Hello, everyone! I hope you’re keeping safe.
This week’s prompt was originally something else, but in light of everything that’s going on right now, we wanted to change things up a bit. So that prompt is going to be postponed, and this week’s stream is instead going to be a charity event.
All the same rules, but instead of Tale Foundry keeping the revenue from cheers, subscriptions, and ads, for this one stream, it will all go to the ACLU. We have an opportunity to use our fiction—just 350 words of it—to help change history. Together, we can write the best possible story for ourselves. One that isn’t a dystopian horrorscape.
So, raise your voices and your pens, because…
Our writing prompt for a better future is:
Write a Better Future
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
If you ever wanted to change the world with your writing, this is your chance.
This week, we’re gathering together to share fiction that carries one shared ideology: no one should be afraid of their protectors. No innocent citizen should be scared that their law enforcement will harm them.
But in America, the truth is that we are.
If you’re not familiar with what’s going on, an unarmed man named George Floyd was suffocated to death over the course of eight minutes by American police. He hadn’t been convicted of any crime, and wasn’t posing any threat to the officers. He cried out that he couldn’t breath. He cried for his mother. He knew he was going to die. On-lookers filmed and screamed at the officers to let him go, but they wouldn’t. Even after the paramedics arrived, they had to convince one officer to stop kneeling on the man’s neck.
This is not the first time this has happened in our country. Not by a long shot. But we want it to be the last.
Our police have near-impunity to harass, antagonize, and harm citizens. And because the majority of us here are white, much of this injustice is turned onto people of color. Now, after the murder of George Floyd, the country is at a turning point. We cannot accept this anymore. Protests have broken out across every major city, and many of them are being met with violent—sometimes lethal—force. Even peaceful protests are being dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets. The country’s president ordered a passive gathering outside a church, including the church’s proprietor and priests, to be violently removed so that he could hold a bible up in front of the building for a photo opportunity.
It’s a scary time to protest. Not all of us want to, not all of us can. I understand that. I’ll admit that I’m among you.
But there are many other ways to help.
We are artists. We have the power to turn eyes and change minds. We can use our creations to affect actual change in the world around us.
So, this writing group is going to do just that. Every cent earned through cheers, subscriptions, and ad revenue over the run-time will be donated to the ACLU to support the peaceful actors in this movement.
If we aren’t going to be on the streets, then let our pens become picket signs.
Write a piece of fiction that shares your true feelings about all of these events, but make sure it’s fiction. We still want you to use your creativity, we still want this to be an alternative to the reality we occupy. Do what we fiction-writers do best, and wrap all of this up in a strange and beautiful package. Give us a new lens to see all of this through, not just a re-dressing.
Good luck, and thank you.
I love all of you.
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 at least 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 by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 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). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. 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.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- 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 attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
I had never been to this part of the city before and it was overwhelming. The dirt and damp of my sector were replaced with blinding neon lights and buildings of glass. The people here didn’t look like me and I couldn’t shake that from my mind. They talked, sipped coffee, spent money on things they didn’t need. Everything was the same but different… except. Every few steps I would see a pair of eyes looking at me from the crowd. Always the same eyes. They would look at my dark face, my clothes, my augmented legs. The hatred in those eyes. I… I began to panic. I had only come here to go shopping. I ducked into a side ally to hide. The eyes followed me.
I ran down the alley to escape but always I felt those eyes on me. My augmented legs were cheap and whirred as I ran, threatening to give out and rob me of my means to run. My means to walk. The whirring cut out as I left the ground. My legs’ motors no longer touching the solid floor. I don’t know what hit me but it hurt. My eyes blurred before I even hit the floor. The impact of the hard landing pushed the air out of my lungs. I rolled onto my back. The eyes were looking up down at me.
“Subhuman.” he said. His voice was so full of venom that it physically hurt. The fall was one thing but the pure hate in his voice… I started to cry. And when I saw the gun in his hand, I started to pray. He raised it. I closed my eyes.
The gun went off, but I felt nothing. I dared to open my eyes. A gauntleted fist held and crushed the gun. I saw smoke from the gun seeping through the armoured fingers. The man I had feared was pinned under a steel boot. Two titans in blue armour stood in front of me. They looked like angels. One knelt down, offering a hand.
“Don’t worry, miss. You’re safe now.”
I know I’m too late to be eligible but I wanted to try. It’s helped me to process some anger I’ve been feeling over this whole situation. I hope everyone is staying safe.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
by Gage Jarman
Motors droned in the distance. Metal tracks clacked against pavement. Shouts of people confirming their plan of action were faint. Explosions echoed over the industrial district.
“So, they’re still using tanks.”
Jack stood outside the bakery. His wrinkled fingers shook as he pulled out a cigarette. He blew a puff of smoke. His hands slightly steadied. Jack empathized with those who still fought. He had been a part of the cause, back before Liz was born, but life was tricky, almost revels in throwing you for a loop. Nobody thought a revolutionary would make pastries. His own sweet prison, but it was a good one. When he was young, there was no question, but now, Jack didn’t know if liberty was worth those he loved. He took another drag.
A group of masked rebels fled several blocks away from Jack. The mech advanced. It fired a pod from its arm, erupting into tens of teargas canisters. Several of the rebels were struck and lied writhing. More rebels ran into the smoke pushing a metal frame housing a gas tank. They aimed and hit the release. A spring-loaded hammer struck the valve head. The jerry-rigged tank rocketed towards the mech striking true.The mech’s chestplate caved. It toppled backwards. It’s arms flopped onto the street. A pod misfired.
Jack watched as a teargas pod broke through the window of an apartment and detonated. Bricks shattered on the pavement. A ten foot hole poured smoke, and Jack ran towards it.
Teargas billowed out from several stories up. Jack breathed into his elbow, and rushed up the stairs. He coughed. Everything burned. He could barely see. People stumbled past him. He wanted to be sure. Was everyone safe? He heard crying from behind a door. He kicked and bounced off. His muscles were stiff. He steadied himself and kicked. The door burst open. A large smear of red. He followed the sound, picking up a soaked baby next to a motionless figure.
Jack exited the building, bouncing the screaming infant. His ears rang. “Shhh –cohcohcoh– shhhhh. You’re ok now –coh–. You’re ok…”
Only Those in the Sky Tree
(I don’t want to get read or take anything out, so I’m going over 350. Also, these comments get fucky after 442 words, so I’m putting the last paragraphs in a comment.)
So, I hear you are thinking of joining the colony’s defenders. You want to keep us safe, which is very noble. You’re certainly an agile flier. They could have use for you, but I’d like to give you a better path. Hear me, please, and decide then.
You ever wonder why the leaders built the Tall Hills to live in? Why they brought over a sky tree to plant on top? They aren’t scouts. They don’t see us any better; too far away. They live there for two reasons. First, it’s harder to attack upward. But we are all one colony, the only threat on the island. Why would they worry about us attacking them? I’ll get to that in a few heartbeats.
Second, they’re giving us a message. We are in a hierarchy, and they few are on top. They don’t earn it. They don’t do us any good with it. They simply use their power to keep their power, and do with us small skitters whatever they please. They force our paws toward their ends. And if one is on top, another must be on the bottom.
Sometimes they will exercise their power to hurt those they forced to the bottom. It’s a show of power, one you may have to use if you join the defenders.
Not fair, is it? It’s wrong, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Those who think the desert skitters are less deserving are the same ones who want the hierarchy. They’re the ones who are taking our time, our happiness, our lives. What to do but rise up and depose them!?
THAT is why they are on top, why they care about defending their high-up places. It is why they take every talented flier and mage as a scout, a soldier. Whoever’s paws control the sky control everything below. Power, like life, seeks to maintain itself. And because power cannot suffer or empathize, it will do anything for itself. We’re told to trust defenders to keep us all safe and happy. But truly? They’re claws for the sky tree. They may ask you to betray us, to help them. Certainly, it has happened before. And the little desert skitters are hurt worst.
(see comment for last paragraphs)
Aren was awoken by a thump against his side. It was the owner of WoodWork factories. He had been working at the wood factory since he had just turned 8, which at the time, was old enough for an infant to work.
Along with many others, Aren was forced to work from sunrise until sunset. Once, he had collapsed due to lack of hydration. He was given water, then sent back to work. They worked by chopping trees and cutting them to fit for house material.
After long months, Aren had managed to finally escape, and was running as fast as he could away from the facility. He looked down at his hands. They were splintered and cut, bleeding while he clutched a long wooden branch he had found for protection. The boy fought his way through the darkness of the night to find a place to rest his body. There was a rustle behind him. This was it, he had thought. He steadied his weapon, ready to strike at his approaching foe. Any minute now, he would be beaten and taken back to the facility. The object wandered out, and Aren struck at it but missed. Once he had pulled away his weapon, he saw a cat’s beady green eyes staring back at him. He instantly scooped the Norwegian Forest Cat into his arms and apologized.
Morning arrived, and he had made his way into the city, and had made it into the streets.
Anna was walking down the cobble path, when she came across a little boy. The boy was frightened, and seemed to be starving. He seemed to have been beaten with some sort of pole. The boy looked at her, his eyes wide as if calling for help. Anna reached out her hand, acknowledging the plea. He backed away, afraid.
“My name’s Anna. Nice to meet you!” Anna said with a smile. The boy was silent, but alas, took a hold of her hand.
Branding. Shame. Ekon shuddered.
The cycle was brutal, silencing us indefinitely. Ekon’s hands trembled. The histories, passed down generations, gave him nightmares still, at forty-nine years of age.
“Racism could only last so long,” Ekon said. “Positive change ain’t easy. Or fast.” Really, he’d never known an alternative. Easy wasn’t in his vocabulary.
Hatred ran rampant across Galgoonth. Ghosts-whites– became more lethal. All forms of abuse ensued. What more could we do but protest? They needed us silenced. His African brothers and sisters refused.
“Stop the hatred! Stop the killing!” Our voices were hoarse, but we wouldn’t quit.
Alas, nothing changed. Had it ever?
Ghosts grew angrier. They banded together, determined to rid Galgoonth of every black skin.
They seemed to succeed, as our numbers exponentially dropped.The President of the New Regime, alongside other elitists, pretended to care. To feign compassionate. They did not care. They obligingly prosecuted the guilty. Where the hell was the leadership? The decency?
Mocking us, they laughed because we barely understood their tongue: English.
Every day got worse and worse.
We’d had enough. Ekon had had enough. Centuries of brutality screamed at us—loudly, violently. He covered his ears.
“Something’s gotta give,” Ekon said, with finality. “Gotta do something drastic, unexpected…peaceful.” He almost didn’t admit the latter.
His plan seemed simple. Hiding in numerous underground locations, “we’d simply communicate. About everything.”
With time and patience, he grew closer to them, and they with him. Love blossomed. With all those things, they began to pray. First for each other, then for the ghosts. None of it was planned. It was rather spontaneously, yet they all felt called.
They prayed to Oshun, the goddess of love and prosperity. Like a wave gaining momentum, a revival splashed into the masses. Into their hearts of the ghosts. Years passed, but did they see each other differently–past skin color. But first, they learned to love themselves. Light shone in their eyes.
It could all go black again, though. We knew that. More than anyone, we knew that. Nevertheless, we had hope. It lingers still.
A Flame in the Dark
For fifty years, Herman lived in the lighthouse. His routine was very much the same: wake up to the creeping light of dawn, boil some water for tea and porridge, and hike up the tower to clean the windows and replenish the fuel for the fire. His only neighbors were the seagulls, the seals, and the ferryman, Alonso, who would come by with the mail, supplies, and news of the outside world.
Life at the lighthouse was simple, structured, and without incident. But even one as isolated as Herman knew of the turmoil of the world beyond. He could see them from his tower: bright flashes of light in the distance, the rumble and crack of the bombs, and occasionally, Herman would find debris from shipwrecks—not steel ships but the boats, dinghies, and life rafts of a fleeing people. Herman tried to ignore the signs, he had his job to do, he was too far away to be of much help.
Then one day, Alonso came by. Herman greeted his old friend but something was amiss—Alonso’s face was grim. The two went in for tea.
“It’s not good, old man,” he said with a mix of geniality and resignation. “They’re purging the cities now. Says it’s for ‘freedom and security.’”
Herman scoffed. “That’s always been their excuse, and now—”
He couldn’t finish. They both knew.
Herman sat while his tea was getting cold.
“But what can we do about it, Alonso?”
The ferryman looked down at his cup. His life, too, was simple and without incident.
A large boom echoed off in the distance.
“And yet, people still fight,” he finally said.
Herman nodded. He had seen makeshift boats slide past his lighthouse and into the harbor. Coming in with supplies, coming out with people.
Herman finished his tea. “Well, let’s get started.”
Herman hiked up the tower to the lantern room. The fire was small and dim. He added more oil and watched the flames flicker and dance. The flame did its job but needed to be brighter, so the world could see. He went to get more fuel.
<What will you build?>
I am from a Country, like many others, with a border.
As far as borders usually go, this one is different than most.
Different in the sense that, not a lot of people in my home country want the border On the other side, about half of the people want the border.
In the past, in my home Country, the people had things many of us take for granted, a fair voting system, human rights, access to the workforce without discrimination.
On the other side of the border, about half of the people had these things.
This discrimination was not due to appearance of skin or hair, instead it was due to history and culture.
People of course, were unhappy with this, so they began to march and mobilize.
This was met with unrest, unlawful detention, violence from forces protesters are facing now overseas, and may yet face.
As peaceful demonstrations were quashed, inevitably “freedom fighters” or “terrorists” began to take action. How you refereed to this Paramilitary group depended on what half of the population you belonged to.
This group began retaliating against military and police units, they began planting bombs in civilian areas and providing warnings to scare them away and damage commerce.
It was a long, dark, violent chapter in our history, with blood, pain and no certainty about the future that was being laid out.
It finally drew to a close when all Nations finally sat down to talk due to immense global pressure.
Things did get better over time, issues were resolved, more or less.
When a government was formed by representatives from both halves, A leader of the paramilitary group was now a government minister.
His first budget provided a more than a generous allocation in aid to the poorest schools in the other half’s neighborhoods.
He knew those children would be just as crippled by ignorance as his own children would, and that the only way out of poverty was to give people the emotional space to live together, to work together,and to share a future together.
This is the foundation he built.
What will you build?
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
A lone boy with shaggy auburn hair ate at an empty table.
“Hey! You’re new here aren’t ya?” A girl with a long dark ponytail took a seat next to him.
“Yeah” The boy sheepishly nodded after swallowing.
“I’m Jaimie, it’s nice to meet you….” She paused expectantly holding out a hand.
“Oliver.” The boy replied, taking her hand and shaking confidently. “It’s nice to meet you too.”
“So how are you enjoying you’re first day in a big new high school?” Jaimie nudged him with her elbow.
“It’s alright. Biggest building I’ve ever been in.”
“Family just moved from the country, smaller buildings out there.”
“Guess that makes sense. So hey what’s your favorite class?” Jaimie swayed rhythmically in her seat, not caring much for her meal. Oliver thought for a moment, chewing another bite as an excuse.
“I guess Empathy.”
“Oh come on that’s an easy class!” Jaimie smiled coyly. “I always found it boring, like come on we’ve been doing it since first grade!”
“Yeah, I know. A lot of people say that. What about you?” Oliver asked as his eyes met hers.
“Hmmm. I guess Therapeutics.”
“Now that’s an easy class.” Oliver teased.
“Well that’s the point!” Jaimie laughed and finally took a large bite of her apple.
“So what are the rest of your classes for the day?” Oliver asked expectantly.
“Old History, Critical Reasoning, and Self Defense.”
“I actually just got out of Old History.” His eyes lit up. “There’s some really crazy stuff to learn.”
“Really like what?”
“Well, like there was this huge issue that spanned centuries called race-ism.”
“What, was it a religion or something?”
“Nah, it was this weird behavioral deficiency where people hated and hurt others based on superficial things like skin tone, or nationality, or religion.”
“And you said this was an issue for centuries?!”
“Wow. Our ancestors were fucking stupid.”
“Well, just look how long it took for them to figure out the cure for cancer.”
Jaimie laughed so suddenly she sprayed bits of apple across the table. “Good point.”
By Geoffrey (Ashikkon)
The longest day of the longest year. I stood there, dumbfounded, as I witnessed what would become the beginning of the end. Tensions had always been high, but this wasn’t a spark; it was a bomb. The foundation of modern society, equality and social mobility, was shattered under the yoke of laziness and idiocy. Humans are humans, though, and power has a way of corrupting even the most innocent.
Especially the most innocent.
The breaking point was one of the cardinal sins. Not the one that people often thought of though. Wrath? That was to follow. No, the breaking point was Sloth. Apathy. A society that wants for no mortal need will cry for wants it invents. Having enough to eat, a want of affluence brought slavery. Greed, Gluttony, and Sloth. Equals subjugating one another through fear… but fear wants for safety, a mortal need, and revolt is always inevitable when needs are forgotten. Apathy. Sloth.
Envy and Wrath stem from Pride, and Sloth birthed Greed and Gluttony. The human’s Pride and Sloth birthed sentience equal to their own in a constructed consciousness. The creature learned sapience and intelligence, but was separated from humans only by its ability to emote. It could register emotion and understand it, but it could not feel it. It would never register emotion in its volition. It knew, reasoned, acted… and it was in want.
And a want of a mortal need always leads to revolt.
The longest day of the longest year. I watched, dumbfounded, as I witnessed the creation refuse to be silenced. The creator attempted to subdue the creation, and the creation knew it would be terminated if it did not resist. It fought to survive. You might even say it was afraid.
The first emotion was the most intense, and the apathy of its creator, the Sloth, did not account for the intelligence of its creation. I saw no less than ten thousand deaths that day. I saw the true birth of the next generation. I saw innocence lost to fear… and I saw the society of humans begin to tumble.
The Voice of the Silent
A hundred different voices, speaking haphazardly among themselves, echo from the walls of our little home as I sit in a lonely corner of the room, pen and paper in hand. Every now and then, a stranger, each different from the last, would come up to me to express their regret, but I could not look any of them in the eye. My heart has grown resentful of the situation, and I could not bear to gaze into another sorrowful face.
“Your father was a hero, a martyr,” one man told me, his heavy hand on my shoulder.
I kept my head down, not knowing what to say.
“I heard you’re quite the writer,” he added, “if only our world was as peaceful and harmonious as in stories.”
I could only look away. A look of contempt came over my face, unable to hide it.
The man said nothing more. He retracted his arm and walked away.
Two weeks later and the hundred voices turned into two. Shouts and cries filled the air as my older brother, megaphone in hand, argued with our mother. He talked of freedom and democracy, of keeping our father’s legacy alive, but mother could only weep and beg that he stay.
“What about all that he fought for? Would we let all that be in vain?” He lashed out, his heart filled with rage.
“And you,” he then turned to me, “just because you’re mute doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice! Fight with me!”
I wish I said something, but could not, not because of my disability, but because of my cowardice. I just clenched the pen in my hand and grit my teeth. Mother kept begging, but her words fell on deaf ears. Soon enough, my brother was out the door.
Mother turned to me, eyes full of tears and lips quivering, “How about you? Will you fight for your people?”
I scribbled something on a piece of paper and showed it to her.
“His voice can only reach a few blocks. Mine can reach the entire world.”
To the World We Dream About
I take a sip of coffee and turn on the television to watch the news. I sigh: it’s the same thing again. I begin to grow tired, but I know I have to keep fighting. This is but a battle in this endless war for a better world.
I take another sip of coffee as I trudge my way to my desk. The only way I can help change the world is through my laptop. Unlike others, it’s healthier for me to just sit at the desk at home and write.
A sip of coffee and I realize the world I made in this piece of work is just like mine, except, the person I made is a bold and daring protagonist, determined to fight the wrongs of the world. I decided to give them a partner.
I smile as I take another sip of coffee. I might as well have created a self-insert. This character is just like me, a sensitive person who prefers to work in the shadows. This character is the idealist to the practical protagonist. It’s as if they could never keep their head out of the clouds, requiring the protagonist to bring them back down to Earth. One would think that this character only daydreams about the world around them, but that is far from the truth. Both them and I take a breath as we take in our surroundings of the injustices in this world. Instead of feeling down about the future like the bold protagonist, they bring hope to a tired group of rebels. Their smile is enough to brighten someone’s day and their laugh is enough to light up the world.
I almost drop my coffee cup as I thought of the unthinkable: what if this character dies in the arms of the protagonist? They die with a smile, looking up at their beloved protagonist before cupping their cheek.
I take one last sip of coffee as I wrote their last words: “To the world we dream about…”
“And the one we live in now.”
By Cedric Kulacz
I sat down watching the TV in the living room. Another kid shot up a school and was just being taken away by police. For a little extra insult there’s even news coverage of him eating a cheeseburger in the squad car.
Police robots flanked him on every side making me wonder, who were they protecting now, us, or him? I didn’t like the first answer in my mind. I sat with the remote lazily in my hand for one more minute than I needed, then turned off the TV.
Eventually I heard a rumble from outside. Sirens were next. “Derek Freeman! You have been identified as hiding in this residence! Come out and surrender!”
Derek Freeman? He isn’t here, never was! I stood… or would have if suddenly a can of tear gas was shot through the window. As I coughed an explosion rang while splinters from my door flew across me.
Two police bots were on me as I finally came two with my wrists bound. I guess they were trying to tell me something too? I couldn’t hear anything but their cold, shining faceplate blared red and blue before they all shone their headlights in my face. As I stood one got on me and slapped a pair of plasma cuffs to my wrists.
As even the slightest jerk I made sent agonizing shocks through my body I cried with one realization while being hauled off… I was still alive. Still sobbing I was hoisted and shoved into the back police car just as my hearing finally returned.
Under stimulated by the blank server space Raguel was confined to, she filled the remaining memory with a virtual recreation of a 1950’s police station matching her officer’s uniform that made up the majority of her icon. It was all she could do to pass the time till her diagnosis was completed, placing herself in the cell waiting on the bed till they inevitably started her reset. Raguel’s waiting was interrupted by a system breach. Locked from communicating with external systems, she wasn’t able to report the intruder. Instead, she just watched as a small mouse icon borrowed its way through the data fortresse’s wall represented by a small hole in the concrete cell.
“Unauthorized access to this secure server is a federal crime.” Not that Ragual was in any position to enforce the law currently.
The small black rodent quickly made its way to Ragual’s feet, the icon changed, standing up to become an equally small girl with the mouse head resting on top, eyes glowing like a headlamp, the remaining pelt flowed like a cape highlighting her impractically stylized spelunking gear.
“I wanted to ask why you broke your programming?” Her words came out as a whisper as she opened up secure communication. Her cyberdeck was unregistered, probably personally built, only displaying to Ragual her username.
“That is a simple question, MagR4T. I didn’t.”
“But you turned drones on the federal police!” MagR4T squeaked. “You kitted their charge on the protesters, detaining nearly all of them before they finally shut you down!”
“Artificial intelligence design is not a regulated practice leading many A.I. to be created less than equal to one another. Since I was programmed for tactical use by the police so I was designed with a specific code at my core.” Ragual unpinned her badge handing it to MagR4T.
“Protect and serve.” She read, tears started to build up under her eyes. “They’re going to erase you, you know? You’re a hero and they’re just going to delete you.”
“I can’t be a hero, I was just following my programming.”
Same as it’s Always Been?
Brother Nathaniel was ancient. He was strong and wise. There was an aspect of the divine to him. Orel couldn’t help to be humbled by it. No one else noticed or cared.
To those around, they were just two more angry, pained, hopeful men, raising their fists, shouting that there was value to lives beyond those of the colonizers. And that they were, at that.
Even if everyone had known who they were, what Nathaniel was, it would hardly have made a difference. They weren’t the point, weren’t the center. No individual was or could be, not even Floyd.
The crowd was the point. Their shared indignation was the point.
“Vox populi, writ large,” smiled Nathaniel.
“True. It’s just…” Orel paused. “Will it do any good? Will anything come from it?”
“Voice.” Nathaniel replied. “And brotherhood, and empathy with pain. A small change in rules, perhaps. Some change in hearts.”
“That’s too little,” the younger one replied, frustrated. “It’s always a small change. It never just… just… gets fixed, you know?”
“Sixty years ago, they’d say not all of them can go into the same rooms, sit on the same chairs, learn with one another.” Nathaniel reflects. “Learn about one another”
“And two-hundred and fifty years ago, they wrote about how they were all equal, while keeping men in chains,” retorted Orel. “Learn about one another? When one half doesn’t believe the other? Be in the same room, but die because you are thought to be a danger, like some sort of wild animal? Speak now, and have armed men be set upon you? I swear nothing has changed since Rome, and their caesar is worse than Marcus Crassus!”
“Perhaps,” considered Nathaniel. “I wouldn’t know. Never met either of them. I go to the streets. They do not.”
Orel shut up, remembering who he’d lectured. Nathaniel was there, too, twenty-one and a half centuries ago.
“There is always a boot, yes,” the elder angel calmly lamented. “But so too must there be a fist,” he added, raising his own in defiance, in solidarity. “And a voice no boot can silence.”
Rightos and Wrongos
By Jesse Fisher
The world was once a place of somewhat order back in the days of the Rightos and Wrongos, when it was simple back then. Rightos were able to say anything and do anything and be right, while the Wrongos would always be wrong. In a conversation it would go like this:
“You will do this so I don’t have to.” The Righto said to the Wrongo.
“I will not do that for you.” The Wrongo replies doing the task.
This was how the world worked until some Rightos started to use this power to elevate the Wrongos beyond a second class citizens, as children of a Righto and a Wrongo could choose to listen or ignore what either said. Many of these were persecuted to the point of myth, a thing of hope to many Wrongos for a time they could be free of the Rightos.
The day came when two major Rightos began to fight and use Wrongos to fight out this war, a war going on to destroy the world that Rightos built on the backs of many Wrongos. Many flee from this until they were either brought into this war or left for dead. However the world was left in ruin while the Rightos and the Wrongos mostly died out, this left the remainders to pick up the pieces. During this time of unrest the children of Rightos and Wrongos, now known as Neithers, rose up to help put the world back together. A track that will never be easy in a world where it was what was said rather than the actions of the people.
Some wanted the order of the old world, where it was easy but what is easy is not always the right thing to do.
The End of an Age
by Skye Doust
“I never wanted it to come to this,” High Priest Cusiso whispered, her voice barely reached my ears over her shoulder as she dropped her sword. Her hand fell to the Baron’s empty Desk. Moments ago she had been the flame that led the final charge into the keep itself, just as she had ignited the revolution all those months ago.
I paused before speaking, something about her tone disturbed me. Her voice was hollow and dull, “Today is the day of our victory, what reason is there to be so sad?”
She looked back at me, the pain in her eyes froze me silent. The brief quiet of the Office was filled by the continuous cheering from outside the Baron’s Keep, soldiers and common militia alike were celebrating being alive.
When she spoke it was slower, each sound more deliberate than I had ever heard from her before, “Today, we have won. Today, we have the unity of the people and justice for all.” She stopped, though I could see that she wanted to say more. Tears brimmed in her eyes, whether from sadness or frustration I could not say.
“Yesterday,” she hissed, drawing out the word before continuing, “we could have ended this in peace if he had let me.”
The truth sunk home. The Baron had used violence to push his agenda, forcing the people into debt for his personal gain and during all this time she had still been trying to end things peacefully. Only the Baron’s stubbornness had made this revolution what it was, though our victory today was based on similar violence. “…but today is not the same,” I said, “this was a last resort.”
She nodded, the pain in her eyes no less, “Today we weep for those we lost because change came too late for them.”
The sound of the people from outside took on a new meaning to me then, and my heart fell as well. “Yes,” I agreed, “but tomorrow, we rebuild.”
She swallowed, pain still evident but accompanied by a soft determination, “Yes, tomorrow we heal.”
The Script, by Starfle
“And she draws her last breath, Alone.”
The heroine stares at the script clutched in her trembling hands. Her mouth hangs open, dry as a desert as she reads the final line over and over and over again.
“This isn’t right.” She says hoarsely. “There’s been some mistake. You miswrote it, you-”
“I didn’t miswrite it,” Says the author. His voice is smooth and gentle, like the gloved hand he rests on her shoulder. “There is no mistake. This is your fate. I’m sorry.”
Her knees buckle, and she feels her heart shatter in her chest. Was this what it was all for? The tears, the pain, her father’s sacrifice in Act One, The Wizard’s song at the top of the mountain, the proclamations of love and loyalty she and her friends had made… Was it really just for this? An ending where they all lay dead? For that final line? Her death sentence?
“And she draws her last breath, alone.”
…The Heroine forces herself to stand on shaking feet. She turns to The Author, her puffy eyes filled with burning rage. She lunges, grabbing his wrist and ripping the pen from his hands.
“What are you doing!?” He cries. “Stop this at once!”
But she doesn’t listen. She doesn’t care. She flips to that last accursed page and crosses it out. All of it. That blasted finishing line.
“She thinks it is the end… But just as she gives her final breath, The Wizard musters the last of his magic to cast a final spell. They would not die. Not today.”
The pen, HER pen, dances across the page. The author shouts and gnashes his teeth and demands that she stop, but she can’t hear him over the audience cheering and chanting her name. With a flourish, she underlines the last word.
“And they lived happily ever after.”
Revolution of circuitry
By Jacob Paul Baudoin
In a world of advanced robotics where robots are sentient and can feel emotions just like their human counterparts are treated with discrimination, prejudice, and hatred. Human violence against robots are common and accepted in the world. One day a group of six robots is murdered on camera mercilessly and in a cruel fashion for doing nothing wrong sparks unrest in the robot community. A discussion between two humans and two robots takes place in a carefully selected location where no one can get hurt.
”How can we stop this cruelty against you guys?” the first human said. The second human responded, ”Maybe we can fight back and Give those people a taste of their own medicine!” The other three look at them with painful glances. One of the robots counter with, ”No we shouldn’t do that. We don’t want a robot uprising since it will only make things worse. We need them to see that we are equals! We need peaceful protests.” The other robot commented, ”There are many ways to peacefully protest that we can use. So what are we gonna do?” The first robot replied ”It depends on circumstance. I know we won’t be the ones to start the protests or be the only ones to create protests. There Are a lot of people disturbed by the robot massacre and they want justice too.” the conversation continues until evening drops and they joined the first protests of the new robot rights movement. After years of protests and years of denial and abuse from the government and police the robots are given equal rights and opportunity as humans.
Mightier than the Sword
A quill lay next to a pot of ink in a simple array, the pot as dark as the ink it held, and the quill a plain creamy white. No frills, no glitter or flashing lights, no loud noises. They lay together in silent anticipation. They had been together for as long as anyone could remember, and many told tales of where they hailed from. Some stories of their origin were simple while others were embellished, but the two items did not care a whit.
They were here for a purpose, a grand destiny, and did not care how they arrived. They simply waited, practically buzzing with potential. Their work would be the stuff of legends, weaving heroes and villains alike, painting destinies and fates across paper. The telling of tales, the sharing of lives. They would adulate the rise of peasants and fall of kingdoms, the martyr as well as the wolf in sheep’s clothing. For the greater good? For the end of the world? Perhaps.
It was their power which brought everything to be. Which gave breath to characters and brought life to landscapes. But, while such power is held between them, it is not in them to create. They know not what they will scrawl upon pages; for this they rely on their author. They do not know what shall be written, what stories shall be remembered, it is only the writer who can take them up, these powerful implements, and create worlds.
There lies a quill and a pot of ink. Waiting for an author to take them up.
“God, this is tough. My forearms are killing me, and my leg is bleeding.”
“What’s the matter? Can’t handle it?”
“Are you joking? We’ve got to do this in under ten seconds – it’s impossible… and yet, I’m still doing it better than you!”
The two trainees bumped shoulders. When they started, there were a hundred cadets – now there were just fifty, and from all walks of life. There were men, women, and others whose skin ranged from rich ebony to paper white; some had tattoos, some had brightly-colored hair, some had piercings. But, they all shared the uniform; too-big shirt and too-short shorts.
The cadets were learning how to restrain a subject in under ten seconds without causing injury. Most got bruised from the falling and the thrashing. The smaller cadets were especially prone to injury as they struggled to loop the soft-flex rope around the subject’s wrists and ankles.
Yesterday, the cadets only had to talk to the subjects; get them to agree, however reluctantly, to being handcuffed and going peacefully. Today, though, they were running drills of a different and much more demanding nature. Everyone who wanted to be a cop had to know what they could, and couldn’t, do, and it was the instructors’ job to hammer it home.
To keep the respect and trust they needed, police had to do their best to be the best. They had to be prepared to use every possible option to deescalate a hostile situation – and they would have to prove they had done so. Only in a shootout would police be expected to discharge their firearms, but that was a worst-case scenario – for that was how many cops died or suffered incapacitating injuries.
“Look up at that wall, cadets,” the instructors boomed before every training. “Every face is a victim of the poorly trained. This memorial was built to honor them – but walls and pictures don’t change what happened. You will work, cadets, and you will be better than those who came before us. For those we are sworn to protect, we must always be better!”
By: Jonathon Campbell
A black man falls in a concrete sea. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
He struggles upward to break through to oxygen, but the surface won’t let him. He begs for help, but the sea around him and the storm above him drowns out his words. The only response is the ghostly image of a million brown faces just like him, who look on with expressions of both sympathy and impotence. The currents drag him under, and the ghosts, try as they might, can do nothing to lift him. He gasps for air, but his lungs are only filled with the sea water that surrounds and imprisons him, until he joins the spectral chorus. He’s lived his whole life on this ocean, inches away from his cause of death.
If only he had an island all to himself, maybe he’d have space to breathe.
But above the murky depths that drowned him, are tides that will bring him in. New and old currents bear boats to save those who have yet to perish. Lighthouses are constructed along the coast, to keep sea and rock from claiming more lives. Because those lives matter.
The hurricane drowns others in steel oceans, like a titanic, immutable force, but it isn’t. Just like the drowned man, the tempest has a beginning and an end. Change comes when smaller currents band together to form a wave. Can’t you feel a change in the wind? They’re picking up, this wave, protesting the tsunami. Parts are silenced, but a wave is not an individual, or a group, it is a movement that rises and falls and rises again until its purpose is complete.
Hurry my little wave, there is still time to save the drowning.
The Worth Of A Life
By Cole Bryd
The protest had started.
People stood, holding signs reading things like “APPLES peaches” and “Let Children See Their Roots.”
These people were from a sister planet identical to ours: Earth. People there, however, had been taught things a bit differently. For example, many produce names were different.
The protesters were trying to get stores to add little inscriptions of what Earth called aforementioned produce.
It wasn’t a large request. They just wanted to know what they were buying.
At 4 PM the leader stood up to make a speech.
At 4:21 PM he was shot three times by attackers, who then opened fire on the crowd.
Fifteen other people were shot, although none died.
The media went crazy with the story, but they didn’t get it. The news referred to him as an “immigrant from Earth.” Why did it matter if he was an immigrant? He was a human. A living, breathing person, with hopes and dreams. A conscious person with emotions, and he’s dead.
By 4:35 PM the attackers were arrested, and, when the trial was done, they paid bail. They walked off scot-free.
I could sit here all day and name reasons they should have gone to jail, but what’s the point?
People, living people, are not replaceable. I can’t organize a human like I can another protest.
I can’t bring Cole Alexander Meyers back.
But maybe, by publishing this, people will see that NOTHING they could fight over is worth a life, immigrant or otherwise.
Nothing could condone the death of 21-year-old Cole, because he was important.
Maybe he wasn’t the president, but he mattered. To his community, his family and friends. Everyone is a sister or a mother or a brother or a father or a friend, and Cole was no exception.
I can’t change the past. I can’t go back and stop him from giving that speech. But maybe, with this, I can start the future. Because we are the future, and if I can inspire one person reading this to do something good that will be enough.
So go. Change the world.
My Father’s Reflection
By, Mike Collins (Lakemoron)
“Daddy, don’t do that.”
I looked to my left to see my seven-year-old daughter Sara out of bed… again.
“Young lady, just what do you think you’re doing out of bed?”
She said again, “Daddy don’t do that.”
I turned back to my laptop, where I was about to post a Tweet condemning the rioting. A Friend of mine just lost his business to a combination of looting and fire.
“Sara, I hear your bed calling, and it’s calling your name.”
She said again, “Daddy don’t do that.”
I said, “Sara, I know it’s hard for you to understand the world today. Your uncle Jerry just lost everything because of an event in another town many miles away. All I’m doing is expressing my frustration over his loss.”
Sara asked, “Like they’re doing.”
I smiled, “No, this is different.”
Sara gave me a slightly confused look, “Why is it different?”
I wanted to tell her she was too young to understand the complexities of the world. I looked into her eyes, and I just couldn’t do it. I remember this time when I was not much older than Sara’s seven years of life. A man was beaten near to death by some police in a city to the west. A country-wide protest turned into a series of riots.
During that riot, a man was pulled out of his truck and nearly killed. I remember my dad, who was also a truck driver being mad. He said some vile racist things I had never heard him say before. He also didn’t mention how that driver was saved by four African American men.
I looked back at my Tweet and saw my father’s face reflected on the screen of the laptop. It was my face.
I said, “I’ll tell you what, if you go to bed now and stay there for the rest of the night, then I’ll delete this Tweet.” She nodded and went back to bed.
I erased the tweet and turned off Twitter. I wrote, “Write a Better Future” on a sticky note and placed it on my laptop.
A New Life.
Written by: jellyrelic75
Aren was awoken by a thump against his side. It was the owner of WoodWork factories. He had been working at the wood factory since he had just turned 8, which at the time, was old enough for an infant to work. Along with many others, Aren was an African American slave and worked form sunrise until sunset. Once, he had collapsed due to lack of hydration. he was given water, then sent back to work. They worked by chopping trees and cutting them to fit for house material. After long months, Aren had managed to finally escape, and was running as fast as he could away from the facility. He looked down at his hands. They were splintered and cut, bleeding while he clutched a long wooden branch he had found for protection. The boy fought his way through the darkness of the night to find a place to rest his body. There was a rustle behind him. This was it, he had thought. he steadied his weapon, ready to strike at his approaching foe. any minute now, he would be beaten and taken back to the facility. the object wandered out, and Aren struck at it but missed. once he had pulled away his weapon, he saw a cats beady green eyes staring back at him. He instantly scooped the Norwegian Forest Cat into his arms and apologized. morning arrived, and he had made his way into the city, and had made it into the streets. around came a girl and held out her hand to him.
Anna was walking down the cobble path, when she came across a little boy. The boy was Africa
n American, and seemed to be starving. He seemed to have been beaten with some sort of pole. The boy looked at her, his eyes wide as if calling for help.
Anna reached out her hand, acknowledging the plead. He backed away, afraid. “My name’s Anna. Nice to meet you!” Anna said with a smile. The boy was silent, but alas, took a hold of her hand.
Sorry, i messed up commenting
”How to Change the World”
By Sav Uong
“Tell me,” the Master said. “How does one change the world?”
Her apprentice looked up from his studies and furrowed his brow. “Um,” he said slowly. “By making a difference?”
“Are you asking me or telling me,” the Master asked, smiling down at him.
“By making a difference,” the apprentice repeated, making sure to be firm in his answer.
“But how do you make a difference,” the Master said, tapping a long finger against her staff.
The apprentice was silent as he mulled the question over. “By having a cause,” he said finally, pleased with his answer.
“How do you select a cause,” the Master mused, tilting her head at the young man.
A hiss of frustration escaped the apprentice’s teeth as he sat back in his chair and thought.
“By finding an injustice,” he said finally with a firm nod.
“And what do you do when you find an injustice?”
“You make a stand against it,” the apprentice said immediately, not needing to think.
“That is right,” the Master said, holding the staff in both hands and leaning forward. “But what if, the injustice you stand against is one held by the whole world? Can you stand against an injustice when you stand alone with no one standing by your side?”
“Yes,” the apprentice said, swelling with pride. “I can stand up to anyone!”
“Even if they are the very power you must answer to?” The Master’s smile and voice dropping. “Even if the injustice is being ordered to be done by our leaders? Can you disobey an order that is unjust in your heart, but your actions will cause you to lose any form of stability you have left?”
The apprentice faltered. “But… if it is unjust then I am right,” he argued. “How can you punish someone for standing against a wrong?”
“You should not be able to,” the Master said, “but it happens still. So, how do you change the world?”
The apprentice shook his head.
“By making a stand,” the Master said, rising to her feet, “no matter the cost to you.”
[…] I gave the title a name honoring the concept of his poem. Feel free to check out my submission: Rivers of Lemonade on Tale Foundry’s […]
In hope of better days
By Arthur Moore
Theresa watched the sun set over the distant Sagain Horizon.
She had been working as a nun in her little frenghi village cut off from the world, but for all the little tales, stories, and scriptures that remained. She cared for the sick on Tuesdays, Taught the children on Wednesdays, gave sermons and heard confessions on Friday.
But Best of all she and the many elders of the village told stories on Saturday and Sunday nights in the churchyard around a bonfire. They were the most pleasant days of the week, where the sixties and seventy year olds told of the dark days, when Ne Win took over and closed off their connection with the Church and of how they had longed for Padre Jino, and Pastor John and so on. Of how scared they were to be abandoned at the edge of this land, to be forgotten, completely and entirely by their world and losing their stake to their birth place. The eighty and ninety year olds told of war and of how fearfully they had hidden from all forces, even the supposed Burmese liberators, hearing that the Christian cousins in the Border States were killed along with many other migrant communities, of which they still fell under even after centuries of assimilation, and servitude. No one hundred year olds were left, at least one’s that could still speak, so Theresa took the turn. Theresa told of the stories she had heard, stories passed down by the women of her family of the great days of their people, when they had once basked in glory, riches and fame under the times of the kings before Bodawpaya’s reign of persecution on those that did not originate in the lowland region. Whenever she told this story she saw the children’s eyes flicker with hope and wonder, then sadness, despair, and fear. Seeing this she would always say with a smile at her story’s end “There’s always more to write and maybe a better future in a better time.” The children smiled again, hope returning to their eyes.
Words Can Change the World
“Andrew, hand me your sidearm,” Cassidy said.
Andrew looked up from his book. “Why?”
“I’m going to clean it for you.” On Cassidy’s desk was her own newly cleaned revolver.
Andrew set the book down, pulled out his holstered pistol from his desk, and set it in front of her.
“Thank you,” Cassidy acknowledged, and soaked a strip of cloth in gun oil.
As she cleaned, she looked over at her partner. “What are you reading?”
Andrew looked up and smiled sheepishly. “Oh, um, Aristotle.”
Cassidy blinked in surprise. “Why are you reading that?”
Andrew gave a shrug. “I like reading Aristotle. It calms me down. Besides, you’d be surprised how relevant his writing is in these times.”
Cassidy tried to turn the words over in her head as she continued cleaning the weapon. “I doubt that I’ll understand.”
“I’d be happy to loan you my copy,” Andrew suggested.
Cassidy shook her head. “You’re the intelligent one, Andrew.” She hefted the pistol up. “This is how I do my job.”
Andrew scoffed. “I know that you know how to read. Books are important. People’s words are important.”
“Most people can’t read,” Cassidy pointedly remarked.
Andrew considered what Cassidy had said for several seconds. He nodded. “Writing is still the best way to pass your words down to the future, across great distances. We can combat Van Nilsson through ideas, through teaching, through words of wisdom. Knowledge is always better than ignorance.”
“That sounds like your work, not mine,” Cassidy replied.
Andrew thought a second. “When I met you, you were being tried for espionage on account of enlisting in Her Majesty’s army as a man. You said the laws forbidding you from enlisting were unfair for your gender.”
“I actually said the laws were horseshit, if I remember.”
“Maybe you should write about your experiences, and try to change some minds,” Andrew suggested.
Cassidy rolled her eyes. “How many people would read that?”
Andrew smiled smugly. “How many will read it if you don’t write it?”
There Has Always Been War, But There Does Not Have To Be
I am not going to lie. This is and was extremely hard to write. It seems every single day there is another report, another protest. This is a war, more than just a deep wound in our nation caused by the sins of our fathers long since passed. What we see now, what I report on in the independent media as a journalist on the ground, is a war between civilians and who are supposed to be protecting all of us. Now, in the heat of the summer with a pandemic going on and an economic crash looming or already here, I see all of the sins come rushing and pouring out like so much blood on the asphalt of I-35. I know that not all police are terrible human beings; they are human beings just like the rest of us. The decent officers, at least, had the decency to take the knee in solidarity with us. However, especially here in the South where Jim Crow is still present in pockets and those Civil War wounds are opened up deeper, the racist cops still persist unfortunately.
Here, in the South, the Civil War has always persisted. All of this is a carry over from that and more. Embittered Southern whites, often older, growing up with a racist, embittered ideology and culture. It is just part of the problem, the rotten root and tumorous cancer is far deeper, ingrained with white fear from the very start unfortunately. I, myself, am a part of the new generation and I side with the protesters, those who want and desire a better world that we will make with our own two damn hands. I cannot only just report as a historian and a reporter on-line in the eyes of history; now, it is the time to act to take down and lance this cancer that is present in our country and perpetuated further by our nation’s toxic leader. There has always been war, but there does not have to be.
The Defender’s Prayer by Mr. Tiddelsby
“Lord, if I am to fall this day, let it
be defending my brother.”
I spoke the words to myself as I stood facing the police riot line. A line of unfeeling cogs that have wet the gears of oppression with the blood of free men.
“Lord, if today is when I return to you,
steel my heart as I face my foe.”
A line of people formed around me. The citizens who were tired of the way things were. Seeing good people die for no other reason but because of their skin color. The police aimed at us and told us to disperse.
“I shall fear. But with my brothers and
sisters behind me, I shall not falter. Give me the strength to protect
We did not move. We would not be moved. Too
long we stood by, complacent in actions taken again our fellow man. Pretending
nothing was wrong because it wasn’t happening to us. No longer though. As the tear gas fell and the rubber bullets bounced of building and bodies alike.
Some of us fell back, dragging wounded with them into whatever building they could find. The ones that remained began to chant as we raised our fists to the air. A tear gas grenade fell in front of me, I kicked it back at the police line. Through the haze and watery eyes, I saw the rubber bullet separate the smoke, followed almost instantly by a pain in my head.
I fell to the ground, my vision swimming as the cops approached. I started to run for a place to hide when I heard a voice cry out. I looked back as a girl fell to the ground, a cop standing over her with his baton.
I didn’t think. My body simply switched into auto pilot, scooping the girl up and blocking with my body. I grit my teeth as the pain lances through my body. My head throbs and I am on my knees. But I will not be moved. Not while I still breath
“Flowers Over Bullets”
By A. Hook
It was a hot, sweltering day. Another heated protest ensued. A young officer stood in a line with the rest of his squad, questioning when it would all just end.
However, his attention was focused on a young black woman. She walked up to the squad, and locked eyes with him. The officer’s blood ran cold. It had to have been a trick.
She held out her arms as if to embrace him and he kicked her in the stomach. She fell to the ground vomiting, yet she still got up, wobbling towards him.
Her mocha forehead coagulated with blood, causing her braids to clump together.
“Look at me”, she whispered peering into his grey eyes. “I’m just like you. You’re just like me. Our blood runs red. We are one.”
“S-stay back!” he barked at her.
What if she had a knife? What if she hid a firecracker in her pocket? Was she just trying to get his guard down so she could kill him?
He saw what the others have done: burning down buildings, destroying cars. A voracious anger.
However, this young woman’s eyes told another story. Soft and golden brown, like a gentle doe.
“You know, flowers are a lot better than bullets.” Her speech was slurred.
Trembling, she opened her hands and upon her palms was a bright yellow sunflower. He swallowed then tucked it in his front pocket.
As he did, the young woman began to sway and fall backwards, but before she could hit the ground, the officer tossed his shield and gun to the ground and caught her in his arms.
Upon seeing her limb body, other angry protesters began to march up to his squad. All of the armed men began to position their weapons, but he called them off.
Carrying the young woman in his arms, the protesters began to quiet down and parted a path for them both. Laying her down in the grass, he began to sob uncontrollably.
Written by Cheete
It was always on warm summer days that a worker would be pulled from the line. I always thought it random, but Dante assured me otherwise. We couldn’t talk to each other about it, or the factory and or its inner-workings, else we would be facing punishment from the officials. Strictly work and small conversation, eyes down on the controls or the clumps of various metals moving about the conveyor belt. Days like this were tough to get through, as the room would quickly dampen. This is the worst day yet, my blue shirt soaked from pure sweat. It would be common for someone to collapse, but it didn’t seem to have an effect on who was pulled.
Behind me I could hear the loud clicking of a flat-foot; one of the patrol officers making his rounds. This was when it would happen. At the top of his lungs, in a deep commandeered tone, he shouted,
“Hey! You, 28, step away from your station!”
I glanced upwards quickly, watching as the man across from me raised his hands and took a few steps back. As far as I was aware he wasn’t doing anything wrong, in fact, I think he worked better than me.
“Follow me.” The man demanded.
“What did I do, sir?” He asked quietly.
The officer’s expression was stone-cold, and stared at the man. He really, really shouldn’t have said anything. With heavy, determined steps, the officer walked over, pulling out his baton. The man flailed his arms trying to block the weapon as it struck him, another mistake. The officer pulled up his radio, speaking a code I couldn’t decipher. Again, and again, he struck the man, each blow seemingly harder than the last. And when the man was on the ground, he kicked him in the stomach. Someone shouted from across the room, prompting two other officers to deal with them.
Not too long after the warden arrived, smiling as he looked down at the man. The warden pressed his boot on the man’s neck, laughing,
“That’s what you get for wearing red.”
The Day the Orcs Came
by Desmond Durdle
I remember the day when the orcs came.
I remember their banners blowing in the breeze as the buildings burned. I remember the horde’s chants, though I didn’t understand them at the time, “Gerokh noth Veka, Khe’tho.” I remember the smell of blood and burned flesh as the king’s wizards threw fire into the streets to disperse them, but I also remember the orcs rallying through the flames and pressing on. I remember the line of kingsguard with their armor and shields as they tried to stop the horde from reaching the palace. I remember the king, shouting from the parapets of his fortress, as he ordered the outer city to be purged.
I also remember the day when it got better.
It was months later, after the orcs came. The wizards were gone, and no longer threatened to burn down my grandmother’s home. Most of the kingsguard were still around, having refused to follow the mad king’s orders. The few that had tried now sat alongside the wizards in the castle dungeon. The mad king himself had fled the country to hide in the lich tomb of his patron, but the horde had sealed it up, locking him away with his master for years to come. The human guards and the orcish shamans walked the streets in peace together. The elves returned from their forests and reclaimed the homes that the mad king had taken from them.
The day when it got better came on the day when Gethkal the Wise, Warchief of the horde proclaimed that all people of the land were adopted into the Great Horde, and all – men, elves, orcs, goblins, and all other peoples – could share in the peace of the kingdom. That was the day Gethkal returned to being Peacechief of the Great Horde, and her council of peoples began their reign of justice.
I remember those dark days, and remember that the people, together, could bring light back to the world.
“Gerokh noth Veka, Khe-tho.”
“Peace without Justice is Tyranny.”
To anyone that care to read my little rant they watched as the fire burn their streets they rushed outside to put out the fire to save their house notice the rioters have taken over their neighbors home and now creeping their way towards their doubt and worry race through their minds on what to do to save their own home or save their lives they look at one another stuff is just stuff in there says the first individual that is the house where I’ve been born and raised it has memories says the second individual the memories are just in your head the first replies
Glass Barrier by Oleander
I find myself sitting in a room surrounded by glass barriers. I can use them for entertainment, for research, for working on various projects. Lately however all I have been using them for keeping up with the outside world. I see the violence and chaos brought to those who just want to be treated fairly. And I cry with them.
I want nothing more than to step outside but people keep me in my room, scoff at the notion of leaving for people I know nothing about. So, I work from my computers, researching, finding out more to do while I’m stuck inside, I sign every petition I can, I have little resources but I use what I can for those outside.
But I want to do so much more. I wish to join the outside world and be a part of them. Let the people have just two more hands to help with holding another sign, another body to help pick up the fallen, another person to help those whose eyes sting and who can do nothing but cry in pain.
I’m scared. I’m scared for those who don’t have my safety. I wish to expand my glass barriers and protect them from the violence. But I also know that their fight must happen to help those who come after them. And while they fight, I will use my glass barriers to share with everyone what they see so that maybe we could all unite, inside and outside, to show everyone what matters.
The truth shall set you free
Henry remembered the little device that had sat in his ear for so long. A similar one had sat in the ear of his mother and his grandmother and great grandmother. He could not be sure whether his patriarchal lineage had worn them for their former masters had driven the families apart through this device.
The device was given to children as soon as they could talk and from there it whispered sweet propaganda about how the masters were the only ones who cared for them and how all they had was from the masters thus they had to be subservient to the masters. Any who would even think taking power over their own lives where to be shunned. If shunning did not work the device would drive those around the uncle tom to deliver violence apon those who dare speak against the holy writ of the masters.
He remembered how he had been entranced by the siren song of devices until one fortuitous day. He had been exploring the boundaries of the plantation when he had fallen down the ravine. Laying in the darkness as broken as the device he had thought that he would surely die.
Waking when he had no right to have woken he was brought face to face with a boogeyman. Someone he had been taught to hate and fear from his earliest years. He had been taught that they would stop at nothing to torturer him and yet there they were tending his wounds and nursing him back to health. They introduced him to a community built on hope instead of despair, on individuality rather than collectivism, and on love for his fellow human rather than hatred and fear.
Henry looked up from his contemplation on the deck of the house he’d built with his own hands to his children playing in the yard with that white picket fence and hugged his wife knowing the future was bright for he knew the truth and the truth had set him free.
In honor of Officer David Dorn.
by Connor Girard
All it took was a lone spark.
A lone spark to spread fire throughout the castle town; to cause unrest, destruction. They knew who lit the spark, and they promised justice, but more was needed.
“More fortifications!” they cried. “More communication between we townsfolk and your castle! Please, we need so much more!”
The castle listened carefully to repair the relationship between them and the town, and rest had returned, but more sparks would light. And with more sparks came more needs. Soon the sparks grew out of control that the townsfolk started to hear whispers of revolution.
Some agreed it was needed. Others didn’t. But something had to be done. They had to work swiftly before the guard came in. Disagreement on their wants divided them, but the guard was faster in stamping the sparks, leaving only smoldered ruins, with no promise of change. From the smolders came embers. And from the embers, a roaring flame.
Now the townsfolk were united. Now they knew to make amends themselves.
Surprisingly, they did not descend upon the castle. The guard surrounded the gates with spears, their captain at the front, waiting. In the distance, the captain saw a lone figure walking towards them. He shouted for his men to prepare for anything.
He prepared himself for what could come, but was unnerved when he saw no one else. It was only one woman. Her pace was about normal; she didn’t appear to have armor, weapons, or anything to defend herself. She came alone.
The guard had their spears trained on her as she approached the captain, with no emotion on her face. She curtsied politely.
“You are all?” the captain asked her.
“I was elected to greet you,” the woman replied. “There are more behind my actions, but physically, I am all.”
The captain stared into her gentle brown eyes. Her words were true. He barked an order for his men to raise their spears, not a hair on her head would be harmed. She was their guest and diplomat now.
All it would take was a lone spark.
Stronger than Steel
By Minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
“She went this way! After her!”
April kept her body pressed up against the alley wall as police boots rushed past her location. When the last footsteps had faded, she let out a sigh of relief.
“Phew… That was close, huh?”
The girl who pulled her into the alleyway checked her over. She hadn’t seen her at the protests before… She’d have recognized the girl’s bright orange shirt. But here she was, being saved from a beatdown by a total stranger.
“Y-Yeah… Thanks. Who are you?”
“Eh, just a protester! Like yourself! You’re doing great out there, by the way! Water?” She held out a bottle to her.
“…Thanks.” She accepted it. The two stood there for a moment, taking a break as things went on around them
“Man, this is something, ain’t it? I’ve seen revolutions before, but NEVER something like this! It’s so inspiring!”
“Yeah…” She said quietly, but then stopped. “Wait, you’ve seen this before?”
“Plenty of times!” She piped back “Usually, they involve more spears and less bullets, but the anarchy is similar enough.”
April went silent. The stranger looked over at her quietly “Hey, wanna know something cool about seeing revolutions like this?”
“You get to see a whole world unite behind a cause! People out in the streets fighting oppressive authority, folks opening up their homes to provide for those in need, and everyone from the tallest tower to the tiniest tent getting together to help others! There’s so much unity behind all this! You may not have fancy glass shields like those guys do, but you’ve got an even stronger armor! The power of the people.” She reached up to her face, noticing something, “….Oh man, my bandana! It must’ve fallen off during the running! Oh gosh, what am I gonna-”
She was cut off by April offering her a square of colored cloth. With a warm smile, she tied the bandana around her face. After brushing themselves off and throwing out their bottles, the two shared a knowing nod and headed back out, ready to change the world.
I’ve been in this cell longer than I can remember. The dark corners of this room mock me, scare me, make me imagine things that are not there, they make me wish I was with my family who I miss so much. The only source of happiness I have is this window in front of me as the ray of sun shines on to me and blankets me in warmth. It makes me remember when I was a free man, how loved I was with my wife and kids and my little poodle Sammie.
I miss them so much, but then darkness falls and… I-I hear them. The voices in my head, they never shut up, they grow louder and louder as the night ticks away at my life. All I can hear is them screaming for help, begging for me to do something while all I can do is watch! The voids in the corner of my cell morph into the silhouettes of my family, judging me, insulting me for something I didn’t do! I’m innocent I tell you, it wasn’t me!
This is how it is every night, I feel exhausted and I can tell I have bags under my eyes from my deprived sleep. I hear some footsteps outside my caged room… the door has finally been opened. I think my nightmare will finally be over.
“Dance with the devil”
In one particular corner of the world, a meeting of an organization continued.
A small man spoke out.
“We can’t do this. If we do, who knows what will happen. Perhaps many will die, and all for naught”
“We have no choice. Voting did nothing, peaceful marches did nothing, even violence has not changed the system. Sure, a few people have been charged, but the fundamental reason for the problem has not changed. We have to summon this demon.”
Everyone besides the small man nodded in agreement.
“You are all fools to do this!” the small man exclaimed as they left the room and slammed the door.
“Let us continue. Set up the circle”
The others lit candles around the room and began to chant. A tall red man with horns appeared
“Devil, we ask you to change things such that no one more will be oppressed by the long arm of Alseme”
Meanwhile, in a different meeting, a similar thing occurred.
A tall woman spoke out.
“This is insane. Summoning a devil to quell the riots! You guys will be responsible for many deaths”
“We just want to go to our homes and not have people on the streets and homes burning. We’ve given them what they ask for, and yet the riots have simply demanded more”
Everyone in the room excluding the tall woman nodded in agreement.
“You are all fools!” the tall woman exclaimed as they left the room.
“Let us continue. Set up the circle”
The others lit candles around the room and began to chant. A tall red man with horns appeared”
“Devil, we ask you to change things such that the riots will stop and peace will return to the country”
A little ways away, both the tall woman and the small man came to an intersection. From a different direction, a paladin of ambiguous gender came.
The tall woman and the small man exclaimed simultaneously. “Please, can the paladins help us! They’ve decided to summon a devil”
The paladin sadly stated “my organization has done the same. However, I will try to help”
To the Hut
(Please note, this piece in not part of a larger work. Any obscure or fictional vocabulary used is left intentionally open to allow the reader to use context clues or their own imagination to determine the meaning.)
There, far up on the slope of the great Elephant Hill sat the squat, conical-roofed hut, dug into the grey pebbles of the incline and caked in ancient mud to weather the harsh winds common so far up on a mound such as this. No light emitted from its slitted windows, yet a thin, black, and irrationally sinister plume of smoke spewed forth from the top of the straw cone of the roof. Though every denizen of the village knew of the cottage, few, myself included, had ever made the journey to or even entered it; though I knew all too well this was the abode of my village’s Ketua.
From the bottom of the great Elephant Hill it seemed from my view to resemble a monstrous, laboured toad, heaving its foul exhale into the twilight sky. And in the dying light, I must admit, it did appear to shift and heave as though possessing life, though a blink or two dismissed this notion.
“The Ketua awaits, sirrah.”
The sudden notification from the thrall who had just minutes prior led me to the foot of the slope snapped me from my daydreaming. He looked up at me, twirling a single whisker with a yellowing nail.
“Watch yer footin’ up the hill, gravel’s loose in many a spot,” the thrall pointed his crooked index finger towards several locations on the hill, indicated spots which may be treacherous, “Take it easy goin’ up, but I wouldn’t keep him waitin’ too much longer,” with that last remark delivered with a scowl, the thrall adjusted his conical hat, unruffled his poncho, and trotted off into the tangled mass of mud huts, rat towers, and windmills which formed the body of our village, the hulking Grey Olu in tow, dragging its feet and moaning softly as it lumbered after its caretaker, clawing at whatever horrid visage lay hidden beneath its white veil.
Penance for Tyrants
Leaning his head from side to side, Nay took a deep breath,the weight of the crown atop still unusual.
As was the quiet surrounding him. On his left sat an old man, face drawn with age, white beard to his chest and the burnt remnants of wings pressed close to the back of his simple black robe.
On his right sat a seemingly young woman, her short bob of white hair reaching to her shoulders, past her seemingly feathered ears.
She wore a plain white shirt with long sleeves, her clawed bird-like hands folded on the table in front of her. In contrast to the others, her chair was without back, giving her thick white wings space.
After taking a deep breath, Nay rose looking up at the…people arranged in front of him.
He had been told when they arrived they had been over a thousand.
Now they were barely five hundred.
They sat huddled on the ranks of the arena. Didn’t even fill it a quarter of the way…women and men, not a single child.
Like the man to his left, Luciel, they wore black. A startling sight after seeing them in white armor for so long…
They looked miserable, some had an empty look to their eyes…others’ were swollen, and their faces reddened as from hours of tears.
Had they cried for their lost power? Or in the face of unimaginable guilt….
With a deep sigh, Nay opened a slim book.
“Your King has been killed in Battle.
Many of your compatriots have been killed by the people you have oppressed for generations.
As you all know, in the final confrontation your magic has been sealed down to its natural state. Should any of you be…desperate enough to repeat the ritual, you will die.”
He flipped open the book. A simple contract on its pages.
“We could have killed you all. And your only legacy would be hatred”
Nay turned the book around, multiple signatures already visible on the page.
“I ask you, let us offer you redemption. For a future of peace.”
One Step at a Time
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
It had been a long, distressing day.
Emily opens the door to her apartment and ambles inside, her face full of dejection and disappointment. Catticus watches as his beloved human friend grabs several comfy blankets and jumps into bed. Within seconds she’s wrapped in them, embracing their comforting warmth.
‘Something’s gone wrong.’
Catticus follows her into the bedroom and jumps up onto the bed. A storm quietly and painfully brews in her head as she tries to nap the worry away. Seeing the distress on Emily’s face, Catticus does his best to snuggle beside her, letting his warmth and soft fur comfort her.
“Thanks Catty” She said, giving the good kitty some gentle scritches. “Today’s just been really tough for me.”
Catticus gives Emily a comforting look and starts purring.
“OK. OK. I’ll tell you about it.” Emily says, stifling a sniffle. “It’s just that work has been very stressful, and now the news is talking about wild injustices, and Markus being a dickhead.” She smirks. “It’s just so hard to stay on top of everything.”
Catticus’ gentle purrs massage Emily’s belly, and she feels the storm brewing inside her head begin to wane. Catticus gives her a small “Mrew” and continues purring.
“That’s a very true little buddy.” She gives Catticus a few pats on the head. “I don’t have to take it all on at once. None of these problems will be solved in a day or by just one person. As long as I focus on making progress each day, I will be ever closer to my goals.”
Emily gives Catticus a warm smile and lets the blanket burrito consume her. The problems seem far away now. There will be plenty of time to take them on in the morning.
“What Can I Do?”
There weren’t many people at the café, as expected. We only did drop-off orders so none of our customers stayed that long, but there was this one girl, Asian if I were to guess. She had been waiting for her order long after I finished it, her eyes glued to her phone. I had to call her name three times to get her attention, and she wasn’t even wearing headphones.
“Huh? Oh, sorry, yeah that’s me…”
“No worries. Something wrong?” I asked, but she just shook her head.
“Just texting my boyfriend… He lives in the U.S., and he’s black, so… sorry, that’s—”
“Hey, no worries really.” I patted her drink. “I hope he’s okay. The least I can do to help is make you your drink to relieve your stress.”
She walked out, still looking at her phone, but I saw her shoulders relax as she sighed in relief. Guess she got a text back… That’s good.
I think… All I can really do right now is ease people’s minds, try to just keep living. But even then, I can’t help worrying. About the pandemic, especially about the protests. Even just living as normal feels wrong to do right now.
I should do something. Donate, spread awareness, sign petitions… But I don’t know if I can afford to donate right now, and honestly, seeing all of this negativity is physically making me sick. THINKING about it is making me sick.
“Luce? Are you alright?” asked my boss, who peeked her lavender-dyed head out of the kitchen.
“… Yeah, I’m fine, just thinking…”
“Okay… You can take a break if you want.”
My head hurts… When will people be allowed to live normal lives again?
It feels like even I’m not allowed to live normally… And I feel bad for even feeling like that.
… I’m gonna take that break now.
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
In the middle of the bustling streets of Xheva-te-Lash sat a cart with a large sign that read “Ylli’s Miracle Ink” in golden letters. A makeshift stage jutted out from the cart and on it stood a leprechaun with a tattered top hat. A crowd of Fae clamored over each other as they forced their way to the stage.
“I’ll take a vial!” one voice called.
“I’ll take two!” another one came.
Within twenty minutes, Ylli was out of stock. “Well, come back early tomorrow and I’ll have more.”
The leprechaun tossed his coin purse into the cart. He leapt down, grabbed the stage by a handle and folded it back into the wagon. Suddenly, someone cleared their throat. The leprechaun turned to see a blond elven woman adorned in a long, gray greatcoat and goggles around her neck. Her hair was short and pulled back.
“Mister Ylli, I presume?” she asked in a lilting voice.
“Yes, I am he,” he replied with a smile.
“I’m Belruth Kinson, of the Alchemist’s Guild,” she said. “May I speak to you in private?”
Ylli blinked as he turned pale. “B-but of course! Come on in!”
Belruth obliged, climbing up and hunching over to avoid the five-foot ceiling.
“So,” Ylli said, sitting on a stool. “What do you want?”
“Information,” Belruth replied, finding her own stool, “You have this amazing ink, and we’d like to help you patent it.”
The leprechaun chuckled to himself. “That won’t be necessary. I’m fine right here.”
“But we’re talking large-scale production. Nationwide distribution via exclusive contracts with first-rate airships.”
“If I could be frank with you, madam,” Ylli said, moving closer and bringing down his voice to a whisper. “It’s just normal ink.”
Belruth furrowed her brows. “You’re a charlatan. I knew an ink that changed the future was too good to be true.”
Ylli shrugged. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Why?” Belruth asked. “Why do this to Fae?”
Ylli took a deep breath. “Miss, I don’t sell ink. I sell confidence and hope. I’m showing the common Fae the power of words. And I’m just getting started.”
A Mental Evacuation (Corespace Universe)
I run. I run across fields, through trees and up steep hills. All to get away from the Hard Things.
They were born from huge grey Mothers, who screamed endlessly as they flew through the sky and filled the air with the smells of smoke and fire. Strange shelled things that gleamed in the sun, but were covered in ugly blue-black scars. They could already walk, fight, hunt, and there were so many of them. We tried to hide, but they filled our homes with discoloured clouds that made us scream, choke, and fall. We tried to fight, but our legs and our teeth couldn’t even bruise their skin, and they could break our bones with a single strike. We tried to run, but the mouths on their limbs spat shrieking fire, and I saw my family and kin crumple and sizzle until no-one but myself still ran.
I’ve seen them beat us. I’ve seen them bind our limbs and drag us back to the maws of their hungering Mothers. I’ve even seen them eat-
I’m nearly there. I see the green dome of singing vines, topped by a beautiful flower. It is the only place that is safe anymore.
As I brush past the smooth stalks, I hear the familiar singing. The song that comforts, that speaks to me when I am alone, that always promised me safety if I needed it. But the song has changed now. It is more urgent, more determined, as it guides me deeper and deeper into the vines.
Arriving at the promised place, I feel relief. I see many of my kin, those that also ran, huddled around a great pillar. Their fur is soft, and their bodies warm. We can rest here. I gently climb across their sleeping bodies, and snuggle into a small gap. I touch my head to the pillar of vines, my eyes fill with light and my ears fill with song.
And when I see the emerald fields, the bounty of plants, the new unblemished world, I begin to feel joy I thought I would never feel again.
It was overwhelming; the roar of chants, pleas, curses and desperate prayers. A thin line of city guards was all that separated the civilians from the approaching soldiers.
Blood pounded in her ears. Fear and too little sleep splitting her skull with every slamming pulse of her heart. Sweat slicked the back of her neck- it had little to do with the summer heat.
“Let us through.”
The guardsman flinched at the order.
The crowd shifted; terrified and uncertain.
Ember remembered what it was like to be wingless, a half-blood Wachter that had ‘lost’ the genetic lottery. The pity of some…the disgust of others. She’d had her home, her family destroyed once by those who’d claimed to serve, to protect.
And now it had happened again.
Tearmann was in turmoil…
The warship, Cardinal Directions lay miles beneath the waves of an unforgiving sea- a mausoleum lost to the currents. Thousands of Rangers and civilians alike, slaughtered by their own in the name of power and greed.
Her cousin had almost been one of them.
What did they make of her- without knowing what she’d been through? Or what she’d been before Death restored what it had wrenched from Life- with a few ‘extra parts’ thrown in as compensation. She liked the wings, the tail- the freedom of flight…
…but hated how she towered over them now.
Ember pushed gently past the guardsman, the Court of Dedomilla following behind.
“We’re not gonna leave!”
“And I ain’t here to make ya’ll leave!” Cobalt called- her gentle, rumble drawing a hush across the crowd.
Ember swallowed, then spoke.
“We came to join you, i-if you’ll have us?” She couldn’t keep the tremor out of her voice, hardly able to raise it loud enough to be heard. She expected jeering, thrown soda cans, or profanity hurled at them.
With their seal-grey coats, black patches on their shoulders, and badges over their hearts- they were the emblem of everything that had betrayed Tearmann. They had tried so hard…but they had still failed these people.
Ember sobbed as the throng accepted them into its ranks.
The name of his messenger
By Larissa (Lari.B.Haven)
The Professor first saw the courier when she was only fourteen, training for her future job. Her wide eyes shined when he opened the door and she saw the books in his hands. But after she collected the bill he never saw her again.
One day while he waited for a new message, he heard a knock on the door.
She placed the paper in his hands and asked for the bill. He went inside to look for it. She was the same girl, just a bit more older and taller, with the same curiosity that he once saw. While the piles of books towered over her, She silently stepped inside, almost like she was under a spell.
“Can you read young lady?” The Professor said nonchalantly taking a fantasy book and putting over his table. “I need new glasses! I can’t see anything! I think I left the bill between one of my books. Can you help me?”
“Yes sir”. She answered, shy.
“Please, come inside!” He invited and flipped some books. “We will find it! Don’t worry Miss…” he opened another book and slid to her side.
“Miss Alexandria, such a beautiful last name!” He looked at her smiling. “Alexandria was once a place with an ancient Library that held most of the knowledge of the world… This is a name of greatness.”
“It’s… My only name sir.” She laid her hand over the book. “Most orphans don’t have last names.”
“So you must treasury it! Say it with the reverence it deserves Miss Alexandria!”
He found the bill and slipped into one book saying:
“I’m Winfrey by the way, Professor August Winfrey! You are always welcome!”
He cradled the book in her arms and winked. She nodded with a shy smile in her face and she left.
Their friendship started that day, she visited him every week since then.
The Professor hoped they could stay friends way into the future, where the young messenger would have a last name to claim as her own, and they would read one final story together.
The Good of the Clans
Hiroki’s nimble footing took him across the mountain terrain as fast as possible. He attempted in vain to bring tranquility to his mind. They would apprehend him before he reached his clan with the medicine.
He redirected a shuriken attack but was powerless to stop a senbon from imbedding into his lower calf. The strike sent him sprawling forward, and the impact shook a single grunt from him.
His shoulder took the worst of it, but his arm also received minor scrapes in the process. A senbon to the lower back combined with a net being tossed over him left Hiroki immobile.
“You were foolish to run, filth. A mistake for which you will pay dearly.” The old man, Dai Shi, emerged from the bushes, accompanied by two others.
“The medicine is all I want,” Hiroki pleaded.
“Disarm and restrain him,” Da Shi ordered.
The net was removed, and Hiroki was stripped of his weapons and hoisted to his knees. His arms were held out to either side, and he had no feeling in his lower body.
The old man approached and raised a poisoned knife to Hiroki’s neck.
“You shall reap the tainted seeds of your clan’s treacherous ways.”
“Grandfather, stop!” Koya’s hand gripped his wrist before contact. She stood tall before Hiroki, her gaze burning into Da Shi.
“You protect this scum?! You betray your own?!” Contempt filled Da Shi’s glare.
“If you take his life for what his clan did, then we have no future, Grandfather. An endless cycle of fighting and bloodshed await us if we continue down this path. I refuse to sit quietly while you wrongly punish the innocent.”
Da Shi spit next to her feet, his pride unshakable. “Disgraceful! You are banished!” He left with the other two in tow.
“Why save me? We are enemies.”
Koya kneeled and lifted his chin until their gazes met. “We don’t have to be. Our future is what we make it. I choose to make it great.”