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


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Methody #nightmarefuel #amwriting

Mother bathes in the bathing room.

She lowers herself into the tub so smoothly that there is no splash; no wastefulness of water. She gives no hint by mien or gesture that the water is unheated; only by the gooseflesh prickling her porcelain skin do you know. She bathes, and rises, and you sluice the two buckets or rinse water over her head, the water in them breaking through the skin of frost that has begun to creep across them.

Mother dresses in the dressing room.

She takes care that she is dry; she does her long black hair up in a cloth where the ends have gotten damp in the tub before she chooses her dress. It is red, and made of silk dupion, and it has exactly thirty-seven buttons, and the very top one is just at the place where her neck meets her shoulders. You draw her corset strings tight before you do up the thirty-seven buttons, and then she sits at her dressing table in the dressing room and you brush her hair one hundred times before you do it up. It is a live thing, her hair, with one hundred brushstrokes of static electricity making it writhe and dance while she sits completely, utterly still.

Mother sits in the sitting room.

She sits, with her hands folded on her knees, her back so straight a ruler would rest exactly on the spines of each of her vertebrae, her shoulders precisely squared. She sits, not lounging, for the backs of chairs are not to be lounged upon, and she stares straight ahead. She might be waiting for you to attend her, but she will give no hint if you are late. Impatience is, after all, impolite.

Mother dines in the dining room.

She divides her food with her knife and fork most precisely, each course reduced to squares and sips, no drop or crumb escaping. She does not bend, or laugh, or speak; she dines. You bring her another glass, and she lifts it to study the bright ruby of its depths before she sips, nods, sips again. It is good, that nod. It is enough.

Mother draws in the drawing room.

She rests on the edge of the chair, and she faces her easel, and her charcoal pencil flies over the canvas. She draws, and you watch, and you understand. She does not speak. She never speaks. Not any more. But she draws, and you understand, and you are afraid.

Mother lives in the living room.

She holds one more glass of the ruby red, thickening now, and sips slowly. Tears slide from her eyes as she looks at you, each one a diamond in the candlelight. You can feel answering tears welling in your own eyes, but you try not to shed them. She has raised you better than that. So you look up at her, and you lie very still, and you lift your chin, and you wait for the knife to come.

And Mother mourns, in the morning room.

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Still doing some catch-up:

Mirror, Mirror #nightmarefuel #alliumandaconitum #amwriting

There is a monster in the forest.

The priests of the hollow gods tell us to stay away from the forest, that there are monsters in the darkness beneath the trees, that even if it is daylight out the monsters can creep in the shadows and

Eat you up.

Because that's what monsters do, they eat you. The priests of the hollow gods all say so. They say the monsters come for bad children, and disobedient children, and children who don't go to school or sass their parents or won't wear shoes in the temples of the hollow gods.

There are an awful lot of things that the monsters will eat you for. All the things the priests don't like. Which is why, I guess, they're monsters. Even though the priests say they're bad.

Except there's just one monster. In the forest.

She is not too tall and she has dark hair like the shadows when the sun is setting, and red red lips like apples in fall. She is very beautiful, this monster. And she is the only one in the forest.

She told me so.

She gave me a mirror, the monster. She gave me a mirror at the edge of the forest, when the sun was half-setting and I saw her standing in the shadows and I was not. Afraid. It is a good mirror, real glass, and when I look in it I see myself, and I see my face, and I am.


Sometimes I look and look into the mirror, and I stare into my own eyes, and if I look long enough and hard enough I see her looking back at me. Her eyes are black like the sky at midnight, and her lips are red like apples in fall and she whispers to me in the mirror and I listen.

The priests say never to listen to the monsters. Never let them talk to you. They will tell you stories, the priests say. Steal your heart, lead you into the darkness. Eat you up.

She has a very little mouth, this monster. I do not think she will eat very much. And maybe the priests are lying. Maybe they are telling stories to steal my heart and lead me into their temples, all gold and fire and heat.

There are no shadows in the temples of the hollow god.

I listen carefully to my monster, because she is beautiful and the mirror makes me beautiful and the moonlight is so lovely to look at. She tells me about light, and reflections, and shadows.

She tells me about mirrors.

So I go into the temple with my mirror and I find a corner in the golden temple and I set my mirror just so, where the light will reflect the way she tells me, and it casts a shadow just so, and

She is there.

She kisses my forehead with her autumn-apple lips and tells me how good I am. She strokes my cheek and looks into my eyes with her dark dark eyes and I cannot look away.

There is a little pain, then.

There is a lot of pleasure.

I drop the mirror.

There are a thousand thousand points of light around us now, and the shadow I was making is gone, but we are inside it now, inside the reflection, and there are more. Mirrors.



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Day 10: Haunt

I’m standing at the door of the haunted house with Emery, because Emery wanted to go to the haunted house.  I’m standing there, and there’s three options to choose from, because this haunted house is all about choices, staring at the doors in front of me.  Emery says I get to choose, because Emery knows that I don’t really want to be here in the first place, I’m just here because she wants to be here.

I’m the “not scary at all” kind of girl. If there’s a light switch I’m going to turn it on and if there’s a dark hallway I’m going to get backup before I go down it. That’s the way I roll, lights on and no surprises. I always have.

But Emery wants the door that says “very scary”. I know she does, even without her telling me; I can read it in the way she leans slightly forward, in the little hitch in her breathing when she sees it. I know, because I pay attention to these things. I pay attention to Emery.
I think she doesn’t notice.

So I give my “not scary at all” door a fond look and I skip over the middle “scary” door that makes my heartbeat speed up a little bit, and I look at the way Emery’s looking at the right hand door and I think about what it would be like to have Emery give me that kind of look, and I shrug.
“You up for ‘very scary’?”

I’m going for casual, because I don’t want Emery to know what kind of a chicken I am, because I really want Emery to invite me along the next time she wants to take someone somewhere, because I really need Emery to like. Me.

She gives me that lopsided little smile that Emery has and I think I’m going to forget to breathe. “Yeah,” she says, and I remember to exhale. “Let’s go.”

We open the door and step inside.

It’s dark in there, once the door is closed. It’s dark and there are things hanging from the ceiling that feel like cobwebs brushing against my face, and I try not to think about spiders. I hate spiders. So I keep walking and I think about cotton candy. I pretend I’m very small and walking through cotton candy, which is stupid, but it’s what I’ve got right now.

Emery is right ahead of me. I bump into her once, and she lets out a tense little scream, and then she laughs, all relieved and breathless. “Jesus, Morgan, be careful!” So I reach out and I touch her fingers with mine.

“Maybe we should, you know. Hold on to each other.”

She closes her hand, holding tightly to mine. “Yeah, good idea.” Her voice is a little less breathy, which is a shame. I can feel the hint of sweat on her palm, in the hollow our hands make. “Your hands are cold,” she murmurs, but I ignore it, squeeze her fingers. We keep walking like that.

When something really does come out of the darkness, both of us scream. But it’s only one of the actors, with his fake blood and his foam axe, and we duck under the whirling blade of death and nobody follows us through the black curtain into the next room.

It’s dark again, and we stop, trying to feel out what’s going to happen, and Emery steps back just a little closer to me. I can feel the change in her breathing as she turns around to face me, feel the warmth of her exhalation on my cheek.

“Morgan?” There’s that hint of breathiness in her voice again, and I’m glad. I fight to keep my own voice steady.

And then she is right there, her lips touching mine, and I only have a second to be surprised that she could find me so precisely in the darkness before I’m opening my mouth, kissing her back hungrily, letting go of her hand to pull her in closer to me, her body curving all along mine. I inhale deeply, breathing her in, smelling the bright floral scent of her shampoo, and I need Emery.

“Jesus, Morgan, you’re freezing,” she gasps, her hands hot as they slide into the pockets of my jeans, almost burning me, even through the denim. But she doesn’t pull away. That’s the important bit.

I put my lips on her throat, feeling the butterfly flicker of her pulse, inhale again. “Warm me,” I murmur, and it jumps at the words. She gasps and shivers.

“Let’s get out of here. I don’t even know what kind of creeper—” she breaks off with a little squeal, and I remember to pull back my nails, keep them short. Keep them human.

“Yeah.” She has a point; there may be eyes watching right now. I hope they’re enjoying the show. I cup the curve of her ass with my hands, feel the heat of her through the fabric, fight back the need for Emery. “Let’s go.”

There’s not much difference between fear and the hunger slamming through me; I don’t even mind the rest of the haunted house. Everything is adrenaline, is the scorching heat of Emery’s hand in mine, is the pleasure-pain of her touch, is the need.

It’s dark out back, too, in the shadows of the half-wood treeline. There might actually be spiders out there. But it’s too late to worry about spiders. It’s too late to worry about dirt. It’s too late to worry about anything but the taste of Emery on my tongue and the smell of her shampoo and the sweet heat of her breathy little gasps as she surrenders to me. It’s too late for all of that, because I. Need. Emery.

And now she needs me.

“Morgan?” Her voice is shaky, really afraid, the tiniest whisper in the darkness.. I can’t see her, although the cool flesh under my fingertips tells me where she is, but I can feel her. I’ll be able to feel her forever, now. “What just happened?”

I touch her lips with my fingertips, warming them. Hushing her. “Shh,” I whisper, unnecessarily. And then, because I know she doesn’t understand, because I remember what it was like, because I really need Emery to like me, I feel like I have to say something more.

“Trust me. You’re going to be just fine.”
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We went on vacation. I had a good time. I did not write.

Day 9 (all out of order and behind): Lux
The oldest ones speak, lifting your chrysalis in their fingers, the crumpled thing that was your prison and your birthing place, that held the child-you, the before-you, the was-you. They speak, and you must listen as you crouch wet and immobile on the ground, and so you listen.

All of you.

They whisper to you in the darkness, whisper secrets that you have long suspected and never been certain of. Some of you hear the secrets and understand, and some of you hear the secrets and imagine, and some of you hear the secrets and you know. You have been here before, and you have failed.

All of you.

You can feel the fractures forming in you, as the coldness of the night air washes over you, and you dry stiff and brittle in the darkness, hunched there on the ground as the oldest ones speak.

You feel yourself pulling apart, separating under the pressure of secrets, and you wonder if you will shatter. You know that if you shatter, you will die.

All of you.

So you crouch and you listen and you dry and you fracture and you hold on, desperately, to each other within yourself. You stretch gently against the cold dry shell of you before you become once again a chrysalis, a prison, a shell, and you wonder how many times you must die and be reborn in order to be you.

All of you.

The oldest ones speak, and your chrysalis is discarded, and you stand, and you stretch, and you feel the thin brittle shell become warm and supple around you, and you unlink your hands, feel yourselves as individual points of brilliant light. But you cannot unlink your minds, because you are you.

All of you.

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There has been a lot of excitement about the announcement of Plus closing down. Interestingly, as someone who is using Plus through G Suite, this may turn into a really tiny echo chamber for me.

There has been a lot of "the sky is falling" and a lot of "It's ten months away, relaaaax" going on. But this community has been what it has been for a lot of reasons, and it is not easy to find something that meets the needs sometimes.

So now we go through the long and somewhat painful process of finding a new home. That means trying on several.

I write. Not as much as I would like to, but that's what I do under this name. I write things that kids shouldn't read and I write things that would probably concern some of my my day job clients. I need a place to share that and read others work and be inspired.

I'm on MeWe, but it doesn't permit public posting, so back to the blog for that.

I'm on pluspora as, but still can't grok Diaspora any better than the last time I tried it.

This is hard. That's why it takes 10 months.

Other suggestions?
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Day 7: Sapling #amwriting #nightmarefuel

Thursday was the day Adam saw the leaf.

It was small and green and new-looking, with that sort of just-unfolding wrinkled look that leaves get when they just need a few more days to look like actual leaves. It was shaped like a spearhead and had scalloped edges.

And it was growing out of his left arm.

Without thinking, he grabbed it and ripped it off.

When he stopped screaming, he put a bandage on the bleeding spot and tried not to think about the implications. He tried really hard.

Friday, there were two more leaves on his right shoulder. He closed his eyes and pretended he didn’t see them, put a T-shirt on, and went to school. His shoulder blade itched all day long, and he caught himself scratching it absently after his post-PE shower, the one he took after all the other guys had already gotten dressed. He scratched it twice more, trying not to think about the bump he’d felt back there.

On Monday, Vance gave his sweatshirt the patented Eye. “You sick or something?”  Adam shook his head.

“Nah, man. Just cold.”

Vance took two extremely casual steps away from him. “It’s eighty-six out.” He shrugged. “We were going swimming to--”

“Got plans, thanks.” That hadn’t been casual at all. He coughed. “Got -- well, you know. Plans.” He folded his arms, slowly, so as not to rustle. “You know.”

“Plans. Right.” Adam didn’t know you could back away casually while still giving someone the Eye. But that’s why Vance was the boss.

Tuesday he wore his letter jacket, and tried to act like he was just showing school spirit. He could feel the dull ache of bent twigs all day long, all across his back, and he didn’t lean on anything.

Wednesday, he didn’t go to school. He told his mother he wasn’t feeling well, and coughed convincingly enough that she didn’t check his temperature. Once she left for work, he jumped up and stared at himself in the mirror, tried to rub the bark off of his forehead. He almost took his eye out with a new branch that hadn’t been there when he went to bed.

The bark didn’t rub off.  He closed his eyes, thought about going back to bed. Thought about how he’d used every spare blanket in the house to pad himself enough to get comfortable lying down. Stood for a minute and opened his eyes again. Scratched his butt and wondered how he was going to get his boxers off.

Adam went downstairs. Nobody was home now. He poured himself a glass of milk and knocked it over twice. Finally got a bottle of water into his fingers, holding it like a crab. Took a drink. Took another one. Felt the water flowing through him and drank the whole bottle, then another one. Couldn’t get enough water, suddenly, not enough, not fast enough.

He thought about the sink, but he didn’t think he could get his mouth under the faucet any more. Not with the latest growth. But the hose out back --

Adam forgot about the sliding doors until he was out on the patio, headed for the yard. Maybe growing bark was good for something, after all. He hadn’t felt anything. He turned the hose on  by hitting the handle until it turned, then stepped barefooted into the grass.

He had never felt anything so good in his life. The ground was cool, and damp, and full of good things to eat, and he just wanted to dig his toes in deeper and deeper. He took a couple more steps, out to where the hose was pouring water into the so good dirt. Out where it was soft, and loose, and he dug his toes in and he held his arms up to the so warm so bright sun, and all his leaves rustled as the sunlight poured over him, hot and bright, filling him with something he had never felt before but wanted more more of.

Somewhere in his boy mind he was aware he had a hardon. “Got wood,” he muttered, and his tongue was thick in his mouth as he choked out a laugh, thick and round and spreading upward toward that glorious sunlight. Leaves burst from his tongue, from his boner, from his fingers, and he buried his feet in the thick dark dirt, deeper and deeper, taking root, and it was so good, he had never felt so good before.

The wind rustled his leaves, and the pleasure of it was an explosion through him, and if he could have screamed, he would have, but there wasn’t anything to scream with, not any more.

And that was all right with Adam.

There was a woman, after the sun had gone low and the wind had picked up a bit. She looked worried, holding something in her hand, crying, talking very fast into something in her (branch) hand. She said his name - Adam - and he wanted to let her know he was all right, so he rustled his branches and dropped a leaf.

He didn’t think she understood him. But that was all right, Adam decided, as a gentle evening breeze made him shudder in pleasure. The woman turned back to the house, scratching absently at her left arm, where a bud had begun to grow.

She would understand soon enough.

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Day 6, and caught up. This one does the thing that happens sometimes when I free-write where sex and violence get a little confused and I am sorry.

In other words: Adult content!

Day 6: The Eye #amwriting #adultcontent #nightmarefuel

The Eye opens.

She is waiting, when it does. She is always waiting. She has been waiting such a very long time, that she almost misses it when it happens. But a good servant is always prepared.

She listens, carefully, then, to the scratching of the rats in the walls and the drip-drip-drip of water somewhere at the edge of hearing. She listens to the rustle of wind in the forest outside. And she listens to the words formed by the seemingly-random assortment of sounds. She listens, until they fade back into the background noise of the cottage. She listens, and understands.

The Eye watches.

She sheds her white robe, hangs it carefully on a hook beside the door. Her flesh is young, lithe, limber. She stretches her hands high, lifting the curves of full breasts, stretching the skin of her belly over the hollowed curve between her pelvic bones, the scaphoid emptiness of her abdomen. Too thin, she thinks, and Soon. She feels the place between her thighs heat and tighten at the thought, and she cannot resist trailing her fingertips over her flesh, feeling the resilience of it. It is good flesh, she thinks. It is ready.

She dresses the flesh, feeling the shiver and slide of fabric over it, its silken caress a constant stimulation. She runs her fingertips over her nipples, letting them tent the thin satin, feels the dampness between her thighs answering the touch. She extends the moment, then, tuning the flesh to exquisite readiness, watching the flush rise on her cheeks, her pupils dilating. She takes her time.

The Eye waits.

She doesn’t lock the door of the cottage. There is no lock; those who enter do so at the pleasure of the Eye. She straddles the old Harley leaning against the tree outside -- that, too, is unlocked; under the auspices of the Eye -- and revs the engine, grinding her bare damp flesh against the rough leather of the seat as it thrums to life under her touch.

She screams most of the way into the city, riding waves of pleasure with every dip and swell of the old dirt road, the flesh convulsing over and over again. She doesn’t need to think to navigate the road, not this road. Not this familiar road.

Tousled and windblown, heavy-lidded and wearing satiation like perfume, she leans the Harley against a lamppost with supreme unconcern and slithers around the corner into the street. The sounds of the city come from all directions, and she listens. She listens, and understands.

The Eye knows.

She doesn’t read the neon sign above the club entrance; it doesn’t matter. She doesn’t make eye contact with the bouncer, but her hips meet his gaze and the door swings open for her. All doors swing open for the Eye.

It’s dark inside, but she doesn’t need her eyes. She feels the bass hammering at her, feels the flesh readying itself again, the heat and tingle building with every beat, inhales the smells of sweat and sex and alcohol and desperation, lets her body brush and press and become tangled in the other bodies, waiting. Ready.

He nearly slides past her unnoticed, but a good servant is always prepared. She catches his eyes with hers, touches her tongue to her lips, lets her breath catch a little bit. Come here, she thinks, and want this.

He does. He can’t stop looking at her, at her nipples, at the place where her thighs meet and the flesh is preparing for him, at the place where the silk leaves a shadow under the curve of her buttocks. She leads him with her eyes and her hips, trusting him to follow, knowing he will.

It is only half-dark, outside in the alley, and she can see stars and the long shadows of streetlights. She arches her hips, inviting, lets him put his tongue in her mouth, lets him fumble at the fabric and find nothing beneath but the hot wet flesh of her. She puts her hands on his zipper, remembers to moan as he thrusts into her, wraps her thighs around his hips and takes him in and in and in.

It hurts, a little bit.
That is good.
She screams a little bit, at the end, there is so much of him to take.
That is better.

The Eye blinks.

Belly full and bloated, distending the fabric, she leaves the crumpled husk of flesh where it has fallen, waddles back to the Harley. She throws her leg over it as the first contractions begin, and screams with the pain of them all the way back to the cottage. But it is a good pain, and the rumble of the motor keeps her on a razor edge of sensation. Even this, she finds, is pleasure to this flesh.

Panting, she leaves the Harley leaning against its tree and stumbles into the cottage, into the back room. Her hands are clumsy with something between pain and ecstasy as she rips the fabric off of her, pulls on her white robe. She wraps it, belts it, stops to scream out with the rippling intensity of the contractions.

But the Eye. It waits, she thinks, and Almost.

There is blood, as she squats over the basin, bracing her hands on the wall beside the Eye, staring into it. There is blood, and pain, and the sharpest pleasure she has ever known. She keeps her eyes on the Eye, and she screams and screams and screams.

When it is done, she stands up from the basin, covered in blood, looks at the thing that was the flesh she had worn, crumpled and discarded and old. She feels the new flesh stretching as she stretches, and she feels hunger in its new-born belly.

It is done, she thinks, and I serve.

She listens to the wind in the trees outside. She listens, and understands.
She washes the blood from the new flesh, puts on her white robe. And then, returning to the back room, she eats.

The Eye closes.
Day 6

Image provided by a helpful Blisstopian. Source as yet unknown.
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it's been a long day today, and we're on the road late.

Day 5: Hopscotch #amwriting #nightmarefuel
When Antje plays hopscotch, she always wins.

She hops down and back, and nobody hops faster than Antje. Nobody hops better than Antje. Nobody hops quite like Antje.

Everyone says I’m too old to have a friend like Antje. Everyone says I’m too old to be pretending all the time.

I’m a big girl, and big girls don’t have invisible friends.

Everyone says.  

Antje says they could see her, if they wanted to. She says they’re just not looking hard enough. And then she races me down the hopscotch court, and even though I have two legs and Antje only has one, she wins. Antje always wins, when we play hopscotch.

We play hopscotch a lot.

I’m practicing to be the world champion hopscotcher, I tell them, and they laugh. And that’s okay. Laughing at me means they aren’t talking about me. Whispering about me.

It means they think I’m funny. It means nobody is thinking about Antje, and how she can’t be real, and how I’m a big girl now. Big girls can be funny. They can’t have invisible friends.

Big girls don’t cry.

Antje says big girls can cry, if they want. And they can have one-legged hopscotch friends. And, if I’m a big girl, then Antje says I should know how to hold a knife. Just in case someone tries to hurt me.

Antje says.

She shows me how to hold a knife, and she lets me fight her. I’m afraid I’m going to hurt her, but Antje can’t be hurt by knives. She shows me, and she doesn’t even bleed a little bit.

After that, I practice with Antje every day. She’s really fast on her one foot, and she knows a lot about fighting. And she’s funny. We laugh a lot, Antje and me. We laugh, and we play hopscotch.

And we talk about things. We talk about things that I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone, not ever. Things that happen in the dark. And I’m not breaking my promises, because Antje isn’t anyone. She’s not real.

That’s what they tell me, Antje isn’t real. I’m too big for this, they tell me. And then they whisper. They think I don’t hear them whispering. They think I don’t know.

Antje knows. And now I know too.

I’m a lot better at hopscotch, now. I’m almost as fast as Antje, and when we play hopscotch I almost win. That means I’m fast enough.

Tomorrow, we’re going to run away, me and Antje. We’re going to run away and become world champion hopscotchers. Tomorrow.

But first there’s tonight.

Antje says to bring the knife to bed with me tonight. Keep it under my pillow. I’ll know what to do, Antje says, and she’s right.

I know just what to do.
Day 5

Image courtesy of the photographer, +Hilary Truman
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A day late, because reasons.

Day 4: Candlelight #amwriting #nightmarefuel #alliumandaconitum

It is almost time.

She closes her eyes, almost, runs her fingertips over the silk-smooth wood of the crossbow, feels the latent tension of the cocked spring. It's wound tight, like she is, waiting for the lightest touch on the trigger, humming subliminally.

She strokes it again, inhales. Steadies her breath the way the priests taught her. Exhales, slowly. Controlled. Opens her eyes.

The candles gutter, smoke streaming out from their flames in a sudden sourceless wind, and she feels her entire being come into absolute focus. Her eyes narrow, but there is nothing there. She brings the bow up to her shoulder, sights into the darkness. Wishes she had thought to blow out the candles.

Now, as the wind makes the candlelight flare, she realizes she is silhouetted against the light. She hunches down, afraid to turn away from the window to blow them out, afraid to lose the comfort of their flames, afraid of the target she knows she’s become.

A hand falls onto her shoulder, then. She inhales, the breath freezing in her throat, and doesn’t turn around. She doesn’t speak. Inside her head, like a litany, she hears the admonitions of the priests.

Don’t look it in the eyes. Don’t speak to it. Close your ears to its words. Wait for the moment. There will be a moment. Strike in the moment.

She feels the inexorable pressure of its hand turning her, the movement of her body to face the thing, whether she chooses it or not. She slides her finger to the trigger of the crossbow, rests it there, waits. She keeps her eyes down, and so all she can see is the lower half of the thing, clad in feathers, shimmering silver like moonlight.

It’s so unexpectedly beautiful that  she glances up, sharply. And that, too, is a mistake.

The monster’s eyes are blue, deep as the sky after sunset, flecked with silver like stars. They’re wide and deep, and she is captivated by them. She exhales, then, and can’t remember what happens after that.

There’s a gentle pressure on the crossbow, compressing the bolt against the strings, and she lets the monster lift it out of her hands, her fingers gone limp. The hand on her shoulder slides down to her waist, supporting her, drawing her in.

She can feel its heart beating, she is so close to it now, slow, steady; her own heart fluttering in return. She closes her eyes, trying to break the spell, knowing she cannot escape, and that, too, is a mistake.

There is the low caress of laughter, silken, and then its fingers brush delicately across her cheek, cup her chin. Soft lips touch hers, and she remembers how to breathe at last, inhaling as it exhales, feeling the heat of its breath filling her, waking an answering heat within her.

She may have made a sound; she isn’t sure if it was meant to be protest or surrender, but that soft laughter answers her again, cascading over her tongue and down her throat, and she realizes there was never anything but surrender.

She inhales laughter, exhales abandon, gives herself over completely to sensation. There is pain, a little bit, but she doesn’t mind. After all, she wonders, as her thoughts dissolve into moonlight, even the hollow gods tell us that life itself is pain.

After that, all is stillness, broken briefly by the soft beat of wings. In the sudden gust, the candlelight dies.

Day 4

Image provided by a Blisstopian; The Witching Hour by Andrew Wyeth
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Day 3: Awaken #amwriting #nightmarefuel

It is early autumn, when she wakes.

She fell asleep in the winter, she thinks, or at least it was cold and the ground was all snow; she remembers the snow most of all. She stopped for a moment, fell behind the platoon. Fell asleep on her feet.

She must have fallen asleep; how else can she explain the intervening passage of time? It was clearly longer than an eyeblink, and her joints are stiff - so stiff, she finds, as she tries to stretch them out - that she must have spent hours, perhaps days, in the same place. Too long. They will have left her behind, she thinks, miles behind. She may never catch up now.

But it is early autumn, and the ground is dry and bare, and the wind flicking at the leaves to dapple the dry ground is warm. If she fell asleep in winter, she thinks, then why - how - is it autumn now?

She has a thought; trying to stretch her too-stiff joints, the ones she can’t seem to move. It is a thought about a story she read the other day, about a man who slept for twenty years. She feels as if she may have slept for twenty years, or perhaps even a hundred years. It’s a ridiculous thought, a ludicrous thought. She laughs at the ridiculousness of it all.

Nothing comes out. Her voice, like her joints, has grown stiff and soundless with disuse, and she permits herself to wonder -- how long has it actually been? She shies away from speculation, thinks about the winter when she fell asleep.

There was a sapling, she remembers, shoulder-high. She wonders if it survived the winter, and turns - tries to turn - her head to look for it.

Her head will not turn. Her neck is as stiff as her arms, as her legs, and she can’t stop looking at the maple tree that overshadows her entire field of vision. She can’t close her eyes, can’t turn her head, can’t see anything but the maple tree, and the dry ground beneath it, and the stone.

The arched, filigreed marble stone, midway between herself and the maple tree. She hadn’t noticed it before just now. She tries to squint, to read the lettering on its face, but her eyes won’t move. She tries to lean closer, but her back won’t move. She stares and stares and stares until her vision shimmers at the edges with the effort, because she knows the stone is the key. She has to know.

Gradually, one letter at a time, with an effort so intense she thinks her eyes might fall out of their sockets and roll away down the hill, she forces the inscription to become clear. She reads it that way, straining, slow like molasses in winter, one letter at a time.

When she is done, it takes her a few minutes to comprehend. And then --

She screams. She screams and screams and screams, without sound or movement, reading the letters again now, effortlessly, their meaning as clear as it is impossible. She screams until the edges of her vision turn black, and she feels the world receding, and if she still had the ability to breathe, then the need to do so would be an unignorable imperative. She screams, and the blackness spreads over her like a curtain.

It is late in the summer, when she wakes.

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