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Update: Written in the Stars (Card Challenge Edit)

Hello! I have been holding off on sharing this, but I did a pretty major edit to one of the Card Challenge stories. I liked Day 10 quite a bit, but felt it needed a little work to make it be what I truly envisioned for the story. So, I edited and re-wrote portions of it to better tell the story. i also tried to be a bit more fair to the characters involved, because they came out a little stiff and unrealistic, I thought. So, here is the updated version. I held off on posting the edited version because I had submitted it to creepypasta.com, and it was posted today! You can check it out here. I have four other stores available there, though most are also hosted here. There’s Dionaea Muscipula (blog link), Lake Wonapango (blog post), and Purified (blog post). Empty Spaces is another story I submitted there, but I never posted it here for some reason…

If you came here from creepypasta.com and want to read mre of my work, I’d suggest checking out my recent stuff, which is on the front page here, or my Card Challenge stories. You can learn all about it and find stories that interest you through the Card Challenge Index Page.

Without further ado, here is the update to Day 10, now formally titled “Written in the Stars.”


“Cheryl! That’s great news. I didn’t even know you were psychic!” exclaimed Marian, her face alight with excitement.

“I’m not psychic, Marian.”

“Oh, of course not. That was silly of me. You can just read the future in the stars,” the last syllable trailed off, a hint of mysticism in the woman’s voice.

Cheryl sighed, taking a long sip from her wine glass before continuing. “Actually, I’m fairly certain I could not even find the Big Dipper if I had to. You don’t really need any skills to be a horoscope writer. Just a laptop and a wealth of pithy sayings.”

Marian’s face fell, and Cheryl cringed inwardly. She knew Marian took these sort of things very seriously, with her Tarot and Energy Crystal readings—or whatever was in fashion this week. But Cheryl’s internal skeptic could not stomach reinforcing the charlatan façade of newspaper horoscope columns.

When Cheryl spoke again, her words were clipped, cautious. “It’s not wise to play with things like this.” Her face brightened, “But, I bet whoever hired you could see your potential. We all have some latent psychic ability. I bet they saw straight through to yours!”

“I got hired by an old hippy in a two dollar suit. But, you’re probably right. I’m sure the man has seen his fair share of things.”

“I bet you are going to be amazed once you unlock your potential. Did I tell you about the time my spirit guide taught me to—“

“Yes, a dozen times, each as wonderful as the last,” Cheryl smiled at her old friend. No matter how bizarre the woman was, and how illogical many of her beliefs were, years of friendship and support kept them together. And she could not overlook how Marian’s months of kindness had saved her from a few major catastrophes recently. “Now, can we just drink to the fact that, in a month, I’m actually going to get a paycheck again?”

Marian raised her own glass, beaming with pride and excitement. As much as Cheryl had dreaded outing herself—and, she had assumed, the field of horoscopes—to her friend, it had not been so bad. “To new opportunities and the development of all our hidden talents,” Marian finished with a wink and a long drink from her glass.

Cheryl leaned back in her seat, feeling a weight sloughing from her exhausted shoulders. It had been a long day, and she still was uncertain she could stomach the reality of shilling such snake oil for a living, even if it was necessary to keep the lights on in her ratty apartment. The wine did not necessarily help with that decision, but it did serve to push it just a bit farther away.

“So, how are you going to do this? I mean, until you figure out how to use your gifts, of course.”

The tenacity with which she clung to horoscopes was astounding to Cheryl. She had assumed that once Marian discovered her plain, non-psychic, skeptic, logical friend got a job writing horoscopes, they would laugh together about all the wacky decisions Marian had made over the years based on those newspaper inserts. No such luck.

“Mar, seriously, I’m not psychic. I just slap some words onto paper. You read them and plan your life around it. Then I get paid. No psychic abilities, no star reading required.”

Marian looked slightly off put, her face twisting briefly into an irritated smirk. “Don’t doubt yourself. If you don’t believe, don’t think you can do it, get out. These aren’t powers you want to be messing with, Cher.”

Cheryl realized it was a hopeless battle, one Marian could not afford to lose to reason. “I know. You’re probably right. They must have seen something in me, but I guess it just takes time.” The lies were bitter as they dripped from her lips.

Marian reached across the table and took her hand. “The journey can be difficult, but I know you can do it. I’ve sensed you were special since I first saw you snotty and muddy on the playground. You’re going to help a lot of people, Cheryl. Just remember that.”

Cheryl forced a smile and emptied her glass. When she grimaced, she was not sure if it was from the wine or the pit settling into her stomach.

_

“Your kindness to those you meet will reap great rewards. Be patient, and watch for your return.”

“This week holds many opportunities for fun. Enjoy yourself, but don’t forget to take time to recharge!”

“Remember that problem that just won’t leave you alone? Expect news to clarify your path.”

“An unexpected inconvenience may bring unexpected rewards. Look for—”

Cheryl tapped a pencil on the edge of her laptop slowly, her eyes distant as she tried to find a new and creative way to end Capricorn’s latest memo. After only a couple months, she felt she was doing nothing but rehashing the same, empty promises week after week. Nonetheless, it was keeping food and lights on in her fridge, so it was hard to complain. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and all that.

Her phone buzzed on the coffee shop table. Marian had been giddy at seeing the weekly horoscopes since learning about her friends new job, and she never failed to try to get a sneak peek into the future.

“Coffee, Cheryl?” she asked, skipping routine greetings.

“I’m already at the coffee shop, so why not?” sighed Cheryl, glancing around the sparsely populated bistro.

“Sound like someone must be honing their gifts, eh? Get a little star magic to help you out?”

Cheryl rolled her eyes. “I just like to work in coffee shops. No stars needed. It’s like finding a bear in the woods.”

Laughter filtered unevenly through the phone. “You could predict lottery numbers five times over, and you still wouldn’t believe in any of this, would you? Your note last week scored me a great new pair of heels on sale.”

“Guess I’m just looking for more proof. When do you want to get coffee? The stars are phoning in, so I’m going to have to take them on the other line.”

“I’ll be there around three. Ask the stars if there are any ways to sneak around this traffic jam, if you could.”

Cheryl glanced at the clock. Forty-five minutes would, likely, give her enough time to finish writing and fleshing out the next edition’s worth of swill. “Will do, Mar. See you then. Half caf mocha, as usual?”

Marian gasped. “Well, look at you, Ms. Cleo! I’ll be there on the dot.”

Cheryl knew that meant Marian would be about fifteen minutes late, and so mentally gave herself the chance to relax. What would Marian’s upcoming horoscope say? Cheryl smiled to herself, thinking of all the ridiculous lies she could put into print if she so desired. She wondered if psychics had any sort of immunity for libel, and if any sort of protection extended to the capricious comments of a small town horoscope writer.

“Marian: You will come into an unexpected sum of money,” she typed lazily, smirking at the cliché. “But be wary of unknown strangers. While he may appear to be Prince Charming, you may be courting the Beast instead! A great tragedy awaits you at the end of your week. Make sure your house is in order.” Cheryl chuckled to herself in the coffee shop, laughing at the morbid horoscope. She would love to see Marian’s face if she actually read that in the final edition. She would certainly get fired, but it was almost worth it just to shake her friend’s conviction in the poppycock.

Cheryl stretched, went up for a refill of the house roast, and settled in to finish explaining fate for a few thousand loyal readers. Her next line came to her in a burst of inspiration.

“Look for chances to stretch and grow in the next week. Don’t let your cynicism get the best of you!”

_

Cheryl’s phone chimed, chirping happily with its message. She rolled over groggily, checking the lock and grimacing as she realized she had slept well past her normal wake time this Saturday morning. The plan had been to be up early to start her work, begin looking for more freelance opportunities, but that had fallen prey to a late night bottle of wine and sappy rom-com marathon.

With sleep-addled lack of coordination, Cheryl clumsily gripped her cell phone and gazed blearily at the screen. A new voicemail from Marian. She stiffly pushed the button to listen, begrudgingly entered her password, and closed her eyes as Marian’s chipper voice filtered through.

“Hey Cher! You’ll never guess how great this week has been. Or, maybe you would. Maybe you even knew all about it!” The voice on the other end chuckled, then got back to the message. “I met this guy, and he’s great. I was out shopping for a new entertainment center for the apartment—I can hear you rolling your eyes already, but I got some money back from my bank for some misapplied fees. Anyways, I met Adam and he’s totally swept me off my feet. He’s a total Prince Charming. I know, I know, it’s only been a few days. God, you’re such a killjoy even when you aren’t on the phone.”

Cheryl chuckled to herself, burying her head beneath her pillow and reveling in the soft darkness. Marian’s voice continued its chipper monologue. She had always opted to ignore the “brief” part of the voice mail request.

“Anyway, that’s why I’m calling. He wants to take me hiking this afternoon, told me to cancel any plans I had later. He said he had something really incredible planned for me tonight. I know, I hate cancelling on our plans this late, but…”

Cheryl had known her long enough to hear the shrug on the other end. “I know you’d understand. We can go out tomorrow. I’ll call you in the morning to set a time. Don’t work all day!”

With that, the robotic messaging voice took over, prompting Cheryl to delete the message. After doing so, the phone was again silent, and she tossed it back on her nightstand. Cheryl could not help but feel a bit irritated and grumpy about this change in plans. It was likely the grogginess, but she felt a bit petulant. They had been planning to try out a new Thai place her paper had recently reviewed well, and she had been looking forward to the outing. Especially now that she could pick up her own dinner tab. Still, there was something else. A subtle sense of unease that had settled firmly over her during the message. Something simply was not right, but she could not put her finger on it.

Cheryl sat beneath the pillows and blankets, poking at this uncertain feeling until the heat became stifling, and then begrudgingly swung her legs to the floor. She had hoped to fall back asleep, but her investigation of the edges of this anxious knot made that impossible. It was probably just a lingering artifact of sleep, some half-thought idea that would fade with activity. At least, that was her working plan as she tried to get ready for the day.

The feeling sat in the pit of her stomach, a flutter of flimsy wings, but then carefully began to climb its way up, beating along her insides. As she did some morning yoga, it snaked into her chest and wrapped around her lungs. It felt as if every breath was just a bit too short. Still, she could not identify the mystery source of unease. Something was wrong, but she had no idea what it was. Surely she was not this jealous about her friend having a date?

A shower was the best remedy for clouded thoughts, and so she spent some time under the stream of nearly scalding water. It did not shake loose whatever had set her nerves on edge, and the feeling just continued its steady creep upwards. Now she could feel its fingers clawing at the back of her throat. They left her gulping at her morning cereal, trying to force it past the blockage.

Not yet done, it finally made its way behind her eyes. There this unshakable sense of wrong sat, pressing against her lids. She felt like her eyes were ready to burst with tears, but they never came, never relieved that distinct and unpleasant pressure. Something had been wrong ever since that voicemail. Cheryl could not help but feel she had seen this movie before, and forgotten the ending.

She ran through her emotions, but none seemed to quite fit the feeling that had grown within her. It was not jealousy, frustration, anger, disappointment, sorrow, or fear. It certainly was not happy, surprised, or excited.

Well, sitting and staring at it certainly was not helping. Cheryl pushed back from the breakfast table and dropped onto her couch, pulling her laptop close. She still had work to do today.

Normally, such feelings faded as she worked, dulled by the pressure of the moment by moment tasks. Today, the feeling stayed. It laced its fingers into every keystroke, stroked her mind seductively. It was this terrifying feeling that, if she could only focus well enough, she would realize what the feeling was. Only there as also this subtle fear that it would be too late.

Finally, the restlessness gripped her phone and dialed Marian’s number. It cut straight to voicemail.

“Hey, it’s Marian. I’m either out or screening my calls. Leave me a message, and I’ll get back to you. Probably.” The machine beeped.

“Hey Marian. Got your message, already picking out my bridesmaid dress,” the joke felt hollow and did nothing to relieve the discomfort. “Just call me when you get in so I know he did not throw you in some ravine or something. Talk to you later.”

Leaving a message was supposed to make her realize how silly this was, but it did not. If anything, it made the feeling heavier.

“You’re being ridiculous. Get some work done,” she chided herself, opening her horoscope document. She needed to type some up, and she was finally feeling like she had gotten the hang of it. They almost seemed to write themselves recently, which was pleasant. She hoped it would provide the needed distraction so that she could shake this feeling. Perhaps, she mused, she had a nightmare. There had been ties in the past where she had felt lingering effects like this from some forgotten dream. Surely that was it. A little mundane work would do the trick.

The document flashed open full of lines and lines of her predictions. She kept a running list, assuming she might at some point recycle some, once enough weeks had passed. Fortunately, she had not had to do that yet. New ideas just kept coming to her. Still, it was fun to smirk at her past predictions, enjoying a brief chuckle at the gullibility of some.

However, this time her eyes stuck on one she had never submitted. She re-read her fake post for Marian, and the feeling finally became real. It took on its form, icy fingers piercing through her panicked heart. Money, a man, and finally—“A great tragedy awaits you at the end of your week.”

Cheryl thought her heart might have stopped, but it was only the impossible stillness of terror. This was not happening, she told herself over and over again as her eyes sat glued to the screen. These sort of things did not happen. Ever. It was just a weird coincidence.

It took until the news reports began to come in about a body found in the bottom of a nearby canyon for the reality to sink in. Reports of foul play followed close behind, and Cheryl knew.

It’s not wise to play with things like this,” Marian had warned.

And Cheryl had not listened.


Feel free to compare and contrast to the original and let me know what you think. As always, happy reading!
Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Gender and Horror + Final Version: Dionaea Muscipula

So, I am finally getting around to posting (here) the final version of what started as Pheromones all those months ago. I am happy to announce this was recently posted on creepypasta.com. It ended up with a new name, a slightly different slant on the story, and what I feel is a lot more direct storyline. I’ve had the benefit of seeing two or three additional iterations of this particular piece, and so to me it seems like it has been quite the journey. The final idea is one I am really happy with, but one that seems to have evolved quite a bit from the seed of an idea that started it all. In fact, this whole story started from the line “There was something predatory in the way she walked.”

Since this is my blog and I can blather about whatever I like, I am going to talk about how this story developed, specifically how I felt about the blend of gender, sex, and horror. To skip that and read the final version of the story, click here and it will jump you down the page to the beginning.If you are interested in my rambling thoughts, read on!

One of the things that really bothered me after I got the idea for Pheromones (which will forever be it’s title in my mind, even if Dionaea Muscipula is a much better one) was how to handle the sexuality and danger I was interested in without playing into harmful gender stereotypes that plague horror. In short, women who engage in sexual activity are either innocent victims or sex-hungry monsters. Knowing that I was writing a story about a seductive monster, I feared tripping into these. If the monster was female, then it was playing into the same stereotypes that vilifies any sexual desire from a woman as indicative of a drive out of control. However, making the victim female meant I would yet again punish a female character for seeking a sexual interaction, reinforcing stereotypes that plague the genre. I mean, I watch plenty of horror movies. Once the chick decides to hook up with someone, you can almost be guaranteed they will die soon. Sex is dangerous for women, is the implicit message. Or, conversely, women who like sex are risky and untrustworthy. So I felt I was in a pickle.

Originally, I decided to make the “monster” more or less human, somewhat vampiric, and ultimately female. For where I am, the ability to show a woman empowered enough to seek out sex was better than the weak victim, I knew my story arc, and I tried to choose the lesser of two evils. But I was certainly never happy with it. In my mind, Annalise was powerful, dangerous, and independent. I mean, while it was beneficial for me to write such a woman, it also sounded like propaganda that someone would have spread in the 20s to prevent women’s suffrage. “Give them the vote, they’ll be all out on their own. They’ll destroy us all!” That’s exaggerated and silly, and I doubt anyone gives my writing that much thought, but that’s how it felt. On the one hand, it was a victory for me, but it also fed other, harmful lies that I disagree with as well.

As I said, lesser of two evils, however. I’d rather have a fiercely independent female monster than a deceived victim punished for her weak female will. I know both of these are exaggerations and probably more involved than they should be, but part of my desire in writing this was to explore sexuality in my writing, within the context of horror, and do it effectively. So these were the underlying thoughts that primarily concerned me.

I toyed with changing the genders. I thought about making it a same-sex attraction. That one felt like I was skirting the issue, and I also believe that, being a straight white female, it’s something I would need to practice in writing first. I practiced writing in the male voice for a long time, and still have to be very intentional about it. (I also really enjoy writing “female/male sounding” things and then having the character be the opposite gender, just to challenge my own gender norms).

Ultimately, I wrote the original version of Pheromones and flt okay about it. I loved the idea, but the ending and dynamics never felt right. It was too vampy, a little to cliche, and not what I wanted. I rewrote the ending dozens of times and was never quite happy with it.

Then, I thought up this new ending in the shower one morning, and it felt right. It took the conversation away from the strict gender roles, made it more fluid, and enhanced the predatory aspects of “Annalise” that I wanted. It also fit better with the fly trap idea, a flower which blooms and wilts, only to bloom again. It kept the strong woman, but also demonstrated that brutality was not a gender characteristic, but a part of the monster. What I had realized was that her goal was never sex, but hunger. My attempts to tie hunger into gender in an effective way was the problem, since hunger is not male or female. It is animal, crossing gender boundaries. And so the ending similarly crossed those boundaries. It did not end up being an in depth exploration of gender and sexuality, because this is not the best way to explore such complex topics. But it did present the ideas and help present a male-female dyad in horror that manages not to fall into (too many, at least) gender stereotypes. It is not perfect, and I know Martin’s character is probably unfair, but for me it was an important opportunity to deal with these themes.

Okay, so that is a lot of rambling, but I wanted to share some part of my creative process. I try to be thoughtful about what I put out there, so sometimes it is nice to share the thought that went into something. If you’ve read all this, thank you, nad I hope it was moderately interesting. Without further ado, Dionaea Muscipula. 



Martin looked somberly into the murky gold of his lukewarm scotch. He hated these kinds of functions. Not only was he not particularly good at large crowds, dancing, loud music, and general social interaction, but it only became all the more painful when you combined a room full of people with his same weaknesses and demanded that they play the roles. It was a professional conference, he bemoaned, but he was the only person with the seeming self-awareness to feel abject discomfort at the whole evening’s proceedings. He slumped glumly in the stiff reception chair, his body depending on the unsteady table to keep him upright and appearing engaged. The white table, stained with leftover dinner crumbs and a spilt half glass of red wine, had been empty for what felt like an eternity as his dinner companions—strangers in nice suits and dresses who prattled on as if they were 25 again—had given themselves over to the open bar and dance floor.

He glanced at his watch. Surely after two hours of such nonsense his dues were paid well enough to warrant sneaking back to his room for some sleep and relaxation. Others might jest that he was a stick in the mud for retiring so early, but he would not make a fool of himself as his colleagues were so wont to do.

Gathering his tired dinner jacket and room key, Martin froze. From across the room, he spotted a gorgeous woman slicing through the crowd. There was something predatory in the way she walked. An utter lack of self-consciousness as she strode through the flailing bodies in the crowd. There was a look in her eyes, evident from half a room away, which showed she knew she stood on a level above all those around her. She had the look of a sated wolf prowling amongst unguarded sheep, utterly disinterested in their bleating. Her hair flowed in sheets of shining black as deep as the moonless sky, waving with disdain as she cut her own path through the writhing masses around her. Almost instinctively, the way parted for her, bringing her directly to Martin’s table.

With indelible grace, she swept a glass of red wine from a passing waiter, holding the delicate glass in her soft fingers. She smiled, pearly white teeth flashing between plump red lips. Her eyes were brilliant green, reflecting Martin’s dumbfounded gaze right back at him. The lovely scent of flowers encapsulated him as it rolled off her body. It was far more intoxicating than the mild drinks he had been nursing all night. Martin felt as if he were being drawn into her web, but he had no will to fight it.

“Annalise,” she breathed. For a moment, Martin was unsure what to do. All he knew were that those syllables were the most heavenly sounds he had ever heard. He would endure pain, torture, war, strife, poverty, illness, and any worldly ill if only those three syllables would replay again and again. To have those lips speak such beauty!

She smiled again and his mouth snapped shut from its gape. “M-Martin,” he stammered as he collected himself, shamed by the coarseness of his own voice.

She reached out a slender hand to touch his arm. “So nice to finally meet you.” Martin felt his heart begin to thunder. She knew of him? She wanted to meet him? What crazy fever dream had he slipped into? “I won’t keep you, as it seems you are leaving, but I just couldn’t miss the chance—”

“No, no. Not leaving,” he interjected, eagerly grabbing his chair and planting himself into it. “Just was, uh, getting a better view of things, you know.” She laughed and Martin prayed his ears would ring with that delightful sound for the rest of his life. He would go deaf to the world if only to hear her laugh.

“Then may I join you?” she asked, somewhat hesitantly, betraying the assured confidence Martin had seen so clearly moments ago. He could not imagine having such an effect on a woman, especially not one like her. Martin sat up a little straighter in his seat; keeping his dignity tonight might actually pay off for once, he mused. She must like a serious, intellectual man. Well, by God, she had found her man then.

“Where are you from, Annalise?” He was so smooth, he congratulated himself. Those words flowed like butter.

“Please, I didn’t come all the way over here to talk about me, Martin! Tell me about you,” she purred, her hand falling gently on his forearm as she moved closer. As close as he was, he felt himself absolutely adrift in her marvelous scent. She smelled of sweet flowers opened brightly to the summer sun, and Martin was content to collapse into the field.

So talk he did. Martin regaled her with stories of his groundbreaking work as she eyed him with pure wonder. He shared about his glowing academic career, the awards and showcases that had chosen to honor him and his work in his brief career. He spoke in heartfelt about his calling to the field, the passion and the reward he felt from doing such work. She played her role well, smiling at the right parts, laughing at his clumsy jokes and sighing in awe of his humble victories. Martin felt his chest swell with pride as he prattled on about his meager life, finding his own ego reflected and doubled in her searching green eyes.

After a while, she smiled and squeezed him arm softly, interrupting him mid-flow. It was amazing how easy it was to talk to her. He found himself divulging so many things to her, almost as if he had known her for half of his life. It was just her soft presence, the comforting aroma of flowers, and the focused interest pouring from her eyes. It made his tongue loose in a way no person or substance-induced state ever had. He froze in silence, suddenly feeling the ache of his throat after so much talking over the din of the music.

“I’m having trouble hearing you over all of them,” she said, rolling her eyes towards the mass of drunken hooligans who would don suits tomorrow and nurse hangovers through the scheduled sessions. “Do you think we could go somewhere more private?”

Martin was flummoxed. In all his years, he had never expected to catch the eye of such a woman—of any woman, if he wanted to be honest with himself. He had even less expected to find such a beautiful groupie for his relatively dull research. And now, this surprise of all surprises revealed another layer of amazement. She was trying to seduce him! Martin smiled. Perhaps he would let her.

“My room is just down the hall from here,” he spat out quickly, his eagerness spilling over his words. She gave him a reassuring and understanding smile.

“That sounds perfect.”

Martin stood from his seat, his legs wobbling uncertainly. He could remember college years and first dates with similar weakness of the knees, only this seemed even more extreme. A goofy smile drifted over his face; he was drunk on her presence, and there was no use in denying it. Every system he generally kept so well controlled was flying by its own rules, freed by her enchanting smile and intoxicating scent. He offered her his arm, and the two floated from the room. Martin’s legs seemed to belong to someone else, carrying him confidently out of the room. The doors swung shut behind them, effectively muffling the raucous music still pouring from the banquet hall. At this rate, his colleagues would be stumbling into the first session still decked in their party finery.

The sounds of the others faded as they walked along the hallway until Martin realized he and Annalise were shrouded by a heavy covering of silence. Anyone else in the hotel had long since gone to bed, and the music down the hall had faded quickly. He supposed it only made sense that the place would have good soundproofing for such an event. The silence was surprisingly intimate. He could hear her soft breath, the air moving over the swell of her full lips. Her feet sunk lightly in the plush carpet, whispering softly in the hall. In contrast, he heard his heart racing in his chest, listened to the uncoordinated and irregular pace of his own steps dragging through the carpet. He was a love—or perhaps more accurately lust—struck mess.

He fished the little plastic card from his wallet, and the door gave its friendly beep as the light flashed green. After shoving the door open, his arm flailed about in the darkness seeking the light switch that always seemed to be two or three inches higher or lower than he remembered. With a click, the lights hummed on and bathed the room in a harsh and artificial glow. Despite the generally terrible effects of such lighting on people, Annalise still appeared radiant as she stepped into the room. She was commanding as she entered, and he felt as if perhaps they had unwittingly entered her room rather than his, given her comfort. But no, his shirt and slacks hung pressed in the closet, his battered suitcase tossed unceremoniously on the second twin bed. She simply possessed an air of belonging wherever she went.

The smell of flowers carried him along in her wake, and he stumbled into his own room behind her, coming up short as she paused in front of him. Her eyes were smiling as she turned to him. “What a wonderful evening,” her words drifted into the silence of the room as she fell softly against the crumpled bed spread, her red dress a stark contrast with the dull white sheets.

“Uh, yes, it has been—“ magical, enchanting, impossible, miraculous?“—quite the night,” he finished weakly, standing uncomfortably in the entryway to his room looking around. He felt his eyes lingering too long in hers, drawn in by their brilliant spell. The heavy presence of flowers in the air made him feel woozy, and he nearly stumbled as he broke his gaze from hers.

“Martin, what if I told you that I have been thinking about my lips on you since I first laid eyes on you?” She whispered haltingly, her eyes betraying the innocence on her lips.

Flabbergasted, Martin sat in silence. Now he knew that this must be some kind of ruse. Or perhaps someone had spiked his drink and he was hallucinating. The drink—had he had more than he thought? Would he wake up groggily to some ancient troll in his bed? Could he have fallen asleep at the table, and now this goddess was his sweetest dream?

Before he could reach a final conclusion—brain tumor?—her lips were on his, her body pressed against him. His shock had prevented him from seeing the speed with which she pounced from the bed, catching him in her arms and drawing him back to the bed. No matter what doubts he might have, he could not deny the reality of the experience happening in that moment. He swam in the warmth of her limbs around him, the taste of her soft lips, and the scent of her lithe body. In that moment, all he knew was that his lips and hers were dancing together now, their tongues meddling somewhere in between. She pushed him back on the bed, her lips following his steady descent down to the stiff hotel bed. Martin’s heart was a metronome in his chest, trying to keep pace with his flying thoughts. He pulled her close, kissing every inch of that beautifully pearly white neck and face that he could. She laughed and smiled as she playfully pinned his hands down on the bed.

“You know, Martin, there is something delicious about a body excited.” Her tongue snaked its way into his mouth, those brilliant red lips melding with his for a brief moment. “And our bodies tend to respond the same to excitement and fear,” she whispered, coming up for breath. Every word she spoke sent waves of excitement across Martin’s body, just to feel the gentle ebb and flow of her breath across his skin.

“Me, personally,” she smiled, leaning to kiss along his neck, “I prefer the taste of excitement.” She ended this with a soft nip at his earlobe. Martin felt a slight stir of discomfort at her choice of phrasing, but brushed it off. Just a turn of phrase, he reminded himself, finding himself again drowning in her green eyes and the soft scent of sunlit flowers.

Her fingers played with the silk knot at her waist, carefully untangling the ribbons so that flashes of marble skin slipped through. She turned her back to him, letting the dress slowly fall away to reveal her perfectly sculpted body. Martin’s eyes grew wide as she spun, but his pleasure gave way to terror all too quickly.

Her chest was a tangle of intertwined flesh, a traumatic knot of scars and blood. In the time it took Martin to make sense of it, the knot began to writhe, petals of flesh slowly unfolding to reveal a gaping maw of teeth where her stomach should have been. Her once bright green eyes were now dull and dead, any hint of life yanked from them with the reveal of this monstrosity. Where the aroma of flowers had so allured him, now he could only smell the sickly odor of rot. A scream, initially frozen in disbelief deep within his gut, slowly clawed its way up to his lips, breaking through the air with a brief cry before those yellowed, broken teeth closed around his head.

The room echoed with the muted crunch of bone, the moist sound of blood and flesh abandoning their respective domains and mingling in a blender of jagged teeth. It gulped, Annalise’s whole body quivering with the effort of ingesting the body of her momentary paramour. The sheets were stained with blood, matching the brilliant fabric of the discarded dress. However, it was not interested in waste. Most of the blood flooded its gullet, Annalise’s ivory skin warming and brightening with the fresh flood of still-warm liquid.

Sweet iron filled the room, its scent nearly overpowering. The now lifeless body of Annalise flopped about as the creature neglected grace in favor of speed. Her head lolled onto her chest, drifting dangerously near the still gaping teeth. A thick, coiled tongue snaked out of the mouth, slithering across the bed to gather whatever remained before it could fully soak in to the cheap hotel mattress. With a shake and an odorous sigh, the creature sat back on the bed. Slowly, Annalise’s eyes began to change, drifting from their brilliant green to a steely blue. Her hair fell out like leaves shaken by the wind, short cropped salt-and-pepper strands replacing it. Her arms and legs lengthened, then thickened. After a moment, the creature stood, a perfect copy of Martin, but imbued with a very different spirit.

It considered the new body, then reached into its mouth to retract a thick pair of black glasses. For a moment, it held them to its new face, considering the advantages of such eyewear. Ultimately, it discarded them and watched as they shattered at the base of the wall. Unlike Martin, the creature walked tall, shoulders back and eyes up high. It smiled charmingly as the skin of his face stretched with the unusual gesture. While Martin certainly did not have sculpted abs or a youthful body, there was at least minimal evidence that he had taken good care of himself, resulting in a relatively slender and strong physique. The creature turned Martin’s head side to side, looking itself up and down in the mirror across the room. It was far from perfect, but with a dash of charm and some newfound confidence, it would certainly do. “Nice to meet you, Martin,” he said, his voice starting with the lilting soprano of before and then taking on a confident baritone that filled the room.

After pilfering the clothes hanging in the closet, the creature looked at the mess it had made and smiled. Martin slipped into its new costume, and walked strongly towards the door. His hand hovered over the light switch, gaining one last glimpse at the bloody masterpiece now staining the cheap room. Then, he plunged it into darkness and made his way back to the festivities.

The night was still young.


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


Summer Project WIP: 11:59 Revised

So, I have decided on a summer project focused on revitalizing and old “Dusty Tome.” By way of introduction, I want to give you history on this piece. The story was originally titled 11:59 and began mostly as a single image inspired by my frequent sleep difficulties: the import of the minute switch between 11:59 and 12:00 in those sleepless hours. I started with a single chapter in July 2003 (when I was 13) and no clear picture of where it was going, but it developed into my first full-fledged story, with chapters, a beginning, middle, and end. In April 2004, I declared it complete.

When I review it today, I see my own immaturity in it, but it still is a story near and dear to my heart. After reflecting on it, I think I would like to revisit some of the concepts and characters, but provide a richer mythos behind the events, as well as a more mature voice to what happens. Currently, I am considering a similar plot, but with a lot more depth and complications. I actually have a plan for it this time! I will likely mimic the chapter splits from the original, but not precisely as my pacing will likely be slower and more deliberate with some things removed altogether, which would result in ridiculously long sections and incredibly brief ones. For example, my revised first chapter will begin well before the original first, and it will take me a couple of scenes to get to the original Prologue ending. So, instead of including the original text here, as I generally do with Dusty Tome rewrites, I will instead provide a link to the full story on Fictionpress. Just, please don’t judge me for the other stuff on there. I was pretty young. Additionally, as always, this is Draft 1, so do consider it all a work in progress.

11:59


Chapter 1

Cassie learned at a very young age not to tell others about her Mirror Monster. It is surprising how quickly even children realize what is taboo and what will be ignored. She could clearly remember being just past her fourth birthday when she yet again screamed in response to the monster in her room. Her father came in, bleary-eyed and trying to hide his annoyance while she cowered under the covers.

“Cas, what is it? Why’d you scream?” His voice was mumbled, as if his lips and tongue had not yet awoken well enough to speak. It was a fitting complement to the child-speak response.

“The Mirror Monster was here! He was in my room again!”

Like all the nights before, her father walked over and tapped on the glass. He waved his hands around, mocking his reflection. He even did the due diligence of checking behind the frame. Finally, he lifted a white sheet from the floor and covered the mirror. “No one there, sweetie. Just a mirror. Now go to sleep. You’re old enough now to be a big girl and stop all this monster nonsense.” There was no anger in voice, just frustrated resignation. “I’m going back to sleep. No one is here, and no one can come through your mirror. Sleep.” With those final words of comfort, he drifted out of the room, a sleepy specter stumbling down the hall.

Cassie kept the blankets pulled to her chin, just peeking over at the tall mirror standing sentinel in the corner. For a while, there was nothing. It was just an oval of white painted in sharp contrast to the darkness. And then Cassie saw it move, as she knew she would. The sheet drifted to the floor again, pooling there with its protective power abandoned. A pale, clawed hand groped out of the undulating surface. Moments behind the hand was a grotesque face. It was bone pale, with skin that sagged and dropped as if it was melting off the very frame beneath it. The mouth was an ugly scar ripped across the wrinkled face, ringed by row after row of terrifyingly sharp teeth. The thing hissed, stepping fully out of the mirror as if sliding from a pool. Its long legs bent to high as it tried to stand in the room, twisted shoulder slicing along the white ceiling. It smiled, displaying all those many teeth. With its smile, Cassie caught the whiff of rotting food and decay. She covered her nose with her blankets, her large eyes swimming in fear. She somehow felt that it grew more and more fearsome with every visit.

Cassie knew that screaming again would do no good. She had tried before, but eventually all she would get was a yell from down the hallway to go to sleep. While it took her years, she eventually understood that it wasn’t that her parents did not care, but that they did not realize monsters existed. They had forgotten, and saw her cries as a child unwilling to accept reality, even after ample logic and proof had been provided. Continuing to rush to the rescue would only provide attention to fuel the aberrant behavior; they were locked in a pained but resigned contract to ignore her cries. After all, they always stopped after a while.

As she had every night for as long as she could remember, Cassie cowered under the covers, lifting them finally over her head as the creatures inhuman weight pushed down the corner of her bed. She held the sheets tight as ragged claws scraped around her. She hummed to herself, doing all she could to drown out its hissing laugh. She tried to sleep, and finally drifted away as the heavy presence disappeared just as the birds began to chirp outside.

The next day in her preschool class, she learned yet again that no one was allowed to talk about their Monster. She was in the playground, playing in the dirt with an assortment of other children. The night before left her shaken and afraid, wondering how anyone was expected to cope with such a literal monster waiting at the foot of her bed. So, Cassie turned to the only resource she knew, and asked her peers.

“Katie, do you have a monster in your mirror?” The question was innocent, but laced with implicit terror.

Katie’s eyes were wide, reflecting a fear Cassie knew all too well, but was too young to fully recognize. “No,” stated the other emphatically. “My daddy says monsters aren’t real.”

“That’s what mine says, but he’s still there.”

“You’re a liar. I’m going to tell Mrs. Davis,” sung Steven, hopping up from the dirt. AT this age, every infraction was a terrible misstep, and the balance between tattling and concern was blurred by a desperate desire to win the praise from a teacher. When he returned, it was with a stern looking Mrs. Davis in tow. Cassie felt her confidence shrinking under those watchful grey eyes. Maybe everyone was right and there were no monsters; then how could she explain her sleepless night?

“Cassie, can you come with me?”

The tall, skinny woman held out a bony hand, beckoning Cassie forward. Unsure now of the greater feel, Cassie obediently rose and followed her teacher back into the classroom. Mrs. Davis waved to one of the aides, shuffling her outside, and then pulled a chair over to sit across from Cassie at the desk.

“Steven says you were talking about monsters, Cassie?” Cassie nodded, beginning to fear the certain punishment. “Sounds like something must really be scaring you. Do you want to tell me about it?”

Her shock dissipating, Cassie began to hurry through the words, spilling her secret terror. It felt good just to put the words out there, to limit her monster to those words she used to describe it. Her teacher followed along, nodding, a cloud of confusion drifting across her face as she pursed her lips. Mrs. Davis was silent a moment after Cassie finished. Then she gave her an understanding nod.

“That is pretty scary. Just as I thought. Listen, I’ve had lots of students with monster troubles, so I’ve got some advice. I’m going to send a note home with you to your parents, and then I’d like you to draw a picture for your monster. A lot of times, monsters are just friends who aren’t very good at saying hello. So, if you draw a picture, maybe we can get him to play nicer. I can even help you write him a note!”

Mrs. Davis smiled, and collected crayons and paper for the little girl. Kids were always bringing in some new boogeyman, and she had learned years ago that strict denial did nothing but fuel the flames. Instead, she borrowed from her own experience with nightmares and helped them reframe the situations. Even children were capable of writing different endings to their nightmares, and those nasty monster dreams faded away.

Cassie drew a simple picture: two stick figures, one small with brown pigtails and the other larger, hulking, and grey. They stood beside a little house and tree, a bright sun smiling on them with assorted flowers at their feet. She made sure to put smiles on both their faces. Cassie even managed the courage to draw the two of them holding hands. It was terrifying, but suddenly her monster seemed so much smaller. He was just a friend who didn’t know how to say hello.

“Dear Mirror Monster,” she began, Mrs. Davis carefully transcribing her words above the drawing, “You are not being a very good friend. Please stop scaring me. If you stop, we can play with my toys together. Hissing is not nice. We say hello to be nice. Love, Cassie.” The final letters written, Mrs. Davis carefully tucked the note into her backpack, after clipping one of her telltale apple pages to the front with swirly writing for her parents.

Recess ended. Class went on, and Steven kept making mean faces at Cassie during the lesson, but she was beaming. She was going to get rid of her monster and make a new friend.

As soon as school ended, Cassie rushed to her place on the sidewalk and waited for her mom’s big silver car to drive up. She was bursting to give her the note and explain her day. She was barely in the car and buckled in before she was digging through her bag and waving around her drawing with the apple note. While she had always been scared when she brought home a note from the teacher, today she was bursting.

Her mother shushed her, trying to focus on the drive home. After arriving, getting Cassie unloaded and working on a project at the table, her mother glanced over the note. She sighed. This monster thing was incredibly out of hand, something which Mrs. Davis seemed to at least understand. The note also mentioned that such a thing was normal, and the teacher had experience in righting such problems. Jenny sighed, and picked up the phone to her husband. Anything to stop the nightmares. She woke up at least once a month, creaming her head off, and it meant at least one mostly sleepless night for both her and Mark as they tried to calm her down. Despite what parenting books suggested, ignoring it was not working.

That night, as they tucked Cassie into bed, they presented her with a new stuffed toy. It was a simple brown bear (the cheapest he could find, said John), with a toy sword taped to one paw. Jenny had even taken the time to cut out a little chestplate and tie it around the bear’s neck, turning him into a determined little soldier.  If the Mirror Monster would not stop being mean, then Chester, the courageous bear as named by Cassie, would keep her safe. The set the note and the bear beside the mirror, and prayed for a sleep filled night.

For a couple of weeks, everything was silent. Of course, Cassie was not surprised. It was always quite for a short time after his visit. Always just long enough that she thought maybe he was gone. But then, one night when the moon was full and bright outside, spilling silver light into her room, the mirror moved. From the shadows stepped her Mirror Monster, looking even scarier than before. His teeth seemed sharper, his eyes deeper and darker. But, this time, he paused at the little bear and stick figure drawing. He lifted the paper delicately in clawed hands, taking a moment for his large eyes to sweep across Mrs. Davis’ clear script. He picked the bear up, cradling it in his too long arms, and walked toward the bed. The Mirror Monster walked straight towards Cassie, though this time without his hissing laugh. His eyes, almost sad, thought Cassie, looked at her, and studied her. Then, with great effort, his mangled lips opened, spilling out its foul odor and astounding Cassie with an endless picture of teeth. She was terrified, certain that those massive jaws would soon swipe down and crush her, but instead, it placed the bear snuggly beside her pillow and spoke.

“Hello.”


PS: This week has been relatively productive, so I also have a new Zeru portion in progress. And some other ideas rolling around, so hopefully some of those come to completion this next as well. 🙂

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


Vicious Circle

So, this is the first actual Attic piece. A rewrite from when I was still in middle school. I have included the original, followed by its conceptual reimagining. The original was simply fluff, with no substance or plot, and I have tried to spice it up a bit, add some coherence to it while maintaining the original circular concept. Still, it works mainly as a fluff piece, not really anything. Just a way to pass the time and keep my typing fingers active on a snowy New Year’s Eve. Speaking of, Happy New Year!

Original now behind “Read More” link, updated version is the one displayed in short form. Thanks for reading!


Rewrite 12.31.2013

I am not insane. I swear it. Even as they toss me into this dull room, full of its artificial lights and safe edges, I will proclaim my sanity. Because I am not crazy; I simply have seen the things they cannot—will not. I am no harm to myself or others, I only threaten the safe bubble of denial that has so carefully cradled them all these years.

I know what I have to say sounds insane—but is that not a mark of my own sanity? I do not dare proclaim these things with assurance of their rationality, because I initially doubted. I saw the things I saw and hoped that I was losing my mind. Instead, I have been forced to accept that what I see is in fact the reality shrouded around me. You see, when I closed my eyes, I could see what lies beyond. I could see the horrors of the hidden present, as well as the looming dangers of the coming future. They told me these were hallucinations, complex visual, auditory, and olfactory hallucinations. Rare, yes, but not unheard of. However, these “hallucinations” only appeared when I closed my eyes. Eyes open, I could see the world just like you do. Others told me I was dreaming, some strange form of REM disorder and narcolepsy.  But I sleep dreamless at nights; sleep is the only time I can find relief from these images. Though now I grow fearful to let myself drift away, for fear of what may be waiting beyond the veil.

I must admit, I have always gotten jumbled at times. It is hard to tell which vision is the present and which is the future. Even when I had my eyes open, I was never sure how much of what I saw hovered beyond my wide-eyed vision ethereally or temporally.

I’m sure you’re curious. After all of this, what insanity have I seen? I see the world with the stage trappings torn away. There are spirits in this world that work beyond the realm of human perception. There are beautiful beings that bring peace and healing. I have seen them drift into a room, alight with grace, and bring calming with a touch. I watched once while one hovered about my screaming infant cousin, saw as it reached out a single hand and touch her chubby cheek. And she stopped screaming, instead began cooing. Everyone else in the room assumed it was the fickleness of babies, but I could see.

Of course, seeing beauty is not why they have locked me away. I see the darker beings that rip through our world. They are numerous, swift, and deadly. They sow discord, hate, and anger. And they can kill. Being in the places I have, sitting in a prison cell or bound to a psychiatric bed, I have seen how they can latch onto others. They goad us people to action, lift our hands to strike one another. They reach into us, contort our thoughts. In the hospital once, I saw them smother a man. The doctors informed the family he died peacefully in his sleep, but the tormented man I watched was anything but peaceful. Not content to wreak havoc alone, I have also seen what they do in the future. I have seen them rip apart the beautiful beings, leaving our worlds in their hands alone. I have seen a future drenched in blood and violence, a crumbled civilization ruled by animal instincts rather than human reason. I have seen the nations turned over to pure id, and the destruction sowed. The worst of all, I can feel it coming now. They have begun to rip the wings from the others, mar their lovely faces and drag them into the putrid muck of their world. The light is failing now, and I am a helpless observer to what is coming.

I’m sure I startled some with my decision, the one which led me here. But once you’ve seen those things, seen how they creep and sneak and kill, how could you ever open your eyes again? It was easier to remove my eyes; I do not need them to see the world around me any longer. I see our world, a dim image overlaid with the spectral reality that so tortures me. People are always amazed at how I can see, recognize, and move as if my eyes are still resting peacefully in their sockets. I simply see in a new way. And so, because of this, because of my curse and my attempt to save my own life, I have been locked away against my will. I am crazy, mentally ill, a resistant schizophrenic who tongues my pills and refuses to cooperate with therapy. So, here I sit. My mind is no help in tracking my progress here, content as it is to swim erratically through the present and the future. I do not think I have been here long, but perhaps I have drifted from the present to the past. Even now, I lose track of which now I am living in. I lose track of my own thoughts, slipping away and flowing through the streams of time.

But I am not insane. I swear it. Even as they tossed me into this dull room, full of its artificial lights and safe edges, I proclaim my sanity. Because I am not crazy; I simply have seen the things they cannot—have not.

But they will.

(more…)