Hello, Interns and Attendings!
You’ve stubbed your toe, right? Maybe you’ve broken your leg once in your life? Do you still feel that pain now? Does the damage affect more than just your body? Hey… if you’re still in pain, you can talk about it, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
It Hasn’t Stopped Hurting
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!
We’ve all experienced pain. I mean, who hasn’t? But this isn’t just an “ouch, I pricked my finger while sewing” kind of pain. This is pain that lingers, that follows you and simply refuses to leave for one reason or another.
One way to address this kind of prompt is to explore something like heartache. Perhaps a couple has had to separate after years of being together. Why has this separation happened? Maybe things just weren’t working, slowly tearing apart what they used to have. Maybe some abrupt change caused one of them to leave due to being unable to accept this change. Or perhaps the separation isn’t by choice at all. What if one of them has to travel for work, but while they’re away, the weather delays their means of returning home? Or what if, in some crazy turn of events, the apocalypse hits so that they have to find their own way home through hordes of undead or cataclysmic events? Another form of heartache can be addressing the loss of a loved one. Maybe a grandparent who was best friends with their grandchild, or a parent taken too soon by illness. Maybe the loved one isn’t human at all, but a dearly cherished pet. You could even explore any of these, but a year later. Have they moved on? How bad is the pain at this point in time? Does it still haunt them?
Another way, obviously, is the physical aspect of this. There’s no end to the kinds of injuries the body can take on. The human body is strangely both tough and fragile. We can think ourselves invincible right up until we slip down the stairs and sprain an ankle or break an arm. It can really be as simple as someone going through the healing process of a broken bone. Perhaps you choose to write about someone who has hyperalgesia, a condition that makes one more sensitive to pain. While one person can bump their arm on a corner, wince, and move on, someone with hyperalgesia can do this same act, but the pain is stronger, will sting for longer, and can even feel like it’s worse five minutes after the impact. Maybe you choose someone who has chronic migraines that drive them to the point of tears, and no amount of painkillers is helping.
But who would we be if we didn’t address the fantastical aspects of this prompt as well? Knowing this group, I’ve no doubt in my mind that someone is most likely going to write about a pact with some demon or powerful being. Perhaps this pact is sealed with a tattoo-like mark on the skin that still burns days after the pact was made. Maybe a newly turned vampire finds the bite they received still aches, and seems to worsen if they don’t feed. Or maybe a fairy had once injured their wing, and though it has healed, they cannot fly as much as they used to due to the ache it causes.
The body is a hardy thing. Strong, durable, and can be tested again and again. But there’s more kinds of pain than just physical. Emotional and psychological pain are just as harmful, sometimes moreso.
So go forth and show us pain. Don’t worry. We can take it.
But we’ll have the band-aids on hand anyway, just in case.
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 3:00pm 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! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
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!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- 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.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
What Remains in the End
By Adrian Solorio
For a long time, John held the doorknob, as though gathering the will to face what lay on the other side. When he finally entered the room it was as gray and cold as an abandoned tomb. Beside the bed, a ventilator beeped, and from the bed, his father rasped.
Fernando saw his son, so long gone, and he seemed to gain access to some hidden reserve of energy. He sat up, and his eyes, until then dim and dull, changed, gleamed with malice. “Well—look who decided to show up,” he coughed. “Took you long enough”—he paused for breath—“But I guess I should be happy you came. Your sister hasn’t come around. Must be waiting for the funeral—” A hacking cough rattled his chest, and a spot of blood appeared on his thin lips.
“You should take it easy.”
“You should take it easy,” Fernando repeated mockingly. “I’m dying—I’m gonna be taking it easy soon enough. Don’t worry about that. Now sit down and shut up.” Fernando motioned his son towards a chair, but John didn’t move. “Fine. Just listen”—he paused to catch his breath—“I’m gonna be gone soon. It’s time for you to get serious. Take over the company. Cementing will take care of you. It paid for your whole life—it was my whole life—it gave you a good life.”
“Don’t be like your stupid mother.” A mean smile revealed yellowed teeth. “There was always money, you got things. It’s not my fault you wasted it—and for what—writing stupid little stories. It’s time to stop being a idiot and start getting serious—do you want to be a failure your whole life? An embarrassment?” Fernando’s face suddenly softened, and then he continued, “I’m telling you this because I love you.”
John, slowly and sadly, shook his head. The familiar words reminded him of crushed dreams and strangled aspirations, and he realized nothing had changed, and maybe nothing would or could change. And with nothing left to say he left the room, but he couldn’t leave behind the words or the memories of his father.
Chronicles Of The Dragon: Curiosity and The Kat
The girl at the bar stuck out like a sore thumb, looking like a punk rock concert had chewed her up and spit her out.
Sitting down a seat away from her he said, “I’m surprised they let you in.”
She finished her drink. “I threatened the doorman.” She slammed it down. “Another.”
He tapped his finger. “Come back tomorrow, same time, tell them I invited you. You won’t have to threaten your way in and I’ll buy you dinner.”
– – –
When she was lead to his table he was surprised to see she was wearing the same clothes as yesterday. Though it did look like they’d been cleaned.
And honestly, that only made him more fascinated by her.
“Glad to see you accepted my invitation.”
She sat down. “I didn’t have a reason not to.”
She picked up the menu and he watched as her face went from eager, to confused, to frustrated.
“I don’t know what any of this is,” she said.
“Really? Surely there’s something on there you’ve heard of and might want to try?”
Her whole body tensed and the menu crumpled as she flexed her fingers. Then she said, almost too calmly, “No.”
“Well, feel free to pick something at random. Everything is excellent.”
She looked up at him then back to the menu.
A server walked by and she snagged them. “Could you bring me a vodka? Please.”
He raised his eyebrows at that, “Something so hard so early?”
She looked up at him, then back to the menu. “I like that it numbs me.”
His eyes darted across the faint scars on each part of her he could see. “Something causing you pain?”
She gave him a long look.
“I was born into pain and suffering.” She let out a laugh that was almost a sob. “A year ago I found out everything I knew was a lie, and everything was taken from me.”
He gave her a soft smile. “I think there’s a nice laugh in there somewhere. Maybe I can coax it out.”
She huffed. “You’re welcome to try.”
In a Water Droplet (reposted from private)
Ina returned to the ancient wood after a thousand years. But this time, he’d returned rejuvenated, stronger, and with new determination. The fear left by the death of his childhood friend Bidi no longer commanded him. Now, it was not fear that drove him. It was hatred.
He did not tell the others of his plan. He was a ruby fairy, nature’s embodiment of passion, and so none of the other gem fairies questioned his anger and fervor. Bitterness swelled in him each day, burning like hot coals in his stomach. Ina would soon come for the evil thing that dwelt deep in the woods. The more timid among them, like the sapphire fairies (of which Bidi was one), rarely spoke the thing’s name. Ina spoke it freely. Fear gave that wretch power.
First, Ina visited an old hedgehog spirit, who gifted him with one of its sharp quills for a sword. The little ruby fairy stuffed it in his belt.
Second, he visited the library built into an ancient tree. The owl spirit living there granted him knowledge. And knowledge, Ina knew, was power.
Lastly, he did the unthinkable: he visited The Forbidden One. The conniving little troll, face covered by a metal crow mask, sold him a special poison.
“Your kind fear me,” he’d told Ina “only because they lack the spine to do what I do.” The black-clad troll finished with a devilish chuckle.
Ina went deep into the Spirit Woods. He found the cave of the stinking toad god who’d eaten Bidi a thousand years prior. Ina entered the cave, and there slept the creature. It dwarfed him in size by an absurd measure and stunk unbelievably. No more will you terrorize us, Ina thought as he drew the hedgehog quill. But when he saw the tired old eyes of the great toad, he stopped. He couldn’t do it. It looked exhausted. It looked remorseful. Its eyes said, “I’m sorry.” Ina had left, his hands free of blood.
The memories never stopped hurting, but Ina knew Bidi would want peace.
By Rainer M.
I visited my dad and brother’s graves today.
Speckles of sunlight shone on those plaques. The grass was covered in little droplets of water from the showers last night. Wind glided through the tall pines that surrounded me; light bled through their canopy of leaves. Little birds chirped and whistled at each other. Their songs twirled around my head as I stood there, my eyes fixed on the letters engraved on the granite plates.
Even though I visit them every two weeks, I feel closer to my dad and brother when I’m in the house. For the longest time, I would still feel my brother jostling me awake, yelling at me that I’ll be late for school; I would still hear the sizzling of bacon in the kitchen, only to walk in there and find my mom sitting there alone with a coffee mug in her hands; I would still see my brother, out of the corner of my eyes, at the benches near the baseball field, waiting for me so we could walk home together.
I don’t anymore. The air in our home is dead silent now.
I stood there in front of their graves. My throat tightened. I felt tears roll down my hot, burning cheeks. I attempted to wipe them away, but it wouldn’t stop. I buried my face in my hands.
It’s been months since I lost them, but every two weeks the sword is driven deeper into my heart. And it hurts a little more each time.
The Horrible Sound
by Gabriel M. Rayback
It burns. The pain burns. But it is not a physical pain. What I have seen, I believe no man should have seen, for it causes a pain deeper than anything mankind knows.
I had been awakened by a strange and rhythmic sound that seemed to be coming from the outside of my walled estate. At first, I had dismissed it for simply hammering it from the nearby railroad. But as the night moved on, and the sound continued, I started to notice just how strange of a sound this was. It was metallic, like a man forging a sword at a blacksmith’s shop, but as I listened closer, I noticed a fleshy, writhing layer underneath. Whatever was making that dreadful sound was no man.
I crept down the stairs of my lonely estate, the silent creaking of the stairs piercing the silence of the hour. As I slowly made my way to the door, the sound seemed to get faster. I slowly reached my hand out to the handle, and as my weak, human flesh touched the cold brass knob, I felt a rush of dread. Did I want to see what was on the other side? Did I want to see what created a sound so terrible?
After what felt like hours of debate in my head, I slowly turned the handle. I crept down the walkway leading to my house, and finally to the wall. This was my last chance to go back to bed, but I did not take it. I wish I did. What I saw, I cannot write here without collapsing into tears. I wish to burden no man or woman with my knowledge. The horrible source of the sound caused me great pain. Not physical or mental pain, pain to my soul. Pain to my very humanity. It hasn’t stopped hurting.
Why does the Widow mourn?
I had awoken to a soggy-stupor all around me. I could hardly hold back the feeling to vomit as I sat up from the indent I made in the bed to a disgusting sight of being surrounded by a congealed ooze. I paused as my eyes finally adjusted to the rooms’ dim lighting. The creak of a wooden chair froze me to my depths making it nigh impossible to force myself to move. Despite the iron pit churning in my stomach, and the thudding beat of my heart echoing inside of my head, I crept off of the bed. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a woman who was bound to the wooden chair. In turning to see her I stumbled over myself and fell to the floor, but she did not move. I approached her cautiously despite my careless fumble, yet she did not move. I came within touching distance to her legs, and as I reached to touch her my head began to throb. The throbbing swelled like it was going to burst through every orifice on my head, making me wince in overwhelming pain.
My eyes opened to see a man standing in front of me, hands over his ears, and eyes shut. He was starting to age rapidly before my eyes. I tried to put my arms to comfort him, but my wrists had been stitched onto the chair. I tried to move my legs but they did not respond. The throbbing pain in my head was replaced by a building pressure in my pelvis. When I looked down I saw the congealed ooze flopping out from between my legs.
I felt no more pain. I could move my arms, and I could move my legs. I saw two people above me, but I couldn’t reach out for them nor call for them, and grew tired.
I woke up in a soggy-stupor, my pacemaker light still on. I stretched out my hand to fill the empty space next to me in bed.
Before anything, I’m a foreigner, and I really need to improve my english, sorry for any mistakes. I’m doing this for fun, and to improve myself.
By Samurai Jackson
This scar that I have on my back still hurts, almost as like I was recently cutted. Everyday I feel the pain, every night I relive that shameful moment, the only time in my life that I coudn’t raise my sword, I just turned my back to the enemy and ran away in fear, dissapointing my master for the first and last time.
I survived out of sheer luck…
I used the pain of that day to grow stronger, I was never going to be that coward again. So I trained everyday, took my body to the utmost limit, faced countless foes to improve my skills, surpassed every limit that my body and mind had, with the sole purpose to kill the one who killed my master.
One fateful day, I finally found him, and my blade tasted revenge, but even that wasn’t enough to make that scar stop hurting, that could only mean that I needed to be stronger, so I cutted my way to the top of the world, I proved my strenght to every living creature, becoming the strongest being that ever walked on this earth, but…
Still hurts, and now I don’t now where to aim… In my despair and agony I secluded myself in search of an answer, I wanted to change that, I wanted to make that pain cease to exist, but I never reached the answer that I was looking for, but I reached enlightment.
Doesn’t matter how strong I am, or how strong I become, I never gonna be able to change that moment of fear and shame, the only thing I can do is learn to live with it, some pains never go away.
Words Like Knives
By Ada Singer
My mom walks into my hospital room, footfalls soft. “Hi sweetheart,” she says, her words drifting feather-light against my skin.
I hum at her in response. Her entrance has saved me from my current fruitless attempt to find a comfortable position to lie in this stiff, uncompromising hospital bed.
She pulls a chair up. She winces looking at the IV catheter in the hand she grabs, and I squeeze her hand.
“The doctors say you’re going to be just fine,” she says. The words are a gentle caress across my battered body.
“But it’s going to take a while,” I say back, words falling like pebbles. “I heard you talking with them.”
She nods, eyes gleaming with tears. “Oh, sweetie.” Her sorrow roughens her words to sandpaper. “I’m so sorry. We’ll make sure they don’t get away with this. The police will be here as soon as you’re well enough to give your statement.”
I blink back my own tears at the prospect of having to tell the story again. The words I want to say bubble up sharp as razor blades, and I swallow them down again. There’s still blood in my mouth and my voice cracks as I finally say, “They were supposed to be my friends.”
It was just supposed to be a low-key party to celebrate managing to finally graduate from college, but it didn’t go anything like I expected. Catelyn and Grant had both been drinking, and it made them cruel. Memories of old arguments came up, things that I had thought long since healed and forgiven used as weapons against me.
The doctors told my mother I was lucky that the word-blades had missed my heart; a few millimeters deeper, and I would have been beyond saving. As it was, I would be in this hospital for another week at minimum.
The tears I was holding back finally break loose, and the salt stings the tiny cuts on my face.
“They were supposed to be my friends,” I say once again. It still hurts.
Scratch me if you got it
By Tamela Redfin
I couldn’t understand it. We were doing these brutes a great favor, and we were giving them the chance to be rehabilitated into our society.
I would have to tell Sulfur Cora about this mishap. She wouldn’t be happy of course, but she needed to know her fellow humans were in danger. Or at least that’s what was supposed to happen.
Something told me someone was behind me. I snapped my fingers to produce a small flame and spun around. “Show yourself!”
“Don’t mind if I do.” It was a dry voice, as if water hadn’t touched their throat in ages. “Think I’m afraid of a little fire from a human’s hand?”
“You must be careful. Fire can burn anything.” To prove my point, I surrounded myself in a ring of fire and laughed, thinking I knew who I was up against. Instead of striking fear into the creature, it appeared before me, floating just about the dancing flames. I gasped having heard about this particular cypha, but never having met her. “Owens!”
The cypha smirked back, “Isn’t it a human custom to call another by their first name? Even you don’t know your own rules. It’s Cecilia.” I studied her face which was covered in scars, raking her face left and right. Not surprising as she was raised by such brutes.
“Why are you shocked? Can’t look at the monster you’ve created?”
I curled my lip. “We’ve created no monsters! We are your saving grace.” The fire slowly died out. I could much more easily see her. Wait, what was that on her ankles?
As if playing into my curiosity, she started rubbing the rings, saying in a low tone, “Oh yeah, it’s lead. Can’t disappear even when I do and it feels like my feet are getting torn off. Isn’t it beautiful? Humans love to see us like this.” Her voice turned sharp. “Us, not me.”
“It’s not my fault cyphas are such barbarians who can’t accept helping hands. Now get down before I send you to…”
“Camp Goodjoy? I forgot about my sweet vacation. It was… electric.”
Price of Heroism
By MysteryElement (also in private)
The sun is high when I enter the house, carefully balancing the bandages and herbs on my arm as I pry open the rickety door. He sits in his dusty corner, the only place in the house where sunlight cannot reach, head slightly raising at my entrance; The Hero of Clarant, slayer of the dragon Hera.
“Did you not sleep again, ser?” I ask, but I already know the answer.
He had indeed saved us all, once upon a time, and was greatly revered for it. He had wielded a golden sword, glinting like fire, against the terrible dragon and slayed it mightily. But…
His grunt in reply belied his pain.
The dragon’s final breath had cursed him, his flesh being eaten alive everyday while the hero himself was unable to die. He did not move, almost never slept, and even breathing bore him pain. I calm my aching heart, and begin redressing his wounds. The only kindness I could offer.
The herbs help a little, but must be applied twice daily and I could only afford to come half as often. Others do what they can, bringing food or clothes, tending the house, but the people have become lax these recent years. Those who were but children when the dragon fell were now gray, and the story retold holds less weight than it once did.
My patient gasps and whimpers gently as I change his dressing, the skin attempting to fall away as I pull the old bandages off, limbs scrawny and pale. I could weep for him, I have before, but that only makes him restless.
“I wonder, ser, if you still would have faced Hera if you had known…?”
My mouth tastes sour as I form the words, and my heart aching bitterly on his behalf. He suffers so much everyday, for people who barely recall what he did. He breathes in long and deep, his chest shuddering and teeth clenching, and carefully sighs the words.
A small smile painfully twists at the side of his mouth, and this time I can’t stop the tears.
The alarm woke me, and with it the pain aching in my legs. Specifically at the hip joint for some mysterious reason. Perhaps the bed wasn’t supportive enough or something. Or maybe I’m just getting older. I got moving again, noticing the stiffness in my body which seemed to return every morning. It was my forty-first birthday earlier this year. It was about a year or so ago I lost my father to cancer, and I can still feel the tired sorrow in my heart. Tired. Living with the sorrow of knowing you are past your prime and so much of your family is simply gone.
My brother still visits regularly, but my sister lives far enough away that I barely see her about once a year or so. I have people with whom I share this place, but only connect with a small number of them. Even in a crowd I feel alone. Yet I remind myself I’m not alone. I have a friend or two here and there. A brother and sister to talk with, and friends I have online. Yet I feel alone amidst all of this too. Why?
I thought that growing older was the thing that weighed so heavily upon me, but rather it’s the pain borne of fear of growing old alone. I long most of all for an intimacy my life lacks, and it haunts me. It haunts me that I’ll grow older, more unattractive, more undesirable, withering away, dying alone.
Yet damn it all! I refuse! I remind myself; love will yet come! Age is just a number, and my mind remains wiser, but not withered by the onslaught of time! Like my forefathers the stars themselves, I will stand against the tide of time and burn so very brightly! Let me rally to the walls, and raise my banner high. I will stand and not yield. I smile. The weight is heavy, but I will bear it, and raise it up in hope.
Memories (Darkspell Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
Of all the ways Sparrow had expected her evening to go, this was not one of them. She’d spent enough nights with Max, one very memorable one in a pub toilet, but lying on the floor, covered in what could only be described as cat sick, was next level.
Even for an exorcist of her ex’s caliber.
“Well, that went rather well,” Max remarked, tossing the snarling ocelot head to the floor.
Sparrow Morrigan got up, groaned and shot the ocelot head between the eyes. It fell still immediately.
“I am covered in sick,” the detective replied. “And my back hurts.”
“Middle age, Sparrow?”
“It’s rude to ask a lady her age,” she looked at the decapitated humanoid ocelot. “Was that the last of them?”
“I doubt it. Lilith was tracking one.”
Max rubbed his neck. His eyes fixed on the dead hybrid monster. His gaze was cold and hollow, regret etched into his face.
“Does it still hurt?” Sparrow asked.
“Please, it was years ago, since the loo of the Hanged Man.”
“Not what I meant.”
“I know,” Max sighed. “Of course it still hurts. 624 people… you don’t just forget.”
“I sometimes feel like, I got off lightly,” Sparrow scoffed. “I only have 63 bodies in my dreams.”
“Forest Nick was not your fault.”
“Neither was your demon. Still hurts, though.”
Instead of responding, Max took out a small notepad and made a tally mark in one of two columns.
“Keeping score?” Sparrow asked.
Sparrow tried to get a look at the notepad, noticing two columns.
“Which one did you mark?”
Max didn’t respond and just put the notepad away.
“We have more work to do. There are more of them still out there.”
Sparrow reached for her flask and took a swig, hoping that Max hadn’t noticed. She turned around and recoiled, to see his red eyes burning into her.
“Still hurting, Sparrow?”
She closed the flask, filled with whiskey and returned it to her belt. She failed to meet Max’s gaze.
“Don’t worry, Sparrow,” he replied coldly. “I’m done judging.”
We hadn’t seen each other in a few years, but we got on like it was only yesterday. There were eight of us there at the cookout; the ones who couldn’t make it sent their regards. And Bobby Baker, who was studying abroad, even called us up. He sounded like he was doing good. A lot less reserved than when I last saw him. Dave had brought his wife, Barb. She’d heard stories about us, and got on as good as any of us.
Susan Collins wasn’t there. Most of all, I hoped to see her.
John called to me across the bonfire, “Hey, remember last time? With the ATVs?”
I remembered. Before we all parted ways, we met at Dave’s farm. We called it a farm, but it was mostly just a big plot of land he and his family kept cows on over the summer. We were riding the trails and Susan was sat up behind me, squeezing tight and smelling sweet from perfume.
Later that day while I was showing off, I took a turn bad and ended up breaking my leg. Dave had to drive me out to get a cast put on. Susan had to leave early, right when we were driving back, but that was that.
“Yeah,” I said, “Ain’t something you forget.”
“How’s your leg healed up?” asked Barb.
“Still aches a bit when it rains,” I said, “but that ain’t too often.”
“Rained a bit earlier today, didn’t it,” said Dave.
“Yeah,” I said, “it did just that.”
He didn’t understand what was happening, James, he couldn’t return, not like that, he buried him. Every paper on his hotel room desk seemed to say something else, James supposedly returned, and is now on a crusade of vengeance against him, killing his men, destroying his empire and everything he built.
He slumped back on his chair, climbing the mafia ranks wasn’t easy, and ever since taking the reins of leadership it was even worse, guess that’s what he gets for being a criminal. Now, that he climbed everything, and buried friends, he felt he couldn’t just quit, not now that he made an empire for himself.
Suddenly, someone began banging on the door, he didn’t answer, he stood up and went over to the coffee table to take his gun, would not ever dream of doing business without it. He hid it behind his back, straightened up and went to open the door just as the second round of banging began.
He was greeted with his nightmare, haunting him made manifest, a stylish suit with traces of dirt on it, and a dark red spot right to the center of the chest. Brown, unkempt hair with chunks of dirt in it obscuring the forehead. Eyes behind sunglasses. He would always know this face, James.
“Well, old friend.” James begun but he was faster, pulling out his gun and placing it just under the chin, and shot.
James did not even do as much as flinch to his horror, he should have fallen, died right where he stood, and yet, James was still smirking.
“Impossible, I stabbed you!”
“Oh I know old friend” James just ripped away the buttons on his suit to reveal a deep wound “It never stopped hurting.”
James then took out a pistol of his own and placed it on his forehead, and taking of the glasses to reveal foggy, dead eyes.
“At least tell me, what is next?” He cried, tears rolling down his cheeks as regretted everything.
“For criminals like us, oh, nothing happens old friend, nothing.” James chuckled.
The Learning Curve (Cordelia’s Journey)
C. M. Weller
Of all the things she missed about highborn life, Cordelia never expected to miss having useful skills. She never needed to know which knife or spoon was appropriate for a dish when that dish was always stew or bread. Both of which she failed at making.
Her latest attempt at a loaf was flat and black and dough in the middle.
Dorin, the inkeep who was her host, lifted and dropped it. “Weapons grade. Do you want to try the butter churn again or…?”
Cordelia cringed. She had CURDLED butter. That should not have been possible. “At least I know one end of a mop from the other.” And she could pick up soiled plates once a customer had left. She was still awkward when it came to making beds, but Maisy insisted she was getting better.
Cordelia had been taught histories that no longer counted, embroidery techniques she could no longer afford, and economies that were so large scale that the coppers and silvers she dealt with now were easily ignored. Here and now, luxury was a hot bath that someone else hadn’t enjoyed first.
While she updated her skill sets, she could at least keep the floors and tables clean, fires stoked, and fireplaces clean of ash. In that, and the plain woad coloured dress, she was invisible. All the better for building her new life.
An extravagant gentleman was talking up the quest he was on at the bar. Seeking funds with a promise of great dividends once the mystical item was recovered and cashed in. It was the name that instantly alerted her.
“I’m telling you friend, Martlebury’s Macguffin is worth a mountain of gemstones. For as little as one gold piece, my expedition could return with one fat diamond for you.”
She blinked, and the handle of her mop had knocked the wind out of him. “You give all the gold BACK,” she snarled. “A macguffin is made-up horseshit!”
Later investigation revealed that the man was wanted in four counties for the same scam. Finally, one of her old skills was useful now.
Why We Remember (A Golemtide Story)
“Tinny,” Cay’s voice was unusually somber, “Do you know what today is?”
“The 15th day of Lunaris, 156th year of Eldrum,” the young golem recited from her seat at the table.
Cay nodded slowly. “And… its significance to me?”
“It is the fifth anniversary of the deaths of Elisa Thornsworth and of her unnamed daughter from childbirth complications.”
Cay tried to hide his wince. Tinny’s sterile bluntness stung more than the memory. “Correct,” he replied with a strained voice.
Tinny tilted her head and looked at him inquisitively. “What is the reason for this inquiry? It is clear this retrieval causes you discomfort. I thought humans avoided that.”
“We do, normally.” Cay sat down at the table and clasped his hands together on top of the schematics. He absently rubbed the wedding band on his opposite hand. “But sometimes it is important for us to remember things despite the pain it causes.”
Tinny frowned and looked down at the table. Her eyes flicked back and forth as if she were skimming pages of notes. In typical golem fashion, she locked eyes with him again when she spoke, “But discomfort is undesirable.”
“That is true, however,” Cay smiled softly at the memory of his daughter’s weight in his arms, “There are things worth remembering even when their… side effects are unfavorable.”
Tinny’s eyes dropped down to the plans in front of her. Though she appeared to be reading, Cay could tell she was trying to understand.
“Did I ever tell you about Eliza?” Cay mused as if speaking more to himself. “Her smile could light up a room. And she always wanted to…” His voice drifted off as he waded further into the depths of memory.
After a long pause, Tinny looked up at Cay. She studied his expression with a confused stare. Cay was happy…? But his eyes were… wet?
“I do not understand,” Tinny said. “You smile yet your eyes are symptomatic of sadness. What emotion are you exhibiting?”
“It’s called grief, Tinny.” Cay said quietly, a tear disappearing into his beard. “And it’s a strange emotion indeed.”
It’s Spacer’s Choice
“Hayao, ever been to Ganymede?” Doc asked.
The man he addressed was a living legend among the miners for his travel history, all before joining the union, of course. Still, the question had to be asked.
The couch squeaked as Hayao shrugged. “Yeah.”
“Business or pleasure?”
“What do you think, Doc? You rich, party boys need your ice.”
“Business it is.” Doc tapped on the tablet, filling in the record voids. “How long?”
“Well, once we landed, refitted and fueled up, two months I guess.”
“I meant, were you there before the epidemic?”
“Oh, uh, I don’t know. Been a lot of flying. Time’s relative and all.”
Doc looked up from the tablet. “Just how many hard burns have you been under, Hayao? I don’t have that in the record.”
“Oh no, I tell you and you tell the helmsman. Next thing, someone’s claiming that pool.”
“Patient confidentiality is still protected, Hayao.”
“I kinda like the notoriety.”
“So you won’t tell me?”
“Ten years, as the Earth flies.”
“Alright, anything else I should know? Spacer’s Lung? Slipped discs? Genetic breakdown from poorly made fusion engines?”
“I keep in good shape, Doc.”
“Your records show a history of acute pain.”
“Just my kidneys, Doc. Had to quit drinking because of it.”
“That fixed it?”
A spasm crossed the little man’s face.
“Your health is my greatest concern, Hayao. The details won’t leave this room.”
“It never stopped hurting. Just got easier if I didn’t feel good in port, you know?”
“Can you fix it? I can’t lose this job.”
“I can try,” Doc sighed. “But first, you’re due for a booster before we reach Ganymede. Roll up your sleeve.”
Comfort (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
When Dara’s undeath began, he quickly learned that physical pain did not go away. If it was just the leg pain, he would have been fine, but with the chest pain from his killing blow and the dull headache that came from dealing with Fianna—
He lied down and closed his eyes, trying to push down at least some of the pain. It was only when he felt fingers lightly trace his temple when he remembered Ambrosius was sitting with him. Then it dawned on him that his head was on Ambrosius’ lap. Before he could sit up and mumble an apology, he felt Ambrosius take the papers from his hands.
“It would be wise to rest until your pain subsides,” Ambrosius said with a low voice.
“You have been attempting to discreetly massage your chest for the past few minutes.”
Dara grimaced. While partially because of embarrassment, it was mostly from a jolt of pain in his chest.
“Could you lie on your back?”
He complied, but moved slowly as to not worsen his current state. Ambrosius’ hand moved away from his head for a moment, then rested across the chest hole, slightly warmer than before and lightly massaging the skin around it.
“You should not be using your magic for something as mundane as this,” Dara commented.
“Alleviating a friend’s pain is not mundane to me.” Ambrosius’ voice took on the slightest hint of humor as he added, “Besides, you are colder than you think you are.”
Dara finally opened his eyes and smirked. “Since when were you so humorous?”
He was not prepared for Ambrosius to look down and give him a fond expression. The answer was lost to him as he realized this was the first time he ever saw Ambrosius’ face change to something that was not guilt. He found himself lifting a hand to cup Ambrosius’ cheek and returning the expression as a silent thanks.
For a moment, as Ambrosius stiffened briefly before leaning into the touch, Dara’s pain felt like a distant memory.
Dear and Sweet (repost from private)
By Constellasphere (formerly Inky)
He did his best not to smear any of the ink or accidentally fold the paper as he wrote. There was so much to write, of course! He had found a new species of moth today; its colours were that of the crystallized sugar atop creme brulee. And so he had named it just that, the Brulee Moth. While his camera’s lens was cracked, he couldn’t help but snap a few pictures, one of them to put in the envelope.
Aizmirst lifted his head and realized that a whole page was spent describing the moth and other insects. It’d come from him before he could stop himself.
He set the first page of the letter to the side and pulled out another page. The first thing he wrote on the paper was “Please excuse me, I didn’t mean to ramble for so long.” But now, he wasn’t sure what else to say.
Leaning back a bit, Aizmirst sighed and tapped the quill against his cheek. Would they even care about his stories and descriptions of how he found these creatures? Then again, that was also assuming the letter would reach them.
The being removed his glasses and leaned forward, putting his head in his hands. Aizmirst was doing his best not to give up hope; one day he would be heard, he just had to wait. Good things came to those who were patient, right? But even when he tried to keep his head up, each letter that went unanswered broke his nonexistent heart a bit more.
Taking a shaky breath, Aizmirst lifted his head and quickly finished off the letter.
“I am not sure who will receive this letter, but I hope that it reaches you in good health. This world is vast, there is much beauty in it, I’m sure. The place you reside in, is it also beautiful?”
It was folded up neatly and the envelope was sealed off with a wax stamp depicting Forget-Me-Not’s. With that, the window before him opened, and the letter was taken away by the wind’s hand.
One day, he was certain it would reach.
It Used To Be So Easy (Nyx’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
Twilight was falling outside. The fire was lit, and the seat was comfortable. The book with a beautiful cover lay on the table before her. Ideal for some light reading.
Nyx looked at that book for a long time, her pale face expressing a mixture of longing and determination. It was the last of a trilogy – a wonderful tale of adventure that she had greatly enjoyed the previous parts of. She remembered promising herself that she’d read this one the moment she got back from her expedition.
She picked up the book, quickly turning it to the first page. “Okay, here we go. ‘With bleary eyes, Jerrik Dayne awoke to a golden sunrise. For a moment, he could forget that there was anything wrong in the world. But soon enough, he remembered–”
A fly flew in front of her face. Within a second, her hand smashed it to pulp on the armrest.
Nyx stared at the stain for a moment, before turning back to her book. “Let’s try that again. ‘With bleary eyes, Jerrik Dayne awoke to – ugh!”
A smell had invaded her nose. An ugly smell. A familiar smell. She looked back at the ruins of the fly. Yup. That was definitely where the smell was coming from. She should clean the seat after she’s finished reading. She can ignore it till then.
Nyx tried again. “With bleary eyes–”
There’s probably still some insectoid blood in that stain. She should – NO.
But now she was thinking about it. About blood. Again. About how hungry she was. AGAIN.
She was hungry, so hungry that her hands were shaking, so hungry that her fangs were aching, and the twilight was too bright and the fire was too hot and the heartbeat inside her chest was too loud, the heartbeat that distracted her every single day and night, the heartbeat that the REAL vampires didn’t have to worry about but she did–
Nyx slammed the book shut as she threw it back onto the table, before howling in frustration.
It had been a YEAR.
Why couldn’t she control herself yet?
He’ll Learn His Lesson One of These Days
“You don’t understand…” Matt sighed, “None of this was on purpose! I never intended for a bunch of fallen angels and… various other supernatural beings to serve my supposed will.”
“We mean you no disrespect.” Saraya said earnestly, “We only follow your example. We merely seek your favor.”
“This is all… getting out of hand. I neither want, nor do I need an army. Look… I get it…”
“No.” Saraya interrupted, “You don’t ‘get it’. You don’t know what it’s like to be an angel and to fall. To have your grace TORN from you! It’s not just our power! It’s part of our soul! It’s absence is AGONIZING! It’s a bleeding wound that NEVER heals! Even now! It always hurts and it always will! We’ve simply… learned to live with it over the eons…
“But you… You’re the only being on this plane of existence with the power to help, who might even slightly care about our plight! Maybe we were overzealous in our attempts to gain your favor, but you have to understand… We’re in pain. Constant, excruciating pain. And you can make it go away…” The more Saraya spoke, the more that pain became clear in her eyes and the more tears fell from them as she pleaded, “Please, HELP me… Make it stop…”
Matt knew he shouldn’t have done it. Or at least he should have considered the consequences more than he did. But he couldn’t help it. He couldn’t see someone in that kind of agony and do nothing. He held Saraya’s hand and used his power to search her soul. Finding it was easy. She wasn’t lying. It was like a gaping wound. One he could not only heal but improve.
So he did.
Saraya looked over her wings, no longer their previous dingy gray, but a brilliant, glowing white. She cried even harder. But through her sobs, she thanked him over and over.
This was going to backfire somehow. All of Matt’s other good intentions had, so why not this one? Still, he had no regrets.
It was the right thing to do.