Audrey’s No Rules Friday

Pushing (Part 2)

To read Part 1, please click here.

“1…”

The countdown stops and there is a moment of silence. We’re all holding our breaths, even table 14 girl. There is a sudden burst of cold air from the vents above and table 5 boy gasps. The cold air drifts down and little bumps spread over my skin. I clench my teeth so they can’t shiver against each other. My breath freezes in the air above my nose. I close my eyes.

“Phase one commencing. Please begin with your toes,” the metallic voice commands.

It tickles, pushing my soul out of my cells. My feet are especially sensitive. Laughing now would be disastrous so I bite my cheek until a coppery tang reaches my tongue. The tickle eases with the pain. My toes feel lighter, stronger, no longer burdened by the weight of my soul. I keep pushing.

Inch by inch, I make sure to remove every spec of soul. I don’t want to fail the scan. Up my ankles, calves, thighs, my soul moves before pooling around my intestines. The real pain starts as small prickles around my knees and increasing to bruising aches in my thighs. My chest is rising and falling heavily and beads of sweat are rolling off my forehead. I take a moment to catch my breath. My legs tremble with lightness causing a slight hum from my table. Other tables are humming too.

“Please maintain control and begin phase two.”

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Julie’s No Rules Friday: Curses Part III

Curses Part III

(Part I is here. Part II is here.)

“Halt, demon!” a man yells from behind.

Someone grasps the hood of my robe. It catches my neck, and I’m flung back, hands out, losing the staff. I touch the hard metal of a breastplate, and I channel my curse.

The corridor flares with light. My hair stands upright. The man slumps to the floor, smelling singed. I run.

Ahead is an open door in the wall. I don’t want to go, but this feeling that’s been pulling me along, her, tugs me. The other demon.

More shouts. I dive for the opening, fall for an instant, and catch myself on a rough rail along the wall. Steps go down.

It’s suddenly cold, chilling my skin after the blast. From the door, yells echo, steps resound. But they don’t follow me.

There is a platform at the bottom of the stairs lined in the soft light of candle flames burning low. A sweet, nauseating smell rushes up my nostrils so fast it’s like I’ve been hit between the eyes. My feet crumple under me, just for a second, and I tumble down the remaining stairs.

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Julie’s No Rules Friday: Desert Cursed

Desert Cursed

The sun rides high, but Juna’s hand sticks to mine as she speaks to the guard outside the wall. His eyes roam the cloth that covers her blindness and prickle over my shoulders and lank, long hair. We are dusty and footsore from the road, can count all our ribs. No food since yesterday morning, no water since nightfall. The guard only filled our waterskin because he couldn’t understand Juna’s raspy whispers.

“We’ve been on the road days,” Juna says, her accent smoothed and fitted with the man’s nuances. “My sister, Anelli, and I were separated from our caravan.” After a pause, she adds, “She cannot hear or speak.”

We’ve practiced the lie again and again. I can’t lose the city accent, so Juna talks for us both. If we told the truth, that I found her two years ago in the rubble of our city, they’d know our curse and run us out of town.

This man is wider than the two of us doubled, his meaty arms folded over a worn tunic. He frowns, but his blue eyes have not yet settled on distrust. I imagine him, briefly, as Juna has told me people appear to her Sight: a flaming column rippling with indecisive colors, orange and green. Her curse is sometimes beautiful.

“We’re stout,” Juna says, dropping my hand and giving her best attempt at standing with her feet apart, which only emphasizes her frailty, “and hard workers. Anelli is the best.”

She looks at me when she says this, and I nod, staring at the cracked clay between my feet and clasping my hands together. I know many people are watching us from the ramparts and the chinks in the wall. I’m only fourteen and can close my fingers round my biceps, but in crowds people give me a berth, and grown men have fled from my stare. Maybe they sense my curse like dogs sense danger.

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“Angel of Grief” Photo by Days of K Inspires Jen

AngelofGrief_photobyDaysofK

Stone Wings

For my entire eighteen years I have known nothing but the solid grit of rock. Cast in stone for all my life, I live in the shadows of a world that knows nothing of my kind. They paint us as gargoyles. Concrete monsters, with horns and teeth. Creatures of the night, but that is not what we are. We are the gatekeepers. We safeguard the Souls drifting between the here and away. I don’t know what’s beyond this life on Earth, but I know I am to keep humans moving past it when they die.

For a rock, I have the grace of a falcon. Horns and fangs are actually feathers and skin that is all silk and slate. My perch is at the top spire of a sacred church. I was placed here because I was born here, and I’m sworn to protect the souls brought here after death.

The stone angels are more like shepherds with wings and at night, when the resting souls are vulnerable, we keep them from the Vultures who would lead them Underground to feed their kin. Like I said, I don’t know what’s beyond, but I do know what’s below. It’s no place for a Soul. So I fly, and keep my sheep safe from the darkness of a Vulture’s wing.

This night will be darker than most. Moonless and cloudy, the sky is a soup of vapor and sounds dampened by fog. My knees scrape the edge of the church’s dormer.

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Julie’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club: Webcomic Wednesday

Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell:

I’m a big webcomic reader, so I thought I would discuss one of my favorite webcomics, Gunnerkrigg Court, this week.

This award-winning comic follows the adventures of Antimony (Annie) Carver, a 13-year-old girl who has just begun attending school at Gunnerkrigg Court. The court is full of monsters (including a friendly ghost named Mort and a Minotaur) and mysteries. Annie befriends Kat, another student her age, and the two of them begin to explore the court and search for answers about its inhabitants and its purpose. Some of their adventures include infiltrating the headquarters of the court robots to retrieve a CPU, falling in love with a boy who becomes a bird, meeting creatures from Gillitie Wood (where students are forbidden to enter), and investigating the death of a woman named Jeanne.

If you’re into fantasy creatures, folklore (especially that of the British Isles), robots, science, and talking wolves, this comic is for you. Most of the chapters are episodic and can be read alone, but I recommend starting from the beginning to get the full complexity of the story arcs. Tom Siddell, the comic’s creator, does a great job of fleshing out a varied cast of characters that includes adults and children, fairies, demigods, and other magical creatures. He also sneaks in fun pop culture references here and there, and his sense of humor is understated but spot-on. (If you’re a new reader, don’t miss the comments he includes at the bottom of every comic page.)

Jump in on page 1 here. Tom’s style has evolved quite a lot over the course of the comic (it was launched in 2005). It continues to update Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.