Category Archives: fiction

Silent Photograph

Consider this proof of life! I have my wits and my fingers, still. I will return more consistently, and soon, I hope. I miss my friends here.

I offer a snippet for BeKindRewrite’s InMon, for the prompt Silent Photograph. It is very short.

Enjoy!

 

On every world where creatures have both sight and sapience, the technology follows: translating light into matter.
Lens, mirror, silver nitrate, ammonium thiosulfate… It’s easy to take it for granted once it becomes commonplace. But I think when people see it for the first time, they know the truth of it.
Photography is witchcraft.
I smirk, but I mean it.
Go on, roll your eyes. I know you want to.
Then stop and think for a moment. You take a camera, point it towards some map of light and take your exposure. What have you done? You have frozen a moment of light that will never come again and trapped it in static silence.
Think of all the photographs taken. How many outlive those who know what they are, or why? They lose context, they lose names, they become nothing but a static, silent record of light.
Yet you laugh at the thought that a camera captures essence and soul.
Take your shot.
The camera will be more honest than your eyes, if less sensitive. It will record exactly what it sees.
There. You have the record, my essence trapped in silence. I don’t envy you, in that darkroom, when you finally see what you have caught.
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Angelus Ferri

My cat died. I will post on it soon, but it’s had me down.
In better news, though, my muse is perking up. So while I hope to do better soon, I will at least post some fictiony stuffs.
This is a continuation of Prism Sentence and Light Reading. Both of those stories were based on Inspiration Monday posts by BeKindRewrite.
In keeping with tradition, so is this one. I give you the dissonant serenity of the Angelus Ferri. I am starting to figure out where this is going. I think.
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What are you doing, cowering like a five-year-old? You’re Angelus Ferri. Get up. 
Tenebrae pushed herself to a crouch. Her whole body was shaking uncontrollably causing the bladed ‘wings’ shielding her back to make soft metallic sounds.
The blue searchlight that had been chasing her for days beat down on her, but nothing else had happened. She felt exposed, cornered, but her tormentors remained maddeningly silent.
Shading her face with with one ‘wing,’ she looked up and roared.  “If you want me, come for me!”
The blue light flickered. Shadows cast by nothing she could see began to look like forms and faces. She squinted at them. Her attention fell on one that looked familiar. Realization trickled through her like cold water. He was one of her former comrades, left to die when she defected. That connection caused her to recognize the others. All of them were dead. Either she had killed them under orders, or they were collateral damage from her shifting allegiance.
She turned, again, and ran.

“Shift change. Thank God!” Sertor stretched and handed a clipboard to his replacement, Adrian. “Everything’s been pretty standard. No issues.”
“Thanks,” said Adrian, flipping through the notes. Aula’s replacement, Marius, was already practically asleep at his desk.
Sertor snorted at the sight, “Lazy lump,” and kicked the leg of Marius’s chair. The man startled awake, glared groggily, then rested his head on his arms again.
Some time after Sertor walked out, Adrian moved to check Marius’s pulse.
Oughta sleep for a while, after a dose like that.
He flipped through the notes to find the cypher Sertor had left him.
-It’s starting to get to her. We need to act quickly. See prismer 71.-
Adrian felt his stomach tighten. What if she won’t cooperate? What if she breaks?
Swallowing his anxiety, he quickly checked both his own prismers and Marius’s. The last thing he needed was the oneirologist checking in on them.
Everything looked good, for now. But he had only one shift to do what needed to be done. He glanced over the list of prismers to find the most recent addition. The longer anyone had been there, the less likely they would be of any help.
As Sertor had said, it was prismer 71. “Octavian  Laurentius,” Adrian mumbled. “Nasty list of charges. But nothing she can’t handle, assuming she’s still herself.” Carefully, he adjusted the prism for 71. Then for prismer 67, bringing them to a slightly closer frequency. Little by little, over the next few hours, he continued his adjustments.

Tenebrae’s feet pushed the ground behind her until, finally, a step met no resistance and she fell. It was almost a relief to be helpless, to know that there was nothing she could do. Falling was very like floating until the end.
She landed hard, but not hard enough. Her wings, never designed for flight, had closed together to protect her from their sharp edges. She flexed them open again and stood up.
The searchlight was gone, now. Instead there was a globe of light near her feet, shining up through a translucent floor. The ground stretched out, featureless, as far as she could see in any direction, until it met the unnaturally still storm-cloud sky.
Picking a direction at random, Tenebrae started off at a loping, energy-efficient run. Every time her foot struck the floor, there was a flare of light.
I might as well be screaming “hey, I’m here!” Not that I’ve got any better option.
As she covered more ground, she began to see shapes moving under her. They were difficult to make out, but a moving curve, here, and a flickering reflection there, brought her to a halt.
She watched the floor intently. There. What is that?
The line of a flank slipped by, as graceful as an eel, and the size of a whale.
The creature moved out of sight. Then it struck at her feet, causing the floor to vibrate. Tenebrae saw a wide orange eye and a flash of inward-curving teeth before it withdrew, only to ram the floor again a moment later. She tensed to run.
Run where? Why?
The calm she had while falling came over her again. Another eel-monster had joined the first and was also striking at the ground under her feet. Tenebrae knelt down, staring at the teeth with a dissonant, disconnected serenity.
When the creatures struck again, she began pounding in the same place with her fists and the wrists of her wings. Cracks formed between them.

Octavian had no idea how long he had been walking before he emerged from the forest. He came out onto a dry red landscape under a cool twilit sky. It was beautiful, but no more settling than the forest. The hateful giant lightning bug was drifting along beside him, but he tried not to think about it. The only thing he remembered clearly about his recent experiences was the pain of touching the thing.
A sound like the first crack of lightning, without the accompanying echoes of thunder, split the air. Looking up, Octavian realized that what he had taken for roiling clouds were giant eels, as big as dragons, swimming through the sky. Several of them had converged on a bright point, from which spread glowing cracks.
The sky shattered, raining down shards as the eels escaped up into the black expanse above. Octavian dove for cover against a tree.
When he looked up again, the red landscape was dusted with something too crystalline to be snow. It crunched under foot, and sent up puffs of dust if he wasn’t careful.
Ahead of him was another light, like the one that followed him. He felt desperate at the sight of it, though he could not have said why. Slowly, he made his way towards it.
His light, and the one he was approaching, flickered together. They both looked like bio-luminescent jellyfish suspended in midair.
There was a person lying on the ground in front of him, very still.
Angelus Ferri.
The metal wings reflected the dim light and cast the rest of the body in shadow. When it moved, Octavian took a step back. The face that looked up at his was scarred, and the eyes were unreadable.
The Angelus only spared him a glance before taking in the rest of her surroundings. Then her face twisted in what could have been anger, or frustration, or anguish, and she slumped back to being a heap on the ground.
“You… have a light, too.” He said, after a while.
The Angelus twitched, but did not respond. Octavian sat down and wrapped his arms around his legs. There did not seem to be anything to do but wait.

Adrian studied the readouts, holding his breath as they finally synced. He waited for a few minutes, his heart racing, to be sure that they were stable, then he sat back and closed his eyes in relief.
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Reorganization

I realized, recently, that I’ve put quite a few pieces of original fiction on this blog. And that it would behoove me to make it more accessible.

Thus I have reorganized the navigation links at the top of the blog, and created this Handy Page.

Also, as I do periodically, because I love it, I am pointing you all towards Bekind Rewrite’s short, hard-boiled Noir Mystery, The Mysterious Case of the Marshmallow Mushroom Forest


Spider’s Ransom

Happy Halloween, folks! And yes, I know it’s late.  But really, is it ever too late for Gothic story goodness?

This is, technically, a response to an InMon prompt, from BeKindRewrite, but I have to apologize for the length. The characters involved are not particularly cooperative in that, or any, regard.

Allergy Warnings: some violence, implied murder, Enfant Terrible, a really big ethereal spider, and ye olde speeche.

Disclaimer: The names of the characters have been changed to protect their identity. Any resemblance to real people or events is unintentional and potentially disturbing.


I write this days late. Before, I could not hold my hand steady.
My sons, forget what has gone before. I forbid you to sink your lives into this pit. I forbid it.

The gods cannot be so unmerciful as to expect us to shed what remains of our blood in a vain attempt to destroy evil that, I now believe, was not of our making.

Yes, the spirit of our ancestor spoke truth. This monster was born of our house. But he is ours no longer. If the gods wish him destroyed, let them send one of their own.

I made an oath, and I must keep it, but I will not sacrifice my sons.

The rumors I followed led me, in time, to Aldryd’s Keep. It is a new fortress, high-walled and well guarded. The Lord Aldryd’s reputation is good, but disappearance and death spread out around his stronghold. As he is near to the Maidenwoods, local rumor lays the blame on that twisted haunt rather than at Lord Aldryd’s feet. Still, I wondered at any man of power and influence choosing such a territory.

I had my answer when I entered the gate. The sword, Eleri, burned against my back. All but the grip was hot so long as I kept within the walls.

I took a place in the stables and I listened and watched. Einion the stable-master is an ugly brute, but not unkind. He speaks freely while at his work and I soon learned much of the keep and its folk. Unusual and unnatural death have left them largely untouched. The dangers, Einion told me, lie outside the walls.

Poor fool. But that is unjust of me. I would think the same, in his place.

Before long I had seen Lord Aldryd and all his kin by daylight. They are mortal enough. His eldest son, Heulyn, is a fine horseman and befriended me for my skill. We rode together often, even up to the eave of the woods.

Once, I asked why his father had chosen such a desolate place to lay claim. I saw his bright eyes fade a little, as with a wandering mind, and he shook his head.

“The hills are fertile,” he said, and that was all I could glean from him. The more I came to know the family, and all the people of the fort, the more they seemed like tethered beasts. They moved, in their minds, so far and no farther and had no power to ask questions of themselves.

When work was slack I took to wandering, befriending the soldiers and servants in turn. If it had not been for the angry heat of the sword, I might never have guessed anything was amiss. The signs are subtle.

At night, the watchmen patrol only the walls, never the grounds, and when asked why, they show only blank surprise. No one else stirs between dusk and the hour before dawn.

No one save, occasionally, a strange young woman called Briallen. I had seen her in the daylight, and thought her one of the ladies’ maids.

Then, one night, she waked me with singing as she wandered through the moon-bright grounds. Wildness, like that of a wren, is what marks her.

Her song was desolate, but her voice and eyes were not. I knew her for something brilliantly alive, and when she saw me, she smiled. If your mother’s guard over my heart were not so strong, she might have bewitched me.

At the end of her song I gave my traveling name, and asked hers. She answered without fear and asked why I had come to the keep.

I scarce remember how I answered, but she looked at me with dark, bird-like eyes.

“You are looking for someone?”

I shook my head, and she frowned.

“Lying is no way to make a friend.”

What could I say? I told her that I was, but that I would not tell more.

“I know who,” was her answer. My face must have betrayed my fear, for she smiled and touched my arm. “I’ll not tell him. He has no hold on me. But you should go. He sees you, and I know he suspects.”

“Tell me of him,” I pleaded.

She lifted her chin and shook her head. “I’ll warn a man to save his life, but I’ll not betray my friend.”

“Friend?” Yet she claimed he had no hold on her. I could not then, and still cannot, believe it. Some spell or madness rests on her.

“Friend,” was her answer, firmly given. Again she smiled at me. “Why not? He could kill me, and I live. He could enslave me, yet I am free.”

“Lady, he is a kinslayer, marked with his own brothers’ blood. And by some devilry he has learned to prolong his life by murder. I cannot even count the lives I know he has taken.”

She dropped her gaze from mine. How could she not? But she said, again, “he is my friend,” then curtsied and left me.

I saw her again several times, most often bright and smiling. The folk in the keep take no note of her unless she speaks to them. When asked, they do not recall her. Whatever enchantment rests on them, I think it was only Eleri that protected me from it. Briallen seemed protected too, the only one fully awake in the stronghold, beside myself.

Me, and one sweet, mad young woman.

Among the rest, though they were kind enough, I was soon lonely. I never knew when their minds would wander, and deep conversation was impossible.

Briallen begged me, time and again, to simply turn and leave. I knew, despite the disease in her mind, she spoke wisdom. Even then I guessed that I could not win, but I was bound by my oath.
Despairing of any other course, I resolved to find the monster in his den. Broad daylight was my safest choice, for if he sleeps at all, it is under the sun.

By this time there was only one place in the keep that remained a mystery to me: the central tower of Aldryd and his household.
Heulyn allowed me entrance to share a meal with him. To my frustration, though not surprise, my one attempt to wander from him led me to his mother and sisters, weaving. I was forced to bow and retreat back to my friend.

That evening I could not sleep. I lay trying to think of a way in.

Eleri quivered in its sheath, knocking against the wall where it was laid. I leaped for it, but too late.

A small, powerful hand caught my wrist and wrenched my arm back. My feet were swept from under me. I fell hard, my shoulder knocked loose.

The monster, still grasping my injured arm in one hand, took my hair in the other and threw me against the far wall, away from my sword.

Before I could recover, I heard a light voice. Its first words were addressed to Eleri, as though I were a servant, beneath notice.

“You again? And here I thought you would rot with my brother.”

I thought madness had taken me. I saw my own son settle himself between me and my only defense.

I say “my son,” for in that instant of terror I thought it was. Our ancestor’s ghost, may he rest, should have warned me. This monster is, after near two-hundred years, still a child. My youngest is ten as I write this, and the creature is of the same build and size. The same hair, like fresh rust, the same eyes and a freckled face. At first, only a faint scar across his cheek, the expression of his face, and the horror I felt assured me that he was not my own. Though, as I think back with a clear mind I see other, more subtle differences.

That the gods allow a monster to have such a nest is more horrible to me than all terrors of claw and fang. I begin to understand Briallen’s madness. What more is needed to drive a young woman so far, but a hellish thing that wears such skin?

“Who are you?” he asked.

I made no answer and looked away that he might not compel me.

“Tell me who you are and how you come by my brother’s sword.”

“I… am a grave-robber, though trying to be an honest man.” It was as much truth as I would spare him.

He snorted at it. “What grave-robber steals a wooden sword? None, unless he knows it is more. Only three know. I am one and I killed another. If you will not say who you are, perhaps you will tell me where to find the third. Where is Aislinn?”

“Who?”

Something black as soot reached through the wall at my back, across my chest. It was like a spider’s leg, long and jointed, but as thick as my own arm. Several more legs quickly pinned me. I cried out and struggled, bruising myself, and I might have been crushed to death had the child-monster not walked up and laid a hand on my chest.

I never looked into his eyes, but it did not matter.

The next thing I recall is sitting before him, the spider’s legs still clasped loosely round me. Fear was gone and I felt adrift.

“How came you by Eleri?” he asked.

Gods have mercy, but the monster’s voice is soothing as the whisper of falling snow. I told him all; how I had been lured into the Maidenwoods and found our ancestor’s cairn beneath the fern. How his ghost begged me to finish his work. I told how his sword recognized my blood and bound itself to my service. Every second question sought after Aislinn, but the name was, and remains, strange to me. At last satisfied, the little monster released me from enchantment. I have rarely felt so weary.

When I raised my head, he looked at me as a hawk eyes a rat, hunger that despises what it eats.

“Ciarán?”

It was Briallen’s voice and it broke across the monster like a wave. He startled and turned.

“Haven’t you killed enough of your kin?”

The monster looked at her as she stood in the stable door. His eyes were sharp.

“He is under oath to kill me.”

Her face was troubled. “Surely he’s no threat. Take the sword from him and let him go.”

“I cannot take Eleri from a living man.”

“Even with it, what chance has he?”

Ciarán, or so she calls him, turned to me again and smiled so like a child that, weary as I was, I shuddered. “Very little.”

After a thoughtful silence, he sighed. He seemed to grow more pale and his eyes darkened. He reached out a hand to my face and I saw, from the corner of my eye, something glint in the moonlight. I scarcely felt the cuts, but warm blood ran down my cheek. He caught my gaze and trapped it, but this time my mind remained clear. His words cut far deeper than his claws.

“This is your ransom, cousin. Pay it and I will let you live: Strike my name from our line. Break your oath and turn your sons away from me. If you persist in hunting me, I will free myself of my father’s House by destroying what remains of it. I have often wondered how far his offspring have spread, and if the savor of their blood has changed.”

I found I could speak, though I hardly had the courage. “I will do as you say, only I cannot break my oath. Let me go and I will warn my kin away and bear the burden alone. They will be no threat to you.”

For a moment, I thought he would refuse. He laughed and patted my head like a dog. “Honorable man. Be sure to tell your sons the consequences. If they break the ban, I will have no more mercy.”

I knew nothing more until I came to myself hours later. The sun had risen over the keep and folk bustled about, taking no notice of me. My shoulder was returned to its place, but it ached and the blood had dried on my cheek and neck. Eleri still burned angrily until I left the keep.

I am unsure of my next step. How such a thing is to be fought, I do not know. Clearly, he has more sorcery than rumor grants. And what am I to make of the great spider, strong as iron, that can reach through walls? Perhaps I should seek out the Aislinn of which he spoke, though I know nothing of her but the name.


Raised by Dragons, and Other News

The Mythgard Institute’s Writing Contest, mentioned before, is still going strong. This week, Twitter Fiction! My muse growled at me last week, and it doesn’t seem to like 140 character limit of this week, but we will see if I can goad it into being poetic without losing fingers (or a limb). It has been voracious and unruly. It had me writing snippets from what will probably be book 4 or 5 of my W.I.P. when I’ve yet to complete books 1 and 2, though I should also blame one of the characters involved in that little detour. I’m looking at you, Kee, and shaking my fist. No, you cannot pacify me with cookies!

In the Mythgard contest I am thrilled to say that I won 1st runner up in week 1, and 2nd in week two! (Yeah, so much for keeping my name away from this blog, but hopefully I can bury this post, or at least edit it later). This means I get to be published in their special-edition e-book!  My 2nd entry for week 2 also made an honorable mention, and I will post it below for your reading enjoyment.

Is it weird that, in the face of all of this, my brain is trying to tell me that I can’t write anything worth printing? Because it is. Somehow, I think that brutal voice will follow me all of the days of my life no matter what comes of my scribbling.

Brenton Dickieson has also won the privilege of publication twice! You can read his devastating and humorous tales in the linked pdfs above, as well as the other fantastic winners. Enjoy the honorable mention: Mud, by my good friend, David. Hopefully a wonderful dragon story of his will be published to his blog soon, too. Other honorable mentions are being posted at the Oddest Inkling: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4. I don’t know the author of this one (though after reading this, I want to!) but it is brilliant: There is Not a Unicorn in the Bookstore. If any of y’all post a story for this contest to your blog, let me know because I want to link it here!

And now, for my own honorable mention. Sørina Higgins said that it made her cry, which is an overwhelming encouragement to me! Brandi, and anyone else who reads this who knows a certain dragon-connected wizard from my canon, here’s his origin story. I bet you didn’t know that fudge pie and E. A. Poe played such important roles in his wizardy history.

Raised by Dragons

At eighteen, my world popped like a bubble. I was standing in a cavern where I thought there was an ordinary basement laundry-room. That is what it had been the day before.

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In my hands I held my first grimoire, my birthday present, heavy and bound in old leather and brass filigree. In my ears echoed the revelation: “You have wizard’s blood in you. You have to choose. Leave this world, and follow your blood, or stay and ignore it forever.”

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But what held me rooted was the sight of my foster parents. Until yesterday, they were nothing if not ordinary. A middle-aged husband and wife, counselors for “at-risk youth.”

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“At risk” would be a mild description of me when I came to them. Before that, my life was a succession of strangers, some nice, some cruel, most in between. I ruined every good situation. There was too much anger and far too much fear to control.

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But they were different, strict, but also dauntless. After a while, when nothing I did seemed to rattle them, I settled in.

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Then the blackmail began. I hated reading. Books were boring. “Fairytale” meant “Disney,” and dragons were only tattoo designs.

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He handed me a book of short-stories and pointed one out. “We can discuss it over dessert.”

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What he meant was “if you can’t discuss this with us, there’ll be no dessert.”

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After months of similar extortion, he handed me Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” My foster-father smiled and said “we can discuss it over dessert. I’m thinking hot fudge pie and ice cream.”

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I wanted to punch his smug face, but I wanted that pie more, so I sat down to suffer through another story. I was bored, at first. Archaic language, weird names, references I didn’t get, and this mysterious “armadillo,” but, by the end, I was caught. No spoilers, but the gothic darkness of it all, the tension, the subtext, left me chilled and hungry for more. He had dog-eared several other stories, the beast. I read the next one. And another.

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After that, I looked forward to dessert discussions.

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As I approached eighteen, I feared I would have to make way for the next “at risk” kid.

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The night of my birthday, I came home to find my foster-mother waiting by the door. Without a word, she took my hand and led me to the basement stairs. I figured they had a surprise waiting. I wasn’t wrong.

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And then they stood before me in their true forms. Dragons are like living cathedrals, with wings of stained glass, Byzantine mosaics for flanks, smoking-censer mouths and eyes that glow with soft, prayer-candle light. I knew I could not go back.

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“I’ll follow my blood. Tell me how.”

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My foster-dragon-mother nosed the nearest cavern wall. It opened on a grassy field at night.

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Light Reading -continuation of Prism Sentence

This is a continuation of Prism Sentence. I’m not sure, yet, where this is going, if indeed it is going anywhere, but then that’s part of the fun. Again, this is based on a prompt from BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday: “Light Reading.”


Octavian lifted a hand to his face and noticed that his own arm was draped in layers of dark fabric, the same that covered the inhabitants moving around him. He grabbed the nearest passing figure and jerked back its covering.

A rounded, tortoise-like head blinked up at him before the creature shoved him back with a short, but powerful, arm. It shrugged the covering back over its head and wandered off at a faster shuffle than before.

Again Octavian was aware that the world moved while he remained still. When the tortoise-man shoved him, it shoved itself, and its surroundings, off of him. He took a step back and  nearly lost his balance. The movement felt strange, but he could not remember why.

He pushed the ground under his feet until he shifted it to the nearest doorway. The place had the appearance of a public building, drab with dirt, but decorated in elegant, carved scrolls and fern fronds. It was familiar.

His light came in contact with one wall, and as it did, it shifted into a sconce.

Octavian paused to stare at it. He took a step sideways. The light traveled along the wall in pace with him.

With a shaking hand, he opened one of the large doors and bolted inside. The light followed, silently, now matching the interior fixtures, glass flowers hanging from spiked chains. It was farther over his head, but the increased distance made matters worse. He knew it was present, but could no longer watch it without craning his neck.

The room he entered was a quiet, open gallery with a floor of dark granite, polished to a mirror-like shine. One of the fabric-draped figures was slumped at a long central desk, its back rising and falling slowly, as if in sleep. Octavian ran forward until he hit a flight of stairs, then pushed the whole world down with each step. His feet echoed loudly. When he reached a landing several flights up, he paused.

His instincts were screaming for him to jump off the balcony. Will the world move when I don’t touch it? Or will I move in it?

Jump.

He was over the railing before he had time to think, but the space below made him pause. A soft creaking sound drew his attention and he saw his light sway above him, just barely.

It cast a strange shadow and, turning, Octavian saw the shrouded desk-keeper moving up the stairs. It didn’t shuffle like the other creatures had. It didn’t move as if it had feet.

He released the railing and fell. The stairs rushed past. When the floor hit him, he felt an impact, but not much pain. A bright burst enveloped and blinded him.

 Sight returned gradually. Sparks popped across a dark field, then they shifted into dim fireflies, drifting about on either side. For a long time that was all he could see until, looking up, he found a silhouette of evergreens framing a patch of sky barely lighter than black.

A whispering sound caused him to look over to his left. A firefly, about the size of a grapefruit, was sitting on the ground beside him.

He tossed a handful of pine-needles and dirt at the thing. It flicked its wings, but otherwise did not seem to care.

Anger outpaced his terror and he rolled over and tried to smash the insect with his fists. But touching it filled him with burning pain that centered on his heart and flowed through his whole body. He collapsed, writhing until the feeling abated and he lay still, breathing hard.


Aula pursed her lips as she studied the read-out from Octavian’s prism. Then she laughed.

 “I win!” she scooped up the small pile of coins sitting on the table. Her companion, Sertor, groaned and put his feet up on his desk.

“Dammit. The cocky ones’re usually too cowardly to try that for days.”

“This one’s gutsy, I’ll say that for him, but he won’t try it again any time soon.”

The voice of  Secunda, the on-duty Oneirologist, crackled through the intercom. “Aula, you need to even out prismer seventy-one. At this rate, you’ll give him a stroke.”

Sertor rolled his eyes, but Aula obediently fiddled with her controls, tweaking the light through Octavian’s prism.

“She’s new.” Aula shrugged. “Scared of having an accident on her watch.”

“Maybe I’ll leave his record on her desk. A little light reading might give her some perspective.”

“Bad, huh?”

“You didn’t read it?”

Aula twitched. “You know how I feel about personality violation. If I’m going to do my job, here, I’d rather not have the details.”

“Fair enough. He’s a dear.” Sarcasm drenched the last three words. “So, when do I get a chance to win my snack-money back?”

“Hm. Well, what’s your newest prismer up to?”

Sertor glanced over at the read out of one of the prisms under his charge. “Not much. She must be worn out after that chase-dream.”

“Ok. If yours gets going first, you get your money back. If mine does, you’ll watch all the prisms while I take a nap.”

“Done.”



Prism Sentence

Results of several InMon prompts from BeKindRewrite! The prompts are: Prism Sentence, Afraid of the Light, and, to some extent, Autoimmobile.

“Any parting words?”

Octavian glared at the ceiling and did not reply. The Lightkeeper pulled the final strap tight around his arms, then stepped back, out of sight.

“For the crimes of dream-theft, subconscious manipulation, and personality violation, you are hereby sentenced to ten years in Prism.”

Ten years. That number was bad enough, but in Prism, time was a variable. Once released, most of its inmates claimed to have wandered for hundreds of years, being pulled from dreamscape to dreamscape, nightmare to nightmare. They would have no more stomach for dream-crimes. Most were afraid to go to sleep, afterwards, and had to be drugged.

Octavian closed his eyes. Soon, the motion would have no effect. There is no closing one’s eyes in a dream.

He heard the first switch flip, and on instinct, opened his eyes again. The doors beside him slid back and he could see the Prism, it’s sharp edges just catching the ambient light. It was such a small thing, about the size of a grapefruit.

The second switch ticked over, and he was bathed in fractured light.

At the sounding of the third switch, nothing happened. He lay there, waiting.

Nothing.

Had he been reprieved? Had his lawyer caught, last minute, some mistake made by the prosecution?

“Hey, you bastards? What’s going on?”

The rainbow flickered. He looked at the Prism again, and his whole body tensed. It wasn’t a prism anymore. It was a lamp, an old gas-lamp with a blue flame in it. He shuddered. The light frightened him.

Without thinking, he sat up. A faint memory crossed his mind. Hadn’t he been strapped down?

But then it was gone. The light flickered again. The lamp had changed into a globe dangling from a curving stalk. It pulsed, bright, dim, bright, dim, as if it were breathing.

Octavian could feel his grasp of time slipping. The lamp had changed. It had, hadn’t it?

A sound came from the darkness on beyond. He stood up and made his way towards it. The light followed, and as he moved it changed again. Now it was a brazier filled with glowing coals. He took a few more experimental steps and realized, to his horror, that he was not moving. When he walked, it was the space around him that moved by him and his inanimate companion.

Dawn, or something like it, broke across the horizon and he watched the first dreamscape unfold itself. He was in a city, streets wet and shining from a recent downpour, air heavy with the humidity. His light-fetter shifted with the surroundings, blending in as an unassuming electric street-lamp.

People, or at least he thought they might be people, shuffled to and fro, backs bowed, heads low, all hidden under layers of dark fabric. One of them bumped into him, mumbled something that might have been an apology, and stumbled on.

Octavian closed his eyes. Nothing changed.


 

Part 2: Light Reading


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