Flame #writephoto

flame

Thanks to Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo for her Thursday #writephoto prompt.

Going Hungry

“Eat your dinner.” Mogreth’s father wagged a half-eaten leg bone at the meat sizzling on the flames.

“I’m not hungry.” Mogreth slumped on the log bench.

“Your mother’s testing a new marinade. The least you can do is try it.”

Mogreth watched his mother gnaw on a thigh bone. Last night, she cooked a rump roast that his father gobbled without taking a breath. Tomorrow, she would probably grill ribs slathered in fat. Maybe stir up a meaty stew with grisly leftovers and giblets. Mogreth wrinkled his nose at the thought. “Why can’t we steam some broccoli or cauliflower?”

“Vegetables are horrible for your health,” his mother said. “Have you ever considered the havoc they wreak on your digestion?”

“Disgusting,” his father muttered and tossed the bone over his shoulder into the growing pile.

“I could grow my own,” Mogreth pleaded. “I found the perfect spot for a garden.”

His parents sighed with weariness, exhausted by his perpetual nagging. But he couldn’t help it. He wasn’t like other teenagers with their bristly hair and yellow, stumpy teeth. His room was immaculate, clothes pressed, shoes polished to a spiffy nut-brown. He studied books on horticulture and nutrition, his thick fingers gliding over the glossy pictures. If he had his druthers, he’d spend his days digging in the soil, pockets bulging with seed packets and dreams brimming with the perfect zucchini.

He stared into the fire. No one understood his longing, his peers least of all. They preferred exploring caves, stomping on small animals, and clubbing villagers, a divergence in tastes that made him a prime target for teasing.

“You really should try this.” His father beckoned to his mother for another crispy morsel. “The sauce adds just the right amount of zing. Clears the sinuses. Nothing like food roasted over an open flame.”

Mogreth’s mother giggled at the compliment. “Don’t wait too long or your father’s going to suck the meat off that last bone.”

“Help yourself.” Mogreth waved a gloomy hand at the charred meat. He might be a troll, but the whole idea of munching on villagers disgusted him. He’d rather go hungry.

A bit of silliness since I’m in an editing fog.

Thanks for reading!

Passage #Writephoto

passage

Gabby tapped a finger on the holo-tab, scrolling through the checklist. She mumbled to herself to combat the interminable silence, “Done. Done. Done. Done.” Her shift was winding down, but she could squeeze in one more scan without a problem. Her team had been troubleshooting the anomalies for six shifts without a clue. Not one fritzed wire or crossed link, no cute little rodents sizzling in the circuits, or hideous viruses spewing garbled data.

“All systems operable,” the maintenance system announced. “Do you wish to proceed to level thirteen, mod seventy-four?”

“Not if I can help it,” she muttered, heading for the lift-port.

“Repeat,” the disembodied voice instructed.

“Yes. Mod seven four.”

“Proceed to the lift-port.”

“Obviously.” She pinched her fingers together in the air, minimizing the program. Trying to have a normal conversation with Opie, the ship’s original Operations AI, was like cooking with nutri-sims, the epitome of unsatisfying.

She hummed through the silence in the lift and exited on the thirteenth level – gray walls, gray floor, gray ceiling, same as every other level. Tracking the numbers on the doors, she strolled the corridor, the shipboard sounds muted, peaceful, sedate, boring. She’d just turned twenty-five, a fifth of her lifespan ticked off. Done. Done. Done. The thought of another hundred years of checklists punctuated by the same telebooks, revolving holofilms, and regurgitated musi-tunes tempted her to hack the entertainment database for some merciful sabotage.

At the panel to mod seventy-four, she punched the code into the slanted access plate, but the door didn’t budge.

“Greetings, Gabriela.” The pleasant voice of the modernized communications system chimed, breaking the ship’s silence.

“Hi, Darling.” The annoying name made her wince every time she said it.

“I’ve detected an anomaly. Do you still wish to enter?”

Gabby hesitated. She raised her hand and spread her fingers, opening Opie. “Safety analysis.”

“Perfectly safe,” Darling replied.

Opie ran through his data protocols. “Recommend initiating Safety Code SC-Six.”

“He’s a worrywart.” Darling sighed. “Of course, I understand if you’re anxious about missing the shift’s nutri-sim offering. Turkey and stuffing.”

“Open it.” The panel glided into the wall, and Gabby peeked in. At first glance, the mod’s interior appeared normal – a quietly blinking octagonal room, ten feet across, each gray wall dominated by a thin plasteel door that shielded the circuitry.

“Straight ahead,” Darling said.

“Don’t sound so giddy.” Gabby entered the mod and tapped the code from the plasteel door into Opie’s scanner.

The holo-tab blinked. “Anomaly detected.”

“How irritatingly repetitive.” Darling huffed. “Is he always like this?”

“Usually.”

“Well, are you going to open it?”

Gabby aimed her loc-key and hit the switch. The hidden pins clicked and the door released. She tugged it open and inhaled.

Beyond the gray portal the anomaly stretched forward in a rough passage constructed of actual stones and washed in gold and blue from the peculiar lights. At the end of the corridor, a cerulean brightness drew her eyes, a color seen only in images of a lost Terran sky. Yet neither sight could compete with the beauty of the sound. Beyond the elegant arches, voices and music soared, a sacred chant that welled in her chest, rose to her throat and caught in her lashes.

“Safety Code SC-Two Initiated,” Opie announced.

“Well, there you go,” Darling tsked. “He’s called security. You’re going to have to decide.”

“Decide?” Gabby stared down the length of the anomaly, the sapphire light and harmonies beckoning.

“To stay or go,” Darling whispered in her ear. “How much time do you have?”

“Seventy-three seconds,” Opie replied.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Opie,” Darling chided him. “One hundred years, Gabriela. You have a hundred years.”

Gabby stepped into the golden passage and closed the door behind her.

***

Many thanks to Sue Vincent of the Daily Echo for her #writephoto prompts that spark the imagination. She posts them on Thursdays. Join the fun!

Lookout #Writephoto

lookout

This submission is for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo weekly prompt. I can’t resist these.

Without a choice, Kael crept through the sheeting rain toward the garden, the baby heavy in his arms. His other sister, Gitta, hid behind the trellis, paralyzed by the terrible stridency of murder. He took a step closer and ducked back, squatted and held his breath, stroking Clover’s cheek to keep her quiet.

A guard in a black cloak stood at the corner of the shed, a loaded crossbow resting in his hands. He squinted in the rain as he scanned the garden, pens, and moor. Gitta didn’t seem aware of the man’s presence, and Kael begged her to stay as if his will alone could bind her limbs and silence her tongue. “Stay there, Gitta. Please, stay there.”

The guard spit and wiped the rain from his forehead with a sleeve before walking toward the pens. Kael tossed a stone into the garden. Gitta spun and he beckoned. As she ran toward him, he retreated into the heath. “We’re going to hide in the old cairn,” he told her. “You lead, quiet as a mouse.”

Gitta nodded, eyes like winter pools, her body soaked and shaking. She set off and Kael followed. They squeezed through the gap into the stone hollow. Kael opened Clover’s blanket and wrapped it around both sisters. They sat near the back, snuggled together, the tight quarters offering shelter from the storm.

“No talking,” Kael whispered when words formed on Gitta’s lips. She nodded and pointed at his shoulder. He gave his bloodied sleeve a peek and shrugged, then placed a finger to his lips.

Heather broke beneath quiet footfalls. Gitta pinched her eyes closed and Clover pressed her face into Kael’s arm as the shadow of a man blocked the gray light. Kael looked out, meeting the dark eyes. The stocky guard combed thick fingers through his wild beard.

“Niall?” another voice called.

“Just taking a piss,” the bearded man yelled into the rain. He gestured for Kael to stay before he trudged away. “No sign of them. I’ll stay on the moor and keep an eye out.”

Kael swallowed a sob, motionless, listening. The autumn skies brought premature darkness, the rain falling in rustling gales. Clover slept in his arms and Gitta dozed, emitting small sleep-filled cries that grated his raw nerves. The wind keened, and rain-dampened calls kept him vigilant, the hunters still on the prowl. Sorrow pressed down with the unbearable weight of the old stones.

The Stairway

northagain-073

I couldn’t resist Sue Vincent’s beautiful prompt. It was right up my alley … or down my stairway, so to speak. Stop it, Sue. I’m supposed to be working on my WIP! Check out Sue’s blog Daily Echo for some beautiful writing from a fascinating woman. Here’s my take on the prompt:

The Stairway

I lingered at the top of the stairway, teetering over the ice-laden steps, my head reeling. Before me arched a gateway of ancient stone and lofty evergreen, overhead boughs bent with old snow. Why hadn’t I noticed the stairs before; I’d walked this path many mornings over the years though never as lonesome as now.

The crisp sun glinted on the ice, dusted the air with a haze of enchantment. An illusion, surely, a trick of the light. Yet, a small wisp of me believed in magic. I trusted in dreams come true and happy endings. I didn’t live them, but I believed them. The gateway beckoned like a lover, teased, promised. I took a tentative step toward my altered future.

My foot slipped on the gleaming ice and shot forward. I yelped as my hip hit the top step and I bumped down, sleeves filling with snow splinters, my coat riding up, elbows whack, whack, whacking on each step. My bottom took the stairs like a toboggan, my mouth spilling squeaky oaths and ouches the entire ride. The magic portal disgorged me onto the crusty snow like a bad meal, and my feelings hurt as much as my bones. So much for magic.

“Are you all right?” A man’s voice, trying to sound concerned despite the muffled laughter. “Can I help?”

I looked up at his offered hand, the mirth in his eyes, his charming smile. I gave him my scratched hand and my aching heart… all those magical mornings ago.