Archive | January 2011

15-Minute Ficlet: Come the Dark

Originally posted here, in response to the prompt: “The darkness holding me tightly / Until the sun rises up.” Faint shades of Cali, but rather faint.

Night had never felt so safe as it did in her little cubbyhole, so wrapped-in-cotton, so silent, and so entirely entrapping. Nothing could get to her, locked in her tiny, dark room, in her bunk with no sharp edges. She couldn’t even hurt herself, folded into the pod-bed as she was; there was nothing to use as a weapon, even her fingernails trimmed down, pretty and pink-painted and dull.

It was so soft and so surreal, the sheets so smooth as to have no texture at all, the bed like a hammock, sucking her in, that even emotions couldn’t seem to get through. There was the moment of panic, every time the pod closed, and then nothing but soft, comforting peace. Darkness wrapped around her with soft velvet fingers, and carried her in to sleep.

Only when the sun rose did her pod open, and only when her pod opened did she wake, and only then, with the sunlight trickling in through the windows high above, brushing over the long racks of pods, did she begin to fear again. Only when the overseer came, to hand out the day’s clothing ration, the day’s breakfast, did she find herself allowed to remember where she was, and only as her bare feet hit the cold concrete floor did she recall, for the briefest moment, who she had been before.

The sun may have been her friend, once upon a time, but here, it was an enemy. When the daylight shone, implacable on her chafed and chapped skin, she worked, she and all the others, the others she didn’t dare think too hard about. When the sun was in the sky, there was pain, and fear, and exhaustion that never seemed to end. Only when the darkness wrapped around her was there peace; only when the night held her close could she relax.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

100-word ficlet: Runaway #weblit

Things were getting hot on land, so they took to the water: they stole a small pleasure yacht from an unguarded marina and vanished into the ocean before their pursuers could catch up.

The sea was cruel, but they were fast, and when they couldn’t beat her, they could trick her. She tried to kill them with her wild waves and sharp winds, but they clung to her back, like a cowboy on a bull. She bucked and kicked, but they held tight; in the end, she gave them what they’d come for.

Their pursuers never found them. Nobody did.

Based on eseme‘s prompt: “the Ocean!”

Um. 🙂

Care Package, a ficlit of necessity #weblit

Based in the same ‘verse/on the same planet as Friday’s 15-minute ficlet, this is from akatsuki_2007‘s prompt:

The cave system had a great deal of several things. It had water, in streams and dribbles and the occasional waterfall. It had light, coming down from always-maddeningly-inaccessible holes high above or from tiny holes in the more reachable rock, and it had bats.

Bat-like creatures, Becky corrected herself, although Vas wasn’t there at the moment to scold her. (She would have welcomed his scolding, if it had come with a rope long enough to get out of the caves). Apparently mammalian winged creatures who preferred enclosed spaces, ranging in size from large-mouse to small-cat.

They were edible, although they tasted, no matter how she prepared them, something like doom and something like starving-might-be-preferable, and were, as they seemed to have little fear of her, amazingly easy to catch.

They were still, barely, more tasty than the bugs that were the other life form around, and she needed the calories they provided.

After two days of waiting in one place for the rescue that didn’t seem to be coming, Becky had been on the move, marking her trail with fluorescent blue paint that would not be easily mistaken for anything natural to this planet, and surveying her route as best she could, with most of her tools still up in base camp. It was slow going, but it was the job she’d been sent here to do, and it was better than waiting to die.

It was also cold going, the caves only a few degrees above freezing in many places. She burnt a lot of energy simply staying warm. The balaclava her mother had slipped in to a tidy care package kept her face warm; the Bulgarian wool socks kept her feet from freezing. And the things-like-bats gave her the energy to burn, and motivation to get out of the caves and away from them.

She tried stewing the things; they made mush. She tried frying them in their own fat; they made jerky. Roasting them did the best, but it was time-consuming. Served tartar, they had a bitterness that made the meat even more inedible. To add insult to injury, it seemed as if she was allergic to their fur.

She had some Benadryl, due to the same care package (she’d given up spare boots to balance her weight book; she had not once regretted the lost of boots, and thanked her mother wordlessly for every time she dug into her pack). She couldn’t take it often; it made her too drowsy to properly map her route, and the once she’d tried, she’d forgotten to blaze for nearly half a mile and mixed up north and south three times in a row. Still, it helped her sleep.

Only the Bovril in the bottom of her bag had gone unused. The salty meat paste had been a childhood favorite, and her mother had never really gotten the memo when “Yay, Bovril” had turned into, “crap, not Borvil again?” There it was, the heaviest thing in the care package, wrapped in her last remaining wool sock.

In desperation, eight days of stewed bat into her spelunking, Becky tried mixing the two, stewing the bat in a solution of Bovril and stream water, with a few cattail-like-plants roots cut into it for texture. To her surprise and relief, the resultant mush was not only edible, it was palatable. A little experimentation proved to find the ratio that was actually tasty.

Becky sent up another silent thank you to her mother, light-years away in her London flat, as she fell asleep for the first time in days with a contentedly full stomach. Now all she had to do was find a way out of the caves before she ran out of Bovril and Benadryl.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

Worldbuilding passing thoughts

Today’s question for which I have yet to come up with an answer:
Are the gods of Reiassan real?
If they are real, how active are they in their worshipers’ lives?
(On a loose scale between New Testament Jehovah and Greek Zeus)
How much like their worshipers think they are, are they?

I think that they’re real, they actually exist.
We were bantering about the idea of yearly 1040ez’s for the gods
(bureaucratic deiocracy!)

But, as T pointed out, if you have gods that come down and say This is the Way Things Are, you’re less likely to have religious wars over interpretation: “If the Blue God comes down every Thursday, then if people start a war over what you’re supposed to sacrifice to him on Monday, on Thursday he’s going to be like, ‘what are you people doing? No, no, cut that out.'”

So. The gods are real. Perhaps the avatars they choose to portray themselves vary?

Edited to add:

They each show up, once a year, on their holiday. They take a non-human form at that time, and where they show up is … seems to be random, although it it not really. This is the time they communicate in any fashion with their followers.

Thinking the Blue have the most organized theology and the best records of these visits.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

On incest in other people’s fiction, and similar things

I was thinking this morning about “wrongness” in stories I read.

I don’t mind reading sibling-sibling incest (Arthur and Morgan le Fae comes to mind), and cousin-cousin incest like in The Enchantment Emporium doesn’t even faze me.

But situations where a man ends up romantically involved with a non-relative girl for whom he’s stood in loco parentis? (Afra/Damian in Anne McCaffrey’s Roawn, Narl/Rosie in Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End)…(Unrelated: should I change my name to McAlder?)… That creeps me right out. These men have known these girls since they were infants. Ew.

Fail, a story further-further-further-further-further-further continuation

The wind had finally died down. Sandy wasn’t sure what she’d have done if it kept up. Frozen to death, probably, or begun to lose skin and extremities to frostbite. Certainly she’d lost herself, but in the midst of downtown Rochester, how far could she have wandered?
There were no cars on the street, not even a plow. The storm had come up suddenly – a light snowfall, the sort appropriate for Christmas Eve, had been picturesquely falling as she stepped out of the library to walk home. By the time she crossed Court by the Blue Cross building, the wind had picked up; by the time she reached Monroe, she couldn’t see a foot in front of her.
She’d kept walking forward, figuring that holding still was risking being turned into a Popsicle. And now the wind had died down, and she could see…
…nothing. Nothing but trees, and snow, and a lamp-post flickering its gaslight.
She was SO going to be late for dinner.

Sandy took a deep breath, the thought of dinner gnawing on her empty stomach. She’d gotten turned around. What could she do?

Well, all she could do was keep going forward or turn around and head back, since standing here would get her nowhere. The trees laden with snow looked like nothing she’d ever seen in the middle of the city before, even in its sparse parks. She turned slowly counter-clockwise, looking all around her. Tree-lined hills. Densely-packed pine forest. A narrow path, barely more than a deer track, through the trees. More forest, with a steep hillside in the distance. And the gaslight lantern again, looking fresh and new. Some sort of gentrification project, maybe?

The snow was thin, fluffy stuff, but it had settled in drifts nearly to her hips. Glad for the sensible boots and the nice synthetic pants, she waded forward. The lamppost, as she closed, held two signposts. The arrow pointing towards the cliffs read Away; the one further into the woods, Home.

Home sounded wonderful. Her feet were cold, her nose was frozen, and there were snowflakes crusted on her eyelashes. She wanted to be warm again, she wanted to eat dinner, and she wanted, more than any of that, to sit down.

She trudged into the woods, following the vague outline of a path under a canopy of creaking trees, thinking about Home. The half-a-house off in college-student housing that she shared with five other people was a home by sheer force of will – her bedroom was her sanctum, and no-one best bother with it – but she missed the feeling of a real home, something like she’d had in childhood, where she belonged. Somewhere in the back of her mind, her parents’ cozy house would always be Home.

She doubted a signpost had that level of distinction; she doubted it cared about her home at all. Gaslamps weren’t know for their empathy. With any luck, the path would lead her somewhere that could get her back to Rochester; that would have to suffice.

The snow lessened the deeper into the forest she got, the path clearing under the heavy roof of boughs overhead; many of them, Sandy noted in some confusion, still had a full head of leaves on them. That couldn’t be safe, if all the snow started to freeze. She sped up, hurrying from gaslight to gaslight down the smooth path, trying to ignore the gnawing rumbling pain in her stomach. Home, the sign had said; it had to be nearby, right? Maybe not her home, but someone’s home. As the impatient thought was born, the light ahead brightened and swelled, as if she was coming over the edge of a hill into a city. Her pace picked up, and up again as the lights brightened and she was certain she could make out the edges of buildings, and again, as she heard a train whistle. Civilization! She bounded down the hill, driven on by visions of a thick mocha latte drowned in whipped cream.

She skidded to a halt halfway down the hill, tripped, tumbled, and landed on her back in a snowdrift. “No, no, no.” She shook her head, staring at the grey, starless sky. If she didn’t move, she didn’t have to look down at the little Dickensian scene below, didn’t have to acknowledge what she’d seen. There was a train. If she didn’t move, she wouldn’t get to the train. And the snow down the back of her neck was melting into a thin trickle of unpleasant coldness.

She levered herself to her feet, refusing to look up at the village just yet. The path was nice, predictable, something normal in this middle of this mess. She put one foot in front of the other, trying not to worry that they’d burn her as a witch before she could get to the train.

At least, she mused, looking unwillingly up at the black-and-sepia-garbed villagers in their nineteenth-century-finery, if they burned her as a witch, she’d be warm.

Warmth. The place might look archaic, but she could hear the train. The train had to get her someplace warm, assuming she could afford a ticket. Sandy wondered, faintly, if they’d take Visa.

She walked slowly now, keeping her eyes on the gaslights flickering down the street, the train station at the end of the road looking like something out of the miniature village set her roommate Cathleen had set up in the living room, the whole town having that posed-and-designed sense to it, right down to the spruce garlands.

The Victorian-clothed townsfolk didn’t seem inclined to burn her at the stake; they barely seemed aware of her existence. She hurried, still; she didn’t want to miss the train.

The ticket-seller at the station noticed her, at least. “One ticket, sir?”

Close enough. “One ticket, please.” She didn’t even care that there were no destinations listed on the board behind his head, just departure times.

“That’ll be one tech, sir.” He held out his hand.

Tech. Sir. There were at least two things wrong with that sentence, but she blamed the “sir” on the pants. “I’m sorry,” Sandy asked, wondering if the cold was ruining her hearing. “One what?”

The man looked impatient. “One tech, sir, or move aside.”

There was no-one behind her, no reason for him to get all that snippy with her. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what a tech is.”

“Then you won’t be taking the train, now will you? Get out of the way and let the paying passengers through!”

“What… okay.” She melted under his glare and shuffled aside, defeated. She didn’t know where she was, and the train had been her last, however irrational, hope at getting home, or at least someplace warm and civilized. And she didn’t have any of the local currency. If she couldn’t buy a train ticket, she probably couldn’t buy a room or even any food.

“A tech,” piped a voice somewhere near her knee, “is just that. Technology.”

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

A 15-minute ficlet; I blame worldbuilding

Posted originally here, in response to Ty’s 15-minute fiction prompt. It’s clearly not complete, but I like its beginning

They followed the newly-named Yarthout River all day, their little craft handling its rapids with a smoothness and ease that surprised Vas. Wisely, he kept his surprise to himself; Malia and Ezra would be unbearable enough about their success without him acknowledging it.

The cliff sides grew lower and lower as the sun, too, sank down, until by late afternoon, they were floating through a meadow of strange blue-flowered grain.

It was dinner-time when they reached the confluence of what he was now thinking of as “their” river and a wider, wilder waterway; Ezra and Paz guided their boat to the V between the two rivers, where the ground raised into a hillock covered in another flowered grain, sprinkled with trees that seemed to be some sort of fruit.

“It seems almost pastoral.” Malia had been saying things like that since they made landfall; Vas did his best to ignore all of it. It was unscientific, for one, and had no place in their research. For another, it set a mood in the party’s mind, coloring the places they studied in insidious ways that would end up skewing their later feasibility reports.

He would have ignored it again, but Paz was getting in on it now. “Not almost, Mal. Look at the way the trees are planted up there. That’s not a random placement.”

He opened his mouth to stop their silliness, but the view over Paz’s shoulder stopped him dead.

“That,” he croaked, “is a wall.”

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

Steam!Callanthe Story from Prompt

Part One: Plans

They hadn’t been meant to hear the news about Little Svon-on-Taba; they hadn’t been intended to be out of their rooms at all when the messenger came. Evanika and Orma were, as they had spent most of their childhoods and into what were nominally their adult years, grounded the week the messenger showed up. But, with a trait that had probably contributed to their state of perpetual confinement, they didn’t let a little thing like maternal disapproval (or the even-less-likely paternal censure) get in the way of their adventures.

So they had been in the back of the Emperor’s receiving room, anonymous among their cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and assorted other dozens of royal relatives, and conveniently camouflaged from discovery by Cousin Illavania’s immense feathered concoction of a hat, when the messenger, hastily cleaned up but still looking very much of the road, battered and scruffy and missing buttons on his jacket, bowed low and impatiently before His Eminence.

“We have found Little Svon-on-Taba, sire,” he’d announced eagerly, with an air of great importance emanating from him. The room had seemed less impressed with his announcement than he himself was, however; he’d gotten only a few gasps and quite a bit of murmured confusion.

Evanika and Orma had been just as lost as the rest of their family, but the Emperor had seemed intrigued enough that, when they’d retreated to Eva’s room, barely dodging detection by their father, they had immediately begun plans to discover more.

It had taken them over a week to research and prepare, their pace slowed by the necessity of hiding from their parents not only their plans, but the fact that they were working together on anything at all more complicated than eating dessert. All the while, several levels away in the huge castle warrens, the Emperor’s exploratory team made their own preparations.

They had to get there first; that was a given. Once they’d discovered what the story was behind Little Svon-on-Tabe, there had been no question if they were going; it became a matter, simply, of how.

Their older brother Iai provided the primary “how,” all unwitting; flitting from project to project in what appeared to be a family trait, he had put aside an small airship three-quarters of the way through building it because of a terminal flaw in the rudder design; he could not get the boat to properly detect nor navigate the air currents without making it too heavy for its air bladders to lift. In the mountainous ridged landscape of northern Callenia, the winds could easily be deadly for a ship with such a flaw; the ponderous, lumbering passenger air barges stuck to the valleys and lowlands, travelling, in many cases, the same paths as the river boats.

Making the boat steer itself was beyond the capabilities of either Orma or Eva, as it had been beyond Iai’s (Eva had held out some hope; together, the two of them could often outwit any one older relative). Eva had found a way to make the steering function manually, however, with the addition of two winglike appendages to the sides of the vessel to serve in lieu of a keel.

Orma had come up with the pièce de résistance, however, for their little expedition: spectacles, the metal-framed sort with the leather side guards that airship pilots wore to protect their eyes, but to these he’d attached a set of interchangeable lenses, pivoting from the sides up or down, to be looked through or not in whatever combination the wearer chose.

The lenses had taken most of the week and a few discrete calling-ins of favors on Orma’s part, while Eva designed and fabricated the wing-fins. Each individual lens, etched with the proper symbols and made of tinted glass, allowed the wearer to see into a different spectrum of what scientists, poo-pooing millennia of religious study, were now calling the aether. With the spectacles and Evanika’s new steering system, they could see the air flows and ride them, like riding the surf in a small sailboat. They could get to Little Svon-on-Taba faster in their tiny, swift aircraft thus than any river boat (going against current as it would have to) or plodding air barge could hope to.

With the questions of transportation and navigation out of the way, provisioning took only a few midnight trips out. They had done this enough times to know exactly what to swipe (and the castle staff, it seemed, had gotten used to their escapades; most of what they needed was already tidily packaged for them and waiting in their common hidey-holes); by the time they’d finished the fabrication of their tools, the ship was packed and ready to fly.

The maps had been the hardest; the castle librarian had gotten in some trouble over one or three of their earlier adventures, and, as such, was disinclined to help them or even let them into her domain. The closest city librarian was of a similar inclination, for similar reasons. They had to sneak all the way down to the West Quarter, a neighborhood that had been, in the days when their research was set, a very fine, up-and-coming place, and was now the sort of place where young royals should probably not be without an armed guard or three.

The very fact that no-one expected there to be royals in the West Quarter (combined with a bit of cleverness in the nicknames they used for each other and in their manner of dress) got them in and out of there safely, with the Allesely-dynasty-era maps of Little Svon-on-Taba, the Taba River, and Large Svon-on-Taba tucked away in Orma’s map case.

Two night before the Emperor’s exploratory party was even ready to leave, the pair floated their improved ship out of Iai’s launch bay. It moved perfectly, even loaded with supplies; the spectacles were amazing; they were actually doing it! Adventure awaited!

The ship glided a few lengths from the castle and jerked to a stop.

There will be more! I promise! But once I got to a stopping point at exactly 1000 words, I liked it so much I had to post it!

From wyld_dandelyon prompt “Strange glasses — not just steampunk-looking, but magical or cool in some mechanical way” and eseme‘s prompt “Also, I like blimps.”