The Lane

The Lane of Unusual Traders is a shared world experiment from Tiny Owl Workshop. I happened upon this fascinating project a few days ago.   The idea is that each writer adds detail to the world, building and shaping it.  One beautifully written descriptive piece starts off the collaboration giving minimal detail: a few places, a few hints of history and geography, a few races of beings.  After that, the writers will create something that fits and enhances the world. Unlike many shared worlds, this one is not all planned out and invitation only. I love the chance and adventure that creates.

I’ve read all the stories that have been published so far and I am intrigued.  I want to participate. There are only a few days until the deadline for phase 2, which is not much time, but I hope to manage it.  If not, I will be submitting something for phase 3.

The Hunt

I don’t know exactly what happened, but I lost confidence in my writing for a few months. I gave myself a good talking to and I’m back to work now. Writing a short story for the wonderful Trifecta seemed like a good way to get my brain working again. I hope you like the story and that I can stay motivated enough to write one next week too.

The prompt is:
CHARM (verb)
1a : to affect by or as if by magic : compel b : to please, soothe, or delight by compelling attraction
2: to endow with or as if with supernatural powers by means of charms; also : to protect by or as if by spells, charms, or supernatural influences
3: to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music).

The Hunt

Waiting was the hardest part. Mother said waiting was a skill, like tying knots or shooting arrows. She became stone, save her eyes, constantly searching. Even knowing where she was, Lisha had to concentrate to see her. It wasn’t clothing and body paint that faded her into the jungle; it was stillness inside.

Two years into training, Lisha was improving, able to hold position for hours. But her mind never settled. She thought about being uncomfortable, dinner, friends, the festival. She daydreamed about future catches and the praise she would receive. She thought about being a mother and teaching her daughter to hunt.

Last moon Lisha killed three deer. She once took down a bear and had hidden from a tiger. But animals were different than people. People can feel your thoughts on them. Their spine tingles and blood cools as you hunt them; your excitement fuels their fear. They flee without knowing why. Unlike deer, humans can’t be shot. Killing a man makes him useless. Perfect calm, delicate magic, and timing are needed to charm one.

Lisha is not expected to capture a man. Her mother and the other master hunters would bring men for the festival. But she could not stop daydreaming about it, which is why the few she had come close to had gotten away.

A twig snapped, startling Lisha, causing her to fall. A tall, well-muscled young man stood looking down at her.

He stood not five feet away, his confusion giving her time to remember what to do. She stared into his green eyes, singing the calming song. Without breaking eye contact she stood, beginning the dance, stepping backwards slowly, beckoning him. His eyes locked on hers, he followed.

Mother jumped out behind him, tying his hands, but he hardly looked away from Lisha.

A hunter can claim any man she captures. Lisha was younger than the other girls in the festival, but no one would challenge her right to this man.

Rabbit Pays a Debt

This story is for Trifecta’s April Fool’s day prompt:

rain (transitive verb)
1: to pour down
2: to give or administer abundantly
3: to take a lot of money in bill form and toss it up in the air. This is most effectively done at a strip club for the effect of raining one dollar bills on the dancers (and it makes them feel so pretty), or to snub a hater by throwing money into their face that then falls to the floor like rain (use this when paying a debt to a punk bitch who keeps asking for their money to the point that they are ruining your friendship or when dumping someone who has been bankrolling you for a while now that you’re making money).

It was also inspired by the carrots which are coming up both in the rabbit pot I painted as well as the garden beds. I love carrots! Carrots make me think of rabbits. They are strongly linked culturally, though my friends who keep rabbits tell me they don’t actually eat that many carrots. Rabbits are perfect for April Fool’s Day because like Coyote and Anasi,Rabbit is a great trickster. SAM_1729

***
When you do mischief like Rabbit, you get in trouble. Money, everyone knows, gets you out of trouble. Stealing a carrot can land a body in jail, but a rich man can steal a whole farm, if he has money to buy police.

Rabbit borrowed money from everyone, a little from each, hoping they’d forget. Times being hard none forgot. They all looked for Rabbit when they had need of their money. But one thing Rabbit can do is hide.

Rabbit was resting in a briar eating fresh blackberries, when he heard voices.

“Have’ya seen Rabbit?” asked Possum

“I’ve not seen him since I let him a few dollars” said Fox

“I sore need the money I gave him” Said Possum

“Have’ya talked ta Bear? He gave me what Rabbit owed, sayin’ he’d get it back from Rabbit along with what’s owed him” said Fox

“I’ll go see him now” said Possum, hurrying away.

Rabbit was afraid. Bear had a long memory and was mighty fierce. Rabbit added up what he borrowed all together. It was enough money to fight over.Rabbit made a plan.

He told Chicken, a known gossip, about a beautiful lady at the hoochie-coochie show on the edge of town.

That night Bear came to the show. The girl came out, hiding behind two fans. She danced ‘round the stage, everyone hottin’ and hollerin’. Bear didn’t see too good, but he knew this must be the lady he’d heard of. To impress her he made it rain, emptyin’ his wallet. Later Bear tried to find her, but she was gone.

Next day Rabbit found Bear sighing in his cave.

“Why do you sigh?” Rabbit asked

“I lost all my money, to impress a lady. Now I have no money or lady” Bear said
“Good news! I’ve come to pay you back. Lucky I waited or you might have lost this too” Said Rabbit, giving Bear almost as much money as he had thrown at the mysterious lady.

Which Home?


Up until now I have always written something new for the Trifecta prompt, that is sort of the point for me.  While I am editing this novel I don’t have much chance to write new stories, and I fear the creative parts of my brain meats will dry up like beef jerky.  Writing something fresh with the prompt lets me just run wild with it, as opposed to editing with is soul numbing. However I have been neglecting the editing, so today I decided to post something from the novel instead, to encourage me to do better work on it.  It took almost as long to edit this passage (which started out at 500+ words, lots of which were so, really and very) as it does to write something new.  I tend to be uselessly wordy, over describing things and babbling. Having word limits has helped me work on this problem.

The following is from “Lost in Reflection” which will be released later this year.   The story is about Marney, a 16 year old who ends up trapped in a another world.

***

You can’t survive alone.  Most people stay in dense, walled towns like Derry, where the buildings touch and the people know each other.  The gates lock at sundown every day. Only in numbers do people have safety, because out there are dangers and temptations of darkest dreams and delightful nightmares. Every fairytale agrees about that.  There’s a sort of magic here which some humans even learn to use. A wizard lives in Derry to help keep the town safe from magical threats, native beings, and for lack of a better word, monsters.

I’m lucky the worst thing I met were cranky chickens.  There are so many scary things here that many don’t even have names.  There are rules: Don’t be alone outside a city at night.  If anyone offers you food and you’re not 100% sure they’re human, don’t eat it.  Don’t play games with non-humans, just to name a few. Most rules have exceptions.  If you’re out at night, light a fire, unless you think you might attract Fireflies. Don’t follow bouncing lights unless you’re already lost and think it might lead to safety.   There are too many to remember, and I have a feeling they change anyway.

Mrs. Shaw let me stay and work at the Milk Maid.  The work wasn’t hard; cooking, cleaning, and gardening.  The sort you do with your body while your mind thinks about other things.  At first I was always thinking about getting home, but soon I realized I was thinking about home less and less.

This place was great.  No one had called me fat or questioned my sexuality.  I didn’t miss school, and loved being treated as an adult.  I liked the people, inn, and town.  The happier I was the guiltier I felt. Mom had a hard time raising me alone, after my father left. Even twelve years later she has trust and commitment issues. When he left, it broke her heart in half, me disappearing must have shattered what was left.

Socially Transmitted Insanity

I wrote the following for this week’s Trifecta prompt “infect”.  This piece is not clean or polite.

***

Writing was the calling and fetish of the mad.

Those with demanding demons and dangerous desires took up the pen when the pressure of being, being alive, being buzzy broken, being bold, being beaten, became too great, ejaculating misspelled, grammatically incorrect, beautiful, tragic, hot life onto paper, and into the minds of the lifeless.

Mom read a bit of Kerouac after putting little Timmy down to nap.  For an hour she ran away from spit up, jello molds and obligatory missionary sex.  She huddled in the bed of a rusted out pickup truck, smoking reefer and looking up at the endless desert celestium.  She had freedom of the open road from her comfortable chintz sofa or mint-green kitchen chair.  She went to the clinic of depravity where Doctors Lovecraft, Shelley, and Poe injected dried up wickedness to vaccinate her from smothering her tow hair cherub-cheeked darling with a stuffed bear while he slept.

Dad spent the night on underage heroin addicted hookers with Hunter, while never straying from the sanctity of marriage. He learned to appreciate his own comfortable life after embracing loneliness, alienation, and self-loathing with Salinger and Falkner.

Sane people could open their wet willing minds and pull in a little insanity.

Everyone needs a release.  Society can’t function if all the drones have hum-drum blue balls.  The masses jack off with words to stay proper, and all it costs is the minds of a few mad ones, who fuck themselves raw, lubing up with cocaine, reds, alcohol, acid, and opium.  A few crazy bastards burning, pumping out their souls for everyone.

Now the mad ones take mood stabilizers and SSRIs, trimmed wick, limp-dicked.  The vaccine no longer produced, because it turns out normalcy was the disease.  You infect us, self-help books on my shelf, coffee in my mouth.  Your suburban fantasies slip in as you stroke my hair, whispering sweet goals and profit projections.

Sane people in creative writing classes train for a proper vocation.

Madness is epidemic.

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Peach Blossoms

I know I said the next one would be happy. Sorry, I lied. This one is not happy, but I think it is sort of fun at least.

I am killing two birds with one stone today.  Who throws stones at birds? Seems like a rather silly way to get dinner. Anyway…The story below was written both for Trifecta and inspired by the peach blossoms that are stubbornly blooming in my garden, even though I begged them not to.  They are so lovely and charming that I can’t help but take joy from them.  But they are also fleeting and delicate.  This weekend there might be a frost, and if there is, all of the flowers will wither and die overnight.  If not, they will stay a short spell longer gracing my garden for few weeks before floating away to make room for summer’s peaches.  I enjoy the fragile blossoms while they last, but I adore peaches. I appreciate that something so striking can be transformed into something delicious and that not everything that is lovely is just for looking at. Beautiful and practical is the best of both worlds.

Peach Flower

Then again, some plants are not very pretty at all and they make great fruits or vegetables.  Beauty is not everything, and when it fades, which it will, I hope that I have plenty of canned peaches to last me through the winter.

Stepmother’s Toast

“A fairy tale is a story, a pretty vintage lie handed down from mother to daughter across the generations.  As we grow up, the lies slough away, washed off our brains by science, reason, and experience.  No 100-foot tall beanstalk could support its own weight. Clouds are puffy water, unsuitable foundation for a giant’s castle.  Horses are noble creatures; we can’t blame them for lacking the whimsy to evolve a single golden horn.   Fairies don’t flutter by on gossamer wings, nor do wicked witches sell produce door-to-door in this age of grocery stores and farmer’s markets. There are no magic lamps with jinn in residence or talking animals, unless you count the brutish groomsmen.

Why do we insist on holding out for Prince Charming, doing our best to freeze our bodies with creams and botox, so when he finally comes to rescue us, our skin is smooth and our cheeks blush prettily at his chaste true love’s kiss.

By the way, you look lovely, my dear, fresh as a peach blossom.

Many cling to fantasy, unwilling or unable to doctor their expectations with a pinch of reality, a dash of practicality.  They try every magic they possess to find and capture, or if all else fails, create their prince.  He is kind, manly, strong, gentle, clean, yet unafraid to get his hands dirty.  He will stand up for you, but never stand up to you.  He loves what you love, is respected by his peers, successful in business, and must make an excellent father, to raise the pretty princesses and handsome princes you spawn.

Then some minor thing goes wrong, an errant sock, less than convincing interest in rose gardening, an unslain spider. You start to question.  Is this really my soulmate?

Each mundane day the magic will erode, slowly turning your prince into a frog.

Anyway, I wish the beautiful couple happiness, of course cursed to be temporary.  Please enjoy the open bar my husband is paying for.”

Prayer

You really can hear the train coming.

Anaxagoras, lover of knowledge, learned something new every day. However he would’ve rather learned something else.  He planned to have years of learning ahead, but he had exhausted his options and escape seemed unlikely.   His hands were tied in silver cord, grounded into the earth. No matter how Anaxagoras turned, he was unable to touch cord to track.  Magic, being highly conductive, would easily transfer from silver to iron, allowing him to save himself if he was careful.  Anaxagoras was always careful.  The cord, was held tight with a railroad spike, dissipated his magic.

He had tried bribing his captors, but they were clearly barbarians, babbling some strange language.   He knew a translation spell, useless of course.  Kaia, His guild and protector on this adventure was likely unaware Anaxagoras was gone, surely in a drunken sleep instead of earning her rather generous pay.  There was no chance of contacting Athena so far from civilization without prayer beads and incense.

Anaxagoras heard a whistle.   Having explored this area for weeks, he knew he was just under 4 miles from Hermit’s Hollow.  Trains normally only blow their whistle when approaching a settlement.  The only train that stopped in Hermit’s Hollow was the 4:15 pm, so this was an express. Given the average express speed, he had approximately 4 minutes to live.

There was only one course available.  One spell performed hands to the ground, one prayer enhanced by terror.  The timing had to be perfect.

The train rounded the hills. He could see the light. Maybe a minute left.

30 seconds. Anaxagoras shut his eyes from the distracting light of his doom.

“Persephone!” Anaxagoras screamed, releasing every watt of magic he possessed into the earth.

The track stopped vibrating. He couldn’t hear the thunderous clanking.  He opened his eyes.

A shadow figure outlined in the train’s light stood before him.

“Anaxagoras, so nice of you to call,” said a voice sweet as syrup, deadly as venom.

***

This was written for this week’s trifecta prompt. I love this world and I plan to write more stories here very soon.