Chorus: Short Story

This was not initially meant to be a short story, and it might not remain that way. Initially, I was planning on writing something based off of the myth of the Minotaur, where the narrator would act as the Greek “chorus” of the play – albeit, as you will see, disapproved of by the rest of the chorus/narrators. I’ve started working on other things, so this prologue may be as far as things go for a while, but it was still a fun piece to write.

This was somewhat inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ short story The House of Asterion, but of course that in itself was inspired by the myth of the Minotaur. I compiled a doc of research on it for this story and there are obviously several versions of the myth. This excerpt won’t quite get to the retelling of the myth, however, and will mostly be a conversation between the chorus I mentioned.

We would like you to imagine, if you will, a grand amphitheatre, stretching far and wide and rising in seats of stone. And we would like you to imagine that the sun is high in the sky and that birds are singing in the trees; or you may imagine the fall of rain and crash of thunder, whatever suits your fancy. Imagine that we stand on the stage with arms thrown wide, our voices carrying to your ears on the wind, and imagine that this is what we say:

“Well, the ampitheatre is rather silly, I think,” says one of several anonymously hooded figures.

What? we say.

“Nobody goes to theatres anymore. It’s unrealistic.”

You are being ridiculous, we say. Of course people still go to theatres. And you are not speaking correctly.   

“What?” The Figure coughs deeply. “What about now?”

No, no, no, you cannot speak with your mouth, you must speak from the untethered depths of your cosmic spirit.

The Figure pauses. “LIKE THIS?”

No! Now you are simply shouting!

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” says the Figure. “It’s the same effect either way, really.”

We sigh, and lower our arms. The Figure shuffles its feet as we all stare at it in admonishment, for it has done an unspeakable act. Of course, we would never say so to its face.

“Oh, ha, ha. You’re all very funny.”

You are new on the job, are you not? No, do not answer, it is obvious. Let us explain to you what it is that we do. We are the Narrator, the Storyteller, the Ones who push the Plot forward – we have a sacred duty to tell our tales and tell them well. We do not call the setting ‘silly’, and we most certainly do not use quotation marks when we speak. 

“The ampitheatre is silly, though,” says the Figure, drawing away slightly when we glare at it. “This isn’t a play.”

It is about the style of the thing.

“But the story takes place in ancient Greece!”

Hence the ampitheatre, hence the chorus.

“It’s pointless. No one wants to read about us going on like this for an entire page. Why not just move on with the hundredth retelling of a Greek myth?”

I think I will take a sick day, one of us says, a single voice, splitting off from the group and stepping down from the stage. This is giving me a headache.

“We don’t get headaches,” says the Figure. The one that has left the group breaks into a run and disappears from the ampitheatre in a wisp of smoke. “Look, let me tell the story. I can take it from here.”

You are new, you are new, we protest. You do not know a thing.

“Then this will be a good learning experience,” the Figure says with fake innocence.

We ponder this for a long, long moment. It would not be a wise decision, we are sure of that much. However, it would not be the most horrible thing, to have some time to ourselves.

“Great!” The Figure claps its hands, and in the manner of one that does not know the strength of their own voice, their own abilities, sends a booming sound throughout the ampitheatre. We flinch, already regretting our decision. “Good. All right. So…”

The rest of the chorus leaves the ampitheatre. It is only you and me. Our setting wavers, and shifts, until we are in the land of the Minotaur, the Athenian, and the Princess.

I tried to play around a bit with dialogue, here, because the narration is both directed at the reader and directed at the Figure in certain ways. The narrators are fairly passive aggressive, it would seem, but perhaps the Figure won’t be like that.

And even though it’s technically not part of a short story, I’ll call it that for the time being. Or maybe I should just try and write some actual short stories. We’ll see. At the moment this will suffice.

Don’t Talk to Strangers (Even if They Buy You Gin)

Who’s ready for another short story with a dubious ending? That’s right, you are!

Seriously though, if you don’t want to read through something that technically ends with a cliff hanger, this isn’t the post for you. Neither, probably, is most of the My Writing tag. Still, the excerpt I’m going to include here was one I quite enjoyed making and thought would be a good one to include on the blog. I wrote it in November of 2019, and I was reading through it recently. It was strange to look back on it with a lowered sense of connection from when I had been actively working on it.

This short story took a lot of researching. A lot more, in fact, than some of the full stories I used to write, of course those ones were also never given editing. It’s probably one of my own writing weaknesses. Research can sometimes feel stretched out when you just want to get to writing, but in this case, it wasn’t so bad. I did learn a lot more about The Great Stink of London in 1858 than I needed to, though.

A great stink. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? There’s no need to worry about anything gross in this excerpt, however, because a lot of the particular details didn’t make it into the short story. I won’t elaborate on the title in this introduction, but now you know the time period, and have some knowledge of what to expect. Maybe.

As a small warning: Despite me calling it a short story, and putting “short story” in the tags, I think this post has gotten longer than some of my other excerpts. End of warning.

Abel never really saw the fist coming.

The man swung out of nowhere, his knuckles bashing against Abel’s jaw with enough force to knock him to the floor. A few other patrons glanced in their direction. None of them made any attempt to help. In fact, most of them appeared to be mildly annoyed. 

He groaned as his attacker lifted him by the collar of his shirt, and brought him nose to nose with the man. Abel avoided his eyes, watching the spittle dribble from the side of his mouth. It flew at him when the man began to speak.

“Was you s’riously tryna steal from me, boy?” He shook him and Abel felt his teeth chatter together. “Huh? Ya think you can best me? Oh, no.”

“I wasn’t, I swear it, sir,” Abel said. In truth, Abel’s promises were worth about a grain of sand, but telling the man that would only anger him further.

His reply only gained him a snarl. “Yeah, right. Hold still.”

“Not like I have a choice,” Abel managed to grunt out. Before his eyes, the arm drew back again, a beefy fist was directed at his nose, and he swore he could already feel blood flowing from his nostrils-

“Sammy.”

A voice like silk broke through the noise of chatter, and with that one word the man’s fist halted. “Sammy” looked like a child that had been denied a piece of candy. Roughly, Abel’s feet were set back on the ground, but Sammy still kept his hold on him. Abel didn’t quite mind. He was too focused on searching the tavern for his savior.

A woman Abel had never seen in the city before made her way toward them. Her yellow dress swirled around her legs, and dark hair tumbled over her shoulders in waves. Abel’s brain barely had the time to form the sentence of she’s beautiful before Sammy shoved him against the nearest table.

“Gentle, now. We don’t want to cause any trouble,” the mystery woman said. She looked Abel up and down shrewdly. “And buy this good man a drink.”

As if Sammy’s night wasn’t going awful enough. He gaped at her for a good five seconds, and then grumbled as he went up to the barman. The mystery woman waved her hand to the table (which Abel was pretty sure had left a horrible mark in his back) and Abel, not wanting to upset the person who had stopped a brute like Sammy, promptly took a seat. She sat across from him.

Abel stared at her, unable to mask his confusion. She stared back for a while until she let out a laugh.

“Oh yes, how rude of me, I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Clara Cojocaru.”

“Johnson. Abel Johnson,” was Abel’s weak response. Her name didn’t explain much. It didn’t tell him why the pub owner let him in or why she had so much power over Sammy. Was he her servant? It didn’t seem likely.

The only thing Abel could derive from Clara’s name was that she was a foreigner. He had guessed so from her accent, and the fact that he didn’t recognize her. He knew everyone, whether they liked their acquaintance with him or not.

“I mean no offense, but, your family name is…” Abel trailed off. What was he thinking? Clara was probably a noble, or at least higher up on the social hierarchy than Abel.

“Strange?” Clara finished, and Abel winced. To his surprise, Clara gave him a closed mouth smile and explained. “It’s Romanian.”

Sammy slammed a mug of gin dangerously close to Abel’s right hand. He then lumbered off, still grumbling about bloody thieves. It was only after he was a fair distance away that Abel dared to take a sip of the drink.

“Whatever are you doing in London?” he asked next. The city wasn’t the best to visit. Especially not that summer, with the Great Stink and people dropping all around like flies from diseases. Everyone knew of the miasma theory.

“I’m taking care of my grandfather. Time hasn’t treated him kindly, and he doesn’t really have anyone else to look after him in his old age.” Clara sighed, and tossed a glance over at Sammy. “Besides his lot, of course, but that man is the thickest I’ve ever seen. He wouldn’t be able to tell a hucul pony from a mule.”

“Ah,” said Abel, and he paused for a moment. “I didn’t mean to steal from him.”

Clara winked. “It’s quite all right, Mister Johnson. You don’t have to lie to me. In fact, I highly recommend that you don’t if you know what is in your best interests.”

Apparently, Clara knew just the right way to refocus Abel’s attention. “Seriously? A real, paying job?”

“A real, paying job,” Clara confirmed. “It will only last a few months or so. But I promise you, it will give you enough money to last you the rest of your life.”

Abel didn’t realize he was literally hanging off the edge of his seat until he nearly fell off. He pushed himself back, and took another sip from his mug as if that would clear his thoughts. Clara’s offer sounded amazing, but it was way too good to be true.

“Why would you hire someone you just met?”

“Because although we haven’t met, I have known you for a long time. I’ve been watching you, Abel Johnson.” Clara smiled then, fully that time, and Abel could clearly make out a set of fangs glinting in the candle light. “I am in need of your assistance.”

Every muscle in Abel’s body tensed and his mind shouted at him. Vampire. Abel shot up, and bolted out the tavern’s door into the streets. An awful stench reached in and scratched at the inside of his nose, but Abel barely stopped to gag. He simply pulled his shirt up over half of his face and kept running.

Clara wasn’t from London. She couldn’t know the city like Abel did. He darted through the alleys madly, and checked the skies multiple times to make sure that no bat was flying overhead. After a minute of this, Abel finally slowed down and took a rest against the nearest building.

Heavy footsteps sounded from around the corner of Abel’s alley. Logically, he knew that it probably wasn’t Sammy, yet he still backed away in fear. He caught a shadow in the shape of Sammy’s outline as he hid behind a house. If Abel remained quiet, he would move on and go away. Everything would be fine.

That line of thought lasted a good second before he turned around to find Clara standing directly behind him. Abel lost all composure that he had left, and screamed.

Sammy’s footsteps continued to sound, louder and faster that time, while Clara stood still and watched Abel. There wasn’t any maliciousness in her eyes, only polite curiosity. Abel never got far in escaping a second time, because soon enough Sammy’s hand was clamped down on his shoulder. He really should have brought some garlic out with him that night.

“It’s rude to run out on a lady like that, Mister Johnson,” Clara chided lightly. Abel tried to wrench out of Sammy’s grip to no avail.

“You’re no lady,” he spat out.

Clara feigned offense, placing a hand above her still heart. “Just because a woman is a monster, doesn’t mean she can’t be a lady.” She snapped her fingers, and Sammy slung Abel over one shoulder as if he was nothing more than a bag of feathers.

They wandered back to the tavern. Abel felt too terrified to speak, and if he tried the heat and the constant swinging of Sammy’s movement would make him retch. After a while, Sammy cleared his throat.

“Can’t I pummel ‘im now, ma’am?”

“No.”

“But I-”

“Not now, Samuel.”

And that was that. Sammy huffed, readjusted Abel into the most uncomfortable position, and followed the vampire all the way to the tavern door. Once they were right outside and could make out the vulgar drinking songs, Sammy put Abel back on the ground. Clara turned to face him.

“Here’s what is going to happen,” she said lowly. “The three of us are going to go back in there. You’re going to finish all of the gin. And we’re going to discuss the details of the job like civil people. Understand?”

Abel could do nothing more but nod. Clara opened the door, and led him back to their table, with Sammy hovering over his shoulder every step of the way. Abel sat down, staring forlornly at his mug. What would happen if he shouted to the rest of the occupants and warned them that there was a vampire in their midst? Would they flee? Would Clara deal with them?

He took a glance around the tavern, and found that none of them even found it odd that Abel had ran off and just returned. They probably wouldn’t notice if he warned them, anyway.

“Are you going to suck my blood?” Abel murmured.

“Of course not.” Clara almost looked scandalized by the idea. “You’re too important for that.” Abel’s head spun. Whatever she needed him for, it couldn’t possibly be good.

“Why is that?”

“You’re a talented thief. I want you to steal for me.”

“I-what?” Out of anything the vampire would have wanted from him, Abel hadn’t been expecting that. “You want me to steal something?”

Clara took the other chair and placed it next to Abel, then sat down by his side. Goosebumps travelled up his arms as she leaned in to whisper to him. “I’ve been scouring all of Europe for a competent thief that can aid me. You are quite promising in that regard, Mr. Johnson.”

“I’m not that competent,” Abel rushed to claim. Normally he would have taken pride in such a comment, but not when it came from some random vampire he met in a tavern who was trying to drag him into her plans. “I mean, even Sammy caught me trying to swipe his coin purse.”

“He went for me ento’ire coin purse,” Sammy complained. “Not just a penny, not a shillin’, no, no. The ento’ire thing.”

“I told you I’ve been watching you. We followed you in here and made sure that his money seemed appealing enough for you to try and take. He even acted like an oblivious brute; which, not difficult for him,” Clara said, and Abel cringed as he waited for Sammy’s reaction. Besides a slight stiffening behind them, he did nothing. “But Sammy knew to look for you. When faced with most situations, you are successful in taking home your prize, are you not?”

Abel didn’t respond.

“Are you not?” Clara repeated firmly. Abel hesitated, and after a tense moment of weighing his options, nodded. Satisfied, Clara nodded as well, then pointed to his abandoned mug. “Drink.”

“You’re just trying to make me drunk,” Abel protested.

“Drink.”

“For all I know it’s poisoned.” The thought made him sick to his stomach. He had already ingested a fair amount of the gin.   

Sammy’s hands gripped Abel’s shoulders once more. The threat was clear enough, and Abel obediently picked up the mug to raise it to his lips. Even so, he made sure to take only the smallest of sips. Sammy removed his hands after a few seconds, to Abel’s relief, and he felt safe enough to set the mug back on the table.

“All right, I’ll indulge for now,” Abel told Clara. “What is it that you want me to steal?”

A pleased smile crossed Clara’s face. She sat back in her seat, and smoothed her skirts. “Nothing too serious. Only an artifact from the Buckingham Palace.”

Abel began to hack on his own spit. Clara waved her hand dismissively when a few patrons glanced their way (Oh, now they care, Abel thought to himself), while Sammy thumped his hand on Abel’s back. It felt like the man was trying to shatter his spine. Buckingham Palace. She must have been crazy.

“No,” Abel said. “No. That’s insane. I can’t break into the palace!” He was far from the monarchy’s good graces in the first place.

“You’ll be in and out in no time. I’m sure no one will even notice what you stole went missing. Easy.”

“If it was truly easy, you wouldn’t put so much effort into seeking me out.” Abel rested a hand over his eyes, and released a sigh. “Why, pray tell, can’t you just do this yourself?”

“Me?” Clara pointed to herself, eyebrows raised. “My kind don’t get anywhere without an invitation. Besides, I’m not a thief, Mister Johnson. I don’t do stealth.”

He knew she had a point, but he peeked at her cautiously from behind his fingers. “Aren’t you a vampire? Creature of the night, mistress of secrecy?” Abel’s question made Clara wave to her brightly coloured dress.

“It’s adorable that you think so, but I, for one, tend to stick out in a crowd.”

It was true, Abel had to admit to himself grudgingly. Several men had been eyeing her since she showed up. Strangely for her kind, Clara was dazzling. The way she held herself made her seem like sunshine incarnated. Abel, on the other hand, was forgettable. Average. He was just another face in the crowd, and everyone’s gazes slid right over him. Perfect for thieving.

And, unfortunately, perfect for Clara’s job. Abel closed his fingers and began to slide down in his chair.

“It’s a family heirloom that was stolen from us. From my grandfather,” Clara said, and for the first time, there was a hint of anger in her face.

“Oh, so the ‘taking care of my grandfather’ isn’t part of the ploy, huh?” He’d been sure that it was. In fact, as Abel thought it through, there were a lot of things he was sure of.

Most of it was that if the heirloom was stolen, it must have been for a reason. What if it was dangerous? What if Abel dropped a weapon into the hands of some of the already most dangerous people in the world?

Yes, but what will happen to you if you say no? a voice deep inside of Abel’s mind whispered. He shuddered.

Clara was speaking, with every word passing over Abel’s head. She laid a hand on Abel’s forearm and shook him gently to bring him back to the present. He blinked, looked around, and met Clara’s eyes.

“Are you all right, Mister Johnson? You’re looking a little sickly,” she said.

“Because you poisoned me!” Abel snapped in response. He could already feel his mind fogging up, becoming as messy as the Thames.

“Don’t be ridiculous, there was nothing in your gin. Sammy didn’t bring any poisons with him tonight.” Clara took his chin, and inspected him closely. “You are, however, rather drunk.”

Abel stared at her, trying to maintain focus. He couldn’t deal with her while his mind was addled. “Your grandfather.”

“As I was saying, he is real and truly in need of taking care of. You don’t exist for thousands of years without shaking a few screws loose.” Clara laughed, and Abel laughed as well, although he wasn’t sure why. “I moved to London to help him this spring. But I also moved to take back what is rightfully ours.”

“What?”

“Oh, just a pysanka. A little decorative egg.”

Of course. Clara only wanted Abel to break into the Buckingham Palace itself to retrieve a harmless egg. It all made perfect sense. Abel reached out when he felt his mind slipping away from him, and braced both hands against the table. Concentrate.

“What does it do?” he demanded.

Clara furrowed her brow. “I beg your pardon?”

“What does it do?” Abel repeated slowly, half to make sure Clara heard him, and half to make sure he didn’t slur his words. “Why do you want it?”

“It’s important to my grandfather, and it’s important to me.”

Her expression closed up, and she slammed her mouth shut afterwards. Abel tried to point an accusing finger at her, but failed, and ended up slumping against her side. He suddenly had the overwhelming urge to cry into her shoulder. Clara and Sammy helped sit Abel back up right.

“You wouldn’t go through so much trouble,” Abel managed, “just for a family heirloom.”

“Fine, sure,” Clara said with a tight smile. “If you’re going to be so cynical about this, it does have quite… an enchanting effect on humans.”

“Makes fer easy prey,” Sammy added gruffly.

“Not doin’ it. Not helpin’ou.” Abel’s eyes stung, and Sammy had to grab his shoulder again just to keep him from face planting the mug.

“I already told you that I’d make it worth your while. Don’t you at least want to know how much money I’m offering?”

He did, honestly, but he wasn’t going to say so. What kind of bugger agreed to hand over a weapon to a vampire? It didn’t seem to matter what Abel had to say, however, as Clara promptly leaned in and whispered the amount in his ear. Within seconds, Abel’s eyes were nearly the size of saucers.

That many pounds really would set him up for life. The thought of never spending his nights on the streets, of no more pickpocketing, stealing, and risking his safety to stay alive made his heart skip a beat. Still… Abel closed his eyes.

“Suicide mission. Tha’s wha it is. Besides, tha egg sounds dang’rous.”

“Come on, Abel,” Clara prompted. “You know you want to do this. You’ll be rich! I promise I won’t use the egg to cause harm; I simply want it back for my grandfather. And I believe you are the only one that can do that for me.”

Abel rolled her words over in his head, and found himself nodding along. If he could figure out the routine of Buckingham’s guards, then maybe he would have a shot. It wasn’t as if a pysanka could really cause that much trouble, right?

He gave Clara a look. “Promise no harm?”

“I promise,” Clara said, her voice still as smooth as silk. “Now, do we have a deal, Mister Johnson?”

The vampire extended her hand to the thief. Abel knew in the depths of his consciousness that he wasn’t thinking clearly and should say no, but he still accepted Clara’s hand and shook it. Already it felt like a huge mistake. The tears that had been piling up trickled out of his eyes, and sobs escaped his mouth.

“That’s just the gin as well, Mister Johnson. We should get you some place where you can rest,” said Clara. She gave Abel’s hand one last squeeze, and stood up.

Abel was only vaguely aware that Sammy picked him up again as he cried. He really was only vaguely aware about anything the entire trip through London’s winding streets. At some point they entered a large house, which according to Abel’s memory was definitely not his. Clara stopped to talk to an elderly man, whom she called Bunic. Then she continued to lead Sammy and, by extension Abel, to some sort of guest room.

He was set in the bed and brought a glass of water by a young woman that closely resembled Sammy. She pulled the covers up over Abel, and Clara observed the scene from the doorway. The servant finished up, curtsied to Clara, and scurried away from the room as fast as she could. The two were completely alone.

“All those people,” Abel whispered. “Dying from cholera. It’s not just the sickness killing them off, is it?”

Clara’s expression wasn’t unsympathetic when she answered, “I have to get blood somehow, don’t I?”

He rolled over and buried his face into the pillow. He didn’t want to talk about it anymore. He just wanted to drift off to the dream world, and hopefully survive whatever hangover was waiting for him in the morning. Then hopefully survive whatever would come next.

“Sleep well, Abel Johnson,” Clara said to him as she left, turning down the gaslamp. “We have a lot to plan when you wake.”

A few fun facts from the referenced research I did on this: The miasma theory was a medical theory that proposed diseases came from miasma, or “bad air”. Hucul ponies were originally bred in the Carpathian Mountains. A pysanka is a Ukrainian Easter egg. It’s estimated that 6, 536 people died in London during The Great Stink, and 20, 000 people nationally. It was apparently caused by a large wave of heat in the summer making all the waste in the River Thames ferment. In addition, there were a lot of cool vampire myths.

I can’t recall why I wanted to write a short story with a vampire at the time. Maybe because Halloween was nearing when I started, or I was inspired by something else I saw. Either way, it was a lot of fun to write, and an interesting storyline that I could perhaps pick up again.

Some day I will post a short story that has a better ending. Today is not that day.

You Are the Star of the Show

My latest post was about the four types of points of view found in fiction, where in one paragraph I spoke of the difficulties that came with writing in second person. To review, it is the POV that features “you”, and that really is a strange position to have for a story. This can immerse the reader more deeply, but it comes with the question of who is the you? Is it the reader, in which case personalities will vary, or is it a character being addressed as you the whole time, and why would that be happening?

I decided to try my hand at writing a longer snippet of something in second person point of view. However, I didn’t have much of an idea for a small story as I went, so the quality is probably more that of a quick writing exercise. Still, it was meant to be an experiment of mine, so take a look if you will.

It had been a few weeks since you first rented the house out from the landlord. It was a modest abode, and the wallpaper was peeling in places, but you had grown to be fairly fond of it nonetheless. The only real problem was the sounds you heard in the middle of the night.

“There used to be a few raccoons in the attic,” the landlord had explained when the two of you were exploring the house. He took a broom and prodded the hatch a couple of times. “But pest control took care of them a while back.

Even so, you would lay awake in bed and listen to the skittering from above. You told yourself that it was normal for there to be noises. It could simply be something on the roof. However, the longer it stayed, and the louder it was, you gave in and called both the landlord and pest control.

A quick swoop of the attic and they could inform you that in their professional opinion there was nothing living up there. The noises endured. You deemed their professional opinion worthless to you in this situation and went to check the attic yourself.

Maybe it wasn’t your brightest idea. It certainly went up there with all of your most questionable childhood escapades, and you had the thought that it was being brought on more by a lack of sleep than your common sense, but you proceeded to the hatch, armed with your own broom, flashlight, and ladder.

You climbed the ladder. Tucked the broom under your arm. Pushed open the hatch, and managed to crawl through in nothing but your nightclothes. You were immediately hit by a wave of humid air, and as you surveyed the attic with your eyes, all you saw was a small space with a couple of boxes set off to the side.

Whereas the skittering had been going on as loud as ever before you had busted through the hatch, the attic was suddenly, and eerily, quiet. It was probably just the darkness making you paranoid, but you pulled out the flashlight and pressed forward.

You inspected the boxes out of plain curiosity. With the end of the broom, you nudged the first one open, and found an old wall clock with a rusted pendulum. There was also a quilt blanket, a bicycle in one of the larger boxes, a photo album with no photos, and food cans with large chunks taken out of them. It was hard to tell whether it all belonged to the landlord or the former owners of the house. Still, none of it explained the weird noises. You looked around, and shined your light over the very edge of the attic, where you hadn’t yet checked. The cobwebs and dust were much more congested there.

What if it’s a giant spider? a voice whispered at the back of your head as you moved closer. You dismissed it, although not entirely with ease.

When you were standing inches from the back wall, peering at the (tiny) spiders who called the attic their home, you heard the skittering again. It came from your right, among the boxes, and you swung the flashlight in their direction without a second thought. The sound stopped just as suddenly.

“Is anybody there?” you called out, even if you weren’t sure why. You were doubtful that there was a person living up there, but perhaps the sound of your voice, if it came out calm enough, would lessen the quaking that had begun in your legs. You really did need more sleep. Maybe a glass of warm milk and someone to knock you out.

No one answered your question. Had you expected anyone to? However, there was a creak in the floorboards, so you haltingly began to approach the boxes.

It was probably just raccoons again. Mice. A stray cat. Anything other than, say, a giant spider. You tried your best to assure yourself of that.

Using the broom once more, you pushed a couple of boxes to the side, and a loud hiss made you jump back instinctively. You saw the shape of the creature that time, the curve of its back as it ran behind another set of boxes. You inhaled, and exhaled again.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” you said slowly. “As long as you plan on not hurting me as well, everything will turn out…just fine.”

Then you were standing amongst a bunch of old boxes, your flashlight outlining the scene almost theatrically, and a strangely humanoid being was staring up at you with pitch black eyes. You took in all of it, your own eyes widening: the pale green skin, the elongated ears, and spindly fingers. The oddest part was the pair of iridescent wings sprouting from its back.

Whatever you thought you had been expecting, it hadn’t been that.

You began to classify the creature as a faerie, out of lack of a better name. Gremlin might have been a better choice, considering that after it had been discovered, it didn’t seem to see any point in secrecy and made itself regularly known in your home.

It liked to fill up your bathtub with water and splash around in it, greatly increasing your water bill. It also liked opening boxes of cereal, crackers, or anything it could get its hands on, and shaking the contents across the kitchen and living room. You imagined it was what it was like having the type of dog that loved to tear up every cushion available.

That thing, however, wasn’t a dog. You could tell it understood you, but it couldn’t speak back and would purposefully ignore you most of the time. It might have been best if you had left the scuttling noises to be a mystery.

What were you supposed to do? Call the landlord? Pest control? The police? You doubted you could successfully keep it locked up anywhere for a long period of time, and then whenever someone arrived the faerie would have disappeared, making you look insane. After a couple of failed attempts trying to lure it into the attic and stick a padlock on the hatch, you reluctantly turned to the Internet for help.

There were a few simple points that supposedly helped when faeries were involved. Telling them your name was a bad idea. Saying “thank you” was a bad idea. Most things, it would appear, were bad ideas.

You shot the faerie a dirty look where it was huddled in a corner chewing on the contents of your recycling bin. It noticed you staring, hissed, and pressed further against the wall as it continued its snack. You figured you might as well give another try at communication.

“Hey,” you said, shifting in your chair to face the creature. Its dark eyes fixed on you calculatingly. “So. You’re a fan of plastic.”

The faerie swallowed a pop can whole. You pressed on.

“Do you eat batteries? It would be great if you ate batteries.” You released a snort. “Or my junk mail.”

It still didn’t respond, but it seemed to be listening. You tapped your fingers on the table a couple of times.

“All right, we’ll use the classic. I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and if you want to be cooperative, you can stomp your foot once for yes and twice for no.” You paused for a moment. “Are you getting this?”

The faerie tilted its head. It continued to eat the recycling, and you were just beginning to think that you weren’t going to get anything out of it when it tapped its foot against the floor twice.

“Oh, ha ha,” you said, sounding somewhere between annoyed and relieved. “Okay, so you do understand English. Have you been in this house for a while?”

One tap.

Not a newcomer. You wondered how the landlord couldn’t have noticed. “And you’re the only one here?”

One tap.

“I imagine that must be lonely.” Silence. “Are you ever going to stop being a little pest around here?”

Two taps, and something that resembled a grin. You had to give her some points for honesty, you guessed.

You took a moment to gather your thoughts, and released a breath. “I’m not going to pretend like this situation isn’t extremely weird for me. I wasn’t expecting a roommate, let alone one with wings that keeps chewing on the plastic.”

She gave you another one of those grins.

“But if you can promise that you won’t cause massive trouble for me,” you continued slowly, “I won’t get anyone else involved. I’ll keep you a secret.” It still seemed unlikely that anybody would believe you if you revealed you had a faerie living in your new house, but she looked like a creature that wanted to stay in hiding as much as possible. “Deal?’

The faerie considered you for a long while. Then, she brought her foot down, making one resounding thump travel through the kitchen.

For all the talk of complications with faeries, they were known for keeping to their promises.

Somewhere along the line while making this post my laptop started acting up again, but I wouldn’t peg that as why it was later to come out. It’s more due to the fact that I was writing the extract from scratch. Besides that though, and my delving into an abundance of research on both landlords and attics, there wasn’t a lot of problems that came with writing a second person point of view.

Despite my own thoughts on this POV, it wasn’t super different from writing first or third person. In the context of this story it was easy to avoid using a name, and I didn’t look to deeply into the person’s history so that it was relatively left open what their, or your, life was like.

I guess when it comes down to it my biggest qualms is with personality. It may not be the case that the “you” in a second person narrative is meant to be the reader, but if it is, the immersion can be thrown off if the character voice is different from the individual. Some people would have gone up to check the weird noises in the attic, some wouldn’t, some would have immediately moved out of the house. If the goal were ever to tailor the story to a wide range of personalities, then one is likely to come up short.

That being said, there are definitely instances where second person POV can work. Aside from this quick excerpt, there are whole novels that have been made using it, like I mentioned in my last post: Stolen by Lucy Christopher, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, and The Night Circus by Ryan North, among many more. I have yet to look at any of them myself, but it would be an interesting read.

Note: If you do, by any chance, find a faerie-like creature in the attic of your new home, this is not a professional guide of what to do. Please keep them away from recycling.

Bar Fights, Festivals, and Cake (Excerpt)

Recently, my laptop stopped working. I’m not sure what happened to it exactly. When the on button was pressed, it would light up for a second, and then switch off just as quickly. It’s been sent back to the company for repairs and hopefully it can be fixed, but I have no access to my docs. I might not be able to get access to them again. Aside from the obvious that I should have uploaded my stuff somewhere else, it means that I can’t easily copy and paste any writing I had there into any posts.

Which in turn means that this new excerpt I have for that “Aylwin and Silas” story won’t come along as fast as the last one.

Luckily, I never usually type my first drafts, so I do have all of it in writing. The following section takes place a month after the last one, and it begins in a pub. Everything only continues to go downhill from there.

When it came to nights at the pub, no one knew the concept of quiet. For example, Aylwin had found himself sitting at the counter, his back to the noise of shouting, fighting, and a tad of drunken singing. He took a sip of his beer just as someone threw someone else against a table. What a nice, relaxing night out.

“Are you going to do something about this?” Aylwin asked the bartender. A tinkling of broken glass and the sound of applause.

The bartender peered over Aylwin’s shoulder, then shrugged and continued to wipe a mug. “Nah, a good brawl never hurt anyone. It builds character.”

Aylwin frowned, looking away. “Uh, right.”

He had never been from a particularly violent nature. As a kid, he would even try and intervene in any fights that came up – which he soon learned would earn him a punch in the face. Since then, he steered clear from brawls such as the one taking place behind him at the pub and tried his best to ignore them.

Chanting rose from the group of men. They pounded their fists on any tables available to them, cheering on whoever had become the center of the ring. From the pack of voices came one high and crisp that taunted its opponent. Another glass or window shattered.

The one voice sounded eerily familiar to Aylwin. He stared at the counter and spun his glass around while he tried to place it, but his memories were not giving him any aid.

Once the curiosity finally got the better of him, Aylwin turned around to see the owner of the voice, and felt his jaw drop.

“Oh, yes, that was a good one!” Silas Bowman said, and he clapped his hands. “You must have been, what, a foot away? That’s progress.”

His opponent spat on the ground and got up to charge him again. Silas moved out of the way as masterfully as a dancer. Another round of jeers went up as he slinked around the circle, always one step ahead of the other man. It was more Silas mocking him than any sort of brawl.

Aylwin had no idea how Silas was there. It must have been a month since he was locked up, and there was no way the captain would let him out that early, if at all. Perhaps he was simply a hallucination brought on by too many days of hard labour, chopping up wood and building houses. That’s all it was. Aylwin turned back to the counter.

Unless, of course, Silas had escaped. How it was possible no one could know except Silas himself. On the other hand, the smart thing to do, the easier thing to do, would have been for him to immediately leave town the second he got out of prison. There was no good reason for him to be fighting in a pub.

His musings were interrupted when Silas let out a cry of pain. Aylwin whipped his head around to see Silas being held up by the collar of his shirt, although he was making the effort to kick at his captor. The man pulled back his arm, and got his chance to punch Silas in his smug little face. Aylwin actually worried that Silas’ neck had snapped with the way his head was thrown back.

“C’mon, fellas,” the triumphant opponent said to the group of men. “Let’s go show this guy just how much progress we have made.” The people who had been fighting followed him out of the pub once united against a common enemy.

Aylwin looked doubtfully at the bartender.

“He’ll get over it. Wounds do heal, you know.” He turned his latest mug from side to side. “Well, eventually.”

The pub was peaceful for a while after that. The men did come back, but Silas wasn’t with them. Aylwin finished off his beer before they could choose another target, and walked out into the cool night air.

He didn’t have to go far before he came across Silas’ injured, and unconscious, body. He had been left sprawled out on the road, with his back planted firmly in the mud. Aylwin stopped by his side and crossed his arms, while his face was taken over by a thoughtful expression.

He supposed he should take Silas to the watch. They wouldn’t be happy to have had him escape, and besides, it was Aylwin’s duty to report to the law. Then again, it was unlikely the law would care all that much about Silas being beaten up and would have no qualms with him bleeding to death. The captain and Lady Moira would be all the more glad for it.

Aylwin let his moral compass duel it out like he had the last time he had been in Silas’ presence. It lead him to sighing, and gingerly scooping Silas into his arms.

“I must be going mad,” he muttered. With that, he carried Silas on home.

Aylwin came down the stairs that morning the way he always did: bleary eyed and ready to snap at the first thing that moved. He grabbed an orange and a piece of bread, provided by the market. He nearly dropped both when he walked into the next room.

He had left his guest on a cot when he’d brought him in, but Silas appeared to be fully functional. In fact, he had made himself right at home. Leaning back in a chair, feet up on the table, and chewing on his own piece of bread.

“Mornin’,” Silas said, and waved a bandaged hand. “Aylwin, wasn’t it? You’ve got a nice place here.”

“Good morning,” Aylwin replied cautiously. “How long have you been up?”

“Eh, an hour or so. I’ve been wandering about.”

Aylwin took a deep breath. Then he walked around so that he was standing inches away from Silas, and held out his hand. The other man cocked an eyebrow before reaching out to shake it.

“Give it back,” Aylwin said, pulling away a bit. Silas didn’t react.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Whatever you bloody stole. Give it back.”

Silas stared at him for a solid ten seconds. Without a word, he pulled a pouch of coins from his coat pocket and dropped it into Aylwin’s possession.

“Is that all?” he asked, and Silas nodded. Aylwin narrowed his eyes, but backed off, choosing a seat across from him. “You seem to be in the habit of getting yourself hurt every time I see you.”

“Yes, well, the first time was your fault.” Silas shoved the rest of the bread into his mouth as if afraid Aylwin would make him hand that over as well. Aylwin scoffed.

“My fault?”

“Yeah? Which one of us was blocking the alleyway?”

Considering Silas had been trying to get away with theft at the time, Aylwin was fairly sure his point didn’t hold up. He sighed, and massaged his face. Maybe taking him to the watch would have been a better idea.

“Whatever. I don’t know what you said to that guy to make him so angry at you.”

“I called him a pig, a failure of a human being, offenses against his mother, among other things.” Silas met Aylwin’s disapproving stare, and shrugged. “He got off easy. I have a much worse arsenal of insults reserved for the truly idiotic.”

Aylwin shook his head. Silas was the scrawniest person he’d ever seen. He shouldn’t have been going around picking fights – that was, if he had a sliver of self preservation in his bones. However, Aylwin moved on to other things.

“I doubt the captain let you off your sentence,” he said.

“Perhaps I was let out for good behaviour,” Silas countered with a cheeky grin.

“How did you escape? How did you steal from the Lady Moira? How did you pull the captain’s pants down when everybody was watching you, for crying out loud?”

“Sorry, that’s top secret. But maybe someday I’ll teach you my tricks.”

He sputtered, and gathered the whole sum of his dignity to deliver his next statement. “I don’t want to learn any of your tricks! You’re a criminal, you stoop to the lowest level, and I honestly think you deserved to be locked up.”

“And yet,” Silas said, pointing a slender finger to him, “you found me out there, all bloody and bruised, and what did you do? Took me in and bandaged me up. That says something, mate.”

“It doesn’t mean I’m not taking you back to the watch straight away.” Aylwin adopted a stoic stature as he peeled the orange in silence. Silas, on his part, did not seem too concerned by this. He settled down further in the chair and watched Aylwin pick apart the fruit, piece by piece.

When he had finished his breakfast, he went upstairs to get changed. It took quite some time for him to decided what to do with Silas but he finally opted for bringing him into his bedroom where he could keep an eye on him and placing him in a corner. Silas clasped his hands behind his back and hummed a little tune while Aylwin switched into day clothes.

On the bedside table were some dirty clothes, a wood carving, and a piece of bare cloth. When it caught Aylwin’s eye he stared at it for a few seconds, feeling his temper begin to mount.

Silas must have heard Aylwin’s footsteps because he turned around just as he reached him and grabbed a hold of his collar. His hands scrambled over Aylwin’s in an attempt to release his grip, but he held firm. No way was he letting him get away with what he had done.

“Give me the necklace, Silas,” Aylwin ordered. His voice sounded calm, which was the exact opposite of his mood. Silas looked up at him and stopped trying to pry his fingers away.

“I don’t have a necklace.”

“Don’t play dumb with me. I know you took it.” Aylwin tightened his hold slightly.

“You won’t hurt me,” said Silas, and it was fact, they both knew it.

Neither of them moved. Then, finally, Silas reached into one of his coat pockets again and retrieved a long loop of twine with a single sparkling gem thread through it. Aylwin snatched it, and at the same time let Silas go.

The thief rubbed at his neck. “Why do you even have jewelry up here?”

“None of your business,” Aylwin said. “We’re leaving.”

Once the necklace was placed safely back on its cloth, or as safe as Aylwin could believe it would be after having it stolen while he slept, they went downstairs and out into town.

Brightly coloured lanterns, not yet lit so early in the day, hung from the houses while the people in the streets were converging and chatting merrily. There was a certain excitement in the air, one that was rare for their calm little town. Aylwin paused in the doorway. He had completely forgotten about the Summer Festival.

Oh, well. They would just have to weave their way through. Aylwin linked his arm tightly through Silas’ and kept moving.

They cut a line through the sectors, slowly growing closer to the town square and the watch building nearby. Unfortunately, the streets got more congested as they went, to the point where Aylwin was walking sideways to form openings with his shoulder. A few rings away from the jail, he stopped and scanned his surroundings in dismay.

“Aylwin, can we talk about this?” said Silas.

“We cannot,” Aylwin said, and after a moment added, “And that is Fletcher to you.”

He spotted an exit and took a step forward, only to be stopped again by a man waving a basket of pastries under his nose. “Young Mister Fletcher! Care for some festive treats?”

“Um, no thank you, Mister Dale.” Aylwin couldn’t help but feel his stomach sink. Dale was not an easy baker to shake off.

“Oh, come now, come now, it’ll only cost you five shrivnels!” He flourished one hand above the basket. “I have bougasta, galaktoboureko, halva…”

“Really, it’s all right,”Aylwin told him earnestly. “I don’t have any money on me, anyway.”

Dale did nothing to hide his disappointment. “Ah. Of course. Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”

Aylwin had been edging his way around him, and at that, he nodded sharply and made to hasten their retreat. Silas, however, had other plans. He tapped his free hand against Aylwin’s shoulder.

“Hold up, mate. I could personally die for a piece of portokalopita right now,” he said, and Aylwin was just about ready to be swallowed by a hole in the ground. Dale, on the other hand, was absolutely delighted.

“A man of taste, I see.” He took a knife from his pocket and maneuvered the basket so that he could cut into the sweet. “Five shrivnels, please.”

Silas made a bit of a show out of trying to reach into his coat pocket while being restrained so thoroughly by Aylwin. Finally, he sighed, and gave Aylwin a look that a parent might give their child that has latched onto their leg.

“Fletcher, bud, you’re going to have to let go.”

Aylwin glared at him pointedly. “Mister Dale, he is not my friend. This man is an escaped criminal that I’m returning to the watch.”

“Oh?” Dale looked between the two, puzzled. “Is that so?”

There was a mixture of nodding and shaking heads from Aylwin and Silas respectively. Dale grew even more confused, so Silas shrugged, and began to laugh. He laughed so hard that he doubled over and brought Aylwin down with him.

“He’s the one that almost got away with stealing Lady Moira’s earrings a month back,” Aylwin told him. He hefted Silas, still grinning to himself, up.

“Ah. Well, I’ll have to let your father know you’ve taken a sudden interest in law enforcement, eh? I was under the impression you told Cadby you didn’t want to join the watch.”

A strange new panic surged up from Aylwin’s gut and into his throat. He started to tell Dale that no, he had no interest in joining the watch, that he was simply being a good citizen, and came to a quick stop. It really was true that Dale was difficult to shake off. Once his mind was set on something, little to nothing could deter him. He would go to Cadby whether Aylwin liked it or not.

What seemed like an eternity of debating passed within a moment of reality. Aylwin relented and let go of Silas, allowing him freedom to reach into his coat pocket.

“I’m sorry for troubling you, Mister Dale,” Silas said, pulling out the shrivnels. It was impossible to tell if he’d taken them from Aylwin’s home or some unsuspecting stranger. “Aylwin here is such a joker. ‘Taking him to the watch’ – heh, comedic genius.”

“Err, right,” Dale muttered as he handed him the piece of portokalopita, obviously still in a state of confusion. Aylwin was watching Silas like a hawk. “Enjoy the festival, boys!”

The baker finally moved away, but a group of dancers cut a path between Aylwin and Silas before he could grab a hold of him again. He cursed, tried to get across, and failed. Silas took a deep bite of his orange cake as if to taunt him. Then he saluted to Aylwin, and disappeared into the crowd.

Aylwin made his attempts to recapture the thief, searching the route he thought he took and then searching each sector. Nothing. By the time the sun was going down, Aylwin found himself sitting just on the outskirts of town, staring out to the forest where he was sure Silas had fled.

I was considering putting this one into two parts due to not being sure whether it was too lengthy, but I’ve opted not to. It would have technically been the same length either way, right? Plus some extra bits of my own commentary in the second part.

Here you can more clearly see what I was talking about in the character dynamics post, where I discussed the type of conflict I usually like to write between my characters. Aylwin and Silas have a bit of tension going on between them which makes the relationship more interesting.

The desserts that Dale so insistingly wants Aylwin to buy all look very delicious, if that’s something you would like to check out. And as for why Silas thought it was a good idea to insert himself in a bar fight after only just escaping jail: Aylwin is right in that he doesn’t possess the best sense of self preservation.

A Bit of Prompting

In Christmas of 2018, I received a book called A Year of Creative Writing Prompts, under the author name of ‘Love in Ink’. There are over 900 prompts in the book, spread out among several genres, and it will give you a prompt a day or let you scour through the lists and choose your own. I believe something along these lines had been a request of mine that year, because I was having difficulty really getting myself to write.

This post will be comprised of a response I have written to one of those prompts, as well as one that I did with a writing group in my town. It’s not some of my best work, since these are things that are written quickly and that I do more just to write, and many of them are left unfinished. Just as a warning for anyone who doesn’t like things to be left so open ended.

(Like my mom. Who goes through that anyway. Heh, sorry.)

I’ll start off with the one from the book. It follows this prompt: A young man is in a minor accident. When he wakes up in the hospital following the incident, he sees a strange being sitting by his bed. Who/what is it? What happened? To be fair, this wasn’t much of a minor accident.

And before you continue reading, think about what that prompt makes you think of. Where would you take a story from that single point? What does the strange being look like in your head, and why are they there? You’ll probably find that your initial impression is quite different from what you’re about to read, or what another person might think of when reading the prompt featured above.

Everything hurt. His chest hurt, his legs hurt, his arms hurt. There was a pounding in his skull that continued with a reliability like clockwork, and his body felt heavy as if it was wrapped in bandages.

It felt like bandages because they were, indeed, bandages. There was pain because he had nearly died.

Stephan groaned, and only just managed to maneuver himself into a seated position. Thoughts were nothing more than a bowl of badly made soup at that point, but he could see that he was in a small white room. It was all white floor, walls , ceiling, and equipment. The bed he was in was probably white, too.

All right, so I must be in a hospital, Stephan’s functioning brain cells determined.

Okay, yes, but why am I in a hospital? asked the rest of the cells.

Because I was knocked over.

Knocked over?

While in the car. Driving down the street. Rammed into, knocked over, sent flipping, and then – black.

Again, Stephan groaned. He looked to his left, where a strange man was staring at him intently. He looked to his right, where a door was situated and a curtain hung near the side of his bed. There was a pause before Stephan whipped his head back to the man.

“I’m glad to see you awake,” he offered. “You’ve been out for two weeks. Took quite a lot of damage there.”

“I’m sorry, but do I know you?” Stephan asked. He was feeling confused, and that didn’t couple with a headache well.

“My name is Titus.” And that was all the information Stephan got.”

Titus stood from his seat, and began to wander about Stephan’s room. He opened cupboards and inspected their contents, looking mystified. At the collection of syringes, he chuckled.

He turned back to Stephan, a couple of minutes later. Titus didn’t look particularly old, yet he was well above Stephan’s age. Stephan wracked his brain. He thought back to parties, old teachers, and those awkward moments when meeting friends of his parents, but he couldn’t place the mystery man.

Then Titus leaned over the foot of his bed and Stephan’s brain kick started enough to recognize that this might have been a stalker. He curled his legs to his chest the best he could, and shrank under Titus’ gaze.

“All right, look,” said Stephan, keeping his voice as calm and steady as possible. “Tell me what you’re doing here right now, or else I’ll scream at the top of my lungs. Someone’s bound to come running.”

Titus smiled. “I’ve evaded being spot by your doctors and nurses thus far. It will make no difference.”

“What do you mean? What-how long have you been here?”

“The same as you. Roughly fourteen days.”

A chill ran down Stephan’s spine just as a doctor walked through the door. She looked surprised. Stephan was thinking that that was rightly so when she beamed at him.

“Mister Lake! You’re conscious, excellent.” She set down a tablet and went to fiddle with the machinery beside him. “I’m Doctor Fern. How are you feeling?”

“Groggy. Sore,” Stephan said. His eyes darted between Doctor Fern and Titus, who hadn’t moved an inch since the newcomer entered the room. Fern went on to say that his reactions were understandable and they would make sure his injuries got better soon, which Stephan interrupted with, “Don’t you see him?”

The doctor straightened. She looked at him with a frown. “Who?”

“Him.” Stephan waved at Titus for emphasis. Fern searched the room, but her eyes seemed to completely overlook the man.

“Stephan,” she said slowly. “Do you think you’re…experiencing any hallucinations?”

Was he? Stephan had no way of telling. Titus looked real, however, Fern couldn’t see him. Stephan thought long and hard, then bit his lip.

“Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Well, we’ll definitely have to check on that.”

Stephan stared at Titus. Titus returned the stare serenely. Fern left the machinery, walked around to where Titus stood, and-

And walked right through him.

Nothing changed about Titus. He didn’t flicker like a hologram. He stood there looking as solid as ever, but Fern still passed through him like he was air. Stephan continued to stare, and Titus smiled.

“You really need some sunlight,” Fern told him as she opened the window blinds. She turned around and paused. “Are you all right? You look like you saw a ghost.”

Stephan swallowed. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Absolutely.”

To her credit, Fern did not look like she believed him. Even so, she said nothing more on the subject. She filled him a cup of water from the tap to put on the table near where Titus had sat.

“Try and get some rest, okay? I’ll be back in with a group to check on you soon,” Fern said. Stephan nodded once, and then she was gone.

He should have been alone. He should have been able to sleep with the knowledge that no one was in there watching him. Instead, he scrambled further away from Titus and tried to find some sort of weapon. His efforts nearly led him to falling out of bed, but Titus was by his side in a second and pushing him back by the shoulders. Stephan slapped his hands away.

“What the heck are you? What do you want?” he shrieked.

“I would suggest you lower your voice.”

“Lower my voice? Lower my voice! Oh sure, I’ll lower my-!”

“If the others hear you,” Titus said, the poster child for patience. “They will, as you said, come running. Then you will have to explain why you’re yelling at an empty room.”

He was right, of course, the jerk. “The doctor. She couldn’t see you, she walked right through you!” Stephan switched his voice to a whisper. “But I can see you just fine. And you were able to touch me.”

“Yes, that isn’t very complicated,” Titus replied.

“It’s complicated to me!”

“Say, do you know what these things are for? I’ve seen them all over the building, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what they do.” Titus held out a bottle of pills to Stephan. He frowned at it, and shook his head.

“You’re scaring me. Like, really scaring me. Is this some sort of supernatural encounter?”

Titus set the pills back on the table. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to alarm you. I simply wanted to stay with you long enough to make sure you would be all right.” He offered Stephan the glass of water and added, “I’m responsible for your accident in the vehicle. I truly am sorry. You were not the target.”

Great place to end, I know. If I had to stop writing it, then it had to be on a dramatic note. Anyway, this one was pretty fun, especially with Stephan’s mounting confusion throughout the entire thing. I for one wouldn’t want a magical stranger to be at my bedside after a car crash either.

The next prompt was done during the writer’s group. You could write anything you wanted, but it had to include a specific list of words. Sage, match, corner, light, and border. This one is considerably less long.

Sage’s wrists were raw and itchy, preventing her from catching any sleep. Even as she sat tucked in a corner, the lights out and nothing else to do, the rope binding her irritated her to the point of insanity.

There were other reasons she wouldn’t doze, of course. Her wooden chair wasn’t exactly comfortable, and the fear gnawed at her stomach persistently. Sage thought that if she had to be there even five more minutes, she would keel over right then and there and someone would come to collect her body in the morning.

The door creaked open. Sage stiffened and squinted, but couldn’t make out the figure drawing near. Footsteps came closer. Closer. Closer. She pressed against the back of the chair, holding her breath.

A single match was struck, and suddenly Sage was peering at a face. He smiled at her. It wasn’t unkind.

“Hello,” he said. Sage didn’t respond. “My name is Michael. You’re Sage, correct? Now, I don’t want to hurt you, I just want to know where your father is.”

Again, Sage didn’t reply, choosing instead to stare at the match. The little flame was crawling down to Michael’s fingertips, but he didn’t seem to care.

“Quiet one, aren’t we?”

“I won’t tell you anything. Leave me alone.” Sage spat in his face, causing him to reel back; at least she got that satisfaction.

“Classy,” Michael muttered, and then he laughed. His fingers were on fire. “All right, child of Callum. Let’s see how you respond to the flames.”

As you can see, I tried to get the required words out of the way as early as possible, although it looks like a missed ‘border’. I’ll be honest when I say that I don’t know what is going on in this scene, and I’m not sure whether I thought on it hard back when I wrote it, so it’s up to the reader’s interpretation. I quite liked the idea of Michael here letting the flame keep going until he caught on fire (you can guess that he’s unlikely human).

Those are just a couple of examples of the writing prompts I’ve used. They can be helpful exercises, and fun to play around with. It’s also interesting to see the variety of things people come up with, so think on what you would have done differently if you were responding to these prompts.

Story Excerpt in These Trying Times

Length is something that can be a little hard to estimate while writing. Something you expected to be short and sweet will come out longer, or something that you had originally thought would be extremely large ends up only taking up a couple of pages. Between my own experience and other writers that I’ve spoken with, short stories or responses to writing prompts are some of the most notorious for this, because if you get too engaged it can become much more than a short story or a response to a writing prompt.

The best example I have for this is the excerpt I will be sharing in this post. Originally it was more of a writing exercise than anything, and my goal was to write a short story based around a song. The specific song that inspired this was Archers by The Ballroom Thieves, and given that it is a little over two minutes and I expected the story to be divided into ten short sections, it was easy to believe this was a project that would be over fairly soon.

I started this in April, and I am still writing for it. That is probably enough incentive for you to know that something went awry during the process.

It turned out that what I had in mind was actually much longer than I had originally thought, and around the point I’m at now, the story is starting to move away from the original path I had set out for it (which also means in later parts it doesn’t fit the song as well). Which is fine, stories are bound to evolve into something different than what you set out to do.

This “short story” is structured a little strangely, since it is divided by song lyrics instead of chapters. I will be including two sections from it, because section two ends on slightly less of a cliff hanger than section one.

As for the story itself: it is about a thief, an exhausted protagonist, traveling through forests and earrings, but I’ll let the writing explain for itself.

The first time Aylwin met Silas was more of a fluke than anything.

Town square was quiet that day, as it had been every day for the past ninety-three years, and as it would be for years to come. A few merchants were still packing up everything that had not been sold. Children chased each other around the execution block, giggling and jumping merrily.

Aylwin bypassed the small crowd to get to the nearest well. He was dying to bathe, even just a little bit. It was common knowledge that if you slipped between the Turner and Baker houses, you would have a shortcut to the west well that suited Aylwin more than taking the main route through the sectors.

It was not, apparently, common knowledge that running full speed through the shortcut while another person was going the opposite way would get you both knocked over.

The stranger and Aylwin went tumbling along the path, and ended up sprawled in a tangle no where near the well. Aylwin scowled and reached for his pail while the other man struggled to push himself upright.

“What were you thinking, blazing along like that?” he demanded. The man focused wild eyes on Aylwin, and he paused. “Hey, are … are you okay?”

The man blinked. It seemed to take him a moment to register what had happened and what Aylwin was asking. When he did, he relaxed his expression into a grin. “Oh yeah, I’m fine, mate.”

“Really?” Aylwin took in the messy hair, ragged clothes, and dirty skin. “You look like you recently rolled out of a pig pen.”

“A pig pen would be an improvement to my current situation.” The man threw a glance over his shoulder, stood up, and made to maneuver himself around Aylwin. He didn’t get one step before he let out a hiss and collapsed back to the ground.

Aylwin let the pail dangle from his elbow as he slipped the opposite arm around the man. He protested at first, but eventually allowed Aylwin to lead him to a bench in the square. The straggling merchants eyed them curiously.

“I truly am fine,” he said impatiently.

“And I am truly sure you sprained something,” Aylwin replied. He rolled up the man’s pant leg, pressing his thumb along the skin until he saw him wince. “It’s in the calf, then?”

“I’m fine.”

Aylwin rolled his eyes and pulled the pant leg down again. “Well, take it easy for a couple of hours. Seriously, why were you running through Turner-Baker?”

The man didn’t respond. Aylwin looked up and caught his gaze darting to all the square’s entrances, his muscles tense. Soon enough he noticed Aylwin watching him and shrugged. “I find it’s a faster mode of traveling. You should try it sometime.”

He took that comment as his cue to leave. Aylwin stood and turned to do just that, but something was still nagging at him.

“I’ve never seen you around here before,” he said, to which the man flashed a brilliant smile. It was a smile that shook your hand and said “you can trust me” while stealing all your money and possibly your first born child.

“Of course not. I’m from out of town.”

“Beggar?”

“Ouch. A farmer.”

“Longhill or Stag clan?”

“Neither. I didn’t say I was a well known farmer.”

Aylwin leaned in with narrowed eyes. “What’s your name?”

“James Curlston,” the man said without missing a beat. He leaned in as well, and raised an eyebrow. “Is the interrogation done yet, mister?”

He wanted to say no. Something about “James” was really setting him off. But, in the end, he wasn’t Aylwin’s problem. He told the man to stay off that leg and continued his journey to fetch some water.

Then their simple, quiet town square was filled with yelling. Men dressed in leather armour poured in with weapons raised, causing the children to scream and flee from the area. Aylwin held up his arms and backed away. He spotted James, who’s face was streaked with horror.

“That’s him, there’s the man!” shouted a woman’s voice.

James struggled to get away with his hindering calf. All at once, the men came upon him and dragged him to the center of the square. He was pushed down to his knees.

From above, the shadow of the execution block loomed over him.

Lady Moira swept across the cobblestones that weren’t fit for feet as fine as hers. The watch parted for her all except for the two men holding James down and the captain. He knelt beside James and cupped his jaw, then jerked it up so Lady Moira could inspect him.

“There’s no mistaking it,” she said, confirming her previous statement. “It’s him. I caught him climbing out the window.”

The captain let go and moved back with a nod. The two guards began to pat James down, to his apparent outrage. “Where’s your proof, huh? Do you have any other eye witnesses? You can’t just arrest me like this!”

“My proof is somewhere on your person. A pair of diamond earrings,” Lady Moira replied. She watched him with a look of disgust.

“What’s your name?” the captain asked, and when James didn’t respond, “What’s your name!”

“I am James Curlston from the southern district,” James snarled. “I’m a man of Agreisha. And unlike this accuser, who has never gotten her hands dirty in her life, I’m a farmer that always makes honest work and I-!”

He was cut off short as one of the guards pulled something from his inner coat pocket. Lady Moira’s earrings gleamed in his palm. Aylwin stared from his spot at the edge of the square, everything finally beginning to click into place.

“Well,” the man who was probably not named James Curlston said, and slumped from his position of righteous indignation. “You can’t blame a guy for trying.”

“Real name,” the captain demanded.

Not-James jutted out his chin. “Silas Bowman.”

“You admit that you broke into Lady Moira’s home, stole some of her most prized jewelry, and ran from the law?”

“Get your men to back off, and I’ll think about it.”

The captain struck Silas across the face. He turned to Lady Moira and asked what punishment she saw as acceptable for the criminal. Then Silas began to laugh; slow and throaty at first, until it grew high and loud and grated on everyone’s nerves. The captain went to slap him again, but Silas held up a hand.

“No, no, ignore me.” He snickered. “I simply can’t get over the fact that the local watch takes orders from a man who can’t even tie his belt right.”

Silas continued to laugh. The captain, on the other hand, looked down and went bright red. The other guards pretended not to notice while he drew his pants up and tugged his belt tight. Aylwin was sure he heard a merchant near him snort.

“It wasn’t like that before,” said the captain. He pointed at his men. “You all saw me! It wasn’t like that before.” Finally, he let his finger fall in Silas’ direction. “How did you manage it, you bugger?”

Silas smiled. “I didn’t. There’s no possible way I could, with all these people watching.”

“That was a low blow.”

“Quite literally, I might add.”

This time it was Aylwin who snorted, against his better judgment. Silas heard it and cast his smile to him momentarily.

“He shall hang,” Lady Moira said, her voice as cool as ice. “Tomorrow at noon, if you will allow it, Captain.”

“Oh, I’ll allow it, all right,” the captain muttered. Silas’ cheery mood dropped and he thrashed against the guards that held him, but there was nothing he could do. Nowhere he could run.

Aylwin fought vigorously against the sympathy that tried to develop at the sight. Silas was a liar and a petty thief, and by all means didn’t deserve his pity. Aylwin was going on his way to the well when the merchant from earlier stepped forward and cleared his throat.

“Sir? Madam? If I may weigh in a tad,” he said, and Aylwin found himself stopping in his tracks.

The captain frowned at him. “Whatever makes you think that-?”

“Now, now, Captain, I see no harm in it. Go ahead,” Lady Moira told the merchant, giving him a nod.

“I don’t think that one theft deserves a death penalty, madam.”

“No? That’s what most are treated to. It’s the way things are.”

“It is cruel and unjust.” The merchant crossed his arms. His determination was like a tidal wave. But Lady Moira, Aylwin thought, was like sheer rock. “Mister Bowman could be a poor street urchin simply trying to survive. What are a couple of diamond earrings lost to your abundant riches, my lady?”

Lady Moira pressed her lips into a thin line.

“Not one of our street urchins. Have any of you seen this man before?” The captain addressed his question to the square at large, and the watch and other merchants shook their heads. The one who seemed to have taken a liking to Silas searched them until he spotted Aylwin, who he wasted no time in pointing out.

“He knows him. I saw the two come out of Turner-Baker, speaking with one another. He was aiding him in walking.”

Within seconds, another pair of guards had grabbed Aylwin and pulled him to the group. He, too, was thrown to his knees. If only he’d left to fetch pails of water sooner. If only Silas had run through another route. He glared at the man beside him, but all of Silas’ attention was on Lady Moira, the captain, and the merchant.

“Name?”

“Aylwin Fletcher, sir.”

“And how long have you known Mister Bowman?”

He tried to sit up to look the captain in the eyes, and was rewarded a push by one of the guards. So Aylwin stared at the ground instead, his sense of honour compromised and his body really needing that bath he’d planned to take.

“Perhaps ten minutes or so, sir,” Aylwin said through gritted teeth. “He ran into me when I was on my way to collect water from the west well. He sprained a muscle and I helped him sit down.”

“It’s true, much to my annoyance. I may have gotten away if it weren’t for good old Aylwin here,” Silas added.

Aylwin bumped his shoulder against Silas’ and hissed, “You shut up.”

Silas retaliated. “I’m helping you!”

This led to Aylwin ranting on how he supposedly should be so gracious that Silas was trying to help him out of what he got him into. Silas snarked that, hey, Aylwin had been so insistent on checking Silas’ injury and he hadn’t been the one to draw attention to him. The captain massaged his temples, looking as if to be under great strain, and silenced them both with a yell.

“I haven’t done anything, sir, I swear. I didn’t help him steal the earrings,” Aylwin pressed. He hadn’t known the earrings themselves necessarily existed before that day.

“But do you believe this man deserves to die for them?” the merchant asked. All eyes focused on him completely. Aylwin glanced from the captain to Silas then back, and swallowed.

Should he help or condemn him?

Should he affiliate himself further with the criminal, or have a guilty conscience?

Yes or no. Yes or no. Yes or-

“No,” Aylwin said, lowering his head. “I don’t think so.”

He was aware, then, of Silas observing him with his head tilted. He simply refused to acknowledge him. The captain muttered something about everyone going soft these days as the merchant debated with him further, and finally he relented to making Silas serve time in jail instead. Lady Moira wasn’t happy, but she covered it up with a blank face and stalked away from the scene.

Silas was taken to the prison. The captain declared Aylwin innocent, mostly because he had better things to do than interrogate him further. The watch dispersed, and the merchants packed up, and everyone left so that Aylwin crouched in the dirt all alone.

Maybe he was going soft, he thought to himself while he tread back to the shortcut. After all, thieves never won sympathy from most in that town.

It has occurred to me that, perhaps, this is a bit too long of an excerpt, but it is going to stay like that. I spent too much time copying and pasting each individual paragraph from my Word document so that it didn’t break the format that it doesn’t matter.

“Archers”, as I’ve been calling it, is a piece I’ve enjoyed writing very much. Aylwin and Silas’ characters, along with their dynamic and how it develops over the course of the story, have been really fun to play around with. As I said before, at this point it has moved past the original plan, but it seems to be worth it.

As for whether it will be wrapped up by the time a year has passed? Only time will tell.

Welcome Back! Would You Like a New Excerpt?


It’s been three months since I last did a post, and I’m as at a loss for what to do as I was then. Not to mention school, countless other things I get working on, and life in general. I will put up a top five books of the year, and I’m sure I’ll find other things to talk about, but for now, I’ll show an excerpt of my latest endeavour.

In August, I started a story by the name of Oleander (which was never featured on the blog, or else maybe you would know what the heck I’m talking about). I may pick it up again when I get around the road block my own brain cheerfully lobbed my way, but in the mean time my brain has also cheerfully plopped a new world in my head. This world came almost fully formed, but without characters or a solid plot. It took up residence and said, “work with it.”

Then I ignored it for a while.

Funny thing about new ideas, they don’t like being ignored. Not even necessarily creative ideas. They take to you like a leech that can’t be gotten rid of with something as simple as sunlight or salt, and nag at you day and night. This imaginary world has been running on background in the tabs of everyday life for months.

In all that time this idea has been around, I have constructed a bit of plot. A few characters as well, here and there. Still, I didn’t act on it until I was sitting in class after finishing a test and boredom aided the leech in finally getting me to write.

There isn’t much you need to know going in with this excerpt, except the fact that this story is what comes to my mind when sci-fi fantasy is involved. Just plug your nose, dive, and hope there isn’t a shark.

It was a lovely night for something catastrophic to happen. There was a storm, for one thing, and everyone knows that storms are never a good sign in theses situations. Lightning licked the sky in long, illuminating bolts and thunder rolled throughout the lands. Rain was pattering against bulletproof windows.

It was truly a wonderful night for something to escape the facility.

Abram Cadmus could sense the ominous atmosphere in his bones. He shivered, and began making his way down the main hall past bustling scientists and agitated guards. They feel it too, he thought. Great. A splendid development. He held the statistics package close to his chest and kept moving.

The main hall of this facility, which will not be named for secrecy reasons, was an amazing sight to see. All polished marble surfaces and golden archways. There’s no point in describing it, however, because Cadmus was there for a mere few seconds before he took a quick left into a much less interesting elevator.

Cadmus had a five second trip to get to the bottom of the building. When the elevator reached his stop, the man riding with him, sitting on the floor with a gleeful expression, looked up at him.

“You going to see the big man?” he asked.

“Well, yes,” said Cadmus. “I-” He was cut off by a burst of laughter.

“Ooh, you’re in trouble, pal. The last guy that went to him came back with a black eye and a limp. Statistics, eh?”

Cadmus nodded wordlessly. He was mostly focused on planning a trip to the infirmary.

“This should be good, then. He’s gotten himself into a horrible state of anger.”

“Has he ever gotten himself out of one?” Cadmus asked in a far away voice. “Look, do you even work here?”

The man flashed a grin, and held out his grubby hand. “Stuart Wilson. I work in testing. Uh, and by testing,” Stuart said, and winked, “I mean Operation Dragonfly.”

Cadmus went through a few stages of reaction: first was surprise, next was disbelief, and finally he landed on placidness. The man was obviously mad. He might as well humour him a bit. He shook Stuart’s hand firmly, and tried to resist wiping his palm on his shirt afterwards.

“I see. I’ve heard it’s quite something.”

“Ah, you don’t believe me, do you?” Stuart leaned against the elevator wall. His sardonic cheerfulness was beginning to unnerve Cadmus, as if he wasn’t already on edge. “That’s fine. I wouldn’t believe me either. Now, run along to the big man, and good luck to you.”

As Cadmus stepped out of the elevator, Stuart’s cackling followed him. Yes, that man was definitely mad. Cadmus had half a mind to call security, but there were more important matters at hand. He tugged at his collar, and continued on his route.

The room he arrived in had only three occupants. One stood against the wall, and had the distinct air about her that said ‘I don’t want to be here.’ There was another person with a gaunt face who hovered near the third life form like a hummingbird. He flitted around, fidgeting with a large load of nervous energy. The man he stood near was none other than Laric Stunfyr. Honestly, he wasn’t much to look at, except for the constant blaze in his eyes. It was the same blaze that refocused on Cadmus the second the door swung shut behind him.

They all stood there in silence. Cadmus couldn’t handle the staring contest with Stunfyr, and let his eyes drift away. He examined the table, the large tubes mounted in the walls that bathed them in green light, whatever was being read on the holoscreen, and ended up staring at Laric again. For reasons he didn’t understand, Cadmus decided to salute.

“The statistics package is in, sir,” he announced. The sir was a nice touch, very formal, although he would have to be careful not to lay it on too heavily…

“Great,” said Laric. “And who are you?”

“Cadmus. Abram Cadmus, sir.”

Laric straightened from his bent position over the table. “Ah. Well, let’s see it, then. This had better be something good that you’re interrupting me for.”

Cadmus realized he was still saluting, and quickly pulled his arm back down to his side. He really didn’t want to go over and show Stunfyr what he was interrupting him for. It didn’t seem like he had a choice, however, because Laric went over to him instead. Sweat beaded at his brow. With jerky movements, he handed the package to Laric.

The hummingbird man winced in sympathy. Maybe he was thinking of the guy who received the black eye and the limp. The woman leaning against the wall, who presumably was thinking of the same thing, snorted.

Laric returned to the table, and slid Cadmus’ statistics package into the slot in the side. Whatever he had been looking at before flickered away and was replaced by a group of awful graphs and numbers. The silence from before returned with a vengeance. Cadmus swallowed, and edged his way towards the door. Laric’s voice, dangerously quiet, was enough to stop him in his tracks. He had been so close to the handle, too.

“Come here, Mister Cadmus.”

And that was it. Everything had been leading up to that point. The storm, Stuart Wilson, and even that soggy sandwich Cadmus ate at lunch. His life flashed before his eyes as he took step after step in Laric’s direction. Most of it was of school, which roughly meant the disapproving looks of teachers, hiding at the library at lunch, and descending dodge balls in elementary PE classes. Cadmus regretted never learning how to catch one of those things with his hands instead of his face. Maybe Laric would let him do so as his dying wish.

“I know a guy up in the infirmary that can patch people up like no one else,” the hummingbird man whispered when he passed, and Cadmus felt a card slip into his hand. “Just show him this and tell him Ty sent you.” Cadmus glanced down at the card. It appeared to be a coupon for healing services. What kind of a person made coupons for healing services?

Finally, he was standing face to face with the Stunfyr, and there would be no more stalling. Laric jabbed a finger at the screen. “Tell me what you see here, Mister Cadmus.”

“Well, sir, we’ve been spending most of our money on Operation Dragonfly,” Cadmus replied, staring at the space just beside Laric’s head. “And we now owe the government about fifty million Enchaelian dollars.”

“How interesting. What else?”

“There have been, erm, several more close calls with sightings by civilians. Not just human ones, either. The Otherlings are beginning to suspect us too, sir.”

“Your abilities of observation astound me, Mister Cadmus,” said Laric, to which Cadmus flinched. Stunfyr turned to the sole person there who had yet to speak. “Let everyone know that we’re to be on top security. No one gets in or our without close inspection. How is it coming?”

Laric switched topics so fast that Cadmus nearly received whiplash, but the woman against the wall took it in stride. “There are still a few bugs that need to be worked out. It won’t be ready when you want it to be.”

“All right, Miss Flynn, then when will it be ready?” The way Laric spoke to her was different from how he spoke to anyone else. Cadmus could swear there was some respect there. Flynn, likewise, spoke to Laric differently from the rest of his employees. For example, she glared while she did it.

“I don’t know, Mister Stunfyr. Our top scientists are up to the seventh experiment for Operation Dragonfly, and they simply can’t tell when it will be completed. Personally, I believe quality is more important than a due date, sir.”

“Not if there’s fifty million Enchaelian dollars on our back.” Laric rubbed his chin, growing lost in thought. Cadmus saw this as the perfect opportunity to make a break for it, and jerked his thumb back at the door.

“If you don’t mind, sir, I have things…to do…”

“You’re not going anywhere, Cadmus.”

He froze. That time he was going to die, for sure. Laric removed the statistics package from its slot. The holoscreen winked out of existence, and with it all evidence of their troubles.

“Set up a team to deal with the money,” Laric said to Ty. “I want to have a meeting with them in an hour. On the dot.”

Ty paused. “But, sir-”

“On the dot, Murray!”

Ty practically squeaked, and zipped to the table to begin sending out messages, further enforcing the image of a hummingbird in Cadmus’ head. Next, Laric directed his attention back to Cadmus.

“You. I don’t see why you don’t deserve a good old fashioned punishment.”

“I, well, I,” Cadmus stammered. He took a step back for every step Laric took forward. “In all, err, fairness, sir, I was just delivering the package.” The two came to a stop when Cadmus’ back hit one of the green tubes, and suddenly Laric was only inches away. “Don’t shoot the messenger!”

It occurred to Cadmus too late that Stunfyr probably didn’t understand the meaning of that saying. He followed one that went more along the lines of ‘shoot everyone, no discrimination.’ His life flashed before his eyes once more, if only to make him more miserable. The man glowered down at him, his height making up for what he lacked in bulk. Cadmus looked away.

He yelped about a second later, but not because he’d been hit. A horrible blaring sound rang in their ears. The green lights of the tubes were then flashing red, as was the screen Ty had been working with. There was a brief gap in time where none of them knew what was happening or what to do, and then they sprang into action with the arrival of an automated voice.

“Sector breach. Sector breach. Code Alpha. Initiating lock down within five seconds.”

Cadmus had always thought that five seconds was not enough time. While it made sure that whoever, or whatever, was running around where it shouldn’t be wouldn’t have the chance to get away, it also meant that no one else had the chance to do so. Cadmus very much liked the idea of getting away. It was Code Alpha going off, and they all knew far too well what that meant.

Something in the facility had escaped. Outside, lightning cracked again as if to mock them.

Following his own survival skills, Cadmus bolted for the door. The other three fell in close on his heels, with Stunfyr shouting instructions to Flynn and Ty. They ran the entire length of the hall, until Cadmus was at the elevator where Stuart was still seated. He surveyed them all with nothing more than mild curiosity.

“Mister Wilson, there’s been a breach,” Laric said. Flynn seemed determined to stay by his side, but Ty kept going. Cadmus would have happily done the same, yet his feet remained rooted to the spot in response to Stuart’s behavior.

“Oh, yes,” Stuart said, and pointed at the flashing lights. “I’m aware. Hey, if it isn’t the statistics guy! Looking well and healthy, I see.”

Cadmus frowned as Laric pressed on. “Well, man? What are you doing sitting on the floor!”

“There’s really no need for alarm, Mister Stunfyr. The kid’s harmless. Give her a juice box and send her back to the capsule, it’ll be fine.”

“The kid?” Cadmus repeated, gaining looks from Laric and Flynn. Stuart shrugged, and grinned.

“Yeah. I mean, she’s probably around sixteen at this point, given that she hasn’t had much time to mature and all.”

“You’re telling me that you think experiment seven is what escaped,” Laric said bluntly.

“I don’t think it, Stunfyr, old pal.” Stuart leaned forward with gleaming eyes. “I know it. Code Alpha wouldn’t be triggered for anyone else.”

“You work on Operation Dragonfly! It’s your department that needs to make sure things like this don’t happen!”

“Wait,” said Cadmus. “That’s actually his job?”

Stuart put his arms behind his head. “Mistakes are impossible to avoid entirely. Just do what I do, and relax. The guards will catch her, c’mon, she hasn’t even been conscious before now. I bet you she barely knows how to walk!”

“He actually works here? Are you serious?”

Laric opted for ignoring them both, and marched away from the elevator with Flynn in tow. The second they were out of sight, Stuart’s grin dropped. It was a strange transformation. Suddenly the easy going, slightly insane man was gone, and the man that had come to take his place meant all business. His intense stare was enough to make Cadmus wish he was anywhere else in the world but there.

“Get on the elevator,” said Stuart. The words made a long trip through Cadmus’ one ear and out the other, and he blinked.

“What?”

“It is crucial,” said Stuart, slowly that time, “that you get on the elevator. Now.”

“I rather think the elevator is the worst place to be in an emergency.” That, and Stuart was really creeping him out.

“There isn’t an emergency. At least, there won’t be if you do exactly as I say.” Stuart finally stood up, and Cadmus realized he was tall, even taller than Laric. Reality itself seemed to get out of the way to make room for his height. Stuart walked to the center of the elevator, and stood there with red light pulsing all around him.

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m not asking you to. I’m asking you to get in the elevator already, and to stop making things difficult.”

So, it seemed as though Stuart was still insane. As such, Cadmus didn’t get in the elevator, and stared at him blankly. Stuart got tired of waiting. He made as if to grab Cadmus, and Cadmus panicked, slamming the button that would close the doors. Then he ran without chancing a look back. Even while he left, he could hear Stuart trying to wrench the doors back open and cursing.

“Don’t go down hallway C-Five, you hear me?” he shouted after him. “Don’t go down C-Five!”

Too late, Cadmus thought. C-Five was the closest hallway with stairs, and he wanted to get to the main hall as soon as possible. Where there was a lot of people. A lot of people with guns. A lot of people, in short, that could protect Cadmus from a rogue experiment better than he could. Cadmus skidded around the corner, and tumbled full force into the space Stuart had obviously not wanted him to tumble into. For what reason, Cadmus couldn’t be sure. The hall was completely empty.

It was a quick walk from where Cadmus stood to the stairwell. He tread quietly and cautiously, Stuart’s words echoing in his head. Cadmus was only half way across when he heard footsteps sounding from the joint hallway to the end of C-Five. They echoed off the walls, growing closer to Cadmus with each passing second. He felt his mind go blank.

The legs, recognizing that the brain had turned to mush, prepared to run as instructed by the backup of Cadmus’ conscience. This backup was called, plain and simple, animal instinct. He never actually got the chance, though. The moment Cadmus was about to bolt, a figure came zooming around the corner. It spotted him and froze like a deer caught in the headlights.

A few things became apparent to Cadmus as the newcomer stared him down. One, it appeared to have a female build. Two, it was in a white nightgown like a hospital patient. Finally, its eyes were glowing a freakish purple and it was beginning to advance. Cadmus gave it a rather undignified scream in response.

There was a flashing button near Cadmus. He jammed it quickly, to alert the guards to his coordinates as well as the coordinates of experiment seven. Next thing he knew, it had him pinned against the wall with his arm at an awkward angle. It started applying pressure. Cadmus whimpered as it kept pushing and pushing, right up until the shoulder popped out of its socket. It’s to be assumed that Cadmus screamed again.

The experiment let go and allowed him to fall to the floor, where he hit the side of his head. Cadmus had thought for sure that he would die at the hands of Stunfyr that night, but it seemed he would perish because of a haywire teenager. It dropped down in front of him in a crouch.

Cadmus tilted his head up and searched its face. Eyes bright, nostrils flared, mouth drawn in a neutral line. There was no humanity, not even anything Otherling, to be found there. It took a hold of his legs, and Cadmus closed his eyes in resignation. He listened to the frantic thrumming in his skull like it would calm him down, and tried very hard not to think about the fact that the thing was probably going to break his limbs.

For a second time, footsteps echoed down hallway C-Five. Hope flared in Cadmus’ chest. He looked to the staircase and shouted. “I’m over here! Help, it’s crazy!”

The experiment promptly smothered Cadmus’ mouth with its hand. It looked a little startled, he realized, with its eyes focused on the end of the hall. A moment later the expression was gone, replaced with a calculating one. Before Cadmus fully knew what was happening it had slammed his head against the wall and was sprinting away.

Good riddance, you filthy duck, Cadmus thought. After a second, he added, I am definitely not okay. He reached with his good arm to feel where his head had met brick, and his fingers came away sticky with blood.

There were people yelling at him. They sounded concerned. They were asking him what had happened, but Cadmus only managed to point where all of Operation Dragonfly’s hard work had run off before he slipped into unconsciousness.

I remember the good old days when the first chapters were only about two pages. Oh, well.

The title, if you hadn’t already guessed, is still pending. I do have a few ideas, though. As for Cadmus, I’m sure he’ll be all right. He’ll be in the infirmary for a bit (maybe using the “coupon” from Ty) but won’t be featured for most of the story. It’s a shame, really, because I found that I actually liked his name a lot.

I’m pretty excited to play around with this world; this excerpt has barely even scratched the surface.

Another Comparison and Story Excerpts

I’m back again, now on summer break. The sweet, sweet feeling of freedom (even if it seems to me like I have five projects to hand in tomorrow).

At the present, I’m still sort of on writer’s block. Oh joy. I’ve done a couple of writing exercises-meaning, like, two or three. In addition, recently I rewrote the introduction of one of my older stories. The excerpt I featured in the last post with horrible grammar? Yeah, this one is worse.

Here’s my rough summary of the book: There are these two book characters who find out that their author is planning on ending the story with them being sent to the dungeons and later sentenced to death, so they go through all these different tasks trying to find a way to stop that from happening.

The chapters shift between the narrator being the “author” of the book, which features the story from the book my protagonists live in, to the main character, which features the actual storyline.

I’ll show you the original and the latest, in that order. Hope you enjoy.

 

Introduction

Hi, I’m Kate. Tina told me not to write this into the book, but here we go. I’d just like you to know that this story is intirely (cough entirely cough) true. Well, it is for us story character’s (I’ll stop after this but cough characters cough). It’s not like you normal people will find witch’s and flying pony’s in the real world! And to all you author’s, the point of this story is that when you insist on making us the bad guy’s, we don’t appreciate being thrown in jail and stuff. Why can’t we just all be freind’s and go home in the end? Or atleast have a water bed and proper food in jail. Anyway’s, I’ll let you get on with the story reader’s.

Sincerely,

Kate, fourth book on the first right side book shelf, third shelf.

 

(Then there’s a “how this book works” side note, but I’ve already explained it to you and it’s not part of the story itself. I told you this was worse. Not to mention that I had no perception of paragraphs. Anyway, here is the new version.)

 

Prologue…? Let’s Go with Prologue

Dear reader,

Yes. I’m talking to you. It’s not even the supposed “author” that “made” this book leaving you a note, I’m the character. The protagonist…and the antagonist. I guess it mostly depends on perspective. What I’m really trying to say is: forget the fourth wall entirely. It doesn’t exist anymore. This is real, this is happening, accept it and move on.

…That sounded a little too intense, didn’t it? I better get on with this before I write something to scare you away.

Ahem. Dear reader,

My name is Priscilla Orlena-Scarlett Turner. But, for simplicity purposes, you can call me Post. (I swear though, if one more person makes a Post-it Notes joke, I’m going to scream.) I’m from the kingdom of Sceneferlen, just south of Ragnol Mountains. Which would be a great introduction if you had any idea of what all that is.

This is stupid. Maybe I should get Anya to write it.

All right, look. Whoever you are, I think you picked this book up for a reason. There’s no way that something that’s going to become as insane as this collection would end up in your hands easily. It doesn’t matter now what drew you to us or why you’re reading this, just that you are. And that I’m going to make a perhaps unwise decision to trust you.

I need your help. I need you to read through this, no matter how weird it gets, and no matter how much it tests your sense of reality. I’m asking you to help me change my fate. Don’t worry, Anya and I will do all the heavy lifting, all you have to do is stick with us until our story is done, one way or another. We both think that having a little outside human support will go a long way. After all, it is your imagination that’s bringing me to life in your mind as we speak.

Wish me luck. I’m counting on you.

(Post here again. To avoid confusion, I’m letting you know beforehand that you may come across chapters from my novel. You’ll know if it’s me communicating with you or the author, trust me. I’ll talk with you again soon.)

 

(Another note, but it’s actually me this time and not part of the excerpt. I left the “how this book works” side note of the newer version in because it’s actually part of the message. All in all, there you have it, folks! Also, can you tell how much I enjoy breaking down the fourth wall?)

The Grammar of My Younger Self is Making Me Cringe so Much

So, does anyone remember that post where I talked about the fact that I don’t get writer’s block, I’m just a huge writer procrastinator? Yes? No? Well, either way, I’m just going to tell you right now:

Forget that. All of it.

do currently have writer’s block. Recently I managed to start another chapter of the book I’ve posted two excerpts on here, and I’ve written a few things here and there, but it still feels like I’m in a writer’s block. I’m not really enjoying it much.

Long story short, the block led to me reading through some older story drafts to get some inspiration, and to give myself some form of entertainment.  The folder I took out held a lot of writing I’d been doing about two years ago or so. I got a few pages into one draft and had to put it down, because it was so horribly written (round of applause to my family for reading through entire finished books of that stuff).

It’s amazing to look back and see how much my writing has changed in two years alone. Most notably my grammar. I know that even now I will mess up with grammar, but the draft I read was worse. So, so much worse. To prove my point, I’m going to put an excerpt of that older work and then an excerpt of a newer work to compare.

First, we have 2015/2016 (I’m honestly not sure when exactly it was written but it was sometime around then) Rhapsody, with all misspellings present. This story is based around the idea that there’s a city up in the clouds that-well, it will become pretty self-explanatory as you read on.

 

Some people walk by things without giving them a second glance. Have you ever LOOKED at something, like REALLY looked? Because maybe-just maybe-if you look hard enough at the sky, you would catch a glimps of a land hidden from the Surface: Cloudtown.

Cloudtown is well hidden. It floats high in the sky, sorrounded by many puffy clouds. It floats around the world over and over. And the people of Cloudtown are responsible for the making of clouds, and why you see what you see in the sky.

Jaiyniss Carter ran towards Cloud Central in the center of Cloudtown. Jaiyniss (Ji-y-nis) had big blue/green eye’s and curly blond hair. She was not really aloud at Cloud Central, but it didn’t stop her from going there whenever she could. Her older sister, Opal, worked there. (Jaiyniss was 12, Opal was 19) Opal was in charge of Surface (Down on the ground) patrol, which meant she took care of things when someone from the Surface saw Cloudtown.

“Opal!” exclaimed Jaiyniss, bursting into Cloud Central. Many people groaned.

“Jaiyniss” said Opal with a sigh “We talked about this. You can’t bother me when I’m working” Jaiyniss smiled.

“But I LOVE watching you work. Oh, what does this do?” Jaiyniss pressed a big red button. Opal looked outside, and saw a newly formed cloud in the shape of a bottom. She sighed.

“Jaiyniss, can you PLEASE go?” Jaiyniss was about to respond, when many lights flashed red. Cloud Central was a very organized place with many departments: Surface patrol, cloud design, storm check etc. Cloud Central was a giant white room, with all the departments having their seprate parts.

“We have a Spotter!” shouted Opal to the Surface patrolers.

“Oh, oh, I call it!” shouted Jaiyniss, running to a long tube.

“Jaiyniss, don’t-” too late. Jaiyniss had jumped into the tube. She slid down as it led her to the Surface. Jaiyniss didn’t get to go to the Surface often, but she liked it there. It was so different!

“Okay” Jaiyniss mumbled to herself, excited “Where’s the Spotter?” Jaiyniss hadn’t paid much close attention to who the Spotter actually WAS. But she was pretty sure it was the kid standing a few feet away from her with his mouth open and staring up at the sky.

He looked about Jaiyniss’s age. He had tanned skin, amber eye’s and brown hair. He had a ball in his hand. Jaiyniss guessed he had been playing catch with someone, had went to retrieve the ball and seen Cloudtown.

Jaiyniss was about to go over and convince the Spotter that he was just seeing a normal cloud, when a hand clamped her shoulder. She looked around. Opal stood there, holding her back. She made a motion to two other agents of Surface patrol, who went foward towards the boy. Opal steered Jaiyniss over to a camoflauged tube.

“I’m sorry Opal” said Jaiyniss when they got back to Cloud Central.

“You’ve said” Opal told her “Countless times” Jaiyniss hung her head.

“I know” she said quietly “I just wanted to be like you guys” Opal sighed.

“Jaiyniss, your time will come when you can work at Cloud Central” said Opal. Some people muttered something about “That will be the day we’re all doomed”. “But you’re just too young”

“Yeah” Jaiyniss muttered sadly “Too young”

 

…The less said about what was going through my head at that point, the better. I still like the concept I had for that, however that excerpt alone could be seriously edited.

Now, for my comparison, here’s a surprise excerpt of Forevermore. I know this is out of order, but here is chapter two. This one sort of explains how General Gonosz and Ms. Stone meet.

 

The next morning, Gonosz figured he had a bit of time before he had to go interrogate the newest prisoner of the palace. So he slipped by Lake and Marty and went out into the village, cars and horse drawn carriages alike moving through the streets. He walked quickly and with purpose. Gonosz was going to take this assignment very seriously, despite his reservations.

People avoided the general left and right. Although, they would avoid anyone wearing the wooden mask, the brand of the empire. That also meant citizens wouldn’t attack him, so he appreciated it. He had no time for a fight.

Gonosz stopped directly in front of an old building, looking up and reading the sign: Stone Family Orphanage. From what he’d gathered, this was where Cowen had lived, ergo this was where he needed to be. Grumbling under his breath, the general knocked on the door harshly.

“Coming,” said a muffled voice from inside. He heard a lock slide, and the smiling face of the woman at the trial the previous day quickly switched into a frown. “General Gonosz. Err…What are you doing here, sir?”

“I’ve come to ask you a few questions about Cowen,” Gonosz replied.

Ms. Stone swallowed and had no choice but to let the general inside. The general walked in and looked around. There was the sound of children playing in the distance, and flames crackled cheerfully in the fireplace. Even though it was a poor building, it radiated warmth and kindness, which Gonosz instinctively recoiled from.

The woman began fiddling with her skirt nervously. “Erm. What would you like to know?”

“Any information you have on the child. Files, records.”

“Yes. Right. Follow me, sir.”       

Ms. Stone took him to a back room full of shelves. Shelves, shelves, and more shelves, all stacked with dusty piles of paper. The orphanage caretaker ran a trembling finger along one, muttering the names of each file under her breath, until she found what she was looking for. Ms. Stone picked it up and handed it to Gonosz.

It was a miserable excuse for a file. Only one page, with Cowen’s birth date, a poor quality black and white photograph, and things like his height and skin colour. In short, either info that was unimportant or info that anyone would be able to tell just by looking at him. The general looked up at Ms. Stone quizzically.

“We really don’t know anything about him, General. We don’t know about most children that show up here. His parents probably perished or couldn’t afford to take care of him! Cowen’s a good boy, sir, he wouldn’t do anything to hurt anyone, I have no idea what he was thinking…” All of this was said very fast and Ms. Stone had to stop and catch her breath.

“Are you finished?” Gonosz asked dryly. Ms. Stone nodded her head and the general put Cowen’s file back. “Is there anything else you can tell me about him?” Conveniently, Gonosz had both a pistol and a knife on him, so Ms. Stone didn’t hesitate to reply.

“He…He sometimes talked to himself at night in the past few months, sir. We never found out why. Cowen’s usually very kind to his fellow orphans and he’s friends with all of them. Everyone’s very fond of him, sir, but there’s not much else to say.”

“Hmm. Alright,” Gonosz muttered. “If you think of something else, come straight to the palace and tell someone, okay?”

Ms. Stone visibly relaxed. “Okay. Yes, General.”

You probably won’t, Gonosz decided as he left the orphanage. But it’s always easier to get information from the source, anyway.

 

Cowen was curled up against one wall of his cell. He’d cried all night, of course no one could hear him. Sure, the guards brought him meals, but the experience wasn’t pleasant. Wasn’t pleasant at all. Cowen couldn’t leave, though, not until he got what he came to the palace for.

The door to his cell opened, making Cowen jump. There was the general again. And of course he brought his weapons. Cowen watched him as he closed the door behind him and walked across the room, with Gonosz watching him back. He opened his mouth to say something when Cowen beat him to it.

“What’s your real name?”

Gonosz stared. “What?”

“What’s your real name?” Cowen asked again, curiously. “It’s not Gonosz. Your parents wouldn’t have named you Evil.”

“Now you just-” Gonosz froze, staring at him. “You understand Harvanian.”

Cowen nodded.

“It’s practically a dead language.”

Cowen shrugged. “What’s your name, then?”

“I don’t need to tell the likes of you,” Gonosz snapped. Cowen continued to watch him intently until a name suddenly sprung to his tongue unwillingly. “Taylor.”

That was a lie, alright. Even so, it still startled Gonosz when he said it. He hadn’t thought of the real Taylor for years. Why did the name come to his mind now? Gonosz was awoken to the fact that, like yesterday, Cowen was making him feel off. Something began to nag at him from the very back of his mind. As the general tried to place his finger on it, Cowen’s eyes flickered, then he smiled.

“Taylor.” Gonosz gave him a sharp look, and he added, “sir.” The general sighed and decided to get on with it.

“I’m going to guess that your family comes from Harvan, correct?”

Cowen made a vague movement that could have been a nod. Then again, it could have been him drifting off to sleep for a second because the stone bed didn’t give him much of a chance to catch the stuff. Gonosz still figured it was a nod, though. The trademark green Harvanian eyes should have given it away.

“But you don’t know anything about your ancestry?” he pushed, eyeing the child.

“Not much, Taylor, sir. Mr. Lil always said that I looked like someone from his home kingdom. He taught me some Harvanian, and his wife always gave me and the other orphans baked cookies.”

“Mr. Lil?” Gonosz immediately planned on tracking down the man, whoever he was, because perhaps he could be of more help than the Stone lady. Cowen looked down sadly.

“He was eighty six, Taylor, sir. He died of a heart attack a few months ago,” he mumbled.

“Oh,” said Gonosz. Cowen looked back up at him, and Gonosz wondered whether he was expecting some sort of comfort or he was shocked by his lack of emotion. Either option seemed ridiculous. Obviously he wasn’t going to comfort him on this, and heart attacks happened all the time. Mr. Lil was old, and no one in the kingdoms were medically advanced, so his death was bound to come up. What was he supposed to say?

Probably not this: “The emperors and empresses have you here because they still think you’re in league with the rebellion. I don’t think that’s true. The rebels wouldn’t send in a child, but that doesn’t help me narrow down why you would sneak into the palace on your own at night. The only explanation I can think of is that you’re an idiot.”

Gonosz knew he wasn’t an idiot. He had displayed several times that he knew when to keep quiet, and he never attempted to lie when answering anything, he only chose to reveal small pieces of the truth. Small enough pieces that they didn’t aid Gonosz at all, which was extremely annoying.

The little boy stared up at him, even now giving nothing away. Gonosz clenched and unclenched his fists threateningly.

“So why,” he breathed. “Why on earth. Would you. Come here.”

“I was looking for something, Taylor, sir,” Cowen said.

“What?”

“Something important, Taylor, sir.”

“Like what?”

“I can’t tell you, Tay-”

“All right, look, if you’re going to call me anything you will call me General,” said Gonosz.

Cowen sighed. “General.”

“Good. Now tell me what you were searching for, and the rulers will set you free.”

“No they won’t.”

“Oh, yes they will.” Gonosz barked a laugh. “Feeding so many prisoners wastes precious resources. Believe me, they’ll be only too happy to get rid of you and send you along back to the orphanage.”

“Won’t they want to kill me?” Cowen asked, cocking his head to one side.

Gonosz frowned. He answered tactfully. “Probably not. They won’t think it’s worth it, of course that depends on what you came here to steal.”

“I wasn’t going to steal anything!” Cowen denied, taking his turn to frown. Gonosz blinked.

“Then what was the point of coming here to just look for something and risk your life in the process if you weren’t going to steal it?”

“I told you,” Cowen mumbled, slumping against the wall. “It was something important.”

Gonosz weighed his options. He’d found a few things out, and it was only the first day, plus he still had other things to do. The general didn’t think he was going to get much further with Cowen, so he turned around to leave.

“Búcsú, General,” Cowen called after him. Gonosz paused in the doorway.

“Farewell to you too,” he muttered sarcastically, before closing the cell with a clang.

 

And there you have it. Turns out, writing can change a lot over the course of even a couple of years. I’m sure mine will continue to change. All it takes is practice. That, and perhaps a dictionary to help with spelling.

 

Just Some Results of Writing Prompts

Writer prompts can be fun. They can help give you inspiration to just get some words out on the page when you haven’t really been getting around to working on your writing for a while. Which, for a couple of weeks, has pretty much been me.

Last night I did manage to write out a page (and yes, that is an accomplishment) of a new book, even though I’m still committed to the untitled one I’ve been posting excerpts of on this blog.

The point is, today I’ll be giving you some examples of what happens when I personally indulge in doing a writer’s prompt. I have three examples. One ended up being sort of sad, the other I rambled a bit on, and one of them isn’t even finished. But everything’s about trial and error, isn’t it? And I was just sort of playing around with my words.

Here it (uh, they?) is (…are).

  1. (Yesterday’s Rain)

Rain slithered down her neck like a cold blooded snake. The drops of water fell everywhere; splashing on the bike handles. But she couldn’t loose her grip, she couldn’t loose control of her bicycle, or else she might go veering off onto the road.

Sam wasn’t in the mood to be run over by a car that day. She doubted she ever would be.

The unexpected shower Mother Nature had decided to spring on them all forced Sam to take a short cut she hadn’t dared go down for the past three months. The bike wheels pushed down into now softened dirt. The rain made the surrounding plants smell more fresh than usual.

Impulse had taken Sam to the short cut, and impulse led her to stop and get off her bike. She lifted her head to the stormy clouds and allowed a long suppressed sob to escape her throat.

She remembered going down this short cut with her older brother every day after school. He had always made her stop and look around at the rare spattering of plant life in the city.

“Appreciate it,” he would say with a teasing grin. “There aren’t enough flowers around here.”

Sam never knew exactly what he meant, however she regretted not listening to him about appreciating what she had. People tended to take things for granted.

“I don’t think Max wanted to be run over by a car, either,” she whispered.

The memories began to swirl more and more. She remembered every time she came down there with him, and every time they’d just chatted and laughed.

As the sun came through, Sam let out a smile.

(When I think rain, I think this kind of mood and this kind of story. I couldn’t control myself.)

2. (Green Eyes)

Eyes that green were definitely dangerous. I learned that lesson a long time ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I always found them unnerving. Framed by dark hair and a pale complexion, those eyes seemed to be able to gaze into your soul. Unfortunately, I was the only one who really noticed. Nobody else thought Ryker Smalls was out of the ordinary.

The school bell rang. With a deep sense of relief, I picked up my books and moved towards the door along with the rest of my classmates, but something caught my eye. Across the room, Ryker was still sitting in his seat, staring at the desk.

I looked around for the teacher, but she had apparently gone outside to talk with a colleague. I cleared my throat while simultaneously cursing myself for always cursing myself for always having to get in other people’s business, and addressed Smalls.

“Ryker? The bell rang. If you don’t go, you’ll be late for class.”

Those eyes snapped up and met mine, something flashing in their depths. “I’m aware. Leave, Abby.” I cursed myself a second time for not listening.

“Come on, Ryker.” I sighed. “What would you get out of staying here?”

(That’s a wonderful way to end. Cliffhanger! I don’t know exactly where I was going with this, but I had to stop working on it and do something else. Maybe I’ll finish it one day, maybe not.)

3. (A Lot of Strange Stuff)

How to Stop a Killer

Step 1: Don’t die. If you’re killed first, then you can’t exactly stop the killer. If I had just stood there staring blankly as the knife came closer and closer, I wouldn’t have done anything, and I wouldn’t be writing this list.

Do me a favour and at least try to follow that step alone, all right?

Step 2: Find a safe place. Somewhere to regroup (of course, if you still have anyone to regroup with). This, as well as Step 1, should be a given, so I’ll just move on. From personal experience, though, hiding places with a lock tend to help.

Step 3: Make a plan. This can vary from calling the police, which is probably recommended, to taking matters into your own hands. I’ll give you a hint: before I got my job, I didn’t really take that recommendation.

Step 4: Carry out that plan. Duh.

Step 5: Repeat of Step 1.

Ella looked down at the crumbling paper in her hands, then made a face at the man sitting across from her.

“That’s not very helpful,” she pointed out.

His only response was, “I thought it was pretty straightforward.”

Ella sighed and snatched the pen away from Alex’s hand, turned over the paper, and restarted the list.

How to Actually Stop a Killer

Step 1: Don’t die.

“Oh,” said Alex. “So when you do it it’s okay.”

Ella silenced him with a glare before continuing.

Step 2: Remain calm. Try taking deep breaths, and don’t panic so much that you make a rash decision.

Step 3: Remember to be silent, and not let the killer find you.

Step 4: Please call the police. That is the best course of action. It only makes things worse if civilians take matters into their own hands.

Step 5: Wait for help to arrive and stay safe.

“What do you think?” Ella asked proudly. Alex wrinkled his nose as if he smelt something rotten.

“That mine is better. Are you actually saying that we should tell people to remain still if there’s ever a killer on the loose?”

“It’s more logical than telling them to make up a foolhardy plan.”

“You know what?” Alex stood up. He shoved his hands in his pockets, and moved towards the door. “I’m done. You can do this yourself.”

“Alex, wait. This is serious. Crime rate is rising, and the boss trusted us to make this thing.”

“That was his first mistake,” Alex muttered under his breath before slumping back into his chair. “Fine. Here’s a compromise: people are to call the police first but are allowed to do anything they can to stop the killer if needed. Deal?”

Ella pursed her lips. Sometimes she felt that compromising with Alex was the worst idea on the planet. Worst idea in the universe, possibly. But she was exhausted and couldn’t’ argue with her co worker anymore. It made enough sense, she supposed.

Below Step 5, she wrote-

Exception: If situation is too dire, you are permitted to attempt to stop the killer yourself.

Ella clutched the piece of paper in her hand, moving to give in their list to the boss. “I hope you’re happy,” she called over her shoulder. Alex rolled his eyes, but couldn’t stop a grin from slipping out.

“Never better.”

(This is the one I felt I was rambling on, and I’m aware that it probably isn’t entirely realistic. I also have no idea how Alex would have gotten a job as a police. However, it was fun to write, and I enjoyed switching between the list and the story itself.)

 

As you can see, the three times I worked on something for a writer’s prompt none of them were perfected or edited. It was just to get me writing. It was just to give a little bit of inspiration