Sanctuary #Writephoto

I shook off the transportal’s disorientation and trembled with the cold. Authentic cold. Maybe not what I’d expected, but a clear signal that I’d arrived. I’d grown sick of my shipbound existence, the sensory constancy, the monotony of routine, the same faces, same pastimes, same food. The same, same, same. After six cycles, the head of Assimilation approved my placement. And here I stood.

Time to face my new world, my chosen sanctuary, I squared my shoulders, hauled in a breath, and marched through the gray arch into a landscape felted in white. I halted. Warning bells clanged in my head and reality punched me in the chest. Something had gone wrong.

In a panic, I checked my chrono. I had minutes before the ship barreled out of range. Hands fumbling, I opened my comdeck, desperate for a connection.

“Connection established. Audra receiving. You have one chron before communication terminates.”

“Audra, this is Cloe. There’s been a mistake. You need trans me back to the ship.”

“Cloe? Give me a second.”

“Hurry!” I pleaded. A gray-haired alien in a charcoal coat strolled between the white trees, and I turned my back, hiding my dread.

“Your entry was a success.” Audra’s voice crackled with interference. “…didn’t show one irregularity. What’s the matter?”

“This planet,” I whispered, “it’s not the one I approved.” Tears blurred my vision, and I couldn’t stop shivering. “The locators guaranteed an 89% match to my parameters. I saw the images. They sent me to the wrong place!”

“I’m sorry, honey. You certified your choice. The portal’s closing.”

“Audra, you have to help me. Don’t leave me here!”

“All right, I’ll try. Tell me what’s wrong with it? I’ll issue a…” The comdeck fizzled and died.

I throttled the useless thing and smashed it on the stone steps. Face raised to the milky sky, I shouted, “I wanted colors! You sent me to a black and white world.”

The gray-headed alien in his charcoal coat glanced up from where he threw black seeds on the white ground. Gray-feathered birds pecked around his black shoes.  “That’s what you get for arriving in winter.”

I frowned at him. “Winter?”

He angled his head toward the gray buildings in the distance. “They didn’t tell me either. Let’s get a cup of coffee, and I’ll fill you in on something called spring.”

***

Another gorgeous photo and fun Thursday prompt from Sue Vincent. Join the fun. 🙂

The Hunt

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This is a 500-word stand-alone flash piece. I hope you enjoy.

The Hunt

I found the woman that Kester shot, stiff and snow-dusted beneath a fir. Other footprints head north, the white glaze of ice crunching as we track them in our heavy boots. This is my first hunt, my first war, old enough now to join the rebellion and execute my neighbors. Better than a bullet in the back, Kester says. You have to pick sides in these things.

“We’re stopping for the night.” Kester kicks the snow and points at the trees with his rifle. “You’re in charge of wood, Grayse. The rest of you set up camp.” I stare into the black forest beyond the body, my eyeballs stinging, toes gone numb hours ago. “Get going,” he barks at me. “I’m gods-damn freezing.”

My rifle abandoned, I trudge into the winter barrens beneath a star-spilled sky. The trees are giants wearing snow-draped robes, yet their crisp twigs and dead branches snap like small bones. I fill my arms, tramp back, and head out for more. Kester will nod when it’s enough, so there’s no point in asking.

Worried about losing my way, I follow the tracks while gathering my sticks, and the trek is easier where the snow’s crust was broken. Before I’ve hiked far, the trees thin and part, and at the forest’s edge, the night burns in a fire-show of light, rippling in hues of topaz and tourmaline.

Beneath the sky’s blazing ribbons, a village winks into existence, candles glowing in frosted windowpanes. I blink and rub my eyes with frozen fingers. Across the pale snow, I behold my countrymen staggering, stiffly, colder than death, lurching like disjointed corpses toward salvation. Their skeletal shadows stretch in the holy light back to me.

“Grayse! Graaaaayse,” Kester bellows from the forest, searching, my absence too long. “Graaaayse.”

In a panic, I run toward the village. I don’t know why. Do I seek its snug hearths or the promise of golden windows beneath a child’s magical sky? Or do I flee my future? Am I a weapon of the soulless, a beast in a child’s skin, killing my victims in the cold? Before me, the hunted weep and fall as they flee. I grab a man who pleads on his knees and hoist him up. Arm in arm, we stumble through the deep snow before the calls of my pursuers.

The last to reach the village, the man staggers through an open door and turns, beckoning me inside. I want to join him in the warmth and light. Instead, I draw my knife and face the skylit snow and black rim of forest.

“What the hell, Grayse?” Kester demands as my unit tramps toward me across the barrens.

“I was…” Despairing, I glance back before attempting to explain the village, to defend my actions, but behind me, nothing more than the night’s aurora ripples over the snow. “I was…lost.”

Kester smacks me across the face. “Run off out here, you get lost forever.”

“No,” I murmur. “You get found.”

 

Flickr Image: Northern Lights, Yukon, Canada www.studiolit.com

Water Moon

pixabaybonnybbx2

In my fantasy world, the winter rains blend the sea and sky into billowing hues of blue and gray. They paint the islands with a steady brush of storms, drum cold fingers on diamond panes, and drip through the draped boughs of evergreen. The last mottled colors of autumn skitter away with the wind.

Villagers venture down puddled lanes, hooded cloaks clutched against the sheeting rain. In the gray twilit mists, roadside bramble twists black, brittle and forlorn, and the smoke of wood fires scents the air with memories of home. Inside, a warm hearth awaits them, a welcoming blaze of vermillion in the deepening dusk of the year.

The full Water Moon shows her face in tonight’s night sky. This will be a supermoon, larger than usual because it’s orbit is closer to Earth. If you have a clear sky, I hope you catch a glimpse of her magic.

water-moon

Excerpt from Eye of Fire, Dragon Soul Quartet

Her skirt in her fists, Meriel rushed up the stairs to the gallery that stretched across the cliff’s face in the Compassionates’ Hall, connecting the public and private quarters. Long ago craftsmen had carved the gallery into the ivory rock and framed thirteen stained glass windows with a view of the sea, one for each moon. The windows weren’t only exquisite in themselves, the glass perfectly cut in a myriad of colors, but when sunlight shone through them, the gallery’s back wall came alive, mottled in soft hues, subtly edged and blending like pebbles under water. The sun promised to peek from behind the cloud cover, and she wanted to see it.

When she opened the door, the display dazzled her as it filled the air. Stepping into the color, her body became both a palette for the sun’s brush and a silhouetted shadow on the rock wall. She glided along the corridor, stopping at each window, noting the moon, the change of seasons in the hues, wondering at the artist whose work so sincerely and boldly reflected the complexity of creation.

“I never get tired of it,” Caron said.

As she turned, Meriel sought out his form in the liquid color. Her focus returned to the windows, and she continued down the gallery.

The tall man fell into step with her. “I especially like it during winter moons when the skies are brushed with gray.”

“Do you have time to talk?” Meriel touched his arm.

“I thought I already was.” He smiled.

“Yes, you were.” She let her hand drop. “Caron, I want to ask you about the dragons. Can we sit?” They moved to a stone bench bordering the rock wall.

“I don’t know very much about them, Meriel. In fact, you probably know more than I.”

“I told Gallard I would ask if anyone in the islands knows their nature, if anyone cares about what’s happening to them.”

The sun winked out behind scudding clouds, and the color vanished from the gallery, its windows still beautiful but flat and static. He rested his back on the wall and closed his eyes. With his hair newly shorn and beard tightly trimmed, the angles of his face lent him an appearance of weariness. “It seems I should know more than I do—a natural concern for the Compassionates, understanding and preventing cruelty. Why do I always feel I’m plodding uphill?”

Meriel knew the sensation. “I’m not blaming you for anything, Caron. I’m only asking questions.”

“The dragons live above us in the hills of Eydis. They abound in Anghard and fly deep in the mountains of Halle. Other than in Yula, we rarely see them, and that’s a good thing—for the dragons.”

***

This is my last moon post. A year of 13 full moons began last December, all marking time in the Dragon Soul series. Thank you for reading along and celebrating nature’s timekeeper with me. ❤

Burrower’s Moon

pixabay free image, skeeze

pixabay free image, skeeze

In my fantasy world, the full face of the Burrower’s Moon heralds the coldest days of winter. Fronds of ice feather the windows, and the snow crunches and squeaks. Fire licks the sooty stones of the hearth while candles burn low. We sleep in our socks and drink tea to warm our bones.

Here in Oregon, the Burrower’s Moon lights the sky just after midnight, during the wee hours of January 24th. We haven’t any snow, but in my books, the white is deep and cold.

pixabay free image, stocksnap

pixabay free image, stocksnap

Excerpt from The Burrower’s Moon, Eye of Blind

Lying beside Gallard, Starling felt the tenderness she’d carried all day. She thought of the Endellion and the finality of terror they faced while she lay sheltered in a landscape beautiful in its rawness, her World full of possibility. She was struck by the contrast, starkly rendered for all to see if they would only look. A contrast pitting life against death, connection against separation, compassion against brutality, vision against blindness, caring against indifference. She could go on and on and on as if the differences were so absolute there remained not a scrap of common ground for them to reach across. Yet that was illusion; there existed no air at all between hunter and hunted and the wilderness they inhabited. That alone felt so terribly heartbreaking.

credit background: pixabay free image by carolinda

Winter’s Creative Gift

image: pixabay

pixabay free images/ Anja Osenberg

The holidays come to a hectic close and my favorite time of year ambles in. Here is Oregon, if you gaze out the window at the January weather, you’ll find a misty, drippy, icy, foggy-soggy mess, at least through May. That gives me five whole months of lighter obligations and a complete lack of guilt for not “enjoying the weather.” In a climate boasting only three months of sunshine, the Vitamin D police are checking every household for us slackers.

For quite a few creative sorts, our pursuits get back-burnered by other more pressing responsibilities – jobs, violin lessons, soccer practice, staining the deck, grocery shopping, sorting socks…it’s amazing that anything in the world ever gets painted, composed, sculpted, or tapped out on the keyboard.

We, who aren’t independently wealthy or already famous, squeeze precious moments for inspiration from the cracks of our crowded lives. We hide in our cubbyholes, our converted attics, our bedrooms and garages. (Oh, I’ve written in the bathroom too). We rise before dawn with a steamy cup of coffee, kiss our lovers goodnight and stay up with the stars. A weekend alone isn’t a time for melancholy wishes; it’s a little taste of heaven with a neglected muse.

Creative time is sacred time, hours marked with inky conviction on the calendar that can’t be erased. As artists, we need to cultivate a belief in the importance of what we do, even when other duties jostle for our attention. We need to believe in the intrinsic value of our art, even when no paycheck arrives in the mail. We need to honor our creative calling and spirit of inspiration, even when the doubters tell us how nice it is we have a hobby to fill our free time!

In Oregon, the winter weather comes bearing the creative gift of unassigned hours. No matter where you live, dedicate a few empty squares of your calendar to nourish your creative soul and save the dates as you would for your child’s wedding. Be resolved.