Hello, Ghosts and Overthinkers!
What’s bothering you? Are you thinking about that time you— or maybe it’s that one time… Well, whatever it is, I think it’s about time you let it go and move on, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Don’t Let It Haunt You
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!
Ghosts. Things of the past. But the thing about “ghosts of the past” is that we don’t always mean ghosts as in apparitions of the dead. Ghosts of the past can also be memories, times gone by, residual energies.
But this prompt is addressing more than just things of the past. Rather, it’s addressing how we shouldn’t let moments and choices weigh us down, how we should let some things go. Sure, it’ll stick with us, but we don’t have to let it torment us. You could choose to write about someone who keeps reflecting on the past. For example, a cop who shot the leg of an escaping criminal, only to end up making that leg nearly unusable for life. He did what he had to do, and the criminal paid the price for it. But if he hadn’t, the criminal could have escaped, and that price would be paid by whichever innocent they went after. He can either let this weigh him down, or learn to aim better. What about someone who keeps thinking back to when they said something mean, or made a selfish choice rather than a selfless one? Perhaps you choose to explore the mind of someone who can’t help but break down over the smallest mistakes, those mistakes leading them to fret over making another and another, convinced they’ll always mess up.
Perhaps you go the literal route and choose someone who is absolutely fed up with their lack of sleep, kept awake by the moans and cries of the deceased, so they get a house cleansing done. Maybe you decide on the elf who saved an imp from death, and is now stuck with said imp who has proven to be far more annoying than the elf bargained for. Do they end the imp themselves? Leave the imp behind somewhere and run? Or perhaps your fancy lies with the “cursed” chain letter emails that only the superstitious believe in. Maybe this letter fell into the hands of someone who didn’t believe in such nonsense and so they deleted it to stop the chain of ridiculousness… and are now trying to restart it to get rid of this entity they’ve inherited.
So many choices, so many paths… which story will you choose? What ideas have been nagging at you lately? Go ahead and give them some attention rather than… letting them haunt you?
… I won’t live that one down. I’ll see myself out.
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 Saturday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
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Rules and Guidelines
We read at least four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
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Available for Adoption
By Preserves Roses
Violet’s fingers dance across the laptop keyboard, the tips of her black nails clicking as she types. Her eyes, outlined in deep black eye shadow, flicker across the screen, as she reads.
Her friend Charlotte flops onto the rumpled bed next to her, taking a quick look at the web site on the screen.
“Violet please tell me you aren’t seriously thinking of bringing a ghost into your apartment.” Charlotte sighs.
Violet gasps, sitting up straighter on the bed, “Look Char, a Victorian widow, pining for the lover who never returned. She howls his name in her never ending search. How romantic!”
Charlotte squints at the screen, reading further. “She wanders extensively, and is best suited to a large house with property. Not good for your small apartment, I doubt your neighbours would think her as romantic.”
Snatching the laptop Charlotte scrolls further down, “If you must this would better suit. A child from World War One, wearing a gas mask, doesn’t wander just flickers in and out of visibility whispering about his missing mother.”
Violet rolls her eyes “Boring! Besides I’m not great with children.”
“Or look,” Charlotte continues, “there’s a foster section. You could try it out short term and see if you like it.”
Violet grabs the laptop back from her friend, returning to the adoption section of the web site.
“I’m sure about this Charlotte, I’m just going to be careful about what ghost I adopt.”
“Oh look a haunted necklace,” Violet reads aloud from a new entry on the site. “A more recent ghost this lady spent her senior years rescuing cats, and now needs rescuing herself. She appears often with a cat perched on her shoulder, near the locket that was a gift from her beloved husband, and still contains a picture of the departed, but loving couple.”
Violet clicks to enlarge the picture of the elegant locket to better see the picture inside.
“Violet I..” Charlotte whispers, “Violet I think that’s Mrs. Feeney.”
Violet doesn’t reply, she simply clicks on the adopt link, and begins filling out the online form.
It Lingers Inches Below the Surface
by Lunabear (CW: Blood) (Private Repost)
Rhodesia struggled to pick the broken pieces of herself from the floor. Adyin’s bite had left a deep wound. Gripping the junction at her neck and shoulder, she took a drawn out breath. To close her eyes would have been a fatal mistake.
She succeeded in rising to one knee before the room spun around her. Glass shards bit into her skin through her pants, but she couldn’t worry about it.
Her trembling hand slick with her own blood, she cauterized the injury and stitched her flesh back together as best she could. She screeched throughout the process.
The sirens sounded from right outside her apartment building.
Rhodesia lumbered onto rubber legs. Her vision began to spot, but she forced herself to clean up the blood, glass, and silver puddle. She dry heaved her way through washing ashes down the sink and nearly passed out from casting an illusionary spell over the holes in the curtain and the broken window pane.
She shed her uniform and washed up, taking extra care when bandaging the scars. The bloody clothes were stuffed beneath her bed.
By the time the police knocked on her door, her apartment looked and smelled as it had before Adyin’s assault.
That’s right. It HAD been an ASSAULT. He hadn’t meant a damn word of his “adoration”. Forgetting that wasn’t an option.
Upon opening the door, Rhodesia presented a weak smile. They weren’t from her precinct, at least. And they were human, thank the Oracle.
The first cop grilled her about the gunshots and perps while the second looked her over. She felt exposed and vulnerable in her full body PJs, but she knew the right words and gestures to lie her way through it.
Blaming her haggard state on working, she promised to call in if she heard anything more. Bidding them goodnight, she double bolted the door.
Her relief soured, however, as Adyin’s voice rotated in her head. She couldn’t escape him now.
On top of that, the Council needed to be alerted of his breakout and how it was her fault.
Chronicles Of The Dragon: Living With It
Jonathan walked into a coffee shop, checking his collection of credit cards, trying to remember which ones were too old to use. He looked at what he was sure was the newest one with annoyance as he realized the blood wasn’t coming off of it. He tossed it in the trash and decided he could gamble on a card or two being declined. He could get more soon enough anyway.
He walked towards the line and glanced over the menu, though he knew what he wanted from the signs outside. He moved on to look over the few other patrons sitting at the tables, then the posters along the walls.
Among the posters promoting bands, art exhibits, all sorts of services, and of course the shops products, his gaze settled on a poster of a cute cartoon ghost being pushed away with a broom. The poster read, “Don’t Let It Haunt You.”
The question came to him automatically, “What haunts me?”
Death. Death haunted him. Millions of them. Their screams, the cracking and snapping of their bones, the smell of their burning flesh, even the taste of their blood all came rushing back to him.
And then there was the death he’d failed to stop.
The family he’d had to leave behind.
And the family that wants to kill him.
His future had zero indication that it wouldn’t be filled with more of the same.
Don’t let it haunt you?
“I’d be more worried if it didn’t.”
He blinked and focused on the woman behind the counter in front of him. “What would you like to order?”
“Right. Sorry. Was thinking about the– Uh, the poster,” he said, pointing over at it. “I’d like the s’mores thing.”
She chuckled and smiled, “Coming right up.”
He looked at the snacks being offered at the counter, not really interested, as he selected a card at random from his pocket.
“So… There’s something haunting you I’m guessing.”
He let out a soft laugh. “A lot, actually.”
Don’t let it haunt you.
I’m such an idiot for suggesting it in the first place, now Mark is gone and I’m not sure what’s gonna happen.
We were out getting some seashells for my daughter’s birthday present. I wanted to make her something she’d remember after the vacation. So we go, get almost none near the cabin, so who has the brilliant idea to propose getting closer to the beach. Me, god dammit, I did and now that thing is there, right there. Right next to the shore. At first I thought it was a bunch of rock in the water but after what happened, hell no it ain’t.
First we arrived and some clouds covered the moon for a few seconds, so we lit back up our flashlight. Mark goes to the left and I start looking on the right. I find a few that are good but every time I start to look at them the light starts hollowing out, nothing a few good hits cannot fix.
So I’m in the sand hitting my flashlight and out of the blue, I hear Mark scream. I turn around and try to see where he went while yelling his name. As I start walking I suddenly see a dark silhouette slithering from the water, slowly retracting. Then a strange sound came from the water. The moon would finally come back and from it I couldn’t tell what was there. All I was seeing were those small rocks above the water but foam had started to form around them. When I looked back toward the shadow nearby, I lit back the torch and there, I saw Mark’s legs being swallowed by a large triangular head with sharp teeth. It’s yellow eyes staring back at me, not moving, cold.
It’s there, I know it’s there, right next to me, in the water. I see it from the corner of my eye, a big scaly thing.
The Legacy of Madras
Once, Madras came to the City of Marble. The greatest city in all of Yem, built on the ruins of the cities before it. Here, people came to his side asking for his guidance. The first to see him were the children. For with heads filled with wonder, they wished to know more of him.
“Mister,” the children spoke, “will you tell us about your battles and your victories?”
Glum and tired, Madras declined.
“No,” he replied, “I will not.”
Dejected and disappointed, the children left the boring old man alone. The second to find him were the youths. For those with grand schemes of adventure and conquest came to attain his teachings.
“Master,” the youths asked, “will you teach us the way of the sword?”
Calm but resolute, Madras refused.
“I will not teach,” he replied, “not anymore.”
Angered and annoyed, the youths left the decrepit relic to his meal. The third to seek him was the General, sent by the King. For wanting the services of the Sword Sage himself.
“Sage,” he boomed, “you must help us train our soldiers.”
Steadfast and determined, Madras dismissed the General.
“No,” he replied. “I will not let others follow in my footsteps.”
Slighted and scorned, the General left the legend to his drink. The fourth to ask for him was the King. For Madras had been summoned to the palace.
“Great Sword Sage,” the King asked, “why do you no longer take an apprentice?”
“I have long since learned that the blood that stains the blade corrupts the hand that wields it.” Madras spoke, “The way of the sword poisons the mind and withers the heart.”
The General protested. “Force of arms safeguards this city. The sword protects our people.”
“You will find no protection in a sword.” Madras replied, “Its iron bite knows only death. It does not give life.”
Madras held his blood stained sword in front of him.
“So I ask of you, great King, look upon my work and tell me what I have built.”
A Fading Face (Tangle’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
Even years later, Tangle would still remember the Elder’s face.
Smoke In The Sky had always been a bastion of reliability for young Tangle – she was deeply wise from a long and hard life, and still kind in spite of that. When her parents were out on patrol, or on a hunting trip, she would often take solace in the Elder’s stories and lessons.
Then, the demons invaded. The forest was burned to the ground in the resulting conflict, and Tangle had lost almost everything and everyone she had loved.
As she fled the inferno, she had caught sight of another like her, running like she was. Tangle had approached, calling out – and the other’s face had snapped towards hers with bonebreaking speed.
It was the worn, kindly face of Elder Smoke…with foreign coals of pure malice burning in her eyes. Her mouth had twisted into a snarling cackle, before turning to flee into the wilderness. And Tangle had followed her. To save the one other member of the tribe that had been her world, and to destroy the demon that infested her body.
She had chased, and chased, and chased. But her target had 60 years of skills and experience within her body, and the unnatural strength and speed possessed by the fiendish parasite. It was not a chase she could ever win. In fact, Tangle had become sure that the only reason she had kept up at all was because the demon enjoyed tormenting her with this hopeless pursuit.
Eventually, she had given up the chase. Now, she was just trying to make a living, to pull her shattered life back together, to learn a new normal.
But sometimes, in the branches of trees, in the reflections of water, or pressed against her window at night, she would glimpse Smoke’s face. A harsher, nastier face, as decades of kindness was worn away with each passing day. A face marked with scowls, grimaces, and far, far too many laughter lines.
A terrible face that sneaked closer to Tangle, every night.
Daring her to begin the chase, once again.
Salt, Stars, and Memories
Belnik stared up at the night sky while in the crow’s nest, nursing a tankard he had stolen and filled over the course of the night. He liked how the stars twinkled like little gems. He could almost guess how much each one would sell for. He remembered when he was but a young lad, still protected by his mum’s draconic parenting. He would study so many different gems. He loved those shiny little buggers now more than ever.
Memories slouched into his inebriated mind. His large family, his mountain home, the mines they had explored and worked. It all blended into the dwarf’s mind. His studious youth, his mischievous adolescence to…
The smell of sulfur was palpable. He was back in the mines again. The rushing and stumbling of feet rang in his ear as his fellows dropped their picks and made their ways upward. He tried to push through the crowd. He had to reach them. He didn’t care that the bird had died. He didn’t care that they had to leave. He just–
He downed his drink. He didn’t stop till he saw the bottom. He sighed once his lips parted from the tankard.
“Belnik?” The girl’s voice caught the dwarf by surprise. “What are you doing up here?”
Belnik sat up a bit. She was nice, but a nosey brat and he wasn’t in the mood to spill his guts. “Sitting, drinking some free beer. What else is there to do on a night like this?”
“Are you alright?”
Ah yes, the question that receives one thousand lies. “Don’t worry about me, lass. Just enjoying the stars.”
She made that face. A face he hated to see. A worried face. “Alright. Well, cap’n wants to see you before you turn in.”
“Aye aye, I’ll see him soon.”
She nodded but then paused before going back down. “I’m not sure what’s going on with you… but if you want to talk, I would be willing to listen.”
She went down the ropes as Belnik watched the stars, wishing he had more beer to drown his tears.
Something Missing, Something Unwanted (Repost from Private)
By Shea (Inky)
The bell above the door twinkled softly as it was pushed open, and the air conditioning felt heavenly as he stepped in from the burning summer.
A slow day apparently; he glanced around before stepping away from the door. While he would’ve loved to remove his hood, he didn’t dare. Even though the owner, smoking his cigarettes and reading a magazine, didn’t bother looking up, he couldn’t risk it. Quickly, to the cooler.
His shoulder bag was stuffed with as many water bottles as he could fit; he didn’t know how long he’d be traveling this time. Didn’t want a repeat of his escape to Illamuley.
His eyes widened just a bit, and he froze. How long had it been since he’d heard that name? No, no, just play it off. They were mistaken. He continued his water raid until he was interrupted by his arm being held back.
He spun around and yanked his limb back, only to be faced with his greatest fear: a familiar face.
“I knew it, you flaunted not having a tail for the longest time. Hard to miss.” The Collie spoke to him with disbelief and excitement. “It’s me, Mor.”
A cold sweat ran down the back of his neck. His mind was racing; ‘what should I do?’ Could he lie his way out of this, like the many times before? There, he could see it again. A horrifying scene in what was like a red camera filter. The metallic scent, God help me, it was still tangible. There was no mercy, everything would remind him of that girl who was no longer living despite his attempts.
The Rabbit swallowed dryly and opened his mouth, wanting so badly to tell the truth. Wanting for his past to be just that, a spectre that’d disappear in time.
“No, that’s…wrong person, you’ve got them…” His mouth and mind betrayed him as he spit out another excuse and ran around the Collie, out the door.
Not before dropping some money on the floor, pretending like that’d negate all of his previous actions.
Don’t Let It Haunt You
Merlon sighed. “I’m telling you, it’s my 2,000th anniversary.” The big wyvern gave his companion a serious look out of its one remaining beady eye.
“And I’m telling you, you’re wrong,” Galwell replied just a violently. “You only broke into the city’s 1,100 years ago.”
Slashing his tail from side to side, Merlon snorted. “That’s just when they cast the invocation trapping me in here, guarding their stupid treasury.”
Galwell turned his head away. He would have smirked, but the skin had fallen off his face over 50 years ago. “You just want me to get you an anniversary gift. Well, I’m not doing it. You’re not up to 2,000 yet.”
The wyvern raised himself to his full height. “All I want is my freedom!” Merlon bellowed.
The skeleton warrior laughed. “That’s not going to happen, and you know it. You need the original archwizard to break the enchantment himself. And he’s long dead.”
Merlon roared again. “Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I stretched my wings out against the sky? I’d do anything to feel the wind on my face again. The sun warming my scales.”
“You think I’m having a good time down here?” Galwell argued back at the huge reptile. “And it’s your fault.”
He opened his mouth and let his long, scimitar-length teeth glow. “Well, I wouldn’t have to have killed you if you hadn’t kept poking me with that stupid halberd. All I wanted was a pleasant chat. To find out what was going on in the outside world.”
“Well, you have to admit you not the kind of thing one expects to find lurking around the corner,” Galwell groused. “All I wanted to do was to have a good story to tell the grandkids. You know, something heroic. Who knew the enchantment would last long after your death.”
“Yes,” Merlon sighed. “Who knew?”
“But you got your revenge. The city is in ruins. After all, the only worse thing than living with a captive wyvern is living with an undead one…”
It took three days for Ezabeth to recover from the ordeal, 3 days of bedrest before she was found in the old library in the basement. During those three days she had refused to speak to anyone, or at all, instead preferring to stare off into space as if deep in thought. When they asked her why she was in the library she spoke for the first time since her order had betrayed her and attempted to steal her power for themselves only for her to end up slaughtering them all instead.
“I was lied too”, she said leafing through an old journal,” I trusted them unconditionally and that nearly got me killed, but more than that it got me used”, she sat a little straighter in her chair and closed the book,” When the order first took me in I was nearly dead. Three days prior that bookcase there had fallen and trapped me beneath it and I was too weak at the time to lift it on my own. My family was dead, I was wounded mentally, emotionally. They exploited that, used me towards their own ends, but didn’t expect me to survive when they went to sacrifice me.”
She looked to each of her friends,” You are far more worthy of my loyalty than they ever where. I don’t want to dwell on their betrayal so if you would be so kind could someone please bring me some cloth and thread I want to make something. Then when I can walk again I want to leave this place.”
Don’t Let It Haunt You
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (The Saga of The Deep One’s Wake)
She thinks, If fear is the little death, then nostalgia must be the slow death.
A fallacy, but as Vienas blindly wanders the shelves and runs her hands across the wooden ends, she doesn’t care. Instead she recalls the words, thoughts and arguments therein. These things she will never read again.
A tear drips from her cheekbone. The sound of small mammals in the temple. Vienas almost wished she had a dog to hunt the vermin. Almost. After all these years, the braying packs still wandered the streets, hunting Padas. She’d made him take Karas’s sword when he went outside now.
At one time, she’d had several scrolls memorized. But there were long years since then and when food is a daily worry, you stop old habits. You stop your recitations and musings, except for those quiet hours when there is nothing else.
She wept for these memories. Emanations of a society dead. But society is made by people. Her hand went to her womb, burgeoning with new life. A society of two would grow into three, four, maybe more.
A new society then. She closed her eyes for the sentiment of the act. All the old sins and mores, the taboos and sacrimonies, these could be forgotten. Relics.
She blanched at the idea that this library should be nothing more than a reliquary. A captive look at how life might have been and once was.
But this was also opportune. She could cut away the castes, the pettiness of the priests and their patrons to help the common man, forge a new way of thinking. Has anyone, even Ziniu Himself, ever had such an opportunity?
She could be the architect of the new society and thereby the architect of gods. A fallacy, possibly, but what is magic if not fallacious?
The image of what might be enraptured her for hours. A small god, with the sword of an older god, bring temperance and responsibility to the void that monster left behind.
“Padas,” she whispered that night. “I want you to promise me something. Never speak the word ‘mother.’”
By Danny Gilhooley
Marco hopped up the stone stairs two at a time. It was a massive hill. Anyone lucky enough to be assigned Discovery Hall had to make that hike everyday to get on campus.
And when it came to the lottery of inconvenience, Marco won every time.
It was the end of the year, though. The weather was warmer. The air was refreshing while the moon soared high in the sky. When Marco reached the top of the hill, he looked up. Stars twinkled down and he watched the constellations. If he looked through the trees, he’d be able to see…
Best not to think about it, Marco thought and walked into the library.
Normally it was packed, especially during final’s week. That evening, it was empty. Marco had to turn the lights on himself. Who would be studying now, after all? The world’s ending tomorrow.
Marco walked to the small nook in the corner. It was the most coveted spot in the building just for how much sunlight you got through the window. Normally, he would’ve had to settle with either leaning against a wall or laying on the floor.
That night, Marco sat in the nook. He shuffled in his seat and looked out, like a king looking out from a throne.
A kingdom of nobody.
Everyone had gone to one of the fraternities to party their lives away. Marco’s friends had as well. He had to turn his phone off to stop them from harassing him. He’d been to one before, a night he’d rather forget.
Most everything in his life, he would like to forget. He never got along with his parents or his sister. His friends at school were friends in the loosest of terms. From his living arraignments to not even having a place to sit, it was like he was dealt a bad hand every time.
Except when he was in the classroom. That, at least, he was good at.
Marco opened his bag, took out his thermodynamics textbook, and started to study. The test was next week, and he wanted to be ready.
by Correct Cetacean
There is a man, far away from civilization, out where the physics gets weird, and things start to float, and nothing feels real. There is a man just counting. Slowly, every single number, he sets it free to float away into the air. He is in the millions now. It’s the only thing he does. It is the only thing he has done for as long as anyone can remember. Just counting like he has some cosmic debt to fulfill.
It’s said that he does. That his daughter died years ago and he climbed to the top of the tallest mountain and he made a pact with whatever lives up there. But the being lied, or the daughter came back wrong, or she just died again a few days later. It depends on who you ask. After some time, stories like this get all muddled. Whatever the reason. He sits there now. Old, and tired, haunted by the ghosts of his daughter and of the person he could have been. And he just counts.
We all know that he will die before he has counted enough. He probably knows that too. But he doesn’t have much of a choice anymore. It had devoured his life long ago.
I passed by him the other day. I had places to be. I have my own debts to fulfill. I couldn’t dwell on him much. Something about him fills the air with a fog of sadness. You can taste it. The world stagnates around him. He didn’t escape his ghosts. I sure hope I can escape mine.
The old leather creaked, it was drenched in the salt of all the tears cried onto it. The man poured another shot, he remembered he last picked up a bottle of whiskey, though that drink was long gone, who knew what he was pouring now, all it mattered was that it had ethanol.
The man, in a bout of rage after taking a sip, threw an old framed photo onto the ground. Crying and spilling his drink, he went onto his knees to pick up the fallen pieces of glass, and tape them hastily together, he didn’t remember where the tape came from.
He didn’t notice he wasn’t picking up anything, and just put more tape onto the glass, the photo was long since not visible. The man did not want to think of this anymore, of headlights rushing towards him, and the three female voices, one adult and two children smiling and laughing, as it slowly warped into screams.
Still crying the man slumped over to his kitchen’s counter, he will clean the dishes one day. He made some room in the mountain of dirty dishes before taking out two orange boxes with screw-on lids.
He took out two white pills, one from each bottle. He took the pill that came from the box labeled ‘painkillers’, before chugging in the foul-smelling liquor down his throat along with it. He quietly looked at the second pill.
“I long for a brave new world, where my pains would be finally taken away.”
He took the pill up to his lips as if he was kissing it, he was not, the only things and people he kissed would never be kissed again. He opened his mouth and swallowed the pill, drinking more alcohol with it.
He quietly put away the second box, with the word ‘beta blockers’ scribbled onto it. He went back to his chair, and let himself fall asleep as static from the tv filled his ears.
The old leather creaked…
No more regrets
No, he definitely couldn’t let go. That moment… It still lingered in his mind. All of that pain, the confusion and helplessness he had experienced… He could only try and live on with it.
The worst thing about all of this was that nothing had changed, nothing at all was different. He still lived on. It was part of him now, and it scared him.
Adlain didn’t want any explanation, any help, he just wanted this to stop. Every time he closed his eyes, his mind was torn apart into shreds of most intense colors and shapes incomprehensible by humans. No pain could ever be compared to that nightmare he faced upon closing his eyelids. His eyes burnt like fire, even though it was already days ago he last closed them. He didn’t want to go blind. He would be useless if he did. No assassin could possibly work blind. How could he live on like this? How could he go back and undo his mistakes? What was that energy washing through him, shaking every cell of his body with soft cold, pulsing every second anew?
It was a striking pain as he suddenly felt a force dragging him backwards… Not in a literal sense, the movement was like nothing he had ever experienced before. It was definitely a movement backwards, but it surely wasn’t one within the dimensions of space. Every single muscle, every hair and every cell was shredded and reborn constantly, until the pull stopped.
Adlain stood in a dark room. A small, clock-like device laid on a red velvet pillow. He was about to grab it, but suddenly twitched back. Hadn’t he already lived through this? This was what led to his demise in the first place. Nothing like this should happen again. The young man turned around and sneaked out the window.
Dreams of Elisa (A Tiefling Tale)
C. M. Weller
During the week they were remodelling Trollskull ‘Manor’, he had told Frau Segen, “I don’t sleep in a bed.” Then he added knives to his sharp smile and added, “Alone.” The attempted flirt died a fiery death and he expected that.
He could only ever hope that he would never be knocked unconscious, or otherwise incapacitated. Alas, all his hopes had never come to pass.
Waking up was just as much hell as he remembered. Appropriate for a Tiefling, if you asked literally anyone. He thought briefly about enacting vengeance against the waste of skin who had knocked him out in the first place. They were all alive, so it was safe to presume that the aforementioned waste of skin was already deceased.
“So…” said Frau Segen. “Who’s Elisa?”
Damnit. He’d said some things aloud. Kosh moaned under his breath. “Nobody any of us know.”
“Wait. What? How can you not know her if you were dreaming about her?”
Oh, this was going to keep on until such time as he either revealed his pains or the sun grew cold. Whichever happened first. Kosh knew the signs. “It’s complicated,” he began. “Elisa is… a dream. A nightmare. A promise unkept… Long story short, she’s my wife.”
Horrified. Appalled. Shocked. All in two yawped words. “You’re MARRIED?”
“Say it louder, they’ll hear you in Zemnia,” Kosh growled. “And no. I’m not married. Not yet.” A deep breath. Finding his center. Summoning his Ki. “I have a promise to keep for the greater good of my family… and I don’t know a damn thing about her other than she’s getting THIS,” he gestured at all of his devil-forged self, “instead of whatever dreams she was hoping to come true.”
“But… you were crying out for Elisa.”
“I plucked a name out of a song. It’s easier to say ‘Elisa’ than, ‘my poor unfortunate fiancee who’s getting a teufel for a groom’.”
Now Segen was trying to measure him up. Assessing his veracity. “And the crying and how often you were saying ‘don’t go’?”
“I dread the day we meet.”
Getting out of your own head. (Bloodwulf universe) (Repost from Private)
“I can’t believe that I let you talk me into that…” the giant known as Bastion rumbled.
“For a man willing to run at a hundred tons of walking firepower and armor, you’re rather reserved, you know that? Besides, I’m sure she’ll love it. Probably better than the sorts of things she’s used to receiving, anyway.” Erick replied, taking a sip of his drink.
“It is not so much the subject matter, though that is embarrassing enough on its own.”
“What? It’s not like I haven’t seen you in less. Besides, would you have preferred Cerice to do it?”
“NO! Sorry, no. Her forwardness makes me uncomfortable. Though I must admit that what she does with cloth is amazing. But still-”
“But still what? My friend, think about the crap that you’ve gone through. Your achievements. Khans give you the time of day that they wouldn’t to any other Freeborn.” The truth of that statement hits home for Bastion, who was born into being a second-class citizen in Clan-held space. Growing up within Clan Wolf, he never dared to dream that he would speak with Clan leadership on a regular basis. Erick continues, “don’t you think that you’re entitled to some happiness?”
Bastion remains silent for a moment, drinking deeply as he puts his thoughts and emotions together before replying. “I do. Perhaps that is why I went ahead with your idea. Cautious warriors get no glory. Still, I cannot help but have doubts. What if-”
“Bastion, as your friend and your commanding officer, get out of your head.” Bastion smirks given the absurdity of a man half his height giving him an order without giving him an order.
He heaves a sigh. “Aff,” he agrees. “I will do my best.”
“I will say, I didn’t really need the reminder of what I’m actually staring at during formation.” Bastion’s laughter rolls through the cantina like joyous thunder.
Another Visit to Dr. Callex
Jax awoke with a start and glared into the ceiling of the therapist’s office. He groaned as the apparatus unplugged itself from around his skull.
“Vashna Stellaris, Officer of the T.S.F.A., was your commander. For three years, correct?” The therapist said cooly as they reviewed the dream footage. They pointed to a side-by-side comparison of Vashna on the screen. Her official portrait stood as a stark contrast to the grainy capture of her undead corpse from his memories.
Jax nodded and rubbed his forehead. Dream Therapy was indeed effective, but it gave worse hangovers than the bottle. He frowned. Drinking was cheaper too.
“Were you close?” The therapist said, pulling up Jax’s records on the screen.
“She was my commander. I was her soldier. Nothing more.”
“But you still respected her, deeply, yes?” Their voice seemed distracted as they read the document.
Jax stiffened. “Can you just throw some more pills at me and let me go?”
“It says here that on mission Firewatch 008-b, she saved your life… “ They looked down and flipped through their notes, and nodded when they confirmed it with what Jax had told them in a previous session. “How does that make you feel?”
Jax avoided the alien’s eyes. “I think we’ve talked enough for today.”
The therapist gave an approximation of a sigh. “Mr. Newman, you’ve been avoiding this question for months now. It’s about time you opened up about it.” They leaned back in their chair. “At the very least for the sake of your wallet.”
Jax remained silent.
“Look, I can’t force you to open up. I don’t have that kind of authority. But, at least allow yourself to think on it.” They said as they swapped notepads and wrote down a prescription. “We can’t move forward until you decide to.”
“Thanks, doc,” Jax said as they grabbed the prescription slip. The therapist watched with professional concern as he unhitched his transport chair from the apparatus’s stand.
“Until next time.” They nodded as they opened the door for him.
She sat down at her desk, tears starting to stream down her face. Jess stared down, unsure of what to do. This happened almost constantly. She would have sudden flashes of her mother, then the strange man. Then, the strange man… he…
Jess stopped herself. She kept telling herself she wouldn’t think about that incident anymore. Wiping the tears from her face, she stood up and walked over to her nightstand.
She let out a sigh, and opened the drawer. Inside was a picture of her and her mother, sitting at a picnic table. It was an old picture, but one Jess still cherished.
She slumped down onto her bed, knees crumpling underneath her. Holding the picture, her tears began to form.
No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t move on. It was suffocating, knowing she wasn’t strong enough to move past something like this. It’s been eighteen years, and she was still a crybaby.
She set the picture down, and buried her face in her pillow and began to sob uncontrollably. She was tired of this constant cycle. Week after week, she wept uncontrollably.
Finally, after a long cry, Jess sat up and wiped her face and looked at the picture. She picked it up and put it back in the drawer and closed it.
Maybe tomorrow, it will get better. Maybe if she tried just a little harder, she would be able to finally move on. Maybe tomorrow, things will be easier.
“The Haunting of Sargent Milo”
“I try not to let it get to me, Doc. I’ve seen a lot of terrible things in my time as part of the rebellion against High Lord Markin. I’ve seen men nerve-stapled, reduced to subservient shadows of their former selves. We blew up tram systems, sabotaged military operations, and killed officers that served the regime. In the end, we won. We celebrated in the streets. We toppled Markin’s statues. We executed the bastards. But somethings still haunt me, Doc. Worst of all the psi-ops.”
Doctor Alister nodded sympathetically, “Take whatever time you need.”
“I remember it. Being strapped down in that chair. Just being in the presence of the man. Feeling that invisible pressure on my mind. Something trying to get inside of me. The man saying, he was only trying to save innocent lives from our “terrorism.” There are no innocents! Either you are for us, or against us. I won’t listen to any of that “shades of gray” morality bullshit. They did things to those men. They did things . . . to me.”
Silence hung there as I struggled to slow my breathing. Finally, after a time I continued.
“I remember him staring at me with those eyes. And the feeling of that presence against my mind. Searching for weakness. But, I’m not weak. I’m not weak!” I pounded my fist on the arm of the chair. “He kept pushing and pushing. Then suddenly he was just, inside me. Inside my mind. I tried to resist him even then. I scrambled my thinking, just like the training, to keep him away from rebel intel. Then I just . . . talked. I couldn’t stop talking. I wanted to stop. I wanted to tear out my goddamn tongue! But . . . all I could do was talk. When he was done, he just walked away in silence. I mean I know this is past, but we never found him! He probably got off world by now. I know he’s gone, but I can still see him. His eyes in the darkness.”
A God’s Regret (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
Dara could feel a hand on his chest, resting next to the hole where his heart should have been. It was too big to be Tasha’s hand. He opened his eyes to see who was there and found the familiar sight of a god wearing dark purple robes standing over him.
Ambrosius looked down at his feet. He always did stand just a bit straighter than what would be feasible for most humanoid beings, and it was especially evident in that moment when his head was the only thing bending.
“You should be with your relatives,” he said, speaking with a voice so flat it almost sounded fake. “I failed to properly handle you when your time came because of unnecessary feelings. For that, I apologize.”
Dara sat up in his bed to properly talk with him. “Including this moment, you have apologized to me three times now.”
Ambrosius did not look up.
“No one expected her to do what she did.”
“I—” Ambrosius stopped himself. He took a breath and curled his hand into a fist. “Valerie was one of my followers. As her patron god, she was my responsibility, and she caused irreversible damage to you.”
Dara regarded Ambrosius for a moment before he took his hand in his and began to gently open the fist. “Were it not for your choice back then, I would not have my daughter, and she would likely still be an orphan. There is something in that, at least.”
Ambrosius looked up at the hands now that his palm was pressed against Dara’s, but before he could say anything, a small figure ran in and climbed on the bed.
“Papa!” Tasha was about to continue speaking when she noticed Ambrosius looking at her with shock. “Hello, mister. I’m Tasha. What’s your name?”
The sound of Dara’s somewhat strained chuckle snapped Ambrosius back as he answered, “I am Ambrosius.”
“Like the mage god?”
“Exactly like him,” Dara answered. “And I was just about to ask if he wished to stay for dinner.”
Ambrosius hesitated, but he nodded. “I… accept your offer.”
Max’s Demon (Darkspell Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
[Proofread by ThatWeirdFish]
The mirror showed a young, emaciated, tired man, his face, chest and arms covered in scars, his irises blood red and underlined with dark shadows. His brown hair was even messier than usual, the red rings in his eyes showing the tears he had shed.
It had only been two weeks, two weeks since Max had reconquered his body. He couldn’t expect things to be better yet. He felt it scratching at his mind. The demon wanted out. It wanted to be let loose on the world, to continue its bloody work. He saw it in the mirror. A dark grey shadow, hiding just out of view.
“Let me out,” it growled.
He bit his tongue, trying to stop it from speaking.
“Let me out,” it growled again, louder this time.
A metallic taste spread in his mouth. Max recoiled. Was this a trick? Or was it happening again? He reached into his mouth, expecting to feel the razor-sharp tips of fangs pushing through his gums. But all he felt was human teeth. Blood trickled from his tongue, where he had bitten himself. He didn’t know whether he should shiver or sigh with relief.
The demon rattled its chains. Its savagery flowed into Max’s mind like acid. He forced it back down, locking it inside a box. It was his. His demon. For seven months, he had been paraded around as a meat suit, forced to tear his claws and fangs into people, ripping them apart. He’d flung people through the air without ever touching them, falling to the demon’s power again and again, as it had massacred 624 people.
And his hands, his magic, his teeth had done the deeds. On some nights, he could still taste the blood in his mouth.
“I am not your meat suit,” Max growled at his mirror image. “You’re mine, now. My weapon, my tool. My own magical battery. You made me murder 624 people. Now you can watch as I use you to exterminate your kind.”
The exorcist straightened up, reapplying the binding spells on his body. He had work to do.
Someone Needs to Put a Bell on That Girl
Daisy sighed as she walked through the stone hallways of the temple. The magical torches gave off a flickering, warm glow well into the night. Coming upon a window, Daisy leaned against it, looking up at the moon.
“Gah!” Daisy shrieked, almost hitting her head against the window in shock. “Don’t DO that!”
“My apologies.” Teriana said sincerely. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Daisy clutched at her chest as she caught her breath. “Then why are you stalking around in the middle of the night?! You scared me half to death!”
A solemn smile formed on Teriana’s lips. “…force of habit. Deities do not sleep. And I was alone here for a very long time.”
“I believe your people called it the dark ages.”
Daisy smiled up at the moon again. “Must have been nice. Having all that solitude…”
“It wasn’t by choice, nor was it enjoyable.” Teriana said curtly. “Do you… not like us?”
Daisy blushed and turned to the goddess. “I like you all just fine. I just… don’t belong here. You’re all such… good people and… well… I’m NOT. I’m a horrible person with the mask of a good one.”
“Have you realized that Mara has taken quite the liking to you?” Teriana asked with a smile.
Daisy rolled her eyes. “Queen of subtly, she is. Yeah. What about it?”
“Mara is a demon. Not made into one like you. But born one. In Hell.”
“Really? The wings and tail weren’t a dead giveaway of that or nothin’…”
“She is also only ‘good’ because of our Master. He has been told multiple times that without his influence, Mara would be very… different. But he doesn’t care. He only sees her as she is now. That’s all that matters to him.”
“So… what? Just fake it till I make it? That’s your advice?”
Teriana’s brows narrowed. “We are a fallen angel, a Hellborn demon, and a forgotten goddess lead by the horseman of Death. We all ‘fake’ one thing or another. While not one of us, you fit in just fine, young one.”
I’m in a room in an old school building, probably used to be an administrative office. Headphones on the table, therapist on the other side.
“So, what memory shall we start with?”
“I think the confrontation would be a good one to start.”
“Can you describe to me what it looked like?”
“I’m standing next to him. He’s sitting at his desk. Blue pin board behind him. Documents all over his desk. I ask him how this could’ve happened. He won’t look at me, only at his computer screen. Looking at that document, and just straight up denies it ever happened.”
“How much does that image hurt, on a scale of 1 to 10?”
“A 9,” I say. My jaw clenched. My shoulders locked. Tears blurring the table.
“And what makes the image a 9?”
“The betrayal. The breach of trust. He won’t face me. Treats me like I’m the crazy one.”
“OK. You can put on the headphones, and focus on that image.”
I put it on, and close my eyes.
“Do you have the image clear in your mind?”
Click, clack. Eyes twitch from left and right to the beat of the clicks.
Click, clack. I’m back at the meeting where I told them.
Click, clack. “You can trust me”.
Click, clack. The excel sheet. My diagnosis, there for anyone to read.
Click, clack. The exact words I used when I told them.
Click, clack. I want to scream.
I throw the headphones to the table. Tears rolling. Anger. Pain. Betrayal. Loneliness. Fear. Shame. It’s all consuming.
“On a scale of 1 to 10?”
I struggle to get the word out: “Ten.”
“He can’t hurt you here. You walked away, remember?”
“I know.” I stammer. My mouth refusing to cooperate.
“It’s OK. Can you put it back on?”
I shake my head.
“This process is like a train. You can’t just jump off, you need slow down first.”
“Let’s calm you down some other way then. Do you have something planned for the weekend?”