"Cousin" - Prompted Free Write

Prompt: A visit from a strange cousin
Word Count: ~550
Written Today


He arrives on the third of May.

What, who?

A strange knocking on door, a certain rhythm, a tune – sounding as if someone were thumping away on your front door with a spoon. In fact he is doing just that, a long spoon made of wood firmly in his grasp and raised for another round when you finally drag yourself across the apartment to respond to the noise. The sun isn’t up yet. He hadn’t called or written, of course.

He never does, this cousin of yours. When you were twelve he showed up for the first time on the front porch of your house, with a small blue suitcase and a toothy grin. He said something to your mother you couldn’t quite hear. You watched her grow pale and nod. “This is your cousin,” she told you, hustling the boy into the house. After that there were no more questions about his origins. Your mother said “It’s none of your concern” when you tried to ask. He simply laughed at you.

He stayed for three months. You would spent long, lazy summer afternoons playing in the shade among the trees, venturing far into the forest that surrounded your house, playing the most fantastic games. He could make the leaves on the forest floor spin around in awesome spirals, or chase after you, taking on all kinds of menacing forms as you ran screaming. You would burst out into the sun, your yard, tumbling in the grass.

He broke almost all of your favorite toys, eventually. There was no point in yelling at him for it; he never bothered to apologize and you always grew bored enough alone to forgive him anyway.

And now he is here again, standing in the hallway of your apartment building a good hour before dawn. This time it is his hair, otherwise neatly cropped and quite unremarkable, that is bright blue. If you didn’t know better you could swear there was glitter it it.

“Andy!” he exclaims, and tackle-hugs you before you can respond. You fumble for words. He invites himself inside in the meantime.

Who is he, really? Where did he come from? You never really did find out. How exactly are you related? You’ve never seen so much as a picture of any of your relatives, when you pause to think.

Why exactly do you believe him? Is it the way he conjures shortcuts in the metro after a night out, musty passages beneath the earth that you could have sworn never existed until he exclaimed, “look here!”? Is that enough? He never really speaks with any kind of consistency. There is no root, no pattern to his actions or words.

Perhaps you are inclined to believe in anything. Perhaps when you were seventeen you saw your mother simply glimmer out of existence. Did that really happen? You never spoke of it to anyone, never translated mind-images to words. There are things you do not speak of. You do not introduce this cousin of yours to your neighbors, colleagues, friends. He is nameless.

The space between sound and silence. An echo. The pile of laundry in the bathroom, a pasta stain on the kitchen floor, the vague scent of cigarette smoke and earth that lingers long after a departure, sudden and unannounced as always.

'paranoia' - short prompted free-write

trying to get into the habit of actually doing a bit of creative writing again, now that i have some time; this is me dipping a toe into the water, I guess.

Prompt: A loud knock on the door
Wordcount: 312
Written Today


You always jump, when you hear a loud knock on the door. Always the moment of muscles tensed, pulse suddenly shot up - the expectation of disaster, surely present, surely waiting for you behind a single slab of wood and a half-rusted doorknob.

Always you wait with dread for the thumping of boots up the stairs, the particular sound of a certain type of tire and engine pulling up to the curb. Cause and effect: you hear the knock at the door and you gasp. Your hands shake when you go to undo the locks. You fumble it, stretch out the time before the door must, inevitably, open up.

When it does you sigh. It's the post man, with a package and a clipboard for you to sign. Or the neighbor from down the hall, housedress a mess, asking to borrow a cup or two of salt. Or a newspaper salesmen, looking to talk you into a subscription. Or a Jehovah's Witness, with literature for you to read. And so on.

You answer them quickly, eyes darting behind them, down the hall, relieved and yet unwilling to believe your luck, quite. Yes, no, please, okay I will look, go now, you have to go. Sometimes they give you strange looks, when you shut the door so quickly, do up the lucks again. But you must - do up the locks and then sink down on the floor, back against that old door, knowing you can finally breath.

Then you wait again, anxiously, for the next knock on the door, the loud start of a car in the night, the sound of footsteps in the distance. Disaster lurks everywhere, waiting to grab you, to swallow you up the way it did your father when you were four, in a country that no longer exists, decades ago. You wait for it and watch, trembling.

character study - a murderer

Gibrant kills for money because he knows it is what he is good at doing - better than most men could be. He knows how to kill with a sharpened axe, with well polished knives, with a rope. He knows how to snap a man's neck with his bare hands, the kind of instinctive knowledge that comes only from having done something many times before.

He knows how to kill quickly, and silently. He doesn't do it with any particular bloodlust or frenzy or need, the way some men - the really dangerous ones - do. He doesn't do it with revulsion, disgust. In fact, he doesn't do it with any particular feeling at all. There's always a curious disconnect between him and his target, a certain absence of emotion so that, in snapping that neck or slicing that throat, it feels no different than it would to slice open a sack of good, fresh grain - the slightest twinge of pity at the loss, and then nothing.

This makes him a very efficient - and expensive - killer indeed.

Gibrant only kills for money because, while he never feels very much at all for those whose lives he is ending he does, in fact, still have the ability to feel. He doesn't like the looks people give him when he kills, or when he enters a tavern or shop where his reputation precedes him: disgust, nervousness, anger, a certain fear-tinged awe. The witnesses are, of course, the worst. He still remembers the look a certain girl gave him: she was maybe fourteen, pretty though very small, and it was her father's throat Gibrant had been very entusiastically paid to slice open. He had done so, not bothering to pause at the man's desperate, furious begging, offers of bribes and pleas, no. But afterwards, when she'd stumbled in....the girl hadn't screamed. She hadn't cried or cursed or gone into hysterics or any of that. Instead she had stood there, backed up into a wall, shaking. Shaking and staring at him with a look of pure horror, a haunting look, a look that made it perfectly clear that in her eyes he was a monster, totally inhuman, despicable. It was all he could do, in that moment, to leave, and quickly.

No, he didn't like it, the way people that knew who he was looked at him. Neither fear from good men nor admiration from despicable ones was desireable. He didn't like being seen as something apart, something instead of someone, a force of nature rather than simply a man who was good at what he had been trained to do.

He didn't want to be a monster. In doing it for money - only ever for money - he drew a line. He was not a monster but a mercenary, a professional. If someone attacked him, even viciously, sneakily in an alley or pub, he would only disable them, knock them out, perhaps break a few bones. But never the killing blow, no.

It haunted him, the idea that one day, if he wasn't very, very careful, he'd stop feeling anything at all, stop being a man entirely and become the thing so many people already thought him to be.

HP-World Inspired Short

... They scramble after that, the woman pulling on tights, deftly doing up the laces of her boots. The man fumbles a bit with the buttons of his new robe, glancing over in her direction every so often in spite of himself. He wishes there was a way to make these last moments last, to somehow slow time so that he could enjoy the way her hair falls into her face, wild-like and amazing, the way sun filters into the room through the blinds, illuminating them - the last moments of this private reality before...

But there isn't, and she is running about as efficiently as if the place was her own, tying the hair back, cursing as she almost stumbles over some book haphazardly strewn on the floor, cursing some more as she gathers the last of her things, wand in wand pocket, eyes meeting his, glance at the clock, throat cleared meaningfully. The little blue man with the balloon in the hallway painting chuckles behind her.

He's locking the door when she mentions it.

"This won't work, you know."
"This. Us. It will be awkward. One look at you and the others will bloody well know."
"What do you mean? I.."
"Your face is an open book. Everyone knows it, and even if they somehow didn't see, we're a team. This changes things. It could be dangerous for everyone."
"Well, what do you... I mean..."
"We could obliviate each other. Just this last night. It really wouldn't be much, you know, just a few hours..." His face registers shock.
"I really don't think that's a good idea.." he begins, but she cuts him off, insists, knowing that she shouldn't bully him so, with that puppy-eyed look he gives her, but then that look is the whole damned reason they are in this situation, the reason she should of known better than to agree to go for another drink with him in the first place.

He agrees in the end, with utter reluctance, a look that says he might change his mind at any moment. On three, then, they agree, wands pointed at each other. Just the last few hours. We had a drink and went home, agreed?

"One. Two..." And then a crack, a stunned look as the spell hits him. The woman knows she is even more unfair for this, for not waiting to the third number, for the lie . The deja vu feeling she's had since waking up,  her knowledge of her own nature - she is near-certain that this isn't the first or even the second time they've done this. Clearly, erasing her own memory doesn't stop her from making the same mistake again and again. This is only necessary. This time she will know better. Really, there's no reason at all she shouldn't be able to stay away; he's only a colleague, after all.

"See you in the office, then." she whispers, swallows hard, and dissaparates.
The man's eyes slowly travel up the white-flecked ceiling above him.

How in Merlin's name did I get into the corridor?

untitled short bit

They name their ships after the disasters they wish to avoid: Shipreck, Catastrophe, Mutiny, Arson, Infidelity and Scurvy can all be found docked in the ports of the larger cities of the world. If you name your ship after something, they say, that's almost like asking for it to happen, and everyone knows that the things you most want, the things you long for, are the things that will be lost, the things that will perversly wriggle out of your grasp right when you think you finally have them, the things you will always glimpse but never own. To them, a ship is a most sacred thing, home in a way other nations can't will never grasp. Such a name is the greatest protection a man can give it, they will insist, laughing. They usually laugh at the stories behind the names too.

They laugh a lot, the Sea-Riders, as they are usually called by men who go out to sea once or twice in a lifetime at most. When one of them dies they share out his things according to his wishes and throw his body into the waves with the most minimal of ceremony. Then they dance, and bring out the funeral-minstrels and jokers and mimes. Up to a third of a crew has a minstrel or joker suit for such occasions. They drink and dance and fool, laughing until their bellies hurt from the strain. To them, the somber mood and tears of the landed nations' funerals are incomprehensible: of course you are sad at the death of your relation, your friend, your shipmate. Must you show it off then, get together to compare who can show their pain most clearly, who can sob loudest and longest of all? That pain is yours, for yourself and those closest to you. In the open, with others, it is best to remember what is lost and what you still have, to live in the moment and laugh deeply as you breath in a salty night breeze.

They laugh, too, when they tell their history to their children, each generation passing the words on to the next. More bitterly, perhaps, but they do, when they tell of the island they once called their own, with the lush trees full of fruit whose nectar they could trade for a fortune, the villages and long, narrow homes. They laugh when they tell of the mountain that suddenly exploded into ash and flame, that poured smoke so thick it choked whoever was caught in its cloud, the liquid fire that smothered everything, everyone but those few skilled or lucky enough to pile onto the small fleet of trading boats. And too, about their journey half across the world, from one capital to the next begging for refuge and shelter and being denied until they finally decided to make those boats themselves their land, their shelter, the only place in the world they belonged. The dark waves and his final snort, giggle, or weak grin, is all, each Sea-Rider knows, that will be his in eternity.

"Denouncement" - Old Prompted Free-write

Revised writing prompt from 12/2008. Setting is loosely based on Stalinist era USSR.

Wordcount: 1073 
Prompt: 'photograph negatives'

He held the envelope out to her silently. Elena stared at it. His hand remained outstretched, ramrod straight, and slowly, finally, she reached for it. Inside were photograph negatives. The woman flipped through them quickly, first with curiosity, and then with shock, fear, and creeping up her throat like bile, rage.

“What is this, Rudolf?” she asked, her pale blue eyes rising to meet the man’s darker ones.

“You know I like the both of you. Osip was my friend as much as he was your husband. I was as surprised as you were when I….found these. I wish I could throw them out. You know I do. But I can’t, Elena, I just can’t. Do you know what they would do to me if they found out that I did?” Elena knew exactly what they would do. Failure to denounce was, after all, a well known and serious infraction of the criminal code.

“Why are you showing me these?” she asked after a long moment of silence. Tears rose to her eyes, but the woman fought them back, schooled her expression into as neutral a mask as she could manage. It was what everyone did instinctively, it this modern age.

“I like you, Elena, I do. I wanted to give you a chance to…report this…before I have to.” Rudolf said. She understood immediately. Failure to denounce was viewed as a serious crime indeed by the authorities. For her husband to be arrested for such…activities…they would, of course, assume that as his wife she had to know something. That she knew and didn’t say. They would probably arrest her too, if not right away then soon after they came for Osip. She could of course protest her innocence, insist on her ignorance, but… On the other hand, if it was she that brought them the photos, she who denounced her husband’s illegal activities, then well, that was a different story altogether. She looked up again at Rudolf wordlessly.

“You have two days, Elena. Those are the negatives. I have the originals. If you don’t…in two days, I’ll have to. I wish I didn’t, but….two days.”

“Thank you.”

“I have to go now. You have my number, if you need to ring me for anything. Otherwise…well, try to enjoy your afternoon. The weather really is wonderful.”

“Yes, it’s very warm. Have a nice afternoon too.” She said, and shut the door carefully behind him. Afterwards, alone, Elena leaned back against that now dead-bolted door and slowly slid down until she was sitting on the floor. She wanted to cry but now that she had the privacy the tears would not come to her eyes. Her entire soul wanted to retch.

How could he how could he how could he? How could he be so stubborn and stupid? How could he not know better? And now what was she supposed to do?

She could of course destroy the photos, but Rudolf had the originals and would tell and then she really would be screwed. Ten years at the very least. What was she supposed to do, murder the man? She laughed as she imagined herself sneaking into his bedroom in the middle of the night with a steak knife, a clothesline-turned-garrote. No, Elena had been called a ruthless bitch on more than one occasion but murderess she was not. 

She could tell Osip about the photos, tell him to run. But then, of course, when Rudolf told, they’d come and ask where he was. Missing, what the hell do you mean, missing? Men just don’t go missing! How the hell did he know? Who did you tell? Just the bitch? Traitorous cunt warned him, did she? Well, what are you looking at me like that for? Arrest the goddamn bitch! We’ll make her talk! No, if she warned him to run she would have to go with him. And then what? Exist in the wilderness for twenty years? Live off scraps and stealing and melted snow? Elena couldn’t live like that. She wouldn’t. And why should she, for him, when he didn’t even have the decency to tell her, warn her, ask her about the danger he was putting the both of them in?

If she told they would praise her. She would keep all the property. A divorce would be easy to obtain if she wanted….and necessary if she didn’t wanted to be branded as an outcast, a prisoner’s wife. She would be safe and comfortable and he, and he…

Elena ran to the bathroom and retched bile until her teeth tingled and gums burned. Then, hands shaking, spent, she went to prepare dinner. By the time Osip came home her expression was again schooled into an expressionless mask of calm and neutrality. She felt like a doll or a machine as she kissed him on the cheek.

“What’s the occasion?” her husband asked, and it was only then that Elena realized she’d made him his favorite meal. She couldn’t remember cooking at all.

“Oh, nothing,” she said with a small grin. “I got a good deal at the market today, is all.” It was hard to believe, in that moment, that she was only twenty four. She felt ancient. She felt eternal. She watched him eat. The food in her own mouth tasted like lead. It grew stuck in her throat. It was hard to breath. She stared at him, stared, but he didn’t notice, too busy eating and reading the paper.

It’s a good thing we don’t have kids, at least, she remembered thinking.

That night they made love passionately. She kissed him and kissed him and insisted on more, what’s gotten into you, he said, not complaining, and she wanted to tell him that she needed to make herself feel something for him, that she wanted to feel something that would stop her, that would stay her hand and stay her lips but instead she felt everything but nothing and nothing at all.

The next morning, after he left for work, she made a bouquet of wild roses in a vase on the kitchen table. He’d given her such a rose on their first date. One of the thorns cut her hand. She sucked on the blood as she carried a white envelope to the police station. Later, when she tried to remember that day, it was always the taste of iron on the lips was mostly all she could recall. 

Character List for Collab Project: Lydia LeBlanc

ok, so working again with a friend on a collaborative writing/comic project. fantasy setting. going to go on a bit about some characters here. Not super great quality writing, since its notes, and references to tvtropes...
Main Protagonists

Lydia LeBlanc
Rogue, thief mostly though she does pick up the odd skill. Youngest of the main protagonist team. Her childhood was...not outright abusive, but very much neglect from her addict prostitute mother. Functionally illiterate, lacking in a lot of 'book' knowledge, and not particularly interested in remedying that. Something of a savant at pickpocketing and stealing in general, and a kleptomaniac in the clinical sense. Functions with a very high degree of impunity. Anarchist at heart, a strong lack of respect for authority. Vulgar and blunt in her speech, takes a perverse pleasure in being deliberately rude to most people. Does have a certain knack for reading people though, in that she can usually instinctively figure out the exact right buttons to push to really piss people off. Acts with a certain recklessness, rarely thinks ahead. 

Within the story, she is a kind of foil to another character (Lily Kerrington) in that throughout she functions under a certain Karma Houdini trope - regularly does morally questionable things and acts quite terribly towards a number of people, but things always seem to work out well for her nonetheless. If she gets arrested, she somehow gets out without a problem, having picked up a useful new skill from a cellmate even, while HE had quite the horrible experience with... that kind of thing. She has a lot more resentment towards...well off people, people with a comfortable upbringing, happy families, than she realizes or would be willing to admit. Really resents the 'high horse' type, people who would judge her for her stealing...this is actually a lot of the underlying reason for why she torments Kerrington so in the story. Dislikes most clerics/monks/church affiliated types in fact. Not really a sociopath, and does mature somewhat over the course of the story, but at the beginning at least could be mistaken as such. Rather cynical in her outlook. Can be loyal though, in her own way...for example, again with Kerrington, while she enjoys bullying and tormenting him, not keen on others, OUTSIDERS, doing the same, at least not after they've all traveled for a while together.

Lack of romantic relationships or attachments of any sort during the main plot/story...she does do quite a bit of growing up over the course of things...but she does start of with a certain aversion to sex (which she equates with love/romance, doesn't really separate the two in her mind initially) due to...well, MUCH too much exposure to such things as a kid, since her mother made no effort at all to hide her profession (more of a medievalish, pre-victorian setting for the story as a whole anyway, so kids got shielded from a lot less than they do these days, but her case way an extreme even from that perspective) and also a few of her ma's creepier clients' innuendo towards her (again, no actual serious ABUSE in her childhood, but a lot of little borderline/inappropriate things...)

Later on in the story, there is a kind of main plot/sub-plot intersection, in that they are searching for certain magical relics, and one of which is a collar of Loki, one of the God-level Espers of the world...kind of, possesses you through it, if he accepts your plea to use his power at all, not fun at all for wearer though useful if you NEED the power/assistance...there is a time limit for the collar, though, three days and you must give up the power or get killed by it. She doesn't take it off, one of her reckless impulses, doesn't kill her, surprisingly, because she apparently amuses Loki, but...after that there is a very odd kind of thing where at random times she'll get a bit of powerful assistance and at other random times, powerfully screwed with...a kind of perpetual russian roulette with a divine entity that's decided that you are his new toy...

Being a rogue, as you might suspect, her strengths are sneakiness, speed, dexterity. Physically, well...Jamal has been known to pick her up and throw her over his shoulder without a problem, nothing she could do about it. Ha.

Also very curious and inquisitive, sometimes annoyingly/dangerously so. Fortunately, she DOES have quick reflexes.

And for plot purposes, she has very good luck, much moreso than you'd realistically expect. Again, this is to counterbalance Kerrington's terrible luck and general woobie/buttmonkey status.

A Plague - Prompted Free Write

Prompt: A plague
Wordcount: 1250
written today

Day 14 of the Month of Julium, Year 1109

Everything was empty when we first walked into the village. The streets were unswept and silent, market stalls closed, windows shuttered up or else hanging open loosely, a curtain half visible here and there, listlessly fluttering in the breeze. It was unnerving to be sure, and gave a man more than a bit of pause. I’d wanted to turn back then, to guide the horses back onto the road: our supplies were not nearly so badly depleted as to necessitate a stop in such a place. Even if they had been, well, few men have died of a day or two of riding on an empty stomach but quite a few, by the look of things, had died from staying in this place. Once we got a few more yards in, the place began to positively stink or rot and disease.

Again I found myself wondering what I was doing amongst these people, for I knew as soon as I opened my mouth in protest that she would disagree, would push forward into the bloody deathtrap. There was no chance of Harman disagreeing with her either – even after four weeks, I wasn’t quite sure what the tie between the two of them was, why such a big man, a warrior clearly trained by one of the Seven Orders, was traveling with a Black Mage as if he was a common mercenary or bodyguard. Of course, one might ask why one such as myself – a journeyman Arcane Mage trained under the auspices of the Royal Academy, was traveling with her as well. That of course is a story described elsewhere in these journals. Suffice it to say that Ayelet was not what you would expect of Black Mage, and on the whole, certainly worthy of our loyalty.

In any case, we soon made out way to the center of the village, which was as empty as the outskirts, though a certain flash of movements here and there in some of the windows let us know that a few of the inhabitants of this place, at least, had not yet perished. Whether we would actually seen any of them, however, was at this point very much in question: the villagers in these parts were never particularly amenable to outsiders – when one of them happened to come wearing the black robes, in the midst of such devastation…well, one could hardly blame them if they came to certain conclusions, and thought it best to make themselves scarce.

Wary of entering any of the buildings, which might be full of disease or hostile survivors, we decided to rest in the village square. I cast a few sigils of light and protection around us, both for our own comfort and in the vague hope that some of the inhabitants still living might recognize these as the marks of the Academy and come forward despite Ayelet’s presence. Such luck was not forthcoming, however.

Ayelet prepared a thin gruel for us out of the remainder of our provisions, which we shared in a muted silence, influenced as we were by the mood of our surroundings. Afterwards, I looked through my apothecary case for any useful supplies, while Harman sharpened one of his blades and Ayelet sat in meditation: loathe as she would be to admit it, this place, the death here, was strengthening her significantly. Of course there were other, much more noxious methods by which a black mage like herself could gain strength at plague site, but she was, as I previously stated, quite different from most of the black mages one is wont to encounter in this world.

After some time, she stood up suddenly, and made her directly towards one of the houses, her posture showing a certain immovable determination. Harman glanced up from his work, his eyes flashing warily. He was up in a flash, grunting in annoyance and hurrying after her. With a sigh and not a bit of dread in my soul, I stood up as well, not wanting to be caught alone when they started whatever it was that they were liable to start. Ayelet pushed open the door to that abode without effort and strode into it, the two of us following close behind her. Inside, we found two children, neither possibly older than his tenth year and both within the final stage of the illness. I noted that the plague they suffered was the blackening illness, which darkened a man’s skin to the color of ash and before breaking out in pustules. In the final stages of that disease, a man vomited blood and sometimes bled from the other orifices as well. It was a terrifying illness, and simply sharing a room with these two blighted wretches sickened me; it was all I could do not to go running out again. Instead I stood in the doorway, tense, and watched her.

Ayelet knelt down by the children, unafraid of their disease (she had that right: as a black magician, she had a certain immunity from illnesses, even the most severe varieties) and laid her hands on them. At that point, she did a certain magic, one I have never observed or read in any volume, an ability that seems to be unique to black magicians and among whom it would seem she was the only one ever to have the inclination to discover and use: she absorbed their illness. We watch their skin clear up, a healthy glow return to their previously ravaged bodies while hers, for a few moments at least, took on the look of a plague-ridden woman moments away from her end. Then of course, her natural abilities manifested, and she healed, grew healthy again, if exhausted. I had seen this enough times not to be shocked, of course, but nonetheless I couldn’t help but be awed just a bit, still, by this most orthodox method of healing.

At that moment of course, the surviving villagers, so scarce until now, appeared not far from the doorway in which I stood, looking none too happy with our presumed interference with two of their dying children. Things might have turned out badly for us of course, if not for the presence of Harman, who took that moment to step forward and explain. Coming from such a big man, clearly a skilled warrior, the villagers, many of whom were still clearly weakened from their trials, relented somewhat in their angry assertions, particularly upon discovering the two children alive and in good health. Of course, that did not stop them from running us out of the village, in spite of the lateness of the hour, but Harman did, through a certain menacing swinging of his axe, convince them to sell us a few measures of grain upon our departure.

Not an entirely unexpected end to a day, I must admit, nor particularly undesirable, from my perspective at least. I was more than happy to spent the night sleeping on a patch of cold, hard earth again, rather than in that accursed place. Once, I’m sure, I would have been mortified to be run out of a place in such a way, but traveling with a black magician, you get used to that kind of thing. We moved onwards the next morning, and even had a rather eventful encounter at a certain bridge, though that is, I must say, a story for another entry.

Until then,
Sub Arcane Mage Timothey das Ostraa