audiomachine’s Heroes of PHENOMENA




CD Baby

Composed by Paul Dinletir, PHENOMENA was brought to life by 180 musicians in the heart of Air Lyndhurst Studio in London, with the powerful beat of 10 concurrent percussionists, a compelling choir of 80 voices and the commanding force of a 90 piece orchestra. Charged with emotional depth, PHENOMENA will capture the imagination and complement the core of every story.

Journey Through the Portal with audiomachine, where music strikes enchanting chords and Whispers of Wonders spill from the bowed lips of strings. Rise with a tide of tongues in a surging tribute to the Legacy of the Lost, while celestial sopranos slice a haunting scar of eternal Red Sorrow. Herald the Legends of Destiny with the drumming bones of a hundred hands, whose stirring pulse of Blood and Stone rushes in veins of imminent destruction. Soar Above and Beyond endless possibilities with the heart-hammered keys of creation, unlocking the metallic mystery behind an Epiphany. Conjure flames from the fading golden glow of The Last Ember, resonating with the final breaths of a Deep Heart. Build a Fortress of Solitude with towering spires spun from wind and will, whose realm of reeds is ruled by the righteous God of the Drow.

Embrace the passion pouring from the notes, threading your thoughts with triumph. Conduct a movement of courage as you’re transported to the world of PHENOMENA.

— Commercial Blurb by Samantha Redstreake Geary

Heroes of PHENOMENA is a global, cross-industry collaborative campaign encouraging the next generation of authors, artists & musicians!

Epic motion picture advertising music production house, audiomachine, will make a donation to the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra with every download of the PHENOMENA companion collection.

A dedicated youth section showcases talented aspiring artists and authors from Elevate Life & Art Studios, alongside an amazing cast of inspiring industry professionals and the winning entries of PHENOMENA’s Epic Heroes Event!

Title ImageDarynda Jones
Susan Kaye Quinn
M. Pax
Amy Michele
Jessica Bell
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Ruth Long
Crystal Collier
C. Lee McKenzie

Aspiring Artists & AuthorsDaniel Pennystone
ms. annegirl
Brennah Whiteside
Carter Lundgren
Braelyn Whiteside
Emma Schneider
Caleb Lotz

Epic Heroes Event WinnersSarah Aisling
Alayna Fairman
Nitish Raina
Melissa Muhlenkamp
Ryo Ishido
Lukas Jurco
Camille Cabezas
Elizabeth Ann Watts

 Heroes of PHENOMENA

Where epic music, captivating tales and visionary art inspire the HERO in all of us!

Available now!

iTunes (Free)

B&N (Free)

Kobo (Free)

Smashwords (FREE)

Amazon ($0.99)

 Heroes of Phenomena_Jennifer Redstreake GearyCover art by Jennifer Redstreake Geary

 Heroes of Phenomena book trailer

My amazingly gifted epic writing students created this short film in honor of our book launch—an inspiring & humorous tribute to authors, musicians, artists and dreamers, from the next generation of MUSES! Filmed & edited byBraelyn Whiteside (9th Grade).

Many thanks to everyone who submitted amazing stories and artwork–we look forward to seeing more of YOUR work in the future!

Fan Favorite Story Winner

Nitish Raina’s “Oblivion”

Fan Favorite Art Winner

Philip Harris

Art Submissions Gallery

Writing Submissions Featured in Comments Section


165 thoughts on “audiomachine’s Heroes of PHENOMENA

  1. This story is told as if it were a trailer to a movie (pretty basic story with a complex back-story not shown in-text), and should be read while listening to the track “Fortress of Solitude.”

    Man 1: “They say he comes in a time of great duress; always walking into battle as if it were his own. Only a few have seen his face, and they don’t even know his name. They simply call him The Wanderer, for he walks the land of nothingness forever, waiting to be pulled back into this world, ready to fend off the evils that plague humanity, natural or supernatural.”

    Man 2: “Why are you telling me this?”

    Man 1: “Because our world is on the brink, and we need a hero. There are demons and monsters clawing to the streets and destroying our civilization; ghosts of old wreaking havoc in the largest cities. If we can’t stop them, then it’s he who must. Never before have I believed in something greater than myself, whether it be in a higher existence or in God, but I do believe that, when the time comes, this man will save us. And if he needs our help, and we hesitate, it will destroy us all.”

    Man 2: “How do we know he’ll come?”

    Man 1: “Because he has nothing better to do.”


  2. Thank you for this fun opportunity!

    Here is my 992 word entry: ALL REALITY A FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE


    I walk alone
    Some call me legend. Others call me accursed. Once I was loved.

    To love me, the man with the blood of Death in his veins, was to draw her to you. That is why I walk alone.

    The air was hushed. My scientists assured me we were on the brink of a revolutionary breakthrough in technology.

    I had it on authority they were wrong. In a moment all reality would become a fortress of solitude.

    I sat alone in the crowded dining area of my scientific star vessel, Pequod.
    I was carving the baby Jesus from a very sensitive compound to put in the manger of my one of a kind Nativity Scene on my table.

    I watched the pudgy bald-headed woman pry herself from the squirming mass of scientists, decadent rich, and media stars. Clothes were archaic. Body paint was the rage.

    I scandalized the passengers by being clothed in my black Stetson, broadcloth jacket, shirt, jeans, and boots.

    I was determined to die with my boots on. General Custer would be so proud of me.

    I sighed as I studied the jerkily approaching woman. Fashion Obesity was all the rage in the populated worlds as was women’s heads scalped to look like hard boiled eggs.

    I recognized her.

    Rocio Facundo, the darling of slit-throat reporting. She had been responsible for so many suicides, she was called Lady Death. That name would not sit well with my expected guest.

    Rocio twitched continually as she approached me.

    Two reasons:

    One – humans were addicted to the feel of others’ bodies pressed against them.

    Two – humans now needed constant stimulation so much that most had neural stimulators implanted into their brains.

    When she spoke, Rocio affected an Argentinean accent
    Five hundred years ago, when the world finally succumbed to Man’s cascading failure to deal with terrorism, nationalism, and bacteria, Argentina had been the only country on earth to survive.

    Rocio frowned as only some of her words were heard at my table.

    Ada Byron’s last invention was her sound-filter of “colorful metaphors” as she called them, crying as she did so, thinking of the end of my son, Victor, and his Alice.

    Rocio’s lips were glowing, letting me know we were being broadcast to her vicious, sadistic viewers.

    “McCord, what harm are you festering here, breaking the law by sitting by yourself? You know as well as I that privacy has been outlawed as the lone citizen is a potential risk to society!”

    “As has heterosexuality,” murmured Rind, suddenly appearing in the seat beside me dressed in a mini-skirted black Gestapo uniform.

    Rind – the name the Angel of Death asked me to call her.

    Rind purposely flung back her long silver hair as a slap to the fashion-addicted Rocio. “Samuel, you named your craft Pequod. How utterly poetic of you.”

    Rocio rasped, “Teleportation in a moving star craft is not possible!”

    Rind smiled with very sharp teeth. “The good news is that after this moment, child, you will not need to externally download any more memories to make room for more.”

    Rocio frowned, “McCord, what does this out-of-date hag (eternal youth had been achieved by the Thymus Implants) mean by poetic?”

    I said, “Pequod was named for the Pequot tribe of Native Americans who once inhabited New England during the 17th century, but were annihilated during the Pequot War and are now as extinct as the ancient Medes.”

    I smiled wryly, “Call it foreshadowing.”

    Rocio frowned, “I do not understand.”

    Rind smiled, “You and the known universe will when this craft’s Heisenberg Drive is activated.”

    Rocio said, “That fantastic drive will fold known space in ways that will allow Man to be a galaxy away in an eye blink.”

    It’s nice to be sure,” I said, finishing carving the detonator as the Baby Jesus, leaving his face an empty space as was befitting the Great Mystery.

    A phalanx of armed guards tramped to my table as Rocio pointed at me with an accusing forefinger. “See! Against Interstellar Statute, McCord is practicing religion.”

    I shook my Stetson-covered head. “Don’t do religion. Just being respectful.”

    “Arrest him!” cried Rocio.

    The guards’ leader gruffed to me. “Shall we eject her into open space, Captain?”

    I shook my head again. “It would be redundant.”

    I flicked cold eyes to Rocio. “As long as there has been Man, a fella could always buy the law if he had enough money.”

    I sighed. We increasingly live in a world that forgets. Companies have almost no sense of their own history, while politicians positively revel in the fact that voters cannot remember (or choose to forget) lies, deceptions and even criminal behavior.

    This is a problem because power is essentially a battle between memory and forgetting.

    I could tell my Head of Security to forcibly download her memory of me into my ship’s Recycle Bin. But in a moment that would be unnecessary.

    “Bring her back to her womb of ‘friends.'”

    I took the Angel of Death called Rind by my gloved hand. “There are beds of kelp smarter than Man is now. But you’re sure the Great Mystery says it’s time?”

    Rind smiled as if it were a raw wound. “Our Victor would call it Existence’s Blue Christmas.”

    “Now, it’s me that doesn’t understand.”

    Rind lightly touched the empty manager. “When He was born, the sky was in red shift, the stars and galaxies heading away from your planet.”

    She sighed, “Now, outside this vessel, your eyes would see the blue shift as all descends into the center.”

    Her winter frost eyes grew wet and snowflakes flew up from them.
    “I have come for the universe, Samuel. Trigger the Uncertainty Drive of this vessel and start the chain-reaction.”

    Her voice became that of a little girl’s. “When none live will I cease to exist?”

    Inserting the Baby Jesus into the manger triggering devise, I smiled sadly. “He promised Forever.”


  3. Another chance to listen to this stunning track while you read!


    Arianwen’s shuddering sigh left her lips in a flutter of tiny crystals, dancing like stars upon her breath before fading into the ether. From her perch upon the tor she stared down at the waves of swirling fog. Feeling young and wholly unprepared, she tried to straighten her back, ignoring the biting pain from her mutated bones. Her shoulders ached and pain threatened to grind her journey to a halt, but she set her mouth and gazed below.
    Swathes of dark fog blanketed the valley, its tendrils spreading deeper and further afield with every moment she stood waiting. She swallowed hard, pulling her hood tight around her ears easing the bitter cold that eddied upon the mountaintop
    Grey roiling mists spiralled around the mountains as far as she could see, and she knew they curled through villages and towns and then further, winding through the cities and across the vast oceans. She knew that at the centre of the stretching mantle of fog lay the coiled tentacles of the daenmawr, and her mind screamed at the memory of those tentacles.
    Closing her eyes brought no relief for behind them she saw a sleeping world. A planet conquered by twilight, slumbering beneath an ebony blanket. Thick fog draped itself across the earth’s form, drowning its inhabitants beneath a smothering cloud.
    As responsibility burdened her, she watched the churning mist rise slowly up the crag, filling the cracks and crevices as it climbed. She could barely control her anxiety and duty threatened to overwhelm. She tried to calm the embers of light that danced upon her shoulders as pain seeped through her, and concentrated her energy on the growing flickers growling within her belly. There was no one else and Arianwen’s courage flared as she scrambled up the ledge letting her gnawing pain urge her on, push her higher.
    Feeble lights followed her up the mountain path, weak will-o’-the-wisps bobbing like buoys upon the veils of mists below. Arianwen hurried, quickening her pace. Darkness spread and soon it would drown the lights behind and reach her atop the mountain.
    Her boots crunched through hard snow and her thighs burned. Her distorted shoulders complained and her skin seared, but she climbed, her gaze fixed upon the pale sun trying to burn a hole in the fuliginous cloud.
    At the top of the peak Arianwen thrust her head back, releasing her cricked neck, and the sun’s thin rays glanced off her copper hair as it spilled out of her hood. The sun caressed her pale skin as the girl shrugged out of her heavy coat and stood in silence.
    A flurry of snowflakes erupted from her deep sigh and for a moment she wondered if she could simply crush the daenmawr beneath an almighty avalanche…
    Fear clutched her heart as the mists and fog gurgled and rippled below. Arianwen’s fingers shook with more than just cold and tears froze upon her cheeks. She flicked her tears away, letting them fall like tiny diamonds down into the writhing miasma. Behind her, bubbles of light rose out of the mists and she was ready, ready to sing.
    She began to sing with a voice that could not be heard.
    Arianwen sang with light and as she sang radiance filled her face.
    Her song faltered, the dancing darts of light fading, and she fell to her knees. Her jeans darkened as she knelt in the wet snow and she hurriedly tore off her shirt letting her skin tingle in the freezing air. She fell forward arching her back and thrust her fingers deep into the snow as the cold bit through her vest. Light pulsed and flickered across her face as she began to sing again. Then pain coursed through her body as her shoulders burned and light exploded about her.
    The skin on her back rippled and nubs beneath her gnarled shoulders grew. Bone shot through above her shoulder blades, growing rapidly as she sang, as light gushed from every pore. Her skin fused at the root of the bone as huge diaphanous wings opened and fluttered in response to her song.
    Balancing precariously upon the tor, Arianwen gasped, as her wings, flecked with stardust, thrust back and forth. She shivered and a heady mix of fear and triumph consumed her.
    Arianwen sang.
    Down below, the ocean of fog stirred and beneath the black soup the daenmawr bellowed.
    As Arianwen’s light danced across the land, the creature rose, her lamentation drawing him up and out of his lair. The daenmawr hurled threads of smoky venom and smog whirled as inky tendrils whipped up the mountainside.
    Arianwen sidestepped a coil of fog glancing back at the lights still climbing the tor. Swallowing her fear she dived from the plateau chased by twisting strands of fog. Her wings unfurled lifting her, swinging her away from the grasping fingers of mist.
    As she plummeted, fire smouldered within and her iridescent wings glowed bright. An incandescent aura flooded her body and her lament transformed into an exultant war cry!
    The daenmawr rose riding turbulent waves of thick vapour, the intensity of his battle song matching hers.
    As the creature ascended Arianwen threw out her wings and sent brilliant shards of light shimmering into the murky sea. The daenmawr bayed and flailed as light assaulted his milky eyes, but he thrust forward stretching tentacles and spewing jets of inky venom. Arianwen swooped out of reach and glanced back at the mountaintop as the orbs of light reached its pinnacle. She veered away and scanned the highlands. Hundreds of spheres bobbed atop the peaks, thousands even and she smiled.
    She pulled back her wings shooting up, up towards the pale, translucent sun. She sang and light erupted from her being, bathing her in glory. The daenmawr hurtled after her, discharging tendrils of venomous fog.
    Below, yet above the oceans of swirling fog, the mountaintops lit up. Arianwen’s followers lifted their orbs and sang. They sang as she’d taught. No sound filled the foothills except for the daenmawr’s pained whines and squeals. Light suddenly emanated from every mountain and hilltop, as spheres turned towards the shining girl and the sun. Mirrors reflected in cupped hands and the sky exploded with streaming shafts of light.
    Every mirrored orb faced the sun and the celestial star smiled returning every beam to the gloomy land. Caught and bound within the crossfire of Arianwen’s ribbons of light the daenmawr burned. His foul, smouldering stench polluted the air and as he dropped back down into the swirling, churning fog, Arianwen followed, her melody chasing away dark obscurity.
    She flew, rising above the mountains and villages, floating over towns and cities, and below, the earth woke. People spilled out onto streets ridding their minds of their hazy stupor, and light filled the world. Bright streams and ribbons of light encircled the globe as the people banished the fog forever more.

    (1151 Words)
    Lisa Shambrook


  4. Pingback: Project Pyro - Contest Entry for Audiomachine's PHENOMENA: Epic Heroes Event |

    Word count: 1195
    I can be reached at melissa [at] or on Twitter @TheSecondRealm
    Thank you for this opportunity. Audiomachine has been such a beautiful inspiration for my writing. This can be viewed with proper italics at
    (and pardon if this has been submitted twice – I wasn’t sure if my original submission made it through)

    She should have been dead.

    There was nothing around her but rubble. Smoke still hung thick in the air, even if the fire had mostly died down. There was nothing left of the industrial facility she had once called home, nothing except for the young teenage girl with ordinary brown hair and startlingly amber eyes. She stood amongst the heat and the dying flame, unharmed by either and the thick smoke. Somehow, her small body had been stronger than the industrial-strength building, standing tall whenever the cement and steel had crumbled and melted.

    She knew her name and what the Scientists called her. She was Sera, or PY003. Which name she was addressed by depended on which Scientist attended to her. The Scientists had never used violence against her, but they liked using well place threats to motivate her. Fear had defined most of her life in the burning building.

    Oddly, Sera felt very little. No sadness. Confusion rose up, briefly. Why did she survive, when everyone else did not?

    She hardly expected an answer. The Scientists never answered her. If they had to, it was curt, cold. Informative if necessary, but usually vague. They wanted nothing to do with her. That was, except for Rob, the son of one of the Scientists and a summer intern. She remembered him the most, of his summer blue eyes and the crooked smile he gave her. He was everything the Scientists were not – kind, caring, a friend, almost. The closest thing she had to a friend, in there.

    Her heart ached when she realized she would never see Rob again.

    He had been in that facility before the fire started, arguing with his father over her well being. His father had interrupted what little time they were able to spend together, when he told her of the outside world and how she should have been in high school, with other fifteen year old girls. He brought her trinkets sometimes, if he could sneak them in and if he thought that she could hide them. His father thought all their contact had been inappropriate. Rob asking him to let her out for a bit, to see the outside world had been an outrage. Their argument had gotten loud, fast. Heated.

    That was when the fire had started.

    The fire was unnaturally fast, laying waste to everything in its path. Nothing was spared, even things that were supposed to be fireproof. It blazed through the building, catching those inside by surprise. After its wrath had been sated, the fire settled, as it was now, with only Sera in the middle of the rubble.

    She had no idea why she had been spared. Why her? Why not Rob or any of the Scientists?

    A flash of what Rob had told her once whispered in her mind. “The people here fear you, Sera. Their cruelty is not because you’re evil, but because you’re special. Always remember that.”

    She had no idea of what that meant. It didn’t help her any. She knew almost nothing about the outside world, except for what little education she had received and what Rob told her. He told her that they were out in the countryside, in a facility separated from the town they lived in. She had been educated, but had never experienced anything outside of the facility in all of the time she had spent in there.

    Now, she was free.

    The blare of sirens startled her. Something large and red was looming on the horizon, speeding towards her. Fear licked at her, motivating her to take cover behind a line of trees. Her bare feet hurt as she darted across hard, dry dirt and grasses, tripping over fallen twigs.

    Men in strange yellow suits shouted at each other, an organized team with a purpose. She watched as they extinguished what was left of the flames with violent torrents of water. These men she knew from her textbooks. Firemen had come from the town to put out the blaze.

    Two nearby men discussed the property and who owned it. One name kept popping up. Damien Muze, owner of Muze Enterprises. Sera had heard his name repeatedly in the lab, but had only met him once. She shuddered as she remembered him. He had been colder than the Scientists, regarding her as a matter of business, rather than a living, breathing being.

    The thought of seeing him again was enough to get her to back away from the scene. She ran, as quietly as she could, out into the open world she had been denied all her life. She stopped when the breath razored through her parted lips and when her legs felt heavy and useless, collapsing in an abandoned warehouse some distance away. Sleep took her swiftly.

    She awoke shortly after when her heart flickered with irrational fear. A startled, confused cry escaped her. Fire was here as well, spreading quickly. This was the same fire that had consumed the lab, unnaturally fast and strong. Tears prickled her eyes and made it hard to breathe, but that was when she noticed that again, the fire didn’t hurt her. She held up a hand, curious about this effect, and the fire seemed to nuzzle up to her, eager to greet her, as if they were old friends. It blazed up around her hand, sliding up her wrist in a warm, but safe swirl.

    “So you are one,” a quiet voice behind her said.

    She whipped around, still wrapped in fire. Rob was behind her, disheveled very much alive.

    “Rob!” she cried, running to him.

    He hugged her hard against him and his words were rushed when he spoke. “Thank God you got out of there. We have to get out of this town, Sera.”

    When she asked him why, he held up a hand. His summer blue eyes glowed gold and the fire nearby ran to him eagerly, from Sera to him, until he was enveloped into it. Then, like it had never been there, the fire sank into his skin, gone.

    “You and I are a part of a secret project Muze Enterprises was planning to sell to the military. There are others like us, Seraphina, but Damien Muze already has them. We need to rescue them. Will you help me?”

    Seraphina. The name registered as power. Her true name. She nodded. She had no idea of what he was talking about, but she trusted him. He was like her, able to control fire. She knew he would keep her safe.

    His gaze held hers steady. “Let’s go, then.”

    They left the warehouse that night, running hand in hand. Rob told her of genetic experiments and of something called Project Pyro.

    “That’s what we are,” he said. “Project Pyro.”

    If there were others out there like her, they had to be found. Somehow, she didn’t trust Damien Muze or the company he ran. Others like her were in danger. If she could learn how to use her new found power over fire properly, maybe she could save them.

    It would give her purpose, for now, as she ran out into a world unknown.


  6. Love “The Fortress of Solitude” track! Here is my story as inspired by the song.

    Seed of the Prophet

    His eyes narrowed as he concentrated all of his mental energies on the commotion occurring in the heavens above The raucous din of those otherworldly noises threatened to break the synapse that had been so delicately established between his mind and the object of need. It was incredible to note that even as this all took place within his soul, the physical surroundings remained undisturbed.

    Now what could he see?

    A community bus, packed to the brim with frightened souls, not knowing a way out. The vehicle itself was plummeting through the voluminous, pillow-like clouds at breakneck speed. Though he was not there, he could hear their screams as if he was packed in that vehicle alongside them. But then all of a sudden, a thought entered his mind. A thought that threatened to bring his activities to a halt.
    What benefit would be gained from this saving act, as there were scores of other incidents occurring around the world, many of which surely did not end with no loss of life or casualties? What would be the point of saving just one?
    The mental connection began to weaken. Even so, the noises refused to leave his mind so quietly.
    And then he remembered. The promise he had made to a dear old friend. A friend who had seen the potential for greatness within him from the time when he was an infant. Yes, if he stopped now, if he relented, that would essentially be dispatching all of what had happened in his own life.
    Determination having been entered into his being, he once again refueled his connection with the beleaguered bus falling from the heavens. The room in which he was in began to rumble.
    He made his way toward where there were jagged crystalline objects protruding from near the entrance to his abode. Putting his hand around one of these crystals, he squeezed as hard as he could. The energy vigorously flowed in and through his body like a powerful electric current.
    Now full of energy, he launched himself through the roof with a powerful crash, and into the atmosphere. He followed the direction of the noises in his mind; the fact they were getting louder meant he must be getting close. He struggled to contain the din as he made his arrival.
    But where was the bus? Interestingly, the way the noise sounded as if it were coming from –
    Wham! The impact of the weight of the three hundred and fifty ton bus impacted our hero like a massive hailstone. Shaken up, but not of commission, he flew towards the middle underneath the bus and held out both hands to balance the weight. He screamed with all of his might; yes even for someone has powerful as he, this kind of work wasn’t for the weary and faint of heart.
    Soon they were coming upon a local neighborhood. He could briefly see the images of kids playing in the yards of their respective homes. Finally he saw an vacant cul-de-sac . He planted his feet firmly in the ground and gently lifted placed the vehicle down in front of the awestruck children, who had now been joined by their parents and other friends.

    He walked up to the door of the bus and knocked. The still recovering driver hesitantly opened it, visibly shaken from the experience. Our superhero calmly walked up the small set of steps and looked at the passengers. He smiled and then said, “Is everyone alright?”

    There was no answer initially. As he turned to leave, he felt a small hand tugging at his waist. He turned around to behold a small girl, who couldn’t have been less than four years old.
    “Mister hero, everyone here is too scared to say it but-thank you. We’re all alright, but Mr. Linter- he didn’t turn out so well.” She then took a small stuffed lizard from her seat next to her mother. The arm was detached to the point that it was hanging by a few strands of cotton.
    “Could you help Mister Linter please?”, she calmly asked.

    “For you sweetheart, definitely. May I?” He held out his right hand, to which the girl willingly supplied the broken toy. He then held his other hand over it and began to move it to and fro over the broken part of the arm. Instantly, new strands came over from the main body of the toy and connected to the arm. Once all of the strands were in place, he sealed them with along with a new finish for the entire stuffed animal.

    “There you are,” he said to the girl, who eagerly snatched the mended toy from his hand. She then hugged his waist tightly.

    “Thank you again,” she said in her squeaky but confident voice.
    “My pleasure, Jane , “he said with a wink from his left eye. With that he walked out of the bus and back onto the pavement.
    “He knows my name, Mom!” he could hear the voice of Jane yelping to her mom. He blasted into the air once more, vaulting through the atmosphere like a heat-seeking missile, in search of more good deeds to perform.


  7. Here’s my shot. 1198 words! Hope you enjoy

    The Fortress of Solitude

    “Christian tradition states that before the Great Flood, fallen angels from heaven saw how beautiful was the daughters of men, and took them as wives. From this forbidden union was born a powerful hybrid race. It’s kind was known as the Nephilim.” Genesis 6, 2-4

    Back in time, by the age of darkness, in XV century’s medieval England lived a Nephilim called Armaros. A tall and strong man disguised as a farmer. People from his village could tell a little about him. He lived with his grandma in a shack near to the woods.
    Nobody ever knew. He struggle to look like as any mortal men around him, but he was an ancient and powerful being. A Nephilim. And this means that Armaros is an immortal being. He doesn’t age. He doesn’t get sick. He is stronger and faster than any human. He is smart and wise because he saw Empires rise and fall. Although he can’t be a god amongst mortal men. He never wanted it, but despite his will, there are beings outside that are as strong as he is. And he is outnumbered because the race of the nephilins was hunted down by other supernatural creatures, called Guardians. Another way to call the beings known as angels and demons. Guardians and Nephilins seem to not to age. But, as everything that is alive and breath, it can be killed.
    It was Autumn and Armaros was bearing his sickle in the way to the crop. Men riding horses came close and ask him to stop.
    — William? That’s your name, isn’t? My lord asks help from thee.
    Armaros said no. He didn’t recognize those men. He needs to stay low profile.
    — You’re the one who lives with your grandma near the woods.
    — Who cares?
    — My master cares. He says you are different from the others. He saw you quite a time ago, and you still young and strong.
    — I have an ordinary face. That must be another man.
    — My master said that saw you in France. Some time ago. Before you moved to these lands with your grandma.
    Armaros froze. Could that men work to a Guardian? He though very quickly and discard the option. A Guardian would engage right on sight. He decided to get lost from that men. And that means help them.
    By nightfall they left the village. Four men ride through that dark night towards a new settlement, three days distant. Armaros was told that something supernatural was occuring there.
    They ride through three days straight and by the end of the third, they reached the settlement. It was a great clearing in the woods. One building was finished, their leader’s cottage. The man that received him in the cottage was stranger beyond imagination. It could be perceived as a writing anachronism, but in fact that man was using some sort of suit that can only be depicted as the Doctor of the Plague. So many years before the renascence, a man using a black coat, wearing leather gloves. He was wearing also a black hat and a very weird mask, with a bird like nose. His appearance was weird, but his voice was a dark one. Quite muffled by his mask, yet a metallic one.
    – I’m glad you came, William. But before you can help us, you must stood the trials. But, tonight you will rest, my friend. For the night is long and it is hunger in these lands.
    Armaros was lead to a barrack. But he didn’t fell asleep that night. He was attacked by those wicked men. A dozen warriors fell by his sickle. He took a horse and rode back the faster he could. He saw the black smoke from miles away from the village. The first person he found was a young kid. He was barely conscious and said that evil men attacked and a plague took place. They burned the cottages. Killed the cattle, cursed the crops. The kid died in his arms.
    When Armaros reached his hut he found out that his grandma wasn’t there. A farmer entered, toppling as a drunken man. He said that the man took his grandma to the castle’s church.
    – William. They said that you are an incestuous man, William. Is that true?
    – No, my friend. And I am going to settle the score with those men.
    Armaros took the leather tapestry near the bed and reveled a hidden chamber. From there, he grab a magnificent sword.
    – I am sick William. I gonna die soon. Will you left me here to die alone?
    Armaros draw the sword. The shine that came out from that marvelous steel spread light to that dark shack.
    – No, my friend. I shall find out what is going on. And I’ll make them pay.
    Armaros stride through the village. Those who attacked him were destroyed merciless. The peasants were badly sick or dead.
    Armaros entered the chapel and found his grandmother bedside the Doctor of the Plague.
    – What does it means, you bastard? What are you doing?
    – What am I doing? It is science my friend. You don’t know what science is, I supposed. There shall be the day when reason shall conquer faith and thus mankind will discover the power of science. I am a catalyst. I am a man of reason in an age of darkness.
    – You’ll reason with my blade, slanderman.
    – Slander? I apologize. Some time ago a farmer saw you kissing your grandmother like a lover. I preclude him to slender you, for now I know she isn’t your grandmother, Nephilim. She is your wife. Or is it not, immortal one?
    Armaros could not believe. That was a Guardian in front of him.
    – You are a Guardian!
    – A Neutral Guardian. Don’t you worry. I don’t want to claim your life.
    – What do you want, monster?
    The doctor of the Plague flew towards Armaros. He thrust surgeon needle in the Nephilim and whisper in his ear.
    – I just want to complete my experiment. Your wife has my plague. And I can save her. Maybe, with your blood. I wonder what the blood of Nephilim could do.
    – I saw the plague. You can’t save her. You can’t save anybody.
    – In science, my friend, everything may happen. Ironically, try a leap of faith.
    Armaros looked to his wife. A tear escape from his eye. And he attacked the Doctor with his sword. He stomp the surgeon needle, obliterating it.
    – Why, why you fool? She shall die! You will be alone until her return to this awful world.
    – To be a Nephilim is to be alone. And I can’t let you earn my blood. Your schemes are too dangerous and they are ending right now.
    One last strike and the doctor was dead. His body exploded in light and disappeared. Armaros came close to his lover and kissed her one last time. He pledged forgiveness to her, a fatally wounded woman.
    She died in his arms. Leaving Armaros, once again, alone. For one more century he has to face solitude. Just to see her again.


  8. “The world…is there even a world anymore? Darkness rules, the light is dimming. Pain spreads across the lives of many, if not all. The flames of war run wild through nations, burning homes, destroying families, leaving nothing but death and destruction behind.” The man stared at me, his eyes not seen behind his dark sunglasses despite the fact the sun has already begun its daily farewell.

    “There has to be a way,” I said loudly causing some unwanted looks from a few people in the diner.

    The man sighed and looked down at his untouched burger. “There was a time when I, too, believed the world could be changed, but it’s-”

    “Don’t give me that!” I shouted slamming my hand on the table making a few people jump in shock. A waitress gave me an angry look and I sat back down.

    The man looked at me, his eyes still hidden, but .I got the feeling he was studying me and a shiver went through my spine.

    “Let me show you something,” he said reaching his hand forward. I hesitated but then allowed him to place his hand on top of my head. His skin was ice cold like he just stepped out from a freezer but he didn’t seem to notice or be bothered by it. “Close your eyes,” he said still staring at me. I did and immediately felt myself be lifted up.

    I flailed my limbs in every direction not knowing what was going on. Then, I felt a hand grip my shoulder and I looked behind me to see the man only he didn’t look like he did a second ago. His form was blue, almost like a mist, and I could barely make out his facial features. I looked down at my own body and found that I, too, was bluish in color.

    “What the-” I said waving my hand in front of my face and seeing a thin trail of bluish light trace the path before it vanished. I looked down again and realized we were no longer in the diner but, to my horror, floating high in the sky above the entire city of New York.

    “My kind has been on this planet ever since humans first came to be,” the man said waving his hand in the sky. All the lights in the city turned off at once and a picture of a group what I assumed to be cavemen dancing around a fire came alive in the now perfectly dark night sky. “We gave you fire which sparked your evolution. In times of confusion we were there to lead you back to the light,” he snapped his fingers and pictures of famous people came into view around the cavemen picture. Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Lincoln to name just three shined brightly in a bluish mist in the night sky.

    “What do you mean-” I started.

    “But there was always darkness,” the man said. “From that first spark of fire that gave man light in night, darkness was born.” The picture of the cavemen changed until it showed all of them waving the fire frantically in front of their bodies as darkness started to creep forward towards them with long snake-like arms. “Darkness corrupted many to try and take over, to control what humans have created.” The pictures of influential historic figures changed to people like Hitler and Stalin and the bluish light changed to a dark red.

    “Hang on,” I said trying to make sense of all of this. “What do you mean by ‘your kind?'”

    The man snapped his fingers and all the images vanished. Nothing happened for a while and then a bright light burst from the horizon and I looked up as the stars themselves started to rearrange into pictures of human-like figures with wings.

    “Angels…?” I asked quietly.

    “We’ve been called many things but out job has always been the same, to defend humanity from the darkness but I fear we have failed,” the man said sadly as the images of the angels started to revert back to the normal star positions.

    “What happened?” I asked.

    “They won,” he said. “My brothers and sisters were trapped, imprisoned in the one place I can’t reach.”

    “What do you mean?” I asked looking at him. “I thought Angels could go anywhere, do anything!”

    “The forces of darkness trapped my family in a place that does not exist yet is always there, where time cannot tick and all who are forced there are frozen, unable to get out,” the man said sadly. Just mentioning this place brought fear to his voice and a cold chill blew through the air.

    “What is it?” I asked trying to hold back my own fear.

    “It’s only known as the Fortress of Solitude and nobody can get in without getting out, nobody except you,” he said looking at me. “The darkness is closing in and will soon prevail but you can stop it, you can free my kind and help us fight back!”


    • Gah, forgot to place the title and number of words, sorry about that.

      Title: Darkness Whispers in the Light

      Number of words: 841

      Author: Sean Crone

      Ok, that should be it.


  9. I’m glad I can share my creativity with someone! Thanks for the opportunity!

    The Phoenix
    By Travis Harder

    The din of battle was all around him. It seemed almost like white noise to him these days.
    However, this would be the last battle, the battle to determine the fate of the world, for all ages to come.
    Ridding on his horse-a black stallion- he drew his twin swords. As he did so, the jewel on his left wrist caught his eye. I was a small jewel, no bigger than an egg. It shimmered between four colors depending on the light: red, blue, green, and grey. He had won it and its power through much hardship and loss.
    He felt the earth beneath the horse’s feet. He felt the wind ruffle his hair as the horse accelerated to a full gallop; he felt the heat from the sun and the water in the ground.
    Using his left sword as a focal point, he ripped a large rock from the ground and threw it at an enemy soldier, crushing him. Then, with his right sword, he swung and decapitated a soldier who foolishly came to close.
    Suddenly, a wall of flame whooshed to life in front of him. His horse reared in fight, throwing him off.
    He had retained his grip on his twin swords as he fell, and got to his feet to face the wizard who led the enemy. “We settle this now Theo.” The wizard said, drawing his blood red sword. He used no shield, but based on past experience, this would not give him any disadvantage.
    “I couldn’t agree more.” Theo responded. With a yell, the wizard charged, and swung his sword in an overhead strike. Holding his one of his swords laterally to block, Theo swung his other sword in a forehand swing. The wizard leaped back to avoid the blow, but not far enough to dodge the tongues of flame that extended from Theo’s sword.
    “I knew I made a mistake; taking you as my apprentice.” The wizard said with a snarl.
    “It’s a mistake you won’t regret for much longer.” Theo said, his face determined. Using water in the air, he condensed it, and changed its form into several shards of ice. With the ice, he swung his sword, and, using air, pushed the shards towards his old master.
    Acting with inhuman speed, the wizard either dodged the shards or rendered them useless with his sword. Without giving the wizard any reprieve, Theo ran at him and slashed in two directions. As fast as his old master was, he didn’t know how much more powerful Theo had become since leaving him and he blocked one sword on his, but the other sword he coughed in his hand.
    Cursing as the metal bit into his hand, the wizard ignored the pain and instead summoned his power and snapped Theo’s sword in two. Theo immediately threw away the remains of his sword and kept attacking the wizard.
    Back when he was still apprenticed the wizard he had never beaten him. Now, however, he had trained with many people in the art of swordplay and the art of elemental control. These people were more powerful than the wizard could have ever hopped to be.
    The wizard ripped a chunk of rock put of the ground and threw it at Theo. Bringing his arms in front of his face, Theo summoned a wall of rock to shield him. The wizard, expecting this jumped over the rock and threw fire at Theo.
    Theo didn’t react quickly enough and felt the flesh on his left arm burn as the fire connected. Ignoring the pain, Theo jumped back, avoiding the wizard’s sword strike. The sword thudded into the ground and sunk a few inches into the dirt.
    The wizard cursed and struggled to retrieve it. Theo used this opportunity to run up and behead the wizard. Without realizing it, however, he had fallen into the wizard’s trap. Extending a hand, the wizard summoned a pillar of rock that trapped his raised sword hand in midair. Then he encased his other hand in another pillar of stone.
    “If only you had staid with me.” The wizard sighed. He drew back his sword to stab into Theo’s heart.
    Theo would not accept his. He had been in to many battles, had lost to many close to him, to fail now. Gathering his strength for one last attempt, he broke his sword hand out of the rock. In doing so, he managed to turn enough so that the wizard’s sword only grazed his side.
    The wizard reeled forward, of balance and Theo quickly broke his other hand out of the rock. Then he turned and leveled his sword at the wizard, who, drunk with rage, ran himself through the heart.
    “I’m sorry, brother, you gave me no choice.” The said quietly, pulling his sword out of his brother’s body.
    His brother’s mouth moved, although Theo didn’t know what he was trying to say, and then he collapsed. As Theo watched blood slowly seep over his brother’s corpse, he was aware the din of battle around him had faded. He looked up and saw his troops standing, looking at him in awe.
    One started at chant, which was quickly taken up by the other soldiers. “Phoenix! Phoenix! Phoenix!”
    Despite what had just transpired, Theo smiled quietly to himself. His kingdom, and the world was now safe.
    “Phoenix! Phoenix! Phoenix!” His soldiers continued to chant.


  10. SAVIOR by A. King Bradley
    1192 Words

    WE STOOD AMONGST THE WOULD-BE gang rapists with no fear. We had been working our way from town to town, taking down whatever scum Howie could find for us. We had been at it for nearly three hours by the time we found ourselves on the worst side of town in Union City, Florida. The woman we had just saved from the savage pack of thugs watched in fear as the eight gang members tightened their circle around us.

    We were out gunned and outnumbered, but beneath our masks, Jason and I were both smiling. Our backs touched as the thugs tightened their circle even more. They all had guns but didn’t bother to draw them, no doubt fooled by the false sense of security presented by their seemingly overwhelming four to one ratio.

    I kept my eyes on the guns as the first thug dove for Jason. I whipped around as I felt Jason quickly shift away from the thug’s outstretched hand, leaving him open for the devastating clothesline that I delivered to his chest.

    He hit the ground with a solid thud as the other thugs simultaneously rushed us. To my surprise, most of them went for Jason but not one of them could lay a finger on him as he gracefully worked his way through the crowd of assailants dishing out a fierce flurry of polished yet brutal punches and kicks.

    For a moment, I found myself watching in awe as Jason evaded every wild punch thrown at him and returned fire with an endless barrage of effortless, yet devastating, counterattacks. The guy that I was fighting at the time must have hit me in the face about five times before I came back to my senses. I finally caught his fist and hoisted him into the air by his neck just as one of the thugs darted away.

    “Hey, Ace! Catch!” I shouted as I tossed the thug I was holding toward Jason.
    Jason’s roundhouse kick connected with the thug’s face as I leapt thirty feet into the air after the thug that was attempting to flee.

    The tail of my coat fluttered behind me like a cape as I soared after the fleeing scum. Two seconds later, he was sprawled on the pavement with my foot on his throat. I was basking in the radiance of my own glory when I saw it.

    The glimmer of metal in my peripheral vision sent a tremor down my spine. I quickly kicked the brute at my feet in the head, knocking him unconscious, then turned to face the last sight that I wanted to see.

    Most of the gang were incapacitated, but the last one left standing had a pistol brandished before him with the barrel aimed at Jason’s chest. Jason stood completely still less than two meters in front of the gunman.

    “Don’t move dammit! Don’t move!” he shouted as he glared at Jason.
    They both were fifteen meters away from me. I could cover that distance in a single bound but I wasn’t sure if I could outrun the bullet.

    “Drop the pistol or lose the hand,” Jason ordered. His hands gripped the handle of the sword sheathed at his waist as he glared at the gunman.

    “Yeah, fat chance, ninja boy!” the gunman shouted.

    “The only person that will die if you pull that trigger is you,” I growled.

    “Not gonna happen, pal! If I pull this trigger— when I pull this trigger, your friend here is toast!” He kept his eyes on Jason as he shouted at me.

    “I’ll snap your neck before the casing hits the ground!” I roared.

    “Geez, Reaper, could you back off a bit?!” Jason yelled.

    “What for? I can totally take this guy!” I was confused. I wasn’t sure if Jason was angry at me for butting in or if he was afraid that my interference would lead to him getting shot.

    “So can I! You’re stealing my thunder, man. Why can’t you just let me handle this?”

    “Handle it?! I’m trying to save your life!” I fired back.

    “Are you kidding me? Are you two really arguing over who’s gonna take me out like I’m not the one with the gun?!” the gunman exclaimed as he glared angrily at me.

    “You mean that gun?” Jason asked firmly.

    By the time the thug and I focused our eyes back on Jason, half the thug’s right arm was lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood still clutching the pistol. His eyes widened with horror as he raised the bloody stump that remained to his face. Jason’s long headband fluttered in the wind as he stood motionless with his blood-splattered sword held before him. He had drawn the sword and severed the guy’s arm in less time than it took the thug to glance at me.

    Impressive, I thought as I watched the thug fall to the ground. I remember wondering who would win a one-on-one fight if Jason and I were ever pitted against each other. Sure I was stronger but there was no doubting that Jason was deadlier.

    My thoughts were interrupted by the blood-curling scream of the disfigured thug as he came out of shock. Within seconds, Jason was on his bike revving the engine. We both sped away as police sirens rang out in the distance.

    Minutes later, we were miles away speeding into the darkness and leaving the corruption of Union City behind us.

    “I’m sorry I lost my temper, bro,” Jason said, as I dashed alongside his bike.

    A wave of confusion washed over me as I continued to sprint. Until that moment, I thought our “argument” had been merely a diversion. Did Jason truly think that I was stepping on his toes by coming to his defense against an armed enemy?

    “It’s fine, Ace. No big deal,” I replied, nonchalantly. But it was a big deal. In the past, Jason had come to my rescue so many times that I had lost count. For the first time in our lives, the shoe was on the other foot and he had the audacity to feel offended.

    If he considered getting help in a fight an insult, why did he help me so many times? Was he insulting me every time he chose to come to my aid? Or perhaps he was so accustomed to that weaker version of me that he felt insulted that I would dare offer my assistance with a situation that he thought he had a handle on.

    Sooner or later he was going to have to accept that things had changed. I was the one in the newsreels and viral Internet videos around the globe. I was the one with the real power. He needed to recognize those facts and act accordingly— act as a sidekick should.

    Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion, I thought as ran faster to pull ahead of his speeding jet black sports motorcycle. I ultimately decided to drop the issue as long as it didn’t happen again. We maintained radio silence as we both accelerated to over 100 miles per hour.


  11. This time is different. They know I have fallen before, seen me at my weakest point but still they believe. How many of them hang their hope that we’ll make it to tomorrow on my shoulders? I don’t see why, I still feel broken. My heart split in two deep in my chest, as I gaze upon the grave of my brother. Why did he have to go?! The one person who kept me from the darkness, from the bad things that I’ve always been so close to being consumed by. His presence alone kept me alive. His was the one guiding light, like a fortress that I’ve had my whole life, until now. They have taken him from me, my only brother. A furious mix of emotions stirs inside my heart and my head. Anger, despair, confusion… my toxic aggression boils up. Above all else though I feel sad, alone. Gently a hand finds its way to my shoulder “I am so sorry,” her voice is gentle and soothing. With those few words my rage subsides, in its place I feel something else, something less familiar. Rising from my knees, my head lifts to find the gaze of the masses upon me. They look me over, eagerly waiting for a response. Even in this moment, after all I have failed at they wait for my next move. I don’t know if I can be the man they need me to be, the man they believe me to be. Somewhere among the faces my eyes meet hers, soft and gentle. Despite the fear and hesitation within, she gives me a kind of strength like my brother did. She believes in me. I feel… responsible… responsible for her because I am not going to let her down. I want to be the man she thinks I am. I feel responsible for them, because they have nowhere to go, nobody to turn to except me now that he is gone. Above all else though, I feel responsible to him because I owe it to his memory to fight for what he wanted in this world, what he wanted for me. Peace.
    Make no mistake though; this final hour will not be peaceful. This fight is not just to return home victorious, this fight is for our very existence. If we fail today… if I fail today, we may very well never see home again. For all I have failed before this day, I will not fail now. Raising my fist into the air, hundreds of others follow suit. Where once I was broken, they have risen with me to fight for lives, for a chance at tomorrow. Now I have a reason to fight. I fight for them, I fight for her but before any of that, I fight for my brother.


  12. Pingback: Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Secrets of the Sphinx | writerlysam

  13. Lonely Whisper by Sèbastien Sinclair Dalin (570 Words)

    “You are too young to remember the story of the last stand of Soulwind, the Imperial Blade; however, I was there – I saw the final moments of hero’s valiant stand.” I paused letting the gravity of my words sink in. “Let me share with you the single greatest selfless act I have ever seen. It was the last night of summer, and the heat sweltering. The Imperial Blade was charged with the city’s protection, and it would soon come under attack if he could not stop the advancing army. He gathered the Citadel Guard and spoke to them in words that I could never forget.”

    “He said, “Tonight, our stand will determine the city’s survival. It is our stand that will give this city its life. I know that many of you have wives and children; I would not command that you join me. But I will ask it of you. Before you answer, neither I nor any man will look down upon you if you guard the city from behind its walls. I cannot fault you. Who will ride with me to defend our glorious city?” A few young men took a knee before him, pledging their support. I was too much a coward to go forward, so I watched from the safety of the walls the events that would unfold.”

    “The riders raced to the edge of the city’s plateau then stopped. From my advantageous spot I could see the massed beneath the plateau. They had enough to take the city in a few days if they were careful. Soulwind drew his blade, and gave a rousing speech to men as they pulled their swords free. All at once the reins snapped as they charged down the steep slope. Together they cut through the enemies in the center flank. Soulwind led the men to the center of the fray, cutting down foe after foe after foe.”

    I paused taking a deep breath, closing me eyes, letting the images that were burned into my mind come to front once more. “Soulwind’s imperial purple cloak flapped as he flew from the saddle of his horse into a batch of baddies. With a quick swing and a slash many of them fell beneath his powerful strikes. The battle raged for hours, the faithful few felling much of the enemy force.”

    “Eventually the brave soldiers who rode with Soulwind fell beneath the massed army of enemies. Then Soulwind himself began to be pushed back from the sheer number of enemies. Even from my distant perch I could a bead of sweat roll off of his brow. I could see the fatigue in his muscles, I could his mouth moving. Even if I couldn’t hear him, I knew what he was whispering – the prayer of the last. I knew what was happening. Before long, his lips became motionless, signaling that he had finished his final prayer.”

    “His blade plunged into the ground sending a shockwave through the horde. He raised his hand and brought gusts of wind to dispatch his many foes. As he danced the blade glowed brighter, becoming even as star. I watched for as long as I could, but the brightness was too much. After I turned away, I felt a wave of energy brush over me. When the brightness faded I looked back – there was no one to be seen. Only Soulwind the Imperial Blade’s cloak and sword remained.”


  14. Name: Katie Lynn Daniels
    Words: 265
    Title: Dark Angel

    Black tights. Shirt. Gloves. No wrinkles anywhere to catch or snag. Knee high boots; silent zippers. A black cowl to hide your identity. A black night to hide your deeds. A scream in the darkness—duty calls.

    You run, then leap from a ten-story building. Behind you wings unfurl, and you fly. Swooping over the city you seek the source of the sound, filled with joy you only feel on nights such as these—nights when you can be free.

    Your arrival terrifies the would-be rapist, as you land directly in front of him, poised for a winning blow. He turns to run, but is too slow. Now unconscious, you leave him for the police, already on their way. You turn to the girl.

    She tries to thank you. Pale face, red hair, freckles. Stammering over her shock and tears. Crying—she deserves someone to hold her. She deserves the peace you know your voice can bring. You do not smile. Do not speak. Bow stiffly, turn away. Leave before the authorities arrive.

    Power—as you rise back into the skies. This city could be yours, but you dare not claim it. You want to sing with a thousand voices, to reach out and hold them all in the fold of your wings. But you have seen too many fail in the attempt—too many whom you have destroyed for their arrogance. You will not, cannot, join their ranks.

    Be silent—do not let them hear the power of your voice.

    Be vigilant—do not let them catch you unawares.

    Be secret—do not let them see you in the daylight.

    Be alone.


  15. Unbound From Fate

    As prophesy foretold, Born from a virgin mother,
    He grew to rule the land.
    Told of in prophesy,
    His bother came seven years after.
    Of his mysterious beginnings,
    People feared him.
    Due to their fear,
    Hatred spawned.
    Appointed the ‘Dark Prince,’
    Bitterness grew in his heart.
    Appointed the ‘Prince of Light,’
    His brother was loved far and wide.
    With his eyes of crimson and hair black as the feathers of a raven,
    Men and women feared the day he would rule.
    With the death of his father,
    He took the throne.
    Under his heart of black,
    The people were subjugated.
    Into exile,
    He sent the ‘Prince of Light.’
    With kindness,
    He treated only the Seven Clans of Elves.
    A similar fate,
    The Divines had condemned upon them.
    Festering in the hearts of the people,
    Rebellion grew.
    Betrayed by their young King,
    The people rose from their suffering.
    Lead by his brother,
    The castle gates were stormed.
    Abandoned by his most loyal forces,
    He stood alone against a nation seeking justice.
    Dethroned and alone,
    He fled to the north.
    Pursued by his enemies,
    He ran without rest.
    From the cold,
    He needed rest.
    Frozen in an eternal winter,
    The land was.
    Under the threat of shadow invasion,
    The cold flourished.
    Taking refuge in an inn,
    He met Airyal.
    An elf of the Seven Clans,
    She was enslaved my man.
    Witnessing his burning crimson eyes,
    She feared him.
    With fear in her heart,
    She served him.
    Taking him to his room,
    She was thanked by him.
    In the cover of night,
    The inn was stormed.
    Enemies of his,
    They lit the inn a flame.
    Rushing to escape,
    He saw her trapped.
    Annoyed by his compassion,
    He saved her life.
    Freed from servitude,
    She had a choice.
    Swallowing her fear,
    She pledged her life to her savior.
    She steeled her nerves and spoke,
    “My life, I owe to you.”
    Exasperated by his fate,
    “If you wish,” he answered.
    Resting for the night,
    She told tales of oppression and subjugation.
    By the warm orang light of fire,
    He listened in the cold winter night.
    Her family murdered by Human slavers,
    She was sold into servitude.
    Touched by her tales,
    He avowed to help her people.
    As she smiled at his unforeseen kind words,
    A warmth spread through his soul.
    In the morning that followed,
    Together, they journeyed to the North.
    To the Elven territory,
    They had gone.
    With fear,
    They were greeted.
    With tales of his short lived rule in their minds,
    Under scrutinizing watch, the clan kept him.
    With the knowledge of old,
    Into his tent came the village Mystic.
    Wise with centuries of knowledge,
    She spoke with the Dark Prince.
    “Why do you come to our village, young prince?”
    She asked with true marvel.
    “Exiled from my home, I have no other,”
    He explained with sorrow in his black heart.
    “Airyal tells of your great kindness,”
    The Mystic noted.
    “There is no such kindness in the heart of the Dark Prince,”
    He avowed.
    “Know yourself,
    You do not.
    I see greatness in the depths of your pain,”
    The Mystic declared with fervor.
    “I need a purpose,”
    He declared.
    “Under your rule,
    Men and women suffered.
    Only the elves benefited,
    Why is that?”
    The Mystic asked.
    With one word only he answered:
    Reaching to grasp his shoulder,
    A great shock bolted through the Mystic’s touch.
    Burned into her mind,
    A vision was shown.
    Of darkness and shadow,
    The Dark Prince was born.
    The first of many,
    He entered the realm of life.
    To conquer and divide,
    His purpose was clear.
    His path laid before him like a straight path,
    Fate would dictate his machinations.
    Wrought to destroy,
    His fate was shattered.
    Falling back to her seat,
    The mystic spoke:
    “Greatness indeed.
    Only you can halt the advance of the coming darkness.
    The support of the Seven Clans, I will pledge to you.”
    Confused, he asked:
    “That which descends on our lands?
    How could I ever defeat it?”
    Smiling, the Mystic reassured:
    “More than you know,
    You are.”
    She left him alone.
    To his tent,
    Airyal came.
    “What did she say?”
    Asked the young elf.
    “That I must regain my throne,”
    He answered.
    Sitting across from him,
    Her cool blue met his fiery crimson,
    “By your side,
    I shall forever stand.”
    Smiling, his soul warmed once more,
    “Thank you, Airyal.”
    So, with an army at his back,
    South he marched,
    With revenge at heart
    And a dagger in hand.
    To the kingdom of man,
    The Dark Prince invaded with his army of Clans.
    Met by the forces of his brother of light,
    The brother of dark fought with valor and determination.
    For in his hands lay the fate of all.
    Followed by a river of blood,
    The crimson-eyed prince rode.
    At the gates of the capital,
    They halted.
    Given once chance to surrender the throne,
    The Prince of Light vowed to die in his crown.
    With a cry of battle,
    The armies charged.
    With Airyal at his side,
    The Dark Prince rode through the mountain of men.
    Up to the castle gates,
    The duo charged.
    Cutting down men as he came,
    The two stormed the castle followed by waves of elves.
    As the fighting intensified,
    Crimson ran the halls.
    To the room of kings atop the highest tower,
    The Dark Prince Charged.
    Awaited by his brother,
    He entered the chamber.
    Armed head to toe,
    The Prince of Light reasoned once more:
    “Is it really worth all this blood, brother?”
    The Light Prince questioned.
    With a shaking of ground,
    The sky tore a hole black as night.
    Through the portal of darkness,
    Dark figures flowed.
    Divided the lands,
    He had.
    A pawn to darkness,
    He was.
    Overcome his fate,
    He had not.
    A force of Darkness,
    He was born,
    As the prophesy had told.
    “A demon,
    I had never believed you,”
    His brother spoke.
    “But, now I see.
    You divide so that they can conquer.”
    “No, I meant none of this,”
    The Dark Prince claimed.
    Gazing down upon the battlefield,
    He watched the shadows spread.
    Turning with swiftness,
    He advanced on Airyal.
    Grasping her arms,
    He pulled her lips to his.
    In a moment of passion,
    He was happy.
    “I know now what I must do,”
    He declared.
    “We will meet again,
    In another life, my love,”
    He avowed to the young Elf.
    He ran.
    Perched on the edge,
    He fell from the tower.
    A force of Darkness,
    He was- no more.
    Unbound by death,
    The Dark Prince was no longer a pawn to fate.
    With a wave of crimson across the sky,
    The portal shook and collapsed.
    Pulled back into their home of sickness, disease, and suffering-
    The forces of Darkness were no more in the land of life.
    Freed from his mortal coil,
    The dark soul walked the land of light.


  16. Here is my entry. According to Word it is only 360 words long…Oh. And it lost the italics in copying it over. The half of the dialogue that is not in quotation marks is supposed to be in italics.

    “It’s no use. I’m no hero. I know they’re dying, but…What can I do? I’m only a human.”
    I wish I could believe in heroes. But they don’t exist anymore. Everyone has turned the white feather. They would rather submit to fate than save their own people from being mutilated and eternally enslaved. I wish I could believe in heroes. But I’m only another stupid, fearful human.
    “Oh God, save them somehow!” It’s the only thing I can pray, the only way I can help.
    I will, but you must obey Me.
    “What do You mean, Lord?”
    I will save your people, but I will save them through you.
    “But God, I’m only a girl!”
    So was Esther.
    “But God…I can’t handle the pain it would take to save these people.”
    Become one of them. I sent you here to save them.
    “But God, I’m the weakest of soldiers – I am the least of them. How can I save millions of people, all alone?”
    With My strength you will be weak no longer. With Me by your side you cannot be alone.
    “I’m afraid…”
    Do not be afraid. I have given you the gifts you need to save these people.
    “But what if…I can never go back to who I was?”
    You will never be the same again.
    “What if it will be too hard?”
    It will be too hard. You will be broken beyond repair. You will be shunned, hunted like the rest of them. You will be tormented. You will despair. You will be one of them. But because of My power, you will be more than that. I will give you greater strength than any human can have on their own. I will give you greater courage than any human can find it within themselves to muster. I will stand by your side and I will carry you when you cannot go on. Give up your fear of the unknown. Let me make you their hero.
    “But –“
    Do you trust Me?
    Do you trust Me?
    “Yes, Lord…I trust You.”
    Then that is all you need. Come, My child. I will make you their hero.


  17. Phenomena
    by Annie Pavese
    (1199 words)

    I alighted on the top of one of the tallest buildings, my sharp eyes piercing the city below me. I still had yet to learn everything about this strange human culture; one of the things I never could understand was the name of their rigid creations of glass and steel. I had been to the outer atmosphere and back a multitude of times – these ‘skyscrapers’ as they called them, were hardly fit to roost on. Though I supposed to the flightless humans, it gave them the feeling of living near the heavens.
    I glided down to the next building, my azure feathers fluttering me to a stop on a ridge half way up its face. Something wasn’t right in this city. No, something was very wrong. I could feel it. Forces of the Drakon empire were on the wind, and moving in swiftly. And these humans, far below me, were entirely oblivious to the danger that encroached upon them.
    As a female Phoenix, I was considered to be similar to the female humans, though I never thought so. While our body shape was basically the same, we were different on many levels. Being a Phoenix of ice, my body was a deep cobalt color that seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. Where humans had feet at the end of their legs, I had claws, similar to that of a birds. My hands only consisted of three fingers each, each one sharpened into a deadly talon. And then of course there were my wings, the massive collection of feathers sprouting from my back in a fountain of the bluest of blues, from the darkest indigo to the brightest aquamarine. No, I was very different from humans in my mind.
    While I didn’t interact with them more than was necessary, my face was always present in this city, it seemed, always a forefront in their media. Magazines, newspapers, television programs, all clamoring to thrust forward the best picture of me, their hidden guardian. Even now, I could see a man far away on the street side below, a magazine in his hands, studying a photographer’s blurry picture of me in the sky, the title reading “Advocate or Adversary?”
    As the wind shifted, I could smell the ominous scent of the Drakon, a full legion of them, nearly upon the city. They were always attempting to abduct humans from their homes; why, I could not say. Perhaps it was their vicious thirst for power. It was hard to say why the Drakon did anything. Simply a corrupted form of the Phoenix, they were dark and leathery in appearance, their bodies distorted and scarred, hideous to behold; a mockery of my beautiful avian race.
    A scream from a few streets over pierced my thoughts.
    And so it begins.
    I dodged between buildings, my wings carrying me to the scene. Sure enough, the Drakon were beginning to land on the streets, clawing and chasing after the frightened humans.
    Pulling a golden, bladed polearm from its sheath on my back, I glided through the streets, destroying every warrior I could reach. After downing more than a dozen of them, I fluttered to the center of one of the streets, working to catch my breath. As I did so, Drakon warriors began to land ominously on the sidewalks, on top of parked cars, on telephone wires and street lights, their eyes fixated on me.
    They came at me in groups, thinking they need only send a few warriors in at a time to finish me off, but they were sorely mistaken. One by one, I eliminated them, slashing them to pieces, clawing them to the dust that they were, as the human onlookers watched in terror. The battle was long and tiresome, but not more than I could handle. I was used to fighting on my own. As I felled the last Drakon warrior, the humans erupted in a chorus of cheering and applause, their cameras flashing. But I wasn’t interested in reveling in their praises. Sheathing my weapon, I leapt into the sky, soaring above and beyond the sea to my home in the middle of the ocean.
    As I flew, I was haunted by memories of what the Drakon did to my kingdom. The Isle of Drow, as we called it, had been completely obliterated by the Drakon only a few months previous. Once a green and lofty island home to multitudes of my kind, it was now simply a lump of earth consumed by disaster, the rubble of what had once been our towering temples and rock-hewn statues lay as a crumpled heap in the center of the water. Still I remembered the intense shock that gripped me as the reality of the tragedy sunk in. Not only had my home been destroyed, but my Phoenician brothers and sisters were lost with it. The despair collided with anger deep inside me, the crippling, devastating emotion threatening to consume me, my very feathers trembling in anguish. My people were gone. Obliterated. I alone was left.
    Just as the night approached, I dipped down toward the water’s surface, coming to land on the single piece of our kingdom that remained. A hollowed statue’s head, severed at the neck, had cracked from the island’s debris and now floated aimlessly on the sea, carried adrift by the water’s currents. With the Isle of Drow no longer inhabitable, I had taken up residence on the fragmented statue, refusing to let go of the one remnant of home I had left. I dropped to its face, the weight of painful memories playing heavy on my shoulders.
    The moon, now high in the sky, illuminated the clouds around it, shinning its gentle light on me. Trudging wearily across the floating stone, I paused, a shimmer of green catching my eye. There at my feet, nestled in one of the jagged cracks of the rock, was a small seedling, lifting its head to greet the moon, as though the two were exchanging whispers of wonders. I stooped, reaching out to stroke its fragile leaves. It was an Ember tree, a tiny spec compared to the monstrous trees that had once shrouded the Isle of Drow. It too, had lost its home, its ancestors cruelly destroyed. And yet it somehow remained, the last Ember, clinging to new life here on this rock.
    I began to feel a new emotion of hope surge within me, replacing the deeply painful red sorrow in my soul. This little plant, this seed of promise, was carrying on the legacy of the lost, just as I was doing. Through this tragedy, came a chance to start over. To rebuild the Phoenician empire.
    I stood to my feet, looking proudly at the moon that now seemed to smile upon my powerful epiphany.
    I will prevail. I thought to myself. I will protect the humans from the Drakon empire and their evils, so that they will never have to share in my sorrow. This tree and I will survive. The last Phoenix and the last Ember will continue life. Together. On this rock, our fortress of solitude. This I vow. For I am a Phoenix. I am…..Phenomena.


      • Thank you so much! =) I listen to Audiomachine a lot whenever I write, and Phenomena is such an awesome album as a whole that I decided to go above and beyond (ha) and draw inspiration from the entire album instead of just the one song. So I ended up weaving in references to a handful of the other songs from Phenomena as I was piecing the story together. I really tried to not just hear the songs but really feel them and imagine what the composers were imagining when they wrote them and how they all combined together to tell the artist’s story.

        Anyway, I’m really glad to know someone liked it!! =)


  18. A Superhero is Born by Anne Higa, 1167 words – good luck to all!
    Clocking in at 5’4 and weighing just under 120 pounds, no one would have pegged Allison as a hero. She wore her brown hair pixie short, dressed to fit in, and watched reality television. As far as anyone knew, she was just another freshman at Stewart High in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
    All around her, every day it seemed, there was word on the news of yet another “anomaly,” yet another child born with abilities no one could understand or control. Most chose to go to special schools. Even when gifted children were allowed to live in the normal world, they were kept under 24/7 surveillance by various news outlets looking for yet another interesting article. Telekinetic Boy Kicked From Team. Distance Viewer Finds Stranded Hiker. And so on.
    The news stories never seemed to end with – and so-and-so continued to live their normal life. Allison never wanted to be one of those kids. So she did her best to keep her gift a secret.
    On her way home after cheerleading practice one evening, the sun had just set, painting the world in a golden glow streaked with fiery reds, bathed in pools of deepest blue. Crickets chirped and the air filled with electric tension. The whole world seemed to pause, as if waiting.
    A shadowy figure appeared on the sidewalk in front of Allison, not twenty feet away from her house. Beyond the folds of his hooded black cloak she could make out the dim outline of the powder-blue ranch style house where she lived.
    “Greetings,” the man said, with the kind of sepulchral tone that usually came only from voice synthesizers. “I am The Darkness.”
    “Well,” Allison said, determined to show no fear – and also feeling mostly annoyed. “Nice to meet you. My name is none of your business, but you can call me definitely not legal for short.” She tried to go around him by walking on the lawn but before she could take more than a few steps, he appeared directly in front of her. Teleportation. Great.
    “Usually people are more afraid at this point.” The Darkness seemed confused. Then, he shrugged. “Come into the Darkness.”
    She was about to retort with some statement involving things he could stick where the sun didn’t shine. What happened next rendered her speechless. Suddenly, she was no longer standing on the street, but in a dimly-lit dungeon surrounded by other young people, all of them silent. Water droplets condensed on the stone ceiling, plunking to the ground. The air felt dank and chill.
    As her eyes adjusted, she recognized one of the people sitting close to her. He had been one of their local heroes. His gift had enabled him to run into a burning building and save two children – and a puppy.
    The boy looked up at her, meeting her eyes briefly. He was seated on the floor in a lotus position, apparently meditating.
    Allison wondered how long she would have to stay here, and if there was a bathroom. Not that it mattered.
    There were worse things than being abducted by some weirdo in black. And being under the thrall of her ability was definitely one of those things.
    “What does he want with us?” Allison asked, mostly out of curiosity, searching the room for some sign of the hooded figure.
    “I want to help you,” the Darkness said. Ah, there he was, leaning against one wall of the dungeon.
    “How old are you?” Allison asked, squinting at him. As far as she knew talented people had only started being born about fifteen years ago. She had been one of the first.
    “I’m almost a grown up,” he said. “None of your business,” he added.
    “Why are you doing this?” The words left Allison’s mouth before she realized she really didn’t want to know.
    “We will work together to create a better world, one where we can all be free from those who would enslave us.” From the way he said it, Allison could tell he had been practicing this speech for a while. Then again, he had just kidnapped a telepath – so, not the brightest guy in the room.
    “You are going to let all of us go,” Allison said.
    “Of course I am,” the Darkness said.
    No sooner did he say the words then the room changed, and they were in the first floor of a small house, barely lit by the fading light of dusk. Allison had to admit that this kid’s ability was pretty cool. She almost wanted to ask him to do it again.
    “Are there any other kids being held captive, other than the ones here?” Allison asked.
    “Probably. Yes. I suppose there are.”
    Mind-controlled people could be so literal.
    “By you.” After a few seconds of waiting, Allison realized she would have to ask again. “Are there any other kids being held captive by you, other than the ones here?”
    “Do you know where the nearest training facility is?”
    “Yes,” the Darkness said.
    “Okay,” Allison said. “Show us the way, on foot.” That would make it easier for her to slip away once they got there.
    As they gathered on the porch and prepared to head out, Allison realized she should probably coach the ten kids who had just escaped with her.
    “I’m glad I could help but I’d rather not have people know about my abilities.”
    “Um,” a boy said. She turned to see him filming her with his smart phone. He was about her age, with long brown hair, wearing faded jeans and a dark t-shirt. And, he was really cute. “There was no service down there but I can conduct electricity. And – yeah – it just posted. Sorry. By the way, you’re hot. Are you seeing anyone? People will want to know.”
    “Thanks for saving us,” a young girl said. Allison turned to see the five-year-old red head, her hair done in two pigtails.
    Allison sighed. “Let’s get out of here,” she said.
    Within twenty-four hours, Allison saw her picture on the front page of … everything. Gifted Saves Ten in MN appeared on the front page of the New Yorker. That was her favorite, because it rhymed.
    Within forty-eight hours, there was another article – in the local paper, on page 3. No one in the world cared much about that headline – except Allison, who knew that her life was over.
    Gifted Freshman Removed From J.V. Cheerleading. Subtitle: Schoolboard Cites Fears of Unfair Sportsmanship.
    All over school, people stopped talking when they saw her. Her teachers wrote little messages on her assignments, like “this A was earned fair and square” and “I’m sorry but this only deserves a B.”
    In the aftermath, Allison had no choice but to head for the nearest training center. At least there she would be able to live a normal life. There she would also meet new friends, learn how to hone her abilities, and would one day become a hero known and loved by all, a hero known as Mindbender.


  19. Pingback: Architects of Illusion (Echoes of Olympus, #1): Zenith | writerlysam

  20. Pingback: Audiomachine’s PHENOMENA: Epic Heroes Event | ladyofthepen

  21. Thanks again for the opportunity. This is my submission:

    by Alexander Aigner
    (1198 words)

    Where he looked, he saw sand. Vast amounts of sand as far as the eye could see. Kelvin stood on one of the innumerable sand dunes of the Sahara. To be exact, on a dune in the Central African part of the desert, south of the patch of earth which, in old maps, had been recorded as Lake Chad. In very old maps. Long since nothing pointed to the stretch of water anymore. It had become a part of the desert, covered by a boundless blanket of sand.

    The world had changed even faster than climatologists had expected. The climate had grown severer, the deserts had expanded, the rising sea level had changed the coastlines of the continents. As a result, the green belt around the equator had narrowed as well. Only a few inhabited the equatorial zone now. The weather had become too relentless there. Nowadays, the majority of mankind was living in the temperate latitudes of North America, Europe and Asia.

    Ironically, its complete isolation, caused by the extreme temperatures, had brought him to this godforsaken place. Here into the desert, nobody followed him. Not because no one with any common sense would want to come to this place, but because no one could. In fact, during the day the local temperatures exceeded 60 degrees Celsius. The sun was constantly burning down creating an unimaginably huge furnace — a metaphor his friend had used. But given this thought, Kelvin remained fairly cool. Whatever was meant by cool in this context.

    He was different, unlike any other man. He had realized this early on. When the sun made them break out in sweat, his head remained… cool. When they were shivering in the cold chafing their hands, his were warm. He had neither sensation for heat nor for cold.

    At the age of eight, his resistance had dawned on him. It had been winter. He had been playing on a frozen, when suddenly the ice had cracked under his feet. Before he knew what was happening, the black water of the lake had swallowed him. But the paralyzing cold shock effect failed to appear. He remembered the bubbles of air around him rising to the hole in the ice, while he sank to the bottom of the lake. His desire to take a breath grew. He fought his way back to the opening, which so suddenly had devoured him. As he had broken through the surface of the water and recovered his breath, Kelvin felt as if he was reborn. He could still recall the worried looks of his parents, when he finally came back home, dripping wet from head to toe.

    At that time, Kelvin understood their concerns just as little as they could understand the apparent luck which was bestowed on him. Whether it actually was luck or a work of evolution that turned him into what he was, remained unanswered. He preferred the rational reasons for his existence. Maybe he was just the first link in a long chain to adapt humanity to the excesses of the climate. At least, he could identify best with this theory. Of all the theories that countless doctors and scientists had told him during their examinations, this one appeared to be the most conclusive. But in the end it was only a theory among many that owed its proof to date.

    Kelvin had been taught to keep his gift for himself. People were afraid of the unknown, and fear led to disgust and hatred. However, he didn’t succeed for long to keep his unusual abilities secret from them. He became incautious. He tried to imitate the behavior of the people, but wearing shorts halfway through winter maybe wasn’t quite the way to stay unnoticed. Try as he might, Kelvin couldn’t hide his nature any longer.

    As prophesied the aversion to him began to grow. Yet he had the best friend one could wish for. His words gave him courage. From then on Kelvin no longer denied his gift, and he began to use his abilities where they were needed. He had made the right decision, the skeptical voices lessened and finally fell silent.

    But men are as changeable as the weather. Like one day the sun is shining and the next day the rain is falling, just as changeable they are themselves. One false step and all appreciation is gone. It was little more than half a year ago, when he slipped.

    Again he saw himself running through the burning house in search of a missing occupant. Eventually, he found the victim and tried to find a way out of the building. Though the fire didn’t want to let them go, blocking their path. The hot flames couldn’t cause him any harm, but against the walls of fire his companion didn’t stand a chance. Kelvin had to leave him behind.

    His failure spread quickly, and with it came disappointment. Wherever he went, he was eyed skeptically, like a few years before. Solely his friend stuck by him, trusted him. Yet he was plagued by self-doubt. He became mistrustful, and at last he withdrew into himself.

    And now he was here, in the endless expanse of desert. A fortress without walls. A fortress of self-chosen solitude. He was far away from any living soul that would further torment him. Still, he felt anger. He was furious with the enduring discontent of humanity and even more with his own inability.

    The air around him began to steam as he cried out in his fury. The sands moved under his feet. Kelvin fell. In an attempt to get back on his feet he sank further into the dune. Now even the desert had turned against him. He clenched a fist and slammed it to the ground. He startled. His hand had disappeared in the sand as though it had transformed into water. Around his fist the sand seemed to liquefy. Not only around his fist, around his entire body a liquefaction process set in motion. Before the desert swallowed him, he took one last deep breath.

    He was able to see as if he was diving in water. The sun shone weakly through the translucent molten sand. The sight was both oppressive and beautiful. Time stood still.

    Had he liquefied the sand? Was he not only able to adapt to temperatures, but could he actually change the temperature of his surroundings? And if so, how did he do it?

    He got out of breath. If he wanted to live, he had to return to the surface. But then, did he want to go anyway? Kelvin thought of his childhood experience on the frozen lake. Astounding, how the incidents resembled each other. Back then, he had wanted to go back. And this time, he knew it was no different.

    He broke through the surface of the dune and inhaled the air. Kelvin knew this feeling. His anger settled and joy arose from it. He was young, his whole life still lay ahead. He had a friend at his side, an unwavering friend. And an ability yet to master. What more could he want?

    The sand cooled and solidified to golden glass.


  22. can “work of art (any medium)” be a original costume design? and then i submit picture by photographing the character?


  23. Title: Broken
    Name: Sarah J. Sanborn
    Words: 622

    Maximus, the great hero, stands alone in the midst of a crumpled building in the city he protects.
    A laugh, cold, hard, insane, fills the unnaturally still streets. Anyone left alive is too frightened to move, or to speak a word.
    “Why don’t you kill me?” says the man, who many would give the title villain, but is only a man, a man with a terrible hunger and power to kill. “We’ve already demolished half the city. Much more and there won’t be anything left.” He laughs again, unperturbed by this prospect. For him, if they destroy the city, he will only move on to another, but for Maximus this place is his home and his reason for being. When his world fell apart and he became a danger to those closest to him, it gave him a purpose. He would never have a normal life, but he could protect the city. It was the only lover he would know. His body radiated destructive energy, that was only kept at bay by a crude metal suit lined with led. He had not tasted food in over a decade, fearing even the smallest opening would release the power. A gastric feeding tube provide him with the nutrition he needed.
    No, he could never have a normal life, but he could stop the monsters who hid beneath the skin of men.
    He lifts his fist aiming at the place where he last heard the voice and squeezes a switch on the palm of his gauntleted hand. A burst of power vaporizes the rubble of a building that had once been a bank. Did I get him?
    The ground beneath him shakes and erupts. Maximus hurtles through the air, landing with a clatter of metal striking and giving way against concrete.
    Pain fills his mind, chasing away thoughts like a ravenous dog. But he knows he has to get up. He’s not sure why, he simply does. He pushes himself up and tears fill his eyes, beneath his helmet.
    The man stands in front of him. Maximus sucks in a painful lung full of air and raises his fist. He tightened his fingers.
    Nothing happens. A tremor runs through his body. He tries again, squeezing his fist with all his strength.
    Nothing! The switch must have broken in the fall.
    He chokes back a sob. He can’t defeat this man.
    The villain, the monster, the man has won, but he won’t take his prize—it’s broken. He will destroy it and move on to another city and when he is done there he will move to another and another, leaving pain and despair in his wake.
    The choice is clear, but it shatters Maximus’ heart as he rips the metal suit open. Tears run down his cheeks and the wind brushes against his face for the first time in many years, trying to brush away the tears.
    All his will is focused on keeping the power inside, if only for a few seconds. His skin glows with suppressed energy. It’s glorious. The man stares at Maximus as though he’s witnessing a demigod made flesh. Fear shows in his eyes.
    “Your hunger will never stop…I’m sorry.” These last words are not for the man’s ears, but for the city’s. He closes his eyes and releases the power, without the suit it cannot be controlled and rolls from his body in powerful waves. It strikes the man and he is gone. Buildings, cars, street lamps, and the people are all gone in an instant. Nothing remains except for fine particles, too small to see.
    Maximus, the “hero,” kneels, with only the wind for company, in the empty place that had once been his city and weeps.


  24. Pingback: Keeping Busy | Berning Along

  25. My entry is titled “Drake,” and it clocks in at 1183 words!

    His feet slapped the wet ground and the long end of his stave sank into the peat. The mist, like some dream half-remembered, hung heavy in the air and yet eddied, swirling around his feet as he walked. He walked on the earth, did not let his feet touch the cobblestones nearby, but he could feel the road all the same, pressing down on the green land of his home; the peat had been cut and piled in berms alongside the road to make room for the straight white stones, and anger beat in his breast at the sight.

    He let it grow and twist; anger suited his purpose. A crackling sound met his ears and he turned to look behind himself. Tiny flames danced in his footprints, and with an effort, he extinguished them.

    His father, and his father’s father, told him that he had been born as a gift to their people, that he had been born under the stars of the Afanc, and that his time would be troubled by monsters. So his father had named after Hu Gadarn, and told him to learn to fight, that he might one day slay the beast that was coming. And he had been blessed—had he not?—with a rare and precious talent.

    And then the monster had come, with a thousand tramping feet and too many heads to count, with scales of thick metal. It was a monster of unspeakable greed, and no sooner did it see something, but it must consume it. It laid waste to the gentle slope of the hills to search the dark places of the earth for silver, it crushed peat homes with its sharp claws and fiery breath so that it might build its own lairs of pitch and stone. Where it went, it left trails so that it might pass easily again, and it built itself bridges over the streams and rivers, so that the goddesses who lived there could not touch it.

    Hu’s father met his end with the beast’s claws embedded in his heart, and Hu’s sisters perished in the beast’s fires. Hu’s grandfather, old as he was, had run to warn the next villages, but the beast had smiled on some and told lies with its trickster’s tongue, and so the people were divided. Hu, warned by the fires rising from his village, had run and hidden in the hills.

    And waited, growing stronger every day.

    The sun was rising, burning the mist away and giving Hu a glimpse of rolling hills. Smoke rose where his quarry awaited, and he felt the familiar surge of rage. Nearby, a dry branch sparked and burst into flame, It took restraint to turn east, but Hu walked with purpose and after a time the peat gave way to hard-packed dirt, and then to shale. Hu stepped carefully. He should not dislodge stones that might roll back to the road. He did not want to warn the beast of his approach.

    The cavern was empty, and Hu set his pack on the floor, laid his stave against the doorway. A wooden chest sat in the center of the room, and he sank down in front of it. Silver dragons curled on the surface, his father’s handiwork. Hu stared at it for a very long time; desire coiled in his blood, a lust for revenge, a hunger for blood, intoxicating. Power was waiting for him, he must work not to summon it. First came the trance.

    Rage and grief coiled, power answered, and Hu slammed his thoughts into blackness. Wait, breathe. Patience. He quieted the power in his blood until it sank to a low hum. He felt the cold air on his skin and a breeze on his back, and sank lower in his mind, beyond such sensation. A bird’s trill tried to call him back, but Hu continued to descend. Power without discipline is nothing, was all Hu’s mother said when he destroyed a corner of her garden. He remembered.

    The tendrils of his grief wrapped around him and he saw the burned wreckage of his home. In his mind, he rebuilt the house of mud-brick and peat, re-thatched the roof, relit the small fire in the stone hearth. He smelled oat porridge and the herbs his mother hung in the rafters. He heard his nephews playing the yard, and saw the light slanting in the door, dust motes hanging in the air. Mist blanketed the green fields, and his father and brothers-in-law plowed the fields together. This. He would bring this back. Power without purpose is nothing, Hu’s father reminded him, when the boy created tiny dancing flames and laughed for joy. He remembered.

    In his trance, Hu walked to the river behind his house. The goddess flowed through the land, burbling over rocks and reflecting the gold of the sunlight. Hu dipped his toes in the water and felt the chill he remembered so well. He waded out into the cold and dipped his fingers in the rushing water to call on her: Boann was a goddess of peaceful times, when the rivers were not dammed and filled with rotting bodies. His power was not of water, but he had adored her all his life. He must hope she heard his prayers. Power without devotion is nothing, Hu’s grandfather said, when the powers first appeared. He remembered.

    At last, Hu let his spirit coil and spring into flight. He raced across the patchwork of his land and the illusion fell away: he saw fires and blood. He saw his kin arming themselves to meet the beast, and then he saw the beast itself, with its great thick scales and its metal feet. A thousand claws glittered in the air, and Hu dreamed that he hovered above to know his enemy. He pledged to walk toward the beast in daylight, to let the monster face him. Power without honor will destroy you, Hu’s sister told him once. He remembered.

    They were gone now, all of them.

    It was time. Hu stood on unsteady legs, pushed back the lid of the box. The armor there was oiled, each leather scale metal-tipped and gleaming. First the hauberk, a heavy weight that he tightened at the sides. Leg guards, gleaming as deep a red as his hauberk, then vambraces. Boots of soft brown leather studded in gold and gloves as bright as blood, embroidered in golden thread. The helmet, cunningly given a snout and a ridge of spines, settled against Hu’s skull and he felt his own breath. A golden torc settled against his throat, roaring sigils against his collarbone with ruby eyes, and last of all were the claws, each carved and wrought with the names of his forebears.

    Hu turned to the space before him and closed his eyes. When at last he opened them and swept his hands down, a square of the ground burst into flames, so hot that he felt the shimmer on his face even behind the mask. He smiled in satisfaction.

    The Roman army would soon meet the Drake.


  26. My work is exactly 1200 words. I can be contacted at or my cage can be rattled at the team blog of which I am a part, The Netherworld.

    Flights of Fancy

    Vladimir Rietveld, aka Flights of Fancy, is a different kind of superhero. The thirteen-year-old prodigy is a psychokinetic empath. He has the ability to move objects using his mind. He can predict forthcoming events and perform such feats as finding missing people based on his perceptions of energy fields. He can also sense people’s emotions, and, by temporarily linking his consciousness to theirs, look into their minds and see their hopes, dreams, fears, and motivations in vivid detail. He has helped the police solve several crimes.
    On the surface, Vladi is a slightly built, geeky young man, weighing a mere 99 pounds at five feet seven inches tall. He has pale skin, sandy brown hair, and piercing indigo eyes. He presents as stereotypically gay, which makes him a target for bullying. He utilizes his abilities to put opponents off balance, sometimes literally by using his telekinetic abilities to trip or push them, sometimes figuratively by revealing truths about them that he could have no way of knowing.
    Vladi helps his friends by encouraging them. He utilizes his abilities to look into their minds and identify their hopes and desires. His friends are always impressed that he knows just what makes them tick.
    On the dark side, a vengeful Flights of Fancy might torture someone who angers him by appearing in their dreams and traumatizing them.
    Vladi lives in a midsize, Anytown, U.S.A. setting in a middle class family. Someplace like Pennsylvania or upstate New York seems likely. His mother, Svetlana, is a Russian Jew. His father, Eagle, has Dutch, Flathead Indian, and Nahuatl roots. Vladi has a 23 year old brother named Morey, which is short for Mordecai; and a nine year old sister named Sky. The family is sometimes accused of coddling their sons, because both Morey and Vladi are gay.
    There could be some very interesting cultural explorations done into Vladi’s background to explain his psychokinetic abilities. Russian, and Native American cultures are rich with stories about mystics with great powers over magic and dreams. The Nahua people of Mexico and South America also have a fascinating mythological catalog. Vladi’s ancestry could provide opportunities for teaching and cross-cultural understanding.
    Regarding special abilities in the rest of the family, Eagle has dreamwalking and psychic abilities, but does not have telekinetic powers. Svetlana has precognitive abilities. She does Tarot card readings on the side at the bakery that she co-owns with her parents and sister. Morey has precognitive abilities and the ability to perceive energies when he touches objects. Sky is adept at astral projection and remote viewing and also has dreamwalking abilities. Vladi has the most powerful psychic gifts among his family members.
    Although Vladi is a target for bullying because he is out and enjoys dressing in vivid colors, he is well-liked because he is kind and always willing to help others. Vladi has a lot of friends, but he has a core group of three.
    Hibiki Matsumoto is a tiny powerhouse of a Karate black belt who fears no-one. His parents own a popular Karate dojo.
    Lachlan Ulfsson is another black belt. He jokingly calls himself The White Flash because of his pale skin and very light blond hair. He is chubby, which tends to make him a target for teasing. Lachlan is fairly confident, but sometimes the teasing hurts him. There could be a teaching moment here if Lachlan were to go through a struggle with bulimia or restrictive dieting.
    Eckart Macbeth is a lanky, zany, red-haired artist and video game aficionado with lots of freckles and a changeable personality. Although he’s friendly and kind and often overtly happy and laughing, sometimes he goes through periods where he’s extremely irritable and morose. Eckart has bipolar disorder. There is a chance for a teachable moment when he attempts suicide by overdosing on pills. With help from his friends, particularly, Vladi, he is able to see that his mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of, and that if he works to treat it he can live a happy and productive life.
    The story could begin after Eckart’s suicide attempt.
    Vladi visits Eckart after he comes home from the hospital, Eckart is lying in his dark bedroom. Vladi approaches, and Eckart greets him with “stay out of my head, you queer, synapse-snapping freak of nature.”
    “Now, Eck, flattery will get you nowhere,” Vladi says in a flamboyant fashion. “You’re not going to push me away by calling me obvious names, and I won’t synapse snap you unless you give me permission. The fact that you’re pre-emptively pushing me away so you won’t get hurt by losing a friend has nothing to do with my ability to get into your head, its simple psychology.”
    “You’re still a freak of nature,” Eckart says with a deliberate, sideways smile.
    “Yeah, so are you, Neon Ginger,” Vladi shoots back, grinning. He sits down on the bed next to Eckart.
    “What are you watching?” he asks.
    “I wasn’t watching anything. I fell asleep with the TV on. Are you gonna stay for dinner?”
    “I don’t know. What are you eating?”
    “Xenomorph brains.”
    Xenomorph brains is the nickname given to the unique combination of leftovers that Eckard’s stepfather, Zaahir, throws into a skillet and blends with a green sauce. It’s something of a game among Eckart and his siblings and friends to guess what was in the skillet. The only constant is the green sauce.
    “Thrilling! Yeah, I’ll stay. Are you gonna be up for going to the school jazz ensemble’s first recital of the year?”
    “Calling that noise-fest ‘jazz’ is an insult to jazz.”
    “Eck, they’re learning! Some of them aren’t too bad. Yafe Thor plays a damn good rendition of ‘Yellow Rose of Texas’ on the clarinet, and she doesn’t squeak.”
    “That’s not jazz, King Sillypants, that’s country. You’re right, though. Yafe can carry a tune, and she is one very fine musician, emphasis on the very fine. Sure, I’ll go with you. Maybe I can swing myself into the Yellow Rose’s heart when I compliment her on her cool clarinet playing.”
    “She must have cast a spell on you that time she played that snake charmer song.”
    “She charmed me and my snake,” Eckard chuckles.
    “You’re such a horndog,” Vladi groans.
    Vladi’s attention is drawn to the television. The reporter states that six year old Oihana Yama went missing during an afternoon hike in the woods with her family. Vladi realizes that the girl was kidnapped. He makes a phone call and talks to a police detective.
    “Do they need your magical Sillypants Powers?” Eckard asks.
    “Yeah. Sorry to miss out on the Xenomorph brains, but I can help them find this kid.”
    “Can I come with? I really didn’t want Xenomorph brains for dinner. We can stop at Rocky’s after you help the cops. I’ll buy.”
    Vladi easily assists the police in rescuing little Oihana from the kidnapper, a confused sixty-five year old woman named Odella Pocok, who has Alzheimer’s disease and believed that the little girl was a Japanese refugee in need of assistance.
    Although not all of Vladi’s cases are this easy, as the target audience is young adults, graphic gore and sexual themes should be treated carefully.


  27. Ascendance
    by Tanner Howard
    (1198 words)

    They slowly approached the fallen figure.

    They had all seen the fire that had engulfed the building. They had seen the child on the top-floor balcony, frantically waving and hysterically crying. Hundreds of people had gathered, watching as the blaze consumed the structure, a demon feasting on rotting wood, unstoppable and uncontrollable. The firefighters had arrived, but could not act. “The structure could collapse any moment,” they had said, and no one blamed them. In general, a hero cannot save another if they themselves are incapacitated. Normally ladder trucks would be used, but the balcony was just out of reach. And yet, seeing the child, an innocent child, who couldn’t have been older than five, pleading for help, they were stricken with fear and shame. No one dared enter, and they hated themselves for it.

    Finally, one person could take it no longer. As an explosion burst forth from a bottom floor, drawing the attention of the personnel holding the security line that held the crowd back, a man sprinted out of the mass of people. Slipping past the line of momentarily distracted officers, he then crashed shoulder first into the entrance, and the already aged and weakened doors gave way before him. As he disappeared into the colossus of smoke, the officers pursuing him had no choice but to stop for fear of their own safety. They retreated back to the line, cursing at the stupidity of citizens.

    But this had been no ordinary citizen. This young man had visited this particular building many times. He had also never used elevators, for he prided himself on his elite level of fitness, and preferred to take the stairs. As a result, he had memorized the routes to the stairs long ago, and it was this information that he relied upon. The smoke blinded him and his lungs ached with the severe decrease in oxygen, but still he pressed on. It was a great act of fortune that there was no fire in the stairwell, but as he climbed higher the air got hotter and hotter.

    He finally reached the top floor, and burst out onto the balcony. The child was there, barely conscious from breathing in smoke. The crowd saw him make his way along the balcony and pick up the limp form of the child, and began to cheer. But the man did not hear the cheering. He had seen the ladder from the ladder truck extended to the side of the building, and memorized its position. He began to make his way back down the stairwell, the child in his arms. At the floor of the ladder he exited the stairwell, heading for the window. Dodging and sidestepping flames and falling debris, he reached the shattered window and saw the fireman beckoning towards him.

    The crowd watched as the man handed over the child to the fireman, and resumed their cheering, even louder this time, but soon the cries of joy turned into screams of horror as a section of the building, weakened by the blaze, broke off right above them and began to fall. The fireman barely had time to turn and grab, child in hand, for the middle section of the ladder before the falling debris tore off the section of the ladder he had stood on not a half-second before.
    The child’s savior also managed to escape the grasp of the debris, and breathlessly the crowd watched as he went back to the edge. Anxiously they looked on as he gazed down, having successfully handed off his precious cargo but now with nowhere to go. They heard the moaning of the building as it buckled under the weight of itself, its structural integrity compromised by the all-consuming flame. And they couldn’t shut their eyes as the building collapsed, enveloping itself in a cloud of smoke and dust. They saw that brave man, stalwart and defiant, stand his ground as his world came crashing in around him, accompanied by the screams of those watching.

    Once the dust had settled and the fire extinguished, they were able to see a lone figure crawl from the wreckage and lay still.

    They slowly approached the fallen figure.

    He lay face up, and when they looked at his face they saw a man no more than twenty years old lying there. One could tell he was handsome, even with a face covered in soot and smoke. His clothes were tattered, and his chiseled torso was bruised and bloody. A trickle of blood crept out from his brown hair. He still drew breath, but it was ragged and he fought for each gulp of air. Each onlooker knew he didn’t have to suffer much longer.

    It began to rain.

    Some began to weep. Others fell to their knees, head buried in their hands, convulsing with waves of sadness at the sheer injustice of it all. They recognized this man, for he was a student at the local university. The epitome of a gentleman, he was beloved by everyone he met. There he was, a man with so much promise and potential and an even greater sense of duty, beaten by a force no mortal could overcome. And yet that had not stopped him from trying.

    They circled around him, a fortress of silence and solitude. No words were spoken, for no one knew what to say. They could only watch as a good person, with a pure soul, took their last excruciating breaths. A final exhale, brown eyes focused on the distant sky, and he was gone.

    Right then a fierce wind came from behind the crowd. Confused and watery-eyed they huddled together against the onslaught, and just as suddenly as the wind had come it then ceased. Bewildered, they looked around to find the source of the disturbance, as if to ask it why it would dare disturb the peaceful passing of the brave man that lay at their feet.

    They were still looking around when a little girl broke the silence. “Look!” she cried out, and all eyes turned where she pointed, back towards the body. A bright ray of sunlight had broken through the grey canvas of storm clouds and bathed the body of the man in a golden halo. The rain stopped. The body stirred and began to rise, as if Helios himself was lifting him up. Higher and higher he ascended, a limp form with arms outstretched as if crucified, his head facing up towards the heavens.

    He stopped rising, and floated thirty feet above the crowd, still cocooned in the ray of golden light. His body began to glow with a golden aura, the intensity increasing until he was Ra reincarnated. A harmonious, angelic chorus could be heard, growing louder and deeper with each passing moment. Brighter and brighter he got, and the men, women and children in the crowd had to sheathe their eyes for fear of blindness. Suddenly, as fast as it started, it stopped, and the crowd lowered their hands. The man dropped, and landed solidly in a kneeling stance. He stood up. His body was healed, and his eyes glowed with the power of the gods.

    Seraphus was born.


  28. Pingback: Story coming out in new ebook! | Amy Michele

  29. here’s my entry. 1200 exactly. * = thoughts/telepathy since italics disappear.

    A slow breath hissed out as pain radiated throughout. Eyes blinked open and tried to focus past the throbbing in her head. She made a move to lift her hand, but thick, metal bracelets shackled her wrists and ankles. She was bound. Why?

    The room appeared cavernous. Intermittent lights illuminated the darkness, but not enough to find an exit. A bank of monitors were on her right. Live feed from all around the world flicked on and off as they changed locations. A holo-table stood a few feet in front of her. A three-dimensional, light-generated building glowed. A high rise in a city by the look of it, but the name of it would not come to her despite its familiarity.

    What was wrong with her? Where was she? How did she get here? Who did this to her?

    A swell of panic washed over her, but she bit her lip and pushed it away. She needed her wits to get out of this despite how scattered they were right now.

    She may have no recollection, but it did not mean she was helpless.

    Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and slowly blew it out. *Okay, now think. What’s the last thing you remember?*

    Her gaze instantly went back to the holographic building. There was something about it . . . something important . . . danger . . .

    “Vogrenburg Tower,” she whispered. Then it all came back to her.


    Her heart hammered in her ears as she reached the edge of the building. Her thigh muscles burned hot as they bunched in preparation of jumping. Hurtling herself across the hundred feet between building rooftops, a grimace of pain thinned her lips.

    Sinister Drake’s hovers drew closer. Their engines purred behind her. She could outrun a cheetah, but the hovers were even faster. Thin and sleek, they maneuvered like a bird in flight.

    Cold air burned where SD’s henchman had clipped her. The particle beam gun had disabled her ability to fly somehow. Her only hope was the ambush set for SD’s target, but that was four blocks away. She did not know if she could keep up the pace. Her injured thigh was already weakening.

    *Mom, can you hear me?*

    The telepathic link buzzed in her mind. It zapped her like a strong jolt of static electricity. Unpleasant each time but necessary.

    *What’s wrong?* Her voice came out calm yet concerned.

    *SD invented a new toy. Some sort of beam gun. I can’t fly, and I have three hovers gaining on me.*

    Despite her exhaustion, she smiled at the expletive that her mother bit out. She imagined her mother’s furious expression. She pictured Electrica’s red hair frizzing with the electrical energy surge that accompanied her anger as well as green eyes crackling with mini lightning bolts.

    Dodging the hover that tried to ram her from behind, a shudder crawled down her body. The Megaton Strike. She did not even want to comprehend her mother getting angry enough to use her ultimate power. It was capable of destroying three city blocks with the initial blast and the EMF would wipe out the entire electrical grid of the state.

    *All right, Lulu, Danny’s on his way. He’ll rendezvous with you as soon as he can.*

    Relief flooded her at the news as she landed hard on another rooftop. Fatigue ate at her body. Her muscles quivered, but she pushed herself to continue until her older brother could locate her. She would need his help to keep them off her and get to safety.

    A three dimensional silhouette stepped from the pitch-black recess created by two buildings’ intersecting shadows. It rippled and morphed into her brother in his ever-present black leather coat. The long suede blurred his outline, and the heavy, overly large cowl hood hid his face. *Shadow Weaver!*

    He watched as she leapt to his rooftop, which was thirty feet below.

    *Behind you. 8 o’clock high. 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Dive!*

    She angled her body by sheer strength. A hot beam whizzed by her right ear. The brightness blinded her, streaking a splotch trail in her peripheral vision. A second blast scorched her hair.

    *This is going to hurt!* she thought as she readied to dive roll onto the roof. She landed hard before momentum sent her hurtling forward. She somersaulted three times, alighting on her feet. She jogged a few steps to stop her forward progress.

    She spun to face the minions jumping off the hovers. Her brother joined her as their enemy spread out to engage them. Two against six was an even match even with her injuries.

    Two lunged at her simultaneously. She defended against their flurry of fists and feet. One landed a body blow but she head butted him, breaking his nose. He backed away on wobbly feet, dazed.

    A quick glance to her brother made her mouth uptilt. He had a handle on his attackers. He blocked one with an upraised forearm. The second staggered and dropped to the rooftop from a heavy knee to the gut. A mass of solid black shot out of his hand and splattered onto the enemy. It crawled and devoured his face, muffling his terrified scream.

    A shudder shot down her spine. Living shadow. One of her brother’s special powers. The man was lucky. He would survive. With his mind intact was another story altogether.

    Her brother had intense morals. Black and white. Good and evil. Shades of grey were barely tenable. Such was his kything gift, or curse. If that man had darker sins, he would have opened a portal into the shadows and entrapped the man in eternal darkness.

    The last enemy fell, holding his head and groaning. They had won.
    A heavy sigh rushed from her as her body slumped, grimacing as bruises and burns throbbed. Her injured thigh muscle cramped from exertion. The wound stung like ice.

    “Are you all right?”

    Her brother’s concern made her smile as she closed the distance between them with tentative steps. No way was she going to fall on her face in front of her brother. She would never hear the end of it. “Yeah, nothing the Doc can’t heal.”

    The slight buzz was the only warning. The Electro-Vice gripped her body, immobilizing her. *Go, Danny!*

    Shadow Weaver hesitated before escaping into the shadows as a second Vice missed him by inches.

    The fourth hover landed before her. She watched as the remote was raised, zapped her into unconsciousness.


    The hollow sound of a metal door opening brought her out of her reverie. Her head snapped in that direction. Using her telescopic vision, her eyes found the sliver of light. It vanished as the door closed, but now she knew the way out.

    She closed her eyes and lolled her head. Maybe she could learn something.
    “Is she still out?”

    *Helios? He’s here?*

    A chuckle. “No. She’s awake and playing possum,” said a deep and familiar voice.
    Steps approached her. A warm hand caressed her cheek. “Isn’t that right, Skyrocket?”

    Raising her head, she glared at the man before her. Sinister Drake.

    “Hello, Lulu.”

    “Hello, father.”


    • Whoa. This was by far my favorite entry so far! Very well written!! You should really turn this into a book!!

      (I was frustrated too when all my careful spacing and italics vanished when I copied my final draft into the comments. I wish I had thought to put stars around mine the way you did, very thoughtful!)


      • Thank you Annie. I appreciate the compliment. I’ve posted here before so I knew about it. =D. That and in was reminded by the earlier comment above.


  30. Blood Rose 539 Words

    I’ve heard it said that the freaks come out at night and I think they are right. That’s where I find them, the bad guys that the cops find impossible to find and catch. You can never lure them out during the day no matter how hard you find. When I find them I incapacitate them just until the cops can come to take them to their much deserved fate. I don’t stick around to receive a thank you of course. I prefer to remain anonymous.
    I’ve captured so many and yet there are so many left to apprehend. I captured everything from robbers to killers. They never see me coming. I hide in the shadows and they never realize that I’m there. All I have to do is reach up behind them and touch them and it is already too late.
    Some call me hero. I’m the one taking the riff raff of the street and taking care of the jobs the police are either to scared or too stupid to find. They praise me for doing everything to make sure justice is served without very little harm or damage being done.
    Some call me vigilante. I’m a miscreant taking the law into my own hands. I think I’m above the law. They fear me for what I might do to them if they shoplift or take a little money from the till at the company they work for.
    They all call me Blood Rose due to one eye witness who claims to have caught a brief glimpse of me. They say I am a beautiful woman with alabaster skin, bright blue eyes, and crimson hair that looks like it’s on fire. That is not my real name of course. I will never share it with anyone to keep myself from getting caught.
    But what if they knew who and what I really was? I’m a creature of the night, a vampire. Instead of draining the blood of random, innocent victims, I use my hands to drain the life force from would be villains so they pass out. I never kill my catches. I always let them go, straight to prison where justice can be served.
    When they find out what I truly am, will they come and mind me here during the day when I’m at my very weakest. Will they come here to my place of solitude, my home away from the burning pain of daylight? Will they try to drive a stake through my heart or sprinkle me with holy water? Neither of which truly work on a vampire but they wish to believe the legends. It’s fruitless to try to kill me. The only thing that can destroy me is that bright star in the sky.
    One day, when this is all over and my secret is no longer safe, maybe they will celebrate who I am. Maybe they will see that we vampires are no different than meager humans. We don’t go out sucking blood here, there, and everywhere. Maybe they will see that I did everything I can to be a good citizen of the city. Until then, I stay in the shadows hunting out the freaks that come at out night.



    Written by: Andrei Gavrila
    Word Count: 1183

    This is a tale of a man, a man with a dream, a man who made that dream reality, a single man who enslaved an entire nation, a man who created the impossible, this particular man, created a perfect society for himself, a place where everyone respected him and fought for him, and all the ideas and voices of the people who revolted remained in solitude, inside a Fortress of Solitude.

    But this story is also about another man, a man of greatness, a man who sacrificed himself for the greater good, he is what we call today a true hero, a because of him the Fortress of Solitude was opened and now we can all speak and think freely, and no longer are our ideas kept and locked away from us.

    You see, this man, this hero that I’m talking about now, he once fought for the one who made the Fortress, that dictator, he did everything he could to keep the world as it was: under the rule of one. But as years passed he realized that what he was doing was wrong, there were people with ideas, people with greatness in their hearts, who wanted a change, but as a consequence they were all sent away and locked never to be seen again, they weren’t allowed to speak and share their thoughts.

    And so it was that this man saw the injustice in the world, the way aristocrats have more power than the workers, the way lies are hidden behind curtains of politics. And it was that very day that he vowed to fight for the people. When we usually think of heroes, we always see a strong person with incredible powers, but this man had no abilities, he was ordinary like the rest of us, but he had a dream and he gave everything to make it reality. And from that day on his war started.

    A week later after his decision the first major strike happened. Thousands of people went on the streets protesting and spreading their hero’s word, they all wanted a change. Of course, the strike was put down and apprehended by the law forces, but the leader of the strike, escaped and went into hiding, planning for the next riot. And so a period of small riots and strikes began, people went into the streets to fight for their rights and freedoms. And so even if at first the law enforcement fought against them, later some joined the protesters.

    Before these strikes everyone wanted to see something like this become reality, but no one had the power, they all expected some divine force to help them, and it was until the hero rose and showed the people that even an ordinary man can make a change. He thought the people not to be afraid to speak their ideas, because united nothing can stand in their way. The only special trait about this hero was that he wasn’t afraid of saying his opinion.

    And he stood there, alone, in front of a governmental building, shouting harsh words towards the ruler. As soon as he opened his mouth guards wanted to take him away and it was then that he shouted his encouraging words, and he spoke as loud as his lungs could go, and as he was dragged away he said “Is this how you want to live? Being dragged away and locked in solitude because you are different! Is this the way you want your future to be?” After his words echoed through the streets people started to join in and they protested, they released him from the grip of the guards and together they protested.

    The following weeks were full of organized strikes and destruction of governmental buildings. The ones who ruled the country knew that they were in danger and therefore they sent special troops to deal with the problem. Usually when someone fought against the regime they would be sent to the Fortress of Solitude. But this time they were all killed, one by one, each one put down, except for the Hero, he was the one who ran away and no one saw where he went. And so protest died down for a couple of months. The ruling power started to rebuilt what was lost and punish those who plotted against them. Fear flowed back through the streets and souls of the population. Until, after a few months, hundreds of thousands of people marched through the cities burning down propaganda and gathering in front of governmental buildings. And in front of all these people was him, the one who set up all this, no one knew him, for his face was covered all the time with a scarf and a hood, the only way of telling who he was, was by looking at him and seeing his fierce spirit willing to fight for what is right, willing to make a right place for the people.

    And it was here that our hero died, he walked alone towards the capital city, he went on the long stairs of the main government building, he walked and demanded to see the ruler to make an agreement, but no one walked out and instead the hero collapsed to the ground as he was attacked by the ones who were loyal to the ruler. The people saw that their hero fell and retreated, there was no leader, there was no one to give indications. And so the regime smiled as they won and got back their country.

    But their happiness ended quickly, for a day after, the Fortress of Solitude, the huge political prison was thorn into bits, blown up, and all those who sat there in solitude gathering their hatred for the ruler were released and they sought vengeance. And it was then that the regime realized that the real plan was to open the Fortress and not to make riots, the riots were there just to weaken their morale and army.

    Although, the ruler is still alive and well, the freedom fighters got their independence from his rules, and now they have their own government where everyone has an equal right and is free to say anything they like. And as time goes on, more and more people join this new country where they all live a peaceful life as the regime is losing its old ideology and they are slowly converting to this new type of government.

    All of this thanks to that one hero, the one who managed to get the people to fight for what is right, and he thought them that together they can achieve anything. This man had many names over the years, many called him Hero, Savior, Bringer of Peace, peace fighter, the reason to fight, man with the scarf, madman, helper, advisor, asshole, the one who will make a better life. But what I called him, was the name he has first given himself, the name that meant something to us, and so for me and for the rest of us he will always be The Preacher.


    • Wow, an amazing story, but too bad you need more than half a brain to understand it. It has a really powerful message, I liked it.

      My vote goes here.


  32. God of the Drow
    by John Abboud
    (1195 words)

    There it was: the portal. A flame sprung from the last ember of hope in my soul. Perhaps, finally, my people, the Drow, would be safe. For months we had been living as nomads, fleeing the vicious Drakon Empire, which took our lands and slaughtered our people. We were anxiously awaiting the bond between two worlds: the portal. It was said to connect our planet, Lankhmar, to another. However, few of the Drow had ever ventured through the portal, for it only opened on the night of the phenomenal Red Moon. Tonight was that night; our only chance.

    “Keep moving,” I shouted to the pilgrims, as I led them up the stony surface of the mountainside. Dawned in tattered and filthy clothes, they were burdened with heavy leather packs, which were filled with supplies and sentimental items. Some carried their young, as others pulled the elderly and sick in creaking wooden carts.
    At the top of the treacherous climb, a small cave was illuminated by the crimson light of the overhanging moon. Yet another light escaped from within. A dim and eerie white glow.

    I was thrust from my momentary joy by a shrill shriek. Turning, I saw the Drow being thrown into panic. The women and children began to cry out as the men shouted, urging their families onward. Behind them, at the bottom of the slopes, was an army of pursuing Drakon. The relentless beasts were obviously willing to hunt us to the ends of Lankhmar and back. Their torches appeared as a sea of fire, rising and falling as the troops traversed the harsh terrain.

    “Quick! To the portal,” I commanded. They managed to regain their determination and pressed forward. Hasting up the mountain’s foot, they neared the cave’s entrance. I stood on a tall rock, which overlooked the slopes below. Remaining motionless, my people rushed past me. I could almost feel the fear emanating from their souls. Although it affected me, it would never hinder me.

    The advancing Drakon were nearing the screaming Drow, the last of whom were fleeing past me in a blur. Steadying my breath, I drew back my hands. My eyes closed gently as I entered a deep trance. The bellows of the Drakon and the wails of my people faded. The only audible sound was that of my beating heart. My face ceased to feel the cooling kiss of the soft winds, which blew silently against my body.

    Focusing my thoughts, I willed Lankhmar’s natural power to my hands, pulling its strength from the stones, air, and water in the area. I felt the tremendous weight of pure energy pool in my hands. It swirled and grew as I traveled ever deeper into a trance. When the energy was charged, I opened my eyes and thrust forth my arms.

    Enormous bolts of purple lightning scattered from my outstretched palms, arcing between the Drakon. Its light illuminated the rocky landscape and their hideous faces, which were shriveled in hateful and fearful expressions. The electricity killed dozens of the soldiers. Their bodies littered the ground, shaking from the pulsating energy within.

    Throwing myself from the stone, I slid speedily down the slope. The Drakon had quickly filled the gap left by their slain troops in the terrain below. Still sliding, I reached down, gently brushing the stone with my fingertips. Sparks jumped from the two grinding surfaces. Continuing my arm’s arc, I hurtled a tall wall of bright flames toward my enemies.

    The attack burnt a line through the snarling Drakon forces. Refusing to give my enemies time to recover, I launched myself off of an upturned stone. Soaring into the sky, I began forcing balls of purple fire from my fists, which engulfed dozens of troops upon contact with the ground.

    Landing meters from the Drakon, I swung my arm, willing a barrier of raging fire to erupt from the ground between the Drakon and me. Its heat burnt in an impassable line. The beasts, who stood hesitantly on the other side of the barrier, released cries of frustration.

    Feeling a sense of victory, and urgency, I risked a glance back at the pilgrims. However, there were no pilgrims. The Drow had gone. An overwhelming emotion of both relief and sadness consumed me. Although my people were safe, I was separated from them. And that could never change.

    Gathering a ball of crackling electricity, I converted the energy into purple flames. Throwing my hands back, magnificent pillars of fire shot forth from my palms, propelling me forward up the mountain side; toward the portal.

    I was soon jolted by my sudden landing at the cave’s entrance. Peering into the dimly lit tunnel, I could see the portal. It appeared as a glowing white sheet, which spread from the rough walls, roof, and floor of the cave. It shimmered and rippled with its own inner light.

    An agonizing desire overtook me to complete my journey. To enter the portal and rejoin my people. However, it was not my destiny. Knowing that the Drakon would, no doubt, pursue us through the portal, I understood my task.

    Summoning the energy in the air, I gathered power to my palms, in which a sphere of electricity appeared. My eyes began to blur with tears as I thrust the ball toward the portal. It whizzed through the air, illuminating the cave walls with brilliant, violet light. Crashing into the portal with immense force, it scattered its energy in all directions. The portal’s light faltered and faded into the air, taking with it my survival. The ceiling of the stony cavern began to shake and crumble. Large rocks fell from the roof, filling the cave with boulders. I exhaled deeply, accepting my fate.

    Turning back to the Drakon army, I was shocked to see the fire extinguished. They charged up the slopes, snarling in sick excitement. Pulling back my arms, I was prepared to fight to my final breath. However, I was stopped by a sharp pain in my torso. Looking down, I saw the black feathers and shaft of a Drakon arrow impaled into my chest.

    With a shout, I pounded the ground with my fist. A rippling wave of fire and lightning burst forth, engulfing the Drakon forces on the slopes. It burnt brightly in the dark night, making visible all the carnage of the Drakon, which littered the terrain.
    Shocked, I dropped to my knees, hardly feeling the cold bite of the stone. A sudden realization of loneliness gnawed at my mind, making the world seem like a fortress of solitude. Neither the fleeing of my enemies, nor the gentle breeze of the air brought me solace. The only peace I could find was in the safety of my people.

    As my vision faltered, I glanced down upon the blood and stone, which bathed the mountainside. Scarlet light reflected off it in ironic beauty. Staring into the moon’s reflection, I was assured by its red sorrow that the Drow, whom I sacrificed my life for, would never forget my legacy. I would be remembered as the God of the Drow, who met his destiny under the Red Moon’s crimson light.


  33. Timothy Coker
    Diary of a Titan
    Word Count 633

    I was remade on the converted Typhon class battleship Othrys four-hundred and seventy years ago, during the war which became known as the Titan War. The war started when the CTP(Confederacy of Terran Planets) angered an ancient alien race known elsewhere as the Mutagenics. Planets burned as alien hordes decimated the CTP’s supposedly unstoppable armies. Then a scientist found the Ichor strand, a rare genetic mutation that could, through certain treatments, unlock the hidden potential of the human genome. The scientist named those who survived the process Titans. I was only twelve years old when my health exam revealed that I had the Ichor strand and, due to humanity’s need for Titans, it wasn’t even a week after the discovery that I began the process. After fifty more years of warfare, the CTP began to finally gain ground in the war, culminating with the destruction of the Mutagenics home world. Two hundred years after the end of the Titan War, they started using us Titans as a weapon of fear; whole races would give in against the threat of our legions. We soon found ourselves the protectors of the CTP and their interests, and served loyally for almost three centuries. Over the years many members of the CTP started fearing us as we were practically gods on the battlefield, and they quickly devised plans to eradicate us. A few of the more ambitious politicians started spreading hysteria, as they grew in power their lies grew even more extravagant. Soon we were found guilty of “war crimes” and were sentenced to be executed. We tried to fight back but, even with the experiences of centuries, only a few Titans survived; we were simply outgunned. A few of us were fortunate to find sanctuaries that would become secret bastions for our kind as we planned ways to bring about our revenge. My legion and allies were able to find shelter on a small planet named Hades, where we hid for almost five years. Then the aegis marines (humans trained to kill Titans through use of numbers), found us. Only a few of us stayed in plain sight, the rest hid. Thankfully the first wave of marines attacked right as the decoy shuttles lifted off. After trying to shoot them down, they quickly turned their attention on us. The conflict was short; for every ten we killed, twenty took their place. Then he arrived, a figure dressed in powered armor unlike that we had ever seen before. Showing unnatural abilities, even for us, he soon became surrounded by Titan corpses. Only five out of our original twenty were left after only an hour of his onslaught. He motioned to the remaining marines and as he leisurely strode towards us they started to form a ring around us. He stopped only a few meters away and asked us to surrender. We very “politely” gave him our answer, and sprang the trap that we had carefully baited for so many years. Hundreds upon hundreds of oppressed aliens and Titans burst from their hiding places, quickly routing our foes. We buried his body after we scanned it to see if humanity had found a new way to tamper with the Ichor strand. We found that he did have the Ichor strand, unlocked to unheard of levels and modified even from the womb. We never encountered another of his kind during the long war we have waged against humanity, whether that is that because he was the only one, or that they are hiding in the shadows is unknown. Though now a hundred years to the day of the betrayal, our plans have finally come to fruition as we prepare to attack Confederacy’s bastion, Earth. The age of the Confederacy is ending, the age of the Titans has only just begun.


  34. Here’s my entry, “Dove.” You can read the story with italics on my website here:

    Thanks to Audiomachine and Sam for the opportunity to flex the creative muscles to some inspiring music.

    1198 words–because I’m wordy and always cut it close.


    The cherry red ultralight clears the tops of the trees, heading straight for the craggy, boulder-strewn side of Mount Hope.

    The walkie-talkie strapped to my wrist crackles, and Dad’s frantic voice squawks, “Dove, bank left!”

    I maintain speed, breathing deeply as cool air rushes past my face, sending ribbons of hair trailing out behind me. The deadly rocks loom closer, and a mix of exhilaration and fear rush through my bloodstream.


    “Remember your emergency protocols!”

    My fingers encase the throttle so tightly, it might have to be pried from my hand.

    Almost there.

    “What’s happening? Jesus—”

    I regret how helpless my father must feel, believing his only child is about to slam into the side of a mountain. Is he thinking of her, my mother, how he’ll be truly alone in the world if the ultralight ends up crumpled like a discarded ball of paper?

    My veins burn. My chest expands and contracts at the same time.

    There it is.

    At the edge of certain death, I wrench the controls—working hands and feet feverishly—and the ultralight veers up and to the left, slipping past an outcropping. It’s almost as if the space was carved out in anticipation of a reckless, sixteen-year-old girl searching for the ultimate rush.

    When the wheels finally touch down, I’m already unstrapped. My father is huffing hard from running, but he’s there, throwing himself at me, lifting and cradling me to his chest like a toddler. He turns around and around, the hazy orb of the sun playing peek-a-boo with me.

    His eyes are shut tight, lips mumbling as if in prayer. Then the tears come, and he sits down in the tall grass and holds me close. The bright green blades tickling my cheeks wave proudly around us.

    On the way home, the “What the hell were you thinking, young lady?” never comes. It never does. Over and over I stretch the limits of what’s possible, watching my father age before me.

    Dad turns on the radio, fingers tapping on the steering wheel. “Do you want to stop for ice cream?”

    “No, thanks.” I don’t deserve it.

    Guilt is an ugly troll under the bridge of life.

    I rest my cheek against the cool glass of the passenger window, wondering why he didn’t mention the impression of my sneaker molded into the floor of the ultralight or the misshapen throttle.

    When we arrive home, I pull out my Lofstrand crutches—the annoying walking sticks I use to get around. Right now, I could run or jump or break concrete blocks with my legs and bend steel with my bare hands. For Dad’s benefit, I pretend to struggle out of the car.

    A few hours from now, the struggle will be real.

    I have a rare disease. It’s so unique, my deceased mother and I are the only documented cases in the world.

    Mom died when I was six. My memories of her are mere impressions: warm hugs, soft lips against my ear at night to banish monsters, a cascade of dark curls tickling my skin, striking blue eyes, the voice of an angel singing to me . . . all mashed up with the pain of losing her and memories of Dad walking around like a shell of himself, trying to stuff his feelings inside. I kept watching, waiting for him to explode like a canister snake. I can’t say he’s healed over the past decade, but he copes.

    Mom died of “complications” from our mysterious illness. Sometimes Dad looks at me with dread in his eyes when he thinks I’m not looking. I guess I can’t blame him.

    After we go inside, Dad disappears into his office, and I disappear into my room. I sit by the window overlooking the backyard and rest my chin on my hands, allowing the gravity of my burden to settle inside my gut and swell—a thirsty sponge sopping up my fear, loneliness, and desire for someone to share this with.

    The first surge happened on a roller coaster. As the centipede of cars tipped over the top of the highest summit, adrenaline shot through my veins. I screamed and whooped, but not with fear—with pure joy. And my foot punched a hole in the bottom of the car. For the first time in my life, I didn’t need to lean on anything or anyone in order to walk. The burst of strength lasted six hours. Since then I’ve had to do progressively wilder things to recreate the phenomenon, and each burst seems to be shorter than the last.

    An effusion of restlessness invades every muscle and tendon inside me until they’re singing with desire. I need to move or suffer the inevitable pain that comes when I don’t.

    I pull a sweatshirt over my head as I pause by the door to my father’s office and knock lightly. “I’m going for a walk.”

    “Careful, Dove.”

    I press my cheek to the door. “Love you.”

    “And I love you.”

    For show, I use my walking sticks to make my way into the woods behind our house, but once away from prying eyes, I collapse them and use the homemade straps I designed to sling them across my back.

    Beneath the thick canopy of trees exists a different world, where the sounds of human life melt away. The pungent perfume of damp earth and decaying leaves envelops me. I find a familiar path leading into the valley and start to run, each shockwave reverberating pleasantly up my legs.

    I end up at the same place as always, an old train trestle deep in the woods. I love to sit underneath it and scream as loud as possible when the train goes by. The screech and roar of the cars overhead swallow secrets. No words are taboo here; the silence that follows cleanses it all away.

    I pick my way through the metal and wood supports until I reach my favorite perch. Anticipation builds inside as the blare of the whistle sounds, the rumble of the arriving train growing louder.

    A sudden rending crack splits the air, and the entire trestle shudders. A section of the bridge buckles, sending chunks of debris plunging into the creek. The train will derail!

    I scale the metal support closest to the sagging track and crawl onto the crossbeam that runs just below it. Shrieking a war cry, I raise both arms above my head and straighten to full height, becoming a buttress.

    As the train barrels over the trestle, I clamp my eyes shut and pray, certain the quaking reverberations will shake me apart. The thundering bullet doesn’t go over me—it surges through me, making me part of its glorious power and creating a rush of adrenaline like no other that explodes through my veins.

    After the train is gone, silence returns, carrying forgotten words my mother whispered to me before she died, words that permeate my soul.

    “The genetic mix is perfect this time. You will do what I couldn’t, Dove. Be strong. Be brave. Be amazing, sweet girl. I love you.”

    My mom knew. I will honor her memory by discovering my true purpose.


  35. -Automatic Cage-
    (771 words)
    by Dimitra

    Trembling hands painted in blood hang from his hopeless body as he wandered through the ice-cold rain of the night. The fulfilling darkness captured the dusty shadows of pessimism that were befogging the entire city to which he unfortunately
    did belong. Actually he did not belong to this city of cruelty and diabolic seduction.
    Not anymore. Forgotten was the memory of a joyful, young boy who saw the world
    and humanity with the eyes of a naïve heart. Drawn were the dreams and hopes of a sanguine and outgoing personality who looked with great expectations into the future. Nothing remained except of the blackness in his eyes, which now overlooked the entity of the cursed city. Even his name had faded away and left him alone with his insidious thoughts and split mind. “The Shadow” they had named him, after his ability for unseen appearance and merging with the gloom. Every night he would gaze over the lights of the town he once lived in and would observe the equivocal silence that ascended from below. A moment of calmness would then appear which immediately would bring the sound of a music box to his ears, leaving a sorrowful melody in his head. The strokes
    of every single note would pervade his whole body, even the black hole where once
    his red beating heart had its place, and enrich him with a resolute courage one can only sense in the own passionate core. Feeling this burning desire of justice and longing for final relief would again make him aware of the mission he had to face, the destiny he had to trail.

    An unwanted memory suddenly came up and presented him the image of a ten year
    old boy who was kneeling on the muddy asphalt. Around him lay a countless amount
    of corpses, spread all over the once gorgeous main square, which was finally reduced to ashes. With disbelief the child glanced over the scenery and rested his gaze on the cold bodies of his parents, which were lying right next to him. The small hand of the
    boy covered in scratches reached for the slack palm of his dad, searching for some encouragement, all in vain. Before any single tear could run all the way down his cheeks, a heavy footstep emerged from nearby. An armored creature stood in the middle of the square, spit with delight on a corpse lying at his feet and then viewed the lad with hatred. As to underline its position the creature threw its head back and released a horrible screech and slowly started approaching towards him. In an instant the boy stood up and ran towards the narrow alleys, leaving the square behind, together with the monster, the corpses and his parents. The previous gulped back tears finally arrived and ran with him along the alley of shame as he left all he loved behind without any hesitation.

    Self-hate and loneliness would form his life from that day on and leave him alone with his thoughts, leading to the inevitability of a mission. Overwhelmed by the abrupt flashback of his childhood he shook his head in order to get rid of such distracting recalls and place himself back to the presence. If he would continue this emotional
    level of instability, this mission would fail before the real beginning of its accomplishment. Unsatisfied with his performance and effort he wiped his hands clean on the already dirty coat while reviewing the last fight. It had been again only a nameless creature, an additional minor character of the tragedy, which he had to set
    an end to. He remembered the awful scream of the figure as the sharp blade of “Phenomena” cut through its thick throat and left the body breathless on the ground. Despite the successful attempt he was not pleased at all. Once again it was only a henchman of the Nex clan’s leader, another minion of the self-appointed god, who was the final and real enemy to target. “Be patient and destiny will lead you to wonders!,”
    the quiet but powerful voice emphasized. There was no memory of this quote, where it came from and who had shared this wisdom with him, but still he knew that it was the key to success for his mission, the guidance through this sheer unwinnable path to salvation. For a last time he was on his own, had to trust on himself and be brave. No one else would accompany him, except of his weakness, which he had to hide behind the high walls of his fortress of solitude in order to save the world.


  36. Pingback: Epic Hero[ine] | Berning Along

  37. Hi guys!
    Thank you so much for this opportunity! I’m from Italy , and i hope you like my entry
    Writer: Angelo Aiello
    N° of words: 954

    Aurion lied in his bed, deep injuries all over his body, his breath was slow and his eyes stared at the roof painted with ancient drawings of battle studded with the Gods of his people.
    Aurion’s son, Eiron, came in and as soon as he looked at his father, his eyes lost all the light and an ocean of tears filled them.
    “ Father” said Eiron with a trembling voice.
    “ My son, come next to me and hold my hand “ said Aurion with a voice full of pain.
    His son wanted to cry but at the same time he was so proud of his father, he saved all of them from the threat of the Drors, so he sat next to him and held his hand so tight feeling it so cold.
    “ Father, I’m so proud of you, everybody is so proud of you, they say you were a respectable warrior in the battle defending our land so bravely!”
    “ But I’m scared my son!”
    Eiron looked at his father’s eyes lost in all his memories.
    “ Why are you so scared? “
    “ Because I’m going to die and I know that everyone will soon forget all my achievements, and all my pain, my determination, my strength, and all the blood that poured out of my body will lost all its importance!”
    “ No father!” said Eiron “ You will be forever remembered like the bravest warrior of our people, the best father that a son could ask for, the fairest prince of all time and in centuries people will still remember you;
    I already heard the story when you were sixteen years old, you went all alone to this barbaric tribe to save the princess Eliona, you fought till you saved her, and Eliona became your devoted wife and my mother, every night I see her caressing the scars of that day thanking the Gods that you came and saved her, thanking the Gods that I am the son of this brave warrior.”
    A tear fell off Aurion’s eye, it was like a falling star in a sky full of stars which admired all his battles and celebrated all his victories.
    Eiron continued “ Or when you recruited all the farmers because we didn’t have enough warriors to fight against the Ightorat, they were so scared to fight but they followed the strength in your voice and fought with you for three days defeating the Ightorat. And you, my father, spared their prince’s life so he could tell to everyone about these people so brave that weren’t scared to die!”
    Aurion’s eyes were full of tears of joy and his mind came back to the words he said to his people; He was on the balcony of the castle, the sky was clear and a gentle breeze swept away the heat of that sunny day, he could feel the excitement of all the people waiting for his speech, so he took a deep breath feeling the energy growing inside his body.
    “ My people, like you know, we are under attack of the Ightorat, they have two thousand warriors and we have only five hundres warriors, they already destroyed three reigns and all the people became slaves.
    We are people born free and we deserve to live free, we take care of each other, we punish the wrongdoer, we live in contact with the nature, respecting all creation, we are like the sky above us, clear of clouds, full of stars so magnificent, but sometimes a storm can arrive and the light of the stars leave place to a permanent darkness, the thunderclap can even make the mountains tremble, but only the bravest man can go outside and with his strength can sweep away all these clouds and let the peace reign again.
    Now I’m asking you, my subjects, leave all the fears behind, embrace the courage, let the desire of freedom leading you to the most precious victor, we are not scared to die, because our life is a gift to the Gods to protect our wives and our children, and I swear that only the unity can define us as a whole warrior, and if we win our people win, if we die our people will die.
    I’m asking you to be with me;
    To fight with me;
    To win with me;
    To be the bravest with me;
    To let the reign of Aldon growing blooming!
    Are you with me?”
    And all the people screamed “ Yes!”
    Aurion was dying listening to all the tales that his son was telling about all his great battles, like, he became the chosen to wear the diamond of the ancient people of the “ Ipas “ a people of men with wings that fought for centuries against the Amon, the “people of the darkness “, that diamond could give you the strength of the Ipas, and only the bravest warrior with the most noble soul could wear it, so he killed all the dragons that threated his reign and his body became full of scars that could narrate like eyewitness all his battles and adventures.
    As Eiron narrated the stories a sense of tranquility grew into him to lead Aurion finally into the peace.
    They built a statue in the center of the city in his memory, and his people started to tell the vicissitudes of this super hero, generation after generation, leaving around him a mystic veil.
    His statue is still up, thousands of miles under the ocean in the lost isle of Atlantis, still watching over the peace of the memories of his people, like a guardian who is protecting the most precious treasure yet to be found.


  38. Title: “The GR’s War”
    Author: Adam Quinn
    Wordcount: 1,119
    Shafts of light filtered through complex designs cut into the wall, painting a dappled pattern on the floor of the rotunda. Saifan paused his story to take a breath and gauge the reaction of his companion Kiirad, the local Eekompskian chief of police. All four of Kiirad’s hands were clasped passively behind his back.
    Saifan continued, “And then the mechanic said to the physicist, ‘A starship? I thought you asked me to get a ladder!’”
    Kiirad roared with crackling Eekompskian laughter. Saifan grinned hopefully as a breeze swept in through the stone rotunda’s majestic arches to tousle his hair.
    “Seriously, though, Mr. Kiirad.” Saifan eased back to the main question, now that the chief was in a better mood. “The planetary government is highly concerned about the possibility of a Galactic Resistance cell cropping up here in your city, and they want concrete assurances that you have the situation in hand. We’re already fighting GR insurgencies on far too many worlds.”
    Saifan internally cursed as Kiirad’s expression returned to the annoyed frown it had before the joke. He briefly entertained trying to influence Kiirad’s decision with his mind powers, but doubted the old Eekompskian was suggestible enough for it to be effective.
    “Situation is in control,” Kiirad said in broken Galactican. “External interferences makes situation worse.”
    Saifan sighed and raised his eyes to the building’s domed ceiling, on which a vast mural depicted the signing of the treaty that unified Eekompski’s warring factions—an event which had purportedly occurred just about where he and Kiirad now stood. The mural was comprised of thousands of multicolored gemstones from Eekompski’s prosperous mines—mines that the flagging Galactic Government could not afford to lose to a GR-led insurrection. “Mr. Kiirad, I want to help you, but you have to give me something to work with.”
    There was a clap of thunder in the distance.
    Saifan raised an eyebrow at the clear sky that framed the lush garden stretching out from the base of the rotunda. “I could have sworn the weatherman said it’d be clear all day.”
    “No storm today,” Kiirad said.
    The Eekompskian appeared pained, but it was difficult to tell, considering how different their physiology was from a human’s. Kiirad clenched and unclenched his three-fingered fists, and then rummaged through the many pockets of his official robes.
    “Feeling alright, Mr. Kiirad?” Saifan asked.
    “No storm today.” Kiirad extracted a slim package from his robes and pressed it into Saifan’s hands, then backed away. “Ain-krama.”
    “Ain-krama?” Saifan asked. He was moderately well-versed in Eekompskian language and culture, but he didn’t recognize the term immediately. Kiirad made broad strides across the bejeweled floor in the opposite direction, and Saifan wondered if he had committed some obscure faux pas. “Ain-krama” sounded like traditional Eekompskian, which was a dead language save for a few expressions, so it had to be one of those—thankfully there were only a few dozen. Then he remembered.
    I’m sorry.
    The package exploded with a deafening bang, searing Saifan’s eyes and sending him flying into the rotunda’s stone wall. He reached out at the last moment with his mind powers an attempt to slow his flight across the building, but he still hit the unyielding surface with a terrifying crack!
    Saifan’s eyes were blinded and his ears ringing. He thought he heard a whining, screaming sound, and then another blast like thunder—right in front of him this time, but his tightly shut eyelids and blasted hearing couldn’t say for certain if any of it was real. He breathed in tortured gasps, trying to block out the chaos. A ship—two ships—at least three set down in garden below, the distinctive crunch of flattened trees and greenery giving away their landing before it was overwhelmed by the sound of footsteps pounded, both within the rotunda and down on the garden paths, on the opposite side of the wall Saifan was cowering against. Shouts were exchanged. Then sear gun fire. Another barrage of thunder-like explosions shook the peaceful structure itself, and rumbling and cracks mixed with Eekompskian shrieks in a cacophony that only worsened the pain in Saifan’s ears. What was happening?
    Saifan forced open his light-seared eyes to see gun-toting Eekompskians in black body armor charging through the rotunda’s five arching entrances. Kiirad had said that each arch stood for a core value of the united Eekompskian government, but all they stood for now was its destruction. The Eekompskians, who could only be Resistance soldiers, fanned out—a smoky sky behind them and robed corpses littering the floor in front. Saifan snapped his eyes shut again and allowed the creeping darkness at the corners of his vision to take him, trusting that the intruders would leave him if he appeared to be among the dead. The Eekompskians’ stomping and shouting filled the building, and Saifan briefly marveled at the irony of their presence inside a monument to Eekompskian peace and unity before his consciousness gave way altogether.
    When Saifan first reopened his eyes, the world was a red and black haze—red where the entire front half of his body was burnt and bloodied from the blast and his subsequent encounter with the wall, and black where acrid smoke took the place of the domed ceiling above.
    The mural was in chunks and pieces, scattered across the now-cracked floor along with half a dozen formal-robed Eekompskian bodies. Maybe it was fitting that this monument to peace should lie alongside him—one dedicated to commemorating a united Eekompski, the other dedicated to preserving it, both of them mangled by the Resistance’s fruitless war.
    The shock of his injuries wearing off, Saifan struggled to his feet, bracing himself against the wall. For a second, the darkness leered back at him, but this time he shoved it away before it could take hold. After a few seconds, Saifan found the strength to walk and stepped out into the center of the room, telekinetically clearing the fallen chunks of rock from his path. He had left his Phase Sword at his hotel room, but that hardly mattered now—he was still alive, and therefore, in spite of the symbolic ruin of the rotunda, the united Eekompski it commemorated was still very much alive. He picked up a gun from a brave, young guard lying on the floor, and half-shuffled, half-limped to the largest of the five arches—its value, according to the Eekompskian text on the wall, was unity. Much of the garden below was aflame, generating the smoke that obscured the monument’s shattered dome and filtered through the designs cut into its walls, but the arches themselves were still standing, and so was Saifan.
    This battle was just getting started.


    • Very intriguing!

      I really enjoyed reading your piece. The setting and characters drew me in instantly. You did a fantastic job of incorporating the terminology of your story seamlessly into the text without causing confusion. This entry makes me want to find out what happens to Saifan.

      Keep up the awesome work 🙂


    • I always love your world building. Another battle is sure to come and I hope you let us enter into it, as you so effectively allowed us to enter this one. More please!


    • Adam – all I can say is “unspeakable beauty”… No wait, I can say more – neat little story with a “shotgun” start that leaves me wanting to know what happens next, but also leaves me satisfied with what I already got. Nice work!


      • So I just finished reading this story aloud and I have to say, I fell in love with the writing. I absolutely love the sci-fi setting you chose and the devastation caused by the war almost left me in tears. Great work, Adam~ I only wish I could write as well as you can. Good luck in the competition!


    • So I just finished reading this story aloud and I have to say, I fell in love with the writing. I absolutely love the sci-fi setting you chose and the devastation caused by the war almost left me in tears. Great work, Adam~ I only wish I could write as well as you can. Good luck in the competition! (Posting this just in case the above doesn’t count…)


  39. I just heard about this contest yesterday, and am right in the middle of finals week, so I just threw this together. We’ll see how this goes…

    Chrysalis (1189 words)
    Grey clouds hung low in the sky, as if it were about to fall upon the city. A stream of umbrellas flowed underneath the fourth story window, doing little to protect their wielders from the miserable mist that had started midmorning. It was the type of day that made people want to stay inside, curled up with a mug of hot chocolate. However, saying that no one wanted to be outside on a day like this would be a lie, for there was someone who did want to be out. With every beat of his heart, he yearned to step foot outside, to feel the wind on his face. But his dream was an impossibility, for he only got to watch the outside world from within the confines of his glass prison.
    He hadn’t always been imprisoned. Centuries ago, he had been one of only a handful of people who had the ability to use magic. But as people began to study the world, they stopped believing in magic, calling it science instead. All magic-wielders began to lose their ability…except for him. His friends, blinded by envy, turned on him and used the remainder of their power to seal him within a large, glass sculpture. Over the years, his prison had been broken so many times, all that remained of it was a single shard, resting on the windowsill of an old, rundown apartment building. When the building was finally condemned, there would be no one to save him. His days were drawing to an end.
    It was in the midst of this contemplation and wishful thinking when the door to the room he rested in creaked open, and he heard the voice of an elderly gentleman speaking. “…and here is where your room will be.”
    “Oh, I just love it so much! Oooh, a chrysalis!!” Chubby hands picked up the shard of glass and held it out towards the gentleman. “Grandpa, do you think that a butterfly is going to hatch?”
    “No Amber, that’s not a chrysalis…that’s glass. Now give it to Grandpa so he can throw it away.”
    “No! I want to keep it until I get a butterfly!” Amber pulled the glass away from her grandpa and held it close to her. “It’s my room and my chrysalis, because cocoon is an ugly word.”
    Seeing the determination in his granddaughter’s eyes, the grandpa sighed. “All right, you can keep your chrysalis…now put it down and help Grandma bring your stuff in. And then we can have cookies.”
    Amber put her “chrysalis” down and skipped off happily. The prisoner stood and faced the door, curiously watching her go. “Chrysalis, eh?”
    And so began the best days of Chrysalis’s life. Amber, determined to get her butterfly, tried everything she could think of. She watered his prison every day, fed it cookies, and even read stories aloud. As she grew, Amber began to understand that her “chrysalis” was really just a large shard of glass, but she never got rid of it. Her childhood memories kept her from throwing it away, so she kept it, using it as a decoration for her room. Chrysalis didn’t mind. He enjoyed watching Amber grow from a playful toddler to a curious child, and from a curious child to a dramatic teenager. Amber rearranged her room more times than he could count, and she went through fashion trends at lightning speed. On some days she would bring friends home, and on other days she would come home and cry, devastated at the loss of a superficial relationship. Chrysalis loved the days that Amber cried, not because he enjoyed watching her be sad, but because that was when she would talk to him. Since she didn’t know that anyone was listening, she spoke her true feelings, and Chrysalis knew that he was listening to the real Amber, not the one that her friends and grandparents saw.
    However, things began to change five months after Amber’s sixteenth birthday. Chrysalis didn’t know what was going on, but Amber no longer laughed or cried – she just looked worried and tired. Chrysalis began to worry, but there was nothing he could say to her. He had tried numerous times, but the glass prison kept his voice from ever reaching Amber’s ears. Amber came and left her room more frequently than usual, especially for summer, but it never looked like she had been out having fun. She always came back straight-faced and stiff. “Talk to me Amber, please…,” Chrysalis would beg, but she never said a word.
    Finally, the day came when Amber spoke to him again. She didn’t pick his prison up and hold it close to her heart, but instead sat on her bed, and stared at the floor. “Oh chrysalis…why won’t you be my butterfly?” Chrysalis placed his face against his prison. Amber hadn’t asked him to be her butterfly in at least nine years. Amber lifted up her head, and Chrysalis saw that her eyes were starting to fill with tears. “Please…please chrysalis…I want my butterfly…The doctors say that I have astrocytoma…they say I’m not going to make it to my seventeenth birthday.” Amber hung her head again and started to cry. “I don’t want to die, chrysalis…I don’t want to leave my friends behind…my grandparents behind…I-I can’t do that to them…I can’t die.” For the first time in years, Chrysalis desperately wanted to get out again…he wanted to help Amber, to comfort her, but he couldn’t. He could only watch her cry.
    The next weeks were torture for him. Amber was taken in for surgery, chemo, and radiation, and she rarely came home. When she did come home, it broke Chrysalis’s heart. Her condition was worsening, and Chrysalis couldn’t bear to see her decay so rapidly in front of his eyes. But what could he do? He could do nothing to help her. A sudden sickening thought crossed his mind. If he could do nothing to help her, what would happen to him after she…after she died? He couldn’t stand to go back to watching an empty room…he couldn’t take being a prisoner in a fortress of solitude any more. Amber had given him life and joy…he had to do something…He had to repay her for everything she had unknowingly given him.
    – – – – – –
    That night, Amber was awoken by the sound of breaking glass. “Chrysalis?” she asked the darkness, thinking it was just a dream.
    “Shh…” a gentle voice whispered back. A warm sensation spread throughout Amber’s body, and she heard two words spoken in her ear. “Be healed.”
    – – – – – –
    The next morning, Amber awoke, feeling better than she had in months. As she sat up, something fell off of her shoulder and landed delicately on her blanket. “Oh…,” she gasped, looking down at it. There, lying dead before her, was the most beautiful butterfly she had ever seen.

    After centuries of being imprisoned, Chrysalis had finally broken free, all so that he could use the remainder of his life and power to save the one he had grown to love.


  40. Title: Timekeeper
    Author: Alayna Fairman
    Wordcount: 1,198

    “You’re coming, right?” His daughter’s voice, broken with emotion, came pitifully through the receiver. “…Dad?”

    The connection crackled, but Lucas barely noticed above the slow ticking of the elegant watch secured around his wrist. “I can’t.”

    “Grandma-ma is dying!” A gasping sob escaped her. “Grandpa-pa is sick with worry!”


    “Why can’t you come?” Her voice was as mournful as the clouds overhead.

    Tucking a hand into his pocket, he fingered the delicate metal gears and springs he had purchased minutes ago. His lips pressed into a thin line. “I have a commitment.”

    Silence rung in his ears.

    “Sweetie…I’m sorry.”

    Shame gripped him as soft sobs penetrated through the static. As much as he wanted to be at the hospital with her, he could do no good there.

    His gut twisted as he disconnected the call.

    For his own lack of courage, he could not explain his absence. He had never been able to. Even if he could summon the words, she wouldn’t believe him. No one would. Some days, he barely believed it himself. Each day he woke hoping it was a vivid, lingering dream and yet every morning the weight of the singular responsibility greeted him. He saw it first in his daughter’s watch and then in the faces he passed on the street. He could never ignore them, could never tune out the Rhythm. He answered its call first, above any other.

    Turning up his coat collar, Lucas ducked out from the shelter of the antique shop and into the rain. It was only a brief walk but by the time he reached his apartment he was drenched. Heedlessly, he tracked rain into the narrow entry hall and up the stairs, taking them two at a time. At the landing, he grabbed the handle of the banister and vaulted himself up the second flight. The ascent concluded abruptly in a solitary, wooden door. Without pause, he turned the lock and stepped over the threshold.

    The Rhythm enfolded him instantly, a living wall of energy that took the air from his lungs. No matter how often he exposed himself, it never diminished in its potency. When he had first begun to sense the Rhythm, to feel the vibrations of energy that sustained life, any contact with another human inflicted the same breathtaking effect. Some years ago he had finally found a way to channel and contain the Rhythm of each individual. In doing so he had also discovered how to help them.

    Pale, fluorescent light flooded the expansive room as he flicked on the light switch. Clocks occupied every corner and crevice, crawling up walls and crowding together on the cluttered floor. Majestic and unremarkable, expansive and reserved, elegant and simple; from grandfather clocks to pocket watches their combined hum filled the room. The air vibrated with the authority of their power. He could feel each and every one, sense every tick and detect every faltering reprise.

    Lucas had built them, weaving the unique life energy of each individual into the woodwork, the balances and the mechanics. It had been impossible to create a single, simple clock that existed solely to contain the Rhythm, and each had taken a distinctive appearance to parallel their human counterpart. No two beat at the same pace, with the same urgency, of equal strength or comparable passion. Some were soft and weak, some powerful and grand, and others just existed. Each was perfect in all of their flaws and oversights. Each was invaluably precious to him.

    At that moment however, there were only two that called to him. Adjacent to a tall window at the back of the room, the clocks of his grandparents leaned against one another for stability. On the left, his grandmother’s was a beautiful tapestry of flowers and birds weaved into mahogany wood, and beside it his grandfather’s was a gnarled oak structure inset with fish and bears, deer and wolves. The pair had been among the first Lucas had constructed, and from the beginning they had kept a synchronized rhythm.

    Now, they seemed lost and disconnected. The pendulum of his grandmother’s clock ground as it swung laboriously to and fro, the second hand beating with each painful click. The grandfather was faltering too, the pendulum rocking in a violent motion as if trying to slow itself by sheer force of will, setting the weights off balance and the hour hand to surpass the second. It was just like his grandfather: always racing to catch up, never content to follow behind.

    Lucas’s stomach twisted. He had woven their Rhythms into the clocks and in doing so he had uncovered how to alter the Rhythm, to change time and save life. Without the clocks, he could only sense the flow of energy. Now, he had a responsibility to sustain it.

    Skirting around a stack of broken moulding and past his workbench where dials and clock hands were scattered among tools and shavings of gold, Lucas made his way swiftly across the room. Sinking to his knees at base of the clocks, he drew open the crystal-cut glass door of the grandmother clock. With trembling hands, he retrieved the parts from his pocket. He had tried everything else.

    Time lost meaning and gathered consequence: hours laboured past while seconds mocked his desperate efforts. Metal shavings coated his hands and oil trickled down his wrists as he tried to restore the vitality of the mahogany grandmother. The pendulum rocked ever slower, whispering of existence ending as the weights shifted into their last stance of balance. Beside her, the gears of the grandfather ground as the hour hand spun, trying to catch up to the dying pace of its partner.

    Lucas dropped back, clutching the tools with which he had granted countless others a second chance.

    Understanding crept over him, bringing tears to prick at his vision as he listened to their countering Rhythms. They had done everything together, lived in synchronized Rhythm from the start. Both had confided in him that they did not wish to be left behind, in life or in death. Now, the clocks spoke of that truth.

    Lucas’s eyes drifted to the tools in his hands with remorse. He was the only one who could fulfill that wish, the only one who could keep them together.

    Reluctantly, he opened the glass door of the grandfather clock.

    Connecting the heartbeats of the clocks proved effortless and minutes later, Lucas sat before them, distantly watching the twin pendulums drift back and forth in a calm, synchronized rhythm. A lover’s dance ending, they slowed with each pass until the last gear turned and momentum died out, settling them to rest. Despite the other lives that continued to beat around him, the room seemed suddenly silent and still. Only the Rhythm of his daughter’s watch persisted into his consciousness, its Rhythm erratic with fear and grief.

    His phone suddenly blared to life and the hum of the clocks returned in intense opposition, reminding him that there were others who needed more time.

    His answer would be the same.

    Cradling the watch against his chest, Lucas closed his eyes and picked up the call.

    He couldn’t come.

    He had commitments.


  41. Title: Peace and Freedom
    Author: Heng Sinn Ru
    Word count: 1245 (Sorry that I exceeded the word count, I hope it’s okay)

    I grunted as I struggled to wrench the screw free. It was almost complete. One last part and my job here will be done. Without much thought, I lifted my head and stared out the window. A beautiful scenery greeted my hollow eyes. Flowers and plants of every kind sprawled all over the vast landscape. A world without a trace of pollution is indeed breathtaking.

    But there’s only my breath to take away. After all, there’s no else left in this cold and desolate world. I am the only man who managed to survive the apocalypse.

    Nevertheless, all that will change. I will bring Alphonse back. I will restore the population of the world. I will reverse time itself. I have to, or I’ll never be able to lift the guilt so strong that it threatens to crush my very being.

    How did this happen? Why was everyone taken except me?

    That’s right, I almost forgot— as one would, being stuck in a fortress of solitude for the longest time— that I was the world’s most valuable asset. The most intelligent man on Earth. Everyone expects me to solve all their problems. Take away their fears. It wasn’t right, depending on a single man to save the world. And yet I was given the ultimate task— to become the world’s hero.

    Not that I wanted it.

    As I inserted the last component that completed the device, reminiscences of the past came flashing into my mind. My head started throbbing with those painful memories. Voices filled my head.

    “You have no choice. It has to be ready soon,” Doctor Jacobs said in an imperious manner.

    “I know that. But I need more time,” I pleaded.

    His face was grimmer than ever when he replied coldly, “People are dying.”

    That was it. I couldn’t take it anymore, years of anger and resentment boiled within me, searing rage coursed through my veins.

    “You cannot expect me to work miracles! I did not start the countdown for the destruction of the entire world! Mankind itself caused this plight. It’s not my responsibility!” My voice grew louder with each word I spoke. I unleashed my fury, wanting to make my stand.

    For a second, I saw sympathy in his eyes, but his expression hardened once more and he merely said, “The board will not be pleased.”

    I gave a humorless laugh. “Surely you do not think I would care?”

    “I know you do.” And he was right.

    That night, I sought refuge in my best friend, Alphonse. I told him about my woes and distress, even thought we both knew that there was nothing he could do to help me. All the same, his patience and understanding were remarkable.

    “You need a break, Howard,” Alphonse said, frowning. I couldn’t have agreed more. He knew that I was feeling the strain of the world on my back. And he actually cared. Nevertheless, I knew that deep down, he was in high spirits. After all, his wife, Rose has given birth to a beautiful baby daughter just a few days ago. He was blissfully enjoying the early days of fatherhood. And I was happy for him. For them. Grateful to be part of their lives. Suddenly, I felt as if I wasn’t walking alone anymore. I have them. For the first time that day, I smiled, blithely ignoring the constant worries that crowded my head.

    For the following days, I worked diligently on making the solution that will wipe the world of its filth. Other than a small snack or a quick trip to the toilet, I never took a break. Not even once. Days and nights passed, I sat in my lab doing calculations and mixing strange chemical substances. My whole body trembled with exhaustion. Drained of life, I was at my breaking point. But finally, on the seventh day, I succeeded. It was a phenomenal achievement even for my standards. I have managed to create a solution designed to absorb all pollution from the air, earth and sea, which in turn will be reduced into wisps of mist. It truly is astounding.

    Doctor Jacobs dropped in to check on me. Casually, he asked, “Have you finished?”

    “Yes. Well, in actual fact, it’s almost done. I need to run a few more tests, but I am 99% positive that it would work,” I responded with conviction. Secretly, I was relieved to give Dr Jacobs a piece of good news, instead of enduring harsh criticisms from his sharp tongue.

    “I’m glad to hear that. I’m sure the board will too,” he said. “I’d better go and report this to them.”

    A voice rang across the room, “There will be no need for that.” Instinctively, we turned to the doorway only to find the chairman of the board, Sir Derek leaning against the wall. Walking towards us, he continued, “We will proceed as planned the following day.”

    “But there’s still a risk! I need to conduct more research!” I protested.

    “It’s a risk that we’re willing to take, Doctor Howard,” he said firmly.

    I couldn’t believe my ears. I turned urgently to Doctor Jacobs. “You’re a doctor too, Jacobs. Tell him! Tell him what we’re dealing with. One false step and billions will die!” He looked back and forth from Sir Derek’s face to mine. And stared at his feet. That coward. How could he? Still, I was aware that I couldn’t change Sir Derek’s mind with Doctor Jacobs’ help. Men of knowledge can never stand up against men of power. Looking into Sir Derek’s frosty eyes, I knew then that I had lost.

    I tried to stop them. Really I did. But it was futile. Somehow, they managed to mass-produce the solution and released it into the atmosphere. I could only wait… and watch.

    At first, everything seemed to go according to plan. The air was fresh, the waters pellucid. Fresh, green grass sprouted from the earth. Even I was fooled for the briefest moment. People praised me, congratulated me, thanked me. But that was before the rain. The rain that flooded our world.

    They hid me away in the safest place on Earth, hoping that I could fix the mess. But there wasn’t enough time. Sorrow and depression consumed me, I cried myself to sleep. When I awoke the next day, everyone was gone.

    I was alone.

    Since then, the sea levels rose by day and subsided by night. Till today, I know not its reason.

    The visions gradually faded away. My mind was clear once more.

    With steady hands, I tightened the last screw. The proper solution was ready. Everything was in place. This time there will be no mistakes. At long last, I was about to taste freedom. I lifted a finger and pressed the button. Slowly, my body turned into silver dust, I was fading away like time itself. Oh yes, nothing comes without a price. I smiled with contentment.


    Alphonse walked down the sandy beach with his family. As Rose played with their one-year old daughter, he wandered off to the carousel where he and Howard used to sneak to from the orphanage. Tape don Howard’s favorite horse was a piece of paper. It was flapping in the wind. Alphonse’s vision blurred as read the carefully printed words.

    Here from the world I win release,
    Nor scorn of men, nor footstep rude,
    Break in to mar the holy peace
    Of this great solitude.

    —Lewis Carroll, Solitude


  42. The Calling of a Hero
    1,199 words
    by M.C. Muhlenkamp

    The breeze picks up, blowing my hair in the air like strokes of black ink against the gray sky. I lift my eyes toward the approaching storm. The rising clouds embrace the ruined city in a violent expansion of gray smoke and sand, covering the metropolis as it has every night since it all began.

    My earpiece buzzes to life. “5-0-L-1-T-U-6-3, we have a breach.” I press the button under the skin behind my ear to silence the voice and rub the back of my neck. The tension in my muscles isn’t real. I know it. I have no muscles anymore, but the gesture still feels too natural. My eyes drop to the exposed skeleton shinning brightly under the eroded skin around my fingers. No muscle tissue, no tendons, no veins, just a conglomerate of wires and polished metal that used to be wrapped by a synthetic membrane. “Solitude, do you copy? We have a breach.”

    A sigh escapes my lips, followed by the faintest of groans, and my attention drops to the identification code etched on my wrist. I know the combination of numbers and letters can be read as solitude, but I can’t help disliking the nickname.

    “This is 5-0-L-1-T-U-6-3,” I say. “I am on my way.”

    I return my attention to the swelling storm and a frown creases my forehead as I acknowledge once more the reason behind my calling. My body, unlike any other, blends with the broken surroundings perfectly, just another mass of rusted metal, lost in a jungle of forgotten dreams. I walk toward the edge of the guard tower as the orange moon vanishes from view. Fort TR35 rests behind me, a stronghold of isolation that protects its inhabitants from the harsh environment of the outside world.

    I bend my knees, lean forward, and jump out. My feet hit the ground just as the sandy winds envelop me, scratching away a little more of the synthetic skin that remains around my face. I pull the black scarf over my nose and cheeks in an attempt to protect them. The sand files against the soft tissue, but at least I don’t bleed. A human wouldn’t stand a chance against the abrasive power of the nightly storms.

    My heat sensors turn on, expanding my awareness of the surroundings. I look up, focusing my attention on the swirls above me. I wasn’t created to protect. The military cyborg program that conscripted me at the age of eighteen only intended to use my brain as the nervous system of a metal carcass that could endure countless wars without harm. Fifteen years later here I am, the sole survivor of a ghost project, living to protect the remnants of human civilization.

    My peripheral view picks up red bodies moving in my direction. I turn to face the three approaching monsters, their yellow eyes glow like gold coins, giving away the high levels of radiation coursing through them. They too survived the nuclear holocaust, but their survival turned them into something else, something ghastly, something not human. The Others, that is their name. I square my shoulders ready to confront them.

    Two of them jump first, aiming their gaping jaws toward my neck. Their rotting teeth open wide, eagerly looking for the taste of real flesh. I can’t help laughing as I reach for their slimy throats and pivot in place before slamming their hairless bodies against the ground. I don’t think they would be happy to discover sheets of corroded metal underneath my dark suit instead of the blood they hunger for. The third monster lunges against my back, digging its broken nails into the sides of my arms. I yank him off and smash him against the other two just as I pull the knife tucked inside my belt. He whimpers in pain, but the cry barely leaves his lips before I slide the dagger under his chin.

    The other two stand, struggling for balance. I tug one of them by the leg and pull him into the pointed edge of my knife while the other one runs away. I lift my blade, intending to throw it in his direction. But I don’t, knowing the swirling storm will hinder its trajectory. A frustrated growl leaves my lips. My only choice is to follow him.

    My legs pump against the ground, chasing his trail. My heat sensors don’t pick him up, so finding him amid the billowing storm will most likely take all night. I maneuver around the piles of broken cement and decayed metal, not quite certain of my location. Hours pass without signs of him. I finally turn around and begin to retrace my steps when a giant, red mass of moving bodies comes into view. My limbs stop in their tracks, I am surrounded.

    “Solitude, do you copy? The Others are here. They are attacking the fortress,” says the voice inside my ear. I blink several times, analyzing the information. Fort TR35, or the Fortress, as humans call it, under direct attack. It takes me a second to connect the ambush before my eyes and the assault against the fort, both perfectly synchronized. “Solitude, we need you!” the voice yells.

    I press the button behind my ear. “Are the gates sealed?”

    “They won’t be much longer. We can’t keep them out,” says the voice.

    I cast a glance toward the approaching mass of mutated creatures closing in around me, and begin to run in the direction of the fort. My legs propel my body upward just as the mutations reach me, raising me off the ground and over them. I don’t turn around, knowing they will follow me, but this doesn’t matter, I will outrun them before reaching the fort.

    “The fortress must hold,” I say through clenched teeth. “Seal the outer compartments if you have to.”

    The voice pauses for a moment, as if unsure of something. “If we seal the outer compartments you won’t be able to get in, and we won’t have connectivity anymore.”

    I clench my fists as my legs pick up speed. The mutations knew this would happen. This was their plan all along, to take me away from the fortress, to use its only defense against it. But I see no other way out. I can wait out the storm until the receding clouds return the atmosphere to the hot, calm, and scorching temperatures of daytime, even if it means further harm to my metal skeleton. The mutations will retreat, too. The extreme heat affects them just as much as humans, if not more.

    Some of the young survivors in the fort call me a superhero for risking my life to defend them against The Others. I don’t think I agree. My memories of superheroes from the magazines I used to read as a child portrayed brightly dressed people that could fly and break walls. I can’t do that, but if my actions bring hope into the hearts of the survivors, then the concept isn’t so difficult to accept.

    “Seal all outer compartments. Let no one in,” I say.

    The voice doesn’t respond. There is no need to. My earpiece buzzes, then, it stops. The fortress is secure.


  43. Oblivion
    -Nitish Raina
    964 words


    The one-handed boy limped toward the Asylum.

    The Imperators had come up with many names for the gigantic structure over the decades. The Safekeep, the Hightower, the Purgatory. Fortress of Solitude, they called it now. But the common masses had never really cared. To them it’d always been the Asylum. Its occupants were, after all, said to be locked away to protect others from them. People infected with the virus that’d wiped out half the world. Monsters—who, if not contained—would wipe out the other half as well.

    But unlike the masses, the boy knew the truth. Monsters weren’t contained in the Asylum. They were created there.

    “Halt!” a voice called. A thick, gruff voice. His father’s voice had been thick. That hadn’t saved him from being dragged to the Asylum.

    The boy turned. Nine guards were making their way toward him.


    Nine was how old he’d been when they’d taken him from his mother. The poor lady had barely put up any resistance. What was the point? The Sentinels would’ve taken him either way, just like they’d taken his father. But that was all in the past; a life behind him. He was fifteen now, and a different person.

    “What are you doing out here?” asked another guard in a high-pitched voice. “Curfew has been imposed!”

    With his lone hand, the boy pulled his cloak round himself tighter.

    “You mute, boy?” Gruff-voice had spoken this time. “What’s your name?”

    Name. They could have his name. “Oblivion,” he said, wincing as the muscles in his neck spasmed. “Oblivion, Oblivion,” he repeated, jerking his head both times as his neck convulsed painfully.

    The guards drew back, horrified. “H-He’s been to the Netherside.”

    Everything that was outside the city was the Netherside to them. Funny, they thought there was a place lower than this crumbling mass of decadence.

    “Call the Sentinels!”

    “Don’t bother, he’ll die on his own—”

    That was true enough. Anyone who ventured outside was dead in a day.

    “Summon them!”

    The boy didn’t move as four humanoid guards—their bodies ostensibly made of metal—emerged from one of the many alleys intertwining through the city. Four Sentinels.


    Four months was how long they’d operated on him in the Asylum. Four months of insufferable agony as his right arm had been “rebuilt.” They said he would feel no pain once they’d worked on his head.

    They never got that far, though.

    When they moved to his left arm, his organs began failing. Just like the other rejects, they’d thrown him into the Netherside. Lacking a hand, lacking his sanity.

    The Sentinels were solely responsible for the Imperators’ power over the city. Everyone knew that the Sentinels were invincible, yet no one knew how the Imperators built them, or the reason behind their infallible loyalty.

    The boy did.

    He let his cloak drop, drawing startled gasps from the guards. Perhaps they were surprised at his missing left hand. Or the metallic right one. Some of them were probably comparing his right arm to that of the Sentinels—eyes widening with shock even as their minds struggled to draw conclusions.

    Yes, they were right in drawing a link between him and the Sentinels. Like them, he’d almost become a killing machine. Almost turned into a monster to rob the citizens of their free will. Almost, but for his body failing at the last moment.

    The Sentinels, who were now training their arm-cannons at him, were mindless machines of destruction, yes.

    But the boy . . . The boy was something more.

    More startled gasps emerged as the boy’s left arm suddenly appeared. It wasn’t his real arm—he’d lost that, with everything that’d held his mind together. It was green, ethereal, and—judging from the guards’ reactions—ghastly.

    The arm turned into a whip and lashed out, sweeping across the narrow alley and grabbing all four hapless Sentinels. A moment ago, their arm-cannons had been ready to unleash raging destruction upon him.

    And now, they were little more than heaps of junk.

    “W-What are you?!” said one of the guards, frozen in place. The others had already turned back and were running down the alley.

    “Oblivion,” he said, his head convulsing as pain shot through his neck. “Oblivion, Oblivion,” came the two involuntary reiterations with an equal number of head-jerks.

    His ethereal hand shot out again, grabbing all eight of the fleeing guards in a single swipe. They didn’t turn into a heap of junk, unlike the Sentinels.

    They turned into ash, as all things eventually do.

    “The Netherlands,” croaked the guard, his eyes now devoid of life. “What did you find there?”

    When they’d taken his hand, they told him they’d take away his will. Force him into submission. Break his resolve.

    “Resolve,” he said. “Resolve, resolve.”

    The guard struggled to speak. He didn’t need to. The boy embraced him with his green, spectral arm, his expression unchanging as the man’s body began crumbling into a mound of black ash.

    He turned back toward the Asylum. The Fortress of Solitude. The symbol of everything that was wrong with this city.

    He would burn the place to the ground today, and the people would call him a hero for it. They’d tell stories of him for years to come. About the hero who’d saved the city.

    Did he think himself to be a hero? Not really.

    Would he save them? Yes.

    Everyone had a right to hope. Everyone had a right to be free. Everyone had a right to have what had been stolen from him.

    Everyone had a right to be . . . normal.

    And anyone who tried to take that away . . . For them, he’d be the end of the road.

    For them, he would be Oblivion.


  44. Title: A true hero
    Author: Sofia Renom
    Wordcount: 1,197

    It’s impossible to describe Ren. In few words or many. Ren isn’t even her name, but then again, the many names she’s known by were given to her by people she touched. She’s an old soul. Well, she’s old. Far older then any of us. Not of this world, but perhaps, born to guard it.

    Some call her a hero.

    That is not what she sees.

    “Heroes are kind, and wise, and there.” She said to me once. “I do not pretend to be these things, nor do can I say that I enjoy that people know of me.”

    Ren is… complicated. She’ll never turn down someone in need, she’ll never allow evil to reign over a people, or over a heart. But she’ll say otherwise and pretend not to care. When she fights, she gives it her all but says it annoys her to have wasted her time.

    She’s a savior of many worlds, many people, and many souls. But by the end of it, she simply… blends into the shadows.

    Isolation is her solace.

    Anonymity her creed.

    Hero? Heroes are remembered, their faces painted on walls and tattooed on arms. Children are born with their names and youths want to be them when they grow up. Few have actually seen Ren, or even talked to her.

    Of those few, she has managed to push many away. Being ageless her greatest pain is becoming close to someone, only to have to bury them in what to her is a blink of the eye. But there are those who have withstood her snarls and poisonous words.

    We have stayed. And there’s no getting rid of us.

    “I wish for once you wouldn’t bother me.” Were Ren’s first words as she opened the door. I had just raised my fist to knock, but never met the hard wood. Ren can be annoying like that.

    “It’s the first time I’ve seen you in months.”

    With a roll of her eyes, Ren stepped back, heading deep inside her home, trusting I would close the door. The one time I didn’t she hid her home from me for months.

    “What do you want this time?” She called from where I imagined was the kitchen. She loves changing where things, or even whole rooms are. In part, I believe, to freak us out into never coming back. She’ll have to do better than that.

    “Your help.” I paused to look at the pictures hanging from a dark red wall. No people, only landscapes and the odd replica of a famous painting. At least, I hope they’re replicas.

    “What if I refuse?” Following her voice I entered a small kitchen with an island in the middle. She sat pouring a bit of wine into a glass. Another tactic of hers. Make you feel as unwelcome. It was easily remedied: pour a glass yourself.

    “If you plan to let Ryan loose than by all means, go ahead.” Ryan was not someone you wanted on the loose. He was a criminal mastermind who found it funny setting schools on fire. Among other things.

    “If you’re trying to trick me into going out, it’s not going to work. I just so happen to have thrown him in jail yesterday afternoon.” Ah. That would explain the icy glare she’s been sending me since she opened the door. I really need to keep track of the news.

    Sighing, I sat down in front of her and stole her glass, gulping down the wine. “Ren, how much longer are you going to be avoiding us?” Liz, Jake, Sam, Blake and myself had met to talk about the almost eight months without any of us having seen her. There were others, of course, but the responsibility of being there for Ren falls on us.

    “Look. We’re worried about you.” Ren gave me a disgusted look. “I don’t know what happened since the last time we saw you, but you suddenly closed up. Stopped coming by Blake’s diner, stopped receiving calls from Liz. Hell, even stopped trying to kill me!” Ren and I met under less than pleasant circumstances. It just goes to show how much her mere presence can change a person.

    “Well stop. I’m not your pet project Garth.” She snapped before leaving the kitchen. Undaunted, I followed.

    “What happened huh? We were seeing you tons of days in the same month and you suddenly vanished!”

    In the middle of the new room we entered she turned and stomped up to me.

    “You wanna know what happened? Really?” There was fury and loathing in her eyes. But also sorrow. “I buried a friend!”

    I have myself a mental slap. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. Every time she buried someone she went back into hiding until her heart was strong enough to

    “I’m sorry, Ren. But that doesn’t mean you have to-”

    “Do you want to know who old Blake was when I met him?” She cut me off. “He was six. A little boy lost in the park.” She looked away. “I fell in love with that little boy and his family. Then, his parents died, and they left me in charge of him.” I knew the story. Blake’s parents had made her Blake’s godmother, and she was his guardian. For a few years she managed, with Blake’s granddad’s help. But when she saw how quick she was growing up she panicked, and left. She came and went when she pleased, but it hurt too much to stay for long periods of time.

    “People thought I was his mother at first. Then, his older sister. Now they think we’re together. In a few years people will think he’s my brother, then my father, then my grandfather.” She closed her eyes as pain assaulted her. “And then I’ll bury him. And all of you as well.”

    When she looked at me I met her stare without hesitation.

    “So why do you keep coming back?”

    Ren flinched and tried to back away. I wouldn’t let her.

    “I’ll tell you why Ren. Becasue you care, and because underneath this I-don’t-give-a-damn-about-anyone persona you’ll still risk your life to do the right thing. You’ve said many times that humanity disgusts you or that we should learn to fight our own battles but when it comes down to it you’re the first at the front lines.” I took a step back, letting her breath. “You claim not to be a hero, but you are, because deep down you’re selfless. Being with mortals like us, specially making friends is agony for you, but you’ll never truly turn us away. Sure you’ll panic and hide at times, but always, always come back and take responsibility. That is what makes you a true hero and dare I say, human.”

    I didn’t let her answer, just turned and left, giving her time to think about it. If the next week she met with us at the diner with no explanation, well… no one was going to point it out.

    Some call her a hero.

    That is not what she sees.

    We don’t really care.


  45. Word count: 1074 words.

    The white beams of light blinded my sight momentarily. I squinted past it into the soft darkness, nervously noting the blaster barrels that the lights were clipped on.

    “If this is about that one time I accidentally smashed that cleaning bot…” I muttered. My arms were getting sore from holding them up.

    “Oh, no, no. Nothing like that,” said the officer who seemed to be in charge of the squad. “Um, how do I open the lights in this…thing?”

    “Fourth switch from the left,” I said, turning around. “You know, visits like this are usually made because the world is about to explode or something.” I was annoyed and exhausted. After 15 grueling hours of mining for crystals, I had planned to sleep for a few precious hours before getting back to work. Our planet was dying, and the only thing keeping it alive was the crystals. The problem was that we were also running out of crystals. When they were gone, the planet would stop sustaining life. What little trees and plants we had left would die, and without them, humans and animals would disappear too.

    The plasma coating lining the walls of my room suddenly lit up. “Very observant, Aeon-Tear,” the officer replied. “That is why we need to take you in right now.”

    “What?” For the first time, I noticed the worried look etched on the officer’s face.

    “The High Council has ordered you to be brought in immediately. Time is counting down.”

    Confusion and fear overtook my thoughts. “The H-high Council? What countdown?”

    The metal-clad men advanced toward me at the officer’s signal. “The time we have remaining before the planet dies has accelerated.”

    I let them lead me outside into the waiting hover-jet, my mind scrambling. “But I thought we still had a few years left! The High Council said they were making progress with finding a solution too!”

    “I can’t explain everything right now,” said the officer. “The High Council will inform you of the situation when we arrive there. The only thing I can tell you now is that…our planet is deteriorating faster then we thought.”

    My heart plummeted. This was disastrous. Questions whirled through my mind. Why of all the people in the city was I being detained?

    The hover-jet landed in front of the Thunder and Steel building after an hour. The squad escorted me through a set of steel double doors into an enormous hall made completely out of glass. At the far end of the room, seven people were seated behind a jet-black table.

    “Oh, thank goodness you found him,” muttered the abnormally tall man seated at the far right end of the table.

    The double doors closed behind me, and I was left standing alone in front of the High Council.

    Silence followed.

    A man whom I recognized as Korston, the Head of Thunder, stood up. “We are sorry to have brought you here in such a matter. I understand that you have many questions, but we are running out of time, so please bear with me as I explain what is going on.”

    I nodded numbly.

    “We had thought that our planet still had 6 years before we would run out of crystals to power it. Today, our scientists have found that this was not the case any more. Our planet is taking in the crystals faster then we can find them. The supply of crystals we have are only enough the power this earth for about a month now.”

    A wave of dread washed over me.

    “As you know, we have been looking for something to save us for the past ten years. We have exhausted every single available option except one. But now, it is our last resort. This is why you are here.”

    “Why me?”

    “It has been known for some time now that there are worlds out there that exist beyond ours.”

    This was true; I knew that thirty years ago, scientists had discovered a lifeless world covered in ash and ruins, through the use of ancient portals left by some dark ancestor. However, they were only able to send one person through it to explore the land, because the portal was encoded with DNA rules. Only the person with the set DNA could go through it to the other side. In that case, the person died in the ashen land before he could return.

    Korston continued, “We have finally been able to find a portal into a world that is similar to ours. Our scientists have found it to be inhabitable, and full of resources. It is also encoded a DNA sequence that is unique to someone still alive at this time.”

    Oh, no. “…you mean…I have the needed DNA…sequence?” I choked out.



    Korston cleared his throat. “The nickname of this world is the Fortress of Solitude. We need you to go through the portal to find out if there something we can use to keep our world running. If it is anything like ours, there will be resources, artifacts, perhaps even a better energy source somewhere within it. This is our only option left. You have to go before our world collapses.”

    In the back of my mind, I was screaming at fate. This was crazy.

    “I know this is a lot to take in, but this earth will fall without you.”

    Something heroic inside of me was fighting to rise up through my panic. If I went, I would most likely die. But if I didn’t, everyone, including me, would die too. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “I’ll do it.”

    A look of relief came over on all seven faces before me. Korston exhaled. “Thank you so much, Aeon-Tear. We will give you two days to prepare and meet with the scientists to understand what you need to do. The world will thank you for your service.”

    Two days later, I stood in front of the gleaming metal arch, shouldering a bulging backpack. This was it. There was no turning back now, no matter how much I wanted to. Millions of people would die if I backed down now. I had to be strong for them, and for the future. Maybe fate had chosen me, or it didn’t exist at all. Either way, this is my destiny now: to save the world as a hero. Steeling myself, I took the first step into the swirling light, towards the unknown.


  46. Eme the Unseen

    “My progenitors are dead now,” Anit says. “When our ship fell, many were crushed. I used an escape pod, but it crashed into these trees, and I do not know who else may have survived.”
    “Your ship sank?”
    “In a manner of speaking, yes. It was not a ship on water, it was a ship in the sky. The escape pod is like a lifeboat.”
    “A smaller ship, that I used when the bigger one was broken.”
    “Oh.” Eme searches the broken wood for more sap. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
    “I had sixteen litter-mates on our ship.”
    “Siblings. Brothers and sisters.”
    Eme stops and looks at Anit. “Sixteen?”
    “Sixteen is the usual number to operate a ship of our size. I was the navigator.”
    “I told them how to get where we were going.”
    Anit was silent.
    Eme’s legs are striped pale and dark, like the broken branches around her.
    “You said you would help me control my skin,” she reminds Anit.
    “Stand here,” Anit says, pointing to a cluster of vines and branches mixed together on the ground. Eme does.
    “Now, look around you. Concentrate on the colors. Name them in your head.”
    As Eme looks at the green, patches of dark green overwhelm her brown skin. She looks at the brown bark and pale broken bits of tree, and brown and pale mix into the green. Her hair and eyes do not change, and her skirt and blouse still look like woven cream and blue fabric in the jungle twilight.
    “When you want to change back, look at your arm and remember your skin the way it should look.”
    Eme stares at her hand. Tanned skin recovers on her fingers, spreading a cloudy change back over the rest of her body. Soon she is fully visible again, just a girl standing under a tree.
    “If you tie your hair back and wear mottled clothing,” Anit says, “Then it will be less obvious where you are. Also, be careful of your eyes. Don’t open them all the way. If you only squint, the whites won’t be as visible and people won’t be able to find you as easily.”
    “Okay,” Eme says. She collects several resin crystals, putting them into her pouch. “I will come back tomorrow.”
    She runs home.
    This time, there is no ollamaliztli game in progress. Uncle Ichik, father, mother, and her cousins Chac and Ah Poch are gathered around the table, waiting for her.
    “And here she is,” Uncle Ichik booms. “What do you have for me today, child?”
    Eme pours out her resin crystals, along with some jocotes she collected for her mother. No one looks at the fruit. Uncle Ichik collects the resin chunks, and examines them.
    “You will take me to this place,” he says. “We will collect it all in one day, so that it will all be safe here.”
    Eme grows cold. He will take her grove of trees, and drain them dry. It will not be easy to find other copal trees.
    “We will leave first thing in the morning,” Uncle Ichik says.
    That night, as Eme lays on the floor with Gukumatz and mother and father, Uncle Ichik sits at the table by the door. She wishes she could jump up and run past him, but she doesn’t dare. She waits for him to go to his room, but she falls asleep before he does.
    Uncle Ichik shakes her awake in the morning. He hands her a couple of jacotes to eat while they walk. Father and her cousins carry wooden bowls to use to collect the resin.
    Eme takes them the wrong way, at first. But Uncle Ichik says nothing, just keeps holding onto her. He will not let go until she shows them broken copal trees. And she only knows one spot where those are.
    “Eme,” father says, “How much farther?” He is smaller than Uncle Ichik, and he is the younger brother. He will not let Uncle Ichik hurt her, but he will give away her copal trees so that Uncle Ichik will let them stay at his house. It is generous of Uncle Ichik to keep them, he has reminded her before. They would not have anywhere to go after the volcano if he did not. Eme remembers the stink of the volcano, and she gives in. She leads them to her trees.
    It is only when they arrive that she realizes that Anit will be found, too.
    Anit’s little round house is still in the center of the grove. She can’t see any white when they enter, but Uncle Ichik notices it right away.
    “Building yourself a new house, Eme?” he asks. Eme shrugs.
    Father and Chac and Ah Poch begin to scrape free all the resins they can find. Eme peeks into the little house. Anit is there, curled into a ball of shell. It is asleep.
    “Anit,” she hisses. The creature moves, slowly raising its head. “Anit, stay hidden!”
    Uncle Ichik leans over here. “What do you have in there, Eme?” He sees the white shell. “Alux!” he gasps. He pulls out his machete.
    “No!” Eme says. She crouches between him and the entrance.
    “Move, child!” Uncle Ichik commands. “You are under a spell!”
    “No!” Eme repeats. “Anit, come here.” She feels it behind her. “Hold on,” she says. Anit’s arms creep around her midsection, and grasp her tightly.
    “Eme!” her father calls. “What are you doing?”
    “Hold still,” Uncle Ichik warns. He lifts the machete.
    Eme dashes to the side. She feels Anit behind her, throwing off her balance. Eme runs through the broken branches, Uncle Ichik, Chac, and Ah Poch stumbling behind her. She runs past her father.
    Eme runs.
    Anit is heavy. Eme stumbles and falls. Uncle Ichik is close behind. She stands again, runs on. Eme unfastens her skirt, and lets it fall. She shifts Anit down to her waist, and pulls off her shirt and pouch, letting them fall as well.
    Uncle Ichik is catching up.
    “Anit, come around,” she pants. Anit shifts under her arm, and around, settling on her stomach. Eme stops, steps to the side, and crouches down, her back to the path. She crawls against a tree trunk, and concentrates.
    Brown like the trunk.
    Green like the moss.
    Uncle Ichik runs past.
    Eme waits for two more to run past: Chac and Ah Poch.
    Then she raises her head.
    Just in time to see her father.
    His eyes grow wide, seeing her naked skin turning colors. But he does not call out to her uncle. He nods at her.
    “Come home tomorrow,” he says quietly. “Hide your pet first, if you like. I will tell your mother not to worry.”
    Eme nods, then she walks back the way she came, and collects her skirt and blouse and pouch.
    Anit breaks the silence. “You have saved me again,” it says. “But I have no more gifts to give you.”
    “It’s all right,” Eme says. “We will build you a new house, and then we will look for your siblings. I think I will be spending even more time out here with you, away from Uncle Ichik.”


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