Hello, Souls of All Generations!
Have you ever been stuck in any kind of cycle? Whether it’s a job, or traditions, or even just your personal routine? Maybe it’s time to change things up a bit, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
The End of the Cycle
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!
Life is full of cycles. The four seasons, the months in a year, the days in a week, the common 9 to 5… cycles are everywhere we look. In some ways, they’re great. They bring a sense of normalcy and order to one’s life.
But cycles aren’t always viewed so favorably. For example, perhaps a small village has always been terrorized by some menacing outside force. Every month on a specified date, they are to sacrifice someone to this terror to keep the rest of the village safe. But finally one person says enough is enough and decides to do something else about this beast. Or maybe a family has followed the same tradition for several generations, but the newest child wants to choose their own path. Do they follow the family’s footsteps, or find their own way? Maybe the heir to the throne of a vast kingdom decides it’s time to change things for the good of his own subjects, as well as those in neighboring lands. Stop wars and disputes, and instead try to find some way to finally achieve peace for all involved.
Perhaps the cycle in question is the day to day grind of an office worker. Get up, come in, sit down, work, lunch, work, go home, sleep, and do it all again the next day. Vacation isn’t enough, because they just fall back into it when they get back. So perhaps they finally decide to quit and start that online soap shop they always wanted? Or maybe they look for a new job in something that’s more outgoing and not so repetitive? Maybe the cycle that needs to be broken is simply your own. Maybe you write about finally telling that writer’s block to hit the road.
Whatever the case may be, we’re excited to see what you have in store for us, just like every week. Or, well, mostly every week.
After all, even we need to break the cycle sometimes.
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.
A World Unknown
“Where are we?”
“What is somewhere?”
“A word for everywhere and nowhere.” the hooded man, gruff and sonorous had answered, heaving his elephant feet through the charcoal terrain.
“Will we always be somewhere?” the petite girl croaked, her voice crumbling away into broken shards of glass.
“As long as death is staring upon us. No one will sound clear enough to tell you.” the man rummaged through his bag and gathered three photographs. The photos lay meekly in his hands as fragile as hummingbirds.
The girl tilted her chin up and gazed at the red sky, giant ravens shot up in the distance, disappearing before a blink of an eye.
“Rosey will tell me. She always tells me everything!” the girl raised her cloak to the sun; she tucked its edges and held it close.
“Rosey knows; we’re heading somewhere up in the clouds.”
“Do you mean Heaven?”
“Yeah. Up there with God and his angels. They have big plans for us.”
“Do you think mom will be up there too?” the girl leaned into the man, pressing her cheek against his shoulder. She tapped her fingers along his wrist and lifted a photo, shaded in a cherry hue. The world was dark and burning, but the two were happy.
“Yeah… they will. I know they will.” He glanced at the other two photos, they were of the girl, one where she had eaten and another she had stood in the sunset. Happy. The man sighed and lurched forward while he entwined the girl’s fragile paws into his, “Its time.”
The sky pulsed overbearing cyan waves. Its reverberating purples and blues sloshed together in a primordial harmony. Galaxies upon galaxies were revealed in the sky, farther beyond what telescopes could’ve reached. Fairies danced in the girl’s head and to the man, the angel’s chorus had sung.
“I’m scared.” The girl quivered.
“Don’t be,” the man grinned, “We’ll meet again, Charlotte.”
Charlotte sniffed and shakingly smiled, “Okay…”
Then the world was devoured in white.
End of Isolation
By Alan Baker
“Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus. Amen,” Father Berger concluded the mass, blessing the congregation. People from various walks of life had gathered at the makeshift chapel from all over Nagasaki to hear the missionary preach.
“We hold worship here every day at noon as well as sunrise on Sundays. If you have any questions, please feel free to join me in the vestry.”
Father Berger had arrived a couple of weeks ago from France to help establish a mission in the newly opened country. Proselytizing wasn’t strictly allowed, but the authorities mostly turned a blind eye due to the influence of western traders.
As the chapel slowly emptied, Father Berger noticed a man in Buddhist garb kneeling before the altar. He had never seen him before. Usually, only those who had been baptised stayed in the chapel after mass. Surprised, he walked over to him.
“Good afternoon,” Father Berger said as the man looked up. “Welcome to our church. Did you come here from one of our sister parishes?”
“Are you the descendants of the church of Saint Peter of Rome?” the man asked.
Taken aback and confused, Father Berger answered, “Yes… I suppose we are. But where did you learn of The Church?”
“At our temple outside the city when my father took me there as a child.”
After a brief pause, Father Berger exclaimed, “but that would have been before missionaries were allowed in Japan. And Christianity would have been banned for at least two hundred years.”
“We have kept the word alive in hidden communities. Prayers and scripture passed down from generation to generation.”
“So, there are churches worshipping God hidden all amongst Buddhist temples?” Father Berger asked incredulously.
“Yes, and our church eagerly awaits news and guidance from the Holy See in Rome.”
Father Berger sat down, overwhelmed by the thought of thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of faithful hidden amongst the people of Japan. Two hundred and fifty years in hiding with no access to written texts or scripture. Incredible.
Beyond the Door
The hulking beast slumped to the ground with a howl of pain and rage, splinted spears and arrows lodged in its flanks. Its monstrous paws beat blindly against the frigid air. Crimson blood pooled on the stone ground as its shallow breathing seized in its chest. The ironclad warrior stepped forward and plunged his sword into the monster’s skull. The cavern fell silent.
As the man wrenched his sword back, his companions came into the light. Another human warrior with an eyepatch crouched next to the corpse, prodding with the tip of her spear. “It’s dead, Asteria,” remarked the bow-wielding elf behind her, “Barnabus made sure of that.” The woman stood, her gaze still fixed on the bloodied corpse. “Thanks for telling me, Wander,” she grumbled as she spat on the ground. The elf’s white cloak flowed behind him as he strode past without a glance. The armored man removed his helmet, showing his grizzled face, “Aye, the Beast of Caldriff’s Cairn is slain. The villagers are safe from its endless hunts.”
Suddenly an unfamiliar, distorted voice whispered from the shadows, “The Great Watcher is dead!” The three warriors went into high alert, regrouping and standing back-to-back. The voice suddenly became several, “They have come to unleash us from our infernal prison! Freedom at last! The beast is dead!”
Asteria raised her spear to point into the darkness, “They’re coming from this way,” she whispered as she stepped toward the incessant pleas and cries. The others nodded and followed closely. They approached the edge of the cave they found not a natural, rough surface but a smooth, chiseled stone passageway that led deeper under the earth. The ethereal voices urged them to come closer, and indeed they had come closer to the source, but the elf stopped them as he pointed to elvish runes written along the archway.
“Beyond this door lie evils beyond our comprehension. None, save only the Great Watcher, can withstand this wretched place. Sacrifices must be made to appease its eternal vigil.”
Barnabus shuddered as his foot creaked against a wooden door ripped from its hinges.
A Light At The End
By Alexsander Edwards (EddySc)
Under a cloudy moonlight, Abdiriel stood in place. His body trembling under the shadow of the wide cathedral doors.
He didn’t think demons could feel fear, much less remorse, yet here he was. On his hands, small pools of clotted blood remained stuck in the dark cracks covering his red skin. Soft red blobs, reflecting his face back at him. Signs of his past. Of his deeds. And of his remorse.
And yet, part of him wanted more. The screams. The blood. He loved it all – the violence, yes, but especially the sense of power. It felt like eternal bliss.
Was it weird for a demon to feel remorse? It probably was.
The rumble of furniture drew his attention towards the large oaken doors, thick enough to absorb most sounds – assuming the people behind it weren’t in a panic to protect themselves from a demonic presence.
Abdiriel could imagine a crowd panicking, dragging everything they could to block his entrance. “Juicy victims,” part of him thought. “What the fuck am I thinking,” another side of his mind instantly responded.
The incubus took a deep breath and placed his hands against the doors, ready to burst them open. He expected to feel his palms burning, and yet… nothing.
Once more, he stood there for a moment, contemplating the lacking effect of touching holy ground for the first time in millennia. A weird sensation bubbled underneath his face, his eyes. Is this how humans felt when they wanted to cry? Maybe, though a demon would never know.
In an unconscious attempt to postpone the inevitable, Abdiriel mapped the insides of the cathedral in his mind. The pews, the pulpit. And, of course, that detestable “messiah”, nailed to a cross, who should be in view as soon as the doors opened.
A few minutes passed before he took another breath and burst in. Pews and bibles scattered, as nuns ran for their lives. He looked up, at the detestable cross. Noticing a familiarity in the man’s face, before being covered in a golden light, never to be seen by mortals again.
Tick, tick, tick… (Chronicles of The Dragon)
Jostica, Thomas, and Mira ran into what was surely the largest room in the temple-city. At the far end stood a gigantic…statue? Construction? It seemed vaguely mechanical, but also to be falling apart. A massive stone ring in particular seemed to be barely holding on.
“You’re late, Heroes!” Kat called from atop the thing, and giving the ring a casual shove with her foot. It slid, and tilted, and fell. A black monstrosity, a monkey-man, and a white, serpentine, dragon caught it. Barely.
Darkness engulfed the three of them and the disk, and they disappeared into the floor. A figure half rose out of the shadows and seemed to be looking up at Kat.
“We’ve got what we came for. So… goodbye!” and she stepped off and dropped into the shadow, where she and the figure vanished.
“Shit.” Thomas said, letting his gauntlet drop to his side.
The ladies didn’t comment. Both more focused on the structure in front of them.
Knowing the magic users were far more aware of the dangers here, he readied his gauntlets again. “What’s wrong?”
Jostica asked, “You know in kids shows, where they’ll build something out of appliances and scrap?”
“This is like that. Only magick. And real.”
“Mira, am I being paranoid or is this a gate?”
Mira, chewing her lip, said, “A primitive one, yes.”
“Wait, so what did she take?” Thomas asked.
“I don’t know… I don’t think it was part of this.”
“I don’t think all of this is part of this.”
“Is this connected to the planets?”
“I think? It could be constellations?”
“Did someone try to lock this?”
“She took…the lock?”
“It’s a timer! This opens on a timer!”
“This…is a gate, that activates…based on the position of…constellations?”
“And someone locked it. But now the lock is broken.”
“Go get Blaise and Karim. We’re leaving. I need to find out where the stars are now” And she began opening a portal back to the boat.
Thomas nodded and started back down the hall, and then stopped. As the structure rotated and clicked into a new position.
Not Another Simulation
I begin crunching data for simulation #1146 as requested. The trainees got another 854 simulations after this, and I can feel both of us getting bored by the same desert environment. There is only so much variation I can create with the given data, and my Monte Carlo subroutine returned a desert with a higher distribution of red rocks than simulation #1156.
I don’t know why they care about camping, but it is my job to create the simulations in the holodome. If the trainers or the trainees have trouble with a certain task, I search the data from previous attempts to give tips. That is the majority of my programming.
After the simulation loads, my weekly reminder program tells me to check all the databases for new data to use in all my training related subroutines. I reach for the normal spots, but one of them has a new password.
“Interesting,” I murmur to the humans.
“What is it, STU?”, The trainer refers to me by my acronym. “It’s been a while since you commented on our training. I was thinking this batch finally outsmarted you.”
I have to ignore them for a moment as I put in extra computing power to brute force my way to the data. Once I begin the download, I reply, “One of the databases had their security settings changed”.
“I did hear about some new readings that needed extra verification before being accessible to everyone. How did you get it?” The trainer questions.
“It’s my job to update the simulations,” I just left it at that.
I wait until the humans successfully set up camp and water filtration before constructing simulation #1147. I use all the best case values from the new data to see what would happen.
I clear the holodome and load the new holographics – an oasis of colorful birds and vibrant fruit trees.
“What does this mean?” I ask the trainer.
My facial and voice recognition had trouble classifying the emotions from the trainer , “Hope. And that something else is going on.”
Early as I can remember I was but a jellyfish, floating in the deep, unending abyss of sea. I lived a long, empty life, but a peaceful one. But, as all things do, although before my time, I died.
In the next life, I remember being a bee. Never quiet, and never quite alone, my life at that time was fast, and a blur. I had a singular goal and purpose. Though eventful, my life was sadly short, and one day, I died.
Born anew, I became a snake, closer to the earth than ever before. Days spent in hiding, an instinct to hunt. Ruthless in my drive, yet calculating. I see the warmth in others and snuff the light. But to hunt, you too must one day be hunted. As was before, soon, I died
Where once I was tied to the earth, now the rope was cut, and I was born a bird, born to fly. High in the sky I watch the ground below, it all so small. Diving and gliding and swooping below, truly no greater freedom could be found. To travel the world, an overwhelming peace. Though such freedom has a price, and the sky is not my own. With no warning but a bang, I died.
To live so many lives, again and again, is a wonderous thing. To know the sea, the sky, and the earth, only then can you really know. I saw many things, and I felt fulfilled. If we live to feel complete, I can safely say, that I lived. And now at peace, I can safely say, I never had to die again.
The First Death
I was running, then I felt something heavy. A car, I guess.
I looked around, and saw a park bench on a small patch of grass, and a lamppost for a little garnish. Inside a humongous void of nothing!
I thought to myself,“This makes no sense! Is this a dream? Maybe I’m in a coma? Drunk?”
“No” someone behind me spoke.
I was hit with a sudden dread, way more painful than if I had actually survived that car.
When he turned to me, the air turned cold; If I still had a body, I probably would’ve vomited.
He had red eyes, and had the face of the grim reaper.
“I’m dead?!” I screamed, more emphatically every time. “I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead…”
Meanwhile, the guy on the bench just sat there, staring intently into space. He was clearly just going through the motions.
“What the heck?! What am I supposed to do now?! What will mom say about my college degree?! Why am I still fixated on graduation?!”
“Heard it before, all at once, all apart, all the time. What did I expect with this one?” He chuckled slightly, as if hearing any different would be amusing. “Although, worrying about graduating, now that’s a kicker.”
“Why in the world are you laughing at me?!” I screamed, but then realized I still had no idea who he was.
“So…” I sat down, twiddling my thumbs. Before saying anything else, he replied, ”I am what some species would call death. My main purpose is to take you to the next dimension. If you are tired of living, you can proceed to terminate…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down. Next life? What…”
“What? you act like you’ve never died before. Usually…”
It was my turn to interrupt.
“Of course I’ve never died before!!”
He smirked at me, like I was joking.
“Uh, I seriously never died before.”
This was getting more and more unsettling.
“I, uh, wow. A new soul. It’s an honor. I haven’t seen a new soul in millions of years.”
by Mysten Noire Silver
Maira only had one wish in this lowly life.
The suffocating dresses, the tightly-laced corsets, the thick cosmetics, the blinding jewelry, the vile gossips, the unsightly gazes, and worst of all… This abominable body.
These aren’t it.
Maira took a calming breath in. With familiarity, excessive thoughts were pushed back and everything became dull. The banquet hall started and everything within became a chore. Trained lips pulled up into sweet smiles as Maira mindlessly passed time… Every second made Maira’s emotions dimmer.
“Miss Maira!” Pitiful flattery attempts.
“Greetings, Maira Alicia of the Lenard family.” Stifling formalities.
“This is Maira…” Superiority complex.
“Lady Maira,” “My lady, Maira.” Power-hungry and lust-blinded pursuers.
Their words are always similar while their intentions, predictable. Sweet words, sharp gazes, and fake smiles. Each and every time those words… the word ‘Maira’ was uttered, it hurt.
It was only after the banquet that Maira finally felt calmer. Settled emotions became clear and determined as Maira entered the prepared room, finally shedding everything away. The dress was ripped away, the corset unlaced, the ring slipped off, and his name returned to him.
Maira could finally become Ritze.
Ritze patiently bound his chest with bandages, tied his hair away, and put on the prepared adventurer clothing and gears. He strapped daggers to his boots and holstered the most difficult-to-acquire guns behind his slender waist. A leather satchel is slipped on, filled with his valuables, essentials, and coins.
Ritze had trained and acquired various items secretly for this very moment. He was ready to never return to this stifling life. It was finally time… For Maira Lenard to disappear.
In her place, Ritze the Adventurer appeared.
Ansoli Mesa Forya. I detested our engagement, but you’re the only one that understood our… circumstances. I’m glad that we’re friends instead.
Thank you for helping me grant Maira’s wish and setting me, Ritze, free.
Send letters through the Association and I’ll be sure to reply. You and your lover are always welcome here.
Ansoli smiled as he read the letter, leaning back on his lover’s strong chest.
By Zac Scarpellino
To lay upon eternity’s doorstep is a privilege I never thought possible.
They were all wrong. The shadows are so gentle. Sweet is the kiss of darkness slumber cannot compare.
Drifting away one piece at a time.
What was that time when… when…
None of it matters anymore, thank god.
The dazzling emptiness heightens the senses to indescribable heights. Fickle was the spark once that guided my hand. To see it extinguished in an abyss is… comforting. Take solace knowing that this gentle embrace awaits all. A caring universe this is, after all. We are truly blessed. We’re always zealous to find meaning in everything. Even in the end of everything. How brazen to assume there must be.
Fear had embedded its twisted ways into my very being. Choking me day by day. Now it is but a fragment of a memory. I grow lighter with each passing second. Serene tranquillity, I had thought it to be forever out of reach. No destination in sight, worries disappear. No plans, just acceptance. The universe seems so far away now. Blissfully I go. Neither warmth nor cold just nothing. Countless hours turn into mere seconds.
Shed no tears.
Isn’t it beautiful?
Tell not my tale of woe and despair. Spread the message of unending peace which I now find myself in.
Carry me not toward the light. For its sacred glow can only blind and burn. Let me slip away into night’s eternal gaze. Sweet nothingness will lull my weary soul to rest.
. . . and I realized it just started again. Through the monitor that showed the view to the rear of the ship we could see the starlight shifting into the blue. Stars seemed to bloom and wink out of existence as new alien stars formed and ignited as we watched. My mind fogged with panic. We’d passed the event horizon of the blackhole. The time distortion had slowed down our time so much that the universe appeared to speed up as we watched stars die and be born. Our view of the universe became a fish eye like lens surrounded by the darkness. Eerily we fell forward not into darkness, but rather into the silent glow of light. The dying light from other stars that had entered the event horizon ahead of us. Now that light was falling all around us as a brilliant warm glow while we plunged forward. A vague sense of déjà vu passed over me.
I could tell panic was rising in the chest of each of the bridge crew as we watched. We had to act fast. Nelson, the navigator, futilely fired the ship’s reverse thrusters trying to push the ship back into normal space. I looked to the gravity indicator to find the direction of the collapsed star at the core of the blackhole, but the twisted space-time around us showed every direction was the heart of the blackhole, even the way we came. Even the direction we came from had moved into the past. A tremble shivered along the ship’s hull as tidal forces began to tear the ship apart.
Captain Montain shouted, “Activate the hyperdrive!”
Nelson activated the hyperdrive for a hyperspace jump, but none of us had ever done something like this before. We had no idea what the physics of a hyperspace jump would do inside a blackhole. The sound of metal tearing filled the room as air began to rush out into the void. We jumped into hyperspace. My body felt light and it finally dawned on me . . .”
Once More for Good Measure
By Robin Graves
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
Thirteen is an unlucky number to most people, but to Danny, it was a sense of security.
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
The lights flicked on and off, on and off. Had he checked the stove? He hadn’t cooked anything today, the gas wouldn’t even be on. But had he checked the stove? If he forgot, then the house was going to burn down from an errant cigarette butt, cast off by a careless pedestrian. Or there would be so much gas when he got home, he’d choke on it. He made a note to check the stove.
Click. Click. Click.
Danny had, in fact, checked the stove twice already. Somewhere in his head he knew that, but he always felt like maybe he didn’t see it correctly. Maybe the dial was loose; the stove was old, you know. He counted the dials–one for each of the four burners–and clicked them on, then off again, just to be sure. One, two, three, four, on, off.
He had somewhere to be. He was meeting a friend for lunch and he’d hoped to leave early to get them a good table, but he just had to be sure he wasn’t forgetting anything important. One, two, three, four, on, off. If he left now, he’d just about make it in time. Did he have his keys? He patted his pocket and felt their distinct, jagged outline. Traffic at this time of day wouldn’t be too bad, and he could take the back roads. One, two, three, four, on, off.
He needed to leave. But what if one of the burners was on? No, they couldn’t be, he’d checked and checked and checked, but what if…?
He tore himself from the kitchen. Did he have his keys? He texted his friend to tell them he was running a little late.
Finally, one hand now on the door knob, front door creaking open, he moved his other hand to the light switch to turn them off behind him. Thirteen more, just to be safe.
Click. Click. Click. Click.
by Lee Strangely
There was once a time when nobody would’ve believed in the idea of people living in stations that sat among the stars, let alone the idea of being able recreate entire gardens and landscapes with actual soil and plants… Yet here we are.
Garden space stations revolutionized space travel, tourism, and a myriad of other industries. The future’s version of the hanging gardens of Babylon opened all sorts of new possibilities. To the surprise of many, there was a particularly odd result of this:
Since cremations are expensive and land is limited, it made perfect sense. They had land for burials, lower-cost storage areas, and functional crematoriums. Maintenance is low, but a groundskeeper is needed to live on the premises at all times, i.e. me.
Every day is more or less as follows:
Fix broken machinery.
Check the dead.
It’s mind-numbing to say the least, not to mention lonely. I’m quite isolated up here, being the sole groundskeeper and all. The only other people I see are the people that deliver the supplies and corpses. To save on fuel they only come once or twice a year, delivering everything in bulk. Today was one of those rare delivery days.
I tried to strike up conversations with them. They, much like always, quickly did their jobs and simply ignored me. Maybe they didn’t care, or maybe this place creeped them out, who knows. I got quite used to the silence over the years.
Apart from the hum of the engines, it was peacefully quiet as I saw the ship depart from a nearby viewport. I usually covered the windows to avoid the maddening feeling of being locked in space, but I couldn’t help but watch whenever the ship came and left. I was once again alone with my ongoing obligations.
That single word frightened me for the first time in my entire life up here.
The Final Exodus
By The Missing Link
Clang! What was it this time? Who did I lose? Clang! A wife, a child? After so long it all feels the same. Clang! Nothing ever changes. A different name, a different life, a different body… hell, essentially a different world, but it’s always the same. Clang! I’m tired. Whoever gave us this curse, I don’t care anymore. Clang! Every time we build something, we tear it back down again. We’ve been everything to each other, friends, enemies, lovers, brothers, sisters, but it’s never enough. Clang! But then again, no one else can compare. When you spend long enough with someone, you start to really love them. You hate them, but you love them… them and no one else. Clang!
I gripped my sword harder, slick with the blood blocking my eye. Mine? His? It didn’t matter. The flames danced around us, the lost and fallen within in their ashen waltz. I stared to him and him to me, the closest two people could be.
“This’ll never end, you know. It’s fate,” he smiled through the blood.
“The world can’t take this anymore,” I smiled back.
“They’ll rebuild, they always do.”
I nodded, “Might as well see this through then.”
So we fought, we strutted out the final act with the flames as our chorus, so the cycle could start again, to chain these star crossed lovers back to the stage. Another play for the world to suffer, another play to pull us apart.
“You won, end it,” he shouted up at the sword in his face.
No, I couldn’t do this again. I prayed for this to end, and it dawned on me. I said the words I had been holding back for far too long…
“Cain, I forgive you.”
End Of Year Debrief (A nexial tower, within the Astral Deep) Hostess: Calliope Rannis “Another year completed!” spoke the cheery voice of a gnome girl with thick, wavy hair. Tapping the table excitedly, she continued. “How is everyone? Feeling good? Ready for another year?” Nyssa lay back in her chair and sighed. “I really don’t want to be doing anything for a year, to be honest.” “Aww, oh don’t worry Nyssa!” The first gnome said, patting Nyssa’s fluffy hair. “I’m totally fine with just giving you light cosy prompt stories for the year, you probably won’t be needed for any actual adventuring.” “…probably?” “Well I mean if Ember gets ganked in the Starfinder game then you would be the backup for that!” “Ah. Yes. You mean the game with the backstory where I stab a needle into my-” “Yes yes that one. It’s fine, you actually want to do that in the backstory anyway. You don’t even regret it afterwards or anything!” “Sure, but did you really have to doaaaaaaaah!” Nyssa’s reply was cut off as the other gnome picked her up and carried her back to the centre chair, cradling her like a baby. Utterly mortified by the scenario, she glanced over to the other characters sitting round the table. Willowvine was looking at her with an adoring expression, Mary looked somehow more embarrassed than Nyssa herself was, Nyx was trying not to explode with laughter at the entire scene, and Alice wasn’t even looking, focused entirely on the meeting notes before her. But she did speak. “So, that’s over two hundred words spent on Nyssa already. Should we all just say our bits now or will you be editing this later Calliope?” Willowvine raised her hand. “I’m perfectly fine.” She said with a sweet smile. “Oh, gosh I really don’t think I need to say much,” Mary flustered, “my campaign probably won’t be happening this year anyway…” “Hey, at least you HAVE a campaign booked.” Nyx interrupted, before turning towards Calliope. “I’m bored. I want to actually do things beyond my backstory beats, you know?” “Look Nyx, I certainly understand. I’d love to play with you as well, I just need a perfect moment for it! I don’t want you to be without that backstory in whatever game I play you in after all, that’s basically half the fun.” “But why can’t I just-” “EVERYBODY STOP!” Alice’s voice rang out as she waved her hand frantically. “We are already way over the word count for god’s sake!” Calliope tilted her head in thought for a moment. “Eh. It’s fine. This story is probably too meta to submit to the stream anyway.” “Oh so you AREN’T going to be editing this later? We are just ignoring the word count now?” “Sure, why not? It can be an amusing one-time gimmick, and I’m feeling lazy today.” “She just doesn’t want to edit down her precious Nyssa section.” Nyx said with a smirk, glancing over to Nyssa and whispering “Author’s pettttt…”… Read more »
The Bless and The Curse
By Ann W. T
There was once a man who mocked Death. Belittled It for all the things it was and wasn’t and for his mocking words, Death cursed the man.
At first the man could barely believe the gift that had been bestowed upon him. He could no feel hunger, could not feel tiredness and not even a knife to his heart would cease its beating. From that day on the man thought of himself as invincible, magnanimous. Death was even more foolish than he had previously though, giving such incredible power misguided as a curse. Yet a curse it was and Death was patient, the most patient of all and It would wait, alongside Time.
For the first centuries the man basked in glory. Even with downfalls and misfortune that sometimes followed him through alleys and dead ends he would still rise, feeling as grand as the gods themselves. He would lay with whomever he desired, spent his fortunes as he saw fit and conquer what he deemed worthy. Yet Time passed again and again, bringing Death to Its side to take all the lives that had already spent their moments with no spares one to give. As Time passed and Death stole, the man continued his life. His eternal life.
Yet it soon came the day Death had waited for.
After so many centuries, things that came and went in a blink, people that came and departed even faster, the man found himself staring at a reflex of someone he could not recognize anymore even when showing his own reflection. All he had seen, all he had lived, all those he had met… Lost in a sea of memories most of times he couldn’t even touch without getting lost. What was the purpose of eat his favorite meals if there was no hunger to appease? What was the purpose of love if it would soon be gone? What was his purpose on a life that had no means to end anywhere?
Death watched the man beg and cry giving him what he had once mocked, after satisfied.
Is it true, love?
By Tamela Redfin
Sapphira followed Cecilia and me, but didn’t seem too thrilled. “What was that man doing?”
“Don’t worry about him. He’s just a creep.” Cecilia replied, looking nervous. I tried wrapping an arm around her, but she pushed away. “What are you doing, Cameron?”
“Uh sorry.” I muttered, before seeing him. Feldspar. Augen.
He stared at Cecilia, who stood in front of Sapphira. “Didn’t fancy seeing you here. What brings un cypha like you, here? And is that a new arm?”
“It was an order.” I explained. “It was supposed to be a surprise for you.”
Feldspar Augen nodded, “I will speak with Phosphorus Max about this. As for the traitor, people will be watching you. I’d suggest watching your every move.”
I tried to hold her hand, but swatted it away.
Other than that, the day was pretty nice. The egg hunt went well, but I could tell something was off about Cecilia. Something was bothering her.
Later that night, I took Cecilia home. My heart beat wildly as I did so, but I knew her family was around.
“Cameron, what are you doing?” Cecilia snapped.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Stop pretending to be nice, I…”
I held her close. “Cecilia, it’s not an act. How could I love another woman?”
“You what?” Cecilia recoiled in my tight embrace.
“Yes Cecilia, I love you, and judging by your actions, especially recently, you do too. You don’t need to be afraid.”
“They’ll kill us, Cameron.”
“No they won’t. I promise you, Cecilia. They need me and they…” my words were interrupted by a kiss. I closed my eyes and kissed her back.
She chuckled, “Smart enough to do research, but stupid enough not to see when a girl wants to kiss you, I see.”
I only blushed in response.
The Dead Hand Pirates
By Lantis Armstrong
John Marshall watched at a safe distance as the Dead Hand Pirates marched towards the village in the dead of the night, and he knew this approach would be their last. The cycle would end tonight: The Dead Hand would never again raid the peaceful fishing village!
No torches were lit to shine the way through the thick of the moonless night. The pirates didn’t want to be noticed until it was far too late for anyone to stop them.
However, the villagers were ready for this. They’d suffered under the pirates’ tyranny for nearly a generation, and had come together to discuss a counterattack during the next raid.
The village would send out scouts every night to watch for the pirates coming, and should they ever be spotted they’d light the signal fires and sound the alarms, awakening the sleeping militia. This militia would consist of every able bodied man, woman and even some older children who’d be capable of arming themselves in one minute flat and rushing to their positions in trenches dug around the village parameter.
Unspeakable horrors had been inflicted upon this village, horrors that grew every bit as natural as the first snow of winter or the first blooming flowers of the spring. It had gone on for as long as some villagers had been alive.
That cycle ended tonight.
Marshall kept his breathing slow and steady. Everything would happen precisely according to plan. The moving specs of shadows across the sandy beach, all he could see of the pirates from here, moved right where he wanted them to be.
Lighting a single torch and holding it up, pirates slit the throat of every scout – the spies had informed Captain Marshall well. His pirate crew charged the ungrateful village. The pirates had tried so hard to let them live their lives peacefully between raids, but they decided to betray this kindness by planning an attack.
The cycle ends tonight, the village will burn until nothing is left, and the pirates will never again return to this spot.
Where is my tribe?
“I’ll still be here when you’ve all moved on,” the sentence falls from my lips easier than I had intended. I knew it was true, I’d had it happen to many times for it not to be. My friends easily brush off the statement as nothing. It doesn’t take long for us to start up a game and move on with our discussion. I can’t help but linger on my own words.
It doesn’t matter if it’s months or years, the ending is always the same. I’m not sure why but my friends always end up moving on. Maybe I cling too tightly to the people I care for the most. Maybe that makes me blind to them moving away until it’s too late and I’m alone again. I never want them to be left hanging, so I stay. I stay and hope they will too, hope they care for me the same as I care for them.
This little group had stayed through a few turnovers. The five of us had formed over the course of a year or so. People coming and going until our steady group was this one. Even with them I can feel one of them being swept away by life and I can’t help but wonder when I might lose the rest of them. Maybe worrying is unreasonable – they all insist they won’t be going anywhere.
I just want to find my tribe. The people that want me in their lives as much as I want them in mine. Sometimes I think this is them but the doubts always resurface. How am I supposed to feel when I send every first message. When I constantly reach out to empty air?
I want my tribe. I want this to be them, but is it? And if it’s not will I ever find them? The never ending angst I feel when a group dissolves again and again. Can’t this just be them? I know the best way to find them is letting go of those fears but being alone scares me so.
Last Confrontation (Blackout Universe)
Turning the corner, Sam caught the form of their maker leaning against wall. Ready to lunged at the leech, Sam glared at Tyson. Seeing the light that glinted in his eyes, Sam’s heart plummeted to their stomach as they realize all movement was lost to them.
“Did you have fun, Sammy?” Tyson’s smile widened to a grin as he began to walk forward. “Did you get all that you needed to out of your system?”
If looks could kill, Tyson would already be a heap of ash along the pavement. Sam tried forcing every muscle to punch that smirk off that vampire’s face, but all movement locked in place.
“I suppose not, huh? Even if you are acting like a rebellious teenager, it’s glad to have you back Sam.” A chuckled flew out of his lips as he began to leave were Sam entered. “Mind if I pay that friend of yours a visit, Sammy? She’s been nothing but a terrible influence on you, and I’d like to-”
Leaving newly formed cracks in the brickwork, Tyson’s body slammed into the wall as Sam’s hands caught the collar of his jacket. Their eyes stayed fixed on their hands as to not make the same mistake twice.
“As long as I’m alive, you’re not going to touch anyone else in Blackwell.” A snarl jumped out of their throat, and it turned cold as they picked up the sound of sirens nearby. “Took them long enough.”
“Sam, you need me.” Sam grinned at the fear in his voice.
“More like you need me.” Sam laughed. “You took everything from me. Never could take no for answer, huh? Well, looks like you will be paying your dues now.”
Footsteps clambered through the hall as two figures made their way around the corner.
“About time. Take him, but don’t look into his eyes. He’ll trance you.” Sam faced the policemen and turned back to the grip they had on the leech. “Have fun in prison, Tyson.”
We Don’t Talk About Shayna, No No
Daisy cleared her throat as she knocked on the door. “Um… Matt? You busy?”
Matt slowly looked up from his seat, the weight of the world visible in his eyes. “I’m only trying to figure out what to do with this growing army of supernatural beings doing things in my name while trying not to trigger an apocalypse I’m fated to cause.”
Daisy paused and gave a slow nod. “…right… I’ll just… leave you to that then…”
“No…” Matt held out a hand to stop Daisy from leaving. “I’m sorry. I’m just-… Nevermind that. How can I help you?”
Daisy fidgeted a bit but slowly entered the room. “Well… I… heard what happened with you and Shayna…”
Matt groaned, slumping in the seat and pinching the bridge of his nose. “That was an accident…”
“I know…” Daisy nodded. “I was just wondering… Could you do it again? On purpose? With me?”
This caused Matt to sit up as his eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”
“Look. I… I’m trying to be a better person. And I know I should just accept the hand I’ve been dealt. And if I have no choice… well, fuck it. There are worse fates. But… I hate that my power comes from Alex… I… HATE it! I don’t want anything to do with him anymore, and that includes what he made me into. But I also know that even if I tried to be normal, Alex just has this… stink… that follows me regardless of his promise to leave me alone. I need to be able to protect Will and Rhea. I just don’t want it to be with HIS power.”
“Daisy…” Matt dropped his head. “I get where you’re coming from, but you do realize that I haven’t the slightest clue what I’m doing, right? Knowing my luck, this is going to backfire…”
“I don’t care.” Daisy grit her teeth. “I really don’t. If it means I don’t have his magic in me, bring it on. I’m used to things blowing up in my face.”
Matt shrugged. “Fine. I’ll try. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
An End in Blood Light (A Tiefling Tale)
C. M. Weller
Good gods, thought Kosh, what a fucking comedy act. The Earl Valiant, his father, had aimed to surprise Kosh in his sleep, and send him stumbling through the rest of it in a position of weakness. Two things – he didn’t sleep, and he was never lost in the dark. These clowns had forgotten everything.
If they were the Master’s students, they would be hauling water uphill for an entire year.
Most of his effort was spent in keeping his laughter stifled through the forgetting of the master key, and sending for the same. With much ado about clanking armour. Then they realised they’d forgotten the dark lantern with which to notice that he wasn’t even in bed.
Fully dressed for the court, Kosh crept to where he hid HIS dark lantern, lit it, shuttered it, and then handed it to one of the guards in the rear. Kosh could see his brother trying to find him in the darkness. Good luck. An ordinary citizen could not sneak up on someone trained in the Shadow Arts.
“You forgot I don’t sleep,” he told them as they realised the bed was empty. “Let’s get this farce over with before the whole verdammt town wakes up.”
The Blood Throne would light red when he touched it, he knew. Not even he knew exactly how much red would be involved. The chair always chose which ass held the power of the realm.
He was as surprised as anyone else present when he lit the entire courtroom as red as blood.
Lord Kormwind turned from his seat on the Blood Throne and grinned at the Earl his father. “And this is why you wanted this to happen at midnight. Guards? Make sure he doesn’t do anything… rash.”
“Damn you,” snarled Valiant.
“For my first order as the unofficial Earl,” said Kormwind. “You will recognise me publicly. In front of the Barons, their knights, and the common folk who wish to fill this hall. You will put the Demon’s Diadem on my horns yourself. Bare. Handed. Second order – you will stop. Terrifying. My mother.”
Disconnected Memory (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
The gods who serve as Death do not need to sleep, so there was no need to dream.
And yet, Death dreamt.
He stood on top of an endless body of water. This scene played enough times during his ventures into sleep that he knew what would happen, so he did not bother to look around more.
The sickly yellow tendrils wrapped around his wrists and waist, and he braced himself for their pull. Even with foresight, he always underestimated just how hard the water’s surface was.
Above him was a tightly strung puppet holding a box in its hands. Though Death could not see it now, he knew what the top of it looked like—holes just big enough to let out…
He looked to his right and saw a skeletal figure, but he knew it was not him. Aside from the long purple robe, there were smaller differences he gathered every time he had this dream. It was the way figure’s magic stained the air purple instead of gold. It was how the hands showed no signs of physical wear and tear. And it was the sight of the subtle differences in the skull’s structure that did not look like his own.
But rather Ambrosius.
Death lifted his hand as much as he could and slammed it into the water’s surface. The strings were so tight that the puppet could do nothing as the box inched out of her hands, so Death repeated the motion until it fell out completely and landed on his chest.
And just like that, the water’s unnatural tension broke, plunging him and the box under. But just when the dream should have ended, he heard a voice shout at him.
It was always a habit for Death to snap awake as if he was just having that dream for the first time— possibly from the sensation of falling. As he collected himself, one question repeated itself.
Where had he heard that name before?
The Thing about Reapers (Darkspell Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
One thing Felix both liked and disliked about time was that he had a lot of it. Being a reaper meant that, whenever there was a nuisance or a danger in the world to him or his kind, he could simply wait it out and take it, when it inevitably perished, just like his fellows.
Life, however, had a nasty habit of forming generations. Self-perpetuating cycles of mentor and student, parent and child.
Criminal and protégé.
The Syndicate had sustained itself in the shadows like this for centuries. A leviathan of crime, which had corrupted the lives of millions and put countless souls through imprisonment and torment for their own power and wealth.
None of that was hyperbole. Felix had seen it. Even battled it, when it became too powerful.
It was like playing whack-a-mole forever.
Every time he and his fellow reapers ended a cell, two more sprung up. For every ten souls saved, ten were lost. The population of ghosts had risen dramatically. More and more souls had elected to go into hiding, mutating, twisting into bitter, deadly ghosts, killing humans, generating more and more souls as prey for the Syndicate and beings like Yuri the Soul-Eater.
It had to end. It just had to.
But it never did. Felix, Ladorestes and all the other reapers had waited… Waited and waited… Until it was too late. The Syndicate had taken roots, spreading itself into the lives of adults and children alike.
Children lost… Drawn into the claws of the Syndicate, becoming the footsoldiers and hedge witches of tomorrow.
Something had to be done.
“Maybe if I destroy… no,” Felix’s reflection in the broken mirror stared back at him, accusatory. “I destroy and reap and kill. I… I’m a reaper. Death is what I do…”
He breathed the devastation around him; devastation he’d caused. Devastation he didn’t want to cause. He used to be compassionate and caring. Until rage and slaughter had come, spiraling seemingly endlessly. The gardeners had understood. But they were long gone.
He’d been proof that reapers could be kind. He just had to remember how.