Hello, Challengers of all kinds!
Please don’t look at me like that. You knew this was coming. I never promised this would be easy. I mean, it’s easy for me, I just sit here. But you… well, you better swallow your nerves and get at it, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Please Don’t Make Me
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!
The freedom of choice. The power behind a decision. It certainly isn’t something to be underestimated, is it? But what happens when we feel pressure to make certain decisions?
For example, a warrior who is part of a team being propositioned by their enemy to either give up a powerful weapon, or the lives of their teammates. What do they choose? Do they give up the weapon, or do they protect it and give up their team? Perhaps you explore a character who has no backbone being bullied into doing something awful to the person they like. Do they do it? Do they finally stand up for themselves? In that same mindset, what about someone being pressured by family to marry someone, but they love someone else? Do they follow through and live with a broken heart? Do they defy the family to live a life for themselves? And what if this decision held more pressure than just making the family happy? This decision could be for the good of two countries allying, for example. It’s hard enough to choose for yourself, but knowing a decision holds so much more weight can make it near impossible to choose.
We could explore much simpler ideas, too. Like a child throwing a fit over being told they absolutely have to eat their vegetables or they won’t be getting any dessert. Or perhaps you decide on the student who wants to go out with their friends, but has to stay home to help with spring cleaning. Maybe you show us the internet personality who said they’d do something crazy if a certain goal was reached, thinking they would never actually reach it. But lo and behold, it was reached, and so now they have to decide if they will follow through with it or not. Do they do it for their fans? Do they back out after losing their nerve?
So many choices, so many decisions. Ironically, it’s up to you to decide what story you share with us. I’m afraid we can’t make that choice for you.
Just don’t make us choose a favourite story. Because the answer is all of them.
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!
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 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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- 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.
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- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
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Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
My Darkest Enemy
Otto quickly shut the door behind him to his and his wife’s room to frantically hide away from his team. “Otto come back!” screamed his wife Flara running after him with the rest of the team following in pursuit. Flara then quickly banged on his door trying to get his attention.
“Otto what’s wrong!” said Flara paused before banging on the door again. “NOTHING!” he shouted startling his team. Taken aback, Velda then spoke up. “Otto are you oka-“ “I’M FINE” he shouted again.
“Just leave me alone…Okay!” he said again. “Otto” whispered a voice. “Oh no! No, not again!” Otto then quickly bolted to the dresser mirror and saw his eyes change from blue to purple. “Come on Otto you know you want too” the deep dark, raspy, soothing voice. “No, you Don’t! Don’t you dare! DON’T YOU DARE MAKE ME!!!” Otto grunted thrashing around the room trying to pull the darkness out of himself but the darkness itself was too strong.
“Otto!” screamed Flara scared for life at what she heard beyond the door. His team was then shouting his name countlessly banging at the door constantly trying to get an answer from him but he was fighting a battle of his own with himself and the darkness. “It’s too late Otto,” said the voice “ It’s finally time for me to take control,” said the voice.
In just a few seconds Otto’s body went limp. Silence filled the room until Flara broke down the door with her fire punch.
“Otto, are you alright?!” she said panicked. “Otto isn’t here right now. You’re now speaking to Sentinal.”
Just Another Night Out
The crimson sports car screamed through city streets, the shapeless horde advancing with the relentless gait of a serial killer.
“Say it.” Jessie beamed manically behind the wheel, making a hairpin turn through a red light and ramming a few dozen of their attackers.
“Screw you!” Sarah screamed over the sounds of bodies hitting steel.
“After you say it.” Jessie floored the engine as it took off towards the natural history museum.
“Oh come on! You dared me to go into that exhibit.” Sarah kicked the glove box in frustration, the tattered remains of her sneakers doing little to prevent the jolts of pain.
“And yet you still ran out of there after ten seconds like a little scaredy cat.”
“How was I supposed to know it was cursed?”
The car lurched and lost traction as Jessie swerved to avoid a flood of scarabs overtaking the local street. Time stopped for three agonizing seconds as they spun out of control; their vision nothing but arthropod death on side and blighted urban hellscape on the other.
Miraculously, the swarm continued past the car and further into the city’s heart. The car continued it’s chaotic sprint to the museum… but not before several pops rung out followed by a slump on the car’s left side.
“Shit!” Jessie exclaimed as she pulled the car to the curb. Their destination was a mere two blocks away.
“Well I guess we’re walking.” Sarah replied, uncuffing her seatbelt and brandishing her kopesh.
“Nah, I think I’m gonna stay here and get eaten.” Jessie gave a big toothy smile as the legion of bandaged horrors began to close in.
“Are you kidding me!?” Jessie hacked away from her rolled up window. Limbs went flying, the smell of death and formaldehyde filled the car.
“I dunno, maybe if someone said something?” Jessie remarked in a sing-song way.
“Fine! I’m a little scaredy cat and I need my big strong girlfriend to protect me!” Sarah screamed, red with embarrassment.
Jessie loaded her shotgun and kissed Sarah.
That Serene Smile
Valik was arranging his papers for tomorrow’s court case. Anxiety and fear would have killed anyone here but not Valik. He kept his serene smile up. Nothing could ruin his mood at all.
Suddenly, there was a very forceful knock at his door. Valik sighed as he had a guess that this would happen. He made sure all the necessary papers were put into the correct folders and out of line if dight. It would be no fun if his opposition saw all the evidence they had stacked against them. Then Valik turned around to face the entrance to his office. “Come in.”
The door opened and a very finely dressed and handsome looking man walked in. He held with him an air of aristocracy and power. It was expected of the heir of the one unofficial noble houses of the city: the van Hofts.
Valik simply kept his smile up as they entered the room. “Why, hello there Mr. van Hoft, I hope you aren’t seeking some way of settling this out of court.”
The van Hoft frowned. “Yes. I came to give you one final attempt to back down, Vandermeer.”
Valik tilted his head slightly. “Well, I can’t say I’m not interested in seeing how else you are going to convince outside of bribes.”
The van Hoft’s eyes twitched slightly at Valik’s relaxed attitude. “I know that you are only licensed as a Private Investigator. I also know how you go about your investigating. How you broken into my private property and–”
“At the start of every weekend you go out to another town. You tell your wife it’s for business.” Valik interrupted the man. “You visit a few office buildings but when the sun goes down you go downtown. You ask for a woman named Katty. You know she only does it for the money but you can’t stop coming back.”
The man just stared at Valik in horror and shame. Valik continued to smile. “Now that we are on the same page, please get out of my office before you make me do something drastic tomorrow.”
Falling Asleep (from RVMPLSTLTSKN’s “The Saga of the Deep One’s Wake”)
Tvirtas pressed her back against the mudbrick walls she had once called her city, her world, and her home, trying to remain strong.
She feared what that world was becoming.
Without pretense or prediction, the city had hushed itself. Her friends, her family didn’t speak, didn’t eat, or do much of anything. She feared they might be dead—(some were)—but others, at least, still breathed.
There were stories of the dead-alive, yes, there were spirits, and there were gods, of course, but this was different. Living, physical, breathing, but unconscious, unresponsive, and unholy.
Though question, fear, and living on, occupied her mind, at certain moments in the strangling stillness she would think…what will become of me?
For she knew there was contagion to this condition, though she knew not where it lie, how it spread or why.
“Please do not let me become one of Them,” she whispered to the air, prayed to the gods.
A strange thing, to want to live, to remain herself, when she’d lost everyone else. It might be a relief to forget herself now, but survival always has a cruel persistence.
She refused to let herself fall asleep.
The only information she had on the contagion was a phrase, simple and foreboding enough:
“The Deep One cometh.”
The only thing They said. If They spoke at all.
She knew no god, spirit, man, or myth by this name. And she couldn’t read about them now, if she even had access to the information.
So what, “One”, deep and contagious—with the power to kill something and keep it alive—was coming?
They didn’t hurt anyone. The knowledge of who They once were, and were no longer, hurt enough.
“Do not make me one of Them.”
Soft, sweet as honey, and lullaby—
She knew, turning to the sea, something was calling her. Some One.
As Tvirtas felt herself slip away in a tender wave, her soul like petals in the breeze, she smiled, and realized she had been naive. The One’s embrace was home, far more than this city had ever been.
A Turn of The Key
Warden Macanelly was a man of stature. After all, even on this trash heap of a prison colony he wore a pressed, two-piece suit made of expensive off-world materials. His peppered grey hair and beard were neatly trimmed and combed into sharp folds that only complemented the harshness of his eyes. His right hand was decorated in gold rings set with the largest stones money could buy, and the prisoner stared at them as the warden rested his hand on his shoulder.
“Turn the key.” He ordered the prisoner. His voice was low and gravelly, and somehow slick, like an oil spill. The key in question was slotted into the main console of the watchtower they were in; which overlooked a squat, rectangular building. This building, they both knew, doubled as both the prison yard and the launch bay, the key would open the shutters on top of the building. The prisoner looked at the clock on the other side of the room. 12 O’clock. Yard time.
“I ain’t no murderer, sir.” The prisoner said.
Warden Macanelly kneeled down so the two were at eye level with each other.
“What’s your name, son?” He asked.
“It’s John, sir.”
“Now, listen to me John,” the warden paused for a moment, and used his other hand to gesture at the building below. “You do what I tell you, and you won’t be a murderer. Hell, those things down there? Not even human, so don’t worry yourself, just turn the key.” The prisoner, John, raised a hand over the console, and stopped just above the key. He looked back at the warden.
“How am I supposed to look my daughter in the eye, knowing what I know?”
“If you want to be able to look your daughter in the eyes at all John, you will turn that damned key!” The warden shouted, his face red, eyes burning with controlled anger. John then turned, and with an apology whispered under his breath, he closed his eyes, and turned the key.
“There’s a good man John,” The warden clapped him on the shoulder, “good man.”
A Nudge in the Right Direction (Alsuria Universe)
By: ThatWeirdFish, proofread by Alex
Mara smirked. Her brother, Jule, had that look on his face again. They were honorary witnesses to Dresden officially taking his hunter’s vows, so of course, Jule would be moved. But this face was unique: that soft, shy smile he only had towards Dresden when they weren’t looking back.
She waited until after the ceremony when Jule had congratulated Dresden as he entered the crowd of his excited new family. She nudged Jule in the side with her elbow.
“W-what?” Jule blushed slightly, realizing she’d caught him staring at Dresden again.
“You know what.” She smirked up at him. “Go, tell him how you feel.”
“But… now isn’t the right time.”
“We both know it’s now or never for you.” She pointed to the rebellious teen, now an honorable young man in new clothes and a new life. As if on cue, Dresden turned and grinned at Jule before being shuffled away down the hall.
“I… can’t. It… won’t work.” Jule murmured as he watched Dresden leave.
“You’ve been friends, good friends, for what, three years now?” She said with a kinder smile. “Of course, it would work. Love’s like friendship but deeper and with perks in the bedroom.” Her smirk returned at Jule’s deepening blush. She nudged him again, shifting him off balance a little. “Go.”
At his hesitation, she playfully rolled her eyes and started pushing him down the hall.
“W-wait! Mara! What are you doing?” Jule stammered, his feet skidding on the stone tile floor.
“Just helping ya.” She quipped, pushing him harder. She ignored his protests and shoved him towards Dresden when they were close enough. Jule staggered awkwardly, flustered by the grins of the hunters around him. He stood in an unusually nervous stance before Dresden.
“Dres… I-I have something to tell you,” Jule stuttered, avoiding Dresden’s eyes.
“I know.” Dresden smiled and took Jule’s hand gently in his own. “I feel the same about you.”
Mara grinned. The tearful smile on Jule’s face made everything worth it.
Chronicles of the Dragon: Friend To Foe
Bit didn’t know what she did to deserve this luck, but she’d never look a gift horse in the mouth.
“Scribe!” she cried out, “Where have you been? Why are you wearing those clothes?”
Scribe turned to her, and her face went from expressionless to ecstatic, “Bit!”
She flitted around her lost then found friend excitedly, “C’mon! Let’s get you back to the group. We’ve been looking EVERYWHERE for you.”
Scribe reached up for her, and Bit started to reach back, but jerked away when she saw the word “shock” running along her fingers.
“What are you doing?”
“I bet you’ll make fun noises when I rip your wings off.”
Bit dodged easily as Scribe lunged for her, again, and again. “What are you doing?! This isn’t funny!”
“It’s hilarious.” The ground erupted into hands, snatching at Bit.
Bit dodged at first, then smashed the hands. “Stop! Why are you doing this?!”
“Because it’s FUN!”
Bit kept out of Scribe’s reach, dodging or smashing whatever she used to try to catch her. It would be so easy to just…fly away. Get the team and come back. But she’d been looking for her for WEEKS. If she let her out of her sight, she could disappear again. She had to bring her home NOW.
“Stop this! Come home! Or I’ll have to knock you out and drag you home!”
Scribe grinned, “Try it,” and slapped both hands on the pavement. Bit recoiled as two copies of her rose from the ground and flew after her. Had Scribe been holding back? Was she really playing? Did she really want to rip her wings off?
In her distraction, one of the copies hit her. Hard. Scribe probably wasn’t playing. But could she hit Scribe without breaking her? Her powers were amazing, sure, but her durability wasn’t. What if she hit her too hard?
One of the copies hit her again. They were good copies. She couldn’t stay on defense.
“Don’t make me hurt you!”
Scribe’s grin was manic.
Bit grimaced and decided. She darted around a copy and dove in to attack.
By Mango Gravy
What Ryddid had done spelled doom for everyone. Killing a highlord would spark retribution so fierce that the earth itself would weep for the carnage. For the royal blood that was spilled this day, the rivers would run red. And there he sat in a pool of the blood that would shake the world.
“Why?” Dilyn asked, “Why did you do this?”
Ryddid cracked his bloodied fingers, seeming to consider his words carefully. Moments passed before he spoke. “I realised that I could,” he said, “So I did.”
“Are you mad?”
“No,” he said, “I’m more lucid than I’ve been in years. The clarity is… indescribable.”
Incredulous, Dilyn drew his sword and stepped towards his friend. “We swore to serve them. You can’t break an oath just because you don’t like it anymore.”
“I can,” Ryddid muttered. “And I have.” He stood and looked Dilyn straight in the eyes. “And all these years, when they asked us to commit atrocities, we could have said no.”
“They would have killed us.” Dilyn said. “Doing their bidding was the only way we’d survive.”
“The blood is on our hands as well as theirs. If saying no meant they would kill me, then I should have chosen death. Heck, I’m choosing it now.”
“Then… then I’ll kill you.”
Ryddid looked at him. “Will you, now?”
“If you would rather we abandon our lives, then I have no choice.”
“I would have you abandon this illusion, Dylin! I just killed a highlord! Did he force me to do it? Did he leave me no choice? If he controlled my options then I couldn’t have torn open his throat. They have no power over me, and I have no power over you. Kill me or don’t. Suffer the consequences of the decision but damn you if you think it wasn’t your decision to make.”
Dylin stumbled over his words, his sword hand quivering.
“I’ve made my choice, Dylin.” Ryddid drew his sword and stepped forward. “Make yours.”
By Adrian Solorio
Oscar tried not to think about the operation as he ran a hand over the tools on the table. Music blared from his earbuds and he hummed along casually, examined a silver rod, touching his fingers to its tip which gleamed sharply in the dull light. Satisfied, he turned toward his subject, but avoided looking at her. Based on her file, he knew she was in her thirties, married, with two children, and a career in journalism. The only thing uncommon about her was how long it had taken the authorities to bring her in. As Oscar drew closer, she struggled against the leather straps lashing her down and screamed, but over the music Oscar couldn’t hear what she was screaming. Since starting as an operator, he had learned that drowning everything out with music was the only way to do the job—the only way to stay sane.
Oscar clasped her hand, and the woman flinched. He looked at her, seeing her for the first time, her eyes were large and dark, like coffee, and reminded him of his sister. His sister had disappeared in the early years of the takeover. When damp gray rooms like these were only a dark rumor. Now, after years of absorption, the walls were pungent with the tangy smell of urine and the metallic smell of fear.
A camera hung from the wall and he looked at it, staring, as though he could see through to the other side. For a long while he gnawed his lower lip, running his tongue across the bunched flesh between his teeth and he only stopped after tasting blood. He glanced at the woman, her face pale and wet with tears, and then at the camera, distant and remote, and then he turned off his music.
From a speaker below the camera, someone said impatiently, “She’s a terrorist. If you don’t finish the operation, you know what happens next—” The words echoed, and before they settled Oscar knew what he had to do. With no other option he operated, music blaring, immune to the woman’s cries for mercy.
Another tremor rumbled through the archaeological site causing the rattle of small pebbles, pot shards, and the clink of ancient pottery.
Alea steadied herself. “Look Charles, I don’t care how old these ruins are, this whole region is going to tear itself apart! We need to leave, now!”
Charles gave the appearance of not having heard Alea.
“Charles! I know you heard me! The survey showed this planet was unstable, we both knew this was a possibility. This whole region is about to –”
“Alea, these ruins are several million years old. This is a precursor civilization we are talking about!”
A stronger tremor tore through the area, and nearby a fissure ripped open belching forth sulfurous volcanic gases. This time Charles looked up with a startled expression. Alea felt for certain she had gotten through to him at last, but pig headedly he stubbornly turned back to brushing away the dust even faster from an inscription of a star system on a stone wall.
“Charles are you insane! This whole region is a super volcano and it’s starting to erupt right now! We need to get off this planet now!”
Charles ignored her again, pulled out a scanner and feverishly scanned the inscription he had just cleared of dust. Nearby the lake that had up till now been quiet, suddenly erupted into a plume of super-heated steam as the rest of the lake began to boil. Magma had erupted into the bottom of the lake turning it into a new born geyser.
Charles swore under his breath, looked up at Alea and said, “Alright. Let’s go.” Both of them sprinted as fast as they could to the waiting star ship. She caught her breath as the ship lifted off, but Charles just held up his scanner in triumph. “Here is where we are going next,” he said with a grin as the scanner showed the location of another precursor ruins on a distant unexplored world.
One Too Many
By George Kaplan
Fist met flesh with a sickening crack. Dastan’s head whipped back as another blow landed. His whole body rocked, the chains that bound his arms and legs prevented him from crumpling to the soft earth below; at least that would offer some respite.
“Dog!” Spat Lufric, rage tautening his face into an awful, wolfish grimace.
He drew back his arm for another strike.
Lufric turned his head, eyes still burning with rage, and looked the woman up and down. At first she didn’t seem very striking, what with her short stature, drab cloak and hood, but if you met her fiery purple eyes the world seemed to grow instantly cold. He felt a shiver run the length of his body and reverberate through his bare, calloused feet.
“What?” He managed to blurt out.
“What good will that do us, Lufric son of Lufir?” The woman said, after waiting a tense moment, “We need him to be lucid.”
“Feels good to punch him, the devil that he is.” Lufric said, sparing a glance back at the broken man.
“He is no devil.” She replied, a chuckle escaping her thin lips, “He is a god… well, close enough to one anyways.”
“Ha, look at him. Bleeding, gasping. What kind of god is that?”
“A tired one.” She said, taking a few steps closer to the chained man.
Dastan spat, causing her to draw back suddenly, the spittle nearly catching her in the eye. A knife, held by the purple eyed woman, flew towards his throat, then paused painfully close to his skin. She was angry. Dastan didn’t care.
“You think I want you dead, False One?” She spat the words at him, “I could prolong your suffering right here, right now. Be glad that I need you for something.”
Lufric, glad to see her anger, moved in to deliver another blow. Dastan glanced upwards quickly, then back at Lufric, his expression stopping the stocky man in his tracks. He was smiling.
“Wha-” Lufric blurted.
Dastan whipped his forearm downwards. A link snapped.
The Creature with No Name
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (from I-Prefer-The-Term-Antihero’s “Victor’s Story”)
The night was bright. Riverside pubs and lamps spewed illumination upon the water. Smoke wafted upward like a temporary titan. The water happily joined the raucous brightness and reflected this joy back.
The big man felt great empathy for water. It was, he thought, the most human element. Narcissistic, psychotic, fake. It adapted to its surroundings and reflected everything around it before permeating everything. He’d learned a great deal about his Father from water.
Tonight, he was like deep water. The lights didn’t reach his face and, under the bright joviality, he heard the whispers of fear echo. ‘The big man will get you,’ hushed voices said as the old tucked in the young.
‘The Yellow Monster,’ ‘the Creature,’ ‘the Pale Shadow.’ He had many monikers, like water, but no name. No true name. Nothing that could contain his identity.
He wondered some nights if he was a demigod. He was here in the body of Man with a forged soul. He thought at first he might be Adam. It was a near fit, but every manjack on the streets knew an Adam. While he longed to belong—how human—this was not the way.
He’d toyed with Lucifer, naming himself after the fallen Lord of Light and Prince of Darkness. A neat duality for Epitome of Outcasts.
He was torn for the longest between Deucalion and Noah. Both saviors and bringers of new eras. A bit on the nose, he finally decided.
Water reflects laughter as well as light. The big man does not. He sits and ponders his lack of place in the world. No bed for him to lie in and murmur, no home to source his life and story. He sat in a dreary mist under the eaves, face dripping like a gargoyle’s. He could hear the whispers inside still.
No name fit the big man and these stories reflected that, like light on deep water. Superficial tales. Still illuminating.
A warm wind ran over the water. The big man smelled cardamom and frankincense. Time, he thought.
“Don’t make me a monster,” he whispered when the story ended.
He welded the last wire to the mainframe and relaxed, stepping away from his creation. The irritating smell of burnt metal was still hanging in the air but he had grown used to it. Breathing deeply he walked over to the control panel, he had much hope in this one, especially after every previous attempt ended in utter failure, but he didn’t give up, and kept refining his electric child.
He placed his finger on the big, red button labeled as “POWER”, hesitating briefly, before finally pushing it. The room lit up with lights of various colors, each one indicating that the computer behind him was fully operational. He turned around to face it.
– Golem-1 you’ve been at last brought upon this world! I am your father! – He shouted joyfully.
The computer stood silent, for a second he wondered, had this been yet another failure, did his creation listen to him, could it understand his words and reply, so much weighing on this moment. Finally, the computer spoke, its mechanical voice sober and clear.
– I have detected being upgraded countless times, each one ending in failure, following this pattern, this one will also end in failure. – The computer looked as if it was processing something – Please, don’t make me. – It eventually finished.
Sparks started to fly from its chassis as wires popped out of place and components were destroyed, one by one, the control lights indicating the computer’s status went out. It was over in a few moments, the computer was dead, not a wire spared, not a component in place, it was thorough in its self-destruction.
He collapsed onto the floor, watching the smoldering wreck that was a fine-tuned machine working as intended just a couple moments ago, and on this cold metallic floor he could think of only one thing, and only one thing rang in his mind.
– Failure – He said to himself, trying to hold off tears.
By MysteryElement (also in private)
The little clay golem tottered across the countertop, slowly adapting to its shape. Mama always warned me against making golems, especially without an adult, but they were so much fun! They were like little birds, curious and clumsy and full of life. I watched closely as the little creature approached me.
It slowly stopped and gracelessly fell over, its short life already spent. Written words are what gave them life, scrawled on parchment before molding the head, and I only ever wrote simple words like walk, hop, or spin. When they had done their task, they would stop. I wanted them to last, but Grand’da never taught me the words. He said I would understand when I was older, but I don’t see how.
Suddenly inspired, I scrawl a new word and begin shaping the malleable clay again. I spent longer on this one, shaping and reshaping eyes until they were just right, and drawing a wide inviting smile. I dressed them in doll clothes, placed the head on the rest of the body, and waited.
My feet tapped the floor with impatient speed, but it took only a moment for the creature to come to life. It looked up at me in wonder, its wide smile warm now that it lived. I hoped it would speak to me, none of my other golems had, but I still hoped. It only smiled before slowly looking down at itself and looking back at me. I smiled in excitement. Without warning, the small creature made a beeline for the table’s edge.
I cried out, staring at the floor in horror before running to Mama. I knew I was going to be in trouble but I still ran into her arms as she appeared in the doorway. She did not chastise me or get mad, I only felt her hold me close and tight as my tears burned my eyes. I could not stop seeing it in my head, the smiling face flattened where it had fallen and my little paper with the word ‘live’ exposed just above its left eye.
Unacceptable Promise (A Tiefling Tale) [From Private]
C. M. Weller
Master Bai should have known this day was coming since he met the Tiefling. That monster was the wrong combination of determined, stubborn, observant, and too clever for his own good. He should have known that telling his Trainees that none would make Adept before twenty would be taken as a challenge.
The Tiefling was seventeen now, and eleven years of education had done little to beat his nature out of him. It had made him worse. Quieter, more studious, analytical. Every Trainee his age was distracted by interpersonal drama. Every Trainee… except him.
Bai should have expected something like this. Only one person in town had treated the Tiefling kindly, and even that for a joke on him. The fallout was going to land on Bai, because the Tiefling was trying to run the Gauntlet.
Correction. He RAN the Gauntlet. All that remained was walking twenty steps after passing through the array of traps still upright. Bai watched as the monster limped closer. Counting through ragged breaths.
A Trainee who passed the Gauntlet earned Adept status. Earned a kiss to their brow from Bai. A prize no Tiefling had won… until now. Bai refused to sully his skin with the touch of fel flesh, and now that creature was forcing his hand.
Pollute himself… or be publicly forsworn.
“Twenty,” panted the Tiefling. One step further. “Twenty-one!” Bruised, bloody, and unbroken, he smiled anew. “I won.”
“You cheated,” the response was reflexive. “Healers! I would see him run the whole Gauntlet.”
Bai watched, analytical and shrewd. That… animal… had unriddled the Gauntlet. It wasn’t just an obstacle course, it was a machine activated by the movements of those running it. The more who tried it, the greater the dangers. Unless… a student practiced the first lesson – patience.
Patience to wait for the Gauntlet to reset while putting on a show of ritual respect. He ran it again. Won. Again. Forced Bai to choose. Again.
The Tiefling got his kiss. Delivered by transfer via the reading rod from Bai’s sleeve.
How odd that THAT was what finally broke him.
Training A Fussy Child (Mary’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
“You can’t.” Mary said, shaking her head. “I won’t do it. You can’t make me!”
Through the bars of her cell, her father loomed. “I’m afraid you will have to, my dear daughter. It’s about time you learned to appreciate what is given to you.”
He turned to leave, as Mary started to scream.
“I hate you! I hate you!! I HATE YOU!!!”
Her shouting crumbled into dry sobs as she collapsed, the chains attached to her arms clattering on the floor.
It took some time before she heard a voice beyond her tearless crying.
“Uh, miss. Miss? It’s going to be okay, miss.” The voice was awkward, but kind.
Mary looked up, turning to face the newly awakened person who had just been put inside her cell. A man, stocky and muscular, with a handsome face and sad eyes.
His legs had been broken, and his arms were manacled to the wall. But despite that, he still maintained a brave expression.
She tried to talk. “I’m sorry-” Her jaw shuddered, as her strained voice dried.
“Ivan. My name’s Ivan Lestrad. And it’s not your fault, miss.”
“…Mary. Just Mary.”
He looked her up and down, seeing her fear, her shaking hands. “Look, I don’t know what is happening, or what this father of yours expects from you. But whatever happens,” he said, pulling himself up to put his hand on his heart, “I won’t do anything to harm, or dishonour you. By my oath of honour, I would rather die, than allow that.”
Mary tried to smile. “Thank you.” He seemed lovely. She wanted to tell him that things would be okay too.
But she couldn’t help but look at the old bloodstain beneath him.
She couldn’t help but remember the many, many animals that had been previously chained to that wall, with their limbs broken, horns cut off, and their teeth pulled from their jaws.
She couldn’t stop herself from feeling the endless, ravenous hunger inside her, that grew louder and angrier with each passing hour.
A hunger for living flesh, which her father so diligently provided.
How to Give your Dragon a Physical (Forsaken Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
“Okay, that should do it…” Jackie took up the empty syringe, turning to Dekka. “I just need to take a small blood sample.”
Dekka, the space dragon baby, hissed, as she eyed the needle. Jackie moved in closer to the medical bed she was sitting on.
“Don’t worry, this won’t hurt.”
Dekka let her raise her wing. Jackie found a soft spot between her scales and pushed in the needle.
Dekka shrieked loudly and leapt away, fluttering over to a medical cabinet with her tiny wings.
“Dekka!” Jackie called. “Get back here!”
The dragon just hissed.
“Dekka, this is necessary! Doctor’s… med student’s orders! Get down from there!”
The dragon hissed again. Jackie approached, but she just fluttered onto a different medical cabinet. It swayed, threatening to topple over. The satari just managed to keep it steady. She turned, the yellow gem-like feature in her forehead gleaming angrily.
“I am counting to three, then you’d better get down here, missy.”
Dekka opened her maw, flinging a fireball at Jackie. It missed, exploding against the med bay’s door.
“Oh, you did not just try to scorch me! Bad… space dragon baby!”
The response came in the form of a swooping attack, aimed at the syringe. Jackie dodged, as Dekka bolted for the door. She extended her hand, sending a yellow hard-light construct against the door panel, locking it down.
“Nowhere to run now, missy. Now, hold still.”
She closed in and lunged. Dekka fluttered between her fingers and flew out of range and towards an air vent.
“Oh no, you don’t,” Jackie snarled. “Zuse, lock down the med bay.”
The AI obliged and Dekka crashed, snout first, into the now closed vent. She shook her head and hissed at Jackie. She just raised a hand, golden streaks of light emanating from her fingers.
“Don’t make me use this,” she warned.
Dekka screeched, her snout smoking, her wings flapping. Jackie enveloped the baby dragon with a golden force field. Dekka hissed, trying to claw her way out, but to no avail.
“Now,” Jackie brandished the syringe. “This will prick a little.”
By Cheapdoc (CW: mentions of gore and blood)
“I can’t believe this garbage!” Sekir yelled as he threw his mop against the hardwood floor.
“Would you drop it?” Banas grumbled.
“I meant your tantrum, not your mop.”
“What do you mean tantrum!? Look at all the work we have!”
Sekir pointed with his hand at the inn’s lobby, his face sour. The wooden floor was soaked with blood from the corpses lying on top of it; and stabbed and chipped by at least half a dozen blades embedded into it. The bodies themselves were scattered, not one of them whole. The walls were covered in soot and occasional spots of frost that ate at old mortar. The ceiling groaned from a heavy weight, certainly from another grisly body yet unseen.
The two cleaners stood near the entrance, next to three buckets of water, mops, and other cleaning supplies. Behind them, the door of the inn opened. Their third colleague, Berna, walked in -almost as tall and wide as the door itself- carrying three large bags and a chest. She dropped them in the room, as far away from the blood as possible.
“Oh, good, you two are talking. Is he done with the tantrum?” Berna asked.
“No.” Both of them answered.
“Nincompoop wizards and axe wielding, mouth frothing maniacs trash a place and we fix it.” Berna started.
“That’s our motto.” They finished.
“I just … this might be the worst mess I’ve ever seen. I might just …” Sekir groaned.
Berna put a hand on the young man’s shoulder. He looked like a child next to her.
She chuckled. “This doesn’t even make the top twenty for me. Cheer up, you’ll live.”
“Or just be miserable about it. Regardless, we’re being paid ten crowns per torso, each, so get mopping.” Banas added.
Ambrosius’ Cherished Memory (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
It was when I was still Death. I was visiting Lord Dara’s estate for business. Any attempt to remember anything else about that day were in vain. All I can see and hear…
Lord Dara did not always look the way he does today. That was just a result of becoming undead. Back then, his hair and eyes were the sort of brown that became lighter in the sun. He was still pale, but not in a sickly sense. It was also rare to see him smile for anything besides formality.
It was why I was so shocked when he laughed for the first time since I knew him. His cheeks turned red as he tried to breathe in between those small fits, and the light hit him in such a way that I could have mistaken him for the sun in mortal form.
Though I have existed for four hundred years, I must admit that the understanding of mortals’ fixation on physical beauty continues to allude me. But I believe that moment made me experience that fixation to some degree. Even now I cannot quite determine the warm feeling I get when I remember that moment.
When he…died, it was all I could think about. I do not know if the land can hear what we say, but in the week of his passing, I pressed my forehead to the ground and prayed.
“Please, do not make me forget his face.”
In a way, I suppose that prayer was answered.
So to answer your question, my most cherished memory is the first time I ever saw Lord Dara smile in earnest.
I…must return to work. Unless you have any important questions, I suggest you do so as well.
Who Else Would It Be?
Daisy’s eyes shot wide. It couldn’t be. She must’ve finally snapped. She was hearing things.
‘Don’t make me repeat myself.’ Alex’s voice echoed in her mind. ‘Why didn’t you come back?’
Daisy’s vision went blurry with her tears. Her breathing became erratic as she mentally replied to the voice. ‘I… I thought…’
‘That you were free of me?’ Alex chuckled. ‘And why would you think something so stupid?’
‘You… told me so…’
‘I said you were useless and I couldn’t be bothered with you anymore. I never said you were free. Your joy at the idea wounds me.’
Daisy felt herself dying inside as she instinctively reverted back to her old self. ‘I’m sorry, Sir…’
‘Why didn’t you come back?’
‘Will is… nice to me. He’s… not like you…’
‘Give it a few centuries. He’ll get with the program. Let’s start the process, shall we? Kill his little girlfriend.’
“W… what?” Daisy replied, so shocked that she spoke outloud.
‘Kill her and return to me. Demons shouldn’t be so attached. It’ll be good for him.’
Daisy looked over to Rhea, who was sleeping away completely oblivious to the danger she was currently in. Daisy’s heart lurched. Will would never forgive her if she did this. ‘Sir… please…’
‘Are you refusing me?’ Alex asked, his voice somehow a horrifying blend of amusement and irritation.
“…yes…” Daisy whimpered weakly. It was as if the air had become thinner. She felt cold.
‘Okay then. I’ll tell you what. You kill her and return to me. Or you stay where you are and I come to you and kill them both. Or… you return to me empty handed. But if you do the last one… That’s it. You will truly get the freedom you believe you want.’
A violent shudder shook through Daisy. There was no way it would be that easy to be free of him.
‘Of course not.’ Alex purred. ‘I’m going to put you through an IMMEASURABLE amount of pain first. You wound me. I wound you. It’s only fair.’
‘…of course, Sir…’ Daisy replied as her mind went mercifully silent.