Venus

This picture does not belong to me. I found it on Pinterest.

I toss the last sock into my laundry basket and turn back to my unmade bed, where four shiny quarters should be sitting. They’re not.

Frowning, I look under the rumpled sheets. Under my pillow. On the floor.

I swear I put quarters there two minutes ago.

“Hey, Matt?” I say. “You got any quarters?”

“I gotta do laundry tomorrow.” My roommate shoves a slice of pizza in his mouth. It’s cold by now, but they don’t allow microwaves in the dorm. “Get your own quarters, Drew.”

That’s the thing. I had quarters. Lots of them. But every time I turn around, they vanish.

At least it’s not my keys, I guess. But if I want to avoid smelling like an armpit, I need some quarters. Now.

“Look, man, I just need four. I’ll pay you back––”

“Like you’ll pay me back for all the other quarters?”

I guess I could ask my Resident Assistant, Nick, but seriously. This is stupid. And it hasn’t just been quarters; it’s been any coin I lay out. I look away and bam, they’re gone. “I swear I had them. They were just on my bed.”

“I dunno, man. I think it’s that Venus paper.” Matt finishes the slice with a loud smacking of his sauce-covered lips. “It’s frying your brain.”

He’s not wrong. For the past two weeks, every thought that has gone through my head––unfortunately for my other professors and my social life––is about the hottest planet in our solar system.

Note to self: college sucks.

Matt disappears into his room, probably to play whatever video game he’s obsessed with at the moment. I’m on my own.

I glance at my laundry basket, then at the bed. Okay, this has to stop. I’m gonna find where all this change is going, or so help me, I’ll go naked.

I scour our dorm room––my room, our kitchenette, even the bathroom. Just lots of laundry––now only Matt’s––strewn across the floor, food trash on the couch, pieces of former homework balled up in corners. No coins.

My bed. I didn’t look under my bed.

Let me rephrase that––I never look under my bed. Who knows what kind of crap is there?

Gritting my teeth, I kneel down, my knees aching––I swear I’m eighteen, not fifty––and peer into the blackness. Mostly dust, so it’s better than I thought, but there, gleaming in the dull light, is a pile of coins––and on top of it is a creature.

And when I say a creature, I mean a dragon. A tiny, bunny-sized dragon with golden scales and burnt orange eyes giving me the fiercest glare I have ever seen.

I scramble backward and rub my eyes. It’s that stupid paper. I knew it was going to be the death of me. It’s making me hallucinate that there’s a dragon the color of Venus’ surface sitting under my bed.

I stick my head under again. Underneath its tiny claws are all my missing quarters––and the other change too.

“So you’re the thief,” I hiss. Maybe if I touch it, I’ll find out it’s fake…?

The dragon snorts a tiny orange flame, and I bang my head on the bedframe. Right. Dragons breathe fire in all the stories. Better not get my hand close to that little demon.

Muttering swears, I scowl at the creature. It really does look like Venus, all molten gold and fury. “I need my quarters. Now.”

“Drew?”

I smack my head on the bedframe again. Rubbing my head, I crawl out from underneath the bed.

Matt’s wearing space-themed pajama pants dotted with stars and planets––yep, there’s good old Venus. I literally can’t get away from it.

“What’re you doing?”

“Looking for the quarters.” My voice cracks like a preteen’s.

He takes a sip of soda. “Just buy something with cash tomorrow and get some change for it.”

I stay on the ground. “I don’t have cash. I’m a broke college student.”

“Sucks to be you, man.” He shakes his head. “Look, if you want a break from your paper, you can game with me.”

“Just give me a minute.” I’ll straighten things out with this thieving dragon, and then I’ll electronically destroy my roommate.

“Whatever.” Matt disappears again.

I crawl back toward the bed. The dragon is still there. Maybe I should’ve asked Matt to take a look and confirm that I’m not crazy.

It’s kinda cool, though, hallucination or not. Its wings press tightly against its body, making it look like a golden lizard. Is it a boy or girl dragon? And does that really matter? I dunno, but its movements seem kinda feminine to me. Let’s just say it’s a female.

“Look, Venus,” I say. “You like shiny stuff? You want shiny?” I take off my watch. Mom and Dad gave it to me for my eighteenth birthday. Probably cost them a hundred bucks. But I need my quarters.

Venus’ nostrils flare. Her gaze flicks from the watch to me, then to the coins beneath her, then to the watch.

I set the watch on the floor near the edge of the bed, far enough away that she won’t attack me. I hope. “Go get the watch.”

Her orange eyes narrow. I hold my breath. Then she darts toward the watch. I reach out and snatch a handful of coins. She lets out a high-pitched roar and rushes back to her hoard, dragging her new prize.

My chest heaves up and down. For a second, I thought she’d attack me. But she just sits back on top of her pile of coins, now complete with my fancy watch.

“Holy crap, Drew, what are you doing?”

Third time. I hate this stupid bedframe. Gritting my teeth to hold back swears, I come out from underneath the bed.

“Found the quarters,” I say weakly, holding out my hand.

Wait. I only have three. I glare under the bed. Her orange eyes gleam back.

 “Is there something down there? Is there food? Do we have mold again?” Groaning, Matt drops to his knees next to me.

My eyes widen. “Wait––”

But he’s already looking under the bed. I know the exact second he saw Venus because he lets out an ear-splitting scream and bangs his head on the bedframe.

“Would you shut up? You want Nick to fine us?”

“Th-there’s a dragon,” Matt sputters.

“Yes. The coin thief. Her name is Venus. She took my quarters.” I slant an irritated glance in her direction.

“You named it?” His mouth gapes. “Or––don’t tell me––it talks?”

“No, no!” I grab Matt’s arm to keep him from running out of the room. “You can’t tell anyone.”

“Dude, there’s a––”

“I know. But…” I don’t even know why I’m hesitating. The thing took all my coins. “We’re not allowed to have pets in the dorms. They’ll freak out.”

His eyes bulge. “You’re saying this is your pet?”

“No! Er… maybe.” I mean, aside from coin stealing, dragons are pretty awesome. And this is sort of the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. I mean, why am I the one who ended up with a mini dragon underneath my bed? Fate must think I’m a pretty great guy. Either that or it’s trying to get me kicked out of college.

“You have a mythical creature as a pet?”

“Um. Yes.” I guess. Maybe Venus is my pet now. Crap, how am I supposed to hide a dragon from my RA?

“And it steals your coins?”

“Yes.”

“And you named it after your paper?”

“Yes.”

Matt snorts. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Don’t judge my life choices!” I peek back under and try to convince myself that she’s softening toward me. She breathes out a tiny spark. “I gave her my watch.”

“You what?” Matt groans. “Your parents will freak, Drew.”

“Yeah, but I needed my quarters back.” Okay, yeah, I guess I could’ve sold the watch and gotten a ton of quarters, but it’s too late now.

“If she’s your dragon, why won’t she listen to you?”

Um… “Because dragons are hard to train.”

“If you have had a dragon all this time, why have I never known about it?” His voice is rising. People are gonna hear him.

“Sh! I just… uh… didn’t think it was the right time to say. We’ve been roommates for what, a semester?”

“Shut it, man.” Matt levels me with a stare. “You’re lying. You just found the dragon today.”

“Uh…”

“You can’t keep it.”

“But I named her!”

“Your fault.”

“But…” Okay, maybe I feel a tiny connection to this mini dragon. After all, she’s Venus. If she’s Venus, then I pretty much know her inside and out. “I need to at least free her, then.”

“No. I’m reporting it.”

“Wait! Please!”

Venus crawls out from underneath the bed, gripping a coin in her tiny claw. Both Matt and I skitter backward. Flame-bright eyes study us. Then she pushes a quarter forward.

My mouth gapes. Maybe it’s a trick to make me reach out so she can burn me.

Matt grabs the quarter instead. Venus snorts a trail of smoke. I try to pry his fingers open. “Hey! Gimme that!”

“You weren’t gonna take it!”

We wrestle, grunting and muttering swears, until we hear another high-pitched roar. I turn back toward Venus. I swear she is glaring at us like we’re naughty little children, like she had expected the coin to make us stop fighting.

“Hey,” I say. “I think that was a peace offering.”

“A what?” Matt rolls his eyes. “You’re an idiot. It’s a dragon.”

She spurts a flame that singes our carpet. Swearing, I watch the fire start to grow. Nick is gonna kill us. No, first he’ll give us a massive fine, and then he’ll kill us.

Matt lurches for the sink, turning on the faucet. Oh, yes. Water is helpful.

Venus sits on the fire, snuffing it out. We stare at her open-mouthed.

“I think that was a threat,” I say.

Matt just nods.

“Guess we’ve got a dragon now,” I say.

Venus lets out a purring sort of noise and shifts her body on the singed carpet.

“They always say college is weird, but not this weird,” Matt says.

I reach my hand out toward Venus––tentatively. She eyes it distastefully, then reaches her snout out. Her nostrils flare, but she doesn’t spurt fire on me. Instead, she sniffs me.

“Are you crazy?” Matt hisses.

Maybe so. She sniffs again, then rubs her nose against my hand, metal against flesh. Or at least, I think it’s some sort of metallic substance, but I’m not exactly an expert on dragons. Not yet, at least.

I would look over to see Matt’s reaction, but I’m mesmerized by this tiny dragon who I am becoming fonder and fonder of by the minute, despite her thieving ways and her threats. “Hey, Venus,” I say. “Good dragon. Nice dragon.”

She pulls her nose away and gives me a look of pure disdain.

I swallow. “Sorry. Uh… most esteemed Venus. We shall grant you shelter in our humble abode––”

“Why are you talking like that?” Matt says.

“––with one condition. You shall not, uh, thieve from us.”

“You mean steal?”

“I’m trying to be fancy here.” I meet Venus’ burnt-orange eyes. “Please don’t steal from us. I need quarters for my laundry. Also ’cause I’m broke.”

She lets out a world-weary sigh and then disappears back under the bed. Is she irritated? Does she even understand what I’m saying? She’s been acting like she has.

Matt lets out a low whistle. “This is the weirdest––”

Venus reappears and tosses another quarter at me. This time, I snatch it before Matt can. “Thanks,” I say. “Uh… can I have the rest of my money back?”

Her eyes narrow.

“That’s a no, then. Okay.” I let the quarter join the other three I’d managed to snag. At least I can do my laundry. “Can I have my watch back?”

With her mouth open and teeth bared, I can see the flame growing at the back of her throat.

“Okay. Nope.” Mom and Dad will just have to think I lost it. They’ll freak, but I’m not risking the fury of my dragon. “Uh. Nice doing business with you.”

Venus preens her wing, looking all royal and fancy, like she knows she’s the queen of this dorm, then goes back under my bed.

I close my hand around the quarters. Guess I’ve gotta keep better track of my change.

“Did this actually just happen?” Matt says.

“Yeah.” I stand on wobbly legs and grab my basket. “I think it did.”

Having coins for laundry is one thing. Hiding a dragon from my RA is another.

But hey, I heard one of the guys on the other floors hid a guinea pig for a year. So it can be done.

Challenge accepted.


I hope you enjoyed this fun little story. When I looked at that prompt, two thoughts went through my head. One thought was, “Heck yes! Mini dragons!” The other was, “How can I make the lack of spare change something important? Who needs spare change?” And then I realized… college kids need spare change.

Fortunately, my college didn’t require payment for laundry. (They just added the estimated cost to my school bill. Yay.) But I can imagine how frustrating it would be if you needed to do laundry when you didn’t have any quarters. Hence, Drew was born.

I my end up writing more about Drew and Matt’s struggles to hide Venus from their RA Nick and the college administration. Maybe Venus will escape from the dorm room one day and cause havoc. Who knows.

Want to see a different interpretation of the same prompt? Check out my friend Laura’s story here.

Also, my apologies for waiting so long to post another story! But during the new year, I’m going to try to stick to a regular posting schedule, which should still be the first Friday of every month. Thanks for sticking with me despite my lack of predictability!

So, what about you? Does this prompt inspire you to create something? Let me know in the comments!

One-Prompt Contest Winners

This month is NaNoWriMo, which means that I, like many other writers out there, am attempting 50,000 words in one month. Crazy, right?

I’m at 27,000 words currently. It’s been exhausting and stressful, contributing to a lot of late nights, but seeing the progress on my WIP and feeling the thrill of accomplishing so much has made it worth it for me.

However, it meant that I didn’t want to do a full prompt contest this month. Not only did I figure that most of you wouldn’t be contributing much, but also I didn’t have the energy or time for it. Instead, after receiving some feedback from you, I decided to hold a one-prompt contest.

The Prompt

This picture is from Pinterest. It does not belong to me.

The contest was supposed to be in celebration of my short story “Skinthief” being published on Havok. But due to some scheduling complications, I had to hold the contest after the story was already published. This was a problem because Havok only keeps a story available to the public for 24 hours; otherwise, you have to be a member to read it. So, if you want to read it, you’ll have to become a Havok member (which is really cheap, by the way, but I totally understand if not).

Now onto the contest itself! The word limit this time was 150 words (I just can’t help lengthening the word limit! We’ll see what the next one will be!).

I want to give a big thanks to everyone who participated. I loved reading all the creativity, and I wish I could choose more than one winner, but I can’t. (Unless you count the separate Facebook and Instagram winners.) So here are the winners!

Instagram Winner

It was his trademark. Green eyes, scrawled onto any crime scene where he rescued someone.

I had heard that there’s one thing in their appearance a shifter can’t change, and when they lose themselves, they hold tightly to that last vestige of their identity.

I remembered those green eyes. In a family of blues, there he was, screaming out his first breath into a world that didn’t deserve him.

When he was five, those green eyes were terrified when he accidentally shifted for the first time.

Those green eyes were solemn as they took him away to the war. The last time I saw him.

Until now.

I stare across the alley at him, removing my ski mask. “I know who you are, David.”

He freezes at the name he barely recognizes. “How… How do you know?”

I smile. “I’m your mother.”

~ Carrie-Anne Noble

Carrie-Anne Thomas (@carrie_anne.thomas) wrote a beautiful story told not from the perspective of the one suffering from this amnesia but from the perspective of his mother, and I loved it. I hope that she and her son stay reunited and that he can regain his memories.

Facebook Winner

Hands.

My hands.

They’re mine, move when I tell them to—but unfamiliar.

Everything is unfamiliar. The dark alley. The sounds of receding feet and approaching sirens.

From someone else’s blood on my hands, I think I won whatever fight just happened. From the dull ache to the right side of my head, I know I also lost.

Lost everything.

I try grounding myself in something solid. Like my body.

I stand, catch a glimpse of my face in the only whole pane of a broken window. Young, black, five o’clock shadow. Is this me?

Wallet. ID.

Yup. That’s me. Sean something. Still doesn’t seem familiar.

Spasms seize me. I double over in pain that sparks and stings.

When it passes, I see my reflection again. This time panic strikes.

It’s not the same face. It’s pale-skinned, red-haired, terrified.

No more familiar than the other.

Who—and what—am I?

~ Abigail Falanga

Abigail Falanga‘s story was so immediate and gripping, full of panic and terror. I loved the details she included that immersed us in his struggle, as well as the idea of how he couldn’t stop the painful shifting from one form to the next. It was so unique and upsetting.

What’s Coming?

I apologize sincerely for my lack of consistency in posting. From starting two new jobs to NaNo, I’ve been very busy. However, I will be posting a story for December. I will make sure of it. It is being edited right now.

So . . . watch out for a story about a boy whose laundry money is being stolen by a mini dragon. 😉

Inktober!

Happy Halloween, friends!

I planned on posting a Halloween-esque short story today, but I wasn’t comfortable with releasing it into the world just yet. I hope you’ll forgive me. So, instead, I decided to gather all my Inktober stories in one place!

This year, I participated in something called Inktober: Writer Edition. For those of you who don’t know, Inktober is where artists create drawings every day based on prompts. It’s a creativity challenge. Well, my friend Hannah Robinson created Inktober: Writer Edition for the writers who wanted to participate in Inktober using the same prompts!

The stories were supposed to be 50 words. That is an admirable goal. However, I am long-winded (which probably isn’t a surprise to many of you), so many of the stories are over 50 words. My apologies.

Prompt Answers

Here are all the entries I wrote. I went back and added a few that I missed during the days I was too busy. Sometimes I include notes, which are indicated by a dash ( — ).

Prompt 1: Ring

Her foot tapped an anxious rhythm beneath her desk. He hadn’t arrived yet. He was always here by now. Ever since he’d picked the empty seat next to her in English that first class, she’d become hyper attuned to his very movements. He liked to run a hand through his hair, messing up the already-unruly curls. He took notes by hand instead of on his laptop, and his handwriting was chaotic, almost unreadable. Sometimes he would glance at her during class when Professor Harris said something funny and smile as though they were sharing a private joke.

Maybe today she’d actually talk to him.

The door opened. There he was, moving with lanky grace, backpack slung over his shoulder. She drank in the rich chocolate of his hair, the pale snow of his skin, the vibrant green of his eyes.

He saw her watching and smiled, then sat down. Out came his notebook and pen. Her eyes caught on his left hand. A golden band glittered on his ring finger.

Prompt 2: Mindless

8:24. Twenty minutes later than she usually left. Maddie snatched her purse, grabbed her owl tumbler filled with fresh coffee, and threw the door open. Traffic was going to be a nightmare, and she had a meeting with her boss in twenty minutes. He would be so angry if she was late again. He was probably going to chew her out anyway, but arriving on time would have at least spared her some of the lecture.

The door slammed shut behind her, and she crossed the porch in a few quick steps, her heels clicking on concrete. Her mind on the upcoming meeting, she stuck her hand in her purse. Her wallet, her phone, a pack of tissues, some lipstick. Nothing metallic.

Her throat clamped tight, and she twisted around and hurried back to the door, heels going click click click, then jerked on the door handle. Locked. And her keys were sitting on the kitchen table. 

Prompt 3: Bait

“You don’t love me. Is that what this is?” He forced a wounded expression, which she promptly mirrored.

“No! It’s not that! I love you. I love you so much. You’re the most important person in my life.”

“Then why would you hurt me like this?” He turned his face away. One second. Two. Three.

“Okay,” she finally said. “I won’t hang out with him anymore. Our friendship, it’s over. If that’s what will make you happy.”

His lips curved into a smile. She’d taken the bait, and now she was his, fully his. 

— Abusive relationships aren’t always physical. They can be emotional too. But I know just how hard it can be to escape.

Prompt 4: Freeze

I can’t. Their ease will change to condescension at the sight of my approaching figure. They might engage with me but only with fake smiles and patronizing glances. They’ll laugh behind my back when I’m gone.

So I stay frozen where I am and watch with envy those who belong.

Prompt 5: Build

In her mind, he loves her. In her mind, he’s dying to be with her, only held back by some tragic backstory. In her mind, it’s inevitable that they’ll be together, eventually.

But the elaborate fantasy she built would disintegrate with the slightest touch—

The next time she sees him, his arm is slung around another girl.

Prompt 6: Husky

Unless you look closely, you might not see him. His thick pelt melts into the snow, only betrayed by the ice blue eyes scanning the area. His ears are pricked—perhaps he heard you. Perhaps he caught your scent drifting from your hiding place in the snow-covered pines.

He is waiting. But for who?

Prompt 7: Enchanted

Her beauty was a spell ensnaring him where he stood—thick golden hair rumbling down her back, skin crystalline pale, lips protruding in a gentle pout, dress hugging just the right amount of curves.

So enchanted was he that he neglected to notice the dagger clutched in her dainty hand.

Prompt 8: Frail

Her composure is fragile, held together by dying threads, ready to collapse at any moment in a flood of tears. Perhaps that tear-jerking empathy makes her weak. Perhaps it makes her strong. But she doesn’t feel strong. She feels frail, burdened by the problems of others, shatter-thin.

Prompt 9: Swing

**content warning: hanging**

Her limp body swings from the rope. The slight movement almost seems to suggest that her heart beat on, but if one looks at her face, they would see her glazed, lifeless eyes.

They say she was a traitor. Perhaps so. But I wish that wasn’t the only label that would persist. What about “sister”? 

Prompt 10: Pattern

The synchronized thumping of soldier feet radiates across the ground and send shivers through me. There they are, coming around the bend. I hide in the shadows, relieved that they don’t keep their gazes facing forward. One heartbeat. Ten heartbeats. They disappear down the hallway.

I’ve memorized the patterns of their movement. There shouldn’t be another set for ten minutes. So I’ve got to move quickly.

I slip from the shadows and down the hallway when a voice stops me in my tracks: “Freeze.”

Prompt 11: Snow

A tiny flake falls from the sky, then another, drifting to the bloodstained earth. Pure white turns to pale pink. The flakes soon covers the corpses lying on the battlefield as though trying to cleanse the world of the darkness that had been unleashed. But no amount of snow, no measure of beauty, can erase the pain caused today.

Prompt 12: Dragon

He was buried in the dunes. Sand covered his scales, stung his eyes, cloaked him in a heated sort of blanket. But the sandstorm had passed now. He pushed himself to his paws, unused legs burning. Sand streamed down his body as he arose from the dunes like some terrible reaper. Then, he spread his leathery wings, flicking the sand from them, and launched into the clear air.

Prompt 13: Ash

Ash falls from the sky like snow cinders and blankets the ground. It seems peaceful, almost, if you close your eyes—otherwise, you can see the ravaged ground, the solidifying lava, the rage-marks the volcano left behind. A soft wail rises from the people, growing louder with each moment, until the air is clogged with ash and sound.

Prompt 14: Overgrown

He swiped irritably at the vines blocking his way, slashing them with a blade. Sweat pooled on his skin as he pushed his muscles one more step, one more step. Leaves slapping his face, he continued on, hardly even caring where he was going.

And then there was nothing beneath his feet.

Prompt 15: Legend

He was said to be the most powerful mage in all of Elymas. Some said he had moved the Yaro Peaks ten leagues—from the middle of the continent to the seaside—without even a rest. No one had ever seen his face except for the king, and speculation ran wild as to why—he was horribly disfigured; he was a foreigner; he was a woman.

No one ever guessed he was six years old.

Prompt 16: Wild

Her hair had a mind of its own. Knots snarled the dark strands, creating snags that would break any brush, and it stuck up and out and every direction but down. It was a lion’s mane, a bird’s nest.

Maybe you think that is cool. Maybe you think she is ahead of her time for having such animalistic hair. But her mother certainly didn’t.

One night while the girl was snoring, she brought out the clippers. 

Prompt 17: Ornament (Never Before Posted)

Usually people keep them in an urn. We keep them in an ornament.

Ashes swirl charcoal-gray in a glass globe, hanging from the pine tree in our living room. Maybe it seems strange to other people, but they shot him on Christmas Eve. Amidst all the joy and fellowship, we might forget that, so we make sure we don’t.

Besides, it’s kind of fitting. He sacrificed himself, throwing his body in the shooter’s path to save the others in the mall. He always was the most like Jesus of us all, and now his death seals that.

I stare at the ashes of my brother, wishing things could be different, aching for his smile, grateful even now for the compassion that killed him.

Prompt 18: Misfit

She lived in a fantasy world—crawling around on all fours, speaking in meows and yowls rather than words. Her world was calm and kind, a place where she belonged.

But the real world was cruel. And even her fantasy world couldn’t protect her forever.

Prompt 19: Sling (Never Before Posted)

They sling harsh words back and forth, eyes narrowed, fists clenched. It’s a variation of the same old fight, perhaps with a different topics or different words, but the same outcome—seething rage. Neither will budge, fighting to win an unwinnable argument.

But it seems the only way for them to win is to separate.

— So many people in my generation have grown up in broken homes. Marriage is difficult. The idea of that lasting covenant sometimes scares me. But I will do my best to commit, to hold on, even when it’s tough, providing it’s not abusive. I hope others will do the same.

Prompt 20: Tread (Never Before Posted)

He treads on eggshells, every word planned, every bit of body language measured. Every second, he watches her for the reaction, noting every bit of emotion, terrified of the times she’ll inevitably break.

One word slips out wrong, careless, unwelcome. Her eyes change to steel plates. He has failed.

Prompt 21: Treasure

She’s not angry yet. Her laugh is genuine, her eyes soft, her body language loose and relaxed. I soak in the version of my sister I haven’t seen in years.

Her arms wrap around me, and I stiffen, then squeeze her tightly. In a few minutes, she might snap at me and turn back into her new self, but this moment is a balm for years of nothing but silence and heartache.

No, not just a balm. A treasure.

Prompt 22: Ghost

Sometimes I disappear.

People don’t pay much attention to me anyway, but there are times where they completely forget that I exist. Every word I speak is unheard, and no one turns to address me. Their laughter grates in my ears; their camaraderie burns.

So I slip away, quick and quiet as a ghost. Their laughter echoes behind me, unchanged by my absence—because I was never really a part of the group, anyway. Their lives go on as normal.

I’m invisible.

Prompt 23: Ancient

No one remembers when it was built. No one remembers why it is there. No one really seems to care, either.

It’s just a hunk of forgotten stone, reminiscent of an older time but for a purpose no one can imagine. And because they don’t know what it can be used for, they don’t care.

The orders come in. Bulldozers will begin in the morning.

Prompt 24: Dizzy

She can’t breathe. Her head spins, caught up in her body’s weakness. She could fall over at any moment.

Her mom left a sandwich for her on the table. The scents of bread and peanut butter fill her nostrils, almost overpowering. Her aching stomach gurgles.

But then she looks down at her not-yet-flat stomach and walks away. The headache will go away and leave a beautiful body behind.

— My heart aches for those struggling with eating disorders.

Prompt 25: Tasty

The soft vanilla melted in her mouth, bathing her tongue in cool delight and flashes of ecstasy. She eagerly shoved another spoonful through her lips, then one more, telling herself it’ll be the last scoop with every plunge. But she’d already put herself down this road; she might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

And then her stomach began to churn.

Prompt 26: Dark

A shadow passes over me, unwanted and unplanned. Suddenly the people around me seem far away, disconnected, and all I want to do is hide, sulk in my own misery. What I’m miserable about I can’t say; all I know is that I am.

I wish I could stop it, keep the light in my core fueling my body. But when I am emotionally weak, the shadow is inevitable.

Prompt 27: Coat

Elias groaned. “Do I have to?”

Maria slapped the herbs into his hand. “Yes. Eat up.”

He shoved the leaves into his mouth and began chewing. A bitter taste coated his tongue, and he gagged, but at least within the hour, the ache would be gone. She knew what she was doing. She’d been training as a healer since she was a child.

But that didn’t mean he couldn’t have a little fun.

He pretended to choke, his face contorting in an expression of pain. Then he collapsed, stirring the fallen leaves.

“Elias?” She knelt next to him, her eyes wide.

He fought the smile coming to his lips, but it came anyway. “I’m dead.”

She dumped leaves on his laughing face.

Prompt 28: Ride

“Need a ride?”

Fiona gaped at the boy whose legs straddled the scaled body of a majestic dragon. The dragon’s nostrils flared, sending heated air right at her face, and she stifled a yelp. Enormous red eyes seemed to pierce right through her.

Shivering, her eyes shifted back to the boy. She’d heard about dragon riders but never seen one, and she’d certainly never realized any were so young. He couldn’t be more than fifteen, her age. Had he started riding when he was a child?

“I . . . guess not?” The boy’s voice faltered.

She’d also never realized any of them were so awkward. She backed away slowly, feet crunching leaves, wondering if the dragon could fly through the forest or if it would be too big to navigate the trees. “I think I’ll pass.”

The boy dismounted from his dragon, stumbling a little when he hit the leafy ground. “It’s not scary; I promise.”

Perhaps not to the boy who’d grown up flying them. But to Fiona, the scary part was the fact that a stranger and his fearsome dragon were taking so much interest in her. “Perhaps another day,” she said, her voice tight, then fled into the woods. Branches whipped at her face.

“Wait!” the boy called behind her, but she had no intentions of being kidnapped, not even by a beautiful boy and his dragon. There were plenty of damsels in distress these days, but she wouldn’t end up as one. She knew self defense.

Still, part of her wondered if she’d ever see the boy and his dragon again. Part of her longed to soar high above the earth, wind stealing her breath, trees and castles turned to pinpricks. The longing turned so strong that it stopped her feet, and she glanced back at the edge of the wood where the boy and his dragon waited.

This could be her only chance.

Breathing deeply, she walked back toward the boy, her chin held high. His eyes widened at the sight of her. “Actually, I’d like that ride,” she said.

He grinned.

Prompt 29: Injured

**content warning: domestic violence**

Blood drips from a new cut on her face, and she holds her burning eye with a trembling hand. The door slams shut behind him, and she collapses on the bed. She deserved this, she knows. She shouldn’t have stepped out of line. She should have done as he had wanted.

Her injury aches, but nothing can compare to the pain in her heart.

— If you are in that sort of relationship, I am praying that you will be able to get out safely. I know that can be very difficult to do. Please know that no one deserves to be treated that way, no matter what they may have done to “deserve” it. If you are recovering from a relationship like that, you have my prayers. Just because someone may have broken you does not mean you don’t have value.

Prompt 30: Catch

He promised he would always catch me.

I’d exhale, squeeze my eyes shut, and let go, plummeting toward the ground—but then his arms would be around me, and then he’d start tickling me. I’d squeal and jerk away, but he’d hold on tight, never letting go. Big brother, protector, constant.

Today I fell. Blood seeped from my aching, discarded heart, and I picked myself up from the ground, my composure in tatters, tears seeping down my cheeks. I looked around, wondering if anyone would want me after what I had done.

But then he was there, his arms wrapping around me, his chin resting on my head, his heart thumping in his chest. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “I’m here.” He didn’t catch me. Not before I fell. But I wouldn’t let him. I stubbornly kept on my path, ignoring his warnings, and my heart shattered.

I curled into his chest. He may not have caught me, but he’d picked me back up, and he’d help me heal. And that was what mattered.

— Grateful for my big brother. ❤

Prompt 31: Ripe

Jeers filled Lucia’s ears, and she turned her head, though she knew what she’d see. Dirk walked down the street, shoulders hunched, preparing for another onslaught of words.

She got up from her seat outside the shop, then hesitated. She didn’t know the old man, not really. All she knew was that he’d spoken out against their great emperor, and now . . .

Then something sailed toward him—a pear, ripe to the point of being rotten. It slammed against his chest, and he grunted, almost falling over. The gathering crowd laughed.

Lucia’s fists clenched. How dare they! All around her, she could see the other villagers holding their own fruits, ready to pummel the man who’d dared to speak out.

With barely a conscious decision, she rushed forward, throwing up dirt with each step, and stopped in front of Dirk. His eyes met hers, shadowed with grime, glimmering with hope. She smiled. 

A fruit struck her on the back, and she gasped, her spine arching. Then another hit her on the cheek, almost knocking her head back. Rancid juice slid down her face and onto her neck, stained the back of her dress. 

Dirk’s voice was a whisper. “You don’t have to do this, miss.”

Lucia firmed her chin. “I know.”

Inktober’s End, NaNo’s Beginning

I really enjoyed the challenge! It was a great way to keep my writing during a busy month. I hope you enjoyed the stories that came from the prompts this year, and know that I plan to participate again next year!

But, as sad as it is that Inktober is over, November there’s another challenge to participate in: NaNoWriMo! In case you don’t know, during NaNo, people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month! Crazy, right?

I’m only going for 20,000 words and using a project I’ve been working on since last NaNo (I’m a NaNo rebel!), but I’m excited! I hope that this will get me closer to the finish of my WIP.

Do you have a favorite flash fiction piece from the ones I just posted? Did you participate in Inktober: Writer Edition? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments!

“The Will of the Sky” and Contest Winners!

As some of you may know, my short story “The Will of the Sky” was published on Story Embers today! Story Embers is an incredible website, and I was so honored to receive second place in their short story contest this year. Finally, it has been shared with the world! (You should also check out Kate Flournoy’s “Ella,” which won first place. It’s well worth the heartbreak. Go New Wessex!)

“The Will of the Sky” is a desert fantasy about a man from an honor-shame culture who has been shamed by his son and wrestles with whether to forgive or exile him. It deals with the complicated nature of duty and family, honor and love. I hope you enjoy it.

The Contest

So, in honor of that win, I decided to make my third flash fiction contest desert-themed. Choosing winners is always so hard because of how many incredible stories I receive. I would recommend you check out all the entries, winners or not.

Here are the Instagram posts:

Here are the Facebook posts:

The Judge

This time, I had the honor of judging the contest alongside the lovely Shaina Merrick!

Shaina Merrick spins her web of stories from the Western Side of the Rockies. The mountains surrounding her show up in one way or another in many of her stories. Her favorite part of writing is the first blush of a story begging to be written. The germ of an idea carries her through the rest of the draft, and all the way through the editing process. As well as a healthy amount of chocolate and hiding in a cave of pillows with a good book. Books are the reason she began to write in the first place, the stories written down on paper whispered of the stories she could write, if she ever put the book down long enough to start them. The stories that inspire her the most are written by Maggie Steifvater, N.D. Wilson, and Jeanne Birdsall. If she could craft stories that are even half as compelling as those, life would be perfect.

I met Shaina at Realm Makers this year, and we became fast friends, holding deep conversations and giving lots of hugs. Having her help with the contest was not only fun but also helped me choose the winners! I’ll be switching off judges every month (though there will most likely be repeat judges over the months). If you’re interested in helping me judge, let me know!

Also, I hope you guys enjoyed the Facebook contest. I think it did decently well, so I plan to keep the Facebook contest running for at least another month to gauge its sustainability. As always, please let me know if there is anything I can do to better my contests. I want to make them the best they can be.

So, without further ado, here are the prompts and their esteemed winners!

Prompt 1

This image does not belong to me. I found it on Pinterest.

I love this picture. It’s bursting with stories. Apparently others agree because a ton of people found different meanings for it! Also, I just adore dragons. (Fun fact: I also collect dragon items like puzzles and figurines. I think I have a bit of an obsession.)

Now for the winners!

Instagram

The tormenting heat of the sun beats against the barren kingdom. Thin gusts of wind sweep over the sand of ancient stones, bones of the dead peeking into sulfurous air. The faint thrust of his leathery wings and the shifting of his every bone echoes over the muteness of the ghosts. Slit eyes bore into the souls of every dark crevice, ripping exotic shadows of the past into the foreboding silence of the present. For in the heart of the reapers’ kingdom, memories of life bow to the carcass of death.

~ Kaylee Clay

What a beautifully written entry. Kaylee Clay (@kk_the_bookdragon) portrays a fascinating, dark world—particularly appropriate since Halloween is fast approaching—that makes me want to know more. Ghosts? Sulfur? Reapers? I’m hooked!

Facebook

It had been just another noise in the desert, probably a creature dying in unfamiliar, hostile surroundings. But after the bone beast had flown over, no one could unhear that desperate, aching sound. It echoed in the mind, raising memories of sorrows and lost dreams, like spectres called from the beyond. So the towns fled to the deep subterranean caverns in an attempt to dampen the cries and to bury themselves from hauntings created in their heads.

Only little Keili understood the cry, understood why the beast screamed as it flew. It wanted to die but couldn’t.

~ Ariel Jackson

I love Ariel Jackson’s take on this story with the bone beast who wants to die but can’t. It breaks my heart. And I found it so interesting how the people ran from the creature’s pain, trying to pretend it didn’t exist. I think we all do that sometimes—pretend like we don’t see other’s pain so we don’t have to feel uncomfortable. I don’t know if that was an intended reading, but that’s what I saw in the story, and it made me think more deeply.

Thanks for entering, Ariel! I look forward to seeing more of your writing!

Also, do you all remember Coryn from “The Wooded Sea” (one of my favorite short stories I’ve ever written)? Remember how I said he has his own short story? Well, Ariel’s story made me think of that because he, too, wants to die but can’t. “The Day Water Became Wood” addresses suicide and just how far someone will go to get what they want. (I hope to post it soon, but it needs some editing.)

Okay, back to the contest!

Prompt 2

This picture does not belong to me. I have permission from Purple Dragon Prompts to post it.

This prompt was special. In September, I connected with the creator of Purple Dragon Prompts, Kayleigh Gallagher (@so_many_ocs), on Instagram. (You may remember that I used her prompts for “Endellion,” unofficially “Shadow Wolf,” and “One Way.”) Well, I asked if she would partner with me for this contest and create a desert-themed prompt, and she did! It’s actually exclusively for my contest, so you can only find it on my contest posts.

Her prompts are great. I have a whole section for them pinned on my Writing Prompts Pinterest board. You should check out her Instagram too!

Here are the winners of the second prompt.

Instagram

“It’s the center of the universe,” the sage had whispered to me, as he indicated a tattered map of the desert.

Not the literal center, of course. The gravity at the center of one galaxy would instantly crush my frail, mortal body.

Then again, the villagers in this area didn’t understand gravity. They didn’t even understand what it truly was: the place where all worlds converged. From there, I could go anywhere. Find anyone. Find HER.

“It’s the center of the universe,” he had said.

“Perhaps,” I whisper, with a strained, hopeful smile, “it can find the center of mine.”

~ Carrie-Anne Thomas

I loved all of Carrie-Anne’s (@carrie_anne.thomas) entries for this contest but especially this one. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful, beautiful and sad, depressing and uplifting at once. I truly, sincerely hope he finds her, whoever she may be.

Plus, I loved the scientific aspect of the prompt! Would I have thought about the gravity of the center of a universe crushing people? Absolutely not. And I’m all for multiple worlds!

Facebook

She could see nothing.

Well, that wasn’t quite true. There was dust. There was wind.

There was more dust.

Senra clutched the gauzy veil closer, her parched breathing shallow through the thin material.

Somewhere, the green lands still existed. Water and grass and men with glittering swords and greedy eyes.

She turned her back to the wind. A slight veiled figure clutched their cave entrance. “M-mother?”

Senra wrapped her daughter in an embrace. “You’re safe here.”

“But…”

“Hush.” She buried her face in her daughter’s hair. /You’re the center of everything. And I won’t let them touch you./

~ Hope Ann

Hope Ann happens to be one of the writers for Story Embers, a fact I just connected with the inspiration for this contest (“The Will of the Sky” winning second place in the contest). So that’s cool!

As for her story, the family relationship was so raw and vivid. I could sense Senra’s deep love for her daughter, and my heart hurt at the thought of what she might be protecting her daughter from. I dearly, truly hope they are safe and happy in this quiet, harsh desert. Awesome story, Hope.

Prompt 3

This picture does not belong to me. I found it on Pinterest.

This prompt actually inspired another short story I have yet to post. (I’m thinking about submitting it to contests; otherwise, I would post it ASAP.) Though my mind interpreted the picture as a dragon skeleton, others saw it differently, and I love what they came up with!

As always, the winners:

Instagram

Some say it means dire things for any who walk beneath its shadow.

Some say that signs can be read in the cracks of its sun-brittled bones.

Some say it is a gateway to the spirit lands.

But it is none of these; only the lonely remains of a great earth-shaker who lay down and died before my father’s fathers were born. I have seen more like it, in the clefts of the great mountains, and fed them with my hands. Their lips are gentle.

So I listen to the foreigner ramble on and on beside me, and I smile.

~ Verity A. Buchanan

Verity A. Buchanan (@verityb.writes) created a vivid story with a world I want to see more of. I could imagine the earth-shakers, though my interpretation of them is probably different than another’s interpretation, and that’s awesome! I could feel their gentle lips brushing my hands as they ate the food that was offered. And the writing was just fantastic!

Facebook

“Yo yo, gangsta.”

“Yo, wassup.”

“Been a few hundred years. Felt a breeze lately?”

“Nah, this sand hasn’t moved in weeks.”

“You can still see?”

“Sure!”

“Sure. Tell me what’s over the horizon, then.”

“An old man.”

“Out here?”

“Don’t scoff. I see an old man walking in the lightning.”

“Sure, that checks out.”

“Don’t believe me, then.”

“… What else is happening?”

“The bones are shaking off the sand.”

“Ressurectin’?

“‘Course.”

“What about us?”

“We’ll fly again. No more stone birds perched on an old man’s spine.”

~ Hannah Brown

Not only was Hannah Brown’s answer hilarious, but it also had so much meaning to it. Those familiar with the Bible may recognize at the very least an allusion to Ezekiel 37. Though it wasn’t directly based on the Bible story, the fact that I read it as such made me see the familiar story in a new light from the bones’ eyes. The combination of humor, dialect, and power made this story a win!

Endings and Such

I hope that you enjoyed the contest as much as I did and that you choose to participate in the next one! The plan is to start the contest early November, most likely the 6th, so be on the lookout for that. I know it’ll be NaNoWriMo, which could complicate things, but I hope you are able to make time for the contest anyway.

Want to see a man wrestle with his honor, his duty to his tribe, and his love for his son? Go check out “The Will of the Sky”!

Did you like the story and/or the contest entries? Do you have a suggestion for my contests? Let me know in the comments!

Shadow Wolf: Part 4

It would be greatly to your advantage if you read the first three parts (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3) of this story before continuing on. If you have, then congratulations! You’ve reached the final part of “Shadow Wolf.”

“Shadow Wolf” is based on a writing prompt posted by Intuitive Writing Guide:

“What big teeth you have, Grandmother!”

“All the better to––”

“Eat me with?”

“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.”

“Yeahhh, I’m not sure why you thought that would work.”

~ Mirriam Neal

Now, let’s see how the story ends!


Stella

My head bumps into an unseen barrier. Gasping, I push against it with all my strength, which isn’t much. “Marielle!” I cry.

Then the barrier shifts. I push harder, my wings straining. A piece of sky starts to show––if one could call it that. It’s dark but not as dark as the inside of this box.

Am I in the shoebox?

With a heave, I throw off the lid and fly out. My head smacks against something hard. Yelping, I float lower. So much confinement! Sure enough, in the dim light, I can just make out the shoebox.

I’m in her world! But where am I? And where is Marielle?

I peer around the small expanse, limited by the hard substance above my head. To my right is a faint light. Rubbing my head, I fly toward it and meet a cloud of something gray and fuzzy. Shrieking, I try to brush it away, but it clings to my dress. At least it doesn’t seem malevolent, just . . . disgusting.

I continue scraping it away the best I can and glance around. More gray fuzz lingers to my left, but I can easily avoid that. My fingers brush something hard on my dress, and I yank on it unsuccessfully, then realize it’s the anchor. I gently finger the glowing green strand. I’ll come back to you, Lysander.

Oh, why am I delaying? Marielle needs me! I can almost hear her voice crying my name.

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