Category: original writing

(WP) Ragnarok Now

32(WP) Ragnarok Now

You must’ve drunk too much during D&D night last night because when you finally get to sleep, you’re bombarded by strange dreams.

**

You and your party are walking down a wooded path, toward a clearing bathed in moonlight.

You can’t understand what everyone is saying; their words are muted as if you’ve all been dunked underwater. Your steps are especially slow as if the lot of you are walking through syrup.

You hear words coming out of your own mouth, though you don’t even feel your lips move.

“Allfather, maker, and master of all that is, we come to you with heavy hearts. Your children, the gods, control our actions. We seek to wage war against them.”

The clearing goes dark as if the clouds are hiding the eye of the silver moon.

 At the center of it all, there are gravestones, but they waver in and out of sight, all emblazoned with your party’s names.

The ground begins to rumble, and then part, beneath your feet, ominous blue light seeping out of the fissures. Your friends fall into the cracks, sealing them on the inside of the earth.

**

You wake up in a cold sweat, the ghost of the invocation still hovering on your lips. Your clothes stick to you, and your mouth feels like sand. You throw the sheet off of you and go to the kitchen, trying to calm the racing of your heart. You’re so rattled you don’t pay attention to how hard you’re walking. You get a glass of water from the tap and gulp it down, but the relief is temporary.

What are your friends going to say when you call them later, telling them that their weekly D&D session is canceled? You try to tell yourself that it was nothing but a dream, brought on by exhaustion and too much alcohol. But there was something about that ritual that felt real, and you can’t shake off your fear, no matter how many glasses of water you drink or breathing exercises you try.

You look at the digital clock on the microwave, squinting to see the numbers correctly. 3:52. It’s almost four o’clock in the morning, there’s no way that you can call your friends now. You force yourself to go back to bed, deciding to send a group text in the morning. You can get everyone together at breakfast and explain yourself then.

**

Morning dawns and everyone agrees to meet at the local diner a few blocks away. You still can’t shake the idea that the dream you had was not, in fact, a dream, but a vision. It has sat in your bones heavily, and you wait until everyone has gotten their meals to speak.

“I’m sorry, guys, but D&D has been canceled from now on,” you say, buying yourself some time by shoving a piece of bacon in your mouth.

Five different faces look up at you, blank with shock. Then they all speak at once.

“What? Why?!” “Oh, come on, Brayden, you can’t do that!” “I’ve been looking forward to it! Why are you doing this?”

“I had a dream that we were about to start Ragnarok and we all died. It was real. I saw your bodies disappear, the gravestones. I saw it all happen. I’m not risking your lives for a roleplaying game!”

**

(WP) Simple Courtesy

(WP) Simple Courtesy

               I got
engaged to be married to a wyvern by holding the door for him.

               I didn’t
think anything of it; I was only being polite. We both worked at the same
bookstore, and we happened to both be returning from our break, and he was
behind me, so I just held the door open.

               He
beamed at me; his eyes dewy with something that I couldn’t understand.

               “Patrick,
you’re too kind! We’ll have to tell our parents, you know. Wyvern-human
marriage is generally frowned upon in my culture.”

               I
stared at him, frowning. “Marriage? What are you talking about, Dalton?”

               “You
held the door for me, Patrick!” He answered as if this was obvious. “In my
culture, showing someone specific kindness, such as you just did for me, shows
the other person that you wish to be married!”

               There
was that word, again. Marriage. I didn’t even know if I wanted to get married,
and now here I was, engaged to a wyvern. For opening the door.

               “Uh,
that’s not what I meant,” I said hurriedly, damning the bright flush that was
climbing up my neck and flooding my cheeks. “I was only being polite!”

               But it
was too late to backpedal, and I found myself making a date to have dinner with
Dalton and his parents. My stomach had quickly tightened into knots, and nausea
was quickly roiling my stomach. How had this happened?

               **

               When I
returned home, I told my parents the situation, feeling embarrassed all over
again.

               My dad,
who’d been folding laundry in the living room, looked at me, brow furrowed. But
his eyes crinkled up at the corners, the corners of his mouth turned upward as
if fighting a laugh.

               My
mother was sitting with a cup of coffee on the couch, frowning thoughtfully.

               “But
surely you can say that this is all a misunderstanding,” She said, taking a sip
of her drink. “I’m sure once you explain, it’ll be a laugh, and then we can
move on with our lives. Besides, we’ve been long overdue for a night out. We
need to make a good impression on our future in-laws.” She dropped a wink, and
my embarrassed “Mom!” was drowned out by my parents’ laughter.

               **

               We met
with Dalton and his parents in a fancy restaurant on the outside of town. We
were all dressed nicely: I wore my finest suit, though it was too small and
parts of my wrists showed; Mom had donned a silk gray sheath dress and a little
tiny bag to match, with heels and my dad wore the tux he’d worn to his own
wedding to my mother, fifteen years before.

               But no
matter how nice we looked, my heart wouldn’t stop pounding, and sweat formed on
the back of my neck, my forehead, the small of my back. The restaurant wasn’t
even warm, but I couldn’t stay still. I had to get out of this, or I was going
to be married to a wyvern.

**

(WP) Hellfire and The Orchid Mantis

(WP) Hellfire and The Orchid Mantis

               She’d
felt she’d earned her retirement, the former supervillain thought to herself as
she put the kettle on to boil. And she was glad; being one of the world’s most
evil supervillains was not easy. That was part of the reason that she’d risen
to the challenge; being good, heroic, just seemed so boring. Anyone could be the friendly hero, the schmuck next door
who averted everyday crises. Yes, it took someone with true fortitude to be
wicked.

               But
thankfully, that was all behind her now. She’d married, had children, had gone
on to be a productive member of society after her stint in prison. From her
place in the kitchen, she heard the television, currently on one of the
national news channels. She could faintly hear a female news anchor, reporting
on how a gang of villains were currently holding the patrons of a bank hostage
until it would fork over a million dollars in cash.

               She
smiled faintly, but she could admit to herself that she didn’t miss that life.

               Ava
suddenly found herself uneasy, as if she were being watched.

               When
the kettle screamed, she jumped, and swore quietly.

               What
was the matter with her? Pouring herself a cup of hot, steaming tea, Earl Gray,
she took the mug and walked back into the living room. Thanks to her powers,
she didn’t have to wait for it to cool. She made herself comfortable in the
armchair in front of the fireplace, turning off the TV.

Even after she’d made herself comfortable
with a worn, dog-eared book, she could not shake off that uncomfortable feeling
that she wasn’t alone. Putting down her book and mug, she stood up, feeling her
fists become enveloped with bright blue flames.

“Who’s there? If you don’t come out
and tell me who you are, I’ll barbeque you!”

She hadn’t become one of the world’s
worst supervillains by cowering in a corner, and her voice was cold,
threatening. She hoped it was only her imagination, but her instincts were much
to sharp not to heed. She gritted her teeth, forcing herself to wait, and her
patience was soon rewarded.

Of all people she’d expected, it
wasn’t one of the world’s most beloved superheroes. But the young woman stepped
out, her invisibility melting away once she was caught. The Orchid Mantis,
named for her ability to blend in, as well as her hair, as bright pink as the
flower she was named after.

“What do you want?” Ava demanded;
as far as she was concerned, the threat hadn’t been averted. “How dare you,
breaking into my house! And you’re a hero! Aren’t you and your ilk supposed to
have manners?” She bit off the rest of her diatribe and her flames extinguished.

Once she got a good look at the kid,
her defenses lowered somewhat. The teenager was pale, her bright hazel eyes
ringed with violet circles, her costume rumpled and stained. Her hair was lank
and greasy, and Ava noticed that the girl couldn’t even look her in the eye.

“I need your help.”

Ava barked out a laugh, high and
derisive. “Why would someone like Orchid Mantis need my help?”

“Let’s just say that I don’t want
to be a hero anymore. I want to become a supervillain. And you’re one of the
best, so…”

“You broke into my house!” Ava squawked
indignantly, shaking her head at the audacity of this child.

“Please, Hellfire. I’m so tired of
pretending to be something I’m not.”

**

(WP) Ironclad Hearts

(WP) Ironclad Hearts

              Once upon a time, there was a young prince who longed for love. He had everything he ever desired, except for a loving partner. Rumors had begun to swirl about the prince, about how he abducted young maids in the night to be held as prisoners in his castle.

              Of course, that wasn’t true, but truth does not matter one way or another to wagging tongues.

              The truth was, he’d fallen in love with a childhood friend, and he’d begged his parents to match him with her. He could not live without her. The prince was so distraught that his parents granted their permission for the two to wed.

              But it was not to be. The princess was engaged to another, and worse, he’d been told that the suit had been rejected with laughter.

              From that day on, the prince grew bitter and jaded and had all but given up on love. As the days passed, the castle grew into a twisted iron prison, a mirror of what lay inside of his heart.

              Eventually, he was forgotten by time and his subjects, and his lands grew thick with trees and bushes and overgrown grasses and flowers.

              But he hadn’t been entirely forgotten. The princess’s little sister, Amelie, had been unable to think of little else since her sister’s rejection of the prince. She, too, had been released from a troth of marriage, due to her disability: she had a club foot and had to use a wooden stick to walk properly.

              And this headstrong, determined princess was hellbent on getting to the prince and showing him that he could be loved as he so wished. Amelie set out on horseback with a sword, her staff, and a magical book. Accompanying her was her faithful familiar, a crow with bright green eyes and a sharp, wicked beak.

              The journey led her across mountain ranges, rivers, and hills, past fields and plains. Soon, she lost track of just how many days had passed. But she had started this, and she would see it through, even though she didn’t know the outcome.

              Finally, she rode through the forests, hacking her way through it with her blade, exhausted but undaunted.

              Amelie put her horse at the castle gates, then ascended the stairs, the only sound her wooden cane on the steep marble steps. If she hadn’t already made it this far, she would’ve been unnerved.

              But there was a reason she’d lived this long, and she’d be damned if a long quest broke her. What was that, in comparison to the expectations of her own family?

              The doors were barred shut, but the sword sliced through the bars as though they were mere paper.

              Amelia limped through the silent, gray rooms of the castle.

              Where was the prince? She’d come all this way to save him.

              Finally, she found him in the library in front of a roaring fire, hearing the pages of his book turn.

              “Your Highness,” Amelie whispered. “I’ve come to end your loneliness.”

              **

(IP) Mental Health Day

(IP) Mental Health Day

               The
four girls sat on the train, forming a little group on the right side of the
car. The early morning sun streamed bars of golden light, dappling their skin.
Despite their plain clothes and bored faces, something about them seemed otherworldly,
strange. Even wrong.

               One of
the girls stretched her feet out into the aisle, arms folded across her stomach.

               Her
three companions were seated in a cluster next to her, rocking with the motion
of the train as it roared through the city.

               A pair
of blondes sat in front of the windows, the sunshine making the girls sport a
halo of sorts. One had a cigarette tucked behind her ear, and the other stifled
a yawn, pulling her feet into her chest.

               But
these girls were far from angelic; they’d come into the city for a ‘mental
health day’. And everyone knew that Mondays just sucked.

               The
only brunette of the group sat next to the blondes, smiling distantly to
herself.

               “Is it
just me, or have we been on this train forever?” One of the blondes, Julie,
said, tilting her head toward her double.

               “It
hasn’t been that long, Jules,” The other blonde, Annabeth, replied, grinning
sleepily. “Besides, we’re almost there.”

               “Coffee.
I need coffee.  I feel like a zombie.”
The brown-haired girl, Ava, murmured. Of all of the girls, she was having the
most trouble staying still. Normally, this wasn’t like her, but she just didn’t
feel like dealing with school. Lately, she’d felt like a pressure cooker that
had been left on too long: stifled but about to blow. Driving herself to be the
best, constant studying of facts and figures, all to graduate pursue a degree
she wasn’t even sure she wanted. Yes, it was just easier to blow it off.

“Starbucks once we get to our stop?”
The brunette, Cat, asked hopefully, snapped out of whatever daydream was
playing in her head.

“We need to get some food, too,”
Julie said, shaking her head so her bangs fell to the side, uncovering her
bright green eyes. “I’m starving.” As if on cue, her stomach grumbled, and the
friends laughed.

Finally, the train ground to a
stop, causing all four girls to rock forward with the motion. Since they were
seated in the middle of the train car, they hurried to get to the front, all of
them holding hands, so as not to get lost in the crush.

Their giggles echoed in the station
as they exited, now single file, but all staying close, marching through the
crowd in search of food and frivolous distraction. Ava was leading, and when
they finally found a Starbucks on a street corner, they all clambered inside. She
found herself instantly calmed by the homey scent of coffee beans roasting and
sugary treats being baked.

The place was packed, but she didn’t
mind. All of the noise and controlled chaos, combined with the chatter of her
friends, distracted her from her own anxious thoughts.

They each ordered a giant coffee
drink, with the exception of Cat, who ordered a green tea latte. Ava also
ordered an array of different snacks; it wasn’t as if she didn’t have the money
to burn.

Soon enough, they were all seated
in a booth at the back of the shop, crammed together like sardines.

“You said you’d spill once we got
here,” Annabeth said, after taking a dainty bite of a muffin, licking her lips.
“Why the sudden need to ditch?”

Ava grimaced; she’d known this was
coming, but she still didn’t like it. Even with her closest friends, she didn’t
like talking about her problems. Especially when it sounded so ridiculous, in
her own head.

“I’m just… Stressed.” She said,
looking down into the swirling, dark depths of her huge macchiato.

To their credit, her friends did
not laugh, nor try to interrupt. They were just waiting through her silence,
knowing that she wasn’t finished.

“I don’t know what I want anymore,”
Ava admitted, at last, feeling a flush starting to climb up her neck. “And my
parents would freak out if I told them. They’ve got my whole life mapped out
for me. Graduate at the top of my class in high school and college, get married
to a nice guy and give them grandkids. But I feel like… I never got a choice in
the matter. School’s so stressful anymore.”

Cat reached across the table and
took Ava’s hand, her touch surprisingly warm.

“You should talk to them. I’m sure
they’ll understand. And even if they don’t, well. You’ll be eighteen in a little
less than six months. You’ll be an adult, and able to make your own decisions.”

**  

(WP) Strange Newcomers

(WP) Strange Newcomers

               The
town of Sapphire Moon was a peaceful one, a tiny hamlet on the coast of a crumbling
island. Surrounded by the ocean, it supplied the surrounding countries with a
bounty of seafood: fish, prawns, squid, octopus, and crabs.

               It was
monotonous for some, but there was something comforting in the routine.

               The
mayor loved the island. All of his ancestors had watched over it since its
conception. Yes, it was his calling, and one that he took gladly. His cottage
was hidden in the thick jungle foliage, the better for privacy.

               But his
thoughts were interrupted by a rush of footsteps, and a knock at the door.

               “Come
in!” He called, and he could hear his wife in the kitchen, preparing the
evening meal.

               A young
woman, named Callie, walked inside of the hut and bowed her head in deference.

               “Excuse
the interruption, Mister Mayor,” She said, her long, fiery braid gleaming in
the firelight.

               “Oh,
nonsense, Callie. You know I welcome anyone from the village into my home,”
Matthias replied, smiling at her. “Would you like to stay for dinner? Mrs.
Ellery is making paella.” He winked at the mention of his wife.

               “I
would love to, sir, but unfortunately, I’m not exactly here for a social call.
You see… The island has a visitor.”

               Matthias
blinked, her words taking him by surprise.

               “What
did you say?”

               “There’s
a visitor. And he refuses to speak with anyone but you. He says that you’ve
been expecting him.”

               Matthias
went back into the kitchen, where a cloud of steam and the scents of garlic and
saffron greeted him like old friends. “Kira, my love, I have to go.”

               Kira
looked up from the pan she was stirring, brow knitting. “I’m assuming one of
the townspeople needs you?”

               “I’m
sorry. Yes.”

               “Don’t
worry, Matthias. I’ll just put some away for you. Go on, I’m not going
anywhere.”

               He
kissed the top of his wife’s head and left with Callie.

               “Show
me where he docked.”

               **

               Callie
led Matthias through the hot, humid jungle at a brisk clip. All too soon, the
forest gave way to the black sands of the beach.

               And,
sure enough, there was a tiny ship tied to the dock, a bloodred sail flying
high in the evening twilight.

               Could
it really be, that the old tales his father used to tell were true? Not tales or
myths at all?

               There
was a figure in shining gold armor standing on the shore; he looked like an
illustration from one of the old books his father used to read to him from. He
was leaning on a gigantic broadsword, smiling broadly under the visor of his
helmet.

Villagers of all ages surrounded
the newcomer, their eyes shining with interest.

Matthias could not blame his
townspeople for their curiosity. Visitors and strangers were few and far
between on Sapphire Moon Island.

But Matthias found his interest
tempered by a sudden, red rush of fury, because surrounding the man were the
island’s most treasured relics, the only remnants they had of the time when the
gods had created the land, scattered in so many pieces around him.

He and this stranger would have to
have a talk.

But first, he’d have to get him
alone.

**

(WP) The Curse of Truth

(WP) The Curse of Truth

               The
princess Verity had been born with the curse of always telling the truth.

               Never
mind that her parents were both beautiful, silver-tongued liars, able to
persuade, charm, and seduce as easily as breathing.

               To
punish the monarchs, the Goddess of Honesty, Virtue, and Justice, Kiara, visited
the infant’s room in the night and enchanted the baby’s tongue to resist lies
and only tell the truth.

               Of
course, no one knew of this until the child grew older and was able to speak.

               The
kitchen cook and her assistant brought the child to her parents. Verity’s face
was sticky and streaked with stripes of icing and honey.

               “Darling,
did you eat a cake when the cook wasn’t looking?” The queen mother laughed, her
bright gray eyes warm with affection.

               Verity
could not lie to her mother; trying to resist the truth was like having something
uncomfortably spicy on her tongue. Her eyes watered and her tongue stung, her
throat closing in desperate need of water. Still, the words fought to be said.

               “Yes,
Mother,” Verity said at last, and the pressure inside of her yielded. She took
a deep, greedy gulp of air as if she’d been forced underwater for a long time.

               “Verity,”
The king said, shaking his head, but his smile revealed that he wasn’t truly
scolding her. “You should know better than that. You are a princess. You are to
be well-mannered and gracious. Now, say you’re sorry to the cook and her
assistant, my love.”

               “I’m
sorry, ma’am,” Verity murmured, bowing her head in contrition. “I won’t do it
again.”

               The cook
smiled, shaking her head. “That’s all right, little lass. Next time, let
someone know you have a craving for sweets, won’t you?”

               **

               As the
years went on, Verity grew from a precocious little girl to an accomplished
young woman. Her parents gave her everything she could’ve possibly desired,
including the best education in the entire kingdom. When she reached the age of
seventeen, her father began making arrangements for her to be married.

               Never
mind that that wasn’t actually what Verity desired.

               Eventually,
a prince came to the castle in order to actually meet his new intended: he was
old, widowed, and had no children. Immediately, Verity knew that this was not what
she wanted, or if she even wanted a partner.

               It
seemed that Kiara, her patron goddess, had a rather twisted sense of humor.

               Verity’s
engagement to Sir Reginald Fairfeather was celebrated with a feast, and all of
the common people and gentry were invited to attend. Though she was dressed in
finery and sported a large sapphire ring on her left hand (a keepsake from his
late wife, he’d told her with a wink), she was not happy. And she knew if she
were asked, she’d have little choice but to reveal how she truly felt.

Verity was positively miserable. Where was the good in being
a paragon or all that was good, virtuous, and honest if she could not be honest
with herself?

**

(WP) The Golden Years

(WP) The Golden Years

               She was
awoken by the phone ringing shrilly.

               Normally,
she and Henry were in bed by 9:00 PM, at the latest. But the night before had
been long and strenuous. She wondered if they were getting too old for this
gig.

She refused to get a cell phone;
she nor her husband, Henry, could figure out how the darn things worked. No, they
were perfectly fine with a landline, thank you very much.

Eleanor was greeted by a mad cacophony
of voices, and she found herself smiling.

“Happy 75th birthday, Mom!” Her
daughter, Tessa, chirped into the phone. She could hear her grandchildren in
the background, squabbling. “We have a surprise for you and Daddy later. Is it
okay if we bring the kids?”

“Of course, you can bring them!”
Eleanor replied, laughing. “You know your father and I, the more the merrier.”

Henry was already out of bed, and
Eleanor finished up the conversation with her daughter.

“Timothy and his kids are coming also.
We’ll see you later, Mom! We love you!”

Eleanor put the phone back into its
cradle, putting her feet in a pair of baby blue slippers.

“Henry! The children are coming
over later to see us! What are you up to?”

She found her husband in the kitchen,
preparing breakfast. There was a bowl of oatmeal already sitting on the table,
studded with raisins and bananas. Sitting beside it on a saucer was a cupcake,
frosted with the number 75 in the icing.

“I was making breakfast for my
favorite person,” Henry told her, smiling so widely his dark eyes crinkled up
at the corners. “Everyone deserves to be made breakfast on their birthday.
Especially their 75th!”

Eleanor found herself blushing.
Really, she was too old for all of this fuss. But she couldn’t deny she was
secretly pleased.

She sat down and ate the cupcake
first, relishing the sweetness. Normally, she ate healthy, all the time, but
she figured that since it was her birthday, she would make an exception.

“I asked for the day off,” Henry
told her, sitting across from her and eating his cereal. “I don’t know if we’ll
actually get it, but it was worth a shot.” He shrugged. At a year younger than
Eleanor, he was still spry and fit. After all, their job demanded it. And
family or not, there were very few breaks.

They both enjoyed their jobs, especially
in their prime, but she found herself wondering, once again, if they should’ve
hung up their capes a few years ago. What about their retirement?

“Thank you, Henry,” Eleanor said,
and he beamed in reply. “I love you, Ellie.”

**

Soon, the house was abuzz with the
sounds of shrieking children, crying, and laughter. Eleanor didn’t mind. With
her and Henry, it was too quiet, even for her.

Tessa and Timothy were in the
kitchen, putting several wrapped gifts on the table. Tessa was sipping a cup of
tea, and Tim was nursing a beer. They were talking, while their spouses focused
on wrangling the children.

Everyone insisted that Eleanor not
lift a finger; her children had even brought her lunch from her favorite café.
She sat at the table with her food, eating contentedly, lulled by the
controlled chaos around her.

Then the phone rang, and Henry
answered it. Immediately, Eleanor could tell it wasn’t good news.

“Yes. Yes, sir. Okay, sir, we’ll be
right there.”

He hung up, and looked at Eleanor.

“We’ve got a problem at work.”

She had a feeling he’d been about
to say that. But saving the world never stopped, not even for an old woman’s
birthday.

**

(WP) Blood, Bonds and Fire

(WP) Blood, Bonds and Fire

               The
battle had raged for what felt like days, though truly, it was only minutes.

               Fire had
raged throughout the castle, gathering speed and oxygen as it did.

               It was
slowly creeping toward the throne room, and if they didn’t get out soon, it
would devour them both.

               But she
might have been willing to die in the fire if it meant the eradication of the
evil she’d spent her whole life fighting.

               The
monster was on the floor, taking labored breaths. But she was wearing a
victorious smirk, her teeth bloody. Or perhaps that was the fire, a trick of
light.

               “Come,
child. You cannot be so blind that you see the world in shades of black and
white.” She said, raising her honeyed voice to be heard over the roar of the
flames.

               “I’m
tired of your waxing philosophical!” Amara snarled, and she lifted her blade, eager
for the kill.

She didn’t have time for this. She
was so tired. Tired of fighting, of running, of her quest. Noble though it was,
she just wanted it all to be over. What was a little more blood on her hands?

“Amara,” Artemis rasped, laying prostrate
on the stone floor. “Wait. Please.”

Did her sister really believe she
would stop, just because she’d asked nicely?

Not likely.

But against her will, she lowered
her arm, and her grip on the sword went slack.

“We don’t exactly have time for a
debate,” Amara said. “The castle is on fire.”

“So, we’ll keep it quick,” Artemis
said, her voice raspy. “Before you kill me…”

Amara waited, her throat aching and
her body fatigued. It was so tempting to lay down beside her sister and rest.
If they were just going to die anyway, what was the point of fighting at all?

“Do you have any idea about the lengths that humans will go to, to save the life
of one of their own? Or to even avenge another human?”

The words stopped Amara cold, and
she gritted her teeth. She was sick to death of games.

“What’s your point?” She asked
through clenched teeth.

“Humans are always eager to shed
blood, especially if one of their own is threatened. I’m not evil; I’m merely
practical. I do what you and the Council are too weak to even attempt. Evil is
just a name given to anyone who doesn’t agree with the laws, the old, outdated
tenets of the Council. Deviant. Deserter. Warmonger and defiler. We’re not so
different, you and I. I just chose my own path.”

Amara frowned, but she could not
help but reflect on her sister’s words. Perhaps she was right. But now was not
the time for an existential crisis.

“Come, sister. It doesn’t have to
be this way. We can do what we like. Together.”

The fire was close to devouring the
whole castle, but Amara could feel her heart wavering.

Why did it matter, what she did?
What claim did she have to destiny?

Who was to say that her sister wasn’t
right?

**

(WP) Merely Curious

(WP) Merely Curious

My insomnia has me up in the middle
of the night again.

I sit up, being careful not to disturb
my husband, who is fast asleep beside me, one arm thrown over his eyes. It’s
tempting to wake him, but he’s been working so hard that I ignore the impulse.

Maybe a late-night walk will put me
to rights; exploring the starlit streets usually does the trick.

Getting up from the bed and tucking
in my husband again, I change into a pair of sweats and a muscle shirt,
grabbing my keys and a pair of sandals. I walk out the door, closing it behind
me.

The night around me is quiet; the
only thing I hear is the chorus of the insects singing. It’s surprisingly
peaceful, and the restlessness I’m feeling releases its grip on me slightly.

I let my feet take control, trying
to escape from my racing thoughts.

I don’t know how much time passes
as I wander, but eventually, my mind quiets, and I run my fingers through my
hair. I hear the water and realize that I’ve come to the pier. I stand on the dock,
staring up at the star-studded sky. Across the way, I study the large water
towers, glaringly white in the black.

For a while, the sound of the waves
lapping at the worn wood of the pier soothes me.

I stand up, intending to finally
head home, when I am blinded by a searing, white light.

There is a distant whir, and no
matter how hard I squint against the glare, I can’t see, and tears stream down
my face.

What’s going on?

The moon shines down on the water
like a solitary silver eye in the sky, watching over all.

Mist rises from the water as if it’s
boiling, and before I realize what’s happening before it even occurs to me to
run, I’m hovering in the air, the wood of the pier vanishing from beneath my
feet.

For a moment, I think that I’m
having some kind of twisted nightmare, that I imagined all of this and I’m back
in bed with Daniel.

But then the light beams me upward,
and I land in a heap with a metallic thud.

The light in this place is harsh
and blinding, and I open my eyes. I’m being lifted onto a cold table and
stripped of all my clothes.

I’m beginning to feel like I’m
stuck in an X-Files episode.

There are two beings standing on
either side of the table, blurry in my vision. They’re chattering to one
another in a language that I can’t understand. Honestly, it’s all I can do not
to piss my pants in fear right now. Or laugh at the absurdity of it all, I don’t
know which.

I can hear machines in the
background, not unlike those at a hospital. Then a mask is put over my face,
and I’m hyperventilating; the room wavers.

Then the words I couldn’t
understand suddenly become intelligible.

“Worry not, human, we are not going
to hurt you.”

The voice has a cadence that is
impossible to identify. I can’t tell whether the speaker is male or female.

“We were… merely curious.”

**