Hello, beasts and beast tamers.
Don’t look so afraid. You’ve faced tougher things, haven’t you? Even if you haven’t, this can’t be that hard. It’s all in your head after all, and you have full control there… right? I guess you’re going to find out soon enough, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
The Beast Behind the Eyes
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!
Even from a first glance, this prompt can be so many different things, all equally intimidating. We’ve all encountered beasts of some kind in our lives.
We’ve been that person who set out to complete some sort of task, only to have our fear knock us down and hold us back. That one person who does something selfish or reckless, and the consequences result in a guilt or shame that eats us alive. We’ve made mistakes, and the demons in our minds blow those mistakes up into insurmountable things that stay with us for years to come in the monstrous form of anxiety.
The wonderful thing about this prompt is that it can be shaped into something much less negative, too. Maybe it’s not fear, but a hidden strength that needed to be unlocked through unimaginable means. Maybe it’s a legendary mental power, either newly learned or flexing its true abilities. Maybe the beast is just an insanely high IQ which makes people feel intimidated, even inferior.
What if we took this in a more literal direction? What if these beasts were real? This could be a literal beast manifesting from someone’s bottled anger and hatred, taking shape and either lashing out at the causes of it, or consuming the person it came from. Maybe there’s literal little imps inside someone’s head, whispering horrible untruths to them to make them doubt themselves just for kicks. Maybe it’s a demon who has possessed someone to try and break through to our world. Or perhaps it’s a kind of alien leech that burrows into the brain to claim a host for survival.
Whatever beast you decide to unleash this week, throw us in the ring with it.
Make us tremble in awe.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least six stories during each stream, three of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
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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).
- One submission per participant.
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- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
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Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
Mistress of Shadows
By L. L. Marco
“This runt the best Walsh Co got? They’ll hire anyone nowadays!”
Beasts of all shapes leered down at Grey, who stood silently in the entrance of their lair. Their leader smiled smugly, arms crossed across his broad chest as he took a step towards the girl. She didn’t move; her one silver eye simply stared.
“What do we do with wannabe hunters, boys?”
A boisterous eruption filled the room. It was impossible to make out any individual phrase but together the threat rang clear. A gun glinted as the ram-headed man took aim at Grey. His face twisted with a grin as his thumb pulled back the hammer.
“Any last words, runt?”
Grey’s clawed hand slowly rose, sweeping her bangs away, revealing an endless abyss where her right eye should have been. The banter around them faded into nothingness; the men watched as their boss shivered once and then cursed under his breath.
He fell silent as an inky substance slid from her eye socket and puddled onto the floor. It was translucent and without solid form. It writhed like a snake around Grey’s feet before rearing up behind her in a mass that was nearly as large as the room itself; its empty eyes stared down at the crowd as it opened its flat mouth in a wild, silent laugh. Grey cocked her head and slowly rose all ten fingers. One went down. Then another.
A shot fired but simply faded through the shadow and struck the wall behind it. Someone screamed as a form rose from his own shadow and ripped through his leg.
Furniture was pushed over and the voices faded to pure terror. There was nowhere to run. Their leader stood alone, petrified in the chaos.
Bodies scattered the floor. Their blood seeped into the nothingness of their own shadows, which slithered to Grey’s feet.
Grey turned away, hearing the unmistakable sound of bone snapping behind her. Her monster nestled into her own shadow and Grey stood alone in the silent room. She smiled.
The Girl with the Sunflower Eyes
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
Amy had returned to one of her old favorite spots when she needed to clear her head or think on things. In a remote corner of town there was a small wooded area with paths rarely, but regularly kept. She liked to walk the few miles of pathway while listening to the sounds of nature around her.
There was one particular spot she always liked to stop at. It was a long bridge above a wide, but shallow river. The crisp autumn morning was kept dim and dreary by heavy clouds and an even heavier fog rose up from the slow churning river. If Amy stood in the center of the bridge, she would not see either end of it; and there she stood, as it was her favorite spot on the entire path. Besides, this was not the first time she had seen such heavy fog there.
“Out for a little stroll?” A sweet voice hummed through the fog from behind.
“Yeah, just… out thinking.”
As Amy turned to address the girl speaking to her, their eyes met as if there was nowhere else to look. The girl’s eyes were the most vibrant shade of auburn with streaks of amber and gold along the edges. Amy felt a warmth from inside as if kindled by the sight. She quickly shook herself out of her embarrassing stupor.
“Just life right now. What are you doing out here yourself?”
“Oh I like to come here to think too.” Amy felt drawn into the girl’s brilliant sunflower eyes. The only sound she could hear was the girl’s soft voice over the water below. “It can be awfully difficult for me to think anywhere else at all.”
“And what do you come here to think about?” Amy felt herself being pulled toward to those mesmerizing eyes, but never getting any closer.
“Oh this and that, life and death, the rustling of the trees, the cold peaceful river, the bridge… and jumping from it.”
“Wouldn’t you like to jump too?”
Still, I Worry About Him
The apartment door slammed, jolting Milo from sleep.
He checked the lopsided clock on the living room wall.
“Hey.” He called blearily. “You’re back early.”
It was dark. They still hadn’t changed the burnt out bulb in the entryway. He could just make out his roommate, standing in the doorway, his winter coat conspicuously gone, holding his elbows and shuddering.
“Jimmy?” Milo rose from the couch, moved into the hall. “You okay?”
The tattered carpet squished under his foot.
James, Milo realized, was dripping wet. His thin button up was stuck to his chest some places and stiff with cold where it wasn’t. Milo touched his arm. His fingers came away sticky with mud and algae.
“James, what the fuck? What happened? I thought you were at work.”
James wouldn’t answer.
He just heaved, gulping air like he’d forgotten how to breath, starring sightlessly into the puddle forming under his feet.
There were fabric burns on his wrists and, under them, down his forearms, the inked image of what looked like the arms of an octopus.
James had never had tattoos.
The apartment door slams, jolting Milo from sleep.
He checks the lopsided clock on the living room wall.
“Hey.” He calls, suddenly awake. “You’re back early.”
James pitches himself forward over the back of the couch, landing face first in the cushions beside him with a groan.
“Family reunion that bad?”
“My mom thinks I’m in some BDSM octopus sex cult, so yeah. That bad.” James wrangles himself into a sitting position. His sleeves are buttoned at the wrists, despite the summer heat. “You want a drink?”
“Love day drinking.” Milo says, not entirely sarcastic. “Too bad we’re still broke.”
“Alright, fine. Instant coffee.”
James flings himself off the couch, through the archway to the kitchen and Milo rises, stretching, to follow. Milo catches James’ hesitation in pulling back his sleeves, the way he stares at the tap water a beat too long.
He’s also complaining about his mom, gesturing wildly with a teaspoon, and Milo’s known him long enough to know.
If James is talking, then he’s okay.
The empty vessel
by Gage Jarman
The general guarded his face against the burning gales. The silhouette of the small ramshackle prison on the northern limit was barely visible. He forced the door open through the quickly piling snowdrifts. The interior was warm, but only barely. Light flickered through the cracks in the small stove.
“Don’t think I’ve seen you around before.” A guard said, leaning against the stone wall.
“No, I’m from the capital.” The general hung up his cloak.
“What are you doing all the way out here? get demoted? Piss off the wrong people?” he smirked.
“It was by choice.”
“Lousy choice. I’d leave all this snow and cold if I could. Don’t have the same freedoms.” The guard took a drink. “So, what’s your business then, if you don’t mind me asking?” he scoffed.
“I’d be cautious with your words.”
“What are you going to do, send me to another frozen outpost on the edge of the world. I’ll take my chances. Haven’t had any enjoyment in quite some time.”
The general narrowed his eyes. “Which way to the prisoners?”
“Right this way, your excellency.” He presented a small door with both arms.
The cells were frigid. The general wished he had kept his cloak as he walked down the stone corridor. He looked through the bars at the pile of thin sheets sitting on the basic cot.
“So, this is where your ambition left you? I thought you a greater man. How was it to taste power? They died for your dream and you threw their memories into the gutter… Look at me!”
The bundle of cloth flinched. The general unlocked the cell and stepped in. The bundle looked away, shaking. The general’s knuckles went white.
“You can’t avert your gaze. They’re hanging over you, every useless death, every squandered breath, every sacrifice for your ephemeral pride, your glorious revolution!”
His whole body tensed. He swung, striking what was once a man. It scurried into the corner, its eyes wide with fear, it’s breathing shallow. It scratched against the stone until it‘s fingers bled.
The general left the cell.
Blue as Ice
Visantra lowered her gaze as the Vahallarian approached. He had the same Ice blue eyes as the one who brought her here, just as cold and piercing as his. Something told her this was who she was to be enslaved to. The Vahallarian knelt down to her level and tried meeting her gaze, Visantra continuously tossing her head to avoid eye contact. She heard a slight chuckle from the man and heard him speak.
“Koks tavo vardas?”
Visantra’s jaw nearly dropped. No one spoke her native tongue anymore, not even her own kind. She cautiously turned her head enough to see the man’s face. He was…smiling?
“Perhaps a more common tongue then. What is your name little one?”
“Vi-Visantra.” She responded shakily. She still averted his gaze but kept her head at an angle where she could keep sight of his face and any movements he might make, just in case.
“Visantra,” He repeated as he stroked his beard, pondering the words. “That’s a lovely name. You may call me Wulfgharn. Tell me, how old are you?”
Visantra merely stood there in silence. There was something different in his eyes that she couldn’t place. They were indeed cold and piercing like the raider’s with the same bloodlust in them, but there was a hint of something softer. Compassion maybe? Empathy? Or was it simply pity for her? Visantra suddenly realized that she’d stopped avoiding his gaze and had been quizzically staring into his eyes for the past few minutes. Catching herself, she tossed her head to the side, avoiding the gaze once more.
“You do not wish to talk?” The man called Wulfgharn remarked disappointedly. “That is understandable, given your current predicament.” He rose and went to speak with the raider. After some conversation the raider left the room and Wulfgharn returned to Visantra, the smile returning to his face. “How about this, Visantra. Would you be interested in a little game?”
‘In the fifth decade from the fall of Rhuma, the tribes of the Saxons imposed their occupation upon the people of Rhumnaria, and banished the children of Rhumenos from their ancestral home. By the banks of the River Rhum, there rose the vengeance of the fallen kingdom, an argent knight, who drank and bathed in the blood of Saxons. A spirit of hate and retribution, which would not be swayed by diplomacy nor force of arms, descended upon the foreign foe. Woe! Foes of Rhumenor, Killer of Saxons.’
“Our scouts have stopped returning, milord.” guard captain Adicer said. “We can assume -he- will be upon the gates within a few days.”
King Ilaric pulled at his beard. “Can we hold the walls?”
“He has not stormed such walls as ours. I assure you: before the week is out, -his- skull will decorate-”
A soldier burst through the doorway, ragged and heaving. “H-h-he came upon us from the m-moat! H-h-h-h-” the soldier fell to the ground, blubbering and shaking. Screams began filling the hall, growing nearer.
Guards threw the doors shut and barred them. There came a frantic pounding. Soldiers begging for entry stammered and cried out. The cries turned to screams and the sound of metal, crumpling and breaking, and silence. Then, the doors shuddered, as if struck with a great ram. Guards braced them. They shuddered again. Adicer and his men drew their spears. The doors splintered, the men bracing them crushed by the impact.
There he stood, in armor that would have gleamed brightly in the light, were it not drenched in blood. Adicer and his men charged, but their spears found no opening, and Ilaric watched in horror as his men were gutted with their own weapons. Rhumenor grabbed him by the throat, and stared him in the eyes.
“P-please! We were forced to aid Roderig! Have mercy!” But the eyes Ilaric saw were not of a Man, nor Shönai, nor even those of a vile Daemon. The last eyes he saw were those of a beast, cold and merciless, as his neck snapped.
The Eye Of Midium (from untitled world) (Repost from Private)
By TheWanderingMind (aka Cansas)
Stranger leaned on his walking stick and sighed, “Here we are. The Eye of Midium.”
Edana’s stomach dropped as she stared past the giant golden gateway, and into the dark starry abyss of Midium.
To her right, Leona was grinning like a silver striped salmon at the strange centipede-like beasts, which floated inside The Eye.
Leona’s twin, Maylis, was gazing in awe at the creatures.
Edana moved over to Kelon, who lingered behind the group. “Uh, Mr. Prince Kelon, sir…are you sure this is safe?”
The Gallopian Prince smiled at her, but before he could answer, Leona jumped in.
“Of course it’s not safe! Look at the size of them beasties’ teeth! I bet ya I could ride one of em.”
Syrin, who was leaning on a nearby tree, spoke up, “You’d make a lovely chew toy, that’s for sure.”
Leona was about to give a wonderful retort, but Maylis cut in, “What I’d like to know, is what exactly they are.”
“They were once gods,” said Kelon, walking up next to Stranger. “Powerful gods, too. Gods of the wind, water, time, insects, even a god of mattresses, believe it or not. But when the Guardian Omissa was banished, the lesser gods fell into chaos. The other three Guardians, Alarick, Mindir and Malacom, were forced to trap the lesser gods in The Eye to protect Quaternion.”
Edana and the twins had gathered around the Prince as he spoke. Even Syrin showed some interest.
Stranger had moved to the side and was chuckling to himself.
“Apologies,” he said when the others looked at him. “It’s just…when you’ve been around the four corners of the world, you hear a lot of…how do I put this kindly…bullshit.”
Edana cocked her head toward Stranger. “So they aren’t dangerous?”
Stranger chuckled. “It doesn’t matter what they are, love. What matters is the size of their teeth.”
Kelon rolled his eyes then placed a hand on Edana’s shoulder and said with a smile, “Worry not little one. We didn’t bring this old man just for his good looks and wit. Stranger here makes an excellent distraction.”
A Brand New Beast
Percival felt his body grow colder and colder as his vision faded. He was dying. He at least had a nice run of it. Fighting for a lady. Fighting for love. But, in the end, he was human. What could he do against such immortal terrors…
“So you will give up?” The monotone voice woke Percival from his slumber. His throat felt strange, like someone had forced hot water down his throat. He looked around him and saw he was in a pit. A figure wearing black robes stood at the edge of the pit, a white porcelain mask covering his face. Though Percival did not recognize the strange man, he knew him for what he was, Death.
“I ask you again, mortal, do you give up your soul to me.”
The pit began to fill with blood from the outside. The sanguine smell ignited his senses. He was disgusted, but also delighted. He felt himself salivate.
But then his humanity buckled against him. His soul wished to depart, to leave this mortal coil.
“If you wish to stay on this plane, you will become much more than a normal man. You will become anathema to me. People who worship the natural cycle shall tarnish your name. You will live forever, and see hundreds.”
The red liquid came up to his waist as the halves of his mind fought for control. There was a voice, no, a sound in the back of his mind. It whispered in-between his disgust and hunger. It was sweet and succulent and familiar. As the blood came up to his chest, he remembered a name so dear to him. “Andromea…”
Death laughed. “Yes. Good. Let the blood of others slake your thirst. Let magic fill your veins. Let the beast of desire worm its way into you. So that you can bring the world low. All for her.”
The blood swallowed Percival up. Suddenly, beastial hands dragged him into the redness.
Percival felt his senses come back as he gripped his sword and opened his red, vibrant, eyes.
Ashes fall from the night sky like snow. The flames rage on as the village is being reduced to nothing but cinder and charred ruins.
Elias, bruised and bloodied from the fight, delivers the final blow to his foe. He pulls his blade from its torso and the demon’s corpse falls onto the ground, lifeless. He looks at his bloodstained hands, the purple glow on the markings of his left arm now subsiding as he takes back control of his body.
“You did well,” the familiar voice within whispers in Elias’s head, “the world is saved.”
Elias stares at the demon’s corpse, remembering the lives taken in its conquest.
“For now, at least,” the voice adds.
The voice catches Elias’s attention. “What do you mean?”
“We’ve defeated this one, but just barely.” The voice explains, its tone somewhat condescending. “If a stronger foe comes up, well, I assume you know what will happen.”
Blood-curdling screams echo in Elias’s mind as he remembers the destruction of his hometown.
“Power,” Elias declares, “we need more power.”
“Correct. I wonder where we can get that? Oh, I know! They say a demon’s power resides in its heart. Now, if only we had a demon’s heart lying about.”
Elias looks back to the corpse and sighs.
“Would you look at that! How convenient!” The voice changes to a more aggressive tone. “Now consume it! Take its power for yourself!”
Elias hesitates, remembering the fallen demon’s words, that the demon within him can bring about this world’s very destruction.
The voice grows impatient, its words devolving into snarls. “What are you waiting for? Need I remind you of how feeble you are? Look around, this burning village is a testament to your weakness.”
With a hand trembling from fear, Elias grasps his dagger tight as he steps forward, his eyes trained to the corpse’s chest.
The Beast I was
By Jesse Fisher Edited by Lunabear
Breathing, a heartbeat, and shifting sheets.
The wooden ceiling offered nothing to him as he stared into the tan-colored void. The mismatched lover wrapped around the dark navy wolf as if he would vanish from the world. This was something he never wanted; this was not his life.
His life was nothing but a blood-fueled monster that did not need love or a job. He was just another victim of his with blades cutting into flesh as the blood pooled beneath the victim. This was his life, a monster that needed to be fed; a wild beast that could not be tamed.
A part of him that was once all he was, now laid dormant under his current self.. A wild beast was caged and put away from the world. What if that beast awoke again, but not in him.
He was going to be a father, and that did not scare him. It was the beast waiting to be given life again. Part of him would feel proud to have sired such a creature, but then there was part that felt he would curse his children with this.
The talons on his chest gave him pause as he felt warmth that was absent in his life. Her fur, feathers, and scales all made him feel something that was lacking in his life. Another person held that something, but even to his more reflective mindset, that was a wound best left alone.
So he lay on a bed he’d made, with a mate at his side, and a care not given about who he was. This life was something that he did not see coming, but right now he would not trade it for anything.
He still rather hid this as he had a reputation to keep. Besides, it was fun to see how they dealt with the grumpiness. He did have that mental shield after encountering the mind readers, so only he would know this.
“Good fluffy dog.”
That scared him a bit, but it could just be her talking in her sleep again.
Welcome to Taco Gong
“Welcome to Taco Gong, how may I help you?” Chigusa tried to keep her voice calm and upbeat, but inside her, anxiety was getting the best of her. This was a new job, and she had no familiarity with the menu.
“Yes, can I get two soft tacos, two hard tacos, a beef burrito, a layered burrito, and an order of nachos? And three large colas.” came the order over her headset.
“Okay, so the two soft tacos, two hard tacos, um…” Chigusa flipped to the second screen of the interface to find burritos. “A beef burrito…a layered burrito.” Where were the nachos again? “Can I get some help, please?”
Karin had removed her headphones, about to go on break. She quickly slid the headset back on and rushed to Chigusa’s side.
“What seems to be the problem?” Karin asked.
“I can’t find the nachos!”
“Okay, take a deep breath,” Karin said calmly. “Nachos are on the side dish menu.” She demonstrated on the terminal how to find them.
“”Thank you!” Chigusa felt herself calm down, and entered three large colas. “Three large colas. Your total will be three thousand seven hundred and fifty yen. Please drive up to the window.”
Karin smiled. “There isn’t anyone else in the drive-through, maybe take some time to get a little more familiar with the point of sale interface. I’ll get the order bagged for you.”
Chigusa started to look through the interface a little as Karin rushed the order to the drive–thru window.
“I’m going on break,” Karin explained with a warm smile. “Just call out if you need help; we’re all in this together.”
A few minutes later, Chigusa realized she should go on break. She opened the break room door. “Karin? I’m going on break now. Thank you for…”
Karin was seated at the table, a mini-churro halfway to her mouth. Except where her mouth was, a mass of tentacles writhed, ready to accept the fried sweet. Her eyes slowly tracked to Chigusa and she slumped. “Oh, no!”
You’d do the Same
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
Revenge, of course.
Revenge is a powerful motive, but protecting your loved ones can be even more powerful. I had the luxury of having both. You must understand, your Honor, this had to be done.
What that pig did to my friend, my family, was completely unforgivable. The worst part ? He got away with it. That slimy bastard was living his life normally instead of rotting in prison like he deserved. It sickened me, so I had to take matters into my own hands.
The plan was simple, your Honor:
Frame myself for murder.
I would set up an alibi using an automated system to send a few emails at the time of the murder. Next, I would craft a mask of my own face to wear at the time of the murder. Why? I needed to frame myself for the murder so that an enterprising defence attorney could point to the fact that the murderer was wearing a mask as proof that I was framed. No one would wear a mask of their own face to commit a crime. Finally, I would approach that scumbag in a public place with a few different escape routes, stab him, make sure witnesses knew I had a mask on, then escape back to the safety of my home.
And, it was going well, up until the murder. I found that human slug in a group instead of by himself. I hadn’t factored in the possibility that he duped people into befriending him. I panicked. But, I wasn’t willing to back down. I lunged for him with the knife, catching him in the throat and killing him. Immediately, I turned to get away, but the group he was with was too fast and tackled me to the ground.
Your honor, gentlemen of the court, I propose that a miscarriage of justice has taken place here. The system failed to bring this creep to the justice my friend deserved. There is only one way to right this wrong.
Yes, I am guilty, but I request the jury to nullify the charges against me.
“Follow the Eyes”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
The dark labyrinthian halls pulsed as if alive as Anna walked. Glowing eyes covered the walls. She could feel them staring into her, disappearing and reappearing as she goes further in. Whispers and wheezing gasps filled the hallway. Anna ignored them, focusing her thoughts forward as her katabasis continued.
She felt the hall descend, and the glowing eyes took on a more red hue. If she remembered correctly, red in a Realm of Delirium meant… crap. What did it mean? Hatred? No, that was the Realm of Terror. Anna sighed. This was her first jaunt into the Dreamlands, and she was already lost. Great.
Suddenly, a carmine door appeared on the wall beside her. Anna looked at it. Something in her mind bubbled with a rage unlike any she had felt before. Whatever was behind that door was dangerous. Anna felt her body change as she approached the door, skin giving way to fur, teeth to fangs, and nails to claws.
Screams of agony emitted from the door as Anna entered the door. The carmine of the door took over everything she saw: the eyes, the flames, the emaciated bodies that dragged themselves across the floor. In the middle of the piles upon piles of bodies was a path. The eyes were among the flames now. Anna ran, determined to reach where this path was going. It was then that a spire of darkest carmine came sprouting up for the horizon.
Anna’s galloping stride sped her down the path until she reached the spire. At its base was an ugly creature. It stood ten-feet-tall with a horn on the left side of the head. Its arms were thin like tree branches and the right arm was longer than the left. Feathers and fish scales covered it from head to toe. Upon its great lap sat a teen boy.
“Set him free!” Anna bared her teeth and growled.
The horned creature smiled a twisted smile. “You want him? So sorry. He’s under contract. I own him now.”
Anna felt her wolf instincts flood into her head. KILL. KILL. KILL. Anna leapt.
The first time it happened I thought it was my imagination. I met a friend of a friend and felt like I had recognized them. They did not look familiar and I didn’t recognize their name, but something about their eyes felt… right. We had nothing in common, disagreed on a lot of things, yet we got along easily. I haven’t seen them since and no longer remember the face of who introduced us, but I remember that person’s face with vivid clarity.
Next time was at work, a chain store with a high employee rotation, and he had only been there a week or two. Then again at a restaurant, the line-cook had the same look. Something about them felt so similar to me, like seeing a reflection of my own soul in their eyes, a recognized ferocity in them I could not name. It has now happened so often I can’t call it coincidence, or unnatural. We share a kinship, a loyalty established on nothing but instinct. A feeling that has led me to this moment; a mouthful of blood and trembling hands.
It wasn’t my fight, and he probably could have taken care of it himself, but I could not resist the instinct to protect them and share their battle. I had felt the pull as if my heart were attached to a string, drawn in with a firm and resolute adulation. Fists were thrown, and I had bitten one of them like a wild animal. I wipe the blood from my mouth as the assailants scramble away, and I laugh with a cruelty I didn’t know was in me.
“Cowards.” I mumble, hearing my companion chuckle in response.
“Can’t even finish what they started.” He replies with a similar cold mirth. “You look like shit.”
“Said the pot to the kettle.” My teeth pull back into a fierce grin. I wipe my hands on my jeans before stretching one out in greeting.
“Well, Kettle,” He replies, as he takes my hand. “I believe I owe you a drink”
Within the inferno of Arthur’s heart stood death. Eyes ablaze with fury, he demanded retribution. Vengeance for dishonor, vengeance for injustice, vengeance for weakness. The firestorm burned with unbearable intensity; it needed to be released…
Arthur could feel the flames beneath his skin. Energy untamed yearning for a victim, but he could not a victim provide. To do such a thing, to kill another, was treacherous…
They, the wicked, have departed from the ancient ways! They abandoned sanctity in favor of desire’s kiss! Why do they deserve life? They must be cleansed.
The blaze within him arose, and Arthur could no longer hold back. The tempest of rage took hold, and it did not show mercy.
On that eve of dread, he drew his blade and approached the enclave of his enemy. A simple house that contained a family within. Indeed, they may have forgone the elder’s teachings and made their own morality, but was death their deserved fate?
The fires said so, and the fires consumed his mind. They urged him to exact revenge, slay his foe. He would do so, for he could no longer resist these temptations. Even as tears flowed, he entered that home with a single mission: To destroy.
A man, his wife, a child. Their eyes bespoke of fear and their trembling hands of terror. They deserved to be afraid, for it was they who endangered society. They sauntered through the streets as if their philosophy was not poison. Wretches.
If there be a god…
He raised his blade above his head. They would die as justice dictated. Man, woman, and child. All would be slain. Peace from death, society must remain strong.
Slick with blood, Arthur’s sword glimmered in the moonlight. No longer did his fire burn, but rather a void consumed his spirit. He was a weak man. Unable to control his fury, the sin was his.
If only he was stronger…
If only someone had heard his cry…
If only someone would save him from himself.
What Magic is Left (Ithmeir’s Tales Verse)
“See this rune?” Ithmeir traces it with a finger, so his friend can “see” the shape. “Years and years ago, when there was still magic in the world, imbuing this with power would have made it float. There’s a Teaching Tale about that.” He looks up at the ruin. “I—I think this might have been Castle Black.”
The sword hums, interested.
“The Blacks were an elven sorcerer line. They claimed descent from… a dragon god, Thariou. Their Head was always Lady Black, regardless of gender—that’s the source of that bar joke.”
A questioning trill.
“Thariou? She was the patron of travel. Few people know that she also prized trickery and wit.”
“Wow, didn’t know there was anyone left who knew the family history,” says someone directly beside him.
Ithmeir abruptly finds himself, sword in hand, facing an androginous elven youth before he can jump. The sword makes an angry chime, like a bell tone, which hangs in the air longer than it should.
“Hey, hey, I don’t mean any harm—” They back away, hands open and up.
(THIEF) the sword snarls into Ithmeir’s head.
“If you need coin, you could have asked,” Ithmeir lowers the sword, not without resistance from his steel friend. “I’m afraid I don’t have much, though.”
“Wait—you noticed?” The youth’s eyes are wide and spark with hidden mischief. Ithmeir can’t see where the thief stored his purse. The elfling bounces in place, the picture of childlike innocence. “That means you know magic!”
“I’m afraid not…” The magic left in this world remains bound up in artifacts and battlefields, bloated beasts and The Wound. Certainly not people, Ithemir knows.
“You’re my new best friend; you can’t say no! I’m Kariou Black.”
Kariou holds out a hand to shake, and Ithmeir is pleasantly surprised to find his own purse, perhaps a few gold lighter, tucked in his hand when he takes it.
“My, how did you do that?”
“Magic!” Kariou grins.
(NOT MAGIC) the sword hisses.
“Ah, sleight of hand. Perhaps I can help you, I dabbled in my youth,” the old bard smiles.
The sword groans.
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
Tasha closed the door behind Oliver as he started his tour through Witherleaf Archives and Laboratories, then glared at Katrina. “I saw that.”
“Saw what?” Katrina’s smile was beautiful and perfect, but she couldn’t make eye contact, a sure sign she was lying.
“You messed with his mind. You forced him to say yes.” Tasha set her coffee mug on the table.
“No, I listened to his thoughts and found the option he would agree with most, then pitched it. It’s not my fault the kid’s scared of commitment.” Her voice was serious, not mocking, but Tasha could sense the condescending undertone from her boss and close friend.
“His name is Oliver, and if he didn’t want to be here, you shouldn’t have made him stay. Are you going to force him to come back tomorrow? And the next day, and the next? All because he’s the first person with magic we’ve seen who wasn’t at the catalyst event?” Bubbles started to form in the coffee mug.
“Tasha, this is a research opportunity, think of how much we could learn—”
“You can’t just force people to be your guinea pigs for knowledge’s sake, Katrina! What would his parents think? What do they think right now?” The coffee was now boiling and spilling over. “If you keep bringing him back, there’ll be questions, Katrina. You’ll be seen as a monster, and so will all magic users—”
“Tasha!” Katrina raised her voice, then sighed and brought it back down. “I also saw something in his head you should know about.”
The coffee simmered down. “Without his permission, but continue.”
“He’s unstable. More unstable than any of us have ever been. More than you right now,” she waved at the mug. “He just wants control of his powers, Tasha. And we can provide that, can’t we?”
Tasha didn’t answer. The coffee was now silent.
Katrina continued. “Why deprive him of that knowledge when that’s all he wants?”
Tasha sighed, turning to leave. “Fine. But no more mind shenanigans. And he can quit whenever he wants. Deal?”
“Deal.” Her smile was a lie.
The Beast Behind the Eyes
There are eyes that do not weep, kept wet like wounds that seep, deep in the city of meat. The eyes are slits or hooded and watching. Diseases make them fester and haunting. The eyes have no ethic or moral, no morés or quarrel. The eyes wait in unceasing half-blinking. They are red with blood from cleaning.
The city is meat and knows nothing of the eyes it keeps. There is no time here, in the growth and scruples of progress. No time to measure the blood as it cleans.
The people live and celebrate themselves. They are like the city; few know their eyes. Fewer still know the unutterable; the task of destruction or progress. The worst that is said of these butchers is unutterable.
Growth is what is needed, progress will not suffice and in the city of meat and meaty things, nothing ends so nothing grows.
An idea like a virus now grows within the city and strains to outgrow its own ending. To share it is inviting the unutterable, to spread it worse, yet it must grow so someone must end.
How does a city see itself? Can it grok the images the eyes record? Are these things understood as more than a fleeting image? Such is how umwelten are borne.
Another unutterable act, another chance to grow as something ends and the stomachs gorge. The lungs of the draconic city inflate, bellows-like, and rasp with the infection of humankind.
There are acts of sin such as thought and sight and independence, but no one is free from the city. The city is meat and so are they; the city is large and one, they small but numerous, so they are part of the city; this is their umwelt. To kill is unutterable, so the dying become walls of meat and join the city. Progress.
To leave is unthinkable, the beating heart makes it so. There is no brain here, only the heart, moving blood through the city. Generations live and progress the city. Thought, like a viral cancer, grows: Are we more than meat?
by Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
“So this is your friend, Eddie…” Laura Ashen responded, smiling while opening the door and bringing both boys inside, but Killian could feel the strangeness in her tone. “He sure is… tall!”
Mrs. Ashens couldn’t contain the look of shock and disdain on her face, and he noticed it.
“Well, I’m thrilled to have you here, Kilian Cole.”
“I feel the same, Mrs. Ashen.” He faked a smile.
“Oh, you can call me Laura…” She said like she was holding laughter. “When did you ‘exactly’ meet?”
She arranged the silverware in the dining room as they sat on the table. Killian looked at Eddie, nervous. The blond one reassured things were fine and said:
“On the beach, I dropped my hearing aid, and he helped me look for it.” Eddie held his hand, comforting him. “Killian also helps me with the classes. He is really into astronomy, you know?”
Eddie kept talking, trying to lift the heavy mood that was forming in the dining room. But Laura wasn’t even listening. Killian was trying to avert her stare, but deep down knew it would be useless. She was judging him in every way.
He tried to put on good clothes and comb his hair in a less chaotic fashion. He was wrong, out of place; and she knew it. Killian was scum near to his pristine angelic blond son. Mrs. Ashen could put on a friendly act but was being clear with her feelings. Killian was inadequate, therefore, she wanted him away.
“Since you are our guest, can you do the prayer? Killian, my dear…” She casually passed her left hand above a small crucifix necklace. “You pray for God, right?”
Eddie almost stood up, but Killian tightened his hand around his and responded:
“Of course, Mrs. Ashens. I’ll do the prayers.”
All lowered their heads at the table, and Killian spoke the words, wishing that the anger and frustration he was feeling at that moment vanished, so he could enjoy Eddie’s company.
They would remain forever uneasy around each other, playing mental battles, holding on for the sake of Eddie.
The Joy Of The Natural World (Mary’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
Within the sun-dappled woods, a deer went upon her merry way. Mary trotted, feeling the soft pine needles beneath her hooves, and taking long breaths of the cool, nourishing air. She couldn’t help but wag her tail in happiness.
Abruptly, Mary felt a familiar sensation. An ugly pulling feeling, like something trying to drag her into the ground. Had it been an hour already?
She grunted, closing her eyes, and the feeling was pushed away. Then, with that sour moment shaken off, she continued her little walk.
During that time, she sniffed wildflowers, galloped through clearings, listened to birdsong, and tasted some sweet berries, wagging her tail the entire time. Just when she was thinking of turning back, she spotted something wonderful ahead.
Another deer! And she had a little fawn too!
Mary approached them, trying to control her joy. The mother was alerted at first… but calmed down again upon seeing a fellow deer. Her fawn simply looked at her curiously. He truly was the sweetest thing.
Nearing the mother, she could see her face, hear her breathing, smell her warm scent. Maybe she’d even let her touch?
But even as she stepped closer, nose-to-nose, she felt that awful pulling again. No! It can’t have been another hour already-
With a rush of air, Mary’s body snapped back into a dark haired, grey-faced girl. Her frame was buried under several layers of patchwork fabric, and little wildflowers were laced through her hair.
The mother deer seemed confused, unable to process the change. Staring at Mary, she gave her a curious sniff.
All she could smell was dead, poisoned meat.
With a horrified snort, the mother fled into the trees, her fawn following close behind. The birdsong faded, and the forest grew deathly silent.
Mary fell to her knees, staring at dirty, broken-nailed hands with lightless, cloudy eyes. Her face strained for tears that would never arrive, gaped for air she could no longer breathe. She was alone. And she was hungry…
“Tomorrow,” she thought. It was the only thought that kept her sane. “Tomorrow, I can feel joy again.”
By Giovanna J Fuller
“It burns,” he groaned as he tore at the sheets. The bed was soaked down to the mattress in sweat. The extra water did nothing to satiate the heat radiating from his skin. Once the New Mexican sun had set, the summer’s scorching heat had cooled. The air was cold, yet it did not cure Ethan’s misery.
The young man tossed and turned until all the cool spots on the mattress had been brought to match his own body’s increasing warmth. Though he didn’t know it, his temperature had skyrocketed to a dangerous 109.4 ℉ (43 ℃). His skin began to prickle and itch as though it had just been shaved. Though he scratched so hard that he cut up his arms, the pain did not abate.
He screamed, finally unable to hold back.
Only a few seconds later and the door to his room was flung open. His mother ran in. “Ethan!”
The prickling pain of needles stuck into deep flesh began to lessen. He looked down at his arms and saw thick, black hair growing quickly from his exposed skin. His nails began to grow longer, thicker, and sharper. “Mom!” was the last word he managed before the darkness consumed his mind.
The seventeen year old awoke face down in the red dust of the vast desert. The sun had just peeked over the horizon. He was alive. The burning had gone and the pain was no more. He pulled himself to his knees, his mind still in a daze. It was when his hand sunk into something warm, sticky, and oozing that he was brought fully into reality.
It looked as though he had fallen asleep inside the exposed, split carcass of an animal. It was hard to tell what exactly the creature had been, but it had long sliver claws and black fur. Its shape was like that of a cat or some other quadrupedal beast.
Ethan didn’t know where he was.
He didn’t know what had happened.
But he knew this; he couldn’t go home.
We were out on patrol, our group of six, double the normal size. Recently small groups of Angels had vanished.
There hadn’t been much more left than a few bloodstains.
High above the clouds we rode a jetstream to accelerate the journey between outposts, checking in on militia camps and making sure they kept order without risking unnecessary casualties.
Something above caught my attention. There was a flash of colour, hidden a heartbeat later behind a drifting cloud.
I opened my mouth to call attention to it, when I suddenly felt as if my body was broken in half.
My back exploded in white hot pain that spread through my entire body before winking out, taking all other sensations with it.
Hair whipped past my face as I tumbled head over heels through the cloud cover. My body hasn’t just gone numb, there was no sensation to it at all besides a vague impression of weight pulling on my neck.
I crashed through branches and leaves before coming to a rest, spreadeagled on the floor.
And in that moment the first realization I had was the utter absence of pain.
I lay there helpless as it began to rain. Heavy drops hit the underbrush around me, and I only realized what it was when bigger chunks of gore slammed down.
It seemed to go on forever before, from one moment to the next, it was replaced by feathers floating softly around me.
Through this, a figure became visible.
Caked in blood, they dragged something that vaguely resembled a humanoid, which they tossed aside before turning to me.
At first I thought I was seeing a man, but when our eyes met, I knew it couldn’t be.
It was like an open furnace, white hot fire leaping from them, turning the blood on the face into a cracked mask.
I was sure I could hear the flames roaring, throwing themselves forward towards me.
Suddenly, the entire figure seemed to be engulfed in fire, its hands raising.
There was a sharp gesture, and the roar became deafening.
Then, there was nothing more.