“Love Song to California” by Jen Hickman Inspires Julie

LoveSongtoCalifornia_JenHickman

Wer

Drop your human skin in the crease of the lightning-struck tree, and come with me. We’ll return for it at dawn. Let the fur course over your limbs like water, the rigid nails spring from your digits and the nose on your face sprout to house strong teeth and fine whiskers. You are wild now, and you’re mine.

Come, we’ll dance in the last rays of sun while the moon hangs high overhead. We’ll pump our legs and throw our shoulders forward as we gallop through the undergrowth. The tang of foliage is between our toes. You tear through a bed of ferns, and their juices streak your fur.

Push your nose into the dirt, against my side. Fold your tongue over rough bark, the trees that are our fortress. Leave bits of your coat and scent along the border.

We run the perimeter, noting where the deer raise their young, where the eagles nest after the long winter. Your tail swishes against mine, your ears swivel, tuned to forest sound. A half-smile hangs on your lips, your pink tongue falling to the right.

When the circuit’s done, press your nose behind my skull and take the flesh there, shake it gently, then release. I shoot off like a songbird from a hawk, dappling into the shadows of early night.

Follow me. Open your jaw and pant for pleasure, turn the earth beneath your nails and eat up the ground. I’ll be always a step ahead, a flash of fur, a glint of tooth. On the downslope you’ll charge against me so we roll and kick, grunting and yelping like pups. The streaming moonlight reminds us we only have so long.

When I break free, follow me up the slope. Slow your steps in reverence when I reach the top of the embankment where the trees are thin. Long for my throat as I toss my head back and pour my voice out into the night.

The blood purls in your veins and you step up beside me, your jaw opening in release. We are forest keepers, you and I, and our song is the heat of the earth, the cool of the sky, the clamoring life that pervades all.

When the last note has been swallowed by the hills, whine and pace. Nip my ear, and this time show me your throat. Raise your underbelly to the moon and me so you light up white. Graze my face with your paws and thump your tail.

If I go in for the kill, buck me off and fight me. Become the predator of legend, snarl and eyeshine at midnight. If I turn my head away and gaze into the night, kill a hare and lay it at my feet.

If I run, run with me. Follow me. Match me and push me. Shadow me until my breath steams and my muscles tremble. Then make me yours, as you are mine.

***

When the moon abates, put on your human skin.

~*~*~*~*~

A/N: This 500-word fiction is dedicated to the Blood Moon.

For more great art by Jen Hickman, please visit her website (http://umicorms.com/). Illustration © Copyright, Jen Hickman 2012. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Stay tuned for extra content this week from Jen. Return next Monday for Audrey’s answer to this prompt.

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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When Worlds Collide by Julie (An April Fool’s Extra)

*Go here to read the partial origins of this story*

Chances

Humming a tune to myself, la-dee-dah-dee-dah, as I close up shop. I exit out the back, cutting through the alley. My friends are waiting at the concert. There’s a message on my phone from the girl with the hazel eyes: I’m waiting for you.

Something tosses in the alley, glass tinkling, between the trash bins, and I drop the phone.

Hello?

A groan, deep like an animal. Then a girl rolls out, skin marked with bruises, blonde hair tangled and charred. Naked except for the trash stuck to her.

Who are you? she rumbles, yellow-eyed, and my skin seizes with prickles.

I won’t hurt you. I fling up my hands. I’m Quinn.

She snorts, blinks with reptilian ease.

Where am I?

——, I say. Heart of the city. Need me to call a cab?

Her voice stops me picking up the phone.

I think I did something terrible. She palms her forehead.

Her eyes sweep my suit, my shiny shoes, slicked-back hair. She frowns. There’s a question she doesn’t ask. I could ask her the same thing.

Fumbling, I unhook my jacket, slide it down my arms, offer it to her.

Here. You’ll get in trouble walking around like that.

She realizes her nakedness and laughs throatily. Smoke puffs into the air. She snatches the jacket.

My phone pings from the brick at my feet. She eyes it sideways, stare unnerving. I make a decision.

You did something bad? I say.

Her lips smoosh together, and she gazes at the dumpsters, the fire escapes, back to me. Rolls her shoulders.

Do you regret it?

She doesn’t answer.

I can make it go away, if you want, I say. Hazel Eyes might not wait for me.

The girl smoothes the jacket sleeves, just long enough to brush her thighs. She laughs, a more human sound this time.

I’ll take my chances on regret, she says. Why don’t you call that cab?

First I dig in my pocket and pass her the bills in my wallet.

Get some clothes, I say.

She smiles, her eyes mellowing to blue. Thanks, she says.

Once the cab leaves, my phone pings again.

Something up?

I start to type a response, pause. The alley sprawls empty behind me.

Can’t remember. See you soon.

~*~*~*~*~
A/N: Happy April Fools! I hope you enjoyed our mash-ups. We were inspired by last month’s Craft Discussion: World Building.

Julie’s No Rules Friday: Curses Part II

Curses Part II

(To read Part I, go here.)

My cell mates immediately fall silent. There is one set of boot steps, the jangle of chain. They’re here to move somebody.

The ward keeps humming. I don’t know what to do. As the steps near, I settle for sitting at the back of my cell, against the wall. Keys turn in the door. It opens.

Ears stands there, legs splayed awkwardly, squinting for me in the dim. His shoulders are hunched, gangly arms hanging, trailing a length of metal links. In his right hand he grasps a wooden pole which they use to keep me at arm’s length.

I shift so he can find me in the gloom. His adam’s apple bobs.

“Are you making magic back there?” he whispers, eyeing the ward.

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“The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit Inspires Julie

Curses

Heavy iron thunders and I’m conscious, bit by bit and then all at once. From a corner of my stone-walled cell, the scent of burning violet flowers chokes me. My stomach curdles. I try to roll away from the corner with the incense stick, and my ribs sear with pain. Right. Beto kicked me so hard I couldn’t breathe.

At the thought of the guard captain’s name, I want to spit, but my lips are mashed. The inside of my mouth and half of my face is bloodied. With my tongue I probe the slanted edge of a front tooth. The exposed roots tingle. Guess they’re done using me for my looks.

Footfalls sound heavily at the end of the hall, and I relax my body against the crackling straw. If they think I’m waiting for them, planning something, they’ll do worse than break my ribs. Then voices banter, muted through the stone and wooden door. Shift change.

The newcomer is the basso voice, the heavyset guard with piggy eyes. Replacing the young one with the deformed ear. The one who sometimes gives me a little extra food or water. Slitting my eyes, I see he’s put rations through the slot for me. If only I can get to them before Piggy realizes I’m awake.

“What’s happening outside?” asks Ear, stopping too close to my cell. “I heard the sound of troops, horses leaving. Are we at war?” His voice cracks. continue reading ...

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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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“You Will Hear Thunder” by Anna Akhmatova Inspires Julie

YouWillHearThunder_AnnaAkhmatova

Dragonheart

This is the bottom, I think, getting up the nerve to leave my car. The old woman, Madame Ming, is standing at the end of the block in the afternoon sunlight, right where the email told me to find her. I drove two circles before I parked, to check that no one else was waiting for me. Portland isn’t New York City, but it’s Old Town, so I have to be careful.

Finally I step out of my car, one hand sweaty on my keys and the other buried in my pocket with the roll of cash. Madame Ming turns at my approach. She is a head shorter than me with cropped gray hair. Her blue tang suit is faded, her arms folded into the deep sleeves.

I stop a yard from her, and she eyes me. I’m wearing my Lewis & Clark College hoodie. So much for being anonymous.

“You have the money?” she asks in accented English.

I look around and nod, not ready to pull out the wad. She moves her hands and displays a bottle, bulbous at the base with a tapering neck, stoppered. Exactly what I imagined a potion bottle would look like. The glass is clear and the mixture inside is a deep, honey-amber like mead.

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Julie’s No Rules Friday: The Cathedral, Part II

AngelofGrief_photobyDaysofKRead Part I

The Cathedral, Part II

I wake myself up coughing. I’m lying on my back and there’s something heavy on my chest: a small pile of stones that shift with my breath. One of my feet is twisted beneath me. Light sifts down through tumbling dust. I remember that I fell, can’t tell how deep.

Raising myself on my elbows, I come to a seated position and move the debris trapping my right foot. Flexing it makes me wince a little, but I can move it. On my wrists and knees, I navigate the rock slide, find cool mosaic tile beneath the rubble, the floor of the cathedral.

I clear a spot and rest for a moment, closing my eyes. My heartbeat seems to fill the darkness. I hope Decker and the kids didn’t see me fall.

There’s a lump in my back pocket, and I remember my phone. It didn’t have service when I first woke up, back at home, but I brought it along anyway. Now the screen is cracked and I can’t read the time. Could be hours I’ve been out or just a few minutes.

Something skitters, and I sit up straight. My knees and the rubble around me are dim shapes. If there’s a rat down here, I won’t be able to see it until it’s on me.

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Happy Cimmerween! From Julie

Cimmerween!

Feathers

Attilles warned me of the destruction the leggers would bring to the land. As I fly south, smoke from their dying fires chokes me. The sky is still deep gray, though if I squint I can see the hairy sleeping bundles. I have a few more hours to find his body before they wake.

I left the roost yesterday evening when Threnody, the hen from Kouhmar settlement, told me Attilles was dead. His blood feather is in the pouch around my neck. When I try to picture Attilles, Threnody’s gray face looms before me instead, and her words:

“He seduced me. I didn’t know he had your feather, Rai.”

She tried to touch my hand, and I nearly slashed her with the knife I’d readied for myself. Instead, I left. A warrior’s body should be cremated, so the soul can fly…

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