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.

Lone Wolf

[WP] You are a wizard that specializes in summoning magic. Unlike other summoners that forcefully bind otherworldly creatures to do their bidding, you are the eldritch equivalent of “I know a guy.”

The battle-hardened party leader looked back at his companions, the concern on his face far more apparent than he’d prefer. “Uh, guys,” Broman the Barbarian began. “I know I’ve got top tier strength and endurance but I’m not sure that’s going to do us much good in dealing with that,” he says thumbing back over his shoulder.

Beyond their narrow rock bridge–suspended over the glow of molten rock–is an undead army of over one thousand zombie and skeleton foot soldiers. Ahead of them is a Wrath Knight, sitting atop its undead stead with a greatsword lying over its shoulder.

Flying over the army of doom is a sickly-green dragon with a wingspan wide enough to stretch from one side of the army to the other. The dragon is flying back and forth over the soldiers in a continuous figure-eight path.

Broman looks to each of his companions for both their input and more ideally, a lifeline to get them out of this mess, considering that the door behind them just slammed shut.

Bardotious Max readies his harp sideways like an electric guitar, then strums his fingers down in a single riff only to raise the hand back up to extend a fist with his index and pinkie fingers protruding. “I wanna rock!” Bardotious exclaims. “…so you can count on my support.”

Broman just stares back at him, slowly blinking before shaking his head. “Really, not sure what I was expecting there,” he grumbles to himself, before looking to their mage. “What about you Frozenheart the Wintery Witch of Polararctica? Have anything powerful enough to help us live to fight another day?”

Frozenheart’s attention is somewhere down towards the molting magma as she tries her best to not make eye contact with Broman, thinking it equates to dinosaur rules where he wouldn’t see her if she remained still didn’t make eye contact. But then Broman starts snapping his fingers like he’s trying to get a toddler to look at the camera for the photo and she knows she’s been seen.

“Sorry ’bout that Broman,” Frozenheart begins. “I thought you were talkin ’bout some other Wintery Witch of Polararctica. You see…the thing is…I just respec’d and I only really got the weak-flame spell so far. So if we get through this, you can count on me to make one hell’ova smore…granted you got the chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers, of course.”

Broman’s left eye starts to twitch, and he just stares blankly until his shocked-but-not-really-surprised status times out.

Broman looks over to their healer Whitewind and his eyes don’t even stop as they continue to move over to the last party member. He just sighs and pinches his nose. “Well, we’re boned–and that’s going to be literal in the next few minutes.”

“Hold up, now.” the last party member says. “I might have an idea.”

Broman looks back over with his hands on his hips. “Really, Jerry? What kind of idea could you possibly have that could help us here? The blue flame that you selected for your eyes doesn’t give me the greatest confidence in your eldritch capabilities.”

Broman kicks a rock off the bridge as he looks away. “I knew we should’ve brought that necromancer.”

“Come on,” Jerry insists. “I might know a guy.”

Jerry’s staff becomes outlined in blue flame and floats away from him, where he begins moving his hands around one another to channel his spell.

“A guy?” Broman protests. “Geez, Jerry, I’m a guy. Hopefully you’re not trying to summon me because that’s not really going to help us here.”

The ten second cast time expires, and the staff floats back to Jerry’s opening grasp. The rest of the party look around their bridge to see that it’s still empty. Broman shakes his head and rubs his forehead. “Oh, I hate my life.” He glares back at Jerry. “Did you actually just try and summon me?”

Jerry shakes his head. “Of course not, I summ–

A projectile fires from a ledge above and behind them. The ordinance corkscrews across the molting chasm and the party’s gaze looks up to follow it as it makes a final hook and slams into the dragon. The dragon lets out a mewling cry as its wings fold and it falls back towards the army.

The party looks back up to the ledge as a barrage of gunfire opens up, stretching back across the party and moving like the spray from a fire hose. The steady stream passes back and forth in a continuous swath as it moves through the army of dead, laying down everything it comes in contact with.

The Wrath Knight’s mount gets spooked and begins turning in circles as the rider fights to regain control. Another projectile launches as the swath of bullets continues to hammer the rest of the army. The projectile spirals upward, then hooks back down, striking the mounted leader and sending him flailing one direction as the mount collapses another.

The shooting finally stops and a slack-jawed Broman looks at the newly installed graveyard. The party turns back up to the ledge to see a lone bearded-man step into sight, give a thumbs up, then disappear.

Broman looks back over to the party’s Eldritch Mage. “What the hell was that, Jerry?”

“I cast identify on it,” Bardotious replies. “It was something called a Chuck Norris.”

Desmond’s Journey

48-Hour Challenge on writing.com. I found and accepted the challenge with an hour and a half remaining before the deadline. I wrote this story, then took 25 mins to figure out how to submit for the contest. I got it submitted with 9 mins remaining. The only guidance was to write a story of under 500 words while using the song Wake Me Up by Avicii as inspiration.

Desmond is excruciatingly bored, his leg bouncing under his desk as he continues to bite at the thumbnail of his paint speckled hand. His art teacher is going over theory—a complete and utterly hopeless waste of his time. It might as well be trigonometry for all the use it will have after he finishes school.

The gray hood of his jacket is pulled over his head and his sleeves are bunched up around his elbows. Various splotches of neon-orange, red, green and other colors stain his fingertips. And his jacket? It was monotone once—but that day is behind him now.

His jacket pockets are empty, but that doesn’t stop him from periodically sliding his hands inside to make sure. At some point, his accomplices had started rating him out. He didn’t know when exactly, but their jingling as he walked was probably the main cause…probably.

He had become so used to the balls jingling within the cans that he no longer noticed, instead becoming anxious when their sound was absent. If only his teachers could move past their own problems of hearing them, wouldn’t that be fantastic?

Desmond’s walking through school had led to several confiscations and imprisonments of his many, many friends. His teachers had learned to pat him down prior to his entering class, but he had learned as well. The sacrifice of those bygone friends allowed him to learn the value of leaving things outside. Then they would not be confiscated, and the teachers would not hear him as he abandoned their boring lecture.
…which just happened, by the way.

The teacher had started talking about proper form and rules…rules?! The audacity! He had never liked their rules, their coloring books that gave him boundaries to remain within. He didn’t need their approval or to be in their contests. All he needed, he thought, as he rounded the school building and knelt to grab a sack full of moral support…oh wait, he actually doesn’t need anything anymore, sighing as the jingling sack chases away his disquiet.

He finally comes to the wall he had previously chosen. Paint tops are sent tumbling as he liberates the nozzles with a flick of his thumb. The wall’s surface is was a solid off-white, and the mortar is so near flush with the brick’s surface, that he couldn’t have dreamed up a better canvas.

But Desmond knew his time was limited so he worked fast. His eyes keep returning to a clock on the wall as a corridor takes shape within his newest artwork. Several colored tops now sit on the tile floor around him, an audience watching as he finishes.

The last thing he uses is a sealant but turns to be between it and his art. Facing the can like a camera, the sack clutched in hand, he depresses the nozzle. The can drops away as the bell rings and other kids begin to file into the cafeteria. He simply turns and continues walking down the corridor.

Painted Dream

[WP] Everything can be a prompt if you’re creative enough. (This wasn’t actually a published [WP]. Someone made this statement, and I responded with the story below…to help them prove their point)

…said the valet as he stepped between the reporter and the celebrity. In the midst of their interview, they begin looking back and forth between each other and the valet while internalizing the same question; Where’s security?

The valet pulls a set of keys from the breast pocket of his vest, then spins them on his index finger. The keys change in the spin, becoming a pen as he’s walking away. He raises the pin as if to sign the air but shakes his head.

He spins the pen on the top of his hand and turns his palm up as it changes again, becoming a can of spray paint. Looking at the can, he nods appreciatively, then leans over and swings his arms across his body then back out like an umpire calling a runner safe after sliding across home plate.

After the gesture, the valet now has a spray-can in each hand. Using his thumbs, he pops each lid off in turn, sending them tumbling into the air where one changes into a leaf and the other a feather, both of them getting carried away from him in an unfelt wind.

To start, the valet spays one can towards his face, causing a pair of safety goggles to form over his eyes. He shifts to the other can, spraying in an oscillating manner, and a breathing mask forms over his mouth and nose. Next, he alternates each over his body where his vest and slacks become a gray jumpsuit with rubber booties over his feet.

Safety first, he thinks, spinning the cans only to pop off a different colored top while releasing an additional feather and leaf.

He looks back at the air as he appraises something that only he can see. After playing out the image in his mind, he sets to work. He sprays each can in wild zig zagging patterns, and the paint fans forward in oscillating waves, the individual droplets drifting towards the industrial zone across the canal. The specs of paint look as if they’ll continue to drift away and apart, soon to be just another part of the city’s increasing air pollution concern.

But they don’t.

The flecks of paint begin sticking to the air as if some unseen canvas is standing between the painter and the smog engine. The paint cans twirl rapidly as leaves and feathers continue to peel up and behind the painter. After a time, the various color changes start to depict a landscape where the sky is actually blue. A variety of flowers begin to freckle the lush green meadow that emerges.

He adds various trees, a pond with a fish mid-jump, a sunrise beyond a hill, and a great white elk standing atop the mound with the sun at its back. Lastly, he pants a rope bridge from his gravel parking lot that leads over the canal.

With that done, he gives the painting a nod and turns around to find all of the leaves clustered and suspended in the air while all the feathers had formed birds that were frozen above. He spins the cans again, popping the lids off two different colors of brown. He sprays up into the leaves, moving back and forth as branches form and make connections to all the leaves. The cans trace back to the ground as the trunk takes shape and roots sink into the gravel.

Another spin and he turns the cans back on himself. The safety gear fades away as oversized glasses and a floppy sun hat take their place. A button up shirt, comfortable shorts and slip-on shoes replace the jump suit.

He flings one of the cans over his shoulder, while spinning the other. The birds behind him gain motion and the painted tree starts moving in the same unfelt wind. The other can sprays and forms a hatchet in his hand before he looks back towards his landscape with a smile.

He tosses the remaining can towards the painting and the lush landscape gains motion. The fish falls to splash back into water, the flowers sway with the grass, the tree leaves rustle, and the white elk turns his gaze towards the dreamer.

He reaches up to his hat, making sure the now felt wind doesn’t carry it away as he walks towards the sunrise. He passes into the painted place, crossing the bridge, and stopping long enough to use the hatchet to separate himself from the world he left behind.

The bridge falls away and he tosses the hatchet into the canal as the songbirds fly across to follow him. A moment later, the landscape separates into flecks of paint, moving away from each other while growing smaller. In a matter of seconds, it’s all gone.

The celebrity reaches up to rub at the back of his head before turning back to the reporter. “So are we still talking about cleaning up the city?” asks the celebrity. “Or should we talk about what just happened?”

A Pair and a Stone

“It’s been three years since we first left the village. We’ve traveled all over the world. We’ve overcome so many trials… But I’ve glimpsed into your future. And… I’m not in it.”

The penguin cast its gaze down the arrow shaft and beyond the arrowhead between him and the tiger stalking through the jungle’s undergrowth. Behind him is his life partner, holding the precious stone that he had given her so long ago. She’s clutching it tightly as her anxiety mounts with each step the tiger makes in their direction.

The arrow takes flight and sails true, sticking into the top of the tiger’s shoulder. It leaps backwards in surprise, then turns to bound away.

“Is it gone, Patrick? asks the penguin with the stone, her fins clasped over one another as if wringing her hands.

“Yeah,” he replies, lowering the bow. “We’re safe again, at least for a little while. But we need to keep moving, Penny. It’s only a matter of time before the tiger’s courage grows too large again.”

She nods, then turns to continue in the direction they had been traveling. “The new village shouldn’t be much farther, right?”

Patrick slings the bow over his back and follows after her. “We should be getting there any time now.”

She nods while continuing to walk on. “When we left the village, did you ever imagine us evading a tiger of all things? Orcas, sure. I knew to expect that. We were actually far luckier than we had any right to be.” She becomes distant as she thinks about the loved ones they had both lost.

“Tiger?” Patrick asks, looking up to the treetop canopy as a monkey leaps from one limb to another. “Not specifically, but I knew there would be danger beyond what we’d known before. But there was more hope in that unknown danger than there was in staying in a village with the knowledge that resources were running out. It was either stay and slowly die off through starvation or leave in pursuit of a new future.”

“But three years have already come and gone. I hope this village is more than just a pipe dream.”

“If it’s not, we’ll start our own village.”

Penny laughs. “With just the two of us? Are you mad?”

“I’d be mad to think I needed anyone else.”

She smiles and turns, backpedaling as she talks. “The trip has had it’s ups and down for sure. Do you remember the elephants that protected us from that pack of hyenas?”

“That’s a hard thing to forget, Penny, but I appreciate you not allowing me the opportunity.”

She smiles brighter as she recalls more. “Or how about that decaying rope bridge that we had to cross over that valley? We were soooooo high up, it was making me dizzy.”

Patrick just shakes his head, knowing that it doesn’t matter what he says, she’ll continue talking like he’s continuing the conversation. He smiles brightly as an idea occurs to him. “You know that’s not the original promise stone i gave you, right? I lost the original in a card game a few years ago.”

“And the waterfall! Oh, I just lov–wait, what was it you said?”

Patrick smiles broadly. “Just that I liked the elephants too.”

She narrows her eyes at him, suspiciously. “I thought I heard something about a promise stone?”

He looks around and past her as they are nearing a cliff. His sure grow wide as he looks past her, then points and runs. “We’re here!”

She turns to follow his excitement as he stops at the cliffs edge. Below, a giant wall wraps around an enclosed city. Plumes of smoke twist away from smoke stacks the dot the infrastructure and the sound of car horns almost be heard on the wind.

Patrick cants his head as he looks down and she walks up to stand next to him. “This is not what I was imagined,” Patrick says begrudgingly.

Penny looks down and then turns to meet his gaze. “If your future is to be down there, in that… then I can’t be in it.” She turns to walk away from the cliff.

He cants his head in the opposite direction while watching her walk away, then hastily wobbles up to walk beside her.

She looks down as his fin wraps around hers and she turns back to meet his gaze again. He takes her other fin with the stone and brings her fins together. She looks to her clasped hands and back up to him as he nods.

“I only care about one future,” he tells her. “And that one revolves around me, you, and this stone. Everything else is just filler.”

Her eyes begin to twinkle as he turns back to the jungle and looks back into the jungle. She rushes closer and loops her fin under his before looking out ahead. She smiles. “At least this time we know what dangers lie ahead of us,” she says, turning to meet his gaze. “Shall we go?”

He nods and they step back into the jungle.

To Support a Bully

[WP] End with “I’m not here because you want me here, I’m here because you need me here.”

You are a waterboy. The midday sun is blazing with no cloud or reprieve in sight. The offensive and defensive coordinators stand out among the football players giving guidance as their team continues to practice on a day of record breaking heat.

The sides reset, then start another play. The quarterback pump-fakes to a receiver and then hands it off to the running back.

The runner drives into the back of the offensive line as the hole didn’t open as it should have. He keeps driving with both sides pushing back and forth until he is brought down.

A whistle blows and the running back is walking back to the huddle with his hands on his hips. He then reaches up, unsnaps his helmet, and takes a knee in place while leaning on his helmet. When prompted the running back says he’s feeling dizzy so they call for water.

You hear them call, so you snatch up the bottle carrier and hustle over. You see the team huddled around Markus, the running back, who’s also a bully that’s constantly messing up your hair or knocking your books out of your hands.

He sees you and extends a beckoning hand. “Give it here, dweeb,” he tells you.

You open your mouth to reply when two poofs sound next to your ears as two mini-yous appear on each of your shoulders. One is in white with a halo and the other is in red with a pitchfork.

They both look down at the bully and then the white one leans forward to look around your face to your other shoulder. “Hey, Red, you can take this one,” he says before looking back to you with a nod and a wink.

You look down to the you with the pitchfork. “Alright, he says to you. “I’m not here because you want me here, I’m here because you need me here.”

Not-Steve’s Close Encounter

[WP] Paranormal phenomenon is real. Aliens have noticed and obsessively study Earth. One day while hiking, you’re being stalked by a faerie, but just before being snatched an alien abducts you, saving your life. They sit you down to discuss just how freakish Earth is.

The human ascends through a round opening in the floor with his arms and legs apart and shifting as he attempts to balance on some invisible mechanism.

The opening closes, allowing the human to step down onto the floor. He looks around to find a control room filled with busy bodies. They all seemed to have important work and continued on with their tasks while not sparring a glance for the dumbfounded human.

“Hello Steve,” comes a voice from over his shoulder.

The human turns back to the alien and shakes his head. “It’s Dave. Steve’s my twin brother.”

The alien’s head looks like an upside-down egg with human-like facial features that all sit towards the bottom of its head. It looks at the human, perplexed.

“I always knew you guys were real,” says Not-Steve.

The alien watches as Not-Steve looks around the control room with glee.

“Steve,” the alien repeats.

“Nope. Like I said, that’s my brother.”

“Do you realize you’re standing in an alien spaceship and surrounded by aliens?”

“Yeah. I always knew you were real though.”

“Well do you think it’s possible that we have more sophisticated technology than you?”

“Absolutely! You guys are light-years ahead of us. I just hope we never end up on opposite sides.”

“Quite. Well could you also believe that speaking may not be our primary means of communication?” It gestures to its enlarged head. “And that it would be reasonable to assume that telepathy was possible for us, allowing us to see into the mind of others to glimpse their true name?”

Not-Steve turns his palms up and gestures around the room. “Well of course! Just look at all this stuff in here?”

“Well, if you can accept all of that, why is it so hard for you to understand that your parents named you and then got you mixed up before properly labeling you, Steve?”

“Nope. I told you already. I’m Dave.”

“Alright, now you’re just being a Richard.”

“Nope–” Not-Steve’s eyes narrow. “Hey…I see what you did there.”

The faerie is shaking its fist at the space craft as the ship hovers in the sky. A light begins shinning on the ground next to the faerie and moments later, a human lands on the ground in a heap. The faerie looks back up, confused, then sees one of the aliens looking down through the opening.

“He’s all yours faerie!” Calls the voice. The door closes and the ship flies away.

Colored Swords

[WP] As a kid you were found to be magicless and abandoned, having black mana rather than the element specific to colors of the other children being measured. One day a painter visits the orphanage to teach about colors and painting “mix red and blue, you get purple. If you mix everything, you get black.”

Fin sits on his bed, notebook in his lap and color pencils busy with their dance across the page. He’s wearing headphones, blocking out the world as he escapes into his sketching. Even as the other orphans cause a ruckus around the bunk-room, it doesn’t bother Fin as he continues existing in his other world.

He draws himself standing in the middle of the bunk-room and holding up a red paint brush. He’s holding like it’s a sword and he’s prepared to do battle. Thinking back to the mana colors that denoted types of magic, Fin always pictured himself having red mana, the color of emotion magic.

Across from him are two other orphans. One of the orphans wields a blue paint-sword, the color of motion magic. The other orphan has the green sword, the color of body magic. The three of them commence their battle. Swords clash and paint sails across the room in sweeping arcs as their battle royale unfolds. Fin gets lost in the battle. The colors intersect at places along the wall, forming what the art teacher had spoken of earlier that day. He colors quicker as the art teacher’s words try to invade his thoughts. He doesn’t want to hear the art teacher right now, so he creates more sweeping sword arcs and wall splatters to raise the battle to an epic scale.

Suddenly, the orphan’s real world antics cause something to hit Fin in the forehead, but he’s so engaged with his drawing that he absently brushes his forehead with the back of his hand, then continues filling in details on the intense color battle. He continues to detail the individual colors on the walls and the way the light reflects off each one. When his cassette player abruptly stops, reaching the end of the tape, he pauses to look over his work. He is awe struck by his level of detail, noticing subtle features he wouldn’t normally consider including.

Something on his hand catches his attention, and he glances over to find blue paint on the back of it. His eyebrows scrunch, then he looks up to see three orphans, each with a red, green, or blue paint sword. They are all looking around the room in shock as they try to process what they had just done to their bunk room. Fin quickly looks back to his page, then back up. His sketch is identical to the room except for one detail. There are bunks to each side of the sketch’s perspective, but there is an obvious blank spot in the bottom center of the page with only a foot-board ahead of this blank spot. The blank spot is the perspective of the photo—the perspective is the place he is currently sitting.

Game, Set, and Match

Flash Fiction Challenge

Max Words: 300

Her dad had left her a note in his will, simply saying, “In the aquarium,” followed by a spade and a heart. She had all but forgotten the childhood game her family had played all those years ago. Each family member was a different suit. She was hearts, he was spades, and they were rivals. She hadn’t thought about the game in years but the suit symbols in the note made the game leap back to the forefront of her memory. Everyone hid the cards of their suit while the other members scavenger hunted them. They had all been found, save one…Dad’s Ace of Spades.

She looks through the tank, flipping objects and stirring the bottom. A fact that Sebastian, the resident goldfish, doesn’t seem too thrilled about. She finally moves Sebastian into temporary housing before draining the tank, then removing Sebastian’s world. The bottom has a convex shape, a hill for Sebastian’s house to rest upon. Further investigation leads to the discovery of a false bottom and an air pocket.

A 2.5” x 3.5” object rests within the space, including a final obstacle to her long sought prize, a blue bandana that he kept for blowing his nose. After defeating this final boss, the bandana is unfolded where she sees an image of Road Runner with a word bubble. “Meep, meep,” it says. It’s the deck he used for his suit of cards. She smiles as she flips the card over. Her mouth then drops open, seeing that it’s blank with another note. “So, I win right?” She slumps back, letting her cupped hands drop to her lap. She finally laughs and shakes her head. “Well played, pops. Well played.”

Family’s Guardian

[WP] We bred dogs who can speak human languages…and learn that they actually have a rich oral history passed down the generations since they were wolves. They howl, they call it, and at last it’s being translated into English…

Going over the store’s finances makes him all the more grateful he got approved for those college grants. He can’t imagine having been able to afford going to school otherwise. Nevertheless, it all worked out and he survived the time he had put into getting an accounting degree. It just really puts it all in perspective, looking over the books now.

“Geez, Pops. How have you kept this going for so long?” The numbers are barely coming out in the positive. He goes through the expenses and liabilities, trying to find places they may be able to cut costs.

“Where’s the…” He flips through several pages to find what he is looking for but doesn’t come across it. He flips back to his journal of passwords and logins to find the banking info then logs into the account online. The information shows up, reflecting off of his glasses as he scrolls through the numbers. He looks back through the payment history seeing the balance due and the note, “Paid in Cash” next to every mortgage payment. He goes back to his books but can’t find any reference of a mortgage balance paid or due. He sighs, then leans back and rubs at his forehead. “Where’s this money coming from?”

A knock at the door has him sit up abruptly. He looks to the clock on the wall, 7:40 PM. It’s way past office hours. Who could be here now, he wonders. Opening the door reveals a tall, petite elf with gold-blonde hair. “Isabelle? What are you doing here?”

“We need to talk,” she says simply. “May I come in John?”

John rubs at the back of his head then turns, pulling the door open further. “Please. Have a seat.” She sits in the chair opposite his desk as he takes his own seat. “So, Izzy…what brings you here at this hour?”

“I know what you’re looking into, John.”

“Excuse me?”

“The mortgage payments. I know where this is all going, and I’d like to keep this between us. None of you should actually know of this but I know you are astute and you’ll no doubt find out eventually.”

“Ugh, forgive me Izzy. I’m a bit at a loss as to what you’re getting at, but you’ve been with my family forever. You can speak plainly. You’re basically one of the family after all. And if you wish it, whatever this is can stay between us.”

She sighs then nods. “Thank you, John. To be frank, I’ve been paying the mortgage payments for past 30 years.”

“What? Why? How? and Why?”

She sighs again. “What you’re not supposed to know is that your family is my charge. Me and mine have been looking out for you and your family for generations. Some thirty years ago, your father couldn’t keep up with the interest on the restaurant, so he quit paying it all together. For a long time, he worried that they would foreclose on the restaurant at any moment, but that day never came. Eventually, he stopped worrying and returned to focusing his energy on the restaurant again. In time, he forgot about it all together. To be honest, I have been waiting on your great family to be able to stand on its own again. I know that time is not now, but I believe that you will change all of that.”

John slumps, sinking deeper into his chair. “Wow, Izzy. That’s a lot to take in.” She nods. “I suppose, thank you is in order.”

“Please. That’s not necessary.”

He nods. “Ok, so where do we need to go from here?”

“That’s up to you John…and no, I’m not magic.”

“Wait…did I ask that?”

“No, but you were about to.” She winks. John smiles. She stands to leave and John stands with her. “Thank you, John.”

“Oh gosh, I hope you haven’t done that all my life.”

“It’s fine. Boys will be boys after all.” John turns red, then he sighs.

“That’s a bit embarrassing. I’ll have to be sure to keep my mind out of the gutter in the future.”

“You’ve grown into a fine man, John. Your family is in good hands.”

“Thanks Izzy. I’ll get this all sorted out and try to take some of the pressure off of you.”

She nods and he closes the door behind her. Returning to his chair, he takes off his glasses to rub at his eyes. “Hmph, who’d of thought. Our Izzy…a mind reading, magical elf.” He smiles then returns to going over the books.