From my card, the second row.
Settings include Addergoole, Tír na Cali, Facets of Dusk, and Space Accountant
5 stories, exactly 100 words each.
Content warnings: language, semi-dubious-consent. Continue reading
It was only a city block wide, but it had been allowed – some said by design – to become overgrown and wild, so that there were only two clear paths through the whole thing, an X crossing the park, the center a circle where, once upon a time, a merry-go-round had stood. People hurried through the center now, even in the middle of the day. The ghosts of the children were too densely packed there, and too loud.
Whitney cut through there every day. It took five minutes off of her walk, if she did it right, and that meant she could catch the 6:30 bus instead of the 5:30 bus and still be to work on time (instead of fifty minutes early), which meant another hour of sleep or reading or drawing in the morning and being able to actually stay up in the evening; on the way home, it meant she could take the 5:15 instead of the 5:45 home. She walked the park from the Northwest corner to the Southeast corner, which to her was a matter of practicality, but to our story means everything.
|Winter and Spring
Art by elmenora
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/203439.html. You can comment here or there.
Five years ago
“Aren’t I supposed to be the twister, the chaos-bringer?”
Spring looked at her older sister, trying to hide her amusement and really not succeeding at all. Her sister, in return, looked back at her with a glare that could melt paint.
“You are supposed to be, at the moment, helping me, and not telling Mom.”
“Have no fear, I still owe you for that… incident. But I want a picture.”
“Spring, if you don’t get me out of this damn tree, I’m going to get Winter to organize your sock drawer!”
“Coming, coming. Oy, Autumn, when did you get so cranky?”
Four years ago
“Explain to me again what you’re doing?” Summer sat on her sister’s bed, watching the haphazard packing and surreptitiously smoothing everything out, organizing it, and, just because she could, laying luck and happiness charms in every single shirt and pair of panties.
“I’m going on the road, more or less.”
“The RV thingy in the driveway would suggest that, yes. Weren’t you going to do college?”
“I was going to, but, well, Winter’s good at school and you’re going to be brilliant and… and I won’t be, either of those things. So the money’s for you two.”
“Nobel of you.”
Three years ago
“So how long are you going to do this?” Winter studied Autumn’s chaotic receipts, and, with a long-suffering sigh, began stacking them into organized piles.
“As long as I can afford to, as long as it’s fun, as long as it teaches me something.”
“You know you sound like Spring, right?”
“Well, it’s not as if she has a monopoly on making a mess, you know. She just happens to be the best at Tangling the world up.”
“All you seem to tangle up is your own life.”
She sighed. “That’s only the half of it, big brother, trust me.”
Two years ago
“I’m just saying, Autumn, you could bring someone home you actually intend to have a relationship with. He’s a nice boy, and he’s very appreciative of my cooking, but isn’t there going to be a special someone in your life? Even Spring has boyfriends.”
“Spring, generally, has boyfriends for about an hour. Maybe a month and a half if she’s been around Winter a lot.”
“Well, that’s Spring. You don’t need to be a chaos-demon, you know. One of those in the family is really quite enough.”
Autumn shook her head at her mother. “Mom,” she sighed, “I don’t TRY to make messes.”
One year ago
“I love your family, Autumn m’dear, but I get the feeling they’re not quite as fond of me.”
“It’s not that they don’t like you, Gregor, it’s that…”
“That I’m not the sort of boy that’s going to bring any grandkids. Although with a family of four, you’d think your mother would cut you some slack.”
“I’m supposed to be the ‘family’ one. Winter’s in charge of being level-headed, I’m in charge of being good with people…”
“Summer’s in charge of bad relationship decisions?”
“You saw that, too? Well, someone has to make the bad choices.” It shouldn’t always be her.
Thanksgiving, this year
“I know what it is,” Spring muttered to Winter. “I know what she’s doing.”
“Do you?” he asked gently, looking over at Autumn; his date and Spring’s were discussing business, much to everyone’s surprise; Autumn was making bad jokes with Summer’s dates and her own perpetual escort.
“You taught me how to see the tangles, Winter, I know you can see that one. The wild knot around her heart? The mess she’s pretending isn’t there?”
“Spring,” he answered, just as gently, “she’s always been a tangle. Chaos follows her.”
His littlest sister sulked. “Being a chaos-harbinger is my job.”
“It is. It’s her destiny, however.”
“Lady, ma’am, Mistress,” Jason gulped, “I have no idea what is going on.”
Her eyes met his in the rear-view mirror, and her voice was gentle as she spoke to him. “You know the important things, Jason. I have bought you, and you are mine now, correct?”
“Yes, Mistress,” he answered, too nervous to even feel resentful.
“When nobody else was interested, because of your spunk and attitude. That part’s important, don’t forget that.”
“Yes, Mistress,” he echoed, and, because she had mentioned his spunk, he added, “so you shopped the bargain bin for me. I get it.”
“That, too,” she agreed. “But it’s important to remember that I bought you for that spunk, not just because no-one else wanted it.”
He nodded slowly. “You wanted someone with… a personality?”
“Among other things. I wanted someone with some life left in them.”
“You make me sound like a bull in the arena,” he complained.
“That’s exactly right.” Before he could balk at that analogy, she continued. “You know you belong to me. You know why I bought you. You know that today is Samhain, Hallowe’en. And you know that I have a costume waiting for you. What else do you need?”
“Why are they dragging that woman away?” he tried. “Okay, revenge of the food, but this seems a little extreme. She’s crying.”
“You would, too. She’s been picked to tithe to the poor and needy for the next year.”
“Like that? By being hit with a stick?”
“Just like that.”
Jason shook his head. “You people are crazy, Mistress. Absolutely buck nutty.”
“Foreign,” she corrected. “We’re a lot different from your people, but that’s not the same as crazy.”
“Looks the same from here,” he admitted.
“Well, you’ll have to learn.” Stopped at a light, she looked back at him. “Make no mistake, Jason, while I’m interested in your ‘spunk,’ I am not interested in disobedience. I will give you clear rules. If you do not follow them, you will be punished. If you continue to disobey, I will sell you. And the place I will sell you to will make the work camps look like a vacation resort. Do you understand?”
Jason gulped, and nodded. “Yes, Mistress.” Shit, shit shit. “I understand. I’ll be obedient.”
“I know you will.” Her smile, this time, was sharp and predatory. “Mind you, there’s nothing saying you can’t be a brat. You just have to be an obedient brat.”
“O… okay. So it’s safe to say I think you’re crazy?”
“In private, yes. In front of other people, I might not be so tolerant.”
“… you people are all nuts. Mistress.”
“And you will learn how to live with us, Jason. Or else.”
Jason gulped. “Yes, Mistress. And are you going to tell me why you have a costume for me?”
“I could tell you why,” she decided. “I knew I was buying someone today. And we always do a costume event at the ranch for Samhain, getting in the spirit, you know?”
Jason nodded nervously. “Okay. So you… have a costume for some slave you might buy?”
“Well, you wouldn’t want to be left out, would you?” she smirked. “When everyone else is getting into the celebration?”
“Mistress,” he answered, as honestly as he could, “I don’t know what I’d be being left out of.”
“You’ll see soon,” she assured him. “We’re almost there.”
“Oh, good,” he answered tiredly, and settled back into his seat. The cuffs were pressing against his back, his feet and other bits were getting chilled, but it wasn’t the slave shop anymore, not the auction hall, and not a work camp.
He didn’t want to think things were looking up, he really didn’t. That seemed like asking for more trouble. And there was this weird Hallowe’en thing to contend with, and the unknown costume…
And a garage. His new owner was pulling into a large garage, between an SUV and a Mustang. “I do well enough for myself,” she answered his unspoken question. “Wait here.”
“Yes, Mistress.” What else was he going to do? He waited, while she headed out into the garage and disappeared from sight, waited while his fingers and hands started to grow numb and he started drifting off.
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So, the carpet guys are, right now installing my Awesome Giraffe carpet. Yay!!
And I made the garbage guy’s day this morning – I was wearing my Kitty Ear hat because my other hat was in the car, and it’s raining (raining! in December!) – and he gave the biggest smile. My Kitty Ear hat has Very Big Ears…
The window in the bedroom is making me throw things. We spent ~ 4 hours on it Sunday, another hour on it yesterday, and it will probably take another hour to three hours BEFORE I get to painting it.
The window is plumb and square, you see, because Father-man and Spouse-man and I installed it that way in early October. The walls are neither, and the exterior wall is of a variable thickness.
What’s more (note: the moulding I picked out, primed, and painted, as a start for re-doing the moulding in the entire house, is 2-1/4″ wide), the window is in a corner, ~3″ from the wall. On the top of the window.
That wall buckles out, though, so on the bottom of the window, it’s… well, closer to 2″ from the wall. With some creative casing. So new moulding.
Which means on the other side, to match the gap, we needed to add some drywall and scootch the wall in closer to the window. Which means more mudding and more painting.
Which means we might finish the window on Christmas, which has me a little frustrated right now.
What’s more, when T. pulled off the moulding on the door, to see what we had to do there…
…the door is lots neither plumb nor level.
(but I have my carpet!!)
I’m about 1000 days behind on reading LJ/DW, so if I’ve missed something, please let me know!
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Stranded world, after the Thanksgiving stories of recent.
Autumn’s mother greeted them warmly, hugging Gregor as if he was her own son, which, considering how often he showed up at family events, he might as well be. “Merry Christmas, Gregor. Merry Christmas, Autumn. Two holidays in a row! Truly I’m blessed.”
“Thank you, Mom.” Autumn smiled uncertainly at her mother’s effluvient happiness. “Summer said she wasn’t coming home for this one…?”
“Neither Summer nor Winter, but Spring will be home soon with her young man. I put your mail on your bed, honey.”
“Mail?” She blinked. “It came here and not my drop box? I’m sorry, Mom, I tried to get everything routed so it didn’t bother you…”
“Autumn, Autumn, helping out my daughter doesn’t bother me. Any of my daughters. It was just a couple things, anyway.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Feeling guilty, embarrassed, AND curious all at once, Autumn glanced at Gregor.
“I’ve seen your bedroom, Autumn. I’ve slept in your bedroom.”
“Shh, don’t tell my Mom,” she joked, winking at her mother. “I’ve sort of dying to see what this is,” she apologized.
“You and me both, darling.”
The mail was mostly prosaic – junk mail, a high school reunion letter, a mis-mailed bill. The small box, however, caught her eye, and she nearly opened it without reading the wrapping.
There was no return address, simply a postmark – Tucson, Arizona. She knew that handwriting, though, knew it better than she knew his voice.
“Tattercoats,” she whispered. “He always leaves things in the drops.”
“Maybe he didn’t want to risk it getting into the wrong hands?” Gregor offered.
“But what…” She opened the package with numb fingers. The box inside was no more explanatory, a simple carved box like you could buy in fairs and fests across the land. Her hands barely worked as she opened the small thing.
The paper was on top, and for a moment she was afraid this was a cruel joke, a prank of Tattercoats. He’d done small things of that sort before. She opened the paper without looking underneath, willing her fingers to feel again. Willing her heart to beat.
My Lady Fall, my Autumn Leaf.
I am a coward, and so a coward you find me, mailing this to your mother’s home rather than bringing it to you, sending you this instead of a ring that you so deserve, mailing you this instead of appearing, myself, with an apology. For an apology this is, and a hope that, after my dreadful behaviour, you may still consider me,
Your Bard for now and always,
She stared at the pendant, worked in gold, worked to look like one of her own trees, a ruby nestled in its trunk, its branches reaching up to hold the chain. “Bastard,” she whispered, her eyes wet with tears. She’d almost managed to walk away.
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He swallowed the sigh. Today should not be about angst, and there was enough to be happy about. “I’ve never had a sister before,” he told Ayla awkwardly, as they made their way into the tinsel-hung grotto.
“You have,” she teased. “From the sounds of it, lots and lots of sisters. And brothers.”
“And nieces and nephews,” he shook his head. “Our dear father seems to be both ancient and prolific.”
“Well, you’ll never be without family, then. Neither of us will. That’s kind of nice.”
“It is,” he agreed quietly. “That’s part of what I wanted to talk about.”
“Yeah?” She looked at him crookedly.
VI took a deep breath. “Okay, I have a feeling I’ll be making this promise a lot over the next four years, but here goes. I promise you, Ayla, that no matter happens, no matter who shows up in my life or yours, if you need me, all you have to do is tell me that, and I’ll help you out, whatever I can do.”
The air rippled and settled around them with the promise, and his sister blinked back tears. “Oh, Vi!” She hugged him tightly against her. “Vi… I promise the same. I’ll always be there for you!”
Christmas Eve, Year 25 of the Addergoole School (2019, 8 years after the apocalypse began)
“How do you think they’re doing?” Signy murmured, clutching her mug of cocoa.
“They’ll be fine,” Yngvi reassured her – reassured all of them, really, sitting around the café pretending their children weren’t all in prison for the holidays.
“I thought they’d come home for Christmas,” Ayla murmured. She’d been the one to make the call, this year, although usually it was Ein or Signy. It was always one of them, his Addergoole sisters, every Christmas Eve since 2003 (and they had quite a few to choose from).
“Even when they’re not Kept, they usually don’t,” Rory murmured; Callie’s kids were older than any of theirs, and so he’d gone through this before. “It gets weird, you remember, trying to shift between the real world and Addergoole.”
“But they’re my babies,” Ayla murmured. “Ni came home last year.”
“Only because your threatened to disown her if you didn’t get to meet your grandbaby,” Vi reminded her. “And it’s not that safe to travel anymore, Ay, you know that.”
“Yeah,” Signy murmured. “They’ll be fine.” She took a deep breath. “Think of it this way, guys. We always had each other. There was never a year when we didn’t have a brother or sister – or both – there to watch our backs. And our kids? Exponentially more family than we had.”
That got a smile from Aelgifu. “Indeed,” Yngvi smiled. “Our kids will always be there for each other, too.”
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To an anonymous prompt.
“Are you sure you’ll stay, then?”
Shea hadn’t been looking for the underground facility – hadn’t been looking, at least, for this specific, deep-cavern-system underground facility, with its refugee population hidden there since the Catastrophe. But, having found it, and, more specifically, having found them, Shea couldn’t leave without doing something.
Some of the refugees, some ancient, a few teenagers, three mothers of infants, had agreed to leave; Shea knew a place where they could be safe and learn to adapt to the world outside. But the Elder, and most of the rest of their group, were adamantly refusing to budge.
The Elder in question shook his head at Shea one last time. “I’m too old to find out what a post-Catastrophe world looks like. And many of the rest of the group were born down here. They’ve never seen daylight, never tasted un-filtered air. They wouldn’t survive the brightness.” He gestured at the dim emergency lighting that had sustained them all this time. “None of us can handle the greenhouse lights without protective gear anymore.”
Shea nodded. “I’ll be very careful with those who come with me. And for those of you that stay behind…”
The Working was complex, but Shea had grown used to strange and weird Workings while exploring the ruins of fallen civilizations. The trick was to make this one last, not a couple days, but as long as possible, ever changing.
After a small eternity, twenty or thirty minutes, Shea turned back to the Elder, a glass jar in hand. From the jar, a faint glow, barely brighter than the emergency lights, emanated. “This is my gift, a seed of a sun. It will grow, slowly, mimicking the effects of a real sun, although it will never be as bright as Sol. It will adjust over years, so that you have time to adapt to its light. Hang it in your largest cavern, and, in twenty years, grass will grow there.”
The Elder cradled the tiny sun-seed, tears coming to his eyes. “Thank you,” he murmured.
“I came here for enlightenment,” Shea answered dryly. “It is only fair that I leave some in return.”
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Everyone, Nelia had decided, had to have one relative they dreaded visiting, especially during the holidays.
In a family as wide, varied, and spread-out as Nelia’s, she wasn’t surprised that she had more than one – two uncles and an aunt, to be specific – that she really wanted nothing to do with. And she wasn’t surprised that Fate dictated she see all of them at least fourteen times a year.
The Friday before Christmas was, traditionally, what her mother called Visiting the Aunty Aunts time. The “Aunty Aunts” were four of her father’s aunts who lived together, along with two husbands and three ailing Chihuahuas, in a giant farmhouse that had once belonged to their parents. Rumor had it that Aunt Edna and Aunt Elspeth had never left the house and its surrounding property at all, not once in their ninety-or-so years of life.
They must, Nelia had decided, get the yarn trucked in. Every year, for every niece and nephew they had, Edna and Elspeth knit sweaters and mittens of thick, itchy wool in thick, complex patterns. The sweaters could stop a bullet or a hailstorm, if you could stand to put them on (they poked through up to three layers of under-shirt, and who could stand wearing three undershirts under a sweater a half-inch thick on its own?), and were the warmest pieces of clothing Nelia had ever owned. Only shrinking them “accidentally” in the wash got rid of them, and family tradition demanded they all Must Be Worn at least once a year around the Aunties.
She wriggled into last year’s baby-blue version, the cables making elaborate wave designs up the torso and seeming, in what had to be an accident, to wrap around and frame her small breasts. “Ready, Mom,” she sighed resignedly. “Keep the AC on in the car?”
“Of course, honey.” Mom was wearing her own pastel-pink version, hers covered in tiny flowers; Nelia’s brother Cam was wearing one in butter-yellow with train tracks on it and just as squirmy.
“Dearies.” Edna and Ethel greeted them with gentle hugs and tissue-paper cheek kisses. “You always look so warm and snugglie in our sweaters. It makes me sad,” Edna added, “that we didn’t knit this year.”
“Didn’t knit?” Cam, Nelia thought, looked almost disappointed. What was wrong with him?
“No, no, honey. We’re getting too old for all that knitting, so we saved it for the babies this year. Besides, if we’re supposed to be fairy godparents, we should, once in your lives, give you something you’ll use.”
“Fairy…” The look on Mom’s face stopped Nelia dead. Mom wasn’t amused, or hopeful, or worried about senility. She was horrified. “Aunt Edna,” Nelia tried carefully. “What do you mean?”
“She means,” Aunt Elspeth picked up, “that someone has to look after you kids, and the sweaters only do so much. So this year, well, we tatted up something different. This is for you, Dorotea.” She handed Nelia’s mother a small box. “With this, you will always know where your children are, and if they are all right.”
Let her be kidding. Let her be kidding. The last thing Nelia wanted was for her mother to know where she was all the time.
Aunt Edna picked up where Elspeth had left off. “For you, Cambrian,” she handed him another small box. “A place to store and order all your plans, so that you don’t forget them.”
Her little brother clutched the box to his chest with a wicked grin. “Thanks, Aunts Elspeth-Edna!” Nelia began to wonder what he was up to, that he needed something like that.
“And for you, Cornelia.” Elspeth handed over a third box. “That you always know when people wish you ill.”
Looking at the small box with a nervous and sinking heart (and the sudden feeling that Cam was plotting against her), Nelia suddenly wished for another sweater.
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