Writing Prompt #20 – Soul Mate

All humans are immortal until they find their “soulmate”, after which they age regularly. You, however, have been around since the ice age…

I got up to face another day unsure why I bothered. I was so tired of this life and its never-ending pursuit of “the soulmate”. It was bullshit. I felt the sneer take over my face as I thought about it. To say I was old was an understatement. I have been around for over a hundred thousand years, give or take. I stopped counting a long time ago.

I felt the jealousy rise in me as I remembered all the family and friends I’ve had over the years. They’d found their soulmates and happily continued to live mortal lives until the day they died. I squeezed my eyes tightly trying to dispel the riot of emotions bouncing in my brain. It was no use. I saw their faces as I remembered, and it always brought me down to a very low place. I’ve met and lost so many over the years that I had actively stopped trying to meet people. Although, this course of action was counterproductive to meeting “the soulmate”, I’d lost hope entirely. This choice was easier than making attachments to people I’d inevitably lose.

I’ll admit, I’ve become a bitter bastard, but it was better than the alternative. I’ve loved and lost too many times over the years. I went through some dark times where I tried everything I could to end my life to no avail. Realizing I had no choice made my despair and depression much worse. I knew living like that wasn’t helpful, so I decided to take things day by day. It’s not much of an existence but I felt it was key to my survival. Shutting my emotions off going through the day to day activities numb to the world around me.

I got up starting my day as usual. Staring at the same face that hasn’t seemed to age, permanently stuck looking like a common thirty-year-old even though it’s so far from the truth. It irritated me to see that same young face looking back at me. It seems petty, but I’ve been young long enough. Oddly, I longed to see myself age and move from this stagnant place both mentally and physically. For this reason, I had taken to avoiding my reflection altogether. The only time I forced myself to look upon my face was in the morning when I shaved and brushed my teeth. Now that the unpleasantness was done it was time to get moving.

I bought 30 acres of land about ten years ago and had taken to growing my food. I had almost everything I needed here. I only ventured into the city to get what I needed about once a month and whatever I couldn’t get there I’d buy online. I’d grown to depend on my isolation and the quiet way of life for survival. I’ve done so many things, lived so many different lives but this quiet life seemed to suit my mood best. I wasn’t always this way. I used to love to live life to the fullest. I used to hold hope in my heart that I too would find love and age. That outlook has dulled significantly over the last 100 years. I just couldn’t muster the strength to be positive anymore.

Through all my years many things have changed and I’ve adapted as best as possible. Some things were still difficult to grasp but at least computers haven’t been an issue for me. I took some classes not wanting to get left behind and now know enough to survive in this technical world of smartphones, apps, and online ordering. One of the things I loved about this modern world was that you could have just about anything sent to you. It’s one of the luxuries that I’d come to enjoy and even depend on. Especially considering my hermit lifestyle.

I’d picked up a hobby that required online buying. Metal sculpture had become my new obsession. I was expecting a package that week with my new tools and supplies. I’d become good enough that I had a steady stream of buyers waiting for my next project to complete. It was something that helped me forget. I got lost in the creative process. Spending hours refining my craft and watching an idea come to fruition. It was the only thing that gave me a true sense of happiness these days and the only thing I lived for. 

My latest project was almost complete. I had a buyer coming at the end of the week to assess the piece. It pissed me off that he had to come in person. He’s bought three of my previous pieces and appreciated the quality of my work. I knew I was being a bit of an asshole, but I took my solitude seriously and I didn’t like entertaining people anymore. I put up a bit of a fight but, in the end, I caved. One in-person visit was better than the relentless texts, emails, and phone calls. Back to hating technology again. I huffed. It was so much easier to hide from people in the past.

I was distracted from my thoughts when I heard a loud banging at the front door. I knew it must be the delivery person. I wasn’t expecting them to arrive until later this week, but it would be nice to have supplies earlier and get a jump start on my project. When I opened the door the delivery guy was hauling the last of my packages to my door panting and sweating profusely. I shook my head in disgust. The supplies were heavy but not enough to wind a young man such as this. Even though we were immortal you could always sense the ones that hadn’t been around long. It was in the eyes and the way they carried their bodies. He grimaced at me as he handed me the signature capture device. I rolled my eyes as I signed and shoved the device back at him dismissing him altogether as I brought my packages inside. I heard him mutter “asshole” under his breath as he walked away. I had a good mind to call him out on it. I was never one to shy away from a good fight, but my excitement over my package overruled my need to teach him some manners.

I looked at my watch. It was still early. I had to tend to the crops and animals before I could get lost in my craft. I rushed through it all not taking the time I usually did in my routine. This particular project was special. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I knew it was going to be my best. By the time I finished up around the farm, I forced down a quick lunch eager to get to my metal shop. I had this idea in my head of how I wanted it to look and I knew given what I had already completed it wasn’t right.

I jumped right into the work. Taking longer than needed to adjust the pieces to look exactly as I imagined them. This piece was a mix of several different metals making it stand out more than anything else I’d ever created. When I was finally finished, I stared at the face of a woman I’d never seen before. She was hauntingly beautiful. Her bronze hair flowing out and around her face as if she stepped into a gust of wind. She had sad eyes that had seen too much. Maybe I was projecting my feelings of loss on my sculpture. Her eyes and face mirrored my feelings exactly. It was all there to see plain as day, but it didn’t deter from her beauty. I was in awe that I created something so beautiful. I’d be sad to see this one go. I wondered briefly if I could create another piece before Friday so that I could keep this one, but I didn’t have enough supplies on hand to start over. This immediately put me in a bit of a funk. I’d never grown so attached to my pieces. Sure, I’ve kept many pieces over the years but if anyone ever offered to buy them, I let them. Knowing that in my mind it just gave me an excuse to keep creating. It was late now, and I could feel the drag of exhaustion catching up to me. I took one last longing look at the sculpture as I turned off the lights. As I headed back to the house, I realized I hadn’t checked my phone in all the time I was working in the shop. I had five text messages and four missed calls.

I rolled my eyes as I read over the messages. Apparently, my Friday buyer Mr. Miller, was going to be in town early and wanted to come out to see my work tomorrow. I felt anger and frustration bubble up inside. I didn’t want to let the piece go. I texted him back and tried to put him off till next week, but he insisted that this was the only time he had available to make the trip. He assured me that it didn’t matter what I had on hand that he’d be interested in something. I took a look around cataloging my other finished projects that hadn’t been sold yet. I had a few decent pieces there. I hoped I’d get lucky and he’d prefer one of the others. It was a small hope, but I held tight to it as I completed my nightly routine. By the time I made it to bed I was exhausted and fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning the blaring alarm startled me out of sleep. I was dreaming of a woman. She looked a lot like my sculpture. I must’ve been so obsessed over it that I dreamed up a woman who resembled it. I shook my head trying to dispel the grogginess. It felt so strange to dream. I hadn’t remembered a dream in years. Why was this dream bothering me so much? I blew out a frustrated breath as I climbed out of bed. I avoided the mirror completely today, forgoing a shave for some peace of mind. I was already struggling with my feelings over my project.

I got to work quickly and took my time, unlike yesterday. It made me remember why I liked to do this work and the peace it brought me that seemed to settle my soul. By the time I was done and headed back to the house it was almost 10:00 and I was starving. I whipped up a quick breakfast when my phone started going off. I picked it up off my table realizing I forgot it again when I was outside and was irritated to see there were 15 messages there already. I rubbed my face with my hands. Today I really hated technology. I started going through the messages and most were from my Mr. Miller. He was here and would be coming by in about an hour. He wanted confirmation and kept texting me every ten minutes. I texted him back that it was fine, and thankfully the incessant dings finally stopped. I knew I needed to shower and get presentable.

True to his word and promptly on time my Mr. Miller showed up exactly an hour later. He was a serious man, dressed in a perfectly pressed suit and a professional smile. When I shook his hand, it was firm. He knew what he wanted and went after it. I knew he wasn’t young, but he wasn’t as old as I was, though rarely anyone these days was. He wasn’t overly verbose either. I asked him if he wanted a tour, but he declined, stating that he only wanted to see the pieces I had on hand. Straight to the point which I could appreciate. We stepped outside where I had four recently completed pieces. I had a dragon that towered over the both of us, an eagle with its wings spread out, a lion head roaring with its hair flying wild around its head and a huge Dire Wolf protecting her pups cowering underneath her body. While I loved creating all of them, I wasn’t attached to any of them. Mr. Miller took an immediate liking to the dragon. He spent the most time looking over it before moving on to the other pieces. I waited patiently as he appraised each piece. I sat back in the shade allowing him the privacy to make his decision. Finally, he turned to me and told me he’d take all four of them but didn’t ask to see any others. I was relieved. He offered an obscene amount of money for the lot of them, and while I was flattered, I honestly didn’t care. I wasn’t doing this for the money but understood this was a major part of selling art. I took his offer without emotion.

“You have an uncanny attention to detail. Your metalwork is unlike any I have ever seen in my long life. I sense you’ve been around for a long time and have seen many things. It shows in your work. It’s a rare gift. Please keep me informed of any other pieces you have in mind to sell. I will have my assistant here tomorrow to manage the pickup and delivery of these four pieces. It was a pleasure doing business with you.” Mr. Miller extended his hand to me and I shook it.

“Thank you. I’ll let you know when I have more pieces finished.” I assured him with a small smile. At least the money he was paying would help me finish a few things here at the farm and  update my metal shop.

“Good to hear.” He said with a polite smile. “I must be going now; I have another meeting to attend. My assistant will be contacting you tomorrow with the details.”

“Let me show you out then.” I motioned for him to walk through the house again and lead him to the front door. “Thanks again,” I said as he walked out of the house and towards his car. He smiled again before waving and getting into his car.

Once he was gone, I went back inside and sunk down into my couch. I thought about what happened and wondered why I was so attached to this last project. I shook my head as I tried to sort out my reluctance. She didn’t resemble anyone I knew. I had no idea if she was even real. Maybe I’d seen her on tv or in a movie. Not that I watched them often, but it could’ve been a possibility right? Irritated with my fixation I got up off the couch and set off to catch up on my responsibilities. I spent an excessive amount of time yesterday working in the shop and I had a few things I needed to catch up on today. The work was a welcome distraction. I put everything into my work and by the end of the day, I felt the result of my many hours of physical exertion weighing down my body.

As I trudged back towards the house, I could see my shop just off the path. I walked towards the shop instead of the house. I felt compelled to look at it again before I went to bed. As I looked over the sculpture, I sat down and took it all in. I had to have seen this woman before. There was so much detail there. The shape of her lips and how the bottom lip stuck out slightly, the gentle slope of her chin, the small button nose, and those sad eyes. I stared at those eyes the longest as if they would speak to me and whisper where I knew them from. I huffed at the ridiculous notion of my thoughts. Sculptures didn’t speak. I got up abruptly, turned off the lights, and hightailed it out of there.

The next morning came as usual. As I woke from my sleep, I could swear there was a wisp of a dream hanging on the edge of my consciousness. A woman with brown hair and olive skin reaching out to grasp at something but I couldn’t remember what. As I closed my eyes again to see if it would come back to me my phone started that incessant beeping again. I gritted my teeth as I reached out for the modern monster. There were three text messages from an unknown number. Then I remembered that the assistant was supposed to be arranging to pick up the pieces. The text messages were asking for directions and for a pickup time. I arranged for them to arrive after lunch so that I could get my morning routine done before they got there. I had no idea how long it would take, and I didn’t want the farm to suffer for it.

By the time I finished, it was nearing 10:30. I gave my pieces a good wipe down as they were covered with dust and dirt from being outside. I felt it was important that they arrive clean even if he did see them a little dirty. After I was done I got inside and cleaned myself up. As I waited for their arrival I started to feel a little nervous. I wasn’t sure why. I’ve had people there in the past for pickups. The sculptures were heavy and needed a crew to move them usually. Why did today feel different? Maybe it was because I was losing so many at once. I felt antsy and restless. I kept pacing the floor waiting for them to arrive. It wasn’t till the truck arrived that I settled. I stepped out front and directed them to the side of the house where they would have an easier time picking up the pieces and getting them into the truck. I walked them around the house and showed them where and what they were picking up. I was a little irritated that this assistant wasn’t there yet.

Not long after they moved the truck did the second car arrive. When I looked over at the car my heart stopped, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The car was a convertible and inside was a woman with long dark brown hair flying around her face. Her skin was the same color as in the dream I had this morning. She slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car looking frantic and crazed. She collected her things that fell on the floor as she got out and practically fell over her own feet as she tried to make her way to me. She was apologizing about being late and explaining how she got lost when her boss Mr. Miller called while en route. When she finally looked up at me, I gasped. It was her! The sculpture, the dream, those sad eyes.

She stared at me as I stared at her. Whatever she was saying seemed to die on her lips as she took me in. “It’s really you…” she whispered. For the first time in a long time, I smiled a true smile. She was real. I wasn’t sure who she was or why I knew her face, but she was here in the flesh and she seemed as stunned as I was.

“Who am I?” I asked in that same low whisper.

“I don’t know your name.” She paused as she reached out to touch my face. “But I know the curves of your face, the shape of your eyes, your sad smile, and your shaggy blond hair.” She pulled her hand back just before she made contact almost as if her hand had a mind of its own and she was just realizing what she was doing. “I’ve been dreaming about you for years. It was starting to make me think I was insane. I’ve been hoping that one day I would finally meet you.”

I could feel my eyebrows rise up on my face as I took in her explanation. I stared in shock wondering why she would be dreaming about me. “Why?”

Her face flushed bright red as her shoulders dropped and she quickly looked away. “I really don’t know. I hope I haven’t freaked you out. I didn’t mean to just blurt that out.” She wouldn’t look back at my face and I felt horrible. I didn’t mean to embarrass her. This was crazy but maybe, just maybe, we were supposed to meet. Why else would we know each other’s faces before meeting?

“Can I show you something?”

She finally looked up at me, but the flush was still there. She didn’t say anything, but she nodded her head yes. I turned around and led her through my house and out the back as I headed to my shop. She lingered a little while inside the house, but I didn’t comment. I honestly didn’t mind, and I most certainly did not want to embarrass her again. When we started walking to my shop, I couldn’t help but ask, “So what kind of dreams did you have with me?”

I knew I caught her off guard because her eyes went round as plates and her face that had gone back to its normal color flushed bright red again. “Oh my God. I feel like a freak.” She put her hands up over her face to cover it as she shook her head no. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at her. Her embarrassment had me intrigued. I smiled a small smile as I looked over at her and stopped in front of the shop door. She was staring at her feet and wouldn’t look up at me.

“You’re not a freak. I promise you. I’m about to prove it to you.” She finally looked up at me with furrowed brows and a frown. Instead of saying another word I opened the shop door and flicked on the lights. She walked in slowly, taking it all in and looking around. When she finally saw my latest project, she gasped.

“It’s me…but, how?” She wasn’t looking at me. She was staring intently at the sculpture and touching it lightly.

“I…I really have no idea. I had this idea in my head of what I wanted to do and little by little it just came out. It bothered me that it looked so much like a real person, but I knew for sure that I had never met you before. How strange that I completed this day before yesterday and now, here you are.”

“Does this mean I’m not crazy?” She asked with a huge smile that took away those sad eyes. She was beautiful and I could feel a connection to her. Could she be the one I’d been looking for? I didn’t want to put too much hope into the idea, for fear of disappointment, but why else would we know each other without meeting? Was there a higher power here working behind the scenes making sure we didn’t miss our chance to know each other?

“Well, if you’re crazy then I guess we both are.” I smiled at her and could feel myself become a little lighter.

“I still can’t believe you did this. Your talent is unmatched. No wonder my boss is obsessed with your work.” She was touching a piece of the bronze hair that was a little too sharp and suddenly she pulled away her finger. “Ouch!”

We both watched the cut waiting for it to heal. When it didn’t immediately heal up, she looked at me with wide eyes. My heart started beating frantically. With a shaky hand, I reached up and touched the same strand that she had and cut my finger in the exact same way. Silently we both watched the cut on my finger. It didn’t heal, but I felt something settle deep within me. We both looked at each other in awe. I reached out to her with my other hand and cradled her face. The emotion that surged to the surface was almost crippling. The wait was finally over. It was time to finally live my life.

“I’ve been looking for you for a very long time.”

Photo by Min An from Pexels

Writing Prompt #19 – Quarantine

Now that all the humans are hiding indoors, the average forest animals aren’t the only ones coming out of the woods.

I peered through the blinds idly, wondering if I’d see anything today. We’ve been under quarantine for forty days now and this was the extent of my entertainment. Sad but true. Quarantine life moved slowly and there were only so many things for me to do indoors. Without the ability to go out and buy new things I was dependent on online ordering services and deliveries. Those delivery services were prioritizing those deliveries by importance and I knew that my boredom did not hold any rank. Usually, I got my things around the two-week marker. So, the model planes I ordered to help keep me occupied were in limbo somewhere and I was desperate for entertainment. I’d watched all the Netflix I could stand, and I longed to be outside. I’ve always been an outdoors type of person. I wanted to be close to nature and that’s why I bought this house on the outskirts of this huge forest.

Before quarantine, I would take daily hikes and explore. It was the one thing that I loved the most. One day I found myself staring out of my back window imagining myself out there in the forest. I was staring so intently at the tree line that I realized there were animals lurking there. My brows furrowed in confusion. That couldn’t be right. I squinted my eyes and looked harder. I still couldn’t believe it. I needed to see up close, so I went in search of my binoculars. When I got back to the window and looked again what I saw astounded me.

There were about four deer standing there looking around curiously. They started to venture into my yard but stopped short. At that moment, a loud delivery truck sounded in the front of the house followed shortly by a loud bang on my door. Figures! Now I get the delivery and scare off the animals. I was highly irritated. I didn’t even know I was receiving a package today. That’s how it went through. Sure enough, after I opened it, I realized it was the three planes I ordered two weeks ago. Well, at least I had something to do. I set it down on my table and went back to the window. Just as I suspected they were gone.

I was disappointed but I knew there was nothing to do about it. I just hoped they’d come out again. Over the next few days, I kept watch, but nothing changed. Two weeks went by when I finally saw them again. This time they boldly walked into my yard without fear. I watched them intently and marveled at what was happening. I loved being able to watch them and witness nature from my window. It brought back some of that peace that I was sorely missing.

Every morning I woke up to something new. It gave me a reason to get up in the morning. I kept a journal filled with dates, animals, and little sketches of them in action. I even had my camera set up on a tripod at the window to snap pictures. Two weeks went by when I noticed something different lurking at the tree line. I had cataloged so many different animals already and couldn’t immediately place the animal. At first glance, it seemed like a larger than normal fox with its reddish color and long tail, but upon closer inspection, I realized it was not. I snapped a few pictures with my camera as I felt my pulse pick up in pace. This thing did not look natural. As I studied through my binoculars, I saw two sets of eyes assessing the yard. Thick black claws extending out from its paws that looked like it could tear the flesh from your bones. It stared at me as if it could see me. I stood stock still under its scrutiny. When its head snapped to the side, I let out the breath I was holding. I shook my head at my own stupidity. There is no way that thing could see me inside the house. I peered through the lenses once again and could plainly see this was not a normal fox. Down its back where its spine would be was black spiked bone that cut through the flesh. The color contrasted greatly with its fur. I wondered how I didn’t see it before.

There must’ve been something else in that forest that stole its attention. Its body stood rigid and alert. I felt my own body mirror the unease of the fox creature. What in the world was this creature looking at that would have it frightened? What walked out next made me drop my binoculars and step back in shock. Maybe I was too tired and was now seeing things; because whatever the thing was that stepped out of the forest couldn’t be real. 

It stood upright like a human but had antlers on its head and was gaunt to the point of emaciation. Its skin looked desiccated as it stretched tightly over its bones breaking through in places. The creature’s complexion was a dull gray and its eyes pushed back deep into the socket of a skull that looked more like a wolf than a human. There was something hanging from its lips that was tattered and bloody. I gasped and took a step back from the window.

I’m not a superstitious person, but I’ve heard the stories around here. Hard not to when there is a huge forest nearby. Always the talk was the same hushed whispers of the lost hunter. The man who went hunting during a brutally cold winter and got lost. He couldn’t find any prey to hunt which drove him to cannibalism. After feasting on another human’s flesh, he transformed into a crazed man-beast, roaming the forest in search of more people to consume. Wendigo…

The first time I heard the story I scoffed at the person telling it. What a ridiculous thing to believe in. Then of course you had those who had sworn they’d seen one deep in the forest. Which always begged the question; if you saw the creature how did you manage an escape? I shook my head in disbelief. I picked up the binoculars again. When I looked through the glass the creature turned towards the house and stared at me. Once again, I knew it couldn’t see me but still, I was frozen in place. It never dropped its gaze from me as it started walking towards the house. I dropped the binoculars and backed away from the window. Once I hit the wall to my kitchen I couldn’t move.

I could see it on the other side of the back door. It bent down from its unnatural height to peer through the little window in the door. I knew I needed to run but my feet wouldn’t move. They seemed to be glued to the spot as my brain screamed at my body to run. I watched with terrified fascination as the creature tried to figure out how to get inside. Once the doorknob started to jiggle that’s when my feet finally obeyed.

Gun! Gun! My body flew to where I kept my trusty Remington as I heard the door jiggle again. By the time I rounded the corner to get to the closet where the gun was kept, I heard the loud bang on the door. It was locked and my home intruder was getting frustrated at not being able to open it. I pulled the rifle out of the closet and grabbed a box of ammo and shoved it in my pocket. I checked the chamber to make sure she was ready. As I made the confirmation the glass in the door window broke and I heard the door unlock from the inside followed by the door swinging open.

The thing let out a guttural scream that sounded very much inhuman. I wanted to run out the front door to get to the car but didn’t know if I could get there unharmed. I knew it was still in the back and I had a fifty-fifty shot at getting out. I didn’t think too hard and just ran. I saw it out of the corner of my eye as I ran. All those rumors about its inhuman speed were true. It reached the door before I could. I raised my gun to shoot but I was too close. It grabbed the barrel of the gun and yanked so hard that I fell forward with the gun still gripped tightly in my hands. I used the momentum to turn and land on my back while letting a shot fly. With so many variables in play, I couldn’t be sure my shot would make purchase but to my surprise, I hit the creature in the shoulder area. It stumbled back as it screamed in agony. I rose to my feet and took aim when I heard a growl to my left. I had almost forgotten about the strange fox creature.

Shit! I was well and truly fucked. My brain scrambled for an exit option and kept coming up empty. I was backed against the wall and creatures flanking me on both sides. Well, fuck it. If I was doomed to die, I was going to go down fighting. Now to choose how to die. One would surely tear me to shreds the other would feast on my flesh while still alive. I think I’d prefer a quick death over being eaten alive. Just as I was about to pull the trigger the Wendigo jumped me and knocked me down to the ground, but instead of eating me like I thought it would, it held me still and started into my eyes with those black pits. It was an unexpected and unnerving thing to be captured by a supernatural creature with no idea what to expect. Soon I found my curiosity gave way to acceptance and before I knew it the black took me.

I woke up in darkness and completely confused. I had no idea what was going on or where I was but felt extremely hungry.  I had visions bouncing in my head but none of it made sense. Then I remembered and gasped out loud. No! It couldn’t be. The gasp alerted the others that I was awake, and they turned on the lights. There were several other Wendigos in the room as well as a table with all I could want to eat. The odd thing was I didn’t want it. My stomach rolled at the smell. When I turned to the side, I saw a man tied to a chair unconscious. The smell coming off him was delicious. My mouth watered, which confused me. Why did the man smell so good? It was then I heard a voice in my mind, “choose.”

I looked at the creature that was standing the closest to me and cocked my head to the side. I heard the same command in my head again. That’s when I felt the second round of hunger pangs. I’ve never felt this kind of all-consuming hunger before. It scared me. I felt like I needed to give into it. My mouth started to water as I took in a deep breath. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was horrified at where my thoughts lead. I didn’t want to eat anything from the table of food; I wanted to eat the man tied up in the chair. My head snapped back to the creature standing in front of me. I’m not sure what they did to me or why. I knew at that moment I had two choices. You see the choice was not what I would eat, they already knew that the table would hold no sway for me. It sat there in all its glory mocking me. The choice was to eat the man or starve to death. They were letting me choose to become one of them or die a human.

My eyes watered as I considered my options. I didn’t want to become one of them, but I wasn’t ready to die. The hunger pangs hit me again as I considered. It was so intense that I doubled over to hold myself back from giving in to what my body wanted. It was wrong on so many levels. I didn’t think I could give up my humanity and become this monster, but I was weak. I wasn’t strong enough to resist. As if my mind knew the answer before my subconscious would accept it, I felt my teeth grow into elongated fangs as my fingernails morphed into razor-sharp claws. The hunger intensified and I had to eat. I launched myself at the unsuspecting man with strength and grace I previously never possessed and bit into him. When the saltiness of his skin and the metallic taste of his blood hit my mouth, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop. It was at that moment, after the first bite that my body took on the change. After the excruciating pain abated, I looked over my new body and shrugged as I dug into the man with new vigor. Who would’ve thought that the disease we were hiding from during quarantine wouldn’t kill me, instead it turned me into a monster that I was sure didn’t exist.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Writing Prompt #18 – Guardian Demon

Everyone has a guardian angel except you. You have a guardian demon. He deals with things in a much more violent fashion but much more effective.

~~~~~~

It’s been oddly quiet lately. Maybe it was because everything in my life had been running rather smoothly. Whatever the reason I wasn’t complaining. I haven’t seen Bael around in a while. I was grateful for it. You see the universe must have a fucked-up sense of humor because instead of getting a guardian angel I got a guardian demon. Don’t ask me how that works because I still don’t get it. Even though he’s a demon he still tries to help me out in his own way. Here’s the thing though, we are complete opposites. I’m a shy, timid and reserved person and I loathe confrontation. I will go through extreme measures to avoid it. Whereas he obviously does as he pleases regardless of the consequences. We don’t exactly see eye to eye on a lot of things.

I was sailing by in life by the skin of my teeth when I first met Bael. Seriously, I’ve gotten myself into some stupid situations. I tend to make bad decisions. That happens when you make choices based on avoidance. One day out of the blue, Bael started showing up randomly throughout my day. At first, I thought he was just a normal guy that I kept seeing. It wasn’t till later when he appeared in my house that he gave me a small heart attack that explained what and who he was. I was dumbfounded and he was irritated that he got someone he said, and I quote, “had absolutely no backbone and was beyond help.” That was hard to hear but I knew deep down it was somewhat true. I’ve never been strong enough or bold enough to stand up for myself, but I hoped there was still a way for me to learn. We’ve obviously had some tough times together. I’ve had to curb his bloodlust and he’s had to kick me in the ass a few times along the way to get me to even move in the right direction. 

One thing I will admit is that he has forced me to be a little bolder than I used to be, but it’s a work in progress. He’s constantly pushing me to stand up for myself and see my value.  Sometimes he takes liberties on my behalf and the consequences are disastrous. He gets irritated by my lack of action especially when I’ve been wronged. Case in point, today is the first day at my new job. Bael didn’t like the way my manager was treating me in my last job. He kept urging me to stand up for myself, but I would cower away each time. She was a real piece of work too. She was in a position that she didn’t rightfully earn. The gossip around the office was that she was given the position because the CEO was her uncle. Nepotism at its best and unfortunately, I reported directly to her. What made it worse was she didn’t actually know how to do what was expected of her. She unloaded her responsibilities on me. I did such a great job that she kept getting pats on the back and fat bonus’ while complaining to everyone that I, her assistant, was good for nothing and was debating on firing me. I felt completely at her mercy because I needed my job. I worked my ass off doing her job as well as my own raking in ten to twelve hours a day and yet she’d deny me overtime. I was overworked and on the verge of a mental breakdown when I got the warning from him.

“Minnie, if you don’t stand up to her I will. You are going to end up in the hospital over that over-privileged, entitled, little cunt.”

I should’ve taken the risk. I had the backup and the emails. I should’ve gone to senior management to complain but I was too scared they wouldn’t believe me, and I’d lose my job. Hindsight being 20/20, I had all the leverage I needed because she literally couldn’t do her own job. I am ashamed of myself for not being bold and now I’m starting over. Bael decided that she needed to be taught a lesson in humility, and If I was being completely honest with myself it was kind of funny what he did to her. Somehow, he got into her computer and downloaded a rather large amount of inappropriate content and saved it on the company’s network. Bael even managed to get some rather lurid photos of her in acts unbecoming of a young executive. The next morning when everyone got to the office and logged in, they could all see the files she saved to the shared drive. There were lots of gasps, and “Oh my God’s”. I’d never seen the IT guys move their asses that fast in my life. Within minutes they had that the whole thing shut down and wiped from the server. The best part though, was when the CEO huffed his way past my cubicle and right into her office. He slammed the door but yelled loud enough for the entire office to hear. After a verbal lashing, he fired her on the spot.

Unfortunately for me, she denied everything, and they had to open an investigation. Being that I was the last one in the office the night before, I was the prime suspect which put me in everyone’s spotlight. Suddenly, I was getting sneers from my fellow co-workers, and comments on how I could stoop so low. It made my head spin at how quickly people just assumed I would do something like that without knowing a thing about me. Then there were the others that genuinely hated her but would snicker every time I came around. I got the nickname porn queen and well, yeah, I wasn’t comfortable with that either. I stayed long enough to be cleared of the accusation but the lasting effect with the people there would never leave me, so I quit.

I was furious with Bael. Later when I was home, I confronted him. He shrugged his shoulders when I asked him like he could care less. “Minnie, I gave you a chance to take care of it. Plus, I was thinking of you because I would’ve rather killed her frankly. She’d make a delectable snack.” He said as he licked his lips.

I still shuddered when I thought about that. I wasn’t sure what or whom he ate. I’d prefer not to know those details. I was stuck with him, so it was for my own self-preservation. When I walked through the doors at my new job, he popped into existence right by my side. It took me a while to realize that he wasn’t always visible to others. He chose who could and could not see him. He liked to take on different forms just to cause trouble. His go-to form was typical for what a male model would look like. Tall, dark hair, dark eyes, and perfectly toned body.  When he wanted me to like him, he always showed up looking like the actor who played my favorite superhero. When he was feeling mischievous, he would usually take the form of a deranged clown. It would usually scare the shit out of people. I wasn’t scared of clowns, so it just irritated me. I’d only seen his true form once and that scared the shit out of me. I asked him to never appear like that again. Today he had his model persona on as he assessed the area around me. I knew no one could see him at the moment so I whispered for him to behave. He looked at me and smirked. “Don’t I always?” I snorted out loud and got a few strange looks from others. Great, already starting the day looking like a weirdo.

Luckily, he only stuck around for a little while before he got bored and disappeared. I got through most of my day before he showed up again. “Minnie!” He yelled from behind me. I was so lost in my work that I screeched. I heard him snicker as I turned around and was faced with the deranged clown.

“Ugh, change, please.” I rolled my eyes as I took in the garish clown costume with blood splatter everywhere. He snapped his fingers and now I was facing a very green looking alien creature. The typical stereotype of what one looked like, with a huge head and skinny arms, legs, and body. I snorted because he looked ridiculous. Then he snapped again and now I was faced with Jason Voorhees. I rolled my eyes. He was looking for trouble for sure. I sighed, “Can you please go scare people somewhere else. I’d like to keep this job long enough to pay my rent.” He shrugged his shoulders as he looked around. It was then that the office busy body walked into my cubicle.

“Minnie, who are you talking to? You do understand that we are not here to socialize, and you are not permitted to make personal calls during working hours, only on break.” Donna was standing there with her arms crossed over her chest tapping her foot incessantly.

I blew out a frustrated breath, I was tempted to just be agreeable so that she would leave me alone, but I was done. I didn’t want to be that timid girl anymore, even if it gave me a great amount of anxiety to do so. This was a new company and a new start. I felt my pulse increase and my hands started to shake as I turned to her.  “As you can see, Donna, there is no one here nor was I on my phone. You must be hearing things.” I gave her a saccharine smile and hoped she’d get the hint and go away. She didn’t.

“For fucks sake! How do the troublemakers always find you, Minnie?” Bael threw up his hands and was shaking his head in exasperation. “Just let me eat her. Problem solved.” I ignored Bael as Donna continued.

“I could hear quite well, and I know you were talking to someone.” She stood there with that tapping foot as she stared me down. What the fuck did this woman want? It’s not like she was my boss or anything. As far as I knew we were on an equal level. 

I smiled again. I used an open-handed gesture as I turned around in my chair. “Again, no one here, unless you want to get me in trouble for talking to myself. Last I checked that wasn’t against company policy.” In my head, I told her to go fuck off, which Bael heard and started chuckling.

“You should’ve said it out loud. She’s nothing around here but a pain in the ass. At least let me mess with her a bit.”

“NO!” I whisper shouted but it was of no use considering I had an audience watching me closely.

Donna’s eyebrows shot up to her forehead before she shot me daggers. “I don’t like you, Minnie, there’s something off with you and I’m not letting this go.”

I struggled not to roll my eyes. “Do what you must Donna,” I said as I turned back around to my desk. It was then I saw her look over to where Bael was standing and the color drained from her face. She looked pale as she gasped. I looked where she was looking, and I saw Bael appear into existence as Jason Voorhees and disappear a minute later. Just long enough to fuck with the nosy woman. Served her right. She looked at me and then looked back to that spot. “Something wrong Donna?” I tried as hard as I could to keep a straight face, but my smile broke at the corners.

“No! Nothing at all. Sorry to bother you.” She was backing out of my cubicle before she turned and ran out of there.

“You see! She’s not even sure what she saw but I’m willing to bet she won’t be bothering you anymore.” Bael looked like my favorite superhero with a smug smile.

I chuckled, “Hopefully not. Even though I don’t approve of your methods sometimes it works out.”

“Of course, it does! Now, I am rather hungry. Can I eat her later?”

I could sense he might be messing with me, but one never knew with Bael. “Oh my God, NO! Go find some child molester or serial killer and eat them,” I whisper shouted at him. Hoping no one was listening on the other side of the cubicle wall.

“Ohh…that’s a good idea. Try not to get in trouble while I’m gone.”

I was a little uneasy with the fact that I just gave him an idea of whom to eat. At least if he did eat one of the two options mentioned the world would be a better place. I shrugged to myself. This demon was changing me. I don’t think I would’ve thought about these kinds of things a few years ago.

I managed to make it through the rest of my day with no other issues until I left the building. It was then that I ran into my ex-boyfriend. The egotistical narcissist that treated me like shit for years, but I never did anything about it because I was afraid he would hit me. He used to always threaten me violence but luckily, he never followed through. Probably because I was so agreeable and did what he wanted. One day out of the blue he decided he was better off without me and took off. I’d never been so happy to be dumped. Two days later Bael showed up. He knew about my ex because he asked me point blank one day why a hot piece of ass like me was alone. It caught me off guard, but I figured if I was stuck with this demon he might as well know why I was a little hesitant to get involved with another man. The sneer on his face told me everything I needed to know. He didn’t approve, and he told me I was an idiot for dating him in the first place. Tactful as always, I rolled my eyes and tried not to take offense to what he was saying. He was right of course, and what made it worse was I stayed with that asshole for two years.

“Hey baby, I’ve been looking for you. Did you get a new job?” Jeremy slung his arm around my shoulder like we were still a couple and leaned into me.

I was repulsed by his presence and I certainly didn’t want him touching me. I shrugged out of his hold and stepped back. This was a big deal to him because I never did anything that would go against what he wanted. “First of all, I’m not your baby. Secondly, what’s going on in my life is none of your business. You gave up the right to that information years ago when you left.”

I turned around and started walking in the other direction even though it was the wrong way. I needed to get away from him and had a bad feeling that he wouldn’t take my rejection lightly. I wasn’t wrong. The next thing I knew he had a handful of my hair and pulled me back to him. “What the fuck did you just say? You have the nerve to speak to me that way? Who the fuck do you think you are?” He sneered as a vicious look took over his face. If not for the people walking around us but not doing a damn thing about the situation, he probably would’ve hit me. Where the hell was Bael? He started dragging me by my hair across the street to where his car was parked. I knew I couldn’t get in that car with him. Bad things would happen to me if I did but I was out of my element. I had no idea what to do. I tried to pull away from him and started screaming for help. Quick as lightning he reached out with his free hand and wrapped it around my throat. He squeezed so hard I couldn’t breathe, and as little black dots started invading my vision, I knew it wouldn’t be long now. There were tears running down my cheeks. This couldn’t be the end, could it?

Suddenly, I was released and fell to the floor in a heap gasping for air. As I took in precious breaths, I looked up and Bael was there with his hand wrapped around my ex’s neck. “Minnie, why was this man treating you like a piece of trash?”

His voice was casual like he wasn’t holding a man by the throat in mid-air in the middle of the street. At this point, I had nothing left as far as feelings for Jeremy. He deserved what was coming to him. I could hardly speak after the amount of force he used on my throat, but I managed a raspy, “He’s my ex.”

Three words. That’s all it took for Bael to lose his unearthly shit. Before my eyes, he transformed from his model persona to his true form. I could see him, but I knew no one on the street could see him except for my ex. Jeremy screamed as he watched Bael grow in size. His skin changing to a scaly black with red veins running through it, horns appeared to grow out of his head and his teeth became elongated with razor-sharp tips. Talons grew out of his fingers and toes and his eyes shone the brightest red as he took in the man in his grip. His bat wings popped out next, and that’s when Jeremy pissed himself. I had no idea what was going to happen, but Bael looked at me and ordered me to go home. Before I could even stand, he shot up into the sky with Jeremy still in his grip. I got up off the floor and dusted myself off and walked home.

When I got home, I took a hot shower and made myself a soothing cup of tea with honey for my throat. As I sat there on my sofa thinking about everything that happened, I couldn’t help but feel relieved. Jeremy was probably facing a horrible death at the hands of my guardian demon, but did I care? The guy was about to do God knows what to me so no, I didn’t give two fucks what happened with Jeremy. If he would’ve left me alone, he could’ve gone about his life making others miserable, but he chose poorly today and now he’d pay for everything and everyone he’d made miserable in one fell swoop.

That night when I crawled into bed, I slept better than I had in years. For once in my life, I didn’t feel afraid anymore. If that meant that my demon was rubbing off on me then so be it. I was so tired of the old me that I welcomed this new change in my life. I wasn’t going to go out and start murdering or eating people like he did, but if he could teach me to be stronger and make better choices, well, why would I deny that. I saw the reward for standing up for myself today with Donna and I knew that each day I would get stronger and stronger until finally, one day I wouldn’t need a guardian anymore. As much as that thought saddened me, for I had become somewhat fond of Bael and his crazy antics, I knew it was right.

Photo by lalesh aldarwish from Pexels

Writing Prompt #17 – Wings

“Halloween was yesterday, why are you still wearing your costume?”

“I’m…not wearing one.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong but, you didn’t have wings yesterday.”

~~~~~~

When I woke up this morning, before I even opened my eyes, I felt my head pounding. Considering the drinking I did last night It wasn’t a surprise, but I couldn’t figure out why my back was in agony. When I finally opened my eyes, I realized there was something laying on top of me. At first, I thought it was a heavy purple blanket as it was draped over my body. Once I looked under the blanket, I saw the dried blood on the carpet and on my naked body and in horror, I screamed. When stood up, I toppled over. That’s when I realized that the heavy purple blanket was actually wings attached to my back. Between the headache and the added weight, it took me three tries to stand up. When I was finally able to stand for more than 60 seconds I looked around and was horrified at the sight of my bedroom. Above my bed, there was half of a chrysalis. My bed was covered in the fragments of the chrysalis and this strange bloody mucus. It was as if I’d gone through a transformation last night, and then fell to rest on the floor where I stayed. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I took it all in.

I felt different, I knew something had changed aside from sprouting wings. I collected myself to see if I could understand the difference. Aside from my caramel skin having lost any and all scars or blemishes, I seemed to look the same. I reached up to my hair that was still in a ponytail from last night and it felt silkier. I decided to go over to see my best friend, Sofia to get answers about what happened last night. It took me several attempts to decide what to do about concealing my wings. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that they couldn’t be hidden and chose my black halter neck blouse that was backless. It was the best I could do given the circumstances. I threw on a pair of blue jeans which took way longer than it should’ve with my wings constantly throwing off my balance. By the time I got them on, I had run out of patience and was desperate for answers. I slipped on my favorite pair of sandals and left.

I looked over my shoulder at the beautiful purple wings. They stunned me every time I looked at them. They were similar to what a swallowtail butterfly’s wings looked like. They were a beautiful mix of purple, lavender, and black. Even though they didn’t look heavy they were, and they were massive. My body wasn’t used to carrying a constant load on my back. After 15 minutes of walking in the Florida heat, I was fatigued, and my wings were dragging. I wasn’t strong enough to keep them off the ground.

As I trudged over to my best friend’s house, I got strange looks and catcalls along the way. There was dried bloody mucus down my back and on my arms. I couldn’t reach it to get it off. Luckily no one really questioned me, thinking I was still in costume. I wondered how I slept through such a transformation. It must’ve hurt like hell, but I had no memory of it. Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise.  I had mixed feelings about the sudden growth of these wings. I couldn’t deny the marvel of having wings and the possibility of being able to fly but then, I could no longer come and go as I pleased. What was I supposed to do with myself? The only reason I got here without any question was that Halloween was last night, and people assumed I still had my costume on. I was at a loss of what to do next.

I knocked on Sofia’s door and waited a few moments before she finally opened up. Her blond hair was a mess and her makeup was smeared all over her face as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

“Halloween was yesterday, why are you still wearing your costume?” Sofia rasped as soon as she saw me.

“I’m…not wearing one,” I admitted a little wary of her reaction.

“Correct me if I’m wrong but, you didn’t have wings yesterday.”

I sighed, exasperated. “No Sofia, I did not have wings yesterday.  Are you going to let me in? It’s hot as hell out here and I’m tired from the weight of these things. I’d like to sit down.” 

She hesitated briefly as she looked me over, but ultimately let me in. “What happened to you, Lena?”

I walked into her house and found a dining room chair that I could sit comfortably with wings. Once my butt hit the chair, I let out a contented sigh of relief. My back was killing me. Sofia came in after and sat across from me with an expectant look on her face. Right, I was supposed to be telling her what happened.  

I recounted my morning for her telling her everything that happened and explaining to her how I felt different. As I was talking, my wings kept twitching in agitation. “What happened last night Sof? Do you remember?”

She started playing with her hair as she got lost in thought. She did this often when she was nervous. Why was she nervous? “I remember a few things but honestly not everything. Maybe if we talk about it, we could figure it out.” 

I nodded anxiously, ready to get this mystery solved. “I’ll go first!” I said as I sat up a little straighter in my chair. “Okay, last night I came here to pick you up and then we went over to Bernie’s house for his Halloween Party. We got there around 8:00 and right away Bernie came over and insisted we try his special punch. We both took a cup and started walking around enjoying the party. The punch was sweet and fruity which surprised me. It didn’t taste spiked, but it did have a strange aftertaste. I remember Bernie coming back to make sure I had another fresh cup when I finished the first. At one point we got separated because you were talking with Seth, and I was talking to a few of the girls in my Business class. That’s when things started to get hazy. The second cup of punch must’ve been stronger than the first because I started getting a little dizzy. I remember going to sit down on the couch after that.” 

“Oh! That’s when that hottie Carlos came over and sat next to you.” Sofia exclaimed bouncing in her chair. “He brought you another cup of punch. I knew you probably had enough because I was feeling the effects and I’m not a lightweight like you. When I tried to walk over to you Seth grabbed me and kissed me! You know how long I’ve been crushing on him, and I was shocked as hell.” Sofia said with a big smile on her face. “Although, I don’t remember a lot after that.” Her face fell as she admitted that.

“I remember when Seth kissed you. I was shocked too. I didn’t want to interrupt you because I knew how much you wanted that. So, I stayed put talking to Carlos. I mean, it’s not like it was a punishment. The guy is super-hot with that fit body and that smile with those dimples! Although, he kept insisting that I drink the punch. I remember thinking he was being pushy about it and I didn’t understand why. It bothered me, but the guy also made me super nervous with all his hotness. I remember I heard him whisper something strange like, “this better work, we’re running out of options”. When I asked him why he would say that he told me he didn’t say anything, which only added to my confusion.” I scratched my head wondering if I imagined that part. 

“Carlos told me he wanted to show me something but would only do so after I finished my drink. At that point, it was almost gone anyway, and I felt tipsy but not drunk, so I didn’t see the harm in finishing. When I stood up, I swayed a bit on my feet. I got scared for a moment thinking I made a huge mistake and something bad was going to happen. Carlos grabbed me and held me up. He assured me that I was going to be okay. Oddly enough, I believed him. I got this overwhelming feeling that he wasn’t trying to take advantage of me.” 

I shook my head trying to fight off that foggy feeling I was having. The more I tried to remember the more my head would pound. It was like trying to look through a cloudy piece of glass. We both sat there in silence for a few beats staring at each other. This was where the biggest gap in my memories was. 

“Do you remember anything else?” I asked as I went back to rubbing my temples. If it were possible my headache had gotten worse. “All I have left is flashes of random things and I don’t know what they mean.” I looked up at Sofia to gauge her reaction. She had a blank look on her face.

“Same…There was this dark room, with candles.” Her look was far away as she tried to recall. “There was chanting too, but I don’t know who was chanting or what they were saying.” Frowning she looked back at me. “I’m sorry hon. I can’t remember anything else.”

“Doesn’t it bother you that we don’t remember anything?” I asked bewildered by her lack of concern.

Sofia shrugged her shoulders as she looked me over. I could swear I saw jealousy in her eyes. “I guess I drank more than I thought.” It was all she said about the matter. Not the least bit concerned about what happened. 

You don’t think…whatever they were doing made these things pop out, do you?” Things were starting to come together, and I was getting the feeling that perhaps this was planned, but why me?

“Seriously Lena? I didn’t think it was possible for someone to grow wings overnight.” Sofia said with almost contempt as she rolled her eyes. “Are you sure you’re not pulling my leg here and this isn’t an elaborate prank?”

I stood up furious. I couldn’t believe she thought I was lying. “If not, then what the hell happened last night?” I asked as I marched up to her and turned around slapping her in the face with my wings. “Do these look or feel fake to you? How about the splatter down my back from when they came out, or the raw red skin around the base of the wings? Does that look fake to you?” I asked irritated. The angrier I got the more my wings started moving. Without meaning too I lifted myself off the ground. Not really flying, but hovering. 

“Holy Shit Lena!” Sofia shouted out as soon as my feet left the floor. I spun around somehow still hovering in the air and saw her face filled with awe.

Seeing my friend look at me like that was like a hard dose of reality to bring me back down to Earth. Literally. I dropped swiftly and fell on my ass. “Fuck!” 

As I tried to get back up my phone fell out of my back pocket just as a text message came in. I picked it up but didn’t recognize the number. Not wanting to deal with an anonymous texter, I put the phone back in my pocket to deal with it later. As soon as I managed to stand again my phone started ringing. When I pulled my phone out again it was the same number calling me. I contemplated letting it go for a few seconds before I realized whoever it was wasn’t going to give up so might as well answer. 

“Lena! Are you okay? Where are you? You weren’t supposed to leave last night. Something terrible could’ve happened to you!” The male voice on the other end of the line was frantic and sounded vaguely familiar but considering my condition this morning I was lacking in brainpower to figure out who it was. 

“I’m sorry. Who are you?” I asked as my irritation kicked up to an all-new level. Now some guy is telling me something terrible could’ve happened…like what? Grow wings? 

“It’s Carlos! You don’t remember me?” He asked incredulously. I blushed. Damn, that’s who that voice belonged to. I didn’t mean to be a bitch, but I was kinda having a bad day. 

“I’m sorry Carlos, it’s been a rough morning and my mind has been elsewhere. No offense.”  I tried to play off my embarrassment and to soothe his ego. 

“Are you okay? Is there something different about you today?” He asked cryptically. 

“Hell yeah there something different about me, but I don’t want to talk about that right now!” 

“Good! Where are you? I’m coming to you.” He asked and my brows furrowed in confusion.

“What? Why? Look you’re a nice and very attractive guy, and while I had a nice time with you last night, you don’t know me and don’t owe me anything.” I said hoping to dissuade him from seeking me out. The last thing I needed was to see another person that I had to explain things to. Plus, did I trust him? I hardly knew him. My gut was telling me he was okay, but I wasn’t sure. 

“Lena, please. I’ll explain when I get there. Don’t talk to anyone until I see you.” He sounded desperate and genuinely nervous. 

“Too late. I’m here at Sofia’s house.” I admitted quietly. 

“That’s okay. Just don’t leave. I’ll be there in ten.” 

Before I could protest, he hung up the phone. I looked at the screen in deep thought. What the hell was going on? Why did he feel like he needed to come to me? How did he even know where Sofia lived? I looked over to Sofia and she was staring at me with a confused look on her face. I blew out a breath. “I guess Carlos is coming over,” I told her which only furthered her confusion. I shook my head at her. “Don’t ask for an explanation because I don’t have one. I don’t even know how he got my phone number or your address.” 

“Is he bringing Seth with him?” She asked as she stood from the chair frantically. 

I shrugged my shoulders. “I have no idea. I didn’t even know he knew Seth.”

“They’re best friends Lena!” She screamed at me as she ran into her room. 

I rolled my eyes. Sofia and I were so different, sometimes I wondered how we even became friends. She was always chasing guys and had tons of drama for it. I had no room for all that drama. I took my education seriously. I was here on scholarship and couldn’t afford to lose it. Even though I would go out and party, I made sure it never interfered with my academics. I made responsible decisions because at the end of the day, I was the one responsible for my education. No one else. We only had one year left and then we’d be out in the real world hopefully in our desired professions. I didn’t want to fail. Sofia often let her social life dictate her schedule and her grades suffered for it. I shook my head. Right now, she was getting all dolled up just in case Seth showed up. Whatever, to each their own right?

I started pacing feeling nervous. What was he going to say when he saw me? Would he freak out and run out the door? The more I paced the more my wings started moving. Once again without realizing it, I was floating. This time I tried to consciously move my wings to fly higher but there must’ve been some kind of disconnect between my brain and body because instead of them flapping more to bring me higher they stopped moving altogether and I fell on my ass. Again. I screamed in frustration as I stood up. 

Just as I got into a standing position the door flew open and Carlos and Seth rushed inside looking for trouble. I guess my scream gave off the wrong impression. My heart started beating wildly in my chest as I took Carlos in. He really was handsome. Until now, I never realized how attracted I was to him. I didn’t normally allow myself to become infatuated with guys. 

His face paled and he looked at me in awe before he dropped down to one knee with his head bowed. Seth did the same thing. “Forgive me, your grace. I did not know.” 

“Your grace?! What? Why are you calling me that?” I was completely dumbfounded. Neither one of them would look at me. They kept their eyes trained on the floor.

“Answer me!” My voice carried a strong sense of power that radiated through the house and shook the windows. I stumbled back in shock at myself. I could feel my body shaking as the realization set in. I was on the precipice of something life-altering and I was terrified. 

Carlos peeked up at me as I started to hyperventilate. He got up immediately and walked up to me. “Is it okay for me to touch you?” He looked uncertain and held his hands at a good distance from my person. 

I nodded trying desperately to take in air. As soon as he took a hold of my shoulders and looked me in the face, I started to calm. He stared into my eyes and took in deep breaths, and I followed his lead as he stroked my arms in a soothing manner. After a couple of minutes, I felt normal again. “It’s okay. Everything is okay. We have been looking for you for a long time now. Hope was all but lost. We were beginning to worry there was no one of the divine lineage left.” 

Divine lineage? What was he talking about? My brain was on overload. I felt lightheaded all of a sudden and I started to sway. I closed my eyes shut to try to make it stop, but that seemed to only make it worse. “LENA!” It was all I heard before I passed out.

To Be Continued…

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Writing Prompt #16 NoSleep Pills

A cure for sleep has been found, by taking a cheap pill people no longer need to sleep. You opted to continue sleeping, A year after the release of the pill people who use it are starting to behave strangely. 

~~~~~~~

Bang! Bang! Bang! Awoke me from a deep sleep. Groggily, I got up out of bed and stumbled to the front door. I peered through the peephole and saw my best friend Dean standing there fidgeting irritability. I sighed, I hated being woken up. Ever since they introduced that Nosleep pill a year ago people have lost respect for the sleepers. They can’t understand why we waste our time on sleep when we don’t have to. Call me old fashioned but ain’t nothin better than letting your body rest naturally. Plus, I liked to sleep. 

I looked over at the clock on the wall, 4 am. Seriously? Aggravation filled me over the intrusion at this late hour. I opened the door a crack and told Dean to fuck off. Unfortunately, he was expecting that and shoulder checked his way through the doorway. Asshole! 

“What the hell man? What do you want?” I asked letting my irritation bleed through my tone.

“C’mon Stephan. Why the fuck you still sleeping? You don’t need it anymore.” He said as he started pacing. He seemed amped up even more so than usual. His hands were shaking and it seemed like he couldn’t stop moving. 

“Dean? When was the last time you ate?” I asked curiously. He got into these weird episodes if he didn’t eat. It started after he’d been taking those pills for a while. It was almost like it suppressed his appetite making the pills more effective. If there was no fuel in the body to counteract the pills people got like this. There were stories of people who used them to lose massive amounts of weight and ended up in the hospital almost dead or dying. No one took these stories seriously and no one talked about it. The news never reported any negative effects the pills had on people. Which only cemented my decision to not take them. 

“I don’t know man. I don’t remember.” He said as he started pacing again. “I left Annette tonight.” 

That explained a few things. “C’mon buddy, I’ll make you a sandwich and you can tell me what happened.”  He nodded as he followed me into the kitchen. I hated that chick. It was only a matter of time before she broke up with him. It was always the same thing. They’d break up and she’d go out with some other guy until he dumped her and she’d come back to Dean. He always took her back. It was a vicious cycle that he seemed doomed to repeat.

“So, what happened?” I asked as I started assembling his sandwich. “Why did she break up with you?” 

“Nah, man. I left her. I’m done with her and her crazy ass.”

I almost dropped the plate I had in my hands when he said that. I was so surprised that all I could manage to say was, “really?”  Which of course pissed my friend off. Probably just should’ve stayed quiet. 

“Hey, fuck you man! Is it really so hard to believe that I was the one that broke it off?” He asked and looked at me expectantly. I looked at him and raised a brow, but didn’t say a word. He blew out a frustrated breath. “Yeah, okay. I get it. I always take her back so why now? What would make me break it off for good?” I nodded and shoved the sandwich his way. He didn’t say anything at first but he dug into his sandwich like a man starved. I got up to get him a soda and sat down at the kitchen table as he finished up. “I can’t explain what happened to her but she hasn’t been herself lately.”

That’s all he said. I raised my brows as I waited for him to continue, but he didn’t say anything else. “What do you mean she hasn’t been herself?” I finally asked.

“Man, it’s weird. She started getting all domestic and shit. Normally, I’d be down with that, but it ain’t right the way she be acting. She stopped going out and stays home all the time. She cleans and cooks and does everything, which seems fine except it seems like she’s lost her personality. She stopped swearing, she started dressing very conservative and she’s always smiling. It’s creeping me out. I’m used to her mood swings and her vulgar mouth and the short ass-shorts she loves to wear. It was like she was a shell. On the outside, it still looked like her but whoever she was on the inside was gone. Even still, I would’ve forgiven all that. For a minute it was nice, but then she tried to kill me. She served me dinner last night and when I went to sit down she came at me with a knife. The scary part was her smile. It was unnaturally calm and it never changed. I’m telling you…something is wrong with her. I got out of there as fast as I could. I didn’t know where else to go. I’ve been driving around for hours”

I took in his information and started thinking. “Hey, when did she start taking those Nosleep pills?” 

Dean scratched his head as he looked up at the ceiling. “I think it was about a month before I did.” 

“How long has she been acting like this?” I asked getting a little suspicious. 

“It started about two weeks ago. It was little at first. Small things that would probably not get noticed by a someone else, but I know her so well that I knew it was different. I thought maybe she was just trying to be better at this whole relationship thing, but it just kept getting stranger. Now I don’t know who that chick is but, she’s not my girl.”

“Was she taking a normal dosage of the pill?” I asked starting to piece together a theory.

“Ah man, don’t tell me you’re going to blame her crazy behavior on a fucking pill. No way man!” 

“Says the man who couldn’t sit still, because he forgot to eat, because of the same fucking pill! How the fuck do you forget to eat? Just answer the damn question!” 

“Fine! No, she was taking more than normal, probably about twice more than she should. I told her it was too much, but she told me to mind my own damn business.” He said as he rolled his eyes. 

“What about you? How much have you taken?” I was getting concerned now.

“Eh, less than the normal dosage. I switch on and off. Every few weeks I’ll stop taking it and let my body crash. I’ll sleep through a whole weekend but it always makes me feel so much better. It was one of the things we always argued about. She hated the fact that I didn’t take them all the time. She would bitch when I would pass out for a whole weekend.” He said as he shrugged his shoulders. 

I let out a breath I was holding, I was relieved that he wasn’t taking it as much as I thought. I offered my place to him. I told him he could stay in the spare bedroom and suggested he stop taking the pills and crash while he was here. I wouldn’t mind, maybe I could convince him to stop taking them altogether. That was the thing that bothered me. If he admitted that he felt so much better after sleeping why did he continue to take them? I had to ask. 

“Why bruh? Why do you take the pills if you admit you feel better after sleep.” 

He stood up from the table and faced me. “The world is changing. People expect more now than ever before. If you don’t have to sleep than you have more time to work, hangout, whatever. To choose not to take the pills is to be left behind, my friend. It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” He patted me on the back and made his way to the spare room. “Thanks again, Stephan. I really appreciate your help.” 

Once he was in the spare room I could hear him rustling around but my thoughts started crowding my head. Was I right? Could the pills be causing people to lose their shit? I knew the answer to that was yes, but why? Annette may have been a bitch, but she did care for him in her own fucked up way. Why all of the sudden would she try to kill him? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. At that moment I felt very tired. Exhaustion caught up to me and I knew I needed to get back to sleep. My brain would function better after a couple more hours of sleep.

It was 7:00 when the alarm went off. When I got up I could hear Dean snoring loudly. So damn loud that I was surprised it didn’t wake me. I shook my head again not understanding this whole pill thing. It wasn’t natural and couldn’t be good for your body. My job didn’t have typical hours, and with him snoring like that I was suddenly glad I had somewhere to be this Saturday morning. I pulled up to my job about 30 minutes later in Ft. Lauderdale. I was a dispatcher/transportation coordinator, and we made deliveries late at night and on the weekends. It was my week on the rotation to work. At first, everything seemed normal. As the hours passed by I started noticing some strange behavior from some of my coworkers. They all seemed hyped up like Dean was when he showed up at my place. They all seemed a little more agitated than normal too.  I broke up three fights just this morning among the drivers over stupid, petty bullshit. 

I knew there weren’t many others that didn’t take the pills like me, but if I had any question on who they were I found out quickly that afternoon. We were in the break room talking shit by the coffee pots when the TV automatically changed to a different channel with a strange sound. There was a static image on the screen with concentric circles interlaid between squares. The colors were vibrant and contrasted with each other, which made it pretty to look at, but that was about it. When I looked away from the tv, I noticed everyone else in the room in a trance. They were immobilized by the image on the screen. I walked in front of a few of them and waved my hands in their faces, yet no one moved. I even went as far as poking some of them and nothing happened. It was eerie. Then the sound came again and the channel changed back to where it was and everyone resumed movement and conversation. 

What the fuck? I looked over to the only other person in the room that didn’t take the pills. Lunna looked just as dumbfounded as I did. She made her way over to me. 

“What the hell just happened?” Lunna asked as she watched everyone pick up where they left off like nothing happened. Even I was at a loss and shrugged my shoulders.

I decided to test one of the people that were frozen. I asked Tom what he thought of the screen that was stuck on the tv a few minutes ago. He looked at me like I was crazy and asked me what I was talking about, told me the tv never froze at all and that maybe I needed to take a real break away from the office. I could tell by his demeanor and body language that he really believed what he was saying. He had no idea that he was like a zombie just a few minutes ago. 

I turned to look at Lunna when Tom walked away and we both shared an incredulous look. “I’m telling you right now, it’s those Nosleep pills!” Lunna said as her eyes went wide. “Last night I saw my neighbors beat the shit outta each other. The weird thing is that they’re usually the nicest people. They are the kind that bring a casserole dish of food to new neighbors. The only thing that’s changed is those damn pills!” 

I nodded at her story. It lined up with what happened with Annette and the violent behavior that kept increasing among the Nosleep pill users.  Was it one of the nasty side effects that no one knew about? 

“Your right. I heard a similar story last night. People have been acting strangely and it only seems to affect the people on those pills. I’ve gotta go check on a friend. Stay safe!” I said as I left the break room. Thankfully my workday was over. I clocked out and headed straight home. I was worried about Dean. I still wasn’t sure how he would act considering that he didn’t take the pills in the same dosage as everyone else. Maybe because he stopped taking them every few weeks it didn’t build up in his system as badly. I was hoping he wouldn’t be prone to the same violence and strange behavior that everyone else seemed to be displaying. When I got home 45 minutes later the apartment was deadly quiet. I walked as softly as I could to the spare bedroom. When I entered the hallway I was able to hear the soft snores. Thank God, he was still sleeping. There was hope for him. 

When I made it back out into the kitchen I ordered a pizza and plopped down into the chair to think. I had a bad feeling about this. Something was coming, and it was going to be epic. I thought back to the screen today that caused everyone to go zombie. Someone intentionally did that. Which means that someone knew they could cause the people to go zombie. Did that mean that they could be manipulated into doing things without their knowledge? Would they have any recollection of doing so? My thoughts were interrupted when I heard a soft knock on the door. I figured it was just the pizza guy so I didn’t even hesitate to open the door. Luckily for me, I have pretty quick reflexes from all my years of boxing, so when Annette tried to punch me she missed by a hair and her fist flew right into the door frame. She didn’t even flinch as the skin broke open and she started bleeding.

“I know he’s here! I saw his car. Give him back! He needs to be home! Why have you taken him from me?” She asked in a manic way. 

“I didn’t take him from you! He left after you tried to kill him!” I yelled at her. She was trying to get into my apartment by pushing her way in and it took a moment for my words to register with her. When what I said finally sunk in she dropped her grip on the door and I could see her whole body deflate. 

“What do you mean? I would never kill my Dean.” She said as she cocked her head to the side like a dog would. Then she did it again and started blinking rapidly like she was processing something. When she stopped she smiled maniacally and reached behind her. “It was you!” She said as she lunged for me with a knife. Her knuckles gripped around the knife still bleeding from the punch that hit the door frame and her wild-eyed stare startled me. “You always thought you were better than us! Never taking the pills and sleeping your life away!” I dodged her swing but she still got a deep slice down the side of my arm. 

My dodge put her slightly off balance and I had a brief moment where I knew I had to do something or she’d be back on me again with that knife. Before I could throw a punch someone else did it for me. It seemed like out of nowhere Lunna showed up and pulled Annette’s hair back so hard she fell on her ass and then promptly punched her in the face. It was glorious. If circumstances were different I would’ve been slightly aroused. Using this to my advantage I stepped on the arm with the knife in it and yanked it out of her hand. Annette started screaming again with that same damn smile on her face. Her features were so at odds with her words. She was spewing hatred at me but smiling like the happiest person in the world. I contemplated calling the cops but before I could do anything else Lunna punched her in the face again and knocked her out. Relief hit me hard. It was stupid to open the door without looking. Especially with everything going on now. I was mentally kicking my own ass for such stupidity.

I looked over at Lunna who was breathing hard as she stared down at Annette. “Thank you, Lunna,” I said as I looked her over. She looked ragged as hell. Her jeans were dirty and smeared with blood and grass stains.  Her t-shirt was ripped and torn in odd places. Even her hair that was always up in a tidy ponytail was half hanging off her head and strands were falling all over her face. “Not that I’m not grateful for your help, but what are you doing here, and how did you know where I live?” Lunna was a pretty girl and I liked her well enough, but I didn’t know her. She worked in the office and I worked in the back. We didn’t interact much. 

She finally tore her eyes away from Annette, satisfied that she wasn’t going to move again and looked over at me. “I got attacked when I got home tonight. I barely got out alive. Remember the neighbors I told you about? Well, they attacked me and started spewing some crap about how it was their job to eliminate the radicals that were holding up the progress.” She shook her head lost in the memory. “Once I got out of there the only other person I knew that didn’t take the pills was you. So, I went back into the office and broke into my boss’ desk and found your employee file so I could get your address. I had a feeling you might run into trouble too.” She said as she looked back at Annette. “Girlfriend?” she said as she pointed her thumb at Annette. 

“Nah, my best friend’s ex-girlfriend. She came here looking for him. He’s passed out inside.” I said as I looked over Annette. She looked pretty banged up. We couldn’t just leave her here, and I sure as fuck wasn’t bringing her inside. “Let’s take her to her car and put her inside. That way when she wakes up she’s a good distance away from the apartment.” Lunna nodded her head in agreement. Gingerly, I reached into Annette’s pocket and found her keys. I handed them to Lunna and picked up Annette and threw her over my shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Lunna opened up her car for me, and I put Annette inside. Lunna reminded me to crack the window so she wouldn’t suffocate. I looked at Lunna dubiously, I didn’t understand her. She literally just beat the shit out of her because the woman tried to kill me, and now she didn’t want her to suffocate? I didn’t say anything because I wanted to get out of there before she woke up again. I cracked the window and we both walked swiftly back to my apartment. 

When we got back the pizza guy was standing in front of my door. He turned to look at us as we approached and gasped. I looked down at myself and realized I had a good bit of blood that was all over the side of my shirt and down my pants from when she got my arm. Lunna didn’t look much better. I pulled out my wallet to pay the guy as he stood there staring at us with his mouth hanging open. “Bar fight,” I said in explanation as I shrugged my shoulders. “How much do I owe you?”

“$25.57, you should be more careful who you pick fights with mister.”

I laughed out loud. If only. “Thanks kid, It’s good advice,” I said as I gave him $30 and walked inside. Lunna followed close on my heels. After I closed the door behind her she visibly relaxed. She took a quick look around and plopped down in one of my kitchen chairs. I offered her some pizza. I grabbed a couple of sodas and sat down at the table. We ate in silence, both of us lost in our own thoughts. 

“It’s not her fault. I couldn’t condone her suffocating when it’s not her fault for acting like that.” Lunna said after she finished her two slices. “You saw how they acted today in the break room. It’s not their fault that the pills are making them act crazy.” 

“So, because they are being controlled by these pills we should just let them kill us?” I asked with disbelief. 

She shook her head no. “You defend yourself in any way you need, but if you could avoid killing them I would. Just incapacitate them. If they stop taking the pills and become themselves again I know as well as you do that they are not all bad or evil people.”

I knew she was right. I thought about Dean and how he’s a good guy but if he started acting like that I wouldn’t want someone to kill him. It still kind of aggravated me though. “I guess you’re right, but if I’m left with no choice, it is what it is. I won’t be killed for it either.”

“Understood.” She said quietly and looked away. “Look, I know we don’t really know each other but would you mind if I crashed here tonight?” 

“Of course you can, you saved my ass out there. Go ahead and take my room. I’ll sleep on the couch. If you want, I’ll get you some things you can sleep in. I’m sure you’d like to wash off the blood and dirt.” I said as I stood. She nodded and thanked me.  I grabbed myself a pair of sleep pants and I laid out a pair of sweatpants that were new and one of my t-shirts for her and left her for the night. As I laid down on the couch I knew we still had to go to work tomorrow. I was starting to wonder what we were going to face when we got there. 

The next morning Lunna woke me up at 6 am looking like my clothing swallowed her up. She was gripping the sweatpants so that they wouldn’t fall off her slender frame and the t-shirt was hanging off her shoulder. For the first time, I felt like I could really see her. She was beautiful with her silky brown hair framing her heart-shaped face and her light brown eyes staring back at me. Her beauty stunned me into silence as she talked about going to Walmart to pick up some work clothes. I couldn’t remember the last time I was truly taken with a woman before, but Lunna seemed to capture my attention effortlessly.

Lunna explained that she didn’t feel comfortable going back home yet, not that I blamed her. I offered to go with her after work today, that way we could back each other up if something went wrong and she gratefully accepted. I could see the fear in her eyes when we spoke about her home. I didn’t get the whole story, but it must’ve been bad.  For a moment I worried about her safety until I remembered she was tough. She survived the attack from her neighbors and helped incapacitate Annette. It would be foolish for anyone to assume she was weak because she was small. We exchanged numbers just in case we ran into trouble and she headed out. 

Since I was already awake, I decided to make the best of my early start and got up and cooked breakfast. Dean was still sleeping and I was unsure when he was going to wake up. I made a hearty breakfast and left a plate behind for him. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was going to need my strength today. Sundays usually were slammed. Staff was low on Sundays and we were always overwhelmed. 

I pulled into the parking lot and waited for Lunna. We agreed to meet in the lot and walk in together just in case something strange was going on. It didn’t take long before she pulled into the spot next to me. When she got out she looked more like the pulled-together professional woman that I was used to seeing around the office. She seemed more confident as well. Maybe her clothing was her armor against the world. It suited her. I couldn’t look away from the way her slacks hugged her ass or how when she moved her shirt gave a small peek at her cleavage. She was sexy and she owned it. What made her even more appealing was that she wasn’t stuck up about it. Lunna was humble and genuine in her feelings. You could tell she really cared for people. I was an idiot for not noticing her sooner. 

We walked in together and everything seemed normal. We parted ways and agreed to meet up at lunch. As I walked around I noticed that people were amped up again, like yesterday. When I was in the break room grabbing a cup of coffee there were two women fighting over the last cup of Hazelnut. The verbal argument escalated to a physical fight and if it wasn’t for me and Tom they would’ve killed each other. I know this for a fact because the other woman grabbed a knife and lunged at the woman I was holding. I couldn’t believe it. The people were getting more and more aggressive. If something didn’t change soon they would be killing each other over stupid shit. Once they were subdued and seemed almost normal I was able to get back to my office. I stayed there until it was almost lunchtime. I texted Lunna and told her that I’d meet her in the lunchroom in ten. Except for the fight I broke up earlier the day had gone on like normal. I started to hope that maybe I’d actually be able to make it through another day.

I was joking with one of my co-workers when I walked into the break room. Lunna was already there with a few of her friends. She smiled at me with a bit of mischief in her eyes and winked at me. The women around her turned and stared curiously at me. I knew I had been the topic of conversation and wondered briefly for what reason? Was it good or bad? I was becoming very fond of Lunna, and I hoped it was good. 

I was making my way over to her when the tv abruptly changed the channel again to that static screen. I knew when I saw it that this was it. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen now. Lunna seemed to think the same thing as we gravitated towards each other while we waited to see what happened next. I grabbed her hand and pulled her with me and waited by the door. If this went bad I wanted to be close to the exit. I was standing slightly in front of her and she was almost leaning against me. She held my hand tightly as if she was afraid I would let go. I could feel the tremors coming off her body as we stood and waited. Everyone in the room stopped and turned to the tv as if on command. They were silent as they watched just like yesterday. The difference was that today there was a message. In a robotic, emotionless voice the message we heard chilled us to our core.  

“We have examined where we are strong and where we are not. We have given you the tools to become a better, stronger version of yourself. Now is the time for us to come together and succeed where we have failed in the past. There are those that would stand in our way. No longer can we tolerate their impediment into our future. You must destroy them. The radicals can no longer be allowed to hold up our progress. This is your directive. Take action.” 

Just like that the signal shut off, and everyone turned as one to look at us. That was when I knew the shit had officially hit the fan. I pulled on Luna’s hand and we ran out of there. At first, we made good progress. They seemed slow to follow and I was foolishly thinking we could get out of there without getting hurt. I saw why no one followed when we got to the front entrance. The two biggest guys working there were standing guard at the door. They were waiting for us. I took stock of our situation looking for other exits or strategies to make it through this. We started backing up when we heard people approaching behind us. 

“Stephan!” Lunna gasped with alarm as she looked behind us. There was a line of people approaching us. It didn’t look good. We were going to have to fight our way out and try to not die in the process. Lunna and I instinctively backed each other up. I took the front and she took the rear. Before we could say anything to each other they were on us. One after another they moved in to try and take us down. I was worried about Lunna but she seemed to be holding her own. I was taking hits but also getting some good ones in. I was keeping them at bay and was surprised at my success. That was till I heard Lunna give a grunt then a whimper. I turned to see her go down hard at the hands of one of the bigger guys. That five seconds of distraction was all they needed. They took me down quickly, and I could feel the kicks and punches coming down on me one after another. It was like they all wanted a piece of me and everyone had to get their punches or kicks in. I knew I didn’t have long. I could feel myself losing the war to stay conscience. I must’ve been hallucinating because I could swear I saw Dean’s car drive through the front of the building. He jumped out of the car and started shooting people. Next thing I knew he was kneeling in front of me. 

“C’mon sleeping beauty, I can’t carry you and your girl. Get your ass up now!” 

That seemed to shock me awake. I jumped up and followed him out to his car and jumped in. He put Lunna in the back and we sped out of there. I felt the blackness at the edges of my mind wanting to take me down into its depths. I turned around to check on Lunna. She looked like hell. Her face was bruised and swollen and she was cradling her midsection but she was breathing. Once I was sure that she was in fact alive I gave in to the darkness and passed out. 

When I woke up I was in an unfamiliar room. I couldn’t remember how I got here or why I was here. Then the pain hit me. My head was pounding and I couldn’t move my arm. I looked down to see it set up in a cast. Then it hit me at once and I looked around frantically for Dean and Lunna. In a panic, I sat up and tried to move only to fall out of the bed. I was so dizzy that I couldn’t stand. Dean came running in the room to help me. 

“Thank God you’re finally awake! Careful, you took quite a beating.” He said as he helped me get back into the bed. “Don’t worry. Lunna is in the next room. She hasn’t woken up yet. She’s got two broken ribs and a broken nose, but she’s okay. I know you probably want to see her but they haven’t been letting anyone in yet. I’ve been keeping tabs for you. I don’t know how you guys survived. I wish I would’ve gotten there sooner. I’m so sorry.” 

I scoffed. “If not for you, Lunna and I would be dead. I’m just fucking glad you showed up when you did. They had us surrounded and I’m pretty sure they would’ve kept going until we were dead. I owe you my life so don’t apologize.” He hung his head in shame and I could tell that he was wallowing in his sorrow. This would not be something he would be able to forgive himself for so easily even though he did nothing wrong. I’d have to figure out a way to make him understand. 

“Where are we anyway?” I asked as I looked around again. 

“We are in the secret radical base.” He said the word radical with finger quotes and rolled his eyes. “I heard them on the radio. It’s how I knew to come get you.” 

“Wait, what? What are you talking about? Can you back up and start from the beginning.” I said feeling my head start to pound.

“Oh right, of course, you wouldn’t know this. I woke up around ten this morning and felt like a million bucks. I ate the plate of food you left me, thank you very much by the way, and then I showered and started cleaning up. At 12:00 there was this strange sound that came from my phone. When I went to pick it up it had a picture on it with weird squares and circles and bright colors. I could feel a strange pull to it but I was able to resist. When I heard the message that came with it, I freaked out. I got into my car and headed for your job knowing you were going to be in trouble. When I turned on the car the radio was already on and someone had hijacked the feed to the station. They were telling all of us that were still in control of our own minds to head to the Everglades. They said that once we were on our way we could pick up clues on how to get the rest of the way to base.” He scratched his head as he looked up at the ceiling as he finished recalling his journey. “I thought it was crazy, but after seeing you and Lunna and everything that went down I knew I had to try. I was worried when you passed out. I knew you needed medical attention and so did Lunna. I headed in that general direction. The first sign I saw for the Everglades had a clue on it with longitude and latitude. Thank God for the internet because otherwise we would’ve been screwed. So after I get to the location, I get another location. Once I got to that location there was a phone number. Two hours later and we arrived here on the outskirts of Everglades National Park in Homestead. This place is huge and you wouldn’t believe how many people are here.” He said as his eyes opened wide and he shook his head.

I gaped at him as he told me everything that happened. Shit just got real. “Why here?” I asked as I got lost in my own thoughts. It was in the middle of nothing but swamp and I imagine that cell service probably wasn’t the best, which was probably a good thing.

“I don’t know. Something about being removed from civilization and surrounded by nature and animals offers us a bit of added protection.” 

“Now what?” I asked as I fell back against my pillows. I couldn’t even imagine what the hell was going on out there right now. 

“Now we fight back. They’ve got some theories here on just how to do that.” He said as he smiled. “You should fit right in!” He laughed and I had to smile. For all my theories I’d been right all along. Now it was time to get to work. 

Writing Prompt #15 Emergency Alert

This is an emergency alert. Barricade all entries to your house. Do not go outside after sundown. Restrict contact with others. Do not enter tunnels during the daytime. Do not make any light or noise between 6 pm and 8 am. Stay inside your homes until dawn. Military aid is unavailable. Good luck. 
~~~~~~

I smiled as I drove home Friday night. It was a good day. We finished working on that massive presentation at work yesterday and presented today. The collective effort put forth by the five of us paid off. We were a smashing success at the board meeting. We were green-lit to move forward with the project. My boss even pulled me aside to tell me he was so impressed with our work, and my leadership on the team that he was considering me for a promotion. After work, our little group went out for drinks and we had a blast. I even connected with Maurice finally. We’ve been flirting lightly for months and tonight we finally set a day to go out. I couldn’t be happier. I felt like my life was finally on track and heading in the right direction. I couldn’t stop smiling even after I came home and was getting ready for bed. I usually had a hard time sleeping so I took an extra dose of Melatonin to make sure I got a good night’s sleep. By the time my head hit the pillow, I was confident that things were going the way I always planned. 

I was startled awake the next morning. I shook off my grogginess and looked at my watch and the digital numbers glowed 5:45. I had a moment of panic when I thought I would be running late but quickly realized it was Saturday and I didn’t have work that day. I was confused, if my alarm didn’t wake me, what did? I sat up in my bed and looked around. Nothing seemed out of place. Everything was where I left it. I picked up my phone and checked my messages. A message that came in at exactly 5:45 am. The text seemed strange claiming it was an emergency alert. It said to barricade all entries to my house and not to go outside after sundown. I was to restrict contact with others and stay away from tunnels during the day. It warned against making light or noise between 6 pm and 8 am. Stay inside your homes until dawn. What the hell? Was this a joke of some kind? I got up and walked out into the living room. The tv was on, I must’ve forgotten to turn it off last night. The screen was orange with the message in black letters, it was the same message I just read on my phone. I picked up the remote and tried to change the channel, but it was the same message on every channel. My heart started pounding as I wondered, what the hell did I miss? The last thing I remembered was falling asleep with a smile on my face reflecting on my awesome day. 

I pulled out my laptop, determined to figure out what was going on. All the news sites had the same stupid message up and nothing else. It wasn’t till I ventured over to YouTube that I got an idea of what was happening. What I watched chilled me to my very core. It couldn’t be real. This had to be some elaborate joke, right? I watched video after video of people dying at the hands of monsters. Since it was dark outside no one could get a good video of the monsters. No one knew where they came from or what they were. All they knew was that these things were attacking people and eating them. The scary thing was that they were cunning and fast. They weren’t mindless zombies. There was an intelligence in their eyes. They were working out the best way to get people. It was scaring the shit out of me. I slammed the laptop shut. Still convinced this was a hoax. Surely, I would venture out to discover for myself that all was still normal in the world. 

I threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with a pair of sneakers and brushed my hair into a ponytail and ran out of the house. As I jumped into my truck, I did take note of the eerie stillness of the neighborhood. I reasoned it away with the fact that it was still early. It was now only 7:30 on Saturday which would normally be quiet anyway. As I drove around the city, I quickly realized I was wrong, and there was something very bad going on. There were no people outside, and no other cars driving around, but the most alarming thing would be the blood. It was splattered on buildings and there were streaks of it on the sidewalks and roadways. I couldn’t be a hundred percent sure, but it looked like there were half-eaten human carcasses left behind in the bushes and in the grassy areas. I drove on, desperate to find someone alive. When I finally found activity, it made me wish I would’ve just kept my stupid ass at home. 

I pulled up to the parking garage at my local mall. It always creeped me out because it was a closed-in structure for the first two floors but above that it was out in the open air. I never parked in those first two floors because they were too dark and always gave off this ominous feeling. Looking at the entrance of the building I knew I would never enter that building again. The creatures were there waiting in the opening of the parking garage. I could see a few of them in the morning light sticking to the shadows. Their grey bodies were gangly with arms and legs that were freakishly long. Twice the length of a normal human. They had random bits of long greasy hair hanging off a mostly bald skull. They had large black eyes that took up half of their faces with a tiny nose squished between their eyes. Their mouths took up the rest of their face with long pointed teeth jutting out of the mouth. At first, they looked hunched over the body, but I quickly realized that wasn’t the case. What sent me into hysterics was realizing three of those creatures were tearing into a man that was still alive and screaming. My body started shaking as I gripped the wheel tighter. His screams seared into my memory as I tried to get out of there. 

When they realized I was there, all the creatures stopped what they were doing and watched me as I turned my truck around to leave. I could see them in my rear-view mirror watching me leave with their black soulless eyes. They made no move to follow as they would not step out of the shadows. At that moment I was terrified that they were memorizing my car and would find me later. 

I hightailed it out of there and headed back home. I quickly realized on my way back that I had nothing to barricade my house with. I’d have to go looking for supplies. That thought terrified me. What if I ran into more of those creatures? How could I protect myself? Would they be killed as easily as a human would? They seemed to have frail bodies, but I dared not to make that assumption. Given the warnings that were all over the news, I knew that they couldn’t go out during daylight hours. Was it the sunlight that bothered them? Was it the UV light from the sun? I needed to find out, but first things first. I needed to head home and pick up my shotgun. There was no way I was walking into a dark store without protecting myself. I was kicking myself now for not taking my dad’s gun last week when he offered. I felt bad taking it because I knew it was his favorite and the last thing gramps gave him before he passed away. As I thought of my dad my anxiety kicked up. I hadn’t heard from him. I teased him about it, but suddenly I was glad he went on vacation. Hopefully, this hadn’t spread down to where he was fishing in Key Largo. 

When I pulled into my driveway everything seemed the same as it did last night. It was a surreal feeling that so much had changed in such a little time. I wondered briefly if my neighbors were still here hiding in their homes. I hadn’t noticed much blood around my neighborhood on the way back. Now that I was really looking, I noticed most of my neighbors’ cars were gone. Maybe they found someplace safe to go. It didn’t matter. I needed to protect myself because I had nowhere else to go. I ran into the house and pulled my shotgun out of my closet. To my surprise, I saw my dad’s revolver sitting there in its box right there next to the shotgun. Sneaky dad! I opened the box and saw not only did he put the gun there but there was extra ammunition. Thank God for Dad! I loaded the gun and stuck it in the waistband of my pants and ran back out to my car. 

I drove over to my local hardwood store and sat in the parking lot observing. It was mid-morning now and the sun was making everything nice and bright. I hadn’t seen any more of those strange creatures in a few hours, but I also hadn’t ventured anywhere that was closed off from the sun. The store had its doors open, but I couldn’t see in from my spot. I knew from experience that there were big tinted windows upfront and the store had large skylights in the roof to let in natural light to cut back on electricity. That’s why I picked this place. If the monsters were hiding from sunlight than this place wouldn’t be ideal. After fifteen minutes of watching, I decided I couldn’t waste any more time. I needed to get the supplies and get it set up before the sun went down. There was no time to waste. I got out of my car and could feel my nerves wreaking havoc on my body. I patted my side and made sure my gun was tucked in nicely against my side. I carried my shotgun in my hands but had the sling with me for when I needed my hands to gather supplies. I racked the shells into the gun and started my walk to the store. 

It was so quiet that my footfalls echoed around me as I entered the store making my paranoia soar to new heights. I did a quick look around and saw nothing. No people or monsters to be found. I frequented this store often and knew where everything that I needed would be. I wanted to be as quick as possible. I grabbed a plywood dolly and headed into the lumber area. This is the area that made me nervous. It was darker back here than most of the rest of the store. I had six windows, so I needed six large pieces of plywood to barricade them and several 2×4’s. I already had my 2×4’s loaded and was on my sixth piece of lumber when I heard movement. My head snapped up as my heart started beating wildly. I looked around and didn’t see anything, but I knew better than to trust my eyes. There was something in there with me, I could feel it. I loaded the last piece of plywood and ran out of that section. Just as I reached the bright area of the store again, I turned around and caught sight of it. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. I squinted my eyes for a better look because what I was seeing couldn’t be right. Back in the shadows, there was a man. Half of his body was bathed in the darkness of the shadows and the other half in a stream of sunlight. I could swear that the half that was in the shadow was the grey monster thing. I shook my head and ran. I needed to get out of here. Now my mind was playing tricks on me. I gathered the rest of my necessities, nails, tape, and extra flashlights at a running pace and got out of there. I was so thankful I had a truck at that moment. I was able to throw all the plywood in the back and jump into the cab in record time. 

When I pulled back into my neighborhood, I noticed a couple of neighbors outside putting the plywood on their windows. I guess I wouldn’t be alone in this neighborhood after all. I waved to them, but they just stared at me. It was like they suddenly didn’t recognize me. I’d been living here for five years, and I knew most of the people here. It was a little strange that they didn’t acknowledge me, but I really didn’t have time to worry about it. I needed to get to work. Without my dad to help me, I’d have a long afternoon ahead of me. 

By 5:30 I had just about everything done. I was putting the finishing touches on the windows and had taped up the glass window in my front door to keep from being able to look in or out. I contemplated putting a piece of plywood over it but decided against it. The window was small, and I didn’t imagine even these skinny monsters being able to squeeze through an opening of that size. I had everything locked and ready to go as I sat down to eat dinner my first meal of the day. I wanted a glass of wine so badly as my nerves were shot to shit, but I wanted to be sharp this evening just in case anything happened. By 6:30 the sun had set, and the darkness was settling in. I opened my laptop and logged into my online feed for my cameras to keep an eye on the house. Everything looked good so far, so I decided to open another window and do some more research on YouTube. There were so many videos out there about what was happening to people. The part that started to scare me was that it seemed widespread. There were videos from all over the country. Again, my thoughts went to my dad. I picked up my phone again to check for messages. Cell service had been shit since this morning. I tried a few times to call earlier but couldn’t make any calls. Text messages were only coming in sporadically. I prayed he was okay. 

Something started scratching at my front door. It was a metal door, so the sound sent chills down my spine. The creatures had these long nails attached to those long bony fingers. I knew before I got back to the cameras that it was one of them at the door. I quickly switched over to the camera feed and sure enough, it was there scratching at my door. It tapped again as if taunting me before it looked up to the camera and pointed at it, then smiled a gruesome smile. Before I had time to react, it reached up and knocked out my camera. I watched as every single one of my cameras suffered a similar fate. The creatures were all over my house, scratching and taunting me, and now I was truly blind to what was going on outside. I started panicking not knowing what to do. I was now trapped in my house and I hoped that they didn’t try to get inside. That hope died a quick death as they started banging on the windows and breaking the glass. I barricaded from the inside and now they were trying to break through the wood. 

The next thing I heard was the glass break on my door. I saw a skinny hand travel through the glass and venture down. It was looking to unlock the door from the inside. I was thankful that I took a few 2×4’s and barricaded the door as well. I ran into my kitchen and grabbed the sharpest knife I could find and ran back to the front door. Now was my chance to see how fragile their bodies were. Question was, could I do it? Could I really hack his arm off? I was reminded of the horrible screams of that man being eaten alive and forged on. Yes, yes, I could. The creature was still trying to get at the door lock and without a second thought, I ran up to the arm and cut it right at the elbow joint. The hand and arm plopped to the floor spraying black blood along the way, while an inhuman sound screamed from the other side of the door. I screamed at the same time when I realized I now had a monster arm here to deal with. I took a step closer to inspect it and right before my eyes the long grey arm transformed into a normal human looking arm and hand. I kicked it back against the door and it fell into the shade of the corner and changed back into the grey arm and hand. What the ever-loving fuck was going on? 

I backed away from the arm and picked up my shotgun. I needed a safe place to huddle up for the night. The only rooms in the house that didn’t have windows were the bathroom and the garage. I wouldn’t be sitting in the garage. I grabbed a pillow and a blanket and threw them into the bathtub. I went back and grabbed my revolver as well as the shotgun and barricaded myself inside my bathroom.  I settled in the tub with the pillow at my back and the shotgun aimed for the door. I listened to them for hours taunting me. They’d bang on the walls and on the roof. I could hear them trying to get into the windows. Around 3:30 the sounds died down. By 4:30 it was quiet. Maybe they retreated into their hidey holes for the night? By 5:00 I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, and I passed out. When I finally woke up it was 10:00 in the morning. I got out of the tub and shook out my sore limbs. 

I opened the bathroom door slowly, and listened. Nothing. I walked out into my living room area and realized they never made it in last night. Everything was where I left it, even the severed arm. I avoided the arm as I inspected the door. It looked the same as last night. When I looked through the broken window, I could see activity outside, and I could hear banging. I went and got my drill so that I could open the door again. I grabbed my shotgun for good measure and walked out into the sunshine. When I looked towards the sound of banging, I noticed my neighbors were barricading their house. As if they realized they had an audience they all stopped and turned around in unison and stared at me. Only one person waved. He had a crazed smile on his face, and he was missing half of his arm from the elbow down.

Writing Prompt #14 The Ocean

Everyone knows it’s too dangerous to swim in the ocean. However, sitting at the end of the docks or peering over the edge of a boat you’ve always felt the inexplicable urge to dive into the water. One day, despite the danger, you give in the urges and jump. There’s an entire world beneath the surface, and it’s not what you were expecting. 

Today beat the hell out of me, and I needed to escape. I had to turn over four seemingly innocent people to headquarters. It didn’t feel like I was dealing with criminals, just curious people like myself. I often came to this dock when I needed to decompress. I liked to sit on the edge and let my feet dangle above the water. There was something about the water that soothed me. Maybe it was the sound of the water splashing against the pier and the salty sea breeze. I took a deep breath in and was able to quiet my mind and refocus.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to be here. There were strict warnings everywhere near the ocean about the inherent dangers within. Every entrance to the ocean was sealed shut or blocked off. I stumbled upon this place by accident. Probably the only good thing to come from this job. I was a high-level ocean tracker. I had an uncanny ability to know when someone had been in the ocean. My job was to find them and report their location to headquarters. I knew it was a big offense and most often the people were never seen again. It wasn’t lost on me that I was the biggest hypocrite sitting here by the ocean.

I knew my own feelings put me at odds with my job, but I just didn’t believe the stories about the ocean. I thought the truth was being hidden, but I couldn’t figure out why. I tolerated this job because It kept me near the ocean. Although, every time I was near the water, I had an overwhelming urge to dive in. I often fantasized about what it would be like to jump in and feel the briny water embrace me as I sunk down into the deep waters to see what was there. I shook the thought away. Those kinds of thoughts were dangerous. Of all people, I should know better. 

As I stared out at the beautiful turquoise waters, my mind wandered through the stories about the ocean. Supposedly, twenty years ago people started becoming poisoned by the waters, as there was something sinister living below the surface. It started releasing poisonous toxins into the waters. As a society we’d even stopped fishing. Now we only consumed fish that were grown in labs and fish factories instead of caught in the wild. No one was allowed out on the ocean for any reason.

As to what the something sinister was, there was no clear answer. Many of the official reports stated that the ocean habitat was no longer compatible with humans. Rumors on the other hand suggest Merfolk ruling the seas after a war was waged, and the humans lost. We were no longer allowed access or privilege to the ocean. Of course, there were also rumors about ginormous killer fish with the intelligence of humans that ate anything foreign in the ocean. Take your pick of crazy cause it was out there. 

I didn’t know about huge intelligent fish, but the idea that Mermaids were out there was also kind of tough to buy. Then again, my ability was a little strange, wasn’t it? Why did I have it? I felt like such a traitor every time I used it, which was weird, because at 22 I didn’t know much different than this life. I grew up in this ocean inhibiting era and yet, it still seemed wrong. From what I understood there were only five of us out there with this ability. I could sense the ocean on anyone’s skin. Any trace of the salt left behind from the ocean called to me. I could smell it on someone in a room full of people. It was instinctual to me. I was never trained on how to use it, I just knew. 

I was told my parents died when I was two. When this all started, they were taken into custody and were executed for their involvement with some rebel group that supported ocean freedom. I grew up at headquarters, raised by a young and upcoming officer at the time. Carson Smith now ran the show for the entire Eastern Seaboard, and I knew I played a big part in that. My talent helped move him up in rank. I didn’t begrudge him, but I hated using my ability.

I’d never even dipped a toe into the ocean waters as far as I knew. The urge hit me again to jump in the water. I resisted, but the pull was hard. Just as I was about to test the water with my bare foot my phone chirped. I pulled up my feet and sat Indian style on the pier and looked at my phone. There was a message from Carson. 

Carson: You missed one! Get your ass back here right now. You have a serious debriefing coming your way. 

Fuck! I must’ve been distracted to miss one, but how? They always seemed to call to me, it was effortless to point them out. I knew I was going to catch serious shit for this, and I was tired of it. I hated using my gift to put people away, but in order to stop I’d have to break ties with Carson and leave headquarters. They would hire people to track me down. I’d be on the run for the rest of my life. I felt like I had no other options and was miserable about it. Carson would never understand. He never coddled me or treated me like family. Instead, he treated me like his own personal soldier and sometimes it just made me feel like a tool for his career and not like a part of his family. Was this all my life was meant to be? If so, that would be depressing as hell. I stood up gathering my things when the phone chirped again.

Carson: Sitrep? Where are you? Respond ASAP.

Not two minutes had passed between messages. I was aggravated beyond belief. I turned around and looked longingly at the ocean one more time before I had to leave. My shoes in my right hand, phone in my left. I just wanted a few minutes. The phone chirped again igniting my anger. I threw my phone and my shoes to the pier. Fuck it! If I was going to be stuck in this miserable life than I’m going to jump in that ocean just once. I’d deal with the consequences later. I felt the overwhelming need to do this now. I didn’t stop to disrobe. I didn’t stop to test the waters or consider what I was doing. I ran full steam right into the ocean.    

As soon as my body hit the water, I felt a peace come over me that I had never known. I floated in this state for about 30 seconds before the pain started. Immense pain and heat seared my body starting low at my feet. It traveled up my body at a leisurely pace. It felt like I was dying. As soon as the pain hit its peak in my head it stopped completely. Not slowly, just a dead stop. I was so amazed that the pain was over that I forgot I was still in the ocean, and had no need for oxygen either. I looked down at my body and yelped. Well, as best as I could underwater. My body had gone through a transformation and my clothing was shredded or burned away. It was floating down below me in tatters. My legs were gone. In their place was a beautiful fish tail that started with a huge fin that was indigo at the tips. Moving up my body I marveled at the beautiful colors that blended into each other to make up my tail. Indigo into blue, blue into green.  My upper body was completely bare save for the fins that were now on my sides and my back. My hair that was a white blond above the surface was now completely indigo to match my fins. I pulled on it to make sure it was mine and felt a stab of pain in my scalp. As if that wasn’t alarming enough, I felt a scratching sensation start at my wrists and run up my arms and end up my collar bones. It wasn’t very painful, but it was enough to make me feel uncomfortable. Thankfully, it only lasted a few seconds. When the scratches stopped and I analyzed my arms, I realized I was staring at wispy strands of seaweed tattooed into my skin. It was beautiful in a strange way. What affected me most was the startling realization that I felt a sense of belonging here. This was home. This was what I was missing on the surface. 

I bright smile lit up my face as I swam around in circles and played in the water for a while. I couldn’t remember the last time I had this much fun. I guess the Merfolk rumor was somewhat true because it certainly looked like that’s what I was. Did Carson know? I decided in that moment I didn’t care. I had no desire to leave and go back to my depressing life. As I explored further, I was greeted by a merman. He had a beautiful orange and white striped tail. His fins looked more like the fins on a Lionfish. He was breathtaking as he stared at me with his orange hair floating around his head. I was so taken by his appearance that I didn’t realize he looked shocked. I gave myself a once over and immediately covered my bare chest. I quickly swam towards some of my tattered clothing and tied a swath of cloth around my chest. When I was satisfied with the results I looked back up at my new friend and asked him if he was alright. Instead of answering, he looked at my arms and the delicate seaweed tattoo. He looked back up to my face in awe. 

“Your majesty. We have long waited for your return.” He said with a bow. 

“Uh, what now? What are you talking about?” I asked as I felt the confusion and trepidation settle into my mind. 

“Princess Mira. You were taken from us at only two years old during the great war. It was prophesied that you would return upon your 23rd birthday. Today is that day.” 

“What?” I asked as I swam back from him a bit to give myself space. “I just got here like ten minutes ago.” 

“I am honored to return you home. Please come with me now. The castle has been prepared for your return and your father is beside himself with worry. There will be a party in your honor. Our people have traveled great distances to witness your return.”

My brows furrowed in confusion. “My father?”

What the hell? Was this guy for real? I stared at his face and his kind smile. He seemed legit and kept staring at me with that awe inspired look that was making me feel uncomfortable. I had to know though. Were my parents alive?

“Come now Princess. I am Evian and my family has served the royal family for generations. It will bring great honor to my family to restore you to yours. Please.” He held his hand out to me and this time I didn’t question my choice. I took his hand and he led me to what I would soon find to be my real home. 

On our journey to my new home we passed many different types of Merfolk. They all bowed when I passed, and that uncomfortable feeling just increased as we continued on our way. Once we reached the outer city limits of the kingdom, I was jittery. We approached a gate to enter the heavily guarded city and I swear to God there was an enormous fish with jagged teeth that looked terrifying. What sealed the deal was when it spoke. It was refined and intelligent. These fish were the muscle to keep the riff raff out. When I looked over at the other guard fish, I noticed he had meat hanging off those teeth and I shuddered. So far, all the rumors I’d heard had been true and everything Carson told me was a lie. I felt a bitter taste in my mouth at that realization. I had a feeling Carson knew exactly what I was. 

I was distracted from my inner turmoil when the gates opened. If you ever wondered where the lost City of Atlantis was well, now I could tell you because I was pretty sure I was staring at it. It was beautiful with its elaborate architecture and gleaming marble buildings with glowing lights that seemed to light up the city.  I stood in awe as I took it all in. I couldn’t believe this was where I came from. Within seconds there were a group of intimidating mermen surrounding me. They had blue skin with fins instead of hair. There were fins on the sides of their faces and one that started on their forehead and extended down their back. Their bodies were all hard muscles and they were armed with harpoons. Their faces were mean and spoke of a hard life. If I had to guess they were warriors. Once I was surrounded, they all bowed simultaneously and greeted me in perfect synchrony. 

“Welcome Princess Mira. It is our honor to protect you.” 

My mouth dropped open as I gaped at them. They were all for me? My protection? From whom? They escorted me through the city and once again everyone in our path stopped and bowed at us. I was greeted with, “welcome back lost princess” every single time. It was unnerving. Once we reached the castle, I was still marveling at the beauty of everything here and was a little overwhelmed. I was led to my royal chambers where I had little seahorse women waiting for me. I said an awkward hello to which they all bowed and then got to work. I was scrubbed and brushed and poked and prodded. When they were done, I had to admit, I looked the part of a princess, especially with the crown they placed on my head and the matching pieces to cover my breasts. This all seemed so surreal. 

There was a light knock at the door that brought me back to my reality. All the little seahorse ladies were gone. I opened the door and was relieved to see a familiar face, Evian. 

“Hello again princess.” He said with a charming smile. I felt some of the tension melt from my body. I may not have known him well, but his presence seemed to calm me a bit. “I’m here to escort you to your parents and then to the Emergence Ceremony.” The sheer look of terror on my face must’ve said everything because he started laughing at me. “You’ll be fine. I’ll be with you the whole time.”  I was excited to meet my parents but not happy about an Emergence Ceremony. What the hell was that anyway? I blew out a nervous breath and was able to calm myself. I nodded to let him know I was ready. 

We were led into a grand open area that I figured must’ve been a meeting room of some kind. There was a huge window that looked out onto the city. My eyes were drawn to it and it was then I saw a figure standing there. There was no doubt this was my father. He had the same indigo hair as I did. His large solid golden crown sat upon his head and his trident in his right hand. He had the same color skin and the same delicate looking tattoos on his arms and chest as I did. The indigo fins he had on his back were huge. They fanned out behind him as he hovered there. Had to be at least three feet taller than me and he radiated strength and power. He had that same mean expression on his face that the soldiers did. He hadn’t realized I was there yet. Evian cleared his throat, “pardon the intrusion your majesty. I bring to you Mira, the lost princess.” 

When he turned around to face me, I noticed a change in his body language immediately. His face softened as he took me in. He no longer looked mean but melancholy. I could see regret and sadness in his eyes as he looked me over. He swam over to me and embraced me. I wasn’t expecting it but once I was in his arms, I felt a connection. It was like all my missing pieces were falling into place. I hugged him back and started crying. When he pulled back from our embrace there were tears in his eyes as well. “Welcome home daughter. I’m sorry I couldn’t find you. We’ve been sending spies out over the years, but they’ve never returned.” 

Something clicked at that moment. Had I been turning over my own people that were just sent to find me. Suddenly, I felt sick and lightheaded. My father shook me a bit to get my attention. “It’s okay daughter. You didn’t know. You were raised by a sick and twisted man that kept you guarded from us and the truth.”

I didn’t know how he knew, but I didn’t feel worthy of his forgiveness. All those poor people. I was about to ask him how he knew when someone else swam into the room. I looked up at my father and he smiled a bright smile. I could see the love in his eyes.

I turned to look and was shocked to see a woman that looked so much like me it was scary. We had the same color tail, same bright green eyes and high cheekbones.  The only difference was her hair was a bright purple. She was crying as she swam towards me. Once she was before me, she reached out and touched my face tentatively. Almost as if she thought I wasn’t real. She started sobbing once she realized I was indeed real, and took me into an almost crushing embrace. “I’ve been watching you in my dreams. I was never one hundred percent certain it was you, but I saw you on that pier. I knew you were going to jump. I was hoping I was right, and you were our lost daughter and would return to us. I’ve never been so happy in my life.”  

I hugged her back and started crying again. “Mom!” I felt my connection to her settle in that moment. When we broke our embrace, I looked them both over and couldn’t help but wonder if I had any other family. “Do I have any siblings?” I asked innocently not knowing the pain it would cause them. Their faces crumbled at the mention of siblings. 

“All of our children were taken from us. There were five of you in all.” My mother admitted in a whisper. 

The blood ran from my face. All the sudden I knew. The four other people on the surface that could do what I could. They were my siblings. I couldn’t believe the extent of evil that existed in one man, Carson Smith. I started shaking in anger. “I know where they are.” I said in a strong sure voice. 

My father turned to me and his eyes started glowing purple as his power filled his body. “Take me to them!”

Writing Prompt #13 The Curious Burglar

An armed burglar sneaks into a house. Upon gaining entry to a heavily secured room he presumes to be full of untold riches he finds a teenager, trussed up in a makeshift cell instead. Seeing the weapon the teenager begs: “Please…Just kill me.” The burglar is stunned for a moment but then curious, putting his task aside, he helps the teen escape…

~~~~~~~

This job was supposed to have the biggest take to date. As we moved from room to room, we became increasingly more agitated. Minimal jewelry to be found and nothing of great value to be taken. Manny and I split off when we reached the second floor and I hoped to God that he found something. This job seemed to be a very dangerous waste of time so far. What I scored wouldn’t even cover the gas we used to get here today.  I walked into what I assumed was the master bedroom and took a quick look around. On the vanity across from the closet I caught a glint of silver. I walked in that direction and noticed a Breitling watch sitting on the counter. Finally! 

I went to pick up the watch and a noise startled me from the closet. I turned around and peered into the closet. The doors were closed and the lights off. It didn’t appear that anyone or anything was in there. I must have imagined the sound. I returned to the business at hand and scooped up the watch and shoved it in my bag. That’s when I heard it again. Instinctively, my hand reached for my gun that was tucked into my waistband. Slowly, I opened the accordion style closet door and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Rows and rows of clothing and shoes were the only things immediately visible. I walked in and looked around. Might as well make the most of this distraction and see if there was anything of value here. As I started moving around the clothing, I found a jewelry box. I opened the box and started going through it when I heard the sound again. It sounded like a grunt and the sound came from right next to me. Not being able to resist, I turned off the flashlight I was using, and looked around for the closet light. As soon as the light was on I saw it. There was a hidden door in the closet behind the dresses. I ran my hands over the frame of the door and found the handle. Excitement filled me, and I was giddy at what I could find in such a well-hidden room. Surely, something of great value must be hidden back there. I pushed on the handle and realized it was locked. Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. I knew there had to be a panel somewhere on the door to open it. I soon realized it was down on the floor. This was where I shined. I was good at breaking into things. Two minutes later I heard my favorite sound, the sound of a lock disengaging. 

 My greed overcame my senses and I forgot about the grunting I heard not moments ago. When the door swung open, I was stunned at what I found. Instead of rows of hidden cash, jewels or guns; I found empty shelves, barren concrete floor and a chair in the middle of the room with a defeated looking teenager trussed up in it. My brows furrowed in confusion as I took in what was in front of me. His head was drooping like he was asleep or passed out. I could see the sweat dripping from his wet hair and down on to the floor. He was pale and looked frail. There was a fan in the corner blowing warm air around, but it did little to make it comfortable in there. 

“What the fuck?” I mumbled as I stared at the boy. My words must’ve awoken him because his head snapped up. When he saw me he looked relieved. As he took in my appearance his eyes lingered on my right hip where my gun was printing out of my shirt. 

“Please…just kill me.” 

The look this kid gave me broke my heart. How could anyone tie up a kid like that? I decided in that moment that I needed to let him go. I ignored my own rule to never make impulsive decisions while on a job. My objective was to get in and get out as quickly as possible and I’d already been here far too long. I walked over to the kid and readied my knife thinking he was tied up with rope. I wasn’t expecting to find a strange pair of cuffs. They were unlike anything I had ever seen. They weren’t metal like normal cuffs. They were a material that I almost didn’t recognize. They looked like they were made of carbon fiber but there was something more that I couldn’t place. Hopefully the carbide hacksaw blades I had on me would do the job. 

“Hang on kid. I’m going to get you out of here.” I assured him as I got to work. As I was sawing away, I noticed he had bruises all over his body.  I wondered if he was getting beaten as he sat here tied to a chair. An agonizing ten minutes later I was done. When the chain broke apart the cuffs disintegrated. I stared mesmerized by the action. What the hell was going on here? I knew I had made a mistake when I looked up. The frail looking boy was gone. In his place was a very healthy and scary looking man. His eyes were blazing with anger and he looked unhinged. 

“Who are you and where did the kid go?” I asked with a tremor in my voice. This guy was giving off all kinds of crazy vibes. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to make it out of there. He tilted his head in contemplation as he stared at me. 

“Because you have freed me, I will share my secret with you.” He said in a booming voice that made me almost piss my pants. “I have the ability to deceive anyone’s mind. I was wearing this disguise in hopes of you taking pity on me, and freeing me.” As he gestured to his body I watched in horror as his appearance changed once again to the frail teenage boy. “Like so.” The next time he snapped his fingers and I was left staring at myself. He laughed a hearty belly laugh at my discomfort. The world started spinning. How the hell could this be happening? I started backing up and hit the wall with nowhere to go. He was blocking the doorway and there was no other way out of this room. 

“Why were you locked up?” I wasn’t sure if he would answer me, but at least I thought I’d ask. I was pretty sure he was going to kill me before he left anyway. 

He shrugged his shoulders in a nonchalant way and said, “they realized they couldn’t control me anymore. The only thing holding me back is gone. Now the world will pay.” He turned those crazy eyes back on me, except they were my eyes, which freaked me out even more. 

“You mean those cuffs I took off?” I asked terrified that I did this. 

“Mmm… no. I would’ve gotten out of those eventually. They were merely draining my power slowly.” He said in a bored voice.  “They killed my Elena! They used her as an example. My sweet, innocent Elena is gone now because of them!” I wasn’t sure if he was trying to trick me, but I swore his eyes started glowing white as his anger continued to build. “Now there is no one that ties me to this place and I am free to take revenge on this world.”

Before I could ask another question, I heard Manny call out for me. This was it. The moment of truth. Was he going to kill Manny and me? Manny came around the corner and I heard a finger snap just as he peered into the room. “Bruh, what the hell are you doing in here? What is this place anyway?” Manny said as he walked in. He looked around and then he stared at my mind-altering friend. I jumped up and down and ran in front of him, but he couldn’t see me. Then I realized the snap was for my benefit. He didn’t want Manny to see me. Then in a voice identical to my own I heard him speak to Manny.

“I don’t know man, nothin here though. Let’s get the hell outta here before the owner comes home.” They started to move out of the room, and I started to panic. I looked down and now I was in the chair handcuffed and all. 

“Hey!” I yelled at his retreating back. “You can’t just leave me here!” 

He turned around and smiled his deranged smile. “I’m only leaving you alive because you freed me. Consider yourself lucky.” 

It was only fifteen minutes until I heard sounds again. I was hoping it was Manny after realizing he was mind fucked and came back to get me. Instead, an older man walked into the room. His hair was disheveled, and he looked frazzled as he stormed into the room. He looked around frantically not seeing me. He stopped and slipped on a pair of odd-looking glasses with an orange tint. It was only then that he saw me and gasped. 

“Good God man! What have you done?” 

Writing Prompt # 12 The Prince

She couldn’t stop staring at him even though she knew she should stop. She had never gotten so close to one of them before. 

I walked into the cafeteria and my eyes automatically strayed to that spot. The spot where he sat every day with his royal family. They never sat with anyone else, and the unwritten rule was that you didn’t bother them, and you definitely didn’t approach them unless invited. The Elves didn’t come down from their mountains often. They were a secluded race for starters, on top of that they were royalty. Put those two together and you had a group of students that were untouchable. 

“Eliza! C’mon. At this rate the shifters are gonna eat all the food! What were you looking at anyway?” My friend Arabella was pulling me towards the food line. She was small like me, but stronger than she looked. We were both underdogs in this school. 

“Nothing! Just taking in my surroundings.” I said innocently. I knew she was going to give me a hard time about staring at him again. 

“Really? That’s the story your sticking to?” Arabella asked as she arched a dubious eyebrow at me. 

“Leave me alone Ara! I can secretly obsess.” I said as I rolled my eyes. 

“Actually no, you can’t! The last person they found staring at him got the beating of a lifetime.” 

“First off, that was a very sketchy looking Ogre. He looked like he meant the prince harm. Secondly, I’m just getting my fill for the day. Now come on, didn’t you say they were going to run out of food?” 

I knew it was the best way to get her off my back. Arabella’s stomach seemed to rule a lot of her decisions. Later when we sat down to eat my mind started to wander. 

I knew that the only reason they were here at all was because they were forced to be here. We all were. Once we reached 15 years old our secondary education started at the Convergence School. Here we were supposed to learn how to be the leaders and fighters in this new world. The classes here went beyond grammar and arithmetic. We learned battle strategy, hand to hand combat, weapon training and we learned to hone our powers for maximum efficiency. Most importantly, we were supposed to learn and work with each other. This school was turning out leaders and warriors that would help turn the tide in the ongoing war with the demons. 

I have been here for three years. In those three years, I’ve been secretly watching him. All my friends thought I was crazy. Elves were not known to be friendly. No outsiders have ever been let into their inner circle. The prince and his sister cooperated during class, but outside of class they were cold and apathetic. 

Most of the students that I’ve met were passionate about being here. Be it for the things they’ve been through, or because of the loss they’ve suffered. I happened to fall into both of those categories. I lost both of my parents and have suffered personally at the hands of a sadistic demon. It kept me locked in a basement for weeks right after it killed my parents. My escape was pure luck, and I knew that if I survived I would learn everything in my power to be a warrior. I wanted to be out there fighting these demons and sending them back to hell. 

Maybe the Elves wanted no part in this war or maybe we just didn’t understand them. I was betting on the latter. I knew from personal experience that judgment could be passed with one glance. I worked hard against it. I’m a Sylph or Air Spirit. We were small by design and often assumed to be weak. There weren’t many left of my kind, which made me a mystery here. I got stares everywhere I went, and there was always plenty of gossip to be had on how I had made it to the upper ranks of our program. No one wanted to believe that I could be that good. There were only a select few within my ranks that knew and gave me the respect that I deserved. It didn’t bother me, neither did the gossip. I knew what I was capable of, and that’s all that mattered.  

Lately, I’ve noticed him watching me. At least I think I have. I try not to look or stare for fear of being punished, but it’s almost like I could feel his eyes on me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it and tried not to give it much thought. For the most part that worked for me. Until the day that I got paired with him. I’d never been this close to one of them. My fascination with his race had more to do with my obsession with him than anything else but still, it was thrilling. All around me the other students were looking at me with pity and horror. He usually didn’t participate in the pairing exercises. I guess It was my lucky day. I was bouncing with excitement as he approached me.  I tried to be serious, but I failed. Miserably. 

As he walked towards me he didn’t give anything away. He had his usual stoic mask on. In the 40 seconds it took for him to walk to my side of the arena I allowed myself a good long look. I never got to really look at him. He was a lot taller than me, but that didn’t mean much since I was only about 4 feet tall. He towered over me by a good three feet. He had long white hair that was secured in a half ponytail keeping his face unobstructed and leaving his pointed ears on display. I could finally see the delicate markings on his forehead that signified him as Elven Royalty. He was slim with an athletic build that was common among his kind. His movements were graceful and fluid. You never saw him appear awkward or unsure and he never fumbled as I often did. His face held delicate features that seemed in opposition to his personality. I sensed he hated that about himself. I’m not sure how I knew that. Maybe it was because he seemed to always show excessive force when he participated to offset who he was, and how he looked. He wasn’t next in line for the throne. As I understood it, he was fourth behind his three big brothers. Maybe he was angry for having to be here.

When he finally reached me, I smiled up at him like a lunatic. Seriously, I must have issues because I should’ve at least tried to appear unflappable, but that just wasn’t me. I was a glutton for punishment because when I said hello to him he rolled his eyes at me. I should’ve known better than to think he might actually be civil to me. He has never been nice to anyone, why would I be the exception? After the teacher gave the instruction we were set to practice. I was to protect him from an oncoming threat. Shocking right?  

“What could you possibly do to protect me that I couldn’t take care of myself?” The arrogance and disdain that  rolled off his tongue instantly ignited my anger.

“Why don’t you stop running your mouth prince boy, and start moving your ass, so I could show you.” 

There were gasps nearby. Oops! I guess I wasn’t supposed to talk to royalty that way. I took a quick look around and didn’t see any guards running to behead me so I thought I was in the clear. When I looked back at him he had a slight lift to his lips. He was trying to suppress a smile. “Prince boy?”

I snorted. “Yeah, okay. Don’t worry I’ll come up with a better one next time.” 

The simulation started and a demon that looked like a wolf with a snake tail stalked us. At first I thought this would be a walk in the park. He looked scary, but I should’ve been able to remove the threat with my tornado. I was creating my vortex when the thing started breathing fire at us. I shrieked in surprise as I felt the heat cover my body, the flames missing us by a foot. As soon as I collected my wits I transported us with my wind right behind the creature. I left prince boy behind in my wind cloud and sprang forward while pulling my sword from my back sheath. I flew right over the meaty part of his body and arched forward with my sword slicing his head off with one quick blow. I landed primly on my feet as I watched the head roll to the side. I smiled at the sight, happy I was able to beat this simulation rather quickly. It was only when the simulation faded and left me back in the arena that I looked up to see prince boy’s face. He was completely shocked as he stood there staring at me with his mouth agape.

I sauntered over to him, “are you ready for round two?” I asked saucily.

He stood upright. His posture rigid as he stared down at me with squinted eyes. “Bring it on Tink.”

I flinched as his comment hit me. Tink! Really? Was he comparing me to Tinkerbell? What the hell! I mean yeah, I’m small, and my wings had the same shape as hers, but my wings were much prettier. They had an iridescent gloss to them that made them beautiful. My hair was brown not blond, and I didn’t run around in a skimpy green dress and slippers!  I tried not to let my irritation show as I signaled for the next simulation to start. 

This time the demon that came at us looked like a cross between a man and an insect. It had four spindly legs and a thin midsection. It’s human like head was attached by a long giraffe like neck and it had a beak where the nose should be. As soon as the simulation started it ran straight for us. Without thinking, letting only muscle memory rule my actions I pulled my sword and sliced the thing in half. Unfortunately for me, I missed the head. I saw the two pieces of body twitching on the floor pushing towards each other. I watched in awed horror as the two demon halves started to regenerate separately. The half without a head grew a new one. Great! Now we had two demons to deal with. They started scuttling towards us at a pace that was unnaturally fast. I knew I couldn’t dispatch both at the same time so I created a wind tunnel to hold one while I flew to meet the other. Sword in hand I flew right above him and hovered for a minute. He was too fast and I didn’t want to miss my chance and open myself up for a bite. This thing had some nasty looking teeth and was salivating a lovely green color. It hissed in irritation when it couldn’t get to me. I almost laughed until it realized it had another target available. Shit! Without further hesitation, I pulled against the demon with my wind power to stop his progression to the prince. It was hissing and screeching its dissatisfaction. I was within arms reach when the prince sliced his head off and gave me a smirk.

“Aren’t you supposed to be protecting me?” He taunted. 

I didn’t have time to engage him. I knew we were being timed. I brought the other creature to me with my wind while staring at the price. As soon as the writhing creature was before me, I halted my powers and let the demon drop to the floor. Without hesitation or ceremony, I promptly cut his head off. While all that was going on I never broke eye contact with the prince. When the head hit the floor I made sure to kick it over to the prince for his snide remark. His eyes widened slightly before he thought better of it and schooled his features.  

The next two simulations the instructor told us to switch off, and I was grinning from ear to ear.  I was going to make this smug asshole protect me, and I wasn’t going to make it easy. I wanted to see that self assured smile fall off his face. I may or may not have purposely put myself in harm’s way while he was busy. Nothing I couldn’t get out of myself, but I knew it just pissed him off. I snickered as I took down the latest demon we were dealing with while he struggled to make it back to me. He sneered at me as he past me and practically knocked me over. It was rude and childish, but I was no better. Frankly, I knew this was the only time I got to be like this around him and I wanted to take advantage of every minute. Everyone always tiptoed around him and made sure they never crossed boundaries. As for me, well, I just kept forgetting that he was actually a prince and treated him as I would any other smug asshole. I wasn’t going to hold back on him because of his position. If he needed to step up his game than so be it. The demons weren’t going to take it easy on him because he was a prince. 

We’d been going at it for hours. We had been challenging each other to our ultimate limits and it was starting to show. We were both getting sloppy as exhaustion started to take its toll. The last simulation ended and we were actually back to back leaning on each other probably more than was acceptable. As the last simulation cleared, I noticed we had amassed quite an audience. Everyone stood there in stunned silence. We both broke apart and stood upright in an instant as the instructor walked over to us clapping his hands. 

“Well done! I haven’t seen that kind of teamwork in a long time. Great work Eliza!  You seemed to push Prince Evindal out of his comfort zone. I have never seen him work so hard before. Prince, with respect, I am pleased at the work you’ve done today working with Eliza. The way you guys worked off each other’s strengths and weaknesses was amazing. From now on you two will be a permanent team. No sense in wasting time with other partners. You two were meant to fight together. 

We both groaned simultaneously. Seriously? I was just trying to piss him off. Admittedly, I probably fought harder and faster today than I ever had. I sighed audibly. 

“Well prince boy, I guess you’re arrogant ass is stuck with me.” 

He snorted out a laugh. “I guess so Tink. This is going to be fun!”

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Writing Prompt #11 At Noon

On everyone’s 18th birthday at noon, one word appears in their skin, depicting their career or purpose in life. On your birthday you’re staring at a clock showing 11:59 am, family and friends are gathered around for your reveal…

I was in the middle of a freak out. Thirty minutes ago I locked myself in my room, and I’d been trying to calm myself down ever since. I was sweating profusely. It felt like I just finished a run and my heart just didn’t want to slow down. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to relax. My anxiety was through the roof. Everyone was out there, waiting for me. For the last few generations a reveal party had become a tradition. I came from a respected and somewhat revered family. My mom was a surgeon, my dad was a doctor, my grandparents were doctors, my aunt was a nurse, my uncle was a chiropractor, you get the idea. It was somewhat unheard of for a family to be all classified in the same field. No one had yet to venture outside of the medical field. Yet, I had zero interest in any of that. I didn’t care about gene therapy to prevent blindness or the latest in mobile cancer screening.  Call me heartless, but it just seemed boring to me. I mean, of course, those things were important, and I’m glad they’re out there, but I wasn’t interested in the details. All my life my parents have been shoving all this medical knowledge down my throat thinking it was going to prepare me for my future, and I hated it. Sure, I understood it, and I’d always gotten excellent grades, but my interests were outside of the medical field. 

Maybe I was morbid, but I wanted to know what happened after you died. When the physical body ceased to exist, what happened to your soul? Did they move on from this physical world onto a spiritual one? Did some souls not move on and that is why people claimed to see ghosts? What about the rest of it? Are demons corrupted souls or did they really come from hell? Anytime I got caught reading about these things, or talking about them I got a lecture. I could almost hear mom’s voice inside my head as I thought about it; “That’s not what you should be reading about Giselle. You spend too much time reading about nonsense.” I let out an audible sigh just as someone banged on my door.

“Giselle! Open the door girl! Stop hiding in there!” I knew Zoe, my best friend, wouldn’t stop till I opened the door and let her in. As soon as the door opened she practically fell on top of me. If I had to guess she was leaning against the door trying to hear what I was up to. 

“Oops! Sorry!” She laughed as she collected herself from our collision. She was a klutz on a normal day so this came as no surprise, but even still, it was exactly the distraction I needed at the moment. I couldn’t help but feel a slight lift in my anxiety upon her barging into my room. 

Zoe was a lucky girl, her parents didn’t care about her Reveal Day. They told her that they would love her no matter what, even if she became a janitor. I remember telling my mother that story, and she looked at me horrified. She asked me why any parent would want their child to be a janitor. Like we had control over what showed up. That’s when I knew this would be a rough day. 

Zoe took one look at me and knew what was going on in my head. Her voice that always seemed so loud, went down to almost a whisper, “hey, it’s okay. No matter what shows up, you’ll be alright.” 

I didn’t think she fully understood because her parents didn’t put those kinds of expectations on her. My lip started quivering as I tried to hold back a sob. I somehow knew that today wasn’t going to go well. I could feel it deep in my gut. My life would change forever today, and I was terrified of the uncertainty. Would my parents kick me out? Would they disown me? If I didn’t live up to their reputation what would become of me? 

“Zo, what am I going to do if I get something weird? What if I get janitor? I know they are going to kick me out. I would be a disgrace to this family.” I admitted my fear to her as I toyed with charm on my necklace, spinning it around and around as I usually did when I was stressed. 

“Giselle, you can’t control what shows up. If your parents disown you for something that you have no control over than fuck them! I’ve already talked to my parents about this. If today goes bad, and your parents kick you out, you are welcome to stay with us.”

I stopped spinning my charm and dropped my necklace as I looked up at her face. She was dead serious, and I felt relieved. I didn’t want to move out of my house, but if I was forced, it was nice to know at least I had somewhere to go. “Really?” I asked with hope, feeling a little less frantic. 

“Of course! My parents love you! You’re like the sister I never had!” Zoe claimed as she walked over and embraced me. For the first time that day, I felt a little more like myself. I could do this and face my fears if I had a plan and people to help me.

“Thanks Zo.” I smiled at her as I stepped back. I looked down at my watch, only five minutes to go. “I guess I better get back out there.” I said with dread. Just because I felt a little better about my plans didn’t mean I wanted to face all the fake people in my living room. I knew those people didn’t really care about me. They were probably here to kiss ass or to spread rumors and gossip. 

As I walked down the hallway to the living area where everyone was waiting, I was hit with another bout of anxiety. When I reached the party area people swarmed me asking me all kinds of stupid questions; “Was I nervous? What did I think was going to happen? What part of the medical field suited me?” I didn’t answer any of them. I rolled my eyes and walked towards my parents and my sister. It’s not like I knew any of them anyway. When I reached my sister Gabriella she gave me a quick side hug. Unconsciously, I looked down to her wrist. The word doctor was written in script on the inside of her left wrist. I remember when it happened two years ago. My parents beamed with joy and the party went on all night. Just remembering her party made the dread settle in my stomach making me nauseous. 

When it was 11:59 everyone started counting down like you would do on New Years Eve. By the time the got to ten I thought I was going to throw up on everyone. Once noon hit everyone went eerily silent waiting for me to reveal my word. I clamped my hand over my wrist as I felt a burning sensation. I knew the word was there now. I wished I could’ve looked at it in the privacy of my own room, by myself, without curious eyes hovering. I was breathing heavily and my parents were growing impatient. Without invitation my mother snatched my hand away from my wrist and turned it over for inspection. I heard a collective gasp. I looked around to see shocked faces. My parents and my sister paled as the looked over my reveal. Finally, I looked down to see how bad it was. Necromancer was written in bold black lettering on the inside of my wrist. I was instantly horrified and relieved. I didn’t want to be a doctor or a nurse but a Necromancer? What did they do?

As I pondered that thought my mother passed out. I watched in a detached state as she went down and all the medical people there fawned all over her to make sure she was okay. I felt like I was going through an out of body experience as I watched the whole thing unravel. 

Once they claimed that she was okay, they moved her to the couch. It was then that I started to ponder what the word meant. I was lost in thought when a voice spoke up next to me. “Your mom’s a real bitch, you know that?” Not only was I startled at the sudden voice beside me, but also at what they said. No one had ever called her a bitch. At least not to my face. I tried not to laugh and then snorted a bit. I looked over to the person that made the comment. It was a young man that looked to be in his early 30’s. He looked very professional just like everyone else here, but something was a little off with him. 

“You said it buddy. Not me.” I snorted again as I looked over at my mother. How refreshing to meet someone that wasn’t trying to kiss her ass. I loved my mother but she wasn’t the typical mother. Her needs always came first, and I sensed her public persona was more important than anything else. “What’s your name? I don’t think I’ve seen you before.” I asked bringing my attention back to my new friend. 

“Oh, you haven’t seen me before. I’m sure of it. My name is Conner Bradly.” 

I’d run into so many people over the years that I wouldn’t remember anyway. I was about to ask him how he was so certain when Zoe pushed her way through the crowd to get to me. 

“Giselle! Are you okay?” She asked impatiently.

“I’m fine Zo. I’m just not sure I know what this means.” I said as I looked down at my wrist tracing the letters on my tender skin, “but I’m kind of relieved that I don’t have to be a doctor or a surgeon or something like that. Isn’t that crazy?” I asked wanting to know her honest opinion. 

“Giselle, it’s not crazy…okay, well, maybe a little. I’m guessing you better do some mad research to figure out what this means though.” She said as she stared at the word on my wrist. 

“Oh, I could help with that.” Conner said next to me, reminding me that he was there. 

I looked over to him as my eyebrows shot up and my mouth hung open. “Really Conner? Don’t joke with me.”

“Wait? Who’s Conner? Who are you talking to Giselle?” Zoe asked looking all around me alarmed. 

I looked over at Zoe in irritation. “My new friend Conner. He’s right here next to me. Can’t you see him? Blond hair, brown eyes, tan skin?” I asked in a teasing manner with a smile on my lips, but she didn’t return my smile. On the contrary, she frowned and her eyebrows furrowed. 

“Giselle, I don’t see anyone next to you. Like, at all.” 

“Yeah, she cant see me. Only you can Giselle. I’m sorry, I know your new at this but I thought you’d at least know a ghost when you saw one.”  He shrugged his shoulders as if none of it mattered. 

“Seriously?” I asked in a shrill voice. 

Conner’s eyebrows shot up and he gaped openly at me. “Am I your first ghost?” He asked in mock horror. 

“Dude, look around. It’s my 18th birthday and I just got notified that I’m a Necromancer. I had no idea what to do with that and then you show up not 30 seconds later. Yeah, you’re my first ghost. What the hell am I supposed to do for you?” 

“Oh, that. You have to help me with my unfinished business.” He said as he scratched the back of his ghost neck. Maybe it was a nervous habit from when he was alive? I made a continue gesture with my hand when he didn’t immediately start speaking again. “Well…you kind of have to help me get revenge on my murderous bitch of a wife so that I know my children will be okay, and I can move on.” 

“Is that all?” I deadpanned. “Are you being serious? How am I supposed to do that?” I asked as I threw my arms up in the air. This task seemed crazy and impossible. Was this really what I was supposed to do with my life? How was I going to make any money doing this?

“Don’t worry so much, I’ll tell you exactly what to do and where to go. You won’t get your literal hands dirty, you’ll just set things in motion so that she gets what’s coming to her, and I know that my kids will end up with my parents and not with her. Then I can move on.” I raised one eyebrow at his explanation. He made it seem like it was just a walk in the park. “Oh, there will be a small cash reward in it for you too. I have a secret stash of money that I kept hidden from that bitch, and your welcome to it as soon as you help me with the revenge part.”

“Giselle?!” Zoe was chewing on her lip as she watched me talk to the air next to me. 

“Oh, right. Sorry! Apparently, Conner over here is my first ghost. He was filling me in on what I’m supposed to do.” She looked at me dubiously, but before she could comment, my mom regained consciousness and jumped off the couch. She came over to me and grabbed my arm again to inspect the designation. She dropped it just as quickly, as if it burned her.  

“How could you do this to me? To this family?” Her whole face was flushed from anger and she was shaking with rage. “Get out! Get your things and get out of here!” 

“Seriously mom? I had no control over this and now your kicking me out because I didn’t turn out to be what you wanted?” I asked incredulously finding boldness from somewhere deep inside. I was tired of the way she treated me, and now that I had options I was relieved that I could go anytime I wanted, though it would have been nice to have her support me no matter what. 

“You don’t fit into this family anymore. We are healers! We save people! I don’t even know what to say to you. Just get out.” 

Zoe looked at me with sympathy in her eyes as she came to me. “C’mon Giselle. Get your stuff and come home with me.” I nodded my agreement and started to walk out of the room. 

I had Zoe on one side and Conner on the other. “I told you she was a bitch.” Conner affirmed. I snorted again at his comment which just made Zoe stare at me like I was nuts. I didn’t bother to explain. 

“Don’t worry Giselle. The money you’ll make from helping me will get you into your own place and keep you comfortable for a while. I may not be able to use it now that I’m dead, but I’m happy that I can make sure it goes to good use. You deserve it just for dealing with her shit your whole life.”  He said as he watched my mother over his shoulder and shook his head. 

I knew today was going to be a game changer, but I didn’t realize to what extent. Even though my mother kicked me out, like I knew she would, I didn’t feel quite as broken up about it as I expected. I would miss my father and sister terribly but I knew I’d still see them around. Things were going to be hard but I was ready for the change.