Attack. Short Story.

He watched her as she walked, Henry made sure he wasn’t too close though, that was always a dead give away. The streets were quiet and mostly empty, it was that golden time of the day when people were all off doing something, so it felt like Henry had the whole city to himself, this time however, he was sharing it with this girl. He watched the way her body moved as she shifted her weight with each step. She wore a pair a sneakers, slightly scuffed, a pair of tight jeans and a baggy sweater along with a back pack. Henry thought she must be one of those college kids. No doubt she had something slutty underneath that baggy sweater, just waiting until she had the right audience before she revealed it. Didn’t want old lechers like him to see, no she wanted to reserve that right for the younger guys, the studs she was no doubt banging. Despite her attempts to cover up, he was able to spot the curves of her body and fill in the blanks himself. He couldn’t see her face, but that wasn’t a problem, after all, every woman was beautiful in the dark. Her hair was tied back in some kind of ponytail, allowing him to see flashes of her glasses, going for the sexy librarian look obviously. Man, what he would do to her if he was five years younger. He used his imagination to fill in the rest.
It had been about five minutes since he started following her, but the road was mostly straight, she wouldn’t notice him, no, she’d be too caught up in what ever shitty little drama ruled her life, she wouldn’t notice him until he was right up against her. He was getting old, sure, but a man still had urges. It was her job to take care of them. Besides that, she didn’t look all that strong. She was thin sure, but it was skinny fat, there were no muscles there. He had no doubt of that. She would be easy to dominate. His mouth suddenly filled with saliva. The things he would do to her. He glanced around quickly, making sure they were still alone, up ahead there was a little alley he knew of, not that he’d used it himself of course, but he knew of it. Small, quiet, hard for passerby to look into. He just needed to plan this right. He picked up his pace a little, getting right up close to her. The faint scent of her perfume hit him, flowery and fresh, his heart thudded harder. This would be fun. His last hurrah perhaps, so he’d have to enjoy it. The mouth of the alley was coming up, he moved into position and, just as they past, he sprung forward, grabbing her, pulling her. She was strangely quiet as he pulled her, Henry didn’t notice, he was looking forward to what was going to happen next, no doubt she’d be screaming for more at the end of it. He shoved her against the wall, he was old, but he was strong. So far there had been no noise out of her, then, she said one little word.
“Sorry.”
He sneered, “Yeah, bet you’re sorry you’re a little slut now, I’m gonn-” He was cut off as she broke his grip, his eyes widening in surprise, she was stronger than he had expected. Her hand wrapped around his throat, squeezing. He let her other hand go, using both hands to claw at hers, her grip merely tightening. She stepped from the wall, propelling him backwards, then turned, dragging him with her, she stepped forward, pushing him against the wall, she eased up for a second, allowing him to breathe, then she slammed his head against the wall, smiling slightly as it made a meaty thud. His eyes rolled, she smiled wider and slammed him against the wall again. She tightened her grip, watching as his face turned red. She glanced at her watch, she was going to be late.
When he stopped struggling she let him drop, then, she checked for a pulse, none. Good. She kicked him twice, both times in the ribs. Then she left the alley. At first she felt happy, she had done a good thing, removing a scumbag from the world, it made everything nicer, but the further she away she was, the more guilt she felt. Sure she removed a scumbag, but she had enjoyed it just a little too much. She wasn’t supposed to like this so much. It’s why she always apologised to everyone she killed. It helped her take responsibility. She preferred to do it while they were still alive, but apologising to their graves way also an ok way to do it. Once she acknowledged what she did. It had become her trademark, it was kind of nice. Once she apologised people knew they were already dead, so for the most part they didn’t struggle too much. She’d be able to handle it if they struggled of course, but it was nice that they made it easy. It was almost like they were forgiving her for what she did.
Most of the time she didn’t know who they were, and she didn’t want to know. That was never part of the deal. Her only requirements were that they died. Sometimes it was a little more complicated, like it had to look like an accident. In those cases, she sought them out before hand, walking along the streets she’d bump into them, then apologise. They’d think she meant for the bump, but that was okay. She was good at what she did, they’d never catch her, even if she did take small risks like that. No one in the business knew what she looked like, so there was no danger of recognition there. She looked at her watch again and increased her pace, dammit she was going to be late. Once she reached the campus, she broke out into a jog, dodging through the milling crowds of people. No one paid attention to her, people running was a common sight.

She slid into her seat, her breathing barely elevated, and opened her bag, taking out a blank writing pad, as she placed it onto the desk her next target appeared and walked to the front. She held a cup of coffee in one hand and a pile of papers in the other. She put them down and started the lecture, unaware that her killer sat thirty feet from her.

She had studied the professor for three weeks now, coming in as a first year, the professor always had coffee and it always lasted for two classes. It was simple, this time she would use poison, just slip it into the coffee when she went to talk to the woman. She jotted down a note, underlined it and wrote “Exam??” beside it. She was thorough, in a few weeks she’d drop out, claim it was the stress or something. Lots of people dropped out in the first few weeks, she wouldn’t stand out. Smiling, she continued with her notes.

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Shadow Crawlers. Part 45

Sorry, there was some technical difficulties!

Had a fun week, went up to the mountains with my friend, she was taking photographs for an art project. When we were done we wandered around for a bit, climbed one some river rocks, was pretty cool.

I’ve made a bit of a dent in my reading list too, which is always a good thing, though I’ve a long way to go to clear all the books off it, and it just keeps getting longer too, which doesn’t exactly help. I think I’m going to have to organise it a bit, as books keep getting lost in the jumble and I find it a few years later thinking “oh yeah, I meant to read this.”

On with the show!

_______________________________________________________
Part 1, Part 44

Amy pulled into the parking lot of the mall and found a space near the entrance, it was mostly empty to her surprise. She felt a thrill of nerves brush along her back. It would be fine, there were other people here, even if there wasn’t many. They got out of the car and made their way inside, the thoroughfare was mostly empty, a woman struggled along with a pram and a handful of bags, Amy spotted someone going into one of the shops, again, she felt the frisson of nerves.

“It’s really empty isn’t it?”
Grady shrugged, “Everyone’s probably in work or picking up their kids or something. Let’s just get to the food court, ok? We can pick up some lunch too while we’re at it.”
Grady started walking, Amy followed.

As they walked, Amy scanned the area, Grady just ploughed through, heading directly to the food court. They passed few shoppers on the way.

Ed and Rose were sitting in the food court, both held cups of coffee and neither noticed the arrival of the other three. They headed straight over and sat down at the table.
“Where is everyone else?”
“We don’t know. Gone.”
“What do you mean gone?”
“Taken.”
“By who?”
“We don’t know.”
“Jesus, ok, tell us what happened.”
“We were fighting Alice, doing pretty well, then someone knocked out Simon, then Brett, we got away. Don’t know if it was Alice’s doing or something else. Didn’t stick around to find out.”
“If it was her doing what’s going to happen?”
“Nothing good for them or us.”
“And if it was someone else?”
“Same thing.”
“What do we do? Do we rescue them or?”
Rose looked at Grady, then at Joey, “If they can’t get out themselves well, then there’s nothing we can do.”
“We have to try.”
“No, we don’t. We have to run, run and hope that Alice is dead and never catches up with us.”
“Brett wouldn’t leave you.”
“Yes. Yes he would and you know it.”
Ed looked up from his coffee “it doesn’t matter what he would have done, we need to go after them. Who ever took them has tranqs powerful enough to take them down, powerful enough to take me down. If they’re being kept somewhere, it’s strong. They’ll be able to hold us. We have no option. Either we find them or they find us. They knew where the fight was going to be, no one else knew, they had to have been tracking or monitoring us. There is no other explanation. They know about us and they’ll want the full set. I don’t know what they’ll do with you guys, but I can’t imagine it’s anything good. They want to use us, for power, money, what ever. They’ve got power, we’re strong but they could be stronger. They caught us by surprise, but they won’t do that again. When they attack again it will be all out and will end with us captured or dead.”
“So how do we find them?”
“Myself and Rose will figure that out. For now we should eat, get it to take away, we’ll need to start moving.”

They split up and placed their orders, then they regrouped and carrying their food, they left the food court. As they walked to the car, both Amy and Grady looked at everyone suspiciously. Rose didn’t seem to care all that much, nor did Ed. Joey trudged along behind them all, head buried in a game.

 

They piled into the car and with one last look at the mall, Grady drove from the parking lot. As she drove, she kept an eye in the mirror, trying to see if there was anyone following. She took some random turns, but no car followed for more than a single one. Grady relaxed slightly, there was no one following. She sat up straight, the car could be bugged. She signalled and pulled over, everyone had already finished eating.
“We have to switch cars. Everyone grab your stuff, don’t leave anything behind.”
“We lost track of them.”
“How? You told me once they surfaced you’d be able to find them.”
“We were following the faint seismic activity caused by Ed, though we didn’t expect him to branch off multiple tunnels underground. That made it difficult to track, and they went through several densely populated areas. The tremors were too faint to detect at times. We’re not sure where they actually surfaced, if they have at all. There are still pockets that are moving around. We think that there’s no one in them, some are moving too fast and others are moving too slow, as far as we are aware, neither was injured. No tunnel that we have been tracking has come up yet. They either stop or vanish.”
“Could they have gone deeper?”
“That is a possibility, but if they had the activity would be larger and we would have spotted it.”
“So you have no idea where they are or where they’re going?”
“Correct.”
“Find them. Now.”
“We’re doing our best, we-“
“No, you’re not. If you were doing your best they would be here. I don’t see them, do you? Find them or you will be responsible. Right now I’m considering permanent termination for you, and maybe even your family. You’ve fucked up monumentally. Failure is not an option.”
“Yes sir.”
The man left the room pale and shaking. He sat back into his chair and sipped his coffee. He was surrounded by incompetent fools. He looked down at the reports on his desk, the psychologists had okayed some forms of torture on them all. Good, they’d get things moving there, though he didn’t expect any of them to break. They were strong, old. They needed to be careful, two could afford to abandon the bodies they were in. The rooms they were in shouldn’t allow that to happen, but that hadn’t been tested yet. He didn’t want to find out they had gotten that wrong. He’d find out who their masters were, kill them and assume their role. It was simple. He stood from his desk, he wanted to check in on them personally.

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24 Hour Shop. Flash Fiction.

Jeremy looked up from the mop, he didn’t have too much further to go. He dunked the mop head into the dirty water, then went back to lazily swirling it across the floor. When he finished the aisle, he stopped and looked around, leaning against the display. An old woman wearing a large, oversized coat shuffled past, leaning heavily on her shopping cart. Damn it was Mrs. Smith, it was later than he thought. He grabbed the bucket and walked past her, trying not to stare at her neon green hair. She never came into the shop before two a.m. He still had another aisle to mop and then shelf stacking. He went the long way to the final aisle, trying not to make it obvious that he was only passing by to look at Christie. She was sitting behind the till, reading a novel. He took one last look at her, and started on the mopping. He needed to get it done before three, and he wasn’t in the mood to work quickly. He had hoped that it would be a simple once over, but some jackass had trailed mud all through the store, he didn’t understand how they managed it, but they were determined.

When he finished he wheeled the bucket into the storage room. He checked his watch, he probably wouldn’t have time to do all the stacking. Shit. Well, he could get it done afterwards. He checked his phone, still another fifteen minutes to go.

“Any good?”
“Eh. It’s ok I guess. Better than sitting around doing nothing.”
Christie put the book down, not bothering to mark the page.
“What time is it?”
“Almost there, we should probably head into the back.”
Christie nodded and stood, together they moved into the security room, not bothering to lock the doors. The two other employees were already there.
“Cutting it a little close?”
“We’re fine. We’ve got plenty of time.”

They turned and watched the small screens as the man in the suit entered the store. He moved through the aisles, picking up items seemingly at random, after a moment, a hooded figure entered and walked towards the back of the shop without stopping. After twenty minutes six more people had entered the shop, they moved around the aisles, occasionally putting things into their baskets, none of them acknowledged the others. Jeremy checked his phone, feeling antsy, he wanted this to be over, he needed to get back to work. The camera screens went white, then black, purple light shone through the bottom of the door. It flared briefly, then faded, the cameras came back on. They shuffled from the security office and back to their posts. It was over for another night. Jeremy had asked the others what happened to the people when he first started, but no one seemed to know. There was a legend of one of the guys, before his time, that had stayed out and no one had seen him again. Apparently it had been reported to the police, but his family had no memory of him. Jeremy believed it was just an urban legend, but still, he didn’t want to test it. What ever they were up to, it wasn’t normal. Management knew it was happening and they were fine with it.

Jeremy stretched and yawned, finally he was done. He grabbed his bag from the back and slung it over his shoulder, he slowed slightly as he past Christie, she didn’t notice him.
“Have a good day.”
“huh? Uh yeah, you too.”
She never looked up from her book.
He kept walking, hoping she didn’t see his blush. He kept his head down as he stepped outside into the drizzle.

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The Walk. Short Story.

Hope everyone had a good weekend. Mine was pretty fun, went out, read a lot. Over all quite enjoyable and really relaxing.

On with the show!

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Matt walked down the dark alley, trying to keep his breathing calm and steady. He hated walking home at night, but there was no other option, unless he wanted to sleep in work and that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. He still couldn’t afford a car and neither taxi’s nor busses would go through this area, so his only option was to walk. Of course if he had been able to afford a car it would have singled him out, and probably gotten stolen within a few minutes. Sometimes, on the walks, he could hear screams, shouts and laughter, he always walked a little faster when he heard that, but it was reassuring too, he knew where everyone was. It was times like this, when it was silent, that were unnerving. In the distance he could hear a siren, but it was moving away from him. No surprise there, there was no police presence around here. It was part of why his rent was so cheap. Up ahead a streetlight flickered, clinging vainly to life, beside it, he could see a dark shadow. Damn. He continued walking, couldn’t slow, couldn’t show fear. That was just asking to be attacked. He passed the dark figure, not looking at them. No eye contact. That might set them off. Pretend like you couldn’t see them. That was what was best. He got out of the flickering pool of light and allowed himself to relax slightly, he didn’t hear them coming after him. He reached the corner and turned, looking back slyly, the figure was no longer by the light. He kept the same pace, if he ran they’d definitely chase him and he couldn’t out run them. No one could. There was a sudden shriek, piercing the night, Matt couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. It didn’t sound all that far away. Goosebumps rippled across his arms. As he walked the screaming became louder, he was walking towards it. He glanced back, casually. There were three people behind him, all walking towards the screaming. He couldn’t turn back.

His heart hammered in his chest, so loud it threatened to drown out the screams. He needed to stay calm, it was probably on one of the side streets, he’d pass by and everything would be fine. They wouldn’t pay attention to him. He hoped who ever was screaming would last until he passed by. If they saw him after their toy was dead and their blood lust wasn’t sated, he was screwed. One of the people passed by him, Matt lowered his head slightly, turning it away. Breathe. Just breathe and stay calm. He was coming up to his turn, it sounded like the screams were coming from his road. Shit.

Up ahead he could see the writing mass of people as they shouted and jeered the poor bastard they had caught. He could see the door to his building, near the crowd, but perhaps they’d be too distracted to notice him. The people behind him broke into a run, Matt froze, they ran by him and joined the crowd. He was stuck, he couldn’t move. He had to, if they looked, if they saw him, he was dead. There was no place to hide, they owned the streets and they’d find him. His foot moved forward, and suddenly he was walking again. Almost there. Just had to get to the building, he would be safe then. The group was ten feet away, the noise was deafening. Some of them glistened in the dark. He didn’t look directly at them. His key was in his hand, ready to go, he just had to reach the door.

He turned the key, trying to keep his hands steady, the door unlocked, he stepped inside and quickly shut it, sighing in relief as the locks engaged again.

A body hit the glass of the door, blood seeping from its mouth. It was man. Eyes wide and rolling in fear and pain. The crowd pushed against him, Matt wanted to turn away, to keep walking to the row of elevators and hide like everyone else, but he couldn’t turn. Then, the poor bastard and the crowd moved back, off to somewhere else. The low lights in the lobby allowed him to see the dark smudges of blood that covered the glass. There was a short beep as the door lock sealed itself and water began to run down the outside of the glass, cleaning it. The cleaning cycles lasted only a few seconds and when it was done, the glass was clean again. No sign or evidence of what had happened. Matt turned towards the elevators and pressed the button, one opened immediately for him, he stepped inside and pressed the button for his floor. As the doors slid closed, he sagged back against the wall, gasping for breath. It had been so close, so goddamned fucking close. The screaming outside had stopped. When the doors opened he stumbled into the hall and, still shaking, let himself into his apartment. He dropped his small bag on the floor and continued on into the kitchen, there he filled a glass with water and took a long drink. His stomach clenched, he turned and threw up into the sink. Still shaking, he wiped his mouth and rinsed it out. He waited a moment, then took another sip. It stayed down. Good thing he wasn’t hungry. He laughed weakly, the laugh threatened to become hysteric and he stopped suddenly. The silence of the room felt oppressive.

Matt crawled under the covers of his bed, not bothering to undress, he felt so very cold, he couldn’t seem to get warm. Shivering, he shut his eyes and tried to forget what happened. In the morning, he’d wake up and go to work like it never had the only difference being that tomorrow, he’d make sure to get home before it became dark. He had been a fool to do anything else.

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Shadow Crawlers. Part 44

Part 1, Part 43

Simon was feeling slightly better, about an hour ago someone had slid a food tray through a slot on the door, he had called out to them, but they ignored him completely, a few seconds after the tray a bottle of water rolled in. The food made him feel stronger, though it was a bland tasteless mush, he had sipped the water, conserving it, he didn’t know how long it would be until he was given more. He had tried to focus himself, to use his powers, but nothing was working, at first he suspected some kind of drugs in his body or in the water or food, but he didn’t feel like he was impaired in anyway.

“Good, you’re awake.”
Simon looked around the room, but he was unable to see any speakers, but it didn’t sound like there was someone outside the room.
“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. I intended to speak with you sooner, but unfortunately I was kept away. I see the room wasn’t prepared properly, I apologise for the inconvenience.”
There was a brief hum as a floor tile in the corner moved back revealing a hole in the ground, his new toilet, great. A panel in the wall lowered itself, revealing a sink and a tap.
“There we go, that should make things a bit more comfortable for you.”
“Who the hell are you and why am I here?”
“I am your new master, that is all that matters. You are here because I command it. You will answer my questions or I will punish the child and the women you lot were so fond of.”
Simon hid his smile with a cough, they didn’t have the girls or Joey, the man would have used their names, or used a recording of them to scare him.
“They’re quite comfortable now, Joey wants to know where his father is, something we haven’t been quite able to determine yet, and the two girls, Grady and Amy seem to be in good spirits. We promised them protection, they’ll happily talk to us.”
“Oh good, so you won’t need to question me then.”
Maybe he was wrong, maybe they had been caught. But how? There was no way they could have been tracked through the tunnels. He only knew one thing, who ever it was must work for Alice.

 

“we have three of them.”
“What about the others?”
“They escaped, under ground apparently.”
“And how are we doing in terms of tracking them down?”
“Well, at this point we’re waiting for them to surface, we expect once that happens we should have them in a few hours.”
“Good. I don’t want to have to wait. Have they answered any questions yet?”
“No, Simon is silent, Alice shouted for a short while, but it provided nothing useful. She is now sitting on the cot, we think she is planning.”
“She probably thinks we’ll send someone in to rough her up and that her powers will start working then.”
“We’ll have to treat Simon carefully, he might snap and if he does, he’ll be useless to us. Our analysts have theorised that he may have a psychotic break soon.”
“Interesting. Do they have any idea what that might look like?”
“None.”
“Ask them if we should push him into it, he might be easier to control at that point.”
“I’ll ask them to study it.”
“Good. In the meantime, ask them what forms of interrogation should be used on him. What about Brett?”
“He hasn’t woken yet, we’re not sure why.”
“Is he faking?”
“Our monitors indicate that he is genuinely unconscious, but there is no real way to be sure beyond going in. He might have abilities that we don’t suspect. It would be a risk letting someone into the room with him, with any of them.”

“If there is no change by tomorrow we’ll have to discuss what options we can take. Would it be possible to give him a low dose of uppers or adrenaline? Something to help the sedative wear off?”
“Perhaps, I’ll get some people working on it.”
“Is that it?”
“Yes sir.”
“Right, go on then.”
The woman turned and left the room, already typing on her phone. He liked her, she was the best assistant he had in years and she had lasted far longer than any of the others. It was all quite impressive. He turned his chair to face the window, part of him wanted to push forward, consequences be damned, but the other half, the half that helped him to get here, wanted him to move cautiously. He had them now, they couldn’t escape so there was no real rush. It had taken them a long time to create those chambers, the ones that would negate their powers, but they had managed in the end. Though there was fears that they wouldn’t work, he was pleased to see that they were unfounded. He would get control of them, then, he would get control of the country, after that, well, he’d just have to wait and see.

 

The phone rang twice before Grady grabbed it and answered,

“Hello?”
“It’s us…hello?…Oh wait, damn, uh, Apple?”
“Where are you guys? What happened?”
“We hit a bit of a snag here, where are you? It’ll be better if we talk about it in person”
Grady felt a ball of dread form in her stomach, someone was dead, it was only a question of who.
“We’re in Masona. We can wait here or meet you somewhere.”
“We don’t have a car, we’re walking, and I don’t know how to steal one. We can’t rent one either.”
“Ok, so we’ll come to you, you’re going to have to go somewhere though, somewhere public.”
“There’s no one following us, we got away clean. We can meet you at Greenacres Mall in say an hour, in the food court?”
“Make it two and we’ll see you there.”
Grady hung up and turned to Amy, “Ok, we’re meeting them in the Greenacres food court in about two hours, something bad has happened, I don’t know what yet.”
Amy turned the car around, “Are you sure it’s safe?”
“They said the password, and they didn’t sound like they were under and kind of pressure.”
“Ok, I’ll trust you. What about-” She gestured subtly towards the back, “what if it was you know who that was hurt?”
“We can’t just leave” Grady copied the gesture “somewhere, it wouldn’t be safe.”
“You’re right, but I don’t want to scar him.”
“We can talk about it privately once we meet up with them, you know who could be with them, I only talked to Rose and she didn’t say who she was with.”

Amy looked in the mirror at Joey, he had fallen asleep about twenty minutes ago, she was impressed by how well he was dealing with being cooped up in the car. She would have thought he’d have been bouncing off the walls and clamouring for an escape. They’d have to be careful with the meeting, maybe say Simon had to go somewhere else first, just in case he wasn’t there. Amy picked up her coffee and took a drink, it was going to be a long day.

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Fairest of Them All. Short Story.

I realised the other day that it has been a while since I’ve written in the first person, so I decided to give it a shot today. It wasn’t as difficult as I expected. Always good to try new things!
On with the show!
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“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair!”
Ugh. I sigh as I stand and move towards the window, leaning out I see a Prince, looking all full of himself, as usual.
“Sorry buddy, you’ve got the wrong tower.”

“But Rapunzel-”

“Names not Rapunzel.”
“Well I know that, but what the hell else am I supposed to call you?”
“Look, didn’t you do some research before you came charging out here?”
“No, I didn’t think I’d need to.”
Typical. All brawn, no brains. Great.

“I’m not Rapunzel, I don’t need rescuing.”
“Of course you do, you’re in a tower.”
“By choice. Look” I grasp my short pony tail and swing it over my shoulder,

“Nothing to climb here buddy. Go ride off into the sunset and find someone else.”

I closed the window shutter and instantly regretted it. Damn room was too dark to do any work in and I wouldn’t be able to open it again until the prince pissed off. I just hope he doesn’t find the door. After a few minutes, I heard the noise of a horse riding off slowly. I counted to twenty before standing and opening the shutters. Good, he’s gone. I feel kind of bad for him, but I’m sure there’s another tower around here. He’d find it eventually, they always do.

My name is Celeste, and I’m a princess.

I wish I could be more specific for you, I really do, but honestly, I don’t know what type. I know I’m not a Rapunzel, all that hair maintenance, no thanks. It would have grown as soon as I stepped foot into this tower, I’m not an Aurora, after all, I’ve pricked my finger plenty of times and I’m still awake. Not a Snow White either, my mother is still alive and kicking, much to her relief. I’m something different. According to every witch and wizard around, I’m an anomaly. Not that it’s stopped them trying to kill me you understand.

You’d think being a princess is all high class and fun, but it isn’t. It’s boring as hell. All manners and politeness. Apparently I’m supposed to just sit there while someone tries to kill me, maybe cower, and hope a prince arrives in time. No thank you. I’m much more proactive than you would think. I’ve got the princess looks going for me though, pale skin, beautiful chestnut hair, sparkling green eyes, the works. It sounds nice, and frankly, there is no effort in it, I just wake up perfect, lips glossed, cheeks blushed and eyes shadowed. When I was younger I suspected they were tattoos, but apparently, I just look like this. It’s great when you’re younger, up until I was five I didn’t have a care in the world. Do you know how much free shit a princess gets? I was swimming in toys and sweets, then the danger years started. It was a steep learning curve, my parents never taught me not to accept gifts from strangers, why would they? It was inevitable that something would happen to poison me, why fret? Worlds greatest parents they are. Suddenly all these evil bitches crawl out of the wood, trying to get me to try their luscious apples. Again, no thank you. I’m perfectly content breathing. No desire to choke to death. That wasn’t the only danger, there was also the combs, “oh, you’re hair is so beautiful, you need this comb, broach, clip, whateverthefuck.” My first arrest was at seven, I attacked a witch trying to stab me with a pin. I claimed self defence, she claimed it was her nature. Thank god my father is the king, otherwise I’d have been in a lot more trouble. Boy was he pissed, in my defence though, bitch had it coming. I was the twelfth princess she was trying to poison. She’d succeeded with all the others. As far as I know only one of them has been woken by her prince. The rest are all just lying there, life on pause, probably hoping their kingdom doesn’t collapse while they sleep the day away.

My parents knew something was wrong when I was four, by then there had been no outward signs of my destiny, normally I’d have manifested something that would give a hint as to what kind of princess I was. I had an affinity with animals, but that was par for the course with princesses, except I liked the odder ones, snakes, lizards, bugs, they were all my friends, though they didn’t flock to me as animals do with a Snow White. Then one day I came home with a baby dragon. I found him somewhere out in the woods, of course my father was horrified, I like to think my mother was amused. They took it away from me, no doubt killed the poor thing.

There used to be so many kinds of princesses, not just the typical ones, but there were fighters, warriors, but they died out. When I asked my mother she said it was because no one wanted to marry them. I think I’d have been a warrior princess if they weren’t extinct. My parents didn’t know what to do with me and, being an embarrassment to my father, the High King, I was allowed do what I liked, hence me moving to this tower. I knew the Rapunzel who used to live here, Ellie, she was nice, then she was married and whisked off to her happily ever after. Boring. I don’t want to sit at home all day, doing nothing. Here I could read, I had a few creatures to keep me company if I got bored and I was safe from attack. I think at this point I’ve become a sort of mythological creature to the local population of evil witches and fairies. There have been attempts on my life some failed due to me fighting back and others just fell apart. Obviously some force is protecting me until I find my destiny, but I’m perfectly content as I am. Sure it can be a bit tiring, but it beats the alternative. Sitting around sewing until I pop out a few babies, maybe prick my finger while sewing and end up forecasting my own death.

Officially there are thirteen kingdoms, but each one is broken down further. The thirteen kingdoms are ruled by High Kings, then each smaller kingdom has a king. There used to be fourteen kingdoms, but the fourteenth was stricken from all records. No one remembers why now. If you travel out to it, there is just sea. The mermaids have tried to swim into it, but there is nothing there, just sand and water. No life, not even signs of life. It’s empty. The thirteenth kingdom is underwater, they’re mostly separate until they produce an Ariel. Sometimes it even works out for them in the end. It’s rare, but it does happen.

Monty, my snake, looks up from the ground and hisses once, then a moment later someone is banging on the door. Goddamn it, that prince must have come back. I grab Monty and carefully wrap him across my shoulders, then I march down the stairs.

I pulled the door open, Monty knows the drill.

“What?”
“Oh, I’m sorry dear, I couldn’t help but notice your tower, see, I’m selling apples.”
“I’m in a tower.”
“Yes? And? That doesn’t stop you buying some delicious apples. Look how luscious and shiny they are, so succulent, so delicious. Just take a bite, go on, you’ll be hooked!”
“If I’m in a tower I’m not a Snow White.”
“Excuse me? I don’t know what you mean, I’m just selling apples, that’s all.”
“Monty.” He raises himself and slithers along my arm, into striking distance.
“Oh, excuse me, I must have uhh made a mistake. I’ll just be on my way.”
I slam the door after her. Man, talk about unprofessional. Must be rough going out there. There were rumours of fewer princesses these days, if witches are trying to muscle in on the others business, it must be true. Hate to be them.

I walked back up the stairs, thankful that I was able to stand up for myself. Some poor Rapunzel would probably go for it, take a bite and end up sleeping permanently. Their prince would never find them, he would be looking in all the wrong places.

Back in my tower, I put Monty down, he slithers off to his usual spot while I sit at the table. I really need to get back to studying, but it’s just been one distraction after another today. I pull a book forward, read the first sentence, then sigh. I don’t really want to start this all again. Standing, I stretch and go to the window. At least the view up here is nice. I spot the witch skulking around the edges of the forest, the same one with the apples.
“I can see you!” I make my voice as cheery as possible, the witch jumps, then looks up at me, I wave energetically. “Hi!”
She scurries off into the woods, hopefully she won’t come back, but normally out and out refusal was enough to scare them off. I’d have to prepare myself for when she eventually returned, particularly if hunting didn’t go well for her. Well crap. There’s another one, I pick up a pebble and toss it at her. It lands nearby and six witches run from bushes, each one melting back into the forest.

Damn. Looks like I’m going to have to move back home for a while. At least until they’ve calmed themselves. I didn’t like the thought of it, but there would be guards at least.

I sigh again, it’s starting to become my favourite pastime, Goddamn it dad, why the hell didn’t you let me keep that dragon?

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Renewal. Short Story.

This was ridiculous. Jenny sat down on the couch, trying to keep calm, she needed to stay calm, in a few moments they’d realise their mistake then they’d just go away, she didn’t care where it was, as long as it was somewhere else. They had to be wrong, after all she wasn’t anyone important, she was just a primary school teacher, and not a very good one if she was honest with herself. There was no possible way that this could be real. And yet, they had been so insistent.

“Are you-”

“Just give me a second, all right?”

Ok, so they weren’t right, what would they do to her now? After all they might get rid of her to keep it all hush hush, no doubt they were some kind of crazy cult or something.

“And you’re sure?”
“Quite certain. We haven’t made a mistake. Unless you have a roommate. Do you?”
“No, it’s just me and my cat.”
The man smiled, she couldn’t think of his name, but she wanted to slap the smug grin off his face. “Then there has been no mistake. It is you.”
Jenny stood from the couch and went into the kitchen, she could still see them and them her, but it felt a little more private. She needed to keep calm, she couldn’t let herself freak out. If she did it might kill her. She went to the cupboard and grabbed out a bottle, then she quickly and discretely took a quick slug. It burned going down and she winced at the taste, but it should help a little. She put the bottle back and turned on the kettle. “Does anyone want tea?”
“No, thank you. We really must be going.”
“Oh, ok. Good, so do you want to like, arrange a time to come back here or what?”
“No, you misunderstood, we all have to go.”
“What about my things?”
“You or someone else can come back for them.”
“What about my cat? I can’t just leave him here.”
“He can’t really come along, not for this bit, but you can get him later tonight.”

Jenny grabbed his water bowl and filled it, then she filled another bowl with water, just in case. She checked his food bowl and topped it off.

She stepped out of the kitchen, “ok, I think I’m ready.” Behind her, the kettle clicked, signalling it was done.

As they walked to the car parked outside her building, Jenny thought about shouting to one of the many passerby, hope that they’d step in and stop this. It was madness. She could run, but if they caught her, they’d probably torture her or hobble her. No, she had to get out of this alone. Her parents had always insisted she take self defence classes, so she could become self reliant, now was the time to put that to the test. Right now there was three of them, four including the driver. She’d have to wait until she got a chance to break free. Perhaps when she arrived at where ever they were taking her. They didn’t seem to be all that sacrificy, and if she was who they thought, they wouldn’t dare try. She sat into the car, surprised at the space inside. She thought it would be a tight squeeze, but instead it was perfectly comfortable, she wasn’t even squished up against anyone. The driver signalled and pulled out into the afternoon traffic. It wouldn’t take them long to get through the city, she had been off early and most people were still in work, traffic was moving quickly.

They pulled up outside a large Victorian manor in the suburbs, Jenny tried to stop herself rolling her eyes, how very cliché, she should have known the place would look like this. There was only a few options, creepy warehouse, Victorian manor, desert compound. The warehouse district was at least a good hours drive away and the desert was off in some other country. Then again, a creepy, forested middle of nowhere compound would also serve. She was shaken from her thoughts as the door slammed closed, the people in front had gotten out, beside her was an empty space and an open door. She slid across.
“Welcome to your new home.”
Jenny felt like bolting, but the five men seemed to have already thought of that, they had surrounded her, like a shield. She’d just have to get through what ever creepy induction ceremony they had going, then she could make a break for it.

As they walked up the path Jenny looked around at the garden, it was well maintained and quite pretty, with flowers blooming everywhere. It had a kind of controlled disorder, which gave off strong fairytale vibes. They reached the porch and the door swung open silently, she half expected a rusty screech. The men in front stepped inside and she followed after.

The hall was brightly lit and thickly carpeted, the walls were a dark blue with paintings hanging at intervals. “We can show you to your room if you like, then give you a tour once you’ve had a chance to relax a little.”
“Yeah, sure, that would be great.”

Perfect. No doubt in a place like this with it’s slopey roofs there would be lots of ways for her to get out through the windows. They brought her up three flights of stairs, then they stopped at the bottom of a fourth.
“Your room is just at the top of the stairs, you get the entire floor.”
“Um. Thank you?”
“We’ll wait here. If you need anything, let us know.”

Jenny ascended the steps, heart thudding wildly, this was the point where she was going to get axe murdered, she could feel it. She glanced back when she reached the door, the men below had turned away, apparently uninterested in her impending doom. She opened the door and stepped in, wincing as she did so. No axe met her body, no knife cut her skin. Jenny let out a breath she had been holding. Ok, maybe there wouldn’t be axe murdering, but there had to be mutant freaks or something hidden up here. Jenny steeled herself, then began to explore.

Once she had searched the place, she was surprised to find herself vaguely disappointed, no murders, no mutant freaks, no aliens. What kind of cult were these people? The fourth floor had everything she could want, except a kitchen, though she assumed there were cooks downstairs. There was a bedroom with an impossibly large canopied bed, in the room there was also a writing desk, a large mirror, a window with an amazing view and a fireplace. The rest of the floor seemed to be composed of a large bathroom, a sitting room, a dining room and a library. At each of the windows she had paused and looked out, hoping for an escape route to present itself, but each one had a drop of at least ten feet before meeting a dangerously sloped roof, if she tried to get out that way she’d slide off and fall to her death.

When she had explored the entire floor, and spent some time sitting in the plush, comfortable couches, Jenny want back to the stairs. At the bottom, the two men still waited, they didn’t appear to have moved at all.
“Would you like to see the rest of the house?”
“Sure. Why not?”
After ten minutes, she lost track of where she was and what the rooms were called, they all blended into one, the lounge, the sitting room, the front parlour, the back parlour. Her stomach grumbled, she hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch.
“Are you hungry? Our chef could whip up something for you.”
“Ok, that’d be nice.”
“What would you like?”
“I don’t know. Something easy I guess.”
One of the men nodded and left them. The tour continued on.
They explored every room in the house, except for one, the chapel. She was assured that she would see it later. That sent a brief chill up her spine, no doubt they wanted her there for some good old fashioned sacrifices. The final room she was brought to was the dining room, inside was a long table with a meal sitting at one of the places.
“Ah good, I was afraid we’d arrive slightly early. I hope you enjoy your food.”
Jenny sat down, in front of her was a sandwich, it looked to be a BLT. Ok, that was probably hard to drug. She picked through it discretely, looking for any sign of pills or powders, but there was none. Her stomach grumbled again and shrugging, she took a bite. They hadn’t shown any desire to hurt her, nor had there been any real creepiness. Maybe they weren’t bad people, just deluded. The sandwich was delicious, when she had finished, she had a few of the fries that were sitting in a bowl on her plate. When she was done, someone emerged from a side room and whisked away the plates.
“I hope it was to your satisfaction?”
“It was delicious.”
The man smiled, “Good. Now, we want you to get settled as quickly as possible, so we are working on bringing your stuff over here. Is there anything you want now, or anything you want left behind?”

“Well, my cat first thing. He doesn’t like being left alone for too long. As for the rest, there’s no rush. The furniture can be ignored, except for the dresser in my bedroom. I want that.”
As she finished, Jenny realised she had agreed to move in with these people. Crap. Well, they seemed nice and she could always play a long a little longer. As long as they didn’t start asking for too much she’d be fine.

That night she sat in her room, writing letters, her cat curled in a ball on the couch beside her. They had no problem with her writing letters, they even gave her the address so people could write her back. She talked on the phone with most of her friends, but some people preferred letters. Mostly her mother, but it was a fun thing to do with her friends too. She finished up the last and slid it into its envelope, then she printed the address on it. She had asked if she could post them herself and there had been no hesitance, no reluctance. She was starting to believe that these people were legit. Maybe they were crazy, but it was the good kind. Jenny still didn’t know the names of most of the people she had come across, they had never offered and it somehow seemed impolite to ask. There was a brief, timid knock on the door. Jenny stood and answered it.
“It’s time for one of our midnight masses. If you would like to join us.”
“I’m feeling pretty tired.”
“That’s ok, we also have mass in the morning at noon if you would like to attend then.”
“How long does the mass last?”
“Well, midnight mass is usually a monthly occurrence and lasts about half an hour.”
Jenny though for a moment, he wasn’t being pushy and if they did want her for something nefarious, they wouldn’t have taken no for an answer.
“Ok, I’ll join you.”
“Great, follow me please, I’ll lead you to the chapel.”
“Thank you.”

The doors were closed when they arrived, she had expected them to be open, “Has it started already? I don’t want to interrupt.”
“Oh don’t worry, someone is always late anyway. I’ll just slip in quietly, though you might be expected to sit at the top. It might be best though if you stand at the back, it will be less of an interruption. We can talk to the priest tonight and clear up what happened.”
“Ok, if you’re sure.”
Together they snuck in through the door, the man that had brought her slipped into the end of one of the pews and sat, she stayed standing. Around her candles burned, casting light and shadow in equal amounts. There were electric lights dotted about the place, providing highlights. She looked around as the priest spoke, she didn’t pay too much attention to what he was saying. There appeared to be dozens of stained glass windows around the room, it must be beautiful in the daylight. As she studied them, she felt a growing unease in her stomach. The main character in each of them was eerily similar to her. If these were the only depictions of their god, it was no wonder they thought it was her. She finished studying the glass and looked at the priest for the first time. He stood on a slightly raised platform, behind him was a large mural, covering the wall. Her breath caught. It was her, there was no doubt. She looked identical to the woman in the painting.

She couldn’t be their god, she just couldn’t. She had been born to two ordinary people in an ordinary way. She have never shown any kind of powers, divine or otherwise. She had taken this too far, allowed herself to be carried along by the crazy train. She needed to get out, she needed to run, just get to any where that wasn’t here. At the front, the priest had stopped talking, there was silence in the room.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you were among us, please, take a seat, right here. I’m so sorry.”
Everyone turned to look at her, hushed whispers began to filter through the crowd. “Um. It’s ok. I don’t want to interrupt.” She could feel her cheeks burning, everyone as looking at her. She wished it wasn’t so bright. Around her the candles extinguished. She looked around, confused. That was weird. It must have been part of their ritual. The crowd had gone silent again. The priest paled, then he beckoned her forward. Jenny started to walk, seemingly unable to stop herself. She stubbed her toe against one of the pews, she grimaced and barely restrained herself from cursing. Why the hell did they had to make it so dark in this damned place? The candles flared into existence, the stained glass windows started to glow, bathing the room in multicoloured light. The crowd gazed around in wonder, the priest looked as though he was in ecstasy.
“It’s true, you’re really her, you’re really here.”
Jenny looked around at the light, wondering herself. How? She had never done anything like this before. She stepped forward, moving slowly. Maybe being a god wasn’t all that bad after all. She concentrated and the light dimmed slightly, becoming less harsh. Ok, so she was the one controlling it. Smiling, Jenny moved down the aisle, up onto the dais, there she sat on a throne like chair. She looked out at the people, her people, they bowed their heads, the priest was kneeling before her.

Feeling awkward, Jenny smiled, “You can stand up if you want.”

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