Like Crickets

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Title:Like Crickets

Word Count:358

Summary: A lonely rambling from an infested house

There are so many crickets in the house.  I have killed over seventy of them with my frying pan.  They have been my sole companions in this house for close to a month other than the music I play.  It’s strange how the human desire to packbond works.  Though I hate them and even feel anger by their presence here I also find them strangely endearing at times.  They look kind of cute.  One of them was just crawling across the floor and got so scared when I stood up that it flipped itself on its back several times before scuttling under a cabinet.  I feel bad for them.  I see them, hiding and running in fear from me every time they are crushed.  I try to be merciful but there are times that I only get half of their body with the frying pan and they struggle with their tiny antennae and legs to try and hide from me and death.

There’s that.  Then I am kept awake by their screams.  They get loudest at 3-4 am when all the world around the house sounds like one giant scream without end.  It is nightmarish on some days.

I can’t blame them for being afraid –as much as a cricket can feel fear.  I am trying to kill them for if I don’t then they will lay eggs and there will be a sea of them.  They are just running for their lives, hiding wherever they can.  They are calling desperately out to each other and then when they make the bold move to try and find their friends and mates they get crushed in no-man’s land.  One cry silenced, one cry unanswered.  More are lost every day.

It makes me hope that aliens are more benevolent than us or at least that they have some plastic jars to carry us outside to where we won’t bother them and where we won’t have to die.  After all, we too would be so small and scared – crying out to each other in the wake of foreign giants towering over us.  Scrabbling with little legs as we tried to escape death.

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The Wrong Side of the Bed

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Title: The Wrong Side of the Bed

Word Count: 1,891

Summary: Every day Marion wakes up and she is tired.  She longs for another life as she goes about her routine.

 

Marion woke up, forcing her eyelids to slide open.  All of her life she had never been able to sleep right, never really resting.  She looked over at the empty side of the bed and traced the outline of the ghost of the man she loved on the grey cotton sheets.  It had been five years since the separation but every day she woke up expecting to see him still.  The apartment just didn’t feel like home without him there.  She knew it was her fault, too many hours at the office and not enough at home, but all the same she didn’t feel like she should apologize for having ambitions just to make a relationship work.

With an effort she raised her heavy body from bed.  It didn’t matter how much she slept, she always felt more heavy when she woke up than any time during the day.  She had a long day ahead of her which only made her want to move slower.  There were so many accounts to rectify and the boss wanted them done yesterday.  She squeezed herself into her cream colored pencil skirt, her light pink shirt, and her matching cream colored blazer.

For a moment she stared at her face in the fluorescent lighting of her bathroom.  Her eyes looked red and sunken, so she started putting on thick layers of concealer and foundation to make sure that she at least looked functional for the coming day.  She combed back her curly, blonde hair in to a rough bun and dabbed pink lipstick on her lips.  A touch of blush, a few lines of eyeliner and a swatch of silver eye shadow- it was all part of the daily ceremony.  Bless the modern miracles of make-up; she actually looked put together at the end of the ritual.  Giving herself a small sideways grin she walked out of the bathroom to eat breakfast and slide on her heels.

The drive to work was slow, but she cranked the tunes loud on the radio and let the sounds of some young 20-something singing pop tunes wash over her ‘til eventually she got annoyed at their overly bubbly youthful point of view.  She hit the button to switch the inputs and the sound of a medieval harpist that she had bought the music of at a Renaissance Faire replaced the autotune.  Music back then was so much more beautiful than it was now, it took so much more skill to learn and assemble to music and you could see the artistry in every note.  Sometimes she wanted to pick up the harp, but realistically she knew she didn’t have the time to play it nor did she have a teacher to teach her.

Sitting at her desk she poured over numbers with an inhuman focus.  On her desk sat a small dragon figure and a knight doing battle with him that she would glance over at from time to time.  It was silly, but it helped her through the day.  If it was a slow day she would spend hours envisioning the battles they would do and trying to plan out epic lines for the knights to say.  Perhaps one day she would write them all down into a fantasy novel, but that was a lot of time she didn’t have.

When she got home she ordered herself some Chinese food and put on Lord of the Rings.  She ate chicken lo mein as she watched pretty men battle for their lives with swords.  It would be so much easier to be in that world.  In that world you knew good from evil and didn’t have to worry about mortgages or deadlines at work.  You could work on your art or swordplay and take part in exciting games of politics.  In those worlds the Kings never left the Queens because they worked too hard, it wasn’t like Aragorn was ever envious of Arwen for having more power than him.  Sauron was nothing compared to a CEO and at least Sauron couldn’t pretend to be a decent human being after burning the world down.  After the movie she opened up her phone, texting a potential new mate from a dating site where they bullshitted about movies ’til she knew it was time to go to sleep to repeat work the next day.

She went to the sink in her bathroom once more and washed the make-up off of her face in the shower.  The warm water was pleasant and took a lot of the tension out of the day.  With weary limbs she collapsed into bed, too tired to think about the ghosts of the past.

Queen Marion woke up, forcing her eyelids to slide open.  All of her life she had never been able to sleep right, never really resting.  She looked over at her husband, still blessedly asleep, and admired the way that the sunlight highlighted his square, stubborn jaw and the lovely brown shade of his skin.  The quiet moments of sunlight in the mornings made everything seem more gentle and she contemplated reaching out to touch him but didn’t want him to wake up.

Quietly she moved the green comforter and slid out of the down bed intending on making herself ready for the day without rousing him.  Her body moved like it was filled with lead and her footsteps fell a bit too heavily on the ground.  “You are awake already?” She heard the voice from behind her and she looked over her shoulder to give him a weary smile.

“It seems that sleep does always elude me.  Whatever spirits do haunt this land surely have taken to clinging to me. “ It wasn’t a painful revelation any more; it was simply a way of life for her.

With concern in his eyes he moved one dark hand over her pale ones, “One day we shall have the answers and find the witch that forces you to live as such.”

“I know, but the day is yet far off.” She kissed him gently.  “You may sleep if you wish, but I will summon the servants to help me dress.”

“I’m up now.  I will join you for breakfast.” Her King said, swinging his legs out of the bed.

The soft tinkling sound of the silver bell summoned her handmaids to her and his servants to him and they took her behind the changing screen.  It was an elaborate process to get ready for the day.  They tightened her into her daytime corset, both the inner and outer ones, and straightened out her many layers of underskirts and overskirts.  It was lovely, but she wished that she could just dress herself.  It would be so much easier if there was only one layer; simple clothes that she could put on herself with a simple make-up that she would be trusted to apply herself.

“Gotta do something about this rat’s nest of hair.” One of her servants commented and the Queen laughed.  She didn’t blame them; her curls were nearly unmanageable to fit underneath the scarves she wore upon her head.  There were times she contemplated shaving them all off but that would be a poor look for a Queen to wear as there would be nothing for foreign diplomats to admire.

“Perhaps that will be the latest fashion trend, rats in hair.” The Queen commented without turning her head lest she mess up the woman who was applying paling powder to her face, “Wouldn’t that be something?”

“Please don’t talk, my lady.  I’m going to put the pink paints ‘pon your lips and cheeks.”  One of the servant girls asked politely and she acquiesced.

She passed the mirror as she got ready to walk down the stairs to the main hall and gave herself a demure grin.  It was a lot of work, but it did make her look really regal once everything was all finished.  She looked like the kind of Queen you could go to war for.

Over breakfast she and her husband discussed the plan for the day.  There were some diplomats who had brought a harpist for them to enjoy and training for the soldiers who were still locked deep in a battle with the undead wight at the top of the mountain.  They had lost three hundred men the day before and intended on making sure no more would be lost to this plague.  She was not looking forward to telling the spouses of those that were lost that their husbands and wives had fallen; there were so many letters yet to write.

The harpist performed and it was lovely.  The man doubtless had a good deal of skill in his craft.   Quietly the King and Queen sat by and watched him, applauding where appropriate.  Halfway through the performance her attention wandered.  What she wouldn’t give to sing bawdy songs like the men and women at the taverns did.  Truly she liked that music more – the music that you could sing along with and bond with your fellows over.  What it lacked for in mastery of a crafty it made up for in being fun.

Diplomatic talks went as expected and they were able to broker a thousand more troops from their neighbor to fight the wight.  It was all so tedious, so patient.  She longed for something simple, like numbers and math.  You didn’t need to appease the ego of arithmetic or worry that if you served logic the wrong soup that they would challenge you to a duel to the death.  Numbers simply were and the uncomplicated nature of them made her long to bury herself in a backroom where no one would find her with the accounts of the taxes collected.  No talking to people, no one trying to curry her favor, just her and the numbers.

After the day was said and done they supped together as a couple.  It was nearly silent but for the clink of forks and knives upon plates.  He was sullen because the dwarven King of Andruia had shown her an undue amount of attention and she had laughed a bit too hard at his jokes.  It wasn’t meant to be anything, but it had set her husband off.  He would get over it, honestly he had no choice but to, yet that didn’t make it easier to deal with in the moment.  Honestly he had very little high ground to stand on considering the fact that he was caught in bed with an elven servant not two months ago and she had graciously kept that under wraps for the sake of the kingdom.  It would be simpler if she ruled by herself even if the heartache would be much greater.  There would be no one to explain herself to or worry about.

The servants helped her undress at the end of the day.  The corsets were undone save for the most basic of the ones needed to keep her upright.  Warm water washed the paling powder off of her skin and for a moment she looked more human.  There were times she wanted to be more human than what she was allowed to seem like.  It was tiring to be a symbol for a whole nation.  Weary Marion climbed into bed, knowing that she would not be able to rest.

Memories

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Small clips of memories, like cutting out little scrapbook clips in my mind.

The sky turns grey as the dancers start to dance. The birds start fluttering, chirping all around. Danger they say. The humans catch on last, finally admitting that they cannot out dance nature.

Quickly the dancers make their way inside the barn. It is crowded, the wide hoop skirts of the women make the already small space feel even smaller. Inside it is warm and there is music. Dancing resumes like normal.

Then the thunder sounds. Rain streaks down very quickly and hard, as if it is angry that it has lost its prey. The wind blows rain through the open slats in the wood. Thunder sounds outside sounding just like a cannon as it shakes the wooden barn. I hear the wood echoing the thunder’s call over the violins.

The barn shakes with sound, from within and without. How exciting.
——————————————-
The rain is still streaking down. It has been days of grey, but at least the rain is hard. It feels more like a cleansing than a weight on the world. The wipers of the beat up car that I drive go back and forth and I try not to get lulled by their metronome.

The solid metal crunch as someone nearby goes into a power line pole. The sky erupts in unnatural plasma, looking like someone has bottled lightning. The wires streak across the road like a small comet attached to a wire. It burns far hotter than I expect it to.

I move quickly, knowing I am out of my element and not having time to check to see if people were okay. The electricity cares not for the likes of the living and for the time being I am one of those.

The Finale

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Title:The Finale

Word Count:3,400

Summary: An epic battle finishes as a group of unlikely heroes takes out an emperor who calls himself a god.

An odd cadre of people sat in the bilge of a ship that had, with a good deal of magical knowledge, been converted to an airship. All around them were assorted glowing gems, woven branches left behind by their surprise faery companions and the acrid smell of salt that never seemed to fully leave the ship after they had filled every available living space with it. They were not much to look at.

An elven man, if you could even still call him that with the amount of tentacles that sprouted like wings from his back, stood straight and looked over the room with his double-pupiled eyes. On his shoulder sat a three headed bat who was currently arguing with himself and over his corner stood a man with a large hump on his back and big eyes that looked as if they were about to pop out of his head. In the far right corner stood a man who clearly envisioned himself to be the Grim Reaper, complete with skull headed armor, black shadowy robes, and a giant scythe. Beside him stood a gnome with flaming red hair who looked thoroughly miserable. Next to him was a man who seemed to be his partner with pale skin and glowing demonic wings that sprung out of his bone armor. At a large wooden table lounged a man who was covered from head to toe in various tattoos and had a roguish grin on his face. Beside him was a half elven woman who wore an expression that was a mixture of knowledgeable and thoroughly done with whatever antic were going on around her. A shapeshifter, currently dressed in black leather and wearing the face of a human male, giggled at some joke being made between him and his human male friend whose face was covered in scars. A very pretty Illithid stood next to a hulking orc woman who seemed to be discussing her dating life. At the head of the table was a man in a long red pirate’s coat with glowing purple mushrooms sprouting out of his shoulder and growing slowly across his face and back.
They were not heroes, but they certainly were playing the part well enough.
“So what’s the plan?” asked Drew, his lanky form being supported by the back of the wooden chair he rested his weight on. The mushrooms on his face pulsed.

“Well we have to get the emperor into one place.” Solenar said plainly, his tentacles curled underneath his chin thoughtfully intertwing with his overly long fingers. It would almost be pretty if it just didn’t look so…wrong.

Remy looked around with a grin, “Anyone got the emperor’s true name?” he asked, not truly expecting an answer.

As if it were an actual command Solenar swallowed a handful of gold coins. He prayed to his gods who reached a hand into his brain and delivered a message. “Arioch.” He answered after a while.

Shock crossed Remy’s face halfway sincerely, “Wait, no shit, that’s it?”
Solenar nodded solemnly, “Well I wouldn’t say it otherwise.”

“Great,” He said, “So I will speak his true name in the center of a-”

“You know what we need? A circus tent.” Adama the shape shifter said, interrupting.

The room looked at him confused while Solenar slipped out of the room before Adama volunteered, “For the parley.”

Remy glared at him, “Beat me to it.”

Adama grinned in response, a gesture that was well practiced but seemed just a touch empty. “Great minds think alike. Or at least, okay minds think alike.”

Joespeh, the creature who looked like he was a demonic spawn , spoke up, “I am glad that admist all of this world ending horror we can still have a banter.” he said dryly.

“It’s touching, really.” Elrian, the Grim Reaper looking person said lancingly.

Remy continued forth, trying to ignore them, “So I will invite him to a parlay.”
“That’s a dumb idea,” Solenar said, straight faced, returning with a large circus tent. No one knew where he got it from. No one wanted to know.

“Well, I’m not going to actually invite him to a parlay. I’m just going to buy time to get you guys into position. Then we strike.”

“If we all get the heroes we met two days ago and get them to make pacts with the primal gods,” Anne said, doing some mental calculations, “Then have them stand at the shrines and activate them it should save us from having to run around.”

“Heroes?” Adama asked.

“Yeah we found the party the gods had intended to save the world yesterday.” Elrian said, “They were rather pathetic. We didn’t even fight them. We just gave them a handful of money and sent them on their way after they got the gems for us.”

Mabel, the pretty Illithid nodded, ” I can summon them. Besides, that paladin looked rather charming. He might be a good addition to the collection.”

The group as a whole gave their assent. “It will be a shame to have to hold back because they are there.” Joeseph said ruefully.

“Hold back?” Elrian said, callously, “Please. They are so weak they are expendable. Fire away.”

Once more the group as whole gave their assent. Anne and the gnome staning by Elrian, Rucks, gave a glare but knew they were outnumbered. These men and women were not heroes.

The pretty Illthid grinned, her tentacled forming little hearts around her head, “I’ve got them!” One by one their names were spoken and life was breathed into the words. Magic glowed in sickening shades of green runes upon the wood.
The sorceror tiefling Fallion Thunderclaw, the handsome human paladin Frank Archon, the gnome cleric of Pelor Rowan Jingles Steppenwolfe, the dwarven barbarian Murphy the Sea Wolf, and the pretty red-headed human fighter Melissara Redrick once more found themselves. A hero should have had something snappy to say, but alas they were fresh out.

“I thought we were done with you guys,” said the cleric of Pelor, clutching her symbol tighter to her chest. The noble paladin stuck his delightfully square chin forward and his gaze challenged them all to try to fight them.
Peals of laughter greeted the heroes, greatly deflating their bravado. The two skeletal figures almost had to hold onto each other just to keep from falling to the ground in mirthless laughter. Rucks looked at them with pity, as did the middle head of the bat. Poor creatures. They were in over their depth.

“Yeah, but we’re not done with you.” Remy said, once the laughter had died down, wiping a tear away from his eye with one tattooed hand, “We’re on the same side. We both want to kill the emperor and we’re going to need your help.”
“Why do we need your help?”the red-headed human fighter asked.

“Well you have two options,” Elrian said, talking to them as if they were children, “You either help us or we kill you and feed you to Qui. We’ll tell him it’s elf.” he said, referencing their nihilistic insectoid pilot who ate elves for fun and profit.

The heroes were quiet. They remembered the grisly fate that their own had suffered at this horrific party’s hands a few days ago. They did not wish to suffer the same fate. For a moment the paladin and cleric were wracked with manufactured angst at having to pay homage to more than one god.

“Their entrails would be a lovely garland,” Solenar said to motivate them, motioning with his overly flexible fingers to the walls. Everyone could notice some bones woven into the faery’s decorations.

“No need,” Frank the Paladin said quickly getting over his theological misgivings, “We’ll help.”

In a glorious training montage the party revisited the temples of the primal gods. The layers flame temple in Nari lent them audience with Pheonix and the priesthood was happy to see them again. The cleric of Pelor swore herself to Pheonix. The red-headed fighter woman was tossed down into the pit made of living wood in Dragon’s temple whereupon she fought her own sentient wooden triceratops to earn her green tattoos. Tiger was visited in the ruins underneath Miyoko as they ran past the bums and addicts that lived in the old city to earn metallic tattoos for the paladin. The temple to Scorpion under the desert was visited and the constructs of sand stepped aside to let Remy, who had already earned his tattoos, and his party aside to earn the sorceror a black scorpion upon his back. Lastly, but not leastly, the bararian dove into the ice lake behind the waterfall and sledded down the twisting ice pathway to find Serpent’s altar and earn snakes winding up his legs. All of it was very touching and character growing, though the original party felt rather bored with all of the heros triumphs.

At last the tending to the weak heroes was done. They prepared for the final fight. Drew piloted the ship to the ruins of a temple in the middle of a thick, pine forest. The lot of them disembarked upon the soft ground, with Drew staying up to pilot the ship. It was for the best. They were not sure how much of his mind was his own since he had become a symbiote.
Small stone shrines with pagoda roofs were unearthed and each hero was placed next to each altar and summarily abandoned for the moment. With the power of teamwork the assorted, surprisingly well-behaved villains erected a circus tent, a thick wooden table with chairs, and some throw pillows for ambiance.

The moment was finally upon them. Remy spoke his true name and one by one the aspects of the emperor appeared. A fae woman dressed in long green robes appeared first. Remy gave her a wink and a nod of his head, “Lady Shibiki. Hey.” She looked amused, remembering how they had met the last time. It had been worth getting thrown into prison to be able to bed her.

A man in black plate mail with a blue cloak appeared next, “Master Hirohito.” Remy said, motioning to a chair. Next appeared a monk with a long white fu manchu wearing long yellow robes, “Honored Kang. Please take a seat.” A man wearing long black robes and a red turban came next, “Kilik, glad you could make it.” Finally the man himself Shiro, the main face of the emperor, appeared with Infernal tattoos upon his body wearing black leather. At last they were all here.

Remy silently motioned him to a seat, flexing every muscle of his psionic charmisma as he spoke, “So I suppose you are wondering why I brought you all here.” he began with a flourish.

“Get to the point.” Shiro said.

“We know about your deal. We know that it is coming to an end and Asmodeus is coming to collect his debts.” Remy said, laying it all out on the proverbial table.

“He will not come for us,” hissed Shibiki, “We have paid our debts.”

Hirohito grinned, “Let him try.”
“Come on. How long can this last?” Remy said, trying to regain control of the situation.

“Shiro, please,” began Kang, “Listen to reason. We cannot go on like this.”

“I knew he was weak!” spat Kilik, “You took pity on him because he was your brother, but now he shows his worthless colors.”
With an angry shout Shiro flexed his hands and his Infernal tattoos glowed bright red. The other aspect’s personalities faded away as a glow rose up in their eyes and they moved as one with Shiro. “Will you all just shut up and give me some space to think!” he yelled, his voice echoing off the canvas walls.

Mentally Remy signalled the others, You guys better be ready. I don’t know how much longer I can hold him. but gave no sign outwards that he was concerned. Lying was Remy’s super power.

The emperor began to circle the table like a predator sizing up his prey. “Did you really think I would make a deal with a servant of my enemies?”
“Who says I’m an enemy?” Remy said, feeling like he had missed a detail somewhere along the way.

Shiro laughed cruelly, “Do you think those tattoos are decorative?” Crap. There it was: the other shoe. You couldn’t deny these distinctive tattoos as being symbols of the primal gods. The emperor continued forth, “I am surprised that they found someone to use yet again. What a shame that you won’t live to regret your decisions.”
In the blink of an eye Joeseph ran forward and grabbed Remy from the tent. “Now!” screamed Adama across the minds of all their strategically placed pawns. Flames in yellow, black, green, red, and blue sprung forth in the shrines and a thick net of something magical landed across them.
What followed next was an exercise in chaos. The pretty Illithid sent a wave of her mental energy forward, stunning Shibiki and Kilik. A mass of undead tore into Kilik, tearing him into bit sized pieces.
Then from the skies came a great roaring as two twin girls with jet black hair rode with an army upon giant bats. Behind them rode an army of cannibals, the very same army that they had run across about a year ago and burned down most of the village. Apparently they had missed a few, hiding in the jungles. Sorcerors wearing draconic armor rained down ice and lightning upon their enemies.

Not to be outdone Solenar opened up a gate. Out marched Qui, his eyes dead but his kukri dancing in the light, and the chaos gnome Thorne who had in the time he had been unmonitored carved Infernal symbols to Moloch all over his skin. A gargantuan fiendish spider named Phillip marched forth with the orc army that they had freed from the slave camps marching behind it. The twisted form of Rose ran forward eagerly with plague filled hands, though her boyfriend was barred from entering by the magical field put out by the shrines. The elven assassin, Themadrell, and Yuri, the orc shaman, followed behind apparently not wanting to leave these fine upstanding gents that they had escaped prison with to have all of the fun. It would almost have been a reunion were it not for the bloody circumstances. The undead army of drow and elves lead by the very much alive drow Fumiko brought up the rear and she raged upon seeing her ex-husband Hirohito that had murdered her once upon another lifetime ago.
“Leel, go take care of the bats,” Solenar said, watching with a muted glee as the chaos unfolded. . The hunchback shed their human skin and out popped a red insectoid with gnashing pincers. The savagery that followed as Leel laid eggs inside of the bats and they summarily exploded with new Xill children rained gore down upon everything.

Armies fought against one another in these rivers of blood. Decay and rot fought against tooth, nail and spell. Limbs flew and the whole of everything smelled of burning flesh and iron.

Kang rushed forward, raining blows down upon Remy before the psion pinned him against a tree. “I’m truly sorry about this,” Remy said, before launching a powerful ray of fire through Kang’s chest, sending him flying fifty feet away.
Joseph fought sword to sword with Hirohito. It was an even match, both landing glancing blows off the armor til finally Hirohito swung too wide. Not wanted to lose any momentum, Joeseph slammed his sword into the man’s left pectoral and through his lungs. He fell to the ground, sputtering up thick mouthfuls of blood. Harnessing the power of this lost life, Joeseph sent massive waves of energy to the undead to fuel them and strengthen them.
Elrian circled the battlefield like a vulture. All around him his undead waged war. He barked command at them and rained harmful, toxic energy in great grey and black globs. Around his shoulders his purple dragon purred with joy at all of the death. As fast as the enemies fell, they then rose up in his name nigh immediately after. Their armies only grew with time rather than weakening.
Mabel spent all of her mental energies locking down the fae woman Shibiki. Their minds battled against one another, struggling for dominance. At her back the orc woman swung her axe at cannibals, glad to be alive in this great fight. From the side came an ettin, digging into the fae queen’s body like it was tissue paper. With a wink the ettin’s face switched to that of Adama, who winked at Mabel, before rejoining the undead hoardes.

The undead now swarmed upon Shiro, flames licking their body. He took out many and it looked as if he would win. However, all of a sudden, his tattoos light sputtered out as a force came from the shrines, wrapping him in flames and drowning out his power. The undead quickly over took him. Elrian looked exultant. The dead aspects of the emperor rose once more, all save for Shiro now served him. Finally, an army that suited him.

Remy could see one of the twin girls making their way towards Shiro’s body. He moved in her way, “I know you have to kill your father.” he paused and shook his head for effect, “But not today.” he said, before letting a tornado spring out of his hand and blow her away. It would not be enough to kill her, but it would be enough to fling her far away.
On the ground Shiro’s body groaned. “But I was a god.” he weakly muttered.
Solenar took the sphere of his soul gem out of a pouch in his throat. With one motion he vomited it into the emperor’s mouth. The soul melded with his flesh and he screamed, letting go of every regret and bit of pain that he had not felt for one hundred and ninety-nine years. Elrian approached, but before he could act Remy disintegrated the body of Shiro.

Slowly the armies stopped fighting as the emperor’s forces were slaughtered. The two twin girls bodies were nowhere to be found. The pawns at the shrines stared ahead, shell-shocked and covered in gore. They were not used to the horrors of actual war. It was much different than the story books.

Finally he was dead, the man that had tormented the countryside and tossed them all into prison. The world was far from saved. They had still unleashed Demogorgon upon this plane and had an army of tsochar who were still quite irate with them. A negative energy dragon still had a nest upon this world and they carried around one of its children. They were still the monsters that loved to raise undead, bang everything that moved, and study that which should never be studied that they always were.

All the same they did good today.

Aspects of the five primal deities: Tiger, Pheonix, Dragon, Serpent, and Scorpion all manifested in the temple.
“You are not the heroes we expected.” Pheonix said, speaking for them all.

“We are not the heroes you deserved,” Remy said blithely.

“Yet you have done us a service and we will not forget that.” Pheonix continued.

The five primal deities each erected a wall to reconstuct the temple. Their power coursed into the land before they were gone in the blink of an eye once more.

“Well that’s a cool trick, “Joseph muttered, staring at the walls in envy. They positively radiated power.

Kegs were dragged out, heedless of the amount of blood on the ground. Solenar gave Leel a cigar, which she promptly and happily chewed on. Elrian took stock of his new undead. Joeseph tended to his bloodthirsty horse. Remy began to hit on the drow who had been brought back to life. Mabel eyed up the paladin Frank who was too exhausted to even be frightened. And somewhere, someone was Adama but no one could keep track of it after that sort of battle. Tonight they could relax a little and appreciate the fact that their crimes had been pardoned by many gods and that they had slew a god that was powered by the King of Devils. Served him right for turning against them, really. Consequences and more plans would come tomorrow.

The Mirror

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Title: Life Inside the Mirror

Word Count: 740

Summary:  Lurking inside a mirror is tricky business, especially when life keeps changing.

I don’t know what is inside of me some days. I’m just travelling along and something within me
Breaks.
I was young when I first noticed it, this awful habit of breaking. I know what they say, that everybody when they are teenagers goes through a lot of emotional instabilty but for me it was always different. It always felt more broken, more extreme, more jagged than the type of breaking that my peers did. You see they would be lamenting over lost girlfriends and fall into bits or shaking fits, but never really broken. They may be wounded, but they were always one at the end. It wasn’t natural to tear yourself in two.
The first time I broke it was painful. I spent weeks trying not to break. Trying to hold the broken pieces of me together in such a way that I would remain in one piece. It was very important to remain in one piece you see, everyone else was in one piece and it was wrong not to be in one piece. I streched myself until I thought I would burst.
And then I did.
It wasn’t as painful as the movies make it out to be, to break into two. I stared at my other half for ages the way you would stare at a mirror that you just punched a hole in; knowing that you made the wound and yet not knowing exactly what to do with the fractured bits. You can’t just buy a new self and there aren’t exactly any repair shops that tend to that sort of repair. So you just kind of sweep up the pieces and stare at the cracked glass and try to pretend like it is one whole even though you know that it’s cracked right down the center.
Eventually you begin to not know what your reflection was like were it not in two. We started to talk, me and my other self. It started out slowly, like two shy little girls being placed in the same room; both too terrified to start conversation and yet both curious about the other. One half always looked more serious than the other, but it would move to protect the more joyful side from rocks and other people who would trip down the hallway to stare at the mirror. Eventually we began to talk and I became we. Together we were better off than I ever was, the flaws of one made up for the flaws of another. Though both of us have our own sensibilties for the most part we got along, except for the few times we fight and then it is like the whole world explodes.
Not once did anyone ever ask about the broken mirror. We truthfully don’t think anyone noticed. They were all too preoccupied looking at themselves. It’s an odd culture we live in, to have everyone constantly staring at their own reflections. We’ve been told that part of society is normal. We believe them. We know nothing of normal.
But yesterday we saw something odd staring back at us. We at first thought our eyes were playing tricks on us, that maybe there was someone standing behind us. I looked at the mirror, looked at my other self who calmly shrugged because she had no clue what she was witnessing either. But there it was, plain as day, there was a third form flickering in the corner of the glass. I could barely get a glimpse of her, she was hiding but she didn’t seem scared. She was taunting us, we think. We can find small notes, scribbled in lipstick across the glass of the mirror or crumpled up in our pockets, but never really see her in full. We kind of don’t want to. She seems terrifiying.
We still see her. It has been over a year of her flickering, though we can rarely make out her face. She moves like a shadow without a name and usually only when things are darkest. Then she is no longer a shadow, she burns like a flame and we have to dig through the rubble that she leave behind. Sometimes we swear that we can hear her giggle. People have yet to notice, though it is getting harder and harder to hide.
We wonder if this is what it is like to go mad. We wouldn’t know. We know nothing of madness.

 

Shadows: A Poem

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Title: Shadows: A Poem

Word Count:214 (No summary as it is not prose)

It’s cold here and the shadows do not know me.
I know it doesn’t make any sense,
But sometimes I feel like the shadows are my only friends.
They hold my secrets when no one else does,
and cling to me long after the sunlit friends go.
I woke up today feeling fine
Good.
Safe.
Even though I was in a land that once was covered in pain.
I can still see the tear stains if I look close enough.
But here I was.
Good.
Safe.
Even though it was a lot darker than it normally is,
I slept fine.
The shadows here know me.
They wrapped their arms around me and told me that it all would be
Okay.
That I could wait to
Deal
With my problems a few days longer.
I wonder if I only like these shadows,
Because they are not the shadows of where I live.
These shadows feel
Familiar.
Not like these new shadows that feel strange and jagged.
I don’t have to worry about these shadows hurting me.
They already hurt me.
Now we can move past that and
Heal.
Maybe.
Either way I think I
Missed them.
And they whispered words of comfort in my ears,
Til I woke up with a headache in the sunlight.

By Victoria Field

An unlikely band stood in an even unlikelier place. A changeling, an ullithard, a
pseudonaturalist, an elven librarian, a thief, and a possessed Kri-Threen stood around a gnome in
an underground temple that looked as though it had been decorated in last year’s shades of
exploded-corpse-nouveau. The walls blinked lazily at the intruders through curtains of blood and
entrails that smeared every surface.

In front of them lay half of Demogorgon, bound by enchanted chains and sundered from his
other half. He screamed with rage and loneliness, vowing to murder his other half as soon as they
were reunited. He wheezed through labored, painful breaths as he swore and writhed and fought
against his bonds. The Five-Faced God Emperor had split him in two and bound each half in
temples deep beneath the earth. This odd band of travelers had already freed one half, and had
finally arrived at this desolate place to free the other. They each had their own reason for wanting
him free, but no motive was as strong as the gnome’s.

You see, Rose was a cleric who had worshipped Demogorgon all her life, staring into the
madness with love that burned blacker than the void. She desperately wanted her Prince of
Demons reunited and returned to her. As she stared at his broken body and crooned in anguish,
“My love, my dearest, what have they done to you?” She clutched a glass jar to her chest, the
volatile trump card that had coaxed the rest of the band into agreeing to the plan.

Demogorgon ceased his writhing and craned his neck to look at her. “Ahhh, my Rose,” he hissed
sibilantly, “you have come for me. You have been so very good, my little pet. But why did you
free HIM first, and not come for me? No matter, no matter, free me now. NOW!” His last word
was a scream that ripped through the chamber and made the ghost within the Kri-Threen shudder
and recoil against the onslaught. As the pseudonaturalist reached out to dispel the enchantments
on the chains, the ghost countered, and the spell fizzled into nothing. There was a brief, stunned
silence before the band turned on him like wolves. They tore into him with their various terrible
powers, trying to turn the flesh of his vessel into stone, banish him to another plane, or blast his
mind with raw mental energy. The ghost was too strong, and his cause too desperate.

Throughout the ensuing battle, the gnome produced a high, panicked gibber. “Why do you do
this? He’s mine, MINE! Why do you keep him from me, you TRAITOR, BETRAYER, NASTY
LITTLE FILTH!” She ran at the Kri-Threen and struck him with an outstretched palm, opening
her mind to the ghost within him and mingling her fractured mind with his for just a moment.
The madness that dwelt within her was too much for him to bear, and he flung himself away,
leaving his corporeal vessel behind as he flew in terror to the farthest corner or the room. He
flew faster and faster, trying to rid himself of the terrible infection that had gripped his mind.

Once the ghost was exorcised, the Kri-Threen stumbled back and clicked an apology. The party
returned to its task as though unfazed by the interruption. The pseudonaturalist successfully
banished the enchantments, and the Changeling unlocked the chains deftly. Demogorgon let
forth a fearful roar that shook the room. The ground crumbled away, and his other half burst up
from below and collided with him, fusing into a single, terrible being. Without breaking stride,
the group scattered through dimensional doors and slipped into other planes to be anywhere –
ANYWHERE – else, leaving only the gnome, her potion, and the caterwauling ghost.

———————– Page 2———————–

But just as Rose began to break the seal on the jar, the ghost collected himself and flung himself
in front of her, shattering the glass. The potion burst, splashing Rose, half of Demogorgon, and
the ghost himself.

The next moments were strange.

Rose was already in love with Demogorgon, but seeing him through the ghost’s ethereal body
cemented that love for eternity…as well as a new love for the ghost himself. The ghost’s back
was to Demogorgon, but his gaze was fully on Rose, and he saw in her a beauty and loveliness
that he had never seen before. Half of Demogorgon was splashed, and in that instant he fell in
love with Rose…and with his other half. The Prince of Demons was now wracked by a love for
himself that was as intense as his hatred for the same. His fractured mind screamed in agony, and
he plummeted impossibly further into madness.

The unlikely lovers paused and examined each other, stunned by the newness and intensity of
their emotions.

The ghost begged Rose to leave her folly and come away with him. Her heart broke as she
refused, for her worship and faith made her bond to Demogorgon stronger even than her undying
love for the hapless phantom. She in turn begged Demogoron to take her and the ghost away
with him, away to some hell dimension where they could be together forever. Demogorgon’s
halves fought each other, alternatively lunging hungrily for Rose or throwing their body away
from her to protect her from their diseased touch. “I WILL KILL HER!” He screeched. “SHE
MUST NOT DIE! SHE MUST BE WITH US FOREVER!” he yelled back.

Finally, as the ghost’s ethereal heart was crumbling, he tore himself away from Rose. He begged
Demogorgon to leave. “You cannot stay here. She cannot go with you! Your only comfort will
be in leaving. You must go far and forget her!”

But at that thought, Rose let forth a wail of anguish that would have touched even the coldest
heart. And the Demorgon’s love for her was moved to a strength far beyond that of his hatred. He
reached out to comfort her, wrapping her in his arms.

At his touch, her body began to blacken and dissolve. He watched in horror as his love, his
world, bubbled and melted into unrecognizable mass. In desperation, he clawed the flesh from
his own body and used it as a slick and unforgiving clay to build a vessel for her fading soul. He
placed what was left of her in a new demon body. Thus her mortal soul was sacrificed, and Rose
became a demon consort to Demogorgon. He wrapped her in his arms once more and whisked
her away to another dimension, crooning to her as they went. “We have so much to do, my love.
And eternity is such a short time in which to do it.”

The ghost was left alone in the cavern, staring brokenly at the small piles of blackened char that
were left of his beloved.

He called upon all of his power and tried to resurrect her. But Rose was not dead. She could not
be raised.

———————– Page 3———————–

Still, the spell succeeded, in a way.

A phantasmal copy of Rose coalesced in a shimmer. It was born from her mortal remains, and
given life by his memories of her. This ethereal form was something untouched by the madness
that had plagued Rose throughout her service to Demogorgon. And touched by the ghost’s
thoughts, she loved him with an adoration that was pure and innocent. As they embraced, their
light brightened blindingly, then faded.

Pixel

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via Daily Prompt: Irrelevant

Title: Pixel

Word Count: 1414

It is said that there is no such thing as an irrelevant person.  We all exist next to each other, blissfully unaware of the presence of those outside of our immediate circle until one day- bam!  Someone ceases to be and now everyone and their brother comes running because one pixel is missing out of the grand screen of life.  Eventually people get used to that little burned out pixel but the lack of its presence makes itself known every day.

Tohmi Fukisawa stood in front of his bedroom mirror, the kind that was strapped to the back of the door but still let him get a full view of himself, and took a deep breath as his sized himself up.  The greys and blacks of the police uniform felt like a literal prison compared to his usual garb of tattered leathers and baggy t-shirts.  His hair didn’t look like his hair with so much black shellac in it; he already missed the shades of neon green and the long length of it even though he had just cut it two hours ago.

Inwardly he told himself that this was all necessary.  This would serve the cause far better than his pointless acts of rebellion- screaming at the police to go fuck themselves and getting piss drunk in the alleyways with his friends.  Those were the loud days, the wild days; in spite of the day he knew he was about to have those wonderfully chaotic days brought a smile to his face.  He pictured Sadie grinning at him with purple all over her lips and hair as she passed the joint to Miori who gladly took it before continuing on with a rant about how one day she was just going to punch her boss’ face in for the way he oogled her and the other females at the food processing plant.  Goro asked her once why she needed a job that treated her like shit and she had responded that not everyone could make their living stealing other people’s garbage for sale.  Touche.  That had shut him up and he had never brought it up again.  Tohmi had just laughed.  Til three days ago all his world needed to be was the three others and him, them against the world getting so high that the world almost seemed tolerable for a period of time.

Yeah, that was good.  Hold on to those memories.  Keep them close to his chest and their light would see him through.  He would need all the conviction he could get.  He grabbed the bottle of leftover sake from the spot on the floor beside the bed where he always kept his booze and took a long draught.  If he couldn’t get his own courage he supposed that store bought would have to do.  The familiar burn steadied his shaking hand.  A glint caught his eye as he was about to open the door to leave and he grabbed it and stuffed it into his pocket.  It wasn’t much, just a small picture of his friends kept in a stolen wallet that was etched with gaudy amounts of silver, but it comforted him to stuff it into his pocket.  One last act of rebellion.

No one bothered to note Tohmi as he passed, another brown, black, and grey mass among the thousands that combed the monolithic streets.  They all shuffled their way around, heading home after work or to a bar to drown their sorrows or maybe actually on their way to see someone they wanted to see; whatever the case they all shuffled by and tried their best not to make eye contact with each other lest they all see the sorrows living behind their fragile facade.

Left, right, forward, forward, his boots tapped a steady rhythm on the concrete and he was careful not to speed up his pace too much.  It wouldn’t do to be caught be the actual cops while pretending to be one.  They’d torture him til he could barely stand if they caught him and he would know better than to pray for death as it would not be granted to him.

At last he arrived in the city square, looking around the tall, neon-spattered buildings of Tokyo for one last time.  He had made good time and was a little early.  With the soft creak of leather he sat down on a bench and just watched everyone around him.  No one looked his way though once he swore he saw Miori looking at him through her long bangs, dressed in red latex and metal but he knew that was only in her head.  The dead didn’t rise from the pyres dressed in latex just to say goodbye to their burnout, punk friends.

A courier passed him, the bike making a whoosh sound as it wove its way through the concrete jungle and a package wrapped in brown paper fell at his feet.  Tohmi’s heart sped up a few notches beating a timpani rhythm that only he could hear.  This was it, this was when it happened.  Trying to make his face impassive he leaned down and picked up the package, slowly unwrapping it.

It was all there, a small bottle no bigger than a can of soda but one that would change the world.  With shaking hands he unscrewed the top to look at the contents and saw the writhing black ichor within- darker than the night and more consumptive than a black hole.  It had cost him several favors to get it, liquid anti-matter: the void itself coming to this plane.  He wondered how many scientists that courier had blackmailed just to get this small amount to him.  Those scientists would be dead after the government found the materials were missing but by that time it would be too late.  In the back of his mind he wondered why the source had told him that he had to look like a police officer as he did this but he mentally shrugged.  What did it matter to him what their motives were?  It wasn’t like he intended to be around to see it.

Tohmi had never been a scientist so he didn’t know exactly what was in it or how it worked but he knew one thing: whatever touched this shit ceased to be.  It didn’t die.  It just…had never existed in the first place. That suited him just fine.  This city could burn but even then someone might dig through their ashes to look for things to buy or build new buildings out of the dust of their bones.  No.  No one would use them again, even in death. He would make sure of that.

“Alright!  That’s it!  I’ve had it!” Tohmi screamed, standing up.  The paper fluttered to the ground and he dipped his hand into the jar.  Blackness spread over his fingers as they slowly flattened themselves and it dripped down his arm.  His cries got the attention of his deadened compatriots.  Rage standing out on his face he flung a handful of the emptiness into the crowd, hitting several in the face and neck.  Holes opened up within them that bled not but seared them all the same.  It didn’t hurt, not exactly, it felt more like being a balloon that the air was slowly being let out of.  Put that way it was almost liberating, a pressure being released so they could all relax.

Eagerly he picked up the pace, spreading the blackness everywhere.  Around him screams erupted from the throats of a hundred individuals just now waking up after the long sleep of ignorance to the welcome arms of oblivion.  It only took a little to get started before it would just sit there consuming.  People rushed away from him, trying to save their pitiful lives but for what reason Tohmi couldn’t tell. Didn’t they realize no one gave a shit about their small little lives?

Already his arm was gone, he looked for it and found the emptiness of the space between star staring back out at him. With his remaining hand he  dumped the remainder on his head, letting the ichor ooze through him and over him.  The city was drowned out in a wave of silence.

There he went, one pixel making a brilliant burn out in the streets.  He hoped that maybe Miori would be in the void to greet him.  That would make him happy.

Awakening

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Title:Awakening
Word Count:880

Summary: A salamander awakens from a long slumber and begins to explore a new world

There was a crackling sound as awareness sprung forth.  How long had it been since he had last been awake?  Red limbs stretched forth as the flames breathed a new life into them.  Every movement ached but the heat made everything just a touch more bearable.  He uncurled his tail, unwrapping it from the safe spiral around his body and giving it a shake, sending sparks over the consumed log.  For a few moments he sat and let the blood flow into his body.  Another piece of wood was added and quickly devoured by the flames around him.

Gradually he began to move forward, a claw at a time digging into the soft wood around him.  His eyes opened, green-slitted pupils focusing on a world bathed in shades of orange and red.  The flicker of a wave of green danced beyond the flames and his head followed the waves it made as it cut through the air.  He didn’t know what it was, but he longed to touch it.  His claws scrabbled forward as the embers collapsed in his wake.

The pads of his foot touched upon the stones of his new home softly, the bits of wood dust smoking at they made contact with his red skin.  His head followed breathing in the harsh, cold air in sharp whiffs, the rest of his body dragging along the ground as it was dragged forward from the flames.  This strange land was new and so very loud, shrill screeches came from the wooden things the creatures around him held in their arms and there was an awful thumping all around as the colors swirled through the air.  If that wasn’t bad enough the creatures that inhabited this land were giants that screamed over the small sounds trying to send signals to the others in patterns he could not understand.  It was all so much he almost ran right back into the flames, maybe falling asleep again and hoping he would awake in a more calm time.

The emerald flicker cut through the air again and he moved forward, forcing himself to shut out the cacophony around him.  Stone gave way to more soft wood and he was grateful for the respite from the cold.  Smoke gathered in plumes as he moved gathering about him like a regal cloud fit for a king.  Other colors swirled above him, some brushing against his back and catching in the sparks, but he paid them no mind.  Once there was a cause in his head he would not let go of it for anything.

The creatures started making more panicked sounds as they saw the glorious sparks mixing with their colors.  He couldn’t understand their tongue, but the tone was the same as it always was when people met his acquaintance: very loud and very high pitched with increasing frequencies.  It must be in awe of that which he had given them.  He reached the green swirls as it slowed down, the layers of green floating down from their whirl to greet him in an embrace.  Claws grabbed ahold of it and held tight to it as the creature it was attached to began to make those high pitched noises again.

Hard hands beat around him, but still he held tight as his glow spread from him to the soft green.  Shades of red, yellow, and orange mixed with green and spread to the creature above him.  Something tried to wrap its claws around him, but quickly withdrew the pads of their hands as he increased his heat.  They never liked the heat the way that he did and it suited him just fine that way, it made life a lot less loud and confusing.  His glow spread to the creature who was attached to the green and its sounds nearly made his head explode with their volume and pitch.  One would think she had never seen fire before from the way she was crying out.

All around her the other creatures started to run, some of them catching embers on their way out and being engulfed in the glorious warmth.  The sounds coming from her mouth lessened as her flesh turned black and it gave birth to new embers.  Quickly he scrabbled up her torso, fighting against gravity as she collapsed and gave in fully to the flames.  He burrowed his way into her chest, to the core of the warmth and let it surround him.  For a moment everything was beautiful and free from pain.

Then slowly the flames began to leave, growing less and less as the cold seeped in and consumed.  Gone were the shades of scarlet and ochre replaced by shades of ash and soot.  Next to him, where the creature’s heart used to be, glowed one bright ember.  He stood by it, watching it carefully until the ember cracked.  With slow movements smaller limbs emerged from the cracked heart of the spent creature, a head looked around the world for the first time and he wished that it had been brighter and warmer to welcome it.  Yellow-slitted eyes met his green ones and he jerked his head to the right.  They would need to find shelter for the night and they would certainly not find it among the soot.

Something Awful in the Garage

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Title:Something Awful in the Garage
Word Count:602
Summary:Jonas comes home one day to find the house smells absolutely awful and searches throughout the house to find the source.

The air smelled like rotten eggs and month old farts, that was the only way that Jonas could describe it. He cursed everyone and their mother for not taking the garbage out and allowing it to get to this point. With a sigh he put down his Chuck Palahniuk book on the kitchen table and made his way to the garbage bin. He opened to see a new bag in it. Confused, he checked the recycling bin to find it similarly empty. Great, that meant that something may have crawled into the walls and died.
“Jim? Mike? Brandon? Did any of you kill a hooker and bury it under the floorboards or some shit?” he called and no one answered. It wasn’t surprising: Brandon was probably at work, Mike still had class, and Jim was only nominally here when he wasn’t buried halfway up his girlfriend’s ass.
Jonas knew he had to find the source of that stench; there was no way his sensitive nose was going to be able to sleep with the smell of decay about the house. To try and make things better he tried to envision himself Sherlock Holmes as he sniffed his way around the house he rented with his frat bros. An Indian Sherlock Holmes in a “Nothing But Thieves” shirt and torn up jeans, without the coke problem. Sure, that was believable.
He followed his radar-like nose ‘til he reached the door to the garage. This close to the smell it was so strong he swore he could feel little scent arms wrapping around his tongue and trying to get him to swallow raw sewage. Well, at least that meant that it wasn’t rancid trash juice soaking into a carpet, though the only possibility that Jonas could think of right now was that there was a sewage pipe burst. With trepidation he opened the door and a warm red glow greeted him.
There in the center of the room was a large glowing sigil of some sort of weird magic shit he couldn’t identify. It looked like something that belonged in a bad fantasy movie, not something just chilling in the middle of his garage among the oil stains and old paint cans. In the center was a hard chitinous…thing with dark green slick scales illuminated in the red glow. It had no eyes, but turned to address him with a wide open maw that made clicking sounds. Two tongues reached towards him and a soft hissing sound filled the air. A brave man would have stood there and looked it in the eye. A brave man would have looked around the garage and grabbed a weapon to deal with it. A brave man would have maybe taken notes on how many legs the thing had to do a Google search about how to deal with this thing.
Jonas Faroqui was not a brave man. If bravery was for lions then he was the lion that needed to see the wizard for courage.
With all the grace of a nerd at the prom, he flailed himself in shocked state towards the door, running into the door frame on his way out. He closed the door and locked it, writing a sign on it that said “Huge Fuck-off Demon Inside. No Really” on the door in Sharpie and took off towards his car. He ran as fast as he could, but he still swore that the smell got worse and he could hear it trying to tear through the door. Fear spurred him forward and his car made squealing noises as he sped down the street.