Hello, Goths and Geologists!
Emotions can be one heck of a roller coaster, can’t they? Things can get just so turbulent, so hard to deal with… that sometimes the emotions themselves just seem to shut off. I think now is the time to address the cold dark that has consumed you, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Black Stone Heart
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!
Let’s have a little heart-to-heart, shall we? We’ve all had our dark days. The ones where everything feels pointless, hopeless, and empty. Our emotions become so much, so overwhelmingly heavy, that we lock them away and cover them with whatever chains, wires, and bandages we feel is necessary.
Perhaps you’re attending a funeral for a family member, but you don’t shed a single tear. You offer condolences to others, but it’s all empty words. While everyone else sulks solemnly or bawls their eyes out, you’re just there, silent and still, just waiting to go home. Maybe you’ve been dumped by your partner, and you can’t seem to bring yourself to cry over what should be a devastating heartbreak. Your friends offer all the TLC they can, but you feel like you don’t need it. You just stare blankly as your whole world falls apart.
And it’s completely okay to be like this. Sometimes the pain isn’t nearly as big and strong as you thought it would be, or you’ve been through it so much that you’re used to it, or sometimes you just need to really process what’s going on around you. No matter what protections and barriers you’ve placed on your heart of stone, they have a breaking point. Whether that’s being filled to the breaking point, or handing someone the hammer and chisel, eventually that protective shell will be chipped away.
When it finally does break, that big, beautiful ruby geode inside is going to glimmer and shine brighter than before, and you’ll finally be filled with the light you’ve been desperately missing.
So what are you waiting for? It all starts with one little crack.
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!
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What to Submit
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No plot, just vibe
by me. I mean Pryzma
It’s me again.
It’s you again.
It’s… us again?
It’s us again?
I don’t think so. Not really.
You run away, and scream, and growl.
Like the animal you are always claiming me to be.
I am little tired, you know?
Of this dance, and prowl.
But what am I supposed to do when boredom is creeping through?
No no no.
That is enough.
I can forge something new,
with this black stone heart of mine.
What should I do?
What should I do?
When the boredom is creeping through?
Clicking and clacking of long sharp claws.
I smell smelted metal, and I see smoke.
Black black black smoke,
As black as that black stone heart of mine.
Can you hear the music?
I can hear the music.
It is a melody of the end of time.
It will last forever.
At least for now.
And we will never know it’s final note.
Because when we close our eyes for last single time
It will end just in time
To never be heard by us again.
The fire is crackling.
And the bright yellow flames
Are slowly dying off.
I see black black smoke.
And soon I fall asleep.
On the first sunshine of the day, he looked through the window and saw a small black fissure in the sky, made of pure blackness overpowering to the rays of light.
Even on the second morning, the TV and the street however moved as ever, unfeeling and indifferent to the Damocles danger it represented. Filled with the usual leaden and trite tales. For just a moment he was compelled to say something, to ask, and demand, but the words died in his mouth. To join quickly in the graveyard of unsaid feelings.
He tried to ignore it and busy his mind, when in the middle of the third day, unconsciously he would find himself doing that ritual again. It gives him strength, though he does not wish it to. It has always given him strength, even before he exiled himself, and he dimly remembers why. Now, it is just a habit. So many things are just habits now.
On the fourth day he stopped trying to avoid the thought of it as the idea clings like a virus, blooming behind his eyes and taking deep root within his mind. It almost feels real enough to spread corruption to the rest of his body, like a true sickness.
As each day that passed the fissure grew closer, covering a big chunk of the sky leaving only the harsher light, beating a hole in his reality filling it with the literally only “twilight” for the whole fifth day.
He’s slower now. Everything is slowing down, congested, like running through water. He wonders if this is just one more sign that things are running away from him. As he awaits the fateful day to arrive at the endmost night.
What made him bitter however, was that there was not one light of emotion to serve as guide, no desperation or fear. Regret and self deprecation, even these ‘old friends” deserted him. Empty and tired, just as the sky above him..
Certain that it will end how it had begun, with the rising of the sun
Just Another Dinner Date
Tonight marked the third time Lord Dirant invited me to dinner.
It was also the night I was fully convinced the Lord wasn’t going to kill me.
Like clockwork the third course: seasoned pheasant garnished with mixed nuts and parsley, was cleared. The Lord simply nursed a goblet and watched, as he had nights before. His expression was like stone. If it weren’t for him asking simple questions, the kind of idle chit chat dinner guests use to feign interest in one another, one could mistake him for being a well-dressed corpse. It was just us in the room.
“Sir, may I ask you a question?” I declared.
“Of course, you are my guest after all,” Dirant replied, his tone a hollow imitation of jovialness.
“Why?” It took forever for the word to leave my lips.
Lord Dirant snapped to attention, like a predator spotting its catch. I knew all too well he could kill me. Or worse, he could add me to his staff. Holy men came with silver and holy water and they failed. My great grandparents with their torches failed. I was a poet by trade, fattened by luxury, and was alone. Might as well know the reason for his kindness.
He slowly relaxed in his seat and flashed a toothy grin, fangs glistening in the candlelight.
“You appear to be a bright, sanguine, young man. Care to venture a guess?” He actually sounded…excited?
I inhaled deeply and spoke.
“Well, the first night I thought it was to kill me. The pageantry was more for your amusement than my comfort. But, I was allowed to leave.”
Dirant leaned forward, “Continue…”
“The second night I didn’t know what to think, other than there were more bodies outside the castle. Bodies of….creatures of the night.”
“You are-” I wanted to say lonely, but I bit my tongue. Instead, I saw Dirant caressing a gold wedding band on his ring finger, “… a gracious host.”
Subjugation (A Song for: Luther)
by Lunabear (CW: Violence)
Marianna lay curled on the ground. From this distance, she didn’t appear to be breathing.
Not his beloved. She couldn’t be–
Luther turned murderous eyes towards the man he’d once called his friend. “What the hell did you do, Abraham?”
“A necessary investment. You wouldn’t have come without proper incentive.”
Abraham’s calm tone turned Luther’s stomach. His heart punched his ribs, and his blood chilled.
“I know my Father, and He has shown me a greater path than the one you walk.” He extended a hand. “Join me, Luther.”
Marianna whimpered, and Luther breathed easier. “You’re sick.”
“Quite the contrary; I am healed. No pain, no sickness. Life everlasting on this plane, in this vessel.” Abraham placed his palm flat against his chest.
Luther rushed for Marianna, but Abraham blocked him.
He was far too fast.
“If you stand by my side, Luther, she can be saved, as well.” His face twisted. “If you don’t, she dies.”
Luther swallowed. He watched Marianna stir and saw two punctures carved into the hollow of her collarbone.
Luther’s fist shattered on contact with Abraham’s cheek. Abraham didn’t flinch. Unshed tears filled Luther’s eyes as he fell to his knees.
“You understand, now. In case you don’t, bear witness.” Abraham lifted his top lip with one finger, revealing dangerously sharp fangs.
“How can you still preach after all you’ve done?”
Abraham was there, yanking back Luther’s head.
“It is because of what I am. I have found my retribution in death, and I have been given a new purpose with my second life.”
Abraham’s cold hand trailed down Luther’s wet cheek. “I know your true feelings for me, Luther.”
Frigid lips touched Luther’s. “I feel the same.”
Luther’s breath stalled. What a fool he’d been.
“Choose. Have us both or suffer beyond death.”
“Marianna.” Luther’s voice cracked.
“You are wise despite your weak faith. Call me Adam.”
A breath shuddered from his lungs. “Adam.”
A malicious chuckle. “You will be reborn, and you will thrive. This I promise you, my enlightened brother.”
Before Luther’s next breath, fangs pierced his throat.
Feeling heart of stone
“Gargoyles can’t experience love, as we do. Since their hearts consists of hard rock, it lacks the properties causing the necessary feelings associated with romantic love. While they experience something akin to attraction, it’s merely an imitation, meant to avoid extinction due to the lack of love”
Myrin stared at the page, pebble’s words still echoing in his mind.
“I love her”
Ironic. Myrin never experienced the feeling called love, the desire for physical connection. In fact, he seeked out a Gargoyle, in hopes of understanding himself. He intended to converse with a being, for whom this lack of love was the natural state, for whom companionship was sitting side by side, silently enjoying each other’s company. No touching, no kissing. No explaining, why, their different in some areas.
He had found a formless heap of moving and talking rock, affectionately called pebble by the local kids. The two would talk forever, myrin could tell him how he felt about everyone insisting that he finally finds a girlfriend. Everyone his age has a partner, or is at least seeking one. Myrin however was completely fine with just talking to people, he didn’t desire anything physical. Pebble on the other hand didn’t understand why Myrin had to explain himself. Gargoyles never commented on other’s choise, or lack of mate. They just don’t consider it important enough to mention.
Then one day, pebble shared. There is this Gargoyle he likes, but they can’t procreate as their bodies consist of different rocks.
“Then why would you pursue her?” Myrin asked, his question based on what he knew about Gargoyles.
” I love her” pebbles simply stated. It made no sense. Love among men was known to cause issues from wars to unviable offspring. However, if the elders were to believed, this property was unique to men, sparing all other beings. How could a Gargoyle feel attraction to an incompatible mate? Were the elders wrong in other respects, too? Maybe, there is nothing wrong with him, maybe the elders just don’t know as much as they believe.
Art requires sacrifice, and he has sacrificed so much already. Time and money and friends and perhaps love have all fallen away as he worked, worked, worked.
This will be the last of his models. He does not accurately remember how many there have been. It had never seemed necessary to count; there would simply be as many as needed. But he does know that she will be the last. Tonight, it will finally be complete.
He does not know her name or where she is from. He knows only what he requires, that she is young and seems of decent health. He had watched her run during the festival, her cheeks bright and cheery. And while the art itself did not seem to interest her, the money he offered for serving as model surely did.
Sculpture is not work for an impatient man. But he has been very patient.
He will quote that patience often in the future, when praised for his work, when others marvel at the fine details of the intricate replica he has crafted. He will credit the influence of anatomical illustrations and his time observing in the operating theatre. He will be praised as a virtuoso, and young students will come from miles around to question him for his secret.
He puts down his scalpel and picks up the rasp, to finalize the last of the textures on the form. He must work quickly before his model grows cold. But patience and efficiency need not be opposing forces. He has learned to balance.
The black marble gleams in the lamplight, the heart itself seems to have been removed from some stone giant, not crafted by mere mortal man. Perhaps because of the price that has been paid to create it, it is near flawless. And as the eye moves away ever so slightly, the heart seems to move, to beat.
They will ask him how he has done this, and he will not have an answer to give them. He will only speak of the great power inherent in art.
After all, art requires sacrifice.
Stop acting like the only victim
Written By: Pluie
Coren stared up at the dark sky above, its black canvas speckled with millions of seemingly little glowing dots. All seemed stationary in the vast sky, despite how far Coren’s shi’ik moved with each step. The Kayen opened up their left eye and pushed themself up with the four wings on their back. They made their way to the front of the round saddle, which rested on the back of a large, fuzzy mount. Coren would have had a hard time seeing what was in front of them if it weren’t for a certain sprite’s little….gift. An eye endowed with night vision. Of which replaced one of their own. Combined with their Kayen vision, they were able to see miles ahead with nearly perfect clarity. They just had to keep their right eye closed or the conflicting sights would give them a headache.
Suddenly, a feint touch was applied to either side of Coren’s face, as if it were being caressed from behind. Coren winced at the soft touch, as if it hurt “leave me alone, you damn sprite. I don’t want to hear from you…” The ghostly figure behind them retracted his hands and crossed his arms in front of himself, his other two arms dangling at his sides, useless like the rest of him “now that’s no way to greet a friend”. Coren felt their talons dig into the wood of the saddle under them, their eyes narrowing “I don’t know if I would want to call you a friend right now, Akseli”
Surprisingly, everything fell silent after that. Up until the sprite figured he couldn’t keep his mouth shut any longer, despite doing it the entire day “look Coren, I’m sorry. I didn’t know your people detested magic so much-” “Akseli, you’ve been lodged in my heart long enough to fuse with my soul, I think that’s long enough to learn the first rule of Kayen culture” Akseli brought his dangling hands up to massage the sides of his now aching head “Coren.. I only regained consciousness last week! You couldn’t have at least reminded me?!”
Wind tore at the branches with murderous intent. Leaves ripped from their homes danced frantically through the air. Another tree, an old elm, crashed to the ground, its roots upturned and splayed like dying fingers still grasping slabs of dirt. The pine felt it all. Its trunk creaked with the shifting pull of the storm. Piles of dry needles moved in strange patterns across the stony soil.
Lightning broke the night, striking a tall birch and sending splinters of charred wood flying into the surrounding trees. Flame licked its way across the birch, lighting the foliage and sending burning leaves whirling into the dark. A young jack pine, its needles full of flammable sap, was engulfed in flame. In waves the fire spread, burning too hot and too quick to be bothered by the pelting rain.
The pine, an eastern white, stood apart from the forest, its plumage scraggly and unkempt. It extended past the cliff, hanging over the edge of the small lake from its rocky perch. With an iron grip it clutched a large boulder, its roots snaking around its great anchor and into the soil beneath.
With its needles held away from the growing blaze it waited as only a tree can. The delicate placement of branches and roots had taken years, decades of careful thought. Now its work would be tested.
Morning came clear and bright, illuminating the charred forest. Hundreds of trees had fallen, thousands burned. The fire had crawled across the landscape like an army, stopped only by the wide river at the base of the hill. Past all the smoking destruction, at the top of the hill, a single tree stood firm. It bowed over the lake, its roots still gripping its blackened stone heart.
Born like a Stone
My doctor stated that my blood was full of gold, and can be used to help those who didn’t have such fortunate bodies. I was quite young back then, and didn’t understand much about “golden blood”, but just accepted that I had a special superpower that could make people happy. My mother was happy with this sense, as she configured me as part of God’s substance, and that the divine spirit I am, everyone in my neighborhood knew about. Whenever I felt sad, my mother believed it was God not having enough prayers, and ordered my family to start praying more.
I was forced to endure much pain as the golden boy and wished I had my little brother’s life. For he was able to spend time with friends, and I was forced to stay in hospitals forced to make people happy by giving up my blood.
As I got older, I started to feel fatigued far more, and realized the amount of blood I’ve lost and also a sudden trickle of my blood turning blacker by the day. I cried out that it was the devil’s doing, and my mother was furious and believed God was punishing the family. She was getting paranoid and exclaimed my blood to be impure, forcing the doctors to poke me with needles of unknown liquids.
I was forced to go through the pain that made me question my sanity and privacy. I questioned who my mother truly was, a devil with a black stone heart, a void darker than my black blood.
Interviewing Villians in Hell
“Welcome, Liam. I’m Dr. Felix,” she reached out her hand.
Liam just glared at her, making her take her hand back, and moved on.
“Well. I’ve read your file, and I’m surprised to be the one to see you first. You flooded Heaven and Hell’s gates with so many souls they would’ve broken if we didn’t open them. You gave us quite a scare.”
“Really?” Liam said peaking confusion through his grumpiness.
“I don’t blame you for being surprised that we have our limits. But it’s hard keeping up with the whole population of Earth at once.”
“A cosmic event could’ve easily ended earth, and you weren’t prepped for it?”
“Because it wasn’t a part of the plan. You weren’t a part of his plan.”
“As in I wasn’t supposed to be born?”
“No. You weren’t meant to destroy everything. But…”
“Did you always know God’s plan?”
Dr. Felix was a little surprised that she issued a pause. “No,” she answered. “Do you know God’s plan?”
“No. You’re a supernatural being to me, but a pawn compared to God and the Devil. I wouldn’t expect them to tell a demon lower than their rank until that plan is ruined.”
Dr. Felix was silent but impressed.
“So what was I supposed to do?” asked Liam.
“You were supposed to save the world.”
“Hmph. That’s a matter of perspective. I assume you mean World Peace, but there have been multiple interpretations of that. One has been the absence of humanity, your’s is uniting humanity to grow it.”
Felix clicked her pen and wrote this down. “What’s your interpretation?”
“Mine is similar to yours but just as impossible to get. Causing an event so calamitous that all of humanity’s attention would be taken off of each other, and in one moment all would be collectively alleviated of life’s burdens in accepting the end. But I know that didn’t happen. I’m pretty sure I wanted to hold on to a comforting thought thinking I could make it last for eternity. Pretty crazy huh?”
“Yes! Absolutely!” Felix judged severely.
The Last Patient – Nera
I remember my first patient. He was the THING that introduced me to all of this. After spending so much time trying to help every single one of THEM, I’m all that is left. In front of me is Nera, the end of all, the unmaker.
I might’ve done something differently to prevent this, but it’s too late now. Whatever I do, I will not get to go back.
She looks like someone I still cherish from a couple of lifetimes ago. Long blond hair, made into a bun, piercing green eyes, a regal posture with a petite build.
“Doctor, please tell me, why are you here?” Her voice was the same, but I knew. I JUST KNEW… that she was not the one I was looking for.
“I come to those that require help. I cannot fathom how YOU, the one who would least need anyone, would need MY help”. There was anger in my voice, which was slightly off for me.
“I sense your anger. I promise you, there is no need for hostility. I just wish to ask you two questions”. She said it in a very meek way, even going so far as to act as if I had stepped out of line, and now she seemed scared of me.
I took a breath to calm down and looked at her with all the apathy I could muster as I begrudgingly told her “Ask, but don’t expect to get an answer, vile creature”.
I swear to all that is mystical. It seemed like that, upon hearing my reply, she chuckled. “What is your name?”
As soon as she finished the last word of her question, I told her “Can’t tell you that. That is strictly for people I trust, and none are alive that know it.”
“I can see you keep so much to yourself Doctor. If I were to give you a trait, it would be a stone, cold, black heart. I hope the next time we meet you shall do better. One question left…”
A flash of light and I awaken in my office.
The Dark Queen’s Daughter
There are tales of a large, black mountain in the east. Atop its peak is a palace, hewn from stone, closed off from the world, where nary a drop of sunshine penetrates its halls. This is the home of the Dark Queen.
Her heart, like the mountain itself, is made of black stone, shriveled from years of suffering and turmoil and watching everything she loves slip away. There are even rumors that she cut out her heart to spare herself the sorrow.
The queen also has a daughter.
She is the opposite of her mother, with flaxen hair like fields of wheat and eyes as green as a forest. She is kind and caring and every summer afternoon when the black mountain is warmed by the sun’s golden rays, she sings to what little life there is in her home with her voice like a lark’s. She is happy and sweet and everything her mother is not.
But unlike most mothers in these sorts of stories, The Dark Queen does not resent her.
In fact, she fiercely loves the girl, dressing her in fine silks and weaving her flaxen hair into intricate braids every morning, singing with her. Every night she kisses her on the forehead and wishes her dreams of the sweetest kind, and when she has nightmares she wipes her tears and tells her stories of the land below. She loves her daughter, for just because her heart is black and shriveled does not mean someone else’s must be.
That soulless smile, that ghoulish appearance, I recognize it all too well. I asked,” Are you alright?” Hannah responded with a slap to the face.
“How is that any of your business?” She said defensively.
“I just wanted to make sure you weren’t in danger.”
“You people are all the same, probing and prodding. You want something.”
Her shadow grew. Was it always that big? Was it the sunset?
“I don’t understand.”
“Kill me, Beat me up, steal my purse? Which one?”
I repeated my words calmly. “Are you ok?”
She relented a little, breaking down into a sob.
“Everyone is evil! Nobody’s got my back. I…”
“I am alone!”
The shadow grew to its full height as she hit the ground. Darkness enveloped the girl as I called 911.
I muttered,” I’m bringing you outside, ok?”
She weakly spoke. “Call my parents. Tell them goodbye for me.”
“You won’t die. I have you’re back, ok?”
She gave me a weak smile, but different. She had a spark of hope. The ambulance came. Even amongst the chaos and noise, she seemed to be at peace. The moon showed its face through the clouds, gently stroking her face.
Her mother and father came. I told them the story; they didn’t seem surprised.
Her mother said,” she hadn’t been eating much. I didn’t wanna pry!”
She started sobbing on the shoulders of the father, who had the face.
He was losing his world, trying to stay calm. I had it when I lost my daughter.
A Dance of Red And Black (Nyx’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
Nyx first saw her on the outskirts of the grand ball. A red haired halfling with a sweet freckled face, big brown eyes and a pretty red dress. She was clearly overwhelmed.
“Hey.” The halfling almost jumped, quickly turning to look at her. “First time? I understand the worries.”
She swallowed. “Oh, thank you. I’m just fine though, really…”
Nyx lowered her voice. “No, genuinely, I understand,” she said as she privately gave her a glimpse of her fangs. “I was new once, just like you.”
She seemed to relax. She smiled, and Nyx could see the girl’s own fangs. “How did you know?”
Nyx smiled back. “Pretty easy really. But that’s not important,” she continued, stepping intimately close. “Names are important though. What’s yours?”
The poor girl blushed. “Um, Annie…”
“Well then Annie,” Nyx grinned, offering her hand. “Will you have this dance with me?”
The dance had been good. Annie had to go off for ‘a couple of errands’ after that, but Nyx kept tabs on her.
She managed to catch her in the corridors beyond the ball, grabbing onto her hand and assertively pulling her away. Nyx had offered her the chance for a ‘proper goodbye’ before the ball ended, and Annie had happily followed.
It didn’t take long to find the place. A small, secluded storeroom. Nyx held the door open for Annie, beckoning her through.
As the door closed behind her, the halfling looked around. “So, erm, what do we do n-”
Her speech cut off into a pained gasp, as a black blade erupted from her chest.
She coughed, blood flying from her mouth. “W-w-wha?”
Nyx sighed. “You know, I was really hoping I could have made a friend today.” Her free hand reached downwards, and plucked out a small wooden case from between the halfling’s breasts. “But you just had to take something that wasn’t yours.”
Then Nyx pulled her blade back out, and let the body fall.
She’d have to get a servant to dispose of this. Again.
She couldn’t wait for this damn ball to be over.
She missed Louise…
Some Serious Work
By MasaCur (CW: Implied violence against a child, reposted from Private Group)
Thirteen watched the black SUV pull up in front of them and the rear gullwing door lift up. They lazily ashed out their cigarette on the sole of their shoe before entering.
Rikke Farlund leaned back in her seat as Thirteen sat down beside her. She made a gesture, and the driver remotely closed the door, and eased into traffic.
“Up for a job?” Rikke asked.
Thirteen managed to click the seatbelt over them, and shrugged. “I’m always up for some work.”
“Excellent,” she purred. She took a sip from her coffee cup, then grabbed a portfolio from the seatback pocket in front of her. After opening it, she handed Thirteen a few photos. “You know who Eli Flores is?”
Thirteen shook their head. “Not really.” They looked at the photograph. Male, presumably human, late thirties, receding hairline.
“Computer engineer. Got behind on some gambling debts. I’ve hired him to crack the California registries database to insert a few new immigrants.”
The corners of Thirteen’s lips curled up. “The undocumented ones from… what world was that?”
“Thesran, yes. Anyway, he’s getting cold feet. I need to send a message, get him focused back on the work at hand.”
“You want him roughed up?”
Rikke laughed. “No! I can get anyone to intimidate him, even cause him a little pain. If I’m calling on you, I want something more.”
“His spouse or significant other then?”
“Divorced, unfortunately. I was thinking more along the lines of his son.”
Thirteen flipped to the second photograph. Boy, early teens, wearing a soccer uniform. He had the same eyes as his father. “How serious do you want it?”
“As serious as it gets.” Rikke levelled a piercing stare at Thirteen. “He’ll be forced to listen after that. He still has a daughter.”
Thirteen shook their head. “Rikke, you are a cold hearted bitch.”
“Is that a no?” Rikke asked, her tone playful, but with an undercurrent of malice.
Thirteen passed the photographs back to Rikke. “I didn’t say that. A job is a job. As long as you pay me for it.”
I’ll See You Again
Elena once again made her way up the hill. Sidestepping stones so as to not disturb them, she reached the meeting place. Her companion was already there waiting for her.
She smiled and set down the blanket. On it, she placed boxes of food and prepared for the meal.
“How have you been? I’m sorry I can’t visit too often. You know how busy things are.”
She poured out some tea for her partner. Sipping from her bottle, she took a deep breath and leaned back on her hand. For a while, she sat, enjoying the view. The hill gave her a vantage point above the whole city. She could see everything. From her apartment, to the bakery she frequented, to–
“Look,” Elena pointed at a spot in the distance, “there’s Charlotte’s school. She’s gotten a lot bigger since the last time you saw her. She’s in third grade now.”
Silence fell, comfortable and unbroken. The gentle breeze rustled the branches of nearby trees and birds flew close. Elena continued eating. She peeked at her company. Knowing the individual wouldn’t say anything, she huffed.
“Charlotte made a new friend. Remember Mr. and Mrs. Wong from down the street? Their daughter invited her to her birthday party next week. Grandma and Grandpa were so excited when they found out. They’ve been watching over her so much these past couple of days, they’re glad she’s finally getting out of the house.”
Elena received no response.
“… She misses you, you know. … We all do.”
Again, her partner said nothing.
Elena sighed and packed up the remaining food. Once everything was cleaned up, she turned to the dark stone beside her. Taking care not to hit the incense sticks she stuck in front of it, she cleaned some dead grass and dirt off. Her fingers traced the words “Stella Lu” and “beloved wife and mother”. She stood before the grave marker.
Elena put her hands together and bowed. “I’ll see you again soon. I promise.”
“Turning from Grace” (The Dark Mystic Universe)
I stand beneath the Fairgul mushroom tree and watch its seeds drift away on dandelion like tufts carried by the wind. It feels peaceful. But my curiosity gnaws at me. Why is the Council of Light so against us learning the secrets of the Outer Dark? Why was I born with the gifts to control the spirits and the Neverborn of the Outer Dark, if I wasn’t supposed to use that power.
Yet, I’ve always been treated as weak. That there is something wrong with me. It made me hate what I could do because it made everyone else define me by those things. I could feel the flow of energy from the Outer Dark. Hear the whispers of spirits. Could move things with a thought. Yet my gifts made me despised as a “dark child.” Someone whose abilities made me unfit to be part of the “Fellowship of the Light” as my religious uncle Tomas put it.
Still the Mystics took me in, and urged me to turn my meditations to the nature of the Light. To feel its embrace. Many of them recognized my gifts and dismissed me as doomed to fall from grace. Those individuals urged the others to not allow me to join. I am thankful for the kindness of the Mystics who did welcome me. I do not wish to betray them. Yet even amidst their welcome I am isolated, like feeling alone in a crowd. They mean me well, but they also want me to bury who I am.
I can’t do that anymore. I feel the strong pull that I was born to command rather than be humble, weak, and subservient to others. I can hear the whispers of the Neverborn even now amidst the peaceful sunset. I think I must harden my heart to the past. I am not the weak and worthless person others have condemned me to be. My heart is my own, perhaps it is all I really have.
Competitor Vision (Chronicles of The Dragon)
He looked up at the sign for the hottest nightclub in town: Code Red. He’d never been here, but he’d heard a lot about the owner.
“I’d say she sold her soul to the devil, but she could convince him to give her his.”
It wasn’t a great sign when your prospective employer’s conniving and underhandedness inspired such eloquence.
“She’s a harlot. She could talk you out of your clothes on main street.”
And yet, through a series of events beyond his control, he was left to choose between taking the lowest paying position he’d ever been offered… or work for the Angel of Darkness for more than he ever had.
“She’s a heart of stone. She’ll squeeze you for all you have and toss you in the trash.”
But surely she couldn’t be that bad, could she?
“I’d call her a witch, but I had a witch with me and it didn’t help in the slightest.”
I mean, even if she WAS evil, she wouldn’t be running her competitors into the ground if she couldn’t keep her staff.
“Black hearted bitch. She saw we were struggling and just dug her claws in and twisted.”
The door was opened by a man covered in patches of rough scales and a smile full of sharp teeth.
“She’s got everyone wrapped around her finger. I wouldn’t be surprised if half her people worked for free.”
Well, that wouldn’t be him. That he was sure of. No matter how many complimentary drinks the bartender poured him.
The bartender suddenly tapped the bar and subtly pointed before turning around.
Approaching was a woman with platinum blond hair, wearing a dress that would be inappropriate if they weren’t in a nightclub. She extended a hand as she walked up. “Daniel! I’m Sera. I’ve heard great things about you, so no need for an interview. Let’s just show you around and you can start tonight if you want,” she said with a smile.
Daniel took her hand and returned the smile. Sure that all the rumors were mistaken. This was clearly no devil, but an angel.
Empty beauty (Fragmented self)
With each step towards perfection, my deformed, undeniable self, vanished with the gentle breeze, carrying both dust and wind. The blades held to my throat scratched me bare, sharpening me into a flawless jewel, until the pieces which once belonged were crushed. All that remains now are the fragments of who I formerly was, the scraps that are wanted, useful. Regardless of what I hold dear.
My naked being is placed in a restraining frame, gleaming in a golden hue. Nevertheless, a prison still remains a prison, even should it possess golden bars.
As though not enough harm was caused, my unrecognizable body is cast towards the inside of a darkness engulfed casket, this dull four walled room, embodying my grave, reveals that there is no more beyond that which I have lost.
However, moments before my fate is sealed, a crack of light shows me countless others. Their shape… equal to that of myself, awaiting the same circumstances as I, destined to reflect the will of their owners in their now numb, impeccable bodies.
If only time and space would allow me to stay my rough and flawed existence, buried deeply in natural soil, providing the creatures in my presence with precious nutrients, until I melt into my surroundings and become one with the earth. Everything is I and I am everything.
Instead, I bestow not the warm grassy shade of life and health, but the gruesome green greed of money upon each owner who gives me away, while the blood of the children’s wounded and scarred fingers, trying to grasp me, trying to take me away from my home, splatters on me.
Our true function has an angelic scent, yet what humans have made us to be is an empty, glimmering beauty. By no means am I astonished. What is to be expected of creatures who treat each other like untouched diamonds, they sharpen us and one another to fit into an afore prepared mold, the system, discarding everything important.
It was still raining when I got home. I took my shoes off, and put on my slippers, as I would do every other day. I went up to my room and changed from my soaking clothes to comfy pajamas. Just like I always would after work. My sister wasn’t coming home today, so I had the house to myself. She always does this after-work anniversary. So why was everything blander than before?
It must be because I didn’t have dinner yet. Our parents went overseas for a few weeks, so maybe I just miss them? I shouldn’t be like that! It’s their first vacation together in while too! I went downstairs and opened the freezer; taking out one of the ice cream cups I have saved. The rain got louder.
I shook my head. My hair was still wet. I looked at TikTok on my phone, smiling at all the funny memes. I recalled my sister first introducing me to TikTok. I laughed to myself and noticed my vision getting blurry. What is this? What’s happening? Maybe a fly got into my eye.
I rubbed my eye and ate a spoonful of ice cream. I hear a knock on the door. Oh! It must be my sister, it was about time! I should scold her for how late she stayed out this time! I opened the door instead to see my parents sobbing with white flowers in black clothes.
They started hugging me in the doorway. Aren’t they supposed to be on vacation? Why are they here? I looked behind them and saw a funeral car and me and my sister’s close friends. That’s when I remembered. My sister was dead.
Tears threatened to drop from my eyes, but when I blinked, nothing fell. It wasn’t raining anymore. I was still holding ice cream. I was still holding a spoon. I was still in pajamas. I still have wet hair. And I… Am I still in denial?
The stone remains
They called me the Hematite Throne, though by form I would be better described as a table. They called me the Hematite Throne nonetheless, since I was the symbol of rulership and the fulcrum of power of Old Terpia.
Upon and around me the discussions and decisions that shaped the realm had their place. Upon me, the dice that decided the fate of our borders and our customs were cast. No law was decreed by the whim of one, no decision was made without the temper of time and discussion. Never a ruler, always a council. Never one, always many. The Hematite Throne was a symbol of progress, of rationality.
The Hematite Throne was the anvil upon which the glory of Old Terpia was tempered and shaped. The old kingdoms and their dynasties fell to their own vices, while we endured in our virtues. We grew, salvaging the spoils of fallen lesser kingdoms.
But the many were never the Many. I’ve grown old seeing the same faces around me. Our ways were better, more malleable, more enduring, but also corrupt, as all others were. The Council that presided over the Hematite Throne… they grew used to their positions. We prospered, and we festered.
And I despaired.
None know how the Hecatomb started, though if they had as much imagination as they have to name a table a throne they would have a hint. I, the Hematite Throne, was supposed to mean something, and that something was lost. I, who was a symbol of power and rulership, had know of power and rulership. So, I cast my dice.
The seat of Old Terpia drowned into the sea, and the myriad territories we controlled fell into anarchy. In time, different ways of ruling emerged, all claiming to be the last bastion of Old Terpia’s culture and memory.
A memory and culture that was all but forgotten long before the drowning. I don’t resent my scions, but I pity them. They have no idea what they claim.
And now, beneath the waves I lie. Doubly forgotten.
A table where no dice is cast.
Dragged Down by the Stone (The Lands Within)
By: The Missing Link
Very strange, very strange indeed. L had seen many fragments, grown to enjoy them too, but there was something off about this one, something she couldn’t understand.
A man lay sloppily asleep on a chair, a near empty bottle swaying from his fingertips. He looked rather uncomfortable to L’s eyes, but she’d seen humans seem to enjoy far worse. That blasted ringing from the past two days didn’t come this time.
She realized the fragment was oddly long as the man jolted awake, “Shit, shit, shit.”
He fumbled around, sniffing the pants and jackets he had lying around, strewn across the floor of the nearby bedroom. L looked away as he started to get changed. She had learned well this propriety thing humans seemed to value three or four fragments back.
Just like the previous days, the man ran out to the shiny metal box outside, pushing his foot up and down on the pedal. He had startled L several times with the screaming he went into when another one of the boxes moved in front of his, but she was used to it at this point.
Yet again, the man sat in another chair, typing away at the contraption the humans called a computer, drinking as much of that brown liquid as he did the red the night before. He flinched as another man opened the door, “So you did manage to show up today after all. Kids these days…”
The first man nodded along, eyes fixed on the computer.
“Don’t let it happen again, rookie,” the older man slammed the door behind him.
After typing away at the computer while all the day went by, the man took another screaming sit back home in the metal box.
Upon his return, he opened another bottle. L had usually seen humans pour this substance into glass containers, but he put it straight to his mouth, drinking the whole thing before the night was done, all to repeat the process in the morning.
L finally understood.
The fragment faded.
By Tobias Chen
The clock chimed noon and I glanced up from my newspaper, a perturbed scowl upon my brow as I saw my plate not yet removed from the lunch table at fifteen minutes past mealtime.
“Sabrina!” I called out to my daughter, whom I hear dropping everything to rush into the room, breaking speed just before rounding the corner in an attempt to enter with the proper level of dainty etiquette I’d instructed her to conduct herself with.
“Yes, father?” she spoke in a voice I could tell she was forcing herself to keep steady. Good, at least she’s trying to sound calm now. No more screaming, no more protesting. It was so unbecoming of her.
Sabrina kept her hands folded together in front of her silken black dress, adorned with red gemstones around the shoulders and a real pearl necklace around her neck. It was her mother’s. She must be careful not to touch it with her filthy hands, less she receive another serious lashing. I could see no visible smudges on it from here. Good, she’s been heeding my warnings.
“Why is my plate not cleared from the table? You’ve behind on your schedule.”
“I’m trying, but I’m so tired, I…” Sabrina froze mid-protest as I began to rise from my chair. “I… I mean, I’m terribly sorry father, it shall not happen again.”
I lowered myself back down to a full sit, and returned my attention to the newspaper.
“Good. The entire town will be very pleased with me, to see you so well behaved,” I spoke as she took up my plate, silverware and glass.
What was left behind was a small mug half-filled with cold coffee. Sabrina returned moments later to fill it up again with fresh, warm brew.
“Nobody will be disappointed with you this year. Surely you’ll be chosen for the sacrifice! It’s the highest honor someone like you could hope to achieve.”
I pray to not feel disappointed again this year. Her young flesh was sure to burn so much brighter than her mother’s.
By Adrian Solorio
Something about tonight was different, realized Caro. There was something in the air. Something nasty–and it wasn’t just the smell of urine or trash in the gutters. But then again, since she’d met Luisa, many things were different. The young woman wasn’t just her work partner, she was something more–almost like a daughter. Caro shook her head, and stubbed her cigarette on the missing person flyer posted to the wall. One of many. This one a schoolgirl’s. Which reminded her that she had to stop being soft. These streets ate the soft. If Caro didn’t look out for Luisa, the streets would eat her, too. “You got your protection?”
“Right here.” Luisa patted her purse. “You?”
“Of course, mijita. You don’t have to worry about me. I always carry my protection.”
“Why’d you ask?”
“I don’t know,” said Caro. “There’s something–I feel something–like a premonition. My abuela would have called it that. A premonition. Like–” The sound of an approaching car silenced her. The street was dark, and she squinted to make out whether it was a customer, or a cop. A white pick-up truck materialized from the dimness and stalked slowly down the street toward them.
Luisa slid off the shadowed motel wall, leaving Caro, and stepped into the soft flickering glow of the streetlight. The truck drew up and stopped, its windows down, its engine idling.
“Two for the price of one,” Luisa cooed, teasingly, to the driver. He was a young man, college-aged–maybe. His hair was fresh-cut and combed perfectly. He would have been handsome if not for the emptiness of his eyes. All the light and life were gone from his eyes, and only hate remained there.
“Get in.” He sneered, and motioned Luisa to enter the truck, but she stood frozen. “Get in you wh–”
“If you don’t drive away, “Caro shouted, “it’ll be a bullet in your head.” There was a click as she cocked the hammer of the revolver–her protection. It wasn’t until the truck had disappeared that she lowered the gun, and allowed Luisa to take it from her shaking hands.
By Adrian Linford
Dakota has struggled since his father died a few months ago, prompting him to become a recluse. He didn’t do much and didn’t want to do much, but there was one thing he clung to the most. It was his passion for producing music. Keith, a talented musician, and his inspiration was in town for a meet & greet and he went to express his gratitude.
When he arrived at the meet and greet, the wait was long, but it was worth it to him simply to thank the person he admired. This was his only chance to give thanks and he didn’t want to let it slip. He waited patiently in line for two hours before eventually getting the chance to speak with his hero.
Dakota had one of Keith’s records with him as he approached the booth where Keith was seated at. Since he was here, he figured to have him sign something as a memento of this day.
Dakota expressed how much he admires Keith’s music and how it was helping him get through some difficult periods in his life. After a while, he told Keith that he was his biggest musical influence and that he aspired to be as successful as him, eventually.
Dakota was denigrated by Keith. Despite being touched by his remarks, Keith advised Dakota to ‘give it up’ because the music industry is difficult to break into and even if Dakota succeeds, he probably won’t go far anyway.
Dakota felt something in his heart crack as if the black stone around it had finally begun to break. Keith’s words had hurt him, but in a different way than he could anticipate.
“I didn’t realize you were such an asshole!” Dakota told Keith. The ache he had been experiencing for months had been replaced by something new. He wanted to express his rage to Keith.
“I WILL WORK HARD, AND SURPASS YOU, THIS IS MY PROMISE!” Dakota dropped Keith’s record and stomped on it before leaving the meet and greet. Fueled by anger and Spite, he will make his ‘hero’ eat his words.
Gift (a Finding Home story)
Snow crunches underfoot as Jim blows into his hands and rubs them together. Stealing a glance at Bell, she gazes peacefully at the snow that falls around them. She glances back, but Jim looks away, rubbing at his arms. It feels like his pocket has a hole burning through it. Finally, they burst into the coffee shop, sighing as the warmth presses through their jackets and conversation fills the air. Jim starts to wave at Blake, but Bell just calls out a greeting to the barista. Blake immediately lights up and waves back before apologizing to his customer.
Taking their place in line, Bell sighs and says, “Alright, fine, I’ll bite. What’s up? You’ve been all nervous ’n shit all morning.”
Jim immediately tenses up, not realizing she’d noticed, before relaxing and muttering, “Sorry, I- fuck, um- here-“ A small black box is fumbled out of Jim’s jacket and handed to Bell. “Uhm, happy birthday. I know I, haven’t even known you for a year but- you’ve just done so much-“
Bell’s soft look instantly quiets Jim, who gets even warmer in the crowded cafe. “First, thank you, like, so much? Second, you’ve been living at my place for months now, a gift is completely valid. Third, how the hell did you find my birthday? I haven’t even told Brian, and we’ve been dating for like, a couple months at this point. Hold this.”
Handing the box back, Bell clasps a thin silver chain around her neck, a small heart of sparkling black stone hanging from it.
It takes a second of Jim stumbling over his words before saying, “I, uh, saw you put it into some site you were signing up for, and I made sure I wrote it down, I hope that’s okay-“ and then Bell is hugging him and all Jim can do is melt into how warm it is. Beacuse it’s really, really warm.
“Happy birthday, Bell,” Blake chuckles. They break apart. “You guys are up.”
Do not touch
The walls of the ventilation shaft feel like they’re closing in on me.
My heart is racing, palms sweaty.
The thrill of the hunt.
I love it.
I feel round my ankle for my tools, slide the screwdriver out by touch alone.
The triangular head, the one they think I can’t get my hands on.
I loosen the screws and hold my breath as I put the grate down beside me.
I peer down into the darkness, adjust my goggles till I can see clear as day.
Then check my watch.
Thirteen minutes till the guard comes round.
I slide down the hole and land soft as a whisper.
The exibition designers did an outstanding job with this one.
The black rock, polished to a sheen and carved in the shape of a rounded heart is locked away in a glass case.
It’s framed with blown-up versions of newspaper clippings.
Tales about curses and misfortune to whoever holds the rock. ‘The rock that steals your soul’.
I chuckle when spot the joke. They’re so commited they put a ‘do not touch’ sign inside the case.
That’s just precious.
I sneak to the case, check the sensors holding the glass.
Looking down the back for the serial number, I realise with giddy the system hasn’t been upgraded in at least three years.
This is child’s play!
It’s almost offensive.
It takes me less then a minute to crack into it, deactivate the whole thing.
I pick up the piece and feel…
Kinda heavy but…I feel no joy, no pride.
The adrenaline that thrills me drained clean from my body.
Why do I feel empty?
On the walls the answer yells back at me.
I drop the jewel.
It hits the floor with a loud thud.
Alarms start blaring.
I should panic right?
I feel like I should…
As I get tackled to the ground by two heavy guards and watch the heart taken away with gilded tongs I don’t care about trouble or jail time.
I open my mouth.
“Just what is that thing?”
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (The Saga of The Deep One’s Wake)(Repost from Private)
Klajonas sat, weaving sea rushes into a wide hat, toes in the waves. This was her favorite place in the city and it hadn’t changed much in her absence. A drowned building was in the cove, pillars holding a roof over a sinkhole. She thought now, seeing it with more experienced eyes, that it must be a temple.
She turned. Mazylas was waddling her way, a child on her hip.
“He has legs,” Klajonas said to her huffing sister.
“If it keeps him home, I’ll keep him realising it,” Mazylas smiled. “What are you doing?”
Klajonas lifted the hat.
“It looks like Brolis’s.” Mazylas sat next to her and let the child go play.
Klajonas grunted. It hurt her, to find out that Brolis had come looking for her and found her sister instead. She didn’t want to think about him now.
“Whose temple is this?” She asked.
“A forgotten god.”
“By everyone but you and Vienas. I know she keeps that knowledge hidden away in the library.”
“It was the sea god, the one Father worshipped.” Mazylas was clearly uncomfortable.
The one who left us the pearls, Klajonas thought. Where else but here would there be more?
“Did we ever touch the bottom?”
“No, not even Father did.”
“I don’t remember him trying.”
“Are you alright?” Mazylas asked.
“You seemed angry last night.”
“Was it Brolis? He can be abrasive sometimes, but he’s a good man.”
Klajonas laughed harshly.
“Nothing— No, don’t drink his brew.”
Mazylas looked confused. “How do you know about that?”
“Ask your husband.”
She laid her work aside and stripped off her coat.
Mazylas gasped. “Where did you? That scar.”
She glanced down. The twisted flesh of her navel was a reminder of betrayal. “niekas.”
The water was cool around her ankles.
“Klajonas, what are you doing?”
Horror blanched Mazylas’s face. “You’ll drown if you try to go that deep.”
Klajonas grinned back at her. “You can ask Brolis, I’m not scared of drowning.” And with that promise of petty vengeance, she dove into the waves.
Creaaaak. A worn wooden door opens under the pale hand of a man who hadn’t seen the sun in years. Light spilling out as a green field is shown. A cherry blossom tree, azure flowers, and two shadows. One appears as a young and cheerful girl, but faceless as the pale man looks expressionlessly upon her playing with another, younger version of himself. With a tan and cheerful attitude evident through the facelessness.
The pale man’s face is expressionless as the shadows near a cliff and the man quickly walks back through the door and shuts it. Breathing a little faster. They walk through the dead-gray corridors, some walls crumbling to pure and utter black past it.
Down the corridor, up a rotted ladder and then down stairs through where the corridor should have been, arriving at another door the man opens it. Seeing on the other side an old and dusty room filled with books and spent candles. On a bed is the shadow of the little girl, painted red with wounds and the remains of dissolved stitching as she slowly bleeds. The pale-man’s shadow enters and reads a book to the girl-shadow, a tale of a place of corridors that lead anywhere and see everything. A magical place of miracles, miracles that could save her. The pale man’s pitying, sad gaze stares.
He leaves once more, swiftly walking to an iron-wrought door and through it, taking a spiral staircase down further before reaching the bottom where he walks in a circle to a ladder opposite the wall the door from the stairwell was on, and climbing up to a wooden trapdoor. Opening this one the pale man sees the spent-candle room in flames. The man frowns and closes it, going down the ladder. Seeing an open four way intersection at the bottom, ladder gone. Endless wooden doors lining the endless corridors.
He leans on an ornate pillar while staring into the darkness. Eyes without life. He won’t succumb to time. For one needn’t sustenance in the corridors. One can see all they wish to, and what they don’t.
Core (Dawn Collection)
Dawn and her father, the Sunrise King, were walking alongside a small river. She followed close behind her father who illuminated the dark trail like a living lamp. They were getting ready to set up camp in the cover of some fallen trees when the King heard someone crying or laughing.
“Dawn, do you hear that?”
“No,” she replied, concerned.
“Don’t be alarmed, I think it’s a kid,” he said, but she was already taking up her shield and spear.
Dawn whispered, “at this time of night, we don’t take chances. Stay here while I investigate.”
The Sunrise King nodded and backed silently behind the cover of a dead tree, hiding his luminance. There was a long silence that was soon broken by a series of loud clangs and then Dawn’s scream. He could not have known what happened to his daughter, nor did he want to think about it.
A scrawny child emerged from a cloud of fog, levitating on Dawn’s shield like a surfboard. The King lunged at him, igniting his flaming blade; he came down slashing. His daughter’s shield swung through the air blocking each furious blow.
“Your Radiance, I’m sorry! It’s Dusk, I needed to talk to you alone,” The kid shouted over the sound of the shield bashing. “I know your true nature and I mean no harm!” The kid dropped the shield and raised his hands over his white tufted hair in surrender.
The King’s blade was inches from his face, Dusk gulped and said, “I didn’t hurt your paladin; I just used hypnosis to stop her.”
“Speak,” the King said.
“When we last fought I peered into your mind, forgive me. Behind your cheerful disposition, I saw a living weapon. Your heart is a black coal fueling infernal fire. Your power is apocalyptic, yet you conceal it. You’ll outlive us all, and when you finally burn out you’ll take the planet with you,” Dusk said in envious awe.
The King was disgusted with his praise and responded, “Then you know better than all that you should be running.”
By Lie Strange
Fear me not, let one’s form crumble. My hands are calloused but my promise rings true.
I see through your eyes and I make your pain mine. Coal is your heart, let my flame warm it.
Choke not, tension begone; Struggle less and mayhaps, all your dreams will come true.
“But when is my time?” He had asked this question when the light in the sky appears time after time, with a voice of smoke that faded into nothing more than a whisper. It was unheard as always and His master never spoke again, leaving Him to wander the ground in which His highnesses continue to shape as they will.
In the guidance of the day, He walked through immense mazes and met with various challenges, ones that threaten to mine and chip at His will of crumbling stone. Each gripping bitterness and sharpened blades of wind, it stole at His murky blood and the abysmal flesh that barely stringed His everything together and nothing at once.
Rubied earth and towering emeralds. Flowering ravines and basins of oceans; Each day of light became anew. Each time His eyes would welcome the rift, He would wake in a cosmos of dreams but then the sun would pry at His eyes and the realm would be at a new ease.
But when the sun is gone and the moon greets His tired frame, the sky would be as unlit as the caves in His mind and body. He would get glimpses of movement when He stays awake, as much as His black sapphire eyes could see; past the clouds and into the morphing shapes of kings and queens in the dark heavens. Yet none would glimpse His way.
All except for one.
He peeks into the mist of ichorous iolite, where vast snow stretched in softness and looming haziness, and raven silk would flock at its back in nebulas of gemstones and stars. He sees them and asks once more to the god who holds His coal heart.
“When is my time?”
Stone’s Black Heart
by Lee Strangely
Stone was careful about how he moved and how much force he could put into his movements. Moving in the wrong direction or going just a bit too fast would worsen the pain. To his annoyance it took awhile before the someone opened heavy wooden door.
“Stone!” Clarion greeted him in his usual gruff voice, “Great to see you!… You look like hell…”
Poor Stone, beneath his revealing white shirt, dark cape, and slim boots, looked quite pale and rather dark around the eyes. Despite this he still leaned against the stone doorway, continuing to maintain his dashing and roguish guise.
“I am,” Stone replied as he entered.
Stone went to sit in one the nearby chairs. Again, he moved with caution. Despite his hands right on top of the fabric, he realized he also could barely feel it.
“There’s a woman, I need to find.” Stone gulped, “Daina.”
Clarion sputtered, “The witch?! No sane man would want to seek her out…Unless, you already saw her before…”
Stone further unbuttoned his shirt than it already was, revealing the black star-like shape on his chest.
“My heart is petrifying Clarion,” he huffed, “I need her to undo it.”
Clarion exploded, “You idiot! She’s not like those ditzy baronesses that occasionally passed by that you could reel in and then cast back into the pond when you’re done. There are consequences to this!”
“I know she lives on the dead moon of Avezgavat. I just need you to fly me there.”
“I’m not going anywhere near there, let alone to fix YOUR mistakes,” Clarion scolded him.
Stone stood up, “Then I’ll take your ship, and take myself there.”
“Not happening. Your life is covered by the fragments of other’s hearts. You deserve this.”
In a flash both of them drew their guns.
Stone looked to his chest, seeing the bullet embedded in the black rock. He then looked to Clarion, whose clothes began turning red.
“Hm, I’m living up to my name,” Stone joked.
“You better move fast Stone,” Clarion snickered, “a hardened heart beats for no one.”
The return of chaos (The tale of Mercury Helen)
By Tamela Redfin
“Maxwell!” I shouted at my husband. “Where did you go this time?”
Wait, maybe he was with Birdie. I knew she wouldn’t be a problem. But as I walked through the halls of the Golden House, I heard something worse.
“Ja, and they thought they defeated me, but then I just teleported to the next clone. What a bunch of idiots.” I knew the cackle from anywhere. Cora’s boyfriend. Feldspar. Augen. We didn’t have a pleasant history.
“I know sweetie.” Cora cooed. “You and I will live forever. The only person I’ll miss is my poor sister, Helen.”
“Really, that’s your concern? She’s useless.”
I heard a slap, “THAT’S MY SISTER, YOU DUMBASS! She’s the only human on Adrea not disposable. And don’t think about comparing her to Birdie. They aren’t the same.”
“Autsch, that was my face.” Was his only reply. Disposable? Is that really how my dear sister saw humanity? I knew I couldn’t talk to her about it either.
“Wait, someone’s at the door.” She switched over to her fake accent, “Oi, ‘ello there.”
“Cora relax, it’s me, Helen.” I chuckled, trying to hide my fear as I entered. Was Feldspar Augen eyeballing me?
Cora resumed her normal voice, “Don’t worry, Maxwell isn’t here. Just Feldspar and me. Grey Rose took down another camp. We need to stop them.”
I nodded, but wondered why. Why did my sister hate everyone? I wished I could heal her, but not even a warm heart can break two hearts made of stone.
“By the way, how are things? How’s your daughter, Nora?” Feldspar smirked.
“She’s fine, Feldspar! And your clone, Gilbert?” I smugly replied.
“I put him in his place, at last.” Feldspar answered.
By Lantis Armstrong
Still wearing his bear suit that covered his entire body in brown fur besides his face, Bowman sat in a chair in an eggshell white waiting room surrounded by empty chairs on all sides. The only other presence in the room was an aged woman in curlers who sat behind a receptionist window reading a magazine.
Bowman reached for a pack of cigarettes in his pocket, took one out and put it to his lips, lit his lighter… and the woman coughed loudly to get his attention, then tapped her fingers steadily against a NO SMOKING sign right next to her. She gave him an angry, ugly glare and he gave her one right back.
Putting his cigs away, Bowman began to look around the room. There was a bathroom door, so he rose and began to walk over – until he looked up and saw the glowing OCCUPIED sign above the door.
Walking to the window instead, he looked down at the parking lot twenty floors below. He looked over at the elevator which read OUT OF ORDER.
Cursing under his breath, he looked over at the stairs. There were so many steps spiraling downward. He began to walk down the first one, but his slippery bear slippers shot from under him, and he grabbed the railing while shouting “SSHHHHHIII…!” which echoed down twenty flights of steps.
Shushing him, the lady behind the counter asked that he return to his seat without looking up from her magazine.
“But nicotine fit!” Bowman protested but nevertheless returned to his seat, crossed his arms and frowning deeply.
The doctor flung the door open as he rushed into the room, sweat beading on his face and chart clutched to his chest; “Bowman! We have your test results, we’ll need to need to immediately amputate your –”
“The test is done! That means I can leave! Smokin’ time!” Bowman bounced out of his chair and ran back for the stairs, taking off his bear slippers to run with bare feet instead of bear feet all the way down towards the blissful moment he could smoke!
Just Meat (The Will)
A person is just meat.
That was the first lesson. I was never to think of them as a unit, only the materials they were created from: flesh, blood, bone, and keratin. That was a person. A person wasn’t their property or position—at the end of the day those things could be destroyed. A person wasn’t power or their ability to end life—those things had weaknesses to exploit. A person is just… meat. And I could kill them—consume their bodies and souls into the mass—the abomination that is my very existence at any time.
And yet, the people gathered around the fire with me are laughing. They all know full well what I am, and I know what they are, too: a white dragoness scholar, a red dragon warrior, a salt-and-pepper wulack huntress, a turquoise avonis bard, and a tiny rameet girl who has sticky fingers. They know what I am, and yet they’re laughing as they roast sausages over the fire.
They’re not concerned, but I am.
They’re not guilty, but I am.
They’re not afraid… but I am.
She’s noticed me—the white dragoness. She’s handing me something—her claw briefly caressing my hand as she forces the stick into my grasp. It’s the sausage she was roasting. She had said that it was her first time cooking something other than schemes.
As she’s loading a sausage onto another stick, I stare at the meat in front of me. It’s just hanging there, lifeless. I don’t want to eat it. I’m not hungry. I’m still satiated by the twenty-four bodies I dragged beneath the earth a week ago, but she’s giving me that look again—the one I can’t object to. I grasp the sausage and burn my skin, but the pain is nothing. I take a bite.
It’s good. It’s juicy and plump and… warm. It’s so warm and… I don’t deserve this.
They’ve noticed my tears and stopped laughing.
They aren’t just meat. Not yet.
The cored husk of the world had fallen, a blackened beating heart eviscerated under the thunderous chorus of a thousand megaton bombs. I watched the Earth shiver from orbit, packed away in a cryogenic pod. As I watched from the singular frosted window allotted to my temporary resting place, I waited for the nitrous to kick in.
Lucky. That’s what command had called us. We were lucky to be chosen by Central Command. We, the chosen few, had been spared the certainty of nuclear annihilation for uncertainty among the stars. As I watched my city burn in the cold absence of space, I felt nothing. The barren metal skeleton had once housed parks and coffee shops I’d frequented between extended shifts at the corporate embassies. My life had been one endless delegation hearing that rolled over from one day to the next.
Lucky. Thousands of years of human tenacity and innovation amounted to this. My eyes grew heavy. If I ever awoke, it would be on alien soil untold amounts of light years away from my hydrogen ravished planet. At worst, it would be an endless dreamless sleep. The gas rushed in, the sound it made like the quieting shush of a parent to its child. I sat back and offered oblivion an empty smile. The hollow world below buckled under the automated endgame of mutually assured destruction. I closed my eyes, perhaps for the final time, and tried to feel something in this one last moment. What returned was as empty as the world we left behind.
We could all be so lucky.
A gem behind the black stone protection
“Is it right for me to be this cold at other people’s deaths?” Ricardo asked Joana after the news showed about the death of a dragon family on the TV late at night she was his best friend so he felt comfortable talking about this “sorry I was just worrying about that”
“No, no, no is nothing is just brain reaching a certain conclusion is not because you are cold is just logic,” she said looking at the news, “thought you could be just used to seeing this type of thing all the time on the news doesn’t mean you are becoming cold”
This just made the demigod reminisce about the news and how heartbroken the Uncle of the said family was on the news balling his soul in-camera followed by the ever-burning desire of his eyes to want Justice at any cost for whoever did that to the innocent family.
“In retrospect yeah it makes me feel sad but the news always bombards you with bad things all the time, I just fear my heart is becoming like a black stone you know?” Ricardo said raising his hand “but I guess I am just too used to seeing things like this often.
The harpy shrugged “This is why I don’t see the news every day they get dour because it sells”
“After all good news is seen to be drying every day they aren’t as exciting”
“Maybe but doesn’t that mean we are all more good than bad?” Ricardo smiled at the end of the sentence making Joana chuckle rustling her feathers in the process at that with a smile on her face.
Maybe, Ricardo was just worrying too much about becoming cold, his heart was just covering the gem protecting it as always.
A Heartless Tale
By The Ink Chimera
Isaac stood in the center of the room, a hammer in one hand, a simple mallet. In the other, a chisel. Before him stood the statue of a woman, Beautiful and bedecked with legitimate, expensive, polished jewelry.
It most certainly would have looked an eyesore, had there been a single spot of light in the room, other than from the single doorway. He stood, stroking his chin as if to appraise his work. But that’s not what it was at all. He knew something was missing. It wasn’t finished. Not yet.
Then it struck him as quickly as the snap of his fingers. He strode over to a corner of the room, completely hidden in the dark, and found a black bag labeled “B.H.” He opened it, and reached in very carefully, pulling out a perfectly preserved heart. He took it back over, holding it delicately over her stone chest, then nodded to himself. It was certainly fitting.
He gently set the organ back in the bag, and picked up his hammer and chisel slowly carving out a hole in her chest, around the sticky, wet spot.
After several hundreds, maybe even thousands of hammer strokes, as well as a bit of sanding, the statue had a sizable hole in it’s chest, and so, wiping the sweat off his brow, he returned to the bag, and once again removed the heart, taking it to the statue, and placing it delicately in the center of the statue before replacing the cut out piece.
He kissed her cold lips, as cold as she’d ever been. But now, at least she has her heart again. Maybe the next one will be different? Maybe the next one will put an end to it all? He hoped so.
He turned and walked to the stairs, turning once again to look at his latest work. He could’ve sworn he saw her wink at him, as though she was his conspirator. He simply sighed, and walked up the steep stairs, leaving her alone in the dark, to rot with the others, just like they’d done to him.
Black Stone Heart
By John Perceval Cain (oneeye John)
Izorpo strode up into the rocky prominence. Her black dress and cowl billowed in the wind like an ethereal aura, and she surveyed the battleground. It was a morass of humans, elves, demons and other creatures strewn about in various states of death and dying. Everywhere she gazed, it was a large seething and roiling mass looking like the muscled skin of some serpentine beast.
Izorpo grinned, her pale skin and beautifully chiseled features appearing skeletal in that moment. She had time to prepare her ritual; she hated to be hurried in these things. As she laid out her implements, she thought back to the beginning of it all…
Good failed her when the Duke’s soldiers stood by and watched as raiders had burned her hamlet and killed her mother and father as they attempted to defend their daughters.
Good failed her again. When the soldiers finally attacked the raiders, their intent was to take the spoils. She and her younger sister. Her sister died at the soldiers’ hands as they raped them both.
Good failed her the last time. When abandoned by the soldiers, she wandered to a convent, only to be refused entry. “She must be evil. Look what had befallen her.”
The witches that finally rescued her, taught her ‘good’ was an illusion. They also taught her that only another type of evil could defeat evil.
Izorpo studied hard and excelled at learning. She looked down at her makeshift altar. In the middle was her black-stone-heart, the necromantic relic which served as the focus and reservoir for life energy. Many novitiates never completed training and fewer still completed the creation of the relic.
Izorpo completed training faster than anyone in the coven’s history and set out to hunt and bind the soldier who had raped and killed her sister. We ritually create a black-stone-heart when life, death, memory, and will of the caster unite with the blood and life force of the first kill.
Izorpo savored the memory. Your first was always the best.
By Phinneas Laywright
Valeria gasped, the plates of her armour screeching against each other as she crumpled.
The self-proclaimed heroes had bested her in combat, her undying company had been purged by holy fire, her weapon lay out of reach with a broken haft. She’d not been so thoroughly thrashed since her brother last duelled her, though that was some centuries past, a memory of when she had a beating heart.
Her life had been preserved beyond the scope of mortal lifespans by the ‘blessing’ of a maniacal sorcerer with no compunctions about breaking cosmic rules, but the price had been her heart. It had been encased in stone over years, slowing as the stone grew heavier and the heart itself began to understand that its purpose was lost.
When the moment came that she felt nothing stir within her chest, she chose to oppose those who should have rescued her when she was captured and subjected to the maniac’s experiments.
She opposed the gods by sharing her ‘gift’ with others, rallying an entire company of undying kin who would stand when riddled with arrows and heal even lost limbs.
She opposed her nigh immortal brother, whose longevity stemmed from blessings of their bloodline, by plaguing his kingdom with her kin.
She opposed the heroes who claimed they were chosen to save the world, striking them down with glee when they foolishly aimed for her head.
For centuries, she opposed the world that had forsaken her, victorious in every battle, growing her ranks with every fallen foe. The fires of her ego were stoked by her immortality and the impossible turnabouts it enabled. She thought herself invincible, and she was, until today.
“You’ll never see the end until your heart beats again,” the sorcerer in her memory said. “This curse is my blessing to you, the means to realise your truth.”
Valeria’s eyes began to fade as one of the heroes raised their axe, an indistinct silhouette in her faltering vision.
The bolt of divine lightning had been her undoing.
As the axe fell, she felt something within her chest stir.
Prophecy of Stone
Malice seeking means of rebirth
Unleashing a hell upon the earth
Stone of night
Heart of spite
Key to unlocking the deathly blight
Two will go forth with souls so pure
With intent that life be secure
Oh the hardships they shall endure
One shall flicker, fade, then vanish
From the other light be banished
Thus will mark the start of war
Empty vessel at the door
Into which black darkness pour
Heart of spite
Stone of night
Coming of the deathly blight
– Próvlepsi The Prophet
“It has to be here!,” Kakía snapped, seething with fury. “We didn’t come all this way getting burned, beaten, stabbed, tortured, and almost drowned for the room to be empty!”
Athoótita attempted to calm her friend, “Such rage gets us nowhere. A calm mind will lead us to the Black Stone Heart. Do not become that which we seek to prevent.”
He glared sharply in her direction. “You really believe that fool of a prophet. How did that thing,” he spat out the word, “even know it was here. It might want it for itself. We could have been tricked.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Oh, so now you think it is here. Words have power. I’d watch your tongue or you might contradict your own existence,” Athoótita cautioned. “Now unless you have forgotten, we have a mission.”
“I don’t have to take orders from you,” Kakía roared. “Every twist and turn I have listened to you and where has it got us!” He threw up his hands, gesturing to the obsidian walls they were trapped in. “Find it on your own. I’m leaving.”
“No,” Athoótita’s voice quivered.
“You think you can stop me,” Kakía stared, only emptiness behind his eyes.
“This isn’t you.” Athoótita took a step back. “Something is affecting us, making this happen.”
“I think I’ll take it for myself.” He sneered.
“What?!” She stood frozen, horror plastered on her face.
Kakía’s vacant eyes filled with malice. In a flash of movement his dagger found her heart.
As her’s bled out, his own turned to black stone.
Dead But Not Dying (A Tiefling Tale)
C. M. Weller
His father killed him with two unkind words, but it would take him weeks to begin to die. He didn’t believe the words, “She’s dead.” Of course he verified that information with the best of sources. The full story was what truly finished him.
She died in the very place he had sent her to be safe from his realm.
Lord Kormwind had suffered many heartbreaks. He hardened his heart to injury from the world around him. Now, with this last fragment of cruelty, it might as well be granite. Physically, it was still flesh, it still beat. Physically… he was still alive.
Emotionally, his heart was dead. He was simply waiting for the rest of him to catch up.
While his body stubbornly refused to join his heart. Whilst his soul stubbornly remained in his body, he still had to serve his people. Maintain his oaths. He was not, as he kept saying, an oath-breaking Tiefling.
Was it good luck or bad luck that he could stay alive long enough to preserve Spitebane’s children from the curse of being born like him? He couldn’t tell.
He was the first Earl of Whitekeep to be crowned while in mourning for his bride. Others might say he had everything. Money, power, staff to see to his every need, but that which he wanted most was lost to him.
She was dead. He had sent her to her doom. All because he would do anything to know she was happy. Even if it was far away from Whitekeep and his own obligations. Had she been happy? Did she have time to find some joy before his stupid offering of freedom ended her? His sources could not tell him.
He knew the truth. HE had killed her. He had killed her by daring to fall in love. He should have known. His kind weren’t worthy of the emotion. And now the gods decided to punish the entire world by removing such a remarkable person from its face.
He did not have a heart. Just a lump of cold black granite in his chest.
Beating of the Forge (Exile Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
“So… none of you have ever done this before?” Naerahine asked, sounding disbelieving. “Soren, I thought you were a knight…”
“Yes, I was,” he said. “I had my weapons made, I didn’t make them myself.”
“And I,” Jackal said. “Am not a smith. I’m a woodworker. Or was. Show me a tree and I will make you a shaft for your spear, but a metal…”
Naerahine sighed and turned away from the lads, to look at Janeah, desperate hope in her eyes. Janeah shattered it, but just shrugging.
“I was a princess. Bastard princess, yes, but I have no idea how to handle hammers and anvil.”
“Fine,” Naerahine groaned. “I’ll do it. At least watch, so you know what to do.”
She fed more hellfire into the coal. It roared up, beating lively like a bestial heart. The black coal turned red then white, as the flames roared higher, teaming with life. Naerahine couldn’t help but smile as she watched, her eyes mirroring the smithy. Deep, dark red all the way through, save for a single jet black pupil, almost like the black coal surrounded by fire.
The black heart of the mountains, she’d heard it called.
She could feel the gazes of her companions behind her, but she didn’t really care. She only had eyes for the metal, which she began to cast in the shape of a spear tip.
“Pay attention, this next part is important,” Naerahine moved slowly, showing them every step.
“Where did you learn how to do this?” Janeah asked. “I thought you were a gladiator.”
“I wasn’t born into the arena. Before that, I was a blacksmith apprentice.”
Naerahine took great care not to let any of the bubbling metal scorch her exposed tail or bare feet, letting the glowing liquid run through the cast. She could feel her face contort in a smile, as she felt the heat. She tried to hide it from her companions, her own heart pumping black blood through her veins.
“Now, Jackal,” she pulled herself away. “You said, you were a woodworker? I could use a new shaft.”
Impossible Things Are Happening Everyday
Matt sighed, tapping his pen on the pad in front of him. These ‘interviews’ were very draining but if he couldn’t stop this army from growing in his name, the least he could do was get a good idea of who was in it and what they wanted.
He activated the rune on the ceiling and beckoned the next one in.
Matt raised an eyebrow when he saw her. She wasn’t human, but she wasn’t quite a demon either. She was most similar to a fallen angel. Something was off. Missing.
“How may I serve you, Master?”
“Please don’t call me that.” He said with a wince. “It’s Matt.”
“As you wish, Matt.”
He nodded approvingly and pointed towards the rune on the ceiling. “So, tell me your story.”
She cringed slightly but quickly recovered. “I grew up in a very… tense household. Tense as in abusive. Every day was a new demeaning torture. I grew… desperate. I was offered a release. Revenge. Power. All it cost was… a fraction of my soul. A large fraction as it were.”
Matt wrote something down with another nod.
“It came with benefits.” Looking at her fingers, a blue energy danced between them. “I don’t age. I have an affinity for certain magicks. I’m very hard to kill.”
Matt underlined the word ‘Horcrux?’ that he’d previously written.
She looked up at the rune. “My kingdom fell as all eventually do, and since then, I’ve done horrible things. Unforgivable things. If my… soul were whole, then I could… feel remorse for those things. And finally meet Death’s embrace.”
“It’s more of a handshake.” Matt said absentmindedly. “So… here’s my issue. That rune has been glowing slightly since you started talking. No direct lies, but… what are you hiding?”
She sighed. “You’ve heard of me. I was… born as Ella… I tend to go by… Cindy, now…”
Matt looked at what he just wrote and gave Cindy a curious look as it clicked. “You’re… Cinderella?”
The rune dimmed and there was a very long pause before Matt finally said, “I have… so many questions.”