The Scion Suit

The Scion Suit – 4

Scion Suit

Carol was wide awake, despite having spent a fitful night in an unfamiliar bed that was nothing like home, and she arrived with her escort at the bunker ten minutes early. She held her breath as she approached the Suit and slowly ascended the ramp, until she was close enough to touch it with her fingertips. The joints of metal and the soft gleam of color were familiar, yet entirely new. She had spent two years lovingly caring for something that she was only now beginning to understand, and it was more beautiful than she had imagined.

“Carol!” the captain barked, and she whipped around, clumsily saluting. “Get down here!”

“Yes sir!” She tried to run, but her feet got out from under her as she went down the ramp, and ended in a heap at the bottom. Lambert rolled his eyes, then strode over to hold out his hand to her.

“Up! We have work to do!”

It was incongruous, but Carol grabbed hold of him to pull herself up to her feet anyway. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small radio, which he clipped onto her collar then fed the wire up to her ear, his hands surprisingly deft and gentle.

“You’re in the goddamn military, and you couldn’t be bothered to pull your hair back,” he muttered. “Where’s your mascara and lipstick? Didn’t you want to look purdy?”

The rudeness of his speech made her blush, and she had to force the reply, “Sorry, sir. No one told me the dress code, sir.”

“You could go naked for all I care.” Lambert stepped back and folded his hands behind his back. “Now get your butt in the Suit, pronto!”

“Yes sir!” Carol practically scrambled up the ramp to jump in the Suit, carefully situating herself before pushing the button to close it, pressing herself back into the leather at the memory of what the door had done to the master sergeant’s hand.

“Carol, do you read me?” the captain called.

“Yes, sir,” she answered, already growing a little tired of the repetition, but she didn’t know how else to answer him. She wasn’t personable enough to try anything clever, and having only ever observed protocol as an outsider, she wasn’t familiar enough with ranks to know what was expected of her. In fact, she wasn’t even sure how she was supposed to fit in.

The Suit lit up, followed by the computer voice, User detected: welcome back, Commander.” Carol closed her eyes and held her breath in anticipation of being squeezed.

“Interesting…” Lambert’s muttered. “See what else you can find.”

Carol waited until after the release, and butterflies filled her stomach as she took in deep breaths of the circulated air, marveling at the pureness the internal filters provided. She wanted to run and jump, and perhaps even try her hand at flying, but she could see Lambert waiting expectantly through the visor.

“Access system data,” she said, and a list popped up in front of her eyes. “Uh… let’s see… select product information?”

Captain Lambert rubbed the bridge of his nose and looked over at Holmes, who dutifully stood at ease with a poorly concealed smile on his face. She realized that the radio was transmitting everything she said for everyone around to hear, and she hated the invasion of her privacy. “What do you see?” Lambert asked.

“There are model and serial numbers; would you like me to read them out loud so you can record them?”

“Go ahead.”

Carol glanced out and saw that Lambert’s little notepad was in his hand again. As she read the numbers off, she wondered what other sorts of things he wrote down, and if his personal thoughts made it onto paper as well. She also wondered if Lambert ever had personal thoughts, or if the military was all he lived for. When she finished, she added, “There’s also an OS listed, called Auriga.”

“Good work, commander.” He was definitely mocking her. “Now search for some sort of log.”

“Um… access user history,” Carol said, and the overlay changed. The listed information was surprisingly brief. “It says, 435-4-23 user created; 438-2-17 launch; 466-10-3 access help system; 466-10-4 access system records.” She repeated all of the information again, to make sure that Lambert had been able to write it accurately, then asked, “What does that mean?”

“That’s not your job to think about.” Lambert pocketed his notepad. “Outside, commander. Let’s try some laps in the Suit.”

Finally, the moment Carol had been waiting for: moving. Without thinking, she willed the Suit to take a step forward, then let out a shriek at the sound of metal crunching, and backed up to discover that the ramp was badly misshapen. Holmes was no longer pretending not to laugh.

“GODDAMMIT CAROL!” Lambert was really shouting now. “WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!” He continued ranting, “You are in a formidable piece of equipment, so do not destroy the base through stupidity and incompetence. DO YOU UNDERSTAND!”

“Yes sir!” Carol had tears in her eyes, and wished that she could initiate the help system again so that it could take away the pain of humiliation, but she didn’t want the captain to overhear.

“Now, without damaging anything else, go through those doors.”

Both Lambert and Holmes followed her in a four-wheeler from a safe distance, which stung even more than the yelling had. Even if she had completely forgotten about the ramp for a moment, she was mindful enough that she wouldn’t hurt anyone, and was more aware of the Suit’s size and position than she was of her own body. The sun was in the middle of rising when they exited the bunker, and the view through the visor was more spectacular than anything Carol had ever seen before.

“Captain…” she hesitated. “Do we know what the visor is made of?”

“No, commander, we don’t,” he answered, though he was far enough away that he needed to use the radio.

“It refracts sunlight like a prism, only not with any colors that I’ve ever seen before. It’s kind of trippy, and giving me a headache.” She kept her eyes fixed on the sunrise despite herself, just staring.

“Come down off the LSD, commander, and focus.” Lambert’s voice was amused, even if his words were not. “I want you to run down the air strip and pay attention to your top speed, but try not to kill anything in the process.”

“Yes, sir.” Carol looked down the asphalt in front of her, took a deep breath, and began to run. She didn’t feel the instant burn of muscle fatigue that she was accustomed to, and with a sense of wonder she reminded herself that she wasn’t actually running at all, but instead moving the mechanical body of the Suit; her brain couldn’t functionally tell the difference. Her heart soared as the number in the corner of the visor grew bigger and bigger, and she couldn’t help but leap with joy over how fast she was moving, the jump soaring several hundred feed before landing. Turning around, she sprinted back to where Lambert and Holmes were waiting in the four-wheeler, and was surprised to see Lambert smash his clipboard on the dashboard.

“Goddammit!” he cussed again. “Carol, you move like a fucking civilian!”

Holmes was doubled over with laughter, and she could hear his voice caught through the radio, “She runs like a girl… a giant, mechanical girl… prancing at 150 miles per hour!” He lost himself with giddiness, and Lambert kicked him in the behind.

“Compose yourself, private,” he barked. “That’s enough for today, Carol, park it inside.”

It was much easier to get inside than out, but with the ramp destroyed, Carol found herself staring down at a five-foot drop when she opened up the Suit. It was high enough that she didn’t want to jump, but she didn’t trust her climbing skills either. Lambert surprised her by coming over and holding up his arms.

“Come on, commander, we haven’t got all day,” he snapped.

Carol let herself drop, then was instantly afraid that he had used the opportunity to prank her. It was a relief when his hands closed around her torso, and he slowly lowered her until her feet touched the floor.

“Get some breakfast before you write your report, then come to my office for some schooling. We are going to beat that civilian out of you, commander,” he ordered.

“Yes, sir!” Carol saluted.

Next

The Scion Suit

The Scion Suit – 2

Scion Suit

Carol held her breath as the suit began to squeeze against her, gaining terrifying intensity until it abruptly released and she felt as light as a feather. She didn’t dare move, however, staring at the master sergeant and wondering if he would let her out of the Suit. The irrational part of her hoped that he would apologize profusely, then head off to the medical bay to explain the truth and take his lumps, so to speak, so she could get her to get back to her job like nothing had ever happened.

The sight of blood and his dangling hand made her feel dizzy, and Carol was sure she would faint. She had not been trained for combat, and had never imagined herself getting anywhere near anything that could be dangerous or gruesome. As if in response, the air inside the Suit turned cool and her head began to clear, making her wonder if it had automatically increased the oxygen content.

The master sergeant’s face had gone white, and after a seemingly long period of simply staring, he reached for the radio attached to the collar of his uniform. “The Suit has been hijacked, repeat, the Suit has been hijacked,” he said. “This is MSG Hartmann, reporting casualties, in Bunker One.”

“Okay,” Carol whispered to herself. “Just sit tight, and explain everything when they get here. The security cameras should back up my story, so I just have to keep calm.” No one knew that the Suit had called her ‘commander’, and she could keep that a secret till the day she died. Maybe. At the very least, she needed to escape her present situation without getting killed, or worse, fired, and that was going to keep her from wondering about anything else for a while.

Despite herself, sweat began to tickle her brow. No one was going to calmly listen to her, at least not at any point where it was going to matter for her personally. The master sergeant had accused her of highjacking, and the life of a simple cleaner wasn’t going to matter anywhere near as much as ensuring that the military never lost the Suit. They would storm the bunker with their guns blazing, and she would die the moment she left her protective armor without ever getting a single word out. She was trapped.

A menu appeared on the visor in front of her eyes, and in despair Carol thought that it wasn’t intuitive at all. “I don’t know what it means!” she shouted at the computer. “Help me!”

Accessing help system,” the computer voice answered, and Carol expected the overlay on the visor to change. Instead, her whole body began to tingle, followed be the strangest sensation she had ever experienced, as if her mind had split in two and the panicked part of her had simply floated away. No one had ever said anything about the Suit being capable of something like that before.

She was now thinking clearly. When the soldiers stormed the bunker, she was ready.

“Access on-board camera and audio, and project video; set height to ten feet,” she ordered the computer confidently, surprising even herself. The Suit flashed a light in front of it, forming a screen in the air. “Begin replay, starting point minus … ten minutes.” She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, and hoped that she had gone back far enough.

Hartmann had ducked behind the line of soldiers, and was in the process of receiving first aid when the replay began. The recording of Carol protested, followed by the echo of his voice loudly filling the room with the words, “You think I care? You’ll have a fatal accident long before you report anything to anyone.”

He forcefully knocked down the medic and bolted before anyone else had the chance to react, clutching the bandages to his wrist and praying that he wasn’t leaving a trail of blood for them to follow. He had acted rashly in a moment of passion, and now he was going to pay the price with not only his rank, but likely his hand as well. All he wanted now was to get away as fast as possible.

After the soldiers had been ordered to stand down, Carol opened up the Suit and stepped out with a smile of relief. She felt high, even as she was seized on both sides and taken to a small dark room, where she was left to wait alone. She was giddy, like she had just made love to her high school crush for the first time, and she was hopelessly caught up in the thought of doing it again. If she was ever let near the Suit after this, she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from nestling inside.

The door opened, and a captain stepped in. He looked down at his watch, then up at Carol. “The General is on his way,” he announced. “We’ll begin then. For now, I want a written statement from you of what occurred.” He set down a pad of paper and a pen on the table in front of her.

Carol hesitated, wondering how truthful she should be.

“This isn’t official,” the captain said quietly, leaning over her. “But I have to ask: how did you know the Suit has recording equipment installed? We could have clarified a certain number of missions had we known about it.”

“I accessed the help system,” Carol replied, her hand beginning to shake. She was abruptly coming down from her exhilaration, and all she really wanted to think about was what it had been like inside the Suit.

“No one has ever found a help system before,” the captain pressed. “How did you know that existed?”

“I just asked for help.” She was growing flustered.

He slammed his hand down on the table, making Carol jump. “Tell me, how did you do it?”

“It wasn’t in safe mode,” she admitted meekly. “The Suit recognized me as a user.”

The captain gaped at her for a moment. “You’ve been inside before, then?”

“No, never. I just clean it.” Carol folded her hands together tightly and stared down at them in her lap. “I don’t know why that happened. If you check the video, you’ll see that I didn’t want to get inside, and that I had been forced to. It’s on the video,” she repeated, “as plain as day.”

“We saw that you were threatened. However, we still don’t see why you closed and activated the Suit, and we strongly feel that your conduct was questionable.” The captain sat down and looked at his watch again. “Hurry up and write your report. I want that done before the General arrives.”

“Am I going to lose my job?” Carol asked.

“Start writing, and worry about that later.”

Her hand was now shaking badly, and her handwriting was barely legible. Carol didn’t know how to put the events into words, and she was certain that her nerves were lowering her IQ by at least a dozen points. All she could think about was how, after she had found true satisfaction and clarity in her life, she would never be allowed anywhere near the Suit again. Maybe she would spend the rest of her days in a cell, forever wondering why it had called her ‘commander’, and never having the chance to learn.

The door opened, and the captain stood and saluted. The General took one look at Carol, and began to laugh.

“From the looks of you, this is a little absurd for me to ask, but how would you like a promotion?”

Next

The Scion Suit

The Scion Suit – 1

Scion Suit

Carol had won the envy of the entire base by receiving the job of cleaning the Suit between uses. She would proudly enter the bunker with her soft cloths and polish, and tenderly buff away every scuff of dirt that marred the paint. Every single time, she held her breath with the anxiety that the Suit had been scratched, and she was relieved when her love revealed that it had magically held its integrity through every bombardment. No one knew where it had come from, but it had become the pride and joy of the military, and she was its sacred Keeper. She often joked that the Suit took up so much of her time and attention, she didn’t have any affection left to share with another human being.

Master sergeant Hartmann was considered to be the best pilot, and dominated the missions that were deemed to be ‘Suit worthy’ as a growing celebrity amongst the soldiers, and he reveled in the adoration that surrounded him during his off hours. However, unbeknownst to any of the higher ups and only vaguely suspected by his underlings, the cumulative effect of piloting the Suit was beginning to degrade his psychological resilience, and he was growing resentful of anyone else who touched what he was increasingly beginning to consider his own. Every time he donned the Suit, he thought about defying commands and never returning to base, certain that no one would be able to stop him if he turned renegade. Only the uncertainty of running from the military with no objective to follow kept him obedient, and his ache was a dark secret.

Brooding, he hung around to watch Carol work on his beloved Suit, and his heart stung with jealousy when he saw how tenderly she touched the metal. When she opened it up to wipe down the leather interior, he couldn’t stand it anymore; it was worse than walking in on a spouse in the thralls of another lover. He clapped his hand on her shoulder, roughly squeezed down, and growled, “You ever worn it?”

“No.” Carol winced and looked away, not daring to try to free herself. Something in his eyes wasn’t right, and she decided that it would be best to slip away as quick as she could before reporting him.

He lowered his mouth down next to her ear, and whispered with his lips brushing her skin, “Try it.”

“I’m not authorized,” she replied, tilting her head away. She scanned the bunker for anyone else to call out to, but it was lunchtime and the place was empty. Someone took her trustworthiness for granted, and only the surveillance cameras were there to keep Carol company as she worked. She felt a stab of betrayal at having been left alone.

“Do you mean to tell me that you can repeatedly strip the Suit bare, and not feel the impulse to climb inside? Go on and try it, I won’t tattle.” Hartmann’s other hand seized her upper arm, his fingertips digging in deeply enough to leave bruises. He pushed her forward, banging her head against the interior, causing her vision to flash white.

“Here, I’ll even tell you what to expect,” he said, turning her around and holding her in position with his forearm, as he kicked her legs to get her to step inside. “Don’t worry when you hear the words, ‘User unknown: booting safe mode’, because that’s what it does that for everyone. Then it will squeeze tight for a moment before it releases like a breath of fresh air, and you’ll feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all. Operating it is intuitive, so you should get the hang of it.”

He had completely lost his mind, Carol thought as she met his eyes. She was certain that he wouldn’t actually try to close her inside the Suit, knowing that it would give her the ability to turn him into a smoldering crater in a heartbeat – she counted on the idea that he didn’t know that she didn’t have the constitution to violently retaliate. He was likely trying to get her fired, and that she couldn’t allow under any circumstance.

“Let me go,” she ordered, hoping that her voice sounded strong and commanding. “I’m not authorized to use the Suit, and I will report you for misconduct.”

“You think I care?” Hartmann grabbed Carol’s chin and glared at her. “You’ll have a fatal accident long before you report anything to anyone.”

The look of sheer malevolence on his face caused her to panic, and before she knew it she had hit the button to close the Suit. Hartmann abruptly pulled his hand back with a cuss, and through the visor Carol could see that his wrist had been cut deeply, nearly severing his hand. She stayed very still, shocked and scared, wondering what she should do to get herself out of the metaphorical fire she had just jumped into. Then the interior of the Suit sprang alive with lights and the hum of circulated air, as a computer voice spoke,

User detected: welcome back, Commander.”

Carol’s heart stopped.

Now she was really in trouble.

Next

Stories

WP – The Suit part 1

The Suit is powerfull. A mech for some, body armor for others, always unique to each person who wore it. Those who wear it, hear the words “not original user, booting basic mode” As a joke, your sergeant gives you The Suit and the first thing you hear is: “User detected: Welcome back, Commander”

 

Carol had won the envy of the entire base by receiving the job of cleaning the Suit between uses. She would proudly enter the bunker with her soft cloths and polish, and tenderly buff away every scuff of dirt that marred the paint. Every single time, she held her breath with the anxiety that the Suit had been scratched, and she was relieved when her love revealed that it had magically held its integrity through every bombardment. No one knew where it had come from, but it had become the pride and joy of the military, and she was its sacred Keeper. She often joked that the Suit took up so much of her time and attention, she didn’t have any affection left to share with another human being.

The master sergeant was considered to be the best pilot, which earned him more missions in the Suit than anyone else. However, unbeknownst to any of the higher ups, the cumulative effect was beginning to degrade his psychological resilience, and he was growing resentful of anyone else who touched what he was increasingly beginning to consider his own. Every time he donned the Suit, he thought about defying commands and never returning to base, certain that no one would be able to stop him if he turned renegade. Only the uncertainty of running from the military with no objective to follow kept him obedient, and his ache was a dark secret.

Brooding, he hung around to watch Carol work on his beloved Suit, and his heart stung with jealousy when he saw how tenderly she touched the metal. When she opened it up to wipe down the leather interior, he couldn’t stand it anymore; it was worse than walking in on a spouse in the thralls of another lover. He clapped his hand on her shoulder, roughly squeezed down, and growled, “You ever worn it?”

“No.” Carol winced and looked away, not daring to try to free herself. Something in his eyes didn’t look right, and she decided that it would be best to slip away as quick as she could before reporting him.

He lowered his mouth down next to her ear, and whispered with his lips brushing her skin, “Try it.”

“I’m not authorized,” she replied, tilting her head away. She scanned the bunker for anyone else to call out to, but it was lunchtime and the place was empty.

“Do you mean to tell me that you can repeatedly strip the Suit bare, and not feel the impulse to climb inside? Go on and try it, I won’t tattle.” His other hand seized her upper arm, his fingertips digging in deeply enough to leave bruises. He pushed her forward, banging her head against the interior.

“Here, I’ll even tell you what to expect,” he said, turning her around and holding her in position with his forearm, as he kicked her legs to get her to step inside. “Don’t worry when you hear the words, ‘User unknown: booting safe mode’, because it does that for everyone. Then it will squeeze tight for a moment before it releases like a breath of air, and you’ll feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all. Operating it is intuitive, so you’ll get the hang of it.”

He had completely lost his mind, Carol thought as she met his eyes. She was certain that he wouldn’t actually try to close her inside the Suit, knowing that it would give her the ability to turn him into a smoldering crater in a heartbeat. He was likely trying to get her fired, and that she couldn’t allow under any circumstance.

“Let me go,” she ordered, hoping that her voice sounded strong and commanding. “I’m not authorized to use the Suit, and I will report you for misconduct.”

“You think I care?” The master sergeant grabbed Carol’s chin and glared into her eyes. “You’ll have a fatal accident long before you report anything to anyone.”

The look of sheer malevolence on his face caused her to panic, and before she knew it she had hit the button to close the Suit. The master sergeant abruptly pulled his hand back with a cuss, and through the visor Carol could see that his wrist had been cut deeply, nearly severing his hand. She stayed very still, shocked and scared, wondering what she should do to get herself out of the metaphorical fire she had just jumped into. Then the interior of the Suit sprang alive with lights and a breeze of circulated air, as a computer voice spoke,

User detected: welcome back, Commander.”

Carol’s heart stopped.

Now she was really in trouble.


 

Reddit

I rewrote the intro three times before I was finally satisfied with it.

All told, it took me about an hour to write those 774 words, and one person in particular described this story as, “just the prompt redone with more words added to it”. Lol.

I’m definitely in the camp that a well-written piece doesn’t need to be explained, so I want to make it clear that I’m not explaining the story itself, but rather my thought process behind it. I’m answering the question as to why it took me an hour to write this.

I made several changes to the premise of the prompt to come up with something that I personally liked. For starters, the main character is not ranked in the military, but instead holds a civilian job on base. Instead of a joking sergeant, I made that character a villain with a higher rank, but nicely situated in the middle, so he’s still very much subjected to protocol and orders. Frankly, the characters implied by the prompt struck me as boring, so I made them more interesting.

And, of course, I had to mentally model the world they lived in. Very little of this step gets written down, but it’s essential to give a sense of solidity to the story.

Then the characters needed motivations and personalities. I personally feel that this part was rushed, and if I were writing this as a novel, I would come back and agonize over it before publishing, especially with my master sergeant character. Since this was written for Reddit, I didn’t have days to devote to that much nit-pickiness.

Finally, the writing itself. I wanted to take a direct approach that was compelling and easy to understand, which took a couple of false starts before I found my groove. Rather than aiming to look awesome and gain lots of immediate kudos, my goal was to create something that subtly wriggled into your brain so you found yourself randomly thinking about it two weeks later, wondering about the characters and what happens to them next. This would be the book that you initially pass over, then end up buying later because you can’t get the first chapter out of your head.

Which, on the surface, looks a lot like, “just the prompt redone with more words added to it”.

Ultimately, I feel that this was a successful story. I did not expect people to find it as engaging as they did, and the theories the readers came up with has me humbled with the strength of their creativity. As I told my husband, “Now I’m guaranteed to disappoint them if I write more!”

Stories

WP – Ancient Evil

You are an ancient evil, a part of the world since it began. For eons you have walked your unholy halls devouring prey and sacrifice, and of course battling heroes. Now you have a new visitor, who does not seek to worship or to purge. They say that they’d just like to get to know you.

 

I lived a solitary existence in the Nothing, long before the impetuous young deity took it upon himself to move in and create his own little universe. I watched him, silent but curious, and found myself piqued when he filled one of his planets with tiny creatures that built grand monuments to themselves before running off to kill each other. It was strange.

The deity had assumed that they would worship him, but from the beginning his plan had gone awry – these creatures did not want to be controlled by anything. I watched as he punished them, demanded obedience, then punished them again, until he finally gave up and turned his back on them. Without his watchful eye on his little planet, I decided that it was time to step out of the Nothing.

While I had enjoyed watching the creatures, somewhere over the expanse of time I began to crave to walk among them, perhaps to even interact with them. However, I was not naive or idealistic. I did not imagine silly things like love and friendship; I had observed their interactions for far too long to fantasize them as a peaceful people. Truth be told, the excitement they promised was the reason why I wanted to share a world with them.

I took a form that was similar to their own, and I descended to their planet. The resulting chaos was glorious and beautiful. They violently rejected me, sending heroes and armies against me until they grew too exhausted to keep fighting. Then, after a couple centuries of rest and virgin sacrifices, they would try again. I grew to love them dearly, through their endearing games and insatiable lust for blood. These humans were a people after my own heart, though I did not expect to find my feelings reciprocated. I privately regarded them as my adopted children, and never once revealed that they had been abandoned by their true father.

Then, one day, she appeared.

After eons of our game, I hadn’t imagined that any one human in particular would come to mean more to me than any other. They were all the same, shedding their mortal bodies shortly after giving birth to others, without enough time to truly grasp the nature of their own existence. Yet, strangely, time stopped even for me the moment she crossed my threshold, and I knew that she wasn’t like the others.

I had built a castle as big as a mountain, then surrounded it with fire because it scared my little humans, and I was loathe to disappoint. She had lost her shoes during her journey, and the first thing I noticed was the red blisters on her bare feet, poking out from under the blackened hem of her skirt. It was strange to encounter someone in my abode who was so clearly not a warrior by any stretch of the imagination.

I bade her to sit, then carefully applied ointment and bandages to her burns as the both of us remained dead silent. When I finished, I asked her, “Why are you here?”

“I want to know you,” was all she replied.

Through the years that passed since that moment, she never returned to the humans that had given birth to her. Instead, she chose to remain by my side.

Reddit

Not voted the best story, but certainly voted the most controversial, lol.

Stories

Writing prompt – Rebirth

You just died. You go toward the light, but when you reach it, you emerge into a delivery room as a brand new, screaming baby. You have no more control over this new body than any other baby, and no one looking at you has any idea that you possess the consciousness and memories of your old life

 

At 53, my life hadn’t been long enough. After all the stumbles and faux pas of youth, I had finally begun to figure things out, and I had finally begun to look forward to each morning. My children had grown and moved out, leaving me with enough time to think, and perhaps more importantly to sleep, and I had realized with startling clarity what was Important, and what wasn’t. My deepest regret was that most of my life had been spent missing out on the good things in favor of the superficial.

My death was abrupt, and perhaps a little glorious. While I was driving home from work, a sudden yet powerful gust of wind knocked a semi-truck off of an overpass and into the path of my car down below. My last image was of apples scattered around the freeway.

I was surprised that there really was a tunnel with a light at the end of it – having never experienced death before, I didn’t know what to expect. As I sped along, I thought about everything I had done, everything I had loved or regretted, and I felt sad that it was over when so many things were about to begin. I closed my eyes in preparation of entering the blinding light in front of me.

Suddenly air filled my lungs, and I let out a scream in shock. My body was heavy, my legs and arms were completely limp and unresponsive; I couldn’t even lift my head. Some giant held me, snuggling me against itself, so I slowly opened my eyes and stared in dumbfounded amazement up at my daughter’s face. She was huge.

Or rather, I was tiny.

She was laughing and crying, with sweat on her brow and bags under her eyes. It dawned on me that she had just given birth … to me.

Freaky.

“I don’t know why, but she reminds me so much of my mom,” my daughter said, beaming down at me. “I wish she could have been here … I miss her so much!” Her happiness quickly changed to sobbing, and inwardly I nodded understandingly at the mood swings that happen so fast during those first few moments after giving birth. I wished that I could have reached out to comfort her, but all I could manage was to stare, and that felt ineffectual as well. Everything beyond her face was so blurry, I couldn’t tell who she was talking to. Her husband, I hoped, because otherwise I’d have to have a word with him.

She began to stroke my face and hair, and it was so soothing that I felt myself drift off to sleep despite my best efforts to stay awake. The last words I heard before a slipped into a deep slumber were, “Let’s name her Rebecca, after my mother.”

I had been given a second chance, with the people that I had held most dear in my previous life, and this time I wasn’t going to waste it.

On Reddit

Stories

Lyra and Malachi chapter 1

I started this novel about a month before baby #4 had me hurling my guts out in the toilet, and by the time I was up for writing again, the thread of inspiration was gone.

The characters in this novel are amongst my oldest and dearest, so one day it will be written and published, come hell or high water. For now, it will continue to grow and mature in that secret place where stories reside before they’re ready for the world.

When I re-read this chapter, I thought that the end seemed forced and unnatural, and lacked the strength of the opening. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not tackling this particular story for the time being.


 

News of the Father’s arrival spread like a wildfire through the town’s grapevine, and after only two days everyone had heard the name: Evan Malachi, the traveling priest. He was staying with their own pastor, would be delivering the sermon on Sunday, and was already completely booked up for lunches and dinners for the entirety of his stay.

Lyra was at the early morning market when she first heard the name. As she studied through her lists of groceries, two middle-aged women passed by chittering about how attractive the traveling priest was. By the time she was juggling three baskets full of vegetables, she had heard all about Father Malachi. No one was able to agree on his age, but they all reported that he had vibrant gold hair and a handsome face. Those who had already spoken to him said that he was engaging and articulate, with charisma to spare.

It was no surprise to Lyra when the first thing out of Mrs. Grady’s mouth was, “Have you heard about Father Malachi?”

Setting one of the baskets down on Mrs. Grady’s table, Lyra replied, “I’ve heard of nothing else.”

“I have yet to meet him, but everyone who has is absolutely smitten with him. Oh, if only there was a way to get him over to our house for dinner!”

“I’m sure that you’ll think of a way to ask him,” Lyra answered, distracted. She was staring at her list, frowning at the realization that she had forgotten to write down the price of the carrots. No matter what everyone else said, that darned Father Malachi was already making her life more difficult than she cared for. She was going to have to estimate low, and suffer the difference in her pay.

“Here’s the price for the groceries, Mrs. Grady. I’ll be back to clean after I finish making the rest of my deliveries.”

“Do a thorough job this time. We’ll never know if a certain visitor is going to be coming over.” Mrs. Grady took the receipt from Lyra and disappeared towards her husband’s study, while Lyra let herself out through the back door.

After her father’s death four months ago, Lyra had taken up employment between three different households, managing the basic upkeep and errands. None of them were rich enough to afford a full-time servant, but they could pay her for a couple hours of work every day. Lyra was barely managing to keep her father’s house, and after only four months she was already beginning to feel worn down.

Her father had been a carpenter, and the two of them had lived comfortably. Her mother died when she was very young, but her father often shared with her the locket he wore that contained her mother’s picture, and told wonderful stories about his deceased wife. Whenever Lyra snuggled against her father’s chest and listened to him talk about her mother, it was easy to imagine that she had stepped out to pick wildflowers, and would come back home soon to pop delicious, puffy bread dough into the oven to bake. When her father died, she lost her mother a second time as well.

Lyra worked hard, and despite Mrs. Grady’s implication, she was one of the best maids around. Her three houses were better kept than Mr. Neils, the only man in town with both cooks and servants. She refused to work for someone who was always holding the subject of rent and threat of eviction over her head, and Mr. Niels already had the rest of the town in the palm of his hand. Lyra didn’t want to give him more power over her than he already had.

Like everyone else, Lyra attended church every Sunday, but not because she believed in it. She wanted her employers to see her there and rest assured in the idea that she was too pious to ever steal from them, but the truth was that Lyra hated God. She would sit in her pew every week and curse Him for taking away good people like her father and mother, while money-grubbing landlords like Mr. Niels continued on in perfect health. Lyra couldn’t love a God who ran the world in such a fashion. She still cried every night over the death of her father, but she was never going to let her sorrow show in public.

As far as she was concerned, Father Malachi was a pawn for a vengeful and petty God, and the sooner he left, the sooner her life would continue on the same as before, though she didn’t particularly like where it was going – or, rather, wasn’t.

Even still, after leaving the third household to return home, having spent the entire day endlessly hearing others talk about him yet again, her curiosity was piqued. Despite herself, Lyra was beginning to look forward to Sunday.

Lyra started her work early in the morning, so she would always have the afternoons and evenings free to herself. She liked to spend them in the meadow just outside of town when she wasn’t busy with her own survival, and had beaten a little path through the woods with her journeying, though she was careful to make sure that it looked like it was only used by deer – the meadow was her secret, and she didn’t want it to become a popular spot for picnics. Her own chores were simple and easy to complete now that she was living alone, and once she was done she set to work making a little basket of food. Then Lyra was off.

It had turned into a hot summer day, but the shade of the trees was cool and pleasant. The worries that usually plagued her began to fade away as she walked through the forest, remaining behind as she moved towards her sanctuary. The birds were singing energetically in the tree tops, and Lyra closed her eyes as she took in a deep breath, taking a moment to feel the forest around her with her spirit.

A loud thump and breaking twigs made her jump and gasp, and Lyra’s eyes snapped open to see a startled looking man standing in front of her. He had vibrant gold hair that hung freely around his shoulders, and his face was smooth, young, and handsome. His eyes held Lyra’s gaze, a vivid shade of turquoise that held more wisdom than she had seen before, even amongst the eldest members of her community. He was wearing a simple black cassock with buttons down the front, but his figure looked strong and fit underneath, and around his neck he wore a gold cross on a long chain. Lyra didn’t have to guess at his identity.

Father Malachi.

“Good evening!” he exclaimed, somehow seeming more off-balance than Lyra felt. “I believe we haven’t met before; I’m–”

“I know.” Lyra tore her eyes away from his, then pushed past him to keep going to the meadow. She felt indignant, that he would invade her private sanctuary then look as if she had stumbled across his secret. He followed after her.

“Forgive me if I startled you.” His voice was like velvet, soft yet masculine, with a cadence that penetrated her heart and set it at ease. Lyra liked it, and could easily imagine herself sitting and listening to him preach every day if she didn’t have anything else to do; she now understood why no one could talk of anything else. He continued speaking, “I was doing a touch of exploring, and I hadn’t realized that any people knew about this path. I wouldn’t have bumbled so much if I had expected to find you.”

Lyra stopped and turned to face him. “Look, Father, as far as I know I’m the only person who knows about this place, and I’d like to keep it that way. I come here to be alone.” She hoped that her emphasis would help him understand the hint, though she was conflicted about whether or not she actually wanted him to leave. Somehow, she had ended up with Father Malachi all to herself, to talk about whatever she desired with no one around to interrupt. Lyra found that she had a lot on her mind that she wanted to say to the traveling priest, or perhaps more to God through him.

“I am sworn to secrecy, my daughter.” He smiled as he drew his fingers across his lips.

Lyra quickly walked across the meadow to sit down on her favorite spot of soft grass, biting the inside of her cheek to keep herself from crying. Father Malachi had made her think of her deceased father, and her soul stung with the absence of her parents. She had every intention of letting go and sobbing, but he was still following her and she didn’t want him to see her weaknesses. Lyra didn’t say anything as she straightened her skirt over her legs, then pulled an apple out of her basket and began shining it to give herself something to do.

“May I ask your name?” Father Malachi sat down next to her.

“Lyra,” she snapped.

“It’s a beautiful name, and it suits you well.” Without asking permission, he reached over and took the apple out of Lyra’s hands, then took a big bite through it’s shiny red skin and crisp fruit. “Mm, it’s very delicious. Thank you.”

Lyra was stunned. “That’s . . . mine!”

He grinned and held it out to her. “Would you like it back?”

“No!” Lyra couldn’t make heads or tails out of his behavior, and she wondered if he wasn’t entirely of sound mind, but that didn’t stop her outrage. “That was supposed to be part of my dinner!”

“What else did you bring?” He reached for her basket, but she snatched it up and held it against her chest.

“Go away!”

“Got you.” Father Malachi took another bite of the apple and winked. “Are you feeling better now?”

Something new and indescribable filled Lyra’s center, a sort of epiphany mixed with even more confusion. “What?” All of the fire was gone from her now.

“You were on the verge of tears, but you didn’t want it to show. Unfortunately, my dearest daughter, you’re not as skilled at hiding your feelings as you think you are.”

Lyra felt insulted yet relieved. “I was under the impression that everyone else in town was feeding you. There’s no reason for you to take my food as well.”

“Yes, I have been promised an assortment of exquisite meals from the finest cooks that your town has to offer, but that doesn’t change the pleasure of an apple. So, my dearest daughter, is this really the entirety of your dinner?”

Lyra felt herself blushing, partly in shame over her meager meal, and partly because he kept referring to her as his ‘dearest daughter.’ She was already becoming attached to the traveling priest, and she knew that it would break her heart to watch him move on. “Yes . . .”

“But you can cook, with talent as well.”

“How did . . .?” Lyra stared at him, numbly handing over the basket when Father Malachi gestured for it.

“Smoked gouda,” he said as he pulled out her cheese. “It combines wonderfully with fresh apple, yet is a little more costly. From the state of your dress, you are carefully managing your finances, yet you still decided to indulge in this particular treat.”

Lyra clenched her jaw and said tightly, “I stopped cooking after my father died four months ago.”

“Ah, the reason for my dearest daughter’s pain.” Father Malachi set the basket down and wrapped an arm around Lyra, pulling her against him. “It’s perfectly acceptable to hurt. You don’t have to hide from me.”

“I miss my daddy.” Lyra felt like she was reverting to childish behavior, that she wasn’t carrying herself in a manner than was appropriate for a grown woman. Tears slipped out of her eyes, and she wrapped her arms around Father Malachi’s neck as she began to cry. “I miss my daddy so much!”

How did this end up happening?

Somehow, Father Malachi had pierced her mind and stolen the thoughts that she kept hidden there.

Lyra was a small child, crying in the arms of a stranger over the loss of her father, and now that she had grasped him she didn’t want to let him go. She wanted to stay with Father Malachi, to always be his dearest daughter, to depend on him for the safety and protection that she had been living without.

What was it about Father Malachi that made her feel that way?

Stories

Writing Prompt – Angels and Demons

It was a cruel twist of fate that landed me in the classifieds section, searching through the “roommate wanted” ads in hopes of finding someone that I could tolerate living with for at least a few months while I got my feet back under me. I’m not going to lie, in my heart I cursed God through the entire process.

I couldn’t say what it was about that ad in particular that drew my attention. The wording was the exact same as all the others, but it gave me a good feeling in my gut, so I went ahead and made the call. Given the urgency of my situation, I hurried through all the preliminaries over the phone, and settled on the move-in date for the next Saturday. I met my roommates for the very first time after I pulled up in my truck, loaded with the most precious of my possessions that I could salvage.

The first to greet me was a heavyset woman who introduced herself as Gabriel. She was warm and friendly, though a little more eager for physical contact than I was personally comfortable with, so I pulled my hands away and stepped back. She smelled strongly of brownies, and there was no doubt that baked desserts were a major part of her life. I wondered how I, myself, would fare if there was an endless supply of cakes and cookies around the kitchen.

She led me inside the house and showed me to my room, followed by the standard tour that ended with signing the lease on the living room coffee table. It was then that he appeared, taking me by surprise.

When Gabriel had pointed to his door, she had simply said, “This is Bub’s room,” which had inspired the mental image of a man built similarly to her, perhaps with a few tattoos to cover up a teddy bear personality, but my supposition had been wildly off base.

Bub was lean and muscular, as if he ate nothing but raw eggs for breakfast every single morning. He was clean cut, austere, and never once smiled, even when I called out hello and told him my name.

“I expect you to follow the rules,” he said sharply. “I won’t hesitate to evict you if you don’t, and I won’t feel bad about it after.”

I kind of liked him. He wasn’t the sort that would party as the trash piled up, and as long as I didn’t get in his way, he would leave me to my own devices.

“Oh, don’t mind him.” Gabriel laughed. “We like to be relaxed around here, as a ‘no judgment’ zone where everyone can feel safe.”

Bub’s eyes flashed angrily, and as he advanced on Gabriel I grew worried that I would soon be calling the police for domestic violence. His fists clenched, but his voice was quiet and calm as he said, “I don’t like to be undermined. I will continue to tolerate a great many vices from you, but I will not be dismissed and undermined. Rules are rules, and they will be followed.”

Gabriel was cowed. She giggled to cover it up, then asked if I needed help moving in. After I declined, she went straight for the kitchen. Bub, on the other hand, followed me out to my truck and began unloading boxes, his muscles flexing as he moved with ease.

“It’s disgusting,” Bub said. “Gabriel can’t say ‘no’ to anything, no matter what it is. She’s going to wind up dead with the way she’s going.”

“She seems like a nice person,” I said, not wanting to get in the middle of anything. My plan was to keep entirely to myself until the day I could return to living alone.

“All angels *seem* nice, until you actually get to know them. They have no self control at all.” He spat on the ground to emphasize his dislike.

“I’m sorry, what?” I wasn’t sure if I had heard Bub correctly. “Did you say angels?”

“Yes. Angels. Didn’t you know that Gabriel is one?”

“No!” I sputtered. “I didn’t know they existed.”

Bub’s smile grew wicked. “Did Gabriel tell you my full name?”

“She called you ‘Bub,’” I replied, feeling uncertain.

“It’s Beelzebub,” he said with glee. “*The* Beelzebub. Welcome to our home.”

He left me alone then, and for awhile I sat in the driver’s seat of my truck, thinking about what I had gotten myself into. I wondered if I should put the boxes back in the bed, turn the key in the ignition, and drive away to fight against fate in different location. However, as the sun began to turn the deep orange of late afternoon, I opened the door and continued moving into my room. I decided that maybe I wasn’t going to keep to myself over the next few months after all. Maybe fate had big plans for me, and I might as well see them through.


The original writing prompt on Reddit was:

You just met your new roommates Gabriel, an obese, glutoneous [sic] angel; and Beelzebub, a muscular, athletic demon. Turns out that angels who have never faced temptation are terrible at resisting it. On the other hand, demons who know nothing but temptation are masters of discipline.

I chose this particular prompt because I like angels and demons and it’s been a long time since I’ve written about them, even though the prompt is basically the plot to an anime called ‘Gabriel Dropout’. Since I have seen that anime, I was mindful to not rewrite it.

At the time I wrote this, the other responses defaulted to using college dorms as the setting. However, when I lived in California, the cost of living was so freakin’ high that all of us normal folk had to pool together just to afford rent, so I became acquainted with a number of people who still had roommates well outside of college (myself included). I decided to use this arrangement as my main premise, thus saving me from reliving the drudgery of school.

First person, because I like Lovecraft and copying his style allows me be vague about a number of things, thus saving me real life time. Seriously deep thinking behind that decision.

The question about whether Gabriel is a man or a woman depends on which spiritual circles you run with, since they go both ways. I like the stereotype of the cheerful, padded woman who’s always baking, so I went with that. Demons, on the other hand, never have any controversy about which sex they are, so Beelzebub is a man. I made him a bit scary, to keep with the common image of demons.

For the prompt, I wrote a basic set up with an open ending, and truthfully didn’t edit it past a second read-through. I’m currently working on a For Realz novel, so I want to devote most of my free time to that, rather than to the internet. This was just a bit of brain candy for the fun of it.

Stories

Control [short story]

I wrote this when I was 15, and it won a Moderator’s Choice on Elfwood — one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me during my teenage years. I’ve decided to post it in its original, award-winning (snerk), form, for old time’s sake.

I’m honestly really embarrassed by this, so do me a favor and don’t read it.


It’s strange, how you never think you will become the subject of discrimination. When I was a child, such a thing happening to me never crossed my mind. I never thought that my existence would be confined by a barbed wire fence. I remember how it all started, as clearly as if it had been engraved into my mind. I’m one of the few who can wield the power of magic, and for that reason alone I was hated and despised.

Continue reading “Control [short story]”