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Fiction: Sit Still (517 words)

Anyone who didn’t know her would assume she was defeated. She sat slumped in her chair, her hair falling in front of her face, her eyes looking sunken and dark. Some people who did know her would assume she was defeated. She certainly looked the part.

A pristinely dressed woman came into the room with a package wrapped in brown paper. After making sure that the door was closed and sealed, she turned towards the girl in the chair and approached her slowly.  “We got you some clean clothes,” She said, offering out the brown paper package, “They might make you feel a little bit more put together.”

The girl didn’t move. She didn’t even look up. She just sat there, staring at the floor just behind where the woman was standing. She hadn’t even given any indication that she realized she wasn’t alone anymore. The woman turned and looked at the door, her face twisted.  She made some half-hearted gesture with the package. But, when no response came, or perhaps because no response game, she turned back to face the girl. She dropped down into a squat, balancing carefully in her heels. She put the package on the ground at the girl’s feet and tried to look up into her face. “Listen, sweetheart. We’re sorry about you boy toy, we didn’t want to kill him. We’re sorry that it had to come down to this. But you lost. Your team lost. We don’t want you to be miserable, that was never our goal. So please. Take the clean clothes. Eat the food we bring you. Give us a chance to show you that this can be better.”

The girl in the chair didn’t move. She stared right through the woman with a thousand yard stare.   The woman threw up her hands and stood back up. “We can’t help you if you won’t let us,” she commented in a tone usually reserved for disappointed parents and teachers, “You’re only hurting yourself.” She clicked out of the room, all but slamming the door behind her.

The girl knew she wasn’t really alone. Somewhere, somehow, they were still watching her every movement. So, her movements were tiny. Small glances around the room without moving her head. Small twitches of her hands and feet, that could be mistaken for involuntary muscle movements. She tried to feel out what she could of her surroundings without giving herself away.

Because even though she looked defeated—even if they all believed that her cause was lost—It wasn’t over until ever last one of them was dead. As long as she was still breathing, she had something to fight for.  And she knew something else. There was a sensor in her hand, beating out a steady rhythm now that she had folded her thumb over it.  A calm, even fifty-three beats per minute. They hadn’t killed her “boy toy” as they liked to call him. He was still alive out there. And if anyone would know she wasn’t defeated, if anyone could get her out of here—it would be him.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Problems (539 words)

It was a quick fluid motion. The kind that could only be performed by someone who had made the same movement over and over again.  Two twists and a pin and all her hair was back in a tight bun, completely out of her way.  “What happened? What did she do?”

“Something stupid, I’m sure.” The woman huffed, placing her fourteen-year-old daughter down on the table, “I don’t know exactly. She had just stumbled into the house when she passed out entirely.”

Morrigan was laying unconscious on Elena’s tables, not for the first time.  Her mother was right.  Something stupid indeed.  Probably over exerted herself with magic that was too powerful, even for her.  Chosen one or not, there were just some things you couldn’t do until you’d practiced long and hard.

That was the problem with young girls.  You gave them a little wiggle room to stretch their limbs, and they would take off running off the edge of the nearest cliff if you left them for a second unattended. With Morrigan, that was pretty close to a literal complaint.  Right off the edge of the cliff, convinced she could fly.  The frustrating part of Elena was that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, Morrigan would fly, which made it extremely hard to teach her any kind of lesson.

But worrying about Morrigan’s bad habits and bad lessons was not a priority right now.  Figuring out what she had done was.

Morrigan’s mother stepped back, and Elena went forward, hands outstretched. Yep, there it was, over-exertion of her stores. Elena was all ready to just tell her mother that Morrigan would have to sleep it off when she felt something else. Something strange. This wasn’t a girl who had been playing alone by herself…she was defending herself. Elena could read it almost like a bruise. Someone had tried to attack her, pushed against Morrigan’s limits until she couldn’t take it anymore.  And Morrigan could handle twice what Elena could send out—so whoever had attacked her would have to be extremely strong.

“Where was she?” Elena asked quickly. When there was no answer, she whipped around to look at Morrigan’s mother. “Before she came into the house—before she fainted—where was she?”

The woman looked flustered for a second. “I don’t know. I don’t—“ She gave herself a shake and steadied her view on Elena. “She went to practice. She said she wanted to go watch some of the more advanced classes.”

“Oh god,” Elena sighed, running through the list of royal students in her head, “Who did this?”

“What’s wrong?” Morrigan’s mother finally seemed to realize this wasn’t just Morrigan doing something stupid. She rushed forward to Elena’s side, taking her daughter’s limp hand in her own. “What’s wrong with my girl?”

“She was attacked.” Elena didn’t believe in mincing words, not even for worried mothers. “She’s strong, she’ll recover. But if whoever had attacked someone else—they would be in very severe danger.”  Elena put her hand on Morrigan’s collarbone, trying to feel if she could recognize the magic that had attacked Morrigan.  “We will have to go talk to the king,” Elena continued coldly, “We may have a very big problem.”

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Nights Like This (616 words)

She knew, deep down in her soul, she had made the right choice. Yes, she had loved fighting with them, and it had been her brain child when she and Andy started to put this group together in their teenage years, but it had grown to be so much more than that. And—her heart wasn’t in it anymore. She wasn’t safe working with them, and she made them unsafe just by being there. It had been right for her to leave, no matter how much it had hurt her brother. No matter how much it hurt her to leave Colin. She had made the right choice.

But then, there were nights like this. When she heard the sirens throughout the city, and the news started to wonder if the vigilante crew would show up to help out in this situation, or even worse, when reports of a member of the team had been spotted. She sat, eyes glued to the television like most of the citizens, but with so much more to lose.

Details were always spotty after big events like this. The vigilante crew was always reported to be alive and dead in almost equal measures, depending on the political opinions of the given news channel.  And after a day, night, or week like this, the crew always had bigger fish to fry then to get news to her quickly, to explain what had happened, to let her know if they were safe or not. And she understood that, she really did. But still.

When the news started to repeat itself and it was clear that Mara had learned all she was going to learn from it, she started to pace the apartment. She never got much sleep on nights like these.  Her imagination couldn’t help but tell her that her brother was dead. Or the man she loved was dead. Or one of her best friends from childhood was dead. (She never allowed herself to acknowledge that their fourth, the woman who had replaced Mara on the team and in Colin’s bed, might be dead. Because then she’d have to admit that she wasn’t really upset about that.) And once her brain had made up thorough stories about each of their deaths individually, it started to tell her that more than one was dead out there somewhere, until she had thoroughly convinced herself that she was the only one left, the only one who knew who the vigilante crew was and the only one who was going to mourn their loss.  And she would blame herself for not being with them to save them from this terrible fate.

But then, when she was almost delirious with sleep, he would show up. That brother of hers, the man whose face she knew just as well as her own, the only family she had left and the only person whose loss she knew she would never be able to recover from when it eventually happened, was there at her window, standing hunched on her fire escape, tapping to be let in.

The first words out of his mouth were always an explanation of injuries, because he knew that Mara would ask, and wouldn’t let anything else happen until she knew. They were a good team, and there were many times when the list was only bumps and bruises, and Mara would feel so silly for the panic and the thoughts that her presence would make any difference at all.  After all, she had quit for a reason. She had made the right choice.

 

And she would believe that, if she was lucky, for months at a time, until a night like this made her doubt herself again.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Needing Answers (520 words)

Cindy woke up in James’s bed, and it took her a little while to remember why. It all came back to her along with the pounding the back of her skull. She should be dead. No one knew why she wasn’t dead. She was in James’ room because he didn’t trust her right now—and his room was the only place in the house where he could guard the exit in case she tried to make a run for it. Everywhere else had second exits or windows that opened. Except of course for the basement, but Matthew’s lab was down there, which would have given Cindy a dozen different ways to arm herself. That only left James’ room but, this was never the way she imagined spending the night in here.

But Cindy wasn’t going to run, even if she had been given the chance. She didn’t understand why a fire ax to the base of her neck didn’t kill her. The only two immortal people she knew were James and Matthew. If she had any hope of figuring out what was happing to her, it was going to be by staying with them, not running away. And she did want to figure it out.

As she sat up, Cindy noticed that the door was ajar, and James was sitting on a fold-out chair with a book in hand just past the doorframe. He looked up as she moved. “Good. You’re awake. Matthew has been growing a list of tests he wants to run.” James’ voice was harsh, cold. He had never talked to her like that. Not ever.

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Cindy couldn’t help the anger rising in her voice, “I have no idea why I’m not dead, but to be honest, I’m kind of glad I’m not. I’m sorry that you wish I was.”

For just the shortest of seconds, James’ stony face softened, and she thought he might apologize. But then his face went hard again. “Are you going to consent to Matthew’s tests or not?”

Cindy let out a huffy breath, trying to get her anger back under control. It wouldn’t do her any favors to lose her temper at the moment. “Yes, I consent to Matthew’s tests. Let’s figure out what this is.”

James looked her up and down, narrowing his eyes as if he was trying to figure out how this might be a trap.  Cindy wondered which would break her first—not knowing what was going on with her—or James’ mistrust of her. Because she was almost positive she wasn’t going to get through without breaking.

“Okay, he’s waiting. Let’s go.” James stood up without giving her another moment to ponder her inevitable breakdown.  Cindy climbed out of the bed to follow him but got distracted by the giant red splotch left behind on the pillow.  That was all her blood. She definitely shouldn’t be alive.

“Come on, Cindy,” James called, and Cindy blinked away the tears that had come to her eyes.  She had to do the tests. It would be the first step to figuring anything out.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Child of the Prophecy (674 words)

I held Mia closer to my chest and rocked the rocking chair a little bit harder.  Lucas was pacing back and forth across the nursery.  “How do we do this, Artie?”  There were tears on his cheeks but he didn’t sound like he was crying anymore. He sounded angry, and he needed to vent.  I held onto Mia tightly, ready to get up and leave if Lucas started to yell.  “That beautiful little girl, that angel of a child, is going to have to fight a war.  A war!  My grandfather, that sweet little things own flesh and blood, is going to start a war right now over a prophecy.  She’s six months old, Artemis, six months old, and a war is already starting around her.  When is she going to have to start fighting this war?  Will she even be an adult before this war collapses on her head?  Will she even be a teenager? In the double digits?  How do we prepare her for that?  How do we live our lives knowing this is where her life is going?” Lucas stopped pacing and stood right in front me and the rocking chair.

I stood up carefully and handed the sleeping Mia over to Lucas.  Lucas held her tightly but kept his eyes on me.  “Look at her,” I whispered.  Lucas looked at me almost pleadingly, his lower lip quivering. I gave him a look that said I wasn’t kidding, and he lowered his eyes slowly down to look at our daughter’s face. “Do you love her?”

“Yes, of course, I love her,” Lucas said with an exasperated tone.

“Will you protect her with all your heart and strength?”

“Of course, I will.”

“Even if your grandfather wages a war on her?”

“Even when my grandfather wages a war on her.”

“And will you try to keep her safe for as long as possible. No matter how long it takes for war to show up on our doorstep, or how long that war wages over the doorstep?”

“I will always keep this little girl safe.  No matter what. I will keep her safe, and I will do my best to protect and prepare her for anything that comes her way.”  Lucas admitted, crying again, and lifting Mia up to kiss her very softly on the forehead.

“That’s all I can say, Luke.  We must try to protect her and love her and prepare her as best we can.  We must be good enough for her.  Whether she’s six, sixteen, or twenty-six when that war comes to our steps, we need to stand by her, and we need to be able to protect her and to help her protect herself.” Lucas passed Mia back to me, and I placed her down into her crib.  I turned back to Lucas and let him wrap his arms tightly around me.

“I don’t think I am ready for this,” he muttered into my hair.

“To be perfectly honest, I’m not either.  I don’t think we could ever be ready to be parents, even if our daughter wasn’t the focal point of a war.  I think we just have to do the best we can with every situation that arises.” I said against his chest.

Lucas leaned down and kissed me on the top of the head.

“How do you stay so calm?” he asked.

“One of us has to be rational at all times.  Just you wait, tomorrow Mia will have an earache or something, and I’ll be beside myself with panic, and you’ll be the one with the level head to talk me down off a ledge.”

“I look forward to being the rational one again.  It’s hard being crazy, how do you do this all the time?”

I hit him lightly in the stomach, and he let out a little bit of an oof, and then laughed.

“She’s a great girl, our little Mia.”

“She’s a great girl, and we’ll make sure that she becomes a great woman.”

“You promise?”

“Of course. I promise.”

 

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Hurt (580 words)

“Don’t worry. I got you.” He wrapped his arm around her back, pulling her to lean on him as they took a few steps further up the steep path.

“I don’t feel so good,” She whispered, and his heart nearly broke.

“I know, I know. Come on. Let’s just get a little bit further. Then we can rest,” He tighten his grip on her waist as she stumbled, making sure to keep her upright.

Hana wasn’t the fighter. That was her sister, Harlowe’s job, Harlowe was the fighter, the trained solider.   Even Conlyn himself had been a fighter all his life. But Hana—She hated fighting. She kept things going at home. She kept the farm running. She helped take care of the kids whose parents were off at war. She planed the burial for the soldiers who had no one else to plan for them.

She wasn’t supposed to be the one who got hurt.

“Conlyn,” She whispered, “I think I am in trouble.”

“Maybe a little,” He undersold, “But we’ve been in trouble before, right? Have I ever not gotten you out of trouble?”

Her laugh was weak, but still reassuring. “You always get us into trouble. It’s only fair that you get us out again.”

“Exactly. I’ll get us out of this too.  I love you, remember. Do you remember the last promise I made you?” He asked, pulling her a little tighter to steady her walking.

“You promised me that you were going to marry me.” She said almost dreamily. He couldn’t tell if she was dreamy about the thought of marrying him—or if it was due to the blood loss.

“That’s right. So, I am going to marry you. As soon as we get home. You don’t want to make a liar out of me, now do you?”

“No,” Hana’s voice was barely a whisper, but they had just come over the crest of the hill and Conlyn could see the little medical building down in front of them.  Just down the hill, maybe fifteen feet or so. “I love you, Conlyn.”

“I love you too, Angel. Just a little bit farther.”

“Okay,” Hana slumped against him, “Okay. I trust you.”

Conlyn’s knees buckled as Hana stopped supporting her own weight completely, hitting his side hard.  He turned to brace her so that she wouldn’t fall and hit the ground, falling to his knees as he went. He couldn’t get back up. He couldn’t carry her weight. And he couldn’t just leave her here.

“Help!” He shouted, not taking his eyes off Hana to see if anyone was listening. “Please, someone help me!”

It seemed like it took ages for anyone to come as he shouted, but it might also have only been a minute. Two women were suddenly by his side, helping Conlyn to lift Hana and get her to the building, asking him what had happened and how long she’d been injured, and a hundred other questions that Conlyn hadn’t realized he was answering, still unable to look away from her.

One of the women finally put her hand on Conlyn’s shoulder, asking him to wait outside while they took her in to work.  He grabbed her hand with desperation, looking her in the eye. “Hana means everything to me. Everything.”

The woman gave him a smile, pulling her hand free. “We will do everything we can. I promise, she’s in good hands.” Then she went inside leaving him outside to wait.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Did He Know? (907 words)

Aurora sat alone in her room. She was always alone in her room—or almost always anyways—at least since her parents died. No that she minded too terribly much. She did have some access to the internet, and her father’s large collection of classic television, so she had plenty to amuse her time. The workers were nice enough to her, often bring her games or new movies to watch. And sometimes, when she was really lucky, John would come by.

John had been visiting Aurora since she was about six years old, even when her parents were still alive. He came because he figured that Aurora might like someone to call a friend who she wasn’t directly related to, and she wasn’t likely to meet a lot of people as long as she was under “observation” here—which was very likely to be for the rest of natural life. On top of that, he was the only international member of the team here, and he figured he was Aurora’s only chance to meet someone who wasn’t American. When she was young, she was enthralled by is accent, and would often come up with ridiculous things for him to say, just so she could giggle at the difference between the way they would say it.

When her parents died, he was the only one who actually went in to  her room to comfort her, rather than just offering condolences. To hold her tightly and let her cry and treat her like the mourning twelve-year-old she was. And when she started to develop her “moods,” they always called John in to talk to her, and get her into a better mood.  He had been a good friend to her. And a surrogate father in the last seven years since she lost her real family.

But she had never asked for him to be brought to her before. Today, though, she needed to know if he knew. She needed to know if she had been so thoroughly betrayed. And if she hadn’t, if he didn’t know, she needed to warn him.

She went to the wall where she knew the door was, and knocked against it sharply. “Excuse me. I would like to see John please. If someone could get him, I’d appreciate it.” She called out.  There was no response.  She waited a few minutes to see if someone would answer her, but she didn’t expect them too. Finally, she crossed back to her bed and sat down. She’d give them a little while to bring him, and if they didn’t, she knew how to fake a hissy fit and get them to fetch him themselves.

Luckily, she didn’t have to resort to that measure. About an hour after she had knocked on the door, it opened just a crack, just enough to see a brown eye peeking in at her. She laughed in spite of herself, and John came into the room, all wide smiles. If they knew she’d figured it out—they hadn’t warned him. “You wanted to see me?” He questioned dropping into the chair that was meant for her desk.

“Yeah,” She scooted to the end of her bed so that she could look him in the eye, “Do you know?”

She saw his confusion, still amused, wondering what kind of game she was playing now. “Do I know what?”

“About my parents. Do you know?”

He didn’t stiffen, or panic. But the amusement was gone. He knew she didn’t like to talk about her parents. He didn’t understand what she was playing at. “What are you going on about?”

He didn’t know. She’d never felt so relieved in his life. She closed her eyes and counted to three, before opening them to look at John. He looked at her quizzically before his eyes widened. “You’re getting stronger, aren’t you?” He asked quickly, “Stronger than you’re letting them believe.”

“Yes,” she answered simply, “But that’s not what I needed to know if you knew.”

“What then?”

“My parents died in a car crash. But it was not an accident. My parents wanted to pull me out of here, thinking these people were going to do me more harm than good. And they died because of it.” She informed him blankly. “I am stronger than they know, and they are going to suffer for that.”

“Aurora. No. Don’t do anything rash.” John said softly. She believed that he actually had her best interest at heart—he wasn’t just trying to save this company—he cared for her. But—she’d made up her mind, and that was that.

“Leave, John. Get out of here before breakfast. After all this is said and done, maybe I’ll come find you. But if you stay.” She gave a little shrug like saying it wasn’t her fault what happened.

John nodded slowly. She’d been out of control her whole life. It was time for her to be in charge. He hadn’t known about he parents, but he wasn’t surprised. “I’ll leave,” he said quietly, “If you promise that you’ll come and find me. Promise me.”

Aurora didn’t even have to consider it. After all, who else did she have? “I promise.”

John stood to leave and Aurora closed her eyes again. No one would know they had this conversation. Now, he just had to act normal until he got out of the building. Aurora would take care of the rest.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in Stories

 

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