Posted in My Fiction and Poetry

The Last Dancing Princess

The night sky hung low, heavy as crushed velvet and thick with diamonds. Rebecca stepped out onto the terrace and shut the doors behind her, but even leaning against them couldn’t shut in the music. It followed her outside, seeping through doorjambs and windows and high stone walls to curl seductively around her, enticing her back inside to dance. When she did not yield to its embrace, the music floated lazily up and away, toward the velvet sky set with stars. The song faded, and Rebecca released the breath she had held trapped behind clenched teeth, her lips trembling slightly in relief. Her relief was premature. Where his music had failed, the musician had come to try his luck.

The violinist was a tall man, and thin. Not so thin as to seem skinny, but his flesh was pulled taut over his bones as though the artist who had shaped him had left no room for either error or embellishment. In form, he was perfect. However, his thinness reflected itself in his eyes and gave everyone who met him the impression of… hunger. That hunger was what Rebecca feared. Matthew’s hunger was powerful, and it called forth the hunger that dwelled in the deepest, blackest parts of others. And, despite her very best efforts, Rebecca was not exempt from that stirring hunger. Matthew stepped onto the balcony, his dark hair silver in the moonlight, his eyes inky pools darker than the night around them.

“Rebecca, my angel, my dove, won’t you come back inside and dance to my music?” Matthew asked. He stretched out his left hand towards her, his right cradling the violin that had become her bane.

The smile resting on his lips was gentle, but she read the truth behind that smile in the razors of his cheekbones, sharp enough to slice through the toughest opponent. She had witnessed him wielding that smile, and held out little hope that she would triumph where others had fallen. Her heart ached at the memory of the musician’s most recent victims. She had once been merely a single dancer among many, but the music had claimed her sisters, one by one. Rebecca was the last of them, and she felt in her bones that, if she succumbed to Matthew’s seduction, she would join her sisters before the sun rose.

“Haven’t you taken enough?” she begged. Her throat was raw with pain and fear, and her words were the softest of whispers. “Please, please let me go. My father will be alone in the world if you take me. Please,” she pleaded with the last of her voice.

She had watched her father mourn each of her sisters, and it had broken her heart. But it was the pain and confusion and fear in the old king’s face that had shattered her. He clung to her, the last of his daughters, and she knew that losing her would break him past the point of repair. Love for her father gave her the strength to take a step away from the musician, but only one. He would have her soon.

“I would never hurt you, my love,” Matthew soothed. “Your sisters were weak, fragile things. But you’re different. They didn’t feel my music like you do.” The hunger in his eyes threatened to swallow her where she stood. The neck of his violin protested beneath white knuckles. His throat bobbed as he spoke past his thirst.

“No one has ever danced to my music with such abandon. No other voice has ever joined with it as sweetly. We are meant, you and I. Your sisters were merely preludes to you. Rebecca,” he moaned as he reached one lithe hand toward her face, “oh, my love. You belong with me.”

Cold iron met her hand as Rebecca took one last shaky step away from the musician. She grasped the railing of the balcony, threading her wrist through the tightly curling metal to keep herself from stepping forward and resting her cheek against Matthew’s outstretched hand. Because, despite her fear and her sorrow over her sisters and her father, the musician was beautiful, and some perverse part of her loved both him and his music. That part of her wanted to dance until nothing remained of her feet but bone and blood, to sing until her throat sliced itself to ribbons and only silence and pain remained. Surely Matthew was merely another name for Mephistopheles; who but the Devil could wield music to entice his listener to pain and death? For her death was certain if she gave in to the music.

Rebecca looked down and, for the briefest of moments, could see through the illusion that clothed her. The lavish ball gown that matched the midnight sky faded, revealing a once white nightgown, now little more than stained rags. In that instant she could see the torn, bloody remnants of her feet, and the bloody footprints that Matthew’s music had inflicted. The dirty hand she held before her fisted into her stained gown as it melted into lush velvet once more. No, she would fair no better than her sisters, no matter what her tormentor professed. Her other hand tightened on the balcony’s railing. If she was going to die, she would go out on her own terms. And those terms did not include dancing. Matthew must have seen the decision in her eyes. His widened in return.

“No!” he cried, lunging for his dancer, his muse. Rebecca twisted away, twirling in one last pirouette. The musician could not match the dancer for speed. Furious with her options, Rebecca snatched Matthew’s violin from his arms. If she was to lose her life, the least he deserved was the loss of his instrument. The musician’s face turned white with rage and fear. Rebecca flashed her teeth in a feral smile and threw herself from the balcony.

~~~~~~~

A world away, in a kingdom where trees grew leaves of green instead of silver and gold and bore fruit instead of jewels, a princess woke in her bedchamber. She jolted awake, her hands fisted into crimson quilts as she tried to hang on to the present. A shaky laugh fell from Rebecca’s lips. She was alive. Had it all been a dream? Giddy with hope, she leaped from bed to search for her sisters, but stumbled with her first step. Pain shot through her as her feet met the carpeted stone beneath them. Rebecca looked down at the ragged remains of her feet, torn and broken and pitiful. The sight of them reinforced the pain and she fell to her knees, the stone beneath her adding to her bruises.

“So, not a dream, then,” she whispered to herself.

The words were razors inside her battered throat. The tears filling her eyes added to the pain, but she did nothing to fight them. She struggled to her feet once more, but they refused to hold her. So, on bruised knees and filthy hands, she crawled. Pain pulsed through her feet with every move she made, but still she crawled. Sorrow filmed her eyes so thickly with tears that she could see nothing but light and blurred shapes, but this was the room of her childhood and she had no need of sight to crawl its length. She crawled past the vacant beds that should have housed the slumbering frames of her sisters. Hoarse, broken sobs shook her frame, lighting her throat with red hot embers of pain. The backs of her hands were slick with tears. Rebecca had shed countless tears in this room, but never alone. The loneliness broke her heart.

Finally, after what felt like miles beneath her tired hands and knees, Rebecca reached the door of the giant bedchamber. Wood crunched suddenly beneath the palm of her hand. The princess wiped her eyes and knelt, a hiss of pain escaping as her thighs touched her heels. She lifted the broken violin from the floor and cradled it against her chest. Nothing could bring her sisters back, but at least she had caused their murderer pain. A brittle smile twisted her lips as she thought of Matthew’s agony over his loss. Because here, lying against her breast, was the source of his power. She could feel magic pulsing through the broken wood, and she knew she had won.

Footsteps rang down the hallway. The door before her flew open. The king stood before her, his eyes shadowed with exhaustion and haunted by sorrow and fear. The fear receded as he caught sight of his youngest daughter, bent and bloody and broken on the stones before him. He fell to his knees before her and wrapped her in his arms. His tears fell into her chestnut hair as he sobbed.

“I was so afraid that I was going to lose you like I lost your sisters,” the king said, his deep voice thick and gruff from tears. “I was so afraid,” he said again, clutching his last child tightly.

Rebecca pulled away slowly, gently. She held up the broken violin. “He has no power now. I’m so sorry that I didn’t stop him sooner. I could have saved them,” she whispered. Tears dripped from the tip of her nose as she bowed her head in shame.

“No,” said the king. As gently as she had pulled away from him, her father lifted her chin until their eyes met. There was no judgement, no condemnation in those green eyes, only relief. “You couldn’t have known,” he said firmly. “I’m just so glad, so thankful that you figured out a way to save yourself.”

The king helped his daughter to her feet. When her battered feet gave beneath her weight, the king scooped her up into his arms. He closed the door behind them, leaving the broken violin abandoned and alone on the cold stone floor.

~~~~~~~

The morning of Rebecca’s coronation dawned bright and warm. The air was filled with birdsong and thick with excitement. Twelve years had passed since Rebecca had survived the mad musician. And twelve years had passed since the king had outlawed music from the land. Even the birdsong had tormented him, but no law could silence the throats of nightingales and sparrows; their song was their lifeblood and the breath in their tiny lungs. The kingdom had mourned the loss, though they did not fault the king for his decision. Any man who had lost eleven daughters to the seduction of melody, and had seen his only remaining daughter crippled by its call, was entitled his hatred. But the old king was dead and, despite having every reason to share her father’s hatred, the people knew that their new queen would silence them no longer.

There had been music in the land, of course. In the dead of night, in inns with bolted doors and around fires burned down to ash, there was music. But fear tainted music’s sweetness, and only the most desperate musicians sang or played their songs in the darkness. Today music would be heard in the light, and the entire kingdom had journeyed to the castle to hear the silence broken.

Rebecca smoothed the emerald velvet of her gown. Monarchs were supposed to wear crimson, but the new queen could no longer bear the sight of the color, so close to the shade of fresh blood. Father Silas spoke a blessing over her as he placed the crown atop the thick waves of her hair. She nodded her thanks and reached up beside her. Tobias, her guard and adviser and the best of her friends, helped her to her feet. She squeezed the hand of her soon-to-be husband. Gingerly, she spun to face the crowd of her people and bowed to them. The roar of applause was deafening. The new queen grinned and let herself sink into the wheeled chair the court carpenter had crafted for her.

The entire kingdom was silent as they entered the palace’s largest ballroom. Even children held their tongues in hope. Tobias settled his queen onto her throne, and she nodded to a darkened corner of the room. Light flared to life, a neat trick suggested by the court jester. A band of musicians were revealed by that light, and they began to play, suddenly thankful for breaking the king’s law in the dark of night as their fingers danced lightly across strings. The people cheered, but softly, so as not to drown out the music. Common men and women raced to the dance floor, followed by a trickle of hesitant lords and ladies. There were stumbles and missed steps, but the memory of the dance returned to their feet. The young were taught the steps by the old. The noble were reminded of the rhythm by the common. The kingdom was bound together by the music and the dance.

As the first song ended and the second song began, a hush spread across the crowd as they parted to make room for their queen. She held Tobias’s hand for support, but her steps were smooth and steady. No one had seen Rebecca walk in twelve years. No one, that is, but Tobias. When they reached the center of the floor, the couple bowed to one another. Every living creature in the hall held their breath as the queen began to dance. Beautifully, defiantly, she danced, her arms spread wide to embrace the music that lilted through the air. And as she danced, she sang.

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Posted in My Fiction and Poetry

A Kiss of Lightning

A branch scraped against her window, seductive in movement and menacing in sound. A storm raged. Kira gripped the covers tightly, shaking hands pulling the warmth up around pale face. In the hollow of her chest, embarrassment burned at the knowledge that something as natural as rain had reduced a grown woman to a trembling child; but the emotion lay trapped in her rib cage, unable to reach her face to warm it or her mind to shame it. And, if she were honest with herself, it was not that rain that made fear burn like a ball of cold lead in her belly; it was the lightning.

When the wind moaned, she heard her name laced within its breath. If she had heard the wind cry out for her a year ago, she would have tossed back the blankets that held her and raced out barefoot to meet the storm. She would have danced in the flood, arms raised high and lips parted to catch what fell from the sky. She would have raced the lightning, sang in harmony with its thunder. Laughter would have poured from her throat as she embraced a wildness only safe under the cover of gunmetal skies as they unleashed their fury and their blessings. How she had mocked others for fearing the nature she reveled in, sneering at their cautions and their warnings. Her distain drove the others away, but she didn’t care; the storm was the only friend she needed. Even when the weather clears, she always knew that clear skies would eventually cloud once more. The storm always came back to her.

But Kira had raced the lightning one time too many. One night, the storm took her joy for pride and her speed for rivalry. Whether overcome with fury at her challenge or overwhelmed by a desire spawned from her fearlessness, only the lightning knew. But on that night, she didn’t run fast enough. She had felt an electric caress, brushing a kiss across her nape that left the tiny hairs there standing on end, seeking more contact. And contact she received. The lightning struck her as she turned to seek it, coursing through her blood and bones, its kiss now demanding more than she could answer. The tears that fell from her eyes hissed and smoked into nothingness before they ever reached her cheeks. Laughter turned to ash on her tongue. When the lightning left her body, traveling down into the earth beneath her, Kira crumpled. The rain trailed down her cheeks as she lay on the sodden grass was a bitter replacement for the tears that had been burned from her.

The people who had given her up to her passion came back to her in her pain. When she woke from what she had thought was an eternal slumber, Kira laid nestled into her own bed. Concern gave way to relief in their faces as those holding vigil at her side saw the fluttering lashes part around her eyes. She had tried to ask them how long she had slept, but the lightning hadn’t left enough moisture within her for Kira to even speak, nor could she cry at the loss. As she studied the people surrounding her, she noticed the same fascination etched into each face, though some stared at her face, some her hands, some her neck. She looked down at the fingers and saw a delicate pattern weaving its way onto her hands and up her arms. The lightning had left her a gift etched in flesh, a superimposition of itself on her skin. It was beautiful, and she would never forgive it.

Days turned to weeks, and weeks to months as Kira slowly healed. She was able to speak once more, and able to move as anyone else would, walking and smiling right alongside the rest of the village. But she no longer ran, and the well of her tears never replenished itself after its forced drought; these were differences that only she noticed. Her skin, however, never returned to its monochromatic ivory. She forever after bore golden etchings as delicate as lace along every inch of her flesh. Before she was touch by lightning’s kiss, she had felt little for the other townsfolk but distaste at their sameness. Now, she would have traded away her unnatural beauty in a heartbeat if it meant that her neighbors would look at her as they saw each other. Whenever Kira offered to help bring in a harvest or dip tallow candles with the rest of the community, they refused her with reverential thanks. They now viewed her as something akin to a goddess, and goddesses didn’t bend their backs beneath the weight of wheat sheaves.

As the months passed, Kira finally made a new place for herself among her people. By sweat-soaked brow and blood-stained hands, she proved herself to be an incomparable midwife. And if expectant mothers believed that her presence would guarantee an easy birth and a healthy child because she was marked by the gods, Kira considered it a boon to business. With the money she saved from midwifing, she began building herself a house on a barren hill right outside the village. She laid her home’s foundation beneath the hill’s solitary resident, an old hickory tree that bore charred scars from a lightning bolt. She felt a kinship with that tree unlike anything she had felt since she had been struck. Though blackened, the tree still lived. Though changed, so did she.

When the villagers noticed her fledgling construction, they poured from their homes to help. One morning, as dawn colored the sky with pastel fingers, Kira arrived on her hill to see it already occupied. One family had brought timber from their mill. Another had brought buckets of pitch, another bundles of rushes to use as thatching for the roof. The town blacksmith had brought baskets of nails. She had delivered his second child two weeks back, a healthy girl with his green eyes and her mother’s red hair. Women with toddlers at their skirts and newborns at their breasts were stitching together quilts and curtains of cheerful reds and soothing plums. Such fabric was rare, as the rich dyes that produced them were scarce. These were pieces saved through the years to shape wedding quilts for their daughters, and yet the village women were joining all of their colorful swatches into a gift for her.

A hickory twig snapped beneath Kira’s foot as she edged closer. The sound rang across the hill, stilling hammers and turning heads. All eyes fastened on the woman with the golden scars, pride at their work on their lips but wariness of her reaction in the folds of their brows. Kira walked forward, stopping at the future site of her front door. She met the eyes of her neighbors and took a trembling breath.

“Thank you. All of you,” she whispered.

The wind carried her thanks to each ear as if her words were meant for them alone. She smiled, and they smiled with her. The wind stilled as she gave them the greatest gift she had to offer; a single tear pooled within her left eye and rolled down her cheek. She sucked in a shocked breath at the touch of moisture on her skin. The crowd sucked in shocked breaths at the hue of the tear, as vibrantly gold as the ichor of the gods. The tear slid off her chin and splashed to the ground. The villagers resumed their work, filled with a reverence that bordered on fear. Kira’s heart ached at the distance between herself and her neighbors that she feared would never be bridged.

By sunset, her little house had been completed. One carpenter, braver than most, had hewn her a front door of cedar and carved storm clouds and lightning into its face. When he presented it to her, he saw the pain etched into her face as plainly as the golden lace of her scars. Without a word, he took the door back off of its hinges and resumed carving by the light of a fire left by the townswomen. Kira squatted down next to the man.

“Thank you for the door. It’s lovely. And I appreciate how hard you’ve worked on it, but everyone else is gone. You should go home, too,” she said, laying a tentative hand on his broad shoulder.

The big man looked up at her, his amber eyes tiger-bright by the light of the fire. “I’m almost done,” he said. His voice was as deep as the ocean. He resumed his whittling, big hand steady around his small knife. Kira sat back on her heels and watched him work. She searched her mind as he carved, trying to remember his name. Slowly, a memory from many summers ago trickled into her mind. When she had first started chasing storms, the big carpenter had been a boy with tiger eyes, and he had run with her until lightning struck too close and scared his mother. His name was Timothy, and he had been a little in love with her once. As the first stars glittered in the velvet blackness of night, the carpenter blew the sawdust from his work. Kira stood to look at his carving, but Timothy held up a calloused hand to block her view.

“Not yet,” he grumbled as his other hand dug around in the tool bag at his feet. He drew out a set of paints and filled in his etchings with a delicacy that charmed Kira. A gentle smile graced her face as she retook her seat and watched him work. In minutes he was wiping his fingers clean in the dewy grass. Timothy stood and carefully hoisted his work into its new home, carefully setting the door on its hinges. On his nod, Kira stood from the fire and walked over to examine his work.

“Oh,” she breathed, her fingers tracing the air above the carvings. He had left the storm clouds and lightning as they were, but had carved and painted a beautiful rainbow about them and a golden flower below them. The flower was exquisite, but she had never seen its like in nature. “What kind of flower is that?” she asked.

The carpenter gave her a questioning look before pointing to the side of her door. What blossomed there was exceedingly lovely, its petals a delicate profusion of curls unlike anything she had ever seen. But what truly set the bloom apart was its luminescence; under the light of the moon, the golden flower glowed, as if filled with fireflies.

“I don’t understand,” Kira murmured. “Where did it come from? It wasn’t here this morning.”

Timothy caught her sky blue eyes with his own, disbelief and a touch of offense coloring his amber stare. As he searched her face, his eyes softened, and he seemed to understand her more than any other person ever had.

“It came from your tear. It bloomed there today. I thought you knew,” he added.

His deep voice soothed, but couldn’t quail the shock she felt at being the source of the flower. He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder and squeezed before walking out into the darkness. He turned back once, his heart in his eyes. She knew in that moment that he still loved her. With a boldness that surprised her, she put her fingers to her lips and tossed a kiss into the night. He answered with a grin, and suddenly her fear of living her life alone was unfounded.

Kira rested her hand over the place he had touched her; it was the first touch she had felt since the lightning’s kiss. She stayed outside after he left, admiring his gift and studying the flower that had bloomed from her tear. The wind began to pick up, howling across the valley and lashing Kira’s face with whips made of her own blonde hair. The gale spoke words that no human should understand, but its language was clear to her ear.

“He is coming. He will speak with you,” blew the wind.

Kira debated within herself whether to stand her ground or retreat inside. She wanted the safety of her new home, but she feared that, if she hid, the lightning would lash out at the little house in its fury. So she waited, the lightning lattice scrolled across her skin glowing softly in the moonlight. Lightning jumped from cloud to cloud, moving closer to his target until a bolt struck the hickory tree behind her. She prayed for safety and answers as she turned to face the force of nature that had marked her.

“You’re scared. Why?” The lightning’s words scorched the air.

“Why am I scared? Look what you did to me! Why did you strike me?” Kira screamed her questions and accusations into the air.

The lightning’s confusion was palpable. “I didn’t strike you; I kissed you. I marked you as mine.”

“I’m not yours. I am my own.”

“But, you ran with me and laughed with me. You loved me, I could feel it. So, I made you mine.” The wind howled its agreement in the distance.

Kira was choking on the ozone-laden air. “You can’t just made someone yours. You have to ask!” she shouted over the wind.

The crackle that split the air could have been an uneasy laugh. “Well, will you be mine, then?”

Kira stood tall, rain now coursing down her face as storm clouds cried in confusion. She thought back, remembering the nights she had raced the lightning and laughed with its thunder. But breaking through those memories was the sight of her village building her a home, quilting together the best of what they had as a gift for her. She saw the big carpenter with his gentle hands and his tiger eyes, and her desire for a life with him outweighed her former lust to launch herself through the clouds with lightning as her lover. Sorrow filled her at what she might have had with the lightning, and terror coursed through her at the thought that the storm might not let her go, might not allow her the life her heart had chosen. The raging emotions wrung two more tears from her. A golden drop fell once more from her left eye, a luminescent golden bloom growing where it landed. But this time, a tear fell from Kira’s right eye as well. A silver tear. A glowing sapling of quicksilver grew where it fell.

The lightning hissed at the metallic tears and what they had produced, for it read her heart in the droplets and what they grew. Wind moaned in mourning, whipping Kira’s skirt around her legs. “I see your decision in the plants at your feet. I promise not to harm you or those dear to you. One day you will change your mind,” shot the lightning. With crushing thunder, the lightning left Kira alone on her hill.

As she walked into her new home, she knew that sleep would be unattainable that night. She lit a fire and took a large box from one corner of the main room. Within the box rested soft yarn in brilliant hues, feathers, and leather hoops, things she had bought and gathered before she had been struck. She put her hands to work and gave her heart room to mourn the lightning and dream of the future. While the sky was still dark, Kira gathered the works of her hands and snuck down to the village. When dawn broke, every home in the town had a dreamcatcher hung above its door. Timothy’s was the largest, and feathers in the shape of a heart dangled beneath the hoop.

The lightning kept its distance as Timothy courted its lost love. Kira was happy, even happier than she had been when she basked in the storms. The villagers softened at her smiles, and did their best to treat her as one of them instead of the goddess they saw. Timothy was thankful for the lightning’s kiss, because Kira would have never stopping running after storms without that touch. He thought the golden lattice left on her skin by the strike was stunning, but he had loved her before it. He looked past the marks to the woman they hid, and Kira loved him fiercely for it.

The village had a mild winter, with rain and snow but no thundering storms. Spring came, and Timothy and Kira were married beneath sunny skies and cherry blossoms. As they pledged their love for each other, the lightning saw the truth; Kira would never come back to the heart of the storm. On their wedding night, a storm dropped on the valley that was vicious in its ferocity, laying waste to trees and fields. Any home with a dreamcatcher hanging above its door was rattled but left intact, its inhabitants huddled within its safety. Timothy had hung his dreamcatcher above the cedar door he had carved for Kira. He had no fear of the storm because of his wife’s gift, and rested easily at her side. But Kira feared the lightning’s rage, feared that the lightning might go back on its word in a fit of jealousy. The storm rose to a crescendo. Inside, Kira cowered at the thundering of her former lover, former friend. Outside, lightning lashed out in fury as it mourned lost love.

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Posted in My Fiction and Poetry

Choosing Worlds

Books lay scattered on every flat surface in the room. Classic stories that shaped modern thinking are stacked haphazardly on the desk. Modern bestsellers war with lesser-known fantasy for predominance on the chaise. Thin volumes of plays and poetry huddle together on the carpeted floor. Children’s tales bask in the sunlight, settled comfortably on a windowsill. A hodgepodge from each group lay mingling on the small bed, some covered by the slightly twitching shadow of their young owner.

Marie’s mother was allowing her to bring five books with them to California. She though her mom was being completely unreasonable; how could she possibly stretch five books through two weeks? These were her closest friends lying strewn around her bedroom. She would miss those she wasn’t allowed to bring, and she hated for any of them to feel unloved.

Should she go for the longest? The favorites? The new and unfamiliar territory? The ones that demand the deepest thought? Her forehead was filled with small canyons of concentration.

“Thirty minutes!” yelled the source of her dilemma. Marie sighed, grabbing the first five that caught her eye and placing the others back in their home. She looked down at the books she had chosen and was pleased with their diversity. But what if she ran out? A solution came to her, sending her running to her desk. A sixth book was added to her pile.

Her mother walked into Marie’s room, ready to spur her daughter into action. She was pleasantly surprised to see Marie’s room clean and her bag packed and ready. But when she saw the books on the bed, she frowned and began turning to chastise as the top book registered in her mind.

“If I run out of other worlds, I thought I’d try to make my own. Like you do, Mama,” Marie stammered, eyes darting across her mother’s face in search of approval.

“Good idea, Baby,” her mother replied softly as she run her fingers across the cover of the old notebook, already half full of musings from her own childhood. She smiled with her heart in her eyes.

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Posted in My Fiction and Poetry

Breaking the Habit

A scream bubbled into Reagan’s throat, but her lips never lost their smirk. She adjusted her grip on her sword and waved to the crowd, pandering with a small curtsy. Inside, she commanded her hand to drop the weapon, commanded her mouth to scream, commanded her feet to flee. She maintained her saunter, never breaking stride as she made her way to the center of the arena. The roar that burst from her throat was not the cry of terror she longed to voice. Her body raced across the sand, launching an attack against another woman just as trapped as she was. The crossing of their swords rang out through the arena, the high, sweet pitch of its song carrying above the cries of the audience.

Reagan met her opponent’s eyes. The cocky snarl on the other woman’s face contrasted sharply with the terror-lit brown eyes housed above it. Reagan knew that her own eyes looked the same; the eyes were the one part of the fighters that the maestros had never learned to control. The women thrusted and parried blows with terrifying precision, drawing out the battle for the amusement of the crowd. Within herself, Reagan cowered in a darkened corner of her mind, caught between dreading the parting of flesh beneath her blade and hoping that today would be the day that her flesh parted instead. She couldn’t bear the thought of more blood on her hands.

A sudden movement caught her eye. She saw something that she had never witnessed before; two maestros stood side by side on the edge of the arena. They must be getting more confident in their control of their fighters, or greedier for recognition of their craft. Or both. Reagan’s heart sped. She prayed that she read her opponent’s misery correctly, and that the other woman was strong of mind. Reagan made eye contact, darting her eyes repeatedly to the two puppeteers. The other woman’s eyes widened in understanding. She quickly looked down to the ground and up to the sky, the only form of agreement she could show.

The fighters pushed off of each other, darting forward and crossing swords once more. On Reagan’s blink, the women launched simultaneous attacks within their own minds. Perhaps the knowledge that they didn’t fight alone strengthened them both; their bodies were stationary for just over a minute when each shuddered back into their skin, in full control. They were racing across the sand before the maestros could recover from their shock. Much blood was spilled that day, by swords that were finally thrown down in victory by their wielder’s own choice.

(Inspired by the Linkin Park song of the same name.)

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Posted in My Fiction and Poetry

Playing up a storm

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Rain fell as fingers caressed piano keys. Gentle notes filled the air, drawing moisture from the sky. Hands fluttered, conducting the wind with each change in key. The pianist’s head fell back against his shoulders as he was caught up in the wind and rain and song. Raindrops and tears of ecstasy mingled on his cheeks. The tempo increased, melody shifting seamlessly from serenity to turbulence. Lightning crashed as the pianist slammed fingers into the keys hard enough to bruise. Musician and instrument rose from the ground, caught in a whirlwind of their own making. Dissonant notes wove through the song, breeding wolves’ howls and broken branches. The pianist drew a deep breath from the air, now thick with the storm he had brewed. He reigned the song back in, violence gentling once more. The wind set him and his piano down softly, wet grass gliding silkily between his toes. The wind hushed. Rain trickled to its end as clouds dispersed. The melody’s final note rang out sweetly, coaxing the sun to show itself once more. The pianist smiled as the warm rays brushed his face.

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Posted in My Fiction and Poetry

P.O.W.

anguish

His back burned from the labor of the day. Muscles demanded his attention, aching so strongly that he had to swallow back tears. The sledgehammer he had been swinging for hours fell from his hand, his fingers digging into the dirt as he fell to his knees. Breath hissed between clenched teeth as he bowed his head, giving himself a moment to regain his composure. His legs shook from exhaustion as he pushed himself back to his feet. The sledgehammer that was his damnation was back in his hand, though he had no memory of picking it up. With a cry of anguish he slammed the hammer into the wall again. And again. And again.

Outside of his labor, he heard his heart resume its beating. A sob fell from his lips, relief mingled with harsh disappointment. He continued beating at the walls of his heart, blow by blow. With tears streaming down his face, he prayed, desperation screaming from every fiber of his being. He pleaded that the hammer he had been damned to swing would burst through the wall one day, that the toil would bring salvation. Giving in to his despair for a moment, he threw the hammer across the cell that trapped him, deciding to use his fists instead. Skin scraped away. Knuckles cracked and bled and broke. Screams of anger ripped from his throat, leaving him raw. The chamber shook.

In a stark white room, eyelids flutter and fists clench.

(Inspired by the Bullet for my Valentine song of the same name.)

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Posted in My Fiction and Poetry

Flirty Flora

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The plant in Lainey’s teapot just waved at her. She closed her eyes and took a deep, shaky breath before opening them hesitantly. And instantly squeezing them shut again. How could something without a face seem to be grinning at her?! Lainey knew that she was running on a bad combination of no sleep and approximately her body weight in caffeine, but even sleep deprivation can only make you see so much.

With a reluctant sigh Lainey opened her eyes again and returned the little plant’s wave. Just because she was losing her mind didn’t mean that her manners had to leave with it. The little succulent shivered with pleasure at her acknowledgement. She was pretty sure it would have jumped out of the teapot if it didn’t have roots. She hit her head softly on her desk as she succumbed to exhausted laughter. After a few minutes Lainey caught her breath, closed her laptop, and gave the little plant one last wave as she turned off the lights and headed to bed; the article would have to wait until she got enough sleep for stationary objects to remain stationary.

(This was the first thing I wrote in six months, after I had surgery and recovered. It’s not much, but I was insanely relieved to get words on a page. Writing again was my final step and getting healthy and reclaiming my life. Yay words!)

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Posted in My Fiction and Poetry

Broken Castle

(Okay, I know this is a little depressing, but when I have an idea I just have to get it out. Let me know what you think!)

The shattering of crystal obliterated the peaceful silence of the palace. Emma hefted another antique vase, a priceless heirloom that had once belonged to her great-grandmother, and examined it closely. The vase was quite heavy, proclaiming both the age and craftsmanship of the piece. Its weight and smoothness were comforting to hold in her hands. The porcelain had been painted with a lovely mountain scene, complete with shepherd and goats. One could almost smell the heather on the mountain’s slope. The vase was truly a masterpiece, and was probably at least two hundred years old. Emma ran her finger around the lip of the piece as she appreciated its beauty and history. She remembered when her mother had given her the vase as a little girl. Savoring the memory, Emma pulled her arm back and hurled the heirloom into the stone wall of her chamber and watched another memory disappear.

Emma ran through the palace, destroying everything that had once mattered to her. The writing desk her father had made for her thirteenth birthday. The books that she had read and acted out with her brother. The manuscript she had spent years perfecting. The guitar on which she had learned to play and written her first songs. The rocking chair her mother had used to put her to sleep. The dress she had worn to her first dance. The set of mixing bowls her grandmother had given her while teaching Emma to bake. The window seat where she had daydreamed every evening. The bed where she had first made love to her husband. The crib in which her daughter had slept.

After hours of destruction, Emma lowered herself into the center of what was now one large room. The walls had collapsed with her memories. She had destroyed everything she loved for no other reason than her inability to stop herself. She had awakened that morning to find that all of the doors out of the palace had been bricked over. And now all of the windows were too small to stick even a hand through. She was trapped in her own home. When she had called out her her husband and daughter, she received no answer. Her parents, her brother, and every other person in her life was gone.

Emma had frantically searched the castle for her family for hours. She had torn her fingernails away with her desperate clawing at the bricks that kept her inside. Blood dripped onto the walls from her self-inflicted wounds as she searched for an exit. Clumps of hair littered the hallway from when she had began pulling it out in anguish. Her clothes were in tatters and her bare feet were bruised and bleeding from the debris she had created. When she had stopped screaming for a moment to catch her breath, she had heard the distant sound of her daughter’s giggles and her husband’s deep chuckle. She quickly pulled herself onto a chair to look out one of the now-tiny windows.

On the hillside below, so close she could make out every feature of every face, her entire family and all of her dearest friends had gathered for some sort of celebration. She screamed through the small opening until her throat was hoarse, but no one ever heard her or seemed to miss her. Why had they left her here alone? What had she done that they would all ignore her like this? Had they gotten together and walled up every door and diminished every window? Was this some cruel joke or was she being punished for something? That was when something within her had broken and she had began destroying everything that made her who she was. Now she had no memories of anyone or anything. From her seated position on the floor, she laid back into the rubble of her madness, bruising and piercing every part of her, but she reveled in the pain because it was the only thing she knew how to feel any longer.

_________________________________________________________

Greg sat in a sunny cell of McRoth’s Mental Institution, holding the unresponsive hand of his wife. Within three weeks she had wasted away to almost nothing. What little remained of her lustrous raven hair was now lank and oily and thin. Not even the strongest makeup would be able to conceal the rings beneath her eyes and the lackluster appearance of her skin. Her eyes stared through him as though he wasn’t even there. Her wrists were strapped to the arms of her wheelchair with soft lambskin straps to prevent her from hurting herself again. Her fingernails were still missing, crescents of bloody scabs taking their places. Her long, once graceful neck still bore the gouges she had bestowed upon herself before her nails were gone.

Greg’s vision blurred as he contemplated his wife’s mental break. Through his tears, he could see her as she had been before, a laughing green-eyed genius of a woman with curly black hair, who loved him and their daughter more than life itself. She had always been happy, and everyone she met couldn’t help but love her. She had always been close to her family. Her books had been brilliant. She was the best mother his daughter could have hoped for. She had made the lives of everyone she met brighter and more jubilant. How could a woman like that just snap one morning? What had happened inside her mind?

When Emma had jumped out of bed screaming three weeks ago, he had thought she was having a nightmare. But the nightmare was only just beginning. After that one long scream, she had completely stopped verbalizing. Even when she hurt herself, she never made a sound. After he had called 911 and she was hospitalized, no amount of sedative could keep her from silently waking up and clawing herself or banging her head into the bar on the bed. The hospital had finally strapped her down and moved her to their psychiatric unit, where she stayed for five days before being transferred to McRoth’s.

Since that time, she had never seemed to recognize anyone or anything; not him, their daughter Lizzy, her guitar, or passages from her favorite books or ones she had written herself. She never responded to anything. Greg would have given anything to know what had happened inside her mind. He was terrified that he would never see the real Emma again. But Greg deeply believed in his wife. Even if her mind was in tatters, he knew that she was smart enough and brave enough to fix it. So, until then, Greg would keep coming in and holding Emma’s hand every day, waiting for the moment when she finally held his back.

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Posted in Deep Thoughts, My Fiction and Poetry

An Orphan’s Christmas Gift

I know it’s not Christmas anymore, but Chris was adamant that I needed to have this poem up on here. I wrote it for our church’s Christmas program last year. So, let me know what you think!

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the world
There was no one up praying but one little girl.
She prayed for a family and prayed for her friends.
She prayed that all the world’s suffering would end.
And then she began to list, one by one,
All the great things that her God had done.
He’d given her life, He’d given her breath,
And if she should die, He’d see her in death.
Though she’d never been loved by parents below,
She knew God loved this orphan; her heart told her so.
So for all of the things she had or had not,
She gave thanks to God right there in that spot.
She climbed into bed and shut her eyes tight
And told herself, one day, God would make all things right.
She heard a soft thump and decided to see
What in the world such a strange noise could be.
When what to her wondering eyes should appear
But the Savior who loved her and held her so dear.
She jumped to her feet and ran through to the room
And hugged tightly Jesus, who banished all gloom.
He told her she was special, He loved her so much!
So He decided to give her a small Christmas touch.
He knew she was lonely, but told her to wait.
He had made up a plan, and it would be great!
Her parents had died when she was quite small.
They were with Him in heaven and loved her most of all!
They watched her each day and watched her each night.
They saw every tear and they cried at her plight.
They wanted to give her the love she deserved.
So Jesus had come down from heaven to serve.
He had been with her each step of the way
And had found her a family. Tomorrow’s the day
that the family would come for the ultimate gift.
A child they had longed for, small body to lift.
And so for this Christmas, a family was born
from heartache and struggle, from knees all prayer-worn.
The girl hugged Jesus once more with great force.
For her life tomorrow would be changing course.
“Oh thank You!” she cried as He walked to the door.
A bright light now shone from the orphanage floor.
He turned and He smiled and stepped into the light:
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

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Posted in My Fiction and Poetry

Anna’s Fright

This is what I wrote last year to show my 5th grade class how to write flash fiction.

Anna raced down the corridor. Breathless and terrified, she veered dangerously close to one of the imposing marble columns. Everything within her line of sight was black. Black ceiling, black floor, black columns… She couldn’t even find the origin of the eerie light that gave her the fleeting hope that she might find a way out. The sound of her heart pounding filled her ears, leaving no room for her to hear the approach of her pursuer.

The crimson ball gown that she had found so lovely earlier that evening twisted around her legs like coiling snakes. As she tried to shake the dress away from her calves, Anna stumbled. Thankfully she had already abandoned the delicate black shoes that she had donned when given the dress. She might have broken an ankle otherwise. She righted herself and continued rushing through the hall. There was a door looming ahead. Perhaps she had found her means of escape!

Anna flew through the opening and down an even darker corridor. She paused for a moment. Had she made a mistake? Should she turn back? She knew that her likelihood of finding another exit were slim, so she stayed her course. She resumed her heart-pounding pace, lest her pursuer should find her once more. Her escape was imminent; she had to hold on to that hope. The hallway before her forked. Making a split-second decision, Anna veered right in search of freedom. She collided with something terribly hard. After her vision cleared, she looked up and screamed. And screamed. And screamed…

The end.

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