Sunday, December 1, 2019

November #vss compendium

Here's everything for November, all at once. I participate in several of the Twitter prompts, so I end up with a lot of microfictions. If you're not following @ravencorinn, you're missing out.

But you can have them all here.
***


I'm so glad that I'm not one of those ultra-literal races. Dealing with the evolving human languages could drive someone crazy. Especially when a common praise for my alcoholic product is that it's "on fire" and "lit". Neither of which it is, obviously.
Yet.


"It's installed!"
"And it works?"
"Oh yes. Better than the old one ever did."
"Great. I can't get rid of it."
"What should we do with the old one?"
"You remember the printer scene in Office Space?"
"I do. But is it safe to beat the crap out of a toilet?"


The dragon doesn't have a fuse on her temper. It's more of a switch, either on or off. Happy or angry. Full or hungry. Sleeping or eating.
Worse, its position changes places, so you'll never know if you've flipped it.


I stood up to our attackers, needing to hold on just a few more moments. "Use whatever words you want to degrade us, to make yourselves seem better. Tribe of heathens is our badge of honor."
Their laughter dies when the rest of my clan arrives, weapons drawn.


"What's that?!"
"My wedding photos."
"No. THAT!"
"My husband's hair?"
"Yeah. Eww. Why do you have it?"
"It's a lover's knot. He had to start shaving his head, and wanted me to always have a piece of him."
"Gross."
"Judgy."


I water around her, careful not to jostle my orchid too much. I know she's venomous, that she sometimes bites people, but I wouldn't ever harm her.
People should coexist with spiders; they do more for us than most realize.


Obscure Fantasy Fact 194458: Cuff curmudgeonly cockatrices constantly. Can't choke your chicken.


"Hell is just the boogeyman for gullible adults."
"Thanks, non sequitur. How are you today?"
"Just came to me while I was reading this story. 'You better do good, or you'll burn forever.'"
"It worked."
"For a while. Then people grew up and saw through it."


He complained about only trashy girls getting tattoos. I sighed, biting back any kind of angry retort. He was far too old to change, far too jaded by past experience, far too bitter to want to hear the simple truth. Ink never defined a person, only their heart.


I revel in the post-apocalypse, finally able to put my skills to their proper uses. I start a colony of survivors, and it takes every effort not to kick some of them right back into the wild.
But I shouldn't expect much from people who wouldn't grate their own cheese.


Dragon pushes the plate aside. "That's no good."
Elf frowns. "But you love pumpkin pie."
"I'm also super picky about it. Whomever made this travesty better hope I don't decide to eat them."
Elf gulps.


"Ugh. My left hip aches."
"But didn't you hurt your right foot?"
"Yes, but limping and favoring it is throwing everything else out of line."
"Then just settle on the couch and do your needlepoint or something."
"But someone has to do the housework!"
"..."


"Behold my crop!" I slam the bowl proudly on the table.
"Are a dozen potatoes really a harvest?"
I glare at my little brother and the phone in his hand. "When's the last time you grew anything but bored?"
He mumbles an apology. "I do like your purple mashed taters."


Signy sighs, weary, bloody, grateful for her armor. So many enemies killed, so many left to slay. They couldn't truly hurt her, but she never had a moment of rest. The scaled leather protected her from wounds and from collapsing in weakness.


Lara heard the logic of why one should make the bed every morning. It made sense, that if one task could be accomplished, everything could be done.
But the last thing she wanted after a long day was to have to open the sheets. She preferred to have a nest waiting.


"Do you prefer the suburbs or city life?"
"Neither. Both choices suck."
"So where would you rather live?"
"In a large castle on a cliff looming over a town full of my subjects."
"!!!"


Someone's talking about art movements, and they finally ask Toni what she thinks of the Minimalists. She shrugs.
"Don't you have an opinion?" The tone is sharp, judgemental.
Toni smirks. "I like what I like. Don't need a fancy title for it."


Devon didn't just hear the familiar tread. He FELT it, like fingers up his spine. Familiar, heavy, dark. Heart racing, he turned to look behind him.
Markus offered a crooked smile, one fang revealed. "Long time no see."
Devon's defenses collapsed.


"You don't use pet names very often."
"Of course not. My dad ruined the concept for me."
"How so?"
"Apparently he called every woman he was with 'baby' so he wouldn't get confused and call them by the wrong name."
"Was he dumb or devious?"
"Why not both?"


Dagmar attempted to talk Dagda out of her attack. "They didn't do it on purpose. They didn't know."
Dagda growled, bedecked with swords and knives. "Their willful ignorance makes them complicit. This is a case of inaction being more harmful than action."


The witch howls with laughter as they carry her to the pyre. "Your world is but on spoke of an enormous wheel. You do not kill me, but free my soul."
As she burnt, laughter turned demonic. "And open the doors to other realms."


"Does EVERY comment you make on the internet have to be so salacious?"
"I suppose not. There is just as much controversy to be had with other topics, and they certainly evoke more passionate responses."
"Nevermind! Pineapple on pizza is taboo."


Becky was certain her brother would cavil at anything she said, just to be contrary. She started taking notes, keeping a journal, and amused herself by making opposing statements on different weeks. Now she sees his behavior as sad, not aggravating.


Avilda approached the cave. "Once, our tribes were enemies. But we are too few these days, and must unite for the good of all our people." She kept her hands at her sides, away from her blades.
The troll chief shuffled forward. "Agreed."


Sir Wiggles von Trufflebottom must stop at every bin to mark them as his own. Proud of himself for expanding his kingdom, looking at me for validation.
I smile, knowing we'll go through the whole routine again tomorrow.


"Why won't you give me your name?"
"I said you can call me Pumpkin."
"That's a nickname. I mean your real one."
"You know why."
"No. Explain it."
"Because true names have power, and I'm not ready to give you that control over me."


I sit at the table, the captains of my Hell Patrol arranged behind me, the lords arrayed before me. They're asking for me to sign their armistice and leave, eager to end the slaughter.
They don't know how happy I am to sign, because we all want a vacation.


I'm impressed by the soldiers who can march all day long, thirty pounds of gear in their pack, unquestioning, following orders. I respect them.
But I follow my own path, at my own pace, and get just as far eventually. I'll fight if needed, just for my own reasons.


I read through the regulations, if they can be called that, and grit my teeth. The reasons behind such obnoxious laws are beyond just straw men. This is a scarecrow, made to frighten people from looking any deeper.
It must surely be time for action.


"The world is just so mundane."
"Only if you want it to be."
"There's no sense of wonder-"
"Do you know that rose petals are laid out in a spiral? Do you know how many individual processes it takes to form a scab?"
"--"
"Open your eyes now and then."


The doctor is haranguing my mother about ethics, and what he can and cannot do for my father because of them. I glare, wishing he would understand that what he says is just his opinion.
Using meds to sustain Dad's life rather than helping him pass on is cruel.


"I feel a crank." My niece flops onto the couch, arms crossed.
"You mean...?"
She furrows her brow at me, "I'm upset, but not all the way cranky. Just a little bitty bit."
"Would an amaranth cookie help?"
She grins. "Of course!"


We finish our shift at the craft store. "Glitter is the most insidious thing ever invented." Mary shakes more of it out of her apron. "And they put it on more and more shit every year!"
I smirk. "It's like craft herpes."


"I was never that good at math. Once it got beyond basic algebra, it stopped making sense to me."
"Aw, I like big equations."
"But they're just as made up as my novels, with a less satisfying ending."
"It's the language of the universe!"
"Not mine."


My fence is made of little obelus, but everyone else thinks they're just some unusual picket. Damn kids keep wandering in to pick the apples, and only luck has kept them from falling through the aether.
I've done the best I can.


I chuckle at the sign. - Disrupt not the wyrm's quiescence, lest thou become their ruminate
"What's so funny?" Chuck asks.
"It says let sleeping dragons lie, or you'll become lunch."
He cringes and tiptoes away.


The moon is cold, and silvery, and it speeds up rot. But she is my friend, my companion, and she helps me hide the bodies faster.


"When's the last time you went to the circus?"
"A few years back. It almost went bad for the others."
"How?"
"Well, animals are sensitive to my presence, and they REALLY wanted to react. Tigers and elephants started getting mean."
"And that's a bad thing?"


"Before you come at me again, maybe you should understand something about me." She cringes away in a cloud of patchouli and fear. "I pick what to perpetuate and what to renounce. Some traditions make us stronger as a people, and losing them makes us weaker."


Only fools would mistake her quietness for meekness. It's simply her way, private and reserved. Rook measures her words, shares them via her stories, and keeps her eclectic collections and tastes to herself.


They fumble with the drill for a while, trying to get the bit locked in and the chuck set. I watch with crossed arms, listening to them swear and fail.
Finally, I push them aside and take over the project. "What the hell do you kids learn these days?"


"It's a stethoscope," I tell my dark elf friend. Her quizzical stare deepens. "We use them to listen to heartbeats, make sure things sound alright."
"You need a tool to do that?"


"I admire your strength."
"Thank you, I guess."
"You buck the societal pressures and manage not to let them get you down. How?"
"I'm just comfortable in my own skin, I guess."
"You're a revolutionary."
"If you say so."


He looks up with wide eyes, barely holding back his grin. "Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead?"
I remember being his age, and asking the same 'riddle' in the same manner. Seems some things never change.


Elf whispered with an accent. "And here you can see the elusive nature of this rarely seen creature. It hoards not gold, but pumpkin pies."
Dragon snarled. "Shut it and hand me the whip cream."


"Whatcha eatin'?"
"Sushi."
"Wassat?"
"Uncooked fish on a bed of rice, accompanied by wasabi and ginger."
"Ewwww. Uncooked means raw. Gross."
"Would you like some steak tartare instead?"
"Duh. I love steak."


"Oh! This room has quite the draft." Nancy clutches her shawl to her throat. "Never felt one like this."
Dan stares at the unmoving curtains. "I don't feel anything."
"Because it's in the aether."


"He was annoying. Just, real sleazy. Kept asking for my number. So I gave it to him."
"What?!"
"Yeah. 5558463174."
"Which is?"
"U Go fish."
"Oh. Ha ha."
"I feel sorry for whomever has that number."


Mark sits with his guitar, each note a random pluck of the strings. He's lost in thought, not paying attention to the world around him. Especially not the whispers from the shadows, guiding his fingers.
The spell is almost complete, and they will be freed.


"Do you want me to put on my walking boots?" The dog barks and jumps and wags his nubbin excitedly. I can't help but smile. His joy is infectious, and makes me forget my pains for an hour.


"I hope I succeed."
"Just hoping? Not, I dunno, TRYING?"
"Rude! Positive thoughts keep a positive life."
"No. Positive ACTIONS do, and hoping without doing is the same as praying for results."
"You're mean."
"Just pragmatic."


The rest of the group won't let him live it down. He ducks his head, stares at his drink, and endures their ribbing. With enough liquid courage, he finally defends his choice of clothes. "I thought you said we were going to a jive bar."


The ice caps melted more by the day, increasing the rain at the coast, flooding the seas. She only smiled, testing the salinity, waiting for the levels to drop.
Soon, her master would be free of his prison and they would all suffer.


Jacquelynne ruled with an iron fist. She was kind, and her laws were few, but her justice was always swift, and her retribution exact. Her subjects loved her for her strength, ignoring outsiders defaming her as cruel.


Walking around downtown, Rebecca realizes there are entire gangs of crows watching her from the trees. Far beyond the scope of a mere murder, they huddle and stare, some murmuring to their neighbors, most judging in silence.
They seem to know about the poison.


"And then he said 'who reads a book anymore anyway?'"
"What did you do?"
"Bludgeoned him to death with the novel I had in hand."
"No you did not!"
"..."
"Did you?"
"...so, yeah, I kinda need a place to lay low for a while."


"How did you bust your lip?" He's only the fourteenth person to ask today, third in the last twenty minutes.
"Rescued a dog that had been hit by a car, and he headbutted me while thrashing around." Much cooler sounding than that I hit myself in my sleep.


"I love your book!" Those simple words reader deep into Writer's heart. Reader never really understands what goes on behind the scenes, just gets to enjoy the end product. All the blood, sweat, and tears seem worthwhile when Reader says that.


"How do you manage to get so much done? I'm struggling to be self-employed."
"It's all about having a schedule, same as a regular job."
"Really?"
"Yeah. I make time for everything I have to do, and don't let myself get bogged down."
"That's smart."


Scions of turpitude hiss at Aileen's kalon presence. They hate anything that is pure and elevated, cannot stand to see one who is at peace, and make every attempt to ravish her.
Her counterpart Aidan epitomizes the virtues of strength, and he will defend her.


They told Debbie to grow up, to be serious, to put away childish things.
As she watches the crow carry a hubcap up the roof to sled down the snow again, she wonders if they understand it's just as important to life to play and relax.


The annual review asks her for the worst part about her caregiving position. Sue ponders, then answers honestly. "I'm not allowed to tell them no. They just get to take and take and take. No woman in nature allows this behavior; all mothers force the weaning."


Obscure Mythological Fact 943: The bakeneko is far crueler and more playful than its regular cat kin. If it catches you, it will release you, just to chase you again.


"Isn't it great that drag queens are becoming so common?"
"I mean...I guess."
"You're not some kind of dragphobe, are you?"
"No. It's just that when there's a lot of something, it's no longer fun and mysterious and doesn't turn heads anymore. Makes me sad."


The scrub jays have started their daily refrain. Sharp, unharmonious, their voices screech at the cat, growing louder as he approaches.
I rise from bed with a sigh, unable to sleep through the raucous chorus. Won't they forgive one dead hatchling?


I feel the dark of his soul before he even opens his mouth. My shoulders tense, preparing for combat, but he simply orders a grande white mocha with extra whip.
I smile and take his money, allowing the beast in disguise another day of life. Damn day job.


"Being a goddess of creation is hard," she admits over her fourth glass of soul wine. "Taking the raw chaos of the universe and giving it permanent shape is a constant balancing act. Codify too much, and it stagnates. Not defined enough, it's a wild monster."


"Ain't it crazy how whales managed to evolve from cows?"
"…"
"What?"
"Don't ask me to open that can of worms."
"Huh?"
"I don't think your mind could handle me explaining the things I've seen."
"Took some DMT again, huh?"
"It can open your mind too!"


Lyra stops and stares at the calendar. She knows the date should mean something to her, that there was great joy about this day in particular.
But centuries have blurred her memories, made many things insignificant in the grand scheme of her achingly long life.


"Why do you keep stopping in vacant lots?"
"I'm looking for one with a rose."
"That's random as fuck."
"Not if you've read The Dark Tower."
"You're developing a quirk based on fiction?"
"Even King suggests they might not be just fiction."
"Hopeless."


Leukothea stands on the docks, watching the ship and its cargo. Too many centuries she's slept, too many changes to her beloved sea, but she smiles at one thing that is the same.
Sailors will always use the block and tackle she gifted them.


"Cedric the Ineffable?" Sara stared at her twin. "Really?"
"Am I not? Father ensured thus when he bequeathed us his esoteria."
Sara shook her head. "You committed a double fault, giving yourself your own nickname. The unknowable never announces itself that way"


"I'm worried."
"Why?"
"If you write what you know, why does this character have an Electra Complex?"
"...no reason..."
"She's banging her own father!"
"...they get married and have a daughter later..."
"!!!"
"It's okay if it's fiction."


"I prefer to keep quiet, go unnoticed, blend in."
"You don't want to be remarkable?"
"It's actually rather dangerous to be noticed and remarked upon in my line of work."
"...and what is it you do?"
"Talent scout."
"Oh."
"For Satan's softball league."


Sophie always went to the forest on the night of the new moon. Johan finally followed her to discover why. She sat beside a tiny pond in the hollow of an elm tree, tiny lights flashing and quiet music playing. "What is it?" he asked.
"A faerie rave!"


Mara strokes his brow, a sad smile playing around her lips. "A little sweven root will bring you quiet sleep."
Thomas shudders, dark marks beneath his rheumy eyes. "Into the pleasant dream?"
She stays as his life fades, easing his pain, sustaining her own.


Those In Charge praised her ingenious and foul creation. They'd sought to rule with fear and iron control, crushing their enemies.
She had shown them a better way. "Use velvet, not steel, and they will seek their own demise."
"And pay us for it!"


I felt the signal, though I didn't know that's what it was. Just an ache, deep in my bones, rattling against my soul. Then the empty people turn on me, their controllers finally ready to start the war.
I am one of the few to make it out alive.


"A wizard is-"
"Stop! Don't try to be cute."
"-never late-"
"And yet you were."
"Nor is he early."
"Super done with you thinking you're cute and can get out of the fact that you missed our snuggle time during the Mandalorian."
"...but it's on demand..."


"Is that mint and...almond?" he asks, disbelieving, yet cramming another cookie in his mouth.
"Damn," I mutter. "Mint was supposed to cover up the cyanide."
"What?!"
"Nothing."


It seems like a no-brainer to me, giving the kitten the balloon. Some might call it cruel, and maybe it is. Or maybe it's just a form of harmless shadenfreude. When she finally pops it and runs, I'm going to have quite the laugh.


The wife glares from the door of my workshop, hands on hips, jaw set. "What do you think you're doing with my jewelry box?"
"I need the gold," I respond without looking up. "I'm attempting to recreate an ancient formula." Eternal life for me, not her.


"SO happy she's out for the day."
"Me too. She's not horrible...just..."
"Somewhere between aggravating and annoying. Not so bad as to need to be punched in the face, but not able to be ignored."
"If a personality could chafe, she has it."


Dragon has shapeshifted for the day, wearing an elven form as she walked with Elf through the market. No one noticed him, but everyone cast her wary glances and stepped form her path. "Why are they still scared?"
"Because you still loom over them."


Ernest's fingers flew across the keyboard, the code on the screen reflected in his glasses. "You really are a wizard at this," his supervisor said from over his shoulder.
"You have no idea," Ernest whispered, completing the spell.


"People are too wound up out there!"
"All the shoppers?"
"YES! All going nuts because 'it's that time of the year'. Ugh."
"I'm glad you got home safely."
"Me too. I'll either hibernate or go out armed."


Brigid stands beside her daughters, swords and spears in hands, kilted for war. Their men fight at the main front. The cowards gathered at the forest edge think to find the women defenseless. "These arcadian lands will drink your blood by nightfall."


He lashes out with savage snarls and bared teeth, protecting what is his. He is the alpha of this pack, will not be denied his fair share.
Even doggos can play pretend.


"I've never seen anything vanish like that," Mack says, staring into the forest. Spirals of mist are the only proof the creature had been there.
"Has to be the reason no one has caught a sasquatch," I whisper back, pretty sure I can see a dark outline watching us.


"Teach me, Dragon."
I sigh. He's got his head in almost the right place, for a mortal, so I must test if he's ready. "If you want to live in the present, you have to have one eye on the future and the other on the past."
He smiles. "Learn and plan to act."


"And then he asked if I cut bread with a hatchet."
"How can you laugh? Let him make fun of you for cutting up your finger?"
"We're family. We joke to cope. To show that I'm not in terrible pain. To take the edge off what could have been a crippling injury."


My hatchlings fly with me, observing, absorbing, learning by doing. I can tell them HOW to strike, but not WHEN. That is something they can only understand with experience.
They stoop at prey, missing. I growl encouragingly. They will do better next time.


The demoness slipped through the halls of his home, another shadow in the darkness. Pictures of his smiling wife, his happy children. It would be a bonus to eat his heart and free the innocent of his casual cruelty.


"Don't you ever take a break?"
"What do you mean?"
"You're constantly doing something. Hiking with the dog, or that silly cross stitch stuff, or cooking dinner."
"Those ARE how I relax. I get to avoid the rest of the population."


I have to brave the crowds. Need food and supplies, and those don't wait for holiday sales.
I both pity and hate these fools obsessed with saving money on bullshit they don't need.
If I knew how to fix them, I would.


They want to brute force the attacks, bash down doors and take heads. I smile and softly remind them that feminine wiles would be far more effective. "We smile, wink, and slip the poison into their drink. No loss of life on our side."


"...add the beef and stock to the pumpkin, let it roast until soft."
"That looks tasty."
"...did you just say something with a veggie looks good?"
"Yeah. I'd totally try that."
"!!"
"What?"
"Who else have you pod people stolen?"
"Shush. Just make it."


Dragon pulls her muzzle from the torso, the beast's massive heart between her teeth. "This is my favorite part."
Elf watches her carefully nibble on the dark red flesh, her eyes half-lidded with pleasure. He knows better than to ask for a piece.


The Evil Ones compare their slave races, discussing how best to keep them in line. "I've actually found it's best to let them think they're free. They don't fight, and you get to make them purchase all the necessities of life that would normally be provided."

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