Hello, Surprise Hosts and Drop-In Visitors alike!
Do you like surprises? Are you the kind of person who likes to plan ahead? Yes? No? Well, whatever your answer is, do me a favour and take care of this prompt for me, will you? Great! I’ll leave it in your care, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
An Unexpected Guest
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 is pretty self explanatory, isn’t it? You’re either rushing around to get ready to go out or just having a lazy day to yourself, when suddenly the doorbell rings and makes you go “Who could that be? I wasn’t expecting anyone.” as you move to answer it.
But like all of our wonderful prompts, there are more sides to this than it first appears. By the term “guest”, we can assume that whoever is being visited ends up playing host… whether they want to or not. Of course, there’s the very common “I was in the area!” kind of guest. The one who was running errands and happened to think of you, so they figured why not? They’ll surprise you by showing up randomly. But we also know that sometimes that very line is said casually but actually means “I came straight here. Just for you.” Now this can be twisted in several ways itself. Perhaps a friend you haven’t seen in a long time decided they just wanted to come see you. They missed you and wanted to surprise you with a visit! But what if the visitor isn’t so friendly? Perhaps that demon you made a deal with was “just in the area” and decided to pay you a visit to see about you holding up your end of the bargain.
Maybe there’s even more than one guest! Like those holidays you find out you’re hosting the family dinner by everyone showing up, and your sibling swearing they told you it was your turn this year but you know they didn’t and they just laugh it off while you have to now find a way to get a dinner ready for several people. Perhaps the “unexpected guests” are a few thieves who broke in in the middle of the night, and you come face to face with each other as you’re getting a glass of water from the kitchen. Maybe they panic and leave. Maybe you just don’t get in their way, letting them take what they want. Or maybe you manage to actually sit them down with a cup of tea and talk to them about life choices.
Who knows? Maybe the unexpected guest is simply you finding out you have another personality, or maybe even multiple personalities within you. Or perhaps it’s finding out your best friend has telepathy by them suddenly speaking inside your head from across the room.
There’s many, many ways to spin this kind of prompt. It all depends on how you would define the word “guest”.
Now, go on and weave your tales. We’ll keep the tea warm while we wait for you to return with your submission.
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).
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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.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
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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.
Too Many Guests
by Mysten Noire Silver
The night was misty and damp, unlike how summer nights usually are. A young boy gazed calmly at the empty street through boarded-up windows. Despite his age, he had a mature bearing, and his body tensed as if ready to spring into action at any time.
After another moment of gazing, the boy covered the crack in the windows back up and the room plunged into darkness. Deep brown eyes blinked twice before a red glaze covered them.
The world was suddenly bright as day and even more colorful than before.
In his eyes, the empty house had wisps of energy that were colorful and ethereal. As the night deepens, he saw uninvited creatures slip through the walls. Some looked like horror terrors, some do not.
He acted as if he didn’t notice any of them and walked calmly with a makeshift spear in hand. The weapon was useless against these creatures, but he kept it close in case those… ‘possessed’ humans came by.
He tried to keep a neutral façade even as claws and feathers left tingling sensations on his skin. He walked upstairs into the second floor’s corridors but flinched when a creature appeared through a wall behind him.
The boy froze as he accidentally gazed at the creature. The creature noticed his gaze and paused too. They looked at each other for a few moments before the boy finally sprinted to his room down the corridor. The creature let out a sound that his ears could not perceive and several smaller creatures popped out of the same wall to chase after the boy.
As soon as the boy reached his room, he opened the door, ran in, and slammed it shut again.
The door wasn’t locked yet, but the scratching of claws on metal showed that the creatures couldn’t rotate the round door handle. The boy quickly clicked the locks shut to prevent those that could open doors. As the adrenaline drained from his body, he slid down the door.
His mature gaze wandered the scribbled papers stuck on the walls in his room and sighed tiredly.
Who Stands Up First (Chronicles of The Dragon)
The hospital ward was mostly quiet. Only the beeping of the machines and gentle hum of the ventilation could be heard.
Outside of Ultima’s own shallow breathing.
She’d lost track of how much time had
passed. And they’d never told her how long it’d been since she’d passed out.
She was left to lay there and think about the battle.
Flashes of fire, claws, and fangs leapt from her memory.
She tried to force them back. Focus on something else.
Not thinking about the outcome. Not thinking about her opponent. She drifted to thinking of the damage they’d done to the city.
That was on her. She should have taken him out of the city. Over the ocean would have been ideal. But she hadn’t been thinking. Too confident she had him under control. Then too…scared.
But it had been worth it. They’d won. He was contained. And they’d kill him if they needed too.
She sighed as she tried to convince herself of that.
Footsteps in the hall caught her attention.
Slow. Casual. A doctor came around in his clean white coat with his face buried in her medical chart.
“Looks like you lost a lot of blood,” he said, his voice hoarse.
Ultima grunted and asked, “How long am I going to be in here?”
“I dunno,” he said, tossing the chart aside, “I’m not a doctor.”
Ultima recoiled violently, nearly falling out of the bed and pulling her IV’s and monitors loose, “YOU!”
“Be careful, you ripped open some wounds.”
Her rage started to turn to fear as she felt the warmth of blood seeping through her bandages. She was in no condition to fight. How was HE standing? How was he standing HERE?
“What do you want?” she ground out. “To finish the job?”
He stood still for a moment. Then grinned. “Just looking for the exit.”
“Just blow a hole open,” she said with a sneer.
He shrugged. “If I have to.” His smile faded. “I’m glad I didn’t kill you. Someone has to protect the world from people like me.”
by Jesus Rios
He came to Providence this past October as part of a traveling circus. The dreadful heat betrayed the gentle crunch of fallen leaves beneath my boots. The crimson sky hid slowly beneath Prospect Terrace. The sight was inspiring enough for me to change my plan of going home early this All Hallows Eve. Imagine my surprise upon witnessing an awestruck crowd on their way out, clamoring about things such as the ones only fathomable in my dreams. Against my better nature, I ventured into the crowd.
His haunting gaze burned with cold detached intelligence. The crowd was jolted by surprise as he had manifested from the aether. Calling himself Khalid ben Jinun, he claimed Egyptian ancestry. This had to be true for I should be appalled by his complexion, but his presence was that of a Pharaoh. He spoke of horrors from beyond the stars. Vile darkness, unrelenting and unforgiving. Later the topic shifted to psychology and the brain, how it is a slave to the whims of electrical signals he could command. I stood up and called him out, others rallied behind me. He approached with a friendly smile. I trembled and averted his gaze. He requested to shake my hand, which I brazenly refused. Only then did all facade of friendliness depart his frightful face.
“Sir, you have been a must unpolite guest this evening. In light of these developments, I bid you a night you will never forget!” On my way home, it did not take me long to make sense of his threat. What used to be paper images of black cats, pumpkins, and witches on the windows, were now living abominations! Their limbs twisted and broken in ways most unnatural. Their bodies oozed black tar and writhed in pain! I ran home and locked all my doors. His voice bellowed in my brain for what felt like an eternity, reproaching me for causing humanity to be unprepared for what was to come. It didn’t stop until I pleaded a bargain, to share his message as best I could through my writings.
by Alan Baker
He sat at the edge, gripping the handrails behind him so hard his knuckles turned white. With his legs hanging over the ravine, he only had to let go, and he would slip off the smooth metal surface.
Looking down at the grey rocks far below, silent and indifferent. It was a lonely place, too far from town for most.
The rusted railway bridge creaked under him, flecks of rust spiralling off in the breeze. He took in another breath, and…
And then, someone slipped under the railings and sat beside him. Startled, he tightened his grip.
“Hello,” said the stranger in a soft, musical voice.
Seconds drifted by, lost to the wind. Looking down at the stone teeth below, he gave no answer.
She breathed in slowly, taking in the cool mountain air. “It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?” He felt the railing behind him give ever so slightly as she lent back.
He looked up to see the setting sun bathe the valley in waves of crimson and gold, setting fire to the stream that writhed and twisted its way down the slope beneath him. And there amongst the brilliant rays, she sat smiling, drinking it all in.
Without noticing, he pulled himself up slightly, away from the edge and loosened his grip. Realising that he was staring at her, he turned to look out over the sunset, embarrassed.
He felt her hand over his, “I came here once, like you, but I met someone on the way. And he helped me climb out. Showed me people care.”
He turned to her to see a tear roll down her cheek, “Will you let me show you?”
A Matter of Perspective
By Alexsander Edwards (EddySc)
Avoiding the thunderstorm that took over the skies outside, detective Richard “Dick” Seymour entered his office at the 14th precinct. Folders and papers from previous cases littered the floor.
Lifting his left hand to turn on the lampshade hanging from the ceiling, a memory hit him. There, on his finger, where a wedding ring was meant to be, he could see naught but his own wedding ring. For he was not yet divorced, after all, as opposed to all the cool characters from detective novels.
“Took you a while.” The voice startled the happily-married man. Sitting on a chair in front of his desk was detective Richard “Dick” Stanstill.
Seymour never quite understood why he was constantly surrounded by so many Dicks. He glanced for a moment at the office next door, where detective Dick Gotobed worked – but, as usual, he’d gone home early that day.
“How long have you been waiting here?” Seymour asked, as he sat down at his desk.
“About since the story started,” Stanstill replied. “You did ask me to come here, after all. Something about a… serial lampshade hanger?”
Seymour took a sip of water, wishing the precinct would allow him a bottle of whiskey like in his favorite noir stories. He thought of all the poor, innocent lampshades that had been hung. He knew they wouldn’t hurt a fly – no promises about moths, however, but that seemed fair to him. Realizing he’d lost himself in thought, the detective looked up, relieved to notice that his guest had simply stood still.
“Yes,” he finally said. “We need to go over the evidence and catch this monster!”
“I mean, it’s just lampshades…”
“Don’t you dare besmirch the reputation of those victims!” Seymour snapped.
Stanstill rose an eyebrow. “Riiiight… Well, anyway, I have some pictures of-“
“Wait! Not now!”
Stanstill would’ve stopped in his tracks if he wasn’t already simply standing still. “Why?” he asked.
“We have unexpected guests… as you well know,” Seymour said, as both detectives slowly turned their heads to the side, facing an unknown point approximately where the readers were seated.
“A Christmas Surprise”
Suzy sat looking out at the planet below from the window of the space station in her family’s front living room. “Merry Christmas to you,” crooned over the speakers and a thought occurred to Suzy.
“Mommy,” Suzy asked, “If the Santa is coming, how does he get pass the security dwones?”
Suzy’s mother Lithia thought for a moment then answered, “Well sweetie, he is friends with the security drones so they let him come visit people here on the space station.”
“But then, how does he get into the house?”
“Well, he has a magic pass card that lets him into the houses.”
“But then, he sounds like a bad man, like someone who comes to steal stuff.”
“No, honey, he just brings presents.”
“But he comes and steals like… all the cookies and the milk too!”
“No sweetie, he just eats the milk and cookies we give him.”
“Oh,” Suzy said plainly.
Lithia knew that her husband Jack would be back soon dressed as Santa to surprise Suzy, but the thought did now occur to her, would the security drones be able to recognize him in that outfit?
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” came the loud voice from the hallway.
Suzy gasped and ran to the door, pushed the button, and the door slid open. “It’s the bad man, he’s really here!” Suzy screamed.
The security drones in the hall, reacting to Suzy’s shouting, swiveled to face Jack.
“Ho! Ho! Oh shi—” could be heard from the hallway followed by the sound of buzzing filling the air. Lithia ran to the door hearing Suzy shouting, “They zapped the Santa!”
by Shawyn Waddell
(Trigger Warning: pet death, and a swear word)
Stone-faced and weak-kneed, I held his little blue body in my hand. My nine-year-old’s face turned red and swollen; she radiated fear, sadness, and regret as the last one to handle him. My seven-year-old’s face went ashen and blank, disbelief poured from her soul.
“Shit, he’s dead, I’m sorry.”
The listless budgie’s neck rolled around, and everyone’s tear ducts opened.
“Crazy, silly, stupid bird,” I bubbled, looking at their faces, my heart tearing from my chest.
Squirt, the surprise oddity from the aviary played emotional blackmail on us at first sight. He was small for his age, weak-billed, unable to fly, and unsteady on his feet. His tiny face cocked to one side at us, and we saw two perfectly shaped black hearts on each cheek… and ours poured into him.
The breeder tried to talk us out of it. He knew this day would come.
“Maybe two weeks, maybe four,” was his sad prognosis. He gave us Squirt with a tinge of regret, and caution that heartache would be imminent.
When we reached week eight with him, we felt blessed. Maybe he would make it long term. He was curious, interactive, and determined to learn to fly, though his ill-grown body betrayed him.
Week ten and twelve, I saw him struggle to get around more than usual. “Hold out until Christmas,” I wished him.
The fateful day was pleasantly normal. A perfect math test to be celebrated, dinner was on the stove, everyone was excitedly chattering, but then the curious and determined little blue budgie did what Squirt often did: attempted to fly like his cage-mates.
His neck snapped on impact with the cage wall. I sprung to him, and shielded his already limp body, as he landed hard on his back on the floor, and rolled him into my palm, hoping he was only stunned.
Death had arrived, unwelcome, undeserved, unfair, and, at that moment, unexpected.
Stone-faced and weak-kneed, I held his little blue body in my hand.
Oh ye my mirror
It was already late at night, when I began preparing for dinner. Usually, I have no motivation to do so, but for today I have planned a grand feast, for an esteemed guest has graced me with his presence. It is the first meal in a while I do not have to eat alone.
“Oh, what a joyous occasion!”, I cried out in bliss. “Oh, my sacred companion, I shall prepare everything to your liking!”
Though first, we had to push the tables together, for one alone would not have been able to carry the load. Then we set the table, with my finest tableware and I went out to the kitchen to put our fare together, while my dear guest occupied himself with other matters. And just as promised, I made an exquisite supper. All kinds of bread were on the table, with cheese and cold cuts, dozens of varying kinds of jam and everything else he could have hoped for. And of course, I did not forget the wine we both enjoyed. We sat down at the table, talking and joking. Each of us took the bread, picked up the butter to salt it and ended up putting salami on top. Surprisingly, we our tastes were quite similar, maybe even the same. For now, we kept each other at bay with small talk. We´d have deeper conversations over the wine. It was pretty fun to speak to him. There was a lot to talk about, since although we see each other regularly, we usually only exchange greetings. This was the first time I actually conversed with him. “Why haven´t I invited him up till now?”, I thought. Even though we see each other so often. In the hallway, my room and the bath… “Why was it only today that I thought about it?” All the time I wasted not talking to him heavily weighed me down. But his kind words immediately lifted my spirit and we continued deep into the night.
We cleared the table, still a bit drunk. We looked at each other with joy. Our hands touched on the cold surface of the mirror. Tomorrow, we shall have breakfast together.
Ding-Dong, the doorbell rang.
Garvan opened the door.
“What? Sandy?” he said surprised.
“Wohoo, my hafling friend!” the human lady before him sang. “I’m a good luck fairy bringing fortune to your house!”
“Sandy, you’re a dragon, not a fairy”
“Aww. So you won’t let me in?”
“…Sure. Go to the regular size couch.”
“Yay!” She entered, zigzagging akwardly.
“You’re drunk? How is that even possible?”
“In human form it’s very easy. Lucky me! Wohoo!”
“Okay, I’m calling your brother.” the hafling said, reaching for his smartphone on the table.
“Nope!” Sandy replied, snatching the phone and laying on the couch. “You know, I always found it funny seeing you, so small, with a regular-sized phone. So funny!”
“Yeah.” said Garvan annoyed. “Hilarious. So, to what do I owe this visit?”
“It’s just that it’s been so long that I don’t see you. I missed you, you cranky short dude!”
“Sandy, we see each other everyday at work.”
“Yeah, but I want to see everyone everyday more often. Every hour. And I want everyone to be healthy and young forever. Or else I’ll fire them! New policy: no one dies of old age, or they will be fired for just cause!”
“…Did…Did something happened?” Garvan got worried for his boss’s sanity.
“Sorry.” Sandy withheld her tears. “It’s just that… a friend of mine, she… died today. You didn’t knew her. We grew up together, you know? But I’m here and she… died of old age. She was just ninety-eight years old! She was so young and full of life! Not fair. Not fair at all!”
“Sorry to hear this.” the hafling climbed the couch and sit next to his friend.
“Do you mind if I stay here? I don’t fell so…” the human-dragon fell into the couch, almost falling on top of Garvan, imediattely sleeping. He decided to get his phone back and but on a blanket on top of her.
“Better call your brother, Sandy” Garvan said more to himself than to anyone else. “Dragon hangover is something I really don’t want to see.”
Ruses of the Mind
By Ann W. T
There is something dangerous about being trapped in your own mind, enslaved by your own thoughts. And it’s not dangerous by the things you may think, it’s not about getting lost in the past or afraid for the future, not about the feelings that might be remembered when they should rather be forgotten. It’s about the unexpected things one can find inside, things that were once private, personal spaces being invaded by things that never once were invited to stay. Or to even exist in that mind.
At first, the voice that reaches you is nothing but a weak whisper, an echo from the darkest parts of your thoughts. At first you ignore it, dismiss it. Yet the voice grows louder, fiercer, hungrier, it wants you to listen, pay attention to the words its saying.
Such horrible, terrible words.
You are already trapped, you can’t leave your own delusions and your own mind- So you follow that voice. It leads you to places you never wanted to see again, things that make your skin eager to crawl away from your body, make your heart stop and dry out like a dead and hollow cask. You want to close your eyes and run away yet there is no safe place. That prison was created for you.
You walk in the darkness following nothing but that voice, the voice that did not belong in that place nor your mind, until you reach the very core and essence of that prison. Suddenly you feel like the invader, the unwelcomed prisoner as you see the being that faces you with a ravenous smile. It is your own prison, your own mind and thoughts yet you face the Master. The elemental, fundamental being that once was called a demon, a monster is now what you could only describe as being your own self. The self that holds a key for the prison, the ‘you’ that demands payment. Retribution. It was once your own mind that sought comfort, reached for help. You were once the rightful host, the owner.
Now you are the invader.
Dance with the Devil tonight
By Tamela Redfin
The arm was at last finished. Ada and I marveled at our creation, calling it Aspasia. “I can’t wait to show Gilbert.” Ada smiled.
“I bet Gilbert as well as Radon Cecilia will love it.” I replied. “I just hope…”
But then something happened that stopped our hearts.
The loud sound of feet could be heard. Ada stared at me in shock.
“Schnell! Hide it.” Ada whispered.
“Hide what?” The door flung open to reveal her. The lady of the hour, better known to humanity as Sulfur Cora. She pushed back her sulfur colored hair.
“Oh… just a prank for my… father.” Ada stammered.
Sulfur Cora leaned in. “Feldspar Augen works hard in Snos, keeping cyphas at bay! He doesn’t need childish playthings to distract him.”
Sulfur Cora’s cold onyx eyes locked on Ada. “You’re about thirty years old. Grow up, Ada!”
Wait, what? How was that possible? Thirty? She didn’t look a day past twelve. But then again she did mention a clone mother, so anything was possible.
“And you, Chlorine Keely, report back to my brother, Chlorine Keith immediately. The streets don’t clean themselves. As for this arm, Hydrogen Henry take care of it.”
Oh no! I could tell from the look in Hydrogen Henry’s lovesick violet eyes, he’d do what she’d say. “Yes, Sulfur Cora.”
“Please, Sulfur Cora, there’s no need to do this.” I responded.
“Do you wish to be stripped of your current rank and live as a copper or an iron? Perhaps a carbon? That’s what I thought. Report to Chlorine Keith.”
I had no other choice, but she didn’t see me pocket the Hawk’s Eye.
A peculiar Visitor (The Depths Files/Darkspell Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
Daniel Armitage, demigod descendent of retribution itself, had been sitting in the living room of his family home, until he felt it. Something had just made its way into the lawn of Rosewood House. Instinctively, he knew that this couldn’t be his sister, Emily. His magical senses wouldn’t go haywire like this, if it were.
Out in the cold night, he couldn’t make out much. But what he could perceive was a wave of something dire. Something… powerful. Like a storm, waiting to happen.
He braced himself, as he made his way towards rustling, coming from a pair of oak trees. He usually didn’t like hostilities towards guests, even unexpected ones, despite what the name Armitage suggested. But this… This was something else.
He’d learned from Max to be on his guard, when demons were close. And this… this was a demon. One of a truly chilling calibre. He breathed in a strong, sweet scent reminiscent of fresh marshmallows and vanilla, mingled with the smell of roses so typical for his family and which he so disliked. He could almost feel his eyes shimmer, as the legacy of Armitage rose in his chest.
He couldn’t help but growl slightly. He didn’t like this… It distressed people. Caused them to recoil in fear. He didn’t want to be a monster, not even for his mother.
But this… Whatever this demon was, it emanated a sense of chaos and disorder, like the laws of common sense had just been thrown out the window.
“Where are you?” he whispered.
The rustling now came from the flower bushes. The petals brushed each other, shacking as something moved through them. He noticed a scruff of ginger hair, in between the red rose petals.
There they were.
He grabbed the intruder and slammed them into the house wall, pinning them with one arm. It was more than enough.
“And who might you be?” Daniel asked, his eyes glowing magenta.
“Name’s Trip, mate,” the young man winced, as Daniel gripped his wounded arm. “Sorry ‘bout yer garden. Runnin’ for yer life makes ya careless.”
Surprise Visitor (Alchemy’s Kin Universe)
On any other day, Sayaka Shimizu would have loved to sit and watch the little Christmas lights glitter in the snowy nightscape outside her apartment complex. Today, however, the lights seemed to be the only thing keeping her from falling asleep on the sidewalk as she trudged through the watery mush up to the doors of the building.
“Guess…this week…took a lot…out of me” she said, dragging herself towards the elevators. “I should…”
The lift doors opened with a small ping. A group of people made their way out to the cold December air. She slipped in to fill the space they had vacated. Once the doors closed, she slumped over on the wall, oppressive exhaustion overtaking her entire body.
Damn those extra aikido lessons, she thought. Her phone buzzed in her coat pocket in response, but her arms were too sore to even attempt to take it out. A quiet yawn escaped her mouth. The elevator slowly came to a halt on her floor. The metal doors opened again.
A loud yell followed by an equally noisy swooshing sound greeted her ears. Her heart skipped a beat. She ran out of the lift and rounded the corner of her apartment hallway. A large man came barreling towards her, waving his arms at what appeared to be a small fireball whizzing around his head like an angry hornet. Sayaka yelped, blasting him with a jet of water from her hand. The force pushed the man straight into the wall of the lift, knocking him out.
“Going down,” an automated voice declared as the elevator shut once more.
“What…in the world…” Sayaka managed in between deep breaths.
“Yeah, sorry about that. Weird guy was hanging out outside your door,” came a rather irritated, but sheepish voice. She looked over to see a familiar black haired, red-eyed boy, a small flame hovering above his hand.
“I left something in your place the other day. You don’t mind if I–” he asked.
“I-I…um…sure, be my guest…” she replied.
As You Wish
by Lee Strangely
It was the greatest day of Terry’s life. He could hardly see what he was holding through teary eyes, but he knew what it was. The check, that single piece of paper was going to save his home and everything in it.
It was odd to think that mere minutes ago his whole life was falling apart. I thought about how lucky he was that he got this gift… But as he did, something kept bothering him: he got the check in the mail, but he didn’t remember seeing it when he first pulled it out of the mailbox. It was as if it had just appeared out of thin-air on the table.
“It was probably just hidden between two other envelopes, that’s all,” he reassured himself. It’s not like it wasn’t supposed to be his. After all, his full name was written on the check and the envelope it came in. Nothing could distract him from the immense joy he felt.
The sound startled him. His attention immediately turned to the front door.
He took the check and stuck it in one of his desk drawers before heading to the door.
At this point the visitor’s impatience started to annoy him so opened the door as quickly as he could. Outside stood a man in a blue blazer and a silvery, robe-like shirt.
“Terry, um…” the man looked at small receipt-like piece of paper, “Rudoc?”
“That’s, me,” he cautiously answered, “and you are?”
“Jean, just call me Jean,” he said as he went to shake Terry’s hand, “I’m here to talk about your wish.”
“My wish? I didn’t wish for anything.” Terry didn’t quite understand, but played along.
“I know. You didn’t make the wish; it was made for you. Someone wished for you to have that money.”
“You’re here for the money?” Terry sighed.
“Oh no no no. You see, wish recipients often get one of three choices: One, you can wish for something for someone of your choice; two, you don’t.”
“What’s option three?”
“Option three, is that you become a wish-maker… Like me.”
Rain Nor Snow
Theodore nearly dropped his quill. He frowned, his hand lingering above parchment.
knock Knock KNOCK
Theodore started. Yes, definitely a knock. Several knocks. A knocking. He grabbed his pointed hat and crunched it on, took it off, then halfway around his desk decided, yes, maybe a hat sort of thing. That being sorted, he bustled to the door. It wasn’t a large room, so he could only bustle a bit. He paused with his hand over the knob, but grabbed it, not wanting to be knocked upon again. He opened the door a hair and peered out, but it was just enough for the cold air to tickle his nose. He sneezed.
“Mail’s here!” came a call across the barrier.
“Surely not,” Theodore thought.
Theodore opened the door in full and saw yes, there was a mailerly looking man. Theodore frowned and pulled his cloak tighter against the cold. The man held out an envelope, and the corner flicked in the wind. Yes, definitely a mailman.
“Yes. Thank you.” he said, grabbing the unruly thing.
The mailman touched a finger to his cap and started to turn.
The mailman stopped and looked at him. “Something I can help you with?”
“It’s just… Excuse me, but what exactly are you doing here?”
The mailman stared at him blankly. “I’m delivering the mail.”
“Ah. Yes. Well then. Thank you.”
The mailman touched his cap and started away again. Theodore stood in the doorway and watched as he walked away.
He, then, leaned out the door and looked down. Yes, well. The tower was still there. He closed the door, then frowned, then slid the dusty bolt into place. He walked back to his desk with a distinct lack of bustle, and in reaching for his hat, remembered he still had a letter in his hand.
He broke the wax seal, unfolded the letter, and read the words over the tip of his nose. He threw it in the hearth at once. He was quite happy with his current scrying mirror, thank you very much.
Uh… hi. Okay, if I crash here? (The Depths Files/Darkspell Universe)
Trip, disguised as a redhead with curly hair and a panicked smile, bolted through the line of trees towards the first house he could see.
Note: Werewolves don’t like losing card games. And spontaneous hugs. And my face.
The werewolf’s howl of frustration stung his ears as he climbed the iron fence and vaulted over it.
Also, note: Midnight parkour over iron fences is stupid. Ya cut yerself really bad. Don’t do it again.
Trip grunted as he tumbled through the branches of a tree to the lawn below. He lay facedown in the grass for a few moments before he felt it.
Something much worse than the werewolf was pissed at him. And he had just trespassed into its house. So, naturally, he did the most logical thing at that moment and scrambled for cover.
Rose bushes, perfect! Thorns, not perfect! Ow ow ow ow! How can they be this sharp?
Note numero three: Roses are very mean and should not be trusted. Or hugged, for that matter.
He flattened himself against the ground, trying to wedge himself free of the thorns. Nope, even the trunks are spikey. What kind of rose is this? And who would want to keep it? He stiffened at the sound of footsteps coming closer.
Great. Bleedin’ everywhere and limboing under a bush. Fantastic first impression yer making, mate. Maybe… ya can save it?
He awkwardly got to his feet through the bush. It took a few jerks, but he eventually got free and stood as casually as his fear would let him. People hide in bushes all the time. This is… normal… right?
Nope! Not normal! The stranger slammed Trip against the wall and pinned him against it. He tried to smile as cold magenta eyes burned into his green.
“And who might you be?” The young man asked, a wave of guilt flooding off him.
“Name’s Trip, mate,” Trip winced as the man gripped his wounded arm. “Sorry ‘bout yer garden. Runnin’ for yer life makes ya careless.”
Heavy Hangs the Hand that Holds the Torch
The Missing Link
Late one night, I lay in bed, a much-needed respite to end the week. I drifted off in restless sleep to that world where I could be free. A world that could be anything I desire, a world where I have that choice.
That night I saw a field of flowers, calmly sweet along a river, but then on the other side was a peculiar visitor. This interloper wore a cloak, and underneath a mask. It smiled empty like one of those emblazoned on theater signs. The creature tilted its head and began to speak with mocking bow, “Hail to the king who reigns o’er feather and cotton, long may he yet reign.”
“Who are you?” I asked my guest, “Why have you come here?”
The thing did not answer me but turned away with a spring in its step. I desperately repeated my plea as dream became nightmare, “Who are you? Please… answer me. I do not understand.”
I chased the thing across the burning fields, the river now subsumed by lava, flowing as it ran away. The cold behind me chilled my back as I gave him chase. I crossed that blazing river to identify my ill met guest. As I ran, I saw the faces and heard the cries of people dead and dying. The wraith gave no answer as I continued to follow. It danced up through the gibbets, and amid the skulls it sang, “Heavy hangs the hand that holds the torch.”
I screamed and pleaded, “Leave my head!”
The wraith then paused and laughed with glee, “Now then, does your liege finally see?”
I could not hear its next words as I awoke with a jolt of pain, but I knew what they were by the ice in my son’s eyes as he removed his knife. What the creature meant to say then, I realized in a final moment of clarity, “I am you, and you are me.”
Clouds on the Horizon
By: Robin Graves
“Beans again?” asked Scotty, deflated.
“And spam,” I replied, fighting with the lid. I up-ended the can and shook, freeing the lump of congealed meat with a shloop.
His face was sour. “It’s cold.”
“We have to conserve power.”
“Can’t we have MREs? Those warm themselves up.”
“MREs are for special occasions,” I said, not knowing myself what that meant anymore. “Cold beans aren’t going to kill you.”
“I wish they would.”
Dad had told me that, in experiments where people were kept away from sunlight and anything that told time, they would adjust to a different, longer schedule, something closer to a 31-hour cycle. They completely lose their sense of time. It could have been weeks, maybe even months since Scotty and I sealed ourselves in the bunker. It all dragged like an eternity.
At something approximating my 3AM, I woke from another nightmare–the same nightmare I always had. Mom and Dad running towards me before a blast wave tears across the earth, and I slam the door on their outstretched hands. Truth is, I had no idea what happened to them, but that didn’t stop the guilt from choking my thoughts. All I knew was that Scotty and I were here and they weren’t.
“That nightmare again?” I heard Scotty’s small voice from the darkness.
“What are you doing up, bud?” He didn’t respond. I grabbed a flashlight and followed where I thought I’d heard his voice. He was standing on top of the air filtration unit, his ear as close to the grate in the ceiling as he could get it.
“I heard someone.”
There was no way. Even if someone had managed to survive the initial explosion of a megaton bomb, the surrounding area would still be radioactive. The metal unit groaned under my weight as I joined him, ear to the sky. There was only the hum of the filtration system working as intended.
I hopped down, holding my arms out to help Scotty. “You shouldn’t get your hopes up. Remember what Dad told us about particle decay–”
There was a knock at the door.
A Deathly Familiar Visitor
She pulled up her dark dress as she stepped down the stairs. They creaked and their echoes reverberated in the empty halls of her estate, it was so lonely in here. She wondered what kind of guest would come in such dreadful, stormy weather.
She pulled on the oaken door, and gasped.
“Elizabeth! I haven’t seen you in such long time!”
She wanted to scream, she wanted to run, hide, no, it couldn’t be real! Yet, the figure in the red shirt with white buttons moved closer and hugged her, smearing mud and blood on her.
“But, you died in Crimea! I receive a letter and-”
As she moved further away, and away from the hug, the following figure stepped into the light, and she saw William’s face, just like 3 years ago.
“I- I can see the holes where the bullets pierced your flesh! They, they go through your heart! No, no, it can’t be.”
She lamented further, but gradually fear faded away from her voice, and sadness started to appear. She stopped falling back, and sat down on a nearby chair, as tears started to roll.
“I must’ve gone mad, you’ve died long ago.”
William took her hand.
“And yet, I now feel alive again.”
She only started to cry harder, not looking up at him.
“Then why are you here, did I die? Has my heart broken now physically too?!”
He gently placed his cold finger on her chin and lifted it up, he was kneeling, just as that day in the pavilion in the gardens. He was holding her hand, just like that time, and sadness slowly started to vanish.
“No my dear Elizabeth, I am dead, but I have dragged myself through war torn Crimea, and the steppes of Ukraine, farms of Poland, factories of Prussia and fields of Flanders, and through the mud at the bottom of the channel, and all the way here through the countryside, for one thing.”
He stood up and placed a kiss on her forehead.
“To spend a night with you.”
Misguided Wish (Fae Wish)
By Connor A.
How did you get here?
No matter. If you sought me out, then you must have a desperate wish. Something you believe to be unachievable through conventional means. Well then, what is it? Fame? Fortune? Love?
A perfect family?
Allow me to be sure I understand your situation. You have a rather large clan, and you are the matriarch that ensures it does not fall to anarchy. However, in the years following the death of an important clan member, it has become harder to keep your hold over them. Your children are at odds with you, your own father has abandoned his own personal health, and all the while more and more friends and clan members are becoming estranged. So you wish to make sure the remaining people in your life obey you.
If I may ask, you are sure that you are unable to fulfill your wish yourself, yes? Because from what I understand, your wish is not for family, but contr—
…Of course. I am clearly in the wrong. I apologize.
If you wish to go through with this, then I need a specific item. The Chrysanth Dagger. With it and blood from the members of your clan, you will be able to control them. You will find it in the fledgling Flora Court, though do be careful. There is a power struggle occurring with the group that oversees that land.
…You see, my dear guest, I would fetch it myself if I could. But, as I humbly said just now, there is a power struggle there. A dangerous one at that. I will also consider this fetch quest as your payment for my services, so I will say this again. If you truly wish to have this “perfect family,” you must bring me that dagger.
Do we have an agreement?
Good. One of my servants will provide you with the items you will need for this quest. I do hope you are good at managing resources.
Now go. Before the situation in the Flora Court can devolve any further.
Not Just Any Guest (a Tiefling Tale) [From Private]
C. M. Weller
Tallo’s official title was The Boy, despite being a girl. It was her job to take in deliveries, take out the garbage, take down the laundry, take up the clean linens, and generally take the blame. She had no idea how she was going to get blamed for this one, but that was part of the ‘joy’ of her work.
When the Earl Valiant said, “The Boy will show you the available suites,” and rang his bell, Tallo rushed into the room to face…
A figure dressed in black, with a face and form from storybooks. Blue skin. Shining yellow eyes. Indigo hair and slightly spiralled upright horns. And a spaded tail twitching behind him. A Demon Lord! In her lifetime!
“Stop staring, Boy, and see the Viscount Kormwind to accommodations fit for the heir!”
Tallo bobbed a curtsey, “Yessir. Sorry, sir. If you’d follow me, m’lord?” She turned and rushed towards the empty suites of the castle, realising in horror that no footfalls trailed her. She turned to glance behind, but there he was, keeping pace without a sound.
When he spoke, he had a Zemnian accent. “You have questions. I will answer them.”
Tallo had to blurt, “I thought it was only Viscount Spitebane as heir.”
“Not shocked. One of the puff titles for all Kormwinds is ‘Living Shame of Whitekeep’. The old man prefers me invisible or dead, so he won’t have to admit it.”
“That he sired a Demon Lord, that he did things to stifle me, that all his plans have turned to muck. Take your pick.” A very sharp and menacing grin. “I am not going to be invisible for very much longer.”
As she showed him a suite just like Spitebane’s, Tallo had to wonder how it was all going to be her fault.
Away for the Holidays (No Rest in the City Universe)
Once he got out of the car, Oliver’s scarf and parka that were supposed to be his bastion against the elements did nothing to halt the blows of the chilling wind. After closing the car, he glaced over to his husband who held two neatly wrapped presents in his arms and was smiling at newly created clouds of mist.
“How on earth are you not freezing?” Oliver’s voice quaked as he rushed over to Aleksei’s side.
“The cold doesn’t really bother me.” Aleksei’s voice kept its familiar jolly tune and his eyes began to reflect on old memories. “If fact, it reminds me of my home back in Kazan, yet Kazan was much colder than this, I think.”
“Do you ever miss it?”
“Not particularly. Like I’ve told you, I don’t have many memories of living in Russia.” Aleksei sighed out and smiled at another newly made cloud. Tilting his head, he gestured the door of a brick house. “Shall we?”
“Yes!” Oliver followed Aleksei up the stairs of the house. “You told your mother we were coming, right?”
Oliver was met with silence.
“Aleksei, you told her we were coming, right?”
He was met with more silence that broke when they got to the porch.
“I wanted to surprise her.” His voice quivered out a poorly constructed lie.
“You didn’t tell her?”
“I though I did.”
Oliver reeved a sigh and gave the door a hardy knock. It took a few minutes, but the door opened with angelic gold light, and there to greet them was Aleksei’s mother, Lillia. Hugging with enough strength to topple them both, she spoke to Aleksei in their native tongue then turned to Oliver with a familiar jolly smile.
“Oliver, how are you doing sweetie?”
“Then, come in, come in.” Before he could speak, Lillia bounded inside. “Gegor, look who’s here!”
Gazing up at Aleksei, the two shared a warm smile and followed the spry old woman inside.
Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones But…
They had a demon to deal with. A demon who had been around for multiple millenia. Even among their ranks, not many Earthbound immortals can handle that kind of longevity. He was a threat and he needed to be treated as such. Laila was only trying to show Matt that she had ways to restrain a powerful demon if need be. And if Matt had come alone, there wouldn’t have been an issue.
But he didn’t…
Mara looked at her surroundings, gleefully spinning around. “I would NOT have expected this play from you. I’m impressed.”
Laila grit her teeth at the demon. “For the last time… this is not a sex dungeon…”
Mara ran her hands along a whip hanging on the wall and smirked back at Laila. “Sure, it isn’t. Because you’re an angel and pure and all that. As I said. Impressed.”
“I’m a warrior angel! My literal job was to-”
Mara had already stopped listening. Her eyes practically turned into hearts as she very inappropriately touched the manacles hanging from the ceiling and turned back to give Matt a puckish smile. “My safe word is Voldemort.”
“It’s NOT a sex dungeon!” Laila stamped her feet petulantly.
“You know, technically speaking, you should have more than one safe word.” Matt chuckled, clearly enjoying the banter between his familiars. “One to slow things down. One to stop. And if necessary, one if you can’t talk. Though that last one wouldn’t technically be a word, I suppose…”
Matt then noticed that he was being stared at in silence. “…what?”
“I have never been more attracted to you than I am in this moment.” Mara purred, practically swinging from the manacles.
“Why do you even KNOW that?!” Laila asked, her tone a blend of horror and intrigue.
“Magic is great and all but the internet is a worrying, wonderful place.” Matt flashed a toothy grin.
“Where’s the keys?” Mara asked Laila eagerly. “Nevermind! I won’t need them!”
“This is a place for the capture and interrogation of supernatural beings!” Laila groaned in exasperation. “Stop defiling this place with your… your filth!”