Hello, delicate creature.
You aren’t the first to find yourself distracted, drawn away by some pretty thing. It’s in the nature of every single thing that wants. But do be careful where you let your paper wings take you, because…
This week’s writing group prompt is:
Moth to a Flame
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!
I think this one is about temptation. Maybe false hope. It’s probably about a lot of things. But one thing is for sure:
There’s danger in it.
A danger that looks warm, inviting, beautiful enough to spiral inward around until your wings catch alight. A danger all the same.
This could be a self-destructive individual that would never hurt you intentionally, but you never fail to be hurt by. It could be a promise or an opportunity that looks so good until you’re in the middle of it. It could be anything, so long as it draws you in despite the way it burns.
And a little caveat: you need not burn in the end.
There could always be a hand that intervenes to cradle you and your paper wings, take you somewhere safe, far from the betraying light. The light may go out before you arrive. Who knows what may happen.
But it’ll always be hard to escape this fact: you would have if you could have, no matter the cost.
Now flutter off, write us a story.
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!
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
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The Moth Knows What It’s Doing
The moth is not a moth.
The moth is eternal, unyielding. It is the cycle and the drive that lasts a lifetime.
It is the burning, crushing itch that cannot be ignored. Guilt, worry, compulsion — the ever presence of the mind. It is fought, delayed, but not defeated. The moth lives for as long as the host.
The moth is a phoenix.
Time after time it rises, and flutters toward the flames that consume it. After so many cycles, it embraces even the pain. It has long since lost fear. The moth knows what it’s doing. It knows it will return.
The moth is a grief, the acceptance of a presence unwanted. It is not cured or overcome. It is not stalled for long. It is simply lived with. The host rails against the moth, rages, tires, despairs. And then it accepts the moth. An itch, continually rising and relieved.
At least there is the fire. There is temporary silence for the undying moth.
It flutters, hesitates, wonders if there is a more final way. Wonders if fire is only the easy, impermanent answer. It has wondered many times, and it is always unsatisfied.
The itch grows stronger, unbearable. There is no more time to fight, this time.
Relief must be sought.
And so it goes willingly into the blaze, wings burning, then its body.
It relishes the sting, destruction, erasing of self.
Then it’s gone.
A few moments of peace.
Until another moth hatches,
and the cycle begins yet again.
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
Have you ever seen a moth catch fire? They ignite, flail and fizzle in only a second or two, sometimes accompanied by a faint hiss like a tiny little scream.
I can always tell the ones it’ll end up being. They have a way about them. They’ll all flutter and dance dangerously close to the flame. But the ones that catch fire are always a bit more erratic, a bit more energetic, and they always end up getting a little too close.
I had noticed the most curious thing at a bonfire earlier this summer. While everyone else was busy talking or drinking, I was too enamored watching the fire’s dance. As I starred I noticed a moth near the flames, and recognized it almost immediately as one that would get too close and catch.
The moth wasted no time in diving straight into the flames that called to it so enticingly, and I thought that was it. But I watched in awe as a tiny fluttering flame rose out the top and proceeded to dance and twirl above the fire as if reveling in its burning transcendence.
I watched that moth’s fiery dance for nearly five minutes before it finally fizzled out and drifted back into the bonfire as nothing more than ash. I felt I had witnessed something truly amazing and wondrous.
I hadn’t thought anything of it as the summer days got longer and the seasonal swarms of moths came with them. I thought it a little peculiar that I could tell how many more than usual would catch.
I never thought they’d all survive aflame for over five minutes though… until they burnt my house to ground. The house fire drew more swarms in the night and they quickly spread throughout the town. And all I could do was watch those beautiful dancing flames.
“Ah, there you are, my love…”
She emerges from my darkness, pushing me back as she dances to life upon the wick of the candle. Her body moves in such a way that always mesmerizes me.
“My sweet…” I breathe, trying again to move closer. But her light holds me back. She’s always just out of reach.
But that’s okay. I have other ways to be with her.
I smile, joining her dance. I couldn’t let her see, of course. I’m far too shy for that. So I dance behind potted plants across bookshelves, along the windowpanes and along the floor. Always out of sight, but always able to see her.
Her movements are always so breathtaking…
Luckily, she can’t see my clumsy imitations. No doubt she’d laugh.
Then, an opportunity. A cup placed on the table beside her.
I dance behind it, closer to her than I had been in a very long time. I can feel her warmth through the table, and her magnificent glow casts just above my head. But this cup… this damn cup blocks her from view. I try to peek out, but her light keeps me back.
Please. Just once. Let me hold her just once.
I try again to reach out to her. I move closer… closer…
My delight is short lived, however, as I realize why I’m able to approach.
I watch her shrink, smaller and smaller, her dance growing tired and slow.
“No… please wait, my love!” I beg, straining as I reach for her.
She drifts this way and that just above her pool of wax, exhausted from her elaborate dance.
So close now…
I hide just under her candle holder, slowly moving up the side of the candle. Peeking over the edge, I see her. Just a tiny, barely moving bulb of light. I reach for her, but just as I do, she vanishes, a wisp of smoke left in her place.
I weep, cradling the candle.
Then, suddenly, there she is. Across the room.
“Ah, there you are, my love…” I breathe, and our dance starts anew.
First Hand Encounter
By minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
Research Log, Day 4569.
Today was the most stressful day I’ve had in awhile.
It started out like any other day. I woke up, had my breakfast of lightly buttered toast, and headed up to my lab. For a blissful few hours, my experiments were uninterrupted.
Then… SHE showed up.
I found this strange girl around my age standing in my living room, unannounced! I have no idea how she got in as the windows and doors have been locked for quite some time. The moment she noticed my presence, she gasped loudly and exclaimed something like “Holy cow! A boy!”
Her nebulous arrival was the beginning of the most exhausting, and harrowing day I’ve ever had! She insisted she was there to “Help”, but I have never seen someone manage to set fire to a beaker while claiming to be ‘helping’.
Not only did she manage to set some of my non-flammable equipment aflame, but she also managed to debunk one of my older theories, sort out all my laundry, and profess to me that mermaids and werewolves were both, indeed, real.
She also–and I couldn’t make this up if I tried–managed to divert a potential rodent uprising by organizing the mice I had kept into a union. A union! I never even realised they were unhappy, much less ready to rebel!
She left a short while ago, mentioning something about being ‘called back to base’. I never thought so much dangerous and incomprehensible nonsense could happen in a single day. She was infuriating, asinine, and frankly confusing.
So why can’t I stop thinking about her? Even as I lay in bed now, my mind keeps wandering to her. I have yet to decipher the way she achieved what she did. She couldn’t even read a periodic table, and yet she disproved one of my hypotheses! It’s inconceivable! I must find a way to contact her. There must be a reasoning to her madness, and it may be the key to my first scientific find!
by Gage Jarman
I’m driving my car like any other day. I just want to get back to my apartment, maybe watch some TV, check my phone, eat some leftovers… I’m so tired of this.
Is that her! Why is she back?
The brakes lock up. The car pulls over. I get out of my car, and she just beams at me. Her smile is so bright, I’m scared to step towards her. Was she always this gorgeous? She just prances towards me and wraps her arms around me. She smells so sweet, and the way the sun catches her raven hair… We start catching up, but she has some stuff to do, and says we should get together later. We say goodbye and hug again, and as I start letting go my arm just trails off her back and down her arm and she catches my hand and looks back and smiles again. Time just stops for me. She keeps walking, and I’m watching her go again.
I walk back to my car. I sit in park. I still need to drive home, but I just sit. I’m thinking of her. She was my first. She could have had any other girl, but she accepted me, tore me out of my grey existence, and then…
My eyes water. My vision shimmers. I don’t blame her for leaving. She was chasing her dreams. She went to so many places, experienced things I never would and and and I let the only thing I longed for go freely. All I have is a piece of shit job to pay for my piece of shit apartment and pay off a piece of shit piece of paper. Damn it, why was I more afraid of not having those than I was of losing her? How long did I wallow? I wish I could just…
My phone buzzes.
[ Hey, you free tonight 🙂 ]
Le Cirque Chuchote’ is more ethereal symbol than physical space. An urban legend hand picked to be drawn into reality. It’s a place of screams spoken only in whispers. Those that wish to find its next performance have to be obsessed with the promise held in the unearthly sounds and spinning colors. The promise of shedding your skin, giving yourself over to its insanity. Some that find it are never heard from again.
This is my eighth time standing at its gate this month.
Why am I like this?
Before I go in, I shuffle my tarot cards and pull one. I know it’s silly but it’s tradition at this point.
Ha ha, fate. Very funny.
A vampire woman dances on a raised stage, spitting fire into the crowds. They shriek in delight and horror when she catches one of them. I peek inside a tent as I pass and see the giant with her crystal ball, reading fortunes for a gaggle of teenagers in bird masks. I admit I’m a little jealous of her talent. I pass her to get to my prize.
The Hall of Mirrors.
Why am I like this?
I make quick work of the skittish man in the cat mask. A few raspy whispers and my reflection behind him is all it takes to send him sprinting deeper into the maze. I stalk two women in matching jester cowls the better part of an hour, moving the images in their reflections and watching their panic rise the more lost they get.
My laughter echoes through the halls.
I must sound insane.
I remove the grinning devil from my face. Even with flushed cheeks, my skin is pale. My halo fans out from my temples, casting a glow.
I still look like my father.
God, why am I like this?
There’s a sharp crash of breaking glass and a crack shoots up through my forehead, splitting my image in two.
Someone else is laughing.
An eye looks through the crack.
“You’re good at this.”
A wide grin appears underneath it.
“Ya wanna join the circus?”
“The mission” [Aleph null sci fi]
The gravitational wave packet collapsed. Stars appeared in front of me. This was the galaxy known as “the pinwheel galaxy” to most people, just a few light hours ahead. My mission is simple: move this galaxy to the ever growing local group, like drawing a moth to a flame.
First, I must set up the simple base. I reconfigure myself to activate the protocols. The ouroboros generators fire up, and the particle maker gets to work converting energy to matter. The drones launch and gather supplemental material. Soon, I have enough mass for my nano-assemblers to construct another generator and particle maker. And another. And another.
Now, I just let the particle makers handle obtaining mass. More generators and particle makers activate, accelerating exponentially. I reach the required number, and start assembling assembler drones and gravity rings. Finally, I built the fusion reactors.
With the gravity rings I split off small parts of myself and sent them to other places above the galaxy to do much the same. Then my assembler drones get to work building a stupidly large ring. While they place and build large sections of metal and pipe, the fusion reactors are running and the byproduct is filtered for gravitonium. This is then stored, for now.
The other versions of me meet my assemblers with their assemblers, and the galaxy encircling ring is done. I start pumping my gravitonium into the designated location as I take a look at the galaxy ahead.
It looks… like any other galaxy. Wait… not quite. One of my subsystems must have seen something. A planet. I focus my attention on that planet. That planet has technosignatures! Intelligent life! I’m not qualified to contact, but I’m sure the people back home will love this! As I look on, the other parts of me appear and reintegrate themselves into my superstructure. The ring is full. Time to activate it.
Where before there were scattered stars, now the gravity ring seemed full of many more stars, the stars of home. The thrusters activate and the ring moves toward the galaxy in front of me.
“A Sneak-thief at the Ridgeport Hotel.”
It wasn’t an item’s worth, but rather the thrill of obtaining it that tempted Charlie. At first it had been springs, screws, and dropped coins that she’d collected in abundance. Then she’d plucked a necklace from lost and found. Hair pins and rings pilfered from bathroom counters. Watches snatched from poolside tables.
Now it was the gleam of tarnished bronze that enraptured her. As soon as the Ranger had entered the hotel- Charlie had decided it was hers.
Like a fool, he’d fallen for her pretty face and let her follow him back to his room. As she’d climbed onto the bed- he’d sat down his bags, taken off his coat, and unpinned his badge. Then disappeared into the bathroom to wash away the grim of his travels.
Leaving Charlie alone with the badge, which lay prettily in a pool of lamplight. A prized piece of jewelry on display. Worn, scratched up, and bent on one corner…but it was hers.
The sound of running water ceased…
The bathroom door-handle twisted…
Charlie grabbed the badge in a frantic rush and flew out of the room. He must of seen her- for within seconds he had called out and was chasing after her. Down halls, past curious onlookers, and down stairwells they sprinted. Until finally they burst into the lobby and Charlie scrambled into a closet- and from there up an open vent.
Muffled shouting followed her as she clawed and clanged her way up the duct-work. Reaching the top, she dropped the badge into the middle of her nest. Panting from the run, heart pounding in her chest- the gryphon burrowed into her mound of trinkets. The air-duct groaned around her and the wooden beams struggled to hold the weight of both beast and horde.
The sounds of confused shouting only increased as a series of crashes echoed through the Ridgeport’s lobby. And when the dust finally settled there was a mound of stolen goods and a very startled- yet unhurt gryphon sitting among the rubble pilled on the reception desk.
They never did find the badge.
A Close Encounter
By Cody (ProfBelgian)
Flowers bloomed as Bellemare darted by, brushing her hand against silk petals. She was almost late for dinner, again, and her father wouldn’t be pleased. It was getting dark and she was a long way from home. She flapped her wings as fast as they would go knowing the forest would turn to night quickly, especially in early Spring. She was already tired.
Through a patch of tall pines, she spotted evenly spaced lights – a sure sign of a humans. She knew it as a shortcut through a garden, had heard of other fairies daring each other to venture there, though it was dangerous. Still…
The light of the garden lamp was warm, and she took a few moments to huddle beside it. She thought longingly of the dinner waiting at home: seed cake, berry tarts, and dew wine.
A human toiled at a vegetable patch several yards away and she saw her chance to fly through before she glimpsed several sparkling drops of moisture on an odd flower. She was thirsty from the flight and could smell something sweet on its red tinge base.
Bellemare flew close to the plant where the sweetness was intoxicating. She wet her lips at the drops but eyed the spiky tendrils reaching up from the plant’s ridges. A flying gymnast, she swooped over the spikes with ease and into the flower’s dewy base.
The plant’s maw snapped shut around her and she screamed. The leaves secreted an odd fluid and it stung, slowly eating away at her clothes and wings.
James turned his head from a carrot patch at the sound of a high-pitched ting. He walked to the source, somewhere around his bundle of flytraps. There, he saw the deep blue wings of an elegant moth twitching inside one of his plants.
That’s too lovely to die, he thought. He reached for his garden scissors and snipped the plant, loosening its grip and setting the moth free. It stuttered in the air but flew away quickly. He thought he saw tiny clothes on it and rubbed his eyes. He must’ve been tired.
By Astrid Jones
Run. Hide. If she could beat him up all 14 flights of stairs, she could slip into one of the study-rooms and throw on the dark hoodie she kept stuffed in her bag. He would pass by, thinking she was someone else. Of course, he could always take the elevator. But there was only one of those while there were two stairwells. Dinah had learned the hard way how easily he could trap her if she took the elevator.
She took the steps two at a time. Any distance she could gain on him was better than nothing. She heard the door, now a few flights below, slam shut as someone else began the climb. Dinah resisted the urge to peek over the railing. Instead, she forced her legs faster.
“Sweetheart, wait up! I got something for you.” His voice echoed up the cement walls.
Panic threatened to take the air her lungs needed to make it up the last few flights. Dinah shoved it down, telling herself that he couldn’t run up stairs as fast as her. She had to believe that if she was going to make it through the top door.
He had gained on her by a flight before she pushed through the door of the fourteenth floor. Dinah wove through the small crowd of people in the twisting hallways till she found an empty study-room. Closing the door behind her, shutting out light from the hall, Dinah dug in her bag for her hoodie. Struggling to pull it on, she scrambled under the table.
Dinah stuffed the end of a hoodie sleeve into her mouth in an attempt to quiet her gasping. She could wait him out. He would think she went down the other stairs, or that she had taken the elevator and he would go back down. He would think he had lost her. She would be safe here.
The light blinked on as the door opened. A chair pulled out from the table and was replaced by a kneeling man.
“There you are, my little spark,” he said with a grin.
“Logifer, the Word Bringer”
The sword stood. Untouched, unmoving, it had remained here for centuries. Here, in the rotunda of chapel, the sword of Saint Galgano awaited the time when men of peace must take arms against the enemies of God. Before it, knelt a young man, deep in prayer.
Arthur Plantagenet had spent the last several years of his life in apostasy. His father, so occupied in matters of the Church, had left him, eldest by far among siblings, to help his mother with their home. He’d hated his father for that, but the emptiness of cutting himself from the faith had grown too great a burden. Before the sword he now knelt, Catholic once more. The weight of past sins hung in his mind, and the blade seemed to beckon. Would it be a chance at redemption, or deliver judgement upon his soul?
Outside, fires approach. A black mob of barbarians, hungry for the destruction of hallowed masonry, swarm the verdant hills of Italy. Naked steel bathes in the blood of those fleeing before them, their only crime devotion to the Cross. The priest hurries people into the chapel as stones and refuse bombard the doorway. The door shuts tight, and the people huddle before the altar.
To Arthur, the sword glows. It invites him to take it, but the cost gnaws at his mind.
The mob is breaking through. In that moment, Arthur stands, reaches out, and grasps the weathered hilt. Arthur cries out in agony, and can almost hear the howling of wolves as the doors give way.
Within the hour, the mob was gone. The entryway is marked with soot. The floor runs red with blood. Dead and dying men are piled outside. Sword in hand, Arthur looks over the slaughtered barbarians. The blood running down his cheek is his own. Man has two eyes for a reason.
He looks southward across the rolling hills, and whispers to himself, “So God wills it, so will I obey.”
“The Swinging Lantern”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Long ago, there was a frontier town by the name of Gaohesh. It was simple enough: a tavern, a general store, a smithy, a doctor’s office and a joint temple to the Seven Gods. Folks who were seeking their fortunes came in and made themselves comfortable. Workers employed in the mines found success in finding gold. Gaohesh was prosperous and happy. That was until one fateful night.
He showed up just around midnight, light from his lantern glowing an ominous blue. No one saw his features other than his prodigious height, but they heard his singing. It was low and slow, like swamp sludge. It was gravelly, as though he had swallowed rocks. And as he sang, he slowly trudged through the main street, the blue flame swaying.
That’s when it happened. Those with children found them not only awake, but enthralled by the voice. Parents looked on in fear as their children disobeyed their orders to go back to bed and left their houses to follow the man. They followed him out of town where all of them disappeared.
Ever since then, on the nights where the moon is dim and the sweet western wind blows, parents sewed their children into bed. It worked for a while. That was when the man with the lantern began taking the children himself. Those that got in his way met a terrible fate.
Those that did not noted his features. His eyes were burning coals, he lacked a nose, and his mouth was twisted and jagged. His skin was like a man dead from exposure. All he had was his hood, his lantern, and his song.
Between the disappearing children and the slaughter of townsfolk, the locals abandoned it. Some went back to where they came from. Some traveled north to Qantkin, enduring the cold. But one thing stayed the same: on nights with dim moons and sweet western winds, the Swinging Lantern came and looked for children to take, his song carrying through the mountains and the pines.
So be good and pray he doesn’t come knocking on your door.
The Flame That Lead To This
By Jesse Fisher
The roar of the crowd filled the demonic wolf’s ears, the sound of a group wanting blood for the defiling of the order spirit that runs their world.
Demon just sighed at this, in fairness he should have just stayed in the bar for that activity but he just wanted this woman to leave him alone. When he had awakened from the deed, a goddess snuggled up on him and did not let him go. Then the priest of Gangrel came to wake her, and the griffons of the world saw a corruptor in the same bed as their god.
Leading to this moment, him in an arena about to fight to the death for his ‘crime’. He had been given a blade but it was dull and cracked, if not for his loincloth he would be nude but his fur covering most of it up.
“Why do I have to be a flame to that crazy spirit?” Demon asked as he waited for the jailer to move him to the gate.
That came soon, the griffon looked to be a mix of a tiger and a meadowlark with a heavyset build and looked angry at the demonic wolf.
“Your judgement is here.” Female from the tone of voice as Demon did look at them just hopping up and going to the gate.
The crowd grew louder as he neared the gate and chanting along with cries of “Death to the corruptor” or “Defiler will Die”.
With a sigh and looking at the griffins before getting ready for the gate to open.
“Well time to live up to the name, Demon.”
The clicking and sliding of the gate brought more light into the hall, the calls of his demise came louder as his eyes moved to Gangrel that looked disheartened by what was going on.
She did not want this, but what is a god without followers. So it falls to the Demon to make it as right as possible.
“Death will not come for any this day, no matter how much I want to just spill blood.”
By Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
Rebecca’s eyes burst open.
A dark blackness spread out before her.
Feeling a bit groggy, she tried to get up, but was bound to the chair she found herself in. She cried a little as the weight of the situation began to dawn on her. This wasn’t how she expected to be spending her Saturday night.
“Hello?” She whispered into the darkness, hoping this was a demented surprise party.
For a moment, all she could hear was her own nervous breathing.
And, a flame burst forth, blinded her and filled the room with its radiant glow. As Rebecca’s eyes adjusted to the glare, she could see a hooded figure in front of her holding a candle.
“Hello, Jesseca Bently.” A sly voice broke the silence. “We heard you performed the Ritual of the Black Moth.”
Rebecca spoke up. “Look. I’m sorry to interrupt, but my name is not ‘Jessica’.”
“Wait, really?” The robed figure quickly put out the candle. “You idiots! This isn’t her!” He screamed out. Several robed figures in the back shuffled around embarrassedly.
The robed figure turned to her. “I am so sorry. I have no idea how this could have happened.” His voice was much smoother and friendly now. He quickly untied her and helped her to her feet.
“How are yo-” the cultist was interrupted by a huge slap to the face.
“Jess is in room 148B, not 148A!” Rebecca scolded.
“Ouch! I deserve that.” The cultist took off his hood and rubbed his cheek a little. “I’m Ollie, by the way.” He held out his hand and Rebecca fist bumped it awkwardly.
“Hi. I’m Rebecca. So is there like a door out of here or?” she asked.
“Oh! Let me escort you out.” He held out his hand and Rebecca took it. He flashed her a warm smile and led her out of the building.
“So, is there anything I can do to make this mistake up to you?” Ollie asked nervously.
“Well, there is one thing.” Rebecca said. “Since you ruined my night, I think you owe me a nice dinner.”
Momma took me to the Zoo
By Eden R.
I still remember the day Momma took me to the zoo. I was so stupid to believe that she would want to do something nice for me after the way she had treated me. Even now I can remember feeling her hand come across my face… I can remember the feeling of glass CUTTING my face. I remember constantly being hungry. Momma never smiled whenever she saw me. All there was, was hate, regret, and darker things. I don’t remember how long ago it was. I just.. remember that I was young.
The zoo was amazing. So many cool animals. Even a petting zoo. Momma had always been so worried about money, oftentimes scolding me for asking for.. Anything now that I think about it. But this time, it was like she was a whole other person. Stupid me; I fell for it. For the first time in what felt like a long time, I wasn’t hungry. I felt happy. Momma was smiling. I was stupid.
When we were getting ready to head home, instead of leading me to the car, she took me to this strange person and told me they were going to take care of me from now on. At the time I did not understand what she meant. But I quickly learned.
That was my life for the next few years. I don’t like even THINKING about what happened. Just. pain.
But one day, someone went even further than normal. I still feel that blade… I still have that scar, in all honesty. I should have died. It should have been the end there. But, I heard a voice.
“Jane Doe. Bond with me and become a Magi. Make our souls one and have the power to stop them.” I was Stupid.
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
“Take a seat,” the man behind the desk smiled warmly.
His visitor sat down. “Mr. Anilioch, I presume?”
“And you must be the negotiator from the Penta Administration.” Anilioch never broke eye contact. “And what have you been sent to negotiate?”
“I’m here to offer up a trade.” The intern placed a briefcase on the desk. “My superiors are offering a million for what is detailed here.”
Antilioch turned the case towards him and opened it. A single sheet of paper, taped to the lid. An order form for a full greenhouse of feverfew, ten dragon scales, and seven grams of fae-metal.
“I presume your—‘superiors,’ yes?—instructed you to keep this closed until you got here?” Antilioch asked.
Antilioch closed the briefcase and slid it aside, keeping his hands on the table. “They clearly don’t have your best interests in mind, young man.”
“I—I don’t…understand…” The intern’s eyes drifted towards the silver ring around Antilioch’s right middle finger. It looked green, or maybe purple…
Antilioch smiled as his other hand clicked a pen and began writing. “Yes, how rude of them to treat you like that. They can afford to pay two million. And I’ll keep the fae-metal to make it more fair, how does that sound?”
“Yes…that would…be nice…” He leaned towards the ring. He wanted to understand the color so much that Antilioch’s deal seemed so easy to meet, compared to understanding the ring…
“Bring this paper back with you, and tell those ‘superiors’ it’s my final offer.” Antilioch slid the revised request across the desk. “And one more thing: you did nothing wrong. You won’t be punished for this. Not. One. Bit.”
Antilioch flicked his right hand into the handshake position. The intern jolted upright, quickly shook his hand, grabbed the paper, gave his thanks with wide eyes, and left, leaving the briefcase on the desk.
Antilioch waited until he could no longer hear the intern’s footsteps. Then he laughed.
“You’d think those blokes would’a figured I was usin’ fae-metal by now,” he said as he got up and locked the office door. “Those bumblin’ idiots.”
Predator and Prey
Capt. Elijah Griffin looks out to the horizon, the Caruso’s wooden deck vibrating under his boots. His first mate, Lt. Edward Hawkes, approaches him.
“Sir, the weapons are primed and ready,” the lieutenant declares. “Awaiting your next command.”
The captain watches the clouds, searching for his prey. “We wait. Keep your eyes peeled.”
Aside from the whirring of the airship’s engines, there is only the whisper of the winds. Griffin takes a deep breath, taking in the serenity of the voyage, the calm before the storm.
“Um, sir?” Hawkes nervously says, breaking the serenity.
Griffin turns around, giving him a stern look.
“Well, sir, if you don’t mind me asking,” the young officer sheepishly says, “why are we doing this?”
Griffin sighs, placing his palm on his forehead.
“We’re pretending to be a spice merchant ship to lure them out of hiding,” the captain explains, this being the fourth time today. “Once they get close, we pounce and take those pirates down.”
“I meant taking them down, sir. Isn’t our target led by the last of the Yorkes?”
The captain looks out to the clouds again. He has heard the stories of the last daughter of the noble Yorke family, the sole survivor of the fiery tragedy that befell their estate, the revenant of the skies. He shakes his head and reminds himself of the promotion awaiting him after this battle.
“What is our motto, lieutenant?”
“Honor and Valor for Justice, sir.”
“Then, is terrorizing the Council’s territories just?”
“No, sir, but—”
“Then it is our duty to take that rogue down, no matter the cost.”
The lieutenant lowers his head. “Yes, sir.”
A deckhand shouts, a tinge of panic in his voice. “Unidentified airships sighted off the starboard bow! Three of them!”
“To battlestations!” Capt. Griffin barks out orders, his voice booming across the deck as the crew scrambles into position. “Boarding parties on standby!”
He turns to the skies ahead, his eyes catching a glimpse of masts peeking through the clouds. He smiles.
“Like moths to a flame.”
Too close to the flames
by Larissa (Lari B Haven)
She crossed the Sanatorium garden and sat on the bench by the shadow; the men greeted her with a glance: “Nice to see you again, Mrs. Anderson.”
Zoella Anderson smiled in response. “I got another letter from my husband. How are the paper cranes going?”
“Prettier than yesterday.” He responded. He kept folding the paper with sharp lines.
She only knew him for a while; he was there for a long time according to nurses’ gossip. She knew he used to be a doctor, and he would keep making those paper animals as a hobby. He was friendly to her, always asking her about her family. Leonard would sometimes speak about a friend he had in a melancholic tone.
“My friend taught me how to do the cranes, if you make enough of those, they could grant me a wish.” He said, breaking the silence of that early morning.
“What kind of wish do you seek?” Zoella looked curiously.
“If you could undo a mistake, would you take the chance?”
“In a heartbeat!” She answered, glancing at her letter.
“My friend was a dreamer, I was a realist. As opposites, the allure of the exchange was obvious. We complete what the other lacked.” He took another sheet of paper.
“You speak fondly of him, Leonard. I believe you were close like brothers.”
“I supposed we were like brothers.” He sighed. “When we finished Med school, he still had a heart bigger than his head. I kept being the rational one. Until the day we ended up fighting.”
“I imagine that was difficult…”
“I pushed him into a choiceless situation. The patient was a child. As a doctor, you always have some of those in your hands…” His expression tensed up. “He trusted my judgment… We lost it. He couldn’t live with the outcome.”
He crumbled the paper bird into his hand. “Like a moth, he burned in my flames.”
“So you wished you could have prevented his death?” She responded worriedly.
“No, I wish he never had met me.”
Like a Human to Hate
By Mike Collins
Jenny sat in her bedroom watching the Twitter feed waiting to find something she could say. The hate and or love for the president was too trendy. She retweeted plenty of Black Lives Matter tweets, but that felt so three days ago. She needed her social justice fix, something that could make her feel good about herself by pointing out how bad other people were.
Across town, Erica searched her Instagram feed looking for someone to hate. There were plenty of celebs who needed to be put in their place, and she was just the girl to show them some justice.
In a cramped apartment in Toronto, a boy named Doug watched a video saying how 5k was responsible for a disease while his neighbor rails about the injustice of the police for towing his car.
After months of being bullied online, Sara stood on the ledge of her thirty-story apartment building, wondering what it all meant. The last post she read before jumping was someone telling her she was too privileged to have real problems.
Johnny sat in the ruins of his career after years of acting and fan-love. He didn’t understand how he was canceled online after years of hiding his victimhood from a wife with a mean streak.
All over the world, on many social networks, people questioned why there was so much hate while attacking others. Words and blame became like weapons. Every day more and more people gave in to their baser desires to feel good about themselves by tearing others down.
In a server farm buried deep within a mountain, two watched as many people across the world attacked each other online.
“You see, I told you all we had to do was give them a platform and like a.”
The other interrupted, “Don’t say it.”
“Okay, like a human to hate, they went after each other.”
The two giant moths looked at each other and started to laugh, knowing how easy it would be to destroy humanity one tweet at a time.
Trap set and sprung
Two glowing points descended from the night sky, swirling around each other before shooting across the treetops towards a rocky rise that stood out against the stars.
They circled it for a moment, as if considering the options laid out before them, then finally descended to the rocky ground.
It were two angels, one a man carrying a spear, the other a woman equipped with a short bow.
As they were walking up towards the rock, she gave her companion a side glance.
“If he is hiding in there, a spear isn’t gonna be very useful.Why did the King not send one of the blade wielders?”
Her partner squinted at the rockface up ahead, trying to make out more than the utter darkness of what might be a cave entrance. “All I have to do is nail him in place long enough for you to give him a third eye. Then we can report back. A bladewielder would get in your way. I won’t.”
Their conversation was quick and to the point. Neither voice seemed to express any emotions besides concentrated attentiveness.
Darkness grew around them as they entered and advanced into the cave, their golden weapons and halos giving off a faint glow.
So they wound their way down and down into the innards of the cave, looking for a monster to slay.
Eventually, they entered a great cavern, walking carefully so as to not be surprised.
And yet they flinched when the flickering light of a candle struck them from behind. They quickly turned, beholding a muscular man with a red mane of hair. The flickering candle flame illuminated a twisted smile.
“Ah…I love it when things just fall into place. All I have to do is stay around for a bit…and Ubvoriel sent some of his enforcers.”
He dropped the candle, which bounced off the floor, rolling away before winking out, leaving only a pair of red-glowing eyes.
“To die like moths burning in the flame.”
Their screams died away unheard.
An Evening’s Entertainment (Corespace Universe)
By Calliope Rannis
Sweat was dripping off the dancer’s face. The streamers of his colourful outfit flowed through air and smoke, as he continued to hop and skip across the red-hot coals beneath his feet. His eyes were filled with fear.
But beyond his sealed, oxygenated bubble-cage, the world was much, much hotter. Just outside, sunning themselves beneath an electric sky, was a long wormlike creature. Their body was composed of jagged crystal, bound together with crackling arcs of energy that concentrated into five burning points of light at the front. Four of them were blinding white – the fifth shone deep orange. With these eyes the Crystalwyrm lazily watched the dancer’s desperate movements. They were getting bored.
Their stupor was interrupted by a familiar hiss resonating inside their mind: (Are you done with it yet?)
The Wyrm shivered in aggravation. (Maybe I would have been by now, Kitfiroll, if my appreciation of this little puppet’s show hadn’t been undermined by your CONSTANT INTERRUPTIONS.)
Their sibling’s voice grew louder and more insistent. (You have been watching it for nearly an hour Relorvoll! How is this even interesting anymore?? Let me have MY fun!!!)
Ignoring them, the Crystalwyrm focused again on the dance. Despite their youngerborn’s souring presence, this dancer had provided satisfaction. It was fascinating to learn that humans really could dance on hot coals, even if their heat paled in comparison to the searing air outside. There was also a certain sublime joy to seeing the final hour of a life play out in such an aesthetic manner…
That said, the best moments had been and gone. The dancer was beginning to stagger, his movements losing coherence. The fear in his eyes had faded into sheer fatigue, and the long streamers were now dragging along the floor, starting to blacken and ignite. His long dance was coming to a close.
They didn’t care to see the end. (Fine, Kitfiroll. Your turn.)
With their sibling gleefully floating towards the cage-pit, the Wyrm turned away from the dance and curled up on the floor. As the screams began to start, Relorvoll drifted off into sleep.
For the first time ever, Ryan felt like he couldn’t win this fight. The masked figure laughed, their swords gleaming in the moonlight. Their green eyes stared at him with a curiosity that Ryan did not want to satiate.
They pointed the longer sword at him. “I’ve met plenty of heroes in my time, but someone of your origin is interesting.”
“Yeah, well.” Ryan kept his smile, despite the pain. “Plenty have told me I’m an interesting guy.”
The figure laughed again. “Such overwhelming and destructive power at your fingertips, and yet you are willing to use none of it.”
“Why go overboard when I can just kick ass without it?” Ryan raised his metal arms, ready to fight again.
The figure let the longsword settle on their shoulder. “Heh, we’re similar in that regard, but I do it because it would be boring otherwise.”
Ryan tried his best to ignore the nonsense this person was spouting, but part of him agreed. His life would be really boring if he simply used all of his power.
The masked figure looked at the shortsword in their other hand. “Hmph. We also have a tendency to draw other people to us, don’t we?”
“Are you talking about your friends?” Ryan could still see the metal dude and the bandaged dude in his mind. It was seriously bad news if all of them were working together.
The figure looked down and chuckled, “I wouldn’t call them friends, but we are both the flames of which moths burn themselves on, whether they be our enemies or allies.”
That sounded like a threat. “If you lay a finger on my–”
They spread their arms out. “I will do no such thing unless I need to; however, that might be hard…”
“What are you planning?!” Ryan took a step forward, heating up everything nearby.
The figure’s voice became animalistic. “Why don’t you make me tell you?!”
The figure dashed forward, slicing with their blades. Ryan blocked with his metal arms. Energy bellowed out of them as Ryan’s fiery eyes locked onto the figure’s green snake-like eyes.
The Lithium Ploy
Cassidy Markham peered over the cornice of the roof she was on, glancing down at the Thames, holding her rifle tightly to her body as she did so.
“Cassidy, do you read me?” Andrew’s voice emerged from the bullhorn-shaped speaker on the device beside her.
“Yes, I can, Andrew,” she replied, exasperated by his constant interruptions.
“There’s a boat on its way from the East.”
Cassidy glanced at the small steam vessel chugging up the river to the warehouse.
“How do we know that Van Nilsson will even come here?” Cassidy asked.
“Van Nilsson has a need for lithium for his new invention. The Bureau has been impounding all shipments of lithium entering England. Rumor mill says that the Bureau is housing it here,” Andrew explained.
“And we’re selling him the dog?” Cassidy asked.
“Quite. It’s utter nonsense.”
“So, how do we know Van Nilsson will show?”
“The train heist last month,” Andrew replied. “They nicked the lithium impoundment. But it was all tin. Van Nilsson’s going to need to confirm he has the genuine article this time.”
“He’ll be expecting an ambush, Andrew,” Cassidy said as the steamer pulled up to the dock.
“That’s why you’re on the roof. Don’t miss.”
Cassidy watched as men piled off the boat and raced to the entrance of the warehouse. She glanced over at the boat and saw two men were still on board; a large bruiser holding a shotgun, and a man wearing an expensive overcoat and top hat.
As the door was pulled open, dozens of constables from the Metropolitan Police poured out to arrest the men from the boat. The brute with the shotgun leveled his weapon, and Cassidy shot him dead.
“Van Nilsson, you’re under arrest,” Andrew declared as he approached the boat. “Show me your hands and…who the devil are you?”
An explosion erupted from the base of the warehouse, the impact throwing Andrew into the water.
“Bollocks!” Cassidy swore. She grabbed the guide cable leading from the roof to the dock below, and slid down it, intent on saving her partner.
Something has happened to me, in the years since I was first brought into the City. I first realized it a week ago. It was… unsettling. A revelation, you could say.
No. Let me back up, just for a moment.
Have you ever felt like you were being watched? Cliché, I know.
No, not the “oh, I feel a breath on my shoulder” bit. More like… being viewed from afar. They’re looking at you, you know, but when you turn around – poof! Everyone’s just minding their own business. No one cares what you’re doing, really.
There was a time when being ignored annoyed me. I didn’t like being brushed off. I’m a person! I’m important!
I’d give anything to go back to that, now.
It started as a feeling. Not even a tingling or anything – not like in the movies back home. Fairly innocent altogether. Just a pause here, a quickening of pace there – it happens. The City itself doesn’t help matters – thin, hilly cobblestone walkways, twisted highrises stretching far into the distance… I don’t envy any claustrophobes who find themselves trapped here.
I think I first began to notice it a year ago, when I passed the same man twice. Well, I say man… he’s more of a blob. Good guy. Orange, gelatinous, hard to miss. Anyway, important bit: he stands out in a crowd.
It was almost like déjà vu. You walk in a straight line, make good time down the road… and there he is again. You walk another piece, and whaddya know, he’s right there.
If he’d had eyes, I would’ve thought he was staring at me.
I wrote it off then. I wrote off a lot of things. The recurring faces in the crowd. The roc across the street, staring at my townhouse’s front step. The cars crashing in the distance behind me.
They’re all staring at me now. I can feel it. If I was just a little faster, I could catch them. Throw the window open and see.
Throw it open, and see…
Come and see…
His Precious Butterfly
By Giovanna J. Fuller
He sat under the willow tree, waiting for her. She was supposed to meet him there a half hour ago, but he knew her nature. This was a girl that you could not keep in a box or a cage. She would wither away and die just as she would if her skin ever touched his own. Even as he longed to keep her safe, he could not keep her happy that way.
The Moon was rising, replacing her brother, Sun. He could wait longer. He could wait forever. He had forever, after all. His contented smile drooped. He had forever, she did not. The entirety of her life was a mere blip compared to his own. One day she would grow old, perhaps even out grow him, and die. She was a butterfly, there for only a summer whereas he was a mountain, eternal.
In the distance he heard the ringing of a bicycle bell. He stood.
Coming up just over the hill was the red-haired woman, pedaling like her life depended on it.
He couldn’t help, but chuckle. Still the same.
“Uncle Than!” She breathed heavily. “I’m here!”
“My dear, Angela, what happened to your broomstick?” His voice was deep and dry, crackling in the night’s silence.
The witch looked sheepish. “I failed my rider’s test.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Again?”
“Your father passed his on the first try.”
“Dad also defeated the dark lord, went to meet you, and convinced you to bring him and mom back.” She pouted.
With the slight movement of black wings, he stretched, “Shall we?”
Angela abandoned her bike next to the willow and took off her helmet. “Oh yeah!”
“Then, my precious goddaughter, take my weapon.” He presented her with his sword. “And we shall begin.”
She took it, admiring the black scabbard and the ebony hilt. To most, this was a weapon of evil. To him, it was his lifelong companion. The young witch let out a cheer, “Yes! Angela and Thanatos! Operation: bring your daughter to work day, is a go!”
A Letter For The Newbies
“Whatever tempted you to accept the deal, i don’t care, i’ll be brief, but understand that everything you will be going trough is real
From the exhaustion of running head to toes with heavy equipment, to the pain of a bullet wound making it’s way trough your chest. To the shock as it pierces your heart and, or, spine.
Did i scare you? Good. as stated. You and you alone are responsable of being here. But see the bright side, you cant die here, all injuries during a deathmatch are reversed in a quick and painless regen. At the end of the day, it is all entertainment for those who paid enough.
You can get out. But you have to earn it, every continous win adds to your total victory pool, reach 100, and you’ll be freed, lose once, and a victory gets removed from that pool.
This is a good time to push yourself beyond any limit you may believe your body holds. You’ll spend quite a lot of time here, so go try the loadouts out, make some friends, make some enemies. But dont get too comfy with factions, teams are random and so are the locations.
If i may give any specific pointers as to what’s best. Snipers work like a charm in the wide spaces of pandora, shotguns are sweet goodness for close quarters combat in jails and rooftop.
And since we’re dealing with tips. Good common knowledge etiquette from top dogs is if you’re the last alive, and the enemy team has good behavior, a bow with your gun up means you accept to a one vs one with each of them, we may be warriors. But we arent savages.
Well…most of us, some lose on purpose to keep playing because they truly enjoy the sport, so look out for 50/50 win rates.
Lastly; When, and if, you reach 100 victories, you get an opportunity to write a letter to the newcomers, and then thrown back into an earned second chance.
See ya in the real world.
“The Rev Sees All”
by Liz C.
The rain had ruined the stage makeup on Randall’s face, cutting trails of eyeliner and glittery paint over his skin, but he didn’t mind. The last show of the day had ended hours ago, the chattering sea of circus-goers instead flooding the rides and greasy food stands until the rain came and dispersed them quickly. From the safety of the cramped doorway of his trailer, he had been watching the relentless downpour send everyone running for cover. A cigarette smudged with lipstick sat between his lips, and he smoked idly.
“Hey, Rev, great job today!” A stagehand with a newspaper over his head called out over the rain. “I dunno how you do it, but people love the act! Like moths to a candle, you know?”
He nodded, smiled. “I can read minds.”
The stagehand laughed. “Yeah, whatever it is, it’s great. See you around, man.” As he turned away, Randall’s voice made him stop.
“You haven’t received a letter from your boyfriend in several months, and you’re worried he was killed overseas. You brought it up to your sister on the phone, and she told you to have faith, but faith isn’t your thing, right?”
The young man stood in shocked silence, ignoring the rain, eyeing Randall’s melting makeup, his burnt-out cigarette. His mouth opened and closed several times in the process of trying to form words.
“What does that sign say above my booth, kid?” He flicked the used cigarette away and did not wait for a response as he ducked into the trailer door, returning with a plain business card. Though the ink was bleeding and the paper wet, the stagehand could read it very clearly:
REV. W. R. VOIGT
THE CHURCH OF THE TWO DIVINES
2703 NORTH PROSPECT AVE. 77043
“EARN YOUR TICKET TO HEAVEN TODAY!”
“Your faith can be stronger around people that accept you, kid. Come stop by when you can. We need more people like you at the Church.”
The stagehand nodded, absent and docile, and watched Randall slink back into his trailer. “The Rev sees all,” he thought to himself.