The Jealousy of a Dragon

I can’t believe it. I’m actually posting a story on the first Friday of the month. *gasp* Let’s hope I can keep up with it. It’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions… Those typically don’t have much luck of being followed through on, but I hope with your accountability, I can do it. Thanks a ton for everything, guys!

Also, guess what? It’s another Venus story! Last month, you guys seemed to really enjoy “Venus,” the story about the college kid whose laundry money was being stolen by a mini dragon. So, I decided to write a sequel (hopefully one of many).

And this time… Drew embarrasses himself in front of a girl. It’s great. But also, poor guy.

You might want to read “Venus” first if you haven’t already, though you should be able to understand this story even without reading the previous one. Anyway, enjoy “The Jealousy of a Dragon”!


This is the best it’s gonna get.

Exhaling, I press the print icon. The printer hums to life, then spits out one sheet, another sheet, so many sheets of edited word vomit. Twenty pages about a planet I’ve never been to. Dozens of hours spent staring at a screen with bloodshot eyes, catching a few meager hours of sleep.

Sometimes I really hate college.

Something brushes against my leg, and I flinch. There’s a ghost. A rat. Something. I look underneath my chair to see a bunny-sized dragon, golden scales gleaming, expression unreadable.

“Venus!” I sputter. “What are you doing here?”

Yeah, I know, I named my mini dragon after my science paper. She looks like the planet, okay?

She flexes her claws, then scratches them against the metal leg of my chair with an awful screeching sound.

“Stop it! Someone’s gonna hear you!”

She looks up at me with wide, innocent eyes.

How did I get a mini dragon, you ask? I have no idea. She showed up under my bed and stole my laundry money. Now I’m stuck with her.

“Now is not the time for sharpening your claws, young lady.” Okay, I actually have no idea how old Venus is––she hasn’t gotten any bigger in the week I’ve had her––but I’m bigger, so I’m in charge. I think. “You’re going to wake people up!”

Her claws screech across the metal. Good thing she can’t actually damage the metal—oh wait, she’s making gouge marks. Just great.

“Venus, I swear, you need to—”

The door to the computer lab opens. Venus darts behind my leg. A girl walks in, her dark eyes landing on me. My mouth dries up. It’s Kitty McDowell, her shirt emblazoned with a dragon, her long dark hair in a low ponytail.

“Were you talking to me?” she asks.

“No,” I blurt. “I was, um, ranting about my paper. It’s about Venus, you know. It’s making me go crazy. If you can’t tell. Um.” Okay, I need to shut up now. Also to stop staring. Also to sleep.

“Oh, okay,” she says, a smile crinkling her round cheeks. Her eyes land on my cat-patterned pajama pants, and I flush. How was I supposed to know that someone else would be in the computer lab at 2:00 am? 

“Sorry,” I say, laughing even though there is no reason to laugh. It comes out squeaky and high pitched.

Kitty cocks her head. “Why are you apologizing?”

“I don’t know.” The awful, nervous sound keeps coming. Stop it, idiot!

She stares at me for a moment longer, her dark eyes huge behind her glasses, then slips into the chair next to me. I can’t think with her this close to me.

“I like your pants, Drew,” she says. “Um. Not just because of my name or anything. But, like, cats. They’re awesome. I love cats. I’m sorry. I’m rambling.”

“It’s fine,” I say, my face as hot as one of Venus’ flames. “I, uh, like your shirt too. ’Cause dragons. They’re awesome. Yeah.”

“Thanks,” she says, her perpetually-red cheeks glowing even brighter.

Venus’ newly sharpened claws dig into my pant leg, and I let out a yelp.

Kitty jerks toward me, a frown pulling her lips down. “Are you okay, Drew?”

“Yep!” I kick Venus, and she growls. “I’m fine! Just fine!”

“That’s good,” she says, laughing just as awkwardly as I did a few moments before.

Of all the times for Venus to sneak out, why does it have to be now?

As soon as Kitty’s eyes turn back to the computer screen, I glance down at my legs. Venus’ burnt orange eyes are in tiny slits. I shake my finger at her. She snorts a puff of smoke.

Great. Now Kitty’s going to think I’m smoking. Venus, I swear, when we get back to our room…

Oh, who am I kidding? I have zero control over this tiny animal.

Kitty wrinkles her nose. “What is that smell? Is something on fire?”

“Um, maybe.” I swallow hard. “It’s probably nothing to worry about.”

“But it could be a fire!” Kitty’s voice pitches high. “We should pull the fire alarm—”

“No! We don’t need to do that. Um.” Sometimes I think Venus came into my dorm room to ruin my life. Until now, she just stole my laundry money and my fancy watch, but she’s moved onto bigger and better thinks, a.k.a. ruining my social life––my love life. Not that I have one of those. But if I did have one, she’d be ruining it.

Kitty gets up. Her head whips around, slinging her ponytail from side to side. She yanks open the door, peering outside. I take the opportunity to glare down at Venus and hiss, “We’re going back to the dorm. Now.”

She preens her claws nonchalantly.

Huffing, I get up and grab the papers from the printer. How am I supposed to smuggle Venus out of the computer lab without Kitty noticing?

Kitty turns back to me, the door shutting behind her. “I don’t see anything. But I guess the smell was coming from in here. Maybe one of the computer wires is smoldering.” She kneels down.

I clench my teeth. If she looks over beneath my chair, she’ll see the mini dragon there.

Kitty crawls under her desk, peering at the wires. Breathing a sigh of relief, I scoop Venus up, who snorts a little too loudly. Swearing under my breath, I hold her behind my back in case Kitty can see me.

“Um, Kitty. I’m sorry,” I blurt. “I have to go. I need sleep. Lots of it.” Venus squirms behind my back, her claws digging into my hands. I bite back swears.

“Oh… but what about the fire?” Kitty asks, starting to crawl out from underneath the desk.

“I’m sure it’s fine. Um. Goodnight.” I turn around and clutch Venus to my chest, tripping over my feet out the door, wincing at each prick of Venus’ claws. Only when the door has shut behind me do I glare down at my mini dragon.

“Look what you made me do!” I hiss. “You completely embarrassed me in front of her! Now she’s going to hate me!”

I swear this dragon is smirking at me.

I narrow my eyes. “Did you do this on purpose?”

She stretches her neck languorously, like nothing just happened.

I scowl. “Are you jealous?”

There’s that innocent expression again.

“I can’t believe it,” I say. “I didn’t know you even cared about me, you little demon.”

Her eyes narrow. Oops. Probably shouldn’t have insulted her.

“Um. I meant that in a loving way.”

“Drew?”

I almost drop Venus, then whirl around, gripping her behind my back again. Kitty approaches me cautiously, my twenty-page paper clutched in her long-fingered hands. Venus claws her way onto my back, and I yelp, pain digging lines into my face. “Oh! Sorry,” I say quickly. “You, uh, scared me.”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to. You just, um, forgot your paper. That’s all.” Kitty looks at the floor.

Biting my lip, I take the paper. She pulls her hand back quickly, clasping her fingers together. Her chipping nails are painted in lots of different shades, black and green and yellow.

I should apologize, but how can I? I can’t explain why I had to run away. No one can know about Venus, not even Kitty with her dragon shirt. Only Matt, my roommate, and I can know about my mini dragon.

Of course, I wouldn’t even have this dilemma if Venus hadn’t followed me to the computer lab in the first place.

My voice is strained. “So, was there a fire?”

Eyes still on the floor, Kitty shakes her head. “Have a good night, Drew,” she says, then turns to leave.

“Wait—”

But she’s already gone. 

“This is your fault!” Now Kitty thinks I hate her, which is definitely not true, but I can’t explain what happened, and I don’t know how to fix this. Stupid dragon.

Venus crawls up onto my shoulder, and I wince wherever her claws poke me. As soon as her snout is in reach, I flick it. Her jaws snap, almost closing around my finger. Oops.

“You can’t just follow me wherever, okay?”

She flicks her tail, whacking me in the head.

“Ow!” I hurry down the stairs. “That wasn’t nice.”

She grunts.

“Look, Venus. Your place is in our dorm. That’s it. Like, the rooms that Matt and I share. Under my bed is your domain. Not this whole hall.”

She curls into a ball on my shoulder. It’s hard to be mad when she’s this cute.

“People can’t see you, okay? No matter what.” I open the door, creeping into the dark room. My head spins. I really do need sleep. Kneeling down, I let Venus crawl off my shoulder. She peers at me with smoldering eyes.

“I don’t want people to hurt you,” I say softly.

She nuzzles my hand, her scaly snout warm and smooth.

“But also, you can’t keep taking risks. Also, you can’t embarrass me like that.”

Venus just blinks at me.

As she disappears into the darkness underneath my bed where her coin pile awaits, complete with my watch, my stomach sinks. I don’t think she’s going to listen to me. And if she’s willing to follow me to the computer lab… what if she starts following me other places? What if she follows me to class?

No, she wouldn’t. I won’t let her. I’d stop her.

I hope.


What did you think of my Venus sequel? Trust me, I’m planning many more. There are many more adventures Drew and Venus can have together—ahem, many more ways Venus can cause trouble for Drew.

By the way, if you didn’t get a chance to read my stories “Stealer of Secrets,” “Skinthief,” or “Walls,” Havok is opening the Season Two stories to the public for the weekend! (For those who don’t know, the Havok stories are typically only available on the day they’re published unless you’re a Havok member, but this weekend is special since they’re about to choose their anthology stories.) It’ll be open from 6 pm CST tonight (Friday) to 10 pm CST Sunday.

I’d really appreciate it if you’d leave a comment on there (and/or vote if you have a membership). The highest-rated stories could get into their seasonal anthology! “Stealer of Secrets” and “Skinthief” are currently some of the highest-ranked stories for this season, which is such an honor. I really appreciate everyone who’s supported me!

I hope you’re enjoying your new year, friends!

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!

“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.

Read More »

Shadow Wolf: Part 3

If you start during this part of the story, you will be thoroughly lost. My recommendation is to read Parts 1 (here) and 2 (here) before starting this segment. “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

Without further ado, here is Part 3!


Marielle

I see gray. Lots and lots of gray. Oh, and that gray’s darker! It’s like a big ol’ shadow––wait, nope, there are lots and lots of shadows, comin’ toward me. I step back, but they’re behind me, too. I shriek. My head hurts.

A shadow touches me. It’s all slick and nasty, leaving a wet, dark stain. Then all the others think they can do it too, and they start squishin’ me. I wail, trying to twist away, but the shadows keep coming. I can’t see! I hate these shadows!

Mommy? Daddy? Stella?

Then, there, a bigger shadow––big and wolfish, but not wolfish like Daddy. Daddy’s a fun wolf. This is a mean wolf; I can tell. It’s got a hole in its head that I think is its mouth, and now that it’s comin’ closer, I can see two lil holes for eyes.

I don’t want it to come closer. I want it to go away and stay away. I wish I was at home or in Endellion or somewhere other than this nasty, awful shadow place.

Read More »