Deleted Draft: Drelkensoul Story

This was started with the prompt, “As our story came to a close, I realized we were the villains all along.” Where I went became a bit of a mess. I created a species, the drelkensoul, for N’Zembe, but didn’t have a solid idea how the function. Not only that, but I didn’t have any sort of plan and my loose plot was a convoluted idea. This may get a rewrite/complete restart, but for now, here it is:

As our story came to a close, I realized that we were the villains all along. By then, though, it was too late. All was said and done, we had already faced our judgment, we were dead. I had always assumed that after death was nothing, but it seems I was wrong. Otherwise I would be unable to record our story. It is my hope that others will avoid our path to destruction, learn from our mistakes, be better than we were.

I don’t blame anyone who assumes this whole tale, including our deaths, is a hoax. But what does it matter? I lived it, so did they. I won’t try to convince anyone of the truth of my recollection by claiming to have been tasked to write my adventure by one of the gods. Yes, there is a multiplicity of deities. There are many, both benevolent and malevolent, in balance.

This is not a religious text, so I shall move on. Surely it is more important to know who we were and what we did that was so terrible. At least, terrible in retrospect. I never realized until after we had died that we had done anything wrong, inflicted pain upon so many. I didn’t know what we truly were until it was too late.

I had my suspicions that we were villainous, but never were they very great. Our people were not known for their kindness anyway, but rather our cruelty and ruthlessness. We were drelkensheath.

I’m not sure how old I was when I became aware of another entity within me. Yes, another entity. A literal separate being inhabiting my body.

We fought for quite some time over control of my being, the external portion of it, at least. Eventually, I was offered a compromise.

Share this vessel with me, and I will grant you unfathomable power–power that will free you from your dependence on the sea. I can still hear those words in my mind, even now that I’m dead.

Knowing the alternative was to continue fighting, as the spirit had made clear he was unwilling to leave, I readily agreed.

Peace brought a strange sense of cohabitation within my own body. I was no longer one person, but two in disguise, if this other creature was even to be considered a person. Are they even a creature? The gods are unwilling to entertain my questions, so I’ll likely never know.

When I rose upon the fertile land, I soon met others like me–drelkensheath who were now cohabiting their own bodies, vessels as the spirits called them. We decided to band together, the seven of us. Perhaps we’d survive better, figure ourselves out quicker, understand these new abilities.

“Hey, we need to leave! Everyone get up!” I yelled at the five still laying on their mats.

Adesola consistently woke up early enough for us to leave, but she had also been out of water the longest–she was the most at home on land.

“Coming Out” (Poem)

I recently came out as atheist on this blog. This is a poem I wrote on 15 August 2018 thinking about telling everyone.

How will everyone react

when I admit I’ve been

living a lie

And pretending to believe as they do?

I don’t and I haven’t,

but it’s scary regardless.

No matter how long

it’s been since I agreed,

it’s daunting

To publicize that

not just to those I care about

But everyone

I’ll ever meet

will know of my beliefs.

Don’t Risk the Mind-Wipe (Short Story)

This is a sequel to The Hunters and the Hunted. It is from a different perspective than the first part. It’s also based on a prompt, which is the first two sentences.

“That is a terrible, horrible, incredible, foolish idea. Let’s do it and see what happens,” Lail proclaimed.

“You’re not serious, are you?” Alwin asked, hoping that Lail would not proceed.

“I was joking, you know,” I feel obligated to clarify, hoping Alwin and I can convince him.

“So? It would be hilarious!”

Alwin audibly groans, frustrated, “Why do you want to release those Draupnir? We could be fired and mind-wiped.”

“Hey, it was Zarol’s idea!”

“I said I was joking!”

“Both of you, calm down, you don’t want Hyrah to overhear, do you?” Alwin cut in before Lail could further increase the tension.

“We’re not actually doing it. It would be really stupid.”

“Why do we keep them locked up, anyway? It’s not like they could actually escape, is it?” Of course Lail still wants to find a reason to convince us…

I try thinking it through when Alwin responds, “If they knew the layout of our building, they could plan an escape, which could work. Despite our abilities to subdue and dominate them, their powers enable them to work around that. Maybe, at least. They know some of what we can do and could plan around that strategically.”

“I’m going to go visit them,” Lail notices my condescending gaze. “What?”

“What do you think?” I spit out, hoping he doesn’t lose all three of us our vocations and memories.

“I’m not going to let them out,” mischief sparkled in his eyes; he was clearly going to do something far more dangerous.

“I’m coming with you then,” if we were caught, we would probably lose our jobs… even if we weren’t letting the Draupnir out…

“Don’t trust me? Fine. It was your idea anyway…”

“Still at that? It’s getting old.”

“Don’t start fighting, or you’ll both be caught for sure. At least try to get along,” she would never let us live through this if we did get caught for being stupid.

“’Kay.”

We walk down the long white halls, our muffled footfalls the only sound as our regulation boots contacted the carpet repeatedly. Turn after turn, corridor after corridor, my heart beat harder and faster.

What if our break ends? What if someone comes into the hallway before we get to the cell? Endless what-ifs…

“Hey, calm down. You’re breathing really loudly.”

“Sorry…”

Finally, we reach the password protected steel door. 4-7-6-2-9-9-5 would open the door, unless it was changed since two days prior.

I exhaled, holding my breath as I shakily entered the numbers. The soft bleep, bleep of the keypad constituted the only sound in this white space. As soon I pressed the five, a click signified our successful entry.

Lail opens the door, entering just as I think, The cameras! We forgot about the security cameras!

“Lail, wait!” I whisper harshly and he turns, “What about the cameras?”

“Pfft, security won’t know that we weren’t told to check on the Draupnir after our break. They also won’t know if our earpieces conveyed special instructions from Orva, who isn’t here today.”

“Orva’s not here? How do you know?”

He rolled his eyes, “My office is across from hers, duh.”

I nod, feeling ridiculous for forgetting, “Right, uh, nevermind.”

I slide through the doorway after Lail, sitting on the metal bench in the room.

“What do you want?” a shaking red haired girl asks with contempt.

I lock eyes with her, stunned by how bright her blue irises are, “Nothing. We just came to talk to you.”

“Hallan,” she whispers, “Hallan, wake up.”

A blond boy stirs at her touch, “Ana, what is it?”

“Them,” she tips her head toward us.

Hallan props himself on his elbow, glaring at us, but says nothing.

The two of them keep glancing at each other and then at us, but no words pass between them.

“Hello, I’m Zarol.”

Hallan stands up and walks to the bars, “What do you want Zarol?”

“Lail and I just wanted to talk to you.”

Sure. I don’t believe that for a second,” his gaunt frame shook visibly with anger.

“We actually came in to talk to you. We might be able to help you get out,” another girl stares at us at Lail’s words, her black hair covering half of her face.

“You want to help us escape?” Ana moved to stand just behind Hallan, a hand on his shoulder.

Lail nods, but I sit still, expressionless. I knew he would jeopardize our jobs. I knew it! How dare he!

“Lail,” I whisper sternly.

“You don’t want him to help us,” I freeze when Hallan says this.

“What?”

“You’re worried he’ll cause you to lose your job.” I shiver as I hear his voice in my mind, You’re worried you’ll be fired and mind-wiped for helping us.

“Lail, if you want to help them, fine. I’m going back to work.”

Just before I open the steel door to leave, I hear Ana whisper, “Hallan, you scared him. Now he won’t help us.”

Hallan muttered, “He wasn’t going to help us anyway,” just as the door closed behind me.

~*~*~*~*~

“Lail, where have you been?” Alwin and I caught Lail in the parking garage just after our shifts ended.

“You weren’t with the Draupnir all day, were you?” the concern in Alwin’s voice didn’t require reinforcement from her facial expression.

He shook his head, “’Course not. I left when my break ended. No one noticed that I was a few minutes late in returning to my desk. Probably because Orva wasn’t there…”

“It was stupid to go in there in the first place. You’re not going to –”

“I am. I don’t care if I lose my job. We have no further reason to keep them locked up.”

“Don’t tell me you care for those inhuman beasts!”

Alwin cut in urgently, “Calm down! You’re going to call attention to yourselves. We can discuss this at my apartment and have dinner.”

For once, Lail and I left our disagreement behind us, seething silently.

~*~*~*~*~

“What do you want for dinner?”

“Anything’s fine.”

“Do you want anything specific, Zarol?”

“No, whatever you have on-hand will suffice. I’m not particularly hungry anyhow.”

She nodded, rummaging through her pantry and fridge. She pulled out a number of ingredients, and began cooking, though just watching her confused me. How do people understand cooking at all? I can analyze data and invent a device utilizing the natural proponents of the Draupnir’s “powers,” but I’ll never understand recipes and cooking. The most I can do is boil water with pasta…

“Zarol, despite your prejudices about the Draupnir, I’m going to help them escape.”

“They could be dangerous! They have the power and strength to hurt people! We can’t let them go!”

Lail glared, “They’re more human than you think. All of the time before we captured them, Hallan, Analyn, Colby, Shelly, and Leynard never hurt anyone.”

“How can you be so sure?” venom oozed through my teeth unintentionally.

“I called Garter’s Family Grocery. Mr. Garter, the owner, attested to Hallan’s account. Hallan or one of the other Draupnir would come in, wash up, work for the day, and he’d pay them with food.”

“If you won’t be convinced not to destroy your job, fine by me! I’m not involved anymore. Just because one man was treated well says nothing for anybody else.”

Alwin spoke, “Lail does have a point, but so do you, Zarol. Is freeing the Draupnir really worth your job, Lail? Is it that important? What if they are dangerous, and you’re responsible for their freedom?”

Lail sighed, “Forget it. I’m done talking about this. I’m going to free them.”

I shake my head, disappointed that he refused to listen to reason, When will he ever learn?

~*~*~*~*~

Alwin and I saw but did not speak to Lail after that night. Most times, during his break, I would notice him walking toward the steel door, but I said nothing. Whether my knowledgeable silence would cost me my job as well, if Lail succeeded, I couldn’t know for certain, and I hopefully wouldn’t have to find out.

“Orva, is Lail here today?”

“No, Zarol, he called in sick.”

“Oh, okay, thanks,” I turned and walked back to my cubicle, closer to the break room.

I open the door when Hyrah rounds the corner.

“Zarol, I’ve been looking for you since lunch!”

“You have?” the confusion must show in my eyes, because she nods emphatically.

“I was wondering if you know why Lail’s been acting strange lately. He called in sick, but he sounded… elated over the phone.”

My eyebrows come together, puzzling over this revelation. Lail probably freed the Draupnir, or at least told them how to escape… If I tell Hyrah… But if I don’t…

I shake my head, “I’m not sure… Alwin and I haven’t been on very good terms with him lately… He hasn’t been talking to us.”

“Okay. Well, if you find out anything, please tell me,” she starts walking off toward the copy room.

“Hyrah, wait,” she turns on her heel, waiting. I hesitated to reveal my friend. Eventually I spoke, “Sorry, nevermind. I thought I remembered something, but I didn’t.”

~*~*~*~*~

After work, I decide to call Lail. Despite everything, I don’t want him to lose his job. I want to help him somehow if I can.

“Hello, Lail. Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”

“Zarol, why are you calling?”

“You weren’t actually sick today, were you?”

“No. I told the Draupnir how to escape yesterday… You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

I hesitated.

“You did?!”

“No, no! I didn’t. I thought about it, but I didn’t.”

He sighed, “Good.”

“If you show up at work tomorrow after the Draupnir escape, they’ll likely assume you were responsible. Especially after reviewing the security tape…”

“I’ll call in sick again, then.”

“Wait, that’d be suspicious too… Tomorrow, come to work, and go to ‘check’ on the Draupnir like you have been. You be the one to report their disappearance.”

“That seems like a good idea. I’ll be in trouble, but hopefully I won’t be mind-wiped…”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

~*~*~*~*~

Zarol. Zarol, wake up. “Zarol!” I jolt awake, jumping further at the sight of shadowed faces in my bedroom.

“W-who are you?”

“Hallan”; “Analyn”; “Colby”; “Shelby”; “Leynard.”

“The Draupnir?! How did you get in here?”

Hallan, closest to me, spoke, “Easy, through the window. Colby opened it for us.”

“What?! How?”

Colby chuckled, “Hallan can speak and read thoughts. I can open locked doors, windows,… and other things.”

My eyes widened, my foggy mind comprehending how dangerous these five children could be. If they were even human… or even actually children…

What are the Draupnir? I think wondrously, hoping they do not decide to harm me.

“We’re like you,” Hallan replies aloud.

“W-what? O-oh, right… Why are you here?”

“We thought we might visit you. Lail suggested it actually, thought you’d think more highly of us if we did.”

“So you broke into my apartment? That’s not a great way to convince me you’re good news.”

“That’s what I said, but they wouldn’t listen to me!” Analyn exclaimed.

“I was hoping he’d have food for us, actually. Otherwise, it wasn’t a good idea,” Leynard put in.

I cut off their impending argument, “Do any of you want something to drink? I can give you a small amount of food, but it’s” I look at the clock, “3 AM.”

“Awesome,” the lights flick on when Shelly speaks, and I see the faces of all the Draupnir.

None of them are standing by the light switch?

“Oh, sorry. That was my fault,” Shelly explains sheepishly.

“It’s alright, I’m just still getting used to your… powers?”

“Disbelief” (Poem)

This was written 13 August 2018. For more detail, check out Why I’m Not a Christian.

I should really let you know

The truth I’ve been hiding so long.

I pretend and agree

Go along with that

which is so familiar to me.

Am I ready,

Is it the right time?

Will it ever be

or will it only get worse?

I don’t believe anymore

And that’s hard to say.

It shouldn’t have to be,

But I’ve been surrounded

and inundated with religion

my whole life

And so many close to me

value it

and will be

Devastated

At my disbelief.

On Hiatus: Shapeshifter Story

This is a new series featuring partial and incomplete drafts of stories that I hope to come back to sometime after I finish Mystical Warriors. The length and quality vary and the amount of work I would need to do to revive the story are debateable.

This is all of this particular story. I didn’t get very far along before abandoning it. I have some clue of the plot and where it is meant to go, though, so it’s still a story I could come back to.

The darkness pervaded the room as well as my thoughts. They had arrived early; I wasn’t ready for what lay ahead. I was different; they had sent that back after the rigorous tests had been analyzed in three stages. No one has ever known for certain what they’re testing for, just that they’re trying to separate something. Anyone who has it gets sent away to the somewhere that supposedly exists nowhere.

They rapped on the door again. I knew if I didn’t go out to them, they’d come in to me. Rolling off my bed, I opened the door. As I trudged across the room, I snatched up the heavily-packed bag containing my basic belongings.

“You take nothing with you into the Nowhere,” the leader-looking man dead-panned, though I sensed the capital n on nowhere nonetheless.

As my mind started to go into overload, I dropped the bag. I was allowed no personal belongings but the clothes on my back, and I was being forced from my home. I crossed the threshold of my bedroom, my personal space, my hand lingered on the door frame.

“We must leave immediately.”

“Can I at least say–”

“No,” the voice is firm and I recognized my inability to argue here; I had no rights.

I nodded, submitting, following them out to the government-issued van that would transport me. The blackness, seemingly no stars, the missing moon, encased me without hesitation. How fitting that on this night I was to be taken away to the Nowhere. As the spacious van rumbled away, the inside as black with the lights off as my bedroom and the night outside, I found myself tensing in anticipation of the worst.

The ride was long and dark as well as silent. I didn’t realize I was sleeping until I was shaken awake by rough hands. Once I was somewhat conscious, I was dragged from the dark van toward a large, poorly-lit building.

“You will be assigned a dorm in the morning. Tonight you will reside in this guest bedroom. You will also be assigned a gray uniform–once you are in your section you will receive a colored uniform.”

I was too tired to fully take in what was said as I collapsed on the twin bed, falling asleep once more.

~*~*~*~*~

Bright light passing through my eyelids woke me. I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and looked around at the cramped “guest bedroom” I had lodged in.

I’m still wearing my shoes, I thought suddenly.

I didn’t bother taking them off, but sat with my legs hanging off the edge of the bed while reading a list that was on the bedside table.

I had just finished reading this long list, seemingly of things I needed to to today, when the door opened.

“Follow me,” a black haired woman wearing a gray uniform quickly turned around without waiting for a response.

I quickly moved to obey. No reason to start my time in this new place punished. Without consideration, I abandoned the to-do list in the guest bedroom.

She guided me to an office-like room. The woman at the desk stood and came over with a measuring tape.

After measuring me, the woman led me through the next door. She handed me a gray uniform and then left. I quickly changed into it, not sure what to do with my clothes. I hoped to keep them, but realized that was unlikely.

“Leave those here and come. Classes are starting soon.”

I followed her through hallway after hallway, hopelessly confused about direction.

Finally, she stopped in front of a door. She opened it and gestured for me to enter.

“Good morning, Miss Reinback. Class, please welcome our newest student, Meran Fonshil.”

Everyone clapped, but they seemed quite bored.

The teacher, Miss Reinback gestured to the room’s only empty desk, “Please sit, Fonshil.”

I sat down and the black haired woman spoke, “Fonshil will be sharing a dorm with Crein. Twilth will move in with Gohn.”

I glanced around to see three girls nodding, knowing one of them was now my roommate.

The black haired woman left, and Miss Reinback finished the roll she had evidently been taking, scribbling my name at the end.

“As most of you already know, you have been brought to the Nowhere to unlock your full potential. The way to that will be different for each of you. Once you have accomplished this task, you will be sorted into a color category.”

Miss Reinback pulled down the white sheet in front of the board for the slide shows. She walked to the back of the room, turning on her computer.

“Blue, red, yellow, purple, orange, green, black, and white. You will be in one of these categories. You’ll be in classes with others of your color and will share a dorm with another of your color.”

A boy in the front raised his hand.

“Yes, Lenthris?”

“Will we ever get to see the color uniformed students before then? And anyway, what even is our ‘full potential’ that you harp on?”

“No, you will not. I can’t tell you what your full potential is because I don’t actually know.”

A number of students groaned.

Ignoring their protests, Miss Reinback droned on about what things would be like after we had colored uniforms.

Finally, she stopped and said, “It is time for you to all go to the gym.”

Everyone stood and filed one after another out the door. I followed in silence with everyone else. I tried to note how to get there, but found myself confused and lost again.

“Train Inspiration” (Poem)

This was written 14 August 2018.

The habit matters more than the words,

For now at least, that’s true.

For without words

there can be

no masterpiece of a poem.

And without the practice,

how would I ever create it?

By writing each day

I increase my chance

of stumbling into thoughts and lines

that hook the reader

and outlast my time.

Not to mention,

I gain skill

and train inspiration

To come to me

Rather than hoping it will happen by.

Recap: I Came Out as Atheist and This Happened

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

My response was written 17 August 2018.

I watched Genetically Modified Skeptic‘s video I Came Out as Atheist and This Happened. It was fitting for me, time-wise, because I was planning my post Why I’m Not a Christian. In the video Drew tells his deconversion story along with telling his family and friends that he was an atheist.

Notes:

Drew grew up devout fundamentalist Christian. He was a leader in his church’s youth group and went to a Christian college. His last semester of college he started having doubts. He stopped believing creation and accepted evolution. He changed his mind and accepted that being gay was not a choice, harmful, or wrong. He also admitted to himself the Bible has errors. He spent a long time in which he questioned his beliefs intentionally, avoiding non-Christian sources.

In late 2016 he admitted to himself that he was not a Christian, he was an agnostic atheist. He hinted at his doubts to his wife and soon told her he was an atheist. He thought life was over until she didn’t freak out at the news. He thought he would lose his job at the Christian homeless shelter, get divorced from his wife, move in with his parents, lose his relationship with them and his friends, and end up broke and alone. All because he was no longer a Christian. He came out to his parents about a year later. It went better than he expected but was still difficult. He started his Youtube channel after telling his parents. He got really into making videos, gained small following, and started to see it as a part time job.

A few friends found channel once it got hard to hide. Hiding it was taxing; still had to participate in some Christian/religious activities. Didn’t want to become “pet project” or lose friends, so it was worth it for a while.

Went full time on YT in May. Told in-laws and all friends who didn’t know. Very few people were surprised. A few found channel and waited for GMS to tell them. A lot of close friends had loving responses. Best response that he had permission to share, “I love Drew as Drew, not as Christian or atheist.”

Just didn’t want this issue to come between him and friends/family. Moved shortly after coming out; most friends helped him move and set up his new, larger studio. No one yelled at him or shut him out after he came out. Best thing you can do is assure someone that you still love them and value them. Just wants healthy relationship with people. That’s why he didn’t come out for so long. Some people prioritize religion over relationship.

Specified didn’t want to debate; if they wanted to, he wanted to schedule it and have it be prepared and not sloppy so it wouldn’t come between them and ruin the relationship. Cares more about the truth than holding to current positions. Knows apologetics, especially Christian apologetics, very well. Studied it a lot. Hasn’t seen anything new on apologetics.

Considered sad response a negative; big deal, prevented his coming out for a long time. Can’t control it. Sees that it’s understandable, but it’s their burden not his.

For those in the closet, seek out community, even just online. Recommends the Secular Therapy Project and Recovering From Religion Foundation. Openly secular, normalize atheism, make things better for those still in the closet. Humanize atheists to others.

Response:

 

I just came out as atheist to two of my friends personally. I wrote a blog post that’s going to go up tomorrow explaining why I’m not a Christian and mentioning that I’m an atheist. Otherwise, my parents have some knowledge, and my boyfriend is an atheist too. My grandparents, who live with us, are less supportive than my two friends, but did not want any sort of debate. They simply said they would pray for me until I came back to God. I didn’t want to disappoint them so I haven’t told them I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in God. My parents asked questions, not the first time it came up, or even when I said I was leaning towards atheism. We were sitting at the kitchen table with my younger brothers and they asked for my thoughts on some things. Some of what they mentioned I don’t have a position on yet, because I haven’t done research on it.

I’m at a point where I see Christianity as equal to other religions to a basic degree. I see that, in general, it’s not that different. The only reason Christianity seemed more believable to me was because I was raised in it. I was surrounded by it for my entire life until just about eight months ago.

At that time, I was drifting out of religion and wanted to be honest about my disinterest in church. It happened to coincide with starting to date my boyfriend. I worried it would look like I left church because of him, and in fact, my parents told me once that they weren’t sure if that was the case. I assured them it wasn’t. It was a coincidence. My boyfriend has made clear that he is not concerned with my religion, I can believe as I will for my own reasons and he will still be there, it won’t change anything for him.

Knowing that Drew’s situation was similar to mine helps assure me that my friends and family could also react positively. I agree with him that a sad or disappointed reaction is a negative. That’s a large part of why I kept quiet about my disagreements, disinterest, and disbelief.

I plan to revisit this topic later to give an update on how people reacted, what they think, etc.

“That Which is Still Private” (Poem)

This was written 12 August 2018. For some more detail, check out this post.

This or that still bothers me,

A lot of which

I do not talk freely.

There’s a lot

I haven’t shared,

Some of it

I do not yet dare.

Not because I wish to hide

But because so different

Is my perspective on life

Than so many

Who are close to me.

I don’t want to disappoint,

Though I know

It’s a bit inevitable.

Regardless of how it goes,

While my perspective

Isn’t set in stone,

I will not change

Because of adverse reactions.

I’ve given thought

To my positions,

And do not wish to debate

Family or friends,

Generally, on such issues.

I understand what and why

They believe as they do

As well as why I disagree.

I plan to explain,

But they may not understand,

As I’ve already seen happen.

Deleted Drafts: Once Was Garmasapon

I’m not sure how much of the original draft of this story I still have, I’ll have to search for it. This is just chapter one. I had at least three chapters.

It’s a rather strange story about the island country Garmasapon and a woman who has an Esther-like situation where she marries the king by arranged marriage. I don’t even know where the plot was going. There was supposed to be a conflict with Malaposie, a near-ish island country that hated Garmasapon. What I actually have, though, is just weird.

Once upon a time there was a far away land called Garmasapon. In Garmasapon there was always peace among the people, never violence. The people who founded the land had found the island by chance — it was completely secluded. As far as the townspeople knew they’d never been invaded by their enemy — the land of Malaposie.

But that’s just the beginning! This is a story about Garmasapon’s leader Garlasha who absolutely hated Malasha, the leader of Malaposie. First off I bet you’re wondering who I am? Well I’ll begin our story by telling you — Garmasha, wife of Garlasha. Now on to the story that I promised to tell you.

My husband was born into royalty — in fact he was a descendant of our founder Garmasapon. As a boy he wasn’t allowed to dirty his clothes, cause mischief, or interact with villagers and servants! He was full of hatred because of this rule, until he found that he would soon be king of all Garmasapon! When he found out he told the servants to go through all of Garmasapon and bring all virgins who are not married and are over eight years of age to the palace for him to decide whom he’d marry! The servants naturally obeyed.

I was (as you can guess) one of these girls. I tried to get them to let me stay, but they said it was the king’s command — so I consented. After pageants, beauty contests, and a filling out of many personality profiles, the last twenty girls were presented to the king. After he narrowed it down to ten, then five, he chose me as his bride. This to me was shocking because I was only thirteen! Still three years under the marriage quota!

He was sixteen and he ordered the wedding to be arranged at once! The cooks made cakes of all sizes, and invitations were sent out to all the nobility (and my relatives). The next week we had the wedding.

I was in a huge, white dress covered in gold adornments. He was in a matching suit and breaches. (I have to admit, he was stunning!) The wedding ceremony was simple: we both said our vows and pledged our hearts to each other. (I didn’t have much choice in this, but I was still excited about my wedding.)

After the ceremony had taken place, the festivities began. We cut the main cake and we (as was the custom) shared the first piece. Then everyone received their piece and we sang, danced, and enjoyed each other’s company. After what seemed like days we (Garlasha and I) went back to the Palace.

We had a four-poster bed and a giant room. The closet was very large as well, and amazingly it already had about fifty dresses! I asked him how the dresses got there.

“When you filled out the personality profile these dresses were made for you,” he replied simply.

“How did you know if they’d fit?” I asked.

“You had a dress fitting early on, like all the girls.”

“Oh yeah,” I said remembering.

“Yes, now if you’ll excuse me I have to go take my royal bath.”

“Is there another bathroom for me to bathe?”

“This one, you’re royalty now so you will bathe in the royal bathtub.”

“While you’re in there?” I asked shocked.

“No! After I’m done bathing.”

“Oh, good. You had me worried for a minute!”

“Well you had no reason to worry,” he said calmly.

So I waited for him to finish, but after a few minutes I got bored so I decided to try on a few of the dresses. The first one was an elegant, flowing, blue ball gown with pearl adornments! I tried it on at once (not knowing if I’d get in trouble for this). I waltzed around the room until I stopped in front of a full length mirror. I looked so elegant!

I hurried and tried on the next one. A blue, silky, flowing gown most likely for dining purposes. I rushed back to the mirror and looked at myself in the gown. Then I froze; I saw my new husband looking at me from the doorway to the bathing room. I slowly turned around, and saw him start to smile at me. I started to relax and smiled back.

He moved out of the doorway and gestured inside.

“I had the tub filled with fresh water for you,” he said.

“Thanks, I appreciate it. About the dresses –”

“Don’t worry about it, everything is fine,” he interrupted me.

With that I headed into the bathing room to take my bath. I undressed and eased myself into the hot water and bubbles. I had just fully encased my body, not including my head, in the hot water when three ladies came in through a door I hadn’t noticed. They were the royal bathing maids.

“What scent of soap would you like?” one of them asked me.

“Umm, do you have orange?” I asked mostly just wondering.

“Yes, we do,” another one told me.

“We’ll be right back with the soap,” the first maid told me.

They walked into what must have been a servant entryway to the bathing room. After about five minutes they returned with a large container of orange colored soap. They walked over to the tub and set the container on the side of it.

“Are you reader for this?” the third asked me.

“Honestly, no.”

“Would you rather wash yourself?” the first asked.

“Yes.”

“The king said this you’re to have that option.”

And with that she handed me the wash rag, opened to soap and left.

I washed quickly, stepped out, and then noticed they had not brought me a towel! Then someone peeked their head in and brought a towel.

“Thank you.”

They nodded their head in response, then left. I dried quickly then went to ask my husband (wrapped in the towel) where to find my night clothes.

“In your closet, at the very back,” he told me.

I walked to the back of the closet and pulled out a thin blue dress and undergarments. I went back in the bathing room and donned my night clothes. I put my towel on the rack and went back out into the bedroom.

He was sitting in the bed, waiting for me so he could turn out the lamp. I climbed in on the other side, and made an effort to be as close to the edge as possible without falling out. Then I heard his voice piercing the darkness.

“I understand your discomfort to this whole situation. I know that I’d be uncomfortable if a strange woman requested that I marry her,” he said barely above a whisper.

“Yes, I am uncomfortable, but I think it may be for the better of the people.”

“It is for the people. In a way… I didn’t want my father arranging my marriage to a girl I didn’t want to marry, so you know what I did from there.”

Somehow I felt comfortable talking to him, I think because he talked to me first.

“Yeah, I know how that feels,” I whisper so softly I didn’t think he heard.

Then he answered, “I’m sorry you didn’t have a say in this situation, but it was a bit urgent as my father was very sick. If I didn’t marry before his death I’d marry the girl he had hand chosen.”

“Have you met her?”

“Yes, only once, but she was as snooty as they come. That’s part of why I wanted someone who wasn’t as rich.”

“Thank you,” I said realizing this was meant as a compliment.

With that said we both fell asleep quickly.

The Hunters and the Hunted (Short Story)

This was based on a prompt, which is the first two sentences.

“Should we let him know we’re on to him?”

“Now where’s the fun in that? The enjoyment is in the chase and capture, not the fear!”

Whispering voices are audible from my place deep in the alley. I hang in the darkness, watching, waiting. The two figures hover near the walls of the alley, looking out into the dimly lit street.

If I didn’t know better, I would assume they were speaking of someone else. But I do know better. Lucky for me, the speakers are oblivious to my location. They seem to think I am roaming the street, which I was, shortly prior to overhearing a small portion of their dialogue.

“Where is he? He should have passed this alley by now!”

“How should I know? Doesn’t he live near here?”

“Yes. Unless he ran away from home… At which point he’s unpredictable.”

I never had a home. Not that you could know that.

I bring a hand to my forehead as I notice one of the figures flinch. I sent that thought, albeit accidentally.

“He’s close by. He heard us,” the voice shivers, hardly a breath.

“How do you know?” Suspicion from his counterpart, though his voice lowers as well.

“He spoke to me…”

It was unintentional, I swear.

Both figures stiffen at my now purposeful invasion of their minds.

“Where are you?”

Not your business. Close enough to hear and see you without being seen.

They bolt from the alley, unsurprisingly. Once they are gone, I sigh, realizing I had been holding my breath. Had they heard me, found me… I hate to think what would have happened… What I would have been forced to do

I release the brick of the building I was perched on, dropping silently to the concrete below. My cloak fades, the fabric dissipating into the surrounding air from whence it came. I could not explain how I was able to accomplish this feat if I tried, I still do not know.

My fingertips graze the red-black brick as I lurk out of the alley. A filmy encasement materializes around me, invisibility of a sort, matching my movements.

I stand under the street lamp, deliberating. Do I go home, or do I leave entirely?

Home, as I call it somewhat jokingly, is barely a suitable shelter, and I am alone. Leaving entails forsaking all I have ever known, all I have assumed I would ever know.

But those people… I call them Hunters, and I have no clue what they could do to me. Not long ago, there were others like me, living with me, but they are gone. I do not know what happened to them or where they have been taken, only that it was the Hunters who took them. All the things I might be able to do to them, it might be futile if they are truly Hunters, like those who took my friends…

Leaving is the best option, in the morning I’ll gather my few things and disappear from this place.

Nothing more could be done. Later, perhaps it would be safe to return. Perhaps leaving would prove more disastrous than remaining, but I couldn’t know that until afterwards. I do not know what the world beyond this single city entails, but I will risk that discovery.

I slink home, thinking along the way about departing and what I will need for the journey. Even as short as the trip will be, it will be exhausting. Moving discreetly always is, especially as I will need to steal the provisions, using more energy.

I arrive at the building, lifting myself to the roof in a seemingly effortless manner. I quietly enter the dilapidated roof apartment, falling onto my heap of moth-eaten blankets.

“Good night, world,” I mumble as black overtakes me.

Morning light streaming through my dirt streaked windows wakes me. I roll over onto my back, rubbing my eyes with one of my dirty hands. I pull myself to my feet, looking out the dingy window closest to my bedding.

My thoughts jump back to the previous night and my determination to leave.

No, I can’t. My friends might still be here. If I had been taken, I wouldn’t want them to leave me. I have to find them, even if it puts my life on the line, or almost kills me.

I still need supplies, and I still need to avoid the Hunters from the alley.

~*~*~*~*~

“Hallan, be careful!”

“It’s okay, Analyn, I can do this.”

I clung to the side of our building, most of the way up, about to let go.

I released the building, and Analyn screamed. My feet gently touched the concrete before I immediately returned to stand by Analyn.

Tears streamed down her face and violent sobs choked her.

“Analyn, I’m okay,” she looked up, eyes already red.

“Hallan, you could have died! I thought I’d never see you again!”

I pulled her into my arms, struggling to console her, “Shh, I’m alright. I wasn’t going to get hurt.”

“Don’t do that to me again! I couldn’t bear to lose you, you’re like a brother to me!” She wrapped her arms tightly around my torso, tears beginning to soak my shirt.

“Okay, Ana.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Hallan! You’re back! Oh, I’m so glad you’re safe!”

“So am I. How was everything here at home, Colby?”

He smiled, “Analyn worried about you the whole time, saying things like, ‘He promised he wouldn’t do this to me!’ and ‘I can’t believe he’d do something so reckless!’”

I laughed, “That’s just like Ana! Worried even when I’ve done this a million times.”

Colby nodded, “She wasn’t the only one worried when you didn’t come home on time, though. Leynard and Shelly were too, as was I.”

My face hardened, “I had to take a longer route because there were Hunters.”

His voice shook, “Hunters? You almost got caught?”

I shook my head no, “Of course not. I noticed them, heard their thoughts, and moved away from where they were posted.”

He sighed, “Thank goodness! Were they close to Garter’s?”

“No. They were halfway between his grocery and here.”

He nodded, “Good. I’m glad you’re safe, and the others will be too.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Hey, Leynard! Wake up!”

A grunt escaped the sleeping boy, “No!”

“It’s morning. We have food!”

He sat up sleepily, but with sparkling eyes, “Food?”

“Mhm, food. Want some?” I knew he did, we all did.

“Duh!”

Analyn and Colby laughed. Of all of us, Leynard was the most obsessed with food, eating as much as we would let him and asking for more if there was any.

“I made a cake!” Shelly exclaimed excitedly, having used her powers for one of the first times.

“Mmm, cake!” Leynard practically drooled as Shelly handed him a chunk of icingless chocolate cake.

Each of us received a chunk, leaving only a piece for Shelly to eat.

“This is so good!”

“Leynard, stop spewing cake in the house! Keep your mouth closed!” Analyn scolded him.

~*~*~*~*~

“Shelly!” Analyn screamed as Shelly fell off the roof, reaching an arm over the edge desperately.

I jumped over the side, quickly hovering just below the youngest of our group.

My feet hit the concrete and I bounded back to the roof. Shelly clung tightly to my neck, eyes  squeezed shut.

Safely on the roof once again, I set the girl down.

Tears streamed down their faces, sobs cracking their throats. I understood the fear they had experienced, adrenaline was pumping through my veins too.

“Are you alright?” I fought to keep my voice steady, to be strong for them.

She nodded, shaking, “I-I think so. Th-thank you, Hallan!”

“You’re welcome. Are you okay, Ana?” I placed a hand on her shoulder reassuringly, concern laced through my gaze.

She nodded, and I engulfed both of them into my arms, glad everyone was alive.

~*~*~*~*~

I have to save them! If they’re still alive, I must save them! I just… don’t know how.

I left my small shack, soaring from rooftop to rooftop for about fifteen blocks. Garter’s small grocery store was still in business, thankfully.

Garter’s Family Grocery was the one place I was unafraid of showing my face, unafraid of the regular human population. Mr. Garter was a kind old man and often gave me food, so long as I helped him out a bit in the grocery and washed my hands and face.

Hello, Mr. Garter.

The old man looked at the door, startled. He saw my dirt-covered face and smiled.

“Hello again, Hallan. How can I help you?”

“I came to help you in exchange for more food.”

His smile continued, “Wash your face and hands in the bathroom first. I could really use some help today, a new order came in recently.”

I nodded, walking to the back corner of the somewhat small grocery.

An hour later, I left Mr. Garter’s grocery behind, carrying two paper sacks with supplies. Some things were perishable, and some needed cooked, but nothing required refrigeration.

I walked a distance down the sidewalk before pulling my invisibility fog into existence. Several pedestrians’ eyes widened, looking at where I had just stood.

You’re not as crazy as you think.

The pedestrians quickly turned to face forward, unhinged by my invasion of their minds. They would definitely think they were crazy, after watching me disappear and then hearing my voice in their heads. Luckily, I would not be sending them more thoughts any time soon, if ever.

I quickly bounded home in the same way I left.

Upon closing the door, I simply deposited both bags on the floor.

How can I save them? How can I even find them? The only people who know of their location are the Hunters… Obviously the Hunters won’t help me rescue them… But they could lead me to them!

I began pacing the small front room, finger to my chin, elbow resting against the arm crossed over my chest.

As I turned towards the door again, an arm wrapped around me from behind and a hand pressed a cloth forcefully against my mouth and nose. I shoved the hand away quickly, a dizziness pulsing through me. A strong hand clenched over my wrist, and the cloth again smothered me.

~*~*~*~*~

I groaned, rolling onto my side, my head throbbing. The surface beneath my skin was searingly cold, and I shivered as my cheek rested against it.

“Hallan,” a soft voice whispered, “are you awake?”

I cracked my eyes open, Is that you, Ana?

Yes, she responded calmly.

How long have I been here?

I’m not sure. The Hunters brought you in unconscious and locked you in with us.

All of you are here?! I start to sit up, but groan and quickly lay down again.

Yes, but Colby was taken out not long ago. Shelly and Leynard are resting.

Where did they take Colby?

A sadness seeped into Ana’s thoughts, We don’t know. Whenever they take us out, they blindfold us.

I wanted to save you all, but it seems I was too late.

I don’t know that you’d have been able to. They know how to fight back. How to resist our powers.