Human limbs/fingers all splayed
About the small dark cave
Loud buzzing heard coming from
Lit up spaces in the walls
Oho here come the fireflies
Watch out for their deathly lucibufagins
Everyone in the village knows
Especially the children that
Never smile when fireflies glow!
Crows Come Out at Night
When I’m far enough away from the châteaus and the council house, I stop and discard my cape. I could wear it into the city, but capes mark you as a council member, or in my case, an up-and-coming one. Technically anyone from the city can be appointed council member, but the tests are based on skill. So those of us with parents as council members are raised to ace the tests. I won’t even have to try.
Naturally, this creates a division between councilors and city folk, and I prefer not to be identified as the prior. I’ve set up hiding spots around the city, places to stash my finer clothing and exchange it for the thicker, more practical attire popular in the city.
I jump down to street level into an alleyway, where a few large crates are sitting, rotting and forgotten. With a broken scrap of wood, I pry one of them open. The inside is half-full with dried-out corn kernels, and a mouse whips it’s head around to look at me, its ear changing between white, pink, and brown in a the blink of an eye. Its tiny hands flash into bigger paws, and its tail temporarily flicks into a bushy squirrel’s.
It’s always amusing when animals are scared; unlike humans they have no control over their alterations, and they really only ever alter when they sense danger. I watch the mouse regain control of itself and scrabble over the corn and out the top of the box.
Reaching a hand down, I find the pants and poet shirt I’d left here last week. I’m always aware that the clothes might not be here when I come back, but I’m in no position to care. I can always find more. I take off my cape and the embroidered dress that my parents had insisted I wear to the council dinner and put them in the crate, almost hoping that these do get stolen. I don’t hate the clothes, but it is frustrating to be a grown adult and still be told what I can and cannot wear. Mother claims to know what’s appropriate, as if I haven’t spent all twenty-one years of my life in the council house at her side.
I slip into the billowy pants and loose shirt, letting the breeze cut through me. I know I should’ve left a coat of some kind in the crate as well, but I can always purchase one. I use a strip of black cloth to tie my hair back at the back of my head--it’s just long enough to stay. Then, as the finishing touch, I pull my signet ring off my pinky and add it to the chain around my neck, tucking it under my clothes. If the cape wouldn’t give me away as a council member, my family crest would.
The ring is engraved with two wings, Mother’s family symbol, surrounding a blank circle. My ring is identical to Mother’s save for the circle, since hers bares the image of a quill in ink to denote her as a council member of the education branch. Even though I don’t have a council engraving--yet--my family’s been in the education branch for generations, so my family crest could still be recognized. The chances are slim, but I prefer them to be nonexistent.
Now the fun part begins.
I try my best not to alter during the day, sufficiently saving all my energy up for the evenings and nights. Everyone knows that we get our alteration energy from the two suns, so it’s also important to spend as much time outside as possible. I asked Father for a sunroof above my bed when I was eight so that I could soak in the morning sun, even when sleeping.
I feel the familiar rush of the alteration, similar to the feeling of goosebumps, as I alter the skin of my face. It’s not an easy skill, and it takes a lot of energy, but it helps hide my identity. Few people train enough with alterations to learn how to keep one on for long, but I’ve spent years practicing this trick.
I smooth over the mole I have one my chin first, and shadow the skin around my eyes, letting crow feathers grow at the outer edges like extra eyelashes. It’s not an uncommon fashion to add animal patterns to the skin, alteration or just painted on. Black feathers form across my hairline as well, blending into my dark hair and giving my face a different shape.
I emerge from the alley a different person. This one is sure-footed, laid-back, and critical. She’s navigating the streets with ease, as if she’s here all the time, and used to the dust in the city.
I hear the figure in the shadows before I see them, and when their hand snaps out and grips my wrist, I instantly morph my arm into a slippery squid texture, and the hand slides off.
"You told me you wouldn’t do this tonight, Julienne."
I roll my head towards the sound, watch as Lise steps out of the darkness. She’s good; I didn’t think she’d find me tonight.
“It would be nice if you didn’t blow my cover,” I whisper, but there’s no one else around to hear.
Lise’s standing ramrod straight, her arms clasped behind her. Some call it loyalty, I call it borderline suffocation.
Louder, I say, “You saw what happened; I couldn’t stay at the dinner.” My eyes accidentally flick down to where her left hand would be, if I could see it, and she notices. She takes a small step backwards.
The silence in this part of the city surrounds us. It's the slums, an area that's too dark for anyone to want to stay. The suns are blocked by the tall city buildings that have cropped up on either side, so no one living here has the energy to alter unless they go further out into the city during the day. Some people don't mind that way of living, prefer it, even, but most like to live in an area with better sunlight access.
“At least wear your mask, then, if you must,” Lise finally advises. She's given in, probably on account that I'm right: I can't go back to that dinner. And no one will expect me to, either.
I sigh and reach into my boot, where I always keep my small eye mask. The feathers shine almost iridescent black-blue. “And tell Mickaël he’s not off the hook either; you both must attend the next--”
“I won’t be telling him anything,” I tell her firmly. We both know this, but I purse my lips at her anyway.
She touches her forefinger to her top lip. “Be safe. Or I will drag you back to the château, costume or not.”
I turn away, fitting the mask on my face and trying not to let her words sting. She thinks this outfit is a costume, that what I do is a game, that one day I’ll grow out of it and realize that sitting in the stuffy council house is a better way to solve problems. Instead of saying anything else, I climb the nearest house, hoisting myself up by the windowsill, and start across the roof. Not running, just walking.
Unlike earlier, I now have the confidence of my second self. Nothing will stop me now, not Lise, or rumors at a council dinner, or the insecurities that run through my head during the day. It’s all gone now. There’s just one goal for the night: meet up with Lightfoot and make a deal.
"Daddy, what if it doesn't work?" Charlotte stood in the teleporter as Derek attached the wire to her head.
"I've been a scientist for decades, honey. I know what I'm doing."
She brushed her blond hair out of her face. "Well, I've chewed food every day for six years, but I still bite my tongue sometimes."
That made him freeze. What if something bad did happen? This had never been done before. Never on a living creature.
Nonsense. He had chased his whole life for this. He had built his whole life on this. All the people the told him he was crazy; all the people who said he was too intense; all the people who said he didn't know when to stop: he would prove them wrong. He wasn't going to chicken out now. Charlotte would be perfectly safe. He had tested with other objects before, too. They had all come back in tact.
Derek flicked the power button and smiled. "You'll be just fine. Get ready to go to this spot, thirty years ago!"
The machine shuddered as the engine turned on. Charlotte's frown turned into a grin. "Okay, Daddy. I trust you, and you wouldn't let anything happen to me."
He pushed the button, and she was gone.
Derek pushed the second button, the one to pull her back into the present. For some reason, he was nervous. He had done this countless times with inanimate objects, why should this be any different?
And then she appeared in the teleporter.
For a second, he thought everything was okay. Until she collapsed onto the cold floor.
"Charlotte?" He knelt down and detached the wire. "Are you okay?"
Her eyes were blank.
His heartbeat quickened. "Charlotte?" He felt for her pulse, but there was none. Instantly, he started CPR. But it was no use.
After nearly thirty minutes, Derek gave up. He examined her, but nothing seemed to be wrong. She hadn't been harmed in the slightest. And yet, there she was—dead.
And then it occured to him. The electric shock that sent her through the fourth demensioin and into the past must have stopped her heart. Of course it wouldn't appear to harm an object—it wouldn't have a heart to stop.
Derek stood up. He wouldn't quit now. Not after his entire life's research was for this. He had to achieve time travel, no matter what it wook. He would fix the machine. It should be easy. He would dial down the electricity, and then try again with someone else. Perhaps it was good he tried it with his daughter first—her young, fragile heart was more seceptible to the shock, and trying it on his wife might have made the danger go unnoticed. Mistakes made you learn better, after all.
He grinned. Nothing would stop him from achieving his dream.
DELETED BY OWNER
THIS PIECE WAS DELETED
I don’t like books...I think.
I thought you had 5 stars.
Well...I didn’t make it past page 18!
Don’t criticize me.
I like writing.
I prefer that to reading.
I don’t read very often.
And here I am,
surrounded by writers,
Who love reading.
Well, what would they say?
Would it surprise you if....
If...the last chapter book I read, was about 2 years ago?
i go to home depot i eat the tools
Fear Of The Unknown? Perhaps.
The young mind does fear what it can’t understand,
That much is hard to deny.
And we grown-ups still live in anxiety-land
When we focus on more than “get by.”
Even if not, our thought-addled minds strife;
To the fear of banal,
Or the loss of a pal;
To the terror of day-to-day life.
And after we’ve calmed;
Rolled our eyes and face-palmed;
Sucked our bottom lip up from it’s pout;
We think we’ve fine’ly got it all figured out.
Think we know; Done our hard-growin’ years.
But the truth can be worse than it outward appears.
What if we hide it too well?
Still, no reason (but is there?) to dwell.
After all, the worst fears are of fears.
I Need To Tell You Something
1. I need to tell you something look at 5
2. The answer is look at 11
3. Don't get mad look at 15
4. Calm down don't be mad and look at 13
5. First look at 2
6. Don't be angry look at 12
7. All I wanted to say was hi
8. What I wanted to tell you was look at number 14
9. Just be patient look at number 4
10. This is the last time look at 7
11. I hope you're not mad when I say look at 6
12. Sorry look at 8
13. Just have a look at 10
14. I don't really know how to say this but look at 3
15. You really need to look at nine
I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who left a post on my recent challenge and/or shot me a message. I really, truly appreciate you all taking the time to reach out and try to help me.
When I first found Prose, I thought it was just another writing website. But every time I read posts and see people engaging with each other in the comments, I can see how Prose is more than a simple writing website. It's a tight-knit community that cares about all of its members; it's a family.
When I made that challenge, I was really nervous because it was the first time talking to anyone about my problems. I did not expect so many people being willing to help me, to which, again, I am very grateful.
Speaking of the challenge, the general consensus was for me to talk to my parents, or at least someone I trust. So... I'm gonna try and talk to my mom about it. Today I asked her if she would like to go out for breakfast sometime so we could talk. She said that would be nice. So that's my plan for right now. Not exactly sure what I'm gonna say, but I have time to at least make a list of things I should bring up while I have her complete attention.
Thank you all so much for helping me and pushing me closer to a better, happier me. I owe you guys a lot. :)
The sun was beginning to set, giving the gray city a pinkish hue. Toby scurried towards the alleyway that housed the entrance to his small hideaway. The last thing that he wanted was to be out on the streets of Geddich after dark. He glanced over his shoulder as he ducked between the scaffolding used to keep the sagging buildings upright. The metal creaked and groaned as the sun continued to set, almost as if the city itself was settling in for the night. Toby heard the unmistakable screeching sound as the city’s spies began to awaken and start their patrol. He needed to hurry.
He ignored the people surrounding him dressed as he was, in rags. He quickened his pace as he rounded the second to last bend before his hideaway, only to run right into a harkener.
“Well, well, well. Why are you in such a hurry you little faup?” the harkener sneered.
Toby could smell spirits on his breath, and knew that he had to tread very carefully if he wanted to come out of this situation unscathed.
“My mother sent me out for the rations over an hour ago, Sir. The line was long, and they were out by the time I reached the front,” Toby lied expertly. “I had to try to run across the gorge to see if they had any on that side. She’s going to tan my hide if I’m not back before dark.”
“Perhaps I should save her the trouble and tan your hide for her,” he grinned, revealing a yellow smile.
“I’d really rather you didn’t, Sir…” Toby glanced around him looking for anyone who might help him.
The few people who were left outside at this time of the evening refused to make eye contact. They were, just as Toby was, later getting home than they intended, and wanted to avoid trouble at all cost. The sky continued to grow darker as the smog obscured sun dipped lower towards the horizon. There were no street lights in this part of the city, as the regency didn’t want to encourage the people of Geddich being out past dusk. The harkeners would soon be relinquishing their posts to the more sinister spies used at night.
Toby looked up at the winding scaffolding that supported his world. The shiny and polished metal of Upper Supremus sparkled as the last bit of light from the retreating sun disappeared. The street lights illuminated far above him, giving Geddich an even darker feel.
“Please,” he pleaded with the Harkener, “just let me go.”
The Harkener released him, giving him a shove hard enough that his teeth knocked together as he crashed into the building behind him. He shook his head, trying to clear it of the ringing the impact had caused, and sprinted the rest of the way towards his safe haven. He did a full spin as he got closer to the rubble and wreckage that hid the lower entrance to his alleyway, making sure nobody was around. He ducked underneath a fallen pillar, squeezing through a tunnel of debris, crawling towards the clear space near the entrance to his home. Standing upright, he looked longingly towards the other entrance to his alley. The soft glow of the street lamps revealed how close to Upper Supremus he really was.
He reached his hands upwards, stretching to pull himself up onto the window ledge, pausing for an instant, looking both left and right to make sure he was alone in the narrow alleyway. Wiggling the middle two security bars free, he dropped his pack through the opening, sliding through after it, replacing the bars, and dropping into place the piece of cardboard he had hung when he had first found the hideout. The alleyway was easily accessible to anyone wandering the streets of Upper Supremus, but his home looked like any other abandoned building, and almost any citizen of Upper Supremus would hurry past. It was broken, deserted, and impervious.
He pulled his tattered, sweaty shirt over his head bringing his dirty grey hat with it, revealing a thick mass of brilliantly red hair. Grabbing his small blade kershaw from his left back pocket, he flung the sweater bundle to his right, where it landed on the dirty floor in a crumpled mess. He paused, put his kershaw back in his pocket, and walked over to his shirt and sweater to turn them right-side-out, placing his hat on top of the pile. He’d had to run too many times to add any life-threatening seconds to a time-sensitive escape.
Standing over his ready clothes, he grabbed the kershaw back out of his pocket, flipped open the blade, and drew it purposefully down his chest, slicing through a rough combination of polyethylene plastic and mesh. This he rolled up in a tight ball and stored in his pack, for later. He itched methodically and carefully, so as not to disturb and infect the heat rash that had made its permanent place on his frail, moist chest.
He picked up his sweater pile and pack, making his way to the dark corner that was his own, for now. He leaned back against the dusty, solid wall of brick that was a rarity in Geddich and let his legs flop out, rubbing his budding chest. There they were, the very evidence of who he had once been, who he didn’t want to be. They reminded him every night and every morning that he was as vulnerable and as wanted as anyone could be.
He spat just long of his feet, hitting the exact spot which he’d been eyeing, allowing himself a small smile of satisfaction. He reached into his bag and pulled out a moldy hunk of bread, biting off too much to chew, heaving the manliest sigh he could muster.
He closed his eyes as he chewed, outlining the memories of his parents’ faces, as he had done every single night since he realized he had begun to forget the only faces in the world who had ever loved him. He tried to remember them as they were when they were full of life and joy, wincing as the vivid memories of their bloodied faces flashed before his mind’s eye. But he would never forget. And he wouldn’t forget who he had been when they knew him. Her. He wouldn’t forget what they made her become.
My target age range is young adult. Between 9-14
My hobbies are painting, playing the violin, exercise, cuddling my dogs, and watching food network with my fiancé
I was born in Canada, but grew up for part of my life in Vermont. Moved back to Canada at the age of 14. Lived without power for three years in the deep woods of Nova Scotia. Now living it up in the warmth and craziness of Florida.