Short Story – You Who Stole the Thunder

Prompt 567

There weren’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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To-Read List for May!

It’s a magical realism feast this month, in both contemporary and historical fiction. I’m liking this trend VERY MUCH.

Roald Dahl

Magical realism is such an unexplored genre (as compared to, say, crime and mystery) and I really love how it brings the fantastical into real life and stretches your imagination to accept the strange and the wondrous things that happen every day. That’s probably why I wrote Until Morning – and now No Room in Neverland – because I wanted so badly to read something set in the real world that contained romance and magic.

Speaking of Until Morning, I’ve decided to go the crowd-source route and post it up on Swoon Reads (which published a lovely contemporary romance novel A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall). You can read it (and rate and share if you enjoyed it!) here. And if you need an idea of what it’s about, here’s a teaser:

Lexi Keen has found her soul-mate, although she has never met Night, the elusive street artist who leaves his paintings around the city.

Still, that doesn’t stop her from penning letters to him – until she finds herself living in his paintings after a car accident lands her in a coma. In her mind she is wandering through Night’s paintings. Her only companion: a boy who doesn’t understand why he is trapped there with her and wants to leave.

Sam Young is trying to make sense of the dreams he has been having of late, dreams in which he meets the irreverent, free-spirited Lexi. When his father’s latest development project involves taking over the inn that Lexi’s father owns, Sam has to choose between his loyalties to his father and staying with Lexi in the dream, safe from reality.

So anyway, I’m really looking forward to this month’s haul. Yay for magical realism and contemporary fiction! That’s not to say fantasy is a dying genre, but I think readers as a whole are now looking to take a break from all that supernatural good-versus-evil stuff for a while and go back to something closer to the heart. Even agents I’ve queried have told me they’re not representing fantasy because the market’s too saturated and people are veering away from the genre at the moment.

To Read:

1. Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley

2. Girl At Midnight, by Melissa Grey

3. Above Us Only Sky, by Michele Young-Stone

4. Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby

5. The Cost of All Things, by Maggie Lehrman

6. Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira

7. Love Fortunes and Other Disasters, by Kimberly Karalius

I can’t stop fangirling over these books. I mean, HAVE YOU READ THEIR BLURBS? ARE YOU NOT PROPERLY EXCITED ABOUT THEM ALREADY? Ships in the sky, memory erasure (coincidentally, I’ve been working on a short story about memory erasure too), Lithuanian bird-women, pickpockets in black markets and missing people. This is while I love reading and creating stories. There are so many exhilarating possibilities that set your mind on fire, so many stories that fill you with ideas and life.

And of course, there’s LANGUAGE itself. Prose. The stringing of words to form beautiful, heart-breaking sentences with rhythm and music.

From Magonia:

“I’m dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can’t even shine a light on it. I feel like I’m mostly made of mysteries.”

“I know everyone has dreams of flying, but this isn’t a dream of flying. It’s a dream of floating, and the ocean is not water but wind.
I call it a dream, but it feels realer than my life.”

 photo rapunzel excited_zpshvwuuvax.gif

 photo rapunzel heavy breathing_zpstoctrorx.gif

Breathe, Joyce, breathe.

Currently Reading:

1. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

SO GOOD. The execution, the plot (and plot twists), the prose – all skillfully done. If I HAD to nitpick, I’d say that my connection with the characters isn’t as strong as the one with Alina and Mal from the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. Those two (plus Nikolai Lantsov) got me swooning and dancing and grinning and spazzing. Red Queen, while nicely done, doesn’t send me reeling. But this is probably subjective and different for every reader. This book is still HIGHLY recommended!

2. Before My Eyes, by Caroline Bock

Two words: mental illness. I’m a sucker for any story that deals with issues like this, especially anything creepy or disturbing or psychologically messed up and sheds some light on people dealing with the demons in their heads. Plus, it’s told in alternative POV and it reminds me a lot of Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn and *ahem* Lambs for Dinner by me.

Queued:

1. Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen

2. Friday Brown, by Vikki Wakefield

What’s on YOUR reading list this month? Recommendations always welcome! :0)

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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