True, but give an inch and he’ll take a yard

“No.”

I should have looked at him, considering how serious he sounded. He never sounded serious. He was too lighthearted to sound serious in this way. I did not, though, as I was too busy positioning the ficus’ pot. “Sorry, my friend, but yes. Go have-”

Go have fun. That was what I wanted to say. The sound that escaped me, instead of the word ‘fun’, was more of an undignified squawk than anything else. He grabbed me from behind, hands under my arms and lifted me straight off the ground. It was a good thing I’d put the ceramic down.

“What are you doing?”

“You are not staying here another day. We are going out.”

I hated when he used his height advantage against me. Or width. Mass. I didn’t mind being small, just him being large. My protests came out as a series of small pushes against his hands, which did not loosen. “I am not. I don’t want to. I’m busy gardening!”

“You are busy rearranging things you rearranged yesterday. You’re making up more work for yourself now. We are going out. I won’t let you stay holed up for an entire week again.”

The fact I liked being “holed up” did not seem to hold any weight in this argument, so I didn’t bother bringing it up. In vain, I tried to think of something else. “We can do something. Here.”

My suggestion changed nothing. “No. We’re going out.”

Eventually I had to give up, because there would be nothing more embarrassing than him bodily seating me in the passenger seat of his car. Contritely, I got in the car when he set me down and put on my seat belt.

There would be other ways of escaping my friend’s socializing tendencies.

Moving forward in the muck

The muck stuck to their shoes, keeping them from moving. Was this how wet cement felt? They had always wondered. Instead, the swamp wanted to eat them alive. Great.

Somehow they managed to fight the suction and take another step forward. The grime had penetrated everything. The mud had traveled up their pant legs, caked from their ankles to their knees. Further up, their trousers had begun to dry off, becoming a crusty disgusting layer that grated against their skin.

What bothered them most though, was the dirt under their nails. All they wanted to do was stop and try to pry the grains out from underneath, with the nails on their other hand, just as filthy. It was pointless.

Trying not to think about it, they trudged forward as the dirt covered more and more of them. First wet, then dry, until wet again.

At least cement would have killed them by now.

Is no longer there

Where that place used to be, where we
had our first first and
everything could have been considered perfect,
rushing us toward the future where we
emerged from our prisons and became one.
We can no longer find this place, the place we
extinguished our flame and you became
understanding of
something which
excluded everyone, excluded me.
Down into the abyss of the future, where I must
try on terms of my
own, alone,
but without you I can still move forward,
emanating a newness in a place that no longer is.

To bind a spell

Kya squinted, hair flying around in the wind. She would have to cut it, she kept thinking, but she never got around to it. She could see below the dust at the bottom of the canyon blowing into a solid mess. It wasn’t a new phenomenon, here, but today it was distracting her from something that was very important to her.

She watched the turbine spin, faster and faster, until it reached its max speed. Everything was working as she had intended for it to. Now, to see if this power could energize the one thing that she had never had the amount of power to begin. The magic involved had always asked for too high a price. Kya would supersede that now with mechanical power, powered by the wind, beyond what anything her hometown had ever seen.

The handheld device turned on, the gears within working the magic that had been described to her in all of the letters she had read, from several people, most particularly from the boy she was trying to contact now. But she had often gotten it this far, without further results. She did her best not to absently fiddle with the wires. That wouldn’t help. She just had to wait for the energy to come.

Finally, the screen cleared. She saw a room, just barely, and a couple figures moving around in it. Eventually one came closer, as the picture sharpened up ever so slightly.

“Hauke?”

He peered into his side and smiled. “Kya!”

For the first time, she could see her brother’s face.

Whispers you hear in the silence

Shui could hear them, when things were quiet enough. They were still there, waiting for him. The wailing, the moans.

Of course, the solution for this was simply to make sure things were always loud. During the day, in the city, that was easy enough. At night, in the city, that was also easy enough. The problem was that he had to go to sleep at some point and there wasn’t always the promise of someone being there if he didn’t play his cards right.

“What are you doing?”

“Just… don’t say anything.” Shui tried not to look at him, as he lay down next to Kun with his back toward him. “Do you snore?”

“I’ve never been told as such.” Kun sounded amused. Shui didn’t know whether to feel insulted or not. Kun wasn’t telling him to get out of bed though.

Nevertheless, he felt like some explanation was in order. “I’m just tired. I can’t get to sleep.”

“Hm?”

“It’s too quiet tonight. I hate the winter.”

“Shui, I didn’t need an excuse. Good night.”

Shui relaxed. “Night.”

The night was not good. Kun was his best friend, but keeping away the whispers was not something he was good at.

A victim

“Take a deep breath.”

She did so, looking up at the strange man. He looked human enough, unlike her. Her mousy features were more than just features and that wasn’t meant in a shy way or from a dull brown hair color. Her hair was a blue grey, curling despite anything she did to it, except for the hair which crew on her ears, which had come in much darker. Her eyes were reddish, no sclera to be seen, at least by the usual standards. She’d hated it, since coming to move to the city. No one had cared out in the country. No one at all.

“My name is Jay, I’m a private investigator.”

“Vlora.” She took another deep breath. “I saw a monster.”

“You don’t need to speak until you’re ready,” Jay assured her. She wondered just how quietly she had spoken. She focused on her trembling arms and closed her eyes for a few moments. “When you’re ready, you can tell me what you meant by monster.”

Vlora swallowed more air, finally feeling Jay’s coat around her and the cold of the water she had recently been submerged in. “In the water. After that strange person pushed me in.” She brought her hands up to her face to brush away droplets from near her eyes. “It wasn’t a fish. It wasn’t human. I-I don’t know what it was. It glew.”

Jay rubbed her hands with his own and some warmth felt like it was returning to her.“What do you mean?”

“Not it’s eyes or nothing like that. All of it. This… green glow? I think it was green. It was so dark in the water, I only seen it because of the light.”

He nodded, pulling the coat further around her. “Do you remember anything else about it? Other than the fact it glowed.”

As hard as Vlora tried, she could not. She shook her head. “No, I… I just remember thinking that it was a monster. I don’t remember why. I’m sorry.”

“That’s all right.”

He continued to assure her of this as she heard the ambulance come. Only later did she wonder why he had stayed with her, instead of going to do whatever else he needed to do after getting the information from her. She would wonder that until he came to see her again.

To scare a ghost

“Did you hear that? Tell me you heard that!”

Tobiasz almost held his breath, before remembering he hadn’t had to breath since he was alive. Which reminded him he hadn’t made a noise at all. Surprised, he looked around.

“Are you sure that wasn’t you?”

“I’m telling you, I heard something!”

Tobiasz heard something too. Considering he was the ghost haunting here, the fact there was a sound he didn’t recognize…

“Boo.”

Tobiasz let out a small scream. Then the humans, on the other side of the wall, did the same. Tobiasz slid down through the floor.

The Kobold laughed. Sometimes, other ghosts were the most fun to frighten.

Mission versus Desire

Sora no longer wanted to be infiltrating this place.

He had done it so well. Haruto was such a helpful person. He had wanted to give Sora everything he had asked for. Showed him the ins and outs of everything. No one had been the wiser. No one at all recognized who Sora was.

Haruto was too nice.

This city was going to die. Sora’s general had told him this years ago. Once he had found where they had taken the captain, then Sora would begin the rescue mission. Then this city would burn.

Or drown. Or collapse. Whatever it was that the general chose. Sora didn’t know. It never mattered to him before.

Why did he like living here so much? Why did he not care where the captain was?

“Here we are! You can see the entire city from here. That sounds so cliche!” Haruto laughed, larger than life, as he did everything.

Sora looked at him, then out and down over the city that would soon be destroyed. He pulled his hair back over his shoulder, pretending to be in awe and not in shock.

He wanted this city to live.

“It’s beautiful.”

“Just wait for the sunset, my friend. It’s beautiful now, to be sure, but at sunset! At sunset you will see!”

Sora watched the shift as the light waned. He wanted this city to die. Then this moment would have to be memorialized forever in his memory. Never to be ruined by future events.

He would have to kill Haruto too. After finding the captain.

Sora stared down at the street lights, watching the foot traffic. Never had he felt so conflicted before. He had to kill Haruto now, despite how useful he was. Sora couldn’t afford this indecision.

“What do you think?”

Now or never.

Taking in a deep breath, Sora turned toward him and smiled.

“I have a secret to tell you.”

It was the worst of times, situationally, then it wasn’t

He sat in the car and waited. The instructor had kept him waiting. Five, ten minutes. Sitting there, waiting.

The instructor finally arrived, spouting off instructions. He followed all of them, to the letter. Or he believed he had. The panic rose within him, panic he had never felt before when sitting in his car. No matter who sat beside him, he had felt comfortable here.

Now someone was truly going to judge him on this. He didn’t like the feeling.

It was raining. Starting out, listening to all of the instructor’s directions, it went well. As the rain came down harder and harder, it was more and more difficult to hear what it was he was supposed to do.

He no longer recognized the streets. Then again, this wasn’t his hometown. There was no one to give him his test there.

The instructor raised his voice, still calm and collected. Not as if he had trusted his life to a person who could possibly have no idea what they were doing. The tester began to wonder if he had ever known what he was doing.

Finally, finally, he was told to park the car. Back where it had started.

He was told about what he had messed up, given his paper.

He had passed.

With a sigh of relief, he followed the instructor back inside to stop in the bathroom. Time not to look like he had had a panic attack for his picture.