work to do, part 4 of 4

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“I’m going to set you free now.”

Dahlia’s violent green eyes narrowed alarmingly.  “Don’t tease me like that.”

Sofia smiled softly.  “I’m not joking.  You’ve proved your faithfulness.  I trust you, Dahlia.  I’m going to release you from the spell that binds you to me.”

The creature uncoiled and swiftly crossed the room.  It kept its eyes level with Sofia and asked, “Are you sure that’s wise?”

Sofia ignored the hint of laughter.  She had decided months ago that it wasn’t important.  It was just part of Dahlia’s personality and didn’t mean anything good or anything bad. 

Answering Dahlia, she said, “We’ve worked together for more than a year now and you have helped me achieve more than I imagined was possible.  With your help I have learned so much more about our worlds than I would have if I could live for several lifetimes.”

“Do you know why I chose this form?”

“I do, yes.”  While not entirely certain, Sofia had a guess she believed to be correct.  In the moment between worlds, Dahlia could have chosen to be a falcon, which might have made escape easier, or it could have chosen to be a bull, which would have given it ample strength to either fight of flee if it chose, but it chose to be a snake.  In their time together, Sofia had come to the conclusion that Dahlia chose the form of a snake because it was the most frightening and arguably the most lethal.

“And you aren’t worried about what’s going to happen when you set me free?”

“I trust you,” Sofia repeated.

“Then do it.”  For the first time, Dahlia’s words weren’t a whisper.  Her words came out as a resounding demand, a shout that filled the room with slithering echoes.

Sofia closed her eyes, gathering the energy she needed for the spell and focusing on the words.  Then, opening her eyes, with a flick of her wrist she indicated that Dahlia needed to move into position, over a rune that had begun to pulse with an orange light. 

Dahlia moved quickly.  Its eyes glittering in the strange light coming up from beneath it.  Its jaws lifted in what could only be described as a smile.

“We’ve fought.  We’ve learned.  We’ve grown together.  And now, Dahlia, it is time for you to be free.”

Sofia spoke the words to the spell in a ringing voice, her hands moving in intricate patterns.  The orange light stopped pulsing and grew in intensity.  Sofia’s voice grew louder and louder until it became a scream.  A sharp ripping sound drowned her out and then her scream ebbed away.

Panting, her hands on her knees, she looked up to watch as Dahlia slid away from the rune, now just a smudge of dull chalk on the floor.  This was the moment of truth.  The creature was free of her control and could do as it pleased.  Dahlia’s tongue tasted the air.  Once.  Twice. 

Then it asked, “We’ve still got work to do?”

Sofia smiled broadly, “We’ve only just begun.”

I Miss You Already

Crying and shedding tears.

I miss you and you haven’t even left.

But you will.

We’ve shared secrets.

I will never tell. Your secrets travel with me to the grave.

I hope mine enjoy the same journey.

We will not share anymore. I want you to know.

I miss you already.

You haven’t even left and I miss you.

my song

Please forgive the theft of lines from Johnny Cash and Buffalo Springfield.

I’ve never gone out walking with a bible and a gun, but I own and know the value of both.  I was raised on them, taught to respect them, shown their strengths and weaknesses and then given the freedom to decide what they meant to me.  They don’t define me, though.  Only my actions can do that.

When President Obama won election for his first term, I joined the NRA.  I’m educated.  I’m empathetic.  I’m aware of the pain that easy access to guns has caused to countless in this country.  However, I don’t believe that the guns themselves are the problem and I am troubled by some of the legislation that has been enacted in recent years that make it harder for good people to get guns and, more importantly, to get to their guns quickly when they are needed most.

You can share statistics about the likelihood of a gun in a home being used to prevent a crime verse it being used to, accidently or otherwise, harm a family member and it won’t change my stance.  The world is a dark and tragic place and bad things are going to happen.  It is because of that truth that I still want the option of defending myself and my family with the same tools that could be used against me.

Plus, in my heart, I’m a cowboy.  I may not ride a horse or work the dusty trails with a gun on my hip.  But, I fight for those I love and take care of my community.  I stand up for what is right and don’t expect anything in return.  I take responsibility for my mistakes and try to improve myself to keep from making them again.  I’m a poet with my head in the old west, in the romantic taming of this great country.

Sadly, I can’t actually pull off the cowboy hat look.  However in my imagination, one is always there, with the sleeves of my shirt rolled up, dirt on my jeans, and a weathered revolver in the leather holster slung low on my right side.

There’s a man with a gun over there, telling you you ought to beware, but it isn’t me.  I’m over there minding my own business, trying to do right for my loved ones, trying to build a better community.  I’m living by the codes of conduct I took from the bible in my youth: respect, patience, forgiveness, and belief in the potential in us all.  We can be great.  I believe in us.

That doesn’t mean that I trust all of us, and I am ready to take care of trouble should it find me.

from hobby to career

He waited until he felt her leave the room, and then he opened his eyes to the new morning.  So much had changed.  So much was different about him and he hadn’t yet gathered the courage to share it with her.  There was such a stigma about people like him…  He didn’t want to risk ruining what they had until he was sure his new passion wouldn’t quickly fade away.

It felt wrong to respond in kind when she said she loved him, but he said it anyway.  He wasn’t happy that he wasn’t ready to trust her with his secret, but that didn’t diminish the affection he had for her.  He still loved her.  He didn’t want to risk losing her over a silly hobby gone awry, but months had passed and the passion and talent had only grown stronger.  At the same time the guilt over keeping the secret had expanded exponentially too.  The time had come to tell her the truth and let her decide if she still loved him and would stay, or…  Well, he didn’t want to think about that.

Telling her simply wouldn’t do though.  Too many people went around claiming to be something they weren’t.  No, he had to show her what he had learned.  He had to prove his talent.  Perhaps, too, he had to show himself that he had outgrown his hobby days and was ready to take it to the next level.

He hoped she would understand.

He hoped she wouldn’t judge him.

He hoped she would forgive him for keeping that part of his life secret for as long as he had.

He hoped she would stay.  And, if she didn’t, he hoped he had the fortitude to carry on anyway.  To continue to pursue his new love as vibrantly, as chaotically, as he had been.  If he lost both, he wasn’t sure what would become of him.

She returned home at her normal time and he ushered her into the living room with hushed tones and subdued, vague, mentions of something he had to show her.  She was worried, of course, because he had been acting strangely recently.  He’d been more hesitant, more distant.  But, she showed a brave face and followed him.  Whatever it was, she was sure they could work through it together.  They were a good team.

He motioned for her to sit on the couch, and she did, legs crossed, arms folded across her laps.  Her face was pinched with questions and suspense.  He could see her temples darkening as her jaws clenched, and knew that meant he only had a small amount of time to show her the truth before she’d begin barraging him with questions.

So, he stepped back, somewhat embarrassed, blushing in a shade that matched her temples, took a few deep breaths to calm his nerves, and then showed her everything.

She gasped.  She held her breath.  She flinched.  She clung to the couch in nervous anticipation.  She didn’t utter a word until he was done.  Then, one eyebrow raised, her head slightly tilted to the right, “So…?”

He had performed better than expected.  His faith in his abilities was founded and he was able to reply with complete calm, “I’m a magician.”

“I can see that,” she said as she rose to stand next to her husband.  “And, what’s going on in that head of yours?  What are you going to do with this talent?”

He smiled, and she returned the smile.  “I’m not sure yet.  I think it… I know it could take us places.  I know I shouldn’t waste it.  But…” his voice trailed off as he looked down to the tools of his trade: the deck of cards, the hat, the wand, the scarves, the tricks, the mirrors, the smoke.

“But?”

“To make it to Vegas, I’m going to need an assistant in my act…”

They did make a great team.

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This bit of silliness was written for this week’s We Drink Inspiration Short Story Prompt:

Your challenge this week is to write a character that possesses a secret, one that can harm or benefit ones they care for, depending on the circumstances the story arc takes – your job is to determine which will be the case. The only rule of this challenge is to leave no obvious hints to said secret until the end of the piece.

…..

So…?  Double twist?  Did you think it was going to be magic or something more sinister?  And then did you think I meant sorcery at first, rather than slight of hand and smoke and mirrors?

the cave

She trembled, “Maybe we should turn around?”

His headlamp cleaved a path of light out of the darkness as he turned to face her.  “Don’t be ridiculous, there’s nothing down here to be frightened of.”

They found the cave on the third day of their summer backpacking adventure.  After setting up camp for the night they explored the rocky expanse of cliff that jutted out of the nearby lake.  They liked to take pictures of their campsites from different vantage points, they liked to see things that very few people ever get to see.  Sure, plenty of other backpackers would camp where they camped, but would they go ranging away from the carved trails too?  Would they stand at that exact rock and take in the expanse of the lake and the valley beyond?

Some might, but far fewer.  They relished those moments standing where few have stood before and few would ever stand again.  Of everything else they did on the summer trips it was those sights they remembered most vividly.

When he saw the cave entrance it was another opportunity to do something that the vast majority of people would never do and he squeezed through the opening without hesitation.  She followed closed behind because it was exciting and because she didn’t want to get left behind.

The further into the mountain they went, though, the more nervous she became.  The rocks at their feet were slick with moisture and a fall could be deadly among the jagged edges and close quarters.  When the smell of decay reached her nose she stopped her forward progress and asked him to stop as well.  She pleaded with him to turn around, but he was too caught up in the moment.

His head lamp swiveled back to split the darkness ahead of them.  The walls seemed to collapse in on her.  She couldn’t breath.  She couldn’t move.  His light bounced up and down with his forward progress and it grew dimmer as the distance between them increased.

Two things happened simultaneously, she heard a sloshing noise that didn’t match up to his movements and the light quickly swung to one side.  She saw movement in that light and she fled before she could even put a word to what she had seen.  She didn’t need to know color, size, shape, species…  Something was alive with them in the cave.  Her body found flight and she scrambled through the darkness to find the exit.

As she broke free of the cave, into the warm afternoon glow of the high Sierra, she heard him scream, and voice inside her said, “You were right to trust your fear.”

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Word Count: 444

Written in response to this week’s Inspiration Monday writing challenge:

inmonsterbadge1

The Rules

There are none. Read the prompts, get inspired, write something. No word count minimum or maximum. You don’t have to include the exact prompt in your piece, and you can interpret the prompt(s) any way you like.

OR

No really; I need rules!

Okay; write 200-500 words on the prompt of your choice. You may either use the prompt as the title of your piece or work it into the body of your piece. You must complete it before 6 pm CST on the Monday following this post.

The Prompts:

A WORD IS WORTH A THOUSAND PICTURES
TUMBLING
TRUST YOUR FEAR
GREEN PLANET
SEALED LIPS