Friday, October 17, 2014

Flash Fiction #116 -- The Report

     The night she saw the star fall, the path streaking across the sky, Eonis knew it was time to be done with her work. The fall was not a meteorite this time; she had heard the whisper of the call that had not come in a long time. Looking around the apartment, Eonis decided there was little she needed to take. She'd started out at dawn, wondering how long would pass before someone realized she was gone.
The path at the edge of the hills changed from pavement to stone to dirt as Eonis headed upwards into the towering mountains. She hadn't been this way for a long time; long since she and her companions had run down the path like wild sheep refusing to be caught and tamed. The village down in the valley had been only a dozen huts then and the people wary of strangers. Now a city sat there, spread half way up the hills, and they did not know their neighbors enough to know if strangers came through or not.
No one walked with her this day, though sometimes there were hikers who came this high, looking for an escape from the city. She moved at a steady pace, savoring the air and feeling the sun on her face -- much like she had felt it that first day. So much time among the humans in their crowded buildings had made her forget that there was more to this world. Though, granted, she did find the humans fascinating, even in their odd, self-destructive ways.
She walked through the day, through the night; moved faster than humans could, and reached, finally, a hidden place where the ship sat. The sight of towering silver needle almost unsettled her, it had been so long, but she kept her step steady.
A brother met her at the entrance, the embrace welcome. They said little, even though it had been, by local terms, centuries since she'd last spoken on one of her kind. This was right, though; she had done such studies on worlds before and knew what to do. Time to go to the computer room and create her report. That, of course, took hours as well. She should have been exhausted at the end, but instead she found herself wandering up to the cafeteria and looking for something to eat that would remind her of home. She might have to introduce human food to her people. The variety and tastes were astounding.
She spoke with the others, calling back the language of home and feeling, slowly, as though she was in the place where she belonged again. They seemed glad to see her.
Eonis slept for a few hours in a room assigned to her. It felt odd at first, but by the time she awoke to call from the Captain, she felt much better. At home.
Captain Enlig gave her a polite nod when she entered the room where the council waited.
"We've gone over the report," he said with a nod to the two to his right and the two to his left. "It is -- chaotic."
She winced at first and then gave a little laugh. "Yes, I would suppose it is, Councilors. My apologies for that. A later report may sort matters out better, but in all honesty, they are a chaotic people."
"So we guessed," Enlig said, a frown. "They have no culture?"
"They have no single culture," Eonis said and laughed. "They have so many that they cannot name them all. The same with languages. They also fight over everything that is culturally related."
"This seems, then, a good world for us to interceded, to save them --"
Eyes blinked; not quite human eyes, but close enough. She bowed her head, drew her thoughts together, and looked up again.
"They would fight over anything forced upon them, even for their own good. They are independent. And despite all their problems, they have not yet totally destroyed themselves."
"So you think they are safe to leave alone?" Manada asked, leaning forward with a look of astonishment. She'd never seen that reaction before.
"I think they are mostly --" She had almost said mostly harmless, but this group didn't have the cultural reference to know that was a joke. She smiled anyway. "I think they are mostly capable of handling their own fate. There are only two scenarios in which I would suggest we step in. The first is if they are truly on the edge of self-destruction. Some humans are so power hungry that they are apt to take out everything with them if they can't win. The second situation is if they do find a way to leave their world and join us before they settle the majority of their own problems."
"This is unusual."
"They are a unique group. I think my later reports will validate my suggestion. At least we will not race into this without some thought."
The others agreed. She left the chambers and went back to her room and slept again. By the time she awoke, they had left the world. Eonis felt a strange sense of loss, thinking about all the colors, the art . . . the food.
So it wasn't a real surprise when she volunteered to go back a century later.
At least they hadn't destroyed each other yet.
With any luck, they wouldn't while she was back. But right now, it was time to go find a really good taco. Some things are worth saving a world for.

922 words

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Flash Fiction # 115 -- Different

     Ian used to dream about this day. He would stare beyond the iron fence and imagine what life would be like beyond the barrier. Sometimes he'd tell Ann that they'd have a different future than the rest of the children here. They were different, after all. They would go out and. . . .
He couldn't imagine what they would do.
Sometimes seemed better able to help others with problems since they saw the world differently. That difference had made them think they didn't belong, though.
And now, today. . . .
Master Bern shoved the gate open against the pile of snow. "Off you go then."
Ian and Ann looked up at the man, a little consternation on the boy's face but anger on the girl's. Master Bern stared in impatient and growing anger, pulling his cloak tighter against the brisk breeze.
Time to go, Ian thought. There was no use waiting here. The day wouldn't get warmer.
Ann went out first and her twin followed in her footsteps. Nothing surprising there. Ann had always been the braver and more daring of the two. The more stubborn, too.
So they walked down the snow-covered path past trees coated in frost, bright white against a brilliant blue sky. A magical day he thought with a silent laugh. Such a day suited them.
It wasn't more than a few hours to town, too. What they'd do when they got there was a different question. They'd never actually been to town, having spent the first twelve years of their life in the orphanage. Bern had told them that they'd been born there and their mother had left that night.
How odd to be free of the place that had never felt like home, even though it was the only one they'd ever known.
Ian caught up with Ann who was stomping through the snow as though it had personally offended her. She had a temper, did Ann. Ian suspected this was the reason they were so quickly and unceremoniously sent off into the world as soon as they came of age. He didn't say so to Ann.
She stopped at the end fence. There used to be another village here, but everyone had moved off to the bigger town. The orphanage had held on, run by a family who still owned the land. Estate workers brought them food. There hadn't been new orphans for a few years, though. The place would close down in another ten years.
Snow seemed to spring up from the ground in swirls and cover the view of even the crumbling old buildings. A few gray clouds drifted across the sky and for a moment Ian felt as though they were being closed into a ball of gray, with everything lost to them.
Ann put a hand on his shoulder. She was a little taller than him; an annoyance at his age since they were twins. No one remembered which of them had been born first. He liked to think it was him and that he had that little edge over her.
She looked worried. "What do we do?"
She'd never asked him before and by the Gods, he was not going to let this go by without taking advantage of the moment.
"We go on. We'll find work in the town. You've heard Kendel. He used to live in town until his grandma died; he knew all kinds of ways to work there."
"Yes. True." She didn't sound any more assured. How odd that she seemed so unsettled now. She'd always known her place. Ah, but this was a different world.
"Time to walk away, Ann." He gently nudged her on past the fence. "Time to be more than we could ever be in the orphanage."
"Yes." Her head came up a little and her movements became assured again. "And we no longer have to hide what we are."
She threw back the hood of her cloak and lifted her face to the snow. Her long golden hair fell back and her pointed ears peeked out. They had been the only two halfbloods at the home, and though they hadn't been treated any worse than the others, there had always been a feel of difference.
Ian wondered if it would be different in the village. He felt oddly excited about the idea. This wasn't like the old days, when humans and fae mistrusted each other. Now they could get a job and maybe learn a bit of magic to help, and people would appreciate them. In fact, he thought they probably had a better chance of doing well than human orphans would have had.
Near sunset, having walked all day, they finally reached the edge of the village . . . and something odd happened. People started coming out of cottages to look at them. Ian was starting to feel odd --
"Well where did the two of you come from?" a woman finally asked, walking up to them with a bright smile.
"Ma'am?" Ann said and glanced at Ian as though he might understand.
"We came from the orphanage, ma'am," Ian offered.
"Oh dear Gods! We had no idea there were any of the blood there! Are there others?"
"No ma'am," Ann said and still looked worried.
"Well, good. Come along then. I am sure you have plenty of questions."
"We hope to get jobs," Ian offered. "We don't have any money --"
"Jobs? Money? Those are for humans," she said,though not unkindly. He hadn't even realized she was fae until that moment. "You are children of the blood. You have a different future."
As the years passed, they discovered that having been raised among human children had given them insights other fae never possessed. They became a link that helped the village and even the local Lord asked their advice at times.
In later years, the king heard of their wisdom and they served him well, a link between one people and another, and forever proud to be different.

995 words

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Flash Fiction # 114 -- Snow Day

    Darkness was coming again, the sort of blackness that had nothing to do with night. It lingered out there at the edge of the day, waiting. . . .
Andre had put off leaving for the meeting as long as he dared. He stood by the window to his apartment, his jacket on, and looked out at the cold snowy street below. Nothing much moved there, except for a group of kids who still found winter fun. Their snowball battle moved off down the street and around the corner.
Most humans sensed the trouble in the air. They stayed inside.
Night was coming. He didn't want to be out there alone when the trolls came out of their dens and started hunting his kind. He scanned the park across the street, but if anything hid there, he couldn't see it through the fall of new snow and the shadowed branches of trees.
He made himself walk to the door and out into the hall, locking the apartment with both mundane keys and magical charms. The steps squeaked as he walked down them, an unmusical sound that always made his teeth grit. Human places rarely had any true beauty to them, especially in areas like this where the poor and unwanted huddled in their little holes, trying to survive the cold.
Reaching the street didn't put him in any better mood. He dared not use even a little magic to stay warm for fear of what he might draw. He measured the sunlight against the horizon and hurried towards the end of the street where the kids had disappeared a few minutes before.
They were waiting for him.
And they weren't kids.
Hidden beneath the bulky coats and woolen hats were pointed ears and green faces. The group cackled in joy as they spotted him and before he could even get his hands up to cast a wall of protection, they were in the air leaping at him.
So he ducked instead.
The frustrated squeals of pixies filled the air as they sailed over the top of him and splatted down into a snow pile. By the time they'd dug their way back up, snarling green faces appearing out of the snow, he was on his feet and had a ball of magic in his hand.
"You really don't want to do this today," he told them. "None of us like this weather. So go back to your warm little fires and I won't use magic to make you uncomfortably warm. I'm not in the mood to play. I suggest you disappear."
The pixies dove back into the snow.
"Good work. I despise the little pests."
Andre turned, the snarl on his face not lessening at the sight of Martinus standing with his back to the wall a few feet away. As always the younger elf looked immaculate and disdainful of everything around him. Martinus had never been one of his favorite people, even if they were on the same side.
"They're gone. Time to get to the meeting," Andre said with a slight bow of his head, the bare minimum of politeness. He was cold and snow snow caked the front of his jacket and pants. He brushed at it and then gave up when he caught the smirk on Martinus's face. It was all he could do to keep from shoving the pretentious bastard face first into the snow.
We're on the same side, we're on the same side.
Half a block later, they saw Cathia standing outside the door to the meeting room. Her eyebrows rose at the sight of the two of them coming together but she said nothing. They were the last two to arrive and Cathia followed them in, sealing the door behind.
They sat through the meeting; new reports on troll activity, an uptake in Pixie movements, and more of the same. Andre learned nothing helpful, but he hadn't expected to. There had been no real change in the status of things for the last five years. Andre couldn't see any hope for change in the next five, ten, fifteen years . . . He saw an eternity of such meetings stretching out forever before him. He could almost sympathize with Martinus who was again complaining about the uselessness of this work as he stalked off to the door, the first to head out as usual. He threw open the door --
And was pelted with a hundred snowballs so quickly that in a half dozen heartbeats he looked as though he was half snowman on the front and half elf on the back.
Outside the pixies shouted and laughed with glee and disappeared quickly into the night.
Martinus slowly turned --
Andreas laughed. He couldn't help himself and a moment later the others were joining him. Martinus blinked and he expected a tirade -- but in a moment even pretentious Martinus laughed.
They picked up the snowball fight as they left, finding occasional pixies, but mostly throwing at each other while pixies, and maybe even trolls, stared on in shocked disbelief to see the ever-so-proper elves leaping around in the snow like human children on a school holiday.
Something changed that night. Later Andreas wondered if their darker moods hadn't helped create the problems they fought against in this reality. They were, after all, beings of magic. With the laughter came a brighter future. All but a few trolls left the reality. Pixies came and went, but seemed mostly to be drawn by the idea of playing jokes on the elves.
And with their laughter they gifted the humans with a better, brighter future. It had been a long lesson to learn, but they held to it and made a better future for themselves as well.

  958 words

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Flash Fiction #113: The Collector (Drabble)

    ""He collects butterflies," a woman whispered with utter disgust.

Michis ignored her and the unexpected squeak of dismay that followed.

"Butterflies! There are live insects here? We must leave!"

The middle-aged women rushed out of the botanical garden. They wouldn't be back.

Michis gathered a butterfly carefully into a case. Three hours later he opened the door to his private botanical garden and let him loose. Butterflies swarmed, birds sang -- and sometimes ate butterflies, but that was natural. In a world full of lifeless insect droids, he gathered the colors of the forgotten nature and remembered a prettier time.

  100 words

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Flash Fiction #112: Home

       Nothing had ever been easy for Kane. Being half elven meant humans wouldn't allow him anywhere near their carriages. Hiring a horse for travel was out of the question because humans claimed you couldn't trust they weren't using magic coins that would disappear -- a mockery of the elves sense of honor.
This left Kane in an uncomfortable and often dangerous situation when he finally left the city. He did his best to avoid the locals and kept to back trails and deer paths, limping along with the use of a crudely shaped waling stick. Each step sent a little agony through his hip and side and he had to rest often, but he kept going.
He wanted to go home.
The odd thing was that he had no idea where home might be. For a human, it was easy to find where you belonged. You simply chose your place. For an elf, the process involved a call from the spirits in a special location and a magical link with the land. Kane never had the call, but he'd decided to leave after he'd been beaten and left for dead in a dark, dank alley. He'd drawn enough magic, which was hard for him, to heal the worst of his injuries. Then he had started walking. Weeks later he was still walking. And losing faith. Kane had been assaulted again when he chanced on a small village and escaped only because the fools tried to turn their dogs on him; they didn't know elves very well if they thought that such creatures would attack him.
He'd headed into the woods. Kane thought they'd tried to hunt him, but he was elf enough to stay hidden from human eyes. Maybe that was enough? He couldn't say he liked living in the wilds very well, but this was better than the last couple years in the city. A new wave of anti-elf sentiment had swept through the town and Kane had found himself in trouble far too often. He had some magical power, but not enough to make a stand and protect himself.
Could he survive in these woods? He instinctively knew what to eat from the plants that grew wild here. He liked the sounds of the birds in the trees, something rarely heard in the city. He could remain at least through the rest of the summer and give himself a while to think --
"You don't belong here."
The voice startled him and he spun, losing his footing and falling hard on his injured leg. He would have cursed if he could have breathed at all. Two figures stepped out from the shadows of the trees where he had not seen them. He looked to their hands for weapons and finding none, glanced up to their faces.
Elves. They looked almost identical, standing there at the edge of the light, with their long golden hair and brown clothing. He stared; he'd never seen a true elf before. He thought he might look a bit like them in some ways, but a darker version. Dirtier.
"My apologies. I'll leave --"
One stepped forward fully into the light, his hand lifted. Kane fought not to pull back in haste.
"You are a half-brother. I apologize for our rudeness. We thought you human, and we try to discourage them from traversing the woods."
"Injured," the other said in almost the same voice. "Let us help."
No one had offered to help him that he ever remembered. The orphanage had kicked him out when he was ten; he'd never known anything about his parents. When the two elves knelt beside him he had to fight not to kick out of protective reflex.
This was their place and he could feel their magic as part of the land. He had a moment of epiphany; he could not find his own home because he would never be truly elven and would always be caught between two worlds. Oddly, this thought didn't bother him as much as it probably should have. Instead, he found peace with himself. He was so absorbed in the moment that he hadn't realized they'd healed his leg and side until he took the first breath that hadn't hurt in a long time.
"Thank you," he said, with a bow of his head, the best politeness he could manage. "I don't know how I can repay you, expect to do as you request and leave --"
"Come with us." The first one stood and then the other. "Come along. We don't turn brothers away."
"Half-brother," he corrected and stood, still holding to the branch he had used for so long. He didn't need it and sat the stick aside with a whispered thank you to it while he considered options. When he looked back they still waited. "I would like to know what it means to be elven. I've known human too long."
"Yes, it's time you learn," the first one said. Then he smiled brightly. "You've walked a long ways. You need rest. I know the perfect place."
They led him into the forest and from the first steps he began to see the magic around him in a glow of colors he could reach out and touch. They helped him see what it was to be an elf and he felt as though he'd been blind for all his life. The magic had always been there.
The elves were curious about the humans and he tried to be fair. Some had helped now and then and their occasional care had helped him survive. However, he could have wished the peace of elven life for everyone in the world.
He'd been with the elves for some time when he realized that being half-human wasn't so bad. He didn't have to go and find his home. He made it here in the forest he had come to love.
He was home at last.

991 words

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