was all of maybe a half hour before Mitchell was up and in the shower singing a duet with his girlfriend, who, in all likelihood, was in the bathroom as well, brushing her teeth.  The temptation to run and shut off the hot-water pipe was all too great.  Oh what a laugh it would be.  Would serve him right for waking me up right now.  All I wanted was to sleep.  It was supposed to be a weekend after all.

I grabbed an extra pillow and crushed it over my head, trying desperately to return to the comfort of my dreams.  I could already imagine sleeping the whole day away.  It was the weekend and there was nothing I had to do right away.  Why push myself to get up?

It was maybe two hours later when a cold rush of fear seized my heart and snapped me up out of bed.  People always say they realize things slowly, but this hit me like a freight train on icy tracks.  It wasn’t Saturday, nor was it Sunday.  It was Wednesday.

“Well…shit.”

Two classes already blown.  Two classes that I slept through.  I had to get ready so I could at least make it to some classes today.  How many exams was I supposed to get back anyways?  Two?  Three?  Wouldn’t matter if I never made it to campus.

I had about ten minutes before the next one started, so I changed into something presentable and used the bathroom, which was now thankfully devoid of Mitchell and his girlfriend.  I had about seven minutes left.  Plenty of time.

I packed my satchel with books.  My mind was racing, trying to keep track of all the things I’d already missed that day.  Economics Quiz…that one paper for that one class…what else was there?

Mines is a tough school to begin with; a setback like this wasn’t exactly good news for my GPA.

Four minutes left.  Meh…I could leave now, if I wanted.

Two minutes before class, I walked out my door and heard the lock click.  I remembered my key was still inside.  Ah well.  Mitchell could let me in later.  It was the least he could do.

I got to the lecture hall fast.  When I say fast, let me put it into perspective.  I run at a speed beyond normal.  Like, hundreds of miles per hour.  That far above normal.  It’s about the only thing I can do well at this school.  It’s sad that I’m serious about that.

But anyway.

The girl to my left was covered in coffee.  It looked like she’d fallen on the way to school.  There were chunks of gravel in her brown hair.  She was hissing at herself, as if she was arguing with thin air.  But hey, who was I to judge?  Whatever gets you through class, I suppose.

The professor handed out our tests today.  Why couldn’t I have slept through that?  It’s not like I needed to see another reminder of my failures.  My D average is just plain sad.

The girl next to me was still whispering, but it was sounding more and more aggressive.

“Uh, you okay?  Rough test for you too?” I said, trying to sound nonchalant, like I didn’t just score a 50.

“That’s funny, Gray said that earlier-” the girl looked confused for a moment, then panicked.  “I mean…yeah.  Rough test.”

“Yeah.”

We just stared at each other.  I’m not the best at social interaction.

“I’m Amy,” she said, and held out a hand.  I shook it.  Her fingers were like ice.

“Paul.”

“Nice to meet you.”

The professor started talking over us.  The usual.  No, your test won’t be curved.  Yes, you’ll probably fail.  No, don’t worry about it.  Failing is part of life.

Thanks so much.

Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any worse, the fire alarm went off.  People rushed from their seats happily.  This is the one school where threat of fire actually improves people’s moods.  What was better than an official excuse to miss class?

I assumed it was just a drill, but as we walked to the doors, I smelled smoke.

Maybe my speed could be of use today after all…

A girl approached with jet black hair and amber eyes. I had never seen her before in my life. Yet something felt off about her. She smelled of ashes and wore a grin on her face. A grin that no student here would have, especially after getting back a test as awful as this one. The high was a 76 for God’s sake!

Just as I finished that thought the building burst into flames. Running with my speed, and pulling Ms. Ice-Fingers Amy along so she wouldn’t get hurt, we left the building in a flash.

The fire spread more rapidly than any natural fire. Maybe I wasn’t the only supernatural being here. My thoughts flashed back to that strange girl. It was her, I realized.

Amy pulled away, “Paul… is everything okay?”

I couldn’t speak. In front of me, the whole campus was nothing but ash. No one could have survived that…

I left Amy and started looking for survivors.

Then she came. The air felt like it was on fire, but still I had goosebumps. It had to be the same girl. She had the same face, the same creepy grin. But the hair that had been straight and black as coal was now coiled, red and orange.

“You’re a fast one, aren’t you? I’ve had enough of this school, the anxiety and pressure, I was bound to blow up eventually,” She told me with a soulless voice. Laughing maniacally, she added, “Sorry I had to go to extremes, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.”

She walked off without another word. I never saw her again, but I didn’t want to.  And who the hell is Gray?


 

5. Canine

By: Joe, Grant, and J

You know, college is significantly easier when you can command dogs with your mind.

I know what you’re thinking: But Kayden, wouldn’t that be conspicuous? Wouldn’t that be disruptive? Newsflash. Nobody believes in superpowers.

Today was terrible. It started with a quiz in Earth Lab at 8:00 am. Then there was another quiz in Human Systems. There was a midterm in P Chem which I feel nobody was prepared for (it was quantum). And as if all that weren’t enough, my DiffEQ professor decided everyone needed two homework assignments (seeing as he finally found last week’s).

Well, luckily dog-control is a great stress reliever. I had Wishbone, a fluffy little thing with tons of energy, walk me to class. People are used to this by now. Wishbone always walks me to class. No mailmen today though, so I didn’t get to send him after anyone.

I had Reggie, a huge bloodhound with a propensity for drooling, tackle my Earth Lab instructor on his way in the door. That put off the quiz for a bit, as he demanded to know for the hundredth time who had let “this mangy mutt” into the room. The instructor is good with alliteration. He should have been an English major. I had Reggie give his face a few licks to illustrate the point.

Between Earth Lab and Human Systems, I had the twins (I don’t know if they’re actually twins, but they certainly look the same) terrorize passersby on Kafadar. Every time someone calls animal control, I have the twins hide somewhere. They’re like the ghost dogs of Mines.

P Chem was a bit more interesting today though. We got out of the test when this one student barged in, white as sheet and panting like a dog.  He had this look on his face like he had seen his life flashing before his eyes.  I couldn’t help but smile a bit.  Both out of empathy and amusement at how late he was.  He’d missed an entire exam, who does that?

The poor guy stumbled to the front of the room, catching himself at the last second on the bottom step before he almost did a faceplant.  He looked up at the professor and mumbled a few nonsensical things.  Or at least, from my position in the room, I couldn’t tell what it was that he had said.  But, truth was it didn’t matter.  He was late, far too late, and I had dogs to go hang out with.  I had to do something to try and clear my mind of the previous few hours of hellish classes.  Might go out and have some more fun with the twins.

I had an hour break, and typically I spend the time doing homework or catching up on the sleep I lost when I had to write a lab report last minute and I was up until four in the morning.  News flash: this happens a lot.  Not because I procrastinate.

Okay, well, yeah, because I procrastinate.  But still.  The reason doesn’t make the lack of sleep any easier to bear.

But today, I was feeling relatively vindictive after my classes.  I snuck into Coolbaugh Hall, where I knew there were a few giant lecture halls I could mess with.

I summoned Cujo, my chihuahua.  Well, he’s not mine, exactly.  But I control a lot of dogs.  You get the point.

We walked to the basement floor, and I waited until a group of guys walked by.  Then a girl with red and orange hair stormed past, scowling.  When they entered a nearby classroom and the hallway was clear, I took Cujo to the little alcove where they have this sad little vending machine and table.

I told him to slip some tin foil into the microwave and set the timer for thirty seconds.  

I asked the dog to do it because he has this knack for opening doors.  His dexterity is amazing.   

And, I would have done it myself, but I was busy handling the fire extinguisher.  No need to actually start a raging fire.  Just make enough smoke to set off the alarms and evacuate the building.  Spare those students some of the horrors of class time.

Cujo did a great job.  The microwave started smoking.  It made loud pops and bangs and hisses; it sounded like a snake was dying and singing at the same time.  Then Cujo opened the microwave and I gunned it with the fire extinguisher.

I picked him up and bolted from the room before the alarms started to go off.  We made it all the way to the other side of the street before I started laughing.  Cujo was covered in the white foam; he looked like Santa Claus.

“Let’s get you cleaned up,” I said.

But then my day got infinitely worse.  The building burst into flames.  And then the buildings around it did too.  Before I could blink, the whole campus was ablaze…and it wasn’t my fault.

I waited there, frozen and confused.  If I didn’t start that fire, who did? A strange thought occurred to me.  The girl with the red and orange hair?

After a few seconds, I saw my girlfriend, Amy, stumble out of the now-crumbling building, clutching the arm of some guy.  They looked distinctly windblown, and she had this strange look on her face, like she wanted to kiss this guy.

I marched over.  “You okay?” I said to her, trying to sound as threatening as possible.  Which was hard to do while holding a foamy chihuahua.

“I’ve had better days.  You?”  She didn’t even ask about Cujo.  I was insulted.

“Fine.  Who is your friend?”  I turned to her right, expecting to see the guy and trying hard to quell the urge to yell at him.  But he was gone.  Must have been moving pretty fast.  

Amy seemed surprised.  “What?”

“Never mind, he must have run off.”

Good riddance, I thought.

 She looked relieved, then her eyes fell upon Cujo.  “What did you do to that poor dog?”

Ah.  Finally. She asked about the dog.

I grinned.  

“It’s a long story.”


 

6.Thoughts

By: Likith, Joe, and Grant

Thought bubbles… I’ve seen them ever since I could read. You think of them as something confined to comic strips. For me, they’re the point of origin for all social interactions.

This week has been the absolute worst ever. Yesterday alone, I had 3, three, super-important presentations to give. Each was worth around 30% of my grade. I’ve always been good at reading those thought bubbles above people’s heads and improvising to meet their needs. I guess some would call that an unfair advantage. Heck, some don’t even believe it’s true. I can read these thoughts, like a giant, intricate, 3-D comic strip. Luckily for me, over the years, I have also learned to scan the ginormous amounts of text thrown at me on a daily basis, and pay attention to only the really important ones. Like during my first presentation yesterday, I could see my professor thinking about his Thanksgiving dinner, and how he enjoyed spending time with his family and how rarely he got the opportunity. I could very easily have gotten distracted by all this, but when I really started giving it more than just peripheral attention was when he was thinking about this small point that he was looking for in my presentation. I said, not immediately though, for I’ve learnt that can be very suspicious, I’d forgotten to include it in the slide, but I did acknowledge it, and just like that, he was happy, and the grade I was going to get went up from 83 to 95…

I then had to sit through everyone else’s presentation. That might seem okay to you, but it can be incredibly boring to someone who can read exactly what someone is going to say in a thought bubble right before they say it.

I sat there for almost an hour watching presentation after presentation, bored to tears, until this one guy came up. He was presenting on something dull, just like the rest of us. I could barely keep my eyes open. Then something suddenly caught my eye. The first time I just dismissed it as a stray thought. Then when it came up a second time, I started to pay attention. People have all sorts of stray thoughts in their heads like the professor and his Thanksgiving dinner, but they don’t usually show up more than once. This guy, I think his name is Kayden, he thought, “Buffy, steal his papers!” with a picture of the professor attached. Most people don’t attach pictures to their thoughts. Then things got stranger. He thought the same thought three more times.

Then the strangest thing happened. A humongous sheepdog slammed through the doors and everyone in the room turned around. It thought “WOOF!” in about 30 point font and grabbed the professor’s papers. Then it ran back out the door it came through. I got suspicious and turned around in time to see a smile on Kayden’s face and the words “Good boy” in his thought bubble. The professor said we were done for the day and we could continue next time. So I decided it was time for my next class.

More presentations! Ugh!

My presentation went off mostly without incident.  Most of the other students in class payed at most mild attention to what I was talking about, the majority of them were stressing out about their own problems.  Though near the back of the class there was one student whose thoughts struck me as distinctly different.

His thought bubbles were very rarely focused on school, and when they were, the bubbles themselves always seemed to be made of ice, or had some icicles hanging off.  Today, though, he sat in the back of the class, a panicked look on his face.  His thoughts were far too scattered for for me to make much sense of the rapidly appearing and disappearing bubbles.  But I got the general sense that he had forgotten that there was a presentation in class today.

The professor called on him and his face drained even further of color.  I felt bad for the guy, but it wasn’t like we didn’t know about this presentation for at least a week by now.

He reluctantly made his way up to the front of the classroom and logged onto the computer, all the while cursing over and over in his mind.  Each new thought grew colder and colder, the bubbles themselves even started to look as though they were covered in ice.  I leaned back in my chair a bit and waited as the guy pulled up a half-finished presentation and started talking.  His thoughts didn’t even match what he was talking about, and as the time passed and he grew more nervous.  At this point it occurred to me that even the room had started to get cold.

I tore myself away from his thoughts and focused my attention just on the room itself.  I could see my breath in the air.  Most everyone else was starting to think of the rapidly plummeting temperature of the room.  Even the professor, who had previously been occupied thinking about how much he couldn’t wait to get home, had taken notice of what now felt like arctic temperatures in the room.

To my surprise snow started to drift slowly down from the ceiling, people’s thoughts immediately started to curse the school for poor maintenance of the furnaces.  The Professor got to his feet and announced that class was cancelled.

I got to my feet, I knew exactly what the problem was, Will, the student at the front, was another Elemental.  Another ice element with no control of his powers.  What was it with these newbies and their total lack of control?  They keep this up and they’d ruin everyone’s cover.  I suppose I was lucky in that my power was pretty easy to hide.

I’d have to talk with Will after class, make sure to set him straight.


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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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The Gate – Chapter 1: The Trax

Elder Rex strode through the gathered people and took his place in a chair at the foot the Gate.  The clear crystal that made up the Gate scattered the fading light of day, filling the room with beautiful colors.  Just past the Gate sat a single carving that perfectly framed the setting sun on the horizon.

For a moment Elder Rex let the temple sit in silence as he looked from face to face.  His somber attitude stood in juxtaposition to the celebration earlier in the day.  Of course it was his job to be somber, he was a keeper of the past.  Without him the Ceremony of Twilight couldn’t be completed and the past was bound to be repeated.

Or at least that’s what Rawlin’s parents had always told him.  Now he mostly doubted that there was anything to the Ceremony.  Aside from the celebration that took place before it the Ceremony was mostly just words.  Originally it had been used to link together two different people, one of the Trax, and one of Rawlin’s people.  But that hadn’t happened for a very long time.  Now, Elders just told stories of the past.

Rex took a deep breath and began just like he always did, “In the time before remembering, there were two Peoples that walked this land.  The Trax and our ancestors.  Together they lived in harmony and peace.  Magic roamed the lands then, free and strange.

“Twas the duty of the Trax to safe guard magic and its use, for they were creatures born of magic.  While the responsibility of looking after the land itself fell to our ancestors.  For this land we call home represents the sacred grounds upon which the Gods first walked amongst mortals.  There is power here, not just in the magic, but the land itself, being so touched by divine power.

“But that harmony was not to last.  A betrayer rose up the ranks of the Trax and took for himself the power of magic.  With it in his grasp he wrought untold destruction upon the lands.

“The Gods were enraged by the actions of the Trax and descended upon the land.  In their mercy they created another realm for the Trax to live in, one identical to but separate from this one.  There they sealed away the Trax where they could do no harm to this world.  Our ancestors were then charged with a new task.  To protect the gateway between the realms.

“Before the Trax were sealed away, we elected representatives from amongst ourselves to join with representatives of the Trax.  Today we celebrate that holy ceremony and tonight, at the fall of twilight, we put up our representatives as we have always done.  Before the pairs would be named as Guardians of Otium, but now, our representatives become Guardians of the Gate and the realm beyond.

“There is no higher honor than to be chosen for this holy purpose.”

Drums began to thump behind Rex as he was handed a list of names.  There was never more than a few names read each year.  Being chosen was more of an honor now because of the skill and mastery it took.  This year Rawlin was eligible to be chosen, and he wanted that more than anything else.  His father had been a Guardian before him, and so had his father’s father.  For that matter his family had been standing watch over the Gate for as long as the Gate had stood.

It didn’t really matter to him whether the stories were true.  There were many perks to being given an Atie sword that marked the Guardians.  There was prestige to the position.

Rex waited patiently as the drums beat in the background.  The single sliver was all that remained of the sun, moments before twilight fell.  That thin sliver of light sat framed by an intricate and ornate sculpture just above Elder Rex’s head.  Slowly but surely the sun disappeared leaving the land and the temple in twilight.  With a final resounding beat the drums went silent.

Rex raised his voice against the silence, “We, the people of Otium, select Rawlin Crysal and Havern Medat as our representatives.  We find them pure of heart, strong of mind, and skilled in the art of swordplay.  They are worthy to be named as Guardians.  It is our hope that they are found worthy in the eyes of the Gods.”

Two men came forward and presented Elder Rex with two beautifully carved boxes adorned with the crest of the people.  Elder Rex laid each box carefully on the floor before him and stood, “Rawlin and Havern, rise and come kneel before your blades.”

Slowly Rawlin rose up, just barely keeping himself under control.  He had waited so long for this moment, had worked so hard for this.  Already he could imagine the sword at his hip and the feel of the hilt in his hand.  There was no blade equal in all of Otium to an Atie sword.

When both Rawlin and Havern were knelt before Elder Rex, Rex opened both boxes to reveal the swords and scabbards within.  He lowered his tone again back to somberness, “Repeat after me Guardians, I take up this sword in the protection of Otium, its people, and the Gate.  By my hand or by my life peace shall remain.  The Gods as my witness I join the Guardians, for now, and forever.”

Rawlin said each word with conviction, excitement pounded through him.  When both he and Havern were finished Rex closed his eyes and said, “Take the swords then and if you truly are committed touch the blades to the Gate.”

Havern glanced momentarily at Rawlin and rose first, drawing his sword from its scabbard.  Carefully he touched the edge of the blade against the crystal gateway.  A spark of magic leapt from the gate and darted up the blade of the sword, leaving the distinct and glowing lines that marked the blade as an Atie sword.

Rawlin rose and drew his sword preparing himself to do the same.  Father had said that it would hurt.  The magic would burn like fire within him and he would want to drop the sword.  Rawlin could not be a Guardian if he did not pass this final test.  This final binding of sword to man.

Nervously he approached the gate and slowly reached out with the sword.  The moment the blade made contact with the crystal all of his muscles clenched tight with sudden pain.  It felt as though he had been struck by lightning.  For a split second he could feel the terrible power of the magic racing through him, tearing at his insides.

But it was over as soon as it started.  Rawlin withdrew the blade and stared at the faintly glowing lines now etched along the length of his sword.

The drums began to beat again, their powerful sound echoed around the valley and rung heavily in the temple.  Rex opened his eyes and said, “May the Gods guide you on your holy path Guardians and may your swords never break.  All praise be upon you Guardians of the Gate.”

The gathered people rose as one and joined together chanting, “Praise be upon the Guardians of the Gate.”

Rawlin took his place next to Havern and sheathed his sword.  He looked out to the crowd before him, hardly able to believe that he was actually standing here.  It had taken so long and now that it was here, he couldn’t believe it.

As the chanting began to die out there was a loud crack behind him, as though one of the drums had broken.  But when he turned to look, what he saw was far worse.

A glowing rope of light stretched across the Gate’s entrance, snapping and cracking with energy.  People stood in awe as the rope began to stretch and flatten out, forming a shimmering surface in the Gate.  Rawlin drew his sword again ready to take down whatever was going to come through the gate.

Rex grabbed his wrist though, “Wait, let us see what comes through before you kill it.  This may be an act of the Gods.”

Rawlin had his doubts that the Gods cared but relaxed anyways.

The Gate stood ominously open well into the fall of night before anything happened.  Havern and many people had already left assuming that nothing would happen.  Rawlin stayed put, sword in hand, waiting.  There was no way that he would muck up his first day as a Guardian by leaving the Gate unattended.  So he took to pacing just before the Gate, waiting to see what would come of this strange turn of events.  Rex stood leaning against a wall, arms crossed and his face growing ever more impatient the longer the night wore on.

Another loud crack resounded through the temple and the Gates color changed from a shimmering silver surface to pitch black.  Out of it came a human like creature running as fast as it could directly into Rawlin.

It took Rawlin only a moment to incapacitate the strange creature.  “Please, please, don’t kill me!  I am here to honor the Ceremony of Twilight!”

Rawlin froze, “What did you just say?”

“I am here to honor the Ceremony of Twilight.”

“Who, or what are you?”

The creature looked around the temple with pure black eyes, “I am Ajay of the Trax.”

“Blasphemy!” Rex shouted, “The Trax were banished from Otium.  Guardian, kill the Trax invader!”

“No, please, I mean you no harm!” Ajay said, struggling to get away from Rawlin.

Rawlin looked from the Trax he held pinned beneath him, to Rex who had gone beet red.  “This is your duty Guardian, you have sworn your life to this.”

Rawlin took a breath, he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t kill Ajay.  He had no reason to assume that the Trax was dangerous, it certainly looked to be unarmed.

“I swore I would keep peace and protect the Gate.  As far as I can tell, one Trax isn’t a threat.  You selected me as a Guardian, Elder Rex so that I may choose what is a treat and what is not.”

Rex calmed a bit, “Fine, but the Trax is not to leave the temple until we know for sure what it is doing here.”

The Gate snapped shut then, plunging the temple into sudden silence.  For a moment no one moved a muscle until Ajay finally said, “If you’d get off me, we could complete the Ceremony properly.  Then I will tell you why I am here.”

Rawlin carefully got up and helped Ajay to her feet.  She frowned at Rawlin as he looked over her strange skin, “What did you expect that we would look the same?”

He hadn’t really known what to expect, no one had ever described a Trax before in the stories.  Ajay did look human, save for her orange hair and black and dark blue skin, the same lines glowing lines that had just been etched in his sword were on her skin and traced their way up from her left ankle up to the right side of her face.  Their glow could even be seen faintly through her clothes.  “Why isn’t your skin all the same color?” Rawlin asked.

Ajay looked at him as though he had asked a stupid question, “Why isn’t your skin different colors?  The Gods made us this way, we do not question why any more than you question your skin.  Now, we must complete the full ceremony.  How many representatives did your people present?”

“Do not tell her that!  Figure out what she is doing here first.” Rex said.

“Elder Rex, I mean no disrespect, but could you please wait outside of the temple?  I promise I will not allow Ajay to leave until I know what she wants.”

Rex took a breath and opened his mouth to say something but then crossed his arms and let out a sigh, “As you wish Guardian.  I will be waiting outside.”

Once Rex was gone Rawlin said, “We only named two this year.  Myself included.”

“And where is the other?”

“Honestly, everyone left a while ago.  The Gate is a fairly long distance from the village and no one wanted to walk back in the dark.  No one wanted to wait and see what would happen.”

Ajay nodded and took a moment to look around the temple, “The Ceremony grounds are not as the books described they would be.”

“What did you expect?  Bonfires?”

“No, not that, I just thought they would be more extravagant.”

Rawlin shrugged, “Perhaps they used to be, now though the Ceremony isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be.”

Ajay nodded again and walked to where the gate stood, Rawlin could see rips and cuts in the back of her shirt.  “Are you alright?”

“Oh, yes, I am fine.”

“But your shirt.  Looks like you were attacked by an animal or something.”

Ajay shrugged, “You could say that.  There was some that were against my coming here.  But that’s not important right now.  That statue is.”

Ajay pointed at the statue that stood behind the Gate.  It certainly had the appearance of being something important to the ceremony, but what it was for Rawlin had little idea.  “What exactly does the rest of the Ceremony entail?”

“Well first, we need to check if you and I can be paired or not.  The magic that etched your sword and my body was only the first step of the Ceremony.  If the magic is the same for both of us, then we can move to the next step.”

“Which is?”

Ajay paused for a moment, “Are you squeamish at all?”

“No.  Why?”

Ajay motioned to a small bowl that sat at the base of the statue, “We both must fill this bowl with our blood drawn by your blade and with my magic I will create the binding drink.”

“Wait, what do you mean binding drink?”

“It’s better for me to show you.  Now, draw your sword so I can look at the marks left by the magic.”

Rawlin did so and watched as Ajay carefully inspected the blade.  She brushed her orange hair back out of her eyes every now and then as she inspected the length of the blade, occasionally she touched its surface and traced some of the lines.  “Interesting, I didn’t expect to see this pattern.”

“What are you talking about?”

Ajay straightened and said, “Well the magic that marks the sword isn’t just random in what it does.  The lines on your sword are a representation of your heritage and also certain things within you.  The parts of the lines that represent your heritage are a well known pattern among my people as this pattern designates descendants of those who originally were paired as Guardians.”

“And, what does that matter?”

Ajay frowned, confused, “What do you mean what does it matter?  Your bloodline is everything.  Doesn’t it determine your social class and position amongst the others?”

“No.  Each person is for themselves.  They either succeed or fail by their own merits here, regardless of their parents.”

“Oh, I see.  Well, then don’t worry about it.  Just thought it was interesting.  In my world, a mark like that would basically make you royalty.”

Ajay flipped the blade over and then nodded to herself and started to undress.  “Hey, what are you doing?”

Ajay paused midway through unbuckling a leather strap that held several pouches at her waist.  “I need to check the patterns on my body.  I haven’t had a chance to see them yet so I don’t know if we can be paired or not.”

“Do you really have to take your clothes off though?” Rawlin asked.

Again, she gave him a look as though he had just asked a stupid question and said, “If you feel that uncomfortable at seeing me naked then turn your back.”

“But what if someone walks in?”

She gave him a blank stare, “So what if someone walks in?  I don’t care.”

Rawlin opened his mouth to say something again but thought better of it and turned his back.  A few minutes later Ajay said, “Alright I am done now.  We can pair.”

“How do you know that?”

“Well without showing you the mark, I can only say that you and I come from a similar heritage.”

“So you’re saying that you are royalty then?”

A pained expression ran across her features, “Well, technically yes.  I guess I am.  Now, give me your sword.  I’ll go first.”

Rawlin proffered up the edge of the blade and couldn’t help but grit his teeth as she cut the inside of her forearm on the blade.  Carefully she let her red blood drip into the small dish until it was about half full before she pulled a strip of cloth from one of her pouches and bandaged her wound shut.

“Your turn.”

“Why exactly should I do this?”

“Because, you are honoring your ancestors and taking up the true duty to which you are called.  Guarding the Gate is only a half measure and you are not a person who is satisfied with half measures.”

“How could you possibly know that?”

Ajay shook her head, “Just do it.  This is supposed to be the Ceremony of Twilight.  Not Darkness.”

With a sigh Rawlin laid the edge of his sword against his forearm and drew it across his flesh in single smooth motion.  The feeling of fire spread out from the fresh wound and immediately he began bleeding.  Not wanting to waste time he thrust the fresh wound over the bowl and let it drip.

When the bowl was full Ajay took his arm and bandaged it with another strip of fabric she had ready.  When she released his arm he cleaned his sword on the outside of the bandage and then slid it home into its scabbard.  Meanwhile Ajay had quietly begun to chant over the bowl.  The blood in it began to spin and mix together on its own accord, slowly turning from a red color to a dark purple color.

Glowing lines began to spread up the statue, moving away from where the bowl was up to where the sun had been framed previously.  The bowl at the bottom slowly rose up towards the top of the statue and Ajay followed it up chanting faster and faster as she did.  When she reached her full height she stopped chanting and drew a deep breath.

“Come here and stand opposite to me on the other side of the statue.”

Rawlin did as he was told and looked across the bowl to Ajay.  “Remember what I said about being squeamish?”

Rawlin nodded.

Ajay reached up and grabbed one of the two handles on the bowl closets to Rawlin, “Take the other handle and drink after me.”

“You have to be joking, I am not drinking that.”

“It isn’t blood anymore.  Trust me I wouldn’t drink it if it was.  This is what you have to do.”

Rawlin took a deep breath and relented.  He reached up and took the other handled.  Ajay chanted a few more things over the bowl that made the liquid quiver and shake.  “By the way,” she said, “I never learned your name.  I thought that might be important to know now.”

“Rawlin.”

She smiled at him pleasantly then, “Well, to good health then, Rawlin.”

With that she drank no more than a mouthful of the liquid and swallowed.  “I should admit, I have no idea what this is going to do to us.  I know only that it must be done.”

Rawlin frowned and then raised the bowl to his lips.  The liquid tasted like a poorly aged wine, but wine none the less. He found that there was only enough left for a single mouthful and without thinking about it again.  He swallowed.

Ajay smiled at him when he finished, “That wasn’t so bad was it?”

“How did you do that?”

“I am of the Trax.  We have magic.  Now, nothing in the things I read said much about what happens next.  I only know that it might hurt.”

Before Rawlin could say anything he felt his knees give out below him.  The ground rushed up suddenly and he heard himself moan as he fell.  He was vaguely aware that his body hurt, but it felt distant and dim.  Somehow he could see Ajay laying next to him, her own features were similarly contorted by pain.

Somehow he felt a connection with her, maybe that’s why he had done the things he had done, why he had stood up to the Elder on her behalf.  For whatever reason, it made him ache all the more to see her in pain.  It baffled him that he felt so powerfully about someone he had only just met and despite the pain he was in, he wanted to let her know that he was here.  That he wanted take her pain from her.

With immense effort he reached out towards her and she towards him.  He couldn’t say anything to her, nor she to him, but he could see her eyes still.  I wish I could take your pain from you, he thought.

Their hands met and the warmth of her presence flooded through him.  He gripped her hand tightly, imagining that he could send her his strength.  Perhaps he held her hand also for her support and strength.  They were united against their shared pain.

Eventually it grew to be far too much for him to handle and the world faded out to darkness.

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.

Entering a Rumor

Chapter One: Charred Ashes

Fire was spreading from house to house, consuming the wood as the kindling it was. Had one looked closely, there were bodies littering the dirt paths; most had fatal wounds and if they didn’t, they were charred beyond recognition. There was next to nothing left in the once populated village. Death has visited, collecting the souls of the departed.

A light drizzle had begun, Mother Nature herself mourning the lives of the individuals that had been lost. The water, however, had done nothing to stop the sole survivor’s tattered shirt from soaking in his own blood; the surrounding flames failing to relight the spark in his now dull emerald eyes. Rain matted his messy brown locks to his head, covering the shallow gash that he had obtained some time before. His black breeches dripped water onto the blood soaked ground, a tear at the thighs showed another shallow gash spilling blood to join the runoff. A blade remained strapped to his back, an empty sheath hanging off his waist.

He didn’t notice the smoke of his village being slowed nor the alarms echoing in the distance. The only thing he noticed was the sword point punctured in his twin’s chest and the blood stained hilt that remained in his hands.

“Forgive me,” the teen mumbled, jerking his sword clear. He stumbled past the limp body, flinching as his free hand brushed the golden hilt of the sword strapped to his back. Panting softly, he leaned against the pillar of the gates to his village, his sword slipping into its sheath.

He knew he couldn’t stay at the boundaries, not with the relic entrusted to the Protectors strapped to his back and the hilt of a blood stained sword hanging at his waist. They had probably already mobilized and the closest neighbor was maybe half an hour away by horse, if that long. He supposed he was lucky that the village was located at the edge of the clan grounds, at the entrance of the wilderness.

The teen pushed off the wall, standing shakily before stumbling past the gates. He was half-conscious when he crossed the boundaries. He wasn’t thinking when he continued into the foliage. He didn’t hear the rustling of the foliage as the animals scattered from his path. He didn’t notice the swirling scenery as he forced one leg in front of the other.  He didn’t even feel himself hit the ground.


The tension was thick within the clan grounds. Even the new members could feel it as their commander approached the training area. The senior members frowned gently, watching the long strides and taking in the furrowed eyebrows. Members cleared from his path, their eyes following his every step.

The head of the Liaru clan, Ewald Lorstorm, was younger then the position would’ve suggested, being no older than of 28 perhaps 29 summers. His chocolate eyes, normally warm and understanding, had hardened into a cool glare, a hand running irritably through his short auburn hair. His sword, strapped to his waist, was easily accessible for the swordsmaster, and normally, its familiar presence would be enough to ease his nerves. Not this time.

He caught the gaze of a golden haired male, moving quickly to the edge of the sparring arena. His junior turned, an eyebrow raised as he took in the disheveled state of his commander.. “Isidore, would check the eastern boundaries and two miles past? I fear that our time of silence is over.”

Sapphire eyes met chocolate before nodding. He swept past his superior and long time friend, walking into his tent a ways away. Grabbing the blade that lay atop his mattress, he strapped the sheath and steel to his waist before hooking a bow and a quiver of 24 razor sharp arrows to his back. Absently he pulled a tunic over his bare chest before grabbing a black cape.

His progression through the camp went unnoticed; being completely armed didn’t faze the members of the clan as much as it would have with different clan. A soft neigh drew his attention, a hand patting the mare as his attention turned towards his captain.

“Speed be with you Isidore. Travel safely.” The blond nodded his gratitude, swinging onto the horse and with a quick nudge was out of the clan grounds. Clansmen jolted at the thundering horse; each of them turning to stare as one of their senior members stormed past. They swung to meet the eyes of their commander, some curious, others worried. He shook his head gently, calmly waving his hands for them to continue their activities. If his gut was correct and something did indeed happen, he would tell them then. “Good luck Isidore.”