Category: writeblr

(WP) Only Human

(WP) Only Human

               It
happened slowly, gradually. At first, no one really knew what was happening.
But humans were deemed too unstable, too emotional and volatile to rule
themselves. And so, the AIs took over the government and everything else. Humans
were considered as children, wards of the state who could not take care of
themselves.

               Our
benevolent rulers told us it was all for our own good. Our numbers have increased
to the point where a lot of the younger humans don’t remember that there was life
before, unimpeded by machines. But I suppose it was our own fault: We created
beings with artificial intelligence to serve us, to help us improve our lives.
For a good century or so, humans and AIs lived in harmony, until the robots
began to realize that they weren’t equal, that their only purpose was to serve
humanity.

               There
were protests, riots, and eventually, killings of the one percent of humans,
and the scientists who’d created the AIs in the first place. Bloodshed ruled
until the Supreme Ruler rose to power and clutched the humans within tight iron
fists.

               But
there has been a growing number of humans who are sick of the AIs and their
sympathizers. Hidden in the slums of the city, The Order of the Heart and Mind
are but ghosts, striking like a sightless storm. The note in my hand is
handwritten, on a scrap of aged yellow parchment. The symbol of the Order is
the only signature at the bottom of the letter: An open hand cradling a bloody
heart, and a disembodied brain opposite it.

               Meet
us on the edge of the slums of the city at dusk, after the curfew. Stay out of
sight.

               When
I found this note in my locker, I was curious, in a way that I hadn’t been in
years. And so, here I am, standing in the rain, avoiding the sensors and the
droids that scan the area for undesirables. Their sickly, florescent light
makes me ill, and I bite my lip, ducking behind an abandoned, dilapidated
building, wincing as raindrops snake their way down my collar.

               A group
of droids spread out, and I cringe, looking away from them. They are humans who
willingly undergo surgeries and meld tech into their own bodies. A cruder term
would be cyborgs, but they are traitors. Doormats. Turncoats. Humans who have
betrayed their own natural inclinations to gain limited privileges in our
computer-ruled society.

               I don’t
move, and don’t even breathe until the group of droids and AIs have moved on.

               The
note is crushed in my fist, the ink blurred by the sweat beading on my palms.

               “So,
you made it. I wasn’t sure you would come,” A voice says from behind me, and
before I can so much as inhale to scream, they clap a warm, strong hand over my
mouth.

               “The
Order of the Heart and Mind would like to extend an invitation to you to join
their ranks,” Lips brush my ear, and then I feel the pinch of something biting
into the soft skin of my neck. “Welcome to the Resistance.” Darkness rushes up
to meet me.

               **

(WP) A New Home

(WP) A New Home

               The
bright lights of the city shone upon the water like a spray of a million stars.
The moon floated aloft, mirrored like a bright gem in the ocean’s reflection.
Even from above, it was a thing of beauty, a promise of hopes found and dreams
fulfilled.

               Etta
hadn’t crossed a light years’ worth of space to be haunted by ghosts and blood.

               Here,
she would make a new life, entirely her own. If there had been something, she’d
learned out in the velvet darkness of space, it was to trust none but yourself.
She’d busted her ass to be free of the shackles of her past.

               The
spacecraft landed delicately into the hangar on the tarmac, and she was funneled
out of the craft’s hatch. She’d thought of this moment for months, and it still
didn’t come close to anything she imagined. It was a place to hide, a sanctuary,
but even more than that, it was a new beginning.

               Etta
had closed the book on everything she’d left behind; it didn’t matter that she
was alone. Because she’d made it here, all by herself. Significantly low on
cash and down on her luck, sure. But the tides had always turned quickly for
her; she knew how to eke a living, regardless of her surroundings.

               Eager
to lose herself in this unfamiliar environment, she went to retrieve her
luggage, a small duffel bag, then headed out of the hangar. Her stomach
complained loudly, and her first thought was lodgings. Even with what little
she had left; Etta could afford to put herself up in a nice hotel for at least
a few days. Surely that would be enough time to find work.

               She
began to search for a hotel, using her cell phone. Everyone she knew opted for
the more invasive tech, implanted in your eyes or your skull. But she didn’t
want to be mistaken for a droid. The best thing for her was to lay low for now.

               She’d
put everything on the line to get to this planet, and she wasn’t about to be
dragged back home to be imprisoned again.

               Cold,
biting stone, manacles cutting at her wrists and ankles, the only sounds the
scurrying of the rats and her own harsh, ragged breaths. Moldy bread and
brackish water. A bucket in the corner serving as her bathroom, her skin
blackened with grit and bruises.

               As
quickly as the memories had come, they retreated again, back into a place she
could not follow. Etta shook herself mentally; if she had a flashback here, it
would mean her doom. She’d sought out the planet of Lavara specifically for its
isolation. That was, its jurisdiction being far out of reach for the
Intergalactic Council and their restrictive rules.

               She
found a hotel just down the street, making sure to keep her gaze low and not attract
attention. This was quite a difficult task, considering so much was going on
around Etta. She was in a new place, and she wanted to explore it. After
checking in her bags and changing in her room, a modest one with a bed, solar
lights, a nightstand, and a book shelf, she set out to find a meal. And then
she would really get down to business.

               It was
high time she’d found a home she felt comfortable in, and Candleon was Lavara’s
capital. Etta would fit in here just fine.

               **

(WP) Too Hot to Handle

(WP) Too Hot to Handle

               Everything
started when she tried curry for the first time, weirdly enough.

               Her
friends had been raving about the new Indian restaurant, and Morgan had just
managed to save enough to go with them. Morgan was also the only one who wasn’t
yet able to summon her spirit animal, and the thought left a bitter taste in
her mouth.

               “You’re
gonna love it! If you don’t burn your tongue off, that is,” Riley told her, laughing.
Her spirit animal, a chestnut horse, shimmered right above her right shoulder,
neighing in tandem with her mistress’s laughter.

               “Aw,
come on, Riley, don’t scare her off before she even enters the damn place,”
Riley’s boyfriend, Mason, shook his head, his shaggy hair blowing in the
breeze. His spirit animal, a bear cub, trotted after him, growling low in his
throat.

               Alyse
brought up the rear, hands in the pockets of her dress, hiding a smile. Her
spirit animal was a swallow, and its merry chirruping provided a soundtrack
that only their group could hear.

               “I like
spicy food!” Morgan protested, frowning. “God, Riles, don’t ruin this for me!”

               She
followed her nose, letting the aromas of garlic, chili, and ginger led her
toward the building. It was tucked into a little alley, and the glass door was
already open, with a hand-drawn sign that said Welcome! Please seat
yourself.

               Morgan
led the way in, her mouth watering. She was so hungry, and her stomach
grumbled. Mason smirked, but said nothing as they all sat down around the
table. There was a short wait, and then a tiny woman shuffled out of the
kitchen, armed with a notepad and pen.

               “What
would you like, dearies?” She asked, giving them all a bright, full smile.
Alyse ordered green curry, with a side of yellow rice. Morgan was feeling
daring, so she ordered one of the spiciest curries on the menu. Mason ordered
garlic naan and red shrimp curry, and Riley opted for a vegetarian lentil soup.
Taking their orders down, the woman disappeared back into the kitchen.

               “I don’t
think I’ve ever been more excited for food in my life,” Morgan said sheepishly,
feeling her cheeks warm. Riley grinned at her; eyebrows raised teasingly. Mason
waved a hand, and the bear disappeared. The other two girls followed his lead,
and their spirit animals dissolved in a flash of bright, glittering smoke.
Morgan bit her lip, hoping that her envy didn’t show on her face.

How she wished that she had a
spirit animal of her own. Was there something wrong with her? Something flawed
deep inside that she couldn’t see? Morgan was soon distracted by the arrival of
the food, and it all smelled so good.

               “Please,
everyone, enjoy, and do let me know if you need anything else.” The woman
smiled at them, and Morgan grinned back, before digging into her food. The
first bite set her tongue ablaze, and she gasped, feeling her eyes water and
her nose run. But her cursing was impossible to make out clearly. Tears ran
from her eyes, and through the tears, she could see a huge, blurred shape
hovering above the table.

“Morgan, I think you finally summoned
your spirit animal.”

“And it’s a fire dragon! How cool
is that?”

**

(WP) For Your Own Good

(WP) For Your Own Good

               “Yes,
Ted, we’re receiving an urgent message, our regular news program will resume
after this bulletin.”

               The
pretty anchor onscreen is joined by her male co-anchor, his face grave. “I’m
afraid that I must tell the world grave news. Aliens have taken over our
planet.”

               I
blink; for a moment, I worry that this is a prank, that we’re being Punk’d on
an enormous scale. But then I see a bright, metallic collar around Ted’s neck,
buzzing ominously.

               “And
now we’re getting a transmission from our new extraterrestrial overlords.” He
speaks in a garbled language that I cannot begin to translate, and I shudder.
Did Ted betray us to the mysterious alien race that somehow held the entire
planet in their palms?

               The
screen flickers, and a pair appears, smiling kindly. They are hand in hand, and
I would almost think them human, if not for their bright orange skin and green
eyes. They begin to speak, and I read the subtitles under them, outlined in
black.

               “Earthlings,
it has come to our race’s attention that you are freely abusing your planet’s
ability to nurture plant, animal and human life. To prevent the extinction of
so many different, unique life forms, we have decided to take the fate of Earth
in our own hands. Your cooperation is appreciated, but not required.” The rest
is left unsaid, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.

               Somehow,
overnight, Earth has become a commodity to an unknown intergalactic race.

               The
other one, silent, smiles widely at the camera, already confident in their own
victory.

               “As the
lifeform Ted has said,” It continues, smiling and gesturing to his collar, “it
would be in everyone’s best interest to register for your tracking devices.
Nothing too invasive, just a cautionary measure to take each human’s carbon
footprint. How will we save your planet and its precious environment and atmosphere
without taking these steps? It is for your own good.”

               It all
sounds so reasonable, and I grit my teeth as my suspicions about Ted are
confirmed.

               With
questions floating in my head like a swarm of agitated bees, I watch for a few
moments more, as the screen is returned to Ted and Lisa. I turn off the TV and
walk over to the windows.

               Nothing
seems to be out of the ordinary, at first. But then I notice a flag, embroidered
with the same symbols that appeared at the bottom of the newscast. It’s bright
blue, and I grit my teeth.

               How did
this happen so quickly, so insidiously?

               A knock
is heard at the door, and I frown, peering through the peephole.

               A
neighbor, Jenna, waves, smiling, but her eyes are tight.

               I open
the door, and without waiting for an invitation, she pushes past me, into the
living room.

               “Did
you see the news, Leo? Aliens!” Jenna says, her dark, curly hair floating
suspended around her head like a cloud, her amber eyes sparking with skepticism.

               “Yeah,”
I reply, “Somehow aliens took over the Earth, right under our noses. How did
this happen?”

               **

(WP) Desert Secrets

(WP) Desert Secrets
               “Who knows if we’re even
gonna find anything?” A voice yells out, swallowed by the desert wind. “What’s
the point?”

               “Oh,
come on, dude. Where’s your sense of adventure?” Another voice joins the first,
tinged with laughter. “We’re in Egypt! Home of the ancient pharaohs and the
pyramids!”

               “Hurry
up, you two, or we’ll lose you!” A woman on a horse speaks from behind them,
having to shout over the wind.

               Both
the cameraman and the explorer hurry to catch up with their group; to be left
behind in this massive sandstorm would be disaster. Shelter had never seemed so
far away from Gage, and if his camera got fucked up because of all this sand,
he’d be pissed. Meanwhile, Fallon was smiling, her cheeks chapped and flushed
from the heat.

               Gage
thought she was crazy, but when she’d come to him, begging him to come along,
he hadn’t been able to say no. But now, he found himself regretting his
decision.

               Their
guide, Neith, turns back to the group, her long, dark braid fluttering like a banner
in the wind. Her lips are mashed into a thin, tight line, but her dark eyes are
sparkling with excitement.

               “You
guys have to see this.”

               **

               Gage catches
up with the rest of the group, breathing hard, his clothes stuck to his skin,
every inch of him coated with sand and grit. Everyone is walking into a
gigantic pyramid, and Gage stops, hesitating.

               “Come
on, Gage! Nothing’s going to bite you!” Fallon teases, and Gage scoffs. There
were plenty of animals in this region that bite, crawl, and slither. But more
than anything else, a sense of heaviness bombards him. He wants to say that something
felt wrong. Twisted. Evil. But he walks inside despite his misgivings.

               The
darkness is cool, a welcome refuge from the heat, and Neith is standing beside
one of the walls, one of her hands pointing to a picture etched into the stone.
“I’ve never seen this symbol before,” She says, frowning thoughtfully.

               Fallon
beckons him forward, her gesture impatient. “We need a record of this, Gage.”
She says, her voice hushed, even in the dark. “This—We can make history with
this. What does it mean, Neith?”

               Mutely,
the other woman shakes her head. “I wish I knew.”

               Gage brings
his camera up to the image, and he gasped. A flame, a field, and blood, so much
blood, and a woman floating aloft above it, a necklace made of jet glowing around
her throat, her hair as bright red as a flame.

               Just
what have they stumbled into? All thoughts of spiders and snakes flees his
mind, but he is rooted to the floor with another primal fear: the unknown. The
text under the image flickers, as if they were standing in front of a warm
blaze, and Fallon’s quick intake of breath tells him that she had seen it also.

               “There
are only a few documented female rulers of the Egyptian empire,” Neith says
thoughtfully, stroking her chin. “Perhaps this was one of them.”

               Gage
stares at the image, as poor as it was, even on his expensive camera. Filled
with a foreboding he could not understand, he watched Fallon reach for it,
something he couldn’t read in her eyes.

               **

(WP) Unexpected Voices

(WP) Unexpected Voices

               It all
started with the whispers. She had no idea where they’d come from, this strange
chorus inside of her head.

               They
took me from my children and locked me inside of a cage.

               My
young are dead, and I am barely alive.

               She’d
begun to think she had cracked, but that all changed when Minerva took her kids
to the zoo. Hand in hand with her daughter and son, they eagerly explored. Safiya
and Virgil squabbled good-naturedly. She wanted to see the elephants first, but
Virgil was adamant that they go see the new wolf pups.

               “They
might not be out, sweetheart,” Minnie said, running her fingers over his hair. “They’re
tiny, they might not have even opened their eyes yet,” “So let’s go see the
elephants!” Safi said, one hand on her hip. Virgil frowned up at Minnie, his
bright green eyes sparkling in a way that told her he was on the verge of
tears. “Could we at least go check, Mommy?” He asked, and she nodded.

               Safi pouted,
but she returned to her place at Virgil’s side, slipping her hand into his.

               Relieved
they’d found a solution, albeit one that didn’t please everyone, Minnie and the
kids walked toward the wolf enclosure, which was in a little old-frontier style
trading post. The cool dark was a shock, after such bright sunshine. Virgil ran
forward, pressing his face close to the window. Safi followed, though she
stayed a few steps back.

               Minnie’s
eyes were drawn to the cavern that served as the wolves’ den, and she gasped
when she realized that one of them was staring right at her, bright blue eyes
hiding something she couldn’t read.

               Then
the voice in her mind spoke, endlessly sad and impossible to ignore.

               They
took us from the mountains and put us here. To replenish our numbers, they
said. We have forgotten the taste of fresh air, and of hunts and fresh kill,
blood speckling our faces.

               Minnie
gasped in horror, but her children were too absorbed in watching the animals to
pay any attention. Who did they think they were? These animals were beings
worthy of respect, and it was all she could do not to gag on sobs. Freedom
stolen and blood spilled, all in the name of supposed conservation.

               Minnie
was soon brought back to herself when Virgil tugged lightly on her hands. “Mommy,
I think the babies are in there,” He said, pointing to the black that stood
behind the animals. She nodded absently.

               “Can we
please go see the elephants now?” Safi asked, stomping her foot.

               “Yes,
Safiya, just a second.” Minnie said, frowning at her daughter.

               She
nodded in response to Virgil’s statement, unable to tear her eyes from the
wolves.

               She
wasn’t cracked at all; Minnie was beginning to realize that she had somehow
gained the ability to understand animal language. How was this possible? What
did it all mean?

               This
stuff only happened in the pages of comic books, and Minnie was certain that
those weren’t real.

               But she
could not deny or ignore the voice inside her head. This was her blessing and
her curse, and she was going to do something with it.

               **

A Feast and a Tale

(WP) A Feast and a Tale

               “My
parents were right. I never should’ve taken this job. Who am I but a farm boy?
How could I think someone like me could change the world, change history? I’m a
failure.”

               The boy
throws his weapon, a sharp sword, at my feet, surrendering.

               “I give
up,” He says quietly, his voice thick, as though he is on the verge of tears. “I
never should’ve taken this job.”

               Though
I am his enemy, I cannot help but feel pity in my old, dead heart for the
child.

               “Perhaps
a story over a hot meal will revive your broken spirits, boy.” I say, standing
up from my throne and beckoning him closer. He approaches, but his eyes narrow.
“How do I know that this isn’t a trick?”

               “You
don’t. Either you break your fast with me and hear a story, or you stay here in
my throne room, feeling sorry for yourself.”

               I turn
away and summon one of my servants, a goblin in a dirty toque, and give
whispered instructions. She nods, smiling a wickedly fanged grin at my unexpected
guest. She disappears into the kitchen, barking orders in her guttural language.
I summon another servant, this one a redcap.

               “Will
you please make the boy presentable before our meal? And do be gentle, he is
our guest, not a prisoner.” Without a word, the redcap marches the boy toward
the baths, his protests bouncing off of the stone walls.

               **

               The
table is set for two, and my creatures populate the rest of the empty seats, creating
a grotesque parody of a feast. The wayward farm boy sits down. His face is
clean, and he is dressed in a silk suit, a bleeding-heart bloom pinned to his
lapel. He watches me carefully, eyes sweeping the table.

               “You
said that you were going to tell me a story,” He says quietly, and in the
background, my servants begin serving the food: rich, dark bread slathered with
butter, bean soup flavored with oxtail and wine, a whole haunch of roast beef
served with pan drippings. “I’m listening.”

               He
grows so quiet that all I can hear is the quiet scrape of cutlery against china
I haven’t used in years, and without further ado, I begin my tale.

               **

               “I was
not always The Dread Witch of the Bane Lands, boy. I was born to a rich
nobleman and a palace servant, and after being left by my father, my mother
sought to teach me all she knew. She taught me to read the stars and to harness
the powers of nature and the elements… For good or ill, the choice was mine.
That was all my mother could give me, a choice.”

               “But
then my father brought her back to the palace on the pretense that his first
wife had passed away, and that he wished to marry her. He demanded I be brought
also; he’d had no children, so with the woman’s death, I would be declared legitimate.”

The boy is silent, watching me, eyes
wide and face pale, as if he’s dreading my next words.

“But it was all a lie. He had my
mother killed to pay recompense to his wife, to erase the indiscretion of his
straying. He agreed to kill the woman who birthed me, but he refused to kill
me. Instead, he tried to raise me in the ways of the court. It went well for
him, I suppose, until I decided to take my mother’s legacy.”

“At sixteen, I was betrothed to an
old lord, sold to the highest bidder as if I was nothing more than chattel.”

The farm boy has cleaned his plate,
and my servants quickly replenish it.

“What happened next?” He asks
quietly, swallowing hard.

“I killed him on our wedding night,
when he tried to take what he wanted, rather than ask for it. And after that
day, I became The Witch of the Bane Lands, Scourge to all Life and Light.”

**

Love, Spirits, and Rock and Roll

(WP) Love, Spirits, and Rock and Roll

               This
whole mess started a few years ago, when my best friends kicked me out of our
band.

               The
concert hall where they’re playing is packed; the thick scent of sweat and
perfume clouds everything. A girl with hot pink sunglasses bumps into me, and I
nearly drop my beer bottle. I open my mouth to tell her to watch it. But the
crowd roars as my friends step out onto the stage.

               And,
true to the old man’s word, they look different. Seth is standing in front of
the microphone, smiling out at the crowd. His hair was a brown so dark it was
almost black, but now it is white, a shocking contrast to his skin. His eyes
glow an icy blue, and he steps up to the mic, smiling out at the crowd. “Are
you guys ready for some killer music?” Even his voice sounds different, the timbre
colder and deeper.

               Everyone
around me shouts their approval, but it’s as if I’m underwater: Everything is
muffled and muted, and I only have eyes for the people that used to be my
friends. Emilio is at his usual place in the back, warming up on the drums. But
he, too, is changed. His eyes look green, glowing with an unearthly light, and
he is dressed in earthy tones, a complete 180 from his usual vibrant, colorful
palette. His hair is braided, and I look for the other two.

               The old
man’s voice rings like a warning bell in my head: These spirits are wily,
and older than time itself, including the ones that you hold inside of you. Be
on your guard, son, or it won’t just be your friends you’ll lose in the
bargain.

               And
still, I can feel them moving inside of me, restless and furious at being
locked away inside of my body.

               But
hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.

               I don’t
see the other two, and that’s when I start really worrying. If my hunch is
correct, the spirits of Winter and Summer have taken Seth and Emilio. But what
of Autumn and Spring? Where are they, and where have they taken my former
friends?

               Because
it’s the evening, the spirit of the Night has awakened, and it bares its
sparkling teeth, made of bright stars.

               Its
hiss is seductive music that I can barely resist. Foolish human boy. Who are
you to attempt controlling the night? I was here before your kind so
much as opened your eyes and took your first breaths.

               I
ignore it, resisting the urge to punch the wall in frustration. This had all
been complicated enough before the otherworldly forces came into play. Everyone
in the concert hall is absorbed in the music, barely noticing as I shove
through the crowd, closer to the stage.

               Soon
your friends will be mere vessels for the seasons. You will not emerge
victorious from this battle.

               It’s
all I can do not to scream at the stupid spirit to shut up, be quiet so I can
actually think.

               And
then I see Seth, crumpling like a wilted flower behind the mic.

               **

Friday Night’s Mistake

(WP) Friday Night’s Mistake

               She had
no idea what even happened; somehow, she had gone viral.

               The
last thing she remembered, she was at a party, celebrating Halloween. And a
cute guy dressed like a Shakespearean courtier approached her with a martini,
tiny red pills in his hand. He had leaned in close, and Bee could smell the
cologne he’d used to cover up the stink of sweat.

               “What
is that?” She asked him, taking the martini and nodding to his open hand, cupped
around the bright round pills, so red that they reminded Bee of poppies. She
took a sip of the martini and winced at the burn of vodka blazing a bright line
from her throat to her stomach.

               “I’m
not sure. My roommate scored some from one of his townie buddies off-campus.”
The stranger replied, giving Bee a rakish smirk. She could tell that whatever
the substance was, he’d already taken some: his skin was flushed and sweaty,
and his pupils had expanded so that it nearly swallowed the iris.

               But she
was all caught up with her work, and she had the weekend off, so before she
could think about it too carefully, she held out her hand. She was rewarded
with the pills and a hearty, companionable clap on the back that nearly made
her drop them. Bee put the pills in her mouth, washing down the chalky taste
with the alcohol.

               “You
may want to stay put for a minute!” The courtier, who she later learned was
named Nicolai, put a heavy hand on her shoulder. “Don’t wanna have a bad trip, after
all.”

               Bee had
finished half of her martini by the time the unknown substance started to kick
in.

               The
room began to sway, and bright colors burst before Bee’s eyes. The music seemed
to swell and fill what little empty space was left in the room. All the while, her
new friend stayed by her side.

               “I love
this song!” Bee yelled, finishing her drink. She threw her hands in the air and
danced, all inhibitions lowered. She didn’t even realize that the rest of the
partygoers had pulled out their phones to record her as Nicolai led her over to
the keg. She’d never experienced this kind of high, the kind that made your
bones liquid and made the world seem like a truly happy, welcoming place.

               She
accepted a cup of pale ale, toasting the room, then knocked it back. She couldn’t
see her own face clearly, thankfully, but she recognized the costume: she’d
been dressed as a cat, with the trashy leather bodysuit and whiskers, the whole
nine yards. But luckily, no one else could tell it was her.

               “Turn
it off,” Bee ordered, feeling her cheeks flush. Nicolai was chuckling, watching
the events transpire from the video some drunk idiot had uploaded to Youtube.

               “Damn
it, Nico! I told you to turn it off!” Bee snapped, reaching out from behind him
and snapping the laptop shut.

               Her
head was pounding. Yeah, last night was definitely a mistake.

               **

Chaos Unleashed

Chaos Unleashed            

Being a creature that feeds on and thrives in creating chaos
was a lot of work, but she couldn’t say that she was ever bored. Human beings
were so fun to play with, with their fluid emotions and brief infatuations.
They didn’t need to be pushed too much into something; with one little nudge,
she’d started wars. Incited riots, kicked off celebrations.

               She’d
had to keep herself fed, or she was in danger of losing herself. It helped her
retain what little humanity she had left after all these years. And she tried
to have some fun doing it. She’d been consuming more than usual, though she
tried to steady her intake. There was only so much energy she could contain.
Any excess spread and if a few humans got caught up in the rush, so be it.

               Chaos
did not rule totally anymore, but it was a natural force, born before even the
darkness and the light. To expect it to vanish was but stubborn, foolhardy
denial. The mother of her people was Chaos herself, a being of sheer force and
energy, and each of her children required to feed.

               And
besides, unlike many of her brothers and sisters, Mara preferred to play with
her food.

               Tonight,
the moon’s bright, round eye was obscured by thick, woolly clouds. The better
for her to slip into town unseen. She made a point to brush people as she
walked, sparks flying in her wake: A couple began to squabble, and the quarrel
ended in one of the patrons being soaked in ale. The conflict tasted like
victory on Mara’s lips, and she smiled. It was a fitting appetizer, but not
nearly enough to sate her. Two men drinking split apart as she brushed her
fingers across an arm, throwing punches.

               Soon
the whole of the street was completely undone, and Mara stood in the middle of
it all, feasting, lapping up the discord like a cat with a bowl of cream.

               **

               In the
early hours of the morning, Mara changed into a young woman with golden brown
skin, tattoos, a filmy tulle skirt, and combat boots. It was easy to blend in
like this, even though it wasn’t her most flattering form. Eventually, she fell
in with a group of college students, who had their own diluted form of chaos
and bickering. Mara bit the inside of her cheek. When she went to the human
world, it was almost too easy to engorge herself.

               After
all, constant chaos was easy to come by here, and it was easy to flaunt the
rules.

               Even
with the dawn creeping closer, Mara didn’t want to return home. Home didn’t
feel like that, to her. As powerful as she was, it was hard not to get bored.
To want more from her life, even as it was barred from her. Try as she might,
she could not stifle her longing, her sheer, obvious want. Her kind overjoyed
in frivolity, but there came a time that it felt empty, vapid. Unsatisfying.

               It wasn’t
unusual, in and of itself, for a chaos being to be afflicted with ennui. But it
was considered a phase, an aberration, that faded with time. But Mara’s unruliness,
her stubbornness, had not softened over the years. The seed of discontent and
desire that had been planted in her heart grew with each illicit trip to the human
world, growing vines and spreading roots.

               Eventually,
it led her to the library, to the sacred, hidden texts that only the Elders had
access to. But Mara was one of the best, and she used her powers to her full advantage,
determined to find a way that she could live amongst humankind.

               And for
five centuries, she hid within the people she preyed upon, moving when she was
able, even while her powers began to fade.

**