Hello, peacekeepers and lurkers.
Serene here, isn’t it? A little place of respite and safety; a place where one can be with their own thoughts. But anything could happen in a place like this. Is it peaceful, or is it… something less so? Something… foreboding? Listen well to the silence, because…
This week’s writing group prompt is:
The World is Quiet 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 prompt seems to hint at more happy, peaceful stories. Places where we can go to relax, to calm ourselves, and to steady our emotions. Our “safe havens”, as one would call it.
This brings to mind images of calm; a sunny, serene afternoon in a lonely park, or a single little boat, drifting this way and that on a gentle, rolling river. These quiet places could be just the calm you feel with a person you love, simply spending time together, sharing the warm silence between you. It can be that the quiet is a solemn, soft and heavy kind of silence.
But, knowing the talented writers here, this can also be twisted into something much less wholesome. Sometimes, the quiet can feel wrong, out of place. It’s too quiet, or it lasts too long. Maybe the quiet here isn’t peace, but more of a warning. Or perhaps the world is quiet because it has to be, lest the creatures of the deep be stirred from their slumber. Maybe the world is quiet simply because nothing is left to fill it with noise.
Whatever this quiet is, it’s like nothing we’ve felt before. Whether a new warmth or a creeping cold, the stillness of the world is a feeling that seeps into your very mind and soul.
One thing’s for sure… this silence is going to be deafening.
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!
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“Wander and the Quiet Night”
The winter wind was only a whisper that night.
Wander’s feet barely broke the surface of the endless white as he ran aimlessly through the field. There wasn’t a specific destination in mind, though the goal of finding somewhere to lay his head before dawn steered him. His destinations were ever changing, but for now it was the treeline across the field. The moon, high in the night, illuminated the tree silhouettes and made them clear to his eyes. Leaping over a small divet in the ground, the wanderer continued unyielded.
In the moment of his movement, Wander could hear only the chilly breeze whispering sweet nothings in his ears and his own breath, quick and deep as he ran. His heart pounded like a drum. Closing his eyes briefly, it reminded him of the many towns and their festivals he had come across in his lifetime. The sound of humans cheering, their boisterous music; it was a sweet contrast to the silent winter night. Wander opened his eyes.
Stamping his heel into the ground, the wanderer stopped himself and spun around once he reached his goal. The sound of his panting breath dissipated. Now that he could no longer hear himself, he realized just how quiet it truly was. Whatever sound was made was only from him, but yet…he couldn’t find it in himself to disrupt the beautiful night. ‘I should be grateful, the weather is fair,’ He thought to himself.
The cracking of the oak’s bark seemed to echo loudly as he lifted himself upward. This tree must have gotten struck by lightning at some point, as the hollow in its middle was large enough for him to fit in, horns and all. Curling up within it, Wander looked back out to the field he had just ran through. It was how it had been, as if he had never been there.
Would he be ungrateful to ask for even the wind to pick up a bit?
Wander sighed and closed his eyes. On silent nights like these, he couldn’t help but want something more.
Curiosity Killed The Cat
By TheWanderingMind (aka Cansas)
Mamma always said, “Never pass the fog that protects our mountaintop. Evil things dwell in Outerland.”
I was a good lad and always listened to my mother…except when I didn’t.
I stumbled blindly through the fog, my soul burning with curiosity. I would have fallen off the mountain, if a tree growing from the mountainside hadn’t caught me.
Trillions of Firestars exploded in the sky around me. I climbed to my feet, paying no attention to the wobbling tree. The gentle flames of the Firestars kissed my face as they danced joyfully in the light of the two moons. I thought I could fly standing on that tree, wind blowing beneath my outstretched arms.
Unfortunately, one does not suddenly sprout wings because they think themselves capable of flight, and my body soon met the ground with an unpleasant thud.
The sound of beating wings broke the ethereal silence and I opened my eyes. Strange mushrooms glowed pink and blue in the soft grass around me. A purple butterfly fluttered into view. Without knowing why or wondering, where I was, I got up and followed it.
The butterfly lead me to a crystal pool with large lotus flowers and a trickling waterfall that had no beginning. A figure lay beside the pool and the butterfly landed softly by its head. I moved forward then froze when I recognized my own lifeless face.
“Strange isn’t it?” came a smooth voice, “seeing your body through the eyes of your soul?”
I jumped back. The butterfly was gone. In its place was a woman in a flowing white dress and lilacs in her golden brown hair.
She walked towards me, her bare feet barley touching the grass.
“You need not be afraid, child. My name is Omissa.”
My young eyes met her ancient gaze as she knelt in front of me.
I glanced over at my body, “Are you an angel?”
Omissa smiled. “Not exactly.”
She held out her hand. “Are you ready to see what lays beyond the mortal world?”
With wide eyes and dreams of adventure, I took her hand.
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
All I can hear is my own breath. It’s shallow and soft, but it sounds heavy and labored to me. My heartbeat pounds in my ears. I guess that’s two things I can hear. They’re deafening to me now.
I want to scream just to know I can, but something deep inside tells me I shouldn’t and grips at my vocal cords.
These decrepit halls of rust and steam should be louder. There should be hissing and rattling of pipes, drops of leaking water, and echoing of things falling apart. But all I can hear is myself. How did I get here again?
The sound of my own footsteps give me away. With every sound I make, I feel something looming nearby, coming just a little closer. I check behind me—nothing—and then soften and slow my careful footsteps.
The moist scent of stale rust catches in my throat. I want to gag, to choke and cough, but I stifle the impulse with a hand over my mouth. I can feel every crinkle of the folds of my clothes as I move.
I slowly peek around every corner and every doorway not closed or blocked off. I check behind me again and again and again and again. The halls are empty. Which way was I going?
The quieter it becomes, the quieter I try to stay.
My breath feels heavy, my pulse feels louder than my footsteps. Are they echoing in the hall?
A breath, warm and wet, clings to the back of my neck.
Peace with You
by DukkiFluff (I give this spot to Handsome Johanson)
Nathan peeked his bedroom door open, careful not to let it open far enough to squeak. The pitch black hallway gaped at him, the house completely silent. A small grin pulled at his lips as he closed the door again.
He pulled on his favorite black sweater and a pair of nearly worn-out sneakers. He then opened the window and crept out, climbing down the trellis to the grass below. He checked to make sure his parents hadn’t heard him, then jogged out the back gate.
It only took ten minutes to reach the cliff overlooking the lake. Someone else was already there.
“Sorry I’m late, Draven. Dad went to bed late.” He chuckled, walking over and sitting beside the silhouette.
Draven smiled at him, “It’s alright, Nathan. I figured as much.” He shifted closer, resting his head on Nathan’s shoulder. Nathan smiled warmly, weaving their fingers together.
He glanced at Draven, noting the different shampoo scent in his hair. “You got a hair cut.”
Draven laughed. “Nothing escapes your notice. Yeah, mom said it was getting too long. So we cut off a whopping three inches.” He rolled his eyes, looking up at Nathan. “You’re lucky your parents aren’t so picky.”
Nathan half shrugged. “I suppose. They do get on me about the rips in my clothes, though.”
They stared into each other’s eyes, just smiling.
“I missed you.” Nathan whispered.
Draven’s smile grew. “I missed you too.” He leaned up, planting a gentle kiss on Nathan’s lips.
Draven pulled back, sitting up and running his thumb over Nathan’s lower lip, frowning at the cut. “Did you get in another fight?”
Nathan grinned, shrugging. “Maybe. Trust me, he looks worse than I do.”
Draven shook his head, sighing. “Does it still hurt?”
“Here, let me kiss it better.” Draven kissed him again, this time lasting an eternal moment.
Nathan returned the kiss, feeling the rest of the world melt away like it always did with Draven.
They broke only to breathe, Draven smiling. “Now stop picking fights.”
Nathan smirked. “No promises.”
Finally some peace[Genre break side story]
Masumi Kido pokes his head out the door.
It’s a nice day out. He goes to school and plays with concepts as the teachers teach. He used to spend time in the library, however, now he heads directly toward the drama club. He’s going to see what crazy shenanigans they got themselves into this time.
Then a well dressed dude appears in the middle of the hallway, seeming to come from nowhere.
He says 3 words. “GENRE BREAK! HAREM!”
That can’t be good, a genre swap into a bad genre is not great. Then, Ayase comes out of the drama club and strides toward him aggressively. She tries to glomp Masumi. He manages to dodge, and he starts to run. This is really not good. He’s probably the target.
She says “Come back! You look great today!” in a sultry voice.
He responds simply “that’s not how you get my interest, and I know what’s going on” and runs faster.
Some students literally chase after him as he tries to get out of this mess. Maybe he would be interested if they would actually talk to him and prove themselves a good thinker.
Masumi has one thought: fuck this. He is not in the mood for this bullshit today.
He barely manages to escape the school. There are too many people here. All so dull. Why couldn’t any of them have even a shred of thought put into their actions? He understands, at some level, that they are being manipulated by the universe itself. But still, he expects them to not lose all thought.
He pulls out his phone, looking for a closed building to escape too. He finds one, students still following him.
An office. Perfect. He breaks in and enters, making a bee-line for the elevator. He hopes that his understanding that consequences in a Genre Break don’t affect reality is correct. Otherwise he’s screwed.
He goes to the roof. An ethereal wall appears around him, blocking all sound. Finally, some quiet. Finally, Masumi can have some peace. Everything should return to normal in a few minutes.
By minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
The girl stands in the center of the village. Her lightless eyes survey the scene. It’s twilight. The sky is clear. All is silent.
Until, it isn’t.
A Manticore bursts into the town, lighting the town ablaze. Blurry shadows run from their houses, fearing for their lives. They stare at the creature, opening their mouths to scream and gawk. They pray for a hero.
The girl goes unseen. She doesn’t try to talk to them. She knows they can’t hear her.
None of them can. She’d tried.
She comes to the center of town, where the beast has met resistance. 2 brave souls. Orange and Yellow. They fight the beast with all they can muster, but she knows it won’t be enough. She looks at the heroes, and her thoughts turn caustic.
Why did you do this?
You knew this could happen.
But the heroes are gone. The monster flees from the town, and the group runs after it. She trails along behind them, looking at the scenery they miss.
She comes to the clearing. The battle goes on. Swords swing and spells fly. She remembers every bolt, every cry, every swing. She wanders through the battle, her steps practiced yet thoughtless.
She’s on the edge of the clearing.
The moment arrives.
The beast lets out a desperate roar. It swings its tail in a wide arc. Orange dives out of the way, firing off the final shots that fell the beast. But Yellow trips over his feet. It slams into his back, sending him flying towards the cliff’s edge. His iron-soled boots dig into the ground, leaving ditches in their wake. He finds himself right at the edge…
But those boots are heavy
And the ground is unstable.
And She’s too far away
She’s scrambling to her feet
She’s reaching out her hand.
But he falls.
She watches her past self weep with long-dry eyes. She turns to the cliff.
She walks off.
Onto the memory’s edge. An invisible boundary between her and death below.
Let me join him.
Let me go.
The City That Sleeps
There are 3,493 intelligent, emotional creatures left alive in the city.
They can feel them, even as they trail at the Knight’s heels.
The Knight is a vision out of an Arthurian fairytale, clad in golden plate and silver chain, a full head taller than any human she passes. Hush tries to buoy themselves on the bubble of her hope, tries to step into the head space of someone confident and kind.
They knock on the door to her mind as politely as they can.
Hush pushes the feeling outward. The whirring drone of agitated bees.
“Crowds make you nervous. I’m sorry. Try to hang in there, okay?”
Hush bobs their head. They tuck the sweet warmth of her compassion where their heart would be and follow.
The sun still hasn’t risen but it isn’t dark. Stars glitter above, ignoring the downtown lights. The moon shines with a renewed brilliance. People amass in the street.
The sharp sting of anxiety, frozen over the icy depths of panic.
The Knight is closer and Hush can see it now through the people. The street continues on ahead of them. And then it stops. As if someone took a bread knife and cut a perfect slice of the earth, only to leave it drifting in space.
No one is talking.
But Hush hears them.
This isn’t real. What is this? How do we get out? She’s so tall. Is she even human? What is that following her? It hasn’t got a face What is thiswhyscaredangrygriefwhyisthishappeningwhy-
“Hush! Hush, focus on me!”
Soft sunshine and warm pastel colors.
Plush grass, dotted with pretty purple wild flowers, swaying in the breeze.
“There you are.”
The Knight is kneeling, looking at them, eyebrows pinched above her smile.
Hush doesn’t remember laying down.
“Do you need to go some place quieter?”
Hush bobs their head. The Knight scoops them up, holds them close against her breast plate.
There are 3,493 intelligent, emotional creatures left alive in the city.
3,494, if Hush counts themselves.
Peace in an Urban Canyon (Corespace Universe)
By Calliope Rannis
The Megacity encompassing the Core World of Vang was hardly a place that could be considered ‘quiet’. Vehicles regularly streaked through the sky and the great gaps between building complexes. Technology nowadays was quieter and cleaner, but the constant presence all over the place still accumulated into a persistent humming and hissing background of noise.
But Larsi had managed to find a quiet place, deep within the Abyssal Layer of the City. It was a barely-used black metal bridge, down further than most air vehicles go, where the air between the great structures is funneled into a consistent stream. That small quirk of the planet’s ventilation forever bathed the bridge in the mournful noise of passing wind, muffling out all other sounds of tech and distant speech. For Larsi, that was good enough.
“I SEE WHY YOU LIKE THIS PLACE SO MUCH.” Cabby’s voice steamrolled right through their thoughts.
Larsi turned to face the saledrone body of their new companion, who was swaying a little in the wind. “I really, really need to get you a new voice encoder.”
“LIKE I SAID BEFORE, THAT UPGRADE WOULD BE A GREAT IMPROVEMENT TO BOTH OF OUR LIVES.” He replied, a rare occasion of the saledrone’s default advertising voice actually fitting the intent of Cabby’s sentence.
“Way more expensive than paint though.” Larsi said, peering again at the blue and yellow pattern they had painted on the drone’s body at his own request.
The robot did a little twirl. “AND YOU DID A GREAT JOB WITH THAT! I ALREADY FEEL MUCH BETTER ABOUT MYSELF.” His main camera turned back to his human friend’s pale face. “BUT I THINK YOU WOULD AGREE THAT ADDING SOME OF THAT LOVELY INDIVIDUALITY POTENTIAL TO MY SPEECH WOULD HAVE MANY BENEFITS. BECAUSE IT SEEMS THAT I’M A BIT OF A “MOMENT RUINER” RIGHT NOW.”
Larsi flushed a little. “Oh, no Cabby! It’s okay, really, you can’t help that after all…” They lightly touched a hand to his metal side. “I WILL get you a new voice as soon as I can.”
“Then, we can enjoy this quiet together.”
The rough sand-like dust crunched under my fingers as I pulled myself from hand-hold to hand-hold, slowly scaling the side of the canyon.
I felt my fingers grow stiffer with cold and permitted a sliver of red energy to slip through, warming them back up.
Finally I reached the rim, pulling myself up and around to sit on the edge. With a deep exhale, leaning back to rest on my hands, I looked up.
The star-filled sky spread overhead, from horizon to horizon, broken only by the dark slivers of buttes reaching up like spindly fingers.
And there, just peeking over the horizon, was the Shadow, blotting out an entire stretch of sky, as an early herald of winter. For now the cold felt refreshing.
But the cool air wasn’t even the best thing here. Being away from the main passages and stairways, away from the bustling cities and especially the palace…
The quiet felt divine. A soft whisper of wind, the faint noise of trickling dust. It was like balm to my soul.
I scooted a bit further from the edge, before folding my hands behind my head to lie down on the still slightly warm rock. If it weren’t for the real possibility of my father losing it if I wasn’t back in my room at dawn, a nap would have been really tempting.
I wasn’t sure how long this moment of relaxation lasted, but it was rudely interrupted by a sharp cracking noise followed by repeated echoing bangs.
I jerked up and saw a dark figure on the other side. It had knelt down, and one arm was reaching down, growing longer before my eyes as if looking for a hand-hold.
My arm shot up, and a faintly glowing sphere of energy crossed the distance in a heartbeat to slam into the raised head of the figure.
It was flung back, coming to a rest on its back.
Bereft of my relaxation, I got up with a sigh to collect the intruding shapeshifter. Father would have to deal with this problem.
Lilith sat staring out over the sea at the sunset. The warm amber glow seemed so comforting. Yet despite its warmth she still felt cold, a chill emanating from her very core and infectiously spreading throughout her whole body. She hugged her legs tight against her chest, curling up against the log for any semblance of warmth. Closing her eyes she began to listen to her surroundings. Aside from the wind rustling the trees and the crashing of the waves it was quiet. The whole setting seemed so serene. So then why was she so cold and why was she crying? Lifting her head from her knees she stared at the sun again, it’s warm glow reminding her once again of the fire at the farmhouse.
“Father,” she choked up, tears still rolling down her cheeks. “Why, why do they always hate me? I just wanted them to be happy. Why is it every time I find a family it ends with a fire or a rope and a tree?”
“Hush my child,” a booming serpentine voice hissed in her head. “I am here. They do not understand you, and as such fear what you are capable of.”
“But why don’t they understand?!” Lilith asked, the words practically suffocating her “I just wanted to help, to see them happy! They’re always so kind to me at first and treat me like their own daughter, so I just want to repay that kindness.”
She started coughing, forcing her to pause and recover her breath. Still sniffling she wiped away some of the tears and continued. “I’m tired of always being alone. I want to be a part of a family for once.”
“Child,” the voice whispered soothingly. “You have me. As well as your many friends you have made.”
Lilith turned to look at the corpse of the farmer’s little girl, her most recent friend. She turned her decaying head towards Lilith and just stared with the same Violet eyes as her.
“Father,” Lilith sniffled. “Please don’t leave me too.”
“Of course not child”
Despite these words she still felt alone.
Quiet in a Room
By Jesse Fisher Edits by Des Ottsel and Drake Ragon
Grangal laid in a bed that was not hers a day ago. The room around her was that of the default form of the bar that started this whole journey, the wood growing lighter as it goes up to the ceiling. The rectangle room had two doors, one that lead to the main bar and the other to a bathroom. She recalled all this from the night she had with the being next to her.
A wolf of the darkest navy laid next to her. They both looked up to the near silent room. The wolf’s once-bladed hand had returned to its normal fluffy mitts and laid under her talons, and the only thing between them was the blanket laid over them.
“You know, you could have just stayed.” He spoke breaking the sound of their mutual breathing. “I’m sure there were still beings that would have followed ya without the whole ‘becoming the father of gods’ thing.”
“That may be but I did not feel right after I had to explain the whole mess to the mass of followers.” Grangal replied as she snuggled up to the wolf, who did not fight it. “Besides I was planning to hide out here if things went south.”
“So I was an improvisation in that plan?”
“Don’t blame me, your singing, it was like the rest of the bar faded til it was just you and me,” she said. Her beak rubbed against his coarse fur as she spoke.
“You know, for a being hundreds–if not thousands–of years old you kinda act like a young girl finding her first love.” The wolf commented as he patted Grangal’s fluffy head.
“Some gods are fully grown from birth, others never grow up so I’m just out of my teenage years.” She began to play with the wolf’s chest fur.
“So, from goddess to waitress. How does that feel?”
“If I get to see you every day until the end of everything, then building a life here might not be terrible,” she smirked.
“I had a feeling.” The wolf replied, resting his head on her’s.
A Moment of Tranquility
A white, glowing portal opened up in mid-air and four people stepped out. As soon as they were through, one of the four, a girl with severe-looking glasses, adjusted some instruments on a device, causing the portal to close. She examined various sensors on the device.
“Well, Myoni was here,” she announced. “I may need to calibrate the Super String detector to follow him to his next location. In the meantime, maybe you three can do some reconnaissance.”
“It feels different here, Akemi,” Ayase said to the first girl, looking distinctly uneasy.
“Of course it does. We’ve had to depart our multiverse this time,” Akemi explained. “The physical laws of this universe are unlikely to be the same.” She rolled her eyes. “Why am I even bothering? Like you’ll even understand.”
“Excuse me!” Ayase protested. “I had to explain realms to you, and how they didn’t fit your previous dimensional model.”
Nabiki wandered away from the two bickering girls. It did feel different to her. Far more peaceful.
“Looks like we’re not in Kansas anymore, Nabiki,” Goro said, the only boy of the group.
“Goro? Would you please not reference Western forms of media?” Nabiki softly asked. “You know that I find it distracting.”
Goro looked at Nabiki with equal parts horror and dismay. “What did you say?”
Nabiki turned to face Goro. “Yes, it was very clever, but I would really appreciate it if you refrained from making any more western references. Please?”
Goro slowly backed away from Nabiki. “What happened? Usually you yell at us for doing that. And sometimes, you throw things or chase me and try to hit me when I do that.”
Nabiki paused. Goro was right. For some reason, she didn’t feel the presence of rage that she had back home. She had been so quick to anger since her mother’s death. But here…the loss of her mother still hurt, but the anger she had come to associate with that loss had dissipated.
“Nabiki? What’s wrong?” Goro asked.
Nabiki smiled. “Nothing. For the first time in a while, I feel okay.”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
The young oni sat beneath the tree, cradling a torn, tear-soaked piece of cloth in his hands. He was far enough away now. He swallowed the lump in his throat and unfurled the cloth. Three broken horns. The oni set it on the ground, took out his bento box, and opened it. Three falling-apart onigiri.
He sighed as he took out the first one and shoved it into his mouth. The rice and fish tasted fine, but the grains got all over his hand. The oni grumbled as he took the second onigiri and ate it. This one was messier, grains and fish getting all over his robes. He put the bento down and rushed to the riverside. Quickly the oni washed his face and hands, avoiding looking at the reflective surface.
Walking back, he closed his bento box, got out a scroll, a brush, and some ink, and wrote:
“On the calmest day…”
The oni paused. It didn’t feel like a calm day, but he had to write what he saw, not what he felt. A slight breeze picked up, carrying a few pinkish-orange flowers over his head. Some of them flew off while a few landed in the river. He didn’t understand why, but the oni felt his heart drop. He took his brush and wrote on a new line:
“Flowers float on the river…”
The oni looked back down at the three horns. His horns. How could he face his family after this? Maybe some old hag could put them back on. The oni growled in frustration. He didn’t have a single coin, and even if he did, he would probably be cursed anyway. A cloud passed over the oni and the river, reflecting in the relatively still river. The flowers followed the lazy current, and tears of joy came to the oni’s eyes. He took up his brush to write the last line:
“And find flight again.”
The oni wiped his eyes as he took his broken horns and threw them into the river. He smiled. He was his own Yokai.
One Last Chat With Mother
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
A frog crawls out of a basket and onto the table. He’s wearing a black tophat. Nearby, Professor Philips, the youngest research associate at MIT, is fiddling with a device.
A robotic voice speaks from the tophat. “What are you working on, boss?”
“Oh. Hey, Thelonius.” Philips responds. “I’m just putting the final touches on tonight’s experiment.”
“What’s it do?”
“It’s meant to provide a platform for the dead to communicate with the living.” Phillips answers, concentrating on his work.
“How is that even possible?” Thelonius asks coldly.
“It uses the same technology that allows you to speak through the tophat I made for you, just more sensitive and tuned for the dead,” he responds as he puts the final touches on the device.
“Well… ok, but who are you going to try and contact?” Thelonius eyes the contraption with suspicion.
“My mother.” Philips sets down his tools and sighs. “She died when I was young. We were very close. In fact, she’s the whole reason I became a scientist in the first place.”
Philips eyes the machine. “This will be an opportunity to ask all the questions I’ve always wanted to… and to finally say goodbye.”
Philips puts Thelonius in his basket and tucks it under his arm. “Alright. We need to head to the lab. It’s time to start.”
They arrive and Philips sets up the mechanism in the anechoic chamber, a room designed to eliminate background noise.”
Together, they head to the observation room. Philips walks up to the microphone and speaks into it.
“M-mother? If you can hear me, please try to communicate using this device to talk to us.”
The speakers hooked up to the testing room are quiet.
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
“Mom. It’s me, Jacob. Please don’t be shy.”
“I’ve had some questions for you.”
“So much has changed.”
“I-I miss you.”
Soon, the reservation for the room will run out.
Thelonius hops out of his basket.
“She’s not going to respond is she?” he asks.
“No. She’s not.” Philips replies as a single tear drips down his face.
A Quiet Good-bye
by Astrid Jones
I rolled my shoulders under the backpack’s straps. It had been a long time since I had gone for a multi-mile hike while carrying this much weight. Just because I was strong didn’t mean the camping gear wouldn’t wear me out eventually. Only another mile or so, and I would be at my destination. I quickened my pace.
There were other places I could have gone, places where I could have driven a car right to the lake shore. But he had liked this place the most. It was still wild here. It was quiet in a way only nature could be. He hadn’t known such a place could exist until we had showed him.
I opened the door of the off-grid cabin and set my gear on the table. The scents of memories lingered here. I stood for a moment, trying to reign in my emotions before I opened the backpack and drew out a small box of birch. My hands shook as I set it on the table. It would stay there till the evening when the others would arrive.
The waves rolling over the rocky shore called me back outside. He had loved to sit and watch them, especially when a storm was forming. The lake would roar and he would tell me he had never seen the world so quiet. Today, the waves were gentle, whispering comfort as if the ever fickle Gichigami knew why I was here. I took off my shoes and socks and stood on the slick rocks as the freezing water caressed my feet.
My heart ached and my throat longed to howl my sorrow to the sky. But I would not disturb the silence here. Not yet. This place was his bastion of peace. When the others arrived, we would sing our grief together. Even then, the world would still be quiet here.
Quiet At Last
by Lunabear (I give my spot to WolfsbaneX)
The phone blares out a rock song. Swimming through a bleary-eyed sleep, my fingers fumble to stop it.
Ugh. 6:00 am.
Yawn. Wake up the boy-Aaron. Get dressed or make breakfast first? Yes.
Stumble through the early morning. Clothes. Shoes. Backpacks. Wallet. Keys. Charger.
Cook breakfast while packing lunches.
A bit faster than I want, but making good time.
Help the boy get dressed. He fusses and struggles through the shirt and shoes. He complains he’s too cold to move.
Turning on the heat!
He’s all dressed, now! But… what’s that smell??
Breakfast? BURNING?! SHIT!
Somehow salvage breakfast while 543,983 other thoughts bulldoze through my head.
What’s the time?
6:52?! WHERE DID THE TIME GO?!
Overcooked eggs and toast. Wolf it down.
“I don’t want to eat it! It’s gross!” He crosses his arms over his chest and scrunches up his face.
Pop tarts and juice, then!
A horn honks outside. Nowhere near ready to leave!
Hurrying through the brushing of teeth.
Checking backpacks and lunches. Masks tucked away.
Fighting the child’s hair. Rushing the crying child out of the house. Door’s locked.
Get into the car.
Rush back inside to retrieve the phone! Turn the lights off and relock the door.
Back into the car.
A headache from too little sleep sprouts, and the loud rap music isn’t improving it.
Finally at the school. He leaves without a kiss or an ‘I love you.’
Sad Mama noises.
At my sister’s house, now. Thank my niece for the ride as we head in. It’s a day that my sister’s home.
A shrill laughter. Her usual morning phone calls. Much chaos as she searches for her things and heads out.
No time to relax as my two great nieces burst through the front door. Wake the other niece.
Homeschooling finished for the day!
Retrieve the boy.
Home at last!
Homework then clean up.
Supper, bath, storytime.
More clean up.
Quietness at last.
Stop the World
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
“So, you said you were a musician?” Michael asked. He kept his hands deep in his hoodie pockets as they walked through the crowded park.
“Yeah!” Colton’s face lit up. “I arrange my own pieces, play all the parts myself, and edit it together. I’m not a big name yet, but maybe one day.”
“T—tell me more about that.” Michael tried to keep his voice level. Colton kept talking, gesturing wildly with his hands. Michael could tell he really enjoyed his work.
He tried to focus on what Colton was saying. Tried to block out the distractions, the noise, the people, the headache—
Michael felt his breathing quicken as his eyes started losing focus. Dang it. Not now, not in public, not with all this noise, not when Colton was here, not when Colton had been so nice, so understanding—
“And then I—Michael?” Colton stopped. “You don’t look so good.”
“What? Oh, sorry…” Michael murmured. His shoulders were level with his ears. “C—er, continue.”
Colton gently grabbed Michael’s arm and pulled them to a nearby bench. “Michael, I know a panic attack when I see one. What can I do to help?”
Michael’s eyes widened. “Oh, uh, well, er, uh—”
They were interrupted by a child wailing while its parents ran to take care of it. Michael’s flinch caused Colton to immediately wrap an arm around Michael and pull him into a comforting hug.
“It’s okay,” Colton whispered. “Breathe. I gotcha.”
Michael forced himself to breathe. Used the ticking of Colton’s watch next to his ear to focus.
The world quieted down. Michael felt his shoulders drop.
“Feeling better now?” Colton asked softly.
“Yeah,” Michael stood up. “Uh, thank you. It means a lot.”
“No problem!” Colton let his arm fall away from Michael’s shoulder and jumped up from the bench. “I’ve had a lot of practice. Now, you mentioned you did work on the side?”
“Oh, uh, logo and website design,” Michael started walking forward. “It’s not really that interesting…”
“I’m here to listen,” Colton smiled warmly.
Michael smiled back. “Thanks.”
“Never an issue.”
A Promise to Keep
“Together, we can change the world!” Erina exclaims, waving a patchwork doll.
“But… I’m a noble of the land!” Zeke weakly replies, holding a tiny figure of a man.
“Then I shall give you this sword of power!” Erina says in her adorable “gruff” voice, holding a stuffed bunny to her face. She then hands Zeke a dried stick she found outside.
They play for a while until a feminine voice calls out, “Erina! Time for your bath!”
“Awww… But I want to play with Uncle Zeke some more!”
Belle steps into the living room, where she finds Erina and Zeke sitting around. “Then you leave me no choice… but to take you away!” Belle chuckles as she playfully grabs Erina.
Erina laughs, her rosy cheeks glowing with glee.
Knock knock knock
The joy dies down as Belle goes to answer the door. It swings open to reveal a man and a young woman.
“Sam!” Erina excitedly shouts as she rushes up to the girl.
Sam catches her in a loving squeeze. Belle’s attention, however, is fixated on the man.
“What is it?” Belle glares at him, her smile now replaced by a scowl. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
He clears his throat. “Commander, we’ve received reports of a possible target,” he says, “the Caruso is to deliver a shipment in a few days, and our scouts report a trivial security detail.”
“The Caruso?” Belle’s stern look turns into surprise. “One of the largest spice freighters around, unguarded?”
“It’s a trap.” Zeke declares, now standing at attention.
“Possibly,” the visitor answers, “but think of the spoils! Spice or weapons, we can sell them and feed the village for a year!”
Belle ponders for a second. She sighs, then faces the man again. “Let’s go.”
She then turns to the young woman. “Samantha, watch over Erina for me.”
“You’re leaving again, Auntie Belle?” Erina asks, her once-cheerful tone now solemn. “Will you… When will you come back?”
Belle kneels to her. “I won’t take long, Erina.”
“Promise.” Belle smiles, giving her one last embrace before heading out with Zeke.
One Day of Silence
So, somehow, and I don’t know how, the city just lost all its sounds.
I know, I thought I was crazy when I woke up and realized I had slept in two hours past my alarm. The weirdest part was that I have it both on ringtone and vibrate.
But, I could not hear either.
I thought maybe I had set them to silent by accident, but I tested it over and over. I could feel my phone vibrating in my hand, but I couldn’t hear it ringing. I couldn’t hear it vibrating either.
Maybe I’m having trouble hearing, I thought, and I tried playing music from my phone. I couldn’t hear it. I set my volume to the highest setting. Still couldn’t hear it. I held the speaker to my goddamn ear.
I couldn’t hear a thing.
God, I’m devastated. I know now that it’s another Emergent Anomaly, they made a text announcement and another announcement on the news, but can you imagine just hearing nothing but your own thoughts? I can’t hear the things I love so much. I tried to call my dad, I literally could not hear his voice. I can’t hear my dog barking at me. I can’t hear my cat’s purrs and meows. I can’t even hear my own music.
Sure, the traffic no longer sounds like it’s right outside my window even though I’m several stories off the ground. I can’t hear planes flying overhead, or crows cawing hoarsely, or more aggressive dogs barking like they’re gonna bite whatever they’re barking at. But not being able to hear your own voice when you speak. That—Is this what deaf people have to deal with? I…
God, I know it’ll only last the day. But I’m already so tired of hearing my own thoughts. I want my cat’s meows back, I want my dog’s cute little whimpers back, I want my dad’s voice back. I want my music back.
The breath of the earth
by Gage Jarman
The darkness was creeping in, slithering its tendrils into the young warrior. Here beneath the whirlpool, she felt the smooth wood of the axe in her lap. The warm humidity of the spring embraced her. The drone of the rushing water began to fade away. Bronach felt herself slipping. She was losing control. She wanted to lose control. But, she didn’t. She succumbed to this warmth. She breathed in. She breathed out. The earth around her melted into ambiguity. The walls of the cavern disappeared. She was lost in this place of darkness, of unknown serenity.
A blue light entered her vision. A small wisp, shifting and ebbing in the rain. The light whispered. It tugged at her, pleaded. It was hungry. It wanted something. Pieces of her surfaced. Emotion. Pain. Memories. It was watching, waiting for her reply. She felt her spirit leaving, drawn by the trail the light laid. The light grew a little brighter. It didn’t have long. The wisp wrapped around her spirit. She was powerless. She couldn’t move. She struggled. Her body was gone. She couldn’t open her eyes. She couldn’t stop the vision.
A bubble ensnared her. Drops of cool rain fell, stealing her warmth, her desire, her love. The bubble shifted. Her spirit was lightning over the forest. It stopped over toppled structures of stone and metal. The wisp went down into the depths of the ruins. She felt the eyes on her grow amused. The bubble collapsed. She couldn’t breath. A mask of ice formed on her. She was being molded to its will. She grew weaker. It was so cold.
Hands like fire tore at the mask. The crystal shattered into dust. Vibrations rippled through her. The light faded back into the forest, into the rain. The hands came to her, touched her face softly. They were warm. She wanted–
Bronach was breathing rapidly. Her hands were sore from gripping the axe. Those hands were familiar, and that being from the ruins… She rubbed her face with her hands and fell back with a groan. “Uuuugh, what was that?”
The Night that Became the End (A Story from Hizkanamun’s Flesh)
Mixu was alone. She’d known it as soon as the wind stopped and the light vanished. In the sudden void of sound, she knew Hafit was gone. She knew that truth but she refused to accept it.
So she crept forward, one hand on the nearest huacakuna: those orange ochre-colored standing stones, always so rough underhand. The moonless night left her enshrouded by darkness. She found a body. She felt the arms.
“Flesh,” she sighed both in curse and epiphany.
Hafit had killed the priestess, Tsaji. The priestess had deserved it, of course. War was a sin as much as idleness.
Mixu moved on. She needed to find Hafit. She crawled the perimeter of the huacakuna circle. Then she searched between the tall stones.
Sand, pebbles and dried llama shit cling to her hands, but nothing else.
No other corpse lay among the ruins.
She’d seen it all, of course, silently following Hafit when he thought she’d fallen asleep. He was her uma and she would follow him until she died. She watched him ambush Tsaji, too far away to help. She’d crept closer and heard his discourse with the Dancers. Then he’d attacked and everything had gone dark.
She felt tears on her cheekbones and lifted his nose to the world, refusing weakness in her sorrow. The weak were ruled and she was not weak.
She used the art Hafit taught her and called on her surroundings. She sensed bronze nearby, but none of the skymetal Hafit wore over his arm. Truth; she was alone.
She yelled her sorrow and frustration into the night air. The only sound that answered was a disturbed cock-of-the-rock.
As dawn neared, she found the bronze. It was a tumi-axe, one of Hafit’s own. She clutched it and cast her gaze about, looking for threats, enemies, anything to fight. The realm wasn’t safe for her, not yet two handspans old, but neither would it be safe from her. This weapon was all she had left of her uma and she wouldn’t dishonor him by returning to their ayllu, their family and city. Not alone.
Reflections (Clan Enyo Universe)
By L. L. Marco
Emptiness stretched in all directions as Claira, lost and confused, wandered through it. Time seemed infinite and nonexistent all at once; she had no idea how long she’d been wandering there. All she knew for sure is that something terrible had happened to her. But beyond that… nothing. She’d faded into this world’s existence like a ghost: alone, neither cold nor warm, with not even the familiar sound of a heartbeat to break the silence. She was but a part of the emptiness.
Claira knew she wasn’t dead. Not in the normal sense, anyways; something like this seemed cruel and spiteful. She was certain this was personal and that thought remained even as the abyss corroded her thoughts. Each second that passed seemed to leach into her mind, devouring whatever thoughts she didn’t cling to.
She couldn’t stop walking. Claira didn’t even know if she was going anywhere; each step was silent and the sensation beneath her feet was empty. But she could still see herself in the white nothingness. She existed… and because of that she continued on, carried by nothing but faith.
A shaky voice pierced her from somewhere in the nothingness. She ran. Claira knew the sensation of herself was missing; her lungs drew in no air and her legs held no weight. But her mind was still there and it was all that guided her through the nothingness. She held onto that voice, so familiar but just out of reach… Faster… Faster…!
A mirror. Claira almost ran into the glass before she realized what it was. Its cool surface tore through the nothingness of her body and she pressed against it, peering through even as its surface burned her palms.
On the other side was Charlie, stained in blood, embracing something as she sobbed. Claira’s heart sank at the sight before a chill sliced through her. Charlie was cradling a body. Her body. The vessel stared forward… Empty. Without Claira’s soul inhabiting it. Her knees felt nothing as they hit the ground. Her voice made no sound as she wept.
Surfing the Storm
By Giovanna J. Fuller
“Nurse, this patient needs an IV STAT!”
“He’s lost too much blood!”
“Get the paddles!”
“She needs a tracheostomy now!”
Iris’s eyes darted back and forth wildly, unsure what to do next.
Should she take care of the man vomiting violently into the trashcan in the corner? Or maybe join the other nurses waiting outside for the ambulance to arrive with three car accident victims? A pile of charts were waiting for her. Should that take priority? Perhaps now was a good time to go on break, but she wasn’t scheduled for a break for another three hours.
She could hear her heart beating as she stood in the doorway.
Chaos was storming through the ER, turning every rational human being into a running ball of nerves ready to snap. Overworked and underpaid nurses, impatient patients, and doctors with too much on their shoulders. Chaos always worked its wicked way here. There was no stopping it or curbing it. One could only ride the wave till the end of their shift and, hopefully, save a few lives along the way.
She was beginning to panic. The five cups of coffee, two energy drinks, and one monster sized candy bar over the course of her shift were beginning to take a toll on her brain. She was jittery, but exhausted beyond all measure. She just wanted it all to stop. It was all moving too fast. She was-.
The young, but experienced nurse stopped. She knew what she was supposed to do. First she inhaled deeply,
“1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…” Chaos without. Peace within.
She closed her eyes, and held her breath,
“1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…” The world is noise. The mind is silent.
“1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…” Now the world is muted, the mind sharp.
She opened her eyes.
“Iris, Dr. Peters needs more hands over here!”
“Oh my way.”
She was ready to surf the wave.
by Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
Saint Rita Sanatorium, September 25, 1889.
Hello, my lover. Winds are fresher as the spring approaches again.
It’s been so long that I can barely remember when was the last time I could write you a letter. I know you write for me all the time… But not all of them arrive, nor all of them get sent.
Mr. Lafleur tells me they need to analyse the contents to prevent me from falling into melancholia again. So I hope you are not suffering with my departure and lack of news.
I feel comfortable here. I accepted this little room as my room. Walking in those narrow hallways is part of my routine, and I learned to take my medicines every morning and every night without complaining.
I miss you and our son dearly, Carlos. I have solace in the fact he still has you.
My mind is clearer on the day I write you this letter. For the very first time in ages, I didn’t have any night terrors, or troubling thoughts. And I had to write it to you.
Today I went to the garden to enjoy a quiet morning. The birds chirped joyfully, washing themselves in the main fountain. The breeze was cool and carried the fragrances of the Lady-of-the-Night flowers closing, and the roses were shyly blooming, one by one. Embraced by all this beauty, I felt I could breathe. For the briefest of moments, the world was quiet here. I was so happy I broke into tears; it was surreal not crying over the grievance I felt.
My heart was light, and my mind was even lighter. I had woken up, and the sadness was not lurking behind me like a ravenous dog. Many months passed hoping for anything other than despair, and I finally felt it. It might be just a singular good day, but I don’t care. I want to believe I’m getting better.
So wait for me, my love. I’m waiting for you.
No more farewells, because I’ll see you soon.
Forever yours, Zoella Anderson.
The Land of Silence
~In the land of silence lay bodies slain~
Naught here is heard or felt, but for the fell wind’s chill. Before me is set death, and behind me is found sorrow. The weeping for those who lay ravaged upon this wicked plain must not abate. Please O someone mourn them!
~In the land of silence exists only the profane~
Even now, I see scattered blade and bow. I see horror upon the dead’s still open eyes. Lifeless. Cold. Empty. Where once abounded life, now is seen only death. My heart constricts, my eyes well. A field of corpses stretching into the eons.
~In the land of silence, all things grow~
Resplendent in its glory, nature’s reclamation has begun. Where once withered; now grows. Hereupon a sacrificial foundation is birthed beauty. Through bone rises tree and under blood peaks grass. Won’t someone celebrate life?
~For in the land of silence goodness does bestow~
Even now, I see scattered flowers and roots. I see the sun’s golden rays showering the land with sustenance. Life. Warmth. Beauty. Where once came death now is found life. My heart comes alive, my eyes smile. New life whose progeny will stretch into the eons.
~In the land of silence stand souls apart~
And upon the silent field, the two men meet. Desolation averting the gaze of one; majesty upholding the gaze of the other. One saw death, the other life; One saw cost, the other saw reward. In all things there is balance; In the greatest battles where is seen the unholiest of massacres will soon preside life returned. One sacrifice so that nature might live again.
~Their words hung upon distant heart~
Their eyes meet with a pleading search. Desperate, they look for something they will never find. They will never understand what the other feels, never comprehend how deeply the divide in their perspective truly cuts.
~And with great sadness do they depart~
And thus, is left two souls alone, unable to seek the companionship they so deeply desire. For in the land of silence, one tragedy remains; words spoken aloud could have saved.
Andromea had seen horrible things before. She had lived through times of great strife for everyone…
Except for her. That is not to say she hasn’t felt hardship, but rather to say that it never really affected her. Yes people died, but she was still alive. Sure, a nation was collapsing under rebellion or war, but she was safe on her island. If trouble came to her, she could easily destroy it or send it away. She had always been the master of her own world, and she had always pushed that world forward.
Her world was dynamic and ever-changing. Adventurers, pirates, royalty, and entrepreneurs of all kinds had visited her and would continue to do so. She had maps of the shifting borders between nations. Her servants had recorded tales that had been long forgotten or destroyed. She could go to her study, and relive the past or predict the future.
Why did the world feel frozen?
Why did everything stop?
How long had it been since she had felt tears?
“That is enough sulking, my bride.” The deep and heavily accented voice of von Zintler echoed through the courtyard. “You’ll ruin that pristine face of yours.”
“GET AWAY FROM HIM!” She held Percival’s bloodied body in her hands. His skin was turning paler as he still had that stupid smile on his face.
She didn’t acknowledge von Zintler or the other Vampires, for they weren’t part of her world. Her world was waking up to his caring voice every day. It was them walking down by the beach for a moonlit stroll. It was them trying out different teas. It was those nights of passion together. Even when the sky was gray, and the rain fell down hard, she could still hold him tight, and he would say those three words that made her dead heart beat once more.
But the sky was gray…
She pressed against his cold skin…
“My knight… my love, I-I’m here. Please… I’m right here… all you n-need is to speak… l-let me hear your voice… please… Percival….”