Tag Archive | darkness

Short Story – Dreams

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a scholar. A computer plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a bathhouse in the future. The story is about dreams.

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Zanter trudged down the street, feeling the weight of the day. The dirt and noise of the city were heavy on his spirit. It seemed to take forever until finally he reached an ancient building and mounted the few stairs to the front portal.

Zanter glided through the opening and greeted the owner briefly before proceeding to the changing area, where he divested himself of clothing and put his belongings into a small pod anchored to the wall. Then he padded barefoot down a narrow passage to the center of the building. As he passed through the ultrasonic shower and into the bathing area, he was awed anew at the sight. The space was glorious and ancient with high pillars, soaring ceilings and sculptures and frescoes of merpeople and sealife. The ceiling could be opened to the stars by a series of louvered panels.

He had once asked about the history of the building and was told that it had been a bathhouse for thousands of years. It was originally built over natural hot springs to take advantage of the minerals and warmth they exuded. The current owner was descended from the last several owners, each taking over in turn. Some things had changed. There were no longer religious rituals required of the bathers. There were showers and saunas in chambers off the large central pool. Computers controlled all the portals, pods, and louvered panels. The processes for regulating the temperature, monitoring bacterial and mineral levels, and filtering and recycling the water were now automated. And yet, the concept of the place remained the same – healing and renewal.

As he slipped into the pool, the humidity and warmth began to work their magic on him. His sinuses and pores opened, his muscles relaxed, and he felt his spirit lift. Given the ubiquitous nature of pools and bathhouses like this one, Zanter thought, “Perhaps we were once sea creatures after all. And the water takes us home.”

As he floated in the water, he closed his eyes, letting his thoughts drift. He reminded himself he did not come here just to wash dirt and sweat from his body. Simple cleansing could be accomplished in the privacy of his domicile. Here he could swim and float and when he left, he would feel completely different than he did after bathing at home.

He had been drifting for awhile with his eyes closed, and when he opened them he was surprised to find that the pool was dark. He stood up in the water and looked around. He listened carefully for the splash or low conversation from other bathers and heard nothing but lapping water in the pool, splashing water from the shower chamber. He spoke quietly, knowing the water would carry the sound, “Hello? Is anyone else here?”

No one answered. He lowered himself back into the water. Briefly he felt panic begin to rise. “What if he was alone in the building? What if he was locked in? What if he could not get out? Where was the owner?”

And then he felt the pull of the water, warmly, gently caressing him, urging him to relax. He succumbed to the motion and started floating again. This time with his eyes open. He allowed the thoughts to tumble and spill away again. As he looked up at the ceiling he noticed that the panels had been retracted and he could see the night sky above with its myriad stars. The view fascinated him and pulled his musings further into the ancient questions that have ever tugged at human minds. The questions of philosophers and religious scholars like him. “Who am I really? How did I get here? Is there something or someone out there that made this world I see? Why?”

And as he pondered these things, he felt himself expand, absorbing everything in his path, until the whole city, the whole continent, then the whole planet were inside him. He continued to move outward, taking in everything until his awareness encompassed all he could imagine. He felt the water surround him and envelop him. And he was water, indistinguishable from everything else. Absorbing it all, encircling it all. He was enjoying the feeling. So incredible. So beautiful…

Then as if a drain had been unplugged he started swirling rapidly, growing smaller and pulling back down to his body that had seemed so far away. He ebbed like the tide away from the shore and too quickly found himself back to his normal state. So small. So insignificant.

Vaguely he heard a voice nearby and opened his eyes. He was in the pool at the bath house. The lights were on. He sat up out of the water. Across the pool two bathers were engaged in low conversation. He must have been dreaming…

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

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Short Story – The Gardener

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a gardener. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a bedroom in ancient times. The story is about movement.

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After it was over, he picked up the pieces of statuary that had fallen, and moved them to a storage shed. He surveyed the damage to the fountains. The largest one was leaking, so he turned the water off and added it to the list of repairs needed. As he passed the ruins of the house, he thought he heard a sound. The house was not his responsibility, still, he had no way of knowing who was left to take care of things. And the sound was small. Like a child. He could not just pass by. So he followed the sound. Up onto the great patio. More smashed statuary and another fountain with chipped cherubs. Past the doors to the great hall that allowed the large parties to flow out into the gardens. The doors were now gaping wide as they did when the great hall was filled with dancers and musicians and food. Only there were no guests, no orchestra.

He paused and then followed the sound along the southern wall until he came to the balustrade that separated the large formal gardens from the private terraces. He worked his way back down to the main garden along the stairs and then back up to the house at the first private patio. The sound lured him on and he found a set of doors that opened onto the terrace. They were broken and stood open with the curtains billowing in the breeze. He paused a moment and then pushed back the curtains and stepped through the doorway.

He had never spent much time in the house, although he wasn’t surprised to find himself in a large bedroom. The house was designed so that all the rooms opened onto a garden. Even the library opened out into an outdoor reading room with little benches and shaded hammocks that called a reader to idle away the hours with a good book.

The bedroom was part of a suite and massive.  Nearly equal in size to the great hall. Ah – this would be the master’s quarters then. Or the mistress’ -she had always liked and commanded a larger space… And the sound was closer now. A whimpering. He started to search the overturned furniture and disarrayed hangings and draperies and tapestries, pulling them aside and peering behind. And finally, he found her. She was curled into a small ball, hiding under the cushions, behind the draperies surrounding the bed. He recognized the youngest daughter, who was called “Mina” by all. She continued to sob softly, her face buried in the silken bedclothes unaware of his presence. Gently, he knelt beside her like he would for the rabbits and deer and swans that populated the garden. Quietly he began to speak to her, reaching out to stroke her hair ever so softly. She was too forlorn to be startled and continued to whimper even as he gathered her into his arms. She smelled of the outdoors and childish sweat and faintly of the soap her mother used to bathe her. Her clothes were rumpled and slightly dirty. He checked her limbs to be sure none were broken. There was no blood on the bedding or pillows where she had lain, only the tear stains from her crying.

“Ssss, quiet now… are you hurt?”

Mina wailed.

He patted her back and held her and waited for her tears to subside again. He sat down on the bed cuddling her and rocking. And then he saw her mother across the room, shattered under an enormous pillar. He pulled Mina tighter to his chest covering her eyes.

“Ssss, quiet now… would you like to hear a story?”

Mina subdued somewhat replied “Thirsty.”

“Certainly, you are. We shall do something to address your thirst presently. For now, I would like to offer you a story, if you wish.”

Mina nodded and he began. “Once upon a time…” as he gently carried her from the room.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Divided

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a fortune-teller. A sword plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a swamp in the future. The story is about hatred.

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Esmelda lifted her skirts and stepped across another wet area. The swamp was dark and getting darker. If only she’d refused to tell that couple their future. If only when the card came up she had  palmed it. If only she had lied to them about its meaning. If only… if only…

But that wasn’t the way it went. She was too forthright, too honest… like the card…. although apparently not as astute as the card itself or she wouldn’t be in this mess now.

Shit! She swore as she sank into a mud puddle and lost her shoe. She knelt down and snatched the muddy slipper back from the ooze that was trying to absorb it whole. Then she took off the other one and put both shoes in her bag. It was easier to proceed barefoot.  She could feel more with her toes and avoid sliding into the worst slime as she continued through the swamp.

When she finally saw the light glimmer through the vines and trees, she sighed. Thank Goddess! She was almost there. She started to move forward and felt something slither from under her step so she quickly retracted her foot. No sense getting careless now that she’d almost reached her goal. She needed to proceed cautiously. Swamps were notorious for sinkholes and quicksand and creatures best left to their own devices. Another shuffle of movement off to her left and again she held her breath and her pose, waiting. Something big lumbered away and she breathed again. Moving tentatively so she could retract each step if needed. She slowly swayed forward one carefully placed foot at a time. Lifting her skirts as needed to avoid the slimier things and the burrs that would snare them.

Finally she stood on a clear spot of dry land a short distance from the small cabin. As she struggled to make her breathing more even, she planned her entrance. This situation wasn’t going to be easy to explain, although luckily she knew the cabin’s inhabitant very well and could anticipate which answers would cause the most consternation. And as she collected her thoughts she went back to the day that started this whole nightmare.

It was almost a year ago now. The young couple had come to her seeking advice as lovers often did. And as many before them had been, they were from families locked in ancient tribal feuds with each other. Their love had crossed the biggest boundary and now they wanted to be together permanently. And yet the animosity between their families made both of them afraid to tell even their closest friends. No one knew they had come to her. No one knew they were together at that moment consulting her. She had taken out the cards as usual to assess the situation. She had laid them carefully on the small table in front of her. Most of the cards were predictable, the Hanging Man, portent of change, didn’t worry her. None of the figures indicated a major barrier until the very last card. The Queen. And not just any queen. The Queen of Swords. She could have been salvation itself except for one small problem — she was reversed.

True to her calling, Esmelda had advised the young couple to wait. Things were not as they appeared and the time for change was not yet. The Queen of Swords was clear and astute and forthright. All admirable qualities.  Except that when turned on her head, she was vengeful and dangerous. She told of hidden things and dishonest dealings.

The young woman recognizing the card’s import had gasped in horror and thrown an accusatory look at her beloved. “How could you?!” she cried as she fled out the door. The young man, shocked at the young woman’s outburst and rapid departure, had reacted badly. He had grown angry; and Esmelda watched the murderous rage rise. She had urged him to caution and he had cast her aside and stomped out the door.

Because of her ability to sense his thoughts she knew she would have to act quickly to avert a major disaster and possibly another reason for the two families to continue their feuding. So she cast the spells her grandmother taught her and ran out the door after the young man. She had no idea how long it would take but she needed to stop him.

It had taken much more work than she had anticipated. She quickly reached the young man and bound his anger away. She regretted the amnesia she forced on him (and subsequently the young woman, as well), but it was necessary.  The two families were centuries deep in curses and retribution. She had spent months just unwinding the threads and ropes to pave the path so that the couple might find their way back to each other. She had to be careful as she worked that she didn’t undo the fibers that would bring them together and she had strengthened the bonds that would ultimately tie them.

Now she had to go forward to the beginning. She tapped on the door of the cabin and heard a chair scrape back and a rush of movement as the cabin’s occupants greeted her at the door. They were not surprised – the dog didn’t bark and the cat remained on her perch in plain sight. Even the bird continued to sing prettily in his cage. The woman who answered the door did not even blink as she invited Esmelda in. Noting her bare feet she brought over a basin of water and a warm clean towel after Esmelda was seated. Then she produced a steaming pot of tea and poured a mug for Esmelda.

So, the work is done then?

Yes, it is complete.

Then we are ready for reunification?

Yes.

Good! I have everything in readiness.

All right, please proceed.

A short while later a young couple arrived at the cabin door. They were obviously deeply in love and seeking her advice as young lovers often did. And in her usual fashion, Esmelda laid out the cards on the small table in front of her. The Hanging Man appeared again. Ten of cups. Five of pentacles. Two of wands. And there she was. The Queen Swords. Only this time, she was standing on her feet.

Esmelda breathed a sigh of relief and the couple turned to each other with joyful expressions.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Mercy

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a shopkeeper. A door plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a ship in ancient times. The story is about mercy.

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He stretched and yawned and sat up. Being in hyperspace always made him sleepy, so taking a few years nap while the parsecs sped by was refreshing. The ship should be leaving hyperspace and reaching spaceport soon. He got up and looked around. Everything seemed to be humming along smoothly just as it had before he laid down. He ambled forward to the con. All systems were running smoothly. He checked to see how long before they docked and was pleased to see he would not need to wait much longer. After milennia traveling through hyperspace he had gotten pretty good at estimating how long a nap should last and usually woke before the alarms,

As if in answer to his thoughts, the ship began preparing to exit hyperspace. The hum of the engine changed frequency and soon became a low drone. The downshift was smooth and would have been imperceptible to many lifeforms, As an immortal with hypersenstive hearing however, it might as well have been a space cannon at close range. He removed the earplugs he wore during hyperspace jumps and put them back in his pocket.

The ship was an ancient model although still serviceable The replicator could reproduce any parts he needed and since he was familiar with every sonic weld and atomic bolt, it was easier to maintain it than purchase something “modern.” He had upgraded the shielding and the hyperspace drive so the ship was deceptively fast and easy to hide in plain sight.

As the spacedock appeared on the emulator, he moved toward a door at the rear of the craft. The door would have appeared to be completely anachronistic to anyone he encountered, but since no one ever saw the inside of his ship, he chose a model that pleased him. It was black and shiny and slightly ovate with squared corners at the top. The polished brass handles gleamed in the light of the instrument panel. He pulled it open and stepped through. The atmosphere was cooler and drier than the main cabin. The infrared lighting activated when he pulled the handle so he could easily see the neatly labeled cubicles. Almost full – plenty to offer the patrons he expected to greet in spacedock.

He felt the ship settling into position and the docking mechanism engage. Good! He was hoping for brisk business so he could get back underway quickly. It did not suit him to linger anywhere for long. It aroused less suspicion from the species he met if they didn’t have too much time to think.

He walked through the room to the far side and opened the airlock. Everything was ready so he opened the portal and turned on the sign that indicated he was ready for business.

The first customer was tall, blue and tentacled with seven eyes encircling its elongated head.

Using the universal translator, he signaled his greetings remembering not to smile. This particular species considered smiling irrelevant and highly suspicious. Old habits are hard to overcome and he was unable to prevent his eyes from lighting up. Luckily, the patron was looking at the shelves and he quickly hooded his gaze.

The creature pointed with a warty appendage.

“Ah, yes! A rare vintage. Marvelous notes of iron and carbonate.”

The creature hesitated and pointed to another shelf.

Keeping his eyes on all the appendages to avoid shoplifting, he nodded.

“Silica and boron with a lovely undertone of titanium.”

The creature nodded.

“Shall I wrap it for you?”

The creature nodded again.

“Very well that will be seven bars of idremium.”

A tentacle reached forward with the appropriate currency while other appendages reached for the package.

“Thank you for your business.”

The creature sloozed away.

A moment later a hooded being glided forward.  This time Sven smiled. For he understood this one well.

“Ah you have a refined palate. I have a lovely vintage for you.”

He slid open a drawer to its full length. Beautiful blonde hair and a delicate face emerged as the drawer slid open, followed by her body clothed in a pale pink bustier, then matching panties and garter belt followed by pale pink stockings and finally tiny feet tucked into pink stilettos. The hooded being inhaled deeply.

“I told you this one was something special. The price is 1700 idremium bars.”

The hooded being bowed in assent and passed the currency across the counter.

At that moment the delicate creature in the drawer stirred and her eyes fluttered. The customer sighed in satisfaction.

Sven watched the exchange and felt something stir inside him. He pushed the currency back to the customer quickly with a brief apology, slammed the airlock shut and signaled the ship to leave spacedock immediately.

In moments they were once again in slipstream. He could not take his eyes off the beautiful creature in the drawer. And watched as she came out of the suspended animation state in which she had been kept for several thousand years. She turned to him confused. The world around her so different than anything she might have encountered in her lifetime.

She had no idea he had saved her yet again. In all his dealings over the past 7,000 years, he had never been able to give her over to the creatures who sought his services. Creatures just like he was – doomed to feed on the living.

He smiled at her and she smiled back. With the current state of technology it was so much easier to keep her. To hold her in hibernation so she would not suffer, would not age. And this way she was almost as immortal as he was himself. He had found her in a place no mother would want her daughter at an age when she was still too young to be there. And he couldn’t destroy her beauty even then. So she traveled with him until she reached the perfect age. And then he had discovered the early art of cryogenics. So he had been able to suspend her, perfectly ripe, perfectly delicious, and as the technology changed he had upgraded the systems that maintained her at this perfect point. But he had never had the heart to sell her nor to take her for himself.

He was not sure how she had awakened now since he had not started the process which would reanimate her. Although it hardly mattered. She was here. She was alive.  She was so beautiful.

“I’m hungry,” she murmured.

“I’m sure you are, my dear. What would you like to eat, Mercy?”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs. (You should also know that they double-dog dared me to write a vampire story since it’s not my genre and that I needed to include stilettos…. )

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Doubt

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a shopkeeper. An dog plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a dock in the industrial age. The story is about doubt.

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Sylvia looked around the shop. No one left. Good! She went to the front and locked the door, turning her sign to indicate the shop was now closed.  Then she went to the back room and traded her apron for her coat and hat. She tucked her reticule under her arm, took one last look around and headed out the back door, locking the door behind her.

It was a pleasant spring evening, so she took the longer route home that took her past the docks. As she ambled along enjoying the warm spring breeze she pondered on her life. She had a small pleasant apartment facing the river that she shared with her mother. Her mother would have dinner piping hot and waiting for her when she got home.

She paused on a bridge to admire a tall ship sailing into port. The crew looked so tiny in the distance as they scrambled to furl the sails. She continued across the bridge to the dock. She waved to the harbormaster and to the stevedores she knew as she passed.

Commotion just ahead along her path caused her to wonder about its source. Shouts and curses and a couple started screams seemed to be making a beeline for her location.

Stop him! Get him! Quick!

Then she watched as several people seemed to be upended and dropped on their keisters.

Oh! Oooh! Ouch!

Then she saw it. A small dog no more than a foot high was running and dragging a rope behind. She paused and then instinctively stooped down holding out her hand. With her other hand she felt in her pocket for a piece of cookie she’d plucked from the barrel as she was tidying up the shop. As the pup suddenly turned and ran straight to her, she held her ground with her eyes cast down so the dog would know she meant no harm.

The brown and black mutt slowed in its tracks and suddenly its tail was wagging so hard the dog seemed to be dancing.

Come here, she coaxed. I’ve got a treat for you.

The pup finally reached her and hesitantly took a bit of the cookie. As she was looking it over, she determined it was a female and appeared to have been through some hard times with multiple scars and matted fur that was partially worn off around her neck by the thick rope tied around it.

Just then a man burst through the edge of the crowd nearest her. He was panting and sweating profusely. When he saw the dog he advanced slowly as if hoping to surprise her. Sensing his purpose the dog ran behind Sylvia’s skirts and cowered.

“You there! Gimme back m’ dog!”

“Pardon me, sir, but how would I know it was your dog?” she inquired sweetly.

The man paused, surprised by her forwardness. Then sputtered, “Whadaya mean how’d you know the bitch is mine?”

“O’ course she’s mine, I’m chasin her ain’t I? Who else would chase her mangy carcass this far?”

“Well sir, many people have reasons for chasing dogs and not all of them are because they own the dog.”

“She took my blasted sausage!”

“That fact does not imply ownership, it merely implies a possible encounter over food.”

What is her name?

‘What!? Are you crazy?! Gimme my dog!”

No, she said simply. I have no way of ascertaining your ownership and you appear to mean this poor mongrel harm. If she is indeed your dog, you must have named her?

Why would I bother naming that bitch? She’s a worthless mutt! Now, gimme my dog!

“No,” Sylvia replied calmly.

The man started sputtering and appeared to be considering lunging for the rope, but Sylvia held her ground and the crowd around her watched curiously.

A voice in the crowd hollered.

The man glanced around at the growing crowd and reconsidered. Tucking his shirt back into his pants and pulling his belt back up he, grunted and turned. “Aaah you’re right, she’s a worthless bitch – she’s all yours,” he mumbled as he stomped off.

As soon as he was out of sight, Sylvia bent down and picked up the rope.

“Well, Dolly, I guess we can go home now.”

And they turned back toward the apartment.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Courage

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a grocer. A dress plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a cave in the far future. The story is about courage.

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Purevan, took one more look out over the precipice. No. No way down from here. She looked across the horizon. Nothing but rocks. No sign of movement. She ducked into the cave she had spotted on her way across the wasteland. There wasn’t much here. Hard to tell when it was last used. She estimated it had probably been millennia since anyone had been through here based on the knee-deep dust that covered everything.

She shoved a layer of dust off a higher surface to use as a seat. She needed to think and she thought best sitting down. When she had cleared enough of the detritus of time to seat herself without falling into the miasma, she made room for her feet and gently lowered her backside onto the newly cleared, now stable surface. Thanks to her spaceskin and internal breathing apparatus, she was immune to the powdery earth. Although a fall would have been inconvenient, it would hardly have been fatal.

Now, where was she… Currently, she was seated in a cave on a planet in an unknown galaxy in D sector.  She had been on this planet for awhile, although with binary suns it’s more difficult to discern the passage of time. Based on the length of her hair and fingernails which had grown several millimeters, she had been here for many days although not months.

She was not hungry thanks to the recycling system built into her spaceskin that could convert almost any elements into basic sustenance. And since the suit could also extract water or if necessary construct water, she was not dehydrated.

Mostly, she was lonely. Although she did not want to try engaging in conversation with her pursuers, since she did not want them to know where she was.  She missed her customers. The other shopkeepers who used to greet her in the morning as she opened the little store on a narrow street in a small village now many light years away.

The day had started like any other. Turning on the lights, checking the produce for spoilage. Restocking the shelves. Funny how even in such modern times when replicators were everywhere, people still felt a need to seek out fresh food. Or maybe it was the chance to see other people. It certainly was not about money. With trade and barter exchanges, everyone was able to acquire anything they needed or wanted.

Near lunchtime she had closed the door and walked across the street to a little clothing shop. There was an interesting garment that had caught her eye. She had never seen one like it. Bright, deep colors. An iridescent sheen. Flowing folds of fabric. A completely decadent item in a time when everything had a purpose and nothing was wasted. It took up so much space – even in the shop window there was no room for anything else. She had asked Emaya to let her try it on. Space knows where Emaya had found such a thing. And when Purevan put it on over her spaceskin as the ancient image had depicted it, she felt magical. It swirled about her as she swayed and turned to view her reflection.

She was just about to ask Emaya the exchange, when suddenly a pair of armed strangers entered the shop.  She slid backward into Emaya’s office hoping they had not seen her and ran for the back door of the shop. She heard Emaya demanding an explanation, and realized she could not leave her friend to face these intruders alone. She carefully slid out of the dress and marched to the front to stand next to Emaya. She caught Emaya’s warning look and steeled herself. She was not going to abandon her without a fight.

Emaya refused their demands, although what those demands were was not exactly clear to Purevan. Finally, the two had bound Emaya and were coming forward in an obvious attempt to take her out of the shop, when Purevan stepped in front of Emaya to hold them back. Emaya was yelling. Purevan was pretty sure Emaya was cursing them although Purevan did not recognize the language and the words did not register in her translator.

Suddenly Purevan found herself sliding toward the floor and the next thing she knew she was here on this lonely planet being pursued by hungry-looking humanoids.  She pinched herself again and the pain confirmed she was real. She kicked the dust layer in front of her just to see the powder form a cloud.  She was about to kick it again when a voice firmly said “Stop kicking me.” It was not plaintive or whining. It was not an order, but it was definitely not a suggestion either.

She was about to demand an explanation when she felt her arms and legs being surrounded and held. She started to struggle and the voice said “Stop.”

Her heart rate was elevated, her breathing was rapid and shallow, she felt like she would explode and then she felt a gentle hand patting her face and repeating her name. “Purevan. Purevan. Stop struggling and wake up.”

She awoke to see Emaya bending over her with one hand patting her face. When she recognized her friend, she smiled. “You are not harmed? But I thought…”

“Ssss, sss. All is well, Purevan.”

“But the strangers, they were going to hurt you…”

“My brothers?! Hardly. They would be answering to my mother if any harm came to me.”

“I do not understand…”

“Do you remember trying on the garment in the window?”

“Yes, it was so beautiful”

“You spun and spun to see the colors swirl”

“Yes, I remember. It felt so magical”

“You had vertigo and when my brothers got here they thought your eyes were unmatched so they were shouting at me to help you. You ran over to me and then suddenly you fell to the ground. I have been trying to rouse you for several moments.”

“Oh thank you! I am so relieved.”

“Let us close our shops and go to a restaurant for dinner. My brothers will cover the exchange since they believe they have caused you trouble.

Yes. It has been a very long day…

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Balance

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a prostitute. An eye plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a bridge in the industrial age. The story is about balance.

*******

She looked over the edge. The water was a long way down. She turned around to see the way behind her. To one end of the bridge, there was a stone gate that appeared to be locked. And from the other end, she could hear footsteps. Thank goodness for the fog. She had a little time, although she had only one option if she didn’t want to get caught. She needed her arms and legs as free as possible. She had to rid herself of all extra clothing, so she stripped off her cloak and her boots and stockings, her petticoats made a nice bundle and she used her belt to hold it together.  Knowing it might be a problem if she didn’t move quickly, she tied the bundle to her waist. And then slowly lowered herself over the side. Steel bridges were a marvel of beams and wires and thanks to her circus upbringing, they were just another playground for Cornelia Del Arte — also known as Highwire Nell.

She quickly  swung from the main beam to the wire and then the next until she was concealed under the main bridge by one of the beams. She heard the voices above her and knew they were looking for her. As long as they couldn’t see her, they should not be able to find her.  She held still and waited for them to tire of their search. She didn’t look down. Her parents had trained her well to look where you want to go. If your eyes looked down you would go there, and successful trapeze artists and high wire walkers assuredly did not.

How far she had fallen since those days! Her parents would not recognize her painted and perfumed to please the men who paid for her company. This line of work was not her first choice, and she had finally seen an opportunity to leave both the occupation and the men and women who had first forced her into it and then kept her from leaving. It was a daring move – many of the other girls had died or been killed trying to get out. And she was at the point that she could accept death if it meant she never had to endure another groping, drooling fool.

After the footsteps faded and she could be sure they wouldn’t come back, she contemplated her next move. The underside of the bridge eventually led to shore in either direction, so it was a matter of which side could be more easily mounted when she got there.

She looked down river to the next bridge and examined the shore on both sides. She could probably scale the next one a bit easier, so she started working her way along the beams and cables. She moved slowly so as not to attract attention, although it was unlikely between the fog and the dark and  anyone on the bridge would be partially blinded by the streetlamps. She paused to listen and shivered as a chill wind caught her. Then she saw it. Right in front of her. An eye. Staring straight at her and only a few feet away peering between a beam and a cable.

She held still. The eye blinked once. She felt no animosity and so she moved forward slightly.  The head turned and she saw both eyes.  She sighed with relief.  It was only an owl. She quickly moved past it to the far end of the bridge and picked her way along the wall to the next bridge. She repeated her tightrope walking act back to the top of the next bridge.  Peering over the edge, she saw no one approaching so she quickly dressed and heaved herself over the wall onto the bridge. Then she made her way to the opposite side of the river. Ahead she saw a bakery and a woman sweeping the street. Rubbing the rouge from her face, she made her way toward the woman,  keeping her eye on freedom.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.