Hello, Wanderers and Drifters!
Do you even know where we are? How much longer are we going to wander aimlessly out here? I’m tired, you’re tired… I think it’s time we find someplace permanent to settle down, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
A Place to Call Home
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!
A prompt like this just gives you the warm fuzzies, doesn’t it? It conjures up such lovely, heartwarming images.
Images like a child stumbling in from the winter cold, carrying a stray cat they found alone outside, and begging to keep the small animal. They make all the promises of feeding it and cleaning up after it, and their parents eventually give in. Or perhaps the image of an orphan child finally being adopted by a loving family after years of thinking they would never have a place of their own. They’d moved from house to house, but had never really settled until this new family brought them in. Maybe a couple has finally managed to save up enough money to get the house of their dreams, where they plan to settle down and start a family. Or maybe it’s as simple as starting a new game and needing to build a home base for safety and security before exploring the rest of the digital world.
But like all prompts, there’s another side to this to be explored. Perhaps it’s the lone merchant who never stays in one place, wandering from town to town selling their exotic wares. Maybe one person in a village is too different, too opposite of the village’s known way of life, and is outcast from the only home they ever knew. Or maybe it’s just someone dreaming of exploring the world, saving up money and prepping everything they would need for such a large journey. But even on such a big adventure, they know there’s always one place they can return to if they ever need it, one place that will always be there for them.
Sometimes, home isn’t a place at all. Some say a home is four walls and a roof, while others say it doesn’t matter where you are, that it’s only made a home by the people you’re with.
So go forth and explore the possibilities. We’ll be waiting right here for when you return, just like we always are.
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
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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.
By Hemming Sebastian Bane (CW: parasites, mind control)
The start of my life is abrupt. Burst forth. Struggle in darkness. Sense warmth. Crawl towards it. Crawl inside. Navigate the tunnels. Find the wall. Dig through. Enter the chamber. From there, coat the chamber in my mucus. Allow it to harden. Approach my white black red pink feast. Extend my bladed tongue. Crawl over my feast. Scrape it into my maw. Assimilate function. Remember my feast’s memories.
Others’ warmth. Grass underneath. Brightness from above. Names of things come. Feet. Legs. Arms. Hands. Mother. Father. Sun. Moon. Stars. Continue the feast. Assimilate more functions. Move a finger. Move the hand. Move the arm and shoulder. I control my feast’s arms now. Eat more. Assimilate more function. Assimilate more memories. Names of our possible feasts come. Mother. Gretel. Balthazar. Tobit. Sakari. My appetite grows.
Consume more of my fleshy meal. Memories, sensations, and emotions become known. I am almost done with my delicious feast. Scrape down the last morsel. I can move my feast’s legs. I can move my feast’s mouth. I can speak through my feast.
“M-my name is Urs.”
No difference from the memories. Good. I will eat well. I am bound to the spot where my feast once was. Three suns and three moons. I must find another feast in three suns and three moons. Until then, I am safe.
This is no longer my feast. This is my home for the time being. My home escapes the cave. Climbs down the mountain. Enters the village. So many homes to make. So much variety. So little time. I must work before they put my home in quarantine.
When the storms rage on with all the fury of a jaded God, the cold wind and harsh rains attacking her from every angle, each minute can feel just as much like an hour. And so it was that Serennia had no idea how long she had been walking for, or for how much longer.
That was the problem with night, she figured. During the day, the sun is kind enough to follow a pattern, constantly reminding you of just how much more time you had together. The moon was much less helpful. It was already in the sky before the sun set, and still lingered when the sun rose again in the morning.
When her feet felt like they were about to rebel against her, she noticed salvation in the distance. A meager, run down farmhouse that looked to be surviving the storm about as well as she was. It wasn’t much, but even the smallest morsel looks like a feast when you’re starving.
She hazarded a knock on the door. The wind whipped at her clothing, the rain dripping down her hair and across her face. She was just beginning to turn away when the door slowly swung open, held mostly closed by a chain lock.
“Who are you?” the man asked, peeping through the small slit between the door and the threshold.
“I need shelter. Please.” They were the only words she could get out. The shivering had robbed her of any more than that. Even if she were able to say more, what else could she say? The full truth would only get her turned away.
The man stood in silent contemplation for a moment. “You can sleep out in the shed. It’s not much, but it’ll do.”
As she found her bed among the haystacks, the scent of dirt and manure assaulting her nostrils, she pulled her knees up to her chest. The hay scratched every inch of exposed skin she had, and the grain did nothing to soften the hard ground underneath.
It wasn’t much, but it was, perhaps, all that she deserved.
This is not my home
By Jesse Fisher
The creaking of the rotting wood would instill worry in any that stepped into this place. Many would call such a place a hazard, or a disaster waiting to happen. They are ignorant to the warmth of a place like this, a building lasting longer than some family lines.
No, this was a place where hats are hung and bundled up in a nice blanket. To live in memories made in life, and those beyond.
Where rust is not a thing to hate, but a piece of history. To show that they were used and life was here, but others would just call it a ruin. The leaks and creaks were a charm that many would condom to a problem that would spell an end to a home. But this place was perfect as it was nothing short of a history that others would forget as time went on.
Time would move on for them, but not this house. No matter what happened beyond its walls the house did not change. No matter the fall of the night or the baking of the sun, this was a home that stood through it all. The piles of misplaced things added to the lived in look.
That would be until a pile shook as a dusted and dented blue robot with a cracked yellow light began to rise. It looked at the house with confusion and fear. No eyes could be seen from it but the motions were clear to be looking for something.
Bolting from the house it did not know of the sunken eyes that followed it before the whistling began to form on the wind.
The Internet Man
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
Sure I’ve had my run-ins with jerks and malcontents, but for the most part I can’t really complain. Instead of this concrete outside force pushing me away, I have this never-ending nebulous pressure coming from deep within myself. This something is pushing from deep within my soul, pointing to the horrifying fact that despite my friends and family, I still don’t belong in a society.
I get back home from a night out with friends and immediately retreat to the internet. This place, full of every culture, every interest, every type of person, feels more like home than anything in the real world ever could. I immediately begin browsing through the various sites I hit up everyday. Checking post’s likes, replying to comments, checking video performance, responding to a dumb meme in discord, I was on my usual route when I stopped in my tracks.
I had unthinkingly clicked an ad, and my screen immediately went dark. I stare at it for a moment, before panickingly trying to reset the computer. When I look back at the screen, it is glowing. And, in an instant I felt myself lose consciousness.
When I awake, I am very clearly not in my room anymore. I look around, and only see a single person in a sea of static. As I approach him, he addresses me.
“Hello. I am the computer man.” He does a little dance. “I am your friend.”
“Uhhhh sure. What is this place?”
“This is the internet. Would you like to explore it with me?”
“…are you sure?”
“Ugh, fine. Come along.”
Pale streaks of orange and pink coalesced on the horizon. A few stars dotted the sky. Warm wind whistled through high treetops.
A little girl skipped along, white pigtails bouncing, as her parents walked the quiet suburban sidewalk.
“I still don’t understand why we have to visit EVERY time someone new moves here.” She made a sour face.
“It’s polite, Krista,” her mother explained.
“It lets the person know that they’re welcome,” her father added.
Krista shrugged with a sigh.
The house came into view. The small porch was crowded with gifts similar to what Krista’s mother held.
Once at the door, Krista’s father rang the bell. They heard the chime echo throughout the interior.
A distant owl hooted.
One neighbor walking their dog waved hello.
“Maybe they’re not home?” Krista offered hopefully.
As if on cue, the door opened without a sound.
Krista squeaked and bolted behind her parents.
A voice glided from the narrow darkness.
It had the hypnotic pull of ocean waves with a hint of a rasp.
“Oh, hello! I’m Kiara, and this is my husband Keith and our daughter Krista.”
“Mr. Montgomery.” A hitch. “Oh, my. What a lovely little doll. Was she born this way? To the both of you?”
Kiara gave a breathy gasp.
Keith’s smile faltered. “Of course. Why wouldn’t she have been?”
“My apologies. I did not mean to offend. I am simply unaccustomed to seeing anyone with her combination of features.”
Krista looked from her dark-skinned hand up to her parents in confusion. She peeked around her father’s legs to peer deeper into the blackness but could see nothing else.
Kiara placed the gift next to the others with a scowl.
“Well, assumptions won’t get you far here, sir,” Keith provided.
“I was merely curious–”
“I WOULD say it was nice meeting you, IF it were still true. Good night, Mr. Montgomery.” Kiara stalked away, head high and shoulders back.
“Kiara, wait!” Keith took Krista’s hand and hurried after his wife.
Krista looked back, and a gloved hand waved from the doorway.
A Holiday Invitation
It started with a simple question.
“What are you doing for Christmas?” Andrew asked, his tone nonchalant.
Cassidy frowned. She hadn’t thought very much about Christmas. “I haven’t any plans. The last few years, I’ve spent it with my regiment, but now that I’ve been discharged for the crime of being a woman…” She could feel the bitterness of her words bubbling up in her throat as she spoke.
Andrew paused for several awkward moments before speaking again. “No family, I take it?”
Cassidy shook her head. “My father has made it clear that he no longer wishes me in his life. So, no.”
Andrew tried to give her what Cassidy assumed was his warmest smile. “I’d like to invite you over for dinner this year.”
“Why would you do that?”
Andrew sighed. “Because you’re my partner. I’m not going to trust you with my life, and then let you spend the holiday alone.”
“You don’t have to do me any favours, Andrew.”
Another sigh. “It won’t be any trouble. I bought the smallest goose I could find, and it will still be too much for just me. Please, I would very much like you to come for dinner.”
Cassidy’s bitterness started to evaporate. After everything that she’d endured the last few months, she had given up hope that anyone would offer her any kindness.
A thought occurred to Cassidy as she pondered Andrew’s invitation. “No one to spend the Yuletide with either?”
Andrew smiled grimly. “Umm, no. Mother died some time ago. Father’s been dead for three years now.”
A smile slowly spread across Cassidy’s lips. “Very well, I accept.”
Cassidy stood in front of the door to Andrew’s flat, feeling uncertain about having accepted Andrew’s invitation. She hesitantly knocked on the door.
“Just a second!” Andrew’s voice called from inside the flat. Within seconds, he opened the door. A flood of delicious aromas overtook Cassidy.
“Merry Christmas,” she said. “I brought some whiskey.” Cassidy held out a bottle wrapped in brown paper.
“Merry Christmas to you as well, Cassidy. Please, won’t you come in?”
Virterior Decoration (Corespace Universe)
By Calliope Rannis
At first, there was light.
Then, a blue sky, and a green lawn beneath his feet.
Finally, with a shimmer of gathering lights, an elegant golden-haired woman flashed into existence, gently floating a little above the grass. She turned to him, smiled brightly and clapped her hands together. “So! Where shall we start, Clay?”
“Where?” He replied, looking around at the green, flat landscape surrounding him in confusion. “It all looks the same. I guess I don’t mind?”
She blinked. “Oh, no, I was speaking metaphorically.” Freya floated close to him, taking his hand in hers. “What I meant was: How should we go about designing your virtual house? Because there are frankly almost infinite possibilities for designing these, and I’d love to know what your initial preferences are.”
“Ah, right.” He nodded and tried to think, though he was a little distracted by the warm fuzziness he was feeling. It was always so sweet of her to never judge or tease him when he did something stupid, like taking a sentence too literally again –
“Clay?” She lightly squeezed his hand. “You okay? We can do this another time.”
He stood up straighter and shook his head, smiling warmly back at her. “Oh, it’s not a problem, we can do this now. Maybe you could show me some examples?”
She nodded. “Sure, I can do that!” Freya waved her hand towards the empty field, as a large 2-storey farmhouse rose into existence.
“This is just a template, if you like it we can modify everything later.” She turned back to him. “I figured you would though. You came from an agricultural colony world after all, and your old home must have been something like this.” She tilted her head and grinned. “We could make this into a home away from home?”
Clay looked deep into her eyes, and responded almost without thinking: “Freya, you ARE my home.”
Her eyes softened. “Oh…” she said, a pink blush filling her shining cheeks. “Technically, I’m a lot of people’s homes.”
“I was speaking metaphorically.” He replied, before embracing her with a kiss.
by Carrie (Glaceon373) (cw: angst)
I clicked the headphone plug into the audio port, savoring the sound.
That simple sound, so mundane and yet so entrancing. It was a wonderful sound, as wonderful as it was boring. I clicked it a few more times. I couldn’t help but smile a little bit. I blinked in rhythm with the noise, my eyelashes sticking together slightly.
No, don’t think about that. Think about the clicks. The sounds. Nothing but the sounds.
I left the plug in the audio port and turned on my phone. The press of the power button was another lovely little normal sound. I gave it a few more presses, which made me smile again.
These sounds barely made it through my bulky noise canceling headphones. I was glad nothing else did.
The music app was already open. It was most of the time, really. Not surprisingly, honestly. It didn’t make noises when I scrolled through playlists and albums—which made sense, of course.
I picked a synthwave playlist I’d made last week and hit shuffle, losing myself in the new sounds. These weren’t like the clicking from before. These were music, deliberately created by a musician to create a desired effect. I wasn’t a musician. I was barely even an artist. I could be painting now, but the easel was five feet away from me, standing, holding an empty canvas.
I was sprawled out on the floor, holding a phone with what felt like a million unread texts I just didn’t have the energy for. I didn’t have the energy to read through every “Fuschia, I’m sorry” or “Fuschia, just know that I’m here for you” or whatever else had been building up over the past week.
I didn’t have the energy for anything.
Anything except this.
This wasn’t scary. This was the only not-scary thing. Other people might think it scary that my volume was so high it could damage my ears, but that wasn’t scary to me.
Everything else was scary. But this was safe.
The Piper is Calling (The Ballad of the Monsters: Peter)
The boy held his thin blanket close to his bruised body, shaking.
This house always creaked and groaned; it was old and unsuitable for child rearing. But this was a different creak: footsteps, growing, growling closer, like some hungry beast.
He’d learned to dread the sounds of the night.
But they stopped, and a sound he only heard in dreams followed: the sweet music of a pipe.
He chanced his luck, journeying to the window, still huddled in his blanket. Letting the wind brush about his face, he searched for the player.
When the music tapered off, he felt a longing in his soul, like it was reaching out to grasp the end of the music, make it replay.
“Did I wake you?” A young boy was looking at him upside down at the window.
“Before you ask”—The boy jumped down, landing on the windowsill—“Name: Peter Pan. Occupation: Saving lost boys such as yourself.”
“You’ve never heard of Peter Pan!” He gasped over-dramatically, and turned as if someone was standing next to him to share in his shock.
That “someone” was his shadow…moving of its own accord.
“So! What am I offering?” Peter jumped, but didn’t land. “You,”—Peter poked his chest—“A home in…”
Suddenly his room transformed, and though he stood on solid ground, they were floating above a beautiful island.
The shadow offered him popcorn, as Peter showed him attractions all over this “Neverland.” At the end the shadow silently clapped. Peter floated up to him, his hand on his chin.
He observed the ending scene: a group of boys smiling and playing games together.
“…You were playing the pipe.”
Peter pulled out said pipe, tossing it in the air. “Sometimes I think it plays me.”
The boy’s eyes fell.
Like with the pipe, he felt a longing in his soul. But, like with everything else…he knew real life could never be that amazing.
”What’s the catch?”
Peter tipped his chin to make him look at him, a slight smile curving his lip; a world of mischief and mystery.
“You’ll never grow up.”
The farmhouse (The Agency)
By Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
Agent Romeo came to oversee the transfer after they had left the Agency’s building. She needed to be sure that K and the child would be safe from now on.
“You should name them, K,” Agent Romeo leaned against the doorframe of the decrepit farmhouse. “The DNA says it’s female. So I think something like Sierra, or Juliette.”
“You say this like I have any choice in the matter,” he growled through his teeth, moving the boxes around. “It is not human, name it yourself.”
Romeo glanced at him. “Come on, K, names create attachment. I named you, remember?”
“I bet the high command has plans for whatever this thing is.” He threw a box of toddler clothes out of the way. “I don’t want to play house with it. I’d rather die in this farmhouse than let them possess me again.”
Romeo kicked a little cobblestone out of the front door and looked at the child running in the field. If she was completely human, living on a farm would be an idyllic childhood experience. But she was not. She had cleared floors full of guards and killed several agents in the headquarters, because they dared to hurt K. She had something she couldn’t control, and innocently had condemned one of Romeo’s best agents to serve as her surrogate father.
“She is just a child. And you were one like her,” Romeo grabbed the box and handed it back to him. “You won’t be a prisoner of hers forever. Just give me some time, K. I’ll figure it out.”
Romeo’s empty promises did not satisfy K. But it was all she could offer him at the moment.
The child came back from playing and jumped into K’s arms. “Daddy, catch me!”
“Hey little one, liking here so far?” Romeo smiled. “It’s you and your dad’s home now.”
“Everything for the sake of The Agency, right?” K replied with sarcasm.
The helicopter arrived and Agent Romeo gave a last good look at the accidental family she had put together. “By the way, she really looks like Juliette, to me.”
Shimmer felt something tug at her consciousness. She allowed it to pull her attention away from the highest peak, where she could have an eye on everything going on on the island at once, down to the harbor where a small group of Islanders had gathered around a just returned ship.
Two familiar men had just stepped on the pier. Had she not known everyone who lived on the island, she could still have identified them by the power of her sibling clinging to them like a faint mist. What had attracted her attention however was one of them holding the hand of someone she did not recognize. On the surface they appeared as a human child wearing their parents’ clothing but underneath that they too had an air of familiar power about them…
“What have you done?” Shimmer whispered, unable to keep the fear out of her voice.
“I did what you would have done” her sibling answered from far away. “I gave a lost soul a home.”
“But they’re one of his! Don’t you understand?! Everything he creates comes from darkness!”
“We can keep them away from him if you let them stay. Your people will teach them to be kind, and that kindness will make them strong enough to defy him when the day comes. It’s the only way.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing.”
Shimmer looked at the small figure hiding behind their favorite humans’ leg. At heart they were like a child. She couldn’t send away a child already hunted by their maker. No. This one would stay.
She reached out despite her fear, touched their head and spoke the words:
“I, the Island of Shimmer, welcome you-who-stands-on-my-shore into my safe haven. From this day on you’re protected within my borders and no one who means you harm, man, god or spirit can follow.”
They looked up at her with six wide eyes and offered her something they’d clutched in their hand. She smiled back and accepted a small sea shell.
“Thank you” the island whispered.
“You’re home now.”
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (The Saga of The Deep One’s Wake)
Klajonas had complicated feelings about Sostine. The city’s architecture was both beautiful and mean. The high temples and mudbrick houses were her playground when she was younger. Despite the swelling population in recent years, she found on her return that the city had an abandoned look. Though inhabited now, the temples were infrequently repaired, and never skillfully.
She had seen enough dead cities to know Sostine had escaped its own fate.
Is this my home, she thought. This city is a paltry thing.
She had brought many people to the city. Survivors and their children. Between herself and Mazylas, her parents enjoyed a rich clutch of grandchildren, but there were more. It was to take in sometimes. How many people there were. There were some families she bore no relation to, and that more than anything else made her feel like an outsider. Disconnected.
The city gates were not guarded, the wide arches open to the people. She passed under them and smelled that dogs still ran the streets. She wondered if the guineas lived too.
Next to her, a young girl walked, wide-eyed. Klajonas had found her wandering, been drawn to her maybe. She had become aware of certain ethereal things growing in the last couple years. Coincidence never really was, for her.
Klajonas was taking her to her father’s house, the temple with a library. She would leave the girl there, in the sombre and quiet halls where Klajonas herself grew up. It had been a long four decades since she first left the temple and wandered.
Padas met her at the temple door. Not the big door, Klajonas never wanted to make a scene, but the small door where she had seen him fight off dogs more than once. Coincidence, perhaps.
She smirked, “Father.”
“Daughter.” His gaze was off, looking over her shoulder, but his eyes were still sharp. “Who is this?”
“niekas.” No one.
“She has no one. She needs a father.”
The thought unbidden, Perhaps she could take my place.
“Come in,” Padas said. “I hope you intend to stay awhile.”
This cabin, hidden away in the deepest reaches of the Northern forest where not even the wind dared disturb, had been long forgotten. It seemed even time had overlooked the structure, as it’s inevitable fall still had yet to come.
For an amount of time he couldn’t determine, Wander watched the structure, as if waiting for something, anything to happen. Even if a pinecone fell from one of the trees surrounding the cabin, it’d stir him. But nothing changed; it remained as it was.
Unable to dismiss the feeling that he knew this place, that it was simply buried somewhere deep in his memories, the boy stepped towards it, his feet barely making indents in the snow. From the outside, it was just as silent as its surroundings. If given a passing glance, he’d assume it was abandoned. And yet, when the boy stood in the doorway, a gasp escaped him.
The fireplace was alive, staining the log walls with warm, flickering light while providing a source of comfort. And there were people! Just as lively as the fire, they sat around the hearth while the eldest of them spun a tale of a being made of the night, her hair flowing with that of the sunset.
And Wander, he could understand them. They spoke in a language he was sure no one else but he and a few other beings remembered. He couldn’t begin to ponder how they possibly knew what they spoke, but with every word, the longing in his heart grew.
“Father, he has come home!”
Wander’s eyes widened when the family all turned to the doorway where he stood frozen, their faces expressing joy and relief, and…and love. The young woman who had noticed him leapt from her chair and rushed forward with her arms open as if to embrace him, but he faltered and blinked. In a whisper of the wind, the warm illusion vanished.
The cabin was dilapidated once more, the fireplace empty and the chairs long eroded. Not a trace remained.
He could feel the longing in his heart overflowing.