Displaying items by tag: fiction
An arid wind swept across Kiro’s face. He flattened his nostril flaps to block out the dust and frowned.
“This is grave folly.”
“You sound like an elder. You’re not on the Council yet, Kiro-lin.”
Kiro raised an eyebrow at the honorific. Anouche ignored him and tipped back her canteen to let a narrow stream dribble onto her tongue, before wrapping her dust hood back around her face.
For the hundredth time she wished she had more native features––the sun-dark skin, the strong-muscled legs designed for walking through shifting sand, the second set of clear eyelids that protected against swirling grit. Instead, she was a throwback to the now extinct Offworlders. The two peoples had intermingled, but the pale skin and fragile stature of the aliens had bowed to natural selection, unsuited for this desert world. Still, Anouche hoped that the freakish blood running through her veins would be good for something. Perhaps she’d succeed where everyone else had failed.
Squinting, she glanced up. The first sun had reached its zenith, and its smaller red sister marched across the sky, close behind. Their rays turned the air into a shimmering, sweltering curtain.
In the very modern city of Puxhill, where science and rationality mostly hold sway, an ancient, secret bastion of magic and mystery rests, quietly waiting for its time to come around again. Forgotten, ignored, or simply disbelieved by most people, it’s both haven and temptation for those with the capacity to embrace the unknown. Here, in the Gaslight District, streets change direction, shops come and go, and the night lasts as long as it likes. For those who are truly bold, curious, or desperate, there’s the Midnight Market, which only exists for three nights a month when the moon is at its fullest. In between the vendors hawking charmed shoes and enchanted trinkets, fanciful foods and rare herbs and potions of all sorts, one stall holds nothing but a simple wooden chair in front of a small, ornate mirror mounted on the back wall.
Sometimes—but not always—if the right person sits in the chair and stares into the mirror, they see not their reflection, but something else, a wisp of a face floating in a cloudy void. Questions may be asked, and answers received. There is always a price for truth.
It was near the witching hour around the end of March when a young woman walked into the Midnight Market, every step a wary advance into unfamiliar territory. She huddled in a much-faded blue sweatshirt, features all but hidden by her hood, and she paid the wonders around her little heed, instead making a beeline for the chair and the mirror. Those who noticed her, who realized her destination, followed her with curious looks, conversations pausing momentarily. In a few cases, money exchanged hands as bets were placed on whether the mirror would respond to this one.
Tasha is sitting in a dimly lit green room with her headphones on, waiting for her guitarist Azam to call her to the stage. As always, the boys perform the first song alone before she kicks off the show. Normally, Tasha can barely contain herself during these backstage moments. Her nerves like jangling keys, in her stomach the fluttering, giddy anticipation of stepping in front of a crowd, then the terrifying thrill of performing. “An ecstasy unlike any other,” Azam once called it. But tonight there’s a sick feeling in her stomach. A low, aching pain that makes her wish she wasn’t performing at all. She knows what it is.
She can’t see the crowd yet, she’ll only know when she steps on stage, but she can already feel him in the audience. Fadhli, her boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend, she reminds herself. He’ll be waiting out there, his sad, pleading eyes ready to connect with hers during the show, never once looking away.
Bile builds up in the back of her mouth. She leans over her knees, nearly retching. I don’t want to see him tonight. God, I can’t see him tonight. She spits onto the floor and the acid taste lingers.
Through her headphones she hears the steady pounding of Rafe’s kick drum. The sound is thick, muted, like hearing it underwater. It mixes with all the other noises she's been hearing.
I’ve always wanted to be a hero.
Or, I guess since I’m a girl, I’d be considered a heroine? Fitting.
I could tell you about my whole life story. Explain all of the events that brought me here, to this moment in time, in this particular place, but let’s be real. No one wants to hear another sob story.
I’ll tell you what does make me feel like I’m a heroine, with super powers, able to go back in time, save my own life, along with countless others.
Nothing in the world like it, let me tell you.
Since I was fourteen, I’ve been-
Shit, see, no one cares. You’ve heard it all before.
Izzie squeezed her red solo cup, pressing her drink up until it almost spilled over. The wind ruffled her hair, raising goosebumps on her arms. However, even this far away from the party, the bonfire’s heat pressed into her back and kept her from being completely chilled as she stared into the trees this time of night. A few shrill beats wandered her way, threatening to break the boombox Jake had bought at a vintage store last week. First, record players were hip again, now the boombox. At least the record player sounded less tinny.
Jake’s hand slid onto her shoulder. Izzie turned, letting her cup regain its normal shape. She smiled up at him, her boyfriend. Boyfriend. A year later it still thrilled her to say it, even to herself.
“Why are you so far away from everyone?” he said.
Another gust of wind shot through her. “I was looking at the trees.” She crossed her arms.
“You need another drink?” He twirled his empty beer bottle.
She looked down at the only drink she’d had the past two hours. “Nah. I’m good with this.” She’d been wandering out here to pour away the drink bit by bit, so it looked like she was drinking, but she supposed she still couldn’t keep up with the boys’ habits.
I am a seer of magical realms, a defender of the unaware. Fairies, goblins, tiny dragons, and more populate our world and very few people know it.
The troll incident began Friday afternoon at my school, Ogion High School. Three sprites flew around Mrs. Snapp’s feet as she wrote on the whiteboard. She could not see any of the Fae.
Mrs. Snapp is the nicest teacher ever. She is one of the younger teachers at the high school. I can tell, because she wears skinny jeans. Old teachers don’t wear those. Plus she always smells like chocolate and green tea.
I watched them to see if Mrs. Snapp was going to trip over one of the sprites or step on it. They zipped around and between her feet like it was a game. Maybe it was for them. I hated them for that. I hoped she would do me a favor and step on one. All it would take is one mistake on their part and Mrs. Snapp would crush it, like one of those little red tomatoes squished on the carpet.
Sprites look like your typical fairy as depicted in countless books, except they are angular. They have sharp pointy eyebrows, ears, and even their elbows are sharp. The little devils wear studded clothing too. Nothing about them is pleasant.
I’ve been trying not to think about you these past few months. It’s only now that you’re gone that I realize I have a thousand questions I needed to ask you. It’s horrible because it makes me doubt if I ever really knew you.
This morning, before dawn, I woke up crying. Honestly, it’d be more accurate to call it uncontrollable sobbing. Buried beneath the pitiful sound of my whimpering was a sentence. Two sentences, actually.
I’m sorry. I miss you.
The worst part is, I’m starting to forget. The times I shared with you are decaying. But I don’t want to lose any more of you. To that end I’ve started writing about you. About us. They’re flawed: honestly, they’re more about me than you. They’ve all I’ve got though. Because when those memories of you fade, what’s there to prove I ever knew you?
Marco checked the obituaries faithfully every day for a week and a half. I knew he was up to something, but I didn’t pay much attention to him. Marco was always concocting crazy schemes and half-baked stunts, most of which came to nothing in the end. But I knew he was serious when he came straight up to me and plucked the book right out of my hand and announced, “It’s tonight.”
I looked over the tops of my glasses at him. “What’s tonight?” I asked.
“Your introduction into the adult world,” he said.
I frowned. “Gee, that’s sweet of you to offer,” I told him, “but you’re not really my type, you know.”
He rolled his eyes, but I could tell he appreciated my bit of smartassery. “Very funny. Just meet us at midnight in the graveyard. Bring your familiar, all right?”
Hostetler House was officially a group home that doubled as a boarding school for wards of the state. Its isolation, nestled as it was on a tree-lined dirt road just outside the city, usually provided enough deterrent to prevent the students from sneaking out. For the most part, there was just nowhere for us to go, so the few live-in faculty never bothered to maintain much vigilance over us.
They accuse me of cheating, but I can’t help that I was born with wings. Tears streamed down Poppy’s face as she stepped off the ice. Her skates nearly stabbed her calves as she buckled at the knees. Her coach reached with outstretched arms as the fairy collapsed into her. Poppy leaned into her support and the warmth of her body. The cold air was nothing compared with the chill of the crowd’s words.
“This is unfair!” Shouts continued from the audience. Judges stood up at hockey benches and waved to quiet the crowd. They refused to calm down. Echoes rolled across the blank ice rink as the announcer stood silent, unsure whether or not it was safe to call out the next competitor.
“It’s okay, Poppy.” Coach Linda whispered in her ear.
“I didn’t mean to!” Poppy pulled away from Linda’s embrace and wiped beneath her eyes with the back of her wrist.
“I know. It was a mistake.” Linda’s curly red hair bounced as she shook her head. Poppy rubbed the drip from her nose across her bare arm. Though she had just turned seventeen, Poppy reverted to childlike behaviors in times of stress and embarrassment. The name of the next skater blared as the announcer spoke over the crowd.
Poppy’s eyes were no longer on the ice. Her gaze trailed from the stark, white surface to the streak of a blue hat. The judge left his post behind the bench and jogged through the hall of waiting competitors.
It was a perfectly normal Tuesday, up until one of Bessie’s toes dropped into Miss Karkie’s coffee mug.
Wait, one of Bessie’s metatarsals, I should say. Or hoof?
Our teacher screeched and slammed the cup down on the her desk, effectively ending her monotone drawl about cellular membranes mid-PowerPoint slide. I swear that I saw her wig, erm, hair, shift on her head, the stringy brown hairs lurching back and forth like a hippie at a rock concert.
Somehow, Josiah slept through the whole event, ratty-sweatshirt-hooded-head laid down on his textbook like always. The rest of us, however, enjoyed this pleasant distraction from physiological stuff or whatever. Everett leaned over me to make eye contact with Connor and let out an exaggerated guffaw, slapping his hands on his neon athletic shorts. I couldn’t help but giggle: partly at our teacher, partly at my goofy lab partner. Even Melanie, normally all business in class, and, well, every other time, quirked her lips upwards. It wasn’t every day that a skeletal cow lost a body part with such excellent aim.
Bessie was Miss Karkie’s favorite possession. The story went that she found the carcass of the cow when she was planting tulips in her garden way back when. Then, she recruited a whole class of poor, unfortunate students to dig it up and wire it together to hang front and center in her classroom. She even had the SmartBoard installed off-center so that she wouldn’t have to move Bessie— that’s how much she loved that cow. She told me the story in elaborate detail my very first day of AP Anatomy, her usual drone shrill with excitement. What a way to start my time at Pleasant View High. I could tell by Melanie’s rat-tat-tat of her pencil on the desk that she was not happy with precious class time being wasted by our inept teacher telling stories to the new girl from Florida. I swear, she’s hated me since.