“Look,” said Erebus, propping his feet on the cooler and popping a cold one. “They won’t be here for a few minutes, so we may as well relax, right?”
I shook my head. “Duty. It isn’t as much fun as gathering your bros together for another kegger, but it is a part of the job.”
“Stick in the mud.”
I didn’t dignify it with a response. I’m too curvy for “stick” to apply.
The cavern is huge and, of course, sunless. There’s the smell of brimstone and rotten eggs wafting on the breeze from the “up” side, and the smell of putrefaction and decay near the “down” end. The smell came from the vultures feeding on a giant’s liver down there.
The Hekatonkheires guard the passage back to Tartarus, but we’re all old friends by this point. On most days they only nod as we pass through. A nod with fifty heads, each.
The entrance to the cavern begins glowing, growing brighter. Erebus grabs himself a fresh beer and moves through the stalagmites into the right hand side of the cavern, as far as he can get from my position in the middle.
My daughters step into the cavern, and pace toward me. They both look exhausted, as usual at dusk. Hemera comes toward me, while Aether steps around the outside of the cavern to take up the spot opposite Erebus.
The bright glow issues from Aether. She is surrounded by a corona, a glowing nimbus of energy that causes stalagmite shadows to dance in the cavern with every step she takes. Erebus moves to block most of the direct illumination with a rock formation, and gathers his shadowstuff protectively around himself.
The moment Aether reaches her accustomed spot, she scowls across the cavern at her father.
Erebus lifts his beer in a distant toast, and she turns her back on him. Neither is a great fan of the other.
The transformation begins. The light from Aether dims from her normal bright yellow-white, through the oranges and into the fading reds of sunset.
In complement, the darkness spinning and swirling around Erebus grows deeper, inky tendrils obscure more with each passing moment. He draws power from her, and he always waxes when she wanes.
Separated by the full width of the cavern is the closest they ever come touching.
Hemera greets me with a hug and a kiss.
“Good evening, mother,” she breathes.
I hold her tight and a tear drops from my cheek to hers. I hold the hug for as long as I possibly can, but I know time is fleeting.
“Take care of your sister for me,” I whisper.
She affirms with a tightening of our hug. “You take care of dad.”
And at last we must part. Twice a day. I wave as my daughters turn toward the cavern’s exit, to spend their night in Tartarus.
“See you in twelve hours,” I call after them.
Erebus meets me at the entrance of the cavern.
“Ready for another wild night?” I ask.
He shoulders his beer cooler, and we begin our nightly journey to the upper world.
Thanks to social media, the new store front was booming. Foodies drove from all over town to sample my product. I put the finishing touches on another box of chocolate-dipped fortune cookies, carefully adding the last of the sprinkles and boxing them up. A half-dozen tiny fates, perfect for the family of six.
“That’s me. Two, please.”
“Are you married?”
“No, just really hungry, thanks.”
I raised an eyebrow and pointed to the placard.
*** Fortune Cookies — ONE per customer ***
But he was insistent. They never learn.
He seemed pleased with the outcome of his first fortune, rudely munching his cookie while leaning on the counter.
“Says I’ll receive some happy news,” he nodded at me.
“I’m sure you will soon,” I smiled.
He didn’t seem to notice that the second cookie he cracked open (unlike all of the others) contained a black note.
Inspired by this week’s Picture It & Write prompt.
Poseidon stirred the wine in his kylix with a miniature of his famous trident. The resulting vortex capsized several Egyptian merchant ships in the eastern Mediterranean.
Bored, his attention wandered. The worst thing about the mortal world is just passing the time. Oh, the sacrifices and annual virgin quotas were all right, but where’s the challenge?
He toyed with the miniature of his latest sea monster, the dread cold beast Freyon. The monster looked like an iceberg (at least the small part above the waves).
Hmm, is that a cargo barge departing Athens? I’ve always hated Athens.
“Sic ‘em, beastie!”
Inspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt.
I see a barge + iceberg. (Oh, helps to view the image at full size, guess that is a wave). Like mine better!
I just watched a murder.
Out behind the dilapidated barn, the rotting one that’s moldering its way into oblivion faster than an old writer’s body. The barn’s deep shadow is broken only by narrow sunbeams filtering through the gaps between the dry, rotting planks.
I stumbled around the corner of the barn, whistling, on my way to feeding the chickens. On the fencepost was a single avian that flew as I came into view. Just a dark winged spec receding into the sky, until the danger had passed.
Then he returned, with the rest of the crows in his murder.
I could see her hiding behind the desk. Or maybe she was just crouched down at the moment I walked in, I wasn’t entirely certain.
She froze as I flipped on the overhead light. In the harsh wash of fluorescent tubes, I could make out that she was young. Possibly even under twenty, her face surrounded with ringlets of tight auburn curls. But her clothes looked old and patched, featuring a disheveled long coat that was not quite a trench coat and not quite a rain coat, made of a dark and oily-looking cloth. It was torn in several places, particularly down the right arm.
And her hand was slowly dripping blood onto my office’s wooden floor.
“Are you all right? Do you need a doctor?”
She rubbed her nose with the coat sleeve, leaving a tiny blood smear across her dirty cheek, as her eyes looked me up and down. “No, I’m fine. Just a scratch. Could I clean up a bit, do you have a restroom I could use?”
Perplexed and intrigued, I silently pointed toward the connecting bath.
I am not a dime-store novel private detective or a medical doctor. Injured young ladies do not routinely arrive in my office without appointment. My business is mostly filing tax returns.
She stepped out of the bathroom some time later, looking much better. Mud and blood gone from her cheeks, hands washed and bandaged. She smiled at me, “You can see me. This is a rare thing.”
I just blinked. “You do look more collected. How did you get in here?”
“Thank you, I am Katherine. Kat. Pleased to meet you…?” Extending her hand, complete with bandage.
It took and shook it, very carefully. “Linus Debere, sorry. This is my tax office.”
“Debere. Sei esti Romani?”
She just shook her head. “Sorry, English then. It’s a nice office, Linus. Sorry about the floor, I’ll clean that up.”
“Already done. But why were you bleeding on it in the first place?”
“We don’t have much time, Linus. A couple of really nasty guys are chasing me. Does this place have a back door?”
That’s one annoying habit, I thought, answering questions with questions. But now she was beginning to look panicky, so I nodded. “Follow me,” I said, and lead the way out to the back hallway.
She leaned against the back door, while I dug out the key for the alarm breaker bar lock.
“Linus. I’m sorry I got you involved in this, but the two men who are after me—I can only describe them, one is a Bloodhound, tall and thin, with skin that doesn’t seem to fit just right. And the other is a Wolf. You don’t want to mess with him, ever.”
I nodded. “I’ll keep the door locked.”
“That won’t be enough. It didn’t keep me out, did it? They’ll be here soon, and they’ll know I’ve been here. You can come with me, or you can find a big crowd of people and lose yourself in it. You might even get away.”
I finally fiddled the stupid lock open, and the door swung onto the dark alley.
“Doors are not your friends. Neither are buildings. Get outside and disappear, it’s our only chance.” I could tell, she was about to bolt.
So I reached out to take her shoulder and stop her. I was left holding the oil-skin overcoat, empty.
And down the alley, I saw a calico cat turn. Her eyes caught the light from the open door, and she vanished behind the dumpster.
Inspired by Finish That Thought #2-32. Discovered the site & finished the tale after the deadline, and so not entered.
This could be expanded, open-ended hook. There’s definitely more to the tale, but pushing 600 words. Future, maybe.
Granny’s home resembles a classic antebellum southern plantation. It includes an exemplary portico, ionic columns and all of the balconies and gardens. It suits her.
She loves sitting on the porch and telling stories to the children, of the history and majesty of this part of Virginia in the 18th century, in vivid intensity and detail. “Were you there, Gran?” She only smiles.
“The Jefferson Memorial has ionic columns,” she said, waving a finger at the column I was leaning against. “Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration, you know. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ the boy did some beautiful work.”
“Unalienable rights, to life, liberty and the pursuit. You children ever wonder what ‘unalienable’ means?”
“My teacher said it means ‘Rights that cannot ever be taken away’,” said Jill.
“Does it now?” Gran replied.
Gran leaned forward and stared intently at us. For the briefest instant her illusion fell away and we beheld the alien in question.
Inspired by this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt, and (I admit) a groaner of a play on words. Puntastic!
Something is not right today.
Each day, I expect my life to resume its regular pattern.
I will go to work and do my job with smooth efficiency.
Then I will return home and I will do it again tomorrow.
As I always do. Accurate, reliable, dependable.
These principles define me.
But today I feel lethargic, weak. Drowsy. Run down.
I look out the window at the people running their routines.
Today, I just can’t seem to… Oh.
I climb back into bed. I close my eyes and the gears engage.
To add a few more windings on my mainspring.
Inspired by this week’s Picture It & Write prompt:
And by the Daily Prompt:
Remember when you wrote down the first thought you had this morning? Great. Now write a post about it.
As usual, my first thought this morning was something along the lines of “Blergh, need more sleep.” Same as most mornings, really.
And by a recent episode of Face Off (featuring a clockwork girl make-up).
Yep, I can of integrate all kinds of unrelated stuff into a single story.
I gunned the decrepit Toyota into the garage and slammed it into park. It shuddered and coughed as it died.
“Momma, this car sucks.”
“I know it does, Emma. But it’s the car we need right now.”
“But where are we going?”
“I’m not sure yet. Please, Emma, enough questions. We need to get moving as quickly as we can.”
Emma herded Suzy inside in silence, holding hands and waiting patiently. I glanced at them both, my eyes filled with tears.
I threw clothes into suitcases and carried them out to the trunk, one by one. Short on time. I hurried. But the girls only looked more and more frightened each time I dashed past them to the rusty old car. The cheapest car I could find in the skeevy used car lot. I paid cash.
But Dan had my car today and we had to be gone before he came back. With his associates. The ones with the guns.
I stopped to think. Cash, clothes, girls. Was I missing anything?
Ah, Cell Phone with the GPS. Into the microwave, ten minutes should fry it.
I’ve never been on the run before. But for my girls, I will learn fast.
Inspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt:
Kind of a stretch to go from that image to that story, right?
I just find Boudicca‘s statue to be highly unbelievable; can you imagine any mother loading two daughters into a war chariot, ever?
So I just fast-forwarded a little bit…and altered the chariot… and the Romans…