The tale foundry archive
I will participate on and off with the prompts uploaded by the tale foundry (often when I have nothing else to upload because of reasons). The rules are simple, a max of 350 words and only a couple days to write it in resulting in unhinged flash-fiction that’s a nice departure from the balls of yarn and pages long outlines I normally have to deal with.
Just a game || Prompt: Hoist the sails
The atmosphere on the Last Hope is dire this morning.
The Dread is up ahead but the winds are against us.
We’ve anchored on a nearby island, waiting for the winds to turn.
And remembering the dead to pass the time.
We started with six.
We’re still six now but these are fresh faces we picked up on route.
The mates I set off with are feasting on brine in the deep dark.
Part of me feels bad about being alive still.
Better sailors than me have died.
Better men and women.
Standing on the bow I can see The Dread on the horizon.
Dark, menacing and shrouded in fog.
This mission took too long already.
Waiting here feels worse than death.
I take a deep breath and head to the captain.
When I told my mam what ship I was boarding she told me the captain is a witch.
I didn’t believe her then.
I believe her now.
As I enter the cabin the captain sits hunched over the table, her eyes fixed on a set of three dice.
“Morning Terry, how can I help you?” she asks without looking up. Next to the dice, I spot a map of the seas.
“Permission to speak freely sir?”
“Yeah sure, go ahead.”
“Can you shift the winds?”
She looks up at me and in her eyes, I see a shift “I can, but you won’t like the price to pay.”
“We need to get to The Dread, it’s spreading, every day we waste out here is a day we should be doing battle instead.”
“Yes, I agree.”
“Are you feeling heroic, mister Terry?”
“Are you feeling heroic?”
“Yes! Yes, I do, now can we just-”
“Thank you, Terry, I truly appreciate your sacrifice.” She picks up one of the dice and changes the face. “You may go now.”
There’s a ruckus up on deck.
“It’s a miracle! The winds have shifted, we have to set sail now. This is our chance!”
I nod, glad to see my fellows happy.
And sad I won’t be home again.
Celestial tour || Prompt: Weaving fate
“In the next room, you’ll find the weavers of fate creating marvellous tapestries of human lives. Friends, family, lovers, even enemies get weaved together into stunning colourful formations.” the guide explains telepathically “Now, we’ll have a look inside but I urge you not to disturb the weavers, they need the utmost focus for their work.”
I roll my eyes. Can’t we just skip ahead to the snacks and afterparty? My family isn’t even in the weaving business, so what do I care?
The room sounds angry as we walk in with the monotonous crash of beaters on thread.
“Why is there a hole in that one?” someone in the back asks and the group collectively groans.
If you don’t even know that why are you even here?
The guide explains “Connections lost can affect the weave. Normally other threads will keep the piece together and life will continue largely uninterrupted. but sometimes-”
Right, I’m not wasting my time on stupid, there must be something interesting in this place, right?
And then I spot a closed door.
Why close a door unless you have something to hide?
Meaning it’s surely more interesting than anything out here.
Beyond the door, it smells like dust and bits of yarn.
They’re weavers for sure, but different.
The cloth in the weaver’s hands looks like haphazardly knotted lace, strings barely holding together.
At her feet lay the rest, but the threads have snapped, untangled and stretched making the connection tenuous at best.
Her hands work frantically. Pulling loose threads from the mess and knotting them back in at the frayed edges.
I pull up an eyebrow “You know that’s just gonna cause deya-vu’s right?”
The weaver doesn’t even look up as she bites “Of course I know.”
“Where is your loom, weaver?”
“Where are your threads?”
“And yet you keep going?”
The weaver shrugs “Because she hasn’t given up yet, and I’m not giving up for her.”
“But-” a voice appears inside my mind.
“Would Luci kindly rejoin the group again? We’d like to continue on our tour.”
Stranger danger || Prompt: I’m never doing that again
Have you ever found yourself in a situation without knowing how you even ended up there in the first place?
All I did was try to impress a pretty face at the club and now I’m standing knee-deep inside the grave of some guy I don’t know.
The night is dark, the only light coming from dollar-store flashlights.
And I’m heaving up shovel loads of dirt.
“How’s it going?” This asshole asks as he points his flashlight straight at my face almost blinding me. I never got his name.
There are other onlookers around the hole.
I wonder if it’s their usual tactic, just send the hot one to the bar and string some sap along that looks like he could dig a hole.
Don’t like to make your own hands dirty.
“I mean it goes faster if I can see, just point that thing down to the ground thanks.” I huff, but the beam of light does shift to my relief.
I could just hit them with the shovel, probably.
Make a run for it.
I guess they also screen for curiosity.
My shoulders jump as the shovel bounces off something hard.
This is it then?
I’m not the only one who heard it, around me are excited whispers.
Suddenly I’m pulled out of the hole and the one who strung me along jumps down holding out a string with a crystal on the end. It circles mysteriously, then starts to glow.
There are cheers, people jump in with tools to break open the lid.
“Ever seen a dead guy before?” My questionable date asks while climbing out again.
I nod “Grandad, but that was before they stuck him into the ground.”
“So what are you gonna do with him?”
“Ask some questions, that’s all.”
“Nothing you need to concern yourself about, unless you wanna stay and join up, that is?” That smile, it’s intoxicating.
Be strong now “Actually, I think this is a one-off for me.”
“Yeah, you can just join this guy when we’re done. No hard feelings.”
Sketching in museums || Prompt: Let’s calm down, shall we?
My eyes flick from subject to paper then back again to check.
The train of the dress can be longer, the silhouette is not quite right.
Around me, people pass, talking, laughing and looking over my shoulder to see what I’m drawing.
I pretend not to notice.
If they have something to say they can open their mouths.
Sometimes a person lets out a quick “pretty” or nod awkwardly as they pass by as if they want to let me know they saw but don’t really have any words.
I nod back, not sure what to say either.
Some will talk about me as if I’m not there, joke that taking a picture would be a lot faster.
But I don’t want to take a picture.
I want to absorb the source material, get to know it, learn about it.
I take my time for that.
I try to be unobtrusive of course, step aside if I think people want to pass or see the thing I’ve been obscuring by standing there.
But I won’t leave until I’m satisfied.
I prefer museums that have seats, standing for hours tires out my legs.
But if not, there’s always the floor to sit on.
I find different things sitting on the museum floor as opposed to standing up.
I recommend you try it at least once.
The doll isn’t even part of the exhibition I came for, but she wears that same regional dress.
“Are you drawing?” the lady wears a badge of the museum.
I nod, show off my work.
“Oh, that’s gorgeous. Are you an artist?”
I shrug “Actually I’m a librarian. This is just a hobby.”
“You’re really good.”
“Also, the museum closes in about thirty minutes.”
I smile, “Thanks for the heads up.”
On the way back from the museum I wonder whether I should have told her I’m a writer instead of a librarian.
That I’m studying regional dress for a new project.
Not that I have much to show for it besides sketches and an unfinished script…
I shake my head.
This is fine.
Sleepwalking || Prompt: Beneath the waves
I open my eyes to the sound of the sea beating violently ahead.
My gaze drifts down at my bare toes nestled in the sand.
The wind tears at my nightgown and I tremble against the cold.
As the salt water crashes down upon my feet I recoil.
My heart skips a beat.
I run back to the safety of my home.
Under the waves, she sings to me
With fiery hair and silver tongue
She visits my dreams.
She calls to me.
This is the third time this month.
Waking up at the edge of damnation.
Her pull is getting stronger.
I lock the door to my bedroom at night.
Sleep in peace for a short time.
Until I find I place the key in the same spot one too many times.
The water presses on my legs like the cold hands of death.
I look for the shore and find it behind me.
Then something grabs me, pulls me back.
I tumble and stumble down onto the shallow decline.
The sea slaps me in the face but my eyes stay fixed upon the shore.
I dig my fingers into sand that’s cold as snow and drag myself desperately forward
I refuse to let go.
But I do cry out as her sharp teeth sink into my ankle’s flesh.
It hurts like hell but now I do know where to find her head.
I stomp at it, again and again.
She’s nestled deeply in there but I’ll tear off my own foot if it means ever being dry again.
The smell of blood floats on the breeze
Then there’s a snap.
I drag and crawl my way to dry land.
Then home again.
Bloodied, exhausted, but alive.
But I know the war still isn’t won.
Mermaids do not look for love.
They don’t need their spouse to breathe or move.
To her, I am nothing but a pretty figurine to add to her collection.
Down in the depths where we don’t rot.
Then look for something to tie myself down to the bed.
Rejected by the moon || Prompt: Hour of the wolf
The music is sickeningly jaunty.
The people around me are laughing uproariously.
I’m trembling with a lukewarm cola in my hands.
My eyes are darting to the clock every other second.
Waiting to feel it.
My shoulders jump as someone calls out to me.
“Hey Danny, first timer right? You ready?” I forgot the big guy’s name but I’m sure I’ve seen him before.
“Yeah, of course,” I boast with faked enthusiasm.
‘Atta boy.’ The man hits my shoulder playfully and I can feel the bruises forming underneath my skin.
I want to leave.
“Danny? There you are.”
‘The Breiters wanna see you before the whole shebang goes down, come along.”
I set my drink down and follow obediently.
I believe the Breiters are dad’s colleagues.
Though I forgot what job they did.
“Danny is it? Nice to meet you. Now I must say you take after your father.”
“Yes, a lot of people say that”
“Are you sure he is eighteen? He looks a little…wet behind the ears.” missus Breiter comments carefully and I’m not quite sure if I should agree or feel insulted.
“It’ll be fine it’s-” mother starts.
The bell strikes its first and the room goes silent.
The bell strikes for a second time and the guests all sit down on the floor.
I sit down next to them nervously waiting for the moon to take away my consciousness.
My last moments of sanity.
At the third chime, people start cackling, ripping clothes to shreds and flinging jewels across the room.
The fourth chime is where the eyes turn red.
The fifth is when the bones start popping and this continues for some time.
By the time the twelfth and final chime is done with all around me wolves are howling, jeering and growling.
But my arms and legs are still the same.
I didn’t turn.
My parents turned.
Their bosses turned.
The entire party turned, except for me.
The others look at me.
The one that isn’t part of the pack.
And I realise I need to run.
Lost causes and loose ends || Prompt: Where the lost things go
I prune the prickly peony with impeccable precision when a voice distracts me from my work.
“Have you seen a blue bear?”
I look back at the woman “A bear?”
“Yes, a teddy bear! Blue with a white belly. I must have dropped it somewhere.”
“I don’t remember” She bites her upper lip as she thinks “Pink, I remember pink.”
“Forget the bear, go home.”
“What?” She sounds perplexed. “No, I need this bear!”
“It’s important it’s…”
“If you won’t help me find it, I’ll go look myself, good da-”
“Wait!” I sheathe the shears and pull out the mister “If I give you the teddy bear will you leave this place?”
“How rude this garden is public property-”
“No, it’s not! Look at the sign.” I grunt with the pent-up frustration of countless interlopers.
“What!?” The woman huffs indignantly.
“The sign, above the gate, read it.”
“Exactly, now this way.”
We make our way to the greenhouse in silence.
The air is heavy, hot and wet.
I look at the door, the lock cracked and crumbled.
By now it’s hard to know who to blame, the trespassers or the plants.
Nevertheless, we go in together.
The oblivious oleander is not a plant. It’s a monster in the shape of a magnificent, tall, tempting pink bloom.
“Hold your breath.”
“Why?” the woman challenges.
“You want the stupid bear, right?”
She opens her mouth to retort, then thinks better of it and obeys.
I spray the plant.
The flower convulses, squeezing and trembling until its heart bursts open with a sick, slimy, crack.
A battered blue teddy bear slides out of the gaping maw.
I pick it up, dry it with my apron, hand it off.
She looks perplexed “But how? When?”
“Just go! Now and don’t ever come back.”
The flower gagged and choked as a second thing dropped down to the cloying earth.
A boy, six, maybe seven, half-digested.
I sigh, pick him up.
Then toss him back.
“At least have the decency to let her forget completely.”
Mister Monin and Madame || Prompt: The Library of Secrets
The bell rings.
I halt reshelving for now.
Clamber my way down the ladder.
The dinging gets more incessant, impatient bursts of annoyed energy.
I sigh, pull a small booklet bound in maps from my bag.
Opening it up reveals a door, I step through and out at the front desk again.
“How can I help you?” I ask with a welcoming smile.
The man on the other side looks severe with his black suit and sleeked-back hair. He pushes a piece of paper with a call number in my direction.
“I need this.”
I push my glasses up and read “Floor six, shelf five-thousand-sixty-eight, book eighteen.” I suck my teeth “That’s not a nice section.” I warn him “some things are best left-“
“I need to know.” He barks “Just get me the book lady.”
I sigh, they always need to know at first. “Have a seat mister Monin I’ll fetch the book for you.”
“How do you know-?“
I smile politely, then step through my mapbook to the sixth floor.
Part of me seems tempted to grab a book from the eighth floor instead.
That floor has less death in it, less sadness.
Not all secrets are tragedies, but the sixth floor is an unpleasant collection.
They’re the crimes committed and taken to the grave. They’re the experiences best forgotten and kept from spouses and children.
They’re the black days that stain a lifetime.
But giving people what they request is my job as a librarian, even if they will regret it.
I pull the book back with little enthusiasm, then jump back to the front desk.
The man is still there, picking at his cufflinks and tapping his foot, fighting the urge to go exploring on his own.
People who walk into the library rarely make their way out inside their lifetime.
I offer him the document in silence, he snatches it.
Starts flipping through it with a scowl on his face.
Then he starts to rage and sob.
I don’t want to know.
Go back to shelving books.
Secrets make the heart grow heavy.
Snowbal effect || Prompt: Magic won’t save you
Things didn’t become this shitshow overnight.
Trade magicians were screwed first, of course, the ones who sell charms and curses to eager customers.
There was even a time when people believed it wasn’t ‘that big of a deal’. Sure, you couldn’t hex your ex anymore.
But then the crops started to fail.
Wonder-drops™ and mega-crops™, magic additives we added to the soil and water to make them grow all year into giants were running out.
And we can’t make any more.
Heroes from far and wide ventured out to solve the drought. They visited temples carved from mountains, deep jungles and active volcanoes but no one even knew where to start.
How do you fix a magic drought?
The seers couldn’t see anything, bloody useless lot.
There was not a single prophesy on file.
It came outta nowhere for no reason.
And then we were boned.
The winter that year was the worst.
No food, no fire magic, we stopped using electricity centuries ago and the infrastructure was so damaged there was no other solution than to start over.
Beating rocks together begging for a spark.
Telling the girls mister cuddles ran away so they wouldn’t stop eating the little food we had.
I count myself lucky we never had to resort to eating people.
I know many who were less well-off.
When spring came it was just to give us unearned confidence.
The only way to get these plants to grow now is using the old ways, farming techniques long obsolete and forgotten.
The government, for what little power they still had mandated a grow policy.
Every garden, every park, every bit of bare earth must become a victory garden if we’re to survive next winter.
It was an uphill battle.
Still is really.
But we’re getting better at it.
The magic school is a greenhouse now. With beans climbing up the walls and courgettes suspended from the ceilings. Mushrooms have taken over the cellars and pumpkins are sprawling their way through the lecture hall.
It’s slow and frustrating.
But my daughters are still with me.
A tale of love and death || Prompt: No longer human
It’s the first sensation that floods what’s left of my rotting brain.
There’s light beyond my eyes but it swims and swirls in odd formations. Colours dancing without meaning.
I lift a heavy arm through what feels like water and encounter cold glass as I reach into the slurry of colours.
Then my ears pick up sounds saying, “My darling.” and “you’re alive at last.”
I don’t feel alive.
The voice hints at a past I’m no longer a part of.
I open my mouth and try to say her name but the liquid that keeps me suspended burns in my throat.
“Don’t speak!” she sounds alarmed. “I’ll get you out of there don’t worry but…you need more healing before that.”
I want to tell her she can’t heal that which is already dead, that which is no longer connected to this realm, but I can’t.
I can’t even see her face, not properly, everything is distorted in this oversized fish tank.
I push at the glass, try to break it, try to break free from this prison but I have no strength in my limbs.
I’m forced to wait.
So, I wait.
Sometimes the water turns pink and I sleep, I dream of death and the freedom of nothingness. But when I wake, I’m locked up again.
Sometimes I can guess what she did, a new graph of muscle tissue attached to the peeling bone, a new organ she pulled from who-knows-where.
Sometimes it’s a mystery and I search my body for scars for days at a time.
Then one time my eyes shoot open and there is no liquid, nothing stopping me from screaming.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I hear her panicked voice “You’re not supposed to be awake.
I turn my face to look at her and find to my surprise her face is crumpled, wrinkled and weathered.
“How long…?” I gasp.
“Shhhh. Don’t speak.” She tells me as she puts a needle in my neck “Just sleep.”
I want to tell her this is madness, this is cruel.
Then everything fades.
Little Maggy || Prompt: The fear of sundown
Little mice, all jump and rush to the safety of their nests as the owls slowly open up their eyes and get ready for another hunt.
On the wind flows a pleasant smell that brings up memories of childhood and following those floral notes we end under the magnolia.
Where a group of pink flowers chatter hurriedly in high-pitched voices.
Old sister Magnalena declares “close your petals, close your petals, the night is coming in.”
But dear oh, dear young sister Maggy doesn’t feel tired quite yet “Why must we close our petals? I do not wish to sleep.”
“Foolish girl” Magnera sneers “We close our petals for protection.”
“Against who?” young Maggy asks crossing her leaves.
“Hummingbirds,” Magnera explains.
“No moths, they are the very worst.” Magnio cries out.
“Aren’t those just butterflies?” young Maggy wonders aloud.
“No, moths can grow three times their size, they swallow us poor flowers whole!”
“Where did you pick up on such nonsense?” Magnera huffs
“Ladies, ladies no more squabbling, if we keep this up we’re all at risk.” Old sister Magnalena cuts in.
She sends a look to little Maggy “If you wish to risk it dear, I won’t stop you but know I will not help you if trouble comes your way.”
Young Maggy nods in understanding and smiles as the others turn in. Flowers closing up around her.
Until she is utterly alone.
The world changes in the night.
The sounds and smells that are familliar fade, replaced with strange sensations.
The howl of an animal she cannot quite place, the chill of the wind, far sharper than normal.
For with the night comes the cold and the dark.
Maggy feels misplaced, off and alien.
But then she looks up.
And sees the stars.
As the owls pass her by with spoils in their beaks all she sees are the intricate patterns of the glowing dots high in the sky and the magnificent milky way.
And she wishes it could never be daytime again.
A walk in the park || Prompt: A walk in the dark
“Are you gonna be okay?”
“Yes,” I lied.
“Good, now, we’re just going to walk through the hospital-garden, okay? No roads, no traffic.” His hand rests assuringly on my shoulder.
“First, the staircase.” He takes my hand and puts it on the railing. I flinch by the cold of the metal.
My steps are clunky, my ears hot with embarrassment.
Around me, I hear the whispers of people who pity me, which doesn’t help if I’m honest.
“Now, take it easy. Only one step left.”
My foot slams into a solid floor, I almost tip forward but the hand on my shoulder pulls me back “That was the one step, sorry. But you did it!”
I try my best to calm my pounding heart.
The lobby is crowded with noises. I feel like at any moment I’ll walk into someone.
The hand on my shoulder just isn’t enough to ease my worries.
“Can I hold your arm please?”
The voice is kind, understanding “Of course.”
My hands wrap around his arms. I pull in close, secure.
“Is that better?”
The exit is a revolving door that hums at a low frequency.
The path is smooth and surprisingly hot underneath the soles of my shoes.
The air tastes different too.
It’s been two months. Maybe it’s because the seasons are changing?
“Now we’re going to get off the path and into the park.”
“I can hear a road.”
“That’s outside the fence. Don’t worry, we’re still inside hospital bounds.”
I swallow, and take a deep breath “Okay.”
The pebbles crunch underneath our shoes as we step on them.
The sun feels nice on my arms, I think I can hear a bird singing.
I breathe in.
Then a claxon tears through the air.
I freeze, my heart racing as light flashes in front of my eyes.
A light that cannot be there.
Red I can no longer see but remember oh, so vividly.
The smell of burned rubber.
The sound of sirens.
My head hurts.
My eyes hurt.
I scream while the nurse calls my name.
War || Prompt: A single blade of grass
The door almost fell off the hinges as someone slammed their fist against it.
My shoulders jumped “Yes ma’am?” I asked looking at the gigantic figure “How can I help you?”
She was a spider and according to the medals clung onto her furry chest, a very important one.
“I need a blade.”
“You’ve come to the right place.” I lead her to my wares displayed on toadstool shelves.
She picked up a sword that shifted hue in the light “Flower petal?” She asked.
“Butterfly wing actually. Brought back from the battlefield.”
“I see.” The spider seemed pleased by that “Do you take commissions?”
“Of course, provided you have the materials for me.”
“I’ll be right back.”
She left the room for a second or two. Then returned with a long blade of grass.
She dropped in unceremoniously in front of my feet.
“I want you to fold this blade of grass until it is as tough as nails.
Then cut from it two swords, exactly the same in every way. I don’t care how it looks, I don’t need flourishes or decorations. All I ask is that you only use this grass and nothing else.”
I looked out the door, trying to judge the length of the thing.
“I think I can manage that.”
The spider left the shop with two grass swords in her hands.
The shopkeep was nice!
She didn’t expect that from the enemy lines.
She tore the medals from her chest, then tossed them to the general she killed that very morning.
Donning her true colours she rushed into battle slicing and dismantling all in her way until there was no one left for her to kill.
She walked over the threshold into her own camp.
Got an earful from the commandant.
“Something, something, don’t disobey my orders etc.”
She shrugged, walked straight out the back.
To where the earth gets tilled every single day.
She pushed a single blade into the soil.
“I’m back my love,” she told the grave with tears inside her eyes.
“Did you miss me?”
Childsplay || Prompt: Wait you can do that!?
They call him the accountant because he pulls the biggest profits out of all the demons in hell.
Tempting souls is their business and the accountant ’employee of the millennium’.
Then five feet behind this legendary figure, two young demons follow him down peaceful streets, cloaked inside a shield of non-detection.
“Are you sure he can’t hear us?” the first asks the other.
“Yes, I’m sure so stop being so twitchy” the second retorts with a punch to the shoulder.
The first one rubs the spot “I’m not twitchy, I’m careful, imagine what this guy can do to us if he finds out”
The second waves the concerns away “The accountant wouldn’t hurt us. We’re low-ranking pond sludge, he has people for that sort of thing.”
The first swallows hard “You’re joking, right? You really think he has an army of demons beneath him just like the legends say?”
“I heard it was humans, a giant network sprawling the globe, a true pyramid of schemes.”
The first one huffs “Good one, surely you can’t trust humans to do a demon’s job?”
“Can’t trust demons to give up their bounty either.” the second retorts.
There’s a pattern to the movements of the accountant.
He seems to be following a string of signs.
Signs that say ‘primary school’.
“He must be cheating, there’s no other way. No one can tempt two hundred souls in a day.” The first one concludes.
“Maybe he steals them from other demons?”
“We would have heard that right? I bet he fudges the numbers, he’s an accountant after all.”
The sound of little brats running and shouting dooms up from the schoolyard.
The second one halts, pulls the first one back and says “This is it, pay attention now.”
“Oh my satan, oh my satan.” The first one squeals.
The accountant shrinks. His body mimicking that of a child. He manifests a small, rickety stall usually reserved for mediocre lemonade. However, on this sign, it says something different entirely. “A candy bar for your soul.” And all the children flock towards it with a cheer.
A magic jar || Prompt: Sins of the father
Father used to be the storyteller.
It has been decades now since he told me a special story.
One I must remember carefully but never can repeat.
A story of how the previous storyteller shared himself with an outsider.
Revealed to her the stories we vow to protect.
A crime that did not go unpunished.
He showed me the silver urn, covered in strange archaic symbols.
A prison for the traitor.
He told me to stay away from it, keep it shut no matter what.
He made me promise on my life.
I was a child, ten, maybe eleven.
He was my father.
So, I did.
He went on to teach me the stories of my people.
Every single one.
The stories have power.
They can start wars or end them.
They must be protected at all costs.
So that’s what I did.
The night they came.
They came with knives and eyes of rage.
They came with fire that they spread onto our grass-thatched roofs.
They came to ruin us.
The screaming of my people awoke me.
The smoke burning in my lungs warned me that we had to leave.
I rushed to save my father, found a dead man in his bed.
With pain in my heart, I tried to leave but the fire roared and licked at me from every direction.
They needed to survive!
Looking around, I got an idea.
I took the jar from the high shelf.
Placed it next to father’s bed
I then gently took his hand and apologized for breaking my promise.
I opened the lid.
Started whispering the stories, throughout the smoke and pain
To his father, my grandfather.
As the flames came closing in.
The urn was found by merchants, amidst the ruins of my village.
‘A magic jar’, they call it now.
It can tell stories!
Open it up and you’ll hear a voice that’s old and wise.
But listen very closely, and you can hear me too.
Do not touch || Prompt: Black stone heart
The walls of the ventilation shaft feel like they’re closing in on me.
My heart is racing, palms sweaty.
The thrill of the hunt.
I love it.
I feel round my ankle for my tools, slide the screwdriver out by touch alone.
The triangular head, the one they think I can’t get my hands on.
I loosen the screws and hold my breath as I put the grate down beside me.
I peer down into the darkness, adjust my goggles till I can see clear as day.
Then check my watch.
Thirteen minutes till the guard comes round.
I slide down the hole and land soft as a whisper.
The exibition designers did an outstanding job with this one.
The black rock, polished to a sheen and carved in the shape of a rounded heart is locked away in a glass case.
It’s framed with blown-up versions of newspaper clippings.
Tales about curses and misfortune to whoever holds the rock. ‘The rock that steals your soul’.
I chuckle when spot the joke. They’re so commited they put a ‘do not touch’ sign inside the case.
That’s just precious.
I sneak to the case, check the sensors holding the glass.
Looking down the back for the serial number, I realise with giddy the system hasn’t been upgraded in at least three years.
This is child’s play!
It’s almost offensive.
It takes me less then a minute to crack into it, deactivate the whole thing.
I pick up the piece and feel…
Kinda heavy but…I feel no joy, no pride.
The adrenaline that thrills me drained clean from my body.
Why do I feel empty?
On the walls the answer yells back at me.
I drop the jewel.
It hits the floor with a loud thud.
Alarms start blaring.
I should panic right?
I feel like I should…
As I get tackled to the ground by two heavy guards and watch the heart taken away with gilded tongs I don’t care about trouble or jail time.
I open my mouth.
“Just what is that thing?”
Putting the flowers outside || Prompt: Language of flowers
I pass the heavy iron gate to the garden with upbeat skips and hold my hat before it gets pulled away by a gust of wind.
I”m greeted by a patch of cheerful strawberries offering their fruit. I pick one, take a bite and find it tastes bright and sweet.
Then another calls to me claiming her fruit is far sweeter. So I try that one and conclude it’s quite delicious.
The strawberries keep going, one promise more wonderful than the next.
But I have more things to do, more things to see. I thank them kindly then get back on my way.
The road is uneven, the tiles cracked and worn by the passing of centuries.
However the flower beds beside it are perfect in every way.
I try to say hello to a pretty narcissus but no matter what I say he keeps bending the subject back to his own glory. It’s quite impolite to be that boastful so I excuse myself with a huff.
By the lake there stands a weeping willow, I ask what’s wrong and it tells me that there used to be a sweet lilly in the lake at his feet.
One with beatiful white flowers and bright yellow cores and enourmous leaves dotting the lake with colour and life.
But then the lily and him drifted apart by currents beyond their control.
The willow misses her.
Wishes things had gone differently.
I have no wisdom to share and all I have to give are my sympathies. I wrap my arms around the trunk, stay there for a while.
Going deeper inside the garden the wisteria sprawling down the arches whisper sweet temptations in my ear.
Freedom, power, revenge.
But only wicked people brew tea from that plant.
The heavens break and I rush on my way to the rush to find cover from the rain underneath a shed that stood on its last legs.
And amids the sound of rushing water beating down on worn out tin
I could hear the flowers cheer.
I sit down.
Enjoy the sound.
Heroes are for losers || Prompt: A dance with the devil
My heart beats like mad as we slide down roof tiles, slippery in the beating rain.
Perhaps a bit too slippery.
I flail my arms around for any sort of hold or security as I careen over the edge.
He grabs me by the ankle and drags me back up in a fluid motion that can only have gone against gravity itself.
I gasp for air, snatching and grabbing at the drainpipe, trying my best to stay cool.
His hands are fire, despite the midnight chill.
He lets go again, slowly, carefully.
“Are you ready?” He asks with fire in his eyes.
The grin spreads on my face before I have a chance to think about it
“Then let’s dance.”
We jump onto the balcony in perfect harmony.
We spray glass into the jolly room.
A violin grinds to a halt.
There are gasps all around.
“All right bitches and bitchesttes, I’m the devil and this is my buddy. Now give him all your money.”
I, the buddy, wave pleasantly, pull my backpack from my back and say “jewels, cash, cards and gold teeth, just toss ’em in here and we’ll be out of your hair in no time.”
“And be quick about it!” the devil adds, pointing at his golden watch.
A tall man steps forward, handsome looking, gallant, “Keep your belongings to yourself.” He tells the crowd “I’ll give you the chance to leave now and no one needs to get hurt.”
“Oh, how gracious of you oh Lord…Barnaby was it?” my accomplice sneers “But I’m quite sure that’s unnecessary”
I know where this is going.
I look away swiftly before he can snip his fingers but the appalled and ghostly faces of the guests tell me all I didn’t want to know.
The smell is almost chalky and dry, like plaster dust but it has a poisonous edge to it.
People rush to me with gold and goodness. I smile vaguely as my bag becomes heavy with riches.
“Au revoir” the devil blows a kiss as we walk out unscathed and rich.
I don’t look back.