Lost

I am searching for something. I can’t remember what it is exactly other than that it’s something I’ve lost. Perhaps you might help me find it. You see I need it for something important, though I’m not sure exactly what.

I wonder, memory being like it is, if I ever actually had it. I feel I must have once, because I have memories of times that seem like I had it. Strange that I can’t remember where or how I lost it.

I think I had it very early in life, but the harder I try to remember the less I seem to conjure up. I’ve seen pictures that looked like I had it, but it might be that it’s different when you’re that age. Most thing’s tend to be.

When I was older I remember times I had it, but other memories seem like I didn’t. I’ve always been a forgetful sort, so maybe having lost it now isn’t quite that strange. There were a few times I had it, but more times I think I didn’t. I wish I coud be more helpful, but it’s all just so damn vague.

I remember I had it when I met my girlfriend, or maybe she gave it to me. Wouldn’t that just make it even worse? You probably think pretty poorly of me by now, I expect. I suppose it’s possible that I didn’t lose it, but instead someone stole or broke it. Now I think of it, my girlfriend’s broke. It was partly my fault it did, but I think it’s been fixed again.

I had it back then. I think. And I know I had it for a while. People would tell me nice things about it, and I was proud of it. It wasn’t the best, but it was mine. But somewhere along the line it changed, or maybe I did. My memories of it were different, at least. I can’t, for the life of me, remember why. I didn’t keep it with me as often, or it just got old and worn down, or I’m just not remembering things right. It’s so frustrating, like trying to recognise someone through heavy fog. One day I had it, one day it was different, and then it was gone or broken.

Something must have gone wrong, I recall a lot of people stopped having theirs around then. Could have been an issue with the manufacturers, not that I know who made them. That’d at least make it easier to get a new one if mine is gone for good. That’s saying nothing about the cost however. They say money won’t buy you happiness, but I’ll be damned if not having to think about money wouldn’t make me happier. Same’s probably true for you, I suspect.

You know, maybe I do still have it lying around somewhere. Talking it through with you, I think it did break for a while. But I think I remember having it again since then, different somehow but there. Perhaps it’s laying in draw somewhere filled with old hand-me-down and used phone cases. Something about that rings a bell. Yes, I think I’ll look again.

I hope I can find it, it’s going to be important soon. I’m sorry my description hasn’t been too clear or helpful, but you’ve helped just by listening it seems no-one else has the time to, and if you’ve any ideas that’s mighty fine.


A short, relatively pointless bit of writing. Been too sick and unhappy to want to want to continue the main story this past week. I’m not sure if anyone reads these, but if you do, thank you. I hope you found some enjoyment in my writing and Blood and Lies / Vicissitudes in the Dark Woods will be continuing, I promise.

– Zairron

Dead Words

The page bends, then crumples, breaking shape and losing form between my palms. Boiling beyond reason, it’s kept hidden from sight behind my mask.

I’m tired, worn down by the effort. Time after time, it ends the same way. With an empty pool, filled only with limitless potential, desecrated when I pour myself into it and my still water becomes stagnant.
Keep your pen moving, before it creates a dark puddle of ink. Create, or you will die. Whether you think before, during, or after, every word committed to the page is the death of infinite others. How can I write when all I am doing is killing stories?

I flatten the page on my desk. Alex is watching me from the corner of his eye, I wonder what thoughts he hasn’t voiced. The air conditioned breeze caresses the back of my palms, raising my flesh as a carpet of bumps chase the shivers to my heart.
Looking down at my page, the creases where it buckled under the pressure make it ugly, but give it character. I like it more now, it’s less forbidding. But I still hate what I’ve written, not what I wanted it to be, the words are too… pretentious, vulgar, vague, blunt, flowery, bland.
Do I start again? Or keep this going. They say the artist is their harshest critic, but perhaps this is just bad. I can hear Alex’s pen scratch the page, he’s a good write, maybe not a great write. I wonder what he’s writing about, maybe he hates his story as much as I hate mine. Probably not, Alex never gives a shit about his writing, when he writes a terrible story it becomes a joke he can laugh at. Not that many of his stories are terrible, you have to envy that confidence.

I look up at the clock, twenty minutes left. The glacial drooping of the hour hand, the clock might be melting as its pulled towards the three. I imagine time flying past the frozen clock, the pain peeling and crumbling away. The wood aging, being overrun by plants and the shifting seasons.

A flurry of scratches behind me, Maria’s found something. Dependable Maria, I might not worry so much about not finishing if she’d missed a single deadline herself. That line about puddles of ink, that’s what she told me when I asked how she did it.
Just write, the rest will work itself out. You’ll find what you’re looking for on the page after you’ve written it out. I suppose it’s just that easy for her. She is a good writer, I wish I could write like her, pour a story onto the page like a flurry of blows. She’s like a lion tamer, making language obey and perform for her.
Whatever she’s writing, I can’t wait to read it. I really liked her last one.

My page is still blank. The blue guiding lines and creased depressions conjure the image of a living thing, an old thing with thick blue veins running beneath the skin. The words I’ve already like regrets branded to it’s flesh.
Perhaps a story about an old thing, something weary and broken. I think I could channel the feeling of tired, despair at this stage. But what would the story be about? If I just vomit words, where does the meaning come from? Art should have meaning.

Art.

That a bit lofty. Don’t get ahead of yourself, just because they put a toilet in a museum. They’ll never write Harry Potter on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, after all. Imagine, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at eighteen.
I look around the classroom for Mary Shelley. I mean, it’s possible. I forgot to pack my own lunch this morning. That’s probably why I can’t think of anything to write, I slept badly and I’m hungry.

Not that I can ever finish a story when I’m not starving, though.

Not much longer now, little less than ten minutes. What have I been doing all this time? Half a paragraph that hasn’t committed to anything. I guess I kind of like that though, it could still be anything.
An epic Fantasy adventure, or a gritty dystopian sci-fi, I could go realistic and write a story about a kid in school struggling with real issues, or take that same kid into a thrilling murder mystery. When I close my eyes I can see how each of those stories goes, it’s beautiful to watch as every possibility curls out and blooms into something incredible. It’s my favourite part about writing.

The bit right before you write anything.

That’s it, I’m going to write something. The bell rings. My heart skips a beat, and I spit out a couple of thoughts onto the page and pack away my stuff. I’m the last to leave as the suns warm glow shines in through the window, I stop to look out.
The bittersweet image spirals into a picture in my head. I don’t know what the picture is of, but I’m sure it’ll make a great story. I’m excited now, I’m sure I’ll be able to write it down as soon as I get home.

At least, after I’ve had something to eat.


A short one about frustrations while making something, the feelings that others have it more together than you, and that nothing comes out right. While in this, it’s a creative writing exercise during school, I think it works for any kind of story, assignment, or work.

Hope you enjoy it,
Zairron

Featured Art Credit:
https://www.deviantart.com/art/Classroom-492900650

Back Again

“Thank you,” it submerged his hands into the bowl of warm water before it. His hands trembled as he washed the grime from his skin. It’s focus was turned inwards, devoted to the task with ritualistic solemnity.

It was so much like him.

I couldn’t see him. It washed itself, and I stared at the ghostly blue glow of the early evening sky and found my mind was even more distant. The light was fading but we had an hour before it was entirely black. I set myself adrift in the dreamlike vibe, the coolness of the air and the the subdued sounds of nature carried me away from the situation I had found myself in.

It was peaceful.

“Umm, excuse me?” hearing Jannklan’s cherished voice tore me from the serene place. For a moment, I thought he was back.
Where he should have been, his changeling filled the space. The same hair, teeth, eyes… everything the way they had been when he was alive. Of course it was impossible for him to be here, I decided I must have gone made.
On reflex I accepted the bowl, filthy towel where the water had previously been but I couldn’t even think to do anything with it.
“Are you okay?” it asked.

“Jannklan?” I whispered at last, knowing it couldn’t be him, but unable to say anything else.

It looked at me, twisting Jannklan’s face into an expression of confusion that didn’t match his. Mocking me by being so much like him, but at once so alien, he spoke, “I’m sorry, I don’t know that name.”

My eyes burned as my tears welled up and burst forth, running streaming lines down my cheek. I wept with neither dignity nor grace, the confirmation hurt all the more despite the fact I already knew.
My reaction startled it, it… he reacted as most would when witnessing a stranger bursting into unprovoked tears and froze, stuck between the desire to help and to escape. Kindness won out in the end, he took the bowl from my hands and guided me into the house and a seat by the table.  Perhaps a part of me still believed it was him, for I trusted it and let it guide me while I took refuge deep inside myself, a dimly glowing mote of myself.
It stoked the fire and brought me tea. It sat with me until I crawled out from the hole I had dug inside my chest and looked at it. It smiled, but not with Jannklan’s smile. That hurt, but I think it also helped.

“I am sorry,” my voice cracked. I washed my face, while I was in the darkness it had brought me the bowl I had given him with fresh water and a clean towel. “You look just like someone dear to me. He died.”

The fire roared, but could not keep the cold entirely at bay. An involuntary shiver invaded me, but I ignored the discomfort. This was more important to me.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” his tone was quiet and low, “And for reminding you of him.”

I shook my head, and placed a reassuring hand on his arm. It felt easier to comfort than it is to be comforted, “It’s not your fault you look like him.”

For what feels like minutes, we sat in awkward silence, neither of us able to speak. I close my eyes and remember the day I buried Jannklan, I watch as they lowered him into the grave, as the priest spoke and as the people left.
Drawing reassurance from the memory, I felt the strength to ask, “What’s your name?”

The question seemed to strike him. His face ran a gamut of emotions, so transparent I knew his answer before he said it, “I don’t remember.”

“It seems strange now that I think of it, but I didn’t realise until you asked me. When I think back, I remember seeing you in the forest and deciding to ask you for help because I was so dirty. Other than that, I don’t remember a single thing.”

This was too cruel. Just like in the stories my father used to tell, spectres of the lost returning from beyond like solid ghosts of the past. Wearing the bodies of the dead and the lost with none of the essence that made them who they once were. For me to have Jannklan come back to me like that, straight out of fairy story.

It was simply far too cruel.

“You can stay here for tonight, tomorrow we’ll think about what to do with you.”

He slept where Jannklan used to, I had no spare bed and the winter cold was too unforgiving not to. Having him beside me, even if it was only his body, was bittersweet. Sometimes it’s nice just to have someone, even if it isn’t who you wish it was. Whether this changeling was him, back from the dead, or something else entirely, I didn’t waste my time thinking about it.


Hey,

Sorry for the long time between stories, here’s a short snippet as I try and worm my way back into the habit.

Hope you enjoy it,
Zairron

Hatred

This story is open to some interpretation. I’ve attempted to leave it open as to whether it is Fantasy, Sci-Fi or Psychological, with a couple possible endings.

If you like short storieshorror, cyberpunk, fantasy or fantasypunk, I have plenty of stories you might be interested in checking out.

Hope you enjoy it,
– Zairron


Stepping determinedly over the patches of burning embers smoking at the front of the building, Konstantin approaches the ruined building, nudging the door unsteadily hanging on its broken hinges open revealing the building’s charred innards.
Within, the burnt out corpse of his childhood home awaits him. Kunigunde, he decides immediately, unwilling to consider any other possibility. It is silent but for the strained groans of the desiccated supports, no-one would interrupt his investigation until it was too late.

Entering cautiously, he is wary of the risk of imminent structural collapse but resolute in his need for answers. Blackened and charred, the walls have been weakened but unbroken by the fires touch. What remains can hardly be recognised for what it once was. The moment he passes the threshold he can feel the extreme fear and agony underpinned with pure malicious hatred that lingers.
His throat burns with every breath of the hot air, lingering smoke coils lazily within his nostrils and rests there. Hidden within the powerful smells, another is present. A too familiar mixture of scents tell a grotesque story. Like meat and fat burnt on charcoal, it is suffused with the sulphurous stench of burnt hair mingling with strange traces of coppery, metallic components, and sweet, musky perfumes. Unmistakable, the fire had trapped someone inside. He has no doubt that this had been the goal of the fire.
Idiot and Coward that he is, even Konstantin knows better than to ignore the torment that haunts this place.

Quickly surveying the debris he finds the two unrecognisable burnt bodies, a man and woman. Sascha and Lena, his assumption, the kind folk who had raised them. He didn’t cry for them, he had run out of tears long ago, but he ached, their suffering clear.
They had been protected, of course, but it had moved past times when such attempts might have worked. Placing his hand lightly on his chest as if to support the weight of the delicate chain hung from his neck, perhaps feeling his guilt added to its burden.
He prays they can forgive him for how he used them, Sascha and Lena were far from perfect, but he cannot believe they had deserved this. He whispers that tired mantra to himself again, “It is necessary.”

Drawing a small, clear glass bottle from his pocket, he removes the cap and covering the opening with his thumb, upends the bottle. Whispering a prayer he touches the cool water on his thumb to the foreheads of corpses, with the gentle offering the tormentous atmosphere gradually settles and fades, leaving only the distant hostility.
Rising slowly to his feet, brushing absently at the ashes on his knees, only succeeding in spreading them. Sweat mingles with the soot, creating a cloying layer of filth upon his exposed flesh. He hardly notices however, his focus fully on finding something he had hidden years earlier.
His focus suffers in the heat and smoke, sapping at his energy and leaving him dizzy. Closing his eyes, he conjures an image of his sisters to mind, remembering the last time they had been here together, the location of the lock comes eventually to him. Drained and invigorated simultaneously, he feels his guts twist and shock with cold, but continues to move towards the place they had hidden it.
Hidden inside the crawlspace, the doorway down to the secret place was locked by a special lock. Around his neck hung his copy of the key he shared with Maja’s, they had sworn never to open the door, but repeating his mantra again he placed the key in the lock, turning it is met with an audible click.
Raising his hands, palms face down, he whispers the words that open the second lock.

“It is necessary”

He feels the second click which carries no physical sound, accepting the key phrase. The secret place now opened for what should be the first time in years, his determination falters momentarily.
He battled with his choice in the final hour, before turning back would no longer be an option. They locked the door for a reason, his thoughts so obvious he may as well have spoken them aloud, Maja had understood the danger, she had convinced him to lock the door and  now it was her absence that had driven him to return. He could either trust in Maja and walk away, or press on and take responsibility. Deep down Konstantin is a coward, he had already broken his promise by opening the door and this is why, in the end, he came to join me in the darkness.

***

Within the secret place proper, the door slams closed behind him. I can feel his terror rise. A pure, animalistic panic overwhelms him as he struggles with the door, screaming and pounding on it with everything he has. For a moment I savour his reaction, I understand the futility of his struggles better than anyone, the door will not open.

“Welcome home brother,” he freezes, the touch of my voice almost having been forgotten, “I missed you.”

Filling with dread he turns back towards me, the fear he feels for me somehow even greater than of being trapped here forever. His relief palpable at the sight of my restraints.
Idly I wonder if he can feel my emotions as clearly as I can feel his. In him fear, uncertainty and guilt rule, but I am calm. Whether he understands or not, soon it will become clear.

“Where is Maja?”

“Not here, brother,” I answer, as soft and soothing as a snake.

“But you know.”

It wasn’t a question. If I could, I would have smiled, “How could I? I am trapped here, you and her made certain of that.”

“Don’t lie to me, Kunigunde.”

I remain silent, he knows I cannot lie to them, less deny them. Not restrained as I am. He still believes I started the fire. Even now, with me as I am, he fears me.

I hate him for that.

“How-”

“I didn’t.”

Poor fool. He knows I cannot lie, he knows I cannot leave, he knows I did both. I don’t care to follow at his pace, so I continue.

“Why did you and Maja lock me down here, brother?”

Confusion. He never needed to be smart, Maja liked him better that way.

“You were dangerous!” he exclaims, truly believing it, “The things you did to that boy…”

I remain silent as he pauses, expecting me to speak. He needs no further guidance.

“God, do you think it makes me happy to keep you here? What choice did we have? You were stronger than us, you did horrible things. When Maja told me what you’d done, I could hardly believe it.”

“Why did you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why did you believe her and not me?”

He has no answer. He’d always feared what we could do, and feared me because I hadn’t. When Maja told him I was evil, he had been all too willing to believe her. Together they ambushed and trapped me here.
Hot rage fills me. Because he was too much of a coward to even face me, I had been trapped in this purgatory for years. I loathed him.
But we were together not. Brother and sister, trapped for eternity in the dark. He looks at me like I am insane, perhaps he can feel my emotions. My glee must seem like madnes to him, but he has never hated someone like I have. In time, I think he will.

 

Give Me Your Soul… Please (pt. 3)

The third and final part of my homage to Give Me Your Soul… Please, by King Diamond. The album tells a story of a haunted house, below is my take on the fantastic album. With an ending adjusted to fit the medium.

My deepest apologies for the break between my last update and this, I’ve been unable to write for a little while but now I should be able to jump back into it.

If you’re interested in following my posts for this challenge you can find more here. If Cyberpunk is more your thing check out this story. Otherwise I have two Fantasy series you can start here or here.

Hope you enjoy it,
– Zairron


The bloody veil shrouding the picture is torn asunder, revealing a merry tableau of two children playing; a girl and boy in a bright and lively room that is otherwise much alike in form to the one the man had been spirited from. Their innocent joy is clear at a glance. Their light hair shines like the sun and grants them a cherubic air of heavenly grace. In the air of this cold, dead place, his breath mists and hangs still in front of his face. The man is struck by the starkness of the happy scene against the terrible surrounding darkness.
Behind him the loud slam of a door opening violently prompts him to spin. Another larger picture hangs in the air, still wreathed in bloody red, the happy lighting in the room has been replaced with ominous shadows. Framed within the light of an open door the silhouette of Daddy intercepts the light entering the room, an axe visibly held in his hand as the children cower in the fore. A brutal yell explodes the stillness of the image. The picture becomes a slice of life performed in front of the mans awe struck eyes, the deep red of the pictures frame seeming to become deeply sanguine curtains.
Daddy steps into the silhouette, becoming his shadow. Dark eyed and tired, spittle flies from his mouth as he continues the insensible tirade that had broken the image. Cold eyes devoid of the fire in his words, within their dark pits only madness resides. In a swift, ugly motion, the axe is brought down and buried in the skull of the boy.

“No!” a young boys shrill voice cries out behind the man, continuing as he turns face their source, “It’s a mistake!”

The boy is knelt in the centre of the room, lit within a circle of light, before him in the glowing red shadows loom thirteen ephemeral judges. In perfect haunting unison they chant, “Suicide is what you are, you’re going down to Hell”

The young girls scream spins him back to face the previous scene. The scream is cut abruptly short as Daddy wraps his rough hands around her tiny throat. The bloody mess left by brother death covers her face as it changes from pale to blue. The curtains of blood are drawing in upon the scene.
Abandons her body as he stands, Daddy turns his back on the horrified observer. Barely visible the moment before the curtains close, a quiet click can be heard before the back of his skull explodes in bloody gore.

Flinching and hiding his eyes from the sudden explosion, when he opens his eyes the man finds himself back on the floor in the hall.
Scrambling to his feet, he looks himself over. No blood. Looking behind him, the cellar door is closed. His candle is lit by his feet, hadn’t he lost that fleeing the cellar? Could it all have been some kind of dream? I cannot stand this darkness,  he thinks, If candles are all I have I shall light them everywhere.
From room to room he works, spreading candles through the house to banish evil darkness. The furnace like heat that had plagued him in his flight through the house before now gone. Cold as the grave, shivering and exhausted he climbs the stairs. Filling his room with candles he seeks the refuge of his bed, drawing blankets thickly around him in a futile effort to ward off the cold he can feel his breathing grow shallow and weak. The temperature should be impossible, for it is summer time. All around him the shadows dance seemingly independent of the dictates of the light. As if afforded life of their own.
As the teeth of the cold sink into his heart through the blankets, he closes his eyes and drifts into sleep. What nightmares plague his waking mind can be no worse in sleep.

If I am to die, the thought ignites like a flame in his mind filling him with the sharp warmth of fatal conviction, I shall face my fate with my eyes open.

Fighting to his feet, casting off the blankets and lighting his last candle from the dying remains of one of the few that had survived the demonic shadows dance. Lifting black hat to his head and cane in hand, he strides with purpose from the room he had hidden himself within to confront the spectre as it assails him.
He finds her within the attic, staring from the window at the full moon. Turning her tragic dead face towards him, shadowed with the light behind her she stares at him expectantly.

“Do not be afraid there won’t be any pain, I… Need your soul”

Understanding now. The Judges of the afterlife had somehow mistaken her brother’s murder and their daddy’s suicide. Found falsely guilty of the mortal sin of suicide, the boy was damned to hell. Without another soul to take his place, he would be consigned to eternal torment.
The man feels deeply for the girl. His heart is not of stone, but with this new knowledge he now knows the futility of her request. Kneeling before the spectre girl, he takes he hand in his, feeling the dampness of brothers blood upon them.

“No, no, no…” he whispers, eyes distant as he remembers a life well lived, “My soul is no good. All I have done… My soul is full of sin!”

The girls searching eyes fix him, he can feel them peering deep through him, into him; settling on his soul they see the truth in his words. Black as devils words, unfit for salvation the mans soul cannot save her brother now.
Despair takes wicked root in the heart of the ghost child. Having come so far, from beyond the veil of death for her brother only to fail here. Thick, salty, tears form in her eyes and run down her cheek to fall and crash around her as she sobs, “I’ve let my brother down, down to hell he must go.”

From deep within the silent depths of the house, the steady ticking of the clock can be heard.

“No,” the sin filled man whispers, “How did you find me here?”

In confusion her tears stalls, as she stares at him curiously she answers, “This house is where we were killed. You touched our story so I could come to you.”

“Touched your story?” he muses, a wicked glimmer of an idea glints in his eye, “Would hearing your story count?”

With a timid nod she confirms his plan. We thank you for touching the story of a poor damned child. There is only one more thing to ask of you, Give me your soul… Please?

Beyond the Baepu Mountains

Today’s story is a short story inspired by works of found footage horror films and mysterious depressing horrors settings like in Attack on Titan.  ‘Short Scary Story – Halloween Horror Challenge’ where I’ll be uploading an original horror story every day.

If you enjoy horror stories you can find more of mine here.

Hope you enjoy it,
– Zairron


The following is from the Diary of Lieutenant Colonel Luna Green, discovered abandoned along the trade road by the First Efwir Expeditionary Force.

***

My name is Luna Green, I’m the leading medical officer in charge of the investigative expedition into Efwir. Three months ago merchants travelling East along the established trade routes reported that after crossing the Baepu Mountains, there was no sign of any human settlement in the area. The merchants who travelled the furthest in Efwir claim that the first three settlements one encounters were entirely empty, with the structures entirely untouched by any sign of violence or indication for the desertion.
War with Efwir has been a constant fixture in our nations history, which is why it took so long for action to be taken. In the end it was the independent authority of The Most Honourable Marchioness Penelope that authorised the  specialist unit of surveyors and investigators under my command to be dispatched, along with an escort of Cavalry Scout’s under the command of Lieutenant Victoria Lewis to cross the border. Together we were tasked with investigating the situation beyond our borders and if possible determine it’s cause. The current treaty with Efwir prohibited military actions by either nation beyond their borders for any purpose. As a precaution we as well as our escort were lightly armed and armoured to favour mobility over combat strength. Our mission was officially disavowed in the case of capture. The moment we crossed the border we were on our own.

Today marks the beginning of the second day since we entered Efwir. We had moved swiftly crossing the mountain pass and descending into the valley. Just as the merchants had claimed there were no patrols guarding the border and the first town we encountered on our way was completely devoid of life. We stopped overnight in the town, my people quickly determined from decaying organic matter and the state of upkeep about the town that there had been no human presence here for anywhere from the three months reported by merchants to a year. There was, however, no evidence to support any theories as to the cause of the state. Whether due to the passage of time or the cause of desertion also remained a mystery.
The mood among the men is tense. There had been some debate as to whether we should have remained in town over the night, Lt. Lewis had convinced me of the benefits of remaining in case of signs overnight. Many of the troops were superstitious about sleeping in the homes of vanished people, a camp was pitched at the edge of the town for those who preferred to avoid the homes, mostly utilised by our escort as my soldiers are more scientific minded. The night passed without incident or change. There was some superstitious talk among the troops, but held no basis in reality.
This morning our objective is the second village along the trade road, two hours ride to the north of here. I expect, from the merchant reports, that we shall not discover any new evidence until we pass deeper into Efwir. The first major settlement is a full days ride along the trade road when taken without distraction, we have planned to make it there in three more days, leaving time for stealth and to properly investigate the settlements along the way.

***

Yesterday we arrived in the second settlement in Efwir. A smaller village than the town we investigated yesterday, all evidence has remained consistent with what was found before. The only piece of new information we found was along the road between the first two settlements one of the members of our escort reported spotting someone moving in the wood to the south.
A squad was sent on foot to investigate and retrieve the survivor, a young woman of roughly mid adolescence. She has been assigned to Captain Hannah Clarke to monitor. Other than being slight malnourished she seems in relatively healthy condition. So far she has remained unresponsive, seemingly traumatised by some experience. She responded to the sight of the village with heightened anxiety, necessitating a sedative to prevent injury before we could bring her within. Cpt. Clarke is confident that she will recover from her trauma soon and be able to share what happened here.
Again we will be remaining overnight within the village and making for the settlement to the east in the morning. Lt. Lewis has expressed growing sense of unease among the soldiers, not a cause for concern but worth noting. Though it wounds my scientific pride, I am forced to admit that I am beginning to share the feeling. Since crossing the border the silence that has accompanied us is unnatural.

***

Cpt. Clarke is dead. During the night we suffered significant casualties. Lt. Lewis was the first to discover Clarke and the survivor missing. During the search fully half of the soldiers sent to search for them failed to return, those who did reported no sign of anything save for a sense of being watched.
I am loath to end our investigation so prematurely, but I cannot in good conscience ask the people under my command to continue in the face of this unknown and threat. We remained in the village for the remainder of the night with watch doubled, no further casualties were taken during the night.
We have left to return home the moment the sun rose. I am writing this as we approach the first town we encountered in Efwir. I have deferred command to Lt. Lewis for her superior combat experience. In case we do not make it back, I record my findings here with the hope that my diary is found by future expeditions.

Some unknown calamity has befallen Efwir. As a result the vast majority of life has vanished. Not only human life, but wildlife as well. The unnatural silence previously reported I have realised is due to the fact we have not heard a single living creature since entering Efwir. The only exception the young girl we discovered in the wood. The only recommendation I can offer is that under no circumstances should survivors from Efwir be allowed to cross the border.
And may the Gods protect us.

What truly is Yogurt?

My inclination is always to write about a world where something is wrong. A story where the conflict is resolving a problem. Lately I’ve been writing things that aren’t my first instinct. In that vein, here is a nice little hopeful hopeful science fiction piece about a human’s friendship with an alien.

If you enjoyed it, you can find more of my Science Fiction stories here

Hope you enjoy it,
– Zairron


“Tell me more about yogurt.”

I sigh, whenever Ryan started asking questions it took forever to satisfy him, “It’s just a type of food, Ry.”

“Well obviously,” he answers. Ryan isn’t his actual name, but the squid (once again not their species’ real name) don’t seem to use names in the same way we do so I gave him the name Ryan and he seems to like it. We work together, though I can never quite wrap my head around what it is that he does. I’ve chosen to think of him like a rich dilettante with an unhealthy interest in humans and human culture. Lately he’s been big into what kinds of food we eat.
I’m a little short with the guy but I’m supposed to be taking apart and salvaging what reusable parts I can find in this broken-ass air filtration system. It’s a one person job but Ryan chose to accompany for, as far as I can tell, the sole purpose of annoying me while I work. “But more specifically? And also generally I suppose. Is it a sauce? Is it a broth? A drink? What is it made from? Who invented it, and why?”

“I don’t know Ry,” I grunt, ripping the useless wiring from the system. This shit was completely torched, I really have to marvel at the special kind of stupid it takes to so utterly destroy tech this well made. Tossing the wiring in a pile for later, his presence is just too much and I’m forced to stop and focus on him before I’ll be able to get anything done. That stare is just so unnerving.
He’s a good guy but I don’t think its races that the squid always give me this pervasive sense of revulsion deep in my guts. He looks like some kind of disgusting reptilian octopus-centaur monster for crying out loud.
I’ve been with him for long enough to somewhat read his emotional state for what little comfort that gives me. It’s apparent he’s feeling pretty relaxed around me. He’s lent back on his haunches, his back legs acting like a recliner chair. His huge muscular tentacles are swept languidly back across his body leaving his head completely uncovered. The vertical slit pupils of his eyes were wide and calm, somehow they were what unnerved me the most about their appearance. The way their eyes always made me feel like prey.
“It’s just a food. I mean, some people eat it as a dessert, some eat it for breakfast, some use it as a flavouring thing not entirely unlike a sauce I suppose. It’s part of a lot of things, but it’s not an ingredient like flour.”

“Interesting, I am still curious about flour now that you mention it,” he begins to settle into a rhythm and I know I have to stop him now or I’ll never get any work done.

“Hold up, Ry. I’ve got work I need to do, and I can’t concentrate with you talking to me, how about I meet up with you later and I can answer any questions you have about yogurt or flour.”

His pupils contract slightly, I’m not sure exactly what that means. If it’s a sign of annoyance at being dismissed or if he’s just scrutinising me, maybe he just had gas. I rest a hand on my hip and stare him down for the moment, no doubt the gesture is as foreign to him as his to me. He makes a disturbing coughing noise I think is his attempt at imitating laughter and gently touches the floor in front of me with one of his tentacles, a common gesture conveying something like an apology among his people. He then leaves me to my work in peace.
As I return to the mindless work of stripping the filtration unit down, I let my mind wander with thoughts of Ryan and the squid. They are the first form of intelligent life we’ve encountered since we left the the Solar System and for a species of pure predators they seem pretty chill. First contact went way smoother than anyone expected, it was the culture shock that followed that was really the hard part. They’re hyper-competitive, but weirdly directionless as a species. When humanity took to the stars we had very clear goals of colonising other worlds for expansion and economic purposes, the squid were simply curious according to their telling. Largely humanity and squid have kept to themselves, our leaders negotiated friendly terms after a lot of struggle to understand one another. Ryan is a bit of a weirdo, curious even for a squid he’s the first of his species I’ve ever heard of being employed by a human corporation. He’s a bit famous because of it actually. For whatever reason, he seems to have decided we’re best friends. Maybe the squid are like cats and they only ever want to sit on the lap of the one person in the room who’s afraid of them. Whatever the reason, he terrifies me, but I’m getting used to him.

Completely salvaging the filter takes a way more hours than skill, but eventually I’m finished. I meet up with Ryan in the cafeteria after work, it’s both of our favourite place to hang out together on the ship. For me because there’s a lot of other humans around I feel a lot safer and whenever a doe-eyed kid wants to meet his first alien they give me a little break from his relentless questions. And for Ryan, the cultural experience of a human’s meals is like when I would go to theme parks as a little girl.
Whenever I catch a glimpse of the speed and power his tentacles can exert I’m grateful again that the squid were friendly. My grandma was remembers when we first encountered them, the fear that came with first spotting them and the uncertainty while we waited for the experts to figure out how to communicate. When I think about how vast space is, I’m kinda glad to have a friend as scary as Ryan.

 

The Age of Magic

A nice happy story after my last one. A conceptual imagining of a world like our own where magic exists, but there is room for the same technological advances we had (albeit in an entirely different fashion to reality.)

If you like this story you can find more fantasy stuff here

Hope you enjoy it,
– Zairron


“How can you tell when it’s working?” the student’s question for the the master showing his ability to sense the limitations of the ability.

“You can’t,” his master replies with his dry disinterested drone, “without an observer the effects are entirely unknowable. Magic is a risk, when you cast the spell you roll the dice.”

Julian internalises his reaction to the answer, knowing that Master Jaxon would have no interest in further discussing something he considered decided. He returns to the concentration exercises set by his master while he privately considers  the shortcomings.
Seeking Master Jaxon’s tutelage had been a risk. In the past magic had been the most influential factor in world politics, the nobility sponsored at least one practitioner for appearances sake at the least. Users were treated with suspicion by the ordinary people, for the chaotic nature of magic could cause as much harm as good sometimes even in line with the intentions of the wielder. With the mystery that surrounded their powers their presence at the top of society was simply accepted. It was this privilege that Julian had sought, exchanging ordinary life for power. However change advances steadily in all things, technological advancements reduced the reliance for magic in daily life. Innovations in agricultural techniques and technology allowed the dense populations of cities to be sustained without the aid of witches’ weather magic. The scholastic monopoly of the church and magical lineages had been broken by private institutes that collected and distributed knowledge as their business. Even the very nature of the home had changed with the advent of roads and clean flowing water. While the raw power of magic in warfare and its miraculous capabilities when focused on a specific skill remained far beyond the reach of mundane people, the idea that the age of magic was coming to an end was growing in prominence.
The shortcomings of this spell further fuelled Julian’s concerns. He was learning how to apply the principle of magic as an change in natural energy to rendering a subject effectively invisible. By injecting magical energy into a system he could twist the motion of light to shift around a location. However two significant flaws limited the application of the principle. First when the vortex was created, if centred on the user they would be plunged into darkness. Since the light is prevented from touching him, his eyes are prevented from receiving any information from the world around them. Second if the vortex was imperfectly crafted, while still blinding him instead of being untouched by light the subject would simply appear as a chaotic knot in space. Once the spell was cast, the only way to tell if it was successful was to look at it. The intricacy and complexity involved in perfectly altering the passage of light to seamlessly replicate a straight line while curving was frustrating to Julian, to say the least.
After turning the visual information of the pebble in his hand into a headache inducing contortion for the umpteenth time, his frustration at last overwhelms his ability to focus. Failing to centre his breathing, the unexplainable sensation of grasping the power eluding him completely, he hurls the stone at the floor in anger receiving absolutely not reaction from his bored looking master.

“This is bullshit,” regretting the outburst as soon as it is voiced. Master Jaxon already leaving by the time the sentence is completed. Julian grits his teeth, cursing his metal weakness. His lessons ended the moment he removed himself from them, was Jaxon’s explanation. There would be no contact with his Master until the following day, regardless of whether he can regain his focus.
With most of the afternoon still available to him, Julian retrieved his pack from the base of the tree where he’d left it. Might as well find something useful to do with himself, trying to practice in this state would be simply a waste of time and energy. From the pack he pulled his coin purse; two gold medallions, twelve silver coins and a hand full of copper flakes to last the month. Not a sum to be sniffed at, but still an amount that would require careful consideration if it was to last comfortably. The biggest obstacle to using magic was stress, that’s why the greatest users were often seen as eccentric at best or more commonly dangerously unstable. Without an iron sense of purpose couple with relaxed indifference magic could be either unreachable or unstable. A user of his level was simply incapable of reaching for the power, a user with a more intrinsic sense of the power could still call it but without control. Those users were where the reputation for danger came from for magic.
Shouldering his pack, Julian made his way back along the path towards the city. It was a nice day, he should appreciate the mixed blessing his free time represented. He couldn’t properly afford to go drinking and besides it was too early in the afternoon. He didn’t have many friends in the city either, having come here entirely for an apprenticeship with a Master. There was little to do for fun in the city when you didn’t know anyone. Watching street performers or gambling held very little appeal to him. A meal enjoyed in the park the choice he settles on.

Watching the clouds roll by, Julian marvels at how differently the world seemed from when he was a boy. The stench of the city was almost unnoticeable, sanitation and hygiene for his grand-parents would have been like a fairy tale. Even in his short lifetime the change was noticeable. Perhaps this was the end of the age of magic, and if it was, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. With the serenity of that realisation he lifts a new stone in his hand, reaching out and gripping the power he casts it like a net over the stone and smiles as it seemingly vanishes from sight.
Magic would always have a place in the world. If the world didn’t need the power to find serenity, that doesn’t seem so bad.

 

Love Lies Bleeding

Hey everyone,

Just want to give a quick shout-out to Brhi Stokes author of Caligation, her Anthology of short stories Out of the Darkness & Into the Night is free on Amazon until the end of september, and selling for .99c thereafter. If you’re a fan of my work you might enjoy these. She’s even offering free authographs, if the idea interests you.

In other news, today’s tale is my first pass at the steampunk genre, though only very lightly steampunk. Following the headstrong Levi White pursue the love of a pretty girl, this is somewhat a moral tale about entitlement.

If you like it you can find more of my romance stories here,
– Zairron


Drawing the heavily creased sheet of paper once more from his pocket to check, Levi stares across the university courtyard anxiously. The enormous stone structures that surround the courtyard teem with the best and  brightest young minds on the continent. Everyone who ever wanted to be anyone attended the Edward Lincoln University. The foremost hub of technological and biological advancements for the past century, the scientific renaissance borne on the back of the external combustion engine could trace its origin back to this very campus. It was auspicious then that here he should have first laid eyes upon the woman of his dreams.

She had been tutoring a group of undergrads in the library while he had been studying nearby the first time he had properly noticed her. She drew him in and captured him with her enthusiasm and depth of knowledge for the subject. While her intellect was captivating enough her beauty was profound but humble. She had dressed after the fashion of men, dressed in tan suit pants and waistcoat over a white shirt she wore with the sleeves rolled past the elbow for practicality. She was vibrant, powerful and without even an exchange of glances he had fallen for her.
It was weeks before he had leaned who she was. A friend in the biological department recognised her description, having seen her in one of the labs. Other than a broad area to search he hadn’t known anything as useful as her name or anyone who might be able to introduce them. The students of the Edward Lincoln University were not unfairly reputed for tenacity and creativity, and Levi had always sat near the top of whatever he put his mind to. An engineering student, he had little justification for waiting around the school of biology as he did. Eventually he had been noticed after several weeks of loitering and been asked to leave, but not before finding her name among her supervisors records.
Riley Hughes, not the most feminine name but it suited her style perfectly. With the way she kept her hair short favouring a cut more popular among men and her preference for masculine attire, were it not for the soft tenderness to her lips and skin as well as the sensual cadence of her voice she could have almost resembled the androgyny of her name.

The brisk morning air was a start to the senses, keeping the students moving quickly to warm themselves as they headed for classes and other business. The half of the courtyard that boasted a touch of sunlight attracted a wide assortment of young academics. Musicians with guitars and lap drums played in a circle across from a foreign looking girl painting a likeness of the biology building with far sharper colours and contrasts, a small knot of Duellists loudly boasted to one another of their victories. Through all the activity, Levi was the only one who chose to stand in the shade. No more a fan of the cold than anyone else, he had chosen this spot for the unobstructed vantage it gave of the northern and eastern entrances to the Biology building.
The paper he held was a copy of Riley’s schedule for the semester. Once he’d had her name getting his hands on it had been as simple as finding a receptionist at the biology faculty trusting enough to believe the panicked pleas of a man claiming to have urgent news for his sister, Riley Hughes, regarding their poor beloved father falling ill and needing to find her as quickly as possible. With the means to find her at last, he had come to wait to see her leaving her morning class with the vague plan of finally meet her.
As students began exiting the building, Levi stared intently at the crowd to be certain not to miss his chance. He spots her leaving in the company of another woman, walking away from where he was standing. Pushing through the tide of students, he collides with an undergrad who doesn’t move in time and tramples over him unwilling to lose her again. Breaking through the crowd, he looks around desperately for her, barely spotting her tan suit pants as she rounds the corner moving swiftly.
Cursing beneath his breath he breaks into a sprint chasing after her, she couldn’t disappear he needed to meet her. He’d worked so hard to find her. There was no way he would let her escape him now.
As he regains sight of them the women inexplicably break into a run, forcing him to redouble his pace just to keep closing the distance. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go, she should have been alone and walked past him so he could have started a cool conversation and charmed her properly. At least this would be an amusing story to tell their children one day, he supposed attempting to hold down the boiling over rage bubbling up inside him.
Riley ducks into a small building Levi didn’t recognise in his knowledge of the university. The woman she’d been running with remaining outside, at least he might have the small good fortune to at least confess his love in private.

“Hey you!” the woman shouted at Levi, challenging him before he could follow Riley into the building. His anger was reaching bursting point now, he didn’t have time to stop but this girl wasn’t giving him room to pass.

“What do you want?”

“What do I want?” she retorts, stepping threateningly in to him, her long hair and cute makeup almost making the gesture comical, “You need to back off, you creepy stalker. Riley’s sick of you following her, if she see’s you again I’m going to make sure you never set foot in this university again, do you understand me?”

Students at Edward Lincoln University well deserved their reputation for tenacity and creativity, but today Edward only displayed one half of those traits as he finally lost it. As he was being dragged away by three men Riley finally met his gaze for the first time. The hatred and fear in her eyes as she protectively cradling the woman who’d tried to keep them apart made Levi realise at last how cruelly she had tricked him.

 


Moral of the story: Don’t be like Levi

The Blood of the Father

The Sonata in Red series will be on a short hiatus. It’s reached a nice cliff-hanger in my opinion to let step aside while I try out some different short stories. For practice and fun.
This is a short mystery set in a science fiction dystopia inspired by the writing prompt:

“When I went to receive the results of my blood test, they told me they were classified”

You can find more of my science fiction attempts here: Science Fiction
-Zairron


“Good morning, I’m here to check my results.”

“Of course sir, what name were they under?”

“Gabriel Robinson.”

“One moment, sir.”

Today was the day the wait would finally be over. The woman behind the counter turned to search the monitor for my future. I glanced back at the crowded processing centre behind me. They promised that automating the Process would mean less than .01% of applicants would ever see the inside of one of these centres, meanwhile in reality the line stretched back through the door into the hall of the complex. I’d waited for hours before getting through to see someone.

“Do you have your application number?”

I handed her my form with a smile. For days process centres all across the planet had been filled with all manners of people seeking clarification. This level of bureaucracy was hardly uncommon unfortunately. Khthon was an emigration planet, our largest and only export was people. Overpopulation had completely over-saturated every local industry. Every year people my age underwent the Process to match applicants to employment pathways. Academic record, physical capability and even genetic aptitudes were considered by the Process.

“I’m sorry for the wait sir, there’s something unusual in your record. If you wouldn’t mind taking a seat in the next room someone will be with you shortly.”

I smile and nod. There’s no point in arguing, I’ll simply be thrown out and have to rejoin the line with a mark added to my application. I push my way through the crowd to the waiting room, purgatory it was affectionately nicknamed. During the Process week quirks in the system were left here to be sorted out when it was convenient. I tap the screen of my watch, dialling my mother to let her know what was happening.

“Hello, Gabe?”

“Yeah, hey mum. They lost me in the system, so I got sent to purgatory. No idea how long I’m going to be stuck here, if I’m not home by dinner can you get Henry to bring me a sleeping bag and some dinner?”

“Of course sweetie, don’t stress though. It’s all going to work out, I promise.”

“Thanks, wish I had your confidence.”

“When you’ve seen as much as I have you will. Your brother and I will be praying for you.”

“Bye mum, love you.”

The waiting room was almost eerily quiet and empty compared to the main room of the process centre. Inside were only three other people. All of processing age, the nearest two were women seated together and talking quietly together while on the far side of the room a fairly rough looking guy lay on the floor, his sleeping bag beneath his head and a hat covering his face.
Rows of chairs filled the centre of the room, but could easily be removed when space was needed for people to sleep. Khthon never stopped. The majority of the population had moved underground, reserving the surface for agriculture. As a result day and night were abstract concepts to most of us born and raised on planet. The workers would process the people day and night, the quirks in the system that bound us could be resolved any moment and if we were not here when they called us it was the back of the line. Such a drag.
Settling into one of the seats I activate my watch switching on the virtual U.I.. Online my friends had already started posting the results of their applications. Most seemed to have performed as well as was expected. I see Luna and Owen together in line, showing I’m not the only one still waiting for their results. At least five others in my extended network are the same. I post an update of my place in purgatory. The discussion fills with sympathetic platitudes and playful jibes, nothing of substance.

“Mr. Gabriel Robinson?”

I blinked twice, dismissing the U.I. to focus on reality. The source of my name was a severe looking short blonde woman stood at the back of the room watching for an answer. I stood and crossed the room to where she stood. After politely greeting me she led me through a door at the back of the room, down a corridor to a small office with a nameplate that reads ‘Grace Walker, Branch Manager’ on the door.

“Please take a seat Gabriel.”

She took her seat behind the desk as I sat across from her. I’d been in purgatory for less than half an hour, that was pretty much unheard of for a system glitch. She glanced at the monitor briefly before addressing me.

“I have your results here.”

I watch her in confusion as she paused rather than continue straight on.

“Unfortunately I’m not able to open them.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your results have been locked. Something in your medical caused access to be restricted.”

“What does that mean for me?”

“Your guess is as good as mine here, I’m afraid. I’ve never seen this before. Before you ask, it’s not a quirk in the system. This note was left manually, by a human.”

I stare blankly at her, with no idea how I was meant to respond. In the end I simply nodded and waited for her to continue.

“If I was you I’d stay in the waiting room for now. I’ve contacted my boss, when I hear back I’ll let you know.”

She returned me to the waiting room. The other three people who’d been waiting were gone, weird, it seemed unlikely they could have all been processed during my short meeting. The only person besides me in the room hadn’t been there before, he seemed a bit old for the Process. Taking a seat at the back of the waiting room I tap my watch to activate the my virtual U.I., instead a agonising shock ripped through my body, knocking me to the floor and convulsing in pain.
The man at the front of the room stands, as he walked casually towards me the black dots covered my vision and blocked out his face. The last thing I saw was the shiny black toe of his shoe as he knelt before me. His voice strangely familiar.

“Don’t be afraid, Gabe. I’m going to take you home now.”

The blackness completely filled my vision and I drifted into unconsciousness.

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