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.”

Agoraphobia

Short Story (Horror)

Brunhilde rested her head against the door. She breathed heavily, listening to the sound of rain outside.

“Just out to the garden,” she promised herself. “It’s raining. No one will see me.” She placed her hand on the door knob, then let go. “Damn it, Brunhilde, you can do this!”

They were empty words. Of course she couldn’t do this. She hadn’t left her home in three months. The thought of stepping outside of her home, even onto her porch, sent chills down her spine. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t face the world.

“The food is almost gone. You have to do this,” she told herself. “It’s just the garden. Not even outside of the yard. You’ll be fine.”

Brunhilde reached for the doorknob again, her hand shaking. She fell backward with a shout of grief, unable to make herself do what needed to be done, even if she might starve.

“Brunhilde?” A voice drifted through the door like a sweet melody. Brunhilde froze. She knew that voice. It was her grandmother. “Sweetie, please come out. It’s been so long, you can’t stay in there any longer.”

Brunhilde scrambled back and away from the door. Her breath came in heavy gasps. “No,” she whispered. “No, no, please don’t.”

The doorknob rattled. “Please come out, Sweetie. I just want to see you.” The door shook a little harder and Brunhilde whimpered.

Another voice drifted in, joining her grandmother’s. “Hilde, it’s me,” Gidget–her best friend–said, voice thick with sorrow. “We just want to see you. We love you.” Brunhilde sobbed quietly from where she was curled into a ball on the floor, but she didn’t answer. She couldn’t.

“Beloved.”

“No,” Brunhilde whimpered. “No, please don’t. I can’t,”

“I am here, my love,” Edmund whispered. Wonderful Edmund. Her heart ached.

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” Her voice rose into a mournful wail. The knocking on her door subsided until only the sound of her beloved Edmund was left.

“Why not, my love?” he asked.

“Because you’re dead. All of you are dead.”

Edmund paused. The door shook again. “Dead, Beloved?”

“Last year. When the sulfur fields opened and the demon swarm came. You all died.” She hadn’t left her home since then. She’d barricaded herself inside, hiding from the monsters and the poisonous gas that filled the streets of her little home town.

The door rattled harder. Edmund, or whatever it was that used her beloved’s voice, laughed. “Come back to us, my love. You can’t hide in there forever.”

Brunhilde pressed her face into the ground, crying harder. “Go away! Please, go away!”

All the voices returned, calling Brunhilde insistently. “Come back to us! Come outside, Brunhilde! We just want to see you!”

“Come join me, my love.”

Phone Problems

Short Story (Comedy)

“I lost my phone.” Gidget blocked Sam’s view of the television.

He paused his video game. “Again?”

“What do you mean, ‘again’?” Gidget demanded. “I don’t do it all the time!”

Sam leaned back. “What about at the restaurant? It was in the toilet tank.”

“Hardly my fault.”

“Or when that monkey stole it and bought all those bananas?”

Gidget scoffed. “Last time I stay logged in. But still, that’s only twice!”

“Ok, what about,” Sam offered, but Gidget held up a hand to stop him.

“Nevermind. Geeze.”

Sam set aside his controller. “Did you check the freezer?”

“Why would I check the freezer?”

Sam stared quietly at her.

“Right. That time I put the phone in the freezer instead of the hamburger.”

“I can’t believe you kept that beef patty in your pocket for so long without noticing.” Sam opened the freezer door. “Not in here.”

“We shouldcheck the apartment pool, too,” Gidget admitted.

“Why?”

“I thought I saw a spider.”

Sam stared blankly at her. “In the pool.”

“Yeah.”

“And you decided to kill it with your phone.”

“Not my best move, I admit.”

Sam nodded. “Alright, let’s check the pool.”

The natatorium was empty. Gidget slumped into a pool chair, pouting.

“You don’t think you dropped it in a puddle outside again, do you?” Sam wondered.

“No, it hasn’t been raining this week.” Gidget tapped her chin thoughtfully. “I accidentally ran it over, once. We could check the parking lot?”

“No, you had it when you came into the apartment,” Sam said. “You definitely didn’t leave it outside.”

“Why do you remember that?” Gidget asked.

“You threw it at my head.”

“Oh, right. Because of the spider.”

Sam rubbed his forehead. “Yeah, you really should break that habit.”

“Then it should definitely be in the apartment,” Gidget said. “Because of the head injury.”

Sam shrugged. “We’ll check.”

“I’m kind of afraid of what shape it’ll be in when I find it,” Gidget admitted. “I don’t have a great history with phones. Should I buy a new one?”

“Maybe it’ll be fine?” Sam offered.

“What if it fell through a spontaneous wormhole into another dimension and I’ll never see it again?” Gidget asked.

“If it fell through a spontaneous wormhole into another dimension, I’ll definitely let you buy a new phone,” Sam assured her. “Why don’t I call it?” He pulled out his own phone.

At the couch, Gidget’s phone buzzed. She snatched it from between the cushions.

“Sam! Sam, it’s okay! My phone is okay!” She danced wildly in excitement, but the phone slipped out of her grip and smashed on the ground. The screen cracked.

Sam and Gidget looked at the phone quietly. At last, Sam patted Gidget on the back. “If it makes you feel better, we can say a wormhole did it.”

Gidget sighed, then threw the broken phone over her shoulder. “So what dimension do you think it ended up in?”

“Probably one with dragons.”

“Oh, how cool. I hope it gets pictures.”

Alpha II

Character Study

“You’ve hurt a lot of people already, Alpha. It’s time to stop!” Psych clutched her useless arm close to her chest and spent a few precious seconds creating a relative location freeze to lock it in place. It sent electric shocks of agony through her collarbone, which was probably broken. None of it mattered. She had to stop him. No one else could.

“You’re a fool if you think any of that matters. There’s always going to be collateral damage when crushing a rebellion.” He punched the side of a bus as the people inside shouted in alarm and scrambled away from the twisting, screaming metal. He smiled at a woman inside the bus, curled up in the seat opposite from him as she clutched a bleeding man against her chest. A light of hope entered her expression as she met his eyes.

Then he threw the bus. It hurled through the air so fast that the air roared behind it. Psych screamed, reaching out an arm that shimmered. Just before the bus collided with the side of a building, the wall of the skyscraper crumpled. The shimmering air from Psych’s arm raced out and surrounded the bus, shielding the people inside from harm as it smashed through the glass and steel walls.

Alpha shot forward, punching Psych in the sternum as hard as he could before she had a chance to call back her quantum shield. Her chest caved in under the hit before she was launched straight into the air, blood trailing after her in a sickening arc. He pursued her through the air, not giving the girl a chance to breathe or think as he kicked her in the side. She spun through the air sideways until he drove both fists hard into the back of her head. She crashed down onto a car that crumpled under the force of the hit. Pushing his advantage, Alpha raced for her again, intent on crushing her head completely with a final kick.

His foot broke as it met her quantum shield. He cursed, hopping back and away from the girl as she warily pulled herself out of the wreckage of metal that had once been someone’s only means of transportation.

It was remarkable that the girl could even move at all. Alpha suspected that Psych was relying on her powers to keep her body moving at this point. Her neck was discolored with bruising. She gasped desperately for air as blood trickled from her lips. But her eyes remained defiant. Rather than walk, Psych glided through the air towards him. The space between them shimmered with heat. If Psych managed to get in range of him, he was finished. She would lock his space time and end things in the blink of an eye. He wouldn’t even know he’d lost.

But there was a trick to dealing with people like her. He needed another distraction and a way to get her to send her shield away from her body long enough for him to land the finishing blow.

Alpha retreated. He led the girl back toward the Heroes Association building. And the trap. Because a man like Alpha didn’t make it to the top just from being stronger than everyone else. He made it there by being smarter. By being more ruthless. He was the ultimate hero because he was the best. It was time for Psych to realize the true difference between their abilities.

Psych pursued him relentlessly. She would get close, only to stop in her tracks as he overturned a train or punched a crater into a highway. She wasted precious seconds protecting bystanders. Time that he was able to use to get away.

The HA building came into view at last as he blasted his way through a manufacturing building full of employees, destroying the building’s supports right as Psych was about to come within time stopping distance of him.

She cursed, racing around the supports to reassemble the pieces and lock them into place, giving Alpha the time he needed to enter the building. He burst in through his office window and slammed a fist down on a button.

The building crumbled around him. He laughed cheerfully as Psych flew into view, her face contorted in rage.

“It’s over, Alpha. I’m stopping you here.” Her words were little more than a whisper, hard to understand through the persistent wheeze that issued from her damaged chest. The look she gave him could have caused blisters.

Alpha laughed. “You’re right. It is over. But not for me. Maybe not even for you. But certainly for them.” He gestured toward the ground. The rubble of the building he’d demolished parted as a set of metal doors pushed up and over, revealing the sub basement of the Heroes Association building.

Strapped to a series of tables, battered and bruised beyond recognition, the rest of the members of the Association lay helpless. Psych froze, staring down at them with an inscrutable expression.

“Do you think this will make me hurt you any less?” she asked in a deadly quiet voice.

“I think you don’t have time for that,” Alpha replied. He pulled a switch from a gloved hand and activated it. Light poured out from the walls surrounding the battered heroes, and a low hum issued from the tables where they lay. The Technopath, who lay closest to the walls, began to scream.

Psych cursed. She shifted her quantum shield onto her lover, but the moment it left her body, Alpha rushed her. Before he could land a hit, she pulled the shield back onto herself, but then the Technopath started screaming from the pain of the devices in the wall. The longer the light touched the heroes, the more pain it caused. After a few seconds, all of the heroes were screaming in agony.

“You can’t wait too long, my dear,” Alpha taunted. “Before long, they’ll die. I’ll make sure of it. Unless.”

“Unless what?” Psych snarled.

“If you die, they live.”

It was as simple as that. She was the one who stood in his way. She was the one who made it possible for the Mentalist to take over the Association. The one who stole his position as the ultimate hero. Psych was the one who’d caused the world to lose respect for him. Without her, he could get it all back. No one could stand against him.

Tenfold screamed in agony, her body splitting and reforming over and over. High Caliber strained against her restraints, veins bulging in her neck and arms. Her eyes were red from popped blood vessels. The one who suffered the most, however, was the Mentalist. He suffered under his own pain as well as the pain of all the others in the room. An agonized wail tore through him as he suffered for everyone all at the same time.

Psych watched them, tears in her eyes. And Alpha knew he’d won.

“Stop hurting them. I’ll do what you want.”

“You’ll do what I want, and then I’ll stop their pain.”

Psych floated down next to Akash. He and the few people around him stopped screaming, but the room was too large for her to protect everyone at once. She brushed her fingertips across her lover’s cheek.

“It’s always about power, with you. Who has it and who doesn’t. You think my love for these people is a weakness.” She walked across the room to the Mentalist and gently placed a hand on his forehead. The man stopped wailing. His breath came in ragged gasps and he shivered on the table, tears shining on his cheeks. He whimpered.

Alpha landed next to her. Even if she stopped his personal time, she couldn’t stop what was happening to her friends. He’d already won. “And you think it’s not?”

“It’s not. We’re stronger when we have help.” Psych wiped the sweat off of the Mentalist’s forehead and brushed away his tears, her face like stone.

The Mentalist looked up at her, shaking heavily. “Will it hurt?” he asked.

“I’m afraid so.” Her voice was clear, the wheezing completely gone. Even the bruising on her neck was fading.

A cold chill went down Alpha’s spine. Was she healing? But that was impossible. She didn’t have regenerative abilities, the Association’s healer assured him of that fact. However, it wasn’t her apparent recovery that made him sweat. It was the stone cold look in her eyes as she reached out toward him, her palm still pressed to the Mentalist’s forehead as he matched her expression perfectly.

The world froze, everything going perfectly still as Psych made contact with his forehead. Then it exploded, fracturing into a trillion pieces of information that bombarded him from all sides.

“Welcome to the multiverse,” Psych said. He could hear her words all around him, echoing into the shattered world around him. “This is every universe where you exist and have caused pain to other people. I thought you might enjoy a tour.”

“What good will this do you?” Alpha scoffed. “Do you think this will change me? Make me see the error of my ways?” His mind spread throughout all of the various realities that Psych showed him and he felt nothing. He was proud to feel nothing. Proud that her little trick would not affect him.

“My job is to bring you here,” Psych said. “I know I can’t make you feel things. It’s not my job.”

“It’s mine, actually.” The voice of the Mentalist infiltrated Alpha’s mind like an intrusive thought. Through Psych, the empath traveled the connection made between Alpha and the alternate versions of himself. Then his mind traveled beyond. Into the minds of those that Alpha had touched.

All at once, the empath ripped the pain and suffering from trillions of universes and shoved all of that feeling and emotion directly into Alpha’s brain. The empath screamed under the blowback from so much emotion and retreated from the connection, but his work remained.

For the first time in his life, Alpha understood. The torment of so many emotions racked his body and he felt it in the marrow of his bones. Every injury he’d caused. Every bit of damage he’d inflicted. It turned on him a hundred-fold. The empath had even dragged in every hurt feeling that Alpha had ever been responsible for. The backhanded compliments, the insults, times he’d battered people’s self-confidence.

He crumpled under the weight of it. Alpha, the strongest hero the world had ever seen, curled into a ball and cried. He didn’t resist when Psych pulled the glove off of his arm. He didn’t move a muscle as the machines turned off and the heroes were released from the power-stripping tables he’d trapped them on for days.

He sobbed brokenly as the images of thousands of lives full of pain repeated in his head over and over again.

“Make it stop,” he begged. “I don’t want this. Make it stop.”

Psych looked down at the man. Her eyes were downcast, and her lip quivered. “I’m sorry, Alpha. It will stop when you do.”

“What does that mean?” he whimpered.

High Caliber grabbed him underneath the arms and pulled him into a standing position. “Come on, boss man. Time to go to prison.”

“What does it mean!” Alpha shouted as the woman dragged him away.

Psych never answered. She watched sadly as the Hero of Heroes was dragged away to face the consequences of his crimes.

Tenfold II

Character Study

Estelle sat uneasily on the chair in the doctor’s office. Her leg bounced as she waited for the results of the test. Tenfold sighed. She sat in the chair next to her friend and placed a hand on the anxiously vibrating leg.

“It’s going to be okay,” Tenfold assured her.

“I really don’t think it is.” She clasped her hands in her lap and leaned back, closing her eyes.

“Have you told Akash?”

Estelle exhaled deeply and looked away. “I don’t know what I could tell him.”

Tenfold rolled her eyes.

She knows what’s wrong. Tenfold sat a little straighter, paying more attention now that her intuition was onto something.

What is it? Tenfold asked silently.

I don’t know. But she knows something. Or she has a theory.

“You’re keeping something from me,” Tenfold accused Estelle.

The younger woman crossed her arms. “You know I hate it when you do that.” She looked at the door again as if waiting for the doctor, but now Tenfold was onto her. She was stalling.

“How many times have you blacked out, Estelle?”

“Four or five times.”

“Total?”

“This week.” Estelle slumped in her chair. She drew her legs up to her chest and closed her eyes, as if she was praying. Her lips trembled.

“Are you dying?” Regardless of how hard she tried, Tenfold couldn’t keep her voice from trembling.

“No. Not really.”

“What do you mean, not really?” Tenfold demanded.

She’s already dead, Intuition provided. You can’t die if you’re dead.

Are we going to lose her? Another part of Tenfold wondered.

“I think I’m fading,” Estelle whispered.

The door to the room cracked open and the Association’s doctor poked his head inside the room. “Good morning, ladies. Psych, I got your test results back. It looks like your CT scan came back normal. Better than normal, actually. It seems like some of your brain’s pathways have finally started to rebuild themselves. Your blood tests actually showed signs of heightened regeneration. It seems like your healing factor has finally started to kick in properly.”

“So that’s why she’s been blacking out?” Tenfold asked hopefully. “It’s just her body repairing itself.”

“We believe so, yes,” the doctor said with a smile.

Tenfold turned to Estelle. The young woman wouldn’t meet her eyes. Redness bloomed on her cheeks and nose, and the shining gleam of tears twinkled in her eyes.

“I understand, doctor. Thank you.”

The doctor stood awkwardly in the doorway, looking from Tenfold to the crying Estelle. At last, he nodded to the women and ducked out of the room, leaving them in silence. Tenfold waited for Estelle to explain why she was upset. As always, the younger woman was as obstinate as a cat.

“What’s wrong, now? This is great news! You can’t be hurt as easily.” Tenfold placed a comforting hand on Estelle’s shoulder. “We should be celebrating.”

Estelle wiped her eyes. “It’s not that simple, Ten.”

She’s fading, Intuition repeated. Tenfold went still.

What does that mean? she asked.

I don’t know.

“What did you mean when you said you were fading?” Tenfold asked.

Estelle clenched her fists. “I’m just a consciousness inside a stranger’s body, Ten. What happens when the brain repairs itself and the original consciousness returns? Is there room for two minds in one body?”

“I mean. Yeah. Look at me.” Tenfold was the ideal example of multiple minds in a single body. She and the others made things work well enough.

“Your mind is fractured, but it’s still just one mind,” Estelle said. “Every mind inside of you is a different aspect of the same person. You are complex and wonderful, but you are still just one person.” She folded into herself once more, resting her forehead on her knees. “Ten, I was never meant to live this life. I’m already dead. I’m just a ghost haunting a little girl. But she’s coming back. My purpose for being here is over.”

“You have more purpose than that,” Tenfold said roughly. “You can’t just let her throw you out. This is your body, too.”

“It’s not. It never was.”

“So you’re just going to give up? You’re going to let her kill you?” Tenfold stood up, anger seething as she fought to understand what was happening to her best friend. “We don’t want to lose you Estelle. We can’t.”

“You’ll have to. I’m sorry, Ten. I really am.” Estelle wiped her eyes. “I don’t want to go, either.”

“Then don’t!”

“It’s not my choice.”

Tenfold split. Three duplicates walked out of her body. They nodded to one another, then absorbed her back into them. Inside her own mind, Tenfold screamed as her other personalities soothed her. The three duplicates that remained on the outside turned to face Estelle, their expressions hard with determination.

“We’ll find a way to save you,” the three said in unison. Two of them stormed out of the room, but the third, Intuition, remained.

“If you are gone, what will be left in your place?” Intuition asked.

“Me. The version of me that should have lived this life.”

Intuition frowned, touching her lip as she thought it through. “This other you. She won’t know anything about the world. How to use her powers. How to be a part of society. Who we are.”

“I think she will,” Estelle said. “I think she’ll know all the things that I’ve known. I was left in her place to make memories. To form her so that there would be a life waiting for her when she returns. The one that remains will be me, but not the me that you’ve known until now.”

“How can you be certain?”

“I can’t. I’ve never been able to see the future. But I have a feeling.” Estelle flashed a sad half-smile, which Intuition returned.

“Intuition can’t always be trusted.” She knelt in front of Estelle and pressed the younger woman’s fingers to her lips. “I can’t bear to watch you go, Psych. You are my best friend. I won’t watch you go.”

Estelle sniffled, swiping at more tears that poured down her face. “I understand. I won’t hold it against you.”

Intuition stood and walked out of the room, leaving Estelle alone in her worry. She leaned against the wall outside of the door, clasping her mouth to stop the guttural scream that fought to work its way out of her throat.

Inside the room, Estelle’s agonized whisper pierced the silence of the hallway. “How am I going to tell Akash?” She began to sob.

Once again, Tenfold split. Every personality that ever lived inside of the woman came out, but not one of them was strong enough to bear the pain that she felt. The hallway filled with her duplicates, each one crying and holding onto the others for support.

“We can’t let her see us like this,” one of the duplicates said. “It’s too much.”

“We’ll go home.”

“We’ll find a way to save her.”

“We should go to the bar.”

“We’ll die without her.”

“We won’t.”

“We will.”

“We’re not strong enough.”

“Stop!” Intuition snapped. “Go where you need to go, just don’t stay here.” She shooed her duplicates away until she was the last one left.

Will we be alright? Tenfold asked from the safe place inside where she still sought shelter.

“No. I don’t think we will.”I don’t think so, either.

Co-writing a Story with AI

Fantasy

This story snippet was written using AI Dungeon, a game that uses AI to guide your adventures. Everything written in blue was written by the AI and everything in black is my own contributions to the story. I had a lot of fun using the free version of the game, and it’s definitely a game I’d like to eventually return to and see how a full story might play out. I hope you enjoy this first attempt!


You are Puck, a rogue living in the kingdom of Larion. You have a long steel dagger and a length of rope. You walk down the city street looking for somewhere to steal from. You look around and see a shop window full of beautiful vases. You think to yourself ” Vases? What sort of thief are you?” but then you see a little dagger that you think would look nice on your belt. 

You walk up to the window and look at the dagger in your hands. It is a beautiful weapon, made of blue-glazed steel. You place the dagger in your belt and then slip inside the window.

The shop is mostly empty with only a sleepy shopkeeper and a handful of customers idling about. You keep to the shadows, out of sight, and slowly make your way toward the beautiful blade that would make a lovely match for the dagger already attached to your hip.

The display case is at the far corner of the store.

You wait for a customer to distract the shopkeeper, then quietly slip next to the case. The lid lifts easily without a noise, and you withdraw your new dagger. It has the same blue-glazed steel as the one already on your hip, but a curious amber gem adorns the pommel; too fine a piece to be left in a ramshackle shop such as this.

You grip the hilt in your hand, and make sure that the dagger is securely fastened to your belt.

You slip out the front door, and back onto the street. You have your prize.

You walk slowly down the city streets, keeping a close eye on the crowds.

You are Puck, a thief, and you have an important mission to perform.

The merchant’s guild has been fencing in stolen goods, lately. Normally Puck wouldn’t mind, but it caught the attention of the thieves guild. The thieves guild had made it Puck’s business to find out who was behind the black trade and why the thieves guild had yet to receive their cut.

After all, it wasn’t like stealing from small time merchants was really all that profitable. You say “I am ever the loyal dog.” You decide to let the dagger that is already on your belt do the talking and head in the direction of the guild.