Falling Forever

[WP]Write the monologue of a guy who’s been falling through an endless pit for 12 hours.


I work as a roof cleaner. It’s not fancy, but it pays the bills. There’s a company that owns several warehouses in this place, and I’m in charge of their roofs. Getting out the leaves, clearing the drains, plugging leaks so nothing gets in and damages whatever they’ve got in there. They never told me what exactly they have in there. Something to do with space. It’s a secret, apparently, and very expensive.

So anyway, I was doing my job one night after all the scientists have gone home, when the roof collapses under my feet and I fall into the warehouse.

It was scary for the first thirty seconds.

Stomach turning. Disorientation. Realising that I was going to die.

I fell. I screamed. I pissed my pants, I’ll admit. But I didn’t die. It was rather surreal. One moment, fear is all you feel, trying to find a handhold or rope or anything, really, to grab at. Then slowly, you realise that you’re not dead. And in each passing second you’re still not dead. The fear fades away, replaced by confusion. It’s like watching a bad magic show. The magician lies in the box. The guillotine comes down and splits him in half. And then nothing happens. The magician doesn’t move. The audience is silent. What happened? What’s going on? You don’t know.

Even then, I was sure that I was going to die. Hell, as bad as my math is, even I know that at some point you run out of height. And I was going pretty fast. The wind was dragging up my arms and legs, so I was basically falling backward. My hair was being swept forward, going into my eyes. I probably looked a lot like Bieber. But anyway I resigned myself to my fate; I was going to die, no matter what I did, so I figured there was no use crying about it. I closed my eyes and thought about my life, my work, my children, my family, my loving wife.

For a while, I was at peace. Zen.

 

…I was still falling.

How long had it been? An hour? My pants were dry already. A little crispy, even. What’s going on? What has a guy got to do to fall to his death around here?

I looked around. Couldn’t see much, to be honest. Everything was dark. I got the sense that there were large cliffs rushing past me in the blackness. Could have just been the wind, though. I tried to change my direction, float off in one direction to see if there was any place to land there. But without any visual feedback, there was no way of telling if I was successful.

Pretty soon, I got bored. There weren’t any butterflies in my stomach now. I guess if you’ve been at it for hours, nothing much is scary anymore.

I was BORED.

There was literally nothing to do. Maybe you’ve been stuck at home before, on a weekend or something. You think that’s bad. You still have things to do. You have TV. You have the internet. You can listen to music or something. Heck, even if you’re homeless on a park bench you can look at a bird or something. I had nothing to do. I had nothing to see. I heard nothing but the wind in my face. I was floating in the middle of nowhere. This was hell.

Maybe I was actually dead. Maybe this was really hell. Hell wasn’t fire or brimstone. It was nothingness. It was non-existence. It was an eternity in which you would be forced to reflect on your sins. Alone.

The lights came on.

I was in some sort of machine. It looked like an incubator. There was a completely flabbergasted scientist staring at me.

“Who what fuck?”

He stood frozen for a few more seconds, then ran to the control panel of the wind tunnel and shut it off.

“I’m really sorry someone left it running overnight how did you get oh damn the ceiling is I’M GOING TO KILL STEVE-“

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Absolute Zero

[WP] God has a points system. Positive for good deeds, negative for bad. You die and St. Peter tells you your net points equal 0.


“Next!”

A woman stepped forward nervously. “Here, sir.”

St. Peter glanced at her, then looked down to the computer screen in front of him. “Over two hundred points, well done. Please proceed.” The woman skipped lightly through the Pearly Gates, a blissful smile on her face. As the Gates closed, I saw thousands of other beings inside, welcoming her with open arms.

“Next!”

An old man hobbled forward. He seemed to do so out of habit, though; his balance was perfect and he did not favour either leg.

“Thirty-nine point seven, could be worse. It’s Purgatory for you, until you get those last ten points.” St. Peter waved towards a smaller, more modest door beside the Pearly Gates. The old man hobbled through it, with a final longing look at the Gates.

“Next!”

This man was dressed in a sharp suit, and walked ahead smartly. He bowed to the angel. “Present, Your Honour.”

St. Peter glanced at the screen. “Wow. Okay.” He pulled a lever and the clouds below the man parted. Mr. Suit-And-Tie fell out of sight, screaming all the way down. There was a sizzle and a flash of orange, flickering light. The clouds closed again.

“Next!”

I gulped, stepping forward. I wasn’t proud of my life. I’d done many things, some good, some bad. I’d lifted stuff from the local supermarket once or thrice, but I’d been loyal to my friends and family, helping them out in times of need. Surely family matters would give enough points to outweigh some petty larceny, didn’t it? Well, loyal for the most part. Sometimes I just couldn’t find the energy to deal with their problems. Like the time Janet said “we had to talk”, but I was a little busy at the time playing Halo. But I helped take care of her cat when she was away. Except for that one time when it jumped in my cereal and I screamed and accidentally threw it out of –

“Matthew!” St. Peter called, interrupting my thoughts. “Come take a look at this.”

A bespectacled angel flapped his way over, tilting St. Peter’s screen to get a better view.

“Curious,” he said. He prodded a few keys.

I was growing even more nervous than I had been before. I snuck a look at the leaderboards hanging beside St. Peter. Gandhi and his three thousand points smiled back at me, as did Hitler and his negative nine thousand. I wondered if I had just made it to one of the lists.

Several minutes passed, and the two angels continued to pore at the computer, whispering to each other. I glanced behind me. People in the queue were beginning to get restless.

“Excuse me, sir,” I ventured, “Might I ask what the delay is?”

St. Peter looked up and sighed. “It’s a small technical problem, no worries. We’ll get it sorted out soon.”

Beside him, the angel who was presumably St. Matthew gave a soft snort. “Cloud computing. What a joke.”

Hours passed, but the issue didn’t seem to have been solved. An increasing number of angels began to crowd around St. Peter’s computer terminal. Finally, they seemed to reach a conclusion, and St. Peter strode forward.

“Sorry for the delay,” he said. “There’s been a small issue. You see, we track scores with real numbers — that is, numbers with infinite decimal places. Each good or bad thing you do earns you a decimal score between fifty and negative fifty, and we sum them up to get your final score. If your score is positive, we let you into Purgatory or Heaven; if it’s negative you go straight to Hell.

“Your score seems so far to be zero, so we don’t know where to send you. Yet. Summing numbers with infinite decimal places results in exactly zero with exactly zero probability, so all we need to do is keep scrolling down until we find the first significant digit. Not to worry, we’ve looked through several billion digits already, it won’t be much longer.”

Several hours passed.

Several days passed.

The queue for entrance was now rather long. It stretched out as far as the eye could see. People squatted all over the place, having long given up hope of the line moving forward in the foreseeable future. The woman behind me had grown increasingly frustrated, at one point slipping off to have a whispered conversation with an angel, of which I only caught the words “additional terminals”, “bureaucratic inefficiency”, and “fucking idiot”.

All to naught, though, as nobody had yet found any significant digits. Forty angels had been recruited into the effort, and were now searching various parts of my score in parallel, St. Peter himself continuing the first sequence while others skipped gazillions of digits to search in the middle of my score. All zeroes.

At first, I had been confident that a digit would eventually be found, but confidence tends to wane after several octillion digits of evidence to the contrary. At this rate, I was worried that I had locked everyone out of heaven forever.

After a week had passed, I was positively jittery. The good lady behind me was staring daggers at me whenever I happened to look in her general direction, and the rest of the queue was warming to her attitude. Although I was fairly sure I was now an immortal soul, I had a feeling it couldn’t be much longer before the collective efforts of the Queue managed to find a way to make me disappear, permanently.

I couldn’t stand it any longer.

“St. Peter,” I said. “Can you please just send me to Hell?”

St. Peter lifted his weary face, and removed his spectacles. “Excuse me?”

“Well, I understand that you need certain criteria for letting people enter Heaven, but my being here is preventing everyone else from entering either. Would you please send me to Hell so that everyone else can proceed on to the afterlife?”

St. Peter looked at me thoughtfully. “You are aware that Hell is an eternity of suffering, yes?”

“Yes.”

“And you are willing to bear it, on the behalf of everyone else in the queue?”

I paused. It couldn’t be much worse than an eternity of waiting in a queue, especially one with Ms. Pissed-Off plotting behind my back. “Yes.”

St. Peter nodded slowly. “As you wish.” He reached for the lever he’d pulled earlier to drop Mr. Suit-And-Tie down the gutter. I closed my eyes.

There was an electronic ding, and St. Matthew’s voice cried out, “Wait!”

I opened my eyes. I was still standing on the cloudy ground before the Pearly Gates.

St. Matthew pointed excitedly to the monitor. “Look!”

“Well, I never,” St. Peter exclaimed. “It looks like your act of ultimate personal sacrifice has earned you fifty points! I can let you in now.”

“Uh…” St. Matthew said.

St. Peter waved me toward the small door to Purgatory.

“Uhhh…” St. Matthew said.

“What is it?” St. Peter asked, turning to him.

“He got fifty points, Pete. Fifty point zero. Fifty point zero zero zero zero.”

“Oh.”

“So… should we send him to Purgatory or Heaven?”

The End

As I laid the firewood down, the farmer thanked me.

‘Fox’, he said, ‘I cannot repay you for everything you’ve done. I am poor, and all I have are these carrots, but you may take as many of them as you wish.’

I cannot eat carrots, but I know my good friend Rabbit does. There are mountains of carrots, more than you can ever hope to eat. Will you come with me tomorrow?

The rabbit listened, but he knew the fox was cunning and deceitful.

“No, Fox,” the rabbit said, “You have fooled me twice already. I know your ways, and I am blind no longer.”

The rabbit pulled the lever he had hidden in the wall. The ground opened under the fox, and he fell into a pot of boiling water, never to trouble anyone again.

And the rabbit lived happily ever after.

I closed the book. Julie was silent, drawing the slow breaths of deep slumber. I reached over and turned out the light. For a while, I simply sat, watching her.

I heard a creak behind me.

I turned, and there crouched a man in black clothes. He froze when he saw that I had noticed him. He was wearing a black mask — well, it may not have been black, because the lights were off and it was quite dark, but it was some kind of dark colour, maybe blue or brown but you get my meaning — and he was carrying a knife.

I screamed, Julie screamed, and the man fled. I ran after him, grabbing the golf club that I keep in the hallway. I was catching up to him, and he must have panicked because he tripped and fell, hard.

Knowing I was about to catch up to him, the man got desperate, and from his pocket he pulled out a bazooka-

“Wait a moment.” The cop held up his hand, disbelief written all over his face. “A bazooka? Seriously? Don’t fool around. A police report is serious business.”

“What do you mean? Of course I’m serious!”

“A bazooka, taken out from his pocket.”

“Yes.”

“How big was the bazooka?”

“Uh, about thirty centimetres.”

“Long?”

“No, thick. The length was, ah, about two metres.”

“…I’m going to write you up for obstruction of justice.”

The judge pressed a button, and the recording stopped. I held my face in my hands.

“In my defence, Your Honour, I was drunk.”

The judge sighed. “Enough. We will convene again in fifteen minutes.” He tapped his gavel.

That was when I thought, I want to go one layer deeper! But how?

The Watcher

Loosely inspired by: [WP] “A watched pot never boils”, as the old saying goes. Throughout all of history there has always been at least one set of eyes on the ocean. Today, for a split second, everyone looking at the ocean looked away at the exact same time.


His eyes were weary.

The rain beat down on the ruins of a once-majestic castle. It seemed to be hundreds, perhaps thousands of years old. It stood at the top of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. Once in a while, a rock would fall from the crumbling towers, to splash in the water far below.

He sat atop the highest tower, alone. Watching.

He was the last of the Order, now. Gerard had not arrived to serve his watch, and twenty hours had passed since. It had not been unexpected, really; the both of them had been close to eighty years of age. The prospect had loomed over their heads for twenty years. Ever since Michael passed away, the two remaining members of the Order had been forced to keep watch in shifts, neither of them able to leave to spread the cause. Not that it mattered. The Order was viewed as a cult by most of the world. Their teachings were so strange, so alien, that very few were inclined to take them seriously. Their last disciple, forty years ago, had left after less than a week.

But the fact remained that the Order was the key to the survival of the world. In ages past, during the first Creation War, the multitudes of demons had been first defeated and sealed in a prison of light. The prison did not hold, and evil was let loose upon the world. This time, the Authority sealed them in a prison of fire. But they absorbed the fire, rebelling once again, growing smarter and stronger. The Third Creation War had been hard-fought, and Good had nearly lost. But this time, the demons were sealed in a prison of rock and water, to fetter their movements and quench their fire. And finally, the threat was contained. However, the demons were powerful; given time, their flames would overcome the water that restrained them. And so the Authority made Man, to watch over the demons and ensure that they would never escape.

Once, the Order had been the pinnacle of mankind. They were the bearers of its purpose, the reason for mankind’s existence. But over time this purpose had been forgotten, the Order shunned.

He was the last of them all.

And his eyes were weary.

He had not slept in thirty-two hours. The rain helped. The cold kept him alert, and each drop was a reminder of his duty.

He knew he could not keep this up forever. He was nearing the limits of his endurance, and even if he did not sleep for the rest of his life, he would eventually die of starvation, or old age.

He thought of the people he was protecting. All around the world, people were continuing with their daily routine, unaware of the great terror that would soon befall them. Somewhere out there, children were playing. Somewhere, lovers held each other under the shade of a tree, whispering to each other. Everywhere, people were living.

Mankind was doomed. But he was determined to hold out for as long as he could. Even for just an hour. Even for a minute. Although humanity had forsaken him, he would give all he had just to buy them another minute of blissful ignorance.

His eyes began to close. He knew it was happening, but try as he might, he could not get them to open again. His mind felt… looser. Unfocused.

His vision grew darker. He could see it happening. He could feel it. He hated it. But his mind was splintering from his body. He could almost feel them pulling apart, the loose threads of his consciousness stretching…

…thinning…

…breaking.

His head slumped forward. His eyes were closed.

For a moment, nothing happened.

There was a deep rumbling from below. The ground shook. People stopped what they were doing and glanced at each other, confused and fearful.

And the oceans began to boil.

Apprentice

He was an adventurer. An explorer. An archaeologist with a knack for finding ancient secrets, retrieving them — and coming back, alive.

And he needed an assistant.

I was but a lowly fruit-seller in the town marketplace when Ulric came calling. And I knew that this was the moment that would change my life.

So here I am, creeping through the entrance hall to the crypt of Aygairo. It is famous in the surrounding villages, not only for the storied treasures hidden within, but also for its lethal traps. Many a bold youth has made the trek into the mountains to try their hand at Aygairo’s puzzles. A thousand years ago, he had been a rich king, but at the same time cunning and highly intelligent. The few explorers who survive return without their original fervour, and usually at least one limb. I am apprehensive, but hopeful, for I have something they did not. I have Ulric.

Ulric pauses, and holds up his hand. “Stop.” I halt immediately, a chill running down my spine. I had not seen any danger.

“Do you see these diamond tiles on the floor? These are pressure traps. Some will already have been triggered by animals or past explorers, but no sense taking chances. Step between them, or you won’t be long for life.” Ulric points, and I can vaguely see the diamond tiles in the half-light of his torch. I can also see some larger mounds and long, whitish objects lining the sides of the passageway. The stench along the hallway suddenly makes sense.

Ulric strides ahead, seeming to pay almost no attention to the ground beneath his feet. But I can see the subtle positioning of his feet, angling away from each trap. I do my best to follow in his footsteps, but I am clumsy, accidentally stepping on a few. Thankfully, they seemed to have already been triggered, and do not move.

The passage ahead zigzags, but the pressure traps are still present. I am getting better at navigating them, which is just as well, because the stench is diminishing, and I doubt that many of the traps at this point have already been neutralised.

At long last, we reach a door, and the end of the pressure traps. Rather, Ulric reaches a door, while I struggle to catch up. He kneels down and examines the stone mechanisms covering the door, while I make my way through the last few traps. Finally, I pass them. Exhausted, I lean against the walls, without thinking.

I feel the wall move under my weight. Gears grind and shift. Time slows down.

Oh shit.

Ulric’s quick reflexes save me. Before I had even grasped the situation, Ulric had already leapt up, and thrown us both to the ground. I lie there, stunned, as crossbow bolts fly over our heads.

When things have quietened down, he pulls me to my feet.

“Seriously kid, try to think a little before you get the both of us killed.” He shrugs. “But I guess that’s not too bad. I’ve done worse.” He returns to his examination of the door.

I can’t help but notice that while I am sweaty, dirty, and exhausted, Ulric is none of them. His leather armour is clean and polished, and his cloak straight and smooth. His hair is immaculate, and his face displays no fear, no hesitation, only a detached concentration on the task at hand.

“Ah,” Ulric says. He begins to adjust the mechanisms, pulling vines from some gears, and repositioning others. “What do you know of the history of King Aygairo?”

“He was a king long ago,” I reply. “He and his brothers ruled the world, and Aygairo was king of this region.”

“Mostly correct. They didn’t rule the world, just the continent of Aviurre. The brothers divided up the land after their conquest, and Aygairo, as the fourth and youngest brother, obtained the poorest land in the centre, far from the sea. As luck would have it, however, Aygairo discovered an enormous deposit of gold and precious metals right here in these mountains. He shared it with his brothers, and the sudden windfall helped all of Aviurre prosper.”

“I see.”

“So, when Aygairo was on his deathbed, he decided that he would share his wealth once again. However, his brothers had passed before him, so he decided he would share it with any of their worthy descendants. And so…”

Ulric smiles, and from his satchel, he pulls out a golden cube. It is covered in intricate symbols, and on one face, has deep ridges carved into it. And on each face, there is a single symbol overlaying everything else.

“The Avire family crest,” I say, surprised. “So you’re the worthy descendant?”

“No,” he says, laughing. “I took this from King Ayheaor’s burial site two years ago.”

Ulric fits the cube into part of the door’s mechanism, and turns it slowly, like a key. There is a low whirring as mechanisms turn and grind. The door does not open, but the wall to our side slides away, revealing a hidden passageway.

“This is a secret passageway, only for descendants of Avire, which bypasses most of the traps here. It was hinted at in the tablets I found, but it only just fell into place when I studied the door.” Ulric laughs. “I’m not really who it was intended for, but this is just so much easier, you know?”

We follow the passageway, which is safe for the most part, other than the occasional arrow trap, rockfall trap, or unexpected flight of descending stairs.

The passage widens, and opens into a large chamber.

“The final chamber,” Ulric says, holding up his torch. In the dim light, I see a golden door at the other end of the room. Even if there is no treasure behind it, the door itself would be worth several hundred fortunes. I feel my heartbeat quicken. We are close.

Ulric notices my excitement. “Not so fast,” he says. “The pathway is trapped.” I look closely, and see that he is right. Beginning halfway across the chamber, the floor is entirely made of traps. Unlike the entrance hall, where there were still spaces between traps, the diamonds here are completely tiled together. There is no safe way forward.

“Don’t worry. It’s actually not difficult to pass this chamber, according to the tablets. All you need to do is go over there and pull that lever.” Ulric indicates a lever on the right side of the room. “I’ll let you do it. Go on.”

I jog over. Near the lever, the floor changes from solid stone to wooden beams with gaps between them. If I lose my footing here, I could fall to my death. Yet, Ulric was right; this task is still surprisingly simple compared to all the other traps in the chamber.

I reach the lever, give Ulric a thumbs-up, and pull

motion

confusion

impact

Pain. Dizziness. Darkness.

I groan, and open my eyes. I am lying on cold stone.

Where am I?

I try to sit up, but my right shin screams in protest. I look, and it is mangled. Halfway down, the bone has been bent to almost a right angle, and bone is protruding through the skin. Blood flows freely. I retch.

I hear footsteps from above, and find the energy to look up. “Help,” I croak.

Ulric looks down at me.

“As I thought,” he says, speaking more to himself than to me. “This was a trap of temptation.”

I don’t care what kind of trap it is. “Help me. My leg is broken.”

Ulric pauses. “I can’t. There is no way back up.”

I stare at him, confused.

“No easy way, at least. You see, the way this crypt was designed was that plunderers would be given a glimpse of the treasure to sap their spirit. Although pulling the lever would indeed disable the traps, they would be dropped into another series of traps. To get to the treasure, they will need to find their way back to the treasure room a second time.”

“So you’re coming down and we’ll find our way back? Together?”

“Well… I could, I suppose.” Ulric flashes me a terrible, terrible grin. “But this is just so much easier, you know?”

I sit in shock as Ulric began to walk away. I hear metallic clangs and creaks as Ulric opens the golden door and slams it shut again.

Then there is silence, and I am slowly bleeding out on a cold, stone floor.

And I decide to take matters into my own hands.

I am the apprentice of Ulric Lanhart. Although he has abandoned me to die, I will survive. I will escape. I will train. And I will have my revenge.

With newfound determination, I drag my screaming body toward the nearest wall.

I grab a small outcrop, grunting as I pull myself upright.

I feel the wall move under my weight. Gears grind and shift.

Oh shit.


Inspired by: [WP] “I didn’t hire you because you would be valuable to our team. I hired you to DIE.”


A/N: In retrospect, not my best work. Written without planning, it turned out long-winded and unfocused:

  • Awkward transition from past to present tense at the beginning.
  • Initial plans for the gold cube key artifact were not used in the end, making it redundant.
  • Backstory of Aygairo et al. not properly thought out nor utilised.
  • Rapport between MC and Ulric not established sufficiently to make the betrayal effective.

Queen of the Underworld

Inspired by: [WP] in a world where you get superpowers for doing good deeds, write the story of a super villain.

Revised 14 January 2017.


They pulled the hood off my head.

I blinked at the sudden light, disoriented. I was tied to a chair, figures surrounding me. Silhouettes. Agents.

“Agent Spencer. How nice to meet you again.”

His face was grim. “You’ve lost, Natalia. Or should I say, ‘Persephone’.”

“You got me,” I shrugged. “I suppose I couldn’t evade you forever.”

“You should note that your powers are restrained, and that you are surrounded by twelve Empowered agents, excluding myself. Any attempted resistance will be short, futile and suicidal.”

I looked around. “I can see that, thank you. So what brings you all here to this merry little party?”

“WHY?!” Spencer exploded. “You were our very best! Our beacon of hope! Why would you do this to humanity? Seven years. Seven years the world has lived in terror! The Masters granted you power to help your fight against the Horde, not to lead them! Why would you do this? ANSWER ME!”

His face, ruddy with exertion, was inches from mine. I looked into his eyes. What intensity. What foolishness. What ignorance.

I smiled sweetly. “Maybe I just felt like being a bad girl for once,” I lied.

Spencer straightened up, glaring at me, red-hot iron under a thin veneer of professionalism. “If that is true, then how were you able to keep your powers?”

I kept a blank look on my face. “I beg your pardon?”

“Don’t bother stalling for time, Persephone. All our powers are proportional to intent for good. You should have lost them when you turned from the light. How did you keep your powers?

I feigned ignorance. “I don’t know. A lucky accident?”

Spencer scowled. “As if. Try again.”

I maintained the best innocent silence I could.

Spencer tried a different angle. “You are now in Division HQ, and will probably be here for the rest of your life. We were lucky that your veggie powers are somewhat less lethal-”

Veggie powers? How insulting.

“-but if we don’t find the loophole, and the next supervillian turns out to be fire-type, he’s going to attack HQ sooner or later. Let’s see how much your plants can do for you then. It is in your best interests to help us close the loophole.”

Not convincing. I shrugged.

Spencer waited, but finally understood that I wouldn’t be cooperating. He sighed and turned to leave. “As you will.”

As he reached the door, he stopped. “By the way, the Masters will be bringing the Lodestone here to revoke your powers. The escort will arrive tomorrow. On account of our former friendship, I would advise you to prepare yourself mentally. I have heard that it can be, shall we say… unpleasant.”

They were revoking my powers? Captivity I could escape, torture I could endure, but confiscating my powers would set back – no, it would completely undo the plans I had set in motion seven years ago.

“Wait,” I called to Spencer, though I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to tell him. “Come here.”

He approached suspiciously. By the time he stood before me, I had made up my mind. “I give in. I’ll tell you how I kept my powers.”

He smiled. “I knew you would come around. I should have played the revocation card earlier.”

The idiot actually believed he had convinced me to talk. Well, he had, but not for any reason known to him.

“On one condition.” I added.

His eyes narrowed. “At my sole discretion.”

“You send your goons out and turn off all the recording devices here.”

He narrowed his eyes, considering. “Alright,” he said, finally. He waved to his men. “Form a perimeter outside.”

He touched a switch on his headset as his men filed out of the room. I saw a green light on his earpiece wink out.

“And the one under the table. I have worked here before, in case you’ve forgotten.”

Spencer scowled. “Fine, fine. We all know how smart you are, Persephone.” He switched it off. “Now talk.”

“Well, to start off, I’m not really a supervillain.”

He snorted. “Save that for the jury, Persephone. I’m only interested in how you kept your powers.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, you dunce. I really have good intentions. My end goa-”

Good intentions? Tell that to the ones in Vert whose homes you wrecked.”

“Ah, but I didn’t kill any of them, did I? And the Masters repaired the damage.”

“Pure luck. Half the buildings were on the very verge of collapse. If they had, any number of them might have died.”

My expression darkened. “Luck, was it? Say, what time is it?”

Spencer hesitated in confusion, then glanced at his wrist. “Three fif-” He stopped abruptly. In the space of two syllables, a small green tendril had grown around the metal band of his wristwatch. Roots grew, spread, burrowed, consumed.

The watch clattered on the floor.

Spencer was pale. “You are under five layers of restraint,” he said, eyeing the runed bands spiraling across my chest and arms.

“With my level of power and control, you can rest assured that if I wanted to kill the Verds, I could have done so easily. Same goes for killing you, too, restraints or otherwise. But I’m not doing it. Now do you believe that I mean well?”

“I should be calling in-”

“Then you’re a fool. You’ve known me for twenty years, since we were trainees together. You know I’m not evil. You know I’m not crazy. You do, however, know that I am and have always been much smarter than you. So which do you think is more likely  – I suddenly turned from your best buddy into your worst enemy, and became the first person in all history to retain her powers while evil, and entirely failed to kill anyone at all in seven years of tenure? Or, am I the same person I’ve always been, just that I know something you don’t yet understand?”

Spencer ground his teeth.

“Don’t assume that I’m going to believe you.”

“I lived at the Crystal Palace for two years, as a bodyguard to Master Elyn. I saw how the Masters lived. I saw their powers. I saw them use the Lodestone, when Elyn’s sons were Empowered at their coming-of-age. You remember how they recited the ritual to Empower us? You remember the part where they say ‘bestowed for good, strengthened by good, and preserved by good’? Those parts were missing for Elyn’s sons. Missing! And nobody said a thing!”

“I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

“You dont?! They were Empowered unconditionally, Spencer. All the Masters were Empowered unconditionally! While the common people have to be pure of heart to maximise their powers, the Masters get it for free and forever! How do you think they repelled the Horde at Lumhart? How do you think they rebuilt Vert in a day? Did you think they were all more well-intentioned than every other person in the world? One of the Masters might be, maybe five, perhaps ten, but definitely not all of them!”

“So what? Isn’t it good that they use their powers to protect us?”

“You don’t have a clue, do you? They are controlling us, Spencer! Do you realise that any time they wanted, they could destroy the Horde? The Lodestone can grant powers to each and every person in the land, the Masters could provide food, shelter, technology, weapons to every person on the planet! Instead, they use the threat of the Horde to keep people in line, and grant only just enough power to a certain few, the “good people” who promise only to fight the Horde! The Masters are afraid, Spencer. They don’t want to risk Empowered commoners usurping the position they have enjoyed for centuries. The Masters present themselves as saviours, yet allow people to die to the Horde, for their own selfish gain. They sit in their ivory tower, defended by their powers – powers that they have locked away from the rest of the world.”

Spencer was unmoved. “If what your are saying is true, then why didn’t you tell us? Why didn’t you fight them?”

“I wasn’t powerful enough. We aren’t powerful enough. The Masters would just crush us like ants under their heel. We must wait, as I have waited. All these years, I have played the villain, gradually showing more and more of my strength, to force the Masters to Empower more and more common people in response. Only when there are enough Empowered can we reveal our knowledge to the people. Only with all our strength can we overthrow the Masters. Right now, I am only planting the seeds of rebellion. The time is not ripe for the harvest.”

“You mean to claim the Lodestone for yourself.”

“Yes, and no. I mean to claim it, but not for myself. I want to use it for everyone. The Lodestone’s potential is infinite. Potential that is, right now, untapped. The world can, and should, be made better by it. When the time is ripe, when there are enough Empowered, I will reveal everything, and the Empowered will overthrow the Masters, and we will change this system. We will change the world.”

Spencer looked at me, brows furrowed. Considering. “You’re talking really big for someone currently restrained and imprisoned. How are you going to do that?”

“Well, the Masters have been Empowering fewer and fewer people recently. I feel my impact is wearing off. Given time, I could easily escape to continue the fight, but I was wondering if there was something else that could be done… something that would make the Masters sit up and take notice.” I looked up at him.

Spencer narrowed his eyes. “You want me to join you.”

I smiled.

“And you let yourself be captured so that you could talk to me. To bring me to your side.”

I had actually been captured due to inattention and a few moments of blinding stupidity, but I wasn’t about to let him know that. I broadened my smile.

Spencer took a few steps backward, dropped to one knee and punched the ground. The metal floor tore like paper, and a sandstorm raged. I saw that the doors to the room was now blocked with a thick wall of rock, and there was a hole in the ground, a flight of earthen stairs descending into inky darkness.

Spencer tore off my restraints, throwing the runed straps aside. I stood up. Flowers bloomed in the thin layer of soil covering the ground, as I stretched my muscles and mind.

Spencer waved me toward the stairs. “After you, Natalia,” he said.

Lost In Time

Inspired by: [WP] You are a time-traveller that offers a premium service to the families of missing persons. For the right price you travel back and “rescue” people from when history says they disappeared, reuniting them with their loved ones in the present day.


“I will need details. As many as you can give me.”

The lady paused to dab her forehead with a tissue, and replied in a wavering voice. “It was three days ago. John was leaving our house for work that morning. He got on his bicycle and was cycling down the street. when suddenly a black car pulled up -”

“I’m sorry,” I interrupted. “May I know exactly what time this was? In this line of business, it’s rather critical. To the minute at least, the second if possible.”

“Well, I remember glancing at the clock before he left. It read 8:05. In the morning, that is. It couldn’t have been more than two minutes after that.”

I nodded. “Thank you, that will suffice. Could you also write down your exact address here? Your house’s UTM coordinates too, if you – it’s all right, most people don’t. The address will do. ” I took the paper back. “Thank you, please carry on.”

“The black car drove up beside him and rolled down the window. Then there was some shouting. I couldn’t hear what they said though, it was too far away. I remember John raising his hands up, like someone was pointing a gun at him! John got off his bicycle and went into the car. And then, and then -”

“And that was the last you saw of him?” I asked.

The lady nodded, tears welling in her eyes.

“I see,” I said. “Do you remember the license plate number?”

“The plate was blacked out, it looked like someone had taped over it.”

“How about the kidnapper? Did you see what they looked like?”

“There was only one man in the car. He was wearing a black mask and a black shirt. I never saw his face.”

I had all the information I needed. I put down my pen. The lady looked as if she might burst into tears at any moment. “The police couldn’t get any leads, neither could the search parties. You are my last hope.”

“I cannot promise you anything. Whatever I go back to do has already been done. I cannot change the past, I can only turn up to play my role. You must understand that. Please be prepared for the worst.”

She nodded again. “Thank you.”

I stood up from my desk. “I will be back in ten minutes. I will do everything within my means to bring John back for you.”

I turned and walked into the back room, where clients were forbidden to enter. I permitted my professional facade to slip, and a smile grew on my face.

It was almost too easy.

I locked the door behind me.

I picked up my gun, pulled on my black mask, and stepped into the time machine.

One Day Later

Inspired by: [WP] You get on a short-haul flight and fall asleep about an hour in. Upon awakening you realise you have now been flying for close to 24 hours and no-one else seems bothered in the slightest.

Updated on 14 January 2017.


There was a rumble, and my seat shook under me. Sterile air filled my lungs, and I heard the low humming of the engines.

I stretched and opened my eyes. It had been a good rest, but it had left my stomach empty. Emptier than usual, it seemed; it let out a loud growl. I wondered if I had accidentally missed lunch or dinner, given how hungry I was.

That was when I noticed the time on the in-flight entertainment system.

It was just 1pm. That would not usually be a problem, except that I was pretty sure the flight had only taken off at 2pm.

And that was when I noticed the date. It was Tuesday. Again, not usually a problem, except that I had taken off on Monday.

The flight was only supposed to be three hours long.

And I had an extremely important meeting two hours after landing.

My stomach began to sink. Was it the drink? I had only had one glass before falling asleep, though. Perhaps I was recalling the takeoff time wrongly? I fished my flight ticket out of my pocket. Nope.

I glanced around. Nobody else seemed to have noticed. The man to my left was reading the flight catalog. The man to my right was simply staring into space. Come to think of it, hadn’t Left been reading that same catalog since the start of the flight? How could someone be reading the same thing for twenty-four hours? Was he only pretending to read it, while really watching something – or someone – else?

I became acutely aware of how alone I was on this flight. I was on a solo business trip to a foreign land, with a tailored suit, designer briefcase, and not a single friend.

Right reached for his drink and lifted it to his mouth. In that simple action, I could see his rippling muscles. His eyes were still fixed on the seat in front of him. My apprehension tripled.

In that moment, I knew the truth. I was being kidnapped. They had diverted my plane, and would hold me hostage to my family or company. They drugged my drink to hide the flight diversion, but they had made one amateur mistake: they had forgotten to reset the time on the in-flight entertainment. I thanked whatever powers above had helped me. This one lucky break had at least given me a measure of control over my situation. I now knew what was likely to come.

I decided that if I was going to be kidnapped, at least I shouldn’t go hungry. I called the steward over. Out of the corner of my eyes, I think I saw Right glance over, as if alarmed. Ignoring him, I asked in my most confident, untrembling voice, “Could I have my lunch now please?”

Silence. Damn, I thought. So the staff were in on it. I was doomed.

The steward finally spoke. “I’m sorry, sir, but we do not serve lunch at this time.”

Huh?

The steward glanced at my screen. “Ah, I see, sir. The time displayed is the local time where the place is right now. We have just crossed the International Date Line, so the time was set forward by almost one day to 1pm. According to the time where we took off, it is now 4pm, and we do not serve lunch at this time.”

I have never been more relieved in my life. So Left had really been reading the catalog! And Right hadn’t been staring into space for a whole day. My tension released itself instantly, and I found myself booming with deep laughter. Many heads turned, but I didn’t mind. In my euphoria, I addressed my seatmates, “Thanks, Left and Right, you’re not mafia thugs and you’re not here to kidnap me. ”

Theirs were the weirdest looks of all, but I paid them no notice. I was safe.

 


 

Epilogue: One Day Later

“He knew our names,” Wright said.

“Someone must have tipped him off,” Lev added.

“That’s not an excuse.” The voice from the shadows cracked like a whip. “You had all the tools. You could have overpowered him easily.”

“It’s not that. He laughed like a madman.” Lev said. “He was crazy confident. He must have had security. It wasn’t worth the risk.”

The shadow seemed to consider for a moment. “Fine. This will be the last time you fail me and live. Get out of my sight, both of you!”

They left right away.

Teeth

Inspired by: [WP] The tooth fairy is real. Why does it want teeth?

Updated 14 January 2017.


Glowing, blue irises under a shadowed hood.

In the darkness, a small silhouette approached. Its small feet made no sound. Next to the bed, it stopped, still as a stone. Oblivious to the silhouette’s presence, the girl slumbered on.

For the longest time, there was only the sound of quiet breathing.

The burning blue circles regarded her patiently.

Eventually, the girl stretched. She rubbed her eyes, adjusted the sheets, and rolled her body to one side. All was still once again.

The silhouette’s hand darted out, a flash of silver in its palm. Its hand slid under the pillow, dropped a silver coin, and returned, clutching the prize. The silhouette turned and fled to the kitchen, vaulting effortlessly out of the window where it had entered an hour ago. It paused for a moment, eased the window closed, and melted into the shadows.

Save for the coin, it had never been here.

The silhouette glanced left and right, then lifted the grille of a drain and slipped in. It crawled in the narrow space. An adult would have gotten stuck, but the silhouette fit easily. Several drains converged, and the silhouette could now run in a crouch.

The sewers sloped down, going deeper and growing wider. It became pitch dark, but the silhouette did not break its pace.

The darkness faltered. The sewers were wide here, and torches hung along the stone walls. Figures moved in the half-light of the torches. Figures with piercing blue eyes.

The silhouette passed large hollows in the sewer walls. Their walls were rough, like they had been hewn from the surrounding rock. Some of them held bundles of cloth. One stored shovels, axes and other tools. A few were cast in deep shadow. Another was filled with mounds of small, silver coins. Several had racks and racks of knives.

The silhouette reached the last room. It was the only one with a door.

The silhouette pushed, and the door swung open, revealing a circular room. The silhouette walked to the centre. It pulled the tooth from its pocket, and laid it reverently on the floor. The silhouette retreated, and left the room.

The doors closed.

The girl’s tooth lay in the centre of an empty room.

The ground under the tooth began to glow. Strange symbols and patterns shone and rippled, casting blue light around the room.

The glow faded.

The tooth cracked in half.

A white substance rapidly oozed out, moving upwards and outwards, enveloping the tooth and grew, formed, took shape.

The girl stood in the centre of an empty room.

Her eyes burned blue. They saw.