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“So,” Winter explained to his younger sisters, “the world is like a giant spaghetti squash.” He jammed his fork into their dinner. “Everything looks solid, right? But,” he twisted the fork, “if you grab things just the right way, you can see how it’s all made of long strands. Except in the case of the world, the strands are magic.”

His three younger sisters, used to taking Big Brother as the authority on everything, were still dubious.

The siblings Winter, Autumn, Summer, and Spring each manipulate and read the strands of the world in their own way, while attempting to live within the world as normally as possible. The Stranded World is contemporary fantasy, slice-of-life with a magical overtone, following the threads of their lives.

These stories are primarily one-shot pieces bouncing around the lives of the four siblings.


Good stories to Start With

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Orange

Orange

This story is the fifth one to my Squish-Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds Prompt Call

Stranded ‘Verse, after Family Distancing

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“There’s way too much orange around here.”   

The woman was probably five years too old to be a Karen. 

(Autumn was dreading the first time that someone called HER Karen.)

What she was, other than just past Karen-hood, other than wearing her cheap paper mask poorly  (her nose was showing) and wielding her overpriced designer purse like a weapon, was obnoxious. 

“It’s Autumn,” Autumn explained, from behind the protection of her very nice tie-dyed (orange and yellow) mask.  “It’s a harvest display.” Continue reading

Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Patch (over a picture of the same)

This story is the first one to my Squish-Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds Prompt Call. Summer, Bishop, and Melinda are part of the Stranded universe and first appeared as a threesome here.

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“So why is it a pumpkin patch and not like a wheat field or a rice paddy?”

Bishop had the front seat. Like normal, Melinda was driving.  She liked to drive, so on short trips, it was normally her. 

Summer was wedged as far up from the back seat as she could without making Melinda uncomfortable.  She’d spent a lot of her childhood in the middle of the backseat, so it wasn’t unusual, just… not really what she’d thought she’d be doing with adulthood. 

There were things about being part of a threesome that didn’t come up in the literature. 

“To make it sound cute? Like you know, it’s the part of the garden, it’s a wee home-town pumpkin patch?”  Melinda hissed at the four-way stop.  “I hate these.  I hate these, nobody does them right… right, it’s my turn now.  It’s my turn now, stop.”

Summer threw a little curse at the car who was ignoring the rules of the all-way stop and a little blessing at the car and at Melinda, who was probably already blessed enough that she ought to be floating.  

Of course, with the way Melinda got when traffic annoyed her, the car ought to be floating, too.  

They made it through unscathed and un-honked-at. 

“I don’t usually like twee things,” Summer admitted.  “Like, orchards, fine.  Like two weeks ago.”  The apple-picking had been great; the hard-cider drinking when they got home had been wonderful, and two weeks of apple desserts had been amazing.  “Orange groves.  Peach…”

“Pits?” Bishop added playfully. 

“I think they’re orchards, too.  We grew up next to peach and apricot trees.  And nectarines.  I can almost taste them…”

“Little late for peaches,” Melinda pointed out.  “When we’re on our way to a pumpkin patch and a maize maze.  Now it’s mmm mulled cider and your mom’s pumpkin pie recipe and your brother’s pumpkin ice cream recipe and… your sister’s…”

“Pumpkin ale.  Or Peyote pumpkin seeds.  Depending on which sister you’re talking about.”

“Pumpkin patches,” Bishop cut it.  “Makes me think of cabbage patches.  And why you don’t find kids in pumpkin patches instead of cabbage patches.”

“It was lime trees in countries that didn’t have cabbages.”  Summer’d done a paper on this last year.  “I think it’s the leaves.  Pumpkins have smaller leaves.  You could fit a kitten or two under one.  But you can’t fit a kid under one.”

“Where did the stork get involved?”  Melinda took a turn at a sharp right.  

“Places where it wasn’t a witch-woman or a woods-nymph.  My mother – some kids down the street, their mother told them that the Old Woods Lady brought the babies, the way her mother had told her, and they came up to Mom and asked her where she got the babies from.”  Summer chuckled.  She was pretty sure she hadn’t told her partners that one, but after five years together, they’d all repeated a few tales. 

“So… Not much chance of finding a baby in the pumpkin patch unless a stork touches down or your Mom comes out of the woods?”

There was an interesting catch in Bishop’s voice.  Summer glanced at him, but he was doing a good job of hiding his expression. He usually did.  They were always too good of actors, all three of them.  

“No, just some jack-o-lanterns.  And then pies, and pumpkin seeds, and mulled cider.”  Summer paused.  “If we’re looking for babies, we’re going to need a different patch.”

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Sunshine & Summertime

Sunshine and Summertime

I was driving home from my writing retreat in August, listening to this song…

The only thing on my agenda is
Beers and sunshine
Bonfires and summertime
Back porch nights in South Carolina
And I started thinking about Summer and… well, she has this power.  How does she use it?
Sumer is a character in my Stranded World Setting.  She is a perpetual student.  Tad here tells us pretty much everything else we need to know about her – i.e, you can read this story without knowing anything about the setting except that it is modern, magic exists, and most people don’t know about it.

“You gotta help me.”

Summer tilted her head at – she was pretty sure she knew his name.  Brad? Chad?

Tad!

“I have to help you?  Really?”

“You gotta help me! Look.”  He lowered his voice to a whisper that probably couldn’t be heard in the next county over.  “I know you do the hoodoo.” Continue reading

Straw Man

Straw Man

For the sake of continuity and the fact that I did say the pandemic existed in this universe, this story is set the year before this.

Summer has been in a relationship with Bishop and Melinda for several years.  This story comes after “Graduation… or not” on Patreon (opened for all to read); this is where they were first introduced as a trio. 

This was prompted in my Bisexual Visibility Day prompt call.

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“Just one party?” Summer coaxed.  “I know you’re both busy, I know everything is a little nuts, but one party?”  

Her partners shared a glance.  Melinda looked over at the pile of books on the coffee table.  Bishop glanced over at his laptop.  They looked back at Summer, raised eyebrows at her, and then, as one, sighed.

“Matched costumes?” Bishop started. 

“-and not the frat parties?” Melinda added. 

“Oh, yeah.  I have some ideas, but you had a couple great ones last year, Bish, and I thought maybe we could try one of those?  I’m taking advanced costuming this semester…”  Summer’s smile was infectious, but the slight uncertainty was heartbreaking. 

Bishop wrapped her in a hug seconds before Melinda did, both of them kissing the top of her head.  “Sum,” he whispered.  “Sum, I promise.  It’s Halloween.  You never have to beg us to go.  No matter how busy I am-“

“-no matter what we’re doing,” Melinda  put in.  “We’ll always be with you for the holidays.  Always.”

“-but I am not being the Scarecrow ever again,” Bishop joked.  “That straw itched.”

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Family Distancing

Why, no, I’m not going through all my settings and seeing how they’d reacting to a pandemic.  I mean, well, maybe a little.  Any you want to see?

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Winter, Autumn, Summer, and Spring.

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“6 p.m. Eastern,” Summer was saying as Autumn logged on.  “You were early, Winter, of course.  Spring’s late, of course.”

“She is on the West Coast,” Winter retorted mildly.  He was wearing his work shirt and tie sans jacket and he’d loosened the tie.  The whole image looked very professional against his home bookshelf, if you ignored the fact that he was holding Tortuga, his half-grown cat, while Myrrh, his ferret, climbed the bookshelf and Dehradun, his kitten, napped on the laptop keyboard. 

Autumn giggled, even though it might not be kind. Of all of them, she’d have expected Summer to be the pet owner, not Winter. 

“She is,” Autumn agreed, “and being on time would disagree with her.  How are you both?” Continue reading

23 Days Before Christmas

Happy holidays to all of my lovely readers!

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It was cold. This time of year, Autumn would normally be heading South or heading home.

But when her flight had been delayed and then cancelled, when all rental cars were out and the train had a mysterious breakdown, Autumn took the hint the universe was dropping in her lap and took the convoluted bus route with all the overnight-or-longer layovers.

She had been a little concerned about the first town on her list, since a quick internet search had told her it had a population of just over a thousand, and shrinking. 

While she loved small towns more than most things in the world, in the last couple years, Autumn had been having a little more trouble finding, as it were, room at the Inn.

Airbnb turned out to be her friend, and although three of the five places available in or near North Van Der Zee were booked, and the fourth one look a little too questionable even for Autumn, the fifth one was open and even affordable, all things considered.  Continue reading

The Summer of Discontent

This is a Summer story and it turned out a little… um.  Not quite dark, but with dark-adjacent bits. While nobody in the story is either depressed nor suicidal, there’s frank discussion of both in the story.

Summer is Autumn’s middle sister; Bishop and Melinda are her partners.  Add first appears here. This story is contemporary with Graduation… or Not

“Summer’s sitting on the roof again.”

Add barely looked up from their homework. Med school was a bitch, and it left them impatient with dramatics of any sort.

“House roof or Bolsch Hall roof?” The house roof was lower but steeper and slicker, being the slate-shingled roof of an old Victorian in Collegetown.

“Bear Hall roof.” Melinda didn’t really have any more time than Add did, or than her partner Bishop did — he was at the library right now — or their other roommate, Carney. But it was her girlfriend, their girlfriend (but Bishop was busy) and something had gone weird with Summer in the last couple semesters. Continue reading

Worldbuilding Wednesday: Strands in Odd Places

So @Shutsumon started doing Worldbuilding Wednesday on Mastodon and that got me thinking and so then I started and…

well, here’s last week’s post. I’m going to try to post them a week after I toot (post on Mastodon) them.


Strands in Weird Places

In theory, Stranded World is composed of “Strands” which make up the connections of every thing and being to every other thing and being; certain people can see, manipulate, or read the Strands but they come into existence and eventually fade away on their own in a constant cycle of renewal. 

In practice, the Strands that strand-workers read/manipulate are like you took a page full of the very lightest pencil lines going everywhere and then added just a few bright marker lines: strong connections between people or between a person and an animal/plant/thing.  

For instance: I have a very strong connection with my husband, a rather strong connection with my cats, and rather strong connections with my grandparent’s house/farm. Compared to my connection to the guy sitting across from me on the bus, the cat I saw at the winery the other week, the apartment we lived in for a couple months when I was 20, those connections are going to be thick and easy to pick out. 

Sometimes, you end up with “Weird” connections:

People who met for three minutes at a bus stop who form a Strand so thick it pulls them back together, so that they reinforce that strand, so that it pulls them together again. 

A place that takes on so much of its own character that it holds on to connections; not only do people remember it for a long time, but it remembers them, and so the strands are no longer dependent on living memory. 

A moment in time will, on very rare occasion, create connections, which form a line between all of the people experiencing that moment and anchor people to that moment.  In some cases, it makes time warp strangely around it, such that even thinking about it for too long can create wrinkles much later on. 

Sometimes you end up with places, or animals, or plants that somehow not just form strands — since everyone and everything can do that to some degree — but manipulate them. 

There’s a tree in the middle of a forest that likes to loosen some bonds and form others, and you never know until you climb up into its branches which might happen. 

There’s a cat who wanders the suburban evenings tangling strands up, leaving a wake of small chaos behind her and caring about as much as she’d care about a ball of yarn. 

And there are events which are so tangled up from their very creation that just moving towards them — Burning Man, but only sometimes, for instance; certain marches on certain places; certain prayer circles and certain parties — changes the person moving, for better or for worse. 

The Great NanoWrimo Prompt Call

Turn, Turn, Turn

Originally posted on Patreon in October 2018 and part of the Great Patreon Crossposting to WordPress.

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Something about Autumn tends to lean towards long stories, I suppose.  

Here’s Autumn in autumn.

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By the nature of her travels, Autumn tended to see places, if she saw them repeatedly, during the same season every year.

So she might have been forgiven for missing this particular place, since for five years, she saw it only in the stage when spring slides into summer.

She thought it a particularly bright place then, cheerful and full of excitement and a little bit too chaotic for her tastes, even when she was feeling a little excited and a little eager.  She would stay a night, dance in their party – there always seemed to be a party – and move on with a smile, leaving behind one more drawing in their bustling bar.

It was autumn now, coming into the time when she would have to go further south or find a warmer place to settle for a few months, and a broken part in her van had pointed her in a direction she would not normally have taken. Continue reading

A Splash Of Color

Originally posted on Patreon in September 2018 and part of the Great Patreon Crossposting to WordPress.

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This story is not, per se, for this month, but since it’s about Autumn, here it is. This is because Eseme made an Autumn doll, but her hair faded, leaving me with the urge to write a story about Autumn’s hair fading. 

The working title of this story, right up ‘till today, was ‘Autumn Hair.’

At over 7000 words, it’s a bit of a read. 

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The fest was just beginning Day Four — Thursday — when Autumn came into town to set up her booth.  That was within the festival rules; as long as you were there for the weekend and as long as you paid for the time you were there, you could show you whenever.  It was part of what had attracted her to the fest in the first place.

She unloaded her gear from the back of her van, set up her tent, and, from the pleasant shade of its canopy, looked around. Continue reading