Choices

Prompt: Express

Crossroads In The Forest

“Are you sure you understand what we are about to do?”

Ivy nodded her head. She looked down the narrow path that wound among tall, leafless trees until it disappeared into a yellowish fog.

“Nodding isn’t good enough, Ivy,” said Sable. “Do you understand your choices? You have to tell me clearly. I know you are only twelve but I can’t make this decision for you.”

“Yes,” said Ivy peevishly. “You’ve told me a hundred times. I can go back if I want to, instead of staying here. I don’t want to go back. My grandmother is dead.”

“And your parents? Your friends?”

Her cat was her greatest friend, and he was wandering somewhere in the cave or in this strange, misty landscape. He would come find her.

As for her parents, she had a sudden snapshot image of them— her mother in front of the mirror at her dressing table, applying impossibly crimson lipstick, and he with his hand on her shoulder, wearing that ring, the gold one with the square cut emerald.

The snapshot turned into a moving vision, and her mother turned her gaze slightly in the mirror until her eyes were locked with Ivy’s.

“I don’t want to go back,” said Ivy.

“You can’t change your mind, after this,” said Sable.

Ivy sighed. How many times?

“And,” said Sable carefully, “the dying. To come back here again, and we must, you will have to die again.”

“It didn’t hurt,” said Ivy.

“It might this time,” said Sable. She reached out and touched Ivy’s freshly cut hair, short and practical, like her own, but without the curls.

“I don’t have any choice,” said Ivy. She frowned. Couldn’t they just get on with this?

“You do, honey,” said Sable. “You could stay here.”

Here? What here? An endless cave, lit by distant fires, smokey, barren, lifeless— or this plateau, with an invisible landscape, colourless, stifling?

Ivy said, “Can we go now? I can’t breathe here. Can we just go?”

Sable burst into a broad smile. “Let’s go have some fun.”

They started down the well-trodden path. “We’ll arrive just outside Nettle River,” said Sable. “We can hike into town, find the outfitters and get directions to the ranch.

“It’ll be a lark.”

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Sunblock

Prompt: Brave


Dear Wednesday,

What day is it? Are we close to Nanowrimo? I’m not ready to write my 1600 words per day. This takes courage. I don’t have any!

As in, I’m not brave, which is the daily prompt.

Why am I scared of a laptop and a keyboard and a story half-formed in my head? There are killers and monsters of all kinds out there roaming the earth, most disguised as human beings. Every time we step outside our door we risk being struck by lightning, attacked by a vicious dog, being in the line of fire when our neighbour cleans his rifle, looking up to see a nuclear warhead directed towards our front porch, or, sure, getting hit by a runaway bus. Yet I am ‘asceered’ of a number (albeit a large number) of words.

I forgot to mention other perils when we set forth into the world, which include failure, falling on our face, trailing toilet paper under our shoe, tucking our skirt into our undies, getting publicly caught in a lie, losing an ethical battle, being unable to pick up the fragments of our shattered lives and… well, you get the picture.

National Novel Writing Month challenges us to face failure– and win, or at least die trying. Not die exactly, but expend as much toil and angst as if he had written the full complement of 50,000 words. Which, they tell us, is an accomplishment, too!

Sure it is. Fine.

But I am a competitive person. Not with you, your him, or them, but with myself. It’s how I quit smoking! It’s how I managed to ‘win’ all previous Nanos. A better word might be stubborn. And, I love the couple of days after completing the challenge, when family and friends are so damn proud, even though they have not yet seen a word I’ve written and are taking my achievement on faith.

So to lessen the anxiety of the swiftly approaching November 1st, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, precisely none of which relate to today’s word prompt:

cartoon book of sunblock


cartoon Cat-Guru


cartoon image lineup


Have a happy, productive, courageous week.

~~FP

 

Interview with the Immortals

Prompt: Cloaked

old rembrandt man with headphones

In which Globe journalist Lindsay Hatcher shares his exclusive individual interviews with members of the six-person team, The Immortals.

Lindsay Hatcher: Hello, Sable. So are the Immortals like The Avengers or The Guardians of the Galaxy? What are your plans to save the world?

Sable:  We aren’t heroes. Who said we were heroes? We are simply people who can’t die. We don’t care about saving the world. We want to have a lark.

LH: A lark?

Sable: We want adventures. See the world. Have fun. Get scared. Have a lark.

LH: Want adventures, or need them?

Sable: What’s the difference?

LH: Where did you come from? It’s hard to tell from your appearance. I thought you were a boy at first.

Sable: It doesn’t matter. I think my parents were artists. I forget.


LH: Hi, Ivy. You are the youngest member of the Immortals. How did you happen to join their group?

Ivy: When I woke up, there was Sable. She helped me move from the cave into the light, and watched over me while I slept. She also said she would help me find my cat, who came with me to the cave.

LH: Have you been on any adventures?

Ivy: Sable says I’m not ready. Anyway, we have to wait for a couple of the others to get back. So I’m going to learn to ride a horse.


LH: Goff, as the eldest Immortal, do you guide and counsel the younger ones?

Goff: Hell, no.

LH: Why not? Surely you’ve gathered a lot of wisdom in your— how many years?

Goff: Countless years. I can’t remember how long. That happens when you get older, you forget things.

LH: As their leader, do you make the decisions about where you’ll go next?

Goff: I’m not their leader. I know about places, but I don’t tell anyone what to do. I’ve learned to keep my head down with this group.

LH: You look like you’ve been somewhere… possibly Medieval, with the leather cloak and leggings.

Goff: This is just my outfit of choice. I get bored trying to pick out something new to wear every day, for millennia.


LH: Hello, Jonah. How long have you been one of the Immortals?

Jonah: Time kind of loses meaning, you know? So, a very long time, longer than anyone other than Goff.

LH: He says he is not your leader or guide. Who is?

Jonah: We are ostensibly a democracy, though I find if you take command, others follow.

LH: So you are the leader of the Immortals?

Jonah: No.


LH: Donny, why are you laughing?

Donny: This sucks. So I laugh.

LH: I see you have wings. None of the other Immortals have wings. Do you each have special talents?

Donny: We have the same special talent— you can’t kill us. We come back. And these aren’t real wings; they’re a prop. Like a hat or a fake beard.


LH: Hello, Harp. How many adventures have you been on with the Immortals?

Harp: Six or seven. Sometimes it is hard to coordinate. We all have to begin at the cave at the same time. It can take years. So while I wait I go do my own thing.

LH: You have your own adventures separately from the Immortals?

Harp: Of course. We aren’t joined at the hip. You could get tired of a person’s face or beard or accent over the course of a hundred years or so. But they aren’t adventures, or “larks”, as Sable insists on calling them. I just go hang out somewhere interesting, see what’s going on, learn things.

LH: Do all the Immortals go back and have individual adventures?

Harp: I have no idea. Ask them.


The Emergence of Language

Prompt: Exceptional


Wednesday! Already?

You know, Nanowrimo is swiftly approaching. This is an event in which writers and would-be writers are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It can be done! This is my fifth or sixth year. I’ve always submitted the required wordage, and a book of sorts, but to the dismay of family and friends, never a novel I would readily share.

I’m hoping this year will be an exceptional year. My premise for the novel is based on a dream, but as I play with the concept I see there might possibly be a book in there, somewhere.

What is this premise? That there are a group of people called the Immortals, because they simply cannot die. When they are “killed” they retreat to a cave, from which they go forth again. My story germ revolves about a group of six “immortals”, of varying ages, who join together to enjoy adventures with no thought of being heroes or changing the world or doing anything actually positive. They’ve found themselves in a fantasy cum horror story, and decide not to play along.

They are kind of selfish.

So the story arc possibilities are quite prolific, and so I might start with my immortals come November 1, even though sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult fiction are not exactly my wheelhouse genres.

So I might play with this concept here on the blog, too, so please indulge me.

Meanwhile, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, the first of which is tangentially related to the Daily Prompt, “exceptional”:

cartoon penquin identity crisis


cartoon gorilla in bath


cartoon cave people language


Have a happy Thursday (and Friday. And oh hell, Saturday too.)

~~FP

The Fall

Prompt: Translate

woman-bath

The worst part was the ride back across the river in that little wooden punt. The stream was high and jostled them, and the rush of adrenalin that had earlier blocked out the pain had subsided, leaving her to feel the intense pain in her foot, and in her right elbow, where she had landed so hard, and in her upper rib cage, which had borne the impact on the massive tree root as she landed. The scrapes on her hands and legs she didn’t yet feel.

Paul was concerned and apologetic, though why he kept saying he was sorry was a mystery to Catherine. She had fallen under her own steam, if not intentionally. Colin wondered where the nearest doctor might reside, he rambled on and on about it. Emily took her left hand and squeezed it encouragingly. That hurt, and Catherine winced. Everything hurt.

Back at the Soulis house, Mme Soulis greeted the three healthy hikers and the one battered one with her usual aplomb, as if it was to be expected that one of them should pitch down the dry waterfall. Colin wanted a doctor but she ignored him and summoned old Soulis, who gave her a rather personal, and painful examination right there in the front foyer; twisting her ankles and arms, poking her abdomen and asking questions in French that Catherine could not understand.

“I think he asked if you have a headache?” Paul said, from his position beside her chair, a large carved piece of furniture more like a throne, and completely out of place in the hallway. He put his arm around her shoulder as he bent over to ask.

Dammit, she did have a headache, she hadn’t noticed until he asked. Dammit. Colin took it upon himself to feel her scalp for bumps, and found none.

“I want drugs,” Catherine said.

“Nothing is broken,” Paul said, “He says you are fine.”

“What?” said Catherine, who felt for the first time the sting of a scratch on her cheek.

“It is probably a sprain, that left ankle,” Paul continued.

“A sprain can be worse than a break,” Colin said unhelpfully.

“And maybe a nasty bruise on the elbow,” Paul said, wincing in empathy.

“We need some stretchy bandages for the ankle,” Emily said, and Mme Soulis, whom they hadn’t notice had left the foyer, suddenly reappeared as if on cue with a roll of beige stretchy tape. She also had a bottle that suspiciously looked like Iodine, which Catherine, remembering it from her childhood, planned to resist.

Mme Soulis spoke, and Paul did his best to translate. “Your condition is not serious, and you do not need a hospital, but your own doctor when you get home. Something like that.”

“It feels serious,” Catherine said sulkily, her eyes welling with tears. “Ow, I might have broken a rib!”

“Can you breathe?” Paul asked, on old Soulis’ behalf.

“Um, yes.”

“No broken ribs then,” said Paul morosely, as if it would have better if she was right even if it meant broken ribs.

Mme Soulis disappeared again and returned with a cup of hot herbal tea. Catherine sipped while old Soulis wrapped the tape expertly around her left foot, under the watchful eye of Paul and Emily, who had done many an impromptu ankle taping. Someone handed her a kleenex to blot her tears. Then old Soulis took the nefarious little bottle from Mme Soulis’ hand, and dabbed it on a square of folded gauze.

“I’ll do that,” said Colin. And as he dabbed, painlessly, at her legs, arms and cheek, Catherine sipped the last of her tea, suddenly drowsy, aching, spent. “You’ll be ok, baby,” said someone. Colin?

Later, she slept. The soft, cool dry sheets of their bed felt heavenly against her aches; she didn’t think she had ever felt so comfortable, the fall notwithstanding. She awoke when she heard the door close tentatively. On the bedside table was another cup of tea, and a large ceramic basin, steam rising from warm water, a pale yellow sponge floating on its surface. She didn’t have the energy to give herself a sponge bath. Where was Colin? She tried awkwardly to heave herself up into a semi-sitting position, and saw she was naked and pulled a white sheet up around her chin. Not before noticing one large rib bruise and two small purple smudges on her right breast. Ouch.

Catherine took the cup of tea in her hands and sipped—it was obviously medicinal in some way, some crazy magic Soulis way, and the closest thing to drugs she was likely to get here— and stared out the window at the clearing around the house, and the forest beyond, edging closer. It was grey, and she had no idea of the time and no idea where her watch was. It must be late— dinner time? Was Colin with Emily and Paul, enjoying a gourmet dinner while she suffered with a basin of water and a cup of indeterminate tea?

Colin burst in to the room at that moment, flush faced and a glass of white wine in his hand. “Ah, you’re awake!” He sat in the desk chair that had been brought close to the foot of the bed. Catherine hadn’t noticed it there before. “I’ve been sitting here for ages, honest! Just went down for a glass of wine. It’s happy hour. Emily and Paul send their love.”

She could tell by the flush in his cheeks and they way he unintentionally mimicked their English accents, that this was not his first glass of wine of the evening. Colin was what she would call a cheap drunk. Drinking was not his thing.

“Madam Soulis is making a dinner tray for the two of us,” Colin said happily. “I think it’s chicken.”

“With wine? I wouldn’t mind some wine. A lot of wine.”

Colin stood and set the almost empty wine glass down on the desk. “Is the water still warm? Let me give you the sponge bath of your life.”

The water was still warm, and he bathed every part of her body with the soft yellow sponge, silky and soothing, kissing all the tender places. If it hadn’t hurt so much, it would have been the most erotic moment of her married life.

 


Culture and Day 29

Prompt: Culture

culture-the-priest

Culture is the prompt today. Hello, Culture, are you being a good word today? Are you colourful, fascinating, inclusive, ethical, inspiring, and spiritual? If not, go away.

Yes, I’m exhausted on Day 29 of NaNoWriMo. I will reach my wordcount goal, but not the main goal of having a coherent story to share.

Tomorrow when I officially upload my 50,000 words, the universe will rejoice. Or, no one will notice, and I will be disappointed that I didn’t accomplish what I wanted. And work a lot harder next time.

Thank you for all the amazing support and encouragement!

 


Vigor and Day 28

Prompt: Vigor

surreal-moon-and-dock

You know who is filled with vigor? The young son of two intergalactic travellers, named Radical, the second child born on a distant planet. His parentage is somewhat of a mystery, as he gestated longer than normal human babies. Despite that, he is a curious and active child. What will life be like in this new civilization? Who and what is Radical?

Yes, I am eager to get back to my people, the people I write about here, once NaNoWriMo is done. Nano is a great challenge, and an exhausting one, and if anyone is interested I will put together the chapters I finish writing in some kind of order, ready for comments and suggestions. I think the story is interesting, but I have been wrong before.

The problem with the Nano novels is that after a month of concentration, you only want to be free of that particular plot and those particular characters for awhile. I want to get this one done, however, as a first finished attempt, or what’s the point?

At this stage in the process I just feel tired! I want cucumber slices on my eyes and a good neck massage. I want a clean house and stacks of clean fresh towels and laundry.

I can’t decide yet what kind of entity Radical will be, but I think his journey will be a lot of fun.