Risk for a Wish Granted

Years of studying Botany finally paid off. Mother always said that it was a useless Major, and that I should be studying “Western Medicine” and not Apothecary of sorts. Chance, that it was my love of fantasy worlds that drew me to the unknown. And maybe my open-mind led me to discoveries that others could not fathom, plants that myths and legends speak of. However, fame had come with a price, my undying commitment to the hunt for the Flora of Legend.

Mind you, the other scholars would poke fun at my attempts of convincing them that their scope of research was far too limited. There were so many plants that have been lost in ancient text and forgotten in the minds of those who claim to preserve the craft. Still, I perused every lead, every shred of information in order to discover the flowers of fable, and still, I went further in testing their properties. Poisons. Healing properties. Limb regrowth. This were the moments that I believed the stories labeled “Fiction” in the libraries. 

There was one plant, however, that eluded me. In time, I would make it my life’s work to obtain a sample of it’s petals and nectar. Known to the common-folk as Blossom of the Gods, ancient scrolls tell of the most beautiful flower that, when ingested, bestows immortality but at a price. However, nothing that I am able to find indicates what exactly that adverse effect is or entails for those who have discovered and eaten this rare plant have not scrawled a single note about even the taste.

Locating this unspeakably rare flower has proven understandably difficult.  Given what information I have, clues to the singular location where it grows. Whispers tell me to find a divergence of trees in the Amazon Rainforest after allowing yourself to become lost within its immensity and, only then, will Blossom of Gods can be found. After a simple drop of blood is placed upon a leaf, the flower will bloom. This is all of the information I am able to find.

So I am here, traveling through the thicket and broken stumps alone. Of course I’m afraid. What if I die here? More than likely, there are predators just beyond my vision, hid away in the green blur, waiting to pounce. Lost?Hours must have passed by  now. What have I gotten myself into? Maybe Mom was right…

Alas! No, it can’t be. Have I found it? Something shifts in the air as I step into the mossy clearing. No doubt this is holy ground. A raised platform centered in the space between the trees. I cannot even hear birds chirping anymore. Rising with each step, I begin to make out the leaf in which I must shed blood. My heart is racing as I approach the glowing plant and raise my hand directly over it. With a click of my pocket knife, I press the blade against my palm, piercing the skin just enough to drip the crimson liquid onto the leaf.

Suddenly, it draws itself into the ground. I wait. For a moment, it seems like nothing is going to happen, until an indescribable petrichor fills my nostrils. All my mind can grasp is euphoria as a glittering orchid-like flower rises from the ground. Without a second to dwell on the implications, here sits my life work, I tear a petal from the flower and it descends underneath. Immortality at a price. What is the price I will pay for this? Perhaps it is watching my loved ones pass from this world onto another. Steep yet fitting price. No guess I could have materialized could prepare me for the senses that the forsaken Blossom took from me.

Days later I woke up in the hospital. I could hear them talking around me, yet, as I tried to open my eyes, there was just blackness. I screamed and the nurses were forced to restrain me. When my mother came in, I could hear her sobbing and she pressed a fresh loaf of bread at me. But, the only reason I knew it was bread was the warmth and texture.

I only now understand what price the Blossom of the Gods had taken from me in exchange for endless life. First, my sight, for not appreciating the beauty and seeking more than what I deserved. Second, my sense of smell, something I had taken for granted while working as a Botanist. No longer can I resume my career. Instead, I returned to the place where the flower bloomed for me to find all those scholars from times past awaiting me. I felt their presence and they told me what I must do now.

Protect it. The flower chose me as it does not give it’s blessing to all those who come across it.

Coming of Age

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Every child in our tribe dreams of the day when they take their test. The Old Ones; our parents, siblings, and family all speak about their test with pride and fearlessness in their eyes. But their words shake from time to time and I am not sure if the other Younglings notice, but I have.

Every child in our tribe dreams of the day when they take their test. But not me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid. Five moons in the jungle while our markings heal will show us our true spirit. The animal who chooses to be our guide will be permanently marked on our chest, over our heart, our spirit center.

Some of them don’t come back, though. The tribe just assumes that they were not strong enough to protect us. To hunt. To battle. But no one goes to look for the bodies and the families just move on without their family. It makes me uneasy to think that… one of those missing… could be me. They would never allow me to skip this. I’m just standing on the edge of something I cannot escape. My family would disown me. Banishment would be my fate… and I would have to face the jungle alone anyway.

Tomorrow. I will rise with the birds and travel to the stream tent. Elders will be there to scar me with markings all over my back and arms with the story of our people. Throughout time, all of our kin have worn the countless tales of battle, harvest, and failings of the tribe. We all wear it proudly. It reminds us to have hope when we hang our heads in shame and to be humble when we stand above others in mastery. Hours will pass before I am ready for the blessing. Chanting through a line of my friends and family as they bless me with tree sap and I stand on the opening into the thicket.

I guess I’m lucky. My friend will be taking the test with me. Rules are, though, we must split up or the gods will frown upon our weakness and send a large animal to devour us both. And I do not wish to test the gods.

My mother is afraid. She tells me of her test and how close she came to death. Sickness from a simple wound and screams of others in the night. Out of a group of twelve, she and one other made it back alive. The others, lost in memory. And that night, she told me that I had an older brother who never made it back to the tribe after his test. It is taboo to speak of the lost but the fear in her eyes told me all I needed to know. I’m her only child now.

And then, the sun rises. Another sleepless night floats through my grasp like smoke. Ravens caw with the purple sky as I open my eyes to what could be my final days. I pay homage to the god of luck, an offering of flowers and bread. With a short bow, I meet my friend and we walk to the stream tent where a dozen Elders meet us. There are two woven chairs for us to remove our tunics and sit.

What started out as a bee-sting feeling soon subsided to numbness for a while. My heart stopped racing so quickly and I began to relax. The methodical tapping of the bamboo into my skin nearly put me to sleep. Pain no longer existed in my body. My eyes turn to my friend, who winces with each needle prick, clenching his hands. I place my palm on his fist and he relaxes.

“Everything will be okay.” I promise. “I will get through this and you will too.”

He smiles and relaxes a little, but I can sense the pain. I wish to a god to take some from him and she grants my kind gesture. A prickling feeling starts in my back, but I see my friend relaxing evermore. I nod in thanks to help him.

Perhaps I am different than the others in my tribe. The Old Ones have told ancient tales of people who connect with gods on a different level, called the Anointed. But the connection with the gods meant that they have weird abilities and can see the world through the gods eyes and feel things through nature. As I begin to wonder, I drift into a dream state and the markings are complete.

My friend and I stand between the stream and the dark trees. We make our way through the line of Old Ones who cover us with protection spells. The hum of chanting is hypnotizing. I don’t even remember falling to my knees, but here I am, crawling through the last few people in line. My mother is standing there with worry on her face, but she allows me to pass and stand at the edge of the thicket. My friend stands in a different direction and we bid each other farewell.

If I turn to look at the tribe, the gods will surely fail me. I must be strong and hold my head high but my knees are shaking as I stand and face the unknown. That was the moment I noticed something in the distance. A light? A figure? It’s moving but I don’t think the others can see it because they say nothing. Are my eyes playing tricks on me? No, because it’s getting brighter. I can feel its energy, pulling me deeper into the jungle as my tribe disappears out of view. Whatever it is, it feels welcoming and maybe a bit familiar.

 

I may come back to this writing prompt and finish it off with another picture. It was fun to write! I hope you enjoy, as always. I apologize for the extended absence but I’m working on some great things upcoming! Stay tuned!!!

 

Here’s one for you!

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(DWI) Driving While Inspired

Years have passed and they are becoming bolder. Doubtful that they’ve realized it yet, but I’ve noticed them. A passing glance. A long stare. They’ve underestimated me… well, all of us. Why they have chosen to follow me? I have some educated guesses, but I do not want to make any conclusion without evidence.

My story does not matter. How I grew up is irrelevant. What matters is the present, the now. At least, that’s what I believe. I flew threw the ranks of my brethren because of my mentality. Hundreds, no… thousands of contracts completed by my hands. Dozens of new bloods, trained by my sweat. My initiates are the elite, nothing less. But through my skill, I have alarmed the enemy. Not just the victims of contracts, you see… but the ultimate enemy. The Reformers.

I shudder at the name. Fear? No, it isn’t fear. It’s the chill of excitement. The very same spine-tingling feeling that scatters up my back before the plunge. They have attempted to end us for a century, at least. But we have persevered and become stronger. Secret wars are fought behind the everyday humdrum that the general public seems so intoxicated by. Monotony is not in our nature as assassins, and they are definitely not in the nature of the Reformers.

Understand, we are the silent justice that keeps the tethers of society from fraying. Mysterious circumstances surrounding a death? Us. A famous criminal goes missing? Us. We are like a shadow, existing in the space between reality and fantasy.

But unlike a hundred or so years ago, when my ancestors created this force, there was little stopping them from achieving their tasks. DNA testing was non-existent. Social Media was not even a concept. The only thing that went ‘viral’ was actual viruses. They could kill with discretion and ease. Now, we must be more calculated, more careful, and more intelligent about our contracts. To me, those who are a part of the revolution now are much more skilled than those who came before us.

It was only natural for The Reformers to target us. Only because I am such a high-ranking member of my kin that I am their first prey. I have been underestimated all of my life, why stop now? I laugh at the thought of their plans, continuously foiled by my skill. Bodies discovered months after they dare to delve too close to me. Some, I let be. But when they risk contact with me, I must finish the job. Each one is the same, dumb and slow. It is not even fun anymore.

I admire the one who has been following me for the last seven days, three hours, and twenty seven minutes. Much bolder than the others, but louder than most. I’m toying with him, you see. I’m interested to see what he does. How does he go about killing his target? Perhaps I could learn a thing or two about their secret society.

This man is my age, but half the skill. And that is being generous. It was on my drive to work today that I finally met the boy. His hands shook, as he tried to conceal it. I notice everything. I always have and always will.

He sat up from the back seat, no telling how long he had been laying there. I could hear him breathing – mouth breather. Noted.

“If you want my opinion.” Pretty sure the poor boy jumped out of his skin when I spoke. “You should not enter my car until right before I close the door. That way you aren’t waiting all night.”

“I-I-I’m here to-” he stammered.

“Kill me,” I laughed. “Good luck with that. I doubt you’d be more successful than the ones before you. I’m sure you know about them?”

“No…”

“Oh boy,” I sighed. “They’re withholding information from you. What a shame… You were dead before you stepped in here. I see you don’t even have a weapon. Must’ve forgotten it, have you?”

He stopped, patted his pockets frantically, and then his face drained of all color. I tisked him.

“Not a very good Reformer, are you? Not that it matters. No one knows your name.”

We were at our destination by that point. The boy believed that I was going somewhere else, but I wanted to show him something. Bumpy, gravel roads were waiting us. The pasture smelled of death. I pulled out my handgun and pointed to the door and instructed him to get out. Know that my gun is only for show – I like to be much more… personal, but he didn’t know that.

“Where are we?” he gasped as the fog cleared somewhat and the bodies came into view.

“A recent site of our war,” I explained. “The war that has been for nothing. Only death pervades the years. Still, we fight.”

“I don’t understand -”

“Look kid,” I said. “I don’t want to kill you. You have done nothing wrong except choose the wrong side. History never remembers the losers.”

“How do you know we won’t win?”

“Because I know the skill of the Reformers, and the skill of my own people. They feed you lies about us and then expect you to be able to take one of us down. How do you hunt without knowing your prey?”

Again, he could not find an answer. I just nodded. My thoughts of murder started to arise. Adding him to the pile of bodies was one option, but turning him against The Reformers seemed more provocative.

“I’m going to do something that I have never before done.” I could see the lump in his throat when he swallowed. “I’m going to give you a choice.”

 

A Message to Writers

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When the world seems to crumble down around you, write.

When you feel that all motivation has left you, write.

When you wake up before the sun and you want to go back to sleep, write.

When you are up late and the stars are your only companion, write.

When you are stressed and when you are scared, write.

 

Trapped within your mind are infinite possibilities.

Worlds orbiting stars with life of its own.

Indescribable beauty that will only wither and die if unspoken.

Do not be afraid of your power, your ability.

Do not fear what makes you unique.

 

Write what makes you cringe,

Write what makes you sick to your stomach,

Write characters made from everything you want to be,

Write characters made from everything you are,

Write what makes your heart bleed.

 

You do not have to end every story with happiness,

For not every tale has a happy ending.

Just as in life, good does not always vanquish evil,

Heroes die a valiant death, fighting for what they believe in,

Never to see what they died for, crumble before their eyes.

Break the boundaries set by society and challenge their minds

Break the round hole that they force you to fit in.

Break the bonds of conventional writing and show them something new.

Break the words scrawled across notebooks for years,

Break the sentences, the chapters, break them to their rawest state.

 

But whatever you do, do not let them tell you to stop.

Do not let them tell you that you cannot do it, that it won’t make money.

Take their words and twist them into your stories,

Fight with them in a fantasy world and destroy them.

Just whatever you do, do not stop writing.

These are the things I no longer wish to understand.

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These are the things I no longer wish to understand.

Murder. The ease, for some people, to pull the trigger of a gun at an innocent victim. Sometimes, it’s worse. A cold expression on the face of a serial killer when recounting the grotesque details of each murder as if they were simply a tick-mark in a notebook. A simple disregard for a life.

Genocide. Manifest Destiny by a god or gods that deemed one people superior over others. Still, their god is ‘merciful’ they say. This imaginary being is somehow all good, but allows, nay, encourages the massacring over the earth. Sentient beings, slaying one another in the name of religion, politics, and misunderstandings.

Hatred. Assumptions made from doctored ‘research’. Opinions now held to the same standards as facts. Riots to preserve the ideology over science at the risk of violence. Petty differences blown out of proportion from the very same lack of knowledge that begets their ignorance in the first place. Encouragement from power to cause harm to others who do not conform to their beliefs. Fear of speaking out against the tightly-held beliefs of those in power for fear of harm or death.

Willful Ignorance. The cognizant choice to ignore facts, research, and data at the expense of challenging an ideology. Strong-held ‘beliefs’ that are so integrated into our being that our personality seems threatened if we simply adjust to new ideas. The personal attacks that some feel when presented with said facts and the verbal, sometimes physical, abuse that ensues. 

Silence. Stemming from fear, self-blame, victim-shaming – the eerie stillness that exists after abuse. Whether, physical, sexual, verbal, or psychological. Societal expectations for different sexes, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Words unspoken when dealing with mental health issues. Noiseless tears until they end by the smoking barrel of a gun or an empty bottle of pills. One less voice to speak.

Mental Health. Taboo thoughts directed at 1 in 4 people who will suffer in their lifetime. Comments that either fall on deaf ears, or exacerbate the problem. Victims believing that they are truly alone because of these remarks. Insurance companies only covering 12 visits to a professional therapist a year, if any at all. High costs of an hour of healing. Bankruptcy just to survive another day.

 

But… there is hope. In the vast darkness of the universe, stars dot the shroud of black. If we do not fall into the cycle of negativity, we can rise above these things and promote the good in the world.

These are the things I now understand. A perspective placed in my mind that I would not have conceived if not for the evil.

Charity. Whether food, money, or a smile. Those who give themselves entirely for no reward. Desirable reincarnation, eternal salvation, or simply to be good. Whatever the reason, it will not overshadow the selfless intent.

Life. Sentience. All beings, not just humans share this balanced globe. Each soul, a beauty in and of itself. Equilibrium between each delicate interaction of living beings. As an insect touches a flower, the mutual understanding and respect bring fruitful existence to them both. Although the plant remains in one spot, the insect is nourished and can spread the flower’s seeds throughout. A woman feeds her baby and continues her kin’s existence. Beautiful in different ways.

Knowledge. Although some may see this as a fault, I believe that knowledge is power. In the face of all this hatred and willful ignorance, facts will prevail. However, they are not spread as readily as misinformation, but evermore pertinent to us. For those who seek out the truth, take heart and do not fear revolt. Change is bubbling to the surface.

 

There is so much that we take for granted because we spend so much time focusing on the negativity fed to us from various outlets. Secretly, we may crave the bad as it makes our own lives seem less chaotic. Without the darkness, we could never see and appreciate the light. Stay positive, everything changes and nothing is in your control. 🙂