A High Price

abstract-3159733_640

“I’ll give you power,” the devil crooned, “For bartering your soul.”

Divider

This was written for Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #124barter. With only 11 required words, I had to do it.

Hello, everyone – as any regulars may be able to tell, I’ve slowed down a LOT on the blog recently. I’m in the home stretch on my dissertation, though, with only about a month and some change to go! Hopefully after that I can get back on the bandwagon.

Until then, I’ve got all my book review posts planned through to the new year, and those should be reliable.

I got the picture off a royalty-free image site a couple years ago and don’t remember which one.

Advertisements

A Familiar Face

Z1-001A

The old woman stroked the cat, and his yellow eyes blinked with content. She drank a bit of potion – or tonic, as she called it in the market – and smacked her lips. “Excellent work, my boy.”

The apprentice to the witch, a boy of 17, nodded in thanks. Years spent under the witch’s tutelage had led him to be a formidable witch in his own right, and fewer seemed to suspect him of wrongdoing than the old witch. He found this unfair but decided to use the advantage.

“I think you are ready for a familiar,” the witch said.

His eyes glittered. “Really?” He sat back down, trying to calm himself and not seem so interested. “I mean, sure. I think I’m ready.”

The witch simply smiled, pet the cat – Sam, her familiar – on her lap. “Then I will help you. The first step, of course, is to use the beast-speech potion to find an animal whose personality works well with yours. Heed me, my dear: do not choose an animal who is unwilling. The familiar will last for the rest of your life, and its death will take a piece of your soul with it.”

The apprentice nodded. “I know. I understand.”

“Then take your time. When you find such a creature, bring it here, and we’ll request its service.”

***

A month later, the apprentice drank the potion once more. He’d spoken to every animal in the county, perhaps even the territory considering how many animals traversed through the area while seeking somewhere else, and no reasonable creature had wanted to help him.

And those who might have agreed were bugs or spiders or other creatures too stupid to understand what he asked.

A black cat belonging to a family in town licked its paws while it sat on a railing. The apprentice walked up to it, and he asked, “What’s your name?”

It stopped licking. “Fuck off, mate.”

The apprentice furrowed his brows and stepped back. “I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me. Fuck off, go away. I’m happy here and don’t want to serve the likes of you.” It continued licking its paw. “Everyone knows what you’ve been up to for the last month, so don’t even pretend like this wasn’t some sort of interview.”

“Well, excuse me for living!” the apprentice growled back.

He removed himself from the foul animal’s presence and headed back to the witch’s little house in the woods.

***

He found the witch stirring a brew, this one likely a beer rather than a potion. She looked up from her work to see the young man’s dejected entry. “Is something wrong, dear?”

He sat down on the chair. “I just can’t find a familiar. I’ve tried everything, but every animal says no.” He placed his elbows on the table and leaned his chin into his palms. “Should I go farther? Perhaps head to New Orleans and see what I can find there?”

“Perhaps,” the witch answered. “But perhaps there’s another solution to your problem.”

“What?” the apprentice asked.

“You’ve only been at this for a month, and if you’ve gone through every option, that means you’ve not built any relationships. You’ve just asked them to join you, and of course they said no because they thought you an abusive witch.” She put the pot atop her brew and pat the lid. “Whether you go to New Orleans or you stay here, it’s best to find a friend before you even think about asking for a permanent relationship.”

“You sound like someone giving dating advice.”

She chuckled. “I suppose it could be similar.”

Divider

This was written for Alexander Eliot’s photo prompt, “Cats’ Eye.” This photo, provided by Mr. Eliot, was such a crisp and clean photo of a cat named Sam. I decided to use this opportunity to continue the story from earlier, wherein my younger apprentice learned to appreciate many forms of life and find satisfaction with his trainer.

Tea Ceremony

Tea Ceremony

The courtesan poured from the teapot into the fairness cup, mixing the water and steeped flavanols before splitting it into two dainty cups.

The client took a cup and sipped. “This ceremony soothes me.”

The courtesan nodded. “As it was designed to.”

Divider

This was written for Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #121teapot. I considered writing about the Teapot Dome scandal, but I just couldn’t fit it into 42 words! 😦

So here you go – hopefully something calm, soothing, and visual.

Photo by 五玄土 ORIENTO on Unsplash

The Things They Do to Me

copy-of-working-template-for-ff-challenges6

She tossed some of the powder onto the safe’s handle and brushed off excess, but the results came back as she expected. “Perp wore gloves,” she told the officer.

The uniformed man snorted. “Good lord. Sendin’ me a lady fingerprintist… the things they do to me.”

She pursed her lips, then ran out of the room. The cop laughed, thinking he’d sent her crying, but time ran short.

If she couldn’t solve the case from the perp’s traces, she could follow the money trail. Her dad had been a safebreaker – and she knew where he’d sell jewels and jade.

Divider

This was written for the August 29th Carrot Ranch Challenge, safebreaker’s daughter. I couldn’t imagine a better picture than the one Charli provided, and I wrote a story that I thought the picture told. Perhaps it’s uncreative, but…

Anyway, I wanted to participate a little bit, but I’m still on semi-hiatus due to my hands feeling poorly. 😦 I may not respond to your comments immediately.

Trip to the New World

ship-sailing

The old world had been good, but not perfect.

What would this new one hold? She’d never been told exactly what this place would be like, and all the souls held in the bow of this ship were similarly confused – if they even spoke the same language.

Which, much to the sailors’ consternation, most of them didn’t.

She couldn’t understand the sailors’ tongues, but she did understand their sticks, whips, and clubs. She understood angry glares, uncaring tones, and raised hackles. She understood the chains around her wrists and ankles.

And she could guess their destination wouldn’t be fun.

Divider

This was written for the August 22 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, old world.

Image by ArtTower from Pixabay

Hijacking Euphoria

teal platform stilettos

Johnny hopped in. “Gun it, Euphoria!”

The hot, 375-horsepower Cadillac roared, but she pressed the brakes at a screeching metal sound.

“Door’s jammed! It got caught on the sidewalk!”

Euphoria screamed. “What the hell you doin’ to my car!?”

“It don’t matter! Gun it, or the cops will catch us!”

She put her long, pink fingernails up to her face. Tears streamed down. “Oh no, my baby!”

The cops caught up, guns at the ready. They saw Euphoria’s tears and manhandled Johnny out. “Hijacking a car and robbing a bank!? You’re going to jail for a long time, bub!”

Divider

This was written for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction PromptJam. I remembered this scene in one of my favorite movies, Black Dynamite, where the baddies pull up to the curb and precipitate a shootout, but they forget their car is in drive. One of the open doors screeches up against the sidewalk and they struggle to get the door closed when they’re making their getaway. So I just hijacked that idea and turned it into what I wanted!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Frog Slime

49-044A

“This will never do,” Mrs. McGillicutty snapped. She dropped the toad gently back down to into the young man’s pail.

“Why not?”

“It’s a simple mistake, but one witches such as I – and you, if you’re willing to stick with your apprenticeship – must learn well.” The woman, whose wild curls had once been a fine jet-black but were now grayed and thick, pointed at the toad. “See the roughness of the skin? The mottled pattern? It’s a toad. In order for spells requiring frog slime to work, you must have a frog.”

The boy rolled his eyes. “So you want me to go back out and look for another one?”

“Well, if you want to make a potion to breathe underwater, you need a frog’s slime. There’s no way around it.” She pointed back to the toad. “If you find another of these, just let it go. The frogs around here are a muddy green, and they tend to live in the ponds.” She turned to her own work, dissecting flowers and carefully removing their various organs to make an aphrodisiac. “Now get on – shoo! The faster you get the frog, the sooner we make the potion.”

Young Chris pursed his lips, refusing to contradict his boss when he left. He shut the door behind him, then sauntered down the dirt path toward the pond. It was another mile away, over by where he’d already picked mushrooms and violets for the witch.

“Stupid witch,” he mumbled to himself. “Should have joined the army and fought the British like father wanted.” He kicked a rock in the middle of the road and contemplated how it rolled, how it couldn’t control its own direction or destiny. He should have followed the advice of the natural world and not tried to kick against the thorns by taking up this unnatural occupation.

Along the side of the road, however, he spotted a bunch of trillium. They were in flower, and the bunch was big enough that he could take several of them and not disturb their future growth. The witch liked these flowers, so he hoped she’d be pleased even if he didn’t find the frog. He dumped the toad out of the pail then collected some of the flowers and continued on his way.

The sun shone brightly, bleaching his hair as he continued down the path. A little ways further, and his eyes caught sight of a spider’s web. He investigated closer, then noticed the little friend of all witches: the black widow. His heart shuddered at the thoughts of the bug’s bite, but he knew the potency of the spider’s bite was something all witches desired. He took a stick, prodded the creature, and eventually convinced her to bite the end of the oak. Sure, the poison would need to be leached soon in order to be made use of, but the witch would know how to do that.

Soon, the young man came to the pond. As if on command, a frog, definitely a frog and not a toad, swam up from the foulest part of the pond and sat on a log. Green algae stuck to its skin.

Mrs. McGillicutty wanted the frog, but the young man looked at the animal and considered it. He’d taken the venom of a spider and a few shoots of a flower – why capture and torture this poor animal? Why waste that time? He scooped the frog from its perch, wiped away a little of the algae, and scooped the slime into one of the wooden gourds the witch made him take on his journeys. The frog was pleased to re-enter the pond, and the boy put the gourd back into his pail.

By the time he returned to the witch’s house, the sun considered setting, and clouds threatened to rain. He knocked once on the door and entered.

The witch looked up from where she stirred a cauldron. “Any luck?” she asked.

“No,” he answered. “I didn’t get you a frog.” He placed the bucket on the table.

“You can just look again tomorrow.”

“I don’t think so,” he answered. “Witchcraft is a woman’s work for a reason: it’s not something a man like me should partake in. I’m not learning anything, certainly not enough to make a living doing something so… foul.”

The witch opened the gourd and examined the slime inside. She shuffled through the flowers and sniffed the stick, discerning what was important about it. “Then why bring me all this?”

“Because I knew you’d like them.”

“And how did you know that?”

He bit his lip.

“You’re learning at quite the right pace. Now sit back – I’ve made us some venison stew, magic-free.”

Divider

This was written for Alexander Eliot’s new photo prompt! The prompt isn’t on any certain schedule, as far as I can tell, but I can promise that the photos have been wonderful so far. No rules, just a story.

The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

working-template-for-ff-challenges45

“And this is the core of the poisonous apple which Adam and Eve ate.” The tour guide pointed to a core, browned from oxidation but otherwise in good shape. “This was unearthed 10 years ago in Mesopotamia, and no scientific explanation regarding its preservation has come forth.”

Someone raised a hand. “Why do we want to keep it?”

“Many reasons! The NIH wants to research its antibiotic properties. The DOE wants to examine its timelessness to find clean fuels. And, of course, the DOD wants to weaponize it. One of these efforts has already succeeded – I’ll let you guess which…”

Divider

This was written for the August 8th Carrot Ranch Promptpoison apple. I’m a pretty religious person and a scientist, so I thought this would be a good way to take the story.

Blind Faith – Flash Fiction Challenge

green pine trees covered with fogs under white sky during daytime

The Story So Far… 

Vessix accepted her parents’ plans to sacrifice her to the gods after her father lost the vein of gold in the family’s small mine, since a blind person couldn’t support herself in their society. They left her at the temple where all the ill and infirm waited for the gods to come eat them, and Vessix remained at the altar with an ancient, dying man. Late that night, when the door to the temple unlocked and jangled open, the local god entered and ate the man who lay dying, but spared Vessix on the grounds that blindness wasn’t a death sentence. It took her home, gave her breakfast, clothes, a place to sleep, and a psychic duck as a pet. Now the duck urges her to escape and proclaim the god as false to the people of the town – will Vessix listen to the duck’s heretical words, or will she search for real truth? Stay tuned to find out!

Divider

This was written for Joanne the Geek’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Story So Far, which has to contain a duck!  My story so far is based off a story I started but quit. The reason I quit was because it relied too heavily on Wizards of the Coast (D&D) copyrighted property, and it was destructive enough that I could even get in trouble for it as a fanfic. So I quit because I literally couldn’t share it. Still, this summary doesn’t contain those elements, but it does contain a duck!

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

Sister Rosetta

close up photo of black electric guitar

Rosetta’s fingers blazed over the fingerboard, twanged the strings with a fire never before seen. She infused a plain instrument with dripping sexual tension and lightning power. Fans clamored at her feet, and her soprano voice carried through the speakers.

The lights went down at the end of the show, and Rosetta made her way backstage. On her way there, a young boy attempted to accost her in the hall. “How do you play like that?”

“Why sugar,” she said, “I practiced and did it ’cause I loved it.” She pinched his cheek. “What’s your name, honey-child?”

“Elvis Presley.”

Divider

This was written for the August 1st, 2019 Carrot Ranch Challenge, Rock Star. With “Old Town Road” causing major cultural and political waves on multiple music charts, I thought it absolutely necessary to look at another era of whitewashing in American culture.* Sister Rosetta Tharpe was, undeniably, the first major Rock Star. Influencing many future white and black rock singers, it’s astounding to me that she’s been widely forgotten by the nation as a whole.

I made up this story, as it probably didn’t actually happen, but Elvis and Rosetta did surely meet in a vinyl format when he spun the records that inspired him to kick off the “Rock Era.”

*The “Old Town Road” controversy is over whitewashing, but it’s not necessarily an example of purposeful whitewashing. I’d suggest reading the Slate article if you want a better idea of what’s going on.

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com