Yameh snuck through the thicket where the Spirit Wood grew against the walls of the city. Deep in the green she would be safer, because very few people went in there. They were scared. She liked the place. But she had to return home.
When she found the stone and dead wood of an alley, she peered from the shadows to see if the kids who had thrown things at her were waiting, or any other danger. Few people, not watching the wood.
But when she slipped out of hiding, someone said, “Don’t I know you?”
Yameh jumped, and saw the copper-haired storyteller in a doorway nearby. He smiled, and his voice was nice, and he was the only other human with red hair she’d seen, so she hesitated.
“I’m Rann. What’s your name?”
Without as much as shaking her head first, she ran to the mouth of the alley.
Nothing followed her but laughter and the words, “I’ll just call you Sylvie, then.”
Inspired by the prompt "Write a story using an adult and a child as the only characters." by KissOfJudas of Our Pens, Your Pennies
Kondarans! Arrogant, lazy... Mirab was an example of the type, being put out at the thought of having to learn a new language - it had never crossed her mind anyone would not speak her own. Teaching it had fallen on Daaren, and he was not about to complain about it, given that he had been another one of the strays the local keep was in a habit of taking in. The girl’s attitude grated on his nerves, anyway.
Mirab’s companion, Firo, seemed an exception from the rule, modest and diligent, and trying to mediate between the girl wrapped up in herself and the real world. It was he who suggested they could translate a story, for them to offer as entertainment and as thanks for the hospitality. The idea even roused Mirab’s interest.
“Oh, yes! A tale about Sir Garob!”
The name seemed vaguely familiar to Daaren. “What is he known for?”
“He was a knight who travelled to barbarian places to teach people to defend themselves. To teach them courage and honour. Only he and his page. How brave he was.”
“Ah. I heard stories that came from Harred.”
“That sounds like the place where he fought a bloodthirsty griffin.” Mirab was blind with hero-worship for someone she never had met. Firo was more perceptive, judging from the nervous looks he gave me.
Daaren nodded. “In Harred I heard tell of him. A Kondaran noble too stupid to care for his own horse or gear, so he had to have a boy following him and do the work.”
“Or maybe lazy. Certainly, though, arrogant and stupid with that. He was set to killing a griffin that at the time hunted near the town. People tried to tell him it was a bad idea; there was a cyrnag with the griffin; they left the herds alone and occasionally traded with the people in Harred.”
The girl yelled something in Kondaran too slurred and rapid for Daaren to catch more than something about lies. He talked right over Firo trying to calm her down.
“I’m not making this up. I am telling the story as it was told to me. Do you want to hear the rest, or not?”
“Not.” She pouted, sulking like a girl half her age.
Firo tried to smooth things over. “Maybe we should try with the story of Saya and the good fairy. It is less long also.”
Mirab gave him a sour look. “You do it, I don’t care.”
“I’ve never heard of a good fairy.” The very idea raised Daaren’s hackles. But he did appreciate the boy’s efforts. “So tell me of those fairies you have down south.”
Now that’s a weird way to wilt, Henry thought. One of the dozen cheap roses whose petals were yellow with red edges had turned grey. It looked a little squished, but not wrinkly at all, felt still cool to the touch, and even had the same fragrance as the still bright ones.
With a shrug, Henry threw out the ruined flower.
The next day brought two more discolored roses, and no success in the internet search about the phenomenon. Henry snapped a few photos and posted them online.
He checked for comments first thing in the morning, but found “looks photoshopped” as unhelpful as a crazy story that seemed to belong in a fantasy book.
When he checked on the flowers in the sitting room, they had their colour, though meanwhile they started drooping a little. The canvas print of poppy on the wall, however, had had the colour leeched out of it in a quarter circle. The lower right was entirely grey, with a narrow gradient between the changed section and the part remaining bright. When he looked closely, in the very corner Henry could spot a tiny hole.
On the way home from work he picked up supplies, and set a trap as had been suggested. Considering the bowl of neon green glue, he put down some old sheets in addition.
It turned out he needn’t have worried.
The bat-like little creature got stuck in the glue, and wasn’t strong enough to tip the bowl over. Its wings drooped miserably in the grey gloop, at odds with the cheerfully-bright yellow-red-gren striations of its skin.
What does one do with a colour vampire?, Henry wondered.
Out in his front garden, Val ignored both the police officer who had handed him the injunction, and his neighbour, who had to be responsible for it.
Eyes flying over the paper, he muttered, “Vandalism? Ridiculous! What am I supposed to do, build a hermetically sealed greenhouse?”
He only realised he’d spoken alound when his neighbour said, “Don’t forget to get a construction permit. And don’t expect me to agree if it casts a shadow on my garden.”
“Maybe you could switch to plants Mrs Friend is not breeding?” the officer suggested.
Val let go a breath that would have turned into a rant. Don’t shoot the messenger. “Thank you. I’ll consider it.” Scanning the document for a due date, he found that it came into effect immediately. Of course.
His rose bushes were doing rather well, for plants cheaply bought at discounters over the years. They ringed the small garden, alternating between yellow, red, and yellow-with-red-edged-petals, most now hip-high and in full bloom thanks to Val’s care.
With a sigh he told the officer, “I’ll cut off the blooms and buds today. That should stop the cross-pollination for now, and leaves me more options than destroying the plants entirely.”
“Thanks for your cooperation.”
Later, Val paused in beheading his own flowers for a look at his neighbours’. Those had fewer blooms, since for breeding new varieties she let them go to seeds rather than removing anything that started wilting. He bowed his head back over his work to hide a smile. Fantasy or not, the thought of poaching for some really fancy rose hip tea cheered him up a little.
Inspired by the prompt "Law and Order, the unnatural forces" by rix-scaedu.
In a small courtyard made relatively quiet by the surrounding walls, Sylvie lay prone on a bench, breathing evenly while a tattooist worked on her back, and calming her mind by repeating in her head with each breath ‘I trust her’. Sylvie had not seen the design her friend Gumei had come up with. It was about the size of her palm, a cool sketch on her left shoulder blade gradually turning sore-warm under the needles.
I trust her.
Gumei was right here, getting a tattoo of similar size, in the same spot, that Sylvie had decided on. A gull in flight might not have been very original—Gumei owned a brooch in such a design—but suited her; she often seemed flighty, making her sudden decisive actions a surprise for those who did not know her.
I trust her. We've been friends for too long.
In contrast with Aman. The rhythm of pinpricks, her breath, her mantra had let Sylvie slip into a state in which she could stand thinking about him. The first boy who'd shown interest in her. A little older and taller than her, confident and charming. He'd plied her with compliments and attention. And laughed in her face for being stupid enough to believe him, after she had slept with him. She didn't even want to know what kind of gossip he and Cassar were spreading about her.
I trust her. I trust Gumei. I trust my old friends.
Sylvie couldn't let Aman take that from her.
But what if I'm wrong?
Sylvie and Gumei used two small mirrors to show each other what they had etched into their backs now.
Gumei's quick, delighted laughter at the bird could not be feigned, relieving one of Sylvie's worries.
Her own... "A lizard?" All right, that wasn't bad. Amusing since it was nothing she could have imagined, but not bad. "Why a lizard?"
"Because of the times I found you high up on a rock sunning yourself." Like when she had brought the idea of those tattoos up again, when Sylvie had been trying to see how big she could grow a plant from a seed using only magic, no soil or water. It had not worked well. "And because of the old story how lizards have leaf-shaped heads because they grow from seeds."
It drew the first genuine laugh Sylvie had had for weeks.
Metal rattled gently as Freya rooted through the content of the tin. Wardrobes, suitcases, savings boxes long destroyed had left their keys in the collection, probably to be forgotten, or maybe to be reused. What the girl was looking for was - ah! A small slip of brass-plated tin, a triangular head.
Diary locks had been always the same, or nearly so, for decades, or if there was a slight difference, the locks were so badly made the key worked, anyway.
Freya stayed sitting in the storeroom dust and tried the key. She smiled and relaxed happily when her hoard of secrets opened.
Her breath caught as she caught sight of the writing. Blue ink instead of green gel pen. That's mother's handwriting! In my diary! A look on the cover confirmed it; even the signs of wear matched.
Freya locked and unlocked the book again, still seeing the cursive writing instead of her own rounded block letters.
She bit her lip and looked towards the door. It would be a while before her mother came home, so Freya might as well have a closer look.
The parlour was familiar, but Brice's position in it wasn't. He had seen it on a handful of occasions when he had assisted Madame Nesca while she negotiated business with particularly valued partners here. Finding himself in the overstuffed chair and offered excellent wine left him wondering what in the world was going on.
Marie had taken the tour through the historic town centre several times a year ever since the muncipality had declared it tech-light - only technology that had not been available in the 20th century or before allowed. Watching the other tourists was part of the charm. Some, like her, welcomed the break enforced by leaving behind all their gadgets for a few hours, others became twitchy. She suspected the ones from the latter group who looked excited with it might see the visit as sort of a dare - “can you go that long without checking your mail and not go nuts?”
Sometimes the same young folks would gasp at and compliment the tour guide’s ability to remember all these details about the town’s history.
Marie, however, had a different suspicion, so when one young guide stumbled over his script, led them to the marketplace and called for a shopping break, she watched him rather than scattering with the others.
He looked around, raised his hand but dropped it before it cleared shoulder-height when he noticed her.
She approached him, and asked in an undertone, “Something wrong with your augmented reality glasses?”
“Ma’am, modern tech is banned here.” He looked pained.
“Sure it is. And companies follow rules.” The young man might have taken her sarcasm as less good-humoured than it was. “And how long does it take you folks to memorise exactly the same script?”
He coughed and looked away. “Longer than I’ve been reading out the tour. They’ll fire me.”
“I could take over. Heard it often enough. Maybe you’re lucky and no-one complains.”
“You can? You would?” He checked his hopefulness and asked, “Why?”
This takes place after [node:4416], but should stand on its own, too, as flash goes.
The girl pausing to look at the old council hall clockwork ticking away in its glass case caught the librarian’s eye—her signal orange cycling helmet was hard to miss. After a few seconds of looking around and flicking the leaves of the green plants around the reading corner, she started prowling the shelves.
It was almost half an hour later when the librarian spotted her again, helmet still clinging to her head. The girl bit her lip and looked around, nervous and confused, so the librarian walked up to her.
“Hello. Can I help you?”
“There are too many things.”
The librarian frowned when she saw that there was a book lying on the sisal carpeting in the corridor the girl had come from.
“What are you looking for?”
The girl turned her head from side to side a few times, face screwing up to a distressed grimace. “I forgot.”
“Now, don’t worry…” The librarian trailed off.
The girl had raised her hands to wipe her eyes, and looked at them in wonder. “LIBRARY” was scrawled in big letters across the back of her left wrist and hand. The child looked at her palms. The left said “Do not forget: Go to the LIBRARY.” The right palm was more puzzling. She twisted her hand around, as if to see if the writing was upside down, but got distracted, ending up looking over her right shoulder towards the shaft of light leading up to the skylight over the stairwell, and holding her right hand loosely in front of her, palm up.
The librarian leaned forward and tried to read the scrawl, but couldn’t decypher it. “Are you all right? Would you like to phone home?”
“I, no? I know the way. Yes, I do.”
Her puzzled frown turned into a wide grin when she glanced at her right hand again. “Oh, ANGEL!”
“Yes, I think my angel is in trouble, it’s why I forget stuff and can’t sit still! Can you help me?”