Upon a time, lately returning from a favoured place, spires dreaming in autumnal light; I gazed out that evening, down the old street, from one window, high above it all. Seeing sublime sunset's wash colouring deep blue and green and gold, cobalt, apricot pricked the darkness by man's lights - I realised, it was fair yet: the evening was fair, despite the loud insistence of five-storey buildings, the continual offence of growling traffic, the groaning burden of concrete, brick and asphalt. My kind makes, unkindly while our Maker blesses yet with sweet, cool colours of an evening. I bless Him, wondering at the Love of such beauty, carelessly strewn before me - a gift wholly undeserved, holy, whole.
This was my first attempt at replying to a writing prompt on r/writingprompts. The prompt itself was so insane, thinking of how to put things together was really fun!
At 09:05 this morning you left for a normal day of work at the office. It is now 15:26, your shotgun has four rounds left, the llama is throwing up, there's police everywhere, someone's punching a nun, and you desperately need to find the seven of clubs. Today has been a weird day. 'BLAM!' That recoil didn't get any easier as the day wore on. I cracked open the shotgun as the mammoth-spider collapsed, its legs folding under it in a mass of orange hair. I emptied out the shells, I only had 4 rounds left.
Sister Edelgard saw me reloading. 'Have you enough?' she asked in her heavy Bavarian accent.
'Not unless we find that bloody card,' I answered. 'How did I get into this mess?'
'By being ze only person in ze City of London who just happened to have ze great firepower on him, kinderlein,' she said with a Grimm grin. I just happened to have had the thing cleaned and reconditioned yesterday.
'At least until the sharpshooters get here,' I said, hopefully. There were police everywhere. At least they could keep the crowds away while we checked the site for that card.
'What card is it, again?' I asked.
'Sieben Clubs! Nicht wieder vergessen!' she fumed. She reminded me of a Mother Superior in a creepy movie, with her white hair escaping from under her dark blue veil. Even if she wasn't psychokinetic, I wouldn't have wanted to cross her.
We descended into the dig site. This anomaly was a weird one, it was spitting out the most bizarre lifeforms. The air shimmered like heat-haze. It was erupting again! I readied the shotgun, expecting the worst: fire-crabs, glass wasps like eagles, those spiders, what...?'
The anomaly blew out a form. It was... a llama? 'What the - is that all?'
'Never zat simple,' Sister said. I could feel her gathering in her power.
The llama made a strange motion, as if heaving. Its neck bulged ominously, and Sister shouted, 'Achtung!' as she made a shoving motion. The llama spewed a brilliant blue flame out of its mouth, and there was a foul stink of rotten eggs. Her shove made the flame sweep around and above us, instead of onto us. The llama slumped down, apparently exhausted after losing its flame.
'Sehr gut,' she puffed. 'Now, seek zat card!' I cast my eyes around, beyond weary. This had been a long day. I hadn't even known about anomalies when I left the house at nine that morning.
'Ze power zat creates zese anomalies can be stopped by an item in ze nearby space,' she explained. 'It used ze item to make ze opening, but if we srow the item into ze anomaly, it will shut itself.'
'So how do we know what the item is?'
She smiled, with a crafty expression. 'I haf ways und means! Ze Mirror of St Helmut showed me zis morning!'
'Don't tell me,' I said, shaking my head, 'Another saint's relic?'
'Naturlich,' she said, insufferably smug. I looked around. The archaeologists and their students had left in a hurry when the anomaly formed, there was stuff lying around all over the place. I was looking underneath a tarp, when I felt a stabbing pain on my heel. I spun around, and a small mammoth-spider had snuck out and was biting me! I shot it, but didn't hit it properly. I had to beat its brains out with the rifle butt to finish the job. I didn't want to shoot my own foot. By the time I was finished, I was worn out and the rifle had yellow ichor all over it. 'That's disgusting!' I moaned.
'No, you're disgusting!' the shrill accusation came from the stairs that led down into the dig. 'We are the Vegan Legion, and we're here to stop you murdering defenceless wildlife!' and suddenly we were surrounded by hemp-clad hippies. 'Don't you dare hurt any more of these poor creatures!'
I was dumbfounded. Where did this lot come from? How did they get through the police cordon? Then I noticed - their eyes weren't right! These weren't people, they were from the anomaly! I swore eloquently.
Then all hell broke loose. Suddenly the police were everywhere, including some carrying heavy sniper rifles. They were shouting at the 'Vegans' to leave the area, but one of them punched Sr Edelgard! Right then, the llama righted itself and looked like it was about to spew again! I aimed my third-last shot at the thing, and managed to get off a shot just before being rugby-tackled by a guy with a beard thicker than his arms. The llama collapsed with a hole in the base of its neck, from which blue sulphurous flame burned steadily. The stink was indescribable!.
Just then, Sr Edelgard pushed her assailant violently off her, as she straightened up, a large, eighteenth-century playing card in her hand! With a shout of triumph, she flicked it into the anomaly, which imploded with a sound like a reverse explosion. The llama corpse and the Vegans all disappeared, and she cheered like a mother at a football match!
A bit of a negative one this time. Upon a time I was in a very bad position, and nothing I did seemed to make any difference. There was no rest from the situation anywhere, and I had given up hope. I had just had another disappointment, so I wrote this...
That's it. The hope is forlorn.
So this is what Hell's like: the endless, scathing self-pity, the helpless rage at things done to you, the self-warping, making something twisted, incapable, dark and loathsome so that no trace of the original plan remains - leaving a Gollum where once was a man.
How do I stop believing that all is lost?
God has not said it.
And that last sentence is the only difference between earth and the Other Place!
This was another response to DanielandAngel's weekly writing contest on Minds.com. The prompt was, anything to do with a forest. As it turned out, the forest was only in the background of this story. It's based on an earlier version of a chapter in The Ironwood Staff. It was dawn when the barking began.
Normally, baboons barking isn't a big deal. It means they're in trouble - same as hyenas laughing. They can be pests, so anything that thins their numbers saves us the trouble. Now, when you're an old soldier like me, you don't forget the wars. Just because I have a peg leg these days, doesn't mean I can't remember... or think. And, this made me wish I still had some kind of weapon. But no-one needs a blade in the Monastery. The Militia was away, fighting Bashmuul the Foot and his orc horde. The barking sound was only faint in the early morning. Then, after I'd done the morning post, I was taking the weight off my leg in the cloister, it came again. But this... this was LOUD. I had ever heard it that loud before! The pale, dusty winter sunlight suddenly felt cold.
Curiosity got the better of me. I should have gone inside, like a small part of me wanted to; but no, I had to lever myself up with my crutch and totter off to the corner gate, the one leading to the herb garden. The sound seemed to come from there. I shuffled through the cold stone corridor, shielding my eyes against the sun shining into it. I looked over the herb garden, towards the stream at the bottom. The bank on the far side was lined with thorny acacias. Just here the road ran right along the top. I saw a man, riding hard. What was a Dukesman doing here? Then I saw it, and my insides turned to water.
Loping along behind the fleeing horseman was a monstrous baboon! Man-height at the shoulder, its fur dusty grey-black, limbs like tree-trunks. Its lips were peeled back in a snarl, showing fangs easily as long as my forearm! Like most people, I had grown up hearing stories, like how a half-tame one could be sitting placidly, and without warning, gut a dog with their claws. What a giant one could do... As I watched, this monster gave up chasing the horse. It paused, puffing in the trees, and looked down at the water. It started climbing down the bank.
It was too much. I turned and frantically started moving back down the corridor. Halfway along, I realised I should close the gate. I turned, only to see the baboon, standing in the herb garden, small, close-set eyes looking through the gate, right at me!
Stuff the gate, I thought! I couldn't move fast enough. The paved pathway across the cloister had never seemed so long. My treacherous peg-leg made a steady clunk along the paving stones, even as my crutch thumped in counterpoint. I daren't even look back as I made it to the four wide steps up to the Abbot's house. The doors were thick, as befitted an Abbot, but stood wide open in the sunlight. Battling up the steps, I risked a look back. It was in the cloister! It looked around at the unfamiliar surroundings. I gained the door, swinging myself around the jamb. I pulled the left door out, and it creaked. Crashing it into place, I shoved the bolt down. I crossed to the other door. The baboon was moving towards me! Almost crying with fear, I pulled frantically on the door. It swung, but the baboon was there! I shoved the door closed, but the baboon's hand was in the way! The monster gave a roar of pain as the heavy door thumped closed, bouncing off the massive claws. They were yanked back, and I bolted the second door closed. I relaxed against them, looking around at the entrance to the Abbot's hall. Then there was a shock, as the baboon attacked the thing that had hurt him. The doors bent with the blows.
I'd had enough. I had to get further in, even if the Abbot was in his pyjamas! I looked around. There was another door to the kitchens, to the right. The door opened, fast. A monk suddenly appeared, waving at me. 'Tom, get yer old arse in here, now!'
This also started as a writing prompt at a Bards event, but I wasn't as enthusiastic on this occasion.
I know that door. I've been through it, betimes, when footloose and fancy-free, gnawing on my own insufficiency.
But when you're through the Shabbat door, there you are: unchanged; restless. The Sabbath crowds round with peace and quiet, frowning at my continued dissatisfaction. A body may rest, but the mind does not. Longing and desire lengthen with the shadows, as satisfaction recedes.