The College

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[The soldiers were tense, waiting for something to happen – like it was a matter of when, not if. For our part, we did our best to steer clear of them, avoiding the main square, where a group of protesters] had donned pointed witch’s hats. It seemed to be the symbol of their movement, their protest to keep the magic college open.

Sickening, I thought, curling my lip in disgust.

Lydia noticed my reaction, and said weakly, “They’re just doing what they think is best.”

“Best?” I scoffed. “Lydia, surely you’ve seen the news. You know why that horrible ‘college’ was closed down.” I spat the word. Some college.

“Not really,” said Lydia. “Tell me.”

I gaped at her. “You haven’t heard? They were conducting Satanic rituals. They kidnapped children. Sacrificed them. All in the name of Satan.”

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One More Hand

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[Harry shuffled the deck of cards and pushed it across the table. “Deal,” he said. “One more hand,” I agreed. It was a way to pass the time. More importantly, it was a way to avoid talking about] the fact that I would soon have to kill Harry. We knew how I would do it – a quick shot to the temple with my Glock. But we hadn’t discussed it any further than that. Like when to do it. We were just gonna table that for later I guess.

Harry took two cards. I took one. I had a good hand, but I didn’t expect to win. Harry was the better of us at cards. It’s why we had left it up to a coin toss, and he had called heads when it was tails. Tough luck. But the guys on the radio had explained it to us blatantly, no wishful thinking: they wouldn’t reach us within four weeks.

We had enough food for one person for two weeks.

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Cara’s Love

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[It began as a practical joke. But by the end of the day, nobody was laughing. It seemed innocent enough at first, because Jerry and I have a history of playing practical jokes on one another. He was the one to start the whole thing, if I’m not mistaken. He] got hold of the Ouija board. Found or bought or stolen, I don’t know. But he showed me the board and insisted we try it out at the cemetery. He insisted on doing it at midnight too, so we could barely see the damn board at all.

Jerry believed in ghosts. I never did. Or didn’t use to. So that night I moved the little pointer around, and when Jerry asked who the ghost was I spelled out C-A-R-A, the name on a tombstone we had passed on our way into the cemetery, though Jerry didn’t know that. Then I kept spelling out that he was cute, and that Cara liked him, and did he like Cara? And he totally bought the whole thing, even blushed. And when we were leaving and I pointed out the tombstone with Cara on it, he was good and freaked out. I didn’t tell him yet it had been me pranking him. I had thought I would take it a little further first, maybe leave him some ghostly love letters or something. But before I could, it was the next day, and Jerry came to school freaked out.

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She Believed in Me

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[She believed in me in a way no one else ever has and no one else ever will, and I betrayed her. The worst part is she doesn’t know. She still thinks] her first husband died of natural causes. She still thinks her second husband died at the hands of a robber. She doesn’t know her closest friend poisoned Gerald’s drink, and that the same close friend shot Robert through the heart with his own pistol, snatched from the mantel, the man too shocked to move or duck. She doesn’t know I relished her coming to me in her grief, clutching me, holding me, weeping into my shoulder. If only I could tell her why I did it: because I love her more than they could.

It’s okay. She’ll turn to me again once I’m done with Matthew.

Something of Magic

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[The music drifted out of the club like a vibrating pulse. I could feel it in my bones. The night was alive with possibility. I could even imagine myself] going back home. Coming through the portal had felt like this, like it was pounding through my bones and veins and head. But that had been months ago, and there was no magic in this land to construct a portal from.

Jake waved a hand in front of my eyes, jerking me back to the present. “Earth to Hollander. Come on, we’re going in.”

I pasted a smile on my face, though I didn’t feel it. Jake was the closest thing I had to a friend in this realm, and though he didn’t know the truth of where I was from, he tolerated any behaviors from me that were odd to him, and from him I learned a lot of cultural details I could pick up so I didn’t come off so… well, weird. It was getting difficult as my translation magic wore off though. I was studying English as diligently as I could, but overall I was barely able to keep up. But I was keeping up.

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For Riches

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[Until that day, fear had been an idea, a concept. Now it was real: a feeling I would carry inside me for the rest of my life. The day began innocently enough, with] a clear sky and a good wind for flying. I spread my wings and lifted myself into the wide blue open. As I scanned the ground below me, I found a royal caravan, right in the middle of a field. I marveled at my luck when I razed the group and found a princess among it. For all the gold and jewels a dragon could amass, a young princess was the greatest treasure of all.

Perhaps the fact that she gave no protest to being carried off in my jaws should have hinted at what was to come. But I had thought she was in shock or unconscious. Whatever it was I thought, she made no sound or movement over the miles to my den, and when I dragged her deep into the cave and released her among my treasures, she showed no fear. She stood, brushed off her dress, smoothed her hair, and spoke in my own tongue.

“So easily tricked. I thank you for the riches.”

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Out of the Dark

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[The darkness was thick and suffocating, like a heavy blanket had been thrown on the world. He had to get over the wall, had to get across the border before] the dark seeped all the way into him. He could feel it in his lungs now, filling them so that every breath was a rasp. That was the sign that he had been in the dark for too long. But this time to find what he was looking for he had needed to go further, past the last post, only the tail of the rope strung along the posts to tell him how to get back. He had reached the end of that rope and let it go, stumbling into the dark several steps before he found the inkwort prickly against his fingertips. By that point he only had time to grab a few handfuls, and then he turned and hurried back, hand over hand along the rope.

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Left Behind

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[It flashed through the sky and then was gone.  Lucy was sure she had seen a UFO and was equally sure aliens were here to secretly make contact with a human being.  Maybe they would choose her.  Maybe she would get to visit their ship.  Maybe] she would get to go home.

She had long known she wasn’t from Earth.  But she didn’t have memories of another planet or of the stars, and her “parents” would never admit she was adopted, though it was clear she wasn’t really human.  She could hide her antennae among her hair, and never wore sandals on her webbed toes, and always had her spine and its rows of fins and scales covered.  It was painfully clear that Lucy was different.  And she suspected deep down that she was on Earth because she had been thrown away.  Why else would she be left without explanation?  Why else would they not come back for her?

But maybe the aliens she was related to would look for a human, and look at her all covered up, and not realize, and take her aboard their ship.  And then she would show her true self and demand the answers she had been craving for sixteen years.

What It Learned

This prompt (in brackets) is taken from Complete the Story by Piccadilly Inc., which I got from the Scribbler box.

[Looking back, it could have gone either way. It didn’t work out, which makes it look like fate, or a stupid decision, or both. But at the time, I did have a few things in my favor. I had] a general idea of where the treasure was buried. I had the skeleton, already dug up and lugged to Rochelle’s house. And I had Rochelle. She had gotten pretty good at her necromancy, bringing pigeons and rats back to life with little effort. She even got a cat up and running, and the thing had been steamrolled by a car. So I knew she would have no trouble with the ancient pirate. Or if she did, it just wouldn’t work, and that was fine too. We just wanted to have a good go at locating the treasure.

But after Rochelle had chanted the spells and the flesh had grown back over the pirate’s bones, and the muscles had flexed, and it had stood, we discovered that a human brought back from death was different from a pigeon or rat or even a cat. A cat wouldn’t learn from that realm beyond death, or be able to apply its lessons. But the pirate had learned. It looked me in the eye with its reborn eyes that had seen far more than I had, and it held me under its own spell.

I would be in thrall to that undead pirate for forty-seven years.