A Real Drink

She walked out and didn’t look back. The glass door swung behind her with a gentle chime and time returned to the cafe. The Barista, a hoop through her nose, frowned through a customer’s order. Two grad students poured over undergraduate papers with red pens awhirl. Next to Simon’s table, old friends compared new lives, becoming louder with each recounted event.

Simon remained frozen, staring at the glass door as it glided into frame. The young resolute woman on the other side of it walked away. She didn’t glance to the side with lost eyes, or sigh, or tense her jaw against regretful tears. She took the stairs down to the parking lot, her iced coffee in hand and her car keys in the other. The sun glinted off them and the buckles on her purse before she disappeared from his view.

If she’d left the coffee on the table Simon could have grabbed it and ran to catch her. Maybe that small gesture would have reminded her of when they met, in a coffee shop like this one. Maybe she would smile and tuck her hair behind her ear. Maybe she would burst into tears and fall into his arms. Maybe when they ran into each other at a mutual friend’s party a month from now she’d remember the gesture and ask how he’d been, if he was seeing anyone. Simon would say no, and she’d try to hide how pleased that made her.

But she and her coffee were gone and time moved around Simon. The Barista frowned, the grad students sighed, and the old friends conversed. Simon stood and threw his own coffee away. He took out his phone and texted his friends, he needed a real drink.

This is most likely part of the Legal Theft Project, as I have taken More than 1/2 Mad‘s first line and written my own piece with it. 

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Rabbit Heart

With no enemy scouts detected in months, the Raintail base should have been sleepy hinterland outpost. They held the line only against the surrounding forest. Implacable black trunks and snow-heavy branches stared back at those set to watch from the thick gunmetal walls.

Bell volunteered for the graveyard watch. She still wasn’t sleeping and had grown tired of the pinched worried expression around the mess tables and the evening fires. The assignment would explain the dark circles and restless exhaustion better than she could. Curt saw right through it and still gave her the shadowed looks, but her brother’s concern was unavoidable. At least now she could spend her sleepless hours doing something, even if it was staring at the dark trees knowing too much of what was out there.

She shook her head for at least the fifth time as this night’s partner, Jaxson, offered her yet another cigarette. Bell liked the smell, it reminded her of field camps, cheap whiskey around fires, and leave. But tobacco slowed the lungs and twitched the fingers. Scouts like Bell traded in unrufflable speed.

Their watch stretched into early hours. The new moon offered no shadows, nothing to jump at when the wind rumple the treeline. They were surrounded by black. Jaxson snored, his back to the parapet, head draped over his chest.

Bell stretched, fiddled with the broken loop of her holster, tested if she could catch peanuts with her mouth (she could) and walked en pointe, filling time while keeping the inky wild in sight. While balancing one of Jaxson’s cigarettes on an index finger, movement in the black caught her eye.

At first, the trees were just trees, and the late winter ground the usual patchwork of snow and rock. But Bell recognized the impossible antlers separate from the trees and rise in silhouette. Muscle moved beneath the roan coat as it picked a way fluidly down the ridge towards her and the wall. The stag-thing approached the gate with an easy canter. Predatory grace rippled across its back and down a plumed tail. A rabbit’s heart drummed in Bell’s chest as she grabbed her rifle and moved to the parapet.

Now barely beneath Bell, as the chimera was massive beyond known species, the thing lifted its lupine nose into the air and sniffed. It pawed the ground like a warhorse, claws digging deep furrows into the mud. There was something less than comforting knowing the only thing between her and a thirteen thousand pound animal was a mechanical door. Bell stared at it, the night air hurting her too-open eyes.

How many people would die if it decided to test its weight against the walls? How many other people would get court-martialed for bringing it here? The moment stretched, just her, the chimera, and impending prison cells. Bell decided what to do when Jaxson shifted and stirred in his sleep.

She landed toes, then heels in the snowy mud next to the wall with a soft exhale. No one but the chimera noticed. It whirled and huffed deep in its throat, pointed ears forward and reflective eyes vibrating on Bell’s crouched form.

Bell didn’t run, she’d feel claws in her back, its fangs around her neck. She didn’t bring up her gun, even at this range, ammunition wouldn’t pierce the things coat. She met its eyes while her heart’s beat made it impossible to swallow, and she took a step. The thing lowered its head, eyes glittering and locked on her. Bell took another even silent step towards the ridge. Slowly it followed, shoulders pitching back and forth as it stalked her, intent.

Bell did not let her gaze slip. She did not let her footsteps stutter or scrape on the harsh rock and ice. She did not think about what she would do when she got to the dark treeline. Bell led it away from the wall, away from Raintail, back up the slope until they disappeared into the black trunks.

A thief, but a tired one. This week’s willing supplier of lines is CC. Check out her original HERE and what the rest of my band did with the line at the Legal Theft Project.

A Formal Dissapointment

Remy watched the University clocktower tick towards disaster. From the library windows, the obelisk marred the horizon, catching her eye as she moved through the stacks. Four hours until dinner. Four hours before disappointment sunk permanently into her father’s eyes.

Everyone said this third engagement would be the charm. The thing that would draw Remy, at least temporarily, from her research and the stacks of books she hid within. Everyone said it, few believed it, except for Remy’s father. He held onto hope that a husband would put an end to his daughter’s unaspiring hermitage at the University and that he’d get more grandchildren out of the bargain.

Remy shuddered at the thought of constant interruptions and sticky hands over her work.

Her father and her betrothed’s parents would have already settled on the specifics of the match, the rest fell to Remy. The proposal was set for tonight, where she was to take Lord something-or-other’s hand and request the honor of being his wife. No doubt the public formality of it all was designed to corner her into the absurd agreement.

The ploy would have worked in most cases. Remy was not adamant about many things, preferring a carefully and slowly constructed argument on silent pages to the flights of passion people passed off as conviction and conversation. But her research was sacred. A husband would only get in the way.

They forced Remy’s hand with this ploy. The only public and formal thing happening tonight was humiliation and disappointment.

The distant clocktower continued to tell time. Three hours and fifty-five minutes until disaster now, Remy thought. She sighed and went back to her books.

I’ve been robbed, but I couldn’t be happier about it. Both The Gate In The Wood and Creatures, Critters and Crawlers have stolen my first line and written their own posts as part of the Legal Theft Project. 

 

A Personal Touch

She lit the flare, and fire danced off the carved dome of the temple. Statues in alcoves hoarded shadows behind them. The empty annex was hollow and quiet.

Sari followed the line of shuffled sand to one of the alcoves. There the pitted statue looked down on her as she inspected the wall behind it. No body, not even a little blood shone in the neon firelight. Sari sighed.

The traps dealt with tourists too arrogant to heed signs. Sari and the other temple guards hauled their bodies into the desert when they found the foreigners crushed, poisoned, and impaled having tried to get into the temple’s lower levels. Sari frowned and checked the mechanism hidden in the wall. Oil coated the stone joint, shining in the flare’s light.

Graverobbers were a different breed. They brought picks, solvents, and hammers. They learned the temple script and traced old histories to map these ancient sacred spots. They looted and stole, selling what they didn’t want to distant museums. Sari had seen them, sterile places which charged her people to view their own possessions.

Sari placed a hand against the right carvings, careful to avoid the plate that would send spikes through her body. The etchings dug into her palm as she applied pressure.

The mechanism snapped. Sari checked her looped hood before standing and turning back to the statue. The stone groaned, only a little sand shifted as the statue slid to reveal a descending staircase. Sari rested her fingers against the hilt of her sword as she descended into the dark. The traps took care of the tourists, graverobbers required a personal touch.

Some thieves are more welcome than others. This week I stole Kit’s first line as part of the Legal Theft Project, where you can see the other thefts. 

 

Just Turn It

It was getting irritating, listening to well-meaning statements about what was and was not possible. Cassie groaned as communicatively as she could, her face pressed to upholstery.

“Just turn it, no not that way.” Someone said, maybe her mother, maybe not. Everyone spoke like her mother at this point. Cassie’s fingers started to cramp.

“We should have taken the legs off.” Another said from the other side of the door. They sounded like they had their arms free, liked they were not being slowly accordion crushed by a couch. “I told you. We should have taken the legs off.”

“No, it will work, Cassie come on, just turn it.” The first voice said, they might have been a friend once. Cassie snarled and got a mouthful of stiff cushion in reward. Her legs shook. Her elbows buckled, stretched like suspension bridge wires.

“Ugh, I hate your couch.” Said someone else. Cassie said she, and the couch, hated them back. However, pinned between the door jam and facing death by overpriced Swedish furniture, Cassie didn’t manage anything more than a few syllables.

Another push, more advice, a crack from the door frame. A collective wordless “ooooh” from those who up until a moment ago had been so eloquent. Cassie, still wobbling under the weight, blew a bull’s breath through her nose and shoved. The door cracked but birthed the couch with the slam of wood on cheap flooring.

Cassie straightened and stared down each and every one of them, daring them to speak of the splinters hanging above her. She dusted her hands and set them on her hips. “You’re right. I just needed to turn it.”

A thief? Doubtful, just an angry person forced to move in the middle of the quarter. Anyways, this is technically part of the Legal Theft Project. 

Stone and Spoils

Jasper flicked his eyes up from the box, to its seller leaning over the rickety stall and into what Jasper considered sacred personal space. The old man smiled at him, expectant. His teeth reminded Jasper of flint corn, all the kernels a different color.  Jasper kept himself from leaning away. “Too much,” Jasper overly enunciated, his tongue compensating for a clumsy accent.

The seller shrugged and gestured to the steady current of market goers behind Jasper. If he didn’t buy it, another stupid tourist would. Jasper’s features remained in its non-expression. He disliked the association with the frivolous throng.

It took another shopper to break their standoff. The other interested party jostled Jasper’s shoulder in an attempt to peer inside the contentious box. Jasper spine turned to stone at the invasion. “Fine.” Jasper jutted his chin and unrolled waxy currency.

He paid more than he should have for that collection of scrap. But less than he had been willing to, and he comforted himself with that as he hefted the heavy box. Inside, pieces of roughly carved stone and twisted dull metal shifted against one other. Jasper stilled his torso as he walked, hugging his purchase to his chest. Temple artifacts were illegal to sell and therefore taxing to buy. He kept his spoils still. Jasper didn’t want to have to find another vendor, much less deal with one.

A theft most foul, or perhaps a victimless crime? Who knows, I certainly do not. This piece is part of the Legal Theft Project. 

A Fire in Winter

The sputtering fire barely kept the night at bay. As bonfire’s went, it was a depressing one and she’d had to drive two hours for it. Sara shook her head and stared at the coals beneath the pathetic flames. They glowed but lacked the heat required to reach her frozen fingers. This blew.

Someone sat next to her on the damp log. Jake offered her a beer and she shook her head, showing him her red cup.  “I’m good.”

“You look cold.” Jake put an arm around her. With both their winter coats between them, his arm did nothing except annoy her.

“Well, some genius decided to hold a bonfire in winter,” Sara said loudly. A few of the other couples huddling around the fire glared at her over the fire’s lurching light.  She looked back at them flatly. The fire licked up around the pit’s metal rim.

“Surprised you showed up then. Where’s your boyfriend?”

“Kurt’s not my boyfriend. We’re just friends,” Sara said. Jake’s arm pressed down on her spine, overly heavy, forcing her to slump.

“Like you and me are friends?” Jake turned so she could feel his breath in her ear. It was lukewarm and wet. Sara’s throat buckled. The fire hopped up, cracking against the night air. Jake jumped as it bloomed over the pit and Sara took the opportunity to stand.

“You and I are not friends. Any sort of friends.”  She stated, looking down at him. This close to the fire, Sara could have been in a desert. Dry heat comfortably baked her exposed skin. The fire’s roar drowned out the ocean.

Sara blinked. Jake sneered at her and the other couples continued to stare. “Screw this.” Seva stepped over the pitted logs and headed for the distant parking lot, her wide-stride unbalanced in the sand.

Behind her, the fire succumbed to the wind. With one small gust, all that was left was a few smoldering coals.

A thief, but not this week. Instead, I’ve left the first line of this piece for the taking.