Hello, amnesiacs and adoptees.
What’s in a name? Were you offered a chance to start over as someone else, would you take that opportunity? To no longer be yourself. To know not who you will become. Would a fresh start be worth losing your identity? The time has come to tell us who you are, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Given a New Name
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!
Quite the interesting one this week, hm? So much meaning can be simply in a name alone. To be given a new name… that holds a whole other kind of significance to it. It’s not just choosing a name. It’s also changing a name from what it used to be.
A prime, and rather wholesome example of this is when one decides to adopt a pet from a shelter, going through all the paperwork and assigning the pet a new name if they so choose. Another example is scientists finding a new planet or star far off outside of their home solar system. Alternatively, it could be a race of aliens deciding to make our planet their home, but changing its name from Earth to something else, perhaps something meaningful in their native language. It could be an adventurer lost in the woods as they search for this coveted great beast, only to come across a small, secluded village that calls the beast something else. It can even be as simple as a bride finally taking her new husband’s family name as the wedding bells toll.
Perhaps the given name isn’t even wanted. It could be a mother who has been given a son, but wanted a daughter, and forces the child to go by a name she would have given her daughter. Maybe it’s a race of vampires that are called a rather demeaning name by the human populace of the city they inhabit. It could even be a demon who has made accidental friends with a human who keeps messing up the demon’s name. It can even be some evil overlord that’s been mistaken as a pet, and while the owner can’t understand its new companion, the overlord very much understands how not-so-intimidating the name “Mister Pookyflooflekins” is.
So venture forth and introduce — or reintroduce — us to the colourful cast of characters you bring to life. Show us what a name can mean, what it can be worth.
To quote the fair Juliet, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
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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The Phantom of the Halls
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
On that day, I was visiting the Whitman Conservatory on campus to attend my brother’s senior recital. As I pushed upon the large wooden doors at the entrance, I checked my phone to see if my parents had arrived.
“We’re going to be late, sweetie. Our flight has been delayed.”
I frowned and put my phone away.
Finding myself very early, I decided to roam the halls of the old building. The Conservatory had been built not long after the University was chartered, and the age definitely showed. I loved it.
As I happily strolled through the halls, I ran into an older looking man, who was dressed very nice, as if he was expecting to perform soon. He didn’t acknowledge me at first, but when I called out to him, he turned, and his eyes grew wide.
“Y-you can see me?” He stammered.
“Of course!” I smiled at him, realizing what I was talking to. “What is your name, sir?”
The man sighed. “My name seems to have been forgotten. The rare people who see me call me ‘The Phantom of the Halls.’ No-one remembers the old, washed up and dead musician, I suppose.”
“Nonsense! What was your name while you were alive?”
The man paused for a moment, pulling at the depths of his knowledge. Finally, he spoke up. “I believe it was Johannes Becker.”
His anxious expression relaxed as he saw my face light up. “Oh! I know you! You’re the famous violinist virtuoso that died tragically in an accident a couple decades ago. It was really big news.”
He chuckled lightly. “That’s me. Do you happen to know what happened to my precious violin?”
I slowly nodded. “I believe i-it was destroyed in the fire. I’m sorry.”
The man sighed. “Oh well. It was a long shot, I suppose. It gets very boring at the Conservatory. I’d like to start practicing again..”
I smiled warmly at him. “I’m sure we can find a way to kill your boredom. Would you like to join me for my brother’s recital?”
He nodded and smiled. “I would be honored.”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane (In collaboration with Lunabear & Deviacon)
Adrenaline pumped through Jennings’s system as he ran through the streets. The young man couldn’t stop smiling. He’d found one. He’d finally found one. Now the hunt was on. Jennings skidded to a halt, knelt down and sniffed the ground. The hint of animal musk followed by a faint smell of iron. It was stronger. It was close. Jennings pulled his hunting knife, a wicked serrated blade, and stalked towards his quarry.
It stood there in an alleyway. Or it seemed like it stood there. Jennings couldn’t tell. It looked like a person, but it was flat, as if someone had cut out a human-shaped hole in reality. Poking through that hole were thousands upon thousands of sharp onyx teeth. There were so many that if there was a body, Jennings didn’t see any indication. He did hear a voice emitting from it. It was talking to a child. Jennings smiled. Perfect.
Surging forth, Jennings scooped up the child, his knife at the child’s throat.
“Stop right there, monster!”
The thing let out a throaty laugh, its black fangs swaying. “Is that the best you can do, hunter?”
Jennings smiled. “I can do a little better, Onyraxis.”
The laughing stopped, and the teeth squirmed like dying worms. The silhouette in reality spasmed and slowly shrank.
“Where’re you going, Onyraxis?” Jennings taunted. “I thought you were unkillable!”
“T-to think a human could name me…” There was a gurgle as black ichor sprayed forth, coating the alley. Jennings guessed that was its blood. With some more convulsions, the creature, Onyraxis, lied still before burning away in amber flame. The ashes whipped on the wind towards Jennings and into his pocket. Putting away his knife, the hunter dug into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. At the top in cursive was the name “Onyraxis”.
“I did it.” Jennings laughed because it was the only thing he could do. “I did it!”
Suddenly, he felt a pain in his right arm. The arm that held the kid. Jennings looked down. The kid had bitten him, black fangs burrowing into his skin.
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
(In collaboration with Lunabear & WolfsbaneX)
The Man-shaped Thing with no name stalked the streets. It enjoyed what it did, how it lived, relished it even. All it needed was a name and it would creep and seep into its victims mind; devouring them with madness from the inside out. The last thing they would see, was its quivering ebony smile.
It had gorged itself too carelessly for too long, overconfident, arrogant. It wasn’t long before it drew the attention of those who wanted it dead.
The Man-shaped Thing with no name could sense the hunter on its trail, he wasn’t the first. But this one was different, inhuman perhaps, or just special somehow. The silhouetted shape had never met a victim it could not probe, could not read; could not outsmart.
After all, all it needed was a name.
As cruel fortune would have it, the Man-shaped Thing found its way to a small child huddled up for warmth deep in an alley. It was a familiar child that had offered up others in their place previously. The Man-shaped Thing had spared them before, and couldn’t place exactly why. But this could be its answer now.
“Tell me, precious one. What’s your name?”
The child looked up expectantly at the familiar shadow in the shape of a kind adult and hesitated, ashamed and scared.
“Haven’t got one, not a real one.” The quivering voice of a small girl answered.
The ebony teeth of the shadow twisted into a crescent smile.
“Then you shall need a new one.” To take a name would be to devour, to give a name would be an exchange of power. A different way, a new way; a final, single word that would slither into the child’s soul where the shadow could infect her and live on through her. It would protect her, change her.
With a sinister snickering smile the Man-shaped Thing leaned in and uttered a single word into the child’s ear.
by Lunabear (In collaboration with Deviacon and WolfsbaneX)
The hard ground and chipped bricks had been more of home to the little girl than anything she could remember. It was cold, but she was used to it.
Rats squeaked loudly as they raced under discarded newspapers and dug through garbage. Hunger ate at her insides, but she wasn’t allowed to eat yet.
He had promised the transformation would be finished soon.
Warmth beat out the chill as she thought of him. He had been a much better parent than her own mom and dad.
It didn’t matter that the home he gave wasn’t physical. It wasn’t an issue that she lured in other children to feed him. They provided for one another and took shelter in each other’s company.
A long, swaying shadow at the mouth of the alleyway snagged her attention. She smiled broadly.
He was flat, like a man-shaped hole, with rows and rows of sharp teeth covering him. That was okay, though.
He glided forward and stood above her. She felt entirely safe.
“Tell me, precious one. What’s your name?”
Fear and sadness washed over her. Her face fell in shame as pain cocooned her heart.
She looked into where his face was supposed to be.
“Haven’t got one. Not a real one.” Having no name was another thing they shared. She had thrown hers away when she had left those despicable people.
His dark teeth formed a crescent. “Then you shall need a new one.”
At her nod, he put his lipless form to her ear and rasped, “Angel.”
Her gums ached in agony. Her heart thumped against her chest, as though it wanted out. She writhed and folded into herself. She groaned and whined through the torture.
Everything receded in the wake of the torment coiling inside her. She couldn’t even scream.
Reality returned slowly. Her heart steadied as her vision sharpened. Fangs widened her jaws.
A tall man blocked the alleyway, but her guardian was gone.
Only ashes remained.
A cold rage filled her. On instinct, Angel lunged at the murderer and sank her fangs deep into his arm.
Names come and go
By Jesse Fisher
Within the domain of Korun, the heterochromic eyed god looked out to all parts of his realm. The many versions of Zeus seemed to be having a zeus-off, who had the better lighting bolts, who could harass the most creatures, and who could out run the other’s storms.
“And it is times like this that I locked them up in that room.” Korun said as he moved to another glass in need of cleaning. “The last time they had one of those in the main hall it was almost war on several universes.”
His eyes then shifted to his wait staff, making stuff appear might have been easier but he was not omnipotion. First was a poor goddess that left her world to live here, reading up the mix known as draconequus, she wore a mundane waitress outfit over the mix of lion fur, dragonic scales and feather belly. She was a near open book, it did not help that she was more than willing to chat up any that would listen.
She was a bright spot in the bar, while her other half seemed to invite the dark into itself. That was the next spot Korun looked, a dark dank section that many dark gods moved to and requested the wolven waiter almost by name. The owner saids almost due to how each one gave him a different name, which confused the keeper. When said dark navy wolf came with the used dishes it seemed like the best time to bright this up.
“So,” The well dressed man asked, looking at the pile in front of him. “What’s with all the names from that group of clients?”
The yellow eyes of the wolf just looked from the pile to his boss.
“Demon is my easy to say name.” He replied awkwardly. “Due to being a personal demon born out of emotions. The base name is adfectus daemonium, or some form of that. It is hard to say as many have different places in their universe.”
“So they are just saying what you are?”
Reforge A Broken Killer
By The Wandering Mind (aka Cansas)
“What is your name?”
“My name… is Elda,”
Malacom sighed in exasperation. The Wolf Lord was pleased that he created such a determined soul, but frustrated that he could not break and retrain her.
“You’re only prolonging your pain, Dale,” he said with false sympathy.
A raspy cry erupted from Elda’s throat as Malacom dug his talon like claws into her flesh.
“You are Dale Lykrus, commander of the Gundulf Army.”
Elda wanted to die, bound to that table, sweat and tears pouring down her face. There was no escape; her body fused itself back together before death could free her. But she wasn’t about to give Malacom what he wanted.
Elda spat in his face. “My name is Elda.”
“You inherited my endurance,” Malacom said smiling. He wiped her saliva from his boney face. “Unfortunately, you also inherited your mother’s empathy. Warmonger, come here.”
A hunched over figure scuttled into the small room. It was a gundulf. The gundulves were a kind of wolf Malacom mutated and conditioned to serve him.
“Yes, my lord,” Warmonger said bowing before Malacom.
“Ready the cage.”
“Yes, my lord” Warmonger said grinning then scuttled off.
Malacom stroked Elda’s face.
“Let’s see how long it takes to smother that fiery soul of yours.” He spoke softly, but the words cut like steel.
Elda surrendered after the second day in the cage. She had no problem killing the drunken idiots Malacom sent in. But when he sent a young man, who’s wife and son were being held by the gundulves, she refused.
Malacom gave the man to the gundulves. His wife and son watched the gundulves slowly tear him apart, before suffering the same fate.
After that day, Elda slaughtered every man woman and child Malacom sent in.
On the 634th day Malacom saw the last spark in Elda’s soul die, as she choked a man to death without so much as blinking.
He waited one more month, then knelt in front of her and asked, “what is your name.”
“Dale Lykrus, commander of the Gundulf Army,” she replied.
A new Home, A new Future
Sparks rose from the fire as one of the teenagers used a stick to shift one of the logs.
Conversations were sparse, and some of the younger children had curled up to sleep, whilst the older ones were still fascinated by their new surroundings.
It had nearly been two weeks since they had left Calidora, and far longer since they had been exiled from their homes. Their minds reeled still from everything.
The older ones, who could at least grasp at understanding their fate, did only a little better themselves. But even so they knew that they had to help the children, the toddlers.
So one of them spoke up. “Hey! Now that we finally have some peace and quiet we have a big decision to make.”
Those not asleep looked up, confusion visible on their faces.
The older Drakon clapped his hands, a convincing smile on his face. “We need a new name! We can’t just be ‘Drakons’; those were defeated and broken. We can’t be a ‘red’ or ‘black’ clan because we are both! Working together!”
There was a murmur of agreement, immediately replaced by a low thrumming of overlapping voices.
He let them go on. It was good to see them active, but when he heard someone quite seriously suggest “-Bruised Drakons, because Red and Black and-” he decided that they had enough time. “We need something that truly describes us, something-”
A small, faintly glowing root closed around his wrist and the voice of an older woman echoed in his mind.
>Find a common ground. Something that unites all of you. Something that will never change, no matter how old you may grow, or how much your number may increase. Not something as simple as hair or eye colour. Choose something everyone will see themselves in<
The teenager gave a gasp as the presence retreated from his mind, but her words left an idea.
“We will be the Free Drakons, the Free folk. Unbound by our past, and united in our future.”
For a moment there was silence, then a roar of agreement.
IPAU standard[Aleph null sci fi universe]
I walk toward the meeting as I process.
The planet’s dead. I’ve known that for… a week now. Still don’t freaking believe it. Bernard-C is a desolate wasteland that once had life.
Things are changing so fast on the ship. Reconfiguration for long term habitation or something like that.
I still know where the meeting is being held though, at least there’s that. There have been 3 meetings thus far, only the first really important. If trends are anything to go by, this one will suck even more.
I arrived at the conference room. A few of the others are already milling about. I spot Jonathan and the other big names around. I steel myself.
A few last minute arrivals trickle in. Then Jonathan clears his throat. The room goes quiet.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the third meeting of the… we should probably come up for a name for these huh.”
A voice calls out from behind me “what about the ‘what the fuck do we do now’ council, or WFDWDN for short”
A snicker passes through the room.
Jonathan keeps calm as he replies pointedly. “Well, I’ll take that for consideration”.
Silence passes. Awkward silence.
Jonathan moves on. “Well, let’s proceed to the schedule then. Let’s see, Michelle Arthur, you are first up.”
A person with a biosuit approximating a dull pink dress comes forward. They quietly say “Well, I know this is a technicality, but according to IPAU regulations, we have a responsibility to rename this planet. Of course, that would be much more… valuable had Bernard-C had an extant biosphere, but due to the presence of even extinct life it does fall under the special nomenclative rule set.”
A collective sigh passes through the room. Is this seriously the most important use of our time? Seven days ago we were in emergency mode due to a major crisis, but now everything is back down to bureaucratic hell? I am so not coming next meeting.
The name was Malice’s favorite part.
Scouting talent was a thrill. There was a discovery in each puzzle piece of a person. And watching them finally perform was always a joy.
But the name made them hers.
Clair, Malice suspected, was not her real name.
A giant of a woman, draped in midnight velvet and cupping a crystal ball, had appeared from the ether in the mouth of the tent. She’d be joining the circus, she’d said, and she’d come with a name to match the crescent mirrors dangling from her ears.
Clair de Lune.
How could Malice refuse?
Richard, Malice knew, was not nearly a grand enough name.
A short, dense man in an old leather jacket had gotten into a fist fight behind the big top. He’d broken his first attacker’s nose, then shattered the kneecap on a second, all the while shouting that he was always stronger, always better.
The Strongman Achilles.
In retrospect a bit backhanded, but appropriate, Malice thought.
If the Angel had ever had a name, Malice had never known it.
A thin, masculine figure had been breaking into the fun house, wearing a cloak and the mask of a grinning devil. It’d stalk the rooms to spook stragglers into her set traps, shrieking with laughter. Then it reached the hall of mirrors, where the mask would come off, and it’d stare into the halo fanning out from its temples with a loathing sharpened to a razor’s edge.
Malice felt it was perfect.
Mary Alice, she remembered.
A little girl, her hair pulled up in a purple ribbon, had gotten lost at the circus. The swirling colors, the screaming sounds. The chaos had felt like coming home, as if this was where she’d always belonged. She had wandered before the mirrors too. They had shown her a grin of jagged teeth.
The name was always her favorite.
A Rose By Any Other Name
Thoth skipped into the restaurant portion of the ramen shop, bouncing excitedly. “Tormund! Guess what?”
Tanoshi didn’t even bother to look up from his text book. “That’s not my name, Thoth.”
“I know what your name is Tiffany! Now guess what news I have?”
“Clearly it’s not that you’re going to put in an effort to learn people’s names.” Tanoshi let out a sigh. “I give up. What?”
“I’m sponsoring a girl who is coming here to study.”
Tanoshi lowered his book. “Study what? Study in school, or study magic.”
Thoth stroked his beard in thought. “I think both.”
“So what’s her name?” It occurred to Tanoshi that this was a foolish question. “You know what, never mind. When’s she expected?”
“Any minute now.”
Tanoshi stared at Thoth for several seconds, unsure if Thoth had employed a figure of speech, or if he was being literal.“So…’
Thoth pulled out a ring from his pocket and started polishing it.
“Are you even listening?” Tanoshi asked, clearly aggravated.
Thoth started to twist the ring in his fingers, murmuring softly. He appeared to be reading an incantation engraved on the inside of it.
Thoth finished the spell, and a dark-haired girl spontaneously appeared in the middle of the restaurant.
Thoth grinned. “There you are, Abigail!”
The girl turned and bowed. “Lord Thoth, I presume?”
“Thank you so much for agreeing to sponsor me while I’m here,” the girl said. She noticed Tanoshi sitting nearby. “Hello, I’m…”
“This is Abed Kropatchek!” Thoth announced. “Andrew, I’d like you to meet my protege, Theresa Marchand.”
The girl stared at Thoth. “No, that’s not exactly right!”
Tanoshi let out a chuckle. “Get used to it, mademoiselle. Lord Thoth doesn’t get anyone’s name right. It’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m Tanoshi Marchand. The only reason he got the last name right is he uses it too.”
The girl bowed to Tanoshi. “Hello, I’m…”
“I’ve already introduced you, Alexa.”
The girl glared at Thoth. “If you’re going to get it wrong, at least be consistent!” She addressed Tanoshi again. “Hello, I’m Abdi Khunshu.”
What few times I’ve heard Sitha’s name mentioned by my colleagues in the Bochord have either been in curses or hushed tones. Even Lagu, my mentor, still shudders at the sound of it. While we Bryttan Wyrd live uncommonly long lives, Sitha had lived hundreds more. Supposedly, he had been poisoned four times in one night and yet was left preening his feathers while four others were found dead of unaccountable poisonings elsewhere.
Since his exile, he made a sickening hobby of collecting names from desperate souls across the realms. He traded mostly petty favors in exchange for one from them to use (or pay for) when and how he chose. Once a name was in that book, it was just as binding as a blood oath.
With his forced connections, it was unsurprising that he arrived outside Rodrigue’s cell on his daughter’s birthday, tome in hand. To Rodrigue’s credit, he wasn’t startled by the owl-man’s presence. He had heard stories of our kind and, after what he’d seen a month before incarceration, accepted that there were stranger things in Hyroma than bird-people bearing books.
“Rodrigue, is it?” Sitha obnoxiously trilled.
No reply. Sitha tilted his head so his beak ‘grinned’ (he was frighteningly good at it).
“Your daughter’s a real fighter,” he continued. “Doctors say she’s making a miraculous recovery somehow.”
Rodrigue grunted, smirked a little.
“I think you and I both know how bittersweet that is.” Sitha approached the bars, his free arm seemingly slithering up one of them. “Paragon Research, I should think, will be expecting payment for that vial you stole, and with you and Chimene behind bars there’s really only one, itsy-bitsy little girl who could pay for it.”
Rodrigue’s confidence faded, showed pale on his face. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“Ooh!” Sitha’s glowing yellow eyes stretched wide like two moons as he pressed his face between the bars. “My two favorite, simple questions. I’m Sitha, and I want to help.”
Sitha put forth his book, an ethereal breeze flipping the page to an empty space.
“All I require—your name.”
Eye of Zenithan
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
The fae court in Aiskwen Forest was a place of luxury. Elegant architecture accompanied by sprawling vines and beautiful flowers, and at the center of it all stood a pedestal, holding the Gem of Aiskwen, a soft violet gemstone whose very essence kept the forest thriving.
Until the day the humans came.
They attacked in the night, wielding weapons of iron. The fae defenses held for three hours before the walls collapsed.
The battle ended with the sunrise. The human leader tore the Gem of Aiskwen from its pedestal and held it aloft for his cheering men.
“After a thousand years, we have reclaimed the Crystal of Prosperity! May our ancestors watch from beyond and rejoice!”
His forces cheered.
The “Crystal of Prosperity” was what the humans called it, just as the fae called it the Gem of Aiskwen. A thousand years ago, a small human town used it to become a powerful city.
And they had gotten it from the dwarves, who found it in a luscious cavern miles beneath the surface. They had named it the Tainted Stone, for its effects on the creatures of the caves are still told in dwarvish tales to scare little children and adults alike.
But how did it end up at the bottom of the world?
Well, I’ll tell you.
It’s my fourth eyeball. Yes, I had four, and no, I’m not human. It’s just a little trick on your eyes, dear listener. And you won’t remember this in the morning anyway, so what does it matter?
Thousands of years ago, I awoke as the spirit Zenithan, Protector of the Living, or something. I killed the first dragon in a duel, but lost my eye in its cave.
I never thought my eye would have the effects it does. Or that so many people would want it all these years later.
Sorry, where was I? Yes. I want it back. So tonight you’ll have a little prophetic dream about starting a rebellion and taking over. And when you win, you’ll return the rightfully-named Fourth Eyeball of Zenithan to me, hm?
Empty. Every set of eyes amongst this scattering of children were empty. Everyone knew of the Changeling Protective Service, everyone knew there were orphans caught between our two worlds, but I had never realized how many. One of the clerks was showing me around, droning on about adoption protocols and how long and arduous they were, but the words seemed to float past me, ethereal and difficult to retain.
“If you are uncertain about adopting, it would be better if you left. Half-baked pity does not get far here.” The morose elven clerk looked impatient.
“I’m sorry, I am just…”
My excuse is waved away with a dismissive hand.
“Take a look around, see if anyone will talk to you.” They abruptly turn away and take a seat on the far wall.
As I walked around the room I realized what the clerk had meant. Almost all of the children turned away as I approached. The few I had tried to converse with walked away, usually taking a small group with them.
“Why’re you here?” a small voice asks from behind me.
I turn to see a slight young girl, no older than six maybe. her long wet-looking black hair hung in front of her pale face, eyes like black pearls staring at me through her bangs. Her gown looked well worn, and a size too large. I kneel down, bringing myself as close to eye level with her as I can.
“I am looking for someone. Maybe you can help me?” I say gently.
“Who’re you looking for?” she tilts her head to the side, like a curious puppy.
“I am looking for a friend. Someone to live with me.” I consider her for a moment. “What is your name?”
“Oblivion.” she answered softly, scrunching her little fists into her gown. “Nessa says it’s cause momma wants to forget.”
“I think Oblivion is a pretty name.”
She shook her head.
“You don’t like it?”
“No.” She again shakes her head.
Realizing what I am about to do, I take a deep breath.
“Would you like a new one?”
Passengers and employees pressed in from behind, the constant momentum depositing Carter two segments further downstream than where he’d started.
“Five millirotations to shift change,” the overhead rang out. “All new employees should report to the Human Acquisitions Bureau. Any shippers scheduled for the Europa Station run – ”
… and now he was late, too.
Carter sat down off to the side, accompanied by a “Starlight Enterprises”-branded plastic fern that had repeated at least once every hundred meters for the last two hours. He closed his eyes and leaned back, propping himself up against a bench.
“Excuse me, erm – ” a voice barged in from over his shoulder. “What’s your employee number? I can’t see your badge, sir.”
Carter startled, opening his eyes and scrambling back onto his feet. “Oh! Uh… I haven’t gotten one yet, just on my way to the Bureau for my first assignment – ” his eyes locked on the inquisitive figure. It was a security officer, on-duty, garbed in a pale grey uniform and matching identification badge. “But my name’s Carter. Carter Hall, Officer.”
The officer raised an eyebrow. “You got an ID number yet?”
“No.” Carter fidgeted. Maybe he should have kept testing his luck in the crowd.
“Understood.” The officer rolled his eyes, pulling a small blinking cylinder out of his pocket. “I’ll escort you, passenger. Just keep close behind me, and I’ll make sure to back you up when you give your excuses to your supervisor.”
Carter frowned. “Erm – I’m not sure how well you heard me, sir. My name’s Carter. I don’t mind people using it.”
The officer’s brow furrowed. Eventually he sighed, fingering his badge. “We don’t do that here, passenger. Names. It’s company policy. They say it’s better for morale, especially on the long voyages, even if it sounds… odd.” He paused. “I’m not entirely sure what to call an unassigned employee, but ‘passenger’ at least won’t seem out of place. Now, hurry along – you wouldn’t want to be even later for your check-in.”
The passenger fell in line behind the officer, rejoining the crowd.
Given a New Name
Vienas had been many things in her life. She was proudest of herself before The Deep One transcended the realm. She’d been a teacher and healer of anguished souls. She’d been a scholar and well-regarded apologist, even if she’d had to dress like a man.
But now, she was evesque and blind.
Padas had stayed with her and cared for her needs. They inhabited Ziniu’s temple now. It was a natural place to stay. Familiar. It felt sacrosanct to her, but she still remembered Padas as she’d first seen him; a silhouette with a divine sword. Every temple needed a god and where none lived, one would rise. The adamic couple lived there and hoped to find others.
Her body thrummed and she felt near to panic. She’d always had control of herself. She knew the risks when she saw the Unseen and the spell fed on her eyes. This loss of control was something else.
She pressed a hand to her belly and felt again the thrum as a tiny foot rebelled against her touch. She sobbed then and laughed at herself.
Padas would be pleased. She knew he’d lost so much more than she had in the wake of the Deep One’s path. He needed family.
Hadn’t she sacrificed enough? Before, children would have been the little death. A waste of her future. A sacrifice of selfcontainedness. Now, children were fear.
How could she raise them, being blind? Padas fished still, but not in places he couldn’t walk to. The Deep One left scars on mind and world.
Without children, how would Padas protect her from the Deep One, should it return in aeons unspent?
That’s when she knew herself. She was a priestess and though her god had changed, she still had responsibilities. This child would be such a duty. And the next one. And those that followed.
Padas would ascend on their faith and protect them. The kind and simple man performing a divine and simple duty. Fatherhood.
Now, she must take on new responsibilities. She must become what she has always feared. Mother and wife.
By Shea-Leigh (Inky Segno)
The very second he signed the paperwork, he had surrendered his identity.
Being told repeatedly that the experiment was one hundred percent safe, that he would be alright, didn’t matter to him. Even if it was dangerous, the promise of forgetting his current life was all he needed. He had signed away his current self with a confident cursive signature and no hesitation.
“Because of the nature of this experiment, we ask that you take a week to tie up loose ends.” When he had tried to tell the woman he didn’t need it, they could start right away, she looked at him with an unreadable expression.
“If within this week you decide that you want to continue living, please call us.” Realizing this nurse knew of things he couldn’t imagine, he nodded to her and turned to the door.
He had chosen to say nothing about the experiment to anyone. A mentally taxing office job only provided a pissed boss, and all of the friends from his high school days no longer lived in the same town. But despite his parents being deceased, his mother having had a heart attack and his father drinking away his sorrows, he visited their graves once more. If he was going to lose himself, he wanted to apologize once more.
The last two days of his life-concluding week were spent curled up on his bed under the covers. His phone had rung countless times those two days, his caller ID confirming his assumption. Even in the end his boss wouldn’t let him go, though he was glad the man didn’t care enough to actually come to his home despite all the threats.
After ignoring his phone for two days, he arrived at the company at 8 on the dot. A woman was waiting, but her face held no expression.
“How are you?” Her voice was emotionless, even more so than his.
“I am well.”
The woman nodded and picked up the clipboard in front of her. In that same monotone, she began to ask him a series of questions.
She never once used his real name.
Given by the heart
By Lari B. Haven
“Please don’t die!” Winfrey kept muttering to himself, wishing the battery he connected to her chest was strong enough to keep her mechanic heart beating.
The Professor had the skills, but she would require more. The complex machinery in Alexandria’s body was nothing like he experienced before.
He couldn’t afford to lose his only friend. The young girl for sure deserved more days to live. If only the help came a little faster. The anxiety was excruciating.
His glasses fogged with the tears, and his head flooded with the memories.
Alexandria was a pleasant surprise in his life, ever since he came back to this country six years ago. He had left after his son’s death, swearing to never return. But work wasn’t as plenty on that side of the Atlantic, and he was in debt.
When he finished unpacking his books, she knocked on his door.
The petite teenager worked for the postal service. She was shy, but immensely curious. Alexandria loved novels, -even if she only had the most basic of reading skills when they met- and Professor Winfrey was starving for company.
When they became acquaintances, she told him she was an orphan. He told her he lost his son. Ever since then, they read so many stories, shared so many moments, filled each other’s lives. They turned into friends.
Winfrey didn’t know what to do with all those feelings. The professor was an old man, his family was long gone. He had nobody to care for. Except he cared for her. She was his closest friend. No, she was something more…
The ambulance siren cried its urgent tone as they burst through the gate. He tried to explain the situation the best he could to the people attending her. As her aching body lay on the parked car, the doctor said:
“Only family members can go with the ambulance, sir. Are you the patient’s parent?”
“Alexandria is…” It didn’t even cross his mind. His heart knew all along; destiny had tied them together. “She is my daughter! Alexandria Winfrey, please save her! ”
After So Long
Rhun rose from his slumber in the depths of his wrought-iron castle. He grinned as he felt the familiar ache of his last battle with Alyna, that hypocritical bitch of a goddess. He pushed himself up, his metal arms animated by his magic. He cracked his jaw as he kicked down the door to his room, accidentally slamming a lesser devil back. They died immediately on impact, which made the blood god laugh. He wondered what his devils had been doing during his millennia of rest.
As his feet thumped against the metal, as he passed by one of the rare curtains in the castle, he ripped it off and wrapped it around his waist, hiding some of his naked form. The demons in the castle looked at him with a mix of confusion and horror and some desire. The god smiled, enjoying the emotions that wafted around him.
He soon enough reached the giant doors that lead to the throne room. To his throne room. Just as easily as before, he kicked the door down, sending the giant door flying off its hinges. The castle itself creaked and rumbled at the force of impact. The devils scattered in fear and terror. The largest one sat on the throne of jet black metal. The greater devil stood tall, with plenty of horns coming out of his head and his body covered in ritualistic tattoos.
Rhun laughed, “Are you really supposed to be my replacement? My second hand?”
The devil raised an eyebrow, “Are you the one who has been running through my halls?”
He couldn’t help but laugh more, “Yes, yes, yes, whatever. Now bow before your god.”
It was now the devil’s turn to laugh, “Please! Our gods are dead. The Bender of Metal built this castle for us with his dying breath. We now owe allegiance to only the Father of Chaos. I do not know how you entered my domain but-”
Rhun had already ripped out a part of the floor, forged it into a pistol, and shot the devil in the head, fuming with hatred.
by Gage Jarman
My feet felt like they would shatter into broken stumps, jagged crags of blood and bone. The makeshift sled sunk into the muck, caught on the exposed rocks, but I couldn’t leave them behind. They had done the hard work, the real work, the battle, and I… I kept walking.
The tree line was in view, and the first of the cultivation tents. I was home, but something within me shrank back. How could I explain? Six husks, six bodies, six hunters falling while I did not. I heard the husks moan with every jostle from labored steps. Mud-flecked faces poked out of the tents. None assisted; they just stared like masks, until one finally approached, a young boy, not even past his selection. Those eyes glowed. They look past the fallen under their cloaks and onto the amarok. He thrust his wooden pole toward me and declared, “I’m going to be as great as you!”
What was I supposed to do? Let him know what awaited him in the salt encrusted timberland? His innocence still had a little while longer before it was snuffed, but I told him the truth, half of it.
“No, you will be a far greater man than I ever will.”
His smile grew, and he saluted before scurrying back down the stone steps where he belonged. Then, The Elders came rising out of the cavern with all the gravitas of those who gave themselves to the rain to crystalize their souls.
I heard the hunter’s wails quiet. I heard the amarok’s gurgles as Kohinoor drove his dagger deep into its neck before both went limp.
“How unfortunate for your first time. Were you the one to best it?”
“I- it wasn’t-” The boys eyes glinted in my mind “it wasn’t an easy task.”
“Hmmm, come. This is a day for mourning, but also celebration for a newly christened hunter.”
I don’t deserve this honor. I lied. If I fought, would you still dream. Forgive me, Kohinoor. You said I was strong, that I just didn’t know….
I won’t forget. I’ll bear the weight.
A New Furbaby
I pulled open the door of the adoption center, the cool air washing over us as I let my girlfriend in first. She lead the way down the corridor, following the signs that indicated where to find cats and dogs.
She pushed through another door, looked to her right, and instantly melted.
“Awww!! Look, boo! They’re so tiny!” She squealed, her face almost pressed against the cage of two sleeping kittens.
I laughed. “They are. Remember when Seafood was that small?”
“Yes! She was sooo fluffy!” She gushed, reluctantly leaving the two. She paused at each cage to giggle and coo until we finally reached the desk.
The attendant smiled up at us. “Looking to adopt a kitty?”
My girlfriend nodded. “Yes, we are. We need one that gets along with other cats.”
The attendant stood up from her chair, leading us down another row of cages. “We have lots. Each has a pamphlet to tell you if they’re better with friends or on their own, their age, whether they’re fixed, their shots are up to date, and so on.”
My girlfriend nodded, already ogling a tabby that was pawing at the bars of its cage.
“Who’s the other cat? How old?” The attendant asked me, watching my girlfriend wander along the cages to look at each cat.
“Her name is Seafood. She’s a tortie, and only about a year old.” I answered.
“Oh, she’s really young! She must be so pretty. Torties always have beautiful coats.”
“She really is, and has a stripe on her nose.”
Before either of us could speak again, we heard my girlfriend yell out to me.
“BABE!! THIS ONE HAS A DICK ON HER FACE!!”
The attendant tried to hold in her laughter, walking to my girlfriend’s side.
“This is Quinn. Want to see her?”
My girlfriend nodded excitedly.
One short play time later, we sat at the desk, filling out Quinn’s adoption papers.
“Now,” the attendant smiles at us, “will you be giving her a different name?”
“Pocky.” My girlfriend affirms. “Because she’s black and white, like cookies and cream pocky sticks.”
A New Kind Of Name (Nyssa’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
Gnomes could have lots of names, or so Nyssa had read. When one is born, their parents each give them a name, and so does the extended family: all their aunts, uncles, family friends, the clan elder – not all of them stick over time, but gnome children certainly got many options to express their identity.
But Nyssa never had an extended family. Not one she had ever known, anyway. All she knew were her parents, and the names they had given her.
Her first was Nyssa, of course. Her mother had chosen that. The second was Lirrel. Her father’s old clan name, though she’d never been told what that clan was like.
The final name was decided by both. When they saw their baby’s hair – golden like her mother’s, reaching out in all directions like her father’s – they had fallen in love with it, and given her a name to match: ‘Sunchild’. Their Sunchild…
Nyssa’s lip quivered as she stared at the cloudless sky through her tavern-room window.
That name did not serve her so well in the University. She had begun to outgrow it, with no living family remaining to give her another.
In fact, it was over three decades later when she got a new name, as she finally became properly respected as an academic. The name they gave her was ‘Littlestar’ – the three-foot tall star of Renovaire University.
Though once her depression set in, and she became increasingly less capable of leaving the safe solitude of her isolated tower, that name became corrupted to ‘Lonestar’. A joke of a nickname, but one she had no energy to fight against, and ultimately let it become part of her.
But that was then. Nyssa looked away from the window, and her memories.
Now, she had outgrown Lonestar too.
She turned her gaze to her hand, as rivulets of electricity shivered across it.
It was simple, really. She needed a new name. One that would mark her new stage of life. One that others would immediately understand as true.
A name that, for once, she would take for herself: