A Day in the Redwoods {RW}

A Day in the Redwoods {RW}

I was ten…

I think, at least. The older I get, the less I remember, and the more I’m sure I make up. The details of our exact age are negligible, however. I know that this had to have happened before the 7th grade, because by that time it was too late (for that’s when I met Cynthia, and I know I had the key by the time I met Cynthia). I might have been eleven, but I’m almost certain I were ten, and that she was eleven.

Me and Cyndy, that is. This is not to be confused with Cynthia who is a year younger than me, that I met on the bus. No, Cyndy is a year older than me. Cynthia and Cyndy look the same, eye color, hair color, skin colors (almost). They aren’t related. Obviously. They share the same name, afterall (although I call Cynthia – Cyndy, and bus Cynthia is just Cynthia). Their family circumstances are completely different. And their temperaments? Night and Day. Cynthia is the kind of girl who will stay home and get high, telling stories of wondrous worlds, and making you question the whos and the whats and the why we ares. Cyndy is the kind of girl who goes shopping (always), uses credit cards like money grows on trees, and parties till the sun rises, with new people all the time.

Both are lovely.

Either way, this was, before Cynthia. It was only Cyndy and me, and our families, who have been family friends since we were born. We were in the woods. The two of us swear by fact that it was the Redwoods, but the older I get the more that seems like nonsense. It could have been another national park or state park we went to, not that it matters, what happened isn’t possible in any of them. So, I’ll say it was the Redwoods, and that’s where we’ll begin.

I was ten, standing under the towering trees of red, that reached up so high into the sky that I was afraid I’d break my back trying to stare up. I never did see the tops of them. And the trees were wide, so large that cars could go through, so massive that I felt so insignificant, so tiny, so childlike. This was how I found the whismy that came from the freedom of nature. It was so powerful, and I was so small. It was so beautiful, and I knew that no matter what I ever tried to do or say, I would never be able to give the woods the justice that they deserved.

I would never be able to properly describe it.

We were hiking, or rather going for a walk, the nine of us (my family of five and Cyndy’s family of four). Our parents kept an eye on us, but they let us wander. Never get too far. If we can’t see them, then we need to go back. Always have a buddy, and for me that was Cyndy. Cyndy and I ran along the path, looking at the trees. Or maybe only I was running, whispering to them, for I’m pretty certain that at this time Cyndy thought I was strange, not that she doesn’t think I’m strange now, but that we are sisters now and back then we were only friends. (Sisters can think eachother are strange, but friends? That is a possible deal breakers. We’ve been through enough to no longer care.)

Cyndy chased after me, telling me I was going too far down the paths. We had picked on a way to go when the road forked and I wanted to go further. I did. Hurrying along, we came to a shop, in the center of an intersection of paths. It was not one of those pop-up shops, but a freestanding building, with a few other shops around it. Different and odd names, candy stores, books and maps, and the antique store that was two floors. It was this store that Cyndy and I went into.

What’s important to note about this, is that when we left the shop, keys in hand, joy on our lips in the form of laughter, we had fully intended to come back. We wanted to go to the candy store next door, but Cyndy and I did not believe we would receive anything for free as we had from the antique store. We had run to find our parents, them not particularly worried. We hadn’t been gone too long. What had felt like forever to us, had been no more than a minute or two. And when we led them to where we had seen the shops, they were gone. Our family told us we might have taken the wrong way, Cyndy and I knew better.

The shops were there. And then they weren’t. All that remained, for me, was a small golden key, to no real door, hanging around a black velvet string. A key that I still have. A key that has never opened a single door, and is constantly a peculiarity to me.

The antique shop was filled, like those book stores where the items tower high and in arcs, a maze of a mess, with no real direction through the madness. Mirrors of all shapes and sizes resting on the walls, with name plates under them or written on them of strange characters or places we had never heard of. And if you starred long enough into one, it was almost like you were starring into another world behind you.

There were paintings too, with time periods, no name or artist, of different people and places. There were door frames with no doors. Doors with no frame, leaning against the wall. Walls and walls of shelves, shelves in the middle of the room. Tables thrown about in every which way, laying on their side, their face, from the ceiling. Books that were all about, locked up tight behind glass or laid open on stacks atop the accessories in the room. Tea cups, postcards, record players. The longer one looked, the more one saw. Bird cages, pianos, metal objects, instruments, wind chimes. Vases, plants, bottles, clothes, hangers, clocks. And locks. There were so many locks. Locks on books, on doors, on door frames, on mirrors, hanging from the ceiling, lining the floor.

Locks.

And there was a staircase, that was narrow and tight, leading up to a second floor, beckoning us forward.

“Can I help you?” The only worker there was the man in white. He was dressed in a white button down, with a white mustache, and stark white hair, and black pants. He had a white apron and white gloves on, with black framed glasses and the whitest teeth we’d ever seen. He told us his name then, but neither Cyndy nor I remember it now. He was a young man, no more than twenty-five, but his eyes held wisdom of a person of more than a hundred, and neither of us knew how young he truly was until we talked about it later.

We told him we were just looking, and he showed us around the shop, to all the locks and mirrors and pictures and books. To the toys and clothes and desks and nooks. To the corners where we could crawl through tapestries, and the secret back room where the candy store kept their candy. The man in white led us through this shop for hours, telling us stories about all that we pointed out.

Then we went upstairs.

Upstairs was dark, it was not filled with the light of a hundred lamps, like the downstairs was. Nor was their sound, which until going to the second floor we had not realized that there was an ambience of light jazz music playing on the floor below. Upstairs was lit by glow in the dark bottles and potions, and paint that dusted the sides of the walls like constellations. With a flick of his wrist the man in white lit a candle that then let another and another until the room was glowing in the blue glow of the glow in the dark light and the soft amber of flame.

There were tables here, decorated in strange artifacts, however the table of note, and the one of importance, was the table of keys. It was not until we were leaving the upstairs that we had realized that the walls and floor were covered in keys, hidden behind painted glass, thousands of them. All different. On the table, however, there were only five set on thick black velvet.

The first key was silver, small, with a deer decorating the top of the key for the loop. It had three prongs, and odd runes that made strange words that the man in white could read.

The second was black, two prongs, big and heavy, made of iron, he said. The handle was too big for my hand, and the loop at the end was nothing special, until he waved a candle over it and it glowed from the inside.

The third was my key, the one I ended up taking. A gold key, larger than the first, much smaller than the second, three rivets in a row, with a loop at the end that was shaped almost like a heart with design that looked like leaves.

The fourth was silver again, but this time it had painted veins of blue that pulsated as it grew cold and dark around the key. It was large, but not too large, and was cut as a modern key was, despite looking so old.

The last was bronze, with a large loop at the end, of three circles wrapped around each other to form a globe, with a crystal hanging from the inside. The key blade itself was just a long rod, that looked like nothing more than a stick, until it was moved and one could see the indentations imbedded into the metal, creating grooves.

Each key had a task or a weight, something that had to be given to take.

The first was a promise, to give one that could never be taken back or broken or else. The second was of heat, of passion. Glory could be achieved but would it be worth it? The fourth was for stability, a million worlds could be reached, but no true home would be found. The fifth was a soul, whose, the man in white would not say.

The third was “you will know.”

I still do not know.

“Take a key, or leave. You don’t have to take one. But you can.”

“Can we both take one?” We had asked.

“You may.”

I took the third key of gold and Cyndy took the first key of silver, promising never to lose it. She last saw the key when she was twelve, under her bed, not where she had left it, and then she never saw it again. I am not sure what she gave to lose it, or what she lost when she lost it. Was it the chance at opening doors? I will never know.

The man had told us not to worry about paying, for payment was already made and then we ran downstairs, and away, the man in white waving at us from the counter. A beautiful man.

It was only upon looking back, when much older, that Cyndy and I realized just how strange and wrong it all had been. We could have been lost forever. We could have been hurt. And despite having full faith in the man in white, the shop was just so strange, so unreal, so magical that both of us chose to ignore it existed, disregarding the fact that I still had my key and no logical answer could be given to how I got it. My parents didn’t remember buying it for me. I had never gotten it as a gift. And thus we were stuck realizing that the two of us in our naive world had wandered onto something unfathomable, and unreachable ever again.

When I was seventeen, Cyndy and I were out shopping when we both stopped. There across the busy shopping center we both swore we saw him, but when we chased him to ask, we found ourselves not only wandering back from where we had come, but certain we had not saw him at all. I believe this too was his magic.

When I met Cynthia in the seventh grade, she had said some strange things to me. Of note was one strange man in all black that she had met once at her aunts house who had come to get a key from her aunt, with sharp white teeth, getting the key from an attic long locked. Her aunt had died a few months later, in a mysterious fire that started in the same room. Apparently no one had ever opened a door, so she never did know if he had gotten the key. It was this same strange man that the two of us swore we saw on the bus one day when it was stopped at a light, starring at us from a gas station parking lot waving.

That was when Cynthia had seen my gold key and asked me what it was worth and to which I replied: “I do not know.” I still do not know.

There are strange things surrounding the Cynthias and I, very strange things that I can not place. But this key, I have never lost, despite trying to. I have always remembered. And somehow for some reason, I feel like it is as a part of me as I am to it.

And I am still waiting for the door, the door that I might be able to use this key on. I have not found it yet, not for lack of trying. But I know that when I do, that is when I’ll know what it costs.


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Of the Shadows {RW}

Of the Shadows {RW}

One breath. Two.

She slipped through the alley, masking her footsteps to match the bustling noise of the nightlife and the pitter patter of the rain. Light footsteps hiding her actions, in order to disguise her and make her disappear. The night was busy with cars and honking, letting her sound drift away as her body shimmered out of sight with the flickering of the nights.

Two breaths. Three.

Street lights, like all lights, created a circle. It was the halo of protection from beings like her. Those who lived in it, would not — could not– be touched by her. Cities such as these were a killer to her kind. However, the brightest cities had the darkest corners.

Three breaths. Four.

She had lived for long enough, been burned enough, to know how to avoid the lights, to skip around them in a dance as she moved about the world to capture her prey that was lying in wait. Hood over her head, she walked with a sucker in her mouth, humming to herself as she stepped closer.

Four breaths. Five.

The man was cowering and tumbling to the ground. She could smell the stench of sweat and piss dripping down his leg to a puddle on the ground. Then there was the blood. That was what really drew her. She would never lose him as long as his leg bled the way that it did.

Five breaths. Six.

The shadows were tossing about around her, hungry. They were so hungry. Their last meal had not been long, but the shadows were greedy, and that made her ruthless. She aimed to only go after scum. Those who hurt their partners, murderers, and hurt children. She had a set of morals that most of her people found painful. The light-dwellers were not their own. Thus, they were like any other form of live stock. Good or bad live stock? Such things were negligible.

Six breaths. Seven.

She still cared anyway.

Seven breaths. Eight.

She stood over the man, as he panicked and had hit a wall. He starred up at her, fear rampant in his eyes, as the lights around her flicked until they dimmed. They could not go out, as that would draw notice, but dimming was okay.

Eight breaths.

“Monster.” He called her. As if she hadn’t heard that one before. He was not the talkative type. Nor the fighter type. He was already resigned to his death, and this final statement was nothing more than a cry for help.

Hand out, the shadows devoured the man, leaving her basking in the cool wind of the night as her power returned from her, leaving nothing behind on the floor before her.

“What are you?” she heard from behind her.

She turned to find another girl standing in the light. Not one of her kind. She gave a name not an identity. “Emily.”

“Emily?” The girl in the light, furrowed her eyebrows. “What are you?”

“Its standard practice to give a name in response.” Her shadows filtered about her, condensing and retreating into the darkness.

“What are you?”

With a sigh, Emily was her name now, glared at the woman. “Not a vampire, if you’re wondering.”

“Obviously.”

“Leave.”

“Aren’t you–“

“Vampires are nicer than we are. Leave.” She took out the sucker stick in her mouth and dropped it to the ground stepping on it. The woman did not budge. Groaning to herself, she weaved her shadows to the back of the alleyway, and turned herself to leave. Her shadows consumed the alleyway, as she pulled out another lollipop and started walking towards the other exit. The screams sounded around her as she moved further and away, the muffled cries resonating in her as she moved.

Innocent blood tasted different than tainted blood. She felt it on her tongue as her shadows consumed the woman, and forced herself to eat more candy. The candy had to be more important than the lovely taste that came from the woman’s soul. She needed to keep her mind about her.

Skip in her step, she placed her hood lower, and put her hands in her pocket, walking out in to the light. Her shadows condensed around her and into her hood to protect her from the remaining street lights that she could almost walk under.


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Yule Tide Short Story {RW}

Yule Tide Short Story {RW}

The crisp air was scented in cinnamon and roasted chestnuts. The light flurry of falling snow, dusted surfaces that had been cleaned a few hours ago, silver metal becoming cooler to the touch with each passing second. It was the season of ice once more. Solstice had come and Midwinter was upon us. Today was the night that the feasting would begin, the sacrifices would begin, the celebrations would fester.

I breathed out deeply, trying to contain my excitement. My breath slipped out into the air, hot, visible, thick. Rubbing my hands together I let myself simmer in the upcoming festivities. The air stirred above us beckoning us to its grasp. The clouds were dark and spinning, the moon lighting the sky and peaking through when the clouds so wished.

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Shelf-Life Hero (Part 2) [RW10]

Shelf-Life Hero (Part 2) [RW10]

It was raining. Again. Which was not to say that she hated rain, but that it was frustrating conditions to go through when she already had an arm injury that ached from the rain and made her curse the storms.

She’d been injured the first time, on the inside of her forearm, while maneuvering through a course in the rain. She’d been injured, once again on the same arm but the backside, in capture the flag, where she’d saved the flag from drowning in the river. She’d thought herself fine at the time, a few stitches, maybe some healing ointment, and it would be fine.

It was not fine.

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Shelf-Life Hero (Part 1) [RW09]

Shelf-Life Hero (Part 1) [RW09]

It’s hard to imagine a world without heroes.

Throughout all of human history heroes have existed. To vanquish gods and demons alike. To save the collapse of cities. To rise and to fall. They have existed. Forever. In every country. Across the world. Heroes.

And like all heroes there are villains. Villains of such power and magnitude that it took a dozen heroes to take the villain down. Villains whose name strike fear into the hearts of all those who exist today.

In modern society, we know these villains and heroes, throughout all of history, to be derived from twenty mystical powers bestowed to humanity. Of the twenty that were said to have existed, only eighteen remain intact.

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A Tale of Sea Songs [RW08]

A Tale of Sea Songs [RW08]

A soft murmur of voices cascaded through the tavern. Another person dead, last week, from what he could tell. A traveler from a distant place this time. Still, no closer to killing the beasts in the waters off the shore of the village. Still, no closer to saving the town from ruin. Many hunters were in the tavern, hoping to slay the beast. The glory, however, could only go to one of them.

“Are you going to stay, sir?” A small girl, no more than ten asked him. She was a pale thing, scrawny, and dressed in tatters. But there was a beauty to her that would come into fruition as she grew older.

“Yes, a room for one please.” He answered her.

“For a night or forever?” She asked with a tilt of her head and a small smile. From across the tavern he could see the tavern keeper, a beauty to behold in these parts. It was a wonder how some great noble lord had not swept her off her feet and carried her back to his castle. The woman must have been a cunning one, sweet words and bitter lies. A mother teaching this girl to con people with doe eyes.

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Fairy Reverse Story [RW07]

Fairy Reverse Story [RW07]

The day was for monsters. The sun was for the beings that crashed through the forests, and controlled the waters. They thrived in the light, and used fire for protection and destruction. They were children of the heat, and inhibitors of the world. Their children, copious. Their actions, malicious. Their ignorance, incredible.

And the day was theirs.

There was a time, the elders told us,  in which we traveled upon the earth in the day. When we did not have to fight for our lives, and cower in abandoned corners of the world. A time when our people sang bright songs, and guided the monsters. We had thought the monsters incapable of harm, like a child. We had believed them of us, but other in a way. Their otherness was far more than we expected.

And the day was theirs.

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Quake [RW06]

Quake [RW06]

Car lights moved across the glass, refracting into the room and causing shadows to dance across the walls. Thunder rumbled as the sky was lit up once again in a flash of blue that did not belong to a car, lightning? Christopher sat with his back in a corner, breathing deeply. It was becoming increasingly hard for him to breathe as he pulled his knees closer into his chest. The nightmare had been a recurring one: clowns, smiles, guns, screams, and blood. He didn’t want to go to his parents. they didn’t know that he had watched the babysitter’s movie from the shadows of the staircase.

The house creaked. Old houses always made sounds. It was the way they breathed, his father told him. He didn’t like thinking that the house needed to breathe. The house wasn’t alive, or at least he hoped so (he’d seen a movie about a living house once). The house whispered out as if someone was walking through the halls. He knew that it was childish of him to even believe that someone was in his house. His parents had a security system, the best around. No one could break – there was the distinct sound of footsteps. The footsteps were heavy, much like his father’s before morning coffee. Christopher focused on the crack along the door frame, trying to decipher the shape of the changing shadow on the other side of the door. Car lights moved outside, causing the door to glow intensely. Then they bled, and shook, rattling and cascading lighting the world in fire. His entire world was shaking. The fans, the lights, his bed, his world, and he knew it was himself. HIs entire body was jittery as he tried to sit still, silent, hiding.

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The Romeo and Juliet Murders {RW05}

Murder-Suicide. That was the official rumor as to how the Darlings of the city had died. A lavish love affair turned sordid, only no one knew who killed the other. It was one thing for the daughter of a CEO to die suddenly, to be found a few days later dead by bleeding out. It was another to find her dead twice, with the young upstart in the world of business, son of their rival company. Traces of poison were on her lips as well in the system of her lover. It was his knife, but he died from poison. She died from a knife wound (this time, she was dead for sure).

Yet, no one knew who died when. Or why her cousin was dead as well. Or why… well, a lot of people died when connected to the two families. They weren’t exactly on the same side. They held the city in the palm of their hand like the territory they lived on were castles, and all the land they could see was their kingdom. Lots of people had died with connections to the two families, in recent months. Some even said that the two had planned to fake their deaths and were killed by a third, making it a double homicide. All Jules knew was that it could not be this easy.

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Something of a Dream [RW04]

Something of a Dream [RW04]

She awoke as she always did, naked and next to the body of some man who had been far more attractive when she was drunk than when she was sober. The room smelt thick of cigarettes and the memory of smoke that was etched into the walls and carpets from years of filling the room with smoke so thick one could not see. Plucking the glasses — sharp, cat eyed, and thick rimmed — from the bed side table, she slid her feet from the warmth of the body next to her and to the floor where her slippers lay waiting. 

From the covers she flew, discarding them in her wake, uncaring for the body of the man who had no more business remaining in her house. She took three steps before she was searching for her robe. Turning back to her bed, her side was neatly tucked into the bed and a silken robe lay atop it. Snatching it, she haphazardly threw it around her body and rounded the room divider of her studio loft. Her kitchenette was chilled and unused that morning, other than the steaming hot cup of coffee waiting for her in one of her favorite mugs. 

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