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Card Challenge: Day 76

Card Day 76: A fairy rescuing a small boy from the gaping maw of a green, dragon-like monster.

Brandon knew that he should have gone home hours ago, but wisdom had not won out. Instead, he was still attached to his dim seat at the sticky bar, eyes glazed and glass empty. He was drunker than he should have been, but still passed his most important test. He knew he was drunk, so that meant he could not be that drunk. Even though his stumbled and slumped against the chair when he stood—probably his legs had fallen sleep from sitting in the same position and same chair since the bar was full of Friday night hopefuls drinking to celebrate making it through the week. Now it was just clogged with the sad remnants who drank to make it to Saturday.

Alcohol was an effective, if blunt, tool, equally dimming all sensations until Brandon could experience his world from an arm’s length. Everything seemed distant, almost as if he were watching a video through someone else’s eyes. That at least explained why his arms and legs felt unstable even after his twenty-something years of experience with them.

Brandon was resolved not to be one of the regulars who remained there until grimy sunshine crept in and the lights went off. No, he had standards and enough sense to get home before he fell asleep in the quiet room. The raging pulsing music from earlier had faded to old and well-worn favorites; there was nothing to keep his mind from turning back to the sad thoughts he drank to forget.

He stumbled out the door, shocked into a higher level of sobriety by the surprisingly chill. It was late fall, so it made sense that it would be getting cool, but it had ben pleasant when he entered the bar. Then again, the sun had also been up. He rubbed his arms briskly, feeling the chill bumps already growing on his arms, and turned left down the street. No matter how drunk or not he was, he never drove home from the bar. It was just asking for bad decisions. And so he set off, walking through the dark streets under anemic pools of artificial light.

This part of town was not frequently traveled at night, so the lights alternated on and off in an attempt to save power. The whole city was spending itself into poverty, but at least they were saving some electricity.

He stumbled on his own feet, sliding against the brick wall beside him and banging his shoulder sharply. The pain radiated through his shoulder as he let out a few choice words. Apparently he was drunker than he thought, especially if he could not even walk home successfully.

Another mistake, another failure, and another disappointment. He leaned against the wall and considered his predicament grimly. He was a coward hiding behind alcohol s if it would bandage all the wounds he had given in his time. His own soul lay in tatters under his rage, and he left a path of destruction through the lives of others. The beers were simply his attempt to anesthetize that violent part of himself, preserve himself and others. Only it was a futile practice that left him alternatively numb and raging.

No matter how carefully he medicated, he ended up hurting himself—if he was lucky—or others either way.

Brandon tried to reason with himself, reminding himself that the alcohol made his thoughts darker than reality. But his inner self refused to accept his logic, instead wrapping himself in that cold blanket and shutting out any outside help. Irritated at his own stubbornness, Brandon pushed off the wall and stumbled down the road farther.

The next part of his journey led him along the bridge of a state highway, which at least meant other people were zipping past him in the world. It seemed right that he would slowly traipse along while the rest of the world flew past at 65mph. It was only fair. Then again, Brandon was not in a hurry to get back to his empty bachelor pad, recently gutted of any signs another human had once lived, laughed, and loved there with him. She could not take his sluggishness, the monster that lived inside and ripped him apart from within. She certainly could not take the vicious words that spilled out of his mouth, wounding her so that she would know how much he hurt. NO one should be forced to endure that, and he could not blame her from leaving. If he could leave himself, he would.

Brandon stumbled again, distracted by his own self-loathing, He smashed into the flimsy barrier between him and traffic Only this time, the waist-high wall crumpled and gave, sending him flailing towards the oncoming traffic.

No matter how much he hated himself, Brandon felt a flicker of fear at the slow realization that this was not going to end well.

Only instead of rolling off the hood of a speeding bullet or skidding along the pavement—or both—Brandon felt something grab the collar of his shirt and tug him back, sending him crashing into the concrete barrier on the other side of the walking path. The concrete did not give away, and he slid down to sit on the broken sidewalk. His heart thundered and he felt surprisingly sober in that moment. A car honked as it whizzed past him.

Beside him on the concrete was a frazzled looking woman. Her eyes hefted heavy bags, and her orangeish hair flared out in dozens of directions without any intention. Her clothes, once white, were muddied and stained. She glared at him with about half of the hate he generally directed at himself.

“Are you suitably proud of yourself now?” she snapped. Her voice was young and high-pitched, grating against his ears with the fury of her irritation.

Brandon’s mouth opened and closed, but he was still in a state of shock. His life had possibly flashed before his eyes, but all he remembered was a deepening sense of dread. Then again, that seemed fairly appropriate. His heart was a rhythmic thunder in his chest, pulsing louder than the sound of rushing traffic. The deep, gasping breaths he took made him feel as if he would never actually catch his breath again.

“Well? Nothing to say for yourself?”

Her anger confused him, and his brain was still too foggy to formulate the correct response. “Thank you?” he responded.

She rolled her eyes. Not the expected reaction. “Oh, thank you,” she singsonged, standing from the pavement and smacking her hands together.

“I—I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened, but thank you for grabbing me. I would have been—“

You would have been nothing but a slimy spot on the pavement, that’s what.” She viewed him dismissively from where he sat on the ground. Brandon hurried to stand up, even though his head spun a little with the rush.

“I know. You saved my life. I don’t have any money or anything, but if I could repay you?”

A bitter smirk crossed her face. “Yeah, you could stop making my job a nightmare. I mean, seriously, some people get easy marks who live a nice, reasonable life. Then I get assigned to you, and I haven’t slept soundly in six months from chasing after your ridiculous antics.”

Brandon began to worry that he had struck his head in the commotion, because nothing she said made sense. “I’m sorry, I just don’t understand. What did I do to you?”

“Oh yeah, I forgot, you drank half of the booze in Calacanas County tonight. Let me slow this down for you. I,” she pointed exaggeratedly at her own chest, “am responsible for taking care of,” she made an exaggerated pause, raising her eyebrow, only to deflate when he did not fill the silence, “you.” Her eyes crawled over his face, searching for understanding. Apparently, she found enough. “And you have made an amazing series of bad decisions. I had to save you from three different bar fights, keep you from stepping on a rusty nail and developing tetanus, not let you crack your head open on the sidewalk, and dive in front of a speeding vehicle to drag you out of the way. That was just tonight!”

Brandon’s mouth snapped closed, then drifted open again. Everything she was saying had a dim feeling of déjà vu, but he could not identify the moment. Then again, most of his night was a hazy blur painted amber-gold.

“So, I’m tired. If you could just try, for once, to stop killing yourself accidentally, I would really appreciate it.”

His mind finally caught up. “So, you’re like a…guardian angel?”

She rolled her eyes dramatically, hands on her hips. “Yeah, a guardian angel. See the wings?”

“No,” he stammered. She laughed.

“That’s cause I’m no angel. At least you got the guardian part right.” The woman ran a hand through her hair, flattening half of it, but leaving the rest just as much in disarray. Her voice calmed. “So, now that we’ve had this chat, think you could lay off the death wish?”

“I—I haven’t been trying, I mean, I’m sorry. I—I won’t do that anymore.”

Her head swung slowly side from side, a deep sigh slipping through her lips. “Just, do your best. Maybe take a vacation? I could use a vacation. No place dangerous like the beach or mountain climbing or anything. Just…how about you just go find a book and read for a few hours?” She turned her back on him, walking back down the street slowly with her head hung low.

A flame flickered in the dim night air and he watched her lift a shaking cigarette to her lips. “I need a np.” With that, she vanished.

Brandon looked around, stunned to find himself on the same sidewalk. There was no explanation for what had just happened. With all the caution and awareness he could muster, Brandon restarted his trek home, running a hand through his hair to find the head wound he was certain he must have endured.


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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Card Challenge: Day 68

Card Day 68: A twister spinning in the palm of a hand.

“I think you should know that I’m…special.” Penelope swirled her straw through her drink, not quite making eye contact with her dinner guest.

He smiled and reach across the table to twine his fingers with hers. “Trust me, that is one thing I definitely know about you. You are so special to me, more than any—“

She yanked her hand away suddenly, irritation painted in her eyes. “No, I don’t mean like that. I mean—“ she trailed off at that. Her eyes were bright, yet pricked conspicuously with distress. They raced along the room as she wrung her hands distractedly. Finally, she gathered in a deep breath, and poured out her confession. “I mean I have special powers.”

Frank laughed, and she watched his head fly back, mouth wide, unintentionally mocking her. As he calmed, he made quick note that she, on the other hand, was not enjoying the joke of her own creation. He studied her face, scouring it for any glimmer of humor. She could never play a joke this straight-faced.

“Penny,” he said, still smiling, “that’s a good one. But you can lay off now. You got me.”

“I’m not joking, Frank.” She seemed to be deeply invested in the cheap carpeting of the restaurant, and his discomfort was growing.

“Come on, it’s not funny. You got me, now stop.”

When her eyes met his, he wished instead she had kept glaring at the carpet. There was fierce anger and frustration burning in her eyes, and he was close enough to feel the heat wash over him. “I said it wasn’t a joke,” she hissed. “I’m as serious as I’ve ever been in my life. But I know you bought a ring last week, and so I can’t put this off any longer. I’m different.”

Frank was floundering. He had known her for years, more than long enough to understand the subtlety of her jokes as well as the depths of her sincerity. This was not a joke. He could peer into every crevice of her expression, but there was not a single ounce of humor. She was terrible at drawing something out this long; in their years together, she had never carried out a joke more than a minute or so before her façade cracked into giggles. It was sobering, because she was completely serious. “Have you, I mean, do you think it would be good to talk to someone about this?”

“I’m talking to you about it right now.”

“No,” his nerves left him feeling a thousand miles away from the quaint diner table. “Not me. Have you maybe told a…professional about this?”

She grew steely, then softened. “I’m not crazy, Frank. I know it sounds that way, but I’m not. It’s a genetic thing that runs in my family, so if you’re considering marrying me, you should know.”

“Wait, how did you know about the ring? Does that mean you’re psychic?”

Penelope rolled her eyes. At least she had him buying in on the “special powers” thing for the moment. “No, you left the receipt in your wallet. I saw it the other night when I got your card for the takeout.” He appeared a bit deflated, again concerned. “But that does not mean I don’t have other gifts.”

“Penelope, you know I love you, but you have to understand that this is all a bit much. If this is a joke—“

“For the last time, it’s not a joke.” Her voice peaked high enough this time to draw stares from the nearby tables, and her face burned red in response. “I can control the weather.”

Frank snorted, pushing back a bit from the table. “Seriously, Penny? You think I’m going to buy that? We just had our picnic rained out, but you can control the weather?”

He could see her trying to stay calm and keep herself together, waging an internal battle and losing. Her words were strained, barely contained, when she finally did speak. “Yes, our picnic was rained out. Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to redirect a seasonal storm front for a few hours?”

He withered under her fiery gaze. “I mean, no, I don’t know that. But come on, you can’t expect me to believe this? It’s crazy, Penny!”

“So, now I’m crazy.”

“No, you are not crazy. This story is. I guess it was supposed to be a joke, but I don’t think either of us is laughing. Let’s drop it and enjoy our dinner.” Frank buried his face into the menu as if it would protect him from the dangerous glare in her eyes.

“You aren’t going to believe me without proof, are you?”

Frank reached his limit. He snapped the menu closed and pressed it into the table. “Would you?” he responded sharply, this time not shying from her angry gaze.

“Fine, but we leave and get pizza on the way home once I’m done.”

“Whatever you say, Penelope. You can have all the pizza you want, but I chose this place for a reason. I’ll get it to go, but I’m having dinner.” He dove back into the menu, steaming.

Unfortunately, this meant he missed the subtle transformation crashing over Penelope. She closed her eyes halfway, leaving them unfocused and moving rapidly behind her lids. Her breathing slowed to steady, deep breaths that came in regular but prolonged gaps. She left her hands folded in her lap, fingers curled tightly together, and her knuckles steadily turned white at the prolonged pressure. Steadily, her breath slowed and deepened, and then a tiny puff of fog preceded from her lips with each breath.

Had Frank looked, her would have noticed that her skin seemed to grey, as did her usually vibrant brown hair. It was as if someone drained the color from the room, in fact, but she was the focus of the disruption. Perhaps Frank noticed the food looked less appetizing in the menu pictures, but he never moved his eyes to look at her. It was not until he lifted his hand to call over a server that he realized something was wrong.

The air of the restaurant hung heavy and wet around him, even though the fans overhead had never stopped spinning. It was sticky in there with all the heat and humidity of a July afternoon. Frank’s eyes widened, staring at his changed girlfriend as she continued in her trance, the mist from her lips rising to the ceiling. The clatter of the restaurant died down, people beginning to notice the change. However, it was as if they all moved through water, heads moving sluggishly and eyes glancing dumbly about. Sounds were muted and echoing dully, the sounds of the kitchen having slowed in tempo even as the servers were caught in the same doldrums.

Penelope was faded, distant, but consuming. He could not pull his eyes away because, as dim as she was, she still pulsed with a power that defied everything he had ever thought. Mesmerized, he watched as a cloud steadily formed among the rafters of the restaurant, grey and foreboding.

When it began to rain inside, she seemed to snap from the trance, and the world rubber banded back into place with sudden activity. People scurried, throwing napkins and menus over their heads to protect from the rain. Frank sat entranced on his own, while Penelope slumped in her seat. She opened her eyes, heavy with fatigue, long enough to give him a pointed and charged glance.

“Believe me now?”

The restaurant had exploded into chaos around them, people pouring around their table and towards the exit. Waiters and waitresses stumbled about, trying to get people out safely while looking around in muted shock. There was no hole in the ceiling, no ring of the fire alarms. This was not the sprinkler system, and it had no cause. Eventually, the newspapers would claim it was due to an interaction between air conditioning, humid external conditions, and smoke from the kitchen.

But Frank knew the truth “Yeah, I’m converted. Let’s get you that pizza, my special woman.”


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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Card Challenge: Day 67

Card Day 67: Children riding a wind-up carousel atop dragons, elephants, and other creatures.

The dragon rose majestically over the forest, her wings unfurling and casting deep shadows along the ground below. She stretched her neck, releasing a vicious cry into the sun-laced air, as her wings arched back and forth rhythmically. In the forest below, there was movement that caught her eye, perhaps a worthy foe. Large, intelligent blue eyes scanned the forest, picking up the disturbances in the foliage that marked her opponent’s movements.

On the ground, the dinosaur roared its own battle cry, staring at the trees in an attempt to reach the best floating high above. His steps thundered along the earth, creating rumbling disturbances throughout the area. Animals fled from before him as he made his way to the arena. This would be the final battle, the one to prove ultimate alpha predator. Above him, he could see the flying shadow following behind him, heading to the determined place.

Rock walls rose around them, towering and imposing, limiting her top altitude while keeping him in a cramped earthly domain. Both roared, circling one another and looking for any weakness. She struck first rearing back and spewing a blast of liquid fire to the ground. The dinosaur rolled away, narrowly avoiding a swift loss. He raised his claws, raking at the air, but finding her out of reach. Instead, he reared back and shot his own ball of flame towards her.

“Hey, that’s no fair!” snapped Xandi, swatting at her twin brother.

“You did it to me!” he responded as he shoved her in turn.

She put her hands on her hips. “Yeah, well, dragons can breathe fire. Dinosaurs can’t. Maybe you should have thought of that before.”

“Well it’s still not fair. You can breathe fire and fly. It’s no fun if you just fly away the whole time. I guess you’re just chicken.” Xander smirked at her and stuck out his tongue. Unfortunately, he also closed his eyes to complete his taunt, so he did not have a chance to see her barreling towards him until she tackled him to the ground.

Now that the dragon had left her lofty domain, the fight could truly begin. The punched and pinched at each other, roaring with pain and irritation as they rolled along the playroom floor. The ruckus quickly summoned a referee, however, and their mother stormed in to separate the two.

Having twins had taught her quite a bit about how to break up a fight, so she grabbed two arms and tugged them in opposite directions, ending up with two panting children on opposite sides of her body. “That’s enough, you two. If you don’t want timeout, then the fight is through.” Both looked angry and offended, carrying the weight of perceived slights and a few red marks from the brutal fight.

“Xander was cheating. He was a dinosaur, but he kept blowing fire!” She accentuated her point with the stomp of a foot, and her mother sighed. They were both too young to have that much attitude.

“Well Xandi wouldn’t even play! She was just flying and trying to beat me!”

“That’s the whole point,” she sneered back.

“Yeah, but you were being a big chicken—“ His mother’s sharp look cut off the taunt before it could progress to the actual clucking, but Xandi understood the intent nonetheless. Their mother shook her head, drawing them side by side in front of her. The same bright blue eyes stared at her, the same dark hair framing pale faces. If they were not different genders, she would have sworn they were identical twins.

“Listen you two, I don’t care who did what or what animals have what superpowers. You cannot hit your brother or your sister.” Her eyes drifted side to side between them, pinning them both to the floor. “If you cannot play Monster Battle nicely, you cannot play at all.” She watched them both soften as she threatened their favorite game. Their mother rolled her eyes internally and reminded herself to thank her husband for the wonderful Godzilla marathons.

“No, please, we can play nice!” whine Xandi, giving a half-sincere smile to her brother,

“Yeah, we’ll be good and quiet. No more fighting. No more real fighting,” said Xander as he quickly corrected his statement.

“I don’t know, guys. We do this a lot. Maybe it’s time to take a break—“

“No,” rose the chorus, plaintive and heartbroken.

“Give us one more chance, Mom.” Xander held onto her arm, resting his head against her shoulder. Xandi reached over and put a hand on her brother’s shoulder in true teamwork.

“Yeah, Xander can have fire-breath, I guess. It’ll be more fun, then.” She did not sound convinced, but Xander brightened at the concession.

Their mother stood, eyeing them both closely. She knew she still had dinner to tend to on the stove and a hefty stack of paperwork waiting for her review. If for once the promises were true, it would definitely make her evening a lot less stressful. Worst case scenario, she would be back in ten minutes to break them up again and set them to different tasks.

As their mother left the room, they envisioned a giant alien mothership floating away on the horizon. They could return to the duel.

“Alright,” said the dragon from her lofty vantage point, “you can have fire breath, but then I get—“ she paused as she searched her repertoire of appropriate monster abilities,”—ice breath!”

The dinosaur grumbled something under his breath, but accepted the solution. “Fine. But if you fly out of bounds, then you lose.”

“Fine,” muttered the dragon, never having broken the steady beat of her wings. She flapped above the arena as the combatants sized one another up.

Xander struck first, blowing a billowing cloud of fire upwards as he rushed around the arena. Xandi glanced around, suddenly seeing the air turn into a boundary of flaming walls. “That was smart,” she said, and he smiled smugly in response. “But not smart enough. Ice breath!”

With that, the sky turned into frozen blocks of fire that swiftly plummeted to the ground. The dinosaur used all its agility and speed to dodge out of the way, but one of the falling pillo—ice blocks struck his shoulder, and he careened wildly along the ground.

He roared in pain, sliding along the dusty arena floor and bumping against the rock walls. Pictures hung along the rock face trembled, but held firm. They both sighed in relief as the lack of devastation.

“Now I’ve got you!” roared the dragon, circling her fallen prey. Victory gleamed in her eyes along with a haughty sense of accomplishment. “You won’t get away from me!”

Even in his wounded state, the dinosaur was not to be bested. He lifted a rock from the floor next to him and flung it with all his might toward the spiraling beast. She was taken by surprise, never having suspected her injured foe to be so creative or strong. The stone struck her wing, and she found herself careening back towards the ground. And the waiting claws of her opponent.

The twins crashed into one another, once again rolling across the floor in the throes of laughter and mumbled threats. They locked arms, faces hovering inches from one another, and rolled back and forth across the floor.

“Ice breath!”

“Fire breath!”

They tumbled and fought, managing to seamlessly block one another’s attacks. Eventually, their breath-based powers exhausted, they restored to throwing stones from around the arena, crushing one another under pillowy weights. The dragon lifted a handful of pebbles and watched as the stuffed animals mercilessly rained down on her foe. He stood no chance, as he could not block all the dozens of projectiles launched his way. But he dove behind a rocky outcropping, then launched another boulder towards her. She barely had time to roll out of the way, struggling to fly away on her injured wing.

They were breathless and screeching, dodging behind furniture and overturning pillows, cushions, footstools, toys, and anything else that made a suitably safe stand-in for deadly attacks. Eventually, the ruckus drew the mothership back into the room.

“Guys,” sighed the alien voice, cutting into their battle. The dragon and dinosaur froze, investigating the new threat. “I thought you were going to keep it calm.”

“We were, mom, we just—“

“You made a huge mess.” Both creatures looked around at the ruins of the arena, stones littering the floor from one end to the other. Little remained of the once pristine battleground. It had truly been a ferocious fight.

“We were just having fun,” muttered Xander, his eyes darkening under his pouting brow.

“Yeah, but fun does not mean destruction. Listen, dinner will be ready in ten minutes,” said the alien, pointing animatedly at the sundial looming on the arena wall. “I want this place picked up by dinner. No more Monster Battles.”

“Yes, ma’am,” moaned Xandi and Xander. They slowly began walking towards the pillows, picking them up with half-hearted zeal and dropping them limply on the couch. The mothership floated away again as she ran a tired hand through her hair.

“I’ll get you next time,” taunted Xandi as she restacked the various stuffed animals in their assigned spots.

“Why wait until next time?” growled the dinosaur, a devious smirk on his face. Before she could react, he scooped up the footstool cushion and smacked her in the back of the head.

“I win!”


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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Card Challenge: Day 34

This story is one of the cards the originally inspired me, and an idea I’ve looked forward to trying out. It’s definitely something a bit different for me. Hope you enjoy it!


Card Day 34: A cat looking at a fish in a crystal ball.

Hunger was his consuming thought upon waking. It gnawed in his stomach, radiating throughout all of him. The easiest to identify was the raw, animal hunger for food growing in his gut, the rippling of his empty organ grinding against air. There was also a hunger that, while perhaps not quite so life threatening, roared for human companionship and friendship.

But for now, his quest for food would have to take the primary place, the most pressing need he had at the moment. Oliver looked up at the clock, the numbers a spinning gibberish that certainly foretold some important event, but it was no help in his quest.

How long had it been since he had eaten? His memory was a fuzzy, hazy mess of impressions since waking. The cling of sleep still sat heavily on his thoughts, making it hard to make sense of what was happening. He knew he had awoken in his favorite chair out of a deep, restful sleep. Before that?

The world was a bit of a mystery before that. Oliver carefully inspected his surroundings, piecing together a plan to satisfy the craving he felt. There was the chair, plush and dark, where he had fallen asleep without a care in the world. The sunlight poured in through the window, making the spot a luxury in the otherwise dim apartment. His morning had been a very busy one. He had spent some time rearranging the house, then had spent some time bathing to best prepare for the day. Oliver recalled watching a few children throwing a ball outside, birds chirping and skipping along branches. After his morning chores were complete, he had gotten comfortable in the chair and, before he knew it, fallen asleep.

After a long night awake, alert, and patrolling the apartment, he had fallen asleep more quickly than expected. The apartment had been his home for years now, but the constant creaks and groans of neighbors moving about, as well as a thousand other unusual smells and sounds, always left him a bit on edge. Besides, he had always been a bit more of a night owl, and so it suited him to be active during the day.

Jessa always woke up to her alarm just as sun was streaming in through the living room windows. Oliver made sure to help her through her morning routine, greeting her with a kiss and keeping her company through the minutiae of getting ready for the day. It was the least he could do for the love of his life.

The thought gave him a sense of peace, settling his aching loneliness. It was getting pretty late, and he was sure she should be home soon. Then, he would get to see her and have dinner, which seemed like a paradise.

Oliver stretched, pulling his body long and shaking out the last remaining vestiges of his impromptu nap. His neck ached slightly, suggesting he had probably fallen asleep twisted in some strange knot that was less than conducive to restful sleep. Awake and trying to think of anything but his hunger, Oliver continued his survey of the apartment. He wandered over towards the ball lying on the floor, tossing it back and forth thoughtfully as he considered how to spend the time.

Outside, there were noises and people milling about. He glanced out to see people shuffling in from their cars, the doors swinging shut with heavy crashes. It always caught him a bit off guard, but he watched them marching in, faces tired and drawn after a long day of work. Soon, that would be Jessa. Hopefully it would be soon. It seemed as if she was getting home later and later each day, which sent a stroke of worry through his mind. What if one day she just did not come home? What if she decided she did not love him, and just left him alone in the cavernous apartment? Anxiety taking the reins he glanced nervously at the door, sitting in his chair so that he could stare intently at it. He tried calling for her, but she did not respond, and the door knob did not turn. As the sun began to set, darkness and winter’s chill began to fill the apartment.

Oliver did not mind the dark, but it was the dark and loneliness, as well as his growing hunger, that left him despondent. Again, he looked up at the clock, but it offered no answers. It was resolute, its hands swinging steadily about the face, portents that he could not decipher. His unfocused wandering led him to the bedroom, the mess of clothes and sheets that seemed to define the room. Unfortunately, there were no answers waiting in there either, and the sight of her empty bed only made him miss her even more.

Oliver felt his mind drift back to a time before Jessa, a time when he had truly been alone in the world. It had been a dark, scary world. He had lacked confidence, and was best described as skittish. Every event left him shaken, as if the whole world was waiting to turn against him. The crowd he hung around with was equally rough, and he was often the last man on the hierarchical totem pole. His life had been in shambles, stumbling from meal to meal, sleep to sleep without purpose or light. At first, Jessa had even been terrifying. Someone so warm, loving, and kind must certainly have ulterior motives.

Moving in with her was the best day of his life. It was the difference between night and day, salvation and damnation. She took care of him, helped him learn to live and love in helathy ways. Oliver knew he owed her his life, and thus he spent every day trying to shower her with the same love she showed him.

His spirits soared at the sound of a key in the door, and he rushed to meet her.

“Oliver! Did you miss me?”

Yes, he wanted to scream. He stared at her, in awe of her loving eyes and bright smile. She took off her coat, hung it on the hook, and tossed her keys into the basket.

“Have you been up to no good today?”

Oliver quickly recounted the events of his day, oblivious to her distracted smile. She never quite responded how he expected, but she always seemed eager to hear him talk. Finally, she took him in her arms, drawing him close.

“I’m glad to see you, too. Now let’s get some dinner.”

Oliver raced her to the kitchen, finally feeling his loneliness sated; his hunger promised to follow. She reached into the cabinet, pulling out his dinner, and carefully put it on the floor. Oliver dove into it, devouring the meal with fervor as he purred loudly. Jessa carefully petted him, paying special attention to that spot just behind his ears.

Oliver the cat eagerly ate and basked in the wonder of his beloved life.


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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


All in a Day’s Work: Chapter 2

Zeru is back! I’ve been really busy and without a lot of creative/inspiration time, so I returned to this story to help me continue working on something even in the face of mild writer’s block. As I said in the first one, this is not a formal project with a clear trajectory and plan, but something fun to return to and play around with. I think of it like a sitcom in one sense, just little glimpses of Zeru’s (self-inflicted) drama-filled life. This one is more of a connector section, but I thought it was fun nonetheless.  I’m a little irritated that more does not happen here, but it was getting really long, and this felt like the logical breaking point. It also felt rushed to move to any other portion too quickly, and a wasted opportunity to skip exploring some of the fine skills required of humans. Again, this story follows Zeru, the bumbling demon who is trying to grow used to his new human host, and to navigate the complexities that can be easily overlooked by a native human.

Here’s Chapter 1 for anyone curious/intrigued/enraged!


Zeru woke, stretching his newly stiff arms. His neck was killing him after collapsing in a notably uncomfortable position. But oh, what a wonder sleep was! Never had he experienced the exhilaration of just shutting down and letting his thoughts wander and explore. Michael had all sorts of wonderful thoughts clashing around inside, and Zeru felt like he could drown in all the possibilities. Speaking of, Zeru checked on Michael. He was still there, still hesitant, terrified of what might happen next. And scheming. Zeru sighed. Humans.

Standing from bed sent darts of pain shooting through his legs, but it was a blessed feeling. To actually feel his body rise, to step away from a beautiful sleep, it was the greatest thing he had ever experienced. Of course, Michael couldn’t appreciate the joy of morning aches and pains; he was so focused on chasing every happiness that he was unaware of the miracle of his own senses and body. Never having had a body to call his own, Zeru reveled in the rhythmic pops of his joints as he stretched and began to walk. He tested the feeling of his slightly stiff joints and tendons, feeling them strain as they warmed up to the slightly chill morning air of the apartment. As his jaw stretched itself wide, releasing a completely instinctual yawn, Zeru vowed to never let go of his appreciation for this marvelous moving human machine.

His exploration o f the complexities of human movement had only just begun for the day, after all. First things first, he reasoned. He needed to be able to talk, because he could explain away any other oddities if only he could speak.  Zeru posted himself by the bathroom mirror and began to try to force his face to contort into all kinds of strange shapes, but he caught his own dark eyes in the mirror. In one fell swoop, he understood the allure and danger of narcissism.  His face was ruggedly handsome, even with slightly bloodshot eyes. Michael’s stress would be the death of him, Zeru chided. But still, there was the chiseled jaw, the day’s worth of stubble, and a single row of dull but shining teeth. What a face. Zeru liked this body, he liked it very much.

How much time had passed in wanton admiration of his suitably handsome human face, Zeru was not sure. Somewhere in this large and labyrinthine building, another human slammed a door and stomped down the hall, snapping him from his idle reverie. He had a job to accomplish, he chided himself, and began to focus once again on his exercises. He tried to recall the notes from human studies, practicing basic phonics and lingual movements. Tongue behind the teeth, breath softly. Lips puckered, plus a low hum. Grit the teeth, breath through them,  now a quick tap of his tongue against his teeth. Slowly, with rehearsed patience, Zeru felt the brain and muscles begin to cooperate, producing a gentle baritone recitation of various letters and nonsense sounds. Humans were awfully complicated with their whole “speech” thing.

The light behind the faded blue curtains drifted across the apartment floor, now disappearing as the sun made its way to its apex. “Hello,” stated Zeru, savoring the feeling of words flowing off his tongue, “my name is Michael, and I make bad decisions.” He laughed; Michael raged. It was not nice to taunt him, Zeru knew, but Michael had been entirely unhelpful throughout the entire process, so he had to admit his frustration was showing. Now that he had conquered language, Zeru wondered what new challenge would face him in this human form. The tiny muscles were beginning to get easier to control, and he was even able to brush his teeth with only limited jabbing. The tooth brushing was again a bit of a challenge, what with that handsome face staring back at him.

Without warning, a sudden pain roiled across his abdomen. He felt as if his intestines were coiling and rolling over one another, tangling into knots and releasing in rhythmic waves. Zeru grasped the bathroom vanity (how apt a name!), his nails digging into the soft ply wood underside. Had he done something wrong? Was he dying? Was the body dying? Was Michael pregnant? Was he a woman? The world reeled for Zeru in this few moments before the pain subsided, a dull growl still echoing through his stomach. He turned to Michael, panic rising as he queried the frantic man, terrified that he was killing the relatively likable host.

No, came the response. No, you hell spawn. I’m hungry.

The reality clicked for Zeru, and he thanked Michael for his willing cooperation in this endeavor. He had known humans had to eat, and had planned on it eventually, but he did not realize what pain was associated with avoiding food. What a terribly parasitic relationship.

Zeru glided to the kitchen, admiring his grace and ease with these cumbersome limbs. Food was kept in the refrigerator, he recalled from his lessons. Refrigerators were large, cold, metal boxes. He reached out, grasping the slender handle, and pulled open the surprisingly heavy door. Inside, flies buzzed as a wave of putridity wafted from the open door. It did not take Michael to explain to Zeru that such food was not worth eating, as the green, fuzzy appearance and smell of death was warning enough. He sighed heavily. Of course he knew that food spoiling could happen around demons, but he had hoped to avoid that particularly nasty side effect. Hopeful, but doubting, Zeru reached up to open the nearby cabinets, but saw boxes filled with desiccated foodstuffs. Opening one can revealed ample mold and a distinctly gelatinous quality that made Zeru’s hunger shrink in fear.

There was no food.

The reality settled in with a firm and heavy hand. There was no food in the house, and he probably needed to torch the refrigerator before something sentient waltzed out. There was no food in the house, and he was likely going to starve to death, because acquiring food meant leaving the house, overcoming the stairs, findings a store, and managing to pass as suitably human to buy something to sate the gnawing ache building once again in his gut. There was no food.

This is silly, Zeru chided himself. You are a demon of the Sixth Legion, born and raised to take the world by force. You might not be good at your job, but by Satan you will not be defeated by a flight of stairs.

Zeru seized the brief moment of courage and confidence provided by his pep talk, grabbed the apartment keys from the table near the door, and ushered himself into the hallway. It was somewhat quiet, with the soft hum of human activity bustling behind the many doors. He paused for a moment in front of the beautiful woman’s door, his eyes wishing to peel back the heavy door and see her bright face once again. Oh, she was a beauty!

Distracted again, he reminded himself. It was time to descend the stairs. One at a time, and use the railings. It would not do to tumble down them and crack his skull wide open. He was, true to his word, trying to keep Michael’s body in pristine condition during his trial period. It was surprisingly easier to descend the stairs that it had been to climb them, and his slightly improved motor control made it even better. Down one, shift weight a bit, judge the distance down, move down another step. Before long, he had it down to a relatively smooth rhythm, though still somewhat unstable on the transfer.

Zeru remembered seeing a Dale’s Grocer on his walk home the previous night. Surely they would have food. He set off down the sidewalk, noting a surprising number of pedestrians milling about on the sidewalk. Glancing at a brightly glowing sign, even in the noon day sun, he noticed that it was officially Saturday. Ah, so this is what a Sabbath was like! This realization added a slight levity to his steps, sending him swinging happily down the street towards the tiny shop he had seen the night before. His progress was slowed as he walked past an open door, smelling something tantalizing drifting out and enticing him towards the opening as his mouth watered ravenously. Take out, he purred, the word rolling around ecstatically in his thoughts. He felt the subtle draw, felt his body begin to ache for the cheap but greasy food. Zeru steeled his resolve against the temptation; food like that would make your body sluggish, and a sluggish body was no good for the cause. He felt himself strain against his body’s inertia as it drifted fatefully towards the doorway, finally tearing himself at the last moment to proceed down the road.

Fortunately, he soon saw the tiny grocery rise into view, and he directed his feet towards its dingy glass door. Inside, there was a hodgepodge of strange foods with bright to muddy colors, all demanding his attention. Zeru suddenly felt very overwhelmed, and Michael had little interest in helping him. Having heard Zeru’s panic regarding hunger, the man had decided that he could probably starve the demon out. But Zeru was not going to be so easily derailed.

Uncertain of the offerings, annoyed by the tinny sounding music playing over hidden speakers, and struggling to see in the dim and flickering fluorescent lights, Zeru made his way through the meager aisles, gathering a few “fresh” offerings (though they looked barely more edible than the food in his unfortunate freezer—the smell was however an improvement), a few things from the frozen section, and a smattering of cans and jars. The cashier did not raise a single disinterested eyebrow, and Zeru considered this a success. He was not sure what these things were or what to do with them, but many of the items had plentiful writing on the front and back; surely that would explain its use.

Feeling triumphant, Zeru plodded back towards his apartment. The giddy Saturday was suddenly humid and hot. At least hell was a dry heat, Zeru mused. Sweat trickled down his back, an uncomfortable sensations that reminded him of his initial formation way back in the days of old. An involuntary shiver ran through his body, rustling the paper bag noisily and drawing a few startled looks from passersby. He continued walking, his eyes forward as his stomach grumbled again.

Back at his building, Zeru felt his confidence begin to wane as he considered the sharp incline of stairs greeting him. They smiled like crooked teeth in a sideways giant, and Zeru hated how they mocked him. Deep breath, he coached. You can do this. Nevertheless, he felt himself pause, almost froze on the landing s he remembered his awkward shambling ascent the night before. He could just see his hard earned food skittering down the stairs and along the hallways. Repositioning the bag so that it was even more firmly in his grip, Zeru took a step, placing his foot gently on the first step. He slowly shifted his weight, feeling a discomforting sense of unbalance as his second foot swung forward toward the next step up. It was a success, he cheered as he straddled the two steps. One down, and only a mountain left to go.

Up was slower than down, but far more successful than the previous night. He steadied himself, breathing deeply with each step, and made slow progress. Slow and steady wins the race, yes? The door to his hallway appeared on the horizon, steadily building to fill his view until Zeru had succeeded. He valiantly swung the door open and marched triumphantly to his own abode.

As he fumbled with his key, trying to determine which key it was and how to properly manipulate such a tiny device, he heard another door open before hearing a comforting laugh.

“I thought I heard you out here. Seems like last night got a bit out of h—are those groceries?”

Her shock froze him in place. Did humans not buy groceries? Was there something deviant about his bag? Had he somehow offended this beautiful sculpture of a woman? She walked over, peering into the bags.

“I’ve never seen you cook more than a can of soup,” she chided, pulling out a round green item he had purchased under the guise of its freshness. “So you’ve got lettuce, canned corn, pasta sauce, bacon, and apples? Please tell me what you’ve got planned for these.”

“I was hungry?” Zeru felt off balance and uncertain. What if she realized something was wrong with him? Would she know the man she called Michael was being possessed by a rather incompetent demon?

“Oh, Mikey, I can see that. Have you ever cooked a meal in your life, though? I mean, one not in a box?” Zeru shook his head, feeling a sense of resonance with his internal Michael. She sighed.”Here,” she handed him the item she had called an apple, and then pulled the rest of the bag from his hands. “You munch on that, and then knock on my door about six. I’ll teach you how to make something delicious.” She smiled, her eyes flashing at him. Zeru might not know much about human behavior, but he knew what desire looked like. And right now, she was clearly a human gazing upon her desire. Zeru felt his confidence swell again.

“I’m sure everything with you is delicious,” he stated, leaning in what he suspected was an alluring way against the door frame. “Guess I’ll see you at six, then.” With that, he crunched into the apple, the dastardly fruit shooting a spray of juice across his face and causing him to briefly recoil. She laughed, turning back toward her apartment.

“You’re hopeless, Mikey, but at least you’ve got me to look out for you.” Following her final parting quip, she disappeared into the warm glow of her apartment, leaving Zeru standing in the hallway, watching her enchanting departure with ample appreciation. Distracted again, he reminded himself, and then went back to unraveling the complex secrets of these minuscule keys.


Thanks for reading!

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


All in a Day’s Work: Chapter (?!) 1

So, this is a little different. I just had this idea, a little lighthearted story about a moderately incompetent and softhearted demon trying to make his way in this world full of individuals seeking to do him harm. So, I wrote up a bit of it, sharing a little intro into his first evening in our world. It’s definitely different than other offerings here. I don’t have a clear plot or direction, and will probably use this as a piece to return to for fun. But, I find the character interesting and have quite a few adventures in mind for him. Just thought I’d share. With you, my mostly nonexistent audience…

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Chapter 1

Zerushabael was a demon, born and raised in the pits of hell and only lately released on the unsuspecting mortal world. Only Zerushabael was not very good at the whole dark and demonic thing. If asked, he would describe his childhood and early life as pure torture. The sunshine, fresh air, and marked absence of sulfurous emissions made the surface earth paradise—or as close to paradise as Zerushabael would ever get. You’d be surprised the places that still upheld separate but equal.

This new body was stiff. But, Zerushabael was quite satisfied with it. He was tall, muscular, dark eyed with closely cropped dark hair and deliciously chocolate skin. Oh yes, he liked this body. He did also feel bad, as he could feel Michael fighting against him. No matter how he tried to reassure the recently evicted man, it fell on deaf ears. Zerushabael did not like the whole “host” arrangement, but unlike most of his brothers and cousins, he did not try to torture or harm the poor mind living with him. He imagined them eventually becoming congenial roommates, though Michael seemed utterly resistant to the idea. Zeru was sure he’d come around.

Zeru struggled to stand from the alley where he and Michael first met, but found that legs were far more difficult contraptions to work than he thought. Sure, the motor strip was responding effectively, but balancing that with the cerebellum, sensory strip, and subcortical structures had him lumbering about like a drunken sailor. Oh well, he surmised, at least no one would question as he stumbled out of the alley and onto the nighttime streets. Maybe Michael could give him lessons later.

Now, where was home? The whole fleeing hell and possessing a host had really worn him out. Fortunately, Zeru had paid careful attention in his human studies courses and felt his pockets for a wallet. As promised, the license picture was a hideous caricature of his current host, but it did include an address to an apartment somewhere in the city. The presence of a license and car keys in his pocket assured Zeru that he did have a car available, but given the incomprehensible complexity of merely walking, something most humans learned while still infants, he decided it might be a bit premature to get behind the wheel. Sure, he could give Michael control, but right now he was too busy muttering about churches and priests to be trusted. Zeru was just getting comfortable and was sure that, given time, Michael would calm down and warm up to the arrangement. Surely.

The walk was a long one, but it gave him time to get used to his legs. By the time they reached the building, he had acquired what he was told humans referred to as “c-legs.” It was a baffling term, but humans were baffling things. Now, Zeru realized he had a new challenge. Stairs.

It was not pretty, nor graceful, and most of the time Michael’s body flopped up and down the stairs like a beached fish. However, Zeru made it to the sixth floor successfully with only minor scrapes and bruises. The neighbors were likely unhappy with the clanging and banging up the rails, but there was nothing to be done. Of course, the challenges of the night were not done, as Zeru now had to struggle with his multi-jointed fingers and a tiny key. He began to wonder if this whole possession thing was even worth it. Maybe, Zeru mused, he was better off in the pits of tar and flame (metaphorical ones, of course).

“A little too much fun, Mikey?” he heard a lilting voice behind him. He turned to see a beautiful human female, sculpted into delicate curves and smiles, a laundry basket balanced precariously on her hip. Oh, Lust would have a field day, he chuckled to himself. Michael was enraged, terrified, and screaming. Zeru tried to calm him, assure the host that no harm would come to this woman, but again Michael simply refused to listen to reason. Humans could be so irrational.

Zeru smiled, his face feeling foreign and rubbery. The woman laughed, and nodded before sweeping in and unlocking the door for him. Zeru wanted to speak, to ask her to come in for a nightcap and a little fun, but he realized that his tongue, mouth, lips, palate, throat, and lungs were not quite ready to work in sync just yet. He smiled his lopsided grin again, looking every part the drunk she suspected of him, and watched her duck into her apartment just down the hall. Oh yes, he was in paradise for sure. Zeru closed the door, fell into bed, and dreamed of beautiful women and coordinated limbs.

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.