A little short story about love – because I have a thing for turning mythos on its head 😉
The tales, the paintings, the bullshit Valentine’s Day cards we got in grade school – they were wrong, so they told me.
My hands trembled with the box, its contents heavy and unsteady. The voice inside of it haunted me and would continue to do so. I walked into the dock house, the sunlight streaming in through the dilapidated roof. Cobwebs and old bird nests decorated the rafters, the smell of seawater and old oil permeated through the space. Boxes and furniture tarps protected whatever contents remained hidden away, the curse of being unwanted.
Certainly no place for someone of her stature.
“Hello?” I managed to ask, the timbre sounding shakier than I had meant it to. Confusion and shame started settling in. I looked down as I walked my way across the creaky floorboards. Feathers littered the floor, the familiar tufts of gulls and pigeons. In the space between boxes, a large feather lingered. I paused in my trek, bending down to inspect. It was larger than any eagle’s I had seen, thicker and whiter than any vulture’s.
A loud creaking from across the room caused my hand to retract. I clutched the box to my chest, a thrumming heartbeat accompanying it.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had visitors,” her voice loose and curious in the strangled space.
I looked up to find another place entirely. Where boxes had been were now pillars of marble and quartz. Where the sun had trickled in now streamed ribbons of dusk light. And in the place of the back of the dock house stood a throne of cushions – square, round, and oval-shaped – made of silk in different shades of red, rose, and gold.
She sat on a large white cushion wearing a floor-length gossamer gown to match, strings of pearls adorning her shoulders as cap sleeves. Her hair was pulled back, two curled strands framing her face. Her eyes were honey, welcoming, but in the way that predators fool their prey in making them comfortable before eating them whole.
“What gave it away, darling?”She gave me a pitying look. The box continued to beat against my chest – a constant reminder. “What? Were you expecting a little, fat cherub?”
“Maybe,” was all I could reply with. She stood up and walked towards me, her bare feet silent on the marble floor.
“All children grow up. Have a little imagination,” she cooed. Her eyes searched mine, her head angled to the side inspecting all of my insecurities. “It’s annoying, isn’t it?”
“The constant aching of love.” She smiled, snatching the box out of my hands. She turned around to walk back to her throne. “My payment, I’m assuming?” I heard her open the box, the squeaks of the hinges yelling loudly in the open room. She paused and looked over her shoulder. “Quite impressive.”
I nodded to her, unsure of where to go, what to do. “His name is Patrick.”
“Of course it is,” she stated matter-of-factly, slamming the box shut. She set it down on a cushion, a blend of smoke and light now emanating from her hands. The wisps of cloud condensed and thickened, materializing into a long shape. When it settled, the smoke revealed a small arrow, the size of a bowie knife, covered in a layer of gold. She gripped it in her hand, light peeking through the spaces in between her fingers. She walked toward me, motioning for me to take it.
It was still warm, and even more surprising, contained my name engraved along its shaft. “I thought this part was your job.”
She laughed, a tone of wickedness coming up from her throat. “Your desires, your actions, your consequences, love. I merely provide the tools.”
“What do I do?”
Her eyes flickered over to the box, licking her lips impatiently. She dusted off imaginary dirt from her dress. “How do you think it works?” When I didn’t answer, she rolled her eyes and gripped my hand in hers, the arrow now singing in the center of it all. “You find him, you look him in the eyes and you put it through his heart.”
A small gasp left my lips. I stumbled over my words.
“Love is nothing to be trifled with, darling. If his heart is open to your love, it will absorb the arrow. If not, well, I just recommend doing this in a private place.” She winked.
My body sagged. Tears rimmed my eyes at the prospect of Patrick on the ground, his heart lost to me in the way I didn’t want. “But what I’ve done already…I don’t think I can do this.”
She tsked me. “You knew the price when you decided you were desperate enough to seek me out. What’s done is done. Now, finish it.” She pushed my hands close to my chest, her own letting go. “You have 72 hours. If you don’t use it, it will disappear, along with your own heart.” I swallowed, the guilt settling into every muscle. “I suggest you use the time wisely.”
I clutched the arrow tightly, my name cutting into my palm. I looked up to find her sitting on the cushion again, the box given in her lap. She opened it, grasping the contents with one hand. Blood began seeping down her arm in dancing rivulets as her fingers clutched the dead heart, the tissue already tinged with gray. She smiled down at it, reveling in the scent and aura. My own ached in my chest. With every beat now, the room began disappearing, the mask of the dock house returning like water washing away paint. It crept closer to her throne, framing her in a halo of the ordinary. “72 hours, dear. Good luck.” She winked as the mask closed in, then took a deep bite into the heart, blood seeping into the fabric of her gown. For a moment, I could see her veins glow with a pulsing joy before disappearing in a swirl of marble and wood.
I looked over at Patrick as we walked down the street, the glow of the lampposts illuminating his smile. The arrow was a weight in my coat pocket, the gold burning a hole in the wool. The night was almost over, the end of the third day almost done. The rest of the evening was revolving around small talk and potential plans. We stopped in front of my brownstone, his fingertips lingering on mine. The minutes began to wind down, the voice of the rules, now a lament, still playing in my ears:
An eye for an eye,
A heart for a heart
For an arrow of love
For death ‘til you part.
I blinked away the memory of the heart I cut and gave away, fear and self-loathing making room for hope. “Hey, would you like to come up?”
This tidbit started off as a response to a writing prompt, then turned into a possible idea for a novel or series. As most things go, nothing really came of it, but I’m still digging the possibility of continuing (after a much needed polish).
It had been a long afternoon but Bekka continued to wait. She enjoyed the shade of the forest, the sound of the other animals amongst her, the wet air threading through the canopy of the trees. Birds darted back and forth and immediately fleeted when they realized her presence. With the exception of her relaxed breathing, she was stone. When all was said and done, she loved the silent strength of the forest the most. She had missed it dearly. She was beginning to doze off when she had heard fast footsteps hitting hard in the sand.
Bekka squinted her eyes and watched as the bandit stopped his sprint right in front of the tree she was sitting in. A branch blocked her camouflaged appearance, the leaves brushing against her face in the shadows. She rose her head as the bandit caught his breath, a satchel of prizes clenched in his fist. Bekka smirked and relished in the surprise she was about to unleash upon him. Terrified blood always tasted the sweetest. She silently stepped from one branch to a lower one, quieter than the wind. The bandit was breathing heavily but his grip on the satchel did not loosen.
Bekka smiled and wet her lips, leaning forward to catch his scent. “Hello, darling,” she growled. The bandit whipped his head around and was met with the dangerous weapon that was Bekka Brax. Bekka jumped and slashed at him, his blood splattering like rain on the brush around them. His leg now immobile, he drug himself toward the brush looking for any possible means of escape. Bekka stood there, watching him closely, enjoying the foolishness of men. She raised her paw to her face and licked it clean. “Go on, leave then. If you think you can outrun me, I’d gladly accept the challenge.” She put her foot back down, the taste of metal fresh in her mouth.
“Please, have mercy on me, creature!” the bandit screamed, his face now covered with dirt and sand. His hand still gripped the satchel but it was weighing him down now and he needed any unnecessary pounds lifted from him.
“Mercy? I’m not one for merciful acts but I will arrange a trade.”
“Your life…for those jewels you stole.”
The bandit looked at the bag and gulped down the stone in his throat. He closed his eyes and winced at the pain. There was more to these jewels than a thief’s agenda. “I…I can’t. I have to try, my family–”
Bekka rolled her eyes dramatically, her paws fidgeting with the anticipation. “Your life…for the jewels. I’m sure your family would rather appreciate you coming home alive and poor, then dead. Save your bravery for a different day.” She cocked her head at him and a low growl emanated from her chest. She watched as a thousand thoughts and coincidences flashed across his eyes before he resigned. His grip loosened from the satchel and he threw it across the ground toward Bekka. The bag opened just slightly, the sparkle of diamonds reflecting in her feline eyes. “Good boy,” she responded.
A moonstone ring hanging from a chain around her neck began to glimmer before a wisp of smoke surrounded her, transforming her from the panther in the clearing to a young woman. She cracked her neck and stretched her arms, her hair a bit disheveled from the fight. She picked up the bag on the ground, counted the jewels inside and stuck it in her own hanging off her hip. The bandit, now clutching his chest in shock, stammered in her presence. “W-witch!”
“Don’t call me that,” she replied between her teeth. “It’s unbecoming. And false.”
“You tricked me.”
“So I have.” Her eyes were the last to change, the slitted pupils becoming small circles, encompassing the gold of her irises. Her left eye had a large spot of blue on the outer rim. “What did you expect from a large, talking black cat?” The man began to stand, leaning his weight and good leg on the side of the tree. “Now, I would estimate that you have about a five minute head start if you want to beat the palace guards.”
“Hard to do that with a broken leg.”
“Easier than if you were dead…or would you rather me remedy that?”
The bandit shook his head and began moving, an awful limp slowing him down. Bekka watched as he hobbled away. The small part of human left inside her felt regretful for hurting him but sparing him was the easiest way. He would not be able to partake in a thief’s life with that injury but at the very least he had more time with his family. That was more than she could say for herself. A bandit had to appreciate another bandit for what they did have. Another growl from the animal started back up but she swallowed it down.
She heard yells and footfalls from horses in the distance. The palace guards had wasted only a little bit of time. She leaned against the tree waiting for their arrival, making sure that the bandit was a reasonable distance away. The lot of guards stopped suddenly at the sight of her, a sarcastic smile on her face. Her hand protected the bag at her side. “Hello, gentlemen. Such steadfast ambition. You nearly had him!”
The captain of the guard looked past her and the stains of blood clumping the wrestled sand in front of them. “Witch, what have you done with him?”
She was staring at her nails, flicking out dried blood from underneath the beds. If she had her cat tongue, it’d be a lot easier. It would be a lot easier to do a lot of things, like break the captain’s neck. “Can you blame me for getting a little hungry waiting for you lot to show up? Anyway, I got what you came for.” She tapped the bag at her side. “All missing jewels accounted for.” Murmurs threaded through the space from the other guards and Bekka listened intently. “Now, now boys, that’s no way to talk about a lady.”
“Lady?” the captain scoffed. “You are nothing but the King’s witch. Be grateful he has a need for you, otherwise I’d rip that blasphemous head from your body.”
Bekka raised a finger in the air. “Careful now, Captain. You wouldn’t want me to change into something a little bit more comfortable, now would you?”
The captain narrowed his gaze on her. “If you don’t report back to the palace by nightfall, I will be sure to find you. And you won’t like that.”
Bekka laughed under her breath, fidgeting with the moonstone around her neck. She rubbed the side of it. Warmth began seeping from underneath the metal and radiated back into her skin. She felt her organs tremble and her blood pump faster, stretching the tissue underneath her shell. Something fast, she ordered herself. She turned, facing her back to him, eyeing the path into the woods. “Please,” she dismissed loudly as she stepped a foot into the clearing. The smoke had already started to form around her. “As if you could catch me.”
Avid readers, fans of A Deathly Compromise, and my fellow Endeverites – in celebration of Endever’s official launch week and to keep this momentum/motivation/inspiration going while I have it, I’ve decided to write up a passage from ADC, a “deleted scene” if you will, but told from another character’s perspective. My question to you is – WHO is telling this short story?
Which character do you want to hear from the most?
Some options are:
- The Duke
Or anyone else that I may not have thought of! Give me a challenge. 😉 Most votes win!
A small fanfic that blossomed into something I rather liked.
There were times when she smelled flowers.
Not the ones that he had planted outside of their window – English lavender, peach & white gladiolas and yellow buttercups – but the ones that grew by the bay, that held the ocean spray in the velvet of their petals. He would go out to sea, gone for only an afternoon or night at a time, and each time would bring back of sprig of wildflowers from the docks. She woke up to their smell next to her pillow, the first peeks of sunlight illuminating them in the new day.
She groaned, her fingertips clutching the empty pillow next to her, lines of sheet forming to meet in the heart of her palm. The wildflowers spilled over the edges, filling the room with their scent. She turned her head, her eyes squinting at the window. He stood there, his jacket off for once, his shirt loosened from his trousers. He held his hand on the windowpane, looking out over the bay but turned when he heard her stir.
“Morning,” she mumbled, pillow fluff half hanging from her mouth. He smiled, walking over to her and sitting on the edge. His nearness pulled her body up like a magnet and she draped an arm over the back of his shoulders. She rested her chin in the crook of his neck, taking in the salt air still pressed on his skin.
“Good morning, love,” he whispered, the stillness of the dawn not yet ready for anything other than hushed voices.
“Tell me,” she uttered. It was more of an order than a request, a permission for him to lose the weight of what he held onto.
He took a deep breath, in and out, his chest letting out a small shudder. She felt his heart in hers, the layers of skin and organs the only barriers between them. “A calm night, all clear. The town remains safe on the water another night.”
He smiled, looking at her, the moon still an echo in his eyes. “I saw it again.”
His past. It still haunted him, drowning him in dreams and nightscapes. “Tell me,” she repeated, a gentleness in her tone. The serenity put him at ease again, his muscles loosening just an inch.
“I keep thinking the day would be more soothing, but the night helps more. The stars help. They keep me on track, keep me sailing back to you. I keep seeing the gates and the river and the shadows. So many shadows.”
She rubbed his back in small circles, her hair draping down his collarbone.
“I feel like it’s suffocating me, sometimes. I feel wound, constantly waiting for it to end. I see this blackness, this rope of black smoke choking me.”
“But then I open my eyes and I see you. I see you in the stars…and then everything just disappears.” His voice was normal now, no longer a whisper, a small wave of nerves rippling off his tongue. She kissed the curve of his ear, pulling him into the bed, clothes and all. She wrapped her arms from behind him and across his chest. He tightened and loosened all at once, the pain of the day folding back into hibernation.
“Sleep, darling. You’re here, you’re home.” The petals crunched beneath their bodies, the remnants of the sea enveloping them, welcoming them back into pleasant dreams.
A little A Deathly Compromise sequel drabble, featuring Dark Dee. 🙂
His voice whispered in and out and all around me as if his body were smoke, small clouds of horrific interference that permeated through the notes in my headphones.
“It feels good, doesn’t it? Imagine how much more you can consume. Imagine the taste of them.” The end notes were hisses in the jungles of Eden.
My chest heaved, my fingertips fiddling with the item in my palm. It felt heavy despite its size. The staccato release of my breath was all it took to convince him. I felt his hands plant themselves on my shoulders, the bony phalanges scraping against skin. The rest of him hid in the dark. My eyes focused in front of me at the building ahead. Smoke rose in pillars escaping to the stars. The dim light of fire came in through some of the windows, shadows of hands and heads and torsos reaching out for help and trying to escape. My lips twitched. What would they think of me, now? What would Lux think?
“They’re waiting for you. They can’t wait for you to take them home. Don’t make them suffer, darling.”
“Don’t want them to suffer,” I rasped, my voice not entirely my own. I flinched, my ear leaning down into my shoulder at the wrong sound of it all. His fingers closed even tighter on my frame. “I–I don’t know if I can anymore.”
I could feel a finger pull out an earbud. “Tsk tsk, my dear. Don’t you know that you are the one that they want? They adore you. They want to be with you. It’s much more than some, more than anyone really, except me of course. I’ve always appreciated you.”
“Yes?” His head leaned in, his breath toxic and addicting and everything in between. It wove tales of giants and gladiators and lightning in the dark.
“I want–” I was struggling to find breath, to find the muscles to unplug the hold he had. I closed my eyes, listening to the screams that seemed to be miles away. It mixed in with my own rationale, tucked away in that burning building. I reached out a hand to her, to this past, rational self, stretching every line of skin to make it to the door. Her eyes were pleading with this new creature that stood in front of her, this thing that used to be me and was slowly dissolving. I smiled at her begging and slammed the door to that thought, creating darkness once more. I opened my eyes and opened my hand.
It was a small switch, with two solitary buttons. The red one was inviting and warm. I pressed it, watching the fire envelope all around in a blast. I felt suspended there, the pressure of the explosion and the extreme heat not touching a hair on my head. The fire cried out in ecstasy, releasing plumes of black and gray into the atmosphere. A loud groaning echoed through the street. The building had endured enough. It began to collapse into itself, the brick and mortar and concrete finally becoming victims of gravity.
The screams stopped a few seconds after. I tasted copper and iron on my lips.
I flinched again, realizing that the bony hands were gone. A whisper still lingered asking, in a deceivingly sanguine tone, “What do you want?”
The headphones dropped to the floor, my boot crunching them as I turned away. “I want them all.”