wandering spirits

river mill bridge landscape wallpaper background
Image Credit: WallpaperUp.com

The wooden paddles dip gently into the stream and then pull free, droplets splashing from every surface, as the wheel spins around and around.  The near silent passing of the water beneath the mill tickles the air with its whispered murmurings.  The creaking of the tired joints is the only sound out of place in an otherwise serene setting.

Splotches of scattered clouds, small but stretching high into the heavens, race across the sky and leave a checkerboard of shade in the waving grasses along the stream.  The sun winks playfully as the game transpires.  The trees at the far edges of the rolling meadow sway ever so slightly while birds sing to the day and squirrels bicker teasingly.

Ghosts walk through the tall grass and dip their hands in the cool water.  They can’t be seen but are felt when eyes close and minds open to the wonders of the world.  Their lingering presence caresses the physical life they’ve left behind, in all forms and warmths, in a nostalgic fawning for what they remember but can no longer grasp.

There’s no need to fear these wandering spirits.  They cannot leach your energy or vitality.  They cannot usurp your dreams or flesh.  They simply envy that which they’ve lost and they enjoy the fleeting moments they can sense while passing nearby.  Their emotion, however, is as transient as their being and quickly dissolves and changes.

still worth it

When Trent left a comment hoping for more to the Worth It story I posted last week, I promised that there was more to be had.  It was only a half-truth because while I had thought there could be more, I hadn’t yet considered where the words might lead.  I’m not sure what follows is exactly what Trent had in mind.  But, … perhaps that is my mistake for assuming anything about his expectations in the first place.  When I finished the below I felt like I had created a good beginning (last week’s post) and a good ending (this week’s) but not a lot of middle.  However, upon further reflection I think I’ve come to understand that what I have created is all beginning and the true story is what comes next.

Anyway, that was all just a bit of my musings.  Here’s the actual post:

Age, being an arbitrary marker for the passage of time but essential for the value of life, took its toll on them as it must.  Their faces grew tired but their stories never did.  Their adventures slowed down but their devotion never did.  Their bodies started giving up but their love never did.

The glitches of time, the slowing and speeding at intervals, continued unnoticed as the couple gave themselves to their shared journey.  There were hard times that lasted too long and good times that were over too quickly.  There were children that redefined patience for them.  There were losses that tested their strength.  There were glimpses of happiness snatched as pooled sun poured through a break in the clouds, only to be smothered away again.  There was laughter and a home so full of giggles the windows rattled and threatened to burst.

Occasionally, he paused in those moments of brilliance and marveled how wonderful it was that time would slow so they could grasp that joy for a tiny bit longer.  And, then his mind would tickle with the hint of a memory but the spinning room of chaotic happiness would pull him from his reverie and he’d rejoin the fray.  Whatever the memory was, it wasn’t important enough to distract him from the present, from the now, from the perfection that was.

She passed peacefully in her sleep, an expected end that still hurt with an unexpected and impossible to prepare for pain.  It pierced his heart and mind in equal measures.  He wept openly and missed her desperately.  The echoes of their adventures haunted the quiet rooms of their shared home.  He no longer recognized his face in the mirror.  His body grew numb to the demands of the flesh.

He cursed time for taking his love from him.  How dare it split them up!  How dare it run out for one faster than the other!  How dare it!

But, then a memory tickled him once again and he no longer had the distractions to keep him from pondering it.  He pressed long into his past until he could pinpoint the origin and then an exultant sigh escaped his lips as he remembered: in his youth, he could recognize the glitches of time and change his actions to get the most from when it slowed and when it sped.

Closing his eyes, he floundered against the darkness and the pressing weight of the passing seconds crashing against him.  He didn’t remember the secret, but knew it was still within him if he could quiet his mind enough to glimpse it.  And then it came to him.  Opening his eyes he made a plan.  One last adventure.  One more unique series of moments, priceless in their finality, as all moments of life are.

The next time he felt the seconds collapsing upon themselves as time ticked away faster than normal, he gave himself up in search of his beloved.  He knew as the last breath escaped his lungs that even if he never found her, the search alone would be worth it.

worth it

There are moments in the day where time bends and slips to tick away the seconds at odd intervals: sometimes fast and sometimes slow.  The trick, his one true talent, was to recognize those moments and tailor his activities accordingly.  When time skipped, he tackled the chores he was dreading most so they would be over quicker.  When time crawled, he would switch to the tasks he liked the best to enjoy them longer.  In this manner, he passed his days until she came into his life.  Or rather, more accurately, until she crashed into his car.

It was near the summer solstice in the final days of June, one of those days where the sun comes up early and stays up late for fear of missing out on something fun, and he was in his car taking advantage of time slipping quickly to commute home from work.  He spent a lot of time in his car.  The commuter lifestyle wasn’t something he chose but something he tolerated and when he felt the seconds piling together he would jump in his car and hit the road.  The tires and pavement would sing in baritone and tenor, the radio would provide the percussion and rhythm, and with the time passing faster than normal the drive home would be almost pleasant.

On the days the timing worked best, the slipping seconds would ease back to normal just as he parked his car in the garage, and then they would stretch out and allow him long moments to enjoy his hobbies as the afternoon sluggishly sauntered on.  However, the day he met her he never got to those long lounging moments because as he pulled off the freeway, she ran a red light and crunched into his passenger side.  The world spun.  Glass splintered and flew.  Metal crunched and warped.  But, somehow they were both okay.

Their eyes met and time stopped altogether in a glorious display of the universe’s power.

Since then they have been nearly inseparable.  They willingly gave up their own freedoms, beholden to no schedule but their own, to become a unit forced to work together, compromise, struggle and triumph.  And, since he no longer had the opportunity to change tasks based on the bending or stretching seconds, he eventually forgot how to recognize when those moments were happening.

He never regretted the loss for he had gained far more.

a new trick or four

Triumph followed triumph and the sorceress quickly conquered each of the remaining ancient spells the dragon had shared with her.  After summoning the demon guardian and binding it with her shadow, she learned a spell that allowed her to enhance and sustain her senses, so she could see further, hear more, and feel the world shifting.  It was simple, but the implications were far ranging.  When under the influence of the magic it would be harder for would-be attackers to sneak up on her and being more in-tune with the natural movement around her would allow her to focus more completely on her magic and create more powerful spells, more impactful spells.

Once she had mastered the enhancement incantation, she studied a curse that allowed her to see through the eyes of a targeted individual without them knowing.  She wasn’t immediately sure how she would use that, but with a few minor modifications to the wording of the spell she realized she could also use the jinx to force someone else to see the world through her eyes, and she saw many benefits to that from educational purposes to torture.  She could help a future apprentice see how to properly perform a difficult ritual, or she could make someone watch as she dismantled their lives.

With those two new spells mastered, the sorceress took a moment to spy on the king she had warned of the dragon’s coming.  She could see, through his eyes, that plans were well underway to provide a welcome arrival for the beast, and her enhanced sight and hearing didn’t detect anything going on nearby in hiding.  All activity seemed to be focused on preparing a sumptuous feast and gathering hordes of treasures to offer in homage.

Satisfied she went to her chambers to rest and after another night of restorative and peaceful sleep, she rose and finished learning the final two spells.  One gave her the power of flight, which while mostly useless given her power to walk the hidden pathways of magic on command, was still exhilarating to try out and sail through the moonlit sky above her castle, the edge of her robes snapping in the wind, her hair streaming behind her.  The final spell was an enchantment that allowed the sorceress to bend the weather to her will.

If she needed darkness during the day she could summon clouds to block out the sun.  If she needed light in the darkness, but didn’t want to create a fire or use other spells to create artificial light that might give away her location, she could ensure the sky was cloudless.  She could summon rain and lightning.  She could stop and start squalls of wind.  However, there were limitations because the magic worked in connection with the surrounding environment and depending on what she needed, she would have to give more of herself at times and ran the risk of draining her energy.  Still, the implications of her newfound powers intrigued and excited her greatly.

an origin story

While discussing dragons, Trent told me to write him a fantasy… and this is where my mind went.  If I weren’t already in the midst of several other projects I would say that this could be the start of a larger story, but, alas, I am already in the midst of several other stories that I need to finish, including my new weekly story being published on Thursdays.  But, perhaps, I will come back to this one day and see what happens…  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this read.  It is a bit longer than my normal flash fiction pieces, but, origin stories always tend to be a bit long.


The gods crowded around their masterpiece, elbowing each other and shuffling to get a better view, caught up in awe at the world they had created from specks of blood and dust among the void of chaos.  It was perfect.  It was flawed.  It was beautiful, despite its ugliness.

A general hush fell upon the gathered throng as the god of light broke away to address them.  “We need a champion for our world.  A guardian.  Something from which legends shall one day emerge.  Who here will bestow it with a gift?”

They all would, and the god of light knew this, but he still made eye contact with each of them.  Intensely penetrating eyes ensured they all knew their place and their purpose.  Only the god of balance, commonly referred to as the historian, and the god of darkness, equals in stature and power to the god of light, did not cower under the stare.

One by one the lesser gods strode forward and gave of themselves to help build the protector of their new world.  The god of fire chipped a spark to give it a burning soul to be called upon when needed.  The god of nature wrapped the spark in form and shape taken from all corners so it could dwell anywhere it chose.  The god of wind gave it flight so it could travel the world as it pleased.  The god of earth gave it scales harder than the stones of the world so it would be hard to kill.  The god of the sea gave it a long tail as a rudder to steer it in trouble times.

Days passed and the creature’s presence and power grew as the minor gods gave their gifts, and then those gods in the next echelon gave theirs as well, until only the most powerful three remained.  Again, the god of light strode forward and the crowd immediately hushed.  “I give our guardian long life.  It will not be truly immortal, but shall count years as the other creatures of the world count days.  It will gain wisdom through its long life to understand that the repercussions of the actions it takes with its considerable power can ripple through time to impact multiple generations.  This will ensure that it thinks carefully before acting and uses its knowledge and power wisely.”

After an initial rumbling of shock that the god of light would grant any of their creatures something akin to godhood, a murmur of approval spread among the gathered gods.  It was actually a burden of responsibility the god of light had bestowed, rather than a gift of long life.  Their whisperings were quickly silenced, as the god of darkness stepped into the clearly next to the god of light.

Depthless midnight eyes gazed upon the spinning orb, and a sinister smile spread across pale lips.  “I give the gift of magic.”

Shouts of shock and alarm spread across the void and those gods who would not have their powers threatened by any mortal creature surged forward to demand the god of darkness recant its gift.  However, the god of balance stepped into the clearing with hand raised, and while the discord did not die away, the stirrings ceased.

“Much has been said today.  Much has been gifted to this creature, this guardian of our world, our beloved jewel.  Immortality and magic are indeed marvelous and dangerous gifts to bestow upon any creature who would walk the realms beyond our void, but none of you need worry about abuse of that power, the balance shall be kept.  Legends shall be spoken of this beast, this flying monster of fiery breath and razor claws, this gentle protector of glade and mountain, this mighty sorcerer and hoarder.  Its stories shall be passed among the roots of the trees of the world, from shore to shore among the waves, and tossed along the peaks while carried by the gusts that live at the high points of the world.  Yes, as long as other mortal creatures walk the world, these stories shall be passed through the years with them, but that is the only place this creature shall ever exist, for it will never walk the world.  My gift is to make it a legend.”

Bedlam ensued as the void filled with enraged battle.  The lesser gods were incensed that they had given so much of themselves to something that would never live.  The two other major gods smiled coyly at the wisdom of the decision before entering the fray for posturing purposes only.  The god of balance took the attacks in stride, knowing balance would prevail in the end, as was its job, as was inevitable.  Eventually the gods grew tired of fighting and slipped away to their hidden places among the remaining debris in the void, and the world was left spinning, beautiful and flawed, with only the god of balance watching over it.

One day, a hunter, having climbed a mountain in search of the goats that dwelt among the rocks near the peaks, sought shelter in a cave from a storm that had threatened to toss him to his death.  There, huddled, shivering, and frightened, the hunter saw drawings carved in the walls.  The drawings told the story of a magnificent beast, wonderful and terrifying at the same time.  When the storm passed the hunter returned to the village and spread the stories from neighbor to neighbor.

When asked what the beast that could summon fire from its belly and fly like a bird was called, the hunter didn’t know, but a whispered voice gave the answer, and the hunter responded immediately, “dragon.”

The gift finally complete, the god of balance joined the other gods in hiding, waiting, and watching.  The god chuckled to itself, wondering at the vastness of what had just been set in motion, and wondering which other gods would still be watching when the eventuality came to pass.  For, the god of darkness had bestowed the beast with magic, all of the magic, and therefore, if enough people upon the world began to believe in the legend of the dragon, the magic could and would feed off that energy and the dragon would rise from their dreams to fly in the skies over their hovels.

The dragon would rule the world for a time, when that happened, but balance would reign in the end, for with the rise of the dragon would also come the rise of the dragon hunters.