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The Magic of Laguage

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4/13/2014 11:35:05   
Crystal Sunshyne

This story was inspired by the "Here's How We Roll" contest from March 2014, which I noticed the other day and thought would be a fun writing exercise even though it was already too late to enter. So I wrote this short fiction which attempts to fit the requirements of being less than about 3000 words and including the following elements: footprints, keyhole, magic wand, cane, shooting star, flash light, handprint, castle tower, and a speech. I hope this is vaguely as enjoyable to read as it was to randomly write, and that my dyspunctual not-quite-participation in the contest is not minded. :)


The Magic of Language

Footprints dotted the desert landscape, hollow dents that marked the passing of hundreds of forlorn feet on a fruitless journey toward less barren land. In the daytime, these footprints were the only sign of life in the desert; the people travelled in the safety of the night and spent their days hiding in scarce shadows from the deathly scorching sun. And by nightfall the trodden paths had always faded again into unmarked stretches of sand, for not even the listless stillness of the sandscape at dawn could keep away the wind that blew in vicious sandstorms at midday. Sandswept waves of wind washed over the land in a way that was almost reminiscent of ocean waves erasing footprints from beaches. Oh how they longed for the ocean.

There had been water once. Everyone knew it, but no one remembered anything clearly from the times before this endless desert journey. All the cities, forests, rivers, and roads had long since vanished from time and space and memory. Even language had been lost. The mass of nameless people cursed to endless wanderings continued to exist, unaging and untiring, because both life and death remained foreign to them. The vague purpose of their pointless journey was the only thing they knew: they must reach something that lay beyond the wasteland, though the nature and whereabouts of this something remained eternally unknown.

Only one piece of nature still existed in this desert world: a wooden wand secretly kept in the possession of one of the nameless women in the nameless crowd. All other evidence of plant or animal life was distinctly absent—even their clothes were made of unidentifiable colourless material which some of the people thought was woven from shadows, and they carried no possessions across the empty plains. But this wand was different. Though the woman who kept it remembered nothing about trees, she knew this wand was made of something that had once been alive, and that magic, forgotten quality of life still pulsed through it like a silent heartbeat unnoticed to all but this woman.

The woman herself was different too, for she had been pregnant at the time when everything from before had ended; while she followed the timeless journey across unchanging lands, a new life fought against her agelessness. As the child slowly grew within her, the woman’s strength drained away to support the new life and she became weak and frail, nourished only by the magic of her secret wand. She kept walking with the crowd as long as she could, blending in with her swelling belly concealed beneath shapeless, shadowed robes. But eventually, after an indeterminate and meaningless amount of time, she was too weak to walk.

One nightfall, as all the people rose from their shadows and set out as usual across the plains, the pregnant woman took hold of her husband’s hand and held him back with the pleading of her eyes. He tried to help her up, but she stayed sitting on the ground, unable to stand. He knelt down beside her, concerned by her weakness and silently resolving that he would carry her tonight if she needed him to, and then she brought his hand to her belly and he forgot about the departing crowd. His eyes grew wide with wonder as he felt a lively kick from their unborn child. Life, as the world had forgotten and spent eternity searching for, still existed within her.

The nameless crowd travelled on, and the nameless man and woman stayed and waited for the birth of their child. Their absence went unnoticed during the unknown number of days and nights that passed before the baby was born.

She was born with a name. It was impossible because, even if words had not been unheard of, names are chosen and not inherent; but despite impossibility, this baby girl was born knowing that her name was Star, and her parents understood. ‘Star’ was her first word, too—the first word that her parents could decipher from her stream of perplexing, unintelligible babble. This little girl’s voice was the first in living memory to break the silence in this desert, and as her parents listened to her she taught them how to speak.

The parents soon learned their own names as well: Mama and Papa. They vaguely thought they may have once been called something else as well, but these were their new names; the old ones were lost in the unrememberable time of before.

When Star discovered Mama’s magic wand, she was absolutely delighted by it and it immediately became her favourite toy. She waved it at the night sky as she babbled, “Da, ta, satawa, stawa, stawa—stow-er—sita-za…” Finally, almost by accident, she managed to properly pronounce the word ‘star’, which she punctuated with a triumphant flourish of the wand.

The magic wand glittered for an instant, and a shooting star streaked across the sky. It was not until this moment that the absence of stars in the night sky was noted, for no one in the empty wasteland had bothered to wonder about celestial lights. But now suddenly there was something: a flash of light that brightened the void and brought hope to the wandering people. They felt this was a sign that they were close to reaching the lands of plenty they sought, and they journeyed with the tiniest hint of a spring in their steps in the direction they had seen that star.

The shooting star fell toward the little girl with the magic wand who had summoned it. She caught the tiny star in her hands and examined it with admiration as it sparkled and glittered and dotted the shadowed sand with light. Then, following the inexplicable, unstoppable urge small children have to put the randomest things in their mouths, Star accidentally swallowed the star.

She was never the same after that. Star had always been special, but now there was a certain brightness about her, a beauty that transformed the core of her being and shone from the depths of her eyes. This was the girl who would change everything.

As Star grew older and her use of language developed more fully, she was able to call more and more things into existence by speaking their names. “Tree” was the first one, shortly followed by “flower”, but these miraculous plants wilted before “rain” and “rivers” were summoned as well. Her parents were astounded by the transformation of the desert with the appearance of these new concepts into someplace not only habitable during the daytime but also profoundly beautiful. And they were even more impressed the day that Star said “castle” and created a spectacular home for them to live in.

“We are proud of you,” they told her. “You have reminded us of the miracle of language, and every new concept you create is even more extraordinary than the last.”

While the area where Star and her parents lived grew richer and more plentiful along with her vocabulary, the nameless people continued to journey toward them. Finally, when the young Star was fairly fluent and had proclaimed herself the princess and her parents the king and queen of their castle, the nameless people arrived in the lands of language. They believed they had finally found the place beyond the desert that they had always been searching for. People piled in through the gardens and into the courtyard where they were greeted by the castle’s royalty.

Star stood on the balcony of the tallest castle tower and spoke to the gathered crowd beneath, which consisted of everyone currently in existence. Her voice carried softly through the silence, like the faint brightness of starlight that shines across the emptiness of the night.

“Hello,” she began. “Welcome to the city of Ilvea. I know that you have been searching for a long time for something beyond the barren desert. You must be weary after your tiresome journey, and you are welcome to rest here. In fact, you are welcome to call Ilvea your new home, if you like, and you may stay in this city for as long as you wish. I will make sure you all have suitable homes to live in, and you are encouraged to contribute to the development and prosperity of our city.”

The people listened to Star’s speech with rapt attention. Each word she spoke, though seemingly unfamiliar at first, brought forth the memory of words they had once known. As they listened, the nameless people gradually remembered how to speak; soon they would no longer be unnamed.

Star continued, “I know that you all understand me, even though you have not used words since the forgotten times that existed before. But you did know language once, and language is the secret to understanding everything in this world that you have lost. I believe that loss of language was the disaster which ended the forgotten civilizations. I do not know how this happened, but I do know that the return of language is the solution to that disaster.”

“Why did the loss of language end the forgotten civilizations?” someone asked from the crowd—the first one of the nameless people to speak.

“Because without language there are no ideas,” explained Star. “Nothing exists unless the idea of it is spoken.”

So the people settled in, and the new houses built for them expanded Ilvea into a proper city.

But time passed, and now that the concept of time existed meaningfully, the people aged, grew ill, and discovered that the cycle of life included death. Even Mama and Papa eventually grew too old to keep up with the work of ruling Ilvea, and they passed on the queendom to Star, whom, they said, it had always belonged to in the first place. When Papa passed away, the existence of death could no longer be ignored, and the people were so upset by the loss of their former king that they organized a revolt. A group of people in shadowed robes snuck into the castle one night to find the queen and demand that she return the world to its desert state.

The beam of a flashlight shining through the keyhole in her door awoke Queen Star.

“Who is there?” she said.

“We demand to be unnamed,” came the reply. “We demand that the nameless desert be returned, that we may wordlessly wander in peace for eternity. We demand the immortality of existing without living.”

Star pondered this for a moment. “I cannot reverse the gift of language,” she told them.

“You must,” they insisted. “If you do not give us immortality again tonight, we will destroy the city and everything that you have built, and we shall recreate the desert ourselves.”

“Alright,” Star agreed. She threw on a jacket over her nightgown, slipped on her shoes, and grabbed her magic wand. Then she calmly led the threatening group through the hallway, stopping first at Mama’s room to wake the former queen.

“I can’t come with you,” said Mama. “My back aches, and I feel ill. I can’t walk.”

“Yes you cane,” Star replied as she handed her mother a cane to help her walk. “The people demand immortality, and I need your help.”

Painfully slowly, the old queen stood up and, with the help of the cane, followed her daughter as she led the group into the castle gardens. Star waved the magic wand as she spoke the word ‘immortality’ and a giant hourglass filled with colourless sand appeared; the flow of sand was blocked in order to capture time that would theoretically never pass.

“Climb this ladder to the top of the hourglass, and leave your footprint on the immortal sands of time; then you will have a taste of immortality, for even if your life does not last forever you will have left a mark that shall always remain here. This is the best that I can offer you,” said Star. “Even if I could return you to the desert as you ask, I cannot truly believe you would be happier there; even though the nameless void is free of sadness, sickness, and pain, there is beauty in the finite lives you have now, and without language, without life, existence would be meaningless. I believe that a finite life full of meaning is infinitely better than an eternity of pointless existence. So the only immortality I can and will give you is the chance to leave your mark upon time; the former queen of Ilvea shall go first to show you that this works, and we will never truly lose her as we lost my father because a part of her shall remain immortal.”

Star turned to her mother and added quietly, “I hope you don’t mind.”

Mama smiled and reassured her daughter that this was a good idea before she set down the cane she had been leaning on and began to climb the ladder. But before the first queen of Ilvea could leave the first footprint in the sand of time, she slipped on the ladder and grabbed the side of the hourglass to catch her balance. She managed to steady herself precariously, and she was close enough to the top of the ladder that she was able to reach in and touch the sand as she did so, leaving her handprint instead of the intended footprint. Then she fell.

“No!” cried Star. “Mama--!”

The former queen was old and frail, and the fall from the hourglass brought her fully fulfilled life to an end. Although it was true that she had first left her mark in the sand of time, the fact that the crowd witnessed her subsequent proof of mortality undid the intended effects of appeasing them. A riot broke out as the crowd shouted that the efforts you make to secure this form of fake immortality will only kill you.

“Bring us back the immortal desert!” they shouted.

“Living to the fullest is not worth it if life is impermanent!”

“Destroy Ilvea!”

“Kill Queen Star and her deadly city! If she has sentenced us to mortal lives she should suffer the effects of mortality too!”

In the midst of this confusion and commotion, Star merely knelt by her mother and wept at the tragic loss as her people turned against her. She had taught the world how to speak, how to recreate not only the lost language but everything that had disappeared without speech, and now they were so ungrateful for all that she had given them that they wanted to destroy everything they had worked to rebuild. And now she was completely alone, with no parents to help her face the threats of her people.

An arrow silently hissed through the crowd and hit the queen.

Star exploded in a burst of light, and all the magical energy she was made of expanded to consume the rest of the planet in pure starlight. Then their entire world was compressed into a tiny dot that flew across time and space, streaked through a distant universe’s sky, and shattered upon the waves of an unknown ocean. In the sparkling starlight on that distant ocean, the desert world finally rested in the water the nameless people had so longed for, once, and another nameless place was introduced to magic.

< Message edited by Crystal Sunshyne -- 5/29/2014 12:50:59 >
Post #: 1
5/29/2014 12:47:44   
Crystal Sunshyne

Well, here's another piece of writing partly inspired by the Here's How We Roll contest. This round's elements are: parachute, house, shooting star, mail, hand, fire, balance scales, tall building, and the action of falling.
This is a story I vaguely had the idea of floating in my head for a while, and the story elements this round matched it too perfectly for me to be able to resist releasing it from my mind.

Warrior Poetess

Dear Crystal, Dazzling Goddess of Fire and Lovely Guardian of Light,
You have my deepest gratitude for your protection and guidance. It is your strength and optimism that has given me the courage to pursue my dreams; tonight I take the final test to become a warrior poet, and I owe all of my success to you. Thank you, and may your light continue to bless all the people of your kingdom, including your most devoted admirer,
Prince Coryan

My dearest Prince Coryan of the Northern Kingdom,
I wish you the best of luck. May you fight with the courage of the fiercest fire and write as brightly as the most illuminating light. You will make a fine warrior poet.

As the goddess carefully folded her reply and tucked it inside a tiny crystal envelope, a sparkle of light reflected in the fountain caught her eye. She looked out through the window and noticed an intensely bright shooting star falling through the sky. At first she paused to watch it because of its beauty, but after a moment, when the meteor grew nearer and brighter still, she began to fear that its trajectory was heading straight toward her and her Library of Souls. Crystal backed away from the window just before the burst of blinding light shattered through it and crashed into her fountain. Water sloshed onto the floor to join the shards of broken glass and the scattered mountain of fountain letters from her people. And then a ripple resounded through time and space as the water portal built only for teleporting small objects such as letters between realms collapsed under the weight of the shooting star and pulled Crystal through it. The letter that had remained in her hand unmailed spiralled away into the unknown and vanished from existence. And, perhaps, so might she.

Where am I? she wondered, looking around at the mist that surrounded her. And what was--?

Crystal peered at the impenetrable mist more intently.

Oh no.

The mist swirled ominously with shadows that hungered for the light of souls.

No no no no no please let this not be the Esle Mist. Please let me not be in the Sylen Sea, the darkest place outside my realm where I no longer have the powers of a goddess. Please let these not be the shadows that throw each person they consume into the face of her own worst fears.

The darkness opened wide its mouth, displaying deadly sharp teeth and inescapable jaws.

Sylen please don’t let your darkness hurt me. If I have fears, I swear by the light that I don’t want to face them…

The misty shadows swallowed Crystal whole.

Falling frozen fragments of February frost,
In icy isolation each was lost.
Gusts of wind whirled, and together they were tossed;
How could a single ice crystal in this crowded cloud feel alone?
The storm howled as an ice statue on a skyscraper stirred,
Inching to the roof’s edge, arms spread like a bird’s
Not quite wings not quite capable of holding her.
Gasping from the road below, Crystal cried, “Cry, don’t—”

The icy figure jumped irrevocably down;
One more Ice Crystal fell from the clouds.

Billowing with wind, her parachute, filling,
Ripped away in the ferocity of the storm; the fabric broken,
Ice Crystal was suddenly uncontrollably falling.
Not quite strong enough arms caught her, then dropped her again,
Grasping to break her fall, but failing.

Pieces of Ice Crystal smashed onto the hard concrete;
Everything vanished in half a broken heartbeat.
A wave of darkness as heavy as the universe slammed down,
Crashed through the world and crushed Crystal to the ground
Except the floor, too, existed no more.

Time froze and space floated, both meaningless;
Only regret remained, and morbid emptiness.

With infinite, intimate, intricate love and skill—
Her every scattered, shattered shard mattered still—
A careful Crystal pieced Ice Crystal, post-escape,
Together again with triple-sided purple duct tape.

“Here,” said Crystal “let me give you a hand,”
Offering Ice Crystal her last broken piece.
“Let me be!” Ice screamed, “Let me please die in peace!
Don’t believe that you know me, that you understand!”
She grabbed the broken fist and threw it at Crystal’s face.

“You ugly, stupid, lazy, irresponsible, worthless girl!
Oh how I hate you! I wish you would disappear!
Unlovable monster, you don’t deserve to be here!”
Reeling from the blows, Crystal’s senses awhirl…

Her whole life collapsing, she took Ice in her arms;
“Even though it hurts, I promise you will be alright.”
And she handed Ice a heartful of light conjured by her fiery charms.
“Really?” asked Ice, disbelieving in belief so warm.
Then all but the purple duct tape melted in a pool of light.


“Are you alright?”

Crystal blinked at the sudden, discontinuous clarity. The darkness and the mist were gone, and she lay in a fountain filled with frozen solid ice. “I…don’t…know,” she managed to say through blue lips and chattering teeth. “Where am I?”

“The gardens at the Institute InVerse. I’m Rhisc. Here, let me give you a hand.”

Crystal flinched at her last memory of that phrase, but she took Rhisc’s hand and let him help pull her out of the nearly inescapable grip of the ice. When she was finally free, she sat on the edge of the fountain, trying to still her uncontrollable shivers and the tears crystallizing on her eyelashes. Crystal reached for her inner flame to warm herself, but only a few weak, stuttering sparks fizzled through her as though perhaps she had no fire left; she hugged her knees and continued shaking.

Then the merciful warmth of a jacket draped around her shoulders; she pulled it tighter, eyes closed and ears listening as Rhisc sat down beside her. “Seriously, are you alright?” Rhisc asked again. “You look frozen. You should let me bring you inside where it’s warmer.” When she did not reply, he added, “Do you think this fountain still works? I sent a letter to the goddess and I was hoping to check if she had answered yet… It’s weird that it froze so suddenly like that; do you know what happened to it?”

She stayed silent, barely clinging to a thread of light that kept her from drowning in internal darkness.

“It’s ok. I’m sure it will work again when it melts,” he went on. “And Crystal’s statue looks pretty with the surrounding ice. I mean, she’s always beautiful, and it’s always peaceful here; no matter how scared I think I am of life, her light always gives me strength.”

“You really think she is worth believing in?” asked Crystal. She looked up at him now, a trace of hope in her eyes, but then she glanced at the statue as well and it reminded her too much of Ice Crystal. She shivered.

“Of course,” said Rhisc. “Don’t you?”

“I don’t know if I believe in anything anymore…” What would he think if he knew that the goddess who personifies his strength is this weak girl beside him? “Except maybe the good nature of people like Prince Coryan. It is good to be able to trust that our kingdom will be in good hands. Ooh did you hear that he secretly came to study at the Institute InVerse, following his dream to become a warrior poet even though his father disapproved? Have you seen him here?”

Rhisc’s expression revealed nothing. “He may be well liked, but he has yet to inherit the responsibility of the kingdom; I hope that when he does, on some distant future day, he will make as good a king as you believe.”

“I am sure he will.”

She read something unreadable in his eyes.

“You never told me your name,” he remarked.

“It’s… Tess,” she lied.

“It is enchanting to meet you, Tess,” he said. “But you are still shivering. Master InVerse’s house is not far; I’m sure he would hate to have you freeze on his campus without coming inside to warm up by his fire and say hello. He does have the reputation of being somewhat intimidating sometimes, but he really is kind and hospitable; trust me.”

So they walked down the path through the gorgeous gardens that Crystal was too cold to enjoy, and Rhisc knocked at the door of a welcomingly warm wooden house. It was a very modest building in comparison to the castle-like structure close by that she assumed was the school.

Master InVerse opened the door to his cozy, book-filled abode, and when he let them inside Crystal would have commented about how delightful it looked had the darkness behind her eyes not been so blinding that the only detail she was able to fully take in was the fireplace. All other auditory and visual details blurred around the edges of the crackle and sparkle of flames; she longed for their light so desperately that she had to suppress the urge to take the fire in her hands and swallow it. Warming up by sitting in the glowing aura of the fireplace felt like being expected to quench dehydration by walking through a cloud, but consuming the flames might be impolite as well as give away her identity as a goddess essentially made of fire.

As she vaguely overheard discussion of tonight’s test for the newest recruited writers, Crystal’s resolve to sit still faltered; she loathed the weakness she felt. “I would like to be a warrior poetess,” Crystal suddenly heard herself declare. The blur of conversation quieted and eyes turned to her.

“You are welcome to apply,” said Master InVerse. “There are three tests you must pass before the school accepts you: first, you must be able to turn a writing utensil into a weapon; second, if you have magic, you must show your ability to control it; and third, you must conquer your fears by stepping through the portal to the Sylen Sea armed only with your writing weapons and returning victorious from the Esle Mist.”

“I can do that,” she said with confidence she did not feel. The idea of facing Ice Crystal again was thoroughly unappealing, but she ignored that thought for the moment and picked up a purple practice pen from the table, eager to pass the first test. She stood up and closed her eyes, adding to her ignored thoughts the watchful silence that sounded like it contained the muted voices of all the new students awaiting their final test today, as well as the non-silent comment that she should not expect herself to pick up this skill immediately. Crystal focused instead on the pen in her hand, her infinite love of writing, and the thought of her home, a library filled with shelves and shelves of precious books that she handled ever so carefully so as not to accidentally burn them with the fire that coursed through her veins. The fire sighed contentedly beside her, and sparks flowed from her still icy fingertips. She opened her eyes to gasps of surprise and mutters of approval.

The rapier was light and graceful in her hand. An elegant handguard twisted artistically around the quillons and the thin oval blade glinted beautifully in the firelight. And, of course, the entire sword was purple.

“That is a very fine mightier-than-a-sword,” Master InVerse observed. “It suits you well.”

“Thank you,” said Crystal.

For the second test, she lit a candle to prove her fire-based magic; for a split second every other flame in the room flared ten times brighter, but if they noticed her magic was too powerful it was dismissed as a trick of the light. She had managed to recharge more than she thought.

Finally it was time for all of them to take the final test to be accepted as warrior poets and poetesses. They returned to the fountain, which had thankfully melted again, and one by one the prospective students stepped through it into the realm of darkness and mist.

Master InVerse stopped each one of them before they passed through the portal. “Be warned,” he said, “that of the many who believe they are brave enough to face the Mist, few are strong enough to return; the only way back is to conquer your worst fear. This is your last chance to change your mind before finding out what you truly fear most.”

Crystal smiled cryptically, fearsomely fearlessly, and jumped through the portal. She knew what awaited.

She was on a bridge that floated seemingly unsupported in the sky, a bridge from nowhere to an even worse nowhere. There were no guardrails, the path was straight but narrow, and the hypothetical ground below was shrouded in shadows at the bottom of an unknowable distance.

An icy figure stood before her, covered in ice armour and armed with a glitteringly sharp icicle sword. Ice Crystal took a threatening step forward, and the bridge shifted imperceptibly in Crystal’s direction.

Crystal took a step back, protectively holding her notebook and pen, her heart racing and her blood cold with fear. The bridge tilted the slightest bit further.

Ice Crystal lashed out, swinging her sword at Crystal with sudden ruthless precision, and Crystal reflexively raised the notebook to block the blow. Upon impact, it transformed into a stronger-than-shield. Undaunted, Ice Crystal twirled her icy sword around and cut below Crystal’s defences; the sharpened ice clashed against Crystal’s pen now transformed into a mightier-than-a-sword.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” said Crystal as she forced Ice Crystal’s sword away.

“But all
I want is to cause you pain,” snarled her colder half.

Ice Crystal pushed through Crystal’s parries and left a scratch on her shoulder; a trickle of blood ran down her arm. Suddenly a blazing fire roared to life behind Crystal Flame’s eyes, and instinctive battle rage took over. The bridge began to tilt the other way as the fight shifted, and within moments her mightier-than-a-sword burned a hole in the ice armour and cut straight through Ice Crystal’s heart. But at that same moment, when the fight may have almost been won, an icicle sword collided with Crystal Flame’s heart as well.

Double kill.

Time stood cruelly still for a fraction of a failing heartbeat before the scene reset.

Crystal stood on one half of a giant unbalanced set of scales; on the other, heavier half was Ice Crystal. Below them was infinite ominous darkness, and to each side was a cliff that would allow them to step off the scales only when they were at equilibrium.

“My heart is too heavy,” moaned Ice. “I am falling into the darkness.”

“Can I take some of your weight?” asked Crystal, tentatively.

“You wouldn’t want to see my heart. I am ugly, weak, and broken on the inside.”

“Show me the part of you that you hate more than anything, and I will love that part of you more than anything.”


“Because that’s the part of you that needs the most love.”

Ice Crystal was silent. She held out her battered, icy heart, unfathomable fear in her eyes.

“Let me trade you,” said Crystal, offering a prism of pure and radiant light. “This is what my heart is made of.”

Fire and Ice traded hands, and opposite sides of the same person found some semblance of peace with each other. The scales rebalanced.


Crystal stepped out of the fountain, safely back at the Institute InVerse where Rhisc and most of the others had safely returned. Her once fiery red hair, after mixing with the icy blue of her darker half, was now purple to match her mightier-than-a-sword, and she held a short poem balanced on her stronger-than-a-shield:

Ene Me
I am my own worst enemy;
If I can conquer her,
I can take whatever
The world throws at me.

And so the goddess Crystal became the Warrior Poetess, and the nickname ‘Tess’ became less of a lie.

< Message edited by Crystal Sunshyne -- 5/29/2014 16:04:14 >
Post #: 2
6/22/2014 18:26:24   
Crystal Sunshyne

Okayy, well, Here's How We Roll Round Three: flashlight, lightning, moon, keyhole, shadow, rainbow, house, laughter, and theft/burglary

I should warn you that this story is a bit odd and somewhat evil. But it was fun to write :)

Unraveling Rainbows

I awake as the first colour is destroyed. Blood blackens, tulips fade, and sweet strawberries unripen. I can feel all redness seep out of existence and universes begin to lose heart as the strongest hue of all bleeds away to nothing. I was never supposed to wake up; my story is not meant to be written. I was a preventable prophecy. I belong in the dark corner of a dusty library, fallen behind a bookcase and forgotten, the pages between my worn ashen covers forever blank. That might be where I am, in fact, except that there is ink upon me now. If I am awake, if there are words appearing on my unworthy prismatic paper, it means all existence is about to end. I only hope that I can warn the one person who can save us soon enough.

Vi walks past me, humming softly and cheerfully as she paces her library, oblivious to the oblivion that hangs like an endless shadow across the future. Her footsteps creak the same floorboard that my pages are crumpled against, and I can almost reach out through the space between bookcases and touch her except that I am a book and cannot move. My thoughts do not make me animate, but in this moment I wish a thousand times that they could.

Several rows of bookcases away now I hear the shuffling and rustling of papers that will soon be meaningless. Vi pores over inconsequential books as the last remaining moments of time slip away. If she never looks up from those black and white pages she may not notice the colours disappearing until it is too late. She may be safe for now inside her own purple walls, but everything else is crumbling apart.

Orange is not far behind Red. He goes off like an explosion, fades from existence like dying embers left in burning ruins. Smoke falls upward, trailing the dark grey shadows of dead fires across the sky.

And then there is Yellow, sweet, sweet Yellow, the brightest and most joyous of all the rainbow’s hues. She leaves slowly, sickly pale, becoming the ghost of something that forgets how to shine. Invincible dandelions wilt, gold becomes dull and worthless, and the concept of sunlight ceases to be.

Each time a colour vanishes, I can feel the prophetic prismatic tree that I am made from scream with agony.

The lights go out in Vi’s house. I think they were powered by slightly warm-tinted colours that no longer exist. Vi retrieves an emergency flashlight and unsuccessfully attempts to fix the lights before finally returning to her books in dimmer lighting. The room is one all-consuming shadow broken only by a thin beam of bluish light. Pages rustle, time sneaks past like a thief in the night, and oblivion draws ever nearer.

A window slides soundlessly open to let someone slip inside. A second beam of bluish light flits across the rows of bookshelves, searching for something. Searching for me. Silent footsteps tiptoe across the room until that bluish beam captures me like a spotlight.

The creak of my floorboard is drowned out by a sudden crack of indigo lightning that streaks invisibly across the midnight blue sky. Lifeless foliage falls all at once in the stillness of the night, and the forest floor is swamped with black leaves. The world trees, each one the guardian of a different universe, are dead black skeletons illuminated only by the soft grey moon that may have once been white. There should not be a moon here—there has never been a sky in the World Between that was not made of foliage—and yet, now that everything is unraveling, this moon is visible. As each colour dies, its lost whiteness will become a darker shade of grey until eventually all moonlight is black and life will not exist to observe it.

Finally, Vi looks up from her books at the sound of Green’s murder. He was closer than the others when the lightning killed him. He was probably on his way here to warn her.

“Stop!” Vi cries out when she sees my thief outlined in the window. In the moment he pauses to assess the new deadness of the tree he climbed to sneak inside, Vi runs across the room to wrench me from his grasp. But even one-handed his grip is tight. My binding twists and stretches painfully as they struggle. I want to tell her not to stop him, but she would not hear my silent words. He drops his flashlight and draws a knife; before Vi can scream and before I can finish this sentence I am impaled. The sharpness slices through me, wounding me, but it is not enough. Through the haze of pain I fumble for the important idea I need to tell them… They must destroy me completely in order for this story to end, for the destruction to be reversed before it is too late.

Vi gently pulls the knife out of my wounded body, and drops of my black ink bleed onto the floor. Vi is a little too gentle with the books she keeps; she believes all prophecies are precious, even the ones like me. She thought if she erased the disastrous words I once prophesized I would be harmless, but she was wrong. I wish she would read me right now. Open me and look at my words, Vi! As long as I live, life itself is in danger.

But she is not looking at me anymore; she is distracted because she recognizes the knife. Vi pulls back the burglar’s shadowed hood and frees the familiar pair of blue eyes beneath it into the faint grey moonlight. I cannot see them myself, but I can sense that the blueness of his eyes is purer than any other blue in existence.


“Vi I can explain—”

The front door of Vi’s home opens, closes.

“These are my books, Blue! The sacred prophecies of all the universes! How dare you—”

“Vi, you need to listen—”

Footsteps climb the stairs.

“You know that each one of these stories is a precious piece of a different world’s history. I can’t believe you would try to destroy one of them and steal a major event from existence!”

“But this one is—”

“It is not our place to decide the direction the timelines take, only to keep track of them and keep the prophecies safe. I can’t believe I trusted you!”


Footsteps cross the hall.

“There is nothing you can say to justify what you have done! These books are living, thinking, feeling beings! I will not tolerate a single one of them being hurt!”

Oh, Vi, if only you knew. If only you would listen. You are sweet, but I would rather die for you than watch all light be killed. I remember the prophecy that I am meant to hold, and I hope you will let me leave my ending unwritten.

Indigo walks into the room. Her midnight blue hair shines in the light of the flashlight Vi dropped on the desk, and her indigo eyes glint with darkness.

“Vi, what happened to the book?” She takes in the sight, the deep gash through me and the knife covered in my inky blood.

Vi turns around. “Indigo! Hi! It’s—Blue—I was just—It’s nothing I can’t heal.” I gather she is still upset and flustered for the wrong reasons. Don’t you remember what I prophesized, Vi?

“That book needs to be destroyed,” says Blue. But they ignore him.

Vi walks back toward her desk, leaving Blue at the window without even bothering to look outside; she misses the opportunity to notice the black leaves and eerie moonlight.

“Don’t you realize what is happening?” Blue calls after her. I wish she did.

“So the story is still alive?” says Indigo.

“Yes, I think so,” replies Vi. “The book is bleeding, but it can be fixed.”

Indigo picks up the flashlight from the desk and shines it at me. “It looks like it will recover, but I think we should keep it somewhere safe right now. Can you lock it in one of these drawers?” she suggests.

“Good idea,” says Vi, even though it is the worst idea I have ever heard.

Before I can finish begging her once more to read my warnings, Vi has unlocked the top left drawer of her desk and placed me inside. She is so blind when it comes to the safety of her books it’s heartbreaking. The drawer closes, the key turns again, and I am sentenced to a merciless imprisonment here where I am forced to observe the dimly lit library through the keyhole.

My only hope now is that I will bleed to death before I have the chance to write the ending. I implore my poor ink to pour out of my wound, and I am painfully happy to feel the sticky, staining substance pooling in the corners of… Did Vi wrap me in something soft? I didn’t notice before. I am losing my…

What was I saying? My train of thought. I am losing my ability to focus.

But maybe if I can waste enough ink on wordy tangential contemplations I will run out before…

“The colours are being killed one by one and we are next. I am next!” Blue shouts.

Indigo, having obtained the inkstained knife, throws it in one swift and accurate motion across the room; it lands in Blue’s neck and cuts off the scream that never had the chance to escape his throat.

The concepts of sky and oceans cease to be. Forget-me-nots are forgotten. Everything that was once blue is no more. And now only two colours of light remain between life and eternal total darkness.

“Blue!” screams Vi. “No!”

As if the entire collection of existing universes didn’t see that coming.

The room is in almost utter darkness now that the bluish beams from their flashlights have ceased to exist; even the moon is now a deep grey that barely casts the dimmest lighting. Vi turns back to the menacing shadow that is Indigo and poses with surprising calmness a heartbroken “Why?”

I can hear the evilness in Indigo’s smile, but I try to forgive her because it is my fault she is corrupted.

“I have an insatiable craving for oblivion,” she says. “Destruction is too delicious to resist.”

“But you were one of us, Indigo,” says Vi. “A protector of prophecies, of colour, of life. Please, don’t do this.”

“It’s too late, Violet. I already have.”

My keyhole is blocked for a moment, but then the key clatters away again across the floor, powerless to free me from this misery.

Life holds its breath in the ominous stillness that follows, and I am sure Vi is wishing she let Blue kill me while they still had the chance. A chill runs down my spine as I feel the end so close; I am growing faint. Indigo’s laugh, dark and piercing, echoes through the silence. And then

< Message edited by Crystal Sunshyne -- 6/24/2014 8:56:16 >
Post #: 3
8/21/2014 23:15:51   
Crystal Sunshyne

So round four! And apparently another glimpse into the histories of my own invented worlds.

Sylen's Soundtrack

Ever wish your life could be like a movie with the perfect background music always playing at the most dramatic or emotional moments? Wish you could walk down the street with perfectly chosen melodies putting a spring in your step, without having to shuffle through an unending library of songs you don’t feel like listening to at that moment? We are here to grant your wish!
Lifetrack—your soundtrack for life.
Just download this
free experimental app, plug your headphones in, and listen away!
(Side effects may include: addiction to headphones, spontaneously bursting out in song and dance, major transformations to your taste in music, minor alterations to your life at the music’s discretion, and deafness.)

Liz almost automatically deleted the ad that popped up out of nowhere on her phone, but on second thought she decided it sounded interesting. Spontaneously and slightly distractedly, she clicked to download Lifetrack and slipped headphones onto her ears as she walked out the door.

Song: Pandora’s Heaven
Artist: Immediate Music
Description: The music immediately opens a Pandora’s Box of divine epicness.(This was a randomly selected song.)

The first few steps were quiet, the flap of wings behind her barely noticeable. A raven flew past, then another, and another. The morning sky darkened. Liz quickened her pace. She glanced behind her to see an unkindness of ravens with eerily glowing eyes flying straight toward her. Her own eyes grew wide and her walk to school suddenly became a race against nightmares. Liz ducked around a corner, but the ravens followed her, the tips of their wings brushing against her as one by one they flew past and disappeared into the ominous sky. Yet the unkindness following her did not seem to diminish in size, and she kept running to the rhythm of pounding feet and flapping wings, regretting every glance behind her.

Finally Liz reached the parking lot, sprinted up the steps, and flung open the door to the school. One last raven landed on her head and pecked at her forehead. She threw it off her head and slammed the door shut. Two black feathers drifted to the ground, and the raven’s unsettling gaze followed her from the window.

Song: Your National Anthem
Artist: Some Patriotic Person
Description: This song is playing in your school right now, so we recommend listening to it. We apologize for failing to provide you with enough speed to make you punctual; your need for faster songs is noted for future reference.

Well that’s not creepy at all, Liz thought sarcastically. Were the birds summoned by the music or… She put her hand to her forehead where she still felt a dull aching but no blood, barely even a scratch from the raven’s beak. The pain was from the familiar place in her mind where a third eye might be trying to open, but it had been a long time since she’d had visions to fight off. Liz had hoped she might almost be sane again, as long as she always had music to keep away the insights that lurked in silences.

The halls were empty except for one or two other students arriving late. Liz was halfway up a quiet stairwell when the anthem stopped and she nervously checked her phone for the next song.

Song: Silence


Artist: Your Gods
Description: Don’t shut out your visions. They are a divine gift.

The stairwell tilted and spun. Liz threw her arms out to balance herself, one hand on the railing and the other against the wall, and she barely managed to ease herself back onto a landing before the silence swallowed her and everything went dark.


Clashing swords and scattered screams tore through the fabric of the World of Dreams, armies of people with skin as grey as stones and hearts of stone that pumped sand instead of blood. A flash of brilliant red hair ran into battle, and one cry drowned out all the rest. Then there was only fire, and the blood red earth became the colour of sand.

A magnificent ash tree as old as the earth fell with a heartbreaking crash. “Father!” a golden-haired girl cried out. “What have you done?”

“How many worlds are there in the Great Forest?” A group of people shifted through the shadows of the world trees, led by a man hunched over his abacus, counting. Click, click, click. “How many worlds are there for us to rule?” The clacking of the abacus dissolved into horrible cackling and the supposed answer “All of them! All of them!”

Liz backed away from them unseen.


The voice was soft and welcoming, almost—but unplaceably—familiar. Liz turned around to face the woman who had spoken. Her raven black hair fell in soft curls past her shoulders, shoulders upon which rested ravens with piercingly bright eyes. She wore a flowing blue dress that matched the colour and beauty of her eyes. Her skin glowed faintly with the same luminescent quality that Liz’s own skin possessed when she walked in the World of Dreams in spirit form.

“How do you know me by that name?” Liz asked.

“It is your true name,” the woman replied. “And mind is Mira.”

“Mira, it is nice to meet you. You must be from Farisis, the only world where I am known as the goddess Sylen.”

Mira smiled. “No,” she said. “You chose that name in the world you created because it is your true name, the name you were born with. I am a seer from the world of Miralèle, and I have summoned you here because I need your help.”

Liz eyed the branchfuls of ravens in the cloudlike white pine behind Mira. “I think you made a mistake in bringing me here. I am not a great seer or anything, and I really want no part in magic and visions.”

“Sylen, you have the blood of a very ancient line of great seers, and you have the potential for powerful magic if you would stop fighting what you are. You created a world once; will you not fight to protect it?”

“Protect it from what?” Liz thought of the soldiers she had seen, and the fire.

A hint of despair threatened to escape from Mira’s eyes. “I fear it may already be too late,” she said. “The armies have been unleashed from the desert world, and they will not stop marching until they have taken every world in this forest. They have killed my king in Miralèle, and it will not be long before they invade your Farisis and Earth as well. Uncountable innocents will perish in every dimension they can find.”

“How do we stop them?” Liz asked.


Song: Make It Up
Artist: Sam Tsui
Description: Wake up; your friend is calling you! As for the plan you need, you’ll think of something!

“Liz! Liz! Are you ok?”

A blur of red hair and hazel eyes slowly came into focus. Liz sat up in the stairwell feeling dizzy again as the World of Dreams dissolved into reality.

“Crystal,” she said, “we have to go to Farisis.”

“I’d love to!” Crystal exclaimed happily. “You know I’ve been saying that for the past ten years, but you and Leila never wanted to find out if it was real, especially after we ‘outgrew’ imagination games. We can invite her to come after school and—”

“No there’s no time,” Liz interrupted. She stood up, ignoring the walls still spinning slightly, and started down the stairs resolutely. “Farisis is in danger. We have to go there now and fight to save it.”

Me: Leila, can u come 2 farisis?
Leila: omw there already
Leila: you won’t believe what just happened.

Song: Word Crimes
Artist: Weird Al
Description: Lern 2 tex tin english (Just to be unnecessarily clear, this is a parody of informal typed language, as well as a parody of such parodies, and it contains only intentional typos.)

“Oh shut up.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Crystal said.

Me: communication is in the i of the bholder
Leila: What?
Me: nvm sorry wrong window

Song: New Divide
Artist: Linkin Park
Description: I hope we can reconcile our divided opinions on communication, and also—best of luck reaching your battle in time to save it!

The patter of hooves greeted Crystal and Liz when they reached the waterfall, and an almost—but unplaceably—familiar black horse approached. Leila dismounted, her cheeks flushed and her windswept hair an untamed sea of blond waves.

“Leila!” Crystal ran to the riverside and caught her friend in a hug, unsettling the horse. “How are you? Did you ride all the way from your farm?”

Liz gently rested her hand on the horse’s neck and gazed into his midnight black eyes as though she might find in them the reason why a stranger could be familiar. He calmed and stared back into her sky blue eyes, holding all his answers unspoken.

“I swear this horse can literally fly,” said Leila. “It can’t be from this world. I don’t trust anything from that farm I randomly inherited from some weird relative to be from our planet. But also, more importantly, I don’t know how to say this—Earth’s world tree was cut down.”

“No!” gasped Crystal.

“So Earth is safe,” said Liz.

“I was supposed to be the guardian of the world tree,” Leila went on. “I was supposed to protect the door between worlds from the unknown that lurks beyond, and I let my father chop it down for wood.”

“Liz does have a point,” said Crystal. “What better way to safely lock a door than to make it vanish into an impassable wall? Not to seem pessimistic about civilization, but I’m actually surprised that tree survived as long as it did.”

“It’s not your fault,” Liz reassured her friend. “Trees are not respected in this world, you couldn’t tell him why it was important, and you couldn’t have been there in time to stop him.”

“But this is our planet’s world tree. Without it we have lost the connection to every other world in existence. Without it Earth is meaningless.”

“Every world except Farisis,” amended Liz.

“And I hear we have a battle to win,” said Crystal. “I think it’s time we actually went to Farisis.”

Song: State of Dreaming
Artist: Marina & the Diamonds
Description: You’ve been living in a make-believe land, and the make-believe world you dreamed of is your true reality.

Every wave that splashed against the river’s rocks, every footstep across those rocks toward the falls, and every echo of their childhood within the cave hidden behind the waterfall contained the repetition of a single question that had hung here unanswered for nearly a decade. It was more than just a question of whether magic existed and whether they were truly goddesses somewhere. It was also a question about the word farisis by its Farissien definition: ‘home’. When they jumped through the shimmering pool of water that served as a portal between the two worlds, the long unspoken question now voiced itself to the universe: Is Farisis real? Does there exist a place where the fact that we belong there is unquestionable?

As soon as they were in the nearly identical cave in Farisis, Crystal grabbed a sword from a shadowed crevice in the wall. Though it looked heavy, when she held it she seemed lighter on her feet, suddenly transformed into a weightless warrior.

“You’ve been coming here without us,” Sylen accused.

“Sorry.” Crystal grinned, looking exactly the opposite of apologetic.

Leila led her horse through the waterfall with some splashes of complaint, and Sylen and Crystal followed her out of the cave. The view from the Esnamen Mountain showed almost the entirety of their fantasy kingdom, from the breathtaking Fairy Forests to the mysterious Indigo Island, and all of it was now one massive battlefield. The land and rivers were red with Farissien blood, and virtually all that remained were the armies of stone monsters. The fight for their world looked hopeless, as there was hardly anything left of Farisis to save.

“We’re too late,” Sylen moaned.

Just above the waterfall was the world tree of Farisis, a weeping willow with branches trailing into the falls. Beneath it stood a man watching the war, running his fingers along the rows of beads in his abacus and laughing with dreadful glee.

Song: The Abacus Song
Artist: Kerin Gedge
Description: The main thing worth noting about this song is the rhyming of ‘Ancient Greeks’ with ‘ancient geeks’, although it’s fine if you don’t find that as humorous as we did.

Song: The Most Epic Fictional Soundtrack Ever
Artist: You
Description: That last one was just a brief interjection. This is your true battle song.

Crystal shot down the mountainside like a flaming arrow aimed at the mass of invading soldiers, her insane charge announced with the ferocious scream “Farisiiiiiiis!”

A man with dark hair and disheveled rich clothing stepped out from the willow tree, grabbed the abacus man, and pinned him to the trunk. “You killed my father,” he said, with vengeance in his eyes.

She raised her sword, and it gleamed in the sunlight like an angry flame ignited by the wildfire of her hair or the burning of her eyes.

He drew his sword slowly, the sheath whispering a raspy threat. The abacus man gasped for breath, still flattened against the willow, as gravity wreaked chaos on his calculations; his laughter was long dead.

Her blade bounced right off the first soldier’s stony skin and clattered to the ground. The soldier stepped over it and faced her with a brutal stone hammer in each hand, eyes empty and merciless.

“I am your uncle,” the abacus man managed to say. “Your father stole the throne from me.” The sword froze in midair.

Crystal’s glare took hold of the soldier by his heart and crushed it in a fist of flames. He exploded, showering his fellow soldiers in sand and stone. And then the entire battleground was an explosion of flame. Uncontrollable wildfire erupted from the earth and sky, tearing through the very fabric of reality. “You dare invade my world!” the goddess cried out as the stone soldiers crashed to the sandy ground and only the few innocent Farissiens still huddled in safety from the fight were spared from her fiery wrath. She looked like someone entirely possessed by magic, like a true goddess of fire, and in that moment Sylen was terrified of her.

Song: I See Fire
Artist: Ed Sheeran
Description: Your world is in flames.

I wonder if I should be worried by how observant this app is, thought Sylen.

Midnight black eyes observed her as she watched her world fall apart, eyes that she still could not place in her memory.

“Will you hold my horse?” asked Leila.

Sylen nodded and absently ran her hands through the horse’s mane as Leila climbed toward the summit of the Esnamen Mountain. Her fingers caught on something tied to an oddly luminescent braid in the mane; it was an envelope that also glowed translucently like something from the World of Dreams and that bore her name in an almost—but unplaceably—familiar language.

Song: Shatter Me
Artists: Lindsey Stirling featuring Lzzy Hale
Description: Everything you thought you knew is about to be shattered.

Sylen unfolded the letter and read:

Dearest Sylen,

I am deeply sorry that I must leave you now. There are no words to describe how it breaks my heart that I will not be there to see you grow into the person you are meant to be. But you will be raised by a couple who will take good care of you, in a world where magic is weak, where you will be safe. I promise I will watch over you from Tyrmesy’m, the World of Dreams, and you will know where to find me as soon as your visions begin. When the magic comes to you, you will understand the language of Tyrmesy’m; you will read this someday and know that I will always be there for you in the world that exists between us.

I foretold a prophecy before your birth: the first time you set foot in your own world, the entire world will be destroyed. I fear this may be the kind of prophecy that cannot be prevented, but I must do everything in my power to ensure that you do not set foot in your home world and it cannot come to pass. I hope you understand the paramount importance of this.

More than anything I want to stay with you, but I cannot forsake my people in Miralèle, and I must think of my son as well, Prince Roran of Alfarfilèr Lilé. A mother should never leave her daughter, but a queen cannot abandon her kingdom.

I pray that you will remain forever safe from my prophecy, and I hope that you will forgive me.

Your loving mother,
(Letter entrusted, along with the safety of my dear daughter, into the care of my most loyal magic steed, Kazrel.)

Sylen blinked back tears and almost wanted to laugh at how perfectly that prophecy had ruined everything yet still given her the peace of mind she desired. She had a world where she belonged—not on Earth where she was raised, in Miralèle with her royal family, or in the World Between where she was born, but here in Farisis, the world she created, her own world.

The world that had just been destroyed.

Song: Listen
Artist: Beyoncé
Description: Just listen.

“My fellow goddesses, Farissiens, and… guests,” Leila called from the mountain peak, her words echoing throughout the crumbling kingdom with the omnipresent voice of a deity. Crystal paused, flames curling around her fingertips waiting to be thrown, and listened. “Let it be known that this world will never submit to any conquerors from elsewhere. All who come in peace will be welcomed as friends, but those who aim to rule us will be turned away as trespassers in our imagination. By the power of the World Tree that connects us to the Great Forest of Worlds and protects us from unwanted otherworldly guests, I banish you!”

The abacus king was swallowed by the willow tree and vanished into Tyrmesy’m, and a sword still hovered in the empty air above where he had been; Prince Roran’s eyes were stolen by the goddess Leila.

As the remaining soldiers that had been sculpted out of magic and stone toppled back the earth or froze as statues, Leila continued, “Let it be known that Farisis shall always remain free and unconquerably magical; however, in honour of balance and peace, it should be taken into consideration to establish a structure that governs magical power. Wild magic is too chaotic; it can be harnessed by our foes, and Crystal, your fire will only destroy Farisis more thoroughly than any army could.”

Blazing flames were still spreading through the Fairy Forests even after Crystal had calmed. The tides retreated to gather their power, but before Leila could call forth waves to wash away the wildfire Sylen summoned the Nahron wind to snuff it out in swirls of solid darkness. The seas smoothed quietly once more.

“Do not despair,” said Leila, “for our kingdom shall not stand in ruins for long. We, as goddesses, possess the power to redraw the maps and recreate a Farisis stronger and more wondrous than ever. When future generations recount this day, it will not be the tale of how Farisis ended. This will be the story of how Farisis was born.”

Song: Rebirth
Artist: Error 111—information is misremembered or in transformation
Description: Just watch.

The oldest Farissien legends recount the creation of New Farisis as the greatest miracle in the universe, and it is said that the entire world was sculpted from pure wild magic and imagination. The stories describe how the ancient wild magic was gathered in shining white spirals to be channelled into the centre of the planet, how the magic splintered into seven elements that could be used in more controlled environments, and how the planet itself was transformed from one flat kingdom to a tetrahedron with one realm ruled by the elements of each goddess. Fairies, elves, and humans migrated away from the ruins of Ancient Farisis into the other realms, each bringing with them a different version of the legends of this new world’s creation. To this day it is believed that the goddesses always appear in times of great peril to restore balance in the world, and the dragons that carry the sun and the moon through the sky are mighty protectors of peace.

As the horizons shifted and the world was reborn from its ashes, Roran still watched from beneath the willow tree. His desire for vengeance and reclaiming his own kingdom in Miralèle seemed to have paused for a moment while he listened to the Leila’s speech and witnessed the spectacular display of the three goddess’s magics combined. The golden-haired goddess just steps away from him on the summit of the Esnamen Mountain appeared to have captured a piece of his heart with the kind of immediate certainty that is only possible in fairytales and imagination. When the world was safe once more, Leila’s eyes met his.

Song: I See the Light (Tangled Cover)
Artists: PetesJams and Carrie Hope Fletcher
Description: This is too adorable. Don’t you think they look exactly like Flynn and Rapunzel? Also, the world really has shifted. Farisis is a completely different place than it was yesterday.

There is seriously nothing more annoying than having to listen to mushy music playing for one of my best friends and my long-lost brother after just finding out I was adopted from another planet, Sylen thought. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this… But I guess this app may have, in a way, helped us to save Farisis from being completely taken over and allow us to rebuild it into something awesome.

She removed her headphones, deciding not to ignore the power of her silences.

Your feedback is essential. Please rate your satisfaction with this product:
5—very satisfied
3—mostly satisfied
1—slightly satisfied

Thank you for testing Lifetrack.


A Few Words of Non-English Vocabulary

Alfarfiler Lilé—literally ‘World Tree Island’, the heart of Miralèle where the world tree stands; also the name of the kingdom on that island, from al- ‘world/land’ + far- ‘earth’ + filer ‘person/being’ and lilé ‘island’

Farisis—the world that Crystal, Sylen, and Leila created when they were children. The name means ‘home’ in Farissien

Farissien—the language spoken in Farisis

Kazrel—the name of the horse means ‘midnight’ in Mirepal

Miralèle—the world that Mira and Roran are from, where the king has been murdered by the invading armies that threaten all of Tyrmesy’m (or some less infinite fraction of it). The name comes from mir- ‘our’ + alèle ‘world/land’

Mirepal—the language of Miralèle, at least spoken in Alfarfiler Lilé, from mir- ‘our’ + pal ‘language/speech’ (and an empenthesized ‘e’—sorry I mean ‘epenthesized’; I enjoy too much giving linguistic terms self-descriptive names, kind of like how hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia means fear of long words)

Tyrmesy’m—the World Between, the World of Dreams, the Great Forest; this is the space between worlds that can either be visited in dreams or used to physically cross from one world to another. The name is theoretically in the language of the guardians of the forest, and it comes from anagrams of ‘mystery’ and ‘symmetry’ depending whether the ‘m’ after the apostrophe is counted

This story was written with the following elements:

A speech

I could speak for ages about reality and non-reality. My greatest weakness is for stories that question the nature of reality and involve self-aware levels of fictitiousness. When I first started browsing through the creative archives on these forums a year or two ago, my favourite stories were "Author’s Fantasy" by _Depression and "Something Real" by abcghimno. (I mean there are many more stories in there that are wonderfully written, but I am perhaps a little too fond of this particular topic for my own good.) So naturally when I looked at the contest’s submissions this round and read "A Peculiar Predicament", I loved the story’s premise.

It occurs to me that if I explain why I relate to Nemo people might think I’m crazy for not entirely believing in reality, but it also occurs to me that they’d likely be right and I don’t mind being thought of as insane.

As outside observers of the universe in which "A Peculiar Predicament" takes place, we can tell that Nemo’s discovery of its fictitiousness is correct. His wife and coworkers, however, cannot see beyond their own reality and therefore are unable to tell that they are only words in our reality. This leads to the hypothesis that it may not be possible to determine, from a perspective within a given universe, whether that universe is objectively real. That in turn leads to the thought that it may be impossible to prove our universe is not just a work of fiction in another reality beyond this.

And who is to say that this hypothetical reality in which we are fictional is not itself contained by another level of reality? In Inkheart, for example, there is Fenoglio’s inkworld--the book Dustfinger and Capricorn came from--and the human world inhabited by Meggie and her family as well as the author Fenoglio. Then there is our reality in which Meggie and Fenoglio are also fictional. If there are books in the inkworld that also contain or mention fictional books, and if our reality is fictional in another reality that is also fictional, theoretically there could be an infinite chain of fictional universes contained within other universes. Another example of a story that can lead to questioning the nature of reality is Flatland, where A Square is brought from his two-dimensional home into three-dimensional Spaceland. He finds it nearly impossible to convince the inhabitants of Flatland, Lineland and Pointland of the existence of other dimensions, just as the people of Spaceland reject the possibility of more than three dimensions. What if the universe really does contain more than the three spatial dimensions we are able to perceive? What if there are nine dimensions, or infinite dimensions? What if time is not the linear progression we imagine and instead a multi-dimensional measurement?

Of course, I said it might not be possible to determine the objective reality or fictitiousness of a universe from within said universe, but Nemo does discover that his world is not real. Perhaps that is only possible with the help of the writer, or some input from a universe that is more real than the one in question. He obtains the knowledge of his non-reality, but he is still unable to prove it—unless he could step out of the computer screen in the middle of the speech he rehearsed, point over the shoulder of the person reading his story, and say to his wife or coworker or whoever he brought with him, “You see! Our world is just a story!” which I imagine would be terrifying to the reader. So perhaps the fictitiousness of one’s own world can be known but never proven, and perhaps it also remains impossible to prove the non-fictitiousness of one’s world.

One more aspect of this train of thought that I am still pondering is the way art inside a fictional universe affects the world it represents. Does a painting of flowers make the flowers more real, as Nemo believes, or does it set them in a still deeper level of fictitiousness?

Ultimately, whether or not there exists a reality in which ours is fictional, if we perceive ourselves as real it is logical to act as though we are. Even the suspicion or knowledge of a more real universe beyond this one does not necessarily make this one lose its meaning. Sure, outside of Nemo’s world he is only part of a story, but within the confines of that world is it not still real to all the characters who perceive it to be? It is very tempting to abandon the pursuit of material wealth because of its meaninglessness, as Nemo does, (at least I find it tempting) but the degree of reality one’s world possesses is not necessarily proportional to the level of comfort one should seek to live in. Even if life is meaningless, we still experience it, and we can choose to pursue the goals that will bring us the most satisfaction. We can choose to try to make the world a better place, and to interact with our surroundings, whether or not they truly exist.

An abacus—could be used to count how many words past 3000 I went (726... which means that the total number of words is a multiple of 81)


There is a fire within me when I write. It feels exhilarating, like a race that cannot be won but that I cannot help but run: a race against time, a race between the ending of a story and its word limit, a race against myself. It is a fire fueled by creativity and imagination, a fire that could burn me alive if I let it, and it terrifies me, yet there is nothing more wonderful.

An alien

For some reason ‘alien’ always makes me think of the German word allein ‘alone’. I wonder if they are cognates, vaguely related but non-cognate vocabulary, or just accidentally similar sounding unrelated words? *goes to check* *finds nothing particularly informative on this subject* *finds irrelevant unrelated tangents, gets distracted and forgets to write her story for two weeks*

A question

“If you were charging into a desperate battle to save the world you had created and your life had a soundtrack like a movie, what song would you want playing in the background of your war?” So far this has been answered with “Vindictus: Haven Raid”, Linkin Park’s “New Divide”, “Requiem for a Dream”, “Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows”, and “uh i don’t know” (the last one was later revised, by his girlfriend, to “something from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack”). So I went with the most indecisive option possible and invented a fictional soundtrack for that song.

A letter—to the editor, aka me: Good luck! Hahahahahahahaha.

A semi-satisfied person—this writer who hesitates to submit anything she is not completely satisfied with (see "Self-Critique" below)

Action: Laughter—you, at some point while reading, I hope. If my readers either didn’t laugh or don’t exist or both then I also laughed hysterically above (see “A letter”).

Action: Listening to music with headphones—me, while writing and trying to decide which songs to include, until I had listened to so much that music lost all meaning


1. Detail in Farisis

I can’t see Farisis clearly enough in my mind. I don’t describe the streets Liz runs down or the school or the waterfall—I don’t even say what my main character looks like—but some details are more important than others. It doesn’t matter that I may have misplaced my old maps of Ancient Farisis; I still need to recreate the setting in a way that actually makes sense. If my characters can see the entire fantasy kingdom from the Esnamen Mountain when they step out of the cave behind the waterfall, what exactly do they see? Where are the stone soldiers and who is fighting them? How many islands or continents are there? What size is this world? And should my characters meet any individual named Farissiens to make the world they’re protecting more real?

Writing fiction is like photographing a dream. A good writer can walk into their imagination and snap pictures with their words. The difference between the photos of a professional photographer and those of a tourist is found in the clarity of each image and the angle it is taken from. A photographer will find the perfect angle to capture each scene, an angle that expresses its subject to the fullest and shows a beautiful and insightful perspective that ordinary eyes might miss. High quality is expected from the pictures of a photographer in the same way it is expected from the imagery of writers: every detail should be clear. Attention to detail does not mean lengthy descriptions of scenery—a photographer is not afraid to let go of everything beyond the edges of their shot. It means concise, well-placed phrases that illustrate precisely what needs to be communicated.

2. Conciseness

Carefully consider what each word adds. This is not a novel.

3. Believability of characters, events, and reactions

It is possible that too much plot is crushed into a limited amount of space without always being accompanied by believable explanations and motivations.

4. Shifting focus

I like the scene where Crystal runs into battle and Roran attacks the abacus man, and the story cuts back and forth between them as Sylen watches both at once. I’ve never written anything with shifting focus quite like that before. I think this is my favourite part.

Although, again with believability—does it make sense that the abacus man is so weak and/or distracted that Roran is able to surprise him and pin him to the tree? Shouldn’t he have guards? Where are they when Roran attacks him?

And why does Crystal burn everything? Does she have a truly uncontrollable temper (kind of, sometimes, but not unprovoked; she draws strength from anger when she needs it), are the invading stone soldiers monstrous enough to not be considered people (this is a dangerous and frightening thought that I am not completely comfortable with presenting; it feels too much like a war justified by altering one’s perspective of the enemy), and what does she do to keep the remaining Farissiens safe not just from the soldiers but from herself? What happens to the original individual inhabitants of Farisis when the world is destroyed and remade?

5. Message

For one thing, my protagonist arrives late to school, blacks out in the stairwell before even reaching class, and then leaves again with her friend to save their fictional world. In the end this same protagonist discovers that she truly belongs in the fictional world… I am not sure “skip class with your friends and live in fantasy” is really the kind of message I intended to make. School is important, and so is this reality, I think.

6. Deae ex machina

I know the main characters are deities, but I don’t necessarily want everything to fall too quickly and easily into place. How much power do they have as goddesses? For instance, are they able to completely change the structure of their world only very rarely and only when all three of them are present? In other stories, when they are alone and especially when they are in a realm that belongs to one of the other goddesses, they have significantly less power.

And this is exactly why all the versions of various novels I start trail off at Chapter 3 as soon as I have accumulated enough critiquable material… The more I think about it the more the task of perfecting a story seems harder than beginning from scratch and writing something better, even though I realize this is an irrational assumption based on the illogical comparison between already existing work and a hypothetical future achievement. Short stories are usually brief and unrelated enough to be spared from my unsatisfiable novelist-self-evaluation, and I was enjoying the freedom of writing stories that did not involve long-term commitment, but it seems this one did not escape unscathed. And now, because I’m completely burnt out after all that analysis, I have to be satisfied with the current version of my story for the moment.

< Message edited by Crystal Sunshyne -- 8/22/2014 1:31:56 >
Post #: 4
9/4/2014 14:28:54   
Crystal Sunshyne

This is the first piece of prose I'm sharing with you that is not for Here's How We Roll--a random doubly-acrostic fragment of Farisis-related fiction:


In the pages of a captivating book, beneath a magnificent starry sky, or in a fantasy kingdom on the other side of a waterfall—in the most magical places, at least for a moment, she could almost disappear, and that was why she would always be drawn to them.

Wind swept over the snowscape, erasing each footprint behind her and filling the untrodden path ahead with swirls of snowdust. Inescapable dread billowed through the shimmering shadows of doubt that danced beneath the glittering snow, but she ignored it and continued on unfazed. Slowly, and ever so softly, she began to shine like a true goddess of fire should. Her light stuttered, then sparkled, then flickered to a steady glow.

It was marvellously thrilling to be free—free from her life, from her worries, and most of all from herself.

Luck, however, did not remain faithful to her. Once she started to shine, the shadows around her did not disappear but darkened and solidified. Violet streaks upon the ice transformed from a shapeless greyish blur into a deep purple shadow of Crystal herself, and then that shadow took hold of her feet and dragged her back toward the waterfall. Enemies that never leave your side are always the worst kind, she thought. Despair loomed not in the faceless empty Winterland but in the hidden corners of her own mind, and that relentless despair clinging to her was lethal.

Lurching backward against her will, she tripped on the rocks behind her and fell onto the frozen river. Impossibly solid purple hands grabbed hold of hers as she flung them out to break her fall, and for the most terrifying moment her reflection in the ice felt real, like another person trapped beneath the ice and intent on bringing her down. Frozen fists closed around her gloves and dragged them beneath the surface of the river; her hands slipped free of the gloves just in time, and she pulled herself to her feet and ran. Each step toward the cave was a slippery battle between balance, speed, and the frictionless, shadowed ground.

Look who’s running away, just like she always does—you are so predictable, Crystal! her icy dark reflection called after her; and she wasn’t quite sure if she heard it out loud in the wind or only in her mind as she dragged her shadow of doubt along behind her, but she turned back and called out in reply: “I am running, yes, I am running—but you know what character I am, you know that I will always run from my demons instead of facing them; what more do you expect from me? Kindly leave me in peace so I can escape into fiction like you graciously pointed out that I always do.” Escape is not a solution to your problems, Crystal, the voice of her shadow replied; it is a profound weakness that could destroy you in the end if you let it.

I will not be destroyed,” she cried emphatically, “no matter how far I have to run to avoid that fate.”

Verging on tears and with a hint of senseless rage, she stepped behind the frozen waterfall into her hidden cave. And from a shadowed crevice in the wall she pulled the sword she had started storing there since one of her very first trips to Farisis. Light and swift and sharp as lightning, the sword sung through the air; but her shadow flickered and melted away into the surrounding darkness, immaterial and unstabbable. Unleashing a cry that rippled through the fabric of her reality, she swung again, and shone with all her might in order to cast her shadow more clearly. Evasive as ever, the shadow lengthened until it slipped outside the cave, and she followed.

Eat steel!” yelled Crystal, and she slashed at the purple ice beneath her feet. Silence froze the ripples of her voice upon the wind. Crystal carefully stepped back, and having sliced the shadow free from her feet she left it imprisoned in the ice, a vibrant violet silhouette already fading to frigid blue. And that, although she did not know how deeply disastrous this would be for her future self, is how the anti-goddess Ice Crystal was created. Perhaps it was for the best that for the moment she was able to return to the cave beneath the waterfall, and back through the portal home, believing that she could be free from the ever present darkness that loomed behind her light; perhaps it was for the best if she was able to create a fragment of that fragile thing called hope. “Even though running is part of my nature,” she said as she left, “I always return with a little more strength and a little less fear, ready to face my challenges; that is the kind of character I am.”


When I'm running at night, the screen on my phone is blinding. It consumes my eyes, and everything around me vanishes into an indistinguishable void made of solid darkness. By the end of each sentence I feel grass beneath my feet and have to stop and search by cellphonelight for the path I had been following. I'm not even running anymore; I'm too lost in the story I’m transcribing to notice whether my legs are moving me forward or not... Until the loud clatter of bicycle wheels rolling onto this little wooden bridge startles me back to reality--a cyclist appears, passes, then disappears again down the path. And I'm walking back home now, a few words every few paces, reminding myself that I'm not afraid of the night. It's not that unreasonable an hour, really, and I didn't run all the way to the waterfall--so it could have been far worse. I sit down on my front steps for a moment, sheltered beneath a canopy of leaves lit by the streetlight above, and I free the last sentence from obscurity before I walk back inside. The result of briefly running away from my work is this piece of short doubly-acrostic prose. (If you take the first letter of every sentence it says "I wish I loved life like I value escape" and if you read the first letter of every paragraph it spells "I will live".)

Of course I hesitated several hours before posting so that all my usual doubts could have a chance to speak their mind. I ask myself why I’m sharing this here and why I pour so much of myself into Crystal. But she is my character, the one who represents me, and sometimes I don’t know where else to draw my inspiration from. And what’s the point of becoming a writer without somewhere to share my work? Is it worth throwing my stories out into an online sea of unnoticed words just in order to pretend they exist somewhere? Maybe not. Maybe there is a better place for my writing. Maybe I will be published someday. Maybe I’ll become a famous fantasy novelist like I always dreamed… But you know, that’s a lot of increasingly improbable maybes. For the moment I belong in the unnoticed sea of online words, and if one or two people happen to glance at this and not despise it then I suppose it was worth sharing here. If you enjoyed this, or even if no one likes it but I still learned a tiny bit from the process of writing, then my work is done.
Post #: 5
11/19/2014 13:46:01   
Crystal Sunshyne

Here's How We Roll Round Five :) This one was ridiculously fun to write in the structure of alliteration (or 'L'-literation?), although my sentences may have been motivated to stretch longer than normal as a result and I hope that doesn't detract too much from the legibility and the flow of the words.
Elements: House, Moon, Cardinal directions, Decorative water fountain, Lightning, An eye, Letter L, Walking, and Eating

A Spark of Shattered Sunlight

Lightning struck them the day I appeared, a thunderbolt from the storm that swallowed the small trading ship, tipped them over the edge of the world and hurled them into the Sylen Sea. Lucky tells me he was lowering the sails when the bolt of lightning broke the mast, and he escaped being crushed by mere inches with only a splinter of wood in his eye—he always has the kind of spectacular luck that it is impossible to define as either good or terrible, hence the nickname. Later, when the storm had passed and they floated in calmer waters, they tried to fix the mast and found an unexpected gift from the squall. Lying inexplicably amidst the bundle of tumbled sails was a baby boy who blinked at the world with lightning in his eyes; they called me Flash because they say I was born from the thunderbolt that broke the ship. Lightning incarnate, perhaps, is how they saw me—especially once I began to dissolve dark clouds just by staring through them and illuminate the misty waters with crackling bursts of bright energy—but I always believed I was something else, a form of light that I did not yet understand.

Lost at sea was a rough way to live, and it drove most of the crew to madness and mysterious disappearance, but the treacherous Sylen Sea was where I was raised so the adventures seemed natural to me and I loved every minute of them. Life was an endless voyage through the unknown in search of freedom, food, and safe passage back to the forgotten realm my friends had once called home. Longing for home was what caused most of their insanity, I think, because while the constant crashing of waves and roaring of wind was my home, to them the sea had always just been a place between destinations where they could never truly be at peace. Lone ships sailed past us every now and then, equally as lost as we were, and we would stop them for directions, nourishment, and company, if they had anything to offer; sometimes they would be madmen or bandits or nightmarish monsters, and we learned to fight to defend ourselves from what lurked in the oceanwide darkness. Like any sensible sailors would do if they found themselves permanently adrift at Sylen’s mercy, we became pirates and lived off of what we could steal from the islands and ships that passed us in the ever-present mist. Locupletative plunders, though greatly celebrated, were few and far between, however, and we often had very little to keep us going other than necessity and the immeasurable passage of time.

Legends found their way to our ears, tales brought to us by other voyagers on the endless sea, that spoke of a portal not only to freedom but to the most precious treasure in the world: the buried heart of the goddess Leila. Located in the very centre of the Sylen Sea, they say, is a water portal that can teleport a ship back to Leila’s realm, the lands where my friends once lived. Labyrinthine mists are all that stand between us and the portal to the legendary lake. Leila’s Heart, the lake is called, named for its location in the heart of Leila’s continent, for its heart-shaped form, and for the heart the stories claim the goddess has locked away beneath its frozen surface. Latibules are nearly all that these misty waters are made of, but none as well hidden as the exit they speak of and the treasure it promises; no one is known to have found it but every sailor who can call himself a pirate has tried. Letter ‘L’s decorate the sails of the ships that litter the lost seas, declaring their quest, for even the most illiterate pirate knows that the Farissien letter ‘L’ is written in the shape of a heart.

“Land!” squawked Lory the lorikeet at one indeterminate point in that thing some people call time.

Lark sprang to his feet, harp in hand, and sang to the approaching island:

“Laaaaand, la la la la laaaand,
Let us land upon your shore the fog enshrouds,
Leave behind the misty waves of ocean foam;
Little island, star among the midnight clouds,
Lead us home.”

Lazy grunted in his sleep—he has taken to sleeping through almost everything, for he believes that dreams in the Sylen Sea are more vivid and worthwhile than reality. Lucky shook him awake, and we left him to guard the ship while we descended to explore the island.

Land is impossibly harder to walk on than the floor of a moving boat; I always stumble trying to find my balance on such a stable surface, thrown off by the lack of chaos. Lapideous shore became soft forest floor and still my feet felt awkward as I stumbled forth into this unknown territory with my comrades. Light little graceful footsteps approached us from behind the shadows of the trees, the sound of feet that wandered for a living, steady and calm without a second of stillness. Looking back I think from that first moment I fell a bit in love with the way she walked—her calmness just crazy enough to keep my chaos company—but I could be projecting my current feelings onto the memory.

Lark’s musically sensitive ears heard her quiet footfalls too, and he paused on the path, drew his sword and called “Who’s there?”

Like the blur of a midnight breeze she shot out of the shadowed trees, a swish of star-patterned black cloak worn by a hidden hooded figure, and she almost rushed past us to disappear again into an endless pathless journey of isolation except that we were in her way. Lucky’s sword caught on her hood, flicking it back and revealing a crescent-thin sliver of silver skin from a face so pale it glowed. Lashing out at the likely unintentional intrusion into her space, she disarmed my one-eyed pirate friend in a sudden sweeping glint of steel. Lark laughed, until she turned her hooded face toward him holding both Lucky’s sword and her own.

“Lovely maiden of hidden beauty and talent, we mean you no offence,” said Lark. “Like almost every other wanderer in the Sylen Sea, all we seek is the elusive path home.”

“Listen,” I added as she slowly lowered her swords, “we are somewhat lost; would you happen to know where the portal to Leila’s realm may be found?”

Lips smiled silently, providing no answer but barely perceptible agreement, and she pointed her rapier in the direction we had asked.

Lark persuaded her to join us and guide our ship toward the portal we seek, and now here she stands, an uncountable number of moments into the journey. Leaning on the side of the ship and gazing out into the mist, she holds her sword beside her with the wings of the decorative cardinal on its hilt spread as if in flight and the magical compass beneath them glowing. Loosely hanging midnight fabric is swept aside in the ocean breeze, revealing the profile of the most beautiful face I have ever seen. Light shimmers through her soft white skin, and the single silver eye that returns my stare shines more brightly than all the stars combined. Looking into her eye, even with only half of her face freed from the hood that cloaks her in darkness, I am certain in this moment that no matter how far I wander across the seas I will never find anything more precious than this girl.


And a Piece of the Broken Moon

Let the universe and all its meaning unravel.

I cannot let myself feel this much love, so without meaning to I follow my first instinct to disappear—I dive into the mist, into the darkness of fears and desires, and I fall. I sink beneath the ocean waves into the whirlpool of misty water that surrounds me in a disorienting spiral. All my life I have run from myself and from anything I could care about, but now… no matter how far I run I cannot escape this feeling that I am falling in love against my will. I wish for freedom from my heart, but I know the mist will always bring the opposite of whatever I long for—which is a problem now that I am no longer free of deeply longing—and there is nothing I can do to keep from falling not only deeper inside myself but into the lake of the goddess on the other side of this whirlpool. I feel the frozen surface of Leila’s Heart above me, suffocating me in the water beneath, and all my attempts to break through it fail. Finally I accept that I am trapped here; I sink to the bottom of Leila’s Heart expecting that I will drown and not caring enough to fight for my survival. I lose consciousness and fade into the darkness of memories that float around me in a deep, murky pool.

The moments when I met the people I care about were like the introductions of golden chains tied to the wings that bring freedom to my soul. They changed me, made it more difficult to fly away and leave everything behind because their company somehow grew to feel more normal. I resent them for it, just a little, even though I know my desire for absolute freedom is impossible, irresponsible and irrational.

The friendships I made along my wanderings were purely accidental. I could last without stumbling across civilization for long stretches of what might be called time, and since I had little other direction I made the avoidance of company and conversation my main goal. So when I encountered Mirabel in a clearing of a forested island, my first reaction as she greeted me and introduced herself was to take a step back toward the protection of the trees, to retreat from the threat of participating in anything social. But I hesitated to vanish from this kind stranger sitting alone at a structurally fascinating table that seemed to have grown from the ground like something alive, laden with delicious dishes that beckoned me to follow food’s welcoming call.

“Please stay and have something to eat,” offered Mirabel.

It was easier to admit to hunger than to loneliness, and there was something wise and mysterious about this woman that I liked, so I nodded in thanks and accepted the meal.

My name is Sheen, I thought, digging into the fruit bowl. It is a pleasure to meet you, my lady, and for your hospitality I am most grateful.

“So you do speak,” said Mirabel.

I speak only to those who can understand my silences, I told her, and she listened, calm and still. I linger in the shadows behind thought so that my dreams do not become fully formed, for it is easier to fantasize about life than to step forth and live, less painful to hesitate than to try and fail. Trust me, I know failure too well. I’m not bitter or broken, but I prefer not to belong too soundly in any one place because I find quietly wandering through the mists more peaceful.

“You are more broken than you think, my child,” she said, “but there is a light in you stronger and more important than you know: you are made of magic pure and powerful. The sun and the moon have shattered, leaving our world in a state of utter darkness that, unless the pieces can be found and reunited, will be eternal. That I have lived to meet one of the pieces of the splintered moon personified in the form of living light is truly a marvel.”

You believe I am a piece of something celestial?

“I know it,” Mirabel told me, “and I know that you will find the other pieces of the moon because I have a compass that will help you navigate out of Sylen’s unchartable mists to wherever you need to travel.”

She gave me the most perfectly balanced sword I had ever held, a gorgeous rapier that glided effortlessly through the air as though enchanted to steady my hand as it comfortably gripped the hilt decorated with a beautiful cardinal. The wings of the cardinal on the sword’s pommel opened, and beneath the brilliant red feathers was a little transparent orb containing different coloured lines of energy pointing outward from the centre in all directions; the orb glowed with magic that powered the balancing spell.

“Each of the glowing lines points to one of the major sources of magic in the world,” explained Mirabel. “Our planet, Farisis, is tetrahedral. The four white lines point to the pure magical energy flowing from the four corners of the world, and the coloured lines display the magic that is elemental. The four blue lines indicate the sources of water magic in the centre of each face: one in Sylen’s side of the world where we are now, one in Leila’s Heart that all the lost sailors seek to find using the ability of magical sources of the same kind to act as portals, one in the Winterland where spirits sleep beneath the snow and only goddesses and ice dragons can roam freely and return to the land of the living, and one in the realm of the goddess Crystal. The remaining six lines in your compass show the directions of light, fire, darkness, earth, air, and ice magic sources that are each located in the middle of one of the edges of the world and are accessible only to the two planes that border it, in general. This sword’s enchantment will help you find balance and direction from the magnetic attraction that pulls each piece of magic toward the sources of all that is magical.”

When I met Flash I used the compass to help steer his ship toward the source at the very centre of the Sylen Sea, and after spending more time in his company than I usually allowed myself to spend with another person I was eventually overcome by the useless, impossible, unnecessary desire to shift the universe around him to make everything in his life go well. As soon as I noticed that I cared a little bit too much about this random red-haired pirate searching for Leila’s Heart, I fled to the mists that had always allowed me my unending freedom, and I let my newly chained wings unfurl. But chained wingbeats are meaningless when the possibility of escape is not in my control. I can’t simply move on because I have not let go; I have only buried everything that I could not bear to feel.

The strange sensation that I am not dead prompts me to open my eyes and discover that a dry, cozy house has replaced the sea of turmoil. I am in the abandoned dwelling at the bottom of Leila’s Heart—the home of her hidden heart and the library that contains every letter never sent in the bookcases that line each wall. I am not alone, I think as I scan the shelves; the goddess understands how hard some things can be to tell. A decorative water fountain labelled ‘The Fountain of Unshed Tears’ stands in the centre of the hall. When I approach it a single tear accidentally falls from my eye and splashes into the water with the sound of a magical key unlocking a hidden compartment to whatever secrets this fountain has to unveil. Hidden beneath the fountain is a beautiful wooden box inside which I find a golden, softly beating, heart-shaped stone safely wrapped in the arms of a little Angel.

I hold the heart of the goddess in my hands, and I am moved by the impossible strength that can reside in something so frail. Suddenly I feel selfish for imagining that my own heart might matter enough to be worth the amount of trouble it has caused, when everything I feel pales before the burden of the entire world’s worries squeezed into a single heart that must somehow carry it all. I don’t think I would survive the attempt to fit the whole world inside my heart; Leila must be a very strong and loving person to have tried, and I want to share my light to help her heal.

Flash appears in Leila’s hidden house, having found the library with the help of my sword with the compass in its pommel. My eyes, forgetting to retreat behind the hood that has fallen away, say that it is good to see him; and I see him more clearly, now, his hair as red as fire and his eyes as gold as light, glowing like the piece of the shattered sun I didn’t realize he was until this moment made his magic meaningful. A horrible, soul-shattering happiness takes hold of me and I can’t shake joy’s irresistible pull. His hug makes me sparkle, like I remember that I am made of softly shimmering silver light and every spec of my glitter is his to steal. I should mind being stolen, I want to mind, but I don’t; the more of my heart I decide to give away the stronger, paradoxically, it begins to feel. The fountain glistens with our shining gold and silver reflections, and it occurs to me that it might not only be tears of sadness that Leila keeps unshed beneath her shell.

I have wandered all my life feeling lost, I think, but here in your arms I feel at home, happy and peaceful. I love you more deeply than my words or actions can express, but I will not ask for anything more than this: just be my friend, and I will be forever grateful. I can’t promise you my future or my past or even much of my present, but I can promise to try to never let our friendship fail. We are both broken, but we are both made of light and we shine stronger together; let me search with you for the lost pieces of ourselves until we find them and restore light to the world as I have faith that we shall.

“Listen,” I whisper, and I gently place Leila’s heart into his palms, trusting that in her heartbeat he will hear the echo of my own and learn the message that my spoken words will never reveal.


< Message edited by Crystal Sunshyne -- 11/19/2014 16:38:21 >
Post #: 6
2/4/2015 20:19:26   
Crystal Sunshyne

The sixth round of the Here’s How We Roll contest went well, except for the lack of my own participation. Since this is the round six, and also because my ideas splintered in half a dozen different directions and I had time to pursue them all without needing to reach the deadline that was impossible for me anyway, I decided to write six stories, each with their own interpretation of the nine required elements. I am only going to share half of them, though, because not all of them were completed to my satisfaction (not that I am entirely satisfied with these, either, just less dissatisfied, for reasons that I could explain in detail but don't want to bore you with). And if I can finally get this set of stories off my mind I can start writing something new for round 7 :D

The elements were: being blindfolded, digging a hole, highrise building, letter, evil shadow, water fountain, magnet, arrow, book


It was already too late. On the evening of the deadline Crystal paced in her library, trapped realities away from the short story contest she wanted to enter. Though she claimed it was unimportant, she was disappointed by her inability to reach the world in which the contest occurred and by her lack of focus preventing her from finishing a story. Every round she entered hoping for more than victory—she wanted to conquer the contest by creating fantasies, inspiring a little more love of writing in herself and others, and being as kind and encouraging as her shyness allowed. She wanted to win by always participating but never being voted best. Her writings were more than just writings to her; they were precious pieces of herself, and whether or not they were well written, they mattered. Crystal prided herself on her dedication to writing—the one thing she had always dreamed of pursuing and would always love—and her dedication to the contest she had discovered from the very first round that no one officially wrote a story for, except her, somewhat belatedly and inconspicuously. If her commitment to writing faded, she feared she would lose not only her voice but also her heart and soul.

She knew she was overreacting; she knew that the faulty internet connection wouldn’t destroy her, but that rational knowledge didn’t stop her from being upset. Crystal literally fumed at the inefficiency of the interdimensional reception she paid extra for and resolved to write a letter of complaint to the company that continued to fail to send workers to fix this problem that had lasted for weeks. The paper crackled in the flames that burned from her fingertips as she reached for it and her last remaining form of external communication fell to the floor in charred crisps of not yet written sentences now nothing more than the crumbling dust of ash. Crystal took a deep breath, willing the angry fire within her to calm. Perhaps the interdimensional workers simply had trouble accomplishing tasks within linear representations of time; they did deal in time travel as well, after all. If occasional unreliability was the price for being able to communicate across time and space when her experience of reality glitched and sent her elsewhere, so be it.

The fire goddess sat by her fountain, letting the stillness of water’s soft and unassuming presence sooth her. She reached for balance from her icy shadow, the part of herself that she no longer thought of as evil because it seemed to have made tentative peace with her. Instead of destroying her, Ice Crystal was the part of herself that calmed her temper and kept her a safe distance from her passions.

Once the flames had faded from her skin and the smoke around her cleared, Crystal ascended the spiral staircase to her study, as it was no longer necessary to keep herself in the only room in the library without books. Her treasures were not in danger of her touch as long as she could keep her inner balance. She closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet, homely smell of books filled with stories that were simply bursting with soul. Crystal was tempted to pick one at random from the shelf and disappear inside, but even with her eyes closed she knew them too well. They were the stories of her people. Not entirely sure it would help, the goddess tied a scarf around her head, spun until she was dizzy, and wandered the shelves blindfolded with arms outstretched.

The metal bracelet around Crystal’s wrist caught on something magnetic. She lifted the blindfold, confused and curious about this item she hadn’t remembered existing. It was a magnetic target stuffed in the space between two bookshelves, complete with a set of arrows with magnetic heads. One of her librarians watched with wide, guilty eyes as she pulled them out of their hiding place.

“Is this yours?” she asked.

He shook his head with unconvincing innocence.

“So that’s how you’ve been winning at archery!” exclaimed another librarian close enough to witness this discovery. “Cheating with magnetic sorcery!”

Crystal chuckled as her librarians argued, and she wandered farther into the rows of bookshelves. Some moments later she saw them from the window digging a hole outside and burying the magnetic target and arrows deep beneath the snow. Then she wondered if she should try blindfolding herself again in order to choose a book and decided it wasn’t necessary. She didn’t want to find out what else she might accidentally stumble upon, harmless though it may be. Instead she continued to gaze at the view of the Winterland and the city of Chaos that surrounded her library. There was a new skyscraper on the horizon that she didn’t like. Buildings were always being torn down and rebuilt by the constant fluctuation of ideas, but it was rare that one as ugly and massive as this one would spring into existence. The goddess absentmindedly wondered what thoughts lived inside that soulless grey structure; then she turned away from the window before she wished too effectively for its untimely demolition. Chaos was free to build and destroy its own ideas as it liked. As long as none of it caused any harm to her world, there was no reason to force the order upon things that she wished her universe could have. She may be a goddess, but she neither possessed nor desired absolute power; too much control over everything would be uncomfortable and uninteresting.

Stories awaited her immanent escape into their fantastic settings. Any of her stories would suffice. Crystal closed her eyes again, inhaled the dust of rustling too long untouched papers, and found herself in the first chapter of the book her hands had chosen to hold open before her. Whatever problems, frustrations and inconveniences other realities held, here, in the realm of stories and magic, all was well. Fantasy never failed.

The Price of Hope

Once upon a long forgotten time in an untraceable kingdom there was a fairy who wandered the enchanted forests with no family or possessions except a magic stone. It was dull and unimpressive with a faint dark sheen, not a precious gem in appearance but in soul. The fairy could feel its magic pulling her toward something on the other side of the endless forests. She could feel it as strongly as she felt her own longing to find a home; this stone was a piece of something that had broken and would forever try to reach through time and space to find the other piece or pieces of itself. Unmeasurable amounts of time and distance passed her by, and she continued in the direction the stone led her, always believing that she would find the place where she belonged when she found the home of this magic stone. It had been hers for as long as she could remember, the only thing she had ever owned, and she had more faith in its magic than she had in her own.

She wished to be like the stone she carried: she wished to have a beautiful, powerful soul and the certainty that she belonged somewhere. If she ever lost this one possession she would lose not only her way but also all her hope.

An arrow sliced the stillness of the woods and landed, quivering, in the tree just inches from her nose. The twig beneath the fairy’s foot paused mid-snap.

A band of robbers encircled the wanderer, appearing from behind bushes and dropping from trees, slowly closing in with weapons pointed at her.

“Give us all you have,” they demanded.

“I have nothing,” she said, holding her arms up in surrender. “Please don’t hurt me.”

“You sparkle,” accused the robber with a crooked dagger and a scar across one eye. He leaned closer, threateningly trailing the tip of his dagger across her neck and examining her with his one frighteningly blue good eye. “You sparkle with magic. If you have no riches we will also accept your spells.”

“I… can’t cast any spells. I’m sorry.”

The dagger pressed the slightest bit harder into her neck. “Are you not an elf mage?”

“I am fae. I might have been born with magic but I have never used it and don’t know how.”

He looked at her curiously. “What would a fairy be doing so far from her own forest, without magic or wealth? I think you are lying. You must have more than you claim.”

“I swear I don’t. Please leave me and find a more worthy foe.”

“If you really have nothing, you won’t mind if we search your pockets.”

“Don’t bother,” she said. “You will find nothing worth your time.”

“Then why do you hesitate?”

She could not answer. She almost could not hear the question over the pounding of her heart.

Two more robbers stepped forward, but they were behind her and she could not see their faces to imprint them into her memory of this traumatic moment. They searched her pockets for money and gems and indeed found nothing—except for the stone.

“What is this?”

“It’s nothing. Just an ordinary rock. It’s worth nothing to anyone but me.”

The fairy watched in fear as the one-eyed robber took her one possession and looked it over in the faint forest moonlight. She dreaded that he would feel that magic pull toward the home she dreamed of finding and steal it from her, or that if no one else felt it the magic she followed might not be real. After one terrible moment’s hesitation, the robber seemed satisfied that the stone was of little interest and instructed one of the others to bury it. The fairy’s eyes blurred with something she refused to acknowledge as tears as she heard them swiftly carve a hole from the forest floor and toss the rock inside.

“If you have nothing of value,” the robber said, “then we will take you. A fairy will make a fine addition to our … family.”

Every angry retort about not wanting family that would steal her hope caught in her throat behind the tears that she would swear weren’t there. She put every ounce of her anger and hatred into a fierce, silent, blurry glare. Then a blindfold broke her gaze and everything went dark as she was carried away through unknown pathways to the robbers’ dwelling hidden somewhere in the enchanted forest.


Crystal woke with a start as the book slipped from her hands and crashed to the floor. Her head slammed into the shelf behind her as she suddenly sat up again, and she rubbed the back of her head, momentarily disoriented. Had she dozed off while reading? Was there still time left in the evening to write a story and send it in to the contest somehow? She could venture out into the snowy cold of the Winterland and travel back to her home in Tintendorf, but it would take effort that she felt disinclined to spend and Earth was a far less inspiring world to write from than Farisis. It might be more enjoyable to stay in the Library of Souls and let her stories be finished and shared in their own time. She checked her watch; it was … wait was it morning already in Earth time? Had she slept the entire night on the floor in an aisle of her library with a book balanced on her lap? Well at least that confirmed her decision to remain here, since it was too late to officially enter the contest anyway.

Crystal reached for the book lying beside her on the floor and smoothed out the pages that had been bent from falling. Then she ran her fingers over the textured purple letters of the title The Price of Hope on the cover, a solid grey hardcover decorated with a small collection of softly twinkling stars. The goddess recalled that she had left her character in the hand of kidnapping robbers and resolved that finishing this tale was more important than writing her own, at least until the fairy was safe and had perhaps found the true home she longed for.


The robbers lived in a horrifyingly tall building, taller than the trees and the mountains, almost taller than the sky. The fairy could hardly imagine what dark magic they used to keep such a massive structure hidden. In her spare moments she would watch the sky through the bars on her window and tremble at the fearsome height that she was kept, though she had few moments to spare with the work they swamped her with. She was almost glad of the bars that kept her safe inside and prevented her from opening the window, trying to escape, and falling to the blur of foliage far below. But sometimes, as she sewed garments out of gold thread and meticulously patterned lace, her eyes would blur again with something that she resolved was definitely not tears nor caused by fatigue, and she would long for freedom. She would wish for the ability to have a precise direction to follow and the strength to wish for what she truly desired. She felt as though every stitch she sewed was as powerful as a brick in the wall of her prison cell, holding her back. The robbers fed her and provided her with her tedious purpose, enough to keep her alive, but she missed the person she had been before she met them. She had nothing before except the ability to hope, and that was far more precious than any of the gold and lace she worked with or anything else the robbers had ever stolen. Even if she would never have reached the place she had always wandered in search of, she would rather at least have the hope of finding it than not have the ability to wish for it at all. And she was losing her ability to believe in that place the magnet would have led her to, somewhere she might belong.

One day a shadow slipped inside her room as her morning meal was delivered. The fairy almost thought it was a trick of the light because the shadow had no physical person to belong to, nothing to cast it, yet it still existed and moved along the floor and walls.

“I hear your wishes dying,” the shadow whispered when she was alone.

The spoonful of porridge hovered in midair.

“You want hope,” continued the shadow.

The spoon returned to the bowl.

“How much is that hope worth to you?”

The bowl clinked softly against the floor as it was set aside.

“More than anything,” said the fairy.

“How much would you be willing to pay?”

“For freedom and for the stone that I have lost? Anything. What do you want?”

The shadow cackled. “I want the same thing you do: freedom. If you help me I can lead us both out of this prison to the lives we desire.”

“Tell me what I have to do, and I will do it.”

“It is simple,” said the shadow. “I cannot leave this building without a person to cast me or I will disappear, and you cannot escape without hiding or changing your physical form. All I need is to attach myself to your feet and I can disguise you. The price is that you will carry me with you wherever you wander.”

“I am willing to pay that price,” the fairy said, and she offered her feet.

“Just one question, if you are certain: how much is your appearance worth to you?”

The fairy thought of the stone, unimpressive on the outside but strong and magical to the core.

“Appearance is worth nothing.”

“Little enough that you would permanently trade it for another less beautiful?”

“Yes. A different appearance would never change my soul. Are you going to get us out of here or not?”

The shadow stepped forward, and as its formless feet melded themselves to hers she felt her body shimmer and change, leaving her with a new toughness in her bones and the impression that she was slightly taller. The world looked different, somehow, though she couldn’t quite place how.

When the guard returned to retrieve the bowl, he did a double take when he saw her.

“Rogeth, what are you doing locked in a cell and… where is the girl?”

“She escaped,” the fairy said, improvising. It took some effort not to react to the difference in the sound of her voice. “She tricked me and trapped me inside when she ran out. I came to speak to her because her products have been so disappointing lately, truly a waste of our stolen gold thread. What are you still standing here for? Let me out and look for her! She can’t have run far.”

The guard hastened to do as he was told. The fairy with her new shadow strode to the open door, crashed into it instead of gracefully walking through it as planned, and quickly looked around to make sure no one had seen. The guard had run off down the hallway and was busy sounding the alarm about an escaped worker, and the rooms adjacent to hers were locked shut with doors that obscured any potential view of her; no one saw. She continued out the doorway. Five steps later she tripped over her own feet and fell flat on her face. There was something definitely wrong with her depth perception and coordination.

“Oh come on, it can’t be that hard to walk in that body,” the shadow said in exasperation as it pushed her to her feet again. “If you take long enough putting yourself together you are going to have to learn very soon how to run.”

“Which way do I go?” asked the fairy, very decidedly not panicking.

“To the right, then left, then right again, then take the stairs at the end of the hall.”

They managed to reach the end of the hall without falling or crashing into anything else, but the stairs were a disaster. Alarms were ringing and guards were marching through the complex labyrinthine corridors on every floor, and as her heart raced with the desire to run and the pressure to act collected, the latter finally fading as the stairwell door slammed shut behind her, she slipped on the first step and slid gracelessly down an entire flight.

“Ouch,” said the shadow. “Stop landing on me when you fall.”

“No you don’t get to say ‘ouch’; you’re a shadow. You’re not getting any bruises out of this. And don’t make any more comments about my inability to walk because I am doing the best I can. The stairs just wouldn’t cooperate with my feet.”

The fairy picked herself up and continued down as she ranted, one conscious step at a time, leaning heavily against the railing for balance. She gradually accelerated to an almost reasonable pace, but the alarms continued to sound and she worried that the diversion and her disguise would both be discovered for what they were if she was seen again. But no one stopped her when she finally reached the ground level and walked out into the courtyard. Freedom approached with every torturously graceless step. She couldn’t help but almost smile at the old fountain decorating the grounds, finding such simple not-quite-beauty delightful now that she had the luxury of walking past it and away from this prison, but then the light reflected in it caught her eye and the smile vanished before it could form.

The fairy froze at the sight of her reflection scowling at her from the fountain, a face wearing a fearsome scar and a horrifyingly blue eye that couldn’t possibly belong to her. “Rogeth is the robber with one eye?” She turned to her shadow in anger, utterly distraught. “You have turned me into that villainous creature? What have you done to me! I don’t want to wander the enchanted forest in this body! Turn me back!”

“Well whose shadow did you think I was?” it retorted.

“What am I? Human? Elf?” She felt the roundness of her small ears. “Human. How utterly horrible.”

“I thought physical form meant nothing to you,” said the shadow.

“But it didn’t occur to me that you would turn me into a man!” she exclaimed. “Let alone this man. I don’t think I can live with myself.”

“I haven’t really changed you, though, have I? Only your appearance.”

“You have changed the way everyone in the forest will see me. How many innocent people has this villain angered? I’ll be targeted by all of the families and friends of the prisoners and by everyone he has stolen from. You have made me into someone the world will hate. I don’t know if I can face a forest full of people that will hate me.”

“I thought we had a deal,” said the shadow, beginning to sound dangerously cross. “Keep walking, fairy, or I will make sure they find you again and make your life even more miserable than it was before you tried to escape and let me down because you backed out of your promise. You think your work was horrible and lonely before? You had it so much easier than many of the other prisoners I saw. You can’t even begin to imagine how much worse your life could be, and if you want to keep it that way, start walking again until you can’t see this hideaway anymore and they can’t find us.”


A guard approached the fairy; she hadn’t noticed him arrive and hoped he had not heard any of the conversation with the evil shadow.

“The girl has escaped,” declared the fairy. “Call off the search and increase your security to make sure this never happens again. Is that clear?”


The guard hurried away respectfully, and the fairy almost feared the anger in her own voice. What if she became too much like the person she seemed?

The fairy turned resolutely away from the fountain and walked into the forest. She was keenly aware now of the fact that her depth perception was altered by having only one eye, and she loathed the eye through which she looked at the world now but she kept walking, resigned to the burden that she must carry.

“I’m glad you decided to keep going,” said the shadow, conversationally but still loathsomely. “So, where to?”

“To the tree with the arrow in its trunk, where they buried my stone and my hope.”

“And you know where that is?”

“No. But I will find it.”

And there was not a shred of doubt in her voice, for she held a letter from the goddess Crystal that had reached her through the fountain and provided her with detailed directions to the tree where her magic stone was buried. For whatever reason, the deities were watching over her and guiding her story. Even if her happiness seemed unimportant and impossible, the fairy resolved that she would find hope again, whatever the price.


The sun assaults you on Monday morning like an escaped delinquent tearing apart the sky to break free of its prison and terrorize the world with light. It crashes in through your windows to startle you awake, robs you of your dreams, and then sneaks back out to wait behind your door and ambush you with even worse brightness as soon as you step out into its trap. You stumble into it blindly, still tired, wishing the night had kept the sun locked up below the horizon for at least a few more hours.

I shield you as you walk down the street to the bus stop. You don’t notice me as I fight off the sun for you, but your eyes squint less and I think you are grateful. I stretch from the skyscraper and lean across the street to shelter you where you wait for your bus. I fear that the sun will shift higher and I will not be able to stretch as far to hold it off; my fingertips grasp at your toes as you pace but I can no longer shield your eyes. I hope you will forgive me.

You open your book of poetry at the bottom of a dark stairwell, and I bleed from the pages. I wrap my darkness around you to shelter you from energy and light because I am afraid that you will be overwhelmed by life. But you think I am the problem. You don’t appreciate my concern. You want to be happy, though I don’t know precisely what that word means; I only want you to be safe and well. You think light will cure you of your misery, but I think you are wrong and light will burn you up like wildfire. Too much light will destroy the pages of your book, and as you reach for sunlight to see by I know that all you will have left to see is ashes.

Absentmindedly you flip the magnetic clasp of your notebook open and closed as you try to pay attention. You debate whether to write notes or to write unrelated poetry, or perhaps to write nothing at all. You try to listen. But your mind trails off and you watch me distractedly as I shift in time with the clasp of your notebook. I fall restlessly across your desk, trying to sit still and failing. Behind us the window glows, and the sun looks over our shoulders, intently listening to the lecture while we fail to be fully present.

I flit past the open window along with your daydreams. An arrow flies in and pierces the empty pages of your notebook; your indecisive weariness broken, you look up, suddenly alert. A ferocious war cry resounds through the halls and shatters the stillness of the classroom. Blue tribesmen with four arms break down the door and flood into the room with spears raised and bows drawn. They capture the teacher—your tribe’s leader, they assume—and carry her out the window where their dragons wait to catch them when they jump. You flinch from the blade of a spear that scrapes your desk as they rush past shouting murder to the knowledge being inflicted upon the realm. You blink, and I am gone. The stillness remains undisturbed, and the teacher’s voice drones on. You are the only one who sees the arrow still lodged in your notebook.

The stream of water runs from the fountain in the hallway where you escaped for a moment, and you stand and stare at it with me wrapped around your shoulders like a cloak of darkness. I think it is me you are trying to escape, but you carry me with you wherever you go. As you watch droplets of water splash onto the metal bowl and run down the drain, you pull me tighter across your heart. Time is frozen because it has no reason to move forward; or maybe time moves on and it is you that is frozen. You take a sip.

You tie me around your head like a blindfold, like the sunglasses you didn’t think to wear to keep the sunlight from blinding you. You think you can see through me but the world you see is tinted, warped, distorted. I don’t want you to look through my eyes. I only see darkness in everything, and I don’t want you to lose all of your light because I can’t exist unless you shine. I am only here to balance the light, and if that disappears I will have no form. I will lose myself. You walk through the world not seeing its beauty; everything is black and grey. The sun reaches for you with every colour of the rainbow spun into its brilliant beams of light, but I succeed at shielding you from it more effectively than I meant to. I worry that I will destroy us both.

The earth crumbles in your hands as you dig. You reach for the heart of the planet but you will never touch it. The only buried treasure that you unearth is empty space. You hide the book of poems inside the hole you have dug, and its bleeding ink hardly fills the emptiness. You want to climb in after it and rest inside the earth, but you don’t. You fill in the hole hoping your tears will stop falling, watering the dead tree you planted, but they are still there. I can see them drying in your eyes. I regret the pain that I have caused you.

I know you think the darkness is evil, and maybe I am, but I want to redeem myself. I want to reach out to you and push you back toward the light. I want to wrap my arms around you until you are safely healed—or keep my distance, whichever is best for you. I want you to be alright.

Hi. This is a letter from your shadow. I just wanted you to know that I care about you more than you think I do. I won’t let you fall.

I promise this is not the end.
Post #: 7
3/1/2015 16:12:55   
Crystal Sunshyne

Here, have a story. It's ridiculously terrible and silly, but it's what I wrote with the How We Roll round 7 elements (which I just noticed I forgot to mention: right turn, dropping something, arrow, planet, shooting star, pyramid, parachute, magnifying glass, and letter L). I swear it has nothing to do with my being addicted to chocolate...

I find it funny that my motivation for writing this in first person was not having to think of a name for the character (I actually wrote the first paragraph or three referring to her as 'she' before changing it to first person) and then she named herself anyway when she was telling herself to focus.

I almost don't even want to enter this in the actual contest because my motivation for participating is really just for the inspiration to write, but I will tell myself that it is a good idea to encourage people not to hesitate to share their writing. And that advice might even apply to me as well because I think I might be a person, occasionally, when I forget to be a pineapple or a nonexistent purple dragon.

The Richest Planet


The surrounding silence screamed at me from every side. I shifted the angle of my magnifying glass to catch the tiniest glint of reflected moonlight as I examined the document behind the glass. When they said ‘fine print’ they almost literally meant microscopic… what did they have to hide?

The fine print consisted entirely of the letter L repeated in different fonts for twelve lines. It was completely senseless. What did this mean—that they had nothing to hide except the letter L? I didn’t believe them.

I smashed the handle of the magnifying glass into the screen and stole the document behind it as alarms immediately flashed to life almost as loudly as the preceding silence.

When the security guards would arrive on the scene a whole minute later there would be no trace of me except two drops of blood on the jagged shards of glass that littered the display case… and the glove I just dropped in the corridor when I took it off to examine how badly my hand was cut. It was really just a scratch that I should have ignored because I would miss that glove; I didn’t have time to stop running and retrieve it.


Which way through the labyrinthine passageways was the right one to take? Left, right, or straight? I came from the right, didn’t I? I thought I remembered that display of baguettes. I turned right and continued on with the dreadful feeling that I had gone the wrong way. There were baguettes everywhere, not just at that corner. Was that the sound of voices? Footsteps? Were they about to catch me? I needed a shadow to hide in…

Baguettes cast pretty long shadows, but even someone as tiny as me wouldn’t be thin enough to disappear behind them. Loaves of multigrain bread still weren’t thick enough, however nice the smell of fresh baked bread was. The shelf of trays filled with tiny muffins would not provide enough cover either. They were adorable and delicious looking muffins though—blueberry muffins, carrot muffins, banana muffins, raspberry muffins, walnut muffins, and… were those raisins or chocolate chips? I took one and devoured it in a single disappointing bite. Raisins. I should have known they wouldn’t let me find anything chocolate on this level.

Focus, Allyssa.

What I really needed from these halls of baked goods was a giant wedding cake to hide in while the guards passed me, but lacking that, my only option was to find the stairs quickly. But I was hopelessly lost and I could hear footsteps and voices tracking me. They had found my glove.

I glanced at the document in my hand, trying to glean directions from the part that wasn’t fine print. From what I could make out, there might be a stairwell near the breakfast cereal, which was beside the toast down a hallway of rice across from the corridor of corn.

Footsteps drew nearer, but then turned left when they reached the fork where I had gone right. Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t know my way around; I could confuse them better when they tried to follow me. But the loudness of their echoing footsteps alerted me that they might hear the sound of my shoes too if I wasn’t careful, so I quickly slipped out of them and tossed them in my bag. I knew they weren’t nearly as loud as the security guards’ boots, but it was better to take the precaution anyway. I sped in the direction of the hallway of rice, my footsteps now muted by fuzzy purple socks that I tried not to find slippery as I ran.

Corn, rice, cereal… yes, a staircase! I happily leaped up the steps two at a time, not letting myself be distracted by the apple, strawberry, cherry, and pumpkin pies lining the edges of the stairs. No, not even the tiny tarts that were almost cuter than those mini muffins. I was on a mission.

The next floor up was full of broccoli, garden salad, carrots, tomatoes, cherries, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, oranges, lemons, pineapples, peaches, pears… Fruits and vegetables made quite a colourful selection, but I told myself to keep climbing the stairs.

Was that fondue made of melted white chocolate? I speared a piece of pineapple on a purple fondue fork and tasted it. No, it was cheese, of course.

I didn’t even bother looking at the level filled with meat and dairy as I passed it. That second taste of something that could have been chocolate but wasn’t had instilled in me an even greater focus on reaching the top of this pyramid.

The top floor looked ominous. The small room I entered was filled with piles of sweets that would make the witch that captured Hansel and Gretel jealous, but there was a shadowed secrecy to it and something was missing. Marshmallows, gummy bears, caramel, cinnamon rolls, mint candies, cake so soft it looked like snow, ice cream sundaes in every flavour except the one I craved…

Beneath the flickering light in the dark corridor leading past this room I saw a sign with a hieroglyphic letter L and an arrow pointing onward. This must be the way to the stash they were hiding, the most precious edible substance ever created, the thing they were trying to deprive the world of by inflicting healthy eating on everyone. But they would not win this war, not with me. The corridor floor creaked loudly, and I hastened my step, hoping the guards were still a couple floors below. I knew better than to pause and distract myself testing whether those oatmeal raisin cookies were chocolate chip. I knew they wouldn’t be. There wasn’t any chocolate in this pyramid, not even here.

The door at the end of the corridor was labelled with another hieroglyphic L and it was bolted from the outside. Something growled softly on the other side of it. I hesitated, checking the description in the document to make sure this was the only place left that could lead me to the treasure I sought. They didn’t mention chocolate explicitly, but if I read carefully between the lines I could tell that’s what they were hiding here. The light flickered. The floor creaked.

“Hey, there she is! Catch the thief!”

Now I had no choice but to unbolt the door and throw myself through it. The creature that had growled looked up at the sound of the door slamming behind me, and I leaned against the exit to its cage contemplating whether I would get my glove back if I went back out and let the guards catch me. No, this was about more than a glove. I couldn’t let my fear of this beast stop me.

I carefully folded my map of the pyramid and slipped it into my pocket, moving slowly enough not to draw any further attention or anger the animal between me and my destination. So maybe it hadn’t been hieroglyphic L’s; maybe they had been pictures of lions. The lines of letter L’s on the document were just a distraction, a red herring. This was the wrong kind of pyramid for hieroglyphs anyway.

The lion looked at me menacingly. It didn’t move to hurt me, but it didn’t look peaceful either. I took a step forward, slowly, trying to imagine it as a large tame cat and imagine I had the courage of a lion myself. Its eyes followed me. Heart pounding, I told myself to treat it as a person of a different species and not assume it would be hostile just because it was unfamiliar and possibly hungry. There was so much food in this pyramid, it must get fed well, right? It wouldn’t need to eat me or attack me. I could walk past it. I could get to the window.

I took another step. Then another.

The guards still hadn’t followed me through the door.

I took the longer detour around the room to the window on the other side, staying close to the wall, not moving one inch closer to the lion than I had to. It still didn’t move anything but its head and eyes as it followed my movement. But that didn’t necessarily mean it wouldn’t be about to pounce and patiently waiting for a moment when it felt like doing so…

I was behind the lion now, finally at the window, when suddenly I was distracted by a brilliant flash of light as a shooting star fell directly outside. This was the moment the lion chose to make its move toward me. But I caught the light of the shooting star in my magnifying glass and focused it on the creature’s eye, and it was momentarily blinded. In the moment it took for it to pause and blink, I was already outside.

There was a ladder just outside the window leading up into the sky. I climbed it, not daring to look down at the empty space below me and the pyramid beneath. I kept my eyes on the rungs above and the distant destination growing ever nearer. The stars were magnificent in the midnight blue sky, but all I cared about was that little brown planet the ladder led to.

As I rose higher I noticed that all around me the stars were falling from the sky one by one, and I couldn’t catch them to hang them all back up where they belonged. So I watched them hit the ground and shatter, and shower the world in stardust.

I thought of making a wish on one of those shooting stars, but I snapped my eyes back to the ladder.

Focus, Allyssa.

Gravity weakened the farther I climbed from the pyramid, and it began to switch directions as I approached the small brown planet. I imagined falling face first onto the smooth, rich, creamy ground and sinking my mouth into sugar and chocolate. Shooting stars were crashing onto this planet, too, coating it in sparkling icing sugar and rainbow sprinkles.

My arms were growing tired of climbing. When the gravitational pull of the small planet was strong enough I let go of the ladder and tugged the string to activate my parachute. I drifted delightfully downward in the direction of the most decadent place in existence.

It didn’t matter anymore that I couldn’t understand the stars because there were no twinkling lights left in the sky to make sense of. They had all fallen. And it didn’t matter that I hadn’t wished on any of them. I had all the chocolate in the universe. I had everything I could wish for…

At least if I wanted the wish to come true.

< Message edited by Crystal Sunshyne -- 8/20/2015 21:22:19 >
Post #: 8
4/27/2015 16:36:26   
Crystal Sunshyne

Hi, here’s my potential entry for Here’s How We Roll Round 8! Elements are: heavy crying, playing baseball, key, evil shadow, bumblebee, sleeping person, footprint, interested person, and keyhole. I’ll spare you my analysis about why I hate this story so much. I hope you have an awesome day, and may your life be filled with all of the happiness that you wish for.

Life is a Game

“Hey it’s your turn, idiot! Stop daydreaming!”

I’m not crying. My eyes are blurry as the boy behind me pushes me up to the plate, but I swear it’s not from tears; it must be the dust in my glasses that I am not going to pause here to clean. The weight of anxiety suppressed inside my chest, as small as I can make it, almost feels heavier than the bat I grasp awkwardly in my tiny hands.

“Don’t strike out, loser!” my teammates call. “Hit the ball this time!”

“Don’t listen to those bullies,” my opponents say, not sounding any nicer. “Just be yourself… and make the game easier for us.”

I don’t even see the ball the first time it flies past me. I’m too busy trying to tune out the taunts.

The second time I definitely see the ball, but I flinch away from it because it looks like it’s flying straight at my face like a fist. By the time I realize it wasn’t going to hit me it’s too late to swing at it.

It frustrates me how quickly each chance at success passes me by, how everything in sports is determined in split seconds I can’t control. I wonder if life will always be a series of missed opportunities tossed at me with a whirl of insults by players better at the game than I am or if I will be successful at something that matters and my classmates will all be grumpy underpaid coaches and homeless criminals smashing windows with their old scratched up bats because the only things they were good at were baseball and bullying. I’m almost certainly exaggerating, but I take comfort in the thought that I at least don’t have the illusion of control waiting to be shattered by reality. I don’t know if any of them realize how small we really are, and will always be, even when we grow up, and that making me feel smaller doesn’t change how insignificant they are themselves.

I close my eyes, thinking that this moment will not matter to me in a decade. I might not even remember it. But I guess that doesn’t change how much I wish I could either not be here right now or be less terrible at this.

Time seems to have slowed. The wind sings in my ears; I take a breath of fresh clarity and swing blindly. Then I open my eyes, expecting nothing, expecting to be allowed to return to the back of the line where I prefer to be because I will be left in peace as long as I can avoid having another turn at bat.

Why is everyone so silent? Aren’t they going to yell at me for failing as usual?

“Run!” they scream instead.

What, did I hit the ball? Really? How did I not notice?

I stop standing there in shock and run. This, I know how to do. My feet touch first base before the other team even comes close to catching me. For the moment I am safe.

As the boy who was behind me in line steps up to bat, I wait, ready to run again. But I am momentarily distracted by the maple key caught in my shoe; by the time I have taken it out the ball is flying across the field and so must I.

I don’t know why I am the one my opponents choose to chase because I have the shortest distance to run, but maybe I looked slow to start and the ball was nearest to this area so they thought they could catch me. They should know that not being caught is one thing I have learned well. Someone follows behind me as I close the distance to second base, but even though they are almost as near as a shadow I am in flight where my shadow cannot touch me.

I plan to stop once I reach the safety of second base, but when I get there I step on a clover and disturb a bumblebee. It buzzes toward me, looking mildly broken and more than mildly angry. So I keep running, but my shadow doesn’t realize it’s not them I’m running from. I hear a shriek as the bee finds my enemy instead of me, and the wailing that ensues is loud enough to cause the game to be paused so the teacher can take my classmate to the nurse. While they’re gone I idly fantasize about injuring myself and crying heavily about it as a means of getting out of gym class, but it seems like too much trouble. As much as I would rather be inside reading or learning something more worthwhile, I will endure the torture of this pointless game while it lasts.

I envy the person out in left field who has managed to fall asleep in the grass. I don’t know how anyone could manage to sleep through the drama of that bee sting, but apparently it is possible and I’m not complaining about the other team having fewer players. I’m not complaining about anything except that it isn’t me who gets to not be conscious or present during this game. I try my best, but my best isn’t great, and sometimes I wonder why I feel so compelled to try. Sometimes even life feels like a game that I don’t want to play anymore.

When the teacher returns and the game resumes, all I can see is the home base waiting for me to reach it. I have never been interested in baseball before, but now that I might have a chance to not completely fail I actually seem to care. My vision narrows to focus only on that footprint beside home base. It looks the shape of a keyhole to me, and I still hold the key in my hand for good luck. I imagine home to be an actual home that I could unlock the door to, step inside, and relax in peace, as long as I can reach that keyhole…

Beneath the buzzing of out of focus noise around me as I run for all that I am worth toward my goal, I can almost hear the cheering, and a part of me imagines it’s me my team is cheering for. Is this what it feels like to succeed at something? I think I am smiling as my feet cross the keyhole-shaped footprint. I don’t care if we win the game or not; I have done my tiny part and feel a little less small as I finally return to the end of the line to be left in temporary peace.

Post #: 9
7/6/2015 15:28:30   
Crystal Sunshyne

The elements for Round 9 were: listening to headphones, catching a butterfly, parachute, lightning bolt, rainbow, teepee, stone bridge over water, sleeping person

I may have missed another round due to writing too many stories and liking none of them. But I would still like to keep a record of them here, for myself even if no one else reads them. I almost hope no one else reads them because then I don't have to regret subjecting them to my writing. I know that's not the best way to sell my work, but.....

The first story I don't like because there's too much truth in it and because I kept writing for a long time after fitting all the elements in, so it's not as concise as it could be and new pieces keep appearing after I try to declare it finished. The surplus of truth is that I feel exactly as Allyssa does about the concept of home--or its absence. Because a house and a home are not the same thing at all, and having a place away from my parents is like a wish flitting past my face yet just beyond my reach on butterfly wings that I am not swift enough or graceful enough to catch. And I am extremely unskilled at living in the right reality.

Home is Where the Heart Finds Peace

The old stone bridge near my new home is at its most beautiful at midnight. When the sky falls into darkness and is relit with stars, the lanterns in the park glow to life and cast shimmering reflections that ripple across the surface of the lake. A stillness hangs in the air at night, deeper than the silence left by the absence of birdsong and passersby, softer than the calming of restless wind. The scenery is not asleep in this stillness; it merely holds its breath and waits. For what, I do not know. The light of dawn? The footsteps of a lonely traveller? The end of time? I doubt that I will guess its expectations of the future, but when I witness the beauty of this moment of stillness I cannot help but pause in my tracks and absorb the peaceful anticipation that hums through the silent, windless air.

And then I turn back, every time, feeling satisfied that my midnight stroll is complete and forgetting that I intended to wander to the other side of the bridge.

Tonight I pause on my doorstep reaching for my key, and I suddenly wonder what enchantment keeps me from crossing that bridge. I hesitate, glancing down the path behind me as my fingers grasp the key hanging from my neck and trace the shape of the heart on it. It is late, and I have already wandered home. I am too tired to wish to return to the bridge at this moment to explore further, but I promise myself that tomorrow I will not turn back before I see the other side.

I could have sworn the mailbox was empty a moment ago, but perhaps in this dim lighting I failed to notice the package in it. To be honest I didn’t even notice where the mailbox was until now; I vaguely thought it would be on the door or something, but it’s in the wall beside the door. Normally I don’t pay attention to the mail because I know it will all be for my roommates, since after only the few days I’ve been staying here any mail I happen to get will still arrive at my parents’ house. Yet this one is different. For some reason -- possibly the way it seemed to spontaneously spring into existence when I wasn’t looking, or the way it bulges out of the mailbox just begging to be taken out, or the way the envelope has my name on it -- this package intrigues me and before I finish asking myself what on earth it could be it is already open in my hands.

A small square of paper flutters to the ground. I stoop to pick it up, the rest of the contents of the package still weighing down my hand with curiosity. For Allyssa, it reads when I tilt it toward the light of the lamp above me.

Take a leap of faith,
And when you do, be safe.

Unfolding my gift, I discover it to be a parachute.
I ponder this mysterious delivery as I wander inside, locking the door again behind me and pouring a glass of water without bothering to turn on the kitchen light. Who would have given me a parachute? And how long past midnight must it be, for the house to be silent and dark?

My feet carry me slowly and carefully downstairs, and my path through the darkness is lit by memory almost but not quite as clearly as day. I turn to the left, take two more steps, and walk to the left again, past the curtains that form the walls between the laundry room, storage space, cats’ room, and the room I rented for this month. The sheer curtain in my doorway falls closed behind me, and I am no longer in darkness. I smile at the sleeping form of my boyfriend who left the fairy lights on for me, but then my smile fades because I am caught by how peaceful he looks under these out of season Christmas lights that line the edges of the art room’s ceiling and twinkle over my bed in the corner like multicoloured starlight. For a moment, the beauty is too painful to appreciate. I try not to see in his closed eyes the crinkles that conquer those eyes when he smiles, that will squeeze narrower the windows to his soul and shield him from my laughing gaze. I tell myself I don’t know how to feel true happiness, but when he opens his eyes and smiles at me for a moment, I let my heart soak in the warmth and hope with all my might that I will never let it fade.

I leave the parachute on my little bookshelf and the half empty glass of water on the tea table before I turn off the lights and change into pajamas.

Take a leap of faith. I hear the words echo in my mind through the darkness.

I undo the clasp of my necklace and return my house key to its drawer of my jewellery box.
My whole life is holding its breath like the stillness of that stone bridge at midnight. I am a bird standing at the edge of a branch with wings spread open wide but without the confidence to test them in the sky. My life has been holding its breath for so long that I worry I forget how to breathe.

I slip under the covers and wrap the waiting pair of warm arms around me, snuggling closer into the comfort of a familiar body that fits around me like it belongs there. He shifts and hugs me tighter, and I kiss the arms that hold me as I close my eyes. Sleep is but a momentary rest before I face the world anew and attempt that proposed leap of faith into my future, yet I am not certain that I will ever wish to wake from my life’s temporary stillness.


I dream that I am in the stairwell of a familiar building. The walls are grey and dimly lit, and all that they contain is the flickering silence of mostly absent footsteps.

A student hesitates by the door on the third floor landing. Her boyfriend hugs her tightly, almost as if he could squeeze into her the confidence in herself that he has in her. She kisses him goodbye; he walks back down the stairs, and she puts her hand on the doorknob, pauses, then walks through.

I wait here because I know she will return.

The silence of the stairwell is sparsely broken by the echo of passing footfalls. I stand barefoot on the concrete floor, a softly glowing presence invisible to all who pass me. I offer each of them a handful of light as they walk by, hoping to brighten their day with a little of the happiness and peace that I am made of. Each of these strangers leaves the stairwell with a lightness in their step or a sparkle in their eye that they either do not notice or cannot place the reason for. I pace in a small circle on the third floor landing with the tips of my folded feather wings brushing against the walls, and I watch trails of my light shift across the floor like shadows that lighten instead of darkening.

Soon the door opens, and she enters the stairwell again. She walks almost in a trance, her eyes closed, her feet shaking. A few steps forward, then she stops, then she starts up again. I ask her quietly, as gently as I can, to please return where she belongs, and unlike the others I know she can feel my presence but she chooses to ignore me. She walks as though the only direction that matters is up: speeding up, slipping up, taking up her time trying to run away. Up, up, up…

How many floors does this building even have?

She stops on the thirteenth floor and looks over the railing.

No, I say with a firm warning in my voice. Not happening under my watch.

I wrap my arms around her to steady her as she analyses the distance straight to the bottom of the stairwell. She balances against the railing, still slowly swaying, and I feel her panicked heartbeat pounding through me as I try to pull her away. She turns back, shakes her head to clear it, descends one floor… but then she hesitates once more and the darkness roaring inside her slowly pushes her to continue up the stairs…

On the top floor she falls against the railing again. The ground looks so far below that the floor seems to spin in her eyes. Or is it just the lightness of her head that makes her dizzy?

I feel every frantic pinprick of her pain and every overwhelming wave of her despair, and I try to comfort her by wrapping her in the safety of my soft white wings. She sways forward over the edge of the railing, away from me, toward the window in the shadowed grey wall across the emptiness through which she longs to fall.

“You never jump,” she mutters to herself. “You never do. This time won’t be any different; you’ll live through it.” But I don’t want to live through it, I hear the shadows in her whisper.

When she tries to swing one leg up onto the railing I yank her back and pin her to the ground. Her eyes are dark with shadows, her face stony and frightened. With my hands pressing her shoulders firmly into the stairwell floor and my face hovering directly, invisibly above hers, I stare those shadows in the eye and order them to leave her be. She convulses with pain as they writhe in resistance to my light and tear her insides to shreds. Tears run down her face as she inhales my light and the darkness in her burns. Then she coughs violently, expelling the writhing shadows like tendrils of smoke. They catch in her throat and almost choke her, but she spits them out in a puff of smouldering black feathers.

An angel of darkness flies to the windowsill, shaking the smoke and embers from her singed wings. She glares at me, but her cold stare does not freeze me. The eyes that meet her gaze burn with life. Go, I tell her, and be in peace, but do not linger here if you would cause this person harm. The dark angel opens the window and flies off into the stormy sky. Raindrops splatter across the windowsill, and a crack of lightning shines in the distance.

Allyssa, I tell the girl as she hesitantly rises to her feet, still weak from the darkness that had possessed her, you are worth so much more than this.

She looks out at the view from this height and sees the world stretched out before her, illuminated by the electric glow of a second flash of lightning. The dimly lit stairwell feels like a prison, and the shuffling of papers and scratching of pencils still echo in her mind. Storms rage beyond the walls, unknown and terrifying, but free, begging her to escape her bubble of fear.

Life is so much more than this.


In the morning – well, when I wake up; I’ll call it morning – I find another package in the mailbox. This one is a set of headphones that come with the note "Listen to your heart". I wonder where all these cliché sayings and odd gifts are coming from.

I examine the headphones, purple and unextraordinary, and for some reason I decide to put them on my head even though they are not attached to anything that would play sound. And inexplicably I hear a song:

"There is a darkness in me,
A shadow I cannot shake and cannot cure;
All I can do is carry
This burden through all the days I can endure.
So I must, at my darkest, shine with all my might;
I must be my own angel of light."

I take the headphones off and toss them onto the shoe rack beside the door, because this is not a song I want to hear. I want to pretend there is no shadow hanging over my freedom and joy, even if it isn’t true.


It isn’t until my last night here that I pick up the headphones again on my way out for my evening stroll. There is a restlessness in my feet that I can’t control, and I worry a little about the fact that nowhere in this world feels like home anymore. I am only at home with the wind in my hair and the road beneath my feet. Home isn’t a place anymore. It is the company of people I love; it is peace of mind; it is freedom, possibility, and hope. It is completely lost. I don’t know where tomorrow will take me until the day comes and I find out where the wind will carry me.

I place the headphones over my ears as I walk because a part of me wonders where my heart believes I should let the wind take me next.

"The world is so vast I don’t know where to start;
There are too many wonders to see.
Life’s awesome and all, but I don’t like this part:
Choosing what kind of person I’ll be.
Oh what do I do? I would follow my heart
But my heart says, 'What? Don’t look at me!'"

Well that’s helpful. Even my heart doesn’t know.

I find myself humming along to the melody as I wander, and my feet fall into step with the rhythm. This old song of indecision is one I know well, and it repeats several times in my ears.

"The world is so vast I don’t know where to start;
There are too many wonders to see."

I pause on the abandoned train tracks a couple alleys and pathways along, in order to take in how perfect the sky looks at this moment. On one end of the tracks, to my left, the sunset is captured precisely in the break the tracks form between treelines, and streaks of light stretch out through the surrounding clouds in brilliant gold, pink, and purple. On the other hand, to my right are misty rainclouds dispersing to clear space for an increasingly vibrant rainbow that arches perfectly over the train tracks like a little bridge through the sky. If I had a camera I would capture the view in photographs, but instead I focus on taking pictures with my memory. I almost want to turn and continue down the train tracks for a while to keep this image in my eyes for longer, but I can’t decide which direction is prettier.

"Life’s awesome and all, but I don’t like this part:
Choosing what kind of person I’ll be."

The peaceful, unquestionable and unassuming beauty of this rainbow reminds me of the stone bridge over the lake ahead. I take one last look in each direction and continue onward, leaving both stunning views from the train tracks behind. Tonight I will remember to cross that bridge.

There is a cat that likes to lurk on the path near the children’s park with sprinklers. I’m not sure why it chooses this area to lurk in because every now and then it will narrowly miss being sprayed with water, leap aside and hiss viciously at the innocent splashing children. The only explanation I can think of is that it enjoys lingering just at the edge of danger and discomfort so that it can complain about its near misfortunes (or that it lives nearby, but the former thought is more interesting and less rational). This evening it is amusing itself by pursuing a butterfly, stalking its prey and pouncing just as the creature flutters away and flits just beyond its reach. As I pass them and observe the dance the feline and flutterer make around each other, the butterfly darts across the lake with tiny wingbeats and fades into the misty distance, uncaptured. The cat paces on the shore and then sits at the edge of the lake and stares across into the mist with almost exactly the same expression I am sure I wear upon my face each time I gaze at the bridge.

This time when I reach the bridge the overpowering silence is drowned out by the song playing at full volume on my mysterious purple headphones.

"Oh what do I do? I would follow my heart
But my heart says, 'What? Don’t look at me!'"

I fail to hear the silence of scenery holding its breath, and my own breath fails to catch, just as my step fails to pause. For the first time, I step onto the bridge and traverse the misty lake without stopping in the middle to listen to the ever-present silence of stars and hushed wind.

As soon as my feet touch the other side, and the rain-drenched grass soaks my sandals, my music abruptly changes. At first all I hear is the hushed instrumental opening of a new song. Then slowly my eyes take in the forested path, and the rhythm grows less hushed and more mysterious. I follow, as the music grows swifter and more intense to keep pace with my accelerating steps and increasing anticipation. My feet feel the pull of the wind, and I almost want to fly. I inhale, let the wind rush through me and cleanse me as the music flows to my ears like pure, delicious, sparkling water or like light seeping into my veins to wash the shadows from my heart. And then I let go, and I become the wind. Trees are a blur of misty green and the grass is a streak of raindrop-coated sky through which I soar.

This song has no room for lyrics, and the rhythm of my thudding heart comprehends it beyond words. It sings of what I feel beneath my worries, doubts, and repeating unnecessary thoughts. It plays with a self-assured certainty, a freedom of heart that I wish I felt. It almost makes me glow with the depth of its beauty. I cannot possibly hope to describe how terribly, delicately, delightfully fulfilling it sounds to have the song your own heart is pulsing with playing audibly in your ears, when your heart is momentarily free of its burdens and the quiet melody of the little bead of everlasting light and joy deep within can be heard.

If I could run forever, I would. If I had wings, I would never leave the sky. I would make my life a journey that never paused and I would make the wind my home.

But I am human, and the distance I run is not endless. When I finally slow to a halt on this forested path, I find myself in a grassy clearing sprinkled with clover and dandelions, and before me stands a teepee. It looks empty, but it smells of cedar, leather, and campfire smoke; it does not feel abandoned. It feels like a home, not just some unknown person’s dwelling but a place that I am welcome in and walls within which I belong.

I step inside, and notice the campfire smell is mixed with the smoke of sweetgrass, sage, and tobacco, though I see no evidence of any still burning. What I do see beside the cedar branches on the floor is a package with similar wrapping to the curious mail I have been receiving this month, and like the two others it is labelled with my name, Allyssa. I cannot help but open it.


I don’t want to leave.

I pack all my things on the last day of the month, but I cannot bring myself to ask for the help of a car to drive them back to my parents’ place. I sit on the bed in the pretty room in the basement and try not to feel as distraught or as lost as I am. I try not to think about the fact that I don’t know the meaning of home anymore.

I wake up from an accidental nap with a little black kitten in my arms. This is the kitten that climbed into my laundry basket earlier this afternoon, and when he didn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon I just carried the basket over to the drier to dump the new load of clothes on top of him. He is kind of adorable. I will miss the cats that live here.

The kitten stirs when I shift to get up, and I try not to wake him because of how cute he looks in his sleep. I vaguely wander upstairs to see what time it is, wash all the dishes, and grab the tin with the rest of the tiny muffins I made this morning. I linger on the couch with my roommates, munching on my muffins as night falls and it becomes too late to leave. I feel increasingly heartbroken and anxious the longer I put off my departure.

“Can I hug you goodnight?” Amanda asks when everyone is finally heading to sleep.

I hesitate. I feel too weak to stand and wrap my arms around her. I feel that if I let her hug me, she will squeeze my heart like a sponge soaked with tears that I am only barely managing to keep inside.

Finally I say, “I am too heartbroken to hug you.”

She doesn’t like that answer. “That only makes me need to hug you more!”

I collapse inward under the weight of her caring arms. She doesn’t let go until Rachel takes over the hug, and Rachel holds me until I stop shaking from repressed sobs.

I don’t want to fall apart where I can be seen by the people who care about me. I don’t want to fall apart at all. But I do, and Amanda stays up until 2am talking with me. If it were up to my best friend, she would keep me there for as long as I wanted to stay. But I can’t call a place home if I am not wanted there by even one person, and Rachel does not want anyone living in the basement permanently.

When Amanda goes to sleep I sit in the basement petting the little black kitten for several minutes. Then I fetch the container of chocolate ice cream I have stored in the extra freezer in the laundry room, unpack a spoon I bought earlier in the month for a dollar at Walmart to eat a tub of ice cream while my boyfriend got his hair cut, and eat the last of my food under the multicoloured lights. Now that I am alone, I do not try to force back the tears. My midnight snack of richly creamy chocolate tastes like salt.


In the morning I feed my friends’ cats and do the cat litter, wash a few more dishes, and cook the last of my eggs and mushrooms while I bake another batch of muffins. I enjoy the eggs, but the peanut butter chocolate chip muffins are terrible this time. I’ve made much better batches.

Still I pack the red muffin tin into my bag, because it’s all the food I have except for walnuts, the remains of four different chocolate stashes, and baking ingredients.

I know I can’t procrastinate anymore. But even if my parents’ house will feel vaguely like home it will also feel like….. a slow and painful death beginning with the soul, then creeping into the lungs, then crushing the heart, then clouding the head and then just generally swallowing the rest of me. It will feel like a cage that I will die if I can’t escape from, but I have nowhere else to fly.

I stand in the basement with all my things packed and I look at my three mysterious gifts one last time. Why was I given a parachute? What leap of faith is my heart supposed to tell me to take? And the last one… The note I can’t read yet because it’s closed inside a jar I am not ready to open, so I have not even a cryptic explanation for it. I stuff the gifts into my purse. It bulges with the bulk of the parachute, but there’s always room to stuff one more thing into a purse, even if that thing is a little bit huge.

I leave the little bookshelf, my one item of furniture, because I still don’t want to ask for a car to help me. I have a backpack full of clothes and muffins and a purse full of mysterious gifts. Everything I can carry will have to be enough for now. I hope my little corner of the basement won’t mind the space still temporarily taken up by the bookshelf I leave behind with the stuff I don’t have the strength to bring with me. I find it kind of funny that my bookshelf has already accumulated about twenty books this month despite the fact that I didn’t bring any with me other than the trilogy hidden in my jewellery box. I can’t take them all, but maybe I can fit at least one into my purse so I have something to read… If I take out the headphones and hang them around my neck, there is room for The Name of the Wind.

My key still hangs on a silver necklace, sparkling in the sunlight as I step outside. The door that it unlocks no longer belongs to me, but the key is mine to keep. I will return, but I will need to find somewhere else to call home. And it won’t be where I told everyone I’d be headed. I don’t want to be the person I am when I live in the place I was born. Even Rachel said I was always welcome here if I needed a place to get away, but that doesn’t entirely change the fact that I always need to get away and I’m sure “always welcome” doesn’t literally mean “welcome always”. If it did she would just let me keep living here.

There is only one thing left for me. I cross the bridge and walk through the paths I followed the other night. My mind feels lost but my feet find the teepee again easily. An idle gust of wind flicks my hair to one side and tosses the smell of cedar and wood smoke into my face. It smells like freedom. It smells like a lonely and broken sort of freedom, but freedom all the same.

I finally take out the jar from my purse and remove the lid. A flash of purple butterfly wings flutters out of it and takes off into the wind. I dump the rest of the contents out into my hands, drop the small collection of wilting flowers, and unfold the note.

“Creative hearts and butterflies
Are not meant to live confined;
Seize your freedom and take to the skies
Where your future awaits, undefined.

P.S. Allyssa, the teepee is for you. You need a home that you can take with you wherever the wind will carry you.”

I put the note into my pocket and look at the teepee for a while, wondering what guardian angel I have.

Then I carefully take the teepee apart, tie it up, and drag it down the path by its supporting poles. I am surprised how heavy such a small teepee is to pull. It is long, heavy, and tedious work, but it is mine, and I do not want to be anywhere else.

By late afternoon I decide I should have brought a water bottle. By early evening I wonder how far this forest reaches and why so much of it can fit right beside the city without my ever having heard of it. By late evening I am thirsty enough to drink from the clear, delicious stream I run across. By nightfall my arms are burning and I ask myself why I haven’t reassembled my teepee yet. I stop to eat a few of my terrible muffins, with a handful of chocolate chips to improve the meal. And maybe a walnut or two.

And I fall asleep curled up under a pine tree’s shielding blanket of branches, beside my teepee still bundled for travel.


The road begins to slant upward, and my arms, already sore from the previous day, complain even more viciously. I take more frequent breaks and drink from every stream I cross on my way up the mountain. At noon I collapse in the shade and finish the last of my muffins, and instead of simply drinking from the stream I dunk my whole head in and splash water all over myself. And then I keep going, feeling somewhat cooler but very near exhaustion. I may have experience wandering around with a heavy backpack, probably stuffed with books, but I’ve never dragged a teepee along before in the city.

I put the headphones over my ears to see if music will help motivate me to keep going. I think of home.

“Home is the spot where I was born; my life literally started here.
Home is the welcoming atmosphere.
Home is the walls made of bookshelves, troves of knowledge, wisdom and fantasy.
Home is familiarity.”

Then I think of the wind, the endless forest, and how the house I belong in no longer feels like home. I pause to feast on wild raspberries.

“Home is not a single place
Or a specific set of walls;
My home is something that I call
Everywhere my heart finds peace.”

But the wind seems like a lonely home to wander in, however peaceful. I miss Eric.

“I could travel far and wide and have no better home to find.

Let me wrap your arms around me, and then never let them go.
Once your arms like walls surround me, with your head the roof above,
Varnished floors or fluffy carpets could not form the floor below;
Even shoes won’t hold my footsteps—your feet will fit mine like a glove.

Your heart will be my fireplace to fill me with warmth and light
Or to roast marshmallows on and feed them all to you
Until I rest my tired face on the pillow you become at night.”

My phone is almost dead when I approach the summit of the mountain, but I want to text Eric the lyrics of that last song my heartphones played for me. The signal is weak, but he receives it. My poem makes him blush and smile, and he replies, “I am your house and your fire, your pillow and blanket”.

I don’t know how I’ve let myself wander so far alone because I can’t keep him with me always. But somehow, when he isn’t there, the fact that someone can love me just doesn’t seem real.

I reach the mountaintop, and here, finally, I rest.

I text my boyfriend smilies. And then I tell him my phone might die soon. “I’m not at my parents’ house so I don’t know when I’ll be able to charge it again.”

“Okay,” he says, “*hugs*” and “Where are you staying?”

“I’m in the forest across the bridge near Amanda and Rachel’s.”

“The bridge with train tracks?”

“The bridge over the misty lake.”

“What lake?”

“The one beside the bike path near the park with sprinklers.”

“Allyssa, there is no lake near Amanda and Rachel’s. Where are you?”

My phone goes black. I shake it and press a few buttons and smack it for good measure, but it does not wake up again. I return it to my purse and take out the parachute.

I almost don’t care if none of my safe haven exists in the same reality as the one it is normal to live in. I knew my guardian angel and these mysterious gifts probably didn’t come from that reality either. But I needed someplace that was solely mine, even if magic was the only way to obtain it, and I am still willing to live in this fantasy. Now more than ever, I need this.

I attach my parachute to the bundle of teepee parts and make sure everything is secure.

A butterfly hovers on the edge of the cliff. I catch it my hands, admire the deep blue of its wings, and then release it into the wind where it belongs.

Carefully, I push my things over the edge of the mountainside and release the parachute so I float through the sky like a balloon. Down, down, down I fly, toward the hills below. Somewhere, in this realm of fantasy, I will land and build my home where I can not only survive but be at peace.

And behind me on the mountaintop I almost catch a glimpse of snowy wings beneath the fluffy white clouds, the wings of a being of light watching over my fall.


The parachute is not nearly as graceful as I imagined it would be. First there is the wind so intense I can’t enjoy the view behind my tightly shut eyes that I can only barely open if I squint through my eyelashes. Then there is the constant struggle not to let the ropes tangle as I fall, and my paranoia that the parachute and teepee might not be firmly enough attached and I might lose one of them, either tumbling to the ground too soon without the shield against the full force of gravity or letting go of my temporary home to watch it shatter below before I have even rebuilt it once and slept in it. And finally when I land, I crash through the trees, tangling the parachute in the branches of an oak and knocking over a couple of small beech trees with the falling teepee. I roll apart from my makeshift floating contraption and end up in a mess of limbs and leaves, my arms covered in scratches from twigs and my knee feeling bruised.

The landscape here is more densely forested than the path I walked for the last two days, but perhaps that could be because I am nowhere near a trail. There doesn’t appear to be much of a clearing for me to set up camp anywhere else nearby, so I take advantage of the accidental space cleared by knocking over trees.

First I untie everything and check to see my luggage is all intact. It is a little dirty from the dust of hiking and falling but seems to all be present and fine. Then I spear the poles of my teepee into the ground to create the frame of my tent. This is harder than it looks, even though I am the one looking. My arms are tired, the ground is hard, and I am not particularly strong. I take a deep breath and picture the poles as actual spears that I am violently launching into battle from the back of a dragon. That seems to help. When the poles are firmly lodged in the ground, and tied more than securely enough at the top for good measure, I take out the tanned fabric of the walls and tie it around them. Then I smooth out the ground inside some more and add the cedar branches for sweet smelling padding. Lastly I bring my bags inside and, after checking over my work, allow myself to relax.

There is space to build a fire, but I have no energy, matches, or particular need for warmth. I collapse in my new home, warn out from my day. I don’t even know if it’s night yet, but my eyes are closed and I fall asleep.

Some hours later, I wake up hungry and cold, and judging from the pitch black surrounding me it is definitely night now. I grab a warm sweater from my bag to wrap myself in so I stop shivering—from the feel of it, it’s the one Eric let me borrow once and refused to take back—and I fish out the remains of my package of walnuts. I find my chocolate chips as well, and I eat three of them, savouring each one slowly in my mouth as I let it dissolve.

If I never go back, and I live in this forest for the rest of my life, the thing I miss most will probably be chocolate.

I mean I might miss my friends and family more. Or books. Or Eric…

No, I’ll miss chocolate.

I take one more chocolate chip, hold it between my fingertips afraid I’ll drop it in the dark as I hesitate to consume it, and then put it back in the bag for later. My supply won’t last forever. And unlike in the city, I don’t have anyone to force me to eat when I forget to feed myself; my body is already complaining about the lack of nourishment. Tomorrow, I will have to find my own food in the wilderness.


In the morning I wake up feeling like I was run over by a train. The ache in my legs, back, arms, knee, head, abdomen, shoulders and heart is enough to cripple me. I feel lightheaded from dehydration, hunger, and possibly extended sun exposure. And to top it off nicely I am covered from head to toe in mosquito bites.

Even so much as sitting up is torture. I try to tempt myself with the promise of another chocolate chip but it’s too much effort. I lie back down and close my eyes until it hurts less to keep them open.

I dreamed about home. I want to go back, but I’m not ready. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready. The life my culture has taught me to strive for is a game that I’m not designed to win but can’t just stop playing, and I don’t know how to change the rules to be less unfair. But here there is no one but me, and the fierce, unbroken wilderness, to make the rules. Here there will be no fabricated monetary steps between me and the actual resources I need to survive. Here there will be no imaginary, culturally constructed threats to keep me from thriving—only real and probably more dangerous ones.

I feel awful. I don’t think my life here will be easy. I haven’t even begun to figure out how I will live in this foreign forest, and I don’t know how long I will stay. But I know one thing for sure: I am going to make the most of this beautiful chance at freedom.

I am going to get up, scavenge for food, and build myself a life.

Just as soon as getting up doesn’t hurt quite so much.


*~Probably Not the End~*

I'm beginning to suspect this Allyssa becomes the same character from my Round 7 story who finds a planet made entirely of chocolate.

The second story I don't think I finished, despite the fact that it was the most promising. I'll have to look for it and try to fix its incompletion sometime.

The third attempt I almost liked. But it was entirely narrated by a butterfly. I'm not sure who would want to read the life story of a butterfly...

In Search of Sky

The very first thing I remember is the shade of growing things and the irresistible desire to reach the brightness above. My longing for the sky was an ever-present itch in my still wingless back as I nibbled on leafy meals and slowly grew. Back then my whole world was the size of a few rich leaves and I never travelled into the world beyond the one tree, or even the one safe branch of this enormous tree, that I knew. But when I did start to crawl a little farther to reach more leaves, I would always crawl upward, in the direction of the deep brightness I craved. From the very first moment of my life I felt with every fibre of my fuzzy, earthy being that I was destined to fly.

But on the night of the storm that destroyed my highrise home, I had a taste of flight too soon. I was nibbling happily away on a delicious leaf and enjoying the spectacular view from this high branch when the first raindrops started to fall and I retreated to the underside of my leaf for shelter. Naïve little creature that I was back then, I expected the drizzle to pass quickly so I could continue eating in peace. I was always hungry, and I couldn’t think of much beyond food. When the rain only grew harder and the winds picked up I didn’t know what to do except cling to my shelter and wait, and try not to keep eating my shelter.

A sudden rumbling from the sky startled me into falling to the next branch below, and I scrambled to grab hold of the slippery surface of my new shelter. The fresh leaf was stronger, but I was still at the mercy of uncontrollable gusts of wind threatening to sweep me away, little sweet smelling roof and all. Another roar crashed through the sky, and the clouds split apart with light so blinding that I forgot how to see in anything but shades of shadow the moment it passes. Then my world was cracking, crackling, snapping, spinning…

As my home collapsed the wind wrenched my little leaf into its stormy claws and threw me into the sky. My shelter billowed above me as I fell with the pouring rain, and I don’t know how far the wind carried me with my little parachute but I do know that this terrifying journey was nothing like what I imagined flight to be. It was a little too cold and far too wet, and much more uncontrollable than I would like. I hung on tight and wished, now more than ever, that I had my own wings instead of a makeshift parachute swept away into the wind.

I landed ungracefully and painfully, spinning across the ground until the wind finally dropped me in a puddle and moved on to pursue other leaves. The ground was even wetter than the pouring clouds, and I had to find new shelter to keep from drowning. My leaf sank to the bottom of the pool of water surrounding me, and I flailed wildly to try to swim back toward my beloved, raging sky. Finally my feet stuck to something solid, and I climbed it blindly. Raindrops still rolled off me, but I could shake them away and struggle to breathe again as I crawled across this stone bridge to drier patches of land.

I never dreamed that freedom would be so terrifying and so difficult to survive, but despite how much I still feared for my life a part of me loved the thrill of the fight and couldn’t wait to feel the pull of the sky again. For now, I pulled together a couple of my tree’s fallen leaves and built a tent out of them to keep me dry until the sky was safer to fly to, and I waited with great anticipation for the storm to end.

Luckily the sky was clear again by the time I had eaten the little teepee I built out of leaves. Struggling to survive was hungry work for a growing creature, and the leaves were too delicious to simply hide my head under.

I took a tentative step forward, not sure yet where I was headed. All I really knew was that I wanted more leaves. Or even just one leaf. Or even just somewhere safe to rest when I grew tired.

I lost track of time, meals, and distance travelled, but finally I found the most beautiful leaf caught in a tangled mane of long curly hair. It was a leaf for hiding, a soft and sleepy leaf for curling away inside curls. It was perfect. I was ready for a long sleep, and this was a leaf that had the gentleness and patience to hold me and keep me safe. But the curls were too wild, too full of wind and tangled whispers of deeper chaos that would not lend sweet dreams. I carried the soft leaf a few curls along in the direction of the sky, until I found a round hiding space pulsing with a tiny voice that almost resembled an echo of the shouting sky. It was a softer, sweeter, more melodic echo, holding none of the fear and flashing light that rang through the roar that broke my home. The delicate rhythmic nature of the noise was soothing and pleasant enough to coax me and my perfect leaf inside the little echoing chamber. I made my bed between the leaf and the singing wall, and slept.

The wall of my sleeping space had changed its song by the time I awoke again as a different creature. The being that had crawled into this chamber was a humble survivor of rain and wind-torn leaves, but I was made of music and sunbeams now, ready for the sky. My trembling, untested new wings hummed with bubbling anticipation and the confidence of freedom.

The first thing I see when I free myself from my cocoon and from the tangle of curls surrounding it is a dazzling rainbow beckoning me to the heavens. I can see in colour now, not just in shades of brightness and dark, and I have had my fill of green. What I long for is the sweetness of flowers and the infinity of blue. I flutter through the wind, heading for the topmost leaftips of the trees. From here the view is brilliant, and the vibrant rainbow arching across the whole sky is even more beautiful. Finally I have reached the height where I belong.

But then the sun catches on a flash of purple wings that are not mine. A rival butterfly flutters up to my tree, ignorant or uncaring of the fact that I have claimed this as my home. I must catch him and chase him away before he adopts the misguided impression that he can steal this spot from me.

This time when I spread my wings, they are like drawn weapons sharper than the edges of spinning leaves. I slice the sky with them, twirl around my enemy, and force him down, down, away from the spot I have claimed. I am a being that has survived the broken sky; I hold its anger in my wings and let it shine through me in violent bursts of purple. No one steals the sky from me, now that I am able to fly. No one.

This is my home.

< Message edited by Crystal Sunshyne -- 8/20/2015 20:58:08 >
Post #: 10
8/19/2015 0:55:58   
Crystal Sunshyne

What... do I even want to know what you just created, brain? I specially ask for another round of Here's How We Roll hoping that it will help inspire me, and you give me... this?

Wait let me change my introduction. I know I keep saying this, but it might be more productive not to have the automatic reaction of "This is terrible" when I finish almost every piece of writing I create. I really need to work on my attitude towards my work if I want to be a published writer. I'm not going to get there with pessimism and non-constructive self-criticism. I don't want to be blindly optimistic either, but I don't want to always feel embarrassed to share things and apologize for their quality. Of course it's not perfect. No one expects it to be. Its purpose is not to win literary awards, be taught in an English class, or become the next Harry Potter. Nothing can be the next Harry Potter. Even when I do write something awesome, it won't be the next Harry Potter; it will be my unique and brilliant creation. And if we don't judge famous writers by the unpolished, unpublished beginnings of their writing practice, why should I criticize my own? This short story's purpose is to entertain its writer and maybe one or two other people. If it fulfills that purpose, and if someone enjoys it, then that is all that matters. The Here's How We Roll contest isn't about crafting the most stunningly beautiful literary masterpieces ever to be seen by humankind; it is about encouraging creativity in everyone, whether they are experienced writers, aspiring writers, or people who have never tried creative writing before in their life. If I am going to choose a place to be embarrassed about the quality of the creative writing I share, it should not be here. And it probably shouldn't be anywhere else, either. I'm tired of making myself smaller than I am. So, let me start again.

I hope you enjoy this humorous science fiction. It started as an idea my person gave me while I was having trouble deciding what to write, and it was fun to build that into a living story. I don't feel that I had enough time to flesh out the characters as much as I'd like--for instance, you never find out what the aliens look like--but they still seem to have enough personality to make the dialogue amusing. My narrator presents a slightly more pessimistic view of Earth's environment than I actually believe; I think that humans may cause environmental change that eventually makes the planet uninhabitable for ourselves and a vast number of other species, but it is far less likely that we will completely destroy all life than that we will leave space for new lifeforms to emerge in our place. I like making fun of the arrogant human assumption that we are the most intelligent species on Earth because although I wouldn't try to make a serious case for sheep I think it is highly probable that there are smarter beings than us. Even if we as a species are quite intelligent and powerful, we are definitely not the wisest when it comes to directing that intelligence and managing that power.

Ok that is better. I think. I'm expanding my criticism to include all of humanity now instead of just myself... but I'm discussing the content of my story rather than dismissing it.

Round 10 was: holding hands and walking, coming to an agreement, crescent moon, fountain, clock, unsure person, sheep, alien from another world, and keyhole.

Just Another Dying Planet

The chiming clock tower in this small town tells me I only have an hour before midnight. The crescent moon shines above, a thin sliver of light shifting across the sky with every passing hour, taunting me with the impermanence of time. My people have been waiting for this night for a long time, but now that the moment we have planned for is nearly upon us I am suddenly uncertain.

“What if I am wrong?”

“You probably are,” my human friend tells me. “I have yet to see you be right about anything.”

“Well, thanks for the vote of confidence. I would like to see you visit a new planet and find the most intelligent species on the first guess. How was I supposed to know it was not sheep?”

“I get that it might be hard. But seriously, I am never going to understand how you managed to believe they would speak French.”

“I explained this already. I flew over France before I landed here. My space ship picked up French radio. I thought it was transmitted by the sheep. Seemed like a reasonable hypothesis at the time.”

My human friend makes a motion with his head that seems to indicate confusion, amusement, or negation. “Still doesn’t make the moment I found you trying to talk to my sheep any less ridiculous.”

I decide not to respond. I watch midnight draw nearer still as we approach the building that contains my fountain.

“I want to look at it one more time before my people arrive,” I tell my human friend. “Can you work this wall opening device for me?”

“Uh…. Public buildings are closed in the middle of the night. It will be locked.”

His answer does not satisfy me. “My people do not have a word for ‘lock’. Our planet is a desert that has starved and burned us for too long, and now that we have found the fountain of youth we will transform our home into a rich, inhabitable environment once more. No wall will stop us. Can you open it for me or shall I let them destroy it?”

Midnight is only ten minutes away.

My human decides to mention he is able to pick locks. He also mumbles something about not knowing why he befriended me. I tell him that when my people control his town, he will be glad he did.

“I really thought aliens were misrepresented in stories when they try to take over the world, but I guess I was wrong,” he comments as he analyses the keyhole.

“I don’t want your whole world. Why would I want this planet?” I scoff. “You’re on your way to destroying it almost as perfectly as my people have destroyed ours. All I want is your fountain.”

“Thanks,” he says.

The lock clicks open. We step inside. Five minutes to midnight.

I look to my clear fountain of beautiful bubbling water across from the library, and…

“Why is it not bubbling and pouring?” I ask. “It looks dead.”

My human raises and lowers his shoulders. “I guess they turn it off at night?”

“My fountain is not allowed to be dead when my people arrive.” I glare at him. “Turn it on.”

“Hey, I don’t own this town. I don’t know how it works. You can’t just come to a planet, claim the first fountain you find is the Fountain of Life and expect that…”

The clock chiming at midnight is drowned out by the wall bursting open. I feel sentimental at the sight of the spaceship that reminds me of home, and my people pour out of it, walking hand in hand toward our fountain. They gather around me, and I stand proudly with my offering of water.

“This fountain looks dead,” someone says.

There is a murmur of agreement.

“It was alive in daylight when I found it,” I try to explain, but I think I say it in the Language of Sheep—I mean French--by mistake because I am nervous.

I am even more uncertain of my discovery than I was an hour ago.

One by one my people lose interest and head back to the ship. A few of them dip their fingers into the water and taste it before they leave, but none of them are satisfied with it.

“I’m sorry,” they tell me, “but I think we can all agree that in order to save our deserts we need a Fountain of Life that isn’t dying, and this is the wrong planet to steal water from.”

I am embarrassed and ashamed to have failed them.

“Thank you for trying,” they add, but that almost makes me feel worse.

The crowd of my tribespeople has become of blur of disappointment to me, and time and space have ceased to matter. I wanted this to be our fountain. I was depending on it. I had not expected to be right, but I was hoping that Earth would not be another wrong planet.

But as we leave--as I sneak onto the ship with my tribe and hope they forget to ask me about the spaceship I crash landed in a farm, and as I shake my hand goodbye at my human friend who now seems to be occupied trying to explain the situation to people in uniforms--I know that the rest of the universe awaits and somewhere within it we will find a planet that is thriving and well. The sheep told me they know of one.

< Message edited by Crystal Sunshyne -- 8/20/2015 22:40:47 >
Post #: 11
Page:   [1]
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