Hymnessa’s Rebellion

[WP] “A new follower! How pleased I am for your gifts and here I thought you mortals forgot me,” the figure said as you looked on confused. You weren’t religious but a mere history buff studying the Greeks. Now you were the sole “follower” of a forgotten goddess standing before you.

“You came!” the voice exclaims.

The adventure suddenly straightens, having been bent down and brushing at some writing at the base of the statue. His brush is still held aloft, and he turns around to look as if he were a schoolteacher turning away from a blackboard to address a disruptive student.

The surrounding cavern is dank as several pools of water sit around him, while more can be heard dribbling down from the mossy surfaces of the walls. He turns back to the statue that he had been studying.

Its figure is carved out of white marble and wears a flowing dress. She is barefoot, raising up on the toes of one foot while the other is drawn up and pointing behind her as if she is mid-frolic. One hand is holding or pulling her dress to the side, perhaps preventing it from becoming unruly as she runs. The other arm is reaching up as a pair of birds alight to her extended index finger.

Light filtering in from above reflects onto the statue from the surrounding water, casting a marbling overlay on the figure. “I’m so happy!” the voice says, as the reflecting water warbles to the cadence of her words.

The adventurer roles his ankle on a rock when he hears her again, stumbling as he sees the shifting light.

“Oh, be careful,” the voice continues. “I can’t lose my only follower immediately after getting him,” she says, giggling.

“Ugh,” the adventurer starts. “Come again…” He looks down at the plaque he had been brushing and tries to sound out the words. “Hymn–essa?”

Hymnessa gasps. “And you even know my name? Oh, I am so happy! Why I could…I could just sing.”

Hymnessa starts into a Fa-La-La-La-La’ing and the adventurer could swear he’s even hearing birds singing in one of the nearby tunnels.

“Excuse me, Hymnessa….Hymnessa!” He has to yell as she continues singing and doesn’t acknowledge him.

“Oh yes, srrumm?…Oh, I’m so embarrassed. What is your name, you sweetheart, you?”

“It’s Kyle. Do you mind telling me what’s going on here? Are you really part of the Greek gods?”

“Oh, you don’t know?” She asks, wounded.

“I’m sorry, Hymnessa. I’ve studied a lot about your culture and have an extensive knowledge of the Greek gods, but I’ve never heard of you.”

“Oh…I see.”

“Do you have any idea why that might be?”

“Well, my brothers and sisters didn’t really think my domain was important for humankind…some of them even fearing that humans might use it as a weapon against us.”

Kyle suddenly blinks and shakes his head, not knowing what question to ask from the multitude that just piled up in his head. “Ok, who were your brothers and sisters?”

“I was the youngest of seven and born after Zeus and we–“

“What?! Zeus? The actual Zeus?

“Yes? Was there another?”

“Well, there was Odin, but that’s an entirely different can of worms. I’m…I don’t even know where to begin. How? And Why? Where?”

“I don’t know…is it actually me you’re excited about or are you more interested in who my family is?”

Kyle shakes his head and puts his palm over his forehead. “I’m sorry, Hymnessa. This is just a really big deal and I’m just trying to take it all in. There was never any mention of a seventh sibling. Everything ends with Zeus and goes on to the founding of their…your pantheon. But you never came up, Hymnessa. Why haven’t I heard of you, considering who your family is?”

Silence stretches out for many moments as Kyle’s excited eyes pass back and forth over the statue’s surface. “What do you know of our father’s ending if you’ve never heard of me?”

“It was Zeus. He freed your other brothers and sisters and orchestrated the over throwing of Kronos, leading to the installation of your family’s rule.”

“Zeus?! Good–great! I’m happy that he managed that. So very, very happy that they never needed my help at all.”

Kyle looks back and forth between the statue and the surroundings, also glancing at his hands, only to realize he doesn’t know what to do with them.

“Please, just leave me alone, Kyle. You have my gratitude for visiting, but I just want to be by myself now.”

“Hymnessa…I…” Kyle trails off and looks back down at the brush in his hand. “I’m sorry, Hymnessa,” he begins again. “I’m a scholar, you see? And while I try to learn as much as I can, sometimes I read things that aren’t the most reliable. So, I apparently read some things from some people that didn’t know what they were talking about. If you wouldn’t mind, I would love to hear more about you and what happened. Can you help me understand so that I can share your story?”

Hymnessa sniffles as she seems to consider. “Are you sure you want to know about me, Kyle? I’m apparently not as useful as the rest of my family, so I wouldn’t want to burden you with wasted time.”

Kyle shakes his head as he takes a seat on a nearby rock protrusion. “Don’t be silly, Hymnessa. You sound like a beautifully spirited goddess, and I truly want to hear about, then spread your story. So please, tell me.”

Kyle settles forward, his elbows on his knees and his fingertips meeting their opposite twin. He stares at her statue, patiently waiting like a kid staring at a Christmas tree full of wrapped presents.

“Well,” Hymnessa began. “We all chose domains that were reflections of our temperaments and interests. Zeus chose the sky so that he could continue looking down on those beneath him. Poseidon took the sea, a reflection of his fluid, carefree, go-with-the-flow nature. Hades took the underworld, ever undermining and scheming against others. Hera guarded marriage and family values to reflect her bond with the rest of us…rest of them.”

Hymnessa pauses, sniffling as she digests her own story. Kyle doesn’t speak and just allows her the moment to compose her thoughts and self.

Hymnessa clears her throat. “Hestia,” she continues, “Hestia oversaw hearth and fire, a keeper of the flame, as she valued security and safety within one’s own space. And Demeter helped Gia, becoming a goddess of harvest fertility.”

Kyle smiles and speaks when Hymnessa pauses again. “I noticed you forgot one, and perhaps, the one most important. So, what is your domain, Hymnessa?”

“Dreaming,” Hymnessa says simply.

“Because you liked to dream?” Kyle asks.

“Yeah, of better places and better times. When Gia helped my mother give birth to me on Crete, it was my dreaming of what…how things could be…how they should be that led me to freeing my brothers and sisters. From there, my foolish talks of freedom and a beautiful life led to organizing, orchestrating and overthrowing our father. It all happened because of me and my stupid dreams, only for my siblings to realize that dreams were just too dangerous, burying both me and my dreams.”

Kyle lowers his forehead into his palm as he tries to process her story. It was a lot to take in and completely undermines everything he previously knew. He tries to imagine retelling her story and the looks that he would receive. ‘Oh, the goddess told you herself, did she?’ they would undoubtedly say. And if it had been relayed during the time of ancient Greeks, it would have been heresy.

Kyle thanks her for her tale and the two continue talking about her history as she tries to help him discover a tangible way to bring her existence back into the world of humankind.

Death and a Card Game

[WP] You are a being so incomprehensible that you drive anyone who perceives you to madness. Your effect on others makes finding friends a challenge.

“So you’re her?” Death asks, looking down the girl with a black-pixie haircut. Death is wearing a full bodied robe with his hood drawn over his head, concealing his face in shadow. His only visible features being his exposed skeleton-hands where he’s tapping all of his outstretched fingertips together as he considers something.

“Tell me, Aubrey, why is it that descriptions always make people seem taller?”

Aubrey stand across from him and the expanse around them is a featureless white. She shrugs. “If it makes you feel any better, you’re exactly what I imagined you’d be,” she replies. Her clothes are all black and her top looks like a scapular but with long sleeves. The hooded garment has an athletic fit over her torso, but below her belt, it hangs loose like a dress while the cloth along the outside of her thighs is cut away, revealing the leg length, black-leather boots.

“That’s just how this works, Aubrey. People see what they expect—although…those people are usually afraid—at least a little bit. I don’t frighten you, do I?”

Aubrey shakes her head. “No. I know why I’m here. It’s fine.”

“Well,” Death says, holing up a finger, “this next part is a bit of a tradition and you have to play. Everyone does. We play best 3 out of 5. If you win…you get to go back.”

Aubrey smiles. “That sounds very happily-ever-after-like, but aren’t you still undefeated?”

Death’s hands separate and his palms turn upright in a shrug. “Eh, technically speaking…I guess that’s the way one would look at it.”

“Well, that technically sounds very anti-committal of you, Death.”

His fingers begin tapping again. “Sassy. I can see why Dark took such an interest in you.”

“Dark? You mean, Shades? Excuse me, the Lord of Shadows.

“He really let you call him Shades?”

“Well, he didn’t seem to like it at first, but he got over it…so, 3 out of 5?”

“Ah, yes,” Death replies, then pauses. “Why the rush? Have some place to be?”

“No. I’m just know what it’s like getting distracted,” she says, smiling. “I don’t know how to play, but do you think we could try cards?”

“A classic! I like it.” A table with green felt appears between them and Aubrey looses her balance as a chair slides against the back of her caves, scooping her up and moving her to the table. “We play Texas Hold’em, and it goes like this…” He continues shuffling the cards then deals each of them a set of cards. “Those cards are yours and these are mine.”

Death takes a peek at his cards to find a 8 & J of diamonds.

“Next comes the cards we both play off of, he says as he flips cards over between them.”

“Is it true that Billy the Kid almost cheated you out of y’alls game of cards?”

As she says this, Death pauses before throwing down the final card. “He told you that, did he?”

Aubrey nods. “Yeah, he won the first two games against you and was about to win the 3rd when Shades informed you about his extra cards.”

Death drops the last card and nods. “The following hands were played with him being naked…without places to hide cards, those hands did not go his way. Are you suggesting that’s something I should be concerned about with you?”

“Oh no, I wouldn’t know how to cheat at this if I tried. See?” she asks turning her cards to show him. “I’ve got a black 3 and a black 7. Am I supposed to draw or something, next?”

Death studies her cards then the earnest expression and genuine curiosity on her face. Looking back down at the center cards, the only noteworthy ones are the 6, 7, and 9 of diamonds which go nicely with his 8 & J of the same suit. He stacks them together and turns them upside down next to the deck.

“I fold,” he says.

“What does that mean? Do I fold too now?”

“No, I mean you win that round.”

“I did?! What did you have?”

He guards the discarded hand with his own. The waggles the other finger as say that’s not allowed. “It’s too embarrassing, so I’d rather you not see. You beat me rather soundly and I’m a little bitter about it.”
“Oh,” Aubrey says, covering her smile with her hand.

The next round comes out and he beats her with four of a kind. The next was a win with a full house.
“I can tell you two are on the same team, so to speak,” Aubrey says, as the next cards are coming out.
“Same team, huh? And what makes you say that?”

“Because y’all are both part of the dark. You’re both shadow deities.”

Death’s hand freezes again as he’s about to throw down another card. “You think we’re equals? What exactly do you think is the connection between us?”

Aubrey shrugs. “I don’t know. You’re both taking care of the dark related things? That’s why he told you about Billy, right? He was just leaning over to tell his buddy in the next cubicle or whatever while y’all are both work at Dark Inc.”

Death starts to laugh hard. So hard that he has to get up and walk away from the table, placing one hand over his obscured face and the other around his abdomen. He tries to return to the table several times, only to start laughing uncontrollably again as Aubrey looks at him with that confused expression.

“What?” she asks, not being in on the joke.

When Death finally can sit back down, he exhales and his hood turns as he shakes his head. He peeks at his cards again, then folds a four of a kind. “Got me again,” he says, causing Aubrey’s confusion to turn to joy.

He takes up the cards again to deal a final hand and begins talking as he passes them out. “No, we’re not partners and no we don’t work in adjoining cubicles. To continue with your very poor analogy, you couldn’t even consider him my boss in your Dark Inc. No, the real Dark couldn’t even be called the building owner or the land owner for the property that it sat on…because the real Dark is what the building, the land, all the associated office equipment, and all the employees…Dark is what they’re all made of.”

Death looks at the dealt cards, his expression invisible as he looks at his Royal Flush.

“I don’t understand,” Aubrey says, her own cards forgotten.

Death nods at her confusion. “Your humans get many, many things wrong, but the thing that you miss the mark on by the greatest margin is your belief that all things are made up of matter and energy. You and I aren’t here right now as either of those, so what do you think those two are made of exactly?”

Aubrey looks away from the table, growing distant. “Light and Dark?” she asks, absently.

Death nods. “The very same. So you thinking that Dark is some arbitrary deity or that we’re equal in some way…that’s why it’s so funny. You and I are here right now as different combinations of Dark and Light. We two consist of more Dark than like and the two of us are closer to being equals than I am to being an equal of Dark. That latter similarity is so astronomically far off, it’s nonsense. And I’m almost insulted on Dark’s behalf.”

Aubrey slouches deeper into her chair as Death lets out an exasperated sigh, then turns his cards over in the discard pile. “Congratulations,” he says, simply.

“Wait, what?” she asks, confused.

“I can see why Dark likes you,” he replies, extending his index finger and shaking it at her. “You’re the only person to ever beat me, back you go.” He issues a shooing gesture with the backs of his hands and Aubrey is whisked away, the table blurring as her and the chair zip across the white expanse.

Aubrey opens her eyes, and all she sees is darkness. After a bit of confused orienting, she realizes she’s in bed and sits up to click on the lamp atop her bedside table. She rubs her head, feeling like she was just talking to someone, but every time she tries to recall the conversation, the memory seems to move around like a shadow in the dark. She feels like it’s there but can’t rule out the possibility that it’s just her mind playing a trick as she focuses on something without features.

Shadow Suggestion

[WP] You were told when you come of age, your words would have power within them. As an adult you’ve realized just how much power your casual words can have on peoples subconscious actions, almost like hypnotic orders. So you’re very careful with your choice of words when speaking.

“Geez, Aubrey,” the girls says, walking up the steps to school. “Is your wardrobe allergic to color or something?”

“Get bent, Lilly,” Aubrey replies, walking ahead of her. She gets to the top of the steps and turns back when Lilly doesn’t respond further. Ugh, what’s her deal? she thinks, seeing Lilly reach the bottom of the steps as she walks away from school.

Aubs, the Shadow Lord replies in her mind. You need to go stop her and right now!

“Hey, I’m not responsible for what she does with her time. If she wants to skip school, that’s on her.”

Uh, this time, you are responsible for what she’s doing. You just used the persuasive power on her, so she’s on her way to get bent.

Wait, what? Aubrey looks at the back Lilly as she steps off the front sidewalk and continues through the line of vehicles that are dropping off students. Several of Lilly’s friends turn to greet her, but she ignores everyone as she begins walking across the parking lot.

What he hell, Shades? You need to get me an instruction manual on this stuff!

Well, influence is part of the subtlety nature that’s associated with shadow powers. You really could have guessed that much.

“Hey, Lilly!” Aubry calls, rushing down the steps. “Wait up!” She brushes against several students who complain as they roll away from her collision with them. She steps off the sidewalk to a horn blaring as the vehicle began to roll forward.

“Screw you,” Aubrey yells at the driver, then freezes as her eyes widen. She turns back and raises her palm in a stop gesture. “Wait, forget I said that.” Her expression is one of apology as she returns to chasing Lilly.

He couldn’t hear you, Aubs. All of his windows were up and besides, you two weren’t even engaged in conversations.

How is any of that relevant, Shades? Aubrey adjusts her bag and pulls the slack out of her straps to keep it from bouncing against the small of her back.

Because you have to be in conversation to influence someone.

“Ugh,” Aubrey groans. “We’re seriously going to need to work on your communication skills after this.”

As she catches up to Lilly, she wraps an arm around her neck to slow her. “Hey, hey, Lilly. Where are you off to all of a sudden?” Lilly doesn’t respond, instead continuing to pull against Aubrey’s grasp, in the direction of the busy street ahead of them.

You have to command her, Shades says.

“Lilly, stop.” As soon as the statement leaves Aubry’s mouth, Lilly quits pulling against her.” Aubrey breathes a sigh of relief and releases the grip on her shoulder.

Ugh, you better tell her to forget everything you’ve said today.

“Why?” Aubrey asks as she notices Lilly’s face turning blue. “Oh gosh! Lilly, forget everything I said today.”

Lilly suddenly looks at Aubrey and pulls her arm away. “Ow,” she complains from Aubrey having started gripping her arm. Lilly looks at the nearby traffic and then turns to look back towards school. “What is this,” Lilly asks with an accusing glare. “Is this an abduction. Are you abducting me for one of your rituals or something? How did I even get here?”

Aubrey exhales and smiles. “Oh, thank goodness. It’s good to you have you back, Lilly.”

Lilly stares back at her without knowing how to respond. She finally shakes her head and turns to walk back to school. “You are so weird,” she says under her breath, walking away.

Path of Shadow

[WP] You and your friend Lily, are chilling in class when all of a sudden there’s a lockdown, you hear the principal say “Attention students this is a code Black lockdown, I repeat a code Black Lockdown.” You hear someone mutter “Code Black means otherwordly entities, We’re dead!”

    “Hey, are you going to the dance next week?” Lilly asks while leaning towards the girl with the black hood. The black-hooded girl is slouching forward, crossing her arms on her desk with her chin resting on top.

    “Oh, what am I saying?” Lilly answers. “Of course, you aren’t going to the dance, Aubrey. Don’t you have to sacrifice a goat or something on Thursdays?”

    Can we punch her, Aubs? a voice asks in her mind. Please, can we punch her?

    No, Shades, Aubrey replies. There will be no punching of my classmates. We stay in enough trouble as it is.

    It’s Shadow Lord. How many times are we going to have to go over this? I know you’re doing that on purpose.

    Aubrey cuts her eyes over towards Lilly while ignoring both speakers.

    A squelch comes over the intercom followed by a stressed principal. “Attention all students and faculty members. I’m ordering a Code-Black lockdown. I repeat, Code-Black. Good luck, everyone.”

    Good luck, Aubrey thinks, raising her head from her desk. That’s new.

    A balding man seated at the teacher’s desk is rubbing the top of his scalp as he flips through a manual. He stops and reads through a page, then looks up, his square framed glasses making his eyes look abnormally large. He stares blankly for a moment, just blinking absently.

    “So what’s that mean, Mr. West?” asks a student.

    Mr. West looks around, suddenly remembering there are others present. “What’s that?,” he replies.

    “What-is-a-Code-Black?” another student asks slowly.

    “Oh, it means other-worldly creature.”

    “Shit! We’re dead.”

    “Language,” Mr. West scolds.

    Other-worldly creature, Aubry thinks. Is this because of me?

    Don’t go changing the subject, Shades replies. The Lord of Shadows would also be acceptable.

    Dude, focus! You can worry about your identity crisis later. Is this other-worldly creature here because of me?

    I swear, this is the last time I accept a binding—

    Aubrey stands abruptly, startling those around her. She pulls her hood over her eyes and her sleeves back down over her wrists. She is slinging her bag over her shoulders when Mr. West raises a finger into the air.

    “Uh, Ms. Aubrey, I think the principal wants everyone to remain in the classroom.”

    Shades, you’re going to have to show me how to use these powers. As much as I hate them, I’m not going to be the cause of my classmates getting eaten…well, except for maybe Lilly.

    Oh, now you want to know everything about the powers huh? Typical.

    Aubrey walks to the front of the class with her thumbs under her bag straps. Mr. West is still holding his finger in the air and his head is tracking Aubrey’s walk as she continues ignoring everyone.

    “Great,” Lilly declares. “Where’s the schizo heading off to?”

    Aubrey stops at the door while reaching for the light switch. She turns back, meeting Lilly’s eyes. “I’m going to tell the monsters where to find you of course.” Aubrey winks and turns off the switch.

    Her form becomes obscured, shifting into a black smoke, then passes under the door.

Worlds Apart

[WP] Your wife has been dead for the past 5 years and you’ve moved on, going on dates to try and find a new partner. Last night, however, you heard the unmistakable sound of her whispering in your ear.

    “Are you there, Drew?”
Drew cuts his eyes to the side but doesn’t otherwise respond. He’s sitting on his sofa, slouched down into the pillow tops while watching a movie.
A huge explosion displays on screen, and Drew laughs heartily.
“That didn’t sound very funny, Drew.”
Drew suddenly sits up and looks towards the kitchen. He was used to hearing her voice— rather, the memory of it, but it had never referenced something he was actively participating in. He looks behind the sofa, then in the nearby storage closet. He closes the closet door and pauses, listening.
“Drew, hunny, are you there?”
“Yes, Anna. Yeah—I’m here,” he says folding his hands together and pressing them against his mouth. “I can hear you,” he whispers.
“How are you holding up?”
He nods, sulking. “I’m good, I’m good. One day at a time, you know?” He stares up at the ceiling, not really knowing where to look. “I—I’ve missed you. It would be nice if I could see you too.”
“I’m sorry, Drew, but that’s not a good idea. You’re already refusing to let go, so seeing me isn’t going to help matters.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m fine. Really. I’ve been doing better.”
“Oh, yeah? Can you tell me a little about how that’s going?”
Drew continues to scan around at his ceiling. “Well, I’ve been going on dates.” He nods. “Yeah, I’ve had several.”
“Really? And how did that go?”
Drew shrugs. “It was fine. Just waiting for the right one, I guess.”
“So what was your last date like?”
“Uh, would that be appropriate? With you being gone and all?”
“We talked about that when we were together, Drew. Remember? We said, no matter what happens to either of us, we’ll do our best to find love again.”
Drew nods. “I remember, Anna.”
“So tell me about your date. What was her name?”
“It was Ann—er Is—abelle. Yeah, Isabelle.”
“Isabelle huh? That’s a lovely name. Anything else?”
Drew shakes his head. “Not really. Nothing happened so what’s to tell? Why do you wanna hear about that stuff anyways? Aren’t you watching?”
“Because I still care about you, Drew, and I want you to be happy. But you didn’t really go on any dates.”
Drew nods. “Sure I did. Lots of ‘em.”
“What were you watching earlier? Can you describe to me?”
“Oh, you couldn’t see? I thought maybe you were watching with me.”
“No, but I could hear the sounds of shooting and things blowing up.”
“Yeah, it’s about some special forces guys. They were raiding a compound with and are trying to take out an evil dictator.”
“And that was funny? Them blowing things up and shooting people?”
Drew shrugs. “Yeah, because they deserve it.”
“I don’t think that’s supposed to be funny, Drew. And it’s probably funny for the same reason you’re pretending to go on dates. You’re just covering everything up and refusing to see things the way they are. Laughing at explosions isn’t healthy. Surely, you can see that. You’re still stuck in denial, Drew. How long are you going to put yourself through this?”
“Well, you left! It’s your fault. All of it is!”
“Drew, it’s more complicated than that.”
“Is it? You weren’t supposed to leave me like that! We’d be together forever—we said that! Forever! And you quit!”
“If that’s what helps you cope, then sure, it’s all my fault, Drew. All of it. But does that really change anything for either of us?”
Drew sobs and shakes his head. “I just want it to all go away. I want to wake up and things go back to what they use to be. Help me—help me do that, Anna? I just want—I just want to do it all over again, to do it right this time.”
“Drew, you know that’s not possible.”
“I just—” Drew backs into a wall and slides down to his butt, his hands drooping over his knees as he stares at the floor. “I can’t do this without you, Anna.”
“Yes, you can, Drew. You always could. I never stopped believing in you. You know that right? I’ve always believed in you, but now—It’s wrong for me to keep holding onto you like this. We have to let go of one another and just appreciate what we shared. If we can’t do that, then we’ll just end up smothering each other until we’re both destroyed.”
Drew’s head raises and he brushes the top of his knuckles across the underside of his nose. “You still miss me, Anna?”
“Of course I do, Drew. Nothing’s ever going to change that. The only thing keeping me from being happy right now is knowing how miserable you are. So I can’t move on unless you do.”
“So I’m causing you grief?”
“Yes, Drew. The same way that I’m causing it for you. You have to understand though. I didn’t leave you. I’ve always been right here. I never left, but you didn’t either, did you, Drew?”
Drew stands as rays of sunshine streak across the air above him. He stands and continues looking at it, then follows to see the light coming through the wall on the other side of the dining room table.
“I haven’t been doing so well either, Drew. But I’m trying.”
“Oh yeah?” he asks as he raises his fingers to move through the sunshine. Birds can be heard beyond the wall, and he turns back to look across his den. The blinds are open on his front windows, and he sees his porch light illuminating the nighttime setting.
“I tried therapy for a while and that helped some.”
“They have therapy where you are, Anna?”
“Yes, Drew. But that didn’t do a lot for me, so I sought some questionable help elsewhere. I tried psychic readers and mediums…and you know what? It turns out that I had a knack for it, so I’ve been studying.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, Drew. It’s how I’m finally able to talk to you now…I’m a medium.”
The sunlight continues to grow from the wall and illuminates the dining room table next to him. Anna is sitting on the opposite side of him and smiling back. The view between them is streaked with light and he has to use his hand as a visor to shield the light from the wall.
“You look good, Anna.” She smiles warmly as a tear breaks into a sprint down her cheek. She nods.
“I never left you, Drew,” she says, with broken words.
“Yeah,” he says, rubbing the back of his head. “I can see that now. I—I’m sorry—about what I said earlier.”
“It’s ok.”
He puts his hand into the back of his jeans pocket and thumbs to the light from the wall. “I guess that’ll be for me then.” She nods again, unable to speak. “I’ll be seeing you, Anna.”
He steps through.

Sisyphus’ Legacy

Theme Thursday Challenge
Max Words: 500

After finishing his draft, Dan walks into his office, ready to set into his revision. He grabs a seat in his fancy chair and turns on his special writing light as he prepares to set into his task. The computer comes to life and he goes right to his manuscript, migrating it from his writing software into a more refined word processor. Once the word processor takes hold, his MS becomes infected with so many red squiggles that it looks as if his words are adrift in the Red Sea.

The insurmountable volume of new information almost crushes him immediately. He runs his fingers through his hair and tries to process the amount of work ahead of him. He massages his face, shakes out his hands, and sets his mind on getting his words back on something more promising—like a snowy field or some other place without those annoying red lines. One step at a time, he tells himself. He starts on the first sentence then continues through the first paragraph, then he moves on to the second paragraph, and so on.

Hours pass. He finally finishes the first chapter and is mentally exhausted. He exhales and slouches deeper into his chair. He tries to feel some since of accomplishment over what he just achieved, but nothing comes as he just closes his eyes and rubs at his temples. He convinces himself that he deserves a break, so he mouses over to the save icon before shutting everything down. His mouse hovers over the silly floppy disk symbol, but the button doesn’t bolden to suggest he can interact with it. He clicks it and nothing happens. He tries clicking elsewhere to the same effect. He tries minimizing the window and still nothing. He starts to panic and sulk internally, muttering to himself, “no, no, no, no,” as he hits ctrl, alt, delete. He pulls up the task manager to find his program isn’t responding. “This can’t be happening,” he pleads as he runs his fingers through his hair and tugs at his hair. Suddenly, the computer locks up and powers down causing him to slam fists into the top of the desk, before shoving the desk’s contents off into the floor. He leans his face into his hands, on the verge of tears. “That didn’t just happen,” he says to no on in particular.

Suddenly, Dan walks into his office, ready to set into his revision. He plops into his fancy chair and turns on his special writing light as he prepares to take hold of his boulder once again. For the crime of not finishing his MS, Dan was forever condemned to revise his draft then have it crash, experiencing the loss of all progress only to have the moment restart so that he can do it all over again.

Nemesis Battle

[WP] A modern style suburb, complete with HOA and backyard cookouts, but set in a DnD style fantasy world.

If Woody Allen ever had a double, it would have been Barry, the middle-aged sorcerer. He stands just inside his tented glass storm dorm in a bath robe and house slippers while drinking his cup of coffee. Every sip calls for a dice roll to the side of his view. The number comes up, calling on his dexterity of 2, then digitally adding modifiers and the outcome under the dice. Every so often, his -4 modifier reminds him of his life choices as he spills his coffee on his chin and curses under his breath. He wipes his mouth with already stained sleeve of the robe. “Don’t min-max your life,” his family and friends had said.

He adjusts his glasses and looks out through his door of concealment. The sprinklers are about to cut off so he’s waiting to do battle with his nemesis. His neighbor, across from him is retrieving a garbage can after descending his elevated drive. The Jones’ house is a two story monstrosity that sits on a small hill like a hat on a head. Barry shakes his head as he looks his neighbor’s way with a mixture of scorn and envy. Why have more cars than you do garage space? They’ve already got twice the garage as the rest of the neighborhood and it’s just the two of them there. Who needs five cars? Mr. Jones stops for a moment to look over as Barry’s sprinklers continue to do their deed. After he completes his condescending stare, he nods and takes the garbage back up the drive where he can continue to look down on everyone. Prick.

The sprinkler shuts off and Barry prepares himself for the dungeon run he’s about to undertake. He downs the rest of his coffee, then sets the cup aside. He glares at his nemesis and tries to psyche himself up for the battle. Why his wife paid for the instillation of an anti-tamper mailbox with a DC of 8, he’ll never know. He tightens the knot of his robe then hyperventilates briefly. He adjusts his glasses, sets his chin, then opens the door, and steps into the dungeon.

Ashes in Winter

[WP] All your life you’ve been told that fire will burn and hurt you. Imagine your surprise when you walk out of a house fire unscathed.

His eyes squeeze tighter and his eyebrows wrinkle at the increasing discomfort. He had drawn his body up into a ball but continues to brush at his check and ear because of an infrequent annoyance. His breath is visible with each exhale, yet he continues to sleep–to dream. As a child, his adopted parents always warned him about the dangers of fire. A fact they were so vehement about that they beat him during the few occasions they caught him getting too close. The torment eventually spilled into his dreams and continues to haunt him even after his parents are dead and gone.

His eyes shoot open as he experiences a fall sensation. He lands on the curve of his back then rolls through smoldering ash. He squeezes his eyes shut until the pain abates enough for him to notice his shiver. He looks out from the floor to see the snow fall, then sits up and crosses his arms for warmth. It doesn’t escape him that he’s now naked but he’s more concerned about the entire house having burned down around him, while he slept through it.

He moves a partial bed post with his foot as he looks over the still smoldering place in the floor. Another darkened area on the floor used to be storage for clean clothes but that’s no longer the case. Snow continues to fall around him, melting initially but slowly starting to cling to more of the fire’s debris. He looks around at the vast open fields that stretch away from him, in all directions. “Great,” he says as he rubs vigorously at his arms. “Turns out, my fear of fire doesn’t matter but knowing that doesn’t matter either considering I’m now going to freeze to death.”

Pair of Secrets

[WP] A demon disguises them self as a human, in the following years they meet their now roommate and become good friends. Four years later they take you to a private area to have a talk. What’s their secret? They’re actually an angel.

The drive is quiet but the same can’t be said about his mind. His thoughts are spiraling and chaotic. He hadn’t been this disoriented since before he lived as a human. “What’s going on with you, Bericho?” He checks his phone to see that it’s approaching midnight. The roads are lonely this side of town. The only activity here is from the fog that is filling the ditches and building at the base of passing hills. It occurs to him that there would be almost zero time to react to any kind of animal running from out of the fog. His mind continues to bounce between the possibility of this close encounter with animal kind and the cryptic phone call that he received from, Bericho.

“Hey Kip, could you meet me some place?”
“Ugh, I suppose. Why? What’s up?”
“The county fairgrounds. You know them, right?”
“Yes? —but the fair’s not in town, is it?”
“Just, come alone.” Dial tone.

Kip had never been a boy scout but after hearing their description, he started thinking of Bericho in that way. He was always straight forward, always prepared. Morally, he was like a Chuck Norris arrow. Most arrows bend around the arrow-rest when fired but that’s not what happens with a Chuck Norris arrow. When you let one of those go, the arrow-rest moves out of the way, and that’s who Bericho is. He didn’t do whatever this cryptic mess was. He’s a boyscout. If he wants to tell you something, he tells you. The end.

Kip pulls into the field to find Bericho’s truck still running and his lights shining across the field. He parks next to him, then follows the headlight beams to see a figure standing across the field. He leaves his car running as well, climbing out to see the figure not approach to meet him. He pulls his hood over his head, then wears his pockets for gloves as he begins his walk.

“Hey buddy,” Kip calls out. “Everything alright?”

Bericho is facing away and continues to look up at the stars. “Beautiful, aren’t they?”

Kip looks around to the open field, scanning out of habit. “What’s that?”

Bericho finally turns around as Kip approaches. “I missed you friend. I hope I didn’t cause you much trouble, bringing you out here?”

Kip shrugs. “It’s no problem, just unusual, you know?”

Bericho nods. “How long have we known each other?”

Kip bounces a bit and rustles his hands in his pockets as if to settle a chill and appears to contemplate.

1,358 days, if we’re being exact. “I guess it’s been about four years, right?”

Bericho nods. “About that but if we’re being exact, it would be 1,358 days.”

Kip’s eyes narrow. “Ok? That seems astute. Creepy, but astute…if it’s true, that is.”

“We’ve been friends a long time and for me, I’d say you are the best of my friends.”

“Thanks buddy. You’re alright too.”

Bericho smiles but it melts away as he becomes lost in his thoughts. He finally meets Kip’s eyes with the directness that Kip had come to expect from him. “What do you think about the afterlife, Kip?”

Kips takes another look around the field before answering. “Did we really have to come all the way out here for you to talk about that? We could have done that some place warmer, you know? Like maybe the dorm room we share?”

“Humor me.”

Kip shrugs again. “I don’t know man. I just don’t think about that sort of stuff. I leave that for other people to worry about. Me? I just try to focus on right now.”

“I think about it a lot—constantly actually. It’s always on my mind.”

“And that’s fine. That’s what being human is all about right? Each of us doing what we feel is right?”

“Human,” Bericho chuckles. “That’s my hang up Kip. You know, angels aren’t so different from humans, demons either for that matter. Books never seem to get those sorts of things right.” Kip begins squinting again, becoming more aware of Bericho’s every move. “Angels are actually identical to humans as long as their disembodied wings are ethereal and concealed. Their wings are actually weapons and remain invisible unless we…err they…the angels want them to be seen.”


Bericho sighs, drops his gaze and nods. Kip starts to glance around again as speckles of light start to move through the air on each side of them. These slivers then become like steadily shinning fireflies, moving around to cause streaks of light. As Kip watches, it’s as if the fireflies are moving across an invisible etch-a-sketch, painting a brilliant image while using light as a color. Eventually, four independent wings stretch twenty yards to each side of Bericho. The details of the feathers can’t be seen and there are tendrils of energy that writhe, weaving through the spaces concealed there.

Kip casually looks each direction with his fists still in his pockets. He doesn’t show a reaction but the creases within his clinched fist begin to glow an intense red. It’s Bericho’s turn to squint as he looks Kip up and down. “I always knew you to be accepting Kip, but this is a little too nonchalant, given the circumstances.”

“Tell me something,” Kip says.


“Do you have any powers of compulsion?”

Bericho nods. “Yes, but I’d never use them on you if that’s what you’re afraid of.”

Kip exhales, nodding. “I hate it when others mess with my mind. I just want to make my own decisions, you know? I’m no one’s puppet.”

“You know something of us, don’t you? Who—what are you?”

“Answer me something first. Why are you telling me this? Why now? Why at all?”

Bericho turns away from Kip, but the wings don’t turn with him, remaining stationary as Bericho looks back up to the stars. “After we graduate, I’m going back. I’d always hated having to be dishonest with my classmates but with you, it was always the worst. Lying to my best friend time and time again, it’s been a growing burden, one that I couldn’t bear to carry back into Heaven. So, I needed you to know.”

Kip snorts, then laughs. Bericho turns back to look at him and Kip begins to laugh even harder. Kip raises a hand to wave off Bericho concern while wiping at his eye with the other. “We’re some pair, you know? Who’d have thought?” He shakes his head and continues to smile. “I wanted to be sure my feelings were my own, but I know I needn’t have worried.” Bericho arches his eyebrow then Kip’s hood starts to billow as a red light intensifies within its recesses. An unfelt wind seems to buffet Kip’s clothes while a slow crack of red creeps across the air above him. A greatsword then falls from the crack, driving into the ground behind Kip as cracks of magma splinter away from its earth sheathe. The blade is three feet across, and the visible portion of the weapon is still 2.5 times Kip’s height.

Bericho smiles and shakes his head. “I guess this make us enemies Kip.”

“Looks that way bud.” A moment later, Kip’s infernal powers fade and blow away as dark smoke. “You’re still leaving at the end of the year?”

Bericho’s wings burst into thousands of glowing insects, winding away from one another, then vanishing. “Yeah.”

“I plan to stick around, do some living, you know?”

“And if you’re still here for Armageddon?”

“I’ll stay the hell away from you, that’s for sure.”

Bericho laughs then. “I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want to fight me either.”

“It’s not like that,” Kip says, extending his hand. “You know what I mean.”

Bericho looks at the hand only a moment then reaches to clasp it. “Yeah, I couldn’t fight you either. Thanks Kip.”

“Yeah, yeah. Just don’t fire up the waterworks on me. I’m going to head back to the dorm. Don’t be out too late, yeah? I hear demons can be found out this way, so you best be careful.”

The two turn their backs to one another, showing a trust only ever found on the same side of battle fields. Kip walks back to his truck with thoughts no calmer than they were on the drive here. He silently curses, realizing that Bericho just gave him another reason to dread Armageddon.

Shadows in Rain

[WP] Your friend learns they are the chosen one. As they slowly lose their humanity and agency, it dawns on you that their destiny was actually bestowed upon them by an unknowable Lovecraftian horror.

Rain falls as the sky’s crocodile tears mix with his own, his face turned up towards the black, featureless void. So are we too to become just mere tears in the rain, he wonders. He lowers his gaze, resting it on the second story window above him. The light in her window is out, the time being well beyond a reasonable time for wakefulness, and yet, he could not himself, sleep, his heart so swelled as it was.
We didn’t deserve this but then again, who would? Who are they to decide? What gives them the right? His gaze falls again as his hands curl into fists. The rain continues to thrash against his long coat, erupting on his shoulders as the rain drops collide with a coat so saturated, it too is like standing water. Ripples reverberate around the coat as if it were a contorted surface of a pond.

“We’d always been best friends Callie, but I hoped it would be more…someday. I dreamed of this, one day being outside your window, but I had pictured sunshine and a boombox held over my head.” The stolen future infuriates him causing the water of his coat to slowly pool as it’s pushed out of the fabric. “Just look at us now. You and your life’s journey, your pilgrimage, just to become a living sacrifice. And then there’s me, chosen by the same assholes to project you until the appointed time. To keep you from harm until…you’re useful. To see what isn’t supposed to be seen. A watcher, just watching unless their plans start to run afoul.” He laughs then. “What a joke. It’s all just a bad joke.”

He turns walking back to the street as thunder growls in the distance. When his foot descends to the asphalt, the water separates, making way for his steps. The rain no longer strikes him, instead, colliding and trailing away from some invisible barrier. A blade of shadow extends from his hand and shadowy smoke peels out from under his coat as his stride lengthens, his pace quickening. I can’t…I won’t allow them to take you. They can’t have you!

His intent known, lightning streaks overhead and betrays the pretense of a featureless sky. Beyond the horizon, the lightning flash illuminates a colossal thing of shadow and cosmic intentions. With his weapon in tow and the water passing around, he is a rock defying the current of all things. The lightning strikes again and he glares at the creature. I’m coming for you.