Hello, Damned Souls, Spelunkers, and Scuba Divers!
On your left you’ll see a lovely selection of screaming souls, and on your right you’ll see one of our main attractions: the River of Blood! Just beyond that is the Forest of the Damned! Now keep your arms inside the vehicle at all times because….
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Into the Underworld
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!
This is a prompt of epic proportions, taken on by many of the greats. How do you dare to use it?
I’d venture to guess when most people think of the Underworld, they think of the Greek Underworld. You could write about the journey of a soul after death, taking Charon’s ferry into the afterlife. Or you could write about a character like Orpheus, venturing into the Underworld alive to rescue his beloved…only to fail at rescuing her, and lose his life in the process. However, the Underworld isn’t a place of misery to everyone. For Persephone, entering into the Underworld is coming home. Perhaps you could write a story like that instead.
The Greek Underworld isn’t the only Underworld written about by the great writers of old. Dante’s Inferno is a tale of his journey through hell, as he’s guided by Virgil, and sees the many different circles and punishments. Osiris in Egyptian mythology is torn into pieces and put back together—not alive, but not dead, only able to rule the Underworld.
The Underworld doesn’t have to be the afterlife. You could write about a character entering a cave, and the dragons and spiders—or else the dangers of the real world—they meet within. Or it could refer to going underwater—perhaps in your world there are cities underwater your character must visit. Or maybe your character is a marine biologist who loves the world beneath the waves.
Maybe it’s more than just a cave. You could write about a character visiting an underground bunker, or city. Or maybe they shrink down and converse with the ants. Or maybe they want to go even deeper than that. Perhaps you want to write a Journey to the Center of the Earth type of story—is there a prehistoric world beneath the surface?
The Underworld could also refer to the seedy underbelly of a city or kingdom. Perhaps, your character is a detective who must face the less-than-pleasant parts of their city. Or perhaps, like in Arcane, not everyone gets to live in the prosperous and glistening Upper City.
Or maybe you want to go more metaphorical with it. Someone’s subconscious could be an Underworld of sorts. You could write about a troubled character speaking with a therapist about what’s below the surface of their mind. Or maybe, with a little bit of magic, your character can enter the subconscious more literally.
Ah, and here we have Ishtar, writhing in pain—Hang in there girl! And Izanami, still fuming—You might want to stay away from her. And—ooof, yeah…see… that’s why I told you to keep your hands in the vehicle. The wrathful souls are particularly nippy this time of year.
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 five stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and three 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.
by Jesse Fisher
So this is the path that I was set on the moment that I agreed to this, a road that so many good ideas turned into. A savior that would walk until the road ends, a fool’s hope that would only lead to one place.
First it was freeing a stolen horse, it looked like the snow had come alive and ran from the captors as I fought off the group of thieves.
Thus the first steed went to find its rider.
Second was finding a companion in a fox, some monster killed its mother and siblings but either did not care or notice the runt of the litter hiding away from the den. I found it so depressing that I almost ended it then and there but then that would make me no better than the monster that led to this. The fox grew strong and helped me in hunting for food.
Thus the second steed found its rider.
Third was a trapped panther, given the size I could see it as an issue for the game hunter. Looking at the fox on my shoulder, I could not leave it to be killed. When I found the rope and kept it tight as I began to drag the beast away from the area. The thought of the panther having a family did pop into my head but seeing it as a male killed that concern.
Thus the third steed was free to find its rider.
The final nail in this coffin was an old pale dragon, age and size made it hard to ignore. The ground shook when it moved, yet I did not feel it nor the fox on my shoulder. The cloudy eyes peered down at me.
“I see you have arrived in time to see it as was promised.” It spoke to me.
I was confused by this.
“Longed for you to come to the land below the mortal one.”
“But I did not die.” was my response.
“No you did not but you live no longer either.”
Thus the fourth steed found its rider.
Home, At Last (Illusions of Heroes)
by Gerrit (Rattus)
Serennia descended the stone steps carefully, the flickering torchlight only barely illuminating the passage beneath the city. The wooden door she had entered was out of sight now, disappearing behind the various twists and turns. The claustrophobia had recently begun to sink in, her heart beating faster with each step. Were the walls closing in on her? Surely she was only imagining that.
At last, another door came into view. A worn wooden door, like above, only this time not marked with the outline of a bird carved into it. She rested her hand on the rough surface, steadying herself with a couple of deep breaths.
She pushed the door open slowly, the creaking echoing in the tunnel behind her. A moment later a knife was at her throat. The cold steel pressed against her neck, just shy of drawing blood. Sweat beaded on her forehead, her breath catching.
“Thought you could sneak yourself in, did you?” The person holding the knife said. “We’re not oblivious enough to not notice an outsider”
Serennia turned to look at her assailant, and was surprised to find a child, not much younger than her. Still, his eyes held a darkness that almost scared her, if not for the more pressing threat.
“I-I was sent here. My name is Serennia. I was told to come here and you guys would keep me safe.” She tried to stop herself from rambling, but she worried that if she stopped talking they would take the opportunity to kill her.
“Who sent you here?” the kid asked.
“His name was Taza. He told me where to find the door, and said that I should come down here.”
Another voice emerged from the darkness beyond the doorway. “Typical Taza, sending people to our Nest without warning.” A figure stepped into view, an older boy—though still not a man—with a scar across his cheek. “I’ll deal with him later.”
The boy walked up to Serennia, extending one hand as a greeting. “My name’s Gen. Welcome to the Sparrows.”
Lock And Key
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (The Saga of The Deep One’s Wake)
Of all Mother Fate’s children, none were so troublesome as Kudakuziva. His curiosity knew no bounds and he was forever searching the ruins of a long-dead city. The vacated city, with its shrines and minor temples, its family crypts and clan halls, was little more than a labyrinthine skeleton when compared to the life once teeming within.
Kudakuziva was taken with the ruins, the conjectured history, the adventure. He sought and found many small things. Tools, pottery, and even an iron knife as long as his little finger. It was his treasure. There was silver too, copper, bronze, and brass, but he had little use for these things. They were too soft to hold an edge, too malleable to form into a stick, or too resource intensive to reforge.
Then, one day, he found gold.
He had heard of it, of course, in stories and in his grandmother’s fortune plates. He knew it was not brass because all brass tarnished and the rich yellow color of gold did not. It grinned at him from the flickering shadows his juvenile torch set to dancing. It was a box, a true treasure box made of pungent cedar and inlaid with gold and silver and copper. It was a fine thing, its craftsman having depicted a hero. An ancient treasure from before Rapaçion.
He picked it up and found that it had no lock, no latch, and no seam. It was a sealed box that rattled. In the heat of the greed of children, he did not think to ask for help. Instead, he used his iron knife to cut into the wood where a lid should have been. The blade snapped and sliced his hand. His blood smeared the box and seeped inside.
WHAT IS YOUR NEED?
He stood in pain and fear and all those conflicting emotions of adolescence.
WHY HAVE YOU AWAKENED ME?
Kudakuziva realized then that not all spirits were under Rapaçion’s thrall and he had found one that had been sealed away. His hand ached and grew cold. The voice echoed in his mind.
AM I HOME?
[DM me on discord for details!]
How to Reach the Table
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
Oh, Quinnith Valley? You wanna hear about some boring old ravine? Don’t be shy, I know what you wanna hear. You’re asking about the Table. One look at my badge and it’s all that’s on your mind.
There’s a town in Quinnith Valley, on the north side by the river. Quaint little thing: a few houses, an inn, a post office, and the Table. It’s not a physical table, but—look, you’ll see what I mean. If you don’t already know.
You go to the post office. You go up to the counter, and you start small talk. Always start small talk. It’s polite. That’s how the staff know you aren’t there to start trouble.
After that, you ask where someone like you could mail a letter to, ah where was it, uh… Gretalyn? Yeah, Gretalyn. The staffer asks what for, you say it’s money for your grandma to buy a new table. Then you’re led to the back with a trapdoor to a long ladder going down, down, down.
We call it the Table because of the passcode. Us Marked Traders aren’t great with names, you see. You’ll get used to it when you’re called “You There!” six times a day.
Where was I? Oh yeah, awful climb down there. But then you’re at the Table. Crazy cave full of traders in everything you can’t find above ground. Cursed pearls, elixirs of not-quite immortality, weapons of every shape and size and enchantment—you name it, it’s at the Table. Except a good glass of water. Lost a tooth trying to get one of those.
Oh, you wanna know how to get to the Valley, huh? Figures. But I’m warning you, like no one else warned me.
When you’re down there, trading and selling, robbing and being robbed, getting higher than high, you can forget that the only way back out is the ladder you came down on. I’m only out of there right now because I saw what happened to those who forgot.
I need you to promise me you’ll never forget, and I’ll give you a ride there.
In the Grips of Despair
What was so wrong with him?
His languid heart felt as though it were turned inside out; he wished it would stop.
He’d never been kicked in the gut by a steel-toed boot before, but he imagined this was how it felt.
The singer belting out woes and what ifs from the music device matched his mood. The mess of a room he lay in emulated the inner workings of his mind.
Had he been so undeserving?
How could it be possible that not one but BOTH of them had rejected him? The first had been gentle and apologetic. The second hadn’t minced words but without cruelty. Both had shown adamancy and sympathy, however.
Did he hate them for it? How could he? Those were their choices, and he had to honor them.
No, he didn’t think he hated them, although that was too difficult to determine, with brambles scrambling his thoughts and the steady fireball growing inside of his sternum.
The tears sprang to life and danced on the precipice of his vision, but he shouldn’t, no COULDN’T, allow them to fall. If that happened, they wouldn’t stop. He’d sink deeper into the mire of his own insecurities, of his own inadequacies.
He rolled to his back on the bare mattress. A steady drip, drip, drip from the nearby kitchen indicated a leaky faucet. His phone vibrated from some unknown location. A call or message from whoever.
He didn’t care.
Was he such a bad person? The cracked and peeling ceiling provided neither comfort nor answers.
Why wasn’t he enough for love? To BE loved. Why had he never been given an opportunity to prove that he was worthy to offer and accept that one emotion?
His hands, much like frightened butterflies, flew up to his face and provided an ineffective yet much needed barrier against the world.
The fireball built to an inferno, scorching him from the inside out.
Why could he not find the one thing he’d always longed for?
With no one and nothing present save himself and his unmitigated heartbreak, he acquiesced to his grief.
by Lee Strangely
Bill couldn’t really say how long he’d been walking at this point. There were no lights upon the tunnel’s thick dirt walls apart from that of his own dim lantern. Though, one thing was for certain; judging by the hundreds upon hundreds of footprints that covering the path, he was nowhere near the first to come here.
All the tracks went in the same direction with little deviation. Wandering around, Bill began to wonder about things like where exactly he was, how did he get here, and at what point did he get a lantern…
Oddly enough, as he batted away the various roots hanging from the ceiling, every once in a while, he felt the sudden urge to push smaller roots back up into the soil…
Sometime later, Bill had become ecstatic when light other than his own emerged from the dark. It was another lantern held by another man. He looked a bit gaunt, and much older than Bill.
“You new here?” the man asked.
“Depends, where exactly is here?”
The man pointed above Bill, “You missed one.”
Though confused, Bill instinctively pushed another root into the dirt anyway.
“I assume that you don’t know how you got here, that you just appeared here already moving?”
“Um, yeah,” Bill timidly replied, “that’s right…”
“Yeah, it’s like a dream when it happens.”
“When what happens?”
Bill’s heart sank like lead, “I-I’m dead?”
As if to make sure, the man looked him up and down, “Yep.”
The man then continued walking, Bill following with him.
“So where exactly are we going?” Bill asked. “Is it, you know,” he motioned the man pointing down, “or,” then he pointed up.
“It’s the world for the dead.”
“Well, can you at least answer why we keep uncontrollably pushing up roots?”
“The daisies. They’re not gonna push themselves up there are they?”
By Spawn of Faust
3rd December 1654
The waves rocked the ship as we travelled across the sea into the land of the unspoken evil. Into the place where everything could and most likely would kill you.
Heat was getting unbearable, and the ship kept rocking – inducing sea sickness in most of the crew. I could no longer endure unending motion and had to hurl across the railing.
Rations kept dwindling as our voyage came along. The scurvies hit the weaker members first. But all should pass soon because the end of our voyage is getting near.
15th December 1654
Our rations are gone, and the landmass still evades our eyes. Capitan assured us that we will reach the land soon. I fear for my health – now that we have run out of the food how do they intend to keep us alive?
16th December 1654
Today we had fresh meat for lunch. It is as I feared – The Capitan started to sacrifice his crew. How long will it take and when will it be my turn? I refused to eat but I cannot endure it much longer – my hunger is eating me.
I must eat.
I must run.
17th December 1654
It is midnight. I heard them say that the feast was plentiful, and they want more. If you find this, then believe that I kept myself pure of the madness that strikes this ship.
19th December 1654
I survived. I reached the coast of the island. I had been starving and dehydrated and sun burnt my skin a long time ago.
There was no mistake. I managed to reach the Hell that was our goal. If the presence of this land managed to induce madness what would happen to me now, that I am here?
“Are you alright there?” a voice interrupted my thoughts. I closed the diary and looked up. Sunburnt man with a friendly face was looking at me.
“I do not believe so. I was beached on the shore.” I answered uncertainly.
“Well in that case, allow me to greet you here.”
“Welcome to Australia.”
Belly of the Beast
Sonja and Melissa were led into the back of the club, bouncers flanking them. Sonja didn’t have the ability to see through glamors, but it wouldn’t surprise her to find that Rikke had hired something imposing as club security. Orcs, Oni, Trolls, something of that manner.
An androgynous blonde in an expensive suit stopped them at the door at the end of the hall. “Hold on, ladies. Handbags, please.”
Melissa handed over her clutch, and the blonde checked through it, picking out random objects, before putting them back. They placed the handbag on a side table, before running a metal detector over the two ladies.
Satisfied, the blonde handed the clutch back to Melissa and gestured for Sonja and Melissa to enter the room behind them.
Sonja found herself in a large, opulent office. A woman in a stylish pantsuit had her feet kicked up on the desk.
Sonja nodded. “Rikke Farlund I assume?”
The woman dropped her feet and stood up. “Guilty. Good to finally meet you, Sonja. You don’t mind if I call you Sonja? I feel like, even though we’re just meeting, that we should have been friends for a while.”
Rikke’s charm was evident, but Sonja knew not to trust her. She was dangerous. Despite her overtures of friendship, Sonja didn’t feel that there was any affection from the words.
The door was closed behind them, and Sonja glanced back to see the androgynous blonde had followed them in.
“I see you’ve met my right hand, Thirteen,” Rikke said, indicating the blonde.
“Thirteen?” Melissa asked. “Unusual name.”
Rikke flashed a smile. “You must be Melissa Jackson. Delighted to meet you. Where, praytell, is the third musketeer?”
Melissa shrugged. “Erykah? She has a date. Go figure.”
Good save, Sonja thought. Last thing she needed was for Rikke to know that Erykah was across the street hacking into the club’s security system.
“So, what can I do for you?” Rikke asked.
“Well, as I think you’re aware, we’ve had some incursions from another world,” Sonja said. “I was hoping that you would help us track them down.”
Into The Unknown
Matt looked around the endless void, knowing that even though he couldn’t see her that she was here. As far as he could tell, she was always here. In fact, ‘here’ could very well BE her. “Um… hello?”
“Hello Beloved.” Death’s voice purred from everywhere. “You usually visit my realm when you want something…”
Matt chuckled. That was a fair accusation. “This time won’t be any different. I don’t think you’ll mind though…”
“Is that right?” It was as if two giant eyes opened in the void, the white of Death’s irises in stark contrast to the darkness surrounding them.
Matt smirked back. “You call me your Beloved, your Fated, and so on and so forth but the issue with that is I don’t actually know you. I was hoping to remedy that somewhat.”
“You question our destiny?”
“It’s not that. It’s just… you want this deep connection and I know nothing about you. I don’t know your favorite color. I don’t know your favorite food. I don’t know what you do for fun. I usually know these things when I’m with someone.”
The giant eyes began to shrink as Death’s form took shape in front of Matt. Her eyebrow raised skeptically. “You talk about our connection as if it doesn’t yet exist. Do you not feel the intensity when our gazes lock onto each other? Did you not question if I change my appearance to be more physically appealing to you, implying that you found me appealing in the first place? Did you not once refer to me as… ‘really hot’ and ‘a total knockout’?”
Matt’s eyes bulged as he felt the blood rushing to his cheeks. “Th… that’s all surface level… I’d just… like to know the more personal stuff… is all…”
“If that is your wish. This is my favorite color.” Death motioned around them.
“Your favorite color is nothing?”
Death’s eyes narrowed. “Do you mock me?”
“No! That’s a… perfectly valid color! Um… what about your favorite food?”
“I am Death, my Beloved. I don’t require food.”
Matt smiled. “People don’t always eat purely for sustenance.”
The Placida Mors (The Will)
Two monsters sat on a lone sandbar in the middle of an inky-black ocean, licked by the light of a bright, gentle moon safeguarding its children against the void. The soft hum of the water against the millions of unfulfilled desires acted as a lullaby for the two figures sitting on the sand—the voices of souls like bird song and the cricket’s orchestra.
“It’s strange,” one of them said to the other. “I always thought that the desolation of relinquished souls would be more… violent.”
“It was supposed to be,” the other replied with melancholy wrapped around its tongue. “The will of the world–the concept your newest creations called God–wanted it to be more efficient, but you made it otherwise.”
As the two stared out into the glossy path carved by the moon’s light—turned endlessly by the soft waves of inevitability—the two remained still. “Who told you that?”
Memories began to blur into existence—recreating themselves from fragments of the past, and by extension, recreating the monster beside the creator. “You did,” the now twelve-foot, antler-skulled monster replied with longing. The red glow of his eyes alit something within his company.
The creator looked at his own hands: as black and as terrible as the creature beside him. So delicate and small were his fingers that he could not help but laugh sadly. “Is that you… Eregrim?”
“Yes, nameless one,” Eregrim answered with renewed but leashed enthusiasm. “Have you–?”
“No.” The sharp interjection softened the creation’s expectations, but not as much as what was said next. “I don’t believe I am the nameless one anymore. I don’t think I can be called creator, either. The memories aren’t there, but the feelings are. I think… the creator abandoned me. I think… I am a mistake.”
The mistake held his hand up to the light, watching the sparkles in his obsidian-like body. “I must go, Eregrim,” the mistake confirmed. “The creator is waiting for me below the waves.”
“Will you destroy him?” the creation asked—his feelings conflicted.
“Maybe,” the mistake replied with a sad laugh. “I do hate myself enough.”