Snake eyes

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Happy Friday!

This’ll be a quick one. In an effort to get myself to write, I dug through the WritingPrompts subreddit and found this guy:

You work as a volunteer at a local zoo. One day, whilst cleaning handprints of the snake enclosure, you realise one of the handprints is on the inside of the cage.

And so here’s my response!

~~~

As a kid, I always loved the zoo. I dreamed of the day I might get to work at one. In all my dreams, it never struck me that I’d be at the zoo after closing. Do you have any idea how unnerving zoos are after hours? There’s only a handful of us left this late, and in a zoo this large, I almost never see anyone else until I leave. The only thing that kept me around was the thought that they might consider hiring me after I finished my degree. Until then, I volunteered cleaning exhibits.

Of all the exhibits, the creepiest by far had to be the reptiles. As a self-professed animal lover, I acknowledge that all animals are important and beautiful, but that doesn’t stop snakes from freaking me out. There’s just something about them that gives me the heebie jeebies. So I usually left their enclosures for last. The huge emerald boa at the center of the room in particular got me every time. I always found myself having to do a little pep talk before getting close to the glass.

Today, the visitors were particularly awful. There were literal food smudges and grime on the glass. Unfortunately for me, that meant really getting in there to make sure it was spotless for the next day. After my five minute pep-talk, I approached the glass and got to work.

Once I got into it, it was almost easy to ignore the snake on the other side of the glass as it watched me work. After about an hour of scrubbing, I got stuck on a particularly stubborn hand print. Usually the hand prints were child-sized (couldn’t expect children to heed the ‘keep off the glass’ signs) but this one was a little bigger than mine. I was on it for fifteen minutes before I realized why it wasn’t coming off.

It was on the other side.

“What the hell?” People weren’t allowed in the enclosure. All the cleaning on the inside was done from above the large tank, without anyone ever actually stepping foot inside. My mind went into over-drive, picturing the worst case scenario. No longer caring about the proximity of the snake, I pressed close to the glass, trying to narrow down if it looked like someone had been in there, while pulling out my walkie-talkie. “This is Sarah. Has anyone reported someone falling into the boa tank?”

“What? No. Why?”

“There’s a hand-” The boa lunged at the glass, right where my face was. I dropped the walkie talkie as I fell on my back.

“Sarah? Sarah!”

I wanted to respond, but I couldn’t move. While I’d always felt like the animals watched me, I’d never actually seen this kind of focus in any of them. The snake almost looked like it was glaring at me. Its gaze was so intense I was frozen in place. And then the damn thing actually spoke.

“Sssshhhhh.” It would have been easy to tell myself it was a hiss. I might have been able to convince myself, too, if it didn’t start changing shape before my eyes. It pressed against the glass, stretching up to the ceiling of the tank before it started to fill out. As the body grew thicker, it developed a human silhouette. Arms formed against the torso until it pulled them away, the hands pressed against the glass. One of them went right over the handprint. Before my brain could really register what happened, there was a naked, green-tinted woman on the other side of the glass. While she looked mostly human, she still looked at me with snake eyes.

“Sarah, was it?” She drags out the letter ‘s’ as she speaks, giving her already haunting voice a creepier resonance.

“Y-Yes?”

“Be a dear and don’t tell them.” Her eyes dart to the walkie, where Jeremy is still calling my name. I scramble to grab it.

“Hey yeah, I’m fine. One of the snakes spooked me. That’s all. I’ll be done here soon.” I rushed through the words, but he didn’t question it. Everyone knew I was terrified of the snakes.

As I talked on the walkie, the snake woman walked across the enclosure to grab a large leaf. After fogging the glass with her breath, she wiped at the handprint. “My apologies. I’ll try to keep it cleaner in here.”

~~~

Snakes always creeped me out.

As always, think happy thoughts!

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Broken

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Sup!

Yet again I skipped a day, but in my defense I did get writing done, just not here. This whole writing by hand thing is working out pretty nicely so far, so in the next few weeks I’ll probably be taking down A Vampire’s Bride, since that’s the one I’m working on. It’ll probably come back out as a novella, eventually.

But anyway, on to today’s writing! Today’s prompt comes from Riley Liley on Tumblr. They came up with a super long list of angst-themed prompts, and I’m going with number six.

Prompt: “I’m just a little bit broken.”

And because Paola is all about the angst right now, this prompt goes to Provisional Freedom.

~~~

I’m still stewing in my annoyance when Max shows up in our room. To their credit, they wait for me to speak before continuing to reprimand me.

“What did you do with him?”

“Made sure he wouldn’t die from his wounds, wiped his memory except for the attack, and put in an anonymous tip at the police station. Didn’t leave until he got picked up by the cops.” They sit on their side of the room, eyes cautious. “What were you thinking, Paola?”

“I wasn’t. Obviously.”

“You should have known better than to expose yourself like that. What if there was another angel nearby? Or a demon?” Despite their words, their tone is soft. Max is trying to be careful with me, but I’m having any of it.

“If you think I regret stepping in you’re out of your mind. I’d do it again. In a heartbeat.” Containing my anger gets harder by the second but I manage. “I’m sure I could take on an angel or two if I had to.”

“Do you even hear yourself? Where’s your sense of self preservation?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe you broke it when you made me immortal!” I don’t mean to raise my voice, don’t mean to lash out so harshly. They flinch at my words, and I continue, “Maybe I’m just a little bit broken…”

“Paola…I…”

“There’s no point in apologizing. Again. There’s nothing you can do to fix it, or me. I need to come to terms with that.” The outburst made me tired, and now it’s all I can do not to let the exhaustion overwhelm me. “I’m not okay right now. But I will be. I just need you to let me deal with this on my terms.” When I look at them again, Max looks like they’re seeing me for the first time.

“Okay.” They stand before walking across the room and placing a hand on mine. “If you’re going to do this – make use of your immortality this way – I can’t stop you. But let me help you. Even if that just means covering your tracks.”

For the first time in a while, I feel a genuine smile tugging at the corners of my lips.

~~~

Max, sidekick vigilante. Maybe. That’s where this seems to be going, so we’ll see!

As always, think happy thoughts!

Finding Purpose

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Happy Monday!

So my posting has been sporadic again. I really am trying to post every day, but that proves harder and harder the more I try. On the bright side, I have been working on A Vampire’s Bride outside of here. I’m trying a new approach! Rather than try to type out the story from the start, I’m writing it by hand. This way I don’t have to be in front of a computer screen all the time. So far so good, so we’ll see how it goes.

Today’s prompt comes from Let Me Help You Write on Tumblr and will go toward Provisional Freedom‘s word count!

Enjoy!

CW: Assault, violence, and some language.

~~~

Although Marcus said I’m still welcome at the house, I’ve been trying not to rely on him and Videl as much. I don’t want to make him uncomfortable, and to be honest, knowing what I know now, it makes me uncomfortable to be there. So that’s how I now find myself wandering around on my own, one of the few times Max’s attention is elsewhere. They don’t usually tell me where they go when they’re not with me, but on this particular occasion they mentioned something about having to check on another charge.

The city at night is a completely different beast. Urban exploration was never my thing, but now that I have all this time to kill, I’ve had to get creative with my past times. It never occurred to me that I might not be the only one out at three in the morning. Turns out, the night life is much more active than I anticipated. Still, even if I’d expected this level of activity, nothing could have prepared me for an attempted mugging. Not against me, mind you.

The victims in question are a couple of women, probably a few years older than me. Going by their clothes and smudged makeup, they were likely headed home from a night of dancing and general fun, until some asshole in a mask decided they made easy targets. Scared, and probably still a little drunk, they’re incoherent but it’s obvious they’re scared out of their minds. One of them shakily tries to hand over her bag. When the asshole doesn’t take the bag and instead tries to approach them, gun in hand, I have a whole new understanding of what’s happening.

My blood boils, and before I know it, I’m walking over.

“Excuse me, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” I’m sure I’m the farthest thing from an imposing figure, but my words make the man stop anyway. The mask doesn’t hide his eyes, and I can see a momentary lapse of fear and confusion. And then he realizes he’s talking to a girl who’s five-foot-nothing.

“Stay back! I have a gun.” He points it at me.

“Oh, what, are you going to shoot me?” Behind him, the women are on the ground, shaking.

“You sound awfully sarcastic for a person with a gun pointed at them.”

“Well what can I say? You don’t scare me.” I shrug, keeping my eye on the women. As I keep the man’s attention, I motion for them to get out of his reach. Though they’re both scared out of their wits, one of them manages to pull the other up before running together behind a dumpster. I’m so focused on them, I almost don’t hear the gunshot.

I’ve never been shot before, so I’m not sure what I expected. It’s not painless, per say, but doesn’t hurt nearly as much as a gunshot should. When I look down, there’s a hole in my sweater, but no blood. “This is my favorite hoodie, asshole!”

He fires again, making yet another hole. At this point, I don’t even bother sitting still. Walking toward him, I clench my fists, ready to knock his teeth down his throat. He empties his gun, and in a desperate play to get me to stop, he throws it at me. I almost laugh before my foot meets his groin. When he doubles over, I back hand him, his blood spraying the concrete.

I didn’t realize how much I’d pent up my anger and frustrations until I started wailing on him. When I stop, it’s only because Max shows up.

“I think that’s enough, Paola.”

“Bastard deserves to die.” But I do as they say and stop, taking two steps back to admire my handiwork. He’s trembling, muttering something about how sorry he is.

“Be that as it may, you don’t need his blood on your hands.”

“Ha! Too late.” My knuckles drip with it. I look over at Max as they kneel down by the women. I let them handle it, considering I’m probably a bit more terrifying than the man with the gun had been. I watch a Max places a hand over their foreheads, and both faint into their arms. “What are you doing?”

“Wiping their memories and taking them home. We don’t need rumors about a bullet proof girl running around. Stay here, I’ll be right back to deal with him.” And with that, they’re gone. As much as I don’t feel like sitting around, I stay.

When Max returns, it’s with reprimands at the ready. “That was reckless.”

“As reckless as pulling a tainted soul from Purgatory?” I wipe my hands on my ruined hoodie.

“Paola…”

“What? At least I helped someone. Would it have been better to let it happen?”

“No, but-”

“But nothing. I helped those women, and I felt good doing it. Maybe I should do it more often. Put this immortality to good use. Punish scum like him.”

“What you should do is get some sleep. We’ll talk about this in the morning.” Their words had a tone of finality, and I was tired of arguing with them anyway.

“Fine.”

~~~

Paola, vigilante extraordinaire? Maybe!

As always, think happy thoughts!

Intimidation

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Sup!

Didn’t think I’d get a post up, but here we are 🙂

Today’s inspiration comes from Plots and Prompts for All.

Prompt: “If I wanted you dead, this room would be a lot quieter.”

~~~

Standing at exactly five feet and two inches, I’ve never thought of myself as particularly intimidating. No one has ever cowered before me, shaken in their boots at the sight of me. That is, until now. I guess it helps to have a gun.

“Are you going to kill me?” He tries to maintain eye contact but his eyes won’t stop flicking to the gun. It’s the fifth time in as many minutes that he’s asked me that.

“If I wanted you dead, this room would be a lot quieter.” Grabbing him by the shoulder (no small feat, considering the foot he has on me) I pull him into the chair. “Now shut up. I’m the one asking questions.”

To be honest, I’m surprised I’ve made it this far. My bravado is holding up better than I thought, and going by the apprehension in his eyes, I’m doing a good job of hiding how worried I am. How terrified. I’ve never killed anyone before – I don’t want to start now. He relaxes in his chair, comforted by the thought that I don’t want to kill him. “Ask away.”

“What do you know about the Flamel Project?” Even saying the words out loud makes my stomach turn.

“Enough to know that you’ll die if they find out you’re snooping.” It isn’t technically snooping if my family runs the project, if I was once supposed to carry that legacy. But I don’t tell him that.

“You let me worry about that. I need to know what phase it’s in. Have they started human trials yet?” As one of the scientists on the project, he should be privy to that kind of information. My suspicion is confirmed when his eyes finally look somewhere other than mine or at the gun. Despite the resolve in his jaw to keep his mouth shut, a flicker of doubt – and shame? – passes through his eyes. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

I struggle to hold back overwhelming horror. It helps that I’ve concealed my face with a scarf and glasses. Still, it’s not long before my hand begins to shake. In an effort to keep him from noticing, I lower the gun.

With a sigh, I continue. “I don’t know how they convinced you to participate, but know that – whatever it is – it isn’t worth it.”

Holstering the gun, I turn to leave. There’s no point in continuing the conversation, I have what I need.

“What are you going to do?” I don’t expect him to call out to me. When I turn back, there’s a hint of hope in his eyes.

“Whatever I can to stop it.” Before I can leave the room, he speaks again.

“Let me help you.”

~~~

This is bits of a story that has been sitting on the back burner for literal years. It’s probably not going anywhere, but the prompt fit. And it helped me reach my goal for today.

As always, think happy thoughts!

Angel in Training

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Hello!

So yesterday I failed miserably at trying to improve my layout. Here’s to trying again today. This redesign will not get the best of me!

In the meantime, here’s another flash piece.

Prompt: You have just passed away, and you find yourself at the Gates of Heaven. You were not evil, but you weren’t the epitome of good either. So you are offered a choice: Wait your time in Purgatory, or become a Guardian Angel for an individual until they die. You choose the latter.

~~~

“Does anyone ever pick Purgatory?” I don’t expect the angel to answer my question, but the silence is beginning to get to me. We’ve been walking for what feels like hours. I’m not tired – the dead don’t get tired – but I am bored. Instead of answering me, the angel in front of me just turns down another hall.

“Wait here.” They step aside and gesture for me to enter through a door. Entering the room, the first thing I notice is that there’s no one else, though it looks like a waiting room. You’d think there would be others. “And to answer your question – you’re the first in a millennium not to.”

“What?” But by the time I turn to ask, they’ve closed the door and I’m alone. Is there something everyone else knows that I don’t? Why would anyone pick Purgatory? With no one left to answer my questions, I take a seat on the far side of the room, near a small window. The glass is foggy and I can’t see to the other side but there’s a door a few feet down from it. I assume that’s where they’ll call me.

Maybe I waited for hours, or seconds – there’s no way to tell since time runs differently – but eventually static comes over an unseen intercom calling my name. “Sasha Contreras, please approach the door.”

When I do, the door opens by itself and I’m greeted by yet another angel. This one sits on the other side of a desk and doesn’t bother looking at me as I enter. Their focus is on a set of files lined up on the desk. “Take a seat.”

I manage an uncomfortable silence for about a second. “So you’re going to give me my assignment?”

“Yes.” But they still don’t look up. “So you perished in a fire, correct?”

I flinch at the memory. “Yeah.”

They consider this for a moment before finally looking at me. “Your assignment is a man named Malcolm Turner. He’s the firefighter who recovered your body.”

If I could feel winded, I would. He didn’t just recover my body – he watched me die. He did everything he could to save me, but it was too late by then. That pillar had crushed me beyond repair. “W-Why?”

“He needs you. Your job will be to watch over him – make sure he survives his assignments. We have big plans for him.” They rearrange the stack of files before shuffling through the contents of one of the desk drawers. A moment later they pull out a watch and hand it to me. “Should you need guidance, you can use this to reach me.”

I take it, noting that it looks like a smart-watch. “How do I…how do I watch over him?”

“Befriend him, follow him around, do what you need to do.”

“Won’t he recognize me?”

“No. You’ll have a new face, new identity.” They hand me a manila folder. Inside, there’s a picture of a woman with deep blue hair and thoughtful brown eyes. Her name – my new name – is Chris Sanders. “Everything you need is in that folder.”

“Okay.” I’m beginning to understand why people prefer to just wait around in Purgatory.

“Head out that door behind you. Your assignment begins as soon as you do.”

I nod, closing the folder and standing. “Thank you.”

With a deep breath, I move to the door.

~~~

And there’s that. In my mind, this happens in the same universe as Secondhand Soul and Provisional Freedom.

As always, think happy thoughts!

A wild unicorn appears!

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Happy Friday!

As the week comes to a close, I struggled to find a prompt to get me going today. Thankfully, Reddit pulled through!

Prompt: You’re driving down a quiet road at night, when a unicorn jumps out of the woods and in front of your car.

Enjoy!

~~~

I’ve never been a fan of driving – especially at night. When I can, I avoid it. Unfortunately, once in a while, there’s just no getting out of it. This is one of those times.

Normally I don’t struggle to stay awake when I drive. The nerves I get behind the wheel do more than enough to keep me awake, but tonight is different. I’ve been on the road for a solid five hours and I’ve still got another two to go. To make things worse, I haven’t passed a residential or commercial area in almost just as long. Outside, the trees whip by on either side of the car, eaten by the darkness behind me. If it wasn’t so dark out, I might consider pulling over for a nap, but the thought of something coming out of the forest to get me keeps me driving.

I should have just taken the nap.

My eyes start to droop again, so I try to turn up the music. My car is the only one on the road, and I haven’t see anyone else for miles. It doesn’t occur to me to keep my eyes on the road as I reach for the volume control. When I look back up, a white blur shoots out of the forest and into the road. By some miracle I manage to swerve without hitting it. I almost lose control of the car, but managed to stop just a few yards away.

When I turn to look at what I almost hit, I can’t believe my eyes. There, in the middle of the road, is a white horse with a horn coming out of its head. Moonlight highlights the curves of the horn – it actually shines in the light. The animal has a glow about it, and I’m sure I’m dreaming. Or dead. I probably fell asleep at the wheel, hit a tree, and I’m dying somewhere in the dark right now.

Right?

It’s staring at me now. At least, I think it is – we’re making eye contact in my rearview mirror. I consider flooring it and just driving away, but I’m too awestruck to move.

“Belle! What do you think you’re doing?” Someone runs into the road behind the unicorn. The animal looks away from me and at the person – as if responding to the name – before focusing back on me. The person follows the unicorn’s gaze. “Oh no.”

Now, I try to floor it, but my car just doesn’t want to work. I try to restart it, but all I get is a sputtering engine. Before I know it the person is at my door, knocking on my window. I jump at the sound and refuse to open.

“It’s okay. I just want to make sure you’re alright. Did she hurt you?” The deep voice is calm, reassuring, and it does something weird to my brain. Though they’re standing right in front of me, I struggle to make out their appearance. They’re blurry, like I’m looking at them without my glasses, though everything else is clear as can be. My thoughts are fuzzy and I have to struggle to stay focused.

“She-she ran out onto the road. I’m okay. I just want to go.” Again, I try to start the car. Still no luck. “Dammit!”

“Your car won’t work.” They’re still standing outside. “You’re on the veil. I’ll need to get your car to the other side so you can keep going.”

“What?”

“Please. Come out and I’ll help you.”

I gauge my options. There’s a unicorn on the road, this person is blurry, and my car won’t start. Not to mention I’m probably already dead. Or dying. After a glance at my phone, I realize I have no signal, either. I exit the car with my pepper spray in hand, my keys sticking out between my fingers.

“Why are you blurry?” I narrow my eyes.

“What? Oh! Sorry. That’s my glamour. No use in keeping it up, I guess.” A blink later, their figure comes into focus. The first thing I notice are his eyes – they’re the color of the moon. Everything else about him is fairly normal – short black hair, muscular build. Like a farmhand, I suppose. He offers his hand. “I’m Caleb.”

I don’t take it, still gripping my weapons tight. “Kara.”

He chuckles.

“Sorry about this. Belle doesn’t usually get out, but every once in a while she slips past me.” He sends a glare to the unicorn, which he leashed to a nearby tree. “And ends up ripping the veil. Normally no one is around, though. You’re the first!”

Caleb turns his attention to the car, straightening it out on the road with his bare hands before moving to stand behind it and push. Like it’s no heavier than a shopping cart, he navigates it down the road. For a moment I’m struck before I realize I’m supposed to follow him. I hurry to catch up.

“I’m dreaming right? Or dead?”

“No, not at all!” His voice is cheery, casual. “But you probably won’t remember this tomorrow.”

“Why?”

“The veil’s magic will wipe the memory. Can’t have humans stumbling upon fairies and unicorns.” The thought is upsetting. My curiosity spins, and if it wasn’t for my need to get home and mild fear, I’d demand more answers.

After a few more yards, he stops. “Here you go. Try again.”

I keep the door open as I try to start the car again. It starts with no problem, and I find myself smiling with relief. “Thank you.”

“Anytime. Maybe just avoid driving through veils during full moons.” He says that like it’s advice everyone should know.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I look down at my phone again, happy to see full bars. When I go to thank Caleb again, he’s gone. I turn to try to spot the unicorn, but she’s gone, too. After another hour on the road, the entire ordeal seems like a dream, but I struggle to hold onto it, to remember.

I intend to come back tomorrow.

~~~

I really like this little piece. Hope you did too!

As always, think happy thoughts!

Flickering Sun

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Hello!

So the piece below was inspired partially by the eclipse a few weeks ago and by a writing prompt I saw around the same time. Basically, one day the sun starts to flicker. What happens?

I started this story with the hopes of entering it in a contest but lost track of time and missed the deadline. Not to mention I didn’t finish writing it. I’m putting it up now because I don’t think I’ll have time for my fifteen minute writing burst today but I don’t want to lose momentum. So instead I’ve edited this short piece.

Enjoy!

~~~

No one thought the sun’s death would be so slow, or breathtaking.  At least, that’s what we thought was happening when the sun began to flicker. I slept in that morning, and when I woke up I thought it was just one of those days when the passing clouds would fade the light in and out. It wasn’t until after my morning coffee that I really looked outside and saw it was more than just clouds. The longer it went on, the darker those brief moments. Looking up at a cloudless sky, I nearly dropped my coffee when I saw it – a brief blink. The sun disappeared – for several seconds – before reappearing and nearly blinding me with the sudden light. Below me, my shadow followed suit, in and out of existence with the sun.

The air stood still, as if holding its breath. In the darkness of those flickering moments I could only hear my own heartbeat, my own breathing. For the first time in my entire life, it was total silence. With the light went all natural sound. That is, until the panic started.

My phone rang, cutting through one of the longer periods of darkness.

“Blake – are you…this?” Her words tried to cut through static.

“Ana? Can you hear me?”

“…can’t…mom and dad…home…” I couldn’t catch more than a few words before the call dropped. When I tried to call my sister back, all I got was a busy tone.

Before I could really analyze what I was doing, I packed a bag with my essentials and booked it out of the apartment. If I hurried, I could reach my parents in a few hours. Assuming my sister had the same plan, I’d meet her there.

Outside, chaos reigned. People ran scared, clutching their children and belongings. Those without either shoved the others out of the way as crowds attempted to flee – though no one actually knew what we were trying to escape. A fire had already started in a nearby storefront, lighting the area when the sun didn’t. By the time I reached my bike, I was battered and bruised. I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to drive with the intermittent light, but I started the bike anyway, driven by instinct.

~~~

And there’s that! Maybe someday down the line I can extend this to be a short story instead of just a scene. We’ll see.

As always, think happy thoughts!