(Belated) Friday Five: 5-Sentence Story Openings

Prompt 864

The stag head loomed over her, mounted on the door like the beast had decided to peer out just seconds before it met its doom. Its glassy marble gaze reflected her tensed body, ready to lash out in a crackle of energy at the slightest sign of trouble.

She tried not to list out the ways this meeting could go wrong, but Althen’s voice played out in a loop, almost becoming a mantra that braced her for her first meeting with Death.

Avoiding the stag’s gaze, she pushed the heavy mahogany doors open. It couldn’t be an omen – the stag’s fate was not going to be hers.

Prompt 862

She watched the last of the parachutists drift towards the beach, where a crowd was cheering and clapping even though the team was one short. Maybe no one had noticed yet. It wasn’t the first time the explorers had returned incomplete.

The sun was still hovering above the horizon, as though holding out for the last survivor. There was still time – one could hope.

Prompt 794

He found the journal on the train, a black battered leather-bound volume stashed between the seat and the window. Whether it was meant for him to find, he didn’t know. But he worked it out of its hiding place and gingerly cracked it open. His grandfather had told him to stay out of other people’s thoughts. But then erring on the side of caution had landed him in the enemy’s hands anyway, so there was no reason to heed his advice.

Prompt 823

Red was the colour of her hair, the flush in her cheeks when she laughed.

Red was her dress at the ball she had never wanted to attend – she preferred to wander in the forest with me instead. But I made her go, watching her from the shadowed bushes far from the bright lights of the palace.

Red was the bloodstained marble when she plunged to earth like a dying star, the pawn in a ruthless game of power and betrayal.

Red was the colour of the sky when she breathed her last in my arms.

Prompt 816

The town of In Between hadn’t had a visitor for as long any of its inhabitants could remember. It wasn’t a proper place, after all, just an afterthought squeezed between two warring colonies. But the town was blessed with an abundance of rainfall and a roaring underground trade – two unrelated reasons the visitor cited for settling down. That was the year the town of In Between broke the rules by taking him in. They were no longer invisible, not with a rain thief in their midst, and everything changed soon after.

(Images taken from Pinterest and Tumblr – none of them are mine.)

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Feel free to create your own story openings! Have a fruitful weekend :0)

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Short Story Saturday – Vertigo

http://vmficrecs.tumblr.com/post/101493531235/november-veronica-mars-fic-prompts

It was a steep drop. A long, long way down. Further than she had ever dared to try.

But she had nothing to lose by falling. All she would end up with were a few shattered bones and torn skin, and these didn’t even last. She healed, sooner than she would have liked. She wanted something that would leave its mark, just so she wouldn’t have to feel the constant ache from the ugly, jagged stumps on her back where her wings used to be.

The brackish waters crashed and foamed beneath her, unnecessarily dramatic. She lifted a foot. They were ungainly things, nothing like wings that bore her aloft in an intimate dance with the wind. She hardly ever shifted if she could help it. But now, with her wings ripped off, legs were all she had.

She tipped her head to the sky and raised her arms, ready to leap off the rocky edge of the cliff –

“Suicide, Megonea? How very melodramatic of you.”

She froze. The voice had the power to do that to her every time. She had weathered every element there was, but Finnesias continued to flay her to the bone.

“This is none of your business, Finne,” she called over her shoulder, but her arms fell back to her sides in defeat.

“On the contrary, I have a vested interest in your welfare. A soldier who deserts rank in the name of love might prove our most valuable asset.”

She whirled around and spat. “I am an asset to no one.”

“Oh, come now. Have some faith in yourself.”

He took a step closer. Megonea forced herself to remain where she was. She would retain what was left of her dignity in front of the pompous leader of the Rebellion. To think they used to train together when they were recruits; they could not be more different now. Finne with his lazy smile and cunning in his eyes (though he would rather use the word shrewdness), he never had and never would belong to the Empire Army.

“Why are you here, Finne.”

“Rescuing you from a terrible, terrible decision.”

“You are hardly qualified to save me.”

“Yet, here I am, succeeding in stalling for time.”

She turned back to face the sea. Part of her wanted to hide her ruined wings from his sight, but then she reminded herself that she no longer cared. This fate she had chosen for herself was far kinder than what lay in wait for her in the sky palace.

Suddenly, he was right behind her, his breath dangerously warm against her skin. His fingers brushed the left stump on her back. She flinched, felt the muscles in her neck tighten but also a tingle in her skin where his breath landed.

“Let’s make a deal,” he murmured. “If the Rebellion fails, I’ll jump with you. For now, we’re sticking together. Just like old times, eh?”

Megonea wasn’t sure what Finne meant by old times, because not once in their shared history had they ever stuck together. Before she could recall a time where they weren’t on opposite sides, Finne had given her a hard shove in the back.

He would, Megonea thought. Of course he would. She was a fool to have thought otherwise. With her dead, he had one less Empirion to deal with.

She was footloose, tumbling down with none of the grace she held when she was sparring. Air rushed past her with the ferocity of a Black Kite’s wings and a shriek ripped its way out of her.

It was a much further drop than she anticipated.

Fiction Friday – Moon Trance

I was going for a creepy fairy-tale vibe with this week’s short story.

 

It started out with these 3 sentences: “In the year without a full moon, Sheila’s skin turned blue. It came without warning, and it didn’t even hurt. She turned blue as a bunch of hydrangeas at the stroke of midnight, and that was when the wolves came sniffing.”

 

And then it became THIS.

 

I’ve created a monster.

 

It was supposed to be a brief, dark, whimsical magical realism short story. Flash fiction! But then it morphed into a dark, dramatic fantasy story more than 1,000 words long.

 

I don’t think I’ll be satisfied until I have taken this story down the road where I originally meant for it to go. Perhaps a similar opening for next week’s story, only this time I won’t let the story run astray like a wild horse?

 

 

But for now, here’s this week’s short story.

 

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Moon Trance

 

In the year without a full moon, Sheila’s skin turned blue. It came without warning, and it didn’t even hurt. She turned blue as a bunch of periwinkle at the stroke of midnight, and that was when the wolves came sniffing.

 

The day her skin turned blue, Sheila woke with a twitch in her right eye, and got out of bed with a buzzing in her veins. She could hardly think, much less watch where she was going, and it was with an unsteady sort of stumble-walk that she made her way to the kitchen where he mother was making breakfast.

 

It had been a year of mist – girls went everywhere with wispy tendrils braided in their hair, and boys chased each other through the clouds. People walked extra slowly, and there were a lot more reports of car accidents that year.

 

So Sheila credited the twitching in her eye to the mist, rather than the general feeling of wrongness. It was the last Friday of December, and it they hadn’t had a full moon in a year. All they had was mist, mist, and more mist, and frankly Sheila had had quite enough of it.

 

At night, the moon-watchers took their usual places in the field two blocks away from her house and waited. There was a strange sort of lilting music threaded in the air, and the lilacs on the windowsill were in bloom. Sheila watched from the two-bedroom apartment she shared with her mother, wondering at the silver dust that eddied through the night.

 

At exactly midnight, the skeins of mist parted to let in a sliver of light. And then, a fraction more. A quarter. Half. A whole. One full moon, bloated and luminous like a faery fruit hanging in the sky. Sheila stared, her mouth open. Blinked. It felt like the first taste of rain after a drought, though she had no idea why. A full moon had no impact on her.

 

It did, however, affect those gathered in the field below. The crowd – not more than fifty of them – erupted in triumphant hoots and cheers and appreciative whistles, as though the full moon was both a victory and a masterpiece.

 

Sheila wondered if she should wake her mother. She was just about to slide off the windowsill when she noticed the tinge of blue creeping into her skin.

 

It started from her fingertips, then crept all the way up her hands, and before Sheila could rush to a mirror she had turned completely blue. But it was, strangely, rather pretty. Luminescent and undeniable, it lit up a corner of her room. Sheila stood admiring the curious hue as the moon-watchers continued in their rejoicing. It reached up to her hairline, like a sea washed up against a red sand beach.

 

The lilting music, like the twitching in her eye, had stopped. Apart from the celebration downstairs, everything had fallen still at last, as though a restless wind had soared off in search of drier lands.

 

Sheila drifted in a wondrous fog towards her mother’s room. She couldn’t have slept through the commotion downstairs, she thought.

 

But there she was, curled tight under the covers, her crimson hair rich and wildly in bloom around her oval, peaceful face. Sheila hadn’t seen her mother like this in a long while, not since the mist breezed in and the moon remained a thin scar in the sky.

 

Sheila bent over and tapped her mother’s shoulder. “Mom?”

 

Veronica cracked open an eyelid. “What, baby?”

 

“I’m blue.” As her mother roused, Sheila straightened and stretched out her hands fully.

 

Veronica sprung from her bed. She stared at her daughter, replete in her periwinkle glory, before leaping into action. Grabbed a swath of blankets. Wrapped Sheila in them. Got dressed. Reached for the velvet drawstring purse in her underwear drawer. Threw a sweater at Sheila. It made Sheila dizzy watching her mother move.

 

“We need to go,” Veronica said.

 

“Where are we going?” Sheila asked, when what she really wanted to know what why they were going.

 

Then she heard it again, the moon’s song (Sheila was convinced that was where it came from). It was a gentle flute-like melody, plunging low and sweet, and reaching high and pure. It was now making itself heard, trilling and dipping in a complicated tune. Her mother didn’t seem to notice, so busy was she trying to shuffle Sheila out through the fire escape.

 

They stepped out into the cool, thin night, away from the revellers and their cameras. They kept close to the shadows, and ducked behind cars parked haphazardly as people got out to admire the moon.

 

But people weren’t the ones they needed to hide from. The flute music snaked its way through her body – Sheila shivered, felt its caress like the gentle trail of a fingertip.

 

“Move, baby,” her mother murmured, her grip tight around her.

 

But I am moving, Sheila thought. More than moving, she was dancing. Her limbs were water and wings and colour and light, flowing to the song that only she could hear.

 

But when she looked down, her legs were firmly in place. Next to them was a discarded pamphlet for moon-gazing the Astronomy Society had given out. The Year of Mist and Crescent Moons, it announced.

 

“They will find us, Sheila,” her mother said, close to tears.

 

“Who will find us?”

 

“The wolves, baby. The wolves. We need to run.”

 

“But why?”

 

“Because I stole the moon,” her mother whispered. “I stole it for you.”

 

For an entire year, Sheila had held the moon inside her. All year she had felt it, swollen and heavy like a ripening fruit in her. All year the mist had tried to warn her, trailing her everywhere she went. And all year, she had ignored it, grumpy at her discomfort.

 

And now the moon was claiming her, whispering its secrets and stories in her ear.

 

Sheila stood listening, catching sight of her reflection in a store window. A blue creature wrapped in blankets stared back, a beacon for the wolves. She could hear them now, lamenting the absence of the full moon, lamenting over their missing queen.

 

Sheila took to her feet. She need only leave the music behind, and she would be safe. The blankets got in the way, so she shook free of them and let them fly off behind her. Her mother hissed her name, but Sheila only heard the music, the music, only the moon’s peculiar music.

 

When at last the only thing that filled her ears was her ragged breaths, Sheila slowed to a stop. Her legs gave way, and she stayed on the ground, wheezing, waiting, listening. She was far, far away from the midnight crowd now, in an empty street strewn with more Astronomy Society pamphlets.

 

Sheila picked herself up, turned and regarded her reflection in a darkened store front. Her eyes glowed, silver and pale like twin moons themselves. She was getting rather used to the sight of her blue skin, particularly under the moonlight.

 

Maybe she was the moon. Maybe she had been waiting all this while to break free, to go home. Maybe she was the queen, stolen and hidden inside that wretched witch’s offspring. The one with hair the colour of blood.

 

Vikaela – the Blue Sister, newly crowned Queen of the Midnight Realm, Second Daughter of the Moon but second to the throne no longer ever since she removed her sister – smiled at her reflection. She rather liked the red-haired girl with the wandering, wondering mind whom she now lived with. Her body was lithe, and her mind mouldable. Oh, the things she could do with this child!

 

With a flick of her hand, the Blue Sister dispelled the dogged mist that wormed its ways through the streets. A stray cat sauntered up to her, rubbed its paw against her leg. She picked it up, saw her eyes in its unblinking gaze, like moonlight on a shard of glass. It purred.

 

In a way, Vikaela had that runaway witch to thank for bringing her into this world. This vast, new world, drunk and potent, ready for the taking. Ready for a new queen.

 

 

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Flash Fiction Friday – You Who Stole The Thunder

This story is a result of:

a) consecutive days of violent thunderstorms

b) this song:

c) this writing prompt
  photo Prompt567_zps96aa105e.jpg
  

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You Who Stole the Thunder

 

There aren’t a lot of things worth stealing, you once told me. But the best things to steal are those that people take for granted. There’s something immensely satisfying about stealing something people have come to expect to be there.

And thunder – who would miss it? It was just noise, white noise, the growl and roar of the gods that dissolved in rain. You would capture it with nothing but a glass jar, and no one would be the wiser. It was the perfect crime, and you were so gleeful about it, counting your chickens before they were hatched.

Two days later, the storm came. You ran home sopping wet in your mud-stained sneakers. Your mother chided you for being out in the rain, but you only came over and pounded on my door, wearing that triumphant grin that made me just as foolishly happy about your spoils.

“You do know the thunder thieves will be coming for you now, don’t you?” I told him, as we huddled under the blanket fort we set up. It was getting harder to fit in there, but on a rainy night like this the proximity was something we clung to.

“Let them come,” you said. Your voice wore the unevenness of a boy transitioning to a man. “They’re just bummed they were too slow.”

We sat the jar of thunder between us and shone our torchlight at it. In it, a dense black cloud swirled and swirled, a tempest in a glass prison. No wonder it looked pissed. I would want to be free too.

But I wanted more to see the look on your face, see the corners of your eyes lift, when you heard the storm’s music.

I wanted to experience the world knocked askew because of the absence of thunder, or at least feel a dent in this giant tin heart we lived in.

I wanted to know that people had sat up in their beds, straining their ears for the cry from the skies that wouldn’t come, wondering what was amiss, and know that we were the ones who had shaken their world.

But who knew if thunder would be missed? There were far louder cries that went unheard.

The thunder thieves – no, thugs they were – came around midnight, before we could open the jar. They were an unapologetic bunch, and I could tell you hated the racket they made. Don’t wake my mother, dammit! was probably what you meant to yell at them, but for the need to conceal ourselves.

We pressed closer together under the covers, torchlight off the jar hugged tightly between us. But it was only a matter of time before the thieves found us. Their dark hulking shadows cut brazenly across the room. In seconds, they would corner us. In seconds, they would rob us.

You took my hand, squeezed once, and I knew what you intended to do.

Breathless, we tore out of the blanket fort, out through the emergency exit next to your room, down the narrow flight of stairs and into the restless night. We could barely hear the thieves over the rumble of the skies’ muted fury.

It was still pouring, perhaps even heavier than before, as though the gods were unleashing their outrage at your heist. All the while, you had your arms wrapped protectively – possessively, as if it were rightfully yours – around the jar of thunder.

The air threatened to snap us in two. Winds thrashed and lashed, ready to rip the world apart. The glass jar rattled and flashed. In it, a restless beast demanded to be set free.

I hated to say it, really I did, but I said it anyway. “We need to let it go. We have to.”

You sent a silent plea with your eyes. “This may be the last time I hear thunder.” There it was, laid out bare. A plaintive statement made matter-of-fact in your measured, even voice.

Like always, I responded with stony silence, letting the storm take over our conversation. None of my responses – it’s not ours for the taking, you’re not going to die, you will hear the thunder again – seemed particularly convincing.

Eventually, we settled on flinging the jar as hard as we could across the field. It disappeared into the wall of trees blackened by night.

There was no crash of glass, like the rain had swallowed the jar before it could land. We stood there for a long time, soaked to our bones, waiting, counting – one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi – the time it took for the thunder to return.

The storm died with a satisfied murmur.

You were right, though. That was the last thunderstorm you and I ran through, the last time you heard thunder and held it in your hands.

I knew you wanted to leave your mark on the world, and you thought robbing the heavens of its voice would be the way to do that.

But I could have told you that the marks you left, though invisible, were indelible. Really I could, but I didn’t.

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Fiction Friday – Repair the Dead

This week’s flash fic turned out to be another character study for Indigo Tides. I sure hope I don’t end up with more characters than I know what to do with them!

I didn’t have a clue what I was setting out to write at first, but as always the story took shape the more I wrote. (Love it when that happens.) Maybe, paradoxical as it might seem, this is the best cure for writer’s block: to keep writing.

Also, I discovered this amazing dubstep piano piece, which fit perfectly into the mood/setting for Indigo Tides and this short story.

All that drama! All the imagery! It’s impossible not to come up with a story after listening to this.

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Repair the Dead

 

His human hands were useless in a fight.

Tight and scarred, the knuckles red and raw with blisters, they were meant for minute, intricate things like mending and tithing. They were hands that gave and gave, hands that healed and paid the currency of magic. His hands were not meant to wield brute force the weight of a machete.

He identified with the sea children, at least where they employed their strength. Magic took a lot more out of one than a physical fight did, but they produced twice the desired results.

If only they had the sea children’s knowledge. But for ages, from Halcyon to Desolation, his people had been children borne of the air. They had no advanced knowledge of the magical arts and relied on their rigorous training in the war arts instead. Simply put, his people were fighters. Soldiers. Puppets. Pawn.

Dolonit had no idea what to do with a sword when presented with it; he even dropped it when Maldar, his sparring partner in the practice courtyard, delivered a lightning strike to his arm.

The pain that magic required, on the other hand, was visceral – it carved holes in his soul, did damage that was invisible to the naked eye. The pain from an open wound, however, was different from what he was used to. It was present, wicked, and tangible in terms of the blood drawn, the length and depth of the cut, and quantifiable in the number of stitches.

Dolonit scrambled for his sword. His other hand grasped his injured arm, but he was making a mess with his blood all over the concrete stage.

Maldar stooped before him in a display of solidarity meant for their audience, among whom sat the new general, hulking and haw-eyed like a different breed of monster.

“We might have more faith in a pair of hands that can do more than stitching up the weak and repairing the dead,” he said, his voice pressed low against Dolonit’s ear. “Imagine what might have resulted of sending you to the killing fields.”

Dolonit knew the swordsman had never quite forgiven him for being chosen as a Healer, and instead devoted himself to mastering his battle skills so that one day he might prove a more worthy apprentice.

Now’s not the time for petty old vendetta or slippery fingers, Dol, he thought, tightening his grip on his sword and getting to his feet. He swung his sword the way Yuzoff taught him and went at Maldar. You have a job. Do it well. For the sake of those who have died, if not for the Empire. 

But the more he thought about those who died, the weaker his grasp became. What were they holding on to, when after all this they had lost way more than they gained? The Emperor had promised a brighter future for every citizen of the Empire, and all they needed was to acquire the sea children’s magic. But all he saw was devastation at the expense of their own people. He had had to mend comrades who turned pale, sweaty and delirious with pain, patch together limbs that had been ripped apart, remove malicious skeins of magic threaded with veins so that the slightest movement agonising pain –

The shriek of steel against steel, and he snapped to attention … only to find Maldar’s sword scraping past his to find his heart. The tip drew tauntingly close – Dolonit’s eyes squeezed shut – before stopping short against him. Dolonit felt the press of ice-cold metal through the fabric, the drumming of his heart, the hungry anticipation of the crowd.

Maldar himself was a terrible picture of malevolence, a sneer of spiteful glee twisting his arrow-like face. “The enemy, my dear Dolonit, has not the same inhibitions as I do now. They will not hesitate to finish off a replacement soldier.” He retracted his blade and straightened.

Getting to his feet, the Healer dropped his sword – or rather, he tossed it aside. The clank of steel against concrete rang louder than he expected it to, but rather than wince, he made sure his voice sounded just as strong.

His gaze sought the general’s in the crowd. Dolonit launched his words forth like stones right into the stillness of the courtyard. “I am not a fighter. This war brings no victory to me, only death. Find better use for these hands.”

At that, the courtyard erupted in sound and fury. Dolonit left it all in his trail and headed back to his chamber, where more dead and ravaged bodies awaited him.

 

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Fiction Friday – The Tin Lady

Prompt 525

 

Everyone thought I was still hung up over Lucas’s death. It’s the guilt, they all said. It’s making it hard for her to let go. So they let me have my ‘imaginary friend’, and I let them believe this to be the case.

Nobody understood why I took Lucas’s portrait everywhere. People at school just thought I was morbid, or in mourning, or had one too many screws loose after the death of my best friend. Any of those reasons sounded better than the truth.

I adjusted my bag strap and held the framed portrait close to my chest, trying not to breathe too hard as I made my way up the steps to the top of the hill. It was hard enough for Lucas, being trapped in his portrait as a ghost, without having to deal with my physical discomfort.

“All right there, Luke? I could slow down, but I want to get home before it gets dark.” We were at an awfully secluded part of the hill, where I was certain I heard the hiss of snakes on more than one occasion.

“Quit talking and get moving,” was his reply. He wasn’t too thrilled about my decision to look for the Tin Lady, but the old lady who lived at the top of the hill was the only one who could free him.

That wasn’t her name, of course. The Tin Lady was only known as that – did anyone remember her real name anymore? – because of her tin legs. People said she made a deal with a malevolent fairy who reneged on her promise to save her lover, and ended up losing both the boy and her legs.

Now, she oiled her tin legs twice a month. This was the only time she accepted visitors. This was the only time she was willing to talk.

When I reached the top at last, Lucas piped up. “Is it raining?”

I wiped the sweat off my brows and glared at his reflection in the photo frame, which was vague as always. “Very funny.”

“Seriously, Emeline. Just go home.”

He did seem deadly serious, but I couldn’t leave now. Not after climbing all the way up here.

Besides, the Tin Lady had spotted me.

She was seated on a wooden bench just outside her house, her tin legs propped up on either side of her on the bench. Her legs, stumps that ended at the knees, were wrapped in swathes of gauze where they ended, while she was dressed in a thin, flowing one-piece the colour of the forest at night. She glanced up halfway through unbundling her legs, and found me standing in the clearing hugging a six-by-eight-inch photo frame.

“That is no way to treat a ghost,” was the first thing she said. And I knew I had come to the right person.

 

*

 

The Tin Lady said since Lucas’s body was stolen by the fairies, we either tried to get it back from them or made another in its likeness. Neither option sounded plausible, especially after hearing how she had been robbed of her legs and the boy she loved.

“What happened exactly?”

She beat down my question with her stern, cloudy gaze, and then pulled a pocket knife out of the folds of her clothes.

“You should at least free him,” she said, before proceeding to drag the edge of the knife down the length of Lucas’s photo. An ugly rip sat slashed his face in half. I let out a cry and reached for the photo, but Lucas was the one who stopped me.

Lucas, with his hands on my arm.

It wasn’t warm or solid, by any means, but it offered far more comfort than the past two weeks had, ever since he went missing and I noticed his ghost in the reflection of the photo frame.

I grasped at whatever wisp of him there was.

Lucas turned to the Tin Lady. “It had been this easy all along?”

“You’re still dead,” I pointed out.

“At least I’m not stuck inside a cramped little photo frame anymore.”

That hurt. I’d made sure to wipe the photo frame every day, at least. But this was hardly the point of contention now. “How do we get him back for good?”

The old lady searched me with a look, then pulled on the tin prosthetic legs that creaked in the stillness. The sky was slipping into a sleepy lavender shade, but here at the top of the hill the air was tight as an intake of breath. I was finding it harder to breathe – whether from anticipation or the thinner air, I wasn’t sure.

Lucas took my hand, but his grip was hardly strong enough to stay me. “I’m not sure about this,” he whispered as the tin lady pushed open the front door and left it open behind her. “We don’t know anything about her.”

“She can bring you back,” I said, by way of convincing myself too. “Don’t be such a pansy.”

The Tin Lady’s house was a squat little thing that offered little room for movement and thought – the former because of the gleaming iron cages hanging from hooks everywhere, the latter because of the wild, heady musk of some exotic flower I couldn’t pinpoint.

“Do you make these?” I reached for an intricately carved cage the size of Lucas’s photo frame swinging from a squeaking hook. The carvings on the cage bars and base made no sense: they were words from another language laced into thorny vines, nothing legible or discernible.

The Tin Lady nodded once. “This way,” she said, heading for a cupboard in the corner of the room. Lucas and I navigated our way through with the dying light of dusk; he tried to catch my eye, but I kept my dogged gaze fixed on the old lady, who had pulled open the cupboard and stooped to take something out.

It was a wrought iron cage, pretty nondescript in plain dull-grey. She rapped it twice on the crown, letting off a strange mellifluous ring. A beat later, the cage emanated a multi-coloured glow that painted the dirty walls of the house. But the light was frail, a whisper for help in an inked night.

“Emmy,” Lucas whispered, pointing at what’s inside the cage.

A tiny … being lay sprawl at the foot of the cage. At the sight of us, she flung herself against the bars, a snarl distorting her lovely face. But iron was cruel to her, poisoning her skin, her body, and, slowly, her mind. She curled up into a tight ball and glowered up at us – but mostly at the Tin Lady.

My breaths came out in a loud staccato. I scrambled for Lucas’s hand. “Is that a –?”

The old lady turned around, a smile curved like a hook on her face. And it was only then, under the dying light of the sick, captured fairy, that I noticed the wicked iron-grey spark in her cataract-clouded eyes.

“This is how we’ll get your lover back.” Her voice was a rusty blade.

 

Fiction Friday – Prince

Since Blogger decided to screw up my GIFs, I think I shall make a permanent switch to WordPress.

Anyway, too many things to write this week: Fifteen Minutes, which I’m going back to tinkering with since it is now free from the competition I sent it in for; Blood Promise; and a writing blog I’m setting up with a friend.

So I’m pulling out an old piece. Sorry about this! Will definitely write a new piece when I have more time. (Crappy excuse, but there you go.)

This is a play I wrote for school (the assignment was to write a comedic piece), which is also a scene from Fifteen Minutes. So this is part of the rough material for the novel.

 

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PRINCE

Tom Fletcher

 

In a garage with music equipment set up, SAWYER, JON and HESSE are seated around a makeshift plastic table, waiting for PRINCE to arrive.

Sawyer   I thought he’s living with you guys now.

Hesse   Staying.

Sawyer   Living, staying, whatever – what’s the difference?

Jon   The difference is that it’s not permanent.

Sawyer   You mean staying?

Hesse   That’s what I said.

Sawyer   So since he’s staying with you guys, where the hell is he? Still rolling his pretty ass out of bed?

Hesse   His shaver broke. He went out to the store. Said he’ll be back in ten.

Sawyer   So we’re going to sit here and wait for him to primp himself up? Damn, I should’ve brought my makeup kit along.

Hesse   You know it’s been harder for him to get around lately. What with the paparazzi and all.

Sawyer   By getting around, you mean… (Raises brows)

Hesse   (rolling his eyes) You know Prince isn’t like that. He’s ridiculously devoted. I don’t think he’s ever even gotten over Heather ditching his ass for that prick. Which is why I can’t understand those headlines. It’s not like him to do anything of that sort.

Sawyer   But it is just like him to get himself into all that mess. He’s too nice to those fans. Girls throw themselves at him and he’s all, (feigns a prissy attitude) Oh hello, thank you for your support. I know you love me. A photo? Sure, why ever not?

Garage shutters roll up. Enter PRINCE, with CHLOE in tow.

Prince   Did I just hear you guys talking about me? (Takes off mask and smirks) I might blush.

Hesse   Yeah, okay. You got your grand entrance. Now let’s jam.

Prince   I spent fifteen minutes shaking off the paps. Give me a second to take a breather, will you? I need to shave. It’s bad enough walking around with a half-shaven face. Good thing no one saw me with this thing on. (Gestures to mask)

Sawyer   We’re at band practice. Why do you need to shave before band practice? And this whole problem with the paps wouldn’t have been a problem if… (Trails off as he spots CHLOE) Well, hello, beautiful.

Jon   (staring at CHLOE) And this is…?

Prince   Oh. This is Chloe, my new assistant. She lives just next door. (looks at the brothers) Your neighbour for all these years and you don’t remember her face?

An awkward pause.

Prince   Chloe, meet Sawyer (gestures to him), Jon and Hesse. They’re my band-mates.

HESSE waves while CHLOE nods in acknowledgement. JON levels her with a stare.

Sawyer   (extends a hand but withdraws it when CHLOE does not reciprocate) Please to meet you, beautiful.

Hesse   What happened to Keith?

Prince   Oh, he was pathetic. One little media storm and he quit. Said the paparazzi are driving him nuts. Besides, he was boring. Never took any initiative, unless I prompted him –

Sawyer   You mean he’s never commended Your Royal Hotness before.

Prince   Besides (drops voice to a whisper) I think he was in love with me.

CHLOE rolls her eyes.

Prince   I can’t trust him to be objective if he’s in love with me. I need to have a purely professional relationship with my assistant.

Hesse   And so you went and got a female assistant? Of … (assesses CHLOE) our age? Are you trying to drive the paps delirious? They’ll go wild when they find out.

Prince   Don’t worry, I’ve already made sure she won’t fall for me. Chloe doesn’t get out much; she didn’t even know who I was! (Laughs) Girls like her are so rare, don’t you think? Besides, I intend to keep her a secret. No one but you guys knows about her. Plus, it’s easier having someone who doesn’t know anything about us around. Nobody will sell us out – sell me out – you see. (Grins to ensuing silence) I know, sometimes my genius scares me too.

Jon   And you think she won’t sell you out? How do you know for sure she doesn’t know who we are?

Prince   I know. It’s hard to believe she doesn’t know who Highway Heaven is. It’s like she lives under a rock. But if she is, then we’re living right next to that rock. (Looks at the brothers)

Sawyer   Staying.

Prince   But she’s the real deal.And don’t worry, I made her promise not to fall in love with me. (Winks)

Sawyer   (sidling up to CHLOE) But that doesn’t include us, right? You didn’t promise not to fall in love with the rest of us?

CHLOE shrugs off SAWYER’s arm.

Prince   I think she’s allergic to boys or something. Good-looking boys, that is. So you might have more of a chance than I do, Sawyer.

Sawyer   Screw you.

Prince   Sorry, I don’t swing that way.

Jon   What’s in it for her then, being your assistant? (Folds arms) If she’s not into you, or any of us, then why would she volunteer to be your assistant for nothing?

Chloe   First off –

Hesse   It talks!

Chloe   I didn’t volunteer to be his assistant. (Glares at PRINCE) He practically forced me into it. I barely even agreed –

Prince   Aw, don’t listen to her. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Must be the shock of meeting me in the flesh. You know how they can get.

Chloe   And, I’m not going to be his assistant for nothing. It’s because I….

Sawyer   What is it, beautiful? No need to be shy around us.

Chloe   I….

Prince   Oh, come on. There’s nothing wrong with being broke. I was poor too before I shot to mega-stardom. Her parents totally forgot about her living here on her own. She was living on cup noodles and a table lamp when I found her. I’m just giving her a job. It’s a win-win situation. (Pauses) I’ve always wanted to use that phrase.

Jon   So she’s with you for your money.

Hesse   Oh, come on, Jon. (To CHLOE) Sorry, he gets like that. You can’t find anyone more cynical than my brother.

Sawyer   So how did you find her?

Prince   (Nudges CHLOE) Tell him, honey. Tell him how Fate brought us together and how our insignificant lives – well, your insignificant life – collided with the glorious, dazzling impact of a supernova.

Hesse   Careful, Ethan. You’re flirting.

Prince   The name is Prince. And oh, don’t worry. She’s hormonally challenged. These homebodies, they stay at home all day talking to their dolls or reading their fantasy novels. They couldn’t respond to a come-on if it stuck a hotdog in their mouths.

Groans erupt all around.

Sawyer   Sorry, beautiful. He can be quite a dick sometimes. I would never contaminate my language with such vulgar imagery.

Chloe   That’s okay. The words a person says determines his intellect. There’s no point contending with a person like him.

Hesse   (laughing) Looks like you’ve hired yourself a little fireball, Prince.

Jon   Can we get down to business already? My keys are turning rusty. (Plays a quick short tune on his keyboard)

Prince   But I’m not done shaving yet! (Rubs face) I can’t jam without a smooth face.

Hesse   Yeah, yeah. You’re still pretty, okay? (To CHLOE) Make yourself comfortable, Chloe. And give us some feedback, will you? We’re working on something right now that sounds … lacking, for some reason.

PRINCE sulkily gets his guitar plugged and everyone gets ready.

Prince   (murmurs into the microphone in a sexy baritone) It’s called ‘Paper Bombs’.

They launch into a number that involves heavy drumbeats and a mash of screaming guitars. The song ends with a final riff of the guitar.

Hesse   (to CHLOE) How was it?

Chloe   (nods) Pretty good.

Prince   Pretty good? Pretty good? That’s all you can say?

Chloe   What do you want me to say?

Prince   After all we’ve put into performing it, you could at least give us a scream. Or make an impromptu banner. Or if even all that’s too taxing, you could at least clap.

Chloe   I’m not a groupie. I’m an audience.

Prince   You’re a horrible audience.

Chloe   Is that how you speak to your audience? Every audience is a potential fan.

Hesse   She sounds scarily like Ben.

Chloe   Who’s Ben?

Hesse   Our manager.

Prince   You know what? Let’s do this again. I don’t care. (To CHLOE) You, as my assistant, are going to tell me what the problem is.

They perform ‘Paper Bombs’ again.

Prince   Well?

Chloe   Maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of all this metal, but I really think there’s too much guitar screaming around. And the drumbeats. It’s distracting and makes the song sound too generic. It takes away the power of the lyrics. It might be better if it were acoustic. (Shrugs) But that’s just my opinion.

Silence fills the garage.

Sawyer   You really think so?

Hesse   (considering) Might work. It’s worth giving a shot.

Prince   Wait a minute. Just – wait a minute. (Turns to CHLOE) Acoustic? Are you kidding me? This song is all about the power. I’m trying to make a statement with the lyrics. The metal is to draw out the rawness of the heartbreak when the girl dumps the guy through a series of letters. And you’re telling me we should go acoustic?

Chloe   You wanted my opinion.

Prince   I didn’t need that.

Chloe   Oh, you mean my criticism?

Prince   No, I mean your unprofessional take on a song I put my heart and soul into. We put our heart and soul into.

Chloe   I never claimed to be a professional. I’m just an assistant.

Sawyer   I thought you said you haven’t agreed to it yet.

Prince   Who wants an assistant like her?

Hesse   (warningly) Prince. You’ve only just fired Keith. Walk it off.

Sawyer   (to CHLOE) If you decide not to work for Prince, there’s always me. I’m a whole lot nicer, I promise. Plus, I’ll pay you double.

Prince   Shut up, Sawyer. She’s my assistant. Besides, you know I need an assistant more than you do.

Sawyer   What’s that supposed to mean?

Hesse   Oh, come on, guys. Don’t do this.

Prince   We all know I’m the Paul McCartney of this band. I can’t help it if everyone pays more attention to me, Sawyer, but you seem to think I’m stealing something from you.

SAWYER punches PRINCE across the face.

Prince   (cries) Not the face! Not the face! My cheekbone! (To no one in particular) Is it dented? Am I still pretty? (Grabs CHLOE by the shoulders and shaking her) Am I?

Chloe   You need to shut up and calm the hell down.

Sawyer   (to PRINCE) You arrogant little bastard. I’ll make it bigger than you. And when that time comes, you’ll be begging me for an autograph to sell on eBay because you can’t afford the rent in that fancy-ass suite of yours.

Hesse   Sawyer, come on. You know Prince. He doesn’t mean –

Sawyer   Enough with the Prince thing already. His name is Ethan. If he can be a prince, I can be a duke or something.

JON starts playing a piece on his keyboard. The notes start out quiet, so that no one hears it at first. Gradually, it builds up into a strong melody that silences everyone. When it ends, everyone is staring at JON.

Jon   We started out as a rock band. With a dream to share our music with the world. But what we are is a pop idol group. And we agreed to see that as just a platform, a stepping stone to what we really want, to become rock stars. Why the hell are you two fighting over who has more girls screaming over him?

PRINCE and SAWYER fidget in shame.

Hesse   Yeah. Have a break, have a KitKat, or whatever. (Opens the mini fridge and pulling out a jumbo packet of chocolate) Sit. (Distributes chocolate all around) Now eat.

As everyone munches absently on chocolate, PRINCE pulls out a mini mirror from his back pocket and checks his face for damage.

Sawyer   Look, I’m sorry about … (gestures to PRINCE’s face) you know. You’re still pretty, all right?

Prince   I know. And I didn’t mean what I said. I mean, I am more popular than you, but it’s not like it matters. You know why I started out with this anyway; I didn’t mean to compete with anyone.

Sawyer   (nodding) Have you settled all the debts at home?

PRINCE shakes his head.

Hesse   But your mom said….

Prince   What my mom doesn’t know won’t kill her. I told her I’ve settled everything.

Hesse   Don’t you think she’ll find out somehow? And does she know about the tabloids?

Prince   She collects every snippet of news about me. How can she not know? She’s been choking up my voicemail ever since.

Jon   You can’t keep avoiding her. And you know, having her (gestures to CHLOE) around will only complicate things further.

Hesse   And Ben would never allow that. You’re his fattest cash cow –

Prince   I’m fat?

He pulls off t-shirt to reveal his fine physique. CHLOE blushes furiously.

Sawyer   Put that away, jeez! Are you trying to give us sore eyes?

Prince   (to HESSE) Fat? Is this fat to you? (Flexes his abs and biceps) I keep this body in tiptop condition at all times, FYI. I’m a sight for sore eyes. (To CHLOE) Aren’t I?

Chloe   (still blushing)

SAWYER, HESSE and JON roll their eyes.

Hesse   Okay, okay. I take that back, okay? Now will you stop exhibiting yourself to us?

Prince   (pulling his t-shirt back on) One thing at a time. First, no one is going to mention her to Ben. As soon as this whole thing with the paps blows over, we’ll all be too busy with the concerts for Ben to care about some assistant of mine. And as for my mom, that’s a distant problem we don’t have to worry about as long as I’m still raking in the money.

Jon   But I don’t think that’s going to be a distant problem.

Prince   You’re right. Of course it isn’t. It isn’t even a problem at all.

Jon   No, I mean it’s more immediate than you think.

Prince   … Why?

Hesse   Well. Because she called. (Waves PRINCE’s cellphone) While you were out. Says she’s coming over. She’s on the next flight in from Greece.

Deathly silence creeps in.

Prince   You couldn’t find a spare second to mention that earlier? Holy shit, Hesse! Holy freaking shit! My mom’s flying over? Dammit, Hesse! Dammit!

Hesse   Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

CHLOE goes over to PRINCE and slaps him.

Prince   (screams) NOT THE FACE!

Chloe   You’re sort of hysterical.

Prince   Well, yeah, of course I am. My mother’s coming over!

Chloe   And that’s … bad?

Hesse   The last time his mother came over, she meddled so much Highway Heaven almost lost our contract with the record company. She means well, the sweet lady, but….

Prince   (stares at CHLOE) We need to hide her. Now. My mom can’t see her!

Chloe   What? I thought you said she’s not a problem!

Prince   That was before I knew she’s flying over. (Grabs CHLOE’s hand and drags her to ) Rope. We need rope. Tie her up so she won’t leave this garage. Rope! Get me some rope!

Chloe   You’re crazy! (Tears out of the garage)

Sawyer   Beautiful! Don’t go! Aw, man. (Turns to PRINCE) Look what you did, assbag.

Hesse   (stares after CHLOE) I think you just lost your assistant the same day you got her. What a record.

 

 

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