Slightly on the outside

“Look! He’s here!”

Deston looked as his sister bid him. Roland was his friend and he would be pleased to see him. He was a little less pleased with how pleased Temperance was to see him. Not that it was his business how she felt. He simply hoped that Temperance would not sadden herself with Roland’s continued lack of interest.

This had been going on for a year. At the least.

“Hey Roland, what’s up?” Temperance asked him.

Roland sat on the other side of the table, the waitress getting his regular without giving him the chance to ask. “Shields is banned from roof work.”

Temperance snickered. Deston waited for an explanation that never came.

“My parents’ house is done, despite his best efforts.”

“That’s great!” Temperance exclaimed. “We should celebrate! Deston, we have to buy a good house warming gift!”

Deston nodded. He didn’t know what would make a good house warming gift, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t try. Roland’s mother liked flowers, so perhaps a vase? She would appreciate that.

Temperance leaned forward over the table, pressing her arm into Deston’s arm. “Did they say when their doors will be opened? Need any more help moving things?”

Roland smiled. “I know mom would say that she had everything in hand, but she would definitely appreciate it if anyone showed up to help move things in. Shields is not banned from helping with that though, so it’s not going to take very long.”

“Are we sure he’s not a workaholic?”

“You want to say that in front of your brother?”

The other two laughed. Deston wasn’t sure that was a word that described him, but perhaps relaxing was difficult sometimes. Without realizing it, he’d smiled.

Time to buy a vase.

Seamstress of magic

It was a spectacle to hide the truth of her work.

Zlhna didn’t like to lie. She told her audience it would change their lives and then she would begin. Pulling the threads of power through the air, people believed as she had said. Afterward she would hear how they would never forget the image of something they could barely see being pulled into a different form, one indescribable to most.

That was not what Zlhna truly meant.

She was a seamstress and she did not bring her own material with her. She pulled the magic from the very existence of their location and turned it into something beautiful. That was not what she meant. She turned it into something better.

Not everyone thought it was better.

Yet she had yet to hear that it was bad. She believed it must be done. Zlhna would continue to do it. Because she believed it must be done.

Because Mai believed in her.

At one point, he knew

When they won their fight, they had received all they had asked for.

Objects swirled in the darkness. In sight. In touch. There was nothing after that, absolutely nothing. After taking what had belonged to him, it had all gone. Each of them had wanted this. It was so close and none hesitated to take it, not even the most cautious of them.

And what had awaited them was pain. Objects swirling in the light. In sight. They could finally touch it. Everything came after that, absolutely everything. Everything from nothing was too much for even the strongest to handle. The darkness of unconsciousness finally overtook him. He had watched as one by one, the others dropped to the ground. Because they were other people.

What did that mean?

When he awoke, he groaned. He lay on a bed, in a dark and windowless room that consisted of nothing else. His eyelids flickered open and shut as he examined the ceiling. Dim memories rose to the top of his consciousness. A strange feeling sat in his chest. Breathing in, he tried to figure out what it was.

Beating.

A heart.

Feeling.

Slowly he sat up, his heart beating faster in his excitement. He didn’t know why. It came with the discovery of these emotions. For some reason, he wanted to be calm again to properly think about these new feelings. After the initial exhilaration however, he wondered why. He wondered about everything. He tried to remember.

He and his friends had succeeded. In what? Regaining self. How had he lost it? He didn’t remember. There had been a fight to regain it.

This means… He tried to think about it without being overwhelmed. Darkness waited to claim him if he strained in that direction. My name is… He paused, trying to remember.

My name is.

For the life of him, he could no longer remember.

From the top

The music stopped. He looked at her and waited.

Slowly, she lowered the flute from her lips. “What was I playing?”

He had known it was coming, but it hurt to hear her say that nonetheless. “Poulenc’s Sonata.”

“Oh.”

She began again, from the top. He waited, hoping she would be able to finish.

Always win

“Bran! What brings you here at this time of day? Come to lose your money?”

Bran narrowed his eyes at the speaker. His dark brown hair was bound back into a long ponytail which accentuated the couple of scars which rested on both sides of his face. The rest of his physique did not seem at all marred by those marks, in fact many would say that it made him look even more handsome. He looked over at the person who pulled over another wooden stool to the table he was at.

“I don’t have the time-” Bran started, only to join the man in front of the shop. “How are things?”

Rudolph flashed off a grin. He had stark black hair which was cut close to his face including a short beard and mustache hair. The older man looked like he would be right at home in a gambling hall, according to Bran. Rudolph wouldn’t likely deny it either. A deck of cards always found itself in his hands. Bran found it strange he would come here to see him. There was nothing in this direction to interest Bran, other than Rudolph. Rudolph just seemed to know more then he let on and that interested the young man. As it would interest anyone his age to discover something hidden.

“Oh, the same, the same.” Rudolph shuffled the cards, dealing as though Bran had agreed to play. “How is Daniel? I see he has pushed a little more restraint on you. You two still messing about?”

Bran could not resist the smile that came to his lips. He picked up his cards. “Yeah, we’re still hanging out. You saying I’ve mellowed out?”

“No, not at all!” Rudolph placed the deck down and started the game. “How’s school? You still failing?”

“As if!” Bran drew two more cards. “Dude, failing would mean I would have to go back!” He shook his head as Rudolph discarded and drew. “Anyways….” He sighed at his next card. “Dan would murder me if I failed. He says he spent too much time during mid-school hauling my ass out of the dirt he isn’t about to now that it’s bigger.”

Rudolph snorted, setting down his cards and signaling to a waitress for a drink. “He would be the only one to notice.”

Bran narrowed his eyes, though his smile did not fade. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I mean, no girl would look twice at you, so it would take someone who’s known you forever to tell.” Rudolph grabbed Bran’s cards and started to tally his points.

Bran scowled. “Shows what you know.”

“What? Does Bran have a girlfriend?” Rudolph widened his eyes in mock surprise.

“As if! There are plenty of girl’s willing to fall to my charm if I wanted them.”

“And you’re what, too busy?” Rudolph dealt the next hand.

“Hardly, it’s just-” Bran stopped, shrugging. “It seems it’s either school, practice, or pranks… I really’d rather not cut into my own time.”

Rudolph frowned, deeper in thought than he usually appeared. “Practice…. at the artillery range? You still doing that?”

“Of course!” Bran felt insulted at Rudolph’s tone.

“Now, now.” The older man set down the next cards with a shake of his head. “I see you aren’t paying attention….”

Bran blinked and looked back at his cards, setting a few down with a smirk. “You’re going to beat me anyways, Rudolph. Is this all you do?”

“No.” Bran couldn’t help but snicker at that. Rudolph rose an eyebrow at him. “It’s just all you catch me at.”

“What happens when you lose?”

Rudolph laughed. “I turn back time.”

The Beginning

We began, one day, toward your goal.
I asked where it was and you
laughed, shrugged, saying it didn’t matter.
Likely.
I don’t know how it
started, you were the person I knew I could follow,
trust,
and so I did. And so your soul flew,
right next to mine.
Truly.
We began, one day, toward my goal.
I didn’t see it happen, so I missed my exit.
Lost,
Laconic, and we both ended up, together, toward
you. I smiled, I spoke, while you listened. It didn’t seem to matter.
Obviously we decided to remain the
undeniable friends we’d become and
so we did. We matched the challenge perfectly.
Terribly.
And we began, one day, but I can’t remember when that was.
You smile, saying it doesn’t matter. I agree, only because you said so.
…it was too long ago that I had begun.

What is the mind of a god

“-please, I beg you-”

He snorted. A large paw stretched out, landing on the source of the noise. He never heard the minuscule creature’s scream. That was over. Flipping onto his back, the creature stared up into the sky.

He was bored, that was the problem. It was a dangerous thing, a creature of ultimate power being bored. Especially for one who didn’t think of consequences for others when he acted. He was far beyond that in years. One might have said old age made one wiser. Maybe it was true, but immortality had taken caring away. Why did it matter? The rest would die in the end. The one consistency in life, for everyone but him.

Not caring was easy.

He had begun to play catch with the humans of a village. There were the occasional ones who caught him by surprise, who would amuse him. He let those live a little longer. Until they too, eventually, bored him.

He was the god of sand. None of the other immortals had wanted the desert, so he had helped himself to it. Something of his own, at last. He fell asleep in a sandstorm, sand becoming one with his fur, his fur which could have been sand. He was sand. This was where he belonged.

He could pretend he was happy. Or at least content.

Then, without ceremony, during his slumber, he was sealed away.

The inconsequential beings cheered. They had been saved from the beast! He roared in outrage within his tiny cell. They couldn’t understand the time he had lived, they couldn’t even understand the wish to contain him! His mind shook with outrage. He sunk more deeply into his torment as he attempted to break free.

It was no use. The people had been saved from their tormentor.

We didn’t have a choice

I cursed my ill-gotten luck, managing to roll out of the wreck that was once our ship. Dark blood spilled from the scrape which measured from my left shoulder down to my right hip bone. My once pristine uniform was in tatters. It had been so long since it had looked new, all of my repairs had gone to nothing by now. The ship (given to us by some kind aliens, given from the bottom of their threatened hearts) had barely survived the trip back. Only the fortunate coincidence of a planet’s gravity dragging them in gave me a chance to fix it.

“Come on,” I muttered. I pulled you out of the cockpit, despite the pain that accompanied every movement. I pulled your unconscious form out and fell onto the grass to catch my breath.

The sky was familiar. I’d been here once before, in a time before time. Reaching to my left arm, I brought up my holographic projector. Images scrolled in front of my eyes, my notes, my disguises, my languages. My computer stopped on one that looked familiar twice over.

We were on Earth.

I hadn’t thought we’d return here again. Not after the second time.

I hadn’t made the decision to close my eyes. My eyelids fluttered shut at some point and when I opened them again, a dark shape hovered between me and the moon.

“We need to hide the ship,” came your raspy voice.

I ignored you and sat up. I must have slept some, for I felt better. “Do you know where we are now?”

“Earth.”

The fact you sounded unsure surprised me. I turned to face you. “Yes. This is Earth. Your domain, not mine.”

“Shut up.”

I watched you stand up and wander back over to the wreckage. You studied it intently, as if your gaze might revoke some of the damages. I stood up.

“How long will it take to fix this? Repairs on-”

“We don’t have the equipment,” I reminded you.

The hesitance in your voice was so strange to hear. “I… know someone who might.”

The guilt assaulted me quickly, a new emotion I was still not used to. A new emotion evoked by comments I never would have thought of on my own. You were at fault for this. You and…

“No. I will not ask him for help.”

We didn’t have a choice.

Slam dunk should be one word

I examined the passage, only to realize I was going to fail the test.

I wish the thought had hit me like a brick, because then I would’ve had an excuse to cry and go to the hospital. Unfortunately, no bricks were coming to save me.

Everyone else stared intently at their computer screens. No way to know if they were struggling like I was, because I couldn’t look away from my screen long enough to examine their faces. I could have screamed.

And then someone did.

“Yeah! Done!”

“Graves, be quiet.”

But while Graves was quiet, he slam dunked his keyboard on his desk and left the room.

Needless to say, all the rest of us were thoroughly distracted and were given more time.