I was unfortunately incapacitated for the stream before the Holidays, so our most recent stream had to make up for the time we lost rather than doing something jubilant and merry and different for the season.
But you can rest assured knowing I’ve got y’all in my heart, because…
This week’s prompt is:
ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
Loving, Eldritch Parents
The Shadows are Watching
They’re inside Me
They All Came Back
Where Have All the Stars Gone?
Something’s in The Fields
The Lengthening Night
Before the Deep Sleep
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!
The Sky Blinked
A Cosmic Machine
Were the Angels Wrong?
The Forest will Change You
An Unfortunate Side Effect
RULES AND GUIDELINES HAVE CHANGED!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
Be sure to mention which prompt you chose in parenthesis at the beginning of your submission!
Normally this is where I’d go on a tirade about all the amazing ways to approach the prompt, but not this time. This time, that’s all on you.
Shock us. Change our perspectives. Show us a vision we’ve never seen before. Pluck at the strings of our collective heart. Whatever your creative little soul pines to build with these bricks, built it, and share.
I have faith in all of you.
OH, AND ONE LITTLE CAVEAT: for one session and one session only, you may re-submit stories you’ve submitted here before, so long as they’ve never been read on stream. Happy holidays to all of you who’ve been longing to give a story a second shot at faaaame.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
We read six stories during each stream, three of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected from among the top ten most-liked of each post, so be sure to share your submissions on social media and with your friends!
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- One submission per participant.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 4:00pm CST each Friday.
- No more than 350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name).
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
Write something brand new(no re-submitting past entries orstories written for other reasons). FOR THIS ONE SESSION, YOU MAY RE-SUBMIT PAST ENTRIES THAT HAVE NOT BEEN READ ON STREAM. You may still only submit stories written for the writing group.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- No fan fiction without explicit permission from the source’s owner, and no spoilers for the source material.
- Please format your submission as “Submission Title” by Author Name and be sure to separate paragraphs. (Example Submission)
- Original art may be included in your submission, but is not guaranteed to be shown on stream. Only .jpeg format images shared via a direct link will be accepted. (Example Submission) (Information on “Direct Links”)
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible, and your reviews must be at least 50 words long. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review, although they can be.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
(Prompt: The Sky Blinked)
Awaken by KenopsiaTennine
The station orbited the massive blue star, in passage above a starspot. The tinted dome covering the bustling recreational area dimmed the light to a tolerable level and painted the glass sky a lovely blue, almost reminiscent of a boiling reflection of the sky of Earth to the humans who remembered it.
A lone engineer taking her break to enjoy the carefully manicured and contained patch of nature in the dome laid in the grass, watching the dark spot hanging overhead, tracing the little flares around it with her eyes and searching for patterns. She closed her eyes.
The markets bustled around the lying human, aliens and humans mingling and exchanging stories, thoughts, goods. Some, the newer recruits, looked up at the starspot anxiously, unused to the sudden apparent void overhead. Some had those around them notice and were teased good-naturedly. It didn’t take long for that to stop as those gazing up at the spot froze in terror.
A small, perfectly circular red dot appeared in the center of the spot as they watched, expanding and turning into a ring, thinning as it went, encircling a true void that drew the eye in and refused to release one’s attention. It contracted into the red dot and dilated back into the ring again, everyone in the dome stricken suddenly with the horrifying, overwhelming feeling of being watched. Those who hadn’t been watching the sky turned to it, the dome going silent. The movement repeated, and a pattern of flares erupted from around the starspot.
The engineer opened her eyes to see for the last time.
(Prompt: Where have all the stars gone?)
Zyvrinria, The Nine Furies
With all his might he rose to his feet, his back screaming from the pain, his legs nearly falling out from under him. Yet he held to his staff and gazed outward.
Before him, where once stood a bazaar of colored and patterned clothes, tents taller than a goliath, and the excitement of children rushing to prepare for the Jubilee of Sachin, only burning tarps, a cracked ground, and cries of pain remained. The sky, once filled with a bright autumn lavender, now lay black, like the curtain of night had been ripped across the sky but the stars had been forgotten.
In the center of this pre-necropolis, a beast larger than any he had ever seen stalked about, so large that it seemed to cast a shadow over all ten thousand souls that once filled the grove.
The miscreation skulked across the landscape on four long legs seeming to probe the land for any life left for it to snuff out until it found the corpse of a what used to be a young man. The lanky fingers, like giant spider legs, rose the body up to a massive serpentine head, which sported eyes like blazing flames speckled with gold, filled with curiosity as it inspected the body with those spindly fingers before callously tearing it apart with blade like teeth.
At this sight, he could not hold back a shriek, and as it met the invisible ears of this being, out of the shadows of smoke and ash, eighteen of those emblazoned eyes fixed upon him. Eight more twisting necks revealed themselves in the light of the fires, the smoke rushing away, as if it too was frightened. Each neck was accompanied by face like a crocodilian hound and a malignant gaze erupted from each pair of eyes as the being moved with a swiftness and serenity of a sparrow towards him. The light of the flames danced across its pelt, revealing a rippling sea of blue and green sapphires. A sight so beautiful that it seemed like a divine joke that it’s owner could create such hideous destruction.
Prompt: The Lengthening Night
A Holiday Feast
Joshua cupped his hands, raised them to his mouth and blew into them, hunching his shoulders against the cold. He heard steps approaching from inside, and the door swung open.
“Hello?” The man at the door was fat and balding, looked to be nearing fifty.
Joshua lowered his hands, and pulled the tablet from beneath his arm. “Hello, sir. I’m collecting money on behalf of…”
“Sorry pal,” the man replied. “With Christmas coming up, money’s a little tight right now.”
Joshua nodded, and looked vaguely up at the sky. “Sure is getting dark earlier and earlier nowadays. I don’t suppose I could come in.” He hunched his shoulders up a little more, giving a shiver.
The man looked back into his house. “I…sorry, pal. Not tonight.”
Joshua returned a weak smile and nodded. “Have a good night, sir. Happy holidays.”
He trudged onto the next house, and repeated the process. Knock, knock.
“Hold on a second!” came the voice from inside the house, young and female from the sounds of it.
Joshua rocked on his heels, waiting for the door to open.
The door swung open, revealing a girl in a tight sweater, her blonde hair capped with a red Santa hat. She looked like she was twenty-five or so. “Oh, I thought you were one of my guests.”
“Sorry. I’m actually collecting for the food bank, what with the holidays coming up, and all.” Joshua hugged himself, and stamped his feet. “Sure is cold out. And the nights are so long.”
“I know what you mean,” the girl replied. “What time does the sun go down nowadays? Like, five?”
Joshua nodded. “There abouts. I know it sounds like an imposition, but could I step inside?”
The girl nodded. “Oh, yeah. Sure. Let me see what I have to give.” She turned back to the inside of the house. “I’ll be right back.”
Joshua grinned as he stepped in the door, his long canines glistening with hunger. As the warmth met him, he could smell the blood rushing through her arteries. Time to feed.
(Prompt: A Kindness)
Pro Patria Mori by Simon D. Field
The air was humid and stagnant. It smelled of lime chloride and death. Henry was gassed with the sulfur mustard, as were many other soldiers in the dugout, and the aid stations were overwhelmed. He wanted to end the suffering the gas burns inflicted before, and a friend brought him a revolver for that. Now it became bearable, and the six gun was hidden under the pillow.
The dugout was silent, save for the wheezes and wet coughs of the wounded. After the cacophony of a never-ending battle the relative quiet was welcome and cherished as bread made from nettle and sawdust in times of famine.
Then greenish-yellow air crept inside lazily, and with it came the terror. Those who could get up did so, and the rest begged for help. Their cries were left unanswered, for when a mortal fear overwhelms a man, he thinks not of the others.
Henry’s legs were burnt, so he reached for the revolver. The steel pressed against his inflamed palm. He looked around and saw terror and begging in the eyes of prostrate men. Henry sat on his cot and felt murky yellowish pus trickle down his side, dampening the sheet; the raw flesh grinded on the rough material, and Henry bit on his lip.
Then he stood up and bit through it. Blood trickled down his chin. Henry raised the gun and looked at a man whose feet were black and dying. The man nodded, and the bullet threw his head back.
A young soldier with eyes cloudy and ulcerated from the gas thrashed in panic. Henry shot him and four more men, then stumbled in pain and pressed a hand against the wall, feeling lightheaded. His legs bent, and he fell into the rising green sea that smelled of hay. He inhaled sharply, but couldn’t breathe and tried to pull himself up, fear of drowning overpowering injuries, but could not. Pus from the broken blisters stained his body as Henry struggled to pry his throat open and breathe.
Then the pain inside arose, searing and indescribable, and Henry’s world grew dim.
“Wanderers” by IrishPixie
I opened the window and felt the wind brush my face. The town below lay quiet and asleep. The night wasn’t completely clear, but nonetheless, the stars seemed brighter than they had in ages. They called to me, whispering of change and compassion. I turned to my companion. “You ready?” I asked with a smile. Violet shifted the straps of her backpack and nodded. “All set!” Her smile was nervous, but shared the same, trembling hope as my own. She came up to the window sill and took my hand.
This was it. For so long we’d been shuffled from home to home, each time hoping things would be different: that a family would accept us despite our otherworldly quirks. For so long I’d isolated myself in shadows, and punished myself for existing by shutting others out for fear of being hurt. And then she came along. She barrelled into my life like a ball of sunshine that wouldn’t go away. Where I saw nothing, she saw a brother. Where she saw a hopeless drifter, I saw someone that I could help. We needed each other. I wasn’t about to let her be sent off to some other orphanage in vain hope. We both knew no one would accept us as we were.
Now we stood on the precipice of leaving it all behind. We’d wander the world together, using our powers to get by and explore what the future could hold. We were the only family we would ever find in this place. Perhaps, we’d find others like us out there who needed a family too… One thing was certain: I was done with the pain and regret. if I couldn’t live down my mistakes, I would live up for them instead. Violet’s kindness had shown me a new path. I grinned at her, moonlight dancing in our vision. “Let’s go!”
We jumped! We plummeted, down, down to the earth. The wind rushed to meet us and we laughed. We shouted our joy to the sky. We were alive. We were free, at last.
(Prompt: The Lengthening Night)
Expanding Darkness by Jason Smith
The dark midnight sky eclipsed her vision. She looked up to try and find some stars but they were long gone. The moon hung in the vast darkness, slightly glimmering; it was on its last breath, barely holding on, trying not to fade away. Daylight had long since abandoned her world; the sun was something people only dreamt of now. She looked up at the same time every day to try and find a glimmer of hope, hoping to find some kind of light in the expanding darkness and never-ending night.
Her uncle found her outside looking deep into the starless sky.
“Still looking for light aren’t ya?” She didn’t respond, not knowing what to say because she knew people looked at her funny, even her uncle because she still was expecting to find some light in the night.
“No reason to feel shame Darling. Every now and then I look up hoping too. I think everyone does, but you are the only one who admits to it.”
“Is it so wrong to hope?” She looked at her uncle pleading with her eyes, wanting him to give her some glimmer of hope.
“Well, no…and yes.” he sighed as he said this, almost like he had let himself down. “The night is all we have now. Soon we won’t even have that.” Tears began streaming down his face. He knew that Darling would never grow old, would never truly experience life. He still cursed his sister and his brother-in-law for agreeing to have a child amidst the darkness and hopelessness.
“Don’t cry, Uncle.” She embraced her uncle and began to weep with him. They hugged and cried throughout the eternal night. Eventually, the light behind the moon crept away into infinity leaving Darling and her uncle embracing in the lengthening night.
(Prompt: A Kindness)
Cash City had always been a cruel place. The stench of oil and plasma mingled with body odor and the sharp tang of chemicals moved from place to place. Thick smog clung to the city, specifically the first and second levels of the tower, leaving a thick yellowish, orangeish, reddish substance on the buildings and the ground, like the tacky substance left behind after one peeled away tape. The sounds of gunshots were only drowned out by the thrumming base of the various clubs and the whining drone of heavily armed mechs bearing the tags of whichever gang they were part of. Brokers moved through the densely packed city streets, their white clothes and blank white masks standing out against the dark streets, and catching the neon in such ways that they almost appeared to be wearing cloth of ever shifting colors. If they hadn’t stopped in the streetlights to post information on the poles, Davison would have believed that. Such things were possible within the City of Opportunity. Davison always scoffed when he heard Cash City referred to as such. In Cash City, there was opportunity, yes, but one was much more likely to get caught in the middle of a gang shootout or taken by the scientists that lurked in the shadows, their presence only marked by the green eyes of their robots, their gears grinding quietly in the shadows, or eaten by the raptors that roamed the city, the pack hunting dinosaurs darting from alley to alley. Cash City was a cruel place, to human, mutant, dinosaur, and robot. All were allowed. None were welcome. Cash City was a den of monsters. But at the moment, Davison rested. And that peace was enough, for now.
(Prompt: The sky blinked)
Gone Was Our Sky
by Aaron Bridgeman
The sky blinked. One moment it was a deep indigo, splashes of orange and crimson across the horizon and cotton candy clouds drifting by. The next, nothing. A swirling maw devoid of stars, the moon, the sun, anything suggesting that it was our sky. I began to scream, but that was a mistake: there was no air. My final breath escaped my lungs in silent agony, with neither word nor sound; a pitiful whisper that could not be heard and that no one cared to hear. My vision blurred, my eyes in agony as the moisture in them began to tear itself away into the vacuum. The heat of my body forsook me as well, my skin shining like diamonds as it froze, as a burning cold sent daggers through every inch of my being.
I fell to the ground, unable to move. My vison blackened. I knew that I was dead.
“Find me,” she called out.
With a crash, I found myself on the ground. I lay there, dazed staring at the ceiling, trying to make sense of my surroundings. I sat up, recognizing the familiar shape of my desk in the corner. It was my room! I had only been dreaming. With a sigh of relief I stood, breathing deeply, savoring the cool night air drifting in from my open window. I turned to peer out the window: The moon glowing softly amongst a bed of stars. I shuddered, remembering the awful nothingness from my dream.
I grabbed my phone off the nightstand to check the time and froze.
The date was a week before it should have been.
(prompt: The forest will change you)
The mechanical and the botanical.
Leaves cracked, mosses were crushed and ferns were brushed aside as the little robot entered the forest. A Place of green not grey, and were metal rusts and corrodes. A place a little robot should not be.
Rumours of rare metal and strange materials led the little robot to the forest. Things that are worth collecting or crafting for the fabricator models. Sometimes little oddities were worth a lot to other robots.
Trouble came. “Bsod it, low on power”. And turning around the forest looked the same everywhere. Lost. Who would’ve thought a robot could be lost. Not all robots were lucky enough to have a GPS, and there was not a single robot that could navigate with sun, stars and moon.
Low power. Lost in a maze of rusty-brown and green. Could a machine despair? This one thought so. Enter sleep mode, delay the inevitable.
Inside the sleeping robot roots would grow and spores germinate. Attaching, Interfacing. A Rhizo-circuit not to rust but to conduct. The robot began to charge. Powered by a botanical photovoltaic cell.
The robot woke. That is if a robot could wake up. What is this? A tangle of roots gave power and a film of green protected against rust. And there was more. “Hello, we do not want to create rust. Let us guide you”.
And so a little robot emerged from the forest changed. No longer wholly mechanical.
Prompt: The Forest Will Change You
Forest Of The Unweaver
By Darkening Sun (P.C.Jones)
The forest will change you it had long been said. Yet here he found himself wandering beneath its melancholic boughs. The voices of unseen speakers sounded all around him, wind-swept and frost-cold to his spine. Mutterings of secrets taken to the burial mound, of regrets lingering even in death. Such things as give rise to the shades of men who long to live again.
He felt a cloying almost suffocating despair upon him that was not his own. It belonged to the withered trees, the air, the soil and the stagnant souls that dwelt here. How long had he wandered? How had he even come here? To the forest of the Unweaver, where no living thing dared to walk. For to walk these woods was to risk unraveling your own fate.
He remembered the fire-lit tales his tribe told of the Old World. A tale of a powerful Mage named Balforius who had lost his young daughter. In his immense grief he used the forbidden Wild Magics to return her from the Fade. He had summoned a powerful Wraith Lord who made a pact with Balforius to free his daughter from death. Unknown to Balforius his own fate would be the trade. His daughter would pick up the threads of it’s unraveling.
And so poor Balforius was cursed never to see his daughter again, cursed to walk alone and undying his fate unwoven. The curse of the Unweaver, as it had come to be known, had spread throughout the forest he had hidden away in. Until it too had become cursed, a place where the Wraith World met the Living World.
Barukai could sense even now an ancient madness seeping from its darkest depths. More tortured than evil, foreboding yet pitiful but it was sadness above all else that emanated from that place. It took immense will for him not to succumb and be consumed by madness. To not wander off into the trees, as so many had, his own fate unwoven. This forest could change you that much was certain.
(Prompt: The Harvest)
The Scarecrow by Domtron
Mark Cowl pulled up into the driveway of the Adam’s to check up on the matriarch Margret. he got out of his car smelling the cool autumn air. “Mrs Adam?” He calls out before hearing a familiar southern voice. “I’m over here Mr Cowl by the scarecrow!”
Cowl followed the sound of the voice before meeting the kind old woman picking up food for the harvest “working hard? Or hardly working” Cowl chuckles as Margret giggles sweetly “working hard just like my Bobby” Margret responds as her eyes met the scarecrow. Cowl looks at the scarecrow seeing it was wearing Bobby’s clothes “interesting scarecrow you have there Margret, aren’t those Bobby’s clothes?” Cowl inquires as he inspects the scarecrow closely.
“well Bobby likes wearing his blue button up and black pants”
The doctor was taken aback by Margret’s response. “You named the scarecrow after your late husband?” Cowl questions. “Why that IS my husband Mr Cowl” Margret’s eyes opened wide as a smile grew on her face almost as if she was excited. Cowl was in disbelief that Margret would be in this huge state of denial “Margret…” he was lost for words as he tries to collect his thoughts “…not to be mean but you know that Bobby’s dead, I know you’re having a rough time right now but-“
“Oh no Mr Cowl I’m not having a bad time at all, Bobby has been helping me with the harvest, speaking of which let me get you some food I picked out so you can take home”
The old woman smiles before walking to her house. Cowl was alone with the scarecrow unsure what to think about the way Margret is going through this grief if she’s even going through with it. He inspects the scarecrow closely wanting to know more about it. He felt as if it was looking at him, staring at him. Cowl’s heart stops as saw a face behind a scarecrow mask, a decaying face that was probably a few weeks old, the same time Bobby has been dead.
(Prompt: Where have all the stars gone?)
You (Don’t) Matter
By Alexander (BrokenEarth)
Space was empty when you understood it. Looking at it from the ground, with a child’s sense of wonder, made it seem so full, with hardly a blank space to be found.
Separated from everything I knew and loved, I contemplated my situation. There was no hope for me, that much was obvious, and that alone forced me to fight back tears.
Tears were worthless in times like this.
When I looked at the night sky, I used to imagine myself among the stars, knowing each by name, but when I got here, and I saw constellations like Hercules and Corona Borealis closer than most people ever would, I did’t feel the wonder I did as a child.
My whole life I had been looking up, learning everything I could about this realm I held sacred, but what changed? I used to love the sky and the stars, but now they held little more significance to me than grains of sand at the beach.
The stars were a part of me, without them I wouldn’t be myself. I could remember all the times I wished for Santa to bring me a telescope, and the joy I felt when I finally got one. I spent countless hours looking through it, but now…
What happened to the star-struck child?
It felt as though the stars had abandoned me. Here I was, dying, and the space I had poured my life into gave me one fact:
I was alone. The stars I poured my life into weren’t the ones I saw now. The stars of my youth were like magic, and these were hot balls of science.
No, the stars of my youth were gone. Maybe one day I’ll find them again.
Maybe they’re waiting for me.
The Skeletons Among Us, by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
“Alright, settle down everyone! Settle down!” The knocking of a gavel is heard as the chattering in the room comes to an end. Seventeen armored skeletons sit patiently as the head coordinator prepares his notes. This had been the fifth meeting this month.
“Ahem. Good evening everyone!” The posh accent of Lord Barnaby, head coordinator of the council of peeved skeletons, breaks the silence.
“As you are all aware, we have been having a problem with break ins recently.” Angry rattles fill the room as Barnaby continues.
“Three times in the past month, we have had some would-be adventurer break into our dungeon, attack us, and steal our valuables!” Barnaby pauses and waits for the room to calm down. Leopold, an archer, complains about his enchanted bow being stolen while Henry, a guardsman, points to his mouth completely devoid of teeth. Barnaby continues.
“But no longer shall we fret! We have devised a plan to prevent further unwanted incursions into our lair. We will teach the flesh-bags morality by stealing from them and showing their hypocrisy to their face!” Murmurs permeate the crowd as the council sets up a vote.
Having passed the resolution, the skeletons make their way to the nearest town, Wayford. Suspecting there are valuable trade goods within the village, the skeletons dispatch a disguised spy to find any loot. Upon entering the village, a guard notices the undercover operator.
“Hey! A-are you a skeleton?” The guard semi-confidently belts out.
“Nope! I’m just a fleshy boy with a fleshy body. No bones here!” The nervous spy quickly looks away and tries to back into an alley way.
“Wait!” says the guard. “I have something to ask you!” He chases the skeleton into the alley. Unable to retreat, the skeleton turns to face his pursuer.
“Sorry, what is it?” If a skeleton’s voice could crack, this skeleton’s voice would be cracking.
“We stopped a band of thieves carrying loot from the direction of your cave.” The guard explained, out of breath. “ I was wondering if the confiscated goods belonged to you and your community?”
Prompt: Swarming Hive
The whispers, always wallowing in their weeping ways. They slink and slack back there. He hates how much they silently howl. All he wants, all he needs, all he desires, all he craves, all he seeks, all there is, is silence. There is no one there. He is just sitting at home, in his upstairs office, writing his music. His awful music. Terrible music. He’s a terrible writer. Terrible conductor. Horrible. Awful. Unorig-
No. It’s fine. The music is fine. Look at how the beat flutters, like butterflies in the wind. The harmony of flutes and strings will work beautifully with the bassier instruments. It’s fine. Except for that tiny splotch of ink there. And there. And there and there and there and-
Get up. Time to get up. You’ve been sitting in this dark room with only a single candle to illuminate yourself. What are you even doing here? Wasting your time it seems like. All that paper could have been used for something more useful, probably. You’re such a selfish brat. Worthless, spineless, useless sack of-
Hey, come on don’t listen to all that nonsense. You’re great and you know it. Though I have to say you got to live better than this. Maybe if you just let me do all of your planning and you work for the company, you can have all the hope you want. You just need to sign here. And here. And here and here and-
It’s tiring. You can’t keep this up forever. No person should live like this, you know that right? We can help you. You won’t need to worry about anything anymore. We’ll take care of it all. No. We aren’t like the rest of them. For we truly know what you want. We can see the magnum opus in your heart. Just let us have control. Yes. Like that. Let us turn your discordant heart into something the whole world will be forced to listen to and enjoy. Just rest. We are here now.
(Prompt: A Kindness)
Before the Party
Jason realized that his preexisting anxiety doubled when he left his glasses behind. There was no telling if someone was genuine or plotting to kill him. As he and Avi approached the house, Jason struggled to not scratch his neck.
“You’re sure this guy has what we need?” Jason asked for the third time that evening. His worry was now stretched between the gathering itself and Avi’s patience with answering the same question multiple times.
“If anyone knows where Balthazar could be, it’s him.” Avi acted patient, but he also did not emote. This did not help Jason.
“And I couldn’t bring my glasses because of…the thing?”
“The ‘no magic’ rule? Yes. It’s just to ensure that no human accidentally discovers its existence.”
Jason stopped walking, prompting Avi to stop to see what was wrong. Jason barely heard himself say, “What if I screw this up?”
Avi tested a hand on Jason’s shoulder and only committed when Jason did not object. “Once we get the information, we’ll leave as soon as possible.” When Jason’s hand shot up to his neck, Avi pulled out a coin from his jacket and held it up for Jason to see. “I don’t know if this will work for you, but just try to focus on this while we’re in there.” He let go of Jason’s shoulder and handed the coin to him.
Though Jason could still feel the dropping sensation in his stomach, he managed to smile and lower the hand from his neck. “That’s more than my parents ever did.”
Jason and Avi resumed walking while Jason tested the coin between his thumb and index finger. There was honesty in Jason’s statement. It was first time someone other than Balthazar showed him kindness when he was at the mercy of anxious thoughts.
(Where Have All the Stars Gone?)
Starlet By Michael Cain
Angeline walked toward the ballroom, head up, tits out, movie star smile in place. Always look like you’re having the time of your life, her manager used to tell her.
Yet Mortimer Carol had been dead for twenty years… only a few short years after her own career on the silver screen had dried up.
But Angeline had been nominated for best actress seven times (without winning, a dubious honor at most) and one of those movies had been infamous as well as lauded.
So here she was, an honoree at the huge— though un-televised—Governor’s Banquet, looking better than any 62 year old woman had a right to. It had taken weeks to shed enough weight, to get her skinned tightened and to get polished enough she was sure to stun.
She couldn’t wait to see their faces… Susan, and Julia, and Kate, and the other Cate. Younger Men like Brad and George and Tom would drool.
There was some traffic heading into the ballroom, some unrecognizably young nobodies, so she waited a few beats for them to clear before she proceeded. Always make the most of an entrance Mortimer had insisted.
A thrill zinged through her, up her spine, making her heart thump like she was thirty again…
And then she stopped, staring haughtily into the throng milling around the room. She peered from one end of the ballroom to the next, searching for a familiar, “above the title” face.
Nothing. There wasn’t a real live movie idol in sight. Not one.
Disappointment smothered Angeline like a blanket. All that time and effort… wasted.
With a fatalistic shake of her head she turned and sashayed back down the red carpet, past the solitary, bored looking paparazzi. He blinked at her, confused.
“Where are you going, Ms Walker?” Asked a woman in an Armani suit, an earpiece in her left ear.
In and Out Burger, Angeline thought, but said: “Where have all the stars gone?”
(Prompt: The Forest Will Change You)
Chrysalis by R J Chapman
He knelt in the undergrowth, waiting for the latest bout of nausea to pass. Slowing his breathing, he tried to ignore the rising convulsions shuddering through his abdomen. His attempts were in vain.
Later, he woke amongst the ferns and moss, for a moment feeling almost comfortable. The sun peered through the sentinels of beech and oak, resurrecting the dead forest floor with memories of life. From a nearby plant a chrysalis swayed delicately, dancing in the breeze.
The compression in his skull quickly shattered that serenity. With both hands he desperately clawed at his head, as if he could pry it open in an attempt to release the pressure. Upon lowering his hands, he discovered each contained a fistful of hair, and he began to whimper. Cleansing tears refused to come, his body denying him any to waste on self-pity.
Lacking neither the strength nor the resolve to get up, he consigned himself to the forest and cursed the Earth. His body would rot, nothing more than yet another effigy in this mausoleum of a world. He barely felt the prick of the needle as it pierced the first vein he could find.
As he waited for the morphine to take effect, he stared once more at the chrysalis and an overwhelming urge to crush it surged through him. He reached for it…
The streaming beams of light suddenly glowed brighter through the canopy. Shielding his eyes, he squinted at swarms of sparks glittering in the sunlight to the rhythm of a mystery melody. Then he began to hear it. The song swooped and chirped and bounced from to tree to tree in a chorus of defiance. The chrysalis opened; a perfectly formed butterfly emerged, stretching its black and orange wings for the first time. It seemed to look at him just for a moment, almost in recognition, before fluttering in and out of the sunbeams until eventually it drifted out of sight altogether.
Smiling, his heavy eyes began to succumb to his exhaustion. Ghosts of play and laughter echoed through the forest as he peacefully slipped away.
Prompt: The Forest Will Change You
A Song from Beyond by feliciataylor_91
Piercing wails disrupt the frigid, perpetual night.
The Dead Forest on the outskirts of a seemingly unremarkable village shimmers and reverberates with eerie chanting.
Inside of the small hut, a paltry fire chases away the chill, but it cannot quell the shocked silence and fear that intermingle.
“A healthy delivery,” the old woman announces solemnly, her head bowed as she wraps the babe in a thin blanket.
“But the child is-is,” the plump midwife quavers. The cold wind stops her words.
A large man fills the doorway, a dull gleam cast on his armor by the firelight. White, dingy fur covers his shoulder plates, and one side of his face is covered in a tattered, stained cerulean cloth. Dark brown curls obscure his ears. Scars of unknown distinction crisscross his opposite cheek and distract initially from his grim expression.
“I will take the child.” His low rumble frightens the three women, the child’s mother clutching her squalling newborn against her chest.
The chanting intensifies to a shrill pitch.
The midwife holds the struggling mother down as the old woman hands the gurgling baby to the man. The man’s pale eyes glow an iridescent orange as the youngling coos happily amid the mother’s anguished cries. The mother pleads to keep her child, but the call of the forest’s spell is much too strong.
Resignation and the mother’s screams follow their departure.
The star-dappled sky stretches to the end of the horizon, mesmerizing blues and purples dancing within the vastness. The crunch of snow beneath his worn boots and his labored breaths lead him to where he’s been many times before. He huddles the babe closer.
One moment blurs into the next until they reach the forest’s edge.
The chanting quiets as he places the squirming bundle at the base of a mangled tree, patting the blanketed head.
“May they be kinder to you than they were to me, little one. Give them reason to fear.”
Keyholder Ryadel, those within whisper.
The tundra rumbles as a shadow looms. A gnarled hand pulls the curious infant into the depths.
“Prepare yourselves,” Ryadel warns.
(Prompt: The Forest Will Change You)
So You Want to Join the Network — Now What?
Congratulations on your decision to join the Network! We’re so happy for you. We’re sure you’re curious about your night in Albino Forest and life online. This is designed to answer your questions and make you happy.
In a few nights, you’ll take a special train to the Forest. It’s easy to spot — just look for the all-white plants! You’ll be sleeping there, inside one of our specially-designed Venus pods. Find an open one without any red, and step inside. That’s it — the pod will do the rest! It’ll give you a nice hug to keep you secure all night.
Once you’ve been enveloped by the pod, you’ll feel little pricks — just like getting shots. Be happy! The pod is doing its job.
First it’ll give you a mixture to help you sleep.
Then, throughout the night, it’ll release pollen full of millions of Nano-Interfacers. As you breathe them in, they’ll make their way to your brain and anchor to its cells. The Nanos will bond to your neurons, enabling you to communicate with the Network. When you wake up, you’ll be one of us!
That’s it! After you leave Albino Forest, another train will bring you to us! We’ll help you begin your new life in the Network, and all will be so happy.
We’re sure you’ve noticed many grown-ups don’t talk much, and you might be worried that’ll happen to you. In the Network, we can communicate fastest with just our minds. So we just do that! As you get used to speaking this way, you may find yourself losing language. It’s perfectly all right! Thanks to our gift, we no longer need to rely on slow, primitive voices.
You may have also seen how happy all of us are. It’s another gift! The Nano-Interfacers stimulate our brains just perfect, so that we’re always happy and content, whatever we’re doing.
Everyone’s always satisfied in the Network.
We just know you’re going to love your new life on the other side. We’re all happy you’re joining the fold, and you’re going to be so happy, too!