Averting Crisis Ch. 2

Couldn’t get any worse

Tabitha barely had enough money left for food; she certainly couldn’t afford another place to stay for the night.

“You can do this.” Her stomach grumbled. She grimaced. “You can do this after you get some breakfast.”

She dug through her pockets and came up with just enough to pay for a muffin. The street vendor glanced at the pajamas she still wore and took pity on her in the form of a small black coffee.

Juggling her belongings, she made her way to the park. Tabitha wrangled the box onto a park bench and set her muffin and coffee next to it. Immediately, a feral cat flew through the slats of the bench, knocking hot coffee down Tabitha’s leg. The cat snatched the muffin and took off while Tabitha screeched.

She ran after the cat, limping against the coffee burn on her leg. The animal was too swift to catch. It disappeared into some bushes.

She sighed and walked back along the trail, all dreams of breakfast fully evaporated. Back at the bench, another unpleasant surprise waited: her box of belongings was gone.

“Figures,” she growled. “Today couldn’t possibly get any worse.”

It started to rain.

“I stand corrected.”

Averting Crisis Ch. 1

Freaking Telekinesis

A scream in the middle of the night shocked Tabitha out of a nightmare. In her rush to escape her sheets, she fell out of bad face first. The crunch of cartilage in her nose sent a sharp pain through her sinuses, forcing her fully alert.

Another scream pierced the quiet night. Tabitha rushed out of the bedroom, sliding to a halt in the living room where Emily, her roommate, brandished a chef’s knife against-

“Oh, for the love of-” Tabitha cursed heartily when she realized that Flopsy, her childhood stuffed rabbit, danced with abandon on the counter. Now that she looked around, most of the small objects in the living room were suspended in thin air.

Tabitha coughed into her hand and tried to subtly wave the animated objects back down. Slowly, everything lowered back to the ground and remained there, completely stationary. Unfortunately, she had not been subtle enough.

Emily pointed the knife at Tabitha.

“I can explain,” Tabitha said.

Emily screamed again.

An hour later, Tabitha stood on the front stoop of her apartment building with a small box of her belongings and nowhere to go.

“Freaking telekinesis,” she muttered irritably.

The Lovers’ Constellation

Folk Tale/Legend

There was once a woman who fell in love with a man of very little means. Though they had little, the two were happy together. They shared everything they had and delighted in spending all their time together.

The couple lived peacefully until one day, as the woman was coming home from the market, she was assaulted by a band of robbers. They beat the woman and tried to take the little bit of money she’d made by selling vegetables from her garden and the little trinkets she made by hand. Bleeding and broken, the woman did not give in. She grabbed a branch from the forest and used it to fend off her attackers. No matter their threats or how badly she was hurt, the woman wouldn’t give up.

The god of war saw the woman’s fight and immediately fell in love. Though the woman wasn’t beautiful, she had a fire to her spirit that he wished to possess. The god descended to earth and killed the woman’s attackers. The woman cried at his feet and thanked the god for his help, but he made it clear that he was after her love. The god asked her to become his lover, but the woman refused to leave her husband.

Angered by her refusal, the god left the woman alone on the road. She gathered her money and unsold items into her basket and returned happily to her home, where her husband cared for her wounds and held her in his arms.

But the god was not done with her yet. He sparked a war in her country that spread across the entire continent. Soon enough, her husband was drafted into the military to protect the kingdom. On their last night together, the woman wept and prayed for her husband’s safety.

Her husband was called out to battle after battle and returned victorious from each one. Soon enough, he became rich with the spoils of war and was known far and wide as the greatest warrior of the land. But no matter how much he gained or how well-known he became, the man always said he wanted nothing more than to return to his beloved wife.

Frustrated that the war had not destroyed the man, the god of war descended to earth again in the midst of a great battle. The clouds turned dark and lightning flashed in terrible arcs across the sky. The men on both sides of the battle fled the sight of this great and powerful god that stood before them. With a stroke of his sword, the god cut the man down.

When the woman heard of her husband’s death, she mourned for days until the god of war visited her. Yet again, he asked her to become his lover and the woman refused. She vowed to spend the rest of her life alone. Infuriated by her refusal, the god tried to cut the woman down as well, but she escaped him by throwing powdered herbs into his face and fleeing to a sacred grove in the forest near her home. The god could not harm her there, but he swore to kill her if she ever left.

The goddess of love came to the girl in the sacred grove. The goddess, who was a lover of the god of war, was infuriated by the god’s treatment of the woman and her lover. She offered the woman a chance to retrieve her husband from the underworld. The god of death agreed that if the woman would descend into the underworld and retrieve her husband’s soul by her own hand, that she could have him back.

The woman agreed, so the goddess showed her the gateway to the underworld that resided in the sacred grove. The goddess gave her a satchel with dried meat and provisions for her journey because the woman had fled her home with nothing.

Deep inside the ancient cave, the woman came to the edge of a murky river that was so wide she could barely see the other shore. A ferryman waited there, but when she called out to him he didn’t answer. Remembering tales of the ferryman, the woman produced two copper coins from the goddess’s bag and handed them to the man. He nodded gravely and allowed her into the boat before casting off for the far side of the river.

Once she crossed the river, she came to a gate that was guarded by a large, three-headed dog. As long as she did not stray too close to the gate, the dog left her alone. But anytime she came near, it growled a vicious warning. The woman had dried meat wrapped in an oiled cloth in her bag. Sitting near enough to the gate that the dog would see her, but not so close that it became wary, the woman set the meat out in front of her. The three-headed dog slunk near and gobbled up the meat before hastily returning to the gate.

For three days, the woman sat in the same spot and offered her rations to the dog throughout the day until it finally came to trust her. On the third day, she was able to approach while the three-headed dog, wagging his tail happily, watched on. She passed through the gate unharmed.

Once she reached the underworld, she searched with determination, desperate to catch even a single glimpse of her beloved husband, but he was nowhere to be found. For weeks, without food or water to sustain her, the woman persisted. She wandered the underworld, scared and alone, until she came to a place of peace where the souls of the dead rested happily. Among the people there, she finally found her husband. The woman rushed to him, calling his name and crying.

Just as she was about to lay her hand on her beloved husband, the god of war descended. He stole away her husband’s soul and tore it to pieces. Once again, the god demanded that the woman become his lover, but the woman was so overwrought with grief that she didn’t hear him. She fell to the ground and wept. After weeks of searching the underworld with no provisions, and the sudden devastation of losing her husband again, the woman’s broken heart gave out and she perished.

The goddess of love took pity on the woman and her ill-fated lover. Reaching down into the underworld, she took the lost soul of the grieving woman and the leftover pieces of her husband’s soul and hung them in the sky, where the two lovers could finally rest peacefully together till the end of time.

Hot Air

Writing Exercise

Blood flows from her nose.

“I-I’m warning you,” she stutters.

The boy in front of her laughs. “What are you gonna do, Oxy? Blow a puff of air at me?” His hand ignites with flames. “Even for an air manipulator, you’ve always been weak.”

“I’m not an air manipulator,” Oxy says. Her eyes flick over to the panel of bored judges. They don’t think she deserves to be a student at Olympia Heights Academy, the foremost school for metahuman studies in the country. It’s why they paired her with Pyrotech for the entrance exam.

Pyro rushes forward. He’s stronger. Faster. He pins her to the ground, raining blows against her face and chest that sear her skin. Oxy screams in agony.

“You can barely make the air move, Oxy,” Pyro laughs, one arm poised savagely overhead. “You really think you’re enough?”

“I told you, I don’t manipulate air.” Through a mouthful of blood, Oxy grins. “I manipulate oxygen.”

His flaming hand erupts as the pure oxygen she shoves around his body ignites.

Pyro lands on the other side of the testing field, unconscious. Oxy lays flat on the ground, breathing heavily. After a long, exhausted moment, she stands with shaking legs. She glares at the shocked judges.

“And yeah. I’m enough.”

Gnarly P.I.

Writing Exercise

Gnarly cracked open a bottle of Brosia and poured the frothing mixture into a pair of empty glasses. He lifted one up in his grubby, mole bedecked fist to pass to the tall drink of water who’d poured herself into his office. Of course, Gnarly was a gnome, so just about anyone could be a tall drink of water compared to him. Even so, this skyscraper of a human woman could put any of the high elves in Manhattan to shame.

Her eyes were dusky brown under long, curly lashes. Full, pink lips sat perfectly above a small, pointed chin. A cascade of curly black hair framed her heart-shaped face. She was a looker, and she knew it.

“Please,” she begged, blinking down at him through tear-soaked eyes. “You gotta help me, Detective Gnarly. They said you were the only one who could.”

Gnarly pressed the glass of Brosia into the woman’s hands and downed his own glass in one gulp. “I don’t do that no more, sweetheart. Hadn’t you heard? I’m retired.” He gestured with the empty glass toward the framed page of the New York Times that held a position of honor on his wall.

“Little Person Detective Caught Fencing Ancient Artifacts.”

“Little person,” Gnarly muttered. “Pah! If only they knew.” He kicked the leg of his chair, jerking it out from under the desk, and hopped on. He settled in with a disgruntled growl. “This city don’t believe in people like me.”

The woman clutched the glass of Brosia desperately to her chest and got down on her knees in front of him. “I believe in you,” she said, her voice a mere whisper. “I believe. Please, you gotta help me.”

“Help you with what?” Gnarly was nearly at the edge of his patience, which was actually considerably high for a Goblin.

“It’s the Wanderkin,” the woman whispered, her eyes wide like saucers. “The Wanderkin took my sister.”

Gnarly sat bolt upright in his chair. “Don’t you dare say that name out loud,” he said, his voice trembling in terror. “Don’t you dare.”

The woman whimpered. “It’s back. It’s back.”

“No. It’s not. It can’t be.”