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Erin Vataris
Shepherd of words, dreamer of dreams, creating worlds.
Shepherd of words, dreamer of dreams, creating worlds.

Erin Vataris's posts

May 15: Shatter
so I know I missed yesterday. My toddler shared their cold, and now I has a sick. You did not want me writing delusional with the headache and fever. But today I am only a little ill and I has a hot toddy, and I am thinking of my adoring fans fan who I am sure want to know how this story ends.
For that matter, so do I.
#storyaday #exceptyesterday #flashfiction

The plateau had been endless, the forest a distant vista, starlight and shadow. Now the edge of the rock loomed before us, not two steps ahead, the sheer cliffs dropping dizzyingly away to the foreshortened canopy of trees beneath. We were ten times as high as we had been before, and there was no trail down.

Her composure regained, she studied me with luminescent eyes, her lips half-twisting into something like a smile. “It is already half spent,” she said, and her dark lashes flickered down toward the abyss, her expression turning thoughtful. She held up her wineglass, tipping the last inch of amber liquid in it out onto the stone, its slow descent a study in cohesion and surface tension. When the final drop had finished reverberating its ripples through the puddle, she tossed the glass over the edge.

The sound of it shattering over and over again against the rocks was a musical cascade, a glissando of destruction growing ever softer and further away, until there was no more crash and glitter to be heard. She glanced up at me, then, at the half-full glass in my own hand, and one flawless eyebrow lifted.

The wine burned its way down my throat as I emptied my glass, sharp and sweet and honey-thick. It told me what to do. I dropped her hand, took two steps forward, and felt the place where there was no more plateau beneath me. For one moment, the time it took me to inhale the sea winds and taste the starlight, I hung in the space between land and sky.

Then, with a slow inevitability, gravity rediscovered my presence, and I fell. 

May 13: Tipping point #flashfiction #storyaday

She turned her back abruptly, looking across the endless plateau back toward the forest, and beyond that the dark hulking shape of the land. Her shoulders squared and settled, and I studied the perfect parallels of each strand of her hair, listened to the too-even sound of her breathing.

After a while, she spoke. “You can still go back.” Her voice was tightly controlled, each syllable precise.

I took another drink, thought about emotionless kisses and tepid conversation, felt something inside me - not just the wine - making me reckless. Making me wild. “No,” I told the back of her head. “I don’t want to.”

A shudder went through her whole body at the words. “You are,” she told the heavy shadowed forest, “a fool.”

I stepped up, found myself beside her, looking at the same vista. Every branch and leaf and bud was limned with starlight. I dug my toes into the stone for balance. “The night is only half gone.”

Her fingers were still entangled with mine. 

May 12: Moment #flashfiction #amwriting #storyaday
Time elongated. This time, I reached for her hand, slid my fingertips over her palm and twined our fingers together, melding sunlight and ice. It took a moment, an hour, an eternity. I traced the curve of her face with my eyes, watched the subtle shifts of emotion, lifted my glass. Let the wine touch my lips.

She echoed me.

Her eyes were starlight-bright, her gaze unwavering, unblinking. Her fingers tightened slightly. I returned the pressure. I inhaled, and she exhaled; cool ribbons of snow mingling with the warm scent of rain. I held it for a moment, returned it back atom by atom, wrote questions on the wind. Our breaths entangled, each one a crystalline moment, no time at all.

One sip of wine lasted forever, and I read her answers in the taste of ice and honey lingering on my tongue. 

May 11: Midnight #flashfiction #amwriting #storyaday

She refilled my glass, and hers, emptying the slender bottle between them, and then tucked bottle and glass into one hand and stood, reaching the other down to me. “Come.”

I braced for the shock of cold as my palm met hers, felt the answering warmth waxing in my own. I stood, let go of her one sunlight-filled finger at a time, sipped at my wine and let it sit on my tongue. Buried my toes in the stone of the plateau and felt the rock between them like so much beach sand while she tucked the bottle away somewhere in the elegant lines of a dress that should not - most certainly not - be able to conceal so much as a spare legume.

Her boot heels clicked softly as she turned her back on the sea and paced away from the edge, a delicate tracery of frost dancing up them. I followed her like an echo, leaving footprints in the stone; I turned my head and saw the starlight pooling in them with its sheen the color of her eyes.

When I turned back, she was far ahead, and I had to run to catch up, the sea wind twisting to nestle in my back, pushing me forward with every step, blowing my hair into my face again. I took a drink without breaking stride, thought about her pale, smooth, untousled hair, wished I could echo that skill.

A soft breeze flicked over my cheekbones, sending the wayward strands back out of my eyes to drop behind me. It was warm, with the faint scent of new earth and rain-dampened grass, not the sharp cold sea wind that still blew firm and demanding from behind. I inhaled, tasted rain and fresh-turned fields, ran faster.

She was leaning against an outcrop, studying her wine. Her lashes flicked up at my arrival, her north-star eyes cataloguing my disarray. Her lips turned up at the corners - half mirth, half mockery - and she reached her free hand out to curl one lock around her fingertips again, this time tugging slightly, drawing me closer.
I took a step, and then another, my toes finding the soft leather of her boots. I could feel the cold radiating from her, the air around her chilling at the edges, but I wasn’t.

She lowered her hand. “The night,” she said, her breath cool on my cheek, mingling with the warmth of the sourceless breeze, “is half gone.” 

May 10: Ice Wine #flashfiction #amwriting #storyaday #norobotshere

She lifted a slender dark bottle, tipped it, poured. I saw it descend in slow motion, saw each drop and ripple as it filled my glass precisely one third of the way, clinging to the glass as I swirled it. The scent was rich, honey and apples, a hint of sharpness to it. I inhaled, held my breath a moment, tasting the changes in the air.

She poured her own, set the bottle down on the stone beside her, turned back to me. Her booted feet were tucked beneath her, one heel peeking out behind the hem of her skirt. Her eyes were alight. She smiled over the rim of her glass, touched it to her lips before brushing her glass against mine, making them ring with a high crystal note that seemed to send the plateau shivering.

“To Spring,” she said, and sipped.

The wine was sharp and sweet and tasted of the memory of winter; I let it linger in my mouth, suffusing me as I swallowed. It melted its way down my throat, spreading, joining the sunlit warmth still nestled in my core. I took another mouthful, slowly, trying to extract every thread and nuance of flavor from it.

The wind whipped my hair across my face. I lifted a hand, pushed it back, willed it to stay where it belonged. Her face was tranquil, dusty-rose lips half-curved and resting on the rim of her glass in what could only be enjoyment; the pale strands of her hair barely stirring as the sea winds swirled around us. I felt like an echo of her, unsure of the transitions between one moment and the next, following a lead I didn’t understand. I didn’t remember being given a glass, but she had lifted the bottle and filled it just the same.

She tilted her glass up, sipped again, and I did echo her then - a moment behind, a trifle less smoothly, a wavering reflection filled with holes. I found my voice, briefly, but even that was an echo of hers.

“To Spring.”

May 9: Polaris #flashfiction #amwriting #storyaday

Time stretched out into the spaces between starlight, then, as I reached a hesitant hand up to meet hers, our fingertips making contact. I felt the cold of her flesh, each whorl and arch of her fingerprints a supercooled brand against my own warmth, precisely aligned. Something kindled in the depths of me, at even that bare contact, an endless reserve of heat, slow and gentle and sunlight-warm, and as she reached her other hand back to my cheek, I saw the acknowledgment of it in her storm-grey eyes.

We stood there, the balance of heat and cold ebbing and flowing with each breath, the moment stretching out to eternity between us. And then she moved, smoothly, deliberately, her fingers gliding over my cheekbones, around my ear, along my chin, coming at last to trace the curve of my lips. I could feel them trailing frost behind them, and that slow sunlit heat from deep within me followed in its wake.

Her eyes were the precise hue and brilliance of the North Star, and I reoriented on her shadow-framed gaze. I froze. I thawed. I felt light and leaden all at once, unable to move for fear that I would shatter into a thousand dancing fragments and blow away, my mind blurring at the onslaught.

I had questions - I knew I should be asking them - but as I exhaled and watched the glittering starlight of my breath settle like hoarfrost over her fingertips, I couldn’t remember a single one. 

May 8: Better

I have written something because I said I would. I'm not sure that I love it, though. #flashfiction #sosleepy #storyaday

I fixed my gaze on the familiar bowl and handle of the Big Dipper, tracked the North Star from there, felt reality grow just that bit closer to me as I oriented my compass points. I ignored the way my bare toes - not at all cold, despite the height and the sea winds whipping around us - were curled into the solid rock plateau, and the way the starlight filtered down as if from a very fine shaker, coating everything in luminescence.

Her fingers tightened on mine again, drawing my attention. “Time has never been my friend,” she mused, and I realized she was watching my face. “Have you found the north?”

I nodded. Any number of questions were beginning to make their presence insistently clear in my mind. I didn’t ask them. She quirked that half-predatory smile once again. “Good. Remember that. You may need it.”

She released my hand, brought her fingers up to touch my cheeks, cupping my face between icy palms. Her grip was delicate, barely making contact, but as she turned my chin this way and that I could feel the steel beneath the skin.
I did as she nudged, and then her hands slid icy tendrils up to my hair, fingers working bobby pins and silicone bands, undoing them, letting it flow free in the wind, whipping around my face and tangling around her fingers.

Her smile was wild then, as the last of the pins was caught by the wind and flung over the steep rocky precipice. She ran her fingers through my hair, somehow never catching on a tangle, and curled one lock around her fingertip, tapping it against her lips. I stifled another question. Waited. Buried my toes in the stone and felt it yielding to me.

“Better,” she said at last, and lifted her hand, letting the coil of hair blow free.

It was.

Because I'm on the road hanging with the kids all day, posting early!

May 7: Sea and Sky #flashfiction #storyaday #amwriting

At the top of the hill was a wind-scoured plateau, jutting up above the forest into the night sky. The path of decaying leaves and damp soil thinned, turning to rough stone beneath my feet. In front of me, she seemed hardly to notice, agile as an ibex in her heeled boots. She hadn’t lost her shoes in the journey. I dug my toes in, trailing her up the steep incline, and felt the rocks give like clay.

When I looked down, I could see starlight pooling in the footprints I’d left on the hillside. Questions began to bubble and percolate in my mind once again. I pushed them down, concentrating on the climb, on the feel of the sea breezes swirling around me, on the unfaltering rhythm of her steps. Looked up. Watched the stars. Watched her.

She was standing on the plateau, skirt swirling around her in the wind, and her eyes were luminous as she reached down a hand to help me up the last incline. Her fingers twined with mine, and I felt the shock of cold once again, but I didn’t let go. I couldn’t.

The land fell away in steep crags that transitioned to rolling hills and smooth sloping beaches; the bay flat and still and glasslike far below. The horizon was a thin curved line of black against the near-black of the night sky; a cessation of stars at the edge of vision. The air was thin, cold, the sea breezes now a battering wind. I knew the entire bay, every inlet and islet of it familiar to me after decades of roaming and sailing. There was no place this high within a hundred miles of the city. I was absolutely certain of that.

I was absolutely certain, as well, that it was not a good time to ask questions. Her hand was cold in mine, seeming to draw the heat from me, and her thumb flicked frost across mine in an absent caress. When I finally tore my eyes away from the vista beneath me, I saw she was watching me - and this time she wasn’t smiling, her dusty-rose lips somber and maybe a little sad.

“It’s beautiful,” I managed, still fighting for breath against the wind and the height and the shock of it all.

She nodded, turned away without letting go of my hand, looked out over the endless sea. Her fingers tightened, and I took an involuntary step closer. I could see her exhalation in the shift of her shoulders.

“Yes.” Another long breath. I moved again, following the wordless pressure of her grip, coming up to stand beside her at last. 

Holy wow I think I figured out exactly what this woman is.

May 6: Hillside #storyaday #amwriting #flashfiction

A thousand questions crowded my mind - none of them mattered. I inhaled again, the faint sharp memory of disappearing snow, exhaled light, left them behind. Followed her into the star-bright forest, my feet finding the path of their own accord. My hand was empty, aching where she’d gripped it; I kept my eyes on the shimmer of her hair in front of me.

We climbed, gradually, so subtly I barely noticed it, wending through the trees. I matched her unhurried pace, tried to catch up, never quite achieved it my goal. She was always ten steps ahead, a glimmer through the tree branches, the lines of her body seeming to blend into the curves of the forest.

And all around us the night was alive and brilliant and so very beautiful. I saw an owl on the hunt, swooping low, heard the sudden abbreviated sound of surprise as it rose again. Its wings were soundless, leaving trails of starlight with each beat, a shimmering trail of death.

She touched my cheek, pulling me out of my contemplation. “Come.” I turned to look at her, momentarily bewildered. Her fingertips were a brush of ice. She let her hand fall to my shoulder, tugging gently. “The night is passing.”

“It’s -” A half-dozen words collided on my tongue, stilled it. I felt my feet moving to follow her once again.

She smiled, half mockery, half sympathy. “It is.” A little nod up ahead of us, where the slope grew visibly steeper. “Not much further now.”

I wondered, but had no words to ask, how far we had already come.

May 5: Forest #amwriting #flashfiction #storyaday

The green dark reached out, embraced me, drew me in. I felt the thick damp deadfall of leaves sticking to my feet, my toes curling through them to the rich black mulch beneath. The air was thick, close, heavy with the scent of fading winter, decay and death rising up with every step.

Her grip was iron, and it drew me forward along a path I couldn’t see. Above us, the stars flickered behind a cage of dead branches, spring buds not yet becoming leaves. And all the while we were moving, running, never pausing in the deepness of the wood. Moving deeper into the dark.

I felt my toes catch on a fallen branch, felt the jerk of her hand setting me upright midstride, without breaking her pace. Felt the layer of leaves beneath my feet thinning, giving way to short new grass and the dry grit beneath it. Felt her slow at last, stopping somewhere with a view of unobscured stars.

She let go of my hand, and I was lost. The world around me was nothing but deep green shadows, the stars in the sky unfamiliar and cold. I dug my toes into the cold ungiving ground and stood, anchoring myself in what I could feel, waiting for something - anything - to give me a bearing.

There was movement in the dark, on the edges of perception, and then she was there, her hair faint silver in the starlight, her eyes a deeper darkness than the forest itself. She stepped lightly, silently, so close I could feel the chill of her body, and then her fingertips brushed my face, tracing my cheekbones in lines of early-morning frost.

“Open your eyes,” she rustled, her breath cool and sharp, the words tossed into the breeze to reach my ears. I started to respond, to complain that my eyes were already open, but she shook her head. “Open them,” she murmured, “all the way.”
I closed my eyes, feeling her breath on my face, smelling the memory of oncoming snow. I opened my eyes. And then I opened my eyes some more.

I don’t know how I ever found the forest dark, or the stars dim, or her eyes inscrutable. Each and every thing seemed to glow from within, limned with a pale light of its own making. The world was radiant, luminous, and we stood in the middle of a clearing in a wood filled with light.

I inhaled the scent of the fading winter, exhaled slowly, seeing phosphorescence dance and fade in the air as I did. I turned, slowly, taking in the panorama, and then returned to her face. Her eyes were still a storm-cloud grey, but lightning birthed itself in them, and I couldn’t hold her gaze. I dropped my own. Her lips, glowing faintly, were still a dusty rose. Still quirked in the slightest of smiles. “I see you,” she breathed, and the words tumbled and spun slowly to my ears.

“I see you,” I responded, and I knew it - unreservedly - to be true. 
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