The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan (P3 of 3)

Suddenly I find myself awake, my mind already returning to last night’s thoughts.

I’ll send a note down to my house for Mother and Ni. Then I’ll go.

I have enough food for a couple of months, if I’m careful, and enough water for almost that long.

Does it matter though? Actually speaking? It won’t change anything.

The light from outside of my tent is faint, from the moons only.

I drag my bag outside of the tent, rifle through my belongings until I find the notebook I brought. I find my pen in the bottom, and hastily pull that out as well. I scribble a note to Mother and Ni, careful not to write over existing letters and words.

I scrounge around on the top of the wall, searching for loose rocks. I eventually find one, and though it is small, I secure the note to it with a bit of string. Before I can talk myself out of it, I drop the rock over the wall.

“Iran, please forgive me, and get this note to my mother and Ni.” I can only hope the god of mercy will understand.

Now that I have told them I will not return, I pack up all of my belongings, save the rope. I pull up as much as I can, coiling it on the wall next to me. I reach down and cut the rope.

I untie my harness and remove my backup rope from my bag.

I lay down on top of the wall and pull my shoulders and arms over the edge away from home. I search the surface of the wall for a place to insert a camming device, luckily finding one not far down from the top. I attach a carabiner to the camming device and begin working the rope through it.

I fashion a new harness and tie a loose sliding knot not far above it. I will have to climb down the wall to the end of my doubled rope, and then I should be able to lower myself along the rope to the ground. The only problem is that I won’t get my rope back.

On a whim, I take a piece of twine from my pack and a good sized rock from the top of the wall and tie the rock to the rope. Once I get to the bottom and remove my harness, the sliding knot should slide down with the additional weight of the rock. Then I can keep my rope.

I throw the remaining length of the first coil over the wall.

I pull my pack over my shoulders and prepare myself for the descent. Once I feel ready, I lower myself over the edge of the wall, finding grips with my feet.

Slowly I begin climbing down. My arms, legs, and hands ache and throb as I descend. Acteonil, Cayne, Naiyah, Vilmariy, four moons I saw earlier tonight, shine brightly in the sky, along with Morik, Favonius, Shelaght, and Odhrin. They provide some illumination to my work, though it is scant compared to when N’Zembe burns hot and white-blue above me.

The wall is endless, my rope is long. It feels as though I will never reach the ground. I long to quit climbing, but to do so could be dangerous. If I fall now, I could bang against the wall and hit my head. I already have a concussion, another hit could be deadly.

Everything hurts. There will be no relief until I reach the ground. I can’t see the ground below me, and the wall mere inches from my face is in deep shadow.

Finally my rope feels tighter. It hangs above me, attached to a carabiner some distance above, though my eyes cannot focus on something so small in the dark, even without a concussion. I look at Odhrin, a dark blue and gray disc, and it splits into two, the images swimming close together and further apart. I turn my attention back to the wall in front of me, my head throbbing harder than before.

I close my eyes and remove my hands from the wall. I slide downwards, but don’t fall. A grin splits my face, and I take my feet from the wall as well. I move downwards more quickly now that my weight is propelling me, but not so fast that it scares me.

I drift down, down, down, and yet I still can’t see the ground! This wall is clearly intended to be impassible, or that’s how it seems.

Why build these walls? Why all the death outside them? Was the world out here ever bright and filled with life? Could it ever be so again? I wonder as I fall far enough that Shelaght, Odhrin, and Morik are out of sight, blocked by this wall. Is there anything or anyone out there in that dead land? Is it possible for anyone to survive? Will I survive?

The thought shocks me. My heart beats fast. If my eyes were open, they would be glazed over. It’s too late to change my mind and do anything but wander aimlessly through this dead world, waiting for death to come to me, too.

My life has no purpose, what does it matter if I survive? Mother and Ni might miss me, but at least they still have purpose in their bright, life-filled existences. I have nothing to live for. My dream was for nothing.

I put my hands over my closed eyes, blocking out the throbbing, trying to hold out against the onslaught of hopeless thoughts. Endlessly they swirl through my mind, nothing I try to distract myself with changes that.

My feet brush against something solid. I place them against it, flat. It does not waver. I stand and open my eyes.

Faint, dark images swim before me, vacillating. I pull off my harness without untying it and place my pack over it. For now I need to rest, then I can retrieve the rest of my rope.

I lay on the ground, not bothering to pull anything out of my pack. I rest my head on it and curl into myself. The pounding in my head rises to a deafening crescendo and I struggle to sleep, exhausted though I may be. Finally, finally, I succumb to sleep, overtaken by exhaustion.

When I awake again, it is early morning, N’Zembe peeking over the distant black horizon. I force myself to sit up and look around.

A few green shoots surround where I slept, in stark contrast to all the death around it. Everything beyond that is uniform, as far as I can tell with my unstable view.

I pull my bottle out of my pack and sip it slowly. Even though it is warm, I do not want to drink it too quickly. I don’t drink much, either. I rummage through my food choices and eat a small portion.

Through my jumbled thoughts I realize I cannot rest uncovered during the day. Fears of heat stroke rush through me and I clumsily raise my tent with the walls toward the rising sun and crawl inside.

I lay down, feeling helpless and worn out.

If there is green here, maybe there is more that I couldn’t see from the top of the wall.

I eventually drift off.

I spend the next week or so resting a lot and consuming the bare minimum for survival. By that time, I seem to be recovering at least somewhat from my concussion.

A lush green carpet has sprung up around my tent, but the rest of the world is still black and empty. It puzzles me; I cannot for the life of me figure out how or why anything grows here but nowhere else.

“I should see if anything else grows out there,” I say aloud. It’s early morning and the sky is tinged a darkish blue with a rising circle of white along the horizon.

I eat and drink then pack up my tent and bag and rope. It takes a few minutes to get all the rope together, but I do get it back as I had hoped.

Shakily, I push myself to my feet and slip my arms into my bag’s straps. I look around. The black extends endlessly around me until the ground meets the sky. But the ground near me is covered in green shoots.

I place one foot in front of the other and repeat endlessly until my feet ache and my legs complain.

I look around, all is black around me. The wall rises up behind me, imposing even from this distance. I haven’t traveled far, but it was a long and hard walk under the hot sun.

I raise my tent and sit under it. I eat and drink and then rest.

The next morning is the same. A circle of green shoots surrounds my tent but nothing grows anywhere else.

As before, I pack up and head out. Walking, walking, walking. Taking step after step after step until I can bear it no longer. Day after day after day.

N’Zembe beats down on me and I long for shade. If only there was a tree. Or even a bush I could lay next to for a bit. Anything. Anything but this endless dead land with no escape.

The wall is a thick line obscuring the horizon, but appears small from this distance. I’m so, so far away.

Sluggishly, I pull up my tent and lay under it. I sip from my bottle slowly. Soon I fall asleep from exhaustion.

I wake up in the middle of the night to the gnawing of my stomach and the dryness in my throat. I open my pack, keenly aware of how little I have left in supplies.

I’m going to die here. I don’t have enough food or water to go back now. I shiver. There’s no green out here either, I can’t find more food or water.

Shakily, I take a sip from my bottle and lay back down.

The thought echos through my head, keeping me from sleep. I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.

I turn on my side, beginning to sob. Leaving the walls was a mistake. Climbing the wall at all was a mistake. I wish I didn’t know, hadn’t seen.

Eventually, I collapse into sleep, though I’m not even aware of such a reality until I find myself waking up. I just lay there, paralyzed as my thoughts from the night before resurface, clawing out of my subconcious. They spiral, circling through the same few thoughts inescapably.

I’m going to die… Why did I leave? Why did I have to see? Everything’s dead, and soon I will be… I miss Ni and Mother… They probably think I’m dead… I’m going to die… I wish I had never thought of climbing the walls…

I forced myself to eat and drink a little. I looked out of my tent at the dead, black earth.

Somehow, a new thought crept in, pushing the hopelessness aside at least for now.

How did this happen? Why is everything dead? I squint, trying to think of reasons.

A different, startled thought, “I haven’t prayed!”

I crawl out of my tent and kneel on the black earth, raising my arms to the heavens and closing my eyes as I turn my face skyward under the direct heat of N’Zembe.

I think first of Fasa, the giver and protector of life. “Fasa, I call on you now to keep me from the clutches of Saun who has surrounded me on all sides. Please preserve my life! Avun, giver of hope, please come to me. Without you I may give in to death. Irek, preserver and protector, please preserve me. Work with Fasa and Avun to keep me from Saun. I am hopeless, running low on supplies, and worn from my climb and my travels. Please come to me!”

I remain still and do my best to quiet my thoughts. I slow my breathing and relax.

Soon my flesh feels hot from N’Zembe, so I go back into my tent.

I eat and drink a bit more before allowing myself to drift back into sleep. I still fear I might die, but if the gods have heard me, my fears will not be realized.

A few days go by the same as the last. Eat, drink, pray, and sleep.

I notice the tufts of green that I saw as I traveled. With each day when I go out to pray there are more. After a short while there is a carpet of green underfoot and a sprout resembling galos, a fast-growing edible leaf.

Sure enough, a few days after I spotted the sprout, and just as I’m at the end of my supplies, there is a large succulent galos. Just when I need it, it’s ready.

“Thank Fasa!” I shout. “For you truly are the giver of life!”

I turn in a circle, astounded at the gorgeous patch of greenery surrounding me. It tapers off a few yards away from my tent, but the plants that grow within! More galos, the start of some malna, a brelth bush, and a valen tree, a short stout tree offering plentiful shade when it’s grown.

I spread my arms, close my eyes, and turn my face skyward in thanksgiving.

And as if things couldn’t get better, it begins to rain. First a soft drizzle, then light sprinkling, into a full-on downpour!

I put out my water jars and use the rain to rinse my food jars to fill them with rain as well.

I kneel in the rain and turn my face upwards into it, spreading my arms in a prayerful position. “Thank you Fasa, Avun, Irek for saving my life!”

Days pass and the plants bloom and flourish around me, creating a small slice of paradise amidst a black, dead world. I have enough water for nearly a month and food growing around me as fast as I can eat it.

I’m going to survive. I think triumphantly. I’m not going to die!

It is then that I am struck with conviction. Plants grew around me. I can go back. I can bring others out here. I can keep my promise to Mother and Ni.

We can all enjoy this vast world and make it green again.

The End

This is the first part of my novella The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. The first two lines, “It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave.” were the prompt that inspired the story.

This takes place on Irqulnirn after the apocalypse.

The Journal: 23 February 2017

This is a new series comprised of past journal entries I wrote followed by some current thoughts about it, if I have any. The reason for sharing a particular entry will vary. Some may be recorded story ideas, interesting events from my past, or some weird or fun thought I had that I wrote down.

What if humans (or some other species) could connect their brains and share information that way? Like, instead of teachers standing in front of a classroom to teach students things, their brains would be connected and the teacher would send the lesson, facts, assignments, etc. straight to their brains. Or to teach someone else to crochet, your brain would send theirs the details of how to do it.

This could turn into a story idea at some point. We’ll see.


I think this could make for a really interesting story world. What the story would be, I don’t know, but I like it. If someone wants to use this concept as a prompt, please do and send me what you come up with!

Maybe we could do a crowd-sourced (ish) collaboration project and make a collection of short stories based on this idea. If you’d be interested in that, comment below or email me at alyssachantelwright@gmail.com.

Poetry Prompts: “Cold Showers”

This was written and posted at 11:44 pm on September 17th.

If you have any suggestions for poetry topics or writing prompts that struck your fancy, share them in the comments!

The prompt, taken from Think Written, was “cold water.”


Icy,

Shivers,

Goosebumps,

Curling toes,

Rubbing arms,

Shaking.

The water runs

over me like rain,

and it feels like rain,

it will not warm,

it’s all used up,

my shower’s

forcibly cold.

Poetry Prompts: “Apple Dumplings”

Recently I have been struggling with my writing habits and motivation to work on things. To add some more fun to writing poetry and get some fodder for inspiration, I decided to find some poetry prompts.

If you have any suggestions for poetry topics or writing prompts that struck your fancy, share them in the comments!


The prompt, taken from Think Written: Grandma’s Kitchen

 

Image result for apple dumplings
Apple Dumplings (picture credit)

 

“Apple Dumplings”

An evening long ago,

distant, as it feels,

a lesson in preparing

an after-dinner treat.

We core apples,

mix cinnamon and sugar,

roll out pie crusts,

butter the lot.

Together we made

apple dumplings

and small pieces of

cinnamon sugar pie crust.

Deleted Draft: Drelkensoul Story

This was started with the prompt, “As our story came to a close, I realized we were the villains all along.” Where I went became a bit of a mess. I created a species, the drelkensoul, for N’Zembe, but didn’t have a solid idea how the function. Not only that, but I didn’t have any sort of plan and my loose plot was a convoluted idea. This may get a rewrite/complete restart, but for now, here it is:

As our story came to a close, I realized that we were the villains all along. By then, though, it was too late. All was said and done, we had already faced our judgment, we were dead. I had always assumed that after death was nothing, but it seems I was wrong. Otherwise I would be unable to record our story. It is my hope that others will avoid our path to destruction, learn from our mistakes, be better than we were.

I don’t blame anyone who assumes this whole tale, including our deaths, is a hoax. But what does it matter? I lived it, so did they. I won’t try to convince anyone of the truth of my recollection by claiming to have been tasked to write my adventure by one of the gods. Yes, there is a multiplicity of deities. There are many, both benevolent and malevolent, in balance.

This is not a religious text, so I shall move on. Surely it is more important to know who we were and what we did that was so terrible. At least, terrible in retrospect. I never realized until after we had died that we had done anything wrong, inflicted pain upon so many. I didn’t know what we truly were until it was too late.

I had my suspicions that we were villainous, but never were they very great. Our people were not known for their kindness anyway, but rather our cruelty and ruthlessness. We were drelkensheath.

I’m not sure how old I was when I became aware of another entity within me. Yes, another entity. A literal separate being inhabiting my body.

We fought for quite some time over control of my being, the external portion of it, at least. Eventually, I was offered a compromise.

Share this vessel with me, and I will grant you unfathomable power–power that will free you from your dependence on the sea. I can still hear those words in my mind, even now that I’m dead.

Knowing the alternative was to continue fighting, as the spirit had made clear he was unwilling to leave, I readily agreed.

Peace brought a strange sense of cohabitation within my own body. I was no longer one person, but two in disguise, if this other creature was even to be considered a person. Are they even a creature? The gods are unwilling to entertain my questions, so I’ll likely never know.

When I rose upon the fertile land, I soon met others like me–drelkensheath who were now cohabiting their own bodies, vessels as the spirits called them. We decided to band together, the seven of us. Perhaps we’d survive better, figure ourselves out quicker, understand these new abilities.

“Hey, we need to leave! Everyone get up!” I yelled at the five still laying on their mats.

Adesola consistently woke up early enough for us to leave, but she had also been out of water the longest–she was the most at home on land.

Don’t Risk the Mind-Wipe (Short Story)

This is a sequel to The Hunters and the Hunted. It is from a different perspective than the first part. It’s also based on a prompt, which is the first two sentences.

“That is a terrible, horrible, incredible, foolish idea. Let’s do it and see what happens,” Lail proclaimed.

“You’re not serious, are you?” Alwin asked, hoping that Lail would not proceed.

“I was joking, you know,” I feel obligated to clarify, hoping Alwin and I can convince him.

“So? It would be hilarious!”

Alwin audibly groans, frustrated, “Why do you want to release those Draupnir? We could be fired and mind-wiped.”

“Hey, it was Zarol’s idea!”

“I said I was joking!”

“Both of you, calm down, you don’t want Hyrah to overhear, do you?” Alwin cut in before Lail could further increase the tension.

“We’re not actually doing it. It would be really stupid.”

“Why do we keep them locked up, anyway? It’s not like they could actually escape, is it?” Of course Lail still wants to find a reason to convince us…

I try thinking it through when Alwin responds, “If they knew the layout of our building, they could plan an escape, which could work. Despite our abilities to subdue and dominate them, their powers enable them to work around that. Maybe, at least. They know some of what we can do and could plan around that strategically.”

“I’m going to go visit them,” Lail notices my condescending gaze. “What?”

“What do you think?” I spit out, hoping he doesn’t lose all three of us our vocations and memories.

“I’m not going to let them out,” mischief sparkled in his eyes; he was clearly going to do something far more dangerous.

“I’m coming with you then,” if we were caught, we would probably lose our jobs… even if we weren’t letting the Draupnir out…

“Don’t trust me? Fine. It was your idea anyway…”

“Still at that? It’s getting old.”

“Don’t start fighting, or you’ll both be caught for sure. At least try to get along,” she would never let us live through this if we did get caught for being stupid.

“’Kay.”

We walk down the long white halls, our muffled footfalls the only sound as our regulation boots contacted the carpet repeatedly. Turn after turn, corridor after corridor, my heart beat harder and faster.

What if our break ends? What if someone comes into the hallway before we get to the cell? Endless what-ifs…

“Hey, calm down. You’re breathing really loudly.”

“Sorry…”

Finally, we reach the password protected steel door. 4-7-6-2-9-9-5 would open the door, unless it was changed since two days prior.

I exhaled, holding my breath as I shakily entered the numbers. The soft bleep, bleep of the keypad constituted the only sound in this white space. As soon I pressed the five, a click signified our successful entry.

Lail opens the door, entering just as I think, The cameras! We forgot about the security cameras!

“Lail, wait!” I whisper harshly and he turns, “What about the cameras?”

“Pfft, security won’t know that we weren’t told to check on the Draupnir after our break. They also won’t know if our earpieces conveyed special instructions from Orva, who isn’t here today.”

“Orva’s not here? How do you know?”

He rolled his eyes, “My office is across from hers, duh.”

I nod, feeling ridiculous for forgetting, “Right, uh, nevermind.”

I slide through the doorway after Lail, sitting on the metal bench in the room.

“What do you want?” a shaking red haired girl asks with contempt.

I lock eyes with her, stunned by how bright her blue irises are, “Nothing. We just came to talk to you.”

“Hallan,” she whispers, “Hallan, wake up.”

A blond boy stirs at her touch, “Ana, what is it?”

“Them,” she tips her head toward us.

Hallan props himself on his elbow, glaring at us, but says nothing.

The two of them keep glancing at each other and then at us, but no words pass between them.

“Hello, I’m Zarol.”

Hallan stands up and walks to the bars, “What do you want Zarol?”

“Lail and I just wanted to talk to you.”

Sure. I don’t believe that for a second,” his gaunt frame shook visibly with anger.

“We actually came in to talk to you. We might be able to help you get out,” another girl stares at us at Lail’s words, her black hair covering half of her face.

“You want to help us escape?” Ana moved to stand just behind Hallan, a hand on his shoulder.

Lail nods, but I sit still, expressionless. I knew he would jeopardize our jobs. I knew it! How dare he!

“Lail,” I whisper sternly.

“You don’t want him to help us,” I freeze when Hallan says this.

“What?”

“You’re worried he’ll cause you to lose your job.” I shiver as I hear his voice in my mind, You’re worried you’ll be fired and mind-wiped for helping us.

“Lail, if you want to help them, fine. I’m going back to work.”

Just before I open the steel door to leave, I hear Ana whisper, “Hallan, you scared him. Now he won’t help us.”

Hallan muttered, “He wasn’t going to help us anyway,” just as the door closed behind me.

~*~*~*~*~

“Lail, where have you been?” Alwin and I caught Lail in the parking garage just after our shifts ended.

“You weren’t with the Draupnir all day, were you?” the concern in Alwin’s voice didn’t require reinforcement from her facial expression.

He shook his head, “’Course not. I left when my break ended. No one noticed that I was a few minutes late in returning to my desk. Probably because Orva wasn’t there…”

“It was stupid to go in there in the first place. You’re not going to –”

“I am. I don’t care if I lose my job. We have no further reason to keep them locked up.”

“Don’t tell me you care for those inhuman beasts!”

Alwin cut in urgently, “Calm down! You’re going to call attention to yourselves. We can discuss this at my apartment and have dinner.”

For once, Lail and I left our disagreement behind us, seething silently.

~*~*~*~*~

“What do you want for dinner?”

“Anything’s fine.”

“Do you want anything specific, Zarol?”

“No, whatever you have on-hand will suffice. I’m not particularly hungry anyhow.”

She nodded, rummaging through her pantry and fridge. She pulled out a number of ingredients, and began cooking, though just watching her confused me. How do people understand cooking at all? I can analyze data and invent a device utilizing the natural proponents of the Draupnir’s “powers,” but I’ll never understand recipes and cooking. The most I can do is boil water with pasta…

“Zarol, despite your prejudices about the Draupnir, I’m going to help them escape.”

“They could be dangerous! They have the power and strength to hurt people! We can’t let them go!”

Lail glared, “They’re more human than you think. All of the time before we captured them, Hallan, Analyn, Colby, Shelly, and Leynard never hurt anyone.”

“How can you be so sure?” venom oozed through my teeth unintentionally.

“I called Garter’s Family Grocery. Mr. Garter, the owner, attested to Hallan’s account. Hallan or one of the other Draupnir would come in, wash up, work for the day, and he’d pay them with food.”

“If you won’t be convinced not to destroy your job, fine by me! I’m not involved anymore. Just because one man was treated well says nothing for anybody else.”

Alwin spoke, “Lail does have a point, but so do you, Zarol. Is freeing the Draupnir really worth your job, Lail? Is it that important? What if they are dangerous, and you’re responsible for their freedom?”

Lail sighed, “Forget it. I’m done talking about this. I’m going to free them.”

I shake my head, disappointed that he refused to listen to reason, When will he ever learn?

~*~*~*~*~

Alwin and I saw but did not speak to Lail after that night. Most times, during his break, I would notice him walking toward the steel door, but I said nothing. Whether my knowledgeable silence would cost me my job as well, if Lail succeeded, I couldn’t know for certain, and I hopefully wouldn’t have to find out.

“Orva, is Lail here today?”

“No, Zarol, he called in sick.”

“Oh, okay, thanks,” I turned and walked back to my cubicle, closer to the break room.

I open the door when Hyrah rounds the corner.

“Zarol, I’ve been looking for you since lunch!”

“You have?” the confusion must show in my eyes, because she nods emphatically.

“I was wondering if you know why Lail’s been acting strange lately. He called in sick, but he sounded… elated over the phone.”

My eyebrows come together, puzzling over this revelation. Lail probably freed the Draupnir, or at least told them how to escape… If I tell Hyrah… But if I don’t…

I shake my head, “I’m not sure… Alwin and I haven’t been on very good terms with him lately… He hasn’t been talking to us.”

“Okay. Well, if you find out anything, please tell me,” she starts walking off toward the copy room.

“Hyrah, wait,” she turns on her heel, waiting. I hesitated to reveal my friend. Eventually I spoke, “Sorry, nevermind. I thought I remembered something, but I didn’t.”

~*~*~*~*~

After work, I decide to call Lail. Despite everything, I don’t want him to lose his job. I want to help him somehow if I can.

“Hello, Lail. Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”

“Zarol, why are you calling?”

“You weren’t actually sick today, were you?”

“No. I told the Draupnir how to escape yesterday… You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

I hesitated.

“You did?!”

“No, no! I didn’t. I thought about it, but I didn’t.”

He sighed, “Good.”

“If you show up at work tomorrow after the Draupnir escape, they’ll likely assume you were responsible. Especially after reviewing the security tape…”

“I’ll call in sick again, then.”

“Wait, that’d be suspicious too… Tomorrow, come to work, and go to ‘check’ on the Draupnir like you have been. You be the one to report their disappearance.”

“That seems like a good idea. I’ll be in trouble, but hopefully I won’t be mind-wiped…”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

~*~*~*~*~

Zarol. Zarol, wake up. “Zarol!” I jolt awake, jumping further at the sight of shadowed faces in my bedroom.

“W-who are you?”

“Hallan”; “Analyn”; “Colby”; “Shelby”; “Leynard.”

“The Draupnir?! How did you get in here?”

Hallan, closest to me, spoke, “Easy, through the window. Colby opened it for us.”

“What?! How?”

Colby chuckled, “Hallan can speak and read thoughts. I can open locked doors, windows,… and other things.”

My eyes widened, my foggy mind comprehending how dangerous these five children could be. If they were even human… or even actually children…

What are the Draupnir? I think wondrously, hoping they do not decide to harm me.

“We’re like you,” Hallan replies aloud.

“W-what? O-oh, right… Why are you here?”

“We thought we might visit you. Lail suggested it actually, thought you’d think more highly of us if we did.”

“So you broke into my apartment? That’s not a great way to convince me you’re good news.”

“That’s what I said, but they wouldn’t listen to me!” Analyn exclaimed.

“I was hoping he’d have food for us, actually. Otherwise, it wasn’t a good idea,” Leynard put in.

I cut off their impending argument, “Do any of you want something to drink? I can give you a small amount of food, but it’s” I look at the clock, “3 AM.”

“Awesome,” the lights flick on when Shelly speaks, and I see the faces of all the Draupnir.

None of them are standing by the light switch?

“Oh, sorry. That was my fault,” Shelly explains sheepishly.

“It’s alright, I’m just still getting used to your… powers?”

The Hunters and the Hunted (Short Story)

This was based on a prompt, which is the first two sentences.

“Should we let him know we’re on to him?”

“Now where’s the fun in that? The enjoyment is in the chase and capture, not the fear!”

Whispering voices are audible from my place deep in the alley. I hang in the darkness, watching, waiting. The two figures hover near the walls of the alley, looking out into the dimly lit street.

If I didn’t know better, I would assume they were speaking of someone else. But I do know better. Lucky for me, the speakers are oblivious to my location. They seem to think I am roaming the street, which I was, shortly prior to overhearing a small portion of their dialogue.

“Where is he? He should have passed this alley by now!”

“How should I know? Doesn’t he live near here?”

“Yes. Unless he ran away from home… At which point he’s unpredictable.”

I never had a home. Not that you could know that.

I bring a hand to my forehead as I notice one of the figures flinch. I sent that thought, albeit accidentally.

“He’s close by. He heard us,” the voice shivers, hardly a breath.

“How do you know?” Suspicion from his counterpart, though his voice lowers as well.

“He spoke to me…”

It was unintentional, I swear.

Both figures stiffen at my now purposeful invasion of their minds.

“Where are you?”

Not your business. Close enough to hear and see you without being seen.

They bolt from the alley, unsurprisingly. Once they are gone, I sigh, realizing I had been holding my breath. Had they heard me, found me… I hate to think what would have happened… What I would have been forced to do

I release the brick of the building I was perched on, dropping silently to the concrete below. My cloak fades, the fabric dissipating into the surrounding air from whence it came. I could not explain how I was able to accomplish this feat if I tried, I still do not know.

My fingertips graze the red-black brick as I lurk out of the alley. A filmy encasement materializes around me, invisibility of a sort, matching my movements.

I stand under the street lamp, deliberating. Do I go home, or do I leave entirely?

Home, as I call it somewhat jokingly, is barely a suitable shelter, and I am alone. Leaving entails forsaking all I have ever known, all I have assumed I would ever know.

But those people… I call them Hunters, and I have no clue what they could do to me. Not long ago, there were others like me, living with me, but they are gone. I do not know what happened to them or where they have been taken, only that it was the Hunters who took them. All the things I might be able to do to them, it might be futile if they are truly Hunters, like those who took my friends…

Leaving is the best option, in the morning I’ll gather my few things and disappear from this place.

Nothing more could be done. Later, perhaps it would be safe to return. Perhaps leaving would prove more disastrous than remaining, but I couldn’t know that until afterwards. I do not know what the world beyond this single city entails, but I will risk that discovery.

I slink home, thinking along the way about departing and what I will need for the journey. Even as short as the trip will be, it will be exhausting. Moving discreetly always is, especially as I will need to steal the provisions, using more energy.

I arrive at the building, lifting myself to the roof in a seemingly effortless manner. I quietly enter the dilapidated roof apartment, falling onto my heap of moth-eaten blankets.

“Good night, world,” I mumble as black overtakes me.

Morning light streaming through my dirt streaked windows wakes me. I roll over onto my back, rubbing my eyes with one of my dirty hands. I pull myself to my feet, looking out the dingy window closest to my bedding.

My thoughts jump back to the previous night and my determination to leave.

No, I can’t. My friends might still be here. If I had been taken, I wouldn’t want them to leave me. I have to find them, even if it puts my life on the line, or almost kills me.

I still need supplies, and I still need to avoid the Hunters from the alley.

~*~*~*~*~

“Hallan, be careful!”

“It’s okay, Analyn, I can do this.”

I clung to the side of our building, most of the way up, about to let go.

I released the building, and Analyn screamed. My feet gently touched the concrete before I immediately returned to stand by Analyn.

Tears streamed down her face and violent sobs choked her.

“Analyn, I’m okay,” she looked up, eyes already red.

“Hallan, you could have died! I thought I’d never see you again!”

I pulled her into my arms, struggling to console her, “Shh, I’m alright. I wasn’t going to get hurt.”

“Don’t do that to me again! I couldn’t bear to lose you, you’re like a brother to me!” She wrapped her arms tightly around my torso, tears beginning to soak my shirt.

“Okay, Ana.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Hallan! You’re back! Oh, I’m so glad you’re safe!”

“So am I. How was everything here at home, Colby?”

He smiled, “Analyn worried about you the whole time, saying things like, ‘He promised he wouldn’t do this to me!’ and ‘I can’t believe he’d do something so reckless!’”

I laughed, “That’s just like Ana! Worried even when I’ve done this a million times.”

Colby nodded, “She wasn’t the only one worried when you didn’t come home on time, though. Leynard and Shelly were too, as was I.”

My face hardened, “I had to take a longer route because there were Hunters.”

His voice shook, “Hunters? You almost got caught?”

I shook my head no, “Of course not. I noticed them, heard their thoughts, and moved away from where they were posted.”

He sighed, “Thank goodness! Were they close to Garter’s?”

“No. They were halfway between his grocery and here.”

He nodded, “Good. I’m glad you’re safe, and the others will be too.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Hey, Leynard! Wake up!”

A grunt escaped the sleeping boy, “No!”

“It’s morning. We have food!”

He sat up sleepily, but with sparkling eyes, “Food?”

“Mhm, food. Want some?” I knew he did, we all did.

“Duh!”

Analyn and Colby laughed. Of all of us, Leynard was the most obsessed with food, eating as much as we would let him and asking for more if there was any.

“I made a cake!” Shelly exclaimed excitedly, having used her powers for one of the first times.

“Mmm, cake!” Leynard practically drooled as Shelly handed him a chunk of icingless chocolate cake.

Each of us received a chunk, leaving only a piece for Shelly to eat.

“This is so good!”

“Leynard, stop spewing cake in the house! Keep your mouth closed!” Analyn scolded him.

~*~*~*~*~

“Shelly!” Analyn screamed as Shelly fell off the roof, reaching an arm over the edge desperately.

I jumped over the side, quickly hovering just below the youngest of our group.

My feet hit the concrete and I bounded back to the roof. Shelly clung tightly to my neck, eyes  squeezed shut.

Safely on the roof once again, I set the girl down.

Tears streamed down their faces, sobs cracking their throats. I understood the fear they had experienced, adrenaline was pumping through my veins too.

“Are you alright?” I fought to keep my voice steady, to be strong for them.

She nodded, shaking, “I-I think so. Th-thank you, Hallan!”

“You’re welcome. Are you okay, Ana?” I placed a hand on her shoulder reassuringly, concern laced through my gaze.

She nodded, and I engulfed both of them into my arms, glad everyone was alive.

~*~*~*~*~

I have to save them! If they’re still alive, I must save them! I just… don’t know how.

I left my small shack, soaring from rooftop to rooftop for about fifteen blocks. Garter’s small grocery store was still in business, thankfully.

Garter’s Family Grocery was the one place I was unafraid of showing my face, unafraid of the regular human population. Mr. Garter was a kind old man and often gave me food, so long as I helped him out a bit in the grocery and washed my hands and face.

Hello, Mr. Garter.

The old man looked at the door, startled. He saw my dirt-covered face and smiled.

“Hello again, Hallan. How can I help you?”

“I came to help you in exchange for more food.”

His smile continued, “Wash your face and hands in the bathroom first. I could really use some help today, a new order came in recently.”

I nodded, walking to the back corner of the somewhat small grocery.

An hour later, I left Mr. Garter’s grocery behind, carrying two paper sacks with supplies. Some things were perishable, and some needed cooked, but nothing required refrigeration.

I walked a distance down the sidewalk before pulling my invisibility fog into existence. Several pedestrians’ eyes widened, looking at where I had just stood.

You’re not as crazy as you think.

The pedestrians quickly turned to face forward, unhinged by my invasion of their minds. They would definitely think they were crazy, after watching me disappear and then hearing my voice in their heads. Luckily, I would not be sending them more thoughts any time soon, if ever.

I quickly bounded home in the same way I left.

Upon closing the door, I simply deposited both bags on the floor.

How can I save them? How can I even find them? The only people who know of their location are the Hunters… Obviously the Hunters won’t help me rescue them… But they could lead me to them!

I began pacing the small front room, finger to my chin, elbow resting against the arm crossed over my chest.

As I turned towards the door again, an arm wrapped around me from behind and a hand pressed a cloth forcefully against my mouth and nose. I shoved the hand away quickly, a dizziness pulsing through me. A strong hand clenched over my wrist, and the cloth again smothered me.

~*~*~*~*~

I groaned, rolling onto my side, my head throbbing. The surface beneath my skin was searingly cold, and I shivered as my cheek rested against it.

“Hallan,” a soft voice whispered, “are you awake?”

I cracked my eyes open, Is that you, Ana?

Yes, she responded calmly.

How long have I been here?

I’m not sure. The Hunters brought you in unconscious and locked you in with us.

All of you are here?! I start to sit up, but groan and quickly lay down again.

Yes, but Colby was taken out not long ago. Shelly and Leynard are resting.

Where did they take Colby?

A sadness seeped into Ana’s thoughts, We don’t know. Whenever they take us out, they blindfold us.

I wanted to save you all, but it seems I was too late.

I don’t know that you’d have been able to. They know how to fight back. How to resist our powers.