What are you doing here? Did you make a wrong turn, or?… You know what, nevermind. You’re here now. As strange as this whole thing might be, as out of place as you may feel, you may as well adjust, because…
This week’s writing group prompt is:
I Shouldn’t Be Here
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!
This one is downright invasive.
We’ve all had this experience before. For some of us it was in the margins of a party full of strangers; for others it was our friends’ coming-of-age celebration in the traditions of a culture we know nothing about. For the very unlucky, it was at the family dinner table.
No matter who you are, at some point in your life you’ll find you don’t identify with the setting you find yourself in. You’ll feel like an alien, or a stranger, or heck the two aren’t mutually exclusive, so maybe you’ll even be a strange extraterrestrial trapped among humans doing human things, wondering what in the world all of it means, and how do I get away from it?
And even if your humanity remains intact, you might still have this revelation. It might come to you late one night, after you’ve climbed over the “DO NOT CLIMB” chain-link fence in front of the old warehouse. As you’re exploring the ruins, you might hear something strange—something like a three-throated horse whinny—from the stairs leading into the cellar. As the inhuman figure emerges into the glow of your flashlight, it might dawn on you that perhaps here, at this precise moment, is not the best place to be.
This is the good thing about being a writer. This is your opportunity to take that emotion and put words, visuals, symbols to it. Give it a life outside your memory.
Write something about a zombie among the living, who’s forgotten what it was like to feel all the things they do, and is made profoundly aware of all they’ve lost every moment spent in their company. Write about a faerie who defied the laws of her people, goes out into human territory, and ends up captured; a wonder in a museum of curiosities. Write about a kid who hangs out with the wrong friends, and ends up with a gun in their hand.
Whatever you do, find yourself in it. Find the time you can recall realizing that perhaps you were somewhere you’d be better off far away from…
And then let us experience it.
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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- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
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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).
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Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
Drew hopped the fence to the crumbling house, smirking at the caution tape. “Maybe next time,” they told a rusted keep out sign. “Someone needs me today.”
They peeked in the window for a familiar silhouette. Micha was hunched over what looked like a shoebox. His eyes were red and puffy, but he looked up and smiled.
“Hey,” Drew whispered. “What’s up?”
Micha led them inside. “Victoria crossed over today,” he said. “I’m just here to return this, but–” he gestured at his box– “I didn’t wanna be alone.”
“Is this place connected to her?” asked Drew gently.
“This is where we found her.” Micha nodded toward a cracked coffee table by the wall. “With these photos. Her anchor,” he said, tracing the box’s edges. “Couldn’t figure out what task needed done, so we took her home. That was… I think about six years ago.”
Sympathy drew Drew hand to squeeze their friend’s. “Long time. But you finally figured that out?”
“This morning,” Micha confirmed, squeezing back. “We uh, we got them out to look at. Vicky screamed until we set a couple of ’em on fire. Once they were ashes she sighed and just… poof.”
“That must be so hard,” Drew said. “I’m so sorry.”
“It is. But at least she’s in a better place. No ghost should be here forever.”
“That’s true. You did a really good thing, Mike. I’m sure Victoria will thank you, when you — well, you know. And hey,” they added with a chuckle, “now you can help a whole other ghost, if you want to.”
“Yeah. Maybe,” said Micha. “I’m not sure I want another ghost just yet. Though I wouldn’t mind haunting with yours in the meantime.”
Drew beamed. “Oh, totally! Friedrich’ll howl and throw mugs at you anytime.”
More seriously, they added, “You are always welcome.”
“Thanks. That means a lot,” Micha murmured, and a smile ghosted across his lips.
Then he sighed, set his box on the table. “Guess we’re done here. Thanks for coming, Drew.” He held his hand out to his best friend. “Shall we go?”
Drew took it.
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
It’s amazingly easy for me to get into places when I just act like I belong. Looking the part helps most of all, I just have to blend in with my surroundings. If I dress in a suit and tie, I can walk into practically any office building I choose. Extraordinarily diligent people will sometimes stop me for a moment, but all I have to do is act embarrassed about being new or visiting for the day and that’s all they ever need to hear. It’s important that I never return to the same place in the same disguise. Carrying a clipboard always helped immensely. Nobody ever wants to talk to someone with a clipboard. For all they know, their name is on that clipboard; best to steer clear of it and the person holding it.
I’ve always been unremarkable—easily forgettable. When I was young, I used to hate being this way. I would fight tooth and nail to be noticed any way I could, always trying to be like those who could draw attention without effort. The only remarkable thing about me were my teeth, and I had a bad habit of smiling a little too wide a little too much when I was having fun. As I got older, I really started to appreciate what it meant to be unremarkable—to be forgettable. There was an invisible freedom to it, and I couldn’t live without it now.
On another floor of the building, my eager breath quickened with every shadowy footstep. The nervous itch behind my eyes began to grow. I tried to hide my smile behind the clipboard as I stalked the halls. The rows of jagged teeth would always give me away at the final moment, but it was never really an issue.
I liked being no one, because it meant I was free to be anyone. After all, the best disguises are the skins of the humans I eat.
The Call of Battle
by Lunabear (Dragon’s Fire Universe)
Blithe felt his power rush through him following his emergence from the lava pit. He was whole again. The pit’s burn paled in comparison to Stephanie’s loving heat and strong embrace, however. Being without her had been more arduous than the battle.
He smiled for Stephanie’s benefit as he allowed her to lead him home. She spoke of silliness involving getting him into clothes since his clothing had burned away.
“What I have in mind doesn’t require clothes,” he said with a wicked grin.
Her husky laughter cocooned him, causing a floating sensation within his gut. Her smaller hand was solid and firm in his. Still, something nagged him.
Returning home, Stephanie checked him over with a critical eye. Finding his wounds healed, he immediately lost himself within Stephanie, their mingled purring and soft growls blissful.
He slept and ate and rested and loved for days on end, always keeping his beloved close. Yet, something sat heavy in the back of his mind.
He sat in a stuffed chair with eyes locked on the window. His claws shredded through the upholstery as his expression darkened. The door burst open, startling him.
“Blithe!” His younger sister, Amelie, threw herself into his arms with a glistening smile. “You’re ok!” She buried her face in his collarbone.
His parents and in-laws followed, varying degrees of joy and relief etched on their faces.
They surrounded him. His mother, Zymirah, and Glaya, Stephanie’s mother, showered him with kisses. Amelie laughed as she was caught between them. His father, Jaryll, and his in-law, Bertrand, respectfully stood beside and behind them. Each of them wore a subdued smile.
“The fight rages on,” Jaryll remarked.
“Do you think–”
“Ahem.” Stephanie undercut her father’s question. She moved before them all with her hands fisted on her hips. “He needs rest.”
Blithe scoffed. Amelie stood and they gave him room to stand.
“No. I shouldn’t be HERE. The war. They need me.”
Arguments ensued, but Stephanie’s sobs interrupted. “*I* need you. I… can’t see you hurt again. Not–”
Blithe tightly embraced his mate. He sighed frustratedly. “I’ll stay. For you.”
Because I am Here
By Jesse Fisher
Goraidh let his rage out fully, they should not be any other outsiders. How could there be?
Then he looked at Grangal as she seemed pleased like…she planned this. Somehow this destined breeding god had outsmarted him, This bubble headed, ditzy, dumb as a Roc girl had brought in beings similar to her.
The flirting that just happened just confirmed it, she planned for this.
The knives in his robe seemed to call for the injustice this hussy has done to him.
Demon noticed his ‘employers’ and the lack of jeering did lead the wolf to conclude why it was so quiet right now. Looking at the hybrid…hybrid, he would have to discuss if a griffin was a hybrid later, and grinned before jumping again.
Rather than just push off of the combatant’s head the wolf flipped and grabbed the talons. The Wyriffion tried to fight him but had to focus on not falling into the lava below while dealing with the unwanted rider.
This played into the navy wolf’s plan as he moved to make his impromptu stead go for the podium that held the cause for him being there.
A forcefield of some kind shattered as the wyriffion moved to remove the rider on his back. With a swift jump Demon launched his former stead into the ground knocking him out cold.
There before him was his reason for being here, in terms of place in this multiverse and universe respectfully.
Dusting himself off and some dried blood from times he was a bit too slow, he approached them both. A set of griffon guards stationed up there rushed him first but two knockouts it was just two strangers and a player.
“So this is the chicken hearted dick that has been pulling the strings.” Demon spoke his yellow eyes narrowing as he focused on Goraidh. “I can taste the rage in the air, so let it go make me break my word and let the blood rain down like a summer storm.”
With a caw and quick draw of knives Goraidh rushed towards Grangal.
What’re you looking for? (Froggyquest)
By minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
Why am I on this journey? It’s a bit personal, but I guess It couldn’t hurt to tell you.
Well, for starters, you gotta know a little bit about me. I grew up in this little farming village on the coast, Marigold. Ever heard of it?
Marigold’s a great place! Tons of sunshine, No crime, friendly folks… well, mostly friendly. People are people, yknow? Nosy, Blunt, Persistent…
…Kinda mean to folks different than them…
A-Anyway, I was raised there by an older couple. They tried to treat me like a normal kid and get others to do the same, but you can only go so far when your kid’s bright green and sneezes sparks.
I grew up, suppressed my fire powers, and started planning the rest of my life. I never really knew there could be anything different than how I lived. Sure, some people thought I was a monster, and the looks stung, but at least I was alive! What else could I ask for?
Then, this little glowing frog showed up on my doorstep one day. And it just wouldn’t leave me alone. It followed me everywhere! I tried to ignore it, but eventually I just gave up and let the little guy do his thing. He led me in the middle of the night to this one pond far out of town, and…
He showed me an image of my family. My real family. A big bunch of frogs that looked like me. More like me than anyone I’d ever seen. They were all standing there, smiling and laughing and being happy. They all fit in with each other.
All my life I’d seen myself as something weird. Someone different. Alone in the world. Looking down into that pond, seeing a whole crowd of people who looked exactly like me, and seeing them happy…
Longing wouldn’t even begin to describe it.
That’s why I’m looking. I’m here to find the place where I belong. I know it’s out there. I’ve seen it.
There is something better. And I’m going to find it.
“Their Eyes in the Darkness”
By Aaron Fleming
I stood in the Precursor ruins that I’d been searching for the fugitive Alkadin. I couldn’t help but pause at the cyclopean statue, a mostly humanoid figure, vast in size, made of ancient carved black basalt. It stood as it had for many millions of years longer than mankind itself had as a species. I turned my sight away from the unceasing gaze of its single eye.
My environmental suit muffled outside sounds, so I could only hear my breathing and heartbeat. I reached out with my telepathic senses trying to find the hiding fugitive, but the psionic energy residue from the Precursor machines lingered even now and made it difficult to sense his mind amidst the echoes. This was likely Alkadin’s hope in coming here, that he could hide from me amongst the shadows of the past.
I walked beneath a tall archway into another equally vast side chamber. I swept my light across the chamber, only to freeze for a moment when I saw what was left of him. His head was intact which was how I recognized him, but the rest of him looked as if he’d been turned inside out and used to clothe one of the statues. I rushed forward and collected some tissue samples, looking around me into every dark corner. That would be proof enough of his death. I hurried to leave quickly, not wanting to meet whatever Alkadin had.
I left the ruins as quickly as I could, back through the twisting corridors and gargantuan rooms filled with alien statues that gazed at you through the dark. I finally emerged from the ruins into the surrounding barren dusty plains. Out here it seemed as if nothing lived on this world. Barren gray wastes stretched on for miles. It had been scoured of life long ago, probably by whatever killed the Precursors as well. I returned to my starship and left that world behind. I couldn’t shake the feeling though, the eyes in the darkness, and the emptiness of that long dead world.
A broken tool
by Gage Jarman
Mattan relinquished his hut to the healers. He wandered around the small settlement aimlessly. He tried to hide his emotions, act how he always did. Life here was hard. He didn’t want to burden anyone else. The elder’s words played in repeat in his head. “Accept these feelings. They’re a part of you just like any other pain. It takes time to heal, but only if you tend to the wound. Don’t let it fester.” He didn’t have time. Work still needed to be done. Even after generations, the settlement was far from complete.
Mattan stepped into his workshop. He put his head down and tried to focus on his tools in front of him. He started a fire and stoked the smelter. The earthen bricks began to radiate heat. He placed the metal, recently harvested from structures left over from the previous age, in a clay crucible with charcoal, sealed it, and placed it in a smelter. He waited, staring into the orange glow. He pulled out the glowing pottery and let it cool before breaking it open, revealing a puck of solid steel.
Carefully, he began hammering the metal. The metal was more fragile than it looked.
Any strikes too hard and it would shatter.
It needed time for the structure to break down.
It needed warmth to stay workable.
It needed love…
Tears sizzled off the glowing iron. He was losing them, both of them, and he couldn’t do anything. He could fashion hide, forge steel, mend tools, but he couldn’t do anything to fix them. Mattan looked at his calloused hands, and clenched them. They were powerless. His family was dying of sickness, and he could do nothing except abandon them to healers who aren’t even saving them! He wanted to be home…
He placed the puck on the anvil. He looked down at his hammer.
“AHHHHHHHHH!” Mattan roared.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
His chest heaved in heavy breaths. The puck crumbled, scattered in the dirt. Mattan fell to the earth, and wept into his hands.
The Forest Guardian
By Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
It was another cold autumn day and, again, I found myself amongst the gentle oak trees of Ridgeway State Park. The park had many, many branching pathways and it was never a dull time getting lost amongst the maze of red and yellow trees.
Very quickly, I found myself lost and couldn’t be happier. While taking in the scenery, I noticed an old, iron-looking bridge off of the beaten path. The trail to the bridge seemed unused with some brush even growing in it, but the journey wasn’t too difficult. Despite my frequent visits to the park, this bridge remained completely foreign to me. Curious to explore what lay beyond, I trekked forward into the unknown.
The forest felt… more natural here. The trail was much more narrow now, and the oak trees grew wilder as they twisted into the sky. The wind must’ve died down then because all I could hear was the crunching of the brilliant red and yellow leaves that covered the trail. As I traveled further and further into the wild, I found myself admiring the tranquility of the complete absence of humanity.
I stopped for a moment to take in the scene. All around me, the forest spread out, primitive and unkempt. A chilly wind picked up. Staring out, I felt slightly uneasy. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that I…
“You. Don’t. Belong. Here.”
I whipped around to where I heard the whisper behind me, but there was nothing there. I paused, scanning the wilderness. Every gentle movement of a branch caught my eye as a possible figure.
This time, it was much closer. I bolted, not turning back for a second to see who accosted me. Leaves crunched as I made my way through the twisting oaks. Their branches clawed at me as I ran, threatening to end my flight early. Finally, I see the bridge.
Running out of breath, I stopped as I crossed. I turned around preparing for a fight, but instead of an attacker, there was just a vortex of leaves gently returning to the earth.
No no no no no no no.
My captors drag me along labyrinthine metal corridors to a cell and leave me to my thoughts, locked up and alone as the ship accelerates.
I should not be here. I just tried to help her. Why are they enabling his horrible behaviour?
Why? Why why why why why!?
A man in dark glasses and a suit comes to my cell.
“Do you know why you are here?”
“No, unless protecting people from assault is a crime” I say with as much spite as feasibly possible.
“Breaking the arm and attacking a foriegn diplomat. That’s how you start a war.”
“Ah, so you’re too scared of a negative reaction to even try to press them into removing the diplomat for criminal behavior.”
“Yes. Last time a micronation did that their habs were completely obliterated.”
Suddenly, the man received a call.
“What did you do?” They asked incredulously.
“What do you mean?”
“There’s a video of the encounter and the diplomat trying to assault that woman. How did you post it?”
“I didn’t. Someone else must have recorded it”
The man murmurs into their earpiece for a moment. I barely hear an operator respond “We’ll enter the gravity ring in 10 minutes”
The man runs off. Left in my own thoughts again, I zone out.
I hear a clang. After a few minutes, a person I don’t recognize appears.
They open the cell and tell me “Hello, you can call me Firewall”. I prepare to respond, but they cut me off “no need to introduce yourself, freedom fighter”
We go to the bridge, discovering it empty. They think it’s a trap. She has a plan to collapse the gravitational wave packet before we reach the destination.
We gain control of the weapons systems and fire the railguns at the edge of the gravitational wave packet. Soon, we pop out into normal space with a little shudder.
Soon, I’ll be home. Soon, we’ll be out of the spectre of war.
Little Soldier Boy
Those words signaled the first mortar shell, the herald of slaughter. Then came the barrage, blasting us into oblivion. Those left standing ran for cover behind rocks and trenches, hoping for a glimmer of salvation, while I stood there, awestruck from the turmoil. Their shouts and cries, mixed with the gunshots and blasts, create a certain cacophony, a symphony of death and destruction.
“Private! Get down!”
I heard the captain’s call, his stern tone now overcome with fear. I looked at him, his face covered with blood and grime. I tried to run to him, but my legs would not move. My mind screamed of danger, but my body would not respond. The thunderous blasts fell closer and closer, but I stood there, frozen in fear, until finally, one fell close to my feet.
There was a boom, then deafening silence. I opened my eyes to a bright blue sky. The serenity of the moment reminded me of the quiet life I once lived. I remembered my family, my father’s stern but caring voice, my mother’s warm embrace, my sister’s cheerful laugh. All of them seemed so far away, like the white clouds rolling away from my grasp. Tears fell as I realized my fate, that I would never see them again.
How did everything turn out like this? Was this from those sweet words of the glory of battle, of laying your life for the country? Or was this written in the stars, that this boy be taken away to die, lost and forgotten? What am I fighting for? Was my demise in vain?
In my last moments, amidst the madness and fire, I could only smile at the thought of this farce. With a painful chuckle, my final words escape my lips.
“I shouldn’t be here.”
By L. L. Marco
Rue bustled about. There was so much to do and so little time for all the preparations that needed to be made in order for her Goddess to be pleased. Dalores hadn’t told anyone what she’d been doing the last few days… Rue would usually be upset but not today. Not when Dalores had brought her such a wonderful gift.
Tonight Rue would get to see The Enyo again. It had been so long since The Enyo had awoken but Rue had lovingly tended to Her altar while She rested. It was her purpose in life. She served only The Enyo, and tonight she’d greet Her with a beautiful funeral. After all, The Enyo was the vessel in which souls used to pass from this life; having Her guide you to the Beyond was an honor.
The altar was set with glowing petals gathered from the forest. They pulsed with the ancient, forlorn hymn that Rue sang. As she did, others from the clan joined in, until soon the entire village encircled the shrine. Veins of light pulsed through engravings in the stone beneath her feet as she spread a vibrant cloth across a marble casket.
Finally, a large man approached, gingerly holding the body of a small boy in his arms. He knelt down and laid the body across the ornate casket, murmuring a grief-filled apology before he faded back into the crowd. Rue smiled as she placed a crown of woven white flowers in the boy’s hair and carefully adjusted his pajama’s collar. They were laying him to rest; he needed to look his best.
She watched as the boy’s eyes flickered frantically between her and the crowd. A corpse wasn’t meant to move or speak but he could certainly tremble. Rue simply smiled and brought a finger to her lips. Tears slipped down his cheeks as a soft laughter echoed from the pit. Two red eyes appeared at its edge and Rue clasped her hands together, awe-struck to see her Goddess once more.
“Tonight your soul finds rest in the heart of Our Enyo.”
Visantra gazed at the shore as the longship pulled in to the harbor. Dark clouds littered the sky and a veil of white covered the trees. Ice creeped out from the rocky shore, crawling across the open sea to greet any foreign ships that might dare to sail in these waters. Towering above it all was a lone mountain piercing the sky like some giant’s spear. It loomed over the whole landscape casting a shadow that was simultaneously comforting and ominous, though she could not tell why. This place was a far cry from her green home of Vidran.
An icy wind blew through the harbor, chilling the blood in her veins and shaking her from the trance. She looked around at the other slaves taking in the same scene, their faces filled with a bizarre mix of awe and dread at their new home. Visantra was by no means the only elf on the ship but she was certainly the youngest.
“Why would they take a child,” she thought musing over her capture, “and a thief at that.”
Just then she felt a tug on her shackles as she was pulled off the deck, almost as if they could hear her thoughts. The slaves were yanked off the ship and lined up on the docks. Visantra was kept at the furthest end of the dock, away from the rest of the slaves.
Then he approached her. The Vahallarian with eyes as cold and blue as ice, the same one who captured her. He stared into her eyes his gaze chilling her to the bone, or maybe it was just the wind again, Visantra hoped. And then he did something unexpected, he unlocked her shackles. She gazed at him confused, out of all the slaves she was the only one who had her shackles removed. Ice eyes then stood next to her while the slaves were sold. When they were all gone he spoke.
“come,” he said, and began to walk. Visantra couldn’t tell if she was free or if he simply knew she couldn’t escape.
It’s the middle of summer, and it’s too damn hot to be throwing a formal banquet in an outside garden.
Or at least James thinks so.
Still he crosses to the park gate in his dress slacks and his-
-tie’s been used to bind his wrists to the anchor behind him and he’s sinking, sinking down into the cold murk of the lake-
“Relax! It’s a party.” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Just a fancy-ass party for rich people.”
He wants a cigarette, but it’s not worth the fight it’d cause.
The garden’s bigger than he expected. A few dozen guests dressed in suit jackets and summer gowns amble through the rose hedges. If they’re upset he’s here, James doesn’t get close enough to see.
There’s a refreshment table in the gazebo. He’s thankful, if only for something to do with his hands. The punch bowl makes him a furtive offer, but she’d crucify him if he got drunk. He feels eyes-
-somewhere in the silt and Something knows he’s there. Its prevalence strikes him in the chest. His last breath escapes up towards the pinprick light of the moon and he plunges down he’s going to drown he’s going to die-
“The invitation said eleven.”
“Hi to you too, Ma.”
“It’s half past noon, but I guess I should be grateful you’ve shown up at all.”
She catches his arm as he reaches for a scone. Her eyes travel from his rolled sleeves to the painted tentacles twining his forearms, resting where they curl in his palms.
“Could you cover your art?”
“Ma, it’s a hundred degrees. We’ve been over this. They aren’t tattoos. They’re pact shackles.”
“James, is this a sex thing?”
“No, it’s not a sex thing! I almost drowned, remember?!”
It’s like talking to a wall. He needs a drink. The punch bowl-
-is a brackish green grey. Something roils underneath the surface-
“I’m sorry! This was a mistake! I shouldn’t have come!”
If his mom objects, James doesn’t hear it.
But he feels so cold.
“Another Dinner Party”
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
Just another dinner party, Roselyn told herself. Another monthly mansion gathering, with people drinking too much wine and talking about politics.
Then why did she hate every second of it?
She wandered around, listening to the conversations, ignoring any glances her way.
“Ya think the elves are actually investigatin’ it, or just waiting to blame the vampires for suspense?” she heard from the corner of the room.
Roselyn marched towards the two moustached men holding wine glasses. “Vampires are extinct, as you should know. And the bat-folk, which I assume you meant, have no reason to attack innocent people.”
The two men stared at her.
“Lady Roselyn.” She held out her hand and smiled condescendingly. “I believe you know my mother?”
“…Well, Lady Roselyn,” the man on the left swirled his wine, “then I assume she taught you to stay away from dark creatures, then?”
“Yes, but one must have knowledge of all possible foes.”
“Hey,” the other man pointed at her, eyes unfocused, “you go to that weird school, don’t ’cha? Those imps an’ werewolves an’ vampires messin’ with ya head?”
Roselyn forced a smile over her rising anger. “The point of the Academy is so we can become a more inclusive society, so light-side and dark-side species can get along.”
“Well,” the man on the left said, “you need to learn you’re above all those monsters. Once you’re older, I’m sure you’ll—”
“Oh, so am I a child or a Lady?” Roselyn stepped forward.
Roselyn sighed. “Nothing I say would convince you anyway.”
And with her emotions through the roof, Roselyn spun around and left the banquet hall.
She collapsed into the study’s softest chair. “Sam, are you here yet?”
The silhouette in the tall study window opened its glowing yellow eyes and smiled, her bat ears perking up. “You called, princess?”
Roselyn burst out laughing. “You’re not smooth at all.”
“I know.” Sam jumped down and put her hands in her hoodie pockets. “What did they say this time?”
“The usual,” Roselyn recounted the tale, feeling better and better with every word.
May 6, 3048
By Giovanna J. Fuller
The pod took substantial damage on our entry into Planet XI-4637’s atmosphere. The pod is grounded. We still have power, but the generator is busted. Neither one of us has the knowledge or tools to even begin trying to repair it. Once we’re out, we’re out. Due to this unfortunate event, we’ve kept the lights on the lowest setting and have tried to minimize our consumption. This has given us approximately 56 hours before we either have to turn on the distress signal and hope for the best, or we have to abandon the pod.
Dr. Chance is hesitant to activate the distress signal. Dr. Hazro and Mr. Jordan might still be lingering close enough to pick up. Right now they think we’re dead and that’s better than them knowing we’re alive. When we get off this frozen ice cube of a planet, I’ll see the two of them stand trial and execution for this. I’ve heard there’s a special layer of hell reserved for the treacherous.
On a lighter note, Dr. Chance has told me that there are some life forms on this planet. He’s picked up moving heat signatures not too far away. I thought about anything living on this planet. That’s disconcerting. Anything resilient enough to survive this frozen wasteland is sure to want to eat us. That’s more to worry about.
The more I think of it, the thought of dying here seems to take over my mind.
When the ship’s power runs out, that’s it. Dr. Chance and I will be left alone to die of starvation, if the weather doesn’t kill us first.
Mom, if you’re reading this, you were right. Space is no place for an archaeologist. I should leave space to the hard sciences. If I ever return home, I promise I’ll take that position at a university. Maybe give you those grandchildren you say you want. Anything to get me back to Earth.
Signed, perhaps for the last time,
– Dr. Amelia Fawna Quincy-Clark
By Astrid Jones
Darkness. Everywhere was darkness. Sheila was certain her eyes were open. Even the hand she held shakily before her face was swallowed by the absolute blackness around her. She was dimly aware she was lying down. Her hands found crisp sheets tucked around her. A plastic tube draped across one of her arms. The incessant beeping that had filled her ears long before she had tried opening her eyes finally made sense.
She was in a hospital bed. That couldn’t be right. She shouldn’t be in a hospital. Only moments ago, she had been on her way to pick up her brother from the airport. Why wasn’t she in her truck? Why was is so damned dark?
Panic rose in Sheila’s chest. She clenched her fists by her sides, trying to fight it down. The persistent beeping quickened. Perhaps it was night. But there should still be light of some sort. Where were all the blinking lights on the machines? Those should show up in the dark at the very least.
Her brow furrowed in frustration and something tugged against her skin. There was something on her face, something that was covering her eyes. No wonder she couldn’t see anything. She must have covered her head with a blanket. Sheila raised a hand to pull the fabric away, but someone grabbed her wrist.
“Don’t… don’t touch your face.”
Her brother’s voice. But Mell was supposed to be waiting for her at the airport. He wasn’t supposed to be here. She wasn’t even supposed to be here.
Sheila tried to speak, but all that came from her mouth was a rasping croak. Mel sighed shakily and twined their fingers together.
“There was a tree, sis. They were cutting to close to the road and—” A sound came from him Sheila had never heard before. “And there was a fire…”
“Dark,” Sheila managed to whisper.
Mel squeezed her hand. “It’s not good, sis. Doc says it’s probably permanent.” He pressed his forehead against her knuckles. “This is my fault. If you weren’t coming to get me… You shouldn’t be here.”
By Samantha Realynn
I was stupid.
I was so sure of myself, of my talents. There was no possible way it could happen to me. I wouldn’t be a victim the way so many others had been. I wouldn’t be stalked, I would be the hunter.
Gods, I was so stupid.
I felt around the edge of my prison, as I always did now. Nothing changed, the energy still singed my fingertips, though by now I was more than used to the sensation. In a way, it kept me grounded, kept my mind from going numb from captivity. I had already forgotten how long I had been here. Or where I came from. But I still had my name. It hadn’t taken that from me, yet.
I don’t know what I had been thinking. Had I wanted fame? Glory? To come home victorious with the head of that monster on a pike? To free my home from its foul grip? To stop the way it tormented my people? I should never have come. I thought I was so clever. I could get past all the traps, the protections. It wouldn’t get me, wouldn’t keep me as a trophy. That’s what it did to those like me. It wouldn’t let me die, oh no. I couldn’t see the others but I knew there were more. It didn’t want us talking, commiserating. Then we’d start to remember, get stronger. It couldn’t have that.
It didn’t want us dead. It wanted trophies.
I never really saw it, the monster that went around as a man. It liked that air of dread, of unknowing. It was unknowing that made us more afraid than anything. I knew it was there, that it watched us. It liked our despair. I’m ashamed; I begged. I begged it to kill me, to let me out. That I would do anything if I could just see another person, if only for a second. Something, anything. I shouldn’t be here.
Let me out. Let me see someone. Anyone.
I can’t be here. I can’t be like this.
Liam sat, looking out over his property. A light breeze swept through the field of wheat. In the late Summer heat, the shade of the patio provided some respite from the Texas sun. How long had he owned a farm?
A year or so, he figured. Yes, it had to be. He and his-
“Sofie?” he called, looking back to the door of…his?…house. Liam went to stand, but fell face first onto the floor. Where were his legs?
He stood up. There they were. “Hey, Sofie, what’s that dreadful-”
On the floor again. His wife came out to him, but when had they gotten married? The last time he had seen her was…when? She didn’t…or did she? His head throbbed. She knelt down to him, and he thought she was speaking, but he only heard-
Liam opened his eyes. That’s right, he thought, memories rushing back to meet him. The sterile room around him was all too familiar. The machines keeping him alive beeped periodically. He dreamed frequently of Texas now, being bound to this bed, but he knew that his nation was only a distant memory here. Betrayed, broken apart by those who dared call themselves Americans, the fledgling republic had died years ago.
He should have stayed. He should be back in America with Sofie, even if she didn’t love him. He shouldn’t be here, a thousand miles away. But he had found a new purpose, a new nation, here, so far across the ocean from the ruin of his home. Liam had found his nation in the Roman Legion.
Still, his legs taken from under him, the stump resting where an arm should be, his very being kept alive by these machines, he shouldn’t be here.
He should be dead. Even so, he regretted nothing.
“Let me through! Let me through – c’mon – ”
“For the last time, sir, I’m going to ask you to leave.” The guard pressed the curved edge of his blade against Taike’s neck. “I don’t know how you’ve gotten this far into the waste on your own, but we don’t let in just any vagabond. Especially not now.”
Taike twitched, trying to loosen the guard’s grip. “Look. I know it’s been a long time, but I’m supposed to be here, alright? I’m not a ‘vagabond’.”
The guard’s eyes widened. The knife fell to the ground, clattering against the stone. He backed away, dropping into a shallow bow.
“I… didn’t expect that to be so persuasive.” Taike said. “Usually I end up getting taken prisoner or something first…”
“Brother. You’ve finally come home.” A voice drifted from behind him. “It would be a lie to say this isn’t a surprise.”
Taike smiled, and turned to face the newcomer. “Elena! Sorry about this – just had a little misunderstanding with your men here.”
Elena quirked an eyebrow. “… why are you here, Taike? You haven’t ever been – ” she paused. “It’s been five years.”
“Do I need a reason to come see my adorable little sis?” Taike said. “I have to make sure everything’s still in one piece. Who knows what might happen?”
“What might happen…?” Elena chuckled. She crouched down and grabbed the guards knife, flipping it over and handing it back to him. “Captain. Can you find a place for my brother to stay? Surely there’s at least one family willing to share for a night.”
Taike glanced at her oddly. “… somewhere to stay?” He put his hand on her shoulder. “Did something happen to your place?”
“What is it, then?” He grinned. “It’ll be just like old times, for a while! You and me, getting through life one day at a time, huh?”
Elena grimaced. “I… don’t think that’s a good idea. Don’t worry. I’ll try and see you off before you leave.” She stood, brushing off his hand.
“I don’t understand.”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Let me out.
Let me out of here.
I should have known better. When I saw the man with the crooked grin, I should have ran. But I stared. He looked so strange. Ink black claws. One arm was as long as his body, the other didn’t reach his waist. His skin was like a beetle or a fish. I’ll never forget the smell. Sweet and pungent with a hint of rotten egg. I thought it was just his sorry state as he laid among the rain barrels.
How wrong I was.
He asked if he could spend the night at my house because of the downpour. I said yes. By the gods, why did I say yes?
He thanked me. Then he inserted his hand into my mouth. I froze. I should have ran. But I froze. I stood there as the world started to get grayer. Get more distant. Next thing I knew, I was a prisoner in my own mind.
The man with the crooked grin, Malphias he called himself, puppeted my body. He did horrible things. Evil things. So much red. So many screams. Then, the rest came. One by one, they entered my body. Each day they scratched me. Scarred me. Mocked me. Passed me among them like a tobacco pipe.
So here I am; trapped in my own mind as my body does evil deeds. If anyone can hear me, please find an exorcist for me. Please, I beg of you.
For love of the gods, help me! Help me!
Let me out. Please. Let me out.
Let. Me. Out.
Let me out.
Let me out.
Let Me Out.
Let Me OUT.
Let ME OUT.
LET ME OUT.
LET ME OUT!
LET ME OUT!!
LET ME OUT!!!
PLEASE, I BEG OF YOU.
LET ME OUT.
You can’t, can you?
I understand. That’s fine.
But before you go, may I ask you a question?
Can I stay at your house tonight?
The Guardian (Huld County Phenomena)
“C’mon, hurry up, will you?”
“Shut up, I’m trying.” Will wrenched the crowbar into the space between the vault and its door. With all of his might, he leaned back, and the duo heard a loud metal ping in its frame.
Jacob bounced in joy. “Y-you did it. You mad lad, you did it!”
They then heaved the door open, only to see precious stacks of green
and glittering accessories before them. They then scooped the riches into their Jansport backpacks, pride washing over both of their faces.
“Dude, you know how much this is? Enough to pay off our debt, and then some!”
“I know! We’ll be swimming with the babes up in Bjornebye in n-”
A shiver ran up their spines, carried by the sound of rattles from across the basement. Will hushed Jacob, and they froze like animals. The grungy, dust-covered ceiling light in the center of the room created the shadow of a figure. Its complete shape was obscured by a large cloak, resting atop its narrow shoulders. From beneath its knee-high hem poked out sharp fingertips, swaying with its shambling steps. Glittering necklaces and baubles hung around its neck. With each step, skittering centipedes dripped from beneath the cloth and onto the stone floor.
“You shouldn’t be here,” an antiquated voice croaked. “Put those back. Please. I’d hate to get your blood all over my riches.”
Will shuffled back into the basement corner, while Jacob drew his gun. “W-who are you? Don’t make me shoot!” Jacob’s voice wheezed with false bravado, his hands shaking. The thing continued to trudge towards them.
With a pull of the trigger, a bullet whizzed straight through it, only to scatter a cloud of dust and ash from its shape.
“I am the Guardian. No one takes my riches.” With a raise of the head, it unveiled a golden mask, carved in the facsimile of a tortured human. Its abnormally large hand took Jacob by the throat and rose him up to the ceiling. He squirmed and kicked with all of his might.
“WILL! HELP ME! PLEASE GOD, HELP ME!”
The grey clouds coiled overhead, and the cold rains splashed the ground. Kneeling in a field of graves, dark and hollow, the old captain wept alone. None more to solace him, none more to soothe him, for all that once could are gone – Buried beneath the dirt on which he cried.
He alone lived. He alone suffered. If happiness there truly be, why does it not linger with those who most need its touch? Why does it abandon us? If happiness there truly be, then it is a cruel trickster preying upon the broken. For none more than the broken need it, yet none to the broken is sent.
The man unsheathed a knife from his weathered belt. Since happiness would not now him find, then he would to his fallen friends flee. None to stop him, none to caution him, for all that once could are gone. He was alone. He held the knife against his gut, closed his eyes, screamed, and pushed.
Something held him. A warm, but firm hand holding his arm and preventing him from moving the knife. Another hand fell upon his shoulder. Another upon his chest. Another upon his back. They came and embraced him, holding him. Keeping him from falling apart.
He opened his teary eyes and saw light. Blue ethereal light dancing in the rain. And in that light of life, he saw the dead. His fallen friends. His brothers. He saw them holding him together and they smiled.
How could this be? He saw them die. He felt their lifeless corpses limp in his hands. But these specters, they did not waver. His hands shook and he whimpered. Even in death, they were with him.
“My old friend,” the familiar voice gently echoed with the wind, “you are not alone. We are with you. You carry us now. Be strong. You are our brother. We love you. Forever.”
Their warm touch did not let go. They were there to solace him and soothe him. To save him. They were with him. Always.
And they did not let go.
A Wrong Turn
She shuffled up the street, her nose near buried in the pages of the book she carried. “—that his knowledge of the rules of the drama, as displayed in many parts of Don K-Kee-Kai- Don Kick…sotee? Don K-Kwiksotay?” She sighed, shaking her cheeks out as if to realign her mouth like it would help.
“Don Kwizco- Don Kmi- wait, no, where’d the em come from?” she turned a corner. “Don Kwizo- Don Kee-OW!!”
She hopped back a few steps, glaring at the fallen piece of wall that had collided with her toe. She closed her book, picking up a smaller stone and throwing it at the wall.
With a huff, she stepped around it, sticking her tongue out at it before leaving it behind.
Clutching the book to her chest, she marched up the alley, “Stupid rock… jumping out of nowhere like—”
Slowly, she turned to her left, and there it was. A Mongrozzle.
Its milky eyes were trained on her, its teeth bared and yellow foam seeping from its mouth. It took a slow, threatening step forward, the bare muscles twitching and shifting with the motion.
She swallowed. “Uhh… sorry… I-I’ll just…” she breathed, her voice trembling with the rest of her body.
Another Mongrozzle lunged at her from a doorway. She screamed, turned, and took off back towards the main road. She dared not look back. She didn’t need to. Their growls were loud in her ears, pushing her to run faster.
Her wings beat frantically, completely out of sync with each other. But one flap lined up, and her feet lifted, catching her off guard.
She landed again, and kept running. She shut out the growls, shut out the raging beat of their paws. Concentrating on her wings, she tried again to make them flap together. Then she tried again, and again, and again, and…
She watched as the ground grew further and further away. Her chiming laugh echoed through the air, but was cut short as she crash landed on a billboard platform.
“Okay… gonna need some more practice…” she groaned.
The wrong one
By: Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
She and the Professor were visiting the factory’s construction site when she was hit from behind and fell off the guarding rails.
It was a miracle she wasn’t dead, stuck knee-deep between two pipes, being held in place by the steel ropes and chains like a mangled puppet.
She saw a hooded figure looking at her from the ground; they had something long and metallic in their hands.
A loud bang startled her; the figure was jumping from one duct to another. Each jump louder and heavier than the other.
Her heart was racing, she wanted to move away, but her body would not respond.
Soon she saw a pair of legs quickly landing on the duct in front of her. The disjointed pose inside the heavy cape showed how huge they were. The hooded figure was not a man, or at least they weren’t human.
She couldn’t breathe, and if she could stop her heartbeats, she would.
“Was not supposed to be you.” Its voice was thunderous and distorted.
“H-help!” Alexandria tried to shout.
“That old man, he was quicker than I thought.”
They lowered the cape, and they confirmed her thoughts. The creature was a mass of wires and gears. Connected to each other by patches of what used to be skin. One of their eyes was a red light, covered by something bulbous.
“But perhaps you know him, right? You came with him.” They continued, their icy hands touching her skin. “He chose well. You look like a painting.” They grinned. “So you will do my little bird, you will do…” They snatched her by the hips and its metal arms lifted her, snapping the ropes that imprisoned her with ease, as the mechanical man hybrid held her like a rag-doll.
She tried to fight them off, slapping them in the face but the thing let go a laugh, and with one hand choked her until the air left her lungs.
“That Professor and I, we have debts to settle…” They said as she lost strength.
The pain consumed her mind. Soon everything was darkness.
Definitely Not Dranalea-9
“Rydia! Where are we?” Myrgen staggered onto the bridge of the scout ship. The ship’s alarm had woken him up, and he was certain that Rydia had something to do with it.
The bridge was surprisingly empty, and Myrgen saw the ship had landed. He brought the nav computer online, and saw they were in the Unknown Territories.
The bridge door opened, and Rydia stepped in, dressed in a silver bikini that contrasted with her orange skin.
“Whoo! Come on, Myrgen! Time for some fun in the sun!” Rydia announced.
“Where are we?” Myrgen asked.
“Dranalea-9,” Rydia replied. “Now get into a swimsuit and join me! I want some fancy resort drinks.”
Myrgen blinked in disbelief. “Nooo. We’re nowhere near Dranalea-9. We’re not even in the right spiral arm!”
“Nonsense. I plotted the course, and I’m never wrong!” Rydia placed her hands on her hips. “I’m the best stellar navigator in the Nattovian fleet, I’ll have you know.”
Myrgen groaned. Nattovians were notorious for being oblivious.
“Now, get into some swimwear, grab a towel, and hit the beach. Who knows, you might even find someone that will hook up with your pathetic ass.” Rydia grabbed a beach towel from the captain’s chair and slung it over her shoulder.
“Rydia, listen very carefully.” Myrgen spoke slowly, to make sure Rydia understood. “We’re not where you think we are. We’re in the Unknown Territories. This is definitely not Dranalea-9.”
“Pfft!” Rydia scoffed and exited the bridge, Myrgen following her. “The nav-computer must be broken. That’s why it says we’re in the wrong place.”
“Or maybe it’s broken, and sent us to the wrong place,” Myrgen countered. “Or maybe you’re an idiot!”
Rydia rolled her eyes and opened the main hatch. They were instantly met by a giant insectoid. It hissed aggressively at the pair, then lunged forward. Rydia quickly shut the hatch on it.
“See? This wouldn’t happen on Dranalea-9,” Myrgen said.
“You’re right, this needs fixing.” Rydia walked over to the weapons locker, and pulled out a raygun. “Okay bugs, let’s go! I’m not letting you ruin my vacation!”
Heavy rain pelted onto the rugged cliffs overseeing the ocean, which itself was crashing into them down below with foam-tipped waves.
A lone figure sat hunched there, boots dangling dangerously over the edge.
Pale blond hair was matted to his skull, and the beginnings of a shaggy beard hung from his chin.
William’s eyes were red-rimmed and sunken. He was looking out over the churning ocean and sky. Grey to grey from horizon to horizon, a matching image to what he felt tormenting his mind and soul.
He was aware that a tiny spark of magic could relieve him of any discomfort. But he deserved this, the clammy cold and biting wind. Besides, his magic had felt strange recently. Almost painful to use.
Both time and distance separated him now from his dark deed, but not enough.
No matter how much Lady tried, he could not forgive himself, could not forget the annihilating magic.
Lady should have left him in the dust desert.
Should have left him to die like all the others.
His fingers dug into the soaked material of his trousers, tears welling up. It would be so easy. Whilst he could not directly turn his magic against his body, it would take but a thought to turn water to acid or the air into a deadly vacuum.
It would be what he truly deserved…not a new chance in a foreign tropical land. Nearly unbidden, magic curled around his fingers like heat rising off a road.
Suddenly, his vision blurred from an unexpected pain exploding in his chest. William moved, limbs flailing as the pain made his muscles seize up. Wet dirt broke underneath him, and the former Chandryaan felt himself slide, toppling towards the churning waves.
As he fell, William quite suddenly realized he’d rather not die.
Just as he was sure he could feel the icy water, light exploded around him. Like he was looking up at the bright spring sun.
William’s last thought before his consciousness mercifully winked out was that maybe he could find peace again in this foreign land…
Prim and Proper
Percival woke up with a start and then grabbed his head. By the gods he couldn’t remember anything from last night. He simply went to the local tavern with a couple of his mates, at some point he decided to come back, and now he was…
And now he was…
Oh gods, and now he was in his Lady’s chambers!
In her bed!
Wait! Where was his shirt!?
Percival’s internal screaming almost became actual screaming. He looked around in a panic. He was trying to remember everything that happened yesterday but, oh gods, he must have completely blacked out. What did he–
“Oh, you’re awake.” Andromea walked into the room, carrying a tray of tea and small snacks. “How are you feel–”
“I AM SO SORRY!” Percival got out of the bed and bowed until his head touched the floor. “WHAT I HAVE DONE IS UNACCEPTABLE! I DESERVE A PUNISHMENT FOR THE HIGHEST OFFENCES! DEATH IS MORE THAN ACCEPTABLE!”
Percival closed his eyes and honestly expected death. He deserved it. Honestly after doing such a horrible thing. His family was right. He wasn’t capable of being a knight. He should have just stayed on the farm. A place where he couldn’t fuck up–
Percival felt a hand rub the back of his head. Andromea giggled. She patted his head and smiled, as he raised his head. Her crimson eyes twinkled with delight. “I think there’s a bit of a cultural misunderstanding if you saying that I’m the most beautiful woman you have seen is unacceptable.”
“B-But I-I, wait–”
“I’m not going to fault you for going out for one night of drinks after a stressful week.” She said, putting a hand on his cheek.
Percival averted his eyes from her lovely gaze. “It is unbecoming of a knight to be in such a state while in service to someone.”
“Like I said, don’t worry about it. As long as this doesn’t become a habit. Although,” her eyes gleamed with a carnal twinkle, “seeing you shirtless isn’t the worst.”
Percival blushed, feeling self-conscious. “Yes, uh, where is my shirt?”
Learning To Live Again
By Calliope Rannis
Nyssa used to love sitting out at the edge of the coastal cliffs of her home. Looking out over the sea, feeling the breeze on her face, smelling the salt in the air. Now, on the cliffs of a new continent far from home, that pleasure was impossible to recapture. She wouldn’t let herself within 30 feet of the cliff’s edge, too scared of what her thoughts would tempt her to do. Her numbed face could barely sense the breeze. But the air still smelt salty, at least.
“Oi.” A hand touched her shoulder. Nyssa jerked her head to the side, a few sparks spitting from her body in surprise. Beside her was the craggy tavern’s innkeeper, holding a plate in callused hands. “Yer need’ta eat.” She placed the plate beside the gnome, who looked down to see a couple of bread rolls, torn open and lightly buttered.
Nyssa stammered. “I…I can’t really-”
“Yeah yer a cheapskate, I know. But yer haven’t eaten a single thing since’ya got off that ship. Like yer forgot how or summit.”
Had she really? Nyssa hadn’t noticed. The three days since her arrival at Edgewin had blown by like dust in the wind.
“…Anyhow. This is on me.” The innkeeper turned and strode off, shouting “I’ll need the plate back when yer done!” as she left.
Nyssa kept staring at the plate. The food on the ship had been awful, but she had deserved that. But this was…kindness. Something that actually looked enjoyable, given to someone who…shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy it. Not after everything she had done.
But the more she looked at the food, the more her insides gnawed, until eventually she stuffed one into her mouth. The bread was soft, so soft, and the butter was warm and flavoursome. Her numb fingers and skin couldn’t feel the world around them anymore, not really. But her nose and tongue, they still could. There was still a connection to the world and her, an anchor she could cling to.
Maybe, just maybe, she still belonged in this world after all.