“Initiator” by Tian Miao Lin Inspires Jen

Initiator_TianMiaoLin

Willowreach

Opal

“Opal?” my mother calls from the hallway. “Are you ready yet?” Her words sound like razors and train tracks, metal on metal, but I’m past answering. She only gets sharper as my father’s presence fades from the house. The windowsill is hard against my palms and my toes stretch down to reach the ground below my bedroom window.

The summer grass is cool and sticky soft under my feet and shoes would have been a good idea, but they were the furthest thing from my mind. I run through the back fields and the tall grass swallows me whole, catching my hair and the breath I didn’t know I was holding until it rushes from me. This is Willowreach in the summer, all green, even in the dark. I run fingertips across rough tree bark as I pass and the trees whisper sweet nothings to me. I could listen to them all night, but I don’t have the time. I pass my dad’s grave just yards from where the river took him, and a fresher one next to his.

Fireflies light the banks of the river, like the slowest strobe lights in the world, and I’m looking for Indie. I startle a bullfrog from the reeds and he splashes into the water, the ripples lapping at my toes. Something heavy presses at my temples and it has a voice like blades against my skin. The draw to walk in and let the warm water have me is immense. I’ve felt the pull all summer, like a buzz in my brain, getting louder as time passes. Mud squishes between my toes and I swear there are voices in the water too. They say things I couldn’t repeat to my mother without getting slapped. An arm snakes around me and pulls me back. My feet squelch out of the mud, as if it was already trying to pull me in.

“You shouldn’t be so close to the water.” Indiana’s eyes are green really, but in the night of Willowreach they’re as dark as the shadows the trees throw around us. “It’s talking to you.” It’s not a question, but it should be. She always knows. Her eyebrows come together and she looks as angry as the water sounded.

“Yeah, it is. Everything is.” The truth hangs between us, heavy as a summers storm. I hadn’t said it out loud yet.

She spins away from me. “Shit.”

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Jen’s No Rules Friday

Under Dublin Skies © Anne Marie 2009

Under Dublin Skies © Anne Marie 2009

The weather is as dangerous as I feel.

I’ve never heard the sea growl, until today.

I am high above it, sitting on an outcropping of rock, my knees pulled to my chest. It snarls, dark and roiling. The air is taut as a rubber band, charged with something that feels slick and cold, like the chill of fear down the back of my neck.

The sky is thick over head, steel grey and angry, and it has followed me here. Clouds are always following me, and the whispers in my head respond to them, a growing buzz in my ears, like an incessant bug. The heavens press down, making my ears pop and my head pound painfully. The feeling is always there just like the clouds and never ending rain. It hurts, and I can’t get away from it. I come the cliffs to let the weather have me for a little while. Sometimes it helps, but today is different. I can’t stop it.

I suck in a breath and rise. My beat up sneakers scrape against the rock. Maybe I can make it back to my apartment before the sky comes crashing down.

I’m at my limit. I think about what it would be like to stop breathing in and out, but I’m not fond of unknowns. The cliff edge beckons, but contemplating death and welcoming it are two different things. I don’t welcome death. I hold onto that and try to remember the sun.

I sigh, the sound getting lost in the wind. It’s been three years since my fifteenth birthday; three years since I’ve felt normal. That was the day the pressure in my head grew to a roar and the murmurs started. There hasn’t been a day without them.

Sometimes I feel close to the rain, like it could wash away whatever is eating at me, but then everything creeps back in. Lately not even the rain can help, and the tapping on the roof sets my teeth on edge. I’m reeling all the time, never in control.

Nausea rolls over me, and the whispers get so loud that I drop to my knees to wait it out, head in my hands. Wind pushes at me, as if it wants me to stand and fight it. I feel like I do that everyday.

The weather is crazier than I am, and neither of us should be here.

I stand, and the rubber band snaps. The sky explodes.

Maine doesn’t get tornadoes. Not in autumn.

Today it does.

The cyclone lands in the water and fights with the surf. I don’t know if it’s the wind or the twister pushing and pulling on me, but my feet are lead and I stand against it. It pulls branches from the trees as it heads inland. A sharp sting across my face makes my eyes water, and my fingers come away from my cheek dark and wet. The tornado bears down, and I can’t move.

I never thought death would be so loud. I don’t welcome it, but the storm and darkness swallow me.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Stay tuned for Anne’s No Rules Friday next week.

“You Will Hear Thunder” by Anna Akhmatova Inspires Jen

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Windbreak

I know what it takes to make a storm. I know the exact chemistry of a hurricane, a misty day, a blizzard so cold my fingers are at risk just because I lost another pair of gloves. I know all of these things. But I know the most about wind. Wind is the force behind all that other stuff. It’s the transportation. It’s invisible but it matters more than anything else, and I’m not just saying that because it belongs to me.

It does, though. I’m a Zephyr. A wind Elemental. It’s all mine, my mom gave it to me, and my grandma to her. It’s the way of things. We each have our own piece of what makes Earth function the right way, from animals to the tides. Mine’s the best, though. It’s all frenzy and the freedom of currents. I can feel it from the chambers of my crimson heart to the tips of my pale fingers. It reaches for me like a fast moving net, always looking for clouds to chase and pull.

Storms need clouds. Clouds need wind.

I’ve been waiting on storms. I can pull clouds like nobody’s business but they don’t mean anything when they’re just cotton balls floating around in space. I need a Tempest. Someone to pull rain. No Tempest, no storms. I’ve been waiting.

“Ever?” Cameron’s voice has that you’re-on-assignment tone he reserves when he knows something we don’t. He’s two years younger than my nineteen years but he’s a do-gooder and the boss likes him best. He’s a flora, a flower boy. I try not to hold that against him, he’s a good guy even if his Element is lame.

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Jen’s No Rules Friday

Here’s a little sneak peek at my work in progress:

Everything is still. I am unmoving on the Northshore, watching from the trees. Watching the sky and the sea and the land. The morning, the land, and even the sea is still today, though the wind blows. It’s like the coast is waiting, but for what I don’t know. And then I do.

A girl appears on the Northshore, and nothing inside of me is still, for I recognize her instantly, as anyone would.

Aeryn.

Her face is known throughout this land.  I’ve never seen it so close, though I’m hardly close to her at all. She is all red and white in the dawn, her hair like a muddy chestnut and her skin like tea that’s mostly cream. She is glued to the back of her horse, a mare, like the two of them have been a pair for years. Even from this distance, I can tell her mount is fine. Muscles bunch and stretch under her grey coat and her ears flick back and forth, listening to the girl on her back. Her mouth chews at a snaffle bit, and she is supple and round as she works. Her chest is barely lathered, though they must have run from the palace. She’s a strong mount for a seemingly delicate rider.

Aeryn’s hands let the reins go and her horse slows instantly. She dismounts after many steps, and they way she pats her mare tugs a smile from my mouth. Until I realize I’m smiling at the girl who would harm the flying horses. What is she doing so far from home without guards? I could kill her easily, I’m sure of it. Maybe even before she could scream if my aim was right. My hand reaches for my blade. Without her this ruling family would be half its size and without an heir.

My hand tightens on the hilt of the knife, and I aim for her throat. It’ll be a clean kill if I land my mark. Bloody, but clean. My hand doesn’t shake, for I love the flying horses more than I love my future queen. I take one step to align my target and Aeryn’s head pops up to search out the sound of my footfall. I freeze. Her eyes are so green they dance like clovers in the wind and I feel them on me even though she can’t see me. I’m pinned by those eyes for a second. She turns back to her horse, and I know if I don’t throw it now I never will. Eyes make life, and now I’ve seen hers. I try to find the anger I had a moment ago. I find it and I grab it and steady my arm. The blade will fly true.

I hear her gasp. The sound is one of pain or awe, and I haven’t thrown yet so it must be the latter. And then I feel it.

Sciathan.

I see it dancing on the wind and I pray to God the princess doesn’t have a bow on her. The dark flying horse plays in the eddies of the air and I cannot breathe because he is gorgeous and she will kill him. Onyx. The black Sciathan is nothing but ink and velvet.

If I don’t kill her now, the best of the Sciathan will die by her hand or her will. The king of the flying horses cannot die.

My eyes leave Onyx and search out my target again. I pull my arm back as my eyes find her. The muscles in my forearm flex as I aim to throw. Onyx screams above us, and I check the motion at the last moment.

Her face. It’s all red and white and awe. Not anger or determination or hate. It’s an open mouthed grin and wide eyes. It’s caught breath and frozen muscles. She is awed by the best of the Sciathan, and as he disappears into Carraig’s mist I see her mouth move.

“Beautiful,” falls soft and perfect from her lips.

My blade falls at my feet.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Stay tuned for Anne’s No Rules Friday next week.

“Future” by Paramore Inspires Jen

Unlocked

In my eighteen years of life, I’ve learned that most of it is about getting in. Everybody wants to be on the inside. In high school it’s about popularity, and who gets to hold hands and other things with the cutest jock or doe eyed knock-off ten-seconds-to-knocked-up-barbie. I got out of there without getting a disease or a child.

College is all about getting in. Whether it’s Ivy League or someone’s pants. I shot for the former and landed in a respectable school that wasn’t necessarily Ivy League, but there were a lot of ivy covered buildings, so I figured that had to count for something. I was there to find something elusive and highly regarded. Something you didn’t find in anyone’s pants. They called it a future. And somehow they told me I’d find it in rooms full of kids making decisions bigger than eighteen years on Earth. Heavy decisions, ones that sounded like things grown ups would do. They told us we were grown ups. They lied.

I was not grown the nights I spilled my guts to a girl with eyes that changed color like dusk and realized I was never going to be one for jocks or barbies. She was trimmed in ink lines and her voice was like waves on waves on waves, full of lulling clarity. She hummed notes of songs I knew when I was little, and they sounded like promises falling from her perfect smile. I’d never wanted harmonies, but I wanted them with her. Her lips tasted like sugar and rain and we twined together for five weeks before her eyes turned dark.

She pressed a key into my palm and whispered my name, “Shy.”

“Yes?” My lips were at her ear, and she shivered in the dark.

“What do you want?”

“I want the future,” I told her.

“Sure,” she said, “then you’ll have it.”

She raised the key to her lips and pressed it to them. It glowed for a moment, all embers.

She curled my fingers around it and she was gone in an instant, fast as a summer storm. My skin burned where her eyes had held it, but I still held that key hot and heavy in my hand.

It works on every single lock.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Stay tuned for extra content this week from Julie. Check out Anne’s answer to this prompt next Monday.

Happy Cimmerween! From Jen

Cimmerween!“Angel of Grief” Part 2: The Breaking

The vulture’s claws scrape my arms like fire and find purchase on the grit of stone. There is a moment where all is quiet, and only the lush fall of wings breaks the silence. Their talons are made to dig deep, and they do. Small chunks of rock splinter off my shoulders like glass and if I could bleed I would be. The missing pieces burn like raw nerves. At least I know they can’t take stone Underground.

Salem glows a little in the fog down below. The Vulture’s wingspan can’t quite drown him out. His brightness is good, they’ll have trouble pulling him down with the energy he’s got. It buys me time. Salem flails, all fists and elbows, as if his suggestions of arms will make a dent in a Vulture. They won’t. His visage flickers like it’s not getting a signal, and I know it’s the pull of the Underground already stealing the tiny bits of his soul.

I look back to the church. Derik watches, and I know this is my test. Salem hangs in the balance. My skin still burns where his own brushed it.

This Vulture that holds me has made a mistake. They never grab us, mostly because we’re heavy but also because we bite. There’s something like venom in us, but we have to be strategic about it. My eyes pan below me, and the Vulture wheels for a crop of trees just as Salem reaches the church. He’ll be safe in there, but much less on the other side. Even if he sprints to the Gate, he’s an easy target if I don’t get out of the sky to cover him.

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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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