Dice and Daggers

The world ended over a hundred years ago. Now, we must abide by the rules of The Nameless or we will be sacrificed to the river demons. Few who have managed to survive all this time from Nameless tyranny remain in fear of the day we are discovered. Our wisdom of the world outside the city walls would completely shatter the current government structure and send all those loyal to ONE (The Nameless Leader), crumbling to their knees.

My childhood feels like eons ago. I was captured seven – no eight- years ago. Torture by my ‘merciful’ hosts have all but numbed me to pain. Every single friend that I grew up with had either escaped that night succumbed to our captor’s unspeakable acts. But the numbness only covers my physical wounds because there is a haunting guilt that drags me down. And, no matter how hard I try to push it out of my head, I will never forget that day.

***

“Ten, eleven, TWELVE,” I shouted as the yellow piece on the game board moved to the end of the line. “I win again.”

“I don’t even think you know how to play this stupid thing,” Christine huffed and crossed her arms. “Does anyone here even know all the rules except Peter?”

“The rules were probably destroyed by The Nameless,” Ethan said. “So Pete makes them up.”

“Are you having fun or not?” I whispered loudly and looked around the abandoned Laundromat.

“I don’t even know why I hang out with you guys,” Mark sneered. “We don’t ever do anything fun.”

Sandy threw a couple pieces at an old dryer, a ting of metal echoed through the room. “How can we have fun when it’s impossible to win. Whenever one of us gets close to the end, you change it up and we lose. And you win.”

Her brother, Randy was always the loudest. He could never keep his voice down. “No more game. I want a new one. We make the rules or -“

The threat was cut short. Just outside the paper-covered windows was the sound of screaming and footprints.

Nameless, Rebecca mouthed as we skidded to the back room. Our feet squeaked loudly from the puddles we had just walked through. Josh slipped to his back but Randy and I managed to pull him into the bathroom to wait. Eight of us were crammed in the little room, hoping and praying that they didn’t hear us. Eight thirteen-year-olds.

Randy, Sandy, Rebecca, Josh, Ethan, Christine, Mark, and me in the humid, smelly bathroom of an ancient building. A single window supplied some fresh air. We were all silent, craning to hear the sound of broken glass or nearby footsteps. All of our parents made us swear that, even if we heard them scream, we would run the opposite direction. If we were caught, we would be sacrificed to the river demons.

My mother always told me that the myth of the river demons came from the “Nameless’ ignorance to science”. “Apparently, knowledge has been lost to those who live in the cities,” she would say. “Willow River was tainted by poison long ago. Either sewage or something like this. It must seep into the skin and destroy your insides. Regardless, Pete, it isn’t a demon. There are no such things in another world. The only demons are the here and now… The Nameless.”

I don’t care what my mother says. The thought of being tied and weighed down by cement up to your neck is more terrifying than being stabbed to death by one of their Dalheim Daggers. And those things give me nightmares. Somewhere overseas makes them and ships them through the caravans. Heavily guarded. The weapons themselves? Only a handful of survivors but the same explanation each time – sharp going in and tearing going out. Something inside the mechanism explodes open and tears chunks out of the skin, only to reform into a normal-looking dagger. Outcasts like me have only heard stories, but they probably aren’t far off.

***

An hour must have passed before any of us moved a muscle. We were sore, but it beat whatever hell the Nameless would unleash if they found us. I hopped off the toilet as quietly as I could and pressed my ear against the door. I thought I heard something. Or maybe it was my tired mind playing tricks again.

“So?” Christine whispered. “Are they gone?”

I just motioned for them to follow me out of the swiveling door and into the laundromat. The shadowy silhouettes of armored men and women pacing back and forth caught our eye. I started to feel sick. Everyone else was freaking out behind me.

“Where do we go?”

“What do we do?”

“This is it. We’re going to die.”

“I don’t want to be sacrificed to the Willow River demons.”

Randy and Sandy were crying softly. Christine’s face was ghost white. The only one who had their wits about them besides me was Rebecca. She was looking right at me, awaiting further instruction. Her face gave me the push I needed to get us all out of here.

Inhaling sharp, tension-filled air, I grabbed Ethan by the arm and started pushing everyone towards the back of the building. Crouching and zigzagging between the rows of washers, driers, and tables, they fled. When everyone was safely outside in the alleyway, I took one final look over my shoulder and tried to sprint towards the others.

I slipped.

The sound of board game pieces exploded from underneath my feet and shot towards the rusted metal appliances. Banging, followed by the boom of the board itself immediately made my heart race. I was sweating. I was terrified. I was frozen.

I couldn’t move.

***

I must have broken my leg. To this day, that’s what I tell myself. Needless to say, our story didn’t end with a happy ending. The Nameless busted through the door almost immediately and tackled me and Rebecca, who had turned back for me. Sandy, Mark, and Ethan fell to the Dalheim Daggers. Their screams haunt every second of my life. The sheer pain of which I cannot imagine. Randy, Christine, and Josh were dragged away with me. But Rebecca… my near savior… somehow managed to fight her way out of that god-forsaken laundromat.

I never her again.

And here I am. Randy was the first to go. Didn’t even make it a week. Poor guy. Next was Josh… I saw his final breath. Tied to a chair and I watched as they performed ‘experiments’ on the both of us. It was to test our pain threshold. The Nameless that Josh fell victim was slightly too proud of his job and took it too far. That kid would never see sixteen.

Christine and I shared adjacent prison cells and became very close friends. One day, about two years ago, she got sick from the slop they feed us. Well, that’s what she said, but it could’ve also been the deplorable conditions we are forced to live in. Either way, I felt worse for her long, drawn-out death than the others. She suffered immensely for twenty five days, moaning from the pain.

“Do you think there is an afterlife?” We had talked about it. Considered whether our friends were in a good place. I hoped they were. They didn’t deserve what they got.

“Yeah,” I truly believed it. “Anywhere has to be better than hear. Growing up wherever they are has to be better than growing up like we did.”

I saw her hand come around the other cell. I reached out and held it. Her skin was cold and clammy. My stomach churned in guilt and sadness as I began to cry softly for her and the others.

She snickered. “Ain’t that the truth. I bet it’s a nice place where you just get to do what you want. No rules but no fear. Beautiful mountains with the ocean not too far. Always sunny with a slight breeze. Delicious food…”

Now she was becoming my rock. “Do you think the rest of them are there too?”

“Absolutely.” She tore her hand away to cough until she nearly fell unconscious. “Sorry man. I don’t think I’m going to be here for much longer. But at least I have a nice place to go.”

Death was her release.

“I’ll see you on the other side Pete,” she said.

The following morning, she was dead.

Today is my final day. My fate is the Willow River. I have endured so much pain and torture that I was ‘chosen’ by ONE as a sacrifice to appease the demons. They tore me out of my cell, instructed me to dress in a white robe and ushered me out the door of the prisons, blindfolded.

The ride was long, but we made it within and hour or so. I became accustomed to guessing how much time had passed in my years as a prisoner. To be honest, I wasn’t scared at all. Christine’s words gave me hope. Anywhere had to be better than here anyway. But it was the shock of what I saw when my eyes adjusted to the light that scared the soul right out of me.

It wasn’t a ‘what’. It was a ‘who’.

It was Rebecca.

I didn’t recognize her at first. She had not aged as much as I had imagined. Because it had been so long, my last vision of her was at thirteen. Now, she was nearing twenty. Clad in the same white dress that I was, she stood facing the crowd that had gathered. She instantly recognized me.

“P-P-Pete?” she choked. I could see the tears welling in her eyes. “I-I-I-… I thought you were -.”

“Dead?” I wiped my eyes as they untied my bonds. “Same here. You okay?”

We were pushed near the water’s edge. “Yeah. You?”

“I’m about to be,” he smiled. “Sorry about back then… I still feel so indescribably awful.”

“Don’t you blame this on yourself Peter McMillan,” she scolded with a tearful smile. “Please. This world isn’t meant for us… but maybe the next is.”

She reminded me of Christine. I had almost forgotten that they were cousins. Two Nameless on either side of us, tying our arms to heavy blocks on a platform that dropped at our feet. Just below us was the clear water of the Willow River. Bones of countless victims strewn just under the surface.

“Rebecca,” I called to her. She turned. “Thanks for coming back for me when the other’s didn’t.”

“How could I not?” she laughed. “You were always the cutest one!”

With that, the lever was pulled and I felt the cold water splash over me. Then, it began to burn. I relived the day that led up to this one last time and looked over at Rebecca. A tinge of fear in her eyes as she gazed back at me. I felt a lurching sensation in my chest, as if my heart was trying to keep up with the water dissolving it. Then, I started to get tunneled vision, blackness encroached on me. Finally, I felt lighter than air as the last ray of sunlight disappeared in front of my eyes…

I’ll see you on the other side, Pete

My apologies for the dark prompt today. I hope you enjoyed it though! 🙂

I don’t have a prompt that I made today, but hopefully you can use the one above for your own story.

The Guardians

These are those who never meet. Two a pair who pass by, greet and bid farewell in mere moments. Four of them appear so beautifully in their own way, but arrive with their own varied majesty.

The first is the swift eldest. Delicate while content; angered and she will unleash a fury unmatched by her kin. Clad in robes of white and grey, tinged with black filigree. Fingertips caress the greenery, leaving behind skeletons, dark footprints, and remnants of life. Her duty is not only necessary, it is vital to the cycle.

Some call her ‘the angel of death’ as she brings such a brisk chill. Her very aura is frigid and her beauty is no exception. Long, wavy strands of silver twilight hanging like Holiday ribbons around her soft, pale face. Eyes reminiscent of a pale snow against an aqua sky and lips as red as frost-nipped toes. And like her mood, her voice rises and falls against the wind.

Lucky are those who witness her dissent onto the world and the bittersweet truth she carries. Not all endings should be tearful. There is sun over the horizon.

***

When the white goddess departs for the cycle, her brother takes the stage and steals the show. Suddenly the earth springs to life as seedlings take root and rise towards the warmth of the sun. Primavera is his name, though others speak variations of it.

As he calms his sister’s lingering spirit, the frost softens and moves deep within the dirt, glistening and giving life to that which was once dead. Hibernating animals awaken their long slumber to the thawing world of color. Eyes open to the blooming trees and pastures of wildflowers. And the intoxicating scents of him and the trail he leaves behind.

Primavera watches over the earth for a time. His humbly tan tunic and mahogany trousers weave through the evergreen forests with the wind tousling his auburn hair. As the pale chill finally exits the air and the remnants of his sister disappear. This is now his domain.

But soon, the end will come for him to return at the next cycle. With tears of sorrow and joy, he bids the earth goodbye as the next Guardian passes by to await their turn. He greets them with a warm smile, the last cool breeze floats across the land as his feet leave the ground in a final farewell.

***

Earth takes a deep inhale and patiently awaits the strongest of the four. She ascends upon the earth like a shroud, suffocating it with nearly unbearable heat. Harsh is her voice as it whips through the dunes of the Sahara and grasslands of Australia. She takes her job with pride as waves of humidity burrow through the swamps allowing life to flourish despite the heat.

Although her reign is known throughout, her reach does not extend to the poles of the globe. As large as she is, she cannot encompass that which her frozen counterpart can. Her fiery, red hair touches the dry ground and lights it afire. Eyes as dark as soot scan her domain for more work that needs to be done.

Understand, her very existence, when in balance with the other Guardians, is necessary. Purging the overgrown forests into a wasteland allows the others to rekindle the life below the surface. She can bring the rains to replenish what she has rightfully destroyed and, at the same time, reek havoc with cyclones across the Alley.

She is finicky and emotional, very aware of the state in which humanity is leaving her beloved earth. More and more, she angers and rebels with flames, wind, water, and earth. But each cycle, to no avail. When her time comes to leave again, she expresses her sadness one last time.

***

Finally, the last of the cycle appears gradually, taking delicate care to erase all that the fire has set ablaze. She prepares for the beginning all over again. For snow and frost. Melodic songs of dreams begin to lull the trees to sleep as she shivers off the reds, yellows, and oranges all around.

The one that comes after is a shadow of this one’s beauty. Automne, they call her, name just as entrancing as her voice. Hues of gold-laced chocolate fall from the top of her head, a crown of silver maple leaves placed daintily on top. Because she works so closely with the one before and the one after her time, she bears one crystal and one deep grey eye. In tales, they call her the In-Between or the Guardian of Limbo for her notable work in the cycle.

Automne takes a secret pleasure in walking through the leaf-laiden grounds. Cobblestone just below the crunching colors at her feet, she will inhale a scent of warmth deeply, exhaling the foreshadow of what is to come. And those around her, flora and fauna alike, relish her existence while she lingers here.

But even beauty is not forever. When her time comes, the world weeps and awaits her return with bated breath. As the first takes her place and feet touch the soft grass, a single tear slides down Automne’s face and turns her back once again. Into oblivion she travels until her next turn.

It took me 3 days to write this because I’ve been so busy. Sorry for the delay! I hope you enjoyed! 🙂

The Significance of Jumping

I know they have seen me before. Solitude has a funny way of making your intuition more acute. What a cruel, sick joke it plays on me though. I want to remain far away from humanity, and yet, I find myself more aware of their every move than even themselves.

But I watch as an eagle above the city, standing upon the precipice, at the brink of their own, and my own, destruction. A simple ledge, but what a powerful message it sends to those who see not with their eyes, but with the darkness of their mind. The significance of jumping is only apparent to those who truly understand the frailty of life itself.

My own mind is my obsession. Seldom do I inquire further from the shell I was given. Emotions come naturally to me, but oh so uncomfortably and painfully. Rising and falling with each passing moment, I have but a second to grasp them before they slip through my fingertips. Well, there is a singular emotion that stays. It underlines every smile with a sharp, bold line, like a heavy weight attempting to tear it downwards. The only way I can describe it is darkness. Why must a mind so colorful and so bright be so stained with this blackness? Inquisitively, I began to play with it, but regret and fear is all that has become of the toying.

However, regret is only superficial comparatively. Abyss itself is poetic in nature. One may believe that darkness has no color. In fact, it is the beautifully perfect collision of them all. So much in such a small space, only for few can behold. For those who dwell on the skin will never delve deeper towards the bones. But that is the part of my mind that I most enjoy, the appreciation of the bones.

I stand again upon the brink. Hollow other than an eagerness to leap. Goosebumps form along my arms and causes my spine to quiver with anticipation. Shall it be today? I ask the Universe. Harken to me! It beckons. And as I listen, the wind begins to sing. A tear, but not of my own doing, trickles down my cheek and into the abyss of the city below. Not today, the Universe calls back. I glance at the people below and take in the feeling of being so small to those who watch and I return to home.

I wonder if they speak of me. Not just my existence, but questioning my story, my background, my secrets. Just a man? No, a mystery. Maybe a god in their midst or no, they must think me a loner. Something is off, they probably say. Why doesn’t he just take the plunge? I’ll admit, even to myself, I cannot express the frustration of my mind’s constant war. But, perhaps, that is why I wish to understand the significance of the jump. Before I allow the Universe to take whatever scars I have created and clean up whatever pieces they can scrounge, I must know the answer. Must I continue this life for much longer? Is this journey drawing to a close or am I still wandering around aimlessly along the path of enlightenment?

Days come and go and I continue the same struggles. Identity. Purpose. Curiosity. Irony seeps into my mundane and melancholy, cackling spittle into my face. But I am patient. I can await the Universe’s answer alone in my armchair. The moment that the infinite accepts me, I may just take that extra step.

Porcelain Souls

My grandmother collected dolls. Flea markets, Garage Sales, Storage Units. Never new, Always old dolls. Oh, and porcelain to be specific. Not those Raggedy Ann or Andy dolls. Not the Cabbage Patch Kids. Porcelain. Some of their faces were cracked or washed away. They would stare at you with their lifeless eyes. Others had pieces missing like hands, feet, or parts of their faces. In fact, not many in her hoard were devoid of blemishes.

When I would ask why she kept the broken ones, she would just smile. “We are all a little broken, Gwen. That doesn’t make us any less beautiful.” But I was never satisfied with that answer because she would never fix them. Sure, she would brush their hair (if they had any), wipe their faces off with a paintbrush to dust. But the weirdest thing was when she talked to them.

If I remember correctly, I was seven at the time. My mother was working out of town in Minneapolis for the summer and my father was on vacation with some friends from work. My younger twin brothers – Jimmy and Cole – and I were forced to stay with our grandmother for a week. The worst part was that her home was just as old as some of the dolls. Hundreds of years old. “It’s got character,” she would tell us. We just rolled our eyes.

First night, of course, I’m laying in bed. My five-year-old brothers are in another spare room across the creaky hallway. I can’t sleep. It sucks. Right outside the door, I hear footsteps. At first, I think they’re my brothers, but I peek through the crack in the door and see them fast asleep. Not only that, the sound of footsteps stop when I got to the doorway.

By that time, my heart is racing. What’s worse? I hear giggling. Not just the voices of children, but adults too. I race down the hall to my grandmother’s room and I hear her for the first time.

“What life you had is no longer full of pain,” she cooed. “You are free of your body now your spirit may roam.”

I cried my eyes out and, when she saw me, she carefully placed the doll on her shelf and swept me up in her arms. She shushed me when I tried to speak.

“I will explain everything dear,” she promised. “In the morning.”

I didn’t sleep that night. The footsteps and laughter scared me to the core. My bones were shaking because I was so frightened. And my grandmother’s explanation did not make anything better.

My brothers were outside in the yard when she called me into the sunroom. There were three very specific dolls sitting on a wicker chair. My grandmother sat in her rocking chair and asked me to take a seat across from them.

“You’re old enough now,” she started. Her voice was high-pitched, like a tea kettle with boiling water screeching out the spout. “It’s time you know what I do here. Your father never understood this because he does not have the gift. But you, my dear, do.”

I looked at her in complete confusion. No one had ever made a mention that grandma had a gift, nor that I had the same one. What gift, anyway?

“Dolls have been used in many cultures over many time periods as a way to house a lost soul,” she explained, giddy with excitement. “When someone died, their spirit would enter a doll created for them and in their likeness. To look like them. These days, they are sold as toys. No one has respect for what they are truly meant for.”

She paused, took a sip of her Earl Grey tea, glanced at Cole and Jimmy, and continued.

“No respect from people these days. I have seen these mistreated things and I felt the pull to collect them. These people deserve the same respect in death as they did in life. Silly me, I take it upon myself to give them that respect.”

“But they’re creepy,” I said.

My grandmother frowned. “The shells are somewhat worn and weathered, but they house the beauty of a person’s life.”

“How do you know if they’re good or bad?” I couldn’t help but to keep staring at the three dolls she had picked out to present to me.

“I chose these for a reason,” she said. “Because out of my entire collection, these are the three that have given me the most trouble.”

The first doll had blonde hair and blue eyes. It was a girl, dressed in a pink lace dress, but something felt weird about it. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The middle one was a boy with a hat and old farmers clothing. He was missing his left hand and his face was cracked. One eye was green, but the other, someone had painted red. And the last doll was an old man that looked vaguely familiar.

“Not all spirits are good… Some are demonic in nature. I have made the mistake of obtaining these and I cannot seem to give them away. Well, one I have to keep due to specific events. Let me tell you their stories… as they have told me while you sleep…but….”

I felt cold even though it was the middle of winter. The room was freezing but there was no AC. “But what?”

“When I speak their story, they will come to life.”

I don’t know how far I ran before the cops brought me back. Why would my grandmother summon demons and force me to deal with it? As a seven-year-old, I had no clue. Either way, the second night was when I saw them for the first time.

It wasn’t the three that she had left in the sunroom that came to visit me that night. It was five medieval-dressed dolls, boys and girls, with swords and shields. I felt their little shoes hop onto my bed and walk over to my pillow.

“Gwen!” one whispered. “Please don’t be scared of us.”

When I opened my eyes, there they were. Moving dolls. Alive and filled with expression. I felt like I was in a cartoon. I even tried pinching myself.

“She’s awake!” they exclaimed. “Sorry to scare you before. We were protecting your brothers from the Evil Ones.”

“The dolls in the sunroom?” I asked. Even as I kid, I was really considering my sanity while speaking to these dolls.

They nodded. “Your grandma doesn’t understand. We just want to go to the light. She won’t let us go. But the Evil Ones need to be banished first. You are the only one powerful enough to help. Please.”

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. I’m only seven! But then I sighed and asked them, “How do I help?”

As they pulled me into my grandmother’s room, they explained the steps. “Let her tell you the stories, one at a time. When they come to life… you demand that they return to the fire.”

“What if they don’t?”

“Keep saying it until they do.”

This is traumatizing for a child to witness. Not only am I about to confront my grandmother because of some talking dolls, I have to exorcise demons out of a few of them. Apparently, my grandmother knows that these dolls move as she greeted them at the door.

“Where have you five been?” she scolded. “I was worried about you.” But then she saw me standing in my pajamas.

“They told me to come help them. Tell me the dolls stories.”

“The three in the sunroom?”

“The three in the sunroom.”

She quietly led me down the hall past my brother’s room and mine. We made our way down the stairs with the five medieval dolls following close behind. Through the dimly-lit living room kitchen. Finally, we were in the sunroom.

“Sit down Gwen and company,” she said and found her rocking chair. “I chose these three because the others have told me you can get rid of them. Trust me, I have always felt that you were a strong medium. It runs in the family, you know. Mainly through females… and since your father was my only child, I hoped that he would have a daughter. And here you are! Your abilities have exceeded anything I could ever do.”

I had no clue what she was talking about. How do you sense abilities in someone who has not even done anything with them? One of my favorite personality traits is my stubbornness. It has gotten me through a lot and this event was what started it all.

“Nellie Smith was a beautiful young woman,” she pointed to the only female doll on the chair. The moment my grandmother spoke her name, the porcelain head tilted ever so slightly. “Rich too. But she was born in a time where witchcraft was looked down upon. In such an affluent town, she would brew potions in secrecy… Until one day, her own father found her in the forest, performing a ritual. To keep the Smith name clear and pure, he had his own daughter burned at the stake for Witchcraft.”

I don’t remember gasping, but the dolls said that I did… very loudly. The moment Nellie’s cause of death was mentioned, a black cloud appeared around the doll. “But I did not die without a fight. Through the pain of the skin on my legs bubbling and charring, I yelled out a curse to my town. To all those who ever underestimated me and their families. I cursed them.”

My grandmother chimed in. “We are related to her father.”

But I did not have time to waste. “I demand you return to the fire!” I yelled as the doll jumped off the chair and started to run towards me.

“If she touches you,” one of the dolls screamed. “She’ll kill you!” The medieval doll with a red beard jumped in front of me as Nellie jumped towards me.

“I demand you return to the fire!” I screamed again, but it was too late. Both dolls lay on the floor, motionless as they should be. The knight had sacrificed himself to save me. Someone I did not even know from a time I never lived in… died… for me.

For the next doll, I stood up, ready to move if it tried to attack me. I would not let another life be taken. “He can’t go to the light now,” my grandmother said sadly, picking up the little armored doll. “But his sacrifice was not in vain. Are you ready?”

I nodded. The four remaining dolls watched in anticipation for the next story.

“Lawrence Callford… Farmhand in the Twenties. He never told me much about his life, but maybe he will tell you.”

The second doll twitched and it’s red eye blinked. “I don’t mean to brag, but I enjoy cutting animals open to see what’s on the inside.”

“So,” I whimpered. “You killed animals?”

The doll nodded and crossed his arms. “Yeah, and people. So what? I got what I deserved, didn’t I? Death?”

“But you aren’t entirely dead.” Perhaps my observation should not have been so cold. The frown that appeared on this demonic doll still terrifies me to this day.

“How did you die Lawrence?” my grandmother asked softly.

“Drawn-and-quartered, I was,” it said shortly. “All the families of the idiots I killed got to ride the horses that pulled me apart.” It pointed to it’s missing hand and cackled. It’s laugh sounded more like a cough, but still just as creepy. “Didn’t pull me completely apart though. Just lost me hand in the process.”

I took a deep breath. “I demand you go back to hell. Go to the fire!” I didn’t care how many people this evil soul had killed. I just wanted this to be over.

“Not until I finish what I started,” he growled. “I must cleanse the world of idiocy.”

I’m not sure how, but I ignored him. “Go back to the fire. I command it.” Just before the doll went limp mid-jump and crashed to the floor, I felt a hand on my throat.

As I tried to claw at it’s grasp, it only tightened. But I couldn’t fell the hand with my own body. There was nothing there. Until, the dark figure of a monster appeared in front of me. When it hissed at me, a long snake-like tongue licked my cheek. It burned like a hot iron.

“Ssssayyy that again,” it taunted. “I dare you. Ssssseee what happensssss.”

I was completely glued to the floor. Fear and the weight of the creature kept me firmly in place. Suddenly, my lungs filled with air. My grandmother used a special knife and plunged it into the scales of the Demon. It spun around, screeching like a banshee and shoved a claw into the old woman. I cried so loud that it woke my brothers up. Two of the dolls rushed upstairs to keep them in their room during the scuffle.

“Go back to the fire!” I screamed with tears running down my face. “Get out of here!”

Just as quickly as it came, the Demon was gone. My grandmother lay slumped on the floor. Her breathing was shallow, but she was alive. I started to help her up when the third doll lunged at me. I ducked in just enough time for it’s tiny body to soar over my head and roll on the floor.

“Chandler McGregory,” my grandmother sobbed under her breath. Her calm demeanor changed drastically to pure fear and I knew exactly why. Chandler McGregory was my Grandfather’s name. Her husband.

My grandfather was a horrible man. My father did not talk about him much… well, at least to me and my brothers. My mom told me that Grandpa Chandler was abusive to his wife and son, drunk or sober. She also mentioned that he had ties to the Mafia, but said nothing more than that. We never really found out how he died, either. That is, until he told me himself.

“Grandpa?” The doll stopped. “Why are you trying to hurt me?”

“Not you,” it croaked. “Your grandmother.”

“What? Why?”

“Because… she killed me and put me in this doll.”

I hope you enjoyed my short story! I have a good prompt for everyone who would like to give it a whirl!

“We Only Have Twenty Minutes”

Love is something that the Old Tales cannot grasp. Mere words cannot fully encompass it’s depth, color, or sound. Even the taste of love is but a mystery in days like these. It is not spoken of. It is not allowed. It is against the laws of our Leaders.

Sometimes I sneak out of the city and into the wasteland that was once our beautiful world. I recall the times before the world crumbled before those mystical creatures called ‘humans’ stood upon our ground. They came in ships from the sky, settling and spreading like a sickness. Some of them told me of their former planet, Earth and why they were forced to leave. At first, I felt pity on them. They did not make it seem like they realized that they were depleting resources, burning their air, and filling their waters with a substance they called plastic. “It killed everything,” they said. “We had no clue the severity,” they said.

Oh, how we were misled. Because these humans played the game quite well. Our planet, unlike their robust one that withstood the test of these unthinkable acts, is much more delicate. Some scholars told us that they did not realize what they were doing here either, but most of us truly believe that the humans knew exactly what they were doing.

Humans destroyed everything. Our cities are now all that is left and they have left us behind. Gone to another planet to wipe out their resources and leave it’s people to live off of what we have left. Understand, we will live for eons on this planet without issue, but our once-blooming lands are now grayed and cracked. Cities are only crumbling skeletons of a former life. But my people have endured.

Since the time of the humans, our people have turned to tyranny in fear. The High Leader Lasander has outlawed everything. What started with stringent laws to protect our resources has transformed to even more laws to – as he claims – protect our race. Marriage is one of those laws.

My mother’s generation was the first to have this law enforced upon their lives. She always spoke of how it felt so suffocating to await the Leader’s decision. Mind you, they not only get to decide who you will marry, but also if you will marry. Luckily, my mother was paired with her true love – a gift of luck that most are not granted.

I was not so lucky. Three months to this day, the Leader’s attempted to grant me what they called ‘a special honor’. I was to wed Lasander’s son, Roderick. But I could not bare the weight of that event because I had spent so much of my childhood reading books of Old. They speak of love – a word not spoken on my people’s lips for a time. Stories of the beauty from two souls as they come together. The sweet simplicity of a kiss and the taste of another. Hairs raising on your arms as the soft touch of passion trickles up your spine. To be quite frank, I fell in love with another.

Haydynn is a simple man. He runs the general store that I frequent. To think, a business man! A scholar like myself would never be paired with a man like him. But a man he was indeed. From the moment I first laid my eyes upon him, I found myself swooning. His entire figure was lean muscle. And, despite his hardened look, his voice was kind and sweet – like his eyes. The novels that the humans left behind say that you can truly see someone’s soul in their eyes and I believe that with both of my hearts. However, I knew in that same moment that we could never be together. Because he was one of the humans who stayed behind.

A small populous of Earth-borns integrated into our society, learned and adopted our traditions, and made their lives here alongside us… not despite us. Even our Leaders took care in their laws for the humans. Unfortunately for them, they were not permitted to wed. My people believed that their race would die out and that was the fate that their people deserved – the fate that those who remained reluctantly accepted. Over many years, Human Laws were loosened, but never the law forbidding them marriage.

Love endures all. I could not bare another moment without Haydynn in my life so I took the leap. We spent many a season together as time slowly crept closer to my Council Day. Only in the recesses of our mind did we worry of that day when I would stand before the Leaders and be paired. Never did we believe this day would come. But it did.

We rejected the laws and now stand before my planet and his as a true testament to what love truly is. I have tasted the sweet nectar of it, smelled it’s perfume, listened to it whisper. I have felt it’s delicacy and seen it blossom into something I could have never fathomed. Even if death is my fate, I accept it gladly.

And here we stand. Haydynn and I with a brave clergyman in the wasteland. A small cottage we use as a makeshift chapel for his people’s tradition. Jewelry – two rings as he spoke of – reaffirming the infinite that is our love. But we only have twenty minutes before they find us. Today was meant to be celebrated inside the city to my ‘betrothed’. There will be an execution today, but we are ready.

Words blur together like a poem that I lose myself in. It swirls around me and through my lips as I profess my love in this rickety shack. But the place matters not as my hands interlace with his. Our eyes meet and a seldom-seen tear rolls down his cheek. For he knows, just as well as I, what will become of us. “At least my life would mean something,” he once told me. “You make my life mean something.”

Gunshots and footsteps echo in the evening’s desolate cloak. Our hearts are already racing, now even more so. We kiss to seal the vows we made to one another for the final few moments of our lives and the clergyman slips away. They will not be looking for him, only for the lovers in the dark. Twenty minutes has already passed and they stand at the threshhold.

I remember very little about my death. Two bursting sounds, a sharp pain, and warmth throughout my body. And then, I heard the thud but did not feel my body fall upon the wooden floor. My eyes were wide open as Haydynn too dropped alongside me. We looked into each other’s eyes for the last breaths of this world and a smile crept across his mouth. He slowly reached for my hand, and I, his. That was the moment I truly understood what love was – it was sacrifice.

Use the same prompt as above and write your own story! I’m interested in hearing them!