Hard Lessons

Previously

…I blinked but I took the key and then turned to my charge. She stared back with a proud grin on her face.

~~~~~

I furrowed my brow and took the room key from the attendant and gave him a thankful nod before turning toward the stairs to make for the second floor. I could tell the girl expected some kind of compliment or acknowledgment for her little sleight of mind. She would get none from me.

The room was quaint, one bed, but it was clean and sported the standard amenities: a bathroom, a small fridge, a personal signal tower to link to the Imperial Network, etc.

She shed her pack and shoes by the door and sighed happily then looked to me expectantly.

I placed down my own pack and sat down at the desk near the window, “I don’t want you doing that again.” Flatly.

She had made her way across the room and cranked the heater up before plopping down in front of it. She tilted her head to me when I spoke. “What?”

“You twisted that man’s mind. Don’t do it again.”

Her expression soured rapidly. “Well, trying to haggle with that asshole wasn’t getting us anywhere. So, I don’t know, you could show me some goddamned gratitude or something.”

“You deserve none,” I stated and I could see her jaw churn. I continued, “you twisted a man’s mind for your own gain never considering what that would mean for him. He registered a room to two nameless strangers for free – what do you think happens to him when his employers see that?”

“We’d be freezing our asses off if it wasn’t for me!” She glared.

“And that man may lose his job and be in our shoes because of you. Consider that the next time you think to twist someone’s mind.”

She huffed and turned back to warming herself near the heating unit. “Whatever.”

“Warm up and get your stuff together. We are not staying here. We will give the key back and find some place else.” She snapped her head in my direction but I refused to let her get a word out, “this ain’t a debate, Reaver. You’ve got five minutes then you pack up your shit and we’re leaving. Clear?”

She grumbled and I could feel the anger building in her, twisting the Veil around us. I must have meant something to her because I’m sure if she really wanted to she could have lashed out at me and possibly won. She didn’t.

“Fine.”

I stood up and made my way to the bathroom, figuring it best to put some distance between us for the next few moments. I leaned on the cheap laminated counter top and ran a hand through my hair. I was not cut out for this fathering crap.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Gratitude

Word of The Day: psychomancy

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Qualms

They had recommended me a protege near a year ago; she had talent, I could admit that much, but she was far too sentimental for the job. I suppose they figured if anyone could reign in her temperament it was me. I explicitly disagreed but, turns out, they were not necessarily asking. They shackled me with the responsibility despite my reservations; I had more than a few questions about what our little “Order” actually meant after that but I assumed they had their reasons. Before I knew it, I was playing ‘sensei’ to a fiery, ill-mannered girl whom I was sure would be the death of me…

———-

I figured a good place to start would be teaching her to read signs, so we mostly traveled on the girl’s intuition at the beginning. In the pique of Winter she led us to Kantover, a commercial town I had avoided on numerous occasions. Trade-towns like Kantover were desolate places for ‘bo’s where the people wanted money over anything and were often ill-tempered toward transients who had little or none.

By the time we made it into the city, the wind chill had nearly frozen us to the bone. I immediately sought out an inn – any place where we could get a comfortable night sleep and warm up; I knew it would not be cheap but I was sure I could work something out…I hoped I could work something out.

The man at the front desk of the smallest Inn I could find frowned at us upon entry. He clearly peered at us and questioned expectantly. I tried to haggle out a price.

“Sorry, but no. We are not in the habit of accepting migrate workers. We do not take credit. You may warm up in the lobby, if you wish, but if you are not here to rent a room — ”

“There is a room available.” He turned to grab a room key then turned back to us and handed it to me. “Room 215. Thank you for choosing Middtin Inn.”

I blinked but I took the key and then turned to my charge. She stared back with a proud grin on her face.

~~ToBeContinued~~

Daily Prompt: Prefer

Word of the Day: guisard

Never A Stranger

A impending downpour marked the events for the coming evening. The storm had rolled in suddenly and not one of us trekking over those rock smattered rolling hills were prepared for it. Not on our own, anyhow.

There were five of us, one pair and three airedales, all traveling our own way. The five of us threw what we had together and made a modest camp between two convex rock walls where we could hopefully avoid most of the run off. Ponchos and tarps and walking staffs were pitched in to craft a makeshift canopy and everyone gave what they could to set a fire near the edge of our somewhat cramped arrangement. With that, we settled on making food before the rain decided to begin in earnest and we were forced to sit practically pressed knee to knee.

Thunder rolled in along with the heavy aroma of the community stew steaming in a large pot over a crackling flame. Chunks and swathes from our individual stashes served to make what was to be, if nothing else, filling – something to keep us warm throughout the night.

Tenderfoot had tasked himself with charge over prepping the food. He claimed proudly that he could best any so-called chef, ‘bo or no, regardless of what fancy ingredients they used; he spouted all this with a huge bandana over his face which held back his prominent graying beard. It was sanitary, he said, common courtesy, really.

At one point, I took to hovering over his shoulder and silently scrutinized the amalgam he was stirring and he swatted, shooing me like I were a pesky fly. “Ay! Don’t go eyein’ it like that. You’ll ruin it with yer skepticism!”

I wrinkled my nose at that but before I could start an argument with the old-timer another voice chimed in.

“Just leave ‘im to it, hun. I’m sure it c’ain’t be no worse than anything we’ve ever had.” A melodic drawl from Niecey lounging at the edge of the tarp with who was said to be her uncle, Effex.

“Ya won’t have anything half as good anywhere else, miss! So count yerself lucky!” Tenderfoot spouted.

She waved her hand dismissively and then signalled me over to where she and her uncle sat.

I meandered over and knelt across from them. The young man worked quickly, deliberately and silently, never looking up from his craft – a long, slender piece of wood which seemed to be on its way to a wind instrument of sorts.

“He started it a few days ago.” Niecey shrugged, “I’m guessing he’s gunna want me to play whatever it is…” She trailed her glance to Effex who looked up, just then, and nodded gently. Niecey shrugged again. And this time with a warm tinge as she turned her eyes back to me, “keep your ears open for our next single. It’ll take some practice but that ain’t never stopped me before.”

Three twangs of metal declared that supper was ready and Tenderfoot spooned a hefty helping into each of our bowls but it barely seemed to put a dent in the hodge-podged feast.

“Help yerselves to as much as ya like,” Tenderfoot exclaimed and added, “but just so ya know, I ain’t breakin’ up no fights over the last bit.”

He had every right to be as boastful as he was. How a man managed to make a pile of scraps and leftovers into an honest decent meal was beyond me. Niecey said nothing but ate contentedly while Effex hummed to himself happily and shoveled the food into his mouth which seemed to please Tenderfoot who beamed confidently while he ate. Beyond the arrhythmic clatter of spoons on bowls and the pitter pattering crescendo of a storm to be, there was silence. And my eyes finally fell to the fifth element of our patch-worked party: a rather large man who introduced himself as Deadwood. He did not eat.

It took me awhile to work up the courage to actually speak to him, I mean, besides more than a passing word or relay of information. If anybody was half as curious as me, they said nothing nor asked any questions. It wasn’t until we had all turned in for the night, filed in to the crevasse where we hoped to sleep out the worst of the tempest. He sat closest to the exit next to me and then the pair followed while Tenderfoot tucked himself into the corner of the would-be cave.

Maybe something in the surreal darkness gave me the confidence to speak, or, perhaps, which was more likely, I had lost all sense to curiosity.

“Deadwood…” I practically squeaked.

“Catmint.” I could FEEL him looking at me in the dark.

I chose my words carefully, “you’re…from the Commonality?”

“I am.”

“You served with them.”

“I did.”

“Why did you leave?”

“I did not. I was labeled defective and to be recycled.”

“But….why?”

“I refused to follow orders. You ‘uncivilized pests’ are misrepresented by The Empire. It took me many months to realize this. I apologize; however, I will right my wrong doings.”

“What did you do?” I heart raced in my chest in anticipation for the answer. Thunder and then lightening followed and for a brief moment I could see he had still not moved from where he sat. Staring at me.

“Stalked and murdered thirteen people much like you. Three-Owls; Pastor Vex; Summerwind – ”

I lurched forward and attempted to press my hand to his mouth in attempts to shush him. I barely made out a blur of motion. A wrenching pain shocked my wrist. I felt a dull pain just between my ear and my jaw. I can’t remember if I yelped.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Identity, Surreal

Word of the Day: deadwood, sawbones

Feeding The Flame Of The Dying Star

He looked down at his phone and wrinkled his nose. A sigh escaped him and he pushed it away – not out of sight, but just…away.

He clicked over to his work again and stared, blankly, then turned and clicked over to another page and ogled over other artworks. Painting; writings; weldings….

He glanced over to his phone again. He grabbed it long enough to check the time then grumbled and slammed it back down.

“She hates it. She hates it and you’re a damned fool and you should…”

Ping.

He snapped his head to his phone and snatched it up with such elation he felt that he could crush it.

Bruce,

Sorry, we decided to go with another piece. Also, I’m a little busy tonight, what with a big rush coming around; we should reschedule.

Best of luck,
Olivia

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Expect

Word of the Day: ducky

Consuming Desires

The Council sat in a semi circle around me and I stood quietly before them, expectantly – they only ever called on me for one thing these days…

“We once called her Reaver” The ethereal image of a young lady slowly twisted to recognition in front of me, an ill-mannered grin stretched across her gaunt face. She was practically a kid.

“As you know, it is the responsibility of us all to govern our kind; especially now, as we face a world that fears and condemns us.”

I always scoffed at that. “Our kind” – as if we were something alien; inhumane; or some other kind. It only gave credence to the propaganda cast on us by the Commonality: vagabonds and freaks what should be shunned, if not “put down” on sight.

Terminology aside, if she had become what the Commonality claimed us to be, then they were right to call on me and I was more than proud to take on the task. I at least agreed with them on that much.

I pondered the details, “so, what, grab and return?”

“She is beyond saving,” Centermass stated plainly and I twisted my mouth at that but nodded, regardless, and exited the meeting circle, opening my eyes unto the small fire and campsite I had scavenged together.

I sighed, stamped out the flame, and packed my things…

———-

The footprints she left behind along The Railways were unmistakable; corruption ate away at the land in her wake and sprites were driven insane and turned to pitiful twisted things, discarded and simply hanging on. One finally managed to reel me in.

“You look tired ‘bo.” Its smooth, roguish flitter of a voice came to me along the beaten paths through Coal Wood.

I turned a narrow gaze on the lively sprite as it wriggled mischievously around me, brushing against my arms; it’s winged serpentine form resembled nothing natural I knew of.

“I know of a place, a place to ease your troubles. A cottage. Warm and full of food and – and there is a friendly gal there. You look so tired. There is a place. It is close.” It wriggled and writhed and prodded – persistent.

“I’d like that.” The words escaped me incoherently. I followed it down a brambled path unquestioning. The forest progressively died around us until we were trekking past blackened dirt and shriveled trees and dark figures mindlessly meandering.

“Our Lady led us here. We all pitch in. You’ll fit right in, I swear, I swear. You must meet the Lady; she will like you.” The sprite chimed on as I followed, feeding me pleasantries and painting pictures of a perfect community…

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Release

Word of the Day: prelocutionary

Something Inside

She sat down, flipped open her notepad, and started this with a purpose; she felt she had something to prove – something she needed to get out.

She considered the prompt, the words and …what they meant, and then, uncontrollably, unfathomably, from places she did not understand, she slowly wept. She huffed and set her pen down and sat back in her chair – she took a moment to collect herself.

She wiped away a tear.

What the hell was that about?

After a moment she sat up again and straightened her posture and picked up her pen again and pondered down at her notebook. She turned the words over in her mind.

A tear blotched her paper well before she even began to write and it slowly bubbled and the edges of the blotch turned hot grey, eating away through the layers. Consuming.

“This is a bad idea.” She huffed and slammed her notepad closed and wiped away her tears. She shook her head and grimaced, “this was a stupid idea.”

The pad flipped open again, the blotch now black and rotting.

She pushed back, out of her chair, and slammed the book shut as she rose, holding it down and she lurched forward, driving the head of her pen through the cover and the pages and straight through to her desk. The rot crept through and to the pen, consuming it in its growing blight. A dark ooze drooled out over her desk.

Her heart raced and she turned her back on it. She fled the room and slammed the door, pressing her back to it.

“How long do you expect to live like this?” The hollow voice came to her just before the faintly shaped wisp.

She wrinkled her brow and walked past the sprite, wordless, and down the hall into her living room where she could see three more doors, tendrils of wriggling black pulsating through the cracks and creeping out across the walls and floors.

“It will never end…” the hollow voice again.

She had since curled up on the couch there next to the corpse of a rotting, blackened, tabby.

“You cling to things you have no power over…”

“Just fuck off.”

“It will consume you…”

“Then let it!” She snarled and snapped and flared her nostrils, a hideous black oozing from her eyes.

The sprite gave no response and it faded from that place and left the girl there, nestled against the last life she had ever loved until she and the everyone she knew was consumed by her contempt.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Express

Word of the Day: nocent

Deadly Allure

For the seventeenth time this week she boarded the train and walked by without a word.

Goddammit! Why would I not speak? Why could I not simply open my mouth and say “hello”? I sighed and hung my head.

“Oh, hello.” Her voice lulled on me and she smiled a gentle smile. I felt my heart race.

We met eyes. I felt myself fall, enamored by her gaze. A smile to match her own crept onto my face –

But wait. Why would she speak to me? My face twisted, disbelieving and accusing.

“Can I help you?”

“I-I was just saying hello…you looked upset…” A look of geniality. A tilt of her head. A stray lock of flaxen brunette.

I rescinded my outward accusation, “I’m sorry,” I forced a smile despite myself, “that was rude.” I then motioned to the empty spot next to me on the bench. “It’s not taken if you need a seat.” I offered.

She happily accepted, crossing close by me and sitting carefully. Her sweet scent lingered in the air around me. My heart accelerated further. I inched over, away from her, to put more distance between us.

She leaned in toward me, curious, eyes wide and innocent.

“Do I frighten you?” Her voice came as a hollow echo in my mind. Her expression turned momentarily, a flash of a grin from ear to ear so sudden I shuddered and blinked. When I opened my eyes again she was there, innocent eyed and worried. I offered no response but directed my eyes away and looked down at my hands balled into fists at my knees.

The train chimed as it arrived at its next stop.

“Are you alright?” The lull that had entangled me previously.

“I-I’m fine.” I forced words as I stood up and quickly joined the crowd of those disembarking.

“Sir?” Her voice trailed after me, gentle, soothing, alluring. Even so I ignored and shouldered through the bustling crowds.

“Run as you will, but you will never escape…”

~~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Flavorful

For The Imperium

Observations and interview of a captured Field Medic of The Imperium. Subject is a Saiyadorei, little more than a slave in his homeland. His mutilated form was recovered from a warzone. The Tech-Sages were able to piece together his consciousness…

First Session

05/23 – The capturee awoke during procedure screaming and fainted shortly there after.

Second Session

05/23 – Procedure complete and cybernetics operational – consciousness and cybernetic body assigned to Observation Unit 011. Capturee awoke hysterical and thrashing, repeating a single phrase: “My blood for The Imperium.” Capturee continued to rehearse this mantra periodically while going in and out of consciousness.

Third Session

08/23 – Capturee appears to be cognizant. An assistant spoke to him and was able to recover a name from broken speech. He called himself FM-061-2020. He is surprised to be alive.

Observation

09/23 – Capturee seems to be regaining much of his consciousness. Cybernetic body paces the room and thrashes constantly – sometimes presses to the wall and searches for an exit. Capturee seems to be aware that he is being monitored.

Fourth Session

09/23 – Senju Gusar begins an interviewing session with the Capturee. The session starts with a few basic questions before the Capturee lunges at the Senju, intent on strangling him. The Senju orders the simulation not terminated and allows the Capturee to murder his virtual form. The Capturee is left within his confines with a corpse. After some hours he brutalizes the corpse and attempts to kill himself with bone. His cybernetic body falls dormant but his consciousness remains.

Fifth Session

09/23

“You realize you’re stuck here until we get what we want, yes?”

“I do.”

“So you’re ready to talk, then?”

“I am.”

“Good. You were once a soldier, yes?”

“I was.”

“What was your role?”

“Glorified medic.” He spat.

“Glorified? You did not believe in your own practice?”

“There was no ‘practice’! We didn’t help anyone – we made sure their dying breath served the Imperium. Calling us medics was a sick joke.”

“How did you do it?”

“Necrotizine. Injected directly into the dying subjects veins. You ever seen something like that?”

“Can’t say I have…”

“We’re the only ones who ever see how it really works. We’re the only ones who watch a soldier shattered, mangled, bones twisted, writhing, begging for escape. We smile. We tell them it will be okay. Then we jab them with this drug what narcotizes them. You know what happens after that?”

“I don’t.”

“I’ve been there! It isn’t an end it’s a goddamn nightmare! Your mind twists in on itself and, in a fluid instance, you see everything that you’ve ever felt. You see everything. Every failing; every shortcoming; every time you felt like you were nothing. Sure, you can handle it in segments but it never goes away and when it comes rushing at you it just…” He trails off and there is silence for several seconds before the Capturee began again.

“We were doing that to good people. Honest men. Soldiers just fighting for what they believed in. We took everything and then, at the end of it all, we turned all that they were into a weapon. All for the Imperium.”

“For the Imperium…”

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Continue

Word of the Day: narcotize

Willy-Nilly Tramp (3/4)

Previously

…I had willingly provoked people that had no qualms about assaulting those that did not agree with them. It also occurred to me that in my few short years as a Pilgrim, I had never had to physically defend myself….

~~~~~

I started to slowly back away from the agitated men stalking toward me. Whatever buzz they may have had seemed absorbed and turned fuel toward their growing animosity. My heart raced and my body screamed for me to flee but some strange part of me, perhaps pride or some unrealistic sense of duty, could not humour the idea of turning tail and allowing those men and their comrades to go unchallenged in their oppressive ways.

I scoured my mind for a plan. I was not foolish enough to plant my feet and let them surround me. I could not focus my mind to muster a cantrip; there was hardly enough around but sand and pebbles; the bandits seemed to be purposefully backing me toward the saloon – eventually I would find myself in an even worse predicament.

“Not so smart mouthed now, is ya?”

“Well, I figured I’d give you all some time to fully comprehend my last sentence; however, if you believe you have a grasp of the curriculum we can proceed.”

Clearly, I had lost my mind in the wastes at some point in time.

The most ornery of the three snapped, roaring like a beast, and lunged swinging wide at my head. Instincts took over and I narrowly avoided an aggressive rearrangement to my gentle facial lineaments. It was a fumbling movement and I tripped over my own feet, falling backward and twisting. I landed on my hands and knees and scrambled, grabbing a handful of sand and flung the brittle dust wildly into the face of my assailant as he closed in. He hollered and I swung out a leg, careening him into the gritty ground.

In that moment I felt a rush wash over me. Burning hot adrenaline coursed through my veins and my body shook mixed with fear and excitement. My own elation froze me and the two other bandits were beginning to surround me.

“You’re drakkin’ dead, drifter!” The man screamed as he stood up, his eyes an itchy irritated red.

The words left his mouth followed by a dull thunk. His body reacquainted itself with the ground. The other two had drawn weapons at this point, daggers and other improvised weapons of which they had aplenty. They turned their backs on me to address the new danger and I snapped into action – the adrenaline bringing with it dormant lessons.

You could call it little else than being enamored with conflict – with the sense of danger and racing adrenaline and the threat of everything going wrong in the blink of an eye…

I reached out through the Veil and latched onto the ankles of the men who had turned from me. I sudden tug slammed them flat on their face followed by a thunk to each of their heads.

“See, I knew ya had it in ya.” Evergreen’s voice from the moon lit darkness.

His silhouette beget armor and as he approached to help me up I noticed a dark smear across his eyes – a club like weapon leaning on his shoulder. A gilt in the darkness from his artificial tooth.

“Check it out.” He pulled me to my feet and led me back to the buggies. “They’ve been storin’ up a little but they gotta have a camp of sorts. Ain’t no way their take is from here alone else this town’d be ransacked and these folks made slaves.”

“I’ve gotta plan.” He grinned and lanked an arm about my neck to pull me in.

~~ToBeContinued~~

Daily Prompt: Enamored(8/30), Memorize

Word of the Day: lineament(8/30)

Crime Correcting Time Travelers

Like a slant rhyme they moved intertwined through time inclined and unwinding the very fabric of space, misplace, sucked through a gate, a mistake, an attempt to create a portal imitating the power and greatness of old gods who shape-shifted and made missives and raped.

They wanted to correct the latter.

No one should have the power or get away with, for that matter, something so heinously depraved and malicious as taking a claiming over the one thing a person can truly own.

Not just the men, but the boys, the girls and women; they’d make them face the horrific reality of their case: rape was a crime no matter your status, gender, or race.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Rhyme