Gearing Up (4-22-18)


[WP] Sunday Free Write [Link to post.]

Dirge and Dread followed the skeleton marked by Dread until they found Ballisea’s shrine. It stopped on a hill overlooking something that resembled a stone gazebo. Black stone stairs led up to a pool of glowing crystal clear water. Five tall black pillars jutted out of the stone around the pool to support a large silver ring between them. In the center of the silver ring a beach ball sized orb of glowing red energy hovered, suspended over the water. Skeletons milled around the pool and on the ground floor in front of the stairs. Dirge and Dread sat down on a hillside overlooking the building and Dread explained what was in store for them. 

“This’ll be easy and awesome,” Dread said. She pointed at a small golden ball of energy orbiting the red ball. “That’s an Inanimate Soul. When we get the orb I’ll let you keep it.” 

“Alright! Loot!” Dirge stood up and cheered. “Let’s go get it!” Dread stood up, grabbed Dirge by the shoulder and pulled her back down out of sight.

“Hold on, you see that pool? It’s guarded.” 

“Oh by what?” Dirge looked at the pool intently. 

“There’s all kinds of different guards, though that pool means it’s #6, La Sirena.” 

“The mermaid? No problem, she won’t know what hit her.” Dirge smiled and punched her hand, anxious for a fight.

“I don’t want to kill her,” Dread said. Dirge’s face fell, but then she had an idea. 

“Did you know that if Uniques kill other Uniques, they can absorb their souls and get stronger,” Dirge said. “We wanna get stronger, right?” Dread shook her head. 

“Yeah. At least, I know that’s how Ballisea got so strong. I don’t like to kill, but I have a plan that always works against Sirenas.” The skeleton that led them there stepped closer to Dread, and she touched it with glowing hands. Thin golden vines grew out from the golden flower on the skeleton’s forehead. They decorated its face and ran down the rest of its bones, sprouting golden flowers where ever there was room. She released the skeleton and it walked down the hill into the crowd of skeletons. Each skeleton it bumped into began to glow with a golden flower on its forehead, then those skeletons bumped into others. In about ten minutes the entire ground floor of skeletons was converted by Dread, then they began to climb the steps. It wasn’t long before all the skeletons in the area glowed with golden flowers, they stood around the pool waiting.

“C’mon.” Dread stood up to head to the shrine. 

“But how’re you gonna get the orb?” Dirge asked as she followed Dread down the hill. 

“By climbing,” Dread said. She pointed to the skeletons. Some of them began to climb on each other’s shoulders, and they locked themselves together to form a ladder. Dread stopped before she stepped on the black stone of the shrine. The skeletons continued to build vertically, but a majority of them still stood around the pool.

“The second we step on the stairs the Sirena is gonna know she has intruders. So once the skeletons are in place we have to run up the steps and climb. When I say ‘Go’ the skeletons around the pool will jump in and lock themselves together, like a net, to keep her in the water. It won’t hold her forever, but once we get the orb we can go to the next Earth,” Dread explained. Dirge nodded.

“Okay!” She watched the golden glowing skeletons build themselves up high enough to reach the orb. She focused so much she did not hear when Dread said ‘Go!’, until she noticed Dread already halfway up the steps. The skeletons splashed themselves into the water as the two girls ran up the steps. They reached the skeleton ladder and climbed to the top of the giant silver ring around the red orb. Dread looked down to check on the Sirena. Dirge saw a flash of blue watery hair as the mermaid thrashed against the skeleton net that held her trapped. 

“She’s petty!” Dirge said. Dread nodded.

“Yeah. Anyway we’re gonna have to jump, but let’s wait until the Inanimate comes around again,” Dread reminded Dirge about the golden inanimate soul. They waited for the golden orb to circle a couple of times to get the timing down, then they leapt towards the red orb when the gold one floated in their path. Dirge touched the golden orb and her body absorbed the golden light, then the two girls touched the red orb at the same time. It disappeared into their bodies then a black portal opened directly beneath them. They fell through the darkness and landed butt first in a stream. 

“Is it always like that? I got of flash of Ballisea when I touched the orb. It was like a snapshot of when she set up the orb,” Dirge asked. She stood and began wringing the water out of her black dress. Dread stood up and walked out of the middle of the stream. She glowed with golden energy to dry her jeans.

“Yeah, you start learning a lot about her after a while. What Inanimate did you get?” Dread asked. Dirge held her hand out and made a golden flash. After the light dissipated she held an elegant white lace umbrella. 

#5, El Paraguas,” Dirge said. She looked it over in her hand, then made it disappear with another quick flash of energy. “Shield variant,” she said. “Thanks for letting me take it!” Dirge hugged Dread. 

“No problem,” Dread said. She looked around at the new Earth. “Let’s go see what’s going on here.” She picked a direction and started walking. Dirge followed. 


***
Previous Chapter: Shattered Bones
Next Chapter: Mission Objective: Spider 

Shattered Bones (4-21-18)


[WP] “Let’s just blow it up and call it a day.” [Link to post.]

Dread stepped out of the black portal, and looked around. She felt glad to see signs of life dotting the dirt plain with green. She looked up and smiled at the violet sky. Dirge ran out of the portal after Dread and took in the same sights.

“How come the sky isn’t red?” Dirge asked. 

“Either you missed,” Dread began to speak, but girl with raven curls interrupted her.

“I did NOT miss!” Dirge said. She gave Dread a playful shove. Dread chuckled, then finished her thought.

OR this is still a recent conquest. Ballisea’s corruption hasn’t had time to set in yet.” 

“What if she’s still here?” Dirge asked. Her orange eyes widened at the thought. Dread shrugged.

“We run,” she said. 

“Booooo, fine.” Dirge kicked at the dirt. “Anyway, let’s get started. How do you find the orb?” Dread looked around.

“I need to find a skeleton first.” She picked a direction and started running. Dirge managed to keep up with her, singing to herself along the way. They ran for close to an hour before they came to a cliff’s edge. Dread stopped and stared down at a bustling city, teeming with life. She stepped back from the edge, then turned to Dirge.

“Let’s go to a different Earth.” 

“What? Why? You said we were gonna have fun!” Dirge looked over the cliff. “People! They’re alive!” Dirge grabbed Dread by the hand and tugged her toward the ledge. “If we get rid of the orb they can have their Earth back, right?” Dread shook her head. 

“This is an outpost, I’ve seen them before. All those people down there are loyal to Ballisea, they’ll die to protect her orb,” Dread said. Her voice took on a pleading edge. “Can we go somewhere else, please?” Dirge peered over the cliff again.

“C’mon, it’ll be easy. Let’s just blow it up and call it a day,” Dirge produced her own golden aura. Dread put a hand on her shoulder, then Dirge’s glow dissipated.

“I. Don’t. Want. To.” Dirge spoke through clenched teeth, she met Dirge’s orange eyes with her own dark eyes. “Like you said. They’re people.” Dirge nodded causing her curls to bounce. 

“Okay, no problem.” Dirge reached a hand out to Dread. When they held each other’s hands Dread released a golden pulse into Dirge’s hand.

“Alright, here’s another orb,” The shorter girl waved her hand at the air and another black hole opened up. Dread walked through and Dirge followed. They stepped out in the middle of another sprawling plain. The dark red sky hid any signs of the sun. Dread began to glow the instant she realized they were surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds of walking skeletons. They retreated from her light, forming a wide circle around them. Dirge tapped Dread on the shoulder.

“Put your glow away. C’mon let’s fight them!” 

“It’s pointless. As long as Ballisea’s orb is powering them, they’ll just pull themselves back together,” Dread explained. 

“Okay, but that only means it’s pointless if we’re trying to kill them,” Dirge smiled “I said let’s fight them, not let’s kill them. It’ll be fun!”

“Oh.” Dread nodded then let her glow vanish, though she still seemed unsure. Immediately the skeletons moved toward the two girls. “OH!” Dirge’s intent dawned on Dread and she smiled. She opened her mouth and screamed at the skeletons. Piercing soundwaves cut a swath through them in front of her. The skeletons not directly in the path of her scream fell backward in a cone shape, knocking over the skeletons behind them. They tumbled like dominoes. 

“Nice! Check this out,” Dirge said. She inhaled sharply then sang a high note. She held her voice steady. It sounded beautiful to Dread, but her attention was drawn by the skeletons. At first they appeared to be dancing, but then one of the skeletons popped. Dirge continued to sing like an opera singer, and more and more skeletons began to shatter. She stopped to catch her breath. The skeletons took the opportunity to begin moving towards them again. “Hey, you said you needed a skeleton to find the orb, right?” Dirge reminded the taller girl. 

“Oh yeah, thanks.” Dread grabbed the nearest skeleton. She produced a quick pulse of golden light in her hand, then touched the skeleton’s head. A golden flower symbol engraved itself in the front of the skeleton’s forehead with the number 42 in its center. Dread let the skeleton go and it walked away from the crowd of skeletons around them. “Now we follow it,” Dread said. 

***
Previous Chapter: Dirge & Dread
Next Chapter: Gearing Up

Dirge & Dread


[WP] “Tag you’re it!” She giggled. “See you in a hundred years!” [Link to post.]

Dread sat cross-legged in the dirt, in front of a pitch black portal. She stopped “waiting” an hour ago and meditated to pass the time instead. A brilliant golden glow emanated from her body; its light kept an army of skeletons at bay. They surrounded her, but made no other moves as long as she continued to maintain light. A pale girl with raven curls and orange eyes popped her head out of the blackness, but Dread’s eyes were closed.

“Hi! I’m Dirge!” the girl said. Dread’s eyes popped open, then she stared at the head while she stood up and dusted herself off. The girl walked out of the portal. Dread extended her hand.

“I’m Dread.” Dirge accepted the hand and shook it, then she walked around Dread to appraise her. Dread felt conscious for the first time in her life. She stood up straighter, and ran her hand through her bone-white, short spiky hair. The curly haired girl grabbed Dread’s red shirt and pulled down the hem to look at the logo of a tiger and shark in a yin-yang formation in the center of her chest. 

“I love your shirt!” Dirge said. 

“Thanks. It was my dad’s.” At the mention of her father, a quick flash of remorse shot across Dirge’s face. 

“Oh yeah, Regal was telling my parents about what happened when I came through. 400 years, huh?” Dirge asked. Dread nodded. 

“He said Conquerors age at a slower rate when they’re not in their universe. One year for every 100,” Dread said, feeling the need to explain why she looked so young. 

“Yup. And Celestials like me don’t age at all when we’re in a different universe,” Dirge said. She looked around and noted the skeletons forming a large circle around them.

“No way, what number are you?” Dread asked. She stepped closer and looked into Dirge’s bright orange eyes. 

“14, La Muerte,” Dirge said and smiled.

“Can you do portals yet?” Dread asked. Dirge nodded causing her curls to bounce. A deep male’s voice that each of them recognized came out of the black hole.

“Threnody! Dread! C’mon back.” Dirge stamped her feet in the ground and marched through the portal. Dread followed her to a nice white tiled kitchen on the other side. Regal stood talking with a couple. The woman had bright red hair, the man dark black hair and orange eyes. 

“Daddy! You didn’t tell Regal my new name,” Dirge said. The man with the orange eyes gave her an apologetic look.

“Sorry hon, but we were kind of busy discussing your new sister,” he said, then he looked at the blonde, bearded man. “Threnody decided her name is now Dirge.” Regal nodded. 

“Well she is her father’s daughter,” Regal laughed. Dread stepped closer to Dirge and whispered in her ear.

“What does he mean?” 

“My dad’s name is Poseidon, but it’s too long, so he just goes by Posie.” Dirge shrugged. “Threnody was too long so I picked Dirge. It’s pretty much the same thing,” Dirge whispered an answer.

“Cool,” Dread said. 

“How do you feel about sharing your room, Threnny?” Dread watched Dirge’s orange eyes roll upward in her head. 

“It’s fine, mom. But can we go play? I can make portals and Dread has been through a ton of Earths; we can check some of them out.” 

“How long?” Dirge’s mother asked. Dirge shrugged.

“Till Dread’s birthday?” Regal leaned closer to the redheaded woman and whispered something in her ear. The woman looked surprised, but Regal kept whispering. When he stopped, her face changed. She nodded.

“Okay. Regal thinks it’s a good idea for you two to do some bonding. You know you can come home if you get bored.” Regal pulled out two black and gold business cards and handed them one each. 

“Hold on to these. If anything happens you can use them to open a portal home. The each took their card, then Dirge waved a hand at the air. An empty black portal opened up. Dread started to walk through, but Dirge walked up behind her and shoved the taller girl through the portal. 

“Tag you’re it!” she giggled, then she turned to her parents and waved as she stepped through the portal herself. “See you in a hundred years!”

***
Previous Dirge Chapter: Party Music
Previous Dread Chapter: Dreaded Homecoming
Next Chapter: Shattered Bones

Dreaded Homecoming


[WP] They fear the light. [Link to post.]


A golden streak coursed through a field filled with hundreds of walking skeletons. The red sky drowned out the sun, but Dread ran confidently. She ignored the skeletons to focus on her objective. As she moved, the skeletons cowered away from her brilliant aura. She reached Ballisea‘s altar; her ticket off that Earth. A glowing ball of red energy, the size of a beach ball, hovered above a large decorative silver and gold ring. Purple crystals rose from the stone floor to support the shiny metallic ring. Dread smiled to herself and touched the red ball. Its energy flowed into her hand, up her arm, and into her brain. Then, a small black dot appeared in the air next to her, like an empty space in reality. It grew larger and somehow darker until it was tall enough for Dread to step through it. She jumped in without hesitation. 

On the other side of the black hole Dread found another blood red sky, another world overrun by skeletons. She decided to get some rest, then start searching for the altar the next day. She turned to start looking for shelter, but a voice caught her attention. 

“Hello?” a gentlemanly voice said. Dread whipped around to discover a tall man with flowing golden blond hair, and matching beard, smiling at her. He vaguely reminded Dread of a lion. “What brings you here?” he asked once he held Dread’s attention. 

“Trying to get home,” she said. It felt like several lifetimes since Dread saw her parents. The man nodded. “I can give you a lift if you like?” She’d been constantly on the move for so long, the young girl almost forgot emotions existed. She felt a rise in her chest, her eyes widened and she nodded eagerly.

“PLEASE!” she blurted out. The man chuckled.

“My name is Regal,” he held a hand out. “Think about your Earth so I can find the right one.” 

“I’m Dread,” she said. She reached and grasped his hand, then a golden glow passed between them. The man gestured to his right and another black portal opened up. 

“Let’s get you home, Dread,” Regal said. Dread jumped through the portal. Regal stepped through to find Dread on her knees, staring at the blood red sky. He put a hand on her shoulder, and gave a gentle squeeze. “I’m sorry.” She stood up, and clapped the dirt off her blue jeans. 

“I had some hope, but I’m not surprised. I didn’t know what was happening at the time, but I left right when Ballisea invaded,” she stared at the ground. She heard a sound then turned up to see what it was. Skeletons began to surround them. Regal squeezed her shoulder again.
“Let’s get out of here,” he put his hand up to make another portal but Dread stopped him.

“Why? Just amp up your glow, they fear the light,” she said. Regal looked down at her with a curious look in his eye. 

“Really?” he asked. He held his hand up in the air and produced a brilliant golden glow, bright enough to force Dread’s eyes closed. After a second the brilliance disappeared and skeletons were climbing on Regal. “Doesn’t look like it,” he said. 

“What?” Dread concentrated and tried to make her own glow as bright as Regal’s hand. Immediately the skeletons began to flee the light, they kicked up dust as they ran away. “It works when I do it.” The tall man looked at her curiously. 

“You’re a Unique, right?” Regal asked. Dread nodded.

“42. La Calavera.” 

“You’re not a Celestial, how’d you get to that Earth?”

“When Ballisea conquers a world, she leaves some of her magic behind to keep the skeletons going. I accidentally found one, and when I absorbed her energy it opened a portal. So when I find the orb on one Earth, I just move on to the next one.”

“Well that explains why the skeletons respond to you. How many have you absorbed?” Dread shrugged.

“I don’t know, I lost count somewhere at about 1000. I don’t even know how long I’ve been gone.” She kicked the dirt and stared at the hundreds of skeletons surrounding them. Regal knelt down to the ground and touched the Earth with a glowing golden hand.

“Ballisea’s corruption has been here for about four hundred years.” Dread fell backward onto her bottom, kicking up dust from the dry plain. 

“No way…”

“Some Uniques age slower when they’re not in their universe. Conquerors like you age one year for every hundred. How old were you when you left?” Regal asked. He stood up, then reached down to help Dread stand up. 

“Nine.”

“Hey. If you want a place to call home, I know a nice couple that would be happy to take you in. They’ve got a 13 year old daughter too, so I’m sure you’ll become fast friends.” 

***
Previous Chapter: Dread Falls
Next Chapter: Dirge & Dread

New Friends, Old Friends (4-18-18)


[WP] Your coworkers are disappearing and you find out that your boss is a vampire, but there’s still hope, someone you work with is secretly a werewolf, the janitor. [Link to post.]

“It just ain’t fair!” Larry complained while we sat in the break room snacking. I didn’t like Larry much, but he was about the only friendly co-worker I had left. He whittled down his slice of chocolate cake while I worked on my homemade garlic chicken. We were the only two employees in the break room. “I work twice as hard as Karen, and I’ve been here longer. But somehow the boss chose her to join the Vlad project.” He said. I nodded sympathetically, but chuckled internally. Larry didn’t know what the Vlad project was, and didn’t have any proof other than what I saw with my own eyes. 

I stumbled across the scene accidentally, I shouldn’t have been at the office that late. Getting ready to leave I turned a corner and saw the CEO with glowing red eyes biting Karen’s neck. He was a vampire, and I didn’t know who to turn to. I thought about the cops, or even clergyman, but I knew no one would believe me. I decided to learn to love garlic and keep my guard up. One of the interns poked his head into the break room.

“Hey Larry. Boss wants to see you, said something about the Vlad project,” the intern said then continued on his way to somewhere else. Larry jumped up from his seat. 

“Alright!” he cheered. 

“Hey,” I raised a hand to warn him, but changed my mind. 

“I hate to ask, man. I’m kind of in a spot though. Any chance I can borrow some cash until tomorrow? I’m about $200 short,” I said. The day before Larry had been bragging about never carrying around less than $500 cash. Despite not being close, we’d loaned money between us several times over the years. He knew I was good for it, and I knew I wouldn’t have to pay it back. He nodded.

“Sure, no problem.” He pulled his wallet out and handed over the cash before leaving the break room. After he left I sighed.

“I guess I’m gonna have to find new friends,” I said aloud to myself.

“I’ll be your friend,” a man’s voice startled me. I jumped in my seat and my head whipped around to face the voice. Kenny, the janitor, was emptying the waste basket. 

“Sorry, I thought I was alone,” I smiled. He nodded.

“You’re not. So, friends?” he said with a smile. He walked towards me with his hand extended. 

“I’m Kenny.” I stood and shook his hand. 

“Willie,” I offered my nickname. His head shrunk back when I said my name. 

“Whoa, Willie. That’s some heavy duty garlic breath you’ve got there.” He waved his hand in the space between us in an attempt to clear the air. I brought my hand to cover my mouth and chuckled.

“Yeah, sorry. It’s protection. I mean, uh, it helps keep me on my diet. Garlic mouth ruins the flavor of sweets for me,” I tried to explain away the protection comment but he stared me in the eye, as if trying to read a secret. After a second he walked behind me and closed the door to the break room.

“You said protection. We’re friends now, so we can talk freely right? I think I know why you want protection.” Kenny said. “We don’t do the same job, but I’m here every day just like you. I’ve noticed that people assigned to the Vlad project don’t come back to this office.” I felt my eyes go wide as saucers. Alone, there was no way I could get the cops to believe me. But if I wasn’t the only one that knew about it maybe we can get someone to at least investigate it. “If I’m wrong about this, you’ll think I’m crazy. But I’m just gonna say it.  The CEO is a vampire,” he shut up and waited for my reaction. After a few seconds of nodding and smiling in silence I spoke.

“Yes! Oh god, it helps so much to have someone believe me!” I moved my seat closer to his, but he moved his seat away again.

“Look if you know that, then I can be really honest with you. I’m a werewolf.” He dropped the bomb as casually as if he was ordering a slice of pie at a diner. “Before you doubt me, I’d like to remind you that our boss is a vampire.” He had me there. I nodded, forcing myself to accept that he might be a werewolf. 

“How does it work?” I wondered if he could take on our vampire boss. 

“I can mostly change at will, but during a full moon I have no choice. I have to change. Don’t worry though, I’m not dangerous. I mean, I am but I keep everything under control. No one gets hurt when I change,” he answered the questions running through my mind without me having to ask.

“Do werewolves hate vampires like in the movies?” I asked. He smiled and winked at me with his left eye. 

“Worse. You know, when employees started disappearing I wanted to stop him, but I can’t do it alone.” He looked me in the eye. “The office is running out of people, but my secret is out to you, and you already know about the CEO. Help me kill him so he can stop hurting people.” 

“Definitely. I can come back tomorrow with some wooden stakes,” I said. He shook his head.

“It’s gotta be today. If he drained your friend Larry, he’s probably relaxing in his office. We can go do this right now. When I say I need help I just meant I need a distraction to let me get in a good position.  You go in there and start talking to him, then I’ll go in after and pretend like I’m cleaning the waste basket. If I turn into a wolf behind him I can get a clean strike,” Kenny laid down his plan and while it was short notice, it did sound like a good plan. 

“I’m in.” I stood from my seat and walked straight to the CEO’s office. Kenny trailed behind me. I reached the CEO’s office and knocked on the door. 

“Just a minute!” he yelled through the door. Despite the horrible reality, I chuckled to myself imagining him trying to hide Larry’s body behind his desk. “Coming,” he yelled again. After several more seconds  he opened the door and seemed surprised to see me.

“Willie! C’mon in. What can I do for you?” He let me in his office then he walked around his desk to sit in his high back leather chair. 

“Uh, I wanted to know about the Vlad project. Are there any spots left on the team?” I asked, trying to stall for time. Luckily I didn’t need to wait too long. As soon as I asked I heard the door open behind me. I glanced back to see Kenny walk in with a smile. I turned back to my boss to avoid looking too suspicious.

“Willie, I’m sorry to say the Vlad team is currently full. However, we are starting a new project that you’d be great for.” He looked behind me, and I wondered why Kenny hadn’t walked around to empty his wastebasket yet. “The new project we’ll be working on is the Lupine project.” I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was a grey furry hand with large yellow claws growing out of it. 

Unicorn Helper (4-17-18)


[WP] Your kid walks into the living room with a unicorn trailing behind him. With pleading eyes, he goes, “I swear, he followed me home. Can we keep him?” [Link to post.]

I stared at my son from behind crossed arms. He kept his focus on the unicorn to avoid eye contact with me. I stepped closer to him and reached into his jacket pocket.

“Followed you home, huh?” I pulled out several sugar cubes. “I wonder why.” It took all my willpower not to crack a smile when he gave an exaggerated gasp.

“How did those get in there? Someone at school must have put them in my pocket for some reason,” he said, his eyes darted everywhere around the room to dodge my gaze. I nodded my head at the unicorn to get my son to look. The beast glowed with a pure, white light. 

“Maybe we should keep him. He’s a good lie detector. You know unicorns glow when you lie,” I said. He jumped back from the unicorn.

“I didn’t know that.” The unicorn’s glow dimmed down. “I changed my mind. You know, he’s probably too expensive to feed, and I don’t want to clean up after him. I’ll take him back to the forest.” I put a hand on my boy’s shoulder to interrupt him.

“You go upstairs and do your homework, I’ll take care of it.” I left a hard edge in my voice to make it clear I wasn’t making a suggestion. His dark brown hair bounced as he nodded, then he ran up the stairs. With him gone I took time to properly admire the unicorn. It really was a beautiful animal, and it had a slight ethereal glow around it. I smiled remembering my first experience with a unicorn when I was a young boy. My dad’s 30th birthday was a pretty big deal, and my mom went all out putting together the best barbecue for family and friends. Everything from the party hats to the burgers was unicorn themed, back then they were still fairly rare. Thanks to government protections and regulations, unicorns were now common enough to buy at the store. Still, a free unicorn is a free unicorn. I led him out to the shed to surprise my wife and son later when we sat down for dinner.

Maybe it was the nostalgia, but thinking back to my dad’s barbecue really put me in the mood for burgers. I worked fast, since my wife usually comes home a couple of hours after my son. I stood at the grill tending the burgers when my wife walked out of the house and pecked me on the cheek. 

“Burgers are perfect, thanks hon!” she smiled at me. 

“You’re welcome love, how was work?” We made small talk while the patties finished cooking, then I shooed her off to go wash her hands and fetch my son. Soon all three of us sat around the dinner table, talking about our day.

“And then a unicorn followed me home, but I decided not to keep it,” he said between bites. “This is delicious dad!” he exclaimed. I smiled at him.

“Thank,” I said shortly before taking a big bite myself. 

“Well that was a very mature decision,” my wife said. “Having a pet is a big responsibility and I’m proud of you for realizing that. You know, your dad and I were talking about getting you a pet. Not anything that big, of course. But one of my co-workers’ teacup griffons just had a clutch. Depending on your grades maybe I can get her to save me an egg,” my wife looked at me for reassurance as she made the offer, and I nodded. Teacup griffons were basically winged house cats, I didn’t see a problem with it. 

“Really? Thank you!” he stood from his chair and ran around the table to hug her. 

“Depending on your grades,” she repeated. He nodded then went back to his seat. 

“I’ll keep up with my homework!” he affirmed his determination. He picked up the last bit of his burger and added, “I already finished it for today.” The meat in the bun began to glow with a faint white light. Luckily he didn’t see it as he popped the final morsel into his mouth. Unluckily my wife did see it. She turned to look at me with a curious look in her eyes. I knew what was coming, and I jammed the last half of the burger I had left into my mouth to chew for all I was worth. 

“What did you do with that unicorn?” she asked me, her eyes twinkled with amusement. I shrugged my shoulders high and tried to speak through a full mouth. 

“NUFFINGK!” 

Save a Penny, Spend a Bullet (4-16-18)


[WP] Burying my mother was difficult on the family. Burying her again was harder. [Link to post.]


“This is how we all end up. No one knew that better than mom,” I stumbled my way through the half-assed speech I wrote. As the eldest sibling, her eulogy was my obligation. I stood at the podium behind my mother’s open casket and stared out the few attendees that stood with me in the cemetery that bright, sunny morning. My two brothers, Larry and Jerry, stood together wearing matching baby blue leisure suits. They always enjoyed playing up the twin angle due to their rhyming names, despite looking nothing alike and Larry being seven years older than Jerry. My sister Gina had the good taste to wear a black dress at least, though it was streaked with orange “cheese” dust from her fingers; she munched loudly on a bag of Doritos while I eulogized our mother. “She always did her best to provide for us, and I know she’ll be happy to know she could do it one last time on her way out.” I pushed the casket lid shut and nodded to the groundsmen standing by with shovels. One of them stepped forward.

“It’s customary for the family to lower the casket,” he said, nodding his head towards a crank. It was connected to a couple of pulleys using thin steel cables. I looked at my siblings, but they’d all already begun to walk off with their backs to me. I sighed and dug into my pocket.

“Uh. That looks hard. You do it.” I handed him four hundred dollar bills and trotted off to catch up with L.J., most of the time it was easier to think of them as one person, and Gina. Larry turned to look at me.

“We still got a couple of hours before the Will, Jerry and I are gonna hit the Chinese buffet.” Without another word L.J. veered off towards their car. I walked in relative silence with Gina for a bit, she wasn’t done with the chips yet. I broke the silence, hoping to get her to stop crunching for a bit.

“Man, that was the hardest thing I’d ever done,” I said. She giggled. 

“Putting her in the ground or poisoning her?” she asked, then crunched on another cheesy triangle. 

“Putting her in the ground. I had to give that guy $400, 100 from each of us by the way, just to turn the crank.” She stopped before putting the next chip in her mouth and stared at me. Her eyes narrowed.

“I didn’t agree to pitch in for anything,” she said. I couldn’t help but stare at the orange gunk collected between her teeth. 

“I’m the oldest, so the fortune is mine. You can get a fair share minus $100, or you can get nothing.” She threw the chip at my face and sulked off toward her car. 

Two hours later the four of us sat in the lawyer’s office waiting for an official declaration of our inheritance. L.J. changed out of their suits and wore matching t-shirts with blue jeans. Gina brought a new bag of chips with her. The only way I knew it was a new bag was because it was a different flavor, Cool Ranch. The fortune came out to two billion dollars left to me alone. 

My mother enjoyed encouraging healthy, violent competition among us. It’s how she made her fortune. Dad was a top tier assassin until she killed him. She picked up the family business until we killed her. She expected it to be me, but I made a deal with the rest of the sibs. I’d split it four ways, and nobody kills me or each other. We had the lawyer draw up our Wills in the same meeting, to discourage any further foul play. We all left our shares to someone else not in the family, and we all decided to go our separate ways. As we walked out of the lawyer’s office I stopped, stunned. The rest of them ran into me from behind. 

“L.J., how much poison did you use?” I yelled back over my shoulder. My mom stood in the parking lot looking particularly annoyed, and holding her favorite samurai sword. “I knew it was a bad idea to bury her with that,” I thought to myself. 

“Uh, I had Jerry do it,” Larry said. 

“I gave her the whole fish!” Jerry yelled from the back. Our mother started walking towards us.

“Fish?” I asked. Gina crunched on a chip while she watched mom walking towards us. 

“Yeah the guy at the sushi place said puffer fish was poisonous, and he gave it to me for free. Poison is expensive.”

“You idiot, she built up an immunity to tetrodotoxin,” I said. Mom was about to reach us, and she did not look any less angry. 

“You’re the idiot that rushed to get her in the ground and didn’t let the mortician prepare her properly,” Gina said, then popped another chip in her mouth before reaching into her bag again. 

“Yeah, you’re right,” I sighed. Mom stood within a step of us and raised her sword. 

BANG! Cool Ranch crumbs flew everywhere. I turned toward the sound to see smoke rising out of a hole in Gina’s bag. Mom fell over dead. 

“Let’s get her back to the cemetery,” I said. Gina walked off towards her car. 

“Hey, where you going?” I asked. She lifted her arm in the air to wave, without turning around.

“I already did my part. Have fun burying her again. I got my share and I’m not pitching in for anything.” 

“Damnit.” I realized I’d have to spend more money to get the guys to bury her again. More money divided three ways instead of four. It was going to be harder to spend that money this time. “C’mon L. J.” 

Dread Falls(4-15-18)


[OT] Sunday Free Write: Leonardo da Vinci Edition [Link to post.]


“Dread, what are you doing?” Liv Hansen walked into her nine year old son’s bedroom. His blond hair bounced as his head whipped around toward her. He shrank back and put his arms in front of him to try and cover light purple dress he’d borrowed from one of the girls at school. 

“Nothing Mama. I just thought it was pretty.” His face flushed red, highlighting the messy blush he tried on his cheeks. Liv’s heart went out to her son, she shook her head with a smile. 

“We can talk about it later. Change and go meet your father outside, it’s time for your lessons. Don’t forget to wipe the makeup off so he doesn’t see.” Liv stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her. Dread ran to his restroom and washed his face, then changed into jeans and one of his father’s old shirts. He eyed himself in the mirror admiring the faded red t-shirt with a giant yin-yang logo in the middle. Instead of black and white fishes, a red tiger prowled down from the top, and a blue shark swam upward from the bottom, both of them moved counter-clockwise. He felt ready for training and ran out of the house to the backyard where his father waited for him. Arik Hansen leaned against a large tree, next to a pile of lumber.

“You should have been out here five minutes ago,” Arik said. He grabbed a 2’x4′ from the pile and walked to Dread. Without another word his hands glowed with golden light and he swung the wooden beam like a baseball bat against his son’s head. The boy’s head did not move an inch, though the wood splintered and broke where it struck his cheek. 

“Sorry Papa,” Dread said. The boy reached up and rubbed his cheek, more for show than anything. He did not want to tell his father that it didn’t hurt anymore. Arik nodded. 

“You know I don’t like punishing you son, but you must build your discipline.” Arik dropped the broken wood and hugged Dread. “You’re going to be the strongest man in the world, and you must have the discipline to control your strength.” Dread nodded and hugged his father. “Now, let’s practice.” Arik guided his son towards a young, scrawny tree. The hundreds of leaves sprouted in all directions, sparsely covering the branches. 

“Right now this tree looks like your uncle John. I want you to take all the leaves off so that it looks like your uncle Lars,” Arik said with a chuckle. Dread nodded and began to inhale deeply. The older man clapped a hand over the boy’s mouth. “One at a time,” Arik said, then he moved his hand away. Dread looked at his father confused, but the man just nodded and smiled. “Go on, you can do it. Focus.” Dread faced the tree and concentrated. He inhaled a short breath and let loose a short yelp at it. His piercing scream broke several branches on the tree. They remained connected, but now hung down at a 90 degree angle. “Softer.” Arik said. “Aim.” 

Before Dread tried again he noticed a small, light brown head of hair in the corner of his eye. He turned to see Astrid entering the gate to their yard. Dread’s eyes went wide, but he did not react in time to stop her. 

“Dread! I need my dress back!” she yelled. She lifted a light yellow cloth. “You’ll look pretty in this one tho-” she stopped when she noticed Arik standing off the the side behind the house. Dread turned to see his father enveloped from head to toe in a golden aura. His eyes stared at the blond boy. “I’m sorry!” Astrid yelled and ran out of the yard. The man spoke in flat anger.

“Why are you wearing dresses? You are meant to be the strongest *MAN* in the world!” He took a step forward. Dread ran. He wasn’t afraid of his father hurting him, Arik wasn’t strong enough to. However, he’d never seen his father angry like that before. He leaped over the fence, the shame of disappointing and embarrassing his father pushed him to keep running. Dread ran towards his favorite spot; a sheer cliff overlooking the calm blue ocean. He sat on the cliff with his legs hanging over it and admired the sea. 

He felt something grab his foot and looked down. A skeleton held his foot and used it to climb up out of a pitch black hole floating horizontally at the edge of the cliff. He recognized it instantly as a portal. His father had told him many times about other Earths, and described the portals to him. Before Dread could pull himself back another skeleton appeared and grabbed his other leg. They began to climb up him, pulling him down in the process. 

After they got high enough another pair of skeletons grabbed each leg and began to climb out. The first two that reached the cliff ignored Dread and began to walk towards town. 

“Mama!” Dread exclaimed. He knew his father was not powerful enough to deal with too many of these. His family was in danger. Dread decided quickly. He looked down and yelled as loud as he could. He crumbled the cliff under him and fell into the dark hole. He smiled to himself, happy he kept his family safe. The skeletons would not be able to climb out using him or the cliff anymore. 

***

Next Chapter: Dreaded Homecoming

Living Forest (4-14-18)


[WP] In the distant future, prisoners have their brains extracted and uploaded into a computer system in order to save space and maintain peace within prisons. [Link to post.]

“You are hereby sentenced *immediately* to the Forest.” The judge’s gavel slammed down. Michael Anderson broke down into heaving sobs while the bailiff escorted him out of the courtroom in handcuffs. He had no resistance to give as the burly guard walked him to the transport, and he remained silent for most of the two hour drive. An hour and a half into the trip the driver yelled back at him.

“Man, I’m sorry you got Judge ‘Appleseed’. Shitty luck.” Michael nodded his head ever so slightly. “Hey. You want a burger or something? Look. I don’t know if you’re guilty or not, but even if you are… the Forest ain’t right. It’s too much.” The vehicle slowed down, but Michael kept his silence and shook his head. The guard shrugged. “Suit yourself.” The van sped up again. Half an hour later they stopped moving, then the guard opened the door. Michael stared out at purple-orange sky. The sun began its descent into the treetops. He stepped out of the paddy wagon and looked over the edge; the Forest inmate processing station functioned as a dam once. The guard guided Michael along the tall sheer wall towards the elevator. He glanced at the trees. Giant redwoods grew tall and proud for miles and miles, as far as Michael could see. Thousands of trees taking up hundreds of miles. The guard undid Michael’s handcuffs then pressed the elevator button. The doors slid open, waiting for Michael.

“God bless you,” the guard patted Michael on the shoulder and walked off. The elevator was as spacious as a bedroom, at least 10′ x 10′. A female orderly stood next to a comfortable looking chair  in the center. She nodded her head at the chair and Michael stepped in to sit down. 

“It’s a slow, deliberate, ride down. We prepare you on the way,” she said quietly. Michael nodded his head to indicate he heard what she said. 

“What do you know about the Forest?” she asked while she pressed the button closing the elevator doors. Michael watched the sunlight disappear for the last time, then he felt the elevator begin its descent. He knew he couldn’t get by with a nod this time.

“Everything,” Michael said. 

“Oh you’re one of those? Well there is some info that you won’t find on the internet, even on the conspiracy sites,” she said. She presented him with a glass of water and a small white cardboard cup full of pills. “We’re supposed to show you an orientation video, but most people skip it.” Michael lifted the white cup of pills and poured them all into his mouth, then he grabbed the water to wash them down. 

“Those pills I swallowed will start germinating in a few hours,” Michael said, staring directly into her dark brown eyes. Her mouth dropped slightly, then she recovered with a smile.

“A lucky guess. Pretty much everyone has *some* idea what the Forest actually is,” she said. She grabbed the empty glass and cup from him, then turned to put them on a counter top against one of the Elevator walls. She turned back to hand him a brown mesh jumpsuit that resembled a burlap sack. Michael stood and began to change into it. She turned her back to give him privacy. 

“You ever wonder what it’d be like if you could be someone else? Some *thing* else?” she tilted her head back slightly to ask. “Like, wouldn’t it be cool to be a fairy, or an ogre or something?” Michael chuckled behind her. 

“I’m dressed,” he said. The orderly turned around to find him sitting in his seat again. 

“So? Pretend you could be anything you wanted to be. What would you choose?” She asked with a friendly smile. Michael scratched at the itchy uniform, then smiled at her. Now that he took the pills he felt at peace with his fate. He decided to have some fun. 

“A dragon,” he said. She giggled, then shook her head. 

“No c’mon. Something more reasonable. Like maybe an elf, or a dwarf.”

“Oh. I’ve always thought something like a ferret man would be cool.” Her eyes rolled upward to think, then she shook her head. 

“Nah those don’t count. What about like a cat man or a dog man?” she asked. She grabbed a strap from under the chair and began to fasten him to it. 

“A moth man,” Michael said. She paused while tightening the strap. 

“No, but how about-,” she paused. Her eyes narrowed and she stared at him for a second before gasping. “You *DO* know! You’re doing it on purpose.” Michael nodded.

“Alright wiseguy,” she stood and crossed her arms, the smiled. “Tell me what you know so I can do my job. I’m supposed to make sure you know the process.” 

“You’re going to connect me to the AlterNet where my consciousness can live on in another universe. Of course it’s a prison so there are guards over there keeping us prisoner. While I’m in there I’ll be planted so that taking care of my body isn’t a burden on the State. The pills I took will bond with me and grow. The soil and sun will keep me alive until my body becomes a tree. Eventually my consciousness will just fade away into nothing. Even if there’s no pain, it’s like a death sentence. Just crueler. Sound about right?” Michael asked. The orderly nodded then walked around him to tighten the strap around his other wrist. 

“Yeah. You got it all,” she said. The elevator stopped moving suddenly. “Race and class?” she asked. 

“Fairy Merchant,” Michael said. The doors opened. 

Kindling Questions (4-13-18)


[WP] You stumble upon a shrine and accidentally summon a god. He will not let you leave until you offer him a body to possess. [Link to post.]


“I’m not offering you anything, I’m leaving,” I said. I waved to the pale woman with literal flaming red hair as I walked back to the stone arch I came in through. My face smashed into an invisible wall, like a bird hitting a window. 

“Owww.” I rubbed my nose and turned toward the sound of echoing laughter. The red blaze on her head shifted toward blue as she laughed at me.

“Why do you think I’m still standing here? Sure you freed me from the shrine, but this whole room is a prison. Like I said, you can’t leave until you offer me a body to possess.” Her lava orange lips turned up into a smile. “So make the offer already, so we can both get out of here.” I put my hands up between us, my palms toward her.

“Whoa. What’s in it for me?” I asked. A glimmer of plan sparkled in the back of my mind, but I had no idea if I could pull it off. I decided to stall her. She scoffed at my question.

“You get to walk out of here. Alive.” She made a show of igniting a fireball in her hand, then she closed her fist to snuff it out. I chuckled and sat down on a large smooth rock that looked to be the most comfortable seat in the stone room. 

“Am I really alive if you’re in charge of my body? Seems to me like it’s the same thing as just dying here, except you get to go free. You want freedom, but I’m trapped either way,” I smiled and shrugged. “So. How can you convince me to let you walk out of here?” Her bright hair cooled down to ashy embers, and her eyes stared at the ground shyly. She took a delicate step towards me, then smiled. 

“I can give you the most pleasurable night you’ve ever had.” The black tip of her tongue ran across her upper lip. I roared with laughter, leaning forward to hold my stomach. 

“Lady, I’ve got friends out there. You want me to hand you the world just so I can get in your pants?”I continued to laugh. “You’re hot, but you’re just not that pretty.” It was a lie to keep myself strong. The truth was she was the most gorgeous woman I’d ever seen. I might have given my left nut to sleep with her, but no way I’m doing that to my friends out there. Her hair turned bright blue, her eyes turned sharp. 

“YOU INSULT ME??” she shrieked. I shrugged.

“We’re on an even field here. I don’t believe you can hurt me while we’re trapped in here. Supposing you could, I already know I’m not going to walk out of here.” I put my hand up to my neck and pointed a finger-gun at my head and smiled. “You could say I’m holding myself hostage until you offer me something to change my mind.” Her flame hair cooled down to embers again, and she gave a slight nod.

“Fine,” she said. “So what do you want?” 

“I don’t know, I don’t even know how this possession stuff works. Are you going to have access to your powers while you’re in my body? What’s going to happen to my consciousness? Do I have to just sit and watch you do stuff? Can we work out a deal for like alternating weekends or anything? Even if we did, is there a way I can enforce the deal so you don’t screw me over?’ And what about-” She held a hand up to interrupt me.

“You ask A LOT of questions,” she said. 

“Yeah. I’ve got nothing else to do. Give me some answers if you want me to shut up for a bit.” I paused, hoping she’d take the bait. She sighed.

“My powers will be considerably weaker while I’m in your body, but seeing as I’m a goddess, that’s still pretty powerful,” she said. “Your consciousness will be pushed-“

“What are you the goddess of?” I interrupted. A blue streak ran through her hair, but she calmed down again quickly. 

“I’m not the goddess of anything. I’m just a goddess in general, we’re not all assigned dominion over something. You consciousness will be pushed back, and eventually you’ll just-“

“How come you were locked up?” I asked. Her teeth clenched while several streaks of blue ran through her hair. I wondered if she knew I could see how angry she was getting.

“After a while your consciousness will just fade away, and I’ll have complete control of your body. I was ‘locked up’ as punishment for disobeying orders. We could share your body, both of us alternating control. But there’s no way for you to enforce that, and I don’t think you trust me that much to take my-” 

“Whose orders? Aren’t you a goddess?” 

“WILL YOU STOP INTERRUPTING?!” She yelled. The room filled with bright blue light emanating from her hair. I cowered, trembling on the rock.

“I’m sorry! I’m just trying to figure everything out. I assumed you’d want me to come to a decision quickly, so I asked questions as they came to mind. If you want to take it slow, that’s fine too.” The blue in her hair died down.

“Yeah, you’re right. I do want out of here as soon as possible,” she said calmly. I nodded. 

“Look sorry about interrupting, I guess all the history and stuff isn’t important. I am curious about your powers though. I’ve got a few more questions, but they’ll be easy,” I said. The fire in her eyes came to life, and she nodded eagerly. 

“Can you fly?” I asked. “Just assume I mean in my body.” I stood from the rock and gave a tall stretch, then twisted at the waist to pop my back.

“Yes. I can form a current of heated-” I silently interrupted her by putting a hand up. 

“I don’t need elaboration, I’m just curious. Yes or no will be fine.” I walked toward her to stretch my legs.

“Okay!” she said with a smile in her voice.

“So, you can fly,” I asked to confirm.

“Yes,” she said. 

“Immortal?” I stood in front of her and made a show of appreciating her body. She smiled.

“Yes.” 

“Can you swim?” She laughed at that.

“Yes!” I smiled and continued to walk around the room admiring the runes carved into the stone walls using my own eyes, for possibly the last time. I had my plan sorted out, but it wasn’t foolproof. If it failed I was dead.

“I just didn’t know if you could get wet. So you’re not made of fire then?” She shook her head.

“No.”

“That body you have now, is it your original body?”

“Yes.”

“Assuming I decide to let you in, will I get cool flaming hair and lava lips too?” 

“Yes,” she winked at me. 

“Have you tried pizza?”

“What? no. I don’t-” I interrupted her.

“Didn’t think so, but you’re gonna love it. Do you have any other powers? Don’t list them, just curious.” I let my legs wander me closer to the arch.

“No.”

“Just fire?”

“Yes,” she said. I sighed, trying to sound disappointed. 

“Nothing else? Like, I dunno. Ice?”

“No.”

“Wind?”

“No.”

“Water?”

“NO.” A blue flame coursed through her hair.

“Can you speak to animals?”

“No.”

“Can you cross dimensions?”

“No.”

“Have you met a dragon?”

“No.” She crossed her arms and began tapping her foot against the stone floor. The sound repeated off the walls.

“Do you know how to blacksmith?”

“No.”

“Really? You totally should with your powers.” I smiled at her. She stared at me through bright yellow eyes. She was losing patience.

“No,” she said flatly. I shrugged and continued pacing closer to the archway.

“Do you play any instruments?”

“No.”

“Do you know how to dance the Macarena?”

“No.” She sighed, her eyes shifted to white.

“Do you know the muffin man?”

“NO,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Do you want to possess my body?”

“NO. ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY OR NOT?” The room filled with blue light for a split second, then the light disappeared. “Wait.” I was already out through the arch, waving bye to her.

“Well, there’s no harm in offering. Maybe next time, gorgeous.” She roared and rushed to tackle me. Then I heard a thud as she hit the invisible barrier.